It is a cold country. It rained snow for ten months in a year there. The oceans, the rivers and the ponds are frozen. Children played skiing and ran ice scooters on the frozen ocean. The daytime in winter was a few minutes while the night-time in summer too lasted a few minutes. The dogs pulled carriages with people in it. They are called sledge carts. Entire farming comes to stand still and one does not venture out much. But for locals who are used to the snow and chill, it is business as usual. While walking on the snow outside, you don’t know what is beneath the white snowed surface. It’s all speculation.
As I started my first job my thoughts about the world entered a different plane. Following are the notes I wrote in those days.
What is reality?
What is subjective?
What is objective?
Is a completely objective thing real?
Now a days, rationality and scientific thinking are given much importance in our society.Many people believe rationality as flaw less and take it as a “plane of reference ” if there is a dilemma in the daily
life. Some people apply scientific thinking, which is the originator of science and rationality,
to the things that do not fall into the purview of human thinking. While scientific reasoning is the best
jewel in the crown of humanity, it has its own limitations too.
In the entire universe man is a living being on a very tiny particle called earth. His thinking is a product of
an evolutionary process and personal conditioning.
Physically, thought is nothing but an electromechanical action/reaction. It is supported by the daily sensual inputs one is getting through his senses.
As one can see, the entire process is heavily conditioned .
Now, we shall see what will happen when we try to capture things out side the domain of thought, with thought. It is just like human beings flying in the air. A man traveling in the space with the speed of light.
Subjects like God, absolute truth, absolute objectivity all fall beyond the domain of thought simply because
they are dealing with absolute things, and there is no convincing explanation with in the
field of thought. There’s nothing in the field of thought which is not conditioned by any thing, without a little borrowing of belief. Thought itself is
heavily conditioned by all the things mentioned above(chemical, evolution processes).
And the “notions of god, truth, absoluteness”, solutions and thought itself is created by thought which comes from
the very narrow background of society, values, beliefs.
Further, thought has the limitation of being driven by wishes wants desires and instincts. If et all a man is able to go
beyond thought, he may find altogether a new meaning for the above words(truth, God ) which is not in any way
related to the original meaning or word. This meaning can not be translated into the field of thought. The greatest he can do is to give a new word to his experience. This experience can not be understood by other people.
It is sort of “starting to find something and landing up in the contrary”. Thought and effort generate and perpetrate
each other. So, we can not try to go beyond thought as that effort it self is a product of thought. Without effort of some kind, thought can not exist.
I’ll give two example to get more clarity. If a person is excited either positively or negatively, it is difficult for him to get into sleep. In that situation if he tries to sleep he will never get sleep. Since “trying to sleep” is possible in conscious state only. So the trying or effort in that direction perpetuates conscious state. Because of this, he will not be able to enter the unconscious state of sleep. Similarly let’s think a person in front of his office system is trying hard to resist sleep. But in spite of the effort he falls asleep. In this case, the unconscious has occupied his conscious state in spite of his conscious efforts to over come sleep.
When a person is in deep sleep or unconscious due to anesthesia he is still alive. But nothing he undergoes in that state can be translated into conscious state. “What with in that state wakes him up into a conscious state”, is a mystery to me.
We think based on many assumptions.For example, take a steel knife of wooden handle. What is there at the meeting
point of wood and steel. Is it steel or wood or both or neither. If we tell it is wood then where from steel is beginning? and vice versa?
If we call it both two objects can not exist in the same place. If we tell neither, we are bringing some imaginary object
which we never have seen in the physical world and which is not defined in terms of physical object, like infinity. But simply because we have never seen in the world , we can not deny that there exists a border.
we have to make any measurement of the knife using its borders only. When borders themselves are not real,
and only notational all the measurements are also notational, based on some undefined imaginary thing.
But that does not mean that physical objects do not exist.
We are daily encountering them.Starting point, Ending point notations, which are based on our intuition
are not working here.
Finally we are measuring objects based on some thing not defined or imaginary, does not sound rational unless we
accept undefined things also as part of rationality.
If scientific measurements are not true , then how science is working and creating miracles. Generally science tries to give workable explanation for any phenomenon with a combination of observed facts and concepts(arrange ment of symbols in proper way
to achieve the goal). That is the reason for the workability of science and scientific thought.Mathematics quantifies the findings of science.
We do not know what is behind our senses.
We can understand any unknown thing up to the extent they can be explained in terms of the already known things.
All human minds can have some shared limitations, in the generation of concepts with in the limits of known things also as we all have some common conditionality.
The common image about rationality and science is they are crystal clear about anything. They have unshakeable basis
for their existence. My this exploration is to dispute this maxim. Of course it is useless to give more attention to the limitations of rationality,
as we can not transcend thought.
If a person tells us he has undergone an experience which is very extraordinary and which can not be translated into words,
how can we know whether he has experienced that or not?
We have to simply either believe or disbelieve him based on our psychological inclinations. We’ll never know the truth about his experience. Finally experiencing is different from understanding intellectually. A completely color blind person can understand what a color might be, using his intellect.But,he will never be able to experience or perceive the color. The mystics experience the reality beyond our senses. The scientists try to understand it intellectually. The aims of both of them are one and the same. But their paths never meet.
Our belief is a mental image. belief can have many reasons.
— Wishful thinking produces belief
— Extrapolation of things and incidents of which we do not have direct sensual experience produces belief or disbelief.
Direct sensual experience itself may not lead to the final truth.
The magic done by the magician should be real if we have to depend only on sensual experience for truth. But there, we apply
our intuition, which is nothing but a healthy disbelief to find out the truth, even though we do not know the trick behind his magic.
Similarly, all the things shown in films, virtual reality , multimedia are not truth. All our dreams give us a feeling of all five senses. But dreams are not true!!
Instead, if we rely on physical laws, at some point they are extrapolations and , simple concepts( based on sensual experience and mentally rearranged symbols).
In the computer programming, in a “for” loop if a final condition is never met , then it results in an infinite loop. Similarly if we try to find out something impossible and some thing beyond human perception and human experience(which is beyond mind and it’s conditionality), then we may land up in an experience which is still in the range of mind.
For some people, God or truth are nothing but a result of wishful thinking.It is like a switch to control their anxiety. They can be mentally more balanced if they beleive in what they
wish. Truthwise, wishful thinking may not be useful, or, it may be if the truth is all-inclusive.
a. Reality and the boundaries of perception
There are supposed to be certain things which are outside the boundaries of human thinking. As such, these boundaries are neither rigid nor concrete. For instance, all over the world, some persons are said to experience epiphanies. But they have difficulty putting these revelations in to words and thoughts. Those people attempt at framing some rules for those epiphanies. But we see those rules falling flat and degrading into obscure cults or extremisms.
I attempted at exploring the issues involved in the understanding of the world beyond human perception. It tries to explain about “the challenges to the human imagination and thinking” in dealing with extra-ordinary and metaphysical aspects of the world.
The telephone that I am seeing on my desk is a real object. My fingers typing these words are real. Let’s examine what the meaning of “reality” is, and what it is not also.
Let’s take the example of an object considered to be very real. That is the ‘telephone’ on my desk.
i. Verbal aspect
The meaning of the word reality is given by Meriam Webster online dictionary here..
We’ll consider the meaning, “something that is neither derivative nor dependent but exists necessarily”. This meaning is relevant to the topic that we are going to discuss.
If something is neither derivative nor dependent but exists necessarily, then that object is deemed to be real. Telephone almost fits the description. So the grey telephone on my desk is real.
Let’s assume there is a kid in my room, who sees the telephone for the first time in his life. Let’s call him little Johnny. Now, we’ll look closely at the mechanism by which the Johnny’s mind identifies that there’s a real telephone on my desk.
- By looking at the real world object of telephone, an image is generated in the Johnny’s brain. This image is electrochemical in nature. This image is a lossy image. It does not represent the telephone exactly in his brain. Take Johnny out of the room and ask him, “How many buttons are there on the telephone?” He may not be able to come up with a correct number as an answer.How ever, he may tell roughly around how many buttons are there on the telephone.
- As the little Johnny has seen the telephone for the first time in his life, he would like to know what it’s called. He asks the intern there what it’s called. Or, the intern may himself volunteer to tell the kid about the telephone. Alternately Johnny may find in his nursery book that the object is called a telephone. This results in the initiation for linking the image in Johnny’s mind to the corresponding word.
- Then Johnny links the word/label/tag called ‘telephone’ to the image in his mind. He needs to simply activate this link when he comes across the object next time anywhere else.
- Now, hearing the word ‘telephone’, Johnny can retrieve the image in his brain and alternately by looking at the image of the telephone (internally in his mind or externally), he can retrieve the word ‘telephone’.
- However, given the image in his head he can not create the object/instrument telephone itself. (He wishes he could). This is because telephone instrument is “something that is neither derivative nor dependent but exists necessarily”. That is to say it is real.
- He can mix the image of the telephone in his mind, with the already existing images of other objects/ideas in his head. Then he can manipulate the real life telephone according to the image in his mind. For instance he may think the telephone looks like a bread packet and then put it to his mouth, ultimately finding it’s not possible.
Now let’s assume that little Johnny has grown up to be a handsome Mr Johnson. He uses the telephone daily in his office, especially to contact his girl friend.
When Johnson comes across a telephone here is how the events unroll.
- The object, telephone triggers its image in his brain.
- Then the link established between this image and the tag ‘telephone’ gets activated.
He automatically identifies the telephone. Given the word, he can retrieve the image and vice versa.
- However he can not retrieve the actual object called telephone. This makes the object real. It exists even if Johnson exits from this world. It’s not a creation of his mind. So it’s an objective reality.
- Now, the only event left is to dial his girl friend
ii. Subjectivity aspect
However, the shape, color and feel of the telephone are rendered by Johnson’s mind to some extent. If a cow sees the same telephone, it might not be able to identify that it’s a blue telephone because of its color blindness. If a dog listens to its ring, it will identify the infra-sonics, but not Johnson. Not any human being. So, the color of the phone etc are not as objective as they were thought to be. They vary, depending on whether a man has seen it or a cow has seen it.
Similarly, if Johnson looses all his senses, the telephone does not exist for him at that moment. But, he lost not the telephone alone, he lost the entire world. Other normal people will be able to see the telephone. Still, the cow will be able to see the black and white telephone.
If, the blind Mr Johnson believes more in measurements than senses, then he can get measured the mass and length of the phone and get satisfied that the phone is there indeed. The mass of the phone will be same for a cow also, if it knows what mass is. It will be same on Moon and Mars also. But, according to Einstein, the mass of the phone changes as it approaches the velocity of light. Still, it’s the mass of the same telephone. So, still telephone has existence objectively.
iii. The significance of the links
- If Johnson turns mad he can believe the telephone to be a jet plane and that is pretty much real from his point of view.
- In the case of this article, it is more of a word/image play to understand the thing called telephone. So, this article involves “rearrangement and manipulation of images”, abstractions and the attached tags to explore the meaning of reality of telephone.
- Concepts, scientific theories, arts, movies take the basic inputs (images or abstractions) from the real world objects and rearrange them towards an intended goal. To an engineer, this goal could be “to produce a car in the external world”. Some times it could be to know the nature of the real object in the world. Some times the product can be the result of manipulation of internal images (ex: a painting)
- In the case of engineering, the real world objects are rearranged based on the manipulation of the corresponding images in the mind.
- However the deductions of theoretical science should be verifiable by the real world objects/phenomena.
iv. How do you know the real object?
- The mechanism explained to elaborate the reality of a telephone applies to all the words used in the process of explanation. So, essentially these words belong to the same plane as the word/image ‘telephone’. The actual object/instrument telephone is the only physical/actual/real thing. This real thing is in a different plane. The rest are notional objects in human mind. So they are not equal to real objects. They can not be used to touch the real object, i.e. real telephone. Words and images interfere between the real object telephone and the real object of our being. You can hardly look at a telephone without invoking the word ‘telephone’ in your mind. For the mind to completely look at the real telephone, the mind needs to offload all the words and images from our being. If all the images are offloaded from the mind, the mind ceases to exist psychologically, as we know it. So, in what state will the mind be? The question is similar to a blind man (blind by birth) asking, “You are telling the rose is neither sweet nor sour! Is it red? What is red?”
How do you explain to the blind man about the color of the rose?
- Most of the human thoughts, feelings, and emotions occur in mind, involving only words or images. Hence psychological things can be deemed unfit to be real in the physical sense.
- In the above figures, if Johnson does not have the images generated in his mind, he will be in direct touch with the thing, telephone.
- So new born kids, animals are in better touch with reality (say telephone, tree) than grown ups.
- Why has been all the mankind into this image making? “Survival” could possibly offer an explanation. Usually, our ‘self’ is the centre that binds these disparate images and uses them for various purposes, out of which survival is the top most. For better survival/existance, some entity needs to continually supervise all the images that enter the mind. The survival instinct combined with this entity that supervises is nothing but the self, the ‘I’. That might be the reason the mystiques emphasize “transcending the self”, to realize the truth.
- Without the images the survival instinct is power less. Images represent past and future. With out images humans will respond to threats only in the particular moment of threat. Images make it possible to gain knowledge of past experiences and plan for future threats. But, with out images people might be close to nature and in harmony with it.
- The flip side of the images is, “they make the struggle for existence a planned affair”. So people bear this baggage of past. Plan revenge plots. Remember real or perceived historical injustices and plan future attacks.
- It will be good if people can use the fire power of the images, words and thinking when it’s relevant and necessary ( say for scientific analysis) and turn it off when it’s no good, in hatred, wars etc.
b. The boundaries of reality and senses – Some questions
What exists beyond the senses? If the man believes, “everything beyond his “senses and understanding” can not be pursued”, then all the progress made by man would not have been possible. All cows are limited by the color blindness. Similarly all humans might be limited by the senses, time etc. But man has gone beyond senses and discovered things like electronics,nuclear science and quantum theory.
All humans can not listen to ultrasonics, where as bats can. So ultrasonics are not part of our perceived world reality. Similarly traveling in time might be possible in future for some beings. But it’s not part of our reality. Truth or absolute Reality is not an object in the usual sense. The table there may have various colors depending on what kind of living being perceives it. The mass of the chair varies depending on its relative velocity. But the characteristics of the Truth are supposed to be not varying. Or do they vary?
Is reality an idea? If it is an idea, it exists only in our mind. It does not have a physical existence. A thing that does not have a physical existence can not be true. So, is reality an idea that embodies the basic physical and invariable nature objects. (The characteristics of these objects, like color, mass etc, may vary)? But, the subject of activity is physical objects?
c. Absolute truth might not exist?
One interesting characteristic attributed to real objects in their permanence. Reality might be a product of our imagination as result of having to interact with seemingly permanent things daily. Do we interact with objects which do not transform very fast, relative to human life, and then extrapolate the same nature of not transforming? Then, call it real?
d. Limitations of thought
People apply human thinking, which is the originator of science and rationality, to the things that do not fall into the purview of human thinking. While scientific reasoning is the best jewel in the crown of humanity, it has got its own limitations too. In the entire universe, man is a living being on a very, very tiny particle called earth. His thinking is a product of an evolutionary process and personal conditioning. Physically, thought is nothing but an electromechanical action/reaction. It is fed by the daily sensual inputs that one is gets through one’s senses. Considering the entire universe, the entire process is very conditioned and pertains to a small context. Now, we shall see, what happens when we try to capture things out side thoughts domain, with thought. It is just like human beings trying to fly in the air like birds using their wings.
Subjects like “God, absolute truth, absolute objectivity”, all fall beyond the domain of thought, simply because they are dealing with unconditioned things. With out a little borrowing of belief, there is no convincing explanation with in the field of thought. Scientific theories have their assumptions and hypothesis’.
We believe that gravity keeps the solar system the way it is. We believe gravity will keep on existing in the future. Similarly we conceive that electrons revolve around the atomic nucleus formed by protons and neutron and electrons and protons attract each other. Many theories and application are based on the belief that the electrons will keep on attracting the protons. What will happen if, on a fine day, electrons start repelling the ‘protons or neutrons?’. May be it’s, another way of asking “how do you know that the entire universe will not suddenly collapse one fine day, unless you believe to the contrary?”
Thought itself is heavily conditioned by all the things mentioned above (chemical, evolution etc). And the” notions of God, truth, absoluteness, solutions and thought itself is created by thought which comes from the very narrow background of society, values, beliefs etc. Further thought has got the limitation of being driven by wishes wants desires instincts.If et all a man is able to go beyond thought, he may find altogether a new meaning for the above words (truth, god etc). This new meaning may not, in any way, be related to the original meaning or word. So, he can not translate this new meaning into the field of thought. The maximum he can do is “to give a new word to his experience which others can not understand”.
Thought and effort generate and perpetrate each other. So, we can not try to go beyond thought as that effort it self is a product of thought. With out effort of some kind, thought can not be there. But thought is merely an image. Initiation should come from outside ones self, to go beyond thought. Most of the manifestations to spiritual people seem to be of this kind.
If there’s absolutely one thing (say God, or universe), then there should not be anything outside of it to think and imagine about the absolute thing, for, then it becomes relative. This means we are part of that absolute thing. There’s no way that we can come out of it and transcend it.
e. Concepts pointing un-known – some arguments
Take a steel knife with a wooden handle. What is there at the meeting point of wood and steel? Is it steel or wood or both or neither? If we tell it is wood, then where from steel is beginning, and vice versa? If we call it both, two objects can not exist in the same place. If we tell neither we are bringing some imaginary object which we never have seen in the physical world. This third object is not defined in terms of existing physical objects, like infinity. But simply because we could not prove, we can not deny that there exists a border. We have to make any measure meant of the knife using its borders only. When borders themselves are not real, and only notational all the measurements are also notational, based on some undefined imaginary thing. But that does not mean that physical objects do not exist. We daily encounter them. Starting point, Ending point notations, which are based on our intuition are not working here. But,this could be because of the limitation of the concept real numbers we learnt at school. There are infinite real numbers between any two real numbers. But, this is not so with real life objects. There’s some smallest possible particle called Atom (or some other sub atomic particle). If we measure the length of the knife’s wood in terms of number of atoms, the above paradox could be resolved.
The motion of objects is a paradox. If an object is moving between two locations, is it present at each and every point on the way to destination? If so, is it stationary or moving at each point?. If its stationary how can we tell that the object is moving. If it is moving how can we tell that it existed at so and so time at all points on the way to its final location?
As explained above, some times the physical phenomenon could not be measured because of the wrong concept used. If we use real numbers, since there are infinite real numbers between any two given real numbers, we may have difficulty in finding edges and starting points exactly. So, a different number system say, ‘integers’, will solve problem. Similar relation exists between cause and effect in time domain.
Similarly if a paradox could not be explained by two known things, it could be solved by the introduction of a new third thing (unknown till now).
Ask a person, “Give an example of an object with out a starting point and with out an ending point”.
He may ponder for some time and may argue there is no such object.
Then point him about any circular, ring like object and ask him to identify its starting point and ending point. This will make him realize that the starting point and ending point concept does not make a sense for circular objects. They are mere conceptual. So, the suggestion of the third object, the circular ring, could solve his paradox.
But usually, the difference with epiphanies is that the third object is not with in the field of human understanding. So the third object may bring another paradox into the picture.
If man has not tried to explore the unknown, many mysteries would not have been unraveled. Many of today’s unknown mysteries could be explained tomorrow because they are still with in the limits of human understanding. That should not prevent us from being open about the things beyond human understanding and effort.
Finally, the fact that we measure objects based on some thing abstract or imaginary, does not sound rational unless we accept undefined things also as part of rationality. If scientific measurements are not true, then how science is working and creating miracles? Generally, science tries to give workable explanation for any phenomenon with a combination of observed facts and concepts (arrangement of symbols in proper manner to achieve the goal). That is the reason for the workability of science and scientific thought. We do not know what is behind our senses.
Why do we search for the absolute thing? Is a relative thing not the real thing? Is absoluteness and reality a myth? Are they expectations triggered by our daily life, or they are real or there are cases to justify all these?
Now that we have pondered over reality, is a completely objective thing real? Is an imaginary thing not real?
What is objective? What is subjective?
According to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle ‘the act of observing’, changes the observed thing (momentum or mass of electron in this case). So there’s no perfect objective thing either. We influence part of our so called objective observations.
f. Creativity -Randomness Vs Deterministic
Seemingly random events can have deterministic causes.
Let’s take the example of a football game. The time, at which ball hits the goal, looks random. It is almost impossible to predict how many times the ball hits the gaol on one side. Yet, we know that it will be a result of the game played by both sides of the players. So if we know the relative efficiencies and game plans of both sides the probability of guessing how many goals may hit the goal post increases. The probability of guessing goal increases as is the information about its cause increases. If we know in what direction the ball moves at each moment of the game in advance, we can predict about the goals that both sides will do. The number of goals may look random, but they can be calculated based on certain information.
Similarly an invention can be a result of seemingly random thoughts (similar to Brownian motion) striking correctly in the mind of the inventor. Alternately, it can also be a result of the external circumstances the inventor undergoes.
The trigger for creativity can be a chance event with in our understanding, like the trigger for goal that was scored.
The trigger can be from outside our understanding like the “flash out of a blue in a scientist’s mind”, which does not seem to originate from the thoughts in his mind.
We can understand any unknown thing upto the extent they can be explained in terms of the already known things. In the “generation of concepts with in the known things”, all human minds can have some shared limitations, as we all have some common conditionality.
The conventional image about rationality is, “It is crystal clear about anything”. Rationality has got unshatterable basis. Of course, it is useless to give more attention to the limitations of rationality, as we can not transcend thought. If a person tells us he has undergone an experience which is very extraordinary and which can not be translated into words how can we know whether he has experienced that or not? We have to simply either believe or not beleive, based on our psycological inclinations. We’ll never know the truth about his experience.
Our beleif is a mental image. Beleif can have many reasons.
- Wishful thinking produces beleif
- Extrapolation of things and incidents of which we do not have direct sensual experience produces beleif or disbeleif.
h. Is direct perception true?
Direct sensual experience alone may not define truth. If we have to depend only on sensual experience to know truth, the magic done by the magician should be true. But there we apply our intution, which is nothing but a healthy belief to find out the truth, even though we do not know the trick behind his magic.
Similarly all the things shown in films, virtual reality, and multimedia are not truth. All our dreams give us a feeling of all five senses. But dreams are not true!!
Instead if we rely on physical laws, at some point they are extrapolations and, simple concepts (based on sensual experience and mentally rearranged concepts).
In the computer programming, in a “for” loop if a final condition is never met , then it results in an infinite loop. Similarly if we try to find out something impossible and some thing beyond human perception and human experience (which is beyond mind and its conditionality), then we may land up in an experience which is still in the range of mind.
In some people God or truth is nothing but a result of wishful thinking. It is like a switch to control their anxiety. They can be mentally more balanced if they beleive in what they wish. The product of wishful thinking may not be truth. In other words, it may be truth only if the truth is all inclusive, including illusions and hallucinations.
There seem to be certain boundaries to human perception. The sciences, arts, religion and philosophy focus on different aspects of the reality with in these boundaries. It may need a co-ordinated work with focus on these limits and beyond to know more about the facts. Then the elephant of reality may strike as shown in the parable here.
Four blind men were walking on a path in a Jungle. An elephant came across these four blind men. The four blind men were not aware that there was an elephant in front of them. They sensed that some thing is obstructing their path. One caught hold of its trunk and told it is like a ‘papaya tree’. The second person touched the elephant’s tail and told the thing looks like ‘a snake with a brush at its end’. The third blind man caught the elephants leg and told it is like a palm pole. The fourth man went around the elephant touching it’s feet, trunk and tail then declared it’s all. It’s four palm trunks, with a papaya tree between the front two palm trunks and one snake between the rear two palm trunks. They started arguing loudly about this. “ It’s a snake, it’s a palm pole, it’s the tree, no.. no..it’s all, no.. it’s none”.
The elephant got disturbed by the commotion of the blind men, it screamed and kicked its legs. Then it took the four men by its trunk one by one and has thrown them into the needled bushes at the side of the road. The four blind men got up from the bush crying with pain. The got together, and then they reached the consensus, “It’s none of the things we assume it to be”. “It’s the elephant after all, stupid!”.