Category Archives: Who Is Dave?

Witnessing The Process

nvcd2I’ve just returned from a planning session on how to resist the Kinder-Morgan pipeline expansion in the Vancouver area; typical of me, in my uncertainty as to how to contribute, I was mainly witnessing the process.

For those unfamiliar with the Kinder-Morgan project, it is a $7.4-billion construction project of pipeline expansion over a 1,100-kilometer route, and will increase pipeline capacity from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels of oil per day. It will end at Burrard Inlet at the northern edge of Burnaby and Vancouver, and will require construction through both cities. The fuel will then be transported internationally via the Salish Sea between Vancouver Island and the BC mainland (an environmentally sensitive area). It also represents a major addition to the fossil fuel load created by Canada, although that carbon source will then be transported to other Pacific countries, and thus does not appear as a direct load on Canada.

The pipeline passes through many indigenous lands (actually unceeded territories since for the most part no “treaties” have ever been signed) — many or all of which communities object to the project. The cities of Burnaby and Vancouver also object. To my knowledge, the federal and provincial governments have approved the projects despite these objections, and many court challenges are current. For my part, I was deeply disappointed by the duplicity of the Liberal government which initially promised major revision of the issues of global warming — as such there has been far more talk than action.

I believe that there is a huge need for non-violent civil disobedience in these kinds of issues, but I am also somewhat discouraged by this. For the most part, although we have advanced in many ways as to how we value human beings (feminism, racism, education, et cetera), most of the advances have only been on the surface — we have not done the deeper shift in maturity that will be necessary to overcome our latest challenge, that of world degradation as manifest by global warming, let alone the other issues. I have long been impressed by David Suzuki’s honesty in naming the fundamental failure of environmentalism, although I imagine others have written equally honestly about our other failures.

In my discouragement, I believe that much of non-violent civil disobedience merely serves to provide a mechanism to release the emotional tension felt by the oppressed. For the most part, the interplay between oppressed and oppressors simply becomes a game of chess as each party maneuvers to achieve advantage in a never-ending game of duplicity. Certainly on the part of the oppressed, there are many well-intentioned and intelligent persons, but I am not convinced that we achieve a great deal. Meanwhile the bulk of people stand back in apparent apathy. Sad.

Carlos Castaneda, a “cult” writer of the 70s, once presented a great concept (amongst others) for me: A warrior stands in the middle of the road, waiting. By that, I believe he meant that we each must do our personal best, and then let life do what it will. I’m learning to just trust that — in my language, if Creator wants me to do other than Witness, the opportunity will come. Despair, for me, then becomes a waste of energy, attempting to push the river – it flows by itself.

Some interesting links for the week:

The Transformative Power of Climate Truth (201710)

A comprehensive and important document from the only organization (to my knowledge) truly committed to cooperative mobilization on the scale necessary to resolve the issues of global warming.

U.S. climate report leaves little room for doubt (20171109)

As David Suzuki points out, the report did not receive much attention — presumably, simply another report as to the state of the disaster — a non-issue in the current political scene. Sad.

America is facing an epistemic crisis (20171002)

Initially this article is confusing, but it then presents a fascinating study of the question: “What if Mueller proves his case, and it doesn’t matter?” Another suggestion in support of the theme that civilization is about power, and who wields it.

100% renewable electricity in reach by 2050 (20171108)

We are capable of resolving the issues. Will we?

Paleo Politics (20171101)

An interesting link supporting the contention that “civilization” is fundamentally an issue of power dynamics, something I have written about in other posts.

Discipline

Discipline3

It has been an interesting week for me in that I have principally been lazy (see below). I’m traveling, and originally I was expecting that I would be doing two weekends of teaching, one on anger, the second on partnership. But numbers have been low, and I only did the anger one. For both, the issues of discipline would have been important.

I continue to do this kind of work because I believe that it is essential that we mature as a species — it is the only way in which we will survive. But it is an uphill battle, both at the personal level and the societal level.

The principal skill of maturity is discipline, the intention and ability to do the necessary work. It is the work required to create positive outcome. And unfortunately, as I have indicated previously, human beings are governed by what I call the Laws of Experience:

  • we want positive experiences (inclusion, love, respect, et cetera).
  • it is easier to get negatives (anger, frustration, sadness, blame) — per se these emotions are not negative, but they are part of the pain of living.
  • negative is better than none. As human beings we stay connected in pain so as to avoid the greater pain of aloneness and meaninglessness.

As stated, it requires effort (work) to achieve positive outcomes (healthy relationships, deep friendships, completion of significant tasks).

So what is discipline? Operationally, I define it as “doing what I want to do, even when I don’t want to do it.” And somewhat typically of my travel trips, I have not kept up my own disciplined activities. Partly this was due to being away from my home base, and partly I have additional activities to do when traveling.

However the main reason has been frank laziness, the refusal to do the work of maintaining myself the way I wish — my meditation practice, my daily exercise, and a few other activities that are important to me (and keep me in healthy relationship with myself). At a more general level, this is my own acedia, the recognition of which eventually led to my PhD and my book Acedia, The Darkness Within and the darkness of Climate Change.

Somehow on these trips, unless I make a major effort, I get overwhelmed with “too much.” I’m out of my home routines, in new settings, and even though the settings are not onerous, much more effort is required. I’m visiting people, and need to coordinate my disciplines with interaction. Principally I simply give up my disciplines as requiring too much effort. And typically, as the days go by, I gradually re-introduce the activities back into my life.

I do not feel good under these conditions. I enjoy the visiting, but I am often aware of low-grade guilt — I’m breaking my own rules, and my internal critics have a field day when I do so. In my years of being a therapist, the only resolution for me has been to recognize that laziness/acedia is a choice, one that leads me to exaggerate life’s pain, to recognize that I do not want to live this kind of pain. And so I return to doing my disciplines, and the effort of living more effectively.

The above reflections are at the personal level. At a community and/or cultural level, such laziness generates many of the issues we say we dislike (ranging from conflict to global warming), and are such that we often ignore because they represent “too much” effort. That is our choice, but often we blame external circumstances such as “too much.”

How do you wish to live? What disciplines do you need to undertake so as to live the way you want to (even when you don’t want to do the work)?

Our Immaturity

Sarah Polley: The Men You Meet Making Movies (20171014)

Another reflection on the immaturity of our species, especially the sexual arrogance of many men in our culture, as well as the huge issues of powerlessness. Worth reading. I’ll have more to say on men in our culture in my next post.

Racist, Violent, Unpunished: A White Hate Group’s Campaign of Menace (20171020)

A detailed description of aspects of the development of the militant white supremacist movement, again reflecting a statement I took years ago from Isaac Asimov: “Violence is the last resort of the incompetent,” or more accurately those who feel completely disillusioned and dis-empowered by the system, those who are now mobilizing with a sense of permissiveness (of arrogance and violation) in the current political chaos of our world.

Trump

The Daily 202: Obama and Bush deliver calls to action against Trumpism (20171020)

Interesting to have two former presidents of the US speaking out against the current political scene, something with which they are likely very familiar.

The Founding Fathers designed impeachment for someone exactly like Donald Trump (20171015)

An excellent summary of the purpose of impeachment, and its initiation.

Global Warming

Warming soils bad for atmosphere (20171018)

More bad news for carbon sequestration.

Pollution kills 9 million people each year, new study finds (20171019)

Not surprising!

It’s time to nix neonics (20171012)

I know at some level that shifts in government regulations is slow, given the conservative nature of the systems involved. However, like all major environmental issues, there appears to be a further resistance due to hidden economics, the 1% who basically control the economy. It “should” not be this way, but it is; and until we make the necessary choices of maturity as a species, we will continue on our path to destruction.

Modern Spirituality

Faith And Science: Open To Change (20171023)

I find Richard Rohr to be incredibly mature in his spiritual views. In this post, he reflects on the characteristics of good science as being much more in keeping with enriching spirituality as compared with most religious dogma. What is needed is an integration of good science with mature religion.

The Need For A Coup, Part 1

Complexity3I said in my last post that I would consider the possibility of a coup. At some level, I truly accept that the need for a coup is the only way in which humanity will survive. I’m not a historian, nor a philosopher, nor do I have a military background, so what follows will simply be my random thoughts regarding the issues that confront us as a civilization.

First, as noted in my original first post of this blog (see my home page), Laszlo (in Evolution: The General Theory, 1996) wrote that we are in a cascade of crises, and that we must extend ourselves into a new maturity, else we will likely perish as a species (or at least as a civilization). I also recall from my PhD research, Toynbee in A Study Of History (1946) considered that in the failing of civilizations, new ones arise at the periphery (of the old collapsing civilization) wherein a small group arises who both represents a new energy of purpose while espousing a new religion, meanwhile opposed by the old tyranny. In my dissertation, I suggested that the small group was the Cultural Creatives and the new religion was our maturing relationship with ecology. The current difficulty with both the Cultural Creatives and the ecology movement, though, is that they are disorganized, and do not present a coordinated front to oppose the oppressive forces of our current civilization. Furthermore, this past century is the first occurrence in which we as a species have come to be both a global village and a power dynamic capable of altering the dynamics of the entire ecosystem of our world; there is essentially no periphery for a new civilization — we must confront the center of the old.

I also noted in my posts about power (beginning 2016-08-16) that civilization(s) arose because the human species came into relationship with power, a relationship different from that of all other previous species. Schmookler in The Parable Of The Tribes[1] indicated that “our destructiveness as a species and of our current culture . . . is a simple consequence of our creativity, a tragedy representative of the inevitable options for power” — and that there is “no way to return the dangerous djinni of human power back into the bottle.” In addition, “The laws of man require power, for power can [only] be controlled with power. The challenge is to design systems that use power to disarm power. Only in such an order can mankind be free.” Perhaps mankind will evolve to “control the actions of all to the degree needed to protect the well-being of the whole.”

Schmookler mentions a number of relevant definitions:

  • system: an aggregate the elements of which interact (and therefore no element of the system can be understood in isolation)
  • synergy: a pattern whereby each part functions in a way that enhances the welfare of the other parts as well as its own
  • viability: the ability to maintain without diminution whatever it is upon which its continued existence depends

Our civilization is definitely a system, yet it is neither synergistic nor viable. Our civilization is based on power, not synergy and viability. We compete rather than cooperate. We control by short-term domination rather than by consideration of the long-term. We demonstrate immense creativity, but we do not consider the impact of our creativity on future generations (in either our consumerism or our technological advances).

To be continued

Links suggestive of our cultural insanity

Heartless world watches while Rohingya nightmare continues (20170928)

An example of the inability of our species to deal with power.

Trump doesn’t get it on Puerto Rico. He just proved it by lashing out at San Juan’s mayor. (20170930)

I am suggesting this link, not as a critique of Trump (which it is), but as an indication of the need for definitive action in stopping this kind of tribalism, a stance that likely results in major deterioration of justice and viability. The current system is not healthy.

Homeland Security to monitor social media accounts of immigrants and citizens (20170926)

Where does surveillance stop? When is it effective? Here we seem to be moving to a police state, again with a major deterioration of justice and vitality.

Even This Data Guru Is Creeped Out By What Anonymous Location Data Reveals About Us (20170926)

So easy, and with enough computer power, likely also easy to cross-map details of how groups of people interact. Truly, Big Brother is watching.

[1] Schmookler, A. B. (1995). Parable of the tribes: The Problem of Power in Social Evolution. New York, NY: State University of New York.

Knowing Through Relationship

Relationship1The week has been busy — lots of little jobs, and also I have been having difficulty organizing a workshop I will be doing (in October) on relationship. I am taking an older workshop, one that I have never been fully satisfied with, and both reducing it in size (for a full weekend to 1½ days). Such a reduction is always difficult for me, and more so this time as I have been searching for how to focus the workshop in a way that satisfies me. What I have settled upon, and which satisfies me, is to emphasize the importance of intersubjectivity.

Intersubjectivity is a concept I learned from my research advisor Christian deQuincey when I was doing my PhD. To quote one of Christian’s books (Radical Knowing: Understanding Consciousness Through Relationship, 2005):

Intersubjectivity is “knowing through relationship” — a form of non-sensory, non-linguistic connection through presence and meaning, rather than through mechanism or exchanges of energy. (Kindle location 452)

Christian also distinguished three forms of intersubjectivity:

  1. Intersubjectivity-1, the exchange of linguistic tokens (words and other sounds),
  2. Intersubjectivity-2, where we influence each other with the meaning we promote, and
  3. Intersubjectivity-3, where we co-create each other into a meaningful experience by the wholeness of who we each are.

For me, when I experience it, intersubjectivity-3 is the richest form of dialogue of which I have experienced.

So the workshop is becoming a process whereby we (myself and the participants) explore how to have a really great relationship. In essence then, for a given relationship, to what extent are we willing

  • to be authentic with each other,
  • to support each other to be the person we each want to be (as opposed to who we should be for the other , or for society),
  • when difficulties arise in the relationship (inevitable), to explore the difficulty with total honesty.

Hard work, requiring that we love ourselves as well as our partner, and that we define the truths by which we each stand (or fall). The most important place for learning about life, provided we have ways to sort the complexity.

One component of this is what the Family Therapist Murray Bowen called self-differentiation — the consistent ability to be a self while in the presence of others. Amongst his other contributions, Bowen developed a scale for self-differentiation, ranging from 0 to 100. He believed most people scored around 40, and that no one ever scored above 70 — it is simply too difficult to stay separate from the influence of others (we are not designed to do so).

Anyway, the workshop is looking interesting.

Other issues of note for the week, both on climate issues:

The Planet Is Warming. And It’s Okay to Be Afraid (20170717)

Last week, I listed The Unhabitable Earth, an article that discussed the worst case scenario of what we face, indicating how close it comes to doom-mongering (worst case scenarios are usually very challenging). This link (The Planet Is Warming . . .) is an excellent response to the concern re doom-mongering in regards to global warming — unfortunately, if we are to respond effectively, we each need to deal with our despair. Not fun, but necessary.

A Brief History of the Straw (20141023)

Plastic straws suck (20170720)

Two interesting links to the impact of plastic straws, the first on our creativity, the second on our ecology. Apparently we discard 180,000,000,000 straws a year (1,400,000 kilograms a year, 500,000,000 a day) to landfill and other forms of discard. I deliberately changed the data from 180 billion to 180,000,000,000 to emphasize the impact. And that is just drinking straws!

Panpsychism, Part 4

Philosophy2My concluding post on panpsychism, essentially my attempt to understand my own experiences in philosophic and theologic language, in preparation for a two-year study program in contemplative practice.

During my careers as anesthetist and therapist, I have consistently been attracted to understanding the nature of consciousness. As anesthetist, I had the opportunity to familiarize myself with neurobiology (and the scientific view on consciousness), and was impressed with the depth of understanding of how the brain functions. But I was also always aware that studies of consciousness rely on a small amount of evidence from neurobiology, and a large amount of assumption. Most important of all, neurologic defects of the brain (strokes, tumours, et cetera) frequently interrupt our ability to assess consciousnesss, but do not prove that the mind exists in the brain — only that the brain is a major modality whereby we access the mind (and whereby the mind communicates with the body). Given the precept of panpsychism that sentience exists all the way down, the brain may be simply one of the means by which consciousness is accesssed. My preferred metaphor is that the brain is like a computer, but the mind is the equivalent of the internet.

As therapist I did not want (or seek) academic knowledge only; I wanted something that worked in transforming human dynamics. Thus I trained in Gestalt Therapy (and later Family Systems and Neurolinguistic Programming — all very powerful for change work). Throughout, my basic stance has remained that of a Gestaltist — focussed on awareness, contact (experience of the moment), and personal responsibility. In retrospect, I now recognize that these are fundamental to choice and intersubjectivity, the basic modalities that underlie panpsychism.

The profound mystical experiences I have had are also incompatible with scientific materialism (SM), and entirely feasible within panpsychism (and idealism). Two mystical experiences, in particular, have deeply affected me.

First, when I was about nineteen or twenty, I was alone one evening, studying the physics of the Bohr atom while babysitting my nieces and nephew. Without any warning or precipitating event, I suddenly lost consciousness (for an uncertain time, perhaps 10 – 20 minutes), and experienced myself as an electron swirling around a Bohr nucleus, an experience I still clearly remember as peaceful, joyous choice. I “awoke” from this state at total peace, unable to explain it in any way, but knowing (from my current perspective) that somehow choice and sentience exists “all the way down.” This is in keeping with synchronicity and panpsychism.

The second mystical experience, when I was 31, was a sudden shift in consciousness to that of a feeling of deep peacefulness and blessedness; it recurred over the next month, and became a continuous state for almost three years, six months at its peak, then fading over two and a half years. In this state, I knew, without question, that the foundational basis of the universe was love, that the universe was friendly. At approximately five months, I encountered the book Cosmic Consciousness, a study of mystical states published in 1899; the book exactly described my own experience, and thus I now called my experience “Cosmic Consciousness.”

Both these experiences were transformational, totally unexplainable within SM, and although (in my current reflections) consistent with panpsychism, also consistent with emanationist idealism (the God of panpsychism is friendly, but impersonal).

[Incidentally, when I was in my 50s, again seeking to understand my life, I was talking with a well respected, very competent psychiatrist about these mystical experiences and other aspects of my life. She labelled me as schizophrenic, until I was able to convince her that I simply had a very different worldview than that offered by scientific materialism and the DSM-4 (the bible of psychiatric diagnosis). There is a price tag to having unusual experiences!]

Synchronicities have also guided me in amazing ways during my life, in ways that continue to astound me. Synchronicity is a coincidence in time of two or more causally unrelated events [acausal] which have the same or similar meaning, The events could have been chance, but in their occurrence, they had a profound “wow” factor that said “go in this direction.”

Two also stand out. At one point in my life, I shifted from anesthetist to therapist, and six years later, decided to retrain as an anesthetist. At the end of the training, I was looking for a job all over North America where I could do part-time anesthesia and part-time therapy — with no success whatsoever. Months went by. Then, suddenly a possibility arose to work at the local hospital (where I was almost totally unknown), and in a space of three hours (from the start of exploring to completion), I had hospital privileges (essentially unheard of, if you know anything of hospital organization). An hour later, as my then-partner and I discussed the situation, we decided we needed a new house to accommodate both our careers. At that same moment, we saw the builder of our current house drive down the street; we walked down to talk to him, and he agreed to build us a new house, and exchange our old house as partial payment. New job, new home, hassle free, all in the space of hours. Talk about feeling “right.”

At another time, now separated and somewhat despondent, I was moving to an apartment, and drove past a country house I had always liked — which now had a “For Sale” sign outside; I said to myself “Likely can’t afford it. But I’m curioius.” Days before, I had had a new client, a local realtor (in my ten years of practice, I had never previously had a realtor as a client). So I phoned the realtor, and six hours later, I had a new house; that house became the center that I (and my current wife) ran for about 15 years. Again, it felt “right.”

Scientific materialism cannot account for synchronicity, but panpsychism can, as can idealism. Both also offer understanding of how we are creating global warming in our hubris, and that we as a species are in profound need of becoming more mature. That as a culture we need to be on a spiritual path, not an egoic path. (Incidentally, I do not like the term “spiritual” — it has too many connotations that get caught in religious argument. But I do not have a better term.)

Being on a spiritual path implies something is amiss with where you are right now. Utterly true for me of our modern world. Enlightenment is waking up and simply accepting what is, working with it as a starting point.

So, now my conclusions — as starting points for further exploration.

For me, the fundamental basis of the universe is Creativity (choice). I am also in favor of the moral imperatives as suggested by the theologian Thomas Berry (community, diversity, and subjectivity, to which I have added change) as discussed in The Great Work: Our Way Into The Future (1999).

What else?

Panpsychism provides an comprehensive process by which reality is created, one that makes eminent sense to me. It is weird, but self-consistent, and covers the ground much more than does scientific materialism.

God is transcendent (as well as immanent) — I still trust the Starmaker myth, and Starmaker exists outside the system. I thus ascribe to panentheism, and lean towards emantionist idealism.

God is love (my learnings from Cosmic Consciousness), and in that sense, intersubjectively personal — the synchronicities of my life have all felt deeply personal, as if the Creative Ultimate is specifically attending to me at that moment.

I am not sure that I want to pigeon-hole the process more than this. I am somewhat unclear if what I have indicated above makes me an emanationist idealist or a panpsychist, and it may not matter. I am willing to live the inconsistencies of mixing paradigms.

A major distinction for me between panpsychism and idealism is that miracles are possible within idealism, but not within panpsychism. (Miracles are events that are totally unexplainable, ever; in contrast, mysteries are unexplainable at present.) Partly I am undecided as to the nature of miracles (idealism requires a miracle for Spirit to initiate matter). The big miracle within Christianity is that of Jesus — however, for me, that Jesus experienced Cosmic Consciousness is a simpler explanation (Ockham’s Razor) than that Jesus is transformed God (although it can be argued that we are all transformed God).

Likely I need to sit with others to explore further (of which I likely will have ample opportunity to do so over the next two years). Thus, my journey continues.

Panpsychism, Part 3

Philosophy2This is my third post on panpsychism, essentially my attempt to understand my own experiences in philosophic and theologic language. As indicated previously, I am enrolled in a two-year program of Christian contemplative practice (the Center for Action and Contemplation), wherein I intend to examine and compare my own spiritual stance with the models offered within that course.

In order to do so, I need also to be clear as to what my stance actually is. In my therapy workshops, a maxim I commonly presented was: “If you don’t know where you are , you cannot get to where you say you want to be.” A very important maxim! I am not interested in arguing my stance; it is simply a starting point for further exploration, hopefully one that deepens my spiritual journey in major ways.

What I am seeking is a felt experience, rather than an intellectual concept — a felt experience that encompasses:

  • my understanding of human dynamics and consciousness (my medical background, especially my 25 years of being a therapist), including my own family of origin pain,
  • my knowledge of modern physics (quantum mechanics and relativity),
  • the profound mystical experiences I have had,
  • the synchronicities that have guided me,
  • the mechanisms and hubris underlying global warming, and
  • all the other experiences that make up a human life.

A statement that is very meaningful to me is:

A science that does not incorporate spirituality is dehumanizing;

a spirituality that does not incorporate science is delusional.

In this post (and the next, the final one), I’m going to be reflecting on those aspects that have impacted me personally, but with some sidebars of how they all relate now. Thus, I will be skipping back and forth over my life.

In the first post, I indicated that there are four principal ontologies in philosophy (materialism, dualism, idealism, and panpsychism), and that I (as well as many other people) have major problems in accepting materialism, or more specific, scientific materialism (SM). Reflecting on these ontologies in the previous posts has been very helpful to me as I now relate them to my present life.

As a result of my reflections, I now have even less trust of scientific materialism (SM) than I had before I started these posts. SM has been incredibly powerful as the basis of our modern world (both its benefits and its flaws), but it currently stands in a position similar to the Ptolemic world prior to Copernicus — deeply flawed.

  • it treats consciousness as an epiphenomenon, a useless fantasy, yet without consciousness, science could not exist (who or what would conceive of it?).
    • it operates from the assumption that with enough information, consciousness will be explainable as part of the material world. Yet consciousness is not material, and you cannot get something from nothing.
  • it utilizes but cannot explain quantum physics (let alone consciousness), expecially the nature of nonlocality, or even causality. These are fundamental to how science is not utilized.
    • As long ago as the 18th century, David Hume (1711 – 1776) devasted the then current scientific community by demonstrating the fallacy of causation. This was modified by Emmanual Kant (1724 – 1804), but has not withstood the “craziness” of quantum physics (which fundamentally is acausal). (It is the nature of paradigm shifts that “flaws” show up, are tweaked, but more and more, the current paradigm breaks down, with huge paradigm wars, usually until the old guard dies off.)

Enough on that. SM is thus breaking down; and we are in for major changes, not yet clarified. If you the reader want more details, I suggest the writings of Christian deQuincey, especially his Radical Knowing: Understanding Consciousness Through Relationship (2005), listed in Media Within This Blog. All of his books are worth reading.

One of the earliest influences for me personally occurred in reading the science fiction novel Starmaker (Olaf Stapledon, 1934, also in Media above). I first read this in 1959 (age 16), having given up on the “Church” at age 14 because of the many painful aspects of my childhood (family alcoholism, suicide, sexual abuse within a church setting, amongst other issues). Through it, I came to envision God (Starmaker) as all-knowledgeable, yet lacking wisdom; Starmaker creates universes as a means of learning and acquiring wisdom. Thus I was God’s teacher — God learns from my earthly struggles, and regardless of whether my life is “successful” or a “failure,” I am still God’s teacher.

This gave meaning and purpose to my life, something I badly needed at age 16. In retrospect, this is a form of emanationist idealism, not panpsychism. God is both immanent (in this world) and transcendent (beyond this world), a form of panentheism (the theologic term for God being both).

At this point, I had the sense of God as a personal entity who was at least interested in the outcome of my life. Then I went to university for my first degree, a BSc with a major in physics and a minor in mathematics — a great grounding for understanding scientific materialism (yet, in limited ways, I was exposed to Spirit, and deeply impressed by those who manifest it). Overall, I was exposed to a mathematical understanding of both classical mechanics and quantum physics as well as relativity theory. I’m very out-of-date now, but the grounding was solid.

What I did not obtain was a good introduction to the underlying philosophical issues, such as the quandry of acausality. My recent PhD has given me much deeper insights here, but my being out-of-date with the mathematics now means that I have to rely on the interpretations of others more than I like.

What I can say now is that:

  • I deeply question the foundations of scientific materialism, and
  • panpsychism is far more solid in its integration of philosophy and physics.

Thus, I trust panpsychism much more. And as a therapist of 25 years, I am also aware of a deep knowing that panpsychism is more solidly grounded in the nature of reality than is SM.

In the next and final post, I go back to my 20s to note that during and after my first degree (age 16 – 21), I began to have mystical experiences, and later a number of major experiences of synchronicity. These as well are not compatible with scientific materialism.

To be continued.

Panpsychism, Part 2

Philosophy1This is my second post on panpsychism, essentially my attempt to understand my own experiences. By understanding I mean my willingness to comprehend as best I can the mystery and awe of the universe; I do not mean its usual connotation of analysis — that is what I call overstanding, usually a place of hubris.

I also do not mean “what do I believe.” Beliefs for me are useful fictions or likely stories; beliefs link two or more pieces of information by some kind of story, usually what we call meaning, meaning being knowledge that fits.

What I am seeking is a consistent worldview, especially one in which I am able to frame my experience so that I (and in sharing with others) can assess its usefulness to me, and modify it as future experience updates. I always walk around with a large “imaginary” box of not-knowing, willing to experience what life offers, updating my worldview accordingly.

When I was a practicing therapist, one of the questions I would ask people (when the time was appropriate) was: Is the universe friendly? For me, there are only three possible answers: unfriendly, neutral (possibly meaningless), and friendly. (Incidentally, scientific materialism (SM) would suggest that the universe is meaningless — in SM, only matter-energy exists, and is objective and insentient.)

  • If the universe is unfriendly (perhaps we are simply fodder for some greater being or beings who thrive on the ingestion of consciousness), it really does not matter what we do. However, we do have choice! We can live as if the universe is meaningful, and that our contributions make a difference — definitely something I would opt for if I believed this possibility.
  • If the universe is neutral, especially if it is meaningless (see scientific materialism), the same argument applies. I have choice, and especially I would choose to live in harmony with “all my relatives.”
  • Finally, if the universe is friendly, then it is likely that my existence is somehow important, and I make a difference. Perhaps not, but still I would choose to act as if this is the case.

In my various readings of mystics and spirituality (of which I have read a lot) and in my own mystical experiences, the answer (bar one) has always presented this third possibility as the only one experienced. (The one exception was that of 1970’s stories by Carlos Castanada, the stories of Don Juan, a Yaqui sorcerer, advocating the Eagle as the greater being who somehow feasted on consciousness. Even there, choice was advocated.)

Thus, for me, my choice is obvious. I strive to be the best human being I can be — by no means perfect! To do this, I also strive to clarify my own worldview so that it is consistent with my life experiences (as listed in the previous post). And as part of this (as mentioned), I walk around with a large box of not knowing, awaiting further assessment.

Back to panpsychism.

As noted in the previous post, panpsychism is one of the four major ontologies, yet the least academically respectable one since it contrasts so sharply with scientific materialism (SM). I said previously that human beings are not rational — there is a pricetag to being academically disrespected.

Yet for me, panpsychism is much more consistent with what I understand of the nature of the universe. In panpsychism, all unitary substances (photons to atoms to cells to organisms, and everything in-between) are sentient (able to know, feel, and make purposeful choices) — although the consciousness of electrons is surely different than that of human beings (more on this in the next post).

Panpsychism made a major advance in the 20th century through the work of Alfred North Whitehead, whose goal was to develop an ontology consistent with modern science. In contrast to SM which is strongly orientated to spacial description, Whitehead proposed that all reality consists of temporal events, known as actual entities. These events draw upon possibility (called eternal objects) to allow creative development of on-going reality. All events are mutually co-creating, such that all reality is a whole (thus to speak in isolation of any one event is a useful, but fallacious, abstraction). The total of all events of the universe come together, through the interaction of all matter-energy (the totality of the universe) with all consciousness (the totality of sentience), to create a seamless whole. (Considered in this sense, it makes the human domain seem rather small!)

Any one event has three phases (here I quote from my book Acedia the Darkness Within, p. 72):

  1. The subject ([as] consciousness), in the present, feels the pressure of the inflowing past (which is the origin of both our knowledge of “energy” and “causality”)—the memory of what has happened. (Whitehead called this “causal efficacy.”)
  2. The subject also intersubjectively apprehends other present-moment actual occasions—the experience of what is happening. (Whitehead called this “presentational immediacy.”)
  3. The subject is aware of possibilities for future states and action, and, guided by its aims and values, chooses specific possibilities to (literally) incorporate into its next moment of being—the anticipation of what is to come [the immediate future].

Whitehead called this entire process concrescence, the process of prehending the past through causal efficacy; attending to the present through presentational immediacy; and satisfying aims/values through “ingression” of possibilities (which he called eternal objects).

The residue of this concrescence then falls back into matter-energy as the experience of the immediate past, the inflowing past of step #1 above.

Fundamentally (if accurate of reality), this means that free will and choice are fundamental characteristics of the universe. But it does not mean unrestricted liberty to simply choose reality — the process is universal. Each sentient unitary gets to vote on how the next moment occurs, but the result is the response of the collective Consciousness.

Further with Whitehead, since everything had to exist as actual entities, he considered the totality of all possibilities to be the functional God of his understanding. He also considered that God had a preference for which possibilities were chosen, but allowed sentient matter to have freedom of choice. Thus the universe for Whitehead was immensely creative, and far from deterministic. But impersonal (at least by my interpretation of his work).

The advantages of panpsychism, for me, are that it treats the universe as sacred, and as I will discuss in the next post, is very consistent with my life experiences. In addition, it clarifies all of the major problems with the philosophy of mind as we now understand them:

  • the mind-body problem,
  • the problem of other minds (all part of the totality of consciousness),
  • the nature of causality (creative choice),
  • the problem of free will (creative choice), and
  • the problem of perspective, especially the nature of intersubjectivity (the flow of unitive consciousness).

A brief description of intersubjectivity, and then I will close this post (to be continued with my own life experiences as the basis of choice amongst the ontologies).

Intersubjectivity refers to the ways in which we are able to share our subjective experiences with other minds. DeQuincey, in Radical Knowing (pp. 280-281), indicates three levels of intersubjectivity:

  • linguistic (consensual agreement), through the exchange of words and other physical tokens (and hence deeply embedded in SM);
  • [weak intersubjectivity] mutual conditioning (participation), wherein individual subjects influence each other by their shared presence; and
  • [strong intersubjectivity] mutual co-creation, where the relationship is ontologically primary, where in some as yet mysterious fashion, “consciousness-es” merge in the co-evolution of experience. [Strong intersubjectivity, when I have experienced it, is the richest form of communication I know.]

One of the major limitations of the understanding of meaning and intersubjectivity was identified by the German philosopher Kant (in the 18th century) to be that nothing can be known for certain since all knowledge is already preconditioned by neurologic processes that filter incoming sensory information. This was a logical (and very sound) outcome within the ontotogy of materialism; however, it is not a restriction within the ontology of panpsychism (more in the next post).

To be continued.

Panpsychism, Part 1

Philosophy3

In previous posts, I’ve alluded to panpsychism on a number of occasions, and I also indicated that I would do a post (or three) on the concept. So here goes.

Because it is so unfamiliar to most people, I need to go into detail, and apologies if it gets too conceptual; as usual, I am attempting to be very precise in my language in presenting very complex ideas. Yet I am not a philosopher by training, so my statements may still be somewhat inaccurate.

As much as anything, I am attempting to clarify these ideas for myself, as well as for you the reader. As I have indicated previously, I am enrolled in a two-year program of comtemplative practice; within this problem, the core of knowledge and wisdom is considered to be experience, not concept. Thus I want to be very clear and able to explain my own worldview so as to be open to discussion, and perhaps a shift of perspective, during the program.

What I seek is a felt experience, rather than an intellectual concept, a felt experience that for me represents a consistent worldview, a view that encompasses:

  • my knowledge of modern physics (quantum mechanics and relativity),
  • the profound mystical experiences I have had,
  • the synchronicities that have guided me,
  • my understanding of human dynamics and consciousness (my medical background, especially my 25 years of being a therapist),
  • the mechanisms and hubris underlying global warming, and
  • all the other experiences that make up a human life.

For me, this exploration is not an intellectual one; I seek to understand what I have experienced over my lifetime, only part of which is intellectual.

First of all, a couple of terms from philosophy.

  • philosophy is the attempt to gain insight into questions about knowledge, truth, reason, reality, mind, and value; the investigation of human reason itself, and the nature of truth and knowledge.
  • ontology is the philosophic study of the nature of being, the attempt to grasp the nature of reality.
    • an ontology is the paradigm I bring to life, the lens by which I make sense of life. It is essentially the beliefs I have about what I believe.
    • epistemology is the study of how we know what we know, the many approached by which we choose to understand reality.
  • sentience is the ability to know, feel, and purposefully respond to experience.
    • consciousness (or mind), in the way I am using it here, is a sophisticated form of sentience, with the ability to reason.
    • the term consciousness is used in two distinct meanings, which are often confused:
      • philosophic consciousness is either present or absent, whereas
      • psychologic consciousness has various states (e.g, awake, asleep, dreaming, et cetera).
    • In these posts, I am using the term in the philosophic sense, unless specified otherwise.

One of the major problems in philosophy is to account for the nature and existence of sentience or consciousness, the so-called mind/body question. Much of our experience of the world is derived from the sensory experiences of vision, touch, and hearing — experiences that related to spacial location. Yet consciousness (or sentience) is not spacial — it has no location, and it exists now, a temporal experience as opposed to a spacial one. The basic issue comes down to the distinct difference between matter-energy (spacial experience, measurable) and consciousness (non-spacial, and not measurable) — ontologically, they are entirely different.

There are currently four major world views (ontologies) on this mind-body problem

  • Dualism, wherein matter and mind (consciousness) are radically different, and completely separated. The basic difficulty is then to explain how they interact. How?
  • Idealism, wherein matter is either illusionary (the Hindu concept of maya), or is created by pure spirit (emanationism).
    • if matter is illusionary, then how does one account for what happens, for example, when a speeding car hits a brick wall?
    • or if matter-energy is created by pure spirit, how does this occur?
  • Materialism, or more accurately scientific materialsim (SM), which posits that only insentient objective matter-energy exists; here, mind is fictional (imaginary), or somehow wholly physical and objective. Materialism becomes scientific materialism (SM) with the additional assumption that the only way to gain knowledge is through science.
    • SM is the dominant ontology in the Western technological world, especially the sciences. It is an ontology of meaninglessness.
    • But SM is unable to account for the nature of mind, other than by assuming that with enough knowledge (i.e., enough neurobiological study of the complexity of brain matter), it will be explainable. The difficulty though is that, despite modern technology, no one has been able to identify or measure consciousness, or even to conceive of how to measure it.
      • In addition, given that choice is dependent on consciousness, SM is entirely unable to account for choice. SM is based on the identification of “laws of nature,” which by definition are invarient. And thus the universe of SM is deterministic, and meaningless.
    • SM thus rests on the assumption that something that is not measurable nor localizable (sentience) will somehow become so with further technological investigation, that something that is not physical will somehow become physical.
    • Correct me if I am wrong, but this is not logical, or even practical as an assumption — you can not get something from nothing.
  • panpsychism is based on the premise that consciousness and matter are two sides of the same coin, different but inseparablely intertwined. Fundamental to panpsychism is that sentience exists throughout nature, and at the very least, is characteristic of all unitary structures, from photon to atom to molecule to cell to organism, both living and non-living. (The major exception is that heaps — e.g., rocks, mountains, tables — are not regarded as sentient; they are not unitary structures.) Consciousness is thus the intrinsic ability of matter-energy to know, feel, and purposely direct itself.
    • To quote my preferred source of understanding of panpsychism, the writings of Christian deQuincey (see Media Within This Blog > Blindspots, Kindle location 5710):

In panpsychism, unlike in materialism and dualism, energy is intrinscially sentient. While sentient energy forms an inseparable unity (sentience and energy always go together), sentience and energy are conceptually distinct. Energy is the capacity to do work, the capacity for action; it is what makes things happen. Consciousness, or sentience, is the capacity for knowing, feeling, and choosing. . . . [In brief,] consciousness knows; energy flows.

  • panpsychism actually has a very long and distinguished history of development, going back to the pre-socratic era of Greek development. It underwent a major advance in the 20th century with the brilliant philosopher Alfred North Whitehead. Whitehead was initially a mathmatician, the co-author (with Bertrand Russell) of the Principia Mathematica, the bible of mathematics in its time. He was knowledgable of quantum mechanics and relativity theory, and wanted to develop an ontology that was consistent with modern science, without the assumptions that underlay SM.
  • The major difficulty with panpsychism is that it initially is so different from SM, that it is the most contraversial and least academically respectable of the ontologies. Like quantum mechanics itself, it initially seems strange.

In the next post, I will go into more detail as to the nature of panpsychism. But, to conclude this particular post, I want to look at why scientific materialism is the dominant paradigm. I believe there are a number of reasons.

First, it works well, or at least, has worked well until the introduction of quantum mechanics and relativity. Since approximately the 13th century, there has been general agreement to keep science and religion separate — they were said to operate in different domains (such nonsense). Since then, science has provided brilliant explanations and technological advances in the natural world; in particular, technology up to the 20th century did not depend on quantum effects. Thus it became the dominant ontology well before science advanced in its understanding. Especially, SM also been the basis of the human domination of the world (with the current dilemma of global warming, amongst other issues).

But with quantum mechanics, the need to understand consciousness arose — quantum events require an observer (a sentient entity) to collapse the quantum wave to create actuality. Thus the domains of matter and spirit began to collapse, in ways that could not be ignored.

And there are deeper issues at play. Human beings, despite claims to the contrary, are not rational; they are emotional, and at times deeply locked into hubris and defence of territory — only now the territory has become intellectual property: what to believe. Although many are not aware of it (including many reputable scientists), the underpinings of science are currently a place of paradigm wars, as illustrated by:

Although we generally think of fundamentalism as being characteristic of some religious groups, it is also a very human characteristic, applicable to any field. I have encountered it in every field I have studied (medicine, therapy, philosophy, culinary arts, to name a few).

The paradigm of panpsychism is a place of such war!

To be continued.

Ongoing Backlash

The management of power requires personal authority.
The Power of Personal Authority

Not much to report this week. I am still travelling, and hence not as invested in writing my blog. Most of what I read in the various sources I tap is that the world is continuing to react to Trump’s decision to exit the Paris Accord. For me this is a good thing, because it may well be the galvanizing point at which the world starts to recognize how seriously the climate issue truly is. Hopefully . . .

Otherwise, I continue my search for a way in which to utilize my skill set in the issues of global warming. Essentially my proficiency is that of personal transformation — believing that society itself is a system of individuals, and that change comes from small shifts in the cultural milieu. Again, hopefully . . .

This week, I’m presenting workshops in Ontario, exploring the skills of Authenticity. I’ll be returning in October to present Blowing Out The Darkness (my emotional/anger management workshop) and Partners Coming Together (my relationhship workshop — to which individuals can also come). I’ve also decided to expand my on-line presence by offering video coaching using one of the platforms such as Skype (my preference is Zoom.us). If interested, contact me via my website. More later.

Some links concerning Trump

World promises to stand and deliver after Trump’s ‘train wreck’ climate decision (20170602)

A good summary of the multiple reactions to Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord.

We may be surprised at how things play out… (20170603)

I’ve previoiusly noted the possibility that Trump’s exit from the Paris Accord may have surprising outcomes — this article also supports that.

The Busyness Of Life

The Busyness Of Life

Anxiety3As is obvious, I have not been doing a lot of posts in recent weeks. Partly, I’m lacking inspiration, and partly, I’m unclear what else to add to what I have already written. I strongly believe that the many issues within global warming are simply the tip of the iceberg of our cultural immaturity and expanding world population, but until we recognize this, little will change. So I have been pondering what else to write, with little clarity.

For now, I have decided to do a weekly post (more or less), with brief comments on various links that come across my desk. This is the first of such posts, noting:

  • books I’m currently reading
  • social movement victories in the first 100 days
  • recent examples of global warming
  • the age of stupid

Books I’m Reading

A major component of who I am is that I seek an integrated worldview — I’m constantly assessing my experiences and my sources of information for consistency. I am not per se interested in accummulating knowledge; rather I want to experience and live more authentically. I strongly believe that:

A science that does not incorporate spirituality is dehumanizing;
a spirituality that does not incorporate science is delusional.

As part of this ongoing search, I am always reading multiple books at a time, largely because I get saturated with one book, and shift to another to clear my mind. Currently I am reading (I recommend them all):

  • BlindSpots: 21 Good Reasons To Think Before You Talk, by Christian deQuincey[1]
    • Christian was my research advisor for my PhD, and I have a deep respect for his clarity of thinking. BlindSpots is an excellent overview of the many ways in which we become confused about basic issues such as consciousness, energy, time, healing, et cetera. It is somewhat repetitive, but otherwise excellent.
  • Scotus For Dunces: An Introduction To The Subtle Doctor, by Mary Beth Ingram[2]
    • As part of my current exploration of meditation and contemplative practice, I’m studying the Christian traditions, especially the Franciscan traditions. John Duns Scotus was a brilliant theologian of the early 14th century, especially focused on a profoundly mature understanding of the relational character of God. In particular, he illustrates for me that human beings of other centuries were not stupid; they simply did not have our technological sophistication (nor, in many cases, our hubris).
  • Musicophilia: Tales Of Music And The Brain, by Oliver Sacks[3]
    • Oliver Sacks is a neurologist who writes about the many human issues that occur with neurological defects; other than his strong bias to equating mind and brain, I always find his writings to be very insightful. I’m especially interested in this book because, with my own neurological issues, I have little awareness of music — I have almost no response, cognitive or emotional (a point of sadness for me).

Current Comments on Global Warming

A recent article on CTV News Central and Eastern Canada face heavy flooding (20170505) describes the unprecedented rains and flooding occuring on the East Coast of Canada and the US. For me, it highlights the strange weather that is occurring — likely due to global warming (no one weather event can be proved to be due to global warming; it is on the trends of climate that are the main impact). Here, on the West Coast, our spring is very delayed — normally the streets are ablaze with flowering trees and shrubs, but currently theay are very muted or just beginning. For me, all this is simply the beginning of changes, many of which will be very difficult to accommodate.

It is so necessary that we respond to climate disruption in emergency fashion (see Blueprint For A Climate Emergency Movement), and I easily lose sight of progress. I don’t pay a lot of attention to the many articles about the Trump administration that simply incite anxiety — most of them are so illustrative of the need of the media to be theatrical, but some articles are important. The Top 10 Resistance Victories in Trump’s First 100 Days (20170427) identifies that progress is being made, especialy that groups are banding together to have a greater impact. For me, it remains a chaotic morasse without clear focus, more against Trump rather than defining a solid vision of the future, but it is much better than no response. The title ‘It can’t just be a march. It has to be a movement.’ What’s next for climate activists? (20170430) sums it up for me.

In contrast, I note the rise of populism (ant-intellectual political movements that offer unorthodox polices, frequently those that foster some kind of discrimination). Especially good is WATCH: Populism’s ‘backhanded service’ (20170505).

But it remains very difficult to get good information, the internet is so fraught with misinformation. As illustration, David Suzuki’s Research sheds light on dark corner of B.C.’s oil and gas industry (20170504) emphasizes how little I trust government these days. Currently we are in the midst of BC provincial elections, and I simply shake my head at posturing, and promises that likely will never be fully realized.

The Age Of Stupid

In Busy Is The New Stupid (20160720), Ed Baldwin notes I’ve found that the most productive and successful people I’ve ever met are busy, but you wouldn’t know it.  They find time that others don’t.” He notes the many difficulties that occur when we are too busy, and especially emphasizes “We’ve all been tricked into believing that if we are busy we are important.” From my perspective, much of this busyness also occurs because we are overloaded attempting to manage data (emails, reports, et cetera), rather than knowing how to organize information effectively.

Why we need to slow down our lives (20170430), Pico Iyer notes this massive influx of data, and proposes that we need a secular sabbath (given we so seldom keep a religious sabbath in our culture), “if only to regather the sense of proportion and direction [we will] need for when [we] go back online.” He also references an excellent TedTalk How Technology Evolves by Kevin Kelly. Kelly is the founding executive editor of Wired magazine, and an avid enthusiast of technology, yet notes “I continue to keep the cornucopia of technology at arm’s length, so that I can more easily remember who I am.”

In conclusion, I am reminded of a Zen story of the farmer who needs a horse. He is getting old, and now requires a horse so as to plow his fields. Bemoaning his life, he goes to the village master who says, “Be at peace. Come back tomorrow.” So he goes home, somewhat dissatisfied. Yet the next morning, a stray horse shows up in his field. He goes to the master to express his thanks, and the master responds, “Be at peace. Come back tomorrow.” Puzzled, he returns to his farm, plows his fields, and goes to bed. The next morning, his teenage son sees the horse, and attempts a ride, only to fall and break his leg. In misery, the old man goes again to the master, who again answers, “Be at peace. Come back tomorrow.” Again dissatisfied, the old man goes home, to find the local army commandeering all the young men and boys for its battles. His son, with his broken leg, is spared. The old man is elated, and again goes to thank the master, who only replies “Be at peace. Come back tomorrow.”

The single most important skill here, from my perspective, is that of mindfulness, just being present to what is.

So in the trials of life,

“Be at peace. Come back tomorrow.”

[1] deQuincey, C. (2015). Blindspots: 21 good reasons to think before you talk. Rochester, VT: Park Street Press (Kindle Edition)

[2] Ingram, M. B. (2003). Scotus for dunces: An introduction to the subtle doctor. St Bonaventure, NY:Franciscan Institute Publications (Kindle Edition).

[3] Sacks, O. (2007). Musicology: Tales of music and the brain. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf Publications