The Wall by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee | By Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee
A World of Light
In deep meditation I come to a wall. I know this wall. I have seen it many times before in meditation and waking visions. It is a high brick wall. I know what is on the other side of the wall: a world of light. But there is no way through; there is no doorway, no ladder, no break in the wall. When I come to the wall I walk along it, and then I have to turn away, back to the narrow streets of this world. Sometimes I have made every effort and, clambering to the top, looked over the wall. Or I have just felt what is thereendless expanses of light, and the beings of light who live there. And yet always I have to come back, back into this world, so constricted and full of shadows: the half-light of our existence.
In the summer of 2008 I spent three weeks on the other side, in that world of light. It was a crazy time. I was very ill and hardly slept. When I went to bed and closed my eyes I was in the world of light. There was no need to sleep, no possibility of sleep. There was so much light; light upon light. Sometimes during the day, too, I was fully awake in this world of light. I could see our world from the other side, see its loves and hopes and dreams, its worldly power structures and places of prayer. I could see the spiritual essence of every tree and flower and the patterns of darkness in which people are so caught. And I saw the beings of light that are waiting for us, that want to help us, and I saw how we have forgotten them. I saw this sticky substance of forgetfulness that covers us and drains away any remembrance we may have. I saw how other beings of darkness that belong to this world also drain our light, keep us caught, cover us in greed and desire, hatred and anger. And I saw that this is how it is.
But I could not live forever in this world of light, even though I longed to. There was too much light. It burned into my consciousness. It did not allow me to sleep. I was exhausted. I needed to be able to live in this world, however dense and distorted. And so in order to survive, in order to live, I turned away from the world of light. I closed my consciousness to it and focused on the physical world, on letting my body heal. For weeks I hardly prayed or meditated. I worked on my house, focusing on the walls, doors and ceilings I was painting, rather than on endless horizons of light. I came back into this world, battered and bruised, sometimes full of resentment at having to leave behind the light, feeling angry, deserted and betrayed at having to return. How could I be given a taste of the beyond and then be pushed back into the darkness and limitation of this world with all its distortions and misunderstandings, all of the stuff we have been condition to call life? Yes, there is beauty here, but there is so much darkness. On the other side there is not this darkness, or this density; there is never this forgetfulness. We are beings of light. How can we forget?
Once before, when I was twenty-three, during a summer of intense inner experiences, I was taken to the other side and given the choice to live or die. I remember this experience so vividly: being taken out of my body, high up into a place of freedom and light. I was told very clearly, You are free now. You can go. And just as clearly I remember my reply: I am a Sufi. I am here to be of service. And so I returned. You never forget the consciousness of the other side. It haunts you as both a promise and a poison. Sometimes it makes you long for death, to return to the light and freedom that you know are waiting. But of my free will I had made a pledge, a promise, and so I returned, and the real spiritual training began.
And now, over thirty years later, I was taken back to the other side, and not just in a moment in and out of time. First I had an inner experience that was like tasting death, with all the suffering that so often accompanies death, and then I was in the beyond. For three weeks I was fully consciousness on the other side. What is beyond is so pure, so endless and unencumbered. There are oceans of love and light. And then I had to come back. I knew I had to come back. My body and mind could not live any longer in that world of light, and it was not yet time for me to fully die. I knew this, even as I longed to be released, even as I pleaded and complained, was angry and resentful. I had to come back. My body and mind had to be healed from being exposed to such an intensity of light. And afterwards, over the weeks and months that followed, this is what slowly happened. I did not want to be here any more. Yet I was here, and the world still looked the same as I remembered it. There was no profound insight, no illumination. I had been on the other side and now I was back, battered, bruised and complaining. But I was back.
And I felt tired. Even when the body was healed I felt tired. Was this tiredness just the aftereffect of this experience, or was it something else? I began to realize that it was a deep tiredness of the soul rather than of the body. It is as if the very fabric of my innermost being was exhausted. And I wondered, how can the soul be tired, when the soul belongs in a world of light and love, when the soul is the part of our self that is with God?
Then I saw the brick wall, and I knew what was on the other side. This time I had no need to try to climb the wall, to look over. I knew that landscape of light, and how different it is from what we call life or existence. And I was left on this side of the wall, in these narrow streets, where even the flowers that grow beside the streets have forgotten the world of light. And I wondered, has it always been like this? Is this just the wall that separates what we call life from what we call death? I know in meditation one can leave behind the body and the mind and go into the light, but always one has to come back. Is the only way to fully live in the light to leave the physical world behind and die? Most people only access this world of light after they die, or in near-death experiences. Is this wall the barrier that has been placed between the worlds, like the river Styx of the ancients?
The Sufis describe how we need a separation between the worlds, seventy veils of light and darkness or the glories of His face would burn away everything. As I know from my own experience, the light of the divine is too dazzling for us to perceive it directly, its energy is too strong. This is one of the reasons why spiritual life is a slow process, a gradual lifting of the veils as one develops spiritual strength, becomes more and more able to bear the light. But these veils filter the light. They are not a wall that cuts us off from it.
Now, for the first time since I had seen this brick wall, I began to wonder. Why was I shown it like this, always a brick wall? It is not a river of forgetfulness, a veil of light, or a rainbow bridge? It is made of bricks, and bricks belong to this world. And then suddenly it dawned on me. This wall was made brick by brick by human beings. It is not a natural separation between the worlds. It had been purposefully built by people, by their ideologies, laws and power structures. Humanity had purposely created a wall of separation between this physical world and the world of light. And it had been built so long ago and been so effective that we all accept it. Now we live in the shadow of this wall without even noticing it. Nor do we realize that we have been denied our heritage of light. We have been conditioned to accept the world of shadows and half-truths we call life without even realizing that we are cut off from the world of light. This has become our heritage. We have successfully stranded ourselves from the divine.
Tiredness of the Soul
Suddenly I understood this deep tiredness of the soul, the tiredness of living in this world cut off from the light, divorced from what is real. I realized how deeply this light sustains us, nourishing our real spiritual being. In the depths of our being we are made of light, we are beings of light. Light needs light. We need this light to nourish us; otherwise our soul is left hungry, even starving. Without light we can become spiritually exhausted, listless, depressed. Our divine nature needs this inner light as much as our physical body needs food and sunlight.
As long as we are pursuing the desires of the ego, this world has an energy that sustains us. It is full of desires to attract us, and the instinctual energies of life draw us into its journey of self-discovery. We also have a culture that supports us with endless attractions and addictions, full of promises of fulfillment that lure us into believing they will actually be fulfilled. But there comes the time when the individual tires of this endless pursuit of self-gratification, when the soul prompts us to make the journey of return, to discover the light that is within us. And this is the real and demanding journey that is called spiritual life, during which gradually we access the light of the soul and are nourished by it. Life seems to transform, and we are nourished by the meaning of the soul rather than the pleasure or pain of desires. But if one looks closely one will find that something is missing, both within our self and within the world around us. And what is missing is a certain light that should also belong to life, a certain note in the song of creation that should be present. And this light, this note, is the deep knowing that everything belongs to God and is an expression of the divine. And despite the beauty of the world, despite its horror, we have lost this knowing: its note is hardly present, its light has gone dim. And this is the unspoken tragedy of our world.
When you begin to wonder how you can live in a world where this note is not heard, even the promise of inner fulfillment falls away. What does anything really matter if this primal truth is denied? I realized that this truth has been denied to such a degree that we no longer even ask the question. We ask many questions about the state of our world, about its poverty and ecological devastation. But our consciousness has been so effectively censored that we do not ask the most important questionwhat happened to the divine? Where in the world is the light that belongs to God? If we are really concerned about the state of the world this question is even more pressing, because nothing can really be done without this light, this energy, this power that comes from the Source. But we have been made to forget that this light even exists. The wall that separates us from divine power has been present for so long that we no longer ask what is on the other side. Nor do we realize that it is just a wall. We have been betrayed by the power structures and ideologies of this world more than we can imagine. And we are a part of this betrayal. Our forgetfulness of the light reinforces the wall, strengthens its bricks and the mortar that cements them in place.
Deep in the soul there is this exhaustion, as if the soul of the world itself can no longer bear this desert of separation, can no longer sustain itself without the light. For how much longer can we continue? Can we continue forever without this light?
The Creation of the Wall
I began to wonder how the wall was created. There was a time long ago when humanity lived in a world of light. Maybe this was what we call the Golden Age. It may be likened to the mythical Garden of Eden in the Bible when Adam and Eve walked naked in the presence of God, before they hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God (Genesis 3:8) and were then cast out. At this time there was no wall between the worlds: we were not separate from God. We lived in Gods presence and had no consciousness of any other way of life. But then, in contrast to indigenous cultures who live in harmony with the natural world and its spiritual dimension, in our Judeo-Christian heritage humanity began to claim its own power, became separate from God, and experienced the Fall.1 In the Bible this is imaged as eating of the forbidden fruit. Because humanity had been given the gift of free will this transgression was allowed to take place. We were allowed to go against the law of God.2
It is important to realize that this first act of transgression was a conscious choice. The Bible may blame Eve for seducing Adam, but behind this patriarchal dynamic is the awareness of a choice to go against the law of God, to eat of the forbidden tree. This is why we were cast out: we chose to deny the divine law, and this choice has continued throughout the millennia. Humanity liked the feeling of its own power and autonomy and created a separate world governed by its ego.3 Turning our attention away from the divine and focusing more on our own power, we began to build a wall between the worlds. Gradually we created a world in which the divine was no longer present. It is our denial of the divine that has crafted and created this wall of separation, that has banned us from our spiritual heritage.
At different times saints and sages have come to remind us of our divine nature. Christianity was born through an awakening of divine love with its message of sacrifice, forgiveness and mercy. Through Christs life, his crucifixion and teachings, the gates of grace were opened, and light and love flowed into the world. In the early years of Christianity, through the devotions of small circles of believers there was a continued outpouring of love. But only too soon the mechanisms of worldly power began to block this flow. Under the guise of unifying Christian beliefs, those teachings that gave the individual direct access to the divine, for example those in the Gnostic Gospels, were banned, and its practitioners were persecuted as heretics. Only through the priests and the hierarchical structure of the Church could the individual have access to God. Gradually, but also systematically, as the Church became a temporal power, religious structures were created that strove to keep God in heaven so that the church hierarchy could keep its power on earth. Finally, in the brutal slaughter of the Crusades and the tortures of the Inquisition, we see a Church that has chosen to abandon love and forgiveness for the fruits of worldly power. What is less understood is how this religious ideology cemented the separation between the worlds. God could only be reached after death; heaven could not exist in this sinful world.
In the West since the Age of Enlightenment, rationalism and the pursuit of science continued to reinforce the wall of separation as the world came to be seen as a mechanical place devoid of any sacred nature. The sacred groves had long been cut down by the patriarchy, Christianity had worked to eradicate pagan beliefs, and science now gave us an unfeeling, barren world that it could conquer with technology. The wall between the worlds became so much part of humanitys consciousness that in the West we no longer knew there was a wall. The fact that the world was starving from a lack of the sacred did not even enter into our collective awareness. Finally, in the last century, communism and capitalism became the twin demons of the world, each celebrating an existence defined only by what we can see and touch. And when consumerism triumphed and the glitter of its toys captured our complete attention, no one seemed to notice that the divine was not present. We had lived with the wall for so long there was nothing in our collective memory to remind us of what we had abandoned, of what is so close on the other side of its bricks.
Of course there have always been individuals who, either within or outside the structures of religion, have consciously made the journey to the other side. Humanity has always had access to spiritual techniques to directly access the light. The discipline of meditation, for example, is a simple practice of turning within and accessing the light through ones higher spiritual centers. If one accesses a higher consciousness within oneself there is no longer a wall: one is present in the dimension of light upon light. This is the pure consciousness realized through mystical practice, such as Buddhist meditation, or the light of the heart of the Sufi path. These are beautiful and powerful practices, through which one can transcend the limitations of the physical world while still present in this world. But the focus of these practices has almost always been of an ascent, of going beyond the physical world with its sufferings and problems. Their effect is usually to draw one away from the outer world. It is easy then to become detached, no longer interested in the demands of everyday life, which through the practices have become illusory. These practices do not dismantle the wall: instead they offer a way to go beyond it, even to give one access to a consciousness where the wall does not exist, where there is no separation between the worlds. Mystics and spiritual travelers who have had these experiences may remind a few people that this world of light exists and that there is a way beyond the wall into the light, but the wall remains as solid as before, and the world in which we live today is left starving for light.
A Light to See What is Real
Although no one can now remember it, the light does more than just nourish us. This light enables us to see what is real. When it used to shine in the world it revealed the true nature of things, their real purpose and meaning. In this light we could each live according to our true nature and recognize the true nature of others and of the world around us. We could see the world as it really is, the divine creation of which we are a part. The world thus seen, in its real nature, is quite different from the world created by our desires and projections, by the endless patterns of our mind and the recycling of our memories that we call existence. Anyone who has for an instant awakened, had a glimpse of what the Zen masters call satori, will know this simple experience of truth, when the butterfly is glimpsed as a butterfly, the plum tasted in its sweetness. It is a reality without comparison or contradiction that communicates its true nature to us directly rather than being interpreted through our mind or psyche. In such moments we are really alive, awake rather than dreaming.
Long ago, at the dawn of consciousness, humanity was given the ability to recognize and relate to the true nature of everything. This ability belongs to the naming of things, because everything that is created by God has a name that embodies its true nature. In the Quran (2:31) it is written that
He taught Adam the names
Of all things
meaning that Adam was taught the inner nature and qualities of things.4 And so the first man had knowledge of the names of creation, which belong to the divine secrets of heaven and earth (Quran 3:33).5 This knowledge of the inner nature and true purpose of the created world is part of our divine heritage, our inner Adam. It enables us to participate in life as it really is, as a divine revelation: the world created by God rather than the world created by humanity. But this knowing can only be accessed through the light of our own true self. Without this divine light we cannot read the book of life. We do not know what is real, or what is the true purpose of our life. Today we have long forgotten the true names of creation. We remain caught in the surface patterns of illusion, in our projections and fantasies. This is our present collective predicament.
There are always some individuals who are able to awake to the light of their true self, to see what is real and how to live the meaning of their soul. But for our Western collective this is a distant myth. Most of us wander through our lives lost in a world without true meaning, unable to find our way. There are always signs that point towards what is real, but we cannot recognize or read them. It is only too easy then for the power dynamics of the world to delude us, to trap and enslave us. Without any real knowing, how can we find our way out of this maze in which we serve the lords of this world rather than our true Lord? Once we have access to real light we can see how we have been deluded, sold our soul for a few pieces of silver. But without the light we know nothing of the world around us: we only see the images that have been made to glitter. We are caught in the illusions that are spun around us.
This is partly why the powers of this world want to deny us access to the light, want us to remain in the shadows. Without the light we are easier to mislead and control, and can be sold worthless trinkets. We know nothing and see nothing, and easily believe what we are told.
Destroying the Wall
But now the deeper question remains: do we have to remain stranded in the shadows when the light is so near? Is it our collective destiny to be imprisoned by the wall of separation created by our ancestors and reinforced by our own forgetfulness? Or can we reclaim this dimension of light, the light that will enable us to see the world around us, a world of beauty and wonder that belongs to God, where joy has returned and we no longer pollute our environment with our unsustainable desires?
How can the wall be destroyed? When I look at the wall I see no sign of any attempt to break through it. There is no indication of any real rebellion. There are no armies of saboteurs attacking the wall, or even ladders placed against it. Its bricks are smooth and polished. The wall appears untouched. We seem to have accepted the wall without question. It is high enough that we cannot see over to the other side. It has been there for so long and become so familiar we do not even notice it. Who is there to question it? Do we have the will or the power to destroy this barrier to the light? We are so seduced and drugged by the playthings of this world that we do not question what we have been denied.
And yet our own soul and the very soul of the world are crying out for the light. Without it we cannot heal or redeem our dying world; the sacred and the remembrance of the names cannot return. Only with the light can real meaning reappear.
Leonard Cohen once wrote, There is a crack in everything and thats where the light comes in. Perhaps we need just to make a crack in the wall through which the light can then begin to stream. Many times cracks have appeared in our collective defenses, as for example in the flower power movement of the 1970s with its vision of peace and love. But these harbingers of light do not appear to last. They self-destruct, destroyed by drugs for example, or are swallowed back into the collective, sold out to materialistic values. Sadly, much of the New-Age spirituality that brought the light and the practices of spiritual traditions from the East soon became corrupted and self-serving, using the energy of the light for money and ego desires. The forces of darkness know our weaknesses only too well, and the cracks are quickly mortared over before enough light can come though to make a real difference. Maybe a crack in the wall is not enough.
If the earth itself needs this light, can the earth rebel?6 Can the primal powers that are present within creation awaken and destroy what humanity has created? This is a possibility, though it would be very destructive. We may have denied and forgotten the dragon-powers of creation, the archetypal energies that underlie all of life, but this does not mean that they no longer exist. Mostly they are sleeping, but this does not mean that they cannot awaken, and like the gods of old react with power and violence. The wrath of the gods is not just a myth.
What would it mean if the energies of the earth were to reclaim their connection to the light? In order to destroy the wall of separation, how much of humanity and its images of civilization would be devastated in the process? The light could return, but who would be here to welcome it? Who would be here to remember the names of creation and the sacred ways of working with light? Todays speeding up of our ecological imbalance could be signs of a world tired of waiting for humanity to take a step. We may now recognize that there is a global ecological crisis, but who, apart from a few shamans, knows how this relates to the powers within creation? Our scientific models cannot begin to understand what belongs to the depths or how it would interact with our surface life. Mostly we remain arrogant in our ignorance, and yet there is also a deep anxiety now present within the collective that tells another story, as if the collective itself knows that there is a storm coming, one that its politicians cannot prepare for.
Then there is another possibility, more wonderful and awe-full than anything we can imagine. What if the wall were destroyed from the other side, by the energy of light itself, and by the beings that are in service to the light? Within the world of light there is more power than anything in this world. This is one of the reasons the light has been veiled from usit easily overwhelms us with its power and glory. Anyone who has encountered the light knows this: how a few moments of light are all that one can bear, how just one glimpse can change ones life forever. And this is just a particle of the world of light. If the powers of light were to return to this world, it would be like stepping from a darkened room into brilliant sunshineblinding and beautiful.
Having lived in this world of light I know its beauty and power, its simplicity and love. This is a dimension of clarity, without the distortions and confusions of our world. And it is governed directly by divine will and divine law, without the intercession of human will with all of its mistakes and power dynamics. The Sufis call this dimension the world of divine command (lam al-amr)in contrast to the world of creation (lam al-khalaq) that we experience through the senses and the veils of the ego. In the world of divine command everything bows down before God. It is the domain of angels and other beings of light who only know to bow down before God, and can only enact Gods power and divine will.
What would happen if the power of light and the enactment of divine will were to return directly to our world with all of its dramas of worldly power and fantasies of self-empowerment? How would we respond? Would we know to bow down before That glory, or would we rebel and fight, try to hold on to our images of ego power, and become caught in a battle of light and darkness? Would a deep inner knowing of the reality of divine will surface into our collective consciousness, or would we see this power as another aggressor whom we need to fight to keep our independence? Do we even know how to bow before God and the messengers of light, or are our images of personal freedom too important?
It is so long since the light was here that we have almost no memories even in our ancestral consciousness of how to live in the light. We have learned how to live in the shadow lands of our culture, how to manipulate and deceive, how to protect our self and our possessions. But in the light there can be no manipulation or deception: there is too much light. We will have to learn once again how to be honest and truthful, how to be sincere and open. And how to take real responsibility. This is the only way to live in the light.
If it is the will of God the wall could be destroyed by light. It could dissolve in an instant. But how will humanity bear the light when it knows only shadows? How could our consciousness cope with a world of light? I know from my own experience how difficult it is to contain this light while living in the physical world. There need to be veils between the worlds, but veils that filter the light, not walls that stop the light.
If the wall were to be removed, would it be easier for it to be slowly dissolved, so that the light could gradually come into this world? Or would the forces of darkness and worldly power just mobilize themselves to repair the wall and stop the flow of light? These are questions we cannot answer. But we can recognize that there is a world of light that does not belong just to some unobtainable heaven or elevated spiritual state. It is here, just beyond a wall that we have built with our own ideologies and patterns of control. And we know in our depths that humanity and the world itself cannot survive much longer without the light that comes directly from the source. Everything else has become too polluted and corrupted. The heart of the world is bleeding, and the soul of humanity is crying out. We need this light in order to see our true nature and the true nature of life. And life needs this light in order to heal and transform, so that together we can make the next step in our evolution.
Published in 2011 by The Golden Sufi Center, www.goldensufi.org
1 Some children still have direct access to this world of light, before they become caught in the confines of adult consciousness:
There was a time when meadow,
grove and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing Boy
(William Wordsworth, Intimations of Immortality ll. 1-5, 66-8)
2 Indigenous cultures who did not go against the natural law, did not seek to have power over nature, did not experience this split between spirit and matter.
3 Traditionally humanity was supposed to be viceregent of God, His representative here on earth, rather than usurping all power and authority for itself. The ruler as priest-king embodies this spiritual role as mediator between heaven and earth before the Fall.
4 In the Bible, Genesis 2:20, Adam was authorized by God to give the creatures of creation their namesAnd Adam gave names to all of cattle, and to the fowls of the air, and to every beast of the field. In Hebrew adam means human, and in Sufism Adam is the essential human being.
5 According to Ibn Arabi this knowledge of the names was transmitted through the succession of perfect human beings: The perfect human beings never ceased receiving the names from one another until the names finally reached Muhammad. (Chittick, The Self Disclosure of God, p. 154)
6 The earth is a living, spiritual being, with its own soul, understood by the ancients as the anima mundi.
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