A hallucination is, I can put my hand through a chair because it’s not really there. There is no chair.
But an illusion is, something is there but I am not seeing it. I’m seeing something else. I see a chair but it’s actually atoms. Or information. Or Jesus teaching me how to forgive the world. Or an angel accommodating my mistaken belief I’m a body. Whatever.
Illusion is upended perception and we are doing it to ourselves.
Here’s a way to go into this.
A chair is real in that bodies can sit in it. To the body – which is physical – the physical world will always be real. This is not a problem at the level of the body! Your body is not stressed about being a body – how it functions, what’s next, how to solve being hungry, how to die.
But I suggest that that view of the chair is illusory. Because when we look at a “chair,” we are really looking at love.
How, when we look at a chair, are we really looking at love?
Because love is relational: it brings two together into one. Me and you, me and a dog, me and a blueberry pie, me and you and twilight on Mount Ascutney in Vermont.
So when we look at a chair, we think we are seeing wood set up in a way that somebody can plant their butt on it and rest. But really we are looking at a vast network of relationships – each one of which includes us – and all of which are love!
What are some of those relationships?
Consider the chair-designer who communicated with the chair-builder who communicated with the lumber store who communicated with a lumber distributor who communicated with a lumberjack who communicated with chainsaw manufacturers . . .
Each node in that sentence has its own nodes. How about the lumberjack cooperating with the folks who taught him how to cut down trees safely and efficiently? Or the tree in relationship with soil and sunlight? Or how the mass of the earth allows trees to fall when cut down – not float away into space?
Each relationship is premised on other kinds of relationships. The chair-builder’s body is made of cells which are made of molecules which are made of atoms which are made of quarks and they all have to work together cooperatively for the body to work, let alone society, let alone the cosmos.
Can you see this? Really see it? All these nodes and the relationships between them? Try! If you look closely enough at the chair it will take you all the way out to the beginning of the universe and all the way down to the most infinitisimal levels of matter.
And then you are just looking at a chair again. So simple!
When you come back from your journey through the cosmos – all those levels, cellular and social, atomic and personal – you retain your awareness of relationship. In that way – through relationship – everything comes back to this chair. In relationship, we abstract a world. But all there really is, is relationship.
And all relationship is really love because love is cooperation and coordination in lawful service of creation. That is how everything comes into being. It is literally what the cosmos is. And you and I are not separate from the cosmos, much less each other.
When you look at a chair, you look at love. Don’t get hung up on what’s real and what’s an illusion. Just look; just give attention. See the one relationship that lives both in and beyond all appearances, and feel how it includes you, and know that this – this this – is love.
This is a way of thinking about the world and the body, and relating to the world through a body, that eventually allows us to remember the Stillness – the Unspeakable Perfection – that we sometimes call “God.”