Essay—The Illusion of Reality (Issue 37)

Summary—This essay compares the Moon to the movie the Matrix—discusses Mysticism, Tantraism and Idealism—finally arriving at the understanding that reality is nothing but an illusion.

The Matrix is a 1999 movie starring the excellent Canadian actor Keanu Reeves.  The Matrix refers to a computer generated simulation that uses human beings to create energy from consciousness and self-awareness (ie. souls).  I would argue that our reality is no different than the Matrix.  A portion of the energy generated from consciousness and self-awareness is harvested to power the universe—which is much like a mobile dangling over the crib of mankind.  Imagine for a moment sitting in a movie theatre watching the Matrix.  As we watch the movie, do we believe it is a production created for our benefit, or do we believe it is real?  As we watch our Moon, do we believe it is a production created for our benefit, or do we believe it is real?  Einstein insisted that spacetime is nothing more than an intuition of the mind.  The Matrix is projected onto the screen, which is then intuitively projected onto our minds.  The Moon is just intuitively projected directly onto our minds.

Einstein’s Moon.  Albert Einstein (1879-1955) once asked the metaphysical question of whether the Moon really exists when no one is looking at it?  The correct answer is no.  The commonsense answer is yes—from which we must conclude that the stars also exist when no one is looking.  There are a hundred billion stars in our galaxy and there are ten billion galaxies—meaning that there are ten to the power twenty-one stars in the universe.  Our star, the Sun, contains 99.9 percent of the mass in our solar system and Jupiter and Saturn are hundreds of times heavier than Earth.  The Earth in turn is dozens of times heavier than the Moon.  Moreover, it only took thirty pounds of matter converted into energy to blow up Hiroshima.  If one assumes that the universe is an energy system for growing our minds, the question is—Why would the universe be so radically inefficient?  The other question is—Where did all those stars come from?  Berkeley would say they are not there.  Instead they are just projections of light like the show put on inside a planetarium.

Schrödinger’s Cat.  In 1925 Erwin Schrödinger (1887-1961) constructed an atomic model based on waves of matter while Werner Heisenberg (1901-76) constructed a model based on matrices of infinite dimension.  Paul Dirac (1902-84) then nailed down quantum theory (1925) once and for all by proving that the two models are equivalent.  Schrödinger set forth his classic cat-in-a-box thought problem in 1935 with the intention of demonstrating the absurdity of the probabilistic interpretation once and for all—A quantum-cat is placed in a box such that no one can know what is happening inside.  A device releases either food or poison with equal probability, and the cat meets its fate—or does it?  Schrödinger absurdly argued that the cat must be both alive and dead until the observer opens the box.  The thought problem ironically leads to the counterintuitive conclusion that the observer’s consciousness is what actually determines the fate of the cat.  Notably, Eugene Wigner (1902-95) was one of the few physicists then or now concerned with the role that consciousness plays in determining physical reality.  Robert Frost wrote—We dance around a ring and suppose while the secret sits in the middle and knows.  And even today, consciousness still remains the secret in the middle.

Talbot’s Book.  Michael Talbot wrote his 1993 book Mysticism and the New Physics to argue that we are on the precipice of a monumental paradigm shift regarding the ultimate nature of reality.  To paraphrase Talbot “Nowhere is the term paradigm shift (ie. A radical change of perspective that is sweeping the Western world) advancing so rapidly as in physics.  Mystics, Tantrics and Idealists have always propounded the idea that reality is an illusion.  Now quantum theory is putting forward arguments that reinforce this belief.  The empirical approach to physics, such as Newtonian, has taught us that which we call reality exists with or without consciousness to observe it.  But we can never be totally objective about reality.  The human mind with all its preconceived notions and prejudices always interludes even in the most scientific of experiments—making true objectivity impossible to achieve.  The new physics states that reality is a combination of the laws of the physical world and subjective viewpoints.  This omnijective view of the universe challenges all of our most deeply held scientific beliefs and could radically change the way we view reality in the future.  As our constructs are amended to this shift we will be able to anticipate major changes in Western thought.”

Mysticism.  Mysticism is the philosophical theory founded on the instinctive knowledge of God and the ultimate nature of reality.  It is a way of life experienced by individuals who have abandoned the world of the Everyman to devote their lives to spiritual enlightenment.  The Mystical life is categorized by enhanced vigor, efficiency, tranquility and enjoyment as these characteristics combine with God.  The Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu (570-490 BC) held Mystical beliefs although he was not considered a Mystic.  Saint Paul (3-62) was the first Christian Mystic.  In fact, Christ may also have been a Mystic.  A number of Christian Mystics have been women including Saint Teresa of Ávila (1515-82).  The Bible is also recognized for its belief in Mysticism.  The Greek-Jewish philosopher Philo Judaeus (20 BC-50 AD) was the first non-Christian Mystic.  Hindu Mysticism was particularly effective in developing the metaphysical self which is compared to a Supreme Being.  The 20th century brought forth a renewed belief in Mysticism.  Mysticism asserts that reality is an illusion put forth for our newborn minds by the forces of nature.

Tantraism.  Tantraism is the philosophy of esoteric disciplines regarding rituals and meditations associated with Hindu and Buddhist writings.  Tantra affirms the notion that the universe may be seen as a product of the mind.  The universe is created by the collective energy of all life forms.  Modern Tantraism can be viewed as an offshoot of quantum theory.  Quantum theory is all about the ultimate nature of reality.  Tantraism involves the reversal of Hinduism.  Hinduism is a major world religion that exists by virtue of its followers which is alleged to be more than seven hundred million people.  Tantra is involved in the third stage of Buddhism.  Buddhism is also a major world religion.  Tantraism once existed throughout China and Nepal although today endures primarily in India.  It is an organization of texts that were written primarily about Hindu prose from the medieval period (350-1450).  They are discussions that explain the philosophy underlying Tantraism.  Tantraism and Mysticism both contend that reality is a façade.

Idealism.  The German Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716) held the view that all things are organic and spiritual which initiated the philosophical discipline of idealism.  Idealism is a term that comes from Ancient Greece and it means to see.  It reasons for the precedence of ideals, moralities, principles and objectives over tangible realities.  Idealism argues for the way the world should or could be as opposed to the world as it is presently.  It is an ontological doctrine that suggests that reality itself is incorporeal.  The four ontological dimensions are matter, life, consciousness and self-awareness.  Idealism is the theory of reality that directs to consciousness a chief role in structuring the universe.  It is the view that all physical phenomena are dependent on the mind.  This view is contrasted with behaviorism which maintains that consciousness is reduced to physical phenomena.  According to behaviorism, the universe is independent of the mind which is compiled from physical objects.  Idealism, Tantraism and Mysticism all emphasize that reality is a mirage for our minds and souls.

Worshiping the Soul.  The 1993 movie Groundhog Day has the excellent Canadian actor Bill Murray repeating the same day over and over until he finally gets it right.  It speaks to reincarnation or what Nietzsche called eternal reoccurrence.  When we worship the soul we come back after death as a human being.  When we do not worship the soul we come back as a lower form of being or we cease to reoccur and our existence comes to an end when we die.  Worshiping the soul is the same as worshiping God.  Socrates said that we should make our souls as good as God.  Buddha tells us to work out our salvation with diligence.  Recognizing reality as an illusion leads us to understanding our situation in comparison to the universe at large.  By asking the question of why God and the laws of nature are putting on a show for us also leads to accepting our place in the universe.  The universe gives us a safe place to grow our minds and souls.

Conclusion.  The opening paragraph of this essay compares the Moon to the movie the Matrix.  This essay asserts that the Moon ceases to exist when no one is looking at it.  Like Einstein’s Moon, the Schrödinger’s Cat thought problem has consciousness determining physical reality.  In physics nothing is created without scaffolding.  According to Talbot—Mysticism, Tantraism and Idealism all purport the idea that reality is an illusion.  This notion concerning the fundamental nature of reality goes back centuries, if not millennia.