The Seat of the Soul lies at the intersection of our inner and our outer worldsJoseph Campbell
The Story of Enlightenment is a true tale of adventure.
It has a Hero, and ordinary person who is summoned into action to retrieve a treasure beyond value. The Hero will face challenging tests that will reveal his or her true character. And as in all great myths, the Hero must be willing to surrender everything, including life itself. If the Hero prevails, redemption is achieved.
But before we get into this adventure, We need to look at what ordinary life is like in the present moment. We need to understand why the adventure is necessary.
Our Cultural Imprint Shapes Our Reality
You have been imprinted by our culture. We all have. It is the nature of life that each person is shaped by his or her culture. The imprinting process begins the moment you are aware that you are in a separate body.
Everything about your life is shaped by your cultural imprint. This imprint effects your tastes, your preferences, your mores. There is no part of your life that is not rooted in your cultural imprint.
In fact, the cultural imprint shapes your picture of reality.
The overall cultural imprint is a almagam of many individual imprints. Let’s look a three of these imprints to give you an idea of how they shape your experience of reality.
Imprint #1: You have been told that reality is the physical world around you.
Our culture tellls us that reality is the outside world of form and matter. All of our formal education has been focused on how to live life effectively in this outside world.
But there is also an inside world. This is the world that we experience inside the body. What did our culture teach you about this world?………………….(long pause) that’s right, nothing, nothing at all.
If all reality is outside the body, and if what is inside the body is regarded as nothing more than illusion and imagination, then of course we are going to stay focused on the outer world. This cultural imprint throws our two worlds out of alignment.
Imprint #2: Your are a separate self. You were taught to think of yourself as a distinct person who inhabits your body and directs the course of your life. Education is teaches you how to understand and navigate the outer world around you. It teaches you how to survive, how to fit in, how to succeed and make a name for yourself.
Imprint #3: Science tells you that your consciousness is created by your brain.
There is no consciousness before the body is born. There is no consciousness after the body is dead. We have only one experience of all life and it is limited to the period of time that the body is alive.
What is the impact of these three cultural imprints when we look at them together?
Although we never state it this way, our culture is saying that you are alone inside your body. I am here in my body with my consciousness and you are over there alone in your body with your consciousness. Bodies cannot occupy the same space. They cannot co-mingle. Your consciousness and my consciousness are separate.
With this imprint I am left to feel separate, isolated and alone here inside my body. My experience of life is that I am inside this body looking out at everything around me. And everything else is relating back to me. In effect, I am the center of my own private universe.
We can think of this as “me”-centered consciousness.
This leaves me with the existential question: what is my place in all of life? How do I relate to you? How should you relate to me? Can I trust you? Do you want something from me? I have to sort all of this out.
I develop life strategies for making me feel safe in the world. These strategies usually focus on gaining the respect and friendship of people around me If they like and respect me then I feel safe.. If I feel safe I can get on with my life. Hopefully I can make something of myself.
(For more, see here.)
My Beliefs About “Reality” Create My Own Personalized World.
As I look out around me at the world, I believe I see objective reality. But I do not. I filter what I take in. I see an outer reality that conforms to what I already believe about the world. I see what I expect to see.
In effect, I create my own private reality. I then project this reality back out onto the world around me. I expect the world to interact with me as if my private reality were real.
From my own private reality I develop my own personal wants and wishes. I formulate goals and agendas and then set about to make them happen. In effect, I try to impose my personal reality onto you. You do the same to me. We all do this.
Human interactions are a process of sorting out our private realities and how these mesh—or do not mesh—with one another. When they do not mesh, we have conflict. If we are unable to resolve our conflict, we have problems. This is the human dilemma that we face as a race of people today.
We experience two diffeent worlds at the same time. There is the outer world which lies outside of us. This is the physical world around us. There is also a world that is inside of us. We live in both worlds simultaneously. We experience both simultaneously.
Life is lived at the intersection of these two worlds.
“Me-centered consciousness separates these two worlds. It creates a public outer life and a private inner life.
Our public life and our private life are likely to be at odds with each other. When this occurs, we usually say and do things in the outer world that are different than what we are thinking and feeling in our inner world.
Our two worlds are intended to be aligned. When they are, we live as we were intended to live. The Flow of Life comes into us, moves through our inner world and is then expressed by us in words and actions in the outer world.
If our two worlds are misaligned, the Flow of Life is blocked. Our outer actions in the world are based on something other than the flow of life.
The Ancient View of Consciousness
There is a second theory about the nature of consciousness. This view of consciousness is not a recent development. Mankind has over 3000 years of personal testimony to the experience of universal consciousness. It comes to us primarily from the yogic traditions of the Far East. There are similar accounts from other spiritual traditions as well.
Where do you find this universal consciousness? Look around you. It is anywhere and everywhere. It is outside of you. It is inside of you.
Universal consciousness is the experience of life as one seamless and undivided reality. When you live from this consciousness there is no separation. There is no private reality. You have private experiences but these are rooted in your universal oneness. There is no conflict to overcome.
The ancient wisdom tell us that this consciousness is who we really are. If this is true, then we face a major challenge.
But we face a major dilemma. We cannot experience this universal consciousness with the cultural imprinted which has been drilled into us in every aspect of our education. The concept of universal consciousness lies beyond the far reaches of “me”-centered consciousness. Metaphorically speaking, it can only be found in a land far, far away.
If you are serious about tasting it, then you have no choice. You will have to embark on your own Hero’s Journey.