What Is the Invisible World?

Expanding Our Experience of Being Alive

A Turn in the Road

We are coming to a turn in the road.

Up until now, what we have written about is generally compatible with our cultural notions of reality. There has been little here that others might take exception to. We are now entering an arena that is outside our cultural paradigm of reality. There will be points where we blatantly challenge some of our traditional ideas about reality.

We want to slow down here to point out the nature of this turning point.

Our Cultural Paradigm of Reality

Our current picture of reality has been fueled by our fascination with Newtonian Science. Our outer world has been portrayed as like a giant ticking clock which runs in a consistent, predictable way. Our job, as a race of people, is to understand all aspects of this mechanism so that we might live in harmony with the laws of nature.

To that end, we have extensively explored the outer world around us. We have also studied the body and the various systems that make up the body. Now, with the developments of sequencing the human genome, we are on the precipice of being able to design future bodies. Some people even prophesy overcoming the death of the physical body. All of this is focused on the outer world and the body.

Which brings us to consciousness. There has not been a lot of thought given to consciousness until recent work in Neuroscience and the brain. Consciousness was simply a fixed aspect of who we are. But this is changing. We now know there are different forms of consciousness. These different forms expand our understanding of the experience of being alive.

And that is what we want to explore in this series of articles.

Recent research in Neuroscience has revealed that there are more forms of consciousness than we first thought. Consciousness is more than just “me” and the outer world around me. There is more to being human than the self, the body and the outer world.

Are We Studying Consciousness or Experience?

Consciousness is the experience of being alive. The study of consciousness is also the study of human experience. But can we tease these apart and look at them separately? Can we say: this is consciousness and that is experience?

How do we know that we are alive? The traditional answer is: consciousness or awareness. The answer to this question is now becoming more complex.

Neuroscience has now differentiated 3 forms of consciousness. Each form has its own distinct pattern of brain activity. Each form relates to its own specific kind of experience of life. These forms of consciousness are:

  • sentiency: our experience of an outer world using our 5 senses. Sentiency gives us what we think of as objective reality.
  • self-awareness: our experience of being a separate, autonomous self. Self-awareness gives us subjectivity.
  • universal consciousness: gives us the experience of an impersonal, transcendent reality.

3 forms of consciousness; 3 identified patterns of brain activity.

But these 3 forms of consciousness do not explain all that we experience in life. Where does creativity come from? Where do love, awe and wonderment come from? Where do intuition and instinct fit into this picture? They don’t.

Our model of consciousness is incomplete.

What is missing? The experience of the inner world.

Recently I was skimming through Susan Blackmore’s Consciousness: An Introduction. This a comprehensive overview of the field of consciousness study. In it I came across a very startling statement:

the inner world is the ultimate challenge for us to understand.

Apparently, scholars have avoided talking about the inner world. And for good reason: we have no vocabulary to use, no models to describe it and no theories about what it is. There is even some argument that an inner world per se actually exists. (Nobody told me before I started writing this.) We are entering uncharted waters. There is no agreement that such a place actually exists. There is no agreement on what it is or where it is. We are entering a no-man’s land of consciousness study.

The inner world is not a place — it is a set of experiences.

The inner world is much more than our personal realm. Our personal realm sits in the overlap of our inner and outer worlds. It partakes of both worlds. (This is illustrated by the 3Realms Venn diagram on this website.)

The personal realm is the experience of being “me”. But “me” is not the inner world. The inner world is something that “me” experiences.

Our inner world is unique to us but not always personal to us. That is, the inner world is more than just our subjective interpretation of own experience.

The inner world is not an actual place. The term “inner world” refers to a range of inner experiences. To understand the inner world, we have to understand the nature of these experiences.

The Personal Realm is not the Inner World

It is important to distinguish between our personal realm and our inner world.

The personal realm is where we deal with all aspects of our personal history. Broadly speaking, our personal realm has a two-point focus:

  1. Am I happy?
  2. Am I effective in my work and my relationships with others?

The personal world is very self-involved. This is where we sort out our life and gain a sense of control—not over our outer life—but how we react to our outer life in our personal life.

The inner world is, in part, a portal through which we move. These are experiences we cannot have in the outer world. Some experiences take us out beyond the body and even open us up to the vastness of the universe.

We are ushered into new spheres which lie beyond the realm of our 5 senses and the outer world. These experiences expand our understanding of reality. They also expand our understanding of what it is to be human.

Different kinds of experience in the inner world might be thought of as different domains. Each domain offers its own unique experience of life. Each domain has a particular way that it works with us and helps us. Some types of experience are associated with specific parts of the body, like the gut or the heart. (See The Consciousness of Feeling.)

The Inner World Has a Different Consciousness

The inner world does not exist until we experience it. It is the experience itself which brings the inner world into existence. It is through the consciousness of feeling that our inner world comes into being.

The outer world exists independent of our experience of it. The inner world is just the opposite. The inner world comes into being only as a result of our experiencing it.

The inner world comes to us via the consciousness of feeling. Feeling, as we are using the term, is another form of consciousness. Feeling is the consciousness of receptivity. (See The Consciousness of Feeling.)

The Fear of the Inner World

Some years ago, I was driving in my car and listening to the radio. I was listening to a talk show with a person who had conducted research on what we humans fear most. High on this list of fears was the experience of the inner world. I almost drove off the road!

The inner world is a solo experience. To some people, the idea of closing our eyes and turning our attention inward is both a bazaar and frightening.

I have spent many years in meditation and the quiet of our inner space. I know how refreshing and comforting it can be to hang out in the inner word. It is the safest place we can be. The idea that this experience might be fearful never occurred to me. But the more I pondered it the easier it became to see how people might fear this. Our culture has never acknowledged that it exists. Nor has it understood the benefits we receive from spending time in the inner world.

I suspect a lot of the fear comes from mistaking the inner world for the personal realm. The personal realm harbors unconsciousness thoughts, emotions and beliefs which stem from our childhood experiences. There is often a lot of pain associated with the unconscious. Fear of the unconsciousness is reasonable. We need more education to help people understand the variations of experience in the inner world.

We need to be able to distinguish our personal realm from the inner realm. If we have not yet done the inner work that is needed by most of us to clear out unconsciousness and sub-conscious blocks to our happiness, then indeed we may encounter some discomfort when we go inside.

This is why it is important to differentiate the personal realm and the inner realm. The inner realm is safe for us to enter. The same cannot always be said of the personal realm. Some people want to keep their pain and shame hidden.

The inner world opens up new aspects of our experience of being alive. Our culture has looked at some of this. People have studied how the creative process works. Others have looked at intuition. The Chinese have studied energy systems of the body. Meditation and mindfulness have become popular today. All of these are part of the broad category we call the “inner world”.

Consciousness is more diverse and varied than we first thought. What we are calling the “inner world” is a way to give some form and depth to the expanded realities our consciousness reveals.

Let’s begin our exploration of the inner world.

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