“Awareness must be determined by the nature and character of the living being in which it occurs; perception,then, means that the likeness demanded by the hypothesis is within the self-identifying living being (and not in the object – for the organ by which the perception takes place is in the likeness of the living being (is merely the agent adequately expressing the nature of the living being): thus perception is reduced to a mental awareness by means of organs akin to the object. … This means that, in so far as it has perception, the objects appear not as its content but as related to its content. And the objects are thus perceived as related because the mind has thus related them in order to make them amenable to its handling.” ~Plotinus
Awareness and Perception
Plotinus wrote in a way that makes it difficult for us to follow what he is trying to say. It is worth the effort to try, however, because he really does have some interesting things to say. Here, he is telling us that our awareness and perception of other objects and beings is as much a part of our own mind as it is that of the thing being perceived.
The Quantum Physicists of today tell us that when we observe a thing, we alter what it is simply by that act of observation. Plotinus was saying the same thing, and more, nearly 2000 years ago. He is saying that we not only affect the thing we observe, but we effect our perception of it by what we think and believe.
First he tells us that we often perceive things only as they relate to us. So if we like to eat fish, we might see the fish simply as food, and not as a being in its own right. The Naturist would have a different view of the same fish, as would the environmentalist. The person who has never seen a fish before, and doesn’t believe that such a thing could exist,might not see it at all, or might see it as some variation of an animal he is familiar with. Which means that what we see is a mixture of what is there with what we believe. What we expect to see changes what we do see.
This seems like a strange way for vision to work, but it actually makes sense. In the physical realm of illusion, we can’t be reinterpreting every blob or energy and light every time we see it. We also can’t define them all alone. There has to be a common definition or description of an object, or we couldn’t function together. We have to rely on common definitions and beliefs to guide us. For the most part, that system serves us well in the world of matter.
Where we run into trouble is when we start investigating the spiritual side of things. There is very little agreement about what the spiritual realms are like, except among real spiritual schools. Imitation schools, churches, governments and others who benefit from distorting the truth contribute addition lies and theories. In addition, governments and big business promote those beliefs that favor them. The result is the phony schools and churches get promoted. Those teaching truth, or rather the path to finding truth for ourselves, are pushed off into the background.
As a result of all this, nearly all of us have preconceived ideas about the spiritual realms, and the beings that dwell there, that are not true. Unfortunately,these beliefs affect what we see when we do have a spiritual experience and distort our interpretation of it. This is why spiritual teachers throughout the ages have told us that we must free ourselves of beliefs and false ideas if we want our spiritual visions to reveal actual truth. Even on the spiritual level, perception is part what is really there, and part what we believe should be there. Practice releasing those beliefs and see the reality that you probably never expected.