The World We See

It has been said, “We don’t see the world as it is but as we are.” That’s because we do not see with our eyes, but with our brains.  And since it is our brains that ‘see’, strange as it may seem, we ‘see’ what we imagine to be ‘real’. Can that be true?

In a recent article in Psychology Today titled “Do Our Eyes Deceive Us”, Dr. Ellyn Kaschak states:

  “It is an odd quirk of the human visual system that we can be convinced that image is reality, when even reality is not reality, but learned perception. These are all constructed by our sensory systems, the information they send to our brains, and then again what the brain does with that information. In the end, we are ourselves creating reality.”

In short, we create our own world. The world we see on the outside is the product of our own inner thoughts. It is our subjective, personal ‘reality’.  There is nothing objective or absolute about it. That’s why ‘A Course in Miracles’ admonishes us not to trust the picture of the world derived from our physical senses. It states:

“For eyes and ears are senses without sense, and what they see and hear they but report. It is not they that hear and see, but you, who put together every jagged piece…of evidence, and make a witness to the world you want. Let not the body’s ears and eyes perceive these countless fragments….and let them persuade their maker his imaginings are real.” [T-28.V.5:6-8]

Since all of us to varying degrees have limited experience, our individual views of the world are at best incomplete and at worst totally inaccurate.

So now the obvious question arises: Is there even such a thing as absolute reality? Think about it – there must be. In order to build anything, whether it be a structure, a field of endeavor, or a life, a firm foundation is necessary. For without an unshakable base upon which to build, no structure can stand the test of time. 

None of us sees absolute reality, the world as it truly is. Yet we do have a connection with that world, much like a building is connected to its foundation. Since that connection exists, it is at least possible to metaphorically describe our relationship to the real world. 

It has been said that absolute reality, the real world, is like a grand parade. Our ability to independently perceive it is like trying to watch that grand parade through a tiny knot hole in a solid fence. We get only a distorted view of a tiny fragment of the whole. That’s why we are admonished not to judge. How can we judge rightly if we do not see the whole picture?

Although this metaphor may help us recognize the limitations of our personal perceptions, it doesn’t help us solve our fundamental dilemma. We must somehow access this absolute, undistorted view of the world and shape our lives accordingly. How else can anyone expect to build a truly happy and stable life? But if we can’t trust our eyesight and other senses to guide us, what can we trust?

In his second letter to the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul told them that “..we live by faith not by sight.” [2 Corinthians 5:7]

What does it mean to live by faith? Ultimately, faith is just another way of saying trust. Live by trust, not by sight. Who is it that we are to trust? 

Wise King Solomon told us long ago:

 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” [Proverbs 3:5-6] (NLT)

Although initially given to Israel, this revelation was ultimately intended for the entire human race. Can we expect to live in universal peace and harmony with reality if we don’t all have equal access to its Source?

Some may say, ‘My beliefs conform to a different religion or faith.’ Others may say, ‘I’m an atheist.’  These are cases where our bodies’ eyes deceive us. Thinking in terms of religion, race, gender, and social status emphasizes our separateness. Why not think in terms of interconnectedness? Aren’t we all connected to the firm foundation and thereby to one another? Isn’t each one of us a vital part of a grand and unified whole? Our ultimate goal, then, is to embrace a spirit of unity. For it is this spirit that binds us together. Where do we find that spirit?  Paul tells us in his letter to the Ephesians,

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit…one Lord, one faith….one God and Father of all who is over all, through all, and in all.”  [Ephesians 4:3-6]

Christian terminology is being used here, but the principle is universal. It does not matter what your race, religion (or no religion), socio-economic status, or gender happens to be. We all have the same Spirit in us. And it is this Spirit that is our Guide to absolute reality. It has been called by many different names – Atman, Shen, Ruh al-Qudus, Inner Voice, and Holy Spirit to name a few. Yet its function is the same no matter what you call it.

So we do not see reality with our bodies’ eyes; instead it is revealed to us in our hearts, from the center of our being through our Inner Voice.

Therefore, absolute reality resides deep within us. So how do we access it? By taking regular periods of quiet time to listen and learn. Throughout history, many of the world’s great wisdom traditions have put substantial emphasis on the practice of silence. More recently, modern medicine has also embraced it through the application of mindfulness techniques to aid in the healing process. The reason techniques such as meditation have been practiced throughout history and are coming into vogue in the western world today is because, among other things, they help us to think more clearly.

Our view of the world is manufactured by thought. Since that is so, it stands to reason that if we want our incomplete and inaccurate views of the world to change, our thinking first must change.

A Course in Miracles sees our current condition and provides us with hope and direction:

  “Projection makes perception. The world you see is what you gave it, nothing more than that…It is the witness to your state of mind, the outside picture of an inward condition. As a man thinketh, so does he perceive. Therefore, seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world….The world you see but shows you how much joy you have allowed yourself to see in you, and to accept as yours. And, if this is its meaning, then the power to give it joy must lie within you.”

We need to learn to see the world with the eyes of the Spirit that lies within us. That Spirit sees a much different world than we do – a world of joy and peace. It sees the whole picture – the grand parade. How could each of us see that entire parade rather than looking through a tiny knot hole in the wall? By either knocking down the wall and clearing away the debris or by rising above it. How do we accomplish either of those? By overlooking what we see with our bodies eyes and accepting in its place what the Spirit within teaches us. It’s time to go back to school and learn the golden rule from The Voice within. The Moody Blues expressed this same sentiment in song nearly 30 years ago.

Moody Blues The Voice with lyrics