Question: What is the separate self?
Michael Richardson-Borne: The separate self is all mumbo jumbo – but it’s mumbo jumbo you continue to allow to be your foundational object of belief, a foundational object that provides the separative core of your identity. The separate self is a concept that underlies the conceptual architecture of who you think you are – an unnoticed anchor that holds you in the waters of separation and restricts your impulse to come up for air. The separate self is a belief in an all-encompassing personal existence, an addiction to isolation and to an imaginary being that is subject to the occurrences of birth and death.
Let’s continue with this because it’s one of the most important questions in our time together. Until one delves into this question of separation and sincerely begins to follow the inquiry to its conclusion, the Path of Non-separation has not been actively entered. Without opening the space for the separate self to be doubted, it will remain an unchallenged story of the mind – a belief you hold about an individual body’s self-authored existence. Without this doubt, you’ll continue to un-willfully forget what it is that came before your personal story. You’ll continue to be committed to the product of a mind that has turned in on itself and only observes its own concepts. You’ll continue to believe these conceptual stories provide a one to one correlation with a reality that’s separate from the whole.
This commitment to concepts is a kind of agoraphobia where the mind is scared to leave its house of concepts. Instead, it builds a larger and larger house to accommodate its lie – and convinces itself that an expanding house is all there is. Do you see how being locked in an ever-growing house keeps you from knowing a broader existence, keeps a personal contraction from knowing what’s outside of the house or from recognizing the land that the house is built on or the air that pervades it?
When I speak of Non-separation as the impersonal existence of being that includes the personal, the separate self is what I mean by the personal. Right now, you believe the impersonal is that which is not personal. You believe the impersonal lives inside of the personal. But take another look and you may see that the Non-separative impersonal is actually what expresses both the personal and that which you think of as impersonal. Think of separation as a personal self embedded in a human game of dominoes where other personal selves are imagined to push and bounce off one another until they completely fall. The fallen are simply replaced by new-born selves that automatically continue the traditions of the culture of separation – a culture they fail to see is a separative construction that induces a separative existence.
Our reason for being here is to question this separative tradition – to question if a culture founded on the assumption of a separate self is the true way of our hearts. To question if the separate self has forgotten its existence as, first and foremost, a reflection of Non-separation.
Q: Why do you say my separate self is all “mumbo jumbo?”
MR-B: How can speaking from the contours of unreality or from the perspective of a false assumption be called anything else? Speaking from the assumption of a separate self is just a garbled symphony of phoniness, an abstract painting of sounds where the separate self is perceived as free to find any pattern it wants and to shape this pattern into a self-authored identity.
If you saw someone speaking to a tree, you would most likely deem what they were saying is mumbo jumbo. In the same way, I understand your speaking to me as a separate object is the equivalent of watching you speak to a tree.
Q: Are you suggesting that the activities of the world are all nonsense?
MR-B: As reflections of Non-separation, no. As illusions of a separate self, yes.
When you say “activities of the world,” what do you mean?
Q: Things like politics, religion, family, education, work.
MR-B: All the activities you mention have something in common that anchors them in non-sense – the assumption of a separate self. If you believe in a separate self, the angle from which you approach life is always steeped in non-sense. From separation, activities are viewed as something outside of the self that an individual performs according to their own volition – which is just mumbo jumbo. From Non-separation, all of the activities you mention are merely one activity – and only a reflection of this activity can be observed as the activity itself. Put more simply – all activity points back to who you are beyond the separate self.
The noise, thoughts, and movements of the separate self are inherently jumbled, chaotic, biased, unhinged, and unaligned with the truth of your condition. What you call activities are just distractions that keep you from getting to the bottom of what these activities are.
Take note of this – from Non-separation, mumbo jumbo is the language and cultural expressions of a world convinced of the existence of the separate self. Bringing the truth of Non-separation to the fore will spontaneously straighten out the separative natures of activities like politics, religion, family, education, and work – it will automatically relieve these institutions of the non-sensical separative nature safe-guarding a continuation of the culture of separation.
Q: Why should I believe you and not the majority of the world? From my experience, not very many people believe what you do.
MR-B: No people in the world believe what I do because what I’m pointing to is not a belief.
Q: What do you mean?
MR-B: Non-separation is not a belief – it’s that which is living the conceptual nature of all beliefs. Any belief that isolates as the true, including all notions of Non-separation, is just conceptual mumbo jumbo. As a matter of fact, any kind of intersubjective or intrasubjective communication that has the belief in a separate self as its undergirding is mumbo jumbo.
Can you now see how what people think is happening in their private worlds is all mumbo jumbo? Can you see how the mumbo jumbo you think you autonomously share with another object is non-sense when divided from the movement of the whole? Can you see how self-authorship and the fear of personal consequences can be let go?
If you notice that the root context of your separate self is egoless, the mumbo jumbo of the personal will become the non-sense as well as the reality of your world. The jumbled sounds of separation will become an expression of Non-separation.
Q: So life is just insignificant mumbo jumbo, completely pointless?
MR-B: Only a separative approach to life can make it one way or the other – but either interpretation of life from a position of separation amounts to what we’re calling mumbo jumbo. When the truth of Non-separation is floating in the background without recognition, everything that occurs is in a context of mumbo jumbo that guarantees perpetual nonsense.
However, the repositioning of Non-separation as a sort of atmosphere for the conceptual workings of the mind frees the separate self from itself. From here, a pre-existing freedom moves back to the forefront, which is how the personal can be recognized as mumbo jumbo without feeling threatened about the survival of its continued independent existence. The impersonal effortlessly embraces the mumbo jumbo of the personal exactly as it is – but without, once again, becoming blinded or fully absorbed by it.