Seeking The Ultimate Nature of Reality

        The Ultimate Nature of Reality

        Author Related Essays Bibliography

             This essay involves an investigation into the ultimate nature of reality. For many modern people, such an idea appears ridiculous, since the ultimate nature of reality is thought by them to be so easily knowable as to be of little interest, or completely unknowable. Mary Atwood alluded to this in her work on Hermeticism.

        "We are well aware that this kind of philosophy is obsolete; that the capacity of man is considered unequal to the discovery of essential Causes; and that all pretensions to interior illumination have appeared fanciful, and are lightly esteemed in the comparison with modern experimental sciences. It may be a question however whether they, who have determined thus, were competent judges; whether they have at all entered upon the ground of the ancient doctrine to prove it, or studied so far as even to surmise the Method by which the ancients were assisted to propound the mystery of the Causal Principle in life."

        M. A. Atwood, Hermetic Philosophy and Alchemy, 1850

        Plato      Genuine philosophers have always sought for an understanding of ultimate reality, never being content with mere opinion within the realm of sensory objects. And they assist those students who demonstrate that they are desirous of comprehending the essence of physical and spiritual being. Some persons have disguised their search for ultimate reality in the language of alchemy, the cabala, or other esoteric lore.

              Arnold di Villanova (1235-1313 CE) referred to his search for ultimate reality in his Speculum:

        "There abides in nature a certain pure matter, which, being discovered and brought by art to perfection, converts to itself proportionally all imperfect bodies that it touches."
             Other adepts have described this elemental substrate in essentially the same terms.

        "It is a clear Light, which fills with true virtue every mind that has once perceived it; it is the nucleus and bond of all the elements which are contained in it, and the spirit which nourishes all things, and by means of which nature operates universally; it is the virtue, true beginning, and end of the whole world; in plain terms, the quintessence. . ."

        Synesius, The New Light of Alchemy

        "This world is engendered by the Real, and has the Real as its Self, the Real is its material altogether. That Real than which there is none higher, THAT THOU ART, the restful, the stainless, secondless Eternal, the supreme."

        Sankaracharya, The Crest-Jewel of Wisdom

        "Who then are lovers of wisdom (philosophers)?

        Those who seek to discern the ultimate nature of reality."

        Plato, The Commonwealth (475e)

             True philosophers--a rare species in the modern world--quest for the universal substrate of life, the essence which subsists in all that gains existence through this elemental constituent. This underlying element is sometimes referred to as force, light, substance, entity, or higher consciousness.

        "The force referred to, and with which the Hermetist sought to become identified," Mary Atwood indicates, "is that of the Light which in the philosophical prologue to the fourth Gospel is called 'the life of men' and 'without which is nothing which has been made,' however unconscious of its latent presence its creatures may be--for it 'dwelleth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not.' It is the Light that, anteriorly to that of the solar and stellar bodies and all other derivatives from it, originated at the primal Fiat Lux [let there be light]. . ."

             Hermeticists referred to this essence as Materia Prima, the "First Matter," una sola Res: "the One Thing," the basal substrate underlying all terrestrial phenomena. Some seers believed this elemental essence to be incapable of being externalized, and therefore cognized only introspectively, while others held that it is capable of sensory appearance.

             The authentic philosopher distinguishes between the two aspects of knowledge:

        1. The appearance of reality as presented to our five senses and our naive judgment

        2. The nature of reality as it is in its basic essence, as known through dialectical interchange

            For most people, faith in ordinary perception is total; they believe that they see, hear, taste, smell, and touch a "real" world "out there" with unquestionable verity. They assume that reality is as they experience it. The ordinary world-view is not only acceptable but preferable to any other they might consider. Certainly, for the ordinary events of life their perception is accurate enough to allow them to avoid running into tall buildings and anticipating that the sun will "rise" 1  in the morning without fail.

             Because of our modern assumption that ordinary perception puts us in touch with reality, it's difficult to understand what philosophers have meant by searching for the ultimate nature of reality. For most people, it doesn't make sense to search for something you already have; if you already know reality through ordinary perception, why would you search for it?

             We must somehow develop the realization of the delusory nature of sense experience and comprehend that reality is something which is largely unknown and deeply mysterious. The difficulty is that our ordinary "description" of the world works and appears to provide us with the ultimate grasp of reality.

             In this essay, we'll be engaging in exercises which provide a definite experience of the unreliability of our sense perceptions, so we can begin to comprehend that reality is something unknown and mysterious. The exercises can feel like nonsense to those who are incapable of suspending their total belief in ordinary perceptions. Persons of this kind dismiss metaphysical exercises with glib statements such as: "Of course this is a seeming perceptual illusion, but it is caused by . . ." Such people like to feel they "save" their "interpretation" of reality with such magical phrases as "visual illusion." Even after experiencing an instance where their senses reveal two different "realities," their ordinary sense of knowing reality unquestionably remains.

             The fact that our senses are unreliable (produce experience of two different "realities") indicates that what we are perceiving has a different nature than our ordinary sense experience reveals. We must learn from such experiences that reality is largely unknown and deeply mysterious. The exercises in this essay help us learn to create a new interpretation of reality and to comprehend that reality is mysterious and concealed, so we stop assuming that reality is completely known, that no mystery attaches to it.

        Effective Participation

             You can merely read the material in this essay and deliberately make sure to avoid experiencing the mental and psychic changes which these exercises make possible. In that case, the exercises will prove to be of no practical benefit to you. You may find it impossible to enter effectively into the exercises, meditations, and concepts presented, because of psychological and ideological factors within your psyche. You may feel you're participating, but the lack of personal transformation will prove otherwise.

        "You must conceive of possibilities beyond your present state if you are to be able to find the capacity to reach towards them."

        Idries Shah, A Perfumed Scorpion

             This essay is based on the understanding that besides those faculties which humans exert ordinarily and by which they judge and contemplate sensory phenomena, they possess dormant higher faculties of awareness, which, when revealed and activated, all the forms of things and hidden springs of nature become intuitively known in their essence. These dormant faculties of awareness are said to subsist with nature as her substratal source, working paranormally to discover latent properties of reality, the structure of the universe.

             This essay encourages you to:

        • Give up self-importance

        • Recognize and acknowledge that your perception is based on your world-view (mind-set, concept of reality, view of what life is, view of what's important, belief as to what constitutes knowledge)

        • Allow elements to come to you--through intuition and inspiration--without trying to edit them

        • Enter into the exercises in an honest, earnest manner to gain the results made possible by their dynamic

             There are different ways to view what we're doing in this essay:

        • Acknowledging that reality is something other than what we now think it is

        • Allowing REALITY to reveal itself to us

        • Learning how to experience a mysterious, concealed REALITY

        • Opening, activating the senses of our spiritual body

        • Achieving a higher state of consciousness

        • Achieving a higher state of awareness

        • Gaining union with our Higher Self

        Reality is Not Easily Known; It's Something Different Than What We Assume

             In the seventh book of The Commonwealth, Plato says that objects of sense are of two kinds: some of them do not invite thought because we feel that our view of them is an adequate judge; while with other sensory objects we feel that our judgment is untrustworthy and that further inquiry is imperative. This latter type of sense object includes those which produce opposite impressions in us; they invite thought. There is an element within us, Plato says, which presents us with contradictory impressions, challenging us to think. Because we can no longer simply trust our sense impressions and accept them as they appear, we must use thought in order to make sense of these things and provide an explanation. Sensation becomes problematic and thus makes the soul aware of the inadequacy of simple perception for providing knowledge of reality.

        Plato's Allegory of the Cave      Plato likens the opinions derived from our senses to the perception of shadows of real objects cast upon the wall of a cave. True knowledge, however, is the discernment of the archetypal forms themselves, which are real, eternal, and unchanging--as we ascend out of the cave into the illumination of Truth.

             Sense perception, then, is essentially illusory in that it does not represent the ultimate nature of the reality we encounter. Our perceptions seem to put us in touch with reality, because of the immediacy of our sensations and because our perceptions "work" as the basis for ordinary actions. But the perception--and consequent world view--that the sun rotates around the earth "worked" for people in the Middle Ages--even though we now know that that perception was false. The Newtonian world view "worked" to allow for scientific discoveries and the construction of material objects such as machines and buildings. However, some of the elements of the Newtonian world proved to be inaccurate and Einstein's relativity theories replaced them.

             Scientifically viewed, things in their ultimate nature have the characteristic of Platonic Forms: fields of electronic and protonic energies moving at prodigious speeds. Contrary to the seemingly stationary "things" of our everyday experience, nowhere in the universe is there an "object" in a state of absolute rest when we examine its basic microscopic nature. Whenever we believe we've discovered something in a state of inertia at the macroscopic level, we're merely allowing ourselves to be taken in by a sensory illusion. Ordinary "objects," as Einstein pointed out, possess only the appearance of rest. Actually all the particles of a stone lying seemingly inert by the roadside are whirling in incessant motion.

        Transformative Exercises

             Enter openly into these exercises to get a definite sense of a different REALITY than ordinarily provided by your sense perceptions. We have been trained--and have trained ourselves--to believe that our senses reveal REALITY to us. Now, allow your senses to show you a REALITY that possesses two different natures AT THE SAME TIME. Allow your mind and your belief system to remain flexible. Take time to meditate reflectively on each exercise. Actually SEE a different REALITY--not just a mental or visual illusion.

             To attain a definite participatory experience of the illusion of sensory input, let's first create a body/mind experiment in which you're traveling in a train at the same time another train nearby is traveling at the same speed in the same direction.

              As you happen to look out the window, you see a guy in the train across the way leaning out the window smoking a cigarette.
             You notice that the man appears stationary--because his train is traveling at the same speed as yours. But you realize the guy has to be moving--because you feel yourself moving--even though he appears to remain motionless. If the fellow smoking happened to look at you, you'd appear stationary to him as well.

        "We cannot trust all we experience as being accurate nor can we trust all accurate experience as being more than merely relative. To be aware of anything is to be aware of its relations, both to other things and to oneself. Therefore knowledge can exist only by being based on relations. . ."

        Paul Brunton, The Wisdom of the Overself

        Exercise #2

        1. Follow the movement of the rotating pink dot. You only see one color, pink

        2. Now stare only at the black "+" in the center and after a short period, you will see a green dot rotating in place of pink dot.

        3. The green dot appears as real as the pink ones.

        4. You're experiencing TWO DIFFERENT REALITIES.

        5. Using your senses, there is no way to tell which of the two REALITIES is "more real."

        How the Same "Reality" Can "Be" Two Different Things

        1. Note how the "front" shading "creates" a specific shape to the figure, with the lines and areas of the image pointing in a certain direction.
        2. Attempt to keep the figure in the same perspective (direction it's pointing) when the opposite "front" shading appears.
        3. Note how the "shape" of the figure changes in spite of your attempting to keep it in a certain perspective.
        4. Note how the line B-F always points up and to the right, whereas C-G points up and to the right, but appears to be pointing in two entirely different directions, depending on the perspective.

        When We Cannot Believe our Eyes

             Square A appears to be much darker than B. Even when we place two stripes of the same color joining squares A and B, showing they are of the same color, it still appears that the two squares are of a different color.

        Exercise #5

             Look at the chart to the right and SAY aloud the COLOR of the word, not the word itself. Evidently, this is difficult because the right half of our brain is trying to say the color, while the left side of our brain is trying to say the word.

        "How can I tell what I think until I see what I say?"

        E. M. Forester

        Exercise #6

             Do NOT use a calculator with this exercise:

        Add these numbers together in your head.

        Add 1000
        Add 40
        Add 1000
        Add 30
        Add 1000
        Add 20
        Add 1000
        Add 10

             What number did you get?

        Exercise #7

             If you need assistance in viewing the stereogram below, go HERE.

        Exercise #8

             Jack's mother had four children. The first was called North, the second was called South and the third was called East. What was the fourth called?

             Did you get the name West?

        Exercise #9

             They are three errers in this puzzle - what are they?


        Exercise #10

             Which ones of these statements do you think are correct?

        The exercises above have been included for the sole purpose of seeing if

        you are stupid enough to participate in absurd activities.

        A person who is ubsessed with trying to correct ohters is in need of

        correction hisself.

        The exercises above have the sole purpose of humiliating you.

        Our self-importance requires that we spend most of our lives offended

        by someone.

        None of these is correct.

        Exercise #11

        Exercise #12

             Study the following paragraphs carefully.

        "Let us now meditate on the fundamental outlook which from time immemorial has induced Indian thinkers to experience all beings not as something made from the outside, but as something appearing, emerging, growing from within as beings released out of Brahman into existence. They have not seen beings as things to be represented in the consciousness of an ego-centred human subject in the forms of inner-psychic pictures, but as things revealing themselves directly to the human existence. This approach can not be a mere astonishment and amazement at the fact that something is-and how it is. Nor can it be a doubting of the reality of the world. Only a human being who is deeply moved by awe and who remains in a state of reverence does not fall prey to the will-to-explore-and-dominate that which shows itself to him, but remains all ears and eyes for the summons of the awe-inspiring phenomena. The awe-inspired person does not want to get hold of or to possess what he reveres, with the aid of his intellectual concepts. He seeks only to get himself into the frame of mind appropriate to the revered object--one which renders him open to its summons and makes his vision clear for its beckonings. He knows: if he manages to comply with the phenomenon that is worthy of his awe so perfectly that he catches sight of its entire truth, he has succeeded also in releasing himself from the chaos of all delusions.

        "My dear friend, never succumb to the temptation of wanting to take conceptual possession of this 'brahman' or 'sat', to concretize and stratify it, to conceive of it as an 'Id' or as the 'collective unconscious' and to give it a structure by means of abstractions of pictorial images and ordering powers. All these are definitions from the restricted viewpoint of an intellect that fragments reality, calculates it and objectives it. Only for such an intellect is the ultimate reality of man something assembled from disparate individuals or psyches, something collective and something of which it, the intellect, can know nothing and can not be conscious. It is, however, more in accord with the facts to speak, not of a 'collective unconscious' but, rather, of an undivided, all-inclusive knowledge. But let us drop all this pinning of labels, and let us follow the far greater and wiser course exemplified so often by India's best spirits. Let us master ourselves to the point of, for once, not wanting to take possession of anything. Let us, rather, allow 'brahman' simply to occur, in the pristineness of its mystery, and let us adopt the course of enduring it as such and of keeping ourselves open to it. The whole game is lost from the outset if we seek to manipulate 'brahman' by means of our concepts. To be sure, something has to happen, not with it, however, but with us. We have to open up our selves and allow our being to become clear-visioned. We must do this to such an extent that our spiritual constitution becomes truly worthy of the 'brahman' nature and is in accord with it. Then it is 'brahman' or 'sat, for its part, that addresses and grants us the truth of its entire reality, without our having to do anything further about it. For this reason the Indian thinkers have never tried to work out qualitative definitions of 'brahman' or 'sat'. They have always stressed that at the very most our thoughts should circle about it on the 'neti-neti path', i.e. by the negation of its substantiality and qualitativeness, by saying: 'It is not that, not this and not that other thing.' The utmost they ventured to say on this subject was the mere demonstrative pronoun 'tat', which means 'that'. However, the really fitting human approach is just the noble silence that is prepared to 'hear'. Buddha two and a half millennia ago most impressively exemplified this noble silence for us as the only behaviour worthy of the real truth. Yet even today, every spiritual teacher in India will from the start subdue the loquacity of his pupil, lest from the outset the pupil dissipate 'brahman', with mere talk.

        "'Brahman' or 'sat' permits the mysterious arising of being out of not-being. It always originally occurs as an illumination. To this India gives the name 'chit'. Judge for yourself now how disastrous for an understanding of the Indian science of man is its translation by the modern term 'consciousness'? If modern psychology says 'conscious', it is always, by that very fact, inquiring as to the 'whom', as to a subject, which has a 'consciousness', to which a 'consciousness' belongs as a property. Or, of course, psychologists may think of 'consciousness' as a kind of intellectual receptacle in which a human subject stores the ideas it forms of itself and of the mental representations of the objects of an external world. The basic Indian term 'chit', however, has nothing to do either with a subject or with a 'mind' and their psychological functions. It does not depend, either, on a representational content nor on a thing at all. According to the Indian insight, 'chit' is the non-objectifiable occurrence of the primordial, emergent, opening-up illumination, which can happen per se, without necessarily requiring the agency of the least thing. Can not the sunlight shine, even when there is nothing at all in space? Of course, there was in India also a preliminary stage leading to this insight, to the effect that the primordial illumination could be represented only as the perception of something in the light of the being of man. This doctrine was also fond of using the old simile: being and thinking belong together like two bundles of reeds leaning on each other. If one bundle is taken away, the other one too falls down says the relevant Upanishad. More advanced Indian thought, however, regards this view as still undeveloped and crude. It always experiences the ultimate truth about reality as a primarily 'contentless' lighting-up." 2

             The paragraphs immediately above would agree with which of these statements?

        Brahma is God.

        If we manage to comply with the phenomenon that is worthy of our awe so perfectly that we catch sight of its entire truth, we have succeeded also in releasing ourselves from the chaos of all delusions.

        Beings are things to be represented in the consciousness of an ego-centred human subject in the forms of inner-psychic pictures.

        A human being who is deeply moved by awe and who remains in a state of reverence does not fall prey to the will-to-explore-and-dominate that which shows itself to him, but remains all ears and eyes for the summons of the awe-inspiring phenomena.

        The awe-inspired person wants to get hold of or to possess what he reveres, with the aid of his intellectual concepts.

        The awe-inspired person seeks only to get himself into the frame of mind appropriate to the revered object--one which renders him open to its summons and makes his vision clear for its beckonings.

        We should try to take conceptual possession of Brahman by means of abstractions of pictorial images and ordering powers.

        We must work to make our being clear-visioned, our spiritual constitution worthy of the "brahman" nature and in accord with it, so that 'brahman' can grant us the truth of its entire reality, without our having to do anything further about it.

        "Chit" is a kind of intellectual receptacle in which a human subject stores the ideas it forms of itself and of the mental representations of the objects of an external world; it can be represented only as the perception of something in the light of the being of man.

        The ultimate nature of reality is a primarily "contentless" lighting-up, the non-objectifiable occurrence of the primordial, emergent, opening-up illumination.

        Concluding Exercise

        • If you feel that this entire essay is nonsense press here.

        • If you feel that this essay represents the quintessence of wisdom press here.

        "All progress leads from the more material to the less material; until at length it conducts us into regions where reality is perceived without the use of any laborious material structure at all. You yourselves know that individuals of higher mentality do not always have to pass through a material experience. If they are cognizant of its cause and effect, they can grasp it without painstakingly suffering it: they do not need the laborious material structure to see its reality. It is the same way in the still higher levels beyond. You are all leading up to a consciousness of reality without its material shadows, its material reflections, its material manifestations, as aids to comprehension."

        Stewart Edward White, Across the Unknown

        1 Note that our very language reveals a delusory conception of reality: a sun that "rises" and a "world out there" that is only pasted together with discrete sensory inputs which lack any element of "out-thereness."

        2 Medard Boss, A Psychiatrist Discovers India