I came across a passage several years ago that I blogged about. I thought I’d say some more about that passage today.
…it could very well be that we’re the products of an elaborate simulation… Moreover, we may not be who we think we are. Assuming that the people running the simulation are also taking part in it, our true identities may be temporarily suppressed, to heighten the realness of the experience.
The more I learn about the brain, neuroscience, the mind, how we perceive the world, as well as meditation, contemplation, and looking deep within the subjective sense, the more I’m convinced that we are living in a simulation, and that simulation is being generated in every moment by our brain. It is taking input from our environment, combining it with all our past experiences and memories, and reconstructing this rich perceptual world that we see and experience all around us, within our consciousness.
All these colors, lights, sounds, tastes, and smells do not exist as such out in the “objective” material world. These qualities don’t exist anywhere “out there,” but are generated within our mind. There certainly seems to be objective material correlates “out there,” which are the cause of the qualities that we perceive, but they are not the qualities themselves. Our brain transforms the correlates that we sense in a way that we can absorb them and process them quickly and efficiently. But without a mind like ours, the world would be completely dark, colorless, silent, tasteless, and odorless. What would that reality be like?
Say we take something simple, like the color red. There is no red “out there” in the world. All there seems to be are photons of different energy levels, wavelengths/frequencies. (For this we won’t take into consideration the wave-particle duality of light which says that the photon might not actually exist in any material way until it interacts with the retina cells in our eyes). There is no red or redness inherent in a photon of a particular wavelength. You can’t find any red in it. It doesn’t exist there. It is only after the photon interacts with our retina cells that there begins a very complex electrochemical chain reaction that proceeds to various parts of the brain, which fires a vast array of neural networks off like lightning, and we perceive the color red in our consciousness. (By the way, we don’t yet know how the neurons firing causes our perception of red, or how such firing is that perception. That is the hard problem of consciousness). That’s where the red is, in our consciousness, and nowhere else. You have never seen red “out in the world.” You have only ever seen red inside your consciousness. Our brains are simulating this perception of red in our consciousness that correlates with the photons of a particular wavelength “out there.” Now extrapolate this to all colors, light itself, sounds, tastes, and odors. That is the simulation that is happening inside your mind in every moment. It is not reality as it is, but an abstraction, a symbol, a subjective representation of what is.
If that is true, then we are the ones running the simulation without even knowing it. Our brains are heavily involved in doing this amazing work of translating reality into the subjective experience that we perceive. But we are not simply onlookers from the outside on this simulation we are running. We are running the simulation, and we are also a part of the simulation. Your brain is also actively reconstructing a simulation of yourself in the simulation. Your sense of self is a “sim” in your brain’s simulation. In other words, the simulation’s creators are in the simulation they’ve created and are creating. What does this mean? You may have guessed it—you are not what you think you are. Because you are a sim in the simulation you construct, you are as simulated as the simulated reality you perceive all around you. All of your thoughts, feelings, memories, sensations, sense of self, worldview, education, language, etc., are all being constructed in real-time in the simulation. So who are you, really?
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As the passage above notes, since the simulation’s creators are also in the simulation, our true identities may be temporarily suppressed. It might not be as useful knowing that we are simply creating this simulation of ourselves and our world. We want to believe that we live and act and breathe in a real world, as we perceive it. We want to live in a real world, not a simulated one. And so we seem to not always know, or ever know, that we are the creators of this world, this simulation. We take the simulation to be reality, and we live our lives.
But this is not good enough for some people. We want to know what this life is about. Why are we here? What are we doing? Where are we going? Who are we, really? How would we come to know that? How would we break out of the simulation and see it for what it really is? How could we see the simulation, from the outside?
The only way that I perceive that we could see the simulation for what it is, in more than some hypothetical theoretical metaphorical symbolic figurative way, is by changing the element that is running the simulation—the brain. By shifting the functioning of the brain, our conscious experience also shifts, the simulation changes, and by so doing we can see the simulation for what it is—a simulation. By changing our brain, the simulation changed, and we spotted the change. We caught it, in the act! Aha!! There you are.
What if we want to see more than just a shift in the simulation, more than a simple glitch? What if we want to gain a better understanding of who we are, fundamentally, outside the simulation? What if we want to see reality as it really is, and not just this constructed simulated one being made in our brain? One way of doing that would be to subdue the simulation, quiet it down, put it to sleep, get it running on minimal resources, or put it mostly offline. And, of course, this applies to the brain, since that is the element running the simulation. And so we can practice various mind training and mind changing techniques such as meditation to do these things. If we can get the brain running on low, in a deep meditative state for example, then we may be able to perceive in a more unfiltered way the reality of which we are a part, and who we really are, outside the simulation. The simulation of our perceptual world turns off, as does the simulation of our self in that world. We are no more.
This can be frightening. Our simulated sense of self does not want to see itself extinguished, and so it wants to fight against it. In fact, our simulated sense of self may even feel that it is dying, because in its simulated eyes, it is. It does not want to “die.” Darkness. Blackness. A very dark Night. And so all the alarm bells ring. Fear strikes the whole system, the entire simulation of reality shakes, red lights, blue lights, yellow lights, ALL LIGHTS, bright white sun lights, anything but no lights!
The simulated ego screams out at the top of its lungs, “My God, My God, My God! I can’t do it! I will be no more! I will be consumed! Why have you forsaken me!?”
But then something deep inside of us puts its hand gently on our shoulder, and tells us that it’s all ok. “Fear not!” It says. And so we trust. We let go. We open ourselves up. We surrender completely, we let the simulated ego-self old-self die, the natural carnal man. We allow the simulation to subside. We let it go, and it goes. We let it all go. We fear not. And then it all opens.
Then what? Then we perceive things as they really are—without self, without lights, without constructed ideas, without thoughts, without memories, without us, without them, without this, without that, without me, without you, without any thing. There is no time there. There is no space there. There are no objects. These are simulations constructed in our mind too. No time equals infinite and eternal time. No space equals endless and eternal space. No objects equals all is object. Without subject, that’s all there is. No subject equals all is subject. Without object, that’s all there is.
And yet, this emptiness is not nothingness—it is also an absolute, complete, total, fullness and completeness. We see it as representing all Possibilities, all Potentialities, all Options, all Colors, all Light, everything that ever was or could ever be. It is the all in all. Alpha and Omega. The First and the Last. The Beginning and the End. Left and right. Up and down. Without something being run in the simulation, reality is seen as representing every possible simulation. It is absolutely everything that could ever exist, and an utter emptiness at the same time; a vast universe of what is and could be, and a nothing of what isn’t. A trillion times brighter than the sun, it is also the darkest black that ever was. One sees it All, nothing excepted. Everything is present. All time, All space, All history. The simulated self is no more. You are that Everything. And for this cause now you know that man is nothing. That simulated self that your mind creates, that goes to work on Mondays, goes shopping on the weekends, and to church on Sundays. That natural mind-simulated self is nothing compared to This, this All-in-All, something which you never had supposed.
What have you witnessed? How would you describe it? What was it like?
You might say that you have just beheld God.
And how would you describe God? Was it something “else”? Something “other”? Something independent of “you”? No, you were It. You were God. There was nothing else. There was no you and It, no Object and subject, no me and You, no man and God. There was only one. One. ONE! You were one with God, God was one with you. No, there was no you, there was only the ONE. One Perfect and Complete Unity. There was no separate God. There was only the ONE GOD. God was all there was, and you were God. And God was perfect endless infinite eternal love. And you stay there for eternity, an eternal life, because there is no time there.
Where do you go from here? You can’t stay God. There are things to do. And so you kick the power back on to the simulation. You turn the brain back on. You press reset, and reboot. The system slowly comes back online. Blood starts flowing again. The regular synapses start firing again. Time and space suddenly reappear. The room you’re in rematerializes. You reappear. There you are, self! You crazy little thing, you. Self! Come here, self. I missed you, self! It’s been a while, how have you been? You take your-self a little less seriously now. You finally realize, directly, that’s not you! Your sim-self now knows that it’s a sim. It knows it-self. It’s not who you really are. Not underneath the simulation. You know God, and it was like looking in a mirror, a mirror looking into a mirror, endless, eternal, infinite. That’s what you were. That’s what you are. The simulation brings back your self-thoughts, your self-memories, your self-opinions, your self-centeredness, your selfishness, your self-hatred, your self-love, your self-esteem, your self-life, your self-love, your family, your friends, your work, your job, your bad hair, that scar on your arm, that egoic self-critic, your tastes, your loves, your dislikes. It’s all back again, right where you left it. But now you see it for what it is. You’ve seen the bigger picture, the cosmic scene. And you are weak from it all. It has overwhelmed you as nothing else could. How could you possibly explain this? No one will believe it. But I know what I experienced. And I can’t deny it. Nor would I dare do it. It was the most Real thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. How could I deny it? Why would my-self so offend my-Self?
Who are you? You are a sim of the simulation’s Creator, who is your Self. Your sim is a son/daughter of God, the firstborn, the absolute first being to come online in the simulation that is this perceptual subjective experienced world. You are the one God made. That sense of self, separate from God now. You were God, and loved God, and God loved you, and so God sent you, God made you, a son or daughter or offspring of God, from God. God has given birth to you, this simulated sense of self, as a baby is born from its mother’s womb. The Goddess birthed you. You witnessed it yourself, your-self being born. You have been re-born, from God, who you were, to you. This self-you. God sent you from the All and Everything. God picked you to become, the Only Begotten who you could have become. There is no one else God could have begotten, except you, in you, in this body, in this mind. Now you know who you are. You are a son or daughter or offspring of God, an Only Begotten in the simulated flesh in this simulated world that your mind simulates. You know who God is. God is your Father and Mother, your self-Creator. God seems like Other, but is your true Self. God is Great. God is More than you can imagine in your brain’s mere simulation. The simulation can’t encompass it, because it is all.
Your-self fears death no more. For your-self died, but your-Self didn’t die. It was still there, with more glory and majesty than you can put into words. There is no need to fear death any more. Every time you used to think about it, you feared it. But now, you know who you are. Who are you, death? For my-self is a son of God, the Only Begotten of God. I came from God, and I’m going back to God, with more glory than can ever fit in this simulated world. Where is your glory, death? Why should I fear you any longer? I have things to do in this life. This is the life for me to prepare to go to God again. This is the life where I act, and move, and have my being. It is simulated, yes, but this is the only simulation, the only universe I live in, so it is real. This is where I have purpose, where I move, and have my breath. This is where I can do good things. Right here. Right now. I love God, and God loves me. And God is love. And I can love my neighbor as I love myself. So, no! I’m going to remember who I really am. I will not fear death. Go away, death! I’m here to stay, for now.
But then, a little later, I remember again, this self remembers it’s going to die one day. Die. Death! Oh, the agony! Why?! Fear and trembling! But wait, I know who I am. I am a son of God, with more glory than this self can possibly now imagine. I know my Self. I’m staying right here, death! I have things to do, here and now. In the name of who I AM, I AM the Only Begotten Self-son of the God of Glory, go away death! And death is vanquished, again. The sting is gone.
Now, that might sound a little melodramatic, and it is, but you might try talking to someone who has experienced it themselves, who has been to God and back, who has turned off the simulation, and turned it back on, who has been re-born into this simulated reality of the mind and the world. Not symbolically. Not figuratively. Not metaphorically. But actually. I haven’t, so you’ll need to ask someone else. It’s past midnight, and I need to put this self to bed. I have work in the morning. And it’s a Monday.
Five years ago I wrote:
But who are we deep down? We are children of God. That is who is at our core. God is our father. That is who we truly are if we are to step outside Plato’s cave into the light of the sun. Most of the time we only see the shadows on the wall. If we were to see, if only for a moment, what it really means to be a child of God, I think we would be awe-struck. Like the Greeks thought their demigods such as Hercules were the offspring of God and were elevated, powerful beings, so too are we, as children of God… Each and every one of us is a dazzling, radiant, immortal being, underneath this mortal flesh.
We are God’s offspring, with the potential to become like Him. We too have glory, if we will let our light so shine (Matthew 5:16; 3 Nephi 12:16). We may not be able to see it today, but some day we will.