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Philosophical Idealism



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Physics as Ideology

I had a conventional academic training, leading to a degree in physics. I absorbed a common-sense view of the world -- the world was what it appeared to be. At no time during those years was it ever suggested by my teachers or the books that I read that there was an alternative way of understanding reality. Reality was simply a world of real objects, and physicists investigated these real objects.

Then in my 40s I was introduced, through the books of Paul Brunton, to the view that reality is a mental creation. I was amazed  – it was such a strange concept.

Sub - Headings
Perception
Many Perspectives
Will and Mind
References

I was even more amazed that such a concept was not a part of orthodox science training. I am more discerning now. The view of mainstream science is an ideology [¹], and like most ideologies, it neither promotes any rival view nor proclaims its own limitations. However, what modern physics has demonstrated is that physicists have to develop both flexibility of mind and receptivity to unusual ideas if they are to understand reality.

This article is a short introduction to the concept that reality is a mental creation.


When I open my eyes in the morning a world of objects greets me. But do these objects really exist?  Realism (or materialism) is the view that these external objects do in fact exist and are composed of a substance called matter ; these objects are independent of me, and will continue to exist even if tomorrow I cease to exist.

The opposing philosophical theory to realism is called philosophical Idealism, or even just  Idealism. (I use a capital ‘I’ to distinguish philosophical Idealism from ordinary idealism ; in the latter I am motivated by ambition and ideals. This style is necessary since I often use both terms).
Philosophical Idealism is the view that matter does not exist in its own right, that in fact it is a product of mind. So all objects are mental creations. In this view, since the whole world is the sum of all objects, then even the world is a mental construction.

All views of reality are variations of these two basic views.
There is no conclusive way to decide between them. There is no experiment that can be performed to decide whether reality is formed by realism or by Idealism. Ultimately the test is in the explanatory power of either view : whichever one best explains the empirical phenomena of reality is the one more likely to be true. The individual has to think his way to the truth. However, this is an optimistic statement. Some phenomena are best described using the theory of realism, whilst other phenomena are best described by Idealism. In practice, a thinker will decide what phenomena are most important to him, and then endorse the theory that best interprets them.


There are two forms of  Idealism. Subjective Idealism is the view that the individual’s mind is paramount. When I see a tree, what I really observe is the idea of that tree in my mind. The point at issue is whether that tree exists independently of the idea of it that is in my mind. The difficulty here is that none of the five senses are of any use in verifying that an external world of objects is independent of my perception of it. Usually, within this form of Idealism, there is confusion about the nature of the mind : will, emotions, feelings, and desires are all considered to be aspects of the mind. Whence consciousness becomes equated to the mind.

Idealism has a long pedigree. It was first propounded in Buddhism over fifteen hundred years ago, in the doctrines of Yogacara and Vijnanavada, and flourished till the twelfth century. Descartes introduced a form of it into European thought. Other European thinkers who embraced it, in different forms, were Berkeley, Hegel, and Paul Brunton.


The view that I follow is that of  Objective Idealism. In my view of human consciousness, mind is separate from will and feeling. My view of consciousness is that it is compounded of will (or will power), mind, and feeling. Mind and will interact to produce desire, and mind and feeling interact to produce emotion. So consciousness can also be thought of as a mixture of desire, mind, and emotion. Hence consciousness is different from mind. [²]

The crucial difference between subjective and objective views of  Idealism is that I need to explain two central features of life : the experience of relationships and the existence of mental confusion (such as psycho-somatic illness and the various forms of madness). These features react on each other. A subjective Idealist, considering himself to be a monad (a self-contained being), can ignore relationships ; I cannot. This is because I centre myself on psychology ; I use philosophy only to explain my psychology.

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Perception

For a subjective Idealist, experience is of objects only ; this gives rise to static perception (the object stays the same).

For an objective Idealist, experience is enlarged to include relationships. In addition, confusion indicates that a subconscious component to mind exists – this feature of mind is not part of monad theory. These two features give rise to dynamic perception (since relationships and confusion can change) as well.

Therefore, the main difference between the two forms of  Idealism can be considered to be the issue of perception.

In general, perception has both metaphysical and psychological factors.


Consider the metaphysical factor of perception.
In my understanding of reality, god generates universal mind, which is only another name for the world of physical reality. God provides lifeforms, or centres of consciousness (such as humans and animals), with their own unique minds within universal mind. God provides perception and the lifeform interprets it. In this way a world of reality is presented to the lifeform.

Everything that I, as an ego, see produces images or ideas in my mind. An image is just a non-verbal idea. I am only aware of ideas. But I am not an idea, since will and feeling are separate from mind. In the sequence of perception there is more than one mind involved. A perceptual sequence occurs because an idea in the mind of god becomes reflected as an idea in my mind.


Consider the psychological factor of perception.
At the psychological level my mind evaluates the idea. I add value to my conception of reality : this is my contribution to reality. This is the feature that consciousness (whether human, animal, or other life forms) adds to creation. I assume that the idea in the mind of god is not associated with value since I believe that equanimity is the basis of divine consciousness (that is, the state of Nirvana). It is the role of centres of consciousness to add the factor of value. The idea that the world of reality is independent of "built-in" value assumes that the god which upholds reality is an impersonal god.


There are two components to perception, one being static and the other being dynamic :

a). The god-ego relationship. This requires a scenario of subjective Idealism (focusing on the concept of monadism).
This is the static perspective ; it centres on object recognition and is due to intellectual discrimination.

b). Projection and introjection. Projection and introjection require a scenario of relationships (focusing on
transference). [³]. This is the dynamic perspective. It focuses on value and meaning, and is due to desire and emotion.


Taken together, factors (a) and (b) form objective Idealism. Therefore a comprehensive theory of perception requires an adequate understanding of psycho-dynamic psychology.

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Many Perspectives

Perspectivism is the assumption that there are many different and valid ways to view reality. I view reality in this way : god creates a sensory system in tandem with the creation of an external world. The sensory system consists of radiators (things which either originate or reflect light) and receptors. God projects the image (which are the ideas), using light radiation, and then the individual’s senses (which are receptors) convey it to the ego’s mind. This view, when simplified by removing the concept of god, becomes the view of mainstream science. This view allows for the interpretation of the individual’s experience and existence. The external world is reflected in the individual’s mind like an object in a mirror ; the individual then interprets it.

The standard issue in the traditional exposition of philosophical Idealism is whether any external world exists apart from the impressions that are produced in the person’s mind. Do these impressions have similarities to an external world of objects?  My answer is yes, since the reality of determinism proves to me that I cannot control some aspects of my mind. I do not have complete free will. Therefore this weakness must be due to external influences. [4]

The images in a person’s mind do correspond with the actuality of external objects, allowing for subjective distortions due to personal preferences, imagination, expectancy, etc. The objective mind of god produces the external world of mental objects. A dialogue between the contents of objective mind and the individual’s subjective mind is the only framework that makes sense of my experience of life.


In my analysis, the theory of objective mind (of god) produces the same everyday results as the theory of realism does. Does it matter whether the world is interpreted as being mental or material ?  My answer is : Yes.

I am an objective Idealist since materialism cannot explain perception [5], psychic powers, extra-sensory perception, healing, magic, miracles, etc, whereas the theory of objective mind can. The difference is one of degree and not of kind, by which I mean that materialism is a simplistic reduction of objective mind to a level that can be more easily assimilated. For the ordinary person in his ordinary world, atheistic materialism and objective mind produce identical results and influences that they are prepared to accept. Only when a person starts treading the spiritual path does the higher meaning of objective mind become meaningful.

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Will and Mind

I consider the will and mind of god within a cosmic scenario. I start from the premiss that subjectivity always precedes objectivity. For example, subjectivity can be an absorption in meditation, day-dreaming, contemplation, or listening to music. The world of the new-born baby is a world of subjectivity, not objectivity.

I assume that in the course of cosmic evolution the subjective dream state of universal mind arose before ‘objective’ materialism did. By this I mean that god first dreamed the world as a phantasy, and then used its will to turn the dream into material existence. So the world of objective reality is a secondary emission and represents the stabilisation and solidification of a cosmic dream (that is, turning a potential world – the dream – into a concrete reality).

In a dream, universal mind is dominant. Mind imposes forms on sensation, but forms are transient. Mind imposes forms by creating laws of association. Imposing forms on sensation has the effect of creating concepts or ideas (which become the potential objects).

In the world of objective reality (the waking world), universal will is dominant. Mind still imposes forms, but now the will maintains these forms. This is done by the creation of forces of nature, which are different types of objectified will (for example, electricity, magnetism, gravitation). [6]. The subjective laws of association of the dream world are transposed into objective laws of attraction and repulsion in the waking world. Attraction and repulsion are the basis of all the laws of Nature. These processes turn the dream idea into a physical object.


The difference between idea and object is that the object is an ‘objectified’ idea, an idea maintained by god’s will. The object is dependent on the idea in objective mind ; then, through the process of perception, the object generates an idea in the subjective mind of the human observer. The human then uses his will to engage himself in the world of ideas. The sequence between mind and will leads to activity in the world of reality.

The sequence is
from mind (of god) to will (of god) to mind (of human observer) to will (of human observer).


I add some more ideas in order to produce a general format of cosmic evolution. Human consciousness consists of will, mind and feeling. I presume that this is modelled on the form that god's consciousness takes within creation (the immanent, or impersonal, form of god). So we have three universal aspects of divine consciousness that underlie the processes of the world.

c). Universal feeling, which appears as charge in matter and feeling in human consciousness, causes perpetual change. [7]

d). Universal mind  creates laws of Nature ; these laws govern the way that change occurs. Mind creates laws in order to manifest the endless change into forms or ideas ; then the forms continue to change in ways regulated by such laws.

e). Universal will  creates forces of Nature ; these forces maintain the forms as objects, without interfering with the process of change. Forces direct change but do not initiate any change or end it. For example, the force of gravity does not make an apple fall off a tree ; instead, once the apple separates (as a result of change) from the tree then gravity directs it to fall downwards and not upwards or sideways.


In addition, within human consciousness, desire is the product of will and mind, and produces action ; emotion is the product of feeling and mind, and stirs the person up. Desire can be long-term and stable, whilst emotions change frequently.

By analogy, the combination of universal will and universal mind creates the life force (or the evolutionary aspect of Nature) that powers creation. The life force is cosmic desire. And the combination of universal feeling and universal mind creates the energy of creation. Since feeling fluctuates, so energy changes and Nature has its seasons.

Mind helps to give energy to ‘matter’. Energy enables mind to create its shapes or forms. Mind gives potential energy to the apple on the tree, and this energy partially transforms into kinetic energy when the apple falls to the ground (on the ground, the apple has less potential energy). The evolution of the material world can be seen as the overall transformation of potential energy into kinetic energy: the transformation of static forms into dynamic forms. The whole world of creation is just the drama of this transformation.

In summary :

Change derives from Charge and Feeling.
Patterns of change derive from Mind.
Stability of patterns derives from Will.


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References

The number in brackets at the end of each reference takes you back to the paragraph that featured it.
The addresses of my other websites are on the Links page.

[¹]. Most scientists are not likely to accept that science has become an ideology; they would prefer to call it a paradigm. To explain my ideas I have an article Paradigm and Ideology on my website A Modern Thinker. [1]

[²]. My ideas on consciousness as a compound of will, mind, and feeling are described in the article Notes on Emotion and Abreaction. [2]

[³]. Transference is the psychological transfer to the child of some or all of the parents' beliefs, attitudes and values.

Transference itself can be split up into two broad factors, one focusing on sexuality and the other focusing on authority. Each parent is a source of both factors.

For more details, see the article Transference on my websites The Strange World of Emotion, Discover Your Mind, and The Subconscious Mind.
There are detailed articles on Projection and Introjection and Transference on my psychology websites The Strange World of Emotion, and The Subconscious Mind, and Discover Your Mind. [3]

[4]. I have an article on Determinism on my website Discover Your Mind. [4]

[5]. If the world is assumed to consist of matter, then how the perception of matter can lead to images in a mind cannot be explained. Materialists cannot explain how matter and mind inter-act. [5]

[6]. The concept that forces of nature are different types of objectified will was put forward by Arthur Schopenhauer. There is an article on his ideas on my other philosophy website A Modern Thinker. [6]

[7]. The relationship between charge and feeling is described in the article Charge and Feeling. [7]


Books

Brunton, Paul.
---- The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga. Rider 1941.
On philosophical idealism, and the differences between philosophical thought and religious/mystical thought. out of print.

---- The Notebooks of Paul Brunton. Larson Publications, USA. A series of books.

Schopenhauer, Arthur.
The World as Will and Representation. Dover Publications, USA, 1969. In two volumes.



Home Emotion and Abreaction References and Links Note on Karma


The articles in this section are :

Philosophical Idealism

Synthesis of  Mind and Matter

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