It’s been said that the whole world is an illusion, yet there’s still something being experienced, and there seems to be a “me” to experience it. Let’s take a look at how we can graphically illustrate this illusion-creating process through a pair of 10-minute videos and see how our bodies interact with the illusion, if the world is, in fact, an illusion at all.
The world as we know it can not actually be perceived. The ONLY thing that is ACTUALLY being experienced is the electrical signals stimulating the appropriate areas of the brain. So while it looks like we may be looking at another person or at a movie, we’re actually seeing the brain’s perception of a visual experience.
It’s similar to how when we dream at night, we can “see” a world that feels very real, and even though our eyes aren’t looking at anything other than blackness, the brain is still activated via electrical signals and thus we can “see.” The same is true when we close our eyes and visualize. It is recognized that the dream and the visualization are just illusions because they are not coming through the eyes.
The physical world may seem more real because it comes through our eyes, but that doesn’t mean that we can actually see a real physical world. We can ONLY see the brain’s perception of it. This sounds like a subtle difference, but it’s actually a key point. We can NEVER actually interact with the world itself through our minds, only our perceptions of it.
Let’s continue with the video.
So we can see that the brain is constantly interacting with electrical stimulation which we interpret to be an external reality, whether at night when we dream or during the day when we’re “awake.” It’s a lot like watching a movie comprised of electrical stimulation.
Who is it that’s watching the movie? The movie may be changing, but there’s always “someone” there watching. In the video, they called this observer the soul. It can also be called awareness, spirit, the witness, or even God. (The video cuts off at the end so we will continue on our own from here, now that it has set the foundation.)
When we start looking more closely to figure out who this observer is, who this soul is, we ultimate find that there is no me. At best, we can say that awareness exists. Thoughts may be running around the brain, but “I” am the one observing this. The soul is watching the show.
In many spiritual traditions, “enlightenment” essentially boils down to reconnecting and reidentifying with this witnessing soul, a non-localized awareness. The experiences shows us, experientially, that the physical world is entirely an illusion. When we “awaken,” it’s very similar to waking up in the morning and realizing that the whole dream, even though it felt monumentally real when we were immersed in it, is actually totally made up. It ONLY existed within the mind and it has no reality on its own.
So now let me offer you a few questions to consider:
Is the one who experiences the dream and interacts with it the same as the one who witnesses the dream happening?
Is the experiencer the same as the awareness?
Does the observing soul have the capacity to be affected by or damaged by the dream world abiding in the mind?