Isn’t the world the most extraordinary place? I’ll explain. Take a tree. A single tree, with its roots spreading and fiddling deep into the soil. And its erected trunk that divides itself into branches, and a thousand twigs, and a whole foliage of leaves. The shadow it gives. The home that it is for birds and little animals. And the shelter. And a thing of beauty. To be admired, listened to, touched, felt. The roughness of its bark under your fingers. And the presence. There are millions — most certainly trillions — of such trees that spread over the world to form groves and vast forests. Extending their sheltering embrace to countless beings. And to you too, today. A tree! The strangest thing there is. To look at one is to be taken into a well of wonder. Feel that amazement. See where it takes you. You will be surprised.
“The world doesn’t exist and we just come to see that clearly. It’s all an illusion. It never did exist. There is no way it can exist — it’s all the reflection of a concept attached to inside. There is No One and Nothing. It’s literal. Are you ready to live without a world? Is that what you really want? Are you willing to lose the moon?”
~ Byron Katie
Quote by Byron Katie
Photo by Alain Joly
Bibliography: – “Loving What Is, Revised Edition: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life” – by Byron Katie – (Harmony)
– “A Mind at Home with Itself” – by Byron Katie and Stephen Mitchell – (HarperOne)
Bernardo Kastrup is my newly invited guest on ‘The Dawn Within’. Bernardo is a Dutch philosopher and computer scientist who is reflecting on the questions related to mind and matter. His field of study is the nature of empirical reality — of the world we see — which our culture has defined to be fundamentally outside consciousness and made out of matter, with consciousness or mind being a product of that matter. Bernardo Kastrup is tirelessly challenging that idea through his proposition that ”reality is essentially mental” and that “matter is nothing more than the extrinsic appearance of inner experience.”
Bernardo has worked for the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) and the Philips Research Laboratories (where the ‘Casimir Effect’ of Quantum Field Theory was discovered). His writings and essays have been shared in his website‘Metaphysical Speculations’, in his ‘numerous books’, and in many ‘thought provoking videos on YouTube’. His ideas have also been featured in scientific or philosophical magazines.
As an invitation to discover Bernardo Kastrup’s work and ideas, I have selected here a short essay, a few excerpts, and a poem that I hope will unravel this great mystery that lies beyond the nature of our every day reality and world. I hope you will enjoy…
“I argue that we do not need to postulate a whole universe outside consciousness – outside subjective experience – in order to make sense of empirical reality. The implication is that all reality, including our bodies and brains, are in consciousness, not consciousness in our bodies and brains.”
~ From Bernardo’s article ‘My philosophy and quantum physics’
“If the doors of perception were cleansed,
everything would appear to man as it is: infinite.”
~ William Blake
I have borrowed the words of the title to another of William Blake’s poems. It points to the realisation that our true nature is intimately married to the world, and that the expression of this understanding is pure, unconditional delight or happiness. This is the Tantric view: in Rupert Spira’s words, “the intimate knowing that Consciousness, what we truly are, is the substance of Reality, that there is only one thing, that there is only Being.” I have gathered here many quotes and pointers on this subject, from various spiritual teachers. They will tell you the story of the world…
“Tantrism aims to allow man to achieve liberation without renouncing the world, to achieve the paradoxical coincidence of manifestation and divinity.”
~ André Padoux
“Take the mind away from the world. What remains? You can neither say that it exists or that it does not exist. So you alone remain. Therefore, the world is only a thought.”
~ Atmananda Krishna Menon
“An object exists because we think about it; we don’t think about it because it exists.”
~ Rupert Spira
“In tantra, sadhakas look upon this world as the manifestation of Shakti, the Divine Mother. It is real — not absolutely real, of course. But consider this comparison: Vedanta says, ‘Get away from maya, get out!’ Tantra says: ‘No, no, worship maya. Don’t get out; don’t throw it away; don’t discard it.’ This is the beauty of tantra. It doesn’t deny the world; it says, ‘The world is beautiful; it is true; it is the playground of the Divine Mother, and we are all her playmates.’ According to tantra, we have to realise Brahman through this world, not by negating this world. People are often confused by and fearful of the world, but God did not create the world to frighten people. There must be a purpose of this creation. What is the purpose? Play.”
~ Swami Chetanananda
“We do not perceive a world outside Consciousness.
The world is our perception of the world.
There is no evidence that there is a world outside the perception of it,
~ Rupert Spira
“My world will light its hundred different lamps with thy flame
and place them before the altar of thy temple.
No, I will never shut the doors of my senses.
The delights of sight and hearing and touch will bear thy delight.”
~ Rabindranath Tagore (Gitanjali)
For anyone interested in uncovering the true nature of his or her being, some pathways exist to travel – motionlessly – from being identified to an imaginary sense of self to being established in the real, forgotten, and only self there is: consciousness. These pathways correspond to the different components of our living experience, namely thinking, feeling, and sensing. I have, in previous texts, endeavoured to explore the path of understanding, or Jñāna, that is derived from the exercice of thinking, and the path of love, or Bhakti, born out of feeling. The last pathway to explore is the one that comes through our senses, which is everything we see, hear, touch, taste or smell, everything that is seemingly outside of ourselves and that we have named by the generic term of the ‘world’. This path is best described in India through what is called ‘Tantra’, which after the two other pathways, is one that is all encompassing, that invites the world in, or in Atmananda Krishna Menon’s words brings “the universal under the individual.”
The idea behind tantra is that the world, the totality of our experience, need not be pushed away, or dreaded as an obstacle, but is also a doorway as is the exercice of thought in jñāna, or feeling and devotion in bhakti. The whole world is a possibility because although it is often experienced as an objective reality, it is also the expression or creation of a subjective presence and can therefore be used to trace back and uncover the reality of our own being. We must define what we mean by the world. In any given time or place, we experience a totality. A group of forms and experiences is presented to us and these form the totality of what exists in any given moment. What is this totality and what is it made of? What is this play of forms? Does it have a separate existence? These questions are at the core of the tantric path. If the world, the body, the feelings – our whole experience – are not what we have but what we are, then it opens up a whole new set of possibilities in understanding and accessing our true nature. “Every object is the footprint of God.” says Rupert Spira. …
“As the innermost Self of all,
he dwells within the cavern of the heart.”
~ Mundaka Upanishad, Hymn II.1.9
I had this thought landing in my mind some time ago, that “now I might as well retire, take refuge into the cave of awareness”. This made me think of the retiring into caves, as monks and anchorites do in some spiritual traditions. Retiring from the world, falling into solitude can be useful to withdraw from the entanglement with the ten thousand things of experience. It allows a space in which we can be watchful, and have the leisure to deepen our understanding. In the Hindu concept of Ashrama, which represents the four different stages of life, two are dedicated to some form of withdrawal from the the world: Vanaprastha, which in Sanskrit literally means ‘retiring to the forest’, and Sannyasa, which means ‘to put down everything’. The western word ‘anchorite’ has a Greek origin which means ‘to withdraw’, and ‘monk’ comes from ‘monachos’, which means ‘solitary’.
But what does this withdrawal from the world mean, in deep analysis? All the religious concepts of renunciation, solitude, poverty must point to something deeper than just a physical attitude. Because no matter how thick the walls of renunciation may be, a strong sense of being a ‘person caught in the entanglements of its own re-created world’ can and certainly does survive any physical retirement, be it in a forest, a monastery, or a desert. So this retiring has to be a metaphor. In reality, the true retiring resides inside, where we for a time take our stand as the witness, the presence behind all objective experience. The Indian word ‘sādhu’, which also refers to a person living a form of renunciation, has more ambivalence. Its rich meaning goes from ‘not entangled’ to ‘leading straight to a goal, hitting the mark, unerring’, to simply ‘peaceful, excellent, virtuous’. There is much more here than just withdrawing.
“The Lord is the supreme Reality.
Rejoice in him through renunciation.”
~ Isha Upanishad, Hymn 1
So the cave, metaphorically speaking, is awareness, the peaceful presence at the core of our experience. This place need not be a remote one, except in the first stages of our understanding, when we need to disentangle our true self from the parasites of a busy and confused mind, or indeed an equally busy and confused world. But, in a way that is truly paradoxical, when you reach the deep, unfathomable cave of consciousness, the inside suddenly turns out to be the outside. The true cave turns out to be no cave at all. It turns out to be the world, the entirety of our experience. As Rupert Spira says: “This empty ‘nothing’ turns out to be the fullness of everything.”
The walls of the cave are made out of our daily experience. The world is the cave and it is placed at an infinite distance. Be careful here, ’infinite’ doesn’t mean ‘far away’, it means ‘at no distance at all’. The world is ourselves. The cave of consciousness where we have retired is ourselves. Not the little self for whom retiring was a separate action with an aim at hand, but rather a new self englobing everything, the whole world. And this world is not a cave of separation, it is the totality playing with itself. And believe me, the infinite possibilities for celebration, the number of possible games to be enjoyed are here if we are only willing to play. Not entering any caves, but giving ourselves – literally – to the non conceivable, the non fathomable, and to the ten thousand things of experience.
There is a secret. Do you want to hear it?… So come closer, because like all secrets, it must be whispered. We mustn’t scare anyone.
Are you ready? Here it is: The world is not as it was presented to you. You have been fooled. There is a misundestanding.
It is the best kept secret in the universe. Why? Simply because it is not hidden. Or rather, it is hidden in view of all, in full light. Every religion has tried to conquer it and has failed. Not by lack of believing, as they would like us to think, but by excess of belief, of fascination.
Only the most mystical of their representatives, the most courageous, the most eager to know the truth beyond all other considerations, have approached it, discovered it intimately. Because this secret requires everything, it wants the whole of you. It won’t let you know it from a distance. It wants a total union, therefore a sacrifice.
So, are you ready?
Look carefully. Become impregnated with consciousness, feel it, be ‘it’, to the exclusion of all that you have been taught about yourself. After all, do you really believe that you are your body, to which you gave a name? Do you really think that you have an age, that your thoughts describe you, model you? Do you believe yourself to be so small, so narrow? Is your life just a series of experiences that happen to you, and that will make you either beautiful or stupid, mediocre or refined?
Look again. Are you not experience itself, are you not the world? Are you not absent to the presence of the world? And therefore immense, infinite, eternal, your body marrying the outlines, the confines of the universe? Are you not the very vessel, the One of all things, of which you would be both a part and the totality?
The world is not separate from you, doesn’t stand at a distance, and you are not a small thing lost, cut off from everything. You are the experience itself, without any separation between a body, a mind, that would be yourself, and the rest of life and the world that would impose its experience on you. There is only experience, and that is ‘you’.
You are everything, the entirety of what exists. One piece. Nothing that exists is foreign to you. The world is you. Do you hear it? You are the world. Nothing is foreign to you. Nothing that would not be ‘you’. You are your own constituent, and all that, the world, is you! Do you hear it?