Maya – The Illusion of “Self” Part 1: Karma & The Conditioned Self
These two words, the mere fragment of a statement, and yet an all-encompassing declaration in and of itself, are the most provocative and powerful utterance in our human language. Whatever word we choose to place after this little snippet of a sentence is usually an uninspiring and very diminutive appraisal that we each hold of ourselves, as a series of labels that we identify with, pin to ourselves, and subsequently take into the world every day.
Our entire mental construct of what we “think” life is, how it works, our place in it, and what we are, has been taught to us through endless social conditioning; and a redundancy of messages massaged into our psyche that we passively accept as true.
Who we think we are is relative at best because, at the level of our egoic mind, we see ourselves only through the lens of our social conditioning, and sadly never see the “essence” of anything.
The “conditioned-self” that we tend to identify so strongly with, is only an accumulation of impressions and/or beliefs we’ve gathered about ourselves over the course of a lifetime and pieced together as a collage of adjectives we would use to best describe ourselves.
Living at this level is to be trapped in one’s karma.
“Karma” is the cumulative sum of all the impressions made upon us from all of our combined experiences that have served to fashion the lens that we see ourselves, others, and our reality through. Karma is our perception of reality distorted in each moment by our biases, prejudices, opinions, and beliefs – all of which have been learned by assimilating the biases, prejudices, opinions, beliefs, and perspectives of the influential people in our lives and cultural values absorbed through osmosis and constant exposure. Every culture has shared values that are entirely unique to them. These values and impressions are imposed or at the very least taught to us by well-intentioned parents, friends, teachers, clergy, pastors, politicians, and not so well-intentioned media, marketing, and propaganda, companies that tend to create a society of isotopes. Why? Because everyone is trying to be someone else.
From a barrage of constant programming, most of us tend to see ourselves as separate from everything that surrounds us and others; detached, isolated, and defined by the boundaries of this physical body we reside in. But, that is only an illusion. We at the core of our being, our essence, don’t exist in isolation. We are intimately tied into and connected to everything that surrounds us, both woven into and out of the very fabric of the universe itself. This separation we experience is only one aspect of Maya – the illusion of “SELF” (or what we perceive as the “self”) and comes from a profoundly underdeveloped understanding of what reality on the physical plane is – an illusion.
Most of us view reality through a keyhole, a narrow bandwidth or lens of perception, that in the whole scheme of things makes most of “reality” completely imperceptible to us.
What if I told you 99.9965% of “reality” is completely imperceptible to you? And in fact, it is. We’ll expand on that later. Although it may require one to suspend their disbelief, there is far more to reality than most of us even care to contemplate. So hopefully, in reading this series of writings, your keyhole of perception widens as a result of having done so, or at a minimum, makes you curious enough to explore it for yourself.
The Illusory Nature of Reality . . .
A very important aspect of understanding who we are and what reality is, involves understanding the nature of things themselves.
In 1905, Albert Einstein presented to the world his Theory of Relativity, that basically demonstrated that the “material” universe emerges from an “immaterial,” non-physical, universe of energy. His theory, could be reduced down to his famous equation E=mc2 that showed that matter and energy are interchangeable and essentially one and the same. They are simply different forms of the same thing, with matter (everything that appears to be “physical”) simply being consolidated or coalesced fields of energy temporarily held together by electromagnetism. One of Einstein’s most famous quotes was, “Reality is just an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”
What does this have to do with anything at all to do with understanding oneself? It’s important to understand that the body you identify so strongly with as being “you” is not “YOU.” YOU are not your body, and YOU at the core of your being have no physical mass. What YOU identify with as being you, meaning your body, is merely an avatar, a very sophisticated technology of nature’s design, a field of energy that temporarily houses your consciousness. The body is “yours” but it’s not YOU. Understanding that “YOU” are a field of energy means you have no beginning and no ending, only endless transition. Look around you. EVERYTHING is in endless transition. Let me explain . . .
Investigations into the weird and wacky realm of Quantum Physics (“sub-atomic” realm beyond what we call “matter”) have revealed that there is no “physical reality” to our reality at all, or at least not in the sense we think of it as “physical.” Instead, as we venture into the dimension of the infinitesimally small, reality looks and behaves very differently than things at the macroscopic level of our senses.
What quantum investigations have uncovered is that the very fabric of reality is comprised of nothing more than electromagnetic fields of vibratory energy at play in an endless ocean of infinite frequencies interacting with one another. Only a fraction of a percent of the known universe is vibrating at frequencies with wavelengths that are within the range of what is perceptible to us. MOST, or perhaps I should say ALMOST ALL of “reality” is completely imperceptible to us.
What appears as solid and static at the macroscopic level of our senses, only appears to be static due to the limitation and narrow scope of our rather dulled senses. At the sub-atomic level everything, including what appears to be solid, is actually vibrating. EVERYTHING in existence is a vibrating field!!! Even human emotions produce a vibratory field that cascades through the entire body.
As far back as the late 1800s, the great inventor and visionary, Nikola Tesla created a machine that could produce a series of vibratory fields (frequencies), that one could immerse themselves in to have a whole range of emotional experiences simply based on exposure to different frequencies. In utilizing this technology, that was simply something fun for him to do, Nikola Tesla could instantly make one feel any number of a myriad of emotions, purely by altering the frequencies the individual was exposed to.
In an interview with journalist John Smith that took place in 1899, Nikola shared the “devilishly funny” story (his words) about how Mark Twain visited his laboratory with the hope of seeing the machine that could create “feelings of happiness.” He would warn Mr. Twain not to remain under those vibrations but Mr. Twain would never listen. He always ignored Nikola and stayed longer until he “became like a rocket clutching his pants.” – “Everything is Light” interview with John Smith 1899.
So “reality” is just an infinite ocean of energy where each vibrating frequency expresses itself for a brief period of time, and each one in its own distinct way. Think of each and everything in the observable universe as just a wave on the surface of an ocean expressing itself in a different way based on the specific frequencies unique to that wave or combination of waves.
Visible light, that is visible to us, is a tiny bandwidth of all known light. The sounds we hear are a very small bandwidth of all the known frequencies of sound. Taste, touch, and smell? The same thing. Every species on earth is having an entirely different perceptual experience of reality than us, based on what their senses are “tuned” for compared to ours. So, there is no “objective” reality. The “reality” you experience is largely related to the reality your senses have been “tuned” for. For example dolphins and bats, use a highly developed type of “echo location” to create visual images of things that lie beyond sight and are produced by sound waves and frequencies that lie entirely outside the range of human hearing.
Because our eyes cannot perceive sub-atomic particulates, the idea that solid object are. in fact vibrating may seem like a leap but, solid objects only appear to be physical like us, and for that matter static, when in fact they’re oscillating (vibrating). It’s just that they’re vibrating at a frequency that lies beyond the sensitivity of our tactile senses so we perceive them as solid and static. That’s the illusion!
Speed up the vibration of solid objects and they become liquid. Speed them up even more and things become gases, plasma, and even light. Anyone sitting next to a fire pit, can see the wood (a solid) turning into smoke (water within the wood turning to steam)
So, EVERYTHING in existence is simply waves of vibratory energy oscillating at different frequencies. Our bodies are no exception. We are energetic beings interacting with a much larger multi-dimensional sea of energetic frequencies, though our “senses” deceive us and tend to make us believe we’re made up of “physical” (solid) matter.
To understand how illusory reality is – consider for a moment that if we were to remove all the negative space between sub-atomic particles – protons, neutrons, and electrons, we could fit every human on planet Earth on the head of a pin. Your body is largely, almost entirely, EMPTY space.
The Hidden Aspect of Reality . . .
Research into the illusory nature of reality as a projection of the mind, which was rigorously investigated in the 1960’s with the use of psychedelics, only to be shut down, following a decision by the Supreme Court in the early 70’s to halt all research, has recently regained a foothold again and is now being studied at Harvard, MIT, and other universities with a renewed interest thanks to federal grants and the lifting of legal regulations that would not permit such research after the fall out of the excessive use decades ago caused a national ban on psychedelics.
Though misunderstood by most, because of the copious amounts of misinformation and negative propaganda on the subject, psychedelics are now being investigated again, to better understand the bridge between the physical and non-physical aspects of reality and the boundless landscape we call the mind or consciousness.
“Psychedelics” – is a term that comes from the Ancient Greek psychē (ψυχή, “soul”) and dēloun (δηλοῦν, “to make visible, to reveal”), andtranslates to “mind-manifesting.” This same classification of compounds are also referred to as “entheogens” – from the Ancient Greek ἔνθεος (éntheos) and γενέσθαι (genésthai). The adjective entheos translates to English as “full of god, inspired, possessed”, and is the root of the English word “enthusiasm.”
These compounds can produce profound experiences within an individual, most often referred to by the individual as what they can only describe as a “spiritual” experience. Patients all seem to come back from their “trip” experiencing the same “logical ineffability,” an inability to put into words or language an experience that is perceived as having “opened a portal” to another dimension of reality. Oddly, none of the candidates involved in clinical investigations of these compounds feel what they experienced was hallucinatory in nature. They are convinced the “psychedelic” experiences they had widened their perception of reality.
By altering our biochemistry at the molecular level, our sensory perceptions experience a dramatic shift and dramatically heightened sense of awareness of fields of energy and stimuli that typically lie well beyond our normal perception of reality, showing us again, that what we experience at the level of our everyday awareness is only a tiny sliver of reality.
Every experience we’re having – generated entirely within us by a very limited range and with only fragments of incoming sensory information – is only a temporary, transient phenomenon or experience our mind pieces together to create a whole. There’s no substance to the experience itself, no tangible aspect to our experiences independent of the associations we make by tying present experiences – through association – to past experiences, and yet, we give more credence to this thin sliver of “reality” that we can perceive, than all that which lies beyond our senses. The reason is obvious as to why. Reality at the level of our senses “FEELS SO REAL!!!” But what if what we “think” is so REAL only feels real because we’ve been so conditioned to only see the obvious and nothing more.
Whether one realizes it or not, the world has been prescribed to us. We SEE what we’ve been taught to see, and what we SEE depends largely upon what we’re looking for. There is NO OBJECTIVE REALITY – everyone is living in their own reality and according to their own rules and beliefs. Our learned biases, prejudices, and perceptions color every experience we have, what we focus on in any given experience, and what we take from any given experience. Any given experience we’re having is in fact, only formed by our perceptions and the level of self-awareness we possess, not our actual senses.
To elaborate on that; the human body itself cannot have an experience. Experiences only occur within the enigma of what we call consciousness. Remove consciousness from the body, and the body itself has no experiences.
So our entire reality is in actually a projection of the mind, formed in our head as our body processes incoming stimuli as bits of information that it uses to construct a perception of the external world. This is why those who know me, know that I always teach – “life is never happening to us, it is only and always going on within us.”
This is why two people can see the same event and have two entirely, distinctively different experiences within them, with vastly different emotional responses to them.
“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, or a hell of heaven..”
As we wander through the world with our senses tingling and interfacing with what is perceived as the “external environment” that surrounds us, our brain interprets incoming stimuli – lights, sounds, tastes, tactile senses – and, creates an experience within us. What’s important to understand is that it’s not what’s going on around us but rather our perception of what’s going on around us that creates our reality and how we experience each moment. External events are perceived by us and create ripples of biochemical exchanges within us, that we interpret as the experiences we’re having.
EVERYTHING, every experience we’re having is only happening within us, not without. We cannot experience anything outside of ourselves. Our internal and external environments are not mutually exclusive realities but are inseparable and intimately connected. Suffice it to say, without diving into quantum physics, and the concept of “superposition,” (the collapsing of reality around wherever we direct our attention) that nothing really exists without our perception or conscious awareness of it. And yes, this is eluding to the same idea as the philosophical conundrum, “if a tree falls in the forest, but no one, no animal is there to hear it, does it actually make a sound?” The answer is NO. The felled tree will displace air and create ripples in the surrounding air, but sound requires a receiver. No receiver, no sound. The idea here, is that reality doesn’t exist if there is no conscious observer of said reality.
So? What is “REALITY?”
Every night when we retire and crawl into bed, shortly after falling asleep, there’s a gap between when we fall asleep and when we enter into a dream state. During this period of time there is no awareness of anything. Everyone you love, your pets, your house, the status symbol in your driveway, your titles, the entire universe and the whole of existence, ceases to exist for you. But as we know, “YOU” don’t cease to exist. Tied into this vehicle we borrow, this is all just a trick of the mind.
Think of the human brain like the CPU in a computer going into “sleep mode.” Though in “sleep mode” it still has access to all of the information it’s collected and stored, once awakened.
When we awaken, the interplay between the energetic triggers at the surface of our senses sets off a cascade of bio-electric impulses, like fireworks within this body we’re borrowing, that we interpret within us as the experiences going on around us. In essence, we are the center AND the circumference of every experience we’re having because again, Life is always and only going on “within” us.
The problem with relying on our perceptions is that they are very deceiving, especially in terms of trying to define what’s “real” and what’s “unreal.” Anyone who’s ever woke up in the middle of the night and mistook a shadow for something else knows our perceptions can deceive us. Interpreting a belt on the floor, in the middle of the night, as a snake, creates a very threatening experience within us, when there is absolutely no threat to us at all, only a perceived threat created entirely by our imagination.
Einstein acknowledged this, when contrasting Newtonian physics and our perception of the world at the macroscopic level, with how reality appears at the level of quanta (sub-atomic), sharing the sentiment that, “reality is merely an illusion . . . albeit, a very persistent one.”
Seeing Through The Veil . . . Life Reduced to a Marketplace
Perhaps the most persistent illusion we suffer from, in what we would define as our “physical” reality, is the belief that we are this body we inhabit, living on a planet in a vast cosmos. We hold the belief that we are alive in this body at the moment, living in this physical form, and will someday meet our demise and just “expire,” when our body meets it end. We celebrate birth as a glorious beginning and death as a tragic end, which we forget is part of every journey. Every journey has a beginning and an end.
This is an easy conclusion to arrive at in western society because our entire perspective is outbound.
Our busy lives leave little time to cultivate a much deeper understanding of who and what we are and how we are tied into this thing called “Life.” For most, LIFE is a repeating pattern of redundant weekly schedules, tasks, and obligations. Through our academic rigors, that are merely preparing us for entry into the workforce, and by the stock tickers on Wall Street, we have been programmed to live Life merely at the level of functionality; waking up to alarm clocks, going to work, coming home, watching tv, going back to sleep, and hitting “repeat.” We dutifully pay our bills, shop, and take in a football game or some other form of entertainment on the weekend so we can decompress and start all over again on Monday morning.
Society cultivates this hyper-focus on everything external to us because it’s needed in the marketplace. Offering a vast kaleidoscope of indulgences, we compulsively externalize our emotional well-being and import our feelings, through the purchase of things and experiences.
Life itself is sold to us as a product.
The marketplace is built upon and kept growing by promoting the “cult of personality,” superficiality vs. substance, the promotion of our finite, temporal existence vs. our infinite, spiritual journey and evolution, as well as the constant promotion of fear, inadequacy, and insecurity, where life has been reduced down to a competitive money sport. It keeps us shopping and looking for happiness – “out there.” It offers countless remedies for our boredom or feelings of inadequacy, in the form of a constant barrage of celebrity endorsements and advertising always hyping products that add convenience, beauty, and style to our lives with the promise of inching us closer to “bliss,” with no substance. But bliss and satiation are unattainable, as the marketplace is constantly producing more and more to consume, new and improved versions of everything, with “planned obsolescence” in the design of everything as a rule. Everything is outdated very quickly which always leaves us wanting the “latest-greatest” and wanting more and more. One need look no further than the human behavior displayed on “Black Friday” or at any Apple Store on the release of the latest iPhone. Shopping has truly become the opiate of our times.
For decades, we’ve been inculcated with messages designed to program the individual out of the individual, to devalue diversity, and to reduce the masses down to isotypes – monochromatic, unidimensional, malleable worker bees and consumers trying to become what the world has deemed “acceptable.” Programmed to think about ourselves, others, Life, and the world around us, the way it has been prescribed to us, we see reality through a fisheye lens, very narrow in focus. Society only appeals to the egoic mind, and we at our essence are not the EGO but rather something that lies beyond name, beyond definition, and beyond thought.
As consumers, happiness is promoted as something we purchase, not something we actually become. Happiness becomes elusive, “transient” at best, and an entirely external pursuit purchased in increments. As a result, our self-image and emotional well-being are largely determined by our ability to accumulate material wealth and status symbols that convey an achieved (or feigned) level of success. But, none of this says anything about who we are.
More to come . . .
Love and Light to you in your continued journey of Self-Discovery.