I once wrote these words:
“The only world that we ever live in is our mental world, one could argue. The real world is not good and is not bad. It is irrelevant, I guess. All that matters is the mental world that you make for yourself. The world will be whatever you believe it to be because the only world your brain knows is the thought world. That’s why imagination is more important than knowledge, as Einstein once said. That’s why you need to tell yourself positive things about the world. The blissful world that a child lives in is just as real in every way as the harsh “reality” that a politician lives in. That’s why the most important thing you can do for yourself is have your mind in the right place.”
Those words are full of my own younger biases and assumptions, but they nevertheless stem from same vein of truth that I advocate today. Let me attempt to expound my childhood thinking by explaining the limits of human perception.
It can be speculated that all that we are ever aware of is what we experience consciously. Any memory, any sensation, any gut feeling, vibe, psychopathy, anything at all ever thought, perceived, or experienced in any fashion is, indeed, experienced consciously. Anything not experienced consciously does not enter experiential reality and thus, to the observer, does not exist. Therefore the entirety of our understanding of and feelings toward the world exist in our conscious experience. If we make the arguable assumption that one can change one’s mind about anything, it follows that any and every aspect of one’s conscious experience can be arbitrarily altered. This has very powerful ramifications. (Note that the assumption made is integral, but the results will be similar even if we assign a lesser degree of intentional mind-changing agency.)
Let’s step out of this abstract conceptualization for a bit and get our feet wet examining the nature of perception and how it corresponds to reality. We generally understand perception to be a chain of events that link external stimuli to an alteration of conscious experience (a quale) resulting from those stimuli. It may behoove us, however, to think backwards here and start with conscious experience. Perception starts with a quale. This quale is, theoretically, in some way caused/influenced by a thought in the brain, a sequence of neuron firings. That thought is the result of data processing that the subconscious brain handles. The data was collected from neural pathways whose purpose is to transmit signals from the sensory organs to the brain. The signal that traversed those pathways came from the receptors of a sense organ, such as the retina or the nerve cells in skin. That sense organ was made to fire off a signal, a package of raw data. That reason that the signal was sent is usually because the sense organ received an external stimulus to which it is specifically designed to be sensitive; it could be an internal stimulus, but we’ll continue with the external case. The external stimulus could be anything, and is usually what you believe you are sensing. The external stimulus is generally assumed to be the product of something that you picture in your internal objective reality, and that you believe to be in external objective reality (sense we naturally assume them to be the same).
Stepping back and looking at the sensory process from a distance, it is important to realize that anywhere along the way the process could be affected by internal influences. Also, the process could be affected by external influences. The only thing that we experience is what bubbles up to consciousness, not anything before that or anywhere along the sensory stages. Therefore, we (the humanself) don’t ever consciously interact with our external environment. What’s more, perceptions could be altered in limitless ways before they reach conscious observation. Therefore, everything you perceive could be a complete sham. It could be a false universe projected into your mind at any level along the sensory progression. It is real enough to us, but the conclusion is that what we perceive in our minds (inner reality) and what those external influences actually come from (outer reality) are totally and irrevocably disparate.
Today, actually, a good example of false perceptions arose. I bumped by elbow’s “funny bone” harder than I can ever remember on the corner of a desk. Immediately the familiar surge of pain and weird numbness shot up my arm, I swore aloud, and, most relevant, my pinky and ring fingers tingled for about five minutes afterward (a sensation similar to when your foot “falls asleep”). I naturally rubbed my tingling fingers because my mind was under the mistaken impression that something about the fingers was making them tingle. You see, as I understand it (I could be wrong, but I doubt it), there was nothing different about my fingers that was making them tingle so fiercely. Instead, it was the nerve conduit passing through my elbow that got bumped that was the culprit. However, my brain had absolutely no way of knowing the difference between something that was really happening to my fingers versus something that went awry along the nerve stem. There was no way of distinguishing a signal that was authentically generated by an outside stimulus versus a signal that was altered/fabricated somewhere along the way internally.
Through our human perception we can NEVER know the true nature of external objective reality. All that we can know is that something is there. In my view, the only way to discover it’s form is to view it from a higher perspective, to transcend it and live as the higherself, occupying the realm of the higherworld from which the outer reality of the humanworld emanates. We would need to ascend to a different reality.
>>I stumbled across an amazing video on youtube that actually illustrates beautifully the majority of what this article is about. It’s long and has kind of a hilarious introduction, but what could be more worth your time? It’s called “Perception – the reality beyond matter.”
>>For any terminology that stumped you, see Reality: Definitions in Short.