Is reality what we think it is? Since we all accept the existence of the material world, how could it possibly be the illusion Francisco describes to Mickey in Why is God Laughing? After all, rocks are solid, air sustains life, and the planet revolves on its axis. Yet these facts are not what the word ‘illusion’ refers to. A mystic and a materialist will both stub their toes if they kick a rock. But a mystic believes that the rock is a projection of a deeper reality, while a materialist believes that the rock is all there is – reality doesn’t go deeper than things. To a materialist, clouds and mountains are no more than things, their beauty being beside the point. A newborn baby is a thing, too, its humanity being equally besides the point. In a world of things, there is no room for a loving intelligence known as God who presides over creation and gives it meaning.
Yet on the path to joy you discover that meaning is the very basis of life. A baby is a thing only in the most superficial sense. In reality a baby is a field of infinite potential expressing the highest intelligence in Nature. I don’t think of this as a mystical belief, but as a truth that lies deeper than the surface picture – where life looks like a stream of random physical events. Meaning is born deep within. Spiritual optimism is also an inner experience. It is based on the love, beauty, creativity, and truth that a person discovers at the level of the soul.
Working with intuition
When you explore yourself on the inner plane, you are working with intuition. It’s a common misconception that intuition is at odds with science, but Einstein himself said that what separated him from atheists was that ‘they cannot hear the music of the spheres.’ In truth, science and spirituality both depend on intuition, for the greatest scientific discoveries are made through creative leaps, rather than by following a linear trail of established facts.
You use your intuition every day to confirm that you are alive, or that daisies are pretty, or that truth is better than a lie. The path to joy consists of making your intentions deeper and more accessible. Once my intuition tells me what it is to be alive, then I can explore what my life means, where it came from, and where it’s going. Fortunately, there is no force in the universe more powerful than intuition.
On the spiritual path you come to realize certain basic principles. As these principles unfold, reality shifts. Mere belief cannot transform the events around you, but realization can. It’s the difference between believing that you are blessed and actually observing the action of grace in the world.
As realization grows within you, there is no limit to what you may become; the only certainty is that you will be transformed. Here’s an example of what I mean:
There is always a reason to be grateful
The realization that there is always a reason to be grateful is an antidote to victimization. It establishes that you are seen and provided for. The more you notice the truth of this principle, the less you will believe that you are a victim.
Looking around, it’s obvious that life is orderly. A bee flies from flower to flower, eating and pollinating in accordance with a magnificent, ordered scheme. Millions of years of evolution have exquisitely matched bee and flower so that neither can exist without the other. Why, then, do we believe that our own lives can’t be effortlessly sustained? One major obstacle is that we see ourselves as victims. Our bodies are subject to aging and death. Accidents are unavoidable. Catastrophe and disaster looms just around the corner, controlled by a whimsical destiny. And simply imagining the terrible things that can happen to you brings as much suffering as the events themselves.
Being a victim is the logical result of being in constant danger. If God sustains us, then surely he must reverse this whole scheme of random accidents that puts everyone in peril. This is a tricky point, however, because we are also surrounded by abundance in Nature. Optimists point to our green earth overflowing with life, nourishment, and beauty. However, can a loving God really supply us with life’s good things one day and pain the next? Most people who feel grateful to God tend to deny that he is also responsible for disease, calamity, and death. Yet an all-knowing, all-powerful deity can’t be responsible for only part of what goes on. Either he sustains everything or nothing.
The way to escape from living under a God who brings pleasure one day and pain the next is to realize that God isn’t a person. We only call God ‘he’ because our minds resist thinking of God as a total abstraction. In truth, being total, God has to be abstract. You can’t wrap your mind around the All. Instead, we wrap our minds around the things we notice, and choose to believe in.
To the extent that you notice God in your life, acknowledge him with gratitude. God doesn’t need to be thanked – after all, he already has everything, including thanks. But by choosing gratitude you are selecting a benevolent aspect of the All on which you want to focus.
The purpose of gratitude is to connect yourself to a higher vision of life. You have the power to choose whether to activate the aspect of God that gives or the aspect that takes away. Whatever you pay attention to will grow. If you pay attention to those aspects of God that demonstrate love, truth, beauty, intelligence, order, and spiritual evolution, those aspects will begin to expand in your life. Bit by bit, like a mosaic, disparate fragments of grace will merge to form a complete picture. Eventually this picture will replace the more threatening one you have carried around inside you since infancy.
The external world claims to be real, but it, too, is an image created in consciousness and projected outward. Once you realize that you alone are the projector of reality, you will no longer be dominated by external events. You will correct the mistake that lies at the very root of victimization: a belief that the movie controls you, instead of the other way around.
From Why is God Laughing?, ©2009 by Deepak Chopra, published by Rider.