A fictional exploration

Bill:So Fred, what did you think of today's class?
Fred:I think Professor Smith has a hidden agenda.
Bill:How so?
Fred:Well, I think he's not as neutral as he wants us to believe.
Bill:You just figured that out?
Fred:Well, he claimed at the start of the course he was going to present various world views impartially, that our study was going to be scientific and that we were merely going to observe different paradigms people have. Isn't that what he said?
Bill:That's what he said. But of course he's going to favor his own belief system and will subconsciously try to persuade others to adopt it. That's what we studied in Chapter 3, or have you put Chapter 3 out of your mind after the "exam from Hell?"
Fred:Don't remind me. I wonder if anybody but me is going to pass this course?
Bill:I think I have the Professor figured out. I know what makes him tick.
Bill:He wants us to step outside of our own world view and adopt a different one as if we were actors playing a part. So far everybody has been arguing about their own position on things and the Professor seems irritated by this.
Fred:Maybe his wife has been giving him a hard time at home.
Bill:This is a serious matter. Our grades are at stake. He's got some sort of hidden agenda that he wants us to figure out. Remember when he told us that how well we do in this class had to do with how well we were able to "invest ourselves" in the process of shifting paradigms?
Fred:Yeah, and I remember how we all just looked around at each other like he had totally lost his marbles.
Bill:I have to admit that it does seem a little odd that we should have to pretend to believe something that we don't. Maybe if we could do this better the tests would seem easier.
Fred:Yeah, maybe. Say, do you want to be my partner for the next assignment?
Bill:Well, I don't know. Last time we worked together you got me pretty upset.
Fred:I didn't get you upset, you got yourself upset
Bill:Maybe I'd be better off working with somebody else.
Fred:But Professor Smith likes me. He's always showing me special favors.
Bill:Oh yeah, like what?
Fred:Remember when he said that I had a keen analytical mind and that I was able to see to the heart of the matter?
Bill:That was after you jumped down his throat for claiming that Jesus wasn't a real historical person. I'm surprised that he didn't kick you out of the class. Instead, he seemed to appreciate that you took a stand for something you believed.
Fred:Well don't get me wrong, I certainly don't believe in Christianity, it's just that being raised by a preacher teaches you that you have to be selective in your choice of which facts to believe and which to discard as untrue. And one thing I've learned is that Jesus was a real person who really lived and that he was certainly one of the greatest teachers of all time.
Bill:Sounds like you've inherited some of your dad's "preacher" genes. You can get down off your pulpit, I don't buy into your sermon. But you're right about one thing, Professor Smith did seem very enthusiastic about his "debate" with you — seemed to bring him back to life, at least for the rest of class that day.
Fred:Look, how about if I take the role of the dispassionate question-asker who never gives his own opinion about anything but merely asks thought provoking questions. Surely I can't offend you in that role can I?
Bill:You think for one minute that I believe that you could resist the temptation to express your opinion about things? You'd find every tricky way there is to sneak in your opinions about things.
Fred:How about if I promised not to? You have my word as a gentleman. And don't forget that I'm the Professor's pet.
Bill:Well, I guess I'd live through the experience. Who knows, maybe some of your special "charm" will rub off on me. My grade could sure use some coaxing right about now.

Fred:What is the nature of reality?
Bill:Do you mean reality with a capital 'R,' if there is such a thing, or reality as perceived by each of us?
Fred:You wouldn't be tempting me to express an opinion about something would you?
Bill:Would I do such a devious thing?
Fred:Would you?
Bill:Just testing your resolve.
Fred:Shall we try it again.
Fred:What is the nature of reality?
Bill:Reality has no concrete existence of its own but is merely the apparent manifestation that is produced when the individual, localized mind interacts with other individual, localized manifestations on the One Mind.
Fred:You don't really believe that do you?
Bill:Of course not. Do you think I'm an idiot?
Fred:You're tempting me again.
Bill:So I am.
Fred:Let's see now, where was I?
Bill:You were going to put out exploratory questions to see if you could trap me into a logically inconsistent corner.
Fred:Oh yes, so I was. But that would be too easy.
Bill:It would?
Bill:How so?
Fred:Aren't I the one who is supposed to be asking the questions?
Bill:Oh, right. Sorry.
Fred:Your position assumes the existence of this Universal or One Mind. Can you prove that it exists?
Bill:Of course not.
Fred:Of course not?
Bill:That's right.
Fred:Do I need to remind you that your grade, as well as my own, is at stake here?
Bill:How can you prove something using reason and logic which is by nature beyond reason and logic?
Fred:That's it?
Bill:That's what?
Fred:That's your answer?
Bill:That's right.
Fred:You're just going to assert a statement without giving any sort of evidence?
Bill:That's the beauty of the world view which I am representing. It's simply immune to any sort of analysis.
Fred:So it would seem. Let's try a different tack here. How, then, did you come to adopt this world view?
Bill:Wait a minute, you can't ask that.
Fred:Why not?
Bill:I haven't really adopted this world view, remember? So, of course, there's no past history of how I adopted it.
Fred:Yes, but you're supposed to pretend like you've really adopted it. Remember how we're supposed to do a paradigm shift and all that?
Bill:You mean I'm supposed to invent a personal history for myself?
Fred:That's right.
Bill:What a hassle. I hate you.
Fred:Perhaps in my deep sense of compassion I can assist you in the process of remembering the factors that led to your current world view.
Bill:Oh brother.
Fred:How old were you when you first began to sense the presence of the Universal Mind?
Bill:I didn't sense the presence of the Universal Mind.
Fred:Then how do you know it exists if you can't deduce it because it is beyond logic and reason, and if you can't sense its presence?
Bill:I know it exists by assumption.
Bill:I know that the Universal Mind exists because the world view which I've adopted assumes its existence.
Fred:So you don't really know if it exists or not?
Bill:No, not really.
Fred:Isn't that kind of lame?
Bill:Of course it is. Look I'm just trying to get by with a 'C' in this course so I can get my degree.
Fred:I don't think Professor Smith is going to be very amused by your answers.
Bill:You're just trying to make me look stupid. How am I supposed to know why somebody would believe in a Universal Mind anyway. What a stupid idea.
Fred:I sense that your commitment to this assignment is somewhat weak.
Bill:Professor Smith would not be pleased would he?
Fred:You tell me.
Bill:Perhaps I should give a little more consideration of the process whereby someone such as myself determines to adopt a particular world view.
Fred:Yes, perhaps you should.
Bill:OK then. When I was in High School a friend of mine who was totally stoked on this new-fangled Eastern mysticism stuff convinced me to join him in the quest for self-realization.
Fred:Did this happen before or after he convinced you to join him in a business partnership in which you accumulate capital by holding up liquor stores?
Bill:You doubt my motives?
Fred:Did your High School buddy give you any evidence that his world view was true?
Bill:Who cares about what's true when you're in High School. You just want to be considered cool.
Fred:So you've embarked on this spiritual journey seeking self-realization because it's cool?
Bill:Yeah man.
Fred:Does your employer think it's cool?
Fred:Remember, you're middle-aged now.
Bill:I am?
Fred:Did you read the assignment? You're supposed to have accepted this world view and stuck with it for the last 20 years. I mean, you're supposed to be really committed to it.
Bill:Oh yeah.
Fred:Surely you've had to upgrade your motives since High School.
Bill:One would think so, wouldn't one?
Fred:One would hope so. So what kept you from discarding this world view after being cool was no longer a motivating factor in your life?
Bill:Yeah. I got used to perceiving the world a certain way.
Fred:Didn't you care whether it was true or not?
Bill:Why should I? According to my world view there is no such thing as absolute truth anyway. All truth is relative.
Fred:What about someone who holds to a world view in opposition to yours?
Bill:What about it?
Fred:How can mutually contradictory world views both be valid?
Bill:Have you noticed how pretty it is this afternoon?
Fred:What does that have to do with the question at hand?
Bill:What question?
Fred:The question I just asked?
Bill:I choose to deny the existence of that question.
Fred:I could ask it again.
Bill:Go ahead. I'll just deny it again.
Fred:I'm starting to think I made a bad choice in partners for this project.
Bill:If I don't pass this course, I'll simply deny that relative truth also, and create a new truth that better expresses the essence of who I really am; a reality in which I get an 'A' and you get an 'F.'
Fred:Oh brother.
Bill:I am immune to your expressions of incredulity. I prefer to believe that you think highly of me and my world view.
Fred:So would you conclude then that the nature of reality is that there is no reality?
Bill:Of course there is such a thing as reality. But reality is different for each person.
Fred:So for one person the world is round but for another it is flat?
Fred:I can't convince you to change your mind about this?
Fred:Shh. Come closer. There's something I want to show you.
Fred:Shh. Keep it quiet. I don't want anyone else to see this.
Bill:What does this have to do with...?
Fred:See what I have in my pocket.
Fred:Look what I have.
Bill:A pocket knife?
Bill:But what does that have to do with...?
Fred:Look closely while I open up the blade. Do you suppose the blade is sharp?
Bill:Yeah, probably. But what does that have to do with...?
Fred:Do you think the blade is sharp enough to cut through human flesh?
Bill:Maybe I'd better find another partner.
Fred:I sense that there's something troubling you, Bill.
Bill:Hey, let go of my arm.
Fred:My higher self desires to express itself by imbedding this knife blade in your gut.
Bill:You are one weird guy. Lot go of me before I call out for help.
Fred:Ahh, sweet synchronicity. As you call, I shall thrust.
Bill:What do you want?
Fred:Are you afraid, Bill?
Bill:This isn't right, what you're doing.
Fred:What are right and wrong but vapors in this fog which is reality?
Bill:What are you talking about?
Fred:Surely the senseless destruction of a young man named Bill means nothing when compared to the infinities of evils, murders and wickednesses which have been manifesting themselves for ageless infinities of time in the endless dance of the cosmic fluctuation of the Universal Mind.
Bill:You're sick.
Fred:Shout out and I'll heal you with my blade.
Bill:What do you want?
Fred:What is the origin of evil?
Fred:From which caldron springs the elixir which prompts men to senseless deeds of waste and ruination?
Bill:Are you serious?
Fred:Answer me rightly or I shall plunge.
Bill:You want me to tell you where evil comes from?
Bill:You tell me. You seem to have connected with it pretty well, you psycho.
Fred:Is it a thing?
Bill:I have no idea what evil is, I just know that you've got an extra dose.
Fred:Is it real, then?
Bill:Is what real?
Fred:Evil. Is she real?
Bill:You're asking me if evil is real? You should know.
Fred:But what of your assertion that truth and reality are all relative?
Bill:I don't believe that. Did I ever say that I believe that?
Fred:So quickly we abandon our world view in troublous circumstances.
Bill:I had no idea that you were such a sicko.
Fred:Prepare to meet your maker.
Fred:On the count of 3. One, two, ....
Bill:Help. Help. Somebody help me please.
Fred:There. Enjoy your union with the Universal Mind.
Bill:Augh. I can't believe it. He really stabbed me in the stomach like he said. This really hurts. Why is Fred running away like that. I can't believe this is really happening. Why doesn't anyone come to help me? Help me somebody please. Call an ambulance. This is too weird. I hope I live through this. Uh-oh. I'm starting to black out. I've gotta try to stay conscious. I can't believe how much this hurts. Maybe I can crawl over to the lunch room and get some help. Why isn't anyone coming to help me? Didn't they hear me? I can't crawl. My arms and legs are paralyzed. This is getting serious. I'm in trouble. I think I'm dying here. Oh-oh. That dizzy sensation again. this is a bad dream. I'm losing consciousness. God, if you're there, help me.

       How long was I unconscious? Where am I? Am I dead? Or just dreaming? If I'm dead then that must mean that I'm in a spiritual realm somewhere awaiting rebirth in a new body. I wonder what kind of body it'll be? An ant maybe? Or a rock? I wonder if I was a good enough person to merge with the Universal Mind? I sure don't feel very merged. I wonder if my good deeds outweighed my bad deeds so that when I get reborn I'll at least have made some progress on the spiritual path? I wonder what criteria will be used to decide? And who decides, anyway? I wish I had something a little more substantial to base my hope on. Suddenly I feel very, very small and not in control of my destiny.

       Oh no. I'm falling. What an unpleasant predicament. Uh-oh. What are those creatures coming toward me? I have a really bad feeling about this. I'm really getting scared. I wish there was someone to help me.

All of these demons are really terrifying me. I've never been so scared. This must be what I read about in the "Tibetan Book of the Dead" where after death you get tormented by demonic apparitions for forty days. What did it say to do? I'm supposed to maintain an unconcerned attitude through all these after death experiences in order to achieve liberation from the phenomenal world of birth and death. I've never been so scared.

Why is this happening? I thought that you create your own reality. I don't feel very much in control right now.

I hope somebody is praying for me. I'm in big trouble.

I have a bad feeling about this.

If Christianity were true and if I had accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior and if I had died then Jesus would have taken me with him to heaven by now and I'd be saved from this miserable experience. But wait, my thoughts are racing out of control. I've already dealt with these issues. Remember how I decided that the Bible couldn't be true and that those hypocritical preachers don't have any clue what they're talking about and how could Jesus be God and how is it possible for a book to be accurately preserved for 2,000 years and why would the apostles be so stupid as to think that Jesus was resurrected from the dead. What stupid men they were to think that and to stick to their story even though they were beheaded, sawed in half, boiled in oil, crucified upside down, eaten by lions and why would a loving God send someone to hell anyway. I won't believe it, I refuse to believe it, you can't make me believe it.

I wish God loved me now.

I wish it were true and I wish I had believed it. Then everything would be OK now.

But it isn't true and those stupid Christians were all deceived and are just full of false hope. When they die they'll be in this same pit falling down to who knows where with these same demons tormenting them. Is there hope for anyone?

Eventually we will all become Buddhas I suppose. Then we will lose our individual identities and become merged into the Universal Mind. But wait. Why would I want to be merged into the Universal Mind anyway? I want to be me so I can enjoy life. But these demons are really scaring me. I hope it ends soon.

If it's true that we create our own reality then those darn Christians when they die get to meet Jesus in heaven and live forever in joy and blessing. But wait. If it's true that we create our own reality then I wouldn't be getting tormented by these demons right now. I feel very helpless.

Fred:Hi Bill.
Bill:What the? How did you get here?
Fred:I got hit by a car right after I stabbed you. I wasn't watching where I was going and ran out into the street without looking. That was a pretty stressful moment for me. I don't know what came over me. Sorry Bill.
Bill:Where are we?
Fred:I have no idea, Bill. Doesn't match the description of any place I've ever read about. It isn't hell, although these demons are certainly hellish. There's no fire and it's not too hot, not really. It couldn't be purgatory because my dad says there is no such thing. I don't recall passing through a long tunnel either, do you?
Bill:There was no tunnel for me either. Could this be one of those after-death Karmic manifestations that I read about in the "Tibetan Book of the Dead?" You know, a place to burn off some bad karma in preparation for our next rebirth?
Fred:I wish I knew. So, shall we continue our discussion to pass the time?
Bill:Fred, you murdered me. That was wrong.
Fred:I didn't mean to. I forgot to take my medication this morning, quite by accident you understand. My actions were beyond my control.
Bill:That's insane. How is it possible to do something against your will? Aren't we all free moral agents, in control of our actions.
Fred:Well, sure. Usually we are, anyway. Unless we get demon possessed or have a brain malfunction like I do or something of that sort. In those cases you are no longer able to control your actions no matter how hard you try.
Bill:You mean you couldn't stop yourself from attacking and killing me?
Fred:I didn't even try to stop myself. I learned a long time ago that it was pointless
Bill:You mean you've killed other people?
Fred:Well, no. You're the first one I've ever killed. But I hurt some kids once. They're mostly OK now the last I heard.
Bill:That's weird. Uh-oh. Look down.
Fred:Oh my.
Bill:Looks like this segment of our journey is about over.
Fred:I hope the next phase of our little adventure is more pleasant.
Bill:Brace yourself for the landing.
Fred:I hope we don't hit too hard.
Bill:Ouch. That wasn't so bad I guess.
Fred:Do you see what I see?
Bill:Looks like a space alien.
Fred:He's coming this way.
Bill:Today has been very stressful for me. I hope I wake up from this nightmare soon.
Fred:Perhaps we should bow down and offer worship or something or at least kneel just in case this guy is a god or something.
Bill:Good idea.
Nardo:What is your name?
Fred:Don't you know? Bill, he doesn't know my name.
Bill:He speaks pretty good English too. Sounds like he was educated at Harvard from his accent.
Nardo:Fred, what is the nature of reality?
Fred:I guess he does know my name after all. Where are we?
Nardo:Answer the question.
Fred:And if I don't?
Bill:Uh, Fred, I think you're making him mad.
Fred:I can handle this. Besides, what have I got to lose? I'm already dead, remember?
Bill:I have a really bad feeling about this.
Nardo:One last time. What is the nature of reality?
Fred:Reality is whatever you believe it to be. And I don't believe you have any power over me.
Nardo:Wrong. Seize him. Take him to the pit. Now for you Bill. What is the nature of reality?
Bill:Nardo, I don't know who or what you are but I will attempt to answer your question. I have studied many philosophies and religious systems and each one teaches something about the question at hand. Yet each system differs from the others in a fundamental way. Therefore, I must conclude that reality is an illusion and that it simply doesn't exist.
Nardo:Is no other conclusion possible?
Bill:Only one. And that is that one is true and the others false. But which one? There is simply no way to tell.
Nardo:You mean to tell me that there is no criteria to use to determine whether something is true or not?
Bill:Not a single one.
Nardo:Who taught you this?
Bill:It is obvious. It goes without saying. It is a self-evident truth which does not need to be proven. Even a child can see it.
Nardo:So then, if you are unable to discern which world view is the true one, then the only conclusion possible is that they are all false and that truth is, therefore, relative?
Bill:Something like that.
Nardo:By your own words, so be it. For you it is decreed that you shall enter into a world in which there are no moral absolutes and no absolute right or wrong and no truth to direct the steps of the weary traveler.

Bill:Where am I? What happened?
Fred:Bill. Are you OK? I was talking to you and you must have swooned or something. How do you feel? Do you want me to call an ambulance or something?
Bill:Fred, you don't know how glad I am to see you. I just had the weirdest dream.
Fred:I was a little bit worried about you there. You seem OK now. Can you sit up?
Bill:I'll try. What a weird dream that was. We were talking about the nature of reality weren't we?
Fred:We can finish our talk later. Maybe we should have your doctor check you out. You gave me quite a scare. I'll drive you down to urgent care.
Bill:That's OK. I'm fine, really.
Fred:Are you sure?
Bill:Yeah, I'm fine. Didn't you ask me what evidence I had for adopting my world view?
Fred:What? Oh yeah. Well — sure I did. But we can talk about that later. You should probably rest for a couple of days and maybe see your doctor.
Bill:Fred, I had an encounter with death. In fact it was you who killed me.
Bill:That's right. You flipped out or something and stabbed me and then ran off and got hit by a car.
Fred:You dreamt this?
Bill:Yeah, but it seemed so real.
Fred:You were only out for about ten seconds.
Bill:Fred, I think the answer to the question "What is the nature of reality?" is far more important than I thought.
Fred:Of course it's important. That's why we're taking Professor Smith's course.
Bill:No, you don't understand what I mean. We are really going to die someday. And how we answer this question is going to affect what kind of afterlife we have. We have to explore all possibilities and can't merely accept an answer because it feels good or appears right on the surface. The stakes are too high. We have to really dig to find out what is the nature of reality.
Fred:Sounds like you've had some sort of gestalt experience. When you were talking you had kind of a wild look in your eyes. Did you have an after-death experience or something? Was there a tunnel?
Bill:There wasn't a tunnel. The spiritual issues that I usually just sort of fool around with seem so real now. There is a sense of urgency like I could run out of time if I'm not careful.
Fred:Well sure these issues are important.
Bill:Let's start at the beginning again. You know how before, when we were doing this assignment that Professor Smith gave us, I really didn't care too much about it. I just mostly felt like clowning around. But now....
Fred:I have to admit we were getting nowhere fast.
Bill:Let's do it now then. I feel great.
Fred:You sure you're up for it?
Bill:Yeah, really. I feel great.
Fred:OK then. Bill, what is the nature of reality?