BEA.ST

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archive for January, 2011

2011.01.20 A Letter with Jav, part 1

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I have been getting into an interesting conversation with my friend Javier, about the potential intersections between science and spirit. We’re getting into raises issues that might be relevant to many people, so I’m sharing our emails, when they come, as a dialogue about the potential in spirituality that may be consistent with science. I think this potential could represent a revolution of the current scientific model.

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Jeff,
Let us start at the beginning: I do not believe that God exists.  You do, but I suspect that our concepts of God (or god) are different.  I define God as the Designer, an intelligent being that created the universe with the intention that humans will live and die in it.  To be clear: it is a necessary condition of God (with a capital G) that humanity is not the accidental phenomenon that emerged from this universe’s complexity.   While certainly it may be the case that a designer created the universe with no idea that humans would pop up in our little corner of the cosmos, or even that the designer fully expected sentient life forms to stochastically evolve — both sufficient conditions for the existence of god (lowercase g) — it is the stronger God, the ascription of a universe designed for humanity, that I reject.
That is not to say that I accept any lowercase-g theories, but the capital-G theories get the most air time.
So which do you believe in, Jeff, God or god?

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Hey Jav. I’m really excited to have this conversation with you publicly. Right now your mind is hitting on some of the things that have been big issues in my head recently.

I want to start with Joseph Campbell: The universality of myth, and the universality of the hero. If I were to try to compress everything he offered into one sentence, it would be roughly: “Every religious story is a metaphorical account of a potential transformation of human consciousness, represented in the relevant language of its cultural climate.” All of the differing specifics of each religion offer different paths, a different methodology, to transform the current typical stage of consciousness to a qualitatively different place; a different way to experience life itself. But since our minds work fundamentally through metaphor, these very abstract shifts needed to be put into more ‘everyday’ stories. The fact that those stories differ is a consequence of the fact that the story part isn’t the important part. Only what it points to is. (If there’s interest I am glad to write plenty more about Joe Campbell and these theories).

However, we as humans seem to often miss that, which causes a fundamentalism of sorts; but I would say there are fundamentalists on both sides. Anyone that sticks to the story representation is spending time in a conflict that, although it has merit on its own, ignores the actual root of such conflict — the inability for both sides [I’m speaking science + religion] to realize that a shift in consciousness lay at the root of our misunderstanding, and without confronting it directly, this symptomatic fight will never get anywhere.

If the metaphors point to the same thing, then it seems that this is just as important ‘as if’ a personal God were around. Is it a big enough of a deal to humankind that it is nothing less than that sort of event. And if it is a qualitative shift in consciousness, you can’t possibly understand it directly until you understand it directly — it’s like trying to get a reptile to understand empathy, or a rat to understand self-awareness. It is a layer that encompasses all previous layers, contextualizes them. Spiritual development becomes one more stage in our evolution, a major cultural evolutionary step.

In teaching it (on this animal level), the stories need to reach the reader as directly as possible. But then science came around and starting showing objective inaccuracies in the specific metaphors that were being used. And with their story, a story of how things should follow repeatability in nature, patterns, we lost our connection with the root of the issue. We forgot completely that the stories were just metaphors—pointers to the real thing.

This idea of humanity being an accident, the whole argument comes down to a misrepresenting metaphor. The specific form of humanity is an accident, but this general pattern of how consciousness is layered in complexity (and I mean that literally) was going to manifest at some point or other in self-awareness. And we might still not be on this shift, we might all die off because of the inequities we caused for ourselves, and then 7 billion years later another creature will evolve way further than we do. This general pattern of layers of intelligence and concsiousness has a tendency to manifest on this universe.

It seems possible that, over the last few thousand years, humankind has started to experience  a cultural mimetic mutation that fundamentally rewires the qualitative structure of the human mind, into a new operating system. It may not usually be interpreted as such, but it aligns well as a wider contextual (and metaphorical) interpretation of religious texts. Call it whatever you want: God, enlightenment, cosmic consciousness, Nirvana, being, the Tao, presence, Jesus. It seems worthy of a name, even if it may be literally beyond conception (therefore beyond name-ability). Remember, beyond conception does not mean beyond experience; it just means beyond the experience of the rational mind. This may be the current default [in different layers] but by no means the final operating architecture possible with neural connections!

So clearly, I believe in a ‘god’ not a ‘God’ but neither of them is much better or worse than the other. They are both pointers to something else: life itself. Just a different perspective and understanding of life, and your connection with it. An experience worthy of a title, yet unnameable. It is about knowing that you are not only a wave in the ocean, but that you, as a wave, are the ocean itself. If you know that firsthand, where is suffering? Where is death?

Leaving it here in hope of further discussion,
Jeff

2011.01.07 why i tell people i believe in god.

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Lately, for the fun of it, I tell people that I believe in god. Everyone has their own drastically varying image of that word, and I can’t say i actually ‘believe in god’ in the way most people would typically immediately interpret it, some guy-with-a-beard who is ultimately controlling things. But when it comes down to it, I think I now understand ‘god’ and ‘spirituality’ from a perspective that fits completely within the world of science, if we would open our eyes just for a second. I see now how it actually simplifies many of the current theories we have, enabling a new paradigm of science, one that most people are currently unaware of. I’m pretty sure there is a revolution about to happen in the scientific world and i want to talk about it. Right Now.

Usually, I’m too scared to talk about this at all. but i’ve decided as a new year’s resolution, that right now this is the stuff I’m riffing on the most scientifically, the stuff that is the most important thing to me right now, and I should be open about it, even if it ends up wrong. We’re searching for truth, right? I’m afraid to talk about it because it’s a new taboo — in the scientific, materialist, atheist regime that has largely given me my identity, I am now the taboo of a ‘scientist who believes in some version of god.’ A new form of publicly ridiculed minority, in some sense.

I’ve been an atheist since 1987, when I was nine years old (more on that later). But this year I’m changing my mind. This year I’m telling people I believe in god. For no other reason than to try to start the conversation. Because I think people should hear why. Because now I think it’s the most important thing, just like ‘all the other people who believe in god,’ and I believe it but think it makes perfect scientific sense, and I’ve been embarrased about it and not discussing it! This is ridiculous and it’s time it changed. The best a scientist can be is critically open, not critically closed.

We act as if the rational mind we evolved over the last 7-or-so-million-years is the end of the story, and only technology is going to continue to change things. But I think our civilization is on the cusp of a serious and total shift in human consciousness. One that is quite well-explained from evolutionary theory, one you might even predict; and when it’s misinterpreted by the minds upon which it acts, the recipients become dogmatic: they get stuck with a mental/rational interpretation of something [which must be told through metaphor and myth], forgetting that all the stories were only there as pointers to an internal shift. We are storytellers, after all; and sometimes we forget that the stories are the beginning and not the end. It is important to be open to the possibility that even if 99.9% of religious people are stuck in dogma, the other 0.1% may be experiencing something fundamentally different, and fundamentally real.

Something from which we can learn. As soon as science wakes up to the fact that this could explain all religious stories and experiences. Underneath all of them, are hidden techniques to engage actively with this qualitative shift in consciousness. It actually simplifies the story greatly.

Sound, color, taste, cannot be described fully in words. These other dimensions of our experience are internal, and incommunicable through rationality — direct experience is necessary. The word ‘God’ is a metaphorical pointer to an unthinkable, unspeakable stage of consciousness. A stage that has actually stepped outside of rational thought to a new way for our neurons to function. A stage that may be best described as a direct experiential knowledge of the unity of all things. This enables new freedoms that help us evolve beyond our current evolutionary limitations. A new layer of consciousness, that contextualizes rational thought. A new layer of consciousness that controls the system of the rational mind, the ‘ego’, the ‘self’. A new dimension of consciousness, one in which you literally see things differently. And one that is being (almost) completely ignored by the current scientific machine.

I will get into the details over time. But I want people to discuss this with me. I want you to tell me how (with an open mind to this as a current hypothesis) I’m wrong. I want to debate this. But there are fundamentalists on both sides. Anything new is bound to seem weird at first. I hope that we have an opportunity to push forward on a theory together. Science has never been a complete theory, and a century from now something we take for granted right now will be shown to be wrong. We are always evolving.

I’ve been looking around, and no one is having this conversation openly and publicly! This should be a huge issue right now. This is possibly the most  important unspoken thing going on in science right now and still barely anyone knows about it. If you’d like to be part of the conversation, please keep checking back here. I would really appreciate it. I’d like science to embrace open-source — this is not about me, it is about the ideas.

Anyway. At this point I have a theory for the existence of a new layer of consciousness, that once looked at from a mathematical, molecular, and evolutionary perspective, lines up completely with all the evidence we see today, in a way that simplifies the whole issue that people call “god” with so many different names and tales, into one single storyline. Simplification and beauty is typically a good sign for a scientific theory. But it may also be over-reductive, and I’d like to know if i’m falling into that trap.

If this whole idea of ‘god’ fits into a larger consistent scientific theory than we currently have, it represents a serious revolution with potential benefits to all of mankind. I fully believe it does at this point, so I want to discuss it with as many people as possible and help develop the theory further. Especially if you don’t currently agree with me, but are interested in the conversation. Whether you are an atheist scientist, a born-again christian, or someone who hasn’t decided — I think underneath our differences we have the potential to agree.

Whether or not you see me walking around with a ‘teen heart throb’ wig on, I want to talk to you about this if you see me in person. Xercyn was born at the now of midnight on 1.1.11. Please spread the word if interested.

xercyn at the beach, 2011.1.1 (yes it's a wig)

2011.01.06 spiritual diary

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I’ve been meditating an hour a day for roughly the last 6 months, I think I haven’t missed a day. It has become more and more important to me, and things have been qualitatively changing, although ironically, there are still plenty of days where my mind is totally scattered and all over for the full hour.

The first hour today was normal – some moments of clarity, some thinking and loss of time. I’ve been thinking a decent amount about upping the time each day, so after the normal hour I lay there for a while meditating, probably another 45 minutes. It’s funny how I still go back and forth thinking that is the best use of my time and a waste of it, as if I should be doing something else…

Anyway, about 10 minutes into the next section something was triggered. I still don’t understand it very well, but it’s similar to some other things that have been happening intermittently, and lasted only about 15 seconds (or so it seemed). I wish I had a brainwave monitor on at the time…

I first saw what seemed to be some of these basic proto-shapes in my visual field; it looked kind of like a triangular kaleidoscope, silver triangle at the end with green side walls; of course my brain was making it into some pattern; but as i let those random fluctuations form into something crisper and crisper, it also became clearer and clearer that I was not them, I was purely witnessing from far away. And as has happened before, basically in some near-instant something snapped, and I felt remarkably far away from my visual field, and all of my tactile sensations started to resonate wildly.

I felt myself growing bigger and bigger while at the same time remaining completely bounded [the way the surface of a sphere can maintain both?] and every skin sensor was off the charts, basically the boundary of my body felt as if it was dissolving. But not like I would have normally predicted — more like, the sensations got stronger and stronger almost like when your foot is asleep and it’s waking up how those prickly feelings tend to feel less spatially exact. So, just like that, as these sensations became more and more strong, the boundary became harder and harder to detect. To remember that all of those sensations really are just electrical signals, that the brain puts together into a spatial representation due to its usefulness, is very difficult, but also seems to explain how some of this might happen, as a mental process of getting to the lower and lower perceptual systems to slowly remap the way they function together.

2010.12.31 The Release into Weightlessness

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Javier took Danielle and I for a flight in a tiny Sesna three-seater. I’ve never been in such a tiny plane; you can really feel every tilt and roll of the plane body as if its an extension of your own. If you had nerves about this sort of thing you’d probably throw up before taking off. It was a serious blast.

He knows his stuff; there was never any sense of real worry. Once we were stabilized (and after I got to actually fly the plane for a while!), he showed us some of the maneuvers he and this plane could handle. One of the most amazing was entering a stall — a sudden and qualitative shift in the wings ability to generate lift. Typically, a sufficient air speed creates a laminar flow of air over the wing, but in certain conditions (like sufficiently reduced speed), the flow becomes turbulent over the wing, and suddenly the wing generates no lift. You certainly feel it immediately.

But it’s the zero-G dives that make this specifically noteworthy. (more…)

 

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