The Problem Of Others

I’d like to briefly discuss the problem of proving that other people exist.  I feel this is impossible because there’s no way to hop outside yourself and experience anything outside of yourself.  In the philosophy community, this is the problem of solipsism.  I see absolutely no way around it.  This post will be a continuation of my last post, so I recommend reading that before moving on to this material.

Let’s imagine that I am in the supermarket and I run into the woman in the figure below.  As before, I will identify my “self” as the “space” from which forms manifest, my body manifest “up close” and a woman’s figure will be projected from divine Ground into my awareness.

Just to recap a few things, I argued that people typically (wrongfully) identify themselves as their body (the two hands in the figure), along with the thoughts and emotions manifest in their experience.  So called “other” forms, such as this woman, are identified as “others” because they’re experienced differently.  For example, if a bowling ball fell from the ceiling and smashed this poor’s woman’s head in, you wouldn’t feel pain, but if that bowling ball landed on “your” hand, you’d feel pain.  These sorts of experiences lead people to believe certain forms (such as the hands and body) are “theirs” and other forms, such as the woman standing there, do not belong to them.  I argued this is incorrect.  You are the total awareness of everything you’re experiencing.  The form of “your” hands, the form of this woman, the thoughts you’re experiencing, all the sensations, the emotions you’re experiencing, it’s all you.   You can’t have an experience outside of yourself.

Alex was thoughtful enough to leave some comments on my post, and we got into a discussion about whether or not other people exist, and that lead to some considerations of ethics.  Let’s look into this.  The major point of contention seems to be the claim that this woman in front of me is just a form within my awareness, empty, like a hologram or something.  This belief that there’s nothing more beyond this appearance seems unethical.  She’s not just a form to be viewed; she has an inner world of her own!   That demands that she be treated morally, that there might be karma or something if she’s treated poorly, etc.  Ok, fair enough.  I can believe in all that, but could I ever know that?

To know that she has an inner world of her own, I’d have to somehow experience it firsthand for myself.  Is that possible?  I am the awareness of what’s happening within this “box”, this “space” of Emptiness, including all the projected forms, thoughts, and emotions currently being manifested.  How could I ever experience anything outside of the box of my own awareness?  The second I experience something that’s not me, supposedly from the “outside”, anything at all, it becomes a part of my awareness and is me.

We could try to overcome this limitation?  Let’s assume that if this woman’s form is being projected into my awareness, I not only experience “my” thoughts and emotions, but also “hers”.  Now I directly experience her “inner” world.  Surely I must now claim that she’s more than just the form!  She has an inner world and it’s being beamed straight into me when she’s right there in front of me!  But does this make her separate from “me”?  Does this solve the problem?  Only if you identify yourself as certain thought streams, emotions, or sets of forms, and not others, otherwise there is no way to make the distinction between “my” thoughts and “her” thoughts, “my” emotions and “her” emotions.  There is just forms, thoughts, and emotions manifesting within awareness.  The experience is richer now, more complex, but if you identify yourself as the total awareness of everything happening within the “space”, then we still have the same problem.  She’s still “you”, and there’s no distinction between “you” and “her”.

Hmm, let’s take this even further.  Say I not only experience “my” life, with all of its bodily sensations, thoughts, emotions, etc., but also all aspects of “her” life simultaneously!  Within my awareness is two of these “spaces”, one with the life of Jason and all of its experiences (on the left), and another the life of this woman (on the right).  This is illustrated in the next figure, where Jason and the woman are looking at one another in the supermarket.

Has this solved the problem of me being me, and her being her, and us being separate from one another?  Can I now be sure this woman has an “inner” world that is separate from “my” own?  No.  Now I am both Jason and the woman, and everything they experience.  There’s no reason to identify with the person on the left or right, exclusively.  I’m both of them.  I am the awareness that includes the total experience of Jason and the woman; this awareness includes both of their bodily sensations, both of their thoughts, both of their perceptions, and both of their emotions.

You could try to play around with this in various ways but it won’t change anything.  Say for instance I feel bodily tactile sensations of Jason on the left, but not for the woman on the right.  For her I just see what she sees and hear what she hears, but nothing more.  Then would I be predisposed to identify as Jason and not the woman?  -shrugs-  It’s up to you how you identify yourself, but if you identify as Emptiness and the total “space” of your awareness, then it doesn’t make any difference.

When I tend to believe others exist, outside of myself, I think of some massive split-screen view, containing all “existent” conscious beings, each with a “space” of their own,  populated with forms, thoughts, emotions, and other experiences which manifest from the same common Ground which we’re all using.  God is manifesting all of us, and is viewing the complete display, containing a split-screen view with innumerable “spaces” for every human, every animal, every insect, every alien, and anything else that can be consciously experienced, from all possible timelines, from all possible perspectives, from every form of life, in every possible existence; God is looking at this timeless super-split-screen-space containing all of that.   Then you say, but Jason, how do you know God exists in this way?  I don’t.  I’d have to become God and be immersed in this super-experience first-hand to know that it exists.  But assuming I became this experience, and my awareness reverted back to being Jason, how could it be described?  A fullness cannot be fully expressed using subset of its completely unique pieces.  This is especially true of experiences which are foreign to humans for which there would be no words.  But as I would like to argue, am I even choosing the forms, thoughts, and emotions which manifest, moment to moment, as Jason?  I’d argue I’m not, they’re moreso happenings.  So the degree to which God could be described by Jason is based on what God feeds into Jason to be experienced within his (and ultimately within God’s) awareness.  But if you think about it, how this any different for ANY experience?

And here’s a key insight.  If free-will were happening on the fly, like most of us believe, time would be stopping every moment, and you’d be presented with this wide variety of split-screens to choose from at each moment.  And if full-freedom were available to you, where all possible split-screens were available to you at every moment to choose from (which quantum physics seems to point to), you’d basically have that God-like perspective, make a “decision” (whatever that would mean, maybe “zooming” into one of these perspectives temporarily?), and then revert back to that God-like perspective for the next decision.   And this God-like perspective contains everybody, all possible identities, timelessly.  You’d select to be aware of something selectively for a temporary period, and then revert back to timeless awareness of the all.  This idea of “identity” seems incompatible with full-freedom.  I’ll get to that in my next post.

I’d like to write an entirely separate post focusing on the ethics of this perspective of identification with Emptiness (the “space” of your awareness).   I’ll save that discussion for then.

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