The two levels of reality
The reality of subjective experiences
On this page the two levels of reality that have been taken into account on the previous page are examined more in depth. As a rule, subjective experiences are excluded from the realm of reality: it is a cultural choice, due to the fact that our decision regarding what can be considered real requires the consent and agreement of a plurality of people. If our experience is subjective, as in the case where I see a tree or a rock without anyone else being next to me, able to confirm the real existence of that tree or that rock, I can consider the tree or rock as real only because I think that another person, in the same condition I am, would be able to see and perceive the same tree and the same rock.
It is better to clarify that in the moment in which I see the tree and the rock, in my mind a psychic experience occurs that makes me certain about their reality. But what happens if I see, for example, a flying saucer? Although my psychic experience can assure me of the reality of what I see, I myself can doubt my mental faculties, if no one else is there to confirm what I am seeing, and therefore I cannot receive any objective confirmation. Only if I can record the event, for example by taking a shot of it, do I acquire greater certainty about its reality, even if others could question the honesty and reliability of my document.
There is also a group of subjective experiences that are not considered real, even if the experimenting subject is convinced of their reality, because his/her corresponding psychic tuning records them as real. This group includes those hallucinations that are experienced by the perceiving subject not only as real, but also as objective: in fact, the experimenter not only has no doubt that what he/she sees is real, but it is also convinced that anyone else could see what he/she is seeing, and is surprised and suspicious when his/her real perception of the event is not confirmed by other observers. Even in this case, however, the fact that the perception is hallucinatory, that is, not corresponding to any real stimulus, requires that other people be able to confirm the existence of a reality different from that perceived by the hallucinated person. In other cases, as in lucid dreams, NDEs, or experiences induced by psychoactive substances, it is the experimenter himself who, with the passing of time, realizes the difference between the objective reality experienced in his/her ordinary state of consciousness, and a subjective (but no less real) reality experienced in a non-ordinary state of consciousness.
Normal dream experiences are perceived as unreal by the consciousness of the dreamer in the ordinary waking state, while the dream state of consciousness is not even able to question the reality of what happens in the dream. In conscious dreams, instead, the impression of reality associated with what is happening is very strong, and only in some cases, thanks to a certain effort of memory and a comparative analysis of the elements present in the dream, the conscious Ego can reach the recognition that the reality of what he/she is experiencing cannot be objective. Not infrequently, in fact, the experiences attained by the Ego during a conscious dream convince him that he is awake in an objectively real world. Therefore the subjective conviction regarding the reality of what the conscious Ego is experiencing depends on a mental tuning that confirms and assures us that what we are experiencing is real, and it is only when this spell is broken, sometimes by someone else, that we can notice the deception (perhaps with regret).
The strong objective reality
In the ordinary waking state the conscious Ego is normally involved in psychic tunings that show him/her a form of objective reality that I think correct to define as strong, precisely because of the strong grip it has on the Ego. This reality is made up of sensory perceptions and events that are undoubtedly shared by a considerable number of people. As I said above, even if a person is temporarily alone, the elements that make up this reality present the requisites of objectivity, as that person is convinced that any other person, as long as their own mental faculties are properly functioning, in the same conditions would perceive those same elements of reality. In the case in which it would be shown that the experience of that person is hallucinatory, and therefore not objectively real, for the hallucinated subject it would be a shock, given that he should doubt precisely those mental faculties on which he had relied.
But it is mainly in the social sphere that the strong objective reality exercises its power of involvement in the most intense way. When everyone – within a system – agrees in perceiving something, or think that a certain event has actually occurred, each of us, as a member of that system, is convinced of the reality of the perceptions and events confirmed by others. So reality is accepted not as a consequence of a critical examination, but as a matter of fact: what is shown before our eyes is real, what interacts with our body is real, our body is real. The bus we travel on is real, the place where we work is real, our work mates are real. The elements that constitute reality are always accessible and traceable, they do not change (if not over time) and can be shown to others. The perception of reality, obviously, does not imply any knowledge of it: we can, for example, see the stars, show them to others and agree on their objective reality, without knowing what they are, what they are made of or why they shine. However, the perception of reality is almost always accompanied by a description which has peculiar cultural features. Anyone of us, if he/she were moved to a completely unknown environment, in which there were elements for which he/she would not have a confirmed cultural description, would feel a sense of loss and restlessness precisely because of the unreal character of the experience he/she is living, even if it should happen in company of other people, with whom the objective reality of the perceived elements could be verified.
The subjective perception of reality leads us to also consider as real our moods, memories, thoughts, emotions and feelings, that is, everything that our conscious Ego experiences over time. But in the context of the strong objective reality all these experiences, however important for the subject, have a very relative meaning: at most they can be communicated in words, told to another person, who – basing on the trust he/she has in us – will believe what we tell, but will never be able to confirm the objective reality of what we have experienced. Instead, what is objective has the power to attune the collective experience of a considerable number of people, determining, for each of them, the very criterion on the basis of which things, people and events can be considered as real.
Reality and time
In any case, all our human experiences are conditioned by the passing of time: we experience the reality of the present, while of what is past we keep more or less clear memories. Even objective reality becomes less secure over time. In fact, if things, people and events from the past leave traces in the present in the form of documents, objects, more or less well-preserved artifacts, fossils and geological deposits, it is precisely these elements and their present objectivity that allow us to consider as real what we presume, with more or less certainty, to have occurred in a more or less remote past. But when the reconstruction of reality is entrusted to human memory alone, any certainty soon fades, and within a couple of centuries most of what had actually happened, of what was present and was considered objectively real – including living beings, and humans among them – vanishes without leaving any trace. We can establish a date from the past and a place, and – even knowing that, on that date, that place included various elements of objective reality that could be witnessed by anyone who had been there – we have no means of reconstructing with certainty that reality, which we can only imagine. And these difficulties do not even take into account all those human activities that have as a conscious aim the alteration or deletion of the reality of past events.
Influence of reality on the psyche
Our culture, starting from the indisputable premise of the existence of a physical reality, has assumed that reality determines and influences our psychic reactions. In fact, once admitted that the psyche is the product of brain activity, everything that is experienced by the conscious Ego must be considered as the effect of a particular state of a part of the brain system. This cultural position is a consequence of the attention that has been devoted, in particular in the last four centuries of human history, to the observation, study and interpretation of what is considered the objective reality of the physical and organic world. Even this attention, however, has a psychic origin: for many centuries, in different cultures, other psychic tunings, centered on forms of experience much less attentive to objective reality, have prevailed.
The weak objective reality
In the pages of this site ample space has been given, in addition to some interesting forms of subjective reality, to the manifestations of an objective reality that I would define as weak to distinguish it from the strong one. These are events, certainly objective (as perceived and witnessed by a plurality of people, and in some cases documented by recording devices), whose paranormal character can be framed in what is commonly defined, in the light of the strong objective reality, as magical, miraculous, spiritistic, alien and even diabolical. The events of the weak objective reality are characterized by the fact that they are aleatory, unpredictable, almost always uncontrollable, uncertain in their dynamics and disconcerting, due to the fact that they often come into conflict with the certainties offered to us by the strong objective reality (certainties which, as we have seen , are at least questionable). Another aspect of the weak objective reality consists in the need to resort to the activity of alien entities to explain the causes and effects of its phenomena: these entities can be inhabitants of other worlds (as in the case of UFOs), spirits of the dead, demons, angels, saints and deities of various kinds, according to the preferences and the more or less bizarre orientations of the human psyche.
In many cases the events of the weak objective reality are occurring escaping the control of the conscious Ego of any person, but some human beings, both female and male (defined from time to time as magicians, shamans, witches and sorcerers, medicine-man, healers, but also saints, holy men and holy women), show that they can have a more or less accentuated intentional control towards this type of reality. To obtain this control it is necessary not only to be endowed with a particular talent, whose nature completely escapes us, but also to undergo an initiatory training that may last for years and involves self-control exercises: it is above all a form of control of the human psychic tunings by the conscious Ego. Culturally, the initiatory path aims to achieve a certain degree of control over the alien entities that can determine paranormal phenomena (spirits or demons), whose objective existence is not questioned, while the concept of psychic tunings, much more abstract, has only a relative philosophical meaning. In fact, even in the context of strong objective reality, making a distinction between an event or an object and the psychic reaction it determines in our mind is very difficult: if an earthquake shakes the earth beneath our feet, if someone threatens us with a weapon, if we are diagnosed with a tumor, the psychic reactions associated with these events are, for the conscious Ego, identical to the events themselves, and any conceptual reasoning having as objective the separation between the real event and the psychic reaction aroused in the our mind proves to be almost ineffective. This is the ordinary human condition, in which the Ego is a prisoner of the mind.
Our control over the strong objective reality
In the recent history of humanity, there is a remarkable increase in the intentional control of humans over the strong objective reality. This observation may seem obvious and even trivial, but it deserves some in-depth analysis on the basis of the complexity of psychic reactions to real world events, the latter considered in their dual nature of natural events and socio-cultural events (determined by the human environment). Considering that individual entity which we call conscious Ego, it seems obvious that it desires to have a good degree of control of reality and that it engages its will in an attempt to increase this control. However, we must immediately recognize that this is a desire of psychic origin, determined by the mental functioning of the individual. The fact is that the conscious Ego of billions of human beings, lived over the centuries, has experienced dissatisfaction, affliction and pain as a mental reaction to most of the events of objective reality (including our body) in which it was involved. But, as has been repeatedly stated on this site, such mental reactions – when they enter the field of consciousness – constitute the essence of the human psychic phenomenon as a whole. In an attempt to escape from this condition (to free itself), the conscious Ego has followed two paths: the first, prevalent in the Western culture of the last centuries, consists in the search for happiness (or at least for liberation from suffering) through the control of objective reality; the second, more widespread in the ancient eastern esoteric culture (especially in some paths of yoga or zen), entails an initiatory journey of liberation within the psyche itself.
A fundamental difference between these two paths is given by the fact that the control over the psyche can be pursued individually, or with the help of a teacher, a guide: those who try this route have a vocation to isolation, to solitude, precisely because the interaction with other human beings can stimulate uncontrolled psychic reactions that hinder the ascetic process. Instead, the control over reality is facilitated by the collaboration of many individuals within a social organization: all the technological advances of the last two centuries have been made possible by the creation of increasingly evolved and complex business organizations, which today form the basis of our economies, without which the lives of so many human beings would be at risk. We cannot naively believe that the conscious Ego of a person who lives in a society like ours could freely decide how to control his/her own psychic experiences: even before the Ego can become aware of its own independent existence, the mind to which it is associated will have received a considerable amount of information, instructions and programs – determined by the complexity of the system to which she/he belongs – which will contribute to determine the psychic experiences in which she/he will be involved. The stimuli determined by the interactions with many other individuals also provoke continuous immediate, automatic and uncontrolled psychic reactions, which end up submerging the conscious Ego rather than helping it to free itself.
The weak objective reality and the conscious Ego
The conscious Ego cannot free itself from strong objective reality (and from the psychic tunings determined by it, especially within our social systems) if not through death. But the weak objective reality presents aspects that seem to come to the rescue of the Ego even in the course of this life, under a double aspect. On the one hand, the events of weak reality are often referred to a form of individual existence after the body's death, that can show liberating conditions for the conscious Ego and the psychic experiences in which it will be involved in the afterlife. This aspect is linked in some way to the forms of comfort traditionally offered by some religions, which transfer the meaning of human life into a temporal or non-temporal afterlife, linking it to the liberation of the conscious Ego from the contradictions, afflictions and negative aspects of the experience of human life. But another aspect of weak objective reality, which will be dealt with on the next page, implies the existence and activity of alien entities that seem much freer than we are (bound as we are to our body and its needs) in comparison of the strong reality, or that show a level of control over reality that is far superior to ours, whether they are spirits, or alleged alien visitors (as in the case of UFOs), or magicians and healers capable of performing miracles. These forms of existence, and their interaction with the real dimension of our life, can be felt by the conscious Ego as an help, above all because they often manifest themselves as friendly, not hostile, comforting.
The relationship between the two types of reality
As I said, the purpose of evolved social organizations – which can indeed be considered as real complex systems of human beings – is in most cases that of acquiring greater control over objective reality, in one form or another. This control involves a first phase of increasing the information and knowledge accessible to the conscious Ego, a subsequent phase of technical and operational organization of acquired knowledge, and a final organizing phase of concrete implementation of the projects conceived. Human beings are increasingly trained, conditioned and motivated to fit productively and meekly into this complex of organized systems, and the number of people living on this planet is now so great that an eventual crisis of the productive system would result in the rapid death of many humans. These same systems are now an integral aspect of the strong objective reality, and the orientation of the people who are part of them towards the weak objective reality can be referred, as I have already observed, to two main attitudes: the first consists in the denial of the reality of objective phenomena and events occurring in the context of weak reality, which are at most relegated to the realm of subjective reality; the second assumes that the same criteria of knowledge and control that human organizing systems use in relation to strong reality, should be adopted with respect to weak reality. In practice, it would be a matter of studying the phenomena with methods as far as possible meeting scientific criteria, also to verify how these phenomena could be controlled.
But, as we have seen, in these respects the weak objective reality is much more elusive, ambiguous and – ultimately – uncontrollable than the strong one. A scientific knowledge of weak objective reality seems, at least for the moment, very unlikely, starting from the same reliability of the experimental results obtained: the data of one experiment can be disproved by those of another similar experiment, and when a success is registered by a research team, another team gets discordant results. We always get the impression that, in the context of weak reality, the interaction between the human psyche and the objectivity of the physical world is much stronger than it is in the case of strong reality. From this point of view, it can be very interesting to find out what happened in relation to a series of phenomena – which I have not covered in this site because they have not been the subject of a specific research on my part – on which there is a wide and reliable documentation acquired and processed by some of the most important complex control systems developed by advanced human societies: military organizations. I refer to the UFO (Undentified Flying Objects) sightings.
The files on UFO sightings
Since the 1950s some military organizations of various nations (including the US Air Force) were in charge of organizing an investigation and validation service on the sightings of unidentified flying objects of which there were a lot of testimonies from various parts of the world. The documentation collected by these services – which included military as well as civilians, selected from aeronautics, astronomy and astrophysics experts – remained for several years covered by military secret at the top levels. Following the approval, in 1966, of the FOIA (Freedom Of Information Act) in the States, a part of the secret files became progressively available to researchers. One of them, Joseph Allen Hynek (1910-1986), was an astronomy professor who had worked as a consultant on three consecutive Air Force research projects (Sign, Grudge e Blue Book) to investigate the UFO sightings occurred between 1947 and 1969. In 1977 Hynek published a book, The Hynek UFO Report, in which, after examining thousands of declassified Air Force reports, he highlighted the inconsistencies of the statements regarding the possible real and objective causes of the observed phenomena, also in light of his personal experience as a scientific consultant in those projects. This is a striking example of prevarication of strong objective reality over the weak one.
Hynek claimed to have been initially motivated by a total skepticism towards UFO sightings, so much so that he enjoyed showing the inconsistency of what to him seemed pure absurdity. In fact, the prevailing opinions regarding UFO sightings that could be taken into consideration, because they could not be liquidated as lying inventions by the persons who reported them, were the following two: 1) that they were hallucinations; 2) that they were incorrect perceptions of events and objects belonging to the strong reality (astronomical or meteorological events, objects such as aircraft or meteo air balloons), exchanged for something else. But the first hypothesis failed in all those cases (and they were not few) in which the sighting was confirmed by a plurality of subjects, often composed of qualified and reliable civil and military personnel (airline or fighter pilots, air traffic controllers, military observers, etc.), and in several cases also by radar. The second hypothesis was instead invalidated by some characteristics of the behavior of the observed objects (speed, route sudden changes, stationarity, silent movement, etc.) that could not be attributed to any of the natural or human-made objects which were known at the time. Hynek regretted that he too had contributed in some cases to favoring a wrong evaluation of the observed phenomena, advancing the hypothesis that it could be an astronomical or atmospheric event of which he himself doubted, in the sense that he knew well that it could not produce the described effects. He added, however, that this was the kind of evaluation expected from him by the authorities responsible for coordinating and managing the projects.
The high spheres of Washington had chosen to abide by the criterion according to which it was contrary to all scientific knowledge that a flying object could behave in the way attributed to UFOs: unbelievable accelerations from a standstill, right-angle turns, rapid and silent disappearances after hovering without apparent effort from the ground. Since all this was considered impossible in the light of scientific knowledge, the Air Force had adopted the typical syllogism of strong reality: «It cannot be, therefore it does not exist». In Hynek's book various files relating to objectively proven sightings are reported and commented on, whose attribution – by the personnel assigned to the Air Force investigation projects – to natural events or to human made devices, mistaken for something else, is reasonably unsustainable and not infrequently looks as ridiculous. As a result of his research and verification, conducted for several years, Hynek – from a convinced skeptic as he was – became a supporter and a scholar of the objective (weak) reality of UFO sightings, coining a progressive scale to which director Steven Spielberg also referred in his 1977 movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Death in the light of strong reality
The theme of the death of human beings (and, more generally, of living organisms) in the light of strong reality has a double aspect. On the one hand, absolutely nothing can be said about it, given that the whole experience of strong reality is relative to this life and to this physical world (and universe): the very fact that the body's death of a human being involves the permanent disappearance of that person's conscious Ego from this physical dimension implies that that conscious Ego can no longer have direct access to the experience of this reality. On the basis of this assumption, sometimes the science popularizers, as well as some scientists, even deny the possibility of a continuation of the conscious Ego's experience in other dimensions: these are personal opinions without any knowledge foundation, given that we cannot scientifically dissert about what we are not able to know. At most, it could be said that without the psychophysical system of the body and the human brain the conscious Ego cannot experience the (temporal and temporary) reality of this physical dimension.
But, on the other hand, the strong socio-cultural reality must register the fact that a lot of human beings show that they believe in some form of continuation of the existence of the conscious Ego after the body's death, whether within the one or the other organized religious system, or outside of any religion. Obviously, the human psyche often shows illusory and phantasmatic aspects that ensnare the conscious Ego with the prospect of future events that are then denied by reality. Simply put, strong objective reality shows its own autonomy with respect to the human psyche, to which it is not easily subjected (especially in relation to a single personal psychic experience). At the same time, the same concept of objective reality has a psychic foundation: we are accustomed to considering as objectively real what is, what exists (temporarily), what happens, but this is always a psychic description – even if confirmed by a plurality of people – of a phenomenon whose essence escapes us completely. In a sense, what we investigate is always some aspect of the human psyche, not reality in itself: even when we discover mathematical rules that govern the physical world and allow us to control certain aspects of it, this happens because we come to create a (almost magical) correlation between some psychic tunings and some events of reality.
Precisely because death marks the end of the individual conscious experience of the reality of this physical dimension, the psyche takes over in relation to what can happen to our individual conscious nucleus, not so much after death – as the very concept of time is linked to our experience of this reality – but when the threshold has been crossed. Normally, there are some kinds of barriers – in the form of programs of natural origin, connected to the tendency of our body to survive, or transmitted to our mind by the socio-cultural system in which we live – which prevent us from easily crossing that threshold, delaying as much as possible in time the moment in which that transit will inevitably take place, at least in the light of our current knowledge. But there are some people who show an inclination to put their lives at risk – or, as we use to say, to challenge death – far above the norm: they can be adventurers, warriors, explorers, extreme sports players, or even criminals. If this tendency derives from organic structural characteristics or from something else, I am unable to say: in any case, for these people the barriers that prevent them from easily crossing the threshold are weaker than for most human beings.
Death in the light of weak reality
The objective weak reality shows some very interesting clues on what the experiences of the conscious Ego may be at the moment of crossing the threshold and once it is on the other side. It is not so much spiritualism, as an interpretative theory of many mediumistic phenomena, that determines a connection between the weak reality and the beyond, but rather the fact that the objective phenomena of the weak reality represent an enigma on which the strong reality is not able to offer any satisfactory explanation. Weak reality implies the existence and action of entities and energies that go beyond the stability and solidity that we attribute to the physical world: it is as if a gap were opened through which elements present in another dimension could interfere with things and events objectively perceived in the strong reality. The psyche then leads to establish a link between this gap and the threshold that is crossed when the body dies.
Even the attempts of a psychic explanation – that is mental, as hypothetically ascribable to brain activity – of the phenomena of the objective weak reality, are not able to frame these phenomena in the ambit of the strong objective reality: they can only attribute to the human psyche the ability to influence objectively, within certain limits, some events of the real world. But the very acknowledgment of this power attributed to the psyche is to detriment of the solidity attributed to the strong reality. It should be noted, first of all, that attributing to the psyche a certain degree of control over reality does not mean that this control can be exercised by the conscious Ego: in most cases, in fact, the events of weak objective reality are determined by people (mediums) whose Ego is for sometime in a state of partial or total unconsciousness. In this respect, the psychic phenomenon proves once more its autonomy in relation to strong objective reality, even in the case in which one wishes to attribute (without being able to prove it) the ability to determine real events to a particular activity of human brain. In this way we would like to exclude from the process other alien entities (spirits, extraterrestrials, etc.), but the enigma represented by the psychic dynamics and by what rules them (even managing to control reality) is anyway not solved.
The weak objective reality creates a bridge between the enigma of human life and the enigma of death. The strong objective reality, in fact, draws its power from the continuity with which the human psyche interprets and controls (or attempts to control) this physical world, relying on a considerable number of living human beings: humanity, as a whole, can continue to live for centuries and centuries, indeed – in the common feeling – the human experience seems to have to last for a period so long that it can be confused with eternity. In the course of his/her life, the individual human being is involved in this project, so grandiose and predominant compared to the limited energies which the individual has, as to absorb him/her completely or almost. But the conscious Ego must acknowledge, in the course of human life, that its participation in this project is only temporary, limited to a period of time that represents a moment, an almost imperceptible fraction, of what is considered the evolutionary time granted to humanity (or that humanity will manage to conquer). For the conscious Ego, the end of human experience involves a relativization of the strong reality, since death – and, even before death, the possible deterioration of our mental faculties – denies him/her anyway the possibility of continuing to participate to the project and to witness the future evolution of the human adventure. The weak reality, on the other hand, opens a window onto another dimension in which the existence of the conscious Ego seems to be assured as such – rather than for an infinite time, outside of time itself – without the intrinsic becoming of the human experience and the reality of the physical world imposing a term and a limit on the possibilities of experience and cognitive processing allowed to the individual consciousness.