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 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.
As was explained in the previous instalment (Our Magical World), the world that we see around us is completely different from what we have imagined, as well as what we have been taught. And the reason is this.
We are not born into this world….. It is the world that is born in us.
What this means is that the world that appears so vividly to our senses is not an objective reality that exists independently of us in space. Instead, it is a subjective manifestation in consciousness that we have created and then learned to project outside of ourselves.
The entire universe that appears to surround us and dwarf us with its immense majesty and size, is actually a tiny microcosm that has been created within our own minds. The process of this creation begins from the time that we are born.
When a child first begins to experience the world, it does so in the form of a series of fleeting images. These images register upon the child’s consciousness, but they leave no trace at first in the child’s memory.
An infant’s attention is easily diverted from one object to another. As each new object is seen, it becomes the total focus of attention. No residue of the previous image remains, and the child has no recollection of the previous object.
As the young child grows, it learns not only to recognise images, by repeated observation and the faculty of memory, but also to objectify them – literally, to make “things” out of these images, and to project these things into a specific location in space.
We can get an idea of the way in which the young child learns to objectify images, from an unusual experiment that was conducted in 1896 by George Stratton, a professor at the University of California.
Stratton fitted himself with a pair of goggles with inverting lenses, which had the effect of turning everything upside down. At first, Stratton was extremely disoriented, as the objects that he was looking at were not only upside down, but appeared to float in space. As he wrote at the time:
“It did not feel as if I were visually ranging over a set of motionless objects, but the whole field of things swept and swung before my eyes.” 1
It took Stratton several days before this gyrating field of images began to stabilise, and he could begin to recognise objects located at specific points in his visual field. What Stratton had to learn to do, was to project these images into three-dimensional space, and then stabilise them there as solid-looking objects.
Henry Margenau and Lawrence LeShan call this ability, this talent for creating a “thing” out of a series of mental impressions, “reification”, based on the Latin term “res” meaning thing. 2
In his extensive research into the behaviour of infants, initially with his own children, and later at his Centre of Genetic Epistemology in Geneva, the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget found that this process of reification takes place over a period of about two years from the time of birth.
During the first few months of life, the infant has no concept of objects. After several months, however, it becomes able to recognise images and follow them with its eyes. By six months, the infant can anticipate the future position of a moving image.
If it passes behind a screen, the infant turns its eyes towards the far side of the screen, and waits for the image to re-appear. If a baby is given a solid object, it will grasp and hold it. If this object is then taken away from it and hidden under a blanket in full view of the child, it will not attempt to find it.
For a child of this early age, any object that is out of sight is out of mind. It still leaves no permanent impression on the mind. It is as if the object simply ceased to exist. By the age of one year, however, the child has acquired a sense of permanence.
If an object is now hidden from its gaze, the child knows that the object still exists, and will try to find it. If it is unsuccessful, it will frequently burst into tears of frustration.
By the age of two years, the idea of physical permanence of objects in space is fully established, and the child begins to classify these objects into various categories, and to differentiate between itself and these other objects.
Because these names and the objects to which they are related are shared by all, the child comes to adopt a view of the world that is in common with the consensus view of its society. It is in this way that the child’s view of reality becomes a description of the world which is shared by the community.
The images and events which the young child learns to project and identify, are not only common to those around it, but are also “real” to the child concerned. This “reality” stems from the fact that these occurrences are not only things that are experienced by the child itself, but are also things which are experienced by others with whom it associates.
They become accepted as “real” because there is agreement on the nature and validity of these experiences among all members of that community. So, for example, I call an object “real” because I can see it and experience it, and because other people are able to see it and experience it in a similar fashion.
If I claim to see or experience something that is also seen or experienced by someone else, then, for the two of us, what was seen or experienced forms part of our shared “reality.” But if I see can something that my friend beside me cannot see, then we have a difference of opinion.
While in my opinion what I see is “real”, in the opinion of my friend it is “unreal”. If I am the only person who claims to see something, and all my friends are unable to see it, it is clear that what I claim to be “real” is out of step with their experience. If I wish to share their world, I have to learn to link my view of “reality” to theirs.
Common “reality” then, is purely a matter of consensus. Although I may personally be convinced that something that I see is “real”, it remains an individual experience, a personal hallucination, unless it can be shared by others. The larger the group that comes to share my experience, the more convincing is the proof of its “reality”.
Now the universe which the child comes to inhabit, and which nurtures its experience, is a world of objects bearing common names, and consists of events that are commonly experienced. This universe comes to be regarded as “real” by virtue of the consensual acceptance of the group to which the child belongs.
The child does not awaken to a world of outward objects that is uniform for all. Instead, it learns to create a universe of objects, referred to by commonly accepted names, and to interact with these objects in commonly accepted ways.
The child thus learns to create a world that matches the common description of its society.
As we have already seen, however, the universe that we believe to be real does not exist “out there” objectively in space, as something that is the common matrix of everyone’s experience.
Whatever we see, in fact, is what we project with our minds, and what we project with our minds is what we have learned to project, according to the beliefs of our society.
Our universe appears real to us and permanent, simply because we have become convinced that it is so. Our world has become so real and solid because we believe it to be real, and it is this conviction that has been confirmed by the opinion of others.
We are all, in fact, constantly reinforcing our description of the world every moment of our waking lives. Its reality is confirmed by our moment to moment conviction of this reality.
This vindication of experience, through the persistent belief that these experiences represent the true reality, is explained in the ancient Vedantic classic, the Tripura Rahasya, in the following way:
“One starts imagining something; then contemplates it; and by continuous or repeated association resolves that it is true unless contradicted. In that way, the world appears real in the manner one is used to it.” 3
The world appears so convincingly real to us as an objective reality because we have convinced ourselves, through a life-long process of conditioning, that it really is so. As Nisargadatta Maharaj points out:
“The world appears to you so overwhelmingly real because you think of it all the time; cease thinking of it and it will dissolve into thin mist.” 4
Similarly, the Yaqui man of knowledge, Don Juan Matus, describes the process by which we create our world of reality as follows: “We maintain our world with our internal talk”.
He explains further that “the world is such-and-such or so-and-so because we tell ourselves that that is the way it is. If we stop telling ourselves that the world is so-and-so, the world will stop being so-and-so.” 5
The world which we experience is not only maintained by our internal flow of thoughts, it is moulded by these thoughts, and so it comes to reflect a character in keeping with these thoughts. For as the Tripura Rahasya states:
“The world becomes for one whatever one is accustomed to think of it.” 6
Once we can grasp the idea that the world that appears so vividly to our senses has no objective reality, but is actually a series of subjective images in consciousness that we have learned to project outwardly into space, then we are ready to recognise that our life is like a dream.
And just as different people have different dream experiences, so not everybody around us shares our concept of the world, or experiences the world in exactly the same way that we do. It follows that a society which describes the universe in different terms will experience that universe in different ways.
The aboriginal peoples of Australia have learned to describe their universe according to a description that anthropologists have called “dream time”. According to this description, natural phenomena can be charged as power objects, which can then be utilised to fulfill desires.
The gulf that exists between western man and the animal kingdom does not exist for the Australian or the North American aboriginal. They are able to communicate freely and easily with all creatures, as well as with the spirits of those who are classified, according to the western description of the universe, as “dead”.
These differing descriptions of the universe have been investigated by cultural anthropologists, who have characterised them as primitive variations of the western model of reality.
But the experience of these differing world descriptions remains closed to outsiders. They are worlds in which the westerner cannot share, as long as he or she clings to the western cast of mind, or description of the world.
In order to participate in these other worlds, the westerner must be prepared to submit to the mental reformation necessary to attain a new view of the universe, couched in new descriptive terms. The westerner must literally be born again.
When Carlos Castaneda began his apprenticeship to the Yaqui sorcerer don Juan, he was forced to relearn his description of the world. It proved to be an agonising process, as anyone who has undertaken such a precarious venture will tell.
As Castaneda became increasingly committed to his new description, he became of necessity more and more remote from the world he had left behind. The challenge that confronted him, and which therefore called for an accomplished guide, was to retain his sanity while he oscillated between these two contradictory versions of the world.
His personality, which had hitherto been built upon interactions with a universe couched in western terms, had to be torn apart and rebuilt in an entirely new pattern of relationships.
The more Castaneda succeeded in adopting his new description of the world, the more he was obliged to alienate himself from the old. Judged from the standpoint of the western milieu, therefore, he was perceived to be an increasingly shadowy and inexplicable figure.
The more unpredictable his behaviour became in western terms, the more uncomfortable his former associates became. Since his behaviour continued to be judged according to the western convention of thought, it was hardly surprising that various articles and books came to be published portraying Castaneda as a fraud, and his mentor don Juan Matus as an imaginary figment of his imagination.
But in his adventure into the world of Yaqui sorcery, Castaneda had done more than adopt a new description of the world. In his success, he served to undermine the comfortable assurance of the uniformity of the western mould of reality.
Among his more perceptive readers, the awesome doubt began to grow that the accepted western image of the universe might not be as fixed and as assured as they had previously imagined.
It was inevitable therefore, that Castaneda’s works would be subject to a barrage of criticism, and his veracity and integrity impugned. For it is the mark of the conviction with which every society clings to its own description of the world, that prompts it to reproach another.
Those who most strongly defend their own view of reality are quickest to attack the claims of another, and in the most strident of terms. They rest their defence upon their knowledge of the known.
But the knowledge on which they base their concept of the world is fundamentally flawed. What they claim to be the foundation of true knowledge, has been moulded by their belief. The knowledge which they claim to be true is itself delusory. As Sri Dattatreya explained to his pupil Bhargava:
“The greatest of all delusions is the conviction that knowledge is not a delusion.” 7
Throughout its process of growth in the world, the young child is encouraged by every means available to conform to the accepted outlook of the world. The primary force in this moulding process is “love”.
Drawn naturally to its parents by this primal bond, the infant strives to match its behaviour to the expectations of its parents, on whom it is totally dependent for the satisfaction of its needs.
Throughout its long apprenticeship towards the accepted viewpoint of its society, the child is continually motivated to conform. The alternative is isolation, a prospect that is terrifying to the vulnerable child.
Meaning, in all life, stems from association. The stronger the child’s association is with those around it, the greater the meaning and satisfaction which those relationships provide.
The child is thus not moulded by circumstance alone, for it chooses to comply with the consensus view because of the very real emotional benefits which this compliance brings.
But the child pays a heavy price for this affiliation, for, in adopting the view of reality imposed upon it by its society, it almost always irrevocably limits its freedom to experience life in other ways. Much of the spontaneity and joy of youthful expression is surrendered.
The child succeeds in winning full membership of the adult group, but in so doing it sells its birthright of creative freedom. As the English poet William Wordsworth wrote:
“Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing Boy.
But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,
He sees it in his joy;
The Youth, who daily farther from the east
Must travel, still is Nature’s priest,
And by the vision splendid
Is on his way attended;
At length the Man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.
(Ode – Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood.)
(Continued in Part Two)
1 George Stratton, “Vision without inversion of the retinal image“, Psychological Review, Vol IV, No.4, 1897, p. 344.
2 Henry Margenau and Lawrence LeShan, “Einstein’s Space and Van Goch’s Sky“, Macmillan, New York, 1982, p. 58.
3 “Tripura Rahasya“, translated by Swami Saraswathi, Sri Ramanasramam, Tiruvannamalai, 1962, p. 100.
4 “I Am That“, Conversations with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, translated by Maurice Frydman, Book II, Chetana, Bombay, 1973, p. 276.
5 Carlos Castaneda, “A Separate Reality“, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1971, pp. 263-264.
6 “Tripura Rahasya“, op.cit., p. 88.
7 “Tripura Rahasya“, op. cit., p. 157.
The final instalment of the Blog posts entitled “Creatures of the Mind” ended with the following words:
“Our world is not the product of some supernatural creator. It is instead a magical kaleidoscope of form that is ever linked to the creative power of thought. And we who sojourn in this wondrous world of form, are actually the true makers of its magic“.
It is likely that most readers of this paragraph dismissed these words as a florid example of intellectual speculation that bore little relevance to the world of pots and pans, and the realities of cruelty, hardship and hunger that bedevil our planet at this critical time.
The idea that our physical world, consisting of things that can be seen, touched, smelled, tasted and heard; that appears to be the same to everyone, could be created by something as evanescent and variable as the mind, seems to defy all rational logic.
The tough-minded realist scorns such an idea. For him, or her, reality is self-evident. The reality of anything is determined by its impact on their senses.
Suppose, for example, I stand in front of a large tree. I can see the tree clearly in front of me. By touching the trunk, I can feel that it is solid. I can feel the particular texture of the bark and leaves. I can smell it and note its distinctive scent. If I take a leaf and chew it, I can taste its flavour, whether pleasant or otherwise.
If I break off a branch, I can hear it snap, and feel the force with which it resists my effort. But that isn’t all. I can also ask a friend to describe the tree to me. When they describe its height, colour, shape and so on, I find that we both agree on our descriptions.
From this I gain additional information about the tree. I know that it inhabits my friend’s world in the same way that it exists in mine. We both agree that the tree exists, and that it has character and substance.
This combination of sensory experience together with the evidence of those around me, confirms for me the reality of the tree, and that it exists in space as a real physical object, separate from myself.
I can also, if I wish, climb the tree. If I then decide to jump out of the tree, I will fall to the ground with a considerable impact. It is this impact that further confirms for me the reality of the tree, and the world of which it is a part.
My subjective experience, or rather the sensations which the tree inspires in me, serves to define the nature of the tree. It seems obvious to me that the tree exists quite independently of myself and that it is totally separate from me. There seems no link between me and the tree.
And that is the way I come to relate to everything around me. My world appears to exist as an assortment of physical objects located separately from me in space, while my life consists of my interactions with these objects in a separate dimension called time.
So when Western scientists began to examine the world around them, one of the first things they wanted to know was what this “real world” was made of. They little realised at that time that this would be a journey that would last over five hundred years, and would lead them from the solid ground of physics, to the ethereal world of mysticism and metaphysics.
When Galileo developed his telescope, he was convinced that the world he was investigating consisted of solid, physical matter that moved in empty space. The wonder of his telescope was that it permitted him to discover just how vast that macrocosm of space really was.
The scientists who succeeded Galileo continued to build their theories upon this foundation of solid matter. The entire edifice of scientific thought in the classical (or pre-twentieth century) era, was founded upon the unchallenged evidence of the senses.
With the coming of the atomic age, scientists began to unravel the secrets of those tiny particles of matter that had hitherto been too small to investigate experimentally. As the inner secrets of the atom came to be revealed, so the awesome doubt began to grow that the essential fundamentals upon which the whole of classical science had been built, might actually be false.
Galileo and his colleagues had believed that everything in nature could be investigated in an objective and neutral way, and that the experimental data derived by any single scientist could be replicated by any other scientist who was prepared to adopt the same scientific protocols.
The discoveries of Quantum Mechanics in the 20th century proved that this was not so. When reduced to its essential nature, all physical matter was found to be a manifestation of energy. However, this energy did not consist of separate, indivisible bits, which could subsequently be re-combined to form the whole of the phenomenal universe.
Instead, this energy was found to manifest in particular patterns, and these patterns showed an amazing capacity for transforming themselves into yet more patterns. Scientists found to their dismay that all physical matter was composed of particular patterns of energy that were constantly being created and destroyed. (The Embarrassing Menagerie)
Furthermore, it was found that these patterns of energy could not be investigated independently. In some strange but infuriating fashion they were found to be inextricably bound up with the nature of the observer.
The scientist could no longer view nature in an objective and impartial manner, as men like Galileo, Newton and Kelvin had imagined. In fact the result of any scientific experiment was seen to be crucially dependent upon the expectations of the person conducting the experiment.
Nothing could be observed in nature without that act of observation fundamentally altering the very nature of what was being observed. It became clear that it was impossible, even in theory, to examine nature “as it really was”. It could only be investigated in that form in which it appeared in consciousness.
In the new world of Quantum Physics, Nature could no longer be thought of as something that existed independently of consciousness, but was something that was moulded and shaped by consciousness itself. As the physicist Henry Margenau has succinctly explained:
“There is no purely objective way to perceive something, to perceive it as it is before consciousness shapes it into something we can perceive. What looks objective to us is what we construct and are accustomed to see.” 1
The witness was no longer the neutral observer of what was seen, but was now an active participant in the creation of what was observed. The impact of this discovery served to shatter forever the concept of the universe operating as a sort of Giant Machine.
The devastating blow which the discoveries of Quantum Mechanics dealt to the world of classical science, was that the idea of a separate, objective universe, independent of the observer, was seen to be illusory. The universe was no longer something that existed apart from the witness, but was something which resolved itself ultimately into consciousness itself.
All that could be said about the universe was that it existed, and that it did so in the form of various impressions in consciousness. The world of physics, the study of outward natural phenomena, had led to the world of metaphysics, the study of the mind.
Physicists had now begun to glimpse the world of matter as a manifestation of mind. This was a discovery which was to become increasingly in harmony with the experiences described by mystics.
To the mystics, consciousness was the basic source of all manifestation. Not only was matter a manifestation in consciousness, but it was actually shaped by the nature of that consciousness.
According to the mystics, the universe was not some aggregate of objects located independently in space, but was a series of images projected upon consciousness. In this bio-centric view of the universe, the testimony of the Sages served to restore the medieval belief in man as the centre of the universe, albeit on a more exalted level of thought.
The individual was no longer an inconsequential cog in the Giant Machine, but was in fact the actual creator and sustainer of the universe. The shape in which the universe manifested was moulded by his or her thoughts. And as these thoughts changed, so the experience of the observer and the nature of the universe changed as well.
In this new view of the universe, the search to understand the true nature of reality has taken a dramatic and unexpected turn. Attention has now become focused on ourselves. Since everything that is seen and experienced in the universe is a reflection within consciousness, there can be no objective “reality” in the universe itself.
Not only are these images of the universe not real, but they vary from individual to individual. What this means is that there is no single universe that is common to all minds, and which is experienced in the same way by every person. Different people experience the universe in different ways
Each of us conjures up in consciousness our own unique world in which to function. However, as we grow, we are taught, initially by our parents, and then by all the other people with whom we come in contact, to shape our world so that it is similar to that which is experienced by the people around us.
In this way, we learn through a process of cultural conditioning to create our own personal universe in terms which are common to those people who share our own particular culture. However, different cultures experience the world in different ways. So the world of an Australian aborigine or of an African bushman is strikingly different from our own.
But whatever sort of world we learn to create in consciousness, the “reality” with which these images appear to be endowed is not an intrinsic feature of the images themselves. Instead, they manifest a character which is derived from the inherent nature of the projecting consciousness.
Nothing that is witnessed is or can be real, for all images in consciousness are transitory and illusory. It makes no difference what level of consciousness is involved. After-life images have no greater reality than those of waking consciousness, hallucination or dream.
The truth is that the world that appears so outwardly real to our senses, is in fact a subjective creation of our own minds.
Because the universe that we have created for ourselves is a subjective projection in consciousness, rather than the outward manifestation of an external Creator, it follows that this universe of ours cannot be bound by restricting rules and laws.
The so called “laws of science” to which the universe appears to bow in homage, are simply the manifestations of our codified thinking. Our world expresses order and law because we have chosen to make it so. Our universe has come to be revealed to us in the manner that we have come to think of it.
If we should happen to change our way of thinking, our universe will reveal itself afresh, in ever new and wondrous ways. The limits of the universe are in fact the limits of our minds, for as we believe it to exist, so it comes to manifest. This is the message of the Sages.
In our daily lives we are free to express ourselves in unlimited ways. The thoughts that we generate in our minds are the seeds which germinate in the form of our experiences. We are free to tailor our experiences in life therefore, by deliberately choosing those thoughts which give birth to the creatures of our desires.
We truly are the creators of our lives, free to follow the longings of our heart-felt hopes. The major barrier which prevents us from achieving our desires is simply the belief that we are bound. But as we find recorded in the ancient Hindu text Tripura Rahasya:
“The strongest fetter is the certainty that one is bound. It is as false as the fearful hallucinations of a frightened child.” 2
In projecting a universe that is in accordance with the consensual views of our society, we inevitably come to impose upon ourselves the limitations which are inherent in our group beliefs. Our universe comes then to reflect these limitations in ways which curtail the free expression of our desires.
It is the nature of our beliefs, rather than of any inherent shortcomings in the universe, which then prevent us from experiencing our full potential. The universe in which we live reflects the current thinking of our times. It is not static, but changes as the underlying thoughts themselves change.
Every individual therefore, is not only bound by a comprehensive description of the world, but continually contributes to it as well. Any individual who, perhaps through intuitive inspiration, comes to view the world in a novel way, may ultimately come to influence the combined world view of an entire society.
Our western scientific description of the universe has in fact been moulded by such singular individuals as Galileo, Newton and Einstein. In experiencing the universe as they have taught us to describe it, we imagine that we have come to see the universe “as it really is”. All we have done in fact has been to change our thoughts. The universe, which mirrors these thoughts, has then modified itself accordingly.
When we seek to fulfill our desires, we do so within the framework of our accepted patterns of belief. Within the constraints imposed upon us by our world description, our desires become fulfilled in direct proportion to the energy with which they are invested.
When we recognise that the limits imposed upon us by our world are actually the reflections of our own beliefs, we then become capable of redefining our description of the world, and by so doing demolish our former limitations.
Since the universe is always a personal projection of our minds, we are always free to redefine the terms of our personal universe, whether or not this meets with the collective approval of our society. We may then be able to act in ways which seem impossible according to the world-view of the group.
Let us suppose for example that I have been injured in an automobile accident. My neck is broken and I find myself paralysed from the head down. It may be that the collective medical opinion which contributes to my description of the world, decides that nothing further can be done for me, and that I am doomed to remain a quadriplegic.
If this is the case then I have two options before me. I can either accept my handicap as bravely as I can, as an unfortunate “fact” of life, and learn to adapt my life to the severe limits which this handicap entails. However, I also have a second option which, although revolutionary, rests upon impeccable grounds, attested to by the Sages.
I can if I wish, and if I have the courage, simply alter my description of the world.
I can choose to create a new description of the world in which my injury is able to be healed, allowing me to walk again and to recover the complete use of my body. Of course my physician, schooled within the traditional description of the universe, will assure me that I am mad.
But my paralysis is not an irremediable “fact” of nature, but only becomes so when I believe this to be true myself. If I can replace my former belief with the new belief that it is possible to overcome my physical handicap, then I can certainly achieve the impossible and overcome my paralysis.
In order to do this I need three requirements. First of all I need an intense desire to be healed. Secondly I need the concentration of mind necessary to visualise this desire, the image of the body healed. Finally I need the faith, the inner conviction that it will be healed, and the commitment to continue holding to this new belief until my healing is complete.
I need to be careful however not to underestimate the challenge which lies before me. In order to succeed, I not only need to energise my new belief to the point where it reaches physical manifestation, but also to overcome my old belief which suggests that what I am attempting to do is impossible.
My efforts will also fly in the face of those around me who are still committed to the old belief, and who will attempt, no doubt out of “love” for me, to persuade me that what I am doing is hopeless and doomed to failure.
I have, however, one trump card in my favour. My ultimate success in redefining my world of thought may encourage them to do the same, and in so doing, may help them to break down their own barriers of unbelief.
We tend of course to be trapped into thinking that what is possible in life is limited by various “laws of science” or “laws of nature”, and that these laws impose irrevocable limits on our capabilities. Yet according to the mystics there are no such laws.
It is worth recalling the words of Jesus, who told his disciples that anyone who possessed the faith of a tiny mustard seed would be able to move mountains, and that “nothing shall be impossible to you”. (Matthew 17: 20)
Jesus didn’t qualify this statement by saying that nothing was impossible as long as it didn’t conflict with the laws of nature. In fact all of his miracles proved that it was possible to do things that modern science deems impossible, as long as one had the necessary faith.
What we consider to be “laws of nature” are merely those beliefs within which we have chosen to imprison ourselves. The truth is blindingly simple. The universe is a product of thought. The sole purpose of the universe is to mirror our thinking. It does not matter what these thoughts are.
As Maharaj has pointed out, “Space is neutral – one can fill it with what one likes.” 3 There is no limit to what we can achieve, as Maharaj has confirmed:
“The desirable is imagined and wanted and manifests itself as something tangible or conceivable. Thus is created the world in which we live, our personal world.” 4
In spite of the wonders which the prescriptive thoughts of science have wrought in our world, they remain a constricting web of belief which limits our freedom of expression. The “laws of science” do not pose ultimate limits on what we can or cannot achieve. They simply represent the codified thinking of the scientific community.
Our scientific beliefs are chains which deny us the fulfilment of that inherent potential which is our birthright. If we can bring ourselves to transcend the limits of our own beliefs, we can inherit a world of wonder that dwarfs our imagination. In fact, wonder is that vital ingredient in life that has been vanquished by the materialism of modern science.
The constricting mould which presently dominates scientific thinking is that our world is ultimately law-abiding and predictable. It is this basic predictability and conformity that has robbed us of something essential to the spontaneity of life.
The narrow confines of the scientific description of the universe have stripped life of much of its intrinsic majesty and worth, and have deprived us of that sense of mystery and delight which is so much a feature of the outlook of the child. As Carl Jung wrote in his memoirs:
“It is important to have a secret, a premonition of things unknown. It fills life with something impersonal, a numinosum. A man who has never experienced that has missed something important.
” He must sense that he lives in a world which in some respects is mysterious; that things happen and can be experienced which remain inexplicable; that not everything which happens can be anticipated. The unexpected and the incredible belong in this world. Only then is life whole.” 5
The universe is ever free and unfettered. It is a place of mystery and wonder. Events continually occur which are unplanned and unexplained. No theory of the universe can hope to circumscribe all its contents. The universe will always be too rich for any theory.
It is at heart an unfathomable and exhilarating place. In its free and untrammelled expression the universe constantly defies our understanding. In the words of the Yaqui sorcerer don Juan:
“The world is incomprehensible. We won’t ever understand it; we won’t ever unravel its secrets. Thus we must treat it as it is, a sheer mystery!” 6
To the mystic the world is at once mysterious and profound. In the ebb and flow of its expression it continues to defy analysis. Those of us who have adopted a scientific description of the world take comfort in the fact that science has helped to render our world reliable and predictable.
In so doing it has served effectively to banish the phantoms of our fears. We have become sufficiently emboldened by this success to believe that we can challenge the insight of the Sages. For as one visitor to Nisargadatta Maharaj remarked:
Visitor: “The sciences have made much progress. We know the body and the mind much better than our ancestors. Your traditional way of describing and analysing mind and matter is no longer valid.
Maharaj: But where are your scientists and their sciences? Are they not again images in your mind?
Visitor: Here lies the basic difference! To me they are not my projections. They were before I was born and shall be when I am dead.
Maharaj: Of course. Once you accept space and time as real, you will consider yourself minute and short lived. But are they real? Have you ever investigated?” 7
It is the investigation into the world of space and time that reveals the inexpressible wonder and power that lies at the root of all manifested life. In tracing the origin of matter to its source, the world is seen to be a creature of the mind, shaped by the swirling waters of thought.
Our fragile egos are built upon sequential experiences in a world which we have learned to shape in ways that are in consonance with others of our culture. When this consensual description comes to be threatened, we react with dread at the threat it poses to our very personalities.
Our personalities have been built upon a pyramid of fears, and ignorance of our real nature has served to enshrine these fears. It is only when we come to see that we ourselves have spun the web of circumstance which now imprisons us, that we may discover that our fears are groundless. They are impediments to joy. As Maharaj reveals:
“Once you realize that all comes from within, that the world in which you live has not been projected onto you, but by you, your fear comes to an end. It is only when you fully accept your responsibility for the little world in which you live and watch the progress of its creation, preservation and destruction, that you may be free from your imaginary bondage.” 8
It is through the investigation of our own internal being, shining within us as the “I Am” sensation, that the path to Ultimate Reality can be found.
This Reality, the sun of pure Awareness, is not a product of consciousness, nor can images in consciousness lead us to it. It transcends all images, and the only way to experience it is to transcend all images and all levels of consciousness.
Only those who are prepared to transcend the limited worlds of consciousness can come to know the unlimited expanse of the true, unblemished Reality.
The call of the mystic, the good news of the Sage, ever beckons us to the rediscovery of our ancestral home. The joy that lies in the welcome of that home-coming is beyond all telling. It is the measureless depth of eternal Awareness, freed from the boundaries of experience, exulting in its blissful nature.
It is the perception of this goal, and the quest for its attainment, that lends new meaning to our lives. Our steps are then marked with value, verve and grace. When, like the prodigal son of old, we return at last to our own true home, there is great rejoicing.
We who have for so long sought our comfort, wealth and pleasure in a myriad different things, and pursued them down the course of a myriad different lives, now rest at peace in the splendour of Our Father’s Mansion. The purpose of our lives is finally fulfilled.
The nature of this victory is captured in the words of the American naturalist and philosopher Henry David Thoreau:
“I am from the beginning, knowing no end, no aim. No sun illumines me, for I dissolve all lesser lights in my own intenser and steadier light. I am a restful kernel in the magazine of the universe.” 9
1 Henry Margenau and Lawrence LeShan, “Einstein’s Space and Van Goch’s Sky“, Macmillan, New York, 1982, p. 189.
2 “Tripura Rahasya“, translated by Swami Saraswathi, Sri Ramanasramam, Tiruvannamalai, 1962, pp. 153-154.
3 “I Am That“, Conversations with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, translated by Maurice Frydman, Book I, p. 100.
4 Ibid, Book I, p. 11.
5 Carl Jung, “Memories, Dreams, Reflections” recorded and edited by A.Jaffe, Pantheon Books, New York, 1961, p. 356.
6 Carlos Castaneda. “A Separate Reality“, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1971, p. 264.
7 “I Am That“, Book I, op. cit., p.287.
8 Ibid, Book II, p. 42.
9 Henry Thoreau, “Essays, Journals and Poems“, edited by Dean Flower, Fawcett, Greenwich, 1975, p. 598.