These following is a quote from “Straw Dogs:”

Virtual reality is a technological simulation of techniques of lucid dreaming practised by shamans for millennia. Using fasting, music, dance and psychotropic plants, the shaman leaves the everyday world to enter another, returning to find ordinary reality transformed. Like virtual reality technology, shamanistic techniques disrupt the consensual hallucination of everyday life.  (John Gray, in “Straw Dogs:  Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals.” Farrar Strauss and Geroux, New York 2003)

John Gray is reflecting on the history and future of virtual reality in humankind.  He notes that current technological innovations are just a more efficient means of doing what mystics have always done.  And his analogy to lucid dreaming points to a central danger of both lucid dreams and virtual reality:  Who of us, having experienced lucid dreaming, would really prefer to live in the real world?

But what resonates with me are the last six words:  “…the consensual hallucination of everyday life.” While seemingly written in passing, Gray’s words here are profound.  This is because what we think of as “reality” is unique to each of us, and “consensual hallucination” is probably all that keeps us from going mad.