The mirror-of-the-self experiments

People from the same culture tend to choose the same things as embodying the eternal self. More remarkably still, even people from different cultures agree, on the whole, and choose the same things as pictures of their eternal self.

Once people do the experiment, just for the hell of it, we get consistent results. But, it has always seemed to me that people are uneasy because the “official version” of current cosmology does not allow the question to make sense. As a result, people do not know how to regard it or think about it, even if their feelings tell them that it does make sense, once they try to answer it.

The judgements people make about works of art, when using this criterion, tend to coincide in considerable degree with informed judgements about art. Thus by using this criterion, people find in themselves some wellspring or source of information which allows them to supersede the “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” view of art, and instead allows them to make informed judgements similar to the judgements made by experts in different fields of the visual arts.

Since people consistently say that living things resemble their own eternal self, and since they show consistent results from person to person in judging things which have this quality, I shall move forward on the assumption that what is reflected in this similarity must be about something real.

I have established that different trees, or different vases, to the extent that they have living structure in different degree, do appear to us in comparable degree, as pictures of our own self. That is our impression. The existence of this impression is empirically verifiable.

It would therefore seem that there is such a thing as the deep or eternal self.

Once prompted to play the game, people took part willingly, and gave largely consistent answers. We must conclude, I think, that the relationship between people and the world which makes it appear that some parts of the world have more relationship to our own self and others less should be understood as something real.

Yet one might conclude, too, from the fact that I felt obliged in many of the experiments to say to the participants, “Don’t worry, this is just a game; of course it doesn’t make sense, just forget all that and answer the question”, that the relationship is deep, that it is hidden, and that people almost want to keep it hidden. For us, steeped in our present cosmology, it is not, perhaps, an entirely comfortable subject. Perhaps people feel most able to be honest about it, when they pretend that it is not really being talked about.

(Pages 53-56)

Notes mentioning this note

Here are all the notes in this garden, along with their links, visualized as a graph.