Orienting oneself in today’s world is difficult to say the least. I’m called to offer some clarity, which seems to be what I can do and what I can write. Over the next few weeks, I will be sending out a series of posts about the process by which we ‘see’ the world, how we interpret it emotionally, and in the end about human nature, and how the whole of what we see is an artifact of what we are.
If you’re wondering about the way things work, perhaps it will be of some value to you in these times.
PERCEPTION… THE INDISPENSABLE ILLUSION
The act of perception, in all its modes, sensory and cognitive, blinks the known world into existence. Because of that, it is often talked about in spiritual circles as creating the world, as if there would be no reality if there were no beings to perceive it. To think that perception creates reality is a mistake, one that knocks the bottom out of any middle ground where physics and metaphysics could meet. Perception does not create reality; it just creates our experience of reality.
An example will make this clearer. Let’s say a bus is coming towards you. Your powers of sensory perception furnish it with color, shape, size, temperature, sound, odor etc., whereas your powers of cognitive perception locate it and identify it as a bus. Actually, it has none of these qualities. They are all perceptual illusions, so to speak, and they are all relative to you as the observer.
If you didn’t possess the faculties of sight, hearing, smell, etc. the bus would not possess those qualities. And if you did not have a brain that remembered, abstracted and put things in categories, the bus would not even be a bus. Everything that makes up its “busness” and all of the rest of its physicality is a complex, perceptual illusion. You did not create the reality of the bus; you just created its appearance. But – and this is important to remember – even an unperceived bus will flatten you if you step in front of it.
The interpretive and transformational effects of the process of perception are invisible to us. For the most part, we just see the world as we see it, a self-evident given that we don’t even think to question. But everything is not as we see it. As a matter of fact, nothing is. The world we live in is a complete illusion, but a user-friendly and indispensable one. The perceptual illusion greatly facilitates our making sense out of, negotiating and generally living in raw reality.
To better understand what I mean, take an example from the world of computing. Windows is a graphic interface between the user and the system of programming instructions known as DOS. It lets the user click on recognizable and ostensibly self-explanatory icons instead of typing in sets of complicated instructions. However, the pictures are really interfaces between the user and the DOS. When you click an icon or picture, you are really selecting a set of commands.
In the same way, when you interact with an object in your perceptual field, you’re really interacting with an enormously complex intersection of energies in relative equilibrium. Furthermore, these “energies” have no knowable, sensory qualities whatsoever, nor, for that matter, do they have cognitive qualities. They are just what they are, yet they can never be known as they are, because as such they are completely lacking in sensory qualities. However, they can be perceived, and in perception they manifest form and can be related to as such. Just remember that this form, though useful is completely illusory.
What is more, we pay a price for enjoying this “indispensable” illusion. What is this price? It is the carving up the world, ourselves included, into separate things, lifeless abstractions, mere resources, soulless and godless.
You see, the world we live in is not the real world; it is the world as it appears to us as it is filtered through the layers of our perception. We are actually being deceived by our processes of perception!