One of the central tenets of all religions is illusion. There seems to be a congruence with the understanding of our world as ‘not real’. It takes some towards the idea of ‘hell and heaven’, ‘judgement day’ – or, as in Hinduism, an inward journey.
The understanding of the world as an illusion, I believe, would have proved anaesthetic to a largely-suffering humanity. It’s just the fact that at least in medical sciences, placebos are completely real! Anyway it’s sort of a sweet thing you know – to tell a dying child that it isn’t the end. And in a prehistoric world where a full lifetime was uncommon, it’s really not hard to imagine such consolations that arise from empathy.
Let’s take it a step further – more than empathy, we were desperately trying to convince ourselves of it. We needed it to be true – looking down the barrel of death constantly. And as is mostly agreed upon, it was fear of death that birthed God. Anyway, the imaginative human being wanted to explain the experiences of the senses it had no grasp of.
One thing I would like to state here is that the idea – at least, of maya in Hinduism – comes from a flawed notion of the macro matching the micro. That is, everything is made in God’s image – and so, we all resemble each other. The outside and the inside are the same thing. It was this flawed notion that led Francis Bacon to claim that there must only be seven planets because the human face has seven orifices – and he argued everything is in proportion and perfect geometry.
It is very important to acknowledge the limitations of a human mind. To know that which we call logic is nothing but the capacity of a human being to think in a derivative fashion. Kant, in his critiques, founded his basic argument from a very basic question – how do you know? His point was that we can never know beyond the realm of the human mind – so when we learn, we only end up learning the limits of our own comprehensive capabilities. The point of this is that we do not and cannot actually be aware of an objective reality. When some things are perceivable by a majority, that becomes a ‘human reality’. The way to understand it is to realise that we can never experience a colour we cannot see. It would simply not exist for us.
I want to prove the need for an illusion even more. I believe it arises from the capacity of an animal to feel betrayed. Think about it, reality betrays us- when we think we know something, and it isn’t so. What is the conclusion we draw? That there is no ‘real’. It is only the perception that can be faulty. The human brain feels all pain as pain; everything is reducible to an electric signal. The concepts of ‘physical’ or ’emotional’ are jumbled up in the midst of the rapid transmission of neurotransmitters and electric impulses. So I argue that it is very likely that an emotional betrayal is taken as a physical one.
Let’s take this a little bit further. We make illusions everyday. And we are very aware of it. We make memories. Memories are our own personal bag of illusions. Memories, dreams, playing out possibilities, thoughts – all of these are our illusions. Now, as seen earlier, the brain cannot distinguish between physical and emotional pain. So, it cannot really distinguish between the ‘real’ and the ‘unreal’ either. Our ability to experience illusions leads us to have the idea – maybe, just maybe, everything is an illusion.
Now, if everything is an illusion, what is the point of doing anything? Now, here’s when religion gives birth to itself. It gives us ‘laws’ that manage this illusion – the law of karma, for instance. In this case, it’s to ensure that I don’t kill shamelessly, knowing it is all an illusion. And I get scared- will I be killed too?
The birth of divinity or the supernatural occurs not by proving its existence. No, it’s done by proving the ‘nonexistence’ of everything else. The proof, of course, is thin, at the very best. But why do we believe it? Because we don’t want to die? Is that fear really so debilitating?
Existential philosophers deal with it head-on and conclude that life has no meaning. See – just because you create a God doesn’t mean your life has meaning. You are no more or less than a puppet if God is real. So, how do we feel like the ‘masters of the universe’ now? Obviously, we create ways to manipulate and appease the almighty. You may insert all your superstitions, rituals and prayers here. If there is one thing human beings seem absolutely convinced of, it’s the conception that they are really very clever. It’s like when we tell ourselves that we are the only ones who are ‘spiritually able’, and are able to ‘ascend’.
Now we get to the point. Human beings like to know that they know. We are curious, sure – but only to the extend where we can find answers. We do not like feeling stupid. When we don’t get it – the essence of our existence, for instance – we disregard it. It is our ego that makes everything an illusion. It is fine to say everything is an illusion, if you are able to control your dream, your vision. Not many can. Our need to prove we know, and that we are in on a secret, creates this theory. The beginning of divinity is the human being wanting to play God.
For instance, look at me. Writing this, trying to show you that you are egotistical – all the while finding satisfaction in the fact that perhaps I do actually know more. So I am the actual puppeteer. The actual God. The only enlightened soul in a sea of fools. But actually, I am just proving that I am so bloody human.
Featured image used for representative purposes only.