Reality, Illusion and Delusion
edited: Sunday, December 14, 2008
By Richard L Sassoon
Not "rated" by the Author.
Posted: Wednesday, October 10, 2007
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Investigates the crucial differences between perception, imagination and fantasy
REALITY, ILLLUSION & DELUSION
If you see a beautiful landscape—grey rocks, yellow aspen, various greens and evergreens, some deep red sumac—and your heart leaps with joy, and then maybe you make a painting later of that landscape as you now imagine it in memory, is all that real or illusory? Well, how on earth can you separate the two? A painting is an illusion of something imagined inspired by an appearance to one’s eyes and brain. Illusion? Sure—ultimately. But any unique moment of perception, imagination, action, even thought is, in it’s instant of occurrence, as real as reality.
So what do we mean by the concept “reality”? Ultimately, reality is what is, whatever appearances or events come and go. It’s accessed directly in a moment of pure awareness, knowingness, presence, when whatever has just happened has ceased and whatever is about to happen hasn’t yet. No one has ever described that. It is too pure, too intimate, for the duality of subject and object, without which mind is empty. One might make a sound or a movement, one might experience unusual “states,” but these are side effects, reactions of the nervous system or muscles or even mind. The instant of pure being—the realest of the real—is as much a mystery as anything else ultimately is, but in its moment it is not con-fused with anything else. It is what I have called “surd.”
All the same, from the view of that, whatever is immediately experienced, illusory in that it arose and does not remain, is yet in its time of being experienced quite real. If one is simply there, or rather here, for any present experience, one will find it encompassed by, and penetrated with, it’s own (as much as one’s own) pure being or reality.
So, immediately and ultimately, pure reality and pure illusion are indistinct.
What I’m doing here, by the way, is just clarifying the import of three different, yet mutually defined/defining, words. We come now to “delusion.” Delusion is whatever contaminates, or alienates us from, both reality and illusion. To define it further is difficult, because no one is consciously deluded. We may consciously try to delude another, to get what we think we want from them, but we will not know that, in doing so, we are unconsciously deluding ourselves. What is called “denial,’ for instance, is an example of delusion. It “works” because it is unconscious. The moment we recognize it consciously, we are no longer deluded.
I’ll try to give a more obvious concrete example. You experience a moment of deep love for somebody. (It could be any other feeling, including hatred.) There’s nothing unreal about that. But a moment or more later, when you no longer are experiencing that, you may find yourself missing the experience—or the person, who may either be gone or still around, but now manifesting a different aspect of himself or herself than what inspired a feeling of love (or of hatred or whatever). All that’s quite real too. But, rather than experiencing the feeling of missing, you may choose, unconsciously, to pretend.
You pretend you are still feeling deep love and behave accordingly, maybe to get the other person to collaborate in a pretense of feeling love. You say loving things and get them maybe also to say loving things. All this is also quite real. But if you are pretending and don’t know that you are pretending, then you are deluding yourself and perhaps also deluding another. And, of course, delusion tends to breed more delusion—to protect itself from reality. You may begin to take actions!—actions to reinforce your pretense. In the midst of all this, you may get flashes of what’s real. But then it seems you’d look like a fool, or worse a deceiver, if you suddenly became honest—or, as they say, “got real.”
Daring to recognize and to reject delusion helps one, if one is so inclined, to stay real and to appreciate the reality of so-called illusions just as they arise, not clinging, or clinging less, to them when they go. This goes against conditioned habit, at least for almost all of us, so it takes a while for it to start becoming natural.
A FURTHER NOTE:
If people were aware that the same word does not ever have the same exact meaning and import each time it is spoken or heard or written or read—and that these contexts also make a difference—the significance of the main distinction made in this brief essay would be ever more obvious. It has been suggested (by Alfred Korcybski) that a word which is used frequently, say “love,” might be thought of as having a new subscripted number each time it is used. Example: love1 love2 love3 etc.
The point here is the uniqueness of each moment, distinct from the interrelationship of all moments (and all known words for that matter).