Working on the basis that what we call reality is as much about our perception as it is about that which is perceived, and postulating that this vests considerable power in out perception, it might well be worth studying perception in isolation. It might at first seem a little problematic to suggest we can study the workings of our perception in the absence of anything to perceive, but in fact we appear to do just this quite frequently.
The Institute of Noetic Science, founded by astronaut Edgar Mitchell, is rather interested, as one might expect, in the phenomenon of perception. In the course of their studies they placed a rubber hat packed with electrodes on the heads of volunteers and asked them to visualise performing certain tasks or activities. A similar device was fitted to people physically carrying out these tasks. Remarkably, there was no difference in the activity In the areas of the brain that provide us with our senses and therefore our map of reality. Meaning that while at the level of consciousness we know whether we are doing or dreaming, the autonomic part of the central nervous system simply can’t tell whether the information it receives is “real” or imagined. We can create our own inner reality.
A while ago I devised an experiment to see how far I could take this. I placed a radio tuned to a drama channel by my bed. As I began to fall asleep I began to imagine images on a visualisation of my tv to accompany the narrative and dialogue I heard. At other times I watched unfamiliar programs on tv. I repeated these experiments at different times of day and night and succeeded in confusing myself. I don’t particularly recommend this as it probably isn’t the healthiest way to find entertainment but it did yield interesting results. After doing this for a few days I had genuine difficulty in discerning which programs I had watched and which I had heard on the radio. The images of both were equally real in my memory as though I had seen them through wide open eyes on a tv screen. I also had a pretty messed up sleep pattern, so if you’re curious enough to try this, be warned, probably best not and certainly don’t drive or operate heavy machinery until you’ve recovered.
So far I’ve been talking about sensory input, real and imagined, and how it is perceived by the brain but how powerful is our perception when it comes to influencing the physical world? Well it appears that it can certainly affect change on our own physical body at the very least.
Brian Clark of Ohio University, a man who’s curiosity has taken him to greater extremes, though he had the sense to experiment on other people rather than himself, appears to have proved the existence of these physical manifestations of our imagination. He and his colleagues confined the wrists of 29 volunteers in plaster casts for a month. He told about half of these volunteers to spend eleven minutes a day, five days a week, imagining exercising their immobilised wrists. For these periods of time they focused as hard as they could on pretending the restricted muscles were being repeatedly flexed. The other half presumably just wished they’d volunteered for something else. When the casts were removed, the muscles in the wrists of those who had engaged in entirely imaginary exercise were twice as strong as those who had not. This phenomenon now has such credibility that it is often used by athletes as a part of their training regime.
So how much further might the influence of our minds reach? The answer seems nothing short of astonishing. While Brian Clark focused on incarcerating limbs in plaster of Paris, a certain Dr. Masaru Emoto has been doing some very thought provoking work with ice crystals. Meanwhile, just to see if another of those places where the esoteric and science rub shoulders has been created, a very large team tried turning water into wine. I kid you not, and the results of both experiments, as I’ll discuss in my next post, are truly fascinating.