Imagine that while asleep at night and dreaming, you suddenly become aware that you are in a dream: you realize that everything you are experiencing is a projection, that nothing can harm you, and that you have strictly nothing to fear. What would then be your reaction? Would you sit in a corner and mope, waiting for the dream to end because the experience isn’t real, or would you on the contrary feel exhilarated and try to savor every second of it?
In other words, would such a realization be congruent with depression and apathy, or on the contrary with joy and action?
This may seem like a rhetorical question, but please kindly take a minute to think about it; try to picture yourself in such a situation. Try to imagine what it would feel like to be rid of any and all fears. You cannot die; you cannot really get hurt; all negative feelings can be swiped away by the realization they’re unnecessary and transitory.
Indeed lucid dreams are wonderful, as anyone who has had them can testify. It isn’t hard to learn how by the way, and we’ll get into that another day. For the time being, the reason we ask this question is otherwise: it is meant as a natural follow-up to our previous post about consciousness, in which we argued the physical universe doesn’t exist independently of our perception of it. In other words, we showed that our so-called “physical reality” is a projection, i.e. a dream. Dreams at night are a dream within a dream; they thus offer a great parallel that can allow grasping the nature of “waking” reality itself.
Indeed there is a big difference between understanding that there is only consciousness, and actually realizing it. But merely understanding it is almost useless; it’s just concepts and words, intellectual candy at best, and makes little difference if we do not intuitively grasp it. Our humble goal in this post is to make our readers realize this truth; to make it as intuitive and obvious as the fact that nightly dreams exist. Once you “get there”, it seems so simple it boggles the mind; it also happens to be the key to unbound happiness. Paradoxically however, it is very difficult to describe with words, as language is such an imperfect tool. In this post we will attempt to draw the finger, but it is up to you to discern the direction in which it is pointing.
Before we move onto trying to produce such a realization, there are two additional points we would like to make.
First, imagine if only 1% of people dreamed at night, and that you were among that small minority. Then, it would be very difficult to talk about dreams, or to convince people they are (nearly) indistinguishable from waking reality while they are occurring. They would be considered a form of psychosis or mental illness. The only reason we take nightly dreams for granted is that almost everyone has them; but when you think about it, it is absolutely amazing that they exist, and they’re a huge mystery (especially within a materialist and mechanistic worldview). More importantly, if you were part of that small minority that had dreams, you wouldn’t really need to convince anyone of their existence; they would be part of your reality, it would be obvious to you they exist, and you would probably feel lucky for having them.
The exact same thing goes for people who have woken up to (i.e. realized) the true nature of existence. It becomes utterly obvious. There is no need to convince anyone. It may seem weird or pathological to those who don’t get it. And yet it is a blessing, and a wonderful thing to experience.
Second, the concepts we put forth in our previous post on consciousness are neither new nor even very original. Plato’s allegory of the cave is as old as philosophy; idealism itself has been around for nearly as long, and since the advent of quantum mechanics many prominent scientists have espoused that same understanding. The Internet has made these ideas even more popular, as the free market of ideas enables the quicker emergence of truth; to such an extent that central planners are trying very hard to hijack, degrade and corrupt it. They call this corrupted form of idealism the “simulation theory”, which they notoriously put forth in the movie The Matrix; their actor-hero Elon Musk is the current poster boy for this bastardized and perverted notion.
Their “simulation theory” is meant to be disheartening; it is supposed to elicit revolt and despair, to make people believe we are slaves to an illusion, that we do not experience reality “as it truly is”, that there is some kind of an “overworld” which is “real” and that we are trapped. In other words, it is supposed to be bad news that matter isn’t the fundamental building block of this reality; and indeed, it is bad news for the barbarians, as it means their obsession with survival and control is superfluous and ridiculous. But to the rest of us, it is wonderful news, and that’s why we insisted at once on its positive implications; it means that love, melancholy, empathy, conscience, or the taste for music are all real, that they aren’t mere chemical reactions or archaic evolutionary artefacts; it means important things have meaning. This point will hopefully soon become intuitively obvious to you, if it isn’t already.
Realization: First Attempt
First, try to name something that doesn’t exist. Something that isn’t.
We’re not talking about unicorns. If it exists in your mind, we just said it: it exists, i.e. it is. You have imagined it, you could convey the expression of what it is (we just said it again). You can correctly ask yourself, “what is it that I am imagining”? So that it, is. The word “being”, such as we use in every day conversation, doesn’t necessarily or only mean to exist in physical reality.
Now, with that in mind, try finding something that isn’t. Kindly ignore the apparent absurdity or mental futility of the exercise. Take a second to think about it.
Did you feel something weird?
Of course the question, rationally speaking, was absurd. That’s because words are such an absurdly imperfect way of conveying what we’re trying to convey. If there’s a word for it, it exists by definition. Same as when we say “something”. Some thing. The “isness” of the “thing” is inherently implied. So the very challenge, “try to name something that doesn’t exist” is contradictory: it cannot be a thing, it cannot have a name, and it can’t even be a “it”. But can you experience “it”?
Can you experience isness?
Please try giving it another moment of reflection.
Realization: Second Attempt
Please consider this.
There is something always there, an “I”, always present, in all your experiences. Whether those experiences are sensory perceptions (hearing, seeing, smelling, touching, etc.), whether they are thoughts, or memories, or emotions: all happen on a substrate. A canvas. A screen. They come and go … come and go. You are having such an experience right now, reading these words. You can become aware of yourself having this experience. You can observe yourself reading, and you can watch yourself becoming aware of the meaning of the words laid before you in this exact moment.
So, who is having this experience, of reading these words right now?
We just said “you can observe yourself”. Surely, “you” and “yourself” are not the same “thing”, as the former is observing the latter.
And who is it, that is observing yourself observing yourself? Who is this “I”, that is aware of all this, right now?
And right now?
Realization: Third Attempt
If you are still with us, please try this simple exercise.
Sit with your eyes closed, and rather than focusing on the content of your experience (e.g. by trying to silence it), focus on the experience itself. In other words, look at the screen on which your experience is being projected, rather than at what is being projected.
Become aware of your awareness.
Before you start, this might help: you can imagine yourself as a young child, amazed not at what you’re experiencing, but amazed by the fact that you are experiencing it. You don’t understand how such a miracle is possible, or what it means; as a young child, you have no labels, no names, no point of reference, no way of categorizing or comparing things. They just are, magnificently displayed to you in a beautiful, amorphous ensemble.
Wow, what’s going on?
If a thought or an emotion pops into your mind, do not try to silence it, do not identify with it, try to look at it. From a vantage point set behind. What does it feel like, having this thought? Who is having this thought? What is it, this “thing”, this substrate, that makes this thought “exist”?
Who am I?
Please come back to this post after giving it some time.
Realization: Fourth Attempt
When you’re drunk, there’s a part of you that isn’t drunk: it’s the part that knows you’re drunk. No, actually, it’s the part that knows that you know that you’re drunk. No, actually, it’s the part that knows that you know that you know you’re drunk. No, actually [et caetera].
What is it, this “I”?
Imagine you’re standing outside of a jewelry store, looking at a gold bracelet beautifully displayed in the window. You’re fascinated by it, looking at it intently. But suddenly, your focus changes and you see your reflection in the window; you’re not seeing the bracelet any longer. That reflection was there the whole time, but somehow you didn’t notice it until now.
That’s the kind of “aha” moment we’re trying to produce with you dear reader.
The movie analogy is another good way of explaining this intuition. You may watch a sad movie, even cry with the characters, but at any point you can remind yourself it’s just a movie, and you can notice the screen. It doesn’t make the movie any less enjoyable, on the contrary: you’re sad but you’re not sad at being sad. The movie makes you sad but you can look at this emotion and find it beautiful; that’s why you choose to watch a sad movie in the first place, not because you’re a masochist.
Again, try for a moment now not to focus on the content of your experience, but rather on the experience itself. Trying discerning the screen. Try seeing the “I” to which the experience is being shown.
Realization: Fifth Attempt
By now, you should have “felt” something. It probably was something quite diffuse, that didn’t last more than a fraction of second. There is no way to describe it really, just as characters in a movie cannot actually show viewers the screen on which the movie is being projected.
If you did experience something unusual, that’s it. It’s insolently simple. It is literally in plain sight. Thinking about it too much, or trying to encompass it with language, is counterproductive. If you catch yourself thinking about it, then notice yourself thinking about it. Who is having this thought? Who is asking myself who is having this thought? Who is asking myself who is asking myself who is having this thought?
Who am I?
That’s the question you should ask yourself. The goal isn’t to answer with words, but to “feel” or “touch” the “natural substance” that underlies the very notion of “I”. If an answer comes to mind, ask yourself “who did this answer just occur to”, and then again, “who am I”?
If you know a small child, try repeatedly asking him who he is. The conversation might go something like this:
- Who are you?
- I’m Kevin.
- Okay, but if you had a different name, you would still be you. So who are you?
- Well I’m a boy.
- Okay, but if you were born a girl, you would still be you. So who are you?
- I’m someone who has brown hair.
- OK, but if you had blonde hair, you would still be you. So who are you?
- I’m five years old.
- Okay, but one year ago you were still you, and in ten years you will still be you. So who are you?
- I’m someone who loves playing.
- Okay, but if you hated playing, you would still be you. So who are you?
- I’m the son of Frank and Samantha.
- Okay, but if you had different parents, you would still be you. So who are you?
- I don’t know.
- Please think about it for a second. I would really like to know. Who are you?
At some point, if the child is cooperative and genuinely tries to figure out the answer, you will probably see his eyes widen. He still won’t know how to put it, but he will have had a realization.
That’s the realization we would like you to have. And if you had it, however brief, however diffuse, try to have it as often as possible. You can be literally anywhere, doing anything. In a meeting; in line at the post office; reading a blog on the Internet.
Who am I?
The more you ask yourself this question, and the more you try to realize who you are, the more peace you will have; the more you will understand that the content of the experience doesn’t really matter. It is anyway beautiful, because it is. It’s a miracle.
This post was admittedly quite unusual, and very different from our revisionist or psychological warfare posts. Different authors bring different perspectives, and we’ll continue writing in seemingly different directions before trying to make everything converge.
What we will never do is ask our readers to take our word for anything; we will never preach or ask you to believe anything. Our website is about knowledge, or trying to approach truth as best we can. Knowledge in and of itself is neither good nor bad, what matters is what we do with it; specifically, it shouldn’t be placed above all else, especially above conscience.
So this post was, ultimately, about putting knowledge in perspective. In the highest realm, there is neither “true” nor “false”, neither “good” nor “bad”. There just is. So when we say we seek the truth, what we are doing is focusing on the content of this dream-reality; just this once, we tried to write about the canvas on which the dream-reality is happening.
This will prove very important for our next consciousness article, as we will try to explain how to leave one’s body and experience this dream-reality from a different “phase”. It is actually much easier than most people think. But before we do so, it is very important to insist that it doesn’t ultimately matter. It’s great to partake in this world, it is righteous to act, to try doing good, to advance wisdom and liberty, and to figure things out; but it is important not to take it too seriously either. We can act as best we can while not clinging to the outcome; we can surrender that to the Universe. It’s beautiful either way, and there’s nothing to fear.
If we fail to do that, with increased knowledge comes increased hubris and arrogance, and that is antinomic to wisdom; that’s the disease the barbaric central planners suffer from.
The key takeaway is that anyone can “wake up” to this amazing, beautiful and miraculous projection we call “reality”. Once we do, we intuitively realize there is nothing to fear, and nothing can harm us. We have proposed five attempts at setting you in the right direction.
One last thing to add: it is possible some readers will have recognized aspects of what we wrote in one or another “teaching”. And indeed, sages have been speaking of this for a long time. Still, we are very reluctant to name a particular teaching or teacher; as far as this author is concerned, this was taught by Jesus [the kingdom of God is within you], by Sufis [everything is God, nothing is not God], and by countless others in every generation on every continent. Whether one “identifies” with one teaching or another depends on upbringing, culture, tradition, and worldview; so recommending a book or identifying with a tradition, when it comes to the subject at hand, can do more harm than good.
Still, we will risk it, and recommend the following documentary on the life of Sri Ramana. This is completely optional, and just one perspective on the age-old wisdom we have humbly tried to lay out today.