Open individualism is the view in the philosophy of self, according to which there exists only one numerically identical subject, who is everyone at all times. It is a theoretical solution to the question of personal identity, being contrasted with empty individualism, the view that personal identities correspond to a fixed pattern that instantaneously disappears with the passage of time, and with closed individualism, the common view that personal identities are particular to subjects and yet survive over time.
- It is none other than He who progresses or journeys as you. There is nothing to be known but He; and since He is Being itself, He is therefore also the journeyer. There is no knower but He; so who are you? Know your true Reality. [...] He is the essential Self of all. But He conceals it by [the appearance of] otherness, which is "you."
- In one sense the Reality is creatures; in another sense, It is not. [...] Whether you assert that It is undivided or divided, the Self is alone. The manifold [universe] exists and yet it does not exist.
Therefore, know your Self, who you are, what is your identity. [...] Consider well in what way you are Haqq, and in what way Khalq, as being separate, other.
- I am no one in existence but myself, so —
Whom do I treat as foe and whom do I treat as friend?
Whom do I call to aid my heart, pierced by a penetrating arrow,
When the archer is my eyelid, striking my heart without an arrow?
Why defend my station? It matters little to me; what do I care?
For I am in love with none other than myself, and my very separation is my union.
- Constantly regard the universe as one living being, having one substance and one soul; and observe how all things have reference to one perception, the perception of this one living being; and how all things act with one movement; and how all things are the cooperating causes of all things which exist; observe too the continuous spinning of the thread and the contexture of the web.
- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations (c. 161–180 CE), Book IV, 40
- When the bubble of ignorance bursts the self realizes its oneness with the indivisible Self.
- Perhaps we are the same person. Perhaps we have no limits; perhaps we flow into each other, stream through each other, boundlessly and magnificently. You bear terrible thoughts; it is almost painful to be near you. At the same time it is enticing. Do you know why?
- Ingmar Bergman, Fanny och Alexander (1982)
- He who experiences the unity of life sees his own Self in all beings, and all beings in his own Self, and looks on everything with an impartial eye; he who sees Me in everything and everything in Me, him shall I never forsake, nor shall he lose Me.
- It is manifest [...] that every soul and spirit hath a certain continuity with the spirit of the universe, so that it must be understood to exist and to be included not only there where it liveth and feeleth, but it is also by its essence and substance diffused throughout immensity [...] The power of each soul is itself somehow present afar in the universe [...] Naught is mixed, yet is there some presence. Anything we take in the universe, because it has in itself that which is All in All, includes in its own way the entire soul of the world, which is entirely in any part of it.
- Giordano Bruno, in De la causa, principio et uno (1584)
- The universal Intellect is the intimate, most real, peculiar and powerful part of the soul of the world. This is the single whole which filleth the whole, illumineth the universe and directeth nature to the production of natural things, as our intellect with the congruous production of natural kinds.
- Giordano Bruno, in De la causa, principio et uno (1584)
- The Self is the same self because that is what it is: what other self could it be? In our moments of awakening we are quite untheoretically aware of the identity of what wakes here and what woke then (from which experience, more theoretically, we may infer the possibility of transcending time). To wake up is to know ourselves, so far. By the same token it may well occur to us, in ratiocinative mood, that the Self in me is just the same as that in you; that only the One Self attends on parallel and successive states of mind and action, separating itself out as One in Many. What makes my self is no other than what makes yours, and the differences between us lie at the level of what that attends on, or how it is—as it were—refracted. That is indeed an inference that Averroistic interpreters of Aristotle (and non-dualist Vedantins) have preferred; there is one nous only, and that the divine mover. But at the level of particulars, the Self here and the Self over-there are differently reflected.
- By such sentences as "That thou art," our own Self is affirmed. Of that which is untrue and composed of the five elements—the Shruti (scripture) says, "Not this, not this."
- Enlightenment came to me suddenly and unexpectedly one afternoon in March  when I was walking up to the school notice board to see whether my name was on the list for tomorrow's football game. I was not on the list. And in a blinding flash of inner light I saw the answer to both my problems, the problem of war and the problem of injustice. The answer was amazingly simple. I called it Cosmic Unity. Cosmic Unity said: There is only one of us. We are all the same person. I am you and I am Winston Churchill and Hitler and Gandhi and everybody. There is no problem of injustice because your sufferings are also mine. There will be no problem of war as soon as you understand that in killing me you are only killing yourself.
- For some days I quietly worked out in my own mind the metaphysics of Cosmic Unity. The more I thought about it, the more convinced I became that it was the living truth. It was logically incontrovertible. It provided for the first time a firm foundation for ethics. It offered mankind the radical change of heart and mind that was out only hope of peace at a time of desperate danger. Only one small problem remained. I must find a way to convert the world to my way of thinking [...] After a few months I gave up trying to make converts. When some friend would come up to me and say cheerfully, "How's cosmajoonity doing today?" I would just answer, "Fine, thank you," and let it go at that.
- Sometimes we talked about the nature of the human soul and about the Cosmic Unity of all souls that I had believed in so firmly when I was fifteen years old. My mother did not like the phrase Cosmic Unity. It was too pretentious. She preferred to call it a world soul.
- Buddhism and Advaita Vedānta agree that it is necessary to inhibit the identification with the 'I' and the clinging to what is 'mine' to achieve liberation. The theoretical interpretation of this process is where they disagree. Now it is my opinion that the notion of witness-consciousness allows for a more faithful description of what actually happens in this process than the idea of no-self (at least in its reductionist interpretation).
- Wolfgang Fasching, Self, No Self?: Perspectives from Analytical, Phenomenological, and Indian Traditions (2010), p. 213 ISBN 978-0199593804
- Buddhism invites us to reflect on our own being and holds that what we will find are all kinds of transient phenomena (the ﬁve skandhas), but nothing like a stable 'self'. With regard to each of the skandhas one should understand: 'this is not mine; this am not I; this is not the Self of me' (Sam˙yutta Nikaya XXII.59). This insight leads us to the liberation from the illusion of self. Yet the question is: If there is nothing but these transient phenomena that constitute our being (in other words: if this simply is what we are)—who is it then that is not identical to all this? Who is it who can say of her body, her thoughts, etc. 'this am not I'? This 'who' is, I wish to suggest, nothing but the experiencing consciousness in which all the passing phenomena have their manifestation and which Advaita Vedānta regards as our 'self'.
- Wolfgang Fasching, Self, No Self?: Perspectives from Analytical, Phenomenological, and Indian Traditions (2010), p. 213–214 ISBN 978-0199593804
- The idea that the "I" is more than just the present experience but something that can, as one and the same, have various experiences and could have other experiences, without this sameness being reducible to anything else (e.g. to any inter-experiential relations), has its root in the fact that every experience in its mere being-experienced essentially already implies a synchronic and diachronic transcendence of "me" qua consciousness with regard to this experience, a transcendence in which the being-experienced of the experience itself consists.
- Wolfgang Fasching, "The Mineness of Experience", Continental Philosophy Review, Vol. 42, Iss. 2 (May 2009)
- If we take the unintelligibility of an I-plurality seriously, I think we are left with the only choice of either returning to a reductionist view of the self, denying that there is any I as the abiding where or to-whom of experiential givenness and that I as one and the same exist as the experiencer of many different experiences and could as well have totally different experiences, this sameness not being constituted by any more fundamental facts—or embracing the non-multiplicity view. I am well aware that most people would choose otherwise—but for me, at least, the no-I view is much harder to believe than the one-I view.
- Wolfgang Fasching, "The Nonplurality of the I: On the Question of the Ultimate Subject of Experience", Journal of Consciousness Studies, Vol. 23, Iss. 1–2 (2016)
- Human speech is inadequate to express the reality. The soul [atman] is unborn and indestructible. The personality perishes, must perish. Individuality is and is not even as each drop in the ocean is an individual and is not. It is not because apart from the ocean it has no existence. It is because the ocean has no existence, if the drop has not, i.e., has no individuality. They are beautifully interdependent.
- Mahatma Gandhi, letter to P. G. Mathew, 8 Sept. 1930
- I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when spring comes,
arrives in time to eat the mayfly.
- When you've seen beyond yourself
Then you may find peace of mind is waiting there
And the time will come when you see we're all one
And life flows on within you and without you
- This force of nature, this will, continues to exist when "we" die, and in fact it does already exist in many other forms and ways. This force is active in me, as it is active in you and every other living creature. And to the extent that each of us ultimately is this force, this will to live, we always exist not only in this particular form, which we call our individual self, but also in everything else. When you look into the world with your eyes, perceive it with your senses, live in it with your body and your mind, then I look and perceive and live with you, because you are only another version of myself, just as I am only another version of yourself. Accordingly, when I die I will live on in you, and when you die, you will live on in me.
- Today, a young man on acid realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration. That we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively. There is no such thing as death, life is only a dream and we're the imagination of ourselves... Here's Tom with the weather.
- Bill Hicks, in Austin, Texas, on the audio bootleg recording know as Sane Man (1989)
- [L]et's not lose track of the purpose of all this imagery, which is to suggest helpful ways of imagining what a human soul's essence is. If we map each tree (or nucleus) in the crystal lattice onto a particular human brain, then in the tight-binding model (which corresponds to the caged-bird metaphor), each brain would possess a unique soul, represented by the cloud of timid butterflies that hover around it and it alone. By contrast, if we think of a metal, then the cloud is spread out across the whole lattice — which is to say, shared equally among all the trees (or nuclei). No tree is privileged. In this image, then (which is close to Daniel Kolak's view in I Am You), each human soul floats among all human brains, and its identity is determined not by its location but by the undulating global pattern it forms.
- There's certainly a lot of things I don't understand. This light of yours, or whatever you like to call it, how does it decide that you are you and I am me?'
'That could be another illusion. Look, along one wall of our office we have one complete set of pigeon holes, all in their nice tidy sequence. Along another wall we have another set of pigeon holes. Two completely different sets. But there is only one light. It dances about in both sets of pigeon holes. Wherever it happens to be, there is the phenomenon of consciousness. One set of pigeon holes is what you call you, the other is what I call me. It would be possible to experience both and never know it. It would be possible to follow the little patch of light wherever it went. There could be only one consciousness, although there must certainly be more than one set of pigeon holes.'
I found this a staggering idea. 'If you're right it would be possible to be a million people and never know it.'
- 'It would be possible to be much more than that. It would be possible to be every creature on every system of planets throughout the universe. My point is that for every so-called different creature, for every different person, you need a separate set of pigeon holes. But the consciousness could be the same. There could even be completely different universes. Go back to my decaying nucleus. Hook up a bomb which explodes according to whether you have decay of a nucleus or not. Make the bomb so big that it becomes a doomsday machine. Let it be capable - if exploded - of wiping out all life on the Earth. Let the whole thing go for a critical few seconds, you remember we were considering whether a nucleus would decay in a particular ten seconds? Do we all survive or don't we?
'My guess is that inevitably we appear to survive, because there is a division, the world divides into two, into two completely disparate stacks of pigeon holes. In one, a nucleus undergoes decay, explodes the bomb, and wipes us out. But the pigeon holes in that case never contain anything further about life on the Earth. So although those pigeon holes might be activated, there could never be any awareness that an explosion had taken place. In the other block, the Earth would be safe, our lives would continue - to put it in the usual phrase. Whenever the spotlight of consciousness hit those pigeon holes we should be aware of the Earth and we should decide the bomb had not exploded.'
- All the Buddhas and all sentient beings are nothing but the One Mind, beside which nothing exists. This Mind, which is without beginning, is unborn and indestructible.
- Huangbo Xiyun, The Zen Teachings of Huang Po (1958, p.29)
- The Perennial Philosophy is expressed most succinctly in the Sanskrit formula, tat tvam asi ('That thou art'); the Atman, or immanent eternal Self, is one with Brahman, the Absolute Principle of all existence; and the last end of every human being, is to discover the fact for himself, to find out who he really is.
- Aldous Huxley, The Perennial Philosophy (1945)
- Each individual of the human species contains the others entirely, without any lack, [their] own limitation being but accidental [...] For as far as the accidental conditions do not intervene, individuals are, then, like opposing mirrors, in which one fully reflects the other.
- How many times do I have to give you examples so that you understand my unity with you and you know that your extension into the visible realm and my concealment in the transcendental world are two principles of our single essence? There is no partner in me for you, no partner for you in me. What are you if not yourself? Because your name had its origin in my name, don't you see that of the different parts [that make up your whole] the first part is called a dot, the second part is called a dot, and the third part is called a dot? Likewise all your parts are dot by dot. Therefore I am you. What within you is your individuality but my own identity? This is your individuality by which you are who you are. If you said to yourself I, portraying my being, even I if I said He I would portray my own image. Then you would therefore know that I and He are two modes of expression of the same essence.
- If you wish to comprehend me, imagine yourself and all the letters, and the words small and big, and then say Dot. That, in its totality, is the essence of my self, and my self is the essence of all that. But your self is the totality of that essence. The totality of my essence and yours. However there is no you and no they. I am the whole. Yet there is no I and no you and no they and no one and no two and no three. There is nothing else but the one dot. In it there is no comprehension and no understanding for those like you. [Only] if you were to change from your clothes into my clothes you would know all that I know, and witness all that I witness, and hear all that I hear, and see all that I see.
- Although this existence may appear multiple
By your lives! Nothing is in it except you.
- The indestructible is one thing; at one and the same time it is each individual, and it is something common to all; hence the uniquely indissoluble connection among mankind.
- I propose an idealist ontology that makes sense of reality in a more parsimonious and empirically rigorous manner than mainstream physicalism, bottom-up panpsychism, and cosmopsychism. The proposed ontology also offers more explanatory power than these three alternatives, in that it does not fall prey to the hard problem of consciousness, the combination problem, or the decombination problem, respectively. It can be summarized as follows: there is only cosmic consciousness. We, as well as all other living organisms, are but dissociated alters of cosmic consciousness, surrounded by its thoughts. The inanimate world we see around us is the extrinsic appearance of these thoughts. The living organisms we share the world with are the extrinsic appearances of other dissociated alters.
- The brain isn't the cause of experience for the same reason that lightning isn't the cause of atmospheric electric discharge, or that flames aren't the cause of combustion. Just as flames are but the image of the process of combustion, the body-brain system is but the image of localized experience in the stream of universal consciousness.
- "You've proved that you exist," I said, "but in a dream everyone I meet is myself! Behind your face am I, dreaming I am you, encountering myself in a dream not as self but other. I don't know how or why but that's the only sober explanation. I am I and I am you, why not? If a mind can divide itself into subject and object—as it must to make experience possible—why not into subject and subject? That's what you proved. Not that you are Descartes. That I am more than one self!" [...] "I am here, I am I and I am there, I am you. I could of course be mistaken—you might be only an apparition, an empty mask—but you've given me sufficient reason to believe I am there behind your imaginary eyes, masked from myself. I am not one self in one world but many selves in many worlds, the universe within."
- "I pondered the age-old questions, you know, why does God permit war? Why does God permit injustice? The problem of injustice seemed worse even than the problem of war. I thought about it and thought about it until one day it just hit me, the proverbial flash of inner light in which a solution appeared to me out of the blue. We are all the same person.
It was so amazingly simple! There is only one of us. I am you and I am Christ and I am Hitler and I am everybody. There is no injustice in the world. Your suffering is my suffering. The problem of war will end when you realize that in killing me you are only killing yourself."
- "His name was Ibn Rushd. You know him as Averroes. He passed his exams and went on to argue that the world is the living mind of God. What is true here in this dream and what you thought was true when you were twelve years old Averroes claimed is true of everyone everywhere. God is the dreamer. God is everyone. The identity of God and the world is mirrored in the world by the numerical identity of all conscious beings. All souls are one soul, the soul of God, who in order to make the world real must make a labyrinth which even God cannot solve, you see? The world and each life breath of consciousness within us becomes unknowable and unknown... and therefore real. [...] "The same things aren't known by all minds even though they are the same consciousness in action because the passive intellect differentiates us—you are over there seeing and thinking your perceptions and thoughts, I am over here seeing and thinking mine. The passive intellect is not immortal. It dies. The active intellect, consciousness is not only immortal but everywhere identical, the subject of each and every world, one being manifested in all of us—like an actor who unbeknownst to himself plays simultaneously all parts on the stage of the world."
- "But if it were true that we are all the same person," I said, "wouldn't everybody already know it, believe it? Why would you or I or anyone else have to say it, argue for it? Why not let it come to everyone, not from one self to another, but on its own?"
"As it would to a child, you mean—by direct revelation?" [...] "Look, why did you believe in that earlier dream that you were not—and could not be anyone other than Descartes? Why would you then have considered it as absurd to suppose that you are a young man living in the 20th century named Daniel Kolak? Because you did not then remember Kolak! You see what we have learned here?" [...] "Our method of self-knowledge is false. On the basis of who we think we are we think we know who we are not But how do we know we are not Socrates, Plato... Mersenne, Helen of Troy, or anyone and everyone else who has ever existed? We think we are not them because we don't remember having been them. As if memory were a metaphysical boundary between identity and nonidentity." [...] "Because we have not anyone else's memories we believe we are not them; we think we are correct, that we are no one else other than who we are. But even if we are correct and our beliefs are true it is for the wrong reason and that is what we cannot see, not ever, because we are intoxicated by our identification with memory, blinded by our own presence in the world." [...] "Each self is obscured from all the others by the subject as surely as the noonday sun obscures the moon and stars."
- In that lucid moment I realized, too, that I was a blank fact, as empty and certain as a tautology, no less necessary, full of everything: I am I. Even if I am not Descartes and all this, too, is but a dream dreamt by someone else, I am then that other someone, that one, I am not nothing: I am the hollow nothing, in everything, I am you.
- Perhaps I am already in the grave. Or perhaps I will meet myself momentarily in your mirror. But even if I see myself in your eyes still I know I will again as I must forget who I am.
- To distinguish it from the traditional, commonsense view of personal identity according to which we are each a separately existing person numerically identical to ourselves over time—i.e., that personal identity is closed under our known individuating and identifying borders, what I call The Closed Individual View of Personal Identity, or simply Closed Individualism for short—I call my view The Open Individual View of Personal Identity, or simply Open Individualism for short. I argue for Open Individualism by showing the grave conceptual difficulties in supposing that traditional Closed Individualism is true, difficulties which point collectively in one of two new directions: either there exist no continuously existing, self-identical persons over time in the sense ordinarily understood—the sort of view developed by philosophers as diverse as Buddha, Hume and most recently Derek Parfit, what I call The Empty Individual View of Personal Identity, or simply Empty Individualism for short—or else you are identical to everyone. As so often in life, either we get too much or not enough: everyone or no one. Contrary to popular belief, Closed Individualism is not even a coherent view; the two coherent views are Empty Individualism and Open Individualism. Of the two, Open Individualism is the better view. Open Individualism is the best explanation of who we are.
- The central thesis of I Am You—that we are all the same person—is apt to strike many readers as obviously false or even absurd. How could you be me and Hitler and Gandhi and Jesus and Buddha and Greta Garbo and everybody else in the past, present and future? In this book I explain how this is possible. Moreover, I show that this is the best explanation of who we are for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that it provides the metaphysical foundations for global ethics.
- Borders enclose and separate us. We assign to them tremendous significance. Along them we draw supposedly uncrossable boundaries within which we believe our individual identities begin and end, erecting the metaphysical dividing walls that enclose each one of us into numerically identical, numerically distinct, entities: persons. Do the borders between us merit the metaphysical significance ordinarily accorded to them? They do not. Our borders do not signify boundaries between persons. We are all the same person. "How many persons are there in the world?" To ask this question is to acknowledge our borders. To answer "one," as I do, is not to deny our borders but merely to deny their significance—to deny that our borders are absolute metaphysical boundaries.
- I claim that the borders between us are more like borders between oceans than like the borders between pebbles or lakes and though we can for practical and social purposes use them to draw boundaries between us, the boundaries we draw—on a deeper level—do not really matter, in the sense that they do not track any deep metaphysical truths about the nature of persons. The boundaries we draw along the borders between us exist only in our maps of ourselves, not in ourselves as we are: personal identity is not border-bound.
- To distinguish it both from Closed and Empty Individualism, according to both of which personal identity is closed under known individuating borders, I call my view the Open Individual View of Personal Identity or, more simply, Open Individualism. According to Open Individualism, then, personal identity is not closed under known borders of individuation and identification.
- Part of the argument for Open Individualism is that an at least equally plausible response to fission is (contra Parfit) that identity is what matters in survival and that (contra Nozick) identity is an intrinsic relation such that (contra not only to both Parfit and Nozick but also contra their critics) a person can survive with identity because personal identity is not bound by individuating borders, such that a person is capable of existing simultaneously at more than one place at a time, independently experiencing each independently conscious point of view.
- Although Open Individualism can, as I have tried to show, be reasonably believed to be the truth about us, it is not the only reasonable view. Traditional Closed Individualism, as espoused by common sense is, as I have argued, not a reasonably believable view. Empty Individualism, on the other hand, especially as espoused by Buddha, Hume and Parfit, is a reasonably believable view.
- For millennia we have looked to each other in building unities outside ourselves. We have turned to each other or against each other but always outside ourselves, mending our walls, building bigger and better external unities: racial unity, social unity, national unity, religious unity, economic unity, political unity... external unities erected by individuals imposing order upon individuals from the outside. Rarely have we turned to ourselves, inwardly, looking not to impose but to expose unity from within. Perhaps this is because we believe looking inwardly draws us only further apart from each other and that for unity to emerge from within would be impossible. Unity must be imposed from the outside. Exposed from within only chaos would emerge.
Looking inward we have looked not far enough and if and when we do we shall find common ground in the subject-in-itself, the I, a basis not for political, economic, religious, national, social, racial, or any sort of externally imposed unity, but an inner unity that makes such external impositions of unity superfluous.
Open Individualism does not remove our dividing walls. It shows us how to build better lives.
- Daniel Kolak, I Am You, The Metaphysical Foundations for Global Ethics (2004), pp. 601–602 ISBN 978-1402029998
- Open Individualism thus at least on an initial analysis into the moral arena presents us with a scenario in which the one person who is everyone seems to be a far cry from anything like a perfect being. On the contrary. It is a Being that can be seen in some ways as being at least as sick—as mentally ill—as it is powerful and, in other ways, as it is wondrously benevolent. It is only intermittently conscious and that only in its lower, not higher, cognitive functions. In many ways it is like an unimaginably brilliant and precocious child with a variety of horrible disorders that even with all its intelligence it can barely begin to understand—from autisms and agnosias to paranoias and schizophrenias, coupled with extreme savantism.
- Daniel Kolak, I Am You, The Metaphysical Foundations for Global Ethics (2004), pp. 604–605 ISBN 978-1402029998
- On the death of any living creature the spirit returns to the spiritual world, the body to the bodily world. In this however only the bodies are subject to change. The spiritual world is one single spirit who stands like unto a light behind the bodily world and who, when any single creature comes into being, shines through it as through a window. According to the kind and size of the window less or more light enters the world. The light itself however remains unchanged.
- The person is merely the result of a misunderstanding. In reality, there is no such thing. Feelings, thoughts and actions race before the watcher in endless succession, leaving traces in the brain and creating an illusion of continuity. A reflection of the watcher in the mind creates the sense of "I" and the person acquires an apparently independent existence. In reality there is no person, only the watcher identifying himself with the "I" and the "mine".
- Take the idea "I was born". You may take it to be true. It is not. You were not born, nor will you ever die. It is the idea that was born and shall die, not you. By identifying yourself with it you became mortal.
- As an 'I am' you are the river, flowing between the banks of the body. But you are also the source and the ocean and the clouds in the sky. Wherever there is life and consciousness, you are. Smaller than the smallest, bigger than the biggest, you are, while all else appears.
- Look upon and treat others as you do your own hands, your own eyes, your very heart and soul—with infinite care and compassion—as suffering and enjoying members of the same Great Being with yourself. This is the spirit of the ideal universe—the spirit of your own being. It is this alone that can redeem this world, and give to it the peace and harmony for which it longs.
- Act toward others as you would act toward a part of your own self is, it seems to me, the plainest and truest and the most comprehensive and useful rule of conduct ever formulated on this earth. It is the expression of balanced egoism and altruism. It is the soul of sympathy and oneness. It may be called the Law of the Larger Self. It is the extension of the regard which we have for ourselves to those below, above, and around us. It is simply the law of the individual organism widened to apply to the Sentient Organism. It is the message which is destined in time to come to redeem this world from the primal curse of selfishness. It is the dream which has been dreamed by the great teachers of the past independently of each other, merely by observing the actions of men and thinking what rule if followed would cure the wrongs and sufferings of this world.
- We are all One. There are no "others." There is only One. That One is The Sentient World. The Self includes all that feels. "Others," so-called, have come from the same great womb as we have, have grown up in the same world conditions, and been freighted with like susceptibilities. Each of us is a cell in the gigantic Organism of Life. The parts come and go, but the Great Being is immortal.
- We aren't others if we be defined as our spatio-temporal characteristics, but we are others in our pure existence and in our function of consciousness itself. These are perfectly preserved in others, and this fact is a fundamental requisite for our own conscious experience in time.
- Jonatas Müller, "Universal Identity" (2013)
- It is a deep truth that all of a person's life [i.e., over time] is as much his life. If we are impressed by this truth—by the unity of each life—the boundaries between lives will seem to be deeper. This supports the claim that, in the moral calculus, these boundaries cannot be crossed. On the [Empty Individual] View, we are less impressed by this truth. We regard the unity of each life as, in its nature, less deep, and as a matter of degree. We may therefore think the boundaries between lives to be less like those between, say, the squares on a chess-board, dividing what is all pure white from what is all jet black. We may think these boundaries to be more like those between different countries they may then seem less morally important [...] If some unity is less deep, so is the corresponding disunity. The fact that we live different lives is the fact that we are not the same person. If the fact of personal identity is less deep, so is the fact of non-identity. There are not two different facts here, one of which is less deep on the [Extreme Separatist] View, while the other remains as deep. There is merely one fact, and this fact's denial. The separateness of persons is the denial that we are all the same person. If the fact of personal identity is less deep, so is this fact's denial.
- Derek Parfit, Reasons and Persons (1984), p. 339
- My ethical sympathies lie with open individualism; but as it stands, I don’t see how a monopsychist theory of identity can be true. Open or closed individualism might (tenuously) be defensible if we were electrons (cf. One-electron universe - Wikipedia). However, sentient beings are qualitatively and numerically different. For example, the half-life of a typical protein in the brain is an estimated 12–14 days. Identity over time is a genetically adaptive fiction for the fleetingly unified subjects of experience generated by the CNS of animals evolved under pressure of natural selection (cf. Was Parfit correct we're not the same person that we were when we were born?). Even memory is a mode of present experience. Both open and closed individualism are false.
- We are all one among the Sisters of the Veil. Where one falls, another rises.
- Strangers passing in the street
By chance two separate glances meet
And I am you and what I see is me
- Pink Floyd, "Echoes" from Meddle (1971)
- Ergo no single story can be told because there is never just one [...] for it is only the single observer who can create wholecloth reality from piecemeal particles—the singular consciousness in all its individual multiplicity transforms the multiplicity of the quantum flux.
- Vanessa Place, "The Two Thieves", Quantum Narratology Panel at AWP, Chicago, IL. (2009)
- [T]here is no absolute duality between myself and someone else. My being encodes theirs, and theirs mine. Each plays north pole to the other's south. The value, then, is not relative to an individual agent. As far as peace of mind goes, my relation to your interests is the same as my relation to my own—or better: we both have an interest in our common interest. This is not, note, to say that I should be compassionate simply as a matter of self-interest (as, maybe, for Hobbes). The Net of Indra undercuts the very nature of the distinction between self-interest and other-interest.
- Graham Priest, One: Being an Investigation into the Unity of Reality and of its Parts, including the Singular Object which is Nothingness (2014), p. 233
- In this way I suggest to you the proof which a rigid analysis of the logic of our most commonplace thought would give for the doctrine that in the world there is but one Self, and that it is his world which we all alike are truly meaning, whether we talk of one another or of Cromwell's character or of the fixed stars or of the far-off aeons of the future.
- I think of consciousness as a point, an "eye," that moves about in a sort of mental space. All thoughts are already there in this multi-dimensional space, which we might as well call the Mindscape. Our bodies move about in the physical space called the Universe; our consciousnesses move about in the mental space called the Mindscape. Just as we all share the same Universe, we all share the same Mindscape. For just as you can physically occupy the same position in the Universe that anyone else does, you can, in principle, mentally occupy the same state of mind or position in the Mindscape that anyone else does. It is, of course, difficult to show someone exactly how to see things your way, but all of mankind's cultural heritage attests that this is not impossible.
- Rudy Rucker, Infinity and the Mind: The Science and Philosophy of the Infinite (1982), pp. 35–36
- A person can describe his actions and personality only as an almost random multitude of particulars, even though the most primal datum of consciousness is unity.
- I asked Gödel if he believed there is a single Mind behind all the various appearances and activities of the world. He replied that, yes, the Mind is the thing that is structured, but that the Mind exists independently of its individual properties. I then asked if he believed that the Mind is everywhere, as opposed to being localized in the brains of people. Gödel replied, "Of course. This is the basic mystic teaching."
- The Truth is yourself, but not your mere bodily self.
Your real self is higher than 'you' and 'me.'
This visible 'you' which you fancy to be yourself
Is limited in place, the real 'you' is not limited.
Why, O pearl, linger you trembling in your shell?
Esteem not yourself mere sugar-cane, but real sugar.
This outward 'you' is foreign to your real 'you;'
Cling to your real self, quit this dual self.
- Rumi, The Masnavi (1258–1273)
- One, who is eager to realize this highest truth spoken of in the Sruti, should rise above the fivefold form of desire: for a son, for wealth, for this world and the next, and are the outcome of a false reference to the Self of Varna (castes, colors, classes) and orders of life. These references are contradictory to right knowledge, and reasons are given by the Srutis regarding the prohibition of the acceptance of difference. For when the knowledge that the one non-dual Atman (Self) is beyond phenomenal existence is generated by the scriptures and reasoning, there cannot exist a knowledge side by side that is contradictory or contrary to it.
- Adi Shankara, Upadesasahasri 1.44
- I am other than name, form and action.
My nature is ever free!
I am Self, the supreme unconditioned Brahman.
I am pure Awareness, always non-dual.
- Adi Shankara, Upadesasahasri 11.7
- On the level of the body I am your servant.
On the level of the soul I am your lover.
On the level of the Self I am you.
- We saw earlier that hatred and malice are conditioned by egoism and that these are based on cognition caught up in the principium individuationis [the principle of individuation]. We also found that seeing through that principium individuationis is the origin and essence both of justice and, when it goes further, of love and nobility at the very highest levels. By eradicating the distinction between one's own individual and that of others, this is the only thing that makes possible and explains perfect dispositional goodness that goes as far as the most disinterested love and the most generous self-sacrifice for the sake of others.
But if this seeing through the principium individuationis, this immediate cognition of the identity of the will in all of its appearances, is present at a high degree of clarity, then it will at once show an even greater influence on the will. If the veil of maya, the principium individuationis, is lifted from a human being's eyes to such an extent that he no longer makes the egoistic distinction between his person and that of others, but rather takes as much interest in the sufferings of other individuals as he does in his own, and is not only exceedingly charitable but is actually prepared to sacrifice his own individual as soon as several others can be saved by doing so, then it clearly follows that such a human being, who recognizes himself, his innermost and true self in all beings, must also regard the endless suffering of all living things as his own, and take upon himself the pain of the whole world. No suffering is foreign to him anymore.
- Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation (1818), Book 4, § 68
- The view of things [...] that all plurality is only apparent, that in the endless series of individuals, passing simultaneously and successively into and out of life, generation after generation, age after age, there is but one and the same entity really existing, which is present and identical in all alike; — this theory [...] may be carried back to the remotest antiquity. It is the alpha and omega of the oldest book in the world, the sacred Vedas, whose dogmatic part, or rather esoteric teaching, is found in the Upanishads. There, in almost every page this profound doctrine lies enshrined; with tireless repetition, in countless adaptations, by many varied parables and similes it is expounded and inculcated.
- Individuation is merely an appearance, born of Space and Time; the latter being nothing else than the forms under which the external world necessarily manifests itself to me, conditioned as they are by my brain's faculty of perception. Hence also the plurality and difference of individuals is but a phaenomenon, that is, exists only as my mental picture. My true inmost being subsists in every living thing, just as really, as directly as in my own consciousness it is evidenced only to myself. This is the higher knowledge: for that which there is in Sanskrit the standing formula, tat tvam asi, that art thou.
- For just as in dreams, all the persons that appear to us are but the masked images of ourselves; so in the dream of our waking life, it is our own being which looks on us from out our neighbours' eyes, though this is not equally easy to discern. Nevertheless, tat tvam asi.
- To the one type, humanity is a non-ego; to the other, "myself once more."
- That which knows all things and is known by none is the subject. It is accordingly the supporter of the world, the universal condition of all that appears, of all objects, and it is always presupposed; for whatever exists, exists for the subject. Everyone finds himself as this subject, yet only in so far as he knows, not in so far as he is object of knowledge.
- Arthur Schopenhauer, The World As Will and Representation Vol. I and II (1844), trans. E. F. J. Payne, 1958, p. 5
- The moral virtues, hence justice and philanthropy, if pure, spring, as I have shown, from the fact that the will-to-live, seeing through the principium individuationis, recognizes itself again in all its phenomena.
- Arthur Schopenhauer, The World As Will and Representation Vol. I and II (1844), trans. E. F. J. Payne, 1958, p. 606
- Our aversion to that colossal thought will grow less if we remember that the subject of the great dream of life is in a certain sense only one thing, the will-to-live, and that all plurality of phenomena is conditioned by time and space. It is the great dream that is dreamed by that one entity, but in such a way that all its persons dream it together.
- Arthur Schopenhauer, Parerga and Paralipomena (1851), trans. E. F. J. Payne, 2000, p. 220
- The one all-highest Godhead
Subsisting in each being
And living when they perish—
Who this has seen, is seeing.
For he who has that highest God in all things found,
That man will of himself upon himself inflict no wound.
- Erwin Schrödinger, quoting from Vedanta or the Bhagavad Gita, My View of the World (1951)
- No self is of itself alone. It has a long chain of intellectual ancestors. The "I" is chained to ancestry by many factors [...] This is not mere allegory, but an eternal memory.
- Erwin Schrödinger, Writings of July 1918, quoted by Walter Moore in A Life of Erwin Schrödinger (1994)
- Multiplicity is only apparent, in truth, there is only one mind.
- Consciousness is never experienced in the plural, only in the singular. Not only has none of us ever experienced more than one consciousness, but there is also no trace of circumstantial evidence of this ever happening anywhere in the world. If I say that there cannot be more than one consciousness in the same mind, this seems a blunt tautology — we are quite unable to imagine the contrary.
- Erwin Schrödinger, "The Oneness of Mind", as translated in Quantum Questions: Mystical Writings of the World's Great Physicists (1984) edited by Ken Wilber
- It is not possible that this unity of knowledge, feeling and choice which you call your own should have sprung into being from nothingness at a given moment not so long ago; rather this knowledge, feeling, and choice are essentially eternal and unchangeable and numerically one in all men, nay in all sensitive beings. But not in this sense — that you are a part, a piece, of an eternal, infinite being, an aspect or modification of it [...] For we should then have the same baffling question: which part, which aspect are you? what, objectively, differentiates it from the others? No, but, inconceiveable as it seems to ordinary reason, you — and all other conscious beings as such — are all in all. Hence, this life of yours [...] is, in a certain sense, the whole [...] This, as we know, is what the Brahmins express in that sacred, mystic formula [...] 'Tat tvam asi' — this is you. Or, again, in such words as 'I am in the east and in the west, I am below and above, I am this whole world.' Thus you can throw yourself flat on the ground, stretched out upon Mother Earth, with certain conviction that you are one with her and she with you … For eternally and always there is only now, one and the same now; the present is the only thing that has no end.
- Erwin Schrödinger, "The Mystic Vision" as translated in Quantum Questions: Mystical Writings of the World's Great Physicists (1984) edited by Ken Wilber
- The world is given to me only once, not one existing and one perceived. Subject and object are only one. The barrier between them cannot be said to have broken down as a result of recent experience in the physical sciences, for this barrier does not exist.
- Erwin Schrödinger, Mind and Matter (1958)
- Vedanta teaches that consciousness is singular, all happenings are played out in one universal consciousness and there is no multiplicity of selves.
- Erwin Schrödinger, My View of the World (1951)
- The only possible alternative is simply to keep to the immediate experience that consciousness is a singular of which the plural is unknown; that there is only one thing and that what seems to be a plurality is merely a series of different aspects of this one thing, produced by a deception (the Indian Maya); the same illusion is produced in a gallery of mirrors, and in the same way Gaurisankar and Mt Everest turned out to be the same peak seen from different valleys.
- In Kolak's view, what I call 'my' subjective experience and what you call 'your' subjective experience are indeed the subjective experience of one and the same consciousness. He uses Nozick's concept of philosophical explanation to show how each and every apparent boundary (i.e. personal identity begins and ends there) between us is best viewed as a border; moreover, he argues in each case that unless we so view it there are no continuously existing persons identical to themselves over time, leading to one of the empty individualist views. Thus, although he leaves room for either an open or empty individualist view, he argues in the end that open individualism is ultimately better because it provides the metaphysical foundations for global ethics.
- Jure Zovko, "Metaphysics as Interpretation of Conscious Life: Some Remarks on D. Henrich's and D. Kolak's Thinking", Synthese, Vol. 162, Iss. 3 (2008), p. 435
- [T]he subtle implication—nowhere made explicit in Kolak's view, for he seems intent on leaving room even for his Empty Individualist critics—is that ultimately Open Individualism is not just the best explanation of who we are but, covertly, necessary.
- Jure Zovko, "Metaphysics as Interpretation of Conscious Life: Some Remarks on D. Henrich's and D. Kolak's Thinking", Synthese, Vol. 162, Iss. 3 (2008), p. 437
- The conventional interpretation of reincarnation makes the mistake of assuming the existence of time, and yet this assumption is based on a valid intuition. We do not reincarnate in time, and yet each of our minds, and all the minds of those who have lived before us, is born from a single mind, of which it is an extension. We are literally each other. Each of us is the outer face, or the objectification, of the only mind there is, eternal, infinite consciousness. We are all mirrors of the same consciousness.
- Rupert Spira, The Nature of Consciousness: Essays on the Unity of Mind and Matter (2017)
- [W]hat looks forth from another’s eyes, what feels itself in the writhing of a worm, what perhaps throbs with felt if dim emotion within an electron, is really that very thing which, when speaking through my lips, calls itself 'I'.
- The true I—thou relation for this philosophy comes with the recognition that the thou is oneself.
- For there is a sense in which we are not just contained within the Absolute, but the Absolute exists in each of us. For the essence of the Absolute is intense consciousness, and something of that intense consciousness is present in each of us. Thus the same spiritual essence is present in every person and ultimately in everything. That is why we should have a loving, or at the least a benevolent, attitude to others so far as we can, because we are not fundamentally separate beings. Immorality stems from thinking that our own experiences are real in a sense in which the experiences of others are not, from which it follows that they do not have that real goodness and badness which ours often do.
- Timothy Sprigge, The God of Metaphysics (2006), p. 515
- If we make use of the philosopher's distinction between the pure ego and the empirical ego, then what follows from this argument is that there exists a multiplicity of empirical egos in the universe, but that there can be only one pure ego. Hence the mystic who has reached what seems at first to be his own private pure ego has in fact reached the pure ego of the universe, the pure cosmic ego.
- Walter Terence Stace, Mysticism and philosophy (1960)
- You are me and I am you
I’ll always be with you
- 'Do you now understand,' continued the old man, 'that Lailie is you, and the warriors you put to death were you also? And not the warriors only, but the animals which you slew when hunting and ate at your feasts, were also you. You thought life dwelt in you alone, but I have drawn aside the veil of delusion, and have let you see that by doing evil to others you have done it to yourself also. Life is one in them all, and yours is but a portion of this same common life. And only in that one part of life that is yours, can you make life better or worse—increasing or decreasing it. You can only improve life in yourself by destroying the barriers that divide your life from that of others, and by considering others as yourself, and loving them. By so doing you increase your share of life. You injure your life when you think of it as the only life, and try to add to its welfare at the expense of other lives. By so doing you only lessen it. To destroy the life that dwells in others is beyond your power. The life of those you have slain has vanished from your eyes, but is not destroyed. You thought to lengthen your own life and to shorten theirs, but you cannot do this. Life knows neither time nor space. The life of a moment, and the life of a thousand years: your life, and the life of all the visible and invisible beings in the world, are equal. To destroy life, or to alter it, is impossible; for life is the one thing that exists. All else, but seems to us to be.'
- [O]rdinarily, and in most philosophical works, too, we take it that each individual experience is perfectly private to, or is enjoyed only by, just that very individual [...]. But, for both so many philosophers and so many philosophically innocent thinkers, that may be no more than an enormously widespread and deeply ingrained error. In point of fact, the real situation may be that each of these experientially similar individuals is similarly related to the very same single experience [...] with me and all my overlappers, it really may be that each of us is having—in the way of having quite peculiar to experiences—on and the same individual experience.
- Peter Unger, All the Power in the World (2006), pp. 392–393
- This (self) was indeed Brahman in the beginning; It knew only Itself as, "I am Brahman". Therefore It became all; and whoever among the gods knew It also became That; and the same with sages and me.
- Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 1.4.10
- In mind, this is to be noted: there is no plurality here whatever; he who sees any plurality here is ensnared from death to death.
- Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 4.4.19
- As the various rivers which flow into the ocean and become the ocean itself, losing their individuality they know not that, "I'm this river", "I'm that river". Likewise though all creatures here in this world have come forth from Being they do not know that they have come forth from Being.
- Tat Tvam Asi (You are that).
- Changoya Upanishad, 6.8.7
- Those who partake the nature of the Asuras [evil], are enveloped in blind darkness, and that is where they reside who ignore their Atman [Self]. For liberation, know your Atman, which is motionless yet faster than mind, it is distant, it is near, it is within all, it is without all this. It is all prevading. And he who beholds all beings in the Self, and the Self in all beings, he never turns away from it [the Self].
- Isha Upanishad, Hymns 2-6
- One who sees all beings in the self alone, and the self of all beings,
feels no hatred by virtue of that understanding.
For the seer of oneness, who knows all beings to be the self,
where is delusion and sorrow?
- Isha Upanishad, Hymns 6-7
- When to a man who understands,
the Self has become all things,
what sorrow, what trouble can there be,
to him who beholds that unity.
- Isha Upanishad, Hymn 7
- The knowing Self is not born; It does not die. It has not sprung from anything; nothing has sprung from It. Birthless, eternal, everlasting, and ancient, It is not killed when the body is killed.
- Katha Upanishad, 1.2.18
- The wise man, having realized Atman as dwelling within impermanent bodies but itself bodiless, vast, and all-pervading, does not grieve.
- Katha Upanishad, 1.2.22
- As long as you think you are the ego, you suffer attachment and endless sorrow. But, realising you are the Self, limitless consciousness, you are freed from sorrow. When you realise you are the Self, the supreme source of love, you transcend the duality of life and enjoy the unitative state of non-duality.
- Let us know that highest great lord of lords, the highest deity of deities, the master of masters,
his high power is revealed as manifold, as inherent, acting as force and knowledge.
There is no master of his in the world, no ruler of his, not even a sign of him,
He is the cause, the lord of the lords of the organs, and there is of him neither parent nor lord.
He is the one God, hidden in all beings, all-pervading, the self within all beings,
watching over all works, dwelling in all beings, the witness, the perceiver, the only one, free from qualities.
The wise who perceive Him dwelling within their self, to them belongs eternal happiness and serenity, not to others,
He who knows this God as primal cause, through Sāṁkhya (reason, reflection) and Yoga (self-discipline), achieves Mukti (freedom, moksha).
- Shvetashvatara Upanishad, 6.7–6.13
- [F]or there is but one monad, mind, which is in all things; monad has no plural.
- Friedrich Theodor Vischer, Kritische Gäuge, II, 249, Verlag der Weissen Bücher (2nd ed., Leipzig, 1914)
- "My real pleasure was never in earthly things — in husband, wife, children, and other things. For I am like the infinite blue sky: clouds of many colours pass over it and play for a second; they move off, and there is the same unchangeable blue. Happiness and misery, good and evil, may envelop me for a moment, veiling the Self; but I am still there. They pass away because they are changeable. I shine, because I am unchangeable. If misery comes, I know it is finite, therefore it must die. If evil comes, I know it is finite, it must go. I alone am infinite and untouched by anything. For I am the Infinite, that Eternal, Changeless Self." — So sings one of our poets.
- Swami Vivekananda, The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda (1907)
- This is the secret of spiritual life: to think that I am the Atman and not the body, and that the whole of this universe with all its relations, with all its good and all its evil, is but as a series of paintings—scenes on a canvas—of which I am the witness.
- Swami Vivekananda, Wisdom of Vivekanand (2009), p. 109
- For every individual is a unique manifestation of the Whole, as every branch is a particular outreaching of the tree. To manifest individuality, every branch must have a sensitive connection with the tree, just as our independently moving and differentiated fingers must have a sensitive connection with the whole body. The point, which can hardly be repeated too often, is that differentiation is not separation.
- Alan Watts, The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are (1966)
- So after you're dead, the only thing that can happen is the same experience, or the same sort of experience of before you were born. In other words, we all know very well that after people die. Other people are born. And they're all you, only you can only experience one at a time. Everybody is I, you all you're you. And wheresoever's beings exist throughout all galaxies it doesn't make a difference. You are all of them and when they come into being as you come into being.
- Alan Watts, "Death: The Essential Lectures of Alan Watts" (1972)
- The thing is that we have been educated to use our minds in a certain way. A way that ignores, or screens out, the fact that every one of us is an aperture through which the whole cosmos looks out. You see, it's as if you had a light covered with a black ball, and in this ball were pinholes, and each pinhole is an aperture through which the light comes out. So in that way, every one of us is, actually, a pinhole through which the fundamental light—that is, the existence itself—looks out. Only, the game we're playing is not to know this. To be only that little hole, which we call "me," "my ego," my specific "John Jones," or whatever.
- [T]he non-locality of vision and language still affords a deeper conception of "We" than the classical I and You. It is I think captured well by Kolak's idea of "Open Individualism," according to which the boundaries between individuals are blurred in much the way as the boundaries between oceans. The North Pacific is not the same as the South Atlantic, but at the level of the shared unconscious we are all part of the (one) ocean, and in intra-action we form temporary unities of consciousness, even if experienced from separate points of view.
- There is really only one world soul [Weltseele], which I for preference call my soul and as which alone I conceive what I call the souls of others.
- Ludwig Wittgenstein, 23 May 1915, Notebooks 1914-1916 (1960)
- There is therefore really a sense in which in philosophy we can talk of a non-psychological I. The I occurs in philosophy through the fact that the "world is my world". The philosophical I is not the man, not the human body or the human soul of which psychology treats, but the metaphysical subject, the limit—not a part of the world.
- Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921), p. 75
- "There is no one else," I said. "In this universe, there's just you and me."
You stared blankly at me. "But all the people on earth…"
"All you. Different incarnations of you."
"Wait. I'm everyone!?"
"Now you're getting it," I said, with a congratulatory slap on the back.
"I'm every human being who ever lived?" "Or who will ever live, yes."
"I'm Abraham Lincoln?"
"And you're John Wilkes Booth, too," I added.
"I'm Hitler?" You said, appalled.
"And you're the millions he killed."
"And you're everyone who followed him."
You fell silent.
"Every time you victimized someone," I said, "you were victimizing yourself.
Every act of kindness you've done, you've done to yourself.
Every happy and sad moment ever experienced by any human was, or will be, experienced by you."
- We might express this as "all persons are I" or rather as "you and I are the same person".
- We must see that all places, times and conscious organisms are equally "this one". For a failure to see this must distort our view by forcing us to accommodate in it what seems to be our own special objective status; and that awkward accommodation must then ruin any prospect of discovering the truly objective universal principles that govern the world.
- [T]here is only one way we can ever identify ourselves. That is through subjective experience. And subjective experience is universal. Its relation to anything possessing it is contingent. This means two things. First, it makes no sense to think of ourselves as one producer of our experience rather than another that would do as well—actual or possible. We certainly couldn't discriminate one of these from another through our experience anyway. And second, even if this identification had significance, it would gain us nothing because the experience itself, which is all we would have available to us of ourselves, would not cohere subjectively as we have already seen. That a body or mind or self continues on into the future is cold comfort, even if we arbitrarily and ignorantly identify ourselves with some one such particular, if its continuity cannot be translated into the sort of continuity of subjective experience that we can truly possess, where one moment belongs to another. That each of two moment instances somehow belongs to some third thing like a body is not interesting.
- In all conscious life there is only one person—I—whose existence depends merely on the presence of a quality that is inherent in all experience—its quality of being mine, the simple immediacy of it for whatever is having experience. One powerful argument for this is statistical: on the ordinary view of personhood it is an incredible coincidence for you (though not for others) that out of 200,000,000 sperm cells the very one required on each occasion for your future existence was first to the egg in each of the begettings of yourself and all your ancestors. The only view that does not make your existence incredible, and that is not therefore (from your perspective) an incredible view, is that any conscious being would necessarily have been you anyway. It is a consequence that self-interest should extend to all conscious organisms.
- An experience must be a universal across times as well as across brains. This experience of being you, here now, would be numerically the same whenever, as well as wherever, it was realized.
- Think about what you ordinarily would recognize to be 'these experiences', 'mine'. What makes them 'mine' for you? Is it the detail of their content? If the colours you were seeing had been different, would the experiences have failed to be these, yours? Think of all the features of this experience that could be varied while its character of being 'mine' remained untouched. If you had fallen asleep and were now in the midst of a wild dream that had little in common with any of the usual content of your experience, would that experience have therein failed to be experienced as 'mine'? If you had eaten different particular items of food over the past years (as you might so easily have done), so that all the particular atoms in the structure of the body were different in numerical identity from those in your body now, would the experience have failed to have that character of being 'mine'? Must you take care with the particularity of the food that you eat because it is determining the identity of an experiencer, of the subject of self-interest? If the experience were had in a different location, if it were at a different time, would the experience not still have had that same character within it of being this and being mine?
- You possess all conscious life. Whenever in all time and wherever in all the universe (or beyond) any conscious being stands, sits, crawls, jumps, lies, rolls, flies or swims, its experience of doing so is yours and is yours now. You are that being. You are fish and fowl. Deer and hunter. You are saints and sinners. You are Germans, Jews and Palestinians. This is an important result. What else can come close to it in importance? And perhaps the spread of this knowledge among the intelligent beings that are you can help you to stop yourself from hurting yourself because you mistake yourself for another.
- I am countless conscious organisms, but each of these possesses only one package of experiential content, isolated from that of every other. And within any of these packages only that much of the content of experience is displayed as having the quality of immediacy that makes experience be mine. So being mine is naturally confused in each with being the experience of only that organism.
One must be jolted into realising that being mine is instead an abstract quality like being red. And, further, that this is a quality that must pervade all experience. For what could count as experience that didn't have that quality? I hope that I have succeeded now in doing that jolting.
- What makes an experience yours is none of the specification of its content or of the particularity or other properties of its possessor. All that is required for an experience to be yours, to be 'mine', is that it be immediate in its character as its character is experienced within it, that it be first person. My pains are pains that are not remote like those that belong to another. My pains are those that are immediate. They have internality. They are experienced in a first person way. They are subjectively at the center of the world, here in me. But all real pains must be had with this quality of immediacy that makes them 'mine'. What could really be a pain without its thus hurting?
- [M]y self-interest reaches fully into the life of every conscious organism, each of which I equally am, and that the death of any one of these does not annihilate me so long as there still is any other conscious thing anywhere in all reality—since I will be that thing. And every experience in any time is experienced by me with all the same urgency of its happening now. All of it equally is mine and now.
- [I]nflicting pain as retribution for wrongs is a horrible mistake: The person wronged and the person punished are one and the same.