One of the most intriguing discoveries of modern science is the conclusion that nothing in this world can be accurately described as being truly ‘solid’.
And I am not referring to different states of matter such as when a substance changes its state from a Gas to a Liquid to a Solid, for these are superficial rather than basic states of matter.
All matter, regardless of its state is made up of atoms – which in turn are made up of other particles such as protons, electrons and neutrons, which in turn are made up of other particles called quarks, which in turn are made up of… well… we don’t actually know yet as science hasn’t yet got that far.
What we do know however, is what makes up an atom is 99.9999999% empty space.
The air we breathe is made up of exactly the same stuff as that which are bodies are made of. It is therefore not the particles that make something into what it is; it’s the forces that bind them together.
It’s these forces that create what we deem to be the physical world with actual real matter only playing a very small role.
So, the reality of our world, which is presented to us by the senses, would look a lot different if you could see more of the truth. For example, if you could somehow see the world on the level of an atom, there would be no solidness to this world at all.
If we take a look at ourselves, as in our own bodies ~ we too are made up of almost entirely empty space.
If we could somehow eliminate the empty space within us in order to see the part of us that was actually made of ‘real matter’ there would be virtually nothing there – the tiniest spec of something that only a high powered electronic microscope could detect would be all there was – and we wouldn’t call it you or I.
This concept of matter being made up of almost entirely empty space is relatively new to science and since its discovery, has been a lot for us (those of us belonging to Western cultures) to take in.
We humans only get to see a very small part of reality and from a very limited perspective. We don’t get to see reality in its entirety, whatever that maybe.
From the moment we are born, we are conditioned by the senses and our culture to think the physical world in which we live and move about in, is reality.
I am not indicating that we are somehow being suppressed by an agenda that wants to hide the truth from us, I am merely pointing out that most of us are restricted from higher truth due to the limitations of both science and our own senses.
Reality according to western conditioning is that everything around us is made up of physical form and that’s all there is, unless of course you’re either religious or a theoretical physicist – then you’re likely to have an additional element of reality to contemplate – That which is beyond what is (either God or additional Mathematical theory as yet unknown).
As a human, our reality is delivered to us through the senses and perceived by the brain as a physical world. I’ll talk more about the brain in other articles, for now, let’s take a look at some of the senses…
Take SIGHT for example;
This sense allows us to see the world through our eyes; a function we call sight. But what we see is a far cry from what is actually going on. For when we actually see something, all that is happening is the sensory input of light waves.
Angstroms can be used to measure the very small. Atoms are 1 angstrom in diameter. If we were to visualize an atom, it has the nucleus in the centre made up of protons and neutrons, with electrons orbiting the outside, or put more accurately, positioned within an uncertainty cloud.
When asked to visualize an atom in terms of scale and empty space, scientists often use the analogy in relation to the size of a football stadium;
If the nucleus were the size of a grain of sand in the centre of a football field, in relation, the electrons wouldn’t even be on the pitch, they’d be as far away as the seats in the stand or maybe even outside the stadium itself – making everything in between empty space.
Visual light is far greater in size than that of atoms. The spectrum of light is in the range of 4000-8000 angstroms. Because visual light is so much larger than a single atom, it is impossible to shine a light on an atom in order to detect its existence (we have to use something called a scanning tunnelling microscope to see atoms).
What we therefore see with our eyes, is light bouncing back to us from a collection of atoms (or rather a collection of empty space) that’s combined together by a force – an electromagnetic force.
It is the translation of sensory input by our brain that concludes the version of reality perceived. What you are really seeing when you look at something is a force, which gives the illusion of material solidity.
Let’s take another one of our senses – TOUCH
Touch something solid.
Go on… touch something like a desk, a wall or the chair you’re sitting on.
You feel something? It feels solid right?
In reality you aren’t actually touching anything. When you sit down on a chair, the electrons that make up the chair, cause a repulsion against you as an opposing force (Charged particles repel other particles of the same charge). When you sit down, you are literally levitating over the chair.
The fact that it is forces, such as Electromagnetism that make up our world rather than the stuff we think we perceive through our senses doesn’t hinder our ability to function. What is shown to us through our senses, such as what we see and touch, is all we really need to be able to physically function. The brain is slightly different in that it interprets the input we’re given.
If our sense of sight could see at a much finer level (go beyond seeing light), the world would look a far different place, it would be a cacophony of energy and forces interacting with each other, not this so-called solid world we perceive. I suspect we may also bare witness to forces that we don’t even know exist.
“It is entirely possible that behind the perception of our senses, worlds are hidden of which we are unaware”.
~ Albert Einstein.
How we see ourselves within the world – Another Illusion?
The strangest concept of reality when looked at through the scientific is the nature of oneself.
British Computer Scientist and Roboticist Steve Grand purports the hypothesis that not a single atom from your childhood is with you today (this is not strictly true, some of your atoms will remain, but the majority of the atoms you had as a child will have left). However, the point he’s eager to demonstrate, is that you are not the stuff of which you are made.
“Consider yourself. I want you to imagine a scene from your childhood. Pick something evocative… Something you can remember clearly, something you can see, feel, maybe even smell, as if you were really there. After all, you really were there at the time, weren’t you? How else would you remember it? But here is the bombshell: you WEREN’T there. Not a single atom that is in your body today was there when that event took place. Every bit of you has been replaced many times over… The point is that you are like a cloud: something that persists over long periods, whilst simultaneously being in flux. Matter flows from place to place and momentarily comes together to be you. Whatever you are, therefore, you are not the stuff of which you are made.”
~ Steve Grand, Creation: Life and How to make it
Not only are you mostly empty space like all the other objects around you, you are also mutable acting in a similar way to a wave of energy.
We have a memory, yet that memory lives within a brain that is made up of atoms. Those atoms come and go. You are therefore a ‘flowing non-permanence’ rather than a permanent materially solid creature.
Nearly all of the atoms of which you were once made, are now part of something else, a tree, a bird, the sky, the ocean even other people…
Because atoms are so small, and the human body is made up of so many of them, it is very possible that some of the atoms which once made up the most prominent figures in world history, now make up part of you. All that is required is the re-distribution of those atoms which is a continuous process. It is also statistically possible that the last breath you draw from life will contain atoms that were in the first breath you drew when you first entered the world.
What you actually are, is made up of everything else in this world. You are oneness. Meditation brought the Buddha to this conclusion circa 2,500 years ago.
So, are we all deluded?
Not necessarily. The perception of reality and the acceptance of you existing as a fluctuating force rather than a conceived object of matter, once truly understood, can provide tremendous empowerment rather than making one feel deluded.