One month into the new year… moving quickly into this 21st century, it seems more and more important that we have clarity about what is real. Below I continue my ‘investigative reporting’ on the perceptual illusion. Many philosophers and wise people have trod this ground, but it continues to be our operating system, getting us deeper and deeper into the mud of our human nature.
In December’s post I offered three ways in which our bodies select and process information: 1) Giving us only the information ‘we need to know’ to survive; 2) making people and things appear to be physical objects in a material world; 3) making each of us seem to be at the center of that world. Here I outline two more ways in which the perceptual illusion carries us toward the divisiveness we currently experience in our world.
You might try joining my investigation by opening to the energies behind my words, sort of like you experience your peripheral vision when you’re focusing on something. ‘See’ what comes to you, and let me know…
Toward greater awareness and better choices,
Continuing the Search for What is Real
The fourth way perception creates an illusion is by separation. We see a world and the universe populated by separate ‘things,’* particles, atoms, cells, organs, plants, animals, even people. We perceive things as separate, and we believe what we see, but as Arthur Koestler, Ken Wilber and others have pointed out, in reality everything is interconnected, every boundary is also a connection.
[*Perception divides continuous reality into separate things. The word thing is a Mobius (my term for any word or concept that has two or more meanings, with an invisible transition between them). The concept of a thing is an artifact of perception, and it and its equivalents are the basic building blocks of every language (because every language is more or less perceptually-based). Without saying ‘thing’ – or some equivalent, you cannot refer to anything, but at the same time it points to an illusion, a figment of perception.]
Every organism and/or Self is simultaneously both individual and collective; that describes both the smallest unit of life and the largest collective, on any and all possible dimensions, ‘physical, and cognitive/emotional.’ Thus, individuals become inter-relational bodies or collectives, both ‘physical collectives,’ such as cells, organs, plants and animals, and ‘cognitive/emotional /social/economic’ collectives or extended Selves in the form of organizations – i.e., families, religions, corporations and even nations.
The fourth evolutionary benefit is the illusion of separation, without which it would be impossible to make the necessary distinction between self and other. But perception does make the distinction between self and other, which is the fifth way perception creates an illusion. In the perceptual illusion the self is always the perceiver, and the ‘other’ is the thing perceived.
But in aperceptual reality there are no perceivers and perceived, no selves and no others – no such distinctions exist. There is only one, interconnected universe.
With the distinction between ‘self’ and ‘other,’ the ego arises. The ego is a concept, the ‘I’ concept, and this concept creates a platform to perceive from. But it’s more, much more. It’s also the consciousness of owning one’s own experience; it’s the awareness of ‘I am,’ of this is me and not you. It is also the awareness of privileged access, exclusive access to one’s own thoughts and feelings. And it is the awareness that nobody shares my inside, but me. Even if I want them to, even if I strive to describe my experience, the most vivid description I can come up with inevitably pales alongside the experience itself.
In a sense people own their egos, and in that sense they have a tendency to take all the credit for anything good onto themselves, and project the blame for anything that goes wrong onto others. This illusion, call it the illusion of self-ownership, also leads to the desire to control things.
The ego is part of the perceptual illusion; but at the same time it’s real. It’s a real experience – in consciousness – and consciousness is not only real, it is a primary dimension and the irreducible quality of all life.
If the fifth way that perception creates an illusion is the separation of self and other, this is a precondition for selfish self-interest and its accompanying territoriality. However, this same illusion is also necessary for survival as an organism, which again is a benefit –the fifth benefit. In selfish self-interest we are protective of our both our individual and extended ‘self,’ but exploit everything else.