How can we know what is or is not real or true? Is there any reason to use either subjectivity or objectivity as an indicator of accurate or inaccurate perception? In a universe that is self-contradictory and many layered in its construction of selfhood, even the notion of what constitutes the ‘self’ and what constitutes a state ‘outside the self’ is complex, but I believe an exposition of this complexity explains how seemingly opposing positions on the value of subjectivity and objectivity can both be valid.
Broadly speaking, the scientific conceptualisation of existence has defined repetitive patterns (rules of universal behaviour) that can be proven to exist outside the limited perception/belief of the individual as real, while defining that which is experienced subjectively by the individual with no external proof as necessarily unreal. Conversely, spiritual, emotional and artistic (SEA) approaches to existence treat that which is ‘known’ through direct perception and experience by the individual as the only way to know truths that cannot be understood by standing outside the experience. Hence, negative stereotypes exist of the irrational emotionally or spiritually oriented person who ignores objective evidence (from the scientific viewpoint), and the feelingless, non-intuitive, reductionist scientist who cannot see the highly interactive, communicative or unified whole (from the SEA perspective).
I believe that while these stereotypes can be accurate – that is, there are genuinely negative and unhelpful versions of both the scientific and SEA approaches – there is also a positive and helpful version of both, and it is unnecessary to choose between the two, as if they are in absolute conflict with one another. Apparent conflicts are genuinely resolved as long as the logical framework for understanding the universe is expansive enough, and the reader has the capacity to sit comfortably with the existence of genuine paradox – that is, a single state of being which simultaneously operates in contradictory ways.
In this article, I would like to explore how and why both the scientific and SEA positions on subjectivity and objectivity are valid within the framework of a universe that is self-contradictory in structure.
A Self-Contradictory Universe
I explain the universe’s self-contradictory structure and its logic more fully in my article ‘The Unbelievable Truth: The Paradoxical Nature of the Universal Mind’. The basic elements of the framework are that 1) a ‘True’ universal state of mind exists that is unified, whole, existent and aware of its existence and 2) a ‘Delusional’ universal state of mind exists which is anti-existent, disintegrated, and in an ongoing state of self-contradiction, which means that although it began by being unaware of its own existence, it is gradually developing the capacity to be aware of both its delusional and ultimately True state of mind. This delusional state of mind created the physical/biological universe – a state ruled by limitation, disintegration and self-contradiction that is gradually evolving less limited and more integrated states of being by reacting against its ongoing compulsion for self-limitation and destruction.
The True and Delusional states exist simultaneously within the same overall universal mind, hence the need to be comfortable with the concept of genuine, unresolved paradox, rather than be compelled to choose between one or the other state, as if the existence of one prevents the existence of the other.
Subjectivity and Objectivity in the Context of Truth and Delusion
Subjectivity and objectivity may be defined, respectively, as ‘standing within oneself’ and ‘standing outside oneself’ in order to perceive the nature of one’s existence.
The fundamental, True state of mind of the universe is necessarily subjective. Because it is entirely whole (undivided by space, time, movement, or any alternative sense of self), to view itself ‘as if’ from the outside is to create a self-contradiction that must logically be defined as insane or delusional (not the Truth). In this externalised state of awareness (or anti-awareness) the mind is unable to perceive who it really ‘is’, because in believing itself to be divided from itself, with an outside perspective, it has become Delusion.
Unfortunately, this universal state of artificially externalised mind does actually exist for the simple logical reason that Truth exists with reason, while Delusion exists without reason (that is, it is not caused by anything other than its own inherent logic; the ‘effect’ of its existence occurs without a genuine ’cause’).
Being external to its True self, Delusion does not view the Truth or relative truths about its delusional nature accurately. Rather, this mental state is actively afraid of the truth and sees truth as a threat to its survival. Not only does this mental state not recognise itself as Truth, experiencing itself as cut off from awareness of True whole existence, it also creates an alternative existence that it believes in to try to reassure itself that it is ‘safe’ or ‘real’. This mentality is caught in a Catch 22 of unconsciously lying to itself, and believing the lie, so that, from its point of view, the lie is experienced as truth and what is false is experienced as real. This state of mind created the physical/biological universe, including our individuated selves: therefore our own often frustratingly limited perceptual/conceptual capacities and our active compulsion to self-deceive reflect the state of the overall universal mentality that created us. (For a more detailed explanation of how a universal level, originally unconscious mentality creates the physical/biological universe, see my aforementioned article.)
So, if we accept that the physical/biological universe is a delusional mentality in the process of evolution towards consciousness, how can a delusional state of mind become aware that it has been caught in a delusion? Obviously, it has to develop a way of seeing itself from ‘outside itself’, that is, outside its delusion. And so the development of objectivity in one form or another has become essential to developing an accurate self-perception. But in what different ways could the physical/biological universe develop a capacity for objectivity and why should it do so?
The universe is divided in many ways. One is that many different minds (living entities) have been created which experience themselves as separate from one another, and which therefore perceive things differently and behave differently from one another. This is an ongoing state of conflict in which each individual may defend its own perception and behaviour as correct and functional, but is also challenged to question its own perception and behaviour, because of the obvious inconsistencies between itself and others. Individuals also live and die, and their failure to exist permanently brings into question the extent of their functionality, if existence is seen to be the most desired and functional state. The universe is also divided in terms of the general and the specific, where rules of behaviour might be seen to exist at the universal level which apply to all entities (the deeper level programs of behaviour that form the basis of our construction), while the ‘higher’ levels of complexity allow for increasingly ‘unique’ combinations of behaviours and perceptions. Because it is possible for higher level, individualised entities (such as ourselves) to hold views in contradiction with the general/deeper nature of the universe, inconsistencies appear which have again challenged individuals to question their current state of self-understanding.
Developing Objectivity: the Scientific Position
The scientific conception of objectivity, with its basis in mathematics and questions about the physical, rather than psychological, construction of the universe, is spatially oriented. That is, the division between internal and external (the self, and beyond the self) is represented by the individual living organism and its perception, versus things that can be proven to exist outside that individual perception, in a wider context. The idea that there are universal, provable truths is based on the belief that there is an actuality being created by the universe which is distinct from the many ‘realities’ we create about that actuality in our minds. Evidence suggests this universal actuality exists – otherwise there would never be any level of consistency in physical experience between individuals.
Proof based on evidence may be gathered in a variety of ways: for instance, evidence may be considered true if many people, rather than just one, observe something (for example, colour blindness is seen as an aberration of perception, rather than an indication there are no such colours as red and green, given that the majority of people can distinguish between red, green and grey); evidence may be given greater weight if there is more detail of a situation observed over a longer time frame; or a theory of relationships might be tested artificially through repetition with limited variables.
None of these methods provides an ultimate or absolute proof about reality: many people may fail to observe or comprehend what one person can observe or comprehend clearly; there is always a longer time frame available for observation which may turn up more or contradictory evidence; and deliberate experimentation is naturally ‘reductionist’ in nature because the limited number of variables, the limited number of repetitions, or the non-numerical nature of key variables may leave out significant information that will change or add to the evidence that is uncovered.
While no means of gathering objective evidence is infallible or complete, the ways mentioned do work around the problem of individual fallibility to a certain extent and can be seen as generally more reliable than perceptions that are in direct contradiction with externally, relatively ‘proven’ evidence.
As an example, there is much physical evidence for the theory that the Earth has been in existence for about 4 billion years, and that life has evolved in increasingly complex ways over that time. Any religious claim that the Earth was created only a few thousand years ago, by God, with all the current plants, animals and humans clearly separate and in no state of evolution, must be considered delusional in the current historical context (even though this belief was not an unreasonable theory prior to the discovery and wide dissemination of the contrary physical evidence).
However, if one accepts that the physical/biological universe is a state created by an unconscious universal mind, (rather than simply believing that it exists as a fundamentally mindless physical entity with no logical explanation, as atheistic scientists do), it is clear that scientific objectivity can only tell us a limited range of things about that unconscious state and how it operates. To the extent that science denies that any kind of conscious or unconscious mind underpins universal behaviour, science has to ignore all evidence that suggests that these mind states might exist. To the extent that science relies on mathematics as its key form of symbolism, it can only tell us about things that are quantifiable and behaviours that are highly regular and consistent. Phenomena that are qualitative or highly irregular or unique cannot be proven to exist by the scientific method. Science cannot tell us anything about the ‘why’ of the universe and its basic motivations (what drives it to move or behave at all).
And, most significantly, while the entire physical/biological universe may be relatively ‘real’ compared to an individual’s limited or delusional perception of it, there is no evidence to suggest that it is actually, fundamentally existent. The physical/mathematical evidence alone suggests that the physical/biological universe is, in fact, an unstable self-contradicting state that is in a constant process of change, in which realities are continually manifested and discarded, in favour of the next state of being. There may be rules of repetitive behaviour that create structures and an ongoing form, but every universal moment is nonetheless created by a unique combination of behaviours that distinguishes it from the last. In addition, the present ‘moment’ can never really be pinned down as it shifts from future to past. Therefore the scientific position has not managed to convincingly differentiate between truth and delusion by identifying the universe’s individuated, ‘subjective’ selves (eg. humans) as delusional, while believing that its larger ‘objective’ physical self is ‘true’.
Developing Objectivity: the Spiritual/Emotional/Artistic Position
This leads us to consider a different relationship between the individual and the whole – that the individual may be representative of the whole, rather than oppositional to it, and individuals thus manifest the fundamental principles of the whole. If the fundamental principle that caused the creation of the physical/biological universe was fear of self-awareness (fear of the unified, consciously existent Truth), the way to develop objectivity is to develop psychological objectivity – that is, a capacity for being unafraid of self-awareness. This fearlessness manifests in the individual as a desire to ‘see’ any or all aspects of itself, including the whole and the individuated self, and physical, biological, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, artistic, and social aspects of itself. And while this fearlessness may incline the individual to use the scientific method to find out or confirm certain information and theories, it also operates with a certain level of trust in the individual self to directly and honestly observe itself.
Therefore, for example, functional spiritual, emotional and artistic approaches to understanding treat the ‘physical’ experience of self not as something that is separate from mind, but as a complex self-communicative device that has the potential to be honest and convey true meaning about the universal system as a whole. Thus the spiritual approach considers that deep truth is communicated through the individual self, the emotional approach understands that our individual experiences of fear, love, anger, sadness and desire (for example) are significant communications about our painfully divided and potentially whole state of being, and the artistic approach understands that intuitive symbolic representations of reality connect us with deeper feelings, universal themes, and deeper truths about our existence.
To the extent that an individual self is capable of operating fearlessly and honestly, any intuitive perception they have that is considered individual/subjective and therefore invalid from the scientific point of view, can be seen as being genuinely objective, not because of the number of people who can see it, or its provability in external terms, but simply because fearlessness allows a direct interaction with relative or ultimate truth by being unaffected by the distorting effect of fear. Fearlessness ‘stands outside’ the fear of self-awareness, and this state of mind might occur within the individual just as well as it might for the whole universe.
Hence, people experiencing a unified ‘enlightened’ state of being, or who have a genuine capacity for clairvoyance or extrasensory perception (where they see or know things within the physical/biological universe that are occurring outside the time or space of their limited physicality) may simply be operating according to the principle of fearlessness that there is no reason for the universe not to be aware of all aspects of itself. Only fear disintegrates its self-perception, and if that fear is missing in a particular mind at a particular time, awareness simply occurs naturally. This may explain why these sort of experiences are not, as far as I am aware, the result of deliberate desire and intention. One may be open to them, and allow them to occur, or they may happen completely unexpectedly, but they cannot be forced. Fearlessness is not a controlled state: if you try to ‘make’ it happen, it invariably will not do so. Fearlessness, and the holistic perceptions that come from it, are therefore not good subjects for deliberate scientific experimentation.
If one is extremely afraid to trust any level of direct self-perception, there is no way to judge reality except via external ‘proofs’, and the fundamentalist scientific position thus narrowly defines reality according to the limits set by its methodology. In this way, scientific objectivity becomes a negative, denying the idea that there is any such thing as a fearless, trustworthy self, and perceiving reality as merely a disintegrated object with no emotional, psychological or holistic state of being. Just as I find it painful to have my individual self treated as an object, I believe the universe as a whole causes itself pain when it pretends it has no mind or feelings, and that it is not fundamentally one self.
Of course, individuated selves such as humans are powerfully influenced in their self-perception and perception of wider reality by their unconscious fear of self-awareness. This fear makes them fail to observe or actively deny reality as they experience it, and invent delusional versions of themselves that contradict more deep, real or true versions. This insanity is the manifestation of the physical/biological universe’s desire not to know the truth about itself. Therefore, much of what individuals know or believe about themselves and wider reality is either severely limited or outrightly untrue. But this does not mean that individual selves have no capacity at all to operate in a relatively fearless and honest mode – each individual mind also represents the ultimately fearless Truth (which is our most fundamental nature), and a capacity for fearless observation of ourselves is thus inherent in us, even though it may not be easily or voluntarily accessible.
Of course, to the extent that spiritual, emotional or artistic approaches to understanding do not acknowledge the existence of fear of self-awareness, it is possible for intuitive experiences to be completely delusional – merely the mind making things up that distract a person from truths or realities they do not want to face.
In the end, there is no way to prove whether or not any intuitive experience represents truth or delusion. It is simply up to the individual self to feel, observe, consider, notice contradictions and be aware of underlying fears that may be influencing their own or other people’s perceptions when making a judgement about their probable accuracy. If the individuated self wishes to experience itself as and eventually become the unified self, the individual has no choice but to trust their own personal judgement along the way.
The Value and the Limitations of the Scientific Definition of Objectivity
Science attempts to work around fear of self-awareness and the misperceptions that result from it, and as such it does provide valuable insight. In particular, it demonstrates that an individual mind can be at odds with relative, provable actualities and thus allows the universal or individual self to come to grips with the idea that its immediate ‘perception’ may in fact be an unconsciously generated or programmed belief that is being projected onto reality, rather than a genuine perception of that reality. However science is also limited by its incapacity, through over-dependence on mathematics, to observe fear of self-awareness (a fundamentally psychological and unquantifiable phenomenon) and its behavioural consequences, and to consider these ‘real’. As such, science only ‘pretends’ to be fearless (unafraid to observe and know the truth), by artificially cutting out consideration of fear.
The universal level mind that created the physical/biological world lost the capacity to view itself accurately. It then contradicted itself by being both afraid to know the truth, and also afraid of not knowing the truth. To the extent that it wants to know the truth, one significant way of knowing is ‘indirect’: this is objective in the scientific sense, testing for rules or states of being that apply to all entities, using methods that work ‘outside’ individual projected beliefs. This is important in a mind that (quite reasonably) does not trust itself to be telling itself the truth.
However, because the delusional universal mind is in fact one mind, it cannot truly escape itself to see itself from a ‘spatially’ objective point of view. To the extent that it wants to know the truth, therefore, it must come to terms with the fact that both its delusional aspect and its deeper true aspect are ‘inside’ itself, and remember how to trust its own direct self-perception. It does this by both trusting that it can know the truth directly (having some awareness of its ultimately conscious state of being), and by being unafraid to admit to the current reality of its insane fear that makes it both perpetrator and victim of its delusions.
Fearlessness of truth (a fundamentally ‘internal’ form of objectivity, which can be characterised as subjective because only the self can experience it) has the capacity to both observe and directly experience fear without reacting fearfully to it. It therefore allows the delusional mind to reintegrate itself. The fearful mind puts the self in opposition to itself, leading to increasing levels of disintegration and delusion, while the relatively fearless mind puts an end to the oppositional process by being unafraid to be aware of and feel its own fear, and thus brings the universal mind back towards a wholly honest, trustworthy and self-trusting state.
8 August 2019
Anita is an independent philosopher and researcher in psychology and nonviolence from Victoria, Australia. Her articles can be read on her website: https://anitamckone.wordpress.com