Illusion

Homo sapiens is the only species to suffer psychological exile.
O. Wilson

If we are looking for somewhere to place the blame for our suffering it can be laid at the door of our own mind. “By definition, an illusion is an attempt to make something real that is regarded as of major importance, but is recognized as being untrue. The mind therefore seeks to make it true out of its intensity of desire to have it for itself. Illusions are travesties of creation; attempts to bring truth to lies. Finding truth unacceptable, the mind revolts against the truth and gives itself an illusion of victory. Finding health a burden, it retreats into feverish dreams. And in these dreams the mind is separate, different from other minds, with different interests of its own, and able to gratify its needs at the expense of others.”  Are we beginning to see the problem of identifying with our mind? We will not find a more succinct statement of the challenge before humanity than what we have just read from A Course in Miracles.

Unhappy is he who mistakes the branch for the tree,
the shadow for the substance.
The Talmud

We continue with Seth who explains how we have used our mind to wander so far from our True self. “Remember, even false beliefs will seem to be justified in terms of physical data, since your experience in the outside world is the materialization of those beliefs.”  When we use the word illusion we don’t mean that physical form, emotional experiences or ideas do not exist, they do. What we mean is that they are not what they seem to be. Our classic example of the water “mirage” on the hot Kansas highway in August does exist in that our senses detect it. But there is no a puddle of water on the road ahead. Hence, if “reality” is something other than it appears to be, we need to know what that something else is. To live in a state of self-deception is not a good idea. In P-B that is exactly what we are doing. In P-B we have lots of sentiment, endless ideology, but virtually no reality, only a highway filled with mirages.

Speaking of the mind, the senses, and “physical data,” we turn to Michael S. Gazzinga, the director of the SAGE Center for the study of the Mind at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “We control the world basically because we are the only animals that can cooperate flexibly in very large numbers. And if you examine any large-scale human cooperation, you will always find that it is based on some fiction like the nation, like money, like human rights. These are all things that do not exist objectively, but they exist only in the stories that we spread around. This is something very unique to us, perhaps the most unique feature of our species.”

As many of us are learning, humankind’s story is fundamental in determining whether we continue to create suffering or begin the process of transformation which will be the result of our choosing a narrative profoundly different than the one Gazzinga is referring to. And by the way, Professor Gazzinga, we humans do not control the world; talk about an illusion!

Yes, Gazzinga himself has fallen for certain aspects of the P-B illusion. We are the animal that cooperates in large numbers but cooperate doing what? We all pull together in the pursuit of plenty, pleasure and power resulting in the current disaster on our planet that is our collective experience. Virtually everything that we tell ourselves and each other is part of the P-B fictional story. As Gazzinga realized, major elements of our story, like nations, money and human rights lack objectivity, his way of saying that they are an illusion. Humanity’s “large-scale cooperation” sounds good at first blush but too often tends to be cooperation in our mutual self-destruction; the end-product of the deluded mind.

“‘Remember,’ says Burt Hotchkiss, ‘that perception is a wish fulfilled. We see what we want to be there and then respond [or react] as if it were real. If I believe I am alone in the world, when people call to include me in activities, I’ll decline for a variety of reasons. Also I’ll be unaware of social groups advertised in the paper and so forth. As a result, I’ll sit at home every day, lonely, which proves I’m alone in the world.’”  And in this way our worldview is confirmed and perpetuated and our experience is unsatisfactory and painful.

Illusion is not in conditions or things of themselves,
but in the way we interpret them
.

Our story, P-B is an illusion and as such is always rolling and shifting like an ominous fog. We don’t have anything clear and solid to anchor our identity and as a result fear is our constant companion. For example, Americans used to live within a more optimistic context. We had faith that capitalism would produce a classless society and that religion would be the bulwark of a moral nation. “But now American attitudes resemble European attitudes, and when you just look at young people, American exceptionalism is basically gone.”  What columnist David Brooks fails to realize is that American exceptionalism never existed in the first place.

That change in identity Brooks seems to detect among Americans, however, is only a relative change, not a fundamental change. Our beliefs, attitudes and values, although evolving remain expressions of our false self energy. That is why fear underlies so much of American behavior today. As our society seems to be losing much of the idealism and security that our ancestors enjoyed and took for granted, we are naturally anxious.

What we experience, including what we believe to be real, will determine our conscious and unconscious worldview (attitudes, beliefs and values). The subconscious will accept whatever the conscious mind tells it as if it were true, as if it were real. In this way our illusions are perpetuated. And in turn, in a circular pattern, our worldview will determine our beliefs which will drive our choices and in turn our behavior.

What is the ego? Nothingness, but in a form that seems like something. 

The mind-blowing truth is that the world of form is a mirage. “Oh the root of misery is duality! There is no other remedy for it except the realization that all objects of experience are unreal and that I am pure, One, Consciousness, and Bliss.”  The Hindu Vedantist sees all of Creation as one inseparable habitation.  “When the Hindu speaks of the world as unreal he means it in this sense: that it is ever changing. It exists, certainly; but it has no permanent reality.”

Martin Buber understood that a fear-driven mind will find ways to make bad choices while trying to escape responsibility for making healthy choices.  We are already in Heaven, the Heaven within. “Man is afraid of things that cannot harm him, and he knows it; and he craves things that cannot help him, and he knows it. But actually, it is something within man he is afraid of, and it is something within man that he craves.”  “It is written: ‘Let the wicked forsake his way. Now what is meant is this: let the wicked leave his ‘way,’ that is, his illusion of having a way.”

The things which are seen are temporal, but the things
which are not seen are eternal.
II Corinthians 4:18

In his book Creative Initiative, Harry Rathbun suggests how we can begin to dismantle the illusion of P-B. “The existential self [false self], as its name suggests, is the existing frame of reference from which people operate until they succeed in releasing their essential self [True self] to take command. The existential self is the overlay, the egocentric shell, which imprisons the essential self and thus prevents its proper functioning. The existential self does this by blocking, diverting, screening, and distorting the input data coming from the environment. The effect of this is to prevent a person from seeing things objectively—as they really are. The existential person has a frame of reference [P-B], a point of view, from which he looks at everything.”

But the Kingdom of the Father is spread upon the earth and men do not see it.
Jesus, Gospel of Thomas

Although they challenge conventional thinking we find mystics like Thomas Troward can be valuable for those of us who want to know how we create both illusion and reality. “But now when investigation has shown us that conditions are never causes in themselves, but only the subsequent links of a chain started on the plane of the pure ideal, what we have to do is to reverse our method of thinking and regard the ideal as the real, and the outward manifestation as a mere reflection which must change with every change of the object which casts it. If we regard the fulfillment of our purpose as contingent upon any circumstances, past, present, or future, we are not making use of first cause; we have descended to the level of secondary causation, which is the region of doubts, fears, and limitations, all of which we are impressing upon the universal subjective mind with the inevitable result that it will build up corresponding external conditions.”

Survival of the fittest needs a new conceptualization. In the past it was thought that this “law” of evolution meant that the strongest and most adaptable survived and the weakest least able to change perished. Updating the principle underlying this law of the jungle we need to modify it with a few new insights. In P-B, the jungle, we see that those who are not able to respond with patience and compassion are perishing. Projecting their fears onto the objective world, most of humanity is creating the very tragic future that it does not want. By shifting to P-A, we are radically changing what we want to see and thereby changing our experience of reality. We do indeed have that much power.

When I was in elementary school, my buddies and I would descend into a friend’s large and empty basement, turn off the lights and since there were no windows, plunge ourselves into total darkness. We would then wait for the person designated as “it” to come down the basement stairs and try to “catch” one of us who would then become the new “it.” The fear would build as we employed our various strategies to avoid being caught.

We would stay still pressed against an outside wall hoping that “it” would choose to not move in our direction. If he did, we would hope to hear him coming and move away. Or, we could move away from the noise that “it” was making, that is, if what we heard was indeed “it” on the move and not some other anxious victim fleeing real or imagined noises and the faint and ghostly images cast by the faint light of the furnace pilot light.

“It” entered the basement with a blindfold to prevent him from seeing anything revealed by the momentary shaft of light from outside the basement. We could see him close the door and knew that he would immediately remove the blindfold as all of us strained to hear if he was moving and in which direction. The tension would build, especially if we could hear nothing or worse, if we imagined that we were hearing something.

Another strategy employed by the more optimistic prey would be to deliberately make a noise and then move quickly away from that spot. Anyone near that noise could choose to also move or gamble that “it” would not fall for such an obvious ruse and stay put. Choices seemed to be infinite depending on what basic strategy was chosen or what real or imagined sights and sounds offered input for behavior modification.

Getting “into” the game as we all did, generated a surprising amount of fear. Each of us as a victim of our imagination, our illusions if you will, strained to hear the movement of “it” or focused our eyes hoping that they would get used to the darkness and reveal the location of our, by then, “monster” pursuer.

Two basic personas or strategies inhabited “it” as he morphed in our minds into a sinister beast. He could remain patiently still which he knew created the most tension in the room or he could employ an array of sound effects revealing his movements hoping to elicit laughter or screams which created confusion as we all fled from where he “seemed” to be. At some point in the game we would all find ourselves cast in both the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde roles, the innocent victim and the ghoulish hunter, and no “it” wanted to find a new “it” too quickly as we all enjoyed the feeling of power inherent in being able to scare our frozen or fleeing friends.

Many if not most of the inhabitants of the global village today play a version of this game. We are in the “dark” surrounded by imaginary threats, scaring ourselves into ultimately unsustainable behavior. We imagine ourselves as Jekyll or Hyde or a little of both in the Darwinian survival of the fittest “basement” surrounded by imaginary threats producing reactions we don’t control or even understand. We are either frozen unable to move or respond to life, or self-medicated refusing to acknowledge the reality of what is happening around us. Fleeing from the other we imagine is a threat we try to make sense of the “game” of life by pursuing the empty promises of plenty, pleasure and power.

We can deceive ourselves that we are having fun, that the outcome will be satisfactory. Eventually, unless we become completely blind, our vision will adapt to the darkness and we will see where we are and that there is no “it,” only another person just like us. We can only hope that it will not be too late and that we have not been driven mad by our crazed imagination.

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References and notes are available for this article.
Also find a much more in-depth discussion of Simple Reality
on this blog and in published books by Roy Charles Henry.

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