The Reality Illusion - How you make the world you experience
The external world is a "rich reality" - offering a far wider menu of possibilities
than most of us realize. This book examines how you filter and select among
those possibilities, bringing into focus the particular world you experience,
and explores the benefits of more fully understanding the collective illusion
we call reality.
- The Nature of Perception
- Language as a Perceptual
- The Structure of Mind
- Perception and Reality
- Experiential Reality
- Science as a Form of
- Different Drummers, Different
- Health and Healing
- Magic and Extrasensory
- Learning and Growing
Chapter by Chapter
Look around you - at the furniture, the room you're in, your surroundings.
What you see seems solid and real, part of an objective reality that's "out
there" separate from you. But what you see, really, are images you create,
part of a grand illusion you participate in and support. The Reality
is about how you create that illusion, and what you get out of it.
Just as a two-dimensional picture can incompletely represent but never duplicate
a complex three-dimensional object, intellectual concepts can represent but
never fully describe reality. And just as different viewpoints may produce
quite different pictures of the same object, so may different viewpoints
produce different, superficially contradictory "pictures" of reality. Understanding
reality, then, requires an understanding of the perceptual mechanisms through
which we experience and interact with the world around us.
The chapter on The Nature of Perception begins by examining
vision, both in its own right and as a metaphor for perception more generally.
What you see depends on what you expect to see and know how to see, as much
as it does on what is actually "out there." The other senses, language, and
even culture operate in much the same way. A unifying perspective emerges,
clarifying common principles inherent in the many diverse ways that human
beings know and understand the world around them.
The core of this perspective is the concept of a perceptual process, in which
images of the external world are constructed from preexisting perceptual models
and cues selected from an ongoing perceptual flow. These perceptual models,
reflecting past experience as well as current expectations, filter and organize
current experience at the same time they are being modified and revised by that
But what of the world "out there" which these perceptual processes show us?
One possibility is that external reality is very much as it appears, existing
separately from you and independent of your perception of it. This commonly
accepted concept of objective reality plays a dominant role in contemporary
The chapter titled Perception and Reality proposes instead
the concept of a rich reality -- rich with latent possibilities and options
from which you filter and select the one you actualize. Perception is not a
passive process of imaging a fixed external world. Rather, it is an active,
interactive process of choice, in which we each construct the reality we personally
Just as a picture can never duplicate a three dimensional object, you can
never fully grasp reality conceptually. You experience only a part of it
at a time, but never the whole thing. But as you can learn more about an
object from several different pictures than from any single view, you can
better understand this rich reality if you allow yourself more than one perspective
rather than adopting a single perspective as "correct." This what don Juan
meant (as described by Carlos Castaneda) when he said that neither the sorcerer's
reality nor ordinary reality actually exists, but that only by being able
to switch from one to the other could the man of knowledge truly understand
The chapter on Experiential Reality explores your ongoing
perception of the external world. Your sensory processes -- vision, hearing,
etc. -- are not separate and distinct, but are elements of a larger integrated
process. They jointly draw from and contribute to an ongoing experiential
reality which gives meaning to the world around you. This is the "agreement" of which Castaneda
speaks, and Joseph Pearce's "cosmic egg." Experiential exercises here and
throughout the book help you crack the shell and experience some of the magic
We generally accept science as the most authoritative source of contemporary
knowledge, yet some of these ideas seem counter to our scientific understanding.
A chapter on Science as a Form of Perception addresses that
contradiction, drawing on the work of philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn. The
author characterizes science as a (collective) perceptual process with the same
basic structure as vision and the other processes already considered. He discusses
its strengths and weaknesses as a way of knowing, and assesses its limitations.
Other cultures have experienced the world in very different ways, some of which
are explored in Different Drummers, Different Tunes. The western
intellectual world view sees these views as superstitious and uninformed, though
they are often as knowledgeable, systematic, and sophisticated as our own. They
simply see things from a different perspective, bringing different aspects of
the underlying rich reality into view.
The western world view sees man as apart from the world of nature and in conflict
with it, for example, while others see humanity as an integral part of the natural
world. Our wise men -- the scientists -- see themselves as observers separate
from processes they seek to understand, while their counterparts in other cultures
-- the shamans and magicians -- see themselves as direct participants. Because
of that separation we have no magic in our contemporary world, while it abounds
in the realities experienced by others.
The chapter on Health and Healing explores the diversity of
human healing systems. Contemporary medicine sees the body as a mechanistic
collection of parts, for example, while the Oriental perception is of patterns
of energy flow. Yet these two very different and superficially incompatible
systems are but different perspectives on the same underlying phenomena. The
author describes his own view of illness as a withdrawal of awareness, and healing
as a reassertion of responsibility for one's own being. Experiential exercises
continue to illustrate the concepts discussed.
The western world view sees physical matter as primary, and views consciousness
as a byproduct of chemical and electrical activity in the brain. Such a world
view has no need for ESP and magic. The view developed here, on the other hand,
suggests that mind is primary and the apparent physical world is really a byproduct
of the activity of consciousness. The chapter on Magic and Extrasensory
Perception argues that paranormal abilities are part of the natural
order of things, abilities we exercise on a continuing basis in order to maintain
the illusion that we live in a world where such abilities do not exist.
You have the potential ability to know everything, all of the time. To avoid
information overload, you need filters and barriers to limit the information
you have to keep track of. ESP results from leakage past those barriers,
or from having a different set of barriers than most people do, and operates
according to the same perceptual principles discussed earlier. What effects
you can have on the world depend on what interactions your perceptual processes
will allow to take place. "Magic" results from allowing interactions that "normal" people
keep blocked. Examples such as fire walking are examined, and the mechanisms
behind them discussed.
This book asserts that we each individually have a great deal more responsibility
for the reality we inhabit than we are usually willing to admit. The final chapter
on Learning and Growth asks why we choose the way we do, and
what we get out of the process.
Learning takes place in different forms, from slowly filling in details about
things we already know to the instantaneous "ah ha!" of a level shift, which
shows us the world in a whole new light. Growth involves experiencing each form
of learning in turn, in never ending movement toward fuller understanding. The
world itself is a "training aid," where all this can take place.
Growth is not always comfortable, and many people work hard to avoid it. The
reasons include infatuation with where they are now, fear of the unknown, and
simply not wanting to take responsibility for themselves and their actions.
You can delay growth, perhaps for lifetimes, but it is as inevitable as water
running downhill. There are no quick solutions, no keys to sudden enlightenment.
Others can provide insights and assistance, but you are your own best teacher
and guide. In the final analysis, your growth is your own responsibility. You
cannot delegate that responsibility to anyone else.
What others say about "The Reality Illusion"
"... a tool for bringing
mind, brain, and body into alignment, that we might be at peace with ourselves
and so with others...personal rewards are endless." -Joseph Chilton Pearce,
author of "Crack in the Cosmic Egg"
"...an unusually clear, accessible account of the mysteries of the multidimensional
world." -Marilyn Ferguson, author of The Aquarian
"A powerful learning tool...a clear guide for taking an important step
towards an enlarged way of perceiving our lives." -Timothy Gallwey,
author of "The Inner Game of Tennis"
"...takes you to the boundaries of your own mind and occasionally makes
you gasp with wonder at glimpses of what lies beyond" -Serge
King, author of "Kahuna Healing"
"An important contribution to brain/mind and how reality is viewed." -Joan Halifax,
author of "Shamanic Voices"
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