The Rope Trick, Magic, and Illusion
By Cathy Eck
The Rope Illusion
Last week, my improv class was given an assignment. Half of the people lined up, one behind the other, on one side of the room; the other half lined up facing the first group on the other side of the room. We were told that we were going to have a tug of war, but we had no rope. We had to imagine the rope. We each grabbed the rope making sure that we were gripping it correctly. When you have no rope, you become strangely conscious about how you hold your hands.
Then the battle started. We were told to play to win. My side started pulling very hard, and we moved backward pretty quickly. We had to navigate one step on our side in order to move backward, which was a tricky maneuver with so many people standing so close to each other. It appeared that we were going to win with ease. Then the guy at the end of the rope on the other team (Eugene) dove on the floor and dug his feet in. His body wiggled like he was fighting for his life; he started moaning and groaning. His team picked up his lead. At that point, his team suddenly started groaning in unison; and our team lost our edge. The rope was rapidly moving the other way; we were being pulled down the step like dominos.
Before we started, it seemed preposterous that someone would give in. Wouldn’t we simply stretch the rope and refuse to cross the line. Would a team captain actually give in and cross that imaginary line? Well my team captain gave in. He fell across that line. We lost an imaginary tug of war. I could see why. When Eugene dove on the floor, it was clear that he had decided to win. Our team didn’t care enough to pull a bigger stunt.
This was incredible for me to observe. It was a miniature illusion with a definite beginning and ending. We’re all playing imaginary games — mini illusions within a giant illusion. The world around us is a set with props. We take actions for no other reason than to make a stronger statement than words can offer. We believe that our actions speak louder than our words. We treat actions like words with the volume turned way up.
If we understand that we treat actions in this way, we can often see through the illusion more clearly. Actions are often consistent with our beliefs even if our words are not. For example, someone says they don’t believe in God; but when they get sick, they say a prayer. They believe in God. A person who watches everything they eat has a fear of getting fat or sick. But we often treat their action as evidence that the person is free of food beliefs. They aren’t. They simply have the willpower to fix the effects of their beliefs. Fixing the effects of our beliefs makes the beliefs stronger, not weaker, until one day we don’t have enough willpower to get what we want. The corrective beliefs stop working, and that leads to our death. Watching Eugene’s great dive in order to win an imaginary tug of war, I’d guess that when things get tough for him, he throws his whole body into his problem. And it probably has worked in the past.
Wars of Will
In the feminine role, we often feel imprisoned by people with strong willpower — people who speak or take action with powerful conviction that they are right or good. If they also have a role of authority, or a damn good costume, we become even more feminine to them. We don’t see what’s really happening. Our attention goes to them because they’ve pulled the bigger stunt; and we now ignore our own mind. If we watched our mind, we’d see the thoughts in our mind that transfer our power to them. But we don’t. We’re so trained to give our attention and power to the masculine role.
Unless the leader is coming from the True Self and has very few beliefs (in which case we won’t mind being feminine to them), they probably have an insatiable desire for the object of their attention. They’re willing to do whatever they believe it will take to win. In other words, they know what they believe, and they follow such beliefs. They are congruent in that their thoughts, match their words and actions. That gives them power. They’re playing to win.
We all get confused and start to think that a physical battle is actually taking place because we’ve been trained to view life that way. If we’re in a feminine role that we don’t like, we share similar or same beliefs with the authority figure; or we wouldn’t be in the situation. But we probably don’t want to do what’s required to win; we don’t like our beliefs. We aren’t congruent. Perhaps our conscious says the beliefs are wrong or harmful. Or maybe it’s just too much hard work. If we let go of the beliefs we share with the authority figures/winners, we’ll become congruent within. Then we won’t lose to them anymore. In fact, there will be no reason for us to be in their world anymore.
We aren’t battling with anyone else ever — that’s only how it looks in the illusion. We’re all having a battle with our own false self. And most of our false selves look pretty similar. This is hard to see because we get our false selves from others; and often our relationships create false connections between us. If we agree or rebel against a belief system, we’re holding that belief system in our mind. Letting go doesn’t happen until we move into true and false. We have to see the shared beliefs as false and powerless.
We don’t think to let go of the beliefs we have about those who appear to judge us or imprison us. But we can; and when we completely let go of the beliefs we hold about the people in the masculine role in our lives or the beliefs we share with them, these people lose their false power over us. Beliefs have only the power that we give them. If we don’t give power to our enemy’s beliefs; they can’t harm us anymore. They are no longer our enemy. Win-lose has no power around win-win; that’s why people in win-lose consider the True Self to be the supreme enemy.
I just finished reading an amazing book. It’s called “Ghost Boy, the Miraculous Escape of a misdiagnosed Boy Trapped Inside his Own Body.” It’s written by Martin Pistorius (pictured above) from South Africa. Around twelve years old, Martin got very sick. Experts had no idea what was wrong with him, and they now believe that he had something that doctors label, “Locked In Syndrome.” That’s one hell of a label. He ended up with no ability to control his body or communicate. He was literally mentally locked inside of his body. People assumed that he was a vegetable, and labeled him as such….another horrible label. They thought he’d die soon. But he didn’t die, and he wasn’t a vegetable.
After awhile, Martin became completely aware of everything going on around him. He felt how people judged him. He noticed that they treated him like an infant. They played Barney on the television at his day care center. He hated Barney because he was a teenager. They moved him in rough ways because they thought he wasn’t feeling anything. They abused him emotionally, mentally, physically, and sexually because they held him in their mind as a burden. They didn’t check to see if his food or water was the right temperature. They didn’t notice when he hated the food they gave him; they forced him to eat it even when he’d gag and vomit. He realized that people had no ability to understand him; therefore, they treated him as if he didn’t matter. This is the same phenomenon that allows people to kill or punish someone they’ve labeled an enemy. And we learn this mentality from religion — it’s the knowledge of good and evil.
Martin remained “locked in” for years. Then he slowly emerged from his cocoon. He said the first thing he taught himself to do was tell time by the movement of light. He felt some power in his ability to do that.
When he heard his mother say that she wanted him to die, he had to work hard to find compassion for her. But he did. He stepped into her shoes and understood her point of view. But he didn’t accept her words as true.
Eventually a massage therapist started talking to him normally as if nothing was wrong; and he felt a sense of relief and power in that. Martin described this woman in a very beautiful way. He said that, unlike the other caregivers at the center, she seemed to truly love her work. And most important, she didn’t see him as a worthless vegetable. What he described was the perspective of a True Self, which sees value in everyone. They see beyond the physical into the mental realm.
You can’t teach someone to be a True Self. They are, or they aren’t. Martin’s caregiver noticed that he responded to her words as she massaged him, and she recommended that he be tested. They suddenly learned that inside this lifeless body was a bright, talented human being. And now people began working to get him out. More important, their FALSE illusion of him was proven wrong; so they stopped projecting on him.
Martin’s book makes more sense than almost anything I’ve ever read. Once labeled, Martin become feminine to everyone. Experts (authority figures) said he wasn’t in there. No one checked to see if the experts were right. That’s how it is in the illusion. People don’t question the experts. People ignore the feminine.
Martin was probably a sensitive child who mirrored the lack of awareness in his parents and authority figures. Instead of fixing their mind in order to produce a better reflection, the authorities broke their mirror. Martin tried and tried to muster up his will; but if we’re in the feminine role of the illusion, our willpower seems impotent. But he did see that their assessments of him were false; and he slowly grew in power as he learned that he could trust his own perception.
Martin’s story is about perception, and how the perception of others in the illusion can imprison us. It looks like a physical imprisonment, but it’s not. Very few people are stuck in physical prisons; most are stuck in high security mental prisons. The story also demonstrates how fixing the effects of a problem doesn’t do anything — it’s lose lose. No one ever looked for the cause of Martin’s illness; they just went on fixing the effects. Even as the story ended, Martin still could not speak without equipment and still can’t walk. The problem is that no one has yet looked for the cause. Maybe they never will. But Martin is happy and has found love, which is what he wanted most.
It isn’t until we break free of the illusion (let go of the beliefs that keep us stuck in it) that we can see the truth. Like Martin, we’re often aware that other people’s perceptions of us are wrong/false; and we feel trapped in our bodies unable to speak the truth and tell people who we are. Like Martin, we notice the believers in the illusion outnumber us. We notice that some people seem to win because they effortlessly follow the illusions’ dominant beliefs. We wonder why we can’t just do that.
We weren’t meant to follow the illusion; our life is about breaking free. We must work on our mind and find power in who we truly are in order to break free. We must realize that their perception is false and, therefore, powerless in our world. We must stop battling with the illusion and it’s players and realize that the enemy is our own false self.
How We Get Stuck in the Illusion
Hypnosis helps us to understand this phenomenon of getting stuck in the feminine role within the illusion. Just like the rope in my classes’ tug of war, roles are simply a construct of the illusion. If we imagine ourselves as a ball of energy, we give our energy or power to those in masculine roles. We take power from those we consider inferior or feminine to us. And this isn’t considered wrong in the illusion. It’s how it works.
It’s only when we decide that we want freedom, when we will no longer take a masculine role and abuse others, that we desire to let go of roles all together. We’re trained to see roles, but they aren’t real. While studying hypnosis, I read a book called “Hypnotism and Mysticism of India” by Ormond McGill. While hypnosis is relatively new in the west, it’s an old technique in the east and middle east where magic, mysticism, and hypnotism went together like conjoined triplets.
Magicians clearly understand the power of the masculine role, and they trust the innate desire of the feminine role to follow. McGill helped me to understand how easily humans (in the feminine role) are fooled by people who take advantage of our natural ability to fill in gaps in logic in any situation in order to make sense of it. We do this because we don’t want to see that the magician is a fake; we don’t want to see that our leaders are false. If we did see this, we’d have to do something about it; and that is far too frightening for most. It’s a fear or anger that arises in people as they start to see through the illusion. Often it causes them to thwart their quest for freedom. The illusion looks too damn powerful. But it’s not.
False leaders have very strong willpower and the ability to project their ideas into the minds of the followers. These magicians/gurus don’t use fear like the western religions; they embed their beliefs in their practices, teachings, and rituals. They use projection to appear magic and powerful, like the “Wizard of Oz.” Their power relies entirely on our inability to see the trick from the feminine role.
McGill explain a very popular Indian rope trick in great detail. People fall for these types of tricks routinely. The audience is certain that the magician is a spiritual master; they cannot fathom how the trick could be done with magic. The author explains that maya, the eastern word for illusion, is created through suggestion combined with visualized and projected concentrated thought, which is projected by the magician on to the spectators. In other words, the magician projects his will on the audience. The spectators suspend their disbelief; and they think the trick is miraculous because the thoughts in their mind are thoughts they received from the magician/guru. They are not their thoughts, but they don’t notice that because they don’t know their own mind. This is why the key lesson of the initiates was to “know they Self;” in other words, know your own damn mind so you know when you have received thoughts that another has projected on you.
McGill also explained that telepathy is very common in the east; and eastern people are more sensitive to it than western people. This is why people are so easily drawn into the beliefs of yogis and gurus. As the eastern ideas have become more popular in the west, we find that westerners also get sucked into these people’s illusions. If we don’t know how to discriminate, meditation and eastern practices make us more susceptible to telepathy. Our conscious mind is not manning the fort.
In short, when we meditate or relax, we become more like we were as children when our minds were mostly in the alpha state. And this is why we all got highly programmed as children to believe what our parents believed. With gurus and spiritual teachers, it appears that the eastern-style meditation is for the relaxation of the participants. It’s really for the benefit of the guru/teacher. My friend actually got a guru to admit this. This does not happen with the western style meditation that I write about on this blog. In western meditation, we don’t float away. We watch our thoughts, get to know our mind, discriminate, and let go. We actually move more into our body as we do this process.
Sadly, McGill says that those who do this sort of hypnosis for magic are conjurers. But then he believes that those who do it and sell spirituality are different. I’d say the people he calls conjurers are more honest. They’re actually admitting that what they do is a trick. So the book starts to fall apart a few chapters in — at least for me. I don’t recommend it. He starts to explain eastern religious principles as the truth when he’s really just explaining mysticism or the occult…a close cousin to magic. If you aren’t discriminating, he could convince you that these gurus really do have it going on.
Stay Out of My Mind
I was very good at keeping others out of my mind until I meditated. If something another said didn’t feel right, I just didn’t accept it. It wasn’t a big deal, it was a natural way of being. I had no idea what I was doing other than I watched my mind all the time. I knew when a thought got into my mind that I didn’t like. But over time, I lost that skill — I lost my gatekeeper.
I got into meditation to relieve stress from work. I loved the calmness, but I was not letting go of the thoughts that arose. I was focusing on my breath or something else. I often went to group meditations without realizing that the leader was often expressing their beliefs while we were in the alpha state of mind. Not good.
I was doing eastern meditation to quiet my mind, not free it. At that time, I didn’t know freedom was possible. But I was teaching my mind that I liked quiet. And our false mind is very obedient. So my unwanted thoughts became more unconscious. They didn’t speak up because I wanted quiet. Oh fuck!
I see this often with people I mentor. If they have meditated in the past, they often find their mind just goes quiet; and they can’t find the causal belief. They aren’t feeling any emotions when they should because they’ve trained themselves to be out of their body looking in. That won’t get them free.
Since I had watched my mind so much, I could see that my thoughts were deteriorating as I meditated. However, those thoughts were now showing up more in others as my projection. This upset me; I was becoming like a guru. I was seeing my beliefs in others. While I didn’t want to cause my life to suck, I was even more upset about causing someone else’s life to suck. I could now see that others used projection to win at the illusion. I suddenly realized that I had the secret to success; and I couldn’t even use it in good conscious.
This was a sign that something was seriously wrong with eastern meditation; and I quit. But much damage had been done to my mind. I noticed that other people’s thoughts were now sucked into my mind much more easily. It was as if my natural discrimination had been removed or fallen asleep. I could see that thoughts that I’d dismissed earlier in life with ease now felt true. I’d put another belief system in my mind and that belief system was highly tainted with psychological reversal. I had to unravel what I’d put in to cause this problem.
When we begin to watch our mind in order to get free, we discover that we’re the thinker of very few of the thoughts that pass through our mind. We’re shocked at what we find in there. Then as we let go, and travel deeper and deeper into our subconscious mind, we’re amazed to find religious and social beliefs that we swore we did not have. We don’t remember anyone telling us these beliefs directly. But they feel true or at least powerful. Many of those snuck into our mind because we all have the belief that if it happened to them, it could happen to us. Others slip in when we want to fit in or be a good member of a group with strong beliefs. Some beliefs get in because we feel we must accept them because we have a dictator for an authority figure.
Mentoring has taught me a lot on this subject. I have mentored people of different races, different cultures, different social and financial status, and different ages; and they all find the same damn beliefs to let go. They might say them in a slightly different way. But the illusion is the illusion is the illusion. Our differences are very minimal. All religions cause a similar deterioration of our mind. They are the root of all problems, suffering, disease, and death. And yet, billions of people keep these belief systems alive because they think they will take them to God. They are still treating their life as if they are having a real tug of war; when they don’t even have a rope in their hands.
The idea of getting into another person’s mind has become more mainstream in the west. Things like NLP and hypnosis have become popular in recent times. People buy tapes with subliminal messages on them to reprogram their mind. They take meditation classes and adopt eastern practices. It’s insanity. We don’t think about what we’re doing. People think that putting positive statements or the truth in someone’s mind is helpful. But it isn’t. As I’ve said many times. That’s putting ice cream on top of shit and calling it a sundae.
When I worked as a hypnotherapist, people wanted me to put beliefs in their mind. I could not do it; it just felt so wrong even if the beliefs were supposedly “good beliefs.” So this caused me to find another way. It was the beginning of my discovery of how to let go. I first did it with people in hypnosis. Then I dropped the hypnosis, and it still worked.
We don’t realize that we’re giving others power over our minds when we accept their teachings or practices. We often don’t even question them until we are drowning or very sick. And we rarely see them as the cause. Our false self always blames the wrong thing.
Tricks and Traps of the Illusion
This topic exposes several big beliefs that we must understand if we are to escape the illusion. Often as we tackle these beliefs, we feel overwhelmed with emotion. It’s important to face the discomfort and witness the emotion until it’s all gone. That can take a while. If you still feel emotion around a belief, you still believe it.
While western religions tend to bully people into accepting their point of view, eastern religions sell their practices as healthy or good for our mind. They slowly get into our psyche; and we start thinking as they do. We’re like lobsters in a pot.
If we look at the east (until recently when the western mindset started to move east), we find lack of desire, extreme poverty, and lack of creativity. Many who engage in the self-help or New Age/eastern movement complain of these symptoms. They start wondering who they are and what they should do with their life. They often turn to astrology; it makes sense, astrology was born in the east to tell people who they were. But it defined their place in the illusion. Our True Self doesn’t need to be defined.
These seekers start to feel overly sensitive — they believe they are feeling other people’s emotions. They aren’t feeling other people’s emotions. They’re believing everything that others say, and then they’re feeling the corresponding emotion for accepting that belief. The confusion arises because they can’t imagine they believe such things. They don’t remember accepting such beliefs. But they’ve been going to healers, meditations, or yoga classes; and they made themselves too open. Often they say things like “All is one.” That’s true for the True Self, but deadly for the false self. We don’t want to be one with other people’s false selves. I refer to this as level confusion.
Freedom requires that we are the master of our mind. But that means that our mind is free of ALL beliefs. A free mind is a natural mind — the way our mind was before we accepted beliefs. When most teachers talk of mental mastery, they talk of a highly-focused mind or a mind that’s able to control others or project on to others. They talk of willpower and control. They talk of taking actions that are congruent with widely-accepted beliefs. People like Tony Robbins program their minds for success like they’re programming a computer. That’s not mental mastery.
So why do we do this?
Well, within reason, it can be very fun. My rope experience in improv class was hilarious. But we dropped the game when we were finished. We disconnected.
On the other hand, people who belong to a religion or group of any sort all accept the same beliefs; and they’re expected to keep them. They don’t drop the false connection they have with the group. This is why it’s difficult for people to leave groups. They share a false self connection that they don’t want to lose because our false self is lonely and incomplete. The power of any belief system is dependent on numbers of believers. So when one person leaves, it weakens the group; they try to pull them back. People who leave often feel that they still must obey the rules of the group or they’ll be judged. Or worse, many groups tell members that they’ll have bad fortune, get sick, or even die (or be killed or punished) if they leave. This is all done to keep the illusion fed.
But let’s take this further. Someone joins Weight Watchers to lose weight, and they do lose weight on the program. But as soon as the program is complete, they start to put the weight back on. You see, they accepted the belief that the way they ate with Weight Watchers causes weight loss. They also accepted the opposite of that — if they don’t eat that way, they’ll gain weight. This is why these companies are so profitable. They’re sure you’ll be back. We really have to watch our mind to catch these sorts of traps.
Recently, I was working with someone who wanted to quit smoking. I asked her to imagine the inhalation of the cigarette smoke, and she was calm and said it felt good. She had no thought and no physical reaction. I felt calm listening to her; she wasn’t bullshitting me. Smoking was relaxing and enjoyable to her. She had no bad thoughts about it.
So I said, “Where are the bad thoughts about smoking…the judgments?” “Those come from others,” she replied, “My mom.” When she thought being judged for smoking, she felt her lungs tighten and her breath shorten. It wasn’t the smoking that caused her physical problems. It was the judgment of non-smokers that was projected on her that caused her physical effects. She felt feminine to non-smokers, who have become quite zealous in the last few decades about smoking being a dangerous thing. They lock smokers in and project consequences on them.
Regarding smoking, she was like Martin from the “Ghost Boy” book. She felt the power of a large numbers of believers imposed on her. She felt she couldn’t escape their prison without becoming one of them.
We treat every subject like religion in the illusion. There are rules that define good. You obey those rules, and you get rewarded. You disobey the group rules, and you get punished. After being part of a group for awhile, you self regulate. You will reward and punish yourself according to their rules until you let go of their rulebook from within your mind.
Once we see that system at work, and we realize that it’s how the false mind works, we can start to use that wisdom to take down any subject within the context of our own mind. Once we let go of other people’s beliefs in our mind, we start to hear our own voice more. We start to discriminate between true and false. We start moving down the road to freedom.
We’ve all accepted beliefs that make beliefs powerful. These beliefs must go. First of all, we’ve accepted the giant psychological reversal that says that beliefs that generate emotion are the truth. Work on letting that go so you can see beliefs as beliefs.
There is another key psychological reversal that I want to encourage you to let go. You’ll probably find a lot of emotion around this one unless you’ve really suppressed that emotion. In order to get free, we must notice that we’re trained to feel guilty when we expose beliefs as false. This renders us powerless to deflate the illusory bubble.
Oddly, we usually feel no emotion if we impose a belief on another, even though we are doing them incredible harm; we’re limiting their life. We can see this in Martin’s story. His caretakers were doing their job. They didn’t feel guilty because they were following the orders of the experts.
When we suggest that another’s belief isn’t suitable for us or just plain fucking not true, the person might insinuate that we’re hurting them or being rude. If we notice our emotional reaction to their accusation, we’ll realize that they aren’t speaking the truth. Their words aren’t true because they’re generating emotion in both of us. This psychological reversal acts like super glue in keeping the illusion in tact in our mind. People seem to have a very hard time catching it.
When we reverse this BIG one, and know that we’re doing nothing wrong by exposing beliefs, we start to feel some real power inside. We start to speak the words that cut through the garbage. We stop accepting judgment for being ourselves or not having beliefs at all. We stop hiding in the closet. We speak and live what we know to be true. Our actions line up with our beliefs; and we start living our life and fulfilling our desires. We’re now the congruent ones. We’re not just congruent with our beliefs, we’re congruent with our omnipotent True Self.
It’s All Magic
There’s a show on television that exposes magic tricks. After, seeing how a trick is done, you’re no longer impressed. And that’s a good thing. Magic or illusion depends on our ability to see what we’re told to see, not what really is. Living a free life is dependent on seeing what really is, not what we’re told to see. And as we let go, what really is becomes better and better.
When we discriminate, let go, and free ourself, no one can trick us again. Those illusionists will eventually be out of a job. That’s their problem. Magic just won’t work anymore as people learn to hear and see the truth…just like it was in the beginning before the fall.