I’ve been thinking about the way our thoughts and feelings relate to the external world, and considering the nature of our reactions to external things and how those reactions occur independently of the nature of the objects we perceive.
Allow me to elaborate a little.
The ancient Greek philosopher Plato believed in what he referred to as a realm of forms. Plato said that the reason why we can look at 100 different cats and identify them as cats is because there exists a realm of ‘ideal forms’ in which there is the perfect form of a cat, and when we recognise an individual cat it is due to a (subconscious?) connection we make to this ideal form. It’s not clear where exactly this realm is supposed to be, but nevertheless, this was Plato’s theory.
My own perspective is that the reason why we recognise objects in a common way (by ‘common’ I mean the reason why we can identify every cat as a cat and every dog as a dog) is because when we look at a particular object, God creates within our minds a particular impression — a thought and/or feeling. God does this with regularity in relation to different types of objects, and the form of an object only exists in so far as it is recognised by different beings with regularity. If He desired to do so, God could produce in me the same feeling I get when I look at a dog, when I look at a cat. A dog is only a dog in the embodied experience of being perceived as such.
In my book The Philosophy of a Mad Man there is a chapter entitled ‘Language and Symbols’ and in it I discuss whether or not it’s theoretically possible to look at the number ‘2’ and have the experience of seeing a cat. I’m not talking about looking at the number 2 and pretending to see a cat, but actually having the experience of seeing a cat. I concluded in the book that this is absolutely possible, and I have actually had many experiences which lend weight to this argument.
There was a time many years ago when I experienced an episode of psychosis, and my whole world was transformed. People took on different meanings, objects took on different meanings, and experiences took on different meanings. I remember that during this episode I went to the hospital to see a psychiatrist, and something he said (I don’t recall what it was) gave me a profound revelation of the way in which everything I was experiencing was intrinsic. The entire dream world in which I had been living for several weeks collapsed in a mere moment.
Ladies and gentlemen, the above example relates to you also and to the way you perceive the world, regardless of any psychosis you may or may not be experiencing. The things that you believe about your life; the stories that you tell yourself about your personality, your interests, your experience, your ambitions — all of this has no reality, it is held in your awareness by God but He could transform it entirely or bring it to nothing in a moment.
There are far-reaching implications to what I’m arguing in this post. Sometimes I gaze into the night sky and feel a sense of wonder and awe at the vastness of the Universe, but according to my arguments in this article, that is not because of anything intrinsic to the night sky, it is merely an embodied feeling. So I could just as easily look into my cup of tea and experience an overwhelming sense of wonder and awe (which I might well do the morning after a big night on the town, if truth be told).
We can go even further down the rabbit hole with this and think about how the fact that we identify who we are with a human body is just a thought. There is actually a whole school of Eastern philosophy dedicated to unravelling the mystery of what we are referring to when we say ‘I’ (it’s know as ‘self-enquiry’, and believe me, it gets terribly unsettling and confusing and I’m not sure I want to go there to be honest – I suggest a web search if you’re interested in going deeper).
Let’s end with a couple of thought experiments.
The next time you look at the number 2 on a page, pause for a moment and think about precisely what it is that makes you recognise that curly symbol as the number 2. And don’t put it down to some half-baked notion of your brain operating in a certain way, because I can guarantee that you know nothing about how your brain works, even if you pretend to know, as many people do, but no one actually does know, because our brains don’t create our experiences, God does.
And one final experiment. Look at the image that accompanies this post. Look at the puppy, then the kitten, then the puppy again, then the kitten again (I know, the best homework ever, right?!). Observe what happens in your awareness as you do this and have certain thoughts and feelings related to the different forms. This should help you to understand what I’m arguing in this post — that the way we perceive forms is due to our God-controlled thoughts and feelings rather than being in any way produced by the forms themselves.
Thank you for reading! I published a post a couple of weeks ago entitled ‘I Don’t Even Exist’ which is very relevant to the above discussion. You can read it here. My latest book ‘Puppets’ is actually a compilation of four of my other books, and comprehensively details every area of my life story and philosophy. Should such an epic undertaking be of interest to anyone, a list of retailers who stock the book can be found here. Comments are open below but are strictly moderated — read my comments policy for details.