Reality-Mapping vs Belief-Mapping
30 Aug 2016
Our belief-maps are conceptual snapshots of our full-body reality-maps and are the cause of much of the chaos and antagonism in the world today. If we want a viable future, we need to learn to move away from belief-mapping and back into reality-mapping.
"I don't believe in anything." - J. Krishnamurti
KRISHNAMURTI WAS AN EXTRAORDINARY spiritual teacher, but few actually understand this statement which he made at the start of an interview with Catherine Ingram. This is because of the enigmatic nature of our beliefs and the maps we make of reality. And so we have many people parroting similar phrases — "I don't believe in anything too!" — without any real understanding.
So it is time to take a fresh look at what beliefs are in order to see what Krishnamurti’s statement actually means and whether or not we really can emulate it.
The word "belief" is a "rabbit-hole" word: examine it closely and tenaciously enough, and it can take us down into a wonderland. In that wonderland we face the very foundation of who we are. And in facing who we are, we find our sanity.
To believe something is more a statement of consciousness than it is of reality. It means that the believer’s mind accepts a particular proposition as its reality. This all sounds logical until we realise that beliefs are not discrete things like program codes. In our mind, there is no master list of beliefs; our reality is not made of stacks of beliefs. What beliefs actually are conceptual snapshots of our reality-maps — those mostly unconscious internal (and therefore externally referenced as well) representations of the reality we experience.
It is important to first distinguish between our reality-maps and reality itself. Humans tend to give the term "reality" to those aspects of our experience that we appear to share with others, experience that we label as "objective" or "real" — beyond the realms of "mere" subjective experience or consciousness. Most of us label that shared or objective reality as "physical reality" and assign objective properties to that reality precisely because it is shared and therefore those properties will mean something very specific to others. This is the influence of the scientific paradigm on society, a paradigm in which physical reality is considered the only reality — what is ultimately "real". In this worldview, consciousness is regarded as secondary, an illusory spin-off of reality that generates pseudo-reality — but never the real thing. It is the so called ghost in the machine.
But we must not forget that objectivity is ALWAYS inferred, and subjectivity can NEVER be denied. So the scientific paradigm suffers two major flaws: objectivity is assumed and subjectivity is dismissed. As a result, this pseudo-objectivity of scientific reality throws up contradictions, not only with experience, but with its own quantum theory (which forms the backbone of modern science and technology). To avoid the implications of these "strangenesses", most scientists prefer to work with quantum theory prescriptively (the "shut up and calculate" approach), avoiding its ontological implications which are relegated to popular science books, sci-fi movies and new age philosophies — where they are regarded as entertainment to the serious and life instructions to the ridiculous. So even though a belief in science first instilled our obsession with objectivity, a new successful scientific theory that abrogates that objectivity is ignored — such is our fixation on objectivity!
That does not make objectivity useless or wrong — after all it lays the foundation of a very successful science that has produced many remarkable technologies. Objectivity works! But just because a perspective produces results does not necessarily stamp it as "real" or a "reality". After all, we have always had technologies that work despite, over the course of human history, very different views of what reality actually is and how it works.
Most contend that reality-maps, or our internal representations of physical reality, are by definition secondary to reality itself. After all, a map is generally considered to be an abstract representation of a "real" territory. But this reasoning is wholly based on the assumption that there is an objective reality underpinning consciousness. Whilst this belief in an objective reality is prevalent in modern society due to the usefulness of the scientific paradigm, it contradicts our direct experience in which consciousness is always primary. Not only that, but the assumption of a physical reality underpinning consciousness is unprovable because consciousness and subjectivity can never be objectively dismissed, only subjectively dismissed. They are always in the way, so to speak. In fact, to cleanse experience of all subjectivity might be called ontological Nazism! It can’t be done.
So putting unprovable assumptions aside, it would seem that nothing can underpin consciousness, no matter how rational or reductionist we conceive ourselves to be. And so our reality-maps, which are formed from the interaction of consciousness and reality (whatever that is), are our "reality", period. We can never see "deeper" because consciousness goes all the way down.
A closer examination of this "reality" reveals that none of it can be considered "real". Even the naked awareness that illuminates the map seems to have no substance when we try to pin it down. This is the eternal mystery of consciousness and of our existence: look deeply enough and we find only a foundation of emptiness (empty of "thingness"), with existence only ever being relative and not absolute because of this lack of thingness. (The same evaporation of substantiveness is seen in physics when it tries to pin down matter.)
So reality-maps are our primary experience and "reality" (whatever "it" is and whether "it" actually exists by our own definition of existence) is an imputed subset of our reality-maps. In other words, consciousness creates reality, and if reality is actually other than consciousness, then there is no way for us to know that because consciousness is always "in the way". Far simpler and more honest to regard everything as mind-construction with different levels of sharing with what appear to be separate minds.
Beliefs are conceptual snapshots of reality-maps that highlight specific and select salient features. They are stored in our conceptual memory. For example, we might believe in God, and that belief seems to stand on its own as a discrete component of our reality. But that belief in God is not stacked up in the mind, along with other beliefs, creating our reality. Instead, we viscerally live within a divine reality-map that spins out feelings and thoughts that can be conceptually encapsulated as a belief in God. They are very intimate to us; we don't feel any distance from them in the same way that we feel distance when objectifying reality. It is only when we focus the conceptual mind into this milieu of awareness that we extract a belief in God. And then, this belief, along with our other beliefs, is consigned to memory. But even though it is consigned to memory, it still needs to be reconstructed each time we recall those memories, which is why memories and therefore beliefs morph over time.
Our thoughts are alive within us because we are not brains… but whole bodies. And it is only when we stop and think — when we conceptualise — that the holistic visceral reality is reduced to a belief that is expressed in language. But the real intelligence is not at the level of belief, but at the deepest visceral level. This is why artificial intelligence has been so elusive: most researchers have mistakenly believed that it is primarily brain-based and logical-rule prescribed. But if we want to build a sentient machine we need to rather focus on building a sentient body… not a sentient brain. Intelligence has to be embodied. As soon as there is a level of "objectification" in our model of intelligence… it is just a poor simulation of actual intelligence. There is no immediacy.
This is all fine so long as we are in our bodies… tied to our instincts. This is where we are most alive and tuned in. But when we conceptualise our reality-maps and fragment them into separate beliefs, and then treat those beliefs as maps, we get hopelessly lost in conceptual approximations of reality. The fact is that beliefs are not maps: they are too simplified, distorted, fragmented, objectified and one-dimensional to be maps. But that does not stop us using them as maps anyway — belief-maps — because beliefs are conceptual and we are so habituated to the objectification associated with conceptualisation. But woe-betide those who mistake their belief-maps for reality-maps!
Perhaps our most primary and intimate belief-map is our sense of conceptual self which is often called the ego. A self-belief-map is constructed from our individual reality-map and it is a distorted and conceptual version of our self-reference. Using the term self-belief-map is more descriptive than "ego" and gives us an intuitive understanding of the difference between conceptual self (ego) and the multidimensional whole or true self that embraces both unity and diversity from different perspectives. In this way, we throw out the outdated polarised view common to many non-dual spiritual circles of conceptual self versus oneness, with the latter being the reality and the former being an illusion of reality. Individuality exists quite comfortably with unity, but when our minds are preprogrammed with a polarised non-dual belief system, experiences beyond the ego receive the blanket label of "oneness" and "non-identity" when we try to describe them to ourselves and others. We forget that direct non-conceptual experience is interpreted by the mind when we return to "normal" consciousness, and this interpretation sets the whole flavour of the experience of our oneness or awakening.
So when Krishnamurti said he didn’t believe in anything, he meant that he didn’t allow his conceptual mind to create maps of reality for him. In other words, he respected the distorting limitations of belief-maps and so avoided using them; he favoured his reality-maps over his belief-maps. So he is not somehow reality-map-free or identity-free: he is belief-map-free. His mind is involved in creating his reality like the rest of us, but the difference here is that he is not allowing his conceptual mind to navigate reality by grabbing beliefs (including the self-belief-map) from his reality-maps. This means he is navigating "full-body" rather than just conceptually using snippets.
[You will notice that I refer to our reality-maps in both the singular and the plural. The fact is that it is hard to distinguish between singular and plural as our reality-maps, even inconsistent ones, do not have clear and distinct boundaries between them.]
Reality-maps tend to be more immediately experienced whereas belief-maps are based almost soley on memory and intellect. So, for example, if we lose our memory, our reality-maps will continue to largely function, although with many modification, whereas our belief-maps will be destroyed. This is because belief-maps are more grounded in ordinary conceptual memory than reality-maps are. Reality-maps have a memory component, but also involve many more dimensions of being, many unconscious and embedded in the direct body memory, and so are more difficult to erase.
Full-body experience is what we operate from when we are in the flow or in the zone. It is our natural operational state. Native cultures experience reality like this most of the time and those of us in modern societies who know how to get out of our heads and into our bodies… whatever way we choose to do it. So although we live in ego-obsessed times, we spend much of our lives looking for full-body experience, getting out of our minds and concepts and into sensory experience. This is because operating from belief-maps, as opposed to reality-maps, is stressful; the mismatch between our belief-maps and our experience causes us tension. And when there is a mismatch, our reality-maps can unconsciously leak through in a process we call "expressing the shadow". The shadow is that part of our reality-maps that we are not aware of because we are focused on belief-maps.
The primary cause of becoming glued to our belief-maps is desire. This is because beliefs are mediated and brought to life by desire. If we stop watering our belief-maps with desire, our belief-maps soon shrivel; there has to be desire to keep them in place.
Desire is an emotional pull we have for something or someone, tangible or intangible. We desire something or someone because we are naturally drawn to the fulfilment that we associated with receiving the object or focus of our desire. Fulfilment of what? Apart from physical necessities such as food, water and warmth, which are more biological urges than desires (although they may be compounded by desires in the mind), most desires involve fulfilment of us as an individual: in other words, desire is to do with identity. And as fulfilment is directly associated with identity, desire itself is actually an expression of identity — both conceptually and emotionally. This makes it addictive because we are strongly attached to identity validation.
So belief-maps, identity, desire and addiction are all interrelated. They all reinforce each other in a vicious cycle. So tackling or unpicking any one of these "knots" will break this cycle, leading us back to the sanity of our reality-maps.
If we are more intellectually conscious, like Krishnamurti was, we can deal directly with beliefs and belief-maps. Awareness in those that are conscious is great enough for us to choose simply not to use them. This requires great internal awareness, brutal honesty and a keen intellect. It is not a path for everyone because it is so easy to end up questioning our belief-maps but leaving our primary self-belief-map or identity intact in the background. Therefore, this way is probably not as effective for most people as the next one, and is the reason that teachers like Krishnamurti are considered difficult to follow. [K did invoke the second way below as well, but never exclusively.]
The second more effective way is to directly question identity or our self-belief-map. The self-belief-map is our primary belief-map on which all others are built, and so focusing on the foundation of identity can bring about the collapse of our whole belief-map system. Identity is questioned by repeated asking ourselves "Who or what am I?" in different situations. If we are honest and conscious enough, we start to see the charade of identity as we realise how contrived this core assumption about ourselves is. With this realisation, our whole belief-map system that our identity is upholding collapses, shocking us back into our reality-maps. [We were born into reality-mapping and only learned belief-mapping as we grew to adults. So our journey is back into reality-mapping.] This process is becoming increasingly popular with the modern revival in non-dual spirituality.
The third way is to tackle desire. This requires strong discipline! It is the way of the monk or nun and, if you have that sort of personality, it can be a very powerful method. But unless you have strong monk/nun energy, dropping desire in a modern world built on fanning the flames of desire is too challenging for most. (Tantric ways are available that use desire to overcome desire, but be warned that outside of skilled hands these can all too easily end up reinforcing desire and belief-maps, especially the self-belief-map.) Those with the temperament to tackle desire will be aware of it and naturally drawn to this path, one that is generally associated with conventional religions.
And the fourth way is to break the cycle of addiction. When we think of addiction we usually think of alcoholics and drug users, but in fact addiction is any habituation, and can involved addiction to belief-maps, desires, emotions, thoughts and identity, as well as physical substances. In fact, the primary addiction or habituation is to our self-belief-map, and that causes us the greatest suffering. This fourth way is actually a "meta-way" because it involves dropping the habituation involved with the other three "knots" above. This is the unexpected path as many focused on dropping addiction do not even realise that they are not just on the path of recovery but the path of realisation.
The best way to break out of habituation is by bringing novelty into our systems (maybe through ayahausca, iboga, music, relationships, breaking ordinary habits etc.) and/or resetting our systems in stillness (meditation and prayer). But the problem with novelty is that it too can become habituated — we can become addicted to novelty — so it is best experienced in bite-sized chunks: enough to challenge our self-belief-map but not enough to create a whole new self-belief-map around.
Although there is a temptation to use all four methods outlined above, assuming that a multifaceted approach like this would be more effective, for most of us, we will be drawn to the method or two that work best for us, provided we do not approach the whole process of "de-belief-mapping" conceptually so that our de-belief-mapping merely creates another belief-map. Once again we see the central role on the spiritual path of sincerity to ourselves.
The four methods above are actually accelerated methods of moving out of belief-maps and back into reality-maps. But this process, as long as it is not resisted, should happen naturally as we go through life, although at a slower pace. This is why, often but not always, those that are old are often less idealistic (ideals = belief-maps) and more accepting of the contradictions of life. For as we get older, our self-belief-map, which is largely based on our bodies, naturally deteriorates as our bodies age, and we find ourselves pushed back, almost reluctantly, into our reality-maps. This natural process, however, is now being blocked by social media websites that make it easy for us to hold on to our self-belief-maps because our sense of self is easily moved from our physical bodies to our cyber "bodies" or profiles, and these do not age or deteriorate over time. The result is that the ego has become life-long because it has been mapped to cyberspace.
So social media websites are now fast becoming the main bastion of conceptual self, the place where we practice being somebody, and the place where we are insulated from the natural pull back into reality-maps that can occur as we get older.
Of course, it is not just social media on which we can transfer our foundation of self. There have always existed ways that allow us to maintain our self-belief-map into old age by transferring our foundation of self from the body onto our accomplishments, our legacy, our power and our memories (including those of our bodies in their prime). Whilst the social media methods mentioned above lead to the passive maintenance of ego, these methods can cause real damage to society. For example, many heads of industry and banking seem to become even more ruthless as they age because their self-belief-maps have been transfered to their power and their wealth, so that taking over the world becomes the central part of their self-identity and survival. And there can be no greater motivation, for most of us, than the survival instinct.
But why do we cling to conceptualisation; why do we use belief-maps rather than reality-maps, when they are so restrictive and cause so much tension and suffering? The answer is that we have been conditioned to by society because conceptualisation allows us to be controlled and makes us good consumers. It is no coincidence that the industrial revolution coincided with the rise of the ego to pathological levels. The ego or self-belief-map has become the self-in-check program that puts the chains on the inside so that we can masquerade as free men and women whilst serving the interests of the corporate and financial elite. (Individualism — divide and conquer — has become the elite's greatest defence against coordinated opposition to their global agendas.)
This is why governments are closely allied to some of the leading social media websites: these sites program the population to be easy to manipulate. But what must be emphasised here is that the prime control is the validation and reinforcement of our self-belief-maps — the real Achilles’ Heel of humanity. So it does not actually matter much if these sites allow a lot of alternative and conspiratorial information to be disseminated: the fact is that knowledge in itself does not set us free. What actually frees us is the loosening of identity and the letting go of belief-maps, especially our self-belief-map. That is where the strongest chains are. Of course, knowledge is also helpful, but knowledge with conceptual identity is wasted, and only serves as bait to bolster the pathological ego that maintains hierarchical social and power structures that lock us into predictable behaviour.
So our self-belief-maps allows us to feel we are somebody… that "we" have substance. It gives us the conceptual sense of separateness and individuality. It is a deal with the devil to feel that we are 2-dimensional somebodies rather than multi-dimensional nobodies. Even being a dead somebody is preferential to most of us than being a living nobody, such are the times we are living in.
And this strengthening of our self-belief-maps in turn strengthens conceptualisation, both being two sides of the same coin. What then happens is that the maps of reality that we use become dangerously conceptualised as we operate on the level of belief rather than the visceral level, and as we spiral down into the conceptual pit we begin to live in entirely in our heads rather than our hearts, so that ideas rather than people become our focus. And this is when intolerance rears its ugly head and we find ourselves doing terrible things in the name of our beliefs and belief-maps. This is the birth of fundamentalism in all its sorry and despicable forms.
It is important to note here that fundamentalism is not just limited to belief systems regarding a divine being, but that it also includes belief systems that we may not associate with fundamentalism such as scientific positivism, modern orthodox medicine, and even atheism. It is all fundamentalism if we are unable to discern the nature of our beliefs — if we are unconscious of the belief-mapping process. So strong rational rejection of religious fundamentalism is just another form of fundamentalism, but one that dares not show its real face.
Belief-maps are primarily picked up from our parents and our schools and universities, so that by the time we enter adulthood we are habituated to them and define ourselves by them. Moving into belief-maps has become the "civilised" approach to living, despite being antithetical to life. And these maps are locked into place for the "good" of society.
And the reason there is so much anger and intolerance in this world is that people operate from belief-maps which tell them exactly who and what they are, and how to behave. So that anyone or anything that contradicts those belief-maps is a direct threat to sanity and identity, and therefore becomes an easy target of vilification.
Paradoxically it is also identity that ends up freeing us because, although a tight definition of self might feel good for a while on a conceptual level, in time… over the years… that self-definition starts to feel claustrophobic… building up pressure. We start to be strongly drawn to let off steam and break free from this cycle, getting out of our heads during our recreational time: we may go to the pub or bar for a drink; we may take recreational drugs; we may dance or go to the gym; we may go skateboarding or surfing; we may drive or ride dangerously fast; we may have a massage or have sex, etc… anything that gets us into full-body consciousness, and anything that allows us to behave outside the box of who we think we are. Often we will have urges to do the most destructive and heinous acts as a counterbalance to the exhaustive claustrophobia of our belief-maps which depletes us on every level — physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
It is hard work to try to force experience through the narrow definitions of belief-maps which have reduced us to Sisyphus as we endlessly carry the burden of a conceptual self that is such a poor fit for who we actually are. So it is the self that imprisons us and it is the Self that eventually breaks us free. It is as if the program of self has an inbuilt virus or Trojan, an autoimmune self-destructive urge to break down the carrier program and set us free.
However, the more stuck we get in belief-maps of reality the more we actually damage the structure and function of our brains so that, in time, we find that our view of reality is permanently distorted. As this happens, the neuronet of our brain starts to simulate a programming language and we literally become more computer-like, losing our humanity in the process. This is actually what we mean when we say that somebody is being programmed: it is more literal than many people realise.
So there is a battle going on for the future of humanity. On one side we have people focused on waking up to their humanity, and on the other we have people turning into robots. Which will win the day will determine our collective future.
This is why it is so important for us to follow some of the techniques outlines above to help us recover from our fixation on belief-maps, especially the self-belief-map. If enough break free from belief-maps, then we have a future. If not, we will become a nation of automatons.
This process of breaking free from belief-maps and moving back to reality-maps can take time — some say that it can take many lifetimes — but it can also happen rapidly in some instances, especially if we follow some of the techniques outlined above. And although the process is not directly under our control, which is why it is said to happen by Grace rather than our own hand, it certainly is indirectly within our ability to influence, and we can do this by either habituating ourselves to full-body awareness (the inner teacher or guru) or spending time with those who have realised full-bodied awareness (outer teachers, both official and unofficial). In other words, if we can't jettison our belief-maps and live in our reality-maps then we need to spend time around those that have realised this process. (It doesn’t have to be a guru as such… it can be the family pet! In fact, animals are our greatest teachers.)
In this modern age, we must also challenge our cyber egos, otherwise they will block us from moving out of our belief-maps and back into our reality-maps. This might involve dropping social media sites altogether, or putting up social media identities that are false and changing so that they never become attractive targets on which to project our self-belief-maps. And posting up our lives, event by event, is definitely a no no.
Sleep is also vital to counter belief-maps because it naturally drops us out of belief-maps and back into reality-maps, so that at least our neuronet has some chance to recover from the belief-map mantle it is wearing most of our waking day, preventing permanent damage to our brains and nervous systems, although as mentioned above, that will happen in time if we do not relent with our self-belief-mapping.
So in summary: withdrawal from the media, from most adult education (and childhood education if you are able to homeschool) and from bad company is important to do at some point in our lives if we are to wake up from the programming fog. This is reflected in the practice in most serious spiritual paths to distance ourselves from society, allowing us the space to develop the awareness to differentiate between reality-maps and belief-maps, between full-bodied awareness and disconnected brain awareness.
Once we have that discernment, we can be in the world but not of the world. We can play without getting caught in the game. Collectively, we are at that stage of just about becoming aware of our belief-maps, and that is why there is so much chaos and confusion in the world as the maps that we once held dear become redundant. At this time, most of us are scrambling for new belief-maps to hook our identity in to, but nothing is working because consciousness is simply outgrowing belief-mapping altogether. Our collective identity is moving on, and the best we can actually do at this time is to move back into full-bodied awareness… back into direct reality-mapping. This might temporarily involve social disorder on every level, but that will be a small price to pay for the eventual blossoming of human consciousness.
As long as we are looking for a solution to our current crisis, we are in the wrong state of mind to solve it. Our sole responsibility is to get out of our heads and allow the full-bodied processes of life nudge us into right action. Humanity is self-correcting, but only to the degree that it can free itself from the belief-mapping prison reinforced at every opportunity by those who wish to control us. Allowing ourselves to be free from control is certainly frightening, at least at first, especially that control which we impose upon ourselves. But it is a necessary step in all spiritual paths to the full human potential. No path to awakening or realisation bypasses this step.
So Krishnamurti was not giving us some arcane piece of spiritual advice when he stated that he did not believe in anything. What he was saying, as many have before him and after him, was completely revolutionary, and if we can actually "get it" we will not only be waking up but fulfilling our lives, both individually and collectively. If we want to move through the chaos we are experiencing to a viable future for all beings on this planet, then belief-mapping must stop. And this requires that we become aware of the nature of beliefs, not so lost in them that we unconsciously use them as our reality-maps.