Archive for March, 2011
I have been puzzling over the question of what the Law of One means, and how to state it in rigorous terms. I wish to discuss the progress that I have recently made on this question. In particular, I will suggest that, under a reasonable interpretation of logic, the Law of One is a logically ascertainable fact which logicians have failed to acknowledge due to the intuitive difficulties it raises.
I quote Ra’s statement of the Law of One:
“Consider, if you will, that the universe is infinite. This has yet to be proven or disproven, but we can assure you that there is no end to your selves, your understanding, what you would call your journey of seeking, or your perceptions of the creation.
That which is infinite cannot be many, for many-ness is a finite concept. To have infinity you must identify or define that infinity as unity; otherwise, the term does not have any referent or meaning. In an Infinite Creator there is only unity. You have seen simple examples of unity. You have seen the prism which shows all colors stemming from the sunlight. This is a simplistic example of unity.
In truth there is no right or wrong. There is no polarity for all will be, as you would say, reconciled at some point in your dance through the mind/body/spirit complex which you amuse yourself by distorting in various ways at this time. This distortion is not in any case necessary. It is chosen by each of you as an alternative to understanding the complete unity of thought which binds all things. You are not speaking of similar or somewhat like entities or things. You are every thing, every being, every emotion, every event, every situation. You are unity. You are infinity. You are love/light, light/love. You are. This is the Law of One.”
This offers a poetical enunciation of the Law of One, but it does not have semantic precision. I desired a way to enuinciate the Law of One in a more semantically precise way. Now I think that I have found such a way.
Many advances occurred in the field of logic at the beginning of the century. This was through the work of individuals such as Frege, Russell, and Wittgenstein.
These thinkers believed that all statements about the world could be translated into a single, minimally simple language called “formal logic.” They believed that all of mathematics, science, and everyday knowledge about the world could be united under this common logical framework, so that all of our knowledge could be expressed in a single, very simple, unambiguous language.
Things looked quite optimistic for this project. Few difficulties were encountered in the outset of the project, and it looked as if it would succeed. A major setback came when these thinkers discovered that, in attempting to lay down the foundations for mathematics, they ran into various paradoxes.
A paradox is a logical contradiction: a place where two statements, P and not P, are both true. So, for example, if I say that I am alive and I am dead, this is a paradox. Further examples would be a married bachelor (a man who is married and not married), or a mountain surrounded entirely by higher ground.
These thinkers routinely encountered paradoxes in their attempts to unify mathematics under their framework. They constructed ever more complex theories in an attempt to escape these paradoxes. Eventually their efforts were put to an end when Kurt Gödel proved that any conceivable theory capable of describing even the simplest mathematics would produce paradoxes. (I simplify his result for the purposes of this informal exposition.)
The dust has now settled from this initial flurry of discovery. Logicians have invented more complex frameworks which can capture most mathematics in practice, while avoiding paradoxes for the most part. They continue to struggle with this problem of paradox in various ways, and with the problems created by the frameworks they have invented in order to avoid paradoxes.
It is worth asking why logicians have gone to such great lengths to avoid paradoxes. The reason is that once one has introduced a paradox into one’s system, the whole system collapses. In particular, if one introduces a paradox into a logical framework, it then becomes possible to prove that every statement is both true and false. Thus, given any paradox, it becomes possible to prove that 2+2=5, that unicorns exist, and that I am the King of France. Given any paradox, these are all true and false.
Thus, logicians are motivated to avoid paradoxes because allowing them leaves us with a framework describing a world quite different from the one which is familiar to us. All the same, it was never logically ascertained that the world is not paradoxical. Indeed, it seems more as if logicians have struggled to maintain the view that the world is not paradoxical.
I suggest that it is a legitimate interpretation of the findings of logic that everything is true and false. Under this theory:
* God exists and does not exist.
* 2+2 equals and does not equal 5.
* You are and are not reading this sentence.
All of these propositions, and countless other propositions extending to every aspect of life, can be proven logically under the most straightforward interpretation of logic. Interpretations of logic under which these statements cannot be logically proven are more complex and problematic than the interpretation under which these statements can be logically proven. This suggests that it is reasonable to believe that logic actually tells us that these statements are true (and false).
This is not the orthodox, accepted position on logic. I claim that it is a reasonable interpretation of logic which has been ignored by logicians due to the fact that it is extremely counterintuitive, and not for any other reason. Logicians do have a name for it, however: they call it “trivialism.”
Trivialism offers us a very nice way of articulating the Law of One. Under the Law of One, all opposites are reconciled into unity. Thus, under the Law of One, male is female, positive is negative, good is bad, pleasure is pain, etc. All statements of this form can be logically derived under trivialism. And we no longer have to deal with the problem that they are contrary to logic, because under trivialism they are not. We are left only with the problem that they are grossly contrary to intuition.
There are certain questions which are important to us, and which we cannot answer through rational means. These questions surround issues such as death, God, and the purpose and meaning of life.
Religion provides us with answers to these questions, but it is difficult to believe that their answers are correct, because there is no means of verifying these answers, and they contradict each other on various points.
It is probably unreasonable to hope that science or rationality will answer these questions for us. We will probably not find out what happens after we die, whether God exists, or what the meaning of life is, either by empirical investigation or by abstract reasoning. And yet many of us feel that these questions require answers.
Religion generally bases its answers on the contents of holy texts. Such texts include the Bible, the Qu’ran, the Tao Te Ching, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Pali Canon. The different religions each claim that their texts are revealed truth inspired by contact with the divine. For religion, these holy texts form the point of reference for answering existential questions.
By assuming that these holy texts contain the truth, we obtain answers to existential questions. But it may be unreasonable to take this step, because the claims of the holy texts are unverifiable, and the texts of different cultures contradict each other.
There are, however, certain commonalities that exist between the claims of the different holy texts. To name a few simple commonalities, they generally agree in positing a great spiritual goal as the purpose of human life, and in asserting that moral uprightness and devotion to religious practice are helpful in moving towards this goal. They also generally agree that there is a reality beyond the everyday physical reality in which we live, and that there is a part of every human being which persists after death.
Let us also mention a few ways in which the different texts contradict each other. They give different explanations of the nature of the divine, and different accounts of what happens after death. Many religions assert that they are the only path to the divine, and all religions which make this assertion contradict each other.
How do we interpret the fact that these religions have these common factors, and also these differences? We have a few options at our disposal.
(H.1) Nonbelief. We believe that the claims of the holy texts are false. We then believe that the common claims are due to cross-cultural influence, coincidence, or some other combination of factors.
(H.2) Agnosticism. We suspend judgment on the truth-value of the holy texts. In this case we are led to take the claims of holy texts seriously, but not believe in any of them.
(H.3) Belief. We believe that some of the claims of holy texts are true, and some of them are false.
In the case of (H.3) we again have two options:
(H.4) Monism. We believe that the holy texts of exactly one of the religions contain the truth, and the claims of other religions are true only when they are consistent with this religion.
(H.5) Syncretism. We believe that many or most of the holy texts contain a distorted version of the truth.
I wish to ignore (H.4) as being a probably unfruitful line of inquiry. I will assume that if any of the religions are to be taken seriously, then all of them are to be taken seriously.
(H.5) deserves further explanation. It cannot be that all of the holy texts are completely true, because they contradict each other on various points. However, it can be the case that many or most of the holy texts are partially true. In this case we posit that each religion possesses pieces of the truth, and this truth is mixed in with falsehood.
If there is any truth in religion, how are we to extract it? A good starting point would be to determine what their common claims are. Claims that are almost always made, or are very frequently made, are more likely to be true. So one way to find any possible truth in religion would be to correlate their various claims and see what is common to them. I have previously made some efforts in this direction.
What we would really like would be a trustworthy text or two. If there were texts in which we felt that we could place our trust, then it would be much simpler to determine the truth. This would have to be a text which we believed to be genuinely divinely inspired, and to be sufficiently undistorted in its message that we could worry very little about its claims being false.
I wish to explore one possible candidate for such a text. This text is The Law of One, also called the Ra material.
The Ra material was the outcome of channeling experiments conducted by Carla Rueckert, Don Elkins, and Jim McCarty between 1981 and 1984. These individuals had been attempting to achieve telepathic contact with extraterrestrials, and the Ra material was one of the most dramatic results of their attempts along these lines.
The Ra material contains transcriptions of statements made by Carla Rueckert while she was in an unconscious state. These statements were answers to questions asked by Don Elkins. These statements claim that their source was “Ra,” a highly advanced spiritual entity with nearly perfect knowledge of the universe. The transcripts touch upon many different issues, making claims about the history of Earth and the nature of the universe, delving into highly esoteric metaphysical issues, and addressing most of the existential questions which religions usually address. It contains no internal contradictions, and is consistent with most of the claims of the different world religions.
There are a number of ways in which we can interpret the fact of the existence of this text:
(H.6) We believe that the Ra material does not contain revealed truth. In this case we probably believe that the Ra material’s contents were invented by Carla Rueckert’s subconscious. This corresponds to (H.1), or general nonbelief about the claims of holy texts.
(H.7) We suspend judgment on the truth value of the Ra material. In this case we take the claims of the Ra material seriously, but do not believe any of them. This includes its claims about the nature of its source. This corresponds to (H.2), or general agnosticism about the claims of holy texts.
(H.8) We believe that the Ra material is true. This corresponds to (H.3), or belief in the truth of the claims of holy texts.
The strongest argument for (H.6) is that it is the only hypothesis which is consistent with physicalism. If we believe in physicalism, then we must believe in (H.6).
If we believe in (H.7), this probably means that we lend credence to both (H.6) and (H.8). Under this perspective, (H.6) seems to be in the character of healthy skepticism, while (H.8) is in the character of the hypothesis being evaluated. This is so because (H.6) adds little to our understanding, while (H.8) makes a large quantity of positive assertions about existentially important topics.
I believe in (H.8). I also do not assert that anybody else should believe in (H.8), because my belief in (H.8) rests on certain unprovable assumptions. These assumptions are that:
(H.9) Higher intelligences exist and it is possible for humans to contact them telepathically.
(H.10) The Ra material was produced by telepathic contact with a higher intelligence.
(H.11) This intelligence did not tell any lies.
If these three hypotheses are true, this is sufficient to entail that all of the statements contained in the Ra material are true. Furthermore, if any of these hypotheses is false, then this is sufficient to entail that none of the statements of the Ra material can be trusted to be true. It is remarkable that in this case a tremendous quantity of information about topics of great significance hinges on the truth or falsity of this small number of hypotheses.
Since this is so, it seems worthwhile to examine the grounds for believing in the truth or falsity of these hypotheses.
If (H.9) is true, then it is reasonable to believe that (H.10) is true. (H.9) and (H.10) seem to stand or fall together, in that it would be unlikely for a person to believe that telepathy with higher intelligences is possible, and this did not occur to produce the Ra material.
If (H.9) and (H.10) are true, then it could still be the case that some claims in the Ra material are false if Ra was mistaken in some of his claims, or if Ra was lying in some of his claims.
(Q.1) Was Ra lying?
I have no answer to (Q.1). I believe that Ra was not lying. I also do not have any proof that Ra was not lying. I suggest that it ought to be a person’s free choice to trust or not trust any given source of information.
(Q.2) Was Ra mistaken?
This question has a clearer answer. Ra gave mistaken information only if Ra also lied. This is so because the Ra material contains the claim that Ra has perfect knowledge of almost the entire universe, including all portions of the universe about which the Ra material contains any claims (81.16-18). Therefore it cannot be the case that Ra gave mistaken information and that Ra did not tell any lies. Ra was mistaken only if Ra was also lying.
We have relegated (H.11) to a matter of trust, and established that (H.9) and (H.10) stand or fall together. We have also established that if (H.9), (H.10), and (H.11) are all true, then all of the claims of the Ra material are true, while if any of these hypotheses are false, then none of the claims of the Ra material are credible.
This reduces the “live” part of the question to:
(Q.3) Is telepathy with higher intelligences possible?
(Q.3) is merely (H.9) posed in question form. If we answer it negatively, then we learn that Carla Rueckert’s subconscious is very creative, and that it is possible for false belief systems to seem quite plausible. If we answer it positively, then we learn that it is likely that everything in the Ra material is true. As has been mentioned already, a tremendous amount of information about topics of great significance hinges on how we answer (Q.3), because of the nature of the content of the Ra material.
There is no proof for either (H.9) or ~(H.9). Therefore if we hold a belief either way, we hold a belief without proof.
(Q.4) Is it ever rational to hold a belief without proof?
If we answer (Q.4) negatively, then it is irrational to believe either (H.9) or ~(H.9), and we must accept (H.7). If we answer (Q.4) positively, then it would seem that it is rational to hold either (H.9) or ~(H.9).
It seems obviously rational to hold ~(H.9): that is, that telepathy with higher intelligences is impossible. If it is not rational to hold ~(H.9), then it is not rational to believe that telepathy does not exist, and this conclusion seems obviously absurd. This suggests that we should probably answer (Q.4) positively.
It would seem to follow that it is rational to hold (H.9). In order to conclude otherwise, we would need an argument to the effect that it is rational to hold ~(H.9), but not to hold (H.9), though there is proof either way. Such an argument may exist, but I am not aware of it.
This means, in essence, that (H.9) cannot be dismissed as crazy; it appears to be a rational position to hold.
The strongest argument against (H.9) is the fact that it is probably inconsistent with physicalism.
One argument for (H.9) is that most religions posit that something like (H.9) is true. This can be seen in the table comparing religious beliefs which I gave in a previous post. All of the world’s major religions posit the existence of “angels” and “demons,” which can be interpreted as higher intelligences. Furthermore, most of these religions contain stories of persons communicating with angels and/or demons.
I personally became convinced of (H.9) by two additional factors. The first was the profundity and consistency which the Ra material seemed to me to have. The second was a series of experiences I had of contact with “demons.”
I have had many experiences where I felt like I was being attacked by demons. When these experiences occur, I feel the presence of malevolent entities with no physical origin, and usually experience physical pain which I feel to proceed causally from the entities in question. There are two ways to explain these experiences. It may be that they are a type of hallucination. Or it may be that they are the symptoms of being attacked by objectively existing demons.
After having many such experiences, I began to enter the belief system that these demons were not figments of my imagination, but were objectively existing entities: and, more specifically, that they were fourth density negative entities as described by the Ra material. I suspect that if I did not have these experiences, I would not believe (H.9).
I later began to have what seemed to me to be experiences of contact with “angels,” which occurred only when I requested such contacts. I also made attempts at telepathy with two different human beings. In each case, both myself and the other person involved felt that these attempts were successful, though none of these attempts resulted in any definitive evidence.
I have given some grounds for the various attitudes which it is possible to hold towards the Ra material: namely, (H.6), (H.7), and (H.8). While I believe in (H.8), I do not argue that anybody else ought to believe (H.8). This is so because my belief in (H.8) rests on three unprovable assumptions: (H.9), (H.10), and (H.11).
I view my accepting of these unprovable assumptions as being similar to how one might invest money in a business. I am taking a risk, and I feel that, for me, it is a risk worthy of taking. I would not ask anybody else to take this same risk. I have given my grounds for doing so and recommend that everybody else decide for themselves.
What follows is a summary of the topics covered by the Ra material. It is intended to help in studying the Ra material. It is not intended to be a comprehensive description of the information in every session, as it is often possible to derive information from the wording of Ra’s answers which did not directly pertain to the question being asked.
I have excluded those topics which only have direct bearing on specific people connected with the contact. This includes, for instance, the information on Carla’s tuning adjustments which is present in most sessions. I have, however, included such information in the topic list in cases where it seemed to have particular potential for extracting more general conclusions.
1: Greeting, Ra’s identity, Law of One
2: Ra’s history, crystal healing, pyramids, purification ritual
4: Pyramid, healing
5: Healing, mental disciplines
6: Mental disciplines, Earth/Venus history, Confederation
7: Calling, Council, Orion
9: Earth history, Bigfoot
10: Earth history, Bigfoot, graduation, seeking, spiritual exercises
11: Negative entities, Maldek
12: Crusaders, Wanderers, UFOs, Men in Black
13: Process of creation
14: Second to third density, inventions, channeling, Ra
15: Rapid aging, greatest service, balancing, Elder Race, first distortions, light/love and love/light
16: Quarantine, landing of Orion, Star Wars, harvest, Ten Commandments, Ra history, timelessness, planet statistics, Confederation, galaxies, understanding’s necessity for harvest, silver flecks, conditions in 4D, density definition, thoughts as realities, Orion attacks
17: Fourth density, crater in Tunguska, Jesus, Ra, knowledge’s necessity for harvest, Earth appears negative, Taras Bulba, Genghis Khan, Rasputin, spontaneous combustion, harvest year, means of services, polarity percentages, planes, how to meditate, incarnation allocation
18: Ra’s honesty, desires, breaking the Law of One, self-consciousness, Aleister Crowley, forgiveness, service, Yahweh and genetic programming
19: Second to third density, human physical weakness, second density view of pack as self, polarity, astrology
20: Second to third density, Dewey Larson, purpose of polarity, life span, Mars entities, aid to early third density, Easter Island
21: Ra’s way of communicating, quarantine, early third density, incarnation programming
22: Early third density, life span, Atlanteans
23: Ra’s Egypt contact, pyramids, Ra’s South America contact
24: Contact consequences, Yahweh contact, Anak, fire chariot of Orion, Dwight Eisenhower
25: Orion/Confederation battles
26: Bible, communications of the Law of One, Abraham Lincoln, UFOs, atom bomb, importance of philosophy vs. specific information
27: Paul Shockley in pyramids, intelligent infinity, rhythm of reality, intelligent energy, free will, love, vibration, colors
28: Intelligent infinity, Dewey Larson, rotation, beautiful nonsense, Logos, densities, initial polarity
29: Sub-Logoi, the sun, space and time, metaphysical nature of gravity, black holes, crystal usage
30: Mind/body/spirit complex, reproduction, planets
31: Sexual energy transfer, homosexuality, Orion use of sex, Third Reich fetishes
32: Sexual energy transfer, Wanderer sexual preferences, colors and breaks
33: Prisms, programmed lessons, self-defense and positive polarity, catalyst, appearance of violet ray
34: Penetration of intelligent infinity, karma, unmanifested self catalysts, Albert Schweitzer, Martin Luther King, technology, war, George Patton
35: Franklin Roosevelt, Adolf Hitler, Abraham Lincoln
36: Mind/body/spirit complex totality, Higher Self, parallel experiences, Himmler, end of negative path, penetration of forgetting
37: Problems of disseminating the Ra material, Higher Self, spiritual mass
38: Appearance of rays of balanced entity, nuclear energy, inspiration, Sirius third-density vegetation, meditation, fourth density negative
39: Nonsense about The Nine, energy centers
40: Metaphysical astronomy, energy centers, second to third density, third to fourth density, cancer
41: The sun, first and second density, energy centers
42: Balancing, emotional repression, will and faith, attention, ceremonial magic, parent/child relationships
43: Cattle mutilations, fourth to sixth density conditions, meditation aids
44: Negative contacts, strange subjective phenomena, Qabalah
45: Left and right brain
46: Positive and negative responses to anger
47: Purpose of social memory complexes, energy centers (positive and negative activation patterns, crystallization), bodies
48: Positive and negative work in fourth density, energy centers (patterns of activation, penetration), seniority
49: Jim’s frontal lobes experiences, left and right brain, energy centers (secondary centers, Kundalini), meditation techniques
50: South pole, adept, energy centers, purpose of forgetting (poker game metaphor)
51: Harvest supervisors, space travel, UFOs, bodies, energy centers (blockage, crystallization), Egyptian drawings
52: Space travel, reasons for wandering during harvest, heart of evolution, lightbringers
53: Confederation techniques, UFOs
54: Energy centers (blockage, north and south pole), catalyst, incarnation programming
55: Pyramid, bidding process
57: Pyramid, crystal healing, space and time
58: Pyramid, crystal healing, metal bending
59: Pyramid, Earth history
60: Pyramid, Carla’s balancing, ark of the covenant, global warming, civilizations inside Earth, entropy of spiritual information
61: Bio-rhythms, bodily disciplines, subjective knowing, frontal lobes
62: Orion’s purpose and activities, Earth vibratory levels
63: Vital energy, Earth changes into fourth density, metal bending
64: Ra’s spiritual path, adept’s cycle, allopathic healing, Bigfoot, meaningful physical sensations
65: Pyramid, increase in seeking, Wanderer services, war, mixed harvests, forgetting, prophecy (shopping metaphor)
66: Pyramid, crystal healing, archetypical mind, negative harvest
67: Archetypical mind, psychic attack
68: Psychic attack, displacement to negative time/space
69: Displacement to negative time/space
70: Displacement to negative time/space, regressive hypnosis, after death, UFOs, space and time
71: Polarity and harvestability, unmanifested being, after death, universality of evolutionary process, negative gravity well, white magic, Ra’s honor/duty to Earth
72: Magical effects of free will, north and south poles
73: White magic, north and south poles, evangelism, Jesus, crystal healing, energy transfer
74: White magic, archetypical mind, indigo ray, Sanskrit, Hebrew
75: White magic, Benedictus psychic attack, Sanskrit, Hebrew
76: Archetypical mind, history of densities
77: Archetypical mind, history of densities, non-necessity of negative thought forms
78: Archetypical mind, polarity
79: Archetypical mind, veil
80: Archetypical mind, fifth density negative companion
81: Archetypical mind, Ra’s knowledge, the galaxy
82: The galaxy, veil
84: Veil, martyrdom, sexual energy transfer
85: Veil, polarity, balancing of love and wisdom
86: Veil, unconscious mind, dreaming
87: Veil, fifth density negative companion, negative social memory complexes, sex
88: Archetypical mind
89: Archetypical mind, Venus history
90: Archetypical mind, humanoids
91: Archetypical mind
92: Archetypical mind
93: Archetypical mind, polarity
94: Archetypical mind
95: Archetypical mind
96: Archetypical mind
97: Archetypical mind
99: Archetypical mind
100: Archetypical mind
101: (no non-personal information)
102: (no non-personal information)
103: Archetypical mind
104: The great illusion
105: Veil, aging and death
106: (no non-personal information)
A few scattered thoughts.
It seems to me that we are all afflicted with self-hatred. Perhaps this is buried or perhaps it is near the surface of consciousness. I would regard it as a common problem. Furthermore, it is a problem that is useless and absurd. When one hates oneself, one inflicts suffering upon oneself to the benefit of nobody.
Most of our ways of progress involve some aspect of denial of the self. Rationality requires us to abandon our subjective feelings for objective facts. Religion requires us to follow moral codes and in doing so, deny our emotions and impulses. Mysticism’s goal is frequently described as “transcendence of the ego.” Society requires us to deny ourselves as a basic requirement for functioning in it. The more involved we become in any of the available systems of progress, the more we are likely to increase the self-hatred which exists in ourselves.
This self-hatred, besides having intrinsic negative value, probably limits our ability to make further progress. An entity that is divided against itself wastes energy in fighting against itself, canceling out its own efforts and reducing the amount of useful work which it is able to perform. If we wish to increase our impact on ourselves or on the world, it will be helpful for us not to hate ourselves.
I suggest that a reasonable course of action is to take countermeasures to reverse this process of increasing self-hatred. I suggest that it would be fruitful to foster within ourselves self-acceptance and self-love, and recognize the fact of our own godliness.
This is immediately recognized as a dangerous course of action. If one develops self-love and recognizes one’s own godliness, there are two directions in which this can go:
Inflation. One develops love for self without developing love for others, and recognizes one’s godliness without balancing this with a recognition of others’ godliness. In this case one is polarizing towards the negative.
Expansion. One develops love for self and develops love for others, recognizing one’s godliness and the godliness of others. In this case one is polarizing towards the positive.
It follows that in order to accept ourselves profitably, we would have to balance this with an equal acceptance of others.
I suggest that the concept of authority has created problems in all systems of progress. The early stages of rationality were hindered by a reliance on authorities such as Plato, Aristotle, and the Bible, wherein people took these sources as infallible. Sometimes these sources were wrong, and this led to people dogmatically believing things that were false. One may further speculate that the intense scrutiny which was applied to these sources at the expense of gathering new data, or examining other sources, was a waste of energy. Rationality has overcome these problems to a great extent by the device of not regading any source as authoritative.
The same phenomenon of regarding some sources as authoritative occurs in spirituality. It leads to the same problems: people dogmatically believing things that were false, and perhaps also people intensely scrutinizing certain sources at the expense of losing what they would gain from examining a broader range of sources. Spirituality is still afflicted with these problems to a great extent, and could probably benefit from following rationality’s lead in not regarding any source as authoritative.
Spirituality is infected by the concept of the “guru” or “prophet:” the individual of surpassing spiritual wisdom who is to be followed unquestioningly on account of the depth and purity of his wisdom. While I do not doubt that individuals with this level of power and insight have existed (e.g., Jesus and the Buddha), I also suggest that the concept of a guru/prophet leads people on many wild goose chases when they come to believe that a certain person is a guru/prophet and therefore fall into unquestioning subordination to this person. Certain individuals decide that they are guru/prophets out of delusions of grandeur or ulterior motives, numerous people buy into this belief system, and the phony guru/prophet takes these people for a ride. This can be seen happening now most egregiously in India.
I suggest that the proposition “obey me and I will bring you closer to God/enlightenment” is to be rejected in every case. I suggest that it is a negative proposition, and that if a teacher were really positive then they would not have any need or desire to ask for obedience. It would follow that what we lose by not following teachers who put forth this proposition is nothing that we should regret losing, if preserving our positive polarity is of foremost importance to us.
A problem with which rationality is consistently afflicted is the problem of accomplishing things that are worthwhile. Rationality gives us a great deal of power to accomplish things, but the things which we then choose to accomplish are often perhaps not worth accomplishing. For instance, we have sunk a tremendous amount of energy into cataloguing the details of our world when in fact this may not help us to shed light on the broader nature of the truth.
We have sunk a tremendous amount of energy into technology. What have we gained from it? A number of large positive outcomes can be named. We can produce food cheaply and easily; we have medicine; we have computers and the Internet. Much of our technological effort has been sunk into inventing more powerful weapons, and into making people who are already too comfortable even more comfortable.
The pursuit of technology is a special case of the pursuit of “projects.” In undertaking a project, one invests a large amount of time and energy into achieving some narrow and specific goal with materially observable results. Businesses, research, government activities, technologies, and artistic endeavours are examples of projects. It is clear that projects are a central value of Western society, and that we spend a major portion of our waking hours engaging in various projects.
I suggest that we invest too much time and energy in projects. In doing so we neglect the other things that life has to offer, including connecting with others, introspective reflection, and spiritual pursuits. Projects are valuable, but in Western society we have become obsessed with projects to a distinctly unhealthy extent.
Our fascination with projects is tied to our fascination with rationality. Rationality’s chief virtue is that it helps us to carry out our projects. It is significantly less useful for connecting with others, introspective reflection, and spiritual pursuits.
The challenge for rationality is not to accomplish something, but to accomplish something worthwhile. Rationality gives us the power to do a million different things. But only some of them are things that we ought to do. The challenge for rationality is to find what is worth doing; once this is discovered, actually doing it is to a great extent a mechanical process.
In some ways spirituality is faced with the opposite challenge. Spirituality has a clear idea of what is to be done. What is to be done is to come closer to God/enlightenment. But spirituality is faced with the challenge of actually doing this. I think it is safe to say that nobody has a clear idea of how to get to God/enlightenment.
Thus, where rationality has the “how?” but not the “why?,” spirituality has the “why?” but not the “how?” This in itself forms an argument for the unification of rationality and spirituality.
Faith That I Understand
It is uncomfortable for me to acknowledge the fact that I do not understand reality. It is very easy to construct a facade which gives one the sense that one understands. Every constructed version of the truth which I have made for myself has broken down upon close analysis. I am under the impression that the feeling of having things figured out is a common feeling.
I am certain that I do not understand, and I am equally certain that nobody else on Earth understands either. It is hard for me to escape the irrational feeling that I do understand. I suspect, however, that this feeling that we understand blocks us from deepening our understanding.
The One System Effect
I have a personal bias towards wanting to unite all of my knowledge and spiritual technique into a single system. My feeling is that, since there is one truth, the paths to this truth ought to be one as well. But I am coming to believe that this is one system is a pipe dream.
Probably we are too far off from the truth to unite all of our knowledge and technique into one system. In my experience any attempt to do this shuts out a lot of useful things because they do not fit into the system. I suggest that a better strategy is to use a diversity of knowledge and techniques without the need to synthesize it all into one system.
The one system effect can afflict attempts at mysticism. It is common to think that one process, or one set of processes, can bring a person to God/enlightenment. I think that this is false.
A few scattered thoughts on the relationship between science and spirituality.
Historically, science and spirituality were not distinct. If one looks at Greek or Medieval knowledge, one sees that the subject matter of science and the subject matter of spirituality are intermixed without distinction. The division between the study of wordly things and the study of spiritual things was recommended by St. Augustine. Science emerged as a uniquely charaterized discipline, similar to its current form, with figures such as Francis Bacon and Isaac Newton.
Science Defined by Tradeoffs
The creation of science in its current form was driven by a motivation to acquire accurate knowledge of the physical world. Prior to modern science, the available texts on the subject matter of science were sketchy, incomplete, and filled with wild inaccuracies. The content of these texts was accepted unquestioningly, because the people who wrote them were considered to be authorities, and people were unlikely to take the time to verify their claims.
Modern science uses several strategies to ensure the solidity of its knowledge, including:
1. The subordination of the personal and subjective to the impersonal and objective.
2. The focus on details and fine distinctions.
3. The tendency for individuals to specialize in a particular narrow topic and devote much time and energy to getting the correct answers on that topic.
4. The use of methods of knowledge discovery which can be replicated by anybody.
5. The questioning of established knowledge.
6. The use of strictly logical bases for knowledge, excluding the reliance on feeling or intuition.
These stragical biases have proven to be very effective in furnishing us with accurate knowledge of the physical world. However, I suggest that they should be regarded as tradeoffs. In focusing on objective details instead of subjective generalities, one is surely likely to miss certain things. Similarly, restricting what is regarded as knowledge to what can be verified is likely to exclude some useful knowledge. These strategical biases help to avoid many falsehoods, but it is likely that some important truths are being thrown out along with the falsehoods.
Science only studies the physical world. It does not study our subjective experience. Therefore scientific knowledge is only of the physical world, and of our subjective experience only insofar as it can be studied indirectly through the physical world.
This leads to one possible interpretation of physicalism. Having studied only the physical world, after discovering that nothing else can be studied rigorously, one then concludes that the world equals the physical world. With the hypothesis that experience equals brain activity, one attempts to extend one’s knowledge of the physical world (the thing that one has been studying) to encompass subjective experience (the thing that one has not been studying, but has been ignoring). Under this interpretation, physicalism amounts to little more than the optimistic belief that what we cannot explain can be explained in terms of what we can explain.
I suspect that:
(H.1) Every phenomenon whatsoever can be given an explanation that is consistent with physicalism.
However, it is also the case that, for instance, every phenomenon whatsoever can be explained within a Biblical framework. (In the worst case, we say that it is God deceiving us.) So (H.1), though probably true, shows mainly that it is easy to give explanations. It does not reasonably follow that:
(H.2) Every phenomenon whatsoever can be given a correct explanation that is consistent with physicalism.
Differently Shaped Brains
One thing preventing the reconciliation of science with spirituality is the fact that they require very differently shaped mental states. To be scientific requires a certain mindset: logical, objective, detail-oriented, etc. To be spiritual requires another mindset, significantly vaguer and more intuitive than the mindset required for science. Furthermore, the ability to assume either of these mindsets is something that is difficult to acquire well, probably requiring years of practice.
Many people involved in spirituality do not understand science, because they lack the ability to enter the required mindset. Many people involved in science do not understand spirituality, because they lack the ability to enter the required mindset. One simply cannot know what either of these fields of human activity is about without reshaping one’s mind to accomodate it. But it is seldom for a single individual to have significant abilities with both of these mindsets. This makes it difficult for common ground to develop between science and spirituality.
Seeking the truth is a basic human motivation. Among humans there are two main categories of claimants to the truth: the rational or scientific/mathematical, and the spiritual, religious, or mystical. These two ways of seeking the truth, the rational and the spiritual, both constitute huge areas of human activity. We have science, mathematics, and philosophy on the one hand, with everybody who participates in these activities. We have religion, spirituality, and mysticism on the other hand, with everybody who participates in these activities.
Among seekers of the truth, there are those who see the rational as the only one of these paths bearing merit. There are also those who see the spiritual as the only one of these paths bearing merit. Finally, there are those who see both of them as having merit.
There is significant tension between these two paths, with much criticism of the spiritual coming from the rational side, and vice versa. There is significant difficulty in reconciling the two paths, as they seem to have basic incompatibilities in their ways of approaching things.
I hope to work towards reconciling rationality and spirituality. I hope to reduce the cognitive dissonance involved in lending credibility to both rationality and spirituality, and synthesize their approaches to the extent that this is possible.
One of my basic assumptions will be that both rationality and spirituality have merit as ways of seeking the truth. Those who do not agree with this assumption will find little value in my work. Starting from the assumption that both are valuable, I ask, “how can we unify them?”
I am not out to prove anything to anybody. I am not out to prove spirituality to rational individuals. I am not out to prove rationality to spiritual individuals. Rather I am out to make a dent in a common perplexity with which many of us are afflicted, and in doing so further our seeking of the truth.
Previously I asked, “what is of value?”
I suggest that this question can be approached from the perspective of a research program. Everybody seems to value different things, and so a good starting point is to figure out for oneself what one values. This can be done through a process of progressive abstraction. For instance:
1. I value learning things.
2. I value eating Taco Bell.
3. I value meditating.
4. I value sex.
5. I value convincing people of my point of view.
6. I value making friends.
Given enough such data points, one can then ask, what is common to all of these things that I value? Do they fall into categories? Do those categories themselves bear meaningful relations to each other, such that a further level of abstraction is possible?
To avoid deceiving ourselves, I suggest that the initial data points are to be gathered by an examination of our actions. Whether or not I consciously value something, if I act in a way that gets me that thing when I could have chosen to act in a different way, this suggests that I do in fact value it.
I wish to present a hypothesis which, if true, will narrow the domain of inquiry:
(H.1) Everything that we value is an experience or something we value for its ability to lead to experiences.
Under this hypothesis, for instance, sex could be valued for its ability to produce pleasure; power could be valued for the feeling of being powerful; human relationships could be valued for the feeling of love.
We can give a similar account of the negative value ascribed to things. Under this hypothesis, being unattractive could be negatively valued for its ability to produce the feeling of self-disgust, and being injured could be negatively valued for its ability to produce pain.
Under (H.1) we can draw a directed graph containing everything that a person values. This graph will have terminal nodes (not pointing towards any further nodes) which are experiences that are valued intrinsically. The other nodes in the graph will be other things that are valued extrinsically.
The nodes of the value graph will be points in value schemas that can be assigned to solutions to situations in the previous post.
Now I wish to present a stronger hypothesis which, if true, will further narrow the domain of inquiry:
(H.2) Everything that we value, we value for its ability to bring us closer to God/enlightenment.
Under (H.2), God/enlightenment is not necessarily an experience, but the things that bring us closer to it are. This is a concept that is recognized by many religions.
In Catholicism, it is held that obeying the Catholic Church is the path to becoming closer to God.
In Protestantism, religious experience is held to be central to becoming closer to God.
In Islam, it is held that obeying the tenets of Islam is the path to becoming closer to God.
In Hinduism and Buddhism, one gets closer to enlightenment (Nirvana or moksha) by meditating and obtaining “samadhi” (union with God) or “jhana” (meditative absorption).
There are thus two main hypotheses about the path to becoming God/enlightenment:
(H.3) One becomes closer to God/enlightenment by obtaining spiritual experiences.
(H.4) One becomes closer to God/enlightenment by obeying a particular authority.
I suggest that there is sufficient reason to reject (H.4). The first reason is that all claims of the form of (H.4) are mutually contradictory and therefore cancel each other out. The second reason has to do with speculations about the motivations for holding/espousing (H.4).
A belief can be held/espoused intrinsically or extrinsically. A belief that is held/espoused intrinsically is held/espoused because it is true. A belief that is held/espoused extrinsically is held/espoused for some reason other than the reason that it is true. It is clear that a person who holds/espouses a belief cannot tell for sure whether they are doing so intrinsically or extrinsically.
I suggest that there is reason to believe that (H.4) is held/espoused extrinsically. It is easy to imagine extrinsic motivations for holding/espousing (H.4). It may be that (H.4) was first espoused by authorities who wished to have power over others.
Because claims of the form of (H.4) are mutually contradictory, there is reason to believe that (H.4) is not true and therefore that it is not held intrinsically. Because it is easy to imagine extrinsic motivations for originating (H.4), there is reason to believe that it is held extrinsically. Therefore I suggest that it is rational to reject (H.4).
Since all of the world’s major religions espouse either (H.3) or (H.4), or often a mixture of the two, and there is reason to believe that (H.4) is false and held/espoused extrinsically, I suggest that it is rational to accept (H.3) as the correct answer to the question, “how do I obtain God/enlightenment?” if this question has any answer at all.
(H.1) states that experiences are what we value. (H.2) states that we value things because of their ability to bring us closer to God/enlightenment. (H.3) states that experiences are what bring us closer to God/enlightenment.
We might then imagine a scale of valuable experiences, from the most insignificant experiences (such as brushing one’s teeth in the morning) to the most significant experiences (such as great joy or great sorrow). Then we can suppose that the label “spiritual experiences” applies to those experiences which are on the high end of the scale.
Here we gain a picture of the purpose of life that emerges if we accept (H.1), (H.2), and (H.3). This is that the purpose of life is to obtain experiences of the greatest possible significance in order to become closer to God/enlightenment. Experiences are what is of value, and spiritual experiences are the most valuable experiences.