by Michael Maciel
Just as a person’s face can reveal something about his or her personality, no one would presume that it reveals everything. There’s almost an infinity of stuff going on behind the masks that we wear.
Why do we presume, then, that the external world is any different?
I’m sitting at my dining room table looking out at the incredibly beautiful California Wine Country—hills covered in lush, green grass with vineyards and trees stretching out before them.
And like you, I sense that there’s something illusory about the landscape—the face of the “world”—that I’m seeing.
But what am I not seeing? The trees are all pointing their leaves at the morning sun, soaking in the light. The cells within the leaves are busy converting that light into food, which is then transported to the rest of the tree. Water is being drawn up from the roots, exuded from the leaves, along with oxygen, and it’s all taking place with mind-boggling precision.
One could almost say that the trees are conscious, but we would have to define what “consciousness” means. It might be better to say that consciousness is everywhere and that it’s operating in a particular way called “tree.”
There’s also a highway in the distance, where I can see people on their way to work. Each person is seeing this same world that I’m seeing, although from a different perspective and with different expectations. Every car contains a different kind of conscious awareness.
If I let myself, I can begin to see that there is more consciousness out there than face, that there’s more—WAY more—going on than what’s painting itself on my brain screen. There is so much more than the flat image reveals, indeed CAN reveal, that it’s no wonder that I begin to suspect that what I’m seeing is an illusion.
Maybe the word “illusion” conceals more than it reveals. Maybe what we call “illusion” is really more of a distraction. Maybe it’s the curtain that prevents us from seeing the real part of the world, the larger dimension, and the multiplicity of activities that are taking place 24/7 right before our eyes.
When we begin to see that consciousness is everywhere—that there is intelligent interaction between all things and at all levels—then time and space begin to take a back seat. The different time frames and spatial relationships begin to shift. Their boundaries seem to conform to a different dimension altogether. Even the colors start to reveal a deeper, more organic intelligence as they change across a timescape so different from my own.
When I look into that “face,” a personality so deep and so vast starts to reveal itself to me. I begin to sense that there are deeper realities still, dimensions that I cannot even imagine, much less perceive.
So, is the world an illusion? Not really. I’d say it’s more of a distraction. We see the painting, not the artist. And the weird thing about it is that in some inscrutable way, this painting paints itself. This painting we call the world is its own artist. But just as this world is one small component of a much larger world—the Cosmos—we can assume that there are lots of paintings and lots of artists, and they run deep, so deep that we could never count them all. It’s painters and paintings all the way down.
Rather than try to deny the existence of the world, as though it were a construct of the mind, maybe it would be better to look past the appearance—the face of it—and peer into what’s not so apparent. The reality of THAT might just be more than the average person could bear, which is why we are so enamored by the face and so blind to what’s behind it.
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Boethius, Consolations of Philosophy:
“People think that the totality of their knowledge depends on the nature and capacity to be known of the objects of knowledge. But this is all wrong. Everything that is known is comprehended not according to its own nature, but according to the ability to know of those who do the knowing.
Questions about the world being an illusion always make me wonder what standard people are adopting against which “the world” appears illusory. What is the non-illusion to which they are comparing it?
That’s a great question, Max. It’s hard to pin them down. And the jargon is impenetrable.
Before you judge others or claim
any absolute truth, consider that…
…you can see less than 1% of the electromagnetic
spectrum and hear less than 1% of the acoustic
spectrum. As you read this, you are traveling at 220
kilometres per second across the galaxy. 90% of the
cells in your body carry their own microbial DNA
and are not “you”. The atoms in your body are
99.9999999999999999% empty space and none of
them are the ones you were born with, but they all
originated in the belly of a star. Human beings have
46 chromosomes, 2 less than the common potato.
The existence of the rainbow depends on the conical
photoreceptors in your eyes; to animals without cones,
the rainbow does not exist. So you don’t just look at a
rainbow, you create it. This is pretty amazing, especially
considering that all the beautiful colors you see represent
less than 1% of the electromagnetic spectrum.
The tree, the physical revealing the spiritual:
“In the midst of the garden stood the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We are that tree, and throughout our life, through human experience, we came to know both good and evil. The evil caused a separation from our elevated state of existence, driving us out of our place of protection, bringing pain and troubles into our life. The tree, whose leaves take in the generous waters from above, have roots that reach out into darkness, drawing in the waters from below— an analogy to the firmament in God’s creation. Our mind is the firmament, expanding through thought, standing between the waters above the firmament (positive and constructive thoughts) and the waters below the firmament (negative and destructive thoughts). This firmament called heaven is a spiritual kingdom— the kingdom of heaven, symbolizing the realm of the mind, which being influenced by the things we saw, heard, felt, and experienced has taken in thoughts that were right and thoughts that were in error; taking in the knowledge of good and evil.” -THE LITTLE BOOK FOR THE SOUL
this is an interesting topic, but i believe that even if the world is an illusion and we can’t see everything, we should enjoy what we can see to the fullest. 🤗😃
In the introduction to my book, World Priest, I describe looking at Monet’s, Water Lilies—the original—at an art gallery. To me at that time, it looked like a mass of blue-green. It didn’t make any sense. But a docent explained that what was so amazing about the painting was the way the sky was reflected in the water. I nearly fell over! It suddenly sprang into three dimensions. It was right there but I wasn’t seeing it. The illusory part of the world is not the world itself but the way we SEE the world. There is so much more to it than we let ourselves perceive. The interesting thing is that if we practice looking at it with understanding, who knows how much of the invisible aspects of reality we could see? So, yes, I agree that we should enjoy what we can see, but why not expand our ability?
“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
~ W.B. Yeats