Is Reality Real?

Is it real, or is it a dream?

Is reality real? Do the senses provide reliable information about reality? Can we know reality directly or is true knowledge of reality impossible? These are questions that some ancient, and some modern philosophers have asked.

One very important point is that anyone claiming that knowledge of a “true” reality is impossible is making an absolutely unprovable claim. They are claiming to have absolute and true knowledge that ultimate reality is ultimately unknowable. Well, if it is unknowable how in the hell do they know that? Doesn’t the fact that they claim to know something about that reality contradict their claim that it is unknowable?

From the scientific point of view, and philosophy was once viewed as part of science, this is an unfalsifiable claim about reality. A falsifiable claim or theory can be tested by experiment or observation. Any claim that is not, at least in theory, falsifiable is not science (and probably not good philosophy).

My view is that proper philosophy should be based on the principles of science and not contests in imagination untethered to a real world. Science assumes a real world exists. So should philosophy.

Looking at the modern world and all the technology in that world it should be obvious that the human mind is pretty damn capable of finding out a lot about that reality and using that knowledge to make life a lot more comfortable than it was just a few centuries ago (or even decades – we didn’t have air conditioning when I was a child in the 1950s).

Nevertheless, no one can say that the human mind can know every detail of whatever the “ultimate” reality is. That is to make exactly the same mistake that those who deny our ability to know reality make. We don’t know. It is an adventure and we don’t know what we will know, or when we will know it.

We don’t know if the human mind can come to understand everything about reality at some point in the future. We will know that if at at some point in the distant future we do in fact come to the point of knowing the true nature of reality. But the track record of humanity, and the power of its collective mentality united under the principles of science has a pretty good track record so far.

There is an important phrase I used above, that is, the “collective mentality.” That is what science is all about. One person makes observations and experiments trying to reveal some secret of nature. Individuals and individual senses can be deceived or simply misinterpret their results. But scientists take their results and submit their data and procedures to many others to double check. Often it is found the original scientist made a mistake or misunderstood their results.

It is the collective mentality of many eyes looking at the same thing that winnows out those results that actually say something about how the real world works. It is that collective mentality that proves the power of the human senses to come to know reality, at least in part.

Is the world “real”? What do you mean by “real”? How do we know we are not in some variation of “The Matrix” and it is all a dream?

In the above I have argued that we can’t claim to know that reality is unknowable, and on the other hand we can’t claim to know that is ultimately knowable either. How do we know if it is even real?

We don’t know that. All we know is that we are in whatever it is and actual observation should tell us that ignoring the possibility of it being real can be painful. Doubt that? Try this, go play on the freeway in rush hour traffic and let’s see how that works out for you.

Here is my personal conclusion. The world is real enough. It can hurt you if you don’t pay attention.

One last thought – all of those academic philosophers who consider the possibility that reality is not real act as if reality is real in their “real” life. They get paid to profess their skepticism and doubt but know they have to have enough money in their bank account to cover the checks they write in the real world.

Alice A. Bailey On Capitalism

Alice A. Bailey (AAB) had some interesting things to say about Capitalism. When reading the works of Alice A. Bailey, many of which she attributed to Djwhal Khul (DK), one has to ask the question whether one believes that attribution to be real, the revelations of a much advanced “Master of Wisdom,” or a product possibly of her imagination or alter ego, or something else.

Her writings attributed to DK on Capitalism are I think a good test. For example in Problems of Humanity we read:

“With invention of machinery and the inauguration of the machine age during the 18th and 19th centuries, the condition of the labouring elements of the population became acutely bad; living conditions were abominable, unsanitary and dangerous to health, owing to the growth of urban areas around factories. They still are, as witness the housing problem of munitions workers during the past several years and the situation around the coal fields both in the States and Great Britain. The exploitation of children increased. The sweat-shop flourished; modern capitalism came into its own and the sharp distinction between the very poor and the very rich became the outstanding characteristic of the Victorian era. From the angle of the planned evolutionary and spiritual development of the human family, leading to civilized and cultural living and to fair play and equal opportunity for all, the situation could not have been worse. Commercial selfishness and wild discontent flourished. The very rich flaunted their superior status in the faces of the very poor, paralleled with a patronizing paternalism. The spirit of revolution grew among the herded, overworked masses who, by their efforts, contributed to the wealth of the rich classes.” CHAPTER III – THE PROBLEM OF CAPITAL, LABOUR AND EMPLOYMENT

Much of the above is just not accurate, not accurate from a historical perspective. It is I think possibly something you might expect an admirer of the 1940s British Labor Movement to believe, or what an admirer of the principles (though not necessarily the practices) of Communism might believe. It is not something I would expect a “Master of Economic Wisdom” to teach.

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What is Maya?

Maya is a word you will come across in studying many New Age writings including those of Helena p. Blavatsky (HPB), Alice A. Bailey (AAB), Joseph J. Dewey (JJD), and others. On the Theosophy Wiki it is described as:

Maya … is a Sanskrit word that in Indian religions has multiple meanings. Usually translated as “illusion” (from mā “not” and yā “this”), it points out the fact that we do not experience the reality but only a false image perceived by our minds, as when one pursues a mirage in the desert or mistakes a rope for a snake. 

HPB wrote in the Secret Doctrine about Maya:

The Universe is called, with everything in it, Maya, because all is temporary therein, from the ephemeral life of a fire-fly to that of the Sun. Compared to the eternal immutability of the One, and the changelessness of that Principle, the Universe, with its evanescent ever-changing forms, must be necessarily, in the mind of a philosopher, no better than a will-o’-the-wisp. Yet, the Universe is real enough to the conscious beings in it, which are as unreal as it is itself.  -.S.D. Vol 1, Page 274, HPB

Alice A. Bailey mentioned Maya over 200 times in her writings, two of which are:

The word Maya is one which has to be properly understood by you in order that you may catch the spirit of the ancient philosophy. The derivation that is given for the word is Ma + Ya or not that. Maya is therefore a power that makes a thing appear as what it is not, or a power of illusion that arises out of limitation in the ancient concept of a true unity periodically appearing as multiplicity by the power of Maya that coexists with that unity.  –A Treatise on Cosmic Fire , DIVISION C. SEVEN ESOTERIC STANZAS. – Part 8, AAB

But as the wheel turns and experience after experience is entered into, the desire nature reaches. Form consequently ceases, objective manifestation is no longer sought after, and liberation from maya or illusion takes place. -The Light Of The Soul , BOOK IV. – ILLUMINATION – Part 1, AAB

Joseph J. Dewey describes Maya as one of three deceptions:

The three deceptions are not that complicated. It is important, however, that you understand them well enough so you can explain them in your own words without quoting some other teaching.

The first is Maya and you must pass through this deception before you can go on to the second which is glamour. Then you must pass through glamour before you can unravel deception.

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