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September 07, 2006

Comments

"No thoughts, no beliefs."

I don't want a reality that eliminates thought. That's like accepting tofu as the only true food.

I want to educate my palate to understand how much paprika amplifies the mushroom soup, but does not tyranize, (a secret my wife weilds wittingly). I know that abject belief is a trap, but I am not going to escape into permanent theta state because there is an over-publicized group of violent mono-theists roaming around.

I am a simple and usually very fluctuated bag of electric impulses, and I have no objective proof that any of these communications come from outside my unconscious. I want no "Way of Autism" to short this circuit.

Reality is that which does not disappear when Philip K. Dick stops believing in it. So, do you know what Philip K. Dick believes? And don't go telling me he's dead.

Edward
Who says Tofu is not the only food?!!!
Grilled, roasted, stir fried, raw in smoothies, baked, scrambled!
I am a true believer in Tofu! Doesn't it contain lots of oestrogens though that can affect male physiology? Isn't there a rumour that it can also affect brain chemistry and make you mentally slower?
Maybe I'll stop believing in Tofu. But it won't go away! Pass the tofu burger and bun would you.

This notion of paying attention to what is, instead of getting caught up in thought, is a good thing if followed assiduously.

For example, when walking in a forest, see that hulking, looming being next to you, erupting from the ground and reaching up towards the sky. Notice the different species of ants walking up the trunk. Hear the canopy rustle lightly in the breeze. Notice the ageing leaves, dulled green, a slight yellowing evident from the approach of autumn. See where a beetle has lightly munched the leaf, leaving behind a series of semi-circular holes in its path across.

Too often the Dennetts of the world walk through the woods, and almost immediately stop seeing what is there, and instead only see an oak tree, and think their mind has grasped and understood things. And sadly this is much of what the current hegemony of a "scientific world-view" entails.

Frankly, I find that many religious people are a lot better at seeing what is out there versus hard-core reductionists, many of whom are often quite nearly deaf to the subtle music of life. There is an arrogance engendered by having your philosophy enshrined as the "truth" by the intellectual elite and their institutions, and arrogance is anathema to the egoless state of acute observation of what is.

Dear Brian,
I also observe arrogance engendered by having one's philosophy enshrined as the "truth" by others besides the usual intellectual elites and their institutions. "Spiritual elites" often display the same problem. As much as I might be criticized for being "aware" of ego state(ment)s, they are far more prevalent than egoless states.
Robert Paul Howard

You are right Robert, "Matthew" is an arrogant SOB. I have little doubt of that, having watched him for the past thirty-six years.

However, that doesn't mean that "Matthew" and "Robert" for that matter are fundamentally real. So why not dive in and find out? Who is the "Robert" who gets annoyed at the arrogant "Matthew"? Is that who you really are? You can find out now. In fact, you can ONLY find out now, as there is only the now - past and future are merely concepts while now is alive and unfolding continually. Is the thought-idea "Robert" as appears in "your" mind or in "my" mind the fundamental reality of you? Or is the reality of Robert far vaster than those ideas being perceived? Are you in fact vast enough to contain it all -- the idea of Robert, the idea of the arrogant "Matthew", the computer being typed on and whose screen is being read, the room you are sitting in, the wires conducting the message from the computer across dozens of other computers for many hundreds of miles? Are "you" in fact the vastness of the universe itself, or rather the vastness in which the universe and all things unfold, experiencing in this moment a body and a mind with a name "Robert"? If you are NOT that, then produce the real Robert, the fundamental Robert, the unchanging essence of who Robert is.

Matthew, allow me to defend Daniel Dennett, in his absence. Having just read his book that questions unquestioning acceptance of religion, I can tell you that he isn't a dry as dust, matter-is-all-there-is reductionist materialist.

Yes, Dennett is an avowed atheist. But he also loves music, art, and love itself. What he objects to is adding fantastical notions to these subjective human experiences. An oak tree is an oak tree is an oak tree.

That's real. Dennett would, I'm pretty sure, see the oak tree just as you described it. As a wonder. What he wouldn't do is think, "Ah, how marvelous is God's creation."

A thought like that doesn't add to reality--it merely puts on an overlay of human speculation over obvious natural fact.

By producing Matthew, Robert becomes both that and not-that universe containing itself.

or

Right now, the fundamentally real has always existed and we bloody well know it, we're just kinda hungry and cranky. Arrogance is watery Crystal Light compared to the solid rocket fuel we require to achieve escape velocity.

Without the ancient and telepathic Anasazni living in my head, I wouldn't have even noticed that Brian was a "hulking, looming being... erupting from the ground and reaching up towards the sky."

"Yes, Dennett is an avowed atheist. But he also loves music, art, and love itself. What he objects to is adding fantastical notions to these subjective human experiences."

I cannot vouch for Dennett's experience of art, music and love. But if you have followed Dennett's philosophy of consciousness and his debates with David Chalmers, Dennett makes it clear that he does not even believe that consciousness is real. That is a precisely backwards formulation of reality and could only be believed in by someone totally alienated from his own nature as the witnessing presence of reality. Someone living totally in the head, completely identified with thought. That is why I picked him out, not simply his fundamentalist atheism (which is pretty much par for the course with many scientists).

"An oak tree is an oak tree is an oak tree."

That is a concise statement of the problem. We see "oak trees" everywhere and think we are seeing. Reality becomes reduced to a label and we think we are "understanding" things.

Brian,

You mention the obvious existence of the rock as opposed to God, Jesus, Buddha, etc. There is no direct evidence that they exist now (or ever, except for maybe the *historical* Jesus and Buddha). However, what if the Tao is actually visible to us when we notice the "balance" in nature? Day and night? Opposites! (Hmm, I sound like I'm on Sesame Street!)
I suppose that "Tao" is merely the name given to that balance and Tao itself doesn't exist. It's just the name we give our perception of this "balance" (if that's what it truly is). Like the rock, it's only a word we use to describe the object.

Eric, yes, that's the way I see it too. Since great minds (like yours and mine) think alike, when I typed "Tao" in this post I paused and wondered if it actually was as illusory as God, Jesus, etc.

I decided it was for the reason you give. "Tao" is just a word. The Tao Te Ching says that the Tao that can be named is not the true Tao. So if I say to myself, "Wow, that's the Tao!" I can be sure that I'm mistaken.

This all could be the Tao. Or God. But it only is when it isn't, say those wiser than myself.

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

I'm not convinced about this statement of reality. Reality can be warped by individual perception. Take a color blind person for example, they are seeing a different colored world. What about people who are 'mentally unstable'?

By reality are we meaning our own perception of reality, or a reality that is mutually agreed upon?

Dear Mr. Cromer,
Here I am (however I am "named"). Q.E.D.
Certainly I agree with some of what you have said, and I'll give appropriate respect to your words.
Robert Paul Howard

Brian and Mathew
Mathew has hit the nail on the head regarding the crtitique of Dennett posted recently.
The key thing is that he views consciousness as a kind of folk fiction, a convention that arises from linguistics and not a reality. However, the only way he can reach this conclusion is through consciousness!!?
He may still see wonder and awe (I cannot speak for him)but I wouldn't mind betting that he attributes that in some way to a biologically reductive and material paradigm (which ontologically is just another belief structure and not reality in itself).
Thats another way of explaining things away and attributing an absolute cause, just as religionists do. In fact I don't see much real difference in attributing big existential questions on the why and wherefore of consciousness to biology on the one hand, or to God on the other.
Both are conceptual structures trying to make sense of the limited evidence available and shouldn't be read as absolute conclusions.

Something I read recently:

"All insights, however extraordinary they may be, are worthless, because it is thought that has created what we call insight, and through that it is maintaining its continuity and status quo."

--U.G.Krishnamurti

Nick, I can see what you're getting at. But I also think that Dennett has a stronger leg to stand on than believers in a metaphysical foundation for consciousness (which I, like you, want to believe in--in large part because I don't want to die when my body does).

The overwhelming evidence is that human consciousness is part and parcel of brain states. Do you think that any yogi or advanced meditator could remain conscious after being given general anesthesia?

That is, could the person remain awake and aware of the operating room's surroundings even though his/her brain was put out of commission? I haven't heard of this being done. If it had been, it seemingly would have been front page news.

Yes, some report near-death experiences of this sort. And I'm hope they're true (I hope even more that after-death experiences are true).

But it still seems to me that the inability of any human being to demonstrate that his/her consciousness is independent of the physical brain gives people like Dennett good reason to say that consciousness is a product of material processes.

I love the powerful simplicity and truth the Dick's definition of reality offers. I love the conclusion that spiritual practice should be based on personal experience...
(here comes the but that I've been wandering toward)
But I don't see that spiritual practice should be limited to reality.

Maybe I am mincing words but I think there is meaningful spiritual experience that is necessarily distingushed from the "reality" in that definition and yet empirically experienced. At least for me, this is the essence of mysticism. It is real but is not reality.

I have certainly perceived through various practices, meditation, martial and healing arts that which would be difficult in the extreme, to point in the way that I can with the rock on your deck. And yet these experiences of "spiritual reality" are no less real to those that experience them. This is completely distinct from reading about these things or having faith in others' authority. So, I guess my point is that while Dick's description is a brilliant one; it sounds like a horribly inadequate as a basis for spiritual practice.

Throw out the church but not the spirit.

"The overwhelming evidence is that human consciousness is part and parcel of brain states."

Sure, if you ignore all the evidence that human consciousness is not reducible to brain states. That's what fundamentalist reductionists like Dennett do:

http://amethodnotaposition.blogspot.com/2005/08/category-scientific-studies.html

This article demonstrates an alternative to the reductive theory:

http://amethodnotaposition.blogspot.com/2006/09/another-view-of-brain-and-mind.html

Brian
It all depends on what reading you give 'overwhelming evidence'. Mind could indeed be tied to brain states, but that absolutely does not lead to reductionist metaphysics.
Professor Christian de Quincey suggests that mind arises from the deep structure of the universe, from quantum states and beyond, and not from a mid level macro state of the neuron.
Check out: www.deepspirit.com
So, 'overwhelming evidence' hinges around the philosophical interpretation of said evidence. The reductionist materialist paradigm is only one among many readings.

Brian,
Some further points on your post;
You suggested;

"Dennett has a stronger leg to stand on than believers in a metaphysical foundation for consciousness (which I, like you, want to believe in--in large part because I don't want to die when my body does)."

Brian, what has not wanting to die got to do with anything. Most advaitins would suggest that when death occurs absolutely nothing of personal consciousness will be left, partly because it didn't ever exist in the first place.

I would suggest that materialism is part and parcel of metaphysics, since it rests on the improvable assumption that matter (meaning lumps of stuff) is the sole reality of existence. It is a philosophical stance and not an objective, that’s the way things are given.

John Hick, the English theologian states; http://www.johnhick.org.uk/article5.html

Whilst there is an overwhelming body of evidence for full consciousness/brain correlation, to suppose that any accumulation of this evidence, however great, constitutes evidence for their identity is a simple logical fallacy. Neural activity in my skull, and my conscious mental act of formulating the sentence that I am now uttering, are completely correlated with one another, so that in knowing one it is possible, ideally and in principle, to infer the other. But it does not follow that my conscious subjective mental activity literally is an event in the neurons, synapses and electric charges in my head. That A and B exist in full correlation with each other does not mean that they are identical.
We can summarize thus far by saying that there is no pain in the brain but there is in consciousness. And likewise the range of colors that we see and sounds that we hear and sensations that we feel do not exist in the brain but do exist in our consciousness.’

Hick moves on to summarize a long article with;

‘So to summarize, we cannot prove that there is an ultimate transcendent reality to which the religions are human, all-too-human responses. But the inner contradiction of physicalism shows that this cannot be ruled out. And whilst those who do not participate at all in the field of religious experience can properly be agnostic about the Transcendent, those of us who do in some degree experience religiously are fully entitled as rational beings to trust that experience and to build our beliefs and our lives on that basis. Religious belief and naturalistic belief are equally faith positions, and each involves risk - in the one case the risk that we are deceiving ourselves, and in the other case the risk that we are being blind to the most important reality of all.’

Hick has hit the nail on the head here by suggesting naturalism is a faith position. It is the unwarranted belief that lumps of stuff is the be all and end all of existence, despite not having any clear understanding of what ‘stuff’ is.
Brian, I would like to ask you exactly what you think is a physical foundation for consciousness? Given that cutting edge physics suggests that matter consists of probability wave interference patterns arising within a quantum vacuum. Mind is far from being the old 'ghost in the machine' problem it once was. With what physics has reduced matter to, you may as well call it the 'ghost in the phantasm' problem.
Much research conducted by non conventional scientists suggest that there is no matter as such anymore (as lumps of stuff) but rather an energetic continuum that completely allows for the possibility of psi power, out of body experiences, near death experience and the non local nature of mind. Orthodox conventional reductionist materialistic fundamentalism does not even allow the remote theoretical possibility of these because they simply do not fit its paradigm. So fringe researchers can keep cranking out the evidence ad infinitum and the old hackneyed response will be ‘can’t be, not possible, does not compute’.
Brian, the only reason I am going to town on this discussion is not to convince you or anyone else, but to resist the slide into belief systems. You appear to have departed from the glorious churchless fold and to be entering the providence of materialist fundamentalist orthodoxy. Which is fine, but it is not the agnostic and churchless creed you have thus far espoused.
You concluded by saying;
‘But it still seems to me that the inability of any human being to demonstrate that his/her consciousness is independent of the physical brain gives people like Dennett good reason to say that consciousness is a product of material processes’.

It is fine to say that consciousness may be a product of physical processes. The big question remains at what level of physical process that consciousness arises. If it only arises at the macro scale of the neurons then it may be epiphenomenal. If it arises from the quantum field then it is grounded in the deep structure of existence. This view is ‘radical materialism’ or panpsychism as espoused by Professor Christian de Quincey – www.deepspirit.com

Despite the claims of materialists, there are many other ways your ‘overwhelming evidence’ can be read.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t really believe that any of these concepts are the way things are. Materialism, Pantheism, Spiritualism are all BS conceptual linguistic fictions that we endow the unknowable ‘what is’ with. My point is that materialism is yet another BS belief structure that is inherently improvable when tackling the big existential questions. I do hope you don’t slide into its snare, but remain circling the orbit of mystery in the churchless agnostic way.
To close with a quote from neuroscientist extraordinaire John Lilly
"In the province of the mind, there are no limits."

Good comment Nick.

I do think it is important to comment on one statement:

"Most advaitins would suggest that when death occurs absolutely nothing of personal consciousness will be left, partly because it didn't ever exist in the first place."

I would classify myself as an "advaitian", more or less, but it seems to me that the evidence suggests personal consciousness can continue after death. Of course, personal consciousness is a dream-like condition of Awareness, but nonetheless there is extensive evidence that this dream can continue in the absence of a body (phantasms of the dying, veridical NDEs, mediumship, and reincarnation research).

Of course, other near-death experiences point more obviously towards the truth of non-duality.

Gentlemen,
I have never encountered a disincarnate "consciousness" or "mind." I infer (even if I am "wrong") that you all are incarnate in physical bodies. The only non-external "voice" (so to speak) that I ever encounter in my "awareness" is my own. All others come from "material" vectors. I must go by my own "experience" (and by my own "intuition") in seeking my understanding.
Robert Paul Howard

Robert;

You strike me as a very sincere person. Keep up the Search for the Truth. Your own method of accomplishing this is just fine. Along the way, just laugh at all the Side Shows. Best wishes to you.

Possibly consciousness and non-consciousness are not entirely discrete states but relative changes along a continuum.

Consciousness does not necessarily have to arise out of incarnation, in the way that electricity is not really "in" the copper wire.

I flipped open Cleary's translation of the Blue Cliff Record, and saw the reference to the Buddha's Real Body being similar to the reflection of the moon in the water: it is what it needs to be now, physically and spiritually.

Oh and the experience - the common experience of a physical condition creating a mental image during REM sleep. I dream my foot is in lava because the heating pad is there; sufferers of sleep apnea report dreams of having to walk under water.

I extrapolate this into other seeming cause/effect conundra. Does the stress in my job cause my hypertension, or (in the dream state that occurs during my waking life) do I look for the objective cause of feeling urgent all the time?

Matthew.
Thanks for your comment. You made a very valuable point. I'm afraid I can sometimes be the master of sweeping generalisations.

Thanks Edward, with your thoughts about the continuum of consciousness/non consciousness. You have managed to express in one simple paragraph what I was struggling to say in a very verbose way.
For Robert Paul Howerd. Many people have experienced discarnate consciousness, primarily their own.
Such experiences may have resulted from various sources, from illness, extreme fatigue, psychedelic drugs, meditation etc.
In my own case experiences of varying degrees have resulted from all these scenarios.
What may be going on in any ultimate sense in these experiences I have no idea whatsoever, but they do occur.

Dear Nick,
Thanks. I see your assertions. They come to me by a physical/material means of transmission. Lots of folks affirm lots of (varying and different) things. I don't dispute your claims to what you say you have "experienced," but I do wonder about the validity of your interpretation of (even your own) "experiences." I doubt that you were ever discarnate when you had your experiences. I doubt that you are discarnate now. (Nor were those who actually have gaven report of their NDEs, etc.) When you are discarnate sometime, come into my "awareness" and let me know of it. That would be a more meaningful demonstration of your assertions than just hearing another report of such to add to other such assertions which I have read/heard.
No offense intended, but lots of people say lots of things that I find worthy of questioning.
Robert Paul Howard

To all,
Kindly read "gaven" as "given" in my last note. Sorry for my error.
Robert Paul Howard

Robert,

If you are interested in seeing evidence of non-material transmission of consciousness / information, Craig Hogan is willing to do remote viewing for people who want to see it work.

You can post a message requesting Craig Hogan to do a remote viewing demonstration by telling you about things in your house. Post a message for him telling him that you are interested:

http://forum.greaterreality.com/


Here is an example of his remote viewing for another skeptic:

http://home.comcast.net/%7Ewjjw/rv-sessions.html

It's unfornunate that an Individual's written discussion has to be obtained through the Sale of their Book. Why the need to PROFIT from one's message? Any topic; Life after Death, etc., should be offered to everyone for FREE. I'm guessing, that many Religious and Spiritual persons have become RICH on the Sale of their Book. This Profit taking seems rather CRUDE. If my concerns regarding PROFITS from Book Sales is incorrect, please feel free to let me know.
Thanks......Roger

Roger,

Are you suggesting that no one should write books about life after death? Because if no one buys them, they certainly won't get made. I think that would be unfortunate. I own a number of titles on that subject and appreciated being able to buy them and read them.

It is true that a few authors of spiritual books have become wealthy from them (Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, and a handful of others). But the vast majority have made a modest sum, often far less than a minimum wage job would have paid them.

In any event I have not purchased Craig Hogan's book on life after death. He has a great deal of free writing on his website and message board if you want to get his opinion on the subject.

I recommended Craig as someone to contact about remote viewing because he is willing to do FREE RV demonstrations to interested parties, like Robert, who has stated that he would like to see some evidence that consciousness is not limited to the brain. And I have reason to believe that Craig has some ability with that skill, and a reasonable likelyhood of success demonstrating it to Robert (or anyone else who wants to see it done).

As far as the rest of Craig's website, I like much of what he says but I am not making any particular recommendation that people should buy his book (which I have not read myself). For those averse to paying money for "spiritual" writings, there is an almost infinite amount of it available online, for free. I post quite a lot of it myself on my blog, both stuff I have written and stuff from other authors. . .

The Essence of my discussion is LOST, if one suggests that I am against writing Books or other written forms of communication. Many Thanks to the Internet and the Local Library for FREE forms of communication. Profitting from one's written discussions, on Spiritual or Religious topics is CRUDE. Keep on BLOGGING, keep it free to ALL.

Manichean heresy: that the physical is inferior to the spiritual.

Exchanging energy, even in a stored form like money, is certainly crude - it is basic to life function. Libraries and the internet are not free. Taxation and commodities trading are involved. Walk there and you've paid something.

As an acid test, monetary qualification seems like a dull blade.

The Essence of my discussion is Lost, if one confuses the separate issues of Library operational expenses and Internet subscription fees. Lining one's pocket regarding the Issue I discussed is Crude.
This issue is No Big Deal. It's my opinion.

I'd love to see the direction this converstaion has taken elaborated on. What is compensable? What is proper when discussing or learning spiritual disciplines?

When I began my own journey, I needed direction, mentoring, insight, demonstrable expertise. I found various teachers who were able to help me refine remote viewing, for example. Or oracular work. Or meditative states, including the "parlor trick" I was enamored of - being able to deeply meditate and raise my body temperature enough that a wet sheet would dry when placed on me. Living in Seattle greatly diminished the chances that a sudden burst of hot, dry weather in March would be doing the drying.

Was it appropriate to charge me, or anyone else in need of spiritual discipline or psi-skills any sort of fee? Are those who only teach a select few somehow superior to those who teach anyone for an exchange of dollars? Is it better to have a guru who is indiscriminate with their knowledge, or is a teacher with an elite few students more acceptable?

The exchange of energy is undeniable, and always exacted. If I am not charged a subscriber fee, I am usually expected to submit as an inferior. 'Your money or your status' is usually the choice presented.

Bloggers seem unusually tolerant, especially those of a metaphysical stripe (metaphysical in the strictest sense, not neccessarily new age or oracular in any way). Is it the intellectual and spiritual discipline that leads to the startling lack of pretension, or is it the nature of bloggers? And are those seekers and teachers who operate in the more dense areas of commerce somehow more susceptible to the minset of a marketer?

I'm finding myself shifting in my opinion on these questions. I have come to a few conclusions based on my own comfort level and my personal ethics. But like so many things, a good and logical argument often changes my mind. If no one resonates with this, no worries, it is not an urgent thought nor one that cannot wait for another time.

Namaste,
JH NY

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