All of history is filled with ideas that men live in a dream--that they do not perceive what is going on, and that they are at least one step removed from a direct confrontation with life itself. I could dig up any number of well--known stories, plays, novels, and religious parables which have to do with that exact thing, but which you would not ordinarily analyze in that way. There are very specific examples, both historical and current, which insist that men are living in some sort of shadow world, or dream world, or in a distorted reflection of what's really going on.
The fact that these stories continue to be so oft-told and well-remembered should cause you to consider that even ordinary minds (I mean the general public, ordinary people operating at the ordinary level) vibrate in a sympathetic manner to this idea. They somewhere find favor with the notion. It is not dismissed absolutely out-of-hand, especially among fairly sophisticated people who show any interest in affairs of a "strange" nature. It's not hard at all to get people to nod in agreement with the idea that humanity is living in a dream.
You may be so used to this state of affairs you take all of what I just noted to be a preface, but stop and consider for a moment. It is strange. If you sit down with your mother and father, perhaps, or people you know at work--just people who are fairly sane--and try to tell them that you heard an idea that we live--not in the life we think we do, although that seems real enough--but live life in our own perception of life, which is in some way removed--they should go "Aw, come on, you're nuts!" And yet, you can easily get them to give some passing consideration to the idea; you can get them to sort of nod at the possibility.
They will not do anything further with it, or pursue it, but they won't simply dismiss it either, because everybody knows that life is some kind of fixed game. They know it's a crooked roulette wheel. They know that the cards are stacked--which is just one step away from "god" and/or conspiracy theories, whichever you find cheaper to pursue.
In all the major religions, the basic parables and stories of the founders' lives can be seen as a stepping-aside from this shadow-life, from this non-genuine existence. Though it's always called something else, you could look at the enlightenment of Buddha, or the Christ-consciousness taking over the man Jesus, or Abraham's realization that physical gods could not be the actual source of reality, as those individuals waking up from or seeing through a kind of shadow existence.
So although they will not pursue it further, most people will not dismiss the idea. Why? Now first, let's discuss the life of the body. The life of the body, with a sane person, is as valid as it can be. The body is as real, authentic and solid as it can be. Only through the trick of verbalization can we split the life of the body from that of the mind, but if you were a wild boy of Borneo--if you had grown up living with wolves, or elephants, or insurance salesmen--if you had matured without the influence of other intellects, your body could still function in an adequate manner. You would probably live at least as long as the wolves or elephants that raised you. If you are a sane person, your body has no question as to what it's doing or as to the reality of food, sex or sleep. It just does--the body has nothing to say.
You get above the body and we are into the world of Man. And now the whole idea of a shadow-world or daydream-world can be explained fairly simply--it is the world of the mind and what gives the mind the ability to even come up with the idea of a shadow-world (and to agree to it) is the unexecuted possibility of being conscious beyond the mind. Otherwise you couldn't even come up with the idea. The mind alone could not come up with the idea that what we perceive mentally to be Life is not a true representation. It could not otherwise conceive of the possibility that we may be walking around but we are not fully conscious.
(That is always an acid test and no one ever seems to want to drink it. Of course, if you could, it would do more than poison you. It could wake up little neurons that are now snoring away. In fact, like Frankenstein's monster, they might have been alive once but are now woefully inert. But remember, Dr. Frankenstein never gave up.)
This idea strikes the mind because it is an echo of the future, a preview of coming events that the mind translates it into myths, philosophical ideas, psychological theories and religious parables: "Perhaps what we are seeing is not actually what is going on." The idea works best when instead of saying life is just an absolute dream or absolutely incorrect it is defined as "not perfected" or that life is like looking into a fog. (Of course, I could throw in another acid test and just drop the whole conversation: there is a way in which you can practice a kind of extreme meteorology within your own head right now, so you realize, "Well, goddamn, I knew that." You can live in London, or if you don't live there, you can visit far too often. But back to something we can talk about.)
People normally do not have the wherewithal to pursue this idea beyond the initial--"Hmmm....." -- when just for a moment it almost strikes them as --"This is the answer. This is what I never got from church or from reading occult books and pursuing all sorts of weird philosophies." But then they will turn right around and fall into----staring. Because if you could, yourself, successfully pursue the idea that what we perceive is not a true representation of what is out there, it would have this one dastardly, immediate result: it will interfere with staring to such a degree that most people will not tolerate it.
To pursue such an idea keeps you tap dancing, keeps you unsettled. And god forbid, it might even give you a chance to shake up what appears to be reality enough that you begin to see through the cracks. You begin to see things going on where things kind of "shift and move."
The idea that humanity lives in a fog, a daze or in a semi-state of sleep is the ORDINARY mind's perception of what is going on. The alternative is beyond that. Beyond that is where the notion comes from. Beyond that is where you do not stare at Life. It is where there is no inner dialogue and nothing to say about Life. Because anything you say about Life is part of the mind's imprecise reflection.
All of this is a metaphor, which is a nice synonym for "bullshit". But if you are trying to take this great mythical journey from Paris to Istanbul you are left with this: if you are trying to go from the mind's CONCEPTION of reality to a CONSCIOUSNESS of it, then what in the hell are going to DO from Paris to Istanbul? What are you going to do if you never actually get there? It ends up being these kinds of discussions--turning metaphor into metaphor into metaphor, when it is all right in front of your eyes.
I will say outright what many of you already know. You've had enough glances at it. For reasons that we won't go into, you can suddenly turn around--with no drugs, no stimuli, nothing extraordinary has happened other than your years and years of farting around with this--and you realize that compared to what you now see, you had been looking at a faded 1929 color cartoon. You could see a few colors, but it was washed out. But now you look around and --(this begins to sound like advertising and promotion, which is why I don't normally do it, but here we go)---even if you are looking at mundane things like a street or the sky, it is almost a whole new street, a whole new sky. Nothing weird--the molecules in the cars don't start whistling at you like they did back in the sixties in Arizona when you were taking those weird fungi. I am talking about another stage of consciousness. When this happens even for a moment to someone who is interested in it, you cannot ignore what happened.. It is so startling that you cannot forget it. You look at your everyday affairs, except you realize that you normally don't get a good grasp of everyday affairs.
As a rule, people go through this kind of glimpse a number of times before they ever get the same sort of glimpse inside their own head. That is a crucial point. At that point you are well out of Paris and you are no longer running around and around in the suburbs--always making sure the Eiffel Tower is still in view so that you can get home and be you. Once you get a dose of looking around at the world--the colors, the brightness and of course, this one other detail: it gets very quiet--one dose can carry you for a long time.
(By the way, have you ever wondered why alcohol is by far the most popular foreign substance to put into the brain, as distinguished from the hallucinogenic drugs? It does not excite at all, it depresses--so why is it so popular? I'll answer for you: because alcohol helps you to stare--both internally and externally. It helps you become an even bigger pea brain. A drink can take a person's already focussed pin-point awareness and narrow it down even further. Does that tell you anything about the ordinary nature of human consciousness? Take the term "recreational drugs"--you would think that the whole point is to have fun with your brain, right? But have 3 or 4 drinks and alcohol takes whatever awareness you normally possess and makes it even smaller.)
The first few times it is shocking. Then it is not shocking in the sense that you are in your own back yard yet you are in a whole new back yard. It is almost enough extraordinary stimuli to keep most would-be mystics addicted to this for the rest of their life. But the real shockeroo is for that same thing to happen in your mind. You LOOK at your MIND. How can I describe THAT? There are no chairs in your mind--no back yard, no streets--but the comparison strictly tracks. There it is, the one thing you have lived with closer than anything else including your dandruff and bad gums. It is your own mind and you suddenly see what is going on: "This thing has been living in me, it has been with me 24 hours a day, lo these many decades, and I have never seen it." People say, quite sincerely, that they have spent much of their lives trying to "know themselves." People can say that and suddenly at the age of 40 or 50 realize that they had no idea what was going on. Those forty years of studying worthwhile disciplines, philosophies, psychology, analysis---and it is all gone, all irrelevant.
It is then that you realize that all the descriptions you ever heard of mankind living in a dream or a shadow world or of being asleep--all of those descriptions, by god, weren't bad. But to see it OUT THERE is one thing. To see it in you own mind is something else. You realize, "jesus holy mother, it is a miracle I got here." But then you realize that it's no miracle, because everybody else is in the same condition. Everyday life is a zombie jamboree. And it doesn't matter one iota that the president is a zombie, your boss is a zombie, your wife or husband is a zombie, your children are zombies. Zombies are designing the highway system, zombies are designing traffic flow patterns, zombies are printing the money and zombies are raising the interest rates.
You see life with your own mind-- through non-committal consciousness--you see the whole thing is zombies and it doesn't matter. And you realize, the biggest zombie has been me--looking out at life and trying to analyze and criticize life--without knowing about this zombie jamboree.
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