I was putting the finishing touches to my book when I came across an article I wrote back in 2006 which, for some reason, never saw the light of day, and so I have decided to publish it below:
Mind is like a mortgage; it gives you somewhere to live, it can bring on a headache and it can’t be located in space-time.
Homo Sapiens exist as part of an unfolding universe, as part of an ongoing evolutionary process. The world in which we live and which lives within us reveals itself to us gradually, day by day, in an unfolding, unfurling, blossoming kind of way. In our attempt to feel safe and secure in an uncertain world – or at least a world of which we are uncertain (certainty itself may turn out to have no meaning outside of human perception and consciousness) – we make many assumptions and hastily draw conclusions when we have only a limited amount of data.
If we are to successfully challenge our assumptions so that we can arrive at a point of greater understanding and awareness, it will be necessary now and then to take the time to detail exactly what we mean when we use particular words and phrases. For the purposes of this discussion I am using the word assumption to describe an acceptance that something is true even if it is something we hardly ever think about. The very use of the word assumption implies a lack of real thought, enquiry or investigation: it suggests that we just accepted it to be true without really bothering to look any deeper. It may be tempting to conclude that anything about which we rarely think will have little or no effect on our perception and on our world-view as a whole. For example we might point out to someone that they had always assumed that hares live underground just as rabbits do. That person might quite reasonably reply that, yes, they had assumed that, but that they had never given it much thought, and that surely it was of little or no consequence whether a hare lived above or below ground. And quite rightly so, we might say. There are likely to be a whole host of topics about which we habitually make assumptions precisely because we don’t bother to think about it or question it, and those assumptions may well have little effect on our level of consciousness or our understanding of life in general. But if, instead of discussing the living arrangements of hares we were talking about the origin of our species or about the nature of reality itself, it might be fair to say that making assumptions in these areas could drastically alter our perceptions, our understanding and our consciousness.
Assumptions can be considered as lazy beliefs, or beliefs which we hold without investing much thought into them. The point I would like to make, not as a claim of ultimate truth but as a suggested means of furthering our awareness, is that the assumptions we make are just as powerful in terms of forming our overall belief system as are the beliefs in which we consciously invest time and energy. Just because we don’t think about something, doesn’t stop that something from having an effect on us.
One such assumption that would seem to fall into the category of things that most people seldom think about is that the mind is located inside the head. The mind, like a mortgage, is one of those things that we all know to exist but that is seemingly impossible to locate in space-time. You may well have a mortgage and you might put up a feisty defence if I tried to prove to you that it did not exist, but if I asked you to show it to me you would not be able to. Of course you could show me the paperwork from your bank which provided proof or evidence of your mortgage, but the mortgage itself would remain elusive. The wind is another such phenomena – we know it exists yet we cannot see it. We can only see the effects of its existence.
So, coming back to mind, why do we assume that it lives inside the head? And if we can’t see it, can’t touch it and can’t prove where in space-time it exists, why do we necessarily assume that mind is contained somewhere and that there are separate entities called my mind and your mind?
I was pondering this one day and it occurred to me that perhaps a more accurate model for describing mind might be that of the Internet. If you sit at a computer and log on to the World Wide Web, you will be able to access the entirety of the Internet (assuming of course that you had all the necessary access codes and passwords and that you had time to see all of the Internet). But that doesn’t mean that the Internet is on your computer: the Internet remains where it was, i.e. everywhere (or world-wide) – you are just able to access it via your computer. Quantum theorists might interject by suggesting that in this case the Internet is both non-local and local at the same time: it is both here and everywhere concurrently.
Using this model we could say that mind is like the Internet and our brains are like individual computers. Because we access mind via our human bio-computers (our brains) we fall under the illusion that mind is in our brains. Perhaps we might need to go further and postulate that there are different levels of mind which account for the variety of different mental experiences we have. There might be such a thing as a local mind and a global mind and perhaps even a species mind or a universal mind. Perhaps these different levels or areas of mind need particular access codes or passwords to be experienced. We might find that these access codes are like doorways or portals and we might find that they are connected to varying degrees of vibration or wavelength. Just as pure white light sub-divides into different colours, universal mind or ‘mind-at-large’ might sub-divide into different distinct levels – there might even be seven levels of mind just as there appear to be seven distinct colours in the visible light spectrum. Or perhaps there are many more levels of mind which correlate to the parts of the electromagnetic spectrum that are invisible to the naked human eye. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.
The point is, we don’t know. And by pretending to know and making assumptions we may well be holding ourselves back, causing ourselves unnecessary suffering and thwarting our own evolution. Perhaps.
Perhaps this also begs the question if we don’t yet know how do we find out? And perhaps the answer to that is that we need to learn to live in the question and accept uncertainty rather than rushing to form conclusions based on insufficient data.
Perhaps we might need to look at other interrelated subjects in order to further our understanding of what mind is.
There is another assumption that falls into our category of no I never have thought about it, I just assumed… and that is the notion of the self.
When we refer to mind we often do so in a casual way without thinking about what we mean. Just as we tend to do things without thinking about why we do them – touching wood to ensure good fortune is a good example – so too we say things without really knowing why. We say things like “I don’t mind” or “I’ll keep it in mind” and even “my mind was all over the place”. It is the same with the concept of self: we say things like “he did it to himself”, “she was self-driven” and “the canteen is self-service”. Of course we can easily explain what we mean by these phrases: “I’ll keep it in mind” suggests that we have a container in which to keep our thoughts and considerations – it belies an underlying assumption that mind is in the head and cannot seep out. Many references to the self often mean that we acknowledge that it is we who have to do something and not somebody else: somebody who is self-driven will not rely on someone else to motivate them. But the use of the word self suggests an underlying belief that the self is a singular entity. We address ourselves with the word “I” and we talk about ourselves as “my self” or “myself” – singular. But is there such a thing as a singular self from which we form our sense of identity? Or might it be more useful and perhaps more accurate to consider ourselves to be composed of multiple selves? Perhaps we have one dominant self and a team of sub-selves. Or one dominant personality and a set of sub-personalities. Perhaps the existence of conflicts within our minds is due, not to a malfunction of the mind, but to a misunderstanding of what mind is. Perhaps the healthy functioning of a human being relies on reaching agreement and consensus between our many personalities. We may even find that the prevalence of conflict and disharmony in the outer world is in some way reflecting the inner conflict within each and every one of us. Maybe.
When we are angry with someone we give one version of events – we express one set of emotions. Later, when we have calmed down we might say that we didn’t really mean what we had said.
Another example is that of the unemployed man. At night before going to bed, having carefully considered his situation, he might conclude that he should attend the job centre first thing the next morning. When the next morning comes however he may be thinking differently and finds that he has found several reasons not to go. It is tempting in these situations to say that the man is just lazy or work-shy. But that doesn’t help him to change his situation.
Whatever we think we know we know subjectively. Even if our knowing is based on apparently objective scientific proof, that ‘proof’ is still being perceived subjectively via the mind and nervous system of the individual. So to talk about what is really the case and what is happening objectively is often meaningless. What we can do is try to work out what we can do to improve our lives. Somebody experiencing inner conflict may need to remodel his or her experiences in order to make sense of them.
When we turn off the TV, the stereo, the computer and also our conscious thinking, we find that there is a dialogue taking place within us. Many people know this experience of hearing the voiceless voices within. This is how we get in touch with our conditioning and how we begin to re-program ourselves.
The following excerpt is taken from my book The Light Within:
It is interesting to see that back in 2006 I was pondering the very nature of the self and wondering if we really do have a true, singular self. Now I can see that we absolutely do have a true self, but that self is not separate or different from the true self of other people. The true self is the innermost essence of who we all are. I now see that the mind of many personalities – the fragmented experience of self – is the ordinary waking state for most people. Until we realise the true self we do indeed live lives of fragmentation and inner conflict as we seek to create a consensus between our many sub-personalities. The personality of self-preservation needs to form agreement with the personality of compassion towards others. The personality of renunciation needs to get along with the personality of expansiveness who constantly wants to seek out new experience.
Working with our collection of personalities can be an effective way of “working through our stuff”. If working on our programs and bringing up our emotions feels too heavy we can switch our attention to creating a mind manifesto which will pacify all members of our mind. We can do this by creating inclusive statements instead of exclusive ones. Instead of saying “do I want to own a house or renounce all possessions?” we can say “I would like a nice house to live in and I would like to remain unattached to it”. Instead of asking “do I want to be positive and visualise positive outcomes, or do I want to spend my time being cautious and envisaging all possible outcomes” we could say “It is by spending a short amount of time considering various possible outcomes that I am able to choose which outcome I prefer and focus my energy on that. It is through the process of considering other outcomes that I feel more prepared to deal with any eventuality. This makes me feel stronger when it comes to envisaging the outcome that I do want”.