Although philosophy is purest when it seeks to penetrate ultimate existence, humanity today has relatively few theories of “being” to choose from in its quest to incorporate better answers to the question, “What is real?” Unsurprisingly, the Western world did not see an ontologist, or philosopher of “being”, for over two thousand years during the Dark Ages.
Humanity's historic failure to universally address the issues surrounding its existence is now evident in the gravity of the political, social, economic, environmental, and spiritual issues it is forced to face globally. The theory of self, discussed in detail in my book, God Without Religion, is largely concerned with infinite being, and so addresses every disciplined inquiry from that starting point. By the same token, its application in addressing today's issues has to be extracted from a recondite philosophy, which can be glimpsed in the following brief exposition of the involution or reversal of the four fundamental divisional misperceptions of infinite reality.
Reversal No. 1 The first fundamental misperception of reality lies in the localization of the sense of self. The theory of self provokes philosophers to investigate the point of origin of self-awareness which supports the phenomenon one might call "the self in the world." The inferential appearance of moving through the world by walking, swimming, driving, or even projecting mentally actually affirms an immobile sense of self, localized in a traveling physical or mental body.
As a result, the sense of self confuses a body-bound immobility, which gives rise to the sense of being mobile in the world, for its utter immovableness. As the misperception of body localization is reversed upon itself, the philosopher realizes that the self never moves, has never moved, nor will it ever move because there could never be any locale for it to move to or from. The divisional misperception of space gives rise only to a virtual mobility.
After prolonged self-study and the deconstruction of a self in motion, the localized sense of self collapses in upon itself and the intuition of its utter immovableness as the infinite substance of self expands. This reversal ultimately culminates in the overcoming of space, but on the more immediate level of the intellect, bestows the power to sacrifice the constricting sense of bodily individuation and a narrow identity with nations, holy lands, and other geographic locations.
Reversal No. 2 The second fundamental misperception of reality lies in the historicity of the world. By penetrating the myth of the historicity of the world, the theory of self first assists philosophers in realizing that history is of human, or mind construction, and as such is always a conventional human history, even if the eons before human beings existed are historicized. By extension, the history of the individuated sense of self, with its birth date, childhood, and family is also mythic.
This is not to say that past events did not happen or the artifacts of dinosaur bones and distant galaxies are fakes, but rather, they are all mythological constructs where knowledge of reality is concerned. Indeed, it is the very study of history that supplies us with innumerable examples of human beings succumbing to this fundamental misperception and spilling each others' blood in the name of a fictional identity whose foundation was rooted in an artificial past.
With the reversal of this misperception, the realization comes that adhering to a particular world identity – usually religious, political, and cultural in nature – is simply a case of confusing the world's nonexistence apart from the sense of self with the self's reality, and thus erroneously assigning reality to the world identity.
When this mistaken assignation of values reverses, the contemplator reassigns allegiance to the self. Then, to be in the "now" means not being present or mindful in the moment at hand, which is how it is popularly considered, but rather to intuit the world as the self, since only the self is "now."
The philosopher realizes that memories, in historicizing a past, attempt to fix a present while overtaking a future. Humans attempt to define a present by filtering artifacts through the senses and interpreting sense data with a mind dependent upon an assumed past and future. A future time is actually a past projected onto itself in an attempt to overtake the present.
The reversal of this fundamental misperception ultimately culminates in the overcoming of time, but on the more immediate level of the intellect bestows the power to sacrifice all historical identities narrowing the sense of self and distancing it from other individuated selves.
Reversal No. 3 The third fundamental misperception of reality lies in the division of phenomenal causation, prompting more than anything else, the fear of death. The certainty of human mortality is the last bastion of organized religion, for religion in the final analysis is the promise of surviving death. Belief minimizes the fear of death by sacrificing reason and embracing dogma, while materialism avoids the recollection of mortality, lest mortality exposes its folly. Belief is free to live the sense-bound life without fear of death, and similarly materialism spends life exclusively on the narrow identity without conscious fear of death.
The self so crippled, confuses the fear of death for the certainty of death. The body is certain to die, but the self can never know the vicissitudes of phenomenal life and death. So to have feared that which can never be known by the self or survived by the body, then reject the fear in favor of a life of obliviousness of death, invites the only death the self can know … narrowness.
Through the methods of the theory of self, the philosopher forsakes the forgetfulness of death in the mirage of religion and the oasis of materialism. Embracing, then reversing, the fear of death on itself by sublimating it into awesome concentrated inwardness, the philosopher mystically chases after death by practicing conscious death: pranayama or sense-introversion.
Instead of martyring life in the religious spirit of impotently ignoring death, the mystic martyrs the narrow sense of self through the inner sacrifice of pranayama-intuition, toppling all centralized worldly powers with their varied threats of death or presumptions of holding the key to eternal life. In the bodily "death" of breathless intuitive mysticism, the self's birthless and deathless existence is realized and fear of bodily death is overcome.
Reversing the fear of death ultimately culminates in the overcoming of phenomenal causation, but on the more immediate level of the intellect bestows the power to sacrifice constricting reliance on causal ideas that qualify the sense of self.
Reversal No. 4 The last fundamental misperception of reality might be called the first as well because while its reversal marks the end of the intellectual avenue to knowledge and the beginning of intuition, it is the first to be challenged. It lies in the baseline assumption that the senses can fathom reality, and is rightly called the divisional misperception of individuated self-awareness.
When the single intuitive avenue to knowledge splits into the currents of the senses, intellect, emotive heart, and will force, the objectification of the sensory world is confused for the reality of the sense of self. In tackling this misperception, the theory of self provokes a sense of being wherein the things of the world, including people, animals, plants, and earth, but also the three prior mind-based divisions of space, time, and phenomenal causation, are invited into the subject – which is the self of the philosopher – from where the subject identifies with the infinite substance of self having no division, no subjectivity, and no objectification of the world. After all, the world "was" merely itself as a finite idea, where "was" refers not to a past but to the eternal paradox of finite and nonfinite, which was called emptiness by the ancient pre-Buddhism Samkhya philosophers.
With the reversal of this misperception, sensory data, thoughts, feelings, instinctual drives, dreams, memories, space and time, ideas and divisionary substances, as well as past, present, and future are realized to be objectification's fragmentation of infinite substance. In isolation prior to all individuation, self-knowledge is realized as knowledge of infinite reality. The reversal of this misperception ultimately culminates in overcoming nescience, but on the more immediate level of the intellect, bestows the power to sacrifice constricting contact with sense objects. This marks the beginning of the inward mystical journey and progress toward the intuitive culmination of these four reversals.
In this abstruse form, the ultimate culminations of the four reversals have few practical applications because they are involved with primordials, the uttermost foundation of a phenomenal cosmos paradoxically emerging from infinite being. In a nutshell, they explain that the basis of the cosmos is the idea of ignorance, without which there could be no cosmos because the infinite self could then not play with the idea of its own individuation. Of course, the eternal paradox is emphasized when an infinite being, free of ignorance, sacrifices itself and succumbs to ignorance. It is due to this paradox that the theory of self does not finally remark on whether there is or is not a cosmos.
Either way, through this primordial sacrifice the cosmos "was" realized, setting throughout the cosmos the tone of self-sacrifice as the measure of spirituality, as the means to reverse ignorance, and as the method to involute finitude into infinitude. Maybe this is the reason why all the great stories of the world that touch our hearts involve self-sacrifice.
The happiness we all feel when we willingly sacrifice for others is allegedly a spark of the infinite bliss of the primordial sacrifice. Perhaps it is also because of our deep down desire for self-sacrifice that our intent can so easily be perverted when we sacrifice for the narrow identity fostered by narrow organized religions. In any case, it is ultimately in self-sacrifice in the spirit of expansion that identifying with others is exemplified.
According to an ancient mythic representation of the theory of self, the world would undergo blissful involution – the planetary play of individuation unable to continue – if too many of its inhabitants reversed the four fundamental misconceptions of reality. But since their ultimate reversal is theoretically possible for perhaps one out of hundreds of millions of human beings, extracting their practical relevance for us today will probably not threaten the earth's coherence.
If one were to articulate the lesson of the four reversals on a very basic level, one might say that human beings suffer from a case of mistaken identity, battling each other over physical and psychological desires while forgetting the eternal satisfaction in the intuitive knowledge that the whole cosmos rests on but an idea in the infinitude of their being. On a more mystical level, the individuated sense of self, tied to the body by breath, affirms body-identification with every breath; seeks its infinitude through finite patterns of awareness reflected in the breath rather than through the pattern of infinite intuition reflected in breathlessness; and places the breath of other beings in submission to its own breath, sometimes through extinguishing them.
In order for humanity to successfully address the issues it is facing today, human beings en masse can take up the task of asking, “What is real?,” applying the methods of the theory of self to come up with better answers than the answers they are living by today. As human beings take steps toward the reversal of the four fundamental divisional misperceptions of reality, thus expanding their sense of self, the spiritual tone of the world will improve. One by one, as the question, “What is real?” is taken to its farthest limits, people will exhaust the intellect's capacity to solve the riddle and begin to practice intuitive sense-introversion, which is to say looking within, as the ultimate form of inquiry.