Most of us think we are individual human beings living in a world that is outside of us, along with billions of other individuals. While from the perspective of consensus reality it certainly does appear that way, it just may be that you are alone in a world of your own making. We live in an extremely materialistic culture, and even those that consider themselves spiritual or religious are not immune to this conditioning. The materialistic worldview focuses on the outer world and the objects of the five senses. When it comes to the subject of perception or the perceiver, we bring our materialism inside and see more objects of perception (thoughts, beliefs, feelings, personality), that is if we don’t explain it all away with physiology. What modern psychology fails to do, and what most forms of spirituality fall short of, is getting to the root of the perceiver itself. Physical science looks at external objects, and psychology looks at internal objects. The common factor between the two is that they are both objects of perception, but who or what is at the root of perception?
The ancient path of self discovery, taken by the seers and sages of old, was very much concerned with this question. They realized that for every object or every phenomenon there is a witness. That is, for us to be able to know something such as a person, object or thought, something must be there to observe it. No matter how you break down the world or the mind, there is always an subtle observer which is aware of it. This implies a subject/object relationship (duality) and some kind of separation between the observer and that which is observed. The ancient seers wanted to know what human beings really were at the core. Were we just a body or a mind, or was there some essence or spirit which made us sentient beings. They found that they were able to observe the aspects of the body and mind and noticed that these things could be broken down into smaller and more subtle parts. There was an instability to these parts because they could either continue to be broken down or they were not always present, all of it was subject to change. However, the unstable elements of the body and mind seemed to appear before a silent awareness that remained stable at all times even if it was not always paid attention to.
When these seers decided to turn their well-honed powers of observation back on their source, the inner witness, they made a remarkable discovery. They found nothing. Except it was not the usual nothing. The word nothing is used simply because no one was able to find or even make up a word that captured what was found at the root of perception. Many words have cropped up to try to describe this inner nothingness such as emptiness, Brahman, God, spirit, consciousness, the absolute, etc. If the inner observer was traced all the way to its root, it would always fall away into nothing. In that nothingness however there was profound peace and joy beyond description. They additionally found that nothing seemed to exist without being witnessed, as if the act of being witnessed by this consciousness was a necessary factor in the existence of everything we know including ourselves. So they considered consciousness the source or root of all existence.
Most people don’t realize this because they don’t turn their attention around and find its source. Generally, our attention is directly outwardly at objects so the external material world is what we take to be the only reality. But that’s just a function of what we pay attention to. The ancient sages realized with their discovery that this usual way of seeing reality was mistaken and actually the cause of unending misery. They saw that consciousness was the real source of everything that we experience and consciousness is what we are when reduced down to the root.
Out of infinite consciousness the first observable phenomenon that can be discerned is ‘I’. The root thought, I. In its pure form, it is the sense of individual presence, what we feel when we direct our attention inwardly and quiet the mind. From this root thought all the other elements of the mind arise. All the thoughts, feelings, habit patterns, beliefs, images and projections that make up a human mind. These develop as the I, as an individual entity which begins to interact and have experiences. The more complex mental patterns of the mind are further projected outward to make up the seeming external world. In this way, what we experience is the projection of a mental pattern powered by the consciousness (light) that shines through it. This is very much like a hologram as was briefly mentioned in the last post. The implication is that the external world is really not external at all. Even when we experience other people we are seeing our own mental projection of them overlaid onto another individual expression of consciousness.
For me the process of self inquiry validated this in my experience because in looking closely and honestly at my mind I could see the mental patterns behind many of the experiences and situations of my life. Western Occultism deals with this quite intimately in showing students how to identify and change the mental patterns that are creating the difficulty in their lives. If you have a long term pattern/belief that you are poor and lacking in what you need consciousness amplifies this and projects it out as your experience. You will see a world of scarcity where you are continually unable to get what you need. The unfortunate part being you will think it’s the world rather than your mental pattern of poverty, so you will be trapped in it and suffer accordingly. If we learn to look inward and identify the patterns behind our troubles, the possibility of conscious change arises. Dissolving those patterns and replacing them with ones that reflect what we want alters our entire experience of life. By giving attention to the new patterns, consciousness shines through them and we experience the result. Attention is the means by which consciousness is directed.
If you want to explore a very precise way of working with these patterns, dissolving those that don’t serve you and effectively creating ones that do, I highly recommend the lessons of the BOTA. As powerful as that understanding can be, personally I find the key discovery of the ancient sages of the root of the inner observer to be the most significant and profound. No matter how much we learn to reprogram our mental patterns and create better and better versions of our world, it’s all ultimately of little value unless we know who and what we really are. Like the lucid dreamer when you see the world as a dream and wake up in that dream, you can play and create a much more enjoyable dream. However, it’s still just a dream. The reality behind the dream is the ultimate jewel. For this we must go all the way to the center of our heart and wake up from the dream altogether into our true Self. As long as we take ourselves to be a separate entity, we can never reach true fulfillment because something is always missing no matter how good it gets. That something is the truth of who we are.
How beautifully ironic the cosmic joke that what could be considered the greatest achievement or discovery that a human being can ever make is to realize that there really never was a person, just a mask of God…..