You might believe the Beatles to be the best band of all time, you know it, and so you experience it. You believe you love your wife and so you do. You believe in modern science and so you experience all it's wonders. You believe in modern psychiatry and thus conceive yourself to suffer from manic-depression, suicidal ideation or a chemical brain imbalance. You believe in a generous God and so you experience Him in all His Glory. Similarly, and in exactly the same way, although it's much deeper and currently beyond your own personal awareness and control, you believe the entire physical universe to be "out there" just as it is, with all it's laws and time and space, and so it is for you. And so it is for everybody.
People make the mistake of thinking conviction follows experience. This is only an illusion. They think they live, experience things and then develop ideas about what they experience. This only appears to be true. Actually, experience follows conviction and rigid belief, always and in every case. This is true regarding your own personal experiences of day to day life, as described above, but also applies to anything from your experience of a galaxy right down to the smallest atom. What makes the "external universe" so imposing is that we all, together and in a very similar way, mutually hold the same convictions about this thing we experience called the physical universe. Billions upon billions of conscious entities (i.e. people) are contributing to the notion that it exists and how it exists.
You know when you really feel something is true, whether this be an idea about a friend, a movie, a book, an author, a car, a job, a hobby, or anything. But you also know that you can look back and wonder how you could have ever possibly believed certain things, yet these things were completely "real" to you at some past point. Things are "real" when you believe they are real, or when you agree with them to be so. They are "real" to you, are "true" for you, and "exist" for you. For all practical purposes, these three words mean the same thing in personal experience. But they are all based and dependent upon belief. Most of us can understand this. What most of us can't understand, and even less experience directly, is that anything "real", including the entirety and specifics of the physical universe, is experienced as real only because it is believed in, held with unwavering conviction and agreed to be so. The thing which makes something "real" to any person is his degree of belief, acceptance, agreement or conviction in it. Whether this relates to an opinion about something, an idea, or the physical universe itself is just a difference in what is believed in. The unifying principle, common to all realities, whether "external" or "internal", is that it exists to the degree with which it is believed to exist.
To a Mets baseball fan they are the most real team. He is committed to the notion that they are the "best " (whether they win or not), and he is familiar with the team members and agrees with information about each of them. He can argue with fans of other teams all day long. He believes them to be the best, he "sees" them as the best, he "perceives" them as the best, and he experiences them as the best. Believing, perceiving, and experiencing occur almost simultaneously. Perception is not really "seeing what is", but seeing what you "believe to be". This is "reality" to him because he agrees with and believes it. The Mets are more real to most people than some small minor league team. The minor league team exists just as much as the major league teams, has a similar number of team members, follows the same rules, and plays almost the same number of games per season, but it is not as "real" as the major league team. First, many people simply aren't aware that they even exist. Second, fewer people have beliefs and notions about minor league teams to the same extent as they do about major league teams. What makes something more "real", is 1) agreement that it exists, and 2) the more people who consider it to exist in a similar way.
The Catholic Church is more real to most people than, let's say, Hari Krishnas. Catholicism has more "thereness" than the Hare Krishnas. You might say, "that's because the Catholic Church has numerous churches, priests, activities and influence". This is true, but these things are true only because more people agree with the ideas about the Catholic Church and contribute to the idea of the Catholic Church. Without that, there would not be more churches, priests, activities or influence. The existence and reality of anything depends upon 1) agreeing with it, that it's "there" and that it possesses certain qualities and attributes and 2) the quantity of people agreeing with it. There is nothing you experience which falls outside of these requirements. As an exercise, choose two or three things that are real to you and write out 1) what your concepts are about this thing, and 2) how many people agree with the same thing. Notice that the things which more people agree with seem to have a more lasting and "objective" reality to them. Do the same exercise for two or three things which others consider to be real, but which you don't fully agree with. You will notice the same things.
You could imagine something as real which nobody else does anywhere. It would be real for you and you would experience it to some degree. As reality gets more "there", and "objective", more people join into the co-agreement with the idea., and observable things take form which you experience as separate from yourself. But it's all only a matter of degree. That which seems the most "there" and enjoys the greatest "objective existence" simply has the most unwavering belief about it by the most people (minds) - this is, of course, the physical universe.
Some people consider Elvis Presley to be the best rock 'n roll ever produced. It's not that's it's true or false, only that more people consider it so, than let's say, the idea that the Electric Prunes (a garage band from the 60's) are the best band or rock act. Truth is what is considered to be true, for the most part. It has very little to do with any "ultimate" or "necessarily accurate" truth. It is actually quite arbitrary. Any "real" basic truth would involve the nature of minds and how they create reality through their own beliefs, convictions and agreements. All else is pretty much temporary and arbitrary. The true source, the ultimate reality, is "in here" and not "out there". "Out there" exists only because you believe it does - and this belief is so strong, impervious to change, and has been held for so very long that it is near impossible to understand how this can be so. You, as a mind, and what you do to create "reality", is about the closest you will ever get to an absolute truth.
You can change your ideas about many opinions, but less so about things you really are convinced of or are highly committed to as beliefs. The more you believe, the more you are convinced, and the more "real" it is for you - the more you experience it as "real" - the more it seems to "exist". Also, the more you believe and are convinced, the more you believe the reality to exist independently of your own notions about it (which isn't true at all). Your experience of the physical universe is an extreme case of belief and conviction, where you are incapable of altering your agreement with it at will. You believe it to exist entirely independent of your own notions about it. The phenomena of the physical universe is just an extreme example, at one end of an extensive panoramic gradient scale of belief and conviction possibilities. Simply, the physical universe and all it's laws, time and space, exists because you believe it exists. It has no absolute existence outside yourself (for you). This is true for anything you experience.
What the scientist and philosopher are "discovering" are the basic agreements, beliefs and convictions each person unconsciously holds about it all. Belief, conviction, and agreement are necessary for any reality to exist and be experienced, whether the "coolness" of one's Porsche, the "care" of one's mother, the "idealism" of youth, the "beauty" of a statue, the "honesty" of a friend, or the "genius" of a philosopher.
With the Porsche, most of us can understand what is said here, because many of us don't care at all about or recognize the "coolness" about it. And for those of us who consider a Porsche to be the "greatest" car, we can usually accept that our notion is more of the nature of "an opinion" and has little to do with any inherent "coolness" in the Porsche. The "coolness" isn't there waiting to be discovered - certain of us simply consider it "cool". And those of us who do consider this truly experience the "coolness" when we see one. Yes, there is something about the Porsche which elicits this. The style, shape, contour of the lines, and fine engineering. But the concept of style is wrapped up in so many notions and personal conceptual proclivities, which act as "beliefs " of a sort. Without your notion of something like style, there would be nothing to give this name to. The same is true for the notions of shape, contour and engineering. Without you first believing, agreeing, or considering these also to exist, they would not and could not exist. This can be taken further and further back along a trail of underlying beliefs, convictions and agreements about anything one can experience as reality.
"Style" doesn't exist "out there" anywhere. It's a notion of a mind, which has been placed "out there", and when other minds have been taught the same notion, and agree with it, then they can also experience, perceive, and notice it. People say "she has style". She has nothing really, except what you and me first, believe to exist as a thing, quality, or characteristic, and second, then attach this unique significance to regarding specific things and situations. This can be examined and said about anything.
Some will argue, "but my mother does care for me". It exists whether I notice it or not. True, but first, both you and her had to have a clear notion of what "care" and specifically a "mother's care" meant before either she could exhibit it or you could experience it. It had to be placed into existence as a thing, as a possibility, as a package of actions and tendencies, as a notion, before anyone anywhere could exhibit or experience a "mother's care".
You can take the beliefs, agreements, and convictions of existence about anything logically back further and further along a line of some experience until a point is reached where there are no more underlying explanations of belief, agreement, or conviction. At that point it's pretty much like in Genesis of the Bible, where God said "Let there be Light and there was Light". In the beginning you simply stated something to exist, by fiat alone, or agreed with someone else's original statement of existence of something, and when you made the statement of original existence or agreement with another's statement, so did the thing immediately exist. It is this, and this alone, which is the basic actual source of any person's total experience of reality, and of the reality itself. Of course, our personal experience seems to deny this, but only because we have each traveled for so long down a road of adding to, altering, denying and rearranging previously existing beliefs, agreements and convictions. It's as if you started with one stick match, built a small hut, added a room, added another, built a second level, changed the size of another, rearranged a few others, brought in one, then 10, then hundreds, then millions of helpers, and continued along this line for billions of years. You would be hard pressed to recognize the actual development of the now all encompassing and imposing structure. This is a good analogy to what the physical universe now is for each of us. It is also a good analogy to what many other things, which are part of experience, are for each of us.
It's been a long time since anyone made basic or original statements of existence (i.e. postulates, agreements, beliefs, convictions) which then instantly appeared as directly perceivable realities, and we all agree with already existing things instead of initiating new and previously non-existent realities. But the already existing realities are based upon earlier actions of agreement made by the minds involved with those realities. To take this all the way back implies a few things. First, that thinking minds have been involved with this physical universe as long as it's been here (otherwise it wouldn't be here), and second, your own personal notions about all types of things, and there are a very large number of these whether you can verbalize about them or not, have developed over a very long period, not restricted to this lifetime. You can draw from that what you like.
What was true in the examination of the Porsche's "coolness" or a "mother's love" is no less true for one's experience of the physical universe - the "coolness" of snow, the sensation of "velocity", the texture of "roughness", the aroma of "sweetness", the color "red", the feeling of the "sun's warmth", and the perception of the space between where you are and the nearest star all depend upon the same belief, conviction and agreement for them to exist and for you to experience these things. There is no real difference between "subjective" and "objective" except rigidity of belief and conviction. The more people consider something to be true, the more "reality" it has. There is more quantity of belief and conviction contributing to it. With the physical universe it is a case of complete and total conviction by all beings participating in it. That's why it appears to be so "real", "so solid", and so "objective". But "really", it's only just another package of concepts, although one which possesses tremendous allegiance in the form of fixed belief and unwavering conviction by billions upon billions of beings. That's why it's so "real", "there" and "acts as it does".
And just as you may now love classical music and not understand how you ever could have enjoyed hard rock music, and you can feel and understand the "illusory" and "arbitrary" nature of realities through this noticeable personal difference between past and present musical tastes, so is even the physical universe basically and ultimately an illusion and arbitrary. It is a fixed, solid, and very complex "illusion", but it is an illusion nonetheless, deriving it's substance from your and my beliefs alone. It's true because it is adamantly conceived to be as it is. The highest level truth is you and your beliefs as a conscious being. All else is arbitrary and ultimately subject to change and dissolution - including the physical universe and your relationship to it. The physical universe, in a sense, is an idea which has come to be severely believed, or stated in another way, a complex grouping of concepts which we are each thoroughly convinced about and agree with.
But the underlying fundamental truth beneath it all is you - everything else is what you have come to believe about all manner of things. Reality is based upon what you accept as true, what you believe, and what you assert in a convinced manner. The more rigid the belief, the stronger the conviction, and the greater the degree of acceptance alone determine "how" real it is. There is nothing which falls outside of this mechanism for you or anyone else. In a very exact and strict sense you are the ultimate creator of all you experience - without qualification.
This is what various Eastern religions and philosophies have meant by "all is illusion". It's not that it isn't "there". It is there. But it's not there in any necessary or ultimate sense. It is not there in any absolute or objective manner separate and removed from your awareness or consciousness. In fact, it is there for you only because of your awareness. This is another of those things which make much more sense when directly experienced. The above discussion is the true motivation of any religion - to impart this understanding, theoretically and practically to Man. This hasn't been done often enough successfully, and most religion has degenerated into complex mythologies of belief instead of detailed and accurate studies of the nature of Man and his mind, belief, the creation of reality, and Man's relationship to reality.
While many people can understand this about their own and other's opinions and personal likes and dislikes, they fail to allow this idea to apply to the physical universe. They will argue until the end of time that the physical universe is "objective" reality separate and unrelated to their own notions about it. In fact, the materialist will even begin foaming at the mouth in psychotic fits of rage if you press the point. He is a fanatical believer. He agrees much to strongly. He is convinced beyond all convincing. He has all types of "logical" arguments to support his view - but so does any believer. Of course it is real; he believes this more than anything! The problem is that you think you experience it first, and then decide it's "objective" and "there without your own involvement" following your experience of it. But as already discussed, reality follows belief, and the conviction preceded the existence and experience of it. Once the physical universe is there for you, you can go on pretending you have nothing to do with it's creation and maintenance, and that's basically what we all do. Belief and conviction precede reality and it's experience. Always. Ultimately, it's only a matter of degree.
1) You think that (agree with the notion that) your wife is beautiful, and so you experience her to be. This is based upon your own personal agreements with what beauty is to you and nothing else. One person looks at a sunset and experiences huge waves of aesthetic intoxication, whereas 10 other people don't notice it at all. Is the beauty in the sunset or in your perception of it? It's totally in you. With your wife, you may have believed and experienced almost instantaneously, so you can't easily separate the two, but the conviction in what makes something beautiful and that she is beautiful did, in fact, precede your experience of her as beautiful. Also, if you allowed yourself to be completely aware of your total cause and participation in making the idea, then you couldn't "experience" her beauty with such "force" and impact. You must pretend you have nothing to do with it to be the effect of things. If you are constantly aware of your own direct participation and cause in what you experience, it tends to lose it's "wallop". And with sensation, we all seem to enjoy and desire the "wallop". So we allow ourselves to forget that it's actually our own beliefs, agreements and convictions which really make it all what it is for us. It's hard to feel and experience the wonderful fragrance of a rose when you fully realize you created the sensation in the first place, that the awareness of the fragrance can exist entirely independent of the rose, and that you are responsible for the association of the rose with that fragrance. So again, you choose to allow yourself to ignore your actual cause in it all so you can experience. So it is with everything. Obviously, this ultimately leads to the acceptance of personal responsibility for everything you experience.
2) A person believes in God, conceives Him to possess all manner of attributes, prays to Him, and experiences His grandeur, all-pervasiveness and eternity. The person's concepts of being, cause, power, eternity, love, and existence are all tied up in their notions. Most people can understand this when they look at other religions but are quite incapable of seeing how this applies to their own, because of necessity, with religion, one must hold the idea that their God exists independently of one's own beliefs for it to have true meaning for them. But, regardless, the psychological basis is the same as anything else - one believes, agrees, is convinced, and thereby experiences the "reality". In the case of religion, the conviction is stronger, and therefore the reality is more "fixed", and considered to be "objective" and unrelated to one's own ideas about it. This doesn't say there may not be gods, God, or beings with supernatural abilities, but it does raise the question of exactly who made who.
3) The physical universe is the logical extreme of this process, where belief and conviction are so strong, that the "reality" truly appears to be completely independent and is also experienced as completely independent. But in actual fact, it is due solely to the same process of conviction preceding experience. It is only and completely because you consider it to be so. The more firmly you are convinced or believe, the more "real", permanent, and "objective" something appears, and the less you are able to willingly change your opinions about it, because you have given it the power of a "separate existence" through your own extremely rigid and unwavering convictions about it. You have handed the power over to anything which seems to have power over you through your own notions, beliefs, and convictions about it, both good or bad.
This, while far from a complete picture, is the true nature of reality and your relationship to it. It is ALL based upon you, and nothing which is for you ever had a source other than your own awareness, thought, belief, conviction and agreement. In effect, your are ultimately responsible for everything you experience, because you are the only one responsible for the creation of your own strict beliefs and convictions.
That's why we all must watch what we take for granted, accept as true, and believe "in". Instead of looking around and searching for something to "believe in", simply decide to believe something - reality will follow accordingly. That's why techniques such as visualization and positive thinking often work. You initiate and build a new object of belief, and when convinced about it, it tends to "manifest" and realize itself. The techniques of visualization supply the steps to take one from the old beliefs and agreements to a new, and more desirable set of beliefs and agreements.
Man, through his own deep seated convictions created and creates the entire physical universe moment by moment. Man's mind, and what all minds do, are the true source of anything, good or bad. Materialism has passed the power over into the hands of the result of Man's own creation, material reality, while also denying completely Man's primary role and responsibility for everything and anything. The physical universe exists due to Man's ideas about it. It's actually a creation of his own, yet he has bestowed upon this creation an undeserved existence and power over himself. Materialism, as a belief system, has gone so far as to even remove Man and his mind completely from the equation of cause, purpose, and responsibility for anything, including his own life.
In a very real sense the entire physical universe exists as it does for you only because of your own unbendable and unconscious convictions about it. There is much more truth "in you" than "out there", and "out there" exists much more because of you than due to any "objective" existence of external reality. That's why all the efforts of scientists and philosophers can seem a bit ludicrous. They are endlessly attempting to tear apart the physical universe or the universe of meaning in an attempt to discover "truth". But in the end, those things only exist "in" you and me and solely because of what you and me hold to be true about them. Where's the truth then? Some advanced nuclear physicists are coming to the same conclusion.
For Man to experience wonderful and decent things, or to create a sane world, he must have some idea of his own participation in the creation of these things. This requires a basic understanding and application of the idea that Man creates reality and experience through belief and conviction. When Man's mind is denied, and the product of his mind, physical reality, is placed in a senior position, there can only be chaos, confusion and degradation. This is a key result of modern materialism.
Take a painter who paints a glorious masterpiece. He's the creator.The picture is the created. Everyone sees, admires, adores and appreciates the painting. It is obvious, apparent, "out there" and experiencable. The painter's potential, ability, and genius are not directly perceivable except through his painting. For all practical puposes, the "painter" is invisible. People place the painting on an alter. They come and look at it daily. They build a roof over it to protect it from the elements. After 20 years it is seen to be fading, so it is treated with special preservation chemicals. A strong storm damages the frame, and people attempt to repair it. A tornado tears off the roof and others come to patch it up. A bomb tears half of the picture away, and others frantically come to locate the pieces and piece it back together. Some few hundred years later many folks still admire, revere and even worship what's left of the original picture, which is now nothing compared to the original. In fact it's a severely weathered, altered, damaged and deteriorated hunk of material held together by tape, nails, paint, adhesives and numerous other mechanisms.
The painter happens by one day and wonders what is going on. He is dumbfounded. He looks at the absurdity setting on the alter. He looks at the them and asks, "Why didn't you call me - I would have painted another . . .". The crowd turns away back to their painting and ignores him.
The majority of people are hypnotised by the observable physical reality, by the paintings of painters, and by the creations of creators, and they generally ignore and are incapable of noticing, much less seeing the importance, of the "hidden" painters or creators. The "stuff", the "things", the "observable physical reality" gets all the attention. In a sense it sucks you in. And you neglect and fail to notice the vital and integral part played by the painters - and we are ALL painters of our own reality and experience. So if you don't like your life or experience of life, paint a new picture. Stop trying to keep alive and sustain an old and worn out painting. Let it go. Just paint another. That's where your true power lies - in your mind - you are ultimately a creator of the highest degree. Reality is what it is for you because of you and for no other reason.
Granted, none of us are currently able to willingly change their convictions
about the physical universe and have it change or go away as a directly
observable personal experience. Possibly various mystics and Indian Yogis
have mastered this, and while this may be possible, and seems to be so
from an understanding of what is discussed above, I have no personal direct
experience of this. But for the purpose of this essay, it is not necessary
to understand or accept as true the nature of the physical universe as
described above. It is quite all right to conceive the physical universe
to be an "objective", self-existing thing, quite separate from your notions
about it. The relationship between the physical universe and Man's mind
is still of great importance, and the modern materialistic tendency to
ignore and oppress Man's mind is occurring regardless of what you understand
the physical universe to ultimately be. So, if you found the above confusing,
unacceptable, absurd, of to be "bad philosophy", ignore it and disregard
it completely. The information here about Man's mind stands complete without
any metaphysical meanderings about the nature of the physical universe
and your actual relationship to it.