The Nature of Reality

One and Many

© copyright 1991, 2006 by Timothy Conway, Ph.D.

Mystics from East and West have, for teaching purposes, distinguished the One Divine Spirit and Many Phenomena, the Absolute and Relative, the Changeless and Changing (which are finally realized to be not-two). Here, in graphic form, are the polarities (Absolute on left, relative on right), ultimately subsumed in the nondual One Divine Reality. Be sure to read the explanatory text near the bottom:

The One ----------------------- the many

Formless Reality -------------- play of forms

The No-thing ------------------ things

The Absolute ------------------ relative processes

Pure Awareness ---------------- objects/ideas/images

Divine Consciousness ---------- contents of consciousness

God (“Godhead”)---------------- creation/creatures

Spirit -------------------------- body-mind-souls

Ground of Being --------------- the landscape of distinct beings

Awake Divine Dreamer ---------- dream figures

Primordial Energy ------------- material world(s)

Supreme Self ------------------ countless selves

The Supra-personal ------------ countless persons

Subject ------------------------- objects

One Actor ----------------------- the many parts/roles

I (Am)--------------------------- I am this/that

Noumenon ----------------------- phenomena

The Single Sentience ----------- sentient beings

Knower/Perceiver/Seer ----------- known/perceived/seen

the “upstream” Source ----------- “downstream” products

Essence/Heart/Core/Center -------- peripheral matters

Right Here ------------------------ “over there”

Immediate Reality ------------- inferred reality,perception-based

Infinity -------------------------- finite events

Open Awareness --------------------- apparently solid things

Changeless “ground” --------------- changing figures

Substratum/Substance ------------ compounded things/processes

The Simple -------------------------- the complex

The Seamless Whole ------------------ the differentiable parts

No-feature/no-color/no-shape --------- features/colors/shapes

Soundless ------------------------------ sounds

The Spacious Room ------------------- the furniture

Raw Gold ------------------------------ the ornaments

(Meister Eckhart:) Home --------------- abroad

(Vedanta:) Nirguna Brahman -----------Saguna Brahman

(Yoga:) Purusha ------------------------- prakriti

(Tantra:) Siva -------------------------- Sakti

(Zen:) “Host” ------------------------- “Guest”

(Tib. Buddhism:) Clear Light ------ opaque forms, samsara

(Sufism:) Allah ------------------------- Allah’s “veil”

(Taoism:) Tao ------------------------ the “ten thousand things”

(Mahayana:) Sunyata/Void ------------ nama-rupa/forms/stuff

(Kabbalah:) Ain Sof ---------------Sefirot tree, creation (yesh)

[Left side:] One cannot “know” This, one can only be This, live This, come from This, abide as This

[Right side:] All these are perceived or known via 5 senses & mental faculties operating dualistically (in the subject-object, perceiver-perceived split)

* * * * * * * * *

In the first stage of spiritual realization, the via negativa, or apophatic mysticism, one disidentifies from all limited, narrow identifications (I am “this” or “that”), until there is an intuitive realization of Self as the changeless I, the Absolute No-thing of pure Divine Spirit.

When this realization of formless, transcendental Reality (“I am no-thing”) is authentic, a second stage, re-identification occurs, for it becomes spontaneously obvious that “I am everything.” The God-Self is realized not just as transcendent formless openness, but also as the immanent heart of the world: “Siva is Sakti,” “Emptiness is form.” Then whatever happens (truly a “no-thing happening” dream) is the unhindered, free play of God’s Prema-Love and Ananda-Bliss.