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S0LiPS1ST
08-29-2011, 12:09 AM
Solipsism is the philosophical notion that you are the only consciousness in this universe. That might sound rather extreme at first pass, but we’ve all done our share of pondering: “what if this is all just a dream?” Yes, there’s no way to establish for certain whether or not you’re dreaming right now; solipsism is just one feature of that possibility. If this is all a dream, then you are the dreamer and you’ve created the world in your mind, and you are indeed the only consciousness, at least in the dream. Thus, solipsism doesn’t necessarily have to be a lonely philosophy– it may be that your friends really do exist, and you’ll go hang out with them when you wake up, but right now you’re just perceiving them as dream-friends in your head.

Before talking about deeper things, a word is in order about this article you’re reading. If you’re the sole consciousness, dreaming this universe up as you go, then that goes for me and the article as well. That doesn’t necessarily mean you created this article; it might be that it exists in the “real world”, where you live when you’re not dreaming. Maybe in that waking life your dreaming brain has forgotten about, I’m a famous author and my blog is as famous as the Bible, and that’s why it has enough gravitas that people manifest it in their very dreams. Or, alternatively, maybe you wrote this article. Knowing you were about to descend into a decades-long virtual reality (possibly during cryogenic spaceflight or something), you wrote this article and input it into some machine so your dream persona would find it. You knew that you’d forget everything, so you put this article here as a clue about the true nature of reality. Or maybe you spontaneously, randomly created this article. Spun it up using some deep subconscious random-number-generator you aren’t even aware of, the same random number generator that spawns dreams-within-a-dream every night when you sleep.

Solipsism is a belief. It’s unverifiable and unfalsifiable, almost more a matter of semantics than of metaphysics. Therefore, in a certain sense, the question “How can I be solipsistic?” is trivial: just believe that you’re the only consciousness in this world, and that makes you a solipsist. A belief is all in your mind, and you control your mind, so you control your beliefs. But since I (or rather you) want this article to be longer than 400 words, I’ll expound further on reasons to justify this particular belief, answer some common objections, and even list some benefits enjoyed by the philosophical solipsist.

JUSTIFYING SOLIPSISM

The most powerful way to justify a belief is direct experience. The best direct experience to justify solipsism is a known solipsistic reality. In other words, one way to convince yourself that life is a dream, is to spend some time in a dream, where you know you’re the only consciousness. You’ve already done this, whether or not you remember it: it’s called a lucid dream. A lucid dream is a dream in which you suddenly realize you’re dreaming. Lucid dreamers become conscious during a dream; this usually leads to conscious control of the dream body. This is a lot of fun for its own sake, since once you know you’re dreaming, you can do whatever you want.

If you’ve never heard of lucid dreams before, I wrote a whole article on them: Introduction to Lucid Dreaming. Every occurrence of lucidity in a dream lends further justification toward solipsism. If you’ve never remembered a lucid dream (you’ve definitely had them, whether you remember or not), you should definitely invest some time in training to have and remember them more. The article I just linked to has some pointers on this training. Part of what gives the lucid dream so much justifying strength is the fact that a lucid dream seems so real. The first time a person manages to hold onto the memories of going lucid, the universal reaction is always, “I can’t believe how real it was!” Of course– life is a dream, so it’s no surprise a dream resembles life.

Of course, when you’re walking around in a lucid dream, you’re the only conscious entity in that world. Your friends might be there, but you know they’re just dream-people. That whole world only exists because of you, the dreamer. So why should this world be any different?

The other big justification for solipsism is this: you’ve never experienced any world without yourself in it. You’ve always been here. You’ve never experienced this world after your death– otherwise you’d be dead. And you’ve never walked around before your birth. In fact, you can’t even remember your birth, despite the fact that, in theory, that’s about the most astonishing thing that ever happened to you. As far as you know, the whole world materialized sometime around your youngest memory. Sure, you can place your birth on a timeline, and read about historical events thousands of years before you appeared, but how do you know any of that really exists? You didn’t experience it!

You don’t know whether people and places even exist when you’re not directly observing them. In a video game, only the current map is kept loaded in RAM; if the game is currently taking place in the United States, there’s no reason for the computer to calculate graphics for Antarctica. Why should this world be any different? If that sounds strange, consider how quantum events aren’t determined until they’re observed. Macroscale physics can be derived probabilistically from the notion of atoms bouncing around randomly. Thus, it’s not that snow melts at a certain temperature, it’s that the probability of the snow staying frozen is so small it’s almost zero. If no observer is causing quantum waveforms to collapse, then it’s not determined whether the snow has melted or not. Thus, Antarctica doesn’t exist when no one’s there.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST SOLIPSISM

You might wonder, if this is all a dream, why it’s not your own private utopia. If it’s all in your head, why does life still have uncomfortable parts to it? To which I answer: I dunno, you tell me ;) But seriously, there are a number of explanations. One possibility is that you decided how things would be in advance, before you “went to sleep”. In a higher reality where you’re currently sleeping and dreaming this life, you decided you needed the laws of the world to be the way they are, for some reason. Maybe you need there to be hunger in Africa because that will help you train compassion. Maybe you want financial insecurity because you’ve already “played the game” at “easier difficulty levels” and you want a bigger challenge this time around. Another possibility is that your life is already perfect: after all, in your current level of consciousness, you have no experience living a different life, and for all you know, they’re all less happy than your current circumstances.

Similar reasoning goes if you ask why you can’t use superpowers. When I have lucid dreams, after all, I enjoy supernatural abilities like the power to fly. But again, those are the paramaters I chose for that dream; you might have chosen different parameters for the existence you’re currently living in. And who’s to say what is and isn’t supernatural– maybe in the “higher world” where you’re sleeping and dreaming right now, there is no gravity at all, and fantasy authors invented the concept of gravity as some wondrous fictional supernatural force.

Another argument is that solipsism is morally wrong somehow. Isn’t it selfish or something to believe oneself the sole consciousness in the world? What’s more, won’t it lead to criminal behavior, or at the very least, rejection of society? I dunno; the idea that this is all a dream, doesn’t inspire me to acts of crime (anymore than I would be inspired anyway)… if the idea inspires you to such acts, then that says more about your character than about any inherent property of the philosophy. (And I say that quite non-judgmentally; this is your dreamworld, if you want to bludgeon me to death, go right ahead) Anyone who uses solipsism as an excuse for some kind of behavior, would just find some other excuse anyway, so moral objections are moot. Rejecting society? A game doesn’t lose its fun just because the player realizes it’s a game.

What about great literature? If all the world is a dream, how come it’s so chock full of literature of all types, which you yourself don’t remember creating? In other words, if you can create Shakespeare in your dream, doesn’t that make you at least Shakespeare’s peer? This relates back to the 2nd paragraph, when I discussed how this very article you’re reading got into your reality. Maybe you’re the one who wrote The Bible, only in a higher waking life, and then for some reason you projected it onto different authors in this dream-life. Or maybe you were familiar with it from your higher life, and that’s how it got here. This all goes for advanced scientific knowledge as well. Incidentally, how much of the world’s literature have you actually read? How do you know most the books at the library aren’t all blank? Maybe words don’t appear on the page until you turn to it.

APPLICATIONS OF SOLIPSISM

Ok, so maybe this is all technically valid, in the sense that you can’t prove or disprove it one way or another, but why would anyone want to believe they’re the dreamer? Here are some ways in which this unorthodox faith is actually useful.

* Increased courage. When you realize it’s all illusionary, your courage shoots through the roof. It’s like when you’re playing a videogame, you’re never scared to do whatever you need to do to reach the next level. Or maybe you are, if it’s a really well-made horror game.. but then that’s a feature, not a bug ;) In any case, you’d never think twice about asking for a raise or a date if it was in a virtual world where you were the only conscious entity.

* Full responsibility. It’s hard to lay blame on the outside world when you’re the ultimate being in whose head it’s all taking place. Whatever scenarios you find yourself facing, it’s easy to assume complete responsibility for them when you’re a solipsist. Maybe you’re not sure why, but for some reason, you chose this particular configuration of things. Not even things which seem beyond your control, like taxes or poverty, are an excuse to throw a pity party. And full responsibility is good because, even if it were objectively justified, you’d never actually accomplish anything by tossing blame around.

* Zero guilt or worry. Guilt and worry are pointless, useless emotions which never add any value to the world. Both are intimately tied to materialist ideas of the world as some arena where you interact with fellow conscious beings. This doesn’t mean you should necessarily become a serial killer or something– see the answers to the “morality criticism” above.

* Better connections with people. Paradoxical as it might seem, you’ll actually connect better with people when you realize that everything about your relationship with them is in your mind. It’s hard to hate or rage against someone when you know that you’re the one who chose to have them in your life. Neither will you feel shy or reserved, or unable to get up the nerve to go talk to that cute person you’ve been crushing on. The solipsist stops worrying so much about other people, which is good, because whenever you’re consciously thinking about the people you’re interacting with, you’ll come off awkward. The old saying, “Just Be Yourself”, takes new meaning when there’s nothing other than “yourself” in all creation!

MarkostheGnostic
08-29-2011, 11:40 AM
The problem with such formulations, from a Western mind, is that in speaking of non-dualism, the tendency is to confound one's temporal self (ego) with God. This is one reason why God is spoken of as a Thou, and why the doctrine of absolute transcendence is prevalent in the theistic 'religions of the Book' (Judaism, Christianity and Islam). In theistic Hinduism, the Supreme Personality of the Godhead can be entered into via the Unio Mystica, but only communion with God is allowed in the religions of the Book. The exceptions, when made, are mystics who have been censored historically, if not eliminated, including Jesus and the Islamic al Hallaj. Judaism (as I just wrote about, quoting Abraham Joshua Heschel) rejects any notion of mystic union, Kabbalists notwithstanding.

Mysticism branches into Gnosticism and Alchemy, which is where I have tread, chronologically in my own walk. Eventually, I will tie everything together, as the Ouroboric serpent closes past with future in a timeless present. Even a mountain of granite is ephemeral as a cloud when compared to eternity. Just be careful of hubris. Read the Myth of Icarus.

Peace.

S0LiPS1ST
08-29-2011, 02:15 PM
Of one thing I can be absolutely sure and that is the entire universe is seen through my eyes alone. Rene Descartes Meditations on First Philosophy make more sense than anything else I have ever read.

As far as flying too close to the sun? If such a thing truly did exists which certainly the concept of it does indeed, what would be the main point?

Main point in knowing you're God. If you were to remember the outcome of everything before it happened then life would cease to be interesting thus it wouldn't challenge you nor have any reason for being. Thus God puts himself into states of amnesia for the sole enjoyment of uncertainty and surprise.

S0LiPS1ST
08-29-2011, 02:17 PM
“What if a demon were to creep after you one night, in your loneliest loneliness, and say, 'This life which you live must be lived by you once again and innumerable times more; and every pain and joy and thought and sigh must come again to you, all in the same sequence. The eternal hourglass will again and again be turned and you with it, dust of the dust!' Would you throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse that demon? Or would you answer, 'Never have I heard anything more divine'?” -Friedrich Nietzsche

solomon levi
08-29-2011, 06:30 PM
:) Very nice post! I've been wandering in this arena myself lately.
One of the ideas I use is that the universe/Oneness, which is me, is a giant radionics machine.
But just yesterday I was in awe, not at the magic that this machine can produce, but
at the God who turns the dials - Oneself. We are so freakin' powerful.
I can't wait for more people to realise this and tip the scales. It's happening!

solomon levi
08-29-2011, 06:44 PM
APPLICATIONS OF SOLIPSISM

Ok, so maybe this is all technically valid, in the sense that you can’t prove or disprove it one way or another, but why would anyone want to believe they’re the dreamer? Here are some ways in which this unorthodox faith is actually useful...

* Increased courage. When you realize it’s all illusionary, your courage shoots through the roof. It’s like when you’re playing a videogame, you’re never scared to do whatever you need to do to reach the next level. Or maybe you are, if it’s a really well-made horror game.. but then that’s a feature, not a bug ;) In any case, you’d never think twice about asking for a raise or a date if it was in a virtual world where you were the only conscious entity.

* Full responsibility. It’s hard to lay blame on the outside world when you’re the ultimate being in whose head it’s all taking place. Whatever scenarios you find yourself facing, it’s easy to assume complete responsibility for them when you’re a solipsist. Maybe you’re not sure why, but for some reason, you chose this particular configuration of things. Not even things which seem beyond your control, like taxes or poverty, are an excuse to throw a pity party. And full responsibility is good because, even if it were objectively justified, you’d never actually accomplish anything by tossing blame around.

* Zero guilt or worry. Guilt and worry are pointless, useless emotions which never add any value to the world. Both are intimately tied to materialist ideas of the world as some arena where you interact with fellow conscious beings. This doesn’t mean you should necessarily become a serial killer or something– see the answers to the “morality criticism” above.

* Better connections with people. Paradoxical as it might seem, you’ll actually connect better with people when you realize that everything about your relationship with them is in your mind. It’s hard to hate or rage against someone when you know that you’re the one who chose to have them in your life. Neither will you feel shy or reserved, or unable to get up the nerve to go talk to that cute person you’ve been crushing on. The solipsist stops worrying so much about other people, which is good, because whenever you’re consciously thinking about the people you’re interacting with, you’ll come off awkward. The old saying, “Just Be Yourself”, takes new meaning when there’s nothing other than “yourself” in all creation!

True, true! But do you not also experience some freaking out? Isn't this sometimes unbearable for you?
Just asking because it is for me. This is not just a philosophy you're espousing. It's sometimes my reality,
and it's sometimes wonderful and sometimes terrifying.
Would you comment on the terrifying aspects, please?
Did/do you have such experiences? How do you cope, or do you just ride it out (my "technique").
Would you say, since we're solipsists, that the wonder or terror is just a point of view?
Change your focus if you don't like it? Cast your net on the other side of the boat?

When one truly has this experience, it isn't solipsism that is a belief, but your entire former life.
That freaks me out sometimes. But also liberating when i have the "courage" as you say.

Thanks so much.

S0LiPS1ST
08-31-2011, 07:34 PM
Let's skirt the issue of discipline
Let's start an illusion
With hand and pen
Re-read the words and start again
Accept the gift of sin
The gift of...
Pleasure is bleeding to smother the words
The four walls drain me dry
Of all imagination
Crying out to be told to stand still
Crying out to be told to stand still
The price of red death
Is the price of true love
The black queen jumps through my skin
The king of hearts is waiting
Close to home
Someone's shooting outside
Trigger finger's itchy
Another moving target
More blood on your surplice
More blood for the price of red death
Nailing you to the wall
Nailing you to the Spanish mystic
Nailing you to the wall
Three shots ring out to scream
Who wants to play Roman solider
That lives inside of me
Perennial artist, what do you see
What do you see?
My secret fear of being alone
I sit and hold hands with myself
I sit and make love to myself
I've got blood on my hands
I've got blood on your hands
Blood on our hands
Blood

S0LiPS1ST
08-31-2011, 07:36 PM
From childhood's hour I have not been
As others were; I have not seen
As others saw; I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I loved, I loved alone.
Then- in my childhood, in the dawn
Of a most stormy life- was drawn
From every depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still:
From the torrent, or the fountain,
From the red cliff of the mountain,
From the sun that round me rolled
In its autumn tint of gold,
From the lightning in the sky
As it passed me flying by,
From the thunder and the storm,
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view.

Alone, Edgar Allan Poe

Frater IA
09-19-2011, 02:04 PM
“What if a demon were to creep after you one night, in your loneliest loneliness, and say, 'This life which you live must be lived by you once again and innumerable times more; and every pain and joy and thought and sigh must come again to you, all in the same sequence. The eternal hourglass will again and again be turned and you with it, dust of the dust!' Would you throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse that demon? Or would you answer, 'Never have I heard anything more divine'?” -Friedrich Nietzsche

I'd banish its punk ass back to the shadows from whence it came! Then be happy that I have set my parameters loosely. ;p