How philosophical idealists, non-materialists and the spiritually-inclined all miss their own mark by constantly talking about energy.
“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 are the imagination of ourselves. Heres Tom with the Weather.” -Bill Hicks
While I have great respect for the genius and works of pioneering comedian Bill Hicks, this quote illustrates the sort of wonky thinking that is nearly inseparable from the types of people seeking new perspectives about reality. If life (reality) is only a dream, a purely mental construct. then there is no energy either.
Energy is a property of matter. When you use the word energy to describe an experience or phenomena outside of materialism and naive realism, you are dragging them right back into it. To say that all we are is energy is to still to say that we are a sum of an objective property.
To borrow terms and concepts from materialism and naive realism, even metaphorically, allegorically or symbolically, drags your thinking right back into those modes. In order to escape the mental habits thrust on us since birth by cultural immersion in materialism and naive realism it is key that you avoid thinking and speaking of phenomena, experiences and minds as though they are objects, or have objective properties. Most people who have tried to escape modern dogmas have failed to do so simply because their thought and language patterns continuously validate the worldview they are trying to look beyond.
Energy itself is an experience we have. Whether that experience correlates to a thing outside of itself is something that we have no way of knowing, since we cannot interact with anything outside of having an experience of it. There is no non-experiential way of interacting with the things we experience, so it requires sketchy assumptions and circular logic to begin from the premises of materialism and naive realism. Energy is no different. While it does often make a convenient metaphor, it is misleading to speak of energy as something that is ‘real’ outside of our experience of it.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are countless ways in which those seeking to escape the prison of certainty and absolutism are prone to revert to it in their thoughts and communications. It takes an extremely concentrated effort to recognize which ideas and statements are intrinsically tied to materialism and naive realism, and an even greater effort to realize when you are doing it yourself, and how it is preventing you from progressing beyond the embedded dogmas of modern western civilization.
Here are a few questions you might ask yourself about an idea or statement to better grasp if it validates that which you are trying to avoid.
- Is there an assumption in here that something would exist if there were no minds to experience it?
- Is there an assumption in here that something is predetermined, and/or that its qualities are absolute, universal and eternal?
- Is there an assumption that other minds are experiencing the same things in the same ways?
- Is there an implication that other minds should think and behave accordingly?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, then it might behoove you explore your own reasoning with genuine skepticism and curiosity. Take everything else which you believe to be true and contrast it with the idea or opinion to see if your premises are consistent from top to bottom. And even more importantly, are they more or less likely to encourage the kinds of outcomes you are hoping to achieve? Do they leave open all possibilities that you wish to explore?
Cleaning the detritus of modern reason from the patterns of our daily life is a complex task that will perplex and flummox even the most critical of thinkers. It should come as a welcome challenge to those who wish understand themselves and their experiences at the deepest of levels.
But in the meantime, the next person who says energy to me is going to experience a foot to the root, or a pound to the crown.
If I ever make another chakra joke I promise to surrender my comedic license immediately.
For a more scientific and academically grounded criticism of the ‘everything is energy’ trope check out this article from MultiSenseRealism: Energy Is Not Everything.