[Review] The Liar's Key by Mark Lawrence

There are books that you devour. And there are books that devour you. The Liar’s Key is more than the latter, as it is a book which also lies. It keeps telling you that it is a book which you are reading. While in fact it is a Tome (the distinction is perhaps only in my head, and has nothing to do with the thickness of said book). It keeps telling you, “Bruv, the next page is just as good as this one.” But that is a lie. The next page is better. Always better.

But that’s not even the most heinous lie which this book tells you. The most atrocious one falls less into the category of a Lie and more into the category of Deceit. For it deceives you that it is bastardly thick. Many pages. Many words. All that. Just look at it. Pick it up. Feeeeel it. While in fact this book is too damn short! Screw you, Mark Lawrence.

And yet, somehow, there is no other book which has quite the same
effect. Many do have it, naturally, but not in this manner and this kind of “flavour”.

Tastes a bit like Jorgian murder. Mmmmm.


Zen Mind

"To see the mind as it truly is, consider it like you would a tree. It grows and expands. Its roots go deep, hidden and out of reach, and to cast them out or truly examine them, you risk wounding the rest and must go beyond logic. The question is, are you willing to take the risk?" 
The Dreamer considers this for a while. His answer, however, comes with conviction. "I was made ready by this very world." 
His guide nods in understanding, smiles. 
The undergrowth bristles as their footfall passes. In silence, they walk between the trees and up the hill. Despite the slope, their breaths come easily, slowly. The rise is steep and obstacles many, but they press on, higher, slower with each step, until they settle on a steady and calm pace. Golden rays greet and stroke their faces. Light flickers between the autumn leaves. The winds are gentle as they lick the soil and awaken the greenery with movement, excite the smells of forest life. 
Atop the hill, a glade, caressed by the distant spirals of the sun. The divine engine fills the Dreamer with awe, furnace hot upon his face, infinitely moulding the Earth's flesh into an image, into life. He feels its pulse. His bare feet tingle. 
The two men stand there for a while, basking in the glory of a thing so mighty, so unattainable - like the true workings of the mind. 
The Dreamer gazes up the lone tree swimming in gold and watches as the sun and the tree suddenly become one. No end of one, no start of the other, but both admixed, like an alloy, embracing the light. His guide averts his eyes, looks at him, and the Dreamer knows what words shall follow, for he would ask the very same of the tree before him... 
"Do you ever sleep? Is the time between days sleep for you? Or as the season and its stillness takes you, is that sleep for you? Tell me, do you dream then? What do you dream about?" 
To this the guide plucks a small, white flower and hands it to the Dreamer. "What do you see?" the guide asks him. 
The Dreamer looks, perplexed, for he knows his teacher wants him to see more than the obvious. But instead of seeing what is truly there, the Dreamer's mind breaks through and depicts solely its sensual perceptions. 
"A flower, brightly coloured and scented," says the Dreamer. His guide looks at him. Wind rustles their robes in tune with the lush green beneath their feet. The tree above plays in the breeze, shading them. "Is that all you see?" 
The Dreamer looks again. Nods. "My eyes see what they see. Yet my mind tells me I should see more."
"It is not Mind that sees more, it is You. The flower is but an expression. Just like you. An expression of this world. Yet unlike you, it lets things be, it doesn't try and analyse why things are such, why the winds blows and the grass sways. All it ever wants to be and wishes to have, it already is and has." "But I have a mind," the Dreamer replies. "This flower has no mind. No mind to wonder, to ponder, to think and to feel." 
"It is the way of Zen. No mind. But a certain kind of emptiness that is as vast as anything that can be or is. A Mind that is ready. That is empty because it is ready. Even when such a task -- not to ponder -- seems impossible. Then, when there is no mind to dissect every nuance of the world, all that remains is the wonder, the experience, you are free to feel and to think, truly think. How your thoughts flow now is conditioned by your perceptions, by your feelings, by your life-patterns and choices. All of these things coalesce into what you think is the real you, what the real you feels it must maintain. To lose that means an annihilation of the You. You sustain that identity, instead of simply Being." 
"How can I be then? Happy? How can I be free?" 
"No man can remain in a constant state of happiness. It is impossible. The sooner you understand this, the sooner you will attain what you seek. A man can only stay calm, blissful. That, in itself, is the source of happiness. Serenity of thought brings happiness, a cantered mind brings happiness, and when these things are one motion, when you cease to search for your happiness and instead simply allow yourself to experience it, you will find yourself free. For you see, friend, true freedom is not without, it is within. You must first let go of your mind, accept and see all the patterns that control you, subdue and inflame you." His eyes water as the Dreamer sets his gaze upon the calm, understanding expression of his guide, bows low and says, "Teach me, master." 
"You must pass through the ultimate gate," the master says. "Enter a bastion guarded by your doubts, your fears, your perceptions, memories, false imprints, lies, illusion, guilt, shame and conditioned things. The gate has always been there and until you enter it and see that it's walls are transparent, it shall always remain there." 
Silence. Thoughts bend the Dreamer's mind. A wind waves the treeline for a moment, spinning sounds that drift, sing with simplicity. "What fire must I kindle?" the Dreamer asks. "What source must I tap into to become calm, serene, blissful, happy even?" 
The master smiles, walks the clearing's edge overlooking distant hills and forests... the Dreamer follows. 
"Analogies and riddles, questions and answers," his guide laughs. "You speak of kindled fires, yet, would you ask the same fire how it came to life? No. Its source is already manifest. It is present always, all it needs is patience and something that knows how to light a spark. A fire sparks and tree grows. Look! How tall that one is. How short that one is." 
Contradictions, the Dreamer thinks, always contradictions. The evening's calm swallows the skyline, colours turn vivid and the Dreamer's gaze lingers upon the transcendental beauty of the day. 
"Even as such a fire is lit," his guide continues, "The wood burns and the flame moves, yet it is really the mind that moves - interprets, gives the flame life. The spark you seek, the flame, it is your mind, but is not your Mind. The kindle sleeps within it. A bird nestles then leaves." 
"But what must I do?" The Dreamer pleads now. Straight answers continue to elude him and his mind reels for instruction, he feels its search - its quest to find words that would inflame his cognitive processes. But the master only smiles and, sensing his student's impatience, says, "Follow." They walk downhill, past trees both ancient and young, until at length, they reach an open grotto, lush and hidden, surrounded by trees overgrown with moss. A waterfall streams into the clearest azure. They halt a while, fill their lungs with moist air. "Where is the point where the falling water becomes the pond?"

Dreamscapes and The Interpretation of Dreams

Dreams are an extension of you. They are the buried you, the secret you. They are the you under all of your years and all of your memories and all your secret desires. Dreams allow you to peer into your inner self with a strange, twisted gaze. For once you look inside to see through and into the illusion. Images flow without restraint and forced interpretation and labelling of the conscious mind. Dreams are the inner eye, drawing its gaze upon itself.

Recently I've been reading The Interpretation of Dreams again, by Sigmund Freud, (the illustrated version is particularly interesting) and there are some quite miraculous cases and anecdotes in it, as well as examples of interpretations that would never have arisen had the psychiatrist not gone into in-depth talks with his subject beforehand. That is to say, to know one's dreams, you must first know the person who dreamt them. Which begs the question as to why we can rarely successfully interpret our own dreams. Do we know so little about ourselves?

Sigmund would confirm this to be the case and often refers to this "unknowing" as something quite normal.

The subconscious is a net of experience. And if the concept of COEX System is indeed accurate, meaning that memories and emotional and physical experiences are stored in the psyche not as isolated bits and pieces, but in the form of complex constellations, then each dream holds its own impressions and emotional depth, likely a multitude of them. In this fashion, your dreams draw from these layers of webbing pulsing beneath new and fresher layers of experience, but still just as active.

It is interesting to note that there are so few points that make up the dream and its contents when it comes to its material and sources, and once you realize what they are, it may make it easier to interpret some of them.

There are three points which are most important, and follow as such:

1. The dream distinctly prefers impressions of the few days preceding the dream.

2. The dream makes its selection according to principles other than those of our waking memory, meaning that it recalls not what is essential and important, but what is subordinate and disregarded.

3. The dream has at its disposal the earliest impressions of our childhood, and brings to light details from this period of life which again seem trivial to us, and which in waking life were considered long ago forgotten.

All of this is preceded by the notion that All Dreams Are, in their basis, The Realization of a Wish. Yet that wish may be hidden behind layers of conflicting information and are subject to something called "Dream Distortion".

The last part (3) is especially difficult to judge when it occurs, because the respective elements of the dream are not recognized according to their origin after waking. That is to say, that it is hard for the dreamer to know he still remembers something which the conscious mind does not actively recall. This conclusion thus can only be reached objectively, yet can sometimes be recognized when the dream held a certain kind of "power" or nostalgia or a deeply buried desire, which can only be fully explored when subject to interpretation by another subject.

I have began keeping a dream diary and take notes of the dreams while I still remember them, since most but the severely powerful and "educational" dreams tend to fade within 4-15 minutes after waking. The experience so far has proven interesting.

Inspirational? Maybe.

Oceanic Experience

The term Oceanic was coined by Romain Rolland and popularized by Sigmund Freud, who pointed out that this emotion may be a fragment of infantile consciousness, a feeling which occurs when the infant begins to differentiate himself from his human and non-human environment and a survival Ego begins to form. I tend to disagree with this notion. The disagreement stems from talking to those who have had this emotion and from personal experience, where Oceanic doesn't come from differentiation, but from a sense that you and the thing  'outside' you (environment) is one and the same thing. Differentiating causes the feeling to stop, as you resume your default experience of consciousness; which is a feeling of centrality, of the I and Other. Or in a very strict sense, the sensation stops when you start thinking.

There is no Other in Oceanic, but rather a deep sense that all things are the same one thing.

And yet there are numerous ways of coining what some psychiatrists call an Oceanic Experience. You might hear terms like the Oceanic Feeling or a Peak experience, Satori, Samadhi, but all these are in fact the same thing, an intense feeling of presence right here and now.

The most curious thing about these experiences is surely the fact that they often, if not always, come out of nowhere and quite unexpectedly and can be akin to Satori. But that's only true for those who are not aware of what triggers them, or what sets these emotions into motion. Some may argue this is not  a specific emotion, but inner State.

I want to tell you how you can try and find these triggers and stay Oceanic for as long as you can hold that concentration and Presence. Later you will not need to concentrate at all.

The key point I must first make is this: Everyone can have this experience. There's an idea backed by quite a few scientific papers in neurophysiology, that claims we are hard-wired for religion and faith-based belief. While that may be true, I would rather say we are hard-wired to experience this sensation, and is in fact what most are searching for in religion. It is unfortunate that organized religions monopolized it and made most believe they need something to experience it, and instead of showing others how to do it directly (in which Zen remains one of the few proponents of direct pointing still present today), wrapped it up in ritual and community, which are very superficial aspects of it and may aid you in becoming Oceanic, yet once can do it by one's own. Which makes sense doesn't it? As you are the I to whom it happens, so the notion that you need something else is a bit ridiculous. Don't worry if you are confused about what I'm talking about, because you most definitely have experienced Oceanic already, everyone has, although it is often the case that you don't realize this fact.

It is also important to note that the trigger will not be different for everyone, and that Peak experiences are triggering a state of Presence. Simply put, we all have the same triggers because we are all an expression of I manifesting in countless form and through many perspectives of relative viewpoint.

The beautiful thing about these experiences, is that once you know the trigger, you can stay in that feeling for as long as you wish under certain conditions.

Freud was right about the 'infantile consciousness' part however, as it is indeed a fragment of that consciousness. It is why it has a subtly deep sense, a sort of 'primordial' feel to it, meaning that you get a sense that this sensation comes from the very core of you. That's because it does. Yet Freud's explanations  never reach quite deep enough. And having been oceanic for 1-2 days on occasions and for up to an hour in meditation, I have come to realize the claim "everyone wants to return to the womb and uses sex to try and do that" never adequately explains the why of this need. It dismisses a deeper need that is produced by the centrality of I, and that sex is the most superficial step of achieving what is really sought after: a Merging. A merging of subject and object. Of subject and other subject, which for the I is the object as it seems to be outside the I. It is a need to return to the womb where the baby was completely submerged and weightless, fully in tune with its surroundings and in that sense, One with it. A merging of the male and female aspect in sex can cause that trigger, but also because it puts you intensely into the Now.

Images are important for you to enter this state if you are a beginner and don't yet know how to still the mind, especially if you belong to the 60% of people who prefer visual stimuli out of all other.
If you recall the sights, smells and sounds from the first time your were Oceanic (obviously not while you were in the womb), it will be easier to reach the state again, but such things are only of help. When it comes to smell, it is more likely that the precise fragrance will not be imprinted upon your mind, but the certain subtleties of it.

You must remember that you can reach this state even without these triggers. They are here simply to help you at first. And since in western society doing something purely to do it (like meditation) can be very useless for most, this trying to become Oceanic may be used as a goal for you to work towards while meditating. Mediation is at first a training in concentration, because until you learn concentration, you will always try and control your mind instead of simply not paying attention to it, or gently redirecting it from the Thought to the Self. This method is a good way to learn, as you will find that your mind, once it reaches this state, may automatically try to cling to it, and in that clinging, lose the feeling. Try it and you will see the realizations you get from this.

Through my talks with those who had consciously had the experience and reading about detailed cases of it, I have come to a few conclusions of the aspects required in terms of outside happenings to reach Oceanic. Allow me to list them out and explain a bit more why they work.

1. The quality of light. (early morning gold usually works best as it slants low in the sky and has an increased scattered effect, meaning you feel more immersed and a part of it)

2. Random background sounds that are of a natural source, like a stream or the rustle of leaves or the song of birds. (you already know what these sounds are, so a mind that is used to compulsive thinking will not attempt to label the sounds but just let them be. This will again help in the sense of being immersed in the sounds, until you eventually no longer hear a bird chirping, but in a somewhat funny sense, become the bird.)

3. A sight of something which seems finite over a backdrop of something that appears infinite. For instance, the sight of pine trees against a blue sky. [I used pine because they posses a denser quality] (this aids greatly in the sense of merging of the object and the subject. Clouds and the sky are a good way to do this as well, as you might begin to realize a truth that may seem banal if someone tells it to you. It is that the clouds and the sky are not separate things, and that the cloud is not in the sky, but and aspect of it, and in that sense is the sky. In much the same way, this trigger helps with the realization that Self and Other are not separate, but that the illusion of separateness is created by the sense of centrality that is the individual consciousness.)

4. Smells of trees in bloom or wood in general. (in much the same way as sounds, these smells already have a label in your mind as to what they are and, as such, will not cause the compulsive thinker to try and identify them, but instead simply let them be and so help still all thinking)

5. A peaceful mind absent of concerns, even if only for the time being. (this is a plus, as meditating on specific things will be easier)

Posture will be important, but not absolutely necessary. Resume any of the comfortable meditating positions, although it is advisable to take on any of the zazen postures for best results, even if it can be very unconformable for you at first. But a bit of discomfort is good as it assures you will not fall asleep easily or get sleepy.

What these things will help you with is to realize the Now and that It is all there is. You might say, I already know there is nothing else but the present. Yes, of course you do, at least you believe you do as your mind does, but do you feel it? The distinction is more important than you might think. 

And that is what Oceanic really is, a Presence in the moment, where the future and past dissolve, or rather, the illusion that these two states of time exist, disappears. 

Focusing on these triggers will help you stay in the Now, they are grounding you in the Now. Leave your mind alone in these moments and you will find the ocean and in the ocean, everything that is You.

The exercise might seem a contradiction to what mediation is, which is a way to calm the mind, but in reality, compulsive thinking and thinking while fully present in the now are not the same things, as you might have found out or already know.

And, as I said, once you can cultivate this State any time you wish, you will no longer need any triggers, but will simply breathe in, breathe out, and be it.

The Spirit of Zen

Have everything thoroughly poured out that has accumulated in your mind––learning, hearing, false understanding, clever or witty sayings, the so-called truth of Zen, Buddha’s teachings, self-conceit, arrogance, etc. Concentrate yourself on the koan, of which you have not yet had a penetrating comprehension. That is to say, cross your legs firmly, erect you spinal column straight, and paying no attention to the periods of the day, keep your concentration until you grow unaware of your whereabouts, east, west, south, north, as if you were a living corpse.

The mind moves in response to the outside world and when it is touched, it knows. The time will come when all thoughts cease to stir and there will be no working of consciousness. It is then that all of a sudden you smash your brain to pieces and for the first time realize that the truth is in your own possession from the very beginning. Would this not be of great satisfaction to you in your daily life? 

- D.T. Suzuki

Image by Jie He

Happiness and Desire

There is a kind of tradition in many of the world's religions, especially in the East, for one to undergo a process of letting go of all material possessions. For a Westerner this might seem odd, as one can hardly imagine what can be gained in living like a hermit. But there is a very strong philosophical and psychological purpose behind this practice.

This is not something one does on a whim, and is preferable for to to undergo an examination of the emotional states while the process of letting go occurs. This can be very interesting. Yet what is the true purpose of it?

A consensus exists for most in the belief that material things do not bring happiness. Yet still most feel and know that, should they have a bunch of money, they could do the things they've always wanted to do. They could get the things they want. With this dualistic mentality, a "battle" can be created in the mind. On one end, one feels that material things are not the true source of happiness, yet he or she is compelled to gather things and objects. They in fact do seem to bring a sort of contentment. But where exactly does it come from? Is one content to have the object itself? Not exactly.

The letting go of possessions serves a deeper meaning. With each thing you let go, you may come closer to realizing just what it is that makes you happy and content about possessing a thing in the first place.

This can go on for a while. You may end up giving away and being left with nothing, and still the lesson will not become clear to you.

Most who attempt this, the ultimate desire may be to reach a state of knowing. A state of enlightened bliss where you wish to have no thing and are content with having no thing. In this doing of letting go and giving away, you may realize that no thing will make you as happy as simply being here, now. Yet it may be that even after letting go of all the material things and being left with nothing, one is still faced with the very basic problem because of which he began this practice. The desire for something is still there.
Being left with nothing, one may realize the initial desire was not to give things way, but for something to happen in the mind. A shift, a realization. So the fundamental issue of desire remains: wanting something specific.

The superficial mind is ruled by whims, wishes emotional fulfilment, which can manifest in the need to possess a thing or person. This can become an intense desire too; I want that, I want her, I want him. Usually we want these things now.
But what happens when one gets the object of desire?
The person is content, for the most part anyway. 
The trick which was done by the ego, however, was to make you believe happiness is in the thing which you possess. And yet contentment does not come from possessing the thing, but from being free of the desire to have it. You no longer have the desire for the object or subject because you now hold it.

The mind operates on a reward-based system. You want something, you get it, you are rewarded by feelings of contentment and a release of endorphins. And yet because the object and the subject are so intertwined, and you have just gotten the object, you do not realize the subject's contentment comes from emptiness, from absence of desire, and not fulfilment of desire in the form of the thing or person. Instead it comes from a deeper state of brief freedom.

The most basic analogy is the consuming of drugs. Most would have you think that it is the reward system of the ego and the release of dopamine which is in itself the reward that makes the user crave and seek out these substances. But it goes deeper than that. In that moment, while it may indeed feel excitingly excellent as the drug is consumed, you are free of the desire which binds you to a certain substance or the use or abuse of it. You are in the moment, free of desire now.

You might, however, say that the object is happiness, for it can bring you joy not just when you get it, but later as well. But if one examines how long this "happiness" actually lasts, he or she is quickly confronted with the truth that contentment lasts for as long as there is the absence of desire. It lasted for as long as there was not any other desire to take its place.

This is not a happiness one feels in a dopamine rush, but a happiness one feels from contentment that stems from inner peace and stillness.

But this is still not the lesson letting go seeks to teach. What is truly behind it, is something even deeper and very simple. It is in fact so simple, that most miss it due to its very simplicity. It does not mean that one needs to renounce the things of this world as if they are bad and controlling. Not to renounce his or her own desires for things and people, but to realize that, just like the subject, the object too and the desire for it, are impermanent. That they exist in a kind of play which you are acting upon for a brief and very limited time.

Especially today, it would be rather silly for a material being to completely renounce the things of material, as one is also material. This kind of renouncement thus becomes almost a renouncement of the Self. And yet knowing this, the process of letting go, and the examination of the Self while letting go, can be very fruitful.

Impermanence may teach you the ultimate truth of your own death. It is a grim lesson, perhaps, and most of us know it, but do not feel it. It can propel you to be here, now, and to enjoy even your own suffering and understand it as a nuance of existence. Being here, being you, is, after all, the only thing you will ever truly possess. Everything else, and the thought that you possess anything else, will be an illusion.

Image by Jie He

Ego Loss and Higher Self

An ego collapse or loss is the exact point where the psyche no longer knows how to deal with the situation at hand. The subsequent reaction produced is often a complete loss of self-identity. For most it is something that happens daily, although we tend to only notice collapses which are extremely prominent in our psyche. For the most extreme ego deaths, a more readily used terminology exists in normal psychology: mental breakdown.

Because of the term mental breakdown and the associated stigma, an ego collapse has become a thing to be feared and for most avoided at all costs, as it suggest a delirious self where the person in question no longer exists in any intractable sense. When we hear the word mental breakdown we imagine someone spasming on the floor or "losing their shit". To a degree this is true. And yet a collapse can underline something much more profound.

The definition of collapse is: To fall down or inward suddenly; cave in.

In the instance of a collapse or loss, the ego usually does one of two things; It produces an attack which becomes an extremely powerful overreaction, or withdraws and produces a non-reaction.

In both cases it adjusts and adapts. It does this by skewing what is and adjusting itself not to what is going on, but moulds a situation to fit its own pre-preconceptions and beliefs. In other words, in most cases it does not accept what is, but looks for ways to justify its own already existent point of view and further deny what is. In the case of a collapse, the Ego is never actually gone.

Let’s first examine why such a thing occurs.
The initial breakdown or collapse manifests due to the inability of the ego to accept what is. That which is becomes too out of bounds of the every-day perception upon which the ego has so far functioned. The conditioning patterns upon which the ego operates cannot produce a reaction. Non-acceptance of what is, in other words, not accepting things as they are, triggers a dissonance where the ego needs to effectively shrink into a more basic self, and reset. It will adapt, attack, defend, hide, or a combo of up to two or more of these reactions (and more) in a very short span of time.

For a person to realize what is actually happening and what it underlines, a collapse needs to happen again, and preferably again. However many times it takes.

At some point it brings a subtle feeling in anyone who has undergone a series of collapses.

It portrays the illusory nature of the ego.

Or more precisely, it brings the awareness of the Self identifying wholly and completely with it.

The Ego is and will remain a social-conditioning pattern. A telescope with a narrow view of assessment that feeds the rest of the organism whatever it needs to survive in any given situation.

When you try to go beyond the ego as a way to test yourself by doing something opposite of what you thought the ego might do, you find yourself wondering if the reaction produced was in fact ego-driven in some subconscious way. This portrays the strength of the illusion; but also presents a stronger problem which the ego will resolve in a very cunning way.

For those more spiritually inclined, the Ego will, instead of recognizing itself as illusory and exposing its weakness to the one it controls (You), create what most call a Higher Self. The ego will develop the Higher Self through incredibly subtle means of self-deception and self-confirmation. It will actively seek out minds with the same attitudes and knowledge of the Higher Self to confirm itself in the individual psyche. The Ego will seek minds to shape itself and lean itself upon in order to give the concept of the Higher Self (which it created) validity through acknowledgement. It will guide a person through levels of confirmation to make him or her believe in the illusion of the Higher Self, while still being the ego in disguise.

By those who have this illusion, questions may be asked of others who have “realized the Higher Self”. The most basic and most readily asked being: “How can I differentiate between what is my Ego reaction, and what is the reaction of the Higher Self.”

The answer by those under the same illusion usually goes something like this: The Ego reaction comes after the initial gut reaction. The initial reaction of the Higher Self is the right and immediate reaction. You instinctively know what is right in your “core”, “heart” or “gut” (intuition).

In this scenario, an ego reaction is the reaction which is not immediate - a response which goes through a filter in the mind for a particular social condition. However, even the most basic gut reaction will always arise from the mind, and so always be conditioned by the ego. (If you think that when you are by yourself your reactions are not socially driven it will be a mistake.*) (*A human being is never separate from his social environment, no matter the level of isolation. If the Ego perceives that the Self intends to isolate itself from its environment it can do something the mind does on a regular basis. The ego will project itself as far into the future as it must to justify what it is doing now. In other words, it will do things now for future acknowledgement and confirmation and will have no problem with this. It has all your life to wait. A human being can be as separate from his environment as can any other living being. Which is to say it cannot be, as the human is like any living or what we call unliving thing, it arises with the environment and not separate from it. Any separation between the two will be illusory.)

To give two basic examples why, with the Higher Self, a double illusion has been created instead of just the ego, and why the Higher Self and the Ego are the very same thing, we can use two basic examples.

  1. the clouds and their separation from the sky is illusory. The clouds are an aspect of the sky and not a thing in the sky. They manifest a pattern of the sky, not a pattern in the sky.
 “Be careful what you pretend to be because you are what you pretend to be.”

In a sense this elegantly portrays the function of the ego. Pretending to be something less than the whole process.

Examine yourself and how your ego shifts in different social environments depending on what group you find yourself in. You become a pattern in that process. You re-imagine yourself in each situation. You started doing this when you were a kid. You had a Self for your family, for your friends, for your pet, for your other group of friends, etc. In school you were placed into a program where you were expected to create a Self that will be one – able to function “out there”. But here it became serious. In school it’s no longer a game. In school this has become a thing that needs to be learned. And it’s serious because if you cannot be in that program you will not fit into a system that requires the inception of specific programs to work.

But what if you step back and watch your thinking and doing?

At first you may notice that when the Ego is on stage (being watched), it will not produce a reaction as long as you can maintain focus and watch. Meaning that as long as you watch the next thought that will come, it will not.

But when thoughts come and you still remain focused and watch, you will find that in these situations, your reactions to your own thinking and responses will inevitably shift to a different spectrum.

There comes an acceptance of things as they are and as they come and go, while keeping nothing. The life of such an individual can be more akin to playing. Almost in the same manner as playing any instrument. The Ego is that which strums the strings or hits the drum, but the strumming is not the guitar, only an expression of it. The guitar itself keeps no notes, they come, then they go. It only plays with them.

That is the function of the Self, to look at itself, while the Ego’s function is to sense things outside and produce instant reactions. The part you need to understand is that it can do this the most efficiently by making you think the world inside you is separate from outside. And yet the Ego cannot exist without the Self just as a cloud cannot exist without a medium to have it in. Just as the Self cannot exist without Other and Other cannot be without Self.

The next of the two ways of seeing why the initial separation into a Higher Self is illusory, is this:

  1. You could do it ad infinitum and never reach “The Real You” or “Highest Self”, because you will always be under the illusion that you have reached it. As the Self, you can watch the Ego, then as the Higher Self  you can watch the Self watching the Ego, then watch the Higher Self watching the Self who watches the Ego, then watch the watcher who watches the Higher Self who watches the Self who watches the Ego and so on... You can do this until however long you like and only create more illusion and separateness. Or you can recognize that the basic problem was illusory.
The Self is, it needs no further label of Higher or Lower, and the Self has a social structure, which we call the Ego – but which is not separate from the Self, only its illusion that reflects whatever is out there. You can express a certain nature, but it is an expression of the same Self as the Self that is the Ego.

The only way to break this cycle is to realize that the I and the Ego are the same thing. You may watch what you are doing and not like it, then say, “Aha! That is the Ego, not the real me,”  but instead of seeing the Ego as a thing to be fought and defeated, see it as a necessity. By watching the Ego, what you are really doing is watching the construct in your mind that has been made by the imprints of your existence in the physical dimension. It is not a presence, it is an illusion. You may not like this construct, and that is fine, but that does not mean the one watching is different than the one being watched.

So by looking at the Ego in this sense, by creating the illusion of duality, you can see that the ego itself is an illusion as well, a program which you can transcend by understanding its function and observing it. You can start producing reactions that take into account your inseparability from anything else. Whether those reactions are good or bad is beside the point. They cease to be either, but simply are. You can know a mask exists and yet still play the game.

You might say that, because you can watch the ego and have feelings produced by the ego, that the ego is real, and that would be a completely fair assumption. However, when assailed by an emotion that you would consider bad, realize that bad is a label, while an emotion simply is and has no inherent meaning besides what it produces in you. So watch it as it is and what it does to you. By doing this, do not think of it as watching the Ego, but of “stepping back and allowing the I to look at Itself.”

There is a Zen Koan that asks: “When many are reduced to one, what is one reduced to?”

Just like this problem of the Ego, your immediate reaction will be to examine the Koan as a problem to be solved. You may think, "If Many can be reduced, then One must also be reduced – because the question implies it." 
Or if you think in a manner of “all is one”, you might say, "If Many is reduced to One, then one cannot be further reduced, as all is one."

And yet the problem is illusory. As one is reduced from many, so can one be reduced to many. If many were already one, then one is always many. In this manner the question is a trick, much like the idea of separation from your ego is a trick.

No matter the effort, you will never become separate from the ego. Instead you can see it as a play that you can either go along with, or do differently. In trying to separate from it, you are attempting to do the same thing as if a finger were trying to touch its own tip. 
The attempt can only create more illusion. 
Recognize that touching the tip itself with the tip is impossible, not because of some mechanical problem of the human body, but because it is already done, as the very separateness of the tip from the finger is an illusion of the mind. 
There is no finger and the tip, there is just the finger, so in this sense the finger is always already touching its own tip. 
It already is its own tip as the idea that there is a tip was an illusion to begin with.

Image by Jie He

Is God Real

I have been asking a very specific question for a while now. I asked everyone who I talked to and who showed an interest in any type of philosophical debate. The nature of the question is not deeply philosophical, although for me, it underlines something very interesting.

The question is this: If you could step into a machine, or had the power to dream anything you wanted every night and fill your dreams with absolute pleasure and ultimate happiness, but while dreaming not remember that you are dreaming, would you do it? The added parameter is that you can never again step out of the machine or dream while you are still alive.

After a while or very little thinking the person usually answers No.

That to me is very interesting for a specific reason that underlines something deeper than mere attachment of the ego. It presents a possibility of life that’s quite fascinating.

At first, the answer No is obvious, or should I say the Why someone would say No is obvious. 
Everyone is attached to their own body and their own experiences. Losing either does not seem like an inviting prospect as they are intertwined with the person’s idea of what the Self is. Losing either implies the death of the Ego, who will do anything to prevent such a thing.

But now let’s remove one parameter of the question.

Instead of having to be in the machine or in the dream until you die, you can still dream and be anything you wish. But you can do this in a single night. That is to say, in a single night you are able to live the life to the age of 60 or however long you wish. You can experience ultimate bliss and have the most fun you can possibly have. All the time. Then wake up.

For most, this will still be very daunting. This shows we’re not only attached to the physical dimension or ego, but to time as well. The two are inseparably linked, so this is actually the same attachment as before.
And yet you immediately think that, even though only one relative night will pass, you will effectively live for 80 years within the dream. You are attached to the flow of time as it is right now and to the central feeling of existence.

And yet… here comes the concept of the Hindu Brahman. Brahman is the one reality that is indefinable and unchangeable. A creative force present in all things as all things are It.

Most human beings like to give themselves to Brahman. Which means they do not like to realize the fact that they have the responsibility, or the power over oneself. And that they in fact are the only ones who can fundamentally do things in a different manner for themselves. They like to think there is a personal force out there who will protect and guide them. A force that will not let their children die. 

The question above implies why, or how all things are in fact God, and how all humans are the very same thing manifesting in countless forms, or in Hindu – Atman, which is the manifestations that we call Self in the Brahman.

Allow me to explain. If you are presented with the ability for ultimate bliss every night  – or ultimate success in the form of the Self, you will after a set of nights eventually say, “That was great!” now let’s try something else. Let’s give this a bit more of the unknown, a bit of something that would challenge me. For this you would of course need to add other minds, other Atman’s into the game, as there is no Self without the Other. 
Imagining that you have that ability, you would, instead of living only one life as before, live all the other lives as well at the same time, as you would be able to experience more in a shorter span. After each night of this, you would begin to do more and more. More challenge, more possibilities, more decisions, more minds. Until eventually, you would reach a point where things would be exactly as they are right here and now. You would reach a stage in your simulation or dream where you would have infinite possibilities, infinite potential, and infinite divergence of choice and thinking.

What would happen then? 

You would discover, after eons of doing things and through countless lives and countless different decisions,  that even though you have lived and tried an infinite number of dreams, you still have in no shape or form realized each dream, even though you have lived through billions of expressions and things to express them.

Through this living of the Atman, the Self, that which is Brahman had been manifested and performed in a play of dreams. You would dream forever, until eventually you would delight the most in forgetting that you are dreaming, and so hiding from yourself. You would delight the most in finding yourself, just as in a game of hide and seek it’s the most fun when you find that hiding rascal and announce to everyone that you have found him.

Eventually, the game of hide and seek would become so obvious – because everything would be That which Hides – that the realization that God is everything and that everything is God, would be too obvious, and still the best hiding place would be everywhere and everything.

And yet that too would become too obvious. Soon the only hiding place not obvious and truly left, would be inside the Self. Inside the very thing that is looking.

This is an awesome possibility of a God or Brahman playing at being the Self – the Self as a whole reality. Not a personal God or some king in the sky, but Everything that is pretending it’s not everything.

In this sense, God is very real, and we are all It.

Image by Jie He


Psychosphere (Noosphere); a term previously unnoticed has recently gained some traction after being mentioned in the HBO series True Detective. It is also a concept I find endlessly fascinating. As should you!

Simply put, it is the sphere of human thought, but since thought for most implies conscious thinking only, it would be better to say a sphere of human consciousness. Imagine a biosphere, only instead of it being the global sum of all ecosystems, the psychosphere is the sum of subtle fields of thought. And unlike the noosphere, which is the sphere of direct human thought, the psychosphere could more easily be imagined as a sphere of human emotion, or general consciousness, instead of specific thoughts.

It is also why, unlike the Noosphere, a psychosphere can have a distinct "flavour" in an area where one specific emotional state is prevalent. Allow me to give a few examples what I mean. If you have a rural area of 200 people where there is a serial killer, the people there can live an existence where the most prevalent emotion is that of subconscious fear. This can be imprinted in the psychosphere of that area. Houses and a family can have its own psychophere.
An event, such as an outdoor concert, can endow that area with its own psychospheric state.
A meditative group can incept its own state into an already existent psychopshere. As shown by experiments like this.

There is some work being done on this, a rather strange project being one of these works. It is run online and spread over an egg network, called The Global Consciousness Project. The first paragraph is indeed promising and their pages show interesting data for those who are willing to figure out what all the numbers mean (it's not that hard):

"When human consciousness becomes coherent, the behavior of random systems may change. Random number generators (RNGs) based on quantum tunneling produce completely unpredictable sequences of zeroes and ones. But when a great event synchronizes the feelings of millions of people, our network of RNGs becomes subtly structured. We calculate one in a trillion odds that the effect is due to chance. The evidence suggests an emerging noosphere or the unifying field of consciousness described by sages in all cultures."

It's interesting how this kind of phenomena still resides in the sphere of pseudo-psychology. Collective Consciousness, Noosphere, and even the Collective Unconscious, all of these seem intrinsicly real, yet still remain outside science, simply because we have not yet found an apparatus that could detect them outside the human brain.

Fascinating that we have become a species which places more trust in the results produced by machines than those of the human mind when it comes to fields of thought. We even build machines to understand consciousness.
Also, what I mean by intrinsic reality is simply this: in deeper states of meditation and/or under the administration of certain psychotropic drugs, we can and will undeniably feel the presence and hard reality of this psychosphere. It can also happen quite spontaneously, and one does not need to attain a deep state of meditation or higher consciousness to become suddenly aware of this sphere and one's total immersion and inseparability from it. This experience, which can also be described as the experience of universal unity, cosmic consciousness, or in a slightly milder case/form, an Oceanic Experience, or even Satori, Samadhi, or a direct experience of God, has remained a constant throughout the ages, yet such (relatively)* subjective experiences yet remain in the realm of pseudo science or pseudo psychology.


I wonder how many people would need to have an actual experience of this, and in how big of a collective, to make this pseudo experience pass into "reality". Science likes things that can be reproduced, it values consistency, but this experience remains no less consistent than the experience of love or desire, it is simply subtler and more prone to different interpretations and labelling, and does unfortunately not happen as often. Even when it does, it is often much too quick to pass from immediate perception and is replaced by the every-day imprints of normal perception.

In this regard it is interesting to note how our minds always feel the compulsive need to label things. This sense is so pervasive, that in ancient Babylon, it was ruled that a thing without name is no thing at all, meaning that a thing without a name does not exist, for how could it? For this reason they actually had people with jobs to name things and put them on tablets.

This labelling of things of the without has lead us to "rediscover" stuff that has been known about for thousands of years. A new name makes it feel almost as if it is new. For instance, the Collective Consciousness was already talked about in the Bhagavad Gita, a text thousands of years old with a basis even older than that, yet put a new name on a concept, a name like psychosphere (which does sound cooler, doesn't it?), and this becomes a new idea for those less aware of its origin and of other terms meaning the same thing.

But this rediscovering is good. The name doesn't really matter as long as we are talking about the same thing. Most would call it God, and at the same time cringe at the term Collective Consciousness. Some would make differences between the Collective Consciousness and the Collective Unconscious. But really, they are all one - multiple terms for the same basic happening.

Building machines to understand consciousness is like trying to understand a philosophical thought through the workings of a computer. We forget that we already possess the best tool to understand consciousness.

The term psychosphere and what it implies is of course nothing new, countless books have been written on this subject, and now, slowly over the past century, physicists have been rediscovering the basic principles of unity which many spiritual texts of the world talk about (although some more directly than others). It is simply the language, the labels that have been altered.

For instance, there is now an emergence of a belief that there needs to be a wholly new outlook on what makes everything we inhabit. That if one truly wishes to understand the nature of things, one cannot understand them fully with the current system of science, because when you go deeper in reality, deeper into the core where all reality emanates from, one finds that the principles that make science understandable simply do not apply. A different set of rules govern each layer of reality, until at last you come deep enough where nothing can be separated from any other thing. 

You begin to find that, just like the sages, mystics, shamans and yogis of all times, one needs to look within and from a standpoint of unity to understand, because there is no greater tool to understand consciousness than consciousness. It is made so that it may understand itself. It delights in this, because understanding that deepest self means understanding the very universe out of which if fazes into its three dimensions. Instead of crude matter which we can see and touch and feel, instead of energy in the form of force and other more subtler forces, there is only consciousness. Precipitated consciousness, manifesting in different forms, most of which wholly contingent upon the observer.

A good talk and much more detail on this can be found on youtube, in a form of a presentation from a perspective of a field theorist, Dr.John Hagelin.

*[the reason why I added relatively is because there seems to be a confusion as to why something remains relative, even if there are countless beings who have had an identical experience. The imprints received while having the experience differed, yet a fact that it happened and that it shared the same basic principles for all individuals cannot be denied.]

(Images Orbital Mechanics Complexity Graphics - Tatiana Plakhova)