The Doors of Perception: does anything lie beyond, before we open them…?

So yesterday in this space, I put forth some thoughts about this concept I’d stumbled across in my studies of Astrology: the idea is that humanity discovers new Planets out there at the edge of our Solar System only when we’re ready to begin dealing with the concepts that those Planets represent for us.

Records show that Galileo actually noted the planet Neptune way back in 1612, but thought it was a star -- humanity didn't recognize Neptune's planet-hood for another 200+ years after that.  Maybe we just weren't ready until 1846...?  (Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS)
Records show that Galileo actually noted the planet Neptune way back in 1612, but thought it was a star — humanity didn’t recognize Neptune’s planet-hood for another 200+ years after that. Maybe we just weren’t ready until 1846…? (Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS)

I make no attempt to hide the fact that I like this concept.  It works for me, and I can see us discovering more planets and other bodies out there as we grow, with each coming to symbolize new aspects of our collective self.

However!!  Having said that, there’s another concept floating around out there that I like equally, and which is almost the opposite notion: instead of this idea that we only perceive that certain things exist once we become ready for them, there’s the idea that until we become ready to perceive them…certain things don’t even exist.

This latter theory would not hold that the planet Uranus, for instance, was out there the whole time since humanity first pulled itself upright, and that it was simply whirling about in criminally unappreciated grace until 1781…  Instead, this theory would claim that until such time as we developed the telescope — which could then boost our ability to look farther out into the cosmos — nothing actually existed beyond the outermost limits of what unaided human eyesight could make out in the nighttime sky.

This theory, then, is kind of akin to the phenomenon we observe when a small child seems to think that if something is hidden from view, even temporarily, it ceases to exist…except in this case, the child would be us — humanity — and the things hidden from view would be gargantuan tracts of Universe.

The Peekaboo Principle
The Peekaboo Principle

I first heard this theory advanced in terms of the microscopic.  The notion was basically that until humanity devised the very first microscope in 1590, and especially until Antonie van Leeuwenhoek got serious with more advanced models in the 1670’s and discovered microorganisms…there was simply nothing defined at such infinitesimal levels of reality.  The smallest building blocks of matter that we could perceive with our eyes…were the smallest building blocks of matter in existence.  Once we augmented what we could catch with those same eyes, then reality was immediately obliged to define itself down to deeper and smaller levels.  In a sense, this theory is saying that by definition, we’re not able to look beyond the edges of reality, ever…because those edges will keep extending just enough to always work like a sort of perceptual horizon for us.

Keep going!  The edge of Creation lies just over yonder ridge...
Keep going! The edge of Creation lies just over yonder ridge…(until it doesn’t anymore)…

This theory can be applied not only in the Big-to-Small direction (toward the microscopic, or Inward), but also, as noted above with Uranus, in the Near-to-Far, or Outward, direction.  The concept says that, for example, until we develop instruments that would show us, in minute detail, the surfaces of the bodies orbiting Antares…there is no minute detail on such bodies.  But then the second we do develop such instruments, reality will fill itself in by adding such minute detail as needed, so that when we look, there will be something there for us to see.

I’m kind of reminded of this 1999 film called The Thirteenth Floor, in which a character caught up in intrigue revolving around a virtual reality world-construct that an associate of his has created, is clued in to the fact that his own world is also a virtual reality construct, assembled by people in a “larger,” “higher,” and “more real” world.  There’s a scene where this character drives out past the borders of the city where he lives, and is confronted with this stark computerized field of almost nothingness where the city’s outskirts and beyond should be — he sees that his “reality” ends at the city limits, and hasn’t been filled in past those bounds.  The theory I’m describing would say that this can’t happen for us: if we were to drive out beyond our own current metaphorical city limits, even though there had been nothing there until that moment, by the time we passed the “Now Leaving Humanity Central” sign, we’d find fresh reality waiting for us, newly minted, but to our own human perceptions as seamlessly integrated, and as undetectable as being recently added material, as anything else we’ve ever known.

Don't worry, this won't happen to you: all that missing stuff gets filled in before you can get close enough to see the bare infrastructure of reality.
Don’t worry, this won’t happen to you: all that missing stuff gets filled in before you can get close enough to see the bare infrastructure of reality.

One of the things I like about this idea is that it can still be seen as fantastic encouragement for us to always continue exploring.  We may never reach any outer limits of reality, but in a sense, the more we continue to press the frontiers both outward and inward, the more that gets created so as to preserve the “illusion” for us.  In other words, the more we push on, the more we’re obliging reality to create.  Therefore, in some indirect way…we ourselves are partially responsible for Creation itself.  We may not be The Creator (or maybe we are…although that’s one or more posts for one or more other times), but we can still be seen as a Force for Creation, something that propels and fuels it.  And that’s not bad work if you can get it!

5 thoughts on “The Doors of Perception: does anything lie beyond, before we open them…?

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