An A Priori Assumption – Construction of Reality

An a priori assumption that is non-epistemological, one of the assertion that one knows nothing, does not preclude a circuitous path toward a non-epistemological conclusion that one knows nothing. Similar to an infant, whose task is to shape the world, to shape reality, without a basis of knowledge except for his sensory perceptions, one must meander a path of life toward increasing “knowledge”. This leads to the inevitable conclusion of death, a situation which an individual, at the end of his life, knows nothing about. Perhaps there exists a greater reality, a reality above and beyond realities, or an ultimate reality. However, this is an indeterminable assumption. Reality remains a construction, a theory, as it has throughout the ages, from Galileo’s insistence on the fact that he could see stars that were not visible to the human eye, these stars that were supposedly placed in the sky by a deity, to light the night sky for human beings.

Any culture’s construction of reality may be valid. Although there are better and worse theories, a cultural construction of reality emphasizes goals and values, and these goals and values are what make such a construction worthwhile to affirm or not to affirm. The goals and values of a theory of reality evolve as a cultural conception of that reality evolves. We know that science values prediction and control, as well as the externally visible as opposed to the internally experienced. It is the norm in our age to discount internal experience, and corresponding to this is a denouncement of religious experience or faith that is subjective. Faith, in a world that proceeds by means of scientific endeavor and its emphasis on externally verifiable experience, is mocked by some and discredited by a greater majority than is assumed by those who discredit it.

It was with these evolving thoughts that I came to discern that hallucinations may represent, as an internal aspect of self and mind that perhaps can not be predicted and controlled, a reality that science alone accounts for poorly, as science attempts to control it through externally administered medications. These do not do a great deal to quell hallucinations in the scheme of things. The intentional mind seems to operate by a circumstance rather like attempting to follow a path of thought while in the same sense creating it. The mind may be fractured by an attempt to control it by means of one’s own mental effort.

There are theories which may apply to or may speak to a psychotic person’s view of things — certainly Buddhism’s and Jung’s theory lead one to this assertion. The ideas of the collective unconscious and Buddhism’s ambiguous reference to “one mind” seem to do so. However, these are only perspectives on reality, theories that, essentially, do little to malign the validity of believing in the personal unconscious or the Christian God. The question is not of truth but of functionality of belief systems.

In some ways unfortunately, the values and worth of a belief system may be determined only after the fact of implications and extrapolations of that belief system are realized within a culture. To an extent, this process involves a dialectical pattern of the emergence of a thesis, a perspectival theory, followed by an antithesis, a contrary perspectival theory, concluding with the assimilation and playing out of a synthesis that supposedly represents some kind of progress. The values of a scientific perspective are heralded as producing a refined “truth”, the introduction of indisputable “fact”. This led to a antithetical attack on objectivity, the basis of science, which culminated in a synthetic announcement of a non-epistemological premise. The process of intellectual history and attempts to control evolving “truths” through intentionality in some ways mimics the dubious possibilities of the intentional mind seeking to control its own intellectual perspective.

Mentally ill psychotic individuals contort their minds and themselves through intentional efforts to change their minds and their thoughts. This is the crux of a psychotic person’s dilemma in trying not to be psychotic. The mentally ill try to restrain their own perspectives on reality, interfering with a natural course of thought that might lead to an acceptable perspective on reality, and, in doing this, they become embroiled and entrenched in their own views.

William James postulated the “will to believe”. If willing belief actually produced its intended results there would not be such dysfunction as psychotic phenomena. The best one can do to combat psychotic experience is to respect it as process-related rather than content-related phenomena. This is to say, allow oneself to experience it without attempting to make a judgment about it. Nevertheless, psychotic experience is and will remain dysfunctional. One can logically limit a creation of a believe system about one’s psychotic experience, but this will not interrupt the experience of psychotic symptoms, particularly as these are reflected by the experience of hallucinations.

Why is a psychotic’s belief system dysfunctional? Perhaps because psychotics jump to conclusions, called delusions, based upon experience that does and does not violate Newton’s law of parsimony. Psychotics have voices talking in their heads, self-mind sounds that they think simplistically are people or deities or creatures or Martians talking to them through thought-insertion and thought broadcasting, and so on. In terms of Newton’s law of parsimony, this may be a realistic conclusion, however, we may ask these questions: If I see light and light illuminates my room, is the reality of Einstein’s a theory regarding light any more clear and apparent to me? And are these theories regarding light more realistic than my own magical perception of light entering my room on a sunny day?

Psychotic people should be criticized less for their simplistic, albeit understandable conclusions. The fact that we can not and do not understand what hallucinations are, except in a biochemical way, in some ways parallels the fact that seeing the sun emitting light does not explain to us anything about particle and wave theories, or beyond. Perception is not knowledge. What we call knowledge is always an interpretation of perception. If such were not the case, then a newborn infant could be said to possess the purest form of knowledge, and perhaps an infant does so, but again, this is a theory, an interpretation of perceived reality.

Image via celeste balthazar / Shutterstock.

  • Yoschi

    e=mc2 was only a theory until “Little Boy” dropped and changed the world forever.

    beyond the theory lays the question, what will you do with the knowledge? it does not matter who knows about it or understands it, perfect it to the point of your liking and make use of it, as this is how you will shape reality – hopefully in a more constructive way than the atomic bomb.

  • Ann Reitan

    What matters is not truth or knowledge, but how those interpretations of reality function. I agree with yoy.

    • “What matters is not truth or knowledge, but how those interpretations of reality function. I agree with you.” Hope my response wasn’t too lengthy or complex. Though I disagree with this comment, at least at first glance. I think knowledge matters absolutely. Knowledge is profound wisdom, it also enables someone to change their lives, situations, and move on to better experiences.

      To know is to experience, that’s what I have learned. I also realized awhile back that, some people are either built in such a way or have become so opposed to knowing something that is contrary to their belief system, that they can’t see it. Or else, it’s too different or foreign to their way of interpreting reality, that they can’t rationalize it.

      For instance, imagine that the word God, in lettering, appeared on a mirror in front of you. You were freaked out, excited, bewildered. You ran to your closest friend or family member to explain….and they didn’t believe you, they looked at it but could not see the image itself or were unable to believe it was there…but then if they did not see it, why did they take their hand to the mirror, wipe the word itself away…and tell you it was all in your mind.

      btw, that was an actual experience. Believe it or not. Though the word wasn’t that exact word, and the person who wiped it off, was more worried about me than anything…but find it sad because he is an atheist. I wish I could prove to him that God exists, not to worry–and even think God wants me to expose him to more of that, he’s my little brother…but…IDK I don’t think I should try and impose my views, I think he’ll find his way to joy, whether or not he believes…I know he has a strong spirit… So it’s a very very important Gift that should be heavily guarded, which is why I’m wary even sharing this public but it’s hard when culture doesn’t permit this belief system or accept it…

      Because it’s not that I want to be’s that I want to be fulfilled, to heal and help the world…that’s all it means to have that ability…for awhile, when I wanted the Gift back I decided I would try not to be absorbed by it…the power it has…and then, after practicing such selflessness…I realized, I didn’t want that sort of false power granted by this anyways..I felt more happier than ever before, without having to control everything…it can’t be earned through selfishness, ignorance, chemistry, or anything…you can’t cheat…you’re not supposed to anyways…it’s wrong to cheat the Gifts given by God.

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  • pankaj

    I am agree with you. say about the image is true but this is true that Assumption for imagination that is true imagination will get the reality, and reality we should got it. So we can say that only in a sentence “imagination is to create new way to made it”

  • To Ann Reitan,

    I really liked your article. You must have extensive experience working with people with schizophrenia and all backgrounds. It’s your type of thinking that has truly helped me on my path to recovering from my own depths of crisis and existential dilemmas.

    There are also different types of hallucinations from my opinion. There are ones that are chaotic or intrusive. They can defeat you, make you paranoid or self-destructive. Those seem pre-dominant in people who have schizophrenia. I believe those are caused by shifting hormones or an inability to respond to stress, and problematic interpersonal relationships and views. Stress kicks the biology into self-defense.

    The delusions are the brains way of coping, and delusions can become a self-destructive habit just like cutting or belittling others for self-esteem issues…Some PTSD type delusions and hallucinations that come about through illness or trauma. Basically the minds way of trying to catch up, or a pattern of behavior that gets stuck in its own self-loop of neglect. The traumatic delusions sometimes seem easier to change through changing habits, and extensive understanding on PTSD recovery models. And then there are ones which are actually almost enlightening. I’ve been lucky to experience a few which I would consider mystical type hallucinations. Not even religious, and both psychic and helpful. As Einstein and others learned awhile back, mind is above matter in many ways.

    I would like to describe to you what my hallucinations are like. They are first absent of delusion, because I am now more open-minded and I do not fall into traps of deluded thinking like many Americans do. I sometimes hear, or assume, there’s a voice in the back of my mind that will give me a sentence of advice, then leave.

    It feels more like what you would call “my voice of reason” but I like to imagine that it’s an angel, because I feel better thinking of this as an angel, one who is beyond the realm of the physical. The Angel seems androgynous sounding, a soft voice, almost angelic, and wise…he is often silent. I think he’s Gabriel. Sometimes I hear a woman, it also depends on the season or hour. I will learn words I never heard, in different languages. Usually mythological ones. Such as Tir nan O, summerland or land of the Heroes where my Aunt went, the awful Tikoloshe is a demon from African mythology who prays on children, etc. and comes from stagnancy and feelings of weakness or helplessness. He prays on those not heavily guarded by inflicting terror and fear, then takes amounts of energy. Like a parasite…

    Arionrhod & the Silver Wheel appeared to me one night…etc. these come to me with no knowledge of mine a priori. Xango is a protector of women who are oppressed, he appeared to me in a dream with a white horse and an large stone Ax swung over his shoulder. He was the one who told me of Tikaloshe and promised to fight it for me. A metaphor for defeating “vampire” like symptoms. The feeling of being preyed upon. And yet, even if they were simply Archetypes…where did they come from? How did they reach me when I called to them? How come after that dream of Xango, I never once had a nightmare or sleep paralysis again? It’s been over two years since that dream in October, coincidentally when the veil is said to be thinner. Ever since I watched the man with the red skirt run down through the Jungle to the location and defeat it. Also, the location had a metaphorical importance. Hidden. He went into a cave where the darkness lived. Or even, the unconscious…

    In the hospital, I had visions at night of sadness, gloom, lobotomies before I knew of what that meant, white blood cell loss that was caused by anti-psychotics–came in a very vivid dream depicting a doctor trying to get the establishment to warn a patient of significant white blood cell loss that could be fatal. Everything was so intensely illuminating, I remember my hospital so vividly that it’s hard not to think about sometimes. I had to work on trauma recovery so as not to let it over-shadow my actual memories, my happier ones. Most of my visions and dreams are in fact psychic, so yes I do have prophetic visions. I have proven them, fact checked, etc. The importance is tapping into the right areas of the brain at the right moments, situations, and environments…oh, and to the right people. That’s a big one.

    So yes you are correct, there is a place for the spiritual and mystical in psychology. Carl Jung is one of my favorite psychologists who studied these forces. Whether or not physical matter and the world around us is more subjective or internal than we realize, is yet to be discovered. But I do really enjoy exploring philosophical concepts. I don’t tend to delve into “paranormal study” or phenomena, it usually just comes to me. I also work a lot on shielding myself from harm. A lot of mystics, not saying I am one myself, often attract too many forces to them.

    I think my favorite human archetype would be the Guardian Angel. Sadly, not enough people are reached by them…they think it’s egotistical or crazy or weak to believe in a force of wisdom that is guiding you and protecting your soul and self from harm. They exist, though…

Ann Reitan, PsyD

Ann Reitan, PsyD, is a clinical psychologist and well published essayist of fiction and creative nonfiction. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from University of Washington, Master of Arts in Psychology from Pepperdine University, and Doctorate of Clinical Psychology from Alliant International University. Her post-doctoral research at Washington University in St. Louis, MO, involved personality theory, idiodynamics and creativity in literature. She recently published Illuminating Schizophrenia: Insights into the Uncommon Mind.

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