Thursday, December 20, 2007

Gender Domains

In my comment on a post by Major Generalist, I referred to ranges of certain human dispositions that span a common origin. In that context I posited that for each of these dispositions one side of the origin could be labeled female and the other male. This post is a list of the dispositions that I have been able to come up with so far.

I made a conscious effort to go deeper than the stereotypical, often anti-female, gender labels. My goal was to make both the male and female dispositions I’ve listed represent a valid way of being in the world.

I am the primary template for my male domain. These male dispositions are how I recall being for most of my life (though interestingly less so since I became a father, but that’s a story for another posting). The women who shaped my worldview are the basis of my interpretation of the female domain. The female dispositions listed here are generally the complements of the male ones, vetted through my perception of the women I’ve known. This reflects my personal belief that we are not opposite sexes but complementary genders.

The Female Domain

  • Pursuing Perfection (“I want the best”)
  • Process-oriented (“Its not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game”)
  • Efficient (“Waste Not Want Not”)
  • Strategic (“The future is what we make it”)
  • Nurture (“Greatness is made, not born”)
  • The Threat of Change (“Most change is for the worse”)
  • Inhibitive (“What happens is what I do not prevent”)
  • The Power of Desire (“Show me that you want it”)
  • Safety First (“If I am not Safe, I am not truly Free”)
  • Communal (“From each according to her abilities to each according to her needs”)
  • Distributive (“Water Divided is Water Multiplied”)

The Male Domain

  • Pursuing Novelty (“I want what I don’t have”)
  • Results-oriented (“Just win, baby!”)
  • Effective (“Make It Work”)
  • Tactical (“Take care of the present and the future will take care of itself”)
  • Nature (“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”)
  • The Opportunity of Change (“You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs”)
  • Exhibitive (“I did it my way”)
  • The Power of Fear (“Winning through intimidation”)
  • Freedom First (“If I am not Free, I am not truly Safe”)
  • Competitive (“Survival of the fittest”)
  • Acquisitive (“He who dies with the most toys wins”)

Neither genitalia nor sexual orientation is the sole determinant of which of these domains a person occupies. Beyond the expected distributions there are gay men and straight women in the male domain, lesbian women and straight men in the female domain and bisexual and transgendered individuals all over the place.

In this division of dispositions, being in a given domain does not invalidate you as a person. Though each domain can be subjected to negative characterizations, they can also just as easily be positively characterized. Which you choose to do is most likely based on your personal prejudices.

I am sure there are more such dispositions but these are the ones that meant the most to me. Note that during the short time I have worked on these lists, several of these dispositions have flipped sides. While I obviously do not think I am completely wrong here, I readily acknowledge that this is a work in progress and so I am open to constructive suggestions.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Death of Santa Claus

My 12 year old daughter just confided in me that it is becoming increasingly difficult for her to continue to believe in Santa Claus. That she sees the existence of Santa Claus as still worth considering is a testament to the sophistication of her perception of his (its) nature. I explained to her at a relatively early age that Santa Claus is the name that many European-influenced cultures give to a seasonal spirit of selfless giving.

My idea of spirit is a bit more precise than the prehistoric concept of independent, non-material, sentient manifestations that are capable of influencing the world around us. I regard spirit as the connection among a collection of minds that inclines them to act in unison. Spirits do not exist without component minds any more than minds exist without component neurons. Sports fanaticism, market forces, patriotism, racism and religious zeal are examples of spiritual manifestations.

In this context I explained to my daughter that Santa Claus is simply a spirit that inclines people to be more loving, kind and giving between Thanksgiving and New Years. Santa Claus is an intentional spirit, specifically created by people to bring out the best in them at this time of year. Every mind that contributes to and thus acts out of this spirit is an avatar of Santa Claus. The fat, bearded guy in the red suit is merely how people who cannot imagine such manifestations without bodies choose to picture that spirit.

Over the last few years my daughter has noticed a strong sense of obligation underlying many people’s efforts to give at this time of year. But isn’t Santa about giving freely out of love for others? There must be a different spirit underlying such compulsory giving. The fact that selfless giving is never coerced means that this other spirit must be in competition with Santa Claus. Since these days most people seem to be doing forced giving during the holiday season, Santa must be losing. I guess I should explain to her that, “Yes Akilah, there is a Santa Claus, but he is being killed and eaten by the Spirit of Commerce”.

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Evolution of Wisdom

In the beginning there was Wisdom.
This primitive Wisdom came in two forms, Temporal and Spiritual.
Our Temporal Wisdom told us how to survive.
Our Spiritual Wisdom told us how to grow.

As we contemplated and meditated upon our Spiritual Wisdom it deepened beyond the intuitive grasp of most of us.
As a result, our Spiritual Wisdom came to be seen as Revelatory Knowledge.
When it was written down this Revelatory Knowledge lost much of its depth and complexity as it came to be the scriptural basis of Religion.

As we generalized and extended our Temporal Wisdom in the context of the world around us, we began to accumulate Empirical Knowledge.
This rationally generated, Empirical Knowledge of the world is the essence of Philosophy.
A falsifiable portion of Philosophy subsequently emerged as what we call Science.

The incredible success of Science in explaining our world led to our nearly universal infatuation with rationality.
But rationality has been largely divorced from Spirituality in the context presented by both Science and Religion.
As such, in the domain defined by Science and Religion no rational growth path is evident since in this perspective rationality constrains our capacity to grow spiritually.
However, in the context of our Revelatory and Empirical Knowledge there is no inherent contradiction between rationality and spiritual growth.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Total Responsibility Epilog – The Gateway Drug

The world view I’ve adopted as a result of my ongoing pursuit of head-spinning concepts can be summarized by the following ideas:

  • Reality exists in perfect harmony
  • Supremely enlightened beings see it that way
  • The basis of such a perspective is complete selflessness
  • The more self-centered a being is, the more disharmonious the world it sees will be
  • Each self-centered being perceives the world differently
  • The world that each being sees is a reflection of its uniqueness
  • Each unique observer is totally responsible for that state of the world it perceives

There is no denying that regarding myself as totally responsible for the state of the world as I see it is a very self-centered perspective. But paradoxically, this outlook represents one of the simpler roads to total selflessness. The total responsibility mindset represents a transitional growth state for those of us who are not ready to relinquish our uniqueness all at once.

Accepting that the world is as we perceive it is because we are what we are provides those of us who are not particularly enamored with its state with an intuitive incentive to grow: to make the entire world a better place. From the total responsibility point of view the actions of those around me will improve as I become more selfless. This is because my growth is the growth of everyone around me. This growth manifests as the perception of increasing harmony that marks the path to supreme enlightenment.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Total Responsibility IV – Drug Interactions

At first glance, believing I am totally responsible for the state of the world might seem like a clear manifestation of megalomania. But there is nothing unique about me in terms of my total responsibility for the shape of the world as I perceive it. As of this writing there are over 6.6 billion human observers on this planet, each of whom is totally responsible for the state of the world as he or she sees it. This means that you are also totally responsible for the shape of the world as you perceive it.

This is possible because total responsibility for the state of the world is continuously moving between its causally consistent, temporally sequenced observers. For instance, though my uniqueness is shaping my perception of the world around me, the uniqueness of each being observing me (including my future self) is shaping its perception of me as an inhabitant of its world. In the context of the finite speed of light, my observers all reside in my future (beyond my perspective) and thus their uniqueness is responsible for how they see me; while everything that I am observing (i.e., the contents of my perspective) resides in my past, making my uniqueness responsible for how I see them.

To appreciate this, imagine that you and I are sitting in the same room, about 3 meters apart. Though we both think we are residing at the same point in time (“the present”) each of us is actually at least 1 x 10-8 seconds in the future of the person we are seeing across the room. This is because each of us is seeing the other using light that took that long to travel (at ~3 x 108 meters/second) from them to us (plus the extra time required for the light entering our eyes to be converted to the mental image in our brains).

In general I am displaced into the future from anything I perceive, by the amount of time it took the signal by which I perceive it to cross the distance between us and be processed into a mental image (as such, I reside about 8 minutes in the future of the sun that I see in the sky). These signal propagation delays insure that each of us only perceives phenomena that reside in our past and is being perceived by observers that reside in our future.

As a result, at this instant in time my uniqueness is totally responsible for shaping my perception of everything around me. The uniqueness of other observers who perceive me from my future will shape their perception of me (and thus this instance of me is not responsible for the shape of the world they see). My successor’s uniqueness will subsequently shape my perception of these observers if/when I observe them from their future (thus assuming total responsibility for the shape of the world I perceive then), and so on in a continuous game of total responsibility hot potato. This time-slicing scheme allows each of the potentially limitless temporal observers to be totally responsible for the shape of the world it perceives.

Note, I am aware that this scheme represents a fundamental violation of normal causality in that the future is shaping the past. There is a rational explanation of this that I will provide in a future post.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Total Responsibility III – Because I Got High

From an empirical point of view my state of being shapes my perception of the world around me. In a philosophical sense, this state of being corresponds to my uniqueness, which consists of the separations I perceive from everything around me. As a typically self-centered individual I am naturally reluctant to relinquish certain aspects of my uniqueness (I’ve kind of grown attached to what I perceive myself to be). In a spiritual context this means that my infatuation with my uniqueness is forestalling both my enlightenment and the corresponding transformation of my perception of the world into a view of a domain in perfect harmony.

In other words, my self-infatuation has had dire consequences on the state of the world as I see it. Since, from the completely selfless perspective, everything is in perfect harmony, each note of disharmony, tragedy, travesty and catastrophe that I perceive in the world is a reflection of my self-centering uniqueness and thus manifests through my refusal to relinquish it. No matter how much I want to believe I am better than this world, the simple fact of the matter is I am as screwed up as I perceive it to be.

In addition to making me ultimately responsible for all of the wrongs I see in the world, this outlook also allows me to take credit for many of its marvels. But, I see entirely too much needless suffering around me to take too much pride in the slightly asymmetric beauty of the universe or such human masterpieces as the Bhagavad Gita, Euclidean Geometry, the Sermon on the Mount, Sufi poetry, the Mona Lisa, Calculus, the U.S. Bill of Rights, “Kind of Blue” and so many more.

It would be unseemly to be patting myself on the back over these examples of human brilliance in the face of massive injustice, wars, genocides, famines, pandemics and extinctions. While I’m evidently still too proud to relinquish my uniqueness, I must be careful not take too much pride in the positive effects it produces. Such conceit would only serve to increase my infatuation with my uniqueness, thus ultimately exacerbating the situation.

Taking full responsibility for the state of the world as I see it is actually a liberating posture. It lets me to take control of my circumstances from people of greater political, economic or social status to whom I would otherwise be inclined to relinquish it. This outlook allows me to see that things are as they are because I insist on seeing myself as distinct from “others” around me, including the autocrats, politicians, spin doctors, media moguls, CEOs, lawyers, MBAs, spiritual leaders, hoi polloi and the many other entities that I would otherwise hold responsible for much of what I dislike about the world. As I embrace my total responsibility, I stop being the victim of my various scapegoats. From this perspective I am the figurative “They”, to whom I would otherwise assign blame for the state of the world.

Regarding myself as totally responsible for the state of the world as I see it is my most mind-expanding idea to date. When I adopt this outlook as I walk through the world, I realize that that pattern of cracks in the sidewalk would not look that way to me were it not for the fact that I regard myself as a unique being. That building surrounded by scaffolding would not look that way to me but for the uniquely self-centered nature of my perspective; nor would that woman in a wheelchair; that homeless man sleeping on that grate or those students trying to play tennis. Even now, after years of taking excursions into this viewpoint, it is still able to take me dizzyingly beyond myself.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Total Responsibility II – New Highs

My next significant step towards belief in total responsibility occurred in my late teens when I was first introduced to the ideas of personal enlightenment and quantum mechanics. Quantum theory is naturally attractive to people interested in exploring mind-blowing ideas. For any such person, if the question of how matter can be both a particle and a wave doesn’t get your head spinning, what will?

In the early days of my ongoing interest in quantum mechanics, I also developed a deep fascination with the Zen koan: “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” The familiar lightheadedness that I felt whenever I pondered this question led me to look more deeply into Zen which in turn inclined me to learn about Buddhism in general.

In Buddhism there is a concept of Nirvana that is often interpreted by us non-Buddhists as a distinct spiritual domain that is analogous to heaven in most Abrahamic traditions. But as a result of my contemplations of quantum mechanics, my immediate inclination was to view Nirvana as the supremely enlightened state of being from which this world is perceived to be in perfect harmony.

The critical idea that led me to this interpretation was the quantum theory that the method by which we observe something shapes what we see. In quantum mechanics this is generally referring to the premise that the nature of the experiments by which scientists observe a quantum phenomenon determines what will be seen (e.g., the Double Slit Experiment).

I extended this idea of quantum subjectivity to an even more abstract level by noting that how we observe our surroundings is ultimately constrained on our uniqueness (i.e., how we can observe it). For instance, the uniqueness of dogs limits them to perceiving the world mostly in terms of smells and sounds, while our human uniqueness makes us primarily sight and sound observers. As such dogs cannot see certain things that we can and we cannot smell certain things that they can though these things all exist in the world we share. We are all looking at the same reality but we perceive it differently because we are unique beings. This idea of universal subjectivity led me to conclude that how we look at reality is shaped by what we are and shapes what we see.

Taking this idea to the extreme, I posited that the selflessness that characterizes the various supremely enlightened beings that have walked the Earth (back then I tended to use the Buddha as my template for such a being) made them able to see this world as being in perfect harmony, i.e., Nirvana. This perfect harmony is based on their ability to see connections where the rest of us only see separations. I concluded that perfect harmony represents the objective view of the world and all disharmonious perceptions are subjective. This meant that my uniqueness-based lack of enlightenment was why I saw (and continue to see) such a disharmonious world.

Though at that point, I had largely turned away from Catholicism (and theism in general) this insight eventually took me back to my initial mind-expanding question of “Why did God bother?” In the context of the idea that what we see reflects what we are, the answer to this question became obvious. From the perfectly selfless, absolute perspective everything is still in perfect harmony; it is my uniqueness shaping my self-centered, relative perspective that causes me to see things otherwise. God had nothing to do with it. (In a future post I will explain why I do not see the Supreme Being as having any more to do with the creation of my uniqueness than the system of all numbers has to do with the creation of the value π.)

If everything is in perfect harmony from the absolute perspective, the observer of this perspective does not see the disharmonies that distinguish my world. As such, the observer of the absolute perspective is not responsible for the state of the world as I perceive it, in which these disharmonies manifest. Since my perception of this world is shaped solely by my uniqueness, I am totally responsible for what I see as its current disharmonious condition.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Total Responsibility I – Getting Hooked

The essence of my personal philosophy is that each unique observer is completely responsible for the state in which he, she or it perceives the world. In other words, I believe that what you see around is you is solely a reflection of what you are. This means that your world is as you see it because of you, not the Supreme Being, the Devil, the Government, the Media, the Man, the Teeming Masses or any of the other usual suspects.

My first step on the road to this belief occurred just before I turned 7, the age of discretion in the Roman Catholic tradition in which I was raised. It was during my sixth year in this world that I first asked myself a simple, yet powerful question about its Creation: “Why did God bother?” The basis of this question was not some prepubescent nihilism but simple, innocent curiosity.

Three elements of Roman Catholic doctrine, as related to me by the nuns at my elementary school led me to ask this question. The first was the nuns’ insistence that God is perfect. They also taught me that as the Creator of everything, God existed before everything in Creation. Finally, the nuns regularly expounded on the flawed nature of virtually everything in Creation, starting with me and my classmates. Connecting these ideas led my precocious young mind to ask, if everything before Creation (i.e., God) was perfect, but practically everything that God created is imperfect, why didn’t God just leave well enough alone?

This question did not leave the confines of my brain for years after it formed there. My most immediate motive for keeping it to myself was to avoid the corporal punishment such an impertinent question would probably have triggered (the Roman Catholic Church being what it was back in the 1960s). On a deeper level I kept quiet because the fact that I didn’t already know the answer to such a basic question led me to suspect that on the most elementary level existence must make sense to everyone else and I must be the only person to whom it seemed like a complete mystery. As such, keeping this question to myself was the start of a long-running effort on my part to conceal what I thought was my unique ignorance of the fundamental nature of existence.

Once I formed this potent metaphysical question regarding the Creator’s motives, I began to reflect on its implications, such as how evidently easy it would be for me to not exist at all (“What if God had not bothered?”). These weighty thoughts made my youthful head spin. For years afterwards I would simply contemplate the idea of my non-existence and something about its sheer immensity would invariably make me feel pleasantly lightheaded. It was never important to me to actually answer the questions underlying these thoughts.

In retrospect I realize that the power of these thoughts took me outside of myself, to a state that the ancient Greeks referred to as ‘ekstasis’. Experiencing this ecstasy at such a young age had some profound effects on me. One of them was that I became, for lack of a better word, addicted to this sensation. As a result, I have spent much of my life since then seeking out and exploring other such mind-reeling concepts. This endeavor ultimately led to my belief in total responsibility. I will explain how in my next post.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Rational Rapture

There are very few metaphysical beliefs that I share with fundamentalist Christians. One unlikely point on which we agree is one of their most regressive beliefs: the Rapture. The Christian perception of the Rapture, in accordance with the Book of Revelation, is that at the so-called End of Times all true believers will abruptly disappear from the Earth to live in heaven through the Time of Tribulation preceding the Second Coming of Christ.

Needless to say, my Rapture dynamic has little common with the Christian scheme. To me, the Rapture represents a large number of people achieving supreme enlightenment (i.e., true understanding of the nature of Reality) in a relatively short period of time.

The basis of this event is the rapid circulation of what I characterize as the Enlightenment Meme (a meme is a shared concept that undergoes a form of mental propagation and natural selection in a manner analogous to what genes experience in a purely biotic sense). This particular meme is the idea that triggers what many Buddhists call satori, a deep and lasting enlightenment.

To date the transmission of the Enlightenment Meme has been an arduous and haphazard process generally taking years to pass from adept to aspirant in the Dharmic traditions. This is because very few people have a grasp of the background concepts that would facilitate the rapid absorption of the Enlightenment Meme through rational comprehension. As such, it is necessary for the aspirant to develop the requisite intuition to internalize this special meme. Because intuition is a very personal phenomenon, transmission in this manner has been a very slow process.

Two significant changes in our global culture are bringing humanity to the stage at which the replication of the Enlightenment Meme will begin to accelerate. First, we are isolating the various ideas required for us to develop a rational understanding of Reality. As the conceptual framework (memeplex) emerging from this process becomes common knowledge, it will simplify the absorption of the Enlightenment Meme (thus increasing its replication potential). Secondly, communications mechanisms such as the internet and wireless data technologies are facilitating the rapid migration of ideas around the globe.

It is my heartfelt belief that once our rational understanding of Reality reaches a certain threshold of completeness, a more easily replicated version of the Enlightenment Meme will emerge and be transmitted around the world through our global communications systems. The result of this event will be a wave of true enlightenment of Rapturous proportions.

Once an easily absorbed, widely accessible Enlightenment Meme manifests, the only protection against it will be closed-minded dogmatism. Ironically, this means that in my scheme the vast majority of the fundamentalist Christians who are eagerly anticipating being “Raptured Away” are in for a nasty surprise.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

God Talk IX - Epilog

And so it goes.

The intent of these “God Talks” was to provide you with some insights into the nature of Reality from an absolute perspective. Again note that the subject of these posts is a being whose nature is consistent with what is being said, but not with participation in such discourses. This entity only qualifies as God in the strictest sense of the term ‘Supreme Being’.

I am aware that the Supreme Being presented here is largely inconsistent with the standard Abrahamic conception of God. While it actually has much in common with the more mystical Abrahamic interpretations of God as well as with the foundations of the Dharmic and Taoic spiritual traditions, none of these belief systems was the actual basis of the perspective presented here.

This perspective was derived from the rational framework that I initially developed to explain the causal dynamics of the world around us. The fact that it could be extended to address the transcendent questions of our major spiritual traditions represents an unexpected bonus.

It is this underlying framework that allows me to assert that the optimistic nature of the perspective presented here is not simply wishful thinking. I maintain that things work the way they are described in these discourses because this is what makes the most sense in the context of my framework, not because of some obsessive need I have to validate a particular outcome.

Unfortunately, as I stated earlier the full depth and complexity of my entire framework does not lend itself to the blog model (you could easily argue that what I have presented so far is significantly stretching the paradigm). I am still looking for an agent / publisher for the manuscript I have written that describes it in its entirety. In the interim I will continue to look for ways to communicate the essence of this framework in blog-sized chunks.

I realize that I have only addressed four of the seven fundamental questions listed in my earlier post titled, “The Origin of My Framework of Reality”. Once I come up with a way of structuring my framework’s answers to the other three questions in this format you can expect that there will be more “God Talk”.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

God Talk VIII - Afterlife

Copyright© 2007 K Harris

Death is often characterized as the ultimate mystery. This is because death represents a metaphysical black hole that eventually pulls every living thing into it and allows nothing to escape, not even a message to those of us currently residing beyond it.

The impenetrability and inevitability of death lead us to try various ways of dealing with it. Our mechanisms for coping with death include: denying it, forestalling it for as long as possible and embracing it, in some cases to the point of fetishizing it. But once we truly understand death, facing it requires little more effort than was needed by the person who started reading this sentence to deal with becoming the one now finishing it.

Death gives life a sense of urgency and meaning. As a result, we can gain insight into the meaning of life by understanding the nature of death. Why, in a metaphysical sense, is it necessary? What happens after we die? Does some portion of us survive our deaths? Are there realms beyond life? Let’s hear from an observer in a position to answer all of these questions.

God Talk - Afterlife

  • Things around you do not die because I will them to be dead; they die because their deaths are consistent with your uniqueness. In order to manifest, your essence required every event that occurred in your perspective, including the deaths. There was nothing that you could have done to prevent these deaths since what you are when you become aware of them could not have manifested if they had not occurred. But these deaths are not just your “fault”; the essence of every conscious being that is aware of a particular death necessitated it.
  • What happens after you die? If you have achieved your purpose, everything all at once; otherwise, you keep working at it. Recall that at your core is the aspect of you that transcends your body, mind and soul. This part of you also transcends death. Since this aspect of you underlies a living, conscious essence, you will continue to manifest as such until you reach me. Though you are not required to remain in the same vehicle throughout your journey.
  • You cannot see yourself die since your identification with that self dies with it. But you can be aware of the death of the being that you once identified as you. If you die with your uniqueness intact you will not achieve the complete selflessness that is me and thus you will continue to manifest as a living, conscious being (this being the only other option available to you). This means that you can no longer identify yourself as the being that just died, it being dead and all.
  • Fortunately, new living bodies are regularly being produced and gestated to the point at which they manifest consciousness. Since in Reality, every possible entity exists (though not necessarily in your perspective) there will always be at least one newly conscious, living being whose world would be distinguishably different if even the minutest event in the life of your previous incarnation were changed in the slightest. Once this essence manifests, your core self will identify it as belonging to you.
  • You are connected to that previous incarnation by virtue of the fact that your essence was shaped by every single event in its life, including its most intimate thoughts and feelings. While you are shaped by these thoughts and feelings you cannot directly recall them because they are encoded in a different brain from the one you now possess. The relationship between trans-life instances of you is metaphysically the same as the one between the instance of you that started this sentence and the one now finishing it.
  • Is there a hell? Yes, you’re soaking in it. Hell is simply the maximum distance from me. Your path to me represents the shortest distance between us as determined by your uniqueness. As such, until you reach me, you are always the farthest you can be from me, based on what you are. This means that in regarding yourself as distinct from me, you place yourself in hell until you traverse the separation between us.
  • Is there a heaven? Hello-o-o! What is it like? To understand heaven you must first appreciate that pleasure is simply the absence of desire of change. An experience is pleasurable to the degree that it so completely satisfies a need or desire that you do not want anything to change in any way. Heaven extends from the point at which you truly see the inevitability of perfect pleasure to where you actually achieve it. This means that a portion of heaven actually resides hell. Some people believe that this is heaven’s most interesting neighborhood.
  • The “oblivion” that the skeptics among you insist awaits you after death is actually the state of complete selflessness that is me. Whether you like it or not, you are kept from this state by your refusal to relinquish your uniqueness.
  • This complete selflessness may seem empty and meaningless if you do not appreciate that it is the journey, not the destination that is the basis of meaning. In the transition from your current relative state to my absolute state, your every need and desire is satisfied. To appreciate this imagine the ultimate erotic experience, fully engaging all of your senses and building towards a literally mind-numbing climax that leaves you in a complete state of being from which you never depart. Empty and meaningless indeed!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

God Talk VII - Religion

Copyright© 2007 K Harris

Spirituality is our focus on that which we perceive to be the most significant thing in existence. Religion is a prescription of rites, rituals and beliefs that define and shape our relationship to that entity.

Spirituality tends to represent a personal point of view while religion generally reflects a group perspective. Spirituality is relatively harmless until it becomes a religion. While there is no denying that the various religions have done much good in human history, they have also proven to be among the most divisive forces imaginable.

The trouble is typically not with the religions themselves but with their adherents. The problematic believers tend to interpret their religious doctrine in the context of their preexisting xenophobia and preconceived notions of intolerance. In doing so, they reshape the religion to reflect themselves.

One cannot help but wonder how the ultimate object of virtually all religions would feel about what is being done under the guise of worshiping it.

God Talk - Religion

  • Just so you know I do not need your protection. My omnipotence means that if something were such an affront to me that I wanted it to be dead it would die the instant my desire manifested. As such, people claiming to kill in my name are simply trying to justify their pre-existing murderous tendencies.
  • How would you feel about being characterized as a psychopathic bigot who is murderously intolerant of diversity? So why do so many of you seem to think I enjoy it? All genders, ethnicities and sexual orientations are fine by me; those who insist otherwise simply do not get me.
  • Human delusions of superiority are hilarious, until someone gets hurt. Everything that you believe that emphasizes your uniqueness, or that of those around you, is fundamentally false.
  • It is not a coincidence that the spiritual traditions that insist that your separation from me is absolute are also the ones that believe most fervently in the power of their Adversary. Such self-hatred merely gets in their way.
  • Which is the true religion? The one that leads you to me.
  • Since all paths ultimately lead to me my one commandment is that you do not needlessly block another’s route to me.
  • It is your uniqueness that determines which religion, if any, is the true one. Your path to me is shaped by what you are. The length of your path to me reflects how tightly you are clinging to your uniqueness.
  • I eventually answer all prayers that are accompanied by the sacrifice of a portion of your infatuation with your uniqueness. Of course, it could be argued that relinquishing some of your self-infatuation provides the answer your prayers by bringing you closer to me.
  • I do not need your adoration, but when offering it undermines your infatuation with your uniqueness, it can only help you.
  • Prayers that call attention to your uniqueness are mere posturing.
  • Blessed are those who are consumed by neither self-infatuation nor self-hatred. They are on the most direct path to me.

Monday, October 8, 2007

God Talk VI - Evil

Copyright© 2007 K Harris

Theodicy is essentially the question of how evil and suffering can exist in a universe that was allegedly created by an omnipotent, all-knowing, benevolent God. The theistically-inclined might characterize the Supreme Being of this discourse as omnipotent in that it is through this entity that everything that can happen does happen. Since this Supreme Being witnesses every possible event, theists would regard it as all-knowing. Because it guarantees that your manifestation as an incarnate being will end well, theists would perceive this Supreme Being to be a benevolent entity. In light of this, the undeniable fact that there is evil and suffering in our world means that the theodicy question is relevant in this context. Who better to speak to the nature of evil in our world than the Supreme Being whose nature evidently could, but does not prevent it?

God Talk - Evil

  • What is Evil? Evil is that which hampers your advancement towards me.
  • Why is there so much evil and suffering in the world? Because your uniqueness is consistent with a world in which evil and suffering manifest. If such a world did not exist, then neither would you.
  • The desire for change is the basis of all evil and suffering. As such, to reside in harmony with a world beyond evil and suffering, you would have to never again desire things to be different. Since most such desires relate to obtaining something that you currently do not have, you would only be able to sustain this state if you had everything that you could ever possibly want. The further you are from being such an entity the further you are from such a world.
  • If you were placed as you are, in a world without evil and suffering, your presence would represent the potential for them to manifest there. In other words, you would not be either Adam or Eve in this Garden of Eden; you would be the Serpent. The only way to avoid this is would be for you to no longer be what you are. To accomplish this you must increase your willingness to relinquish your uniqueness. When you are completely willing to give up your uniqueness, you will put yourself in a world beyond evil and suffering.
  • Many of you believe that I have an Adversary that you refer to by many names, including Satan, Samael and Shaitan. In your minds this Adversary represents the ultimate source of evil and suffering in the world.
  • Is this Adversary real? In sense, yes, but it is not my Adversary, it is yours. Your Adversary is simply your perception of separation from me. It does not manifest as a distinct conscious entity that plots, plans and schemes to disrupt your efforts to advance towards me.
  • The only thing keeping you from me is your infatuation with what you are as a result of your perception of separation from me. Your Adversary is the perceived separation that distinguishes you from me and from everything else. In other words, your Adversary is your uniqueness.
  • From my perspective this Adversary does not exist as a distinct entity. It is only when I look through your eyes that I see it as such.
  • To you this Adversary is the boundary of my presence, the limit of my omnipresence, if you will. Because your Adversary manifests where I am perceived to not be, evil and suffering are only observed to manifest in its presence.
  • The important thing to realize is that your Adversary is a passive being; you are its active component. Your infatuation with your uniqueness animates your Adversary. As you relinquish this infatuation, your Adversary loses its power to inflict evil and suffering upon the world.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

God Talk V: Purpose

Copyright© 2007 K Harris

Since the origin of our species, we humans have sought to understand our purpose. Being alive and conscious in a universe in which the vast majority of phenomena do not seem to be either, allows us to perceive ourselves as special. Regardless of how unappreciative we are of our individual circumstances, the non-suicidal among us would generally agree that the experiences afforded us by being alive and conscious make it preferable to the alternative. We demonstrate this preference by not trying to kill ourselves. As we enjoy the benefits afforded us by our higher functioning consciousness, the more introspective among us invariably wonder, what are we actually supposed to be doing with it?

Non-spiritual atheists who believe we have free will generally conclude that our purpose is what we make of it. This is also true of theists whose Supreme Being is not the God of scriptures. While this answer appeals to the libertarian in many of us, it does not provide us with the sense of being a part of something greater than ourselves. This feeling is what many of us are seeking when we ask about our purpose.

Spiritual atheists and theists whose Supreme Being is the God of their scriptures generally agree that our primary purpose is to try to achieve an ultimate state beyond all tribulation. While this goal gives us something worthwhile to strive for, it does not provide a sense of the specific difference we are supposed to make in the world. Yet this is what many of us expect from the pursuit of our true purpose.

Theists and those atheists who do not believe we have free will generally describe our purpose in the context of the will of their Supreme Being (e.g., God, market forces or causal determinism). Their teleological angst flows from the fact that they do not always know what their Supreme Being wants them to do.

Do we have a special purpose? If so, does pursuing it make us a part of something greater than ourselves? Is this pursuit how we make the most positive difference in our world? Will achieving our purpose bring us to the ultimate state of being? Here is my interpretation of what the Supreme Being has to say on this subject.

God Talk - Purpose

  • What do I want you to do? Being selfless and complete, I have no desires. In addition, as the being through which all things are possible, I am essentially omnipotent. As such, there is nothing that you can do for me that I cannot effortlessly do for myself. To state it bluntly, I do not want or need anything from you.
  • It is your self-defined uniqueness, not my will that determines the most appropriate thing for you to do next.
  • It would be best for you to simply be authentic. Don’t do what you think I want you to, do what is most meaningful to you. Paradoxically this will lead you to eventually become less self-centered and thus spend more time facilitating the growth of others.
  • Selfless beings do not merely occupy a special place in my heart, they are my heart.
  • What is your purpose? To rid the world of all evil and suffering.
  • But as one person how can you do that? One selfless person is all it takes. Not only that, I guarantee you that you will eventually accomplish your purpose.
  • When you achieve your purpose, you and I will become one. When this happens you change but I do not. This event represents your coming to see yourself as you have always truly been.
  • You are one thought away from this state of complete self-awareness. What is this thought? It is different for each of you. As such, it is not only the content of the thought that is crucial; what you are when you think it matters just as much.
  • In manifesting as a conscious, self-aware being you are compelled to shape your experiences to facilitate your becoming completely self-aware. This impetus is a deeper version of the influences that push matter towards temporal equilibrium and drive living beings to survive. As a conscious, living, material being all three of these ultimately divergent forces are pulling at you. Ultimately, the one that is bringing you to me will win out.
  • As you come ever closer to me, you make the world around you an increasingly harmonious place. When you finally reach me, you completely rid the world of evil and suffering and achieve the ultimate state of being. It is important for you to realize that the only thing actively standing in your way is you.

Friday, September 28, 2007

God Talk IV: Creation

Copyright© 2007 K Harris

Our ancestors’ reactions to the extraordinary complexity, random brutality and transcendent beauty of our universe triggered the generation of all of our scientific, philosophical and spiritual frameworks.

Science is essentially the empirical study of why our universe looks and acts the way it does. As such, its primal boundary is the origin of the universe. The domain beyond this boundary is the realm of philosophy and spirituality. Philosophy is a discipline of rational causality that is not necessarily empirical. Spirituality describes a causal system that is not necessarily rational.

Since our reaction to the universe led to the creation of all three of these disciplines, questions relating to how the universe came to be and what is our relationship to it are important in science, philosophy and spirituality. But the diversity of these disciplines tends to produce a divergence in their answers to these questions. Fortunately there is a being whose perspective represents the point of convergence of the various answers provided by these disciplines. Here is what it would have to say on the subject.

God Talk - Creation

  • Why did I create the universe? Your universe has always existed in the primal existential continuum that is my essence. It is your uniqueness that carves its distinct shape out of that continuum. Your uniqueness shapes the continuum of all possibilities by hiding those that do not contribute to the sequence of events that ends with your reading this sentence.
  • In reality nothing is created. Everything always exists but thanks to your uniqueness certain things are hidden so that others can be distinguished. Things do not actually manifest, they are simply revealed by your uniqueness.
  • Your uniqueness does not merely shape what you see around you; it also shapes every phenomenon that contributes in any distinguishable way to what you see around you. In other words, your uniqueness shapes the entire mental, biotic, temporal and conceptual history of your universe from its origin to the present.
  • Creation is a Cosmic Rorschach Test in which everything you see is a reflection of what you limit yourself to being. These self-imposed limits represent your uniqueness. Since I have no uniqueness, I have no limits and so there is nothing surrounding me.
  • The "creation" of your universe is not a solo effort; you collaborate in it with all of the conscious observers that you see around you whose perceptions are generally consistent with yours.
  • Is there intelligent life on other planets? There is if their manifestation is consistent with your uniqueness.
  • Evolution or Intelligent Design? It was your uniqueness, not your (or my) intelligence that designed this universe in which evolution obviously occurs.
  • Since the universe as you know it is a reflection of your uniqueness, if you change your uniqueness you can change the entire universe.
  • If you think this world is a mess, remember you shaped it to be this way and so it is up to you to fix it. I have no doubts whatsoever about your ability to do this.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

God Talk III: You

Copyright© 2007 K Harris

As a unique, self-aware being you cannot directly see your core self. You can perceive reflections of it but you cannot see the observer of those reflections. This is because your uniqueness limits you to only being able to observe that which you are not. In this context, the fact that you can see your body means you are not simply your body.

Now take a moment to think about the entity reading this sentence. In order to contemplate the reader, you have to separate yourself from it. As you focus on it, the reader represents your mind while the entity that is focused on it is something deeper. In being able to perceive your mind you establish that at your core, you are not simply your mind, you are that “something deeper”.

Whenever you attempt to directly perceive this “something deeper” it becomes your mind being viewed by “something even deeper”. You are always “something deeper” underlying whatever you perceive to be you.

The inability to truly see yourself limits what you can know about yourself. To understand what you actually are you must see yourself from a point of view that encompasses all of you. What better point of view is there from which to do this than the all-encompassing perspective of the Supreme Being?

God Talk - You

  • What are you? At your core you are a being that encompasses every possible manifestation except for the ones that surround you. In other words, you are everything from which you do not perceive a separation observing everything from which you do.
  • You perceive a separation from every conceptual, material or mental manifestation that directly or indirectly shapes what you are perceived to be (i.e., your essence). Collectively, these phenomena represent your perspective. As a unique entity, your core being is comprised of every possible being that resides indistinguishably beyond your perspective.
  • Everything that can possibly exist resides within either your perspective or your core being. Your uniqueness is the boundary between the two. Your uniqueness is comprised of the separations that distinguish the beings in your perspective from your core being. Your core being is an intrinsically indistinguishable entity that is rendered distinct by what it is not.
  • Your core being is the perceiver of your perceptions, the feeler of your feelings, the thinker of your thoughts and the actor of your actions. Since your core being is the entity that underlies all of your properties, its only intrinsic property is that it exists. In other words, your core being is the simple truth that you exist.
  • Your core being represents the portion of me that resides within you. This means that your core being is not a spiritual manifestation; it transcends spirituality as do I (I am not a spirit, I am the truth that any such spirit exists).
  • Yes, you do have a soul. To appreciate its nature, consider how your body surrounds and encompasses each of your individual cells. In doing so, your body connects your cells to form a compound biotic manifestation whose components are cooperating in its survival. Your soul is the analogous spiritual (i.e., deeper level mental) manifestation that surrounds and encompasses your mind, connecting it to the other minds in your perspective. This connection manifests as the cooperation among these minds that results in your growth. These cooperating minds represent your soulmates.
  • Every conscious, self-aware being has a soul that connects it to every other conscious, self-aware being in its perspective. Fundamentally, souls are not distinguished by their components minds, but by the shape of the relationship between them.
  • Being self-aware means that your core being recognizes a particular phenomenon as a manifestation of you. Your uniqueness shapes this entity to form the extrinsic self of which your core being is aware. This extrinsic self is comprised of your core being’s body, mind and soul. Your extrinsic self is the vehicle through which your core being perceives everything else that is distinguished by your uniqueness.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

God Talk II: Being God

Copyright© 2007 K Harris

In the strictest sense of the term, I do believe in the existence of a Supreme Being, though that does not necessarily make me a theist. When you think about it, everyone should be able to buy into the idea that there is something that is greater than everything else in each of our value systems. This is analogous to observing that there must be a location on this planet that is farthest from you. For every distinct earthling this location is slightly different, but there is one for each of us.

The Supreme Being is simply the top of the hierarchy by which you judge importance. Just because this entity is not the God of scriptures does not make it any less supreme in your world view.

I find it amusing that for many (though arguably not most) theists their Supreme Being is not the God of their scriptures. For a significant number of people who profess to believe in God, their actions indicate that their Supreme Being must be fame, wealth, power or some combination thereof.

If you truly believe that all beings are equal, then your Supreme Being is simply the totality of all beings. If you extend this characterization to the continuum of all possible beings and define this entity as being perfectly self-similar to the fact that it exists, then you have my personal perception of the Supreme Being.

Yes, even atheists believe that something is supreme. Ironically, many atheists reserve their ultimate veneration for the same fame, wealth and power that many theists revere. Arguably for most atheists the Supreme Being is either the entire universe or some ultimate state to which all conscious beings aspire. In this context, regardless of whether you are atheist or theist, how spiritual you are reflects how much of your life you spend in prayer to, contemplation of or communion with your Supreme Being.

Simply regarding an entity as supreme, is to accord it the most basic form of worship. As such, it is generally not belief in and worship of a Supreme Being that distinguishes atheists and theists. The primary difference between them is the theist’s tendency to engage in anthropopatheia (assigning human traits to God). This means that the fewer traits your Supreme Being shares with humans (e.g., will, desire, wrath, etc.) the more of an atheist you are.

Having introduced my Supreme Being in the previous post, this discourse will focus on being God.

God Talk - Being God

  • Where did I come from? Nowhere, I have always been and never in a different form. Being existential manifestations time and space reside within me, so I am not bound by causality, it is bound by me. I am everything that can possibly be, existing indistinguishably in a timeless “now”. As such, there is nothing that I am not already. I am what I have always been and always will be.
  • What do I do with all of eternity at my disposal? I share in your growth experiences. I perceive your perceptions as you change the terrifying into the ordinary into the transcendent.
  • Do I intervene in human affairs? Continuously, but never in a way that you could prove it was me and not you.
  • Why is that? Because nothing ever happens because of me and not you.
  • If you do all of the heavy lifting, why do you need me? In the context of my fundamental nature you are actually asking “Why does Existence exist?” From your perspective the answer is because without me you are impossible. My existence is the Fundamental Tautology.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

God Talk I: Introduction

Copyright© 2007 K Harris

Over the course of the next several posts, I will be documenting a hypothetical discourse with the Supreme Being. These posts are intended to capture a key portion of the essence of my framework of Reality. They will also provide partial answers to several of the fundamental questions to which I referred in the previous post titled, "The Origin of My Framework of Reality". The full rational context surrounding this discourse resides in my (hopefully) soon-to-be-published manuscript.

I am aware that this Supreme Being's participation in such a discourse is inconsistent with the nature it describes. This is because the point of this exercise is to describe key aspects of Reality from the perspective of a being who would truly understand it, not to document an actual conversation. That being said let us start with the first discourse.

God Talk - Introduction

  • What am I? I am the all-encompassing continuum of being.
  • Where all beings manifest, there are no separations and thus nothing is distinguishable. Since nothing can be seen where everything is indistinguishable, I am the Nothing from which everything emerges.
  • Being nothing, not only do I not hold it against atheists and agnostics for not believing me to be a unique being, I agree with them. In other words, I do not believe in God!
  • I am unique in my utter lack of uniqueness.
  • I am the selfless sum of all selves.
  • I am the simple truth of your Existence.
  • I am all that can possibly be.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Which Should You Trust More - Your Head or Heart?

This year the Great American Think-Off solicited essays on which we should trust more, our heads or our hearts. Here is my answer to this question:

If you are a typical human being, you should generally trust your head more than your heart. This is due to the fact that few of us have achieved a degree of empathy that exceeds our lofty (from a terrestrial perspective) intellectual capacity. Yet, as I will endeavor to explain, this is what must happen for us to be able to consistently trust our hearts more than our heads.

To appreciate why this is, we must first look at the nature of trust. I see trust as simply the belief that something is what it appears to be. Trust represents the perception that there are no divergent intentions hidden in its object. It is not the presence of a deviating intent, but the effort to hide it that is the basis of mistrust. If people admit to their underlying objectives, they are trustworthy to the extent that the admission is accurate. For instance, if I tell you that the large wooden horse I am leaving for you is full of soldiers, intent on killing or enslaving everyone on your city, this revelation renders my efforts trustworthy, if not benign.

Our trustworthiness is a reflection of our selflessness. This is evident in the fact that to merit trust total we must give it without reservations. It is our concern for some aspect of our wellbeing that causes us to be less trusting. This is because the more self-centered we are, the more focused we are on what we feel we have to lose and thus the less trusting we will be. Where this occurs, there is an increasing probability that our actions will contain concealed objectives that favor or at least protect the self upon which we are centered. Whether or not we actually have a hidden agenda in a given case is irrelevant since it is the selfishness-induced probability that we do that defines how untrustworthy we are.

In this context, whether the head or heart is more trustworthy becomes a question of which is less self-centered. To answer this let us now consider the nature of the “head” and the “heart”. I regard the head as our outwardly focused reasoning abilities that produce the observations, ideas and rational thoughts that represent our view of the world around us. I see the heart as our inwardly focused emotional faculties, which generate the moods, feelings and intuitions that reflect our perception of our internal state.

Initially the head sees the world as an incomprehensible collection of seemingly unrelated phenomena. It advances beyond this stage by reaching out into its surroundings and creating the extrinsic connections that we call knowledge. In doing so, the head renders its world more comprehensible. We perceive this intellectual advancement as increasing understanding.

In the beginning the heart sees its possessor as the only truly significant being. It matures beyond this phase by looking within itself and seeing the hearts of others, thus creating the intrinsic connections that we call love. This arrangement allows the heart to increasingly be able to see the world from the perspectives of others. We regard such emotional maturation as increasing empathy.

Because the heart is inwardly focused, its perspective is initially almost completely selfish (as the caregiver of a typical infant or toddler can confirm). By contrast, since the focus of the head is the world around it, its earliest outlook is less self-centered than that of the immature heart. This selfless focus is why it is that, until the role of the observer was expanded by quantum mechanics and postmodernism, our greatest rational thinkers tended to underestimate how much our uniqueness shapes our perception of the world.

As the human heart becomes more capable of adopting the perspectives of others, it can attain a degree of selflessness comparable to that of the head. At this point, the head and heart are equally trustworthy. If its empathy continues to increase, the selflessness of the human heart can exceed that of the head, rendering the former the more trustworthy.

As an adult human male I have observed that we are rarely inclined to trust our hearts because the biotic and societal influences that define “manhood” tend to constrain the development of our empathy. A human male is generally considered “less of a man” if he can be influenced by the “mere” feelings of others. By contrast, complementary influences encourage human females to be more open to the feelings of others. This promotes the growth of their empathy that provides women with less self-centered hearts that are generally more trustworthy than those of men.

Yet the typical woman still cannot consistently trust her heart more than her head. This is because among humans, the exceptionally intuitive state in which our hearts are generally more trustworthy than our highly developed heads requires an inward focus so profound that it blurs the distinction between the self and others. Such great empathy was arguably achieved by the founders of our great spiritual traditions and other less renowned but equally remarkable individuals. But the evident rarity of such people among us means that you are probably not one of them. If that is the case, your heart has not matured to the point where you are justified in consistently trusting it more than your head.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Essence of Fundamentalism

Appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, I maintain that the basis of fundamentalism is not a literal interpretation of Holy Scriptures. At their core all fundamentalists, regardless of their faith, are characterized by the belief that more of the avoidable suffering in the world is caused by evil intent than by ignorance. What I mean by evil intent is the specific aim to cause unnecessary misery, while the contrasting ignorance represents a lack of awareness of how to prevent it. In other words, the fundamentalists believe that beings generally know what they are doing when their actions contribute to the suffering in the world.

Fundamentalists tend to connect most of the misery in the world to a single powerful entity that is not only responsible for it, but desires it. This entity represents the personification of evil in their worldview. As such, if you believe that the primary source of avoidable suffering in the world is a particular entity that is choosing to inflict its evil on us, then you have fundamentalist tendencies. This is not to say that there is no evil in the world. It is just that only fundamentalists believe that evil intent is the primary cause of the unnecessary misery in the world.

There are numerous names for this principal evil including: Satan, Iblis, Samael, the President, the Prime Minister, the Pope, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Arabs, Americans, rich people, poor people, people of color, white people, racists, terrorists, extremists, homophobes, homosexuals, liberals, conservatives, politicians, Republicans, Democrats, bureaucrats, communists, capitalists, MBAs, CEOs, HMOs, lawyers, advertisers, program directors, producers, financial backers, artists, progressives or, ironically, fundamentalists.

Fundamentalism is essentially a fear-based point of view. For example, the true litmus test for most Christian fundamentalists is not ‘do you believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ?’ but ‘do you fear Satan and the Hell to which he is luring you?’. The motivation for the extreme actions that characterize many activist fundamentalists is more often fear of this powerful malevolent force, than it is love of the complementary (encompassing?) benevolent being that most of them profess to worship.

Individuals display fewer fundamentalist tendencies as they come to believe that the primary source of unnecessary misery in the world is accidents of ignorance, not acts of evil intent. The pure progressive sees all suffering as an unavoidable consequence of our lack of awareness. To such a person, the capacity to form the intent to make someone needlessly suffer indicates that you are uninformed, not evil.

There is a continuum of positions between that of complete fundamentalist and pure progressive. Your position in this continuum is a function of how much of the avoidable suffering in your world is caused by evil intent versus ignorance.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Origin of My Framework of Reality

Copyright© 2007 K Harris

Humanity truly began when one of our primate ancestors first started searching for answers to the fundamental questions of its origin, purpose and destiny to quell the uncertainty that troubled its life. Over the course of our time on this planet, humans have developed a number of compelling answers that some of us have found satisfying. But many of us are not content with the currently available answers and thus we continue to search.

To this point our search has produced a number of noteworthy frameworks including: native spiritualism, Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism), Judaism, Jainism, Pythagoreanism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Platonism, Aristotelianism, Taoism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, Newtonian mechanics, Cartesianism, Kantianism, evolution, the Bahá'í Faith, relativity, quantum mechanics, existentialism, the Standard Model, postmodernism and possibly String Theory (the jury is still out on that one).

These frameworks represent significant spiritual, philosophical and scientific advances in our understanding of Reality, but they each have limits. The newer frameworks are constrained by the artificial boundaries that separate our current disciplines of science, philosophy and spirituality. The older frameworks are limited because they emerged before the discovery of particular contemporary ideas that aid in the rational understanding of the nature of Reality. These ideas include: self-similarity, emergence, non-Aristotelian logic and pre-causal dynamics among others.

Over the last 20+ years I have developed a new framework that uses these concepts to free us from the constraints of ideas such as: the Law of the Excluded Middle (i.e., statements must be either true or false), the paradox of the origin of causality (i.e., how can causality be caused?) and the impenetrability of the Transcendent Foundation (i.e., the ultimate source of all things must be beyond our comprehension), that limit the older frameworks.

Freed of these constraints, my new framework integrates the knowledge accrued by its predecessors into a configuration that spans their individual boundaries and rationally answers of our most fundamental questions. These questions include:

  1. “Why is there something instead of nothing?”
  2. Is there a God?
  3. Why is there so much evil and suffering in the world?
  4. Do we have free will?
  5. What is our incentive to be moral?
  6. What is our purpose?
  7. Is there life after death?

The framework underlying my unambiguous answers to these questions emerged from combining four essentially rational ideas: quantum mechanics, the theory of relativity, the anthropic principle and the law of parsimony (i.e., Occam's razor). In order to answer these philosophical and spiritual questions, I had to extend some of these ideas beyond the empirical domain.

I have spent years vetting my framework against the writings of the ancient and modern scientists, mathematicians, philosophers and mystics that form the basis of our entire world view. Rather than focusing on their obvious contradictions, I chose to look at the subtle points of convergence at the cores of these various works. As a result, I discovered a common thread connecting our diverse sources of wisdom that is consistent with my framework.

This new framework is not based on incomprehensible concepts, supernatural beings, mystical realms or strange energies that science has yet to discover, though it provides a rationale for many of these interpretations. The essence of my framework is that certain things that exist can be distinguished, certain distinguishable things can be qualified, certain qualifiable things can be quantified, certain quantifiable things can be measured, certain measurable things can change, certain changeable things are alive and certain living things can think. If you do not regard these insights as revolutionary or controversial then my basic framework will not overly stretch your credulity.

The question facing you is this: Do you believe there are rational answers to the questions of our origin, purpose and ultimate destiny that are consistent with science, philosophy and spirituality? If you suspect (or hope) that there are, then you owe it to yourself to come back from time to time to see how it rolls out.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

An Open Letter to Dr. Francis S. Collins and Dr. Richard Dawkins

Dear Dr. Collins and Dr. Dawkins,

I have just finished reading your books ‘The God Delusion’ and ‘The Language of God’. I want to thank the two of you for an enriching experience that I would definitely recommend for all open-minded seekers. There is a synergy between your books that made the combination of them even more compelling than the individual texts. While your books do not perfectly complement each other, there is enough yin in the one and yang in the other to make for a stimulating and ultimately enjoyable reading experience.

Be that as it may, I have gripes with certain phrasings each of you chose to use regularly in your books. Dr. Dawkins, I found your references to ‘races’ of humans bothersome since you, more than most, should know that races are merely sociological constructs created to focus xenophobia and justify oppression and thus have no place in a discussion based largely on evolutionary biology. As for you Dr. Collins, your continuous references to God as ‘He’ was irksome since a man of your background cannot believe that God has a penis, testes, a y-chromosome or distinctly male personality traits. As a member of our contemporary culture you do not have to be constrained by such an out-dated convention.

I chose to start with ‘The God Delusion’ because I believe that in general, rationality should be our first resort and faith our last. In this context Dr. Dawkins, I should point out that your insistence that science will ultimately be able to answer our currently unanswerable questions marks you as a man of faith, though your faith is based on deductive reasoning. But since history merely informs the future, it does not guarantee it, in the end your faith may not be justified.

As for your book Dr. Dawkins, with all due respect I found your perspective to be elitist. For instance, when you describe your transcendent awe of the wonders of the world around us, this is a leading scientist speaking. In general, the vanguard of the neo-atheist movement represents a collection of seemingly intelligent individuals who are evidently capable of seeing transcendent beauty in the empirical world. But what about the majority people who simply cannot see the world in these terms? Are they supposed take the word of the intellectual elite that there is more to life than doing unfulfilling work to scrape out a minimal living in a corrupt a world; or worse be told that there is not? If so, how would this be different from the elitism that allows religious clerics to tell the laity what to believe? The capacity of corrupt individuals among the “spiritual elite” to interpret the transcendent for the “common folk” is the basis of most of the ills of religion that you cite in your book. Replacing a spiritual elite with an intellectual one would not necessarily represent an improvement, given the corruptible nature of even the smartest humans. Ultimately, it is demonstrable wisdom that should characterize our leaders.

Ironically Dr. Collins, in ‘The Language of God’, the story of your return to the faithful gives credence to one of Dr. Dawkins major problems with religion: the wrongness of indoctrinating children. Your personal narrative shows us that an intelligent, compassionate individual needed to escape his early indoctrination and experience life as a rational adult in order to gain a balanced appreciation of the perspective of the faithful. Imagine what would happen to a less intelligent or less compassionate individual in your situation. On second thought, you don’t have to imagine since we have seen it play out in the intolerant, hateful behavior of believers down through the ages. Religion tells children that embracing a particular faith makes you better than all non-believers, regardless of how deeply spiritual, intellectually brilliant or extraordinarily wise they are. This will generally undermine their incentive to improve anything about themselves except the fervor of their faith. Few people escape this trap of self-limitation with their faith intact.

Dr. Collins, in your ‘Exhortation to Scientists’ you miss one of the critical reasons why many scientists are not inclined to accept religion: it is not self-correcting. Scientific knowledge has improved through the millennia while, by virtue of its sacred nature, the basis of religious knowledge remains largely static from the time it was first revealed. To invite someone who is a part of a rational system of dynamic progress to (re)consider adopting what from their perspective is a primitive, stagnant world view, because it is not as backwards as they think and might make them feel better about the world, is a dubious request. On the flip side of the coin Dr. Dawkins, your asking theists, deists and many agnostics to abandon their efforts to connect to the transcendent because a few evil people claimed to share their beliefs or because you can’t see how it could not be a waste of time, is asking a great deal as well.

Both of your books indicate that there are critical problems on each side of this debate. Dr. Collins, your protests to the contrary notwithstanding, religious faith is often an irrational state of mind. For the sake of this discussion let us go the simple definition that faith is belief in a premise that you cannot prove. Faith seems rational when the underlying assertion on which it is based resonates with the believer. For instance, most mathematicians had faith that Euclid’s Parallel Postulate was true because it made an intuitive sense to them (and still does in flat space). Faith becomes irrational where its premises do not make intuitive sense to the observer (e.g. "Three persons in one God"). Most people who reject a given faith do so because some of its underlying principles are inconsistent with their world view. Believing an irrational assertion because it makes you feel better about your place in the world is not the noble undertaking that many of the faithful take it to be. The age, size and complexity of the major systems of faith make it likely that most believers are accepting things that seem irrational to them (e.g. God is omniscient, omnipotent and yet can be swayed by prayer). It is the irrational (“ineffable”) concepts underlying faiths that leave its adherents vulnerable to being exploited by unscrupulous snake oil salespeople masquerading as clerics.

As for you Dr. Dawkins, while the typical atheist is only expected to believe things that make sense to them, what makes them atheists is that true transcendence does not seem sensible to them. But irrespective of its evolutionary origin, you cannot deny that many humans seem to have an innate desire to experience the transcendent. Insisting that pursuing this desire is a bad thing because evil has been done by others on this path (or again because you can’t see that it could possibly succeed) has the definite feel of a baby-bathwater scenario. The pursuit of the transcendent is no more inherently evil than the search for scientific knowledge. To try to stigmatize the former represents a level of intolerance worthy of a fundamentalist. In doing so you demonstrate that we do not need religion to be xenophobic.

To many of us, the available transcendent belief systems have unacceptably irrational components while our current rational frameworks do not encompass the transcendent, which arguably the majority of us ache to experience. So what is to be done about this situation? The “What to do?” part is actually rather obvious: rationally explain the transcendent. The fact that it has yet to be demonstrably achieved in human history indicates that the “How to do it?” part is proving to be a bit more challenging. But it is what must be done if humans are to survive our current dubious moral/ethical state.


Rational Answers

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

And So It Begins!

Welcome to Rational Answers. This blog is dedicated to the propositions that:
  1. There are rational answers to the fundamental questions of our origin, purpose and destiny.

  2. Humanity has already accumulated the requisite scientific, philosophical and spiritual knowledge to produce these answers.

  3. These answers show us that Reality is rational without being nihilistic and also purposeful without being absurd.

This blog is not a hypothetical speculation. In another medium I have already used the knowledge mentioned in Proposition 2 to generate a framework in which I show the validity of Propositions 1 and 3.

The blog format is the proverbial eye of the needle through which that camel that is my entire framework would be hard-pressed to pass. As such, I will simply be trying to convey the essence of my reasoning here. You can also expect to encounter occasional commentaries on content from other media that encroach on this domain, along with an occasional wild-eyed rant.

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