The Nature of Reality

Let’s suppose that the universe is made of only one kind of stuff, but that stuff has multiple aspects: material, immaterial, temporal, subjective (inside), objective (outside)… What do I mean by “aspects”? Think of the faces of a coin (2 aspects) or a standard die (6 aspects). For our purposes, we do not need to know how many aspects Reality has; we do need to know that Reality has at least three: material, immaterial, and temporal. An apology: in order to keep our discussion manageable, we will ignore, for now, a number of tantalizing wrinkles, touching only on those topics essential to our goal of creating a better understanding of mind.

Everything in Reality has all of Reality’s aspects. In particular, everything has both material and immaterial aspects. If we zoom in to even the smallest bits of Reality, say, protons, neutrons, and electrons, we find these bits have both material and immaterial aspects. The material aspect is characterized by being local and having mass; the immaterial aspect is characterized by being non-local and massless. Different aspects are fundamentally distinct faces of reality. They do not “cause” or “make” one another, yet they do belong with one another, like husband and wife or peanut butter and jelly. Different aspects of Reality are connected, of course; a change in one will likely, though not necessarily, be accompanied by a change in the other(s). Thus, while it is possible to lightly scratch only one side of a coin or die, flipping only one side of a coin or rolling only one side of a die can’t happen, because the sides are connected, in Reality, like separate branches sprouting from the same tree trunk. A quick example may help. Imagine holding a permanent magnet in your hand. What you see and feel, from a simplified perspective, is the material aspect of the magnet; it has mass and is local. To our senses, it seems as though the magnet is nothing more than a metal bar. Now imagine that you attempt to force the north poles of two such magnets together. You can’t see, hear, or taste it, but you feel something immaterial there, mysteriously pushing back. You are experiencing the very real immaterial aspect of magnets, an aspect that cannot be seen, has no weight, and cannot be put in a wheelbarrow, yet surely exists and has consequences.

Like a magnetic field, mind is a manifestation of the immaterial aspect of Reality. Body represents the material aspect. Once we accept that mind and body are but different aspects of a single, unified Reality, the standard mind-body problem formulation evaporates: the body’s material aspect does not make or cause the immaterial mind. But because they are different aspects of a single underlying Reality, any change in the immaterial mind may be accompanied by a change in its material partner, and vice versa. The rest of this discussion attempts to elucidate how this is so.

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