Reality, Illusion and Delusion

“Our soul is cast into a body, where it finds number, time and dimension. Thereupon it reasons, and calls this nature necessity, and can believe nothing else.” ~Pascal

Bodhisattva Bob O’Hearn ( and I have been having a most productive discussion recently concerning the illusional nature of reality and I thought it might be helpful to define some terminology. (Accepting for the purposes of discussion the inherent limitations of words and the obvious contradiction of using words to describe what is beyond thought)

Reality: “(Something) that exists independently of ideas concerning it.”
I use the word “something” here because any specific “things” must be described by the ideas of our experience concerning it. A better word might be “nothing”. William Carlos Williams famously summarized his poetic method in the phrase “No ideas but in things” It could be added that concerning reality, there are “no things but in ideas”

Illusion: “A perception that represents what is perceived in a way different from the way it is in reality.”
All perceptions are illusions, in that they are a product of the mind and are therefore always an abstraction of reality. This is the “normal” state of human consciousness. We come by our illusions honestly as they are clearly a product of the evolution of our species and these illusions have obvious practical purposes for survival in the material world. They are illusions never the less.

Delusion: “A belief held in the face of evidence to the contrary, that is resistant to all reason.”
This is the “hardening” of illusion that metastasizes into a set of rigid beliefs concerning the nature of reality. When these delusions come into conflict with reality, or another set of delusions, the result is what Reverend Gautama termed “dukkha”, which is commonly translated as “suffering“, “anxiety”, “stress”, or “unsatisfactoriness”. These delusions are projected both inwardly and outwardly and are the root cause of mankind’s long history of violence, exploitation, oppression and destruction to our selves, our fellow man, other life forms, and now, the entire ecosystem of the planet.

Subjective Reality: “Dependent on the mind or on an individual’s perception for its existence.” (see Illusion)

Objective Reality: “All experiences are subjective. Objectivity is a special case of rigorous inter-subjective agreement.”
This allows us to point to something – generally through language – that is more than ‘merely’ subjective. It is the only way to escape mere opinion. (Karl Popper) In short, Objective Reality is “Something” we can all agree on to make our common material existence in this physical universe more livable.

Ultimate Reality: “What is actually the case prior to our experience.”
The human mind has no direct access to this, as it would require being able to step outside of our (normal) human modes of experience to the way things are in themselves. (I will leave the “I am” state of consciousness prior to subjective experience and objective agreement for another discussion.)

Correctly understanding that both subjective and objective reality is an illusion created by the human mind does not in any way diminish our material existence or disconnect us from the physical universe; in fact, it awakens us to the truth of our inextricable connection. In order to discover what we really are, it is first important to recognize what we are not.

Let the discovery continue my friends!Reality_Illusion_Delusion



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