We live in an extremely materialistic age and we are all much more materialistic than we might imagine.
And when I say materialistic I don’t mean in the sense that we like to buy nice things. I mean we believe that reality is fundamentally made of material stuff.
In order for us to shift out of our current paradigm into a new one we will need to make the heroic effort to see beyond our materialistic assumptions.
In my last essay, I questioned the reality of reality, and asked us to consider the possibility that reality might change at any moment.
If the current paradigm that we live in is going to shift, one of the things it will need to move beyond is our current commitment to a materialistic worldview.
We are all steeped in a materialistic paradigm. Whether we think of ourselves as spiritual, religious, or atheistic doesn’t really matter. The reality you have been trained to experience is fundamentally materialistic.
That is because we have been taught that reality is an expanse of empty three-dimensional space filled with things that are made of matter.
Look around you and you will see that your nervous system has been conditioned to present reality to you exactly this way. I experience the empty space of a room, filled with chairs and a table, some books, a lamp, etc.
All the things that are in the room, including myself, I experience as material stuff.
It doesn’t matter if you believe that a transcendent non-material God created all the stuff, you still experience a collection of solid things.
We have also been taught that all of these solid things are made up of tiny bits of matter called atoms, or if we have a more nuanced scientific understanding a host of sub-atomic particles. Either way we imagine these “building blocks” of the universe to be solid – and we imagine them this way even if we know better.
That atomic model of reality is at least a couple of hundred years out of date. Most of us have already heard about the scientific discoveries of Quantum Mechanics that disprove our things-in-space understanding of reality.
But even if we understand this, our perception of reality is still shaped by the older science. We are experiencing a things-in-space reality even if we don’t believe in it.
A big part of the aim of my work as a mystic and philosopher is to discover how to shift perception beyond our current materialistic view of reality. After all, we should at least try to catch up perceptually with the understanding of today’s science.
One of the things we learn from quantum mechanics is that subatomic particles are not material at all. Sure, they act like solid particles in some instances, but not always.
Even weirder, they only act like particles when we look at them. When we aren’t looking they act like possibility fields and not solid things at all.
There is a famous experiment called the Double Slit that demonstrated this. In this experiment particles like photons are made to pass through two slits. What you find is that when they are not being watched they act like waves and pass through both slits at once. But, when you add an observer to watch them they act like solid bullets that pass through one slit or the other.
Before they are looked at the particles act like waves spreading through space, and once we look they seem to solidify into distinct and discrete particles.
Nobody knows how this bizarre fact at the quantum level affects reality at the macro level that we experience with our human senses, but it certainly calls into question our current materialistic worldview.
What compels me is wanting to know how we can work wth facts like this experientially? How can we see them to challenge our current assumptions about reality in ways that instigate dramatic shifts in our perception?
This type of experiential philosophical work is what I call wormhole inquiry because it is designed to catapult us through a wormhole in consciousness that opens into a different experience of reality.
In the case of materialism, what if we look at the world as it is shaped by our current assumptions. Remember, our assumptions about reality are not just ideas that allow us to understand things, our assumptions are embedded in our experience.
We experience our own assumptions.
We don’t experience reality as it is, we experience reality as we assume it is, and knowing opens the door to profound transformation.
I am looking at the coffee cup on the table in front of me. I experience it as solid, I also experience it as existing permanently. I assume that when I look away the coffee cup is still there even though I don’t see it.
What if it is not? What if the cup appears as I look at it and when I look away it only exists as a possibility, but not as a solid reality?
See if you can shift your experience of reality by assuming that the things around you are coming into material existence only as you look at them.
How does that change your experience of the world? Does it feel more flexible and fluid? Does it feel less rigid and fixed?
You might think this feels preposterous because it defies common sense. I would say two things in response to that.
First, any idea that challenges the current paradigm will defy common sense because the current paradigm is what creates our common sense.
Second, as preposterous as it may sound, the idea that reality appears through our experience of it is the essence of Phenomenology as conceived by the German philosopher Edmund Husserl and became one of the most influential philosophies of the twentieth century.
Over the past few years I have been busy working with Wormhole Inquires like this and I have experienced in myself and seen in others the dramatic shifts in awareness that they lead to.
These shifts do not necessarily reveal the truth about reality, but they do expand our imagination and allow us to open to new possibilities for how reality might work.
If we keep opening ourselves in this way we will eventually fall into a new reality. It is inevitable.