Do we have automatic filters of perception that screen out the magical?
How many miraculous events in the natural world occur before our eyes each day yet are not noticed by our everyday awareness? We often feel this to be our experience – but it happens within an adult ‘self’ which has grown from infancy to adulthood, and therefore is to be trusted, Such childish and fanciful notions are to be put to one side in favour of a world-picture that sees all such things as coincidental and purposeless.
Much of this ‘structure’ of skeptical perception can be investigated by a useful metaphor: the antique telescope. Imagine that, instead of our eyes, we look, permanently, through two nautical-style telescopes at the world. But these are not ordinary optical instruments; rather, they divide our simple act of ‘seeing’ into three stages. The first and second are related to the world of raw perception and the near-instantaneous emotional response to it. The third stage of this ‘telescopic vision’ is that of the intellect – more usually described as the mind. These three stages are learned as we mature and fold out of the flattened telescope like the kind of brass antique that we see on collectors’ TV programmes.
What we actually ‘see’ is conditioned by the expanded telescope such that our final experience drops through each of those stages of perception before settling in our consciousness. We do not need to think about it; it just happens. The older we get the more set this pattern becomes. Some of this programming develops to reduce the energy needed to perceive. The mind is really good at taking the essence of a repeated experience and simply replaying what it considers to be the ‘skeleton’ of the event. It can add the precise details, such as whether the car in front of us is turning left or right, in real-time. Working swiftly, it both reduces our energy consumption and knows where to ‘insert’ the life-saving bits into the whole…
But it’s no longer the whole, and year on year repetition of this historical way of seeing things gradually takes the intellectual, emotional and ‘something more primal’ magic out of what would otherwise be a constant state of wonder. When we’re driving a car, this is essential. We would otherwise be overwhelmed by the data and the intensity of the experience. Our ‘robotic’ perception is fast and reliable. But when we are staring at a sunset or sunrise, and the sky makes patterns that are both beautiful and meaningful to our lives, then we might want to consider how to ‘collapse’ our telescopes and be prepared to stand more naked in front of the splendour before us.
We might then discover a much more intimate and less robotic relationship with the world… our world.
Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.
The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.
Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.
You’ll find friends, poetry, literature and photography there…and some great guest posts on related topics.