The Limitations of the Matrix Analogy

The Matrix has been assimilated into Zen lore as readily as the words of the old Patriarchs. I’ve used it, and Star Wars, in talks and informal discourses, as it conveys something new that’s easy to grasp – the notion of a larger reality, beyond our senses. But it is here that the analogy falls short. To become awake is not at all like unplugging from the Matrix, though at times the rift between the Absolute and the affairs we’ve become enmeshed in is so great that this clumsy mechanism rings true. Certainly we’re all connected in some way.



Does this




“The seat was very bright, nearly white hot. The state of the previous winter quickly rose again, blotting out everything. More focused and powerful, it required all of my resources. If my body was weak I would falter. Not too much walking, I was careful about how much food I was taking in, and to let everything wash over me. I let nature direct what I should do and to what extent — the wisdom of long practice.

As the schedule began to dominate me, I would often reside in the ecstatic core, or else fall briefly into the blankness of sleep. The moments where I lost my hold a doorway, invisible; I could only sense it by the surge of energy that rose as I approached. There’s something important here — in the crossing over the mind is freed. But the door itself is heavily weighted and not meant to be tampered with, like a heart, lung, or other organ. I’ve worked on this for many years. I was able, once, to hold my mind steady all the way to the moment of unconsciousness, then nothing, but the practice sprang back in place inside the dream, startling me awake.

It’s a useful tool in going deeper into the stream, as it takes you along with it down to the depths, but otherwise fooling around with this is a waste of time. Only more data to sort through: an ephemeral sort that reflects the surface, which itself is of no real consequence; a vicious cycle that needs only a modern chemical to unlatch it. I’m sure we’ll have it on the street before long, some sort of channel through to the surface that, like Claire in Wender’s ‘Until the End of the World,’ creates a new breed of junkie.

There’s another door, infinitely more remote. The wild energy of the previous winter pushed me toward it, unknown until the latch was thrown. As the practice continued to deepen I was able to penetrate farther, with less effort, to the point that I finally rode all the way through to the tapering off into nothing. It wasn’t into the abyss of sleep, but the other end, where the mind is lost in the field of the Absolute. Here the energy bursts had their own rising, crests, and receding. There was nothing remarkable about them, besides the rapture, but what was revealed there. At the far end I discovered a new door.

I will never forget the night of December 27th. Three weeks into kyol-che, I’d just finished a walk into town and some editing in the suitcase. It was the last round of sitting, near 9PM. I had no feeling that something would occur. I wasn’t holding my mind too tight, but easily in control of it, plenty of energy, when a strong gust of wind hit the window behind me.

‘Are you ready?’

I thought it the same internal dialogue, the same ceaseless chattering. There was no thing discernible, nothing new, only the heat and sound and vibration of a concentrated mind steadily increasing in pitch. Somehow, instinctively, I held my mind very gently, with a deep feeling of my own purity and that of all things. My mind was even, with no concerns. As I continued, the energy field tightened — a concentration of light and a constant ringing as I neared the door. The tight-walled blue center pulsed brightly, ever faster. I latched on to the knife-edge of it, refocusing every half-second, pressing forward — gently — to the heated core.

The ringing continued to rise, together with other indefinable sounds and a rapid fluttering of light, like bird wings. I saw only a tight glowing mass emanating in surging pulses, my eyes nearly pressed closed from the intensity. My vision became more and more broken apart, with plates of static slamming past patches of pitch black. I reached a point where I could go no farther and dug in firmly for a long period of just holding ground. My body shook uncontrollably, with fits of trembling, until there was a softening; a dip in the energy field. At once a surge of rapture rose and enveloped me, and I was pulled through the door.

The blue core of this state, the thread of consciousness, is blurry or imperceptible normally, but when the practice heats up it can become more defined. It tightens as one nears the edge, what we’re able to perceive. If you’re able to control the flow of energy out, and keep a gentle hold on the surface, and stay with it a long time without getting rattled, the mind will be drawn up in a tremendous surge of energy, and so exit the thread. It’s possible. I wouldn’t think many have made it through, as difficult as it was.

When I approached the door I could feel the excitement of it. It stays with me. But it remained invisible. I was able to pass through it only when the heavens aligned, the body and mind were purified, and all concerns far away. What did I see there? It can’t be described, besides, I have no idea what it was. The complexity of the human body alone, not to mention all sentient life, the web of consciousness must be even more so. A similar case was noted by Tu-Shun (557-640 A.D.), who labeled it the ‘Net of Indra,’ but his account seemed as far away and quaint as someone describing a rocket as ‘a chariot of fire that rode across the heavens…’ nearly indecipherable unless you actually saw it.

Since I don’t want to leave you with a historical account alone, I’ll give you my impression. Imagine an infinite span of interconnected strands, a very dense, organic web not all the same color or evenly distributed, but largely neutral in tone and laid out flat, as if held by some kind of gravity. There was a great deal of activity; the strands flashed with some sort of current, a sense of turmoil and noise running through them: a dull sensation, a convection nearly boiling with the movement of life. The activity was greater in the dense areas, where knots formed from the many interconnected strands; collectives of human consciousness. I say this because I could hear faint voices at the nearest knot, all jumbled together in conflict. Quieter threads branched out from there and down to depths unknown. It must have included every sort of life, down to the mineral.

I was locked in, my mind completely clear, still, euphoric, with a feeling of sadness along with the rapture. What I saw had no glamour to it: life filled to the brink with suffering and turmoil, everything feeding on each other. It was hard on me. It changed me. I don’t know how long I was in, only a few minutes, when my heart began beating erratically and I was forced to return.

But the world is never the same.”
(Excerpt from The Zen Revolution)

let me illustrate this further. There are two aspects which must be brought into alignment. The self has to be resolved, in Zen the teaching of no-self (the Ox-herding series gives a quick summary). After the self is dissolved in the furnace of practice, the mind opens, accepts the larger self, the Absolute.

To develop compassion for all beings, more than a religious ideal, is a necessary condition. Without orientating yourself this way, the gate remains obscured (the true self is that). Here the Matrix analogy, a dim echo, can be disposed of. There’s no other reality apart from phenomenal existence, only a greater apprehension of it.

I assume you’ve taken the red pill?


3 thoughts on “The Limitations of the Matrix Analogy

  1. Stephen says:

    You are not a Gnostic, it seems!

  2. Swordmaster says:

    The karma world ,phenomenally appearing and disappearing in space,that sense of time linked to duality,ever looming before durning and after the absolute undifferentiated truth ,if it was not inseparable from the world of opposites it would not be the absolute. The known , the opposites a wormhole to the abstract core,Indras net ,follow the sounds ringing in the filaments ,fibers that open to other worlds, compassion is the shield from the overwhelming gravity of infinite unknowing,the only rule in the abstract is that which is unchanging and eternal is change.becareful tourists sometimes loss their travel visa and get stranded in strange countries unsuited for there direction home,-as always ,the stamp on the tourist visa is ,don’t know …and return is as simple as et phone home…put it all down…….next time papers for a green card ,so there is no here or there!
    Rock on rocket man

  3. i read your discription of the sitting you had years ago. he keeps asking what you are doing and i think that was the best answer i have ever heard. very good. he said that in the bible it says that if the silver thread is broken a man will die.

Leave a Reply