Was burning a candle the other night — half-beeswax, half-coconut-wax, set in a transparent plastic votive — while watching a movie nearby. It rested on a shelf, a little bit above my eye-level. Mostly I remained focused on the movie, but every now and again would notice the candle-flame in the background: a pleasing addition to the overall ambience.
On one of these occasions what I saw surprised me: Instead of a single flame dancing on the candlewick, the flame had doubled. Now there were what appeared to be two distinct flames, with a shared base.
I had never before seen anything like this, and was immediately fascinated by it. I began to hypothesize about the cause of the splitting of one flame into two: Perhaps now that the wax base of the candle was fully melted, the two kinds of wax (beeswax and coconut wax) had somehow separated — with each type of fuel supporting its own flame? Or perhaps the wick itself had somehow split, giving rise to a corresponding splitting/doubling of the flame?
Feeling a bit lazy, and still sorta kinda watching the movie, I wasn’t quite ready to get up off the couch to have a more up-close look at the double-flamed candle — so just continued to appreciate its mysterious beauty. Then, having exhausted my scientific hypotheses, my heart-mind began to wax poetic, mystical, devotional: Perhaps the doubled flame is a sign that my “twin flame” has arrived? Tee-hee ….
The Truth, Revealed
Eventually I did walk closer to the candle, and from my new perceptual point of view — looking down from above at the candle flame in its translucent container — was able to see more clearly what was really happening: The “second flame” was actually a shadow of the one and only “real flame” — that had been cast upon the inner edge of the plastic votive container, by the light of a nearby lamp.
From my position on the couch, the flame and its shadow appeared to overlap and intertwine, and to be of the same substance (i.e. have identical qualities). From on the couch, looking through the votive, the two flames appeared to be equally real. Upon closer investigation, however, one was revealed simply to be the shadow of the other; and their intertwining as no more than an optical illusion.
Brahman & Atman
This situation brought to mind the relationship between Brahman — the light of the Absolute — and Atman — the reflection of the light of Brahman upon the surface of the human mind. Unexamined, and via the mechanisms of the mind, our sense of “I am” might seem to have an existence separate from the light of the Absolute.
Upon closer examination, we see that Atman (the seemingly individualized “I am”) is simply a shadow or reflection of Brahman. And when mind dissolves, there no longer is a surface upon which the shadow of the Absolute can land — so no distracting image preventing us from knowing ourselves directly as the one and only “real flame” — the light of Brahman.
Twin Flames, In Playful Embrace
With the appearance of the human mind, there comes the appearance of duality: of separations along the horizontal dimension; as well as separation between the phenomenal and noumenal/Divine realms. It’s just how the game is being played. But once we’ve glimpsed the Truth beyond, behind, and in the essence of mind, we’re no longer fooled by the display, and so (paradoxically) can enjoy it more fully.