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What is Meant by Inner Light?
On the Christian path, God is known first as the personal God, then as the transpersonal God, and finally as the Ultimate Reality beyond all personal and impersonal categories. Since God's existence, knowledge and activity are one, Ultimate Reality is discovered to be That-which-is.
 ~ Fr Thomas Keating

Inner Light Most will agree, there's an awareness within us that experiences, or is aware of, our thoughts, feelings, sensations, sights and sounds etc. Interestingly, this 'experiencer' or  'awareness' seems to be ageless, limitless and common to all humankind.

Down through history, this aware Presence has been known by different names in different cultures and traditions. Today, in the West, its increasingly referred to as 'consciousness', but 2000 years ago, it seems Jesus of Nazareth referred to this inner dimension as "the kingdom of God." Some 'gospels' indicate that Jesus also spoke of this aware Presence as "the light of the world."

Soon after the death of Jesus, this aware Presence was spoken of by his close friends as the inner Light or Christ, that 'lights or illumins everyone that comes into the world.' It was then recognized that Jesus (the Christ) had fully identified with this inner dimension of Spirit and strove during his time as a spiritual teacher to reveal, to all that would listen, that this was their true identity also.

It must be emphasized, that this Christ-consciousness (as we may now call it), in Jesus, was understood by him and his most attentive followers, not to be a person (and especially not a person of a particular gender), but nothing less than his true natue or essence and, contrary to later church doctrine, the true nature or essence of everyone and everything.

Of course, in the centuries before Jesus, as well as in his own time, this inner kingdom of God or Spirit dimension was recognized by only a few, and most of Jesus' followers began to think of the Christ as a someone, a saviour and as an object apart from themselves.

We will now attempt to define this mysterious Christ-consciousness as clearly as words will permit and see if it has any relevance for us today.

Always bear in mind, however, the human tendency to believe that certain words can deliver "truth" or "reality." Obviously the word "honey" is quite different to the acutual experience of tasting honey. Also, there is our tendency to identify with words, including words pointing to the Spirit dimension or Christ-consciousness.

Let us start by using words to point to what is prior to words. The awareness we experience every waking moment is the bare naked awake Presence that is looking through your eyes right now. This observing Awareness is prior to all words, names, bodies, stories, histories, roles, titles, thoughts, emotions, and all other forms that appear within awareness.

All the great sages teach that this infinite, eternal Consciousness is prior to any body, story, thought, belief, position, opinion, viewpoint, idea, concept, religion, political affiliation, teaching, national association, emotion, state, sensation, experience and every other appearance or thing. All phenomena arise from and are withessed by this aware Presence.

They quietly insist that infinite, eternal Consciousness is all there is ... that there's nothing else whatever. Consciousness is contantly manifesting and everything that we encounter and experience is a manifestation of Consciousness. This 'Oneness', they say, includes the many.

The non-dual understanding of reality is not only a realization of the formless realm or what Jesus called, "the kingdom of God", but also a recognition that every form is a temporary expression of the eternal formless aware Presence. Forms include people, jobs, relationships, ideas, feelings and all other things.

In this realm or kingdom, there's a recognition that what you are in the deepest sense is an unnamable, ineffable Presence
instead of believing that you're a person separate from the rest of life. There is the recognition that Presence is also the essence of everything in your world. This recognition or inseeing engenders in you a natural compassion, love, peace, and joy.

The belief in being a separate individual is the basis for personal seeking and suffering and interpersonal, inter-group, inter-religious, political, and international conflict. The recognition of Consciousness or Spirit as our real identity reveals this separation to be illusory.

Separation is merely a product of thought -- we are not our thoughts. Our real identity is Awareness itself. Conscious Awareness is that which is aware of all thoughts and of That which is aware. Through the recognition of the Christ-consciousness as our real identity, the seeking, suffering and conflict that arises when we identify with thought can relax.

This relaxation and the direct experience of formless awareness present within brings about a natural harmony and equanimity in our lives and in our relationships. No idea, teaching, religion, position, nation, political or religious belief, doctrine, or organization can achieve this level of harmony and equanimity. Thousands of years of human suffering, conflict, and seeking are enough proof of this basic fact.

Throughout history there has been talk of "spiritual awakening" and "enlightenment." These words are pointing only to the direct and immediate knowing of infinite, eternal, aware Presence as our real identity. Many other words have been used down through the ages to point to recognition of this ultimate reality including God, Source, Universal Mind, Oneness, Brahman, the Tao, the Void and a host of other words.

There's nothing particularly wrong with any of these words except that they sometimes have the effect of appearing to pull attention into identification with thoughts. We begin emphasizing one word over another word rather than simply recognizing, and abiding in, What we are ... actual aware Presence.

This emphasis on words keeps alive the notion that what we are is separate from Spirit or God. The separation is in the words only. In seeing that such separation is merely the product of clinging to concepts, the separation is seen through. The boundary between what we are and what words like "God" and "enlightenment" are pointing to is seen to not exist except as thoughts. In that seeing or "realization," we have the direct experience of what the words above can only point to.

Don't be fooled by the words "Inner Light." They are fancy words pointing to the Light of Christ within or Christ-consciousness. That's all. These words we use to point to this self-shining Presence, no matter how clear or unclear they are, are appearing within the Light of Consciousness. They are not the Light ItSelf.

Every spiritual word you have ever heard, read, or spoken is an appearance within the Awareness you are. Even the concept "awareness" is an appearance of the actual Awareness that is looking right now through your eyes.

Your most beloved positions, ideas, beliefs, teachings, and opinions about spirituality or anything else are simply appearances of and in Awareness. They are not Awareness. This may seem like the most difficult thing to see. We want so much to cling to ideas, not realizing that the real freedom is in the direct experience of Awareness itself. The simplicity of resting as Awareness is quite beautiful once we start to see that no idea is actually Awareness ItSelf.

It is also important to point out that the appearances arise "out of" awareness. Although they are not Awareness itself, they are not separate from Awareness. Just as reflections in a mirror are not separate in any way from the mirror, appearances within Awareness are not separate from Awareness ItSelf. Yet appearances are not Awareness.

Appearances, like reflections, move and change. They come and go. Awareness, like the mirror, is constant, stable, and unchanging. It is timeless presence ItSelf. Be careful with this metaphor and every metaphor, with the Inner Light text and all texts, and with all pointers generally.

Despite the words used in this and every other teaching, no word is the actual reality. Words are appearances "of" it. Without the mirror, the reflections cannot appear. Similarly, without Awareness, words cannot appear. Yet no matter what you think about yourself, life, the world, spirituality, science, politics, philosophy, or any other subject, that thought is an appearance within Awareness. Thoughts do not happen without Awareness, yet they are not Awareness ItSelf.

This Christ-light is not a thing, not an object we can see, but That by which all is seen and experienced. The Light of Consciousness is not something we have but rather That which we are. Anything we think, feel, see, hear, touch, taste, smell, or experience arises in the invisible, transparent, Light of Awareness.

The Christ-light is Life ItSelf before the filter of thought divides our life-experience into individual parts such as person, chair, desk, computer, world, and universe etc. The Light of Life is all there is ... there is nothing else ... even before thought divides this life into the concepts "awareness" and "appearances." This is why the Christ-light is sometimes called "non-dual" awareness. "Non-dual" means "not two."

As soon as the mind starts to associate non-duality only with nothingness, it is holding onto an idea about non-duality. That is not the non-duality referred to by modern seers as one of the pillars of the Emerging Church.

Although the word "non-duality" is an idea, it is pointing to reality itself. In reality, form and formlessness are not two. The One is appearing as the many. Don't try to grasp that intellectually. Look to where the words are pointing in your direct experience. 

Your very essence is spacious awareness. This spacious awareness is prior to the story of being a separate person. But don't let the realization stay there. See that the nothingness of awareness is appearing as absolutely everything.

Aware Presence cannot and is not limited in any way. When we associate the inner Christ with such words as "awareness," "spirit," "consciousness," "God," "non-duality" or some other word, we do not actually limit or capture the Christ in any way. A label arises, that's all. The label creates an appearance in our mind and we think that by naming this Christ, we know what Christ is as a thing or that we can own it or have it to the exclusion of others.

But the actual Christ cannot truly be defined, owned, harnessed, embodied, or captured. Names and labels create the appearance of boundaries and the appearance that there are separate people who do things with the Christ or who can have it to the exclusion of others. Names and labels are only pointers to the reality of Christ-consciousness.

Christ-consciousness has no boundary. No beginning. No end. It is the source of all appearances. It is not any particular appearance (to the exclusion of other appearances) yet no appearance is separate from it. All appearances are of the same, equal "essence" as this inner Light.

If you see some vision, apparition, spirit form or light appearing and disappearing in any way, that is not the Christ. That is merely an appearance of something. Christ is the awake, timeless, immaterial Spirit within which appearances come and go. No matter how deeply Christ-consciousness is recognized, no insight that arises as a seeming result of this recognition is actually the infinite Presence itself.

Even spiritual insights are phenomenal ... they, like all phenomena, come and go. They are wonderful. Enjoy them when they come. Repeat them if you like. Share them with friends. The Christ, however, does not come and go, but always IS. Be clear about that.

As you've now seen, the words "consciousness," "awareness," "presence," "light," "spirit" are synonymous with the word "Christ." Every word we use to describe the Christ is simply a pointer to that inner Light etc, nothing more.

Being clear about this goes a long way in the recognition of What you really are. The main invitation in Inner Light is to rest in your true identity -- as Christ-consciousness or Awareness, whenever and wherever you remember to do so. By resting as the aware Presence in this way, your true identity as infinite and eternal Spirit becomes immediately and directly known.

NB. Our thanks to Scott Kiloby for providing the framework and some of the words for this statement.

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You might like to see a related article on The Light of Life.