The Brain’s Prismatic View of Life

What if the differences among us aren’t the only “truth”?

All around us, we see much diversity: men and women; Democrats and Republicans; black and white; homosexual and heterosexual; Americans and Europeans—the list goes on and on, and of course, also includes everything and everyone in between. While it is undeniable that our perceptions communicate these differences to us, what if there is a “prism” effect that distorts what we actually are?

The Prism Effect

When colorless light moves from air into a glass prism, it breaks up into many different colors. Depending on the angle at which it enters the glass, the precise rainbow of colors may differ. If you were looking at the different colors, that’s all that you would see. Yet, if you looked at the source, you would “see” colorless light. All the colors are already contained in colorless light. Metaphorically, what if our diversity was simply a result of a similar refractory effect?

Why categories limit your power

There are many contexts in which we seek to be united. Usually, we use categories to try to be united by a cause.

Psychologically, this is the basis of the need to belong. The problem with this, is that blacks identify with other blacks, women with other women, immigrants with other immigrants, and before you know it, people are naturally excluding themselves from the entirety of the world. While categories provide a temporary place to belong, they eventually exclude you from the rest of the world and the power that this unity can bring when you realize this. Only YOU can include yourseelf in the world.

Even the category of “human” excludes us from all other living things. And the category of “living things” excludes us from joining the inanimate beauty that surrounds us. To truly see the colorless light, we have to abandon all categories and seek to experience a state of consciousness that unites us with all the power that is available to us.

The refraction that causes rainbows is a distraction from the colorless light.

What is the “colorless light” that contains our diversity?

There have been many attempts to describe the colorless light. The psychiatrist Carl Jung decribed a “collective unconscious.” The Advaita Vedanta school of Hinduism decribes a “universal consciousness.” And scientific studies sometimes simply refer to this “colorless light” as consciousness or they describe mirror neurons, which are the basis of why we contain everything and everyone around us in our brains.

Yet, even if we were to believe in these schools of thought, it would exclude those who deny such collectivism, and as a result, another category would be created. Words, by their very nature, create constructs and categories. For this reason, it is difficult for words to show us the colorless light unless one reflects on writing like the poetry of Walt Whitman for example.

Music and art also coordinate many brain regions and bring us closer to the experience of universality. Love makes the brain see the world through the eyes of others more easily. And meditation and psychedelics produce similar effects too.

The striving to experience “colorless light” can also be seen in how the Internet connects us all regardless of category, and in the sublime experiences that one can know being in nature or using virtual reality. And more and more, our society seeks to unite people in quests such as climate change, inclusive practices, and gender fluidity. These all point to the colorless light that we are seeking.

The problem with relying entirely on one method is that it can also create categories: artists and scientists; lovers and haters; meditators and non-meditators; climate activists and climate nihilists..again, the list goes on and on. Our different methods are simply the rainbow effect. Rather than only encouraging activism that separates us, it may make sense to encourage an activism that connects us.

Finding the colorless light

If we are to experience universal consciousness constantly as a “colorless light”, we might benefit from eschewing the categories of our own beliefs. Instead, we might look at people not like us and ask, “How does their perspective unite with mine?”

Having a different opinion may seem to give you an identity, but it rips you away from the power of the colorless light. We say that we want to be seen, but in actuality, when we profess to know only our own ways, we cannot be seen as we truly are—as the colorless light that is our identity before it becomes refracted through our perceptions.

To find the colorless light, we might ask a different set of questions, but it’s a little too trite and it will eventually be annoying to simply ask questions like “What do you see from where you are? If we are actually joined by a common consciousness, how can we find this together?”

If we, with all our differences,
Are simply rainbows that pass
Through the prisms of our perception,
How might we know the colorless light
From which we came?

I think we will see it more clearly
If I can make you smile—
If I can hold you tight—
If I can walk side by side with you—
Through this dark and stormy life.

Harvard-trained Psychiatrist. Tech entrepreneur. Brain Researcher. Executive Coac. Author: Tinker Dabble Doodle Try, King T and the Gamma Troupe .

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