Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Paradigm Shift

In a previous blog, Beyond the Selves, I likened our many selves to the rainbow of colours formed when pure light is refracted through a prism; the characters in a movie appearing on a TV or computer screen; or the waves dancing on the surface of the ocean. I suggested that the practice of Voice Dialogue, and the consequent development of an Aware Ego Process, naturally leads us to a deeper enquiry into the nature of the metaphorical light, screen or ocean. In other words, to the source of the selves. It is an enquiry that challenges our most basic assumptions about who we really are.

Until Aristotle proved empirically that the earth was a sphere around 330BC, people believed that the earth was flat. It "made sense". If you walked or sailed far enough you would "of course" come to the edge. It took hundreds of years for the round earth paradigm to become commonly accepted. And when it was, it "made sense" to assume that the earth was the centre of the known universe and that the sun and planets revolved around it. After all, it was obvious that the sun "travelled" in a great arc in the sky. This geocentric paradigm became deeply entwined with religious dogma and anyone who questioned it was considered a heretic. It was not until the end of his life that Copernicus dared publish his proof of a heliocentric universe and a new paradigm gradually became established as the consensus worldview.

Today there is another paradigm that we take for granted. It is one on which our world culture is built. To question it is to provoke the same skepticism and hostility as happened when the flat earth and geocentric paradigms were challenged. It is the paradigm of materialism.

This paradigm assumes that everything is made out of stuff called matter. It is believed that consciousness arises out of this stuff. How this happens has been the focus of much research. But try as they may, scientists have not been able to show how the basic building blocks of matter - atoms - create our experience of being aware. They have therefore called it "The Hard Question of Consciousness".

But what if it's the other way around? What if the primary "stuff" out of which everything in the universe is made is consciousness? This proposition seems absurd to our rational/materialist perspective. It doesn't "make sense" to us. Yet this is exactly what a small but growing number of physicists, neuroscientists and philosophers of mind are proposing today.

In fact, this is not a new idea but one that has occurred throughout history and across diverse cultures. For example, the ancient non-dual teachings of Advaita Vedanta point to an infinite, eternal presence or "oneness" out of which all things come into existence (the word "exist" comes from the latin "existere" meaning "to step out, stand forth, emerge, appear, be"). The sacred question in this tradition is, "Am I aware?"   Notice that the question isn't asking what we are aware of  (i.e. thoughts, feelings, sensations and perceptions), but simply are we aware of being aware. With this question the "focus" of our attention is gently drawn back into its origin or source as pure consciousness.

The practice of Voice Dialogue invites us to do the same. As we meet our many selves, we become aware of the particular thoughts, feelings, body sensations and perceptions they each have. For example, when speaking as a Pusher self we might experience a tension in our body, a feeling of impatience, and see life as a series of tasks to be completed. As we separate from this self and then from its opposite chilled, unhurried, easy going self, we rest back into an awareness that is neither this self nor that self. In Advaita this is known as the "neti, neti" process, meaning "not this, not this" or "neither this, nor that". It invites us to drop back into an aware presence that underlies all the selves. In other words, consciousness is experienced as source - a "field of all possibilities" out of which all the selves with their various thoughts, feelings, sensations and perceptions arise, with which they are known and ultimately of which they are made.

In this way, Voice Dialogue offers us what Buddhist traditions call a "skillful means" for realising our true nature. In From Enlightenment to the Aware Ego Process to Source Energy Hal Stone writes:

'I repeat again what I feel to be true - that the Aware Ego process leads us inevitably towards the experience of Source Energy in some form. The ongoing practice of embracing opposites and learning to hold the tension of opposites can really lead to no other place.'

Many contemporary teachers and writers have elaborated this paradigm shift far better than I can - Rupert Spira and Bernardo Kastrup to name but two. My intention here is to invite you to enquire for yourself, to suspend your belief in the prevailing materialist paradigm and see what you find to be true in your actual experience.