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August 13, 2011


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Let's start here: Just because someone is a "doctor" doesn't mean whatever they say or think is correct, informed, smart, or even meaningful.

Secondly, just because our state of knowledge or the availability of language to define certain phenomenon is lacking, we don't have to fill in the gaps by saying "See, the mystics are right!"

To be more specific: There are NOT 2 great discontinuities in the universe. The two phenomenon cited are not well-understood, but they only SEEM like discontinuities based on our current understanding. There's an entire branch of physics dedicated to investigating the possibilities of "something" before the big bang.

FWIW, though, are those really the ONLY "great discontinuities"? What about the start of life itself? Frankly, when someone starts an argument with such a clear disregard for current, and often common, knowledge, the rest of their argument is often suspect.

Next, this notion that there's no external reality without a subjective experiencer is solipsistic nonsense. That's like saying "There was no world before I was born, regardless of what my parents say!" or "The dark side of the moon doesn't exist because humans haven't seen it."

I wish people would learn to use the phrases "as if" and "from my perspective" in the correct context. As in, "It is AS IF there is no world, from my perspective, outside of my experience."

Onward... Just because we can have an experience that transcend's our language's ability to easily describe it, that does not mean we're describing anything other than our current experience. In other words, the "AUB" is OBVIOUSLY a subjective state, but one in which the feeling of subjectivity is different than in our more familiar state. And it's unusual enough that we haven't taken the time to give it a mutually agreed-upon label.

Pressed to describe the state with better language (and accurately describing unusual internal states is a rarer skill than cultivating those states), we would find that poetic language like "pure awareness" could be relegated to the spiritual dustbin where it, and other useless poetry, belongs. (I say "trash the poetry" because it in no way advances the useful discussion of these phenomenon.)

Personally, I'm tired of seeming scientists bending over backwards to prove their hypothesis that science is validating their mystical philosophy of choice (usually Buddhist or Hindu or Taoist).

Rant over.

Now that science recognizes AUB the pharmaceutical companies can create a pill that induces it and...wait a minute, aren't they the ones behind the demonization and illegality of such substances?

Steven, I agree that the authors of "The Mystical Mind" end up going further into hypothetical spiritual/mystical territory than they should. For example, they suggest that the AUB unitary state could be the ground from which both subjective awareness and the objective world emerge -- sort of like Brahman, I guess.

But they're neuroscientists, and I like how they show that so called "mystical" experiences can be explained by brain states. Such and such happens in the brain, and such and such is experienced by the meditator, or whoever.

They aren't really saying the world doesn't exist outside of human consciousness. Rather, they make the reasonable, and obvious, point that everything we know about reality is through human awareness.

We can't know what it is like for bees, dolphins, dogs, and so on. We can't say what the universe would be like if there was no human consciousness to be aware of it. Even when we try to do this, that trying occurs through human consciousness.

Yet we have this intuitive feeling that there is (1) an objective external world, and (2) a subjective consciousness/awareness/soul or whatever you want to call it that is in touch with objective reality.

This feeling is hardwired into us, basically. Yet modern science tells us that this intuition isn't true, because awareness creates reality. One neuroscientist put it as "and then a world appears." Without consciousness, there is no world.

Here we get into tricky territory, which is why I called it koan-like. I agree with you that the universe would exist without consciousness being aware of it. But how would it exist? We can't say.

And our imagining of how it would exist has to occur within human awareness, so we can't get out of where we are: subjectively aware beings who believe in an objective world apart from ourselves.

I seem to be a "subjectively aware being" experiencing "an objective world apart from" myself. Then someone tells me this is illusion - that there is no actual separation between me and my world; that all is one. I ask how he knows this and he says by revelation. I ask how I might have this revelation and he tells me it's a result of a practice, or of ingesting a substance, or that there's nothing to be done - it just happens.

So I try everything, nothing works, and AUB is as elusive as ever. I say as much and a thousand testifiers to the reality of AUB pipe up and I'm in the Hell that Sartre spoke of...all because someone spoke of AUB.

I think if someone actually has the experience, he or she ought to say nothing. If there's any truth to it, the way they live will do all the talking.

an interesting perspective from Brian but an excellent post from steven, which cuts right to the heart of it.

I often wonder how much the power of zen koans or transcendental experiences or poetry itself, merely highlight the inadequacy or limitations of human language, as opposed to supposedly revealing a deeper truth.

i've never really understood what the pantheist believes.

They appear to be believers, but not in a supernatural god, rather their god is the the universe itself, in its laws and supposed unity.

However, the nature of this unity appears to be the point at which pantheism can move from atheism to mysticism (or at least the more benign forms). Mystics seem to diverge from pantheists in the belief that answers can be found within, i.e. 'know thyself' and other vague epithets.

Even if we can train our minds to enter other states of consciousness (for example through meditation), how can an examnation of one's inner subjective consciousness ever shed light on the external universe? It surely cannot. We might all be made from the same atoms, but a rock does not have consciousness. This is an emergent property at a level abstracted from the physical. Even if one were to undergo a spiritual voyage of disovery and find the self (whatever that is) was illusory or our true nature (whatever that is), this is psycholigical not physical. How in any way could discovering our inner nature be equated with discovering the nature of external reality. How does human nature become metaphysics?

It seems that all these nondual mystical branches (taoism, budhism, advaita) all rely on the premise that there is an underlying unity, but more then that, it is some sort of unifying essence that pervades or underlies all things. And this would seem to be a supernatural claim for which there is no evidence.

"How in any way could discovering our inner nature be equated with discovering the nature of external reality."

By realizing the limitation of conceptual grasping we behold the ungraspable...or so it is said.

"Although it is attained by going deeply within the subject, once it is attained, it is perceived as neither subjective nor objective. Indeed, from a phenomenological perspective, AUB or pure awareness seems to be anterior to either subject or object."

---Is this state an attainment? You really have to go deep within a subject? But, it is anterior to subject and object.......

George, nicely said. Yes, the assumption is that the root of human consciousness somehow also is the root of ultimate reality.

Yet those who claim to have become one with ultimate reality don't know anything unique about the physical universe. This indeed seems to argue against the hypothesis that consciousness is the source of all things, including our universe.

cc, I like your AUB thoughts. Like you, I kind of feel like I'm also part of the unenlightened outgroup. The cool kids hang out with each other and talk about what a One time they had in meditation, while us losers are wondering what it takes to get an invite to the AUB party.

"Yes, the assumption is that the root of human consciousness somehow also is the root of ultimate reality."

--Brian, what is a root, as used above? And, what exactly is this 'ultimate' reality? So, who is making such a claim?

--How can anyone, honestly make a claim, regarding a supposed state of non-duality?

"--How can anyone, honestly make a claim, regarding a supposed state of non-duality?"

One could announce or mention that it happened, but why would they? A profound change in the way the brain operates would be obvious; to speak of it, superfluous. Talk is cheap.

cc.....good point....."talk is cheap"

"The only thing that is certain is that all aspects of material reality, including the laws of science and the mind/brain itself, exist within subjective awareness."

--Am I reading this correctly? So, the laws of science, all aspects of material reality have 'never' been resolved by the workings of 2 or more minds together? Or, objective awareness.

Roger, two or more minds working together still are operating within subjective awareness.

The only way we know about what scientists have found is through our awareness, and the only way scientists can collaborate on rigorous investigations into the "objective" nature of reality is through their individual awarenesses.

Yes, it's reasonable to speak of objective reality. But this speaking occurs in subjective awareness, as does the understanding of what constitutes the objective outside world.

PURE awareness ?

If awareness was PURE,
could you be aware at all ?

"...it's reasonable to speak of objective reality. But this speaking occurs in subjective awareness, as does the understanding of what constitutes the objective outside world."

We are either hopelessly subjective or objectivity is the suspension of the subjectivity we are.

Mike, I can't figure that out either. I like the notion of pure awareness because, well, it sounds so PURE. (My life is anything but, so I guess purity appeals to my yin/yang admiration of opposites).

But I've never been aware of nothing but awareness. Or maybe I have, but I wasn't aware of it -- like looking through absolutely clear glass and thinking "There's nothing there."

Regardless, it sure seems like every time awareness springs into action, it becomes aware of something, not of itself.

"it sure seems like every time awareness
springs into action, it becomes aware of something, not of itself."
quote Brian

Both awareness and consciousness are words
for something that does not exist. Duality
and non duality, inside ... outside, subjective and objective.

On and on people spin these words which have
no reality. They debate meaningless words
trying to find reality.

People are on the pogo sticks of life,
People chase their tails like dogs.

People don't want reality, they simply
sublimate their desire to run from
reality. But, sublimation is as
childish as the primative beliefs they thought they were

People slip into the trap of sophistication.

But, they still wear the dunce cap of life.



“That men do not learn very much from the lessons of
history is the most important of all the lessons that
History has to teach.”
-Aldous Huxley

“Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad.”
-Aldous Huxley


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