There is a tale about an Indian king, that my father-in-law is fond of telling. The story goes, that one night the king had a dream that he was a pauper, he woke up very disturbed, because now he did not know whether he was a pauper who was dreaming that he was a king or was he a king who had dreamt that he was a pauper. We are like the king; how do we know that we are not in a dream?
Even science can’t tell me if, at this moment I am dreaming or awake. As I write this sentence I could be dreaming that I am writing this sentence. The brain processes are the same when I am dreaming as they are when I am awake. The firings of neurons in our brains is how we see, feel or sense anything. Our senses bring information from the world outside us to our brains through our neural system. The trees that we see, the birds in the sky, other people, are all created in our brains. Every object outside us has a unique pattern of neuron firings. Each blade of grass, each cloud in the sky, everything has a unique pattern of neural firings in our brains. All that we perceive as real, the world outside us, our thoughts, feelings and our bodily sensations are patterns in our brains. Our dreams are also made of patterns of neurons firing in the brain. There is no difference how our dreams are made from how reality is constructed in our brain. We create the world in our minds. Our world is a projection of our mind. It is all in our head. What is inside is outside.
Our body, too, is a pattern of neuronal firings. What I perceive to be my body is a pattern of firings in my brain. This does not mean that my body does not exist, all that I can be sure of is that something exists. This “something” creates a pattern of neuronal firings, which my brain makes me believe is my body. For all I know I might be a hat rack. Oliver Sacks’ book “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a hat”[i] is about a brain impairment called visual agnosia, wherein a person is unable to recognize objects. Sacks writes in his book about a man with visual agnosia, who mistook his wife for a hat. The point being, that our brain creates an image that we recognize as our body. When the brain circuitry is impaired, as in the case of patients with visual agnosia, the image created to represent the body could be anything. Those afflicted with anorexia have a distorted image of their body which makes them think that they are overweight when in reality they are underweight. These examples illustrate what shaky ground we are on when we accept, uncritically, as real what our senses tell us.
“…few things about our beings are as remarkable, foundational and seemingly mysterious as consciousness. Without consciousness–that is a mind endowed with subjectivity–you would have no way of knowing that you exist, let alone know who you are or what you think. “Antonio Damasio, professor of neuroscience, at the University of Southern California, and the head of the Brain and Creativity Institute, in his book “Self Comes to Mind” writes.
According to Damasio our brain creates our conscious mind. Our conscious mind creates our reality. He continues “The fact that no one sees the mind of others, conscious or not, is especially mysterious. We can see their bodies and their actions what they do or say or write and we can make informed guesses about what they think. We cannot observe their minds, and only we ourselves can observe ours, from the inside and through a rather narrow window.”
Damasio offers a neuroscientist’s view of how our mind creates our reality. Damasio is saying that the contents of our mind create our reality. If we change the contents of our mind we change our reality. Let this sink in. Each one of us exists in our own reality. And, each of our realty is mind created. It is, as if, each of us lives in our own bubble, or in a simulated reality of our creation.
Elon Musk, founder and CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, believes that odds are that we are living in a simulation. His argument goes that the incredibly fast advancement of video game technology indicates we’ll be capable of creating a fully lifelike simulation of existence in a short span of time. In 40 years, Musk explained, we’ve gone from Pong to massively multiplayer online games with millions of simultaneous players, games with photorealistic graphics, and stand now on the cusp of a new wave of virtual and augmented reality experiences.
Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the museum’s Hayden Planetarium, put the odds at 50-50 that our entire existence is a program on someone else’s hard drive. “I think the likelihood may be very high,” he said. Somewhere out there could be a being whose intelligence is that much greater than our own. “We would be drooling, blithering idiots in their presence,” he said. “If that’s the case, it is easy for me to imagine that everything in our lives is just a creation of some other entity for their entertainment.”
We each inhabit a different reality, a reality of our own creation. Therefore, by definition, the reality that each of us perceives is relative. So, what is absolute Reality?
No matter no mind. No mind no matter. Which came first mind or matter? This is the existential question.
This I believe:
- The world we perceive is a projection of our mind. When we change the contents of our mind we change our reality.