You have volunteered to be part of a research experiment. You walk into a room and up to a counter where the coordinator greets you. He hands you a brief consent form to read and sign. After you sign, the coordinator ducks down behind the counter to file your form and retrieve an instruction booklet which he hands you. He then directs you to head down the hallway to Door #2 where the experiment will begin.
However, the experiment has already concluded.
When the coordinator bent down behind the counter to file your consent form, a different person stood up and handed you the instruction package. This new person had different hair color, eye color, and shirt color from the first person – and wasn’t even of similar height.
Virtually no one noticed.
When the participants continued down the hall to Door #2, the head of this research study greeted each person and asked them if they noticed anything unusual after filling out their consent form. Shockingly few had. As each participant was informed that a different person had stood up, they were stunned at how they could possibly have missed such an obvious switch. Yet they did, and we all do.
The researcher who conducted the above insightful experiments at Harvard, Daniel Simons, led an even more surprisingly revealing study at the University of Illinois.
Simons videotaped two teams of students passing a basketball back and forth to one another: one team wearing white shirts, and another team wearing black shirts. The video lasts 35 seconds.
Simons then showed the video to participants instructing them to count how many times the players wearing white pass the basketball. The answer is 15 passes, but that hardly matters.
What matters is that in the middle of the two teams passing a basketball to one another, a gorilla walks on camera, stares right at the camera and thumps his chest, and then walks off camera. The gorilla is in the video for a total of 10 seconds, or about one-third the total time.
Astonishingly, well over of 50% of people never saw the gorilla. And this experiment has now been conducted millions of times with people all over the world, with the same results.
How can we be so blind to what is going on right in front of us? Answer: we see what we choose to see, ignoring so much of what is really going on.
But there is a part of us that knows better. It isn’t conscious.
In a remarkable study at the University of Iowa led by Antoine Bechara, students were presented with four decks of cards (face down) labeled A, B, C, and D. They are told that each time they choose a card they will win or lose some money. What the students don’t know ahead of time is that the first two decks (A and B) are a minefield where certain cards result in large gains, but others result in even larger losses. The only way to end up ahead is by consistently selecting cards from decks C and D. The question researchers wanted to study was how long it took students to figure that out.
It turns out that most people have it figured out after about 80 cards. But here’s where the experiment gets far more interesting.
While the students were choosing cards and getting paid (or losing money), they were hooked up to a device that measured electrical current in their skin to test their “unconscious” or “gut” reactions to picking from the various decks. And it turns out that the skin sensors began detecting much greater stress response choosing from decks A and B by the tenth card! So, the students were unconsciously aware that decks C and D were better – and they realized this much, much sooner than their conscious minds (10 cards versus 80 cards).
And so it is that our conscious minds are often quite blind to what is transpiring behind the scenes. As we read in A Course in Miracles, when we are joined with the thought system of the ego, we are intentionally deceiving ourselves.
Nothing so blinding as perception of form. For sight of form means understanding has been obscured. (T-22.III.6)
Do not seek vision through your eyes, for you made your way of seeing that you might see in darkness, and in this you are deceived. (T-13.V.9)
Instead, we can make a different choice – a different thought system – that knows the truth and isn’t deceived by appearances. When we are tuned in to the right-minded thought system of spirit, we recognize everything with perfect clarity and genuine compassion. In such a state, we gain experiences “a thousand times as happy and as wonderful as those you ever dreamed or wished for in your dreams.”
Join us in Monday’s class where we will discuss how we can move beyond deception and blindness into the lucidity of certain purpose and the experience of overwhelming joy. I look forward to seeing you then.