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Postcard from Nirvana

August 25, 2016

No One Here Gets Out Alive
Jim Morrison

wish-you-were-here

Postcard from Nirvana

Q: Why speculate about undifferentiated consciousness and the nature of the void?

A: Those of us who have not had the direct experience of the void can only speculate, but there is an extensive literature of testimonies by those who have awakened from the dream of separation to the unitary experience of infinite nothingness called Nirvana. The usual word for one who has awakened is a Buddha. For the purposes of this discussion, let’s focus on the testimony of Jed McKenna (2013), since I know of no better testimony about the nature of awakening nor a better conceptual discussion of the nature of consciousness.

eternal observer

Universal Observer

Q: What does McKenna have to say about his experience?

A: Let’s discuss what he has to say about the nature of consciousness first, since this will establish the framework within which the nature of awakening can be understood. McKenna gives a conceptual definition of consciousness in terms of Atmanic consciousness, which he identifies as the trinity of observer, observed and observing, and Brahmanic consciousness, which he says is the ground of Atmanic consciousness and identifies as the undifferentiated consciousness of the void.

Atman Brahman

Atman-Brahman

Q: Why make this distinction?

A: The whole thing has to start someplace and with something. The irony is the source of everything in the world can only be identified as the nothingness of the void. In the same way, the source of the observer’s consciousness can only be identified as the undifferentiated consciousness of the void. When we use the word source, we really mean potentiality. The nothingness of the void is the potentiality to create everything in the world, just as the undifferentiated consciousness of the void is the potentiality to differentiate itself into the individual consciousness of the observer. To put it another way, existence must have a primordial nature. The undifferentiated consciousness of the void is the primordial nature of existence, which we can call being, while the creation of everything in the world and the differentiation of consciousness into an observer is the nature of becoming. All concepts of matter, energy, space and time have to do with becoming. The nature of being is timeless, spaceless, matter-less and energy-less, but it is the potentiality to create all of these things and differentiate consciousness.

Q: How does this creation and differentiation occur?

A: The void can only be understood as the pure potentiality to create the geometry of the world, just as the undifferentiated consciousness of the void can only be understood as the pure potentiality to differentiate itself into an observer. In and of itself the void is a timeless or unchanging reality, which is to say the void cannot be characterized by time, space, matter or energy. The void can only be understood as the pure potentiality to create these things and differentiate itself into the observer of these things. This creation of everything in the world and the differentiation of consciousness requires the expenditure of energy. Carl Sagan once quipped: “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe”. Modern cosmology tells us the universe is only created because dark energy is expended. In relativity theory, the expenditure of energy is referred to as an observer’s accelerated frame of reference. The only way an observer’s world can be created is if the observer’s accelerated reference frame begins with the expenditure of dark energy, which is understood in relativity theory as the accelerated expansion of space. As dark energy is expended, space appears to expand away from the observer’s central point of view at an accelerated rate; faster the farther out the observer looks into space. 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 limitation gives rise to a cosmic horizon that limits the observer’s observations of things in space. If we apply the holographic principle to the observer’s cosmic horizon, this tells us only the expenditure of dark energy by the void allows for creation of the observer’s world and differentiation of the observer’s consciousness from the void. If this energy is not expended, there is no observer and no observer’s world. These things cannot come into existence without the expenditure of dark energy. If energy is not expended, only the void exists.

expanding universe

Accelerated Expansion of Space

Q: What does this tell us about the nature of the reality of the world?

A: The world is to the void the same way a virtual reality is to an absolute or ultimate reality. The analogy of an interactive computer network generated virtual reality is very powerful because of the holographic principle, which tells us all the images of things in the observer’s world are projected from a holographic screen to the observer’s central point of view. The holographic screen that defines the observer’s world is the observer’s cosmic horizon. The holographic principle tells us the observer’s horizon encodes bits of information in a binary code, with each pixel on the screen encoding a bit of information. The holographic principle is a natural result of non-commutative geometry, which is a way of quantizing position coordinates on the horizon. Each quantized position coordinate on the horizon is represented by a non-commuting variable, which in effect smears out the position coordinate into an area pixel. The bits of information encoded on the horizon pixels define the configuration states of everything observable in the observer’s world. Just like a virtual reality, the images of things are projected from the observer’s screen to the observer’s point of view. Each projection of images can be understood as a screen output. This projection of images from a screen to an observer in a screen output defines the nature of Atmanic consciousness as the trinity of observer, observed and observing. Just like a computer network generated virtual reality, these images of things are animated over a sequence of screen outputs that occur in the flow of energy that energizes the network of screens. At a fundamental level, the flow of energy arises from the expenditure of dark energy. Just like an interactive computer network generated virtual reality, the network of screens can share information. Information sharing is possible because the holographic screen of one observer can overlap with the screens of other observers. Even though each observer only observes the projection of images from its own screen, information sharing in the network of screens allows many observers to interact.

Overlapping bounded spaces

Overlapping Bounded Spaces

Q: If the world is like a virtual reality, what does this tell us about the laws of physics that seem to govern the world?

A: Even a computer network generated virtual reality has to have rules that govern its behavior, but the laws of physics in the form of Einstein’s field equations for the space-time metric, which is the nature of gravity, and the standard model of particle physics, which is the nature of the electromagnetic and nuclear forces, only arise as thermal averages that are valid near thermodynamic equilibrium, and so are only valid as low energy limits. We understand that Einstein’s field equations for the space-time metric are a gauge theory, which means they depend on the observer’s frame of reference, and therefore all observations of space-time geometry by an observer are observer-dependent. The standard model of particle physics as formulated with quantum field theory are also gauge theories, and therefore all observations of the electromagnetic and nuclear interactions also depend on the observer’s frame of reference and are observer-dependent. This gauge property of the laws of physics arises from the principle of equivalence, which says every force is equivalent to an observer’s accelerated frame of reference. This gauge property is also what allows the electromagnetic and nuclear forces to become unified with gravity through the Kaluza-Klein mechanism of extra compactified dimensions of space.

Compactified space

Extra Compactified Dimensions of Space

Q: What is the importance of this gauge property of the laws of physics?

A: We understand that all elementary particles are irreducible representations of the Poincare symmetry group, which is the nature of spin angular momentum. This is the symmetry of flat 3+1 dimensional space-time, or Minkowski space. Super-symmetry is a natural extension of Poincare symmetry. The problem is Poincare symmetry is only valid as a low energy limit. The space-time geometry of the world is not perfectly flat but is curved, which we perceive as gravity. As soon as an observer enters into an accelerated frame of reference, which with unification is the nature of gravity and all other fundamental forces, an event horizon arises that breaks the symmetry of empty space and limits the observer’s observations in space. In addition to spin, elementary particles are characterized by charges that mediate the fundamental forces. With unification, charges are understood to arise as angular momentum quantized in extra compactified dimensions of space. This can only be understood as a low energy approximation that is no longer valid in an accelerated frame of reference, since Poincare symmetry is broken in an accelerated frame of reference.

Observer's Horizon

Accelerating Observer’s Horizon

Q: If the behavior of the world is governed by rules, what kind of rules are valid?

A: Only the holographic principle has validity in an accelerated frame of reference and so transcends the idea of elementary particles and fundamental forces. The holographic principle is the idea that every observer has a holographic screen that encodes bits of information and projects the images of things in the observer’s world to the observer’s point of view. The observer’s holographic screen only arises because the observer is in an accelerated frame of reference, which is how an event horizon arises. The holographic screen that fundamentally defines the observer’s world is its cosmic horizon.

The Observer, the Screen and the Thing

The Observer, the Screen and the Thing

Q: Where does the holographic principle come from?

A: The void expresses its potentiality to create geometry with the expenditure of dark energy, which we understand as the accelerated expansion of space that gives rise to a cosmic horizon that surrounds the observer at the central point of view and limits the observer’s observations of things in that bounded space. With non-commutative geometry, the observer’s cosmic horizon encodes all the bits of information for those observable things and acts as a holographic screen that projects the images of things in the observer’s world to the observer’s central point of view. Both the observer’s holographic screen and the observer’s central point of view can only arise from the void as dark energy is expended. That is the nature of the creation of the observer’s world and the differentiation of consciousness into an observer. Differentiation and creation only occur because dark energy is expended.

Information01

Holographic Principle

Q: How does this give rise to the rules that govern the world?

A: The usual laws of physics only arise as a thermal average that is valid as a low energy limit. The holographic principle has validity that transcends the usual laws of physics, but the holographic principle is only a way of formulating how a quantum state of potentiality arises that describes all possible ways in which bits of information can become encoded on a holographic screen. Quantum theory tells us that with every observation of something a choice must be made. This choice reduces the quantum state of potentiality to an actual configuration state of information defined on the screen. In computer terms, each observation by an observer is like a screen output that projects the images of things from the observer’s screen to the observer’s point of view. This tells us that every observation of something by an observer is a choice that reduces the quantum state. Correctly interpreted in the context of dark energy, the holographic principle tells us that each observer has its own holographic screen defined on its own observer-dependent cosmic horizon, which is the nature of the observer’s Hilbert space for its world. The observer’s Hilbert space is defined by non-commuting variables defined on the observer’s screen.

horizon information

Horizon Information

Q: How are the choices that reduce the quantum state made?

A: Physicists would like us to believe all choices are made randomly, since that is the only way the laws of physics can have predictability. Only random choice allows the laws of physics to emerge as a thermal average and have predictability. The quantum state of potentiality is like a probability distribution that is measured as choices are made, which is the nature of observation. The quantum probability distribution is characterized by an interference pattern as seen in the double slit experiment. The most likely path in the sense of quantum probability is the path of least action, which is like the shortest distance between two points. The path of least action can be understood as the shortest distance between two points even in a curved space-time geometry, like the path of a great circle on the surface of a sphere. The only problem with this concept of quantum probability is the concept only makes sense if the choices that reduce the quantum state are made in a random or unbiased way. Only random choice gives this probability distribution its predictability. The problem is each of us knows our choices are not really made in a random way. Each of us is emotionally biased to make our choices in a biased way. Once bias enters into the way choices are made, all bets are off, and the laws of physics lose predictability.

Sum over all paths

Sum Over all Paths

Q: If every observation is a choice, how do we make our choices?

A: Only the observer can choose. The observer chooses what it observes in its world with its focus of attention on things in its world. The holographic principle tells us the observer’s quantum state of potentiality is formulated in terms of all possible ways bits of information can become encoded on the observer’s holographic screen, but quantum theory also tells us the quantum state can be formulated as a sum over all possible paths through the observer’s world. It is the observer itself as a focal point of consciousness that arises in relation to a holographic screen that follows this path through its world, which we call a world-line. The observer follows a world-line through the space-time geometry that is projected from its holographic screen and animated over a sequence of screen outputs. Each choice on that world-line is a decision-point where the observer chooses to observe an actual configuration state of information and chooses to follow an actual path through its world. These choices can only arise with the observer’s focus of attention on things in its world. If there is bias in the way the observer makes its choices, the laws of physics lose their predictability. This is really not such a big problem, since the laws of physics were never really laws in the first place, but only a thermal average description of the world that arises as a low energy approximation when random choice is the dominant way choices are made.

Decision point

Decision-Point

Q: It seems the observer’s holographic screen can only arise in an accelerated frame of reference as the observer follows an accelerating world-line. What exactly do you mean by an observer’s accelerated frame of reference?

A: The principle of equivalence tells us every force is equivalent to an accelerating frame of reference, like a rocket ship that accelerates through space. This is not only the case for gravity, but also for the electromagnetic and nuclear forces and the force of dark energy. In relativity theory we understand the force of dark energy is the accelerated expansion of space that expands relative to the central point of view of an observer, which gives rise to the observer’s cosmic horizon. The holographic principle then tells us all the bits of information that define the configuration states of everything in the observer’s world are encoded on this horizon, which acts as a holographic screen that projects images of things in the observer’s world to the observer’s central point of view. Like the animation of a movie, this projection of images occurs over a sequence of events that arise in the flow of energy through the observer’s world. Each observational event is like a screen output. Where does this energy come from? The exertion of a force always implies the expenditure of energy, like the energy expended by the thrusters of an accelerating rocket ship that force it forward through space. The force of dark energy that gives rise to an observer’s accelerated frame of reference is also what gives rise to the normal flow of energy through the observer’s world.

gravity

Principle of Equivalence

Q: How does this expenditure of dark energy give rise to the normal flow of energy through the observer’s world?

A: The second law of thermodynamics tells us heat flows from hotter to colder objects, but in global terms, heat flows from hotter states to colder states of the observer’s world. The holographic principle tells us the absolute temperature of the observer’s world at thermal equilibrium is set by the temperature of the observer’s cosmic horizon, and horizon temperature is inversely proportional to horizon radius. As the horizon expands in size it cools in temperature. The radius of the observer’s cosmic horizon is set by the amount of dark energy in the observer’s world. The higher the concentration of dark energy, the smaller the horizon radius. Modern cosmology tells us there is an instability in the amount of dark energy in the observer’s world. At the moment of creation of the observer’s world, which we call the big bang event, the concentration of dark energy was maximal, which corresponds to a minimal radius of the cosmic horizon of about a Planck length and the maximal temperature of the observer’s world. Due to an instability in the amount of dark energy, the concentration of dark energy decreases over time, which results in an inflation in the size of the observer’s cosmic horizon and a decrease in its temperature. This decrease in temperature as the horizon inflates in size is what drives the normal flow of energy through the observer’s world as heat flows from hotter states to colder states of the observer’s world. This decrease in the amount of dark energy does not occur continuously, but in discontinuous events that are like phase transitions. We understand this instability in the amount of dark energy is like a phase transition from a metastable false vacuum state to a more stable vacuum state of lower energy. The true vacuum state, which we call the void, has zero dark energy, a temperature of absolute zero, and absolute stability. This transition from a metastable false vacuum state to an ultimate true vacuum state is like a process of burning that burns away dark energy. Dark energy burns away in this phase transition. As dark energy burns away to zero, the observer’s cosmic horizon inflates in size to infinity and the observer’s world cools in temperature to absolute zero. This is the thermal gradient that drives the normal flow of energy through the observer’s world.

quantum tunneling

Metastable State

Q: What does dark energy tell us about the big bang event?

A: Dark energy is what puts the “bang” in the big bang creation event. Without the expression of dark energy there is no “bang” since there is no expansion of space. Space always expands relative to the central point of view of an observer, which is the point of singularity from which dark energy arises. The observer is surrounded by a cosmic horizon that acts as a holographic screen and that encodes all the bits of information that define the configuration states of everything the observer can observe in its world. Modern cosmology tells us all matter and energy in the observer’s world arise from dark energy through a process of symmetry breaking. The observational fact is the total energy of the observable universe is exactly zero, which tells us that everything is really nothing in disguise. This is possible in relativity theory since the negative potential energy of gravitational attraction can exactly cancel out all dark energy and all forms of positive energy that arise from dark energy, like mass and kinetic energy. In other words, everything in the observer’s world is in perfect balance.

ying-yang

Ying-Yang Balance

Q: You mentioned the laws of physics only emerge as thermal averages. What exactly does that mean?

A: The second law of thermodynamics is only a statistical or thermal average description of the world, but in the framework of the holographic principle tells us all the other laws of physics that appear to govern the observer’s world can only emerge as thermal averages. As long as things are near thermal equilibrium, the laws of physics only appear fixed and stable due to symmetry breaking, and in some sense have frozen out of the quantum state of potentiality like a phase transition that turns water into ice, although the better analogy is probably the spontaneous magnetization of a magnet. The laws of physics appear stable because they arise through symmetry breaking within a metastable or false vacuum state. The nature of symmetry breaking tells us that bits of information spontaneously become organized into complex forms as energy flows in a thermal gradient, like the spontaneous magnetization of a magnet. The expression of complexity arises with symmetry breaking because the organization of information occurs at a metastable state. Even the transition from one metastable state to another state is a kind of symmetry breaking. This is epitomized by a cosmological constant that is only a “constant” within a metastable state, while the transition from one value of the cosmological constant to another is a kind of phase transition. The upshot is all of the usual laws of physics, like gravity and electromagnetism, are not really fundamental, but are derivative of the holographic principle and only arise as thermal averages. Around the same time the holographic principle was discovered, it was also discovered that Einstein’s field equations for the space-time metric, which specify the space-time geometry of the observer’s world, arise from the holographic principle as thermodynamic equations of state that are only valid as thermal averages. The law of gravity isn’t really a law at all, but is only a thermal average description of the world that emerges as a statistical consequence of the holographic principle. The other laws of physics that govern the interactions of the electromagnetic and nuclear forces can then be understood to arise from Einstein’s field equations for the space-time metric through the usual unification mechanisms, which include super-symmetry and the Kaluza-Klein mechanism of extra compactified dimensions of space. All the usual quantum fields of the standard model of particle physics then arise as extra components of the space-time metric through unification mechanisms. The final result is akin to 11-dimensional super-gravity, which is a part of M-theory. Like gravity, the electromagnetic and nuclear interactions only arise from the holographic principle as thermal averages. Like the holographic principle, these unification mechanisms can all be understood as geometric mechanisms. The expansion of space that arises with the expression of dark energy and the pixelation of bits of information on a horizon with non-commutative geometry explain how bits of information become encoded on a holographic screen in relation to the point of view of an observer, while the instability in dark energy explains the origin of the thermal gradient that gives rise to the normal flow of energy through the observer’s world.

Flow of energy

Normal Flow of Energy Through the Observer’s World

Q: It’s often stated quantum theory is not consistent with relativity theory. Is that how you see things?

A: We’ve already seen that quantum field theory is based on the Poincare symmetry of flat 3+1 dimensional Minkowski space-time. Poincare symmetry is broken whenever an event horizon arises in an observer’s accelerated frame of reference, but there is a bigger issue than symmetry breaking. The problem isn’t so much that quantum theory per se is inconsistent with relativity theory, but that our interpretation of quantum theory is wrong. The standard Copenhagen interpretation of quantum theory is not consistent with relativity theory or modern cosmology. Only the relational interpretation of quantum theory is consistent with relativity theory and modern cosmology. The Copenhagen interpretation assumes there is a single quantum state that describes the universe and that multiple observers can measure the universe described by this single quantum state. This mistaken assumption is what creates the problem. The problem with the Copenhagen interpretation is that it assumes there is an objective quantum state that describes everything in the universe, which is called the wavefunction of the universe, and assumes all observers make their measurements by reducing this all-encompassing mega-quantum state of everything in creation. The wavefunction of the universe is assumed to be observer-independent, and all observers must reduce it to make their measurements. This faulty assumption leads to all the measurement paradoxes of quantum theory like the Wigner friend paradox. How can an observer be a part of this mega-quantum state from the point of view of another observer and vice-versa? The relational interpretation of quantum theory solves the measurement problem by assuming each observer has its own observer-dependent quantum state that is reduced as the observer makes an observation. The relational interpretation says the quantum state is observer-dependent and every observer has its own quantum state that describes its own world. In this way, every observer measures its own world as described by its own quantum state. I measure my world and you measure your world, but there is no God’s eye view of both my world and your world that can measure what appears to happen in both our worlds. The God’s eye view is a view from nowhere outside the universe. The only possible view of the universe is from inside the universe. The God’s eye view simply does not exist, but the conventional interpretation of quantum theory, which assumes a single quantum state of the universe that multiple observers can measure, assumes the God’s eye view does exist. This mistaken assumption of an observer-independent universe is the basic problem. Remove that assumption and the problem is solved. The holographic principle in the context of modern cosmology is an explicit solution to this problem. In relativity theory, the observer is only a frame of reference, specifically a point of view that arises in a reference frame, which can be thought of as the origin of a coordinate system. With a positive cosmological constant, which we understand as the expression of dark energy that gives rise to the accelerated expansion of space, the observer is the central point of view that arises in relation to a cosmic horizon. The critical point is that the cosmic horizon is observer-dependent and only arises in the observer’s accelerated frame of reference. With the holographic principle we understand the observer’s cosmic horizon encodes all the bits of information that specify the configuration states of every possible observable thing in the observer’s world. The holographic principle tells us the observer’s cosmic horizon acts as a holographic screen that projects observable images of things to the observer’s central point of view. Each projection of images is an observational event, which in computer terms is like a screen output, but in the context of quantum theory is a quantum state reduction. Each observer has its own cosmic horizon that encodes bits of information about its own world, which defines the observer’s quantum state of its world. The quantum state of my world is different than the quantum state of your world because our cosmic horizons are different. With the expression of dark energy that gives rise to the accelerated expansion of space, I am at the central point of view of my world, which is defined by how bits of information are encoded on my horizon, and you are at the central point of view of your world, which is defined by how bits of information are encoded on your horizon. There can only be consensus among what different observers observe in their respective worlds if their cosmic horizons overlap in the sense of a Venn diagram and share information. It seems like we inhabit the same world because of information sharing among worlds, but in reality each of us perceives our own world. In other words, there is no such things as objective reality if what we mean by reality is what is observable. The quantum state that describes the nature of observable reality has no objective reality, but is always observer-dependent and subjective. Each observer has its own observer-dependent Hilbert space of observable values. There is only consensus among different observers in terms of what each observes if their respective Hilbert spaces overlap and share information.

Q: It’s hard to believe all the complexity of the world is encoded on a holographic screen.

A: The animation of the world is just like the animation of a movie, except the development and animation of forms, including all life-forms, develops and occurs spontaneously. It all spontaneously emerges in the normal flow of energy through the observer’s world, but always under the direction of the focus of attention of the observer’s perceiving consciousness. Complex life-forms are able to develop due to the development of coherent organization as encoded on the observer’s holographic screen. The birth and development of the observer’s body can be understood in terms of the coherent organization of information, just as the physical death of the observer’s body can be understood in terms of the disorganization of information. Modern physics tells us the development of coherent organization arises through a process of symmetry breaking. This is as much the case for biological organisms as it is for physical objects. The only significant difference is the organization of physical objects through phase transitions is dependent on the transfer of heat, while biological organisms can also engage in a process of eating, which adds organizing potential energy to the organism. There is always a balance between the flow of thermal kinetic energy that tends to disorganize objects and organizing potential energy that tends to organize objects. When the balance shifts in favor of organizing potential energy, symmetry breaking occurs and coherent organization develops. When the balance shifts in favor of too much heat, disorganization occurs. As organizing potential energy is added to a body through a process of eating, the development of coherent organization naturally occurs through a process of symmetry breaking. Although symmetry breaking may be sufficient to drive the development of coherent organization in the observer’s body, the observer also plays a role in directing the organizing process through choices that occur with the observer’s focus of attention, especially when those choices become emotionally biased.

Q: How does this explain the nature of memory and learning?

A: Memory and learning are nothing more than the development of coherent organization. The best example of this is the kind of learned memory that develops as an athlete trains. When an athlete trains, coherent organization of information develops in the mind. This organization of information is not really processed or encoded in terms of neuronal activity that appears to occur in a three dimensional brain, which is only a holographic projection of images into space, but on a two dimensional holographic screen. The observer of the screen, which is only a focal point of consciousness that arises in relation to the holographic screen, observes the images that are projected from the screen into three dimensional space. Each projection of images is like a screen output from a computer screen. In terms of quantum theory, each screen output is a quantum state reduction that defines how information is actually encoded on the screen. The quantum state of the screen is a sum over all possible ways information can become encoded on the screen. This information is entangled, which we understand as an interference pattern. If you’ve ever looked microscopically at a piece of holographic film, you’ll only see an interference pattern. The two dimensional interference pattern encoded on the film has no resemblance at all to the three dimensional images projected into space from the holographic film to an observer. This tells us we are fundamentally looking at the wrong signal when we try to deduce how information is processed in the mind based on the neuronal activity of a three dimensional brain, which is only a holographic projection of how information is encoded on a two dimensional holographic screen. The screen is the more accurate description of how the mind encodes information. The interference pattern is what makes the observer’s perceived world appear holographic in nature. Entanglement of information on the screen is also the reason why events throughout the observer’s world are connected.

Q: How does this explain memory and learning?

A: When an athlete trains, information on the screen becomes coherently organized, which allows for learned behavior. With training or learning, coherent organization develops on the screen, which explains why learned behavior is possible in the sense of “doing” that follows from “seeing”. Once coherent organization or learned memory develops, no further information processing is necessary to connect the learned behavior to the perception of that behavior in a pattern of stimulus and response. The best way to understand stimulus and response is in terms of the phase space dynamical concepts of attractors and basins of attraction, like a river that drains a mountain range. Given a particular set of initial conditions (the stimulus) the flow of energy through the system evolves toward an attractor (the response), just like water flows in the drainage basin of a mountain range towards a river. The development of coherent organization (learned memory) is how the particular characteristics of the attractor (the river) and the basin of attraction (the mountain range) develop. Once coherent organization develops on the observer’s holographic screen, learned behavior in a rapid pattern of stimulus and response becomes possible. This behavior is always animated over a sequence of screen outputs, each of which reduces the quantum state of the observer’s screen. The quantum state reduction is instantaneous. As the screen output occurs, the observer instantaneously sees how images are projected from its holographic screen to the observer’s point of view. The only physical limitation in the rate of information processing is the speed of light, but this limitation only applies to how information appears to become transmitted through three dimensional space. The speed of light limitation does not apply to information processing on the screen or to the rate with which screen outputs can occur. The net result is the observer sees the sensory stimulus and almost instantaneously sees the motor response, which occurs in a split second. The motor response follows from the sensory stimulus due to the way bits of information are coherently organized on the holographic screen. The only delay is the time it takes for screen outputs to become animated in sequence, like the animated images of a movie projected from the screen to the observer. The observer sees the sensory stimulus and almost instantaneously sees the motor response. This explains why a trained athlete can “see” and “do” things almost instantaneously. With training and the development of coherent organization in the mind, “doing” follows directly from “seeing”. The key thing about learned behavior is to allow it to happen naturally. If you try to control it in an emotionally biased way, you’ll only interfere with it. Only unbiased choices allow things to play out in the normal way, which in the sense of quantum theory we understand as following the path of least action. All that really happens is the observer sees whatever appears to happen as images are projected from the holographic screen to the observer. The observer’s screen not only defines the observer’s mind, but also the observer’s world. Everything the observer can perceive in its world is defined by how information is encoded on its holographic screen, which is a mental screen. The observer itself is only a focal point of consciousness that arises in relation to the screen. All bits of information encoded on the screen are entangled in the sense of an interference pattern, just as quantum theory says. All of this organization of information occurs on a holographic screen, since that is where all the bits of information are encoded. The apparent information processing that seems to occur in a physical brain is misleading since it’s only a holographic projection from the screen to the observer. Neuroscience may be wasting its time by studying neuronal activity in a brain. At best, this kind of scientific investigation has limited validity. Only the holographic principle gives an accurate description of what is really going on in a mind in terms of learned memory and learned behavior, but none of this can happen without perception. The observer’s world only comes into existence if the observer is present to perceive that world. Perception is reality if what we mean by reality is what is perceivable. Of course, that is not the ultimate nature of reality. Ultimate reality is the source of the observer’s perceiving consciousness just as it is the source of the observer’s perceivable world. That ultimate reality is the undifferentiated consciousness of the void.

Q: So far we’ve discussed the nature of consciousness, how the observer’s consciousness is differentiated from the undifferentiated consciousness of the void, and how the observer’s world is created from the void, but not the nature of awakening. If the observer’s world is only like an interactive computer network generated virtual reality, then what is the nature of awakening?

A: McKenna says the virtual reality is like a dreamstate, which is an illusion. When one awakens from one’s dream, only one’s true nature remains. McKenna calls the true nature of the dreamer the truth, which he identifies as the undifferentiated consciousness of the void. McKenna says illusion, which he calls Maya, cannot be explained, but the holographic principle gives us a perfectly good scientific explanation of the nature of illusion. Amanda Gefter (2014) makes exactly this point. The nature of illusion can be explained and understood if we marry Gefter to McKenna. If people read McKenna and Gefter and marry them together, they can draw this conclusion for themselves. To paraphrase William Blake, this is the marriage of modern concepts of theoretical physics to timeless concepts of nonduality.

Illusion and reality

Q: What exactly is the connection of Gefter to McKenna?

A: The secret of this connection of consciousness to illusion is geometric mechanisms, of which the holographic principle is the prime example. McKenna even hints at this geometric connection, but doesn’t have the scientific background to expand the connection to its logical conclusion. When he says illusion cannot be explained he is being disingenuous. He even takes the first steps toward such an explanation. He makes the analogy of flatland, in which the void is a blank piece of paper, the observer is a point on the paper and the observer’s world is defined by a circle that surrounds the central point. This is the prototypical idea of a holographic screen that projects images of the observer’s world to the observer’s central point of view. The only reason such a geometric connection is possible is because the undifferentiated consciousness of the void is what exists prior to the creation of the geometry of the observer’s world. It is not only the potential to create that geometry, but the potential to differentiate itself into the observer. McKenna just doesn’t know how to take this idea further. That’s where the holographic principle comes in. Illusion is created whenever the void expresses itself through geometric mechanisms. When the void expends dark energy through the expansion of space and encodes information on a cosmic horizon through non-commutative geometry, it is expressing its potentiality to create an observer’s world out of itself and to differentiate an observer’s consciousness from itself.

Q: Are you saying the observer’s consciousness is part of the illusion?

A: Yes. Both Gefter and McKenna make exactly the same point. The individual consciousness of the observer is a part of the illusion that is created as dark energy is expended and the observer’s world is created. The idea that Atmanic consciousness is differentiated from Brahmanic consciousness as the observer’s world is created has been around for eons. This is stated explicitly in the Book of Genesis when it says the light is divided from the darkness as the world is created. Genesis is referring to the observer’s light of consciousness that is differentiated from the darkness of the void. This differentiation of consciousness is part of the illusion. The only stumbling block to understanding what this distinction between Atmanic and Brahmanic consciousness really means is in understanding how illusion is created. The holographic principle solves this mystery in a very straightforward way.

Q: What do you mean by the light of consciousness?

A: When one is enlightened, one can see it is one’s own light of consciousness, as it emanates from one’s own focal point of consciousness, that projects the images of one’s world from one’s screen, much like the light of a laser projects the images of a physical hologram. The observer’s focal point of consciousness is the singularity at the center of the observer’s world, and the light of consciousness emanates from the singularity. Genesis refers to the observer as the spirit of God, to the observer’s holographic screen as the face of the deep, and to the void as the abyss, the deep, or the darkness. Genesis also describes the world is only created as the spirit moves over the face of the deep, which we can understand as the observer’s world-line or accelerated frame of reference that gives rise to the observer’s horizon which acts as a holographic screen. The observer’s light of consciousness is what allows images of the observer’s world to become projected back to the observer. In the sense of focusing on things, the observer’s light of consciousness is what gives rise to the observer’s focus of attention.

singularity

Singularity: Light of Consciousness

Q: You seem to be saying that everything that appears in the world is part of the illusion and that nothing in the illusion is true. Isn’t there some aspect of the illusion that has some truth in it?

A: Yes, there is one important exception. Mathematical statements are part of the illusion, but can be seen to be true or false. The statement 1+1=2 is true, while the statement 1+1=3 is false. Mathematicians point out mathematical truths are directly seen and not learned. They have the nature of intuition. Even a young child without any formal education can intuit the nature of addition. The power of true mathematical statements and their logical consistency allows a scientific explanation of the illusion to appear within the illusion. Mathematical statements can be seen to be true or false as long as they are free of emotional bias, since they refer to something that is beyond subjectivity. What is beyond subjectivity is the source of the geometric mechanisms that give rise to mathematical statements as they appear within the illusion. The experience that mathematical truth is discovered from some ultimate unknown source of truth is the reason many mathematicians and physicists, like Einstein, consider themselves to be Platonists. That source of mathematics can only be understood as the undifferentiated consciousness of the void.

signpost-to-nonduality

Non-duality Signpost

Q: What proof do you have that what you’re saying is true?

A: You’ve misunderstood what I’m saying. The truth cannot be expressed in words. Science can only point to the truth in the sense of a signpost. Science is telling us that the true nature of existence is the undifferentiated consciousness of the void, but there is no way to prove this or even describe what it is except in the sense of nothingness, like an empty space of potentiality. This conclusion is what the logical consistency of science as formulated in terms of mathematics is telling us. The epitome of this conclusion are the Godel incompleteness theorems, which prove that no mathematical system as complicated as counting natural numbers can prove its own consistency. The proof of consistency is always found outside the mathematical system. This is another way of saying that the creator cannot be a part of its creation, or that the dreamer cannot be a part of its dream, or that the perceiver cannot be a part of its perceptions. It may feel or look like the perceiver is part of its perceptions, but that’s only another perception. Just as the proof of consistency is always to be found outside of the mathematical system, the creator is always found outside its creation, the dreamer is always found outside its dream, and the true nature of the perceiver is always found outside its perceptions. This is an inevitable consequence of the logical consistency of science as formulated with mathematical systems. Logical consistency requires there are no paradoxes of self-reference. The logical consistency of science is not based on any particular theory, but on the logical consistency of all possible theories as formalized in terms of mathematics. This is the importance of geometric mechanisms as a means of creation. These geometric mechanisms are the essence of relativity theory in the sense of the contraction and expansion of space, which we understand as the forces of gravity and dark energy, but are also the essence of quantum theory in the sense of a sum over all possible paths in some configuration space. Relativity theory and quantum theory are not particular scientific theories, but have the nature of overarching frameworks that give rise to particular theories. All possible theories are based on geometric mechanisms, but different geometric mechanisms can give rise to different theories. The logical consistency of all possible theories based on geometric mechanisms points to the undifferentiated consciousness of the void as the true or ultimate nature of existence, but that’s not a proof of its existence. The only possible proof available to anyone, which is the ultimate proof, is to become a Buddha and directly experience the undifferentiated consciousness of the void for oneself, at which point one ceases to exist as an individual self. Only the undifferentiated consciousness of the void as an empty space of potentiality can give rise to the point of view of the observer and the observer’s holographic screen. In the sense of projection of images of the observer’s world from the observer’s screen to the observer’s point of view, the observer is right at the edge of being outside its world. The only way to be outside the observer’s world is to go beyond the images of that world as projected from a holographic screen, at which point the differentiated consciousness of the observer must return to its primordial undifferentiated state of existence. This return to nothingness is all about what is beyond the images of the observer’s world.

finger-pointing-at-the-moon

Q: Where does the potentiality of the void to express itself and create a world come from?

A: It doesn’t come from anywhere. It’s the nature of what the void is. The mistake is to think of the void as something personal, like a God-like personality. The void expresses itself by creating a world for itself to perceive because it can. That is its potentiality. Its potential to express itself is like an impersonal force of nature, but its potentiality to create is always linked to its potentiality to perceive its creation. The void creates a world for itself to perceive because it can and because it feels good to do so. Creation is always linked to perception. This is just like a dreamer and its dream. The book of Genesis says that when God created the world, God saw “that it was good“. This feedback between creation and perception always requires the expenditure of energy, which is perceived as emotional feelings that feel good. Creation is the manifestation of desires, and that manifestation only goes forward because it feels good. A world is only manifested because of the fulfillment of desires. There is always an emotional link between the focus of attention of consciousness and the expression of emotional energy that arises as a consequence of the way attention is focused. There is nothing personal about this expression of the void’s potentiality. Everything we think of as personal is part of the creation. The mistake is to think of the void as something separate from yourself with its own desires and its own God-like personality. The void is the true nature of what you are. Its desires are your desires. Its consciousness is your consciousness. The only barrier to seeing this truth is the differentiation of your consciousness that occurs as your energy is expended, your desires are expressed and your world is created. There can be no world to perceive if consciousness does not differentiate itself into an observer of that world. Without the observer there is no world. The observer and its world always arise together. This is the answer to the Zen koan “If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” The answer is yes. A tree falling in the forest implies a perceivable world, and a world to perceive implies an observer of that world. That observer may be nobody, just a focal point of consciousness that arises in relation to a holographic screen that projects all the perceivable images of that world, but the observer must be present to observe that world for its world to come into existence.

Q: If differentiation of the observer’s consciousness and creation of the observer’s world are both a part of the illusion, like a virtual reality or dreamstate, then what is the nature of awakening? What does it mean to awaken from the dreamstate, and how does one awaken?

A: When one awakens from a dream, the dream disappears and only one’s true nature as a dreamer remains. What is the true nature of the dreamer? How is the dream created? We’ve already answered these questions. The true nature of the dreamer is the undifferentiated consciousness of the void. The dream is created as the void creates an observer’s world out of itself through the expenditure of dark energy and differentiates the observer’s consciousness from itself. For the dream to come to an end, the expenditure of this energy must come to an end. Since the expenditure of this energy is fundamentally the expression of the desire to live a life in the world, the dream can only come to an end if the expression of this desire comes to an end. One awakens when one becomes desireless.

Q: At a practical level, what does it mean to become desireless?

A: No one ever awakens out of love for truth or the expression of desire. McKenna says it just doesn’t work that way. The only way one awakens is if one becomes desireless, which requires the willingness to die. Not only the desire to live a life in the world must come to an end, but also the desire to become enlightened. McKenna says one doesn’t become enlightened out of love for truth but hatred of the lie, which is why one is willing to destroy one’s self. Self is a lie. McKenna says all self is false self. There is no true-self, only false self and no-self. There is no enlightened self. One doesn’t really become enlightened. One reverts back to one’s true nature when one stops living the life of a lie. It’s not that one becomes true; one only destroys the lie. When the lie is destroyed, only truth remains. Since the lie of self is emotionally energized, the only way one destroys the lie is to stop expressing desires that energize the lie, and that can only happen if one is willing to die. McKenna calls awakening a process of “ego death as a means to no-self”.

Nietzsche

Q: How does ego death lead to no-self?

A: Awakening is a self-destructive process of ego death that ultimately culminates in no-self. The individual consciousness of the observer returns to its primordial state of timeless existence and reunites itself with the undifferentiated consciousness of the void. McKenna says there is no true-self, only false self and no-self. All self is an illusion. There is no self or individuality in no-self, only one or unity. The awakening process cannot culminate until ego is totally annihilated. In the final Matrix movie, Neo finally becomes the One when he annihilates with agent Smith, who is the anti-Neo, like the annihilation of a particle antiparticle pair. McKenna is fond of quoting U G Krishnamurti: “the end of illusion is the end of you“. The big question is what it takes to totally annihilate your ego. Ego death is much more than body death, since it requires the willingness to bring all desires to live a life in the world to an end.

there is no spoon

There is No Spoon

Q: How does hatred of the lie of self lead one to become desireless?

A: The energy that drives the awakening process is hatred of the lie that results in a kind of suicide. This suicide is not physical body death but ego death. One does this not out of love of truth but hatred of the lie. The only way one ever returns to the darkness is to become dark. As long as one expresses light and love and the desire for life in the world, one is alive in the world. The only way one returns to the darkness is if one stops expressing light and love and the desire to live a life in the world. To use the Star Wars metaphor, the only way one goes through the awakening process is if one goes over to the dark side, not by expressing anger and resentment against others in the world, but by expressing anger against the lie of one’s own self. This self-destructive anger is a dark rage, or a death wish. This death wish can only be fulfilled through ego death, which is the end of all desires to live a life in the world. This willingness to become dark is metaphorically represented in the Matrix when Neo puts on his dark glasses every time he enters the Matrix. Neo’s willingness to see things in terms of the darkness represents his mission, which is a search and destroy mission of self-destruction that ultimately leads to ego death. In the first Matrix movie he undergoes a process of disillusionment culminating in a death/rebirth transformation, which McKenna calls the first step in the awakening process. In the final Matrix movie he undergoes the final process of ego death leading to no-self, which is the final step. That is the only path that leads to awakening and freedom. The freedom that one achieves is freedom from ego. Self-identification with ego is the illusion destroyed in the process of awakening. Freedom is not freedom of ego, but freedom from ego.

Q: What exactly is the ego?

A: The ego is the mentally constructed, emotionally energized self-concept. This self-concept is what the observer believes itself to be as long as the observer identifies itself with its ego. The ego is a false belief the observer believes about itself, which is a delusion. McKenna says “no belief is true” and “once delusion has been destroyed we can see it never really existed” since it was based on the illusion of self. The ego is mentally constructed as this self-concept is emotionally related to other things in the observer’s world. Only the expression of this emotional energy can make the observer feel like it is really self-limited to the form of its body as the observer perceives the expression of self-limiting emotional body feelings. Psychology tells us the ego is body-based, but modern physics tells us the ego must have an extent in space and time that goes beyond the limits of the physical body. The reason the ego extends beyond the limits of the body has to do with quantum entanglement. All the bits of information that define the observer’s world are entangled because they’re all encoded on the observer’s holographic screen. Entanglement means the bits of information that give rise to the mental construction of the observer’s ego are not just located within the physical limits of the observer’s body or even to things that are physically connected to the body, but extend throughout the observer’s world. Entanglement allows for mental construction of the observer’s ego even after body death. Since ego is only a collection of desires to live a life in the world, the expression of that desire can continue after body death.

Q: Can you elaborate on the process that leads to ego death?

A: McKenna says it is not possible to become true. In the sense of undifferentiated consciousness, truth is the true nature of what you are. It is the true nature of your being, and being is prior to becoming. As the Gospel of John says: “Before Abraham was, I Am“. You cannot become what you already are. On the other hand, you can become something false, which is what happens when you identify yourself with your character in the world that you are perceiving. You can only un-become what is untrue. McKenna says you cannot realize the truth, you can only un-realize untruth by destroying everything that is false, and in the process only the truth remains. The irony is when everything false is destroyed, nothing remains. This nothingness is the undifferentiated consciousness of the void. That is the true nature of what you are.

Q: How can this nothingness be the truth?

A: The nothingness of undifferentiated consciousness is the truth of what you are; the truth of what everything is. This is the critical distinction between being, which is timeless and unchanging, and becoming, which requires the expenditure of energy and constantly changes over the course of time. The undifferentiated consciousness of the void is the true nature of being, while the dynamical nature of the world with its space, time, matter, energy and differentiated consciousness of an observer is the nature of becoming. McKenna points out that the void is like an undivided empty space, which is the nature of unity and nothingness, and that this empty space has no limits or boundaries, and so is also the nature of infinity. McKenna likes to quote Melville: “truth has no confines”. This empty space is space-less in the sense that it is not defined by spatial relations among things perceived in the world, unlike the kind of perceivable space projected from a holographic screen to an observer. McKenna also says “the price of truth is everything”. One only reaches the final destination of the journey of awakening if one leaves everything behind. Everything is lost and nothing is gained. Every step in the journey of awakening is a loss, and as long as there is more to lose, there are more steps to take. McKenna says one trades everything for nothing, and makes a good deal. One discovers one’s true nature.

Q: The flip side of desire is fear. What role does fear play in awakening?

A: McKenna says the ultimate barrier to awakening is the fear of no-self, which is fear of nothingness. Paradoxically, this fear of nothingness is fear of the true nature of what you are. In a twisted way, one becomes afraid of one’s true nature. This can only happen because the ego is mentally constructed through paradoxes of self-reference and the observer identifies itself with its ego. The fear of no-self can only become a barrier to awakening due to the illusory nature of self-identification. It is as though the observer is watching a movie and identifies itself with the central character of that movie as the character gives a self-referential narration of the movie. This emotionally energized self-referential narration of the movie is the nature of the ego. The emotions that energize the ego are all desires to live a life in the world. This expression of desire is the mechanism that creates the illusion of self. The illusion of self is only created through the expression of desire to be somebody or something in one’s world. As you say, the flip side of that desire is fear. McKenna says all fear is ultimately the fear of no-self. The expression of fear defends the survival of the illusion of self. Just as the journey of awakening is a self-destructive process that destroys the illusion of self, the expression of fear is a self-defensive process that defends the illusion of self. The fear of no-self is the barrier to awakening, but this is a much greater fear than the fear of death, since it is always possible to assuage the fear of death with some belief about life after death. The fear of no-self is the fear of nothingness, and no fairy-tale can assuage that fear. The fear of no-self is the fear of losing everything, but as McKenna says: “No one knows what everything means until they’re paying it”.

Q: Are you saying that nothing can be taken with you after death?

A: No, I’m not saying that at all. It all depends on whether you awaken or not. This is the distinction between body death and ego death. If you awaken, which can only happen with ego death, you take nothing with you. Ironically, with awakening you return to a state of no-self in which there is no you. On the other hand, if you experience body death without awakening, you can take a lot with you into your next life. The observer is only a focal point of consciousness that arises in relation to a holographic screen that projects all images of the observer’s world. The observer’s body is one of those images, like the central character of a movie. Body death is only the disorganization of information in that image so that the body image is no longer coherently self-replicated in form after body death. The observer’s ego is much more than just the observer’s body since the ego arises from entangled bits of information that are dispersed throughout the observer’s world, and so the observer’s ego can persist after body death. The observer’s ego as an emotionally energized self-concept that arises from these entangled bits of information can give rise to memories, emotional attachments, and desires to live a life the world that persist after body death. If body death is not accompanied by ego death, the observer as focal point of consciousness can remain present for its world and take these things with it into its next life. If the observer becomes reincarnated into a new body, it can take some aspects of its old ego with it. Only ego death allows the differentiated consciousness of the observer to reunite itself with the undifferentiated consciousness of no-self. Since this is a return to nothingness, nothing is taken back to the nothingness. The fear of nothingness is the ultimate barrier to awakening that perpetuates this cycle of reincarnation into a new body. The usual word for this is karma, which is a word for the effects of all the perpetuated desires to live a life in the world. When McKenna discusses burning away karma, he means burning away desire. In scientific terms this is the burning of dark energy. McKenna describes the burning away of desires in much the same way the Buddha describes burning in the Fire Sermon:

Burning, burning, burning, burning
Oh Lord, Thou pluckest me out

When all desires to live a life in the world have finally burned away, the illusion of self is destroyed. The fear of no-self is the barrier to awakening, but the barrier is illusory since it is only created out of this desire to live a life in the world and the illusion of self. The only way to break through the barrier is to become desireless and awaken to one’s true nature as no-self. In a twisted way this makes sense if, as McKenna likes to say, we understand “life is but a dream”.

Q: Why is awakening so uncommon?

A: People say they want to know the answer about the nature of existence, but the sad truth of the situation is they really don’t want to know the answer if knowing means being a nobody. What people really want more than anything else in the world is not an answer, but to be somebody or something important in the world. This is the literal definition of narcissism, as one falls in love with the projected image of one’s own character in one’s world, and which we’re currently experiencing an explosion of epidemic proportions. We live in the age of the grandiose ego. People are motivated by the desire to be somebody or something important in the world, not by the desire to know the answer if knowing means being a nobody. That’s why it is not possible to discover the answer by expressing the desire to know. The answer is only discovered if one is willing to be a nobody, and that can only happen if one doesn’t want to be somebody or something in the world. In other words, one no longer wants to live a life in the world. One never awakens out of the love of self, but only out of hatred for one’s false self. This hatred of self becomes so intense that one becomes willing to die, but nobody really wants to die. The fear of no-self will always stand as the final barrier to awakening. Like the gateless gate paradox that describes the illusory nature of the barrier, McKenna is fond of quoting Chuang Tzu on the nature of no-self:

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

Q: What does no-self mean?

A: No-self is the undifferentiated consciousness of the void. McKenna says it has no context and doesn’t mean anything. It Is. It is the nature of timeless being. All meaning is inherently emotional in nature and is established in an emotional context. Emotional connections always require the expenditure of emotional energy. In and of itself, the undifferentiated consciousness of the void expends no energy, has no emotional context, and has no meaning. Meaning can only come into existence through a process of becoming, which requires the expenditure of energy as an observer’s world is created and the observer’s consciousness is differentiated. The creation of meaning always requires the expression of desire. Without expression of desire, there is no meaning.

Q: Can you say more about the awakening process?

A: The process of awakening consists of two distinct but related phenomena: the dissolution of the observer’s individual consciousness into the nothingness of undifferentiated consciousness, and the ascension of the observer’s consciousness. Dissolution can only occur when the expression of all desires to live a life in the observer’s world come to an end. When the expression of all emotional energy comes to an end, the observer is no longer in an accelerated frame of reference and the observer’s holographic screen is no longer created. In this ultimate freely falling frame of reference, all images of the observer’s world disappear and only the observer’s underlying reality remains. That underlying reality of undifferentiated consciousness is the ground of the observer’s individual consciousness. The analogy often made is the observer’s individual consciousness dissolves into the undifferentiated consciousness of the void like a drop of water dissolves into the ocean. In the sense of spiritual reunion, the individual spirit of the observer reunites itself with the Supreme Spirit of the void. In the language of Advaita, Atman reunites itself with Brahman. Dissolution is also described as freely falling into the void. Dissolution of individual consciousness into undifferentiated consciousness is referred to as the experience of nothingness or Nirvana. The Tao tells us:

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

Q: What happens after dissolution?

A: If the observer comes back to its world after the experience of nothingness, even though energy is again expended and the observer’s world reappears, the observer is profoundly changed. This change is referred to as the ascension of consciousness. Plato gave an excellent description of ascension in the Allegory of the Cave. An ascended observer no longer observes its world as though it is a part of its world and no longer identifies itself with its character in that world, but instead perceives that world as though it has come out of its world and is looking down on its world from a higher level. All images of that world appear like movie images that are projected from a screen, and the observer can only know itself as the focal point of consciousness outside the screen to which those images are projected.

Plato's cave

Q: Is this how McKenna describes awakening?

A: This is exactly how McKenna and all other awakened beings describe awakening. McKenna says awakening cannot be explained conceptually, and uses the analogy of reading a book about a foreign land rather than actually making a journey to that foreign land. Awakening is like the journey to the foreign land, while concepts of awakening are only like reading a book or a postcard about the journey. When one actually makes the journey and comes back from that journey, one is profoundly changed.

Q: To clarify this analogy, which part is the journey and which part is the change?

A: The dissolution of individual consciousness into the nothingness of undifferentiated consciousness is the final destination of the journey, while the ascension of consciousness that occurs after the journey is over and one comes back to one’s world is the change in perception. McKenna calls this a journey to a “strange and lonely place called Done”, after which there is “no further”. The phrase “it is done” is found throughout the awakening literature, from Revelation 21:6 to Neo’s final death in the Matrix when he annihilates himself with agent Smith. Neo only becomes willing to annihilate himself when the Oracle tells him “Everything that has a beginning has an end“. As Revelation 21:6 says: “I am the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end”. That is the nature of being the undifferentiated consciousness of the void.

Q: Does McKenna have anything else to say about awakening?

A: McKenna describes the destruction of illusion as untruth-unrealization. Only illusion can be destroyed, not truth. Truth is what remains after all illusions disappear. That truth is the nothingness of undifferentiated consciousness, which is the ultimate nature of being. Everything perceived in the world is the nature of becoming, which is an illusion like a dream. Everything in the dream is false. The only truth is the true nature of the dreamer. The dream can begin when one starts dreaming, and the dream can come to an end when one awakens, but truth cannot change. The true nature of the dreamer is timeless and unchanging. Only after one comes back from the truth and starts dreaming again can there be a change in one’s perception of one’s world. That change in perception is the ascension of consciousness. This is how McKenna describes his experience: “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”. McKenna is also fond of quoting Layman P’ang:

When the mind is at peace, the world too is at peace.
Nothing real, nothing absent.
Not holding onto reality,
not getting stuck in the void.
You are neither holy nor wise,
just an ordinary fellow who has completed his work.

Holding onto reality is the nature of emotional attachment to things in one’s world and one’s self-identification with one’s character in that world. Emotional attachments and self-identification always imply emotional bias. The ascension of consciousness is fundamentally a state without any emotional bias. McKenna also likes to quote the Tao: “the wise are impartial”. Getting stuck in the void is the nature of dissolution into nothingness. Between the illusion of self-identification and the truth of dissolution is the ascension of consciousness. An ascended observer is right at the edge of the abyss, or the singularity, that separates the existence of the observer’s world from the void and the non-existence of that world. McKenna refers to an ascended observer as “in the world but not of the world”.

Q: Is an ascended observer finally free of self?

A: No, even an ascended observer is not free of self. The only state of existence free of self is the ultimate state of existence, which is the undifferentiated consciousness of no-self. An ascended observer has come back to the illusion, and so has an illusory self, but an ascended observer can clearly see its illusory self is only a part of the illusion. As long as the observer continues to observe whatever appears to happen in the illusion, the observer will have an illusory self. The only real difference between self-identification and ascension is an ascended observer can clearly see the nature of the illusion and its illusory self. This is how McKenna puts it: “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 dream state; 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 dream state, and to detach from it we must sever them. The energy of an emotion is our life-force, and the amount of life-force determines the power of the emotion. Withdraw energy from an emotion and what’s left? A sterile thought. 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.” McKenna also goes on to say: “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, and what needs to be killed is that part of us that identifies with the character. Once that’s done-really done, and it can take years-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.”

Q: What role does the observer’s focus of attention play in awakening?

A: McKenna points out that an investment of emotional energy always arises as the observer focuses its attention on things in its world. This energy emotionally relates the observer’s self-concept to other things in the observer’s world. If the observer’s focus of attention becomes emotionally biased, these emotional expressions also become emotionally biased, which is the nature of the emotional feedback loop. The only way this investment of emotional energy can be withdrawn away from the observer’s world is if the observer withdraws the focus of its attention away from its world. This withdrawal of emotional energy not only de-animates the observer’s self-concept, but also ultimately de-animates its world. The purpose of the observer’s withdrawal of attention away from its world is not to get lost in the void, but to awaken to its true nature. Nisargadatta points out the awakening process always requires a shift in the observer’s focus of attention, as the observer shifts its attention away from its world and onto its own sense of being present. Nisargadatta stresses that to awaken one must focus one’s attention on one’s own sense of being present. The observer as a focal point of consciousness can only focus on its own sense of being present. That is what it means for the observer to shift its focus of attention onto itself. Awakening to the ultimate state of undifferentiated consciousness is only possible if the observer keeps its focus of attention on itself as a focal point of consciousness while its emotional energy is withdrawn away from its world, its world is de-animated, and its world finally disappears.

Q: What role does emotional bias play in the awakening process?

A: Dissolution of the individual consciousness of the observer into the undifferentiated consciousness of the void is a desireless, timeless state of existence that expends no energy. After dissolution and the experience of nothingness or Nirvana, one can observe one’s world again and the expression of desire can resume. The difference is in this ascended state of perception the observer no longer identifies itself with its character in its world and the expression of desire is no longer emotionally biased in favor of its character. With the end of the expression of emotional bias, the observer no longer interferes with the normal flow of things in its world and the observer’s path through its world naturally comes into alignment with the normal flow of energy through its world, which gives rise to feelings of connection. The bliss experienced with enlightenment can only arise from feelings of connection that characterize the ascended state. McKenna refers to this non-interfering state of coming into alignment with the normal flow of things as the integrated state, and to an ascended observer that keeps itself in alignment as higher navigation. Without emotionally biased interference, things tend to come into alignment and play out for the best, which McKenna calls the best of all possible worlds.

Q: How are self-identification, emotional attachment and emotional bias related?

A: As soon as one becomes emotionally attached to things in the illusion, one feels the need to defend the survival of the illusion. Emotional bias arises with this desire to defend the survival of the illusion, both at the level of the observer’s emotionally biased focus of attention and the expression of biased emotions. As the observer’s character is emotionally related to other things in the observer’s world with self-limiting biased emotional expressions, the observer feels self-limited to its character as its perceives these biased emotional expressions, and so identifies itself with its character, which only perpetuates its emotionally biased focus of attention and the expression of more biased emotions. The desire to defend the survival of the illusion is primarily expressed with fear, but fear easily turns into anger and the desire to control things in an emotionally biased self-defensive way. This desire to control things is a way of defending one’s emotional attachments, which fundamentally arises from the fear of losing things. The problem is nothing really wants to be controlled and all things eventually resist these efforts at control, which inevitably leads to the frustration of one’s desire to control things. Out of frustration one may try even harder, redouble one’s efforts, and reinforce one’s desire to control things, but these actions are always counterproductive and only lead to more frustration. The more one tries to control things, the more frustrated one becomes, which only leads to the expression of more self-limiting emotional expressions. Attempting to defend the survival of the illusion and one’s emotional attachments to things in the illusion is a strategy that is bound to fail. The only resolution for this dilemma is with the willingness to relinquish the desire to control things and allow things to play out in the normal way as directed by the normal flow of energy through one’s world. That willingness to let things play out in the normal way is always a detachment process as one withdraws one’s emotionally biased focus of attention away from one’s world and withdraws one’s investment of biased emotional energy in one’s world. This detachment process also allows the observer to stop identifying itself with its character if the observer shifts the focus of its attention away from its character and onto its own sense of being present. Emotional attachments to things in one’s world and the desire to control things in an emotionally biased way perpetuate one’s self-identification with one’s character, while one’s willingness to detach oneself from one’s world and relinquish one’s desire to control things allows one to stop identifying oneself. The only Self that one can know if one does not identify oneself with one’s character is the focal point of consciousness we call an ascended observer. Even this Self is not a true-self, but only arises as part of the illusion. The only truth is the undifferentiated consciousness of no-self that remains when the illusion disappears.

Q: You’ve discussed the role detachment plays in the awakening process, but what about surrender?

A: McKenna says “Surrender follows naturally from seeing what is” and “To surrender is to relinquish the illusion of control, which initiates the death part of the death/rebirth process”. When McKenna says surrender follows from seeing what is, he means surrender follows from seeing what one really is. As long as one is observing one’s world, one is nothing but a focal point of consciousness present at the central point of view of one’s world. That differentiated focal point of consciousness is the nature of one’s being while one is observing one’s world. By surrender, McKenna refers to one’s willingness to relinquish one’s desire to control things in an emotionally biased way. When one sees that one is nothing but a presence of consciousness, one surrenders and gives up one’s desire to control things in a self-defensive way. One no longer feels the need to fight for the survival of one’s character or defend anything to which one has become attached. One not only stops trying to control things, but one stops being self-defensive, stops attaching oneself to things, and stops interfering with the normal flow of things. One just lets things play out in the normal way. This leads to the death part of the death/rebirth transformation. McKenna goes on to say: “The segregated self is slain and the integrated self is born” and ”It’s the primary death/birth process, and nothing proceeds until it happens”. One dies to one’s false self-identification with the embodied form of one’s character in the animated world that one is perceiving and is reborn to one’s true spiritual identity as the presence of consciousness that is perceiving that world. McKenna also says: “The necessary letting-go is itself a kind of death”. When one detaches oneself, it feels like something dies inside. Surrender is a necessary part of the detachment process. When one stops trying to control things, one also lets go of the things that one has become emotionally attached to in one’s world. This is giving up both in the sense of letting go of things and a surrender to the normal flow of things. When one no longer interferes with the normal flow of things and lets things play out in the normal way, one no longer feels disconnected, self-limited or segregated, but instead feels connected and integrated. The detachment process also gives rise to ascension. In a detached state, one observes events with a sense of distance. The outcome of this surrender process is what McKenna calls the integrated state. This is not the ultimate state of dissolution into nothingness, which can only be experienced when one awakens from one’s dream, but is more like lucid dreaming, as one awakens within one’s dream and becomes lucid within the dream.

Q: How is the desire to control things related to emotional attachments?

A: Almost everyone has the experience that when an important relationship begins to break up, one or both members of the relationship will try to impose their desires on the other and attempt to forcefully control the behavior of the other, which inevitably meets with resistance as the resisting member resists those efforts at control and frustrates the desires of the controlling member. Only this desire to control the other can perpetuate the emotional attachment to the other. These controlling actions are not only futile, but are also immature, which is why McKenna refers to the integrated state as Adulthood. When one finally sees the futility and immaturity of these actions and relinquishes this desire to control the other, one severs the emotional attachment to the other. When the attachment is finally severed, it feels like something dies inside. What dies is the emotional attachment to the other. McKenna describes this is like a process of death and dying in which one has to give up the desire to control something before one can grieve the loss of that thing and accept the loss. One only severs one’s emotional attachment to something if one gives up the desire to control it and accepts its loss. When McKenna says that to awaken: “what needs to be killed is that part of us that identifies with the character” he means our emotional attachments have to die.

Q: What does severing emotional attachments tell us about the nature of love?

A: The critical distinction is between possessive and non-possessive love. Someone who experiences possessive love is emotionally attached to things and feels the need to defend their attachments and control things. An ascended observer lives in a state of surrender and emotional detachment in which feelings of connection to all things arise and non-possessive love is experienced. The expression of possessive love indicates immaturity, like a needy child that becomes angry at its mother when its desires are frustrated and tries to control the behavior of its mother in an attempt to ensure its desires are satisfied. The experience of non-possessive love indicates maturity and willingness to allow things to freely come and go. Nisargadatta says: “Spiritual maturity lies in the readiness to let go of everything“.

Q: What role does surrender and the integrated state play in the awakening process?

A: McKenna calls the integrated state “halfway up the mountain”. Like the Zen koan says: “First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is a mountain again”. The state of disillusionment that arises when one clearly sees the Illusory nature of one’s false personal self is the first step in the journey of awakening. Surrender is a necessary part of that first step, but many more steps are necessary to totally deconstruct the mental construct of a personal self. Each of those steps is part of the detachment process. Surrender is necessary at each step. Surrender is the only way biased emotional energy can be withdrawn away from the mental construction of a personal self. One is only “done” with one’s journey when there is “no further”, which means there is “no mountain” in the context of the Zen koan. The disappearance of the world is a necessary aspect of dissolution into the nothingness of undifferentiated consciousness. That is the ultimate outcome of the surrender and detachment process. The “mountain” only reappears when one comes back to one’s world from this ultimate state.

Q: Can you review all the steps required for the awakening process?

A: The first step is disillusionment as one sees the illusory nature of one’s false self-concept. One sees that one’s self-concept only arises from an observable character in the animation one observes while one’s being and true identity can only arise from the consciousness that is observing the animation, like an observer in an audience watching the images of a movie projected from a screen. This leads to the death/rebirth transformation as one dies to one’s false self-identification with a personal self and is reborn in identity to the consciousness present at the singularity at the center of one’s world. Surrender is a necessary aspect of spiritual rebirth as one dies in identity to a personal self and no longer feels the need to defend the survival of this personal self. With surrender, one relinquishes the desire to control things in an emotionally biased self-defensive way. This is giving up both in the sense of letting go and a surrender. One no longer fights for the survival of one’s character or tries to control things in a futile attempt to enforce one’s emotionally biased desires on things. One just allows things to play out in the normal way. This leads to the integrated state as one’s own investment of emotional energy comes into alignment with the normal flow of energy through one’s world and one feels connected to things. The personal self dies away and the integrated self is born. If one stops here, one is halfway up the mountain. One is only done with the journey of awakening when there is no mountain. Many more steps of the journey are required to reach the final destination of the journey. Each step is a process of detachment as one withdraws emotional energy away from some desire to live a life in the world and severs an emotional attachment to something in the world. Since the ego is only a collection of desires to live a life in the world, the detachment process ultimately results in ego death when the expression of all these desires comes to an end. At that point, the bottom falls out and the whole thing collapses into the abyss as the expression of all energy in one’s world comes to an end. One’s world is no longer animated and disappears from existence. As one falls into the void, one’s individual consciousness reunites itself with the undifferentiated consciousness of no-self in the ultimate state of dissolution. If one comes back to one’s world from this ultimate state, one’s world reappears and the animation resumes, but one has ascended to the highest state of perceiving consciousness.

Q: Can you outline each step in the awakening process?

A: Here are all the necessary steps:

  1. The first step-Disillusionment. You don’t see what you are yet, but you see what you’re not. You see that you are not the character in the animated world that you’re perceiving.
  2. Surrender-Nothing can go forward until surrender occurs. You surrender and stop trying to defend the survival of your character when you see that you are not your character. What you are needs no defense. The true nature of your existence is never threatened when the survival of your character is threatened. You’re only defending the survival of an illusion of what you are. Awakening is only about bringing that illusion to an end. The illusion is only created since it really feels like you are your character when you perceive the self-defensive and self-limiting emotional body feelings that arise as you try to defend your character’s survival from the imagined or actual threats posed by other things in your world, which as long as you are self-identified, you will defend as though your existence depends on it. This self-defensiveness makes you identify yourself with your character, thereby completing the vicious cycle of self-defense that leads to self-identification and leads to more self-defense. The only way you can break the vicious cycle is to surrender, which can only happen when you see the true nature of your existence, which is never really threatened and needs no defense. You surrender when you give up the emotionally biased desire to control things in a self-defensive way. You stop fighting for the survival of your character and stop interfering with the normal unbiased flow of things. You give up and let go. You stop attaching yourself to things and let them come and go. You stop trying to control things. You put your trust in the normal flow of things to sort out what is for the best. You just allow things to play out in the normal way and watch them with a sense of distance. You stop resisting and fighting against the normal flow of things. You see the normal lines of flow and allow yourself to be carried along. That is how you come into alignment with the normal flow of things. Your reward for coming into alignment are feelings of connection, expressions of creativity, and a sense of right action. Your other reward for coming into alignment is the transcendence of self. You have no self-concern with the expression of creativity that occurs as you come into alignment, only feelings of connection.
  3. Death/rebirth transformation-You die to your false self-identification with your character in the animated world you’re perceiving and are reborn to your true identity as the presence of consciousness perceiving the animation. You come out of the animation like an observer in an audience watching a movie of images projected from a screen and see things with a sense of distance. The things you see are no more real than animated images projected from a screen. You can only know yourself as the presence of consciousness at the central point of view to which those images are projected. You see that it is your own light of consciousness emanating from your own focal point of consciousness that projects the images and animates them in the flow of energy that arises with your focus of attention on them. Once you clearly see your true nature you can never identify yourself with the image of your character again, but only know yourself as a presence of consciousness. Surrender naturally occurs as you see what you really are, which initiates the death part of the death/rebirth transformation.
  4. Shift in the focus of attention-You shift the focus of your attention away from your world and your character and turn the focus of your attention onto your own sense of being present, which is the process of turning around. This shift in the focus of one’s attention is one’s guiding light.
  5. Look within-You see the emotionally energized self-concepts that emotionally relate your character to other things in your world and that make you feel like you are self-limited to the animated form of your character as you perceive emotional body feelings. As you see the falseness of all self-concepts you destroy them by withdrawing emotional energy away from them as you withdraw your focus of attention away from them. You destroy them by no longer energizing them with your emotionally biased focus of attention and biased emotional expressions. This withdrawal of emotional energy leads to ego death since ego is only a collection of desires to live a life in your world and be somebody in your world. McKenna says: “To know the lie is to hate it; to see it is to slay it“. When you sever an attachment it feels like something dies inside because part of your ego dies away. Ego death is the result of severing all attachments to things. You initially become willing to sever attachments when you see the futility and immaturity of attaching yourself to things, but ultimately you become willing to sever all attachments when you see you’re living the life of a lie and you’d rather suffer ego death than live the life of a lie.
  6. Detachment-You detach yourself from your world and no longer identify yourself with your character as you sever all the emotional attachments that keep you attached to your world. You do this through surrender, giving up and letting go, and withdrawing the focus of your attention away from your world and your character that gives rise to the emotional energy that animates them. McKenna describes this relationship between surrender and detachment: “All attachments to the dream state are made of energy. That energy is called emotion. All emotions, positive and negative, are attachments. 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. The desire to slay fear is itself a fear-based emotion. Fear can only be surrendered to; the thing feared entered. You can spend your life hacking away at the million-headed hydra of attachment and never make any progress, or you can follow emotional energy back to its source, its lair, and see Leviathan, enemy of light, for what it really is: your heart“.
  7. The final step-Dissolution. You focus your attention on your own sense of being present as a focal point of consciousness, withdraw your attention away from your world, and withdraw the animating energy away from your world. Your world is no longer animated and disappears from existence. You fall into the void and reunite your consciousness with the nothingness of undifferentiated consciousness like a drop of water that dissolves into the ocean.

Q: Why does McKenna say one’s heart is the enemy of light?

A: The whole problem starts with the fear of non-existence. One fears one’s own non-existence. This is delusional since the true nature of one’s existence is no-self. One only mistakenly equates the true nature of one’s existence with the survival of one’s character. One makes this mistake as one identifies oneself with one’s own character. Since one fears the non-survival of one’s character as though one’s existence depends on it, one tries to defend the survival of one’s character in an emotionally biased controlling way. These self-defensive actions make one feel self-limited to the form of one’s character and reinforce one’s self-identification with one’s character. One’s fear of non-existence is what drives one’s desire to control things in a self-defensive way, but one can’t really control things, and so one’s desire to control things is inevitably frustrated. This frustration makes one feel angry and drives one’s desire to control things even harder, leading to even greater frustration and anger. That is the vicious cycle that one finds oneself in. The only possible resolution for this dilemma is if one surrenders and gives up one’s desire to control things. With surrender, one puts one’s trust in the normal flow of things to sort out what is for the best and accepts the outcome of all situations as for the best even if that means that one’s character dies. One accepts that the true nature of one’s existence has nothing to do with the survival of one’s character, and so one allows things to play out in the normal way. As one gives up one’s desire to control things, one detaches oneself from things and sees things with a sense of distance from them. The detachment process applies to one’s own character as much as it does to anything else one perceives in one’s world. This is the process of detaching oneself not only from one’s world, but also from one’s character in that world. It is not possible to detach oneself from one’s world unless one detaches oneself from one’s own character. When one attaches oneself to things in one’s world, one also attaches oneself to one’s own character, which is the nature of the self-identification process. That’s what McKenna means when he says one’s heart is the enemy of light. McKenna is saying that one’s heart, which represents all the things that one loves about one’s life in one’s world, is the enemy of one’s own light of consciousness. One’s heart represents all the things to which one emotionally attaches oneself through the expenditure of emotional energy. The fear of no-self is the fear of losing all these things. That fear only reinforces the attachment process. The only way one can know the true nature of one’s existence is if one becomes willing to lose all of these things. One must become willing to lose everything and gain nothing. The process of giving up and letting go, which is the nature of surrender, is the only way the detachment process works, which is always a process of withdrawing emotional energy away from one’s world. That is what McKenna means when he says one must surrender to the nothingness one fears, which is the only way one can reunite oneself with the undifferentiated consciousness of no-self.

Q: Does McKenna have anything else to say about severing attachments?

A: McKenna likes to quote the Bhagavad-Gita, which describes how the warrior Arjuna fell on the battlefield when he saw that to awaken he had to sever his attachment to everything he loved in his world. In the metaphor of a battle, he had to kill all the things he loved. His attachments had to die as part of the process of ego death, but ego doesn’t want to give up the ghost. He only got back up and rejoined the battle when he saw that he was living the life of a lie, which is why he became willing to sever his attachment to everything he loved and suffer ego death rather than live the life of a lie. McKenna also quotes the Gita about how to act in a detached way: “Act but do not be attached to the fruits of your actions“. This becomes possible when you stop trying to control the flow of things, let go, detach yourself, surrender and allow your actions to come into alignment with the normal flow of things.

Q: Can you discuss how the first step in the journey of awakening leads to the final step?

A: McKenna says that without the first step, awakening is not possible, but once you take the first step, not awakening is not possible. It all hinges on the first step. You cannot make progress in your journey until you take the first step. If you don’t take this first step you are stuck. You are a prisoner, feeling self-identified with your character and feeling compelled to defend the survival of your character as though your existence depends on it. Self-identification and self-defense can only arise with the expression of self-limiting body feelings that keep you imprisoned. Freedom is only possible if you bring the expression of those self-limiting body feelings to an end. That can only happen if you surrender and stop defending and identifying yourself with your character. The key aspects of the first step in the journey of awakening are disillusionment, surrender and initiating the death part of the death/rebirth transformation. That is the only way you can bring an end to the feeling of being identified with your character and feeling like you must defend the survival of your character as though your existence depends on it. Feelings come and go, but you are always present as a presence of consciousness that perceives whatever comes and goes. Everything in your world, even your character, comes and goes, but you are always present to perceive it. Even your world comes and goes. As long as you have a world, you are present to perceive whatever comes and goes in that world. When your world goes away, you can only return to your source. As long as you have a world to perceive, you as a presence of consciousness can only say I Am about yourself, but when your world disappears from existence, you are not and only the Source Is. Since you have returned to the source, it doesn’t really matter whether you exist or only the source exists. In reality, you and your source are one and the same. The first step in the journey of awakening is about making the self-limiting body feelings that perpetuate your self-identification with your character and your self-defense of your character as though your existence depends on it go away, or bringing their emotional expression to an end. The final step in the journey of awakening is about making your world go away, or bringing your world to an end.

Q: Can you say anymore about the path that leads to awakening?

A: There are only two paths that lead to awakening: surrender and the shift in the focus of your attention away from your world and onto your own sense of being present. These two paths converge as they both lead to detachment. Your surrender requires your willingness to give up your desire to control things in an emotionally biased self-defensive way. You stop interfering with the flow of things, become willing to accept the normal flow of things, and allow things to play out in the normal way even if that turns out to be bad for your character in your world. Only your surrender leads to the death part of the death/rebirth transformation. As you sever your attachment to your character and stop identifying yourself with your character it feels like something dies inside because part of your self dies as you detach yourself. Self is only the emotional self-identification of perceiving consciousness with a perceivable character. This is a self-identity that only seems real because the perception of self-limiting emotional body feelings feel real. The truth is you are only defending an illusion of what you are, like a character in a dream. Self is the illusion created as perceiving consciousness emotionally identifies itself with its character and becomes emotionally biased to defend the survival of its character. The truth of what you are needs no defense. It is the source of perceiving consciousness and its emotionally energized character. No matter what appears to happen to the character in the dream, nothing ever happens to the true nature of the dreamer. Nothing can happen to the dreamer since its true nature is nothing perceivable. Your goal is to see the truth of what you are as the dreamer of the dream. When you finally see the truth, you naturally surrender. The problem as Osho says is: “You cannot surrender. You are the hindrance. Surrender happens when you are not.” Nisargadatta says: “Surrender cannot be done. Surrender happens when you realize your true nature.” McKenna says: “Surrender follows naturally from seeing what is.” That’s why the path of shifting the focus of your attention away from your world and character and turning the focus of your attention on your own sense of being present leads to surrender and detachment. Nisargadatta says there is no easier or more direct path to awakening. One last point about awakening. If you want to discover a conceptual explanation about the nature of awakening, it’s better to do so before you awaken. You may not have any desire or motivation to understand awakening at a conceptual level after you awaken. Like all other desires, the desire to understand awakening is given up and lost in the process of awakening. If asking questions and finding answers is your life-defining purpose, you may have to do so before you awaken. After awakening you may not have any more questions and you may no longer look for answers.

Q: You’ve made it clear awakening can only occur with ego death, but I have questions about what happens to consciousness after body death. Can you elaborate?

A: If body death is not accompanied by ego death, the individual consciousness of the observer, which is only a focal point of consciousness that arises in relation to a holographic screen that projects all images of the observer’s world, may hang around its world until it finds a new body to inhabit, and some aspect of the observer’s old ego may get incorporated into the new body. That would explain why some people can remember past lives. Some sage defined enlightenment as “you don’t have to be born again“. As long as the observer’s ego survives after body death in some rudimentary, diffuse or incoherent form, the observer does have to be born again, since the desire to live a life in the world has not come to an end. Ego is really nothing more than a haphazard collection of desires to live a life in the world. Only ego death, not just body death, can bring the expression of all these desires to an end. If body death is not accompanied by ego death, these desires continue to be expressed, and so the ego continues on in some disembodied form. This disembodied ego would arise from entangled bits of information that are dispersed throughout the observer’s world, and that give rise to a sense of self that is more than just the observer’s sense of being present, such as fragments of memories and emotional attachments that may have to do not only with the observer’s immediate past life but with many past lives. The best way to think of a disembodied ego is as a collection of desires to live a life in the world that persist after body death due to the entanglement of information in the observer’s world. As Einstein tells us, this is “spooky action at a distance.

spooky action

Spooky Action at a Distance

Q: What does this tell us about the nature of ghosts?

A: It may be that when people interact with a ghost, they’re really interacting with a disembodied ego and not directly with the spirit, which is the observer’s consciousness. It may also be the case that when a person evolves to a higher plane of existence, like a channeled entity, it’s only this disembodied ego that evolves. The evolution of a disembodied ego to a higher plane of existence is then a distinctly different phenomena than the ascension of consciousness to a higher level, but it’s easy to see how they could become confused with each other. A highly evolved disembodied ego could be the nature of a shaman or a spirit walker, like Carlos Castaneda’s Don Juan, which has more to do with mystical experiences in the world, like lucid dreaming, than with awakening from the dream, which ends the dream. Everything we think of as spiritual experiences in the world are really more of the nature of mystical experiences, like lucid dreaming, rather than awakening from the dream, which is the end of the dream.

References:

Gefter, A., Trespassing on Einstein’s Lawn: A Father, a Daughter, the Meaning of Nothing and the Beginning of Everything, Random House. 2014.
McKenna, J., Jed McKenna’s Theory of Everything, Wisefool Press. 2013.

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Postscript

Everyone ultimately undergoes the truth-realization process and ends up “fully enlightened” for the simple reason the expenditure of all energy must eventually come to an end. The truth-realization process is only the undoing of the differentiation process that creates the observer’s world in the first place. The differentiation process requires the expenditure of energy, and that differentiation process must come to an end when energy is no longer expended. When energy is no longer expended, the observer’s world disappears, the observer’s individual consciousness reunites itself with the undifferentiated consciousness of the void, and only the void exists.

This is how McKenna puts it: “Success in realizing one’s true nature is absolutely assured because, well, 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. Returning is the motion of the Tao. Struggling to achieve truth is in its own way as preposterous as struggling to achieve death. What’s the point? Both will find you when it’s time. Should we worry that if we fail to find death, death will fail to find us? Of course not, and neither death, nor taxes, nor gravity, nor tomorrow’s sunrise is as certain as the fact that everyone will end up fully enlightened, regardless of the path they take.”

The expenditure of energy eventually comes to an end for the simple reason that all energy eventually burns away and heat is eventually radiated away to infinity. This thermodynamic flow of heat through the observer’s world is the essence of the differentiation process that creates and animates the observer’s world. Without this thermal flow of energy, it is not possible to create and animate an observer’s world or perpetuate the differentiation process. Modern cosmology tells us the source of all this energy is the dark energy that creates the observer’s world in the first place. We understand that the expression of dark energy is the expansion of space that expands relative to the central point of view of the observer and that gives rise to the observer’s cosmic horizon. With the holographic principle, we understand that the observer’s horizon encodes all the bit of information that define the configuration states of everything in the observer’s world, and that the observer’s horizon acts as a holographic screen that projects the images of all things in the observer’s world to the observer’s central point of view. The expenditure of dark energy is the essence of the differentiation process. In the sense of the big bang, the observer’s focal point of consciousness is the singularity that gives rise to the expression of this energy. The source of this energy in the observer’s world is the singularity itself. Cosmology also tells us that all dark energy eventually burns away to zero and the observer’s cosmic horizon eventually inflates in size to infinity. All states of the observer’s world are characterized by a non-zero value for dark energy. Dark energy must eventually burn away to zero in these states since they all have the nature of a metastable false vacuum state. Only the true vacuum state with zero dark energy has absolute stability. As dark energy burns away to zero, heat is radiated away to infinity, and so infinity is the sink for all this radiated heat energy. The source of the energy is the singularity, and the sink is infinity. That is the nature of the normal flow of energy through the observer’s world that gives rise to the differentiation process that creates and animates the observer’s world. In the process, the observer’s individual consciousness is differentiated from the undifferentiated consciousness of the void. When the expenditure of energy and the differentiation process comes to an end, as it must when all energy burns away and heat is radiated away to infinity, the observer’s individual consciousness must reunite itself with undifferentiated consciousness.

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As Joseph Campbell liked to say: Eternity “is not a long time”. Eternity “has nothing to do with time”. Eternity is a timeless state of existence. Time can only come into existence with the expression of energy, which is the expression of desire. The desireless state is a timeless state of being. Nisargadatta says the same thing. From the perspective of observing a time-bound world, what Nisargadatta and other truth-realized beings refer to as the direct experience of the eternal is difficult for us to understand, but the best analogy is the relation of a dreamer to its dream. The hard thing for us to wrap our minds around is that the true nature of the dreamer is the nothingness of undifferentiated consciousness.

This is how McKenna puts it:

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.

Nisargadatta puts it this way:

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.
The dreamer is one.
I am beyond all dreams.
I am the light in which all dreams appear and disappear.
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.
Reality is essentially alone.
To know that nothing is, is true knowledge.

♦♦♦

The expenditure of energy in the observer’s world is directly related to the observer’s focus of attention. When the focus of attention is withdrawn away from one’s world, so too is the expenditure of one’s energy. The ultimate state of dissolution into undifferentiated consciousness can only occur as the observer focuses its attention of its own sense of being present while all energy is withdrawn away from its world and its world disappears. When the focus of attention is redirected back to the observer’s world, the expenditure of energy resumes and the observer’s world reappears.

This is how Nisargadatta puts it:

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.
Nothing perceivable is real.
Only the onlooker is real, call him Self or Atman.
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.
That which makes you think that you are a human is not human.
It is a dimensionless point of consciousness, a conscious nothing.
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.
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.
It is enough to shift attention from the screen onto oneself to break the spell.

McKenna describes that the withdrawal of one’s focus of attention away from one’s world leads to the withdrawal of one’s emotional energy that animates one’s character, and that when this emotional context comes to an end, the light of consciousness returns to the darkness:

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

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
.”

Like Nisargadatta, McKenna describes life in the world as a dream, or like a movie that an observer in an audience watches as images are projected from a screen to the observer’s point of view. Enlightenment or awakening requires the disappearance of the dream:

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.

McKenna also gives an overview of the entire enlightenment process:

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.

Osho describes that with awakening “one becomes pure space

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.

Osho describes the dissolution of one’s individual consciousness into the nothingness of no-self as “I am not

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.

Osho also describes dissolution as “falling 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.

♦♦♦

This is what McKenna says about “what is one to do” after awakening from one’s dream:

Die. That’s the obvious answer. Drop the body. Be done with it. But why? Why not live? Why not stay? Why interfere with the flow of things?”

♦♦♦

Nisargadatta describes the kind of life that is lived after awakening:

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.”

Nisargadatta tells us the basic problem is our common sense view of the world, which is delusional since it’s based on self-identification:

“Self-identifications are patently false and the cause of bondage.
Your attachment is your bondage.
Abandon all self-identifications. It is a vicious circle.
Only Self-realization can break it.
Liberation is never of the person, it is always from the person.
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.”

McKenna says much the same thing about surrender and freedom:

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.”

♦♦♦

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