Signs and wonders will be seen – You know my tears – This is the hour – No man shall stop my plan – Trust me!
Follow the hand of God – I will reach for you – Take my hand – Walk with me – Praise the Lord!
You have been called – You are my witness – The Rapture is coming – I am the Light – Expect me!
This is the time of teaching – There shall be a Crusade – Prepare for me – I have risen – Embrace me!
A new day is coming – I am building a Temple – My Church is being restored – Read the signs – Stand!
“The Last Days of Tolemac” is a book of prophecy. It deals with events that are happening in the world today and shows how they fulfill prophecies that were made many centuries ago. The book is set out in a series of questions and answers, and explains in detail:
- What is about to happen to our planet
- Why these events are happening at this time
- What places on earth will be affected
- What the new world will be like
- What we can do to prepare
If you wish to read these prophecies Click Here
As the book explains, our world is about to be transformed. We are about to experience “a new heaven and a new earth” where there will be no more suffering and no more pain. However all of us are faced with a choice. Do we wish to inherit the new world that is coming? Or will we fall victim to the catastrophes that will herald its arrival? What we need to do to survive is explained in the pages of this book.
For the information of readers, The Last Days of Tolemac is now available on Kindle Books as a Digital Download, as well as Allan’s major work entitled The Cosmic Web.
The Cosmic Web deals with the mysteries of life, and shows how we all have within us hidden powers that will transform our lives in the coming age. Many of the stories that appear on this Blog, as well as articles on esoteric aspects of life, have been taken from this book. And as usual with Kindle books, if you click on the cover of either book, you can read part of the contents for free.
Both books can be accessed here
Allan Colston can be contacted at Tolemac@shaw.ca
For the benefit of readers who might be looking for information on specific subjects related to prophecy, the following articles have been included here for easy reference. They can be found in “Articles” listed under the heading “Categories” in the column on the right:
- The Apocalypse Unveiled
- The Rapture Revealed
- The Lost Years of Jesus
- The New Golden Age
- The Last Pope
- The Death of the Pope
- The Doomsday Prophecies
- The Kachina Prophecies of the Hopi
- Rebuilding the Temple of Solomon
- What is “Wormwood” in the Book of Revelation?
- What is “Mystery Babylon” in the Book of Revelation?
- Why America is not Mentioned in “End Time” Prophecy
In tracing the process of vision to its source, we have seen how energy is converted from one form into another until it finally reaches the visual centre of the cerebral cortex. At this point, however, our scientific knowledge ends and we are left with pure surmise.
Science has so far been unable to explain exactly how a mental image occurs in our brains. It is obvious that no image can occur unless there exists something in which, or on which, this image can appear. This base, or substratum, is consciousness itself.
When we say that we see something, what we are saying is that the image of that something registers upon our consciousness. If it didn’t, we could never become aware of it. But the central mystery of vision is preceded by an even greater mystery.
Not only has science been unable to explain how a mental image comes to appear in consciousness, but it has also been unable to say how consciousness itself arises.
If consciousness is regarded as the product of a physical process within the brain, as psychologists still maintain, then some part of the brain must obviously be responsible for its creation.
So far, however, no evidence of any source of consciousness has yet been found to exist within the brain, nor is there any accepted explanation to account for its appearance.
So great has been the conviction of science that a real, objective universe exists “out there” in space, that physicists, psychologists and biologists have simply accepted that sensory feedback of this outer world, somehow does come to be registered in consciousness.
The fact that scientists have thus far been unable to explain how this occurs, has not deterred them from believing that it does take place, although in some as yet unexplained manner. Until it is explained, however, this traditional scientific belief is simply an article of faith.
But there is a way out of the dilemma that has confounded scientists for so long. It is a way that mystics have been pointing out for untold ages. As the Sages have consistently revealed, the objects which appear to exist “out there”, do not in fact exist “out there” at all.
The truth is that there is nothing outside of us, and everything that we see and sense is contained within consciousness itself.
The only thing that can be said to exist is consciousness itself. Images appear in consciousness, and it is these images that are then projected outwardly, in a way that makes it seem as if there is an outer universe.
This conclusion is also supported by the vast body of evidence contained in dreams, hallucinations, and other “alternate” states. Charles Muses speaks for this conclusion when he says:
“A salient fact of modern brain research should be stated here: The brain is not the source of its own primary motivational impulses.” (Original italics) 1
Put in a nutshell, consciousness does not arise as a result of any physical process within the brain. It is the brain that exists in consciousness. In fact the entire physical body is itself a projection of consciousness.
It is not the neural activity of the brain which leads to thoughts in consciousness. It is the thoughts in consciousness which are revealed in the form of neural activity. The brain does not produce consciousness. It is consciousness which produces the image of the body, along with its apparent centre of intelligence, the brain. As Ramana Maharshi explains:
“Where is the brain? It is in the body. I say that the body itself is a projection of the mind. You speak of the brain when you think of the body. It is the mind which creates the body, the brain in it, and also ascertains that the brain is its seat.” 2
Science has not only been unable to explain the central mystery of thought and consciousness, but the latest insights into Quantum Mechanics have brought science to the brink of incoherence. Physicist Richard Feynman, himself a Nobel prize winner, has written;
“I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.” 3
His reason for saying this is because the entire science of Quantum Mechanics ultimately consists of nothing more than a series of mathematical equations. When physicists get together to discuss what these equations really mean, they encounter almost insuperable difficulties, due to the limitations of human language.
What this means is that these equations cannot accurately be explained in words (of any language). They are beyond intellectual analysis. But if what is “out there” cannot adequately be explained, and the process of perception itself cannot adequately be understood, then the wonderful world of science has been reduced to a droll impasse.
As was pointed out earlier, it was the University of California professor George Stratton who, in 1896, performed an experiment that has proved to be of central importance to this question of perception. He made a pair of goggles, fitted with inverting lenses, which had the effect of turning everything that was looking at upside down.
He personally carried out an experiment over a period of eight days, during which he wore these goggles for periods of up to thirteen hours a day. When he was not wearing these goggles, he was securely blindfolded, so that he did not revert to his former habit of seeing.
At first Stratton felt profound disorientation accompanied by considerable physical distress, as he tried to manoeuvre himself around his inverted world, in which his feet now appeared where the sky used to be. As he persisted, he began to feel a gradual affinity for his strange new world, and to move about it with increasing confidence.
It was on the fourth day of his experiment that an extraordinary thing happened. Instead of appearing upside down as it had done thus far throughout the experiment, the world suddenly appeared to Stratton to turn itself the “right way up” again.
As he continued with his experiment, these sudden reversions to the “normal” way of viewing the world occurred with increasing frequency. As he pointed out:
“It is certainly difficult to understand how the scene as a whole could even temporarily have appeared upright when the retinal image was not inverted.” (Original italics) 4
Yet Stratton claimed, this was precisely what happened.
In 1964, another experiment was performed by a man named Kohler, in which selected volunteers were fitted with special goggles incorporating right-angle prisms. These goggles maintained the world the right way up, but they reversed the retinal images from side to side, so that objects that used to be seen on the left now appeared on the right, and vice versa.
Kohler found, just as Stratton had discovered, that his subjects began to have sudden glimpses in which the images reverted to their “normal” setting. Variations also occurred within the scenes that subjects were viewing, so that some parts of the scene were “normal”, while other parts of the identical scene remained reversed. 5
The traditional viewpoint of science has been that images of actual objects in space are reflected upon the retina of the eye. Each one of the one hundred and thirty million photoreceptor cells located in the retina, then send tiny electrical impulses via the optic nerve to the thalamus, and from there to the visual portion of the cerebral cortex, where the complicated process of vision is believed to take place.
But if each photoreceptor cell continues to send a signal to the brain of just that part of the retinal image for which it is responsible, we must ask ourselves how the brain can possibly scramble an image from left to right, or from upside down to right side up again.
The brain is frequently thought of as a sort of super-computer, serviced by a network of different nerve cells, with each neuron responsible for sending its own unique signal.
But if the physical network of signals from the eye to the brain remains unchanged, then how is it that the resulting image is able to change?
This cannot be due to a change in the network of communication to the brain, for no change has taken place.
Instead, we are faced with the inevitable conclusion that the visual images are actually projections of the mind. So when the mind finds itself thwarted in its customary relationship with its environment, it merely rearranges the visual images to suit its needs.
The experiments of Stratton and Kohler have provided evidential proof of the projecting power of the mind, as the mystics have long taught.
It is the category of mental imagery known as hallucination, that remains the key to the understanding of the functioning of the mind. Hallucinations are not merely temporary aberrations of an unsound mind, in which unexpected images happen to overshadow “normal reality”. They are in fact beacons illustrating the true nature of “normal reality”.
What we call “normal reality” is actually a projection of the mind, and our day-to-day waking world is just as much a hallucination as the unexpected images which are passed off as ephemeral visions.
There is another clue which should help us to understand this fact. Whenever any form of hallucination supervenes upon the waking state, there is never any awareness of the onset of this new vision, nor when it ends. Awareness remains unbroken.
For this reason, people who experience hallucinatory visions in the course of their waking state remain firmly convinced that what they experienced at the time, was still “normal reality”.
When told that what they had experienced was illusory, they simply refuse to believe that what they saw “with their own eyes”, was not actually real. Their confusion remains perfectly understandable.
For if it is the function of our eyes to reflect what is actually “out there”, as we have been conditioned to believe, then what is seen by our eyes in the course of waking consciousness, is inevitably taken to be a true reflection of what actually is out there.
However, the value of hallucinatory experience, for those who have the wit to perceive it, lies in the recognition that our experience of the world is just another variation of images projected by our minds. As Aldous Huxley has affirmed:
“And the experience can be very liberating and widening in other ways. It shows that the world one habitually lives in is merely a creation of this conventional, closely conditioned being which one is, and that there are quite other kinds of worlds outside. It is a very salutary thing to realize that the rather dull universe in which most of us spend most of our time is not the only universe there is.” 6
The truth defies the age-old reliance that we have come to place upon our senses. For the majority of us, we simply cannot bring ourselves to believe that what we have for so long thought of as “reality”, may not in fact be real.
This is a hard road to travel, and it is a path that is invariably rejected by those who first encounter it. But the idea that what we see “out there” in space is actually a projection of our own minds, is a discovery that has the power to transform our lives.
For in this revolutionary insight, there lies hidden the key to true creative freedom. Those who find it gain the power to mould their own reality. They learn to write their will upon the world, and to emblazon their thoughts across the stars.
1 Charles Muses, “Paraphysics: A New View of Ourselves and the Cosmos“, in “Future Science”, edited by John White and Stanley Krippner, Anchor, New York, 1977, p. 283.
2 “Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi“, recorded by Swami Saraswathi, Sri Ramanasramam, Tiruvannamalai, 1968, p. 296.
3 Richard Feynman, “The Character of Physical Law“, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, 1967, p. 129.
4 George Stratton, “Vision without Inversion of the Retinal Image“, Psychological Review, Vol IV, No.4, 1897, pp. 341-360.
5 Charles Harris, “Perceptual Adaptation to Inverted, Reversed, and Displaced Vision“, Psychological Review, Vol.72, No.6, 1965, pp. 419-444.
6 Aldous Huxley, “Moksha – Writings on Psychedelics and the Visionary Experience”, edited by M. Horowitz and C.Palmer, Tarcher, Los Angeles, 1977, p. 178.
The mystics claim that the world we think of as real, is actually a subjective phenomenon appearing in the mind that we have learned to project outside of ourselves.
But this conflicting view of the world leaves us with a mystifying conundrum. For if the world we see and interact with has a subjective nature that is projected by our minds, then how is it that our senses are able to respond to the world as if it had an objective reality?
If the mystics are correct, then there must be some fundamental flaw in the scientific interpretation of the way in which our senses operate. In order to find this flaw, we need to investigate the scientific explanation of the process whereby the outer world comes to reveal itself to our minds.
For example, let us examine how our sense of sight conveys information about the outside world to our brains according to accepted scientific theory. When we look at a tree, we see it by means of our eyes, and the image of the tree is conveyed from our eyes to the brain. The brain then furnishes the image of the tree in our minds.
So we may illustrate this process in the following rudimentary fashion.
In order to see the tree, however, there must be sufficient light. If there was complete darkness, we would be unable to see anything at all. If we assume that the sun is shining, and that the tree is illuminated by the light of the sun in the form of various rays of light, then these light waves are reflected by the tree, and these reflected light waves penetrate the eye.
Once the light enters the eye, the lens of the eye causes an inverted image of the tree to be displayed on the retina, at the back of the eyeball. This inverted image is then conveyed to the brain by means of the optic nerve, and is then converted by the brain into the mental image of the tree, as shown below.
In order to see the tree, it is necessary for photons (electromagnetic particles of light) to strike the tree. These photons are then reflected by the tree, and when they enter the eye they are focused on the retina.
By a process of electrical and chemical transmission, the information registered upon the retina is conveyed to the brain along the optic nerve. These signals finally reach the visual control centre of the cerebral cortex, where they are converted into the final image of the tree.
It is important to recognise that between the sun, the tree and the eye, there exists only electromagnetic radiation, in the form of photons of light. There can be no question at this stage of any image of a tree. There are merely particles of light, or, as we have learned from their complementary nature, wave-particles of energy.
When this energy meets the receptor cells located in the retina, it is converted into electrical information by a process known as transduction, and is then routed via the optic nerve to the thalamus in the brain.
The thalamus is a type of relay station, which then passes the information received along the optic nerve, through another set of nerve fibres, to the primary visual cortex at the back of the brain. When these signals reach this portion of the brain, they still have to be deciphered.
It is the action of the visual cortex that finally creates the picture of the tree which then appears in consciousness. It is only when all the various signals are combined in consciousness, that a visual image of the tree becomes possible, and we actually get to “see” the tree.
This visual image is assumed to be a true reflection of the object that actually exists out there in space. We assume that the signals relayed to us by our senses have in fact been transmitted with true fidelity. But we have no way of knowing whether they have done so correctly or not.
The image which has formed itself in our consciousness is the only image we know, and it is this image in our consciousness which is then projected by our mind, as an actual object existing in three-dimensional space.
When we say that we “see” something, therefore, what we are really doing is identifying an image in our minds, and then projecting this image into space as a physical object.
We never therefore actually see anything “out there” at all. Everything that we see simply consists of various impressions registered upon our consciousness. Now let us examine a little more closely the process whereby the image of the tree is created in consciousness.
There are various stages in this process, which we can now identify as follows:
The signals from the tree to the eye are conveyed by electromagnetic radiation in the form of light waves, or photons. These signals form an inverted image upon the retina of the eye.
Embedded within the human retina are over one hundred and thirty million photoreceptors. The photoreceptors are tiny cells that convert light into neural activity, and this nervous energy then travels by way of various nerve fibres to the brain.
There are two basic types of photoreceptor cells, one known as rods and the other as cones. The rods are sensitive to dim light but provide very little detail, while the cones identify colours and sharp details.
When a photon of light strikes one of these photoreceptor cells, a process known as transduction takes place. The electromagnetic energy of light is converted into electrical information which is then relayed to the thalamus in the brain via the optic nerve.
When these signals reach the thalamus, they are then relayed again to that part of the cerebral cortex which is responsible for vision. It is only when these signals reach the visual centre of the cerebral cortex that they are finally converted into the mental image which then appears in consciousness.
We have now reached the heart of the process of perception, and it is at this stage that the nature of sight becomes extremely mysterious. The tree that we believe we see “out there” in space, is actually an image which exists in our own consciousness.
But how is this image created in our consciousness? How are the electrical signals, which are conveyed to the brain by means of the nervous system, converted into the mental image of a tree? The problem is simply this. How does an electrical impulse become an image in consciousness?
Since we believe that it is the action of the brain that creates the image of the tree, it is clear that there must exist some special cells within the brain that are responsible for this remarkable function. Furthermore, these cells must be the most wonderful and complex cells within the entire body.
But when we trace the network of nerve signals to their ultimate destination, we discover the extraordinary fact that the cells, which are apparently responsible for this amazing ability of creating thoughts from electrical energy, are no different from any other nerve cells in the body.
By some astonishing legerdemain, our exquisitely complex function of sight appears to be the product of the most common form of cellular life. As Charles Muses trenchantly observes:
“Even in the hypothalamus, often thought of as a prime ‘center’, what we have is not a source but only a concentrated bundle of fibres. When impulses have been traced further than even concentrated bundles, we end up with specific neurons. But these are specialised amoebas, and by accepted evolutionary theory, protozoan sensibility cannot be regarded as the executive suite of human intelligence!” 1
We are therefore faced with a mystifying riddle. How is it that these simple nerve cells, which have been found to comprise the visual centre of the cerebral cortex, are able to perform this stupefying trick of creating images in consciousness, as well as the thoughts that are associated with them? In spite of its accumulation of knowledge over four hundred years, science has still been unable to solve this riddle.
The fact is that we simply do not know how it is we really get to see, or hear, or smell, taste or touch!
(Continued in Part Three)
1 Charles Muses, “Paraphysics: A New View of Ourselves and the Cosmos“, in “Future Science”, edited by John White and Stanley Krippner, Anchor, New York, 1977, p. 283.
In order to understand the true nature of the world around us, we can use the example of a tree. The tree appears to exist as a real, physical object that exists outside of ourselves, and is part of the natural world that surrounds us on every side.
Yet according to Sages and mystics who express the wisdom of the ages, the tree that seems so real to us is actually an illusion. It is an illusion because what seems to be a real physical object is actually a projected image in consciousness emanating from the mind of the observer.
The fact is that we have allowed ourselves to be deceived by our senses. Most of us have never doubted for a moment the validity of what we see, hear, taste, smell and feel. Yet the truth is that we simply cannot trust our senses.
Anyone who has travelled over a flat surface on a hot day will have noticed an odd natural effect which appears to take the form of a shimmering expanse of water. It is a sight that is commonly seen in deserts and other sandy plains.
The appearance of water is an illusory effect caused by the refraction of light waves by layers of air having different densities. It is the presence of these different densities of air that produces the reflective effect that looks like water.
It is only when we discover that the water does not exist that we realise that our eyes have betrayed us. What looked like a real phenomenon, namely water, is then seen to be an illusion. Our eyes have conveyed to us the impression of something that was not really there.
But our eyes are capable of conjuring up far more exotic scenes than the mere presence of water on the desert sand. There is a vast body of evidence which falls into the category of experience that is referred to as hallucination.
Hallucinations are images or events which appear to be real at the time they are experienced, but which are later found to be unreal. What was thought to be a real object or event is found to be illusory, as may be seen from the following examples.
The physicist Fritjof Capra described such an occasion late one summer afternoon, when he was sitting by the ocean watching the waves roll in. As he gazed on this tranquil scene, he suddenly became aware of a startling transformation.
“As I sat on that beach my former experiences came to life; I ‘saw’ cascades of energy coming down from outer space, in which particles were created and destroyed in rhythmic pulses; I ‘saw’ the atoms of the elements and those of my body participating in this cosmic dance of energy; I felt its rhythm and I ‘heard’ its sound, and at that moment I knew that this was the Dance of Shiva, the Lord of Dancers worshipped by the Hindus.” 1
On that summer afternoon, Capra saw images and heard sounds that had a profound impact on him. Yet it is clear that what he saw and heard was not a part of the normal world that was in front of him at the time.
It is extremely unlikely that anyone sitting alongside of him would have experienced what Capra did. What he “saw” and “heard” was rather a projection of his own mind, a vision that was no doubt cleverly tailored to his education as a physicist, and to his deep interest in Eastern mysticism at the time.
Philosopher and teacher David Spangler had a similar visionary experience, although couched in somewhat different terms. It occurred when he was a child, living in Morocco, in North Africa.
“One day, we were driving into Casablanca and I was in the back seat of the family car. I remember we were passing a large roadway sign that was advertising an orange soft drink. And I was looking at the sign, and all at once, I had a physical sensation as if someone was pumping air into me.
I felt like I was expanding. And I realised that I was looking down at the car and at my body and at my parents’ bodies from a distance above the car. And immediately that perspective changed, and I had an experience that I describe as awakening from amnesia. I felt myself in a state of complete unity with the rest of creation.
And there was a visual component to that in the form of light and in looking through that light, of seeing almost like you see those photographs of a spiral galaxy, of seeing the universe spinning around me, and yet I was also doing the spinning. I was both observer and participant.” 2
David Spangler saw and experienced something that day that seemed vitally real to him. In the context of his everyday world, however, it is clear that what he experienced was not real at all.
While his body was travelling in that car in Morocco, he saw something that was very different from the actual scenes that were unfolding before his eyes at the time. His experience was an example of hallucination, an illusory vision, which psychology explains as a projection of the mind.
Hallucinatory experiences are not limited only to occasions when the observer is fully conscious. They may also occur when the physical body of the percipient is comatose and unconscious.
In 1944, Carl Jung broke his foot, and shortly thereafter suffered a heart attack. While he was lying unconscious in his hospital bed, he underwent a series of visionary experiences.
These visions were characterised by such intensity that Jung concluded that he must be dying. In one of these visions, Jung described how he suddenly found himself floating high above the earth.
“Far below I saw the globe of earth, bathed in gloriously blue light. I saw the deep blue sea and the continents. Far below my feet lay Ceylon, and in the distance ahead of me the subcontinent of India. My field of vision did not include the whole earth, but its global shape was plainly distinguishable and its outlines shone through that wonderful blue light.”
As his vision continued, Jung left the earth and soon thereafter felt himself drawn to a dark block of stone, like a meteorite, floating in space. He noticed that the stone block had been hollowed out into the form of a temple, which he approached.
“As I approached the temple I had the certainty that I was about to enter an illuminated room and would meet there all those people to whom I belong in reality. There I would at last understand – this too was a certainty – what historical nexus my life or I fitted into. There I would learn why everything had been thus and not otherwise. There I would meet the people who knew the answer to my question about what had been before and what would come after.”
Alas, Jung’s eager anticipation was to remain unfulfilled, for before he was able to enter the temple of stone he was drawn back to his body on the hospital bed, whereupon the vision ceased. In recalling this vision, however, Jung was particularly struck by its extraordinary vividness, which seemed to make all earthly experience pale by comparison. As he recorded in his memoirs:
“It is impossible to convey the beauty and intensity of emotion during those visions. They were the most tremendous things I have ever experienced. I would never have imagined that any such experience was possible. It was not a product of imagination. The vision and experiences were utterly real; there was nothing subjective about them; they all had a quality of absolute objectivity.”
So real and so objective did these visions seem to Jung at the time, that his return to normal consciousness seemed “gray” by comparison. He added: “The view of the city and mountains from my sick-bed seemed to me like a painted curtain with black holes in it.” 3
The intensity and conviction of utter reality experienced in these visionary states is also the hallmark of the hallucinogenic images produced by the ingestion of drugs and other psychedelic substances.
While the scenes themselves are later recognised to be images projected by the mind, at the time they are experienced they possess a shining purity which stuns the percipient with its force. As Doctor Sidney Cohen writes:
“One thing is certain. Under LSD one has the overwhelming feeling that it is the real reality.” Under the influence of drugs,” the world looks as it did on the morning of Creation.” 4
Aldous Huxley confirms the vivid sense of reality which characterises the drug experience:
“The most striking of these common characteristics is the experience of light. With this intensification of light there goes a tremendous intensification of color, and this holds good for the outer world as well as of the inner world. Along with light, there comes a recognition of heightened significance.
“The self-luminous objects possess a meaning as intense as their color. Here, significance is identical with being: objects do not stand for anything but themselves. Their meaning is precisely this: that they are intensely themselves, and, being so, are manifestations of the essential givenness and otherness of the universe.” 5
Despite their vividness of colour and meaning, however, drug experiences fail to fulfill their magical potential. As Sidney Cohen again points out:
“The question remains: Is it a psychochemical image or a priceless glimpse of reality? Now a dozen years later, I would suggest that it is another facet of illusion just as our sober state is.” 4
In April, 1976, Lauren Elder joined pilot Jay Fuller and a friend Jean Noller on a short flight from San Francisco to Death Valley. As they approached the crest of the Sierra mountains, their plane was unable to gain sufficient altitude to clear the pass through which they were headed, and it crashed some fifteen feet short of the rocky crest.
The wreckage of the plane hung precariously on the precipitous crags. All three passengers were badly injured in the crash, and they were forced to spend an agonizing night trying to survive.
When morning came, Lauren found that she was alone, and that her two friends had succumbed to their injuries. Knowing that she would not be able to survive another night on the peak by herself, she resolved to climb down into the desert which lay more than a mile below.
Finally, after eighteen hours of excruciating progress down sheer rock faces, waterfalls and across perilously balanced rocks, Lauren reached the safety of the small community of Owens Valley. After being hospitalised, she subsequently recovered from her injuries.
She later wrote a book about her experiences, in which she recounted her painstaking journey down the eastern face of the Sierras, during which she found herself confronted from time to time by unexpected apparitions, which blended in with the rocky landscape. She described one such incident:
“I sat on a rock to take a short rest and raised my eyes to scan the mountain. That was when I saw them. They were curved along a ridge of rocks directly across from me – a row of houses built of beautifully mellowed redwood, skillfully integrated into the landscape. They looked like chalets and I thought it must be a new resort area.”
When Lauren approached one of these houses, a man suddenly strode into view.
“I saw him and stopped short. A man with long, light hair was standing on the deck of the highest house, stretching. He was wearing a robe. His arms were out and a white robe billowed around him.”
Lauren called out to him but could get no response. She decided that he was, in fact, a statue. As she progressed further, she saw sled tracks in the snow. “Kids had been playing there recently. I could even hear them. The sounds of their laughter floated from beyond the houses like the ringing of clear glass bells“. A little while later, she spotted the figure of a woman.
“She was sitting on a rock ledge just above my head, in the shade of an overhanging boulder: a middle-aged woman with a sketchbook and a toolkit fitted out with paints. She was sketching wildflowers and she looked the part perfectly. Everything about her was no nonsense, from her blue denim slacks to her red checked shirt, stout Oxfords, and white ankle socks.” 6
Before reaching the sanctuary of Owens Valley, Lauren continued to see a rich miscellany of other phantoms, including Mexican farm hands, cyclists, young men in pickup trucks and tourists in Airstream trailers. She called out to them all, pleading for help. But her efforts were always in vain. Each apparition simply mocked her by its silence, until she realised that each new form was yet another vision projected by her mind.
Under the stress of life-threatening situations, the mind has the ability to create a dazzling array of images of people and objects, each impeccably crafted with intricate detail. While these images seem perfectly real to those who see them, they do not possess the normal characteristics of reality, and can provide no aid to those in need. Yet their very presence sometimes provides hope in the face of anguished despair.
But while the onset of hallucinatory images is generally attributed to stress, drugs, alcohol and other stimulants, the mind is quite capable of producing illusory images under conditions of complete normality.
All that is necessary to produce this flow of images is to deprive the senses of their customary environmental feedback for a while. The mind then readily substitutes images and events of its own.
In 1954, Dr John Lilly undertook a series of personal experiments in sensory deprivation, while he was working at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland. Lilly devised a special isolation tank in which he could be completely enclosed.
In these tests, he immersed himself naked inside the tank, in water maintained at a constant temperature of 93º F (33.9º C), and used a head mask in order to breathe. The tank was totally dark, and no sounds from outside could penetrate this womb-like environment.
Although Lilly referred to these experiments as “sensory deprivation”, he found that, once immersed in his tank, he was quite unaware of any feeling of deprivation. In fact, he experienced an extraordinary state of inner well-being.
While he had expected that the absence of all outward sensory stimuli would induce a strong desire to sleep, he found instead that he enjoyed a heightened sense of awareness, and at no time did he lose his sense of conscious awareness. Much to his surprise, he found that he was soon able to create an artificial reality within the tank.
“I went through experiences in which other people apparently joined me in this dark silent environment. I could actually see them, feel them, and hear them. At other times, I went through dreamlike sequences, waking dreams as they are now called, in which I watched what was happening. At other times I apparently tuned in on networks of communications that are normally below our levels of awareness, networks of civilizations way beyond ours.” 7
Several years after Lilly had conducted his experiments in sensory deprivation, Jerome Bruner devised a similar series of tests in which volunteers were placed in isolation in sound and light-proofed rooms. While undergoing these tests, subjects wore velvet gloves and lay on foam rubber mats.
As Lilly had discovered in his isolation tank, Bruner found that after an initial period in this void-like condition, the subjects began to hallucinate. They not only heard voices, but were able to see, hear and touch the entities that sprang to life, and to conduct actual conversations with them as well.
It was clear to Bruner that subjects were able to create complete scenarios by drawing on their past experiences. Their entire sensory system became involved, and the resulting visions appeared so realistic and lifelike, that the subjects were completely unaware that they were hallucinating. The events they visualised seemed quite normal and in harmony with everyday events. 8
We have seen that the mind is capable of producing scenarios which involve the entire range of our senses as a result of many different stimuli. These mental pageants can arise in dreams, under the influence of alcohol, chemical or psychedelic agents, or else as a result of stress and trauma.
When they arise through the mere absence of normal sensory stimulation, it is significant that the mind is capable of projecting these illusions, whether the percipient is physically conscious or not, and regardless of whether the brain is damaged or intact. As Carl Jung has noted:
“There are certain astonishing observations in cases of profound syncope after acute injuries to the brain and in severe states of collapse. In both situations, total loss of consciousness can be accompanied by perceptions of the outside world and vivid dream experiences. Since the cerebral cortex, the seat of consciousness, is not functioning at these times, there is as yet no explanation for such phenomena. ” 9
Jung’s mystification is easy to understand. If the world exists as a three dimensional reality outside of ourselves, and if the function of the senses is simply to convey messages to the brain reflecting the content of this world, then how is it possible for impressions of the world to continue to be experienced when the brain is severely damaged, and the body physically unconscious?
According to Sages and mystics the answer is simple. The cerebral cortex is not the seat of human consciousness.
The reason why people continue to experience hallucinations, even when they are unconscious, or suffer from severe brain damage, is because the brain, the body, and the entire world exist within consciousness, and not the other way around.
Consciousness is not dependent on the brain, and is therefore not limited by the limitations of the physical body. Projections of the mind continue to occur, albeit on a different level from that of the normal waking experience.
Although consciousness is capable of projecting a vast range of mental panoramas under varied circumstances, we remain convinced that the experiences of our waking state represent the only “true” reality. We relegate all other states of mind to “alternate” categories – states that are presumed to possess less fundamental reality than that of the normal waking experience. Yet this conviction is widely challenged by those who experience these alternate states.
The overriding feature of every hallucinatory experience is that it seems to be completely “real” at the time it is being experienced. As Henry Margenau and Lawrence LeShan remark:
“One of the fascinating things about alternate realities is that at the time you are really using one it makes perfect sense to you, and you know it is the only way to view reality. It is only common sense.” 10
This is endorsed by John Lilly. Writing of his own experiences of these alternate realms, he states:
“One thing that does stick with me is the feeling of reality that was there during the experiences. I knew that this was the truth.” 11
(Continued in Part Two)
1 Fritjof Capra, “The Tao of Physics“, Bantam, New York, 1977, p. XV.
2 Quoted in “Voices and Visions: A Guided Tour of Revelation“, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Montreal, 1985.
3 Carl Jung, “Memories, Dreams, Reflections“, recorded and edited by A.Jaffe, Pantheon, New York, 1961, pp. 289-295.
4 Richard Alpert and Sidney Cohen, “LSD“, New American Library, New York, 1966, pp. 16-18.
5 Aldous Huxley, “Moksha – Writings on Psychedelics and the Visionary Experience”, edited by M. Horowitz and C.Palmer, Tarcher, Los Angeles, 1977, pp. 59-63.
6 Lauren Elder with Shirley Streshinsky, “And I Alone Survived“, Dutton, New York, 1978.
7 John Lilly, “The Center of the Cyclone“, Bantam, New York, 1973, p. 41.
8 Jerome Bruner, “A Study of Thinking“, (with Goodnow and Austin) Science editions, New York, 1962.
9 Carl Jung, op. cit., p. 322.
10 Lawrence LeShan and Henry Margenau, “Einstein’s Space and Van Goch’s Sky“, Macmillan, New York, 1982, p. 11.
11 John Lilly, op. cit., p. 58.
All that we know about our world is that, from our earliest recollection, we have become aware of a universe of which we are the centre. Everything that happens in our world involves us in some fundamental way, through our awareness of it.
Since we assume our own identity and reality, we confer equal status upon the beings that share our world. We become enmeshed in our relationships with these beings, and our lives form the drama with which these associations and relationships develop.
We become emotionally involved in the fate of these relationships. We do not for a moment doubt their existence in reality. When other people die, we are deeply affected by their demise and we grieve our loss. Yet we fail to see the inconsistency in our behaviour.
According to the Sages, when we come to wake up from this dream of consciousness that we call our waking world, we will come to realise that this entire universe, this dramatic saga, is nothing but a projection of our minds, just like the dream.
However, like the following questioner, we remain so entrenched in our conviction of the utter reality of our waking dream, that we fail to see the similarity.
Question: “Surely, wars and revolutions are not dreams. Sick mothers and starving children are not dreams. Wealth, ill-made and misused is not a dream.
Maharaj: What else?
Question: A dream cannot be shared.
Maharaj: Nor can the waking state. All the three states (of waking, dreaming and sleeping) are subjective, personal, intimate. They all happen to and are contained within the little bubble of consciousness called “I”. 1
Within that state we call waking reality we have projected a world which appears to us consistent and real. We interact with this world in a way which we find meaningful, and which allows us to fulfill our desires.
The description which we have of this world is determined by the nature of our beliefs. These beliefs not only determine what we see, they also decide what we experience in this world. They decide what we can and cannot do.
As John Lilly has pointed out, “What we believe to be true is true or becomes true, within limits to be found experientially and experimentally.” 2
The young child is still largely unaware of any limits to its powers of expression. It is only as the influence of its culture grows in the course of adolescence, that the child comes to believe that it is limited by a body, and that this body is limited in turn by such things as heredity and the laws of nature.
In fact the child is not limited by a body at all, nor by the forces of nature that surround it. It is limited by belief. The child is in truth an unlimited expression of creative freedom. For as Sai Baba, the Saint of Shirdi, West India, said to his disciples:
“Sai is not this three-and-a-half cubic feet of visible body residing in Shirdi.” 3
And in one of the great classics which reflect this eternal wisdom, we read:
“Each one of us is in truth an idea of the Great Gull, an unlimited idea of freedom. Your whole body, from wing tip to wing tip,” Jonathan would say, other times, “is nothing more than your thought itself, in a form you can see. Break the chains of your thought, and you break the chains of your body too.” 4
Young children who have not yet forged the chains of belief that will later bind them tight, are still able to do things which adults peremptorily dismiss as impossible, within their worlds of confined belief.
In May, 1974, a man bought a book to read to pass the time while he was travelling. He was sufficiently intrigued by its contents to extend a personal invitation to the author. The Book was Supernature and its author Dr Lyall Watson. This man invited Watson to visit him at his home in Venice, Italy, to witness a peculiar trick that his daughter Claudia was able to perform.
Watson travelled to Venice and in due course met Claudia, who was then eight years old. Shortly after dinner that evening, while the adults talked among themselves, Claudia lay on the carpet paging through a magazine.
Her father reached for a tube of tennis balls from a corner table, and casually rolled one across the carpet. It came to rest in front of Claudia. She picked it up, and held it affectionately to her cheek. Then, balancing the ball in her left hand, she gently stroked it with her right. What followed next left Watson stunned.
“One moment there was a tennis ball – the familiar off-white carpeted sphere marked only by its usual meandering seam. Then it was no longer so. There was a short implosive sound, very soft, like a cork being drawn in the dark, and Claudia held in her hand something completely different: a smooth, dark, rubbery globe with only a suggestion of the old pattern on its surface – a sort of negative through-the-looking-glass impression of a tennis ball.”
Watson examined the object closely. He found that the tennis ball had been turned inside out. Yet it still contained a volume of air under pressure. He squeezed the ball and it retained its former shape. He dropped it and it bounced.
Then he picked up a knife from the dining room table and pierced the rubber. The air inside came hissing out. He then cut right around the circumference, and was able to recognize the familiar fur which normally covered the outside of the ball.
Later that evening, Claudia performed the trick again. This time Watson kept the ball and took it back to his hotel, where he placed it on the mantelpiece in his room. As Watson described it, the ball stared at him as a mocking symbol. This enigmatic sphere defied his reasoned world of logic. It seemed to him to undermine the very laws of nature.
“It still disturbed me” he wrote. “I know enough of physics to appreciate that you cannot turn an unbroken sphere inside out like a glove. Not in this reality.”
When Watson returned to Venice three years later, he met with Claudia again. This time he found that things had changed dramatically. As he wrote at the time:
“Claudia is eight now and goes by herself to school. In the breaks between the classes, she and other children play around the old well head in the piazzetta, practising the lessons they have learned confirming the consensus.
Sometimes they throw and catch a tennis-ball, letting it bounce and roll between them; and now that it has a name and its function is fixed and defined, it doesn’t even occur to Claudia to offer it any other kind of freedom. She is one of us.” 5
Claudia had come to recognise that the world in which tennis balls could be liberated was not the world in which gondolas could glide along Venetian canals. She had come to adopt the beliefs of her elders and superiors, where such things were clearly impossible. Sadly, the freedom which her tennis ball had once enjoyed, had “faded into the light of common day.”
When Uri Geller burst upon an astonished and unsuspecting world in the 1970′s, he not only began to do embarrassing things to cutlery and clocks, but he was able to inspire other people to imitate him as well.
This ability, which came to be known as the “Geller effect”, was particularly marked with young children, who had not yet become bound by the trusses of belief. Geller was able to perform his “magic” because he believed he could, while others found that they could duplicate his feats because they didn’t know they couldn’t.
Lyall Watson reported an incident which occurred to him personally, which clearly demonstrated this “Geller effect”. He happened to be watching a video in which Uri Geller demonstrated how he was able to bend a key by passing his fingers lightly across it. While he was watching this video, Watson happened to have a three-year-old child sitting on his lap.
When the video ended, he casually gave the child a household key to play with. Operating on the basis of what she had just seen on the video, the child proceeded to bend this long-shanked key just as Geller had done. Taking the warped key from her, Watson found that he was unable to bend it back to its original shape.
Now this sort of display does not generate much enthusiasm in the world of orthodox science, for such events not only demonstrate bent keys, but bent “reality” as well. To be confronted with evidence which exposes the shortcomings of one’s own beliefs is profoundly unsettling, and invariably tends to be suppressed, for fear of encouraging similar excesses.
Time, however, is on the side of orthodox science, for as Watson concludes, “I sincerely doubt that she will be able to go on doing so when she is older and wiser in the ways of our world.” She will no doubt become, in time, like one of us. 6
So “shades of the prison-house begin to close upon the growing boy”, as he successfully learns to adorn himself with the coat tails of orthodox belief. For it is the very threat of being rejected as outcast, that is such a powerful motivator into acquiescing with the common view.
Being treated as an outcast, an outsider, is a harsh price for anyone to pay. It is harsher still for those young members of society, who see their future opportunities for success dependent upon their acceptance by the group.
Society strives continually to encourage, induce or punish its newest members into conforming with its accepted parameters of belief. It does this initially through the medium of the parents, who through their “love” for their children, ensure that they are accepted by society, rather than face persecution by their peers.
Furthermore, parents inevitably mould their children to be like them, the better that they may be able to relate to them, and the more “successful” their children may later hope to become within the narrow confines of accepted society.
The child, however, does not easily, or always, surrender to the powerful forces of conformity. Being as perceptive as they are, young children do not always welcome the invitation of society, or readily accept its virtues. Some are so shocked emotionally that they withdraw from the common level of consciousness altogether, preferring instead to roam around in other landscapes of the mind.
From the viewpoint of western society, these vagrant children, who can no longer be reached by normal contact, are labelled as “autistic”. They are considered to suffer from some pathological flaw which prevents them from accepting their due inheritance.
These children have withdrawn into a private world which can no longer be penetrated by others, and from which they do not care to venture forth. The act of the severely emotionally distressed child is similar to that process which takes place in sleep.
When people dream, they become immersed in a realm which those in the waking world cannot share. The dreamer is also unable to communicate with those who remain in the waking world. He or she is totally absorbed within a private world of experience.
From the point of view of the world, the dreamer continues to manifest in the waking world, but does so simply in the form of a comatose body, that is resistant to all forms of communication. The worries of the waking world do not exist for the dreamer, for the waking world forms no part of the dream.
It is the same with children whom society calls autistic. They have been induced to undertake a journey to another level of mind. What remains in our waking world is simply a physical shell which defies our urgent efforts of contact.
Because we are committed to our world of “normal reality”, we feel obliged to rescue these unfortunate children from their folly, and to restore them to their rightful estate. But it takes an enormous commitment of love to win back the allegiance of one of these young souls that has once been inclined to flee.
The emotional traumas which buffet us throughout our journey in life may occasionally jolt us out of our common description of the world altogether. We may then come to substitute our “normal reality” with a replacement which offers an escape from the profound anguish of our situation. As Scottish psychiatrist Ronald Laing has pointed out:
“In over 100 cases where we have studied the actual circumstances around the social event when one person comes to be regarded as schizophrenic, it seems to us that without exception the experience and behaviour that gets labelled schizophrenic is a special strategy that a person invents in order to live in an unbearable situation.” (Original italics) 7
In cases of schizophrenia and the like, some trauma or powerful emotional assault jars these people out of their habitual ways of thinking. They evade the painful circumstances of their “normal” world by journeying forth into a substitute world. We call this substitution “insanity”.
For the duration of this journey, we find ourselves confronted with human shells that have only a limited capacity to function in our world of waking reality. The minds of those who are thus affected are invariably locked into a private world which we can neither reach, nor share.
In some cases, through powerful chemical, electrical, or other stimuli, we are able to shock them back into an awareness of our level, and through various rewards and punishments, are able to coax them to return. If we are successful in these endeavours, we pronounce the patient “cured”.
But talk of illness and cure are value-judgements that are wholly dependent upon a single point of view. That is that our waking and customary state of consciousness is the only one that is “real”, and that being real, is the only desirable level on which a sane and healthy person would wish to function.
We might be kinder to these people if we allowed them to undertake their journeys with our sympathy and blessing, in the knowledge that if they did subsequently return to our level, it would be the result of their own personal choice, rather than through the pressure of our prodding.
So to summarise the foregoing, through the influence of our culture we learn to define our reality in a particular manner. This description of reality is based on those images which we learn as children to project and recognise, on the basis of specific names or symbols.
We divide these images into various categories, and we learn to relate to these groups of images in ways that are approved of by our culture. We learn, too, to separate our experiences into good and bad, according to the dictates of our society.
In making these decisions, we are guided by the influence of those around us. We learn to frame our description of the world in accordance with the views of others. In this way we come to share a common world of experience, based on our world of common description.
To be a member of a group is to accept the description which is the badge of that society. In order to operate effectively within that group, we must learn to subjugate our vast potential within certain designated limits. We must learn to paint a common picture of the world.
Within that picture, agreed upon by consensus, we act in accordance with our desires. These desires lead to experiences. The nature of these experiences is determined by our beliefs. Beliefs are the faith we place in certain modes of thinking.
Our beliefs are personal distillations of our interaction with what we call “reality”‘. Beliefs are central to our lives, and we cannot act without them. Whatever we believe, whatever we place our faith in, determines the character of our experiences. It matters not what we believe in, as our experiences in life will inevitably come to match the faith we have placed in our expectations.
Our beliefs are self-fulfilling, regardless of the nature of these beliefs. It is the very nature of life to produce circumstances which match our prevailing beliefs. This is the testimony of the sages.
“Thoughts are the content of the mind,” says Ramana Maharshi, “and they shape the universe.” 8
“What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow”, proclaims the Buddha. 9
“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” The Bible (Proverbs 23:7)
1 “I Am That“, Conversations with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, translated by Maurice Frydman, Book II, Chetana, Bombay, 1973, p. 23.
2 John Lilly, “The Center of the Cyclone“, Bantam, New York, 1973, p.xv.
3 Mani Sahukar, “Sai Baba: The Saint of Shirdi“, Somaiya Publications, Bombay, 1971, p. 25.
4 Richard Bach, “Jonathan Livingstone Seagull“, Pan Books, London, 1973, pp. 76-77.
5 Lyall Watson, “Lifetide”, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1979, p. 316.
6 Lyall Watson, “Beyond Supernature”, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1986, p. 204.
7 Ronald Laing, “The Politics of Experience and The Bird of Paradise“, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1967. p. 95.
8 “Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi“, recorded by Swami Saraswathi, Sri Ramanasramam, Tiruvannamalai, 1968, p. 93.
9 “The Dhammapada“, translated by Juan Mascaro, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1973, p. 35.
We who have become fully-fledged members of our society, imagine that the world to which we have become accustomed, is not only real and substantive, but is the only world that exists.
We fail to see that in our process of acquiring the culture of our society, we have voluntarily surrendered rich possibilities of experience in other worlds. However grand we may suppose our present world to be, it is a world which, by comparison, is narrow, gray and drab, compared to the immense possibilities which attended us at our birth.
Young children live in worlds of experience which seem magical in comparison with the dull, constricted world which they later inherit. It is one of the continuing tragedies that their vivid worlds of free expression are termed “imaginary” by their parents.
Children are threatened, cajoled, rewarded and beaten into submission, until they are ready to reject the exquisite feast that lies before them, for the dry repast which society has prepared in its place.
The “reality” in which young children live and express themselves, is a kaleidoscope of multi-hued experience which vibrates with the spontaneous joy of the creative spirit.
Just how rich and rewarding this world of expression is, was revealed to Samuel Silverstein, a public school teacher in Torrington, Connecticut, when he conducted a research project involving a group of eight-year old children.
These children shared a world of common experience which was incomparably richer than the world which Silverstein had come to accept as real. On one occasion the children reported that they could hear ethereal music.
Since Silverstein was unable to hear this music, and since there was no one else around who was responsible for it, he asked the children to explain where it was coming from. Some said it came from the sky. Others said it came from heaven. The explanations of these children were recorded by Silverstein in his project notebook, dated May 6, 1954.
“Several children said the sounds came into their bodies through their heads and they could hear the singing inside their bodies. Others said it could also come in through the shoulder or other parts of the body. Cathy told me more about what happened to her.
“She said she heard singing up in heaven and it started first from a flash of light in the sky. From this flash of light a huge vibration of colours came down and the next thing she knew she saw flowing colours around her body and also inside her body. And this must have made the music because she had heard it in and around her body.” 1
Unfortunately in the majority of cases, experiences such as these are rejected by adults as illusory. But these experiences are not simply the imagined fantasies of childish minds. They form the very fabric of their daily lives.
These children actually experience these things as part of their extended world of consciousness, and these “illusory” sights and sounds have as much reality to them as those things which form the limited world of their parents.
Children who recount these experiences invariably become the butt of ridicule. As a result, they learn to shut these events out of their world of common experience. As the days pass, they learn to construct a view of the world which is more in keeping with the pattern of thoughts moulded by their society.
At last there comes day when these rich tapestries of sight and sound are lost altogether. They “fade into the light of common day”.
Childish experiences are not just limited to the realm of heavenly choirs. Many children share their childhood with other playmates. Since these playmates are not visible to their parents, they are assumed to be fantasies designed to satisfy their need for companionship. These children are frequently punished for their excessive imaginations.
When the noted psychic Eileen Garrett was a young girl, she recalled how she shared her childhood with three children – two little girls and a boy. These three children came to visit her daily.
Sometimes Eileen only spent a short time with them, while on other occasions they would spend the entire day together. Not a single day passed without her seeing them. They remained her constant companions until she was thirteen years of age.
Eileen never doubted the reality of her companions. When she touched them she found them soft and warm. There was one thing, however, that distinguished them from other humans.
While Eileen saw other people surrounded by a fringe of light, her three young companions were composed entirely of this light. Yet, like most other adults in similar situations, Eileen’s aunt and uncle ridiculed the existence of these playmates. They warned her that “God will surely punish you for telling lies.” 2
Children are not only able to traverse freely across a wide spectrum of experience, but they have potential powers which far surpass the limits of their later lives. Writing in The Crack in the Cosmic Egg, Joseph Chilton Pearce related how his young son became passionately attached to a soldier doll which he called “G. I. Joe”.
For almost two years the boy was totally wrapped up in this doll and played with nothing else. Then for a spell of four days Pearce noticed that his son was unusually withdrawn. He refused to leave the house, preferring to sit quietly with his doll.
Finally he explained to his father why he had been so “rude”. He said that it had suddenly occurred to him that he had the power to make G. I. Joe become alive, and that it was possible for the two of them to spend their lives together.
He realised however, that if his soldier-doll did become alive, it would only be alive for him, and that no one else in the family would be able to share in their exploits. He realised too, that by pursuing his dream of giving life to his doll, he would have to sacrifice his human family.
Pearce confessed that he did not know why the family had won out over the lure of G. I. Joe. What was more remarkable perhaps, was that the young boy had come to recognise the limits of his family’s world, and knew that by indulging his potential powers, he would thereby cut himself off from the narrow world of his family.
Pearce’s son was clearly aware that the earthly world inhabited by his parents was only part of a wider world which he was free to experience. It must have been a supremely sad moment for him to discover that the rich world which he was able to enjoy was not shared by his parents, and that what was perfectly real to him, was merely illusory to others, who could not open themselves to its reality. 3
It is usually only the impact of some traumatic shock, or else the influence of some psychedelic substance, that enables adults to rediscover this pure world of potential experience.
It was the rediscovery of this wider world which so impressed the American psychologist and philosopher William James, after his experiments with nitrous oxide led him to pen the following widely-quoted lines:
“Some years ago I made myself some observations on this nitrous oxide intoxication, and reported them in print. One conclusion was forced upon my mind at that time, and my impression of its truth has ever since remained unshaken.
“It is that our usual waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, while all about it, parted by the flimsiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different.
“We may go through life without suspecting their existence; but apply the requisite stimulus, and at a touch they are there in all their completeness, definite types of mentality which probably have their field of application and adoption. No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite disregarded.” 4
The young child is free to roam throughout these potential realms of consciousness. However, as it succumbs to the process of acquiring the culture of its society, this expansive world of experience becomes steadily constricted, until the child becomes confined to the consensus version of “reality”.
These cultural beliefs become the “shades of the prison-house” that begin to close upon the growing child. Young children are vividly aware of these wondrous realms of consciousness and move freely in them.
To the adult restricted to a world of “rational consciousness”, these wider realms have long since been consigned to the region of imagery and fantasy. The child’s witness to these states is all too often rejected, for they are considered to be a threat to the stability of the personality of the child.
Just as flights of fancy are not welcome in an adult, so too they are not encouraged in the child. By a process of threat and punishment, the child is all too often frightened into subjugation. It is then, as in the case of Eileen Garrett, that their companions “fade into the light of common day”.
For those who can traverse other realms, “reality” has a much wider connotation than it has for adults who are confined within their narrow boundaries of experience.
While Carlos Castaneda was being taught his new definition of “reality”, he was made to smoke a hallucinatory mixture of herbs which was called the “devil’s weed”. Under the influence of this psychedelic stimulus, and under the guidance of Don Juan, Carlos found himself turning into a crow. He described this extraordinary metamorphosis:
“I had no difficulty whatsoever eliciting the corresponding sensation to each one of his commands. I had the perception of growing bird’s legs, which were weak and wobbly at first. I felt a tail coming out of the back of my neck and wings out of my cheekbones.
“The wings were folded deeply. I felt them coming out by degrees. The process was hard but not painful. Then I winked my head to the size of a crow. But the most astonishing effect was accomplished with my eyes. My bird’s sight !” 5
When Carlos later experienced the sensation of flying through the air, he became obsessed with the need to discover whether what had occurred to him was “real” or whether it was imaginary. “Did I really fly, Don Juan?”
“That is what you told me. Didn’t you?” Not satisfied with the authority of his own experience, Castaneda pressed his mentor further. “You see, Don Juan, you and I are differently oriented. Suppose for the sake of argument one of my fellow students had been here with me when I took the devil’s weed. Would he have been able to see me flying?” 6
Castaneda was at the time still dominated by the consensual belief system of western culture, which held that it was impossible to fly. Since he felt that he had really done so, this must surely have been a hallucination of his mind. The classical way to determine whether or not he had really flown, seemed to him to depend on the corroboration of a friend who was there at the time.
In answer, Don Juan explained that whether or not anyone else would have seen him fly, would have depended upon the cultural conditioning of the person concerned. If he or she was capable of sharing Castaneda’s new description of the world, they would surely have seen him fly. If not, they would simply have continued to see him as he was.
The doubts expressed by Castaneda speak for the entire human condition. We constantly doubt the value of these paradoxical and philosophical explanations, for we remain convinced that there is some absolute standard whereby “reality” can be affirmed.
But the reality of what is seen always depends upon the observer, and draws its validity from that act of observation. As the Indian sage Sri Dattatreya remarked to his disciple:
“I will tell you the truth of the objective world, as it is. What is seen is absolutely nothing but sight.” 7
We not only learn to create the world around us by linking images together in memory, but at the same time that we create the world, we also create ourselves. The universe is nothing but a series of images in consciousness, that are renewed from moment to moment.
We derive our sense of personality through these self-same images in consciousness, and we reinforce our image of ourselves with every passing moment. When I look at a tree, its reality is based on a series of mental impressions registering upon my consciousness, and my reality is derived from the fact that these images occur to me.
Since the tree registers upon “my” consciousness, “I” interact with the tree. Every subsequent interaction serves to reconfirm “my” existence, as well as the existence of the world around me.
But we play this game in every mental state, whether we are dreaming, or engaged in a psychedelically induced vision, or subject to some other form of trance. We attribute reality to what we experience, and we derive our identity in that state from the fact that whatever is experienced presumes that there must be an “experiencer”.
But there is in truth only the process of perception, whatever sense or senses happen to be involved. By this process of perception, we infer our own reality from what we experience, while we attribute outward reality to the objects of our experience.
The only world we can possibly know is the world that appears before us in consciousness, which is then projected outside of ourselves by our consciousness. However the world that is projected upon my consciousness is a product of my thoughts, reinforced by my beliefs.
The world which appears to others is built up in the same way. There can in fact be no world that is common to us all. We all live in separate compartmentalised worlds of our own making. The enlightened being, by contrast, is freed from this identification with successive images, and so lives in the freedom of pure Awareness. As Maharaj points out:
“In your world you are truly alone, enclosed in your-ever-changing dream, which you take for life. My world is an open world, common to all, accessible to all. In my world there is community, insight, love, real quality; the individual is the total, the totality in the individual. All are one and One is all.” 8
We cannot share in this world of the One in all, until such time as we surrender our lives and the desires that bind us to the private world that we have made. To the questioner who asked whether his mind and the mind of Maharaj were similar, the latter replied:
“How can it be? You have your own private mind, woven with memories, held together by desires and fears. I have no mind of my own.” 9
We find it impossible to believe that this vast universe could be a product of our own individual minds. How could this be we cry out in amazement? Our world is populated by billions of other people who are born into our world, and who subsequently live, die and disappear.
Our common sense tells us that it is we who are born into the world. How then can the world be born in us? This question was put to Maharaj:
Question: “How can it be? A child is born into the world, not the world into the child. The world is old and the child is new.
Maharaj: The child is born into your world. Now, were you born into your world, or did the world appear to you? To be born means to create a world round yourself as the centre. But do you ever create yourself? Or did anyone create you? Everyone creates a world for himself and lives in it, imprisoned by his ignorance.” 10
As Maharaj points out, the fact that other people are born and die within our world of personal consciousness, does not mean that there is a real world outside of us, in which we appear to be but a tiny part.
The existence of other people, together with their apparent births and deaths, are movements within our own pageant of consciousness. These people do not have an existence that is separate from our consciousness.
They may be said to exist, but their reality as persons stems from the reality with which we have endowed them. Because we believe that we ourselves are “real” people, we assume that all other people who appear in our consciousness are equally “real”.
But if the reality of our own identity is brought into question, then the fate of all the others hangs in the balance as well. For as Maharaj stresses:
“When you believe yourself to be a person, you see persons everywhere. In reality there are no persons, only threads of memories and habits.” 11
(Continued in Part Three)
1 Samuel Silverstein, “Out of the mouths of babes“, Fate magazine, May 1979, pp. 128-129.
2 Eileen Garrett, “My Life“, Rider, London, 1939.
3 Joseph Pearce, “The Crack in the Cosmic Egg“, Pocket Books, New York, 1973, p. 29.
4 William James, “The Varieties of Religious Experience“, Mentor, New York, 1958, p. 298.
5 Carlos Castaneda, “The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge“, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1968, p.189.
6 Ibid, p. 147.
7 “Tripura Rahasya“, op.cit., p. 78.
8 “I Am That“, Conversations with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, translated by Maurice Frydman, Book I, Chetana, Bombay, 1973, p. 20.
9 Ibid, Book II, p. 150.
10 Ibid, Book I, p. 238.
11 Ibid, Book I, p. 42.