The Illusion Explained
Updated: Mar 31
In this post I would like to try to explain with my own words what it means that all humans live in an illusion and how this inner realization can drastically change your life as a human in all its aspects.
"We tend to consider the self to be the source of our consciousness.
It might be true instead that self originates from Consciousness".
- Peter Ralston-
If I had to choose the number one reason why I have created this blog is to give people the possibility to look at things from a different perspective, a point of view that is normally overlooked or ignored due to its simplicity and at the same time craziness compared to the way we are used to look at our self and reality. I have dedicated a lot of time to my inner work and it will be something that I will always care about because as humans we never finish learning and growing up. And one main reason I am motivated to write one post a week is because I would really like you to get this single point: the you, you think to be, is an illusion.
Using the term "illusion" a lot of confusion and misinterpretation might arise, and myself I had a lot of work to do to frame this term in the right perspective and I would love to make your life easier by explaining you what "illusion" means. The temptation is to refer to scenarios pictured in some Hollywood movies such as Matrix but it is important to stress the fact that there is neither matrix nor simulation involved in this illusion.
If you have read some of my previous posts, you have noticed that I like to use metaphors to convey some of these concepts and water happens to be a perfect element to communicate these ideas. This post goes hand to hand with my previous post "Like water". I will simply add here few elements in order to address the topic of this post, that is, what an illusion is.
Imagine an infinite land of water in which a single wave is standing up. Then imagine that at the top of the wave, where the lip is, a small vortex is forming, constantly spinning. Make sure to have this 3 elements vividly present in your mind: water, wave, vortex. I now ask you to realize that in reality there is nothing but water in this picture and that the distinction of 3 elements within the picture is simply a concession to be able to explain my point. If no sentient beings were there able to draw boundaries, only water would be present and any form and shape water would take would not really exist. There is nothing but water.
Water has no idea to be water. Water has no ability to be aware of being something specific and therefore in this precise moment we could say that nothing is really there but pure being, pure essence, pure flowing. There are no external reference points to make any distinctions in this scenario. When the infinite land of water stands up as a wave nothing really happens from its point of view. In this moment everything is always One, everything is intimately connected. What I need to refer as water and wave in this metaphor it is actually simply being moving in one block, with no boundaries, with no distinctions within it.
But then something magic happens. And when magic happens, an illusion must be occurring.
Within this one block water-wave, a small but structured and regular vortex starts forming and by spinning it creates a sort of point of reference, a compass within the infinite field of water. If before water was simply being, now there is a specific perspective occurring within itself: where the vortex is spinning, and only in that point, that region of water starts to become aware to be spinning left or right, fast or slow and it feels to be contained in a specific region of the infinite land of water, that is the wave. The qualities of which water seems to be made out of are nothing else than water itself: speed, depth, orientation are not physical and objective features of the vortex but they are simply water on which something else has been superimposed.
Even though there is always nothing but water, a specific and distinct area starts claiming its own identity. The vortex starts a process of separation from what has allowed it to be and through the creation of boundaries and distinctions it manages to become some-thing. An entity has born out of nothing.
Imagine now that this process of identification happens not locally in one area of this infinite land of water but everywhere. Each wave will have its own vortex structured in different ways and therefore each of them will claim to be some-thing distinct in respect to other vortexes. In a nutshell, even though the original substance is and always will be only water, something else appears to be, something that claims its own authority and independency, neglecting and forgetting the real substance of which they are made out of.
It is time to put in context this metaphor with what is happening right here right now, something that most of people overlook and that is the origin of so much suffering.
The infinite land of water is simply Consciousness, That which represents the real and only substance of all reality. There is nothing in reality that is made out of something different than Consciousness. "What is Consciousness?", you might ask. That is the problem with this journey and path. I cannot point it to you as I could do with water but the good news is that you can become directly conscious of It through meditation, contemplation and self-inquiry ("Look Within You", "No-Self: The First Step Towards You", "Neti-Neti: Who Am I?","Who Is Behind The Scene?", "The Vipassana Meditation Technique", "The Importance of Not-Knowing"). Nothing should be taken in faith but it must be proven directly by you.
Consciousness is just a name and it simply refers to That which is conscious of any possible experience happening in reality. As I have already said in previous posts ("Objectivity Is Your Own Creation - Part 1","Objectivity Is Your Own Creation - Part 2","Objectivity Is Your Own Creation - Part 3", "The Universe Is NOT Conscious", "About Perceptions"), all you have at disposal to get to know the word are emotions, feelings, perceptions, thoughts, memories and bodily sensations. All these amazing package of subjective faculties is what I like to unify under the word "mind". Therefore mind is all you have. Mind is what you, relatively speaking, are. Consciousness in That which is beyond mind, it is That which is aware of all the content of mind. It is what you truly are.
In the metaphor mind is the vortex. Mind is that structure that allows Consciousness to ground itself in a specific way in order to experience, participate and interact with what we call the world. Mind is the structure that claims ownership over a body, the wave, and that over time is able to create boundaries, limitations, distinctions within something that is actually One and all connected. Mind is the non-existent physical character that you think to be that goes around to label something that has no label. Mind uses concepts and language to create distinctions within reality: tree, sun, moon, you, me are all concepts superimposed over the oneness of reality. Mind is the amazing structure that gives physicality to something that has no real substance.
Mind is the magic trick that allows the illusion to happen: you, Consciousness, thinking to be something other than Yourself. What you think to be is illusory. If you think to be a body or to have a body you are fooling yourself.
Mind is nothing else than a distinct and complex form made out of Consciousness that allows Consciousness to know that it exists. Before mind, Consciousness was simply being, was simply existing; after mind Consciousness can say "I Am", "I know that I exist". But in the same way there is nothing else than water in a vortex, there is nothing else than Consciousness in mind, that is, in what you think to be. All individual and collective problems arise when the vortex/mind thinks to be an independent entity and behave as such causing a lot of suffering within itself and to the people around itself.
When Consciousness gets to know to exist, it does it in a limited fashion. Every time a new born baby comes into this world there is nothing else than pure Consciousness, pure being. Only when a structured mind is formed through cultural and family conditioning, pure Consciousness knows to exist but as someone specific (mind/vortex) within a body/wave. The cost Consciousness has to pay to know and interact with itself is to think to be finite and limited. The number one goal of each mind/vortex is to realize that he or she is not an individual human being but everything there is in existence.
The limited sense of self present in each of us in the first years of our existence has to expand to include everything. Whatever limited identity we have created and identified with has to be realized to be relative and limited, a by-product of our specific education and conditioning. If we want to live a more conscious life and to give a real contribution at the social level we need to ground our sense of self in Consciousness, a self that upon careful investigation turns out to have no limits, boundaries, distinctions as the infinite land of water.
I will never be tired to say that awakening is the process that makes you realize that nothing exist but you, Consciousness and that your body and mind are simply tools for you to experience Yourself. Awakening, using the Bible parable of the prodigal son, is the journey of the son (the vortex or mind) that leaves his Father (water or Consciousness) and eventually comes back. As I said in my post "Self-Observation - Part 1" we should be grateful to have the opportunity to be under this spell otherwise we could never experience as an individual the taste of an ice cream or anything else you love in life but it is important to reunify to our true nature. It is critical to stop sleeping and to wake up.
The magic of awakening is the realization that ultimately there is no a physical you eating an ice cream but You eating You, You having sex with You, You getting angry at Yourself. No matter how much the vortex thinks to be something separate from water, all there is, is water.
Why is it so important?
This single realization has so many implications that the world could change in an instant if everyone was able to grasp it. What I am saying here is that no matter what your personal vortex thinks to be and claims to be true, there will be only one single substance in existence. Each of us, each living and non living beings are Consciousness. Whatever seems to be made out something different, whatever claims to be separate is the vortex that negates its source.
Religions would be free to express their understanding according to their specific culture and tradition but at the bottom core no one would claim that his or her god is the only one causing immense pain and suffering. They would understand that they are all pointing to the same substance. Atheism would have no sense to exist and all the useless conflicts between religion and science would turn into a end. Science would acknowledge reality to be ultimately mystical and it would focus its efforts in making important breakthroughs according to this new understanding of reality. Nationalism, racism and violence in name of a pure race would be seen as ridiculous since the color of the skin appears to be different only from the point of view of the vortex, not from water. Environmental pollution would be seen and experienced as an offense done to yourself. Everyone would be focused not only to clean its own garden but the entire planet since the planet is literally part of you unless you think as a vortex.
Many other examples could be done both at the individual and at the social level. Unfortunately this scenario is still far from being actualized since it requires each of us undergoing a journey that does not really match our material and physical needs. The vortex is mostly focused on itself and opening up to the possibility that you are an illusion, that your sense of identity is a ultimately false represents a quite bitter pills to be swallowed for you as an ego.
Awakening and Consciousnesses's work represent the opportunity to put aside our self in name of the good of the most. It is an amazing journey that helps us to reconnect with every single part of reality, to reunify all distinctions and boundaries, to recognize our self in others. Be aware that once you will awake to this amazing truth, the path is not over but it has just begun. Once the vortex recognized to be nothing else but water, it will not cease to exist. What you call "you" will be framed differently helping you to get rid of some selfishness but only a constant and vigilant work on yourself will allow you to live life in line with this realization.
Knowing to be water rather than a small tiny vortex, gives you the necessary strength and courage to walk in life head up and it should teach you to never do what you love in life at the detrimental of others because ultimately you are hurting yourself.
The realization that your sense of self is an illusion should not be tinted with negative connotations as often happens after having this insight ("Awakening: Traps And Misconceptions"). Rather it should give life that touch of magic that helps you living life like a dance as Alan Watts used to say. Water is fluid and it moves effortlessly. So every time you experience some resistance in your life remember your source and behave accordingly. The journey to become a better vortex is long and torturous but awakening will be guiding you along the way.
Thanks for reading.