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On the Ultimate Nature of Reality

January 10, 2016

Although we usually think of the world as the nature of reality, recent discoveries in modern physics tell a very different story. The physical universe (the world that we appear to live in) is not the ultimate nature of our reality. Instead the physical world is like a virtual reality, much like the virtual reality described in the Matrix.

So what is the ultimate nature of reality? To hear any kind of an accurate answer, it is necessary to listen to truth-realized beings. All truth-realized beings describe the same kind of answer, but not everyone that claims to be truth-realized really is. For the purposes of this discussion, the focus will be on the writings of Jed McKenna, Nisargadatta Maharaj and Osho. Many others could be mentioned, but these three have organized their answers in a very logical, coherent way that is consistent among them, and is consistent with what modern physics has to say.

Until the recent discoveries of modern physics (that have only been made in the last twenty years), most physicists thought the physical universe was only composed of matter and energy existing in some kind of space-time geometry, with all matter and energy reducing down to some kind of fundamental particles. This idea of a physical world was thought to be “the be all and end all of reality”.

Recent discoveries (most importantly the holographic principle and the nature of dark energy) have profoundly shook-up these mistaken concepts. The way the holographic principle and the nature of dark energy give rise to a physical world (that only appears to be composed of matter and energy existing in some kind of a space-time geometry, and that appears to be governed by the laws of physics that operate in that world) is fully discussed in the next article (On the Nature of Information and Consciousness). Only the briefest outline will be discussed here.

This brings us back to the really big question: If the physical world is not the ultimate nature of reality, then what is? The answer can be expressed in a few words, but since this answer is so strange and so difficult to comprehend, it is necessary to elaborate on the answer at length. The good news is that the recent discoveries of modern physics allow for a detailed exploration of the answer.

The answer is: the ultimate nature of reality is undifferentiated consciousness.

The reason this answer is so difficult to understand is because undifferentiated consciousness has both a mental aspect (in the sense of the ability to perceive) and a physical aspect (in the sense of an empty space). The traditional way to describe undifferentiated consciousness (in the sense of an empty space) is as the void, but a better description is as an empty space of potentiality. The nature of this potentiality is the nature of undifferentiated consciousness. This is both the potentiality to create everything in a physical world (creation consciousness) and the potentiality to perceive everything that appears in a physical world (perceiving consciousness). The irony (and confusing aspect of the answer) is this potentiality of undifferentiated consciousness (the potentiality to create and to perceive everything in a physical world) can only be described as nothingness.

This underlying nothingness (the void) is an empty space of potentiality, which is the nature of undifferentiated consciousness. Although we can think of the void as the underlying nature of reality (often called the ground of being) that supports the existence of the physical world, the better way to think of the void is as the ultimate nature of reality that gives rise to the physical world as a lower form of reality (like the images of a virtual reality projected from a screen to an observer).

eternal observer

Wheeler’s Universal Observer

Jed McKenna says the undifferentiated consciousness of the void (that McKenna calls Brahmanic consciousness) is the ground of the perceiving consciousness of the observer (that McKenna calls Atmanic consciousness) that perceives a physical world. In other words, undifferentiated consciousness not only creates a physical world, but also differentiates itself into perceiving consciousness in order to perceive that world. This idea is perfectly consistent with modern physics.

Atman Brahman

Atman-Brahman

There is no scientific or conceptual way to understand that the ultimate nature of reality is undifferentiated consciousness. As Jed McKenna likes to say “It just is”. Undifferentiated consciousness is the ultimate nature of being (and therefore the ultimate nature of existence). Since it is undifferentiated, it is often described with the non-dual concepts of Unity or One Being.

On the other hand, the physical world is inherently dualistic. The big mystery is to explain how the inherently non-dualistic ultimate nature of reality (undifferentiated consciousness) creates an inherently dualistic physical universe. This is what the recent discoveries of the holographic principle and dark energy explain. The key that solves this mystery is in the relation of a lower form of reality (like a virtual reality) to the ultimate nature of reality. This mystery is all about how something (the physical world) is created from nothing (the void). The two pieces of the puzzle that solve this mystery are the holographic principle and dark energy.

We have to start somewhere, and a good starting point is relativity theory and the principle of equivalence. The potentiality of undifferentiated consciousness is not only the potentiality to create a physical world but also the potentiality to perceive that creation. Empirically speaking, what good is it to create a physical world if that creation cannot be perceived and appreciated? Once we start to discuss perceiving consciousness, we are in the realm of the observer. Relativity theory and the principle of equivalence are all about the observer (specifically how a physical world appears from the point of view of a moving or an accelerating observer). Our starting point will therefore be to focus on the observer.

It’s usually stated that relativity theory is all about space-time geometry, but that’s not quite right. Relativity theory is all about how a space-time geometry appears from the point of view of a moving or accelerating observer. If the observer moves or accelerates in a different way, the space-time geometry appears different. There is a big conundrum here, since we have to set up a coordinate system in a space-time geometry to define the motion of the observer (how the observer’s position in space changes over the course of time), but the observer’s motion then affects the appearance of the space-time geometry the observer perceives. There is a kind of feedback loop, in which the motion of the observer affects the appearance of the space-time geometry the observer perceives, while the observer’s motion can only be defined within that space-time geometry.

The way this puzzle is solved in relativity theory is to make the observations of every observer relative to the observations of every other observer and to require a democracy of all observations, in which no observer’s observations have any more validity that any other observer’s observations. In other words, at least as far as the observations of things go, there is no such thing as absolute truth.

Relativity theory fundamentally describes the motion of an accelerating observer through a space-time geometry as a world-line. The term “world-line” is not an accident, but is chosen with great care. Firstly, the space-time geometry defines a physical world, specifically, the world that the observer perceives. Secondly, the observer follows a world-line through that space-time geometry precisely because the observer is only a point of view, and as a zero-dimensional point moves through a higher dimensional space, it traces out a one-dimensional line.

This is a critical point about relativity theory that is seldom appreciated for its full significance. The observer is literally a zero-dimensional point of view that traces out a one-dimensional world-line as the observer moves through the space-time geometry that defines the observer’s world.

As mentioned above, the appearance of that space-time geometry (as perceived from the point of view of the observer) depends on the state of the observer’s motion. Even with uniform motion (constant velocity), space appears to contract (measured lengths appear shorter) and time appears to dilate (measured time intervals appear longer). Things only appear weirder with accelerated motion.

The effects of accelerated motion are described by the principle of equivalence, which simply says every force an observer perceives in its world is equivalent to an observer’s accelerated frame of reference. For example, the force of gravity an observer perceives on the surface of a planet is equivalent to the frame of reference of an observer that accelerates through empty space in a rocket ship. Both observers perceive falling objects to accelerate through space, and there is no way to distinguish the acceleration caused by the force of gravity from the acceleration of objects that appears to take place in the accelerating rocket ship.

gravity

Principle of Equivalence

A critical concept that characterizes all accelerating frames of reference is the concept of energy. When a massive object moves through space, we say it has kinetic energy because of its mass and velocity. When gravity is involved, we say the object also has gravitational potential energy that can become converted into kinetic energy. When a massive object accelerates under the influence of the force of gravity, we say some of the gravitational potential energy is converted into kinetic energy. The principle of equivalence tells us that the force of gravity is equivalent to an accelerating frame of reference (like an accelerating rocket ship) and so this conversion of gravitational potential energy into kinetic energy is an expenditure of energy (like the energy expended by the rocket-ship’s thrusters that forces the rocket ship forward as it accelerates through empty space).

The way relativity theory describes the effects of an accelerating frame of reference is in terms of the curvature of space-time geometry. In effect, the force of gravity causes a contraction of space-time geometry. The force of gravity is equivalent to an accelerating frame of reference, in which space-time geometry appears to contract (similar to the contraction of lengths or the dilation of time intervals with uniform motion). This contraction of space-time geometry is the nature of the curvature of space-time geometry, and is the reason the force of gravity is often called nothing more than the curvature of space-time geometry.

The only reason objects follow curved paths when acted upon by the force of gravity is because space-time geometry is curved (which is the nature of gravity) and the shortest distance between two points in a curved space-time geometry is a curved path (like the path of a great circle on the surface of a sphere). When moving objects (that move along paths through the space-time geometry) have mass and energy, it is their mass and energy that causes the curvature of the space-time geometry, and so the motion of the objects and the curvature of the space-time geometry are coupled together. This explains the nature of gravity.

The principle of equivalence tells us the force of gravity is nothing more than an accelerating frame of reference. The critically important point that needs to be repeatedly stressed is that this curvature of space-time geometry always occurs in an observer’s accelerated frame of reference. It is the observer that enters into an accelerated frame of reference and follows an accelerated world-line through that curved space-time geometry. The space-time geometry only appears to curve (contract with the attractive force of gravity) because the observer follows an accelerated world-line through this curved space-time geometry.

Something very odd happens whenever the observer follows an accelerated world-line through the space-time geometry. This odd thing is the appearance of an event horizon (like the event horizon of a black hole). What is not as well appreciated is that an event horizon will arise not only with the force of gravity of a black hole, but in any accelerated frame of reference. An event horizon (often called a Rindler horizon) arises in any accelerated frame of reference (whenever the observer follows an accelerated world-line through the space-time geometry).

The nature of an accelerating observer’s event horizon is to limit the observer’s observations of things in space. This limitation of the observer’s observations is fundamentally due to the limitation of the speed of light. Nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. The observer’s horizon demarcates a boundary in space where the curvature of space (the contraction of space that occurs with the attractive force of gravity) is so great that even light cannot cross this boundary (and reach the observer), as observed from the point of view of the observer.

Observer's Horizon

Accelerating Observer’s Horizon

The reason an accelerating observer’s horizon is so important is this phenomena allows us to discuss the holographic principle, which is one of the recent discoveries in modern physics that allows for a better understanding of the ultimate nature of reality. A fuller discussion of the holographic principle (and its fundamental relation to the laws of physics) is found in the next article (On the Nature of Information and Consciousness). Only a brief outline is presented here.

The basic idea of the holographic principle is any region of space is bounded by a bounding surface of space, like the volume inside a sphere is bounded by the surface of the sphere. The nature of gravity in the bounded space (which is only the curvature of space-time geometry) is mathematically formulated in relativity theory, but there is an alternative (dual) description for gravity defined on the bounding surface. This surface description is the essence of the holographic principle. Relativity theory describes gravity in the bounded space, but the surface (holographic) description is the more fundamental description of gravity.

This brings us back to the principle of equivalence. An accelerating observer’s horizon is the nature of the bounding surface of space that allows for a surface (holographic) description of gravity within the bounded region of space. All the observations the accelerating observer can make of things in space are limited by the observer’s horizon, which limits observations within the bounded region of space. Those observations include observations of the effects of gravity. The holographic (surface) description of gravity is the more fundamental description.

The holographic principle says the bounding surface defines the nature of gravity in the bounded region of space in terms of bits on information encoded on the bounding surface of that space. Bits of information are encoded in a binary code of 1’s and 0’s in a pixelated way (like the bits of information encoded on a digital computer screen). Each pixel on the surface encodes a single bit of information.

Information01

Holographic Principle

The total number, n, of bits of information encoded on the surface is given in terms of the screen area, A, as n=A/4ℓ2, where ℓ2=ћG/c3 is the Planck area (given in terms of Planck’s constant, the gravitational constant and the speed of light). This tells us the pixel size is about a Planck area. The remarkable recent discovery of modern physics is that this fundamental relation for how bits of information are encoded on a bounding surface of space implies the nature of gravity (the curvature of space-time geometry) in the bounded region of space.

horizon information

Horizon Information

In effect, the bounding surface of space (the accelerating observer’s horizon) acts as a holographic screen (that encodes bits of information) and projects the images of things (as those images arise from bits of information encoded on the screen) to the point of view of the observer. The encoding of information occurs on a two dimensional screen, but the holographic images (that appear within the bounded region of space) appear three dimensional to the observer.

The Observer, the Screen and the Thing

Observer’s Holographic Screen

This holographic encoding and projection of images from a holographic screen to the point of view of an observer is really no different than the way a computer screen encodes bits of information and projects images to an observer, except the images appear three dimensional since their nature is holographic. This also explains the curvature of space-time geometry (the nature of gravity) within the bounded region of space. Just like images of things animated on and projected from a computer screen, those images can become distorted (in size and shape) which the observer will perceive as the curvature of space-time geometry.

Black hole projection

Holographic Projection

What then is the holographic principle telling us about the nature of observation in the bounded space? The answer seems strange, but there is no other possible answer. The observation of anything in that bounded space is like the projection of an image encoded on a holographic screen to the central point of view of an observer. A holographic screen is a bounding surface of space that encodes bits of information. An image encoded on a holographic screen is composed of bits of information encoded on the screen. The observation of the image by an observer thus corresponds to the projection of the image from the holographic screen to the point of view of an observer. In computer terms, the observation of the image of something by an observer is like a screen output from a holographic screen to the point of view of an observer.

eternal observer

Wheeler’s Universal Observer

A holographic screen is a bounding surface of space that encodes bits of information, which relativity theory describes as an event horizon, like a black hole horizon. Since we want to discuss an observer’s world rather than black holes, instead of black hole horizons we need to discuss cosmic horizons. While black hole horizons arise from the force of gravity, cosmic horizons arise from the force of dark energy.

The connection to cosmology naturally arises because there is another force (in addition to gravity) called the force of dark energy. Dark energy is like a force of anti-gravity, which is understood in relativity theory as a cosmological constant that gives rise to the exponential expansion of space, which always expands relative to the central point of view of an observer. Due to the limitation of the speed of light, the force of dark energy gives rise to an observation-limiting cosmic horizon, with the observer always at the central point of view. If the observer’s cosmic horizon acts as a holographic screen, then all the bits of information that define everything that can possibly appear in the observer’s world are encoded on the observer’s cosmic horizon (its holographic screen).

Dark energy is like a repulsive force of anti-gravity causing space to expand at an accelerated rate relative to the central point of view of an observer. Although this may seem strange, relativity theory describes the effect of dark energy (called a cosmological constant) in terms of the exponential expansion of space. Space appears to expand away from an observer (at the central point of view) at an accelerated rate. The farther out in space the observer looks at things, the faster space appears to expand away from the observer. At some point, space appears to expand away from the observer at the speed of light. Since nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, this point defines the boundary of a cosmic horizon that limits the observer’s ability to see things in space.

exponential expansion of space

Expansion of Space

How can space appear to expand? Relativity theory gives the answer in terms of the curvature of space-time geometry, which is measured by the space-time metric. Einstein’s field equations for the space-time metric give a mathematical description of geometric curvature. In effect, space appears to contract with the attractive force of gravity, while space appears to expand with the repulsive force of dark energy. This apparent contraction or expansion of space occurs relative to the point of view of an observer.

Einstein Field Equations

Einstein’s Field Equations

Just as the event horizon of a black hole represents a boundary in space where the contraction of space (due to the attractive force of gravity) is so strong that even light cannot cross the boundary (and escape away from the black hole as observed from the point of view of a distant observer), so too a cosmic horizon represents a boundary in space where the expansion of space (due to the repulsive force of dark energy) is so strong that even light cannot cross the boundary (and reach the central point of view of an observer).

Black hole

Black Hole Horizon

Unlike a black hole horizon (defining a region of space from which light cannot escape as observed by a distant observer), a cosmic horizon could be understood as a white hole (defining a region of space into which light cannot enter as observed by the observer at the central point of view), but in light of the holographic principle, a cosmic horizon is best understood as defining a region of space for an observer and its observable world.

expanding universe

Cosmic Horizon

The strange thing relativity theory tells us about dark energy is every observer is at the central point of view of its own cosmic horizon. The cosmic horizon is a bounding surface of space that surrounds the observer at the central point of view and limits the observer’s observations of things in space. This limitation in the observer’s observations of things in space is due to the limitation of the speed of light (which is like the maximal rate of information transfer in a computer network) and the exponential expansion of space (which is unlimited). Nothing can travel faster than the speed of light except for empty space (the expansion of which is unlimited). Since every observer is surrounded by its own cosmic horizon, the observer’s cosmic horizon is called observer-dependent.

The holographic principle tells us the observer’s cosmic horizon is a bounding surface of space that acts as a holographic screen encoding bits of information for everything the observer can possibly observe in that bounded space. Each observation of something is like a screen output (that projects the image of the thing) from the holographic screen to the central point of view of the observer.

The Observer, the Screen and the Thing

Observer’s Holographic Screen

Just like a screen output from a computer screen, the image is projected to the point of view of an observer. Just like an image displayed on a computer screen, the image is composed of bits of information. Just like a movie displayed on a computer screen, the image is animated over a sequence of screen outputs.

The holographic principle is a duality. Within a bounded region of space, the usual laws of physics govern the behavior of everything that appears within that space. For example, the law of gravity is governed by Einstein’s field equations for the space-time metric, while the laws of electromagnetism and the nuclear forces are governed by the usual quantum field theories that formulate the standard model of particle physics. The problem with the field theory description of what appears to happen in the bounded space is the holographic principle tells us that this description is only a low energy limit that arises as a thermodynamic average. The more fundamental description is the holographic description of bits of information encoded on the bounding surface of that space.

Although we can start with Einstein’s field equation in the bounded space (as they describe the nature of gravity, and with unification of the laws of physics, all other things that appear in the bounded space) and then infer the holographic principle, the correct way to understand the holographic principle is to start with the holographic principle and then infer Einstein’s field equations (and with unification, the standard model of particle physics). The logic works both ways, but the holographic principle is more fundamental than Einstein’s field equations, just as a computer screen that displays images of a movie is more fundamental than the movie. The bits of information defined on the screen (and the flow of energy through the screen that organizes bits of information into the observable form of images) are more fundamental than the projected images of the movie. The holographic principle also tells us that the consciousness of the observer (present at the central point of view of the screen) is more fundamental than the projected images of the movie.

To put it simply, the consciousness of the observer cannot arise from an observed image. The observed images arise from the way bits of information are encoded on a holographic screen, but the consciousness of the observer (like the holographic screen that encodes bits of information for those images) must arise from something that is more fundamental. The really big question is about the nature of this most fundamental of all things. The irony is this most fundamental of all things can only be described as void or nothingness.

To be clear about things, this most fundamental of all things is only describable as an empty space of potentiality (called the void). The potentiality of the void is the potentiality to create everything that appears in a world (as images of things in a world are projected from a holographic screen like the animated images of a movie) and the potentiality to perceive things in that world (as images of things in that world are projected to the central point of view of the observer of that world).

The consciousness of the observer is always differentiated (as it arises at a focal point in relation to a screen), while the consciousness of the empty space of potentiality can only be described as undifferentiated. The potentiality of the void to create and perceive a world is the nature of undifferentiated consciousness.

As the most fundamental of all things, the undifferentiated consciousness of the void is the primordial nature of existence. Before an observer and its world can come into existence, the void must exist.

The only part of this explanation that is not a standard part of modern physics is that the primordial existence of consciousness is undifferentiated, and that this primordial, undifferentiated nature of consciousness is identical to what physicists call the void.

We can now describe the scientific mechanism that explains how a holographic screen arises. Whenever dark energy is expended (the exponential expansion of space), a cosmic horizon arises (a bounding surface of space) that surrounds the observer at the central point of view. The holographic principle then explains how bits of information are encoded on the horizon (that acts as a holographic screen and projects the images of things observed in that bounded space to the central point of view of the observer). Observable images of things arise from the way bits of information encoded on the screen are organized into the form of images. Although the bits of information are encoded on a two dimensional screen, the observed images appear three dimensional since their nature is holographic.

The observation of images by the observer is really no different than the way images are projected from a computer screen to the point of view of an observer in a screen output. In this sense, an observational event is a screen output, and the animation of the images over time takes place over an ordered sequence of screen outputs, just like the animated frames of a movie displayed on a digital computer screen.

The next big question is: What gives rise to this animation? The answer is the animation naturally arises in the normal flow of energy. What exactly is the normal flow of energy? The one-world-per-observer paradigm and the natural flow of energy through the observer’s world answer this question.

The one-world-per-observer paradigm says everything the observer can observe in its world is defined on its own holographic screen. With the expenditure of dark energy, an observer-dependent cosmic horizon always surrounds the observer at the central point of view. This bounding surface of space acts as a holographic screen that encodes all the bits of information for everything the observer can possibly observe in that bounded space (which defines the observer’s world). Every observer has it own holographic screen.

What about a consensual reality shared by many observers? The answer is many observers can share information (in the sense of a Venn diagram) to the degree their respective holographic screens (cosmic horizons) overlap. This is just like the kind of information sharing that occurs in an interactive computer network. Each observer observes its own holographic screen, but the interactive nature of information sharing within the network of screens allows different observers to interact with each other and share a consensual reality to the degree their screens overlap.

Overlapping bounded spaces

Overlapping Bounded Spaces

The natural flow of energy through the observer’s world is best explained by the second law of thermodynamics, which simply says heat tends to flow from a hotter to a colder object because the hotter object radiates away more heat. The connection to the holographic principle naturally arises because every horizon has a temperature, and therefore radiates away heat.

Hawking radiation2

Hawking Radiation

The observer’s world is limited by its own cosmic horizon, which can only arise with the expenditure of dark energy (the exponential expansion of space). In relativity theory, dark energy is represented by a cosmological constant Λ, which determines the radius R of the cosmic horizon. The normal flow of energy through the observer’s world naturally arises from an instability in the amount of dark energy. This instability in the cosmological constant is how the big bang event is understood in inflationary cosmology. This instability is like a phase transition from a meta-stable false vacuum state to a stable true vacuum state.

quantum tunneling

Meta-stable state

Relativity theory determines the radius of the observer’s cosmic horizon in terms of the cosmological constant as R2/ℓ2=3/Λ. At the time of the big bang event (that creates the observer’s world) inflationary cosmology hypothesizes that R is about a Planck length ℓ and Λ is about 1. Due to an instability in the cosmological constant, Λ decreases in value and R inflates in size. As Λ decreases in value to zero, R inflates in size to infinity, which represents the true (stable) vacuum state.

This idea is also consistent with the current measured value of Λ=10−123 (based on the rate with which distant galaxies are observed to accelerate away from us), which also corresponds to the size of the observable universe (about 15 billion light years).

accelerating universe

Accelerating Universe

The normal flow of energy in the observer’s world arises due to this instability in the cosmological constant. The holographic principle determines the temperature of the observer’s cosmic horizon in terms of its radius as kT=ћc/2πR. At the time of the big bang event (Λ=1) the horizon temperature is about 1032 degrees Kelvin. As the cosmological constant decreases in value, the horizon inflates in size and cools in temperature. When the stable true vacuum state (Λ=0) is finally reached, the horizon inflates in size to infinity and cools to absolute zero.

The normal flow of energy through the observer’s world reflects the normal flow of heat (under the influence of this thermal gradient), as heat flows from a very hot state of the observer’s world (at the time of the big bang creation event) to a final stable state of absolute zero (called the heat death of the observer’s world).

If we take the big bang theory seriously, we understand at the moment of creation of the observer’s world, that world is about a Planck length in size, but that world then inflates in size because of an instability in dark energy. This instability in dark energy is like a process of burning that burns away dark energy, which occurs as a phase transition from a meta-stable false vacuum state to a more stable truer vacuum state. The nature of this phase transition is the foremost example of symmetry breaking.

The expenditure of dark energy breaks the symmetry of empty space by constructing an observation-limiting cosmic horizon surrounding the observer at the central point of view. The instability in dark energy is like a process of burning that burns away the dark energy and “undoes” this broken symmetry. As the dark energy burns away to zero, the cosmic horizon inflates in size to infinity, and the symmetry is restored. We understand this “undoing” of symmetry breaking is like a phase transition from a false vacuum state to a true vacuum state. As the phase transition to the true vacuum state occurs, dark energy burns away.

The second law of thermodynamics simply says that heat tends to flow from a hotter object to a colder object because the hotter object radiates away more heat, which is thermal radiation. The instability in dark energy explains the second law as dark energy burns away, the observer’s world inflates in size and cools in temperature, and heat tends to flow from hotter states to colder states of the observer’s world.

normal-flow-of-energy

Second Law of Thermodynamics

The normal flow of energy through the observer’s world simply reflects this normal flow of heat as the dark energy burns away and the observer’s world inflates in size and cools. This normal flow of energy naturally arises in a thermal gradient. One of the mysteries of the second law is understanding time’s arrow, or how the normal course of time is related to this normal flow of energy. The burning away of dark energy explains this mystery. As far as the holographic principle goes, a thermal gradient is also a temporal gradient. The holographic principle reduces concepts of temperature, the normal flow of energy and the course of time to geometry, and so these concepts are intrinsically related.

To say the course of time arises in a temporal gradient is the same as to say the flow of energy arises in a thermal gradient. This is what the holographic principle, the burning away of dark energy and the second law of thermodynamics tell us. As dark energy burns away, the observer’s cosmic horizon inflates in size and cools in temperature, which drives the normal flow of energy and course of time in the observer’s world. This is like the flow of a river down a mountainside under the influence of gravity, except the force of dark energy is repulsive, like a kind of anti-gravity. The gradient is established as dark energy burns away, which is like a decrease in the repulsive force of anti-gravity.

What are we to make of the expenditure of other forms of energy besides dark energy? Modern cosmology and physics again give an answer in terms of symmetry breaking. All forms of positive energy arise from dark energy through a process of symmetry breaking. This allows an observer’s world to spontaneously emerge from the void along the lines of the inflationary scenario, but only if the total energy of that world adds up to zero.

The remarkable discovery of modern cosmology is cosmic observations indicate the total energy of the observable universe is exactly zero. This is possible in relativity theory as the negative potential energy of gravitational attraction can exactly cancel out the total amount of dark energy and all other forms of positive energy that arise from dark energy.

The fact the total energy of the observable universe exactly adds up to zero tells us something important. Since everything in the world is composed of energy and all energy ultimately adds up to zero, this tells us everything is ultimately nothing.

ying-yang

Ying-Yang Balance

The normal flow of energy through the observer’s world (that arises as the observer’s cosmic horizon inflates in size and cools in temperature, and as heat flows from hotter states to colder states of the observer’s world) allows us to understand how the observer’s world is animated. In the sense of images encoded on the observer’s holographic screen and projected to the central point of view of the observer, this animation occurs while the observer appears to follow an accelerated world-line through the space-time geometry of its world (as projected from its holographic screen). Each observational event on that world-line is like another screen output, but the observer’s holographic screen (horizon) can only arise because the observer is in an accelerated frame of reference.

Observer's Horizon

Accelerating Observer’s Horizon

This idea of the normal flow of energy is what relativity theory has been telling us about all along. Whenever an observer enters into an accelerated frame of reference, whether characterized by the contraction of space (the attractive force of gravity) or the expansion of space (the repulsive force of dark energy) an event horizon (such as a black hole or cosmic horizon) arises that acts as a holographic screen (encoding bits of information defining everything in the observer’s world). The observer’s holographic screen not only projects images of all things in the observer’s world to the observer’s central point of view, but also projects the observer’s space-time geometry. The observer only appears to follow an accelerated world-line through its projected space-time geometry.

This space-time geometry is defined by the spatial relationships among all the images of things (as encoded on the holographic screen) and the way those images are animated over a sequence of screen outputs (as projected to the central point of view of the observer). This projection and animation of the observer’s space-time geometry is really no different than the kind of observable space-time geometry projected from and animated on a digital computer screen, except the images are holographic.

This projection and animation of the observer’s space-time geometry (and all images of things in the observer’s world) from a holographic screen only arises in the normal flow of energy that gives rise to the observer’s holographic screen and animates all the images projected from that screen to the central point of view of the observer. We understand the screen only arises (as an event horizon) in the observer’s accelerated frame of reference (which requires the expenditure of energy), and this flow of energy in turn animates everything in the observer’s world (over a sequence of screen outputs) as the observer appears to follow a world-line through its projected and animated space-time geometry.

The Observer, the Screen and the Thing

Observer’s Holographic Screen

The equivalence principle tells us the observer’s accelerated reference frame (equivalent to the exertion of a force) requires the expenditure of energy, just like a rocket ship that expends energy through the force of its thrusters as it accelerates through empty space.

gravity

Principle of Equivalence

We now understand how the observer’s world is animated by the expenditure of this energy (the normal flow of energy through the observer’s world). This energy only arises from an instability in the cosmological constant that causes the observer’s cosmic horizon to inflate in size. As the observer’s cosmic horizon inflates in size and cools, heat flows from hotter states to colder states of the observer’s world, which drives the normal flow of energy through the observer’s world. This thermal expenditure of dark energy is what ultimately animates everything in the observer’s world.

The holographic principle tells us the animation of everything in the observer’s world arises as a sequence of screen outputs (projecting the images of things from the observer’s holographic screen to the observer’s central point of view). This sequence of screen outputs occurs in the normal flow of energy animating everything in the observer’s world, as the observer appears to follow a world-line through its projected space-time geometry.

Quantum theory tells us there is a subtle aspect of this animation of things over a sequence of screen outputs. This subtlety is the problem of choice. The way bits of information are organized on the observer’s holographic screen is always described by a quantum state of potentiality that includes all possible ways in which bits of information can become organized on the observer’s screen. With each screen output a choice is made as an actual state of organization is chosen from this quantum state of potentiality. In the sense of a sum over all possible paths, each choice is a decision point (on the observer’s world-line) that chooses a particular path.

Decision point

Decision Point

The quantum state can always be formulated as a sum over all possible paths that connect two points in some geometry (a configuration space). Each path is weighted with a probability factor called the wave function. This probability factor depends on a quantity called the action, which is a measure of distance along the path between the two points. This formulation of the quantum state naturally gives rise to an interference pattern (as is seen in the double slit experiment), as the wave function interferes with itself. The most likely path (in the sense of quantum probability) is called the path of least action (the classical path) and is like the shortest distance path between two points in the geometry.

Sum over all paths

Sum over all Paths

This formulation of the quantum state (as a sum over all possible paths) is relevant to the holographic principle because the observer follows the path of a world-line through its projected space-time geometry. Each decision point on the observer’s path is a screen output that chooses a particular configuration state of information (as encoded on the observer’s holographic screen) from the quantum state of potentiality that describes all possible ways information can become encoded on the screen. At each decision point on the observer’s path, the observer must make a choice about which path to follow, and only the observer can choose which path to follow.

As the observer (the focal point of consciousness present at the central point of view of its holographic screen) appears to follow a world-line through it space-time geometry (as projected from its screen), the observer observes images of things in its world (defined by the way bits of information are encoded on its screen). Each observation of things occurs in a screen output (which chooses a specific way in which information is organized on the screen from a quantum state of potentiality describing all possible ways in which information can become organized on the screen). If different choices are made, then different screen outputs occur and the observer follows the path of a different world-line.

Each choice is a decision point on the observer’s path. The observer’s time-line is only an ordered sequence of choices (screen outputs) on its world-line. The big problem with choice is bias, and it is the observer that expresses its own bias as it chooses to follow a particular path. The problem with making choices (making decisions that lead the observer to follow a particular path) is the bias expressed by the observer as one possible path is chosen instead of another possible path. Only the observer can express its own bias as it chooses which path it will follow.

What is the problem with biased choice? The answer is the laws of physics lose their predictability. Even if the path of least action is weighted with a humongous probability factor and non-classical paths are weighted with tiny probability factors, if there is sufficient bias in the way choices are made, a non-classical path can be chosen from the sum over all possible paths, and the classical limit is not guaranteed. The laws of physics (inherent in the probability factors) lose predictability. In gambling terms, if there is bias in the way the probability distribution is measured, all bets are off. In more metaphorical terms, if there is bias in the way the probability distribution is measured, the laws of physics (like the law of gravity) can be bent, and it may be possible to walk on water.

there is no spoon

There is no Spoon

What is the nature of this bias? The answer is the observer expresses bias with its focus of attention. The observer only observes its own holographic screen, but as the observer shifts the focus of its attention onto different things displayed on the screen, the observer expresses its bias. If the observer directs the focus of its attention in an unbiased way, no bias is expressed, but if the observer directs the focus its attention in a biased way, then bias is expressed. The expression of bias in the observer’s focus of attention is the process by which bias is expressed as choices are made that choose a particular screen output (a particular way in which information is encoded on the observer’s holographic screen) from the quantum state of potentiality that encompasses all possible screen outputs (all possible ways in which information can be encoded on the holographic screen).

In terms of the world-line the observer appears to follow through its projected space-time geometry, each screen output (each observational event on the observer’s world-line) is a decision point where the observer chooses to follow a particular path on that world-line (chosen from all possible paths the observer can possibly appear to follow). At each decision point on the path, the observer chooses a particular screen output and chooses to follow a particular path.

Environmental decoherence explains how the observer’s focus of attention on objects in its world causes those objects to appear distinct, well-defined and classical in nature. This is the problem of how a quantum state of potentiality (characterized by the coherence inherent in the interference pattern of a wave-function) is reduced to an actual classical state. The observer’s focus of attention on objects in its world cuts-off interactions of the environment with the object except for random thermal interactions. The effect of these random thermal interactions (of the environment with the object) then leads to environmental decoherence, which occurs by averaging over the random thermal interactions. In effect, the entangled quantum state of the combined system of object and environment is reduced to the quantum state of only the object, while the random thermal interactions of the environment with the object causes the quantum state of the object to reduce to an apparent classical state.

Bias in the observer’s focus of attention explains the self-limiting emotional body feelings that arise as the observer focuses its attention on its life-form (or on its mentally constructed body-based self-concept) and as its life-form (or self-concept) is emotionally related to the form of other things in its world. The net effect of the observer limiting its focus of attention to its life-form (or its self-concept) and to the emotional expressions that relate its life-form to the form of other things in its world is the observer perceives self-limiting emotional body feelings to arise from its life-form, which is the only way the observer can identify itself with its life-form. Only perception of self-limiting body feelings can lead the observer to identify itself with its life-form.

How is bias in the observer’s focus of attention expressed? The answer is all bias is emotional bias. Emotional bias is like an emotional feedback loop that directs the observer’s focus of attention in an emotionally biased way.

How does this emotional feedback loop operate? Emotional energy is the energy localized to a life-form that flows through the life-form and animates all the behaviors of the life-form. Just like the animated form of images displayed on a computer screen, the expression of this emotional energy is the flow of energy through the screen (or through a network of screens in an interactive computer network) that relates the life-form to the form of other things displayed on the screen. These relations are always emotional. The observer only observes the form of things (defined by the way information is encoded on the screen) and the flow of energy (that energizes things and relates them to each other as displayed on the screen), but something very odd happens as the observer perceives the flow of emotional energy that relates the form of things displayed on the screen.

This odd thing is the observer identifies itself with the form of its life-form. The observer’s life-form is like the central character of an animated movie of images the observer perceives on its holographic screen. The observer always perceives its world through the organs of sensory perception of its life-form. Some organs of sensory perception transfer external perceptions, like sight, sound, smell, taste and touch, and some transfer internal perceptions, like emotional body feelings, thoughts, memories, and other images of mental imagination. The observer’s life-form is very much like its avatar in a virtual reality world displayed on a computer screen, but the analogy of its central character in a movie projected on a screen is also a good analogy. In reality, the observer only observes the form of things in its world (which include the animated image of its life-form) from its central point of view (that arises in relation to the screen). The big question is why does the observer identify itself with the animated form of its life-form?

The observer identifies itself with its life-form because it really feels self-limited to the form of its life-form as it perceives the flow of emotional energy through its life-form that animates all the behaviors of its life-form and emotionally relates its life-form to the form of other things the observer perceives in its world. The observer really feels self-limited to the form of its life-form as it perceives emotional body feelings transferred by internal organs of sensory perception within its body. Those sensory perceptions make the observer feel like it is really embodied. That is the only reason the observer identifies itself with the form of its body.

How does the observer’s self-identification with its life-form express an emotional bias in the way choices are made? The observer’s bias is expressed with the observer’s biased focus of attention, but this bias is always emotionally directed. The nature of the expression of emotional energy is the expression of desire. The expression of desire always emotionally relates the observer’s life-form to the form of some other thing the observer perceives in its world. When desires are satisfied, feelings of connection are expressed (as the flow of emotional energy through the observer’s life-form comes into alignment with the flow of energy through the other thing). These feelings of connection feel “good”. When desires are frustrated, feelings of disconnection are expressed (as the flow of emotional energy through the observer’s life-form goes out of alignment with the flow of energy through the other thing). These feelings of disconnection feel “bad”.

The observer is emotionally biased to choose feelings of connection (that feel “good”), which is how the observer expresses its emotional bias (as its focuses its attention on feeling “good”). The observer is biased to direct the focus of its attention on feeling connected, and to avoid feelings of disconnection that feel “bad”. Emotional bias (in the observer’s focus of attention) arises out of its desire to feel “good” (connected).

There are several things worth pointing out about this emotional bias in the observer’s focus of attention. The first is that emotional bias in the observer’s focus of attention leads to the expression of more biased emotions. That is how the emotional feedback loop operates. Only the observer’s biased focus of attention on the expression of its own biased emotions can energize the expression of its biased emotions. The observer’s biased focus of attention on the expression of its desires is an investment of emotional energy in its world that allows it to live a life in its world. The expression of this biased emotional energy is essential for the animation of the observer’s life-form (its character) in its world.

The second thing to point out is that emotional bias in the observer’s focus of attention can only lead to the expression of more biased emotions. Everything the observer can possibly observe in its world is chosen from a quantum state of potentiality. The essence of this state of potentiality are quantum probability factors that give the probability that some particular observation can occur. These probability factors typically give rise to an interference pattern. The problem is quantum probability factors only have predictability if choices are made in an unbiased way. All the choices the observer can make in its world (at every decision point on the observer’s world-line as the observer chooses to follow some particular path) can only arise with the observer’s focus of attention on its world. If there is emotional bias in the observer’s focus of attention (bias in the way the observer makes choices in its world), the quantum probability factors lose predictability.

In metaphorical terms, every such emotionally biased choice the observer makes (with its biased focus of attention) is an interference with the normal flow of things in its world. The expression of biased emotional energy is always an interference with the normal flow of energy through its world. The normal flow of energy (which only arises as a thermodynamic average) is inherently unbiased in nature.

Only the observer can interfere with the normal flow of energy through its world with its emotionally biased focus of attention on its world. When choices are made in the normal (unbiased) way, energy flows in its normal way. In a state of non-interference, all things tend to follow the path of least action. Since the path of least action expends the least amount of energy needed for the observer to experience its world, a state of interference is always a waste of energy. When the observer interferes with the normal flow of energy through its world (with its biased focus of attention), it only wastes its time and energy.

Another thing to point out is that only a state of non-interference can lead to the “best of all possible worlds”. Only if the observer stops interfering with the normal flow of energy through its world (and stops expressing an emotional bias with its focus of attention) can the flow of energy through all things in its world come into alignment, which gives rise to non-specific feelings of connection. Since these feelings of connection feel “good”, this is the best possible world the observer can experience.

The last thing to point out is that the observer can only identify itself with its life-form if it expresses biased emotional energy. These biased emotions not only express the desire to feel “good”, but also the desire to survive and live a life in the observer’s world. Biased emotions are inherently self-defensive in nature since they are emotionally biased in favor of the survival of the observer’s life-form (its character). It is only the expression of biased emotions that makes the observer feel self-limited to its life-form and identify itself with its character. The observer’s self-identification with its life-form can only arise out of the expression of self-limiting emotions that arise with its biased focus of attention.

The observer’s self-identification with its life-form is inherently emotional. The observer feels self-limited to its life-form as it perceives self-limiting emotional body feelings expressed as desires are frustrated or as self-defensive emotions are expressed in response to the frustration of desires or a threat to survival. The emotional bias that arises out of the observer’s self-identification with its life-form can only arise if there is an assumption (on the part of the observer) that its existence depends on the survival of its life-form.

This is a critical point that cannot be emphasized enough. The observer can only identify itself with its life-form if there is an assumption (on the observer’s part) that its existence depends on the survival of its life-form. This assumption is what drives the observer’s emotionally biased focus of attention, its desire to interfere, and its desire to defend itself. Self-limiting emotional expressions only reinforce the observer’s self-identification with its life-form (since their expression makes the observer feel self-limited to its life-form), and in the process lead to the expression of more self-limiting emotions. This vicious circle is driven by the observer’s emotionally biased focus of attention and is based on the observer’s mistaken assumption that its existence depends on the survival of its life-form.

Without this mistaken assumption, there really is nothing to defend or interfere with in the observer’s world, as that world is no more real than the images of a movie displayed on a screen the observer is watching or a virtual reality game displayed on a screen the observer is playing. The observer’s existence does not really depend on what it observes.

Can the observer really stop existing? Clearly the observer’s life-form can appear to be born, develop, survive and eventually die, but that life-form is just the way bits of information are encoded and organized on the observer’s holographic screen with the tendency to self-replicate form, which is called coherent organization. Just as life-forms can develop coherent organization and appear to be born, develop and survive, life-forms can lose coherent organization and appear to die. Coherent organization is a fundamental aspect of life in a holographic world that arises from quantum entanglement. Coherence is a result of how bits of information are encoded and entangled on a holographic screen.

The holographic principle tells us these bits of information are defined by the n eigenvalues of an nxn matrix, where n=A/4ℓ2 depends on the surface area of the observer’s holographic screen. For any macroscopic observation, this is a huge number since the Planck area is about 10−66 cm2 in size. Just like the eigenvalues of a spin matrix, these n eigenvalues are entangled with each other, which means they have a tendency to align together over the course of time (a sequence of screen outputs). In the sense of a spin network, entangled bits of information (like entangled spin variables) tend to point in the same direction over time. Coherent organization arises out of this tendency to align. Coherence is a very general property of any holographic world, and explains why the flow of energy through that world (along with the bits of information that define that world) tend to come into alignment.

entangle2

Entanglement

All that really happens in a holographic world is bits of information tend to align together and become organized into the form of life-forms (as encoded on a holographic screen), but eventually these forms must become disorganized. Coherent organization not only describes the way the bits of information are organized into the form of life-forms, but also the flow of energy through the life-form that allows for the self-replication of the life-form. As coherent organization develops, the life-form appears to be born, develop and survive. When the form eventually becomes disorganized, the life-form appears to die.

What really happens to the observer as its life-form appears to be born, develop, survive and eventually dies? Is it possible the observer does not exist before its life-form appears to be born and stops existing after the life-form appears to die?

The simple answer is no.

spooky action

Spooky Action at a Distance

Nothing can ever really happen to the observer. The observer is only a focal point of consciousness that exists in relation to a holographic screen upon which all the images of the observer’s world appear. The observer always exists (and is always present) as a focal point of consciousness as long as it observes the images of things in its world (as those things appear when images are projected from its holographic screen to its central point of view). Only when the observer’s world disappears (and the observer is no longer present for its world) does the existence of the observer undergo a transformation. The observer no longer exists as a focal point of consciousness, but dissolves back into the empty space of potentiality within which both the focal point and the screen arise.

We’ve finally reached the point where (in a scientific way) we can discuss the true nature of existence. The true nature of existence is the undifferentiated consciousness of the void. The undifferentiated consciousness of the void is often referred to as Brahmanic consciousness, or more simply as Brahman. In scientific terms, we can refer to the void as an empty space of potentiality, but with the understanding that this potentiality is what we mean by undifferentiated consciousness. This is the potentiality to create a world (as encoded on a holographic screen) and the potentiality to observe that world (from the central point of view of the observer that arises in relation to the screen). The focal point of consciousness of the observer is often referred to as Atmanic consciousness or simply Atman. Atmanic consciousness is individual consciousness (an observer observing its own world), which is differentiated from undifferentiated Brahmanic consciousness.

Atman Brahman

Atman-Brahman

Nisargadatta Maharaj identifies the observer (Atman) as a point of consciousness, and describes the perceivable world as unreal (like a virtual reality in which images of a world are projected to the observer from a screen):

Nothing perceivable is real.
Only the onlooker is real, call him Self or Atman.
That which makes you think that you are a human is not human.
It is a dimensionless point of consciousness, a conscious nothing.
All you can say about yourself is ‘I am’.
Whatever happens, I remain.
At the root of my being is pure awareness, a speck of intense light.
This speck, by its nature, radiates and creates pictures in space and events in time, effortlessly and spontaneously.

Nisargadatta also describes the true nature of being as the potentiality of the void (pure awareness), and that the world only appears like images reflected from a surface to the central point of view of an observer:

In pure being consciousness arises.
In consciousness the world appears and disappears.
Consciousness is on contact, a reflection against a surface, a state of duality.
The center is a point of void and the witness a point of pure awareness; they know themselves to be as nothing.
But the void is full to the brim.
It is the eternal potential as consciousness is the eternal actual.

Nisargadatta describes the undifferentiated consciousness (awareness) of the void:

Awareness is beyond all.
Awareness is primordial; it is the original state.
Awareness is undivided-aware of itself.

Not only is the individual Atmanic consciousness of the observer differentiated from the undifferentiated Brahmanic consciousness of the void, but the observer’s holographic screen also arises from the void as a result of this differentiation process. Fundamentally, this differentiation process is the expression of dark energy, which we scientifically understand as the exponential expansion of space. It helps to give a brief review of this differentiation process as it goes forward (toward differentiation) and as it reverses itself (toward undifferentiation).

In the beginning (so to speak) only the void exists. We understand the void as an empty space of potentiality, which is undifferentiated consciousness. For some unknown reason, dark energy is expressed and space begins to expand. Maybe this is the primordial desire to experience the somethingness of a world rather than the nothingness of the void, or the void expresses its power (with the expansion of space) because it can, or because it feels good to express its power in this way. Whatever the reason, the expression of dark energy is the fundamental differentiation process that differentiates the individual Atmanic consciousness of the observer from the undifferentiated Brahmanic consciousness of the void, and in the process creates the observer’s world (as images of things in that world are projected from the observer’s holographic screen to the observer’s central point of view).

The expansion of space always occurs relative to the central point of view of an observer. With the exponential expansion of space, a cosmic horizon arises that surrounds the observer and limits the observer’s observations of things in space. The observer’s consciousness is always present at the central focal point of its own cosmic horizon. The observer’s cosmic horizon acts as a holographic screen that projects the images of things in the observer’s world to the observer’s central point of view. Just as the expression of dark energy (and the expansion of space) differentiates the individual consciousness of the observer from the undifferentiated consciousness of the void, the expression of dark energy also gives rise to the observer’s holographic screen that projects all the images of things in the observer’s world, and in the process creates the observer’s world.

The individual consciousness of the observer is always present at the central focal point of its own cosmic horizon (that acts as a holographic screen). Just like the central point of singularity of a black hole horizon, this central focal point of the observer’s consciousness is also a point of singularity, localized at the central point of view of the observer’s cosmic horizon. The expansion of space always expands relative to this central focal point of singularity. We understand that at the time of the creation of the observer’s world (the big bang event), that space only had expanded to the size of the Planck length, but due to an instability in the amount of dark energy, the observer’s world relentlessly inflates in size, until no more dark energy is left, and space expands in size to infinity.

This expansion of space (the expression of dark energy and its instability) drives the normal flow of energy through the observer’s world (which we understand in the sense of the thermodynamic flow of energy as the observer’s cosmic horizon inflates in size and cools in temperature). Expansion of space is the nature of the process that differentiates the individual consciousness of the observer from the undifferentiated consciousness of the void and creates the observer’s world.

The reverse process leads back toward undifferentiation. The reverse process occurs as the expression of dark energy comes to an end. Due to an instability in the amount of dark energy, the expression of dark energy must eventually come to an end, which is like a phase transition from a false (meta-stable) vacuum state to a true (stable) vacuum state. As this happens, the observer’s cosmic horizon (its holographic screen defining all thing in the observer’s world) inflates in size to infinity and cools in temperature to absolute zero (the heat death of the observer’s world). At this point, the observer no longer has a holographic screen (defining everything in its world) and the observer’s world disappears.

The big question is what happens to the observer when its world disappears? When dark energy is expended and the observer’s world appears, the observer is always present for its world at the central point of view or singularity of that world. When dark energy is no longer expended and the observer’s world disappears, the observer is no longer present for its world. What happens to the observer?

The only possible answer is the differentiated consciousness of the observer returns to the undifferentiated consciousness of the void. This return to an undifferentiated state of existence is call dissolution. The differentiated consciousness of the observer dissolves back into the undifferentiated consciousness of the void, much like a drop of water dissolves into the ocean. This undifferentiated state of existence (dissolution) is described by all truth-realized beings that have undergone the experience.

Nisargadatta describes that beyond the focal point of consciousness of the observer is the ocean of pure awareness (the undifferentiated consciousness of the void):

First we must know ourselves as witnesses only, dimensionless and timeless centers of observation, and then realize that immense ocean of pure awareness, which is both mind and matter and beyond both.

Osho describes dissolution into this empty space:

The inner emptiness itself is the mystery.
When the inner space is there, you are not.
When you dissolve, the inner emptiness is there.
When you are not, the mystery will be revealed.
You will not be a witness to the mystery, you will be the mystery.

Jed McKenna describes the nature of truth:

The truth of the situation is that eventually, there’s nothing.
Infinity. Eternity. The void.
Time and space come and go but what’s true is true and all the rest is but a dream.
Truth is one, is non-dual, is infinite, is one-without-other.
Truth is dissolution, no-self, unity.
You are true or you’re a lie, as in ego-bound, as in dual, as in asleep.

Truth-realized beings also tell us that this state of dissolving back into the void occurs in a state of free fall. This is described as the observer freely falling into the void. Remarkably, modern physics explains this ultimate state of free fall. The observer’s world only appears (and the observer is only present for its world) when the observer is in an accelerated frame of reference. Whether we consider the force of gravity or the force of dark energy, the observer is in an accelerated frame of reference and appears to follow an accelerated world-line through the space-time geometry of that reference frame (as projected from the observer’s holographic screen).

The observer’s holographic screen is an event horizon that only arises because the observer is in an accelerated frame of reference. An accelerated frame of reference requires the expenditure of energy, just like a rocket ship that expends energy through the force of its thrusters as it accelerates through space. The observer’s world is only created (and appears) because dark energy is expended, which gives rise to the observer’s cosmic horizon (that acts as a holographic screen). When energy is no longer expended, the observer no longer has a horizon, and its world must disappear.

When energy is no longer expended, the observer is no longer in an accelerated frame of reference, which is called a freely falling frame of reference. In an ultimate freely falling frame of reference, the observer’s world disappears, and the observer is no longer present for its world. This is how truth-realized beings describe the experience of falling (dissolving) into the void.

It is only the observer’s focal point of consciousness (arising in relation to a holographic screen on which all images of the observer’s world are encoded) that can enter into an ultimate freely falling frame of reference and dissolves back in the undifferentiated consciousness of the void. This focal point of consciousness can only be differentiated from undifferentiated consciousness when dark energy is expended (the observer is present for its world whenever its world appears), but must return to its primordial state of undifferentiated consciousness when dark energy is no longer expended (the observer is not present for its world when its world disappears). When energy is expended, the observer exists as the point of singularity at the center of its world, but when energy is no longer expended, only the undifferentiated consciousness of the void exists.

Osho describes this ultimate state of freely falling and dissolving into the void:

You fall into an abyss, and the abyss is bottomless: you go on falling.
That is why Buddha has called this nothingness emptiness.
There is no end to it. Once you know it, you also have become endless.
At this point Being is revealed: then you know who you are, what is your real being, what is your authentic existence.
That Being is void.

Nisargadatta describes this experience as the path or return:

For the path of return naughting oneself is necessary.
My stand I take where nothing is.
To the mind it is all darkness and silence.
It is deep and dark, mystery beyond mystery.
It is, while all else merely happens.
It is like a bottomless well, whatever falls into it disappears.

The undifferentiated consciousness of the void is the primordial nature of existence and the true nature of one’s underlying reality. This nothingness is what remains when everything else (in one’s world) disappears from existence.

The undifferentiated consciousness of the void creates the universe. In its primordial formless form, Consciousness is undifferentiated, which is both the potentiality to create a world (as observable images of things are projected from a holographic screen) and the potentiality to perceive that world (from the singularity or the central point of view of the observer of that world). The observer’s world is always limited by a cosmic horizon that arises with the expenditure of dark energy (the expansion of space that expands relative to the central point of view of an observer), and so that world is observer-dependent.

We could call Consciousness in its primordial formless form God, but the term God (as conventionally used) implies an individual personality, while the term Brahman is much better, as it implies undifferentiated, impersonal Being (the idea of Unity or One Being, which includes the nature of all being). The only sensible way to discuss individual being (as differentiated from One Being) is as a focal point of perception that is differentiated from the all-encompassing empty space of potentiality whenever a holographic screen arises in that empty space (with the expenditure of dark energy and the expansion of space). This is the concept of Atman. If that focal point of perception does not identify itself with its character in its world, we call it Atman. If it does identify itself with its character, we call it a person. This is the basic non-dual (Advaita) concept of Shankara.

Shankara summarizes the true nature of reality in a few succinct non-dual concepts:

That which permeates all, which nothing transcends and which, like the universal space around us, fills everything completely from within and without, that Supreme non-dual Brahman−That thou art.

Brahman is the only truth, the world is illusion, and there is ultimately no difference between Brahman and Atman.

Jed McKenna also succinctly summarizes these non-dual concepts:

The you that you think of as you is not you.
The you that thinks of you as you is not you.
It’s just the character the underlying truth of you is dreaming into brief existence.
Enlightenment isn’t in the character, it’s in the underlying truth.

Nietzsche

The direct experience the true nature of one’s underlying reality is called truth-realization. This experience is also called awakening, liberation or enlightenment. The term awakening (in the sense of the Buddha) is used because the experience is analogous to awakening from a dream. When one awakens from one’s dream, the dream reality disappears, and only the true nature of one’s underlying reality remains. This true reality is the true nature of what one is (one’s true existence), while the dream reality is like a virtual reality that one only perceives, like a movie that one is watching on a screen.

Nisargadatta Maharaj describes the screen as a distant horizon:

I am like a cinema screen-clear and empty.
The pictures pass over it and disappear, leaving it as clear and empty as before.
The screen intercepts and reflects the pictures. These are lumps of destiny, but not my destiny; the destinies of the people on the screen.
The character will become a person when he begins to shape his life instead of accepting it as it comes-identifying himself with it.
All this I perceive quite clearly, but I am not in it.
I feel myself as floating over it, aloof and detached.
There is also the awareness of it all and a sense of immense distance as if the body and the mind and all that happens to them were somewhere far out on the horizon.
To myself I am neither perceivable nor conceivable.
There is nothing I can point out and say “this I am”.

The term liberation (in the sense of Plato and the Allegory of the Cave) is used, since when one takes one’s dream world to be the only reality and one identifies oneself with one’s character in the dream, one is a prisoner. One’s self-identification with one’s character in the dream is a state of bondage. The term liberation or freedom is used when one no longer identifies oneself with one’s character in the dream, but knows the true nature of one’s underlying reality or existence.

Plato's cave

Plato’s Cave

The Bhagavad-Gita clearly makes this distinction between the unreality of one’s world (like a dream-state or a virtual reality) and the true nature of one’s underlying reality. The critical distinction is that animated images of one’s virtual reality (as projected from a screen) only have brief apparent existence, while the underlying reality of consciousness has timeless existence (the sense of being present), which one can experience for oneself:

The unreal has no being
The real never ceases to be

Nisargadatta describes this timeless state of being:

The Supreme state neither comes nor goes. It is.
It is a timeless state, ever present.
Before the mind happens, I am.
Before all beginnings, after all endings, I am.
All has its being in the ‘I am’ that shines in every living being.

Nisargadatta describes the great illusion (of the world) as the totality of all mental projections (the consensual reality of projections from all the overlapping holographic screens that share information, with each observer at the center of its own screen, and with each screen arising in the void):

The totality of all mental projections is the Great Illusion.
When I look beyond the mind I see the witness.
Beyond the witness is infinite emptiness and silence.

Osho describes awakening as the direct experience of this empty space of potentiality:

We call Buddha the awakened one.
This awakening is really the cessation of inner dreaming.
When there is no dreaming you become pure space.
This non-dreaming consciousness is what is known as enlightenment.

Nisargadatta says the same thing about awakening:

The dreamer is one.
I am beyond all dreams.
I am the light in which all dreams appear and disappear.

Osho describes the illusion of everything that appears in a world as the unreality of a dream (that disappears with awakening):

Only that which cannot be taken away by death is real.
Everything else is unreal.
It is made of the same stuff dreams are made of.

Nisargadatta describes that only memory can create the illusion of a world:

Memory creates the illusion of continuity.
What begins and ends is mere appearance.
The world can be said to appear but not to be.
I see the world as it is, a momentary appearance in consciousness.

The term enlightenment (as in the “light of consciousness”) is used when one has the direct experience of one’s true nature. As long as one is present for one’s world, that true nature is experienced as a focal point of consciousness (the singularity) at the center of one’s world. Since that focal point of consciousness is experienced as the “light of consciousness” that illuminates one’s world (analogous to how the light of a projector illuminates the images of a movie displayed on a screen or the light of a laser illuminates the images of a hologram), the direct experience of this “light” is called enlightenment.

singularity

Singularity-Light of Consciousness

Nisargadatta describes how all images of the observer’s world are projected from a screen to the observer’s central point of view (in this reflected light of consciousness):

Once you realize that there is nothing in this world which you can call your own you look at it from the outside as you look at a play on the stage or a picture on the screen. To know the picture as the play of light on the screen gives freedom from the idea that the picture is real.
In reality I only look.
Whatever is done is done on the stage.
Joy and sorrow, life and death, they are real to the man in bondage
To me they are all in the show, as unreal as the show itself.

This experience of oneself (as a focal point of consciousness arising in relation to a screen that projects all images of things in one’s world) is also called ascension. One ascends to a higher level of consciousness as one knows oneself to be this focal point of consciousness that is outside the screen (and outside one’s world). With ascension, one has the experience of looking down on everything in one’s world from a higher level, like a spectator in an audience that only watches the animated images of a movie on a screen.

Nisargadatta describes the ascension of consciousness:

Awareness comes as if from a higher dimension.
The witness that stands aloof-is the watchtower of the real-the point at which awareness, inherent in the unmanifested, contacts the manifested.

Osho describes ascension as a state of non-interference:

Witnessing is not an interference.
You go beyond; you become a watcher on the hill.
You are just an onlooker.
Things go on, but they don’t belong to you.
It is as if they are happening in a dream, or in a film on the screen.
You are not interfering.
You are not within the drama-you have come out.
Now you are not an actor, you have become a spectator.
You are just a witness.

Osho says ascension of consciousness is transcendence of the body-based ego:

The body is part of the karma, it is part of the mechanical circle of cause and effect, but the consciousness can be beyond it, it can transcend it.

McKenna describes the ascension of consciousness that follows truth-realization:

Having undergone the process of untruth-unrealization, I am left not in an elevated state of superior knowledge, but in a knowledgeless state of superior elevation.
I see everything, I understand everything, I know nothing.
I know that I Am, and I know that I know nothing else.

Extending this argument further, we can identify the “light” experienced in enlightenment as the “light of consciousness” emanating from the observer’s central point of view. This “light” is reflected off the observer’s holographic screen, projecting all images of things in the observer’s world, like the light of a laser projects the images of a hologram. In psychological terms, the light of consciousness is the observer’s focus of attention. When the observer’s focus of attention becomes emotionally biased, the “light of consciousness” is focused in an emotionally biased way, which results in the expression of biased emotions. It is only this emotional bias in the way the “light of consciousness” is focused that allows for the expression of biased emotional energy in the observer’s world.

In the same sense the observer’s “light of consciousness” is the observer’s focus of attention, the observer is a focal point of consciousness that arises in relation to a holographic screen. This tells us the observer’s point of view and holographic screen both arise in an empty space of potentiality called the void. In the sense of Unity, the potentiality of the void (the potentiality to create an observer’s world as projected from a holographic screen and the potentiality to observe that world from the observer’s central point of view) is understood to be undifferentiated consciousness.

When one is no longer present for one’s world (and one’s world disappears) the true primordial nature of one’s existence (one’s true underlying reality) is experienced (in a state of dissolution) as the undifferentiated consciousness of the void.

This experience of one’s true underlying reality is called truth-realization. As Shankara makes clear, the undifferentiated consciousness of the void (Brahman) is the only truth. In other non-dual traditions (such as Zen or the Tao), the undifferentiated consciousness of the void is called no-self. The only way to solve the riddle of self is with a non-dual classification scheme: self-identification of consciousness with character is lower self (the person), ascension of consciousness is higher self (Atman), and dissolution into undifferentiated consciousness is no-self (Brahman).

Chuang Tzu describes the nature of truth as no-self:

The man of Tao remains unknown
Perfect virtue produces nothing
No-self is true-self
And the greatest man is Nobody

As McKenna points out: “the end of illusion is the end of you”. Self-identification of consciousness with character is an illusion (that can only arise from the illusion of control).

McKenna gives an overview of the awakening process that culminates in truth-realization (dissolution into the underlying reality of undifferentiated consciousness) and is followed by ascension (observing one’s world from a higher point of view outside one’s world):

Before enlightenment I believed my ego was me, then enlightenment comes along and no more ego, only the underlying reality.
Now it’s after enlightenment and this ego might be slightly uncomfortable or ill-fitting at times, but it’s all I’ve got.
The idea that your ego is destroyed in the process of becoming enlightened is roughly correct, but it’s not complete.
Before enlightenment, you’re a human being in the world, just like everyone you see.
During enlightenment you realize the human being you thought you were is just a character in a play, and that the world you thought you were in is just a stage, so you go through a process of radical deconstruction of your character to see what’s left when it’s gone.
The result isn’t enlightened-self or true-self, it’s no-self.
When it’s all over it’s time to be a human being in the world again, and that means slipping back into costume and getting back on stage.
Now you’re actually in the audience, watching the drama.
I could never mistake the play for reality again, or my character for my true state.

McKenna describes living a life in the world (the dream of self-identification which disappears during truth-realization) is like a delusional disorder of identifying oneself with one’s character while watching a movie on a screen. With ascension, one only watches the movie from the audience (one’s point of view outside the screen):

The enlightened view life as a dream.
You wake up and the dream is gone as if it never was.
All the characters and events that seemed so real have simply vanished.
The enlightened may walk and talk in the dream world, but they don’t mistake the dream for reality.
Members of movie audiences don’t leap out of their seats to save characters in the film. If they did, they would be hauled off to the nearest mental health facility and treated for a delusional disorder.

Nisargadatta describes living a life in the world is like a bad dream:

The world you can perceive is a very small world-entirely private.
Take it to be a dream and be done with it.
By forgetting who you are and imagining yourself a mortal creature you create so much trouble for yourself that you have to wake up, like from a bad dream.
What you call survival is but the survival of a dream.

Nisargadatta describes suffering can only arise from attachment:

Pain is physical; suffering is mental.
Beyond the mind there is no suffering.
Pain is merely a signal that the body is in danger and requires attention.
Suffering warns us that the structure of memories and habits, which we call the person, is threatened by loss or change.
Pain is essential for the survival of the body.
Suffering is due entirely to clinging or resisting
It is a sign of our unwillingness to move on, to flow with life.

Nisargadatta also describes what is required to be free of suffering:

A saintly life is free from suffering.
The essence of saintliness is total acceptance of the present moment.
A saint does not want things to be different from what they are.
He knows that they are unavoidable.
Everything happens as it does because the universe is as it is.
He is friendly with the inevitable and therefore does not suffer.
Pain he may know. If he can he does the needful to restore the lost balance, or he lets things take their course.
What does he gain by living on and what does he lose by dying?
What was born must die; what was never born cannot die.
It all depends on what he takes himself to be.

McKenna describes self-identification as a state of ignorance:

Ignorance isn’t an aspect of self; it’s the essence of self.
It’s not nothing where there should be something.
It’s the delicate weaving of something from nothing.
That nothingness woven into somethingness is what you call reality.
The part you call you is ego.

Nisargadatta describes that the observer mistakenly identifies itself with its character:

You are the source of reality-a dimensionless center of perception that imparts reality to whatever it perceives-a pure witness that watches what is going on and remains unaffected.
It is only imagination and self-identification with the imagined that encloses and converts the inner watcher into a person.
The person is merely the result of a misunderstanding.
In reality there is no such thing.
Feelings, thoughts and actions race before the watcher in endless succession.
In reality there is no person, only the watcher identifying itself.

Nisargadatta describes ignorance as self-identification:

In ignorance the seer becomes the seen and in wisdom he is the seeing.
In reality all is one, the outer being merely a projection of the inner.
The objects in the world are many but the eye that sees them is one.

McKenna describes the only sin is ignorance:

The only sin is ignorance. Ignorance of what?
It’s not the kind where you don’t know something.
It’s the kind where you do know something that’s not true.
The false self is ignorance. The personality. Everything you think of as you.
Everything that tells you that you are separate from everything else is false.

Nisargadatta describes self-identification as a form of bondage:

Self-identifications are patently false and the cause of bondage.
Your attachment is your bondage.
Liberation is never of the person, it is always from the person.

Nisargadatta describes the vicious circle of self-identification:

Abandon all self-identifications. It is a vicious circle.
Only Self-realization can break it.

Nisargadatta describes that only emotional attachments can create problems:

There is trouble only when you cling to something.
It is your desire to hold onto it that creates the problem. Let go.
When you hold onto nothing, no trouble arises.
As long as there is the sense of identity with the body, frustration is inevitable.
It is because of your illusion that you are the doer.

McKenna describes that all attachments to the dreamstate are emotional:

All attachments to the dreamstate are made of energy.
That energy is called emotion.
All emotions, positive and negative, are attachments.

McKenna also describes that awakening (from the dream of self-identification) is the detachment process:

The process of awakening looks like it’s about destroying ego, but that’s not really accurate. You never completely rid yourself of ego-the false self-as long as you’re alive, and it’s not important that you do.
What matters is the emotional tethers that anchor us to the dreamstate; that hold us in place and make us feel that we’re a part of something real.
We send out energetic tendrils from the nexus of ego like roots to attach ourselves to the dreamstate, and to detach from it we must sever them.
In this sense, freeing ourselves from attachment is indeed the process of awakening, but such attachments aren’t what we have, they’re what we are.

Nisargadatta also describes the nature of freedom as a state of detachment:

Freedom means letting go.
Spiritual maturity lies in the readiness to let go of everything.
Discrimination will lead to detachment.
You gain nothing.
You leave behind what is not your own and find what you have never lost:
Your own being.

Nisargadatta describes awakening as a giving up (letting-go) process:

Give up all and you gain all.
Then life becomes what it was meant to be:
Pure radiation from an inexhaustible source.
In that light the world appears dimly like a dream.

Osho also describes that it is necessary to let-go in order to awaken:

One who is ready to lose will gain.
One who clings will lose everything.

McKenna states the “price of truth is everything”. In the journey of awakening, every step is a loss. Everything is ultimately lost and nothing is gained:

With every step we leave behind that which we move beyond.
Every step is a loss and as long as there’s more to lose, there are more steps to take.
Everything is lost. Nothing is gained.

Nisargadatta describes the search for truth as a self-destructive process:

The way to truth lies through the destruction of the false.
To destroy the false you must question your most inveterate beliefs.
Of these the idea that you are the body is the worst.
It is the clinging to the false that makes the truth so difficult to see.
There is a deep contradiction in your attitude which you do not see.
See your world as it is, not as you imagine it to be.
See the person you imagine yourself to be as a part of the world you perceive within your mind and look at the mind from the outside, for you are not the mind.

Nisargadatta describes that freedom can only occur with revolt:

To question is the essence of revolt.
Without revolt there can be no freedom.

Nisargadatta describes the search for the truth:

The seeker is he who is in search of himself.
Give up all questions except one: “Who am I?”
The only fact you are sure of is that you are.
“I am” is certain. “I am this” is not.

Nisargadatta describes the person is never the subject:

The person is never the subject.
You can see a person but you are not a person.
The difference between the person and the witness is as between not knowing and knowing oneself.

Nisargadatta points out that the knower must be known:

Mere knowledge is not enough; the knower must be known.
Without knowledge of the knower there can be no peace.
I know myself as I am in reality.
I am neither the body nor the mind. I am beyond all these.
You are accustomed to deal with things, physical and mental.
I am not a thing, nor are you.
We are neither matter nor energy, neither body nor mind.
Once you have a glimpse of your own being you will not find me difficult to understand.
You must gain your own experience.
We believe so many things on hearsay.
We never cared to verify.

McKenna describes this as a self-verification process:

It’s not a trust business, it’s a self-verification business.

Osho describes the process of self-inquiry:

If you go on inquiring “Who am I?”
You are bound to come to the conclusion that you are not.
This is an inquiry to dissolve.
There will be no one to ask “Who am I?” and then you know.
When the ‘I’ is not, the real ‘I’ opens.
When the ego is not, you are for the first time encountering your being.

Nisargadatta describes that a false question cannot be answered:

A false question cannot be answered. It can only be seen as false.
The question “Who am I?” has no answer. No experience can answer it.
All I can truly say is ‘I am’.
I am beyond consciousness and therefore in consciousness I cannot say what I am.
There is nothing wrong in the idea of a body, but limiting oneself to one body only is a mistake.
In reality all existence, every form, is my own, within my consciousness.

McKenna describes the search for truth is about unknowing:

Spiritual awakening is about discovering what’s true.
Anything that’s not about getting to the truth must be discarded.
Truth isn’t about knowing things.
It’s about unknowing.
It’s not about becoming true.
It’s about un-becoming false so that all that’s left is truth.

McKenna describes that truth is beyond duality:

Truth is beyond opposites. Duality is a dream.
The truth contains no element of the false and the false contains no truth.
There is only truth and illusion, and within illusion there is only fear and denial.
Fear of truth is the foundation upon which delusion is erected.
Denial of fear is the motivation underlying all activities in which humans engage.
This is vanity in the biblical sense:
And behold, all is vanity and a chasing after wind.
We must constantly project the illusion of self because if we don’t, we aren’t.

McKenna describes awakening as a battle one fights with oneself:

Waking up isn’t a theoretical subject one masters through study and comprehension, it’s a journey one makes, a battle one fights.
Spiritual enlightenment is self-defeating.
It is a battle we wage upon ourselves.
Truth is a uniquely challenging pursuit because the very thing that wants it is the only thing in the way of it.
It’s a battle we must die to win.
The great enemy is the very self that wages the war.
When self is destroyed, who wins?

McKenna describes awakening as a process of self-annihilation:

There’s nothing wrong with being a dream character, unless it’s your goal to wake up, in which case the dream character must be ruthlessly annihilated.
If your desire is to become the best dang person you can be, then rejoice, you’re in the right place, the dreamstate, the dualistic universe.
If your interest is to cut the crap and figure out what is true then you’re in the wrong place and you’ve got a very messy fight ahead and there’s no point in pretending otherwise.

McKenna describes awakening as a tearing down or burning process:

This isn’t about personal awareness or self-exploration.
It’s not about feelings or insights.
It’s not about personal or spiritual evolution.
This is about what you know for sure, about what you are sure you know is true, about what ‘you are’ that is true.
With this process you tear away layer after layer of untruth masquerading as truth.
It burns bridges that can never be rebuilt, and the only real reason to do it is because you can no longer stand not to.

McKenna describes ego as the barrier to awakening:

The wall separating the awakened and unawakened states is a force field empowered by the emotional energy of fear.
Only ego death defeats the barrier because the barrier is ego itself.
The prize to be won in this battle is not wealth or fame or power, but the transition from untrue to true, from dream to awake, from delusion to reality.

Nisargadatta describes destroying the barrier (the wall that separates):

Destroy the wall that separates, the ‘I-am-the-body-idea’, and the inner and the outer become one.
This battle is always won, for it is a battle between the true and the false.
The false has no chance.

Nisargadatta describes that one progresses by rejection:

You progress by rejection.
Investigate your world, apply your mind to it, examine it critically.
Scrutinize every idea about it.
Everything must be scrutinized and the unnecessary ruthlessly destroyed.
There cannot be too much destruction.
For in reality nothing is of value.

The Bhagavad-Gita describes the observer’s destruction of its own world (and itself as a part of that world) is a process of dying:

Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.

Nisargadatta describes death as timeless being:

I am dead already.
Physical death will make no difference.
I am timeless being.

McKenna says to see and know the lie is to hate and destroy it:

To know the lie is to hate it; to see it is to slay it.

McKenna describes that the only way to destroy the lie is to look at it:

If you want to be more true, then the way to do that is by becoming less false.
Go inside yourself with the spotlight of discrimination and illuminate it.
Illumination destroys it.
Lies disappear when you really look at them because they never had real substance, they were only imagined.

McKenna describes peace of mind as the enemy:

Peace of mind is the enemy. It’s the worst thing in the world. It’s the inmate.
It’s the hairless fetal thing that’s still plugged into the Matrix.

McKenna describes the awakening process as a mental breakdown:

Waking up from the dreamstate is a very straightforward business.
It doesn’t take decades.
It doesn’t look like tranquility or like a calm, peaceful mind.
It doesn’t look like saving others or saving the world or even saving yourself.
It doesn’t look like a thriving marketplace where merit is determined by popular appeal or commercial success.
Waking up looks like a massive mental and emotional breakdown because that’s exactly what it is, the granddaddy of all breakdowns.

McKenna describes awakening as a process of burning:

Ask yourself what you want, and what you’re willing to give for it.
Dreams are highly flammable things.
Not all fires are started by conscious intent.
Sometimes they just flare up and then you learn two things fast; fire doesn’t negotiate and nothing doesn’t burn.

McKenna describes the fundamental conflict in the spiritual quest:

The fundamental conflict in the spiritual quest is that ego desires spiritual enlightenment, but ego can never achieve spiritual enlightenment.
Self cannot achieve no-self.
The fundamental conflict can only be resolved by altering the equation.
It’s cheating, but everyone is okay with it.
Spiritual enlightenment gets redefined as something attainable by ego.
Ego gets to continue the noble quest.
No one gets the grail, but no one really wanted it anyway.
The quest for the grail is about the quest, not the grail.

McKenna describes that this conflict is motivated by desire:

The vast majority of spiritual seekers are motivated by desire so the failure of their search is a foregone conclusion, as is amply evidenced by mankind’s history of near total inability to find the one thing that can never be lost.
How is it possible that something as simple as seeing what is manages to elude our most devout seekers and our greatest minds?
Because no one really wants what awakening really is.
The true desire that drives the process of awakening is more akin to a psychotic madness-a wickedly profound and protracted crisis.

McKenna describes awakening as a break with reality:

The process of waking up can look a lot like a massive breakdown, a complete break from what one has assumed to be reality.
That’s why depression can be a perfectly rational response to a highly irrational situation-namely, life-especially when the depression revolves around futility and insignificance.
You can’t be much more futile or insignificant than a character in a dream.
The way to defeat rational depression is not to try to turn back from it or to cling to the illusion of meaning, but to plow right on through it and see what’s on the other side.

McKenna describes awakening as a process of ego-death and spiritual rebirth:

Battling past the ego to get to the truth has been at the heart of countless spiritual teachings.
Ego-death as a means to no-self is what this journey is all about.
Anyone headed for truth is going to get there over ego’s dead body or not at all.
The caterpillar doesn’t become a butterfly, it enters a death process that becomes the birth process of the butterfly.
One thing ends and another begins.

McKenna describes the search for truth as a process of looking within:

In the search for truth, God, meaning-or whatever other spiritual tail we might chase, self is never itself subjected to critical scrutiny.
We simply accept that we are as we think we are and that reality is as we think it is and go from there.
Thus the primary error from which all others arise has already been committed and is safe from detection and correction.
All our discernment and discrimination and intelligence is turned outward from self, not inward against it.

McKenna points out that truth-realization does not require knowledge:

It doesn’t require knowledge to be enlightened any more than it requires knowledge to obey the law of gravity or to be bathed in sunlight.
Enlightenment is nothing more than truth realization.
If anything requires knowledge and effort and seemingly superhuman powers of imagination it’s not truth but delusion.

McKenna describes that all there really is, is consciousness and energy:

All there really is, is consciousness and energy.
They’re the same thing, and what they really are, is what we really are, which is just another way of saying: life is but a dream.
There is nothing else.

Nisargadatta says consciousness is the source of everything:

Consciousness itself is the source of everything.
What is real is nameless and formless, pure energy of life and light of consciousness.
Everything is a form of energy.
You are not the body.
You are the immensity and infinity of consciousness.

Nisargadatta describes the observer’s world is only created when the observer (in motion) expends energy:

The ‘I am’ in movement creates the world.
The ‘I am’ at peace becomes the Absolute.

Nisargadatta describes the relation of the witness to the universe:

Delve deeply into the sense ‘I am’ and you will discover that the perceiving center is universal.
All that happens in the universe happens to you, the silent witness.
Whatever is done is done by you, the universal and inexhaustible energy.
There can be no universe without the witness, no witness without the universe.

McKenna also describes the relation of the observer to its world:

You, the reader, are at the exact center of the universe; your universe.
It’s all yours, it’s all about you, and you are all alone in it.
Anything that tells you otherwise is a belief, and no belief is true.

McKenna describes the dualistic universe:

Duality is always finite. Duality is always contained, always within a finite sphere outside of which it cannot exist.
It’s the sphere that defines the context within which opposites exist.
Once you’ve arrived at the conclusion that reality as we think of it isn’t reality at all, then the question becomes, what is?
What’s beyond the dualistic illusion? What’s beyond context?
The truth is out there-the void, the abyss, no-self.
The illusion of opposites-good and bad-aren’t available out in infinite reality.

McKenna describes the dualistic universe as a magnificent amusement park:

Why is nothingness better than somethingness? Why is unity better than duality?
Why is truth better than the lie? Why is the infinite better than the finite?
Why is awake better than dreaming?
Our fragile little bubbles are what let us float around in the infinite, able to enjoy the experience of somethingness-good and bad-where only nothingness exists.
The bubble is a magnificent amusement park and leaving it is a damn silly thing to do unless you absolutely must.

McKenna describes life in the amusement park:

We need the boundaries ego provides.
They’re a necessary part of life in the amusement park.
Self is the complex, shifting set of dimensions that give us shape and form and which distinguish us from other shapes and forms.
The amusement park isn’t ‘come as you are’-it’s a costume party.
Who you come as doesn’t matter, only that you come as someone.
You can’t come as no one.

McKenna describes the absurdity of trying to escape:

The dreamstate is a big amusement park and I would never encourage anyone to try to escape. That would be as absurd as suggesting that you commit suicide for your own good.

McKenna offers the usual disclaimer:

Enlightenment is literally the biggest nothing of all time.
Enlightenment is life-negative.
Spiritual enlightenment is pointless and meaningless, and should only be sought by those who have absolutely no choice in the matter.

McKenna points out that everyone will eventually become truth-realized:

Success in realizing one’s true nature is absolutely assured because it’s one’s true nature.
The greatest wonder isn’t that you’ll make it back; it’s that you made it away.
Struggling to achieve truth is as preposterous as struggling to achieve death.
What’s the point?
Both will find you when it’s time.
Everyone will end up fully enlightened regardless of the path they take.

McKenna says enlightenment is nothing more than awakening from a dream:

Enlightenment is really nothing more than waking up from a dream.
Everyone has an underlying truth, but no one knows it any more than dream characters know they’re products of the sleep state of a larger self.
The question is, who is doing the dreaming and how do we wake up?

McKenna points out the impersonal nature of awakening:

There’s no comprehending the vastness and complexity of the influences that go into creating the false self, but that’s not a problem because there’s no benefit to comprehending it either.
There is a benefit to realizing that who you are has little or nothing to do with you.
It may be difficult to imagine not taking yourself personally, but it can be done when you see clearly that who you are has little or nothing to do with you.

McKenna describes the difference between an enlightened and unenlightened person:

I, as an enlightened person, have direct and abiding knowledge of self.
You, as an unenlightened person, don’t.
You therefore have built an identity with which you identify.
You think of you as you.
The difference between us isn’t that I’m enlightened and you’re not.
The difference between us is that I know it and you don’t.
I possess selfless awareness and you don’t.
That’s the fundamental difference between an enlightened person and an unenlightened one, having or not having direct knowledge of self.
The later being the breeding ground of ego.

McKenna says the deepest truth of any person is no-person:

The deepest truth of any person is no-person.
You don’t wake up by perfecting your dream character.
You wake up by breaking free of it.
There’s no truth to the ego so no degree of mastery over it results in anything true.
Putting attention on the ego merely reinforces it.

McKenna says enlightenment is impersonal:

Enlightenment is about truth.
It’s not about becoming a better or happier person.
It’s not about personal growth or spiritual evolution.
There is no higher stakes game in this world or any other, in this dimension or any other.
The price of truth is everything, but no one knows what everything means until they’re paying it.
In the simplest terms, enlightenment is impersonal, whereas what is commonly peddled as enlightenment is personal in the extreme.

Nisargadatta describes only the fear of impersonal being prevents awakening:

Go beyond, go back to the source, go to the Self that is the same whatever happens.
See everything as emanating from the light which is the source of your own being.
Find the immutable center where all movement takes birth.
Be the axis at the center-not whirling at the periphery.
Nothing stops you except fear.
You are afraid of impersonal being.

McKenna describes this fear as the fear of non-being:

It is the emotional energy of fear that erects and maintains the egoic shell.
We are madly, desperately, insanely afraid of the truth, and it is that fear that walls us off from our unbounded nature.
Fear of what? Fear of no-self. The nameless, faceless dread of non-being.
Not just fear of death, which anyone can deny or explain away, but fear of nothingness, which no fairytale can fix.

McKenna describes the self-creative process is motivated by fear of nothingness:

We erect ego to compensate for the lack of direct self-knowledge.
There is no true self to perceive.
There is only false self and no-self.
One looks for true self and finds nothing.
It’s the dread of that nothingness that keeps one’s attention outwardly fixed.

McKenna describes that ego can only become created in a belief system:

All belief systems are just the stories we create in order to deal with the void.
Ego abhors a vacuum, so everybody’s scrambling to create the illusion of something where there’s nothing.
Belief systems are simply the devices we use to explain away the unthinkable horror of no-self.

McKenna describes that only fear of nothingness (no-self) prevents awakening:

Humans are emotion-based creatures and all emotions derive their energy from one core emotion; fear.
Fear cannot be confronted or slain because it is fear of nothing, of no-self.
Fear can only be surrendered to; the thing feared, entered.

McKenna describes surrender follows naturally from seeing what really exists:

Surrender follows naturally from seeing what is.

Nisargadatta describes reality as essentially alone:

Reality is essentially alone.
To know that nothing is, is true knowledge.

McKenna describes surrender as relinquishing the illusion of control:

To surrender is to relinquish the illusion of control, which initiates the death part of the death/rebirth process.
No faith or belief is required to accomplish this act of surrender only clear-seeing.
When one begins to understand ego and fear for what they really are, then this process becomes as easy and natural as dropping a heavy weight.

McKenna describes surrender as letting-go, which is a kind of death:

The person who arrives at this point is not the person who goes beyond.
In this process, resistance is conquered and non-resistance takes its place; acceptance, recognition, surrender.
The segregated self is slain and the integrated self is born.
To the onlooker it looks like one thing becomes the other, but to the participant it is quite unmistakably the end of one thing and the beginning of another.
The necessary letting-go is itself a kind of death.
It’s the primary death/birth process, and nothing proceeds until it happens.

Osho describes surrender as surrendering the ego:

Surrender means that you surrender the ego.
You surrender the separating wall.
You become one. That is reality.
Whatever you surrender is just a dream, a concept, a false notion.
You are not surrendering reality, you are surrendering a false attitude.
The moment you surrender, you become one with existence.

Osho describes that surrender happens when “you are not”:

Surrender happens when you are not, so ‘you’ cannot surrender.
You are the hindrance.
When you are not, surrender is.

Osho describes surrender as letting-go:

If you can surrender everything to nature then there is no effort, then you don’t do anything.
You just float. You are in a deep let-go.
Things happen to you, but you are not making any effort for them.
Whatever happens, happens.
Life flows by, you flow in it.

Osho describes ego (the desire to control things) creates the barrier:

Ego creates the barrier.
Ego wants to control everything.
You become scared of what you cannot control.
You become afraid, you close the door.
You cannot lose yourself, and love is losing, dispersing, dissolving, melting.
With love you cannot be in control.
You have to let yourself go.
To move beyond yourself-surrender is the way-let go is the path.

Osho describes “no-fight” as the central teaching:

Life is a flux. Ego can only exist when it fights.
The river is not fighting with you, you are fighting with the river.
You are trying to float upstream.
If you just let go and start floating with the stream, then you become part of the stream, your identity is lost, you become a drop in the ocean.
No-fight is the central teaching.

Osho describes the ego defense structure:

How is it that you have not surrendered?
The real problem is your defense structure.
We live with the ego-centered in the ego.
Without knowing who I am, I go on announcing ‘I am’.
This ‘I-am-ness’ is false because I do not know who I am.
This false ‘I’ is the ego. This is the defense. This protects you from surrendering.
You cannot surrender but you can become aware of this defense measure.
If you have become aware of it, it dissolves.
The moment you come to feel ‘I am not’ surrender happens.

Osho describes that ego is bondage:

Your ego is the bondage. You can be free only when ego disappears.
When there is no ego, you become one with existence, and only that oneness can be freedom.
When you exist separately, this separation is false.
You are not separate. You are part of existence.

Osho describes ego as the false feeling of separate existence:

Your ego gives you a false feeling of separate existence.
Because of that false feeling, you start fighting existence.
When you fight you are in bondage.
When you fight you are bound to be defeated, because the part cannot win against the whole. Because of this fight with the whole, you feel limited.
The wall is nowhere in existence-it moves with your ego-a part of your separate feeling. In your struggle against existence you will be defeated; in that defeat you feel limitation.

Osho describes freedom as freedom from the ego:

The moment you surrender the ego, the whole nonsense-misery, bondage, limitation-is surrendered. You are no more.
It is not that you become free.
When you are not, freedom is.
Freedom is not freedom of the ego-it is freedom from the ego.
Surrender and freedom are the same.
You become one with existence.
That oneness is freedom.

McKenna describes ego as obstruction and surrender as flow:

Ego is obstruction, surrender is flow.
Surrender is the basis and precursor of growth.
There is no growth possible within egoic constraints, only the illusion of growth.
Once we free ourselves we come into alignment.

McKenna describes surrender as victory:

We are both protagonist and antagonist in this conflict, both attacker and defended.
We can’t win by fighting.
The very thing that fights, that resists, is the thing we seek to overthrow.
Only by vanquishing ego can we prevail.
Only in surrender can we find victory.
This is the part so few get, and fewer get beyond.
If you want to say all religions and spiritual teachings share a core truth, it can only be this: Surrender is victory.

Nisargadatta describes that surrender cannot be done-it happens when you realize your true nature:

Self-surrender is the surrender of all self-concern.
It cannot be done-it happens when you realize your true nature.

Nisargadatta describes self-surrender as liberation:

When there is total surrender, complete relinquishment of all concern with one’s past, present and future, with one’s physical and spiritual security, when the shell of self-defense is broken, a new life dawns, full of love and beauty.
Complete self-surrender by itself is liberation.

McKenna describes enlightenment as the state in which self is free of all delusion, including self itself:

Spiritual enlightenment is the state in which the self is free of all delusion, including self itself.
The process of becoming enlightened is a deliberate act of self-annihilation.
It is the false self that does the killing and the false self that dies; a suicide in all but the physical sense.
Because there is no true self to fill the vacancy created by the passing of the false self, no self remains.
It is not possible to knowledgeably choose or want spiritual enlightenment.
To desire it is to misunderstand it.
Ego cannot desire egolessness.
One does not undergo the process of awakening out of love for the true but out of hatred for the false; a hatred so intense that it burns everything and spares nothing.

McKenna describes awakening as consciousness bringing itself into focus:

Our perception of time makes some things look permanent and other things look temporary, but in this dynamic ocean of being, everything is constantly swirling in and out of existence-forming and unforming.
It’s your energy.
“Who am I?” is the question.
That’s what awakening is about.
Start by bringing yourself into focus.

Nisargadatta describes the awakening process:

Abandon the idea of a separate ‘I’.
By focusing the mind on ‘I am’, on the sense of being, ‘I am so-and-so’ dissolves.
‘I am a witness only’ remains and that too submerges in ‘I am all’.
Then the all becomes the One and the One-yourself.

Nisargadatta describes wisdom as knowing (and being) nothing:

Love says “I am everything”.
Wisdom says “I am nothing”.
By itself nothing has existence.
Your true home is in nothingness.

McKenna describes ego as a character we play:

Ego doesn’t need to be killed because it was never really alive.
You don’t have to destroy your false self because it’s not real, which is really the whole point.
It’s just a character we play.
What needs to be killed is that part of us that identifies with the character.
Once that’s done-really done-then you can wear the costume and play the character as it suits you to do so, now in the character but not of the character.

McKenna describes only the focus of attention of one’s consciousness can animate one’s dream character:

This trajectory I’m on will take me as close to nonexistence as anyone can get and still have a body.
Even now it takes a conscious effort to maintain my false self, my dream character, to animate it, to keep it running.

Nisargadatta says that to get out of the game one must refuse to play the game:

When you refuse to play the game you are out of it.

Nisargadatta describes the person is in resistance until the very end:

The person is in resistance to the very end.
It is the witnessing consciousness that makes realization attainable.
It is the witness that works on the person-on the totality of its illusions.

McKenna describes how it is at the end:

Even if you’ve been told a thousand times that there’s an end to knowledge, to seeking, you’re stunned and perplexed when you reach it.
You’ve spent a few years fighting battle after battle, each more grueling than the one before, and never, never, with any expectation whatsoever that you’ll ever really emerge victorious in this life.
And then, one day, there is it. Nothing.
Without warning, you’re launched into empty space, and before too long, empty space becomes your reality.
The void. No-self.
That’s where I am now.
I abide in non-dual, non-relative awareness.
That’s how it is at the end. You’re just done. No more questions.
There is an end to knowledge, to seeking, the only perfect knowledge.

McKenna describes enlightenment as evolution derailed:

Enlightenment is evolution derailed.
Evolution is about change and enlightenment is about truth, which is unchanging.
Evolution takes place in a larger context than day to day existence, but it is still encased within a dualistic context.
Evolution, growth, development, change, are all parts of the dramatic events of dualistic being.
Enlightenment isn’t.

McKenna describes the place where all paradoxes disappear, where all context (energetic connections) end, and offers the invitation to come see for yourself:

There is the place where all the paradoxes disappear and where no questions remain, but there’s no point trying to describe this place.
Like a child flicking a switch that turns the world off like a light.
What can you say when the thing that ends isn’t within a context, but context itself?
Come see for yourself.

Beyond the ascension of consciousness, the ultimate experience of “I am not” occurs in a state of dissolution (unity). The observer’s world disappears and the individual consciousness of the observer dissolves back into the undifferentiated consciousness of the void.

McKenna describes awakening into the undifferentiated consciousness of the void:

In the void of undifferentiated consciousness-awake is awake.

How is the experience of truth-realization (dissolution into the void) possible? As discussed above, the secret of truth-realization has to do with the expenditure of energy. Dissolution (the ultimate state of free fall) can only occur when energy is no longer expended. The most important kind of energy for living a life in the world is the expenditure of emotional energy, which is the expression of desire. As we’ve been told over and over again (for example by the Tao-Te-Ching), the only way one can realize the truth (and directly experience the mystery) is if one becomes desireless:

Ever desireless one can see the mystery
Ever desiring one can see the manifestations
These two spring from the same source but differ in name
This appears as darkness
Darkness within darkness
The gate to all mystery

The only way one can pass through this gateless gate is if one becomes desireless:

The great path has no gates
Thousands of roads enter it
When one passes through this gateless gate
One walks the universe alone

Nisargadatta describes that desire underlies the nature of all creation:

The very purpose of creation is the fulfillment of desire.
Things happen by their own nature.
From my point of view everything happens by itself, quite spontaneously.
I do nothing. I just see them happen.

The expression of desire is all about the expenditure of energy, while creation is only about the manifestation of desires. As McKenna quips (paraphrasing Carl Sagan): “If you want to bake an apple pie from scratch, you must first create a universe”. Who else other than the observer of that manifestation can express the energy that gives rise to that creation? The observer’s creation (manifestation) disappears if the observer becomes desireless and no longer expresses that energy. When the manifestation (the observer’s world) disappears, only the true underlying, unmanifested nature of the observer (the undifferentiated consciousness of the void) remains.

Only the observer’s biased focus of attention on the expression of its own desires can energize the expression of its desires. The withdrawal of the observer’s focus of attention away from the expression of its emotionally biased desires is also a withdrawal of the observer’s investment of biased emotional energy in its world. The observer’s willingness to give up the expression of its desires requires a shift in the focus of its attention away from the expression of its desires. As the observer shifts the focus of its attention away from the expression of its emotionally biased desires to live a life in its world, it turns away from its world and no longer invests the biased emotional energy that energizes its life in its world. This shift in the observer’s focus of attention (onto itself) is the nature of turning around.

The only other place the observer can focus its attention is on its own sense of being present as a focal point of consciousness (the singularity) at the center of its world. In metaphorical terms, the observer turns around and looks within as it shifts the focus of its attention onto its own sense of being present as a focal point of consciousness.

Nisargadatta describes that the awakening process (as in breaking the hypnotic spell) is only possible if one shifts the focus of one’s attention away from the screen and onto one’s own sense of being present as a focal point of consciousness:

You are and I am only as points in consciousness.
I see only consciousness, and know everything to be but consciousness, as you know the pictures on the cinema screen to be but light.
It is enough to shift attention from the screen onto oneself to break the spell.

Once the observer (the focal point of consciousness) brings itself into focus (and knows itself to be nothing more than a point of consciousness) it brings itself right to the edge of the abyss that separates the existence of its world from the void and the non-existence of its world. The observer brings itself right to the edge of the abyss that separates being present for its world from the disappearance of its world and not being present. At that point, the observer can freely fall into the void and dissolve into undifferentiated consciousness.

References:
1. Amanda Gefter (2014) Trespassing on Einstein’s Lawn: A Father, a Daughter, the Meaning of Nothing, and the Beginning of Everything (Random House)
2. Nisargadatta Maharaj (1996) The Experience of Nothingness (Blue Dove Press)
3. Nisargadatta Maharaj (1973) I Am That (Acorn Press)
4. Jed McKenna (2013) Theory of Everything (Wisefool Press)
5. Jed McKenna (2002, 2004, 2007) Spiritual Enlightenment Trilogy (Wisefool Press)
6. Osho (1974) The Book of Secrets. (St. Martin’s Griffin)

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