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Artist, writer, musician. -Falling through Time/Space

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Reality Tunnel

Reality tunnel is a term, similar to the idea of representative realism, coined by Timothy Leary (1920–1996). It was further expanded on by Robert Anton Wilson (1932-2007), who wrote about the idea extensively in his 1983 book Prometheus Rising. The theory states that, with a subconscious set of mental filters formed from his or her beliefs and experiences, every individual interprets the same world differently, hence “Truth is in the eye of the beholder”.

In a chapter Wilson co-wrote with Timothy Leary in Leary’s 1988 book Neuropolitique (a revised edition of the 1977 book Neuropolitics), Wilson and Leary explained further:

Every kind of ignorance in the world all results from not realizing that our perceptions are gambles. We believe what we see and then we believe our interpretation of it, we don’t even know we are making an interpretation most of the time. We think this is reality. – Robert Anton Wilson[2][3]

The idea does not necessarily imply that there is no objective truth; rather that our access to it is mediated through our senses, experience, conditioning, prior beliefs, and other non-objective factors. The implied individual world each person occupies is said to be their reality tunnel. The term can also apply to groups of people united by beliefs: we can speak of the fundamentalist Christian reality tunnel or the ontological naturalist reality tunnel.

A parallel can be seen in the psychological concept of confirmation bias—the human tendency to notice and assign significance to observations that confirm existing beliefs, while filtering out or rationalizing away observations that do not fit with prior beliefs and expectations. This helps to explain why reality tunnels are usually transparent to their inhabitants. While it seems most people take their beliefs to correspond to the “one true objective reality”, Robert Anton Wilson emphasizes that each person’s reality tunnel is their own artistic creation, whether they realize it or not.


The gene-pool politics which monitor power struggles among terrestrial humanity are transcended in this info-world, i.e. seen as static, artificial charades. One is neither coercively manipulated into another’s territorial reality nor forced to struggle against it with reciprocal game-playing (the usual soap opera dramatics). One simply elects, consciously, whether or not to share the other’s reality tunnel.[1]

Similar Ideas

We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are. – Anaïs Nin

Harvard sociologist Talcott Parsons used the word gloss to describe how the mind perceives reality.[5] We are taught, he theorised, how to “put the world together” by others who subscribe to a consensus reality. “The curious world of Talcott Parsons was where society was a system, comprised of interactive subsystems adhering to a certain set of unwritten rules.”[6][7]

The meme is another source of gloss; it is “transmitted from one mind to another through speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena.” Because we’re social creatures, there are reasons for us to adopt some social currencies.

In line with Kantian thought,[8] as well as the work of Norwood Russell Hanson, studies have indeed shown[9][10][11][citation needed] that our brains “filter” the data coming from our senses. This “filtering” is largely unconscious and may be influenced—more-or-less in many ways, in societies and in individuals—by biology,[12][13][14] cultural constructs[15]including education and language[16] (such as memes), life experiences,[17] preferences[18] and mental state,[19][20] belief systems (e.g. World view, the stock market), momentary needs, pathology, etc.

An everyday example of such filtering is our ability to follow a conversation, or read, without being distracted by surrounding conversations, once called the cocktail party effect.[10][21]

In his 1986 book Waking Up,[22][23] Charles Tart—an American psychologist and parapsychologist known for his psychological work on the nature of consciousness—introduced the phrase “consensus trance” to the lexicon. Tart likened normal waking consciousness to hypnotic trance. He discussed how each of us is from birth inducted to the trance of the society around us.[24] Tart noted both similarities and differences between hypnotic trance induction and consensus trance induction. (See G. I. Gurdjieff).


The cocktail party effect is the phenomenon of being able to focus one’s auditory attention on a particular stimulus while filtering out a range of other stimuli, as when a partygoer can focus on a single conversation in a noisy room.[1][2] This effect is what allows most people to “tune into” a single voice and “tune out” all others. It may also describe a similar phenomenon that occurs when one may immediately detect words of importance originating from unattended stimuli, for instance hearing one’s name in another conversation.[3][4]


The cocktail party effect works best as a binaural effect, which requires hearing with both ears. People with only one functioning ear seem much more distracted by interfering noise than people with two typical ears.[5]

The binaural aspect of the cocktail party effect is related to the localization of sound sources. The auditory system is able to localize at least two sound sources and assign the correct characteristics to these sources simultaneously. As soon as the auditory system has localized a sound source, it can extract the signals of this sound source out of a mixture of interfering sound sources.[6]


Sound localization is a listener’s ability to identify the location or origin of a detected sound in direction and distance. It may also refer to the methods in acoustical engineering to simulate the placement of an auditory cue in a virtual 3D space (see binaural recordingwave field synthesis).

The sound localization mechanisms of the mammalian auditory system have been extensively studied. The auditory system uses several cues for sound source localization, including time- and level-differences (or intensity-difference) between both ears, spectral information, timing analysis, correlation analysis, and pattern matching.

These cues are also used by other animals, but there may be differences in usage, and there are also localization cues which are absent in the human auditory system, such as the effects of ear movements. Animals with the ability to localize sound have a clear evolutionary advantage.



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