Sometimes I like to drive myself slightly mad by pondering the nature of reality. This may come from reading too much Carlos Castaneda, where he advocates ‘moving the assemblage point’ and from then on, you see life from a completely different perspective – as a different person in fact. I assume this goes on until you move it again. As far as I know, this has never happened to me. And I do think this is one of those things – even if it’s never happened to you before, like an orgasm or your first hot flush – when it happens to you, you so definitely know what it is.
In one of Castaneda’s many books he mentions an exercise given by his mentor, don Juan Matus; and this had the aim of shocking the students into another reality by putting them into a different life. I’m assuming all of them had taken quite a bit of time out from their lives to do this course with him.
For instance: One student was a very successful tycoon in the city. He was made to go and sell newspapers on the street corner, down the road from where his colossus of a building stood. There he was, shouting ‘Daily Times!’ until he was quite red in the face and beyond. Suddenly he found himself looking into the face of one of his own managers, standing there, wanting to buy a paper. He turned and yelled another loud “Daily Tii-i-i-iiimes!!!’ before serving the man, who didn’t recognise him at all, paid and left.
Another student was a humble local Indian man from a very impoverished background. Don Julian sent him off to go and sell real estate. In all these things, the shock of the new and unexpected viewpoint is what can jolt one into another level of consciousness by living another existence. It’s fascinating. He advocates humiliating the ego in this way by finding something to do that you would normally find extremely uncomfortable. If you are a successful high-flier, go and work in a call-centre and sell time-share or become a check-out clerk. Or a street-sweeper – the list of ‘humble’ work is endless. Then, should your cover be blown and one of your friends or clients encounters you, you are not allowed to say ‘I’m doing this as part of this course.’ You have to say that cash-flow is poor and you’re having to do what you can! I struggle to think how I would deal with the fall-out or what the ramifications could be, here, but the shock would certainly have some kind of result.
Even though I’ve had a year of multiple small shocks throughout 2010, I can say that repeatedly humiliating the ego has certainly brought about a definite but gradual change in how I see the world. It wasn’t sudden, but like the many blows and fires a Japanese sword undergoes, I’m tougher than when I entered that fire the first time and of course I expect many more. This exercise just mentioned is not the only or even the main one – as you will see from the link at the beginning, there are other exercises and they all combine into a progression that I imagine would change most lives profoundly.
Locally, there is a Toltec organisation in Cape Town which also teaches students this or a similar path. I haven’t enrolled though, because for some reason there is a different path for women than for men. Whatever floats your boat, but I like things to be a little more – actually a whole lot more – egalitarian.
Reading the books of Deepak Chopra or Gary Zukav is always interesting too. Here it’s not so shamanic, more scientific, in the heights where science becomes metaphysical. According to Mr Chopra, we are all winking in and out of existence at an infinitesimal fraction of a second. So – just because we can’t see something, doesn’t mean it’s not happening.
Take for instance a snail, which has been scientifically measured to take three seconds to register light. So, he rather comically gives the example that if you had to be in the presence of a snail, then quickly leave the room and rob a bank and return in under three seconds, (one assumes the bank is next door, okay) that the snail would be an honest witness in court and say you were there the whole time. In the same way, our senses are also limited. So we perceive our surroundings, our physical objects and ourselves, to be solid and real, because we can’t perceive the gaps when we and they are not. In reality, they are packets of energy or wave-forms. Where do we (and they) go then, when we’re not here?
If the good Deepak is to be believed, we pop into a parallel universe, or into many alternate lives, where that version of you is as oblivious to your existence here, as you are to its existence there, wherever there is. Some people talk of bifurcation, where every major decision you make, to stay or leave, to invest or divest etc, forks off an extra existence, where you are living that other alternative ‘somewhere else’. It’s like radio waves. Millions of radio waves are flooding the atmosphere all the time, but a radio will pick up one signal at a time, excluding all the others, and responding to only one radio-wave at a time. One could also compare all these decisions to the original trunk being a point in one’s life, very early, where one makes a decision for oneself – in my case, to drop out of school at age sixteen. Major, major decision. The next one was to get married. And so on. And all these decisions branched me off into this life, here and now; but around me there are a myriad branches, the other ‘me’s, living and deciding into infinity until we all die, our lives all end at the end of a little twig, tapering to nothing, and the tree stands complete. No wonder people speak of the Tree of Life.
Once I had the strange experience of watching a family from the country walk down a beachfront in Durban where I was having coffee with friends. I was suddenly struck by the possibility that it could be my family and me from Winterton, walking along, us kids devouring candy-floss and exclaiming at everything, full of wonderment, my parents anxiously watching to reign us in and make us behave, but wanting us to have a good time as well…frowning and smiling at us by turns with shy glances at the oblivious throngs around us.
I had an overwhelming feeling that I was living another life as well and it was walking past me. Reading more on this subject since, has given some foundation to this erratic aberration of an impulse and I love it – it increases my sense of wonder at Life. Taking this further, who’s to say that the person who attacks you or who begs from you or even takes you on a huge treat… is not you in another body, living out another version of you, or as one would say in an animation program, another ‘instance’ of you, with a different role, costume, back-story? Some would take it further still, and say that we are all One, and that the separate individualism is an illusion. There is no real separation, and if you do ‘good’ or ‘bad’ you are doing it to another aspect of yourself, in a dream that you are yourself dreaming. For that matter, say these wise pundits, there is no good or bad either. Just ‘contrast’. For myself, I wish there was less contrast around these parts.
Right, that’s it… am off to have a solid cup of coffee. My head is too full of planets now.