In recent years I have become a follower of Eckhart Tolle (author of The Power of Now and A New Earth), of Gangaji (author of The Diamond in your Pocket), and of Satyananda (author of Only Love is Real). (All of these teachers are in the tradition of Ramana Maharshi, whose Birth Chart I discussed in my book The Spirit of Numbers). I have been tremendously helped, not only by their writings, but also by their DVDs and audio CDs, and (in the cases of Gangaji and Satyananda) by attending retreats in their presence.
All these teachers teach that who we really are is pure undiluted consciousness and awareness. In order to realize our essential nature, we need to stand back from the thinking and feeling mind, which is the source of the ego. Within the ego we build stories about ourselves, and believe that the stories are who we really are. We do not need to destroy the ego, but we need to become the witness of it. We need to become conscious of the pure awareness that lies behind our thoughts and feelings, and to experience this as our true identity. By doing this, we can become aware of our Oneness with the whole of creation.
I accept this, but I do not accept that (as some spiritual teachers claim) it follows that all the myriad things that apparently exist in the world of Form are the creation of the thinking mind, and are nothing but an illusion. The Forms are transient, but nonetheless they exist. They are continually coming into being and passing away. They emerge out of the Oneness, and fall back into the Oneness again. As Eckhart Tolle has said, “the universe loves playing with Form”.
We ourselves are part of this dance of Form. We occupy a body that has a physical Form, and this body goes through a cycle of birth, growth, fulfilment, decay and death. On a shorter time-scale, our mind continually gives rise to thought-forms which come into being and pass away. Like every other Form, they pass away into the formless Oneness that underlies the whole of creation.
Thus I believe that both the Oneness and the Plurality are real, but they are intimately connected. And this is related to the theory of numbers that I have described in my book. All the prime numbers are divisible only by themselves and One. The Oneness can divide itself into Two, into Three, into Five, and so on, and the different qualities of the different numbers make it possible for an infinite variety of different Forms to be created. They are being created all the time, and then they dissolve again. It is a cyclical process.
And all the Forms are worthy of our love. Spiritual teachers constantly stress that to experience our Oneness with creation is to experience love – pure unconditional love, which comes from the recognition that the Other is no different from oneself. Even the ego is part of the Oneness, and so is worthy of our love. We cannot attain enlightenment by fighting the ego and trying to destroy it. Rather, the task is to stand back from it and to see it as part of the universal dance of Oneness and Plurality.
This is why it is so important for me to develop a close contact with the natural world. For me, the world of nature is the best place to experience, and to feel an intimate connection with, the cycles of birth, growth, decay and death, and the dance of Oneness and Plurality. I have been influenced by David Abram, whose books (The Spell of the Sensuous; Becoming Animal) help one to develop the sense of profound Oneness with the natural world, which is felt by indigenous tribes but has been lost in the modern “civilized” world. I am especially interested in the “spirit of place”: that is, in the way in which all the Forms that are present in a particular place come together to create an ambience which is unique to that location and affects the consciousness of the people who inhabit or visit that place.
This is why it was so important for me to walk the South West Coast Path and to experience my Oneness with all the myriad Forms that I found along the Path; and this is why I have recently become involved in Druidry, and have become a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. Druidry is especially concerned with the cycles of nature – the cycle of the seasons, the cycle of day and night, the cycle of birth and death. It is a form of spirituality which might seem to be a long way from the teachings of Eckhart Tolle and Ramana Maharshi, but for me there is no contradiction. Druidry teaches – as also does Eckhart Tolle – that the universal Spirit (which we can, if we wish, call God) resides in all the manifest Forms of this world; that the mundane is inspired by the numinous; that the Oneness is present in the Plurality.