When two minds become one

Jeff CarreiraBlog Posts5 Comments

In response to my last post (see below) someone posed an interesting question. They felt they understood what I was writing regarding William James’ view that we live in creative multiple universes. And they accepted the example I used that if you first thought you had found your missing book, then realizing you had not, you had actually lived in two different universes. At the same time this questioner said she could only understand this as long as there was only one person in the room. What would happen if there was someone else in the room who knew the whole time who the book actually belonged to? Then we would have conflicting universe’s being created with the same objects.

I believe James would say, “Exactly!”

To understand why this makes sense (at least to James) we have to think in terms of his philosophy of Pragmatism. In Pragmatism truth is not a quality inherent in an idea. The truth of an idea is either proven or not when that idea manifests itself in action. For instance if I think “the book is mine” and I act on that thought by picking it up and walking away only to find that someone else in the room stops me and tells me that it is their book, I find out – in action – that the idea “the book is mine” is not true. The truth exists in the evidence that I experience, not in the book itself. How we define truth, was the problem that James was most consumed with.

Since truth is found in action, James would say that one person picking up the book and walking away and coming into conflict with someone who stops them are living in two different universes. The reason we know they are in two universes is because they come into conflict.

James also saw that when two people come to the same recognition of what is true then their separate universes merge into one. In this way James felt that the movement of evolution was generally towards the creation of a more and more unified universe.

In his essay A World of Pure Experience first published in 1904 in The Journal of Philosophy, Psychology, and Scientific Methods, James states:

“…the unity of the world is on the whole undergoing increase. The universe continually grows in quantity by new experiences that graft themselves upon the older mass; but these very new experiences often help the mass to a more consolidated form. If two named things have every quality and function indiscernible, and are a t the same time in the same place, they must be written down as numerically one thing.”

He is implying that we can come together in the truth – that if our actions match in relationship to an idea (in the case of the book meaning I pick up the book and walk away and you let me) then there must be no difference in the way that our minds are perceiving reality and we must be perceiving the same thing. We have entered into a shared space of truth. In this James had an argument with the commonly held Empirical view that no two people could ever have exactly the same experience because their individual perceptions would always be at least slightly different. James wouldn’t accept the idea that we could never meet each other in reality. To him it seemed obvious that if you and I or anyone else is acting as if we are in the same reality and we can find no discrepancies in our actions to prove otherwise, then we are in the same reality.

For those of us interested in either Evolutionary Enlightenment or Integral theory we can see that James was making room for inter-subjective experience – the possibility that we could share “mind-space.” This notion is central to both Evolutionary Enlightenment and Integral Theory.

 

 

 

 

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Diana SpiegelDanielle castronisJeff CarreiraShelley SouzaMoo Briddell Recent comment authors
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Moo Briddell
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Moo Briddell

Hi Jeff, This is really interesting. The example that you use of the perception of the mistaken book, ie. perceiving the world one way, which turns out to be mistaken and is really something else, reminds me of the classic example they use in Vedanta of perceiving a snake, which, on closer inspection, turns out to be only a rope. Reality appears to be one way and we base our actions on that belief, and then it turns out to be something completely different! I think Vedanta would say that we have had a wrong assumption to start with and… Read more »

Shelley Souza
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Shelley Souza

Jeff,

You write:

For those of us interested in either Evolutionary Enlightenment or Integral theory we can see that James was making room for inter-subjective experience – the possibility that we could share “mind-space.” This notion is central to both Evolutionary Enlightenment and Integral Theory.

This clip always clarifies (more deeply) the notion of sharing mind-space, each time I listen to it.

http://www.andrewcohen.org/supermind/

Jeff Carreira
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Jeff Carreira

Responding to Moo… This is a great question and I think William James approaches that question in a way very similar to Andrew Cohen. One of James’ most significant motivations in his work was making room for true spiritual belief in a world that was increasingly dominated by scientific materialism. James’ conclusion was that you can never prove the existence of absolute truth, but you can believe in it. He defined belief as the willingness to act on an idea (like an idea about there being an absolute truth) in a way that was truly risky, momentous and irrevocable. If… Read more »

Danielle castronis
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Danielle castronis

First I want to thank you Jeff for starting this blog and discourse. Since I was not educated in this country, I have not been made familiar with these philosophers. I am familiar with the names, but have not realized how they have shaped the american thought and conditioning, I think mostly in a positive way. It is a fascinating inquiry. Your response to Moo lit up something in my being; It appears that unless we are willing to trust and take a chance, there is no development. And what is even more profound: If we put ourselves on the… Read more »

Diana Spiegel
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Diana Spiegel

Seems over time ‘Truth’ just gets bigger and bigger. How exciting, as more and more people join in a bigger and bigger ‘Truth’, and this larger perspective among them creates an intersubjective field capable of influencing everything.