A middle-aged woman shuffled slowly down the long corporate hallway pushing the trash cart she used to empty the waste baskets from each office. As she traversed the corridor, a heated argument arose in which this woman began yelling quite loudly. To whom, I wondered, was she yelling? I was only about one hundred feet behind her, but I didn’t see anyone ahead. It must have been someone in one of the offices, or perhaps someone around the corner.
As I passed each office that she had already serviced, I peeked in and saw no one. It was very late at night as I was working “third shift” (11 pm until 8 am) so I didn’t expect to see anyone in their offices. Nor did I expect to see anyone around the corner once I reached the bend. And I did not. Yet the heated quarrel continued – and I now heard both voices in the verbal spat. Two women who clearly did not agree with one another.
A second woman? I had worked there for some time and did not recall a second cleaning person on this shift. Must be a visitor or a temporary assistant helping the woman. Or so I thought.
I was not prepared for the truth I was about to experience.
When I finally reached the epicenter of the shouting, there was only one woman. Two different voices, two very different personalities, yet one physical person.
That was the first time I had ever met someone with multiple-personalities (now classified as dissociative identity disorder). Not only were the two voices and personalities so different, but her entire physiology seemed to change as she “inhabited” each person. The facial expressions, body posture, gait, and energy were completely different.
How strange, I thought, that someone could be so fragmented that they saw things that were not real, heard voices where there was no sound, and experienced interactions that were clearly out of touch with reality.
But she isn’t alone.
The Three Faces of Eve was a movie released in 1957 based on Chris Costner Sizemore, known at the time as Eve White (to protect her identity), a woman diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder. Eve White was a shy, deferential wife and mother who experienced severe headaches and blackouts. When she was being treated by a psychiatrist, another person “emerged” in the form of Eve Black – almost the antithesis of Eve White. Eve Black was wild and reckless, leading Eve White to leave her husband and abandon their daughter. During treatment, a third “personality” emerged in the form of a relatively calm, stable person called Jane.
Eve White’s experiences, like others diagnosed with the illness, are very similar to the cleaning woman I met. But that’s obviously not how normal people relate.
Or is it?
Let’s first start with dreams at night. When we enter such a realm, we find it perfectly normal to experience a fantasy world where all the laws of reality (such as gravity and cause-effect relationships) are consistently violated. Upon awakening, while we might consider our dreams strange, we certainly don’t afford them much reality. We easily accept the idea of entering and exiting a fantasy realm every evening as perfectly normal.
But what if the same were true in what we consider to be our waking state? According to A Course in Miracles, the world is such a deception.
The world is an illusion. Those who choose to come to it are seeking for a place where they can be illusions, and avoid their own reality. (W-pI.155)
The body is the instrument of illusion; seeing what is not there, hearing what truth has never said and behaving insanely, being imprisoned by insanity. It sees what cannot be real as if it were. (T-19.I.3; T-22.III.7)
We may think it is only the crazy people that have such delusions and perceive such a distorted reality. But are we willing to consider the idea that the only difference between them and us is a tiny gap so insignificant as to have any meaning? Thus those Three Faces of Eve become the Three Faces of Everyone. As the course further challenges us to contemplate:
What if you recognized this world is an hallucination? What if you really understood you made it up? What if you realized that those who seem to walk about in it, to sin and die, attack and murder and destroy themselves, are wholly unreal? (T-20.VIII.7)