Subjective Reality Simplified

September 22nd, 2007 by Steve Pavlina

This is perhaps the simplest way I can explain the perspective of subjective reality at present — and why I’m such a strong advocate of it.

First… some definitions:

Objective Reality (OR) is the perspective that you’re the character in the dream world, and the dream world is solid, real, and objective.  An OR person wouldn’t normally think of the physical world as a dream at all — they accept the (socially conditioned) notion that the dream world is reality itself.  The objective world itself is seen as the basis for knowledge.  Note that there can be no proof whatsoever that this is how reality actually works; it’s one giant unprovable assumption.  It’s also not falsifiable.

Solipsism is the perspective that you’re the character in the dream, and the dream world is either a projection of you, some other kind of illusion, or simply unknowable.  Other people are not real in the same way you are.  Your own mind is the basis for knowledge.  Even though it’s impossible to prove it wrong because solipsism is not objectively falsifiable, many philosophers dislike solipsism because they see it as a philosophical dead end.  I tend to agree.  If you want to learn more about solipsism, the Wikipedia entry on it is quite thorough.

Subjective Reality (SR), as I describe it, is the perspective that your true identity is the dreamer having the dream, so you are the conscious container in which the entire dream world takes place.  Your body-mind is your avatar in the dream world, the character that gives you a first-person perspective as you interact with the contents of your own consciousness.  But that avatar is no more you than any other character in the dream world.  This perspective is also not objectively falsifiable, so it cannot be proven wrong.  However, I find it a very rich and empowering way to interact with the dream world of reality on multiple levels.

Do OR and SR contradict each other?

This depends on your perspective.

If you begin from an OR perspective, then you would say they cannot both coexist.  If OR is correct, then SR must be false.  At best you’re able to adopt the mindset of solipsism within the larger context of OR, but you cannot fit the perspective of SR within an OR framework.  To me, this is one of the major limitations of the OR model.  OR rejects SR but can never disprove it, so OR inherently rejects a potentially valid perspective.  It’s like saying, “I’m right and you’re wrong” just because I’m me and you’re not.  This is a major failure of the OR model.  If a model does not have a place for all potentially valid perspectives, it’s not a good model.  Consequently, we can never fully trust this model because it could very well be completely wrong.  If we base our decisions on this model, we could be making one inaccurate decision after another, but we’d never know it.  It’s just too narrow for our purposes, like going through life with one arm tied behind your back.

The main exception where OR allows us to integrate a subset of SR is during our nighttime dreams.  In this manner you would say your nighttime dreams are contained within the larger scope of OR, so you’re still a physical being sleeping on a bed having that internal mental experience when you dream at night.  Anyone who’s experienced a lucid dream knows this perspective quite well.  However, notice that when you aren’t fully lucid, you’re tricked into thinking that your subjective dream world is actually another OR world.  You blindly accept that you’re the character in the dream, totally unaware that you’re actually the dreamer, and the whole world is contained within your consciousness.  But of course you’re wrong, and you’ll never realize that until (1) you wake up, or (2) you become lucid within your dream.  So how do you know you aren’t making this same mistaken assumption right now?  Have you ever been lucid while awake?

Although OR can accept the subjective nature of nighttime dreams, it completely fails to account for the perspective of SR at the level of waking physical reality.  If you subscribe to the model, it basically compels you to conclude that people who believe in SR are either mistaken or delusional — that is the nature of belief systems that reject other potentially valid perspectives.  Hence… you can expect that I’ll continue receiving those “you’re a nutter” emails from OR subscribers, even though not a single one of them has attempted to prove SR wrong.  Again, that would be impossible because SR isn’t falsifiable.

Now let’s consider OR from the perspective of SR.

An intelligent model of reality should account for all potentially valid perspectives, and SR does this very well.  It does not reject OR out of hand.  It simply puts OR at a different level.  The objective world is the dream world, which is basically a simulation running within the larger consciousness that is you.  By shifting to your first-person perspective and interacting with the simulation from the inside — which is admittedly a very seductive perspective to adopt – you can experience the perspective of OR within the larger SR context.  If you’ve seen The Matrix movies, when the characters go into the Matrix and interact with it, they’re in the OR world of the simulation.  Setting aside their enhanced physical abilities and the outside help they receive, their bodies are still otherwise subject to the laws of the simulation, just as your body is subject to the laws of this OR simulation.

From an SR perspective, OR simply describes the dream world properties, while SR is the perspective that knows it’s just a dream.  These two perspectives can coexist without contradicting each other.  This is much like playing a video game.  You can identify yourself as the player outside the simulation or as the character within it.  You might even be the person who programmed it too.  All these perspectives are valid without contradicting each other.

Neither OR nor SR are falsifiable, so you can’t prove either of them wrong in an objective sense.  However, in a subjective sense, the experience of SR from the inside and the way it accounts for OR seems much more logical to me than OR’s outright rejection of SR.  SR allows for the potentially valid perspective of solipsism as well.  Consequently, I find the larger context of SR to be more accurate.

Would you agree that it makes sense for a reasonable model of reality to account for all potentially valid sub-models that are not falsifiable?  After all, if we cannot disprove something, then our model should account for the possibility that it is true (without blindly assuming it’s true either).  Otherwise we can never trust our model, just as we can never trust OR.

So this is why I’m such an advocate of Subjective Reality.  I realize it’s not an easy model to understand or adopt if you’re currently enmeshed within the perspective of OR.  But if you do manage to get there, I think you’ll find it makes much more sense than OR and allows you to make more accurate decisions.  You lose none of the strengths of the OR model because OR is fully contained within SR, but you add an outer container that allows you to integrate and accept many other perspectives as well.

Of course if you do make the shift to SR, good luck explaining it to other OR addicts!  :)


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