The power of your worldview
Our worldview is probably the most powerful aspect of our psyche. What makes it so powerful is that most people are not aware at all of the way their worldview shapes their perception of reality. To a certain extent our worldview is like a pair of contact lenses, after you have been wearing them for a while, you get so used to them that you do not perceive them consciously anymore. Unfortunately becoming aware of your own worldview is a lot more difficult than remembering that you are wearing contacts.
Acquiring a worldview
Everybody acquired their most fundamental beliefs during childhood. None of us have had the freedom to choose a belief system when growing up because as a child we could not question or evaluate the validity of the belief system we were presented with because it simply was an inherent part of the culture we grew up in. Most of these beliefs were not even taught to us explicitly but we simply picked them up by observing other people's behaviour - particularly our own parents.
Terrence McKenna - Culture as an operating system
American writer and public speaker Terrence McKenna pointed out in many of his talks that our culture is like an operating system on a computer. Most of the time we only focus on the programs we run but we pay no attention to the underlying assumptions made by our culture. Terrence McKenna advocated psychedelic drugs as a tool to shed the operating system and experience our true essence of being. Only from outside the limitations of the operating system would it be possible to make a real assessment of the circumstances we live in and to ponder what it means to be human. Taking drugs might be seen as the "fast path" to deeply spiritual experiences but this path also has a certain amount of risk attached to it because you might not be able to cope with the overwhelming experiences you can get confronted with. Fortunately the experience to step outside of our culture does not necessarily require taking drugs but can also be experienced through other means like meditation and the path of meditation is not only less risky but also a lot more pleasant even though it definitely takes time and dedication to come to satisfying results.
The metaphor of the operating systems is quite suitable because it can illustrate quite nicely how topics that are outside of popular culture - e.g. out of body experiences - are not supported by the Materialism 1.0 operating system of Western culture. But if you get an upgrade for your operating system to Consciousness-based Universe 2.0 then this new operating system will support a wider range of plug-ins which were not compatible with Materialism 1.0
Beliefs and the subconscious mind
Even though we might think that our conscious mind is the location were all our beliefs are stored, it only holds a small part of what we belief to be true. Most of our beliefs are stored in our subconscious mind and we are not aware of these beliefs. The subconscious mind behaves to some extent like a voice recorder and it has stored beliefs since childhood, based on experiences our conscious mind has forgotten about a long time ago. Our subconscious mind keeps playing the same recording over and over again until we make our subconscious beliefs conscious so we can work on them to change them. A lot of our subconscious beliefs are based on negative experiences e.g. when we were told that we were not good enough or that we do not deserve to earn more money.
John Lilly's experiments
John Lilly was a neuroscientist and a psychoanalyst. He was introduced to psychedelics like LSD in the 60s and conducted a series of experiments where he took psychedelics in an isolation tank. One of the key findings of his research was, that whatever you believe to be true is true or you make it to become true : The mind creates a belief system and then you act in accord with that belief system. By accepting certain facts as real and proclaiming others as fiction, you create a world which validates your belief system.
From cognitive psychology it is known that letting go of core beliefs is very frightening because most people are fully identified with their beliefs and define who they are through what they believe. Holding on to painful and limiting beliefs is a core issue in our society.
In case you hold any limiting beliefs yourself, a good questions to ask yourself in a quiet moment of self-reflection is : Is the belief true ? Am I absolutely sure that it is true ? Who would I be without that belief ?
It might sound strange but you really should not believe everything you think because the constant stream of thoughts that flows through our minds is based on a lot of negative and limiting beliefs and the only way to free yourself from them is to let go of them otherwise you get dragged along by them your entire life.
Erich Fromm and Freedom
In 1941 psychologist and philosopher Erich Fromm wrote his book "Escape from Freedom". Fromm saw freedom as an aspect of human nature that some people embraced and others tried to escape from. He considered embracing freedom of will as healthy and escaping freedom as the root of most psychological conflicts. Fromm identified three escape mechanisms :
- Automation conformity : Giving up your ideal self in order to conform with society defined as the preferred type of personality
- Authoritarianism : Handing over the control of your life to an authority figure - which can even be abstract e.g. your government. This removes the freedom of choice almost entirely
- Destructiveness : Attempting to eliminate others or the world as a whole, all to escape freedom
From the childish worldview to the conscious child
As children we all had a childish and naive notion of a protected and safe world which was sustained first by our parents and in a broader sense by the governing institutions like the police. In Western culture it is a common perception that other people will take care of keeping things in order. Often this leads to expections of entitlement and to giving up responsibility for the circumstances of one's life. Politics along with the educational system have a vested interest in keeping the population in a childish worldview because that is the only way that they can rule the masses through constantly inventing new artificial threats and keeping people in fear asking the government to save them. One attribute of people who hold a childish worldview is their notion of knowing already all the important things that are knowable about the world, which is the reason why they dismiss any new information that contradict what they already know. Their faith in politics and mass media as primary source of information on what is real and important causes them to remain within their childish worldview for their entire life.
Leaving the childish worldview and entering the "real world" is usually accompanied by unpleasant experiences which break open the childish worldview and require a reorientation. Indigenous people used to have rituals for growing up which deliberately destroyed the childish worldview through traumatic experiences. In Western culture any serious initiation rituals into adulthood have been removed. Thus people either need to choose a path of slowly expanding their consciousness and working their way into the "real world" through inner work or life confronts them with a shocking experience that they can neither deny nor not integrate in their existing worldview. Since in the "real world" a lot of the childish beliefs turn out to be wrong stepping outside of the old paradigm can be rather frighening especially if it is triggered by a shocking experience because then any orientation for building up a new worldview is lacking.
In a third step it is possible to also recognize the "real world" as an illusion and to enter the world of the "conscious child". This third level is again a protected and safe world but it is of transcendental nature and can only be experienced through introspection - a concept which the rational mind can usually not relate to. Experiencing the actual force that is powering up our 3D reality can be achieved through different mystical traditions but there seems to be no shortcut to jump from a childish worldview to the state of the "conscious child" without experiencing the "real world".
A shift in perspective
A shift in perspective like entering into the "real world" can have a profound impact on how you feel and what you do. What is difficult to accept for most people is that the shift in perceptive is something you can not ponder upon with your mind because it goes deeper than thinking. This shift is a shift of the level of being and the concept of being is alien to the human mind because the mind can only relate to doing.
This shift in being is the crux many mystical teachings are talking about. Whenever we receive new information we need a point within our existing model of the world to which we can attach this new piece of information. If we can not find his point of contact in the existing model, new information is simply dismissed because it can not be true. Questioning the established model for its validity is a step hardly anybody is willing to take and thus the experience of being conscious in the "real world" seems to remain reserved to the true seekers of knowledge and wisdom who do not shy away from "questioning everything".
Indian mystic and philospher Osho once said : "Anybody who gives you a belief system is your enemy because the belief system becomes a barrier for your eyes so you can not see the truth."
What should I believe in ?
Getting back to the analogy from the beginning of this article, the best way to deal with belief systems is to treat them like glasses. Just like you might own reading glasses, sunglasses and diving googles, they all have their purpose and can be useful or inappropriate depending on the set of circumstances. Limiting yourself to one belief system only is not really a smart move, because it limits you to a set of experiences that are compatible with that belief system. Any experience which you can not assign to a particular box within your belief system has to be denied because it does not fit in thus you must have imagined it, it can not be real because your belief system overrides its validity.
By learning more about the belief systems of other cultures, you can enable yourself to select a different belief system in case you are confronted with an experience that your primary belief system can not explain, which gives you a lot more freedom for unusual experiences. But as long as these belief systems are unconnected this can be quite confusing and requires a certain training of your mental stability. It can definitely be helpful to use them in combination in order to look at an experience from different angles :
Image an experience being represented as a 3-dimensional object. In this analogy your mind is only capable to perceive in two dimensions but you are not aware of this limitation. All you perceive is a 2-D slice of the 3-D object and that is your limited perception of this experience. In your mind, that is the way this experience was and anybody else who had the same experience would experience it in a very similar way than you did. If you could become aware of your ability to look at the experience from a completely different vantage point you could locate your plane of perception at a different angle than before. By looking at the experience from many different angles you could get a much better and holistic picture of the real nature of the experience.
Sticking only to one belief system and one viewpoint that is handed to you through the media from an institution of authority is a lot easier than holding contradicting ones and evaluating them on a regular basis for their validity. Any form of oversimplified thinking is supported by many institutions of authority because large parts of the population seems to want simple explainations for events which in reality are highly complex. They want to be assured that somebody is in control, comprehends what is going on and knows how to fix the problems.
Looking through the illusion of simplicity requires the desire to seek a deeper level of truth even if this pursuit reveals a compelling web of complex interdependencies which reveal how little the supposed figures of authority are really in control of events that are playing out. This insight can be liberating or fightening, depending on whether you embrace your true level of freedom and use this freedom or whether you are afraid of taking responsibility for your own life.