Thinking About Thinking - 2017

The Third Eye

By Balaji Prasad

“The less there was of me, the happier I got."
~ Leonard Cohen, musician

It was the day. Shiva opened his third eye.

The wind stopped, the sun's rays seemed to freeze in place. Time itself seemed to falter. The silence was deafening, as the fury and intensity of Shiva's third eye relentlessly savaged everything that lay in its line of sight.

Kama (desire) had been dispatched by the gods to coax Shiva out of the unshakable meditative trance he had put himself into. But desire now lay in a heap of rubble. Shiva's wrath at the very presence of desire – the root cause of the loss that he was grieving – streamed from his third eye, as Kama helplessly yielded to the fire that emanated from the Destroyer's third eye.

Lesser mortals than the mighty Shiva have only two eyes. Or, is it conceivable that we too have a third one – a potent instrument of destruction – as Shiva did? Maybe we do, and maybe we are just unaware that we are not mere creators of new things, and protectors of what already exists, but also hold within us a power that is destructive: a mind's eye that burns anything that finds itself in front of it?

The mind of man

Somehow, someone, at some point, figured out that the human mind originates from within a person's head. Or, at least, this notion is a reasonable approximation, since neurons stretch to other parts of our bodies, and also because there is some recent recognition that there may be brain-like capabilities that are part of our gut. Also, when we say “mind," we seem to say something that is a bit beyond “brain," something that is a little more higher-order and abstract. Regardless of what we call it, or where it lies, we do have a part of us that is the control center for everything we do.

An important part of controlling is sensing. Each of us is endowed with multiple sensors – our eyes, ears, and other “senses" – that we use to gain knowledge of everything that we come in contact with. This knowledge is fed into our brains, allowing us to operate in line with what is in the “real world."

But what the “real world" is is a whole different question!

The Creator creates the “real world"

Our sense organs put us in touch with the world. But getting a bunch of signals from the environment would be just noise, if we could not somehow take these signals and see some higher-order things, suggested by the patterns in the bits and bytes that are the data to the computing device that is the human brain. So we see patterns. We see dogs, cats, and we hear different kinds of sounds. We form meta-patterns from these patterns – templates and building blocks that allow us to create patterns of our own, including those that have no parallels in the real world, at least none that we can verify through direct observation and experience. For example, we can conjure up dragons, demons and angels, and weave stories and connections between all the objects and creatures that our creative meta-patterning allows us to fabricate. Where does the reality end, and where does the “reality" begin? We can't possibly know, because it is all made from the same stuff – the stuff of the mind. All we know is that there is no difference between some real world outside that may exist, and the "real world" that we feel in our bones, or more correctly, in our minds.

The “third I"

So we use our two eyes (and other senses) to get the raw bits of data that are a step in the manufacturing process that creates our real world. And, since our creativity transcends the reality that is the source of signals, we end up with way more “world" than the real world has. This creative ability is what we could regard as the third eye – an eye that lets us see beyond what can be seen. We will play with words a little bit, and call this sixth sense “the third I"; this imagined eye and our “I" are one and the same at some level. We see what we see because of our meta-patterns, and the fabricated patterns that have become part of the fabric of our selves. This is the “I": the who-I-am. This is the thing that co-creates our worlds, in conjunction with anything else that exists out there.

Creativity has a positive connotation in general. Unless we create monsters that consume us. Maybe we do? Is this creature – this “third I" that we fabricate, and which lurks thereafter within us – potentially a Frankenstein's monster?

The creator is also the destroyer

When we create monsters that are existential threats to us, does that really deserve the positive connotation that we have come to associate with “creativity"? Would it not be reasonable to consider such “creativity" as a destructive act in some ways – something that replaces the real world that attempts to impinge upon us through our senses with substitutes generated through the third eye.

When we reach a point when there is more of the fabricated stuff than the real stuff, perhaps that's the tipping point? There is an I that consumes and burns everything in its path, replacing real things with the ashes of their original form. At a certain point, there is more of me, and less of the world. The third I dominates! All else will be reduced to rubble, and consigned to the ash heap.

Destroying my self

But wait. In destruction may lay creation: a re-creation of something that was lost, something that lay buried under what was fabricated. The third eye may be capable of more than meets the eye.

Maybe Shiva will close His third eye? Even if He does not, can I close my third I? Can I harness the destructive creativity inside me, turning it inward, incinerating all that was fabricated, until only the real world is left standing? Is it possible that “I" will cease to exist, and yield to the vastness of the universe? Or, at least, will there be less of me, and more of the world? As the quote at the top suggests, maybe I will be happier if there is less of me? Will you be? What do you think? Has the day for that arrived yet?