Is Reality Real?

Fantasy, Dream, Reality, Virtual, Nature, ExistenceFor years I’ve been receiving a ‘weekly powerful question’ from some site I once subscribed to.  The title of this post was this week’s offering.  Yep, that’s a powerful question all right.

I presume what it’s really asking is something like, ‘Is objective reality real?’  to which I’d have to reply, ‘No, I don’t believe it is.’

In that book I wrote, back in 2012, (see About page for details) I described myself as an anti-empiricist.  I still stand by that.  I think rationalism and empirical thought has taken humanity down a narrow  – and probably blind – alley.  It’s a bit like time; it only works within certain narrow parameters.  Within those, it’s extremely useful, but beyond them, relatively useless.

People in lab coats will measure and test to their hearts’ content, but even they know that if they send their measuring instruments into space and accelerate the craft, their rulers will change length and their clocks won’t work at the same speed as the ones left on Earth.

Reality, it seems to me, is wonderfully, gloriously and infinitely bendy.  We have infinite probability drives (not to be confused with Douglas Adams’ Infinite IMprobability Drive) built into our psyche.  Here’s the improbable one, for the benefit of fellow Adams fans:

What I mean is that if we can imagine it, it exists.  We bring ‘reality’ into being through the process of that very act of imagination.

As an example, I recently read this article on traditional Australian healers – ngangkari.  These are ‘real’ people.  They exist and have names.  The article even shows photos of them.  They travel as spirit by night, helping and caring for their community.  By day, they heal anyone who comes to them.  One describes how he was taught by his elders, during his ngangkari training, to remove physical objects as he draws out the sickness – sticks, stones and so forth – from his patients’ bodies, in order to demonstrate to them that healing has actually taken place. (Obviously his community has its sceptics, too).  Another speaks of simply laying hands on the patient.  They speak of tools – mapanpa – which are sent to them and which (some say) reside in their bodies.  Some are able to move these through their bodies and send them out as healing to patients through ‘openings’ in their hands or foreheads; others report that they fall to the ground with small explosions – items resembling little black stones, pieces of shaped bone and whatnot – for the ngangkari to gather and use.

My point is that in different communities within the indigenous Australian population, the ways in which a ngangkari functions will vary, depending on the customs, training and beliefs of that particular social group.  All are equally ‘real’.

Cure, Drug, Cold, Dose, The Disease, PharmacyWellness, Massage, ReikiIf your own reality includes Reiki, spiritual healing and similar modalities, none of the above will sound too strange to you.  If, in your experience, though, healing involves visiting the GP, taking prescription drugs and occasional visits to the Minor Injuries Unit, it may be harder to view such things as ‘real’.

I think the difficulty lies in consciousness.  Consciousness, mainstream science will argue, is “a sensation created by electro-chemical activity in the ‘wiring’ of the brain”.  (That’s the definition I just found in a book I’m currently reading about how ‘modern man’ emerged.)  To me, that’s like insisting that the Sahara Desert exists within my television set, because I’m able to observe it on my TV screen.

Certainly we can observe consciousness at work within the brain, but lodging it in there is ridiculously limiting.  Consciousness exits beyond and interpenetrates everything we perceive and – far more importantly – everything we can imagine.

So, to answer my ‘weekly powerful question’, I believe consciousness is real and inasmuch as consciousness enables me to envisage ‘reality’, my external reality is real for me while I am inhabiting this – temporary – physical body form.  How much you are able or willing to share that reality, though, depends on how much social conditioning we have in common.  I may see, hear or otherwise experience things that are not ‘dreamt of in your philosophy’ – and vice versa, of course.  I also have an internal reality, of course, which seems to be synonymous with Consciousness.  That, I share with everyone and everything around me at some level, rather like the air I breathe.  Exploring that is where the real adventures begin…


14 comments on “Is Reality Real?

  1. What a thought provoking post, and of course how someone perceives reality may also shape it within their minds, thanks for sharing your thoughts

  2. Hi Jan, in the 16 July issue of New Scientist I just found an article ‘Quantum of Solitude (does reality exist withouts us?)’. I plan to read your post and it together when my brain is functioning again after a 4 am start. Don’t hold out much hope for the New Scientist article, however – Schroedinger’s poor hypothetical moggie seems to feature largely in it. 😴

    • Hi Rosie,
      Not sure my ramblings will stand up to New Scientist’s rigour, but I hope you enjoy both.
      As for Schroedinger – my favourite joke of this crazy week concerned Schroedinger’s Corbyn -simultaneously unelectable and elected. Let’s the cat out of the box, one could say…?

      • Oh, I like it! I find that whole situation just impossible to figure out. Maybe he’ll still be there in ten years time, and people still attempting to depose him. 🙂

  3. Dear Jan:

    In reading your sentence “Exploring that is where the real adventures begin…,” my thoughts ricochetted to the Tradition of the Sun and Tradition of the Moon as described in Paulo Coelho’s Brida. From what I understand of the two, the Tradition of the Sun is about the lessons that are there to be learned from the visible world that are time and space bound that people usually call as Reality and the Tradition of the Moon is about the lessons that are there to be learned from the invisible world that is not bound by time or space. Both, in my estimate, are equally important but chances are that a student of either Tradition is bound to come to studying the other because the observer is just one person, the “I,” against whom all others are ‘you’ and the “I” comes into existence and imbibes/learns from the environment about the place that “I” has now come to inhabit and forms his/her version of Reality. How complete is the Reality construed depends on how much the person’s version matches without clashes the idea of reality as taught or is impressed upon by others that populate the place that “I” has now come to inhabit (we might as well be on planet Mars or Jupiter or some alien galaxy..and that would be the place that “I” has come to inhabit….for that matter, each of us could be aliens come into existence on Planet Earth..but then we are born into this place and then we study the environment and learn to adapt and then to live in this otherwise strange place). So, thinking from this line of thought, the line between internal reality and external reality gets quite blur, I think. Nevertheless, there is the visible everyday life with the teacup that we hold and drink from, the books that we touch and read, the computer that we communicate these ideas on…so there IS this visible external world and then there is the ideas and dreams and imaginations that form the internal world, and like Prof.Dumbledore of Harry Potter fame says towards the end of the last book when Harry asks him if all of this is happening in his head, to which Prof.Dumbledore says “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”


    • I’ve missed your words of wisdom, Bitha! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and references on this subject.
      I haven’t read that particular Paul Coelho book, but I’m familiar with the traditions you mention. Interesting, I think, that the moon doesn’t shine, but reflects the sun to us, allowing us – perhaps – to reflect on the ‘everyday’ realities and see them from another perspective.
      I recall an art teacher telling me that when you finished a piece of art work, you should look at it in a mirror. That way, the altered perspective would allow you to notice any inconsistencies or parts that didn’t work so well. It would also, of course, show you the parts that worked brilliantly. As I read your words, I realise that this is how I tend to use my internal reality – to let me reflect upon the reality I am constructing in my external world: from teacups to relationships.
      As for Dumbledore, yes, I’d agree with him completely. It’s certainly and indisputably real. It’s just that everyone’s external reality differs – to a greater or lesser extent – from that of those around them. The mistake we humans sometimes make is in assuming everyone else sees what we are seeing. 🙂

      • “Words of wisdom”?! I keep forgetting that I am also microcosm of the macrocosm and it takes a while to reconcile with the thought that I could also say something wise. lol.

        “The mistake we humans sometimes make is in assuming everyone else sees what we are seeing.” I have had difficulty with that one. For the longest time, I could not figure out why others cant see what is sooo obvious to me. I thought either I am from a different planet or else whereone else is! I have now come to thinking that perhaps everyone, including me, is perhaps indeed from a different planet who happen to be sharing a common living space on Planet Earth during our current lifetimes. It is hence very important for each of us to describe what we see so that then others can see what we see…..because we each have unique perspectives somuchso that we might each be really from different planets. The world will be a richer place if we did share what we saw of the world around us. We would perhaps also then listen to each other better, and then there would be poverty no more, for poverty really seems to stem from our inability or generositylessness in listening to what another has to say or care about. (I became human for moment enough to type that!)

        From your post content, I see that you have delved deep into the Resonance Academy training. I have joined the bandwagon too, classmate! 🙂

        Regarding the internal reality, psychotherapy often refers to ‘internal object relationships’; referring to the internal representations of whatsoever things we encounter in the external world to construct our own internal environment by which we construct our lens with which to view the external world. Thusly, like a child viewing a teddy bear as his/her best friend, which is basically the child projecting the image of a best friend onto the teddy bear, we have adult people projecting the internal image of mother onto the poor work-bedraggled, expectation-hassled mother expecting the world out of her and then calling her ‘bad mother’ when she no longer is the same mother who she could be when the child was young!

      • Some more interesting (and dare I say, ‘wise’) words!
        Great to hear that you are also doing the Resonance Academy course! I haven’t been on to the site for quite some time, but will return there shortly.
        I agree that listening and speaking our truth could help resolve many of our world’s most obscene injustices. I’d also like to see a move away from blame. It has become endemic and doesn’t serve us well. Still, you and I, and others like us will keep telling our truths and creating our own mini-utopias. It’s not only a start but an important way forward.
        Love, Jan x

      • I couldnt agree more with you on this. I also think there os a pulse of life, perhaps originating from the heart of the universe, that moves our souls to rhyme with the greatest wisdom and urge us to speak our truth. It is important hence to find our ways to resonate more with that pulse of life, for the world and inhabitants of planet earth needs us to speak our truths to re-member its connection with Nature and thence to live in harmony (im speaking in tongues now!)

  4. I love your posts like this. Wonderful brain candy!! Now I’m thinking back to the clip of Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor and her description of her reality as her left brain shut down. Brilliant post.

    A quick comment to Bitha’s comment: “The mistake we humans sometimes make is in assuming everyone else sees what we are seeing.” I have had difficulty with that one. For the longest time, I could not figure out why others cant see what is sooo obvious to me.

    Something I’ve discovered over the past few years is just how much our unconscious beliefs affect how we “see” the world, and how different brain wiring records the information differently. (My brain is wired quite differently from my son’s). Reality sure can be subjective and fluid.

    • Absolutely! That realisation – that others can have realities just as valid as ours but so diametrically different – is a huge leap in consciousness. And once we KNOW that brains can be wired differently, that’s maybe when we start to experiment with the variations… 😉

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