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Gestalt-psychology and religion

zaterdag 23 februari 2008 22:53

Humans, like all other animals, have a strong tendency to interpret the behaviour of other animals, especially the ones that belong to the same species, as "intentional". Even more, we are able to create, from the movements of the objects around us (which is just another way to describe other people, isn't it?) mental representations of these objects, as persons. This feature, that may seem obvious at first, is actually very powerful and may help us to see how religion contains a personal aspect.

People are "creating" other persons all the time, as mental constructs.

People are trying to make sense of their environment. We do this by describing purposes and intentions to the world and the animals that live in it. In the same vein, we can "see" the world, or the universe, as a person. This helps us to understand the otherwise completely chaotic world as something purposeful.

This act of experiencing the world / universe as a person, is a shift of perception (a Gestalt shift) not unlike those pictographic ambiguity illusions (i.e. young woman, old woman). You either see it or you don't. Perhaps this is what is often called "a leap of faith".

Philosophically, it is interesting how "reality" and "perception" are intertwined here. By seeing the world in this new way, you make it exist. This is an interesting rewrite of the old adverb "seeing is believing". If you happen to see nature as a person there is no need to deduce its existence, since there is direct perception. If you don't see it, no reasoning can make you see it.


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