On Reality as Metaphor

For a number of years now I've been fascinated by the idea that reality as we percieve it is a metaphor for some higher, or lower, level of being that would be incomprehensible to us as humans.

As far back as historical record goes, in books, films, songs, cave paintings, we have created fantasies of other realms, higher states of being that challenge the true nature of reality.  From films such as the Matrix to books such as the Bible we have been trying to express that there is more to life than this pure physical existence.

Maybe this is just escapism, or maybe this is an expression of our deep understanding that the reality we perceive though our 5 senses is just a metaphor for something else.

These 5 senses, touch, sight, taste, smell and hearing, are the first indicator that we don't perceive the world as it "truly" is. When we interact with the world, we do so through our senses, they are our interface to the world, our window on reality, and they carry with them limitations.

A simple example is colourblindness, any child at school may not be able to distinguish between red and green, and yet It may not be detected until adulthood. Such a fundamental difference between my reality and theirs, yet it's quite hard to detect. A child may go through school believing that everyone sees the world this way, they may even learn to distinguish the colours in important situations, by, for example understanding the sequences of traffic lights, or calling strawberries red because they are known to be red, not because they appear red.

What I see with my eyes closed

We take this example further and it begs the question, how do we know that we all see the same thing at all? something I asked a long time ago was what does everyone see with their eyes closed?

We all assume that we will see the same thing in fact many people see many different things. Maybe we all see different things with our eyes open? 

Or back to colour? Do we all see the same colours? do I see the same red as you?

Well, according to recent research apparently we don't, our brains wire up in different ways as we grow, and it's looking more and more likely that what I see as blue, you may well see as red.

Kandinsky's Composition VIII (1923)

This concept, the fact that our brains may interpret our senses differently for each individual, means that we can't tell what each other are truly seeing, it means I don't know when you look at this page that you're not experiencing something completely different to what I see. this might look like a Kandinsky painting to you.

But critically, your brain would be able to interpret that, and you would still be able to interact with the world in exactly the same what I could, there would be no way to tell that you saw the world like that, as when we saw a strawberry, we'd both point at it and say it's a strawberry, and it's red... even though what we saw would be drastically different.

Taking this a bit further, the entire notion of sight isn't really generally understood.. we don't actually see objects, no-one has ever actually seen an object, you could say we don't know what anything actually looks like. "seeing" is really just a metaphor, it's our brains way of detecting and organising beams of light that reflect off objects. We've all seen the light reflecting off a building, but we've never seen the building. 

"seeing" is just a constructed concept we use to make sense of the world.

So if reality really is this flexible maybe there is no one true reality at all or maybe what we all see and what we'll sense is simply an individual, personalised metaphor for an underlying reality that none of us can really comprehend.

Along a similar theme, when we listen to a piece of music, do we experience the same thing? The actual effect we call sound doesn't actually exist in a physical form, it's a construct of our brains. What does exist is the physical movement, the vibrations in particles moving through the air or through solid objects. Actually on a physical level there is no such thing as sound, just movement. Sound is simply a metaphor for a movement that we cannot detect in any other way than those vibrations hitting a thin piece of bone in our ears.

Equally smell doesn't exist... it's simply a way for our brains to notify us that small particles of an object are in the air. That flower in the vase is shedding particles of pollen and small pieces of petal that are flying around in the air, and as they hit the receptors within our noses we detect them, and our brain creates the powerful metaphor of smell to allow us to understand that we're in contact with those particles

A really powerful example of this construction of metaphor to explain reality is found when we start looking at the senses of animals. Animals view the world in a multitude of very different ways. If we had the eyes if a  wasp or the senses of a cuttlefish or a lion we would experience a different reality, seeing ultraviolet, sensing heat, smelling and hearing things miles away, seeing in slow motion, there is no one true reality, no one true view of the world

Or is there

Is there an underlying reality.

Something common to everything, to everyone, something purely physical that we perceive deep down within our subconscious? Is it this something that gives rise to concepts such as heaven? Is this something we potentially glimpse when in altered states, trances, meditation, when hallucinating, Something unique to all. a shared vision, the true nature of reality

And are all of these sights and sounds we feel simply a higher metaphor, a way to express something which is truly inexpressible a clear way to understand the world without becoming overwhelmed by its true nature

Is life just a hologram or a simulation or are we all forms of energy flowing down a river mingling with one another here and there.

And what evidence is there, what ideas are being discussed within the spiritual and scientific communities to back up this seemingly crackpot theory. Well surprisingly there are many. The nature of reality, the nature of conciousness, perception, observation, the concept of the holographic universe, of reality as an expression of higher dimensional functions. 

There is a lot we don't know.

I would like to explore these concepts to find people who are investigating the very fringes of science and the overlap with spirituality to understand true nature of being.

phew... ramble over!