To me, it just means that we usually confuse reality with a word, a sound, an idea, a memory. A child, a very young child, has not yet developed her mind, and so she looks at the world – reality – not with the mind, but from pure experience, from pure seeing, pure hearing, pure sensing. In that pure experience, things – the world, reality – are not separated; everything is interconnected, nothing is a thing in itself but everything points towards a silent, invisible, profound aliveness.
And it is precisely that unifying aliveness (this is just a way to say it) that is lost when the mind takes over completely, the pure seeing goes away and what is left is a word, an object, a memory, a thing, separated from the rest.
It is a necessary and natural process; a child needs to differentiate, to create a separation in order to live a practical life.
But that process can continue:
- First there is a view of things as they truly are, an undifferentiated sense of existence (only a way to say it).
- Then, as the mind develops, a separation, an ability to distinguish ‘this’ from ‘that’ appears. But, in that ability, a major component is lost: love (again, only a way to say it). With love lost, a sense of emptiness, loneliness, purposelessness, meaninglessness appears, and the impossible race to find purpose begins. This search for purpose is done outside in the world, with the acquisition of relationships or objects; with the search for meaning in professions or activities; with the consumption of substances and enjoyments etc. I say it is impossible because, even if all those things can give a brief sense of meaning, ultimately they cannot. The sense of meaning can only be found in the love that was lost.
- And here is where the process should continue. In the first step, the young child has the vision of reality, but she doesn’t know that she has it. And so, when the mind starts to develop, that sense of unity is taken away. This last step is the possibility, the realization, the seeing of that sense of unity, even if because of the functioning of the mind, things still appear to be separated. As an example, you can think of a person enjoying a sunset. That person is seeing, and enjoying, the Sun going down even though she most certainly knows that it is not the Sun that is moving but that the Earth that is rotating. In the same way, this last step is the recognition that even though I am apparently seeing separate things, I know (this knowing is much more than a mere intellectual knowing) that underneath that apparent separation, all is love.
And so, when we tell a child that the thing outside is a bird, what we are doing, and there is really nothing we can do to prevent this, is helping the unavoidable process of differentiation.
This process of differentiation is necessary; it is the process of individualization, which brings with it creation, invention, development and evolution, but it is not the process that brings fulfillment and peace and meaning. These can only be found in love, in this third step, in this reversing step, in this recognition of love as a unifying sense of existence. This last step is what I call true spirituality (but of course it has many other names).
Yes, in my vocabulary, spirit equals love.
‘May what I do, flow form me like a river, no forcing and no holding back, the way it is with children.’
Rainer Maria Rilke