Imagine an invisible train, rolling through your inner landscape, towards a wonderful, exciting destination. And if you could catch sight of that train just once, you could swing up on board and start walking towards the engine. And what then? Well then, you could possibly answer the most important question in the universe: Who are you?
Challenge your assumptions, especially the ones you take for granted, even the very foundation upon which you stand.
As we all learn in basic physics, light is electromagnetic radiation, exactly like x-rays or gamma-rays, the only difference being that wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation which are detected by our eyes are commonly referred to as “light”. X-rays and gamma-rays have no colour, they have no brightness. Indeed, no electromagnetism carries qualities or attributes of ‘colour’ or ‘brightness’. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, even light has no qualities of colour or brightness. How can that be? It seems so obvious that it does... after all, we can see that it does! Let me explain by means of an analogy.
A Geiger counter detects radiation and for each high-energy particle it detects, it generates a sound — a click. The radiation itself has no inherent quality or attribute of sound, the sound is created by the detector. And different detectors can be made to produce different sounds for the same particles. A typical Geiger counter produces more clicks for more particles detected, but a counter could just as easily be made to produce a higher volume — so one particle detected produced one soft tone, and many particles produce one loud tone — but, while we experience the tone and the volume when the Geiger counter detects particles, the particles themselves have no tone or volume.
Our eyes are like Geiger counters for electromagnetic radiation. We have detectors (receptors: cones and rods) in our eyes which each detect electromagnetic radiation at particular wavelengths. When electromagnetic radiation of the right wavelength and intensity hits one of those receptors, an impulse is fired along the optic nerve. That radiation is then perceived by our mind as colours, and the varying intensity of that radiation are perceived as variations in brightness in our mind. The colours and brightness of light exist nowhere but in our mind. Objects we see, do not have any inherent colour, they simply absorb many wavelengths of visible electromagnetism and those which are not absorbed are reflected, to be detected by our eyes, and those reflected rays are perceived by our mind as colours. A green leaf is not actually green at all, it is an object which absorbs most visible electromagnetic rays, reflecting only those rays with wavelengths we perceive and associate with green.
Phenomenal when you stop to think about it: the colours and brightness we see are entirely our own creation, in our own mind. Phenomenal, and yet true. At best we can say that what we see ‘out there’ is a mental overlay we create to make sense of an entirely ‘dark’ reality filled with electromagnetic radiation of various wavelengths. The picture as we see it exists only in our mind. Indeed, the picture we see doesn’t even exist in our brain — if you cut open a brain you will find no ‘screen’, no picture, no place where that image exists in its entirety, not even individual coloured pixels scattered about. Without consciousness, there is no picture. The picture is a purely conceptual interpretation of entirely ‘dark’ radiation. Who is doing the conceptual interpretation — the viewing — of that image, and where is it?
This perception is not restricted to our sight: Exactly the same applies to all our other senses.
Sound is a quality our mind creates as a way of differentiating variations in air pressures as they impact upon receptors — tiny hairs — within our ears, firing nerve impulses. Those variations in air pressure have no quality or attribute ‘tone’ or ‘volume’, they’re just waves of air pressure. What we call “tone” is in fact only the frequency of those variations in air pressure which our ears detect and are perceived by our mind, presented in our thoughts, as a sound. And the intensity of those waves are perceived by our mind as volume. The qualities of tone and volume as we perceive them are, again, just a mental overlay our minds create to make sense of an entirely silent reality filled with rapidly varying air pressures. The age-old question, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” is deeper than at first it may appear, and easy to answer with certainty: No, the tree does not make a sound; it disturbs the air which creates waves of varying air pressure — like a stone creates waves in the water — but the actual thing we perceive as sound — that noise — is not created until a mind perceives those air pressure waves, and that sound exists only in the mind.
Just ask anyone suffering from tinnitus: No physical object is ‘out there’ producing waves of air pressure, yet in your mind there is a sound. A sound in your mind indistinguishable from a ‘real’ sound, except it has no external source — there is no alarm clock out there, no electronic device producing a high-pitched peep, no truck rumbling over the road, no one ceaselessly clicking their nails. But the sounds a tinnitus sufferer hears are, in fact, every bit as authentic as those resulting from an external source, because in both cases, the sound is produced by the mind.
Food consists of molecules, and those molecules have no attribute of ‘taste’. They have particular structures, forms which our taste-buds detect, and those detected forms are perceived by our mind as tastes. Bitter, sweet, salty, savoury — these qualities correspond to the molecules’ various forms, but exist only in the mind.
And so also for our senses of smell and touch.
Now, I have carefully avoided using the terms, “in our head” and “in our brain”. First of all, because these are physical things, and our consciousness is not physical. Our perception is that sights and sounds are perceived in our head because that’s where their corresponding sensory organs are located. We don’t generally say we feel an object in our head, we say we feel the object at the place the feeling originates — our fingers, for example. If our eyes were in our knees, we would probably have an entirely different sense of where we see. But, wherever it seems to be, the actual interpretation of our senses is in that ‘place’ where our consciousness is. The fact that the majority of our senses are located in our head, gives us the illusion that our consciousness is located there, too. But if we were born with only the sense of touch, I believe we would be convinced that our consciousness was throughout our entire body.
We are accustomed to referring to sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch as “senses”. But in reality we don’t sense what is ‘out there’, we quite literally make sense of it. We create qualities in our mind which are not actually ‘out there’ — outside our mind. We are so accustomed to our perceptions that it can be very difficult at first to separate them from the reality of what we are perceiving. For most people, it is simply taken for granted that our perceptions of colour, brightness, tone, volume, taste, smell and touch are actual attributes of the things themselves, when in fact they are all mental overlays.
The way you see colour and brightness is entirely a product of what your mind does with the data received as electromagnetic radiation. And you may see the colour green in your mind in other sorts of hues that I cannot even imagine. Or maybe you experience seeing in your mind the way I experience smelling in mine. But since neither of us can look into the other’s mind, we both agree that what we are experiencing is, say, bright green, because every time we experience that wavelength and amplitude of electromagnetism, we individually experience the same thing as we’ve experienced before, which we have each always called bright green.
Green, screeching, bitter, pungent, hot: none of these are actual attributes of anything physical, they are all experiences created entirely by our mind.
But if all that we see ‘out there’ is just electromagnetic radiation, with no colour or brightness, why do we see that image out there? That is to say, why aren’t we aware of the fact that the actual image which our mind created is in our mind? Since the image is created in our mind, why don’t we see it like a projection on a screen in a cinema within the mind? Somehow our mind is very adept at creating the illusion that the overlay is outside itself, in the same way that if you wear headphones, close your eyes and listen to a stereo recording of a person walking by, you can be convinced the sound is not emanating from the headphones, but ‘out there’ in front of you.
So what exactly is out there, beyond our perception? Even including our own physical body, which we sense in exactly the same way we sense the rest of the universe, albeit (apparently) more intimately. What is actually outside our consciousness? We typically define the boundary between what we call “me” and the rest of the universe as the thin layer of skin covering our body — the outermost part of our sensory organs. But every bit of our body is experienced — sensed — by our mind in the same way we sense everything outside our skin, namely entirely a perception in our mind with not one of the intrinsic physical attributes we perceive it in our mind to have. So, even though we project a physical boundary, as far as the mind is concerned, the body inside our skin is every bit as ‘out there’ as everything outside our skin.
Here’s an astonishing consequence: All scientific evidence is entirely based directly or indirectly on our senses — colour, temperature, touch, sound, etc. — which, as we’ve already seen, are mental perceptions which exist only in the mind and contain no attributes intrinsic to physical reality. So, if all the evidence is known not to be physical let alone objective, how can one say there is scientific evidence for a physical reality? Indeed, there is no objective scientific evidence for physical reality.
That’s not necessarily to say that nothing ‘out there’ physically exists, but if it does then the best we can say is that it’s a framework that your mind paints with its own colours and shades, tastes and smells and sounds, perhaps a soup of radiation and forces swirling about in silent darkness, figuratively and literally illuminated by our consciousness. If there is a physical reality, we have no way of knowing anything of its true nature.
All perceived qualities — i.e. all those things by which we supposedly know what a physical reality is like — exist solely in the mind. Put another way: without consciousness, there exists no colour, no brightness, no sound, no taste, no smell... no hot nor cold, no smooth nor rough. So what is physical reality without consciousness?
The impression of a physical reality ‘out there’ is all we’ve ever known, so it’s no wonder we have trouble challenging that assumption. But let’s look at it from another angle: If you first assume that you are a consciousness with the ability to imagine and create images, sound and other perceptions, why would you then theorise that there is some physical reality outside your consciousness, the true nature of which which you cannot know? If you theorise the existence of something you know you cannot know, then you also know it can never be scientifically tested.
As I wrote in my essay on consciousness, the only thing we each know for certain, the only thing for which each of us has irrefutable proof, is one’s own consciousness. Proving physical reality exists is impossible, whereas proving mental reality exists is trivially self-evident: I know I am conscious because I know I am conscious. Or, as Descartes put it, “I think, therefore I am.”
All the physical aspects we believe/assume reality has, produce endless complications (e.g. time, singularities, how did it come into being etc. etc.). A purely mental reality could do everything a physical reality could, but without those complications. So if you have a choice between two models, Ockham’s Razor suggests you favour the less complicated of the two, especially if that simpler model doesn’t result in those unnecessary complications. Again, if everything we know of the universe is in fact a mental overlay, and the universe’s ‘real’ form is for us unknowable; if there is no difference for us whether the universe is only in our mind, or if it is in our mind and also ‘out there’, then indeed there’s no reason to insist there is anything ‘out there’, outside our mind. Applying Ockham’s razor, we should choose the simpler theory: The universe is a thought.
The reason we tend to pick the more complicated model — the reality with unknowable physical aspects — is because the illusion of reality being ‘out there’, outside mind, is, again, all we’ve ever known, so we rarely even realise we should question it, that we should challenge one of our most fundamental of assumptions.
Life... is a state of mind.
Being There (1979)
If we spent our entire life asleep, we would rarely realise we should question whether or not what we are dreaming is fundamental reality. What would it be like to experience lucid dreaming in that case?
The insistence that the physical reality is required as the foundation for our mental reality, is based on the notion that a physical reality plus a mental reality is somehow easier to explain than just a mental reality. And that, in turn, is related to our obsession with a mechanical universe: everything must be reducible to mechanics, so consciousness must also be the result of a physical machine. It’s taboo for any self-respecting scientist to publicly consider that it could be the other way around. Many if not most of today’s scientists believe consciousness is an illusion of a machine, which seems to me to be infinitely more complicated than saying it is the machine that is the illusion of our consciousness.
Many physicists believe that one or both of time and space is actually an elaborate illusion, a result of quantum entanglement or a type of holographic projection. Physics equations break down when they deal with singularities, such as black holes or the “big bang”. We seem to be chasing Alice down the rabbit hole as physicists look deeper and deeper into the physical universe. Even if there is eventually some grand unifying equation discovered, physicists will still not be able to answer the fundamental questions of “Why, Where and Who am I?”
But what if the dimensions of space we perceive are in fact a thought, an imagining, like the very real but dimensionless space in our dreams? We already know that our entire perception of the universe is an illusion — none of the physical things we see, hear, feel, taste, smell actually has those qualities our mind gives them. Nothing has that colour green we see, nothing has that sound we hear. Underneath it all, even knowing that our mind creates elaborate overlays in order to navigate reality, we still believe that reality really is ‘out there’ and, although we don’t usually think of it this way, that ‘out there’ starts with our own body, which itself is perceived with the same mental overlay: the colour, the smell, the taste or the sounds our body makes — these visualisations and sensations are all creations of our mind which are not actual, physical attributes of the body itself. Phenomenal really, and an example of an obvious miracle: something is being created in our consciousness which doesn’t exist, we are all experiencing reality in terms of attributes which aren’t there in any physical way. Gone would be the questions of “How big?” and “Where?” Space would have no physical dimensions, and yet it would be infinite — as far as thought can go. Without physical dimensions, there is suddenly no problem with singularities nor paradox surrounding quantum entanglement at a distance: William of Ockham would be proud.
I’m not suggesting we are dreaming, in the sense that we are asleep in some other reality to which we will someday wake up. That’s just begging the question, part of our obsession with the idea there must be a physical reality at some level. We are not in a Matrix, we are not a subject of Inception. I’m suggesting that it’s not physical reality which is the foundation upon which thought is created, but that it’s thought — consciousness — which is the foundation upon which our physical reality is created and, going a step further than I did in my essay on consciousness: our physical reality exists only in thought. The closest analogy I can think of, is that we are a lucid dream.
Now just because reality might ‘only’ be consciousness with no physical reality, doesn’t mean reality is any less genuine. We have a tendency to think it would be less real only because we have always assumed it is physical, and it’s very hard to change ancient habits. If we are conscious and this is ‘just’ a conscious reality, then everything we experience is most certainly entirely real and genuine, just as it is: it really does exist. Reality does exist, but its physicality is an illusion.
As I have shown above, there is no objective scientific evidence for the existence of a physical reality. We each have self-evident proof of consciousness. Our dreams are evidence that our consciousness is capable of creating an illusion of physical reality. Rather than assume physical reality (for which we have no objective evidence) exists, and believe that consciousness (for which we have proof) is emergent from physical reality, it is more reasonable to assume that consciousness is primary, and that physical reality is an illusion of consciousness. It’s not that the physical universe exists only when some consciousness is there to perceive it — the moon springing into existence only when someone looks at it, so to say... it is that substance is purely a concept, and physical reality exists only in consciousness.
» Science is Trapped : The core assumption of science is that physical reality exists, and yet it is more reasonable to believe physical reality is an illusion of consciousness. And if it is an illusion, then science is nothing more than a tool for modelling an illusion in which it is ‘trapped’. To understand a conscious reality, we need a fundamentally new approach.
» Intentional Design : It follows that if the universe is a thought, and since thought is a result of consciousness and consciousness implies free will, then our universe is fundamentally ‘will-full’ and intent-ional, that is, it has and is an intent. Not intelligent design, like a building with an architect, but intentional and wilful, like a dance.
» Flexible Reality : If reality is a thought, then perhaps the more rigid we are in our thinking, the more rigid the reality we perceive. We admire and reward rigid-thinking, for example in the form of science, because it rewards us with predictable outcomes. And yet I am often astounded at how virtually everything we imagine, from the sublime to the ridiculous, eventually seems to come into being in the form of discoveries or inventions. I’m also deeply moved by my personal experiences with prayer, déjà vu / déjà vécu and syncronicities, and with seeing otherwise unexplained patterns emerge and meaningful coincidences take place in defiance of statistical probability, which have led me to believe with complete conviction in currents of conscious connectedness, not just between people but everything. If we allow ourselves to consider a less-rigid reality, and reality is more fluid than we assume, then perhaps prayer and miracles become possible... if we allow them to: the placebo-effect might provide evidence in this regard.
» Ubiquitous Consciousness : How would you describe everything in one of your dreams? It’s not that everything in the dream is conscious but, rather, consciousness is everything in the dream. And so if reality is a thought, then it is not that the universe is conscious, but consciousness is the universe. Looking at it this way, suddenly a lot of things make sense: If consciousness is all things (NB. not consciousness is in all things, but consciousness is all things), then the fact that these things persistently, blatantly defy our so-called “Law” of Thermodynamics to come together into more complex forms, or that species evolve into astonishing new forms, is not by accident, but by intent. Reality has a fundamental and ongoing will. Who knows, maybe we’ll discover that it’s not elusive “dark matter” keeping galaxies together, but the will of reality to form galaxies...
» Evolution with Intent : Saying chance mutation plus survival of the fittest is wholly responsible for phylliidae looking like leaves of trees (including leaf stem and veins and partially decayed bits!), means chance mutations created versions of the phylliidae and survival of the fittest weeded-out all those which did not look like a leaf. That’s like saying the Statue of David looks as it does because Michelangelo carved off all the bits of marble that didn’t look like David: While it appears true in retrospect, if you ignore Michelangelo’s will, you cannot predict what will appear from the marble, nor explain why David appeared from the marble and not, say, Venus. The answer is, of course, that there is a will involved during the whole process in creating the outcome.
Similarly, the Theory of Evolution ‘explains’ in retrospect what has happened, but — except under very special circumstances — it essentially has no predictive ability: It cannot explain why things seem to know to take on such astonishing forms in the first place, and it is useless at telling you which species will emerge in the future. Evolution explains what happened to the mutated species to determine which ones were successful, but it doesn't explain why a species mutated, nor how it was able to effect the mutation it needed (in some cases quite rapidly, even apparently within a generation, as with the hemiphractus which lays its eggs on its back which it needed to survive droughts), except by saying it was random (because of course anything other than random would imply the work of a higher will, of conscious intent, but for Darwin that was taboo). Did phylliidae develop by chance mutations and selection to look like the leaf, or did the tree do so to look like phylliidae? Why don’t all bugs in trees develop to look like leaves? How did various types end up looking exactly like leaves from different trees? What made the hemiphractus start creating a concave back with gelatinous fluid, and then lay its eggs into it? How do memories in the form of instinct, habits and abilities transfer from parent to offspring without learning (e.g. a bird knows how to build its first nest, and using exactly the same design as its parents’)? Clearly the Theory of Evolution is desperately lacking, offering only about 20% of the explanation, and only the scientific fundamentalist would close his eyes to the obvious. Since they won’t allow themselves to consider a non-mechanical explanation, they claim “it’s genetics” on faith: They only allow themselves a hammer in their toolbox, so everything must be a nail.
Yet if there is a fundamental will to reality, then the fact that things change in ways beneficial to those things explains the why which the current theory of evolution cannot. If reality is a thought, then true evolution is the will, the intent, of all reality — not just what we narrowly call life — to morph. Again, not Intelligent Design, but Intentional Design, where the designer and the design are one.
» The Knower : In my article on consciousness, I touch on the subject of knowledge being eternal, and that knowledge implies a consciousness — a ‘knower’. I believe existence points to a deeply underlying, fundamental Knower. Could our reality — all that we sense, and all that we are — be the eternal Knower, the eternal “I am”, literally making sense of the question, “Who is ‘me’?” And in a way similar to the idea that all within your dream is you, and made from you, and all within your dream is your imagining, your creation, it’s not that the Knower is all around us, nor that the Knower is in each of us but, rather, all of reality is both the Knower’s imagining and the Knower himself. Just as everything in our dreams is a projection of ourselves in ourselves, our reality is the living projection of The Knower in The Knower. So the Knower — God, if you will — is not in us, not ‘up there’: we are in him, in his thought, in his creation. We are The Knower experiencing “Who Am I?” by, through and in us.
» Life Eternal : If we are The Knower then, since The Knower is eternal, it follows that we are eternal. For whatever reason we do not yet know, we cannot ‘remember’ that we have always been, and we therefore cannot see that we will always be. It’s like a droplet of seawater suspended temporarily on the surface of the ocean: the droplet is of the ocean, the ocean is in the droplet, the droplet is entirely ocean, yet not the ocean. When the droplet returns to the ocean, it again becomes one with it, and the droplet will both be and not be: all that made the droplet a droplet will continue to exist in the ocean, but no longer be that separate droplet. So when we ‘die’, we do not enter into an eternal sleep, nor transition to some different place, but as the droplet returns to the ocean, we regain our conscious completeness.
» Good and Evil : Seeing our reality as The Knower’s imagining can give a different perspective on the issue of Good and Evil, and the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” When you dream, the persons in your dream may experience good and evil, some may have only good things happen to them and others be beset by bad luck. Good persons might have bad things happen to them, and bad persons might escape their justice. They might experience active Good and active Evil. But awake — or lucid — you know that nothing good nor evil has happened in the dream, it just is what it is, and you are the dreamer. That person in your dream who has something horrible happen to them is — as is everyone and everything in your dreams — fundamentally, just you, and you as the dreamer are not in some way to blame for not intervening. Futhermore, if you were to ‘intervene’ in your dreams, then the whole purpose of your dreams — to explore yourself without boundaries — would be lost. If we are the Knower’s imagining, then, while there is good and evil at our level, there is none in the full context of The Knower.
» On Solipsism : While some see (or are troubled by) solipsism as an alternative conclusion, I don’t think there’s any reason to believe in it. I’ve never had any reason to theorise that others are not conscious, other than the fact that I cannot prove they are. While it is true that the only thing I have proof of is that I am conscious, and I have no concrete evidence that others are also conscious, it is also true that an absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. If anything, based on the reasoning set out in this essay, I have reason to theorise that things which do not appear conscious, do in fact have some level of awareness — yes, even rocks, even space —, as consciousness is everything. Furthermore, say I were the creator of reality: then I am either a) somewhere else, ‘asleep’ and dreaming this reality, or b) ‘awake’ and imagining this reality. If I am asleep, then I am a lucid dreamer, yet I seem unable to control my dream in the way I can when I have a lucid dream at night. If I am awake, and my consciousness truly is the creator of reality, then I should have some sense of omniscience, yet I have mostly questions and precious few answers. If I and the Knower are one in the same, then I am clearly suffering some sort of amnesia, but that can’t be, because the Knower is all knowledge and there is no place for knowledge to go missing. Another argument against solipsism is that it implies that, since mine is the only mind which exists, I have single-handedly created/invented everything, including algebra, calculus, the internal combustion engine, the principles of computer circuit design, the statue of David, as well as cats and penguins... yet there is no explanation for how these inventions would have simply appeared in my mind.