The Zen koan “What is your original face (本来面目) before you were born?” and the nondual tradition’s (advaita-vedanta) self-inquiry “Who am I?” point to the same reality of our true nature, the deepest truth of who or what we are as conscious human beings. Simply put, they arrive at our innermost truth as sheer pristine awareness, naked aware being, pure consciousness, or spirit: the primordially pure experiencing in our experience.
In other words, we are not human beings having spiritual experiences but spiritual beings having human experiences. Fundamentally, we are seamless unconfined knowing that is irreducible, unassailable, empty of independent inherent reified existence, lucid and open, transparent and luminous, naturally blissful. As spirit in essence and activity, we are image bearers (imago dei) of God who is Spirit. All that we are as dynamic pristine awareness reflects all that God is in Himself. This is a mystery of immense depths and richness.
Our aware being may mirror God’s Being in essence, attributes, and expression yet be excised from God as a result of primordial rupture. This rupture is not seen by awareness but felt as an instinctual sense of autonomy and self-agency either oblivious or actively resistant to the intimate and involved presence of God.
Five degrees of separation obtain between us and God, the first four being a condition of our deluded finite self that is potentially knowable, and the final one a condition of primordial rupture that remains stubbornly hidden from view. What are they?
1. Awareness mixed with and obscured by contraction and localization of finite mind, body, and world where dimensionless knowing assumes parameters of time, space, and person.
2. Bifurcation of experience into content and context, object and subject, where duality holds sway and a solidified self pertains and persists.
3. Reification of the experiencing pure awareness itself, non-localized and atemporal, erroneously grasped as inherently real and none other than the pure “I-am” that is one with God, the infinite singular consciousness. While epistemologically infinite, awareness is in fact ontologically a fragment but ignorant of its own broken status.
4. Not knowing what is not known; or lack of awareness of the lack of awareness of the absolute, which is the sovereign God and ultimate Other, due to enchantment with awareness itself.
5. Primordial rupture from God as loving source, ground, and desideratum due to rebellious disobedience to God’s gracious and total involvement in our existence. This excision of human-divine communion tears apart the fabric of our being and the being of creation itself. Communion is lost and the universe is broken in myriad ways.
Our self-inquiry and meditative efforts can only get us through the first three degrees of separation, if we are lucky. Beyond that requires unwarranted grace breaking into the horizons of our awareness, our spirit, to remake and regenerate our fractured aware being, excised from its divine sustenance and home-ground. Grace changes everything. Grace remakes and regenerates our spirit. The mirror is made whole, even as Spirit indwells spirit. A new humanity, new creation dawns.