Are we living within a simulation? Some answers

A popular topic today1 is whether we live in a Matrix-like simulation or not2.

As usual, there are several answers.

AN EXISTENTIAL QUESTION?

If we take ourselves as primarily this human self or something else within the content of experience, then it becomes a vital and existential question. It becomes a matter of what we most fundamentally are.

Whether we’ll ever be able to find an answer is another question. I somehow doubt it.

OUR NATURE IS THE SAME IN EACH CASE

If we take ourselves as primarily what our experience happens within and as, it may still be an interesting question but it’s not existential in the same way.

Our nature is the same anyway, whether it’s a simulation or not.

To myself, I am what the field of experience happens within and as. To myself, I am consciousness, and this consciousness forms itself into any content of experience.

THE SIMULATION IS ALREADY HAPPENING

As many point out: we already live within a simulation.

The consciousness I am forms itself into any and all content of experience. It creates a simulation of the world, and that simulation is all I ever know.

Said in a more limited and biological way, the brain takes sensory input and creates its world. We never experience the world directly. We experience a kind of synthesis created by our brain based on very limited sensory information.

A POINTER TO OUR NATURE

Do we live within a Matrix-like simulation?

To me, what’s most interesting and useful about that question is that it can serve as a pointer to our nature.

Everything we know may be a Matrix-like simulation. We may not fundamentally be humans at all. That is a very real possibility.

In either case, we know that the world we experience – including this human self – is created as a kind of simulation by the consciousness we are. (Or the brain if we like more biological language.)

What does that say about what we more fundamentally are? This helps us open the door for the possibility that we are not fundamentally this human self or anything within the content of experience, including a doer or observer.

So what are we, more fundamentally?

At a thought level, we may realize that what we are is consciousness – independent of any particular content of experience.

That may lead us to explore it in direct noticing, and explore how it is to live from and as it, and also getting and living from it more viscerally.

MAKING USE OF THE QUESTION

Questions like these can remain an intellectual curiosity. Something we cannot find any conclusive answers to, and they may seem removed from and irrelevant to our daily lives.

I prefer to make practical use of these questions. I know I cannot know the answer to whether I live in a Matrix-like simulation, and it doesn’t matter so much. Other sides of that question are more important to me. For instance, it’s a pointer to and reminder of my more fundamental nature.

DIFFERENT VARIATIONS

I should mention that there are different variations of this question.

For instance, when Chuang Tzu asked his question about butterflies and dreams, he pointed to our nature as consciousness. Night dreams and waking life both happen within and as the consciousness we are to ourselves.

When some today use the Matrix analogy and computer simulations, that’s a more updated version specific to our times and culture. It likely says more about us today than the nature of our world. And it too can be used to point to our more fundamental nature. (I suspect the Wachowski siblings were quite aware of that when they made the movie.)

(1) Among the few of us privileged enough to have the life and relative comfort to consider these things. Most people around the world have more immediate and important things to take care of.

(2) I regularly see articles on this topic even in mainstream media. The most recent one is from NRK in Norway: Flere anerkjente fysikere: Mener det er sannsynlig at vi lever i et dataspill (Several physicists say it’s likely we live in a computer game).

Image by me and Midjourney

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Upanishads: Who sees all beings in her own self and her self in all beings, looses all fear

Who sees all beings in her own self and her self in all beings, looses all fear.

Upanishads

As usual, we can see this in a couple of different ways.

THE WORLD IS MY MIRROR

As a human being, the world is my mirror.

I can take whatever story I have about anyone or anything, turn it to myself, and find genuine examples of how it’s true. I can explore this systematically, for instance through The Work of Byron Katie. In this sense, I can find all beings in myself.

Similarly, whatever I know from myself, I can see or imagine in others, at the very least as a potential. I can see myself in all beings.

HAPPENING WITHIN AND AS WHAT I AM

In one sense, I am this human being in the world. But is it what I more fundamentally am, in my own immediate experience?

When I take a closer look, I find that the world to me happens within my sense fields.

And beyond this, the world to me happens within and as what I am.

I find that my nature is capacity for the world as it appears to me, and the world happens within and as what I am.

I can explore this and get a direct taste of it through Headless experiments, the Big Mind process, and other forms of inquiry.

All beings and any content of experience happens within what I am. To me, all beings happen within this Self.

And since they happen within and as what I am, I see my Self in all beings. To me, all beings and all of the world has the same nature as this Self.

LOOSES ALL FEAR?

I am not sure why this quote focuses on loosing fear. Why single that out when this transforms us in so many other ways? Perhaps it makes sense in the context? Or is it a marketing strategy?

We may still have normal functional fear, for instance if we are about to fall from something high.

And the fear driven by emotional issues may indeed fall away, at least to the extent these emotional issues are transformed within this seeing.

We may notice what we are, keep noticing through different situations, and explore how to live from it. And many parts of us may still operate from separation consciousness, unloved fear, and unexamined fear-generating stories. These parts of us need to join in with the noticing, and transform within this noticing, and that can take intention and some time.

TRUE WITH SOME CAVEATS

The quote is accurate enough, in my experience.

Recognizing the world as my mirror reduces fear created by unexamined beliefs. Beliefs require duality to exist, so when we recognize the same out there and in here, they tend to soften and may even fall away.

Finding that the world, to me, happens within and as what I am does the same. It tends to dissolve unloved and unexamined fear.

The caveat is that this doesn’t happen all at once. We may have many fear-inducing beliefs that need examination. We may have many parts of us operating from separation consciousness and unloved fear.

Examining these beliefs, and inviting the different parts of us to join in with the noticing, is a process.

I suspect it’s a lifelong process. There will always be more coming up.

And that’s not wrong or bad. It’s a fascinating process.

Note: I changed “him” to “her” in the quote, just to balance it out a bit. We have had patriarchical civilizations for long enough.

Image: Three Pujarins by Jamini Roy

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Why I typically don’t refer to the vagus nerve, quantum physics, or other popular topics from science

I rarely refer to the vagus nerve, quantum physics, or other popular topics from science in these articles.

Why? If I love science and have spent a good amount of time exploring these and other topics, why don’t I refer more to it when I write here? (For instance, in my teens and twenties, I read everything I could find about the connection between quantum physics and spirituality/philosophy.)

One reason is that our understanding of these topics is very specific to our time and place.

The content of science always changes. The way we think about the vagus nerve and quantum physics today will likely be outdated in a few years or decades, and even more so in a few centuries.

Similarly, our understanding of these topics is very incomplete. We are only seeing fragments of a bigger picture.

Some current views on quantum physics may tie in with some insights from perennial spirituality, and that may quickly change as we understand quantum physics differently in the years ahead. And the vagus nerve is probably important for regulating our nervous system and our system in general, and it’s only one small piece of a much larger dynamic whole.

It doesn’t mean that these topics are not important. I love that people are studying and thinking about it, and share their findings and reflections with the rest of us. That’s the beauty of science, and it benefits me and society as a whole.

When I write here, I do reference what I have picked up from science in my mind. I check if what I write fits or not. (Just as a mentally reference and check with what I have heard people say about healing, awakening, and so on.) But I won’t refer to it explicitly for the reasons mentioned here.

I prefer to focus on what seems a bit more timeless.

And I am very aware that the way I see and talk about this too inevitably reflects my own time and culture.