Perception & Perspective

The Arnolfini Portrait, 1434, by Jan van Eyck (c. 1390 – 9 July 1441), a Northern Renaissance artist. The painting is significant for its use of perspective and the mirrored 'fourth wall.'
The Arnolfini Portrait, 1434, (detail of head) by Jan van Eyck (c. 1390 – 9 July 1441). See Wikipedia.


Our perceptions are limited – the Universe is not what we think it is. We’ve evolved to sense in certain important (to us) areas of the electromagnetic spectrum such as vision and sound. We have chemical reactions that translate into taste. We are limited in our experience by our limited senses. And what does “experience” mean in comprehending the Universe? What relevance does “feeling” have?

By the time our nervous systems process information it is in the past. We don’t experience “now.” Maybe this was the Universe, and maybe it’s sort of like the Universe, but this isn’t the Universe that we experience, it’s not the real thing or not all of it. It certainly isn’t the ‘truth,’ except as we see it.


Perspective is another thing that limits us in knowing truth: we only can experience things from within ourselves. Both our current positions and our pasts are unique, necessarily different from others.

Striving for knowledge and experience like Faust does, shifts perception and perspective with new discoveries, new comprehensions. It’s a dangerous path to lunacy and exile if the knowledge and experiences are fantasy. When ones’ perceptions and perspectives are manipulated by another entity, you follow where they lead.


Our world is full of symbols, performances (incantations and gestures, such as “Hello Google” and swiping left) and other representations. Dollars represent resources, books represent thoughts, virtual and augmented reality represent worlds, etc.

Posession. A woman in tormented deep sleep with her arms thrown below her. An incubus sits her chest. A demonic horse peers from the shadows.
The Nightmare. 1781. Oil on canvas. FUSELI, John Henry (b. 1741, Zurich, d. 1825, London)

In Christianity, magic is associated with the Devil. Magic is symbols, performances and representations.

By that perspective, our world is enchanted and vulnerable. Our perceptions and perspectives are progressively ungrounded. The parallel to Faust is clear. We both turned to magic and what does that lead to?


  • Wikipedia page on direct and indirect realism. Is the Matrix within? Do we experience the world around us directly, or do we experience the mind’s internal representation?