Abstract Phenomena

Posted on April 24, 2014 by Robert Ringer


Autism-spectrum disorders are a result of damage to certain cells in the right hemisphere of the brain.  Among other things, such damage can cause difficulties in the processing of abstract thoughts and ideas.  Which in turn can make life very frustrating for the afflicted individual.

Abstractions play such a major role in day-to-day life that it got me thinking about just how important they are for all of us when it comes to functioning in our modern world.  An abstract is theoretical in nature — i.e., it is not a tangible reality.  It has no form or substance.

Examples of abstractions include such concepts as time, infinity, negative numbers, zero, gravity, motivation, ideas, resourcefulness, love, justice, fairness, dreams, intuition, common sense, conceptualization, and axioms.

Axioms are among the more interesting kinds of abstractions, because even though we rely heavily on them, an axiom cannot be proven.  That’s right — an axiom is an unprovable, though self-evident, truth.

Negative numbers are also fascinating.  A negative number is nothing more than a theoretical supposition — a presumption that it exists, but not in concrete form.  (How can you have minus six oranges?)

One of the most difficult abstract notions to grasp is infinity.  The way we throw the word around, you’d think we have a clear understanding of what it is.  But can we really comprehend what infinity means?  We know that space, time, and numbering are infinite, but they are incomprehensible.

Entire phrases can also be abstract, which presidential hopefuls demonstrate when they use such nonsensical terms as “social consciousness,” “social justice,” and “shared prosperity.”  What in the world do these things mean?  The fact is that they are concepts that can only be defined subjectively.

What I’m driving at here is that we live in an abstract world, a world filled with abstract thought, existence, and causality.  A world where time, being, and substance are not provable.  Yet, through firsthand experience, we can be pretty certain that all of the phenomena mentioned in this article do, in fact, exist.

Which brings me to the phenomenon of the power that flows from thought.  If, through our thoughts, we possess the power to influence the course of our lives, there are two questions that should be of utmost importance to us:  (1) How much potential power do we have to alter events through our thoughts? and (2) How can we best tap into this reservoir of power?

If we do not have the power to manifest our destiny, we are the victims of a bad cosmic joke.  It would mean that our awareness is a Catch-22.  We would be conscious, yes, but conscious of the fact that we are on autopilot and have no say-so in the way our lives play out.  It would be the ultimate nightmare — being conscious of our impotence.

But to me — and, I hope, you — it is obvious that we do have the power to manifest our destiny.  Which brings us to the concept of the “metaphysical world.”  Technically speaking, all the examples I pointed to earlier in this article — time, negative numbers, love, fairness, axioms, and so on — are part of the metaphysical world in that they do not have form or substance.

When people use the term metaphysical world, they generally are referring to more weighty phenomena, such as the soul, afterlife, and — the ultimate abstraction — God.  The problem many have with abstractions such as these is that their existence cannot be proven.

Which is why, from the viewpoint of secular reasoning, none of these things make any sense.  But after you’ve lived on this earth for a while, experience teaches you that there are “reasons beyond reason” for things that have no secular explanation.

As the ultimate abstraction, God certainly falls into this category, which is why it is not surprising that He is the abstraction most often denied.  After all, you cannot see God.  You cannot hear God.  And you certainly have no tangible way of knowing whether God considers an action to be righteous or sinful.

The Dalai Lama sums it up well in The Universe in a Single Atom when he says, “There is a fundamental difference between that which is ‘not found’ and that which is ‘found not to exist.’  If I look for something and fail to find it, that does not mean that the thing I am seeking does not exist.  Not seeing a thing is not the same as seeing its non-existence.”

In other words, there’s a lot more to reality than the material world we are able to see.  Clearly, we ignore intangible realities at our peril.  We cannot see gravity, but firsthand experience teaches us that it would be foolhardy to attempt to defy it.

Results of the Hubble Telescope project have scientifically underscored the Dalai Lama’s position.  Hubble scientists long ago discovered that not only is all matter in the universe moving away from all other matter at unfathomable speeds, but those speeds are actually accelerating.

This indisputable scientific evidence has forced them to conclude that there is an invisible power in the universe — which scientists commonly refer to as “Dark Energy” — that is greater than the gravitational pull of all matter in the universe combined.

It therefore stands to reason that if you are able to tap into this infinite power source — whether you refer to it as God or Dark Energy or anything else — your own power is theoretically unlimited.  And if your power is unlimited, it logically follows that you should be able to have a great deal of control over your destiny.

So, how do you tap into this infinite power source?  I believe you have to make a conscious effort to concentrate on connecting.  This is not a learn-it-once-and-you’ve-got-it-for-life proposition.  It’s a lifetime process, but one that becomes easier with age.

Simply put, you become the product of your most dominant thoughts.  Which is why I believe that the more you think about your connection to the Infinite Power of the Universe, the more power you will have to control your destiny.  Remember, don’t be deceived into believing that something does not exist just because you can’t see it.

Robert Ringer

Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.

17 responses to “Abstract Phenomena”

  1. Rich says:


    I have been reading you for many years, and I must say I truly appreciate your recent change towards the positive and spiritual. There are plenty of folks out there highlighting the failings of others, but few like yourself who can transcend.


  2. Philip Pizzurro says:

    You may not believe in God, and therefore you don't follow God's laws. But when you don't follow God's laws things start to go wrong… like gravity, we cannot see gravity, but firsthand experience teaches us that it would be foolhardy to attempt to defy it.

    Our mission in life is to prepare the way for the next generation. That mean's your knowledge improves because the learning from history is being passed down. As your knowledge improves you gain more power because you are actually getting closer to God.

  3. larajf says:

    Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Love it!

    My daughter was somewhat on the spectrum in the early years. She didn't understand the concept of "in front of" or "behind" It took quite a few years to fill in the gaps with early intervention and other therapies. The most effective, I think, was one-on-one pragmatic language therapy. It helped her to understand facial expressions. If I looked like I was scowling, she thought I was mad. At her. I was relieved when she finally learned it was me with a focused expression because I was writing some code. Now she is truly a happy teenager with a large circle of friends and doing well. Our current school system would have failed her after the early intervention and I worry for the kids whose parents don't think there's anything wrong.

  4. Gary H says:

    No Robert, infinity is very easy to understand. just watch a NASCAR race. Around and around they go. Infinity is boring, huh?

  5. John E. Gabor says:

    God or dark energy. That is profound.

  6. Serge says:

    Scientists, doctors, and engineers probably understand abstract ideas better than most. They must also run across phenomena where they believe in a higher power takes responsibility. For myself, I will continue to enjoy all the abstractions that are around me, from driving my car to the beaches that don't over spill. And I thank God that the sun rises every morning.

  7. Rob Larson says:

    Bravo, Robert! It was this sort of thing that attracted me to your writings in the first place and I’m glad to see a re-emphasis on thinking once again. It’s probably the least taught discipline of our age, but the simple act of thinking (or not) has profound implications for the success or failure of our society. Unfortunately I think that people have been on autopilot for quite some time but remain hopeful that we are seeing a renaissance of reason and rational thinking break out.

  8. Massimo says:

    An opening mind article! I am happy of joining RobertRinger.com site! There is a lot of wisdom and motivation in all the articles! Well done Rob! Keep up with the good job and may God bless you!

  9. Harsman says:

    How to connect to the infinite power is really awesome.

  10. Jean says:

    And as one who doesn’t believe in coincidences, I have little doubt there is reason I read your piece and the following on the same day:


  11. Murray Suid says:

    Robert, your negative number example lost me. "A negative number is nothing more than a theoretical supposition — a presumption that it exists, but not in concrete form. (How can you have minus six oranges?)"

    We can easily envision negative numbers using the reality of debt: If I owe you six oranges, I need to subscript six oranges from my stash in order to properly gauge my wealth as measured by oranges. Moreover, mathematicians agree on how to manipulate negative numbers: add or subtract them, divide or multiple them.

    There is no similar agreed upon method for manipulating God. Some people think that prayer does it; others prefer meditation or certain actions, such as making animal scarifies. But there is no universal system, whereas there is with negative numbers.

    Similarly, although a person can assert that "the more you think about your connection to the Infinite Power of the Universe, the more power you will have to control your destiny" there is no proof of this approach. It probably works for some people, but I don't believe it's universally effective.

    In other words, there is a difference between scientific and spiritual activities. And the difference is significant. For example, religious people on many occasions killed people who didn't agree with them. Scientific antagonists typically don't rely on brute force to promote their theories.

  12. Patrick says:

    It's difficult to determine, some of the autistic people I have seen, along with some so called ADD people, seem to be quite a bit of chatter box bores and act like spoiled brats with a temper tantrum when they do not get there way. They like to claim they are being obnoxious blathering on, and frankly deserve to be punched in the mouth to shut up or at least of their mouths taped shut or some sort of muzzle.

  13. Daniel says:

    Henry Ford, the car maker, is alleged to have said: "Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it." If depth and significance of thought is proportional to energy required for its origination, most of us would be utterly exhausted after such a composition as this. I mean not to flatter; only to proffer thanks and appreciation. You have mentored me for more than forty years now, so I ought to be satiated. However, my hope is that you rest well and write more.

  14. Muthuswamy N says:

    Most critical things in life, you cannot prove! Some you may derive logically, with the logic available to you- which is a limiting factor. So I have tried to deduce, using logic and a little bit of creativity, in proving that something like dark energy or God must exist. .

    I say any functional system – animate or inanimate- has two opposites in it, else the system becomes dysfunctional. Take automobile for example: an engine accelerator and a brake. An automobile with only engine-accelerator or only brake is a dysfunctional system. Also these two opposites must be in commensurate measure if the system is to be functional. .

    The human system is definitely a functional system: Therefore it ought to have two opposites in it. One is obviously the body- the one that is visible, has a mass and volume and one that moves. The opposite should be the opposite of all three of these, it should be invisible, energy (opposite of mass) and non-moving or static. The only one that satisfies all these conditions is soul- called by various religions in various ways but almost all religions talk about it. There is therefore a logical sense to the premise of a soul. Soul can be considered as an energy- a speck of the universal spirit that is all pervasive in the entire universe. The universe itself is composed of mass – stars. Planets, and their opposite- the spiritual energy that occupies the entire space, what you call dark energy or God. Mind you, by definition God is non-see-able.

    It is the presence of two commensurate opposites that make a functional system, but to make it work you need a third element. This third element is the driver in the automobile. Its main role is to operate in such a way that the two opposites of the system are put to use at the right time.

    The driver is the ‘mind’ in the two opposite body-soul system that is the human being.

  15. Muthuswamy N says:

    Like a good driver spends time with both the brake and accelerator every day, for the mind to be effective it should spend time with both the opposites in the human body every day. Unfortunately our driver, the mind, spends far more time with the body and far less time with the soul in the world today. So we end up getting a driver who says he would spend much more time with the accelerator and won’t spend literally any time with the brake. Obviously such a driver, along with the occupants, is headed for a crash – sooner than later. This is what is happening to most of our driver, our mind, today.

    So the trick is to make our mind spend more time with the soul than the time it spends today. The process of making it happen is meditation. Again all religions talk about this but only the name differs. One of the ways of meditating is: sit and remove the boundaries around you mentally. Drop mentally the rooms of the walls of the room, the building, the suburb, the city, the country, the earth, all the planets and starts. It is connecting to the infinite energy – the opposite of the mass, stars and planets- that exists (should exist) in the universe. That is why I like to term it as Universal energy. And when the mind spends time with this universal energy, you tap into what you call the infinite power or energy source. Indeed this is concentrating on connecting with the dark energy, the universal energy, God or soul.

    The soul which is a speck of this universal energy is within us. This is what gives us our uniqueness – the same that gives uniqueness of Lion to a lion, different uniqueness to one lion from the other etc. It gives us uniqueness, different in some way than any other human being in the world. So putting our driver the mind, in touch with our soul on a daily basis, makes us recognize our uniqueness and that opens enormous opportunities for us where our uniqueness is used and not just what is common between all of us is used. This straightway takes us to a less crowded place, a place where there is vastly reduced competition. This is what enables you to tap into infinite power that enables you to control your destiny, rather effortlessly.

    You started with autism: Even autistic kids have uniqueness in them. It is our failure to detect this uniqueness that keeps them what they are. We have experience of handling dyslexic kids. We have tools to find what they are unique in. Once we put them in the careers that need their uniqueness, they don’t look back and beat most non-dyslexic, normal kids in those careers.

    I enjoyed reading your deeply logical article on a subject that is essentially abstract.
    Your last sentence – “Remember, don’t be deceived into believing that something does not exist just because you can’t see it.” is a classical reality. Our eyes cannot see anything beyond the range of vision of human eyes, our ears cannot hear anything beyond the audible range, and indeed, our human brain cannot think beyond a limit. Ours – for that any system- is built with constraints, nobody can build a functional system without constraints.

    Thanking you,

    Muthsuwamy N
    Quest Systems Pvt. Ltd. – simplifying complexities to improve effectiveness by re-engineering thinking processes, the Quest Way.
    Author of “Success through Opposites” an e-book at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/375624 and flipkart.com in India.

  16. Liz says:

    What we think about we bring about. — Unity Precept

    What we behold we become. — Marshall McLuhan

    Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. — Paul, Phillipians 4:8

  17. Heather says:

    I really enjoyed this blog, Robert – I do believe we create our own reality and one of the gifts of conscious thought is hope. I read an interview with author Barbara Kingsolver and she talked about how many people want to remain optimistic to their perceived plight, but feel it can become irresponsible or painful to speak of hope. She (and I) believe that it is never irresponsible to speak of hope; it’s irresponsible to give up. Hope is a choice you get to renew; you can reboot hope. Thank you for the opportunity to go down this path with you today