« Criticizing Islam isn't racist | Main | Hume ridicules religious imagination »

April 23, 2013

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

"How much of morality, ethics, right/wrong judgments, and such are predicated on assumptions about what happens after we die? Meaning, would our choices about how to live a fulfilling life be markedly different if we believe in (1) life after death or (2) death after death?"


We only have to look at some of the suicide bombers to see how beliefs shape their action. Would they be so keen to die if they had no belief in a rosy afterlife?

Surely the question of 'life after death' only arises in the human mind (ego) which will do anything to continue maintaining a 'self-structure'. It would seem that the ego/mind has usurped the body's natural instinct to survive and as minds do, invented many beliefs and theories to ensure or justify its continuation.

The evidence points to the conclusion that when the body/brain dies so does the mind - along with all its beliefs, aspirations consciousness etc.

This one 'life' is amazing; only a greedy ego wants more.

"Wouldn't a society put much more emphasis on enhancing both the quality and quantity of life of its citizens if every person believed that this is the one and only life each of us ever will experience?"

Yes, but "society" is the tail-end of it all. If there's little doubt in your mind that "this is the one and only life each of us ever will experience", you're on your own...or you're trying to be a leader.

It's not what if - consciousness does not carry on otherwise you would remember past lives, but you don't, no-one does - reincarnation is only right to the extent that the atoms that make up some part of your physical firm might become a small part of a gnu's testable when u pushing up daisies, depending on which way the wind is blowin my friend

It's not just comfort. I think the main reason people hope for a life 'elsewhere' is they believe this one never really got going. As far as I can see this is the real problem all 'true' spirituality is trying to address - get this life started! And it's all quite a mess.

And I really believe there is no simple way to formulate the solution, no matter how rational we think we are. The most important stuff in our lives happens so much earlier in the chain of consciousness, way before reason gets a look-in.

It's the _approach_ to ideas that needs tempering, not the ideas themselves. We need to return to an intimacy with being, as it is without ideas of non-being, without 'opposite' (non-dual, geddit?!) Death is not the opposite of life, as the saying goes. It's the opposite of birth, and both are part of life.

Counter-intuitive as it may seem, our identity does not belong with this mind or this body. It belongs with the 'cosmos', for want of a better word. By which I mean we are at our best and our truest when we are not identified with anything in particular. And yet we are all being urged in subtle ways, latterly by religion and now by science, to squeeze ourselves into a mind and a body. That can die. Sanity requires us to decline, to plead 'not guilty' to our 'birth', the scene of the crime (as Nisargadatta put it.) The cosmos is not simply to be viewed down some telescope, it's also there as the sense of endless irrevocable relatedness, every moment we are with it.

And the more people say things like this, the more desensitized we become to it ;-) Exactly as happened down the ages. The problem in our scientific age, I guess, is that it starts to sound 'woo'.

"...we are at our best and our truest when we are not identified with anything in particular."

Yes, but we can't know this until it's identified.

Knowledge can never get the jump on intuition, and intuition can be bludgeoned by knowledge until "intuition" is just more knowledge, so wuddiya gunnadu?

There has to be a recognition, I agree, but it's not a fresh outward connection. It's rather the opposite - the dropping of an assumption that has so taken hold of us.

In a sense, we already know what we need to know, it's right there in everything we do. But we're habituated to looking for a solid, dependable, source for it. And there's plenty of space in the echoing cavern of the knowable to assume it's in there! And to dump everything else there too, without giving it due consideration.

As to what we do about this: I agree with Dan Dennett when he says we need to find an alternative before we trash religion too much. So much time is spent trashing the old ways of drawing out intuition, it's as if intuition itself is the bad guy now.

"In a sense, we already know what we need to know, it's right there in everything we do."

This sounds like guru-talk. In what "sense"? It seems to me that we never know enough and we often get it wrong. An intuition is nothing until it's verified by fact.

In the sense that a child does not have an existential problem. What intuition are you trying to verify? The things you can get wrong come way, way later.

"...a child does not have an existential problem"


Until you come to honest terms with death, mortality, you're a child.

In another conversation, yes.

BTW I'm amazed that "we can never know enough". Is that how you come to terms with death?

"I'm amazed that "we can never know enough". Is that how you come to terms with death?"

You come to honest terms with death by allowing for the most likely possibility, i.e., that you die, cease to exist altogether. An immature mind can't do that - it has to believe in surviving death in some form.

I don't know what you find amazing about the fact that you can never know enough. I find it amazing that so many people can believe so much nonsense. Forget everything you believe and you'll find that you know next to nothing.

Despite the fact you ignore my irony, I don't disagree. I would just like to feel we're doing more than reciting well-worn truisms! 'Maturity' isn't simply about holding the right set of concepts.

For example, it strikes me as immature to address something supposedly absolute (death) with relative concepts such as 'most likely possibility'. That kind of knowledge (the kind you can never have enough of) doesn't touch it. It strikes me as a tactic, a move the mind makes to feel it has done its 'best', all the while avoiding actual resolution.

Regarding my reference to a child's sense of existence: I wasn't pointing to a naive belief in an afterlife, I was pointing to absolute innocence to the concept of death (in the midst of intense experience of life.) Obviously a 'mature' mind has gained that concept, but nevertheless there is a parallel for anyone who wants more than mere concepts. Stop worshipping them and live.

There's a direct way of putting it for those who have felt the experiential terror of death: The 'coming to terms' itself has to be experiential. You have to really get to know what you think you're going to lose. You can't just think you know in some half-assed way while the best part of you is distracted.

It seems to me the most powerful distractions have the most impeccable credentials.

"Obviously a 'mature' mind has gained that concept, but nevertheless there is a parallel for anyone who wants more than mere concepts. Stop worshipping them and live."

How does this advice aply to death? You can't "live" death, non-existence. To a living organism, death can only be a concept.

"There's a direct way of putting it for those who have felt the experiential terror of death: The 'coming to terms' itself has to be experiential. You have to really get to know what you think you're going to lose."

You can have self-knowledge but you can't experience death. All you can do is know that it's the end of everything you are.

There are valid points to both sides of this discussion.

On one hand if we recognise that our being is the product of complex laws and conditions - thoroughly so - so that in fact, we are nothing OTHER THAN the play of laws and conditions - and that this entails that there is in fact no central, independent author, doer, self - that the doer/author is (so to speak) the cosmos/nature or existence itself, then we can see that death is just a particular dissolving of a certain arrangement of conditions. Existence goes on… and I was never anything other than the lawful play of existence.

BUT

That which can to some extent shift identity to the cosmos/existence IS the mind - and the mind WILL die. And make no mistake, it's the mind that values continuity in the first place.

Yet I question the certainty of nihilists too. If our very being can be seen to be the play of a reality/existence that is ultimately mysterious and that our knowledge/understanding of this reality is a product of a limited, local, contingent, biological adaptation, then our tools for providing answers to ultimate questions are also finite, contingent, limited and all too human. We know with some certainty that our bodies will die, our brains will dissolve, our perceptions, memory, consciousness will fade. And so in our conventional way of understanding reality, that is it - it's over. But beyond our limited/conventional understandings - from a (possible) perspective that we have no way of currently accessing with out puny limited biology, could there be more to this? Well I don't know, neither does science, and the religious certainly don't know (yet they manage give this line of thought a bad reputation). I'm certainly not holding out for it… but I can't completely write it off as mumbo jumbo as the current vogue for scientism and positivism does.

How does this advice aply to death? You can't "live" death, non-existence. To a living organism, death can only be a concept.

Yes indeed, but what's the *problem*?

You keep assuming I'm saying something wacky. All I'm saying is the problem comes from habitually going to concepts and explanations about experience, and downplaying the actual felt subjective nature of experience.

As death looms something cries out 'but before I go, who am I'? And as you finally see who's asking the question you know you've spent your life overlooking something vital. It's not that you're going to end, it's that you never really started. OK, that's getting wacky :-) But does it ring a bell?

Before enlightenment there is death, after enlightenment there is death. And the enlightenment is the subject, not the concepts.

You can have self-knowledge but you can't experience death. All you can do is know that it's the end of everything you are.

This was in the context of terror. There is terror for most people in simply coming to a stop, or being embarrassed in public and so on. You don't have to experience death to understand where much of the fear comes from.

On one hand if we recognise that our being is the product of complex laws and conditions...

That paragraph seems to have an entirely conceptual thrust :-)

That which can to some extent shift identity to the cosmos/existence IS the mind - and the mind WILL die. And make no mistake, it's the mind that values continuity in the first place.

Yes, indeed. There's a lot of hocus pocus.

This is the whole point of genuine spirituality. It's not really interested in thinking up ideas, it's interested in your actual subjective presence here. Now, how do you talk about that without making it an idea?

"This is the whole point of genuine spirituality. It's not really interested in thinking up ideas, it's interested in your actual subjective presence here. Now, how do you talk about that without making it an idea?"

DON'T talk about it. Keep it to yourself. If you must publish, publish what is demonstrably true - not what you and others want to believe.

You're born, you live, you die. If you have to believe nonsense and publish mind-numbing twaddle to feel good about yourself, you're infecting others with your disease. Religious freedom means you can believe what you want - not that you can go around sneezing on people.

Hi Tom

My point of entry here follows your lead where you assert "our identity does not belong with this mind or this body. It belongs with the 'cosmos'…" Well in what sense can it belong with the cosmos? We are waking up to the incomprehensibility of the notion that this body-mind has some kind of independence from nature/cosmos/existence. Yet of course it's plain that 'something' is going on - 'something' is somehow 'running the show'. Something lawful and (in a purely non-anthropomorphic sense) creative is going on. Of course it's conceptual to speak of things in this way, but how else?

It's interesting to note that if we are to take things to their rigorous Cartesian conclusion, the only thing we can point to with absolute certainty (free from any charges of conceptualisation and speculation) is that EXISTENCE IS. The rest is to some degree or other, conceptual, biased and speculative. Common sense notions of 'I am a person who is born and will die' stand no chance with a rigorous Cartesian enquiry: after all, this could be a computer simulation, or a brain in a vat or simply a dream. But of course in order to get along in the world we need to allow some degree of speculation and trust in concepts. The game seems to be in discerning which ones have more truth value than others.

(And yes, as a concept, 'existence is' is a concept.)

DON'T talk about it. Keep it to yourself. If you must publish, publish what is demonstrably true - not what you and others want to believe.

Then who would you have to snipe at to make *yourself* feel good?

Then who would you have to snipe at to make *yourself* feel good?

There are too many people foolish enough to publish nonsense, so there will always be snipers to see to it that they don't flourish.

"Then who would you have to snipe at to make *yourself* feel good?"

Telling feel-good people to shut up makes me feel good.

Jon, thanks for trying to clarify this with me.

We are waking up to the incomprehensibility of the notion that this body-mind has some kind of independence from nature/cosmos/existence

Nicely put. It seems clear, at least intellectually, that we're not separate from the cosmos - the problem is we don't feel it. Conversely, we have little real evidence that we are separate, but that's how we feel! So, it's worth pointing out we can be interested to _feel_ something, and not just to explain it.

The practice of self-enquiry has something in common with your Cartesian argument. But it's a contemplative approach, designed to get you to appreciate the qualities of the attentional "I", as it is, rather than as a foundational concept on which to construct anything. Actual attention is a very subtle thing, and it's the one power we have that actually touches 'reality' or 'cosmos' in a direct conscious way. And we're interested in getting something tangible, right?

So, attention really ought to have its presence recognised somewhere in the mass of conceptual thinking we indulge in *about* consciousness and cosmos. After all, it's the subtlety of attention working in our mind's eye that brings those thoughts to life. But it's very easy to overlook that, particularly if we're only willing to assign attention a supporting role in consciousness. Of course, we are using this power to construct explanations and naturally we are more interested in where we're going with that than where we're starting. But that destination is not the actual cosmos - it can only ever be a representation of it. To experience the actual connection with cosmos, you have to go the other direction and become interested in the side of consciousness that is _actually_ (organically if you like) growing out of cosmos - i.e. your attention.

Paying attention to attention then reveals our rootedness in the whole, the way our organism is wired. But it doesn't provide an explanation! Knowing 'as' and knowing 'about' are two very different powers, and there is a balance to be achieved so that they support each other.

There is, I think, a sound epistemology behind this, but I haven't gone into it fully yet ;-) I started thinking about it when I was looking into Whitehead's ideas on process philosophy. The language seems complicated but I felt the ideas were quite intuitive. He was a mathematician as well as a philosopher, and no stranger to the scientific notion of truth.

Telling feel-good people to shut up makes me feel good.

I'm glad you're not totally above it ;-)

I agree with this distinction between 'knowing about' and 'knowing as'. We could call it a difference between the objective and subjective. Objectively we can have an understanding or recognition of the interdependence of the cosmos (as described above.) Subjectively, before the arising of conceptual thought, we are captive to the unfolding flow of our sense experience without a sense of independence from this unfolding. In fact I think that this is the key: the reason we 'feel' independent from the universe is because we 'think' it - the nature of thought is to divide, abstract, conceptualise. (perhaps this has something to do with the left brain/right brain thing written about elsewhere.) We can get a glimpse of a sense of wholeness in meditation when thought subsides to some extent - and it's safe to suppose that babies initially have no conception of 'me and other'. There is just the fluid living sweep of sensation and process - no narrative of a past - no memory-self - things simply are as they happen - outside of time and conceptualisation. (This is not to deny that phenomena apparently presents as distinct modulations of structure and form etc.)

Thinking about it, it's probably an evolutionary imperative to not have too much of a sense of interdependence with things. After all the ancestor on the savanna who contemplates a oneness with a lion might soon literally become one with the lion.

"...it's probably an evolutionary imperative to not have too much of a sense of interdependence with things."


Indeed, but when I have the leisure to contemplate my interdependence in contradistinction to my delusion of independence, I'm dumbstruck. "What is there to say", I say to those who yack interminably about meditation and realization and all the "spiritual" rubbish they litter the lines of communication with?

Jon, I mostly agree, though I'm not sure the 'evolutionary imperative' would have to be quite so 'blinding' for the interdependence. At that level things are no different for the animals and I don't see that they have any kind of angst over separateness. In fact the sensitivity of their perceptual responses suggests their private 'being' is much more like a sense of public 'being'.

And that last point is what drives my own 'quest'. I'm interested to find human beings who have that kind of raw immediacy to their perceptions, in whom you can see awareness flashing constantly, and who can also acknowledge it in some positive way - rather than giving you the impression you shouldn't be doing this! I mean WTF?!

It seems to me it's an art to relate on a level of immediacy, where you become aware of the tendency to fall into conventional discourse. The art moves beyond all those slavishly remembered things that we hang on to to explain our lives. It includes them but also moves beyond. It brings a lively tension to the ordinary, mixes the extra in with the ordinary, which is what 'life', for me, is all about.

There are precious few places I've found where you can really go into this kind of thing, in a 'safe', honest, level-headed way. Most people seem to want to avoid the subject for one reason or another. Or if they do allow it, it's usually perfunctory and unsatisfying. And I wonder why?

We seem to have a huge demand to pay attention to _something_, but are reluctant to pay attention to attention itself. It's as if attention is worth nothing - all the value lies in what is attended to. And yet what are we really, in immediate experience, other than attention?

cc, what is there to say? From what you've just said I get the sense that 'leisure' is somehow important. How about probing into the nature of that leisure, or the nature of the lack of leisure?

We come into this world and the vast majority of us are brainwashed almost immediately into this feeling of 'independence'. Is it not worth trying to prise apart the assumptions that build this near total illusion?

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Welcome


  • Welcome to the Church of the Churchless. If this is your first visit, click on "About this site--start here" in the Categories section below.
  • HinesSight
    Visit my other weblog, HinesSight, for a broader view of what's happening in the world of your Church unpastor, his wife, and dog.
  • BrianHines.com
    Take a look at my web site, which contains information about a subject of great interest to me: me.
  • Twitter with me
    Join Twitter and follow my tweets about whatever.
  • I Hate Church of the Churchless
    Can't stand this blog? Believe the guy behind it is an idiot? Rant away on our anti-site.

Posts compendium

Teeny-tiny Collection Plate

  • Brian Hines: Return to the One

    Brian Hines: Return to the One
    If you'd like to support the Church's efforts in a small way, and also learn about a great Greek mystic philosopher (Plotinus) who wonderfully embodies our creedless creed, consider buying our unpastor's book, "Return to the One: Plotinus's Guide to God-Realization."

Blog powered by Typepad

Become a Fan

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...