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Is the world an illusion?

Posted by desicontrarian on July 13, 2009

Francis Crick, An Astonishing Hypothesis.

1. a person’s mental activities are entirely due to the behavior of nerve cellsglial cells, and the atoms,ions, and molecules that make them up and influence them.

2. You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules

Descartes, Meditations on first Philosophy

I have formerly accepted as true and certain those things I learn through the senses. Like the fact that I am seated by this fire, in a dressing gown, with this paper in my hands. And how could I deny that this body is mine, unless I was as mad as those whose cerebella are so clouded by black bile that they believe they have an earthenware head or a glass body? Yet, I must remember that I have dreams, which are almost as insane. Often I have dreamt that I was dressed and seated near this fire, whilst I was lying undressed in bed! It seems to me that I am now awake, but I remind myself that I have dreamt that too. Yet even dreams are formed out of things real and true. Just as a painter represents sirens or satyrs from a medley of different animals; even quite novel images are still composed of real colours.

For the same reason, although general things may be imaginary, we are bound to confess that there are simpler objects which are real and true; such as colours, quantity or magnitude and number. That is why Physics, Astronomy, Medicine and those sciences which consider composite things, are dubious; but Arithmetic, Geometry and sciences which treat of things very simple and general contain some certainty. For whether I am awake or asleep, two and three always form five, and a square has four sides. It does not seem possible that truths so clear and apparent can be uncertain.

Meditation two.

I knew that I could eat and walk, but that would be impossible if my body were a deceit. I knew that I had sensations. But one cannot feel without body, and besides, I have dreamt of having sensations. What of thinking? This surely is an attribute that belongs to me; it alone cannot be separated from me. Could it be the case that if I ceased to think, then I would cease to exist?

Putting aside all which is not necessarily true: then I can accurately state that I am no more than a thing which thinks, that is to say a mind or a soul, or an understanding, or a reason.

I am, however, a real thing; but what thing? I have answered: a thing which thinks. I exist, but what am I? I am the I whom I know exists. The very knowledge of my existence does not depend on uncertain things, nor could I feign it; for there would still be the I that feigns things. I am a thinking thing which doubts, understands, affirms, denies, wills, refuses, imagines and feels.

From Slate Magazine

  1. Scientists at a Chinese robotic engineering institute remotely controlled a flying pigeon.First they implanted tiny electrodes in its brain. By activating the electrodes from a computer, they “forced the bird to comply with their commands,” flying right, left, up, or down.
  2. Scientists in Germany used pattern recognition software to predict, from functional magnetic resonance imaging of people’s brains, whether each person had secretly decided to add or subtract two numbers he was looking at. The computer correctly predicted the decision 71 percent of the time.
  3. By implanting electrodes in rats’ brains, scientists have created remote-controlled rodents they can command to turn left or right, climb trees and navigate piles of rubble and maybe someday, with the rats outfitted with tiny video cameras, use to search for disaster survivors.

    “If you have a collapsed building and there are people under the rubble, there’s no robot that exists now that would be capable of going down into such a difficult terrain and finding those people, but a rat would be able to do that,” said John Chapin, a professor of physiology and pharmacology at the State University of New York in Brooklyn.The lab animals aren’t exactly robot rats. They had to be trained to carry out the commands.

    Chapin’s team fitted five rats with electrodes and power-pack backpacks. When signaled by a laptop computer, the electrodes stimulated the rodents’ brains and cued them to scurry in the desired direction, then rewarded them by stimulating a pleasure center in the brain. The rats’ movements could be controlled up to 1,640 feet away, the length of more than five football fields.

The delightful essay by Daniel Dennett, Where Am I ( a must read)



……  No way had been found to shield the brain from these deadly rays, which were apparently harmless to other tissues and organs of the body. So it had been decided that the person sent to recover the device shouldleave his brain behind.



The day for surgery arrived at last and of course I was anesthetized and remember nothing of the operation itself. When I came out of anesthesia, I opened my eyes, looked around, and asked the inevitable, the traditional, the lamentably hackneyed postoperative question: “Where am l?”



“Yorick,” I said aloud to my brain, “you are my brain. The rest of my body, seated in this chair, I dub ‘Hamlet.’ ” So here we all are: Yorick’s my brain, Hamlet’s my body, and I am Dennett. Avow, where am l? And when I think “where am l?” where’s that thought tokened? Is it tokened in my brain, lounging about in the vat, or right here between my ears where it seems to be tokened? Or nowhere? Its temporal coordinates give me no trouble; must it not have spatial coordinates as well?



Thus, leading scientists, philosophers and lab technicians are confronting the problem of the world experience.  Maaya philosophy of Hinduism, under attack by materialists, gets indirect and tentative nods from such findings and speculations.

Statements like Hindus  have a school-boy philosophy of Maaya –  are questionable. The question is – is Maaya philosophy valid, invalid or partly valid?

We may be like mice in a maze, and unable to look at the maze from the outside. The world that we see is a creation of our brain/mind. If we can “jump ouside the maze”, then we might be able to see the entire landscape of the maze.

What is the maze made up of? Our thoughts, feelings, bodily and mental sensations and perceptions.  Each of them is another sub-maze in itself. We do not know which thought, feeling, sensation or perception will happen to us after 2 minutes, nay, the next instant.

Therefore, we need to closely watch these streams of our mind. They are not static, but dynamic, chaotic and incoherent.  The idea is to watch them like a witness, without interfering with them and perturbing the mind even more. As we watch, we gain the calmness and stillness which allows us to see the mind which creates the experience. If this mind is stilled, the walls of the maze are dissolved and a lofty horizon opens up to us.

This is what the 5 schools of Yoga (Hatha yoga, Jnana yoga, Bhakthi yoga, Raja yoga and Karma yoga) aim to achieve through various practices. The various ways are according to the practitioners’ temperaments. Each human being can chose to follow any of these paths, and understand his true identity and possibilities.


3 Responses to “Is the world an illusion?”

  1. anon said

    Interesting, but far-fetched. Helped me pass the time, though!

  2. Anonymous said

    What difference does it make? Its validity or lack of it is all illusory, no?

    • desicontrarian said

      Hi there.

      If it is valid, one may want to find a way out of the illusion.
      If not, one may want to shrug their shoulders and move on. This is equally okay.
      If it is partially valid, one may want to develop a faculty to discriminate between illusion and reality.

      Have a nice day!

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