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Real Light

If you like precise definitions, here you go. These are not official definitions from scientific consensus or recognized authority, nor do I make any claims to their completeness or accuracy. The point here is to convey an understanding of the relation between light and seeing, and by extension, all sensible phenomena and all sensation.
EM light: Electromagnetic radiation which can be generated and detected using specific material sources undergoing chemical and nuclear reactions. That is, matter which is being transformed by matter, either directly through unbroken physical continuity or from a distance at the molecular or atomic level of description.

EM light is a thermodynamic phenomenon which need not be visible to the human eye, so that frequencies of EM which are infrared and lower or ultraviolet and higher can be considered ‘light’, electromagnetically. Radio waves and gamma rays would be considered light also, but that we tend not to think of them using that term. It can be argued that is meaningless convention, but I suspect that our intuition here is valuable.

Optical Light: Here’s where it gets interesting. When our eyes are open, we either see optical light directly, or we do not. If we see optical light directly when our eyes are open, then everything that we see is optical light, not just the presence of ‘light-stuff’ such as rainbows and glare. Optical light can be separated into at least three categories

  • Optical Light One (OL1) refers to everything that we see through our open eyes which is deemed to be publicly and empirically real. Images, shapes, figures, etc. The three dimensional, real world that we see surrounding us can be considered to be entirely composed of optical light. What else could we be looking at through our eyes except that which is made available through the photosensitvity of our retinal cells?
  • Optical Light Two (OL2 or Optical Light Qua Optical Light) refers only to those instances of optical light which are seen purely as optical light by itself. Beams or rays of bright/white light, iridescent films, spectral projections, specular and diffuse reflections, etc. OL2 is manipulated using material instruments such as lenses and mirrors. Turning on a flashlight produces a beam of OL2 which illuminates a room with OL1.
  • Optical Light Three (OL3 or Partially Confabulated Optical Light) acknowledges that what we see is filtered and modified, if not wholly confabulated neurologically, so that even with our eyes open, what we see is not necessarily the public, empirical phenomenon of OL1, but is in fact wholly or partially a kind of entopic, private hallucination that is calibrated by the nervous system for isomorphic, veridical correspondence to the impersonal reality. This is how we can see optical illusions: Our visual sense of the world (OL1) is filtered and distorted by our psychological condition and conditioning such that OL3 is taken for granted as OL1.


Phenomenal Light:
Phenomenal light may or may not be optical, and it may or may not be directly electromagnetic. Having left off at optical illusions, we can further make the distinction between the unnoticed illusions which we presume are being taken as visual reality of the outside world routinely, and the consciously noticed instances of optical illusion. Note the parallel between OL1 and OL2.

  • Phenomenal Light One (PL1) – The entire field of private visual experience. All experiences of color, form, brightness, etc which deviate in fact from public measurements by material instruments. All dreaming, imagining, and visualizing, all medical conditions with consequences that affect sight, etc would be PL1, whether they are recognized as such or not. Any seeing at all is PL1.
  • Phenomenal Light Two (PL2) – Refers only to the specific visual experiences in which phenomenal light is revealed to be private and phenomenal rather than empirical and public facing. These include entopic and eidetic hallucinations*, illusions, altered and ambiguous images, phosphenes, moire patterns, defects in the visual system, etc. PL2 phenomena look unreal – sights which can seem supernatural or psychedelic.*entopic hallucinations refer to purely geometric designs, often repeating spatially like wallpaper, and which seem tied closely to the optical-visual system. Eidetic hallucinations are apophenic or pareidoliac, such as seeing images in a cloud or Rorschach inkblot. Eidetic hallucinations, (I think) are more tied to the cortical-limbic system so that they can reveal private, even subconscious psychological content, and they can sometimes be manipulated consciously, as in an ambiguous image or lucid dream.
  • Phenomenal Light Three (PL3) – Following the lead of Optical Light, the third type of Phenomenal Light is Fully Confabulated Phenomenal Light. This refers to those visual experiences which are fully disconnected from public facing measurements. Dreams, visions, visual memories, delusions, NDEs, etc which may or may not seem private and may be interpreted as real even if it is not.


SR Light:
Light conceived of in special relativity seems to me to be grounded in the sense of light as the propagation of physical signals. Light begins to transform away from classical notions of light and toward the idea of light as a fundamental part of how space, time, and velocity are defined. Einstein made light identical to, or a proxy for a cosmological constant.

MP ‘Light’: Stands for light which is derived from a metaphorical reference and/or literal reference to a supposed metaphysical being. . At this point, we lose the attention of those who will not intellectually break ‘the fourth wall’ in their view of nature. On one side of the wall, where we anchor our epistemology in the EM and Optical sense of light, it seems ridiculous to include metaphorical language and magical, mystical conceptions of light as part of our worldview. Who are we to say that our fantasies and linguistic conventions should be taken seriously in the grand scheme of nature?

On the other side of the wall, it seems ridiculous not to include them. Who are we to assume that our thoughts and intuitions can be safely excluded from a complete description of nature? How can we be so arrogant as to think that the collective wisdom of billions of people throughout history has contributed no clues as to the essential nature of light?

The view from both sides sees its logic as more objective, only the former sees objectivity tied to excluding all traces of subjectivity and the latter sees objectivity itself as a subjective assumption and subjectivity itself as an objectively real phenomenon, if not the only objectively/unquestionably real phenomenon.

Metaphorical uses of the word light generally serve to elevate the significance of natural phenomena such as mood and aesthetics. People are said to be ‘glowing’, or ‘dazzling’. Metaphysical uses, by contrast are literal, but the referent is supernatural rather than natural. MP light is the kind of light we talk about when we want to fictionalize the fact of personal influence over matter or when we want to factualize the influence of super-personal ‘fictions’ over our lives.

  • MP ‘Light’ One (ML1): Light as a figurative or semi-figurative sense of ‘positive’ universal qualities such as goodness, empathy, and spiritual connection. ‘The light’ in this sense is affirmation of harmony with the divine and implies qualities of healing, guidance, and protection from forces of (evil/negative) ‘darkness’. Light used in this way mixes ordinary kinds of human experience of light with extraordinary, transpersonal psychological experiences.
  • MP ‘Light Two (ML2): Light in a fully figurative, naturalistic, but still quasi-theological sense of clarity, knowledge and understanding complete truth. “Seeing the light”. “A lightbulb went on for me.’, enlightenment, illumination, visionary, bright mind, insightful, etc. Changing one’s beliefs suddenly from a clouded, false view to one which is dramatically truer and clearer.
  • MP ‘Light’ Three (ML3): Light as an indication of literal consciousness (until the light went out in his eyes) and/or ‘radiant’ aesthetic qualities of kindness, love, warmth, charisma, etc. Here, light is the sign of a person’s individuality and sanity – their ability to be present, aware, and sane.

To sum up:

0 EM Light: Detectable by a light meter, but might be invisible.
1 Optical Light 1: Visible in a photograph of the world.
2 Optical Light 2: Visible effect composed purely of optical light.
3 Optical Light 3: Meters agree but observers may disagree on qualities.*
4. Phenomenal Light 1: Can be seen with eyes open or closed.
5. Phenomenal Light 2: Visible effect composed purely of phenomenal light.
6. Phenomenal Light 3: Visible in a dream world.
7. SR Light: EM light speed used as a cosmological constant.
8. MP Light 1: Light as a transpersonal sense of benevolence.
9. MP Light
2: Light as a specific sense of revelation and genius.
10. MP Light 3: Light as an indicator of individual consciousness or soul.

In Optical Light, light makes itself visible and invisible. When we see a beam of light, or an electric spark, for example, we are not seeing light itself, we are seeing the illumination of something which is normally invisible to us. Sparks or lightning, for example, do not occur in a vacuum, they are both examples of air molecules being ionized. We are seeing air light up, not light itself. In the case of a laser beam, we are seeing particles in the air light up. Only when we look at something like a spectrum of color do we get a sense of the OL2 sense of light-as-light-itself. Most other light sources are a combination of OL1 visible objects and OL2 light effects.

In EM light, visible light is only a thin sliver of a vast electromagnetic spectrum that is invisible to us. In Meta light, the electromagnetic spectrum is only a sliver of a vast metaphenomenal spectrum that is potentially accessible to us.

In SR light, the relativity of simultaneity is a calculation of the relation of moments of time to each other. In MP light, I suggest that the relativity of simultaneity occurs in the opposite way,  as the degree of inclusiveness of the moment, or the ‘size of the now’ which can be experienced from a given conscious perspective. A hummingbird probably has a smaller scale ‘now’ than we do, and if we attribute awareness to the entire Earth, I would expect a planet sized ‘now’ whose window exists in a context of geological time.

Setting aside light, any sense can be substituted. We can talk about sound being waves of fluctuating density in matter, and then the three levels of acoustic sound as it turns to phenomenal and MP sound, etc. Finally we can talk about qualia in general as it passes through its semaphoric, phoric, and metaphoric descriptions. What I want to know now though, if c is the speed of light, then is c² the speed of phenomenal qualia? How about c³…could that be the metaphenomenal operator?

*as in the blue/gold dress.

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