Truth Is In the Eye of the Beholder

“Every kind of ignorance in the world all results from not realizing that our perceptions are gambles. We believe what we see and then we believe our interpretation of it, we don’t even know we are making an interpretation most of the time. We think this is reality.”

~ Robert Anton Wilson

“We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are.”

~ Anaïs Nin

Timothy Leary coined the term “Reality Tunnel,” which Wilson helped popularize. The basic concept is that truth is in the eye of the beholder. It’s not to presume that there is no objective reality, but that all reality is being reinterpreted through things like our senses, conditioning, belief systems and I would add, personality types.

Later, Bub Tribble coined the phrase “Reality Distortion Field” to describe Steve Jobs’s charisma and its effect on the people who worked for him on his projects. He pulled it from a Star Trek episode that described how a certain alien species created their own new world through mental force.

I’ve been asking lately: How often is our personal reality tunnel – the belief structures and conditioning that form our experience of reality – the product of other people’s reality distortion fields? How many belief systems are a cult of personality, and are we essentially assigning these people god status by accepting their reality tunnels as our own? If “history is written by the victors,” how much are our minds’ programming essentially products of past victors, people of which we may not even know the names? (If this were a Wilson book he would make an asterisk with a footnote that would say, “Dear Reader: I’m referring to everyone but you, of course.”)

Ultimately, those are rhetorical. My favorite questions don’t have answers, but still manage to shake something loose inside of me.




To reevaluate your reality tunnel, Wilson recommends taking a step back and using Alfred Korzybski’s exercise of General Semantics. If you can get past the older videography and music, I recommend watching this compilation of Wilson’s (in which he calls both himself and others “cosmic schmucks.”)



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Showing 7 comments
  • M

    If a camera was recording 10 people in a room, and another person burst into the room and took a few items off the table and left, the truth is exactly that. If those 10 people were asked to describe what just happened, and they didn’t have all the facts correct, it doesn’t change reality, nor does the truth change simply because of the way someone processes it. The truth isn’t up for debate.

  • Wf1632

    – Where were you with the truth?

    Marty: Truth? How do you mean?

    – I’m not sure how many ways there are to mean it.
    – You think there’s only one?

    Marty: There’s only one that matters. My version of it. The one I create in the minds of the twelve jurors. If you want, you can call it something else. The illusion of truth.

    The open lines to the movie “Primal Fear.”
    The character “Marty” played by Richard Gere.

    In his book, “Sapiens” Yuval Noah Harari refers to “collective imaginings” or myths as being the driving force behind the cooperation of our species to accomplish the things we have so far in our societies.

    The term “social constructs” comes to mind!

  • Marj Worley


    This reminds me of the platinum rule. ” Treat others the way they want to be treated.” We all see reality they way we want to and working to see from the ” other” vantage point is just as valid if not easy. thank you

  • SK

    “Cosmic schmucks” resonated with me the most. When we introduce philosophy (i.e. General Semantics-based logic and other forms of navel gazing) into factual discussions (i.e. the “actual” color of the green grass is “green”, the unobstructed illuminated sky is blue, 2 + 2 = 4, H20 = water, 16 oz = one pound, etc.) we create an untethered social environment where there are no absolutes. Thanks for sharing, Antonia. It made me cringe, but thanks for sharing. And yes, I’m an INTJ.

    • Antonia Dodge

      From my perspective, General Semantics couldn’t be further from navel gazing. It’s a way of thinking that deeply satisfies my Ti. A bunch of people getting tripped up on the word ‘homeless’ in a conversation? Well, specify which homelessness you’re talking about – people who are unable to take care of themselves at all (Homelessness1); people temporarily displaced by circumstances but otherwise able bodied (Homelessness2); people voluntarily choosing to be without a home (Homelessness3); and so on… Now the conversation has a level of clarity that neutralizes most of the arguments.

      The concept of “who is the master that makes the grass green” isn’t exactly General Semantics, but it is a very important tool for understanding the difference between indirect realism and naive realism (or, direct realism). There are some pretty compelling arguments against naive realism, which is ultimately what RAW is trying to point out with his question.

      I’m an unabashedly on the side of indirect realism over naive realism. Having lived in a commune of navel gazers for a time, it most assuredly isn’t the same.

      But, as you mentioned, we are all cosmic schmucks, regardless of what appeals to us. 🙂

      Thanks for the comment.


  • Luke

    That was so cool. Mind blowing! If I may be honest, I’ve come to view life and “reality” this way already, as a result of personal development that is. Homosexuality is valid from my point of view. I love who I love and like things I like. It doesn’t actually matter if it makes sense or is verified by others. That way of thinking really reduces anxiety for me about a lot of things. I also realize that this will likely not resonate to many and that is just a valid from their point of view.
    I really love remembering and sharing with others that, ‘we must stop viewing others through our own eyes, and instead begin to SEE them through their own eyes.’ But perhaps that is never empirically true, so if that is the case, then why not hold space for them, have grace, or patience (whatever word works for you) for them. That’s a beautiful piece of reasoning.

    • Holly McIntosh

      Love your comments, Luke!
      Thank you so much for your feedback!
      Love your last couple of sentences

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