As we study man or any other living organism and try to describe him accurately and scientifically, we find that our normal sensation of ourselves as isolated egos inside a bag of skin is a hallucination. It really is it’s absolutely nutty, because when you describe human behavior, or the behavior of a mouse or a rat or a chicken or anything you want to describe, you find that as you try to describe its behavior accurately, you must also describe the behavior of its environment. Supposing I walk and you want to describe the action of walking, you cannot talk about my walking without also describing the floor, because if you do not describe the floor and the space in which I am moving all you will be describing is somebody swinging his legs in empty space. So as to describe my walking, you must describe the space in which you find me. You know, you couldn’t see me unless you could also see my background, what stands behind me. See, if I myself, if the boundaries of my skin were coterminous with your whole field of vision you would not see me at all. You would see my bright, red vest instead. That’s why put it on this evening and to demonstrate this point. And that would be the thing that filled your field of vision, that was the thing standing there, you would not see me, because in order to see me you have to see not only what is inside the boundary of my skin, but you have to see what is outside it too.
Now, that is terribly important. Really, the fundamental, ultimate mystery – the only thing you need to know to understand the deepest metaphysical secrets – is this: that for every outside there is an inside and for every inside there is an outside, and although they are different, they go together. There is, in other words, a secret conspiracy between all insides and all outsides, and the conspiracy is this: to look as different as possible, and yet underneath to be identical. Because you do not find one without the other. Like Tweedledum and Tweedledee agreed to have a battle. Note that – agreed. So there is a secret: what is esoteric, what is profound, and what is deep is what we will call the “implicit.” What is obvious and in the open is what we will call the “explicit.” And I and my environment, you and your environment are explicitly as different as different could be, but implicitly you go together. And this is discovered by the scientist, when he tries, with the whole art of sciences describe what happens exactly, when he describe exactly what you do, he finds out that you, your behavior, is not something that can be separated from the behavior of the world around you. He realizes then that you are something that the whole world is doing, just as when the sea has waves on it, all right, you see is the ocean is waving. So each one of us is a “waving” of the whole cosmos, the entire works, all there is, and with each one of us it is waving and saying, “Yoo-hoo! Here I am!”, only does it differently each time, because variety is the spice of life.
But you see, the funny thing is we have not been brought up to feel that way. Instead of feeling that we, each one of us, are something that the whole realm of being is doing, we feel that we are something that has come into the whole realm of being as a stranger. When we were born we do not really know where we came from because we do not remember, and we think when we die that is just going to be that. Some people console themselves with the idea that they are going to Heaven, or that they are going to be reincarnated, summer land or something you know, but people don’t really believe that. For most people it is implausible, and the real thing that haunts them is that when they die they will go to sleep and are never going to wake up. They are going to be locked up in the safe deposit box of darkness forever. But that all depends, you see, upon a false notion of what is one’s self. Now, the reason why we have this false notion of ourselves is, as far as I can understand it, that we have specialized in one particular kind of consciousness. Being very general, rough, we have two kinds of consciousness. One I will call the “spotlight,” and the other the “floodlight.” The spotlight is what we call conscious attention, and that is trained into us from childhood as the most valuable form of consciousness. When the teacher in class says, “Pay attention!” everybody stares, and looks right at the teacher (like that). That is spotlight consciousness; fixing your mind on one thing at a time. Concentrate, and even though you may not be able to have a very long attention span, nevertheless you concentrate, you use your spotlight: one thing after another, one thing after another, flip, flip, flip, flip, flip, like that. But we also have another kind of consciousness which I call the floodlight. For example, you can drive your car for several miles with a friend sitting next to you, and your spotlight consciousness will be completely absorbed in talking to your friend. Nevertheless, your floodlight consciousness will manage the driving of the car, will notice all the stoplights, the other idiots on the road, and so on, and you will get there safely without even thinking about it.
But our culture has taught us to specialize in spotlight consciousness, and to identify ourselves with that form of consciousness alone. “I am my spotlight consciousness, my conscious attention; that is my ego; that is me.” And very largely we ignore the floodlight. The floodlight consciousness is working all the time, every nerve end that we have is its instrument. You know, you can go out to a luncheon or something, and you sit next to Mrs. So-and-So, and you go home and your wife says to you,
“Was Mrs. So-and-So there?”
“Yes, I sat next to her.”
“Well, what was she wearing?”
“I haven’t the faintest idea.”
You saw, but you did not notice. Now, because we have been brought up to identify ourselves with the spotlight consciousness, and the floodlight consciousness is undervalued, we have the sensation of ourselves as being just the spotlight, just the ego that looks and attends to this and that and the other. And so we ignore and are unaware of the vast, vast extent of our being. People, who by various methods become fully aware of their floodlight consciousness, have what is called “a mystical experience” or a cosmic consciousness or what the Buddhists call bodhi, awakening. The Hindus call it moksha, liberation, because they discover that the real deep, deep self, that which you really are, fundamentally and forever, is the whole of being – all that there is, the works, that is you. Only that universal self that is you has a capacity to focus itself at ever so many different here-and-nows. So, when you use the word “I”, as William James said “is really a word of position like ‘this,’ or ‘here’.” Just as a sun or star has many rays, so the whole cosmos expresses itself in you and you and you, in all the different variations. It plays games: it plays the John Doe game, the Mary Smith game. It plays the beetle game, the butterfly game, the bird game, the pigeon game, the fish game, the star game. Just like these are games that differ from each other just like backgammon, whist, bridge, poker, pinochle; or like the waltz, mazurka, minuet, and so on. It dances with infinite variety, but every single dance that it does, that is to say – you – is what the whole thing is doing. But you see, we forget it, we do not know. We are brought up in a special way so that we are unaware of the connection, unaware that each one of us is the works, playing it this way for a while. So we have been taught to treat death as if that were the end of the show, that won’t happen any more. And therefore to be afraid of all the things that might bring about death: pain, sickness, suffering. And if you don’t know this, if you are not really vividly aware of the fact that you are basically “the works,” you have no real joy in life, you are just a bundle of anxiety mixed up with guilt, because, you see, when we bring children into the world, we play awful games with them.
Instead of saying, “How do you do? Welcome to the human race. Now my dear, we are playing some very complicated games, and these are the rules of the game we are playing. I want you to understand them, and when you learn them when you get a little bit older you might be able to think up some better rules.” Instead of being quite direct with our children, we say, “You are here on probation, and you must understand that. Maybe when you grow up a bit you will be acceptable, but until then you should be seen and not heard. You are a mess, and you have to be educated and schooled and whipped until you are human.” So these attitudes which are inculcated into us from infancy go on into old age, the way you start out is liable to be the way you finish. So people are going around feeling fundamentally that they do not belong because their parents said to them in the first place, “Look, you don’t really belong here, you are here on sufferance. You are on probation. You are not a human being yet.” And people feel this right on into old age and so they figure that the universe is presided over by this kind of awful God-the-Father parent who has our best interest at heart, he’s loving, but “Who spares the rod, spoils the child. Whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth.” So, where is it going to hit next? You do not feel that you belong, and so we get this ghastly, what I call, “Christian ego,” and a little bit Jewish, too, who really feels that he is homeless, that he is orphan. Even the Christians say we are sons of God by adoption, grace; not real sons but only by adoption, grace, and sufferance. So there comes a sensation so characteristic of Western man and, indeed, of all highly civilized people, of being a stranger on the earth, a momentary flash of consciousness between two eternal blacknesses.
And so therefore we speak of confronting reality, facing the facts. We speak of coming into this world, and this whole sensation that we are brought up to have of being an island of consciousness locked up in a bag of skin, facing outside us, a world that is profoundly alien to us in the sense that what is outside “me” is not me, this sets up a fundamental sensation of hostility and estrangement between ourselves and the so-called external world.
So, my main point last night was then, that we need a new kind of consciousness in which every individual becomes aware that his real self is not just his conscious ego. You know, let’s take a headlight of a car. The headlight shines on the road in front, the headline does not shine on the wire which connects it with its own battery. So, in a way, the headlight is unaware of how it shines, and in the same way we are unaware of the sources of our consciousness. We do not know how we know. There was a young man who said, “Though it seems that I know that I know, what I would like to see is the I that knows me, when I know that I know that I know.” And so, we are ignorant of, we ignore, it does not come within the scope of our attention how it is that we manage to be conscious, how it is that we manage to grow our hair, to shape our bones, to beat our heart, and to secrete all the necessary fluids that we need from our glands. We do it, but we do not know how we do it. Because you see, underneath the superficial self, which pays attention to this and that, there is another self more really “us” than “I.” And if you become aware of the unknown self – the more you become aware of it – the more you realize that it is inseparably connected with everything else that there is. That you are a function of this total galaxy, bounded by the Milky Way, and that farther more this galaxy is a function of all other galaxies. And that vast thing that you see far off, far off with great telescopes, and you look and look, and one day you are going to wake up and say, “Why, that is me!” and in knowing that you know that you’ll never die. You are the eternal thing that comes and goes, that appears now as John Jones, now as Mary Smith, now as Betty Brown; and so it goes, forever and ever and ever.
Most of us are brought up to feel that what we see out in front of us is something that is, that lies beyond our eyes out here. That the colors and the shapes that you see in this room, are out there. Now, in fact that is not so, in fact all that you see is a stated affairs inside your head. All these colors, all these lights are conditions of the optical nervous system. There are outside the eyes quanta, electronic phenomenon, vibrations but these things are not light, there are not color until there are translated into states of the human nervous system. So if you want to know how the inside of your head feels, open your eyes and look, that is how the inside of your head feels. But we are normally unaware of that and project it out.