What is Reality? Are we even real? or Is the World an Illusion?

Human made of energyOne 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.


22 comments for “What is Reality? Are we even real? or Is the World an Illusion?

  1. Jay
    August 24, 2013 at 1:00 am

    Mind blowing stuff! I love it all, and the way you write. And I do feel empowered :-)

    • zep
      August 29, 2016 at 2:50 pm

      You lost me at Budhism. But otherwise it is truly mindblowing stuff!

  2. Dan
    October 10, 2014 at 7:53 pm

    What should also be mentioned here (especially considering the mentioning of western thought and of Buddha) is that this line of thinking is not new, it’s just viewed through a new paradigm due to the new age of scientific understanding. This may be new to most western thinkers, but Buddhists have been saying for thousands of years that everything we experience, including ourselves, is merely a construct of the mind and is essentially “empty.” This isn’t the same concept of “empty” that’s used in the article to describe the space between atoms, but it is the same concept of what that empty space, and the rest of the points in the article, imply: everything we experience is not true nature.

    • Ky Wiss
      October 11, 2014 at 9:57 am

      In Buddhism, Maya means ‘illusion’ and in Sanskrit literature it refers to several different meanings, not just the illusion of mind in which you refer, but also the illusion of the external world. Of course, how the external world is perceived – is through the mind and thus we come full circle.

      The real purpose of this article was to discuss the relatively recent human learning that the entire observable Universe is nothing but empty space – a concept that is rather difficult for most western-thinking humans to bend their heads around. It’s much easier a concept for a Buddhist to comprehend as it is what they have always believed…

      On Empty Space;
      There is a group of scientists that claim – if all of the empty space between atoms was removed from the observable Universe, then the remaining ‘real matter’ could be condensed into the size of a small garden pea. Quite mind-boggling really.

      • Donovan
        August 17, 2015 at 12:11 am

        That was so mindblowing.

      • Don K
        May 28, 2016 at 8:42 am

        Greetings. Regarding the final paragraph “On Empty Space”, there would be no small garden pea. Nothing would remain. Even the appearance of the pea would be an assembly of the intelligently programmed energetic building blocks of the construct – thought. Matter simply put is various densities of arranged and compressed intelligently programmed energy.

  3. bob
    January 6, 2015 at 9:34 pm

    In islam we called it 7 nature of god,derive from 7 sense that human got in order to understand the proff of existance of god,for example,on dead man theres 7 improtant organs,for example the eye,function of the eyes are to see,but a dead man cannot actually see because its already dead,some says soul that make eyes can see,but do you even see someone still alive,and have a pair of good looking eye,but still he or she cannot see (blind) ,because eyed and sense of sight are not depend on soul but rather higher power that we called god,if god give you permission to see something,no matter how things happened you will see it

  4. Mikara
    September 5, 2015 at 6:52 pm

    I have a problem with this theory though. What happens when we die? Wouldn’t it be like saying that atoms can actually be destroyed to release the energy? What is blood then? Or cells? Or the matter we see around us? And if we’re just atoms, then why on earth do we have different organs?What are thoughts? And before any of you say that we’re just particles becoming self-aware, then why not the other particles in chemicals?It’s been what, 17 billion years since the universe existed?Then why aren’t they self aware? Why would it take so long? What are emotions? Why would the energy even form particles? What’s the use? And if we’re merely energy , why do we die?

    I think that at this moment science is just grasping at straws. This is just a theory.

  5. Mikara
    September 5, 2015 at 6:59 pm

    And when I said it’s merely a theory, I was talking about what the scientists said.

    Okay more questions: And why did atoms form such diverse beings? Why would such diverse beings form?How do particles learn to speak?? What’s the need of particles becoming self aware? Why can we ponder on these questions? How do ‘chemicals ‘ think? And don’t say that it’s because of our brain’s activity, because I don’t believe that chemicals acting on chemicals can produce thoughts.

    And the reason is because when we mix two chemicals in reactions we don’t exactly know what the chemicals are ‘thinking’ , do we?

    • Ky Wiss
      January 12, 2016 at 10:54 am

      I think you’re asking how consciousness works – it’s a mystery – nobody knows…

  6. Mikara
    September 5, 2015 at 7:29 pm

    And why do we contract diseases, if we’re merely particles?

    • Ky Wiss
      September 6, 2015 at 8:42 am

      Hi Mikara,

      Science deals with the ‘How’ not the ‘Why’.

      It is for each of us to struggle with the ‘Why’. It’s part of the human condition I’m afraid…

      • Mikara
        September 6, 2015 at 10:39 am

        Well how do we know that what science says is right??It isn’t infallible because we created it and we aren’t exactly infallible are we?

        • Ky Wiss
          September 6, 2015 at 11:09 am

          Science comes up with a hypothesis and then tests that hypothesis against a verifiable experiment. The evidence has to fit the hypothesis in order for it to be proved true.
          A hypothesis without an experiment to back it up remains just a ‘theory’.
          Science doesn’t have any interest in making stuff up. The problem is there are still so many missing pieces to the jigsaw puzzle that we can’t gain a full picture of how it all works, and we may never get to that point. Ever.

          • Mikara
            September 6, 2015 at 1:02 pm

            Yes you have a point. Science is based on our perceptions of what the world around us is like but how do we know that our perceptions are the right ones? What if they’re completely wrong?

          • Rolly
            October 23, 2015 at 5:42 pm

            Pyramids, their age and funtion, also golden ratio included, is leading us to pre-Socrate’s philosophers, which were talking about atoms, discovered for us in 18th century and about oneness of the whole universe (above other things). After that it was lost in so called western rationalism, which brought us to an unspiritual way of life; we are missing those qualities as intuition, consciousness to lead us to understandin of ourselves as a part of the Universe, as oneness. “How” of science will never be even close to f.e. shaman, who can see my dead grandma, which he never knew and have no information, she died.

  7. David Foo
    October 5, 2015 at 8:55 am

    Core of Buddhism is about true science of nature. There are many amazing similarities between Buddhism and physics. Science is getting closer in the last 300 years but still quite far away from true nature as explained by core Buddhism. Examples other than emptiness is entropy, time is related to objects (gravity), time is related to interaction, causality, hologram, and more. But thanks to advances in physics, Buddhists can now learn more about Buddhism (science ).


    • Randall
      November 20, 2016 at 6:26 am

      I hope Buddhism is correct. I’d love to come back!

      All kidding aside, learning more about science and scouring the internet brought me to materialism and atheism. More reading brought me full circle to spirituality, the beauty and transcendence of consciousness and the oneness with the universe.

  8. February 28, 2016 at 4:42 pm

    I am a long time student of A Course In Miracles and I am going to share this video with our Tues. night class to demonstrate how physics and The Course are teaching the same truths.

  9. Kedar
    July 13, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    The world is an illusion.

    Do our eyes have the power to see or something else(i.e- spirit) ?

    When we die, our eyes fail to work.. where has the power gone then?

    • Randall
      November 20, 2016 at 6:29 am

      We’ll soon find out and the more I research about science and spirituality — the more I doubt materialism and this reality.

      I feel we are a part of something bigger and I do not think death is the end. I think it’s an illusion. I feel like these new theories are becoming elaborate explainations that are forced to lean on these notions.

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