Looking around, I think that most people are totally unaware of what and who they truly are. Occultists have referred to this as ‘sleeping’. The vast majority of us are sleeping through life pursuing some materialistic dream like children distracted by shiny new toys. I can feel myself being sucked in to this quite often now that I am aware of it. Glued to the TV, or lusting after a new and faster sports car, our attention gets sharply focused on the outer world around us and that inner voice that speaks quietly to us gets drowned out by the noise of the world. WE Butler, a famous occultist and founder of the Servants of the Light, discusses this at great length in his lectures to the Ibis society*.
The world is hypnotic and it seems to me that the more we make technical advancements, the more hypnotic it becomes. It’s as if we are all on an endless treadmill that gets faster and faster until your attention is simply on making the next step without falling off. When I was younger, I used to imagine that I really wasn’t here. My body was, but I wasn’t. I was locked in a small room hooked up to a machine that allowed me to have my 6 senses and to control the body. Later, I realized that the movie ‘The Matrix’ used a similar theme that seemed to strike a chord with many. However, one must be careful not to go too far the other way and make an escape in to an inner world at the expense of living in this one. As with all things, it is a matter of balance and perspective.
Another thought that often occupies me is the idea that fundamentally I am just a cloud of electrons and other particles operating in an environment that is made up of electrons and particles. As I walk across a room, what is really happening at the sub-atomic level and what is holding me together? When you think deeply about this, it raises a number of additional questions related to perception. What I see or rather sense is simply an image or sensation created by my brain. Indeed, as light enters my eyes it is transmitted to my brain where it is assembled as an image. In other words, my brain is interpreting what I see in a way that I can understand it. Put in this context, it’s the old question of I see green but what color do you see? We both call the color green because we have been taught and conditioned that it is green but your green may be my purple! Now the key to this is the fact that my brain is interpreting all this incoming data based on how it has been taught to interpret and present them. It’s just like a computer that has been programmed to pick out patterns in a constant stream of data and told how to recognize and then how to process those patterns. The same concept readily applies to smell, taste, touch and hearing. We sense and we interpret based on our expectations and past learning. In fact, we are never aware of the actuality of a thing but just our interpreted reality of it. Just as in The Matrix, the character finally sees his environment as just a constant stream of ‘1’s’ and ‘0’s’ which he is interpreting, so to are we visualizing our environment and creating it with our mind. It is this mechanism of interpretation by the programmed (educated?) brain that perhaps partially accounts for cultural differences and differences in outlook between groups of people.
However, I have come to believe that the brain does not interpret strictly based on training and experience but has access through the subconscious mind to a reservoir of archetypal images that it can also use. To go through life simply accepting our conditioning is to sleep to the potential that our reality can be much greater and much more rewarding. By being constantly sucked into the day-to-day treadmill of life with all its hypnotic attractions means that we never question. I think that because I see and sense the possibility of other realities, I have always questioned and studying the occult has provided me with a means to break down some of my programming, challenge my assumptions and begin to see a broader perspective of my reality. This is why the process is slow, gradual and cumulative. For many mystics and occultists the world has been seen as a ‘mental’ construct – a creation of the brain and in the mind of the beholder. Because of this, we spend most of our lives missing out on nine-tenths of reality; being hypnotized by our own mental creation and lulled into a false perception of reality. Meditation and other techniques provide, over time, a way to revisit the inner self, to consider and open up to the possibility that there are other levels of reality, and for short moments in time we awake to the endless possibilities and potential of self. ‘Know thyself’ is the bold call to Mankind and in truly knowing ourselves, we see a completely different world outside of ourselves.
* – WE Butler – Lords of Light )