The nature of reality


I’ve been thinking about modern physics.

Reality consists of quantum fields.   That’s it – just fields.  These fields can vibrate.   Those vibrations are perceived by us as particles: numerous vibrating fields create what we perceive as solid reality.   Apparently those particles don’t really exist, they just are there when we observe them – it’s how our minds perceive the vibrations.   If reality is not being observed in some way, it doesn’t exist.   The fields may still be vibrating, but the “stuff” we understand to be reality is the result of our perceptual framework.

A paradox: if there are only fields, which sometimes can vibrate, and if our material bodies are a manifestation of these vibrating fields, why do we have consciousness?   Why do we perceive these fields as “matter,” and are able to act within them as if there were a solid real world out there?   And what about the symmetries that make all this possible?

The only reason "stuff" has mass and particles can form what we perceive as matter is the existence of a Higgs field permeated all space-time.  The existence of this field was verified by the Large Hadron Collider at CERN on July 4, 2012

The only reason “stuff” has mass and particles can form what we perceive as matter is the existence of a Higgs field permeated all space-time. The existence of this field was verified by the Large Hadron Collider at CERN on July 4, 2012

Five possibilities come to mind:

1.  This is all one really elaborate virtual reality game, and when we die we’ll find ourselves in the real world, suddenly realizing we’ve just been playing.  Sort of a cool idea, but when you think of the pain endured by those experiencing rape, genocide and intense poverty, it seems a rather harsh game.  But maybe our “real” selves want to experience that, at least sometimes.

2.  A wild accident of nature.  No meaning, somehow within this system of fields it’s possible for entities to emerge that can perceive it as a reality.  This seems unrealistic to me, but it’s possible.

3.  Some kind of God created this, and we’re the product of its imagination, living based on that God’s whims, laws and dictates.  That seems even less realistic than 2, but again, it’s possible.

4.  An entity (God, for lack of a better term) exists and wants to experience interaction and challenges.  So it creates this realm and then is able to experience a variety of things stemming from its imagination.  This is different from 1 in that we’d all be aspects of this God, experiencing this field-based vibrational reality from different perspectives.  This view has some appeal, and harkens back to Platonist and especially neo-Platonist philosophies (e.g., Plotinus).  Or, as Bishop Berkeley suggested, we’re just part of God’s dream.

5.  There is something about consciousness that gives us the ability to perceive a world in this series of vibrating fields.  That would mean that this world is not an accident, but was meant for us to be able to perceive reality.  This option differs from the rest in that it doesn’t posit this as a product of a God (even if we are aspects of that God), a game or an accident.


Why does this matter?   It’s easy to get caught up in the every day routines – the problems, the ambitions and concerns that drive us.  Taking care of our kids, earning money, dealing with others, etc.  But somehow that feels a bit empty – is that all there is?  And why is it?  Is there something more?   And if we just live going through the motions, as dramatic and sometimes distressing as they are, are we just sleep walking?  Are we going through life hypnotized, thinking this is REALITY, when really it’s a kind of illusion?

And if there is something more, is there something to gain by trying to understand it, probing with our minds, meditations and philosophy?  Can studying world religions provide a hint?   And if we can get a sense of a kind of deeper meaning, one that transcends this particular brief dance in space-time, will that actually pay dividends?  Will it make this life more meaningful, can we have more control over the reality we experience?

That’s it for today.   Just questions.

  1. #1 by lbwoodgate on March 23, 2015 - 07:40

    I’ve always felt, since breaking my ties with traditional Christianity, that religions are merely creations of man’s mind to explain the unexplainable. Being formed in primitive times they used base anthropomorphic representations of that which connects us all, not being able to comprehend the physics that now better explains life and its likely beginnings.

    Reading a book by Sara Davidson called “The December Project: An Extraordinary Rabbi and a Skeptical Seeker Confront Life’s Greatest Mystery” in where an aging Rabbi moving closer to deaths doorstep tries to comprehend it all. In it he still uses the traditional concept of God but in a much more expanded way that is all-inclusive. From chapter 14:

    Earlier in his career “[Rebbe] Zalman had taken LSD with Timothy Leary, and the major impact, he said, had been a broadening of his views. “It was clear that what I had experienced in prayer and meditation before – the oneness and connection with God – was true, but it wasn’t just Jewish. It transcended borders. I was sitting in a Hindu ashram with Tim Leary, who was Irish Catholic, and I realized that all forms of religion are masks that the divine wears to communicate with us. Behind all religions there’s a reality, and this reality wears whatever clothes it needs to speak to a particular people.”

  2. #2 by Girl for Animal Liberation on March 23, 2015 - 17:28

    Sometimes I feel l ike I am living some version of The Matrix.

    Other times my opinion of The God, A God. A Higher Power is like that of the character Constantine (the movie, not the show) where he says, “God is just a kid with an ant farm.”

    I will say this, I do believe in determinism.

    Great post, Scott.

  3. #3 by EyesOfTheArchitect on March 26, 2015 - 01:22

    You might enjoy reading “The Holographic Universe” by Michael Talbot – it’s well-reviewed on Amazon. According to the holographic universe theory, our own universe might be one of perhaps an infinite number of universes within a multiverse. A universe might also be the result of energy interference patterns in the same way as a 3D holographic image is the product of interference patterns of lightwaves that were encoded onto a 2D film strip.

    Below is a link to a PDF copy of the book I found online. Normally I’m opposed to anyone sharing uncompensated intellectual property. However, Talbot died in the early 1990s and I suspect he would welcome curious minds to take a look at his work and see if it intrigues. The first 30 pages provide a clear overview of this theory, and pages 14-16 are were especially interesting to me.

    What’s also interesting is that a neurophysicist, Karl Pribram, independently arrived at the holographic theory as a possible model for how the human brain might store and retrieve information from neural networks. Pribram proposed that memories might stored and retrieved within the electrical interference patterns that occur between neurons… again, the same principal that enables light interference patterns to replay a 3D hologram encoded onto a film strip. According to this idea, the brain might not be a “storage container for a personality,” as Western science would often lead us to believe, but that it might work more like a transceiver shuttling the memories in and out of energy patterns — in other words, memories might not be ‘created and stored’ in a brain anymore than the five o’clock news is created and stored in a television set.

    Click to access The_Holographic_Universe_Michael_Talbot.pdf

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