There are many that believe perception is reality, but is that true? Mystics, theologians, and philosophers have contemplated how we perceive and understand reality for centuries. There has been this ongoing consensus that what we perceive to be reality is, in fact, not reality at all. The film The Matrix explores the concept of reality as it symbolically illustrates that what we perceive to be reality is, in fact, an illusion potentially created by other beings. In The Allegory of the Cave from Plato’s The Republic, this same topic is addressed with imagery of chained men in a cave with their perception controlled by others who manipulate shadows like puppets. Rene Decartes’ Meditation of First Philosophy from Meditation I of The Things of Which We May Doubt expresses his perception changing over time as he realized that everything he believed was nothing more than an impression, if not indoctrination, of another person’s beliefs. These three works present quite the conundrum worth contemplating: is the world we perceive reality or an illusion?
In all three works, there is a main character who has to make a choice to either know the truth or remain living in illusion. In The Matrix, the main character was Neo, and Morpheus offered Neo the opportunity to take the blue pill or the red pill in which one would allow him to return to his life of illusion and the other would open his eyes to the truth. Neo chose the red pill and was taken on a journey of seeing how much of a well orchestrated illusion reality was. In The Allegory of the Cave, one of the three cave prisoners was released from his chains and was taken somewhere to learn the truth about the shadows he had known as reality until that point. In Meditation of First Philosophy, Decartes went into detail about his own journey for truth and to unlearn all the things that had been impressed upon him in order to find what he truly believed, or found, to be reality. However, The Matrix ends with Neo’s new illumined self on a mission to free the masses from their slumber. The Allegory of the Cave alludes that the illumined man will be happy for the change but do nothing more than pity his former cave mates. Descartes ends with a gloomy note. He find that the process of unlearning and relearning reality is a bit too arduous, which leads him to fall back into the easier ways of the ordinary way of life. These conclusions make it very clear that the process of awakening from life-long illusion is painful, indeed, but it can yield beautiful results that make the process worth it.
The Matrix and The Allegory of the Cave communicate that most people would, or should, want to awaken from the illusion, but The Matrix emphasizes that most people are so dependent upon the system that they not only do not want to awaken from their illusion, but they will also vehemently defend their false way of life. The process of consciousness evolution has proven to be a very destructive one as Descartes described. Many people are not emotionally or psychologically capable of handling having everything they know to be true obliterated before their eyes. The process often causes some to lose their sense of sanity, and many do not know how to cope with the ordinary world any longer after the change. For those who are not spiritually mature enough to handle the truth, it may be best to maintain the status quo. But God also has His elect who He gives eyes to see and ears to hear to truth of all things, who then go forth to preach the gospel unto all nations.
The mystery schools and the churches that explore the mystery of the gospel all teach that the world we see in front of us is not what we perceive it to be. For example, Ephesians 6:12 states, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (KJV) This scripture alone makes it very clear that the trials and tribulations we face in this life are not limited to that which we can perceive with the naked eye. Reality is far deeper than what we may think. This scripture can be linked with The Matrix and Plato’s cave allegory. Both accounts illustrated wickedness in high places creating a world of illusion that was know as “reality”. Descartes explored his own convictions on what he perceived as reality and found that the process of finding out the harshness of reality is not as pleasurable as one would romanticize it to be, and yet the process is necessary to understand the nature of the world we live in. When we allow ourselves to open up to the possibilities of life being more than what we can perceive with our five senses, then we will make the greatest leaps of human progress ever known. The physical world and its limitations do present quite the illusion, but reality can be known if we allow ourselves to perceive that which is beyond the physical plane.
This essay was written for educational purposes for the A.A. Religion Program at Liberty University. (c) 2015