For 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’.
If 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…