Thursday, October 1, 2009


[First a Welcome:
It is a pleasure to Welcome Satya and Girish Duvvuri to the Blog. We look forward to the inputs and inquisitive questions from these young minds -- ramesam.]

Is What We Perceive Out There Solid And Substantial ?

If we look at the tree in the lawn or hear the screech of a car tyre on the road, we think there is a solid object out there.

The ancient Indian Sages doubted it. They said that what we see as the world is an illusion. It is like seeing water in a mirage or still worse it is like mistaking a rope to be a ‘snake.’ In fact there is or was never a snake in that place. The appearance of a snake was merely an assumption in twilight. It has always been a rope only.

Latest Neuroscientific research too tells us that we do not "see" really what is out there. Dr. S. L. Macnik and Dr. S. Martinez-Conde wrote in 2008:

"Whether we experience the feeling of "redness," the appearance of "squareness," or emotions such as love and hate, these are the results of the electrical activity of neurons in our brain."

It is so because our senses and nervous system extracts only certain info. from the natural world.

 We hear fluctuations of air pressure not as waves but as sounds.
 We see electromagnetic waves of different frequency as colors.
 We perceive chemical compounds dissolved in air or water as smells or tastes.

Peter Dziuban in Chapter 13 of his book, "Consciousness Is All" graphically describes how mistaken we are in thinking that the world is made up of solid substance. Take for example that you "see" a red apple.

Quoting from his Book:

"How does the "mind" know anything about that apple — or even claim an apple is there in the first place?

The sensing "mind" experiences a specific visual sensation, which also could be called an appearance, or a mental image of the apple. That particular visual sensation of red color and roundish shape is one way the mind differentiates an apple from other items, such as a book or a hand. Simultaneously with this visual sensation, the mind experiences a particular tactile sensation of the apple; there is a feeling of weight and texture when holding it. Also simultaneously, there may be a sense of sound associated with an apple, such as crunching when a bite is taken. There also is a sensation of taste, and a scent.

Each of the five senses contributes its particular "aspect" of the apple to the mind. As a result of all the sensations it experiences, the mind instantly says to itself, "An apple is here."

Now look again.

A question long pondered by philosophers concerns the nature of the substance of this whole apple experience. Exactly what kind of substance is one dealing with here?

The entire and only basis on which the mind would say an apple is present, is by way of the senses. Absolutely everything the mind would know about the apple is thanks to a visual sensation, a sensation of touch or feel, a sound, a taste and smell. The mind’s entire "evidence" is sensations.

Now ask yourself, what makes up the apple itself — that supposedly is giving off this sensory experience to the mind?

Really stop a moment. Ask yourself what the apple itself consists of, apart from those five sensations.

When you try to think of what an apple is, entirely apart from those five sensations — what happens?

You can’t think of anything.

And why can’t you think of anything besides the sensations?

Because there isn’t anything.

There are only the sensations!

There are not the sensations of an apple and an apple! Sensations are the entire and only "substance." There is no apple that is a standalone physical object "out there," with its own substance, in addition to the sensations experienced by the mind. The "apple" would be entirely mental — consisting one hundred percent of sensations only.

Go ahead. First take away those five sensations. Then see if you still can come up with an "apple." Poof! The "apple" is non-existent. The "apple" as a separate, solid object didn’t go anywhere. It never was out there as a separate object in the first place!

The mind’s experiencing of sensations results in what is called an apple, but never is there a separate item "out there." All there would be is a series of images, feelings, tastes, sounds and smells — experienced entirely by the mind.

There is nothing else there."

We think we see something when there is actually something else or nothing is there. That is the reason why we get fooled by a lot of magic tricks.
Macnik and Martinez-Conde’s article on "Attention and awareness in stage magic: turning tricks into research" contains many links to magic shows. Their article is at:

Prof. R. Wiseman, a Neuropsychologist and himself a Magician gives many hilarious examples of how our mind deceives us. His site:

These web sites are quite enjoyable to elders as well as youngsters.


Mike Ayers said...

Love the post! This has fascinated me to the point of becoming a "seeker", which I hate being now. Anyway, this gives me another avenue to search. Thanks for the post. I'll be back. Oh, and do you mind if I link to this?

Mike (

Ramesam Vemuri said...

Thanks Mike. Please do link to the Blog.


Satya V. said...

Quite thought provoking! I really enjoyed reading it!

Ramesam Vemuri said...

Thank you Satya.