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Illusions, all of it. Listen to what one of the greatest physicists of the century, Authur Eddington said of quantum theories:“In the world of physics…the shadow of my elbow rests on the shadow table as the shadow ink flows over the shadow paper…the frank realization that physical science is concerned with a world of shadow is one of the most significant of recent advances.”
By “shadow” Eddington meant illusion. More than any other science, it is particle physics that is confronting the fundamentals of reality, and more and more, the evidence point to the fact there is no reality!For the past 300-some years, the world has been under the impression that everything is made up of atoms, “the building blocks of the universe.” It was the great Isaac Newton who solidified our impression that atoms were like billiard balls. Pile enough of them on top of each other, set them in motion and you get rocks, trees, animals and people.But in 1900 Albert Einstein’s hero, the brilliant Max Planck, revealed some incredibly disturbing discoveries he made while trying to solve problems concerning the radiation of energy.To make a long story short, Planck was forced to conclude that matter at its most fundamental level is not continuous, not solid. There are no tiny billiard balls. When you break down an atom, you get an electron, a proton and maybe a neutron. But it turns out these are not the smallest units either. You can break things down further to bosons, quarks, W particles, tachyons and a lot of other shadowy “things” that just sort of wink in and out of existence.
Where do things go when they “wink out?” Nowhere! They cease to exist! Then they come back again.So what? you might ask. Well, as you know, the human body is made up from the fundamental elements of nature. We are mostly water, but we also have iron in our blood, calcium in our bones, and such. But each of those substances are made up of individual atoms, which in turn are made up of ghostly bits of nothing that just sort of come and go, in and out of reality.Scientists call this blinking process “quantum fluctuation.”So when the elements of your body fluctuate, so does your body, and so do you! So does you brain and the chemicals in your brain! In fact, you may be in a state of nothingness more often than you are in a state of somethingness (even though there really is no somethingness!)As the currently popular medical guru Depack Chopra points out, all of us our dead (nonexistent) for much of the time, yet we are all constantly afraid of dying, not realizing we are dead much of the time! (Oh by the way, there’s no such thing as time either.
Einstein proved it was an illusion, but we won’t get into that right now).Even at its most solid state, the atom turns out to be not very solid at all. Atoms are 99.999999 empty space. If the nucleus of an atom were the size of a ping-pong ball, and if you were to place it in the center of a large football stadium, the electrons that orbit around the nucleus would be at the outer walls of the stadium.What is between the nucleus and the electron? Nothing! And what are the nucleus and electron made from? Smaller and smaller bits of energy which are not solid, but actually whirling fragments of light.Even a block of solid lead is nothing and light, acting as “something.” So is your car. So are the chemicals in your brain. So are you.Once during a long, boring drive from Grand Forks to southern Missouri with one of my graduate school professors, we became embroiled in a lengthy debate about the deep issues of the universe. I argued that all was illusion, and he argued for solid reality.
When I mentioned the unreal nature of fundamental particles, he said:“That makes no difference! All this means is that these flucuating bits of energy are what we are made out of — but we are still us, still the same, still real solid people. Are your saying is that we are more fundamental than atoms.”He also said: “If I whacked you with a baseball bat, I bet your pain wouldn’t feel like an illusion!”At the time, I was stumped to answer because that was before I understood the nature — or more accurately — the mechanics of illusion. I didn’t realize that even our argument was an illusion!The fact is, my professor and I could have argued for years on end and neither of us would have convinced the other because BOTH of our aurguments were false! Why? Because neither of our arguments exist!The fact is, language is one of the primary ways in which we become deceived into believing in solid reality. Once a creature reaches the stage where it can manipulate symbolic language, you can bet that creature is deeply buried under many layers of illusion.I also should have quoted the Uncertainty Principle and the Incompleteness Theorm to my professor.
You see, the idea that language is all illusion is not a simple belief, but a fact which has been proved mathematically. Back in the 1920s, a German math genius by the name of Kurt Godel produced a rigorous mathematical demonstration which showed that all logic was ultimately self contradictory.Godel’s proof is known as Godel’s Theorm, but also as the Incompleteness Theorm. It states this:“It is impossible to to establish the logical consistency of any complex deductive system except by assuming principles of reasoning whose own internal consistency is an open question as that of the system itself.”
Whew! That’s just a fancy way of saying that, no matter what your viewpoint — it’s wrong! You will never be able to convince someone of what you believe because all rhetoric is, by nature, fundamentally inconsistent.That’s why arguing politics and religion is so frustrating — no one is ever right, literally! All arguments are rigged from the start!.But there’s even more bad news for reality. It’s called the Heisenbreg Uncertainty principle, suggested and later proved by one of the fathers of quantum mechanics, the great Werner Heisenberg. His principle states:“The position and the velocity of an object cannot both be measured exactly, at the same time, not even in theory. The very concepts of exact position and exact velocity together, in fact, have no meaning in nature.”What this means is that physical objects cannot be pinned down to absolutely exist in any one place at any given time. Like Godel’s Theorm, this principle comes with a rigorous mathemetical proof.So not only are all verbal arugments fundamentally inconsistent, and therefore false, but physical matter ultimately cannot be measured.
As one physicist put it:“Our conception of substance is only vivid so long as we do not face it. It begins to fade when we analyze it … the solid substance of things is another illusion … we have chased the solid substance from the continuous liquid to the atom, from the atom to the electron, and there we have lost it.”It’s amazing how complimentary Godel’s Theorm and the Uncertainty Principle are — they both devastate the idea of a solid physcial world filled with ultimate “truths.” There are no objects, no people and no truth. We’ve only been tricked into thinking so, as weird as this sounds.Who have we been tricked by? Ourselves! And we don’t exist! Odd!You might ask: How does knowing that you don’t exist help you with your daily troubles? Well, in fact, it helps a lot. Indeed, this knowledge can lead you to an extreme state of happiness, even bliss. How?By getting to work at realizing that you are buried under many layers of very tricky, persistent illusions, which because of their mathematical inconsistency, are driving you nuts! It seems like you can never find ultimate truth, true peace and the purest of love becaue you are trying to get these things under the false assumption that they exist in some real way.
They don’t. And neither does pain, suffering and worry.The greater degree to which you become aware that you and your world is all sticky illusion, the greater your feeling of being happy, loving and truthful will become. Why this is so becomes plain when we give a more conventional example of how illusions cause pain.We all know someone who has mistaken money for what money represents, or mistaken money for happiness. Money itself is just paper, a symbol which rerpresents material goods. Some people fall under the illusion that money is an end it itself, so they mindlessly persue more and more of the green stuff until they have a heart attack and die.All would agree it’s good to be free of the illusion of money and materialism.Well, as it turns out, the more illusions we get rid of, the better off we are.
Getting rid of illusions like money, drugs and sex addictions is easy compared to getting rid of major illusions like death, time, language, and physical existence, but it’s far from impossible.I should warn you also, that the more you try to achieve happiness, the worse off you’re likely to get because happiness is an illusory concept which does not exist. You’ll get very frustrated, although frustration does not exist either. Sorry.So it’s better to work on getting rid of illusions themselves and let the rest take care of itself.The brilliant psychologist-philospher-author Ken Wilber describes seven layers of illusion in his groundbreaking book, The Spectrum of Consciousness. In this book, Wilber takes you step by step through the kind of illusions human are trapped within, from Nothing to the deepest layer of illusion, which he calls “dualisms.”The more you understand the nature of illusions, the various kinds of illusions, (especially language, time, the separation of objects in space) the more likely you are to find your way out.
This is what Zen and other forms of meditation are about — to get you to stop thinking so that the ultimate silence of the greater reality of Nothing can be realized.But as any Zen master would warn you, the minute you start thinking that Zen meditation is going to help you, or that the Zen philosophy is going to help you, or any philosophy or any religion — in that assumption you get lost again!What’s truly weird about illusion is that you have to use illusions to get rid of them, and it’s hard describe how this gets done. Remember Godel’s Theorm: all arugments based in language are fundamentally inconsistent, and therefore, just more traps.Even what you are reading here right now is a trap, though this article strives to point out the fact that you are trapped by illusions! But I think it’s at least better to know you’re in jail, than being in jail and thinking this prison we call “life” is our true home.
Some might say: “Okay, but it’s better to exist as an illusion that suffers than to be nothing at all!”So let me throw you this bone: The big Nothing scientists and philosophers speak of is not so much the complete lack of anything, as it is a singularity of pure Virtual Potential. It does not exist, but has the potential to exist if it wants to. It’s Nothing, but a kind of dynamic Nothing. Whatever. Words and labels are tricky.But the reason you have the illusion of being, along with its joy and suffering — you want it. At the same time, you can have the bliss of realizing Infinite Potential without the suffering of the illusion of objective existence. In fact, this is your condition right now. You just don’t know it. It’s weird. A lot of people who read this article are going to say: “Jeez! What a load of utter nonsense!” And guess what? They’re right!
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