What if consciousness were an illusion?

Everything fake, including the "I" : The I is just an illusion

Hopefully you are now sitting at breakfast and enjoying your breakfast egg while you look at the newspaper. Well seasoned with a pinch of salt. In addition, the freshly brewed coffee, the aromatic scent of which you can smell. The first sip tastes best, I always think.

But there is a little problem. Strictly speaking, there is nothing that smells or tastes good. Neither the egg nor the coffee have an absolute taste of their own. It only arises in your head. The world out there is completely bland and odorless. It has no color, makes no noise, is not rough or smooth, hot or cold. Only your brain gives the world - with the help of the senses - sensuality. It's pretty creative at making you believe something like a colorful, fragrant, noisy environment. What we see as reality is actually a construction of the brain.

Nowhere is this more evident than with optical illusions. A wealth of amazing examples show how the brain can be duped. Its backdrops seem plausible, but they are not. When we realize that we have been deceived, it is like a rift is opening in reality. Nothing is as it seems.

Indication of deception: the blind spot

A well-known example is the blind spot, a point in the eye's field of vision that is naturally “blind” because this is where the optic nerve enters the cranial cavity. The brain hides the gap in the retinal wallpaper by seemingly superimposing the pattern of the surroundings. The “hole” in perception remains unnoticed, reality is well-ordered.

A simple test with a piece of paper will reveal this. First draw a small circle on the left side and a cross on the right. Then you close your left eye and look at the circle with your right eye. If you then get closer to the circle, the cross will eventually disappear because it has landed in the blind spot.

The building capacity of the brain goes even further. Not only the external, but also the internal perception is his product. Here the deception works almost more perfectly, because most people are completely convinced of the real existence of their ego. But there is no inviolable, unchangeable "I" in the brain that is kept somewhere in a kind of casket or that is constantly enjoying the mental cinema as a small observer.

The stories spin us, not we spin them

The ego is permanently generated by networks of electrically excited nerve cells. It is made up of a multitude of unconscious mechanisms and processes, says the British psychologist Bruce Hood, author of the book "The Self Illusion". One could say: there are many me. It is difficult to properly grasp the core of the self, to track it down. Hood speaks of a spider web without a spider. The American philosopher Daniel Dennett described the problem with an almost poetic image: "Our stories are spun, but for the most part it is not we who have spun them, but them to us." Reality and its viewer, the actor and his audience, the mirror and what is mirrored: in the head they are one.

Admittedly, it's hard to swallow, especially at the breakfast table! But I have consolation ready. On the one hand: There is of course the reality out there. The world and our selves exist. But they are just different from what you might think at first glance. We don't have direct access to reality. From the huge spectrum of electromagnetic waves, the eye can only perceive those between 400 and 800 nanometers. It's a tiny slit, but our most important window to the world.

What the brain constructs is for survival

How we perceive the environment and ourselves is shaped by evolution. Its standards are survival and multiplication, not the perfect representation of the physical and psychological cosmos. The picture of the world and of ourselves that the brain creates is far from perfect. But it has served its purpose quite well so far.

The look behind the scenes reveals the ego illusion. Still, we can't take them off like a theatrical costume. We play this role for life. Otherwise we would lose ourselves. But self-knowledge is a step forward in the journey to the real you. Until we have reached our goal, we have to stay calm. And enjoy breakfast.

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