the cosmic play
by martin boroson ©2000
we humans seem hard-wired to wonder about the really big questions,
such as who we are, and what--if anything--god is. c. g. jung once said
that although he could not prove the existence of god, as a psychiatrist
he knew that the human mind was built to have an experience of god.
in other words, just as our minds have “programs” that enable
us to feel sadness, anger, and ecstasy, and to think creatively and
learn a language, so too have we a program that can help us “read”
life in a spiritual way. even if we have not experienced this program
personally, it is reasonable to assume that it exists, simply because
so many sane and wise people, throughout time, have reported its benefits.
providing that we can locate, download, and learn how to operate this
program, it can give us a pretty amazing experience, an experience that
many people call, among other names, god.
the greatest spiritual masters are those people who have accessed and
mastered the most powerful applications of this program. when asked
about the really big questions of life and death, creation and evolution,
they give us a remarkably consistent set of answers, sometimes called
the “cosmic game” or the “divine play”. this
view provides some fascinating, moving, and colorful answers to our
most profound questions about why we are here, and what is the nature
of reality. my creation story, becoming me, tells one version of this
timeless spiritual viewpoint.
recently, these same basic conclusions have been rediscovered in a most
surprising, and altogether modern context, confirming that the greatest
spiritual truths exist in all of us, waiting only to be accessed. these
findings have been presented by dr. stanislav grof, who, during the
1950s and 1960s, was one of the leading researchers in the clinical
use of lsd, both in his native prague, and at johns hopkins university
his patients came from many different backgrounds, and were not generally
on a spiritual search. in a clinical setting with no religious indoctrination,
they were given high doses of lsd, and encouraged to experience fully
whatever emotions and realizations the drug activated. having supervised
over 4000 of these sessions, grof concluded that the drug was a “non-specific
psychic amplifier”--a catalyst for the emergence of the deepest
levels of the client’s own psyche.
typically, grof’s clients first worked through personal experiences
from their past. but as their sessions deepened, they reported spiritual
experiences that were similar to those of the mystics and visionaries
of many of the world’s spiritual traditions, without necessarily
having had any prior knowledge of those traditions. grof’s clients
discovered these dimensions for themselves, in their own mind, and without
looking for them.
despite differences in style, these reports told a pretty consistent
story. they provided a coherent and consistent set of answers to the
really big questions of life. his clients seemed to have “opened
a door” to a spiritual perspective that transcends time, language,
and culture. this perspective radically transformed their lives, and
often brought them powerful healing.
grof has summarized his clients’ experiences, compared them to
the perennial spiritual teachings, and presented them in a remarkable
book called the cosmic game. (he has also confirmed his findings using
non-drug techniques, with large numbers of people.) we can summarize
the conclusions here, bearing in mind that these ideas are difficult
to describe, and that this is only a brief summary.
at the summit of a spiritual search awaits a direct experience of the
ultimate, a kind of final destination. this experience gives you a feeling
of immense satisfaction, as if you had discovered a clearing in the
center of your soul, in which all things are embraced, and everything
is profoundly at peace. from this perspective, beyond time and space,
there are no limits or boundaries in the universe. sometimes this is
experienced as pure light, or pure mind, or pure possibility. you are
resting at the source, the creative potential behind all things. from
the perspective of this source, everything else seems relative. the
universe is a reduction of infinity, a sub-division of the whole. creation
(and ourselves as parts of creation) are temporary rearrangements of
this seamless whole, and so we are not really independent, separate
things. in fact, we are not really real.
this isn’t how we normally think of ourselves. in our normal state
of consciousness, the world looks like it is composed of individual,
finite, and separate things. we know ourselves as a collection of things
that define us. we are a body, some feelings, some ideas, our past,
and our imagined future. these things define our boundaries, the difference
between what is “me” and what is “not-me”. almost
everything we do is geared to preserving (and enhancing) those things
that define us. but if you want to experience the divine source, you
can’t do this as “you”, because you are just one bundle
of boundaries, and the source itself is limitless, eternal, and boundless.
and this is why, if you are seeking the source, you must ultimately
empty yourself. you must relax your boundaries. your sense of self must
die, which is just another way of saying that you must discover that
you are really an illusion. what you thought was you is really just
a set of limitations. you are, in fact, the source, pretending to be
but why then are we trapped in this apparent world of time and space?
why do we believe our boundaries? why does the divine source bother
to create such an elaborate fantasy? the answers to these questions
are best summarized by the beautiful statement from the kabbala: “people
need god and god needs people”. it seems that being eternal and
infinite can be a bit boring. or that even god can get lonely, and crave
a playmate. or that god is like a great artist or inventor, with so
much creative talent that it simply must make things. creation begins
when, once upon a time, on the still surface of perfection, an urge
or desire for something else bubbles up, like a wrinkle in timelessness.
and from this wrinkle, the created world, a sub-division of infinity,
from within itself, the source gives birth to an imaginary world, like
an enormous film or play. we are characters in this film, unaware of
the drama we’re in, unaware of the source who creates and projects
us. god is playing with us, and is playing through us, like a big hand
with so many finger puppets. this is done with delight and curiosity,
the way a loving parent sees the world afresh through her child’s
the goal of the cosmic game is for you to discover, in a way that satisfies
your own particular tests, that you are an aspect of the divine. this
is the moment when you discover the god-program buried in your hard-drive.
you learn its language, and start to surf the web-of-life from its custom
in the search for this program, you have been challenged to let go of
what you thought you were. but even then, there will still be enough
of you left to enjoy the illusion of your life. what happens really
is that you are no longer just-you anymore. you are also god, having
a once-in-eternity experience of being you. it’s like having the
best of both worlds.
and so, although the game is over, the playing is about to begin. because
with this new awareness (that life is not quite so real) and with your
new, relaxed identity as both god and you, you can watch and play and
live your life with less fear and judgment. you can live more lightly.
you can watch the birth of new life and new love. you can witness new
technologies and new cultures and new disasters and new heroic responses
you can feel deeper compassion for all things in creation, who are also
you, and also god. you can love and cherish this planet, a world that
you co-create every time you open your eyes. and with the power of your
awareness, you can help nudge the game, or tilt the odds, just that
little bit closer to their final goal ... which is simply that all beings
realize who they are. you can lose yourself and find yourself and lose
yourself again. and you can fall madly in love with this beautiful illusion,
just as it is, over and over and over again.
© martin boroson, 2000
martin boroson is the
author of the interfaith creation story, becoming me, and
the one-moment master. he can be reached at www.martinboroson.info.
this essay owes a great debt to
the cosmic game by stanislav grof. more information about grof's
techniques can be found at www.holotropic.com
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