(An improved and updated version of this essay has appeared in my book Brief Peeks Beyond. The version below is kept for legacy purposes.)

Projection. Source: Wikipedia.

Following up on yesterday's short essay about time, here is another one that looks at a theme tackled in my about-to-be-released book Why Materialism Is Baloney. These short essays are not repetitions of what is discussed in the book, but different ways of looking at the same issues and extracting similar conclusions.

In psychology, projection is the act of attributing to other people qualities of ourselves which we are not aware of. For instance, a spouse who has unconscious thoughts about having an affair may project these thoughts onto his or her partner, beginning to suspect him or her of infidelity. On a more positive note, we may project our own inner wisdom, which we are often unaware of, onto figures of authority like doctors, therapists or teachers. In doing so, we see in another an aspect of ourselves. Many psychologists are convinced that most of us live in personal realities populated by projections: we don't really see people for who they are, but for the aspects of ourselves that we project onto them. This way, the world inadvertently enacts our own inner psychological dynamics on the 'outside.' We have even developed cultural institutions to catalyze projection. For instance, many religious rituals seem to have been unconsciously optimized to attract projections: inner wisdom projected onto priests, inner innocence onto altar boys, the inner mother onto nuns, inner transformative power onto icons, etc. In some mystical traditions, this is done quite consciously and deliberately. For instance, modern Rosicrucian rituals are designed to attract the projections of key unconscious psychological archetypes.

Projection is the amazing psychological mechanism by which we create 'the other' out of ourselves, like Eve from Adam's rib. It enables the magical rise of a second person from the first person, the 'you' from the 'I.' As far as the person placing the projection is concerned, the projected material is really real and objective. Nowhere is this more clearly seen than in dreams: during a dream, we are entirely convinced that we interact with 'others.' Those 'others,' however, are projected aspects of our own psyches. The old wise man in your dreams is the projected image of your own inner wisdom. The stupid and inferior person in your dreams is the projected image of your own shadow. Through projection, the 'outside' world becomes a mirror for the most hidden and unacknowledged aspects of ourselves, which then become visible to us as 'the other.'

For those who suddenly realized the projections they were placing onto the world, the power of projection is as undeniable as it is disconcerting. Upon becoming aware of some of our projections, we immediately ask ourselves: What else might I be projecting right now? After all, I was entirely convinced of the objective reality of some of my projections earlier, so what other elements of the world 'out there' may actually be projections of my own right now? Is there anything about reality that I can be absolutely sure to not be my own projected material?

Could all of reality be, at bottom, a psychological, rather than a physical, process? Could the entire world 'out there' be, at bottom, a projection of ourselves? When we look at the world outside, could we actually be witnessing a mirrored image of the hidden aspects of our true selves? Given the empirically undeniable power of projection, who is to say that such is not the case?

Time... time?

Source: Wikipedia.

Here is an intellectually entertaining thought for this special Sunday in the Christian world. Easter brings to mind rebirth, which is inextricably linked to the notion of time. Maybe for this reason time was on my mind this morning, a question ringing in my head as I still lay in bed: Does time really exist?

We divide time logically into three segments: past, present and future. It is fairly straightforward to conclude that past and future do not really exist but as notions in our minds. After all, the past is but a memory, while the future is but an expectation. Only the present stands a chance of being really 'out there.' This much is pretty clear, isn't it? So only through the present can time be said to be real. But where precisely is the present?

We could say that the present is today, while the past is yesterday and the future is tomorrow. Yesterday is a memory and tomorrow is an expectation, so both exist only in mind. But today is really there, isn't it? Well, if you come to think of it, today is quite a long period of time. Within today there is last hour, this hour, and next hour. Last hour and next hour only exist in mind. Only this hour is really there. Or is it? After all, within this hour there is last minute, this minute and next minute. Well, you know where I am going with this.

You could say that the present is a very short moment squeezed in between a growing past and an approaching future. But even that would be too generous to the present: it isn't merely very short; it is shorter than anything you could state it to be, because any period of time, of any length whatsoever, would still contain past and future. The present is infinitely short, so it isn't really there. If you try to pin down the present moment by saying 'Now!', by the time your mouth begins to move to say it, it's already gone into the past and exists merely as a memory. The conclusion is inescapable: the present doesn't exist but as an idea in our minds.

So we find ourselves arriving at an interesting conclusion: the past is a memory; the present is an idea; the future is an expectation. They all exist merely in mind. None of them is real in the sense of really being 'out there.' And since there is nothing to time but past, present and future, clearly time doesn't exist 'out there,' but is merely a mental construct. Mind invents time.

No, really, time is merely an invention of mind. What else could it be?

Happy Easter!