The Reality in Your Head

In my earlier post (A Spiritual Atheist) I said something that may seem a little contradictory to my normal “truth is” mentality. In fact, what I said sounds outright like ontological relativism. I said there is a universe in your head and that it is as vast as the universe we normally refer to (the one with stars and galaxies and dark matter etc.) and that in your own mental universe there are your own truths. Given that ontological relativism is nonsense, what do I mean?

I believe that all truth is objective. That, to me at least, is crystal clear in the celestial universe that our bodies occupy. No truth about the universe can be true to me but wrong to you but both of us still be right. Something either is or it is not, and no matter how strongly you and I feel something to be so, one of us could just be wrong.  But in your head is another universe; a mental universe. And I believe the mental universe has truths as objectively true as the truths of the celestial universe. But the truths of your own mental universe relate entirely to you. If Hoyle can discover the gas laws in this universe, anyone can because it is a common truth that is, in principle, accessible to all. That is not the nature of truth in your own head; if you discover a fear of the dark in your own head that truth (that the dark frightens you) is not commonly accessible and it does not mean fear of the dark is true in other mental universes.

When I meditate I hope to find truths about me that are slightly greater than a fear of dark. And to an extent that has been the case: I discovered ambitions and happiness and the root of my argumentative problem. Other people find a relationship with something greater than themselves, but that won’t communicate any truth into the celestial universe. You also find your own personal values in your mental universe. These things will feel as real as anything you know about the celestial universe: love, beauty, awe, fear, happiness. But I think it is pertinent to draw a distinction between these truths in your own head (experiences, values and judgements)—as important as they are to the value and experience of the life we live—and knowledge.

I do not mean to belittle the truths of your mental universe by separating them from knowledge of the celestial universe, knowledge is by no means the most important thing (although knowledge is a noble quest, given the choice I would rather be happy and ignorant than miserable but knowledgeable). But when you realise that your values, even if held by a majority of people, are not inalienable, universal and objective truth, and that your experiences are subjective then you will realise that they are not knowledge.

In fact, knowledge is a superficial and fickle endeavour if you have no time to act on your values and to bathe in your experiences. I don’t get much time to discuss these ideas with you on my blog because I focus so unendingly on knowledge that is pushes these ideas out of my blog. But it never pushes them out of my head. It doesn’t matter if it’s not knowledge: brothers and sisters, live in beauty.

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6 thoughts on “The Reality in Your Head”

  1. I quite enjoy your philosophical forays. I am interested to know, if you care to divulge of course, the root of your argumentativeness. I still haven’t figured it out, I can’t shut the voice in my bloody head up when someone says something wrong. If I do, it just ends up gnawing away at me and I can’t focus on whatever else they say.

    1. There are a few roots to my argumentativeness (I think). One of them is that, as a child, I was pulled up quite harshly (and often wrongly) for lying. That has made me quite sensitive to feeling like I am being lied to… which is one aspect of it.
      Another is the sense that when someone is wrong it really matters, which of course it doesn’t.

      The last one is that I have conditioned myself to be sensitive to certain things. I once had a friend ask me why there are still monkeys if evolution is true. Because I normally talk to people who are passionate about the issue (if I talk about the issue at all) I have conditioned my response to that to be one of “you’re not even looking it up; you can’t be passionate and still not have an answer to that question”.

      The basic answer is that I make too many assumptions when I hear something I disagree with: that I’m being lied to, that someone is suppressing information to deceive or catch me out or that on a fundamental level an ape with strange conception of the universe matters. Look internally into your assumptions and you quickly forgive the other ape’s transgressions; often people are not trying to deceive you (and they are not as passionate as they think they are).

  2. The technique of tranquillizing the mind, known as Samatha bhavana is the precedent to the cultivation of insight meditation (Vipassana). It is only with the insight meditation that the mind finally penetrates the Four Noble Truths and so comes to distinguish reality from illusion. The ultimate truth is then seen face to face by the intuitive and enlightened wisdom. From being descriptive truths that are merely grasped intellectually, the Four Noble Truths become known, understood and felt as certainties, on a new level of realization. In a quite indescribable way they can be experienced only by the super conscious wisdom.

  3. For lack of better word, Amen! Objective reality of the shared outer world is analysed and proven through our sense perception, which doesn’t differ to greatly (except colour blindness etc). But my favourite point youve raised is where people confuse individial personal experience for an unconditionally accepted truth. Thank you for that post ot was very reaffirming and refreshing to read.

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