As I see it, there are only two viable possibilities for the nature of
reality and how it relates to our personal experience of life. Either
reality is completely external to us - something we are born into and
have very limited control over. Or, it is entirely internal, meaning
all of reality is a projection of
our inner being.
The first view is known as Objective Reality, the other describes Subjective Reality, or Solipsism. These are the two extreme and polar positions. It is possible to posit a third alternative of some combination of external and internal, but for reasons I will elucidate in a bit, I do not believe that is a viable possibility.
So why is the question of the true nature of reality even important? Because how we answer this question determines everything - literally EVERYTHING we experience on personal, cultural and global scales.
You are a conscious critter - you are aware of yourself as a distinct entity. We humans are all conscious critters, with varying degrees of self-awareness. All of our experiences are filtered through our consciousness for interpretation, evaluation and response. Therefore, the only way we are capable of knowing reality is through the mediation of our consciousness - that is, subjectively.
This has led to what is known in philosophy as the Problem of Other Minds. We experience our own consciousness directly, but we cannot directly experience the consciousness of someone else. We can only infer their consciousness from their behaviors. We can't crack open their skulls and peer inside to see what they are really thinking. Nor can we perform a Vulcan Mind Meld to join consciousnesses with others. And science is no help here, because it can't even figure out what consciousness is, much less how it relates to reality. So while it might seem reasonable to assume that others are conscious, we really have no way of proving it without using consciousness as the primary means to determine consciousness - a bootstrap maneuver if I ever heard one!
So, if there is no way to prove that other people are conscious, to assume that they are is a huge leap of faith based on some pretty shaky evidence. Yet our culture makes this assumption and even takes it farther. Not only does mainstream society believe that everyone, all 7 billion of us, are conscious, it also assumes that all of reality (other consciousness & all) are located outside of us. In other words, we were born into this already on-going reality that has been cranking along for billion of years, and we have very limited influence on this external reality that existed long before us and will continue to exist long after we are gone.
Each of these conscious critters, according to mainstream thought, has its own subjective way of experiencing the world and interpreting those experiences, but somehow, we manage to agree enough on our interpretations to mostly get along. It is where our interpretations of our experiences differ that we clash. Nobody knows where our consciousness comes from or really how or why it functions. But we all seem to have one and they are all different and unique.
So, according to mainstream thought, we all are trapped alone inside our own subjective minds while also being thrown into an external reality that we have very little control over. Sounds pretty sucky to me. Now mainstream thought does not offer any explanations why this should be so, nor any proof. All it does is assume and assert this is "how it is - like it or lump it."
But what if this assumption is wrong?
Subjective Reality, aka solispism, monism, and God-realization, does not assume there is an external reality. This view holds that consciousness is all there is, and that all consciousness is unitive - that is, there are no pesky other minds to become a problem. There is only one ultimate mind that is the source and originator of all subjective experience - as the Hare Krishnas would say, one 'Ultimate Enjoyer,' and it is YOU.
Not your ego-self you, or your physical body you, but rather the consciousness which is observing and experiencing you. What I like to call the Inner Being or Inner Self. It is this Inner Being which is the Ultimate Consciousness. Most of us are only dimly aware of this inner self, because unless conscious effort is made to contact it, it is content to sit and watch and enjoy the ride. This inner being you is the source and creator, as well as experiencer, of your existence, according to this view.
Subjective reality only takes as real what it experiences first-hand, since external or objective reality is not seen as a reliable report, coming from second-hand sources. This approach is also known as Gnosticism - the seeking of direct knowledge (Gnosis), rather than accepting external reports as knowledge without personal experience.
It is just as impossible to provide proof of the validity of subjective reality as it is to prove objective reality, as any proof I could give would just be a second-hand report, not first-hand experience. BUT... The subjective reality model DOES solve several problems that the objective model of reality can't. For example, subjective reality solves the Problem of Other Minds by saying that there AREN'T any other minds - we just think there are. And this also explains why we do not have direct access to the minds of others (like through mind melds or some technology) - because there's nothing there to access except ourselves.
"OK", I hear you say, "if I am the only consciousness that exists, how come I don't know all this directly?"
Because that would spoil the fun! Where would be the mystery in discovering yourself if you already knew before you started? Also, we are brainwashed at an early age by our culture that punishes us harshly if we dare to posit a different interpretation of reality.
"But", I hear you ask, "if I am all that exists, that is, if my inner being is the source of all of my experience, then why would I put myself through all the misery and suffering of ignorance and fear? Why would I create an environment hostile to learning about my own true nature? If I am the source of everything, and everything is set up to somehow benefit me, how am I benefited by experiencing fear, loneliness and weakness?"
This is a major question for the subjective approach to answer. Many dismiss consideration of the subjective approach because they cannot imagine a satisfactory response to these very valid questions.
And this is where objectivity fails. For any response I give to you will be necessarily a second-hand report, which you would still need to verify by your own personal experience, which would necessarily be different from my own experience. But, I am forced to turn to subjectivity to continue the discussion. My own personal experiences are the only thing that can convince me of the rightness or wrongness of an approach to understanding reality. My personal experiences support and affirm the subjective view much more than they support and affirm the external reality view.
Philosophers (and many others, including scientists) hate and disparage subjective reality for exactly this reason. They feel it leads to selfishness and egoism. But, actually, if you are already everything, what need do you have to be selfish, as you already have everything - you just need to realize and accept it. Rather, if the true nature of reality is unitive, then the goal becomes to actively realize its oneness, not to further fragment it.
Why are the only choices Objective or Subjective? Why isn't there some combination of the two - a subjective universe that still has objective aspects. This approach doesn't make sense to me - Either I am everything or I am not everything. Either the UNI-verse is unitive or it is fragmented - there is no in-between. To be unitive is to be subjective and to be objective is to be fragmented into billions of different consciousnesses. "The One and the Many" - that ancient puzzle of the Pre-Socratic Philosophers has never really been resolved. Is there only one thing in the Uni-verse, or are there many things in the Multi-verse? Is it one song or many?
Ultimately, it's up to you which reality you choose to live in, just as it is up to me to choose my own reality.
You can't get any more subjective than that!
Province Of The Mind
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