We often speak of "reality" as if there were such a singular entity, a clear dichotomy between that which is real and that which is unreal. We then argue with those who disagree with us about what should and should not be included under the headings of real and unreal.
Reality is not a fixed quantifiable quality but rather a deeply subjective and instinctive experience. What feels most real to each of us is constructed from elements of our personality, the conditions and circumstances of our life, the experiences we've gone through.
For some, the physical world, with its apparent objective, concrete stability, is the essential reality. There are those who believe there is nothing beyond the physical universe while others assert the primary reality of the material but also recognize a spiritual dimension of existence. And still others see all materiality as manifestations of energy which derives from an underlying spiritual reality.
Many cultures experience the spiritual dimension of life and the physical as two sides of the same reality. The material aspect of existence is lifeless and meaningless without the living spirit within animating it.
The ancient sages have said that it is all real, the physical, the spiritual, the ideal, the conscious and unconscious. Each aspect of existence manifests some form of reality. It's not either/or but both/and.
There is the outer physical reality which is constantly changing, transforming, growing, developing, disintegrating and reconstituting in new combinations and ways of being. The material world is in continual flux, every moment forming and reforming itself in infinitely varied configurations.
Integrated and interactive with the material aspect of existence is the life force which has come to activate individual elements of the material world. Life animates physical forms of living things and lies quiescent in inanimate forms. For living things, the life force allows the experience of their physical forms. It is life which brings with it the evolving awareness of the experience of the physical universe of forms; the physical world becomes real to living things.
When the evolution of living things gives rise to the mind which consciously experiences life, another level of reality is introduced. The mind observes the ever changing physical world, recognizes patterns, and begins to construct a cognitive framework into which it assimilates its physical experiences. It is the mind which superimposes structure and organization onto the material universe and creates mental reality.
But it is the evolution of self-aware self-consciousness which adds another layer and more profound level of reality. It is the conscious mind which is capable of realizing its own reality. It begins to recognize not only the multiplicity of the external physical universe, but a myriad of internal states and conditions of reality experienced through the emotions, the psyche, the many mental universes.
Yet the sages tell us this is not the limit of realities. The spirit inhabits and directs the conscious mind as the mind inhabits and orchestrates the life force and as the life force inhabits and animates the physical form. Just as the mind makes possible the awareness of a reality more than the mere physical and self-conscious awareness makes possible the realization of a reality of ideas, abstract thought, and conceptual frameworks, the spirit recognizes a reality that transcends and incorporates all these realities.
The intellect of the conscious mind is a remarkable tool which can pull together all the varied aspects of our environment and conduct our living experience through the innumerable circumstances of our life. But our fully human consciousness is also capable of recognizing the living spirit that inhabits all our many layered self, our many-selfed being.
The realities which we as fully conscious humanity experience are multifaceted, complex, and mutually interactive kinds of reality.