There never was a veil of perception. Nothing was ever covering up the external world because there is no external world. There is nothing out there existing outside of experience. There’s just perception. And the substance of perception is consciousness itself; it is what perception is made out of. Consciousness is the reality in which all experience happen and is all there is to existence as such. It is the substance of life.
Consciousness is what life is.
Our human lives are composed of experience. It is all there is to life as we know it, it is all we ever encounter and it is appearing in Consciousness.
What we thought of life, how we live on this blue planet in a universe external and independent to us, how our bodies are physical entities subject to decay, and how the world will continue its journey around the sun when our 80 years have passed and we go out of existence, have now turned out to be nothing but a dream – a movie that is being played out on the screen of Consciousness. There are many dreams of course, billions of them, each having a unique perspective of the world; but they all appear to the one and only dreamer, the consciousness that created them.
The beliefs about the external world are so deep-rooted and ingrained in our culture that it can be extremely difficult to let go of them. People generally do not want their version of reality challenged and to accept this new knowledge is to completely reorient your world view. Not only that, but what you thought yourself to be, this human body of flesh and bones is now in question.
If you are still having doubts or are still under the belief that a external world exist independent of us, contemplate this:
If an external world does not exist, we would have exact the same reasons to believe that it does as we have now. The objects of our experience would still behave in accordance to the laws of physics. There would still be the regularity and predictability we are used to, because that is how the dream is designed.
We believe that somehow the world would appear differently if an external world wasn’t out there. That the external world must exist and be the cause for our experiences, otherwise things wouldn’t have the behavior they do. But it is because things behave the way they do, that we infer the existence of an external world in the first place. In fact, our thoughts and beliefs about the external world are not separate from the dream – we are not outside the dream looking in – but our thoughts and theories are part of the dream. The illusion of the external world is part of the design. If things in this dream behaved in any other way, then our theories about the laws of physics would have been different. If object would fall upwards, then we would have our theory of gravity conform to that.
At first, it may appear as if the discoveries of science contradict the notion of consciousness as reality. However, what we’ve been examining so far is metaphysical truths about reality – and metaphysics is beyond the scope of science, which is limited to the realm of observable phenomena. The problem with science is that it makes unjustified inferences regarding the relation between phenomena and reality, namely that what we observe is basically what objectively exists. Scientific discoveries and scientific “facts” only relate to observable phenomena. The view that the world described by science is the real world, and the view that scientific theories can reliably approximate true knowledge of reality, is merely unjustified beliefs. In science, what underlies the nature of things is only inferred. No one has actually seen an atom. Subatomic particles, gravity and radioactivity have no existence other than as theoretical thought-models for describing phenomena. Space and time, whose objective existence these models depend on, are not out there, and consequently, neither is matter.
We have many electronic devices today that all seem to presuppose the existence of atoms. Electricity presupposes the existence of electrons. If you think about how the concept of electricity manifests in your experience, you’ll see that it is as perception. If you dream of a shining light bulb at night, does it mean that electricity is a powering force operating within your dream? No, electricity is just our name for a certain phenomenon. If you open up a computer you’ll find a bunch of circuits. What are they? Perceptions. If you perform experiments on them, trying to measure or ascertain their function, the result will come to you as perception. If you turn on the computer, booting up the operating system, what do you see? More perception. Let’s say you know the inner workings of a computer. You know the ins and outs of digital circuitry, the mechanics of memory modules and communication between internal devices. In short, you know all about what makes a computer a computer. Now, if you see a computer in a night dream, you will naturally assume that what’s powering the machine is electricity and it’s the digital processing going on inside that is the cause for the images on the screen. But once you wake up, you realize that none of these things were what constituted the computer; rather it was your all in your mind. It was Consciousness that manifested it. Likewise, this is the case of the waking state.
Questioner: But dreams and the waking state are different!
How are they different really? All they both are composed of are experience. Only the content differs, the substance of both the dream and the waking state are consciousness itself.
We can observe biological processes going on in the brain using high tech scanner equipment, but both the instruments and the measurements of brain activity it produces are made up of perception. They only exist as dream “stuff.” The correlation between the brain activity and the activity of the test subject is only inferred from the experience of these dream images. While the conclusions may be convincing, they collapse when we realize that it is all part of the dream. The scanning equipment, the test subject and the results of the measurement is all dreamed up, manifested as experience by consciousness. Likewise, the image of cells, bacteria and other biological entities under a microscope are all just perceptions; observed phenomena; dream dust.
The point that is being made is that scientific discoveries don’t themselves stand in opposition to our metaphysical claim that consciousness is reality. It’s only when scientists are trying to explain the world rather the describe it, that they slip into the realm of metaphysics and the stance of scientific realism is a slippery one, resting on assumptions and mere beliefs.
The illusion of individuality
The belief that there are many different beings in the world comes partly from the illusion of physicality. We think of ourselves as experiencers of the world. We believe ourselves to have a location in the world and that each and every one of us has a private consciousness, located in the body, with which we experience ourselves and our surroundings.
From images that arise in consciousness, we make the inference that there is a solid physical space in which we exist. But the images are just images. They aren’t images of reality. They are images appearing to reality. What they are representing have no real existence independent from experience. Yet, our conception of a physical reality is based on the contents of those images. For example, there’s an image of a room. The assumption is that there actually is a room there, and that I, the center of experience, is located inside the room. We think the room is the reality, when in fact it is just an image. It’s of course very convincing; if you start moving around inside the room, looking at it from different perspectives, it will seem as if you are in the room; not as a number of images that appear in succession in consciousness. And it’s not only visual images appearing, it’s also other perceptual imagery such as of balance and the feel of the draft against your cheek. The notion of physicality is derived from the experience of these perceptions, and thus physicality as such, is nothing more but a judgment about the contents of experience. This judgment is a thought – and thoughts, as everything else, are just another perception arising in consciousness. We believe thoughts to be private, that they belong to me, when in fact they are co-arising out of the one Consciousness with the rest of the perceptions that make up the apparent world, body and mind.
The different perspectives of people are just perceptions arising in the one Consciousness. It may seem as if you are one experiencer, located in the world, and I am another. However, physicality is just an illusion. Consciousness is reality, and thus does not have any location. Location is just a judgment from perceptual imagery. All there is to locations or different centers of experience are images arising in the one Consciousness. Your perspective and mine, the totality of our experience, arise to the same consciousness, the one and only experiencer. In fact, the notions of “Yours” and “Mine” completely lose their meaning in the light of this; for we are in essence, one and the same.
There is only one Being. The fundamental intuition we have of one’s own existence, this I-ness, is the perfume of the self-conscious underlying reality that manifests all of experience. It is the sense of Being and it is always present in all of us; it is that which experiences – Consciousness, reality. And what you are, the real you, your true self, is that.
You are that which experiences. You are not the body, nor the mind. Those are experiences appearing to you, to Consciousness itself, the only Being there is. The body, which you’ve come to know as “yours”, appears as part of the view, part of the landscape. Like other experiences such as trees and the sky, aches and pain, and thoughts and feelings, they are appearing to you as the content of the dream. But you are not the content; you are the witness to it.
And I am that too.
The experience of me, my thoughts and feelings, my good deeds and my bad actions, is witnessed by the same Consciousness that is the witness of “you”. This character that is now typing these words, which in conversations refers to himself as “me”, is just an experience. It’s an actor starring in the movie of “My Life”. But the character isn’t the one who experiences, it is experienced. It is experienced by the one Being, this I-ness, to which all of experience happens.
Questioner: But if your life arises in Consciousness, and your consciousness and my consciousness are one and the same, why don’t I see what You see? How come I don’t remember the experience of “you”?
You are trapped under the belief that the one that experiences should be able to remember all previous experiences. Consciousness doesn’t remember anything. Memories arise in consciousness, they are created and witnessed by it, but the memories pertain to the experience, not the experiencer. A memory is just a perception, not a faculty of consciousness. An experience is generally from a point of view of a body, with all its thoughts, feelings and memories. They are what constitute the human experience and it is created and witnessed by consciousness. But the next experience may be of a completely different body, with different thoughts, emotions and memories. Between those, there aren’t any remembering going on.
Think of a night dream, in which you experience from the eyes of a character, let’s say a farmer, with his own set of thoughts feelings and memories. Your dream is progressing from this point of view and you believe that you are this character. The next moment you dream yourself to be a completely different person, a king, him also with complete set of thoughts, feelings and memories. Having this experience of the king in no way entails that the memory of you being a farmer is arising as part of this king-experience. The farmer-experience is gone without a trace. What stays the same though, through both experiences is the sense of I-ness, the sense of Being.
When you wake up you realize that you experienced both the lives of the farmer and the king, that you saw from both points of view; and that the essence of them, their being, were one and the same: You. The king and the farmer, two completely different persons are both experienced by the same conscious witness. Although the example was of a night dream, the same principle applies in reality. All persons, and their lives, are experienced by the one Consciousness.
In the example of the night dream, the experience of the farmer preceded the experience of the king. In reality, persons exist simultaneously. The individual lives of people are all going on at the same time. And what makes a person’s life separate from another’s is the continuity of experience. The content of personal experience varies all the time; not only the view of the world, but the sensations of the body, the thoughts of the mind and the emotions inside us are constantly changing. But there is a continuity to it. The moments of our lives are connected; an uninterrupted flow, a stream of experience, coherent and in which experiences are causally linked. It starts at birth and ends in death. It is this continuity that the term “My life” denotes. This stream is seen through my eyes; and this point of view is what I consider myself to be; and what I’m seeing, the content of the stream, is “My life”.
This continuity however, is an illusion.
It is memory that gives the impression of continuity. Memories seem refer to the past, but they don’t; their content is in fact complete experiences in themselves. They are independent; their content is fresh, unique and as original as all other moments of experience. The nature of the memory-thought is what gives this impression of pointing to the past; in fact, the existence of the past is solely inferred from the presence of memory. But previous experiences do not cause memories, for there is no past, and thus there are no such things as previous experiences.
Time doesn’t exist. Consciousness is timeless. So how can we even have experience if time isn’t real? The answer is that all experience, all moments, exists simultaneously. Just as you can see all the frames at once on a rolled out movie roll, the experiences that constitute the lives of all people, animals and other conscious beings, in fact all of possible experience, is contained within timeless consciousness. And experiences doesn’t lie dormant, waiting to be experienced; all moments of experience happen simultaneously. While “simultaneously” is in fact not a good word, for it presupposes the existence of time, it is pretty close to describing how experience can happen outside of time. But it can be put differently: All experience is experienced in one single timeless moment.
Experience doesn’t happen in time, but time happens in experience. The sense of time arises in each moment, or to use the movie roll analogy, it arises in the frame. It only seems that moments are occurring in a specific temporal order, but in fact, the order in which they are experienced, the sense of this order, is itself co-arising together with any individual frame of experience. There is no temporal relationship between experiences – the experience of your birth co-exists alongside the experience of you dying. And part of the experience of dying is the memories of your adult life and your childhood, giving the impression that they occurred previous to this moment, but memories doesn’t refer to other experiences; they and their content are part of this experience.
Memories give the illusion of succession, of passing time. The memory of the alleged past co-arises with the content of the present moment and creates the sense of continuity. But just as every single frame on a movie roll is independent in the sense that it has no causal relationship with the one before or the one after, likewise, is this the case with experience. Continuity isn’t inferred from experiencing multiple frames of experience, but the sense of continuity arises in the moment; it is independent content of each frame. If you look on a single frame of a movie, the characters may be in the middle of a conversation that seems to have lasted a while. However, the actual frame has no causal connection to the previous frame; it could very well have been depicting a completely different scene. It is just in the content of this frame that suggests that the conversation has been going on a while.
So, there is no “stream” of experience, only individual independent frames of experience. Each frame contains content that alone is enough to convince us that it is causally connected to other frames. Furthermore, causality too is just an illusion. First of all, the notion of causality presupposes time and space, which have no objective existence. Secondly, causality is never taking place in our experience to begin with. Causality is just an after-thought, claiming that “event A caused event B.”
From each individual frame of experience arises the sense that it’s part of a stream, a person’s life. But the content of each frame is unique. The convincing continuity, connectedness and flow that is suggested by it isn’t real. And this means that the experience I had one moment ago and the experience I’m having now, is just as different as the difference between your life and my life. Thus, individual lives and indeed personhood as such is just an illusion – for there is only one Life and every moment of experience is a unique expression of it.