Do Beliefs Create Reality?
I spend a lot of time thinking about beliefs. They’re such a worthwhile consideration to me because of how monumental they are in the choices people make. But frequently our beliefs are so foundational to our experiences that we don’t question or even see them once we’ve adopted them.
Things I experienced during my childhood imprinted me with an imperative to understand what beliefs are. As a Jehovah’s Witness, I was surrounded by people who believed that the world was going to end at any minute. Long-term thinking was never valued or encouraged. No one went to college or made other preparations for the future. It was pointless to learn about money and how to use it wisely. Setting goals for my life was seen as a distraction from the glory of the god who I was told to believe in.
Flourishing on Earth had no value. Our job was to have faith and just believe what we were being told. Our reward was coming after Jehovah destroyed the world.
While growing up in a religious cult is an uncommon and extreme experience, I find value in extremes. Extremes create a stark contrast so that things which are more difficult to see in their milder and more common expressions are more readily apparent.
We live in a culture where accepting the beliefs we’ve been handed by others is often seen as a virtue, but that can be a very damaging thing. How? Because our beliefs are the impetus of the choices we make.
There are extreme beliefs like the ones I was taught growing up, but there are also more common beliefs like the ones that tell us we’re not going to be good at something we’ve never tried before, so we decide to not “waste the time” even trying. There are beliefs like the ones that say someone’s gender or skin color are natural limitations that reveal their inability to do or experience certain things. There are beliefs like we saw in the recent news story about a young man who took an assault rifle to a pizza parlor in Washington, DC because he read it was the headquarters of a sex-trafficking ring led by Hillary Clinton. And there are beliefs like those held by ~180 members of congress who, despite substantial reputable evidence to the contrary, believe that climate change is a hoax.
Considering how many different perspectives and ideas there are, it’s very reasonable to ask whether an objective reality even exists, or if everything is fundamentally subjective and up for interpretation and debate.
We don’t know that we don’t know what we don’t know
By its very nature, perception is subjective. Our perceptions are an inescapable core component of the human experience, so asking people to step back and look critically at something they’ve never not known can be like asking a fish to describe water. If the fish could talk it’d probably say, “Wait, what’s water?”
If everything that we experience is personal and subjective, does that mean that that’s all there is? It’s the classic question about whether or not I can prove that I’m not just a figment of your imagination. The issue with this question, though, is that it’s mixing up a subjective experience with an objective reality and trying to use the first to prove the second. They’re fundamentally different things, and furthermore, an experience can’t be proved.
We can agree that we’ve observed an event, like “that tree over there just fell over” or “the waiter totally just brought us our food,” but we frequently can’t agree on even the most basic aspects of what an experience means to us. This is because nothing has inherent meaning. Whatever meaning a thing has for us is there because we’ve created it.
This can be particularly challenging to see because we’re born into a world that already contains innumerable things that people created before we got here. We learn to accept that we live in a place with borders called “America.” We learn to associate our personal worth with the amount of money we have access to. We learn to accept that youth is beautiful and aging is something to be feared. We learn to accept that we’re capable of some things but “not meant to have” others. Even if on some level we know these are not true, we’re still contending with a tidal wave of pre-fabricated beliefs.
As a brief aside, this is one prime example of how the discovery of Coherence Verification is so remarkably important. It enables us to cut through our stories about a thing and reveal the essential energetic nature of what we’re considering. There is an entirely objective physical phenomenon that happens automatically as our astoundingly powerful brains interact with information energy, which is a fundamental part of the universe’s makeup. Information exists entirely independent of our awareness or definitions of it, so we can utilize the human body to verify whether or not the brain is interfacing with actual information that exists, or something that is originating in our imagination. What’s more, it can be consistently reproduced and observed by anyone who is accurately executing the Coherence Verification test.
Coherence Verification is a massive topic, so we won’t get into that here. If you’re interested in learning more about this (and omg is it worthwhile), I’ve interviewed consciousness researcher Eric Burlingame to really break down the mind-blowing specifics of this field of research. Eric has also been writing quite extensively about it on his blog over at Inception Publishing.
The Misuse of Belief
The universe is an objective place where each of us is having our subjective experiences, but it can still be so hard to truly experience objective reality. How? Well, let’s look at white noise to better understand this.
Underneath all of the noise in the world is a continuous field of silence. Without this silence, we wouldn't be able to hear anything distinct and meaningful, it’d just be a chaotic cacophony of noise. And, this is precisely how white noise is used to mask speech.
You might’ve encountered white noise machines outside of a counselor’s office where it’s used to give privacy to the people talking inside. You might also remember the news story about Hillary Clinton’s team blasting white noise at reporters to mask the content of her fund-raising speech. White noise floods the field of silence by creating sound in all of the frequency bands in the audible sound spectrum, leaving no “empty” spots in the silence for words to acquire distinct identities.
In much the same way that white noise functions, our subjective experiences can be so immersive and bewitching that they drown out the quiet underlying neutrality of events. When we are immersed in a dense swarm of unchecked beliefs, our ability to see the underlying reality is profoundly impaired (if not eliminated entirely).
The human capacity for belief is an immensely powerful ability, and we misuse this powerful ability when we project it outside of ourselves. In that moment we’re demanding that reality change into something other than what it is so that it fits more conveniently into our preferences and ideas of what it “should be.” From this comes a tendency to believe that our subjective beliefs are the “right” ones, which means that others who believe differently become “wrong.”
Believing in our abilities, and the possibilities we represent—individually or collectively—as we work toward making them an actuality, is a constructive use of belief. But imposing our personal preferences onto the world outside of us is a misuse of imagination and belief. Every one of us absolutely has the option to believe anything that we want, but when we insist that what we believe and prefer represents the really real reality of things, we’re wandering into dangerous waters. When taken to common extremes, this is the seed that grows genocide and war.
This is true of both religious and secular beliefs.
By all means, believe that you’re beautiful, valuable, and that your existence is important. Believe that you’re worthy of love, acceptance, and belonging. Believe unapologetically that you are not limited by what others think about you or expect from you. Believe that you and you alone have the power to write the story of your life and decide who you’re going to be. Believe that you are capable of accomplishing virtually anything you set your mind and heart to. Believe that you can, even when others tell you that you can’t.
Each and every one of us is so much more powerful than we generally realize. We have the awesome ability to consciously choose how we’ll define and act on the things that we encounter, and through this act, change our lives and the world we're experiencing.
This is no small feat, but the possibilities inherent in it are immeasurable. And truth be told, you’re so very worth it.
So, back to the question posed in the title of this article: do beliefs create reality? Yes, they create our personal subjective reality, but they do not affect the objective realities of the universe that we all experience and are participating in. Choose your beliefs wisely, create with intention, and just generally kick ass (existentially speaking, of course).