Spiritual Illumination in the 21st Century

Question: The video opens with a shot of a Virgin Mary statue with praying hands. I don’t hear you talk much about religion. Can Catholicism or the kind of prayer it promotes lead me to “the light?”

Michael Richardson-Borne: What do you mean by “the light?”

Q: God, I guess.

MR-B: It’s answering these kinds of questions that make what I’m pointing to so easily dismissed by the mainstream world’s love affair with what they think of as intellectual sophistication. Taking time to sincerely address inquiries about God or “the light” in a manner that doesn’t involve a curt dismissal, a smirk, or all-out laughter is a rarity these days unless you plan to count on a missionary, a terrorist, or a starry-eyed devotee of the latest New Age fad for guidance in such matters.

What I talk about in regards to non-separation can seem to lack rigor, and be easily classified with the muddleheadedness of religion, the wispiness and “gotcha” game of contemporary gurus, or the pre-rational thinking of many spiritual traditions. Why? Because what I’m pointing to completely lacks any sort of theory. Non-separation is purely based on your own observation and then letting that observation solve its own dilemma. What I’m sharing with you underlies rigor and lives the intellect. Non-separation is about a different starting point from which the intellect can unfold – a starting point that reveals itself to be a false contraction of the real while it continues, just the same, to perform its function of thinking exactly as its design permits within and as the totality of who you are. The intellect is not the devil – it’s a tool that can recognize its true place within consciousness by grasping the nature of both its limited experience and unlimited existence. Now, with all that said, let’s return to the discussion of Catholicism and the Virgin Mary!

In order to be led somewhere, even to what you call ‘the light,” there must be a separate body and mind that can be led to this particular destination. In order to be led somewhere, there must be a particular destination to which this body and mind can be led. In order to be led somewhere, there must be an even subtler separate self that is aware of the body and the mind and the particular destination – and three of these objects must be transportable through autonomous willful action from a supposed “here” to a supposed “there” where the fourth object exists. This action establishes a new “here” where all four objects are united in separation – which, if understood, reveals why “finding the light” is so difficult in a world that makes the separate self its primary assumption.

So, now, take a moment and observe your experience. Ask yourself who is being led to “the light.” Ask yourself where the separation occurs between where you persist and where this light may exist. Observe the mechanics of how your answers to these questions arise and how your involvement with the arising can maintain separation or a lack thereof. See if you can locate how the subtler separate self naturally observes the body and the mind without involvement. Also, pay attention to how this subtler separate self doesn’t move in the way you think it does. No matter where the body-mind-destination is, notice that, ultimately, no movement occurs that can be identified as your own.

Being Catholic or being led to God requires the assumption of a separate self. If you can see that the separate self is only a story, ask yourself how a story gets led to anything, especially to God? I’ll stop for a second. What’s coming up for you?

Q: It’s crazy what you’re suggesting.

MR-B: Certainly no crazier than believing you are a separate self.

Q: What about prayer?

MR-B: Same answer. Prayer happens. But to whom does it happen and as what does it occur? These are questions for you to answer.

Again, you think prayer is separate from the person praying. You think an individual can autonomously pray for someone or to someone when, in truth, prayer is just a story manifested by a story to be delivered to another story, none of which are real. I know you’ve heard this sort of thing a thousand times before and are virtually immune to its implications. As true as it may be, reminding you that you are the very thing you are looking for has little to no impact on you or the rest of the world. Pay attention to why this is the case.

It’s easy for the intellect to take what it thinks of as the world’s external challenges seriously – things like hunger, clean drinking water, poverty, access to education, and the like. It’s easy for the mind to imagine, and get excited about, how the latest academic research or the recent promise of exponential technologies will potentially solve the external pain that exists in our world. But to accept that the root of all these external challenges is an internal one – to accept that all challenges begin with the assumption of a separate self is a different matter altogether. Why? Because challenging this assumption also challenges the reign of the intellect, and thus the tyranny of separation, the false core of our collective identity.

Rather than waste time on external solutions to external problems that are downstream from the true source of our challenges, I point to the source. I’m not here to merely make our separation more manageable. I’m here to eradicate the assumption you are living in that has you imagine that separation is real. I’m here to point you towards non-separation – the truth of your real being.

Q: Is non-separation the equivalent of finding the light or finding god?

MR-B: Again, same answer. There is nothing to find outside of yourself.

If you do happen to find something that you think is “the light;” a wider context, an expanded state, a peak experience – it’s just another arising in consciousness imagined to have been experienced or owned by an individual.

Non-separation is the impersonal existence of being that includes the personal – which, in essence, is the depersonalization of the personal. From here, there is no burden of concern with finding anything including what you are calling “the light.”

Q: In the song, A.Chal claims that he has, in fact, found a way to “the light.” If this is not possible as you say, how can any of us ever find our own way to the light of non-separation?

MR-B: This is a tough question for the separate self because there is no path for an individual to find their way to the light of non-separation. Awakening does not come with an instruction manual, nor does it come from any sort of individual effort. You are either lived into it or you are not. If anything happens, it will never be from your personal doing – and will never happen to an individual that holds on to a sense of self-authorship.

Q: Why are Catholic saints and sages from the past coupled with the concept of illumination?

MR-B: In a Catholic context, the word enlightenment is rarely used – instead, the word illumination, or illuminated, was adopted for both teachers and realizers of non-separation.

In earlier times, explorers of the internal were usually affiliated with one of the religious traditions – which is part of what has made the awakening path such an alienated vehicle for change in our staunchly secular world. But it’s also a reason why the religious traditions may still play a significant role in the total awakening of humanity one day.

There’s a real risk today of illumination being forgotten inside of the traditions that gave rise to the wisdom of non-separation. We’d do well not to let this happen – instead making it a priority to elevate the profile of wisdom teachings in both church and state as a means of embracing our pre-existing unity and transforming the epicenter of our culture into one that embraces non-separation as its primary assumption.

Q: What is illumination like in the 21st century?

MR-B: The same as any century – it’s not like anything while being everything.

The content may be different, the context may be different – but different for whom? With this question, you can see how the mechanism of separative confusion has remained the same for centuries.

What I am pointing to is nothing fantastical, nothing mystical, nothing beyond the norm – I find it absurd when spiritual illumination is placed as a fringe category of miraculous religious experience. Illumination, what I call non-separation, is your natural state of being. As common as the sky. As normal as the breathing of a baby or worms crawling on the concrete after a heavy rain.

But how do you point people to non-separation without having it sound like something beyond the scope of their lives? How do you tell people that we are all walking around shining like the sun? How do you tell people that we are fighting for the unreal while shining as the bright?

Q: Give me one more, please.

MR-B: How do you tell people that our collective birthright is spiritual illumination?

Q: Give me one more, please.

MR-B: How do you tell an illuminated people that any sort of perceived rain has to result in a rainbow?