"Is anything ever finished?" ~Michaelangelo
The mind wants closure,
but nature is incomplete...
circles not quite full,
holes, hints of chaos.
Therefor the true
artist does enough
Little gaps let God in.
"That space is God, in which everything arises and dissolves." ~Upanishads
Religion conditions us to believe that the path is long, the goal is distant, and God is far beyond this here and now. But the truth is, we live in a vast trick of perception whose punchline is all around us.
What we've been seeking is this, always this. Long before any New Age teaching, the ancient Upanishads declared, "Know This to be That which you are seeking." And Jesus said, "The kingdom of heaven is here in the midst of you." The Gnostic Gospel of Thomas gives us this version: "The kingdom is poured out over the whole earth, but men do not see it."
What if the Divine Presence is space itself? What if space is awake, as consciousness?
There is a notable dictum from the great mystics of the Western tradition, attributed variously to St. Augustine, Giordano Bruno, Voltaire and Pascal, but originally found in the Hermetic sayings of 3rd Century Egypt: "God is a sphere whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere." This is a thought-experiment for contemplating the divinity of space.
The revelation that space is awake is so self-evident yet so stunning, that it strikes our awareness like the trumpet of the Last Judgment, calling us to the only temple that remains - the Temple of the Here and Now. We enter this temple the moment that we, while remaining alert, simply give up the search.
Space is awake, even when nobody's here. Space was awake before we were born into it. We generally use space as a means to an end, a vessel to be filled with our busy-ness. But what if space is an end in itself?
Space, in truth, is the beginning and the end. The living stillness of space was waiting for you at your birth, and will surround you at your death, womb to womb, never born. Even in the midst of the battle, you are surrounded by a great stillness - the peace of awakened space.
Space is no-thing, yet the source of creation. The opening of Genesis tells us: "In the beginning... the earth was formless and void." But the Biblical text makes it clear that this void is a alive with energy, a churning oceanic intelligence, vibrant with breathings of the Spirit, the living womb from which light shines. For in that vibrant space before creation, "the Spirit-breath of God was stirring the waters."
The opening passage of Genesis reflects, in poetic form, the revelations of quantum physics. Matter arises from an apparent vacuum, yet the vacuum is a rippling continuum entangling virtual photons and electrons as waves of pure mathematical intelligence. The void is alive with possibility, the un-created mind of God. Space is awake.
The pure awareness of boundless space is micro- and macro-creative in its holographic power. Space bursts with virtual worlds and galaxies, just as it fluctuates with potential sub-nuclear particles. Yet the womb of space remains ever-virgin, transcendent, reposing in ever-immaterial silence. This ground state, or "zero point" energy of the quantum vacuum, is the living womb of the divine Mother.
Space is awake. And when we are awake as space, mere emptiness becomes self-nourishing and abundant. That is why every great mystic loved the desert. Space-awareness wakes us from the torpor of materialism. As awakened space, we stop deluding ourselves with the notion that consciousness is the effect of brain chemicals. In fact, in the subtlest realm of quarks and gluons, neutrinos and positrons, every atom of every chemical is born out of pure consciousness. Consciousness is the cause of matter, not the effect. Awareness was here before the body was conceived. Brain, nerves and molecules are composed from waves of awakened space.
The limitless vacuum of space that embraces the galaxies also saturates each atom. Fundamental particles of matter are no-thing but blessedly unbalanced mathematical equations suspended in the mind of an infinite zero. Blessed they are, because if those equations every factored themselves back into balance the whole universe would dissolve into that cipher, that empty circle, that is their essential nature. So we enjoy the dance of space, waves of emptiness playing in an ocean of emptiness, as the crystalline geometries of pure mathematics.
In the words of Sir James Jeans, one of the founders of quantum physics, this world is "made from pure intelligence." Jeans also said that, "God loves to do geometry," which was in fact a quote from Plato.
Max Planck, another founder of modern physics, said that "mind is the matrix of matter." Likewise their colleague, Sir Arthur Eddington, wrote: "All through the material world runs the stuff of our own consciousness... the stuff of the world is mind-stuff."
Where can we find this cosmic stuffing? Far above? Deep within? In another dimension? Will it require lifetimes to reach? These questions are answered when all our seeking simply falls away, and we embrace the spaciousness of our own awareness, just as it is. The stuff of our consciousness is empty space, and the stuff of space is consciousness.
The 12th Century mystic, Hildegard of Bingen, wrote that "God hugs you; you are enfolded in the arms of the Mystery." We are like fish searching for water, surrounded by a miracle so self-evident we just don't notice. Therefor, the deepest form of worship is simply to Be where we are. The beginning and end of spiritual practice is to rest as awakened space.
Opening our attention to the nature of pure space is the essential practice of all the world's wisdom traditions, once we strip away their mythological and religious imagery. Could there be any simpler spiritual path than becoming aware of space? Space can nourish, heal, and re-create us. Awakened space is imbued with all the attributes of God.
Why not open your attention to the Great Space around you, to the left and right, above and below? Now open your awareness to that same space within each cell of your body. And now, become aware of this boundlessness in each atom of each cell, in each electron of each atom... Here is the purest meditation, requiring no visualization or effort, because it is sparkling naked awareness of what we actually are made of.
Then we notice a fact so essential that it is earth-shaking, yet so intimate we have overlooked it until now. Awareness OF space and awareness AS space are one and the same awareness... It is space who is aware of space. Subject and object are one, yet they vibrate as two, creating a dynamic that we call "being awake." There is a perpetual oscillation from subject to object in the continuum of the empty void. The void ceaselessly explodes into the polarity of consciousness and matter, yet consciousness and matter are made of the same Self-radiance.
This is why the awakened space of deep meditation can heal and re-energize us physically: this space is not only our awareness, it is every particle of our body. To become truly aware of space is instantaneous re-creation.
The ego-mind rebels against such revelation. Mind wants to attain something, to climb a ladder, to work its way from level to level, plane to plane, initiation to initiation. Ego wants to say, "I have been meditating for thirty years, and you have only been doing it for one minute. I have attained level nine, the highest initiation. You'll get here some day if you keep working at it." This is the mirage of seeking, the illusion of a journey, that playfully appears like a trick in the pathless wilderness of space.
Yo delight in emptiness is too graceful for the mind: not enough drama, not enough quest. Here is the joke: the only thing preventing our realization of divine space right now is the thought that, "This is too easy."
No circumstance can limit our practice of spaciousness, since space is not affected by its content. We can enjoy this Sabbath rest wherever we are. We do not find Sabbath rest in the content of this moment, but in the space that contains whatever is happening. The riot on an urban sidewalk and the green glen by a forest pond are both but momentary configurations of the same fundamental particles, appearing and dissolving in precisely the same space. As said already, every battle is surrounded by a stillness...
This means, there is an easy natural way to find liberation this very instant, wherever we are. Ever so gently shift your attention from the content of this moment to the space that contains it.
Ironically, this salvific shift occurs by grace in some of the most violent and terrible events. In the midst of a crash, a traumatic accident, an act of war or sudden violence, so many survivors recall how they experienced a deep peace, a time-stopping stillness, surrounding the trauma. For many people, this is their first taste of spiritual Presence. How life, even in its most challenging moments, reveals its secret source!
Spaciousness need only be tasted for an instant: a one-moment meditation. This is not an escape, for it can happen in the midst of our busy work day. Take one moment to rest as awareness, even if there is chaos around you. In this brief Sabbath rest is recreation. If the Sabbath can happen every seven days, it can happen every seven hours, every seven minutes, every seven seconds. Each Sabbath moment is filled with eternity.
Allow this Sabbath moment often throughout your day, and gradually its inner stillness will pervade all your actions. The day will come when the spaciousness of eternity outshines the limitations of every moment.
As awakened space, we remain thoroughly IN the world, but not OF the world. It is important to add that the realization of space is redemptive; you do it for others as well as yourself. Your space bestows its blessings on all who dwell in it.
Therefor it is impossible to awaken space for yourself alone. The space awakening within you is also the space around you. Your awakened space becomes available to others. This is how the practice of awakening space becomes our deeper work, no matter what else we do. By awakening space, you become a a healing presence in the world.
AWAKENED SPACE IN THE VEDIC TRADITION
We might close by briefly observing how this universal practice of awakened space reveals itself in the world's great wisdom traditions.
The ancient rishis of India called this space, 'Sat-Chit-Ananda': Truth-Consciousness-Bliss. Later Hindu priests populated this space with gods and goddesses. But gods and goddesses are just waves in space, energy potentials in the vacuum, just like you and me.
A 'god' or a 'me' arises as a ripple in the ocean of awareness. A ripple of 'me' only exists in relation to a ripple of 'you.' Each of these ripples is made of one space. And each wave, while individualized at its peak, is the whole ocean at its base. Hence all of us, gods and mortals, are but one Great Space playing as many relative points of view. Indian philosophy starkly states that this 'atman,' the individual soul, is nothing but 'Brahman,' the eternal space of God. We are each other.
AWAKENED SPACE IN BUDDHISM
Gautama the Buddha taught this same truth in a different way. He wiped away all gods, goddesses and separate souls, reminding us that we are all mere empty space: 'sunya.' But this emptiness is alive as 'bodhi chitta,' the boundless space of consciousness. Western scholars misinterpret Buddha's teaching as nihilism, regarding emptiness as a negation. But 'sunya' purifies and regenerates us. Emptiness overflows with positive energy, the energy of creation.
AWAKENED SPACE IN JUDAISM
Jewish mystics call the emptiness of awakened space, 'ayin,' which in Hebrew means no-thing. The mystical Jewish vision of God is 'Ayin Soph Or.' 'Soph' means point, 'or' means light. 'Ayin Soph Or' may be translated as pointless light, or the dimensionless point of light. It is self-luminous space without any permanent point of view. The light of creation ('Or ha'Olam') emanates from the darkness of 'ayin.' Thus, as we have seen, the Hebrew creation story in Genesis 1 actually describes the foundations of quantum physics: material particles vibrating in waves from the cosmic no-thing of the vacuum.
AWAKENED SPACE IN CHRISTIANITY
Christian mystics personified the emptiness of awakened space as a Virgin Mother engendering the Word or Logos. The Logos is the seed of the material universe existing as pure thought before manifesting as matter. Christian theology insisted that creation is born out of nothing: 'ex nihilo'. In Christian contemplative prayer, we return to this creative silence that was there before God said, 'Let there be light.' Medieval mystics named such deep interior prayer, 'the cloud of Unknowing.' They called their practice the negative way: 'Via Negativa.' The deepest form of Christian contemplation was 'apophatic' rather than 'cataphatic' prayer. In Greek, this means 'without any form' as opposed to 'with form.' These mystics realized God as awakened space in radiant emptiness. They called God 'the divine darkness.'
In Christian meditation, we rest in a stillness where no images arise. This seems like nothing, because it is so empty and dark. But in our Sabbath rest from the work of thought, we discover that the Mother of God is within us, nearer than our own mind, as the space of awareness. All creation is born from her silent womb, as the light of Christ, the Word of God. It is this divine Logos who becomes sacred matter: 'the Word made flesh.'
AWAKENED SPACE NOW
Churches, temples and mosques exist for one purpose: to awaken space in our cluttered lives. Those who remember this function will survive: those who continue to clutter the space with dogma, conflict, and superstition will not.
A New Age teacher may call this awakened space 'cosmic consciousness.' A Yogi may use the Sanskrit term, 'samadhi.' Buddhists may call it, 'bodhichitta.' The Christian might use a Biblical term, 'the peace that passeth all understanding.' The name we call awakened space makes no difference at all. Indeed, some of us discover that when we try to name awakened space, we aren't in it any more!
Awakened space is a practice, not a philosophical concept. Thinking about it has no value, since pure awakened space is not a thought: it is the pure consciousness from which creative thoughts arise. You cannot think awakened space because you are awakened space! So don't philosophize about it: just rest there, as the radiant silence you are, beyond thought and name. We cannot measure the ocean in our little cup of mind. Throw the cup into the sea. Then dive in after it with your whole body!
Does this mean that we must suppress thoughts, or attempt to push thoughts out of awareness? Not at all. Such misguided practices only give us a headache. Simply realize that awakened space is always already here, even when the mind is cluttered with thoughts. Then quit grasping. All our cluttered thoughts are made of awakened space, as a mirage is made of the still sky. Space pervades our thoughts, just space pervades our atoms. Before the question even arises, awakened space is the answer.
She has no opposite. She welcomes every belief, religion and creed. Boundless, taintless and transparent, She is within you, and you are within her. Awakened space enfolds your deepest fear and your bitterest pain, your birth and your death. Her nature is compassion. Return to awakened space as to the great Mother, for energy, for peace, for the milk of perfect joy. You don't even have to believe. Just rest.
Om Shantih Shantih Shantih