Is the universe objective or subjective?

Knowledge can never be created, it can only be discovered.

CW: Vol. 7; Inspired Talks; Recorded by Miss S. E. Waldo


This remark by Swami Vivekananda points to a profound reality. Is the universe objective or subjective? Put another way, is the universe “out there”, or is the universe only a product of the mind – “in here”?

Vedanta in its highest and purest form says that the universe is wholly subjective – a projection of an infinite consciousness we call God. Our own individual selves are also projections of this same consciousness from a specific point of view – as understood by our individual egos or identities.

In this standpoint, all knowledge already exists, in that it is born of that infinite consciousness. And all that we do, when we say we learn, is to discover this already existent knowledge, born of the infinite consciousness.

A second viewpoint to look at this statement is the idea that each individual soul is nothing but the Infinite Atman, covered by layers of ignorance. As we remove each layer of ignorance – each “veil” – a higher or more complete truth is revealed to us.

As we continue this journey of removing veil after veil of ignorance, we ‘discover’ more and more of the truth. When we have removed all veils and have realized the Atman, we are now in touch with, or have discovered that which is Infinite and Eternal (the “Ancient One” as some verses in the Upanishads call it).

By its very definition – all knowledge already resides in that which is both infinite and timeless (eternal). Thus, we can discover all knowledge as we remove all the veils of ignorance.

Both these viewpoints lead us to the same conclusion. In the first viewpoint, we begin with postulating an infinite consciousness of which we are a part. In the second viewpoint, we begin by postulating an infinite Atman that reveals itself as an individual soul by covering itself up with a veil of ignorance.