Saturday, November 21, 2009


Dear Friends,

Love and Light.


What is Reality?

Richard Smoley

This article is adapted from Richard Smoley's new book, The Dice Game of Shiva: How Consciousness Creates the Universe(New World Library).

It seems appropriate on a Web site entitled Reality Sandwich to stop at some point and ask just what reality is. The answers to this question over the centuries can be broadly divided into two types. One is the mystical view that only what is eternal and unchanging is real. Although this idea may look highly "Eastern" to us today, it actually has a long and distinguished ancestry in Western philosophy -- for example, in Plato. He discusses it in a number of his works, but the best-known account appears in The Republic, where he contends that, in the world of sensory appearances, everything is relative. Something is beautiful in one context, ugly in another; an act that is moral in one set of circumstances is immoral in another, and so on. None of these things, then, can be counted as really having these characteristics; in a sense they both do and do not have them. As Plato's mouthpiece, Socrates, says, "It is impossible to form a stable conception of any of them as either being what it is, or not being what it is, or being both, or neither. . . . The welter of things which the masses conventionally regard as beautiful and so on mill around somewhere between unreality and perfect reality."

There is a semantic difficulty here that is often overlooked. The word in Plato's Greek that is usually translated as "reality" is ousía, literally, "being." If we understand this point, Plato's reasoning becomes much clearer. How can you say something "is" when you find that, in respect to anything you can say about it, it both "is" and "is not"? How can you say something is green when it looks green in one light and yellow or gray in another?

Nonetheless, the English terms are real and reality, and their etymology suggests how we native speakers of English view the matter. These words derive from the Latin res, "thing." In English, reality is inextricably bound up with thingness. We see as much in the term real estate. When you buy a house, you don't care that the materials composing it were not a house in the past and someday in the (let us hope remote) future will no longer be a house. Nor do you care that in a sense the house both is and is not white. What matters is that it is a house you can see and touch and live in now, and that the plumbing is in good shape.

Property matters aside, in the day-to-day world there are five criteria that something has to satisfy in order for us to accept it as real:

1. It must be perceptible to the senses in a stereoscopic way. That is, it must resemble what it is to all the senses and from all angles. Once when I was young, I was in my room around twilight, when I glanced across the hall into my father's bedroom and saw what looked like a dead mouse in the middle of the floor. I was puzzled, because I knew we didn't have mice in the house. I looked at the object for some time, trying to figure out what it might be, but no matter how hard I tried, I could not see it as anything other than a mouse. Finally I got up to take a closer look at it. I found it was a crumpled-up piece of tissue paper that had missed the wastebasket. In this case, what had looked like a mouse proved, from a more comprehensive point of view, to be otherwise. Consequently it was not really a mouse.

2. The object must have a certain stability. It can't appear and vanish or change form in unpredictable ways.

3. It must be publicly accessible. Anyone who is present must be able to perceive it. Anyone here principally means a sane, rational, sober adult. The testimony of children, the insane, and people who are intoxicated is viewed with much more suspicion.

4. It must be observed in waking life. Objects in dreams may appear to have many of the characteristics I've described, but even so they are not accounted as real.

5. It must obey our preconceptions about what is and is not possible. If you say you saw something that is supposed not to exist, your testimony will be seriously doubted. You may even doubt your own senses, the power of whose evidence is often weaker than that of our preconceptions. In the case above, I doubted that what I saw was a mouse because of my (correct) belief that we didn't have mice.

Anything that fits these criteria will generally be taken as real. If it fails to satisfy even some of these requirements, it will raise doubts. Take the typical sighting of a ghost. The apparition may not be entirely stable: it may appear and disappear suddenly. It may not seem substantial to all the senses: you may be able to see it but may also find that your hand passes through it without resistance. It may not be perceptible to everyone. One person may see a ghost standing in a corner of the room, but others who are present may not. Finally and perhaps most important, the existence of ghosts is highly disputed. Even if the experience satisfies all the other criteria - say there are several people present who see the same thing - it will probably be doubted later by those who were not there (and maybe by some who were) on the grounds that there is no such thing as ghosts.

The criteria I've given seem to be more or less universal, prevailing over most if not all periods and cultures. What is accounted as real must, among other things, accord with our preconceptions. Nonetheless, the content of our preconceptions may differ according to time and place, sometimes wildly. Many cultures today give far more credence than we do to such things as ghosts, spirits good and evil, possession, witchcraft, and similar things. So, for that matter, did Western civilization five hundred years ago. It's strange to read court testimonies from the era of the witch hunts and encounter a man who confesses to turning himself into a toad -- along with a judge and jury who accept his testimony.

We can see how these criteria work by examining cases where the reality of a thing is subject to doubt. In his book Beyond Telepathy, the parapsychologist Andrija Puharich tells of a study of the Indian rope trick. Long a mainstay of fakirs, the trick runs so relentlessly counter to our views of reality -- and even of what sleight of hand can accomplish -- that some have denied it has ever been done at all. Puharich describes a demonstration of this trick arranged by some scientists, who collected several hundred people to watch a fakir put on the show. Puharich reports: "They saw the Fakir throw a coil of rope in the air and saw a small boy climb up the rope and disappear. Subsequently dismembered parts of this small boy came tumbling to the ground; the Fakir gathered them up in the basket, ascended the rope, and both the boy and the Fakir came down smiling. It is astonishing that several hundred people witnessed this demonstration and agreed in general on the details as described. There was not a single person present in the crowd who could deny these facts."

But the scientists had also set a movie camera going to record the trick. According to Puharich, later, when the film was developed, "it was found that the Fakir had walked into the center of the group of people and thrown the rope into the air, but that it had fallen to the ground. The Fakir and his boy assistant had stood motionless by the rope throughout the rest of the demonstration. The rope did not stay in the air, the boy did not ascend the rope. In other words, everyone had witnessed the same hallucination. Presumably the hallucination originated with the Fakir as the agent or sender. At no time in the course of the demonstration did the Fakir tell the audience what they were going to see. The entire demonstration was carried out in silence."

How does this fit with our criteria for reality? Certainly the idea that someone might throw a rope into the air and climb up it runs contrary to our preconceptions of how the world is, so this alone would give cause for suspicion. What proved the trick to be a hallucination was the testimony of the camera, which gave a more stereoscopic view, in this case presumably because, unlike the minds of the spectators, it was not prone to suggestion.

For those who might trust in the camera, which is supposedly incapable of deceit, I might cite a phenomenon discussed on the Internet: orbs. To quote Daniel Pinchbeck, writing on this website:

"Orbs are best known as those mysterious balls of light that have appeared on digital photographs for the last fifteen years, though some claim they can see them with the naked eye as well. Orbs have spawned an enthusiastic subculture of people who believe the blobby wisps are not dust particles or lens anomalies, but angels, spirits, other-dimensional beings and so on. . . . Most people first discover orbs when they are trying to photograph something else -- friends at a party, a politician, their cat."

In this case, it would appear to be the camera that is suffering from the delusion. Again the doubt is triggered by our preconceptions: people generally don't believe there are orbs of light floating around the air. Moreover, orbs are not stable; they are evanescent; and they don't stand up very well to stereoscopic examination. Sometimes they show up on camera, sometimes they can be seen with the naked eye, but a rigorous criterion for reality would demand that they appear to both the camera and the naked eye and, moreover, appear in much the same way to both. A person who sees an orb, or takes a picture of one that cannot be explained as some fluke of lighting, may not be persuaded that what he saw was unreal. (I suspect that they can be connected with thigles or tikles, which is simply the Tibetan Buddhist name for this phenomenon, usually described as droplike and regarded as a side-effect of certain meditative practices.) But someone who hears about it secondhand will probably be much more suspicious.

Set down on paper, these criteria may seem utterly obvious and pedestrian. So they should. They underpin practically every move we make. They have been established as a solid basis for enabling us to function on the plane of existence we call the physical world. They have been hashed out over millennia of human life; no attempt at vindication on my part would validate them any further, and no attempt at refutation would weaken our reliance on them. Even so, looking at them as a whole, we might notice one startling fact: a great deal of what we experience is not "real" in this sense, including thoughts, dreams, and fantasies, and even ideas and concepts. If we confine ourselves to the ordinary, common-sense view, we have no explanation for these things. Indiscriminately using blanket terms such as "imagination" and "hallucination" are often intended to abort the discussion rather than clarify it. The mystical traditions of the world, by contrast, do have elaborate systems of thought to help us understand these realms and what they might mean. But if we confine ourselves to a narrow view of reality, these insights will be of no value to us.

Copyright © 2009 by Richard Smoley. Visit Richard's Web site here.

No comments:

Post a Comment



Click upon the circle after the small square for captions


How to Digitally Record/Video a UFO sighting:

Como registar digitalmente ou gravar um vídeo de um avistamento de um UFO:

Stabilize the camera on a tripod. If there is no tripod, then set it on top of a stable, flat surface. If that is not possible lean against a wall to stabilize your body and prevent the camera from filming in a shaky, unsteady manner.

Estabilize a camera com um tripé. Se não tiver um tripé, então coloque-a em cima de uma superfície estável. Se não for possível, então encoste-se a uma parede para estabilizar o corpo e evitar que a camera registe de maneira tremida e instável.

Provide visual reference points for comparison. This includes the horizon, treetops, lampposts, houses, and geographical landmarks (i.e., Horsetooth Reservoir, Mt. Adams, etc.) Provide this in the video whenever is appropriate and doesn’t detract from what your focus is, the UFO.

Forneça pontos visuais de referência para comparação. Isso inclui o horizonte, cimo das árvores, postes de iluminação, pontos de referência geográficos (como o Reservatório de Horsetooth, Mone Adams, etc) Forneça esses pontos no vídeo sempre que for apropriado e não se distraia do que é o seu foco, o UFO/a Nave.

Narrate your videotape. Provide details of the date, time, location, and direction (N,S,E,W) you are looking in. Provide your observations on the weather, including approximate temperature, windspeed, any visible cloud cover or noticeable weather anomalies or events. Narrate on the shape, size, color, movements, approximate altitude of the UFO, etc and what it appears to be doing. Also include any unusual physical, psychological or emotional sensations you might have. Narrate any visual reference points on camera so they correlate with what the viewer will see, and thereby will be better able to understand.

Faça a narração do vídeo. Forneça pormenores sobre a data, hora, local e direcção (Norte, Sul, Este, Oeste) que está a observar. Faça observações sobre as condições atmosféricas, incluindo a temperatura aproximada, velocidade do vento, quantidade de nuvens, anomalias ou acontecimentos meteorológicos evidentes. Descreva a forma, o tamanho, a cor, os movimentos, a altitude aproximada onde se encontra o UFO/nave, etc e o que aparenta estar a fazer. Inclua também quaisquer aspectos pouco habituais de sensações físicas, psicológicas ou emocionais que possa ter. Faça a narração de todos os pontos de referência visual que o espectador irá ver e que, deste modo, será capaz de compreender melhor.

Be persistent and consistent. Return to the scene to videotape and record at this same location. If you have been successful once, the UFO sightings may be occurring in this region regularly, perhaps for specific reasons unknown, and you may be successful again. You may also wish to return to the same location at a different time of day (daylight hours) for better orientation and reference. Film just a minute or two under “normal” circumstances for comparison. Write down what you remember immediately after. As soon as you are done recording the experience/event, immediately write down your impressions, memories, thoughts, emotions, etc. so it is on the record in writing. If there were other witnesses, have them independently record their own impressions, thoughts, etc. Include in this exercise any drawings, sketches, or diagrams. Make sure you date and sign your documentation.

Seja persistente e não contraditório. Volte ao local da cena e registe o mesmo local. Se foi bem sucedido uma vez, pode ser que nessa região ocorram avistamentos de UFOs/naves com regularidade, talvez por razões específicas desconhecidas, e talvez possa ser novamente bem sucedido. Pode também desejar voltar ao mesmo lugar a horas diferentes do dia (durante as horas de luz)para ter uma orientação e referência melhor. Filme apenas um ,inuto ou dois em circunstâncias “normais” para ter um termo de comparação. Escreva tudo o que viu imediatamente após o acontecimento. Logo após ter feito o registo da experiência/acontecimento, escreva imediatamente as impressões, memórias, pensamentos, emoções, etc para que fiquem registadas por escrito. Se houver outras testemunhas, peça-lhes para registar independentemente as suas próprias impressões, pensamentos, etc. Inclua quaisquer desenhos, esbolos, diagramas. Certifique-se que data e assina o seu documento/testemunho.

Always be prepared. Have a digital camera or better yet a video camera with you, charged and ready to go, at all times. Make sure you know how to use your camera (and your cell phone video/photo camera) quickly and properly. These events can occur suddenly, unexpectedly, and often quite randomly, so you will need to be prepared.

Esteja sempre preparado, Tenha sempre uma camera digital, melhor ainda, uma camera vídeo consigo, carregada e pronta a usar sempre que necessário. Certifique-se que sabe como lidar com a sua camera (ou com o seu celular/camera fotográfica) rápida e adequadamente. Esses acontecimentos podem acontecer súbita e inesperadamente e, por vezes, acidentalmente, por isso, necessita estar preparado.

Look up. Be prepared. Report. Share.

Olhe para cima, Esteja preparado, Relate, Partilhe.



Pf., clique no símbolo do YouTube e depois no quadrado pequeno, em baixo, ao lado direito para obter as legendas CC, e escolha PORTUGUÊS

埋め込み画像 4埋め込み画像 5

What time is Around the World?


AND YOU AND I - click image



NGC - UFO's in EUROPE (Porugal included)

FEBRUARY 7, 2013 - 7:00PM EST

FEBRUARY 7, 2013 - 7:00PM EST