Sleepwalking Through Reality

Concepts, abstract or general ideas, are a veil that hides reality from our eyes. Without our knowing it, they create a powerful illusion. Anyone who unquestioningly accepts their society’s consensus worldview is suffering from cultural hypnosis. Most of us are affected. We sleepwalk through our lives never understanding that much of what we assume to be true simply is not. We are not even aware that concepts can have this effect.

Sleepwalker in old fashioned nightdress

Many of us sleepwalk through our lives in a muddled state of cultural hypnosis. (Image: public domain)

To dispel the illusion, we must peer past preconceived concepts at the raw data of experience. There is a hidden reality, but it is not on some astral plane or stashed in some mystical “beyond.” The hidden reality is all around us, firmly rooted in this world, yet invisible to eyes blinded by consensus notions of what we are seeing. The hunger that cries, “There must be more to life than this” is, in part, the hunger to experience what lies behind the obscuring veil of concepts. Many sense its presence, as indeed they must, but immediately fall into the very trap they need to escape. They conceptualize the nature of this hidden reality in bizarre and obscure ways, thus trading a consensual illusion for another, even more unrealistic, one.

The secret to dispelling the conceptual illusion is to examine the facts and think for ourselves. This means refraining from jumping to conclusions (selecting a pre-packaged consensual or “flakey” concept) long enough to form an opinion of our own. Shaped by our personal values and experience, that opinion will be a reflection of who we truly are rather than a parroted expression of what we have unthinkingly swallowed. If we do this often enough, we will have parted the veil.

Notice that, after dispelling the borrowed consensus or flakey illusion, the reality we see revealed is not an absolute objective reality. It is our reality. It is reality as we, personally, being who we are, should see it. This personal aspect is the other part of the hunger that cries, “There must be more to life than this.” The first part is the need to understand what is happening “out there.” The second part is the need to understand ourselves, “in here.” Human beings are inescapably subjective, so the two understandings are really one. Seeing the world from our own true perspective brings us a valuable coherent worldview and priceless self-understanding.

The process of dispelling enough illusions to lift the veil is a long one. It is easier to work the “magic” if we have something other than just ourselves with which to wrestle. Luckily, there are numerous ways to go about the job. For centuries – even millennia – arts and crafts have helped seekers find the way. Alchemy flourished for a time. Science prospers today. Any of these callings will do, but the practitioner must see what he is doing in its dual aspect of art and transformative process to get the benefit. See my post “Personal Transformation Through Writing” for a look at how writers may use their particular art and craft to gain personal wisdom and self-revelation.

Author: Thomas Cotterill

I am a manic-depressive made philosophical by my long struggle with the disruptive mood disorder, during which I spent sixteen years living as a forest hermit. I write philosophical essays, fantasy, and science fiction. My attempt to integrate creativity, psychology, philosophy, and spirituality imbues everything I write. You will find hundreds of related essays and articles on my blog. I live quietly in British Columbia's scenic Fraser Valley, a beautiful place in which to wax philosophical.

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