The Universe is Solipsistic

Avalokiteśvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion,...

Avalokiteśvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, 16th century image from Japan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here is an idea I have about the nature of the universe.  The idea is that the universe is solipsistic in that there is one mind and we as individuals experience an illusion of separateness.  All consciousness comes from the same source.  Perhaps there was some event like the Big Bang that set the illusion of separation into motion.  This is not such an original idea,  however, I think the way I approach it is a little different than anything else I have heard or read.

I got the idea in law school reading hand written criminal appeals written by uneducated murderers.  It occurred to me that the criminal would do anything he could to get out of prison.  He would research the law and hand write a complex legal document.  Even if he knew he was guilty he had infinite compassion for himself — because he was himself.  When we look at murders in prison we probably think they should be there.  But if you or I were the murder we would want our freedom.  Why?  Because on some level we all have infinite compassion for ourselves.  This is not to say that we are never self critical, but rather to illustrate that underneath the self criticism there sits a place of self compassion.

According to this model, to the extent we have compassion for others it is because we recognize ourselves (the universal solipsistic mind) in the other person.  We see ourselves quite strongly in our children (for obvious reasons) and therefore have more compassion for them than strangers.  The same is true for family members, fellow countrymen, teammates and friends we associate with.

In this model the forces of evil in the world attempt to perpetuate the separation through judgement, shame and perhaps even the concept of altruism.  When we judge a person we say we are better than them and we separate ourselves from them.  When we shame a person we make them feel inferior and separate.  The same holds when we judge ourselves.  We then become separate from ourselves.  This really is the ultimate illusion.  We can see that we are one whole and yet when we judge ourselves we act and feel as if this is not the case.  The same is true (according to this model) for the universe as a whole.

Now, one might argue that this view of compassion is actually selfishness and that it is morally superior to have compassion for a complete stranger unconnected to ourselves for other reasons rather than having compassion for someone because you recognize yourself in them.  This is altruism.  But I suspect this point of view comes from a place of shame.  It is judgmental and attempts to separate those who love themselves from those who think the purest form of love can only be directed to another person.  Anything else is selfishness and selfishness is by that altruistic definition bad.  But if the universe is solipsistic then the love of the self is the actually the highest good and altruism is an illusion of separateness.


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6 responses to “The Universe is Solipsistic

  1. Pingback: The Myth of Achievement | Winston Scrooge

  2. I may believe in a Gaya notion, that everything in its entirety is one, or as you say we are all one mind. But where I differ is that there is nothing to be gained from this realization. The definition of an individual is arbitrary. Are the billions of cells in my body separate lives, or do they only exist as part of me. Nothing good would come if we magically imbued these cells with the knowledge of me. The big fallacy is that selfishness is bad. These cells benefit me by living their selfish existences. Would there be anything gained by the wolf recognizing he is one with the deer? No! Gaya could indeed suffer from “altruism” because we don’t have infinite minds. As the great moral philosopher Adam Smith said: “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”

    • Is this realization not part of waking up from the dream of separation? Perhaps with this recognition we pass on to a greater existence after we die? Of course I don’t know but I feel it’s important somehow on that level.

      • I would not call it a dream of separation. It is actual separation. Everything is relative. From my vantage point, I am and will always be a separate individual. From Gaya’s vantage point I’m an insignificant cell that does not affect her life. She cares for a billion os us, but not one. When a cell in my body dies, I do not weep.
        Which one is right? We are both right and wrong. It is like asking whether my frame for the passage of time is true or whether the way time passes for someone traveling near the speed of light is true. Truth is governed by our frame of reference.
        We are all hard-wired with the selfish gene. We like to claim how beautiful nature is, but somehow when it comes to this one fact about our existence we like to backtrack and ignore. The Selfish Gene refers to Richard Dawkins book, and is best understood through Haldane famous quip “I would willingly die for two brothers or eight cousins.”

      • I’m not convinced that the only two options are your view (as you described it) or the Gaya view. What if we are each wholly Gaya only we entered this experience to experience what separation is like? When we’re fully engrossed in his dream we see others as others but when we start to wake we see ourself in others. Of course there’s no way to know which is the case (if any).

  3. Pingback: A Ponderous Chain of Events – Thoughts on “A Christmas Carol” Part III | Winston Scrooge

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