Appendix 3: Mental Projection
The following illustration is drawn from Buddhism Plain and Simple by Steve Hagen (London: Penguin, 1997), being there reprinted from The Ape That Spoke by John McCrone (UK: Macmillan, 1990).
Now, Hagen (p. 28) asks us to look at this picture and try and see what it illustrates. At first sight, it may look to you like a reclining figure – it did to me. But it is in fact something else (as made clear below). Hagen’s point in showing this is that something may seem very mysterious till you “get it” – but once you see it for what it is, it becomes obvious. He keeps repeating this “seeing” verb throughout his book, implying that enlightenment is like this – a sudden seeing of what was always there.
While I understand his point about enlightenment, and I assume this is the way it occurs, his interpretation of the mental process of recognizing the cow is highly debatable. It is not a mystical event of “seeing”, but a mental projection of a dividing line that forms the face of the cow, as done in the above retouched illustration. Such projections, as I argue in the present volume, are crucial to our construction of knowledge from experience.
(Added in 2009)