Body-swapping: the greatest taboo

bodyswapThere is one common assumption that lies at the foundation of all human interaction. Our entire perception is based on this assumption. All aspects of human life, regardless of culture, age, gender and race depend upon it. And for our separated reality this is so crucial that if such an assumption were missing all human life, as we have experienced it so far, would not make any sense. This is because this assumption is the sine qua non condition upon which all human culture and behaviour depends. So what is it?

It is the conviction that our physical body, as we perceive it, belongs to us and represents what we are. This is a belief most of us take for granted and do not bother to question. Yet, for those who take at least a moment to shake off their conditioned brain, it is unavoidable to ask something like: how do we know that we are the owners of our heads or feet? How can we truly determine the difference between what we believe to be our bodies and the bodies of others or the environment?

Possible answers to such questions have been explored by shamans and spiritual seekers throughout human history, yet they have also featured as major subjects in scientific investigation. For example, just to refer to a recent research, neurologists from the Karolinska Institute, one of Europe’s largest medical universities, some months ago reported experiments on the induction of “body-swap” awareness, in which subjects perceived the body of another person as belonging to themselves. Using closed-circuit televisions to create illusory perception they made volunteers virtually swap bodies, even making women believe they were in a man’s body and vice-versa. Some of their findings are published on their journal PLoS One in an article titled “If I Were You: Perceptual Illusion of Body Swapping”, which is available online if you are interested in getting the full details of the whole experiment.

Along with the above, a most surprising thing about the physical body, when we look at it from a scientific perspective, is the fact that there is not a single instant in which it exists as it seems to be. There is indeed nothing separate, solid or fixed in the body. It is an aggregation of infinite units moving and transforming themselves at a speed which the ordinary mind and senses refuse to acknowledge. The illusive impression of a static form is the product of our human assumption of being confined to our own bodies, that these bodies belong to us as fixed private properties throughout all our life. As a result of this privatisation of reality, each property needs to be manufactured according to a given form and shape so as to distinguish it from other assets. It also needs to have fences demarcating the borderline between one property and another. Moreover there are copious amounts of legal clauses managing all these ownership agreements, an intricate series of dubious contracts (otherwise called relationships), which have mechanically mushroomed throughout human history. And it is this that has produced, and still produces, our separated reality.

Of course, there is nothing wrong in adhering to the perception of a separated body. Every body is free to believe what it wants, yet when a belief is unquestioned and becomes the reality freedom, an Aquarian vital keyword, is inevitably lost. And since many people continue to suffer and struggle due to this belief, it is legitimate to ask whether it makes sense to keep on stubbornly believing it.

Science today demonstrates that 99 percent of our body consists of empty spaces. Our physical world is essentially a spatial system and the fact that we perceive it as solid and separate is the evident result of cultural conditioning. This is common scientific knowledge. The atom is basically empty apart from some very tiny fragments of matter. Since the entire universe consists of atoms, the physical world that we see and touch is made up almost totally of empty spaces. Also the floor upon which our body stands is essentially empty. I do not fall through it simply because these fragments of matter are spinning at such speed that they give me the illusion of being solid. And I buy this illusion simply in order to preserve the bogus perception of the integrity of my physical body and prevent it from falling apart, shape-shifting and mixing with other bodies, which is what it does anyway, despite my illusion. Yet, it is this illusion that generates the world most human beings believe that they live in.

Again this is all common scientific knowledge and it has also always made sense from most spiritual or philosophical perspectives. And yet how is it that there is such a dramatic contradiction between the acumen of our scientific and spiritual knowledge and the idiocy of our illusory belief systems on separation.

The folklore and mythology of most native cultures are abundant in tales that tell about the start of time, when animals could speak and people could change into animal or plant shapes and back with ease. Then something shifted and all this gradually became taboo. According to many shamanic traditions this shift, which produced our current belief systems, was the result of the activity of unseen predatory beings. They are the ones who manufactured our illusory perception of reality to keep us enslaved and fulfil their rapacious intentions. Awareness of these predatory beings is common in all shamanic and esoteric paths, though the names and the features used to describe them may differ.

Don Juan and the shamans of ancient Mexico, as narrated in the books by Carlos Castaneda, call these entities Voladores (Flyers). They regularly feed on human awareness and appear to be installed at the top of the head, where they operate like octopus’s tentacles, leeching our energy. Castaneda said that according to the shamans of ancient Mexico, Flyers were responsible for the implanting of our ego separated minds, and the related belief systems, which took place about 10.000 years ago. Before this time men were complete and whole beings, then their awareness was split and they were transformed into cataleptic slaves.

Although the above may appear to be a mythological fable or yet another conspiracy theory, what I wish to stress here is that most shamans are fundamentally practical people, unaffected by myths, or any philosophical, religious and social conditioning. They essentially know how the universe works. If you ask them about the reality of this world, demanding an honest answer, they may not speak about a universe founded on freedom, harmony, love and peace, where you create your own reality, fulfil your luminous potential or other spiritual advertising slogans. Of course, if they realise that you are asleep and these are the only things you can hear, they will not interfere with your sedation, and may tell you all the above. Yet, if you are unbiased enough to receive at least a minute part of their experience, they are likely to tell you that things are radically different from the way they appear to be and that most of what you have assumed throughout your entire life is far from being real.

What these shamans would tell us will still sound most appalling and unacceptable, even if we are open to listening to them. And this is why it is very improbable that they are going to tell anything. Their understanding abides outside the domain of ordinary languages. It is based on candid pragmatic experience, devoid of any cultural and linguistic connotation. And this experience is the forgotten language, which ordinary languages regularly obscure. Hence, unless I have a direct experience of that forgotten language, there is no way I can tap into what those shamans may tell me about their truth.

Truth cannot be communicated through languages aimed at promoting lies. Yet with those languages I can still convey strategic stories, which can create a gap in our sedated minds and allow a direct experience of truth. These stories are still lies and do not purport to be the truth. They are aimed at generating paradoxes and destabilising the effects of stagnant lies. This is done with the pragmatic trust that in some exceptional circumstances, paradoxes may cause a breakthrough in our dormant mind, allowing a provisional experience of truth to emerge. The hope is that the gradual accumulation of those provisional experiences will lead more human beings to a conscious understanding of the way the universe works.

In their daily experience shamans are aware of most unsettling and dreadful evidence regarding human life, a cloaked sinister setting that has existed since the beginning of time. Shamans acknowledge a wide variety of beings, some abiding in parallel realities, basically unaware of our world, and others operating in other dimensions, yet in close connection with mankind. Some of these beings seem to behave with dignity, respect and care, while others appear cruel, reckless and ruthless. Yet, what mainly distinguishes shamans from ordinary human beings is the fact of having a spirit guide, or ally, and a firm connection with their multidimensional selves. In their understanding this is the sole way of gaining the force required to move beyond the confinement of the physical body and separated reality.

“The body is a fence the Son of God imagines he has built, to separate parts of his Self from other parts. It is within this fence he thinks he lives, to die as it decays and crumbles”. (ACIM, WII.5.1:1-2) As long as the physical body continues to be considered our own identity there is no way out of separation. The problem is not the physical body per se. It is rather the idea of having “my own physical body” as opposed to those of supposed others. It is this belief that creates a fence in our minds and prevents them expanding into the wider reality of life, including the true nature of the physical world.

Throughout human history shamans have always had an alternative awareness of the physical realm, which has allowed them to use shape-shifting and other forms of body-swapping as a basic feature of their work. The primary experiential notion of shamanism is the interrelation and oneness of whatever exists. This pragmatically implies the capacity of moving beyond the illusory identification with their physical body, and its related personal history, moving or transforming themselves into other physical forms, also at a cellular level. It is our perception of the physical body as separate from the totality of existence that basically causes all the pain and grievances we encounter in life. And it is this perception that needs primarily to be corrected before any healing can take place.

Each one of us has the capacity to shape-shift on a physical level, to swap bodies and become any possible form that exists. Shape-shifting is not a magical skill that one develops after years of practice. Shape-shifting is happening all the time in front of our eyes, whether we accept it or not. It takes place when we drink, eat, breathe, go to the toilet, have sex, etc. For example, when I eat, what was an apple or a fish before becomes me (or I become it?). Extremely palpable acts of major body-swap are occurring in all aspects of our life, without mentioning all those which are harder to detect. While our attention is totally focused on promoting the cult of our personality and its separated body, this body keeps changing all the time and is always linked to the web of life.

Hence shape-shifting is about waking up and getting out of the trance of being in a fixed physical body. It is becoming aware of what is going on beyond our dreaming world. Shape-shifting also implies encouraging the positive parts, allowing them to shine and promoting major changes in our life and the environment. There are many folks who are involved with this process of shape-shifting, which inevitably involves acknowledging the whole planet as our physical body. When we realise that we are physically one with everything, then peace and respect for all aspects of our environment can truly take place. I trust that we can all retrieve our capacity to experience a deeper sense of empathy with others, one that besides allowing us to experience the emotions or state of mind of another being, also enables us to fully become the body of that being. This is the climax of empathy, as it is also the greatest taboo.

Franco Santoro