It is commonly said that this world is merely a projection of the mind, that the entire manifest universe is simply a projection. Is there any validity in such a statement?
Any answer given to such questions, unless verified via direct experience, is simply going to fall within the category of belief and doctrine. When looking at the world through the limited vehicle that is a human body, there will always be information and understandings that are simply out of reach from where our current level of evolution (from the perspective of a species as a whole) has reached. We simply our not yet equipped to comprehend certain aspects of our universe, and although as a collective species we have made tremendous strides within the field of understanding the manifest universe, its origins and our place in it as creators still lies at the end of where our human intellect can comprehend.
This being said, it is also important to not merely shy away from certain inquires because their answer can never be fully understood, for as the inquiry deepens, the focus ceases to be concerned with the world of externals but turns inward to illuminate the world of internals. To fully understand the scope of our objective world we need to understand the fullness of our subjectivity. For in the subtle expressions of human evolution, the line between objectivity and subjectivity because blurred.
Is the world merely a projection? This is one of those modes of inquiries that has been looked at by philosophers and mystics for thousands of years, with those who entertain the view that the world is solely a product of our mental system and without “I” there is no external world. And, on the opposite spectrum, there are those who maintain that the existence of the external world exists without any assistance from us. As with so many of these types of big questions, the answer, or more accurately, the truth of the matter (for in the fullest expression there are no answers to life for the simple reason that life is not a question) lies somewhere in between both views. One cannot deny the fact that one has found themselves living in a world that has had a history and a system of seemingly organized laws that have been functioning from time immemorial regardless of whether or not “your” current manifestation has come into being or not. Yet, although this is the case, the world “you” are currently viewing is not the same world that is in existence. An external world exists, yet, we do not have full access to it.
Look at a cup, for example. Do you see a cup, or are you merely reviewing your past experiences of picking up a cup, being thirsty, drinking from a cup, feeling the rim of a cup against your lips, having breakfast and so on? Are not your aesthetic reactions to the cup, too, based on past experiences? How else would you know whether or not this kind of cup will break if you drop it? What do you know about this cup except what you learned in the past? You would have no idea what this cup is, except for your past learning. Do you, then, really see it?
(From A Course in Miracles)
The world we are viewing, and the world as it is can be as different as night and day. Yet, just how different our subjective understanding of the world is versus how its objective expression actually is, is something we can never truly know. For someone who is familiar with spiritual practices, a set of prayer beads known as a “mala” is something easily recognized and its purpose easily understood. If someone was to hand you a mala you would know its intended purpose and how to ‘use’ one if you were inclined to the sorts of practices that entail the use of a mala. Yet, had you never seen one before and someone handed you a mala, you would not know what its intended use is for. Although, on the offset the external experience itself has not changed; someone hands you a mala, based on your relationship to this object the subjective experience of the object would have changed drastically.
When we look out at the world, we are not in actually seeing the world, what we are seeing is how we have learned to see the world. When, for example, one looks upon a tree one is not merely looking at a tree, for when one looks at a tree what one is seeing is every experience and knowledge that has filed itself within our memory under the word ‘tree’ coming together all at once. If this was not the case we would have no idea what we were looking at. That being the case, we are not looking at the world as it is, but are looking at the world as we have trained ourselves to see it. We no longer have access to a world without names, labels and intellectual understanding. For even the experience of a tree is intricately connected with ourselves. Whether or not we experience the tree as large or small is directly in reference to our past experiences with various objects in size. Whether we experience the tree as pretty or bland is directly related to our views on aesthetics.
Essentially, the mere act of interacting with an external object to the point that it registers in our system as an experience has already distorted how that object is truly expressing itself outside of our personal relationship to it. Our day to day world is a projection, for what we are truly looking at is the inner workings of our minds. We have superimposed our reality onto the world of externals. This does not negate an external world, only shows the lack of an ability to gain access to it.