Outdated Newtonian worldviews are responsible for the seeming contradictions and irreconcilable differences between non-duality spirituality and free will reality manifestation. Update our worldview and these conflicts disappear.
YOU CREATE YOUR OWN REALITY! The words boomed off the page with palpable power. I was at secondary school at the time and had got hold of some books by Jane Roberts who channeled Seth, books I remember hiding under my bed. Ever since that impressionable time, it has been like this magical formula or secret spell that has given me comfort during difficult times because I know that I can, at least potentially, change any situation because I created it in the first place with my thoughts and beliefs. It is my GET OUT OF JAIL FREE card that I keep close by for emergencies. (When our life is rosy, we tend not to need or think about reality modification!)
Many years later, with the advent of film documentaries like The Secret, which was anything but, the whole concept of reality creation got watered down into ego-fulfilment — You can have anything your ego desires. Only trouble was, when used blindly without reflection, most of the desires that arise in us are inculcated by society in order to sell something — indeed The Secret itself was the foundation of a billion dollar industry in manifestation programs, books, films, pendants, lectures etc. Reality creation (ego-fulfillment) is BIG business!
By the time the "create your own reality" juggernaut went mainstream, however, I felt more spiritually sophisticated, having been introduced by a ex-girlfriend (thank you D) to Advaita or Nonduality Spirituality embodied by the great Indian sage and teacher, Ramana Mahashi. I had read Nisargadatta's I Am That, years earlier, but had not really understood it because I was so lost in conceptual spirituality at the time. I needed a more personal introduction to help me grasp that I couldn't grasp anything because there is nothing to grasp!
Non-dual teachings taught me to let everything be as it is — to let go of trying to control or modify reality. It was actually this focus on reality modification that was robbing me of fundamental peace. For as long as I wanted to change the world, including myself and others, for however noble or justified a reason, I was in an internal state of agitation because wanting to change something implies that we are not happy with it in this present moment, and as there is ultimately only this moment, we are not happy, period. True peace can only come about from accepting what is, because only by total acceptance can we be truly happy, right here and right now.
But nonduality teachers tend to take this perspective much further: they often adopt the philosophical position called predeterminism, which means that every event in the universe is caused by a series of prior event, all the way back into history. From this perspective, the whole future of the universe is implied in its present state — there is no room for novelty or free will.
This viewpoint is not unique and is also associated with 19th Century mechanistic and reductionist science, but it actually applies to many other beliefs and worldviews. Take for instance the concept of karma — this is another form of predeterminism which links future events to past actions. According to this belief, you cannot escape your karma, just as you cannot escape the consequences of your foot colliding with a ball at speed — the ball is going to express the consequences, hopefully at the back of the net.
So predeterminism usually implies some sort of causality — the doctrine of cause and effect. Because causes have predictable effects, no room is left for novelty. Free will, on the other hand, implies that we can choose a new possibility without it having to be the effect of a previous cause, and that we are therefore responsible for our own happiness through the choices that we make.
By adopting predeterminism, nonduality or Advaita teachers are able to dismiss free will as an illusion — an illusion which is the cause of so much mental discord and strife. This is because our minds are basically reality-manufacturing machines: for example, when we are half awake and half asleep, in that space where our dreams and waking reality meld into one, we can become aware of how noises and light changes in waking reality get seamlessly incorporated into our dream fantasy. And it is this constant reality spinning that could well be giving us this illusion that we steer the ship of our lives, when in fact our lives may just be unfolding like a movie at the cinema. We can either resist this realization by fantasizing we are in control, or accept that there isn't even an "I" to steer the ship, and that we actually rest in the pure awareness of the flow, without any compunction to alter that flow in any way.
In this way, the mind can relax and does not need to constantly be making decisions (after all, if free will is an illusion, everything will happen as it is determined to anyway, so no need to fret over anything!). From this perspective, any experience of decision making is merely considered a psychologically comforting but stressful illusion that helps us feel in control.
So the spiritual/new age movements have two opposing perspectives: reality modification and letting everything be as it is. The former dominates the movements because it is so much more marketable and attractive to the ego, and therefore the vast majority of people; whereas the latter is considered a more sophisticated and mature spiritual outlook — one that terrifies any ego in its right mind! Many, as I did, move from reality modification to a state of letting everything be as it is. But what I have always found rather peculiar is that reality modification tends to be based on a very modern and creative quantum paradigm, whereas letting everything be as it is is based on an outdated Newtonian mechanical reality model — the world as a clockwork mechanism over which we have no control.
So moving from reality modification to letting everything be as it is could be construed as a retro-step into an old paradigm. Sure, it serves the purpose to disengage the ego from controlling experience, but the question is whether it really is a more mature spiritual perspective? [Advaitists will no doubt argue that as there is no conceptualization involved in awakening, it doesn't matter that the Advaitic worldview is outdated. But, as will be covered later, even awakened people have a worldview, whether they admit to it or not.]
This demarcation between our an outlook of reality modification and one of letting everything be as it is seems to be stark and irreconcilable, and I have not seen this issue adequately examined by anyone. Those in one belief camp invariably dismiss those in the other, which is not very helpful to anyone who is open-minded and wanting at least acknowledgement of the seeming realities of the two different perspectives, and perhaps are looking for a third perspective or synthesis bringing the two poles together.
A new synthesis of these perspective is certainly possible, with a little imagination and unconventional thinking. To begin an examination of this synthesis, we need to look at free will and predeterminism in more detail.
Free Will and Predeterminism
Do we actually have free will in anything? This is an important issue because free will is very much concomitant with creating our reality. Without free will, we do not have the ability to create reality — rather, reality would happen to us — it would unfold in its own way. We would be passive observers to that automatic process (perhaps under the illusion that we are in control).
The following video is of part of a lecture given by a Adviata teacher, Gary Weber: In this lecture, Weber promotes predeterminism, basically advocating that free will is an illusion the mind generates in order to give it the comforting perception that it is in control:
Personally, I do not accept Weber's perspective of absolute predeterminism as it seems to strongly contradict my experience, and not just my superficial experience. Sure, any experience might be illusory, but then everything might be illusory and we could all be pink elephants hypnotically convinced we are human beings. It is far too easy to dismiss what we don't like as illusion. That said, I would not feel threatened if free will were illusory (or if we were all in fact pink elephants), but I do feel that the issue is not quite as black and white as many people like Weber present it, and that predeterminism and free will are not the only choices on offer.
Predeterminism is predicated on the concept of time and implies that future events exist right now in some hidden form. That form can be matter mechanistic, psychological, energetic or informational, multi or other-dimensional or some other form, perhaps not yet discovered.
If we focus on a mechanistic perspective, the future is implied in the configuration of atoms, subatomic particles and photons that make up the universe. If we focus on a psychological perspective, the future is implied by symbolic groupings and associations that tend to repeat over time in the same patterns. If we focus on a theistic religious perspective, the future is an unfolding or revelation of God's or the Gods' divine plan which is written in scriptures. If our focus is on consciousness and New Age perspectives, then the future is implied in the current energetic or zero-point field configurations, or what physicist David Bohm called it the "implicate order". But whatever form it is in, the future is implied or enfolded in the configuration of the present and the past.
[Aside: Modern physics thought it had got rid of the notion of an aether or space matrix by which light propagates because of the results of the Michelson-Morely experiment in 1887 which detected no change in the speed of light traveling in perpendicular directions. But more recent experiments show that space is not empty and property-free as previously believed, and it is likely that, at some time in the future, the aether theory, no doubt with a different name, will come back into vogue.]
It is important to emphasise here that these perspectives are not mutually exclusive, and that those who believe in divine revelation, for example, often have no problem in believing that God created a universe that runs mechanistically when He or She is not performing some divine intervention.
Modern physics, however, has moved on from a mechanistic or "clockwork" view of the world to a new quantum paradigm of the universe. And this new quantum paradigm seems to be at odds with any form of predeterminism.
Quantum Theory and Predeterminism
From the quantum perspective, reality spontaneously bubbles up, in the moment, from the quantum field. Acausality is the name of the game in spontaneous systems, where time flows both forwards and backwards, allowing the unexpected and illogical to happen. After all, what could be more unexpected and illogical than the creation of the whole universe out of nothing — a spontaneous quantum fluctuation in nothingness. By definition, such a quantum fluctuation cannot have had any cause because, before it, was absolutely nothing. [This quantum fluctuation theory of the genesis of the Universe is taken seriously by many scientists today.]
The question here is whether something can be both predetermined and acausal? Can a spontaneously processing universe be predetermined? The quick answer to these questions is no, because in a spontaneous acausal universe, so much novelty and uncertainty exist as to make predeterminism simply not possible — the universe's unfolding will instead reflect the spontaneity of these quantum processes. Therefore, predeterminism is not compatible with the novelty quantum theory injects into the universe.
Back to the Weber video: Einstein is actually a bad representative of the scientific position on predeterminism, despite his enormous academic stature, because he himself could not accept much of modern quantum physics — it was too counter-intuitional to him. Einstein was so uncomfortable with the implications of quantum mechanics that he was famously quoted as saying, "God does not play dice." (To which Neils Bohr amusingly replied, "Stop telling God what to do!") So this great scientist was basically a Newtonian physicist who delved into the consequences of Lorentz's contraction theory and the universal speed of light, and came up with Relativity. But even though he moved beyond a an absolute Newtonian worldview to a relative one, he was unwilling to accept the quantum mechanics worldview because it was so strange. Einstein, therefore, is not a true representative of modern physics, and so the fact that he advocated predeterminism does not scientifically sanction the view.
[Aside: The name Albert Einstein is synonymous with the word genius because he presented his theories as if he had formulated them from first principles — plucking them out of the thin air of pure thought experiment and giving little to no credit to his contemporaries. For example, "Einstein's" famous equation E=mc2 was actually devised and published a few years earlier by Italian scientist, Olinto De Pretto, and relativity itself was first formulated by a French physicist, Henri Poincaré, who combined the work of Hendrik Lorentz to produce two papers on relativity in 1900 and 1904, the second of which was named Principle of Relativity. The fact that Einstein was not the inventor of relativity was known in scientific circles at the time which is why Einstein did not receive his Nobel prize for his work on relativity, only for his paper on the photoelectric effect. Einstein was still a genius, and everyone should have great respect for his work, but he had no more genius than several other scientists working during that revolutionary time in physics, and he certainly showed his own limitations by being unable to move on to a quantum perspective.]
Not only does quantum theory destroy predeterminism, but a new branch of physics called Chaos Theory shows that nonlinear effects in complex systems rapidly multiply tiny fluctuations making predeterminism a special case at best. In this way, the holy grail of modern physics, finding an ultimate law or laws that, in theory, will predict everything — laws that will map the entire universe like clockwork — becomes a pipe dream, even theoretically.
We realize that our maps are fundamentally fuzzy, and there is nothing we can do to sharpen their resolution. Some scientists still hold on to predeterminism hoping that, one day, quantum mechanics will be found to be an approximation to deeper, deterministic laws that bring back sharp focus, but that has not happened yet, and quantum mechanics remains frighteningly accurate model of the universe in the atomic and subatomic realms.
So quantum physics throws out predeterminism because of the uncertainty build into the theory — the uncertainty of quantum fluctuations. These invalidate cause and effect, and therefore invalidate any possibility of predetermining the future (unless you happen to believe in acausal predetermination.) Therefore, holding up Einstein's support for predeterminism as any way representative of science's viewpoint, as Weber has done in the above video, is scientifically invalid. (Some believe quantum mechanics might be reconciled with predeterminism through the many-worlds interpretation … more on that later.)
[Aside: Contrary to a lot of new age theory, quantum mechanics does not necessarily imply that consciousness is involved in steering the quantum processes, although this is one interpretation. I personally hold the consciousness affects the wave-collapse worldview because such a philosophy of mind-over-matter fits with the outcome of research into mind-over-matter areas such as with random number generators.]
As for Ramana Maharshi, he lived in an age when not only was scientific predeterminism perhaps at its strongest, but also in a culture that generally believed (and largely continues to today) in divine destiny whereby everything unfolds according to the divine will or plan. So even though Maharshi was not a theist, it would have been natural for him to take a deterministic perspective. And by holding promoting this belief he could focus all his energies on the divine moment, without having to distract himself with the act of decisions which involve some level of conceptualization of future possibilities (more on this later) and responsibility (which brings up codes of ethics etc.) And anyway, in his ashram days, he lived a style of life that did not require continuous daily decision-making.
So the fact that these two giants of humanity, Ramana Maharshi and Albert Einstein, believed in predeterminism, does not sanction that perspective, unless of course you are a devotee of Ramana Maharshi (I am assuming there are no devotees of Albert Einstein reading this). From a modern physics point of view, we see that quantum uncertainty, coupled with the ability of nonlinear aspects of any system to multiply that uncertainty, rejects any possibility of causal predeterminism. Of course, as we have said, modern physics could be wrong on this, and/or there could be acausal predetermination, but as it stands at the moment, predeterminism is not consistent with science, so we cannot argue for predeterminism based on current scientific theory.
[Aside: It is possible that what spontaneously arises is actually the will or dream of some divine being, consciousness or field, and in this case spontaneity, by definition, is the mediator of the will of God. (It only appears spontaneous to us because we do not know the mind of God.) This is why quantum uncertainty can only dismiss cause-and-effect or rational predeterminism. If someone wants to believe that everything that happens is by the will of God, then that perspective includes every and any possible process of change, and so cannot be refuted. It is also a moot point whether the will of God is causal, it is also possible that God just happens to know the outcome of everything and happily watches everything unfold with a knowing twinkle in Her eye.]
Some have argued in favour of predeterminism using the experimental findings of neurologist, Benjamin Libet, who found that self-initiated actions were begun subconsciously before conscious awareness of any decision being made. This implies that the "conscious" decision-making process is actually more of an autonomic response than an application of free will. In fact, many have argued that his experiments have proved that free will does not actually exist, and without free will, all our decisions become automated and predeterminism becomes more of a reality. (Weber in the above video makes this point in relation to Libet's experiments.)
However, as there is still room for a "conscious veto", as Libet put it, then there is still room for free will. So there may be an initial movement from the subconscious, but the conscious mind can still decide whether to continue with that movement or to block it.
Another interesting question that the Libet experimental results raises: why should free will be limited to the conscious mind? We are both our conscious and subconscious minds, but why do we assume that that which we are not conscious of is either not representative of us or does not have the intelligence to make novel decisions? Is the subconscious (which includes all facets of our being, including perhaps a superconscious) really just limited to simple and predictable automatic body reactions? We are so obsessed with conscious control that we cannot imagine some aspect of ourselves we are not in control of making rational high level decisions, the sort of decisions we associated with conscious free will. This is prejudice! Another possibility is that the subconscious can act as conduit for the "superconscious"? Whatever is the case, we cannot confidently dismiss free will in light of Libet's results. (And neither does Libet himself.)
There is also another possibility that is important to consider: decisions can be made not only at another level of our being but in another time. Perhaps our lives are largely predetermined, but that predetermination is the consequence of choices we freely made at some other point in time, perhaps before our birth or at some point completely outside of the illusion of linear time? Our lives would then follow these free choices, but because our idea of ourselves is so limited, we cannot remember the choices we have made, or even identify with the aspect of ourselves that made those choices, so that we feel that we are choiceless. This may seem a strange idea to many, but if quantum mechanics is anything to go by, strangeness is not only allowed in realitymaps, but it seems to be required in the most accurate ones!
Of course, all this still does not mean that predeterminism isn't a valid viewpoint. It can certainly be a useful one. As most of our mind's chatter is in regards to decisions, possibilities, expectations and our emotional reactions to these, if we adopt the belief that everything is predetermined, we have a powerful means to quiet the mind in the present moment. Predeterminism takes the thinking out of living, taking away the stress of decisions and allowing us to accept our life — past, present and future — as something we cannot alter and therefore something we can allow to be exactly as it is without any expectations or regrets. So predeterminism is at least a useful psychological tool for peace of mind, and it does fit well with a holistic worldview because, at first glance, the holistic paradigm makes little room for free will. In fact, holism is generally antagonistic to free will.
Free Will and Holism
In a world that is fundamentally whole and connected, no single part of it can act independently of the rest, by definition. This is the spiritual/mystical vision of the world, and one that has been generally promoted by almost every spiritual/mystical teacher throughout human history. But even ordinary people have experienced this oneness at some point in their lives, and it is this oneness that is at the heart of the spiritual tradition called Advaita (a term that literally means "not two").
[Aside: Advaita is basically non-conceptual spirituality — as soon as we have a concept about something, we are separate from it. Central to the Advaita tradition is something called self-enquiry, the process by which we look very deeply for who and what we are, and when we end up empty handed, we come to the direct realization that the whole ego identity we parade around is a merely a mirage — look closer and it is not there.]
In a conventional "local" Newtonian worldview with no separation, there cannot be free will, which is why most Advaita teachers dismiss it as an illusion of the mind. However, unconventional "nonlocal" worldviews still leave room for the possibility of free will. For example, here are seven possible unconventional worldviews that allow for free will, a couple of which have already been mentioned: (the reader will probably be able to think of more):
- Quantum mechanics many-worlds interpretation: One philosophical interpretation of quantum mechanics is that in each possible probability (choice or configuration) available in a system becomes a new entire universe. In this way, we can make a free choice and bring the whole universe along with that choice without interfering with someone else making a different choice. The many-worlds interpretation of QM brings together the possibility of free will with holism, as it also does with predeterminism and quantum fluctuations. But this reconciliation comes at a price: ridiculously massive redundancy of explanation — creating whole universes with each decision or event seems to be completely over-the-top to many people. (Of course, just because a theory seems extravagant does not mean it isn't correct.)
- Fractal/Holographic reality topography: From this perspective each part is the whole and is connected in a non-local way to the rest of All-That-Is in a topography that throws up paradoxes. In this way, free will of one aspect of All-That-Is cannot and does not clash or contradict with that of another. From this perspective, creativity becomes a fundamental property holism as we get this directly interplay between the 'parts' and the whole.
- Multidimensional reality topography: In relation to number 2 above, our minds have very little idea of experience in multi-dimensions because we are so 3-d space-time focused. We often make analogies with what a 2-dimensional world is like from a 3-dimensional perspective, but that only gives the faintest hint of a flavour of true multidimensional experience. The truth is that dimensions are understood mathematically, but not experientially. But our minds are very likely to be embedded in the multidimensional matrix of reality and so our very experience of consciousness is multi-dimensional. This means that what appears to be a contradiction between free will and holism from a limited perspective may well be completely resolved at higher dimensions. (Adding dimensions to systems often resolves logical conflicts because the logic we tend to use is based upon a 3-d experience.)
- Solipsistic worldview: From this perspective there is only one mind in existence and so free will of that mind is given the green light. However, solipsism contradicts much of our experience and most people reject it out of hand. That said, a dream state is ultimately a solipsistic experience, and as most spiritual teachers have equated our experience of reality to dreaming, solipsism cannot be dismissed so easily from a deeper spiritual perspective. After all, we can still be one and have multiple dreams within that oneness.
- Super-temporal worldviews: Free will may be exercised quite freely outside of time, and then percolating out into the temporal universe in a completely holistic and organic way, perhaps linked with possibilities 1 and 2 above.
- Irrational and inconsistent worldview: who said that reality has to be rational and consistent? Just because a worldview is inconsistent with free will does not mean that both cannot be valid — after all, quantum mechanics has shown us that the world can have fundamental conceptual inconsistencies. In other words, in an irrational universe, anything and everything is possible!
- Similarly to 6 above but from a more personified perspective: if there is a divine being or divine beings with unlimited power, then rationality and consistency go out the window.
At the end of the day, there is plenty of room for free will if we want it, and it is not necessarily an intractable problem if it appears to contradict holism.
Holism makes no sense from a conventional Newtonian "local" perspective, which is why it throws up so many inconsistencies. However, the universe is NOT local/Newtonian, and the only way we can actually understand holism is experientially, not conceptually. And so conceptually dismissing aspects of our experience because of logical inconsistencies with our worldview and rational expectations, is likely to be a recipe for delusion.
If we deeply experience free will, who can really dismiss that experience?
The Advantages of Free Will Reality Modification
Free will (or the experience of free will) has many advantages, and should therefore not be dismissed too readily. After all, it is our choices that often bring us to truth; that ripen us for awakening. Often we start with seemingly innocuous choices such as what type of thoughts to think and how to relate to them; what to eat; whether to meditate and/or pray regularly; whether to repeat mantras or undertake self-enquiry; or whether to heal ourselves physically, emotionally and mentally.
Immersing myself in non-duality teachings and perspectives, I have found a place of peace, although I cannot not let go of reality creation entirely. It is in my blood. I take responsibility for my health and well-being, and that of other animals — I choose to eat a veggie diet and exercise regularly; I take responsibility for my state of mind — I regularly pray, meditate and do things like EFT; I take responsibility for keeping an open mind — I read a lot of very diverse material and give others the benefit of the doubt, at least initially. So I do strive (and often fail) to be compassionate and whole. And I avoid going to conventional doctors or taking their pharmaceutical drugs, preferring to take responsibility for my own health by as natural means as possible. In other words, I do sincerely feel that I steer the ship of my own life, and that I have choice on what to do and how to behave in each moment.
Those in Advaita would say that I was deluding myself, and that I am making no difference by entertaining the illusion that I am taking responsibility. However, it is interesting that those who have awakened in Advaita suffer the same consequences of their actions: those that ignore their health after awakening suffer from ill health just as much as those who ignore their health before awakening. This implies that the reality creating process carries on regardless of whether we make is a conscious focus or not, and that our responsibilities to "good living" do not just disappear when we awaken. There is a fantasy that when we awaken all our problems dissolve. In reality, when we awaken all our problems continue, except they no longer concern us because we no longer identify with them.
Conscious choice may not take us through the gate of awakening — our conscious selves tend to have no control over that — but choice can certainly take us up to that gate of awakening; choice can make awakening much more likely to happen. (As was previously mentioned, major life choices may well be made outside of the temporal conscious realm, and this may well include the choice to awaken.)
Most spiritual seekers start with choice, with spirituality akin to personal-development. From this perspective, which has been the focus of such New Age films as The Secret and What the Bleep!, spirituality allows us to get what we want, to fulfill our personal desires by aligning ourselves with the magic of the universe. All admittedly very trite, except that such a focus brings us into ever greater awareness of what is going on in our minds — something that is fundamental to spiritual awakening.
We may lust after a red Ferrari or the perfect partner, doing our daily visualisations to get the car and man/woman of our dreams, but, in going through this process of reality creation through inner focus on our thoughts and beliefs, we are more likely to to become conscious of deeper desires, ones that reject superficial ego gratification in favour of waking up from the whole stupid game.
Of course, the control involved in reality creation can become redundant during spiritual awakening — any new state of consciousness can be pretty absorbing — but to dismiss reality creation out of hand because we personally no longer focus on it is unhelpful. Superficial control is the carrot that brings us to an awareness of our mental processes, the very processes that are preventing us from seeing the awakening that is already there.
So we have to respect spiritual teachers such as the Dalai Lama when he urges us to make the choice to "take care of our thoughts" because, to do so, makes us more aware of the consequences of our thoughts and actions:
"Take care of your Thoughts because they become Words. Take care of your Words because they will become Actions. Take care of your Actions because they will become Habits. Take care of your Habits because they will form your Character. Take care of your Character because it will form your Destiny, and your Destiny will be your Life." The Dalai Lama
The Dalai Lama knows perfectly well that taking care of our thoughts is not likely to lead us directly to immediate spiritual awakening, but over time those choices could well be pivotal to such awakening. By becoming aware of how our thoughts affect our choices, which affect our reality, we at least start to really grok the contrived nature of both thoughts and reality, a very important step to realizing the contrived nature of our ego.
Making "good" choices, therefore, is usually necessary preparation to true awakening, but it will also help us after we have awakened. For example, someone awake who is ill will usually still seek some form of reality modification to get better. So choice still has its place, and should be respected, rather than conceptually dismissed using outdated worldviews such as those presented by Gary Weber in the video lecture above.
The Advantages of Letting Everything Be As It Is
Advaita teachers are great proponents of "letting everything be as it is", and for good reason. This attitude of letting be, of total acceptance with what is, rids the mind of the dissonance from the mismatch between expectation and reality. When this dissonance is minimized, we have the greatest opportunity to directly experience the subtle and contrived workings of the mind and identity — we have the clarity to blow its cover. Otherwise, we are too caught up in our judgements of reality (expectation of what reality "should" be like is at the heart of all judgement) to be able to directly experience the unreality of anything and everything beyond of the basic "I am" consciousness.
When we truly understand what is real, and what is not real, the weight of our thinking no longer affects us (although in most cases it can return). Responsibility for our lives is lifted from our shoulders as we come to realize that everything that has happened to us, everything that we have done, was meant to happen. All we have to do is to sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. This state of mind where we stop the ego-control process can be become a permanent state, and this is called abiding awakening.
[Aside: Abiding awakening is a state of mind whereby we learn to stop the internal identification process involved with our thoughts. 95% of our thought are actually a means of self-validation, but once we stop the need for identification by blowing its cover with self-enquiry, our thinking becomes minimal because we eliminate that 95% mental self-validation noise. Advaitists like to think that this state is independent of mind, but in fact it is entirely a state of mind.]
Letting everything be as it is is a state of mind that allows us to move to a place of no fixed reference points. But without the initial intention to awaken — to see a certain teacher, to practice certain teachings etc. — we would never really understand "letting everything be as it is" and so this state of mind would never have a chance to do its work on us.
"Letting everything be as it is" and "free will reality modification" work in conjunction with each other not only during the awakening process … but also beyond. As has been stated earlier, just because we wake up from the dream does not mean that we no longer manufacture dreams (we just don't identify with them). The reality creating processes of the mind continues unabated, although the focus of the conscious mind is no longer on controlling these processes. For any control would imply a controller, and in most people's minds the only controller can be the superficial "I" or ego.
So a human being functions on many different levels, and just because we stop identifying with the reality creating level does not mean that it stops or goes away. Instead, after awakening, it continues chugging along, except it is no longer in service to our personal validation and ego desires. However, if the process is allowed to continue automatically without due attention, after awakening the reality creating process can still reflect past choices and belief systems of the ego, so that patterns such as illness/health and relationship can continue to cause problems — problems which do not plague us (because at this stage there may be no more "us" to plague), but problems all the same.
When initially waking, a person will find it difficult to function in the dream we collectively call reality because the focus is almost entirely on what really is real. It is a new perspective and we become engrossed in it. But after a period of balancing, we have to return to dream manipulation in order to function effectively in this world — otherwise we would literally be like newborn babies and require nappies and feeding. This is why awakened individuals must still able to function in the dream; they must still be able to manipulate thoughts, dreams and actions too, although if the awakening is authentic they no longer identify with the processes or use them for self-validation.
So free will reality modification still persists, but because we tend not to have the imagination to know how to accept this process without identifying with an ego controller, those involved with Advaita tend to deny reality modification and free will altogether. But this is considered a small sacrifice for the inner peace of "no-responsibility" that this position gives us.
Finding A Synthesis of Reality Modification and Letting Be
From the current standard perspectives, we have seen that we tend to become interested in reality modification first because it offers such a tempting carrot to self-examination — getting anything that we want. Then we often become tired of meeting the needs of our despot egos and eventually move towards more of a letting everything be as it is position. This offers us a rest from the incessant chatter and identification of the mind, allowing us to really understand how identity with this chatter keeps us from touching the awakened part of ourselves. If we experience grace, we wake up. And if we don't, we feel great anyway, unless we have an expectation of waking up!
But one very important proviso here: awakening is not one final absolute state that dissolves mind; rather it is a clear awareness of the contrived nature of identification that goes on in our minds — minds that STILL manufacture reality based on their belief-systems. It is very common in Advaita circles to denigrate anything remotely to do with the mind and its functioning, and yet the irony is that we absolutely depend up our minds to present us even with the most sublime non-dual perspective of reality.
So although the traditional worldview of Advaita can and does lead to awakening, that awakening will still carry the flavour of that traditional Advaitic worldview, which is bleak. After all, traditional Advaita sees everything outside the very core "I am" experience as predetermined, pointless and illusory. This is why so many Advaita teachers can be quite depressing to listen to. [Those in Advaita would say it is only the ego that finds it depressing. This is no doubt part of the reason, but it is also possible that a world without spontaneous creativity and some form of free will loses it sparkle even to our non-egoic states of awareness.]
So by not giving any credit or place for the mind in Advaita (despite the fact that the basic "I am" experience is mediated by mind), Advaita ends up finding oneness by denying anything and everything that contradicts that oneness — contradictions that actually arise due to its use of an outdated Newtonian-Cartesian worldview. This is why those focused on Advaita and letting everything be as it is are very often in complete denial over their experience and the responsibility of their actions: they are working from a viewpoint that is so distorting that they are forced into that denial. The delusion is palpable, and very obvious to the outside observer.
I am innocent your Honor. Murder just spontaneously arose in this body-mind and I just innocently watched as the drama unfolded. I am not responsible for anything because there is no "I" to be responsible. (Judge, unimpressed: "Take her away!")
As for those who focus on reality creation and modification, their limited perspective means that they tend to be notoriously restless in their minds as they keep creating different realities in the hope of deriving some long-term or permanent ego satisfaction (if I create everything that I want, why am I not happy?). But of course this is impossible, as the ego is inherently dissatisfied as it is an illusive identity based on false assumptions. Fulfilling ego desires only leads to more ego desires, in a vicious circle of downward spiraling dissatisfaction and restlessness.
I have created absolutely everything anyone could want … a fabulous house, a beautiful partner, the latest electric car, the perfect job … and yet … I feel this deep dissatisfaction and emptiness that is driving me crazy. It all feels so superficial!
Reality modification could well do with some non-commercial, non-egotistical focus; and Advaita could well do with a paradigm upgrade and include creativity as a foundation of existence. Only by doing this can we rid ourself of the superficiality of reality modification and the denial of non-duality spirituality.
But how do we find a synthesis between free will reality modification and letting everything be as it is? They seem such polar opposites!
99.9% of spiritual seekers will not bother — they will remain squarely in one camp or the other. Indeed, both camps have full justifications for their positions, usually handed down to them by their spiritual teachers. Very few indeed are able to straddle the two, and those that do just avoid the obvious ideological inconsistencies and just take a pragmatic (somewhat schizophrenic) approach of doing what they need to do in the moment.
Those in the reality modification camp tend not to know much about Advaita anyway, or if they do hear about it recoil in horror at its powerlessness, emptiness and general blandness; and those in the letting everything be as it is Advaita camp tend to feel a superiority over reality modifiers because they see them as completely stuck in control fantasies, and they also tend to be the more serious spiritual seekers, rather than individuals who just want magical ways to fulfill their ego desires.
The lineage of the reality modification camp tends to be found in the massive movement for ego fulfillment, which is strongly integrated into materialism — spiritual and not-so-spiritual materialism. This is why it can be so problematic for spiritual seekers long term: as we have seen, reality modification being synonymous with ego fulfillment makes letting go of ego identification much more difficult, and so it can become a serious impediment to spiritual growth.
The lineage of the letting everything be as it is camp tends to go back to early 20th Century teachers and renunciates like Ramana Maharshi, teachers who knew nothing about quantum creativity and who presented Advaita through an outdated and bleak worldview. Letting everything be as it is can appear to be a very passive approach to existence, although, with the level of denial associated with Advaita, "passive" can very easily be defined as active because it allows for the spontaneous arising of right action. (Arising that no doubt involves mind on some level, but don't tell that to an Advaitists!)
Letting everything be as it is, implies that there is an "is" that is independent of the "I am" basic awareness. To get past this duality, those in Advaita will deny the reality of the "is" despite the instruction that validates it by letting it be. So there is duality of the "I am" and "isness" implied in Advaita.
I create my own reality, on the other hand, implies that there is an "I" that creates this reality. The problem here is that the "I" is mistaken for the ego so that the 3-d focused self feels like it is in the driving seat. This also sets up a duality between "I" and "reality". Reality is also considered individual or personal, not the objective "isness" seen in Advaita.
So you may notice that there seems to be a complementary similarity between these two perspectives: one affirms the "I" and the other denies the "I"; one affirms "isness" independent of self and the other regards that "isness" as entirely dependent upon self because it is manufactured by self.
The complementary nature of these two perspectives — reality modification and letting everything be as it is — is analogous to the particle-wave paradox of quantum mechanics: when we look at a sub-atomic particle or photons, we tend to witness them either as particles … or as waves … but never both at the same time. How a particle appears to us is dependant upon the context in which we observe it, and the dilemma of two forms of the same "thing" is a product of our limited dimensional view.
In the same way, reality modification and letting everything be as it is seem to be complementary worldviews that depend on the context of our consciousness in any particular moment. Advaita denies particles; reality modification denies waves. But they are actually both expressions of exactly the same thing at a much deeper level. Both are valid, but they have been presented in such narrow contexts that they appear to conflict with each other. (Other complementary couplings include: left brain and right brain; brain and heart; higher self and lower self; consciousness and subconsciousness.)
Of course, neither camp will admit that what they believe are complementary opposites because, at heart, they are actually fundamentalists. Only their own worldview is correct, and it is absolutely correct. (Just spend time around a committed Advaitist or Reality Creator and you will know what I mean. Both believe they have THE truth and both will absolutely deny any evidence to the contrary.)
So the reason we are unable to unite reality modification and letting everything be as it is is that they are operating from outdated perspectives of reality and/or the mind: Reality modification is quantum mechanical but uses outdated psychology; letting everything be as it is is Newtonian, but also uses outdated psychology. But what would happen if we upgraded the Advaitic worldview, and also upgraded the model of psychology used in both the Advaitic and Reality Creationist worldviews?
Quantum Advaita and New Psychological Paradigms
Our consciousness is divided up into the conscious mind, with an identity labelled "ego", and an unconscious mind, with no identity and which operates on automatic. The ego is our sense of self, and also the root of many of our problems. This, in a nutshell, is the anatomy of the human mind most prevalent in society today (and since the early 20th Century when Freud developed his theory of ego and subconscious etc.).
But supposing this view is wrong, or very limited at best.
We know there are parts of "mind" that we are not aware of, and that the parts that we are aware of — the so called conscious mind — is like a spotlight illuminating a tiny, filtered and selected area of those previously unconscious parts (filtered and selected according to our expectations and beliefs about ourselves and the world). The divide between what is conscious and not conscious is not clearly defined, and it is in constant flux. There are actually many intelligent identities inside us that are separate from a limited perspective.
We know we all have a belief system about who we are which can be labelled "ego", and that the spotlight of the conscious mind illuminates in a way that validates this belief system of "I". The belief system of "I" is like a snapshot road map of who we think we are, and this map controls what we are willing to see and acknowledge in our own minds, and "out" in the world. We spend our lives defending our belief system of "I" by rejecting anything and everything that contradicts it. Human beings are fixated on self-validation! However, if we are pushed too far, perhaps via a nervous breakdown or numinous experience, we can go through a fundamental change in identity which subsequently changes what is visible to us in our minds, and subsequently who we are to the outside world — we become a different person. Sometimes, emotional challenges can lead to identity being organized around two or more egos, a condition called multiple personality disorder.
The most interesting parts of our mind are those which we are not conscious of. We assume these parts are unable to make rational choices outside of basic programming and autonomic functioning. After all, it is those parts of our minds that we are not aware of that keep our body functioning, repair injuries, keep us healthy or make us sick, present us with dreams, and occasionally gift us with those Eureka moments of creative surge. We like to call those parts the sub-conscious — something beneath us and subordinate to us. But who is to say that it is any less aware, intelligent and conscious than the tiny part of our minds that we label "conscious"? Perhaps we contain multiple intelligences that we are not aware of. And perhaps what we are not aware of might be so perceptive, conscious and intelligent that it would be more accurate to call it the super-conscious and acknowledge that it too has the free will to make rational choices (or what appear to us to be irrational choices but which seem to be in our best interest).
We assume that identity is fixed and singular within each individual, but suppose that who we actually are is far greater than what we are conscious of. Maybe we are each multiple intelligent entities, either within a particular dimensional perspective or dimensionally arranged like Russian Dolls, converging through structure and expectation into a single person from the perspective of 3-d space and time? Or perhaps the multiples of ourselves are in different parts of the universe … or in parallel dimensions? Some of these entities (parts of ourselves) may be so much more perceptive and intelligent than the "I" we think we are that those parts of ourselves actually make most of the decisions for us.
That tiny part of ourselves that is so fixated on ego-control seems unable or unwilling to accept that there might be a greater multi-dimensional, infinitely more conscious identity in each of us that we are simply unable to imagine because we are so fixated by a limited Newtonian-Cartesian worldview.
But this view requires an overhaul of our perception of reality. Remember the wave-particle quantum duality mentioned earlier — this also seems a paradox so long as we are viewing it from a limited dimensional perspective.
[Aside: Particles and waves are just two expressions of exactly the same "process". This is misunderstood by many people in the New Age who associate the particle expression of quantum theory as "fearful" and "lonely", and the wave expression of quantum theory as "loving" and "connected". But, even when we see particles in a quantum context those particles are STILL acting as though they were intimately connected. It is not like quantum particles act like billiard balls all of a sudden — they act in a coordinated way that defies the logic of particles as we know them in 3d space-time. This is because they are actually NEITHER waves NOR particles as we know them to be, but some indescribable multidimensional process that manifests as waves or particles when seen in the distorting lens of 3-d space along with time. So quantum particles cannot be used as an analogy for separation and loneliness because they are so deeply connected with each other.]
So the ego is certainly not be the only "I" or identity in our being, although it is the one we tend to be fixated upon. What we call "I" may extend through the entire universe of multi-dimensions — what might be called "supermind" or the "mind of God". And that supermind may well be creating the universe, or entire universes through the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics (mentioned earlier).
Just because the concept of self as we know it is undeniably false does not mean that we need to throw the whole thing out the window and deny all identity. Perhaps the big problem with ego is not so much our identity with it, but the fact that it is a 3-d representation or mapping of something multidimensional — and this causes it to be distorting and dysfunctional.
The question is: can identity at deeper levels be non-egotistical? If it can, then this would mean the universe is in control, through us. Most of those in Advaita will never find out, at least in this lifetime, as they dismiss all notion of identity, usually conceptually. "I am nothing" becomes a new identity of "I" — one that can never be examined because … well, it doesn't exist ;-)
Advaita retreats back into the "I am" and denies the reality of everything outside that "I amness". But suppose that "I amness" cannot be separated from the expression of that "I amness", and that reality/world creation using free will of some kind of self is therefore as much a part of that "I amness" as "I amness" is. Why define one as real and the other as illusion? If there is one undeniable fact about the universe or All-That-Is it is its capacity for infinite creativity and novelty. Just look around and see it with your own eyes. Where does that fit in a predetermined illusory universe? It doesn't. Again we have become lost in the denial of Advaitic fundamentalism.
Take away those limits and suddenly the paradoxes and contradictions evaporate. In a multidimensional universe, with multidimensional beings, all connected at deeper dimensional levels, we can consciously co-create with All-That-Is, AND still become aware of the contrived nature of the ego. The mind does not need to be rejected at all costs, but accepted as part of the whole. Because we have a bigger paradigm to fit everything in, we don't have to reject part of our experience.
This would change our whole perception of what the "live in the here and now" urgings from spiritual teachers actually means. If you are coming from an outdated Newtonian-Cartesian paradigm, then "here" means right at this point in 3-d space, and "now" means the time on a watch or clock. But from a multidimensional perspective, "here" can be everywhere and nowhere at the same time, and "now" can be all time — future, present and past. So living in the "here and now" would take on a very different meaning, one that would not make any logical sense to anybody stuck in limited perspectives.
The term "identity" basically defines our position in reality — it defines the separation between us and All-That-Is from a 3-d perspective. But from a higher dimensional perspective, identity may involve no separation between us and All-That-Is; multidimensional positionality is very different from 3-d positionality. So when a spiritual teacher urges us to live in the "here and now", identity can still be a part of that positionality. (Although it is important to underline that this is NOT ego identity.)
So just because we have a more inclusive and imaginative paradigm, does necessarily mean that we collude with the ego in some bigger vision, where the ego retains its importance. It is entirely understandable why Advaita dismisses identity altogether as this is the blunderbuss approach to getting rid of the most crippling of false identities called ego. If we are fixated on ego self, then we are better off denying the reality of self altogether than trying to redefine it into something multidimensional. By doing this, however, we end up with a false perception of reality, but one which can potentially bring us abiding peace — at least in this lifetime.
The problem with identity is that we are so conditioned to think we have one single identity that we cling on to it. But identity from a more enlightened viewpoint is ever changing, morphing from one into another without the attachment. So it is identification from limited 3-d perspectives that leads to attachment; identification from a multidimensional perspective can essentially be free from attachment. In this way, identification becomes a temporary blending with different systems and from different perspectives, and can actually be a unifying quality when allowed free-flow.
As Pir Vilayat Khan wrote, "The assumption of being an individual is our greatest limitation." And that individuality is based upon fixed identity. What would happen, for example, if we learned to merge with other beings as Shamans have always done? What would happen if we could easily swap identity with each being we come across — morph into them? One thing for sure: the world would be a much more compassionate and loving place!
Taking all this into consideration, perhaps we can formulate Quantum Advaita that is not so afraid of reality creation and free will? It could be done and probably will be one of these days. But, that said, as society is so steeped in outdated Newtonian and Freudian paradigms, Quantum Advaita would not be a good tool for awakening for most people as, if it were practiced in the context of outdated worldviews, it would simply be an invitation to the ego to continue its despotic rule, except this time it would pretend it was on a multidimensional throne!
But the time is fast approaching when consciousness is upgrading and people's worldviews are starting to change. This realitymap upgrade is what this time of change and new birth is all about. And as this happens, Advaitic awakening and reality modification can and will come together into a multi-dimensional coupling of divine co-creation.
Letting Go to Free Will Reality Modification
Updating to a quantum realitymap puts free will reality modification back on the table. We can and do create our reality, and everything is not predetermined. But there is one important caveat: letting go is STILL required for reality creation because the parts of ourselves that are actually making the choices and modifying reality are much deeper than the superficial ego (is there any other kind?). The only people who succeed in creating reality with their egos seems to be many (but not all) those selling reality creation books, programs, films and seminars etc. — that is, the egotistical "ra-ra brigade" selling ego-fulfillment.
Because authentic reality modification involves deeper aspects of ourselves, beyond petty ego desires, it is certainly not a free ticket to having anything and everything we desire. The journey to reality creation is a journey into the heart of being, and as we learn to create and modify reality we find that we develop great humility and responsibility. Humility because we have to let go to the deeper aspects of self in order to modify reality — the surface self who we experience as "I" has to give up control despite the fact that it may be involved in making the original choice or intention — and responsibility because we realize that, at a deeper level, we just do not have the heart to create superficially.
This is why so many of the effective methods of healing involve getting out the way once we have made a choice or intention. If we do not get out the way and try to control the process, our ego can too easily try to take charge of the process and inflate in its new-found powers. And of course, when this happens, our ability to modify reality goes out the window and we end up in the ego's fantasy land, trying at every opportunity to validate ourselves as these powerful beings who can have anything they want by just thinking about it. Individuals who "create" from such a superficial perspective are aware on some level of the fragility of their powerful worldview and of their ultimate ineffectiveness, and they are usually the first to abandon reality creation when things get tough and run back to more conventional worldviews and solutions.
The bottom line is that reality creation, if undertaken with expanded vision and understanding, can and does take us into an experience Self or the "I am" just as deeply as letting everything be as it is. It is very easy for those in Advaita to turn their noses up at anything remotely to do with the creation of new realities — to throw out the baby with the bath water because their understanding of reality creation is so ego-centric and limited. And it is also so easy for those who are focused on reality creation to avoid letting go of control because to do so means that "they" are not the powerful / magical ones that they have been sold at some reality-creation seminar.
To effectively live life to its full potential, we need to learn to take responsibility for the reality we create, AND learn to let go to deeper levels of our being. These two aspects are not contradictory if we change our realitymaps or worldviews.
Free will reality modification and letting everything be as it is both have a place in our lives, if we let them. Simplifying spiritual awakening by focusing on one or the other can be helpful for certain periods of our awakening, but in order to fulfill our true collective potential we need to integrate both in a higher vision of All-That-Is.
This planet not only needs awakened people, but also people who are able to collectively forge a new reality, a new dimension of existence. This collective awakening and creation of a new world has been called by some indigenous cultures the birth of the fifth world or the sixth sun. Some simply call it the great transition, and others regard it as the end-times spoken about in the scriptures.
Today, awakening or enlightenment seems to be becoming exponentially easier: millions of people are starting to wake up. And it is not just a waking up to letting everything be as it is, but one in which their awakening is concomitant with the co-creation of a new world. We all collectively involved in this process, whether we are considered laggards or leaders. It is time we brought together the awakening involved with letting everything be as it is with the creativity of free will reality modification. By embracing both extremes, we actually find true compassion.
This is because both extremes — letting everything be as it is and free will reality creation — destroy compassion. If we let everything be as it is, then we have no incentive to reach out and change reality for the better; and if we create realities, we also have no incentive to reach out because anyone in trouble has created their trouble in the first place, and so only they can get themselves out of it. It is only a synthesis of both perspectives that encourage true compassion for our fellow beings.
This reminds me of a Seth quote that I read many years ago: "No one is as fanatical, and no one can be more cruel, than the self-righteous." And any extreme point of view that favours ideology over humanity automatically seems to lead to self-righteousness. In fact, I have witnessed much of the same religious self-righteousness and closed-heartedness in the Advaitic and Reality Creation movements as I have seen in traditional religious organisations — all in the name of love of course!
Therefore, it appears that the limiting factor is not the flavour of our beliefs or the focus of our practice, but on dimensional context with which we operate. This is why it is so important to let go of trying to squeeze experience into 3-d distortion running in 1-d time. If we continue the farce of championing outdated belief systems, we will forever be jumping through hoops to explain the resulting paradoxes arising from the mapping distortions.
And what about spiritual awakening itself? We seem fixated on waking up because unconsciousness of our identity and reality manufacturing processes is equated to being asleep. It is the metaphor that seems to always be used by spiritual teachers, but it is one which may not be quite as useful as it might first appear. For the term "waking up" implies that there is a "real" reality, separate from us (ie. which our minds do not manufacture), that we become aware of. In Advaita, this is the "I am" focus. But, if after awakening, we must continue to manufacture our reality in order just to function, then rather than awakening, our focus might be better set on how to dream better. Dreaming does not have to be unconscious; and waking up does not have to be uncreative.
The Australian Aborigines, after all, talk about dreaming as synonymous with spirituality, and "The Dreaming" to them was the time of creation of the world. Their worldview is just as unified as that of Advaita, except that in addition to unity they acknowledge their roles as co-creators in the dreaming process, and the details of an individual's dreaming is his or her deep identity. (But it was never the superficial ego identity of Western culture.)
So dreaming better or consciously might be a better metaphor for the process of spiritual opening.
Adviata is a fantastic tool for letting go the constraints of ego for people steeped in old-world Newtonian paradigms. But, it is time for it to come into the 21st Century and let go its Newtonian worldview and outdated psychology roots. And reality creation is a fantastic tool for modifying our lives and those of others, but it is time we put it to service using deeper aspects of ourselves, for the benefit of the whole world and all beings, not just for self-fulfillment — what a waste if we continue that self-defeating game!
The bottom line is that fixed individuality and identity is our greatest limitation, and it is this limitation that prevents us from effectively creating reality, AND which also prevents us finding inner stillness and unity. Egos form because we do not have the imagination to have free-flowing morphic identities. So rather than deny the ego and any other form of identity, as Advaitists do, or reinforce the ego and any other form of identity, as superficial reality creators do, the best way to move beyond the narrow confines of ego is to upgrade our worldview or realitymaps and learn to morph our identity into whatever or whoever we are focused on in the moment. Only by dispersing our identity into the flow of All-That-Is can we fully engage in the infinite creativity of All-That-Is AND meld into its delicious unity.