On Subjective Reality I: Strange Questions

I’d like to take a couple of posts to talk about Steve Pavlina’s recent remarkable podcast on subjective reality. Steve tries to explain the Law of Attraction — that is, the observation that your reality strongly reflects your thoughts — by proposing that everything you observe is caused by your own consciousness. In fact, nothing exists outside of yourself. This is a pretty serious break from the belief systems of most folks, and I began to wonder if there were some other way to explain the Law of Attraction — to explain it in a fairly rigerous way, as he tries to do — without accepting the idea that all of reality is simply a reflection of your own personal consciousness. Subjective reality, in Steve’s terms, is consistent, makes few assumptions, and is impossible to refute — but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily true. There may be other ways to explain the Law consistently, and I want to explore one of them in this series. In this first post, I’ll talk about some of the stranger consequences of Steve’s conception.

futureneopaganismSubjective reality raises some weird questions — questions that can be answered, but in very odd ways. For example, when you (the only conscious being) were a baby, you had no idea how gravity worked (which is why you experimented continually with food dropped from your high chair). One would expect that gravity would not have worked consistently in your reality until you learned about Newton’s laws when you were rather older. But every time you dropped your food, it ended up on the floor. Why?

Steve might say that your memories of being a child are part of your subjective reality, just like everything else. Your memories are just a reflection of your current consciousness. Who knows if you ever really were a baby? And even if you were a baby, maybe gravity WASN’T consistent then. All you really know about is the present.

I don’t know about you, but getting my head around that is a long walk.

Also, consider this. If your memories are just a creation of your present consciousness, then what evidence do you have that the Law of Attraction works at all (assuming you’ve seen it work in your life before)? As evidence that the Law works, Steve cites a number of things he’s observed himself. But Steve’s memories of his experiments only count as evidence if you trust his memories. In the subjective reality framework, you can’t trust anyone’s memories, not even your own! In fact, Steve has proven that you can’t prove anything — not even the Law of Attraction!

Finally, what happens if you believe very strongly that another person exists? By the Law of Attraction, your very belief should generate another individual, another consciousness, with its own free will and beliefs — another consciousness that can use the Law of Attraction itself. Once you’ve done that, of course, you run right back into the conflicts and paradoxes that Steve was trying to avoid with his “subjective reality” concept.

Concerning this last point, Steve would say that this is a limit on the power of the Law of Attraction. You can project bits of yourself that appear to be separate consciousnesses with separate beliefs and free will, but it’s just projection — just an illusion. Here’s how he put it to me in a recent email:

“You can throw lots of pebbles into a pond and observe the ripples, but ultimately no matter how many pebbles you throw and ripples you observe, none of that is really you. You remain the pebble thrower. If you study the pond the ripples deeply enough and strive to resolve every incongruency and impossibility, it eventually leads back to the existence of a pebble thrower, and you’re it.”

Steve’s restriction on the Law of Attraction does resolve the paradox. But it is an additional restriction, an additional assumption.

Think of it this way. In regular “objective reality”, you can create other individuals with free will — just by having children. Generating other individuals like yourself is what makes life on this planet possible, really. How can something so simple and basic in objective reality be impossible in subjective reality? Subjective reality, in Steve’s view, is supposed to be empowering. Subjective reality is supposed to give you more control, more responsibility, more power. But if it’s true, if you believe it, then you’ve been stripped of your greatest power: your power to create independent life.

However, as I noted above, there may be other ways to explain the Law consistently without resorting to subjective reality and its mind-bending logic. I’ll talk about some of my ideas in the next post in this series.

6 thoughts on “On Subjective Reality I: Strange Questions”

  1. Steve is very positive and has some good ideas. But he’s also somewhat nuts. He radicalizes the theory of The Law of Attraction and Manifestation way too much. Of course you can somewhat influence your behavior and thus your reality, but you cannot ever change the laws of physics.

    It’s too bad that he messes his positive message up with garbage like that.

  2. I am keeping a very open mind.
    It may be impossible to change the laws of physics — I’ve never managed it myself — but a number of people that I love and trust have experienced some very strange things. Check out my Site Index if you’re curious.
    You’ll notice that, in this post, I’m not attacking the Law of Attraction itself (which does break “the laws of physics”), but Steve’s explanation of it. I offer an alternative explanation in the next post.

  3. My understanding of the nature of reality is that our perception of What Is differs what what ACTUALLY is… in that a tree is a tree is a tree… but how we perceive it depends on the filtering of our thoughts and belief systems. A logger might see money waiting to be made, an environmentalist might see beauty needing to be saved… but the tree itself doesn’t differ at all.
    In this way, one can understand that while reality itself is fixed, by changing your perspective of it, you can change your experience of reality – and as all we can ever truly know is our experience of reality, it might appear that reality itself has changed.
    Shifting from a model of objective reality to one of subjective reality shifts our focus from changing the perceived external to changing the created internal… and this is where true power lies.
    Much joy,
    Kara-Leah
    http://www.KLmasina.co.nz
    be conscious now

    or for an article I wrote on this…
    http://www.klmasina.co.nz/index.php?p=5

  4. That’s a neat article, Kara-Leah, and I hope people will go over and read it.

    I’m not sure I agree with you that reality is “fixed”. Right now I’m tending toward the idea that, if enough people agree about a certain idea (e.g. that there’s a tree over there), then it’s pretty well established. But if no one is in agreement on a given tree, or no one’s really thought about it before, then its existence may be completely up in the air; or the fact (is there a tree or not?) may be different depending on who’s observing.

    I don’t have anything like “evidence” for this, but there are some patterns in the development of science and the European discovery of the world that are suggestive. It really deserves its own blog post…

  5. Re:

    “I don’t have anything like “evidence” for this, but there are some patterns in the development of science and the European discovery of the world that are suggestive. It really deserves its own blog post…”

    I look forward to that!

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