Monday, March 20, 2017

Transcendental Trespass

Despite Alister Crowley's statement "Do what thou wilt" it is possible to trespass against the transcendental.  Transcendental trespass is commonly known as blasphemy.  The only reason Crowley's statement has any bearing is that it is ridiculous, feeble, and obviously false.  It attempts to deny that a trespass can be made against the transcendental.  And yet millions of such trespasses are made each day.  Without a violation of the sacred there is nothing sacred, and if nothing is sacred nothing can be profane.  And if nothing is profane nothing is worthwhile.  And if nothing is worthwhile nothing is knowable.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Reincarnation (the essay)

First, please consider this syllogism:

Patterns recur in nature.
Awareness occurs in patterns.
——————————————

Therefore awareness recurs in nature.

A baby’s awareness could develop in utero in such a way that it had the same (or very similar) awareness as a baby from 1,000 years prior.  Thus, it would be the same baby, since awareness is identity.  Awareness is identity because awareness is the way a person processes pleasure and pain.  As long as all the essential parts of a baby's awareness were functioning with respect to a previously-existing baby the two babies could have the same awareness.  By analogy, a song may be played with a lot of reverb or with no reverb but it could be the same song in essence because it has the same notes.

Something like intelligence is not an aspect of the mind that feels pleasure or pain, so it is not the essential identity of a person.  No matter how much a person changes he can only become himself.

The brain processes information and stimuli in predictable ways, in patterns.  The awareness of sadness is the same for me as it is for you.  Otherwise empathy would not be possible.  The same parts of the brain are responsible for self-awareness in every person, so that self-awareness is one thing, one pattern of activity.  But more importantly, it is the same feeling for everyone.   

Obviously twins aren't the same person, and if one twin dies he doesn't jump into the other twin's body, because a body can only house one person's consciousness (usually, I think).  I'm not talking about anything spooky here.  I'm saying that if a baby is born who is exactly like or very similar to a baby from a thousand years ago (with respect to the mind) those babies are one and the same.  Furthermore, it would only be necessary that the baby that is born today have the same cognitive starting point (that is, the same identity) as the baby from 1,000 years ago.  The two babies could have different genomes and divergent life paths. 

While it is not possible for for an organ, say the liver, to experience a second life, it is possible for patterns of awareness to be reborn or to recur in nature, because patterns of awareness are not, themselves, physical things, but impressions made by physical things.  It is possible for me to think the same thought someone else first thought.  Thoughts are impressions made by neural activity.  Likewise, if I say, “That’s the pot calling the kettle black,” that is the same exact phrase other people often use.  Because of this I am not a strict materialist.

Dr. Oliver Sacks said that when a person hallucinated an image of teeth that hallucination occurs in a certain part of the brain.  Likewise different parts of the brain store different images.  The brain has a certain generalizable way of processing different bits of information in different parts of the brain and in different predictable ways.  These different processes unfold as patterns and are felt in specified ways.  This is what I mean when I say that awareness--perceiving pleasure and pain--is patterned.  In fact, the brain itself is laid out in a patterned way.  Though the brain itself, as a physical organ, is not what reincarnates, but the awareness.  Awareness is a method of perceiving, not a physical organ.  Emotions have certain ways of being felt--anger, sadness, joy.  We recognize them and group them according to their familiarity.  So in this sense also, awareness is patterned.


What I’m not saying: I’m not saying that a soul or immaterial essence is necessary to produce this effect, namely reincarnation, though I can’t rule out a soul.  I’m saying that this effect is the necessary result of the way awareness develops in utero and perhaps in early infancy, that the patterns of brain activity that cause awareness to emerge simply repeat across lifetimes. 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Why I Am Not a Buddhist



Think of the history the West Coast, and ask yourself this question: When did the West Coast begin its slide toward radical leftism? The answer is, of course, the 1950s. The catalyst was Buddhism.  

I am a poet, and while I do like some of Allan Ginsburg’s poetry, especially “Howl”—I also realize that the Beatnik Movement, which preceded the Hippy Movement was the decisive moment at which the West Coast began its descent into hell.

Ginsburg was a profoundly devoted Jewish convert to Buddhism. I’ve even heard that at one point he bowed down and worshipped a man in Central Park because he recognized this man as a Bodhisattva. Ginsburg was so devoted that he co-founded Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. You don’t get much more liberal than that.

But what did the Buddha actually teach? When asked whether a human is a self he said this question must be set aside.  He also taught that all phenomena are impermanent. Thus, he said there is merely suffering, but no one to experience suffering. There are deeds but no doer of deeds. There is only movement, but no one in the movement. However, we know that no matter how much we change we can only become ourselves.  No matter how many times I step into the Tennessee River it is always the Tennessee River because of its specific geographical location. Each life has a social context, which lends, or should lend, a kind of permanence to my life. My life consists of sensations and component impressions, but the whole of my life is greater than the sum of its impressions, because, as Aristotle noted, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  No wonder we are taught to believe that a grasshopper is simply a machine, because a machine has no individual awareness and is simply the sum of its parts. And how would someone recognize any part of life as unsatisfactory unless he had some point of satisfaction to compare it with, some ideal that stood apart from the parts?

The Buddha taught that the cycle of death and rebirth is without beginning, but he also taught that one should not accept something as truthful unless he sees that it is truthful, never mind that this kind of apprehension can be tricked and that philosophy is more than a matter of “seeing.” He taught that the stream of consciousness is without beginning, never mind that it is impossible to “see” an infinite regress and that, if there is consciousness outside the brain that still hasn’t been conclusively proven. And every stream has a source.

The Buddha says (to paraphrase)—truth is a raft one uses to get to the other side of a river. Once one gets to the other side, he leaves his raft behind. He overextends this metaphor. Truth is, indeed, a raft one uses to get across a river. But this is where the metaphor ends. The central obsession of Buddhism is letting go of attachments. So we are told to let go of truth. But in reality we retain truths in our minds. Letting go is not always the proper response. The Buddha taught that concentration is an act of single-point focus on a thought without “clinging” to the thought. This is called Right Concentration. But as non-Buddhists we know that concentration often involves holding onto a thought so it can be examined. But this is not the kind of concentration the Buddha taught. So he taught what fit with his ideology.  

So why is there such a rush on the West Coast to embrace Buddhism. It is because Western white Buddhists believe that because “all component things are impermanent” that morals are also wishy washy. This is strange given that most Buddhists in Japan are usually cultural conservatives. Could it be that Westerners are just jaded? Whatever the case, Aristotle is a much more solid ground for ethics than the Buddha. But so is Confucius, who said, “The archer is a mature person in that when he misses the mark he finds the fault in himself.” China is, first and foremost, a Confucian culture, but so is all of the far east. In Japan, Buddhism is separated from the indigenous religion of Shinto. This is how they have dealt with the influx of Buddhism. The Buddha taught that since a person is simply the sum of his parts, “There is pain but no one to perceive the pain.” But Confucius will not allow the person to escape his personal responsibility by denying the offending self.

Joel Fry



Source: What The Buddha Taught by Walpola Rahula.  All the facts pertaining to Buddhism can be verified in this text.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Establishing Reality

Truth is found not merely in the cohesion of two thoughts or in the resolution of a single thought with an external object, but in the cohesion of two thoughts and their joint resolution with an external object or reality. Example: It's a rainy day in February. Rainy days in February are always cold. Then: I walk outside and behold the cold, rainy day. This way of thinking and acting establishes reality. By walking outside I have a kind of epiphany, and when I am struck by the simultaneous collision and resolution of my thoughts and the external reality, I witness truth.

If I am only verifying the correctness of the single thought that it is raining by stepping outside there is no epiphany, only a bland concurrence of reality with my single thought.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Reincarnation (revised)

Dr. Oliver Sacks said that when a person hallucinated an image of teeth that hallucination occurs in a certain part of the brain. Likewise different parts of the brain store different images. The brain has a certain generalizable way of processing different bits of information in different parts of the brain and in different predictable ways. These different processes unfold as patterns and are felt in specified ways. This is what I mean when I say that awareness--perceiving pleasure and pain--is patterned. In fact, the brain itself is laid out in a patterned way. Though the brain itself, as a physical organ, is not what reincarnates, but the awareness, the way the brain works. Awareness is a method of perceiving, not a physical organ. Emotions have certain ways of being felt--anger, sadness, joy. We recognize them and group them according to their familiarity. So in this sense also, awareness is patterned.

Patterns repeat in nature.
Awareness occurs in patterns.
------------------------------
Therefore awareness repeats in nature.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Responding to Daniel Dennett

"A brain filled with apps is a human mind." Horse shit. A human being is aware, first, then self-aware. Self-awareness both affirms and denies the existence of different things. All this talk about the human brain and no mention that the brain responds out of a state of awareness, and no mention whatsoever that awareness comes and goes. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. A human isn't just a brain. As my doctor told me, if you were just a brain in a vat it would be easier to treat you, but you have a body also. If there is no free will why can't I predict what you are thinking? On a good day I might be able to predict what you will DO, though usually not, but I am at a complete loss as to what you are thinking. Shouldn't I be able to predict what you are thinking as well as I can predict what you do? If human responses are inevitable there is no such thing as right and wrong, because nothing that is inevitable is immoral. Rain isn't immoral, neither is the explosion of a volcano no matter how many people it kills. And yet the very fact that we have morality means that we acknowledge right and wrong. If some process does not take the path of least resistance then some other variable must have interfered with the process. And yet in theory I can quit smoking even though my brain still wants to smoke! I had considered reading Dennett's book on consciousness, but it would obviously be a waste of time. (And how is it that my brain can distinguish between something that is obvious and something that isn't? Is that a function of intelligence or a function of awareness?) Dumbasses.

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Virtue of Acting in The Extreme

Martin Luther King Jr. was successful by the means he chose to be successful. Gandhi was successful by the means he chose. The jest is to be extremely good. I may collect license plates on the side, and that would be considered soft-headed, but if I collect them carefully and obsessively enough, devoting all my free time to expanding my collection, I will be considered wise and admirable--because I am acting in the extreme.