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Challenging the Consensus Reality

The movie, What the Bleep Do We Know!? has people talking about what constitutes reality and how our consciousness affects it. In this film, the strange realm of Quantum Physics serves as the launching point into an alternate perspective of the universe. The message of the film is simple: our consciousness does have a role in creating the reality we experience.

This message has attracted the interest of a wide range of people. Groups like the Unitarian Churches, the Bahá’í faith and the Institute of Noetic Sciences see this movie as validating their beliefs. Conservative religions, mainstream scientific communities, and psychologists, on the other hand, believe the movie misrepresents science and is leading the public astray.

In this article, we’ll look at how Bleep – and Quantum Physics in general – challenges the way we perceive reality and consensus beliefs, ending with a simple exercise you can do to challenge your perception of reality.

There are a number of key notions from quantum theory threatening the mainstream materialist view dominant in our culture. These are: the basic building blocks of reality are quanta, which are bundles of energy or information, not matter; reality is based on events, not things; quantum events are not causal, rather there is an innate indeterminacy and unpredictability to everything; events have complementarity and must be described as beng both physical and energetic; and lastly there is the strange quality of quantum participation, observation influences quantum events.

As demonstrated in the movie, the observer effect is most often used as ‘proof’ to proponents of non-materialistic viewpoints – consciousness is important and not just a byproduct of the brain. In Quantum Physics, consciousness and matter are connected. Scientific materialists – those whose beliefs in the primacy of matter are implicit and all-pervading – are very disturbed by this connection. The elevation of consciousness is largely why Bleep has generated such a strong response on both sides.

Quantum Physics offers us a world view that is radically different from what we’ve been taught to believe is real. Even individuals who are open to the new ideas in Quantum Physics have a difficult time grasping the implications of non-locality, quantum participation, and the essential unpredictability of the universe. Considering these issues, as Bleep does, forces each of us to question the truth of the reality we collectively know. This line of inquiry pulls against everything we feel to be normal and can be very discomforting.

The psychologist and researcher, Charles Tart coined the term, Consensus Reality Orientation (CRO), to refer to our normal, day-to-day consciousness. Being aligned with the consensus trance allows each of us to live in our society, but it also constrains us to one perspective. The induction of the cultural trance is far more powerful and thorough than anything we ever do consciously with suggestion or hypnosis. Our current materialist view of reality has been spreading about the world for the last 300 years. Individually, the consensus trance ingrained from birth continues through the entire course of our upbringing, culminating in higher ‘education.’ It’s no wonder we are resistant to other world views. The scientists who’ve had the most ‘education’ are often the most locked into the CRO.

There are, however, always individuals promoting ideas that challenge the consensus views, with consequences. Twenty-four hundred years ago, Socrates, and his ideas were considered so dangerous he was condemned to death. His student, Plato, asked us to imagine a cave where people were chained to a world of shadows. His parable, is clearly a commentary on his society’s CRO and hilights the difficulties of changing perspectives. Today there are still tremendous pressures to conform to the cultural CRO. Not so long ago, a scientist who dared venture into the realm of nonmaterial views was quickly blacklisted and discredited. Labeling a peer as crazy was just as effective as a sentence behind bars.

The internal difficulties of shifting out of the CRO can be just as strong. People experiencing near death, a spiritual emergence, or religious awakening sometimes feel mentally and emotionally unstable. On one hand, they may feel totally disconnected from their normal lives with no way of communicating their experience. On the other, they may feel impelled to speak and draw criticism and ridicule. Unfortunately, for some, self destruction and death can appear to be the only solution. Others may return with a profound spiritual insight but have difficulty holding on to it. Like bringing a dream back to waking consciousness, it can be hard to remember an experience that doesn’t fit into your personal or cultural CRO.

On the other hand, if we are able to hold on to profound experiences from other CROs, they can transform our lives. One minute ‘out of mind’ in an ecstatic state can create a renewed sense of purpose that lasts a lifetime.

If we have any positive or negative reaction to Bleep, or the implications of Quantum Physics, we should pay attention. Our reactions may put us in touch with the underlying assumptions of our CRO. The question may not be what is real, but how could we know any ‘true’ reality if we’re always perceiving through the limiting filters of our personal CRO? We all are open to, or resistant towards, different perspectives depending on our internal CRO. When we want to believe something, we do, regardless of evidence to the contrary. The thousands of followers of Jim Jones at Jonestown were sure they were on a path to a truer reality. Those of us who weren’t ‘liberated’ couldn’t possibly comprehend what the dead experienced. We considered ourselves to be the survivors. We were sure they were all wrong.

We come away from each ‘mistaken’ trance feeling we understand reality better, and we’re living in a truer reality. In this way, each CRO shift becomes a new trance judging the previous one as unreal. In terms of absolute reality, neither view is any more real. Shadows are just as real and true when shadows are all we know. It is only the rational mind that seeks to objectify an absolute truth and pass judgment. The creativity of consciousness, however, might be that we will always be shifting our awareness and perspective. Who’s to say our current CRO is the ‘true’ one?

People in the New-Age community see Bleep as confirmation of the reality they know, or would like to know. For the materialists, the film is obviously mistaken and promotes a dangerous illusion threatening the very basis of reality. Both these conclusions support and arise out of pre-existing ideas.
Knowing our minds are very good at fitting the world into the patterns we expect is where a grounding in scientific thinking can be helpful. We can form an idea, observe and experience, then decide if our knowledge and experience fits the idea. Scientific thinking requires that we test our ideas against our actual experience, not our preferences. The problem is, we can’t agree on what constitutes valid experience. The realness of an experience shifts in different CROs. Materialistic science says only what can be objectively studied is real and falls short when determining the reality of intangibles like gravity, love, or consciousness. Yet, scientists have just as much faith in the existence of gravity, as the religious have in their GOD. The spiritual traditions say it’s only consciousness, the ‘I am’ inside every experience, that is the ultimate truth. Both views may be correct as observed within the limitations of the each CRO. Quantum Physics brings the scientist and the spiritualist closer together.

David Bohm, a quantum physicist, became fascinated in how consciousness affects reality. He proposed our language imposes strong, subtle pressures to see the world as fragmented and static. Thought tends to create fixed structures in the mind, which can make dynamic entities seem static. Bohm would say a noun is just a "slow" verb; that is, it refers to a process that is progressing so slowly as to appear static. For example, the paper on which this text is printed appears to have a stable existence, even though we know at this very moment it is changing and evolving toward dust.

In Quantum Physics, just observing quanta – the most basic bundles of energy and information – causes them to collapse either into a physical electron or an energy wave. Similarly, our thought collapses the unrestrained creativity of the universe into tangible objects that are only shadows of their full meaning. We do this every time we think a thought or use language to describe something.

As long as we seek reality only through our logical minds and the language that drives our thoughts, we are inherently limited. Seeking a ‘true’ reality, which is also a thought construct, limits our awareness. Bohm would say there could no more be an absolute true reality as there could be a true sunrise, kiss, or poem. The truth we seek to know, may in fact be a creative process that cannot be conceptualized. The verb ‘truthing’ would be a better description of something we experience as more real or meaningful.
It’s no wonder Bohm’s research in quantum physics led him in his later years to study consciousness and meaning. He felt that if we could maintain an awareness of thought processing while in dialogue with people or the physical world, we could learn to suspend our implicit assumptions and beliefs. Bohmian dialogue is aimed not at achieving a particular truth or convincing another of your view, but rather at sharing an experience of meaning. I believe this is partly why Bleep has had such a strong impact. It attempts to open this kind of dialogue and draws us out of our dominant CRO. Any shifting of consciousness is meaningful, regardless what truth or untruth the mind wants to put upon it.

Tart, who has researched consensus trance and hypnosis extensively, notes how individuals in deep hypnosis, as in other ecstatic trance states, are able to shift beyond their CRO. I have also seen this in my work as a hypnotherapist. If you repeatedly ask a person going into trance, “Who are you?” their answer changes as they transition into the altered state. Initially they may respond with their name, job or another label. In the profound trance, these parts drop away and they experience themselves less confined to any particular personality or structure. In an article on deep hypnosis, Tart described how one client became more and more identified with what seemed to be ultimate potential. He felt that he could evolve into anything, literally, without limits. His experience echoes the innate potentiality of the quantum realm.
Critics of Quantum Physics claim the theories don’t apply to the reality we live in. Of course, we’ll never see quantum effects when we’re focused exclusively on objective, physical reality. Since profound inner experiences are not valid, they are ignored. But mystics, people in profound trances, and others who’ve escaped the CRO, have had experiences that reflect quantum possibilities. These people also claim the importance of non-rational states in determining what is real for them.

I know through my own experience and observations of my clients how shifting of CRO is meaningful. Changing perspective brings a new level of awareness back into our lives. With each small shift we make – a near death experience isn’t necessary or desirable – we become less attached to one particular view and more open in our approach to life.

I appreciated how Bleep asked us to imagine creatively, to expand out of our CRO. As Einstien said, “I did not discover relativity by rational thinking alone.” Science must include creativity and openness in order to access knowledge. Other perspectives must be experienced to know their value. If you’ve only known objective rationality, you will neither find meaning in non-rational, immersed experiences nor will you respect them.

The film does offer one practical exercise to experience a different world view. Dr. Joe Dispenza says he creates his day this way, “I wake up in the morning, and I consciously create my day the way I want it to happen.” He spends a few moments envisioning himself living as a genius. Then he gets on with his day and waits for a response. “During parts of the day, I'll have thoughts that are so amazing, that cause a chill in my physical body, that have come from nowhere.” These thoughts and feelings affirm his intentions and, more importantly, give him the experience of creating his reality.

In the self-hypnosis classes I teach, I have seen similar shifts in awareness. A student will create an effective autosuggestion, then go into trance and repeat the suggestion to their subconscious mind. Then, as they go about their life, they experience meaningful shifts relating to their intentions. Obviously, none of this is proof of consciousness affecting reality, but people feel more in control of their lives and they begin living and behaving differently. The effects are real. If you practice setting an intention, you will also experience a shift in your perspective. This is one of the main reasons I also practice and teach remote viewing. The experience of directly perceiving something at a distance forces me to shift out of the CRO of separation and materialism.

The question is, are you in a place where you want to stabilize your CRO or are you interested in trying on another view? If you want to experience a change, see Bleep for yourself. It’s now out on DVD. Join the discussions that surround it. But be aware, if you want to know the reality that Quantum Physics proposes, you have to get actual experience. Discussions aren’t enough. You must seek out situations forcing you to expand and perceive other viewpoints. This can be uncomfortable, but is well worth the effort.

I’ll help you with a simple, practical exercise for shifting CRO. You’ll need a radiometer, a light source and an open mind. (Radiometer can be ordered on-line or at a local science supply store.) A radiometer is a scientific instrument that looks like a light bulb with a movable vane suspended inside a near vacuum. Light hitting the surface of the vane causes it to spin. Set the radiometer on a flat, stable surface under a light source and enjoy the whirling movement. Without interfering with the light, you can stop the vane with your mind. When I do this exercise, I start by focusing on the movement of the spinning vane. I imagine myself merging with it and feel the movement in my body. When I sense a connection, I quiet my mind, calm my body and the vane starts slowing down with me. (Knowing how to meditate or do self-hypnosis is helpful.) When it stops, I see before me proof of my intention. Try it yourself. You might even find another way that suits you better.

Being able to stop the radiometer may have little practical value in your life. You will know from the experience, however, your mind is able to influence physical reality. This knowledge has tremendous value, and may shift your bleeping reality!