Perception is the sensory experience of the world. It involves both recognising environmental stimuli and actions in response to these stimuli. Through the perceptual process, we gain information about the properties and elements of the environment that are critical to our survival. Perception not only creates our experience of the world around us but also allows us to act in that world.
According to Albert Camus, “You can grasp and count happenings through science, but you cannot grasp the universe. Here is the tree, you feel its hardness; here is the water, you taste it. Here is the wind, it cools you. You have to be satisfied with all that.” All the information that we have about the realness of the world in which we live is conveyed to us by our five senses. The world we know of consists of what our eyes see, our hands feel, our noses smell, our tongues taste, and our ears hear. We never think that the “external world” could be anything other than that which our senses present to us, as we have been dependent solely on those senses since birth.
Modern research in many different fields of science points to a very different fact and creates serious doubt about our senses and the world that we perceive with them.
According to scientific findings, what we perceive as “the external world” is only the result of the brain being stimulated by the electrical signals sent to it by our sense organs. The multi-hued colours we perceive with our sense of sight, the feeling of hardness or softness conveyed by our sense of touch, the tastes we experience on our tongue, the different notes and sounds we hear with our ear, the variety of scents we smell, our work, our home, all our possessions, and moreover, our mother, our father, our family, the whole world we have always seen, known, got used to throughout our life, are comprised purely and simply of electrical signals sent by our sense organs to the brain. Though this seems difficult on the first analysis, this is a scientific fact. The views of renowned philosophers like Bertrand Russell and L. Wittgenstein on this subject are as follows:
“For instance, whether a lemon truly exists or not and how it came to exist cannot be questioned or investigated. A lemon consists merely of a taste sensed by the tongue, an odour sensed by the nose, a colour and shape sensed by the eye; and only these features of it can be subject to examination and assessment. Science can never know the physical world.”
Frederick Vester explains the point that science has reached on this subject: “The statements of certain scientists that ‘man is an image, everything experienced is temporary and deceptive, and this universe is a shadow’ seem to be proven by science in our day.”
The thoughts of the famous philosopher George Berkeley on the subject can be summarised with this: “We believe in the existence of objects just because we see and touch them, and they are reflected to us by our perceptions. However, our perceptions are only ideas in our mind. Thus, objects we captivate by perceptions are nothing but ideas, and these ideas are essentially in nowhere but our mind… Since all these exist only in the mind, then it means that we are beguiled by deceptions when we imagine the universe and things to have an existence outside the mind. So, none of the surrounding things have an existence out of the mind.”
Islamic intellectuals such as Imam Rabbani, Muhyiddin ibn al-Arabi and Mawlana Jami realised this from the signs of Qur’an and by using their reason. Imam Rabbani wrote in his “Maktubaat” that the whole material universe is an “illusion and supposition (perception)” and that the only absolute being is God: “God… The substance of these beings which he created is mere nothingness…. He created all in the sphere of senses and illusions… The existence of the universe is in the sphere of senses and illusions, and it is not material…. In reality, there is nothing on the outside except the Glorious being, God.”
Mawlana Jami also stated the same fact, “All phenomena of the universe are senses and illusions. They are either like reflections in mirrors or shadows.”
The writer is a master’s student of Zoology at CUK. [email protected]