The Spiral Ladder

Climb over the Wall

Testing For Reality

The following experiments, written by Anne Seward, are based on experiments developed by Douglas Harding.

Testing For Reality – Seven Experiments


We come now to the very heart of the matter, which will make plain to anyone who participates with an open mind, the living Truth on which all the rest is based. Having read the preceding comments regarding this great question of our True Identity, it is hoped that the reader is ready now to carry out his or her own investigation, and actually to have a look at Who or What is Being…at Consciousness itself.

The following tests all direct our attention to this same place, and while seeing is perhaps the means that most convinces, we shall discover that all the senses are capable of revealing the truth and reinforcing the awareness with which we are concerned.

You may be shocked (pleasantly or unpleasantly), nonplussed, or bored by what our experiments reveal, but, as we have already made clear, our reactions to the discoveries that we make are not the point here, any more than they would be of a scientific experiment. At this juncture we simply want to get at the truth, for we are assuming that what’s real and true must be profoundly significant, and that if, by any chance, we are wrong about ourselves, this is likely at least to have some bearing on our problems and the problems of the world.

In the humble spirit of science then, which bows before the evidence, we are to go only by what is given, putting aside for the duration of this experiment, all ideas and assumptions about ourselves, the whole point being to check whether these ideas and assumptions are based on hearsay or reality. In order to make this check we must first look at the primary data provided by sense experience.

(The following instructions have been edited slightly to account for this being read on a screen)

Follow the instructions meticulously and answer the questions on the basis of what’s given. Obviously, one can only speak for oneself in this matter, and all the following suggestions are for the reader to check against their firsthand experience. If you see clearly the difference between what you think you are and what you really are as a result of doing the first, or any one of the other experiments, that one will do. Each experiment is merely a pointer, its value lying in the truth it’s pointed to.

1. Who sees?

(i)  Holding the screen as if it were a book, point back at the looker with the other.Can you see anything between you and the screen? Are you distant from that screen, or are you the space in which it’s given? Are these words and the screen, your pointing finger and the rest of your body, the walls and the floor, displayed in a head or in a space?

If, like me, you see you are space for the world, does this space have any edges? If it was a clear night and you were to look at the stars instead, wouldn’t this space embrace the heavens? Is it a small, solid thing which is taking in these words now, or a marvelous, unbounded Capacity for things, vividly aware of itself as such?

(ii)  Hold a mirror out at arm’s length. (If a hand mirror isn’t available, sit or stand facing your reflection from about a metre away.) Tackle each section separately, answering yes or no according to what you see, taking the questions at face value.

(a) Without making any kind of judgment, note what the basic characteristics of a face consist of:does it have shape? Colour? Movement? Opacity? A background from which it is clearly distinguishable? Does it have two eyes, a nose and a mouth? Does it carry indications of the age, sex, name, race, etc?

(b) Now, whilst still looking straight ahead, look back also at what’s at the near end of your arm.

(c) Do you at the rear end have any such characteristics? Are there two faces now, or just one out there in the mirror looking back at ‘something’, which is not actually a thing at all, and certainly not a face…some ‘thing’ unnameable, but which one could describe perhaps as Aware Space, or Emptiness…an Emptiness which sees that face, and Itself…make it no ordinary emptiness! Are you face-to-face with yourself or face to space?

(d) Is the seeing going on out there where eyes are on show, or here on this side of the mirror where there are no eyes? Is the proof of seeing in the seeing or in the eyes?

(e) Have you ever been face-to-face with anyone?

Consider what might be expected if one began giving due attention to one’s own view of oneself, letting others take care of the outside view, and stopped trying to substitute that reflection for this Reality.

2, Who hears?

Read the following paragraph and then close your eyes (what eyes in your present experience?) in order to carry out this preliminary exercise. (We are excluding visual stimuli to aid concentration on auditory sense  experience.)

Listen intently to whatever sounds are occurring at this time, and when you feel ready, turn the same attention simultaneously back onto the hearer. After a little while open your eyes and memorise section (a) in order that you may continue the investigation with closed eyes.  Open your eyes again and memorise section (b) and so on. In each case, use the two-way listening you have just practiced.

(a) Is there any evidence of a person where you are who is hearing these sounds? Are there any ears given, for instance?or is hearing going on in a dimension where no ears could possibly exist?

(b) Would it be true to say that these sounds are arising in and being heard by Silence – Silence which is aware of, or ‘alive’ with, sound?

(c) If you were deaf and could hear nothing, wouldn’t you still be capable of listening? Wouldn’t you still be capable, indeed, of hearing Nothing, of hearing the Silence which is now hearing the sounds?

(d) Just as it was face-to-no-face, and eyes-to-no-eyes, isn’t it sound-to-no-sound? Doesn’t hearing discover the same Experiencer as seeing, namely, Empty Spacey Awareness, which is room for, and seemingly Itself gives rise to, all that fills it?

2. Who touches?

With two fingers of one hand hold one finger of the other hand. Does the fact that this one (or three?) tactile sensations put you inside any one, or all, of those fingers?…or inside the sensations?

Commonsense is in no doubt that you are inside your body. Test this assumption now by pressing a fingernail into any part of the body sufficiently hard to cause pain. Is that pain occurring to a body, or to the same Aware Space which we have already discovered by other means?

Is it a body experiencing sensations, or the same Empty Space which sees without eyes and hears without ears?

We commonly assume that our minds or brains think, but is this our own experience when we investigate the thinking process for ourselves? As in all these tests, we are the only ones to report on the inside story, and the inside story is the only one that’s real for us, the only one we do experience…whatever we may imagine to the contrary.

Memorise the following set of instructions and questions in order that you may carry out the investigation with closed eyes.

(With eyes closed) pay close attention to where your thoughts are coming from. (If you find this difficult, conjure up particular thoughts, say, of your friend, job, home, country, etc.) As each thought occurs, observe whether it is coming out of a mind, or a psyche, or anything else. Are you lumbered with a brain-box, or computer, from which you pick your thoughts, or do they mysteriously arise out of your mysterious and unencumbered Being?

What is the nature of the thinker when you stop conceptualising about it and pay attention?

5. Who feels?

Emotions and feelings are said to originate in the heart. Don’t they rather originate in the world – the world of people, places, sights, sounds, thoughts and memories which fill your Space?

Can you find a store of emotions – love, hate elation, depression, generosity, meanness, etc, at the centre of your Being? Is it possible to produce such feelings without reference to things in the world that are loveable or hated, that you feel elated, depressed, generous or mean about?

Doesn’t the world, in fact, come full of feelings as it does full of coulour and sound? Aren’t you forever free in and for yourself, even whilst experiencing the greatest joy or sadness? And mightn’t this be worth attending to in view of the fact that we are pretty much stuck with the world as it is, and chasing nice feelings and trying to avoid nasty ones simply doesn’t work? If we are not the world but rather entertain it, might this not make a difference to how it feels?

6 & 7. Who tastes and smells?

When next experiencing a taste or a smell pay close attention to who is having these sensations; to where the taste and the smell are happening. Do these things happen to a human being – in particular to a nose and mouth? Or to the Awareness we’ve been investigating, in which there are no such things? Isn’t the Space simply permeated with smell or taste as it is with colour and feelings, etc?



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