Most of what people think, believe and take to be true is derived from second and third-hand information. It is not based upon direct personal experience. Of course, civilization couldn't exist and advance very well if every single human being had to start from scratch and learn everything all over again. It is necessary for past experiences, understandings and knowledge to be "packaged" and passed along as ideas and concepts from one generation to the next. But most people never become aware of the difference between second-hand information and actual experience.
This would be fine if the knowledge, information, conclusions and concepts were always valid, accurate, and useful to humanity. This is not always the case. This will be covered more later in this essay.
People have a natural tendency to accept unquestioningly the concepts and ideas they are given. This simply is the way it seems to be. Maybe its because most people are so naturally trusting. Whatever the "reason", this is how people tend to operate with building their ideas about reality. Ideas can be received through culture, family, discussions, or study. We tend to accept whatever we happen to be presented with by those around us. This is obviously true while one is growing up, but equally true in lower and higher education.
People tend to believe what they see on TV or read in the newspapers. Why? Because it's there. It is there and it is saying something. So it is accepted. There is no reason to assume what appears in the mass media is true, and often it is either not true, only partially accurate or distorted in some way. But for some strange reason people tend to believe that everything they are told is 100% accurate, honest, the full story and researched with care. Manipulators know this and use it to their benefit. They say whatever they want, whether true or false, good or bad, so long as it gets you to think and do what they desire. They know if something is said and presented with "authority" and an attitude of "this is the way it is" that most people simply accept it.
Factually, the media presents a filtered, edited version of reality at any time - it is often very far from a valid and true presentation of actual facts and events. The meaning of these facts and events is almost always altered in some way. Lastly, the visual media relies largely on presentations with emotional impact. Why? Because some folks figured out a long time ago that ideas are accepted much more readily, and without conscious questioning, when communicated along with content containing highly charged emotions. Emotion bypasses the intellect, reason and understanding. Emotion is a poor vehicle for understanding, thinking and reason are better, and direct observation is the best.
People "think" and deal with the world around them in concepts. All too often, the majority of their dealings with the world, in all its forms, is a mental phenomena of logically relating mental ideas or concepts with other mental ideas and concepts. But ideas can and often have very little to do with the real world of people and things. They could be more accurately matched to specific existing realities, but more often than not they are not. This is due in part to observational laziness, faulty education, and a lack of an understanding of Man and his mind, but also to intentional deception.
Logic and Concepts
Logic systems show this well. Math is one example. Set theory is another. You can know and use addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and algebra, but few of us ever notice that these are complete mental systems of ideas having nothing to do with any actual external reality. How so?
First, the number 1 refers only to a mental concept. One what? How can there be one without having it refer to a specific thing? There is no "one" without a corresponding thing which it refers to anywhere except in our minds. This is true for all numbers. Its a mental game. This is neither good nor bad. It simply is. But we all think we know what "one" means. We do. But it relates to no specific thing anywhere in all of manifested physical reality. We can associate the idea of "one" to "one apple" or "one car" or "one sun", but the concept does not exist anywhere "out there" - it exists completely in our own mind. The notion of "one" unattached to a specific "one thing" simply does not exist anywhere in the entire universe of matter, energy, space and time. But it does exist in our minds.
Second, zero (0) refers to what? A lack of something or anything. Its the complete lack of quantity. Negation. Null, and total Void. Some say it refers to the absolute nothingness of deep space. Others describe it as the complete motionlessness of energy. But these are simply more ideas. Where does "zero" exist out in the real world of experience. It doesn't. Its only a mental concept. You can look at an empty place in the sky and say there are "no stars there". But that empty space never had the notion that there were no stars there. The notion doesn't exist "out there". It only exists in a mind. Your mind and my mind.
Third, 1 plus 1 equals 2. Take one orange and place it on the table. Take another one and place it next to the first. Now there are two oranges. Do this for a few other sets of two oranges. The first two oranges don't equal the second or third two sets of oranges. They are different oranges. Again, the concept of addition is a mental notion only. It is useful, yes, but it says nothing about reality, even though we can choose to relate it to reality. Additionally, what does a grain of sand care whether there are 10 grains of sand or 20 grains of sand in close proximity to it? Counting and addition has meaning because conscious, thinking beings give it meaning. It is truly "all in our heads".
Forth, equality doesn't exist anywhere in reality. We say 1 plus 1 "equals" 2. Take two perfectly manufactured German watches and compare them. They look the same, weigh the same, and tell time the same, but they are NOT THE SAME. They are not equal. Even if you could get them completely perfect, which you couldn't, because the atoms and molecules would be different, among other things, in the end they would occupy different spaces. You can never make them occupy the same space, try as you might. Equality doesn't exist. But it does in our minds. You can spend the next week trying to find two things "out there" that are truly equal, and you will not be able to. Equality, in reality, doesn't exist anywhere. It never has and it never will. Again, its a mental notion. If you believe you have found two things which are truly equal, then you have deluded yourself - your ideas have only given you that notion - but the two things in actuality are not and cannot ever be truly "equal". There are many concepts which don't exist and never have existed anywhere, and never will, just as with "equality". But people consider they do just the same. This causes untold trouble when people and groups attempt to force "reality" (i.e. people and society) to conform to their "ideas" about how they imagine people and reality should behave.
Various people and groups promote "social equality" and desire to get all people "equal". This is an impossibility, and if you notice, it is usually done through some type of force. Chinese and Russian communism systematically murdered millions of people in their attempt to equalize their societies. Again, they tried to eradicate the things which they conceived to act to make people unequal. Get rid of the "rich", the "intelligentsia", and "social inequity". Socialism taxes heavily the productive and gives to the unproductive in an attempt to "equalize" society - all through force - nobody would pay taxes unless there existed a real potential threat of harm against them. It's all just so much mental dullness, due to taking much too seriously one's own concepts and opinions. There is nothing wrong with wanting people to be successful and happy, in fact, this is an admirable goal, but forcing them into a controlled "equality" will never do it. Equality does not and cannot exist. It can and does exist in your mind, but it will never exist in any external physical universe situation. NEVER! The best solution for making people happy, successful and productive is to educate them into the nature of their own minds, and apply techniques to expand their mental abilities. No political system or legislation will ever do it. These always deteriorate into examples of enforced mediocrity parading as "fairness", "equality" and "justice".
Fifth, where does division or multiplication occur, as we conceive it, in the external world? It doesn't. It's completely part of a mental logic system which occurs within each of our minds..
The logic systems of math are consistent and work within the framework of the system, but they refer to nothing "out there" really. The point here is that each of us can, and does have, mental ideas about all manner of things, which, while "logically consistent" and seeming to "make sense" within their own framework, have absolutely nothing (or very little) to do with the reality "out there" of mutually shared experience. They follow the rules and laws as we have defined them. Nothing more and nothing less. This becomes very important further in this essay, especially regarding the modern mythologies of psychology and psychiatry.
Each of us can, and does have, mental ideas about all manner of things, which, while "logically consistent" and seeming to "make sense" within their own framework, have absolutely nothing (or very little) to do with the reality "out there" of mutually shared experience. They follow the rules and laws as we have defined them. Nothing more and nothing less. This becomes very important further in this essay, especially regarding the modern mythologies of psychology and psychiatry.Absolutes
Absolutes don't exist anywhere in experiencable reality. It's another notion like "one", "zero" and "equality". But much of what is presented to you by various social institutions gives you only a choice between one of two things. Science or Religion. Good or bad. Right and wrong. Materialism or spiritualism. Republican or democrat. Communism or capitalism. Black or white. The truth of observable reality is that there are only shades of gray - extremes and simplistic all-encompassing abstractions do not exist.
Whenever you see one side fighting what they conceive to be an opposing side, it is usually a case of faulty thinking or incomplete information. None of you have ever experienced an absolute anything anywhere, although you might have concepts about absolute things, whether religious or scientific, which you understand and believe. But you can and never will be able to point to an observable absolute anywhere. It's all of the nature of ideas, and that's why there is so much argument about it. Concepts can be anything, true or false, related or unrelated to any experiencable reality, vague or specific, clear or distorted. Take the term "liberal" or "republican". What does each mean? That depends on who is doing the listening. When? This year, last year or 10 years ago? What each term means has changed over time. Too often certain people use these terms as slogans with emotional impact to create effects and bring about results they desire (regardless of truth in meaning or actuality). This is true for each side of the spectrum relating to each term. The rest of this discussion sheds more light on the specifics of this.
Physical Sciences versus Social Sciences
When we deal with the physical sciences such as chemistry, physics, mechanics, or electronics, we have constructed models of how we conceive these things to operate. These models are useful and have enabled advances of all types in their respective fields. "Science" is "good" in these cases. But again, keep in mind that the model is NOT the thing itself. The physical sciences have been fairly successful, and the concepts and labels have served a useful purpose. It "works" to a large extent. A scientist can tell you functionally how electricity works, but what it is really is not known.
If a chemist makes a mistake, he learns quickly, because he just blew up his lab and expensive equipment. He adapts his model and changes his theory. If an electronics designer melts a few circuits, in the development of a new microchip, he learns fast, and doesn't make the same mistake again. This works fine as long as it has been applied to the raw physical universe of matter and energy. It hasn't worked fine in the social "sciences". Why?
People are fundamentally "minds". The nature, functioning and potentials of "mind" are radically dissimilar to matter and energy. A mind interrelates with, uses and controls matter and energy, but it is ultimately NOT matter and energy. This is one of those things you won't necessarily "get" until you experience it for yourself. You can believe whatever you like, because that is one of the things minds always do, they believe and become convinced of things, but your belief won't alter for a second the fact that "mind" is radically different from the rest of the external physical universe. As an example, where else out there in the physical universe of matter and energy, amidst all space and time, can you find anything which "believes", "considers", "opines" or "attaches significance and meaning". Only sentient beings do that. Minds do that. No rock, brick, bolt of lightning, pulsar, photon, sun, or galaxy ever has or ever will do that. This is a tremendously important distinction which has been lost to most modern fields of study relating to Man and his activities.
There is nothing anywhere which is pure matter or energy which has the capabilities or functions of a conscious mind. In fact, your body doesn't do it either - your mind does it - YOU do it. It would benefit the reader to spend some time considering this. Look around and notice where "beliefs", "ideas" and "meaning" comes from. They come from living conscious beings. Look around more and try to find the formation of a belief or meaning anywhere in the material universe outside of a thinking entity - you won't find it. Keep it to your own personal observation and try to remain honest. "Universal Mind", "Cosmic Consciousness", "Oneness", "Spiritual Unity" and other metaphysical notions have nothing to do with this discussion. The thing I am indicating refers only to Man's individual mind, a thing we can all easily observe and become aware of.
It is meaningless whether "thought" is due to chemical reactions in a brain (which it isn't) or to capabilities all it's own. Functionally, a mind operates very differently than any observable material thing or phenomena. It does different things entirely. Psychology and psychiatry, the "modern sciences of the mind", have failed completely to address, delineate, categorize and develop techniques to increase one's awareness of and capabilities of a mind. Psychology, by definition, should be a study of the mind. It isn't anything of the sort within the modern subject. This discussion has much more to do with a valid subject of psychology than either of the modern subjects, which basically ignore the mind.
Of course, an aware being could theoretically attach itself to a tree, forest, sun, star or planet, and conceive itself to be this thing, just as we each conceive ourselves to be a human body, and this might prompt a New Ager to proclaim, "see, the sun has feelings", "the Earth has a purpose", or "the universe is sentient". But the situation is no different. Sentient beings believe themselves to be various things, and experience these things solely due to their total conviction that they are what they conceive themselves to be. The same is true for everything else anyone experiences. There is no purpose, life or meaning in any aspect of the physical universe, of anything for that matter, other than that given to it be you and me. This may sound like humanism or pragmatism, but what I propose is very far from the views and practical applications of these two approaches to things. Humanism and pragmatism similarly proclaim man and his ideas as the source of everything, but they at the same time tend to still place the physical universe way above the human mind or minds in importance. They place "experience" above all else and concentrate on your "reactions" to it. They tend to greatly diminish your ultimate role in the creation of all your experience. This has drastic practical consequences.
The major impulse of the modern social sciences is to treat Man (and therefore also his mind) as matter and energy. The psychologist assumes that what is good for weights, fulcrums and acceleration (i.e. mechanics - a branch of physics) is also good for human beings. Whoops! I am afraid not. Not at all. The psychiatrist assumes that what is good for arthritis and digestive disorders (physical medicine) is also good for "mental disorders". Whoops again. Its just not so. The social planner assumes that what is good for nuclear physics is also good for populations. Once again, whoops! Its not so. And all the college courses, Ph.D.s, psychiatric associations, psychological societies, humanist organizations, behaviorists, geneticists and philosophizing won't make it so.
You can believe whatever you choose, but some things remain true regardless of what you believe or how you conceive them to be. This is one of those things.
Universes and Reality
The world "out there", external reality, is a mutually shared universe of common experience. It is the lowest common denominator of all our experience. It is the mediocre minimum which we all take for granted and it supplies us with a common field of action. That is all it is. Your realm of personal "mind" is another sort of universe. You experience it every second of every day. From here comes any and all meaning about anything in the "outer" universe. The functions of attention, concentration, imagination, responsibility, belief, conviction, intention, decision, purpose, reason, intellect, and more solely reside within your own personal "mind". These are qualities of any mind. The "amount" of each and control we each have over these various functions varies from person to person, and even within ourselves from day to day. But they are there in each of us in some form and to some degree. You may be influenced by the external world of common experience, but this inner universe exists, is very real, and is ultimately of more value than anything "out there". Why? Because what happens "out there" depends completely on what you do (or what "happens") with your own mind. In fact, your own inner universe is the only thing capable anywhere of choosing and deciding value. The world of external events takes shape in exact accordance with the sum total of all Man's inner beliefs, conviction, ideas, meanings, thoughts, desires, etc.
It is vital to get some grasp of this because Man's inner world , or universe of thought, is very much ignored by all current popular belief systems. This inner universe is the important universe and it has been systematically ignored and suppressed by current materialistic notions. The popularization and use of modern psychological and psychiatric theories are the worse example of this. When Man's inner universe is destroyed systematically through institutionalized belief systems, Man can only finally become a pale shadow of raw matter and energy - which in itself is dead, meaningless and devoid of all life.
Modern materialism has exaggerated the importance and power of the external universe over the inner universe of Man's mind. Behaviorism talks ad naseam about the effect of the environment on people. The environment (external reality) is placed in a superior position above the individual person (mind). People involve themselves in and dissect the physical universe in a futile attempt to gain "understanding". They think the answers lie outside themselves. Again, all meaning, purpose and value for anything, is determined by your mind and for you, by your mind alone. You are the most truth you will ever know about anything as you are the ONLY source of truth for everything you experience. In the end, whatever you end up believing "in" or "about" is fundamentally an action of your own mind to attach meaning and significance to something. It's an action of an individual mind.
You are the complete source of meaning for you. You might explain, "I believe this because it's so true, and it makes me feel good, and blah-blah-blah...", and you may attribute your choice to all manner of reasoning about ideas, external events and situations, but in the end YOU SIMPLY DECIDE TO BELIEVE and EXPERIENCE MEANING solely by your own mental actions. We all tend to take our cues from external events, and our beliefs often follow reactions to events, but this isn't necessary. The function of believing and developing conviction could be separate from one's experiences of external reality, and if you suddenly found yourself in some other reality, on some other world, somewhere else, you would simply begin responding to the external events there, and develop new beliefs accordingly. This is as true for science as it is for religion. It is true for everything. Ultimately, nothing is true unless you believe it to be so. And for you, it then is. But you are the source of the meaning - the source is not anything you conceive yourself to experience "out there", whether an observable "thing" or an "idea".
The purpose of pointing this out is not to make you feel as if all is useless and meaningless, although this will be the result as long as you look for meaning outside yourself and fail to acknowledge your own direct participation in the creation of belief, conviction and meaning for your own personal experience. It's up to you to choose grand beliefs, wondrous convictions, noble purposes and lofty ideals. Then recognizing yourself as the final source of all your meaning, belief and conviction will not degrade into apathy and lack of meaning. Most people search "out there" to find something to "believe in", and to give their life meaning, but in the end, it is your own action of establishing belief which underlies any choice or decision. Again, what you accept to believe need not correspond to any pre-packaged theory, concept or philosophy, whether scientific, philosophical or religious, but we all tend to take for granted that the existing options presented to us are the only possibilities available. But this is difficult to do in a world where Man's inner world and all it does is so casually and persistently denied. It is also difficult to do when so many external forces attempt to sell you on their own specific set of opinions and beliefs. Everybody is trying to get you to accept their patterns of belief and systems of meaning.
This is the real battle occurring on planet Earth. The winners and losers
of this battle are what truly determine the "evolution" of societies and
the world. Now, and in the past, most of what is being sold is trash, as
it usually denies and oppresses that which is capable of believing and
attaching meaning - you and your mind. Your mind and everyone else's
minds are the true source of any quality of life that will ever exist.
Solely and completely. Recognition, education into the functions, and empowerment
of minds results in success, decency, morality, strength, sanity and greatness.
Denial and suppression of these things results in failure, perversions, immorality, weakness, insanity and mediocrity. Materialism as a belief system has the effect of denying these things.