God is at once personal and impersonal. He is an impersonal Person – that is, He is not only the all-pervading, nameless and formless Reality, but He is also all that have names and forms.
There are two ways to realise Him – one to expand the ego, the individual, to infinity and the other to reduce it to nothing. The former is the path of knowledge, the latter that of devotion. The Jnani says: “I am God – the universal Truth.” The Bhakta says: “I am nothing, O Lord, You are everything.” In both cases the ego-sense disappears. The second is the safer and surer way – to take refuge in God and be ever under His protection.
How else are we to become nearer to the One, if we do not rouse up the One of the soul (τὸ ἓν τῆς ψυχῆς), which is in us as a kind of image of the One, by virtue of which the most accurate of authorities declare that divine possession most especially comes about? And how are we to make this One and flower of the soul (τὸ ἄνθος τῆς ψυχῆς) shine forth unless we, first of all, activate our intellect? For the activity of the intellect leads the soul towards a state and activity of calm. And how are we to achieve perfect intellectual activity if we do not travel there by means of logical conceptions, using composite intellections prior to simpler ones? So then, we need demonstrative power in our preliminary assumptions, whereas we need intellectual activity in our investigations of being (for the orders of being are denied of the One, ἀποφάσκονται τοῦ ἑνὸς), and we need inspired impulse in our consciousness of that which transcends all beings, in order that we may not slip unawares from our negations (ἀποφάσεων) into Not-Being (εἰς τὸ μὴ ὂν) and its invisibility by reason of our indefinite imagination, but rousing up the One within us (τὸ ἐν ἡμῖν ἓν ἀνεγείραντες) and, through this, warming the soul (ἀναθάλψαντες τήν ψυχήν) we may connect ourselves to the One itself (συνάψωμεν πρὸς αῦτὸ τὸ ἓν) and, as it were, find mooring, taking our stand above everything intelligible within ourselves and dispensing with (ἀφελόντες) every other one of our activities, in order that we may consort with it alone and perform a dance around it, leaving behind (ἀπολιπόντες) all the intellections of the soul (τῆς ψυχῆς νοήσεις) which are directed to secondary things.
This statement gives us solid testimony for the fact that the supreme mystical states transcend not only discursive rationality –activity which is still a preliminary one– but also the intuitive noetic level. Inspiration and “erotic mania” reflect the activity of the One of the soul (ἓν τῆς ψυχῆς) as it approaches and attains contact with the One.
In this process of unification, the logic of negation finally finds its place, since the statement “we know the one by the One” means that “by Non-Being we know the One”, which is to say that “it is via negationis that we know the One.”
O Thou beyond all. How else is it meet [suitable] for me to sing of Thee? What words can make thy hymn? For no word can describe Thee. What mind perceives Thee? For no mind can grasp Thee. Thou alone art unspeakable, though creator of all that is spoken of, Thou alone art unknowable, though creator of all that is known.
And through such hymning they are warmed again, the souls, the psykhēs, οι ψυχές, from the verb ψύχω, “freeze”, “the frozen ones” who have ventured out into oblivion so they can cherish their re-awakening to unity for evermore.
Once for all, then, a short precept is given thee: Love, and do what thou wilt: whether thou hold thy peace, through love hold thy peace; whether thou cry out, through love cry out; whether thou correct, through love correct; whether thou spare, through love do thou spare: let the root of love be within, of this root can nothing spring but what is good.
From St. Augustin’s Seventh Homily on the First Epistle of John (1 John IV. 4–12)
Well, first of all, your observation that the teaching seems to be directed towards the ego or separate self… In a way, you’re right, because awareness is not in need of any teaching. [Low, knowing laughter in the audience]
So… the teaching is… is… If there were no separate self, if in other words there were no suffering, there would be no teaching. The teaching arises in response to… basically in response to our suffering. That is, in response to the one who suffers.
So yes, the teaching is directed towards the one who suffers, so what is important, is not whether the teaching is directed to awareness, or to the separate self; it’s “Does the teaching take the apparently separate self directly to its source? Or does it perpetuate the separate self by giving it various activities and practices to do?”
And then your real question, which was about “What is the place of ethics?” … ahm… and, “Does it matter, the way we live our life, or our lifestyle choices?” … or –is that right– “What relation do they have to the non-dual teaching?” …
What is traditionally called “enlightenment” is the recognition of our essential nature, the recognition of our being as it is. But that is not the ultimate goal of the path. It is a step on the path. The ultimate goal –if we can call it a “goal”– is (first to recognize the nature of our essential self, and then) to live the implications of that recognition, in all realms of our life. And our enlightenment, our self-realization, cannot be considered complete, until this recognition is at least stable to a relatively high degree, in all realms of our life.
Now. None of us are perfect, so none of us can say that every aspect of our life has been one hundred percent colonized by this understanding. But a person who claims enlightenment, or claims to have recognized the nature of their own being, but acts unkindly towards others –other people, or animals– I think in that case, the recognition of their own being is… it may have taken place, but it hasn’t yet begun to really permeate their entire bodymind.
So, the answer is, ethics, the way we lead our lives, our lifestyle choices, are important. Kindness… I consider kindness one of the highest virtues. Just kindness; is an inevitable and natural outcome, or consequence, of this understanding. Why? Because we feel, we don’t just understand and know, but we feel, that we share our being. So what we do to another, we literally do to ourselves. Now, who would willingly do something unkind, or unjust, or unloving to themselves?
So… This is why many of you have heard me quote Saint Augustine before. This is why, when somebody asked Saint Augustine exactly the same question that you have me asked me about ethics and morality, he said,
“Love, and do whatever you want”.
By “Love”, of course, as we said earlier, he meant,
Feel that you share your being, with all people, all animals, and all things.
And as long as you act in accordance with that understanding, you can do anything you want. Because anything you do will simply bring that understanding out into the community. You will share that understanding and express it.
So, I would… Whenever you find yourself at a crossroads in your life –either a major crossroads or just a small junction, where you have two options: “Shall I do this? Or shall I do that?”– Pause, and first go to your deepest understanding; go to your deepest… love. Stand there, and then make the decision that best expresses that understanding.
Now. Even if, down the road, you look back and you think, I made the wrong decision, nevertheless your intention to make the decision that is an expression of love and understanding, will be sufficient. Your intention will keep you safe.
And sometimes, it requires courage. Because the decision that we make on behalf of love or understanding, is not always the comfortable decision. Sometimes it may place us in a situation that is difficult, or uncomfortable. And the tendency is always to go for the more comfortable option; and that’s where you have to be really… really established in love and understanding, and to really let that guide your behaviour. Irrespective of the consequences.
I’m going to do this because I feel it is right. It is an expression of truth, and love. And I’m going to do it irrespective of the consequences.
They always do, and here I can testify to that as my own diaphragm expands with their heavenly love, I feel them using you and all of us as instruments of praise, glowing through your golden airways and spreading out and up and up the sweetest scents of spring. –Leon Hieros, responding to dearest Matthew:
I am convinced that angels stood beside us as we recorded this piece. There is hope in this world. –Matthew Paez, tenor of the BYU Singers
bless our joy bless our tears bless our air bless our bread
till lights soar, loving angels instead
I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.