Transcending Subjective Reality

Steve Pavlina is a professional speaker and writer, and one of the inspirations for this blog. Much of his personal development advice is smart—by which I mean to say that I agree with it. His theories on the nature of reality, however, are inaccurate and misleading.

For centuries, dedicated martial artists have worked to shed the layers of egoistic and social insulation that prevent a direct experience of reality. Some have risked their lives in empirical testing, to verify and refine the martial path to enlightenment. What can the discipline of martial arts teach us about subjective reality?

Subjective Reality Theory

You can read the detailed theory on Steve Pavlina’s website, so I’ll just give a few brief quotations here:

Here’s the way I’m using this term: Subjective reality is an integrated belief system where consciousness and awareness are primary. They are the container in which everything else exists. And I do mean EVERYTHING.

In a truly subjective universe, there is nothing outside your own consciousness — no world, no bodies, no brain. Suppose I ask you the question, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” With an objective belief structure, you might say yes, but you might also say no, depending on your views on quantum physics. However, if you believed in subjective reality, you have to reject the question entirely. You’d say that there’s no such thing as a tree outside your awareness. That tree doesn’t even exist. Nor does the forest for that matter. If you are not there to observe it, it doesn’t exist at all. Without consciousness there is no existence.

A secondary element is that within a subjective universe, thought is the primary creative element. All thoughts manifest in some form, whether conscious or unconscious. So the physical universe is like a giant computer, crunching your thoughts into reality. Thoughts are waves, and the physical universe is the summation of all those waves. Hence where there is no thought, there is no physical existence. If a thought does not exist, its physical manifestation does not exist either.

Source: Subjective Reality Q&A

The Martial Perspective

There is an objective reality. Anyone who has been shot, stabbed, or punched in the nose can attest to its existence. To quote the Persian philosopher Ibn Sina:

Anyone who denies [the existence of objective truth] should be beaten and burned until he admits that to be beaten is not the same as not to be beaten, and to be burned is not the same as not to be burned.

If you are reading this article, it is probably because you find the subjective reality concept appealing. It explains some unusual experiences that didn’t fit into your previous objective model. And since those experiences were unquestionably real, objectivity must be an illusion.

But there is a flaw in that line of reasoning. Perhaps your personal model of objectivity only needs a slight modification, in order to accord with these experiences? Let’s make a few adjustments…

Your ability to perceive objective reality is limited. As a human being of limited faculties, your attempts to identify the truth will be inaccurate and imprecise.

Some limitations are physical, based on your sense organs. For example, you probably cannot read this article from 10 yards away, because your eyesight is too poor. Even if you cannot see these words from a distance, they do remain on the page.

Other constraints are psychological. For example, addicts and other neurotics deny painful truths that, if accepted, would compel them to drop their compulsive habits. (It is no coincidence that many of these folks embrace a theory of subjective reality!)

Despite these human limitations, you need not feel depressed, because…

Shiva (photo by Deepak Gupta)

The accuracy of your perceptions can be improved, with time and effort. This observation inspired the so-called “internal” styles of martial arts, which use sensitivity and awareness to prevail over speed and strength.

The internal martial arts use a variety of solo and partner exercises to increase the precision and accuracy of perception. These exercises have undergone continuous testing and refinement for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

The subtle and profound skills of the greatest martial arts and qigong experts demonstrate that…

Willpower is an objective force. Its effects can be measured both inside and outside of the body. This primacy of will is explained by the Chinese adage yi yi ling qi (the mind can lead the qi).

Nevertheless, acknowledging the force of mind is not equivalent to endorsing subjective reality. Practically speaking, willpower is a limited power. It can bring about many things, but not everything. Furthermore…

You are not the only agent in this universe. You are a small, relatively insignificant player on a grand stage. Just as another person’s flesh and bones may oppose yours, their intentions may counter your own will.

You probably believe that the satisfaction of your personal desires would serve a higher purpose, a greater good! Well, so do George W. Bush, Hillary Clinton, and everyone else on planet Earth. Welcome to the party.

Reality is Really Real

Subjective reality is a self-nullifying theory. If there is no truth or value anywhere, then there is obviously no truth or value to subjectivity. On the other hand, if complete subjectivity is real, it is objectively so. This theory isn’t even strong enough to defend itself; how can it support your personal development and growth?

But the greatest shortcoming of subjective reality theory is not its logical fallacy, or its inherent lack of falsifiability. The theory is dangerous because it is a cleverly concealed form of ego reinforcement. In a world where you control everything and everyone, there is no need for acceptance, and no path to ego transcendence.


  1. I used to think about those types of questions, but they made my brain hurt. Then I began thinking about having a quiet mind. Now I don’t even do that anymore. Sometimes my mind is quiet, and sometimes it isn’t.

    So I haven’t come up with many answers, but I’ve found that the questions just sort of fade away.

  2. Pingback: Mystical Realm
  3. My reality is a combination of what I have been
    taught to believe, what I see and feel. It changes according to the state of the gray matter between my ears. Is there any evidence that when one
    delves into these spheres of thought/perception,
    that one finds one’s singular theory and lives
    happily ever after? One more question; does all
    this ultimately fall into the realm of re-incarnation and past lives? Thats when I turn it off.

  4. Dude, this website does not deserve to even mention “steve Pavilna” or his work. infact, you should pay steve for letting you mention his name or his work.( you probally don’t know it, cause you are living in an objective world, but you probally just boosted steve’s traffic on his website!!!) Steve’s work is far more sufisticated from this website that is not even comparable. Thats like a pornsite posting an article about “why being a virgin is important” This website is about “martial art” fighting, violence, hurting each other ” Bob on Top 5 Reasons Why Pro MMA Fighters are Like Prostitutes
    The Legend of Bagua ” have you ever read the contexts and subjects on Steve’s site? HIS STUFF is SO RELAVENT to EVERYTHING in the WORLD!!! Id like to see the “Traffic Comparision” between this website and Steve’s” id also like to see who’s making more dough. Im actually glad websites like this exsist cause it gives contrast between, a real well rounded website as oppose to a squared, unshape website. I’m not trying to make you feel bad, im just saying your article about subjective/objective reality had NO, let retype that, NO NO NO chance against steve’s work !!! honestly.. this website to STEVEPAVLINA.COM and tell me which is more appealing???? honestly, you can tell the difference. someone should do their homework !!! GOOD LUCK , and don’t get it wrong, i wish you well.

  5. This website is about using martial arts to improve your quality of life. It is a work in progress, which probably explains the difficulties you have finding relevance.

    Do you have anything to say about the subject of this article, besides the fact that it doesn’t appeal to you?

  6. Hey Chris!
    I found your post to be quite interesting but I have a rebuttal. We must have differing understandings on the spirituality practicing Martial Arts is ‘supposed’ to bring. Coming from a Northern Shaolin standpoint, I understood practicing Kung Fu as a way to reach Nirvana, enlightenment. Going along with this, as I read more articles on subjective reality, it seemed that enlightenment and subjective reality were one in the same.
    Connecting the dots, to my understanding, one achieves enlightenment (subjective reality) through practicing the arts.
    The physical reality of being a martial artist has to encompass objective reality for obvious reasons, but why can’t a martial artist adapt a subjective mindset in terms of his spiritual reality?

    Anway, loved your post!
    Keep in touch!


  7. Hi Guys!
    I don’t think anyone is denying the reality of our nervous systems and pain and physical reality…we are just saying one is a subset of the other.
    We all experience our objective realities but they are an reduction and subset of our collective self. We can expand beyond our human nervous systems to experience the whole as ourself.

  8. Your making the common misconception that Subjective reality is centered around the ego, or the body-mind. Thats actually called Solipsism.

    Subjective reality is the belief system that your true identity is conciousness, and that the real you is NOT your ego or body-mind, but everything that exists in your reality.

  9. If reality is subjective, then how can I be incorrect? Seriously though…

    Subjective Reality is a theory of Dualism. Like all such theories, it reduces to the assertion that something equals nothing, which is absurd.

    Steve Pavlina wrote:
    Solipsism = degenerate, partial lucidity

    I will finish what he started:
    Subjective Reality = degenerate, partial Advaita (non-duality)

  10. Yes I believe what Lou Majors was saying is exactly right. Here is my standpoint. All possiblilities are possible. There is no absolute truth. The closest thing I have found to an absolute truth is that we are conciousness its self, or god…whatever you wanna call it, us. The main thing we’re seriously all missing is that everything is a paradox. Existance is a paradime. It really what ever we believe it is. If you believe that there is no subjective reality, then there is no subjective reality in your moment of existance. We are mearly just peices of “god.” We have a universal case of multiple personality disorder(best way I can discribe it) We are god, and we are mortal at the same time. Like Jesus’s trinity. You can find evidance in almost every religion through out the world. We are allowing eachother to exist at the same time within ourselves. The hard part is getting past the conditioning we have put ourselves through so that we would make ourselves experiance growth, because as a perfect being how do you expect to experiance growth?Grah I really could go on forever, but lets just leave it at there are infinit possibilites you just have to truely open yourself to them.
    Thanx for your time, and I enjoyed the post.
    P.S. your all correct :0

  11. chris, i like your comment, “If reality is subjective, then how can I be incorrect? Seriously though…” this i think is the single best question against subjective reality. although i am fully aware this is a really bad analogy, lets just supposed subject reality and a dream were the same thing… everything your thinking/feeling is whats manifested, well i’ve had dreams with other people in it, as im sure everyone else has too, and can you ever picture yourself explaining to one of the characters in your dream that you are dreaming? even if you have control over your dream, this just doesnt even come up as a possibility, most people i mention this to never even gave it a bit of thought. But its the best argument… if subjective reality is true, why are all these different people talking about it? are we really all just one persons thoughts interacting with each other? and like you said chris, if subjective reality is indeed true, especially according to the way pavlin describes it, how the heck can anyone really be wrong about anything? especially something thats obviously more opinionated than factual.

  12. YoYo,
    As I said earlier, Truth and Subjective Reality are ontologically incompatible. Choose one.

    As a martial artist, you realize that an unwelcome fist to the face constitutes effective proof of an objective physical reality. So why not embrace spiritual subjectivity at the same time? My answer, in short: it’s turtles all the way down; at no point do you become invincible (outside of delusional lucid dreams or fantasies).

    Shaded light,
    Have you tried Ibn Sina’s experiment above?

    Logically speaking, we could accept that “we all are one” on some level, at the same time we are rejecting universal subjectivity. In fact, this is precisely what many spiritual adepts have done.

  13. The proof of objective reality is your belief of what reality is.
    The point is, whatever you truely believe is YOUR reality. If you believe in an objective reality, then that is your reality. If you don’t truly believe in a subjective reality it can not be true. The trick is to truely believe somthing one hundred percent. We all know thats extreamly hard.

    I know you can feel we’re all connected, but we convince ourselves that we are completely seperate entities because we do it to ourself, to test ourself and experiance growth. Growth is the objective because as a perfect being you can not experiance growth. You are all things at all times.

    I couldn’t possibly tell you how its possible because i chose to be human, live in my moment, and simply be happy to have a chance to realize that I have a chance to live. 🙂
    Thats the greatest thing I believe you could possibly come to terms with. I am happy to be alive, and be able to realize it.

    Anyway, its fine I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything, we all have our own paths being human. Just take a second a wake up. Just appreciate the chance to be alive. Stop and smell the roses kind of thing.

  14. I don’t think life is as black and white as truth or subjective reality. I haven’t completely formulated reasoning behind this so I’ll have to get back to you on why.

    Shaded Light: Nice post. = )

  15. You just proved that subjective reality is wrong given the assumption that objective reality is right. However, you have no basis for this assumption, because there is no way to falsify subjective reality from first principles. You only falsified subjective reality from within the viewpoint of objective reality. If you analyze objective reality from within the viewpoint of subjective reality, you will find that it is not false, it exists within the viewpoint of subjective reality. So objective reality is a special case of subjective reality.

    To summarize: Ibn Sina may beat me and burn me in a way that I am not conscious of, that I will never be conscious of, all he wants, and I will admit to him that he is doing nothing.

  16. I falsify subjective reality from first principles on a regular basis, as does everyone with the courage to step onto the mat or into the ring.

    These spurious shows of open-mindedness remind me of the recent essay by B. R. Myers:

    The [Subjective Reality] technique goes like this: One debates the other side in a rational manner until pushed into a corner. Then one simply drops the argument and slips away, pretending that one has not fallen short of reason but instead transcended it. The irreconcilability of one’s belief with reason is then held up as a great mystery, the humble readiness to live with which puts one above lesser minds and their cheap certainties.

    Thankfully, pugilism and postmodernism do not mix.

  17. Thanx YoYo ^_^
    Heh exactly. You believe what you want your reality to be. If you feel safe in an objective world that is your choice, and you will never except subjective reality, because of your belief system it is not a possibility.
    Subjective reality is something that you can’t understand unless you’ve tasted the experiance for yourself.
    I have a friend in the Air Force whom I thought would be someone who would be understanding to my beliefs. I thought to myself that it would be interesting if I could talk to him about what I felt about reality. About a week later he called me telling me he thought he had found god. I asked him, you mean in a Christian sence? He said not exacty, but I have this feeling like we’re all connected in some way, and the reality that we except as true isn’t exactly as it seems.
    That was an awe inspiring feeling, because at the time I was starting to question myself on exactly what my beliefs were.
    Heh even my grandmother is on board with similar beliefs, and the funniest part of it all was when these notions first came to me, I had no idea what subjective reality was.

    Anway, like I said this experiance can truely only be understood or excepted if you experiance it yourself.

  18. Steve’s subjective reality is a hodge-podge advaita. Advaita is also subjective reality, but by its own admission, it is other worldly and not for the householders. In fact many teachers of advaita insist on formal renunciation by the student before teaching anything. In contrast Steve’s subjective reality is advaita for money seekers. Let us see how it fails.

    For the sake of discussion let us assume that subjective reality is true.

    Now going back to Steve’s analogy of dream world, my ego is the dream character and the dreamer is the real I. How does it lead to intention-manifestation? Who is making intention here? Is it the dream character or the dreamer? If it is the dream character, then intention is futile. Dream character is bound by the rules of dream world and cannot make any changes in the dream by his own intention.

    Now let us look at the dreamer. It is true that all dream is dreamer’s creation. However, does dreamer create that dream by his intention? Can you as a dreamer will what you want to dream today? And what motivation a dreamer can possibly have in willing his dream world to be any different than what it already is? Dreamer and dream are two different orders of reality and there is no evidence to suggest that they interact.

    Thus even assuming subjective reality to be true, intention-manifestation does not follow from it. I’ll bet that half of Steve’s readers will quit his site if he told them that SR will not help them become a millionaire.

  19. Quote:
    “If reality is subjective, then how can I be incorrect?

    Reality is always a reflection of your subconscious whether you are asleep or awake.
    If you have a belief that you are incorrect or ‘can be incorrect’…that will manifest.
    It’s ALL you!

  20. Quote:
    “How does it lead to intention-manifestation?”

    The desire ‘to be active’ is eternal or ‘always present’…
    the nature of our collective essence.

    Our intentions as Homo Sapiens are merely the evolved, more complex developments of this primal impulse or desire.

    In other words, even before we evolve intelligence and personalities there is an INTENTION or desire impulsing the unified field for patterns.

    With us this ability has refined itself to evolve words and creating images in subtle energy fields we call the ‘mind’.

    “Is it the dream character or the dreamer?”

    There’s no difference.
    It’s all you.

  21. It seems like someone has taken red pill and it was rancid.

    I think that the person reading this is real (and has a soul) just like me reading other folks stuff are real (with a soul). The thought that I am talking to myself sounds rather – well – stupid.

  22. >>Quote:
    “Is it the dream character or the dreamer?”

    >There’s no difference.
    It’s all you.

    What about the argument that SR analogy fails from both stand points? In a dream, neither the dreamer nor the dream character has any ability to alter his dream.

  23. Ehh? Help me out on this one. Terribly new with all this, stumbled on this page while reading bout the Invisibles.

    So subjective reality is everything that you can physically sense, not just what exists mentally for you… because what you physically sense eventually does turn mental? Like touching a book, means its really there? Whereas a tree falling in a place you dont know means it didnt make any sound cause it doesnt exist for you?

    But then I should have a certain amount of objective thinking. For example if I know for a fact, a tree has fallen, I will also know that it has made a sound, irrespective of everything else.. but now since Im not aware of anything beyond this plane/universe, I know the rest of my thinking would be based on subjective reality.

    But then again wouldnt subjective reality bring up the topic of parallel universes or am I just getting too confused?
    Help! I need some one to explain!!

  24. Objective reality is a pain in the arse.
    My transcendental thoughts.

  25. Hi there,

    I quote from your blog: “…you probably cannot read this article from 10 yards away, because your eyesight is too poor. Even if you cannot see these words from a distance, they do remain on the page.”

    Subjective Reality suggests that these sort of apparent physical “limitations” are the result of your beliefs. The fact that you cannot read the text from such a distance is a self-imposed limitation. If you were to alter your deep-set, innate beliefs (i.e. understand that even the laws of physics are just a manifestation of your beliefs), then it would be possible for you to foster a reality in which you CAN read the text from miles away, or in fact “know” the text without looking at it at all.

    Funnily enough – subjective reality suggests that your writing of this article is also a manifestation within my (not in the egotistic sense) consciousness.

    Unfortunately your “proof” for objective reality is flawed. Being stabbed or violently beaten up – just because one’s experience of this type of event is ‘painful’ doesn’t prove anything. Pain and suffering is easily possible in both an objective or subjective reality.

    Ultimately, neither objective OR subjective reality is provable. When you say “Some have risked their lives in empirical testing” – please understand that it’s impossible to test any system when the test itself is part of (exists within) that system. And lets be honest here – what does “risking their lives” even mean? Nobody knows what it means to “die” unless you’ve been there! What happens as far as your reality and consciousness is concerned? What many of us believe is “the end” of reality may in fact be the beginning of another one.

    Anyway, just because I can, I choose to believe in subjective reality. It’s fun! Now, lets see, what can I go manifesting next…

  26. Misha,
    Thank you for commenting. On this subject, it is easy to start talking non-sense and mistake it for profundity. So let us confine ourselves to the arena where words have meanings.

    Unfortunately your “proof” for objective reality is flawed. Being stabbed or violently beaten up – just because one’s experience of this type of event is ‘painful’ doesn’t prove anything. Pain and suffering is easily possible in both an objective or subjective reality.

    On the contrary, it proves everything. It demonstrates the existence of a level wherein you cannot subjectify, or manifest your way out of trouble.

    The Theory of Subjective Reality was born of the neurotic desire for universal control. Whereas those time-honored meditative disciplines which the typical Subjective Reality advocate would offer as prologue, are in fact grounded in the acceptance of one’s limitations.

    I am still waiting to hear what Intention-Manifestation Theory is unable to perform. Rhonda Byrne won’t return my psychic calls.

    When you say “Some have risked their lives in empirical testing” – please understand that it’s impossible to test any system when the test itself is part of (exists within) that system.

    There is no escaping the system of our Universe. So we accept “proof” with premises.

    And lets be honest here – what does “risking their lives” even mean? Nobody knows what it means to “die” unless you’ve been there! What happens as far as your reality and consciousness is concerned? What many of us believe is “the end” of reality may in fact be the beginning of another one.

    I do not dispute that–but what is the relevance?

    Funnily enough – subjective reality suggests that your writing of this article is also a manifestation within my (not in the egotistic sense) consciousness.

    Some would call it funny coincidence; others a canny psychological maneuver, designed to protect–you guessed it–the ego.

    Anyway, just because I can, I choose to believe in subjective reality. It’s fun! Now, lets see, what can I go manifesting next…

    Can you manifest my agreement with your points above? If not, what are the implications for subjective reality?

  27. I think maybe there is a reality that is objective, and it consists of
    of all space and time. The universe as we, if objective, have barely even
    began to percieve that we understand. Nevertheless, it expands and contracts
    endlessly and infinitely through time, making possibilities truly infinite
    because all exist in some realm or form. And in this there is some consciousness
    that subjective thinking refers to in theory. And that consciousness is supposed
    to be you, or if they are correct then me. This consciousness is the watcher.
    Even the person typing this isnt really me. I am the consciousness inhabiting
    that person. Maybe all reality is the same, but the difference in percieved
    existance is just point of view. Provable? This theory of mine would suggest that
    the present moment is percieved, and everything has already happened. Perhaps
    the universe itself is conscious, and is so infinite that it can watch itself,
    subjectively experiencing an objective reality through this which we call “life”?
    Just a theory, Im not trying to marry the two if they cannot co-exist.

  28. I like posts like this because it shows that Steve Pavlina’s lifestyle doesn’t have to be our own. We think about what he says and choose what is advantageous from his works.

    I believe in subjective reality. Steve Pavlina never said, “I am right, ahahah!! *teleports to Hawaii using god-powers*”. He only said that since we always perceive truths about reality based on our belief system, the only way to discover new truths is to test-run different belief systems. After trying many, many different belief systems (objective reality for most of his life), he is sharing with us the one that he has found to produce the greatest results in the areas that are important to him.

    The funny thing about beliefs is that you can always rationalize why other belief systems are bogus, scary, weak, or downright strange, by using your own belief system. I find it strange that you believe in Objective Reality, that doesn’t make sense to me. I could rebuttle and list my reasons all day, but that only reinforces what I believe to be true, which isn’t helping me grow. Subjective reality is just a belief system that produces much more consistent results for me when compared to others – and so I decide that it’s more in-tune with what reality truly is. And I thank Steve for the head-start in figuring out how reality works 🙂

  29. I did not read the comments. Sorry if this has already been said.

    “You are not the only agent in this universe. You are a small, relatively insignificant player on a grand stage. Just as another person’s flesh and bones may oppose yours, their intentions may counter your own will.”

    I think you misunderstood. It is nor me, you, Steve Pavlina, or the tramp in the street that is the agent. It is US. Understand?

  30. Hello! I’m new here and I’d like to post a question that I’ve been pondering during my English class discussions–the question of physical limitations.

    So. Physical limitations. I’m not sure if people have already touched on this in other topics already, but might as well just throw this out here for now: What kinds of ‘limitations’ are there, really? Are physical limitations really limitations, and how can we get past these ‘obstacles’ to get ourselves on track and to get in control of our lives?

    In class we have talked about first Transcendentalism then the ideals it has that we can apply to our situations and more; I learned that all people have unlimited potential and that by being aware of this and believing that we can do it, what we want will come true. Which brings me back to my question–if so, then why are there physical limitations? Can’t we just throw them away from our sight and get to what we want? Apparently in most cases this is not so. So what does this mean?

    I’d like to hear some replies~. Thanks for your time!

    Please visit for more info! 🙂

  31. Anne, who is not already in control of their life? You, or someone else? Since you mention Transcendentalism, I’ll respond with two quotes from Thoreau.

    If anything ail a man so that he does not perform his functions, if he has a pain in his bowels even, he forthwith sets about reforming–the world.


    I came into this world, not chiefly to make this a good place to live in, but to live in it.

  32. One of the thing that I deeply believe in, is there’s not quite right or wrong unless we fix it. Subjective Reality might not prove everything and as you have said it might not even help personal growth. But what I could see is there is something we could learn from. Perhaps subjective reality is a term used in metaphysics (at least I have not run into one) and in that case, it leads to the spiritual side of all thing.

    Besides, not everything could be explained with words even by Steve Pavlina himself because it takes pure self-experiencing to feel it. Words merely point you the way, they do not define it.

    Thanks for your thought!

  33. Subjective reality is the same as objective.
    The problem is that metaphysical authors don’t understand self well. They think of things in terms of awareness while conflating awareness with consciousness and worse, consciousness with thought. That being said they think their own minds shape their perceptions, however for their own minds to be able to have a function at all, ergo for consciousness to exist: subjectivity is an objective reality and thus objective reality exists and informs the very limitations of subjectivity.

    So to say that subjective reality exists cannot possibly undermine objective reality, because otherwise it would be self subject and subjective-subjective reality is meaningless.

    In my experience philosophy of the academics and scholars tends to border on the meaningless due to their conflations of the nature of subjectivity. This being true for some professors who were quite brilliant people.

  34. Josh, how do you see the differences between awareness, consciousness and thought?

  35. Hard to answer the question in any concise way.

    awareness=ability to perceive, does not entail being aware of being aware. Example; you perceive sensory stimulus in your sleep but are not conscious of it.

    consciousness= the perception of perception, entails an awareness of being aware. Example; you recognize you are awake.

    thought=mental dialog function, can occur without being conscious of it. Takes upon itself a structure form of relevance.

    You could argue then from these points that consciousness is mental awareness, and that thought is mental function, and that awareness precedes mental states. This relates to the topic at hand because awareness is not subjective in the same way thought and consciousness is.

  36. I don’t buy the SR argument. I’ve noticed that when other people walk out of the room I am in, I don’t cease to exist, so I would have to conclude that their consciousness is not the same level as mine. The SR explanations for this are manifold – their reality is not the same as mine, they don’t have consciousness, they are constructs of my consciousness, or they are just OR types. As an OR type, I just believe that they still exist. Seems simpler and less elitist.

    The lucid dreaming analogy Pavlina used seems weak. I have had lucid dreams, and I have had non-lucid dreams. If the dream-world and the real-world are equivalent, why have I not had lucid experiences in the real-world? One world appears to be harder to self-inspect than the other, ergo, they are different. Even an SR type would have trouble explaining that without getting silly. Speaking of which, he admits that the OR type grants SR to the dream-world, then later says that the OR types don’t grant SR at all.

  37. I had a wonderful experience once. It was the first time I ever tried ecstasy (and before you switch off), we need to remember that experience can be extremely powerful and is as real as any reality can ever be for us. Sometimes the real can be replaced by something More real, but its only another influence upon reality – more sensitivity or more relaxation, or an emotional shift. None the less, there must be a ground for the experience, otherwise our worlds would soon change beyond any kind of recognition and we would have no common ground. The world as you know it is inside your mind. Your mind seems to live inside a bubble. It is fed by the senses.

  38. Great article, this type of thought is rare and one rarely goes beyond what gives them comfort. I have seen the theory of Subjective Reality thrown around now for more or less 3 years amongst certain individuals, and it’s true; i find that many of these people are good inherently, but fall victim to the doctrine of “make it up as you go.” “Nothing is inherently real,” is what they say however i feel that their “will power,” is such that they just can’t see what’s real and what’s not real. Simply put they are more intuned to gullability than reciprocity, simply due to their notions of “make it up as you go.” It is actually kind of scary to see how easily people can be tricked and used as tools by simply addressing issues their afraid of and using that fear to suit your own “will power.”
    Perfect is the world after all..

  39. People are fucking pathetic how they defend steve’s doctrines. It’s a controll mechanism and it is eating at your brain!!!

  40. This discussion is interesting, but… it just reminds me of all the confusion around Zen. I’m not sure that Steve’s discussion of subjective reality is “missing” what is suggested… so much as he just hasn’t gotten around to mentioning or perhaps even considering it. But whenever I try to explain Zen to people, they tend to not get it BECAUSE, like subjective reality, it’s so paradoxical when you put it in words. That’s why I think explaining Zen reveals itself to be pointless really fast, or maybe it’s not pointless, but I lose interest because I don’t enjoy working that hard just to explain a simple concept. I have gotten better at explaining it, actually. But I’d still rather not. And then there are the arguments between Western Buddhists about whether “enlightenment” is reserved for the rare human or no one at all, or everyone is already imbued with the essence of Buddha (which sounds a lot like subjective reality). We’re supposed to “kill” Buddha anyway, right? It starts to get silly to discuss and better to just follow what makes sense to you. Same with subjective reality… it’s the sort of concept/tool I really like and find useful and wish to discuss with everyone in order to make it easier to experience. But then no one gets it, so there’s no point in explaining to them what it is. At most I could send them to read Steve’s article and hope they’ll understand in the same way I do. If I go around telling everyone they’re Buddha, or they’re a character in my dream, that’s going to just create a really unpleasant dream! But no one does either one of those, do they? Well, people would probably take it better to hear they’re Buddha because it would make their egos feel great! Whereas if you tell them they’re a dream, they’ll be like, “How dare you reduce me to a dream!!!” lol

    But if any Buddhists are reading this comment – just know that the Shakyamuni Buddha once said that all of life is a dream. Oh, and look up Tibetan Dream Yoga.

  41. So I’ve heard. Kill the Buddha, but God help you if you critique Steve Pavlina. 😉

  42. Actually, no, you are not correct at all. One who knows subjective reality does not know of any ego – and is connected with everything. It see’s no difference between oneself and another, as they are one.

    If two observer’s are observing each other, which is the observer and the observed – it’s doubt this applies to all reality as well. Once you know this truth, the ego fades into the abyss, and profound changes take place. For the ultimate truth, is knowing there was no truth to begin with..

  43. Please tell us more about the profound changes that have taken place since your ego faded into the abyss.

  44. There is many truths in all that its written in my perception. In truth it wouldn’t matter if I’m to believe in Subjective Reality (SR) or Objective Reality (OR). After years of thought and forgtten ones, I realised something for the first time. All that is explained about SR is true, but so is what is explained about OR. The reason be, we all identify one an other as individuals, like quoated before, we cannot identify one an other as conciosness, because there is only one. to reinforce this quote, “nothing exists inside of conciousness, nothing exists outside of yourself, and everything and everyone is a projection of you”. This is true, but not true. Everyone and everything is not a projection of yourself, but everything and everyone is a projection of one conciousness. now nothing exists outside of this conciousness, In addition every individual has their own mind and thoughts. only through an altered state of awareness can one see through the source (conciosness). every thought is a projection of your “mind”. and every individual, does contribute to our objective reality through individual thoughts that in fact is received by the conciousness. It sounds very confusing, But all laws of objective reality are obeyed, but can be bent and have been. We are all an individual mind with endless potential through Ultimate Concious awareness… now the question is, If is Just one Conciousness, why create this OB reality, what is the pourpose of life, and or is this an illusion?. We all have the answer to that question in our own individual mind’s Understanding, Just close your eyes and practice not thinking, listin to your thoughts until oneday ur mind silences, then really listin and see your world through new eyes.
    Before that think about this, 3+1= 4, but why. you “believe this because it makes sense?” but 3+1= 5, and why is this an error?. this is the law we percieve be cause we believe in it. we all know we can swim in water. take this formual, 3+1=4 which means we can swim in water, but 3+1=5 says we can walk in water… no matter how hard u try to walk on water, if ur mind doesn’t believe 3+1=5 You will not walk on water.. so you cant bent OR if you cant bent your mind. think on it.

  45. In response to a reply on another discussion board…

    Actually, I think a more useful model describes that objective order is enforced, so to speak, by different entities, at different times and for various and sundry reasons. (This is not a redefinition of terms, it is a recognition of the existence of context.)

    For example, the manager of a bar has the power to issue a “two drink minimum” as an objective truth. There is no appeal, but you don’t like it then you are free to leave.

    Other realms of law are not so easy to depart. For example, the strength of the gravitational pull on the surface of the Earth. Sure, you can transcend, evade or escape it–possessing motive, means and opportunity–but that does not constitute the power to repeal it. This is no insignificant detail.

    (It is an important topic in martial arts, for reasons I have not written about here, yet, and have not seen covered elsewhere.)

    In times like this, I think it can be helpful to remind people that they are NOT in fact a vessel of universal consciousness, as they understand it, because they do not understand it at all. And that being the case, they should not be spreading baseless rumors on the Internet or elsewhere. 🙂

  46. Incorrect reasoning. To be punched in the face does happen, and it does indeed hurt, however there are those whom can control, through their conciousness, their pain. I have seen Indian medicine men spear themselves with long needles, completely through the face, arms, etc with no pain. Buddhist monks whom set themselves aflame to protest vietnam, and not move or even whimper, until they were a charred statue. Whilst I agree in part that there is an objective reality, it only exists for those not ready to see beyond their ego. I have been in fights and felt nothing at the time. No pain, fear, or hesitation. Later, certainly sore and humbled, but during the moment of strife, nothing. Adrenaline or subjectivity?

  47. There are both subjective and objective reality, we can not reach objective reality via the reason that you pointed out…our senses only reach so far. even this which I am explaining is through my perception of reality, not that which is real. my words mean something different to me than to you. the map that we hold in our heads of life, of existence can never be complete but only in so far as it allows the entity it possesses the ability to transform and better all that it can reach.

  48. I like your enthusiasm and introspective desire for the truth. If you are open to a more nuanced paradigm consider the following:

    Your quotation on beating and burning does not mention the fact that the perception of pain is a highly subjective state. An extreme example are those who have undergone amputation while under nothing more than hypnosis.

    As far as pure objectivity goes, this would seem to be a meaningless argument used only in this case as a point of contention. Notions of objectivity only come into play when more than one is involved and often when that happens consensus proves nothing. If we agree a banana is yellow it is only from the perspective of a prior comparison. The only objective definition for yellow would be to mention its wavelength. but when does yellow finally become orange?

    And isn’t your particular notion of objectivity nothing more than the product of your thoughts? Without them would your argument exist?

    Greater men than you or I have been arguing over this since the egoic mind took form. It’s a nonstarter.

    But let us consider the real argument, that is whether Steve’s argument against an objective reality holds water. It is in that area that I agree with you. Steve’s argument is unconvincing. You may have said this but i’ll rephrase. Steve’s argument in itself is an attempt to create an objective claim (one we should all agree on) about the non-existence of objectivity is it not?


    To your main pretense…

    Your comment “The accuracy of your perceptions can be improved, with time and effort. ” lacks any basis in any credible account of human perception simply because the accuracy of perception is unverifiable. Switch the word accuracy to precision and you’re in business. Yes, our ability to develop concentration is unlimited.

    But this too is small potatoes.

    You think ego has power? Show me an ego that doesn’t. isn’t that what egos do best?

    Somewhere in the text must have been the phrase that I Googled for “the perception of perception”. Do you know what that truly is?

    Steve’s comments about consciousness and awareness are old school and commonly accepted. Thought and perception ride on them. That is easily verifiable by anyone. If you are a compulsive thinker and/or look for truth in thought you may not believe it. If so that would go hand in hand with your personal identification with this notion of objectivity since belief is nothing more than identification with a thought (by definition more ego reinforcement) is it not?

    But do you know what the perception of perception is? If Steve’s reports are true he does. I will tell you. It is THE DIRECT EXPERIENCE (not merely the thought) that the essence of you is inside of a body that is not you, driving it around. A mere tool. In that perception of reality pain is merely a notification, there is nothing to defend and no position to defend from. When does that perception become blocked? Upon the arrival of the ego.

    Wouldn’t you agree that coming from an angle such as yours makes you predictable? Is that a good thing for a martial artist?

    Your comments about the benefits of egocentricity seem highly stereotypical. With them you are creating a box are you not? If that comment get’s your blood up as much as Steve’s article seems to then I rest my case.

  49. After taking a closer look at Steve’s page I would say that the snippet you included above does not reveal the depth and scope of the problem.

    Steve’s philosophy reminds me of a dog chasing its tail. In it he recommends using it as a method for personal attainment. If nothing is real and all in the mind, why waste your time?

    Yet that is what Steve does when he advocates using it to obtain wealth and happinness, both highly egoic pursuits that are abandoned after realization. He does that quite a bit in his pages. On one hand he will say that money is not a prerequisite for happiness. then on another page he will describe in detail how he uses his mind to “manifest it”.

    Steve’s “feeling of total oneness with everything… not just a feeling, but a deep sense of knowing” is belied by HIS happiness with his newly found sense of wealth. Isn’t that something of a dualistic perspective?

    He also says “Perhaps the most crucial change of the subjective mindset was that I developed much better conscious control over my thoughts. That became critical because if reality is created by thought, then I can’t allow myself the luxury of a negative thought, lest I create more of what I don’t want… The ability to control your thoughts is very beneficial for psychic development.”

    If thoughts are known to be entirely subjective why attempt to control them? Is not ego in itself is identification of one’s thoughts with reality?

    Steve also describes in detail what he describes as he power of intention and manifestation, notions that would have been abandoned in Seve’s supposedly enlightened mind. Intention by definition is a mental desire in the form of a plan. It requires futurity, the notion of a future versus now. Enlightened indviduals live in the moment. The notion of personal volition completely evaporates. You are no longer in control because there is no conventional sense of “you” remaining to exercise the illusion of control.

    Steve may have had an epiphany in 2005 but since then his egoic mind has returned to fill in the details.

    If you want to know what the enlightened mind is like search the name Adyashanti on Youtube. Listen to the video about “The Nature of Thought”.

    As far as Steve’s version goes, that is a sad and misguided imitation.

  50. When one tries to understand reality, they should pay attention to their nighttime dreams. Many people just dismiss their dreams as random little projections, but in my own honest opinion our dreams give us an understanding of our true reality. Only when you understand how your dreams work will you understand how reality truly works.

    In the infinite words of Albert Einstein, “Reality is merely an illusion, although a very persistent one”.

  51. Wherever you go~ there you are.

    I assume that there is an objective reality but also accept that I do not understand it. I know that nothing is ‘solid’ as it seems because science tells me that…. that the separation (between, for instance my feet and the floor) is only apparent. Also, quantum physics looks at the possibility that the observer is an important factor in the measurement and even that consciousness may effect the behavior of subatomic particles… and therefore (theoretically), all matter… and waves. Paradigm shifts change the world… or at least the perception of it, and therefore our reaction to it which again affects the world that we touch which then reflects these changes and may eventually lead to another paradigm shift.

    Personally, in this world I’m playing with the possibilities. I know that the world reacts to my action upon it… so it makes me act in ways that I want to see reflected back (most of the time). Sometimes the way that personal reality develops appears “magic”… very strange. But then again, at one time it looked as though bacterial infections were the work of the devil and could be combated by things such as offerings, etc. But any affects were likely only placebo affect… which is another interesting topic.

    Even if our world is completely objective… our personal interpretation absolutely must come through our human perceptions which (as objective as we might strive to be) are subject to our information gathering and processing system(s), what we know (experiences), and what we believe to be true (our assumptions, our theories).

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