The physical body
|The anatomy lesson, painting by Rembrandt. Image source: Wikipedia.|
If reality is a projection of mind – a collective dream – it follows that the body itself is a projection of mind. In an earlier article, I talked about the brain being a specific pattern in the flow of consciousness, which I compared to a whirlpool in a stream of water. One could thus see the rest of the body as the peripheral flow of consciousness that helps maintain the specific pattern we call the brain. As such, it is consciousness that 'does' the body through imagining it. Continuing on with exploring the implications of this hypothesis, upon my physical death my consciousness will stop 'doing' my body. Indeed, one could even define physical death as the process by which an individual and (partially) differentiated conscious point-of-view of Mind stops imagining its respective physical body. Yet, a corpse will stay behind, at least for a limited amount of time. How is that possible? If my mind stops imagining my physical body, why doesn't the latter instantly vanish with a 'puff'?
Carl Jung recounted two dreams he had, in which it became clear to him that his empirical self – that is, his body and ego – were imagined by his true, unconscious Self. In the first dream, he saw a UFO in the sky that looked like a magic lantern. It sped through the sky and stopped about sixty or seventy yards away, pointing straight at him. Jung recounts (in Memories, Dreams, Reflections, page 355): "I awoke with a feeling of astonishment. Still half in the dream, the thought passed through my head: 'We always think that U.F.O.s are projections of ours. Now it turns out that we are their projections. I am projected by the magic lantern as C. G. Jung. But who manipulates the apparatus?'" In an earlier work titled Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Sky, Jung had postulated that UFOs were psychological projections whose round, triangular, or lenticular shape represented the archetype of the Self – that is, our true, whole, integrated personality (often called the "Higher Self" in spirituality circles). Therefore, the dream suggested to Jung that his body and ego were projections of his true Self.
In another dream, he was hiking in the hills when he chanced upon a wayside chapel. He went in and saw a yogi in deep meditation. When he came closer, he realized that the yogi had his own face; the yogi was himself. He then awoke with the following thought (Memories, Dreams, Reflections, page 355): "'Aha, so he is the one who is meditating me. He has a dream, and I am it.' I knew that when he awakened, I would no longer be." Yet, when the yogi awoke, on 6 June 1961, Jung's body was left behind in our empirical world. Who was meditating that into existence?
Alan Watts explained the underlying intuition here in a very cogent and concise manner. He wrote in The Book On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are, page 79: "The death of the individual is not disconnection but simply withdrawal. The corpse is like a footprint or an echo – the dissolving trace of something the Self has ceased to do." Watts is right on. Yet, his explanation leaves one question open: If the corpse is an echo of something the Self is no longer imagining, where is it echoing? What is the medium where the dissolving traces of an image no longer imagined still reverberate?
Perhaps it reverberates in the minds of those still in the dream. You see, when many minds (in the sense of many points-of-view of Mind) contribute to a collective dream, the images being dreamed-up acquire a special kind of 'momentum' associated to their sharing across minds, as I discussed in Dreamed up Reality; they seem to gain a life of their own, independent of any individual mind. Such momentum prevents sudden discontinuities from arising in the dreamed-up storyline. This may actually explain why the 'puffing' of things in and out of existence only happens at the microscopic, quantum level – well-away from our conscious awareness – and not at the level of tables, chairs, and people. So when a person's Self stops imagining the person's body, the image of the body persists as an echo in the minds of all other people still partaking in the collective dream of physical reality, so there is continuity in their storylines. Still, as any echo, the body image dies out slowly but inexorably, for its main sustaining force – the coherence continuously imparted on it by the imagination of its own Self – has withdrawn, leaving the body image at the mercy of entropy.
As an image, the corpse is part of those who stay, not of the one who departed.