This slim little book has been in my bag for the last couple of weeks and has been read so many times it’s beginning to look severely battered. Dismantling the Fantasy by Darryl Bailey is, in my humble opinion, an immediate spiritual classic.
According to the backcover bio, Darryl has a fairly weighty history of meditative training: spending nine years apprenticed to Ruth Denison and another six years as a monk in the Thai forest tradition under the guidance of Ajahn Sumedho. What’s amazing about this though is that – on the face of things at least – Darryl’s message is absolutely free of any kind of spiritual affiliation, Buddhist terminology or non dual mumbo jumbo of any kind. ‘I’m not concerned with any of that,’ he writes. ‘I’m interested in a certain kind of freedom that sometimes arises in this exploration.’
Dismantling the Fantasy seems to explain this freedom in a way very few spiritual books come close to. Darryl Bailey does this not through any concrete definition of what freedom is, or by being more linguistically precise than others in this field. He manages it instead by explaining that what freedom actually is is a process of ‘turning away from defining life..There is eventually no belief in the stories of thought. They’re needed for functioning, but the obsessive need to explain existence falls away.’
Q Some say if we drop the focus on perception and thought, we come to pure awareness, or pure consciousness. Do you agree?
DB: No. That’s just another thought. There are incorrect assumptions about existence. No one ever left the womb thinking that they were awareness or consciousness. It takes a long time for society to programme us to think like that.
People often object to this kind of statement, saying that to dismiss such things is nihilistic, useless, life denying, and even damaging.
Q: Isn’t it?
DB: Not in my experience. A reaction like that indicates they don’t understand what I’m pointing to.
People desperately want to describe existence and, historically, they speak of matter, energy, consciousness, spirit, oneness and mystery. But descriptions are merely limited interpretations. All of them. They can never tell us what life actually is.
I say there is no matter, energy, consciousness, spirit, oneness, or mystery. This is often misunderstood, because people think it’s saying there’s nothing at all, and that sounds very bleak.
To say that life is not mystery, not oneness, not consciousness, not any thing, this is not the same as sating there’s nothing. It’s not pointing to some state of oblivion or bleak emptiness. In fact it’s just the opposite.
Try asking a newborn baby whether there is awareness or consciousness. Ask an infant if a world exists. Awareness, consciousness, and world are merely labels taught to us by society long after we leave the womb. For a newborn, there are no things, no definable forms, no labels, no awareness, no body, no mind, and no world.
However, this doesn’t mean there’s nothing. I don’t have the impression that a newborn baby is feeling lost and bleak without ideas of awareness, consciousness, or the many other things of life.
An infant is a vital, pulsing event – lively, sensitive, alert, and highly responsive. There’s nothing nihilistic in that.
Ideas don’t tell us what life is. They don’t even focus on life. They focus on abstract notions of division and comparison, dividing life’s constantly vibrant movement into false impressions of static form, describing one false form as different from another.
That’s how we get the impression of understanding something: it’s one form, or thing, as opposed to some other form, or thing.
But calling one portion of the moment ‘awareness’, and another portion ‘the object of awareness’, never tells us what the basic happening is. Instead, it gives the mistaken impression that this happening is divided into different forms that can be understood.
When you’re one hour old, you thinking you’re an awareness experiencing a world. According to research into child development, it takes seven years to be fully trained to think like that.
You may think I’m ultimately saying life is a mystery, but I’m not. ‘Life’ and ‘mystery’ are just more lables. To me this is not about coming up with another label. It’s not about fixating on though, It’s about dropping the obsession with thought, by seeing it’s limitations.
Q: If we drop the focus on thought, what are we left with?
DB: Motion, expressing itself.
That should give you an idea of what a treat you’ve got in store. Buy this book, give it to your friends and family, leave it on buses to make its way into the world. To quite Joan Tollifson whose quote adorns the back cover: ‘This is one of the finest books on non-duality I have come across.