Part 2: The Triune Nature of Reality

I believe that one of the reasons that I was drawn to the Assassin’s Creed was because it complimented a theory that I had, the Triune Reality.

The idea is that we inhabit three realities simultaneously:

Objective Reality:  This is the world that is.

“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.” -- Philip K. Dick

Subjective Reality:  This is the world as we perceive or believe it to be.

“We do not see things as they are. We see things as we are.”— Rabbi Shemuel ben Nachmani

Artificial Reality:  The material and social world humans have constructed.

'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
– Percy Shelley

This is not a controversial idea and not very original, however I never see it applied as a defined metaphysical model or carried into everyday life.  It is a simple concept, but like the Creed the ramifications are enormous.

Objective Reality is the world described by science.  The world of math, physics, chemistry, and biology; it is about action and reaction, the laws of thermodynamics and the universal forces, like gravity and electromagnetism.  This is the indifferent universe that is, whether we believe in it or not.

For billions of years Objective Reality ticked along like a clockwork.  Then one day around 500,000 years ago conscious sparked into existence.  Objective Reality produced something aware of itself and with that Subjective Reality was born and multiplied.  Today, there are roughly 7.5 billion unique subjective universes in existence.

Humans view Objective Reality through the lens of perception, constructed of preconceived beliefs, values, and standards of judgement.  This process of perception distorts Objective Reality by imposing meaning on it.  Objective Reality may have innate definition, but it does not have inherent meaning.  A cat by definition is a small, four-legged, carnivorous mammal, but when we see a cat we see whatever meaning we impose upon it, ranging from cute companion to annoying pest.  While definitions are concerned with what a thing is, meaning is about how we feel about the thing.  It’s like the difference between a house and a home.

Take a moment to consider some object that you have never seen or heard about.  You can’t.  Everything you know is a mental representation of things that you have seen or heard about.  Nothing exists for you except that which you can conceive.  Whenever you encounter something new your mind ascribes meaning to it and creates a mental representation of that thing for future reference.  This is the Subjective Reality.

The final reality is Artificial Reality.  The word artificial has come to mean fake, but the original meaning referred to something man-made.  This is the reality humans have created for themselves through their time, energy, skill, and will collectively known as production.  Without production to sustain this world it will collapse and decay back into the Objective Reality from which it came.  There are two forms of Artificial Reality: the material and the social.  The material is the physical object while the social refers to institutions, laws, and other social constructs. 

When the Creed states, “Where other men are limited by morality and law, remember everything is permitted” it is recognizing that morality and law are artificial.  They are human constructs.  True morality is derived from the Objective, as illustrated by the phrase, “the moral is the rational”.

The philosopher Thomas Hobbes observed that life outside society would be 'solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short'.  This could describe life outside Artificial Reality.  This reality uses the Objective and Subjective Realities to create the means to protect ourselves from Objective Reality.  All that Nature demands from us is that we live long enough to procreate.  Objectively speaking, that is the sole purpose of human kind.  If we want more than that, then we need the Artificial to sustain and protect us from Nature. 

This protection from Nature is not equally distributed from person to person.  Since the Artificial is powered by production, those with greater production are afforded greater protection.  The unit of measurement that we use for production is more commonly known as money.  The wealthy never consider the cost of heating their home against Nature’s winter or buying food, while the poor struggle against these Objective Realities.

In introducing the Artificial Reality, I chose to use the quote from Percy Shelly’s poem, Ozymandias.  In the poem, the narrator comes upon a ruin which included a statue fallen from a pedestal bearing the inscription, 'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'  No doubt when first inscribed the phrase was meant to impress and intimidate the reader standing amidst his great works, but when set in a ruin it becomes a warning of the impermanence of Artificial Reality.

In Assassin’s Creed Revelations, there is a scene where Ezio tells Sophia that the Creed reminds us that “the foundations of society are fragile.”  This touches on two realities.  The first is the Subjective where the individual subscribes to a shared idea of society, but ideas can change.  For example, currently there is an argument being made that Western Civilization is suicidal and the cause is that its people believe that it is evil and therefore unfit for existence.   This also pertains to Artificial Reality.  The belief in society motivates its people to produce to sustain its material and social foundations without which society will collapse and we join Ozymandias in oblivion.

The Creed is not a denial of Objective Reality.  It does however recognise that what passes for “truth” in most circles is either Subjective Reality or the transitory Artificial Reality.  To say, “Nothing is true, everything is permitted” is also to ask the questions, “Is this true and is this permitted?” 

In Assassin’s Creed Black Flag, Mary Read says that the Creed does not command us to act or submit, but only to be wise.  Wisdom is found in being able to align the three realities.  To be able to distinguish between that which is Objective truth, Subjective interpretation or imposed meaning, and Artificial constructs being taken for granted.  Far from denying Truth, the Creed encourages the pursuit of the Objective Truth.

The following is a video that I created in June 2010 to describe this theory.

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