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April 24, 2007


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Hi Brian,

Saying that the "I" is a hallucination seems pretty close to the Buddhist idea of no-self to me. As I understand it, Advaita teaches that there is one Self (masquerading as innumerable objects), while early versions of Buddhism say that there is no self (objects are empty). David Loy argues that in either case, the subject-object distinction is broken down - so the end result is the same (non-duality).

Advaita and Buddhism both seem to have difficulty explaining enlightenment. The Self (Advaita) doesn't need to be enlightened, while the self (Buddhism) cannot be enlightened because it does not exist. The closest that I have got to understanding this is that enlightenment is a state of mind which sees the unreality of the self.

One analogy that occurred to me recently is that in the same way that God (as creator) is an illusory explanation for the world, so "I" (as a centre of experience) is an illusory explanation for the mind. Superficially, we imagine that the world has a cause and the mind has a centre.

Basically, I'm just thinking (and not-thinking) my way through this stuff. I enjoy reading your blog, and I have a copy of your book on Plotinus - which I haven't read yet.

Love, Jeremy

When we say 'I am' we are making an object of the conceiving subject. It appears that we exist as objects as long as this 'I am' is seen as a subject which, being conceived, becomes an object. This is the mechanism by which we appear to be...the merry-go-round upon which we ride.

So what/where is the subject that conceives 'I am', the object? The only subject that cannot be an object is that which cannot be conceived...the absence of our presence and the absence of the presence of our absence.

In order to be we must project ourselves as purely conceptual objects, phantoms, which we cannot actually be except as appearance only.

When subject and object are seen as one, we become both simultaneously...and this is why, not being, we are!

I am that, but I am not!

Can't you be like all the other strange loops visiting Maui and just go to a Luao. Don't forget to put some SPF 55 on your brain. :-)

Jeremy and Tucson Bob, good comments. Hofstadter addresses the Buddhism/Taoism connection re. enlightenment in a way that makes sense to me.

Namely, that it too is an illusion. We can never get down to rock-bottom non-conceptual reality. Humans aren't configured to perceive quarks and other sub-atomic phenomena.

So even when you simply chop wood and carry water, you're engrossed in the illusion of wood and water. That's why I said Hofstadter is Buddhism without the enlightenment.

But from what you guys said, it sounds like Buddhism itself can be conceived as being without enlightenment.

Marcel, don't fear. I spend most of my time on Maui acting exactly like the typical tourist strange loop. Am about to head for the beach and loop out on the sand and ocean for a couple of hours.

The luau's aren't very vegetarian friendly. I enjoy the entertainment, but not the roast pig and all the other carnivorous fare.

Are any of you aware that science seems to be drawing towards this conclusion?

Consciousness is an emergent system, akin to a bee colony, comprised of a few thousand dumb bees (neurons). An individual bee or neuron produces and does nothing. Several thousand do something entirely different than one could ever do.

In my mind, regardless of what Hofstadter's bee analogy is, I interpreted it this way. A cloud of bees takes on a certain form as a circle or ellipse but individually, there is nothing. If the bees dispersed, there would be nothing in between them, holding them together.


Let's try these analogies for the "I":
1. Coronal mass ejections (or CMEs) are huge bubbles of gas threaded with magnetic field lines that are ejected from the Sun over the course of several hours.
2. A tessellation is created when a shape is repeated over and over again covering a plane without any gaps or overlaps.
3. collective movements are common phenomena in human behaviour, particularly economic collective choices, reasons of social events, e.g. fashions, socio-economic herding, and possibly market fluctuations.

Just like Hofstadter's "bees, tornadoes, flowers, stars, and embassies," and nebulae.

I see patterns everywhere because I am a pattern. Epiphenomena are described to me as marbles within paper mounds, as kaliedoscopos: I am epiphenomenon and only perceive what I understand.

The elves are giggling. ALL OF THEM!

Okay, so this today, the elves are chanting a challenge/response, "Chicken!" "Egg!" "Chicken!" "Egg!"

Is the environment I perceive previous to my perception, (tree falls in forest, etc.) and so the "I" another expression of pattern dancing? Or, (as Tuscon Bob so accurately and succinctly describes,) is the pathology of perceptual necessity part of the wholeness of creation?

Did "I" make the universe, or did the universe express "I"?

Since being and non-being arise simultaneously, both of these conditions are the same, and I am all and nothing.

"Chicken!" "Egg!" "Chicken!" "Egg!"

Other than Aristotle, who says you can't be both "I" AND "not I"?

Thanks for this & the other post regarding Hofstsadter's book, Brian. I had intended on checking it out after David Lane mentioned it on RSS. You seem to have given a nice synopsis on the general content of the book.

I remember reading Godel, Escher, Bach many many years ago. It was indeed a very difficult read (I was a mid-teen, which prob didn't help!). The one thing that really struck me about that book (as I understood it), was the suggestion that the one single thing in creation I had considered 'absolute' or objectively 'true'...mathematics....was also a self-contained system, based on unprovable assumptions. IE, maths too is an illusion, in relation to the absolute! (Godel's incompleteness theorem?). This, then, pulls the rug out from under all our assumed 'truths', scientific as well as religous (quantum uncertainty also seems to indicate this?)

Ahh, what a strange world/existence we are experiencing.....

Just visited www.sentient.org
A good site.


Thinking can be found. But, thoughts
are physical things.

Science has now proven consciousness
is temporal. Consciousness is a series
of individual sparks. Like
the propellers on an aeroplane,
it gives the illusion of continuity.

So, consciousness is an effect, not
a cause. Like wine is fermented from

No 'I' can be found, only physical thoughts.
And consciousness is temporal. It is
not the so called 'Self'.

The brain personalizes thought. Thought
takes on a 'persona'. But, does impersonal
thought have a 'persona"?

Instead of a 'who', we find a 'what'.

The personalization of impersonal thought
is the fatal flaw in man.

When a person realizes they have no 'self',
all efforts for greed, power, deceit, fall
away by themselves.

This is effortless. The person can no longer
wax a 'self' they realize has no existence.

Like Santa Claus is dispelled, so is the self. It all 'happens' at once. How long did
it take you to realize after you found out Santa was a myth, did you act nice and not naughty ? We no longer waited for Santa
to come down the chimney.

Instantly all the Santa myths disappeared.
The Santa myth could no longer get us to

And, so it is with the 'self'. Once realized
the self does not exist, it cannot get us
to react.

Nor, can the 'selfs' of others.

Everything is seen as moving, but
there are no 'movers'.

Everything has been depersonalized.

The great myth is finished with instantly.

There are no stages and no path.

A person is either totally there, or totally
not 'there'.

No God is found upon realization. No soul
is found and it is unknown if an afterlife exists.

So, why bother with realization ?

Those whom have reached this point very
rarely teach how it is done. Instead, they
seen to want to help humanity instead.

They do not say become enlightened. Instead,
they might say, "My friend, I have been down the road you now travel, here is what
I have found and this will not help you."

They tend to just guide people back on track.

They cannot be humble, because they have
no self to resist. They cannot be either
good nor evil, because nothing tempts them
that would hurt another human being, or animal.

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