“Real” means the perceptions that most people agree on.
From the moment we are born, we are taught that most of our perceptions are (and should be) the same as our neighbor’s. What we perceive as a street sign or an orangutan will most surely be agreed upon by the lady across the street! That agreement is called Consensus Reality (or CR for short).
And we have also learned to worry that there might be something terribly WRONG if there is some disagreement with others about what we perceive. We keep quiet about our differences in perception.
That’s because we are taught to believe that there is a predictable, logical, physical universe “out there” and that its reality is essentially the same for everyone. By the time a baby reaches adulthood, it will be conditioned by its parents, by social pressure, by school, by civilization, to see the world pretty much like everybody else does.
On the other hand, the perceptions we do NOT collectively agree upon are called “Non-Consensus Reality” (NCR).
Most people would agree that the lake at Loch Ness is a certain number of feet deep in the places where it has been measured. This measurement is Consensus Reality (CR). But we would definitely not all agree that there is a prehistoric monster swimming around in that water. For some, Nessie is very real, and so is the evidence to support her existence, but there is no general consensus on that fact.
Nessie belongs in the land of non-consensus reality (NCR) right along with psychic abilities, premonitions, emotions, imaginary friends, near-death experiences, crop circles, telepathic communication, synchronicities, parallel universes, fairies and angels, mermaids, extra-terrestrials, intuitions, and a host of other non-agreed-upon “realities.” Most of us have experienced those elements in our life, things we can't really understand. Most of us are aware of Wonderland.
Alice in Wonderland, the movie and the Broadway musical, have recently been revived. The Alice story is a great metaphor for where science, and the rest of us, stand today.
Some of us want to stay safely above ground (in CR).
Others want to explore consciousness in the Wonderland underground (in NCR), where the Red Queen gleefully shouts, “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast!”
But Alice doesn’t tell us how to solve the conflict between the two worlds.
Yet to know how deep the ocean is, you do have to measure it. And you can also JUMP IN. You can EXPERIENCE the ocean. The number of feet deep (CR), and the experience of deep water (NCR) are very different.
To truly know the ocean means simultaneously measuring its depth AND taking a swim.
So, at any given moment, we live in more than one world.
Still, neither of the two realities, CR or NCR, is absolute. They both exist. They both are right. They simply exist in different frameworks.
We are not justified in ignoring the nature of Wonderland.
One morning when I was 8, I remember lying in bed and raising my eyes to the light streaming in through my bedroom window. In the grainy particles, I suddenly perceived a family of attractive-looking trolls (ala “Lord of the Rings”), posing in the light as if preparing to have their picture taken.
I knew that it was a distortion of the light (or was it?) but the image stayed for about 10 minutes and I was utterly fascinated. I couldn’t take my eyes off my troll family. My brain was letting me see something different in the light.
Then my mother came in, and when I told her about my troll family, she got that tolerant, “Uh-huh, that’s nice dear” tone. After she left, I tried in vain to find my troll family again. But alas, it had jut been a weird, brief moment of abstraction that I didn’t quite understand. Once confronted with consensus reality, I could only see the light in the normal way, no matter how hard I tried to see it “wrong” again.
Yet in that moment there was a subtle but stunning shift. For the first time, I discovered a thrilling kind of “seeing” that requires letting go of the known in order to find the unknown.
Of seeing the whole instead of just a part.
Consensus Reality can seem so inflexible and senseless sometimes. But Non-Consensus Reality is full of magic and miracles. All that is required to make that shift is faith and a slight change in focus. Then your consciousness has enlarged by experiencing the two worlds. From then on, even though you can’t “measure” it, you know that Wonderland is there, and just knowing that leaves you breathless, and with a forever-altered perspective.
Your world will never be the same again, because now there is possibility in it.
We need a sense of possibility as never before. Our Consensus Reality has become profoundly out of balance.
Today, choose to experience BOTH worlds.
Don’t let Consensus Reality get you, Alice!
Dr. Christine Ranck is a trauma therapist in New York City, specializing in creativity and performance enhancement for professional and non-professional artists and performers. She is co-author (with Christopher Lee Nutter) of the experiential, consciousness-expanding creativity book, IGNITE THE GENIUS WITHIN, from which this article was adapted. Dr. Ranck teaches "Ignite the Genius Within (applying expanded consciousness to everyday life)" workshops all over the country. Visit www.christineranck.com