In this complex world, living a life between what is real and the perceptual illusion is no small feat. The first step is to recognize the illusion.
This is a second taste of ‘seeing between’ the things that western culture, which is pretty much based on perception, has trained us to see. May it point you toward your own inquiry for truth.
PERCEPTION, WESTERN CULTURE AND COMMON KNOWLEDGE
Western culture – there’s a lot wrong with it and a lot of well-deserved criticism of it, but that criticism ignores one undeniable fact. Both Western culture and common knowledge are based on perception, ordinary, commonplace, human perception, that perception which boils down to the phrase people believe what they see.
But they also see what they believe, and between those two phrases falls the shadow. The shadow of what? – not exactly the shadow of death – or even blame – but the shadow of accountability. People might not deserve blame for not questioning their experiences, for accepting “things” at face value, but they could do better. They could hold themselves accountable; they could question their experiences– they could and they should.
Human perception dualizes, polarizes, separates, makes literal and otherwise changes the quality of our experience. Furthermore, it dissects the continuous system of reality into separate things. For convenience, let’s call these processes literalization and thingification. For the most part, we in the Western world live in a culture of literalization, one in which we take metaphors and allegories literally. We also live in a culture of thingification, one in which we separate continuous systems into separate things. There is a connection between thingification and literalization; both are oversimplifications, convenient and user-friendly, but oversimplifications.
Western culture also interprets (and now Western culture is everyplace.) It functions as a ubiquitous, although secondary perceptual filter. When Oneness is passed through the perceptual filter, it transforms into specialization. When inquiry is passed through this filter, it transforms into the scientific method. When metaphysical revelations are passed through this filter, they transform into religions.
There are both advantages and disadvantages to these transformations. The advantages are the creation of a world which is simple, easy to manage and understand, user-friendly, intuitive and even predictable. Due to its advantages, our shallow Western culture of perceptual thingification is taking over the cultures of the East, but as I have said, these simplifications do not come cheaply. There is an exorbitant price to pay, namely the flattening out of experience and the sacrificing of the sacred.
The World Wide Web has made alternate cultural viewpoints widely available almost everywhere. And our perceptually based “common sense” culture, like the polar ice, is gradually melting in the West at the same time that it is freezing the “spiritual” cultures of the East.
A word of caution: escaping the perceptual illusion and the culture that it leads to is to be done with discrimination, considerately, sparingly and appropriately. For the perceptual illusion is the natural way we see. It is the source of the poetry in life, as well as its spontaneity and humor. Its escape is not to be undertaken lightly, and above all, not with white knuckled determination.
Awareness of the perceptual illusion is meant to be almost an afterthought – but one that, once thought of, one acts on. We need to be aware of the perceptual illusion so that we can retroactively inhibit acting on those perceptions of anthropocentrism, separateness and linearity, as well as the knee-jerk emotional reactions of territoriality, aggression, againstness and competitiveness, that inescapably flow with it. However, this awareness is not meant to prevent those perceptions and reactions from first occurring.