"Bill’s Corner" is a new page on our website, which offers a second perspective on our “save the planet” project. Such a project would likely be pretentious, pathetic, and perhaps pitiable, if only it were not so real. Our group is small, but hope has to start somewhere. Any old garage might work.
I have added eighty pages to the second book, A Republic, if You Can Keep It. You can view the book as it is thus far by clicking on cover below. The text still needs editing, but the pages are pretty.
I had a best friend in childhood. From work-up softball on the playground in fourth grade to getting our first cars in high school, we were almost inseparable. Boy Scouts, Little League, Stanford games, I recall it as pretty good times.
Our divisions began to show up when Bob stopped playing baseball and football to concentrate on basketball. That was a good move for him because he ended up playing four years of major college basketball at the University of San Francisco, where Bill Russell and Casey Jones had just won two national championships. Also, his family moved from two blocks away to two cities away in our sophomore year, although he continued to attend Menlo-Atherton High school.
I am only now learning how successful he was in his pursuits, as there was apparently more than changes in geography and team affiliations that drew us apart. We did busy together, not reflective. That might be normal for early teenagers, but families have philosophies, and mine was dead silent in that area. So perhaps Bob and I were more associates than confidants. For sure we never discussed conflicts. But living only two blocks apart facilitated doing lots of busy, together. And we shared sports. He got a basketball scholarship to USF, and I got a baseball scholarship to Cal Berkeley.
So I probably never knew him on the inside very well. That concept would have made no sense to me. But reflecting back today, I can presume that he did not have the “untouchables” in his mind that I experienced in mine. My black market placement, being unaware of my lack of blood connection, not being actually adopted until age thirteen, and being lied to my entire life about this whole story, left me with many dragons locked behind closed doors. Off limits was never explicit. It was beyond explicit; after all the judge asked me in court at age thirteen whether I wanted to live with the Andersens or go to a boy’s home. I had a dog to take care of. I got the picture. No dragons here, anybody.
Bob was probably “normal” for dragons. He might have some. I could even guess what they might be. But mine were likely much bigger. Bob pursued the “good life” and became very successful at it. I did not know this until recently; our separation, bereft of mere logistics, had little else to bridge the gap. From inseparable to losing all meaningful contact is sad, but that is how it went. I can now see the reasons why, which produces the issues for this post.
Bob played four years of college basketball. In his sophomore year he averaged sixteen points per game and was named Catholic All-American (USF, Georgetown, St. Johns, Marquette, St. Louis University, Creighton, etc.) But he had a knee injury in high school and re-injured it that sophomore year. So while he played basketball in his last two years of college, it appears his interests shifted. He became Junior Class president and in his senior year became the University’s student body president. I am impressed, and I had no idea about this until just a few years ago. I knew he was a good athlete, but not that he was also a good politician.
We once hiked seventeen miles together in the foothills behind Stanford but never talked about life and such, or my adoption. Bob is the only person I told about the adoption. I do not remember that he said anything about it at all. Twenty years later, and thereafter in our adult life, if I brought the issue up, I got the definite feeling that he did not want to hear about it. To me, that seems strange for friends. But there are things people do not want to hear about. War is one of them, and apparently families leaving their children on park benches is another. Some things are just not right. How would you feel if a mother bear decided to leave her cubs under a tree? It’s just wrong, isn’t it.? (Run an animal rescue; the stories are not pretty.)
In high school Bob went steady with several girls. I do not know if that was typical, but it certainly seemed healthy. While I could date pretty much anyone in school—football captain, baseball captain, King of Sadie Hawkins week, and straight A student gives one options—no serious relationships developed. I was empty inside. There was nothing to connect with. All of life for me was pretend, except for ad hoc sports and being with my dog. Genuine was locked behind top secret, and I was not granted access—nor did I challenge that restriction.
The Andersens purchased me so that Ann Andersen would not kill herself. She had undergone a hysterectomy at age nineteen, they were not approved by the state for adopting (I do not know why), and when they tried to adopt the foster child they took care of for three years, the mother wanted her back. Buying a baby appeared to be a solution to this predicament. When I was searching for my birth family, a source told me I had come from Tennessee. That may or not be true, but if it is, this mess gets more disquieting. Buying babies through the black market is illegal; Georgia Tann’s methods of obtaining children for her Children’s Home were criminal. She had a big profitable business, backed by corrupt government. Georgia obtained children any way she wanted, and was supported by a corrupt judge who would sign anything she put before him. Even kidnaped children were made “legal” with just a signature—they alleged negligence. She took children by fraud and force, not just because the mothers surrendered them. None of the blood relatives in either family of my adoptive parents ever broke rank with Stanley and Ann Andersen’s injunction that I never be told anything about my adoptive history. This was unusually tight control and makes me wonder if Georgia Tann was involved. Perhaps complicity with felony criminal charges could have been a worry. And it would have made a difference to me if I found out my birth mother did not willingly surrender me. The Andersens would not have thereby saved me from an orphanage, as they put it; they would have stolen me. That flag doesn’t fly.
Bob pursued the “good life”: ocean side property in southern California, sailing the coast, almost a second home on Santa Catalina, the CEO of a large non-profit organization, social and business life with society’s elite, world travel, and a large attractive family. What’s not to like?
I can view my life as one long effort to come to grips with sand being kicked in my face. That can be seen as a total waste of time. Or it can be viewed as a courageous effort to face truth, on a “Bridge Less Traveled”, meaning essentially different from most of society. That trip continues, it is my trip; and I wish to describe it, believing it to be courageous.
Bob and I talked recently, in what was perhaps our final conversation. We have made contact in the past few years, likely as a way of saying goodbye to a part of our lives—sort of a summary of how they turned out. It was a different world back then, Studebakers, Kaiser-Frazers (Bob’s father had one), black and white TV, and party telephone lines. Bob and I can reminisce every few years for maybe an hour or so about the old days, but that is it. I called him recently, probably wanting to tell him how thrilled I was to finally feel that I understand the noxious issues of adoption. After all, almost everyone tells the adoptee that the people who care for him or her are the “real” parents. That statement itself points to the problem. Do biological parents go about affirming their genuineness? Should the coach not be worried when the General Manager affirms that he has complete confidence in him? Confidence is generally a given. It needs affirmation only when it is weak. We all know this without having to take a course in logic. Chicken soup, bandage changes, and soccer practice are also considered presumed. What's missing is honest. Quite simply, an adoptive family is not a normal family; nor is it just like a normal family. But normal is not a synonym for good, and real is not a prerogative of biology. An adoptive family is a real family, but a real adoptive family. And real is not a synonym of quality, truth is. Unfortunately, adoptive families paint over the colors with white, white lies if you wish, but none the less toxic. The cover up is always worse than the “crime”. Washington knows this. Police departments know this. Adoption has yet to learn this lesson. Only secrets and lies can make adoptive families unreal. But secrets and lies are emdemic in adoption.
For me, learning this is the crowning accomplishment of my life. For Bob, I had just wasted my life refusing to think positive. He was disgusted. I have never felt better about myself. This is not fixable. We shall not likely talk again. The door, of course, always remains open for possible dialogue, but one does not draw to an inside straight, or borrow against future lottery earnings. Hope may spring eternal, but one does not bet the ranch on mere hope—it needs a tether to time and space.
One of the points in this article is that some truth grows slowly. We may find a new element beyond lawrencium, and that will be a fact. But "fact truth" is not "meaning truth". The former we live with; the latter we live by. It becomes a part of our action field. A fact (lawrencium) can occur in an instant—as long as it takes a blip to show on a monitor. But it will be a long time before we make wedding rings out of it because it has to grow into association with objects of purpose or value, in this case love. Facts can be perceived, meanings have to be assembled. If it cannot be perceived, people do not know where to begin. Mind is the perfect example. Aristotle thought it was an abstraction, the guiding principle of life. Descartes thought it was its own substance. Today, the idealists, flirting with quantum physics, postulate mind as spirit. There are two kinds of people dealing with quantum physics: those who do not understand it and are right that they do not, and those who think they understand it, but do not. Probably there is a third group, those who know there is such a thing, but have no idea what it is. That is pretty much how it is with mind. We have been at it for at least two thousand years, and we still do not know whether mind exists in the world, or the world exists in mind. I rest my case. Some things take time to learn.
I am going to compare mind to adoption. You cannot see either one. That always portends trouble. Neither is perceived; they are conceived. So should I be discouraged that after sixty years I have only recently felt comfortable with my understanding of the experience? Most people would think so; out of mind is not that hard to conceive. Address the issue once, and then let it slowly slip away out of importance. Instead of pondering my consciousness I should have done something useful or fun; there can never be too many Apps or bowling leagues.
It is a second point in this article to attempt to shed some light on problems in adoption. I have learned that nothing slips anywhere. My professional life picked its way ultimately to post-traumatic stress disorder. I did not get into medical school to work with mental problems. I probably would have gone into Internal Medicine, or today into General Practice, rather than into mental health. But I ended up in psychiatry, more specifically with PTSD, and retired after seeing about 170,000 patient hours in out-patient groups and maybe 300,000 patient hours total. I am not stupid; I can count. Almost every Vietnam veteran took about twenty years before realizing he had an issue that was not going away. Youth alone can always believe it will outgrow its problems, and a recent trauma can create hypotheses for alleviation that take time to discourage. At twenty, one thinks it will all go away. At forty, he realizes it is time to change approach.
Again, the invisible takes longer to get a leash around it. If you cannot see it, you cannot fix it. PTSD does not show up on an x-ray. Tuberculosis had been around for millions of years, but only in 1885 was it shown to be contagious. Again, we cannot see bacteria. Today, of course, we are awash in the concept that perception is everything. If you cannot weight it, measure it, count it, you cannot use it. We through away subjective, i.e. what the world feels like looking out, rather than looking in. Empathy, intuition, feeling, hope, will, and wish are all not useable. It is hard enough to understand mind, without leaving out half the data.
We can wonder if the grass needs cutting, but answer that question by looking out the window. Nothing difficult there. What about the agency of mind? Does the mind actually push the bouncing pool balls of time/space? If you do not get this question right, you can spend a life time faking it until you make it. It gets more and more difficult to fake it with years of failure, but someone will always come along with a new push on this old swing. I always knew there was something wrong with me. Throughout early life the lack of correlation between an outside view of me and my inside experience was dramatic. The more lights shining on a particular experience, the harder I had to press on the doors locked inside of me, and the less attention went to the issue at hand.
The door used to flop open on me during high school. I had a Sunday clean up job at a grocery store in Los Altos. Los Altos is more picturesque than Menlo Park. It is in the foothills, not down by the bay. I knew of a pretty girl up the street from my house in Menlo Park. She lived above a small store. I presumed her family was not intact. She moved to Los Altos, I knew not how. But there in paradise she became my birth mother transference object. While I never spoke of adoption, and there were things in learning about my history that never clearly reached consciousness, the concept that I came from a broken home took root. A broken home would have been more dramatic than my sterile one. Ours was asphyxiated by the lies. Anything, even bad, would have been better than nothing. When I had finished my work and left for Menlo Park, still estranged, I used to get an extremely unpleasant feeling, perhaps like being buried alive. It was way too conscious. The feeling went away some time that day, and on Monday back in school I would think that perhaps at those times I was losing my mind. Surely this was another issue that I somehow should fix by looking away.
The world at school on Monday bore no resemblance to the horror of the feeling, and I never would have connected it in any way to adoption because that would have been a reach to begin with, but also because my get well plan was to never think of adoption. This is my family, that is not my family; repeat unto infinity. If did not work it was because I apparently was a mental invalid, maybe even a bad seed. As an experience this was a very big deal. As a reality, it was yet another part of me to lock up and lean against.
This type of experience is one thing to have happen when I was alone, but having a door fly open while giving a speech or pitching a game would have been a disaster. Knowing that, of course, means that in any of those situations you have to think about what you do not want to think about and at that point defeat is assured. An elephant with an X drawn on it is still an elephant.
I kept the adoption ideas out of consciousness as much as I could, which meant that I would never deliberately think about it, and if somehow it came up, typically in the form of my birthmother, I would threaten myself with “crimes against humanity” for being so selfish as to think about myself when I would hurt my adoptive mother. I, of course, did not know anything about her suicidal ideas when they got me, but intuition never gets completely smothered, and one would have to be brain dead not to pick up on everyone’s concern. This was a complete taboo subject, requiring a top secret family clearance, and punishable at the level treason, espionage, or apostasy. A private world, locked in virtual solitary confinement, does not sponsor a lot of social diplomacy—perhaps like today’s CIA.
The quest for wholeness continued, as my focus in medicine shifted, I got into psychoanalysis, one of the couch driven five times a week deals, and chose psychiatry as a specialty. It was becoming an obsession and kicking up nothing but a cloud of dust. But everything is not about wanting to kill your father and marry your mother, as Freud insisted. Psychoanalysis was the gold standard of therapy in the 1960s. Today it appears to be a rather sad heap of hypotheses to escape the meaninglessness of materialism. What is the point of discussing wishes if they are nothing more than than the misinterpretion of the push of atoms as personal choice? More directly, if there is no purpose in the universe, then there is no purpose in therapy either. We played word games. It was not me or Sigmund Freud who was going to enact the purpose, we are both, of course, parts of the universe; it would be the conflict-free part of the ego! Call it a hot fudge sundae if you like, but doing so will never bequeath it a purpose.
I had my “never think about adoption” phase, whereupon the issues were supposed to just drift away. That lasted about thirty years. I must have been in a cosmic air pocket; nothing drifted anywhere, except me. My inner self remained unchanged; psychology offered me nothing. I heard about adoptees searching for their birth parents, which was new in this country, and it gradually drew me into the movement. I knew there was something wrong with me. Outside and the inside did not match, and the inside was impeding optimal performance. Good for me, I knew there was a problem. That is not why I am proud of my quest. I am proud because it ended in new hypotheses with which to address the problem. Something original has been added to the universe.
Having tried the gold-standard therapy for more years than I care to admit, and having surveyed the rest of the field, I turned to the reunion movement as if the issue was some sort of life trauma. But the reunion movement gets trapped in its own metaphysics also. For them the answer is finding your birth mother and filling the empty space inside with either information or love. You need to know your ancestry, what your father did in the war, or what your mother did at corporate headquarters. Of course you want and need to know the story of your relinquishment, which even if it is biased, might relieve you of some misplaced sense of responsibility. Better, you and your birth family can set up a secondary family to fill in the holes left by the first. Relinquishment is viewed like a vitamin deficiency that can be cured with information or love.
But information cannot even fill metaphorical holes. So your mother left you because she was too young to care for a child. She still left you, or her parents left you, or the country drafted you to save the planet. Consequences still happen. True they can be given different meanings, even after time, but they cannot be erased. Meaning has no effect on consequences. Consequences do not care.
I have never seen today's love fill a void from yesterday. And there is another problem. Is your birth mother going to tell you she just did not want the trouble of a new child, or that she had a hot boyfriend with whom she wanted to travel the world? Why would she be more honest than anyone else? We approach here the determining issue of adoption, and it may not be pretty.
The issue that answers for me the noxiousness of adoption is not that one’s mother gave you away. That is like a romance. One gets over it. You cry, you let go, You find another love. And it is not a lack of medical history. Just live a healthy life; what more can you do anyway? The smoking gun for my insight on adoption, which occurred only six months ago, was the realization that at Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings of the Andersens, until I was age twelve, I was the only one in a room of twenty people who did not know about my “adoption”. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. That is what we swear to in court. With this group I got lies, nothing, or nothing but lies.
The issue here is truth (and secrets). Truth is what you give to someone who you view as an end in themselves. Lies are what you say to those you view as means. I received nothing but lies, or nothing, and there is little spontaneity in relationships when suppressing important truths. Conversations become guard duty. Any other time is always a better time. Who wants to tell a child that his mother preferred to give him away? They dress it up in pretty. “She loved you so much she gave you away.” People actually say that! If it is supposed to be pretty, it is painted in stupid.
People adopt when the cannot have their own children. Adoptions are not special; they are damage control. There are exceptions, but not many. When people tell you the adoptive parents are real parents, the statement is meaningless out of context. Are they real with respect to to kidney transplants, society, “meeting requirements” (my father’s perspective), legal aspects, or emotional connection? The statement itself is gratuitous in “real” families. It comes out of one’s mouth tagged as a lie. Real speaks for itself. No one questions real parents if they are "real" parents. My father once told me that he always treated me as if I was his real son. How would it have sounded if I had responded that I always treated him as my real father?
The words of the Andersens said they loved me but their actions spoke otherwise. Feed pretend, demand genuine, and fault me for the difference. I do not care why my mother did not keep me. I do not care what my father did in the war. But I do care that everyone in early life lied to me. I had no blood relatives, and the adoptive relatives excluded me from family business. Not much security there. I asked my father what would have happened to me if they had died before I was adopted (the adoption occurred when I was thirteen). He guessed I would have gone back to the orphanage. Not a lot of wagons to circle there. So emotionally I was essentially alone. But one can adapt; trust dogs, and get your own wagons. The danger here is suppressing one’s intuition and holding on to the lies. Not having a valid family is fixable, but you have to actually fix it. Empty is the price of inaction.
One loses confidence in his subjectivity when always having to swim against the lies. Social situations are tracked better by common sense than scientific study. You can't dance if you can't hear the music. There is no dance at all without the music. I had to play along with the lies at the expense of my personal sense of truth. Whatever we call this subjective perspective, it is a practiced art. Ignoring it is leaving out all the meaning, feeling, and purpose of your experience; basically, the sound track of your life. Man does not live by facts alone.
Finally, we do not create feelings out of nothing. They are the experience of our response to events, incipient actions if you will. They are a dance of input combined with output getting ready to go on stage (in the real world). This means that from one point of view, there is more reality in a feeling/idea complex than an idea by itself. Finding your lost dog involves more reality than adding two plus two, or two million plus two million. So feelings, being connected to reality, give us more information than ideas alone. To lose it, subjectivity, is to become a puppet. Dogs have it easy. They carry a lie detector behind them all the time. If they are wagging their tail, they like you. If they are not, they probably do not. (There is a different kind of wag, but you will know it when you see it—and should get out of their way.) Does a dog feel the attraction? Probably. Fortunately for him he can prove it to himself just by checking his tail. I do this for myself now. We all have vestigial tails. I pretend that I can feel my tail, and I ask myself if it is wagging. Yes or no. It will be right almost all the time. We are built to continue living, interfacing with reality helps us do that, and reality has more substance to it than illusion or fantasy. We want to approach reality because there will always be ways to use it for benefit, and we ignore things if they are empty. This is built in, like why puppies will eat biscuits but not leaves.
The point here is that we cannot generate feelings like we generate actions. Feelings are signs, they are not creations You can do what you will, but not will what you will. You motivate a football team by getting rid of those who are not motivated. Purpose is contingent on feelings. You can act interested as long as you want, but it will never make you interested. Purpose is not habit. It is instinct, ultimately, trying to stay alive. The Andersens fed me leaves and wanted me to wag my tail as though they were biscuits. And they faulted me for failing. Lets get this right here. We do not create feelings. They are the result of reality touching us from outside and stimulating in us the possibility of an action that will increase our ability to survive. Pure and simple. (Or at least as simple as we can make it.)
Dishonesty kills relationships, suppresses intuition, wastes creativity, fosters apathy, and keeps us from reality. If reality is a conversation with God, then lying challenges our entire existence. Violence may be more dramatic, but is more obvious and can be more easily avoided. Dishonesty is a stealth scourge, perhaps mankind's most dangerous. While it may not have killed as many people as violence, it likely has destroyed more relationships. Fortunately for dogs, they do not have to deal with it.
What I hate most of my adoption is that they gave me pretend and expected genuine in return. We do not create something out of nothing. We create it out of reality. Lies are not reality.
Consequences require action. PTSD is an insult waiting for a response. Open the door and have a response for the dragon and it can no longer ambush you. It does not fix the past, but it clears a path for the future. You are more free to pursue your purpose, but more restricted in what that purpose can be. If Bob feels I have wasted my life by not looking away from events, and I feel as though finding the toxic element in adoption is my crowning accomplishment, then game over. I am going to have to learn that I cannot fix everything by imaging myself master of my mind.
People in my childhood would have been happy if I threw away intuition and painted my mind as though idea was feeling. And Bob would have been happy if I could have createded candy and nuts out of ifs and buts. But we cannot manufacture love and would lose purpose in the effort. So my choice today is keep the purpose and cut relationships, or fake a purpose until it somehow becomes real. The problem is that my purpose is on the bridge less traveled, which means that most people and I will have little in common. Bob and I at this point have no basis for a relationship. He does not want to read my book, and I do not want to sail to Catalina. He has been very successful in his career. I am impressed. But he thinks I have wasted my time. We have had our day together; it is past. In writing this article I see that we were never all that close together. Mainly it was that we just lived two blocks apart. Close means caring for each other as ends. It at least means taking a look at your best friend’s book. Bob will never read my book. I will never go to Catalina. It is not even sad that we are no longer friends. It is only sad that we are no longer young. We were in the same town, but not on the same side.
Play the dirge. I am okay with that. The consequences have been addressed, which largely is seeing the world unlike most other beings. But the other side of alone is adventure. Not swimming with the other fishes is where creativity happens.
As far as PTSD goes, the veterans returning from the middle east are all going to face these problems. They will hope everything just goes away, while it does not. That takes time. I am guessing twenty years. And then fixing it requires finding new relationships to replace almost all of those you left when you went overseas—yet another reason to put it off. This entails a lot of hard work. I would never want to go through all the work again to fix the issues; but also would never want to go back after having arrived at a place with purpose, truth, and maybe even conversation with God.
This is all based on metaphysics. Bob and I lived in the same town, but he wore blue and I wore gray. Here are the sides: Idealism versus Materialism.
1. Idealism (which is not about ideals, but rather ideas) says that matter is created by spirit —i.e. consciousness is the absolute. They point to the fact that a causal sequence cannot start itself. It has to come from somewhere, and that would be spirit. And it implies that there is a God and that immortality is possible.
2. Materialism says that ideas derive from matter. Matter is the absolute, spirit and mental are just abstractions or functions. The corollaries are that there is no God, there is no purpose or meaning, and death is final.
These differences produce different people. Humanity becomes the religion of the materialists, and they focus on today more than tomorrow. Power measures success, and velocity and motion measures power. Meaning is whatever power says it is. The world is static except for the echoes of the one cause that started it. The clock is running. And though this is awkward for them, all of our sense of purpose is merely an illusion, because the world is causal and cause is not conscious. The danger is a lot of action signifying nothing.
Idealists have a God, they presume a purpose in the world, they do not think death must be final, and they look more to the future in what they perceive as an unfinished world, in which it becomes their purpose to create and improve. We are seen as partners with God in an ever improving world based on love, defined as finding value and preserving it. Take your time, do it right, add your part. The danger is a lot of nothing, simulating action.
We can grasp the abstract concepts, which seem to carry their weight in logic. It is a bit harder to come down out of the clouds and see how this shows up on planet Earth. But it is not that hard. All of us can sense the shades of this dichotomy—Atticus Finch and Gordon Gekko offer poetic examples of these people, and compassion at the expense of efficiency versus efficiency at the expense of compassion suffices for the abstraction. But neither position works without the other. Compassion is a component of efficiency.
The bottom line, at the end of this train of thought, is that we come to realize that truth and God could be related. And if they are, then lies get between us and God. Nothing can be more destructive to us than that, perhaps not even death itself.
We need a seismic shift in our view of the world if we are going to survive. Metaphysics is not a plaything for intellectuals unable to walk in the rain; it is ground zero in the attempt to establish truth about the nature of the universe. I call it our Los Alamos Project, intended to establish the basis of mind.
We cannot build a structure without knowing the materials we build with. Mental bricks can be used to design a building, but not to live in one. Ideas do most of their work in the future, not in the present.
People simply do not consider metaphysics today. We live in a world of “science”, which is built upon perception. If you cannot see it, hear it, touch it, etc. you can ignore it. This position was a reaction to imagination run wild. When angels, arks, gods, and celestial harps began to crowd each other out, we needed some method to separate real from imaginary. Evidence-based data became the tool, i.e. it gets to us through a sense organ, not simply from imagination. Science was born, God was dethroned, and materialism promised a path to immortality by studying cause and effect. Today that immortality lives in cryonics and DNA analysis. We just have to find out which gene causes our senescence, and turn it over to Monsanto.
In our quest for the holy grail we threw away spirit. Spirit carried the day throughout all of mankind’s history, until the renaissance. Since then materialism, the concept that all of the universe is made out of matter, has prevailed. Everything is made out of atoms, quarks, muons, electrons, force fields, or warped-space strings. The smallest or primary substance becomes the absolute. Whatever that is, it lives in time and space, i.e. sequence and distance.
Spirit, when we considered it, could live in a different realm, although we have a pressing tendency to reduce that to time and space. Hence God could live in some far away galaxy, or we might conceive him as being everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Ideas, like spirits, appear to live outside of space and time. One can imagine crossing the universe ten times as quickly crossing it once. Materialism, however, cannot allow such travel, because ideas are built out of things. It is one world, in one space, following one time, and containing nothing but (metaphorically speaking) bouncing billiard balls, and billiard ball ideas.
That view, maintained by materialists and scientists, creates a world that leaves several major problems:
1. A causal system says that everything that happens today is caused by whatever happened yesterday. Cause begets cause, and so on infinitely. The problem here is that the system can never get started. If it all started with the Big Bang, then what caused the big bang, etc. There is no ultimate answer, and therefore people simply look away. We should be able to make sense out of the basic step in our fundamental theory!
2. The second problem is that there can be no purpose in the universe. Basically, everything is pushed from behind. No pool ball can strive to go into one pocket rather than another. Guided missiles can be programmed to self adjust to a target, but they do not want to go there, care if they miss, or worry about the morality of the mission. We can simulate behavior as viewed from the outside, but not experience as lived from the inside. Feeling, value, meaning, and purpose are all missing—the very things that matter in life. To science we are simply complex reflex arcs.
3. There is no consciousness, nor any meaning or values. There is no explanation for anything, because an explanation is an attempt to assign meaning to an experience. But the attempt to assign meaning entails purpose, to which the universe is not privy. Even the scientist's statement that there is no purpose defeats itself, because that statement carries no truth if it was determined solely by random chance. Truth has to be sought. Chance entails no intent.
4. The supernatural does not exist, which also entails no other spaces or times , although mentally we can conceive of other spaces and times, and non-Euclidian geometry can work with other spaces. There are no miracles or supernatural beings. All is some sort of energy exchange, going nowhere, meaning nothing, and aware of nothing. The only consciousness, if it exists at all, would belong to human beings. When will we stop seeing ourselves as the center of the universe?
Causality makes for a neat theory, but no one in the world is going to throw away his or her sense that he or she acts purposefully. Science, after four hundred years, is beginning to step on its own tail. It makes a mockery out of experience. It substitutes humanity for a higher being. Intuition gets trampled by perception. Purpose is consigned to consumption. And when the sun cools everything will disappear as though it never happened, or maybe because it never did happen. Who or what would be around to tell the difference?
If it all means nothing, then living for spot pleasures makes some sense. The problem is that spot pleasures are not sustaining. Johnny Manziel parties in Las Vegas because he wants to “live life to the fullest”. What is the fullest about Las Vegas? In a causal world, perhaps one should grab for everything; nothing means anything anyway, so distraction might be the best approach. But spot pleasures just breed more spot pleasures and all end up at the same place—not being enough. If there is purpose in the universe then finding one's place in it would seem to be important. If it makes sense to find our purpose and do it, then Las Vegas gets in the way. It is hard to believe that the most important thing to do on this planet is to have fun. That appears to be the refuge of the ignorant.
Purpose or fun, there are problems either way. Too many parties becomes boring, too difficult a purpose entails pain. The existential dilemma is that satisfaction is probably proportional to the difficulties involved in overcoming resistance. Our sense of well being is contingent on our perception of our tenacity. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Looking at the possibilities for our metaphysics we have three, maybe four, options:
1. Dualism, the dominant position today, says there are mental and physical substances, and they interact with each other both ways.
2. Materialistic monism believes that everything is constructed from little somethings bouncing off each other. This is science. There is no place for purpose and no place for God.
3. We can have a triadism of mental, physical, and spiritual. Spiritual enters as a fundamental component, irreducible to something physical. It entails consciousness and will. Mental is the design department (perhaps reducible to physical), physical the factory, and spirit the artist. Mental and physical involves the how, when and where; spiritual involves why and what. In this position we bring back something like a soul, however, we are not so quick to abdicate it to a supposed superior authority. Once we admit spirit, it is hard to believe there not is a higher one. We have creative capacities, but only when supplied with the materials. God apparently creates the materials, including us. We live on delegated authority.
4. We might have options not yet considered.
There appears to be a dualism, but of physical and spiritual, not physical and mental. We postulate spiritual (consciousness) as a fundamental entity in the world, akin to gravity and electromagnetism. Human beings would thus be part spirit and part body. This is not just wishful thinking. Quantum mechanics backs us up. We must construct a new theory. It is frightening how little psychology has progressed in the past three hundred years. We just throw up ideas against the wall and hope they stick. Cognitive theory leaves out everything that is not abstract, i.e., anything we call real. Imaginary pies do not a Thanksgiving make. Imaginary pies do not even a diet make.
Is there anyone out there who believes sensitivity training is going to do anything other than give a reprieve to the offender, or that anger management does anything except meet requirements for those wanting an option other than incarceration? There is no energy in these programs, only ideas. Change requires feelings, not just thought. But these programs are cheap, and favored by government. Also, materialism has its agents to disparage belief in a higher power. There are people who profit from usurping God.
My point here is to question why we have so quickly thrown away spiritualism? Real men today are supposed to just suck it up and make way for the next generation. It is not working. Without a God there is no purpose in the world. Human beings are not exempt from that restriction. The sun will cool and the whole human endeavor will disappear, to have meant nothing, and to never have been noticed. And we embrace this program for what reason?
When one bothers to think about these things, it is far less simple than we assume. Humanity at this point seems to have no workable model for mind. Actually, we have gotten nowhere in two thousand years. People do not know this because they believe what they are told, but that is simply turning your life over to our handlers. That would be the Federal Reserve, a private corporation which is committing the biggest fraud ever perpetrated in history. It will take down much of the world when it fails. These counterfeiters profit from materialism because it separates the individual from truth, which turns men into sheep. Without a God we are simply going to end up in a war for supplies. Production will collapse. This cannot end well.
Pressure is applied to comply with materialism, although certainly not to the extent that other countries have turned to that approach; the Soviets gutted their country of religion, and the Third Reich was Germany uber alles. But coercion is not the only issue. The other issue is the inherent difficulty in understanding what we are. Our mind is set up to gaze outward, not inward. We grasp the inside better through intuition than perception; but we are all scientists today, not mystics. So we discount intuition. My intuition, for exam;ple, suggests there is a higher power. I cannot see anyone surviving without one, and I do not view this approach as merely defaulting to wishful thinking. Feelings are thoughts connected to reallity. Intuition should count more than perception, not less. Are we once again raising a dust and then complaining we cannot see? And if God is spirit, then part of us would have to spirit to understand him. We cannot see spirit, but we can certainly feel it. Perhaps that is Godspeak. Why would He speak English (or your language of choice)? Perhaps we should learn His language.
There are ways to add reason to faith. We simply have to do that. Faith alone is too tenuous. Our intellect is there for a reason.
The course we are on now will blow up. Adding intuition to perception is a start. We need a higher power, and we need to connect to that higher power, although not through paid intermediaries, but as individuals. This is ground zero in a survival plan. Quantum mechanics suggests new metaphors for new psychologies, and metaphysics is not simply a way to avoid getting into the fray; metaphysics is the fray. If there is no purpose in the world, then eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. But if there is a purpose, then we likely play a part in it, and if that is true, I certainly do not want to be spending my time sitting next to a pool in Las Vegas. If purpose and pleasure are our options, don’t bet on pleasure. Even in Vegas.
Michael Sam has been presenting himself as “football only” since the draft, and it is hard to see what Oprah has to do with football. She would appear to be a conflict of interest. Also, Sam says he wants to be great. Well, we all want to be great, but there are limits. Throwing harder was never going to turn my 75 mph fastball into a 95 mph one. Impossible goals are the worst kind to have, except for having none at all.
But it might not be a good thing for Sam to stare at football for three straight months, and he should probably aim at being the best he can be, rather than aiming at great. Ideas are cheap; they can cause us to over reach. And poise works better under pressure than adding more pressure. Trying to hit home runs just chases them away.
Oprah might offer the balance Sam needs. Time away from the game should be useful, even when football is the priority. Football is not everything, nor is it, as Lombardi said, the only thing. People actually do things between Superbowls. Life goes on. And it has a rhythm: day and night, wake and sleep, active and passive, focus and forgetting. We do not want to lose track of the big picture. Too much focus leaves too little meaning, which leaves too little purpose.
Also, if Sam does not do the documentary, he will simply be distracted because he did not do it. The Oprah issue remains either way. People can never simply not think about something. One has to remember what not to think about, which involves remembering it. We get away from things, like football, by turning to other things we care about, not by pretending to not think about what we are trying to forget. Oprah is a totally different experience, perhaps the perfect escape from two-a -day drills, and running into offensive linemen. Sam faces a unique situation with this documentary, no matter what he does, and it probably requires a unique response.
I think the Oprah show would, on balance, facilitate Sam’s chance of making the team. We can try too hard. Things can mean too much. Pro football might be the perfect example of that. There is life independent of the Lombardi trophy. There was even for Coach Lombardi. Too much of a good thing is not a good thing.
Metaphysics is neither abstract nor obtuse. It is the opposite of these predicates. Metaphysics is where we live, the home of meaning, motivation, and purpose. Of course with materialism there is no meaning or purpose in the world, just pool balls as far as the eye can see, which apparently would be beyond infinite, since expansion never ends. We give lip service to such a world view, but no one lives accordingly. Life is purpose, ours, doing what matters to us--intentionally, passionately, and effortfully, through our ability to create.
We may pray to the god of materialism on Sunday morning, but we do what we want on Sunday afternoon–just like most religions. Intellectually, “we raise a dust, and then complain we cannot see.” Experience, not perception, is the core of our existence. We know when a person is anxious, we can feel it with them. It is not necessary to measure pupillary dilatation or blood pressure.
But experience is a slippery sucker, to quote Vivian Ward in Pretty Woman. It is more than the pieces of sensation. It is experience with a wider lens, including perceptions, but also the meaning of such perceptions and the integration of the pieces into a workable whole, subtended under action. The Denver Broncos, for example, are more than orange and blue colors, a mile high stadium, linebackers, and good ownership. They are all these things and more, working together to win games, which also integrates lives, generates pride, and celebrates our effort. Experience is ourselves viewed from the playing field, not observed from the stands. It is also union in effort with others, and perhaps with something greater than us.
Having said the above, I believe that as we fashion our own metaphysics, it is important to ground it in personal experience. Metaphysics is not something one reads in a book. It is something we leave behind in our finest hours, to be savored in all the others. Without a map we do not know where we are going. Without a metaphysics, we have the same problem. Perhaps the name itself is misleading. Maybe “raison d’etre” is more descriptive, the French adding a touch of mystique. Metaphysics is where we live. It is what we are. If it existed in time and space, we would find it in our hearts, not our heads.
Pursuant to this, Gilbert Ryle has been a part of my life experience for many years. I was impressed with his concept of a category mistake, which is largely applying physical attributes to abstract concepts. The example I have carried over the years is that of a boy standing on the estuary with his father saying that he sees the ships but not the navy. His error is that the navy is the ships in action, not another literal, perhaps larger ship. The essence of the mistake is applying attributes of a less abstract level to a higher one.
We do this all the time, most often without adverse consequence. Can you run to the store? That question does not literally mean running. Blood does not boil, cupboards do not run dry, and skies do not get angry. Generally we understand what is intended in such comments. But not always. The boy looked for a bigger ship, Descartes looked for a pineal gland, and materialists look for the non-perceivable cause of perceptions, i.e. the thing in itself. The latter two are category mistakes, and not just poetic descriptions. Descartes was looking for the fulcrum between mental and physical in the pineal gland; materialists are looking fo the cause of perceptions from the thing in itself, which paradoxically is not capable of being perceived. These are gross errors, capable of supporting nothing but rainbow bridges.
We get almost all of the important concepts of metaphysics wrong. Our makeshift metaphysics is probably a consequence of materialists looking for the holy grail in sub-atomic particles. If all things in this cosmos are necessarily matter, then everything can theoretically be observed and filed under natural law. Therefore mankind might eventually solve all its problems, grasp immortality, and be free maybe to text each other all day long forever. We might have to work a day every now and then just for contrast. There would be an app for that.
We ignore metaphysics and grow flabby as a result. Berkeley shows that there is no substance out there sponsoring our perceptions. Perceptions are all we get in time and space. Matter has no first cause. Something has to cause it first. See the problem? What can cause the first cause other than prior cause, which then becomes first cause, and so on infinitely. Creation can only be caused by purpose and purpose can only be caused by spirit. The end.
Berkeley disproves matter, Kant demotes time and space from things to concepts, Ryle eliminates mind as a substance. “To be just a memory in the back of my mind” remains a memory but not “in” or “at the back” of anything. There are just thoughts in non-space, following rules of reason and experience. But they become no less critical because they lack substance. They remain paramount because we are hybrids, actions in time and space that leave histories. We create, we reside, symbiotic processes that require each other, but which are incomplete separately. A mind can think, but not without something to think about. As an acorn becomes a tree, so we create by means of a process of thought that crystalizes through action. Real is shared. Thoughts are private. We share the real, which are the footsteps of this creative process. Mind as thinking lives outside of time and space. Mind as action lives in time and space. It need never stop creating but only to the degree that it produces real, which is fixed and dated. Trees grow, leaves fall.
Apparently the whole point of the cosmos is about sharing consciousness. It is not hard to abstract to the essence of life as a process of shared creativity. What else is there but association with other beings that we care about? The activities vary; the together never does.
So much for metaphysics. I want to address here with Ryle just one of the category mistakes we mistake—that of mind as a thing. Concept works, matter does not. Descartes saw both mental and things, the mind being something like another vital organ. Descartes thought the pineal might be that organ, organizing behavior like the pituitary gland regulates the body. Today we most frequently stick mind into brain. Psychologists, to earn their scientific keep, point to behavior. Philosophers cogitate about function. But mind is not an organ, behavior is not a thought, and functions are not intentions. Mind is all that, yet more. It is also agency. Everyone leaves that out. They have to because agency implies purpose and in a materialist world there is no purpose. Blind chance builds it all. Mind without agency, i.e. the ability to produce concrete change in the physical world, is useless and redundant. We could throw it away and never miss it. Mind is Photoshop run by the hardware of the brain, but Photoshop cannot act. It requires an operator.
If you never think about metaphysics then likely you have simply deferred to the dominant social view. That view is Descartian. Religion probably does not much figure into this because religion does not rule out mental agency. Several months ago when I reread Ryle’s description of Descartes’ dualism, I was impressed and thought perhaps everyone should memorize his summary. So when I started to talk about Ryle here I simply typed his comments in dutiful admiration. However, in reviewing them today, they appear to have a much more colloquial perspective than I realized. He is trying to show that mind does not reside in space. Believing that it does would be to commit a category mistake. So far, so good. Descartes postulates two substances in the world, mental and physical. This means that we assume mind lives in space and time. It does live in time; it is the author of it; but it cannot live in space. Ryle basically transforms mind into behavior. Like the Navy, mind is the body as a whole in action. Ryle appears to be a behavioralist and feels we must, like scientists, draw on the hard data of observation. In my opinion, psychology has run this into the ground. All mental actions are not reflected in observable behavior. If I think about my grade school, my thoughts can run run from the bag of dimes found at the dairy near the school, to the tether ball poles, or Jim Sorenson’s baseball bat, and none of this will show in my behavior. One can tell a lot of what someone else thinks by what they do, but an enormous amount of mental data is private. Behaviorism throws away more data than it keeps. But that is not the critical issue. Agency is at stake. Mental is supposed to somehow directly affect physical. When I wish my arm to move, it moves. How does that happen? Frankly, no one has a clue. Only causes affect things in the world, and wishes cannot move objects. If “if’s" and "buts” were candy and nuts we all would have merry Christmas. But, alas, someone has to pay the bills. The major issue is agency. Ryle addresses the substance issue. So I am not as impressed with his summary, but it is still worth reading.
Gilbert Ryle, from The Concept of Mind:
"The official doctrine, which hails chiefly from Descartes is something like this. With the doubtful exceptions of idiots and infants in arms every human being has both a body and a mind. Some would prefer to say that every human being is both a body and a mind. His body and his mind are ordinarily harnessed together, but after the death of the body his mind may continue to exist and function.
Human bodies are in space and are subject to the mechanical laws which govern all other bodies in space. Bodily processes and states can be inspected by external observers So a man’s bodily life is as much a public affair as are the lives of animals and reptiles and even as the careers of trees, crystals and planets. But minds are not in space, nor are their operations subject to mechanical laws., The workings of one mind are not viewable by other observers, its career is private. Only I can take direct cognisance of the states and processes of my own mind . A person therefore lives through two collateral histories, one consisting of what happens in and to his body, the other consisting of what happens in and to his mind The first is public, the second private The events in the first history are events in the physical world, those in the second are events in the mental world.
It has been disputed whether a person does or can directly monitor all or only some of the episodes of his own private history; but, according to the official doctrine of at least some of these episodes he has direct and unchallengeable cognisance. In consciousness, self-consciousness and introspection he is directly and authentically apprised of the present states and operations of his mind. He may have great or small uncertainties about concurrent and adjacent episodes in the physical world but he can have none about at least part of what is momentarily occupying his mind.
It is customary to express this bifurcation of his two lives and of his two worlds by saying that the things and events which belong to the physical world, including his own body, are external, while the workings of his own mind are internal. This antithesis of outer and inner is of course meant to be construed as a metaphor, since minds, not being in space, could not be described as being spatially inside anything else, or as having things going on spatially inside themselves. But relapses from this good intention are common and theorists are found speculating how stimuli, the physical sources of which are yards or miles outside a person’s skin, can generate mental responses inside the skull, or how decisions framed inside his cranium can get going movements of his extremities.
Even when ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ are construed as metaphors, the problem how a person’s mind and body influence one another is notoriously charged with theoretical difficulties, What the mind wills, the legs arms and the tongue execute; what affects the ear and the eye has something to do with what the mind perceives; grimaces and smiles betray the mind’s moods and bodily castigations lead it is hoped, to moral improvement. But the actual transactions between the episodes of the private history and those of the public history remain mysterious, since by definition they can belong to neither series. They could not be reported among the happenings described in a person’s autobiography of his inner life, but nor could they be reported among those described in someone else’s biography of that person’s overt career. They can be inspected neither by introspection nor by laboratory experiment. They are theoretical shuttlecocks which are forever being bandied from the physiologist back to the psychologist and from the psychologist back to the physiologist.
Underlying this partly metaphorical representation of the bifurcation of a person’s two lives there is seemingly a more profound and philosophical assumption. It is assumed that there are two different kinds of existence or status .What exists or happens may have the status of physical existence, or it may have the status of mental existence. Somewhat as the faces of coins are either heads or tails, or something as living creatures are either male or female, so it is supposed some existing is physical existing, other existing is mental existing. It is a necessary feature of what has physical existence that it is in space and time; it is a necessary feature of what has mental existence that it is in time but not in space. What has physical existence is composed of matter or else is a function of matter; what has mental existence consists of consciousness, or else is a function of consciousness.
There is thus a polar opposition between mind and matter, an opposition which is often brought out as follows. Material objects are situated in a common field, known as ‘space’ and what happens to one body in one part of space is mechanically connected with what happens to other bodies in other parts of space. But mental happenings occur in insulated fields, known as ‘minds’, and there is, apart maybe from telepathy, no direct causal connection between what happens in one mind and what happens in another. Only through the medium of the public physical world can the mind of one person make a difference to the mind of another. The mind is its own place and in his inner life each of us lives the life of a ghostly Robinson Crusoe. People can see, hear and jolt one another’s bodies, but thy are irremediably blind and deaf to he workings of one another’s minds and inoperative upon them.
What sort of knowledge can be secured of the workings of a mind? One the one side, according to the official theory, a person has direct knowledge of the best imaginable kind of works of his own mind. Mental states and processes are (or are normally ) conscious states and processes, and the consciousness which irradiates them can engender no illusions and leave the door open for no doubts. A person’s present thinkings, feelings and willings, his perceivings, rememberings and imaginings are intrinsically ‘phosphorescent’; their existence and their nature are inevitably betrayed to their owner. The inner life is a stream of consciousness of such a sort that it would be absurd to suggest that the mind whose life is that stream might be unaware of what is passing down it.
True , the evidence adduced recently by Freud seems to show that there exist channels tributary to this stream, which run hidden from their owner. People are actuated by impulses the existence of which they vigorously disavow; some of their thoughts differ from the thoughts which they acknowledge, and some of the actions which they think they will perform they do not really will. They are thoroughly gulled by some of their own hypocrisies and they successfully ignore facts about their mental lives which on the official theory ought to be patent to them. Holders of the official theory tend, however, to maintain that anyhow in normal circumstances a person must be directly and authentically seized of the present state and workings of his own mind.
Besides being currently supplied with these alleged immediate data of consciousness, a person is also generally supposed to be able to exercise from time to time a special kind of perception, namely inner perception or introspection. He can take a (non-optical) ‘look’ at what is passing in his mind Not only can he view and scrutinize a flower through his sense of sight and listen to and discriminate the notes of a bell through his sense of hearing; he can also reflectively or introspectively watch, without any bodily organ of sense, the current episodes of his inner life. The self-observation is also commonly supposed to be immune from illusion, confusion or doubt. A mind’s reports of its own affairs have a certainty superior to the best that is possessed by its reports of matters in the physical world. Sense-perceptions can, but consciousness and introspection cannot, be mistaken or confused.
On the other side one person has no direct access of any sort to the events of the inner life of another. He cannot do better than make problematic inferences from the observed behavior of the other person’s body to the states of mind which, by analogy from his own conduct, he supposes to be signalized by that behavior. Direct access to the workings of a mind is the privilege of that mind itself; in default of such privileged access, the workings of one mind are inevitably occult to everyone else. For the supposed arguments from bodily movements similar to their own to mental workings similar to their own would lack any possibility of observational corroboration. Not unnaturally, therefore, an adherent of the official theory finds it difficult to resist this consequence of his premises, that he has no good reason to believe that there do exist minds other than his own. Even if he prefers to believe that to other human bodies there are harnessed minds not unlike his own, he cannot claim to be able to discover their individual characteristics, or the particular things that they undergo and do. Absolute solitude is on this showing the ineluctable destiny of the soul. Only our bodies can meet.
A necessary corollary of this general scheme there is implicitly prescribed a special way of construing our ordinary concepts of mental powers and operations The verbs nouns and adjectives, with which in ordinarily life we describe the wits, characters and higher-grade performances of the people with whom we have do, are required to be signifying tendencies for such episodes to occur. When someone is described as knowing, believing or guessing something, as hoping, dreading intending or shirking something, as designing this or being amused at that, these verbs are supposed to denote the occurrence of specific modifications in his (to us) occult stream of consciousness,. Only his own privileged access to this stream in direct awareness and introspection could provide authentic testimony that these mental-conduct verbs were correctly oir incorrectly applied. The onlooker, be he teacher, critic, biographer or friend can never assure himself that his comments have any vestige of truth. Yet it was just because we do in fact all know how to make such comments, make them with general correctness and correct them when the turn out to be confused or mistaken, that philosophers found it necessary to construct their theories of the nature and place of minds. Finding mental conduct concepts being regularly and effectively used they properly sought to fix their logical geography. But the logical geography officially recommend would entail there could be no regular or effective use of these mental conduct concepts in our descriptions and prescriptions for other peoples minds."
Rocks can run into other rocks. But a mental concept can only run into a contradiction. There is no substance to mental, and as a corollary, there is no agency.
We are headed for a tripartite model of metaphysics: mental, physical, and consciousness. Mental is the guidance system, physical is the engine, and consciousness is the will. We need all three. Materialism has no need for consciousness; in fact, it rules it out. But we are conscious. Is this just a ruse on the part of nature? It is hard to believe that natural selection is such a prankster. We raise a dust and complain we cannot see. Perhaps we should listen.
Schopenhauer thought music was the language of God . That might not be quite right, but if he did not believe so, he should have. And I would agree with him. If experience is communication with God, music might be the soundtrack. People think there is music in heaven. That means there would be a piece of heaven here on earth. But music is just a means. Shared creativity is the end. (And it always entails a cost.)
There’s no intention worthy of mention
if you never try
so hang your hopes on rusted-out hinges
take ‘em for a ride.
Here are my marching orders for this work.
William Ernest Hocking:
“The notion of survival haunts the dark corners of modern consciousness like an uneasy ghost, having no place in the day’s business nor in the counsels of state-building sciences. In philosophy, it has the status of an inheritance finding residual attention as a last chapter, an appendix, a footnote to other matters.
Just on this account its position as religious dogma is of primary importance; for here a faltering yet vital human concern most needs the considered respect and guidance of racial insight. This responsibility, requiring newly living perspectives as human experience alters its outlooks in other fields, is today largely evaded or mummed by religious institutions caught timorously in their ancient imagery. This imagery which taken literally is obnoxious to the sounder instincts of mankind they are seemingly reluctant to translate while rightly unwilling to abandon survival as a total casualty in the path of scientific advance.
In this impasse, philosophic thought, however hesitant, must enter as an interpreter beginning with a clarification of the meanings of death and life as they confront one another. With these meanings in mind, we may in due time open the ultimate issue of possibility, in the light of the sciences as well as that of prophet and poet, spokesmen for the intuitions of the race.”
The topic of immortality sits like a charity invite to the table of modern reason, if it is invited at all. In our pretentious scientific perspective ("ask your doctor if your heart is strong enough for sex") we presume to have a pipeline to truth through evidence-based data (perception—largely sight and sound) while intuition and subjectivity are relegated to the antiquarian status of fairy tales and lightening bolt throwing gods. The locker room mentality of today’s leaders advocates the following approach to death: “Do not waste time thinking about death; live well the time you have, and forget that it ends”.
Derision, disdain, and loss of government contracts awaits those who "waste time" on it. But it does not go away; it simply goes behind. I am not a philosopher. I almost wish today that philosophy had been my career. It seems to be where the actions lies, for that certainly is not in psychology. Instead, I became a physician, where largely I treated patients with post-traumatic stress disorder. One hundred and seventy thousand patient hours in combat related group psychotherapy taught me that dragons only chase us when we run.
Intuition and the above hours convince me that we do not just waste time on death and the possibility of immortality. Understanding of these issues might be impossible. However, William Ernest Hocking’s admonition on purpose does not ask whether something is possible, but only whether it needs to be done, and if the finger of responsibility points in your direction.
Well then, this issue becomes simple. We may not be able to understand death and the possibility of immortality, but we must try to do so. Apparently no one else cares about it. So we risk ridicule, confront the difficulty, and simply do our duty. Doing so carries its own rewards.
The previous passages capture most of what Berkeley has to offer. He eliminates the concept of matter and replaces it with spirit. This changes nothing in the way we approach reality in this world, but it is very counterintuitive. Most of the rest of his work here addresses our resistence to this idea. The Dialogue between Hylas and Philonous does so specifically, and I very much recommend it. Hylas explains the concepts to Philonous, which is essentially Berkeley explaining it to us. And this is pretty much all of us. So, we already have the big stuff, but it might not be clear what difference it makes.
The difference is life or death. Before materialism every society had a god or gods. This is a division of labor. Government no longer is everything. David and Goliath is no longer a sure bet with God in the picture. God allows hope. God suggests purpose. God gives meaning. Otherwise it comes from the executive branch of government and their handlers. There is no reason to fight if it is hopeless. That means there is no reason to try, and if consciousness is a genuine force in itself, no reason to experience it. Game over.
We are playing in ‘game over’ mode now. It is still not too late to rewrite metaphysics—to get back to God. If we do not, the name of the game becomes Greed, and the winners will become Lord of the Carbon Deposits. Matter is a category mistake, our tendency to treat abstract items as literal, i.e. the navy as an actual ship or mental as an actual place. It then can become anything or everything, and does.
A legitimate use of abstraction is to file the spiritual world under the class of “purpose” and the material world under that of “cause”. It is incredibly disruptive to view the world as merely causal. If flies against all our personal experience. Everything we do we feel is done by intent. We are not pushed to go play basketball, or drive to the lake; we do so because we want to. With Berkeley’s approach we do not have to hide the most prominent thing about our experience. Not so with materialism. The latter leads to a ghost in the machine, something in mental that carries purpose, with levers that mechanically affect the outside world. We pass the buck to a gremlin. Psychoanalysis, which overran its license for explanation, viewed mental and physical as both causal systems, in the middle of which lived the “conflict free ego”. What else could that be but a homunculus living in a non-place of purpose. Why not just use us? How could they not see the folly? Why can we not see the folly about leaving purpose to subatomic particles? They are supposed to be the reason we go to the game or the lake. How do they do it, flip coins? Einstein could not stand for that, “God does not play dice with the world”. Sorry, Albert, but there is no place for God in your world or your thinking. It’s all particles. So purge your thinking: It all means nothing; dust to dust, ashes to ashes. Live with it.
But we can’t. And we shouldn’t. Materialism, science, asks us to throw away experience. What else is purpose other than experience? We all stand up together and say we are pushed everywhere we go, but no one believes that. And no one acts consistent with that. If you take out subjective, what is left, rocks?
But Berkeley’s clean up work is necessary reading. It addresses our resistence, and illustrates his sensitivity. We will move more quickly through his work here and touch what strikes me as the highlights. You should get his writings. The Cambridge Texts on the History of Philosophy has all his works in one volume. A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, and Three Dialogues between Hylus and Philonious are the ones you want. It is not philosophy. It is life.
25. All our ideas, or the things which we perceive, by whatsoever names they may be distinguished are visibly inactive; there is nothing of power or agency included in them, so that one idea or object of thought cannot produce, or make any alteration in another. To be satisfied of the truth of this there is nothing else requisite but a bare observation of our ideas. For since they and every part of them exist only in the mind, it follows that there is nothing in them but what is perceived. But whoever shall attend to his ideas, whether of sense or reflexion will not perceive in them any power or activity; there is therefore no such thing contained in them. A little attention will discover to us that the very being of an idea implies passiveness and inertness in it, insomuch that it is impossible for any idea to do anything, or strictly speaking, to be the cause of anything; neither can it be the resemblance or pattern of any active being as is evident from Section 8. Whence it plainly follows that extension, figure and motion cannot be the cause of our sensations. To say, therefore, that these are the effects of powers resulting from the configuration, number, motion, and size of corpuscles must certainly be false.
Mental and physical exist on different conceptual levels and to treat them as both substances will result in absurdities. Mental can envision, but it cannot produce; and this is not changed one wit by a government edict, such as the Veterans Administration, which mandates that post-traumatic stress disorder will be corrected by proper thinking.
35. I do not argue against the existence of any one thing that we can apprehend, either by sense or reflection. That the things I see with mine eyes and touch with my hands do exist really exist, I make not the least question. The only thing whose existence we deny is that which philosophers call matter or corporeal substance. And in doing of this, there is no damage done to the rest of mankind who I dare say, will never miss it. The atheist indeed will want the color of an empty name to support his impiety, and the philosophers may possibly find, they have lost a great handle for trifling and disputation.
I love the way he puts this, and he adds the dimension that people can profit from materialism. Basically, materialism eliminates spirit, including God, which results in a void that government eagerly will attempt to fill. Printing presses always help in that endeavor. And they never step down gracefully.
36. If any man thinks this detracts from the existence of reality of things, he is very far from understanding what has been premised in the plainest terms I could think of. Take here an abstract of what has been said. There are spiritual substances, minds, or human souls, which will or excite ideas in themselves at pleasure; but these are faint, weak, and unsteady in respect of others they perceive by sense, which being impressed upon them according to certain rules or laws of nature, speak themselves the effects of a mind more powerful and wise than human spirits These latter are said to have more reality in them than the former, by which is meant that they are more affecting ,orderly, and distinct, and that they are not fictions of the mind perceiving them. And in this sense, the sun that I see by day is the real sun, and that which I imagine by night is the idea of the former. In the sense here given of ‘reality’, it is evident that every vegetable, star mineral, and in general each part of the mundane system, is as much a real being by our principles as by any other. Whether others mean any thing by th term ‘reality’ different from what I do, I entreat them to look into their own thoughts and see.
37. It will be urged that thus much at least is true, to wit that we take away all corporeal substances. To this my answer is that if the word ‘substance’ be taken in the common sense, for a combination of sensible qualities, such as extension solidity, weight, and the like, this we cannot be accused of taking away. But if it be taken in a philosophic sense, for the support of accidents or qualities without the mind, then indeed I acknowledge that we take it away, if one may be said to take away that which never had any existence, not even in the imagination.
Nothing changes practically in our “real world”. We still step out of the way of trains and cars, and do not try to eat imaginary apples. But, also, if we go home that night and reflect on the day, we do not pay homage to the quarks. We give credit where credit is due, and do not try to play god or assign it to others. To coin an aphorism: If we do not look up to something, we will fall for anything; and someone will always be around to offer it. Alternatively, those without a god will tend to act like one.
We can write until the sun cools and nothing will change except the number of pages. It is chalk talk, not taking the field. If the 21st century is going to be the one about consciousness, then we need to find its place in external reality. It is fine for me to outline a strategy, and without one it is probably impossible to get anywhere important, but getting there counts too. To make a difference my work here needs a miracle. An example of conscious effort making a difference would do, and it need be something more than raising one’s arm. People need to sit up and take notice.
Miracles must appear to be out of reach. Just getting out of bed should not constitute one. Hocking is my favorite philosopher, and one of his aphorisms is the approach that one does not ask if it is impossible, just whether it needs to be done, and if the finger of responsibility points to you. The answer is yes and yes for my rescue critters. Too many marathons have reduced my mobility to that of a slug. The dogs need to be walked, water needs to be changed, stairs engaged efficiently, in addition to other things like rekindling a basketball function once considered sacred. For me to walk effectively again, on my terms, not that of some medical assembly line (following intuition here), would be a miracle. It certainly would impress me, and an effective jump shot from fifteen feet would draw some attention on the court.
Standing between me and a miracle is fifty pounds. It sits there like the pyramids, no matter what meal or food group I skip. I do not use a scale, but basically, going from what is probably about 200 lbs down to 150 might be the jump start to make this all happen. I will be too thin, but this is about mobility, not aesthetics. And it is entirely a function of will. Will is entirely a component of consciousness. The Vatican does not care if I get there, but there is work in tandem here about helping the dogs, revisiting the court, and pursuing the goal of finding purpose in a causal world. The effort for mobility and writing converge. This is two birds with one scone. Theoretically I am wondering if gathering dispersity produces some critical mass. One cannot simply reduce the majesty of a miracle, i.e., all are winners and all shall have prizes, but one must dare to dream. The impossible sounds like a good place to start. Hocking thinks so.
So, hand in hand, weight loss and theory shall march forward. Impossible be damned! Dogs and teammates demand it. Let’s try a diary approach here (for me, not the blog). It will get tedious, but so is all data gathering. We are studying the invisible. What is the trigger than converts concept to action? It sounds like a quantum thing, i.e., that it simply jumps, outside of time and space, to another orbit. We will be thinking and starving, if that is possible. And if it is not, who cares? It must be done and the finger points to me. Maybe it is the impossibility itself that bridges conception and action. Well, in that light, we have enough of it around. I will be wowed, if nothing else, except thinner. The 700 (cal.) club sounds good, and little add on items sound verboten. Next train to Gastroville at 6 pm.
6. Some truths there are so near and obvious to the mind, that a man need only open his eyes to see them. Such I take this important one to be, to wit that all the choir of heaven and furniture of the earth, in a word all those bodies which compose the mighty frame of the world, have not any subsistence without a mind, that their being is to be perceived or known; that consequently so long as they are not actually perceived by me, or do not exist in my mind or that of any other created spirit they must either have no existence at all, or else subsist in the mind of some eternal spirit: it being perfectly unintelligible and involving all the absurdity of abstraction, to attribute to any single part of them an existence independent of a spirit. To be convinced of which, the reader need only reflect and try to separate in his own thoughts the being of a sensible thing from its being perceived.
7. From what has been said, it follows, there is not any other substance than spirit, or that which perceives. But for the fuller proof of this point, let it be considered , the sensible qualities are color, figure, motion, smell, taste, and such like, that is, the ideas perceived by sense. Now for an idea to exist in an unperceiving thing it is a manifest contradiction; for to have an idea is all one as to perceive; that therefore wherein color, figure, and the like qualities exist, must perceive them. Hence it is clear there can be no unthinking substance or substratum of those ideas.
8. But say you, though the ideas themselves do not exist without the mind, yet there may be things like them whereof they are copies or resemblances, which things exist without the mind in an unthinking substance. I answer, an idea can be like nothing but an idea; a color or figure can be like nothing but another color of figure. If we look but ever so little into our thoughts, we shall find it impossible for us to conceive a likeness except only between our ideas. Again, I ask whether those supposed originals or external things, of which are ideas are the pictures or representations, be themselves perceivable or no? If they are, then they are ideas, and we have gained our point; but if you say they are not, I appeal to anyone whether it be sense to assert (that) a color is like something which is invisible; hard or soft, like something which is intangible; and so of the rest.
9. Some there are who make a distinction betwixt primary and secondary qualities. By the former they mean extension, figure, motion, rest, solidity or impenetrability and number; by the latter they denote all other sensible qualities, as colors sounds, tastes, and so forth. The ideas we have of they acknowledge not to be the resemblances of any thing existing without the mind or unperceived, but they will have our ideas of the primary qualities to be patterns or images of things which exist without the mind, in an unthinking substance which they call “matter”. By ‘matter’ therefore we are to understand an inert, senseless substance, in which extension, figure, and motion do actually subsist. But it is evident from what we have already shown that extension, figure, and motion are only ideas existing in the mind, and that an idea can be like nothing but another idea, and that consequently neither they nor their archetypes can exist in an unperceiving substance. Hence it is plain that the very notion of what is called ‘matter’ or ‘corporeal substance’ involves a contradiction in it.
19. But though we might possibly have all our sensations without them, yet perhaps it may be thought easier to conceive and explain the manner of their production by supposing external bodies in their likeness rather than otherwise; and so it might be at least probable there are such things as bodies that excite their ideas in our minds. But neither can this be said. For though we give the materialists their external bodies, they by their own confession are never the nearer knowing how our ideas our produced, since they own themselves unable to comprehend in what manner body can act upon spirit, or how it is possible it should imprint any idea in the mind. Hence it is evident the production of ideas or sensations in our minds can be no reason why we should suppose matter or corporeal substance, since that is acknowledged to remain equally inexplicable with, or without, this supposition. If therefore it were possible for bodies to exist without the mind, yet to hold they do so must needs be a very precarious opinion, since it is to suppose, without any reason at all, that God has created innumerable beings that are entirely useless, and serve to no manner or purpose.
23. But say you, surely there is nothing easier than to imagine trees, for instance, in a park, or books existing in a close, and nobody by to perceive them. I answer, you may do so, there is no difficulty in it; but what is all this, I beseech you, more than framing in your mind certain ideas which you call ‘books’ and ‘trees’, and at the same time omitting to frame the idea of any one that may perceive them? But do not you yourself perceive or think of them all the while? This therefore is nothing to the purpose; it only shows you have the power of imagining or forming ideas in your mind. But it does not show that you can conceive it possible the objects of your thought may exist without the mind. To make out this, it is necessary that you conceive them existing unconceived or unthought of, which is a manifest inconsistency. When we do our utmost to conceive the existence of external bodies, we are all the while only contemplating our own ideas. But the mind taking no notice of itself, is deluded to think it can and does conceive bodies existing unthought of or without the mind; though at the same time they are apprehended by or exist in itself. A little attention will discover to anyone the truth and evidence of what is here said, and make it unnecessary to insist in any other proofs against the existence of material substance.
Berkeley is not an end here. This is not a course on Berkeley. Rather, Berkeley is one of the first to see the dangers of materialism: the loss of meaning, spirit, purpose, and hope. Life becomes eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die; or its less jolly cousin, all is fair in love, war, and death.
I want to include enough of Berkeley’s writing to give you a feeling for his work. He is a good read, and the issues in the seventeen hundreds are still central today. This is not just history for history’s sake, but rather an review of our basic metaphysics to avert possible (or probable) collapse. For myself there is almost no limit to the gain I can receive by repeated effort here. The goal is to support faith with enough belief that one does not feel there is only one option—to close one’s eyes and jump. I want some conviction, and it grows with practice, not by revelation. The more I study Berkeley the more personal integration I develop. But what works for me will not be the same as what works for you.
What I am trying to say here is that there is no substitute for reading Berkeley yourself. I hope to offer the Cliff Notes version and introduce you to Berkeley the person. I think you will like him and suspect that your efforts spent reading him will be essential to truth in the twenty first century. His major point is that it is that matter is a construct, not a structure, and it puts a player on the field that just gets in the way, and draws penalties.
We have a group of his comments above that outlines his points. The first thing that jumps out is that our problem is hiding in plain site. As fish do not see the water, so we do not see our thinking. We think, with objects drawn from perceptions, and our attention naturally faces outward. It does little good to reflect while on an empty stomach. And apples grow on trees, although insights do not. Berkeley simply calls on us to reflect, to try to gain perspective through reason. All knowledge is not simply gained through perception, science notwithstanding.
The name of the game through reason appears to be contradiction. The correlate through science is observation (date through a sense organ, i.e. sight, sound, etc.) It seems to me that contradiction is itself based on observation, implicit experience that could also be called common sense. If you drive twice as fast you will not get to Carolina and California at the same time. Experience in the world, learned by repetition, tells us we can only be at one place at a time. Arriving at Carolina and California at the same time makes no sense, and informs us as certainly as seeing a tree in the yard. Berkeley simply asks us to think through our thinking through.
Human limitation to such reflection is not so much because the resulting concepts are too abstract for most of us to envision, but rather that we have become so familiar with our current metaphysics (theory of abstract connections) that it simply seems too strange. Quantum mechanics gives us such a problem. All it says is that we can at some times be somewhere and at other times be simultaneously everywhere and nowhere. We are stuck on somewhere in our experience, being able to mouth the words, but only with great difficult grasp the concept. We take the reality of matter as the fish take water, which makes it hard to get a grasp on it. It is simply so close that we no longer notice, like walking up or down stairs without looking, or brushing our teeth.
Berkeley understands this. He writes his treatise on the illusion of matter and realizes how people react to it. And this is what is great about him; he is aware of his reader and tries to address the problems. So seeing the reaction to his work, he follows it with a dialogue in the form of a play between two assocaites, Hylas and Philonious (I have no idea where he got the names.) The issue he was addressing is every bit as relevant today as it was three hundred years ago, and so is most everyone’s reactions. You really need to read the Dialogue between Hylus and Philoneous, not so much because you will then sneak in an awareness of the truth of his concepts, but that you will clearly see our resistance. Hylus makes premises that Philoneous agrees with (as do we as readers), and conclusions which appear air tight, and not so abstract as to leave us behind; but, nevertheless, the next morning it all goes away and nothing has changed. Reason fights poorly against habit; its only hope is persistence. We learn truth not through epiphanies, but through practice, and more practice. Truth is a skill, not a revelation.
The last line in paragraph six is sufficient to rest his case, if only we could put it to muscle memory. Doing so is not a natural action, like throwing a ball with one’s non dominant arm. He asks us to visualize fruit without an example—fruitness, on its own. Good luck with that. Fruitness equals matter. There is no nutrition in a name, only an object. And there is no value, other than convention, in presuming matter exists in a material world, other than habit. We could get by just as well by clumping perceptions together according to pattern and labeling them, than by adding an additional element. If we consider that we buy a left shoe, a right shoe, and a pair of shoes, we do not get more shoes by counting the pair as additional objects. One plus one does not equal four. There is no bargain here, only confusion among associates who read Berkeley.
I, personally, do not find Berkeley impossible to read, only difficult. He writes to be understood, not to confuse someone into submission. After several reviews, to me it starts to make sense. With some authors, i.e. Kant, I am willing to concede his points without understanding them, because some things might be simply beyond us. But there is always a price to pay for that. One gives up conviction with what has to be taken at someone else's word. It remains a weak part of our system. One the other hand, many people sound obtuse because they are faking it, hoping to dazzle us into submission. Alan Greenspan comes to mind.
In paragraph seven Berkeley replaces matter with spirit. Both are concepts, so we are free to pick either one. Nothing in the way we interchange with the world differs as a result of this substitution. We simply place “real” in a different file. We treat it no differently, but do understand it as such. Berkeley is not saying that mind is everything. There is a difference between perceiving and recalling. Nothing much happens standing in front of a fast moving train that one merely recalls. So we need a difference between perception and conception. We can certainly distinguish between a fast moving train coming down the tracks we are standing on from one we imagine. So something must exist outside our black box. Berkeley calls that spirit, the mind of God. Newton, Descartes, science, and our world handlers call it matter (electrons, protons, photons, gluons and the 396 other such little particles). Pragmatically, it does not matter what we call the sender of the signals that we receive as perceptions. Just get out of the way of fast moving perceptions, and do what you want with fast moving conceptions. But how we understand the world and its implications for our behavior is drastically different. Basically a materialist world is causal; it is blind chance, billiard balls all the way down. A spiritual world entails consciousness, and with it comes purpose, caring, wishing, intent, and meaning—basically, everything entailed in experience, without which, quite frankly, there is nothing. This is obviously no small issue. The burgeoning disaster of a materialistic world is the loss of meaning, and with it a lack of purpose, followed by a mad grab for anything and everything to fill the emptiness. If it all means nothing, what then is the point of anything? Hot tubs, travel, fame, power, money, and gourmet cooking do not do it. Without reasons it is all distraction. Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.
He attacks matter in a variety of arguments, each of which by itself would be sufficient to debunk it. So if one would work, why send in the whole posse? Because the issue is intractable, based not on reason, but habit. The argument in paragraph seven is that if the only hard evidence we have are perceptions, then we should take note that something has to perceive them. For an idea to exist in an unperceiving thing makes no sense because ideas are the precipitate of perceptions. Rocks have no ideas. That a tree falling in the forest makes a sound is only true if something is there to hear it, whether one tree falls or a thousand. Without a perceiver there is no perception. An unthinking substance has nothing to support. Matter has nothing to do with the external world, other than in our conceptual error. Reality is supported by spirit, not quarks.
At this point one has to wonder whether this line of thought has just
fallen off a cliff. Materialism is so ensconced in our world view that no one
checks its credentials anymore. Doing so is simply dismissed as preposterous, or
worse, sacrilegious. But where is the court of appeals in which an honest debate
could be entertained. Surely we could entertain propositions on the basis of
reason, but bias has to be considered as well. We do not want to think that the
foundation of our world view is suspect. Doing so sets one apart from society,
and demands that something else take matter’s place. Religion does not suggest
itself, because materialism itself is a reaction against the subjectivity of
religion. Truth may not be tied solely to molecules, but it certainly is not
tied merely to ideas. Blending the two requires some understanding of how mental
can interface with physical. But no one has been able to do that, probably
because the wrong players are on the field. Reality is not Descartes’ dualism of
mental and physical substances, nor Newton’s monism of physical; but, rather, it
is a monism of consciousness, ours and a higher power’s.
I find some comfort in realizing that if one divides matter indefinitely
you eventually end up with . . . . . you. That must mean something. And while
spiritualism in the form of gods has always been around, consciousness viewed as
different from mental is new. Consciousness is active as opposed to mental, which
is passive. Mental is the film strip as it goes through the projector.
Consciousness is the light, upon which all the images are dependent. The
twenty-first century will be the century of consciousness, an independent, active
force. And it gets support from an unlikely quarter, quantum mechanics, which
quietly and persistently produces evidence that consciousness is an agent.
Quantum mechanics is dragging the physicists, kicking and screaming, into the
twenty-first century. Einstein wasted the last two decades of his life betting
against it. Somehow that never seems to be mentioned.
Again, the world is constructed out of consciousness, ours and a higher power’s. The physicists might grant consciousness as a power before seeing a
higher consciousness as God. But we are all going to have to realize the latter
to survive. Consciousness (speculating only about ours) is not just another
force, like gravity. It is unique unto itself, and outside of time/space. We
have a lot to learn. The year 2314 will look nothing like today—except, perhaps,
The remaining paragraphs quoted above continue the arguments against matter. I do not find them self-evident, but neither are they impossible. What seems to be impossible for us is to hold on to reason, which logic should compel, when it runs into emotion. Truth will eventually win that battle, but not in the lifetime of those who fight for it.
Finally, the argument in paragraph twenty-three is especially interesting. It is a variant of the fact that it is impossible to intentionally not think of something. To not think of something you have to remember what to not think about. You are trying to pull yourself up by your bootstraps. And to think that being able to conceive of a tree out there independent of consciousness shows that it is independent, proves nothing, because all the while you imagine the tree you carry awareness of it in your back pocket. Everywhere we go, there we are. It’s called consciousness.
4. "It is indeed an opinion strangely prevailing amongst men, that houses, mountains, rivers, and in a word all sensible objects have an existence natural or real, distinct from their being perceived by the understanding, but with how great an assurance and acquiescence soever this principle may be entertained in the world; yet whoever shall find in his heart to call it in question, may, if I mistake not, perceive it to involve a manifest contradiction. For what are the forementioned objects but the things we perceive by sense, and what do we perceive besides our own ideas or sensations; and is it not plainly contradictory that any one of these or any combination of them should exist unperceived?"
There is a horror to this statement if you stare at it too long: basically, we can never get outside of ourselves. Everything we perceive we view only as our images. We see our creation of perceptions, and nothing more. The “reality” of reality is forever beyond our reach. We are trapped in a black box. We presume that our vision is like a pinhole camera, reflecting accurately, albeit upside down and backwards from what is outside, but nevertheless, an accurate rendition. But the apt metaphor is not pinhole camera, but rather, satellite TV. Our internal creations are not photographs but art. The waves sent down by the satellite bear no resemblance to the pictures on our monitors. There is an us in everything we perceive that converts signal to perception. We are active, not passive, in all our perceptions, and hence can never know what an object appears like in itself, because for us there is no “in itself”. We cannot get out the way. There is no way without our "without us". It is our way or the highway.
So it makes little sense to presume matter, real stuff from which we “see” as if the abstraction is logically the same is its elements (i.e. we see the navy in the same way as we see the ships). The navy cannot be seen, it is an abstraction of the ships as they function in union. And matter is an abstraction of the component sensations that we clump together to identify individual objects. In the real world there is not tails, barks, fur, wet noses, devotion, and dogness. Dog is all of the other items grouped together and given a name. Dog is not on the same conceptual level as the components that make up the name, any more than the navy exists independent of the ships.
This perhaps sounds more complicated than it is when one considers it. Fruit is not something that can be conceived independent of an example of fruit, i.e. apple, orange, banana, etc. The term fruit is an abstraction we use to organize information. Rather than paging through endless random ideas to find something to eat, we just call up the term fruit and have a broad array from which to choose. Abstraction is what sets us apart from most other living creatures. It makes us more efficient. So it is pretty simple that we can picture only instantiations or examples of fruit because they are actual objects; but the category fruit is only a concept. Concepts cannot be perceived; they are conceived. This would be easy if we typically reflected on our mental functions, but being “behind the camera” we can never perceive ourselves. We can see our hands, arms, legs, etc, but not the seeing of our seeing these structures. That is why we can assume the tree in the front yard is exactly like our perception of that tree—we omit our active component in its creation. Basically matter occupies a place for us the same as does the term fruit. It is where we group everything that is outside of ourselves, and that is useful, but it is not visible. Try as we may we will never perceive a “fruit”, only an apple, orange, banana, etc. Matter is a concept, not an object. We would see this if we only looked, which Berkeley suggests that we do.
Outer space is not the last frontier. Inner space appears to be. (A statement, itself, which repeats the error, but I shall let stand for poetic license.)
And. . . . if we cannot get matter right, and realize that it is concept, not structure, what else do we get wrong? The answer appears to be: time, space, mind, matter, purpose, cause, and consciousness. We need to turn the camera and look at our looking.
It might be time for a review of my writing. The end of this work is coming into view, not just from Berkeley here, who started us on this journey, but other reading that I have jumped to recently. My writing started about eight years ago. I was about to retire and had been reading philosophy for several years before then. Prior to that philosophy felt like chasing one’s tail, and I identified myself with science and its offspring. When you are young, you learn tactics; later in life, you reflect on strategies.
One of the authors talked about an experience his father had in which he felt trapped on a ship that was sinking. No escape, no survival; just like life in a materialistic world. It is hard to keep looking away; one can only stand so much football until all the colors bleed into brown. I could not shake the feeling. Retirement and sinking ships. What else was left?
My answer came from the process of confronting, rather than avoiding, existential issues--largely my adoption. Also, my work with the veterans showed that time did not heal all wounds. Passivity only prolongs the ordeal. Some doors need opening.
The prototypical antagonist in my life has become the ashes to ashes materialist, who has all the answers, and is going to live for today (at anyone’s expense) because tomorrow we all die. We find them in any discipline, including religion. So the idea became to face death, essentially to resurrect spirit as a legitimate entity in the universe. It does not make sense that the world is just bosons or space/time strings heaped together in a dark corner of nowhere. We do not experience ourselves as aimless, so why be so presumptuous about there being no purpose in the world. The shills of the materialistic world handlers espouse that position, and profit from it, but we do not have to buy it. It becomes an issue of faith versus belief. Forced to choose one or the other, a person probably does best to choose faith. But we do not have to choose. The two are not exclusive. Faith can lead us to dashboard talismans and miracles by committee, but belief can lead us to apathy and entitlement. Faith is a product of reason, belief a product of perception. Faith gives us hope. Science gives us facts. But faith without reason is just wishing, and facts without theory are just distraction. At some point in a materialistic world we are going to stop seeking the holy grail in something smaller. Purpose is not going to be found down there, sitting in a gluon. Eventually we get down to nothing—except ourselves. And if we exclude purpose, then what possible sense can anyone make of anything we try to do.
Too bad for the physicists, but a box of rocks is not going to explain the world. From where I peer out from my reading, it appears that we have not got any the big issues right. Berkeley shows matter to be a category mistake. Ryle reduces mind to the same. There is no matter, no mind, and no time or space other than as mental constructs. Kant eliminated time and space as actual entities. Einstein turned gravity into warped space/time. Walker connects us to quantum mechanics and the need for consciousness as a primary force. How are we doing so far? What is left from which to build a universe? I understand that the above concepts are mere statements and most people will not take them as valid, but we can look at the evidence for these positions, and you can decide for yourself. Personally, I follow the rule that it has to genuinely work for me, not just that I wish for it. Metaphorically, my tail has to wag. The trick is not to lower the bar, but to be open to new paradigms. This is not wishful thinking. It is daring to think.
The tipping point is Evan Harris Walker’s book, The Physics of Consciousness. The Bell experiment in quantum mechanics gives scientific data to support consciousness as a basic force in the universe. Once we thought everything was earth, fire, water and air. Recently it was electromagnetism, gravity, strong nuclear force, and weak nuclear force. That is not much difference for two thousand years of work. Now we have scientific evidence for consciousness as a force in nature. We do not have to throw away everything we have gained through Newtonian physics. We adapt it. Descartes had a dualism between mind and matter. Physics rejects that. Materialism is a monism of simply matter. The future is a dualism between consciousness and matter (as defined by Berkeley.) The rocks must share. Consciousness is not a time/space thing. Basically, life is no longer simply dust to dust, ashes to ashes. We may have to explain ourselves some day, but we are no longer working under strict time constraints. Walker's book is essential to any dialogue on these issues.
For me this change of perspective causes a change in experience. Finding out what we are is no longer an end, but merely a means. If there is something more than what materialism offers, then we can look at death with less horror and spend more time engaged in experience. There may be more to life than a gravestone. I can breathe now, and my sense of purpose becomes more compelling. Death has a leash on it, and we can perhaps keep it out of the garden. From this new perspective my work becomes more important. Knowing what we are allows us to be what we can become. Ernest Becker felt that humanity suffers from an ability to confront death. I have always agreed with him, and my work with post-traumatic stress disorder supports that position. Humanity has a post-traumatic stress disorder. With that disorder the defenses against facing death cause more problems than the trauma itself. This means that much of the world's difficulties today might be amenable to change.
Purpose is what sets us apart from pool balls. We reach; pool balls are pushed. Purpose is what we are about, if corruption and compliance does not keep it from us. We see that purpose more clearly if we are not hiding from dragons. Like learning Zen, the goal of learning it is not simply so that one can sit around speaking nonsense. It is to clear the constraints of logic in order to open a perspective on truth. The goal of my writing, finding out what we are made of, turns out not to be an end, but merely a beginning. It frees me to walk closer with the truth, and to better pursue my purpose. But knowing is not the goal; acting on it is. Purpose gives meaning to everything. It is both priceless and timeless. That beats daytime TV.
So my dilemma today is not what to do for the rest of my life. It is how do I fit it all in. This is not about havng fun or completing a bucket list. It is about coordinating personal truth with cosmic truth and pursuing the responsibilities that one confronts. It is about creating, not consuming. Purposeful living is when you have to force yourself to stop an activity, rather than to start it. The value is in the doing. It feels like one could do it forever. Maybe we can.
Our Christmas dog was hours away from a gas chamber in southern Missouri on Christmas eve, and today (January 6) her snow picture was featured on Fox2 News, not because of her story but because of her happiness and energy. Good for her.
A Christmas Carol
My other half posted a “bah humbug” on her Facebook site several days ago. Christmas involves family, which is hard for us to celebrate since neither of us ever had one. This is not melodrama, just reality. My story was included in a People Magazine article entitled Castaways—about babies being left in parks and doorways.
Soon after Rhonda expressed her Christmas joy, a woman from southern Missouri posted on the site about a dog who was scheduled for the gas chamber on Christmas Eve. That was too much to take, even for a Scrooge, so we claimed her. The two of us run an animal rescue. As I write this, at 2 pm on Christmas Eve afternoon, Mia would be being dragged into the gas chamber where she would struggle in horror for her last breath. Instead she woke up after a long night’s sleep and was licking Rhonda’s face on the couch in the living room. The Rescue is the centerpiece of our lives. It needed to be established, the finger of responsibility pointed to us, and we responded. It is entirely a labor of love. This is all weekends, no weekdays. It is being seven years old and going to the pond to play with the frogs, rather than dragging in on Monday morning to get to the coffee before facing the day.
I am trying to capture the experience for us to be running a shelter. The payoff is intrinsic. The joy is the wagging tails. It is not fun; this is not a bucket list item. It is purpose, what you might die while doing and not even notice that you died. The rescue is successful, but, again, that is entirely subjective. Most people would have no interest in doing this. Most people are people related. We are dog related. The basic principle that supports our rescue is that the dog is not a means, but rather an end. I was always a means and could not fix that for myself, but I can for Mia. I am sure that our rescue is not like most other rescues, just like we are not like most other people. We are different from the rest of the world, and are different from those who are different from the rest of the world, in that we have done something with our difference. And importantly, none of this would ever have happened had we experienced normal childhoods. Our rescue is wonderful. A non subjective measure might be that our website received 250,000 hits this year. We get calls from all over the country. But that misses the point. The point is that our rescue flies under its own power. Each dog we save is a reaction to our experience of being castaways. The disaster that was our childhood becomes the foundation of what we do today. Before, we were pound puppies; now we rescue them. Pain has been transformed into purpose. And the satisfaction we obtain is largely intrinsic, which takes the effort out of work. Perhaps purpose is always born out of distress.
Saving this dog is our Christmas, and neither of us would change it for anything. We are different; but then so was our experience. I would not want to retrace our steps, but would also never want to go back.
It is not the cards you are dealt, but how you play the hand.
(The comments on this post mistakenly used the previous quote and were written for that quote, but using material for the next one. So the comments are new, and I shall just leave them up here, although fix them for the book. )
3. That neither our thoughts, nor passions, nor ideas formed by the imagination, exist without the mind, is what every body will allow. And it seems no less evident that the various sensations or ideas imprinted on the sense, however blended or combined together (that is whatever objects they compose) cannot exist otherwise than in a mind perceiving them. I think an intuitive knowledge may be obtained of this, by any one that shall attend to what is meant by the term ‘exist’ when applied to sensible things. The table I write on, I say, exists that is, I see and feel it and if I was in my study I might perceive it, or that some other spirit actually does perceive it. There was an odor, that is, it was smelled, there was a sound, that is to say, it was heard; a color or figure, and it was perceived by sight or touch. This is all that I can understand by these and the like expressions. For as to what is said of the absolute existence of unthinking things without any relation to their being perceived, that seems perfectly unintelligible. Their reality is to be perceived nor is it possible they should have any existence, out of the minds or thinking things which perceive them.
The first part is uncontested. Our compassion or pride is part of our experience, not our biochemistry— molecules do not feel anything. Imagining is something we can do, but it produces no real pictures at a theater somewhere in our heads. To picture it that way is to make a category mistake, trying to interpose predicates when logic disqualifies them. Real means something that exists in time and space. It cannot also mean something that does not exist in time in space without cancelling itself out. Contradiction is the referee of logic. Predicates of ‘real’ make no sense when applied to not real. We cannot sensibly ask how many imaginary footballs does it require to weigh as much as one real football, or does a mind weight less than a mole of helium atoms. And perceptions have no claim to material independence. Green does not exist by itself in the world. It does not come from the ‘matter’ that reflects protons at 510 nanometers. ‘Green’ flees from anything perceived as green. All other colors it absorbs. Intrinsically, it rejects green. So how do electrical impulses become colors? No one knows, but we do know that colors exist only in minds, as do sounds, odors, tastes, pains, etc. No one asks “who’s pain is this on the bench?” A tape recorder can copy a song but not listen to it.
At the risk of being repetitive, paraphrasing Ryle’s comment that she came home in a flood of tears and a Ford Focus, offers another example. Moods and cars cannot interface. They are like minds and bodies. Moods cannot be placed in a trunk, and cars do not run more effectively if happy. There can be no more correspondence between mind and body than there can be putting sad in the back seat. Logic forbids it. This results in fifteen yard unnecessary nonsense penalties on both sides. Logic has its limits. A square circle resists conceptualization. So does a 30 mg idea. Less obvious, however, is the concept of vivid memories. Memories are ideas not perceptions. One cannot have a clever perception any more than he can have a 200 watt idea. Logic entails limits. A infinity which is limited makes no sense. The concept cancels itself out, probably even for God.
Some category mistakes are just for effect. We do not take them literally; i.e., an angry sky. But some are important and can poison the well all the way down. The two we are interested in are matter and mind. Explanations of both are designed today to answer the question, “Given that the world is mechanical, how do we understand mind, and matter? With that question we have just stepped toward Carolina when we are headed to California. The concept that the world is mechanical cannot simply be presumed; it constitutes the major question itself. Purpose offers an option to cause. It cannot simply be dismissed. Begging the question, mind lives in time, space, and cause; but only by fiat. Materialism then resembles a fiat currency (an analogy entailing a category mistake used for descriptive effect.) So mind has to be in a place, and action has to be cause rather than purpose. There are no other predicates to explain it. And matter can only be supported by more matter. We head out on a snipe hunt to find invisible matter that supports regular matter. Or, as Berkeley said, we raise a dust and then complain we cannot see. How long can we keep heading toward Carolina when seeking California? Until we stop. We have been doing it now for three hundred years. That should constitute a decent experiment. And the answer is that we are headed the wrong way.
The idea that we combine various perceptions, say about an apple, and take this combination as itself an entity (like the thirteen colonies becoming a confederation) is also something we concede can only happen in a mind. Things do not abstract themselves, and every level of abstraction has its own predicates that fit with it. A Constitution, for example, is not another political department like a legislature. It does not keep order through force, as a barrister or sheriff, but rather by rules, or ideas. We leave cause and affect for concept and coordination. Minds are like constitutions, not law officers. They are about organization rather than individualization. They are a higher order of abstraction, and cooperation or coordination, for example, cannot be put in a drawer or given a number. They are about function, not structure. But what you see is what you get. There are not real actors behind the screen. We see representations. A cluster of representations identifies an apple, as a fingerprint an individual. So far, so good. But we then hypothesize something supporting the perceptions. Photons have to bounce off of something we assume, but that something cannot be like matter since the something itself is not perceptible. A foundation can support a house, but an invisible foundation loses credibility. Still, it is apparent that perceptions do not just happen. There must be something that makes photons bounce off of it.
So how do we explain the something. That is the crux of the difference between Berkeley and most others. Remember that the world has changed with the development of science. We now need to explain things in predicates reflecting a mechanical world. Prior to three hundred years ago we explained it with spirits. No one thought little pieces of stuff could explain the world. All cultures had a God. The definition of a Newtonian world is that everything can be explained on the basis of three things—time, space, causality. We are nothing but levers and billiard balls. So if predicates appropriate to cause are what makes sense, then support for perceptions must be matter. There is nothing else. This gets iffy because it is hard to imagine the universe without design, but perhaps smaller and smaller will serve to hide that fact.
So we are cool, on our own, and not dependent upon a god. Instead we can use god-particles. (This is beginning to loose its glamour.) Nothing changes with Berkeley. We will do everything the same except file our explanation. Science reduces everything to matter (cause); while spirituality reduces everything to spirit. There is a reality out there, it just cannot be explained in predicates appropriate to matter and cause. We have zero evidence-based data for matter, by the way. It cannot be seen. It is a lifeless shadow that supports representations, although as itself it cannot live in the same world as representations. That world is time, space, and cause; while matter in itself shares nothing with that. If you take away all the representations of an apple, do you have anything left? Appleness? How would you know? Science cannot be happy with this because appleness falls into the same class as ark angles and heaven. There is no evidence-based data (perceptions) to determine truth or not. You might as well say representations are supported by a giant invisible turtle. Who could prove you wrong?
Materialism has to drop its pretense to science with its hypothesis of an invisible “stuff” which underlies and constitutes the essence of reality. “Show me the money”, shouts someone. And there is none, at least as far as we can see.
Berkeley makes a statement at the end which seems to cause confusion. He makes it sound as though things exist only when we perceive them. If we look away, they go away. This is not what he meant. Nothing changes about reality except its source. He had no interest in throwing away God, as do materialists, so real is supported by spirit rather than matter. Real is that which is willed in the mind of God. In choosing this way, design enters the world, along with consciousness, experience, and purpose. Going the other way one gets coin flips and improbability.