I drove home late this afternoon with a rainbow spanning the whole sky, moving ahead of me the way rainbows do. I stopped about a kilometre from home to take a picture and thought of a couple of times recently when I have heard the rainbow used as a metaphor for the way consciousness and reality interact.
For example,
"For the rainbow experience to happen we need sunshine, raindrops, and a spectator. It is not that the sun and the raindrops cease to exist if there is no one there to see them… But unless someone is present at a particular point no colored arch can appear. The rainbow is hence a process requiring various elements, one of which happens to be an instrument of sense perception. It doesn’t exist whole and separate in the world nor does it exist as an acquired image in the head separated from what is perceived (the view held by the ‘internalists’ who account for the majority of neuroscientists); rather, consciousness is spread between sunlight, raindrops, and visual cortex, creating a unique, transitory new whole, the rainbow experience. Or again: the viewer doesn’t see the world; he is part of a world process". -Riccardo Manzotti

Now I'm not sure I quite understand Manzotti's 'externalism' much less agree with it, but I find this a helpful explanation of the peculiar relationship of consciousness and matter at a quantum level. And also of the existence of the self, which, like the rainbow, exists only as a perception by a consciousness. Two people, standing side by side will see the rainbow, and agree on its dimensions and ooh and ahhh over its colour but it has no objective reality. It is an illusion, a trick of the interaction of light and water - which are themselves a similar kind of illusion, except in very slow motion. Water and light are what we name our perceptions of energy in two particular states. So too, the self we take such trouble to protect and care for is a trick of the light, and, so says Jesus, must be killed off if we are to truly live.

I got back into the car (I didn't want to get wet and it was starting to get dark) and took myself home.


Katherine said…
Thank you. I enjoyed Manzotti's words as a kind of idea poem. However when I looked him up in order to understand his ideas better, I rapidly got lost! I suspect I need to go back to Descartes and start there. I did wonder 'tho', where he places SIGNIFICANCE in his world view. It is one thing to say that something does not exist until it is experienced (think I've got that right) but what about the importance we attach to things? For example, I know I have in the past not even heard teachings if I wasn't ready to learn them. Conversely, I can also not see an object that has been there a long time. Like the black felt-pen cockroach I drew on the wall beside the hall door three years ago... (Although it did take two years to 'disappear').