How Real is Reality -I

Physicist Werner Heisenberg in 1927 took the certainty off the very logically and mathematically provable classical laws of physics about the nature of space and matter. His experiment lead to further experiments that established that an electron can be both wave and particle. This brought up questions about the very nature of matter. Is it all as solid as it seems or does it just appear to be so? Are you sitting on a solid chair, or what appears to be a solid chair because you assume it is so through preconditioning?




R K Chandrika

‘Seeing is Believing’ is a profound truth, not an ordinary one. As physicist Niels Bohr said, a profound truth is one wherein the complete opposite is also equally true. By that truth, everything that you know to be real; that you are seeing, hearing, touching, smelling and tasting is just a temporal reality veiled by your limited senses. To put it bluntly, a lie you live from moment to moment.

While thus far we have been principally discussing how you can get a grip on yourhealth at a physical level, would you deny total health in not only the physicality of the body, but also of finances, relationships, and the whole caboodle of earthly needs and wants? If you’re tired of being tossed haplessly in the ceaseless tempest of pleasure and pain and unfulfilled wishes, and desire to take control of your daily experience of life, you must necessarily contemplate and comprehend the reality of it.

When I tell people ‘your mind is the cause of your poor health or of your healing’ they usually readily agree. But like those who listen to a lecture on quantum physics and are not shocked by it, they haven’t really understood the import. So it will remain a piece of evasive, exotic wisdom they will never apply or use.

Why, you may ask, if the reality we so earnestly live in is mere illusion, as proclaim the Vedas, Upanishads, Bible, Quran, Guru granth and all ancient scriptures and mystics, are we so inextricably entrenched in it? Why is it so real? Why immersed are we to the extent of waging war upon ourselves and each other on a continuous basis in trying to own its deceptive treasures and escape its delusional suffering?

Albert Einstein did point out that this mere illusion is a very persistent one. A bit like the mirage of movement created by 24 frames of stills in a film second. This does call for a keen peer from different angles. So let’s give it a shot.

Physics of Reality

When we speak of something being real, we also think it is ‘factual’.It is implied that it has an absolute value and existence independent of any observer. A tree is a tree, the sun is the sun, a stone is a stone, an atom is an atom, irrespective of whether it is witnessed as being such or notby a human, animal or apparatus. Or is it?

Physicist Werner Heisenberg in 1927 took the certainty off the very logically and mathematically provable classical laws of physics about the nature of space and matter. His experiment lead to further experiments that established that an electron can be both wave and particle. This brought up questions about the very nature of matter. Is it all as solid as it seems or does it just appear to be so? Are you sitting on a solid chair, or what appears to be a solid chair because you assume it is so through preconditioning?

Further, John Bell’s theorem threw up the concept of non-locality and interconnectedness. Non-locality implies that what occurs in one area can be influenced by an event in a totally unrelated space, with effect even preceding cause. So do we have in reality a cause and effect sequence that is the basis of all rational reality structures? Is time really the linear unbending chronology that we experience it as?

Interconnectedness, completely at variance with the classical logical view of every animate and inanimate body populating the world being an independent entity, points to a mind boggling reality where everything is somehow intricately intertwined with everything else in the universe.  Taking that many leaps forward, if you think you outsmarted someone you know, did you actually do it to yourself?

From the point that Heisenberg noted that ‘the path of the electron comes into being only when we observe it’, the ruminations of quantum mechanics went on to drop a little bomb in the midst of our safe, rational perception of reality, with the question:

‘What if there is no reality independent of the observer?’

You might as well ask yourself, ‘What if this piece I am reading now is in existence only because I am reading it’? I’ll add to that, ‘What if the world you see is exclusive to you, and so on for every single individual in the world?’

And if that appears patently absurd to you, don’t worry, you are in elect company. None less than Albert Einstein had problems with accepting this view of quantum physics. His reported objection was, “God does not play dice.” To which Bohr apparently retorted, “Don’t tell God what to do.”

Irrespective of whether they really said that, and what was actually implied, physicists are not examining questions of reality far removed from the cynosure of their other scientific counterparts.

Neuroscience of Reality

What we perceive the world to be is nothing like reality. Freud pointed this out long back when he observed that what we believe to be objective reality is only the product of our subconscious mind. However, this bit was lost in the torrent of his more exciting theories about subconscious symbolism, id and ego.

Now neuroscientists are veering strongly to the same view, which has been the subject,for decades, of endless scrutiny and experiments in controlled conditions. In 2003 the psychology department of Vanderbilt University, USA, were able to conduct tests that established that the brain reflects what the individual is feeling, rather than what he is experiencing.

What this implies is that there is no experience that is ‘objective’. The same event or object out there can be seen and understood in divergent ways by different individuals. What they feel about it determines how the brain will interpret it.

Donald Hoffman, professor of cognitive science, University of California, compares the manner in which we take cognisance of objects with the icons on our desktop.  The shape and colour of the icon are in no way representative of the actual content and structure of the file or programme. But we are only concerned with the function of the icon, not its innards. As long as the programme or file functions when we click it, we are not going to question its veracity. Hoffman avers that our perception of what is ‘out there’ is driven by the long evolutionary process of survival, reproduction and being fit enough to live into the next second.

Combine the physics and neurobiology of, say, a health event, and you should be asking yourself, ‘What if I am allergic to eggplant because I feel allergic to eggplant?’Read that again slowly and notice that In this question there is no cause or chronology implied outside of the individual who is asking it. The reality is only observer created.

The average person, who unquestioningly accepts the ‘truth’ of everything that he has been told and taught by parents, teachers, peers, books, his senses and ‘rational brain’, will find it almost impossible to handle the possibility of his experiences not having an objective reality. In short, being the creator of all his experiences, rather than a victim of external circumstances. “Do you think I’d like to feel this pain?” you can hear him shouting in indignant rage.

If we take just the physical health aspect, why indeed, would anyone sensible want to experience anything remotely unpleasant or even as mild as a slight temporary indigestion let alone something drastic like terminal illness, loss of a limb or chronic disease? That surly defies all rationality.

But are humans and living beings as well as the world and life structure they inhabit anything rational? Or is there something more to it? We will explore these questions in a fortnight, which will tell us more about the nature of reality. Till then pleasantly mull over more pressing issues like whether the tea you’re sipping is really tea, half contaminated with stuff masquerading as tea, or it only appears so in response to your experiencing it as tea.

R K Chandrika has been imparting nature treatment and spiritual healing and practices for the past 20 years, apart from being a professional documentary filmmaker. She runs a holistic nature care enterprise accessible on www.grasroutes.com. You can send in your questions at [email protected].  She will answer the more relevant and generic questions of them, which will be carried the following Sunday. 

Disclaimer: Everything related to health in this column is for information purposes only. Readers are expected to exercise their own good sense in following any of them, and consult a professional therapist or doctor for conditions that warrant doing so. The author and The Morning Chronicle bear no responsibility for any outcomes from following anything described herein.