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Is “reality” what we can see in front of us? What we can touch, taste, or smell? Is it individual, or collective? Universal, or culturally specific? Is there just one reality, or many? If any of these questions resonate with you, you’re not alone. Philosophers, theologians, and intoxicated college students have pondered the nature of reality since time immemorial, but in daily life, most of us don’t stop to really consider how we define the nature of the real.
According to his recollections in Cosmic Trigger, over the years in which Wilson’s experiment took place he experienced the following (and more):
On the face of things this is pretty hard to swallow, even for an admirer of his work. But Wilson also contended that some of what he wrote should be understood as a metaphor to describe experiences that go beyond the boundaries of consensus reality, his way of rendering his adventures on the psychic plane in a way that can be understood by the reader, but should not always be taken literally.
It was in trying to come to terms with these paranormal experiences, and understanding how exactly he had invited them into his life where previously they were absent, that he formulated the idea of “reality tunnels.”
The idea of reality is a construct that means nothing without a conscious mind. A bird has no concept of reality when it flies or builds a nest, nor a cat as it hunts mice; animals without consciousness simply exist according to instinct. To understand reality necessitates the ability to conceive of what is unreal — the power to speculate about things that do not exist in contrast to things that do, and theorize about what we might bring into being in the world if we act in certain ways.
The human nervous system receives an enormous amount of data every second, and in order to make sense of it, we must filter, organize, and select the relevant aspects according to some kind of mental model. Because the model precedes the data, our brains are predisposed to discard sensory information that doesn’t fit into it, and select as relevant the input that confirms our existing model of reality. Thus the model, instead of being a conjecture to be proved or disproved, becomes self-reinforcing to the exclusion of data that falls outside it. We find ourselves in a kind of tunnel.
If you’re shuddering and thinking “Is this as good as it gets?” and wouldn’t even consider staying in the same job, company, or industry for the next decade, you’re not alone.GET IN TOUCH