Zettel

Various bits and pieces

Nontheistic Western philosophy seems to lapse so easily into a strange kind of blankness or absence.  Westerners in particular seem to get a bit fixated on voids or white/clear light, a general featurelessness. But the whole idea of the apophatic approach is to remove obstructions to something, or some process, or whatever, that is not a zero, as ‘zero’ is a localised thing in the mind. The apophatic approach ought to go with a preliminary, primary understanding that we are out of our depth when we use solely our intellect to address ultimate matters. This means humility. This means letting go.

The heart knows – truthfully, deeply – that the idea that (what we call) the physical world is all that exists is false, but the ego is too busy making a noise, shouting, arguing, grabbing the heart’s insights to misuse for its own venal, egotistic ends, faking it for effect, becoming entangled in its own rages, hatreds and bitterness, waging wars left right and centre, simultaneously confidently announcing life is meaningless while nonetheless feeling endlessly compelled to act as if it has not only meaning but that that meaning is inherently competitive, feeling the lonely strain of the obligation to do it all itself, to win against other people, life and the world itself, aggressively arrogant while feeling secretly empty, worthless, insecure and thus defensive, sadly too proud to ever honestly accept that without the grounding, orienting, influence of the heart, it is doomed to forever fail in all the areas where it matters, where the heart is, where the true limitless energy from which we spring resides in eternity. But to turn to the heart is the last thing ego will do, as that would mean the initial (agonising) pain of admitting what it’s been up to, then the ongoing relinquishing of neurotic, aggressive control. It would mean the admission of vulnerability. But maybe the human world at least would be somewhat more homely for humans if we could acknowledge our capacity for love, and gave gentleness its due importance in our worldly schemes of things. Maybe things are so bad with us precisely because we’re not able to admit the primal importance of love. We even sneer at the idea. Maybe we should stop doing so.

That which is True – not mathematically true, but truly true – can only ever show and hope that it is noticed and pondered properly.  Were it to give in to the ego’s demands to explicate and prove, as soon as it started to do so it would start to lose its truthfulness due to the lack inherent in ∑ compared to the completeness of ∫ . 

It has become a thing in certain quarters to say that people worried about inattentivity in the Middle Ages, so therefore we shouldn’t be too worried about it now. The implication seems to be that somehow we managed, and even progressed, then, so why should we worry now? We’ll be fine! But this overlooks our ‘progress’ throughout the ages in waging war, in atomising society, in destroying the Earth on which we depend for our very lives. The truth is that inattentivity was an awful thing in the past just as it is now – it pulls us out of the core of our being. Though these days the mechanisation and weaponisation of inattentivity is orders of magnitude worse than it was hundreds of years ago… and it was probably worse in those days than it was hundreds of years before that… we have been falling and falling through the aeons and pointing out we were falling in ancient times doesn’t mean it’s OK for us to be falling still further even now. Indeed we have now reached the point of mass extinction, even as we continue to argue and fight and form into gangs that hate each other (based on what exactly?), quite apart from the regular appearance of tyrannical warmongers that have to be stopped, thus causing war after war after war… And all of this has its fount of origin in inattentivity, or to be precise the wound in us that leads to inattentivity. Let’s return our gaze to Mind again, and from that perspective consider the Buddhist concept of the ‘near enemy’ (pity instead of compassion for example), whereby we are preyed on by the fake version of spiritual truth, which attacks and undermines us even as it professes to be the genuine answer. Being false, it has to eventually fail, but it will do so much damage along the way, until we realise we haven’t been paying attention. But this constant appearance of the fake version, the skeuomorphic appearance that isn’t at all what it presents on its surface design, keeps trying to attach itself to all our truthful and good aspects. It doesn’t do what it says on the tin – the tin’s empty. Every time we manifest something good in humanity, the fake creepily appears, pretending to be more of the same while being nothing of the sort. By way of analogy, consider how due to undoubtedly impressive advances in medicine, people now live much longer much more often – of course there’s a slight issue with dementia, and the associated crisis with funding care of the elderly, but no doubt science will somehow sort it all out in the end, won’t it? This is where humanity appears to be now – suffering a kind of cognitive decline due to having overused one particular approach to life and now finding itself in ever-deeper waters, ever more lost, ever more confused. The mind is really Mind, and if you step back far enough to get a proper view you will see Mind develop some kind of imbalance far back in prehistory, and that imbalance has gathered into itself and developed its own automatic, machinelike structures, and put on a luciferic beautiful surface hiding its inner truth, and we have become fascinated by that surface, and invested more and more time, money, emotional energy, scientific research, effort of all kinds into that strange, dark, non-human set of structures pretending to be our friend because it helps us with external life in some Faustian way that always comes with a fee, but we seem to think that we can sort out the (ever-growing) payback without any lasting problems and keep feeding that Machine, and it’s now become externalised in the form of AI, and we’re worrying it might start to train us in some way even though it doesn’t actually have a mind of its own. Looking at AI art it is directly obvious that it displays an eerie creepiness that is straight from the night side of the tree of life, where beings reside that can only challenge, never contribute. We are now starting to see a near enemy of humanity itself, and it’s becoming vaguely threatening and we’re worried it’ll develop a pseudo-mind of its own, and by pure coincidence no doubt, the planet is starting to burn and flood and is colossally corrupted with our industrial pollution and industrial pollution of the mind, and our inattentivity is now jet assisted and rocket fuelled, but somehow we’ll sort it out for sure this time, even though we inevitably start arguing with each other over everything and never did manage to get that sorted…

There’s a deep mystery in the way that it’s so much easier for us to be against something than it is to be constructive with solutions.  This is why hanging a worldview on what you’re against will not work in the long run.  Reality has a way of demanding positive answers to problems. To some extent insight into our problems needs to be cultivated and made ever clearer, but there has to be, in principle, a counterbalancing rebuilding aspect to our approach to problems to effect healing, positive change. This principle will be intuitive in its creativity and thus ever-vulnerable to hijack from the precision demanding, aggressive intellect, which through its contempt for and destruction of ambiguity can only make things worse.

Ego is adept at ascribing the most mean-spirited, judgmental reality to other peoples’ inner lives while being wonderfully generous when it comes to its own.  But for true communication and understanding to take place between people, the ego’s double-standards must be reined in.  Precisely because of the ego’s insecurity (found even in the most surface-confident people) this will be hard to do due to the discomfort it (temporarily) causes, but the choice is either do this and reduce anger and objectification of the Other, or continue as before.  That’s it.  That’s the choice.  This one actually is either/or.  The process of ego-taming isn’t either/or, of course – it requires a lot of practice over long periods of time.   But growth is only possible by engaging with resistance through time.

Music is a sixth sense.  It is in the world yet not of the world. 

We are all separate from each other, but contained within each other. Intersubjectivity is our true connection. It feels good, deep down inside, because it is. This is why the profoundly good stuff is found in those imponderables such as friendship, relationship, giving and receiving. Stuff where we automatically know it’s good, innately feeling its good nature, yet which somehow is never properly pin-downable by mere intellect.

The central mystery is that reality is continuous, yet we still perceive starts and finishes, and boundaries.  So a boundary is where a 0 becomes 1, yet there are no boundaries.  Where and why do we sense boundaries then?  This way in which 0 becomes 1 draws us to analyse ever more intensely precisely because it offers the prospect of being able to pin things down properly, finally, once and for all – but this is a chimera, always on the horizon, and now we’ve pushed things to a kind of ultimate with the science of physics, and things have gone strange as the unitary aspect of reality reimposes itself with a kind of fullness that leaves the isolated intellect bemused, casting about in thin air to something to hold on to.  This is surely a sign that our approach is imbalanced in some way.  Analysis is certainly valid, but it reaches an ultimate limit, and the rebound is a forceful reminder that it is only analysis, i.e. it is contained within something larger.  But the only way ‘larger’ can mean anything from within the analytical mindset is through being non-analysis i.e. something inherently undivided and undivisible.  There are emotional implications – to the extent that the individual identifies with their analytical mindset, the inherently non-analysable will ultimately tend to appear as a threat precisely because of its resistance to analysis.  But if you don’t find it a threat, you will likely find the mysterious realm of the intuitive inviting. Note the interaction between the psychological and the supposedly ‘objective’ ‘scientific worldview’ – a worldview which surreptitiously hides away the fact that it inherently depends on the intuitive to make any deeper progress.  Note also how so often the scientific report of supposed ‘objective’ reality is then weaponised to push negative myths to do with our meaninglessness, our smallness, our destructive nature.  Why is that exactly? Quite how we’re then supposed to just ‘get on with it’ and sort out the proliferating problems caused by this approach without making things even worse is anybody’s guess… 

AI is ersatz, skilfully and mindlessly creating ‘art’ with no heart.  But there is an eerie parallel with religion.  We also have religion that’s all façade.  Whited sepulchres – the most telling analogy for hypocritical humans ever devised. And a concept that applies to AI…

Arguing against self-styled ‘sceptics’ (in fact some of the most gullible people around) can be compared to the situation regarding aphantasia.  If it wasn’t for the fact that most people can see things in their mind, sceptics would never accept that this was possible because of its supposed outlandishness and it wouldn’t be provable either.  To the sceptic, just because the majority of people consistently report somehow being able to see things in their mind, that doesn’t actually prove it’s real – it’s an outlandish idea so therefore requires a particularly high standard of proof.  The fact that many people report being able to do this could actually be that delusion is widespread – something sceptics like to claim after all. Maybe a lot of people just think they can see things.  Whatever that might mean.  Of course we have brain scans that show the relevant neural correlates of imagery-based thought.  But if scepticism about aphantasia was the norm, then we would somehow ‘know’ that all those weird reports of being able to see something in the mind were likely to be delusion, and we wouldn’t need to even look for proof that they were real. In any event brain scans solely show different kinds of activity in the brain, not what is being reported.  Worse still, brain activity has been shown to decrease during psilocybin trips, yet psychedelic tripping is notorious for its intensity.  If you try clinging to the whole mind=brain concept by saying that it’s still possible for dec(r)eased activity to go with intense experience, this then takes away the whole foundation of brain=mind, because the whole idea of brain=mind is that there’s some kind of 1 to 1 correspondence between subjective experience and brain activity.  But if reducing brain activity can lead to either a descent into unconsciousness (which is what you’d expect in a brain=mind schema), or a spectacularly full-on subjective experience (which entirely violates that schema), what are the criteria for making the necessary allowances for this?  Once you start saying that brain=mind explains all mind, but also that somehow reduced brain activity can in that schema also produce the sheer intensity of a trip, brain=mind is now being made to work beyond its own identity. And how do we decide to choose the criteria for ‘less activity=more experience’ in the first place? Can there even be criteria in such an anything-goes schema? If reduction in brain activity can produce ultra-intense experience, then that implies that as the activity reaches zero, experience reaches a kind of limitlessness…

So ‘sceptics’ ask for proof that there is a God, which confuses everything as the proof they require is somehow ‘out there’, outside the mind, of something physical which of course then can never be proved as God is beyond the physical and is not an object anyway.  A famous definition of God is ‘love’ – which at least points to the way in which we are limited, subjective beings finding ourselves living amidst eternity, unable to use pure rationality to tell ourselves anything of deep importance about our situation despite our endless attempts to make it do so, yet seemingly unable to put that rationality in its proper place, always trying to use it to raid reality for Ultimate Answers, never satisfied, rarely noticing that this is what we’re so caught up in doing…

Again and again, our science is now coming up against boundaries. One is the boundary of extreme complexity of biological life. One example amongst many can be found in Michael Pollan’s simultaneously witty and faintly horrified book In Defence of Food, where he delineates scientists’ gradual discovery that the effects of what we eat are so vastly multifarious that it is effectively impossible to keep track of them all. And he points out that we have now lost our innate knowledge of how to eat. Imagine that – we’ve put men on the moon but need constant guidance, guidance that often drastically changes over time as further discoveries come to light, about how we ought to feed ourselves. What happened?! And the latest developments are indicating that ultra-processed food – about which Pollan was sounding the alarm in the mid to late 00s – is poisonous, and heavily implicated in the obesity crisis. But it’s not just over food – boundaries due to extreme complexity are appearing everywhere, and this ought to give us pause and consider that perhaps our approach needs adjusting. In particular we are now encountering a rock-solid boundary in all matters of scientific research in respect of the mind.  Neuroscience is hitting brick walls precisely due to its success at analysing the brain and central nervous system – but it’s become ever-clearer that we are now discovering seemingly unending extreme complexity without any unifying theories or ideas to keep them in context and enable further discovery. The most telling example at the moment is AI.  We throw ever-greater computational power, and ever-greater data, at a model of AI that cannot in principle include common sense, or abductive inference to give it a more formal name.  There is no theory of abductive inference, but without that theory there will be no further progress in respect of this absolutely basic aspect of intelligence. And no matter how much progress is made with AI, that annoying thing about ethics refuses to go away. The data torrents get ever more intense, yet never breach the wall… 

The boundaries within greater consciousness are boundaries but are also not boundaries, and one way of conceptualising this is to consider them as porous.  The boundaries in many cases become biological beings, and the beings have a localised eternal aspect we can term soul.  The ideas that matter are always of the same nature as us – they are the gist, the vibe, the spirit, the you-know-what-it-is-without-needing-or-being-able-to-provide-clear-definition-ness that is primary and which can include precision but can never be captured in its net, much like the boundaries between us and everything/body else. 

The eternal from our timebound point of view seems to come from somewhere lost in the past and head towards an invisible future.  We are angled towards it somehow.  We are ∑ in our minds but ∫ at heart.  Consciousness is non-finite, immeasurable.  The very way we can sense this is via sensing the limited.  Boundaries cast shadows, but where is the light coming from? 

An obstruction to the light can cast a long or a short shadow depending on how much it juts out and the angle at which the light hits it.

Two sets of waves without beginning or end intersect at their one and only nexus, creating a finite interplay amidst infinity. A model for infinite/finite interplay?

Think of rainbows and water refracting at 42° when the sun’s light passes through them – the spectrum thus created is in the form of a circle despite the essentially random movement and number of raindrops.  In this analogy think of people, or individual minds, as the raindrops.  Also note that raindrops are bounded, but not rigidly so.  And each drop is unique yet also part of the raindrop family – all the same yet different. This shows again the idea of unity, of the fecund void, the rainbow circle in the sky of Mind that appears when we stand back and see the interplay of same/different as a whole. But when the self-identified ‘rational’ ego tries to pin down elusive ultimates such as consciousness it sets out to describe its own circle, and it creates not the beautiful arc of the rainbow but instead a kind of agonised constrictive snare.  It seeks non-porous boundaries, unambiguous definitions, atomisation.  None of these things are possible, in the same way that a square circle is in principle impossible. A great booming fearful noise appears in the universe of Mind as the ego grinds against ultimate reality.

Tikkun as waking up – in the same way that dreams relate to everyday waking life, so is restoration to this world. 

Enhanced Existential – enhanced by taking the here and now truthfully, which leads to transcendence grounded in the here and now.  A-atheism.  (Or Anatheism?)  (A vaguely-remembered sleeve note on an Einsturzende Neubaten LP back in the 80s – ‘The double negative is more powerful than the positive’). Standard existentialism presumes certain aspects of reality, in particular naive realism (the idea that this world is the only world), which are untrue. At a foundational level its concept of consciousness is false – and that concept being (falsely) intuitive it then radiates throughout the rest of the philosophy, spoiling it throughout. The only way to be truly existential is to drop these unfounded claims and to gain more understanding of the true nature of mind. This is always what the sacred has been, ever since there have been humans. Not existential engagement with the idea of transcendence is valid, precisely because of its inherently false worldview. We find ourselves in a pretty dark world, but to find our way out it is necessary to first drop wrong assumptions about consciousness, about the mind, which will require periods of stillness, of intuitive understanding/appreciation of the way that all concepts are inherently limited.

A proper understanding of science should form part of, even arise from, the properly spiritual mindset.  There should be no indulging in pseudoscience, conspiracy guff, mis- and disinformation, dodgy Youtube videos, wishful thinking.  It’s like Gurdjieff’s concept of the ‘obyvatel’, the householder, but with regard to the mind in general.  As the practicalities of a typical adult life lead to a certain type of grounding that permits a balanced broadening and deepening, so a kind of practicality of the life of the spirit keeps it heading in the right direction, even in deep waters.  We’re in quite a difficult situation here on Earth and practicalities should always be attended to – including such grounded activities as helping others.  Science in the service of scientism is a dangerous, dreadful thing, but science working as it often/usually does is capable of bringing great good into the world.  Although some (or many) of its proponents have a bad habit of making unfounded metaphysical assumptions, that’s not a reason to drop science, or to choose to follow its dodgier pseudo-manifestations instead. True intuitive deep understanding can easily include science within its vastness.

The similarities between the structures of the universe and those of the brain are uncanny.  (See Vazza and Feletti). But once again we have here a numinous cosmic pondering that ignores the harsh realities of human life. So to bring things ‘back to Earth’ as it were, consider that perhaps in this universe=brain schema the Earth represents the Universe’s ego – relatively small in the great scheme of things, yet the scene of such drama and suffering… 

What kind of numpty puts a collection of random snippets on their blog and gives it the same name as that given to a collection by one of the all-time philosophical titans?  But philosophy is not disembodied and context is all (not in a postmodern way, but still…).  This is why atonal classical music is not part of the musical canon in the same way all other classical music is.  It doesn’t speak to most people.  Our lives are different now, and we need different sorts of music.  In particular as a response to the unusual stresses of modern life, we need music that will speak to the pain(s) it causes, which is something classical music may well be able to do but by no means always.  This is where the compressed information metaphor comes in.  To resonate with us properly, a certain level of intensity, of mood, of sonics, is needed but so is a certain amount of musicality, of musical ‘information’ if that isn’t too misleading and/or bland a word.  And thus it is with philosophy.  So perhaps these Zettel are 7” singles of thought, each with an idea that hopefully will catch in the mind of the reader to some extent…