Experience is a mechanism. While we watch bumblebees flying against a window, exploring a border which can’t be perceived by the animals visually, two people talk about how they experience reality being confronted with a condition called Charles Bonnet Syndrome. Because of going blind later in life, both persons receive pseudo-hallucinations, phantom visions not related to other sensory input in that moment. These people have no prior history of dementia or cognitive impairment, have never had any hallucinations in the past and are not taking medications known to have hallucinations as one of their side effects. Thus, for these persons to function, they have to detach their hallucinations from other senses and cognitive experiences. In some cases, the vision loss is only to a part of their whole field of vision and their vision can sometimes remain as sharp as 20/40. Those afflicted typically report that they are not scared of these visions, but they do sometimes keep them to themselves for fear others might look upon their hallucinations as a sign that they are in the beginning stages of some sort of mental illness or cognitive decline which is not the case.
Thomas Metzinger’s theory on the ‘Phenomenal Self Model’ elaborates on how we synchronize those sensory stimuli and cognitive experiences into a here and now. The PSM is a virtual organ that represents us the world. It makes us into naïve realists because it exclusively represents the result, not the mechanism itself. We see the world but not the window we look through. Only when we are aware of its failure we get an idea of its true nature.
“When the window is dirty or cracked, we immediately realize that conscious perception is only an interface, and we become aware of the medium itself. If the book in your hands lost its transparency, you would experience it as a state of your mind rather than as an element of the outside world. You would immediately doubt its independent existence. Precisely this happens in various situations—for example, in visual hallucinations during which the patient is aware of hallucinating.”
There is no solid form of self and experience is synthetic. The acknowledgment of these human features can open up new possibilities for the mind, and offer glimpse to a universal being.