The Headless Way
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Text by Douglas Harding, written in the early 1970s

Get two friends (B and C) to help you (A).

You will need a paper tube. Either cut the end off a paper bag, or get a large piece of paper and tape the ends together to make a tube - large enough to fit your faces in the opposite ends.

A and B sit in a good light, open out the bag, and fit their faces into its opposite ends.

Outside view



Inside view

C slowly puts the following questions:

1. Going by what's given now (not by what you remember or imagine) how many faces are there in the tube?
2. Is your end closed, or open?
3. Are you face-to-face or face-to-no-face?


A and B come out for air, then go back, and C puts more questions.

1. Could that face register as form if you weren't void?
2. .................".............. anything........ "
3. .................".............. coloured........ " .....colourless?
4. .................".............. opaque.......... " .....transparent?
5. .................".............. moving.......... " .....still?
6. .................".............. complex......... " .....simple?
7. .................".............. limited........... " .....boundless?
8. .................".............. changing........ " .....changeless?

After another interval, into the tube again for more questions:

1. Are you now (as 1st person singular, present tense) the sort of thing that could grow old or decay, begin or end?
2. Unable to say 'I am this, or that', aren't you still able to say 'I AM'?
3. Who or What is this unborn, undying 'I AM'?


1. Can you make yourself out to be here (at 0cm) anything like your partner there (at 30cm)?
2. Can you find any 'matter' (head, face, eyes…) your end?
3. Can you find any 'spirit' or 'consciousness' the other end?
4. Have you been living a double lie - awarding consciousness to that face, and a face to this consciousness?
5. Could this double pretence underlie your personal relationship problems, all your problems?


1. Do you see that face more clearly, fearlessly, penetratingly, now it's only a coloured, moving shape?
2. Do you find that face any less lovable, now it's unhaunted, part of the decor?
3. Is 'spirit' divisible, and any less your partner's now it isn't peeping through those eyes?
4. Can you now say to your partner: 'Your face is no more than your temporary appearance; I am no less than your everlasting Reality'?
5. Can you now say to all beings everywhere: 'Here, I am you'?

For further investigation: Is what you discovered in the tube true outside the tube, always? Come out of the tube.

See the article: The Bomb by Alain Bayod

Continue with another experiment


Nearly everybody lives and dies thinking this is a face to face situation. In all the languages of the world this is a face to face situation. Now, I really look and I see that never for a millionth of a second have I faced anybody in my whole life. It has always been face there to space here for that face. If I could see my face now along with yours it would be a melange of both of them, a soup. I wouldn't be able to see either of them. It's unimaginable, the face to face situation. It's quite unimaginable. And yet, in all languages, face to face. Nobody ever questions that. Well, my job is to question it, and say it's not only stupid, it's damaging—because it's confrontation. Look at the news, look at the papers, and see what is happening. We were doing a workshop in Israel a month or so ago and we nearly got bombed. Face to face, confrontation. It's never face to face. The 1st Person has never faced anyone. It's always been space for that face over there. This is so obvious. It's asymmetrical, not symmetrical. From the video interview - Douglas Harding: His Life and Philosophy 

Alienation causes fear, and fear deepens alienation. It is a vicious circle. Only self-realization can break it. Go for it resolutely. Nisargadatta

A sudden perception that Subject and object are one will lead to a deeply mysterious wordless understanding—you will waken to the truth of Zen. Huang-po

How wonderful is the path of love, when the headless one is exalted. Hafiz



You take a paper bag, medium to large size, and cut out the bottom. Cut a few holes to let in air and light. You then ask a friend to put their face in one end of this paper tube, and you do likewise.

Then you can examine the difference between what is at the far end of the tube and what is at the near end. The far end is often compelling, and you may want focus on it, but perhaps someone will be there to guide you - in the case of the workshop it was Douglas Harding - who will ask you to look for what is at the near end of the tube, and keep pointing you back to the near end.

It is a dramatic experiment because of the monumental sense of an absence of a head and face at the near end as compared to the far end. I think many folks find that this experiment turbo-charges the experience of ‘space to face’ “. D.F. USA.

To add to D's excellent instruction - if alone, you can use a
mirror at the far end of the tube. Of course (in this one's case, for
example) this may create a more scary experience at the far end.) :>)). But in that case, you can put down the tube, and note how unlike your True Face here is that flat, shiny, pointing the wrong direction, left/right reversed, and apt to suddenly-change-size thing in the mirror. C.C. USA.

The first time I saw myself as void was in the paper bag. It came on me with great strength, like a ton of bricks. I knew immediately I had found it – that which has no beginning and no end. ‘Direct perception’ is the term I would naturally use, or ‘attention attentive to itself’. I had been looking for this for fifteen years and had arrived at the point of total frustration. That was the trigger, but the realization came out of the blue. I am constantly reactivating it in a thousand and one ways. M.L. France

I was driving home last week and singing the old Shaker song,”’Tis a Gift to Be Simple” and the line “When true simplicity is found...” struck me. True simplicity. Like the no-face at the near end of the paper bag - nothing is simpler than that, is it? S.D. USA

Continue with another experiment

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