Reality is an Illusion: Designing Your Dream Life and Exiting the Matrix

“Reason is telling us its limits. Reason is saying that logic itself cannot get to all truths.”

—Donald Hoffman

For most of us, when it comes to what constitutes reality, what we see is what we get. Some of us may even take it a bit further by attributing some degree of causality to our thoughts, emotions and beliefs. And fewer of us may realize that we are living inside an elaborate illusion that simulates, but does not precisely reflect, the true underlying reality.

Spiritual traditions have for centuries alluded to the idea of the visible world as an illusion. Plato theorized that the physical world was nothing more than a shadow of the true reality, the Realm of Forms. In Plato’s view, this transcendent reality was perfect and unchanging, whereas the physical world was a transient, imperfect representation of this sublime reality.

In modern times, pop spirituality often refers to the fact that humans perceive but a small fraction of the electromagnetic spectrum, leaving us with the understanding that our physical senses tell us very little about the world in which we live. And science, of course, has demonstrated how these unseen electromagnetic forces interact with the physical world. But if the world in which we live is in fact illusory to some degree, then much of science is itself part of the illusion. Because, if the physical world does not reflect reality, then much of what is called science (which largely focuses on the measurable, physical world) also fails to reflect what is really real.

This is not to say that this relative reality in which we live is just a figment of the imagination, carrying no consequences for anyone who trespasses against the laws established within this physical world. This reality, although ultimately an illusion of sorts, has certain rules that most living beings must obey, or there will be consequences. If you’re hit by a moving train, most likely your body in this reality will die. If you drink poison, most likely your body in this reality will die. Those are some of the apparent rules of the game in which we find ourselves.

Donald Hoffman, a cognitive scientist, believes we are living in a false reality, arguing that spacetime itself is scientifically shown not to be fundamental to reality. He compares this reality we find ourselves in to that of living in a “virtual headset”. He asks some mind-bending questions, such as:

  • What is beyond spacetime?
  • What is the true structure of objective reality?
  • Is it possible evolution has shaped us in a way that guides our behaviors and therefore how we see objective reality?
  • How can we apply gaming strategies to this reality in order to better adapt to life?


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