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Elucidating the Illusion #2: The Magic Eye

31/03/2017

Reality is frequently inaccurate.” ― Douglas Adams

Can you do those 3D stereogram ‘Magic Eye’ thingies? Not everyone can you know. Obviously you need two functioning eyes, but you also need to be able to block the reflex that causes them to align on an object according to its apparent distance. There’s also a kind of mental focusing/filtering process that uses borders as cues to make sense of an image. You have to let go of that too.

If you’re not familiar with autostereograms there’s instructions on how to do them here. Reading the instructions doesn’t mean you’ll be able to see the 3D image, but it might help. If you want a somewhat misleading, dumbed-down understanding of them, there’s always the Daily Mail.

So have you done the one at the top of this post yet? If you’re using a small screen or high resolution it might be easier if you download the JPEG and open it in a viewer that lets you zoom it to full screen. Bet you can’t do it on a smartphone. Before you read any further try to see the 3D image. There’s spoilers coming and if you haven’t seen it you probably won’t know what I’m talking about over the rest of this post.

What do you see? What! Are you crazy? Anyone who sees emblems of peace in US flags has gotta be seriously deluded. So which image is real? The flags? The peace symbol? Both? Neither? Does the question even make sense?

The peace symbol seems more vivid doesn’t it? More real. It jumps right out of the screen at you. But you can only see it if your eyes and brain aren’t working normally. If they’re malfunctioning. We all know what abnormal perceptions mean. Did I already ask if you were crazy?

But what about ‘normal’ depth perception. You can’t really see anything in 3D you know. What you see are two slightly different 2D images that your mind reinterprets as a 3D field. In fact you can’t really see or hear or smell or taste or touch anything. What you get is a jumble of nerve signals coming from various sense receptors that go through filters and interpreters until a tiny fraction of all that input is delivered to the parts of your brain in which neuroscientists think conscious perception resides. Not that they’d know. Those signals get brewed up with a whole bunch of cognitive tricks, preconceptions and biases to produce your concept of what the physical world is like. You don’t perceive ‘reality’. You construct it.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not flogging solipsism here. My guess is that there really is a universe independent of what goes on in my head. Kant called it das Ding an sich, the thing-in-itself. But I’d be very surprised if das Ding has much in common with the image I build from my handful of senses and puny cognition. Basically I know enough about it to find my mouth with my spoon and avoid walking into walls. Why would I need more? I’m just an ephemeral organism trying to get through my eye-blink of existence without too much suffering. What good would knowing about the nature of reality do me?

But what if I told you about a Goddess? Not one that I hope for or believe in or pray to for miracles. One that I perceive directly. What if I can sort of relax a part of my mind that tries to construct my nice, rigid version of consensual reality and there She is; constituting, creating and destroying everything in my universe? By dancing!

Now I’m not saying I can see Her or hear Her or smell Her or taste Her or touch Her – though sometimes She touches me. She’s far more vivid and immediate and overwhelming and – Goddessdammit – more real than anything I can concoct with my mind and senses.

But what’s real and what’s not?
Does the question even make sense?

Oh, and here’s a bunny. Because bunnies are very nice.

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From → mysticism

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