Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one. . . Albert Einstein

Intellect evolves for survival not truth or accuracy. A quick tour of the history of political, religious and scientific ideas shows that almost any belief or world-view is possible. Humans are capable of seeing or believing anything. Children tend to believe what they are told.

The number of people holding a belief, their age, status, education, emotional fervour or sense of certainty are no guarantee of its accuracy. Anything can be shoe-horned into an ideological frame of reference. Absurdities can become truths. The obvious invisible.

Just about any theory can be made to work.

Our picture of the world seems real and outside of us but it is in our heads. Even the ideas of outside and inside are mental creations.

We are hard-wired to look for danger in complex environments like jungles. We can detect patterns in a wilderness of sensory impressions and construct images of separate objects and events from them. We resolve memories and sensations into explanations and pictures.

How confident can we be that our perceptions represent what is really going on?

Our picture of the world is formed from sensations projected onto living internal screens that are easily disrupted by injury, stress, drugs, sleep and degeneration.

We draw information from sensations that we are not always conscious of, like the light or sound sensed by the skin.

Impressions are stored all over the brain. They are changeable and not all consistent with each other.

Our recall of events is not picture perfect. It is constructed from fragments of recalled images elaborated and coloured by memories that rearrange themselves to fit the suggestions and expectations of others .

We only really understand what previous experience has prepared us to see. Most of the rest is dimly registered or invisible.

How do we test the assumptions of the reality we share with others in our culture (our laws, science, religion, ideologies and customs) when everything we have done or seen since birth are based on them? How do we test the evidence of our senses after they have been filtered through those assumptions

consensus reality
Societies allow some independent thinking and activity but most is within the range of its consensus reality.

The myths and convenient truths we hold in common are the technology that provides mutual expectations that are reliable enough to make it possible for us to live together.

We can now walk out the door without having to invest time and effort avoiding being eaten by our neighbours or devising ways to get to eat them. If our shared beliefs provide enough certainty we can build vast empires or take over the planet. Some tribal peoples have yet to discover this sort of consensus and lead what to us would be anxious lives with less scope for joint ventures.

Our consensus view of the world is embedded in our language and culture. This is our folie à mille, our group psychosis. A bit like sleep-walking in a cocoon of cultural beliefs. This saves us from having to establish common ground from scratch every time we meet someone but limits us to this shared world.

We each live within a cocoon of beliefs. They determine what we think, see and do and they tend to exclude incompatible ideas and experiences.

Humans are able to hold beliefs that don't line up with what they see with their own eyes. Reason can be suspended under financial or social pressure. Social and political truths can displace reality. This makes mass social cooperation and mass folly possible.

Many unquestioned beliefs and official stories about money, work, drugs, birth, learning, death, diet, relationships, health, God, politics and childrearing are arbitrary cultural conveniences. They can be so taken for granted that their absurdities are not noticed in the to and fro of day to day life. Some can obscure reality or limit health, happiness and achievement.

maintaining beliefs
Some beliefs defy gravity but promise wonderful things.
Some may be essential to maintain retain sufficient approval of others.

The more beliefs diverge from the evidence of our senses the more effort is needed to maintain them. They require constant reinforcement with rewards, sanctions and rituals, Significant physical and intellectual resources may be needed to juggle evidence to the contrary. Maintaining a belief system can be all consuming and even incapacitating.

Resisting commonly held beliefs requires effort even if they are obvious nonsense. Particularly taboo beliefs that are rewarded with death, poverty or excommunication if violated. Under pressure the evidence of the senses may be filtered out of awareness or rationalised away.

Is it possible to see and think for ourselves - to transcend the limitations of a language set in three dimensional space moving through time and escape the hypnotic spell of conventional history, fiction and demonology?

It takes a lot to see through cultural conventions but the realities of starvation, loss, death, disease and war are powerful defoliants which cut through the neatly tended gardens of our beliefs and social conventions and admit the light of reality into the jungle of underlying assumptions.

The awareness therapy pages and the exercises on the body-intelligence and mind pages are easier ways to uncover what we are really experiencing.