NEO: This isn’t real?
MORPHEUS: What is real? How do you define real? If you’re talking about your senses, what you feel, taste, smell, or see, then all you’re talking about are electrical signals interpreted by your brain.
(From the film The Matrix)
This course can therefore be summed up very simply in this way:
Nothing real can be threatened.
Nothing unreal exists.
Herein lies the peace of God.
(From A Course in Miracles)
We are living in a virtual reality comparable to The Matrix. But it is not metaphorical.
We have no direct contact with the physical world around us. All sensory data we receive comes to us in the form of electricity, which is interpreted by the brain. Our mind controls the interpretation of the five dimensions of data it receives from our sensory receptors (i.e., the eyes, nose, ears, etc.). In other words, we perceive the “outside world” entirely in our minds. Our lives in the outside world are lived entirely in our heads. As the unchallenged interpreter of sensory input, the mind controls our perception of the physical world. Since we have only indirect contact with the physical world and there is no device available to calibrate our senses, we don’t know whether or not we are perceiving the “true reality” of the physical world at all. What do objects “really” look like “out there”? We don’t know.
It also follows that the mind can misperceive and can even create distortions; it can change the “scenery” – that is, our perception of physical objects – whenever it wants to. Examples: When we sleep, the mind shuts our senses down for the most part; the mind can “forget” sensory data during intense physical trauma, perhaps as a defense mechanism. And who hasn’t taken a sip of a drink — water for example — believing it to be something else, such as iced tea? Initially, the water will taste like iced tea until the mind catches up and adjusts.
In short, sensory perception presents us with a virtual reality that is extremely limited and unreliable.
The only certain knowledge we have comes from “inside” us – from the soul. And what the “voice of the soul” has to tell us is far more important than the virtual reality we are currently experiencing through the senses.
A Course in Miracles uses two terms to address this distinction: “perception” and “knowledge.”
Perception is inherently illusory because it is based upon the interpretation of sensory data by the ego, which is nothing more than a distorted set of beliefs that perceive the body as our ultimate reality and, therefore, limits our understanding of who we really are. Flowing from these distortions is our primary, erroneous belief that we are separate from God and from one another.
Knowledge, by contrast, is the reality that lies beyond The Matrix, beyond the world of sensory perception. But it can only be recognized by the soul, not by the virtual world of the senses. Knowledge reveals our true nature: we are one with God and with each other. “Sin is regarded as lack of love, or as a mistake calling for correction and love, rather than for guilt and punishment.”