The purpose of this website is to define the structures and functions of subjective reality, which is categorically distinct from objective reality. The two are interconnected, and all life requires both. There have been many efforts to find the source of subjective reality within objective reality, but they have failed, and always will fail, because the two are fundamentally distinct.
Subjective reality is created by the mind, whereas objective reality exists independent of any perception or interpretation by the mind. There are two types of subjective reality: shared and individual. The shared subjective reality contains all language, laws, politics, and relationships. The individual subjective reality is all thoughts, feelings, sensation, and emotions.
Objective reality can be established and proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Shared subjective reality can be agreed upon, validated and enforced. Individual subjective reality can be described but not established or proven.
Even though all subjective reality is created by the mind, there are knowable rules and structures that explain how it functions. The key elements are identity (agency) and will (volition), which are driven by hope and desires, and made real by belief and attachment.
It may seem odd to address concepts like hope, desire, belief and attachment as scientific principles, but they are. Volition is the force of will that all living organisms express in one form or another. This force is desire, driven by the expectation (hope) of achievement or pleasure. The types of desires and hopes that any given individual expresses are tied directly to their identity, which is the complex and layered sense of self.
While these structures and processes are the same for everyone, the specific characteristics and manifestations of them are extremely variable. An analogy is painting. All paintings have some kind of paint put onto some kind of canvas using some method. And all the visual content is some combination of realistic, abstract or expressionist imagery. These are the structures of painting, which result in the extreme variety of artistic paintings.
Subjective reality is created by the mind. The mind is the vehicle for experience, which requires awareness and volition. Awareness and volition cannot arise out of objective reality alone. Instead, they result from an inextricable blending of pure consciousness and objective nature.
Pure consciousness is a fundamental principle, which means it is not caused by anything else and it does not arise out of anything else. This is extremely difficult to understand because pure consciousness doesn’t have any material or energetic manifestation. The human mind literally cannot conceive of it. To understand what consciousness is and how the mind operates, we have to combine observable phenomena with the logical application of cause and effect.
The formal definition of consciousness is:
Pure consciousness is the undifferentiated potential for knowledge (to know and be known). Consciousness imbues nature such that living organisms have the powers of agency (awareness) and will (volition), both of which are aspects of knowledge and requisites for life. These powers reside neither in consciousness nor in nature alone; it is only in their union that life is possible.
This definition is explained thoroughly in the Definition of Consciousness article. There is an explanation of how the mind operates and what drives its activity in the Philosophy of Mind article. An explanation of the logic and methodology for this model is contained in the On Methodology article.
There is also a Simplified Explanation for those who don’t have a background in philosophy. Finally, an approach to understanding the meaning of life is addressed in A Scientific Approach to Meaning in Life.
The key elements of this definition and how the mind operates are:
- Pure consciousness is a fundamental principle, which means it is uncaused and cannot be explained by any other phenomena.
- Pure consciousness alone is just potential, and as such has no manifestation of its own without merging with elements of nature.
- In living organisms, consciousness is required for agency and will. These are the primary drivers of life and all activity of the mind (not the effects of other activities as commonly assumed).
- There are three layers of reality: objective reality, the shared subjective reality, and an individual subjective reality.
- The mind creates all experiences in the two subjective realities. These experiences may or may not align with the objective reality.
All these points are explained thoroughly in the articles.
The definitions and concepts on this website are my own amalgamation of theory and practice. Most of the core concepts and structures originated in the ancient Samkhya philosophy along with other elements of traditional yoga philosophy (mainly articulated in the Samkhya Karika and in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali).
There are many places where this model deviates from Samkhya and yoga philosophy. For this and other reasons, I have chosen not to use Sanskrit terminology. There is, and always has been, disagreement within the yoga and Eastern philosophical communities about how to understand and translate the core elements of these ancient philosophies. So even if I were to cite a specific Sanskrit phrase, the meaning of that phrase isn’t agreed upon even in Sanskrit. Therefore, I have avoided the use of Sanskrit and stuck to constructing what I hope is a complete and thorough explanation.
Also, we have such a better understanding today about how objective reality and the mind and brain operate compared to when the ancient philosophies were written. Furthermore, these Eastern philosophies were written in a self-referential and tautological manner, making them even less useful for today’s study. Therefore, I have taken my own understanding of the ancient philosophies (developed over a decade of substantial study, training and practice), combined it with centuries of scientific and technical developments, and filtered it through rigorous logical reasoning.
The goal of the definition and corresponding explanations is to provide a consistent terminology and framework for the discussion and study of consciousness and the mind across all fields. I’m very interested in making this content as useful as possible, so please send gaps, issues, questions, and/or corrections to OpDefCon at gmail dot com.