by Cognitive Dissonance
"Perception Is Reality: As a young child I traveled extensively starting around seven years of age and extending deep into my twenties. For almost two decades I visited exotic and faraway lands where I witnessed strange native customs while struggling to understand the local culture. I marveled at the foreign architecture, the strange smells, sounds, colors and textures as I abandoned restraint and became totally immersed in my surroundings. Each day I experienced the inner thrill of discovery tinged with the latent unease that comes from being totally out of my element and hostage to the unknown. It was wonderful, it was frightening and it was inspiring. And none of it was real because all of it was in my mind.
Or maybe it was real. Is reality exclusively a hard slap across the face by my angry lover or the cold biting wind in my face as I rush to catch the last available cab? Perhaps reality is also the delicious inner joy I experience while watching my young children play with utter abandon, squealing with delight simply because they are alive and uninhibited.
In many respects the emotional joy derived from my children, as well as its physical manifestation, is no less real or less grounded in reality than the frigid wind. In fact the cold wind can only be experienced during the winter season, yet I can experience happiness at any time. The lover’s slap requires a shared reality and the right conditions, while my pleasure and inner peace can be deeply personal or widely shared, can be summoned upon command and is infinitely repeatable.
Yet we seem to believe there are major differences between these perceptions, with one supposedly real and the other not quite so much. We are emphatically assured by science that one is based in reality, defined as ruled by physical laws, theorems and conditions, the other solely in our mind and thus… well, not really ‘real’ in the sense of a physical presence of mass, weight and volume, the final arbiter of real reality.
Since our modern day scientific magicians have yet to thoroughly measure, quantify or reproduce under sterile laboratory conditions our consciousness, the unproven reality of our inner being is relegated to a corner of the lab as a fascinating curiosity for later study. And there it remains in a sort of no man’s land with all the other unproven dead ends languishing in scientific purgatory. We are assured it isn’t ‘real’ if it can’t be proven, so if the wizards say it ain’t real who are we to argue? We are just the creators of our present day conscious reality. What would we know?
Lost in this discussion is the understanding that thought and emotion compel action which in turn propels physical outcomes that create our external reality. All of the man made physical reality that surrounds us began in our mind, in our inner consciousness, and only after we imagined it did we form it into a physical presence. Yet we rarely question what ‘real’ and ‘reality’ actually is. After all, isn’t it obvious? Well, maybe not.
Without being aware of it (we are told) our brain filters out much of what we receive via our five (six?) senses in order to prevent sensory overload. In addition our eyes see only a narrow band of the electromagnetic spectrum, our ears hear just a small range of frequencies and our nose can only detect relatively heavy concentrations of odors. The nose doesn’t necessarily know.
It appears our senses are primitive compared to many other animals and our brain filters out much of what is received in order to protect us from being overwhelmed by the information deluge coming from the ‘real’ world. So if we perceive only a small slice of our world and even that tiny portion is filtered by the brain, how do we have the arrogance to claim we know what ‘real’ is in any comprehensive sense of the word?
Considering how science and scientific knowledge is constantly being surprised, amended, revised and rewritten, for some authority to declare that our emotions and consciousness are somehow different or separated from physical reality boggles the mind. We do not know what we do not know and once we accept this basic premise, to then make sweeping statements of absolute truth and clearly defined boundary is hubris, arrogance and self deception to the nth degree.
I suggest that in theory there’s an extremely permeable barrier separating all our perceived and unperceived realities and little to no barrier in practice. Furthermore, what is preventing us from fully recognizing all facets of our reality isn’t so much physical limitations, but instead conditioning, indoctrination and social training. It’s not nature so much as it is nurture that blinds us to the extent of the world around us and possibly other worlds that exist beyond the horizon. As well, if I cannot ‘see’ or perceive the world around me as it truly is, how do I recognize duplicitous and manipulative behavior by those of ill intent that prey upon my blindness?
The Mind Knows Not: I grew up immersed in the world of fiction, in particular science fiction. And when I was caught up in some dramatic alien invasion or visiting a strange new planet or even racing a spaceship through time while dodging laser beams, in many ways it was as ‘real’ as anything I’d ever physically experienced. And I would argue even more so because when engrossed in a fictional book I wasn’t a spectator or passive participant of physical reality who lives strictly within a preformed physical world, but rather an active creator of an alternative reality.
The fictional written word is simply the two dimensional blueprint for an alternative reality which is then fleshed out and given depth, texture and color via my imagination. A really well written book doesn’t create the alternative reality, but simply acts as a powerful catalyst for my consciousness to then create that reality by way of my imagination. This is similar to the process by which I imagine something I wish to possess and then I create it with my hands in the real physical world. So does my ‘real’ present reality make the alternative reality I perceive through the pages of a novel any less real or even demonstrably fake or false?
If I laugh or cry or even fall in love with a character while immersed in some alternative reality, my emotions and their outward physical manifestation are just as real as if my ‘real’ lover dumps me or I miss that last cab and must walk in the rain. My passion for my lost ‘real’ world lover is still very real even though it is no longer returned and thus not validated. Her emotional rejection continues to affect me physically even though she no longer touches me.
If while dreaming I experience an epiphany which when awake I physically translate into a ‘real’ life changing event for myself and those around me, where is the divide between real and not? It’s almost a chicken and egg thing. Which comes first, the inner emotion and imagination or the external reality? From my point of view one cannot exist without the other, thus one is just as real as the other. They simply manifest in different ways and different forms.
I find it fascinating that we accept Einstein’s theory that energy is never destroyed but only transformed. And yet we don’t think to carry that theory into our daily lives when it comes to our perceived reality. Why can’t reality move, shift and transform between our perceived physical and metaphysical realities? And why would we possibly think we are not an integral part of that transformation either as the instigator or creator of the change?
Relative Reality: Our subconscious mind accepts as ‘real’ everything that it perceives or senses regardless of whether it is actually occurring in our physical world, our imagination, on the television or in our dreams. This is one of the reasons subliminal messaging is so effective. While the hidden message is flashed to our subconscious mind, the intent is clearly for the message to manifest in the ‘real’ world through our physical and emotional expression. Essentially subliminal messaging is designed to penetrate that porous barrier between the real and not so real world in order to be acted upon in the physical world. We are compelled to emotionally react and then physically act via our capacity for subconscious perception of something which we are not consciously aware of.
It is only within our physical world that reality is constrained and narrowly defined. Yet even in the real world we hear echoes and see distortions which we quickly explain away as not real or unproven. Many of our cultural legends and much of our entertainment is preoccupied with ghosts, evil demons, ancient Gods and scary monsters. Science has all kinds of wonderful explanations for this ‘hysteria’ and all of the explanations confidently declare they aren’t ‘real’. In fact that is the default starting point. Either we are experiencing massive global hallucinations spanning hundreds of generations or quite possibly we can and do perceive shadows of other realities.
There are hundreds of subtle alternative reality reverberations that often go unnoticed. Consider photos or video of Asian men and women bowing to an unseen person on the other end of the phone line. Who are they bowing to; the ‘real’ person who is hundreds or thousands of miles away and can’t see or acknowledge the bow? Or to the perceived image of the person that occupies the callers mind? Which one is real and why would they bow to something that is not ‘real’?
If pornographic images are not ‘real’ why do the same areas of the brain light up with activity regardless of whether the person is witnessing a live sex act, watching a pornographic video or actually engaging in the sex act itself? What is real and what is not if ultimately our subconscious mind, and very often our conscious mind, cannot tell the difference?
Within 20 years computer generated alternative reality worlds will be so ‘real’ we won’t be able to tell the difference between real reality and fake reality. So which world will be ‘real’, the computer world we perceive as real or the physical world we perceive as real? If reality is determined or measured by how we sense and perceive our physical world, and computers will be able to simulate a world exactly as we experience our physical world right down to neural stimulation that leads us to believe we are in a physical world, then which reality is real?
At one time we believed that our physical world was ruled by laws that were cast in iron. Then along came quantum mechanics and suddenly there are two (or more) sets of rules. Wait a minute. So you’re telling me there are two different realities depending upon the state in which I ‘exist’?
The concept that our physical reality is real and everything else is not is predicated upon the belief that ‘we’ die when our physical bodies stop functioning. We are told that our consciousness is local and thus will cease to exist when the physical host expires. What if this is not the case? We presume by default that our consciousness ‘dies’ when the physical body expires, yet we have no proof of this one way or another. Since there is no ‘proof’ why do we default to a limited point of view?
Maybe this restricted belief is encouraged in order to limit our depth of perception of everything else? The physical world would certainly look different if we believed our consciousness was immortal and without limits. While the reader might quickly note that the world’s major religious organizations don’t promote the view of a mortal inner being or soul, each religious organization has its own set of rules and regulations that must be adhered to in the physical world in order to achieve immortality afterwards. Why must there be exclusivity?
Believing that ‘we’, meaning our consciousness, have no limits might actually encourage us to perceive our physical world without internally or externally imposed limits or restrictions. This certainly wouldn’t be helpful to those who wish to control and corral thought, body and soul. I’ll explore the concept of deliberately restricting perception and thought in a later chapter when I discuss Inception and meme implanting.
There is a metamorphosis that occurs as we assimilate our ‘real’ world conditioning during our early childhood. We are told we’re not fully formed at that time, that we have much to learn about how the ‘real’ world works. Instead of believing that we are learning what reality is from the moment we are born, consider that we are being trained to perceive a shared reality through a very narrow lens tuned to a small minority of frequencies similar to a multi band radio/transmitter permanently set to receive just one channel and never transmit. What we think is reality is based almost entirely upon how we are trained to perceive it, not solely upon what is there physically.
What I See Is Real, What I Cannot Is Not: How many times have we gone looking for our car keys and searched unsuccessfully for five or ten minutes while becoming increasingly frantic? Suddenly they materialize out of nowhere on the kitchen table or next to the tropical fish tank and we swear we already looked there several times. The problem was simply that we didn’t ‘see’ them. We couldn’t see the reality of the keys even as we repeatedly passed over them with our eyes because our filtered perception of reality told us the keys weren’t there. Instead we reasoned they would be found where we usually left them. So that’s where we physically and mentally returned to look again and again and again.
We know the image of those keys lying out in the open must have registered in our eye and processed somewhere in our brain several times during our search. And yet we didn’t ‘see’ them until suddenly we ‘found’ them. If our perception of reality is so impaired when trying to find something we ‘know’ to be a part of our (shared) reality, then we must seriously consider there is a very real possibility we aren’t ‘seeing’ all of our reality.
There have been some interesting theories put forth which hypothesize that physical reality is only formed (materialized, created, brought into existence) when we observe or recognize it, when our conscious mind focuses on it. And I’ve discussed this in other essays. But from a practical point of view even though the keys are assumed to exist during our search, from our perspective the keys are invisible and simply not there until we allow our mind to adjust to a reality different from what we expected, assumed and believed was real.
We fully expect the keys to be found somewhere other than where we eventually find them. That’s why they are always found in the last place we look and rarely where we expect them. When we finally allow our mind to imagine the keys as being somewhere different from our expectation or belief we open our mind to alternative realities and are then able to see them. We call this clouded perception a mental block and I suggest that we suffer from larger and more encompassing mental blocks than just some lost keys.
From a variety of perspectives we are quite blind to the world around us. Enquiring minds want to know why this happens and where does this distortion come from. I propose that our experienced ‘reality’ on a day to day basis is heavily influenced by how we perceive our past experiences in relation to those we are currently living as well as to our preconceived and conditioned notion of what reality is or should be.
A Shared Reality Agreed Upon is Agreed to Be Real: We might say that reality as experienced in the ‘real’ world is nothing more than a shared perception based upon arbitrary measurements using commonly agreed upon standards and interpretations. History and reality is a set of lies and beliefs which form perceptions that are agreed upon as real and thus acted upon as if real, in effect making reality.
On a daily basis Zero Hedge exposes a set of financial lies that are agreed upon as true (reality) by the majority. And The Washington Post and The NY Times offer up a set of political lies agreed upon as real. So is Zero Hedge or The Washington Post living in the ‘real’ world? Maybe they both are. If the physical world can have several sets of rules and laws depending upon if you’re in the ‘real’ world or the quantum world, who is to say there are not more exceptions to the rule of ‘real’? Yet we dare to claim we know what reality is.
Turning to more ‘real’ world things such as the markets, one point of view is that the stock market is moving higher because of the Fed’s POMO infusions of liquidity which enable the buying of stock. The POMO comes first, then the buying of stock. Another would be that the market is rising because people expect it to go higher, thus they act in advance to fulfill their expectations and push up the market. The buying of stock comes first, then the POMO. So which is it?
I might say that the investing technique of “buy the f**king dip” (BTFD) is simply investors buying stock based upon an expectation or belief of a real event and not upon an actual real event, at least not at that moment. But then BTFD is validated or made ‘real’ by the actual POMO pump. The proof would be a drop in the market if the Fed were to unexpectedly curtail POMO operations after the market had already gone up in anticipation. If so, is BTFD real or not? What comes first, the BTFD or the POMO? Can one be ‘real’ without the other? Consider what “buy the rumor, sell the news” is telling us about perception and reality.
I often find myself thinking about the placebo effect and the ‘will to live’. Both of these concepts seem to be at odds with our scientific world. On the one hand we are told they are not real and are to be ignored other than as curiosities. Yet the efficacy of all new drugs is measured against the apparent power of the mind to heal the body, the so called placebo effect.
A random 5% to 10% of the population appears to be able to ‘heal’ or ‘feel better’ simply because we believe we are receiving drugs or other types of treatment that will help us. This is contrary to the reality that we are not being ‘drugged’ or treated in the pharmacological or physical sense, but rather only psychologically. In other words when we perceive so strongly that we believe, we seem to create a physical reality that mimics our belief. In addition, when modern medicine has nothing left to offer us, we are often reminded by the doctor that it all comes down to the patient’s ‘will to live’, as if to say our ‘will’ is a physical force to be reckoned with. It appears we have another example of two alternative realities rubbing elbows with the ‘real’ world.
So on the one hand we are told the mind doesn’t control or make matter ‘real’ (or maybe make ‘real’ matter) and yet here is an example acknowledged by science as something not exactly ‘real’, but in the case of the placebo effect, is measurable, quantifiable and repeatable. It is almost as if the meme masters of our present consensus reality are acknowledging aberrations in our shared reality that can no longer be denied, while at the same time diminishing it as much as possible to hide from us our own inner power. If the placebo effect alone does not make us question our perception of reality I don’t know what will. Yet the average conditioned mind brushes off this type of aberration as immaterial to our ‘real’ world.”