Section 1 - Eckhart’s teachings on the mystery of the light of consciousness
In this section I am mostly describing what Eckhart says; sometimes I directly quote him, at other times I am not quoting but I am still attempting to describe what Eckhart says.
Part 1 - Being the Light
Eckhart began by noting that Jesus said “you are the light of the world” and then elsewhere Jesus said “I am the light of the world” [00.45 – 02.00]. He noted that in saying “you are the light of the world” Jesus was talking to “ordinary people” – everyone, saying this light was Essence [02.00 - 02.54] ( even Buddha-nature). Eckhart went on to speak of this light as consciousness:-
"The essence is your light, your consciousness .... without consciousness there is no world [04.10]". “The universe is conscious and we cannot know what consciousness is [06.40]”
Mystery is a constant theme in his talk. He spoke of the macrocosmic mystery of the expanding universe, the microcosmic mystery of the atom, but the greatest mystery to him is consciousness. “Scientists rarely talk about consciousness because they don’t know what to say about it” [06.30].
“The one thing you cannot doubt is that you are conscious right now” [07.20]. You are listening to this talk (or reading this advice), “where does it take place? In consciousness” [08.40]. “The way I see it you are a manifestation of this one consciousness and I am speaking in this one consciousness. Who am I? I am the light of the world, the one consciousness - as are you” [09.20 – 09.50].
You cannot doubt consciousness, it is an experiential observation [09.35 – 11.30]. Descartes I think therefore I am. He stopped but what if he had gone on beyond thought - transcended thinking, then there is consciousness and awareness [11.30 – 12.30]. Beyond “there is the light of consciousness (before it becomes a thing) the light shines through before it becomes form, the light is not separate” [12.35 – 12.50]. The realisation that you are conscious is beyond doubt. This consciousness is the light of the world, the essence of who you are – for the world to appear it needs the light of consciousness [13.00 – 13.30]. Science cannot observe consciousness because “consciousness cannot be observed because consciousness is the eternal observer” [14.50]. “Consciousness is the eternal mystery, it is the eternal mystery of who you are” [15.50]. You cannot make yourself an object of knowledge. You can know yourself as an ego, as conditioning but you can never know your Essence – can never make your essence the object [15.55]. This essence is part of consciousness that is the “eternal subject”. “It is inseparable from the transcendent, an emanation of God, in the way that a ray of sunlight is not the sun but is connected to the sun” [16.30]. When is a ray of sunlight not sun? Inseparable, transcendent. Consciousness is the emanation.
Note for Christian comparisons. Kingdom of Heaven is the dimension of spaciousness - pure consciousness – an inner dimension of consciousness. Eckhart said that Jesus said the kingdom of heaven that is within you, and his disciples asked when does the kingdom of heaven come? And Jesus answered “the kingdom of heaven does not come with signs to be perceived, you cannot say look it’s over here or look it’s over there, truly I tell you it is within you” [18.00 – 18.45]. “It is the eternal subject. You cannot make consciousness, an emanation of God, into an object of perception or an object of knowledge” [19.15].
Part 2 – Calling in the light of consciousness [19.50]
What is it that you cannot doubt? Consciousness, you don't know what it is but you are conscious. Can you be conscious of the fact that you are conscious? Meditators say yes to this but Eckhart gives a simple method. You are thinking. Stop. What is it between the two thoughts? There is something but it cannot be described – it’s given a word “consciousness”. In the conditioned world people are not encouraged to question these things. There is an unconscious assumption amongst conditioning that we are our thoughts. For this assumption/delusion there is no understanding of consciousness because thoughts block off consciousness, but if you see the space between thoughts …. What is there? There can be no doubt. Maybe no understanding beyond the word “consciousness” but there is understanding. By going into the depth of this space – Eckhart calls it spaciousness – we develop our understanding – our being – we follow our paths.
Once we accept there is consciousness without doubt, what arises? “You have gone deeper into yourself, touched a deeper dimension out of which all those things that can transform your life into something benevolent and fruitful (even joyful) emerge” [25.35 – 26.25].
“Creativity. Creative insights, they come from the deeper layers of unconditioned consciousness. To be creative you have to have some access to the dimension that is beyond thinking” [26.33 – 26.44] Whoever, “if they access a moment when the mind stops but they remain acutely alert and resonant, then the mind starts again and the ability to bring some creative solution has somehow increased dramatically [27.45 – 28.20]
Wisdom. “Wisdom emanates from that deeper place of presence” [29.07]. Wisdom on CNN, Fox News ….? “You can have a developed mind but no wisdom, the more developed the mind becomes it can see separate problems but it cannot see the problem in its totality. Wisdom sees the totality. In order to see the totality you need to come to a moment of cessation of thinking so that you have awareness that looks at the problem. …. Wisdom emanates from that place of the realisation that your self is that space of awareness of presence as thought subsides” [30.00 - 32.18].
Empathy emanates from the light of consciousness, that place beyond thought. “Empathy with humans, empathy with other life forms, compassion, because you are not trapped in your personal sense of identity. A person engaged in protecting or enhancing this personal sense of identity cannot have empathy” [32.50 – 33.34].
Love. “Love as the realisation of being when you realise yourself as the light of consciousness”. You can sense that light in another being even beyond their personality.” Even beyond the conditioned personality in others, “you can sense the same beingness you can sense in yourself. There is a light of consciousness in every human. [34.40 – 38.00].
“These are aspects (creativity, wisdom, empathy, love) of your realisation of being” [34.00]. The evolution of your consciousness through creativity etc. (these aspects) is the evolution of planetary consciousness is the evolution of universal consciousness [26.50 - 27.02].
“Through the realisation of being, through the realisation of consciousness, the way you meet problems changes. Your reality changes. Your reality is your state of consciousness with which you face what happens around you” [38.20 – 39.14].
Part 3 - Challenges as a Pathway to Conscious Evolution [39.18]
Eckhart talks about challenges “as if they were designed to make life difficult” [39.46]. To me he was stressing that life is not meant to be comfortable. With our western consumerism and western lifestyle there is a conformity that we can go from day to day making ourselves comfortable. But challenges get in the way of that comfort so that at one stage we might reach some comfort only for a challenge to come along causing discomfort. To me he was saying comfort was not possible in conditioned world. There might be interludes of comfort to delude us that complete comfort was possible; but it is not and there will always be some form of challenge whether personal or societal.
Despite these interludes which delude us, our purpose in life is not this comfort; it’s almost as if life’s challenges are intended to come along and “make us uncomfortable” so that we cannot be deluded that such comfort is possible. These comfortable interludes can arise in relationship, professional life, material possessions but new challenges will arise bringing about suffering. “If you don’t know the deeper dimension of who you are, if you react to the problems of life, you suffer and become unhappy. This is because you don’t understand why you are here …. You are not here to feel comfortable” [41.00 -42.00].
Eckhart discussed differing levels of social upheaval not drawing any global implications. But he did say that in the West there was “increasing turbulence, and this was nothing to be afraid of” [44.38]. He described cycles of challenges in which it might be possible for all the buses to come at the same time. But if there are no challenges in life, in an ordered life – a steady job, stable income, year in year out – “this is a most undesirable thing because there would be no evolution of awareness and consciousness remaining stuck in your relative comfort zone. Without any awakening of consciousness you would not evolve as a human being, you remain stagnant. By being challenged you evolve” [46.58]. He spoke of the collective challenges – societal – that in 2020 could not be predicted, how can there be comfort with that?
“What is the relationship between your realisation of the light of consciousness and the challenges that are coming towards you?” [49.02]. “The same external circumstances are experienced very differently by one person, still very unconscious, to another who is much more conscious, more in touch with what is beyond the conditioned personality. This (conscious) person experiences these challenges very differently from a person trapped in ego” [49.20 – 49.46]. “In egoic identity any challenge becomes threatening, not only that but any possibility of challenge that might happen is already an enormous source of suffering” [50.07]. Egoic thinking - “how much worse is it going to get, playing out scenarios and then experiencing emotions that are the same or worse than if they actually happened” [50.40]. “If there is not enough light of consciousness in you then all you have is the unobserved mind creating an enormous amount of suffering for you playing out scenarios that are not here and reacting to challenges that are here in a very limited way with the old conditioning of their minds” [51.27].
“As we enter this period of external turmoil and turbulence it is important to realise that the way we experience this is largely determined by state of consciousness” [51.54]. “If it is purely reactive then it is going to be extremely difficult. Not only that but reactive consciousness is largely dominated by fear, and any action you take that arises out of a fearful and limited state of consciousness is ultimately not going to be helpful and in most cases will make things worse. Fear interferes with your ability to be aware, to be conscious, and even to think rationally; your thinking is no longer your thinking, it is fear thinking, it is all part of the egoic consciousness” [53.16].
“Our greatest challenge does not come from the outside, it comes from the inside – our conditioned minds. In any situation, in the present moment, be aware of your state of consciousness, and make that (awareness) your primary reality” [54.00] “If fear arises ask why am I fearful and in most cases you will realise that fear is produced from thinking – not from the situation” [54.25]. Situations can be dealt with by facing them in the present moment, but in a fearful state of consciousness you are incapable of taking action or if you take action it is completely contaminated by fear – with a complete lack of wisdom [55.04].
“Our greatest challenge is how do we face the external situation? The action we take is secondary, prior to taking action we need to be aware of the state of consciousness out of which the action arises” [55.35]. “When you meet an unconscious person, such as an angry person, they want to draw you into their anger. Is your state of consciousness reactive? You will amplify that person’s unconsciousness as you will be drawn into unconsciousness. If you are in an aware state of consciousness you can stay present, instead of becoming reactive you become alert. As a result this unconscious person helps you become more present. In any situation you can go into reactivity. Reactivity is a force within you that can grow within you, if you try to solve a situation in this state of reactivity you will amplify the situation – make it worse. How things evolve externally is connected to your state of consciousness so it is vitally important to be present” [58.45].
“Make it your primary concern to be responsible for your state of consciousness first” [59.12].
Part 4 – Becoming a Conscious Participant in the Creative Process of the Universe [59.12]
In this part Eckhart discusses two deep mysteries and weaves in and out of both. As with mystery in general it is necessary to come to terms with what is known and the faith that takes us into the unknown; my own understanding of this will be discussed in section 3 and in Viveka-Zandtao. For me there was a greater clarity in this part when I understood that the weaving in and out was based on the two different mysteries so here I intend to examine the talk in terms of the two mysteries – but not in talk order; to understand why I have done this perhaps it would be better for you to listen to the whole of part 4 first. How you interact with these two deep mysteries depends on understanding and faith, I will leave that aside for the moment.
The two mysteries come from the title, the first is the Creative Process of the Universe and the second is Becoming a Conscious Participant in that process; it is understandable why there is weaving in and out. He begins the talk with how the state of consciousness affects situations, a foundation for understanding being a conscious participant. I am examining the talk from the perspective of the two mysteries so will include his initial discussion within the second mystery.
Mystery 1 - Creative Process of the Universe
“Challenges are here in order to bring more consciousness. The light of consciousness that comes into this world needs to grow, and that is the evolutionary process of the planet and the universe as a whole” [65.41- 66.04]. This is how Eckhart connects the initial discussion of the personal state of consciousness to Mystery 1. “This process is the light of consciousness coming more fully into this dimension. It is the emanation (of consciousness) from source, so the universe is engaged in a process of awakening, of becoming more conscious. Every life form is gradually becoming more conscious” [66.04 – 66.31]. He then went into what I can only describe as a cosmological history with life forms becoming more conscious and extinction events within planetary and human development.
“There is a vast intelligence operating unseen underneath the world of phenomena. This vast intelligence is universal consciousness and that is the ultimate reality. The universe is in the process of manifesting more and more consciousness, the universe is still being created – it’s not finished. God is still creating this world, and you are an essential part of this creative process. You are not a separate part of this awakening, you are an expression of this awakening universe. God is emanating more consciousness into this dimension. In our case it is through you – other life forms too, but the human here is very important. There has been evolution of consciousness for millions and millions of years but now there is not just evolution of consciousness but conscious evolution of consciousness through the human. Our talking here, being here together is an expression of that conscious evolution of the universe. Suddenly it is not just the evolution of consciousness which has been going on for millions of years, we have reached a stage where the evolution of consciousness becomes conscious evolution of consciousness. Through you, through me, the universe is realising its own journey, its own purpose, its own essence ultimately” [68.08 – 70.35]. He then goes on to describe a transitional stage [70.39] that we are at, and that I will include as part of mystery 2.
So Eckhart connects mystery 1 – the creative process of the universe – to mystery 2, being a conscious participant in that process. Now we will look at mystery 2.
Mystery 2 – Becoming a Conscious Participant in Mystery 1
To develop an understanding of how we can be a conscious participant we need to go back and find out how Eckhart sees the way state of consciousness affects any situation. “In a mysterious way how a situation develops is connected to the state of consciousness with which you meet the situation” [59.35]. Are you non-reactive but present? “Make it your primary concern to be responsible for your state of consciousness” [59.10].
Experience it this way. “Facing a situation are you facing it in presence – non-reactive? This means you can sense this deeper presence that is within you as you look at the situation. You are there not just as a person but more importantly as the light of consciousness. And the light of consciousness is the awareness that looks at the situation” [60.23]. “Right action will happen but it will arise out of this presence. You might use your mind – saying something?, but this saying will not be egoic it will arise from the deeper level. And you will say the right thing that is helpful, you will not say something that will inflame the situation – create suffering for yourself and others” [60.57]. “So how your reality evolves, even what happens in a difficult situation, is connected to the state of consciousness with which you meet that situation” [61.32]. A very unconscious state will create more suffering, and be completely devoid of wisdom. In an unconscious state “collective thought forms” take possession of your mind, you identify with it, it becomes part of your ego; the situation gets awful. “You don’t know that your enemy lives between your two ears not out there, but you don’t know that because there is not enough awareness, not enough light of consciousness to be aware” [63.18].
This awareness is the “greatest challenge” for humans. It is not the external challenge, although that external challenge is helpful. “The external challenge is there as an awakener” [63.41]. You are not here to be comfortable. “There is a comfort zone but it is not external. Deep within when you are aware and present, you have accessed the transcendent dimension of your consciousness, which is also the transcendent dimension of universal consciousness. In that transcendent state you can say you are in a comfort zone but that is beyond the polarities of good and bad” [64.47]. This is not what we normally associate comfort with.
“You can be at peace even when the external situation is turbulent and very challenging” [64.58], “it is an incredible awakening that you can be internally at peace in even in the face of challenges. Not only this but the challenges forced you to go deeper because somehow you know that if you don’t go deeper you’re going to suffer more and more” [65.32]; “nothing external will ever free you from that”. This is where he connects to mystery 1, “challenges are here in order to bring more consciousness. The light of consciousness that comes into this world needs to grow, and that is the evolutionary process of the planet and the universe as a whole” [65.41- 66.04].
I have already examined mystery 1 – universal consciousness. So far with regards to mystery 2 I have explained Eckhart’s teachings concerning the mysterious way in which a situation is connected to your state of consciousness. How does this work if we are to become conscious participants in mystery 1, the Creative Process of the Universe?
In this final part of presenting Eckhart’s teachings on the light of consciousness I am going to present the teachings and note whether it requires any assumptions to accept the teaching; I am not disagreeing with the teachings just recognising the assumptions.
In presenting mystery 1 I had reached the stage where Eckhart was describing a transition. The transition is that we are reaching the stage where there is a conscious process of the evolution of consciousness. “Transition is from one mode of being to a new mode of being. This new mode of being is conscious participation in the creative process of the universe through the human form” [70.57]. This assumes a transition in which there was no conscious participation in the past into a new mode where there is conscious participation [assumption 1].
“There is conscious participation when you face an external situation and bring conscious presence to it rather than reactivity” [71.13]. “The external situation has the purpose of driving you to a deeper place of presence” [71.28] “because if you don’t go there you suffer a lot and things get worse”.
“You meet the situation consciously, and it’s no longer the same situation.” “The external world and your consciousness are a single phenomenon” [Assumption 2]. “How a situation evolves depends on the state of consciousness with which you meet that situation and deal with it; then you will find it changes” [72.27]. “This is a very mysterious thing. It is important to realise you are not at the mercy of externals. It is of vital importance so that you become a conscious participant in the creative process of the universe. You begin to change reality primarily by being present so your action (wise action and empowered action) arises out of being present” [73.16].
“I deal with the realm of cause, the world is the realm of effect. The realm of effect changes, consciousness changes, as cause changes.” “What we need is more people awakening to who they are, the light of the world, and then we will find that reality changes as a reflection of the collective consciousness” [Assumption 4] [74.19].
“We are moving into a time period of turbulence, that’s a good thing, it’s here to awaken us; although it could also make us more unconscious. It is quite possible it will awaken a certain segment of the population, and it will make another segment of the population unconscious. This other segment of the population just needs more time” [75.00].
“It will be much easier for those who awaken. I can see certainly we are moving into turbulence, certainly some people are becoming more conscious and some are becoming more unconscious.” “My job – and your job – is to help humans become more conscious so that they can take right action – if action is necessary or possible” [Assumption 5].
“Your primary responsibility is to yourself first, and you will affect others around you directly and indirectly” [76.37]. “And by (affecting) others I don’t mean technology or messages.” “All humans are connected underneath the surface of things, there is one human consciousness, so any change in your consciousness is a change in human consciousness” [Assumption 6] [77.03].
“That’s our purpose ( conscious participation). We do not need to fear what’s happening but just to realise that it is as it should be if seen from a higher perspective of human evolution” [Assumption 7] [77.18]. “The present moment is as it is and it could not be otherwise, it is what humans need for their further evolution” [77.43]. They don’t need their comfort zone unless it is their transcendent comfort zone.
“Welcome whatever life brings to you in the moment even if it is difficult. Don’t complain because the moment you complain you are in an antagonistic relationship with life, and if you’re in an antagonistic relationship with life you will experience life as antagonistic.” “Life ultimately reflects back to you your state of consciousness” [Assumption 8] [78.54]. “Eventually everyone will realise that”.
“I wish you well in your journey towards further awakening of consciousness, and that who you are in your essence is the light of the world” [End]