31 Jan The True Nature of Reality: Looking Out The Window – 13

They say the eyes are the windows to the soul, but is sight really akin to looking out of a window to see the outside world? As human beings, we tend to believe less of what we hear and more of what we see, taking the sense of sight as a very convincing type of evidence of our direct experience. But how much of what we see is true? During this journaling exercise, we will take a look (excuse the pun) at sensory input we perceive through our eyes.

Most people believe human consciousness exists somewhere behind the eyes, and we tend to view the eyes as a type of window we look out of to see the world around us, but this is not true. The eyes are less of a window and more of a data collector that receives unintelligible code of everything around us. This raw information is then sent to the brain, but the brain doesn’t just translate the data, it actually filters it and uses memory to manufacture a picture that is recognizable to us. In other words, what we see is not what is actually in front of us; it is our brain’s creation of what it believes is in front of us based on memory, learning, experience, and our ability to conceptualize and recognize patterns. Let me say that again. What you are seeing right now is not what is actually in front of you; it is your brain’s best guess of what is in front of you.

There are several conditions that confuse the brain’s processing center, which can cause the brain to produce a view that is not real. Optical illusions function precisely because our minds manufacture what we see. These illusions occur because they exploit the brain’s weakness by creating conflicting data that the brain interprets incorrectly.

optillClick on the image to the left and stare at this optical illusion. The circles in the image appear to move, but if you stare at one of the dots inside a moving circle, that circle will stop rotating. This is not a computer trick. You can print out the image (even in black and white) and the circles will still appear to move on the page. Is the image really moving? No, of course not, but because our brain is making its best guess on conflicting data, it ends up creating a view that is not real. In this case, our brain tells us the circles on a page are physically moving, when in fact they are not. Even being aware that the image is an optical illusion, we are unable to correct it with our cognitive understanding. The illusion is part of a physical process.

Take some time to think and journal about the following exercises:

What do you call it when someone physically sees something that does not exist?

Google “Optical Illusions” and find the three illusions that seem most dramatic to you. Are you able to sketch them in your journal?

Can you think of a time when you thought you saw something that later turned out to be something completely different?

How much can you trust what you see?

Would you know if something you were looking at was easy or difficult for the brain to interpret?

Is it possible for two people to see something different while looking at the same object?

How would getting diverse opinions from several people help us to see the world more clearly?

Do people see colors in the same way? Ex. Is green the same shade to everyone?

How does it make you feel knowing that your sight is not foolproof, and that your brain just makes up what it believes you should see?


Michael Ken