Psychic sleep is the cause of every human problem and disaster. It is sleeping people who suffer from heartache and loneliness, from fear and violence. Only self-awakening can end these sorrows. However — and please emphasize this point in your mind — man does not know he is asleep. So deep is his immersion in psychic hypnosis, that he instantly denies his actual condition. In other words, he does not know that he does not know. He spends his entire life under the gigantic illusion of being happy and productive, never once facing the terror in which he lives. Man huddles fearfully in a haunted house which he calls a castle.
Have you ever been in a room full of people when someone behaved foolishly or childishly? You sensed that he did not know how he appeared to others. In fact, he may have believed he was behaving cleverly or courageously. Everyone in the room saw him as he really was, except the man himself. That is a perfect example of human hypnosis, of psychic unawareness.
The ancient philosopher, Socrates, provided a classic illustration of man’s mental sleep. He told about a group of men who were huddled together in a deep cave. Their only light was a fire that blazed in the center of the cavern. The fire cast strange shadows against the wall of the cave, frightening the prisoners. So the men sat there in terror and confusion.
One of the prisoners made up his mind to explore the cave. When doing so, he found a secret tunnel. Following it all the way, he finally found himself in the outer world of sunshine and beauty.
We will now look at a chief characteristic of spiritual sleep. When this is understood, all the pieces of life fall into place, revealing the whole picture. Man has a false idea of who he is. He has an illusory sense of identity. This false self is manufactured out of self-flattering imaginations and out of self-pleasing labels. He labels himself as a successful man, or as an intelligent thinker, or as a human being with lofty motives. But these are mere ideas he has about himself and he is not these ideas. We can easily prove this.
Whenever a man feels depressed or irritated, it is simply because his false identity seems not to be confirmed. Both these reactions are false, so man is their slave.
Have you ever noticed how nervous people get when their pet ideas are challenged? Let this be a clue for you. By patient self-investigation we discover who we are not, and that ends the anxiety of not knowing who we are.
To summarize this vital point, man wrongly believes that he possesses a separate self, an individual ego. This false idea causes fear, loneliness, neurosis. It throws him into conflict with other people who are also under the illusion of having separate selves. No man is apart from the whole, from the all. Man is one with the universe. Human beings are like dozens of ponds, each reflecting the light from the same moon. This is not philosophy, this is fact.
— Vernon Howard