Saturday, February 25, 2006

I See Dead People!

Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
Hotspur: Why so can I, or so can any man; But will they come when you do call them? --Shakespeare, Henry IV

Oh, I think so, wise guy. Where would we be without the authentic gurus, avatars, saints, seers, and miscellaneous holy men who have marked out the path of exit and entrance into the closed circle of material existence? Once you have formed a relationship with one of these celestial beings, it brings real tears of gratitude to contemplate how much they have sacrificed for the love of mankind and where your life would be without them. Thanks to their guidance and example, we can have real faith and hope that our spiritual endeavors are not in vain--that they will bear fruit.

Formed a relationship? With a dead person? Say it ain't so, Bob!

Now that I have successfully driven away half my readers with all the spiritual mumbo-jumbo--those so-called "normal" ones--I think I can say it, can't I? It's just you and me, right?

Yeah, I talk to dead people. And they t.... Never mind. I'll get to that part in a minute.

Mankind is haunted by the memory of paradise. Religions arise to memorialize and give structure to this memory. Rituals are enacted to make the memory present. But Buddhas show us that we are mistaken to see this as a memory of the past, as it is actually a memoir of the future. A Buddha is someone who has found the vertical path of exit from the closed circle of mere animal and material existence.

On the other hand, the avatar breaks into time from eternity in order to reconcile the horizontal and vertical worlds. There are more Buddhas than avatars. It is said that the avatar only incarnates at world-historical crisis points, when mankind has reached a hopeless impasse in its spiritual evolution. The avatar comes to fulfill a specific mission. That mission is not always strictly spiritual in the narrow definition of the term, but can be scientific, political, even military. You can look at it metaphorically if you like. But do look at it. Consider where the world would be if you removed a handful of capacious souls from the world-historical stage, say, Plato, Newton, Edison, Einstein, Washington, Lincoln, and Churchill. One of these men is worth more than most nations.

Now, I hope it isn't offensive to my Christian friends to suggest that there has been more than one avatar with a divine mission. As a matter of fact, it has been orthodox belief--ever since Augustine I believe--that the Christ had been present in the world in an attenuated or partial form from the beginning. There were hints and adumbrations before the full revelation appeared in the form of Jesus. You might say that the Christ existed as a sort of quantum field or wave function until, in the fulness of time, it collapsed and became particularized in the person of Jesus: "Before Abraham was, I AM." In any event, it is not so much Jesus' divine birth, but his divine death, that counts. That is what really sets him apart from the others. He is risen!

So one can still remain Christian and recognize the existence of other divine emissaries, even if they are not regarded on the same plane as the "only begotten"--at the very least, Moses, John the Baptist, St. Paul, etc. And I hope no one doubts that there have been "Christian Buddhas" as well--Denys the Areopagite, St. John of the Cross, Meister Eckhart, Theophan the Recluse, Seraphim of Sarov, and so many more. Ignore these luminous beings and you are denying yourself one of life's true metaphysical delights.

As I tried to convey in my book, there is only one story. It is the story of an evolving cosmos awakening to itself and becoming conscious. Who could argue with that? It happened. And it's happening. First there was matter. Then one fine day, life. Then just a short while back, self-consciousness. And most recently, the recognition of, and identification with, Spirit. Matterlifemindspirit. You can insert an arbitrary line dividing one from the other, but at least recognize that you are the one who created the abstract dualism. The underlying Oneness of existence knows no such demarcations, neither in space nor in time. Is that why it's possible to form a relationship with a teacher outside our local spacetime matrix? To resonate with someone who dwells in the nonlocal noumenal world from which this one is a local projection? I don't know. Probably. Off hand I can't think of a better reason.

I do know this. For a long time, I tried the "do-it-yoursoph" approach to spirituality. You may not think so, but I tend to be pretty rational, and it actually wasn't too long ago that I was an atheist. Still, I was always drawn to spirituality, so long as it was something along the lines of Zen or Taoism--strictly rational in a right-brained sort of way. Most forms of Buddhism might be described as "psycho-spiritual technologies" aimed at facilitating post-biological evolution, or ego transcendence. You don't even have to have any particular beliefs, either rational or otherwise. You just sit, meditate, and wait. That's it.

The purpose of such spiritual exercises is to become deep, that is, to plunge into the vertical. You can only think of one thing at a time. In this regard, it is just as important to develop a good forgettery as it is to have a good memory. In order to recollect the vertical, we must forget the horizontal. Meditation is learned forgetting. It is to change one's center of gravity from the horizontal to the vertical, or perhaps die to the one and be resurrected into the other. Either way, death is the guardian of this threshold. In making this transition, one recognizes the existence of something analogous to "gravity" on the spiritual plane, as we are "attracted" by and into it--as if it is a giant planet or star.

The uncorrupted heart is able to perceive the divine presence in the Buddha or avatar. When we perceive this, we spontaneously bow before it. In so doing, we open up to their benign influence. This is to move from spiritual technology to radiant grace. In the transitional space formed by the heartfelt veneration that occurs here, you actually reincarnate the departed avatar or Buddha. Their words become flesh.

Look at it this way. Our human personality develops in the transitional space between our brain's neurology and the empathic others of our childhood. Just so, our higher self is given birth in the transitional space between us and a transcendent being. As you know, some have even made the analogy explicit by referring to it as "the Father." In this view, our earthly parents only derive their just authority in being divine deputies of our nonlocal parent. Their job is to serve as examples and take care of us long enough to usher us into the presense of our real parent.

You want spiritual advice, right? I can do that, but I must emphasize that he in whose name I speak is mightier than I--mightier than me and Petey put together--and whose sari I am not fit to carry. I can bobtize you with my honeyed words, but s/he will do so with fire!

Yes, you can try to be a soph-starter, as I did. Or you can enlist the priceless assistance of one of the many helpful nonlocal operators who are always standing by. Immerse yourself in the word they have left behind, and read it not with your mind, but with a higher faculty: your heart. See for yourself if you can't make them a real living presence in your life.

O merciful Homo futurus, wholly I-AMbassador of the Omega Point, esteemed Eschatolator Operator, we pray that you lead us upward and occasionally throw us a freakin' bone down here in 4D! If it be your will.

Friday, February 24, 2006

I Can See Your Ho's From Here

Still experimenting with photos. This one is from today's bike ride. Not very good. I will do better.

That would be the liberatoreum, over there toward the mid-upper left, at the edge of the foothills. No, not those little white dots on the ridge above. That's where the entertainment executives and trial lawyers and rappers live. Don't worry--they're inside a gated community, so we're safe from them. We're down below, in the upper left corner of that triangle of green.

That range in the far background on the right is called the Santa Monica Mountains. It's what God put there to block our ocean view and cause the temperature to hit 108 here in the summer, when it's a cool 78 on the ocean side, just a few miles away.

I grew up right here. My parents bought the house in 1964. My father died in 1984, and when my mother had to enter a convalescent home in 1990, I bought the house from her so she would have a source of income to pay for the care. Since then, the state has purchased all of the land surrounding our little development that you see in the picture, so it's wide open space all around, as far as the eye can see. I do a lot of my best pondering back here. You might say its my own personal ponderosa.

I done took to mountain biking 'bout three or four years ago, right after the land become public. Hardly nobody ever come back here, so it may's well be all mine. Just me and Petey in the sidecar and all them coyotes, deer, rattlesnakes, bobcats, tarantulas, and ticks in the summer. Nothin' really dangerous, like one of them rappers. I don't know what I'd do if I come up on one of them in the middle of nowhere. Maybe conk him on the head with a big stick and put him in the back of that old Kaiser Willys I found, make it look like he got caught up in the fire or something.

On Gardening in the Dark: Who's the Hardest Working Man in Sow Business? (updated 9.16.07)

Yes, who is the man with the noetic bodacity to speak for the invisible logos that joins Mind and Cosmos? Who is a dweller on the threshold of the transdimensional doorway through which the dead pass daily? Who has pulled the ancient sword from the philosopher's stone and stuck it in the breadbasket of metaphysical ignorance? Who navigates in hyperspace with one hand firmly gripping the tiller of spiritual evolution, the other hand caressing a cold beer? Whose blog is the mystic church of the New Testavus for the rest of us, making darkness visible the unthought known in broad daylight? Whose book blows the locked doors of the empyrean off their rusty hinges?

Who's the man that won't back down, when there's spiritual danger all around?


Can you dig it?

Sorry. That was Petey's little invocation. He was just trying to build me up and give me a little confidence as I venture into the hazardous waters of giving spiritual advice. Of course, I did this in Chapter Four of my book, but I tried there to do so in a more abstract manner, disclosing what I believe is the "deep structure" of any fruitful spiritual practice, whatever one's tradition.

Where to start?

There are objects and there is motion. Religions are like intellectual cathedrals that endeavor to mirror the hierarchical dimension of the vertical on this side of manifestation--they are "heaven on earth," so to speak. But spiritual growth is not an object. Rather, it is a "motion" or movement--an expansion. As a matter of fact, it is the leading edge of the cosmos.

In my book, I attempted to describe the algorithm of this movement with a set of abstract symbols that apply to any spiritual practice and all spiritual growth. To a large extent those symbols are descriptive rather than prescriptive, providing some hints but leaving the exact "how to" to the individual aspirant.

We are fallen beings. Specifically, we are exiled from the vertical; we are strangers in this world, wandering in the desert of the horizontal, trying to find our way home. We go through books, experiences, teachers, trying to find Truth or Freedom or Happiness. Sometimes we catch a glimpse, only to see it recede into darkness, like a dream that fades upon awakening.

The universe is a nonlocal whole that is thoroughly entangled with itself. Let's suppose that I am not me. Rather, I am you. I am the higher you, speaking to you from your future, bidding you to join me. It's frustrating for me, because I'd like you to be here with me. Actually, I'd like to be down there with you. To you, your life looks like a bewildering panorama of free choices. But to me, looking down on the scene, I see that your life is actually on a train track. It doesn't really have much freedom, except to move forward and backward in one line. Unfortunately, if you stay on that line, you will inevitably end up where you are headed.

So to arrive at me, you have to derail your life. You have to repent, which literally means to "turn around" or change course. Now, many people who come to a spiritual practice do so because their life has been derailed for them. They are probably the lucky ones. They have achieved a state of spiritual bankruptcy. They are no longer moving, but at least they have stopped moving in the wrong direction. Now, instead of pushing themselves toward the wrong destination, they will have the opportunity to be lured into the heart of the right one.

For others, their catastrophe has to be self-willed. I remember when undergoing my training, when I was in psychoanalytic therapy. I said something to the effect of, "I don't know if I'm cut out for this. I might be too neurotic," or something like that. My analyst quickly corrected me: "No, no--we don't exclude a treatable neurosis. We demand one. It's a prerequisite." You see, psychoanalytic therapy is a sort of self-willed crisis, as you dismantle your surface personality, dive into the unconscious, and try to reconstruct things on more stable footing. Only by doing so are you qualified to be a psychopomp for others, ushering them along the tortuous trails of their hidden self.

Likewise, there is no question that a spiritual practice will involve facing some catastrophic truths--catastrophic not to your true self, but to your surface ego. In fact, spiritual growth is nothing but the assimilation of truth. At first, the truth can be unpleasant. To many people it is positively toxic. For them there is no hope.

Our minds are chaotic systems with different basins of attraction. Our surface personality is one such basin. If you have a lot of conflicts and fixations, you may think of those as basins of attraction as well. Each basin within our personality is an open system with a life force and agenda all its own, drawing relationships and experiences it needs in order to go on being. These are the instruments of our destruction, at least as they pertain to ever escaping the closed circle of the horizontal and setting up shop in the vertical.

In psychotherapy there is something called "resistance," and it is ubiquitous. No matter how much a person comes into therapy wishing to change, there are parts of the personality that will resist this change and try to sabotage the treatment. Why is this? For the same reason that any living entity has a life instinct and wishes to go on being. These resistant parts of the personality are much more like quasi-independent organisms than "objects." This is why in my book I refer to them as "mind parasites." If they are not parasites, they might as well be. For, just like parasites, they take over the machinery of the host--you--and reproduce themselves, bringing about the very conditions that allow them to flourish.

For this reason, most anyone on a spiritual path requires some form of meaningful psychotherapy. If not, their entire spiritual practice is likely to be overrun by mind parasites disguised as spirituality. The mind parasites don't really care if you go spiritual on them, so long as you don't leave them behind. A moment's glance at the history of religion shows this to be true. Religion has almost been ruined by mind parasites, and it is perfectly understandable if a sophisticated modern person were to reject it on that basis alone.

However, this would be wrong and ultimately self-defeating. For it is not just religion that has been ruined by mind parasites, but almost every other instrument or institution devised by human beings. For example, until quite recently, the history of medicine was the history of error. It consisted not only of beliefs that were untrue, but could not possibly be true. Should one therefore toss out medicine because its history is so riddled with kooky beliefs?

Lies are the wisdom of the world. The world is immersed in, and ruled by, lies. Therefore, to the extent that you lose yourself in this world, you too will be lost in a sea of lies. For example, the war on Islamofascism is not ultimately a war against a physical enemy, but a war against the most outrageous and pernicious lies. Likewise, the "culture war" in America is not really about culture, but about truth and about unconsciously motivated stupidity. Europe has already lost this war. Like the American left they have abandoned truth for comfort, happiness for pleasure, vertical liberty for horizontal license.

Birth is always a chaotic and painful transition from one mode of being to another. The seeds of our new birth are already present within us, in the womb of our being. What are the conditions that allow the seeds to grow and bear fruit? Hell, I don't know.

"Petey? What do you think?" Okay. How about the sunlight of truth, the water of grace, the fertilizer of ritual, and the loving assistance of an expert gardener who certainly need not be technically "living" in the biological sense of the term?

Well, my allotted time is up this morning. As you can see, we've just gotten started. But the horizontal beckons me from the threshold of transdimensional doorway, so I bid you adieu. In fact, I will leave you with adieu and don't--a verticalisthenic, if you will. Today, whenever you have a spare moment, instead of wasting it in idle mental wanderings, try silencing your mind and breathing in the eternal, drawing breath from above your head down into your heart, and then offering the breath back up again to your new gardener.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Look What I Found

While mountain biking in the ancient hills around Godwin manor today, I stumbled across something that had been hidden from me under years of overgrown brush until our recent wildfire. Does anyone recognize this beast? Should I try to drag it home on the back of my bike and sell it on ebay?

Or maybe I'll keep it. Might make a cool birthday gift for The Boy.

From this angle, you can't see the best part: the skeleton laying in the front seat. And what is this scribbled document in his hands? Must be important...

Developing a Spiritual Practice, Part One: Spiritual Perverts and Other Problems of God

A number of people have contacted me asking for specific advice about developing a spiritual practice, but I always tell them the same thing. I wasted many years of aimless searching until I finally recognized that the only true path was Islam.

Fooled you again, boy!

Actually, there are few completely universal truths, but the news of the day continually reinforces the importance of avoiding Islam. Do that, and you can't deviate too far from the true path.

Let's say you've done that. You've spent 30 or 40 years avoiding Islam, staying completely non-halal, refraining from beating your wife, not blowing up any churches and works of art, contemptuously mocking CAIR, not being constantly angry and humiliated, not whining about your civl rights being threatened. What's the next step?

As I have mentioned before, I am a little uncomfortable putting myself out as a guru or spiritual teacher of some kind. I've gone back and forth debating with Petey about this, and he always ends up saying something cryptic--and I think a little insulting--like, "what is a bad man but a good man's teacher, anyway?"

There are at least a couple of issues here. First, people have such a genuine thirst for spiritual truth that it is a terrible sin to exploit that. Seriously, on the spiritual plane it's almost like child abuse, because the uncorrupted spiritual impulse is so pure and innocent. It spontaneously reaches out like a child for its father or mother, and it would be awful to use that to aggrandize oneself. Again, this is one of my main objections to frauds such as Deepak Chopra and the rest of the new age gang of narcissists, pneumapaths, and gnostic salesmen.

Have you ever been completely overwhelmed by choices, just wanting someone "in the know" to tell you what to do? In the past, friends of mine who know about my golden ears have asked for advice when purchasing stereo systems. I tell them that they have to audition different components and learn how to listen, and that their ears won't lie to them. There's no wrong choice--just don't purchase a stereo manufactured in the Muslim world. But they don't really want to hear that. "Just tell me which one is the best, and I'll buy it."

To extend the analogy, it is easy to recognize the bad choices in the hi fi world. Those would be most of the mass-market components found in your local big-box store. Purchase most anything above that level of quality, and you have taken a quantum leap toward sonic truth. After that, you can spend ridiculous sums of money, but there's a rapidly diminishing rate of return. In other words, you have to part with a great deal of cash to make increasingly infinitesimal improvements at the margins.

It's the same way with religion. Clearly, the typical reader of this blog will have to wander from the beaten path a bit in order to satisfy their discerning soul. In other words, if you are among the dwindling remnant of my readers who don't mind that I've stopped focussing so much on politics, then you will likely not be satisfied with simply joining your local church or synagogue, dragging yourself to services once a week, and leaving it at that. Obviously you want something more. You don't yet know what it is, but you can sense it.

That sense--assuming you have it--is a very important thing to cultivate. It is not something to be extinguished by the first religion to fall off the turnip truck. Like sexual desire, it needs to be tolerated, sublimated, and transformed. You can't just "act out" spiritually in order to extinguish the impulse.

Freud was partially correct in noting that human beings are driven by primitive instincts such as sex and aggression. What he did not address was the fact that we are also driven--or pulled, actually--by other factors that are equally important. Ignore those and you do violence to the integrity of the human person.

For example, human beings are inherently relationship-seeking. One of the most fruitful advances in psychoanalysis occurred when pioneers such as D.W. Winnicott and R.D. Fairbairn realized that human drives do not occur in a vacuum, but are inherently "object related." Freud largely focussed on the drive alone, as if human beings are simply hydraulic machines or "pressure cookers" that need to let off steam, whereas the modern view sees the drive more as a "link" that connects two persons or subjectivities.

A great deal of pernicious societal misunderstanding has resulted from the notion that our uncivilized drives are somehow more real than our civilized personalities, and that if we could only express them in a conflict-free (and conscience-free) way, then we would inhabit a sort of instinctual paradise. This immature view is at the foundation of a lot of leftist thought. It is thoroughly romantic, in the rotten sense of that word.

Later innovators such as W.R. Bion developed the idea that human beings are also epistemophilic--that our minds are driven to discover knowledge and truth. Freud thought of our desire to acquire knowledge as a sublimation of instinctual drives, but Bion thought of it as absolutely fundamental to our humanness. We are born to know. But, just as with religion, this inborn mechanism can go haywire, so that it can know many things that are patently untrue. Most of the things people have "known" down through the centuries have been of this nature.

But the epistemophilic drive can also go awry in more subtle ways, in particular, the development of a defensive barrier in the form of a belief that one knows all there is to know. Such a person stops "asking why" at a certain arbitrary point, and then defends that point as being the last word. This is my objection to scientism, which takes the truths that are discoverable on the material plane studied by science and then elevates that plane to the status of all there is to know. Such a mind is functionally dead insofar as the epistemophilic drive is concerned. It will never discover higher truth. As Bion said, "the answer is the disease that kills curiosity."

This brings us back around to the main topic of this post, how to develop a spiritual practice. To our relationship-seeking and epistemophilic drives, I would add a pneumaphilic, or spirit-seeking drive. Is it not obvious that such a drive exists? No culture has ever been discovered that did not develop some collective means to channel this drive into various religious forms and practices. Here again, you could be like Freud and try to reduce the pneumaphilic drive to something more primitive, such as a desire for fusion with the primordial mother. But that is a false and partial view.

This is not to say that spiritual pathology does not exist. It most certainly does. Most any normal person can recognize that in much of contemporary Islam we are seeing florid pneumapathology of the first order. For just as the sex drive and the epistemophilic drive can become perverted, so too can the spiritual drive. The sex drive can become twisted in all sorts of ways--pedophilia, fetishism, radical feminism, etc. So too, the knowledge drive can crystalize into a perverse version of itself--deconstruction, Marxism, most forms of leftist thought, the designated hitter in the American League, etc.

In the same way, the spiritual drive can become a perverse fixation, both in its positive sense (i.e., cults) and in its negative sense (i.e., obligatory atheism, which is a kind of spiritual "color blindness"). One does not have to look far to see this phenomenon, both in its extremely dangerous forms that threaten mankind at large, but also in more subtle forms that harm only the person with the spiritual perversion. A lot of new age thought is of this variety. Just magical thinking, really.

Now back to your specific problem: what to do about a spiritual practice? I will get to that. I don't mean to ramble, but a few additional cautionary notes are in order. As I mentioned, I am reluctant to put myself across as some sort of spiritual teacher. In addition to the reason I cited, one can only advance along the path with an attitude of utter humility. Can you not see how this immediately disqualifies most of the arrogant and hubristic "teachers" claiming to be superior enlightened beings?

Another reason is that spiritual knowledge is not something to be treated lightly or disseminated to people who are not ready for it or will simply misunderstand or distort it. There are penalties for doing so. There has always been a recognition that one must make oneself a worthy receptacle of spiritual knowledge. This is why most traditions insist on a strong foundation of moral principles before one even starts--for example, the ten commandments in Judaism and Christianity, or the eightfold path in Buddhism.

Yet another problem has to do with the fact that each of us is, so to speak, a unique problem of God. This is something that applies equally to psychology. If you have a little psychological knowledge, you quickly recognize that people can be pretty easily pigeonholed into various categories. Obtain more knowledge, and you eventually recognize that it is almost as if a person of any depth is suffering from their own particular psychological syndrome that no one else suffers from. They can only cure this syndrome in their own way. What works for one person will not necessarily work for another.

It is the same way with a spiritual practice. Yes, there are universal truths. But they cannot really be transmitted per se. Rather, they have to be discovered by each individual. It is not like scientific knowledge, which, once discovered, stays that way, and can be passed from mind to mind like an object. Rather, real spiritual knowledge can only be subjectively acquired through personal experience. It must be discovered, not just once, but again and again.

I'm starting to run out of time here, so I'll be continuing with this topic for at least a couple more days. But look at something as simple as a belief in Christ. Dogma is important, as it provides the structure, or "bones" for a belief system. However, unless the dogma is illuminated by the light of personal experience, it will be like a blueprint with no building, bones with no flesh--much less a beating heart that circulates spirtually oxidized blood. It is fine to say that the Bible is the word of God, but one must hear, understand, metabolize, and be transformed by it. And no one--least of all me--can do that for you.

But I think I might be able to help. More tomorrow.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Science Catching Up With Petey: It's a Living Cosmos

It turns out that I don't have enough time to continue the line of thought we have been pursuing together--assuming that anyone has been following along anyway--that line of thought having to do with better comprehending the vital relationship between language, symmetrical logic, and God.

So before getting back to that, today we will briefly venture down another rabbit hole in the cosmos, that one having to do with the mysterious fact that this is a living cosmos. As you initiates know, this was the subject of chapter two of my book, entitled Biogenesis: The Testimony of Life. In that chapter I argued that the universe was not contingent at all, but a necessary consequence of the fact that we are alive and conscious.

That is, our cosmos is uniquely suited for the existence of life and consciousness, to such an extent that if any of the twenty or so mathematical parameters that govern the character and development of the universe were changed one iota, the universe as we know it would vanish, only to be replaced with one that would not be capable of sustaining life or consciousness.

One thing they don't tell you in school about how to have a meaningful existence is: be sure and pick the right cosmos. For out of the infinite number of universes that are possible, only very few will allow life or consciousness to exist.

Let me save our troll some time and say that I am not arguing for a species of intelligent design theory. ID is true as far as it goes, but it is still just another form of scientific materialism disguised as religion. What I argued in my book is that, when we talk about a "relationship" between life and the cosmos, we are dealing quite literally with a tautology, a statement of equivalence. That is, our universe is so narrowly suited to life that, in order to not mislead, we cannot refer only to "the universe," but to something along the lines of "the living universe," or "the universe in the process of coming to life." Ours is exactly what a universe hospitable to life looks like; everything in it points to or implies life, just as life implies it.

From our privileged standpoint of being alive, there is absolutely nothing surprising about the character of the universe, because it had to be almost exactly the way it is in order for life to exist in it. So when we talk about Life as such, we are necessarily presupposing everything that made it possible for Life to exist at all.

However, because of the fallacy of misplaced concreteness, science takes an arbitrary "time slice" of the universe, and points out that life was visibly manifest on this side of the slice, but not on the other side. But they forget that the slice was of their own doing, and that the universe does not know such divisions. We can create such abstract dualisms anywhere we like, but we must never forget that they are just abstractions that we interjected into the seamless whole.

In reality, the universe is nonlocal both spatially and temporally. Who are we to say that a flower is not simply an external organ of a bee, and that a bee is an external organ of a flower? As it so happens, stars are organs of biogenesis. Without them, life cannot exist, as the ingredients for life are cooked in stars that then must explode in order to propagate their ingredients outward. And very few universes are capable of producing stars, much less stars that do us the courtesy of going super nova and spreading their life-giving wealth around the neighborhood.

Anyway, I'm late for work. I just wanted to point out that science is beginning to catch up with some of the inevitable conclusions put forth in my book. However, they are only half way home. That is, they still don't know what Life is. In this regard, they are like an expert watchmaker who can tell you all about springs, gears, and pendulums. But you wouldn't ask a watchmaker to tell you about the nature of time, now would you?

"Nothing is too wonderful to be true if it be consistent with the laws of nature." --Michael Faraday

"Nothing is too freakishly coincidental if it be consistent with a living cosmos." --Petey


Biocosm, The New Scientific Theory of Evolution: Intelligent Life is the Architect of the Universe, by By James N. Gardner (excerpts):

It is, in the view of Columbia physicist Brian Greene, the deepest question in all of science. Renowned cosmologist Paul Davies agrees, calling it the biggest of the Big Questions.

And just what is this momentous question?

Not the mystery of life's origin, though the profundity of that particular puzzle prompted Charles Darwin to remark that it was probably forever beyond the pale of human comprehension. A dog, Darwin commented famously, might as easily contemplate the mind of Newton....

No, the question is more profound, more fundamental, less tractable than any of these. It is this: Why is the universe life-friendly?

.... We have been taught since childhood that the universe is a horrifyingly hostile place. Violent black holes, planets and moons searing with unbearable heat or deep-frozen at temperatures that make Antarctica look tropical, and the vastness of interstellar space dooming us to perpetual physical isolation from our nearest starry neighbors -- this is the depressing picture of the cosmos beyond Earth that dominates the popular imagination.

This vision is profoundly wrong at a fundamental level. As scientists are now beginning to realize to their astonishment, the truly amazing thing about our universe is how strangely and improbably life-friendly or anthropic it is. As Cambridge evolutionary biologist Simon Conway Morris puts it in his new book Life's Solution, "On a cosmic scale, it is now widely appreciated that even trivial differences in the starting conditions [of the cosmos] would lead to an unrecognizable and uninhabitable universe."

Simply put, if the Big Bang had detonated with slightly greater force, the cosmos would be essentially empty by now. If the primordial explosion had propelled the initial payload of cosmic raw materials outward with slightly lesser force, the universe would long ago have recollapsed in a Big Crunch. In neither case would human beings or other life forms have had time to

As Stephen Hawking asks, "Why is the universe so close to the dividing line between collapsing again and expanding indefinitely? In order to be as close as we are now, the rate of expansion early on had to be chosen fantastically accurately."

It is not only the rate of cosmic expansion that appears to have been selected, with phenomenal precision, in order to render our universe fit for carbon-based life and the emergence of intelligence. A multitude of other factors are fine-tuned with fantastic exactitude to a degree that renders the cosmos almost spookily bio-friendly. Some of the universes life-friendly attributes include the odd proclivity of stellar nucleosynthesis -- the process by which simple elements like hydrogen and
helium are transmuted into heavier elements in the hearts of giant supernovae -- to yield copious quantities of carbon, the chemical epicenter of life as we know it.

As British astronomer Fred Hoyle pointed out, in order for carbon to exist in the abundant quantities that we observe throughout the cosmos, the mechanism of stellar nucleosynthesis must be exquisitely fine-tuned in a very special way.

Yet another bio-friendly feature of the cosmos is the physical dimensionality of our universe: why are there just three extended dimensions of space rather one or two or even the ten spatial dimensions contemplated by M-theory? As has been known for more than a century, in any other dimensional setup, stable planetary orbits would be impossible and life would not have time to get started before planets skittered off into deep space or plunged into their suns.

.... Collectively, this stunning set of coincidences render the universe eerily fit for life and intelligence. And the coincidences are built into the fundamental fabric of our reality. As British Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees says, "There are deep connections between stars and atoms, between the cosmos and the microworld . . . . Our emergence and survival depend on very special tuning of the cosmos."

.... my Selfish Biocosm hypothesis suggests that in attempting to explain the linkage between life, intelligence and the anthropic qualities of the cosmos, most mainstream scientists have, in essence, been peering through the wrong end of the telescope. The hypothesis asserts that life and intelligence are, in fact, the primary cosmological phenomena and that everything else -- the constants of nature, the dimensionality of the universe, the origin of carbon and other elements in the hearts of giant supernovas, the pathway traced by biological evolution -- is secondary and derivative....

This central claim of the Selfish Biocosm hypothesis offered a radically new and quite parsimonious explanation for the apparent mystery of an anthropic or bio-friendly universe.... if intelligent life is, in effect, the reproductive organ of the universe -- then it is entirely logical and predictable that the laws and constants of nature should be rigged in favor of the emergence of life and the evolution of ever more capable intelligence. Indeed, the existence of such propensity is a falsifiable prediction of the hypothesis.

.... The inescapable implication of the Selfish Biocosm hypothesis is that the immense saga of biological evolution on Earth is one tiny chapter in an ageless tale of the struggle of the creative force of life against the disintegrative acid of entropy, of emergent order against encroaching chaos, and ultimately of the heroic power of mind against the brute intransigence
of lifeless matter.

.... we should obviously be skeptical of wishful thinking and "just-so" stories. But we should not be so dismissive of new approaches that we fail to relish the sense of wonder at the almost miraculous ability of science to fathom mysteries that once seemed impenetrable -- a sense perfectly captured by the great British innovator Michael Faraday when he summarily dismissed skepticism about his almost magical ability to summon up the genie of electricity simply by moving a magnet in a coil of wire.

As Faraday said, "Nothing is too wonderful to be true if it be consistent with the laws of nature."

Playing Along the Infinite Shore Where the Eternal Breaks Into Time

Reader Brother Bartleby has posed one of the central questions I have been grappling with in my attempt to formulate a new theology. And when I say "new theology," I don't mean theology per se but perhaps meta-theology. As I mentioned in my book, I am not trying to become a "guru" or invent a new religion. Rather, I'm trying to better understand how the existing ones work when they work and why they don't when they don't. Because they definitely work. Except when they don't. The question is why.

Yesterday I wrote that "The idea is to live fruitfully in the dialectical space between the conscious and unconscious minds," adding that I would elaborate later. But Brother Bartleby can't wait. He asks, "Is this a conscious state to be lived in the present moment (waking hours), a sort of mindfulness, or is this an actual state, say between waking and sleep which when utilized wisely can actually change the trajectory of ones life? Or....? Please elaborate."

Well, that's what I'm working on. One thing I detest about most so-called spiritual teachers is their mystagoguery. Perhaps you've noticed that they are full of beautiful blather until it comes to certain key points around which they become very vague and evasive. Then they might even blame you for your failure to understand or for a lack of sincerity. It's a common guru trick: blame the seeker.

It is similar to a lot of academic writing. If you really understand something, you should be able to explain it in very clear language. But if you don't understand something, then you can always fall back on confusing and portentous language to make people believe that they are just too stupid to understand your rarified ideas. Also, sometimes the ideas are so banal that they need to be dressed up in overblown language to make them appear exotic or elevated. Most contemporary philosophy is of this nature.

But you can have the opposite problem as well. For example, the words of Jesus are very simple and even at times rustic, and yet, they are among the deepest words ever spoken by a human being. Because of their deceptive simplicity, we can think we have understood them when we haven't even begun to plumb their depth. His words are uniquely "unsaturated" on the vertical level, and will mean very different things at different times based upon your own spiritual growth. The words will come down to your level, but you mustn't allow this to fool you into thinking that you don't have to "ascend" in order to deepen your understanding of them. You can deceive yourself into thinking you've understood, when you've only just begun. Most of his statements can be fruitfully pondered for a lifetime, and are not reducible to an unambiguous rational theology, as so many people try to do.

This then brings us back to language. Since I brought up Christianity, I'll stick with that example. What on earth was Jesus up to with his striking use of language? Obviously something very special. He used language almost in a magical way designed to transform the person with ears to hear it. How did he know how to do that? And in our modern, sophisticated way of understanding language, is this critical factor lost on us?

It certainly is. On the one hand, we have literalists and fundamentalists who want to take the words of Jesus as unambiguous communications, as if he is making scientific statements about the material world. On the other hand, we have progressive liberal theologians and Jesus seminarians who dissect and drain his words of their richly mythological dimension, so that they fail in their primary task of resonating with the deeper layers of consciousness.

Again, truth can be deceptively simple. Take, for example, the word "depth" as applied to human affairs. Has anyone ever explained to you what this means, and why such a thing should exist at all if we are nothing but Darwinian machines? As a matter of fact, one of the projects of postmodernism is to attack the very concept of depth with their spiritual wrecking ball, and make everything equal to everything else. There is no higher or lower, no hierarchy of being, just a cosmic flatland of arbitrary meanings that we assign things.

But in fact, there is something ontologically real called depth. Depth is the measure of the vertical, and our souls are the means of measuring it. Furthermore, this is where God is encountered: in the depth, in the deep within of things. If not there, where? On the surface? No, that is the way of graven images. God is found in the "I" and the "AM," but certainly not understood in a narcissistic sense, as if "I am God." Again, words can be so simple that they can deceive us into thinking we have understood them--and what can be more simple than "I am"? But almost no one understands what this means, and if they understood completely, they would be God, wouldn't they?

"The idea is to live fruitfully in the dialectical space between the conscious and unconscious minds." What did Petey mean by this cryptic statement? Is it just the usual mystagoguery? Or will he get on with it and explain himself? "Is this a conscious state to be lived in the present moment (waking hours), a sort of mindfulness, or is this an actual state, say between waking and sleep which when utilized wisely can actually change the trajectory of ones life?"

First off, no, it is not the latter. It is definitely not a sort of hypnopompic state between waking and sleeping, although that state certainly has much to recommend itself and is worth cultivating, as it is an important piece of prime real estate where the waves of the eternal lap ashore into consciousness.

"Is this a conscious state to be lived in the present moment (waking hours), a sort of mindfulness?" That is more like it, although I wouldn't confuse it with the Buddhist concept of mindfulness, because that is a more detached state, when I am talking about a very engaged and dynamic state of engagement. In fact, it is one of the reasons I rejected Buddhism--perhaps because of my upbringing in the Christian west--because I firmly believe that the world is worthy of our being in it, and that "enlightenment," or whatever you want to call it, must take place in the world, not in some detached nirvanic state of bliss. I like a challenge. (And I'm not saying Buddhism isn't right for others.)

For the record, this is the entire basis of Sri Aurobindo's yoga, and what sets it apart from other forms. In this regard, it is much closer to Judaism and Christianity, which unwaveringly regard the world as real and not an illusory condition from which we are best advised to escape: "The object of our Yoga is self-perfection, not self-annulment. There are two paths, withdrawal from the universe and perfection in the Universe... the first receives us when we lose God in Existence, the second is attained when we fulfill existence in God. Let ours be the path of perfection, not of abandonment; let our aim be victory in battle, not escape from the conflict." In other words, the task is to actually embody the higher, to bring it down into the lower, not to flee from life and thereby lose our sense of the divinity in everyday living.

I am going to continue with this line of thought in tomorrow's post, which I am actually going to complete right now, since I have to leave very early Monday morning and won't have time. Don't worry--unlike my competitors, I'm not trying to go Deepak on you and leave you hanging just when we've gotten to the important part. However, do keep in mind our new blogging covenant--that I am trying to figure this out and learn how to express it as I go along. Sort of a mutual discovery. Or just a wild nous chase. We don't know yet.

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