"Ah, it's all becoming clear to me... so clear... I'm on the verge of grasping The Meaning of It All!"
(Mentally insert the sound of cackling laughter, and a vision of a crazed man rubbing his hands together with glee).
This is how I've been feeling lately.
After fifty years of so of searching for the big "T" Truth through science, spirituality, mysticism, psychedelic drugs, philosophy, dog walks in nature, prayer, pleading, meditation, pondering, athletics, caffeine, and more, it's dawning on me that two words pretty much sum up both the Question and the Answer.
This blog post will just scratch the surface of my personal Theory of Everything. It's too late in the day, and I'm not caffeinated enough, for my writing mind to convey the depth of what I'm coming to realize after all these years.
Here's a teaser, a hint, an outline.
Our conscious experience is ours alone. Nobody and nothing else has access to it. I am the only one who knows what it is like to be me. Same is true for you. Our subjectivity is totally personal. The experiential feeling I have at this moment is entirely mine.
But even those words are misleading. Because in order to say anything about my subjectivity I had to view it as an object. Which, of course, destroys the essence of what I'm talking about.
(This obviously isn't an original idea; Alan Watts and many others have said it before, and better.)
I simply "am." Moment by moment, I'm immersed in being an experiencing consciousness. There's no gap between me and my experiencing. Like Popeye, I am what I am, and that's all that I am.
Through language, gestures, concepts, emotions, and so many other ways, I can attempt to describe my subjective ineffable experiencing as if it was happening to someone other than me. Thus we end up saying things like, "I found myself thinking...," "It occurred to me that...," "I had a feeling about..."
There is indeed an objective world. But it arises from the intersubjective agreement of more than one person. Such is the domain of science. Also of everyday life.
I cruise through an intersection where I have a green light because i'm confident that other drivers both see green and red as I do, and understand that green means "go" and red means "stop." However, I have no way of knowing whether anyone experiences green and red exactly as I do.
Subjectivity and objectivity thus are two complementary ways of living in the world. At each instant our attention is somewhere along a sliding scale whose endpoints are "HIghly Subjective" and "Highly Objective."
I said highly because there is no such thing as total subjectivity or total objectivity. There are degrees of each, varying balances of each.
If someone possessed 100% subjectivity they would have no way of knowing this.
So no way of telling anyone else, or even themself, about the 100% subjective experience. There has to be an observer separate from an observation for it to be an object of experience.
Conversely, if someone possessed 100% objectivity, they would be incapable of knowing this.
So no way of telling anyone else, or even themself, about the 100% objective experience. There has to be a subjective consciousness capable of observing something separate from itself for that thing to be an object of experience.
Thus inevitably there is a duality to human experience. We live life subjectively, then look upon it as if from the outside, making sharable objects out of what first arises as ours alone.
This is true for religious believers and scientists alike.
But it seems to me that religions make a larger error than science. For they take something inherently subjective -- a mystical experience, a vision, a voice of God -- and try to pass it off as an objective fact about reality.
That is, the personal and subjective is elevated into something universal and objective. If a subjective experience is left as it is, something that belongs only to a single individual, there'd be no problem.
Also no religions, no holy books, no theologies, no dogmas.
Each of these requires a large dose of objectivity, a claim that some personal experience is true for others, that the experience can be had by multitudes, not just one individual.
Scientists naturally also have subjective experiences. After all, they are human, just as religious believers are. But rarely, if ever, do scientists focus on their subjectivity when discussing their work. They are just as passionate, just as emotional, just as awe-struck by their experiences as religious people are.
But they realize that in the realm of science, the emphasis is on what can be experienced inter-subjectively, by others as well as the scientist making the discovery. Scientists don't say "I experienced this, so it is true." Rather, they say "This is what was experienced, so it may be true."
Others then attempt to reproduce the experience, to test whether it actually is true. This is how subjectivity moves along the sliding scale toward objectivity: by intersubjective agreement that such-and-such is so.
Well, there's quite a bit more to my personal revelation that Subjective and Objective are the key to understanding everything. After all, everything is a lot!
Fortunately, additional blog posts await.
Posted by: 777 | August 26, 2014 at 01:50 PM
You said: "Our conscious experience is ours alone. Nobody and nothing else has access to it. I am the only one who knows what it is like to be me."
I had a dream last night about this. In the dream it felt like a profound realisation and when I woke up could only remember the gist of it. Glad I had a look again today at this thread because this triggered the feeling of the dream, that each of us is truly unique and no-one can really completely understand another, not at this level of consciousness anyway.
Posted by: observer | August 26, 2014 at 04:07 PM
My evolving project may overtime hold the key to understanding the dynamic interplay of the subjective, and objective when it comes to claimed psychic, and spiritual experiences. http://www.p2pfoundation.net/Multi-Dimensional_Science
Posted by: Robert Searle | September 09, 2014 at 01:54 AM