Illusion of Matter and the Hidden Reality

“The Buddhists talk about samsara, the world of illusion. It is the place that most of us live. Mistaking illusion for reality is said to be the root cause of our suffering. Yet in some immensely elegant way suffering itself can release us from illusion. Often in times of crisis when we reach for what we have considered our strength we stumble on our wholeness and our real power. …

“Integrity usually comes to people slowly and takes them unawares, as part of a natural process of maturing or through the need to be there for someone else who is counting on them. But it can appear full-blown in times of crisis or loss. …

“With certain people we may get to try on a greater wholeness for a time, to actually experience being more. These experiences are a sort of grace. They help us know not only the direction of our personal wholeness but how it feels and even tastes.” ~Rachel Naomi Remen

World of Illusion

The world of illusion isn’t limited to what you see on stage during the performances of a magician. Virtually everything that we think we know of the physical world of matter is an illusion.

We need first to clear up one thing about the idea of the physical universe being an illusion. Many people jump to the conclusion that if you say something is an illusion, that it doesn’t exist. Therefore, they think when they read that the physical realm is an illusion that is doesn’t exist. It’s a dream, nothing real. That is not what illusion means at all.

When you say that the tricks of a stage magician are illusions, that doesn’t mean nothing is happening on stage. It means that what is really happening is not the same as what appears to be happening. For example, the assistant that appears to disappear in a puff of smoke really descended through a hidden door in the floor of the stage. The same applies to the Great Illusion of the physical universe. It isn’t what it appears to be, but it is something real.

One thing that has become very popular in recent years is “Manifesting”. By this is meant manipulating the physical world according to our desires. Besides the fact that this results in attaching us more firmly to the illusion, what is the point of manipulating fantasy?

Reality Behind the Illusion

So what is the reality behind all that Illusion? That is something that most say must be experienced for yourself. But I think I can give you some hints, although I don’t claim to entirely know the answer myself.

We all know that, according to the basic laws of science, matter and energy cannot be destroyed, only changed. There are simple changes and more complex ones. Carving a rock into a statue of David is a simple change. Only the shape was changed, the substance is still marble. That is, within the illusion, it is still marble. Turning milk into cheese is a slightly more complex change. Burning wood to make heat is a complex or complete change. Changing matter into energy or energy into matter is the most complex type of change. At least if we limit ourselves to the physical world for now. But the fact that energy can become matter, and matter can become energy should teach us something. It should teach us that there is no fundamental difference between matter and energy. To put it in simple terms, matter is slow energy, energy is fast matter.

While that is a concept that has been taught in spiritual schools and mystery schools for ages, it is only recently being accepted and taught by empirical science. Specifically, the quantum physicists are now telling us that the apparently solid universe is actually a hologram of light. Not matter with light shining on it, just light. So matter is being recognized by science as an illusion. A wonderful discovery of theirs that has been taught in mystery schools for several thousand years.

Going Deeper

But even the discoveries of quantum physicists are limited to the physical universe. We need to dive deeper to get beyond illusion altogether. We need to enter spiritual realms. When we do, we will discover, among other things, two fundamental truths. The first truth is that spirit is real and permanent. And it existed long before matter. Therefore, the soul cannot be an offshoot of matter. And consciousness is a spiritual thing as well. Therefore, it is not a creation of the brain. Second, things happen first in the spiritual world before they descend to the physical realm. Not everything because such things as disease and death don’t exist at all in spiritual worlds. But for most things, they must form first in spirit, then become matter. What this means, if you think about it, is that those who access spiritual realms get a look into the future because they are seeing things that have not yet materialized. While that should not be your primary reason to start spiritual development, it is certainly a good second one.

Illustrating Image by Ashutosh Goyal from Pixabay

eternal reality

Eternal Reality and the Web of Illusion

“There are in this struggle1 three factors. (1) the unchanging light of Eternal Reality: that Pure Being ‘which ever shines and naught shall ever dim.’

“(2)The web of illusion, here thick, there thin; which hems in, confuses, and allures the sentient self. “(3) That self, always changing, moving, struggling—always, in fact, becoming—alive in every fiber, related at once to the unreal and to the real; and, with the growth in true being, ever more conscious of the contrast between them.

“In the ever-shifting relationship between these three factors, the consequent energy engendered, the work done, we may find a cause of the innumerable forms of stress and travail which are called in their objective form the Purgative Way. Only one of he three is constant: the Absolute to which the soul aspires. Though all else may fluctuate, that goal is changeless. That beauty so old and so new, ‘with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning,’ which is the One of Plotinus, the All of Eckhart and St. John of the Cross, The Eternal Wisdom of Suso, … awaits yesterday, today, tomorrow, and forever the opening of its creature’s eyes.” ~Evelyn Underhill

Eternal Reality

There is little doubt what the eternal reality is. The realm of spirit and the beings that dwell there are eternal. Everything material is temporary. That is one reason why the ancient spiritual leaders called matter illusion.

And when Underhill, and many others, talk of the bright light of that eternal reality, it is both literal and symbolic. Light symbolizes truth and wisdom. The spiritual realm is home to both of those. But it is also a place of bright light. The true image of God is light. The true image of the soul is light. Bright light, spiritual light, not physical light.

Web of Illusion

The realm of matter is the web of illusion. That doesn’t mean, as some believe, that the material universe does not exist. It means that what it is in actuality is very different than what it appears to be to the human senses and mind.

There are many people today who think that manipulating this web of illusion, like a small child making animals out of play-doh, is a path of spiritual awakening. They use terms like “manifesting” and “Law of Abundance” to describe this playing with matter. But playing with matter doesn’t awaken the spirit. It actually makes matter more real, more important, to those who do that. The only proper way to manifest or manipulate within the realm of matter is to help change it back into spirit. Simply molding it into new forms of matter doesn’t accomplish anything. When you truly understand that matter is an illusion, playing in it will lose it’s attraction.

That Self

In some of the ancient Hindu books, “self” and “Self” are used to mean two different things. When it is lowercase self, it means the physical and mental self of the physical world. While the uppercase Self is another way of saying the spirit or soul. That is the true Self, the eternal Self that is part of eternal reality. I think it is that eternal Self that Underhill labels the third factor in our overall being. Although it is possible that she is looking upon self and Self as one whole. From what she says about it, that may be the case.

In any case, the primary purpose of spiritual development is to awaken and grow that true Self. Only the spiritual Self is eternal. Only the spiritual self can know truth and wisdom. The real truth and wisdom that comes from God.

Open Eyes

The goal of the spiritual student, says Underhill, is to open the eyes. Just as with Jesus healing the blind, this is not a reference to the physical eyes. The goal is to open the spiritual eyes. We do that by awakening the spirit and soul. We do that with a large input of spiritual energy. And the best place to turn to to get that energy is the spiritual sun.

When the soul awakens, your spiritual eyes open. Then you can see that eternal reality. Then you can start to fully participate in being part of that eternal reality.

1 – For spiritual enlightenment.

being free

Being Free from Programming and Domestication

“Who stops us from being free? We blame the government. We blame our parents. … Who really stops us from being free? We stop ourselves. What does it really mean to be free? Sometimes we get married and we say that we lose our freedom, then we get divorced and we are still not free. What stops us? Why can’t we be ourselves?

“We have memories of long ago, when we used to be free and we loved being free, but we have forgotten what freedom really means.

“If we see a child who is two or three, perhaps four years old, we find a free human. Why is this human free? Because this human does whatever he or she wants to do. This human is completely wild. Just like a flower, a tree, or an animal that has not been domesticated. And if we observe humans who are two years old, we find that most of the time these humans have a big smile on their face and they’re having fun. They are exploring the world. They are not afraid to play. They are afraid when they are hurt,when they are hungry, when some of their needs are not mt, but they don’t worry about the past, don’t care about the future, and only live in the present moment.” ~Don Miguel Ruiz

Being Free

While I generally agree with what Ruiz has to say, I think in this case, there is some exaggeration involved. Of course, teachers often use exaggeration to get a point across, but in this case, it may be used a little too much.

First off, what exactly does it mean to be free? If we mean total freedom, then none of us has it or ever will. We are not free to stop eating for four or five months. We cannot stop breathing for two hours. Either of those things would make us dead. We are, and always will be, subject to the laws of God and Nature. So the freedom Ruiz is talking about is relative. And it is just as relative for plants, animals, and small children. The monkey isn’t free to fly like a bird. The swamp weed isn’t free to grow in the desert.

Freedom of the Young

It is true that being free, relatively, is more true in the very young. They haven’t been “domesticated” yet, as Ruiz says. But small children have a brain. They have a capacity to learn. In fact experts on the brain and the mind say that a small child learns new things easier than an adult. This is a good indication that such learning is natural.

When the free, wild, child that Ruiz describes falls and gets hurt, he learns from that. When she sticks her hand in a fire and gets burned, she learns from that. When he eats something that isn’t food, he gets sick. It may take a bit longer, but he will even learn from that. This is a good thing. We need to learn. We have a capacity to learn and we should learn.

Where the problem comes in is when we learn false things. We learn certain acceptable ways to behave from our parents, teachers, and friends. We are supposed to dress a certain way. We are supposed to talk a certain way. The beliefs and rules that others live by are passed on to us as we grow. And now we are far less tree than before.

Back to Being Free

The good news is that we can get back most of that lost freedom, while still knowing that fire burns. We can become open-minded again and learn that just because it is part of our social structure doesn’t men it is the best way to do things, or even the right way.

Several things cause me to believe that I may have been dropped as an infant. For one, I have an eye injury in one eye that the doctor says looks like it happened when I was very young. My optic nerve became partially detached from my right eye, It reattached itself, and grew larger than normal for protection. The other reason is that I had an irrational fear of high places. Fortunately, I heard of a program called Psych-K that helped people get over phobias or bad habits. In most cases, this could be done with one weekend workshop. I took the workshop and it cured me of my fear of heights. So in that one area, I got my freedom back.

Other methods work or getting back other kinds of freedom. Suppose you have been taught to have a distrust of people from different places. Visiting other countries can help you learn that there is no need to fear foreigners. Maybe our religious leaders have filled you with the belief that people of certain other faiths are evil. Visiting a place of worship for that faith might awaken you to the truth.

In most cases, it may simply take time and work. Just repeat to yourself regularly that if you don’t have proof of something, you don’t know that it is true. Be open to other beliefs. Be open to other ideas. Each night before going to bed, ask yourself, “Did I let my beliefs and prejudices control me at all today?” If the honest answer is “Yes,” think of how you can do better the next time. Being free again won’t happen overnight, but it can happen.

unchanging light

Unchanging Light and the Three Factors

“There are in this struggle [for spiritual enlightenment] three factors. (1) The unchanging light of eternal reality. … (2) The web of illusion, here thick, there thin, which hems in, confuses, and allures the sentient self. (3) That self, always changing, moving, struggling—always, in fact, becoming—alive in every fiber, related at once to the unreal and to the real; and, with its growth in true being, ever more conscious of the contrast between them.

“In the ever-shifting relations between these factors, the consequent energy engendered, the work done, we may find a cause of the innumerable forms of stress and travail which are called in their objective form the Purgative Way. One only of the three is constant: the Absolute to which the soul aspires.” ~Evelyn Underhill

The Self, Becoming

I decided to look at Underhill’s three factors in reverse order because that seems a more logical approach to me. So we start with the self. That comes first because what we are talking about in spiritual growth, in materialism, and in the great illusion is always how it relates to our self. Our “self” is deceptively simple to many. In truth, we are very complex beings. A lot more complex than most even suspect. But we will keep it somewhat simple and just consider the four main parts of what we are. Those four parts are, body, mind, psyche, and spirit.

Main Parts of Self

The physical body is the most obvious part of what we are. And yes, it is a part of us, even if it is, to a large degree, a mask we wear over our true self. It allows us to function in the physical world. While it is something we will shed one day, it is essential to us while we are in the realm of matter.

The mind, or brain-mind as I often call it, is another part of our being. It is both physical and mental. Mind is associated with the brain, but not strictly limited to it. It is the source of intellect, but not consciousness. Its thinking is all on the level of the material plane. It can speculate about the spiritual, but can’t actually know the spiritual.

The psyche, or more accurately, psychic body, is of a higher frequency than the physical, yet lower than the spiritual. It is this body which often can o psychic things like move objects without touching them, or seeing into the future. It is also the level of our being that links us to devils, demons, and other beings of darkness. Therefore, it isn’t a place where we should spend a great deal of time.

The spiritual body, which includes the soul, is the highest part of our “self”. It is dormant when we enter the physical world and needs to be brought to consciousness. That is the true meaning of spiritual awakening. Simply becoming aware that the physical realm isn’t enough is only the first step to actual awakening.

The Web of Illusion

Based on comment I see in spiritual groups on social media, I think there is a lot of confusion about this. Most understand that the physical world is a world of illusion. But many thing that means it is not real, doesn’t exist. It doesn’t mean that at all. It means that what it appears to be is not what is really there. Something like seeing a magician saw a lady in half. We know he didn’t really saw her in half. But that doesn’t mean nothing happened, or that the magician and his assistant don’t exist.

The idea that it is all illusion used to be considered a fantasy of the mystics, laughed t by the scientists. Know quantum physics has shown that they were correct. He physical universe, they say, is just a hologram. The real questions to ask when healing that are; “what is projecting it?” and “What is the source of that light?”

The Unchanging Light

The third factor is the Light. Underhill calls it the unchanging light. It is also called the spiritual light, or the Light of God. This is the highest level of light. It is the source of all other lights. And light is the source of all other. That is why the Book of Genesis in the Bible has God starting the process of creation by creating the light. And that Light is the true image of God. So being made in His image means we too are made of light. At least our true self is made of spiritual light.

The Quest

The quest for those of us who want to develop our spiritual self is to seek out that unchanging light and become one with it. To let it awaken our spiritual faculties and help them develop. It is said that at some future time we will no longer need to consume plants and animals and just live off the light.

As Underhill points out, this quest is not easy. Many obstacles are thrown in our path. The three factors can be confusing. We can become confused and frustrated. We get stressed out. Those things limit our spiritual growth. But we can learn methods of reducing the stress and letting go, to a large degree, of the world of matter.

The reward for all this effort is eternal life. Eternal life with God and the angels in Heaven. That makes all the difficulties worth it.