Sacred Geometry: The Flower of Life

The Flower of Life is a geometrical figure often referred to as an example of Sacred Geometry. What is called “Sacred Geometry” as we tend to encounter it is traced back to the ancient Greeks, in particular Pythagoras who asserted that the whole Universe was based on number. The idea was inspired by observations of the heavens as well as observations about harmonics in musical instruments. Plato carried these ideas forward, and it seems that the influence of Pythagoreanism is the primary difference between his ideas and those of his teacher Socrates. 

What we call the Platonic Solids are five three-dimensional geometrical figures in which every side and angle have the same value.

No other figure can be constructed in this way. We have here the tetrahedron, the hexahedron, the octahedron, the dodecahedron, and the icosahedron. Often included in considerations of the Platonic solids is the sphere, though it isn’t a Platonic solid itself. The significance of these six figures is the nod to some sort of perfection inherent within them. They seem to be excellent examples of Plato’s notions of the forms and world of ideas from which all things arise.

This is the Seed of Life from which the Flower of Life arises. It is often said to be symbolic of the act of Creation and the Christian story of Creation in the Book of Genesis is used to explain it. In the beginning was only God. We’ll say Spirit. Spirit is conceived of as a point, as a point has no dimension and so if there is nothing but the point it is at once everything and nothing and in a way wholly pure in its perfection. The point then expands in all directions equally. Exactly how far is a meaningless question. The result is a circle, hence the first day, and also the beginning separation necessary for anything to exist — there is now an inside and an outside, a thing of which there is something that isn’t that thing. This concept is well expressed in Taoism. The Yin must exist in order for there to be Yang — and vice versa. Also, not only is there an inside and an outside, there are only two “places” – the center point, and the circle about it, which can be regarded as an infinity of identical points. Hence, if anything is to happen, it will happen by way of the new infinity of points, the circle, and the most natural thing to do then is to expand just as far as before, to create another circle exactly like the first – the Vesica Piscis, the Second Day.

Notice the continuation of “perfection” here. Notice also the emergence of something new: the shape within the overlapping circles, which is itself not a circle. There are many special properties of this shape and much is to be said of it, but we’ll move on.

We move on to a third circle, on to the number three, and again new shapes emerge. Much more can be said of this, and the significance of the number three is nearly impossible to ignore.

And so on, the same thing occurs until we find ourselves with seven circles – six encircling the seventh or, rather, the first. Totally naturally, this figure emerges from nothing by processes maintaining the purity of perfection – the perfection of the circle.

Contemplating this, we are left with profound mystery. We are confronted with the brute facts of existence. That this process yields a figure so whole, that the last circle constructed in this process so completely syncs up with the rest of it, and that we are left with a hexagonal figure formed only of circles. Adding a circle to each intersection, such that we find ourselves with nineteen circles — that’s three sixes plus one — yields the Flower of Life, which gives us yet more figures. 

Something new always arises. If we continue, we can find within the expanded figure what is called the Fruit of Life.

And further, upon analysis:

A figure known as “Metatron’s cube.” Upon examination we can find the projection of the Platonic solids and other interesting properties.

Symmetry. Shape. Perfection.

Yet more, we form a fractal and we form a shape whose parts are so deeply interconnected they can hardly be seen separately. What we have here is a visually poetic expression of the principle of Unity, as well as a nod to the Hermetic principle, “As above, so below.”

The Flower of Life as a symbol is a statement that we are connected, that we are all one, and underlying reality, by its very nature, by the nature of the fundamentals of Creation, is deep order.

While the Flower of Life can be found in many of the world’s ancient traditions, it has primarily been taken up by what have been branded as “New Age” ideas, to include many modern paganisms. A certain Drunvalo Melchizedek is largely responsible for its popularization, and more recently by the youtube video series by Jordan Duchnycz called “Spirit Science.” By no means are they the source of sacred geometry, nor do I expect that either of them has as profound an understanding of it as they would like you to believe.

Unity. Perfection. “As above so below.”

Contained in this is the seed of astrology, when we apply it to real-world motions of the wandering stars — the planets. And a part of this suggests the notion that number is not just for counting but contains a subjective, affective component as well, that twoness isn’t merely 1+1, but something inexplicable and deeper than mere arithmetic. We have here the union of the subjective account of the world with the objective account.

By wearing my Flower of Life pendant, I am visually announcing a piece of my identity, a part of my belief system in much the same way a Christian would wear a cross. I am announcing my belief that All is One, that we are all connected, that there is a fractal order built in to the very nature of Reality. 

I am also suggesting, though not explicitly, a belief in astrology, crystals, chakras, subtle energies, psychic phenomena, magic, the power of meditation, the law of attraction, channeling, ufo’s, numerology, religious eclecticism, divination, the powers of intuition, shamanism, neo-paganism, pantheism, autotheism, the use of psychedelics…

The list continues. It marks me as “New Age,” though any educated person knows how diverse the New Age “movement” is and that I may not hold any given belief another “New Ager” might. The Flower of Life simultaneously identifies me with the wildly irrational varities, such as those that follow Drunvalo Melchizedek, and the über-rational varieties of Eisenstein, Kastrup, and Tarnas — and Sheldrake and Radin and so on and so forth. I embrace them both in wholly different ways.

Since people have recognized this symbol and asked me more frequently about my pendant, I’ve found a quick explanation: “This shows that all separation is illusion.” I quite like this answer.

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Why So Many Smart People Are Such Idiots About Philosophy

I was reminded this afternoon of an article I’d read a year ago titled “Why are so many smart people such idiots about philosophy?” By “smart people” they meant Bill Nye, but not only. The article covers Nye’s absurd, incoherent, idiotic response to a question posed by a philosophy student.
So the question. Why is Bill Nye such an idiot?

The answer is very simple. Philosophy demands that you question your own thinking and challenge your own assumptions. Philosophy takes for granted that you might be wrong about literally anything and everything. When your job is to be right all the time, as is the case with characters — “popularizers of science”– such as Nye and Tyson and Dawkins, philosophy is uncomfortable and feels useless — because you can’t be right all the time if you’re sometimes wrong, even if you only just might be wrong.

More generally, though, scientists use a set of assumptions, a philosophical system, that is already established. Their job isn’t to challenge it but to apply those assumptions, to run the sacred program of the Scientific Method, to play the Science game.

If your job is to assert the correctness of a particular worldview, if it involves assuming the correctness of that worldview, then the tools for questioning worldviews are hostile towards you. They are necessarily wielded against you.

Here’s a quote from Bernardo Kastrup that considers this problem from a slightly different angle.

Because our culture mistakenly takes technological success for evidence of a deep understanding of reality, we are all guilty, at least by omission, of allowing the neo-priesthood of science to appoint themselves arbiters of truth. This is as insane as appointing a five-year-old kid, who happens to break records playing computer games, chief architect at a major computer company. Does the kid’s game-playing prowess necessarily imply deep understanding of the underlying computer engineering? The fact that one has figured out, through expensive trial and error, how to play the game of technology does not imply any deep understanding of what’s actually going on. Our failure as a culture to truly grasp this has allowed the appointment of five-year-olds to the role of civilization’s guides.

This is how such smart people can be such idiots.

On Inspiration Porn

​I just came across this video.

This is what they call “inspiration porn.” In the video a guy apparently named Johal leaves a backpack containing a bunch of cash next to a sleeping man presumed to be homeless. The man, excited by the discovery, makes immediate use of his good fortune with a trip to Target for blankets, a pillow, a sleeping bag, and the like. Then Johal comes by pretending (poorly) to be on the phone, complaining about being broke while he needs medicine for his sick daughter. The homeless guy then returns everything to Target and brings the cash back to Johal claiming that Johal seemed to have greater need of it, demonstrating his “humanity”, an essential goodness involving a healthy set of priorities, generosity, and integrity. Johal then exposes his lie, gives the money back to the man, with an extra $500… apparently as a reward for good behavior. 

This is what they call “inspiration porn.” Yeah, it’s nice, but notice that it’s using a homeless guy for entertainment purposes. This requires viewing the man from a place of separation, thus this inspirational piece is only meaningful because kindness came from an “underpriveleged” person – in a social experiment (which is probably fake anyway) that essentially objectifies the “underpriveleged” man as merely that label: “undeprivileged,” or perhaps “unfortunate,” or maybe simply “homeless.” That this experiment, this video, was set up to test this man’s integrity is actually demeaning and disrespects that integrity, especially using it as it does for entertainment purposes, so that we “privileged” people can feel all warm and fuzzy about the inherent goodness of humanity while these people still die every day, cold and hungry on the streets, totally rejected by society except for the few minutes that someone with a camera and a wad of cash wants to make a viral video for a little hit of inspiration. Inspiration porn. Like an addiction, used to cover up feelings we don’t want to feel, just like an alcoholic.

We got our warm fuzzies, yes, but at the expense of regarding a decent man as “other”, as lesser. It requires us to be impressed by integrity, generosity, goodness, as though the opposite were the default assumption; we must assume things about human nature, and therefore ourselves, that are unflattering, negative, cynical… so that we can then counter the pain of those assumptions with a bit of evidence that the opposite is true, that people are essentially good. This is like the pain of constant withdrawal the cigarette smoker tries to smoke away. This is like the sexual frustration created by porn that the porn addict searches the internet to solve.

Inspiration porn. An apt description.

If we truly believe the homeless man is our equal and that people are inherently good by nature, would we experience the shock that we call “inspiration” upon watching these videos? 

And how much worse that we probably figure the entire scene is set up as fake! This reinforces our subconscious assumptions even as we assert the opposite.

Why do we have homeless people in the first place? Before we get our hit of the fuzzies, can we ponder on this question first?

Winning a Visit With the Sisters

This past Monday, while I was in the final stages of preparing dinner, the Mormon sister missionaries knocked on my door. I imagine that garlic and oregano somehow played a prominent role in setting the mood for the exchange.

“Hi, how are you doing this evening?” one of them asked. Or something very similar.

This was a moment I was well prepared for. I knew it could go in any of many different directions. I also knew well enough just to go with the flow. The situation was in essence a challenge.”Doing alright. You?”

“Just fine, thank you,” she said (or something like that). “We were wondering if you knew anything about our church.” She said it so awkwardly. It seemed like such a struggle for her. I wondered if she was new, though I knew that, in theory, neither of the two should ever be very new. They would send three missionaries out before they sent out two greenies.

So many things I could say here. Do I pretend I don’t know anything about the church to see what they say, just to toy with them, and admit to my lie later just to be a pain? No. The situation called for sincerity. “Yes, I do.”

“Oh, good!” Her eyes brightened. This much progress seemed to be rare for them. “Could you tell us how…?” And still she struggled to speak.

“I was raised in the church, actually,” I said, knowing very well what would happen.

“Oh!” This was good news, indeed, to her ears. Progress indeed. An inactive member! “Are you… still active?”

I wanted to laugh. I wanted to lash out. I felt nearly insulted that anyone would suggest I might be an active member of the Church. “No. Your church has made it clear that you don’t like my kind.” I suppose maybe I did lash out a little bit, yet still in perfect sincerity.

They were clearly a little thrown off. “And what is that?”

“Homosexual,” I answered simply.

Now they were much more thrown off. It’s still astonishing that this wasn’t obvious to them right away, not because of my gentle voice but because we are the people their church very actively, very vocally dislikes. “I’m sorry you feel that way.” She said. “But I just want you to know that we still feel love for you.”

Very slowly now, very calmly, pronouncing each word carefully and clearly, I responded. “I don’t believe that. You’ve made it very clear that you don’t. Very clear.” I did recognize that I was using the word ‘you’ in two different ways at once, but correcting the equivocation would only have added more words without changing the meaning.

Now they had no idea how to respond. Again, one of them said, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” Then she asked, oddly, “Is there anything we can do?”

Still the epitome of calmness and clarity, I answered, “Educate yourselves.” Pause. “I know that you have been told your entire lives that there are some things you aren’t allowed to listen to, some things you aren’t allowed to read, some questions you aren’t allowed to ask. There are things about your church’s history you aren’t supposed to know.”

BAM! It was like I’d hit each of them with a sledgehammer.

I continued, “How can you trust that?”

Quickly recovering, admirably, she responded, “I will say that I trust certain experiences I’ve had, certain things that my Heavenly Father has shown me.”

Right. She expected that to be her trump card. This is their most powerful weapon, the direct felt experience of the love of their Father in Heaven. The two options for me now, as they probably saw it, would be either to accept such experiences as confirmation of the truth of the Church, or deny them. I guess I found a third option. “There are many beings who are greater than us and your god might be one of them. I trust that you have had the experiences you say you have had. But that’s not the whole story. There’s more going on.”

They seemed a little frightened at this point. I had hit them hard. My words meant something to them. In rapid succession, in three different ways, I had thrown them both off balance. They appeared ready to fall over.

The sisters nodded acknowledgement that I’d spoken, then said goodbye.

“I wish the best for both of you,” I said. All sincerity.

“Thank you.” And then they left and I returned to my pasta sauce.

Rarely can you say you’ve won an encounter like this, but I very clearly did. I made them think, and I did so without giving them anything to frame as my being a bad guy. They had no response for anything. It was like the moment I’d been preparing for all my life. It tipped the balance just enough that I feel I might finally have a winning record in the battle against the demon who has that church enslaved.

I had meant what I’d said. I do believe that their god is real. I’ve been there. They do engage with something that isn’t easily found or recreated outside of the Church. I do not believe their god is what they say he is. I do not believe they know what they’re dealing with, and I believe that makes them more easily manipulated by this force that literally seeks global domination of every human heart and mind through the efforts of missionary work, with the eventual intent to destroy the world in Armageddon, in accordance with their overarching myth. They are “latter-day saints,” after all.

Minds are more easily manipulated if you create a gap in understanding that must be crossed with a leap of faith. By this I am referring to their believing patently false things as historical fact, such as that the Native Americans are the descendants of the “Lamanites” who sailed in a ship to the Americas sometime around 600 BC, despite literally all evidence to the contrary. The list, of course, goes on and on. Plenty of other websites, including their own, if  you look, are devoted to dismantling the stories they tell their members. That they expose themselves, very plainly, as fraudulent and retain the wholehearted support of their members is exactly what I’m talking about. This kind of inverted zen koan is powerful.

I do feel sorry for the sister missionaries. I do wish them the best. I hope they can somehow cross that gap in their psyches and from there apply their faith more naturally. Faith is not meant to force belief in the presence of conflicting evidence. Faith is, rather, the very core of every behavior, that which allows us to act in the absence of certainty.

You Have a Choice

You have a choice.

You can be shot.

You can be drowned.

You can be burned alive.

Or you can walk away safely.

Hmm… how do we decide?

On the news, we hear all about the choice to be drowned or burned alive. It really, really seems like being burned alive would be a much worse death than being drowned. It’s not much of a contest between the two, really.

All over the internet, too. In the news. Everywhere. We see quite a lot of evidence that death by being burned alive would be much worse than death by drowning. Really, no contest.

Being drowned versus being burned alive. Repeatedly, we’re told these are our only two options, and we somehow seem to believe it.

But it’s not true. We could choose the widely ignored option, the one no one wants to tell you about. We could choose to walk away safely.

“But!” so many people scream, “A vote to walk away safely is a vote to be burned alive!

Oh. It is, is it?

“Being burned alive would be the worst! You have to vote for drowning!”

Do I? Do I really? How is that a win? Could anyone explain that to me?

“It’s the lesser of two evils. You have to vote for the second worst evil, always.

I can’t, uh… vote for the third or fourth worst evil? How about the least evil? I can’t do that? I’m not allowed? I don’t have permission to vote for anything but the second-worst evil?

Nope. Guess not. Satan’s left-hand man or nothing, I guess.

Is it not obvious that the two-party system is designed like a pair of sheepdogs forcing us in exactly the direction they want us to go? The presidential candidate was hand-selected for us. The vote is effectively just a minor formality so far as the two-party system is concerned.

Having two options is the closest thing to having none. And if those options are carefully selected, if one is obviously much better than the other, or simply appears so, then we do effectively have no choice.

But we don’t have only two options. We have more than two, in fact. We have, in fact, thirty different candidates running for president. Thirty!

Thirty. And you’re ignoring the existence of twenty-eight of them in order to vote for the second worst of them all. Why? How does this help you in any way?

Yes, being burned alive would be much worse than being drowned, but neither option is a win for you.

Turning and running; walking away slowly; saying, “Please don’t kill me,”; curling up in a ball and crying; turning around and skipping gleefully; punching the person who presents these options to you in the face… these are all ignored in favor of drowning. I don’t think that’s very bright.

I’m going to take this from another angle now.

We often hear it said that a vote for the Green Party candidate is a vote for the Republican candidate. We also hear that a vote for the Libertarian candidate is a vote for the Democrat. My brother is voting for Chris Keniston. So here’s my question: Who is he voting for?

Think about this. My brother is voting for Chris Keniston. Who is he voting for?

The answer is obvious. He is voting for Chris Keniston. I just told you that. It was given. It is not true that he will vote for the Republican candidate, or the Democratic candidate. It’s also not true that he will vote for the Green Party candidate or the Libertarian Party candidate. He is, in fact, voting for Chris Keniston.

But how? How is this possible? I can hear your confusion. This runs completely contrary to everything you’ve been told all of your life. You have been told, “You may vote for A or B and only A or B. If you cast a vote for C or D or E, F, G, H, I, J, or K, your vote will be changed over into a vote for either A or B, arbitrarily.”

Okay, sounds good, right? I mean, you haven’t bothered to question this. You haven’t bothered to ask yourself whether this makes sense, whether it’s even true, or whether you should just go along with it as though it’s a good way to for this whole mess to operate.

I’m voting for Jill Stein. I’m very sure of this.

Am I voting for Donald Trump? No.

Am I voting for Hillary Clinton?

No.

Am I voting for Chris Keniston?

No. No, I am not voting for Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Gary Johnson, or Chris Kensiton. I am also not voting for Darrell Castle or Zoltan Istvan or any of the others.

I am voting for Jill Stein.

Why am I not actually voting for Donald Trump?

The simple answer: I am voting for Jill Stein.

Why do people say that a vote for Stein is a vote for Trump? This is the real question. They say this because they mistakenly believe they have only two options. They mistakenly believe that there are only two candidates running for president. They mistakenly believe that I believe that there are only two candidates running for president.

This is their reasoning: Imagine that everyone votes only for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, like good little boys and girls, and Hillary, for example, receives 54% of the vote. Donald Trump, then, receives 46% of the vote, right? Right?

Yes. That’s right.

Now, the same scenario, but with a third party added. The third party receives 10% of the vote. A third party vote is a vote for Trump, right? Or is a third party vote a vote for Clinton? I hear it both ways, and consistently so. But I get it. It’s assumed that the Green Party steals votes exclusively from the Democrats and the Libertarian Party steals votes exclusively from the Republicans. This isn’t true, but let’s go with it anyway. Let’s say the third party is the Green Party. Hillary then receives 44% of the vote, Trump receives 46% of the vote and, of course, Stein gets her 10%.

This is the fear. I get it. I get it, I really do. I see this scenario playing out in your heads. I hear you talking about it. I understand. But your fears are not grounded in reason.

Why?

First, let’s go back to the game of numbers before we get to the heart of the matter. In this nightmare scenario we still include only three candidates. But this isn’t representative of reality at all because Gary Johnson is also a candidate. And we have no idea whether someone else like Keniston will surprise us – that’s the very nature of being surprised, right? Further, Gary Johnson consistently polls higher than Stein. She can’t be a spoiler for Hillary, even granting the mistaken assumption that she can only steal from Hillary, if Johnson is an even greater spoiler for Trump, as the polls — which I expect are totally wrong — do happen to show.

Now, consider: before this election really got rolling, I was planning to vote for Jill Stein, assuming she ran again, or the Green Party candidate, whoever it was. Jill Stein had my vote before I knew she was even running again.

Then Bernie came along.

And threatened to steal my vote away from the Green Party.

Do you see that? Do you see what happened?

If Bernie had won the Democratic primary election he would have stolen a vote away from a Green Party candidate in the general election.

But he’s gone so I’m back to Plan A. My vote remains securely with Jill Stein.

Judging by my vote alone, in what sense is Stein a spoiler for Hillary?

Think about that.

My vote belonged to Stein. Hillary failed to steal it away.

Hillary failed to be a “spoiler” for Stein, as Bernie Sanders would have been. So, would Jill Stein be a spoiler for Hillary in this instance? No. She would not.

Why?

Because Hillary, under no circumstances, ever owned my vote.

Hillary Rodham Clinton never owned my vote!

I don’t belong to her. My vote doesn’t belong to her. She isn’t entitled to it. If it weren’t for Stein I might not be voting at all. Or maybe I’d be following my brother just for kicks and vote Keniston. Or maybe I’d vote for Clifton Roberts, assuming I could in my state. If I voted at all, lacking both Sanders and Stein, I would vote third party. Something remarkable would have to happen for the Democrats to steal my vote away.

Voting for Clinton is probably a bigger mistake than voting for Trump.

If you disagree with this, you are shortsighted. Try, please, to think more than a year or two into the future. Try to think about this entire process, the entire system, into the future.

Things suck. And they’re getting worse. We are speeding toward oblivion as it is. Trump would be a heavier foot on the accelerator. Hillary would simply stay the course. The difference between these two scenarios is a change in speed, and the change would be the alarm. If Trump is elected, there will more likely be retaliation, and a call to arms against our charge into oblivion. If Hillary is elected, especially given the victory over Trump, there will instead be a false sense of security. We would avoid the disaster that is Trump. We can relax. Relief.

Wrong.

Staying the course is dangerous. Staying the course is not an option. We are still headed toward certain destruction and as we all know the powers that are plowing forward toward this end have Hillary in her pocket. This is widely known. We all know that politicians are bought out. But since we see this as normal, we don’t seem to care.

We must break free of this trap. We must break free of the two party system, which is used to shepherd us into complacency as the whole planet swirls down the drain. Whether they do it intentionally or not, the two parties act as a single entity. Try not to see them as acting against each other, but as acting together as two oars on a canoe. They push and pull against each other and hold an unsteady equilibrium at worst. This is possible with three parties, but isn’t as easy. The difference between three and two is enormous.

Think about the game rock, paper, scissors. Rock is good against scissors, scissors is good against paper, paper is good against rock. Try to imagine a game like this in which there are only two options. Imagine if it were a game called rock and paper, in which rock is good against paper and paper is good against rock.

Do you see?

But we don’t even need to go this far.

I assert that every vote for Clinton is a vote stolen from Stein. I can just as well assert that every vote for Trump or Johnson is also a vote stolen from Stein.

I can pretend, as so many do, that this is a two-candidate race, and say that a vote for any candidate but Jill Stein is a vote for Trump.

This is the simple fact of the whole voting process: If enough people vote for Jill Stein, she will win, not someone else. Candidates win because we vote for them, not the other way around.

We’re going to lose.

We are going to lose either in the short term if Trump is elected or the long term if Clinton is elected.

The longer this goes on, the harder it becomes to change. We are catalyzed now to change. Now is the time. Now is our greatest opportunity.

More of the same – complacency – is the most dangerous option available to us.

There is nothing rational about giving up.

Whether your candidate can win or not is not the question. You have no control over anyone’s behavior but your own. The only question worth anything is, “Did you vote for the right candidate yourself?”

Is Hillary the correct candidate?

Is she going to create a Green New Deal? I remember when Obama promised something of the sort. I believe he actually likened his plan to an Apollo program for saving the environment. For saving the planet.

But that didn’t happen.

Is Hillary going to be the one to do what is absolutely necessary to create radical change as quickly and effectively as possible?

No. She is a fan of small incremental change. That’s like her thing. And small incremental change is like code for no change whatsoever, which means going down the drain.

The planet is going down the drain. I know old people often don’t really care. They’ll be dead by the time it happens, they mostly incorrectly imagine, and their grandchildren are apparently too distant to trigger maternal instincts anymore. But I have a niece who in two days will be five years old. I know that the world she inherits will not be as nice as the one I inherited from my parents, which was more messed up, probably, than I have even discovered yet. The planet is going down the drain and we simply do not have the option of waiting for this mythical small incremental change to occur.

Does Hillary even have the freedom to do what is necessary, safely tucked away as she is in the pockets of those who purchased her?

No. If Hillary wins, we will have elected a puppet who has been bought and paid for. As we are accustomed.

This decision is exactly like any other decision, like every other behavior in your life.

In my personal view, what defines a decision is not what it creates, as we do not have control over consequences. What we do have control over, so far as we have control over anything, is the act of decision itself, and thus what defines a choice is the spirit by which it is made, the impulse that created it, the fuel that drives it.

A choice made by habit is lazy.

A choice made from fear is cowardly.

A choice made without considering the options is ignorant.

If we have any power in this election, it is largely through our vote. We must cast our vote for the best candidate according our personal understanding and judgement or else forfeit what little power we have altogether.

The biggest way people give up power is by not knowing we have it to start with.

— Alice Walker

I am telling you now: You do have power.

Maybe it’s small,  but the power you have is greater than zero.

And the difference between something and nothing is infinite.

In Mind

My world burned December 21, 2012, and from the ashes a new one emerged.

I won’t describe the burning, but the seed of transformation appeared immediately after when I stumbled across this blog.

More specifically, I encountered this simple, absolutely brilliant argument:

Materialism requires the following four statements about reality to be true:

  1. Your conscious perceptions exist;
  2. The conscious perceptions of other living entities, different from your own, also exist;
  3. There are things that exist independently of, and outside, conscious perception;
  4. Things that exist independently of, and outside, conscious perception generate conscious perception.

The first statement is very similar to the famous cogito ergo sum. If there is anything you can be absolutely certain of, it is that your perceptions exist; in order to refer to anything else, you would have to refer to your perceptions first.

The second statement involves a small leap of faith. It supposes another instance of the one thing known for sure to exist. It proposes that your perceptions are not the only perceptions.

Statement three requires a huge leap of faith. It postulates not another instance of a known thing, but whole new ontological category. It postulates that there exist not only your perceptions but things outside of those perceptions, which you can not know even in principle, because to know them would be to have them within your conscious perception.

The fourth statement is a far greater leap of faith, as it supposes not only that there exist things outside of consciousness but that they generate consciousness. As Bernardo says, “This is quite an extraordinary statement in that it completely inverts the natural order of inference: normally, one infers the unknown from the known, not the known from the unknown.”

The fourth point — essentially, the assertion that mind is generated from matter — is the most problematic and its greatest problem is well known to the field of study called philosophy of mind as the Hard Problem of Consciousness. The whole Universe can be described by physics by the usual means and nowhere within the resulting calculations would we ever find consciousness. We would never, in any possible mathematical formula, find experience. There is nothing red or blue about a wavelength of light, for example, and nothing red or blue about the firing of neurons in the back of your head. A complete mathematical description of the Universe simply is not a complete description of the Universe.

The most common attempt to solve the Hard Problem is to appeal to the principle of emergence, often likening consciousness to the emergent properties of water, which are not found in the molecules of water themselves. A water molecule is not wet. On the level of molecules, wetness as a property simply doesn’t exist, but when water molecules interact wetness seems to appear out of nowhere. At first glance, this may seem like a fine attempt at an explanation, but it ultimately fails, and very simply. What emerges from a system can always be derived from the properties of the system. Using the water as our example, the behavior of water referred to as “wet” can be modeled from the behavior of individual water molecules. So, also, can the hexagonal structure of a snowflake. As David Chalmers says in his book The Conscious Mind,

But emergent properties of this sort are not analogous to consciousness. What is interesting about these cases is that the relevant properties are not obvious consequences of low-level laws; but they are still logically supervenient on low-level facts.

That is, the behavior of a school of fish is dependent upon and explained by true facts about the fish. What is sometimes called strong emergence, the kind of emergence proposed to explain the emergence of consciousness, is really a form of property dualism in that it proposes that a phenomenon may exist independent of the facts of its parts, thus it is itself a refutation of Materialism.

In order to avoid the problems inherent in the assertion that mind is a product of mindless matter, many people increasingly turn to Panpsychism for an explanation. Panpsychism is the doctrine that consciousness is inherent in all things — that consciousness is an irreducible property of matter. This does eliminate the Hard Problem, sort of, but it seems to put the cart before the horse.

The problem with Panpsychism is that it still assumes points three and four of the Materialist ontology to be true. Panpsychism solves some problems created by the fourth point, but essentially ignores that the problems need not be in the first place.

Matter is, fundamentally, an inference. Even within the Materialist framework matter of itself is inherently unknowable. Within the Materialist framework, everything we know is an attempt at a reconstruction of the world by our brains, as informed by our senses. According to Materialism, the whole Universe as you can ever know it is inside your head and you as a personal consciousness are trapped forever inside of it. According to the Materialist ontology, what is truly real is a shadow universe, akin to a set of mathematical equations, which informs the universe we know and which is fundamentally inaccessible to us, always and forever.

We know matter only as a concept. Matter is an abstraction, and the abstraction is derived from experience. Thus, Materialism seeks to explain experience itself in terms of an abstraction, which is itself derived from experience. Materialism, we see, is an exercise in circular reasoning.

Bernardo likes to say that proposing the existence of this hidden universe outside of mind is no different from proposing the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Most of this clicked with me instantly that morning. I understood it without a problem. But some of this has taken some time to develop, in particular the felt, intuitive understanding of what this means. Old habits of thought take time to adjust and I can tell even now, nearly four years later, that I am still adjusting in some ways.

I’ll try to show you what I mean. Have a look for yourself.

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Take a look at something. Anything. By seeing, that which is seen is in consciousness. You are aware of it, even if you insist that what you see is solely a creation of your brain. Even if you insist that it is an illusion, the illusion is what you see. What you see is in consciousness; it is a particular excitation of consciousness, and the same is true for what you hear and what you feel and anything you happen to imagine. We quickly realize that that is all there is. Stated very simply, we are only aware of that of which we are aware, or if you prefer: we are not aware of what we are not aware of. Everything you know is in some sense in consciousness.

Observe your own body. Your arms and legs. Even the thoughts running through your head and these words born of these letters. These are all within consciousness. Consciousness, therefore, is not inside of your head — reach up and touch it. Rather, your head is inside consciousness. Your body is within consciousness, and so, also, is the rest of the Universe.

Your mind is not inside of your brain; your brain is inside Mind.

When I finally realized this point — that mind is a container within which I and the world exist — everything seemed to pop out at me, as though the world had been flat for so many years and in an instant returned to its proper three-dimensional state.

Look at that glass of water on the desk or whatever it is, wherever it happens to be. Look at it! It is really there. I mean it is really, really there! It has shape, place, tangibility.

What we are dealing with now, having discarded the third and fourth assertions of the Materialist ontology, is an Idealist ontology, and as we have seen, an Idealist ontology is immeasurably more parsimonious than Materialism in that it explains literally everything that Materialism explains and very probably much more while using fewer assumptions.

In our attempts to explain or describe the world, we are forced to explain each given thing in terms of something else. And we then explain that in terms of another thing, and so on until eventually we are forced to stop at what we call an ontological primitive — something that can not be explained in terms of anything else, something in terms of which everything else is explained or described.

Physicalism, the specific form of Materialism we actually encounter every day, informed by physics as we know it, holds a whole array of particles and forces and physical laws to be brute fact. They simply exist. Every fundamental particle and force and law of nature is thus an ontological primitive, as are space and time.

Idealism entails only one ontological primitive: Mind.

Everything you know is an excitation of Mind.

Everything you don’t know is also an excitation of Mind.

So many constraints fall away. The Universe opens itself up to us.

My body is an image of a process in Mind. When this image passes away, the form of my self-reflective awareness may be dramatically altered, but Mind itself remains.

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Bernardo likes to use whirlpools to illuminate the discussion. He says that we are like whirlpools in a vast river, and, as such, suggesting that brains generate consciousness is like suggesting that whirlpools generate water. Again, my brain is the image of a process in consciousness much like fire is the image of combustion, not the cause of combustion. Fire is what combustion looks like and my brain is what certain processes in consciousness look like when observed from a second-person perspective. Ripples in the water, then, are things that we observe in our environment, particular excitations of consciousness, which can enter into individual self-reflective centers of lucid awareness.

But most importantly, we are all a part of the same river. We are all living a shared dream. This waking world that we all seem to inhabit together, which seems to be the same for everyone, then, is what we can call consensus reality. We all act together to create it. In so many ways, we seek agreement on what reality is. It’s passed on to us through our parents, through language, through the rest of the community and reinforced in so many ways through conversation, books, television, and so on. Storytelling is world building.

Reality is Mind. The content of reality is story; its structure, myth.

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We can come to the same place from another angle. This is a quote by one of my other great inspirations, Richard Tarnas, in his book Cosmos and Psyche:

Let us, then, take our strategy of critical self-reflection one crucial and perhaps inevitable step further. Let us apply it to the fundamental governing assumption and starting point of the modern world view–a pervasive assumption that subtly continues to influence the postmodern turn as well–that any meaning and purpose the human mind perceives in the universe does not exist intrinsically in the universe but is constructed and projected onto it by the human mind. Might not this be the final, most global anthropocentric delusion of all? For is it not an extraordinary act of human hubris–literally, a hubris of cosmic proportions–to assume that the exclusive source of all meaning and purpose in the universe is ultimately centered in the human mind, which is therefore absolutely unique and special and in this sense superior to the entire cosmos? To presume that the universe utterly lacks what we human beings, the offspring and expression of that universe, conspicuously possess? To assume that the part somehow radically differs from and transcends the whole? To base our entire worldview on the a priori principle that whenever human beings perceive any patterns of psychological or spiritual significance in the nonhuman world, any signs of interiority and mind, any suggestion of purposefully coherent order and intelligible meaning, these must be understood as no more than human constructions and projections, as ultimately rooted in the human mind and never in the world?

Perhaps this complete voiding of the cosmos, this absolute privileging of the human, is the ultimate act of anthropocentric projection, the most subtle yet prodigious form of human self-aggrandizement. Perhaps the modern mind has been projecting soullessness and mindlessness on a cosmic scale, systematically filtering and eliciting all data according to its self-elevating assumptions at the very moment we believed we were “cleansing” our minds of “distortions.” Have we been living in a self-produced bubble of cosmic isolation? Perhaps the very attempt to de-anthropomorphize reality in such an absolute and simplistic manner is itself a supremely anthropocentric act.

The Universe speaks to us. We only need to learn how to listen.

 

The Fallacy of Two Evils

This is a polemical political rant.

A little failure of logic and foresight plagues American politics. Right now, it is a huge topic and a subject of much hatred among good friends.

My problem here is the “lesser of two evils” fallacy. It’s very simple, very simply explained, and somehow completely lost on some otherwise intelligent people. Very simply, it goes like this:

Of two candidates you see as problematic — evil —  vote for the less problematic candidate — the least evil of the two. 

The problem here is twofold. First, you have more than two choices. You always have and hopefully always will, no matter how hard you may wish you really had only two. You do not. You simply do not have only two choices. Half of the notion of the problem of two evils is thrown out the window at the very start, before its first utterance. 

Second, and most important, every time you vote for the lesser of two evils you lower the bar. You lower the standard, you lower expectations. You give in. You give up. Some part of your effort becomes a failure ever more with every decision to choose the lesser of two evils. Each choice is increasingly more evil and you’ve desensitized yourself to perceiving that evil for what it is.

In America today, this is shown by the the Hillary crowd attempting to shame the Bernie or Bust crowd by pointing fingers at Trump and saying, “You want him to become president? Because if  you don’t vote Democrat, if you don’t vote for Hillary if she is nominated Democratic candidate, you will have voted that monster into office.”

This is, of course, absurd. First, most directly, the only people who could put Trump into office are the people who voted for him. My vote in this hypothetical was for Jill Stein. 

I would rather turn this around to everyone who thought they were voting strategically without any sort of foresight whatsoever. Suppose you do put Hillary in office and she is perfectly moderate as anyone expects of her, with another scandal every six months or whatever. When her time is up another Trump will be waiting for us, and then yet another, each worse than the last, as has ever been the case, as the bar is lowered and especially as the Democratic party grows comfortable, as they already are, with the fact that they can choose your candidate for you and set everything up so that, completely contrary to the very purpose and the whole spirit of the election process, contrary to the very nature of democracy, you maintain a prison made of your own lies about a dilemma that simply doesn’t exist, continuing to choose the second of evils exactly like an addiction.

“I know it’s bad and I’ll stop, but not this time. The withdrawal is just too hard.” 

It’ll be worse later if you don’t stop now. Trump has his support only because our expectations are so low. He will contribute to further lowering expectations and setting up a situation in which someone much worse could be placed into office. Continually lowering the bar by voting always for evil no matter what, regardless of the options, will not make anything better. At best, it may, ever so slightly, slow the decline.

“My candidate must be evil, but always ranked second in evil. My candidate must be Magneto, Baron Mordo, or The Green Goblin, but never, ever Dr. Doom,” they say, as though that final omission makes them somehow superior to people actually trying to make a difference.

I’d like to say that if Trump is elected it’s because Hillary supporters didn’t vote for Bernie in the primaries. But that’s wrong, too. If Trump is elected it would be because very angry, very stupid, and very hateful people did vote for him.

Ignoring that last part, though, and overlooking the fallacy for a moment, consider this. Bernie had for a very long time been polling better than Hillary against Trump. She was clearly, unmistakably the weaker candidate. Yet these self-proclaimed strategic voters still voted for her! By using their reasoning, if Trump is elected, it is their fault. Clinton supporters will have dug their own grave by voting for the weaker candidate. More, they will have dug a grave for all of us.

I’m told that a vote for a third party candidate is a vote for Trump by Clinton supporters. I am also told that a vote for a third party candidate is a vote for Clinton by Trump supporters. What I want to know is how I can vote for neither Trump nor Clinton without giving up my right to vote altogether. Answer me that one.

Third party candidates would be electable if you voted for them. That’s how this works. If no Democrat voted for Hillary and every Democrat voted for Jill Stein, guess what would happen? Would it be a close race between Hillary and Trump? No. It most certainly would not. It would, rather, be a close race between Stein and Trump — because in this hypothetical Stein is the one we voted for. Do you see how that works? But turning to Stein is apparently not going to happen because people leaning left have it drummed into their heads that it is only permissible to vote for the Democrat who gets all of the media coverage and no one else. Ever.

We’re told endlessly that a third party candidate simply can’t win, as though votes for that candidate are no part of the equation. And so we hear Hillary’s supporters, so intent on shaming us into submission, say they like Stein’s positions, that they generally like Stein better, but still refuse to vote for her in the general election simply because she “can’t” win, that we have to beat Trump now and try for something better later — also known as never. If ever there were a time to vote third party, it is now, when so many have already pledged to do it. A seed has already sprouted. Pretending it hasn’t helps no one.

When you erect a false dilemma and call upon the “lesser of two evils” principle, you just make an ass of yourself. you perform a disservice to your country and a disservice to your friends and to your family, weakening the fabric of our society through willful ignorance, utter refusal to acknowledge the existence of better options, the arrogant attempt to treat this as a game and vote — gamble- “strategically”, and choosing, by the very nature of your method of choice, to pull the nation down ever further to the point just above the absolute worst it can currently be pulled, and then again all the way down to the depths of the next second-worst evil, and then again. And again.

Voting for the lesser of two evils is what got us into this mess. It will not get us out of it.

We have to stop this nonsense before it gets worse, before the next Trump who comes along, who won’t be a hemmorage in his party’s side. And all this time we assumed the Republicans weren’t thinking exactly the same thing about their candidate as the Democrats feel about their own! No one noticed, I’m sure, because the fact that Republicans who don’t support Trump are at least as repulsed by him as us — more, perhaps, because he would supposedly represent them — is completely glossed over, completely overlooked, completely ignored. 

Otherwise what would shallow-sighted Clinton supporters have to shame us about?

Throwing your vote away on a gamble and treating it as a game piece is irresponsible. Shame on you, “strategic” voters. Your intentions are not only disgusting but poorly conceived and poorly executed.

And I am sorry that you know no better. It is what we have been told all of our lives. “Only two!” Only two. “You must choose one and stick with it no matter what garbage we throw at you.”

Only two.

Only two is a lie. You do have a choice. Will you or will you not exercise it?