TINY WORLD INSIDE THE SKULL
People can be deceived by very convincing images, to
the point that they may assume that these images are "real."
The first motion picture show in history is an interesting illustration of
this. In Paris in 1895, two French inventors, Auguste and Louis Lumičre,
beamed onto a screen the image of a train approaching a station. Even
though the train was only two-dimensional, and appeared in flickering
black and white, yet most of the audience in the hall fled in panic, because
they believed the train was about to crush them!
At the first motion picture, shown in 1895,
the audience fled in panic thinking that the train on the screen was
As this example shows, one's perception of any image as "real" is closely
related to that image's technical quality. Today, however, even more realistic
cinematic effects can be achieved thanks to special glasses that form
holograms (images perceived as three-dimensional). People wearing such
glasses suppose that the virtual world appearing before their eyes is
real, and react accordingly. Yet all the while, they stillrealize that
this image is entirely a virtual one.
Special glasses produce three-dimensional images
that can make the perceiver think they are real
Yet what about the status of the images that we call "the real world"? Might these, too, be similar to holograms that deceive us with their technical quality?
In order to find the answer to these questions, first and foremost we need to reconsider what we know about "sight" and the visual process in general.
There is No Light Outside
In the light of the latest findings, scientists have arrived at a most interesting conclusion: In fact, our world is pitch black. Light is now known to be an entirely subjective concept; in other words, it is simply a perception formed in people's brains. In fact, there is no light in the outside world. Neither lamps, nor car headlights, nor even the Sun, which we regard as our greatest and most powerful source of light, emit any light at all.
All that the Sun and other "sources of light" do is emit photons, different kinds of electromagnetic particles of various wavelengths. These particles spread throughout the universe in the manner that their structures allow. Some of these reach our Earth, where again they produce the kinds of effects determined by their structures; and which change, depending on the particle's volume, weight, speed and frequency.
For instance, many radioactive particles enter our bodies and pass through
them. These can be stopped only by lead shields. Some of these particles
are so heavy and energy-charged that usually they shatter any molecule
they may encounter and continue on their way, with little deviation. This
phenomenon underlies the way in which radiation gives rise to cancer.
X-ray machines make use of X-rays-a weaker form of radiation-and turn
the effect of electromagnetic radio waves into "visible light," that is,
into a form visible to our eyes.
Among those rays invisible to the naked eye
are the X-rays used in medical diagnosis
Since radio waves contain no particles, they do people no harm at the
moment of impact. These waves cannot be perceived by any of our senses,
though the radios in our homes translate these into sound waves that our
ears can perceive. The crackling noise heard in the absence of any broadcast
on our household radios is actually the sound of the cosmic background
radiation-energy left over from the "Big Bang," the explosion by which
the universe was created. The word "sound" here refers to the perception
that forms in our brains after our radios have transformed these waves
into vibrations in the air that our ears can hear.
Radio waves cannot be perceived by any of our
senses. Yet the radio sets in our homes convert them into sound waves
at a volume that our ears can hear easily.
Photons, the source of the perception we refer to as "light," are much lighter particles that usually bounce back from the first molecule they encounter. In doing so, they do almost no damage to the place they strike. Due to their frequencies-the speed at which they vibrate-ultra-violet rays are charged with greater energy and can penetrate more deeply into our skin, sometimes damaging the cells' genetic codes. This is why excessive exposure to the Sun's rays can lead to skin cancer.
An ignited gas fire emits infrared radiation,
as well as light
Those photons known as infra-red because of their frequencies leave some
of their energy behind, increasing the speed of vibration of the atoms
there-in other words, the heat on the surface they strike. For this reason,
infra-red rays are also called as heat rays. A burning coal stove or an
electric heater give off large amounts of infra-red radiation, which is
"seen" or rather, perceived, by our bodies as heat.
Some photons' frequencies lie between those of ultra-violet and infra-red
rays. When these fall on the retinal layer at the back of our eyes, thecells
there turn them into electrical signals. We then perceive these photons,
which are actually physical particles, as "light." If the cells in our
eyes perceived photons as "heat," then what we refer to as light, color
and darkness would not exist. When we looked at object, we would perceive
it as merely "hot" or "cold."
It Is Not the Eye That Sees
We provide this technical information about various forms of radiation simply to explain that they don't give rise to the effect known as "light." These radioactive particles strike, bounce, and give rise to physical and chemical effects that sometimes cause damage. Yet the effects they cause can never be referred to as light.
The only reason we describe some of these particles as "light rays" is that they're perceived by our eyes. Photons falling on our eyes' retinal layer are turned into electrical impulses by the receptor cells there. The optical nerves carry this electrical current to the visual center at the rear of the brain. This center interprets the current and gives rise to images.
When we investigate this system, we arrive at a most interesting conclusion: In fact, our eyes have no ability to "see" at all. The eye is merely an intermediate organ that converts photons into electrical signals. It has no ability to understand and interpret. It is not the eye which regards at the bright world all around us. No sensations of light or color are formed in the eye.
In order to better understand this concept, let's consider the technical definition of sight in slightly more detail.
In fact, our eyes have no property of "sight."
The eye is merely an intermediary unit whose retina transforms the
photons reaching it into electrical signals
We give the name of a color to photons at various frequencies of vibration.
Depending on those photons' intensity of vibration, we refer to the visible
effects they produce as red, blue or yellow. When all frequencies are
combined together, the result is white. Snow appears white, because it
reflects all the frequencies in sunlight, the combination of which produces
white. Leaves are green, because they only reflect only those photons
at a frequency that gives the sensation of green, while absorbing all
the others. Glass is transparent, just like the air, because photons pass
through them both and reach us encountering hardly any obstacles-such
as clouds or flyspecks. A piece of black cloth reflects no color because
it absorbs practically all the photons that strike it. In other words,
no photons reach our eyes from it, and we perceive it as only a dark or
black shape. A mirror copies an image because its smooth reflective surface
absorbs almost none of the photons striking it, but bounces them back.
They follow a parallel course to one another, undergoing almost no deformation.
In short, the concepts of "light," "white," "green" or "transparent" refer to perceptions in the brain, and are purely relative descriptions. The truth is that in the outside world there is no light or color. There are only forms of radiation which we perceive in that form. The interpretation belongs solely to us. Even if the arriving photons are turned into electrical signals and the visual center in the eye possesses the same properties, an error or structural difference which might occur in the eye will lead to the same object being perceived in very different ways. That is why color-blind people perceive and interpret certain colors differently from normal people.
In short, the photon movements which we interpret as light or color are nothing more than physical phenomena that transpire in the pitch blackness of the brain. Our bodies-including our eyes, and the whole material world that we perceive as a bright, three-dimensional vision that some people claim represents an absolute reality-all exist within that same darkness.
The Three-Stage Wall between You and the Outside World
Close inspection of these scientific facts reveals a most important fact: Never can we establish actual, direct contact with the outside world.
For example, when we sit watch television, we can never actually see the screen. All that reaches us is the photons emerging from the picture tube. These are not light, but only wave particles. Similarly, we "see" objects in the room by the photons they reflect, much like a tennis ball bounces off a wall and back toward us. In other words, even at this stage, we are already divorced from the television's image itself.
When its photons reach our eyes and strike their retina, they are turned into electrical energy by the enzymes there. This constitutes yet another phase between the television and ourselves.
When nerves carry this electrical energy to the visual center in our brain, it changes form once again, taking the form we refer to as "images." This is the third stage. Just one single step is enough to break the connection between the television's screen and ourselves, yet we are actually dealing with three.
To give an analogy, this is like playing the game of Telephone, also known as Chinese Whispers, with three different people in three interconnected rooms. Did the first person really say the sentence that is whispered into your ear, or did the second or third person change it around somehow? Did the third person make it up all by himself? You can't ever be sure. You cannot even be sure whether the first and second players really exist at all.
Any image reaches our brains in three stages,
similar to the childrenâ€™s game of Chinese Whispers or Telephone.
The last person can never be sure whether the words whispered into
his ear are the same as those spoken by the first
To make this point even clearer, we can cite yet another example. Imagine
that for the past year, you have been locked away in a closed chamber
underground. Your only link to the outside world is a closed-circuit television
screen. When you turn the set on, you read the following message:
The images you are about to see on this screen are being screened live from cameras on the African continent. Images from these cameras are transmitted live to satellites, and from there, to receivers above this room, from where they are forwarded to this room.
Is that message true or not? You can never be sure, because every stage of the transmission can possibly have originated as from an artificial source. Actually, the cameras-which are claimed to be broadcasting live from Africa-could be showing a video cassette shot years ago. This pre-recorded image could be what's reaching you by satellite. Furthermore, there may be no cameras or satellites at all, and you may be being shown a video cassette from the room next door. You cannot be sure what you have perceived, without personally traveling to Africa. Yet since you are unable to leave the room, it is impossible for you to go see the "original" African scenery for yourself.
Despite these doubts, however, whatever you experienced of the outside world
before entering this room-plus your knowledge that you'll eventually be
leaving it-may let you to form an opinion that what you see on the screen
is true, a reality that exists somewhere "out there." Yet what if you
had lived in that room since the day you were born? What if you can never
leave? What if, for your entire life, you see the "outside world" only
on that screen? If so, you'd have no proof that there was any "original"
at all of what you view on your TV screen. Indeed, the belief that there
actually were originals of the things you see would become a rather weak
thinking. Because all that was truly there was images on your screen.
Watching a television screen, we cannot know
whether the image we think weâ€™re viewing live, from a far-off
location, is really a pre-recorded tape broadcast to us from the room
Facts such as these in the realm of sight, apply also to the senses of hearing, touch, taste and smell. All of these impressions we perceive in closed chambers in our brains (the centers of hearing, touch, taste and smell). Never can we make direct contact with their originals in the outside world. The sounds we listen to on the radio originate inside the hearing center in our brains. There is actually no sound outside, merely physical movements in the air that we refer to as "sound waves." After going through various processes in the inner ear, these physical movements come to as us electrical signals. Do the electrical signals we perceive as sound correspond to anything outside, or not? We can never know. Returning again to the example of the closed chamber, the audio aired to us of lions roaring in the African jungles could really be sounds created artificially in a studio right next to our chamber.
Our Body and Our Dreams
So far, in order to achieve a sounder grasp of this concept, we have always referred to other objects. We can never perceive the "original" of a television broadcast, nor listen to the "original" of a radio talk show. All images, sounds, smells and tastes form in the relevant centers in our brains. We live not in the world outside, but in a world inside ourselves.
One factor that makes this concept difficult to grasp is that people are deceived on the subject of their own bodies. The arms and legs they see when they look down and the perceptions of touch from all over the skin lead them to perceive the world in a wholly mistaken way. Due to the sense impressions they receive, they make the assumption that they are actually living in an "outside world."
However, the fact is that your body, like other objects, is a deception. All the information regarding your body's existence-in other words, the visual images of it and all the other perceptions which reach your brain, are perceptions in the relevant centers inside your skull.
We can understand this better by considering dreams. When dreaming, you see yourself in entirely imaginary worlds. Objects and people you see around you have no reality. The earth you walk on, the sky overhead, the houses, trees, cars and everything else are all totally imaginary. They have no material originals. They are all located within your brain or, rather, within your mind, and nowhere else.
On further reflection, the same thing applies to our bodies. When you look down in a dream, just as you do now, you perceive a body with hands and arms, one that walks, breathes and experiences sensations of touch. This body you see in your dream could be very different to the one you actually possess. You might dream of yourself as a three-armed, four-legged monster. You may feel sensations of touch from all three arms. In another dream, you might see yourself as a winged, flying creature, and you might feel these wings flapping in a most convincing manner. All of these bodies which can be experienced while dreaming are merely virtual-illusions in your mind. But you perceive them as if they lay outside your brain.
This example demonstrates that even if you perceive your bodies in a most realistic manner, it doesn't follow that you actually possess any such body in the physical sense. In the absence of any such physical body, still we experience physical and bodily perceptions that exist entirely in our minds.
What, then, is the difference between dreaming and real life? True, dreams
are less continuous, less logically consistent and ordered, than the perceptions
we refer to as real life. Technically speaking, however, there is no difference
between dreaming and "real life," because both arise by means of the stimulation
of the sense centers within the brain.
If we dream that weâ€™re flying, that does
not imply that we can actually fly. Yet while the dream lasts, we
remain convinced that we enjoy this ability
In the foregoing pages, we examined what occurs in such regions as the visual and the hearing centers of the brain to produce what we refer to as "real life." An encyclopedia describes how dreaming is actually experienced in exactly the same way:
Dreaming, like all mental processes, is a product of the brain and its activity.
Whether a person is awake or asleep, the brain continuously gives off
electrical waves. Scientists measure these waves with an instrument called
an electroencephalograph. At most times during sleep, the brain waves
are large and slow. But at certain times, they become smaller and faster.
During periods of fast brain waves, the eyes move rapidly as though the
sleeper were watching a series of events. This stage of sleep, called
REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, is when most dreams occur. If awakened
during REM sleep, the person is likely to recall details of the dream…
When we dream of ourselves as a winged creature,
we believe itâ€™s utterly so
During REM sleep, the pathways that carry nerve impulses
from the brain to the muscles are blocked. Therefore, the body cannot
move during dreams. Also, the cerebral cortex-the part of the brain involved
in higher mental functions-is much more active during REM sleep than during
non-dreaming sleep. The cortex is stimulated by neurons (nerve cells)
that carry impulses from the part of the brain called the brain stem.1
In other words, a dream is nothing more than the totality of all perceptions arising from the interpretation of the impulses reaching the relevant parts of the brain.
Notice that what we refer to as "real life" occurs in exactly the same way. Electrical impulses reach the relevant sections of our brain. There they are interpreted, whereupon we perceive the totality of these perceptions as "the real world."
This leads us to a crucial question: What is the source of all these perceptions? Habit leads us to believe that they all come from objects in the "outside world." But the fact is, this assumption is unfounded.
The better to understand this concept, let us continue thinking about dreaming. Ask a dreamer this: "What is the source of all the perceptions you are experiencing?" In all probability, that half-awake person will reply, "Objects in the outside world. My eyes and ears perceive them." Yet in this example, there is no outside world, nor any physical body to perceive it. Everything that dreaming people experience consists merely of signals perceived by the relevant centers in their brains.
Everything we see, hear, touch, taste and smell consists of signals perceived by the relevant centers in the brain. Then how can we be sure that these actually originate from the outside world?
Upon awakening, do we suppose that places and events we have dreamed of actually correspond to material objects or events in some other place or dimension? If we dream of walking around on Mars, for example, do we claim that our feet were really walking around on the planet?
But if we can't make any such claim, then neither can we affirm that the world we are perceiving at the moment, which we refer to as "real life," corresponds to any physical reality. We can't be certain that any of the images, sounds, touch, smells and tastes we experience have any correspondence to reality outside our brains.
Anyone who maintains the opposite is simultaneously maintaining that he is "the little man at the top of the tower."
Why is this so? We shall see why in the next chapter.