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The Role of Individuals in Creating Reality

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Berger and Luckmann, The Social Construction of Reality

In their book, Berger and Luckmann claim that reality is socially determined and emphasize individual contribution to reality construction. While they believe that reality is influenced by knowledge that individuals have about it, they underline that the influence of individuals and reality is mutual and cyclic. In other words, when reality affects each particular individual, it is obviously affects them in different ways. The reason why this happens is a sum total of societal forms of existence that an individual has. For instance, the reality of London middle-class working woman is different from that of the indigenous African man. This means that reality is subjective and to a certain extent is related to knowledge about it that is both inborn and cultivated, or to the perception of objective reality (if any).  This statement does not only suggest that reality shapes individuals, but this also means that it works reciprocally.

While being individual and subjective, reality is closely linked to social interaction. So, when people with different backgrounds communicate, they form a form of reality that they share. In this sense, reality is not only individual but social, belonging to groups of individuals who consciously or subconsciously broadcast their values that reshaping reality. In this process, reality affects them being a source of ideas, and vice versa, because of obtaining new ideas individuals become constructors of social reality. As the authors point out “Man's self-production is always, and of necessity, a social enterprise. Men together produce a human environment, with the totality of its socio-cultural and psychological formations” ( Berger&Luckman, p. 51).

Berger and Luckmann focus of the sociality that humans need for construction reality, even if this reality is individual. They believe that biologically any organism and mind are chaotic, and are not capable of creating any stable reality, so this is why sociality is so important as it is able to impose order on humans. According to the authors, ‘social order is a human product…or, more precisely, an ongoing human production”( p.52). They refer to the stages of reality construction in the following way. First of all, the process of externalization personal individualities forms social organisms, which later leads to habitualization. Based on habitualization, institualization emerges, which is a more rigid form of social reality, and in a way it becomes more objective. If habitualisatization is the first step which takes pressure of taking individual decisions by providing the patterns that are normal to the group, institualization  is a more advanced mechanism, as it allows people to construct reality based on their shared experiences and personal histories. Because the rules of play become more rigid and stable, reality appears to be perceived as objective, while individual experiences look part of that objective reality. However, the authors point out that this objectivity is also a product of human activities, not the premise for those activities: “It is important to keep in mind that the objectivity of the institutional world, however massive it may appear to the individual, is a humanly produced, constructed objectivity”( Berger&Luckmann, p.61)

Victor Mansfield. Synchronicity, Science, and Soulmaking

In his book, Victor Mansfield reveals that reality is highly subjective as it is created by human mind. So, if individual realities are constructed by individuals, social reality is a result of joint activities or just thinking, which results in creating a construction of superior order, not just a sum total of individual realities. The author believes that synchronicity is in fact the result of social reality construction by individuals. This accounts for how multiple lives and experiences can exist simultaneously, while being closely related to each other and naturally affecting one another. So, when becoming a participant of joint reality, an individual appears to be tightly linked to it in the way that he or she acquires the features, which this whole has. These features, in their turn, result from communication of views and ideas between individuals who contribute to social reality.

So, this order explains why there are coincidences and influences between seemingly unrelated individuals or phenomena. It terms of ethics, it is also essential that personal development of each member will lead to improving the whole system, thus lifting it to a new level. This is why personal improvement is so relevant when speaking about construction of reality. Addressing the question of reality improvement, Victor Mansfield states the following: “ If we can rationally appreciate that both the outer and the inner worlds- nature and ego- are expressions of the cosmic self, then we might effect a philosophic unification of the world; one built upon reasoned analysis and supported by synchronistic experience…Such transformation requires removal of many of our deep projections upon nature and ourselves and a massive psychological reorientation” ( Mansfield, p.42).

Michael Murphy. The Evolution of Embodied Conscience

Michael Murphy considers social reality through the prism of Buddhist philosophy, yet introducing a new vision that deals with human presence in this world. In contrast to many traditional Buddhist views which treated embodiment in its negative aspect of suffering, Murphy reconsiders it in terms of growth opportunities. So, his suggestion is not escape but individual and group involvement in spiritual evolution that per his words is on its way today. He believes that bodily experience gives a chance of transformation for humanity, and it should be based on totally new relationship between body and conscious.

The author introduces a concept of metanormal capacities, which emerge through new integrative thinking. He believes that it is possible for humanity to grow intentionally. He emphasizes that real evolution of humanity is possible only through inherent spirituality, which again refers the reader to unity of body and consciousness. He points out “ Courage without prudence, honesty without kindness, or high-intentioned confrontation without empathy can be destructive to personal relationship” ( Murphy, p.95).  So, at a more global scale interpersonal relationships result in creation of a different reality, to which individual communication contributes.

The author believes that in order to shape a higher-level reality, individuals have to cultivate their extraordinary abilities, use some transformational practices and live through spiritual experiences, which are metanormal. By pointing out that individual transformation can change objective reality, the author remarks though that the influence is reciprocal and that the old patterns affect individuals as well. Because reality is socially constructed, people are vulnerable to societal visions. “Metanormal cognition, in short, like all extraordinary capacities, is subject to cultural shaping, and can also be clouded by various pathologies” ( Murphy, p.87).

June Singer Seeing Through the visible world

June Singer pertains to the point of view that reality is mostly subjective, stating the existence of the so-called visible and invisible worlds. While deriving from Jungian psychology, she states the necessity of spiritualism in developing personal and social reality. Knowledge is one of the key elements of reality transformation because ignorance leads to stagnation in the philosophy of agnostics which she pursues. Thus, she explores the ways of cognition and broadening cognitive experiences as a way for humanity to evolve. Mundane reality is a key concept for her, as she recognizes its outstanding role in spiritual revelations. The author believes that routine experiences can help uncover invisible reality which is incorporated in them but can be elicited by permanent spiritual practice. She sees the future of humanity in linking the conscious with the unconscious, so this is why he suggests new tools, being dissatisfied with traditional knowledge. She contrasts gnosis and knowledge, believing that the former is a more holistic approach in changing reality and evolution of humanity. Transformation requires change of beliefs, which naturally happens when having mysterious experiences which are beyond the imposed objective reality. However, social influences can hamper this process of transformation, so new models of behavior have to be intentionally introduced.

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