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Madame Blavatsky... the Universe as an acting being

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Clayton Posted: Sun, Dec 25 2011 1:32 AM

TL;DR see "Summary" at the end...

The animation is a tad creepy, but I found this lecture absolutely fascinating. Watch it first, then read my interpretation below.

On first brush, she seems to be way off the map: "The will of spirit in action has produced everything that exists. If we understand that intelligent will lies behind everything that exists; is the cause of everything that is; is the creator in the universe; we may perhaps gain some idea of what is necessary for us to know in order properly to user our powers. We all stand as creators in the midst of our creations. There are creators below us in the scale of intelligence."

She claims that the world in the small (including everything, even "inanimate" matter) consists of "infinitesimal organisms" which "seek what they like and avoid what they dislike."

However, I would like to turn your attention to another "crazy", Terence McKenna, discussing hardcore DMT tripping:

He describes entities that he terms "machine elves" "gnomes" and "self-dribbling basketballs" but they're not merely inanimate things, they're actually intelligent and they "talk" "vibrate" "sing structures into existence" - and you are their audience. Now, I'm extremely skeptical of the whole idea that psychedelic drugs help you contact remote beings somewhere out there. I have no doubt they make you feel that way.

There is a much more mundane possibility here... that the psychedelic drug is somehow breaking down the barrier between the conscious, "awake" or "alert" mind of the ego and the computational circuitry of the brain that makes this whole roller-coaster ride of consciousness possible.

So, here's my hypothesis of what McKenna is describing (in terms of methodological materialism).

There must be some kind of "proto-thoughts" which eventually form into the thoughts which we experience in our conscious mind as the "inner voice" or "inner dialogue". When you speak to yourself in your mind, who's talking and who's listening? We haven't the slightest idea how big or small these proto-thoughts are or what their nature or encoding is. Similarly, there must be some kind of "proto-action", some kind of primitive urge to act that underlies the indivisible urge to action which we consciously experience.

Yet, how could there be any physical metaphor for these proto-thoughts or proto-urges? If what McKenna is describing is really a lifting of the veil that hides the subconscious from the conscious, then it makes sense that the world should appear and sound and feel very strange and alien because whatever sensations he is experiencing are really piggy-backing on the brain's systems which were designed to construct conscious awareness of real, physical phenomena; I think it's safe to say your brain wasn't designed to get plastered on DMT (though McKenna has actually written a book claiming otherwise, lol).

Each of the facts that are so astonishing, I believe, reinforce my hypothesis.

  • That you experience other-worldly sights, sounds, sensations and feelings
  • That you perceive many entities
  • That these entities are immensely intricate
  • That these entities are intelligent
  • That these entities speak to you and particularly that they urge you to act
  • That you utter syntactical gibberish

My hypothesis is that there are zillions of "proto-thoughts" and "proto-urges" floating, subliminally, in the brain. Most of these are so simple and buried so deep in the subconscious that no amount of drugs would ever make you directly aware of them. However, there is some kind of "selection principle" which operates on the simplest and smallest proto-thoughts and proto-urges by which those that are not sufficient to rise to the level of consciousness are eliminated and the others rise and possible join together. As this process continues, the final result is a much smaller number (maybe hundreds or thousands) of almost fully-formed thoughts and urges which lie just below the surface of consciousness.

When McKenna takes the DMT, the veil is lifted - this veil is the final round of selection that elminates all but one or two proto-thoughts and proto-urges. The result is your consciousness. When that veil is lifted, you are conversing with the many proto-thoughts and proto-urges from which your consciousness is being selected. This is why the entities are intelligent. They don't just seem intelligent, they are intelligent, every bit as intelligent as you are because any one of them could have been selected in the final round to become your conscious thoughts and urges.

The immense intricacy of the entities is a result of the fact that they have already undergone many levels of selection and accumulation of smaller, simpler proto-thoughts and urges. So, they are fantastically complex. They are particularly difficult for the individual to analyze because they are every bit as complex as he himself is... they are, in essence, the many individuals he could have become in the ordinary conscious state.

He says he feels these entities jumping in and out of himself, which is also consistent with my hypothesis. This is what it feels like for one of your proto-thoughts or proto-urges to make the final round of selection and become you. Or, perhaps it's more accurate to say that you finally become one of them. This is consistent with Blavatsky's insight that everything within the Universe "seek what [it] likes and avoid what [it] dislikes." I think these proto-thoughts/proto-urges are best understood as acting beings and, thus, subject to praxeological law.

He reports that he felt like he could do the very jumping they were doing through his own body from deep down up towards his mouth and out. I think this is particularly the proto-urge to speak. The feeling of exhaling from one's diaphragm and out through one's mouth and into the space outside the mouth and that the act of doing so constructs some kind of real object (a thought that others can hear and "see").

Finally, there is the syntactical gibberish which confirms that a) the DMT is retrogressive and not progressive and b) the psychedelic experience is primarily centered around retrogression of the discursive component of consciousness.

As I hinted earlier, I think we should think of these entities as complete in themselves. They are "beings" that - consistent with Blavatsky's principle of Universal action - are striving to survive, they are acting beings which avoid what they dislike and seek what they like. Each one is competing to "jump into him" that is, each one is competing to be the one that is selected to be him. This selection principle is, of course, unmistakably Darwinian. The competition, then, is between bits of "neural software" that we experience as "self-dribbling, jewel-crusted basketballs" that resemble Faberge eggs and "sing structures into being" if we lift the veil of consciousness with the aid of DMT.

But there is really no a priori reason that we should think that the Universe itself is not subject to this principle all the way down. We prejudicially divide between "animate" and "inanimate" matter and we ascribe to the latter a certain sort of mundane, inactive solidarity. A rock will simply sit there, inert for the entire lifetime of the universe unless something acts on it. Hence, whatever the rock is made of is clearly inert, as well.

But it is conceivable that at the lowest levels (say, near the Planck distance, which we still cannot get within 20 orders of magnitude of observing), the Universe itself is undergoing a similar process of action whereby everything that exists is competing to remain in existence. Like the smallest and simplest proto-thoughts and proto-urges, they can act in only very limited and unsophisticated ways but the underlying principle is the same.

Now, I'm not going to claim that this is an explanation of consciousness because I don't think that it is. But I think physical theory may have to re-tool itself as we peer further down into the physical world because there is a lot of room for complexity below what we can currently observe.

Summary: What I found fascinating in Blavatsky's lecture was the idea of extending the action principle to the entire Universe itself (particularly, in the small) so that we might be able to think of the smallest components of the Universe as "acting beings" which are "seeking what they like" and "avoiding what they dislike" and that I think we can actually see this principle in action in the case of psychedelic drugs and the experience of proto-thoughts and proto-urges they enable us to experience.

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Malachi replied on Sun, Dec 25 2011 8:38 AM
I believe that would be a variant on animism, as contrasted with mechanist theories of reality. This is a good post, but I dont have much to add. I would like to mention that blavatsky's contemporary charles webster ledbetter was the first to discover quarks. He did so with his clairvoyant faculty.
Keep the faith, Strannix. -Casey Ryback, Under Siege (Steven Seagal)
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Clayton replied on Sun, Dec 25 2011 9:20 AM

@Malachi: Note that I'm not espousing Blavatsky's ideas across the board, merely the principle of "Universe as acting being", where "being" doesn't mean intelligent like you and I are intelligent; maybe like an amoeba is intelligent or less than that even. The idea is to attempt to apply a Darwinian principle to the fundamental structure of the Universe itself... the goal is to attempt to get at a mechanistic theory in this way. If it happens that the theory can be interpreted as animism, then so be it.

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James replied on Sun, Dec 25 2011 9:29 AM

Have you done strong psychadelics before, Clayton?  I've done quite a lot of LSD...

The feeling of demonic possession...  Things jumping in and taking over your body is very real, and quite frightening.  Your, uh...  I dunno what you'd call it, but your sense of being a single conscious entity named James or Clayton or whatever goes flying out the window, and you're left feeling like this semi-vacated vessal, cloistered away in a corner of your mind somewhere while all sorts of weird, unidentified signals that you didn't even know were there get to come out and have their way with what you were once pleased to call your body.  It's humbling.  It's like you're really just some sort of antenna, and now you've gone and screwed with the dial.  It's like you thought you were the President and therefore the most powerful man, the decision maker, and now you find there's this secret committee calling all the shots behind your back, and you're just the face.  It's great.

What is normally subliminal becomes exceedingly liminal.  This goes for music, TV etc too.  Yeah, you see things which aren't really there, but it's really just pattern recognition run amok - faces in clouds and trees etc, but much more obvious, to the point where they move around of their own accord etc.  Good times.

Of course you also get to see and hear things which ARE really there, but which you wouldn't notice unless you were in exactly that state of mind.  Subliminal messages in songs etc.  (Rock music from the 1960's and 70's is full of it.)

As above, so below, is a generally compelling principle, I agree.

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As above, so below.

 

The concept that pervades physical reality is that of fractal existence.  It is only a logical extension of the pleasure we feel with sex, that the whole univerese distinguishes and creates based on the pleasure (whatever is in question) feels.

 

Blavatsky is a new age goddess.  Have you read ther theories on Atlantis and the arians?

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Clayton replied on Sun, Dec 25 2011 10:55 AM

Have you done strong psychadelics before, Clayton?  I've done quite a lot of LSD...

No, never have... I've got a job and kids so it's not really an option at this point. I hope to give it a spin later on, however (ayahuasca/DMT, in particular, comes highly recommended by McKenna).

The feeling of demonic possession...  Things jumping in and taking over your body is very real, and quite frightening.  Your, uh...  I dunno what you'd call it, but your sense of being a single conscious entity named James or Clayton or whatever goes flying out the window,

But if my theory is correct, isn't that precisely what we should expect? It is really your awake consciousness that is the illusion, in reality, there is all this stuff going on inside your head of which you're not aware as you go about your day. We can see it with fMRI and other brain imaging techniques, we can see the signals with encephalography. Somehow, all that chaos and insanity is filtered down to this very quiet, solid, relatively noise-free conscious experience that you experience when you're awake.

and you're left feeling like this semi-vacated vessal, cloistered away in a corner of your mind somewhere while all sorts of weird, unidentified signals that you didn't even know were there get to come out and have their way with what you were once pleased to call your body.  It's humbling. 

But if the ego (ordinary conscious awareness) is what makes action (conscious choice/will) possible in the first place, then it seems to me that interfering with whatever is responsible for holding the ego together by bombarding your brain with a psychoactive drug must necessarily result in a feeling of "loss of control".

It's like you're really just some sort of antenna, and now you've gone and screwed with the dial.  It's like you thought you were the President and therefore the most powerful man, the decision maker, and now you find there's this secret committee calling all the shots behind your back, and you're just the face.  It's great.

But that's precisely what my theory is... these "machine elves" that are described by DMT trippers... I think they are real intelligences within one's brain and that's precisely how our thoughts and urges are formed, from an "ocean" of these proto-thoughts/proto-urges. I suspect what is happening is that the brain is way, way more complex than the drug-taker can possibly comprehend in the first person and as soon as that "veil of alert consciousness" is lifted and you begin to experience what is going on inside your head all the time, it is truly unbelievable... it literally feels like entering an alternate universe.

And, I suspect (as you know, everything I'm saying is speculation since I've not taken any psychedelic drugs) that another surprising/humbling aspect of it is that it is immersive. You don't just have a vision, like a dream, where you're still you and you're just seeing weird things. Your "you" is a construct of your brain to begin with... when you alter your brain, that very you is what is altered.

I've listened to hours and hours of McKenna lectures. Listening to him describe psilocybin is where I first got this idea... he describes this feeling of cosmic awe like being in immediate contact with something so large and so powerful that the entire neighborhood for 100 miles in every direction must be hearing/seeing this. Why can't it be that psilocybin is just screwing with your in-built sense of terror/awe? Have you ever had that experience of almost slipping off a high spot or falling off your bicycle at speed? There's this terror that just grips your insides from your throat down to your toes, like an invisible hand is choking you almost. If that "terror/awe" system were not shut down by your conscious mind once the source of objective danger were removed... I'd think that would be a bit of a "bad trip," would it not?

What is normally subliminal becomes exceedingly liminal.  This goes for music, TV etc too.  Yeah, you see things which aren't really there, but it's really just pattern recognition run amok - faces in clouds and trees etc, but much more obvious, to the point where they move around of their own accord etc.  Good times.

So you recognize that in the case of perception (sense-data translation) what is happening is that your brain's normal sense circuitry is going haywire and this accounts for the bizarre things you see. The fact they seem "so real" is that they are as real as any ordinary sense perception... you are directly perceiving these haywire sensations because the drug is screwing with your sense perception and "sense reconstruction" circuitry.

But then why can't this be the case for intelligence itself, for the ability to think, speak and act? Why shouldn't you perceive "machine elves" that are intelligent, conversant beings who urge you to act?

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Bert replied on Sun, Dec 25 2011 11:40 AM

Describing these entities or beings as "elves" is ironic as in Norse mythology, etc., spirits that inhabited various inanimate objects were called land wights (Landvættir).  The terms elves/alfs, dwarves, etc., play a role in folk lore or "lower myth".  These beings cannot be seen (obviously, as far as I know), but still play an important part of folk ways in modern Scandinavia.  Now, how these various wights are interpreted or viewed can vary, the roles of dwarves may be different among Anglo-Saxon and Icelandic belief, etc.

A lot of religions/myths have the idea of spirit beings (guardian spirits, etc.) so if one is tripping and their mind is perceiving things differently it may be a subconscious reaction to view these projections into a conscious realm.  As far as animism goes there have been few cultures/religions that actually held animistic beliefs, so my understanding is that an object is not the spirit itself, but a spirit can dwell/live in or around an object or place, or that place is a gateway (for example we can find old trees of worship in NW Europe, but the trees themself were not worshipped they were the gateway or object to pay tribute, honor, respect to for said gods/spirits).  This may come off as idolatry, but I feel such an idea or seperation is irrelevant, idolatry is forbidden in Christianity, but people will pray to or at a crucifix or figure of Jesus, because this symbolism holds something significant for those individuals.  The idea of praying at an object for the intention with connecting with a higher form shouldn't be separated into idolatry or the spirits themselves.

Joseph Campbell, with the influence of Jung, wrote that our construction of the world comes from within subconsciously and that's how it's projected into a conscious realm.  It can start with the individual in myth/religion, community, and further itself into government (foundation, structure, and order being subconscious projections, manifested in a conscious world).  From this we see polytheistic religions, where these deities can be described as archetypes representing different facets of aspiring human characteristics/attributes that are beneficial to the community, as well as "lower" spirits that play a role in daily life (I think it's a more modern belief that a god, or God himself, plays a direct role in individual life - in other beliefs the land spirits themselves have a more direct role than the gods - consider the god the king and the land spirits his servants that answer the people, if that helps).

So if someone is tripping and experiencing other objects, beings, or things being manifested that come from subconsciousness it does not surprise me that these would be coming to that person as something real and material.  I think this is where the views and idea of science and religion come together, science is always there, it's perception can be in religion.

I had always been impressed by the fact that there are a surprising number of individuals who never use their minds if they can avoid it, and an equal number who do use their minds, but in an amazingly stupid way. - Carl Jung, Man and His Symbols
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Bert replied on Sun, Dec 25 2011 11:45 AM

Clayton, if you get the time watch the Mythos documentary by Joseph Campbell.  It's his lectures pieced together and he talks about how religion/myth comes about from a pyschological point and it's subconscious projections into a conscious world.  You can watch them on Netflix.  It may be of some interest on the formation of these things and their projection into daily life.

I had always been impressed by the fact that there are a surprising number of individuals who never use their minds if they can avoid it, and an equal number who do use their minds, but in an amazingly stupid way. - Carl Jung, Man and His Symbols
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James replied on Sun, Dec 25 2011 11:58 AM

I spend more time arguing with myself than anyone else.

I'd love to see what someone's brain looks like on MRI under the influence of one of those drugs...

It feels somewhat like being asleep.  But if you're jerked in and out of it constantly, ugh...  Terrible.  There are ways to do it properly, of course.

I wouldn't just go at these things willy-nilly.  I would say that all my experiences have been positive, on balance, but it's not unlike purgatory.  The walls of the maze are torn down, and if there happens to be a minotaur lurking somewhere within, it will find when you take a drug like LSD or DMT.

It happened to a friend of mine.  He took too much, and lost lucidity - fell into his dream and became a minor character.  He thought he'd killed someone, been arrested and sent to some God-forsaken African jail where he was being repeatedly gang-raped by large Nigerian men.  He was puking because of how real he thought it was.

So yeah...  YMMV.  I had taken the same dose he had, by the way, and was just stressing out about how much he was freaking out...  No prison fantasies for me.  Then again, he said afterwards that he felt his soul had been cleansed, that the experience was positive on balance, and he's taken it since then with no such nightmares...  So maybe it helped get it out of his system.  But yeah...  Just because the dose is measured in micrograms, don't underestimate this sort of thing.  Time means nothing when you're on it.  I remember him asking me how old he was, in all seriousness...

If you aren't ready to make your peace with God, you might want to try a more subtle approach than one of the sacred drugs I guess.  Hell is a real place, oh yes...

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Clayton:
I've listened to hours and hours of McKenna lectures. Listening to him describe psilocybin is where I first got this idea... he describes this feeling of cosmic awe like being in immediate contact with something so large and so powerful that the entire neighborhood for 100 miles in every direction must be hearing/seeing this. Why can't it be that psilocybin is just screwing with your in-built sense of terror/awe?

Having taken psychadelics like mushrooms, DMT, LSD, and 2CE- I can tell you that when McKenna is describing a feeling of "cosmic awe" its absolutely nothing like what you would think is a sense of terror/awe in the "sober" world so to speak. Any actual "terror" or "awe" feeling that is similar to what you feel when you're sober might also be happening but that is not what he's pointing to.   He has to use words like that because it can be very difficult to actually convey the experience with words- hence you get words like "cosmic awe" which hint towards something but won't really do you justice.

A large part of it is like you described- understanding that a person's "ego" is not really who they are- its just what you decided to identify with. The thing with these trips is that they're all similar in that they are all very introspective. Even though you may see "things"- they're not really the most amazing part of the experience- what's amazing is how much you learn about yourself since you're able to break out of the ego shell and look at yourself without any preconceptions. The idea of your "Self" can break up and a lot of habits that come from the ego are shown for what they are. DMT is a lot more visual than the others- but its STILL not the visual portion of it that's the true focus of the trip. The machine elves may happen but they're not really what's interesting- they point to something about your real self that's beyond the conscious mind like you hypothesize, beyond the body and brain itself- and that's the "cosmic awe" part of it. You're even more than the feeling of being "awed" because you're the one who is able to watch this experience! 

So on the one hand you can say that your brain's normal sense circuitry is going haywire- but at the same time you have a very conscious understanding of what's going on.

A "bad trip" comes from thinking that this trip is just you going insane- it comes from holding onto the ego and your personhood- "I am Clayton! I have a wife and kids I can't go crazy like this how am I going to go to work!!"- That's why a sitter is recommended for first time users so there's someone to remind them "You're on drugs man just go into the experience and have fun, you'll be sober in an hour" just incase they're the paranoid type.

Someone who is prone to nightmares and certain fears like James's friend- I would go out and make a good guess that he had some type of fear about being raped in prison before he took the drug(could've been easily something supressed that he never wanted to talk about further)- and the trip made it come out in full force and you deal with it now and get it over with- or let it beat you up. It removes a lot of mental baggage people seem to keep- as deep seated as they may be. 

These drugs are definitely not toys- they're definitely nothing like marijauna where you can just smoke some because you're bored- setting and your state of mind has a lot to do with it. Being outside in a park has a very significantly different experience when you're on Mushrooms or LSD than if you're in a room by yourself. Someone who decides to take a psychadelic when they're really stressed out in the same vein as having some alchohol when they're upset will have a very powerful experience where they have to DIRECTLY deal with their issues and stressors created by the mind

The basic idea is- if you think you can handle your own projected fears- go for it. If you can't and just thinking about the biggest fears you have when you're sober causes you to sweat and immediately try and supress them...then maybe try it with a sitter who's also done it before instead of going at it by yourself. Haha of course try it if you can by all means. You'd definitely need to set a day aside for yourself to do it- so wife and kids do make that impossible.  

You can turn a bad trip into a good one too! Even though this intense and immersive experience is going on- there is still a part of you that is able to "watch" it all from a distance so to speak. No matter what changes a person goes through there's one part of them that's immovable and doesn't change, and from there the worries drop.

I hope that made some kind of sense? 

 

 

 

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James replied on Sun, Dec 25 2011 12:49 PM

A "bad trip" comes from thinking that this trip is just you going insane- it comes from holding onto the ego and your personhood- "I am Clayton! I have a wife and kids I can't go crazy like this how am I going to go to work!!"- That's why a sitter is recommended for first time users so there's someone to remind them "You're on drugs man just go into the experience and have fun, you'll be sober in an hour" just incase they're the paranoid type.

 
We had a sitter...
 
He thought she was a like a prison shrink or lady-in-a-white coat type.  She just fed into the delusion.  But he was physically safe. It's sort of funny in retrospect, we have laughed about it many times.  Gallows humour, I dunno.
 
It's like a nightmare you can't wake up from, so yeah...  You just have to learn how to change it.  There is always that part of you that seems to watch what goes on from a distance, and seems to escape the ravages that afflict the physical body, including the brain.
 
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Clayton replied on Sun, Dec 25 2011 1:06 PM

He has to use words like that because it can be very difficult to actually convey the experience with words- hence you get words like "cosmic awe" which hint towards something but won't really do you justice.

Of course. I'm sure words cannot convey what it's really like to orbit the Earth in a space capsule, so my understanding is purely analogous.

However, my basic hypothesis is this: when you're tripping, you're experiencing (to some extent) the unfiltered reality of what is always going on within you. Your "awake" consciousness acts like some kind of "barrier" or "membrane" that filters 99.99% of that noise out so you never become aware of it. When you experience a feeling of terror/awe in the sober state, I don't mean that it approaches a psychedelic experience. What I am hypothesizing is that your conscious mind is letting just a little of the "terror/awe" genie out of the bottle for whatever reason (this appears to be how we're hardwired) and only for the duration of the terrifying or awesome experience. Once the objective threat is over, you move into a different mental state (shock, whatever).

When you take mushrooms or have a bad acid trip, what I am hypothesizing is happening is that the drug itself is disabling the membrane that normally keeps the terror genie in the bottle and part of the feeling of utter helplessness you are experiencing during the bad trip is that the normal mechanism for putting that genie back in its bottle isn't working, isn't doing its job and that is even more terrifying... not only are you experiencing a feeling of utter terror but nothing can make it stop.

I think this "membrane theory" of consciousness (definitely inspired by the Freudian/Jungian conception of the unconscious but updated with the concept of the brain as a neural/biochemical computer) can also help explain the feeling that psychedelic drugs are enlightening, that you are getting in contact with the way things really are. Because your "awake" consciousness is a filter, that means that it is concealing the reality of what is going on inside your head all the time. When that veil is lifted, you really are seeing the real deal not the filtered reality that your awake consciousness permits you to see. But you wouldn't be able to think or act if that awake consciousness was not filtering all that noise and chaos that makes consciousness possible, so it performs the most crucial function of all (otherwise, all the rest of that chaotic insanity inside your head would be useless).

As for the idea that the brain is an antenna, I am suspecting that this may be true and I'm intrigued to have just learned that the Pineal gland has calcite crystals within it. I have experienced on many occasions the weirdest psychedelic phenomenon while falling asleep... I have a baseboard heater in my room that makes a pretty distinct "click" when it turns on... there's clearly a little bit of electrical arcing that happens for a brief moment. I have been drifting to sleep on at least 4 or 5 different occasions when the heater has clicked on but I can swear I was aware of a bright white flash that felt like it filled the whole room ... but it really, really feels like this flash occurs a microsecond before I hear the click from the heater! I swear, it's like I see a bright, room-filling white flash and almost instantly later, I hear the click from the heater.

I know that a spark gap sends out massive amounts of wide-spectrum RF noise and I have wondered for sometime if there's something in my brain that could be picking up that RF noise... but I have only had this experience when I'm on that edge where you're just about to fall asleep, you know that twilight zone when you can "trip" or "fall" in your "dream" but you are actually still awake (I think it's called lucid dreaming). So maybe as I'm falling asleep, the filter of my awake consciousness is reduced and I'm able to become aware of the brain's reception of an RF signal from that heater click. I swear to God it's like when I hear the click I already knew it was coming because I had just an instant earlier experienced this bright, white flash!

I believe mainstream science rejects the notion that the brain has any RF sensitivity whatsoever.

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Clayton replied on Sun, Dec 25 2011 1:14 PM

The point I was trying to make with the RF thing is that perhaps you're right that it's not completely internal and that's what makes it even more bizarre... perhaps you inexplicably know that this isn't all coming from within you, that you are "in tune" with something else "out there." If the brain is RF receptive then I can imagine that psychedelic drugs could be all the more disconcerting. You have all this machine elf insanity being created within your head and then external signals being sensed from outside of yourself and influencing the whole experience.

Can you guys think of anything that might sort out the difference between something internal and something external? Clearly, you are aware that some or most of the experience is internally generated... but are you able to sense that "this part" was coming from inside of you and "that part" was coming from some external stimuli (not necessarily the five senses)?

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James replied on Sun, Dec 25 2011 1:42 PM

Can you guys think of anything that might sort out the difference between something internal and something external

Well...

The usual trick is to get external verification of your reality, but of course you might be asking someone you dreamed up, or someone who is also dreaming.

Maybe make a special widget, like in Inception?

I think the external aspect is information itself...  Symbols. You forget how powerful and real an intersubjective consensus really is when you're like this.  I don't want to call it "sober"...  It's highly conditioned.  When the ego disappears, the intersubjective part of reality is all that's left.  The part of you that seems to hide away is being protected by a defense mechanism, I think.

I've read things about people dissociating like that in times of severe trauma to the mind or body...  I think it's basically that.  I've experienced a vaguely similar thing before with somewhat traumatic incidents, like your bicycle anecdote up above.  But try hours at a stretch, in and out, in and out...

I think this "membrane theory" of consciousness (definitely inspired by the Freudian/Jungian conception of the unconscious but updated with the concept of the brain as a neural/biochemical computer) can also help explain the feeling that psychedelic drugs are enlightening, that you are getting in contact with the way things really are. Because your "awake" consciousness is a filter, that means that it is concealing the reality of what is going on inside your head all the time. When that veil is lifted, you really are seeing the real deal not the filtered reality that your awake consciousness permits you to see. But you wouldn't be able to think or act if that awake consciousness was not filtering all that noise and chaos that makes consciousness possible, so it performs the most crucial function of all (otherwise, all the rest of that chaotic insanity inside your head would be useless).

 
I think you've basically nailed it.  You are hyper, hyper sensitive in that state.  You will hear someone slamming their car door five blocks away, and it will startle you.  You'll hear these chainsaws hectically sawing away in the distance, and hours later realise it was the little hard-drive disks spinning in your iPod.
 
It's like you're a baby all over again... :/  
 
You're spot on with the filter.  But...  It thinks it's more necessary than it is, kind of like a government.  Overprotective.  At least with everyone I've ever met.  Which might explain why we have a government.
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John Ess replied on Sun, Dec 25 2011 2:50 PM

As far as Darwinian universe, sounds sort of like the premise of this book, I think.  I never read it, but I've been meaning to get around to it since reading some of Howard Bloom' other stuff.

http://www.amazon.com/Global-Brain-Evolution-Mass-Century/dp/0471419192

I just happened to be reading Stanislav Grof's book 'Holotropic Mind' where he talks about using LSD for psychotherapy.  Pretty far out stuff:  people are having memories of birth and then a bunch of other things like becoming one with the universe.  He also goes into some of David Bohm's theories about holographic universe. 

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Clayton replied on Mon, Dec 26 2011 11:47 PM

You're spot on with the filter.  But...  It thinks it's more necessary than it is, kind of like a government.  Overprotective.  At least with everyone I've ever met.  Which might explain why we have a government.

But I don't think you're very functional when you're that hammered, so it would be pretty difficult to do things like, say, gather wood, hunt deer, and so on. I'd imagine that even filling out forms and assembling the pieces coming down the line could be equally daunting.

Now, where I think you have an argument is in respect to pharmacological recreation, generally - I think that if people drank ayahuasca or smoked cannabis as casually as they drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes, they'd hold their free time much more dearly and this would throw a monkey-wrench in the whole Elite-controlled system of production because they'd have to start paying "workers" a lot more to motivate them to get out of their chairs.

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Malachi replied on Tue, Dec 27 2011 7:34 PM
http://biomindsuperpowers.com/Pages/Your17Senses.html
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James replied on Tue, Dec 27 2011 8:10 PM

But I don't think you're very functional when you're that hammered, so it would be pretty difficult to do things like, say, gather wood, hunt deer, and so on. I'd imagine that even filling out forms and assembling the pieces coming down the line could be equally daunting.

 
There is a time and a place for everything.
 
The point is...  You aren't the same after you take one of these drugs even once.  You think differently afterwards.
 
Now, where I think you have an argument is in respect to pharmacological recreation, generally - I think that if people drank ayahuasca or smoked cannabis as casually as they drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes, they'd hold their free time much more dearly and this would throw a monkey-wrench in the whole Elite-controlled system of production because they'd have to start paying "workers" a lot more to motivate them to get out of their chairs.
 
I'm not sure if you're joking, but I think the Elites like it when people are drugged out of their minds.  They do deal most of them.  But not entheogens...  The CIA experimented with LSD for mind control and as a sort of truth serum, but it didn't really suit the purpose afaik.
 
Some drugs are made illegal because they have medical potential and are very cheap, and would outcompete Big Pharma's drugs if they were allowed on the market.  LSD, MDMA and cannabis are likely candidates here.
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Clayton replied on Tue, Dec 27 2011 8:53 PM

Here's a wild theory that struck me last night: what if life is not extraordinary in this Universe? I don't mean this in a trite way, I mean it in a real, objective sense... what if the original life-forms were nothing more than higher-order combinations of molecules engaging in exactly the same kind of "Darwinian process" which I hypothesize above to exist all the way down?

I have this idea of particles/waves/whatever-you-want-to-call-them as little automatons or machines which exist above a sea of pure randomness (Quantum foam/Dirac sea). But instead of being "existent" in the ordinary sense, they are transitory, they are only "existent" insofar as they can manage to propagate themselves, that is, to propagate their state to keep it from "melting" back into the sea of nothingness/randomness. Some of these particles generate cycles... particle A transforms into particle B which transforms back into particle A and so on.

At the macroscopic level that we can observe, we still see a single entity because we cannot observe the cyclical transformation from A to B to A, ad infinitum. Other particles create "chains" so that A creates B creates C creates D and so on, like the integers are created one by one, on toward infinity. Other particles create chains that end after some time and these particles appear to us as a single transient particle. We still observe it as a single particle because we cannot resolve the chain of particles creating one another.

If you continue to extend this idea, the laws of physics are not so much laws as "invariants with respect to time that happen to hold here and now". The particles which exist way beyond our capacity to observe (near the Planck length) are what make up what we observe to be fundamental particles. I shouldn't say "make up" because this implies a kind of solidity/staticness that I do not think these particles have. Imagine a wave traveling through steam... the wave is, by analogy, what we can observe. The steam is what "makes up" or "composes" that wave (the medium over which the wave is traveling) but the steam itself is transient... as soon it cools, it will become water again. So, I think that the very smallest/simplest components of the Universe may be in a continual cycle of rising and falling; constantly emerging from a sea of randomness and then melting back into it. But in the process they create higher-order "particles" or phenomena. It is these higher-order particles that we are observing today with our particle accelerators.

This process is already Darwinian. The criterion for "survival" is for one of these primitive automatons to propagate their state (in time). If it fails to propagate its state, it simply melts back into nothingness. (I'll get to conservation of energy/mass in a minute). Hence, the existence of all particles, all atoms, all chemical elements, and all molecules is already Darwinian. A particular configuration of protons, neutrons and electrons persists in time because that particular configuration is "stable" with respect to the constant Darwian process of state-propagation which is occurring at the lowest-level of the Universe.

Even larger, macro-molecular entities that we can call life - bacteria, virii, etc. - would be operating on a recursive Darwinian principle. Given a relatively static background of stable atoms, molecules, etc. living systems on Earth live and self-propagate according to the now familiar Darwinian principle of evolution which we can observe. But that static background is a veil and behind that veil is not the steady, dispassionate hand of the Geometer, but a roiling sea of constant creation and annihilation, filtered by the severest form of survival of the fittest. Noise, friction and entropy are all macroscopic phenomena which give us a hint that our apparently highly-structured and geometrically perfect Universe is an illusion behind which hides the abyss; just below the surface of existence. Perhaps these quantities play a hidden role in connecting the recursive Darwinian principle of macro-scopic life forms to the deeper Darwinian substrate of state propagation.

What I'm trying to get at is perhaps the life - the recursive Darwinian principle - naturally tends to emerge in this Universe wherever physical matter is sufficiently "cool" and "stable". Perhaps water itself isn't even a pre-condition for life. In this case, the problem of abiogenesis (how life originated) simply disappears... of course life originated, we are in a living Universe. Perhaps the "noise" coming from the Universe itself is part of what drives the creation of life.

I said I'd deal with the problem of conservation of mass/energy. The principle of conservation came about when, I believe, an Ottoman scientist dissolved salt into water and measured the result. He found that the weight of the salt and water separately was the same as the weight of the salt-water. Today, we consider this obvious but it's not obvious when you think about it... after all, the salt disappears. Much later, further experiments were done with all kinds of oxidated compounds in vacuum chambers which would confirm the "corner cases" of the principle but it has been know for a long time: matter and energy are never created or destroyed, their form is simply changed over time.

At the smallest level, I think the Universe consists of randomly created automatons that emerge out of nothingness/randomness... but they do so according to a well-defined law of random probability. Not all automatons are equally probable, those which are simple are relatively more probable than those which are more complex. The smallest/simplest automaton of all is simply a random coin-flip: the binary unit or the bit. More complex automatons emerge less frequently but when they do, they are more likely to propagate their state. This helps explain how the structured Universe (highly improbable) can actually arise from random noise. State propagation causes the more improbable (because more complex) random structures to be able to persist in time. Those structures which persist the longest dominate the phenomena, thus driving the noisy sea of randomness to the margins. When these non-random, persistent structures interact with each other, we can begin to speak of "physics" or "physical law."

The motivation for this insanity is the problem of state. Eliminate all assumptions. Begin with a blank slate. What will this blank slate look like? Well, think of a TV screen with all that static running across it; that's how I imagine a primoridal Universe which requires no explanation because it's simply random (unexplainable as a matter of logical necessity). How could any structure ever persist in such a Universe? At every moment in time, at every point in space, the state of such a Universe is fluctuating randomly. But if there is some basic machine (such as a Turing machine) to which all this noise is an input, then the output is completely transformed. A Universal Turing Machine (UTM) is a complicated device (requires roughly 200 bits of information to encode, at least, that's the smallest UTMs we have at present) but it's a hell of a lot simpler than Quantum mechanics and relativity theory.

This still leaves the "substrate problem", i.e. what is causing the "Universal Turing Machine" itself to exist (assuming this is the most basic structure of the Universe)?  What is causing it to separate the Universe into random and non-random components? What is the mechanism (you can call it "will", if you prefer) which is implementing the fundamental Darwinian principle of state propagation in the Universe? I have no idea but I think if my description of the Universe has some validity to it and science can eventually discover some of this stuff, we will have taken a pretty big whack at the problem and new ideas will eventually emerge to be able to answer the hardest question of all... the problem of existence itself.

Mathematician Gregory Chaitin has been highly influential on my thinking in this regard and you can read his work on a closely related subject of "pure mathematical" evolution, which he calls metabiology.

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Clayton replied on Tue, Dec 27 2011 9:23 PM

I'm not sure if you're joking, but I think the Elites like it when people are drugged out of their minds.

With Xanax, Prozac or Ritalin but these drugs don't "open the third eye" or generally cause you to "question everything".

  They do deal most of them.

So they can control them.

Some drugs are made illegal because they have medical potential and are very cheap, and would outcompete Big Pharma's drugs if they were allowed on the market.  LSD, MDMA and cannabis are likely candidates here.

Even opiates are suppressed within the medical establishment. They'll shoot you up with every non-opioid anesthetic known to man and only after trying everything else - like you're some kind of guinea pig - will they give you the one anesthetic that works every time: morphine (it works up to the level of kidney stone pain, which is really mind-blowing pain, but I can't speak beyond that).

I don't believe that the Establishment wants people taking drugs like DMT or cannabis (despite its massive popularity, they are still resisting it with everything they've got) for reasons that Terence McKenna explains here.

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Clayton replied on Wed, Dec 28 2011 3:11 AM

I don't know why, but I'm in a mood for bullshitting cosmology. I was thinking while driving... because the Universe exists, the Universe must necessarily exist. We know this is true because it is irrefutable, kind of like the law of identity. To say "the Universe may have existed or may not have existed" (in other words, its existence was possible but not necessary... an assumption required for any fine-tuning argument) means that "if things had been otherwise, perhaps the Universe would not have existed." But what things are there that could have been otherwise?

If we are speaking of the Universe in the most general ontological sense to mean "everything that exists", then there can be no other "things" outside of the Universe upon which the existence of the Universe depends. Invoking creative deities or creative minds or creative will simply pushes the problem back one step and the same argument applies again.

I've also come up with another way of thinking about the substrate problem (what is causing the Universe to exhibit "law-like behavior"?) Imagine two computable Universes such that a Universal Turing Machine (UTM) exists in Universe A that is computing the state of Universe B and a UTM exists in Universe B which is computing Universe A. This is a bit like the Escher drawing. If you are in Universe A and you ask "what is computing the state of this Universe?" the answer is "Universe B" and vice-versa in Universe B.

Another way to think of it is to say that the least complex automaton that could come about by random chance and propagates its state in a "Turing complete" way (can compute any computable function) is the most you have to assume in order to explain the fact of existence. At least, this holds if you take for granted that the Universe is Turing computable (a point which not everyone accepts though I find it hard to understand why).

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James replied on Wed, Dec 28 2011 3:51 AM

So basically there's a cardboard box somewhere containing an alternate universe, which contains a box containing this universe?

Or maybe this universe is really just a TV show in the Simpsons universe...  When they finally cancel that show, the world ends.

I think you're probably right...  Basically a reflection of itself?  An hourglass/torus/donut sort of 'shape'?

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Clayton replied on Wed, Dec 28 2011 4:14 AM

I think you're probably right...  Basically a reflection of itself?  An hourglass/torus/donut sort of 'shape'?

Well, I want to be careful not to cheat... a circular explanation is just a non-explanation with fancy clothes on. "It exists because it exists" isn't illuminating or useful.

What I'm trying to do is put some kind of rational limit on just how much must be assumed in order to explain the Universe's existence. If the Universe is computable by a Turing machine (not a stretch, at least to my imagination), then the most we have to assume is a Universal Turing Machine which computes itself. A program which reproduces itself is not exotic, it is called a quine.

Since a Universal Turing Machine can be expressed in about 200 bits (relative to Binary Combinatory Logic, see upper-left-hand corner), this means that the Universe is not more improbable than tossing heads with a fair coin 200 times in a row. That's still really improbable but it's inestimably more probable than every single phenomenon in time and space occuring by random chance (which is basically what nihilist cosmology boils down to).

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Clayton replied on Wed, Dec 28 2011 3:41 PM

Had a thought on telepathy while listening to Terence McKenna (OK, this is basically what he said, just regurgitated). The mind already does exert "telepathic" or "telekinetic" control over the human body. To put these concepts into a separate category of "non-science" is simply muddle-headed. This type of control is true of all animals which have consciousness (even though I don't think I really understand what it means for animals to "have consciousness"... I'd be interested in comments on this subject based on psychedelic experience...)

The key is understanding/investigating how "intentionality" is coupled to the Universe. It is my view that intentionality exists within the Universe because everything that exists, exists within the Universe (by definition). How does the sensation of "purposing" to do something arise? How does the first-person experience of the physical world arise?

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AJ replied on Fri, Dec 30 2011 8:12 PM

Clayton:
Yet, how could there be any physical metaphor for these proto-thoughts or proto-urges?

I have indeed seen these proto-thoughts. I'm not going to mention how I did this, but you can imagine. 

The line between conscious and unconscious is a fuzzy one, and is merely a matter of "speed." What is now just an ultra-fast proto-thought was at one point in your development a slower, conscious thought. A proto-thought is just one that is had so fast that you don't notice it (notice=hold it in memory long enough to note it consciously). If you slow down the processing of your conscious short-term memory buffer, its scope just burrows deeper into what is normally below conscious awareness. You remember less about what was happening a few moments ago (short-term memory loss), but the trade-off is that you can see deeper into the level of proto-thoughts (=fast thoughts). Sound like the effects of any common item? 

See my responses to: http://mises.org/Community/forums/t/23281.aspx

---

Switching gears, the other thing you are talking about is animism, which - interestingly enough - is the only rational (=imaginable, conceivable) alternative to physicalism. That is to say, there are two ways in which you can make sense of the world around you, two ways you can explain the phenomena that obtain in your 5 senses: 

1. By viewing those phenomena as being the result of mechanistic interactions among physical objects

2. By viewing those phenomena as being the result of intentional action by acting entities

If we view all natural phenomena by lens #2, we have animism. And just for completeness/clarity, I'll mention that if we view the actions of other humans through lens #1, we have mechanistic determinism (not sure if that's the usual term). If we view natural phenomena through lens #1, we have the explanatory scientific method as espoused by Gaede, et al. If we view the actions of other humans through lens #2, we have praxeology.

The only problem is, animism doesn't seem that useful for physical science...unless of course we find that there is a sort of "physical praxeology" that can be utilized to make theories that are actually useful.

--

A third thing you're touching on is the idea of natural selection in matter. This makes a lot of sense if the universe is as LaFreniere imagines: http://glafreniere.com/matter.htm The wave patterns that are stable prevail over those that don't, akin to the natural selection of stable and unstable patterns in Conway's game of life.

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Clayton replied on Mon, Jan 30 2012 8:06 PM

Some more thoughts I've had recently on this subject.

We live in a cause-and-effect universe.

Imagine an empty Universe like the Newtonian thought-experimental Universe which is just empty, 3-dimensional space. This is not the "simplest" or "default" universe. This is a very anthropological Universe. That is, it is more of a reflection of what humans find to be an "obvious Universe" but this obviousness is distorted by the fact that we evolved within this Universe which is, in fact, 3-dimensional and empty. 3D Cartesian space is not a bad approximation to our Universe. There is no reason to believe that empty space is a default or that billiard-ball mechanical physics is some kind of natural default physics. Such models actually make lots of hidden assumptions.

If we're assuming nothing at all, then the most we have to work with is randomness. Yet randomness is a non-explanation. I'm interested in assuming the least needed to explain the cause-and-effect Universe in which we find ourselves. Since we get randomness for free (it requires no explanation because it is unexplainable), all we need is some kind of selection mechanism.

The most basic things requiring explanation are the fact of state propagation (time, cause-and-effect) and the fact of structure or form (space). Cause-and-effect is basically the fact that it matters that Event A happened, for every Event A. It made a difference that Event A happened. For every Event A, if Event A had not happened, things would have unfolded differently than they did. This is the meaning of cause-and-effect (the Buddhists term this "dependent origination", the idea that every event is connected in a web of cause-and-effect). Therefore, every event is propagated in time as a result of cause-and-effect.

The fact of structure or form is basically the fact that there are many states of being which are independent of one another. At any moment in time, it does not matter if the rest of the Universe surrounding region A was something completely other than what it is, region A would itself remain the same. Changes in structure or form are independent of one another. Events that interact in time, on the other hand, are dependent on one another. So, space or form is essentially the state of affairs of many, independent state variables co-existing independently (simultaneously). Simultaneity is state-independence.

Given these two factors - dependent state propagation and state-independent form - we can formulate a Darwinian selection process. Those laws and structures which best propagate themselves are those which come to dominate the Universe of cause-and-effect... they are the substrate from which time and cause-and-effect emerges. Those laws and entities which spread into as many independent states as possible (expand in space) come to dominate the form and structure of the Universe of form... they are the substrate from which form and space emerges.

I have more on this but I have to run.

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Clayton replied on Tue, Jan 31 2012 1:05 AM

Cont'd

The Universe follows the same law at all points in space and time. That is, in order for cause-and-effect to operate, the antecedents of cause and effect I spelled out above must be in operation and they must be in operation everywhere and at every time that cause-and-effect itself holds. Divisions within the physical Universe are imposed by abstraction and do not really exist. In every volume of space there is some non-zero matter density and this parameter is a smoothly varying parameter everywhere and at every time. Our distinctions between a brick, clay gravel and the clay dust in a dust devil are, therefore, purely arbitrary. This same reasoning can be generalized to every physical variable.

Fundamental "particles" or "waves" - or whatever you choose to think of them as - are the building-blocks of the Universe that are responsible for the physical facts of cause-and-effect and space/form. From the random variations of the abyss which require no explanation are selected those variations which are suitable for the propagation of state in time and the propagation of state in space and form. Because they "survive" in time and space, these structures dominate the world of cause-and-effect and space/form.

Because existence itself is subject to a Darwinian selection principle at the most basic level, the same principle of "purposeful action" applies to the building-blocks of the Universe that we perceive in even the simplest living organisms. This is not to say that the Universe is "conscious" or that inanimate things are some kind of trapped or crystallized consciousness. Rather, it is to say that any scientific explanation of how mediate physical phenomena arise must also be consistent with the selection principle outlined above - selection for persistence of state in time and selection for expansion of state through spatial form. The "goal" or "end" of all physical processes is to propagate their effects through time and expand their effects through space. Each cause is struggling to produce an effect and it is only those causes which are suitable for the creation of effects (propagation of state) that are selected to "survive" in the world of cause-and-effect.

To apply this concept at an abstract level, we can re-think the origination of charged particles in the following way: An electrically charged particle exists by virtue of its suitability for producing effects on other electrically charged particles. In the presence of charged particles, those variations of the abyss which are less suitable for producing effects on charged particles are at a disadvantage vis-a-vis those variations of the abyss which constitute the building-blocks of a charged particle. The suitability of the positively charged particle to influence other charged particles is what causes its state to "persist" in time and spread in space to affect the unfolding of all other processes which are in its vicinity.

Of course, I have in mind the "spooky" effects of quantum mechanics whereby particles appear and disappear apparently randomly. We can see particles go out of existence at one point and "pop into existence" at another point a small distance away. The view of the Universe presented here is that these phenomena become the dominant sort of phenomena as you approach the limits of the Universe (in the small or in the large), that is, as you approach the boundary between the world of cause-and-effect and the abyss.

Near this boundary, the world is like a feeding frenzy of piranha jumping in and out of the water. Every variation in the abyss which succeeds in propagating itself for a short time contributes to the world of cause-and-effect before it vanishes back to the abyss. But its contribution is only in proportion to its capacity to produce an effect. The vast majority of all such influence is of extremely short duration and extent. Only very rarely do more influential variations in the abyss occur and it is these variations that are selected by the world of cause-and-effect by virtue of their durable contributions to the unfolding of the world of cause-and-effect.

Because of all this complexity, we should rather think of the supposedly "elementary" particles as hairy, organic beasts with membranes and tentacles, sensors and organs, navigating the "ocean" of physcical phenomena in which they find themselves and responding by pushing or pulling against their environment in accordance with their complex internal structure. Those particles which persist in time may be thought of as "reproducing" themselves by producing a chain of copies of themselves throughout time so that they do not disappear. It is those particles which do not know how to perpetually reproduce which eventually vanish back into the abyss. The same may be argued for forces and fields which expand throughout space and affect form at greater and greater scales.

OK, that's all I had. Back to the grind-stone.

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The other day I was playing Halo on LSD.  I was stompin nubs lol, which I don't normally do.  Funny thing was I was mostly just running into walls.  I made it vocal with my friends that "I'm not sure who's in control of my body" right now.

I think you may be on the right track that LSD breaks down the barriers between what your ego percieves reality to be, and what it actually is; that's why everything looks more wavy and energetic.  Your subconscious mind, usually the actor, no longer has your conscious mind trying to take all the credit.

In States a fresh law is looked upon as a remedy for evil. Instead of themselves altering what is bad, people begin by demanding a law to alter it. ... In short, a law everywhere and for everything!

~Peter Kropotkin

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Clayton replied on Tue, Mar 6 2012 5:02 PM

Jotting some more kind-of related thoughts here to keep them in one place.

I'm giving more serious thought to this idea of "action" or "intentionality" or "urge" as a fundamental property of the Universe. One of the problems facing a science of consciousness is what is called the hard problem, the chief proponent of which is David Chalmers. What is it to experience the world? You can explain all the cause-and-effect (mechanistic) relations but you will still have not explained everything, as demonstrated by the Mary argument.

In our modern materialistic conception of a gears-and-levers Universe (perhaps the gears and levers are weird quantum thingies, but they are still mere material), conscious experience and the feeling of intentionality remain two unsolved puzzles. By "unsolved" I mean that not only do we not know the answer, but there appears to be no path to solution.

However, going back to this idea of the Universe as an acting being, I have argued that even cause-and-effect and time and space are themselves manifestations of some deeper structure in the Universe but the principle of action goes all the way down. Without the urge to act, all the structure and order would be inanimate, like a beautiful, intricate work of geometric patterns which has potentiality but no motion.

But what does it mean to be an urge? I think that an urge is an uncaused cause - something which is consistent with our intuitive knowledge of will and the feeling that our will is really non-deterministic. By "uncaused cause" I mean basically a random event but this is a bit of a misnomer since I do not mean an "unpredictable physical event", such as quantum pair-production because this is at too high a level. I mean way down below the level of cause-and-effect even, below the level of space and time structure itself. Things that happen for absolutely no reason whatever and have no structure whatsoever. Such events would lie outside of any mechanical chain of cause-and-effect and, therefore, could not be explained in terms of cause-and-effect. In terms of a materialistic, cause-and-effect Universe, such events are "supernatural"... they happen outside of causality.

This is not to say that human will is unaffected by causal factors. By "urge" I mean just that one irreducible component of will that is what is being "guided" by the mind through cause-and-effect (material) factors. That urge itself is what is puzzling on the basis of any purely functional theory.

To broaden the thesis, then, imagine that all existence whatever has its basis in the uncaused cause... that is, in randomness. By definition, we cannot explain the uncaused cause because it is randomness (maximal disorder, non-structure). But not all uncaused events are the same, not all are alike suitable for state propagation and those uncaused events which are more suitable for state propagation are the ones that persist and dominate the structure of the cause-and-effect Universe as outlined in my earlier posts above.

So, what is conscious experience? Well, if will/urge lie outside of causality, then perhaps conscious experience does, as well. I defined cause-and-effect in a prior post as the chain of those events which matter to each other. To say that Event A is causal is to say that it mattered that Event A happened. Conscious experience is an effect which does not matter. Hence, it too lies outside of the Universe of cause-and-effect. If you think about it for a minute, this is obviously the case - it doesn't matter to anything else in the physical Universe that you experience it. This is why the hard problem exists in the first place... there is no functional role for experiencing the physical world.

There are still unanswered questions about conscious experience... for example, why are the senses experienced in qualitatively different ways? How many different qualities are there in the Universe? Why should there just be 5 or 10 or so (depending on how you count)? One would make sense or infinity would make sense but why a small handful?? How is it that all these qualitatively different experiences are united in one single conscious experience? Why aren't they each in their own compartment?

To bring the whole thing together, imagine the Universe of cause-and-effect as a gigantic web of connected events. Every "material" or "physical" event is connected to at least two others... an antecedent and a subsequent. By contrast, urge (will/action) is always an antecedent and is never a subsequent of any other event. On the other hand, experience (consciousness) is always a subsequent is never an antecedent of any other event. To put it in the language of electrical theory, urge/will is a source and experience/consciousness is a sink.

Now, this is not to say that this dispels all mystery from the fact of existence. Why should there be uncaused causes at all and why should they give rise ultimately to conscious experiences? The answer to this question may be along the lines of "we provably cannot know" - there are much simpler problems (Halting problem) which have this answer. However, the value of this picture is schematic - it helps us organize the proper roles of physics and metaphysics by telling us that, at some point, the maddening process of functional explanation does terminate (in urge/will and consciousness) and that this termination is not the result of mental laziness or the attempt to smuggle in angels and demons into a clockwork Universe. It is simply the result of the structure of reality as we know it.

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Clayton replied on Tue, Mar 6 2012 7:22 PM

Going into some deeper speculation, here.

Think of the "uncaused cause" by analogy to flipping a coin. The vast majority of sequences of coin flips have no pattern, that is, they have no structure. So, the vast majority of "urge" that emanates from the uncaused cause has no influence on the Universe of cause-and-effect. If we imagine that the uncaused cause (or Unmoved Mover) is also aware/conscious, then we can adopt more theological language to say that it is self-ecstatic. That is, it moves (expends urge) and is conscious (receives ecstasy) without mediate states, that is, without any intermediate chain of cause-and-effect events. This is the case for almost everything which emanates from the Unmoved Mover.

For a tiny fraction of the emanations, there is some structure or order and, therefore, some persistence or interaction/entanglement with the world of cause-and-effect. All physical existence is the result of such emanations and, in particular, the sensation of "will" goes back to this most basic root. In the case of inanimate or "dumb" or "blind" physical matter, this urge results in a very limited expression of phenomena and a very limited ecstasy.

But in the case of living things, more elaborate chains of cause and effect are set in motion in order to bring about more elaborate states of ecstasy that cannot be attained by inanimate matter. In the case of human beings, this process reaches - to my knowledge - its zenith. That is, the human mind channels the primitive urge (the root source of action) to spin the most elaborate chains of cause-and-effect (planning) in order to bring about the most elaborate states of ecstasy (satisfaction of wants).

If you look at things in this light, you realize it is a mistake to assign to the Unmoved Mover any sort of power. The Unmoved Mover is impotent, not omnipotent. It is self-ecstatic and, therefore, absolutely inert. It is like the God of Deism. It is incapable of knowing anything about the affairs of the material world or altering them in any way, even though everything in the material world ultimately flows from it. It does not act, not only because it does not need to act (it is self-ecstatic), but because it is the one thing that cannot act. Everything else acts. The Unmoved Mover does not, does not want to and cannot act.

 

There is a slightly analogous idea in music to this idea of elaborated states of ecstasy. We can think of the tonic note or chord as the state of satisfaction. There is no urge to move from this chord. Once in a while (extremely rarely) a random note emanates from the Unmoved Mover. Usually, that's all there is to it. However, if the note is just right and "resonates" with the tonic chord, it provides some kind of structure and persists and when it "resolves" back to the tonic chord (for example, a dominant chord resolving back to a tonic), it "sounds right". The harmony of the whole trajectory enhances the ecstasy through elaboration or prolongation. The non-tonic structures harmonized with the tonic structure and, thereby, acted as a heightening of the tonic itself. Once we return to it, it's as if we never left the tonic except that we have heightened the ecstatic state - before there was just a droning tonic on and on and on but once a harmonic structure emerged, the ecstatic state was heightened and prolonged.

Finally, multiple universes. There is no reason that all cause-and-effect chains must be connected together. Hence, there is no reason why the all-encompassing Universe should be coextensive with the set of all events which can, in principle, come to our awareness, that is, affect the physical universe that we can observe. So, it is prejudicial and hubristic to assume that the extents of our observations in the large and small exhaust all existence in a metaphysically absolute sense. This is why it is important to distinguish between the all-encompassing Universe (all existing things, whether or not we could, in principle, ever become aware of them) and this universe of cause-and-effect in which we find ourselves.

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Clayton replied on Wed, Mar 7 2012 1:13 AM

 

I have written here on a "science of happiness" or a scientific ethics. I want to extend this slightly and tie it into the ideas presented in this thread.

You will notice that there is a pattern present in my view of the mind (what is going on behind the curtain of consciousness), my view of the world of cause-and-effect at its ultimate level of analysis (what is going on way beyond what we can observe at the quantum level), and my views presented in the thread on Action and the Soul.

The pattern is essentially the Darwinian algorithm and the Darwinian algorithm is essentially guided, blind search. Blind search is not an explanation of any phenomenon because it essentially boils down to saying "given a long enough time and a random process, everything will occur". The purpose of an explanation is to reduce the phenomena to their essential principles, to squeeze out the noise and leave only the signal in its most compact form. So, blind search is a non-explanation... it leaves all the noise and does not reduce the signal to its elements.

The beauty of the Darwinian algorithm is that it provides a search process that is not blind but which is rudimentary enough that it can operate within a clockwork universe. Furthermore, the Darwinian algorithm is itself an a priori process! Determining what the particular results of the Darwian algorithm are (that is, what has happened to evolve) and how, in particular, they arose are empirical questions. But standing entirely apart from these empirical questions is the a priori, umbrella process by which the entire scheme operates.

Tying all of these ideas together, I will now present a Universal Praxeology.

The universal praxeology is essentially the idea that the Universe acts. It is the logical consequence of taking the idea of the Universe as an acting being seriously.

The Universe - insofar as we experience it - consists of the Urge, Physics and Awareness. The Urge and Awareness are metaphysical, that is, they lie outside the domain of physics proper (the world of cause-and-effect). In ourselves, the Urge is connected to our Awareness. Therefore, it is reasonable to leave them connected in the general case. This means that the Universe itself experiences a sense of satisfaction or rest unless it is disturbed. The Universe is disturbed as an unintended consequence of its unformed Urge which gives rise to the world of cause-and-effect. The world of cause-and-effect is a disturbance of the perfect repose of the Universe. So, we can think of this in analogy to an electrical circuit... there is a current source (Urge), resistance (world of cause-and-effect) and a current sink (Awareness).

Because the Urge is unformed, it is not action like human action. Human action is the state of affairs where the human being looks into the future and chooses ends and the means to attain those ends on the basis of future expectations. The Urge is an ultimate explanation and, therefore, cannot be explained in terms of anything simpler than itself. Hence, it must be unformed. It has no future expectations and it does not choose ends or means to attain those ends. Rather, it is pure, unformed urge to be satisfied. I believe these ideas are consistent with the Occult/Kabbala description of the Ein Soph.

We know about urge because we experience it. It is generally not feasible to know from inspection that an event is, in fact, uncaused. However, we directly experience the irreducible urge to act. Because this human urge (animals clearly exhibit the signs of experiencing it, too) exists within this Universe, we know that it is part of the real world. I've categorized Urge as a metaphysical phenomenon (Unmoved Mover) because of theoretical problems with attempting to provide mechanistic explanations for it that I haven't gone into in this thread.

The Universe itself cannot act (the Urge is unformed). But since the Urge is unformed, the Universe also cannot not act, either, that is, it cannot be sure never to act. Hence, the Universe sometimes acts without meaning to, that is, structure inadvertently emerges from the Urge and gives rise to the world of cause-and-effect at its most rudimentary level. When we say "the Universe acts" it is in this sense that we mean it - the Universe acts inadvertenly.

Awareness is also a metaphysical phenomenon within my taxonomy. This is the second principle of Universal Praxeology: The Universe is aware. Misesean satisfaction (and want) is experienced as part of our awareness. On this view, awareness does not serve a function but, rather, is simply a fundamental property of the Universe in which we partake. That is, all matter in the cause-and-effect world is aware to one extent or another and, when properly configured (in the shape of an animal body/brain) gives rise to the elaborate level of awareness which we have and permits the elaborate or elevated sense of ecstasy (satisfaction) which we experience.

For those who will balk that this all sounds extremely religious, I will make the analogy of a radio receiver circuit. When matter is properly configured into a circuit of wires, insulators, inductors, capacitors, resistors, transistors, crystals and so on, you will have a radio receiver that transduces vibrations in the electromagnetic medium into mechanical, audio-frequency vibrations of air, permitting you to "hear" radio signals. The signals are there whether you have a radio that receives them or not and the materials from which the radio is constructed remain RF active whether or not they are configured into a radio. However, the sensitivity of the radio components to RF signals - when properly configured - is immensely greater than the sensitivity of the components laid separately.

This is the sense in which I mean that the Universe is "aware"... the Universe is an aware, feeling place, everywhere. However, it is immensely more aware and feeling within the human or other animal brain than elsewhere.

Awareness/consciousness, as I pointed out in an earlier post, is an effect that does not matter. Hence, we do not need to provide any kind of causal explanation for awareness, except to explain the antecedents of awareness in the world of cause-and-effect.

Awareness itself is unformed, like the Urge. If it were not, we would have to provide some kind of functional or cause-and-effect theory of it. But since we've placed it firmly in the metaphysical realm, we must admit that it is unformed. Unlike human beings, the Universe has no preference between positive or negative awareness. It is not averse to pain nor does it have an affinity for pleasure.

Nevertheless, everything that exists within the world of cause-and-effect is - as Blavatsky states in The Creative Will - "seeking what it likes" and "avoiding what it dislikes." We state this in the case of human beings as a purely formal correlation. There is no reason that we cannot state this as a purely formal correlation with respect to every other entity in the Universe once we've already admitted that the Universe acts and the Universe is aware. That is, we can say that the electron is satisfied by being near a positive charge and is dissatisfied by being near another electron. The alignment of positive awareness in the human experience with that which is consistent with human nature (and vice-versa) suggests that this alignment may hold for all other entities, as well. Hence, an electron not only is satisfied but feels satisfied by being near a positive charge.

I'm still sketching out ideas in this direction but to give a clue of where it could be leading: there is a strong analogy between energy in physical systems and  money in human society. Energy can take many forms and is frequently exchanged between these forms - it is a bit of a "universal medium of exchange". It may be possible to derive a priori laws that explain why physical entities that are "seeking what they like" and "avoiding what they dislike" should be as we observe that they actually are in the world of cause-and-effect.

Also, I think it is possible to connect the idea of action (urge) with Darwinian selection at all levels of existence. We observe it in biology, in economics, in social hierarchies, in law and morality (see the linked article at the beginning of this post) and even - if I am right - in consciousness and the rudiments of the Universe itself.

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Clayton replied on Fri, Mar 9 2012 1:23 PM

1. The mystic Manly P. Hall discusses the view of the ancients on the spiritual nature of reality here.

2. Here, spiritualist teacher Santos Bonacci presents his views of what he terms the Holy Science which is kind of a mish-mash of astrology and some gnostic ideas.

3. In this essay, Mises gives a "conspiracy-theoretic" explanation of the decline of rationality in the modern era. Specifically, Mises says, "The economists had entirely demolished the fantastic delusions of the socialist utopians... The socialists were absolutely unable to raise any objection to the devastating criticism of their schemes and to advance any argument in their favor. It seemed as if socialism was dead forever. Only one way could lead the socialists out of this impasse. They could attack logic and reason and substitute mystical intuition for ratiocination."

I perceive a connection between all of these. I think that our forebears were much more enlightened than they are given credit for since the time of the Renaissance. In fact, if you think about the meaning of the Renaissance - rebirth - it seems that those in the Renaissance era had a real respect for the wisdom of the Ancients. The whole point of Renaissance thinking was to throw off the ideological shackles of Christian dogma and reclaim the highest achievements of human learning which had not been much advanced - outside of Islamic, Persian and Indian scholarship - for over a millenium.

Later, during the so-called "Enlightenment" the first symptoms of modernist hubris and scoffing at the supposed benightedness of the Ancients began to appear. We're supposed to believe that nobody before Christopher Columbus understood that the Earth is not flat. Nobody before Copernicus understood heliocentrism, the size and distance of the Moon and Sun or the correct ordering of the Planets. And so on. The fact is that the Ancients made astoundingly astute observations of the heavens. The ancient Egyptians, Indians, Persians, Greeks, Mayans and so on had not only detected the precession of the equinoxes, an extremely subtle shift of just 1/70th of a degree per year in the stars, but correctly calculated its magnitude and period (roughly 25,000 years).

To mock people capable of such meticulous observations and calculations as benighted mystics who threw their hands up at the difficulty of explaining natural phenomena and resorted at the first opportunity to supernatural myths in lieu of causality is ridiculous. But it is on this myth that is built the bigger myth of "human progress", the idea that we are involved in some kind of inevitable, ever-upward march towards greater and greater heights of technological and economic achievement.

Who constructs such myths and why? Is it possible that these myths are not merely the product of sloppy - yet uncoordinated - thinking? Is it possible that there are people and organizations who benefit from widespread confusion about the most basic truths of the human condition?

This is the spirit of Mises's conspiracy theory regarding the breakdown of rationality in the sciences. The socialists (sponsored, as they are, by the State) will stop at nothing to preserve the dogma. No price is too high, even the end of science and knowledge itself. But what are they concealing, really? They seek to conceal the purposefulness of human behavior. They seek to conceal the fact that there is causality in human affairs which can be known and extrapolated.

Anyone who is familiar with the debate in the last two decades over the philosophy of consciousness (Dennett et. al. versus Chalmers et. al.) knows that there is a great deal of skepticism around the idea that consciousness exists. The suggestion is that consciousness is some kind of illusion or magic-trick that "emerges" out of blind, insensible matter. I perceive in this debate the same vein of anti-reality, anti-reason mentality that Mises identified in the anti-rationality of the socialists.

But what purpose does it serve? To what end? What are those who want to suppress the basic fact that humans are aware trying to achieve?

Let's take a brief detour through Bonacci's territory (astrology, astrotheology, etc.) If it is true that the ancients were a good deal more enlightened than they are given credit for these days, then we might suspect that their anthropomorphism was more conscientious than we usually give them credit for. Ptolemaic astronomy, for example, was the basis not only of what we understand the scientific aspect of astronomy to be but also what we consider to be the pseudo-scientific aspect of astrology. Copernicus's heliocentric model (which actually goes back to Aristarchus of Samos circa 250BC) was less accurate than Ptolemy's geocentric model. In other words, Ptolemy had a more useful astronomical model than the supposedly more correct Copernican model.

As it turns out, both models are mathematically correct, it's just that Copernicus' model is more generalizable and therefore more useful in extrapolating to the distant heavens beyond the Solar System. Our knowledge of the heavens could never have expanded beyond the Solar System itself so long as we were working in a Ptolemaic model. But as far as the Solar System itself went, the Ptolemaic model was an astoundingly rigorous work of scholarship that was the definitive model of the heavens for almost two millenia.

On top of that model, however, were built the astrological connections to everything. As one quote Bonacci gives in one of his lectures (can't remember the attribution): everything is connected. All knowledge is connected. All truth is connected. It is all part of one reality and conforms to one law. So, naturally, it makes sense to connect it all together. Human personality types connect to the heavens which connect to the myths of the gods which connect to the elements (fire, earth, air, water) which connect to the primitives of geometry (the Platonic solids) which connect to chemical elements which connect to the basic intervals of music and the basic proportions of visual art, and so on.

What the modern mind misses in its unforgivingly literal understanding of ancient scholarship is that this connectedness is not necessarily a literal connectedness. It is a metaphorical or allegorical connectedness. But it is a mistake to think that metaphor is unserious or that it is not useful. It is precisely because metaphor is so powerful that the ancient mind saw the value in connecting together many apparently unrelated concepts into an inter-connected whole.

And we have long been missing one of the key components that made such holistic thinking possible: schools of thought. When I first encountered Austrian economics, the idea of a "school of economics" seemed absurd to me. How can there be a school of any subject? After all, the truth is the truth. But the fact is that our understanding of the truth is always much more limited than we actually like to admit and the interpretive context in which you place the truth is just as important as the truth itself. The interpretive context is what makes the truths that you know useful to you.

Schools of thought arise only under the condition of a market in education and scientific research. Education and science - like religion - have long been politicized commodities. With the exception of some of the great medieval universities, the education market has not really thrived since the time of the Ancient Greeks. That is why we look back to their time as a Golden Age of learning and knowledge.

Unlike later "eclectic" forms of thought, the school-of-thought system is much more rigorous. Not only must all the known phenomena (facts) be taken into account, but the formal rigors of the school's metaphysical and cosmological assumptions must be adhered to with consistency. By comparison, the modern thinker is undisciplined and his scientific theories are merely ad hoc "curve-fitting". "Whatever works" is the motto of the modern thinker on the supposition that such "utilitarian" and "pragmatic" thinking is more serious and scientific. The reality is that "whatever works" is a "good enough" attitude. Dark matter/dark energy are a wonderful illustration of the grotesque consequences of such lackadaisical and undisciplined thinking.

This decline is not an illusion. It is a secular decline in the humanness of the sciences motivated by a fixation with the Absolute - a point that Mises expounds in his article. Steven Pinker talks about the decline of the elite arts in modernity here (until 18:26). The reasons that he gives for the decline - that the elite arts no longer appeal to humans because they are based on a denial that humans have a nature - is generalizable to all fields of knowledge.

To return to the question I raised at the outset: why is there a "conspiracy" against the fact that humans are aware (and that they act with purpose)? I think we have to go even further than Mises did and identify a larger arch in history. This larger arch is the will to enslave, that is, the will to live parasitically off the productivity of others. Disconnecting people from a sense of their own purpose and the cosmic importance of their own consciousness is the ultimate form of bondage. A slave need not be aware that humans act because slaves do not act (slaves do what they are told by their owners/gods, who act). A slave does not need a sense of the cosmic importance of his consciousness because he has no use for it. He will not enjoy life and - because he cannot - he cannot have satisfaction.

To see this in action, let's look at what happened to the geocentrism and anthropocentrism of the ancients. In its stead, we have the so-called Copernican Principle. The idea is that man is "just a speck of dust" somewhere out on a random planet orbiting a random star in a random arm of a random galaxy. This is all supposed to be very humbling. We are tiny little cogs in an incomprehensibly large - and essentially random - clockwork. This is supposedly a much more "serious" and dispassionate way of looking at ourselves.

But there is a striking similarity between the Copernican cog-in-the-machine and the slave. Neither really acts. Neither is really aware of anything. Awareness - if it exists at all - is just an illusion or magic trick. The new cosmology isn't science. It, too, is a myth or narrative whose purpose is to teach us our place in the order of things, just like the astrological myths and narratives of the ancients. The difference is that the ancient myths and narratives were illuminating. They taught man about his innate nature and purpose and made him aware of the cosmic importance of his consciousness.

The old justification for slavery was the aggrandization of the mystical, that is, the claim of Divine Right to rule. The King rules his subjects just like God rules all of humanity and the King is appointed by God for this purpose. With the breakdown of the lies on which the Establishment's religions are built, they had to shift to a new justification for ruling people. The new justification is the exact opposite of the old justification. You are not a spiritual being at all, you are a machine. You are a tiny cog in a random universe. You cannot hope to make sense of the machine in which you are embedded... a machine which was not created for you or your happiness. So, there's no point trying to understand it and there's no point trying to be happy. There's no point acting purposefully because you have no purpose. Do not try to listen to your consciousness because you do not even have a consciousness... you are just so many whirling gears and levers.

I believe we are on the cusp of a scientific revolution. Our cosmology is shot to pieces. There are some recent discoveries that threaten to shake modern physics right back to the foundations of Newton. As Manly P. Hall says in the first link in this post, "man searching for these [spiritual] causes instinctively turned his attention to this tremendous vaulted mystery that seemed to enclose the world as man knew it." The modernist's conception of the Universe is anti-humanistic, isolationistic and deflationary. By contrast, the older conception of the Universe was anthropocentric, interconnected and attributed cosmic importance to man's ends and consciousness. It's time to break out.

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So how does this relate to austrian economics?

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Clayton replied on Fri, Mar 9 2012 6:07 PM

This thread is related to AE in a number of ways... because it is concerned with science, because it utilizes a priori methods, because it identifies a conspiracy against human knowledge, and so on.

Why do you ask?

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I am fond of the MBT theory by Thomas Campbell. Digital physics. It is free to read on google books and there are quite a few videos on youtube if anyone is interested.

 

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z1235 replied on Sat, Mar 10 2012 10:35 AM

Clayton, excellent, mind-expanding posts of yours in this thread. Pls keep them coming. 

 

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Wibee replied on Sat, Mar 10 2012 2:12 PM

I think Clayton is corporate shrill advertising backmarket LSD.  "The doorway to your subconscious mind." Where do I sign up? 

 

All jest aside, when i come to these forums.  The first thing I do is got to Clayton's profile and view his latest posts.  Your contributions are legendary. 

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Clayton replied on Mon, Mar 12 2012 1:21 AM

@NTOTB: I took a look - Campbell's MBT seems to rely to a large extent on his own out-of-body experiences. It strikes me as a mash-up of Buddhism, digital physics and New Age OOBE stuff.

The trouble I have with OOBE is that it is an extraordinary form of subjective experience. I have experienced very minor OOBE twice (upon waking in the morning both times, it felt like my whole body suddenly sank in space 3 or 4 inches... difficult to describe). I think that science needs to begin with the ordinary and familiar and work its way to the extraordinary and unfamiliar - not the other way around.

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Clayton replied on Mon, Mar 12 2012 2:04 AM

@z,Wibee: Thanks for the positive feedback, it's much appreciated.

One of the things I've been thinking about is the kinds of problems which we have made good progress in solving and understanding versus the kinds of problems which we have not been as good at solving. For example, the astronomical movements of the heavens are understood in excruciating detail and our theoretical explanations for much of the phenomena are quite robust.

By contrast, a very simple question has proved very difficult question for biologists to answer: what is life? In the most abstract, theoretical sense, what is life? What does it mean to be alive? If an extraterrestrial visitor came to Earth, how would it decide what is living or non-living? If we discovered life on another planet, how would we know? What would be the criteria?

Now, the heavens are very distant and life is very near to us. We can manipulate it, recode DNA, perform genetic experiments, and so on. Yet we have more difficulty answering a basic question about life - what is life - than we have in theoretically explaining the movements of the heavens.

The relevant differences between these phenomena are recurrence and sample size. The earth rotates once every 24 hours, giving us a nightly view of the heavens. Every year, the Earth completes an orbit around the Sun. The Moon orbits the Earth once every 27 days. And so on. We have thousands of nearby stars to look at - stars whose distances and emission spectra can be measured with high levels of confidence. These data (distance versus emissions spectra) give us the theoretical basis to construct distance models for stars that are too far to measure their distance via triangulation. The abundant variety of nearby stars and the recurrence of the heavenly phenomena both assist us in formulating theories about them.

But life provides little help in this regard. We have a sample size of one - living things on planet Earth. And there is no recurrence... however life arose on Earth, it appears that it did so once and only once. New life forms do not spontaneously arise (as far as we know). Hence, we have nothing to compare against. Whatever knowledge we have about life is necessarily particularized. We cannot generalize because we do not have two or more unlike particulars from which to generalize.

But this same problem can be extended to the Universe itself. As far as we know, this Universe is the only one that has ever existed (non-recurring) and it is the only Universe of which we are aware (the sample size is one). There are no "other Universes" against which we can compare this one and say things like "this Universe has such-and-such property" and so on.

This doesn't mean that all hope is lost. We can impose theoretical constraints both on the Universe and on life and other areas of knowledge which are subject to these epistemological problems (recurrence, sample size, etc.) For example, we can say that whatever life is, it is not non-life (application of the Law of Non-Contradiction). And so on. A priori methods are suitable wherever a posteriori methods fail (which is essentially the basis of Austrian methodology).

I think the most fundamental a priori methods available today are in the theory of computation (see the Church-Turing thesis). Basically, computation subsumes almost all of mathematics into a single, mechanical paradigm. This paradigm is extremely abstract (does not readily admit geometrical  visualization) yet its generality makes it incredibly powerful.

I think it is a mistake to jump onto the digital physics bandwagon and simply declare the Universe to be a computer. We know that the Universe is computational because we can build computers in it. And we know it was a mistake for our ancestors to declare God a Geometer because we now know of things which a Geometer cannot do but a Programmer can do. So God is at least a Programmer. But I think we should hesitate before declaring him to be merely a Programmer.

Nevertheless, the theory of computation is - I believe - the most powerful a priori tool we have. So, we need to think about what it means for God to be a Programmer (instead of just a Geometer). What sorts of structures can or must arise in a computational Universe? What are the limits of what is possible in a computational Universe? (i.e. what are the things even God can't do?) It turns out that the theory of computation (in particular, the field of computability theory) gives us strong limits to what is possible... limits we could never have known existed if we were only working within a Geometrical paradigm.

But computation doesn't help us with the problems of Urge and Awareness - a computer is just a bunch of whirling gears and levers (electronic gears and levers). So, computation does not explain anything outside of the world of cause-and-effect. The same is true of Quantum Mechanics to the extent that it is causal. And to the extent that it is not causal, it is not science (it is metaphysics).

</rambling>

Clayton -

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Clayton replied on Mon, Mar 12 2012 1:58 PM

For anyone who is somewhat familiar with QM and information theory, I highly recommend this lecture:

What is amazing about this lecture is that he provides a distinctly non-mystical interpretation of QM. The only real contender against Garret's QIT intepretation is the dominant interpretation among QM scientists these days, the "many-worlds" interpretation. Of course, the many-worlds interpretation is metaphysical gibberish suitable only for the kind of "pragmatic" scientists who are notorious for their metaphysical ineptitude. The problem with many-worlds is that it fails Ockham's Razor (multiplication of entities beyond necessity) and tends toward the absurd (the invocation of all possibilities is always a non-explanation, it is absurdity).

I'm slightly disappointed with his closing note that "reality is an illusion." I keep hearing this from QM scientists but isn't it obvious that this is just another way to say that the colloquial understanding of reality breaks down on the detailed investigation of Nature? And this isn't really surprising, advanced science has been counter-intuitive for millenia. The counter-intuitive nature of science should not come as a surprise... our brains evolved to throw spears, avoid predators and survive the elements, not to run lasers through beam-splitters.

Reality is reality (duh). It is whatever it is. This is metaphysics 101. If close investigation of Nature shows "weirdness", that simply means that what we comprehend as "ordinary reality" emerges from a "weird" substrate reality. That is, Nature herself does not conform to the in-built categories with which she equipped our brains to understand her at the level which mattered for the survival of our ancestors. Banish all discussion of "illusions" and so on.

I wrote the first post in this thread in part motivated by the "A Priori Physics" thread. It is my view that the above lecture shows the way forward on a truly a priori physics. It is clear that we live in a "quantum" Universe, that is, the world of cause-and-effect is governed by quantum laws. Also note that the QIT interpretation that Garret gives above (his "zero-worlds" interpretation) is consistent with the idea that Urge and Awareness are fundamental properties of Nature. Basically, the above video boils down to saying this: what makes the quantum world so weird is the same thing that makes complex numbers so weird. Quantum mechanics is information theory (computation) with complex quantities.

It is difficult to overstate how important complex numbers are. This is how you can see that complex numbers are important (or, in some sense, truly fundamental). First, let's start with addition. We all understand that the physical world exhibits additive behavior... if you have two rocks in a pile and then place two more rocks in the pile, you will have four rocks. So, the physical world exhibits addition. The same holds for continuous quantities (two gallons plus two gallons is four gallons, and so on). The physical world exhibits multiplicative behavior, as well. If you have a piece of plywood that is 2 feet on one side and 4 feet on the other side, the area will be 2 x 4 = 8 square feet. So far, so good. The pattern between addition (iterated increment) and multiplication (iterated addition) can be extended to iterated multiplication (exponentiation). For all of these operations, we can see inverses in the physical world, as well (subtraction, division, etc.)

Now, look at number sets and operations on them. Addition is "closed" over the natural numbers (1, 2, 3...). This means that if you take any two natural numbers (positive whole numbers) and you perform addition on them, you will get another natural number. But if you allow subtraction, the natural numbers are no longer "closed" since 3 - 2 (for example) is not any natural number. Hence, we need a new class of numbers... the negative numbers (and zero). The negative and positive whole numbers are called the integers. You can add and subtract any two integers and you will again get another integer.

You can permit multiplication to integers and they will remain closed. But as soon as you add division, this is no longer true since 2/3 (for example) is not any integer. Hence, we need a new class of numbers... the rational numbers. You can add exponentiation to the rational numbers and they will remain closed. But as soon as you permit the inverses of exponentiation (root and log), you need a bigger class of numbers. The historically first class that was invented for this purpose is called the real numbers, otherwise known as "decimal numbers" - things like 3.14159...

But the problem with real numbers is that it is easy to construct equations out of the basic operations which cannot be solved to any real number, such as x^2+1 = 0. What is the square-root of -1? Well, that's why you need complex numbers. It turns out that the operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, exponentiation, root and logarithm are all closed over the complex numbers. You can perform any of these operations on any complex numbers and the result will always be another complex number (division by zero excepted).

We started with a pattern of mathematical operations that are not arbitrary constructions (the physical world exhibits properties consistent with these mathematical operators unlike, say, the see-and-say sequence) and we ended up with an elegant system of mathematics (the complex numbers). This tells me that there is something really fundamental about complex numbers.

A similar argument can be constructed for computation (from the Church-Turing thesis, computability of the natural world, etc.) Quantum computation (QC) combines these two really fundamental a priori constructs (complex numbers and computation) in a system that is congruous with the world of cause-and-effect. This is not a Theory Of Everything (Godel and Turing proved that a TOE is theoretically impossible). However, I think we can provide robust metaphysical arguments for why QC is the best available a priori construct. It should be noted that both computation and number sets are open-ended - that is, there are "higher" conceivable levels of computation than classical (Turing) computation and there are higher conceivable number sets and operators than the complex numbers and associated operators, which suggests that QC may just be the first tier in a "hierarchy" of QCs.

Clayton -

http://voluntaryistreader.wordpress.com
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