About 15 years ago I had an experience that, in the days and weeks that followed, made me seriously question the Western mainstream world-view. I had had a very strange dream in which I watched my then-girlfriend have sex with a stranger. I woke up extremely shaken, feeling that this had not just been a regular dream – like the kind of wondrous imagery that I would maybe marvel at for a while, if at all, but then forget. No, there was an uncanny feeling about this dream that made it eerily significant. It was scary. I had never experienced something like it before, and I was unsure what it meant or what I would need to do about it.
Only a couple days later, my girlfriend, who had been away for two months in Switzerland (for an internship), returned. She wanted to see me that same night. I felt immediately that something wasn’t right. She told me that she had met another man and that she would break up with me. I asked her about the other guy, and she showed me a photo of him. This is impossible, I thought, while I got goose-bumps all over my body. It was definitely the same guy I had seen in my dream. Of course, I didn’t remember my dream as clearly as a picture, but I did remember it more clearly than my usual dreams. My dream image was foggy, but there were some striking elements of his appearance that stood out, such as his long, very light blonde hair that seemed a bit out of place for him. I had never met him before. I didn’t know he existed.
I was shattered. Not only was I now without a girlfriend, but apparently I had had a clairvoyant dream; something the existence of which I was very much doubting at the time. I had seen her having sex with that other guy, even though there was no way I could have known what he looked like. More spookily, it felt like I had dreamt the sequence while it was actually happening, a few hundred kilometres away. I tried to get this confirmed, but we both couldn’t recall the exact time – though it was close enough, within a range of less than a day.
The materialist believer in me tried to explain it away as a most extraordinary coincidence, but couldn’t. It was just too unlikely to be random. Something slowly dawned on me that would change my view of the world forever.
I had previously enjoyed reading fantastic stories, including ones that described paranormal phenomena, but I thought about them as, well, fantasy. People would sometimes claim to have experienced these things in the real world, but they were crazy, of course. I had always imagined how bizarre and remarkable it would be to actually have such an experience, but I would tell myself that it could never happen, because it wasn’t technically possible. I was quite convinced that these phenomena weren’t real.
Now I had had such an experience myself and did not know what to make of it. But as much as I tried, I could no longer uphold the notion that these kinds of things were strange, but random coincidences, and that the people who reported having them could not be taken seriously. I had become one of them. I was taking myself very seriously. Something was not right.
I began telling my experience to some of my friends. Most would react as I expected, quickly finding all sorts of reasons why it couldn’t have happened. That my mind was fooling me. That I hadn’t actually seen the guy in my dream, but my memory had confounded his image from the photo with a very clouded memory of some random dream. That I was in shock because my girlfriend had broken up with me, and I wasn’t thinking straight. Etcetera etcetera.
The rationalist in me looked at all these “explanations” but remained unconvinced. It wasn’t so much the factual description of what had happened that made me doubt the rational “solutions” that presented themselves, but the most unusual feeling I had had while (and after) experiencing it. It was as if that feeling had told me to watch out, to take this dream seriously. I was unable to describe properly what it was, as I had never been particularly good at dealing with feelings, but I knew – I had no doubts – that what I had experienced was real.
What was striking to me at the time was also that my mind wasn’t clouded at all. The break-up hadn’t driven me into some kind of mental haze, or madness. It was quite the opposite in fact. I felt at the time that my mind, as well as my perception, were particularly sober and clear, and unusually sharp. Today, I’d say I was in a state of heightened or focused consciousness, though I don’t remember any particular reason or cause why this would have been the case. For one, it wasn’t due to psychedelic drugs, because I wasn’t taking any. Drugs-wise, I was completely clueless and unaware back then, and a few years would pass before I would even cautiously try a psychopharmacological agent that wasn’t alcohol or caffeine.
So, something magical had happened. Something that shouldn’t happen if my scientific world-view was correct. I was in a dilemma. I had believed in the materialist, scientific view of the world all my life. I was clinging to it like some kind of saviour. Like a force against human stupidity. If I got into a discussion and somebody would say something that contradicted what I believed in, I would mercilessly swing the hammer of science against them. I didn’t care what they thought or what experiences they had had. They were wrong, end of story. There was only hard science and nothing else.
I despised and rejected anything that even remotely resembled religion, including anything spiritual, which was the same thing to me back then. I found paranormal phenomena interesting and inspirational from the point of “having super powers”, but they remained fiction. There was no way to have these super powers. My world-view didn’t allow them to actually exist.
Slowly, I began to re-think. As any true, curious scientific thinker, I began to question. What if? What if clairvoyance was a real phenomenon? I myself had now had such an experience – at least I couldn’t convince myself to believe any other explanation. It was profound and, in a sense, tangible enough that I never doubted its reality, even though I was still a completely left-brain person who would ruthlessly and arrogantly ridicule anyone who’d claim anything that contradicted the mainstream scientific model of reality.
But if there was such a thing as clairvoyance – and it seemed that quite a number of people had had similar experiences – would this not mean that some of the other, “crazy people” phenomena could be real too? If clairvoyance was real, then telepathy must be real too, as it’s apparently just a special case of telepathy that includes visual information. It couldn’t happen, but it did. Was I going crazy?
I decided that I was not going crazy – but that I had had the very rare chance of experiencing a phenomenon that was real, though obscure and volatile enough not to be taken seriously by mainstream science – in particular, because it relied almost exclusively on subjective (anecdotal) evidence, that it was very hard, if not impossible, to reproduce, and as such, was deemed non-existant by consensus.
In the following fifteen years, my world-view shifted. I no longer thought that the mainstream, materialist-scientific view of the world, was an accurate – or at least, complete – description of the world. It became apparent to me that there was a fundamental error in this world-view, namely the assumption that science already understood everything there was to be understood – i.e. all of reality.
My world-view was apparently full of holes, contradictions and discrepancies. I became very curious. I started looking for evidence, or at least, for new ideas. I read books describing such phenomena as I had experienced, and what I read was thrilling. Of course I could not know if it was true, or if the author was just making things up. But this didn’t even matter so much as did something else that happened in this process.
My mind became open to a very exciting idea: that things are not as they seem. That what we think is true must always be questioned. That most of us are mentally confined by a system of beliefs that governs what we accept as real, but of which we are usually unaware. That we don’t see reality as it is, but only what our perceptual and ideological filters allow us to see. This was a revelation.
As my mind was opening further and further, I became more and more aware. I could now accept viewpoints and ideas that would have seemed outlandish and crazy to me back when I had my strange dream experience. No, I did not begin to naively accept anything that I would encounter as truth. But I had acquired a new capability: to look beyond the confines of our belief systems, and, what naturally precedes this, to become aware of their presence in the first place. I had learned, as the saying goes, to see the box, and to think outside of it.
So I became aware that the materialist-scientific view of the world is not actual reality, but a belief system. That it is not all-encompassing truth, as many scientists or materialists (particularly in Western societies) would have you think. That it is rather a simplified model of the world, in which some things can be explained extremely well (as is demonstrated by the spectacular technological advances of the last 150 years), but others can’t. Maybe they will never be explained within the confines of this system, or they will be, but the system will have to change for this to occur.
It dawned on me that our predominant scientific model of the world could be fundamentally flawed. That the Scientific Method, on which it is based, can be applied only to a subset of reality (where it works perfectly), but not to other parts. In particular, the scientific method assumes, or requires, experiments to have the same outcome given identical conditions, and that the outcome must be independent of who observes it, i.e. that subjective factors (that is, the consciousness) of the observer should not have any influence.
In the 1920s and 1930s, scientific progress came upon a new understanding of reality while trying to find an explanation for the strange phenomenon of wave-particle duality, which entails that some of the foundational constituents of physical reality will sometimes behave as if they were a particle, and sometimes, as if they were a wave. This new understanding was named quantum mechanics, and it was one of the most dramatic paradigm shifts so far in explaining what reality is made up of on the most fundamental level.
However, quantum mechanics has a problem: it was found that in some of the experiments, the outcome depended on who was looking at the data. It’s called the Observer Effect, and it contradicts one of the most basic assumptions of the scientific method, and as such, questions the foundation of science as a whole. The observer effect simply shouldn’t exist, but it does.
(Quantum mechanics predicts a number of really strange properties of nature, which have since been exploited for some amazing technological advances. An example is semiconductors, without which we wouldn’t have today’s computers, nor the majority of other current electronic devices; another is laser light. The modern world would look very different without quantum mechanics.)
Nonetheless, the observer effect remains a mystery. Many so-called interpretations of quantum mechanics try to explain it, but there is no consensus on which is correct. The problem is that consciousness appears to be “part of the equation” in quantum mechanics, and it looks like we have hit upon one of the boundaries of the scientific model of the world, that is, a point where it can no longer be applied to reality without contradictions.
The issue that causes these contradictions is the assumption of materialist science that consciousness is an artifact of physical reality, i.e. that it is governed by the laws of physics, and such, exists “within” the scientific model of the world. Consciousness is regarded as some kind of “illusion” resulting from the interactions within the neurons in the brain, which are made up of biomolecules and transport electrical or chemical signals, and can thus be correctly and exhaustively explained by what we know. In other words, there is nothing “magical” about consciousness.
However, if we view reality as described by science as a “box” (i.e. a belief system) and assume that it does not actually describe all of reality, but only a subset, namely physical (material) reality as we understand it so far, then the idea imposes itself that consciousness may not be an artifact of the material world, but something beyond it. Or, to rephrase it, something that is larger than the subset of reality described by science.
I believe that this is so. I’m deliberately calling it a belief, or idea, since it cannot be tested, at least not with the scientific method, because, as it appears, it is a phenomenon governed by something outside of its field of applicability.
(It is fascinating to become aware that I am thinking these thoughts using my mind, i.e. my consciousness. That is, there is nothing within my consciousness that prevents this. I can use my consciousness to “think beyond the box” – any box –, unless I am willingly confining myself to the box, or I am unaware that my thoughts are confined to the box. Apparently, our minds are equipped with limitless capability, and there is no need for boxes. We must ask ourselves: what is the purpose of this capability? If we are equipped to do so, shouldn’t we leave the box – all boxes?)
If you believe that consciousness is beyond science – beyond the material world that science can accurately describe as of now – many new opportunities arise. For example, the phenomena of telepathy and clairvoyance become explainable as a property, or effect, of consciousness, as we are no longer bound by the scientific laws that preclude their existence.
How do these phenomena become explainable? By reviving an idea that is not new at all, but which has been present in human culture since ancient times. We know this, as it is contained in many so-called sacred texts and spiritual teachings that have been preserved over thousands of years. This idea is so old and universal that it appears in cultures all over the globe, but has since become distorted through the influence of religion, particularly, again, in the Western world, where it was warped seemingly beyond recognition (the notion of “God”), and later, completely abandoned through the advancement of science.
(Ironically, this later phase is today known as the Age of Enlightenment, and it did enlighten us to understand the world through what would become science, but it also moved some of these ideas into the dark – ideas that we have forgotten because they clashed with that very belief system called science.)
This ancient idea is that everything is connected, that everything is one. (In fact, the ancient teachings take this a lot further, as they contain the notion that all of material reality is actually an artifact of consciousness, not the other way around. This concept is certainly very far out, so, for now, I’m going to stick with the principle of Occam’s Razor and not make unnecessary assumptions and complications.)
The simple proposition is that we, as human beings, are in fact universally connected via consciousness, which transcends the limits of physical reality, at least the current scientific model of it. This is not my idea and it’s not new; as I said, it is very very old. (Most ancient cultures hold that not just humans are connected in this way, but also animals and in fact all living things. But again, this is an optional assumption that is not needed to put forth this idea of human interconnectedness.)
If we are all connected via consciousness, then telepathy, clairvoyance and many other so-called “paranormal” phenomena are straightforward. They are simply an exchange of information across this universal network. How exactly this works, we don’t know. I am not going to talk about “energies”, “frequencies” or “vibrations” as is often done within New-Age or esoteric contexts that mention this idea, as these are concepts from physics that I will assume not to apply in this realm – after all, we have left the confines of science.
(The notion that consciousness-exchange is based on a mechanism that has similarities to energy-transporting waves or particles – such as electromagnetic radiation – is very popular, and it may well be that it works this way, but using a form of “energy” or particles that are still unknown, and as such, beyond the limits of current science. I am deliberately going to refrain from developing this further, as it would require many untestable assumptions, it would cause confusion with the identically-named concepts from physics, and it is completely unnecessary for the thought I am trying to convey.)
If we are interconnected in this way, then why are we not having telepathic and other such experiences all the time? I think that this information exchange on the consciousness level is in fact happening all the time, but our Western materialist belief system usually precludes our perceiving it – unless you are gifted with a particularly sensitive perception and open mind, i.e. you are “talented” to see “beyond the box”. But most of us (including me) have been taught to view the world from within the box, where the consciousness-exchange cannot exist. If you are trained to think that something cannot, or does not, exist, you will not experience it, even if you actually can, because this training will cause a reality “filter” to form in your mind that removes these aspects from your perception.
However, such filters can be affected and possibly “undone”. A reproducible method of temporarily removing or altering reality filters is the use of psychedelics, or consciousness-expanding drugs. Users of strong doses of psychedelics often report the sensation of feeling connected with everyone and everything, an experience that is sometimes called boundary dissolution. What the drugs are doing is to make the boundaries of your belief system (the “box”) transparent, or to remove them altogether, so you are free to explore what lies beyond it. In this state, your mind is open to perceive all of reality, including interconnected consciousness.
There are other ways to undo your reality filters. Meditation appears to be one of them. I know very little about meditation, so I will leave it at that for now.
(A possibly novel idea that just now struck me is the application of hypnotherapy to undo reality filters. If, in the state of hypnosis, it is possible to go back to an event in your life that resulted in a limitation or blockade which would later turn into a disease such as depression, and resolve it, why should it not be possible to undo the filtering pattern of reality perception that is imprinted on us from a very early age? It may be that these filters are imprinted through another mechanism that cannot be reached using that method.)
In conclusion, I have recognised the materialist world-view of mainstream science as a limiting belief system, and I have allowed my mind to venture beyond it. This has certainly made my life immensely richer and turned the world back into the exciting place that it is: full of amazement, wonder, and maybe even magic – the notion that there are phenomena we don’t yet understand, but which shouldn’t stop us from trying to observe them, and to use them. I will.
Maybe you would like to risk a peek beyond the box, too.