This article is Chapter 6 in Celebrating Who We Are by Richard Lang
The Card Experiment
Part One — The Mirror
Richard: We are going to do the Card experiment. Has everyone got a Card with a hole in it?
Hold your Card at arm’s length and look in the mirror — you see your face there. The mirror reveals two truths. The first truth is what you look like on Sunday morning! I’m sure you’re all happy to see a bright and fresh face there… The second truth is where that image is, where that face is — isn’t it out there in the mirror, at the far end of your arm? I don’t see a face here at the near end of my arm.
The mirror is showing you what you look like at arm’s length. This is roughly what others see when they look at you from this distance.
Bring your mirror half-way towards you.
This is your appearance at this range.
Bring it closer — you see a huge eye. Make contact with the mirror — you see a blur. Now move your mirror back to arm’s length.
Which of these appearances is you? Well, all of them. Each is you from a different range. Your mirror is showing you that your appearance changes with distance. Put the Card down for a moment.
If we could place a full-length mirror on the other side of the room you would see your whole body there. The mirror would be helping you see yourself from that range. What you would see there would be similar to how you appear to others at that range. There’s a zone around you where your body manifests, in mirrors and in others.
Imagine a huge mirror about ten thousand feet up in the sky — you would see Levittown there. That’s your appearance at that range — your urban face, your urban body. You need that layer — you need the water and sewage systems, the power grid, the roads and buildings… We can’t exist as individuals without this greater body. Imagine looking in an even bigger mirror further away, say on the Moon — you would see the Earth there. That’s your planetary face — manifesting at that range. At this close range you’ve got a human face, at that distant range you’ve got a planetary face. They are both your faces. We don’t normally think like this but it makes sense to think like this. It’s also rather wonderful to have a planetary face, a planetary body. You’ve got one, you might as well own it! You’ve also got a solar body. From several light-years you’re a star! Even further away you have a galactic body. Why not say yes to your beautiful many-levelled body?
Carol: If you are having a bad hair day you can just say that you’re a star!
Richard: Yes! It’s amusing as well as beautiful. And it’s also true. The mirror is a friend. It shows you what you are, not just at arm’s length but, at least in theory, at more distant and at closer ranges. It helps us see this beautiful layered body we have.
Then the question is, ‘What is at the centre of all these layers?’ In other words, ‘Who am I really? What am I at Centre, at zero distance?’ Someone was telling me about an old song in which the singer sang something like, ‘I’ve been to London and New York and Paris and Sydney but I’ve never been to me.’ Well, this workshop is about visiting ‘me’.
Why is it important to ‘visit me’ — to take a fresh look at yourself? Because you are your instrument for living. If you have a job to do, it’s important to have the right tool. It’s no good picking up a saw if you want to hammer in a nail. You are likely to hurt yourself. In the same way, if you are wrong about your identity, your tool for living, it’s not surprising if your mistake hurts you and others. So finding out who you really are is important. Then the point is to live consciously from your Reality — not to remember it, or simply entertain the idea of your Self, or believe in it, or wish it to be true but actually to live it as a Reality. That’s the thing — living it makes all the difference.
The question we are asking today is, ‘What is my tool, my instrument for living? Who is at the Centre of all my layers?’ The mirror and other people can tell you what you are from a distance — your beautiful many-layered body — but they can’t tell you what you are at Centre because they can’t get there. But you are at your Centre so you are perfectly placed to see what you are there. It’s a well-kept secret. But all we need do to uncover this secret and see what we are at Centre is look there, which is what these experiments are about.
Part Two — The Hole
Look at the hole in the Card. It’s a roundish hole. Because it’s a hole you can fit anything inside it. Notice what is inside the hole now — a part of the room. The rest of the room is outside the edge of the Card.
Now bring the hole about half-way towards you and notice what happens — it gets bigger. More of the room fits inside it. Even closer and it gets even bigger. Keep moving it towards you and watch what happens — the sides of the hole get wider apart, the top and bottom then disappear.
Then eventually, when you put it right on, the Card completely vanishes and there’s no boundary to the hole. Is that true?
No boundary! You have just guided your attention all the way home to this Open Space — this Open Space that is full of everything.
Keep your Card on and look round at the other people here. They all have Cards framing their faces and they all look silly, don’t they? But there’s one in the room who hasn’t been framed, who doesn’t look silly.
Jeffrey: Thank you!
Richard: It’s true, isn’t it? Have you been framed? No! Put your hand up if you don’t look silly! [Everyone puts their hand up.] You alone haven’t been framed, you alone don’t look silly! You are not boxed in, you are not contained inside a Card or inside anything. You are free.
Jeffrey: What’s neat is this remarkable contrast between the holes in other people’s Cards which are filled in with solid things — their faces — and mine which is nothing, which is empty. Remarkable.
Richard: A complete contrast. How fortunate one is to be the one that isn’t filled in! What luck! There’s only one who can pass through this Magic Doorway into Heaven. Only one. You can’t get to Heaven by being a person, you can only get to Heaven by being God. Only God lives in Heaven. Well, it’s a metaphor, a picturesque way of putting it. Hold the Card out again. Who can pass through this Magic Doorway into boundless Heaven? Bring the Card towards you and put it on. Who has passed through into this boundless Space, into this Capacity that contains this glorious universe? Only No-thing gets through. Only you get through. The others, those faces, don’t get through. They get stuck there in the doorway.
Eileen: That’s why the word ‘vastness’ is used so frequently because it is vast!
Richard: Yes, it’s a good word for it.
Eileen: No boundary.
Richard: Isn’t it lovely to celebrate this together with different voices.
Here’s a magic trick you can perform — you can make the Card appear out of nowhere. Take the Card off. It comes out of nowhere. How cool is that!
Let’s do this experiment again. Look at the hole. It’s a roundish hole. It’s fairly small. Because it’s empty you can fill it with anything. I’m fitting the floor into it, but now I’m fitting a person into it, now a picture. It doesn’t refuse anything. It doesn’t say ‘No’ to anything. It doesn’t say, ‘I’m going to say ‘Yes’ to the floor but ‘No’ to that chair.’ It is built open. Unconditionally open.
Slowing put the Card on. Now the Card has vanished. All that remains is this boundless Space. You are seeing that the Space where you are is unconditionally Open. You are unconditionally Open for everything you are experiencing.
Now take the Card off. You are still unconditionally Open.
Putting on immortality
Ian: I look in the mirror and that guy is getting older.
Richard: But this One isn’t.
Ian: This One is always exactly the same.
Richard: Isn’t that wonderful.
Ian: It’s a relief. I’m more worried about him, the one-in-the-mirror!
Richard: You should be! The one-in-the-mirror has wrinkles — well, for most of us, not for all of us! But this One has no wrinkles. This is the best cosmetic surgery — removes all wrinkles in a flash! The one-in-the-mirror was born and will die. In fact we learned we are mortal. Do you remember the first time you realised you were going to die? Some people do. You realise you are mortal. You put on that mortal face you see in the mirror and overlook your central immortality. Throughout the rest of your life you are under the impression, the delusion, that you are mortal. But now we can see that at Centre we are not mortal. Now we can live our fragile, mortal, human lives from this immortal Source! Fantastic. Now we can look in the mirror and say, ‘Thank God I’m not like that!’
The Journey Home
We’ll do this experiment one more time. This is a unique journey — from the region of your appearance to your Reality. You are travelling home to who you really are. Slowly put the Card on. As you watch the hole coming towards you, you are moving your attention with it, back towards the place you are looking out of. Keep looking. Don’t mind what other people see, they are out there looking at your appearance whereas you are here looking at your Reality. When you bring your attention all the way home with the Card, you see that you do not look silly to you. You know you look silly to the others out there but here you are clean, clear, open, free, boundless, full of everything. Don’t get talked out of your spaciousness, your immensity, your immortality, your wealth. Don’t let others talk you out of your incredible nobility. Your True Self is boundless, timeless, wealthy, powerful, beautiful. We get talked out of the truth, we give away our power, we let others tell us who we are. Now we are taking back our power in the simplest way — simply by looking and continuing to look. You are balancing the feedback you are getting from others with your experience of who you really are. You are Open. Nothing sticks. If someone says you look silly, now you can say, ‘Well I look silly to you there but here I don’t look silly. What you say about me doesn’t stick here.’ Is that true?
Teresa: Absolutely. How you see me is your problem.
Richard: Yes, it is. Or my joy.
Now you are Home. You have taken that incredible journey from that region where your appearance manifests to your central Reality which is still, silent, safe, open, full of everything. This is the greatest journey — from something that was born and will die to that which was never born and will never die.
Now you see who you really are. You’ve got it. You can’t not get it. You get it completely — you can’t half get it. And no one can get it better or worse than you.
Teresa: Good bye!
Richard: Good bye! Yes, that’s it, you’ve got it. Really! You can go home now.
This is not primarily for understanding. Understanding is important but primarily this is about experience. Your True Self is always available. It is what you are. It is free. It is very kind because it doesn’t hide itself. If you want to hide your True Self, put it in the most obvious place — the place you are looking out of! Who would have thought? You say, ‘It can’t be true!’ Alright, test it! Have a look and see if it’s true or not. Don’t believe me. Don’t believe anyone — look for yourself.
The following is an extract from The Little Book of Life and Death by Douglas Harding. Harding uses the Card Experiment to highlight our immortality.
PUTTING ON IMMORTALITY
When this perishable one puts on imperishability, and this mortal one puts on immortality, then death is swallowed up in victory. St Paul.
Make two unequal holes in a card and mount a mirror behind the smaller. (A handbag mirror is ideal.) [See image above for the appearance of the Card.]
Hold the card at arm’s length and compare these alternative portraits of yourself – face and no-face.
See how full of itself and its own life the little one is – and therefore ageing and dying.
See how empty of itself and its own life the Big One is and how full of others – and therefore ageless and deathless.
Which is the true picture of you as you are, where you are?
Try them on and see. Put on that hole-in-the-card very, very slowly like a mask, watching what's happening to its contents and its edges…
See how the Big One gets bigger and bigger till it's ageless and world-wide, while the little one gets hazier and hazier till it vanishes at the point of contact.
Hold the card in position while you enjoy having seen off the mortality and put on the immortality that was yours all along.
Go on holding the card in position…
That little one over there in the mirror had a name, an address and phone number, a job, a sex and marital status, an age, a nationality… It had all sorts of general bodily and mental functions which settled what its ethnic group and species and genus were, and all sorts of particular ones which settled its unique identity within the group. And, going along with all this, it had a beginning and an end, a birthday and — coming up — a deathday.
And not one of that immense array of characteristics and functions stood up to close inspection. All of it disappeared on the way in, leaving you totally free of anything of the sort, of anything of your own, and certainly of anything of your own that's perishable.
You have indeed put on immortality.