What is reality? Each of us has our personal read on it. Yet, nobody knows for certain. Each of us is locked into our own paradigm, and can only see things that way. The same world in which we all live, is actually totally different, depending upon who is viewing it. It is perhaps for this reason, more than any other, that our planet abounds with conflict.
As an example, take the different worldviews possessed by myself and my cat Hermes. Each of us lives in the same world. We see almost exactly the same things. However, our interpretations could not be more different. I watch the TV and watch politicians discussing the latest world crisis. My cat views the same pictures and sees something different. He probably does recognize the figures as people. Nevertheless, the noises they are making, and the things they are doing, have no importance to him. In fact, in his world, there is NO world crisis.
When we both look out of the window and see a cat, the significance we each infer is totally different again. The roles are now reversed. To me, it is a cat and nothing more. To Hermes, there is a tremendous significance in its actions that I cannot fathom. There are levels of meaning present that I am blind to. He watches intently and his body becomes tense. In my world, there is nothing much going on, but in his there is.
People can be like this too. A person born a Muslim, a Jew, a Christian or a Hindu experiences a totally different world to the others. Even in mundane secular affairs, the same applies. One person's fundamental assumptions often do not permit them to see things that are clearly present to another.
This point was very plain during my former career in Investment Banking. During this period, I functioned as a Technical Analyst: a market forecaster who uses price charts of past market action to predict the future market direction.
Clearly, I had spent many years involved deeply in this subject, and had developed an expertise for it. Moreover, many unbiased people found that my work was effective. However, throughout my career, I always found myself in conflict with the economists. These people function as the "establishment" within the banking industry, and like to think of themselves as the intelligentsia. In their world, the markets are random, and have been proven so by "infallible" mathematical procedures decades ago. The argument is closed. Consequently, anything I was doing that assumed price relationships between one day and the next was utter nonsense; to be completely frowned at. The fact I was doing it marked me as a person of clearly inferior intelligence, and not to be taken seriously.
In one instance, I even tried to demonstrate some of my methods to one self-pronounced Finance professor. Amazingly, he literally could not see what I was showing him on screen. To me, a bond or stock price chart is a meaningful connected entity, whose past relates to its future. There is a continuity present between the dots. To him, all he saw was a series of daily points, with no connection whatsoever. Hence, he could not comprehend what I was trying to explain. It was not a matter of intelligence. Rather, our brains were seeing totally different things when we looked at the same data.
As a result of different presuppositions to mine, he lived in a totally different world. Not only did he not believe in the possibility of what I was doing, in HIS world, it literally IS impossible!
Especially in the matter of human affairs, reality is a relative matter; relative to the individual mind viewing it. You would do well to always remember this whenever you are in conflict with another, or when you see the terrible conflicts taking place in the world. For example, what is a definition of sanity? If there is one, it is determined by the habitual behavior of the majority of the population. Certainly, the insane do not regard themselves as such. The very definition of sanity depends upon the prevailing culture. The Biblical prophets, with their ranting visions of doom, might be locked in an asylum today. Yet, in their time, their words were preserved and regarded as holy scripture.
Even good or evil cannot be absolutely defined. It is necessary to make final reference to a deity who is beyond question; in truth, a sort of philosophical "cop-out". Of course, the only question that then remains is whether that deity exists at all! That question, and the specific nature of the deity and its pronouncements, is itself a source of massive world conflict; another source of "reality relativity".
At present, the political powers of the West would like to picture the present world conflict as a battle between Good and Evil; themselves being "good" of course. Only the extremely naive would ever take such claims seriously. Human motivation is far too complex to ever be reconciled into such simplistic dualistic formulas as Good and Evil. In every conflict that ever existed, the "evil" enemy also considered themselves to be the force of Good. Each side is always trapped in its own paradigm, its own "rightness", and is thereby prevented from achieving a true understanding. Each is bent upon the destruction of the other. This is proof, if any were needed, that whilst our toys have become ever more sophisticated, our minds clearly have not.
The innate Buddha/Christ Consciousness that underlies our being perceives all things as they really are. That is why esoteric teachings constantly exhort us to get in touch with the only reality there is: the Reality within. However, the interaction between our senses and our intellect, create delusive layers that obscure that reality. They are delusive because they have not developed under the guidance of higher consciousness. Rather, these layers - which we call out life experience - have developed largely without discrimination as a result of cultural and environmental influences.
The human brain is remarkably efficient at extrapolating meaning from a very small amount of data input. Doubtless, this was useful at a time when detecting even the slightest movement in the long grass could mean the difference between life and death. However, in the present day, this ability leads us to rapidly draw and store conclusions that are often erroneous. The intellect continually creates mental shortcuts, without truly checking out all the facts available. Even when we do, we must inevitably filter them through the framework of our previous mental constructions and prejudices. In that sense, we are all slaves to our own intellects and the forces that shaped them. We are locked into a box of our own creation. That is why esoteric teachings emphasize that Enlightenment is a process of going beyond the intellect and contacting the higher consciousness once more.
One key to improving relations, both on a personal and international level, may be to go beyond mere mutual understanding. We need to realize that we cannot totally understand the other person's world, because we have never truly experienced it. In realizing this, and in nevertheless being willing to celebrate the differences without necessarily understanding them, we can a long way to eliminating the blocks to human progress that seem so impassable.
The best way to approach our personal view of reality is to consider it a useful model, and nothing more. Let us not take ourselves too seriously, or get too attached to what we regard as "facts". When we approach another being, we are approaching a wholly different world. It may bear a resemblance to our own, depending upon the extent of common education and cultural heritage we share (or lack) in common. However, it can never ever be completely the same.
"Reality" does not lend itself to revelation through intellect. After all, many of the great conflicts of history have been battles between world views. So let us be less willing to believe all the hype and simplifications that we are continually presented with, and which appeal to our intellect's taste for simplified rules to believe. Rather, let us seek to be ever less judgmental and more willing to work upon revealing the ultimate Reality; that which is within.
Copyright 2002, Asoka Selvarajah. All Rights Reserved.
Dr. Asoka Selvarajah is an active author/researcher on personal development and esoteric spirituality. Asoka's work helps people achieve their full potential, deepen their understanding of mystical truth, and find joy in their true soul's purpose. You can visit his website at: http://www.aksworld.com/7gs.htm?PROX