Two of the most popular and acclaimed films of the last few years were The Matrix and its recent sequel, The Matrix Reloaded, released in 2003. These movies' storyline presupposes a world conquered by machines, running on artificial intelligence, which are keeping the human race in an imaginary world, using them as an energy source. Reaching a huge audience, the Matrix movies portray a very advanced virtual-reality program.

The movies' hero, nicknamed Neo and played by Keanu Reeves, is a computer programmer within this system. He believes himself to be working for a large software firm and living during the last remaining years of the 20th century. But in reality, the year is 2199, and his body is being maintained in a liquid-filled capsule, in which he sees only what he is shown and can experience only what he's made to feel. He "knows" himself to be a software engineer, going to work among all the other people, while in reality, he exists in a totally different environment and a totally different century. In short, he exists in a virtual-reality environment called "the Matrix," believing that he's living an actual life.

The character called Morpheus knows the truth, that Neo lives in an imaginary world-and throughout the film, he tells Neo the reality of things. He reveals, for instance, that so far, everything Neo has seen, heard, smelled, tasted and felt had no physical reality; and proves to him that all his experiences were imaginary impressions created in his brain. Later in this chapter, we'll give examples of dialogue from the movie.

In this picture, we see someone who feels himself skiing on the mountains, whereas there is really neither skis nor snow. This illusion is artificially created.


Virtual Reality and a World Composed of Electrical Signals

Thanks to present technological developments, it's possible to have realistic experiences without the need for an "external world" or "matter." The incredible advancement in virtual reality technology has come up with some especially convincing proofs.

To put it simply, virtual reality is the projection of computer-generated three-dimensional images that appear to be real with the aid of some devices. This technology, with its diverse range of applications, is known as "virtual reality," "virtual world," or "virtual environment." Its most important feature is that by the use of some purposely constructed devices, it misleads the person experiencing it into believing the experience to be real. In recent years, the word "immersive'' has begun to be used in front of the term "virtual reality," reflecting the way that witnesses are literally immersed in the experience.

The rationale of any virtual reality system is based on our five human senses. For instance, when the user puts on a special glove, devices inside transmit signals to the fingertips. When these signals are relayed to and interpreted by the brain, the user experiences the sensation of touching a silk fabric or ornate vase, complete with all of its surface details-without any such thing actually existing in the environment.

One of virtual reality's foremost applications is in medicine. Michigan University has developed a technology that trains assistant practitioners-in particular, the personnel of emergency wards-to learn their skills in a virtual reality lab, in which environment is created by projecting the details of an operating room onto the floor, walls, and ceiling of a room. The "picture" is completed by projecting an operating table, complete with the patient to be operated on, onto the center of the room. The surgeons-to-be put on their 3-D glasses and begin their "virtual" operation. As the pictures on the next page show, anyone viewing these images cannot distinguish a real operating room from this virtual one.

In The Matrix, too, once the movie's two heroes are seated in special armchairs and get their nervous systems connected up to a computer, each one envisions himself in a totally different environment. In one scene, they are seen practicing martial arts; in another; they walk down a crowded street dressed in different clothes. When Neo expresses his disbelief that that these experiences are only computer generated, the simulations are suddenly frozen. He is forced to concede that what he thought to be real was, in fact, only an image.

Technology has revealed that we can experience very realistic perceptions without the external world: People can feel themselves in places they are not, and can feel themselves doing things while they are actually lying inert.

Technology developed by Michigan University permits the training of doctors and particularly, emergency ward personnel in a virtual operating room. Practitioners wear 3-D glasses and operate on a virtual patient.

Another scene finds Neo stretched out on an old chair, badly dressed in old clothes, with wires attached to his head. But when the software is loaded, he finds himself in a wholly new, simulated environment where his worn clothes are gone, his hair is longer, and he looks altogether different from his real appearance.

Morpheus : It is our loading program. We can load anything from clothing to equipment, weapons, training simulations. Anything we need.

Neo : Right now, we're inside a computer program?

Morpheus : Is it really so hard to believe? Your clothes are different. The plugs in your body are gone. Your hair has changed. Your appearance is now what we call "residual self-image." It is the mental rejection of your digital self.

From this dialogue, it's evident that Neo is reluctant to admit that his experiences are imaginary, because they are so wholly realistic. Consequently, the following dialogue ensues between him and Morpheus, who is aware of the truth:

Neo : This isn't real? (Indicating the chair)

Morpheus : What is real? How do you define "real"? If you're talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, taste and see, then "real" is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.

The wise Morpheus shows Neo that the world that he thought to be real is actually only a simulation. Every detail of his experiences-including cars, the noises of city traffic, the ocean, skyscrapers, people and everything else-is a computer generated impression in his mind. Notice how Morpheus' words quoted above explain scientifically how images believed to be real are formed by the brain's interpretating the electrical impulses it receives.

Everything we perceive is specially recreated for us in our brains. Therefore, when we say, "We are aware the world around us," we are talking about copied images of colors and shapes, of sounds and smells.

Below are some extracts from our previously published books on the subject:

  • All the information we have about the world we live in is conveyed to us by our five senses. The world we know consists of what our eye sees, our hand feels, our nose smells, our tongue tastes, and our ears hear. We never think that the "external" world can be other than what our senses present to us, since we've been depending on only those senses since the day we were born.

However, modern scientific research in many different fields points to a wholly different understanding, creating serious doubt about our senses and the world we perceive with them.

This approach's starting point is the notion that any "external world" is only a response created in our brain by electrical signals. The red hue of an apple, the hardness of wood, your mother, father, your family, and everything that you own-your house, your job,-and even the lines of this book, are composed of electrical signals only. (The Evolution Deceit, 7th edition, p.216)

  • When we say that we "see," in fact we are perceiving the effects of impulses reaching our eyes, after they're transformed into electrical signals in our brain. That is, when we say that "we see," we are actually observing electrical signals in our mind. All the images we view in our lives are formed in our center of vision, which takes up only a few cubic centimeters of the brain's volume. Both the book you are now reading and the boundless horizon you see when you gaze out the window fit into this tiny space. (The Evolution Deceit, 7th edition, p.218)
  • Everything we see, touch, hear, and perceive as matter-"the world" and "the universe"-is nothing but electrical signals occurring in our brain. (The Evolution Deceit, 7th edition, p.222)
  • At this point, we encounter another surprising fact: that there are actually no colors, shapes, or voices inside our brain. All that can be detected within brains are electrical signals. This is no philosophical speculation, but simply a scientific description of the functions of our perceptions. (Matter: The Other Name for Illusion, p.18)

No matter how realistic our perceptions, they are our minds' interpretations. Someone watching dolphins perform in the sea is, in reality, watching the vivid and colorful three-dimensional images in his brain.
  • The act of seeing is realized in a progressive way. Photons of light, traveling from the object, pass through the lens at the front of the eye, where they are focused and fall, reversed, on the retina. Here, the impinging light is converted into electrical signals transmitted by neurons to a tiny spot in the back part of the brain, called the center of vision. After a series of processes, this brain center perceives these signals as images. The actual act of seeing takes place in this tiny spot at the rear of the brain in pitch darkness, completely insulated from light. (The Evolution Deceit, 7th edition, pp.217-218)

As we have seen, the subject matter of The Matrix conforms to the scientific realities published in our books. As the above quotations and dialogue from the film explain, we always deal only with the images forming in our brains. No matter how realistic our perceptions, they are our minds' interpretations. Therefore, we can never be sure that the images we perceive are not created by artificial signals. In other words, we can never distinguish between reality and imagination.

We'll examine the subject in more detail with scenes from the films.


The Impossibility of Distinguishing Between Reality and Imagination

In this scene, Morpheus teaches Neo about reality by using the images on the TV screen to show him that he's living in an imaginary world he considers to be real. The modern world and all its skyscrapers, cars, and details he sees within Matrix; are all images created in his mind for him to experience. At that time, the true state of the world is altogether different: It is a destroyed, decayed planet. But until Neo was told this, he thought he was existing in the real world, without ever questioning its reality of it, having been fooled by it for all those years.

Morpheus : This is the world you know. The world as it was at the end of the Twentieth Century. It exists now only as part of a neural-interactive simulation that we call Matrix. You have been living in a dream world, Neo. . . This is world as it exists today... Welcome to the "desert of the real"…

The following passages, published in our earlier books, are relevant to this section of the film:

  • Since we can never actually reach the "external world," how can we be sure that such a world really exists?

Actually, we cannot. Since each object is only a collection of perceptions, and those perceptions exist only in the mind, it is more accurate to say that the only world that really exists is the world of perceptions. The only world we know is the world that exists in our mind: the one that is designed, recorded, and made vivid there-in short, the one that is created within our mind. This is the only world we can be sure of.

We can never prove that the perceptions we observe in our brain have material correlations. Those perceptions may well be coming from an "artificial" source.

. . . False stimulations can produce in our brain an entirely imaginary "material world." For example, let us think of a very highly developed recording instrument that can record all kinds of electrical signals. First, let us transform all the data related to a setting (including body image) into electrical signals and transmit to this instrument. Second, let us imagine that your brain can survive apart from your body. Finally, let us connect the recording instrument to the brain with electrodes that function as nerves and send the pre-recorded data to the brain. In this state, you will feel as if you are living in this artificially created setting. For instance, you can easily believe that you are driving fast on a highway. It never becomes possible for you to understand that you consist of nothing but your brain, because what is needed to form a world within your brain is not the existence of a real world but rather, the availability of stimulations. It is perfectly possible that these stimulations could be coming from some artificial source, such as a recorder. (The Evolution Deceit, 7th edition, p.225)


If Our Perceptions Seem Realistic, That Doesn't Prove that Their Material Equivalents Exist in the External World

We'll never be able to prove the existence of our perceptions' material equivalents, because our brains don't need an external world for perceptions to occur. Present technologies like simulators are some of the proofs of this, as pointed out earlier. When Neo enters a simulated environment for training purposes, he finds it totally realistic, to the extent that he believes he's breathing that environment's air, and that his success in the fight depends on the strength of his muscles. In reality, his body is stretched out on the chair and connected to the computer.


Tank : How about some combat training?

Neo : Jujitsu? I'm going to learn jujitsu?

(After the downloading ends:)

Neo : I know kung fu.

Morpheus : Show me.

Morpheus : This is a sparring program, similar to the programmed reality of the Matrix. It has the same basic rules. Rules like gravity. What you must learn is that these rules are no different than the rules of a computer system. Some of them can be bent. Others can be broken.

Technologies similar to those seen in the film can now give people the impression that they're existing in a completely different environment. In this case, they'll respond as if what they see, hear or do was utterly real. It's possible to project stereo images onto the floor, walls and ceiling of a room-sized cube. Entering the cube, people wearing stereo glasses can walk around and see themselves at the edge of a waterfall, on a mountain summit, in the middle of the ocean, on board a ship, or in other different environments. The headsets worn create the illusion of depth and space, and the images thus created are proportionate and life-sized. Special devices worn like gloves recreate the sensation of touch. Anyone using these devices can touch objects in the virtual environment and even move them around. These environments' sounds are also very realistic, because they can be produced from different directions and distances. Some applications can display the same virtual environment to different people around the world. With this technology, for instance, three people on three different continents can see themselves together on a speedboat or discussing issues in a meeting.

These examples show that in order to see ourselves in a certain environment, we do not require the external world. We can't possibly discern whether what we feel, see, taste, and smell is real or whether it comes from an artificial source. In all cases, we live in our minds and will never be able to reach the original substance.


Don't be Deceived by a Picture's Quality or Wealth of Detail!

In one scene, Neo is introduced to the virtual world of the Matrix in a simulated environment. Everything looks perfectly realistic. Neo sees people walking down the street and waiting for the traffic lights; when the lights turn green, they cross the road. He even feels the knock to his body when someone walks into him.

Morpheus : The Matrix is a system, Neo . . . But when you're inside, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are a part of that system...You have to understand most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inert, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it . . .

At a moment when Neo is looking around, taking it all in, Morpheus says: "freeze it" and at once the image of their environment freezes as it was. The people frozen as they were, the fountain's water is frozen in time, the bird hangs in the air on the very spot. Only Neo and Morpheus continue their conversation in an otherwise frozen image. Neo is stunned but he begins to realize that everything around him is part of the imaginary world he lives in, that it has no actual reality.

Morpheus : Freeze it.

Neo : This isn't the Matrix?

Morpheus : It's another training program designed to teach you one thing...

It's impossible to prove that human life does not occur in a way similar to what we see in the film. No matter how realistic all the details of one's environment, they are experienced only in one's mind. Even if the originals of these people, places, and events actually exist in the "outside" world, we can never reach them. Some of our explanations on this question are given below:

  • On a three-dimensional, high quality screen, an individual watches a film being projected. Since he is almost attached to this screen, he cannot succeed in detaching himself from it, so that he may grasp the situation he is in. (Eternity has Already Begun, p.101)
  • … Regardless of whether there is a material world or not, a human being watches only the world of perceptions in his brain. No one can ever come across the true original of anything. Furthermore, it's enough for everyone to perceive the copy. For example, someone who wanders around a garden with colorful flowers is not seeing the original, actual garden, but the copy of it in his brain. But this copy of the garden is so realistic that everyone receives some pleasure from it, as if the garden were real, when strictly speaking, it is imaginary. (Matter: The Other Name for Illusion, p.50)
  • At every moment, God creates the universe with its numberless details, perfect and without defect. Moreover, this creation is so flawless that the billions who have lived on the Earth up until now have never understood that the universe and everything they see is an illusion, and that they have no connection with the reality of matter. (Matter: The Other Name for Illusion, p.94)
  • Some people think a fast-moving bus on the highway-or an accident caused by that bus-are striking proofs of that they're dealing with the physical existence of matter, because the image they're dealing with is seen and felt as deceivingly real. For instance, the surrounding images, the perspective and depth of the highway; the perfection of their colors, shapes and shadows; the vividness of sound, smell and hardness; and the complete logic within that image can fool some people. Because of this vividness, some forget that these are actually only perceptions. Yet no matter how complete and flawless they may be, that doesn't alter the fact that they are still perceptions in the mind. (Matter : The Other Name for Illusion, p.180)


Laws of Physics are Interpretations of Our Perception

Morpheus tries many methods to help Neo understand the reality of matter and provides much evidence in support. Previously, we saw that as part of Neo's training, the image in a copy of the Matrix was suddenly frozen, thus making it evident to Neo that everything appearing real is in fact, a virtual reality. Neo's education continues with the following conversation:

Neo : What are they?

Morpheus : Sentient programs. They can move in and out of any software still hardwired to their system. That means that anyone we haven't unplugged is potentially an agent. Inside the Matrix, they are everyone and they are no one. We have survived by hiding and running from them, but they are the gatekeepers. They're guarding all the doors and holding all the keys. Sooner or later, someone is going to have to fight them.

Neo : Someone?

Morpheus : I won't lie to you, Neo. Every single man or woman who has fought an agent has died. But where they have failed, you will succeed.

Neo : Why?

Morpheus : I've seen an agent punch through a concrete wall. Men have emptied entire clips at them and hit noting but air. Yet their strength and speed are still based in a world built on rules. Because of that, they will never be as strong or as fast as you can be.

Neo : What are you telling me? That I can dodge bullets?

Morpheus : No, Neo. I'm trying to tell you that when you're ready, you won't have to.

In this conversation, Morpheus advises Neo not to think with the laws of physics always in mind. In the Matrix system, the "agents" are security officers who can control everything by using people's virtual bodies. But because this system is only a virtual world displayed to people's minds, Neo can achieve "the impossible."

In subsequent scenes of the film, characters demonstrate supernatural powers when they have to. Although they experience them in a perfectly realistic manner, in reality these experiences are created in their brains, by the computer. Neo believes himself to be living through these nerve-racking situations, whereas in reality he remains stretched out on his chair.

Morpheus, on the other hand-to use the expression from the film-wants to "free Neo's mind" by rescuing it from all the conditioning it's been subjected to throughout his life. To achieve this, both characters get connected to a jumping program. Morpheus leaps from skyscraper to skyscraper, bridging vast distances between them almost as if he could fly. He says that if Neo frees his mind (rids himself of prejudices), he can do the same. But even though he knows that he's inside a computer program, Neo can't manage to escape what he knows in his mind about the laws of physics. He takes his unreal environment so seriously that he's afraid of falling when he jumps.

In the following sequence, Neo is seen falling onto the concrete floor because when trying to jump from one building to another, he could not overcome his doubts and fears.

Despite the film's obvious science fiction elements, the messages it contains are truly thought-provoking. For example, anyone who realizes matter and space are imaginary, discovers another secret that other people don't know: Cause-and-effect reality does not occur because of matter's physical attributes or as a result of people's relationship with one another. Since matter is only a perception, it can't have any physical effect. Each physical cause is created separately. For instance, a thrown stone, does not break the glass. The perception of the stone being thrown, and the perception of the glass breaking, are each created separately. What makes a ship float is its buoyancy, and what keeps a bird in the air is aerodynamics, but both are created as perceptions. In reality, therefore, all such "powers" belong to God, Who creates them.

Do you not see how your Lord Stretches out shadows? If He had wished He Could have made them statưonary, Then We appoint them sun to be the Pointer to them. (Qur'an, 25:45)

Neo, having learned this reality, realizes that while actually stretched out on a chair and connected to the computer, he can move outside the laws of physics upon entering the virtual world of the Matrix. As shown in the accompanying stills from the film, he finds himself ducking and moving at such incredible speed as to evade the bullets fired at him. Furthermore, everything is so realistic that when he opens his eyes on the chair, he is still in a state of great agitation. This is an important demonstration that for a person to experience a certain environment, it's not necessary for it to exist in external reality.

We have written about this subject in our books dealing with the nature of matter, explaining that the laws of physics are formed in the mind, in the following way:

  • God shows us the images we experience within ourselves as united by a network of cause-and-effect relationships, all linked by the laws of physics. As for the images of night and day that form in our brains, we perceive night and day as linked to the Sun and the rotation of the Earth. When, in our minds, the image of the Sun is at its height, we know that it is noon; and when it sets, we witness the fall of night. God created perceptions of the universe, together with a cause-and-effect relationship. We never experience daytime immediately after the Sun has gone down. (Matter: The Other Name for Illusion, p.201)
  • In the illusion within our minds, whenever we drop a pen, it falls to the ground. As a result of researching the cause-and-effect relationship governing this kind of occurrences, we discover the "law of gravity." God presents the images He shows us in our minds as linked to particular causes and laws. One of the reasons for His creating these causes and laws is that life is created as a test. (Matter: The Other Name for Illusion, pp.201-202)
  • We must remember that God possesses the power to create all these perceptions without the need for any cause or law. For example, God can create a rose without a seed, or rain without the need for clouds, or day and night without the Sun. God reveals this fact in the verses 45, 46 and 47 of Surat al-Furqan, declaring that He created shadow first, then the Sun as a cause of it.

Dreams are an example that can help us to better understand this process of creation. Although our dreams have no material counterpart, still we perceive the Sun's light and warmth in our dreams. From that point of view, dreams indicate that perceptions of the Sun can be created in our minds, without its actually being there.

However, God has also provided humans with reasons for everything. Daylight is caused by the Sun, and rain by clouds; yet all of these are images that God creates individually in our minds. By creating a cause before an effect, God lets us believe that everything functions within specific rules, thus enabling us to carry out scientific enquiry. (Matter: The Other Name for Illusion, pp.203-204)

  • God shows the images He creates as linked to particular causes and effects. When an apple drops off a tree, for instance, it always falls to earth. It never goes upwards or remains suspended in the air. The study of these effects and the laws that God has created form fields of study in science. (Matter: The Other Name for Illusion, p.203)
  • God possesses the power to create effects without any causes. One proof of this is the way we can feel the heat of the Sun in a dream at night, even though the Sun is not actually shining down on us. (Matter: The Other Name for Illusion, p.204)