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.
Subjective 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.