How mind (control) works: perception is shaped by assumption

human eye

“When the world matches our assumptions, we see the world as it is.” Image is (cc) evinella.

When I was a child, there was a period where I got very interested in magic tricks – making a quarter disappear and reappear and so on.1 The climax of this period was when I staged a show for the neighbors.

And that was the end of my interest in magic. Not that the show was a failure, mind you. Rather, it was too successful – I found I could distract the audience and get them to make assumptions which allowed me do all sorts of things right in front of them without them “seeing” what I was doing. Which was cool but also unsettling.

In any case, how DOES perception work? And why does it matter?

Vision may not work all the time, but we should marvel that it works at all.

When organisms apprehend the world by sight, they have to use the splash of light reflected off its objects, projected as a two-dimensional kaleidoscope of throbbing, heaving streaks on each retina. The brain somehow analyzes the moving collages and arrives at an impressively accurate sense of the objects out there that gave rise to them.

optical illusion

What’s he holding? Image is (cc) Sholeh.

The accuracy is impressive because the problems the brain is solving are literally unsolvable… Vision has evolved to convert these ill-posed problems into solvable ones by adding premises: assumptions about how the world is, on average, put together.

When the current world (matches our assumptions), we see the world as it is. When we land in an exotic world where the assumptions are violated… we fall prey to an illusion.

The grandest vision of vision has come from the late artificial intelligence researcher David Marr. Vision, he said, “is a process that produces from images of the external world a description that is useful to the viewer and not cluttered with irrelevant information.” 2

Now let’s see an example of how this works in practice (2 minute clip):

Watch this video on YouTube or on Easy Youtube.

“Just relax and enjoy yourself… relax and enjoy yourself.”  lol.  By the way, Derren considers himself a mind-control demonstrator.


  • In the video, the polite young man – under pressure and overwhelmed by stimuli coming at him from multiple directions – assumes the other man is trustworthy. How does this affect his ability to perceive?
  • Would Derren have gotten your tie?
  • What is meant by “irrelevant information” in the quote above?
  • If all perception is based on assumption, then would you say you yourself harbor all sorts of assumptions that help you get through the day?
  • Neuro-linguistic programming is a science that’s widely practiced, some say, by politicians, advertisers, pundits, corporate CEOs, and so on, which incorporates certain devices – calculated pauses, vocal inflections, subliminal suggestions, staging, shills, etc. – in order to put the audience into a suggestible brain state. What do you think of that?
  • The last time I saw my teacher he said, “There is a sucker born far more often than once a minute.” 3 Then he remarked how the ego’s addiction to hope and fear makes it easy for human beings to be manipulated. Why say such things, what does this have to do with spirituality or enlightenment?

Image gallery:

How “perception” could be shaped:


“These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.” Obi Wan Kenobi using a jedi mind trick in Star Wars: A New Hope (1977).


neuro-linguistic programming

Neuro-linguistic programming diagram. (source)


a mind-controlled ruler

“Why do you lay these troubles on an already troubled mind?” asks Wormtongue, while shielding Theoden from “irrelevant” perceptions. (The Two Towers, 2002). Perhaps Theoden symbolizes us, as sovereign human beings, and Wormtongue symbolizes the harmful assumptions we buy into that keep us from seeing life clearly.  Also, on a more literal level of interpretation, it’s interesting that in this scene the political leader is not the one with the power – it’s his advisor or “mind control” handler, if you will, who makes his decisions.


Sun Tzu: All war is based on deception

“All war is based on deception” bumper sticker.  (source)



“The real battlefield is the mind.”  (image source)


“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and these are the ones you need to concentrate on.” – George W. Bush – in jest? – at a Gridiron Club dinner, March 2001.


Propaganda poster

A vintage propaganda poster from WW II.  Propaganda was considered incredibly important back in the 1940s as a way to control assumptions and shape perceptions.  (source)


television programming

That is a lot of programming…


television mind control

Everyone I know watches television in an effort to relax and unwind.  However, we ourselves don’t tend to think of TV as a “battlefield for the mind” or a place where we receive daily “programming”.  (source: unknown)


Jon Stewart

It’s easy to see that Jon Stewart is a funny & entertaining, free-thinking “everyman”.  What most of us didn’t know until recently was that Stewart isn’t his real name and that his older brother Larry Leibowitz is the Chief Operating Officer of the New York Stock Exchange’s parent company, NYSE Euronext.4  Which is fine, or course – it’s nice to see people successful – but this affects how I perceive Jon Stewart and his message of “relax and enjoy yourself” – if I can put it that way – which is the same thing the pickpocket says in the video above.  (image source: unknown)

Larry Leibowitz

Larry Leibowitz – Jon Stewart’s older brother – is shown here (on the left) negotiating a corporate merger that would control 90% of European derivatives trading.5  It appears that one brother is consolidating more and more power into the hands of the top 0.001%, while the other brother influences millions of young Americans – perhaps the main people on earth in a position to change things in the world – into feeling amused and entertained… and possibly smug and passive.

a mind controlled sheep

Can television influence our assumptions (and therefore, our perceptions) more strongly than we might realize? (image source: unknown)


Not-Two IS Peace

“All kinds of shrewd people”

The usual man or woman, who works in a factory or an office and listens to the “news” faithfully, is constantly (and inevitably) exploited by all kinds of shrewd people who are materially in charge of his or her political, social, cultural, and intimate life.
Not-Two IS Peace, p.120 (underline added)



a subliminal advertisement

Subliminal messages:  Icy soda or sexy woman? I was skeptical that subliminal advertising could work when I first heard about it, but now I’m not so sure.  The mind takes in far more information than we consciously perceive, I now think (contrary to my previous assumptions).  For instance, if we’re in a crowded party and we hear our name spoken on the other side of the room, how is it that we can often pick out our name amongst all the conversations, and even recall the sentence leading up to it?  (image source)


NLP example: politicians

Body language: John F. Kerry looks an awful lot like John F. Kennedy, the other wealthy Catholic ivy league veteran water-sports-loving Congressman from Massachusetts with initials JFK and an Irish name. Even though Kerry is not actually Irish6, he chose an Irish theme song for his presidential campaign. This use of “JFK patterns” affects us powerfully on a subliminal (pre-verbal) level and is 100% intentional, according to the precepts of NLP and the theory that all major politicians are carefully trained in it. (image source)

Obama Messiah

This image, from New York Magazine’s April 16, 2007 issue, has been called “Obama Transfigured Before His Disciples.” The only one who does not look like a disciple is George Soros (seated).  “Obama is, of course, greater than Jesus.” – Politiken (Danish newspaper).  Now, I don’t have a problem with inspirational leaders – if that’s what someone is – but when we perceive a politician as being a Divine Incarnation, where does this perception come from?

There are no accidents in politics. 7
– Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr.

Final questions:

  • What kinds of hopes and fears are you motivated by that would allow someone to manipulate you?  (I’m writing this from a Mummery Book enactment weekend, and I’m definitely getting in touch with my own hopes and fears here, and my subconscious desire to have “authority figures” take care of me, comfort me, listen to me, and amuse me.)
  • If pickpockets and street magicians use certain techniques to great effect, why would the most powerful people in the world not want to try the same techniques? I think we often assume that the most powerful people in the world are people just like us – maybe not even not as smart as us.  What if this turned out to be a faulty assumption?
  • If we understand how the mind works, can this help us to better participate in politics, choose which influences to expose ourselves to (also known as choosing “good company”), motivate us to create genuine community, or inspire us to overcome identification with the mind altogether?

Warm regards,
BoT Student

P.S.  There are some extremely detailed analyses of politicians’ use of NLP on the net, which you might find interesting.

  1. I’m talking here about simple slight-of-hand, just to make sure that’s clear, lol.
  2. Excerpted from How the Mind Works, by Steven Pinker. (New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1997.) As included in The Basket of Tolerance, section on “Mind and the Brain”, by Adi Da Samraj. Bold added by this blogger.
  3. This was in early November, 2005, I believe.
  4. According to wikipedia and this Reuters article.
  5. According to wikipeda.
  6. According to wikipedia.
  7. This quote is attributed to a January 8, 1961 article in The New York Times. The context was that his son had just been elected president and therefore he no longer had to keep a low profile.  In other words, it was “no accident” that he was now appearing with JFK in photographs, and was not previously.  The implication being that public perception is hugely important in politics, down to small details.
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5 comments · now closed

  1. Paul Major   Thumb up +5

    Very thought provoking! Great examples of how there may be more going on than there seems…

  2. Charles Syrett   Thumb up +5

    Great post! Lots to ponder here.

  3. Gene   Thumb up +6

    This conversation is terrific. It is much like the Matrix with the red pill or the blue pill. When we begin to question and see behind the accepted story lines, then all kinds of amazing and unsettling realities begin to reveal themselves. “Conspiracy Theories” take on a whole new life. And, once that different way of looking begins….. there is no going back. To keep from going batshit crazy with the stuff, it does require a maturing spiritual disposition, and a sense of humor helps greatly.
    Valuable! Keep it up.

    • Hi Gene, thanks for your comments.

      I don’t like the term “conspiracy” but I do feel that, in the absence of a genuine sacred culture, what we are left with is a world of ignorance, greed, and aggression. And I think this inevitably gets played out by some people deceiving other people and taking advantage of them. Seeing how this works in detail is a bit shocking, though. Because of our vanity, we tend not to believe other people could be totally conning us, 24/7, lol.

      And yes, a sense of humor and a maturing spiritual disposition seem to be essential… and perhaps are the only truly important things at the end of the day.

  4. Edu   Thumb up +1

    Notice Obi Wan Kenobi’s 666 hand sign, hahaha!

    There is always more in view!

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