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« Ozodi Osuji Weekly Series on Psychology 2006, #18 of 52: Impulse and Control Disorders | Main | Ozodi Osuji Weekly Series on Psychology 2006, #20 of 52: Decision Making: Who Guides you? Ego or Christ »

March 28, 2006

Ozodi Osuji Weekly Series on Psychology 2006, #19 of 52: Perception and Distortion of Reality

by Ozodi Thomas Osuji, Ph.D. (Seatle, Washington) --- We live in a perceptual universe. This means that we perceive phenomena through our five senses (seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, feeling). Everything that we think that we know about any thing is derived from perception.

I am over here. You are over there. I see you. You see me. I believe that I see a certain type of person. This is my perception of you. Now, how do I know that the you I see is the real you? How do you know that what you think that you see is even there and if it is there that you are seeing it correctly, hearing him or her correctly etc?

(Idealism, particularly solipsism aspect of it, argues that the seeming external world that we think that we see is actually in our minds, just as the world we see while we sleep and dream is in our minds. See George Berkley, Dialogues; also see Arthur Schopenhauer, World as Will and Idea; and Hinduism, Hinduism is totally solipsistic, it believes that the world is a dream in the mind of Brahman/Atman. The converse of idealism, of course, is materialism. Materialistic monism believes that the empirical world, the world we see, is outside of us. See David Hume, Human Understanding.)


Perception is made necessary by the nature of the phenomenal world we live in. We live in a world of space, time and matter. Another way of putting it is to say that we live in the world of separation.

I am over here (a place in space) and you are over there (another spot in space). If I want to reach you, I have to travel, journey from where I am to where you are. It would take me time to reach you. Things in the world of space take time to reach other things.

Thus, if there is space, there must necessarily be time? As it were, space and time presuppose each other; if the one exists the other must necessarily exist? (Can you refute this proposition? I am taking you on a philosophical cum psychological discourse, so, put on your thinking hat and try to refute, if you can, everything that I say.)

The moment space came into being, time also came into being? Question: which one came into being before the other?

There must be space before there is time, correct? If so, space preceded time? But since if space exists time must also exist, it follows that time came right on the heels of space? Right? Perhaps space preceded time by nanoseconds?

Nevertheless, since the existence of space requires the existence of time, both can be said to have come into being simultaneously?

There must be an object traveling from one spot to another in space for there to be time? An object is composed of particles, atoms, elements, matter?

If there is space and time there must also be matter?
Matter moves from place to place? What moves it? Energy?

Matter and energy are the same? (See Albert Einstein).

Let us summarize: if there is space, there must be time and matter and energy. It follows that, as it were, by logical necessity space, time, matter and energy must coexist since the existence of one presupposes the existence of the other. As it were, space, time matter and energy came into being at the same time since one must have the other to exist; though, logically space would seem to exist before time and matter.

(Can you refute this proposition? You cannot, not with the parameters of Aristotelian syllogism, anyway.)


The physical universe, the world of space, time, matter and energy, as it were, came into being at the same time. Contemporary cosmology agrees with this thesis. Contemporary cosmology holds that at a point in time, speculated to be fifteen billion years ago (?), something happened; that there was a giant explosion and in nanoseconds space, time, matter and energy were invented.

The speculation is that prior to the Big Bang that everything was concentrated inside a ball, no larger than an atom and that somehow this ball exploded and spilled out its guts and those innards invented space, time, matter and energy.

Interesting speculation this; perhaps, as laughable as the New Testament (Bible) story of creation that posits that there was a God who conjured out the world of space, time and matter out of nothing. The Big Bang story of creation of the universe conjured out the world of space, time and matter out of nothing.

What was inside the atom sized ball out of which everything was created? Science is mum on that subject. Presingularity state is, apparently, beyond the scope of physics, hence is the abode of metaphysics?

Man is always looking for a story of his beginning; he wants to understand his origins (ontology). All human groups have their own stories of origin, their mythology of how they came to be on planet earth.

We must keep looking, for, obviously, our present religious and scientific stories of creation seem unpersuasive to logic.


In a world where there is space, time and matter there must be perception? If I am over here and you are over there in space and time, there is no way that I can fully understand you, and there is no way that you can completely understand me? To understand each other, we must not be outside each other; we must be inside each other. Whatever is outside the individual is beyond his complete understanding?

We see each other from a distance (space) and when we actually see a person is mediated by time.

The individual standing over there is seen through the auspices of light. Light travels at a certain speed (which Einstein tells us is 186, 000 miles per second). By the time that the light that leaves his body reaches me, to show him to me, he is conceivably a different person?

That is to say that in as much as there is space and time separating people, they are not seeing each other as they are and certainly not at the same time. They are seeing each other as they were in the past. They are not seeing each other in the present.

Please note this statement: you see other people’s past, not their present; you do not know what their present is; for all you know, the person in front of you may not even be there!

For our present purposes, the world of space, time and matter requires perception. Perception requires that one not totally know what one sees, since it is apart from one; perception requires guessing to understand what one thinks that one is seeing.

At best, perception can be refined, purified, corrected so that one has some understanding of what one sees, but at no time would perception be the same as knowledge of what one is seeing.

I cannot fully know you and you cannot fully know me. Perception eliminates knowledge.

Perception is synonymous with not knowing; perception is the same as ignorance. To live in the world of space, time and matter, which is to live in the world of perception, is to live in ignorance, to be unknowing.

Can you refute this proposition? You cannot. But try your hand at logical reasoning, anyway.

How do we see, anyway? We see what is in front of us through our past learning. Beginning from the moment that we are born on earth we begin to learn about our world. Our social group gives us its understanding of the nature of the world we live in. Each of us is socialized into his culture’s construction of reality.

Socially constructed reality is exactly that, social constructs, not reality itself. In fact, if you subject the ideas of reality in any given human culture you would find that most of them are not close to empirical reality. Much of human culture is illusion of reality, not reality itself.

A child is born and learns about his world through his parents and society. His culture of origin mediates how he subsequently sees the world. By the time he is an adult he has internalized certain perceptual schemas with which he interprets the nature of what he sees around him.

Put differently, when the individual sees an object in front of him, now, he is seeing it through his past learning, his history and all his past experiences. He is not seeing that object as it is, in fact, but as his past learning disposes him to see it. His past tells him what to call a tree, and what to call an animal. But is what he names tree or animal those? What are those, in fact? For our present purposes, we do not know what we are seeing.


Human beings are conceptual animals. They think in concepts, ideas and images. They have concepts, ideas and images of whatever they see in their world.

Conceptual thinking requires using past concepts that the individual has already learned to think about what the individual sees in the present.

I see you. I see you through the lenses of my perception. I see you through my past learning. I try to understand you through concepts that I learned in the past. My past tells me to see you as a man or woman, as black or white etc.

Since I am seeing you with the categories of my past, am I really seeing you correctly?

The obvious answer is no. No human being sees another human being, animal or objects correctly. We always distort what we see in the present with our past history of learning and experiences.


In as much as we do not understand what we see, we engage in interpretations, trying to run what we see through our minds, interpret them with information stored in our memories. I see you. I quickly ransack my memory, my past; information stored in my brain and uses them to figure out that I am seeing a man or woman, of a certain race etc. My perception of you is influenced by the nature of information stored in my memory bank.

The quality of the information stored in my memory, their health or lack of it, influences how I interpret what I am seeing.

For example, in the past, many white persons honestly believed that all black persons are unintelligent. That was a European cultural presupposition and preconception. A white person who internalized that presupposition, upon seeing a black person immediately concludes that he is seeing an unintelligent person. He would proceed to treat him as if he were unintelligent. If, in fact, the black person is unintelligent, or acts unintelligent as black Americans were disposed to act, the white person’s presuppositions would be reinforced and he would not experience cognitive dissonance.

On the other hand, if the black person in front of the racist white man is one of those unique human beings with superior intelligence, and he were to say things that would make the white man suspect that he is not as dumb as he had expected, the white man would experience cognitive dissonance/conflict. He feels anxiety and internal dis-at-ease. His old presuppositions and reality has collided; he must now reconcile them.

He now struggles to either reject his old assumptions of which blacks are or find reasons to remain with his old views. He could resolve the cognitive conflict by avoiding that particular smart black person and mostly relate to dumb blacks or dumb acting blacks, and in so doing continue believing that blacks are dumb.

(In America, white persons generally hire dumb blacks and in surrounding themselves with dumb blacks and seeing dumb blacks manage to retain their presupposition that blacks are dumb. They generally deny smart blacks access to their world, for smart blacks create cognitive dissonance for them. Cognitive dissonance is a very painful state of mind to be in and folks try to avoid it as much as is possible.)

In sum, we see the present with our past. Therefore, we do not see the present correctly. We distort the present with our past. This is the reality of human perception.

The challenge of perception is to try to see the present as correctly as is possible. It is doubtful that as long as we live in a perceptual world that we could ever see other things perfectly correctly, but we can try; we can attempt to purify our perception and, hopefully, see other things as correctly as is humanly possible.

In the area of matter, clearly, science is gradually enabling us to see material things nearly correctly. Unfortunately, our understanding of science is still primitive, thus, we still do not see material things as they are. But as our understanding of physics improves, our perception of matter improves in its correctness.

Unfortunately, our understanding of our selves lags behind our understanding of matter. We are the understander itself, the conceptualizer, the ideationer, the thinker; it is difficult to understand the thinker as it is to understand his thoughts.

Who is the thinker in us, any way? Is he the epiphenomenal throw up of matter or Spirit?

When I see you, I see you with the sum of my education, history and experiences and there is no way that I can see you correctly; by the same token, there is no way that you can see me correctly.


So far, I assumed that most people in the perceptual field are mentally healthy. Human beings, unfortunately, have the added problem of being mentally unhealthy. Consider the human being with delusional disorder and his distortion of perception.
The paranoid person wants to understand what he sees. Like all of us, he wants to understand his world. Like all of us, he does not understand his world.

Whereas, the average normal person accepts that he does not and cannot understand what he sees, certainly other people, the paranoid personality has a compulsion to understand other people. Since, no matter what he does, he cannot understand other people, for no one can understand other people in a perceptual universe, he projects his ideas of who he thinks that other people are to them and behaves towards them as if they are his understanding of them?

The paranoid personality, which is every human being, in degrees, tries to interpret other people with his past and necessarily distorts them. Generally, the paranoid person’s past is one where he was probably persecuted. He now expects other people to persecute him. So, he misinterprets other people’s innocent behaviors to mean persecution of him. He sees others as hating him when, in fact, they only have love for him.

For example, Igbos tend to feel persecuted by other Nigerians. They are always on the look out to see if other Nigerians are persecuting them. They evaluate other people’s behaviors to see if they are loving or hating. Often, they misinterpret other people’s motivations and behaviors, and see them as against them. Having erroneously interpreted others motivation, they undertake to defend themselves by attacking them.

I have been perceived as anti Igbo when, in fact, there is no Igbo more pro Igbo than I am. This is the nature of false interpretation of people’s behaviors based on ones past interpreting schema.

One can be as loving as Christ himself and paranoid personalities interpret ones behaviors as hateful. The relevant point is that all human behaviors are based on perception and interpretation of environmental stimuli and that much of those interpretations are false hence our behaviors are prejudiced. At best, the individual struggles to refine his perception, but it is doubtful that as long as he lives in a perceptual universe that he can ever see other people as they truly are?

Some religious persons, metaphysicians posit that in our perceptual world that all perception is apriori biased by the past with which we perceive the present. To them, all that we can do is striving to improve our perception. (See Helen Schucman, A Course in Miracles.)


Let me visit Gnosticism. (For literature review see the writings of Platonus, The Gospel according to Thomas and The Gospel According to Mary, The Gospel According to Peter and the Dag Hammadi papers in general; these gospels were not included in the Catholic Church’s Canon, The Holy Bible; they are called apocrypha; they present an alternative interpretation of Jesus.)

According to Gnosticism, Christian and non-Christian versions of it, the world is evil and, as such, only an evil God could have created the world.

Some schools of Gnosticism call the evil God who created the world Demiurge, others call him Lucifer etc.

Ultimately, Gnosticism believes that the God of Genesis in the Christian Bible, the God that created this world is an evil God. No loving Person, they believe, would create this world where we are born, suffer and die. Only an evil God could have created a purposeless and meaningless, pain filled world, Gnosticism posits.
The evil God that created this world is filled with fear, anger, and desire to punish those who disobeyed him.

If you disobeyed the Old Testament God he would cast you into eternal hell fire. He was a narcissistic God, a pathological narcissist who sought attention and admiration from his children or else he cast them into eternal hell fire.

The Old Testament God was a punitive God; he bore grievances and sought revenge. The sins of fathers, he tells us, are visited to the tenth generation, that is, children who did not commit the said sin against God are punished by him. This must be an evil God, Gnosticism postulates.

The evil God created a world of evil. Our world is a world of space, time and matter. According to Gnosticism, any thing associated with space, time and matter is evil.

The whole goal of Gnosticism is to escape from this evil world, to escape from the evil world of matter and return to what it construes as a good world, the world of light.

As Gnosticism sees it, the good God is the God of light; the evil God is the God of darkness, body and matter.

To Gnosticism, the human body, matter, is evil and must be negated, transcended, for one to become good and return to a non-material world, the world of light. In sum, Gnosticism associates the material, temporal world with evil and negates it and wants to escape from it and return to a world it imagines is its opposite, a formless, good world.

Gnosticism claims that the God of the New Testament is a good God. He is a forgiving and loving God, not a God that bears grievances and punishes people. The New Testament God has no hell to cast his children into.

Jesus Christ, Gnostics believe, represent the fullest manifestation of the good God. He is the Christ, the Son of God who is most like his father, loving and forgiving.

Helen Schucman wrote a wonderful poem that summarizes the Gnostic perspective on the world. According to her, the creator of this world is the Son of God, not God himself.

As she sees it, God create his son and his son resented the fact that his father created him and wanted to created himself. Unable to do so in reality, the son of God dreamed a world where he seems to have accomplished his desires, our world.

Our world, according to Dr Schucman, a clinical psychologist, a one time tenured professor at Columbia University, New York, is the dream of the Son of God. In that dream, he seems to have created himself, created his brothers and created his father.

The invention of the self concept, self image and personality is the Son of God’s idea of self creation.

The self concept is an idea, an idea in our minds, just as the Son of God is also an idea in the mind of God.

God himself is an idea. God is the idea of the whole and his Son is the idea of the part. Both God and his creations, his children are ideas.

We are all ideas in the mind of God and in the minds of each other. Ideas leave not their source; we remain in the mind that thought us, God, and remain in each others minds.

We cannot separate from God and from each other. But we can dream that we are separated from God and from each other, Dr Schucman, a modern Gnostic thinker, tells us. (It is interesting that the Gospel of Mary, supposedly written by Mary Magdalene, a disciple of Jesus, reached similar conclusion. Some speculate that the two women are the same person, one a reincarnation of the other.)

For our present purposes, the salient point is that according to Gnosticism this world is evil. The world of space, time and matter is evil. Space, time, matter and energy are evil and those who identify with this world must be evil.

We are evil, for the world was created by an evil thought, the idea of separation from God, the wish for the opposite of God, opposite of wholeness.

Perceiving the material world as evil, Gnosticism wants to escape from this world. Its metaphysics aims at negating the world and returning to its juxtaposed non-space, non-time, non-material world of union, the world of God, aka heaven.

Gnosticism negates this world whereas traditional Christianity affirms this world. Traditional Christianity accepts the ego self, the separated self and its separated world as real and wants Jesus to guide it, but it does not want to relinquish the ego and its world.

The Gnostic, which Jesus is said to be one, wants to relinquish this world, to escape from it, to negate this world, to over come the world of ego and separation and return to the world of union, the world of love.

This is exactly what Jesus did, according to Gnosticism, escape from this world. But folks who still do not want to escape from this world, stay here and do not know a damn thing about what their so-called savior was talking about, says Gnosticism.

Jesus exited this world and teaches a gospel on how to exist from this world of perception. Those who want to stay here distorted his teaching to make it possible for them to continue staying in ego state and its separated world.


Jesus Christ, a Gnostic philosopher, we are told by Gnosticism ( though many of those who call themselves the followers of Jesus do not know that he is, in fact, Gnostic) says, in effect, that all perception of other people is incorrect because we do so with our past preconceptions of them. He then teaches that we should overlook other people’s past. He asked his followers to forgive what other people did to them in the past. He asks them to over look the past, theirs and other people. He teaches forgiveness as meaning not using ones understanding of the past (evil) to judge the present. Jesus teaches that if we forgive people (their past) that we see them as correctly as they could be seen in the world of perception in the present.


Here is an experiment for you. Select one person, select the person who has done the most egregious thing to you in the past and forgive him. By Forgive him, Gnosticism means, do not see him through your knowledge of his past behaviors. Over look his past. Do not use your past interpretations of things to see him in the present. Now see him and say to yourself, I will not use my past to see him.

What do you think would happen? You cannot see him without your past. Without any kind of past (learning) there is no perception, for perception requires the past and future.

Nevertheless, try to see that person without your past ideas about him. If you truly mean it, you will momentarily see that person differently. What would you see? Gnosticism teaches that you would see him in a light form.

That is correct, if you forgive people their past sins, you would suddenly see them in a beautified manner. Their beauty would so astound you that you would feel compelled to fall on your knows and worship the very ground that they stand. Forgiveness, that is, seeing the present without the baggage of the past, Gnosticism tells us, makes the present look beautiful.

Now continue with forgiveness. Totally forgive the people around you whatever evil you believe that they did to you.

If you are a black man and believe that white folks enslaved black folks and still discriminate against them and, thus, you hate white folks, forgive whites the evil you believe that they did to you.
According to Gnosticism, if you truly forgive other people, you have also forgiven yourself the evils you might have done to other people.

When you truly forgive the world, first, you see it in beautified light forms, and, finally, you experience the world disappear from your sight.

That is correct; the seeming solid world you see would disappear from your perception, for you have now transcended the world of perception. Your forgiveness has enabled you to transcend the world of separation, the world of space, time and matter. You enter the world of formlessness, a world religionists call spirit world. Gnosticism says that that world has no name. It is a world where you know, not perceive, a world of knowledge.

What do you know in the world of union? You know for sure that you and other people share one self, share one mind and are parts of each other and are parts of one God. All of us are extensions of God, the whole.

God is the whole and we are his parts. The whole is not apart from the part. God extends himself into each of us. God is not separate from each of us. God is in each of us. Each of us is in God. Each of us is in each other. Where God ends and each of us starts is nowhere; where each of us ends and other people begin is no where. We all, literally, share on self and one mind. (Mind is the thinking agency of spirit self.)

The whole, anthropomorphized as God, extends into a part, us. That part of the whole is anthropomorphized as the Son of God.

The part seems a new creation. But, since it was already in the whole before the whole created it, it is as old as the whole. God and his sons are of the same age. Since they have always existed, they are eternal; they have no beginning and no end. The children of God, in the formless spirit that God created them as, are immortal.

Where is the whole? The whole is everywhere. The whole is infinite. God, the humanized whole, is infinite.

There are infinite parts of the whole; there are infinite children of God.

The whole is an idea of the whole and does not exist anywhere in particular. Therefore, the whole cannot be seen as any where. The whole is non perceptual.

The son of God, a part of the whole, can be seen as somewhere within the whole. The son of God is God in manifestation. He can be seen in form, whereas God cannot be seen in form.

The son of God can be seen in light form and or in dense material form, our bodies. Each of us has a gross, dense body, as well as a light body, Gnosticism teaches.

But you cannot see both forms at the same time. You must desist from seeing one to see the other. Right now, we want to see ourselves as dense bodies, as ego and see ourselves as such. With love and forgiveness, we see ourselves in light forms, the purified forms of us. Love purifies everything whereas hate desecrates everything it touches.

(Whole, God; part of the whole, son of God, are metaphors representing ideas. Metaphors are not reality; they are abstractions, not concrete facts.)


In the world of union, there is no you and I, no seer and seen, no subject and object. There is only unity.

Where all are unified, there is harmony and peace. In the unified world is total peace and joy, there is bliss. The unified world is the world of eternity, it is a world where there is no beginning or end to it; in it we are not born and do not die. In that world we have perfect knowledge.

Try it, forgive the people who have wronged you and mean it; try not to defend yourself from other people’s attacks and see what happens.

First, you feel peaceful. Later, you experience other people and you in light forms and, finally, you experience union, God.

The taste of the pudding is in the testing. Do not argue, try loving other people. To love is to forgive the past. When the past is forgiven the present is experienced as it is in fact, it is not distorted with the past.

The present is union. Union is love. In the present of God there is only love. Love is peace. Peace is joy. In the eternal present of God, a world without the past and future is only love, peace and joy.

Forgiveness is a means for transcending the world of separation, space, time and matter and returning to the world of formless spirit, the unified world, the world that is as God created it, unified, permanent and eternal. Forgiveness brings us to the gate of heaven, to a purified but still separated world; love takes us into heaven, into oneness with all creation and its creator.

This, according to Gnostics, is the teaching of Jesus whom the Greeks called the Christ.

The Christ is the son of God who is as his father created him: he is unified with his father and his brothers.

Only the formless, the same and equal, can unify; Christ and God are formless, are the same and equal, though God created his children, Christ, and the sons of God, Christ, did not create God; the whole produced the part, the part did not produce the whole.

(It is necessary to repeat this fact for it is the delusion of self creation that produced this world, Gnosticism teaches. One must accept that God created one and that one cannot create ones self or create God; the whole is greater than the sum of its parts; God is greater than us, even though he is the same and equal with all of us.)

According to Gnosticism, Jesus let go his belief in separated self, his ego and returned to the awareness of his unified state, his union with his creator, God, and with all creation, all of us. He gave up his desire for separated self and regained awareness of unified state, his Holy self, the self that he shares with his creator, God and all of us.

Of course, all these sound improbable Nevertheless that is what Jesus Christ the Gnostic taught his followers. Very few of the followers have even understood what the man taught them. If they understood the man’s message and practiced it, Gnosticism tells us that our world would experience peace and happiness and become transformed into a light world and eventually know itself as one with the world of formless spirit, God.


As long as we live in the world of space, time and matter, we must live in the world of perception. In the perceptual universe, we do not know anything completely. This is because other things and other people are apart from the looker and he cannot know what he is looking at, for to know the other one must be him and or be inside him.
Metaphysics talks of ways to close the gap between the individual and other people so that he may begin to know other people. But metaphysics is abstract; we live in the here and now concrete world of space, time and matter and must deal with that reality.

Do you have a problem with this proposition? If you do, please let us hear from you.

Posted by Administrator at March 28, 2006 01:19 AM


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