Can all World Problems be traced back to our illusory sense of separation?
I was chatting my social psychology professor during one of the Meet Your Prof events that the Psychology Society would host at my university. He told me that research has shown that the easiest way to determine if someone is a narcissist is to just ask them. They’ll answer truthfully, and the reason why is most likely because our society is designed for narcissists to thrive.
Our society shows us that the way to happiness is to have outward success. Success for most people is a good career and good relationships. That’s all well and good, until we realize that there’s a limited supply of good careers and that the dating game is packed with competition. Uh oh, now all of a sudden reality consists of a win-or-lose paradigm, where some people are winning and happy, and others are losing and unhappy.
Our leading psychologists and thinkers actively lead us towards this competition-based thinking with their ideas. Jordan Peterson is arguably the world’s most influential thinker, and his book “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos’” first chapter essentially says that our emotions are determined by our neurochemistry, which tracks whether we’re winning or losing in life. It doesn’t take much to start interpreting this as valid reasoning behind a conqueror mentality. I bet Genghis Khan’s serotonin levels were high as shit.
Richard Dawkins’s “The Selfish Gene” validates our psychological tendency to create in-group out-group bias. In-group out-group bias is a psychological used to describe the tendency for humans to identify with one group, and de-empathize with another group. If the the natural world’s first and foremost motivation is the survival and reproduction of our genes, then of course we would rather stand up for those that are from the same geographic location as us, same culture, nationality, and who have the same skin color, features, type of hair and eyes as us. The title literally has the word selfish in it, and the philosophy can once again lead to narcissistic style thinking.
In-group out-group bias occurs over the most trivial of things. In 1968, Jane Elliott conducted research by dividing her class into blue-eyed people and brown-eyed people. One day, she told the class that the blue-eyed people were superior, and it resulted in the brown-eyed people getting bullied, ostracized, and overall hostility and verbal aggression between the two groups. The next day, she told the class that the brown-eyed people were superior and the results were the exact same, except this time with the roles switched. This highlights how the perception of the other is largely an illusion that can arise out of extreme trivialities and how any form of separation can easily create conflict and aggression.
So the question becomes, does it have to be this way?
Well, that depends on if we can ever overcome this innate perception of separation that we are born with.
Research is very avid in two fields that are relevant to this topic right now.
The first is consciousness hacking research. I’m not overly familiar, with this kind of research, but to my understanding the gist of it entails plugging various types of shit into your brain and doing other such things that will give you altered states of consciousness. This is important because it will show people what a reality filled with innate, non-dual connection feels like, and will increase motivation towards achieving similar states through sober-minded, consistent meditation practice.
The second line of research that is popping right now is psychedelics. This is also extremely relevant. Many avid meditators get into it after a psychedelic experience, which can be a quick and effective tool to open your eyes up to another dimension of life. Sam Harris’s 10+ year adventure in India arose as a result of taking MDMA with a friend from university. This has now resulted in giving the world Waking Up, one of the most popular meditation apps out there.
There’s also a movement going on right now called the Pragmatic Dharma movement. This movement seeks to make insight into non-duality, also known as enlightenment, as scientific, logical and rational as possible. Culadasa's, the author of “The Mind Illuminated”, one of the most popular meditation guides out there, has seen that his meditation center is attracting the right kind of people and producing more tangible results (results literally being tangible progress towards enlightenment or enlightenment itself) because the modern western scientific mind is less likely to fall into dogmatic thinking, and therefore more likely to have a smooth journey towards the various stages of insight that lead to enlightenment.
The Buddha wrote (in one of the ancient Buddhist texts, not sure which one) that the process of enlightenment should take about 7 years, from start to finish. If you meditate 2 hours a day, are mindful throughout the day, and have a 10–30 day retreat once a year, I do believe 7 years is a reasonable time.
The capital E doesn’t need to be realized for you to start experiencing insights into non-duality, and seeing how reality really is. The process of meditation will show you that we are innately connected, and you will at least intellectually understand reality from a different point of view. This in and of itself can already begin to alleviate feelings of separation, with chips away at the various political, social, and other issues associated (basically all of them).
When enough people wake up to the true nature of reality, culture itself will fundamentally change. When we realize that we are innately connected, many of our “problems” will have no choice but to disappear.
To get even deeper, imagine a world where children are taught meditation. If meditation is taught at an early age, meditational progress will flower much easier. We tend to learn and maintain the things we learn easier if we learned them at an early age, so why should it be any different for meditation?
Perhaps we are at a time of fundamental change in the world. I’m someone who has gone back and forth with this idea of the great awakening, because I like to keep my wits about me. However, if philosophy and logic are on my side, there’s no resistance anymore.
Perhaps John Lennon was right. It’s easy if you try.