The User Illusion

So today, I’m starting to read this book. Got through the preface and chapter 1. It’s a challenge and I’m not sure I understand everything he’s saying but I am intrigued and will continue to plow through.

The User Illusion – Comments

I began this journey, seeking out some scientific explanations about consciousness after revisiting H’oponopono in Zero Limits where Hew Len suggests reading this book. A few weeks earlier, something was brought up in a class/retreat which was a quote from a Gary Weber.  And that led me to a youtube video where Weber shared how decisions are made somewhere in the brain several seconds before the person is aware of the decision. Then we claim that “we’ve” made a decision.

Last year, I took a break from Awakening Together to do some work with Liberation Unleashed after listening to a talk by Eshwar Segobind. And during that time, through my own experience, I found it impossible to witness the making of a decision, a choice.  There was just one moment I was doing this, and then the next moment I was doing that. No one there making a “decision.”

So when this book came up, I was very much drawn to it. 

The author admits that the beginning is a bit dense but it is readable for the average reader. I’m going to do my best to understand what is being shared in these pages. 


Consciousness, an experience of an ‘I’ or a decision maker, according to historical studies isn’t older than 3000 years old. And this author seems to feel that the conscious ego, “the epoch of the I is drawing to a close.” Wow. 

Research shows that we experience far more than they are conscious of and that this idea that we are in control or our actions, is an illusion. The author says this book’s aim is to combine science with everyday life. He does warn, “even though it does rather begin at the deep end,” it is understandable by most people when given the attempt.

Chapter 1 – Maxwell’s Demon 

Who would have thought of scientists as mystics? Honestly, I don’t totally get all the science being shared in this chapter but what stood out for me was that these guys are working with thoughts… and with material that they themselves, did not know the origin of. 

James Clark Maxwell, in the 1860s, a Scottish physicist did something remarkable they say. He summarized all that was known of phenomena into four short equations. Which I guess was pretty remarkable but the author adds… “He also succeeded in predicting phenomena… that were not discovered until after Maxwell’ death.”

Another physicist, Ludwig Boltzmann, said of this, “Was it a god that wrote these signs?” 

Another scientist, Heinrich Herz said, “One cannot escape the feeling that these equations have an existence and an intelligence of their own, that they are wiser than we are, wiser even than their discoverers, that we get more out of them than was originally put into them.”

So the question the author poses is “how could Maxwell hypothesize his way though his analogies to something nobody had yet discovered?”

When Maxwell was on his death bed he shared with a colleague, “What is done by what is called myself is, I feel, done by something greater than myself in me.”

Maxwell had also written a poem after his father died…

…powers and thoughts within us, that we

Know not, till they rise

Through the stream of conscious action from where the 

Self secret lies

But when Will and Sense are silent,

By thoughts that come and go….

Evidently, such kinds of mystical experiences are common among great natural scientist as the basis of their knowledge. 

“So in that sense, it was not Maxwell who wrote Maxwell’s equations. It was something greater than himself in him.”

Wow, doesn’t that sound like intuition at work?


The author then shares quite a bit about Unifying Theories…first with Newton unifiying theories of the heavens and the earth. Then the second unifying theory was Maxwell’s unification of everyday phenomena of magnetism, electricity and light.  And after the 1980s, it seemed that breakthroughs in physics started to return to issues between science and everyday life. The author states that he feels the Third Great Unification will be between science and everyday life. Answers to our everyday questions. 

So then in 1990, a small but very qualified group of scientists assembled and an imminent physicist opened the gathering with “There is no space and no time. There is no out there out there….” That must have blown a few minds!!

What this did was to get scientist to question their beliefs. Their sacred cows and it was almost like they started all over again from scratch. 

Then the author takes us into the explanation of Maxwell’s Demon, an introduction to the subject of heat, energy, entropy, second law of thermodynamics and what all that is. It’s all quite interesting but if you’re intrigued, I’m going to point you to the book. 

For me, what it all boiled down to is that once we decide we understand things the way they are, create “laws”, we are actually boxing ourselves in. We limit ourselves. But there is something else out there, in here, that is smarter than that. I’m not sure that’s where the author is taking us but that’s what I got from it. 

One other thing that caught my attention. This is a description how temperature is gauged. 

But in matter at a given temperature, molecules evince many different speeds. Most have speeds close to the average. We find more high-speed molecules in hot matter than in cold matter. But we also find speedy molecules in cold matter and lcthargic ones in hot.

This allows us to understand evaporation. The higher the temperature, the more high-speed molecules. If we imagine evaporation as tiny molecular rockets shooting spaceward, we can see that the hotter a liquid it, the more molecules get away.

But the statistical distribution of speeds has an interesting consequence: We cannot tell from the individual molecule to which temperature it belong. In other words, the individual molecule can have no idea which temperature it is part of.

Temperature is a concept that means anything only if we have a lot of molecules at once. It it nonsensical to ask each molecule how much temperature it has. Because the molecule does not know. It knows only one speed: it own.

Or does it? After a white, a molecule in a gas will have bumped into other molecules and therefore acquired a certain “knowledge” of the speeds of the other molecules. That is precisely why matter assumes an even temperature: the molecules keep bumping into each other and exchanging speed; a state of balance is achieved.”

If we were to exchange molecule for our little selves, what would this mean to us? I’m not exactly sure but when I read it, I thought, this is about us….

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