I don't know whether physicist David Deutsch's optimism expressed in his new book, "The 'Beginning of Infinity," is justified. I'm only about a quarter of the way through it, so maybe his later chapters imply more of a downer that what I've read so far.
His basic thesis, though, is both inspiring and believable. There are no limits to knowledge. Human life -- individual or collective -- is a never-ending journey on the path to more.
Whenever there has been progress, there have been influential thinkers who denied that it was genuine, that it was desirable, or even that the concept was meaningful. They should have known better.
There is indeed an objective difference between a false explanation and a true one, between chronic failure to solve a problem and solving it, and also between wrong and right, ugly and beautiful, suffering and its alleviation -- and thus between stagnation and progress in the fullest sense.
In this book I argue that all progress, both theoretical and practical, has resulted from a single human activity: the quest for what I call good explanations.
Though this quest is uniquely human, its effectiveness is also a fundamental fact about reality at the most impersonal, cosmic level -- namely that it conforms to universal laws of nature that are indeed good explanations. This simple relationship between the cosmic and the human is a hint of a central role of people in the cosmic scheme of things.
(Note: from what I can tell, when Deutsch says "people" he really means evolved conscious beings, who could be aliens quite different from us.)
For a long time I was so much into supposedly ineffable meditation and mysticism, I rejected the idea that good explanations are the key to understanding reality. But I've changed, and reading Deutsch's book is changing me further.
I mean, think about it: what's the difference between a fundamentalist religious belief in God that can't be challenged because it is faith-based, and someone's claim that "I know what ultimate truth is, but I can't explain it to you"?
The astrophysicist Martin Rees has speculated that somewhere in the universe 'there could be life and intelligence out there in forms we can't conceive. Just as a chimpanzee can't understand quantum theory, it could be there are aspects of reality that are beyond the capacity of our brains.'
But that cannot be so. For if the 'capacity' in question is mere computational speed and amount of memory, then we can understand the aspects in question with the help of computers -- just as we have understood the world for centuries with the help of pencil and paper.
As Einstein remarked, 'My pencil and I are more clever than I.' In terms of computational repertoire, our computers -- and brains -- are already universal.
But if the claim is that we may be qualitatively unable to understand what some other forms of intelligence can -- if our disability cannot be remedied by mere automation -- then this is just another claim that the world is not explicable.
Indeed, it is tantamount to an appeal to the supernatural, with all the arbitrariness that is inherent in such appeals, for if we wanted to incorporate into our world view an imaginary realm explicable only to superhumans, we need never have bothered to abandon the myths of Persephone and her fellow deities.
So human reach is essentially the same as the reach of explanatory knowledge itself.
That an earthworm cannot explain or understand mathematics is not in any way supernatural.
It's just that it can't know that which is beyond its reach. Maybe one day the earthworm will evolve and have the capacity to know much more.
Will it ever know precisely how or why it came to be? Will it comprehend every possible realm that an infinite and eternal omniverse/reality can produce?
I doubt it. But that's not an admission of the magical or mystical, it's an admission of limitation.
Of course the gap between humans and worms is great, but in the scheme of the bigger (infinite) picture, I suspect not that great.
Posted by: Jon | September 11, 2011 at 11:05 AM
"of course the gap between humans and worms is great"
Not for the worm.
Posted by: Betty | September 11, 2011 at 12:21 PM
Yes, good point you make here about the epistemology of "knowing" in fundamentalist religion versus mysticism.
Here is a link to something I wrote that dovetails with your point:
Posted by: David Lane | September 11, 2011 at 02:25 PM
In my free ebook on comparative mysticism is a quote by Albert Einstein: “…most beautiful and profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and most radiant beauty – which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive form – this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of all religion.”
E=mc², Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity, is probably the best known scientific equation. I revised it to help better understand the relationship between divine Essence (Love, Grace, Spirit), matter (mass/energy: visible/dark) and consciousness (f(x) raised to its greatest power). Unlike the speed of light, which is a constant, there are no exact measurements for consciousness. In this hypothetical formula, basic consciousness may be of insects, to the second power of animals and to the third power the rational mind of humans. The fourth power is suprarational consciousness of mystics, when they intuit the divine essence in perceived matter. This was a convenient analogy, but there cannot be a divine formula.
Posted by: Ron Krumpos | September 13, 2011 at 02:32 PM
David Lane, I read your essay on the politics of mysticism and noticed a few assumptions in your article that seem questionable.
1. Does any sort of experience have anything to do with the truth? This is perhaps one of the most fundamental errors. If we are simply awareness, then any experience awareness has, cosmic, intoxicated, fun or fearful does not help. If water were to go in search of itself, it could go over a waterfall, it could fall down as rain, it could be soaked up in a sponge, yet none of these things would have anything to do with its true nature. So experiences, cosmic or mundane have nothing to do with the matter ... we now have that out of the way.
2. Given that the truth is not about having particular experiences, many have concluded that it is more a matter of dealing directly with the energy of awareness, which has its own mechanics.
3. Many mystics have determined over the course of sadhana that the energy of awareness has everything to do with the will. The ego structure is so tied up in knots about not getting what it wants that the natural ease of being is foreign. The ego/will goes in search of its happiness not realizing that its very wanting/searching creates the unhappiness it is fleeing.
4. It searches in temporary experiences, meets gurus who can give them experiences and/or methods for them, and that works out for a time. But every up has a down and transforms nothing. An ability to ascend to higher realms is all but worthless, much less arguments over who has done it or can help others do it.
5. I think it is common knowledge by now that surat shabd yoga is a form of kundalini yoga. We could say it is not kundalini yoga but a form of it, in that it’s practice is about bringing the kundalini straight up the spine, bypassing all intermediate chakras. Don’t doubt that there are gurus and practices that can assist you in this meaningless project. Just as by going near a heater one feels heat, by going near a kundalini adept some may feel kundalini energy. Yet the greatest adepts will somewhere mention from beginning to end it was always a matter of moment to moment surrender to what is, no kundalini/shabd needed.
6. Perhaps feeling the energy current of life can de-hypnotize us from the thinking mind and in that way be helpful. But it was never about having experiences, or having beliefs, both of which are part of the hypnotic process of bondage to the mind.
7. To confuse actual mystics with the hypnotized masses clinging to beliefs is to render the whole mystic path inane. To mix the two with beliefs in historical characters is like lumping google and microsoft together and then criticising them as one and the same.
Posted by: 15 months left | September 14, 2011 at 12:07 PM
".......dealing directly with the energy of awareness, which has its own mechanics."
---Describe the mechanics of a particular, rooted in direct experience, of an energy of awareness. Please, don't delve into generalities.
Posted by: Roger | September 15, 2011 at 09:24 AM
There are only 2 energetic choices.
.... you are never involved in anything else.
Posted by: 15 months left | September 15, 2011 at 09:52 AM
Posted by: Roger | September 15, 2011 at 11:04 AM
"the Begginning of Infinity"
cant it be so, that even if we manage to expand our knowledge 1000000000x more than what we know now by the use of our 'logical' brains and 'computers', these tools will only give a DESCRIPTION of the truths we seek,therefore never the truth itself.
by saying that we can have unlimited potentials of knowledge (through the confines of our brains and computers) is a huge assumption, especially basing the assumptions off our LIMITED intellectual tools (our Brains and computers).
so I would say the possibility of what the astrophysicist Martin Rees said was quite a humble and accurate approach. we forget to remember that the basis of all the truths that we think we know- is from the confines of our collective HUMAN experience, and to say the human experience is more truthful than other "experience-rs" of this universe (e.g ... a bat) is quite bold,(because really, we cannot comprehend what it is like to SEE SOUND like a bat does, therefore the "inferior" Bat has the upper-hand on us for that.)
we are in a never ending loophole of assumptions of what we think we know, based off our ambiguous logical assumptions. if we took our "knowledge" out of the conetxt of the inter-relation of fellow humans and approached it from a bigger picture, we must say that we only know "temporary" human truths which changes from OUR points of view. therefore "knowledge" cannot be known ABSOLUTELY or Infinitley through the human (intellectual) experience.
to suppose that we could know the same as another advanced race or have the potential to limitless things from our intellect is silly. and again, say if we managed to unlock these truths through some field of science, the description would no doubt be explained through a language medium, most probably maths. the real question is, can we even comprehend what we know through these descriptions? and does it satisfy our experience and our grip on what we think we know? the description of the taste of an orange and the "knowing" of the taste of that orange is very different.the latter provides MORE knowledge for the experienc-er.
and i would agree with 15monthsleft, i would also say you have glued mysticism as a belief system like all other religions rather than its actual aspect which is to do with experience. to me it seems a lot easier to glue Mysticism to religion purely on the superficial interpretations, rather than approaching it as a possibilty towards truth using a ACTUAL NEUTRAL ANALYTICal mind, not swayed by your opinions or emotions. that is what a true skeptic would do. Assumption is the mother of all fuck ups.
and plus, Logic is actually ambigigous if you think about, Logic is the collection and synthesis of experience, and each individual has had a formula of unique experiences throughout their lives, therefore creating a unique formula of logical processess and therefore - TRUTHS. so to base PURE knowledge on the aspect of Logic alone can be, and is- ambigious. no wonder why you have fundamentalist ATHEISTS, CHIRSTIANS, HINDUS SIHKS, JAINS etc etc, they are so caught up in their own truths they fail to even begin to comprehend the possibility of a universal one. Logic alone cannot satisfy the human experience, for it is only ONE aspect of the human experience.
Posted by: Sean | September 16, 2011 at 02:31 AM
I think your ebook is interesting from a comparative religion viewpoint, but what i cannot understand about so many mystics, or those with a mystical bent, is how they completely distort and misunderstand science.
How can you possibly revise einsteins equation to anything? The symbols are not interchangeable or up for a interpretation, each symbol represents known measurable physical properties. Your mystical slant on special relativity is complete nonsense and imo calls into question the entire validity of the rest of your book, which is a shame cos you are obviously well-read on the religious side - however such claims are entirely preposterous.
Also, while there are many quotes bandied about by ppl purportedly from einstein, many of these quotes are distorted or taken out of context, and thus i would be very grateful if you could identify the source from which you are quoting einstein, since i would be very interested to confirm this.
Posted by: George | September 16, 2011 at 02:28 PM
Hi. The later chapters are no less optimistic. And they include a chapter *about optimism itself* which explains common misconceptions about optimism and pessimism, and presents a principle of optimism which is *true*.
If you'd like to discuss the book further as you read it, or to hear other people's thoughts, I'd urge you to join the BoI discussion group:
Posted by: Elliot Temple | September 17, 2011 at 12:02 PM
I said it was merely an analogy. Einstein would never have approved of my revision. It is not meant to be scientific.
For his quote, see "God in the Equation / How Einstein Transformed Religion," by Corey S. Powell, "God’s Equation / Einstein, Relativity, and the Expanding Universe," by Amir Aczel, and "The Enlightened Mind," edited by Stephen Mitchell.
I've seen it translated two ways: as the sensation of the mystical and as the sensation of the mysterious. I read German (a little), but have not seen the original quotation.
I was introduced to mysticism by Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, Nobel astrophysicist, when we met privately at the Yerkes Observatory in 1959. He was an atheist and once wrote "God is man's greatest creation." You do not have to be religious to be a mystic.
Posted by: Ron Krumpos | September 17, 2011 at 04:57 PM
Fair enough, but if the analogy is not relevant, then why use it at all?
And why does mysticism need einstein to give it validity, rather than standing or falling on its own original precepts?
As for the einstein quote, you are quite corrected that i wanted to go the original german source it was taken from. I think the words in that quote have been misinterpreted. Einstein had a great appreciation for the mysteries of the universe, but not of the mystical in the mystic sense. He often used god-like metaphors to try convey the majesty and mystery of the universe, but I dont think he was involved in any mystic activities or perception. He appreciated reason and scientific intuition, but not mystical intuition or mystical experiences to arrive at his theories.
I believe that the actual einstein quote in question is as follows:
“The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. He who knows it not and can no longer wonder, no longer feel amazement, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle. It was the experience of mystery — even if mixed with fear — that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which are only accessible to our reason in their most elementary forms-it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man. I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the type of which we are conscious in ourselves. An individual who should survive his physical death is also beyond my comprehension, nor do I wish it otherwise; such notions are for the fears or absurd egoism of feeble souls. Enough for me the mystery of the eternity of life, and the inkling of the marvellous structure of reality, together with the single-hearted endeavour to comprehend a portion, be it never so tiny, of the reason that manifests itself in nature.”
Albert Einstein, The World as I See It, Secaucus, New Jersy: The Citadel Press, 1999, p. 5.
Posted by: George | September 18, 2011 at 12:54 PM
Here are a few other supposed einstein quotes:
“What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility. This is a genuinely religious feeling that has NOTHING TO DO WITH WITH MYSTICISM.”
Albert Einstein, replying to a letter in 1954 or 1955; from Albert Einstein the Human Side, Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, eds., Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1981, p. 39.
“The mystical trend of our time, which shows itself particularly in the rampant growth of the so-called Theosophy and Spiritualism, is for me no more than a symptom of weakness and confusion. Since our inner experiences consist of reproductions, and combinations of sensory impressions, the concept of a soul without a body seem to me to be empty and devoid of meaning.”
Albert Einstein, in a letter February 5, 1921; from Albert Einstein the Human Side, Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, eds., Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1981, p. 40.
Posted by: George | September 18, 2011 at 01:12 PM
Einstein had good reason to be suspicious of Theosophy and Spiritualism as it was presented in Europe in the early 20th Century. Even today there are many spurious teachings of mysticism.
As to the translation from German, you will find many, many sites on the Net which use "the mystical." See http://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=Einstein+%22profound+emotion+we+can+experience%22&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8
Quantum physicists Heisenberg, Schroedinger, de Broglie, Jeans, Planck, Pauli, and Eddington were supporters of mysticism. "Quantum Questions," edited by Ken Wilber, has essays by each of them. I am not a fan of Ken Wilber, but appreciates this book.
Posted by: Ron Krumpos | September 18, 2011 at 04:38 PM
Shortly after QM, there was a whole field of quantum mysticism that sprung up. Many of those physicists held, or speculated on, various philosophical implications of the theory, especially as it relates to consciousness. However, there is a difference between philosophical speculation and science.
Every single one of those scientists discoveries were based on scientific knowledge, mathematical equations and the scientific method, which was only possible because of the scientific knowledge that had been accumulated before them.
None of this knowledge was arrived at by mystical insight or experiece. None of these discoveries were made my mystics or mystical insights. All were made by highly-trained scientists using the intellect, the scientific method and rational thought.
There are many who cherry-pick aspects of science and QM that appear to parallel mysticism, but the question is what exactly are the mytics saying about the universe? this is the problem with mysticism in that no-one can actually define what they are trying to say. theosophy is disregaded by some, sant mat by others, zen by others still.
What is the single doctrine or precept that all these mystical traditions have at their core?
There are probably two core teachings: 1) everything is connected and ii) that mind precedes matter.
The first principle is so vague as to be virtually meaningless. What do we actually mean when we say everything is connected? I cannot read your thoughts, nor you mine, so we know of at least one aspect of reality in which things are not connected.
The second principle has no evidence in support it and is the primary objection to quantum mysticism. There is no evidence of any cosmic consciousness. Science is based on realism, the idea that there is a mind-independent reality.
Or is the core mystic principle that eveything is undifferentiated? Well if that is so, why is there even the appearance of difference? Why is there not just one homogenous Oneness? And even here the buddhists dont agree, since their fundamental reality is emptiness, not oneness.
It seems to me if one is going to draw parallels or analogies between mysticism and science, then one has to be quite clear about what one is definining. Science is clear, mysticism is not.
Posted by: George | September 19, 2011 at 07:33 AM
"Since our inner experiences consist of reproductions, and combinations of sensory impressions,......"
---This has been the issue I have had, regarding supposed 'inner' experiences.
An experience, free of these repos/combos, would be of interest.
Posted by: Roger | September 19, 2011 at 08:23 AM
"Quantum mysticism" is one of those spurious teachings which I referred to.
Quantum mechanics, however, is seldom clear. I suppose the "clearness" depends upon each person's consciousness. Anyway, I have taken up too much of your time. Thanks for the discussion, even if we didn't agree.
Posted by: Ron Krumpos | September 19, 2011 at 04:44 PM
Thanks Ron and George for interesting
discussion. You too Roger.
So, we have determined no one here can tell
us what Jot Narinjan looks like, nor what
their astral body looks like.
Since all the people here may add up to
50,000 hours of total meditation, shouldn't
someone here know what Jot Narinjan, or
their astral body looks like ?
Posted by: Mike Williams | September 19, 2011 at 09:43 PM
In Search of Jot Narinjan
The problem is information.
Or, rather the problem is omission.
There are always vested sources feeding
us carefully crafted news.
We may be adults, but vested sources
still feed us Gerber's baby Food.
From Radhasoami to the New World Order.
The general public is totally uninformed.
Or, rather totally misinformed.
From the time we are born, we are
We are taught to be puppets for the
sake of the rich.
Religions and corporations control every
aspect of our lives.
And, it may be our subconscious that wants
to be controlled.
WE WANT TO BE CONTROLLED.
The USA was born from people whom decided
they did not want to be controlled.
That they would rather die than be controlled.
What happenned to us since then ??
Posted by: Mike Williams | September 20, 2011 at 04:40 AM
Addendum to Last Post
An astonishing development has occurred
in the State of California. It is one
of the most important developments in
the history of our country.
In a surprising move, both houses have
passed for resolution bill AB 750 in
California. If the Governor signs this
bill it will be a revolutionary act.
It will establish the Bank of California.
This bank will copy the Bank of
North Dakota, which has existed since 1919.
This bank will borrow money at no interest.
Once only a conspiracy theory, now some
honest politicians have seen the light.
No doubt all other states will follow California.
This will break the Federal Reserve Bank
in time, as people will realize there is no reason
to pay interest on our national debt.
We will move back to the days of the Revolutionary War and we will be free again.
Ron Paul is trying to break the Federal Reserve Bank. Unfortunately he may not win
But, the movement has started and it is just
a matter of time over the decades before it
is abolished. The Chinese print their own money and call our system archaic.
If the Federal Reserve Bank is not broken
down the United States will fall. Europe is about to fall from their central banks.
This whole problem is caused by payment of interest on printed money, which absolutely
is not necessary.
The greatest scam of all time must come
to an end, or none of us will be free.
It is amazing what just handfuls of people can accomplish.
This is done by informing the people.
What has been omitted by those whom control us, has been disclosed by those behind the
scenes with good hearts.
We can still take back our country.
"There is nothing as powerful as an idea,
whose time has come."
Posted by: Mike Williams | September 20, 2011 at 05:36 AM
You have not taken up any of my time, I am interested in your take on things. We may not agree, but your points are interesting nevertheless.
sorry but I don't have the foggiest clue who Jot Narinjan is. You are correct that we are conditioned from birth, but it also seems the human ability to be conditioned (i.e. learn through culture) is what primarily differentiates us from other lifeforms on the planet who are even more regimented or programmed in their behaviour through their hard-wired genetics. If there weren't any conditioning, we would be unable to communicate or learn what has been accumulated by human knowledge. One wonder if there were any mystics or jnani's amongst our ancient forebears like homo erectus. At what stage in human evolution did the mystics or jnani's appear?
Posted by: George | September 20, 2011 at 10:15 AM
The 500 Trillion Dollar Man, Rothschild
Posted by: Mike Williams | September 20, 2011 at 09:28 PM
Once you receive your Santmat initiation, you will be given the 5 holy names. There, you will find out what the Jot is.
Posted by: Roger | September 21, 2011 at 11:19 AM
E may not = mc².....
Posted by: Marina | September 23, 2011 at 06:28 AM