Does One Really Exist?

Transcript of the video:

Let’s get a grasp here first before we go any further, of what we are talking about—self-awareness. Say to yourself, “I am aware that I exist,” be aware. Just for a moment, say to yourself at home, and here, you are aware that you exist, okay? The self, self-awareness. There’s a self and then the self’s awareness of his own existence. That’s what we’re referring to here, that even if we were to conclude that all these other machines are empty in this room, and it’s just me, I’m still aware that I exist.

Show More

Yes, you.

Person in audience: How do we know that this self-awareness isn’t some kind of illusion already programmed into us? (Laughter)

Jagad Guru: This is what a lot of scientists are saying, very influential scientists. They’re saying that in fact, self-awareness, the self that is, I am aware that I exist, you see… this inner awareness that I have that I exist, that in fact, this is just an illusion. This is just an illusion. The self is just an illusion and self-awareness is just an illusion. It’s actually just a characteristic of a complex machine. When a machine gets very complex or something, then this illusion of self awareness is… comes about or something, okay. One very influential scientist in this, in this connection, his name is Francis Crick. He’s the co-discoverer of DNA. Very influential, he’s writing in a very important scientific journal—the Scientific American, and listen to what he’s saying here. This is basically what he is saying. He says, quote, “Is there any idea that we should avoid?” He says, “I think there is at least one: the fallacy of the homunculus (the self).” Recently I was trying to explain to an intelligent woman the problem of understanding how it is we perceive anything at all. And I was not having any success. She could not see why there was a problem. Finally, in despair, I asked her how she herself thought she saw the world. She replied that she probably had somewhere in her head something like a little television set.” Okay? She says, “Well, maybe in my head there is a little television set.” He’s asking “How do you perceive anything?” Like you at home, or here, you’re perceiving me, okay? And he says “Well, how is this happening? How do you perceive anything?” Well, maybe in my head I have a little television set. Maybe there’s a little television set in my head, okay? And then, and then he says this: “So who… I asked, is looking at it?” Who is looking at the TV? “She now saw the problem immediately.” (laughter)

Is there anyone in there watching the TV set? In other words, is there a self perceiving out into the world? He goes on, “Most neuroscientists” (brain scientists, right?) most… most neuroscientists believe there is no self or homunculus in the brain. Unfortunately, it is easier to state the fallacy than to avoid slipping into it. The reason is that we certainly have an illusion of the homunculus: the self. There is probably some good reason for the strength and persistence of this illusion.” So, the awareness that you have, that “I exist,” the “I” who is looking out into the world, perceiving the world, according to these people, does not exist. There is no “I”, or self, looking out through the eyes, perceiving the world. That’s just an illusion, okay? It’s just an illusion. There is no self. You at home, who are looking through those eyes at this picture here, you don’t really exist. You don’t exist. You are not actually looking out into the world, since you don’t exist. So, he is saying basically, Crick is basically saying that, there is perception, but there’s no perceiver. So he’s saying then, and this is what stumps him, this is what gets him very, you know, confused. How can there be perception without a perceiver? That’s why the girl, the lady got confused, well, gee, that’s a real problem. How do you perceive anything if there is no perceiver?

So they’re sitting around trying to figure out how there can be perception without a perceiver. You see. So they’re saying that self-awareness itself, your feeling that you exist and your awareness, your awareness of your own existence is in fact an illusion. Okay? You don’t really exist. Yes. What?

Person in audience: No matter what they tell me, I know that I exist.

Jagad Guru: That’s… that’s all right, that’s true, that you know. But they’re famous and you’re not. (laughter) And they’re influential and you’re not. They’re powerful and you’re not. And they’re smart. You’re not smart enough to know you don’t exist yet. No, It seems absurd. It’s obviously absurd, like why should we sit around talking about such an absurd theory, or such… such an absurd philosophy. How, you know… but you have to understand that these are not madmen who are sitting in the corner of some, the back of some park or something, with beer bottles or wine bottles, talking. These are people like B.F. Skinner who recently gave a talk at the… you know, of all the heads of psychologists and psychiatrists in America, practically speaking, the top people, thousands of them, and they gave him a standing ovation. Francis Crick, there’s so many of them. And they are very influential, and they are having influence in our society. They’re influencing how we perceive ourselves, and how we perceive others. How we see ourselves and how we see others and there’s a lot of negative consequences that are gonna come about from this. We don’t have time to go into that now, but… Yes?

Person in audience: Maybe the problem with these people is that they deny the existence of anything that they can’t perceive with their senses.

Jagad guru: That’s right. If they can’t see it, then it doesn’t exist, it’s not real. If you can’t see it, it’s not real. That’s their basic problem. In other words, basically, they’re materialists. The materialist is someone who… they believe there is only one energy in existence—matter. If something’s not made of matter, then it doesn’t exist, okay? Now what they’ve done is, as Crick said, most neuro-scientists believe there is no self in the brain. What they’ve done in other words is, they’ve gone and dissected the brain, looking for you, okay? They do it with living people who have epilepsy, you know, and they… they’re playing around with their brain or whatever to… finding out about these things. Looking for… that there’s no one in there. There’s just blood, and this and that and little molecules here and there, right? But there’s no little guy sitting there, watching the whole show, you know. (laughter) There’s no controller, there’s nobody saying, you know, “I think I’ll do this, or, you know, aiming that way or anything like that, okay?” And since they haven’t found anyone in there, they say, there is no self. No one exists. Gee, you thought you were in the body, but if we…you say you’re in the body right now and you’re looking out, you say you exist, but, you know, if we go rummaging through your brain and throughout the rest of your body, we’re not going to find you. Therefore, you don’t exist. Their philosophy is that there is one energy, matter. And we’ve looked through the brain, there is no material self. If there is a self, if you do exist, you must be made of matter. If you are in your brain looking out, then you must be made of matter. So we look through it, can’t find you, therefore, there is no self.

Jagad Guru Chris Butler - founder of Science of Identity Foundation