Embedded in our philosophies & religions (and everyday thought) there is a core assumption, sometimes referred to as Plato’s ‘two worlds' theory. The theory states that there is a heavenly/spiritual/true/perfect realm of Being, hidden from view and/or far away.
This hidden world is separate from the world of Becoming—i.e. this world right here.
Here—the realm of bodies & plants & animals & sex & muck & mess—is seen in many traditions as the world of illusion—of maya, samsara, and original sin.
A better/truer world is assumed in secular traditions as well, though it is a different kind of heaven. In secular fields we are seeking a future-perfect state of physical, mental & emotional wellbeing. In secular heaven, we believe our memory will be highly functional, our traumas will be healed, our pain will be gone, we will never get angry…and our mind will be as still as a mountain lake.
If we look around here on earth, it seems totally reasonable that there should be another, aspirational world. I mean, what a mess this place is. It sure can’t be heaven. It can’t be right. An ideal (better) world seems a good idea. It could be pretty depressing to think that this is all there is.
However, once the concept of two worlds is accepted, it logically follows that the path of mental, emotional, & spiritual development means to (somehow) gain access to this other realm—to earn our way to spiritual or secular heaven—to this perfect, peaceful, balanced state of ‘bliss’ or ‘mindfulness,’ promised to us by the many honorees of this other world (priests, shamans, psychologists etc).
I see the idea of two worlds as causing so much of our confusion and heartache—so much searching & self violence. To spill the beans: I am profoundly averse to the idea of two worlds.
I am averse because this other world, this somewhere else is nothing more than a construct.
Or, as Paul Hedderman simply puts it, this other world is “What’s not happening.” And “What’s not happening” is not happening.
Nietzsche wrote a lot about this. He saw that the idea of another, better & truer world was disastrous, and he invited us to abolish the concept. This is part of what he meant by ‘God is dead’—an aspirational, separate concept of God/morality on-high was ‘anti-natural,’ among other hurtful things, and kept us from realizing our in-built ‘ubermensch.’
He said “The concepts ‘beyond’ and ‘real world’ were invented in order to depreciate the only world that exists-in order that no goal, no aim or task might be left for our earthly reality.”
But we called Nietzsche a nihilist and generally went clamoring back to believing in this better world, in “God” (the old school understanding of the term), terrified that without the concept of heaven we would turn to heathens and start killing one another (as if we don’t start wars over ideas of what a better world or truer God is!).
Let’s not believe the lynch mob for a second. Let’s be moral-less for a minute. Let’s be goal-less, without this other, aspirational place.
And let’s give the idea of one world some room to breathe.
What have mystics, contemplatives (and even modern neuroscientists & physicists) actually found, regarding whether there are one or two (or many) worlds? Let’s start with one of the big guys.
Jesus himself said ‘the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ He also said ‘I and my father are one’ (translation: I/Awareness/God & the son/matter/earth are one thing). (And P.S.—Why the fuck didn’t I hear this man’s actual words in church as a kid?)
Our physicists tell us that—yes—there are other so-called dimensions, other worlds. But they also tell us that these other dimensions are right here. Right next to the 3rd dimension. Not out of view, necessarily, at all.
We just need a different viewfinder, a wider lens.
Further, shamans, mystics and everyday folks (some who have meditated a bunch, taken plant medicine, had a near-death experience—or who were just sitting on a couch, laying on a floor or on a surgery table—see Eckhart Tolle, Byron Katie, Eben Alexander) say, very clearly, that the supposed ‘other world’ is just as real as this one and it is right here.
They report that this is it. That Oneness, for instance, is a fact. And even that angelic realms & geometric forms & light code (like the matrix) simply exist.
Right here. Right now.
There are countless individuals over the ages, and living today, who attest directly to the field of Oneness—the connectedness that has always been here, even if they didn’t always see it (I’ve spent 10 years looking into non duality personally and professionally—there are endless testimonies, and they are growing by the day!).
I understand the two worlds teaching. Because when you haven’t accessed something it feels far away. So you think you need a goal, a place to get to, and a guide to take you there. And you do need a guide. But not because the landscape is far away.
For the guides, it is hard to talk about non duality, about this other world that is not anywhere other than here. How does one point out to the fish that she is made of, and surrounded by, water…?
The other world is more like those 3d pictures in the 80s. The 3d image is in and amongst the 2d image. It was always there—we just needed to relax, to stop trying. Maybe when we stop trying to get to another world, we have the chance of rediscovering peace, freedom & health now.
There isn’t another world of perfect mental & emotional health that I as a therapist anoint you to. Nor can a spiritual teacher anoint you to the ‘spiritual’ realm.
As my teacher Kiran has said, ‘I don’t need to help you. I know you’re God.’
What a teacher or therapist can do is help you relax & open your mind and body—to receive the direct experience of Oneness/Stillness/God. You’re God now. This is God now. There is no other place (or time) that you will have earned your way to God, Mental Health, or whatever you deem the ultimate goal.
The concept ‘mental health’ drives me bonkers. In as sense, the mind can’t be ‘healthy.’ The mind exists in this split off world—the world that could be or should be—i.e. what’s not happening. How can I heal what isn’t happening? The word healing means returning to wholeness. Could it be that healing is a remembering of the wholeness…that we already are?
(Note: My definition of mind here is the chatty, mental narrator or ego-mind—the thought stream. I am not including the effortless thought that arises when we are embodied—this aspect of mind is creative, as well as useful for remembering, like, where the Thai place is on the way home. Embodied thoughts emerge from this world).
I’m tired of clients coming to me, exhausted from years of therapists and doctors trying to fix them, trying to get them to a a perfect idea of mental or physical health—all of it based on this other-world premise.
Rather, what’s happening right now is happening. It’s not supposed to be this other world. This world includes the wildness of mind. The pain in your body. Your rage. Your exhaustion. All of it.
Can we be with what’s happening? With what is? Just for a moment?
Because here is where we actually heal.
We want this other world. This perfect image of ourselves, our relationships, our bodies, our political system. And thus, like our deluded ancestors, we continue to start from war. War with what is. But we can’t get to peace, fulfillment, and connectedness by pursuing this other world.
Because this other world doesn’t exist.
We can’t get here from there.
Paul Hedderman holds online AA meetings & satsangs: zenbitchslap.com
See my Resources page for Kiran Trace, Eckart Tolle & Byron Katie. Eben Alexander’s NDE account is in his book ‘Proof of Heaven: A neurosurgeon’s journey into the afterlife’: http://ebenalexander.com
Check out Buddha at The Gas Pump, for 400+ interviews with spiritually awakening people: batgap.com