Images. . . . What are images? None of our religions asks us to look into images, which would be a shift of consciousness. Instead, our religions reinforce our images. So, what are images, and why do we create them? More importantly, why do we then use images to direct our lives, instead of using reality? Is it because living in reality, rather than in images, would require a shift in consciousness in human beings?

So one may ask, why should I, as an individual, take the trouble to shift my consciousness? If you are a Hindu, you have been taught to worship Brahma, the creator of all reality, or Vishnu, the preserver of all of the creations, or Shiva, the destroyer. And as a Hindu, you find a tremendous source of security and peace in that. It is the one thing that you can count on when the going gets tough. Your Gods will cover your back.

Or maybe you are a Christian who found Jesus as a teen-ager, and the experience has changed your life, and you live for him now. If you are a Muslim, Allah is all-powerful, and the only one that you believe in. A Buddhist will follow the Buddha's teachings, without interest in other religions.

4,000 different religions, 4,000 different beliefs, and when we find life on another planet, we will find these same needs being met by their deities as well. It's a human requirement that doesn't change, except for the images, And these images become more than images. In our minds, they become our realities.

Images are short cuts. An image is a memory of something. When we see something familiar, we transpose our memory onto it, as an image. Then, we don't have to go to the trouble to vet it all over again. For example, we see a friend, and immediately, subconsciously, all our memories about that friend flash past and we no longer see our friend, we see the image of our friend based on our memory, which we transpose onto the reality of our friend standing there. We do this for efficiency, as well as security. We don't look at our friend anew each time we see him or her, we depend on our past, accumulated experiences to suffice.

Even when our friend changes, as she or he will, we keep our same images, because that is our security; that is our comfort level. How many mothers visit their sons or daughters in prison, who may have committed heinous crimes, and don't see the reality of the situation. They instead superimpose their memories of when times were different, unable to accept the reality of what is happening now.

We don't like things to change on us, so in order to keep things the same; we rely on images to retain our status quo, our security. And when we finally have to face the fact that our friend has moved on from the image that we have of him or her, we feel that they have somehow let us down, but actually, we have let ourselves down with dead images, while the reality of life has moved on.

Psychologists gets caught up in these images, reliving and working with their patient's childhood memories, trying to understand them and release the pent up emotion and suppressed guilt. But this is being obsessed with memories and thoughts, similar to trying to lose weight, yet being obsessed with food, playing with food, measuring it, thinking about it, . . . torturing yourself. A shift in consciousness would see through all of these images and see the reality of what is happening now. The past has nothing do with now. Thinking that the past dictates you reactions and actions now is a cop out. And seeing the truth of this is a shift in consciousness, which is a sanity, an acceptance of responsibility.

Religion gets caught up in images as well. The Buddha, Christ, God, Brahma, Allah, Jehovah, Ha Shem – all create images in our minds. Take a moment to look at this now, while you are reading this article. What are the pictures that arise in your mind when these are mentioned: Buddha, . . . Christ, . . . God, . . . Allah. These are images. This is what you think about when you pray; a statue that someone carved, a painting someone created. Someone else's ideas of what Buddha, or what Christ looked like. What image have you settled on?

A shift in consciousness is investigating where these images come from. Are they real? If they are only images, what is real? What image do you hold to, so tightly, because you feel so incomplete in yourself? Perhaps so incomplete that you need something to depend upon? This is an important question, because as long as you have an image of yourself, which is in opposition to the image of your deity, there will be what is called duality - you here, the deity there - setting up a conflict, and when we are in conflict, we are stressed.

A shift in consciousness reveals why you are so dependent upon a heavenly partner. It is because you believe the image that you have created about yourself. Actually, all that you are is an image, and you know that fundamentally. This is a fact, and it creates insecurity because the mind knows subconsciously that what it has concocted is not real, which is your "self." But the secret remains hidden in the surface conscious. It is a conscious image that instills insecurity, which is then mollified by belief in an imaginary heavenly image that will take care of you. One image taking care of another. This could be called insanity.

A shift in consciousness will bring all these things to the surface so that we can understand them, so that we can become normal, or sane. It is quite insane to kill each other over these images of heavenly beings that we have created in our minds, but that is exactly what we do with our religious wars, and they continue even today. A new consciousness would dismiss all of this as an ignorance of what is real.

Politics become insane because it is easier to go to idealistic extremes of the Right or Left rather than view each issue with equanimity. Why do we do this? Again, it is because of images, the image we have of our self; an image that we must be reinforced and built up every moment. To agree that our opponent is correct tears down this image of our self, which is a false, insane image that creates the fantasy that have some kind of omnipotent power, and cannot accept it when our false image is torn down, just as we cannot accept the fact that some people believe that their deity is truer or greater than ours.

This is how clannish insecurity works, how idealism works; a blanket that smothers all sense of sanity and covers any hope of unconditional understanding. Only winning is important, not harmony. Aggressiveness, ambition, greed, hatred and delusion all rule. This is the basis of people becoming unbalanced to the extent that they lie, steal, cheat, and kill each other. This is true insanity.

A shift in consciousness is a shift, not in our individual consciousness, but a shift that opens up the mind to the possibility that individual consciousness is only an image. Once this shift occurs, which brings the subconscious into the conscious; then sanity is possible.

Until then, . . . well, just look around at our planet. How are we treating each other? Something isn't working, and hasn't been for a long time. Is it our politics, our religions, our images?

Actually, we have gotten away with our insanity for a long time now; we have been very lucky. The Cuban missile crisis was close. Now, however, we find ourselves on the verge of the complete destruction of humanity, because of increasingly strident images of nationalism, and a determination never to give in. Who wins an insane nuclear war?

That answer may be forthcoming.

Author's Bio: 

E. Raymond Rock of Fort Myers, Florida is cofounder and principal teacher at the Southwest Florida Insight Center, His twenty-nine years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents, including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Theravada Buddhist monk. His book, A Year to Enlightenment (Career Press/New Page Books) is now available at major bookstores and online retailers. Please visit