Breaking Out of the Prisons of the Mind
In the popular, often quoted, science fiction movie blockbuster, The Matrix, the main character Neo goes through a labyrinth of experiences that makes him question the nature of reality. Toward the end of the first movie, a child prodigy that can bend spoons with his mind looks to Neo, and says, “The trick is, there is no spoon. You bend your mind to the reality around the spoon, not the spoon itself.”
What allows Neo to make advances that no one ever has, thus making him The One, is that he is able to fully grasp that in this holographic world that people are plugged into, none of the rules are real and can be bent to one’s will. Most of the characters in the Matrix, even when they find out that what they thought of reality was a computer-generated fantasy, are unable to convince their minds that all of the rules of physics can be bent. The characters all put pre-set limitations on consciousness on themselves.
We all put pre-set limitations on our minds in terms of what is possible. These chains of the mind are the main limiting factor in what we allow to be possible in our spell-craft, psychic skills, and mystical belief. Many of these pre-sets are unconscious. These limitations are based on definitions of reality and morality that were imposed upon us during our formative years. Those limitations of upbringing may have been imposed by our parents, education (including current scientific, psychological, religious, theological, and philosophical theories) , peer pressure, and societal expectations.
Hard sciences such as physics, biology, and mathematics, as well as soft sciences such as psychology, sociology, and anthropology help us to make determinations about how the world works and how we fit into that world. In fact, the word to define can be iterated in several ways, such as: to determine or fix the boundaries or extent of, to make clear the outline or form of, and to identify the essential qualities of. Words and language, as well as science, use forms of categorization to create containers of thought to understand the essence of ideas and how things work. A container (whether through definitions or even a glass holding water) contains, creates boundaries, and also limits movement into other shapes. This means that in order to learn a system of categorization or any field of study, you must limit the rules in which you are able to think about something. This can be helpful as long as we also allow ourselves to be cognizant that we are also limiting the possibilities.
An important aspect of the work of a witch is to be consciously aware of the choices we make, including what we choose to believe in. Galileo posited that the world was round based on his studies. This idea was so outside of what society, driven by the church, had said was truth, which he was considered a heretic and was incarcerated. Yet, we are taught that the world is round currently in grade schools, where in every classroom there is a globe. If someone were to walk into a classroom, throw the globe out the window, and demand that we believe the world was flat, we would either stare incredulously, or just laugh. Yet, hundreds of years ago, “societal truth” was just the opposite. We see this battle of wills going on right now with the evolution vs. creation theory struggle. Both sides of this coin cannot even fathom that the other side is “right” or is speaking truth based on what they hold as core beliefs.
We easily get hung up on words. Those coming from very religious backgrounds can find that, even while exploring alternative religious options, they may hold onto the core beliefs of what is real and what is false based on what was taught to them as children. For example many find that they still have firmer literal belief in theological constructs such as the Christian Trinity than they do when engaging the stories commonly put into the category of mythology. A way to unlearn a biased belief is to also categorize the Judeo-Christian stories as mythology as well. Mythology then becomes a set of religious, archetypal allegories, rather than equating the word myth to mean tall tale or fiction. In this way, you start to work with both the underlying archetypal and psychological themes of all myths equally. This will help foster the development of relationships with the spiritual entities, i.e. the Gods, which are the characters described in these stories. Myths can act as keys to accessing spiritual entities, but without the possibility of considering these entities as real, you shut the door to direct mystical experience.
The same goes for so called mythological beings. Many have memories of seeing ghosts and faeries as a child, and yet, through the process of growing into adulthood, shut down psychic sight in order to let go of childish things and grow up. This process shoves the existence of etheric creatures into the realm of imagination, thus closing off the door to the possibility of them being real. When we shut down what is possible, our brains do a great job of closing off our perceptions to be able to process information from such things that we consider impossible. A good example of this would be several of the Native American tribes could not see the ships of the conquistadors anchored off shore and in fact, saw only the row boats that ferried the men to shore. It was as if the rowboats appeared out of the misty horizon, literally out of nowhere. They had to be shown several times where to look and keep concentrating in order to see the larger ships in the distance because it was outside of what they their normal scope (read container) of reality.
We are much like these tribes, in that we have shut the latches on the portholes of reality and the portholes of our third eyes that we have to experience the Mysteries repeatedly over time in order to retrain our minds to bend to the point that we can then start to engender new ways of thinking. A definition of a greater Mystery is that which cannot be put into words and can only be understood through experience. We tenaciously cling to the familiar and only change what we believe when there is enough stress on the old system that it no longer can function in the past paradigm without causing us too much dissonance to cope.
Furthermore, metaphysics will never fit within the container of the bounds of scientific research. The scientific method uses a very narrow set of rules in order to observe phenomenon. Because science requires quantifiable variables, it will never be able to explain the nature of that which is beyond physics—the very definition of meta-physics. (Aristotle first coined the term metaphysics as the title to a book that he wrote as the sequel to the book titled Physics) . If we use the same sets of rules that we use in the scientific dissection in the study of the Mysteries and metaphysics, the adage, “if it isn’t dead when you start dissecting it, it will be by the time you are finished, ” will apply. Metaphorically, if we use enough of the analytical scalpel to narrowly categorize a mystical experience in our attempt to define it, we will cut the threads of connection to the spirit behind any mystical experience.
This is the case specifically because our minds are mostly disallowing us to engage in experiences that we had previously believed to be false or imaginary. It is indeed difficult to think outside the box! In anthropology, it is considered a sad fate when a scientist “goes native” or starts to believe in magick and the mythologies of the culture he or she is studying. It makes the anthropologist no longer a logical, observer, but a subjective participant in the culture. When this happens, the anthropologist is tapped into the group mind of the subject culture enough that he or she starts to get internal validation of the efficacy of the experiences of that culture.
Belief is therefore, in some ways, a matter of faith. Faith means the willingness to allow for the possibility of beliefs that are not based in provable science. This idea does not equate to blind faith however. In the craft you are not told to believe in something that you think is false and take it based solely on a book or someone else’s word. Faith in this case is the wiliness to open your mind to the possibility that reality is more and different than the box in which you have previously held your beliefs. When you start to allow your mind to let down the defining bars of the prison of what you hold real, possible, or even allowed, you start to experience more of the mystical, that which can only be proved by personal experience rather than through scientific method.
Our society wants us to stay within very narrowly defined limits of what is possible, what is moral, and what is proper. Any time that you have an immediate gut reaction to something, anthropology teaches that chances are you are having a societal driven conditioned response. Such responses can be signposts to open your awareness. Ask yourself, “Why am I having this response? Do all people in the world feel this way? When did I first feel this way?”
Anthropology has shown over and over again that, for the most part, gut responses do not carry through to all cultures. TV and mass media of all sorts, political parties, religions, and ethnic groupings all proscribe ways for proper living. We hear constant messages about how to follow the American dream, how to be good citizens, and most importantly how to be good consumers, to keep the engine of the societal system running smoothly. Not only are people in power motivated to stay in power, but also societies are built in order to uphold the status quo and discourage its members, to use the previously mentioned allegory, from metaphorically waking up from the Matrix and see the underlying (metaphysical) nature of the system itself.
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