Man's brain is a continual hive of activity, although he is never aware of this, except for the tiny portion which reaches his conscious perception. All the sensory data is being processed in the subconscious realms of the mind. Data is being continuously received from all parts of the body and from the external environment via the sense organs and either acted upon, stored or ignored. Unawareness of all this activity is essential, for it allows one's consciousness freedom to deliberate on a limited field of interest. If a person was aware of all this subconscious activity he would be inundated and overpowered by the continual influx of millions of bits of information. What we are interested in is what decides which particular information reaches conscious perception.
It is scientific research during the last few years that has thrown some light on this question. It has been found that a part of the brain called the reticular activating system, situated at the top of the spinal cord, performs this function. This system acts like a sluice gate allowing only a small percentage of the incoming data to the brain to reach conscious perception. How does it decide what should reach man's conscious attention and what should not? It allows information to arise to our consciousness only if the data reinforces or fits in with the pattern of mental conditioning, or if the incoming information is particularly urgent. So perception is dependent on what a person's mental state will allow him to perceive. Other incoming data which doesn't fit in the mental program remains in the subconscious realms of the mind and so a person is unaware of it. We perceive the world around us in accordance with the dictates of our present mental apparatus. For example, if you meet someone you dislike, then the information which tends to reach your awareness is that which confirms and reinforces your conditioned prejudices. If you like a person, then you tend to become aware of that information which confirms the friendship. We generally see the good points of our friends and the worst points of our enemies. Of course, if incoming sensory impulses tell us something different and are very powerful inputs, then this can overcome the programming. For example, sometimes we see bad features in our friends and good features in our enemies.
So you can see that our perception of the world depends very much on our prejudices. This is generally called the ego, especially in psychology; it is that which creates all the distinctive features of your 'self. We are at the mercy of our programming. If mental programs have been written to see hatred around us, then we will interpret all phenomena in this light. If our program says that all people in general are friendly, then we interpret all actions by others as being friendly in nature.
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