Maya series. Part 4: Metaphysical Maya (clear boundaries > permeable boundaries)

This is the fourth part of a 4-part series. You can find the other parts here:

Part 1: An introduction to maya

Part 2: Deep-dive into physical maya

Part 3: Deep-dive into perceptual maya

Part 4: Deep-dive into metaphysical maya

Most talk of maya & the narratives it involves happen in the context of spirituality & meta-physics.

I refer to metaphysical reality as the womb within which a physical & perceptual realities can take birth & be nurtured. I know this sounds very vague, but I promise it will make more sense in the coming paragraphs.

This article will not only define metaphysical plane in a more understandable manner but also investigate the presence of maya within it.

What does it mean to be the womb that gives shape to physical & perceptual realities?

If there is one all-important condition needed for interactions to be generated, it would have to be the presence of different boundaries (often referred to as a duality in philosophy).

The presence of different things is needed for those things to interact with one another. It’s almost too obvious to notice, but it is THE condition that needs to be fulfilled.

Based on that, the metaphysical “womb” can be said to be the environment in which separateness and boundaries between things (matter, beings, ecosystem etc.) is created.

True to our discussion on maya, the question then becomes whether this separateness and the boundaries is the whole truth or only a partial truth that is punching above its weight for a specific reason.

If it is the former, we would expect boundaries to be very consistent & immutable over time and different contexts. In other words, while in the search for potential maya, I find myself wondering about the nature of boundaries themselves — once defined, are they as immutable and unchanging as they appear to be at first glance?

My personal experience with meditation & psychedelics leads me to conclude they are not. But even more important than my anecdotal evidence, there seems to be an ever-growing body of scientific knowledge that agrees with this viewpoint.

The sub-atomic world makes its entrance into this discussion again. Unlike what was understood by previous generations of humans, we now know that an electron doesn’t really exist in one place at one time — if it did we’d have some physical evidence of an unchanging boundary. Rather sub-atomic particles seem to be suspended in a cloud of probabilistic densities — being both everywhere and nowhere within a defined space.

We are unable to experience this at the macro-level, but if one were to take an electron microscope and explore the edges of boundaries between different matter — say even your skin and the seat you’re sitting on, things would get confusing. You’d likely see a lot of back and forth of sub-atomic particles between the two objects you had thought were clearly delineated. At some point, with enough zooming in, you’d be unable to tell where one boundary began & another ended.

This confusion around boundaries is more easily observable in the macro world within the domain of ecosystems and biology. For example, biologists such as Merlin Sheldrake often mention how their investigations into life leave them with more questions about what a boundary actually is. In Sheldrake’s case, among other things, his investigations could never answer where fungi began and plants ended. For example lichens, considered an organism in its own right with a well defined boundary for the longest time, turned out to be a combination of algae (plant) & mycelium (fungi). It was just a symbiotic relationship that gave rise to a completely different type of boundary. Even more incredibly, one can easily separate out the underlying algal and fungal cells with some ingenuity in the lab.

More relevant to human perception, 90% of cells in the space that our human bodies occupy are organisms that do not share our DNA — they are just along for the ride. With most of these organisms residing in your gut, these gut bacteria are instrumental in making sure you operate at a 100%. In fact, research shows that a host of illnesses (including autism) are possibly linked to a less than ideal gut micro-biome.

All this makes one question whether boundaries are truly as solid as they appear at first glance.

My personal experiences with dissolution of identity in altered states of consciousness have also convinced me that most boundaries (even ones that seem to be define us) are alterable. We seem to be mistaking the most stable state of any boundary with an inherent immutability. Stability is not permanence.

The seeming presence of stable & immutable boundaries in our daily lives therefore smacks of maya yet again. Just as in previous examples, this maya is not metaphorical but quite literal & scientifically provable.

More importantly, the maya around boundary permanence serves the same important purpose as the other mayas — one of allowing for greater stability to increase the width & depth of interactions possible between different things.

This concludes our discussion on maya within the three realities we inhabit. Furthermore, it provides a narrative that shows that maya is not only literal, but also a good thing! A world without maya would not be able to birth interesting interactions between different boundaries.

However, it is true that what is good for the system may not be good for the part. In a similar manner, while maya may be good for functioning of the universe, it could still lead to your personal depression.

Which is why I’d like you to consider using discussed evidence of maya to think of yourself as an opportunist. Use maya for your benefit as much as you can, but also remember that it’s not the whole truth when it’s more prudent to do so.

Knowledge of maya & a hidden aspects of reality has personally given me the arsenal to reject ideas that are not working for me, even if they seem obvious to those around me. In other words, it has given me the theoretical backing to be self-confident in my acceptance of commonly-held “truths” ONLY if I see value in them. Knowing of maya — at a literal level- should give you the courage to strike your own path even if the world disagrees.

This is not meant as a general guidance to the world — everyone doing this would itself lead to a chaotic world, BUT for a minority of people (e.g., ones reading this article), this could work.

Even more interestingly, the presence of a small minority of such people would actually aid the universe in its task of increasing the width and depth of experiences.

Read more on a philosophy for the universe that is rational & yet avoids nihilism here.



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Vichar Mohio

Writing about topics I find interesting & original. Usually a mix of philosophy, evolutionary psychology & technology