In the events of this film, as in Vanilla Sky, neither the lead character nor the viewer knows reality from illusion. Douglas Quaid is—in the life we presume to be his real one—a builder whose biggest dream is to go to Mars.
The film portrays a future era where life on Mars is not only possible, but where terrorist attacks take place. Velos Cohageen, governor of the planet, states that he is open to any offers of cooperation in order to end the rebellion. Douglas daydreams about going to Mars and resolving the conflict, but his wife is against this idea. Finally he applies to a company named Recall, which markets realistic virtual holidays. The company offers tailor-made holidays, where—like a real holiday—the customer can specify every detail of his trip, supposedly no different from the real experience, but significantly cheaper. Customers even have the option of "traveling" as a different person.
In return for a fee, Douglas agrees to have 15 days' worth of memories as a secret service agent on Mars transferred to his mind, while his body rests on a chair. During transfer, a problem occurs and it is discovered that the data downloaded into his mind was tampered with beforehand. Our hero begins to consider himself a secret agent, on duty on Mars—in the life we presume to be his real one.
Throughout the film, never does it become exactly clear which of Douglas Quaid's memories are real and which are artificially created. In many sequences of the film, the inseparability of illusion and reality is frequently brought to our attention.
Someone Traveling in Reality, Actually Covers the Miles in His Mind
Throughout this book, we have pointed out various examples of how in our minds we only have direct experience of copies of matter—our bodies, objects around us, the ground we stand on, the Sun, stars, and planets. If you look into the sky, you see the Sun far away. In reality, the Sun is merely a vision formed within the darkness of your skull. Likewise the planets we think to be millions of miles away are actually perceptions in our the brain's visual center— in other words, they are not far away, but inside us.
In Total Recall, a travel agency supplies customers with artificially created experiences, indistinguishable from real ones. People can experience distant places as if they were really there, believing they're on holiday by means of data transferred to their minds.
The TV ad for the Recall travel agency is recaptured below:
After seeing the TV ad, Douglas Quaid calls up Recall to find out if he can realize his dream of going to Mars and speaks to a company representative named Bob McClane. In the following dialogue, they agree on the details of his virtual holiday:
Along with the features of the environment, Douglas can also choose the details of his virtual personality. Learning this, he chooses to be a secret agent during his stay on Mars.
As these examples show, there is technically no difference between one's real-life experiences and those in a dream or artificially created environment. We see them all in our brains. Planets we believe to be far away, the world we consider to be huge are in reality the sum total of our perceptions. Some examples from our books on the subject:
• Another matter to be considered is the sense of distance. The space between you and these pages is only a sensation of emptiness formed in your brain. Objects seemingly distant also exist in the brain. For instance, someone assumes that stars in the sky are millions of light-years away. Yet the stars he "sees" are really inside himself, in his visual center. (The Evolution Deceit, 7th edition, pp.222-223)
• Everything that we see, hear and feel in our life occurs within the brain. For example, someone sitting on an armchair feels the hardness of the armchair and the fabric's slipperiness in his brain. The smell of coffee occurs in the mind, not in the kitchen some distance away. The view of the sea, birds, and trees he sees through the window are all images formed in the brain. The friend serving the coffee and its taste also exist in the brain. In short, someone sitting in his living room and looking out of the window is in reality seeing his living room and the view on a screen in his brain. What a human being might refer to as "my life" is a collection of all perceptions being put together in a meaningful way and watched from a screen in the brain—and one can never leave one's own brain. (Matter: The Other Name for Illusion, pp.45-46)
Virtual Worlds in our Brains
It is no longer anything special for people to experience non-existent environments with the aid of computers and simulators that can create realistic 3-D images. High-tech industries are manufacturing a number of devices for entertainment and education. Many use special software, capable of creating 3-D images in their users' brains, which give a real-life feel to the virtual environment by stimulating some, or all of the user's five senses.
Everyone from astronauts in NASA to architects, pilots to engineers, are all using simulators in a 3-D environment. For instance, a pilot cannot distinguish climatic conditions created in a flight-training simulator from the same real-life conditions. Many science-fiction movies deal with the human perception of life and its similarity to virtual reality worlds. In this film, a highly developed application of this technology is used for entertainment. Those on a virtual holiday can go anywhere they like, spending as much time as they like with whomever they want.
In Total Recall, during the data transfer process of a 15-day Martian holiday and the loading of the personality details, the unexpected occurs. Douglas Quaid begins talking about Mars before the data has been transferred successfully. Now he considers himself to be someone else, even in real life. In this part of the film, Douglas is on the travel agent's premises, but believes himself to be an agent on the run.
Douglas believes that the data transferred to him is real. His believing a virtual world to be real is comparable to those who believe that they are interacting with matter itself and therefore crave material worldly things. In reality, no one setting out from the copies of images and perceptions in his mind can prove that his experiences are real, or that he experiences the original of the material world. The following are quotations from our books:
• … Take a look at the room in which you are sitting. You see not the room outside of you, but a copy of the room existing in your brain. With your sense organs, you'll never be able to see the original room. (Matter: The Other Name for Illusion, p.24)
• … This is not a philosophical speculation, but an empirical fact proven by modern science. Today, when asked how and where we see the world, any scientist specializing in medicine, biology, neurology or any field related to brain research would say that we view the whole world in the visual center located in our brains. (Matter: The Other Name for Illusion, p.10)
The Data in Our Memory are Memories of Our Illusions
You could say that a person's past consists of information stored in his memory. If it were erased, there would be nothing left of his past. The future, on the other hand, is made up of people's speculations. People think about the future and make plans for it. But were you to take away their thoughts, there would be no future either. Take away someone's past and future thoughts, and he has only the present moment.
In Total Recall, it becomes evident that the hero's memory has been tampered with. As a consequence, he perceives time and his environment in a different way. After some of Douglas's previously erased memories return to him, his life changes. He is followed by his enemies, who even make attempts on his life, but it isn't clear if their attacks are real or whether they belong to the imaginary world implanted into his mind.
In some of the film's later scenes, Douglas escapes his pursuers and comes home. After he relates his experiences to his wife, she tries to persuade him that they weren't real.
Douglas suspects his wife is part of some sort of conspiracy and pressurizes her to tell the truth. As the following scenes reveal, we understand that Douglas had been living out an imaginary identity in the life that we, the audience, presumed to be his real one. In reality, Douglas is someone else. But thanks to the data transferred to his mind, he thinks that he is a builder married for eight years. His wife, his friend—in short, his life—all is artificial information put in his memory, and until now, Douglas has lived believing it's all true.
This forces us to wonder: Do we act on the presumption that the information in our memories reflects the truth? Without the information in our memories, on the other hand, we cannot know anything. Some quotes on the subject from our books:
• The past is composed of information given to a person's memory. If a memory is erased, her past is also. The future is composed of ideas. Without them, only the present moment of experience remains.
(Matter: The Other Name for Illusion, p.132)
• In brief, time comes about as a result of comparing a number of illusions stored in the brain. If man had no memory, his brain would not have made such interpretations; therefore, he would never have formed any perception of time. One determines himself to be thirty years old only because he has accumulated in his mind information pertaining to those thirty years. If his memory did not exist, he could not think of any preceding time, and would only experience the single "moment" he was living in.
Allah Creates Time In People's Brains
Adnan Oktar: Yes, Allah also creates time in our brains. Scientists say there is no time in outer space. They say time is entirely relative and totally a matter of perception. Einstein, one of the greatest scholars of the last century, says that. He says, "you cannot have a scientist without faith, or a faith without science." In other words, he says that science and religion go hand in hand, that he cannot conceive of an irreligious scientist, nor a religion with no science. Of course, they go hand in hand, he says. And that is what the Qur'an says. The Qur'an describes the same thing. Einstein says this, as do all modern physicists. They say there is no such thing as time, that time is a perception and that Allah creates time for us. There is a single moment, and everything is finished and done with inside that moment. We have lived it all, meaning that our eternal lives have gone by in a single moment. That is what we call destiny and we have done it all knowingly and willingly, but Allah creates it all. But if we try to comprehend it all, this is not something we can do in a tiny piece of flesh inside our brains, and in addition it is Allah Who is Lord of that flesh. And it is Allah Who creates that flesh and the electricity in it and Who provides this information. We know nothing beyond what is given us by Allah, but we know there is one single moment. This is a scientific fact, and destiny had to take place when that single moment came about. In other words, the fact that is just one single moment is a reality revealed by scientists, and everyone knows it. If you ask someone what happens when there is only one moment, they will say destiny happens, and nothing else is possible. (From Mr. Adnan Oktar's Kral Karadeniz interview, 16 January 2009)
You Can't Take Your Sense of Touch as Evidence that You've Reached Matter Itself
From both a scientific and logical point of view, there's no difference between images in your dreams at night and those you see on awakening. While you are dreaming, if someone came into your dream to say, "Don't worry, you're dreaming. None of this is real. Right now, you are in your bed, watching images forming in your brain", you would not want to believe him, because the feelings you have are so realistic.
There is a similar situation in the film. Someone claiming to be a consultant in the virtual holiday company Recall, visits Douglas in his hotel room on Mars to tell him nothing he is experiencing is real. Also, he says, in reality Quaid is still on the Recall's premises, not here. But Douglas is convinced that his experiences are real and cannot accept that it can all be an illusion:
As we have seen, Douglas tries to prove the reality of what he sees by touching the company representative on the shoulder. But like all our other senses, touch is part of what we experience in our brain. When Douglas sees himself reaching out to the person in front of him and feels the firmness of his shoulder, all these are interpretations taking place in his mind. Just as when someone touches a person's shoulder in a dream, touching is no proof of dealing with matter itself. Anyone seeking such evidence can have no proof other than his own illusions. Below are some of our explanations for this:
• Someone who dreams he is dealing with the material world can be very sure of himself. If a friend tells him, "Matter is an image. It isn't possible to deal with the original of the world," he can then ask, "Am I an image now? Don't you feel my hand on your shoulder? If so, how can you be an image? What makes you think in this way? Explain to me why you believe this." In his deep sleep, the dream he sees is so clear. But suppose his ringing alarm clock wakes him just when he's getting ready to tell his friend that what he's living at that moment can't be a dream. Wouldn't he object in the same manner regardless of whether he was asleep or awake? (Matter: The Other Name for Illusion, p.63)
• Some accept that images occur in the brain, yet they claim that they can experience the originals of what they see. But they can never prove this, because nobody can move out of the perceptions that exist in the brain. Everybody lives in the chamber that is in the brain, and no one can experience anything except what his perceptions show. Consequently, one can never know what happens outside of his perceptions. ... An observer will always deal with the images formed in his brain. Consequently, people can never reach the original of matter. ... Scientific or technological developments cannot change anything, because every such invention occurs in people's minds and consequently, is of no help to them in reaching the original of the outside world. (Matter: The Other Name for Illusion, p.48)
Hologram Images Identical to the Originals
More than once, scientists have proven a virtual world can be created in the brain without any need for an external world. With every passing day, it becomes easier to encode the world into electrical signals that people can experience as realistic effects. For example, computer simulations can create 3-D images identical to their originals. Encountering these images, people react in the same way as they do to their originals.
In one scene of the film, hologram technology points out the similarities between the original and the copied images. The wristwatch-like device that Douglas puts on creates holographic images of his body. His enemies, who are constantly trying to capture him, never succeed because they are pursuing copied images.
Have You Ever Thought that One Day, You Could Wake Up from This Life as You Do from Dreams?
Dreaming is a product of the brain and its activity, like all other mental processes. Whether asleep or awake, the brain is always active, always giving off electrical waves. During REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep when most dreams occur, the pathways that carry nerve impulses from the brain to the muscles are blocked. During dreams, therefore, the body cannot move. Essentially, though, asleep or awake, it is all the same. For instance, when you look at yourself in a dream as you would now, you see a body, complete with arms and legs, that walks and breathes. You can be led to believe that you are living a real life.
In reality, the virtual body in dreams is composed of perceptions in your mind, even though they feel "outside" of your mind. In other words, dreams are the sum total of the interpretation of stimuli reaching the relevant areas of the brain, just as when we are awake.
As examples throughout this book show, events in a dream can be so realistic that on waking, you need have to ask yourself whether it was a dream or reality. Technically, there is no difference between the two. Dreaming, you can do anything you could when awake—talk, eat, breathe, run, laugh, cry, get injured, or drive. Dreams often copy our everyday lives, making everything in the dream seem familiar. This is why we react to dream encounters as if they were real. Sometimes we awaken with a scream; other times, we wish we could never wake up.
In the following dialogue, Douglas reflects on the possibility that everything he experienced might have been a dream.
• A person can vividly experience all five senses without the presence of outside stimuli. Dreams are the most obvious example of this... Even though a person has his eyes closed while dreaming, he senses many things he does in real life, so realistically that he can't distinguish dreams from real-life experience. Everyone reading this book can often bear witness to this. For example, while asleep in a calm, quiet atmosphere, you might dream of being in danger. Experiencing the event as real, you flee in desperation and hide behind a wall. Moreover, the images are so realistic that you feel fear as if you were in real danger. Your heart in your mouth, you shake with fear, your heart beats fast, and you demonstrate other physical effects that the body undergoes in dangerous situations. However, there is no external equivalent to this dream's events. (Matter: The Other Name for Illusion, pp.61-62)
• You might be observing your life from somewhere else, just as you do when observing your dreams... A person dreaming of drinking coffee can feel the exact taste of the coffee, when there is nothing there. If someone were to tell him he is only dreaming, the person would reject the idea that there is no coffee. How, he might ask, could it be just a vision when he feels the heat of the coffee on his tongue? How it could remove his thirst if it wasn't real? Only after awakening does he understand that the coffee he thinks he drank was just an image formed in his brain; and that perceptions such as warmth and thirst, which he felt while drinking the coffee, were also formed in his brain. Our experiences in dreams and in the real world are based on the same logic. We experience both in our minds. The only reason we believe that our dreams are imaginary is that on awakening, we find ourselves in bed, and so believe that we were actually sleeping and saw everything in our dreams. (Matter: The Other Name for Illusion, p.67)
Materialists Cannot Explain The Invisible Eye In The Brain
Adnan Oktar: I am addressing my Darwinist brothers. Stop what you are doing. What else can I say? You see what kind of system it is. How can anything come about by chance? Look, this is just a small part of the eye. The later stages are separate, transmission in the form of electrical current to the brain is a separate matter. Electrical current is now going to my brain. Now there has to be another eye to watch it. There is an invisible eye, and that is the real issue. It has no need for rhodopsin, or whatever, does it? It sees without rhodopsin. It needs no salt molecule or gas or anything else. And that is the real person, the soul. It sees the electric current as an image. Look, shall I tell you the truth? That seer does not even need electric current. That is just a natural cause. That seer has nothing to do with electric current, let me tell you that. It has no direct experience of it. It is Allah Who shows the image directly, as a miracle. Where is it that it sits and watches electric current? There is a lot of electricity in the brain. How can one say one is going to find that electric current and watch it inside the brain? Electricity of hearing is in the same place, and the hearer hears it. Does it go and say, right, there is a music broadcast here, let me listen to it? Is that possible? How can it find just that particular electricity in the brain? They are all mixed up together. The brain is a single block. A single piece of flesh. How can it find that particular electricity? The soul does not use any electricity. It sees directly. That is the truth of it. But I describe it in terms of rhodopsin and the rest so people will understand, so they will see the complex details. The soul sees directly, hears directly and smells directly. In other words, the rhodopsin and everything is all mixed with the electrical current from the nose and chemicals. They are one part of the story. The soul is not concerned with these. It does not find the incoming electricity in the brain. It has no direct dealings with it. The brain smells directly, do I make myself clear? This is a secret of Allah's. (From Mr. Adnan Oktar's Mavi Karadeniz TV interview, 5 January 2010)
The Similarity of Our Dreams and Real Lives in the World of Music
For her show accompanying her 2001 gig in Las Vegas, pop star Britney Spears chose a really thought-provoking theme. Throughout the show, but especially in the opening, scenes suggested that everything, even the concert her fans were watching, happens only in the mind.
The theme of her show was the provocative thought that what we deem to be reality could very well be only an illusion. As an example from one scene, she dreamed of giving a concert in front of a huge crowd—but then, this also could have been a dream within a dream.
These expressions remind us to question the reality of the world we live in. We don't suppose that places and events in our dreams exist somewhere as material counterparts in another dimension, because we know that when we experienced these realistic events, we were fast asleep in our beds. Likewise, we can't claim that we are experiencing and interacting with what we call real life. Just as with our dreams, we don't require objects in the external world—and the body that perceives them—to be the source for our experiences. Because there were a material world out there, still we are regarding an illusionary world of replica images.
• In your dreams, you see yourself in a wholly imaginary world. There is no reality whatsoever to the objects or people you see around yourself. Everything—the ground you walk on, the sky above, trees, cars—all is just imagination, with no material reality. All is inside your brain, or better, inside of your mind and nowhere else. (Little Man in the Tower, p.28)