It is popular in many spiritual writings today to emphasize that the world we appear to live in is not real, that it is merely illusion, and to “wake up” is to recognize this fact. On the laptop on which I perceive myself writing this little post the Dictionary defines “illusion” like this:
• a thing that is or is likely to be wrongly perceived or interpreted by the senses: the illusion makes parallel lines seem to diverge by placing them on a zigzag-striped background.
• a deceptive appearance or impression: the illusion of family togetherness | the tension between illusion and reality.
• a false idea or belief: he had no illusions about the trouble she was in.
Science actually supports the idea that “what you see is not what you get!” For example we look at a solid wood table but the whole “solid” concept is our perception, not the underlying reality. Science tells us that much of what we see as a “table” is in fact empty space with myriads of particles we call protons, neutrons, electrons, neutrinos, etc. – the menagerie of particles grows and grows as scientists continually come up with new ones to explain some nagging problem that prevents a “unified theory of everything.”
But even those “particles” may not be really real. They may be waves, or vibrations, or energy – anything but something truly solid. There are famous experiments in science where in some cases light looks like a particle, and in another experiment like a wave. Einstein’s famous equation E=mc2 seems to says that mass is just a condensed form of energy. Maybe nothing is really solid, or real?
Nevertheless our perceptions are useful for living in this world, real or illusion. If we could actually see the myriad of “real” detail down to the sub-atomic particles that would be just too much, a mass of confusion, especially if your overriding motive right now is to find something tasty to eat. It is a lot more useful to see a banana as a whole, and not the sub-atomic particles science tells us that it really is.
It seems that our senses, such that they are, are useful for dealing with the level of perception or illusion we currently appear to reside on. Also despite our limited perception (is there anything that exists that is not limited?) scientists have – depending on your point of view – come up with powerful explanations or intricately contrived pictures of the illusion we call existence.
It doesn’t matter …
I have come to one conclusion about the reality of existence that I find useful. It doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t matter ultimately what the absolute reality is. If we exist, then we have to deal with the illusion that we currently live and have our being in. If we don’t exist, then it doesn’t matter anyway. Either way you flip the coin, real or illusion, it just doesn’t matter.
Those who claim to have a knowledge of higher reality rarely have useful advice on how to deal with this reality (or illusion). I don’t claim to have a lot of knowledge about those higher realities, but here is my advice about this reality, whatever it is. Don’t be too attached to it. Take it for what it is (or is not), get what you can out of it, and be prepared to modify your views as your vision widens.
You are the question, and reality is the answer.