Our Cultural Paradigm of Reality
Our current picture of reality has been fueled by our fascination with Newtonian Science. Our outer world has been portrayed as like a giant ticking clock which runs in a consistent, predictable way. Our job, as a race of people, is to understand all aspects of this mechanism so that we might live in harmony with the laws of nature.
To that end, we have extensively explored the outer world around us. We have also studied the body and the various systems that make up the body. Now, with the developments of sequencing the human genome, we are on the precipice of being able to design future bodies. Some people even prophesy overcoming the death of the physical body. All of this is focused on the outer world and the body.
Which brings us to consciousness. There has not been a lot of thought given to consciousness until recent work in Neuroscience and the brain. Consciousness was simply a fixed aspect of who we are. But this is changing. We now know there are different forms of consciousness. These different forms expand our understanding of the experience of being alive.
Neuroscience has now differentiated 3 forms of consciousness.
sentiency: our experience of an outer world using our 5 senses. Sentiency gives us what we think of as objective reality.
self-awareness: our experience of being a separate, autonomous self. Self-awareness gives us subjectivity.
- universal consciousness: gives us the experience of an impersonal, transcendent reality.
But these 3 forms of consciousness do not explain all that we experience in life.Where does creativity come from? Where do love, awe and wonderment come from? Where do intuition and instinct fit into this picture?
Our model of consciousness is incomplete.
What is missing?
The experience of the inner world.
The Personal Realm is not the same as the Inner World
Recently I was skimming through Susan Blackmore’s Consciousness: An Introduction. This a comprehensive overview of the field of consciousness study. In it I came across a very startling statement:
the inner world is the ultimate challenge for us to understand.
Apparently, scholars have avoided talking about the inner world. And for good reason: we have no vocabulary to use, no models to describe it and no theories about what it is. Freud and Jung have had the most to say about the inner world—and what they have said is not very much
There is no agreement on what it is, where it is, or even if it is.
It is important to distinguish between our personal world and our inner world. The personal world is where we deal with all aspects of our personal history. Broadly speaking, our personal realm has a two-point focus:
- Am I happy?
- Am I effective in my work and relationships with others?
The personal world is very self-involved. This is where we sort out our life and gain a sense of control—not over our outer life—
but how we react to our outer life.
The inner world is not a place — it is a range of experiences.
The inner world is not something inside our body. It is not our personal world. (See the Aliveness website to learn about the personal world). Our inner world is unique to us but not always personal to us. The inner world is more than just our subjective interpretation of own experience.
The inner world is not a place. The term “inner world” refers to a range of experiences. To understand the inner world, we have to understand the nature of these experiences.
The Inner World Has a Different Consciousness
The inner world is, in part, a portal through which we move. These experiences cannot occur in the outer world.
We are ushered into new spheres which lie beyond the realm of our 5 senses and the outer world. These experiences expand our understanding of reality. Some experiences take us out beyond the body and even open us up to the vastness of the universe.
They expand our understanding of what it is to be human.
Different kinds of experience in the inner world might be thought of as different domains. Each domain offers its own unique experience of life. Each domain has a particular way that it works with us and helps us. Some types of experience are associated with specific parts of the body, like the gut or the heart.)
The inner world does not exist until we experience it. It is the experience itself which brings the inner world into existence. It is through the consciousness of feeling that our inner world comes into being. The inner world comes into being only as a result of our experiencing it.
The inner world comes to us via the consciousness of feeling. Feeling, as we are using the term, is another form of consciousness. Feeling is the consciousness of receptivity. (See The Consciousness of Feeling.)
The Fear of the Inner World
Some years ago, I was driving in my car and listening to the radio. I was listening to a talk show with a person who had conducted research on what we humans fear the most. Number 1 on his list of fears, he said, was the experience of the inner world.
I almost drove off the road.
The inner world is a solo experience. To some people, the idea of closing our eyes and turning our attention inward is both a bazaar and frightening. I have spent many years in meditation and the quiet of our inner space. I know how refreshing and comforting it can be to hang out in the inner word. It is the safest place we can be. The idea that this experience might be frightening seems inconceivable to me. But the more I pondered this the easier it became to see how people might fear it.
Our culture has never acknowledged that the inner world exists. Nor has it understood the benefits we receive from spending time in the inner world. I suspect a lot of the fear comes from mistaking the inner world for the personal world. The personal realm harbors unconsciousness thoughts, emotions and beliefs which stem from our childhood experiences. There can be a lot of pain associated with the unconscious.
Fear of the unconsciousness is reasonable. Fear of the inner world is not.
We need more education to help people understand the difference between the unconscious and the inner world. If we have not yet done the inner work that is needed to help us clear out unconsciousness and sub-conscious blocks to our happiness, then indeed we may encounter some discomfort when we go inside.
This is why it is important to differentiate the personal realm and the inner realm. The inner realm is safe for us to enter. The same cannot always be said of the personal realm. Some people want to keep their pain and shame hidden.