Before I is Presence ~ many would say God. Presence saturates I. This saturation is the perfume of Self. Something or someone is present and void of individuality. This is innocence. I shares in this innocence. I is just I, not an individual I, so before individuality. I is the gate to the Eternal and to time, the Presence and all presences, Being and becoming. I moves out of itself into I am and, then, into multiplicity.
Presence does not need for others to help it find who it is. I shares this knowledge. I knows, and its knowing is one with itself and with Presence. I is one with Presence, Presence with I.
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This is not an absence, like a vacuum. We are not saying nothing is present. Presence is present. But Presence is not something or someone, is not not something or someone. Presence is. Presence being is, is free of affirmation or denial, yes or no. Presence is a knowing unity.
Even to speak of Presence as a Presence is a step from the innocence, of union with Grace. One can say, "God is a presence in my life" or "God is the Presence in my life." Better to say, "God is Presence in my life."
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In this knowing, we do not disregard the self. Our sense of self is an appearance, it is real as an appearance, not unreal. Each appearance arises from non-appearance. Presence appears in the form of appearances. We do not dishonor this appearance called self, we honor it as manifesting the Fount of Life. The Unborn Face is seen in the face of everyone, everything.
You, in union with Presence, are Presence. You are a distinction of Life, as Life unfolds continuously, timelessly in myriad manifestations.
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What is the blessing of this evolving from identifying with identities to the sense of who we are? I will note two. Regarding the Divine, we appreciate and honor that Presence manifests in many images. We can integrate these better into our own lives and appreciate the diversity of these images among others. These images are, like our form, appearances. God, Father, Krishna, the Sacred, the Creator, Love, ... are images. Yet, images assist persons to relate with the Formless. Second, we feel an expansion of our sense of being as identities within us lose hold on the purity of Presence.
When one first experiences this innocence, one feels the profoundness of it. One, then, grows into it: this is the reintegration of self into Self. The sense of self becomes the servant of Self, of Presence. So, consciousness shifts from where it acts and relates with others. This sense of no-self, within itself, one becomes and will come to have faint recollections, if any at all, of when he or she identified as an individual only. The Self being a channel for the form of self becomes the normal means through which Presence is manifesting in the world. And one begins more and more relating with others as who they are, not their appearance.
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All said here, this is not real to us unless we experience it. This is not another teaching, this is a non-teaching. As the Sage says, our innocence is real when no one is present to answer the question "Who am I?" In that absence is Presence, in the Emptiness is Fullness. You participate, by being you, in Spirit. This ineffable Life, you are an appearance of in this world. The answer to the question "Who am I really?" does not arise, for it is not a thought among other thoughts. We are unspeakable, even as God is unspeakable.
Ⓒ Brian Wilcox, 2020
*Quote from the Gospel of Thomas, in Joanne P. Miller. Zen and the Gospel of Thomas.