Evolving news on the science, writing and thinking about Near Death Experiences (NDEs)

Just an illusion

My training in Chemistry has long since given me a view on matter that shatters most people’s perception of reality. When you look around, you are fooled into believing you are seeing solid objects, but in reality you are not. “Solidity” is an illusion created by the absorption of light by electrons orbiting atomic nuclei.

The truth is that electrons, and nuclei take up tiny amounts of space, but due to the nature of quantum mechanics and the speed of movement of sub-atomic particles, they create the appearance of solidity. Moreover, due to electrostatic repulsion when objects come into close proximity, they “feel” solid. However, if all movement of electrons were stopped, and you were able to bring all sub atomic particles into immediate juxtaposition, objects like trees, even buildings would be invisible to the naked eye. To exemplify this point it has been estimated that if you were to bring all the sub atomic particles that comprise the entire human race together it would be about the size of a sugar cube. (Link)

Currently, I have a very poor understanding of quantum mechanics, something that I wish to address over the coming years as I feel it is important for gaining deeper insight into this whole subject area, but from what I do understand, and from facts like the sugar cube and that the entire universe originated from an impossibly small pin prick of light, I sometimes feel nervous about the nature of “reality”. In fact, I wonder if it is in fact just a gigantic illusion. I know others believe the same.

So how does that fit into the subject of NDEs? When I read about NDEs, people often describe their experiences of the other side as feeling more real than “real life”. Others refer to this life as a place of learning to prepare us for the next life. When you combine those subjective observations with the understanding of matter I just described, then it does indeed make more than just a bit of sense to understand the physical universe as being just illusory, and that our brains are the quantum processing machines allowing our consciousness to interface with this “illusion”. Now the fact we experience this illusion through our consciousness lends it a reality that it may not otherwise have had. This is not unrelated to the notion in quantum mechanics that a quantum state is not real until it is observed (I am probably saying that incorrectly).

Anyway, before I end up disappearing into a philosophical rabbit hole of ever decreasing circles, I just want to conclude with another concern that I have. Let’s say that this view of things is somewhat correct, namely that this life is illusory in nature and that the life after is “real”. How do we know that life is actually “real” and not just another level of a wider illusion in which we move.

Finally, I invite those who are better informed than I am on this particular area to comment on how this may or may not relate to Penrose and Hameroff’s theory about micro tubules within neurons being sites of quantum processing, and that this forms the basis of consciousness. I apologise in advance for not following up on comments immediately as I am travelling for the next couple of weeks.

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24 thoughts on “Just an illusion

  1. It a very interesting area. From my elementary (is that a pun!?) Understanding of quantum physics the likes of max born and Heildenerg cane to that the quantum realm in no way physical at all as such and that it a basically mash of maths in a sense, but still leads to the copaghhen school of physics.


  2. Quantum mechanics shows that even the ‘truth’ of electrons and nuclei is an illusion. Particles as little moving objects do not exist. The quantum mechanical reality is computational in nature and shows that the illusion of a particle is created by any measurement or interaction that forces the mathematical construct called a ‘wave function’ to manifest a characteristic we call ‘location’. Only then the illusion of a particle located somewhere in space is created for a short period of time.
    This has been proven experimentally by the double slit experiment.

    What is your definition of ‘illusion’? The word ‘illusion’ to me basically means: ‘a manifestation in our consciousness of something that is different in nature than the manifestation itself’. Our daily observations can be peeled down like an onion, layer upon layer, each layer being a manifestation of the layers below it. Do we eventually hit a ‘core’ that is the ‘ultimate reality’? and if we do, are all conscious manifestations created by this core less ‘real’?
    Things to ponder about… 😉


    • That’s a great reply Frank. The whole issue of the particles themselves not being particles due to the whole duality thing is central because in truth the entire human race wouldn’t even be a sugar cube.

      The “less real” perspective is also the big question. Just because it isn’t physically present in the way that we understand it to be, does not necessarily mean that it is not real. Is it real because we see it.

      Also, how does this fit into consciousness?


  3. I audited QM . It’s mostly math like classical mechanics but I followed it enough to ask the professer. Do I get this right our particles in this equation just went through the solid wall. He said yes that is.

    Anyway the reality issue goes back to Descartes. He cheated his way out so I am anti realist. Maybe we know reality maybe we dont….
    Anyway there is some fascinating cosmology stuff coming out of UK.

    I will be links. Meanwhile I am stocking up. See previous post.


    • ” Do I get this right our particles in this equation just went through the solid wall. He said yes that is.”

      A more precise formulation would be: The wave function extends beyond the wall, which means that a measurement or interaction that forces this wave function to manifest ‘location’ can lead to such manifestation being at the other side of the wall. This creates the illusion that the particle went through the wall while in reality the particle only exists as a wave function, not as a tiny little object always located somewhere in space.


  4. Nailing down ones general ideas about perception is, I believe, a crucial early stage of thinking about ones reality, otherwise ones ideas flip flop around untethered, and one builds ones understanding on shifting foundations. Later, one can relax things.

    Our everyday experiences within Spacetime appear to be the ‘result’ of ‘processing’ information. Our spacetime experiences are not the information before it is processed, but they are directly related to it. Those spacetime experiences are also apparently shared experiences, and thus the information and/or the processing are probably shared too.

    I liked some of Hameroff’s early ideas concerning the protein cavities in centrioles, and other highly conserved, repeating, helix-like protein structures like cilia, basal bodies, axon’s, dendrites and within dendritic spines etc. (As I did Albrecht-Buehler’s work implicating centrioles as having a key role in a cells ‘intelligence’).
    Luca Turin has also produced some interesting related work with fruitflies. But, I’m skeptical about the value of Hameroff’s later ideas.

    I think they’ve all found little bit’s of the elephant…

    Dr Nima Arkani-Hamed presented a nice lecture at SLAC entitled “The End of Spacetime” in 2018, showing we are still on course for a future generalisation of relativity and QM.


  5. I would recommend you the book: “The case against reality – Why evolution hid the truth from our eyes” by Donald Hoffman 😉


  6. justinechevarria on said:

    Nigel Cundy has a powerful book on QM that is highly recommend and he answers question via email.


  7. Great responses. Thanks.


  8. How does QM fit into consciousness? Nobody knows, but QM may help to solve one of the biggest problems of dualism, the ‘interaction problem’: If consciousness exists as something separate from the material world, how does it interact with this material world? More specifically: How does it interact with our brain?

    The only interactions we currently know are electromagnetism, the strong and weak nuclear interactions, and gravity. If consciousness interacts with the material world through one of these mechanisms, we would be able to measure it. These interactions would also need to adhere to known conservation laws such as the conservation of energy, which means that they are very limited in their freedom.

    QM opens up another possibility for interaction, one that would solve the interaction problem: influencing the statistical behavior of QM systems. I’ll try to explain below.

    Upon a measurement or (material) interaction, a QM system (mathematically described with a wave function) will manifest one out of a number of possibilities. Which one is manifested can only be predicted statistically. Nature randomly picks one of a number of possibilities, adhering to statistical laws only.
    If conservation laws come under pressure, this even leads to a phenomenon like ‘quantum entanglement’ (also known as ‘spooky action at a distance’): A random pick on one side requires and enforces an opposite pick on the other side to not violate conservation laws.

    What if consciousness is able to influence QM statistics? This would open up a possible interaction between consciousness and a brain that contains QM structures that are optimized for their coupling with consciousness.

    We already know QM structures exist in nature, they play a key role in photosynthesis. So, QM structures may also exist in the brain.

    On top of that, experiments by Dr Dean Radin seem to point to a coupling between QM systems and consciousness (see In his experiments, the QM systems and consciousness were very loosely coupled and the results were very subtle, but they were significant nonetheless. Who knows to what extend such coupling (if it exists) can be optimized?

    A brain that is optimized to couple consciousness to QM statistics can play a role in solving the ‘interaction problem’ in dualism: consciousness manipulates the QM statistics in certain brain structures, which in turn manipulate other processes in the brain. An interesting thought…


  9. If everything we see is an illusion then how do NDEers see a lot of the *same* (illusion) we now see but in greater clarity and with paranormal aspects, like e.g. hearing conversations in corridors which they shouldn’t be able to? Also this 360 degree vision thing we read about. Somehow we take the way we see things now with us, no? Does this mean the soul, spirit or whatever is the real experiencer. So maybe a dog sees things in it’s own doggy way when it passes (ha,ha ?)


  10. Eric on said:

    Several experiments based on Bell’s Theorem and Wigner’s Friend have been carried out in recent years, bringing the question of objetive reality to the forefront. However, I can see the repercussions of this taking another whole generation (and a whole lot of funerals) before they reach the mainstream.


  11. Omg Your government is going to kill you with this herd immunity plan


  12. John Meyer on said:

    I wanted to address a couple of points made in the original post above. First, ” the entire universe originated from an impossibly small pin prick of light. ” This was not possible despite some math. This singularity was a point in passing from a previous state, a collapse (and then expansion ). It existed for a tiny amount of ” time ” between states of our universe. Secondly, ………” I sometimes feel nervous about the nature of “reality”. In fact, I wonder if it is in fact just a gigantic illusion.”
    Reality, as we experience it, is just that which we experience through our 5 strong senses and one weak 6th sense. There is an infinity of possible realities each dependent upon who or what is experiencing any particular reality with their own set of sensors. Also, to say that our reality is an illusion doesn’t help understand our reality fully since an illusion REQUIRES something to create the elements of the perception and something, or someone to experience those elements. In other words a “self ” is needed to experience what is called an illusion. An illusion must have an ” illusioner “.


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