Tag Archives: consciousness

No Hand Waving, please!


Evolutionary Argument Against Reality

I believe that consciousness and its contents are all that exists. Spacetime, matter and fields never were the fundamental denizens of the universe but have always been, from their beginning, among the humbler contents of consciousness, dependent on it for their very being.

The world of our daily experience—the world of tables, chairs, stars and people, with their attendant shapes, smells, feels and sounds—is a species-specific user interface to a realm far more complex, a realm whose essential character is conscious. It is unlikely that the contents of our interface in any way resemble that realm. Indeed the usefulness of an interface requires, in general, that they do not. For the point of an interface, such as the windows interface on a computer, is simplification and ease of use. We click icons because this is quicker and less prone to error than editing megabytes of software or toggling voltages in circuits. Evolutionary pressures dictate that our species-specific interface, this world of our daily experience, should itself be a radical simplification, selected not for the exhaustive depiction of truth but for the mutable pragmatics of survival.

If this is right, if consciousness is fundamental, then we should not be surprised that, despite centuries of effort by the most brilliant of minds, there is as yet no physicalist theory of consciousness, no theory that explains how mindless matter or energy or fields could be, or cause, conscious experience. source: Donald Hoffman Cognitive Scientist, UC, Irvine; Author, Visual Intelligence | Edge,org

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The Primacy of Experience

The body of research undertaken to date is compatible with the position that the “feeling of authorship” is a conscious sensation that is, in principle, no different from the feeling of seeing the color red or smelling a rose. What are its neuronal correlates? What are the functional and neuroanatomical links between the brain centers that initiate action and those networks that generate the feeling of authorship? Would such a neuronal mechanism, if understood, resolve the apparent conflict between the hypothesis that the universe is causally closed and a psychological sense of freedom (“I am the author of my own actions”)? To what extent might bottom-up accounts of causation for such actions within the brain and nervous system be modified by top-down influences, for instance, expectations? How can higher levels of integration and personal volition—the subject’s beliefs, hopes, purposes, and desires—be said to initiate action? And, more generally, how might physicalist frameworks for top-down causation be conceptualized in the first place?

Furthermore: How can convictions about the possibility for self-actualization be squared with ideas of ‘causal closure’? Are such philosophical or scientific ideas based on compelling interpretations of the implications of physical science? Were there to be no such thing as actual libertarian free will, can there be actual, philosophically coherent, moral responsibility? Can non-reductive physicalism, affirming both the reality of the mind and the thesis that every physical event has a physical cause, break the logjam philosophically and possibly point towards fruitful new research agendas in neuroscience? How does contemporary philosophical theology engage with this area of inquiry in the neurosciences and in the philosophy of mind? What is the status and shape of active contemporary debates in philosophical theology that pertain to questions of volition and causation? Top Down Coordination and Volition – Templeton.org

Evan Thompson


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Folk You Psychology

Paul-ChurchlandPhilosopher Paul Churchland

How to put this, ummm, lightly, and not glom too much of your time? I am challenged to do this. I need to defer from providing way too much context. This is hard because, although the subject matter is straight forward, attached to this is a bunch of strange and impossible to resolve problems. I guess I won’t go “there.”

I can put it simply. Let’s configure an experiment. You get to assemble a team of psychological experts. You tell them that they will have made available to them a research subject, and, they will be able to each make their own expert inquiry into this subject. This will take place at the entry way to a grocery store. What you deliver as this expert group’s charge is this: find out what you need to know to predict what the subject will do in the first five minutes after he or she is released to go shopping in the grocery store.

The team’s goal is to make predictions. Your goal is to assemble the right team, hoping then that they end up making dependable predictions. Assume (correctly) that you will need to vet candidates for this team by gathering information about potential candidates, and, this effort itself echoes the lesser charge. In other words, your own effort is itself directed to approximately predict that your team will be good predictors.

The central problem given by the field of psychology, as far as I’m concerned, is the awesome difficulty posed by the problem of predicting what an average, and on average, normal subject, will do, literally, next. If this experiment was actually rolled out, one of its fascinating aspects would be revealed by analyzing the data gathering implicit in the various different approaches used to predict this single subject’s possible next actions, after they are released to fulfill or dash the predictions. I intuiting by this suggestion the difficulty supposed by aiming the inquiry into the subject at: some layer, level, part of their human system.

There could be two basic classes of inquiry, first the psychological, and, second, everything else. The obvious question a certain kind of inquiry might deploy would be: what are you going to do next; and next; and next? Are such questions dropped in the class of psychology? If you tell me so, I would ask you, “How so?”

Okay. I make two broadly brushed distinctions when I am pursuing my learning and investigation of, what’s termed, folk psychology. Call the first a kind of terrain. Within its boundaries are all practical undisciplined, non-technical, manifestations of cognition, mind, informal theorizing, (etc.) that are innocent of Folk Psychology “proper.” This used to be termed everyday psychology, yet the differentiation I’m focusing on is rooted to wondering about how the folk psychologize when the folk don’t know anything at all about the technical, model-ordinated, problems incurred by supposing that there are difficulties in making assumptions about how one’s own mind works, and, how other person’s minds work.

One thinks about their own mind’s workings, and that of others, and the signal quality of this is: this is not really problematic.

Why it is, or why it should be, lands in the terrain of Folk Psychology Proper. The actuality of ‘psychology’ in the first terrain is that close to 100% of humanity spends 100% of its mindful time in it. This time is taken up with predictions, estimations, and every sort of seemingly reasonable act of surmising what is to happen next, most of it predicated on–in the scheme of such things–gathering hardly any, or at least, paltry amounts of positive information. Yet, and this is not surprising, all this time is mostly ‘navigationally’ effective. Think about it; we don’t give much of a second thought to the vast taken-for-granted conceptions we use, basically, automatically in figuring out out intentions or the intentions of others. And, somewhat surprising, a team of psychological experts does not provide a very sturdy purchase upon any plane of dependable prediction with respect to the normal, conventional “case” subject and their next activity.

This could be compared to the controversies inherent within Folk Psychology Proper. For my own part, the latter terrain is deliciously paradoxical, ponderable and imponderable all at once. Is cognition produced by operational formulations of representations and propositions (and other stuff!) or is it more like this:

The basic idea is that the brain represents the world by means of very high-dimensional activation vectors, that is, by a pattern of activation levels across a very large population of neurons. And the brain performs computations on those representations by effecting various complex vector-to-vector transformations from one neural population to another. This happens when an activation vector from one neural population is projected through a large matrix of synaptic connections to produce a new activation vector across a second population of nonlinear neurons. Mathematically, the process is an instance of multiplying a vector by a matrix and pushing the result through a nonlinear filter. This process is iterable through any number of successive neural populations and, with appropriate adjustment of the myriad synaptic weights that constitute the “coefficients” of these vast matrices, such an arrangement can compute, at least approximately, any computable function whatsoever. Such neural networks have been shown to be “universal approximators” (Hornik, Stinchcombe, and White 1989).

Such networks can also learn to approximate any desired function, from repeated presentation of its instances, by means of various auto­matic learning procedures that adjust the synaptic weights in response to various pressures induced by the specific input-output examples pre­sented to the network (Rumelhart, Hinton, and Williams 1986a, 1986b; Sejnowski, Kienker, and Hinton 1986; Hinton 1989). Trained networks are fast, functionally persistent, tolerant of input degradation, sensitive to diffuse similarities, and they display complex learned prototypes.

This was Paul Churchland, writing sometime–guessing–in the early nineteen nineties.

The lead-in paragraphs:

The real motive behind eliminative materialism is the worry that the “propositional” kinematics and “logical” dynamics of folk psychology constitute a radically false account of the cognitive activity of humans, and of the higher animals generally. The worry is that our folk con­ception of how cognitive creatures represent the world (by propositional attitudes) and perform computations over those representations (by drawing sundry forms of inference from one to another) is a thorough­ going misrepresentation of what really takes place inside us. The worry about propositional attitudes, in short, is not that they are too much like (the legitimately functional) tables and chairs, but that they are too much like (the avowedly nonexistent) phlogiston, caloric fluid, and the four principles of medieval alchemy.

These latter categories were eliminated from our serious ontology because of the many explanatory and predictive failures of the theories that embedded them, and because those theories were superseded in the relevant domains by more successful theories whose taxonomies bore no systematic explanatory or reductive relation to the taxonomies of their more feeble predecessors. In sum, eliminative materialism is not moti­vated by some fastidious metaphysical principle about common natures, but by some robustly factual and entirely corrigible assumptions about the failings of current folk psychology and the expected character of future cognitive theories. On the explanatory and predictive failings of folk psychology, enough has been said elsewhere (P. M. Churchland 1981). Let me here address very briefly the positive side of the issue: the case for a novel kinematics, dynamics, and semantics for cognitive activity. Though Putnam does not explicitly rule out this possibility, his book does not take it very seriously. At one point he describes it as “only a gleam in Churchland’s eye” (p. 110).

Definitely, I have a foot in the eliminativist terrain. I’m confidant that the talk is different than the walk. Ahh, but the other foot! I doubt the physical apparatus allows for walking the walk. I am not yet able to understand how the common talk could end being ‘faux’ like phlogiston. Nor can I yet comprehend the kind of grain that would come to the fore and allow one to predict that the subject’s next vector-to-vector translation is indubitably heading the subject toward the rack of tomatoes.

And, that we would have by then conjured a language to best frame a matching prediction seems to me not likely to be as robust as the language we use to make good and bad predictions.

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Mining Under the Common Ground

Separate truths
It is misleading — and dangerous — to think that religions are different paths to the same wisdom [excerpt Boston.com April 25, 2010] Of course, those who claim that the world’s religions are different paths up the same mountain do not deny the undeniable fact that they differ in some particulars. Obviously, Christians do not go on pilgrimage to Mecca, and Muslims do not practice baptism. Religious paths do diverge in dogma, rites, and institutions. To claim that all religions are basically the same, therefore, is not to deny the differences between a Buddhist who believes in no god, a Jew who believes in one God, and a Hindu who believes in many gods. It is to deny that those differences matter, however. From this perspective, whether God has a body (yes, say Mormons; no, say Muslims) or whether human beings have souls (yes, say Hindus; no, say Buddhists) is of no account because, as Hindu teacher Swami Sivananda writes, “The fundamentals or essentials of all religions are the same. There is difference only in the nonessentials.”

This is a lovely sentiment but it is untrue, disrespectful, and dangerous.

The gods of Hinduism are not the same as the orishas of Yoruba religion or the immortals of Daoism. To pretend that they are is to refuse to take seriously the beliefs and practices of ordinary religious folk who for centuries have had no problem distinguishing the Nicene Creed of Christianity from the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism from the Shahadah of Islam. It is also to lose sight of the unique beauty of each of the world’s religions. Stephen Prothero is a religion professor at Boston University. This article is adapted from his new book, ”God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World–and Why Their Differences Matter.”

This essay of Professor Prothero is amazing in a bad way. My criticism is simple: there’s a substantial and subtle literature concerned with the claim he’s arguing against, yet none of it enters into his argument. This huge hole swallows the glib attack he issues in this essay, an attack careless in its presentation of categories and domains, and, an attack launched against more than a few straw men.

It’s as if Prothero feels he can fool the discerning reader. Normally I would dig some and see if the author is through-and-through a charlatan. Here my guess is that he isn’t, but not from anything found in his intentionally misdirected essay.

He writes here about very intriguing questions. In comparing religions with one another, in what ways does this show similarities? What are those similarities about? Should the evidence show that some, or all, religions overlap in particular ways, are there, then, valid generalizations to be inferred from the specifics of any overlap?

Furthermore, such an inquiry about common features is itself framed by a variety of disciplines, and each brings different interpretive and discipline-bound practices to bear on the question. Outside of this there is also a worthy literature brought forth by non-academic experts, and, as well, there is also a long history of this very inquiry. One aspect of this history is that it evolved from the point where specific religions come into contact with each other, and thus was evoked by the curiosity of some religious persons about the possibility of commonality. This comes about long before the frameworks of modern academic disciplines existed.

It is also obvious: there is a fundamental issue begged by any theism, no matter how particularized a theism is in practice or by a its founding assumptions. This is simple to articulate: if there is a God of “All” is not this God then a God of all spirituality, irrespective of whether a particular spirituality is granted primacy or is heretical? In other words, if God of this sort does in fact exist, this God would ultimately be the God of religionist, heretic, and atheist alike. From this, if this is true, one would expect commonalities.

There are four modern perspectives, among many, which frame different possibilities for important, maybe crucial, inquiries into commonality. One is the Analytic Psychology, given by Carl Jung. Here spirituality is viewed as a phenomena of introspective consciousness. From this, (largely) personal religious experience and development is the nexus for an inquiry into, as-it-were, possibly like-minded objectives of self-realization. There is in this, a prospect that human consciousness, as a matter of its psychological constitution, in specific keys lights upon objectives that are similar or identical, yet only does this in the precise domains where this phenomena may exist, and this is located within these precise domains in specific religious traditions.

Two is the integral perspective on human development, given its most detailed elaboration by Ken Wilber; (and Wilber’s elaboration following mostly from the thoughtful work of Jean Gebser.) Integral thought expands the nexus of inquiry along a spectrum of developmental lines. Similar to Analytic Psychology, it is encumbered by fundamental assumptions about the universal nature of human aspiration. Taken as an outlook, (and “in-look,”) the Integral perspective provides a loose framework for investigating procedures for self-realization–procedures embedded in particular instrumentalities found in different spiritual and religious practices.

Third is anthropology, a modern discipline geared toward differentiation of human phenomena. Commonalities would be rigorously qualified and vigorously contested as a matter of methodology, yet, the idea that commonalities could be universal would remain a worthwhile anthropological hypothesis. This is especially so if such a hypothesis is unfolded in the context of evolutionary anthropology. Here the framing starts from the idea that religions may be dramatically different, but that human nature is not also wholly different.

Fourth, and is the argument posed by Frithhof Schuon, and echoed by a specific ilk of traditionalists and (somewhat) outsider experts, such as Mercea Eliade, Joseph Campbell, Jacob Needleman, Rudolph Steiner, and others. Schuon described the over-arching aspect (and nexus for inquiry,) in the title of his book, The Transcendent Unity of Religion. I going to gloss the deep subtlety of Schuon’s argument and suggest his philosophical perspective basically holds this: where there is religion, there is also found a domain of aspirational practice where experience of the deep relationship between man and divine cosmos necessarily abides the idea that the cosmos is set up to evoke this relationship. It could be said the nexus of inquiry that necessarily follows from there being a God of All, is such–that a universality of religion in this aspirational domain is necessarily entailed by this primary assumption. Thus, given that there is a God of All and everything, we might expect to find similarities ordinated by God’s, if you will, “set up.”

(Schuon is superior to Karen Armstrong, with respect to being a source for beginning an inquiry at the abode of this nexus.)


Prothero doesn’t introduce any of these four vectors for inquiry into his didactic essay. For me, in not doing so, his argument is damaged out of the gate. If we break down the entire spectrum of human religious behavior, it could be incumbent upon an investigator to account for the behaviors oriented around the idea of the unity–in precise domains–of some/most/all religions.

But Prothero is mostly disingenuous in employing straw men and his attempt to wrangle an argument out of several category errors, the most grotesque of which is found in his silly statement, “To pretend that they are is to refuse to take seriously” (yada yada.) Since the point of finding similarity is to differentiate similarity from that which is dissimilar, there isn’t any ground to be gained by pretending that subtle arguments for similarity revolve around thinking different Gods (or theisms,) are said to be the same. This isn’t to say that there aren’t people who think this, its just that this is a definitive straw man.

(To the side of all this there is a contest of theisms. The ripe question for proponents of a distinctive theism within the context of the various Ambrahamic religions is simply enough, for example, ‘do you, as a Christian mystic pray to a different God than the God the Muslim prays to?’ In this the possibility of a negative answer holds another variation on the prime question about sameness and similarity. On the other hand, this is another way of wondering to what extent God owns a home team!)

The meta-inquiry is one concerned with a description, differentiation, and conceptualization of domains of human religious behavior and phenomena. This would work to tightly qualify the domains and then sort out apparent similarities. For me, anthropology, especially given the lens of an evolutionary framing, is the least inflicted by confirmation bias and tautological precepts. Still, Schuon and Dr. Jung opus, at a minimum, are worthwhile for their sophistication and depth, even if there is (for me) no slam dunk.

As it clearly appears when considering the fundamental question of the Divine Will as with other major instances of metaphysical exposition and spiritual expression, Schuon’s esoteric perspective can be best characterized as a science and discipline of objectivity that situates each reality at its own adequate ontological level and within its overarching metaphysical or cosmological context. In doctrinal as in methodical matters, Schuon’s thrust lies in a lucid perception of realities that considers both their metaphysical and archetypical meaning as well as the specificity of their plane of manifestation. Thus, in pure metaphysics, the esoterist avoids the pitfalls of confessional, anthropomorphic, and moralist expediency and sublimity by focusing on the dimensions, modes, and degrees of the theophanic unfolding of the Real. He does not confuse metaphysical realities with their partial or distorted contours as envisaged through human biases, nor does he project the limitations of human moral categories onto the Divine Order. At the same time, he perceives the roots of all spiritual, aesthetic, and moral phenomena in the Supreme, and he accounts for their meaning on the basis of the Divine, thereby describing the multileveled and multifaceted Unity of Being. In spiritual matters alike, esoterism reaches to the essential through the veil of superimpositions and accretions, while elucidating the partial legitimacy of mystical emphases, excesses, and subjective or collective detours. As such, esoterism is nothing less than the most direct and comprehensive language of the Self. jean-Baptiste Aymard-Patrick Laude, Frithof Schuon, life and Teaching; 2004 SUNY Press)

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“The stage is too big for the drama”

God was invented to explain mystery. God is always invented to explain those things that you do not understand. Now, when you finally discover how something works, you get some laws which you’re taking away from God; you don’t need him anymore. But you need him for the other mysteries. So therefore you leave him to create the universe because we haven’t figured that out yet; you need him for understanding those things which you don’t believe the laws will explain, such as consciousness, or why you only live to a certain length of time — life and death — stuff like that. God is always associated with those things that you do not understand. Therefore I don’t think that the laws can be considered to be like God because they have been figured out. Richard Feynman

It must be obvious… that there is a contradiction in wanting to be perfectly secure in a universe whose very nature is momentariness and fluidity. Alan Watts

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Groups & the Development of Consciousness

My colleague and friend Robert has asked in a comment to Sustainability, Systems Awareness & Eros,

“However saying that, I don’t know if the “group” consciousness actually manages to effect a real conscious change in both individuals and in groups. Are these things of the moment?”

Let’s just speak of a simple hypothesis: that a group is possibly a medium for an individual to increase their awareness. There are, in this, several things we’ll need to test the hypothesis.

One, we’ll need a developmental framework that can support both the proof of the hypothesis and its falsification.

Two, given this framework, we’ll need to employ explicit criteria to make a determination about both how to test and next evaluate the results of the test. And, finally we’ll need to grapple and grip with how to interpret the evaluation.

There’s a crucial distinction I’d like to introduce. A hypothesis of this sort is concerned with the development of consciousness of an individual within a group due to the unique opportunities for this development a group may instantiate. Yet this potential for development is not proposed as a positive result of group consciousness, but, rather, is the result of people bringing their personal consciousness to the medium of a group. In noting this, all I suggesting is that consciousness is only a property of individuals; that it would be very hard to characterize what is meant by group consciousness in any normative sense.

As it has come about–in modern psychology–short of defining a framework, there are concrete terms for characterizing the development of consciousness in the medium of a group. For example, these are some of the developments afforded by groups: better teamwork, closer coordination, acceptance of and mitigation of narcissistic and infantile needs, enhanced problem analysis and problem solving, better skills for discernment and differentiation, support for withdrawal of projections, etc.. and on and on.

Also, groups make possible at times the submission of self-oriented egoic impulses to higher orders of awareness, including facilitating recognition and ownership of the shadow. So it is, to use one broad developmental mode, that an individual in a group may leverage the means for increasing their emotional intelligence.


I believe all sorts of artistic teams in music and dance and theatre brings lots of unique developmental potential into being. These provide excellent examples, but so do all sorts of other common groups. One such group would be–at their best–the formal or informal classroom.

Of course, my sense here presumes that consciousness itself is not a mountain to be climbed, but instead operationalizes real world capabilities. In short, to become more able at anything poses a developmental increase.

The only move toward spiritualization, would be to suppose that all such developmental increases are qualities of higher consciousness given a timeworn notion of spiritual development–when those better capabilities do no harm.

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On youtube there is a series of videos, apparently excerpted from a longer documentary, that features the renowned-in-his-time counter-cultural figure, self-proclaimed Sufi, misterioso teacher, charlatan, Idries Shah. I joined the ten parts and present it here; 49 worthwhile minutes beckon. Pay attention!

My string of adjectives is not intended to underplay Shah’s reputation, such as it has been able to be sustained. He was a walking library of Sufic esoteric material, yet, he also brought these traditional secrets to proto-new age stages in the sixties. He walked a weird razor’s edge in maintaining that these materials could retain their power even when stripped of their context, as long as the context of the user was precisely calibrated to these bare-of-context materials!

Speaking of post-modern Sufis, I recommend the volume by Ian Almond, Sufism and Deconstruction. A comparative study of Derrida and Ibn ‘Arabi, (2004:Routledge.) A rigorous mysticism, moved toward the subject drilling deeply beyond it’s (his or her,) self, cannot be about fixing identity.

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The Integral Spiritual Center lands a come-on in my email box every week. Yesterday’s gave me a whack on the side of the head.

Modern science has given us a compelling picture of the evolution of our universe, from its first moments: quantum fluctuations—i.e. the “Big Bang”—led to a massive inflation, followed by “the dark ages,” then the formation of the first stars, at about t+400 million years. But science has been largely unable to explain what happened before—indeed, what brought about—the Big Bang. Scientific explanations have tended to end up sounding somewhat like traditional Eastern cosmology: the Earth stands upon the back of an elephant, which stands upon the back of a turtle, and from there, it’s turtles all the way down…. The world’s great spiritual traditions have long sought answers to this question, and have theorized a process reciprocal to the one that science has investigated so thoroughly: prior to evolution, there was involution.

Truth be told, I’m not aware of any spiritual tradition that has pondered what happened before the Big Bang. (This is the case if one discounts secular science enough to make of it not a spiritual tradition.) But the main thing is: the traditions didn’t know of the Big Bang.

Not so curiously, creation myths tend to be very relational and story-like! These stories have a beginning but don’t usually pose a beginning prior to their starting point. But the Big Bang doesn’t begin with the Big Bang. It’s a just-so story in the sense of ‘as far as we know’ and ‘to the degree that we know.’

The turtles all the way down trope certainly aligns with one of Ken Wilber’s oldest (surviving!) propositions, The Great Chain of Being. I’m not sure which scientific explanation was to the ISC’s blurb writer, “sounding somewhat like traditional Eastern cosmology.” (And this was stated after the same writer wrote: “science has been largely unable to explain what happened before.”)

The blurb seems to change the subject and goes on after raising Involution:

Essentially, says Ken, we begin every moment in a state of nondual Suchness. But if we have yet to stabilize that state into a state-stage, that state will be pre-conscious to us, and we will undergo the first contraction, into the causal realm of the Witness and all that is witnessed. If we have yet to stabilize that state, we will contract into the subtle realm of the soul. And if we have yet to stabilize that state, we will contract into the gross realm of the ego and our conventional self. So with every moment, we “fall down the stairs,” cascading down from suchness until the point of our state realization. Here, we recognize ourselves, in a dynamic similar to what the Tibetan Book of the Dead teaches about the Bardo and our experience after death. And this world (and with it, all “lower” worlds) arises in our experience.

Reminds me of Ibn al-Arabi, ra, and an encapsulation I wrote in 1991.

Henri Corbin commenting on the fact of ascension
(as described by Ibn’ Arabi, r.a.)

Look upon our own existance. Is it continuous ?

Or is it incessantly renewing on every breath ?

Does not being cease then come into being
with every breath, and upon His sigh of compassion?

Hexities, themselves pure possibles do not demand concrete existence.
recurrent creation manifests infinitely, essentially, divinely.

Divine being descends, is epiphanized in our individuality
such being thus ascends to return to the source.

Every being ascends with the instant
to see this is to see the multiple existing in the one.

And so the man who knows that is his “soul”,
such a man knows his Lord.

Richard Grossinger, from his superb new book, The Bardo of Waking Life:

The 9.5 years that it will take a spacecraft to bust out of Earth’s gravity well and be slingshot by gas giants to Pluto, out at the edge of the Kuiper Belt, must be measured against an event barely the size of a ball-bearing out of which the entire universe detonated once into a state so protracted and sticky it continues to fulminate and distend.

Involution? This reminds me of quaint and romantic notions from the hydraulic 19th century. Of course we’ve moved through the hyper-hydraulic 20th century. And past the cusp of the 21st century it seems contemporaneously quaint to suppose involution tended to reveal (Wilber’s) suchness is another turtle. We’re all enslaved for hundred thousand story-making years to this mechanical conceit.

“Before,” then, is only a mechanical necessity. What happens before you and your dear one decide to go out and dance? What is caused to morph?


Our basis is completely mysterious. . .

Completely. It’s not that involution makes clear the origin, it’s that “pure possibles do not demand concrete existence” may require any origin to be essentially not knowable and, perhaps, origin exists beyond mere mechanics, beyond mechanical concretization of (even) original possibility.

Granted, Wilber is moved to try to explain everything. What a romantic!


What we call music in our everyday language is only a miniature, which our intelligence has grasped from that music or harmony of the whole universe which is working behind everything, and which is the source and origin of nature. It is because of this that the wise of all ages have considered music to be a sacred art. For in music the seer can see the picture of the whole universe; and the wise can interpret the secret and the nature of the working of the whole universe in the realm of music. Inayat Khan


We are only possibility, and God is no one but the background agaisnt which possibility rests.

For me, ‘completely’ and ‘only’ tear involution and sunder suchness. Mystery cannot be the ground of mechanics and also itself mechanical. Before involution and evolution? Only God knows.

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Favorite droll turn on cogito ergo sum*: I think therefore I think I am. Possibly better: I think therefore I think I am thinking.


You are your epistemology. (Gregory Bateson)

I’ve always stuck with John Lilly’s:

My beliefs are unbelievable.

In this context, why not: “My thoughts are unthinkable.”


* But I have convinced myself that there is absolutely nothing in the world, no sky, no earth, no minds, no bodies. Does it now follow that I too do not exist? No. If I convinced myself of something [or thought anything at all] then I certainly existed. But there is a deceiver of supreme power and cunning who is deliberately and constantly deceiving me. In that case I too undoubtedly exist, if he is deceiving me; and let him deceive me as much as he can, he will never bring it about that I am nothing so long as I think that I am something. So, after considering everything very thoroughly, I must finally conclude that the proposition, I am, I exist, is necessarily true whenever it is put forward by me or conceived in my mind. (Rene Descarte)

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I’m very curious about the process through which people really get to know each other. And, just as fascinated by the processes through which people fool themselves into believing they are getting to really know one other. There is overlap between the former and the latter kinds of processes. Some people are very good at both, but, a person who is good at getting to know another person is likely to well understand what the differences are between really knowing and surface knowing.

It’s tempting to insert here that it is a two-way street too, but, my experience is that there can be a significant differential between two approaches and how effective each, in actuality, is.

When engaged with other persons my common mode is research and participant/deep observer, so, at a minimum, I’m often sitting there being greatly amused by processes of interpersonal knowledge building. For example, it is often for me a case of observing how much interference there is in people’s attempts to be present, listen, respond, and, overall, apprehend what is going on. This goes for me too: reflecting on my own interference.


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A long excerpt from a book-length Ph.D. dissertation evokes the scope of Robert Stuart Houghton’s theorizing about education. A Chaotic Paradigm: An Alternative World View of the Foundations of Educational Inquiry. It’s gist is this: there is an implicit potential able to emerge and realize substantial effects were learning to be concerned with the actual nature of an ‘implicitly able’ human system. This is my language, (one can tell, it’s oblique!) and way of highlighting the idea that interesting innovations are products of unstability and discontinuity.

Certain curriculum scholars have also identified and discussed the value of these concepts of holism and self-organization (Doll, 1986; Romberg, 1984; Romberg et al, 1987; Sawada and Caley, 1985) for building a new educational paradigm. These scholars in turn were following the tracks laid out by general system theorists (Ackoff, 1974; Bertalanffy, 1968) and later the nonlinear system theory of Prigogine (1977, 1980, 1984).

They have used the concepts of self-organizationist writers like Prigogine in a variety of ways. They make their points about holism and self-organization clearly and in detail. However, the concept of unpredictability receives much less explanation and emphasis. Just how this unpredictability comes about is not clear and curious linkages indicate a need for further thought. For example, integrating holism and self-organization with a multi-causal model that is to be judged by its “predictive power” (Romberg et al, 1987) takes a stand that chaos theory would open to question.


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Yeah, What Bateson said.

From a Batesonian perspective, it is the way we classify, make distinctions, and make sense of things that is fundamental. If it is the distinctions we ourselves make that are causes, then it is how we process information and map the territory that explains. Within this framework, any explanation or scientific activity becomes fundamentally recursive. It follows that if the world of mental process is recursive, then our descriptions of it should also be recursive and address the multiple layers of mutual influence in any relationship. Once it is understood that recursiveness is fundamental to the development of a science of human interacting systems, “the focus of explanation shifts from the world of matter to the world of form” (Bochner, 1981, p. 74). There are always different orders of recursion and different ways of slicing things up. Every picture can tell a multiplicity of stories.


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Carl Rogers is well served by his acolyte Peter Schmid at The Person-Centered Web Site. Still, the best introductory material is Jerold Bozarth’s collection @personcentered.com. Here’s a prime downloadable piece by Schmid. “In the beginning there is community” Implications and challenges of the belief in a triune God and a person-centred approach. Schmid is, in my estimation, the paragon of a growing presence following in the giant foot steps of the original innovator. In any case, a motherload in the vast web of Rogerian resources on the net, all of it tangled up in Schmid’s core web site.

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“Now this is called the “quantum measurement paradox.” It is a paradox because who are we to do this conversion? Because after all, in the materialist paradigm we don’t have any causal efficacy. We are nothing but the brain, which is made up of atoms and elementary particles. So how can a brain which is made up of atoms and elementary particles convert a possibility wave that it itself is? It itself is made up of the possibility waves of atoms and elementary particles, so it cannot convert its own possibility wave into actuality. This is called a paradox. Now in the new view, consciousness is the ground of being. So who converts possibility into actuality? Consciousness does, because consciousness does not obey quantum physics. Consciousness is not made of material. Consciousness is transcendent. Do you see the paradigm-changing view right here; how consciousness can be said to create the material world? The material world of quantum physics is just possibility. It is consciousness, through the conversion of possibility into actuality, that creates what we see manifest. In other words, consciousness creates the manifest world.”

An Interview with Amit Goswami

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Dana Gaynor’s The Journal of Psychospiritual Transformation has some fairly ‘hard’ minded articles about its subject matter. For example, on the contents page of vol.1 you’ll find an article by Charles Tart, “An Emergent Interactionist Understanding of Human Consciousness”. It exemplifies this qualification. On Tart’s site is the best itemization of credible parapsychology resources.

Andrew Cohen’s What Is Enlightenment magazine is good. It’s a bit beleaguered by single-mindedness. (My bias: you can’t praise the mysterium tremendum and also praise only one implied form of ultimate higher consciousness. Creative, ‘messy‘ awareness often gets tossed out in reductive, logos-centric framings of consciousness.)

Hard-mindedness, (a pun if you know what the hard problem is,) is one of the key thrusts of David Chalmer’s web compendium of papers and research on consciousness, the philosophy of psychology, mind, and neuroscience. He’s an editor of the very worthy virtual journal, Psyche.

The Science and Consciousness Review -obviously- is enthusiastically all over the map and includes what old hippy explorers would term research into the doors of perception.

Stephen Jones is behind The Brain Project, another site melding neuroscience and research into consciousness. There is an inviting section of multimedia presentations here.

Did I mention parapsychology earlier? Why yes! What about altered states of consciousness? Two fine resources: Rhea White’s Exceptional Human Experience site, and, TASTE:the archive of scientist’s transcendent experiences, I highly recommend.

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A fascinating paper: The Structure of Consciousness – Liminocentricity, Enantiodromia, and Personality (John Fudjack, 1999). If you find the title tantalizing, go for it. Need more perfume?

In earlier articles we have also shown how liminocentricity is [1] utilized as an explanatory device in music theory; [2] used in Indian myth to help us ‘pull ourselves up by our bootstraps’, according to Mary Doniger O’Flaherty; [3] appears as a metaphor for ‘God’ in the work of Plotinus; and [4] operates as a principle of organization in the mandala in general, and in the figures of the Enneagram and Dzogchen mandalas in particular.

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Are some experiences more “experiential”?

Scale of Experientiality. Gibbons and Hopkins (1980)

(The schema embedded in the paper is a thought provoker.)

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