“This isn’t real?!?”
“This isn’t real?!?”
“What is real? How do you define real?’
If you’re talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste, what you can touch, then ‘real’ is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.”
conversation between Neo & Morpheus in the movie “The Matrix”
We’ve heard this debate go back and forth between so many groups. “The world is an illusion,” “The world is real,” “The world is a dream,” “This world is the only world”, and so on. Is there a point to this kind of question, this type of debate?
In the movie the Matrix the world that Morpheus rescues Neo from is an illusion; it is a computer generated program, it is “virtual-reality” not “reality.” But then in the conversation quoted above Morpheus goes further and questions the “reality” of all experience, everywhere. He alerts Neo to the fact that perception is a matter of chemical signals being interpreted by the brain. The truth is that the brain has no actual direct knowledge of the outside world. It is trapped, or protected, within the confines of the skull. The sense organs are like machines that send morse code signals to the brain that get turned into a picture, a smell, a sound, etc.
This debate is an old one within the world of philosophy and maybe within human thought itself. Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher, spoke about our “reality” being just shadows cast on a wall inside a cave which we have mistaken for some type of direct experiencing. Many others have written and debated this throughout the intervening centuries. The arguments have gotten quite complex both in terms of very convoluted spiritual thought and also very scientific studies of the mechanics of the brains and its neurons.
What of all this really concerns spiritual seekers? For Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita it was enough to learn from Krishna that everything was mechanical (ruled by the causes and effects of natural elements there called the “gunas”). From that simple teaching Krishna expected him to let go of his attachment to his situation and even his life itself. In fact, most great spiritual teachings include the idea of letting go of the clingy ownership to our body and our stories (our pride in our accomplishments). But how many of us have found that easy to do?
That is why any type of thinking that leads us to reject the clingy ownership to our body and stories has value for the spiritual seeker, including the dramatics of movies like the Matrix. If we can step into Neo’s shoes and suspend judgment just long enough to say “what if this is true?” then we may develop a little revulsion towards our petty self-importance. It doesn’t really matter what’s “real” or “not real” to the spiritual seeker. The feeling of renunciation is all that counts. All we need is a little help to fake the feeling of rejecting ownership of our body and our stories just long enough to gain a little distance. “Fake it till you make it” my guru has said many times and what better than a hollywood movie to fake it with? So, even for just one day, convince yourself that you are living in a computer simulation created by entities in order to draw all your energy out of you; that the illusion of “you” is allowing something to feed upon you like a vampire. You never know, it may actually be true.