My life now breaks down into theoretical and practical. Theoretical deals with whether there is a God or not and how we might verify this issue through experience. The practical felt like an essentially different issue (psychotherapy), but the two now appear to be inextricably related. So I oscillate and am fine with that.
Recently the focus shifted to practical, and with a flurry of effort we put together a music video. It basically presents the position of combat vets upon return to civilian life. The audience this most directly affects are the vets returning today, but as a country we have a responsibility to these people, and it behooves us to have some understanding of their problems. Here is the effect of combat experience in a four minute video. I have seen 170,000 patient hours in out-patient PTSD therapy groups, so have had some experience here. Also, having once been an United States Air Force Major adds a useful perspective.
Bill Langanke wrote the song, the lyrics, played bass in the band, and provided the reflection. I simply added visuals and recorded it. This is entirely a home grown product, organic maybe, even.
Robert Andersen, M. D.
Two men are playing chess and while doing so are also discussing whether or not there is a god. Let’s call them Bob and Bill. Bill insists that since God is incarnate (without form) we can never know anything about him. This is, as I recall, Kant’s position, so Bill has significant support. The thesis that we will never know rests on both God’s imperceptability and the assumption that by his being so much greater than us, we could never fathom his ways. Two punches, one apparent knockout, at least a TKO.
But wait---rescue by analogy (something to always keep in mind when threatened by loss of consciousness). Bob falls back as the opponent fires a third punch, “How can you know there is a God if you don’t know what he is?” Bob’s defense goes to the game at hand, the chessboard (grasp for present moment when in doubt). He counters, “How can you keep playing this game if you cannot see the ending? Bill is taken back. He responds weakly, “because I know there is an ending.” Bob retorts, “That’s it, so too with God, I know there is an answer.” Saved by the bell.
God is an indicative issue, not simply conjectural. This means that He either exists or does not, unknown we might concede today, but a real fact with a yes or no answer. We do not know 'what', but we know 'that'. So we keep playing the game because there is an actual, real, substantive answer out there--one way or the other.
We have relativity theory and quantum mechanics today as a product of the previous century. It gives us more information. It lets us know that we only understand the rules for middle sized objects, not the very large or very small. How is the concept of God any different? Both positions, theism and atheism, make their points. True we are perhaps flipping coins today, but perhaps we will get better coins. We might have science that encompasses reason, perception and subjectivity in the future, rather than just perception. So we keep playing (asking), because this answer, and there actually is one even if we cannot fathom it, is the fundamental question of life.
We can be busy with things, wonderful, distracting, practical, defensive, or disturbing as they might be; but meaning comes from the top down, and without God the top is humanity. In my view that is not high enough, and this is my song so I can write it any way I want. Pessimism can be either a weakness or a strength, depending on whether the issue in contention is possible or not, real or imaginary. I do not think we can ever get the proper perspective of ourselves viewing us from within. We need to have a way to get out. God offers that, a Grand Emperor does not. The Grand Emperor still would sit on a throne that has a cover. Borrowing from Becker, that says we can never get beyond contingent. Contingent is never absolute. It depends on something greater than itself for its existence, and so on, forever. Absolute is what we need to complete ourselves. “You complete me” (from Jerry Maguire) can never be completely true of another human being. But it can be of God.
This is quite where I am today. I know there is an answer, but am struggling to formulate it. This is apparently not something one can delegate. We each have to provide our own answer. It is like singing our own songs, the making of which, gives a song its value. Memorized experience is not learned experience, one is simply a cover band for someone else who creates. Good perhaps for a band (good copies count for something), but not good enough for life. The answer to the big questions must be something we achieve, not simply borrow. The truth is in the experience, not the concept, and without the synthesis there is no conviction.
But there is an answer, a yes or a no. So we keep seeking. Seek and Ye shall find. No one is going to hand it to you. You do not want to face Manny Pacquieo in the ring without preparation. And while that issue is best handled by not meeting him at all, the metaphor it represents faces all of us. God and death are issues confronts everyone, and I contend facing them is better than bucket lists for distraction. When have you ever done anything from a list that was anything but a chore? We don’t need reminders of things we want to do.
It is the time in my life to tie up loose ends and try to put everything in order. The books are about that, but life is not just books. There are corollaries to books, some of them looking backwards. Since “the past is not over, it is not even past” (Faulkner) I had words for my high school class. This might be viewed as practical consequences of the writing (books). It feels real, and since subjectivity is hypothetically now our contact with the Absolute, I will share this. It perhaps carries more meaning than I appreciate. It suggests that we have choices in life between purpose and pleasure. Life forced my decisions, but like coffee, it produces a taste one can get used to, even prefer. Coffee, black, please:
"May 25, 2015: The rest of the story:
I get that Classmates is largely for sharing interesting life events and reminiscing about the good old days, all with an optimistic attitude that might step a bit heavily on truth, perhaps an all-comers version of ESPN. But maybe optimism has a variant grafted on more durable roots, albeit not quite as glamorous.
It does seem to me that this might be the time in our lives when we should reflect on what life is all about. If not now, when? If we had submitted written expectations for our lives to be placed into a time capsule and opened some time like now, my expectations would not have been close, but not all on the short side. On balance, things just turned out different, quite different.
On the down side, I have precious few relationships. My adoption (black market) severed all ties with natural family, the adoptive family failed by pretending to be real, and my children do not seem to be happy with the person I have become. I was professionally social, a psychiatrist/therapist, who has probably seen more combat PTSD patients in out-patient groups than anyone else on the planet (170, 000 patient hours), yet little of that carries over past employment, and a strange thing happened on the way to personal integration.
The adoption issues proved to be much more significant than I ever anticipated. I learned about that issue at age twelve and just looked away, as instructed. Lessons learned from the vets and myself are that psychological trauma sticks around until it is faced, and facing it involves significantly changing one's life. Reference points change, and there is no turning back. I do not fit, almost anywhere (a result of conflict resolution), yet knowing that allows me to be genuine (albeit different) everywhere. I am now totally lost in my writing. Not that anyone really cares, although the website has 200 or so people each day (160,000 visits), but this is hardly a connection. Any connection is internal. I feel grounded. That is the good part of the story. The bad being the non-fit with the rest of the world. I am the guy who sees the sky falling and talks about it on the internet. (We no longer have to run around nailing posters in town squares) The fact about this issue is that nobody cares about the sky falling, until it does. But so be it. Somehow in the fifty-seven years (perhaps to the day) since we graduated I have come to see it as my job to formulate a Plan B.
My note in the time capsule would have predicted a much more conventional life style--travel, dining, friends, etc. But what I seem to have instead is a compelling sense of responsibility about the sky falling, and a need to understand, as well as a fascination with, the whole. The good with the bad. On balance, not quite a wash. But there appears to be an inherent paradox here that puts someone in one camp or the other, which is that purpose and pain somehow go together. No pain, no gain. OneRepublic has a cool song (I Lived), which has a line that goes, "hope that you fall in love, and it hurts so bad". That would sound strange to someone seventeen, but perhaps not to us at seventy-five."
Looking forward to Resonance and backward to Coming Home gives me balance. Here is some editing, which brings the Foreword and Introduction up to speed. Just click on the camera.
Intelligent Design is the method of creation in theism. Theism is the position that postulates a higher power in the world, a God. Physical law determines the process in atheism. Atheism, by its name, excludes a god. All is matter and motion. The picture below reveals intelligent design, human style. It can take a picture sharp enough to read an automobile license plate from 80, 000 feet, flying by at 2500 mph. We should be proud, or maybe not.
Brilliant in technology, we are brain dead in self reflection. It is a spy plane. Does the world need better spy planes? Will that make everyone safer? Might we not aim a bit higher? Good fences might make good neighbors, but I doubt that better espionage will increase our popularity.
Our problem seems to be that everywhere we go, there we are. We fail to see our part in personal experience. Experience is a two way street, not just a collection of perceptions. Aristotle postulated four causal perspectives: 1) material, 2) formal, 3) efficient, and 4) final. To connect abstract to reality let’s consider the construction of a Boeing 747. First, it is made of matter (material). Second it is put together by some sort of design (formal). Third, something puts it all together, the production line (efficient). And finally, it was constructed in the first place for a purpose, i.e. to fly a lot of people a long way (final).
Science can deal only with causes one and three. It usurps the second method although it has no warrant to do so. This is because it entails purpose (human) and science defines the world as entirely causal. We cannot intentionally do anything, but rather are simply driven by neuronal discharge. There is no consciousness in nerve cells, and purpose disappears along with consciousness. Pool balls and quarks do not think. Their happenings are called chance, and their language becomes empty.
My point here is that while this airplane is technically brilliant, it is subjectively inane. It’s fourth Aristotelean cause presumes that more power directed at others will improve the world. If the ultimate abstraction in the question of human survival lies in the issue of friend or foe, then we have opted for foe and need secure our future through violence. If the essence of stupidity is continuing the same course and expecting different results, then the dunce cap fits us. Human history is largely the story of conflict. Maybe we need a new paradigm. How about cooperation, something that is not viewed as second best, or something we have to force ourselves to feel, but rather some genuine understanding of ourselves as subjective beings that carries its own battery pack.
My professional experience was as a psychiatrist; let’s call the field Psychology. After forty years of experience I am entitled to an opinion. My opinion is that psychology, as it is generally practiced today, is no better than it was before the scientific revolution. “Behavioral Science” is an oxymoron. To throw away mind in favor of reflections off of body makes no sense at all. It is pretend science. We cannot view our minds. We experience ourselves, but not through a “mind’s eye”. There is nothing to see, hence nothing for science to work with. So we make great airplanes in order to spy better on our possible friends and think this is as good as it gets. Force will never work, and the clock is running. Our technology to deliver weapons will outrun our ability to eliminate the need to use them. We need to aim higher than 80,000 feet, and I am not talking altitude; I am talking in terms of consciousness. This is a big picture problem, not one in the colloquial world of pool balls. Dare I say we might live in a world of consciousness and matter, rather than consciousness from matter? That might sound effete, like philosophers hurling epithets at each other. But smart might not be impotent. It brought us to nuclear energy. Perhaps it can save us from it as well.
I have hopped books in a quantum leap, although attention goes to both. There is a synergy, and intuition leads me to work with both at the same time. So I have gone from Hocking, who wrote at the beginning of the 20th century to contemporaries, largely at Oxford, who write at the beginning of the 21st. Content-wise this means a shift from seeking communication with God to questioning the being of God. But belief and faith are not independent, and what the world needs is “a God people can believe in.” So it all goes together.
I have two bedrock convictions from which reason itself probably cannot pry me: 1) There is a God; 2) Jesus was not God. So while it is pleasant to have company in these inquires, I have to part ways with my colleagues at Oxford. Once again, out to the back porch for me. But then this mental sequence transpired:
Jesus was the son of God. So God has a family. I am used to being outside of family, the story of my life, and I know how that works. Kinship always wins. If God has to circle the wagons, I know who will get left out. “Nothing at all” is more real to me than “just like real”. Then I came across the comment that Jesus was God incarnate. This means God in a physical sense. But God in a physical sense is spirit as object, and spirit does not exist in time/space. Swinburne, one of my heroes from Oxford, says, from a position of logic, that the only way people can describe non material entities is through metaphors. Enter Jesus.
If Jesus is not really God’s son, but rather a metaphorical representation of spirit as matter, then I am back to Hocking and myself, and perfectly happy. In the latter system, God, as spirit, becomes matter, which functions as Spirit in its communicative form. The writers of the Bible could have used a stone tablet, or a special wine, or thunderstorms, or any other thing as God, but they chose a human being. Jesus chose himself, as a prophet, and he was essentially correct. God has to somehow become material for us to understand him. Inanimate objects look too much like idols (we drop the reality of spirit in favor of stuff), and God as both spirit and matter offers no mental pattern to grasp. The truth might be that matter is God in his communicative form, which turns Jesus into a metaphor for God in a manner we can grasp through experience.
Hocking’s whole idea of God is that He must be a personal God and must show himself somehow in experience, which turns out to be subjectivity. So I can take the truth of Jesus, that he is a communicative form of God, and not have to add the anthropomorphic qualities of son and person. We can skip the the immaculate conception, feeding the thousands, and rising from the dead, and also we have no need of the Holy Ghost. What is the Holy Ghost anyway? What does it do, where does it go, how does one pray to it? The Holy Ghost does one, albeit very special thing; it connects God to spirit. But we no longer need a Trinity. Ontologically we need God, who is spirit, and we need substance, which is His communicative form. He is both, at least for as long as He wants to communicate with us.
Where does this all go?:
1. Jesus becomes a prophet, rather than God.
2.The essence of Jesus coming to earth, so that we could commune with God, becomes established without having to anthropomorphize it. Remember, metaphors are not literal. They are the antithesis of literal.
3. The Holy Trinity gets reduced to a duality. There is God and there is God in his communicative form, which is reality. Simpler is better.
4. We do not have to deal with the dust kicked up by metaphors.
There is a broader picture which this construction requires. The universe becomes a work in progress, rather than an accomplished fact. Thank God for that, because if it was a finished work, then giving us purpose becomes a meaningless act. What purpose could we have with nothing left to do? We need real purpose, real work, that really needs to be done, to employ our capacities to the fullest. And lucky for us, purpose is the most satisfying component of life. We fit. We are needed. We can be appreciated. I will take that any day over a 20,000 square foot house.
“To everything—turn, turn, turn
There is a season—turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven.”
This book has reached its time. A relatively brief summary near the end and editing, editing, editing are all that remain. But the closing comments are finished, and the last two pictures speak for themselves. I am horrified (albeit pleased) how quickly this effort concluded. Work is not finished, just this work. I feel it, and the next step has already begun.
“A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate.
A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late!”
Click on the picture for the last four pages of Coming Home (previously called Quantum Psychology and Republic)
Blogs and books have a different life span. Since this site is more book than blog, we try to graft an offshoot. Here is a blog-sized bite of the latest book, almost the end. Click picture for pdf file.
New material. Electrons are free. Click on picture below for pages 520-613
(update 2/13/15) (update 2/17/15) (update 2/28/15) (update 3/3/15) (update 3/9/15)
(update 3/24/15) (update 3/27/15, needs some editing) (update 3/29/15)
The book is getting fatter; perhaps that is necessary. The blog lies relatively fallow. Here is the latest compromise, recent pages that hang togethere. Click on cover below to open a pdf for pages 410-519.
Such knowledge as we could desire:
I feel like Sisyphus with this chapter, pushing my knowledge up a hill, only to have it roll back down again. Probably we do not make scores of different mistakes in our understandng of the world; more likely we continue to repeat just one or two of them. Each chapter of Hocking’s book becomes a challenge, but this one seems particularly difficult. It is not entirely new material, actually, each chapter shades into the others, so nothing begins again at zero. But the world appear to get turned upside down and back, several times, probably because the truth is counter-intuitive.
Like Berkeley, Hocking seems to remove the ground floor of our understanding, but then comments that we will hardly notice. Yes, pragmatically we have it all wrong, but we can just treat it as if and carry on as usual. Yet as if is not real, and this must show up somewhere in the universe, maybe not on our way to the store, but certainly on our way to eternity. Meaning appears to be ultimately determined by the whole picture of how we conceive the universe. If rocks rule the world we can play along by pretending to not noticie or worry about little things, like how purpose can exist in a causal world; but that is not the same world as one with purpose. We see the blinders we put on to get by, which moves us at least one step away from complete commitment. My tail wags or does not wag on what I believe, not on what I tell it to do. (Using tail wagging as my guide for subjectivity, i.e, intuition, i.e. God.) I have a God supporting me when my tail wags and nothing at all when it does not. These are not the same; nor can I play them the same. I could try, but going into battle with God on one’s side is not the same as with a hypothesis in one’s pocket, nor is acting as if I love someone the same as actually loving someone—the engine is not in that car.
Hocking dispels solipsism (gets us out of our black boxes) by somehow making reality a part of our minds. The big move under all the guises here seems related to our tendency to view spirit as matter and to see mind and body as separate. This works just fine for everyday business. No one except philosophers have to run through this exercise about the reality of matter, but ignoring truth does not address the big questions about the universe. We can get to the store whether we have front wheel or back wheel drive (a metaphor), but whether we go to the store or not is not thereby determined. If god-particles rule the world, then let us simply huddle together in our humanity to face the fading of the sun. But if God runs the world, then it is probably simply built into us to want to communicate with him. Schopenhauer balked at that conclusion, but only because he ruled out God. He saw the organizing factor of the universe as a mindless force that pushes us around like toys, and our finest move is to refuse to follow. This seems foolish to me. To stop looking for something better than cosmic indifference seems like quitting, and hope will surely follow with it. Abject indifference as the nature of things appears to be an invitation to protest, but what proof does one have that for indifference is there instead of concern?
Hocking spares us from being self-conained worlds by viewing reality as one side of the coin of consciousness. Consciousness is not just out there basking in itself. Consciousness only comes into being in relation to something of which it is conscious. We are conscious of a bee, or a flower, or a group of protesters in the driveway, but not just conscious of nothing in particular. Even if we are trying to think of nothing, we are conscious of the concept of nothing, which is not the same as abject nothingness. Thus in knowing another mind, the thing we value the most, we do not have to “descend to meet”, as Emerson put it, but rather the descent is the meeting. Translated, this means that objects in the world are also objects in the minds of others and their minds are thus for real both a process in and a reality in some unknown way, both outside of ourselves. Mind means nothing without something real which with it forms a unit, as a husband needs a wife to be married, so a wife needs a husband. (Recent legislation notwithstanding.) In a similar fashion, mind cannot function without matter, and matter cannot be managed without mind. There is a mind/matter complex that we apparently do not know how to file correctly yet. At least I seem to have trouble doing so. But basically, Hocking says we meet each other, directly, outside of ourselves, and not merely imaginatively in lonely little black boxes. Our bodies are not just things we have to drag around, keeping us from the joy of spiritual connection. They are the contact, in metaphorical form, perhaps designed explicitly for communication, without which we would not just be trapped in boxes; rather, we would be merely empty concepts existing no where in reality.
If this all sounds difficult, that is my Sisyphus problem. It gets easier if we view God, as Berkeley viewed Him, in that reality is a part of God’s mind. Then as spirit we do not just cease to exist without matter, we exist through God, and better than alone, we have matter with which to communicate. I am sorry here, but the whole pictures seems to collapse into one solution without even thinking about it. I am referring to the reason that God bothered with to create reality at all. And it seems to be for communication. I do not think God would be upset for us to speculate on His nature, and it seems that maybe God got tired of being e alone. Joan Osborne’s song, “What if God was One of Us?” talks about God “having no one on the phone, ‘cept the Pope maybe in Rome”. Leave out the Pope, and why does this not make sense? Did Moses come down from the mountain with information that God is just fine all the time, thank you very much? Why should the world be static. Nothing else about it seems to be. Maybe the Universe is a work in progress. This is called speculation, not dogma.
What is a library? Looking closely (a dangerous occupation), it is a place that houses books. Is it a library before books arrive? Practically, it is not, but it has to be something before the books arrive. And the books are not exactly the issue, rather, it is the words in the books that matter, or even more specifically, it is the ideas contained in the words, stored in the books. When does it become a library? It exists conceptually as soon as a government agency votes it into existence. And does it remain in existence after the building has worn down and the books removed, standing there proudly as to testimony of its contribution to the community? For those who remember it, the answer might be yes. It will likely be called the library until it is torn down for a Starbucks or turned into public housing.
A mind is something like a library. It is not really a place, although we think it is in our heads, and without ideas it does not even function. The Board has simply approved a library, some day to arrive. It arrives when it gets its first idea. Ideas come from outside of us. We can generate abstract ideas, but they work entirely off of specifics. One can see a right shoe, then a left shoe, and then a pair of shoes, but the term “pair” is an absraction. There are not three items out there, only two. Our ability to abstract creates the third (the pair), but only out of the actual shoes. Are we born with ideas? I do not know if anyone has bothered to consider that issue. Probably we hear our mother’s heart in utero, and maybe hard rock if she is into that kind of stuff. But no matter; the library is not useful until it has books, and minds bide their time until they receive impressions. Then they start to construct quadratic equations that allow us to intercept comets and such, although that comes much later.
Hocking begins with the idea that we are interested in the minds of others only in relation to the ideas they contain. An empty mind is a poor conversationalist. He tosses out insights here like he is feeding ducks. One is the very idea that a mind is of interest to us only after it has created ideas from perceptions. Another is that the value of other beings to us is in relation to their ability to negotiate reality. No one wants to get lost in the day dreams of a spoiled child. We have fruit and nuts to gather, and ideas not connected to reality just chase their tails. Our purpose on this planet appears to be two-fold. First, we try to stay alive. That is simply self-evident. It is not worth arguing that point with anyone. Just smile and walk away. The second is probably that we are programed to create. We appear to make real, lasting, meaningful changes in reality. And somehow satisfaction follows on that path. It is what we do.
So we become better in units than alone, and the social world is where we find our wingmen. It is the other mind as knowing and mastering Nature that we first care about. Nature is not in the way here. There is no abstract soul wanting to relate to another abstract soul. There are no souls at all without “stuff” in them, any more than there are libraries which have only been voted upon. A third insight is that beauty relates to the ease with which one moves through the resistence of reality. It is not some abstract standard decided by someone at Time Magazine publishing their list of whatever they make lists about. Beauty is what beauty does. The rest is simply what kind of outfit it wears.
I, for one, upon reflection, realize that there always appeared to be some barrier between me and another being I valued. This is not an adoption issue; it is existential. Physically, no matter what they intend two physical beings cannot occupy the same space. Mentally, we can imagine doing so, but in a physical world that is just imagination—trapped as the idealist philosophers describe in our own insufferably individual minds. Something was supposed to happen to creatures that love each other; they should somehow be able to become one, rather than forever remain on separate ships in the harbor. Telepathy would seem to be the preferred form of interaction. That is quite what Emerson was talking about when he said that friends have to descend to meet—we have to leave our minds, travel down into words, sends the words out over sound waves, and then reverse the process at the other end. A whole lot of work that appears to be obviated by some type of mental to mental connection.
But Hocking debunks telepathy. He does it quick and painlessly: Telepathy has to be either imagination of what the other is thinking, or some sense of our own thoughts moving under the impressiiopn of arising elsewhere. The problem with either of these avenues is that they come with no certificate of authenticity. One has to verify them, and this is done by direct physical contact. In other words, to prove that the videotape is accurate, we have to observe the videotape of that other recorder. In other words, our verification reverts to what we started with in the first place, physical perceptions and their accompanying imputations. Yikes.
But the “upside down and back” issue referred to above is exactly this. My life long quest for something more direct between my mind and that of others has been dismissed; but in its place Hocking promotes what we actually have. What we actually have is literally true—and this is precisely the difficult concept here, which I can best categorize as quantum, and describe as mind, being both mental and physical at the same time. In Hocking’s words:
“Nature and the natural body must belong with the experience of Other Mind, even in its ideal condition. Of myself, I seem to have only mind; of the Other, only body: and yet, as I think it through, there seems to be nothing about that body which conceals the spirit—body seems to do no more in separating than to fix and define the simple other-ness of that Other from myself; in all other respects it does but give me that Other Mind in more tangible form than by experience of its inner life on its own grounds alone, I could have it.”
Subjectivity is persona non grata in scientific publications. Just the facts are what they want. Kant excluded the author’s perspective in The Critique of Pure Reason, a philosophical study many consider the greatest of all time. I find him unintelligible. Everything I know about Kant was learned from what others said of his work. Perhaps trail blazers have to shut everything else out, so their writing style might be excusable, but still it remains unreadable. Kant said he had to leave out metaphors because the book would then have been too long. His best friend said that he had to stop reading half-way through the book, lest he kill himself. Hocking is incredible incisive, and yet equally as real. One can feel the kind of person he was, and to me this is decisive as to whether I wish to follow someone or not. Nowhere is Hocking more personal than at the end of this chapter. I suspect he is talking about his wife here. They had a fullfilling marriage just like they vowed, ending . . . . “until death do us part”.
“Let me pursue my reflection a step further. I have sometimes sat looking at a comrade, speculating on this mysterious isolation of self from self. Why are we so made that I gaze and see of thee only thy Wall, and never Thee? This Wall of thee is but a movable part of the Wall of my world; and I also am a Wall to thee: we look out at one another from behind masks. How would it seem if my mind could but one be within thing; and we could meet and without barrier be with each other? And then it has fallen upon me like a shock—as when one thinking himself alone has felt a presence—that I am in thy soul. These things around me are in thy experience. They are thy own; when I touch them and move them I change thee. When I look on them I see what thou seest; when I listen, I hear what thou hearest. I am in the great Room of thy soul; and I experience thy very experience. For where art thou? Not there, behind those eyes, within that head, in darkness, fraternizing with chemical processes. Of these in my own case, I know nothing, and will known nothing; for my existence is spent not behind my Wall, but in front of it .I am there, where I have treasures. And there art thou, also. This world in which I live, is the world of thy soul: and being within that, I am within thee. I can imagine no contact more real and thrilling than this; that we should meet and share identity, not through ineffable inner depths (alone), but here through the foregrounds of common experience; and that thou should be—not behind that mask—but here, pressing with all thy consciousness upon me, containing me, and these things of mine. This is reality: and having seen it thus, I can never again be frightened into monadism by reflections which have strayed from their guiding insight.”
This is poetry as well as truth. I fail to see what one would hope to gain by reducing it to biochemical reactions; and I fear for what we would lose. Yes, reality has its durability; but also subjectivity has its love. These are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they are probably not even separable.
I overlooked one other issue on the upside down turns earlier in this the chapter. We presume that the sequence of activity goes from thought to action, which also would be from inside to outside. Hocking inverts this. In doing so he is consistent with the concept of mind being physical on the outside of us, as well as abstract. We do not just generate ideas out of ineffable depths and move them outside through some sort of conveyor belt. He feels ideas have to gestate, and we take posession of them much as we do perceptions when we express them in the external world. Our minds, just like those of others, are out there in the world. And that is where we take possession of our ideas. Chalk talk is what we do with pure introspection; on field practice is where we get our ideas into shape. No expression; no possession.
The take home message from this chapter, however, remains the concept of body being a metaphor for the mind. Sit with this awhile and it gathers credibility. The native tongue of our mind is perceptual. We are not usually looking at the apparatus of our perception. This is a perpetual human problem, expressed throughout history as our predilection for tangible things (idols) over spiritual beings. We can see one and cannot see the other. So the body functions as a perpetual interpreter, translating conceptual into physical. We all read this quite well. But we understand it very little. So we write about it here.
“The body is an incredibly intricate and exact metaphor of every inner movement of that Other Mind. To every shade of thought and motive there corresponds some change in the body, reflecting in its own different sphere each type of variation to which the inner state is subject. Man still “looketh on the outward appearance” only, even though he were able to examine the living brain; but remarkable it is that there is nothing in “the heart” not faithfully displayed in this appearance, and at the moment of its occurrence.”
The main purpose of this site was for people to read our new books (pdf files). But blogs are now, whereas books are then, and then is not especially soon. For awhile I was trying to write for both book and blog, but the book is the more important, and that is where the effort is going now. So I try to add pages of the new book to the blog as they become written.
Well, pages have turned into chapters and focus has gone from socio/economics to metaphysics. The first book, Requiem, is done and posted for viewing. Republic is becoming plump and still just getting started. It's name no longer works. I am changing the title from Republic to Quantum Psychology. The cover is below and clicking it will bring you 487 pages. As Bill said, "It was as if you were writing a book supposedly about baseball, but it was all about fishing. We will get it right. No more fish. Click away.
(update 12/16/14) (update 12/20/14) (update 12/27/14) (update 1/10/15)
I put together a soundtrack for the new book. It is a fun activity; one can get lost for hours doing it. Check it out on Youtube.
In review (6/9/15) this video only takes on more meaning. Consider it a metaphor for my intuition on the coming world crisis. It could be a theme song for that crisis. If body is a metaphor for mind, then this video is a presentation of a perspective that only gains in intensity. I call it resonance, which we can add to perception and reaction as valid experience. Hocking says the subjective mode is our communication with God, not airy ideation but grounded affect--experience, intuition, subjectivity. Experience of this kind cannot be counterfeited. The video shows my concern for animals, which is a bit idiosyncratic, but its portent of world events is perhaps prophetic. Intuition is for action, not for intellectual contemplation. And action only happens now, not tomorrow morning.
New work in the new book. Click on cake for pages 344-361
This site started out as a place to access books online. That seems to be a safe process now, as it is not necessary to download anything. One can just read the pdf which is probably like viewing something on Youtube.
It has reverted to its roots, as all of my effort lately is going into the second book. That has its own issues, but all pretty interesting; and for whatever its worth, the process moves along consistently. For the latest work, click on the picture below. Pages 238-344 are now all dressed up for the dance.
This article from three years ago has a particular relevance today with the National Football League problems:
DemographicsPosted on Tuesday, October 25, 2011 7:11 AM
Mises envisions a world with no boundaries to employment. People simply go where they are most efficiently engaged regardless of boundaries. This might sound unreasonable because of people's idealogy of nation states, but there is no natural attraction simply because they occupy the same geography. Nor is blood the determining thing. Geography and genetics cannot insert purpose; only spirit can do that. We may not know what our basic premises are, but we have them and they are not part of our biology. We act on what we believe and feel, not where we live or what we eat.
Monarchies used to be the dominant form of government. The king was thought to be chosen by God and treated as such–until he wasn’t. But monarchy is an idea, not a social requisite. It has largely been replaced by respresentative government or secular autocracy. Employment practices can change too. They will have to and we will have to adjust to it, or we will blow ourselves up.
I get that no one will quite accept that premise, but then people do not naturally run out the logical consequences of their metaphysical beliefs either, and thus they consistently run off the road. Mises has thought it through. We must make choices in life, Carolina or California, not merely make wishes. If we want world peace we will have to accept open borders for trade and employment. Pick one: awkward conversations or nuclear winter.
The picture to this post is not from a love of soccer. I will never appreciate the game. But I am beginning to lose appreciation for American football. Michael Vick executes dogs, Albert Hanesworth stomps on players heads, and these guys are making twenty million dollars a year. What do we celebrate here, transcending physical limits or mere physical violence? A whole team’s success can be one fifteen-yard penalty away from total collapse. This is not a game any more; it is getting closer to what games are designed to avoid–a fight to the finish. Every professional American football player knows his next play may be his last. Are we becoming more civilized or is this just gladiators with face masks?
International soccer is a much bigger sport than American football. Maybe it is better. Maybe America celebrates violence to reflect its military presence in the world. Maybe I will develop an appreciation for soccer. No, there are limits to the last possibility here; the best I might be able to do is rekindle an appreciation for the sacrifice fly.
Interestingly, the book for which this site exists is about ten times more popular outside the United States than inside it. People visit the site from all over the world. China and Japan access it regularly, as does Western Europe. Russia, Ukraine, Latvia, India, Israel, and the Arab Emerites all have been there. The main point of this site is to offer a download of the book (Requiem). I assume that some of the people who visit actually do that. Some of them in the Netherlands appear to do it a lot. The site has been accessed over 3000 times from Huethuysen, Netherlands. I do not think they are just listening to the soundtrack.
Can a person draw any inference from these observations? Perhaps not, but one has to wonder about the nature of metaphysical ideation in different cultures. We gain meaning from our belief systems, and meaning drives our behavior. Ideas may not provide the energy, but they direct it. Know thyself is about more than knowing one prefers football to soccer. It is about knowing the reasons for that preference. Could it be that the United States is a bit full of itself? Is that why we are in everyone's business? We attack preemtively now. Obama is celebrated for his drone attacks. This does not look good. American football reflects it. Perhaps we should cut the pretense. Our money says on the back of each note "In God We Trust". Maybe we should change that to "In the Federal Reserve We Trust". If we are going to play God, we should at least know that is what we are doing.
This book is not a course in metaphysics. It is more like a dialogue in being. We are not learning things. We are learning about ourselves, and in the process hopefully becoming more effective people. I ran group therapy for more than thirty years. People never caught on to the major premise. We employed it, but they failed to grasp it intellectually. The concept itself is pretty simple, but it addresses our recent issues, which are not simple. The rule for group was that they talk about whatever was on their minds, but at some point we stop and reflect on what they had been talking about. This is the issue about not what we look at, but what we look with, a quantum-like concept. We would do this, and apparently it worked, as well as character development programs can work, although it never became autonomous for the group members. They kept looking at content instead of process.
So while we are in a new section of this book, we are not in a new section of ourselves. We are the absolute of our own experience, part of it anyway. We are not just memorizing here, we are, hopefully, becoming more real. Pursuant to that I want to reflect a moment on society getting confidence backwards, as mentioned in the previous chapter. Perhaps in this situation we become like the group members and fail to make the metaphysical shift in our personal cameras, for I still wake up in the morning to issues about the nature of confidence and performance. In some ways that should not be surprising. Thirty years ago I wrote an article on the perils of positive thinking. This is not a new issue to me, but apparently, also, not a settled one.
I recently heard a football coach on television saying that he thought his team could beat the opponent coming up the next Saturday. I do not recall the teams at this point, but this team was not favored in the game, and the reporter was addressing that issue. As soon as the coach said he “thought” they could win, he changed that comment to he “knew” they could win. Just what had flashed in his mind that so quickly changed his conviction? Had he suddenly learned that his starting quarterback had been cleared to play, or that the bus of the opposing team had crashed? There is no information in those few seconds between “I think” and “I know” that could have factored into that decision.
So he just made it up. Confidence at this point is therefore no longer an accurate an assesment of the teams actual chances to win, but rather a paid political announcement designed to influence the actual game. The coach lies. This does not improve his chances of winning. He might win because of the way the ball bounces, or because he made a mistake in his initial assessment, but not because he pumped up his confidence. Confidence is a concept, not an agent.
I ran marathons I did not improve my time by telling myself to run faster. I did it by training harder. Marathons are good petri dishes for studying effort. Telling yourself at mile fifteen that you are going to pick up the pace is good for about four hundred yards, and then you fall back to the best pace your training will allow you to run. Will power, on its own, can make some difference in pure effort situations, but not much. And trying harder on skill activities decreases performance. A player does not get out of a batting slump by swinging harder. He gets out of a batting slump by resolving the conflicts that are causing him to be distracted.
The confident coach simply says he thinks they can win next week. That is honest. He does not know, the ball can bounce any way it wants. He only plays the confidence card when he is worried. That is when he is not facing the facts. It is closing the door and painting it pretty. We know when we do that, and it simply emphasizes the point that we are about to head into a situation for which we are not prepared. Anxiety and duplicity do not lead to victory. Hard work does. As Bobby Knight said, “The will to win is not nearly as important as the will to prepare to win”. It is good to have Coach Knight on our side here.
Confidence is not an ingredient in the cake; it is a result of having baked it. Behavioral theory says that emotions are a product of actions. As we act, so shall we feel. So the objective view concludes that saying will become believing. But from the subjective perspective a person knows he is lying for effect. And he knows that he does not do this about things he is confident about, like driving a car to work. A person only whistles past graveyards when he is passing a graveyard. He only lies to himself when he is afraid. Who is he going to trust here, the psychologists or his common sense? Berkeley had it right about raising a dust. F. H. Bradley had in right in saying that metaphysics is the art of finding bad reasons for what we believe on instinct. No one wants to be treated as a thing, which is what lying to them entails, and no one likes beng afraid, which is what might cause them to lie. And in this situation the same person is playing both sides. When you are digging yourself into a deeper hole, stop digging. Materialists have to see that behavior causes emotion; they have nothing else other than matter and motion to explain it. Spiritualists (idealism) postulate consciousness as a valid force in the world. Here, emotion causes action. Both cannot be right. Your choice between these two positions determines the color of your life. Materialists view mind as made out of matter. Idealists view matter as made out of mind. It is a Carolina/California situation. Know where you want to go.
The absolute is where questions end and mind can come to rest. The big bang theory does not satisfy questions about the origin of the universe. It discourages them. Asking what caused the big bang simply continues the infinite regress. We all tire out. But saying God created heaven and earth makes sense. A spirit can create things. A mind can rest there.
Things cannot create themselves. Force fields and cosmic dust do not bring the questions to an end as a result of answering them satisfactorily. They come to an end because we look the other way. Absolute cannot arise from begging the question. It comes from making sense, not constructing a thesis.
Confidence is not an agent in an action; it follows the result of the action. Confidence cannot be sought on its own accord. It lives only in connection with initiative. It is a product of the completion of a behavior, not a substance in the production of it. Confidence follows the enactment of purpose. Confidence and happiness are similar, in that pursuing them individually pushes them away. Both are reactions to the result of action, not the cause of it. And action is the result of purpose. But purpose without real is day dreaming. Viable purpose can only be experience in connection with the whole. Growing better gardenias is not sustaining unless it can be correlated with a broad view. Meaning finds its end only in connection with the Absolute. This means that stuff like happiness and confidence are not to be sought individually, but as part and parcel of a life lived through connection with something greater than us. And that something cannot be simply a force. In has to be a spirit; only a spirit has consciouness. I do not mind saying God here, because that is the only workable position, but with actions lately in the name of religion it is hard to hitch one’s wagon to any specific religion. Better to stick with a personal relationship to God. We obtain confidence and happiness indirectly by following our purpose as experienced as individuals with the Absolute. That absolute is not a concept. It is a being. It is God, who has his own ends and his own purposes. God is not here to help us win the lottery. Pay a soothsayer for that. The universe is doing something, and we will not be satisfied without aligning ourselves with that purpose. There either is such a Being or there is not. But there can be no happiness or confidence without One. We all know that, intuitively.
* * * * *
In Part Two we are out of the frying pan and into the fire here, with some metaphors thrown in. We leave looking at the reflexive position and move to studying the destiny of feeling. This does not get any easier. But then life is not a beach.
Click picture for pdf file of Chapter Five, (unfinished):
Updated August 31, 2014: September 27, 2014
I have chosen to follow wherever the wind takes me, rather than stick to a predetermined course. In the process, sociology changed into metaphysics. It seemed necessary to start at the beginning, rather than somewhere in the middle.
We simply cannot live in a world that does not make sense. For example: 1) How can a causal system ever get started, when the beginning itself needs to be caused? 2) If space simply expands into more space, does it never end? 3) If all of our actions are caused, why do we think we act on purpose? We simply look the other way on these issues, which is an untenable position for anyone seeking the truth. How do we explain our world without explanations?
Also, I seek to claim a legitimate spot for subjectivity in a world gone overboard on objectivity. Half the story is not good enough. Personal experience becomes a part of the story, because objectivity is merely an abstraction of the whole. Leaving out emotion to focus on perception is not scientific advancement. It is flying the plane on autopilot with the pilot asleep. Our ability to destroy the world is exceeding our capacity to control ourselves. Counting to ten or idealizing communication is not going to work. We need instruments and pilots. It is a quantum world today; we need a quantum psychology.
What people need today is a god they believe to be real. Dinosaurs make it hard to think the world started six thousand years ago. The ark seems like too big a project, the flood appears vindictive, and Jonah could never get into a whale, let alone back out. We would DNA test Jesus today, and there is no video tape of the resurrection. Case dismissed.
To keep faith it appears we have to sacrifice science. Worse, we also have to throw out reason, and, finally, toss out common sense (and with that perhaps God).
Space is not the last frontier—Mind is. Perception is not just a passive process of receiving signals. It is much more complicated and points to an active process at both ends. We cannot see God. Perhaps we are looking in the wrong place. We focus on what we look at, but perhaps need to focus on what we look with. Reality includes both. Reality defines empirical. But reality in perception is active at both ends, and we only attend to the passive. Perhaps another Copernican revolution awaits our understanding of what we look with. Both are experience. Both are reality. Maybe we will find God by inference. Subjectivity is no less real than objectivity. We cannot perceive “things in themselves” any more than we can perceive God. But experience is the ultimate arbitrator. We are after total reality, not simply an abstraction of experience (i.e. external perception).
We either know God, or we have no god. Better in the latter case to hang on to things, rather than merely ideas. But experience is every bit as real to us as perception. So before we settle for ashes to ashes, let’s look at all the information we have. Maybe we simply raise a dust and then complain we can not see.
Everything is riding on this bet. We can either experience God with a certainly comparable to that which we view a tree in the front yard (or better, since the tree is not so certain), or we crash and burn.
The following perspective, although my words, is not original. I meet it half way. It is both mine and not mine. I think it is correct, and if so, it is the means to our ends. The rest of this work will simply be implementation.
"Space, time, cause, and Thou (other) are not constituents of perception; they constitute perception. They are the focus through which we perceive. Reality is the communication system for spirit. Everything is not just time/space lumps; everything is communication. And if communication, then purpose; and if purpose, then God."
This position has a pedigree, so be careful to simply dismiss it offhand. You will be throwing out Berkeley, Kant, and Hocking.
There have been no stunning accomplishments in my life. I won no championships, sat in no legislature, and saved no whales. My life has been markedly unusual, but not markedly successful. That could change; unusual pushed long enough can become creative, but time is running out, and fame or fortune are no longer even goals.
So why has it become so important for me to push for the completion of this book? I don’t want to go on Oprah, or visit Belgium. I can reflect on that but am not going to question it. Purpose is our greatest gift. Leave well enough alone.
However, I recently saw a related quote that disturbed me, so let's reflect:
“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.” ? —John Wesley
This basically says that sheer will power will get you anywhere you want to go. Never stop; never give up. What if it is impossible? Can one not waste a lot of effort on pipe dreams? John Wesley’s quote is based on Descartian metaphysics: The idea is parent of the action. But as I have said elsewhere on this Blog, if you are wrong here you are wrong all the way down. Double down until your creditor decides to break your legs—not a good plan as I see it.
Wesley has it upside down. We do not get purpose by insistence. We receive it by getting out of the way. Purpose runs from the inside out, not outside in. Feeling precedes idea, which then fuse together to produce action. But subjectivity begets the action, not objectivity. We can do what we will, but not will what we will.
Purpose is a combination of value, power, and possibility. If it is impossible, only will power can continue the effort. I have no intention of flapping my arms in all the ways I can, in all of the places I can, at all the times I can, for as long ever as I can. I do not expect to get one inch off the ground. There has to be a chance for success. Saying so will not make it so. Mind will not create success; it simply picks a best route. But it cannot turn stone into cheesecake, or arms into wings. Idea is not an agent. Mind is. But mind is not a substance. It is a spirit. Will and wisdom are in its domain, but mind can not override natural law. It just does the speed limit for a longer time.
To come back to my purpose for this post, which involves the purpose of my book, I cannot rule out the possibility that something could come of this work. For sure we need it; the world is wobbling and losing its spin. But why me? I am just another name in voter registration. Because I cannot rule me out. When I took physics in college, the subject matter felt like what I am dealing with now. After all, my current subject matter is metaphysics—they must be related. In college physics I had no idea how to answer the questions, but would grasp a fleeting intuition, follow it out, do that on many of the questions, drag some of the others along for the ride, and end up with the top grade out of 325 people. That is not a nuclear physics degree from Harvard, but it is not last month’s yogurt either.
So I can’t say that I can’t do this. And the problem is there. Seeing the problem is a step toward fixing the problem. You have to understand something well enough to grasp that it is not right. Perhaps we could even say that if one can see the problem, they have enough capacity to do something about it. In any event, we are looking for something like what John Wesley preached, but with teeth.
So here is the point of this post. I do not back off of the metaphor that this is my Normandy Beach. I have no doubt that the world needs the answers we are seeking in the book. And like the physics class in college, I have a sense of intuition that we might try that trail over there. That is about as much as I can see now. I am reading the work from Hocking that guides us, and trying to make it my own song, so that I can genuinely sing it for anyone who cares. This is not easy. But this is not a totally new experience either. Metaphysics and physics for me feel the same way. So I keep reading and waiting. I think we can get there, and for sure what would be important.
For any of you with a similar experience, keep plodding. This is not easy. Nor is it impossible. Someone needs to do it. Why not you or me? Insight comes at its own pace, perhaps even when we sleep. Persistence gives it a chance to coalesce. I usually need six or seven reads to get the difficult stuff. Remember, Spinoza said that anything excellent is as difficult as it is rare. We can deal with rare, perhaps we can do difficult. For sure we can do six or seven reads. And excellence, if any, can take care of itself.
If one is going to fail, go down swinging. Nothing is worse than taking a third strike with the bat on your shoulder. An out is an out, but only one is forever—the one where you did not try.
William Ernest Hocking is my favorite philosopher. We seem to meet half way out on the battle field, as our intuitions partially intertwine. Echos of my vaguely sensed realities follow the reading of his well thought out words. I have to watch trying to elevate him to transcendent because I have long experienced a void where God should reside. People elevate prophets, idols, and heros to gods because they can been seen. God cannot be seen, but that does not mean He cannot be experienced.
Hocking was born in 1873, in Cleveland, and raised in the Midwest. His roots were in things— trains, fences, surveying, mechanical engineering—before he changed to philosophy. He earned money as a school principal to pay for a doctorate degree in philosophy at Harvard after he shifted his attention to philosophy. Upon graduation from Harvard he taught at Yale, University of California, and then back to Harvard were he was Alford professor of philosophy for the next thirty years.
Hocking is not well know because he was an Idealist. He specialized in religion, but philosophy of religion asks questions, it does not espouse dogma. Hocking thinks; he does not preach. He discusses Christianity, but does not take it as an absolute. I do not even know if he considered himself Christian. For sure, he ends his writing talking about world civilization and felt humanity needs to find common ground uniting most major religions. There can only be one God. There is not a pantheon. And this is an empirical issue, a yes or no, not something up for a vote. The bottom line here: Hocking is a philosopher, not a preacher.
I am heading toward God these days as a requisite for effective living. This was more being pushed by my contempt for the arrogance of materialism and my alarming subjectivity about a bad moon rising, than by some personal observation of God. God is like quantum experience: He is not easy, you have to work hard to reach Him. But this is not due to lack of experience. It is how we organize the experience, the meaning we impute to it. With a shift in perspective, to subjective reflectivity, it all becomes clear. We need to open our minds, not our eyes. It is all about perspective, not perception. Quantum mechanics does not make sense; but there it is. It never goes away. That is not a bad metaphor for concept of “open our eyes to the sky”. We need to open our minds to apparition, and open souls to what never leaves us. God is not just pop in occasionally on a mountain top. He is with us in every experience we have, which we then tend to take for granted. God sends and we receive everything we experience. As subject, we are part of everything we experience in reality. But since God created reality, the I part of experience becomes a We. We are never alone. Experience is a communication. But just like we drop subjectivity out of the equation in dealing with reality because it is never not there, the same is true of God. Reality for us is never alone. God is the other half of what we call reality because he is reality. We are never alone, except by abstraction. Our arrogance keeps us from God, not our reason.
But this is just me trying to understand these issues Hocking and I share together. And this is not god as preached by authority; it is God as known through experience. Hocking feels that a god we cannot experience is no god at all. He adds empiricism to faith, and gets there by working out the logic of subjectivity. Everywhere that I have been going in Republic, from the first chapter with Mises, to the second chapter of my own experience, to where I want to live the rest of my life, is quite what Hocking is all about. He saves intuition for empiricism much as Kant saved perception from subjectivity. According to Hocking, “Creativity is external deduction, while subjectivity is internal induction.” See why I love this guy? He is a guide on a path I can live with to a place I want to go.
Hocking’s first book, The Meaning of God in Human Experience, was his first, and his most well read. He completed it in 1912, at the age of thirty-nine. It goes right to the heart of the issue, so this is where I shall begin this section. I have read all of his other works, but over a period of perhaps ten years, and it all needs review, even though most have been read several times. But one has to start somewhere, and if I make mistakes in tying these works together from this perspective, then so be it. Many conjectures will become empty as further review corrects error, but without establishing this beach head, no further reviews will be possible. This is D-Day. We will lose some troops. But the alternative is to take no bridges.
So man the landing crafts because we are heading right into the eye of the storm. The Meaning of God in Human Experience, Part III and IV—my own Normandy Beach.
"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.
That was a review of the critical element of Berkeley’s thinking. It came from the introduction to his Of the Principles of Human Knowledge. We now go back to the number format started above:
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 anyone 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 were out of my study I should say it existed, meaning thereby that 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”.
Comment: No one doubts that if someone reflects on our high school’s football game against Sequoia in 1957, that this occurrence can only happen in a mind. The turf is not going to do it. One can try to reduce mind to electrical impulses, but that is like trying to describe the image on your monitor by its computer code. Ones and zeros are not the same as memories. For sure we would never communicate in binary code–it captures nothing of the event. The view does not get better as we go smaller. It disappears altogether.
We seek the holy grail, and even call it the god-particle, because ostensibly we will reach that entity which can be divided no further. But that can never happen. If a particle occupies space, it can be divided, and so on infinitely to never land. Indivisibility equals indestructibility, which means the particle would last forever. We have reached bed rock. This replaces spirit for the materialists. That we can never reach it does not mitigate the embarrassment that the driving force of the universe becomes progressively more minute—a word which also means trifling. It is like turning the lab over to the bacteria. I do not think we are going to find brilliance in smaller. And it is hard to conceive purpose as dwelling there. But if you rule out spirit, that only leaves blind chance, which is nothing to hang on to and simply will not do. No one goes into battle without drawing on some talisman, even if that talisman is feigned indifference.
The only reality we ever perceive takes place in our heads. A tree essence would not look like the tree representation we create in our minds. A tree essence would not look at all; it is conceptual, not physical. The perceptions are all we have, organized conceptually and given a name some of us call “tree”. The “entity in itself” is an abstraction, having to do with organization, not substance—like navy is to the ships. The only tree we know is our version of it according to how we process signals entering our black box. Berkeley simply says that since representations are all that we have, perhaps that is all there is. Why do we need matter, which itself is not perceptible, to add authority to the perceptions? We see images in our head like images on a movie screen. The actors are not standing behind the screen. Still, we get what we want from the movie, just like we get what we need from the perceptions. Science only uses evidence-based data, meaning it has to come through one of our senses. No one ever sees matter existing as a “thing in itself”. So why a priori mandate that this grounding is a thing. Why not a being? Once you start down this trail of concrete abstractions there is no escape. It is particles all the way down to incredibility. Berkeley’s logic is that if the absolute existence of unthinking things, without the ability to be perceived, is to be the support of perceptions, then there is no support. The unthinking component rules out purpose, and the lack of perception rules out cause. No purpose; no cause. The world stops.
Metaphysics is not about how many angels can fit on the head of a pin. It can be if it is a diversion, but it can also be the Los Alamos Project to help win a war. The war I am fighting is spirituality versus materialism, a.k.a., God versus government, or good versus evil (all right, the latter pushes poetic license). But there is a distinction that sticks: are we free to pursue our own ends, or are we only a means for others (as collectives or individuals)?
Berkeley talks about the limits of man’s knowledge:
"Philosophy being nothing else but the study of wisdom and truth, it may with reason be expected that those who have spent most time and pains in it should enjoy a greater calm and serenity of mind, a greater clearness and evidence of knowledge, and be less disturbed wtih doubts and difficulties than other men. Yet so it is we see the illiterate bulk of mankind that walk the high-road of plain, common sense, and are governed by the dictates of nature, for the most part easy and undisturbed To them nothing that is familiar appears unaccountable or difficult to comprehend. They complain not of any want of evidence in their senses, and are out of all danger of becoming sceptics But no sooner do we depart from sense and instinct to follow the light of a superior principle, to reason, meditate, and reflect on the nature of things, but a thousand scruples spring up in our minds, concerning those things which before we seemed fully to comprehend Prejudices and errors of sense do from all parts discover themselves to our view; and endeavoring to correct these by reason, we are insensibly drawn into uncouth paradoxes, difficulties, and inconsistences which multiply and grow upon us as we advance in speculation; till at length, having wandered through many intricate mazes, we find ourselves just where we were, or, which is worse, sit down in a forlorn scepticism.
The cause of this is thought to be the obscurity of things, or the natural weakness ad imperfection of our understandings. It is said the faculties we have are few, and those designed by nature for the support and comfort of life, and not to penetrate into the inward essence and constitution of things Besides, the mind of man being finite, when it treats of things which partake of infinity, it is not to be wondered at, if it runs into absurdities and contradictions; out of which it is impossible it should ever extricate itself, it being the nature of infinite not to be comprehended by that which is finite.
But perhaps we may be too partial to our selves in placing the fault originally in our faculties, and not rather in the wrong use we make of them. It is a hard thing to suppose that right deductions from true principles should ever end in consequences which cannot be maintained or made consistent We should believe that God has dealt more bountifully with the sons of men, than to give them a strong desire for that knowledge, which He had placed quite out of their reach. This would not be agreeable with the customary indulgent methods of Providence, which, whatever appetites it may have implanted in the creatures usually furnishes them with such means as, if rightly made use of, will not fail to satisfy them. Upon the whole, I am inclined to think that the far greater part, if not all, of those difficulties which have hitherto amused philosophers and block up the way to knowledge, are entirely owing to ourselves. That we have first raised a dust, and then complain we cannot see."
What is the dust? Basically, it is category mistakes. That is when we consign attributes from one level of abstraction to that of a different level. Gilbert Ryle expounded on this, his classic example being a boy and his father on the estuary where the boy says he sees the ships but fails to see the Navy. The boy does not realize that the ships in coordination are the Navy; rather he is looking for some sort of larger, more impressive ship. Humanity just cannot leave spirit alone; it has to change it to a thing. So our gods step out of immortality into time/space and walk around on this planet. And in doing so they become idols. Idolatry is all about viewing spirit as though it can be perceived.
Berkeley focuses on matter itself as a conceptual mistake. There has to be something responsible for our perceptions, but nothing mandates that it needs to be a substance, a material something. Spirit works just as well as a source of support. And it does not consist of tiny little things called god particles, which itself is a category mistake.
This is no small issue. I stand here on the edge of goodbye, realizing that precious few people view "reality" as perception alone. Berkeley says everything exists in mind, and only in being perceived. Certainly ideas cannot exist outside a mind. There is no place to file them in a material world. My image of Willow School does not reside in my brain, and it disappears entirely if I am not perceiving it. A picture exists, but not in time and space, only in perception.
There is a difference between a perception and an idea through reflection. A perception is grounded in something outside ourselves, but just not in "stuff". It can be grounded in spirit, a spirit apparently more powerful and more perfect than our own. This is not just a language n issue. It concerns the foundation of experience. Ground yourself in little mindless things or in spirit. Those are our choices. Everything thereafter is determined.
Hell on earth is being spirit and grasping desperately for reality as matter. Matter is a category mistake, an illusion, the Navy as a bigger ship. Reality is that in which we ground perceptions, the agent that makes them happen. Today we think the world out there is just like our perceptions, and we desperately try to lose ourselves in it. But in so doing we ignore reality as spirit, throwing away the ice cream bar for the wrapper. According to Berkeley, reality, as we call it today, is an illusion. There is no "stuff" out there, only perception, idea, and spirit. As spirit, we can sit back and be; as particles, we can only press harder trying to keep them together. That is like a baseball player who hits singles trying to bat clean up. He gives up what he has for what he has not.
The edge of goodbye has mixed blessings. I realize that precious view people in the western world today view trees, mountains and stars as ideas. They hold on to materialism as the substance for its implied immortality. We might not be eternal, but at least matter is. We define material as eternal, i.e. energy can neither be created nor destroyed. The stuff that creates our perceptions does not perceive or think, is not conscious, and cannot be perceived. Whatever reflects the photons off of it on their way to our minds, we know absolutely nothing. That being the case, how does the "thing in itself", of which we can say nothing, differ from nothing itself? It doesn’t. But we call it something. We call it matter. That is a whopper of a category mistake.
Following Berkeley, one travels a different path from the rest of the world. The mechanics of living do not change. One still steps out of the way of fast moving trains, but the meaning for almost all activity changes. The end becomes "being", not bucket lists. Focus is less on the outside, which the world calls reality, and more on the inside, which the person calls self. Sharing and caring starts to replace power and position. There is no need to rush, since we are already eternal. We do not die, although the world for us as time and space disappears.
This shift constitutes a major revision. It is the most important thing we can do to survive and help the planet. I am just beginning the journey. Berkeley lights the way. I am not writing this book to inform others of Berkeley’s or my beliefs. I am writing this book to clarify those beliefs. Any exposition should be better at the end than the beginning, but one has to begin in order to reach the end. So off I go, leaving a way of life and walking a road far less traveled, although from the outside everything will look pretty much the same. Taxes will still need to be paid, dogs fed, moments shared. But the values shift. Again, what I learn from the inside of my being gains a higher value what I perceive from the outside. And hopefully, that desperate feeling of having to reach some tangible item outside, because of the illusion of such as an independent entity, will be replaced by experience today on the inside.
Fortunately, I do not have to convince anyone of this system. That, of course, is almost impossible to do. Reason does not fare well against emotion. Probably the horror of aloneness is the greatest fear we face on this planet. The sense of being entirely alone, such as drifting out into empty space, or being buried alive, touch the horror of that as well as anything. We may not be able to prevent death, for example, which we can only experience alone in a material world, but we can turn up the music and dance for the moment, or even until we wear out our last pair of shoes. But we cannot outrun it. People hate Berkeley because he says reality exists only in perception. If it is not perceived it is not there.
The reality of immaterialism, which we might call Berkeley’s system, is that we are forever alone, in a materialistic world, in a small black box--doubling as a theater. It is all dark inside our private experience center until the power goes on. Then we have wrap around video, surround sound, plus the sensations of touch, smell, taste, and proprioception. It is experience as we know it, but we can never poke our heads out of our box, and everything that comes in is modified by us. We are like satellite TV receivers converting waves into images. What plays in our heads need not the same as what comes into it. The TV satellite does not beam down little pictures and sounds; it sends waves that we transform into experience. And this experience exists only in our mind, not our brains. Unlike monitors, it takes up no space. The show we experience is not the same as the video waves. So what is the reality? Trapped in this private booth, we see only what goes on inside, never what is "real" outside. And everything we experience is only in our minds. All of the stuff we see out there, what we call reality, has no physicality. It is real, it is just not made up of matter. Outside of mind, of perception, it does not exist. The perception is real. We just infer the their cause. We say the perceptions are caused by matter. But there is no evidence or need for matter. Outside of perception there need only be a stronger, more perfect spirit. Reality can be perceptions backed up by a Higher Power, not just perceptions from nowhere. So no material, only Spirit. Good bye substance, Hello God. In a materialistic world, one cannot be more alone that Berkeley’s position. In a spiritual world, one cannot be more connected.
Let us review here because this is fundamental. Upon reflection most will concede that the only thing we can see are images in our mind. We lose sight of that, but what else could it be. We never see outside the box. We see perceptions, but never the actual things, like watching the world on a camcorder. That is it. We infer to reality; but we only infer to causes of those perceptions in what would be a spacial temporal world (which is also of our creation). Since we do not create our perceptions, something else must. We have two choices: cause or purpose. If it is cause then it has to be something with causal characteristics, i.e. extension and motion. It must be some sort of stuff, i.e., matter. And if so, we ought to be able to perceive it. But we cannot perceive it. It cannot think, perceive, reflect, or act. The world then is due to non perceiving, non thinking, non-conscious, imperceptible, dumb matter. This never inspires me.
If it is due to purpose, then it lives outside of a causal world of time and space, is reflective, conscious, perceptive, and concerned (one does not mindlessly have a purpose). If purpose is the ground to our perceptions, then reality is due to spirit. Perception then is grounded in the mind of a spirit, something more powerful and perfect than us. It can will a reality based on perception. It can will whatever it wishes, although perhaps not contradictions, i.e. square circles. Still a greater spirit, with more power, and more perfection, would obviously be capable of supporting a Universe with a causal component. God exists here, of course, although not tucked into time and space.
The horror of alone is enough to flee the black box analogy. There is another analogy that helps understand our position. We are like ships anchored in a harbor at night. One can see lights from the other ships but can never leave ones own and get on another. There is comfort in seeing the other ships, but we are prevented from being with them, forever in current reality. There will be few takers here.
But the harbor analogy is contingent on one’s basic metaphysical position. Is the world physical or spiritual? If it is physical, the analogy holds. Together means on the same ship, although do not look to close at that, be cause the closest we can get to another being physically is a geometry issue. And that is not the essence of connection. From the spiritual perspective, however, being on separate ships is not such a problem. Space and time do not exist. Only being matters, and we can be together any time we want–it is a matter of feeling, not proximity. Frankly, the closest I ever get to other beings is through my knowing, not my perceiving. The perceiving helps, that is probably why it is there, but togetherness is an experience that draws more from inside than outside.
Finally, I find some comfort in realizing that I do not need to convince anyone of what seems to be my evolving position (i.e., that matter is a category mistake). My writing is in an effort to determine the truth of the world, not to win votes. Most likely the truth will not be what we currently think, and everyone will hate any change that comes along. That is how it always works. People are burned at the stake for stating the truth. I need to convince myself here and can do so best by aiming for reality. So full speed ahead and damn the black boxes. It is a process. I do this for me to help live without being surprised by unthinkable horrors. It is sort of an anti post-traumatic stress disorder position, which perhaps is something I learned in my forty years of psychiatric work: the dragons only chase you when you run. So I press ahead, because the dragons still scare me. However, if this work goes somewhere, and someone wishes to borrow from it, be my guest. I would be more than happy if you find some benefit with it. And it is nice to see other lights in the harbor, even if we are anchored in place.
Berkeley numbers his paragraphs. I shall list them as does he and follow each in his words with scribbling from me in the effort to connect his ideas to any I have that might be secured to something more than helium and hot air. (Trying to take some ownership.) There is more to Berkeley than eliminating matter from the universe, but we do not get to pick our dragons, and if we handle this one, the rest will get in line.
1. "It is evident to any one who takes a survey of the objects of human knowledge, that they are either ideas actually imprinted on the senses, or else such as are perceived by attending to the passions and operations of the mind, or lastly ideas formed by help of memory and imagination, either compounding, dividing, or barely representing those originally perceived in the aforesaid ways. By sight I have the ideas of light and colors with their several degrees and variations. By touch I perceive, for example, hard and soft, heat and cold, motion and resistance, and of all these more and less either as to quantity or degree. Smelling furnishes me with odors; the palate with tastes, and hearing conveys sounds to the mind in all their variety of tone and composition. And as several of these are observed to accompany each other, they come to be marked by one name, and so to be reputed as one thing. Thus, for example, a certain color, taste, smell, figure and consistency having been observed to go together, are accounted one distinct thing, signified by the name ‘apple’. Other collections of ideas constitute a stone, a tree, a book, and the like sensible things, which, as they are pleasing or disagreeable, excite the passions of love, hatred, joy, grief, and so forth."
He is trying to take stock of the furniture of the mind, and groups it as perceptions (from without) and apperceptions (from within), referring to both as ideas. The term idea seems to have become a mixed-breed, but I understand it best as whatever we are able to conceptualize in our minds. The signal, from whatever, has become identifiable. The world is populated with things (in common language), and the mind is populated with ideas (pictures or symbols that are real conceptually, but not physically.) Finally, Paragraph One sets the stage for the next, which adds inhabitants to the furniture.
2. "But besides all that endless variety of ideas or objects of knowledge, there is likewise something which knows or perceives them, and exercises diverse operations as willing imagining, remembering about them. This perceiving, active being is what I call ‘mind’, ‘spirit’, ‘soul’, or ‘self’. By which words I do not denote any one of my ideas, but a thing entirely distinct from them, wherein they exist or, which is the same thing, whereby they are perceived; for the existence of an idea consists in being perceived."
Berkeley is most often dismissed as having wandered too far from reasonable, specifically, that reality exists only in being perceived. Supposedly, if you close your eyes the tree that stood before you ceases to exist–all is perception. He never said that, although he moved in such a direction. However, the fact that something is unconventional does not make it impossible. Relativity theory, non-Euclidian geometry, and quantum mechanics would have had to have been dismissed if that was the case. For me, Berkeley's ideas just seemed strange; now they appear correct. Also, Berkeley and Kant end up at essentially the same place; they just color it differently.
If you are going to study Berkeley, then follow him all the way through before passing judgment. Be active. For example, right now we might ourselves consider the components of our minds. What is up there? For example, we have vivid transient sensations from the outside, of which we can make faded permanent copies on the inside (ideas). We can recall these facsimiles more or less at will, plus we can combine them into new creations—although within limits. Centaurs, unicorns, and pigs that fly make sense, but square circles, what sound looks like, and imagining the perception of an insensible object does not. Then, we have emotions, which can suffuse both perceptions and apperceptions. If there is more mental furniture, it escapes my view.
So there are objects and subjects. We are the subjects, described as self, soul, spirit, or consciousness. This is Berkeley’s point in this paragraph; there is perception, reason, and will as an entity, however we name it. This entity experiences, reasons, and acts. We can perceive ideas. And we can perceive sensations. But we cannot perceive spirit. It does not live in time and space. In an evidence-based world one struggles constantly to cast spirit as perception. Holding on to the wind is hard, so we cast spirit as an object rather than a concept. This shuffle has kept humanity perplexed and frustrated for thousands of years. It is time to stop the mistake. Perceptions are in time and space; spirit is conceptual. Conceptually, I can travel from one side of the universe to the other instantaneously, which means consuming zero time. (In the real world sister photons can adjust their angle of spin spontaneously to stay in synch even if on opposite sides of the universe.) It can happen because mental is outside of time. Is it real? There a real mental school in your mind when you recall your grade school, but it exists outside of time. And it takes zero time to retrieve the image once you grasp it. We can mentally traverse the universe one time or one trillion times instantaneously, which is real, but only mentally--like Federal Reserve money. But then Kant says time and space are only conceptual, and he appears to be right.
Objects sit; subjects act. Action is the goal of the whole process. It is what we do. Action and purpose are perhaps synonymous. We perceive, reason, and respond. Reason sets response apart from reflex. Actions happen; they are new things in the world, not just the next step in a long line of careening pool balls or quarks. And they happen in a quantum manner. They leap, independent of time and space. There is not an inside correlate of an outside action. No levers are pulled; no little entities in our minds pull them. We pull them, as spirit, outside time and space, and hence not perceptible. That is what we do. That is what we are. It is not idea. It is not body (material). It is spirit, another component of the self, soul or spirit. We can never see it as we do "things". By its effects it is known, like gravity . . . . or God.
I am not out here just wandering around looking for pieces of truth. No one does that. People act for reasons. Molecules do not, they are pushed by forces, not pulled by goals. Goals are mental concepts. This is vital to understanding the world because if materialism is right then everything is simply attraction. Little pieces of substance just drift about following some natural law and plopping in place. If the world is causal then why do we spend all our time trying to do things? Why not just sit back and let whatever happens happen? And how do we explain the experience of intent or purpose? We decide to build a fence and take the necessary actions to accomplish that task. Is that whole experience simply caused by the random perpetual action of the pool balls (metaphor) put in motion by the Big Bang? The Big Bang has no intent, molecules have no intent, we then have no real intent, just the simulation of intent–but that experience itself is just randomly caused. Materialists and therefore science says that nature simply bounces about aggregating here and there into everything we see in the world, but never following a design. Then why is our whole experience that of purpose? There are only three explanations: 1) Because it is purpose, real, creative purpose, or 2) Because Nature thought it would be fun to play games with us, or 3) Because not only did blind chance result in a transatlantic cable, but it superimposed in certain components a superfluous experience of accomplishment. At some point one’s credibility simply screams out "ne mas!"
This impinges on me personally, and drives the whole business of my posts and books. Does that mean I am hopelessly biased, or does that suggest that science is partially sterile. Why would one wander about in life pursuing something that has no emotional claim, as science aspires to do by degrading subjectivity? I am fighting a war here. The new book is called "Republic, If You Can Keep iI" because we are not keeping it. And materialism (the doctrine that everything is made out of little pieces of matter) is why we are not. Materialism replaces spirit with rocks. It finds eternity not in God, but in a hypothesized substance. Berkeley will go on later here to claim that such a substance does not exist. If we preemptively grant this substance the quality of existence, then you can assign any attribute at all to it. Being non-existent it can not refute or affirm any characteristic. Substance, if there is any, is presumed to be eternal. That is a good place to ground our existence because immortality is what we seek. It can replace Spirit or God, and allows people to substitute humanity and government for agency. If you want a fatal contradiction for the system we use today think of this: If the whole world is causal, then so was the development of the the conclusion that the world is all causal. That statement itself is caused, hence losing any claim to truth. There is no truth in random collisions. Truth applies to concepts related to reason and intent. It is sought. Materialism eliminates reason and intent. Do the math. (Hint--The claim everything is causal invalidates the claim itself.)
Our world handlers have to employ materialism because otherwise they need to contend with spirit and God. And they have thrown away spirit so they can become Lord of the dirt pile. They presume godliness by disqualifying God. And they pay for it by substituting promises for money. This cannot end well. Perhaps this offers an avenue for purpose, for us, like now.
The obvious connection to my personal experience is what I now call the smoking gun, i.e. that age twelve the only person in the room at the greater Andersen gatherings who did not know about my adoption was me. Everyone else knew best. Everyone else presumed authority. Intuitive truth went out the window and slavish subservience to pretentious authority prevailed., or one lived on the street. It is not hard for me to jump from the Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings to society today. The United States Constitution is based on personal freedom, leaving government only with the responsibility to prevent people from infringing on someone else’s freedom. We swear an oath in the military to support the Constitution of the United States, not to support the opinion of a president or senator. The latter position is a dictatorship. I gave up personal truth for security as a youngster. I hope not to do it again today. Does my personal experience get in the way of "objective" truth? No, my personal experience is the backbone of any significant truth.
Oh, and by the way: We are not very far along here, but if we are correct in our assumptions of the content of our minds (I am assuming that you signed on to the position of perceptions, apperceptions, emotion, and spirit) then Descartes is shorthanded in seeing us comprised only of mental and physical. Spirit has been left out, probably because it presents no representations. But there is more to life, Horatio, than we perceive through our senses.
It is time to face the dragon. We are made to observe the world, not to observe our observing. We interface with the world in order to survive. We introspect to check for errors. Persistent errors are generally counterintuitive. We become familiar with the direct action and it becomes too close to focus upon. This allows errors to endure perpetually. Does this happen? Probably more than we realize. Use finance for example. The world has gone Keynesian. This means that one gets rich by spending. The spending is supposed to stimulate production. But like the stars crossing the sky, we get it backwards. It is production that stimulates spending. Give everyone a million dollars and nothing more will get produced other than tax attorneys. So today we have a world financial system built upon the wishes of the elite that is backed by false promises and can only collapse. We have a world wide ponzi scheme run by our handlers. Talk about wrong! If you do not believe me, check back to this site in a few years and see how we are doing. If you like evidence-based data, it will be pounding on your door.
The mistake we make in our quest for a metaphysics is to presume an entity that does not exist. There is no material substance underwriting the existence of the universe. We falsely infer one on the basis of interpreting the abstract as perceptible. We ground everything in a material substance that is non-existent. We used to ground everything in a spirit. There are different terms for this entity: spirit, soul, higher power, intelligence, consciousness, purpose, God. Calling it god is probably least useful because everyone has their own concept of that word. To Christians it means Jesus, to Islamists it means Mohamed, and so on and so on. No credit to religion, some of each will try to kill you if you disagree. So God gets reified into a physical entity and hence ceases to be spirit. For most of humanity’s existence we had a tri-part world: mind, body, and soul. Now the Zeitgeist is just mind and body. Personally I have long felt that simply does not work. There is no place for agency, purpose, or intent.
We are laying the cornerstone for our metaphysical structure here, so it needs to be right. We cannot simply assume mental and physical, the nice Descartian system, which has remained inexplicable for three hundred years. We need a place for purpose and agency. Soul, spirit, agency, intelligence, consciousness, purpose, higher power all work. There is no way to skip lightly through the logic. We can leave no stone unturned to find our anchor point. So I intend to take all of Berkeley’s arguments for a spirit and mind world and try to turn all of them into something itself grounded for me in more than words and copy/paste. We have to work to make it our own. That is how it gets grounded in our nature. In college I once played banjo in a little group that took a shot at folk music. We played at a school assembly and at a local bar. We copied the Kingston Trio. I would not want to live without music–it is probably the language of the gods. But likely there is little musical talent in my ancestry, and worse, we were just pallid copies of various artists rather than anything genuine. One does not have to write the songs, but there has to be a part of the artist in the product. There was no me, only someone trying to create a me by counterfeit. It is silly to even bring up this example because we are not talking about any talent here, but this is what came to mind in how I plan to play this chapter in understanding Berkeley. I will take all his arguments (excluding analogy, example, intuition) and then try to fit them to my understanding. I may be singing Kingston Trio, and doing so badly, but I want it somehow connected to something more than mere notes and stripped shirts.
Logic is abstract. It is hard to offer pictures of it; no trees, streams, or blue birds. But we need to address it. You do not have to. You can trust someone else for your metaphysics, me, even, on this issue. But I need to give it my best--for me, the dogs, and anyone else who cares. No one needs to sit through a boring song in a school auditorium again. One never gets that time back.
(Here is the beginning of Chapter Three of Republic. It is about George Berkeley's ideas.)
If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Well, first, lets take humanity out of its egocentric position, since other creatures are quite capable of hearing. But then the answer becomes, no, there is no sound without a sentient being to experience it. Sound is an experience; sound waves are merely causal events. So it is with vision. If a TV satellite sends down a movie, Hoosiers for example, it does not zoom down a zillion tiny pictures. It sends a computer code through electromagnetic waves, which looks nothing like the actual events. We construct experience. Learning that is another Copernican revolution. There have been several earth shttering conceptual events: the world not being flat; earth not being the center of the universe; and now, while we have not yet absorbed it, experience as constructed, not merely received. Everything is not just out there, shining like a new dime. How it appears depends on what is aware of it. Vision is a very compliced process, most of which we actively create. Again, a communication satelitte carries no picture anywhere along the process. Experience is translated into computer code, transmitted through electromagnetic waves, received by our physical apparatus, and converted into a "picture" that is "projected" on an invisible screen somewhere in our head (mind, soul?) There is no picture, no screen, no little person in our head observing the screen. So what do the real things captured on code really look like? Is it what is on the invisible screen in our head, the projection on our retinas, the nervous impulses in our heads, the computer code, satillite waves, the physical people of which the tape is made, and if so, is it Gene Hackman then, or Gene Hackman now? The point is there is no real thing out there. Real, as we understand it, is all in our minds. Trees are not "really" green; the just reflect sound waves at 510 nanometers. There is no color in the waves or that which reflects them, just like there is no sound without something to hear it.
It gets worse. Everything we perceive out there we process to produce experience. There are no real things out there in themselves. The operative word is "things". There is something out there, but the word "thing" implies an physical object, independent of consciousness. Everything out there then becomes contingent on dirt clods, quarks, or bosons. Those things allegedly cause the effects that produce our perceptions, which are our only access to a world outside our minds. The "real" world then becomes contingent on a mindless, unreceptive, imperceptable, non-conscious substance. Forget about purpose, design, or heaven-forbid, caring. But whatever causes the perceptions could be spritual. Materialism does not have a lock on reason. We cannot give them a free pass.
The facts are that experience is not passive. We construct it. Green lives only in mind, and so, apparently, does space, time, and causality. It is difficult to grasp the significance of this conception, which is that reality exists in being perceived. Real is all mental: space, time, color, extension, sight, hearing, motion. Quantum mechanics, by the way, struggles with this issue also.
It is fair to ask what causes photons to be reflected off of whatever reflects them, but a tree is green not because it just is, but because it absorbs all the other visual wave lengths, and we somehow portray 510 nanometers as green. But where, or how this happens no one knows. Photons and bosons do not lead to green. We create green, somehow. We are the DVD player that translates signals into something that can be interpreted as experience. It does not happen without us receiving an input,and that requires something transmiting an output. Something sends; someone receives. Without that there is no communication. That much is secure.
What is not secure is that we cannot simply presume that some physical structure underwrites the whole process. There are other options. It could be spirit that sends the signals. Berkeley contends this. He does not doubt there is something called reality out there which is different than fantasy. But that does not mean that our sensations are necessarily caused by some eternal substance or matter. That is a category mistake (more on that later). We simply attribute cause all the way down, which leads to an infinite regress. Something sends the signals, but that something does not have to be dirt clods or bosons. It could be spirit, or as Kant sees it, something about which we cannot say anything. We have a revolution awaiting us--actually, a counter revolution. A thousand years from now people are going to think we were foolish looking for a god-particle, when all we had to do was jettison the particle component. The Universe is surely not caused by a box of rocks. Call that a hunch.
Plato grasped this issue as reflected in his Republic, Aristotle in his substance and form, Leibneitz in the monad, Berkeley in God, Kant in noumenon, Schopenhauer in will and representation, Locke (upside down) in Essays, Ryle in concept of mind, and thousands of reflective individuals now lost to history who fretted over this issue. It was and remains a problem. Autocratic presumption is not sufficient. We need to get this right. The first step to California is not toward Carolina.
We are party to the world, not a product of it. The camera does not view its lens, fish do not see the water, we ignore our contribution to perception. This is similar to the idea that the stars and planets rotate around the earth. After all, they start from one side of the sky and move to the other. But there is another explanation. It took humanity thousands of years to realize that the earth turning one way would look the same in the sky as the stars moving the other. We presume the familiar. Perhaps that is why we make so many mistakes (i.e. Syria). Philosophy is not always an empty activity. Abstraction is a double-edged sword. It can uncover issues too close to be perceived, where unquestioned presumptions can cause the most damage. We cannot fix what we fail to conceive.
There has been a shift in my life this year. I stopped running groups eight months ago. For the last twenty-five years of my career as a psychiatrist I worked entirely with combat related post-traumatic stress disorder. That was not by design; it is just where "the force" took me. Near the end one would have thought that some sort of summary or review of the whole experience would take place. Reason would expect that after logging 170,000 patient hours in out-patient groups that something should have been learned. Those kind of numbers do not occur on command. Something has to be going on inside–again, one would think.
Leaving was easy; the VA and I shared nothing in our approach to PTSD, and with the returning veterans from the middle east that was of some import. But the scary thing is how quickly it all faded. I might have just as well been treating charts. When I was in the Air Force, if one was on duty in the Emergency Room at night or on weekends you went to the flight line with all the other flashing red lights if a plane was coming in under a distress call. Accidents rarely happen, but instrument alerts are not uncommon, and every incident of that type is considered a potential crash. Sitting on the flight line one feels a major responsibility for those in the air. Perhaps it is just humanity, but this also was our team, the Air Force was a pretty cohesive and compassionate organization.
However, when not on the flight line, which was not the major responsibility for those of us in specialties other than the flight surgeons, I rarely thought about planes coming in. So it went with the vets arriving back from Iraq and Afghanistan. While I was working at the Veterans Administration, I felt a personal responsibility for these middle east vets. In my opinion, our therapy group was the last bastion of psychotherapeutic efficacy for PTSD left in the VA system. But when it became obvious that my experience was irrelevant for the course administration was taking, I realized there was nothing I could do for the new veterans. I quit over this issue. At that point these vets were no longer my responsibility. It was like not being in the ambulance on the flight line. My job shifted, quickly.
Which takes us to today. My personal post-traumatic stress disorder has received its response, and now is relegated to an unpleasant life event rather than an intrusive disorder. That leaves me with pluses and minuses. Conflict resolution is largely about letting go of what was and crafting new abilities for what is. Grief carries the load in that process. Thinking just cautions one to get out of the way. But the process is never complete and the dispositions never eradicated. One loosens up, has an ankle taped, and gets back in the game. This is probably like professional football; they always play hurt. But the pluses are that one sees both sides now. The world is not as pretty as for the day dream believers, but it is more honest. There is no Santa Claus. Government is for itself, not for the citizens, and if the population fails to set limits none will be drawn. There is no free lunch, and you are not going to win the lottery. These are good things to know--most people do not.
It becomes an issue of truth versus votes, liberty versus security. That is the point of this particular post. I feel I am now pursuing truth, rather than underwriting promises and pretensions. The Cialis commercial in the stupid tubs that tells the patient to ask his doctor if the patient's heart is strong enough for sex seems to fit right in with the authority sponsered sheeple approach. It’s pretty simple: if your chest hurts stop; if not, carry on. Do you ask the doctor if it is all right walk to the mail box or have an extra croissant? How hard can it be to learn the rules for these things? Do we need specialists to tell us how to raise our children, government to tell us how to defend our houses, clergy to tell us how to pray, mayors to limit the size of our soft drinks?
At age thirteen I went to court for my adoption. The Andersens bought me at age three days, but apparently felt having done that would not pass muster in court, so they waited until my opinion had some bearing on the case. The judge asked at the hearing if I wanted to live with the Andersens or go to a boy’s home. It all seemed incredulous to me, and I opted for the Andersens. Losing my dog and my friends did not sound like a bargain. But from an inside perspective I essentially opted for security over freedom. My life on the outside appeared fine, but from an internal perspective it all felt pretend. It was. Even today I keep fathoming the extent of the problem. Only recently have I realized that when I was eleven years old and the greater Andersen family got together on Christmas and Thanksgiving at my "grandparents" house, there were perhaps eighteen people present and I was the only one who did not know I was "adopted". That is not a family. That is playing one on TV, or like working for the CIA without having a security clearance. Meaningful dialogue came to a halt around me in those situations, snuffed out by the secrets. All the rest was scripted, and worn out years before.
I never had one meaningful interchange with my "father." We handled the business of life, sharing words, but not feelings. Words come from the head, feelings come from the heart. That is a pragmatically useful dichotomy to use, although we can do better than that for our metaphysics–and hopefully will. There was no firm structure on which to build an identity. Words cannot handle the winds. When I asked Stanley what would have happened to me if they had died before I was adopted, he guessed I would have gone "back to the orphanage". I would have done better growing up with wolves.
I do not have warm fuzzies that intact families have. I assume they do real together and experience a connection. I experienced nothing and pretended otherwise; but then there was always a real orphanage rooted in the background of my existence, and people are not stupid. They experience the flashing red lights somewhere in the interchange if they have the courage not to look away. Stanley’s last words to me were that, "whatever happened to me before they bought me was none of my business." I had just asked him about the home they got me from. I was forty-six at the time, and he was in a nursing home. That did it for me. His life became none of my business as well. We never spoke again. Stanley died several years later. I have never shed a tear. It was all pretend. Pretend cannot produce tears.
So what place does personal experience have in a quest for metaphysics? Well this is one of the points in contention here. I am questioning the whole value of the scientific method, of tossing away subjective in favor of objective. We are not trying to visit Mars here, just trying to experience genuine relationships.
My post-traumatic stress disorder was about being empty inside, which no one bothered to notice. The first person to ever ask me what adoption was like for me was during the photo session at my probable place of birth for People Magazine's story about "Castaways". In my opinion the official diagnostic manual for psychiatric disorders overplays the role of violence as the stressor. I found a body on the way to work one day; It did not bother me at all. But finding that everyone lied to me about the basics of my existence caused no end of difficulties. Everyone has their inner sanctum of family. I do not. My backup was an orphanage. We can make a collection of "those without real families" and call it McSpecial, but they all would still carry an incipient wish for the real. My answer, besides all the grief of letting the idealized fantasies and their transference objects go, has been to view my rock bottom connection to my dogs rather than to people. I have never been without a dog. We know how to get along, and we do. And it works. If you had PTSD and now live a normal life, you have not adjusted to your disorder. PTSD is defined as undergoing a traumatic event or situation beyond the realm of normal human experience. Would you not expect, therefore, that a resolution would also be atypical? One more thing about PTSD. It is not just about the stressor, rather it reflects a disparity between load and capacity. One cannot run a marathon on a day’s notice, but with six months of training one can handle it with ease. A major component of PTSD is having no avenue to address it. Everything is easier with a wingman.
So I am including my personal experience here, because when all is said and done, that is what most of life is about. Science may get us to Mars, but experience is what makes it worthwhile. Subjective is the language of the soul. It is my heart, not my head, that leads me to believe there are more Copernican revolutions in our developing view of the world. Plato thought so, as did Aristotle, Berkeley, Kant, and Schopenhauer. So I will trust what I feel rather than what I am told. It is a learned skill to not swim with the other fishes. I am getting better at it. This particular blog is an effort to clarify the process. It is my view of the truth and that has now become my personal quest.
I care that we are ruining the planet, probably personally being more concerned about the animals that the people. I recognize that I have a disparaging view of humanity. I apparently belong to that class, but under protest. Yet it appears we can do something about our destructiveness, and my life purpose is to seek such a path. I think replacing God with science has overstepped its bounds. It appears we make consistent errors in abstraction, called category mistakes, in which we interpret spiritual in terms of perceptual, from which there are endless traps. The most consistent is to conceptualize God in terms of objects rather than spirit. As a race it does not appear we can handle death, and that we erect innumerable noxious defenses to keep us from addressing the issue. Materialism does not have the last word in finality. Perhaps we are not just mental and physical substances, all based on the metaphor of billiard balls careening into each other. Government has replaced God as our hope for the future, and with it humility has been replaced by greed and desperate clawing to escape the disastrous hole of extinction we sense falling into but fear to address (society’s PTSD).
William Hocking did not ask whether something was impossible, just whether it needed to be done and if the finger of responsibility points in your direction. My PTSD experience and the effort in addressing that has set me apart from typical society. I do not fit well there. But outside of society its mistakes become more obvious. For example, Edward Snowden blows the whistle on the threat to the fourth ammendment rights, and Obama now talks about new controls to protect privacy. It would appear that Snowden’s actions could lead to something of value. But Obama says they were planning changes all along anyway. That feels quite unlikely to me. More likely the personal intrusion would have simply continued to grow. Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. How much credulity do we have to surrender to keep buying the party line? How much integrity did I have to surrender by failing to notice that Stanley (my adoptive father) saying he always treated me as if I was his real son is not the same as being his real son. One is real and the other is pretend. How would he have taken it if I told him I always treated him "as if he was my real father?" That leaves another father, the genuine one, elsewhere. When does one stop the charade? Government never will. But individuals can. There are two parties to this transaction: one who lies and one who looks away. Don't forget that "those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither liberty nor security." To which I would add that those who give up personal truth for security deserve neither truth nor security.
Metaphysics addresses the issues that cannot be resolved through perception (largely sight and sound). God, freedom, and immortality are the issues that matter. They probably matter more than anything else, but there is that prickly issue of evidence. We have made minimal progress on any of these in the last several thousand years. Aristotle’s conjectures make about as much sense as Wittgenstein’s. There are leads, but people fail to follow them. How many of your friends are currently reading Kant, Berkeley, or Hume? I am going to take my sense of estrangement from humanity, along with my intuition that there is gold in those hills, to pursue a more synthetic metaphysics. The new book is where this is going, although the title suggests a different focus. But all systems sit on the most general concepts, which are metaphysical. A strong structure needs a strong foundation. We can leave no issue unturned. That is called post-traumatic stress disorder. Society can be as disfunctional as individuals
My past six months have been spent sneaking up on Immanuel Kant. If philosophy does not make sense to me I can fault the author or fault myself. But Kant felt like a traffic jam. I can grasp most of his compelling ideas, but few of his proofs, and his writing style is almost fatal. Things started to move when I began to view him as in the autistic spectrum. He was barely over five feet tall, had a physical deformity of his chest (probably pectus excavatum), had no pets, no art, no music, and no romances. His life was run by the clock and his interests largely in intellectual pursuits. He never married, apparently never dated, and spent most of his life on his work, but was also cordial and considerate. It was said of him that he might have been one of the greatest persons who ever lived had he been able to love. His sentences could stack qualifiers to the top of the page. Kant had important things to say, but a little subjectivity would have saved on coffee while trying to read him. We will come back to Kant in the book, but my shift to Berkeley got me out of dry dock and back onto the water. I hope to start on a Berkeley chapter in the near future.
Berkeley is perhaps best described as an immaterialist, i.e. the opposite of today’s dominant position of materialism or physicalism. Materialism grounds the universe in some physical substance, the smaller the better. Berkeley is most often today classified as an idealist, which has nothing to do with ideals, but rather ideas. The "L" is thrown in to make it easier to say. Berkeley is famous for saying that things exist only in being perceived. This never meant that the sun, moon, and stars were merely ideas, and disappeared when not being conceived. Rather it meant that perceptions were not grounded in some unthinking, passive, unreceptive, imperceptable "substance". The world is not just various piles of dumb rocks; it has design, there is an architect. I like Berkeley because he believes in a Higher Power, and that we have a spirit or soul or mind that is grounded in other than dirt clods, and hence immortal and free. Hooray!
I am proud to subjectively admit that I wish for those things and do not just strut around propounding that death is just a part of life and we should face it stoically while simultaneously enacting defense mechanisms that create a hell on earth. It does not take courage to whistle past the graveyard. It takes courage to admit one is afraid.
So off to Berkeley I go, and hopefully we will have a new chapter in Republic before too many months.
Idealism versus materialism has been a conflict for perhaps as long as recorded history. Idealism is not about ideals, but rather is the philosophical position that physical things are contingent on mental. Materialism reverses those positions. Knowing little about physical laws, the mind was given free rein to imagine any system it wanted–butterflies and ideas are free. So to explain the universe we ended up six thousand years ago at an apple tree. The problem with concepts linked in the mind is that reason is only tethered to itself. Helium balloons tied together do not become more secure.
Nevertheless, idealism ruled until the Enlightenment in the sixteenth century. We did not know enough about the physical world to even generate hypotheses. That changed with Galileo and Newton. "Every action has an equal and opposite reaction" took the place of apples and serpents. Science rose to challenge revelation, as did individualism versus authority. The enlightenment celebrated reason over revelation and personal freedom over state and church autocracy. Reason would be the vehicle to guide mankind to the promise land, and science could replace God. Copernicus may have removed us from the center of the universe, but science is going to promote us back to prominence as the only purpose in a causal world.
But after three hundred years the honeymoon is wearing thin. As Hocking stated in the previous post, the state is not a viable alternative for a Higher Power. Science can take lightening out of the hands of the gods, but one cannot create consciousness out of quarks any more than one can create acorns out of ideas. Both thought and perception are necessary for experience. As Kant put it, concepts without perception are empty, while perceptions without concepts are blind. But empiricism has the upper hand today. The pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction. According to Kant, that makes us blind. Perhaps that explains how we fail to see how the sky really may be falling. "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift."--Albert Einstein
We need to check in from time to time with the forest. That is the only way to get leverage on what might be too close for us to see. We have apparently reached a point of diminishing return in the ascendency of perception over apperception. Smaller particles and larger government is not going to restore meaning and purpose to what is becoming increasingly estranged experience. Twittering to the world how our waffle turned out this morning is not going lessen our dissonance. It is part of the problem, not the solution.
This takes me to a conflict I have in writing this post. How far does one follow personal intuition versus external reality? Kant was insistent that people should have the courage to follow their own thinking. The Enlightenment itself was based on reason and personal worth over autocratic authority. At the moment, a trivial issue from the outside feels like a critical one from the inside. Do I side with evidence-based data or personal truth?
The issue was a comment on the blog. A reader stated he liked the posts but felt they were too short. Could I make them longer? At face value this is simple. I could simply tell him that there are 436 pages with the same issues in the two books offered here for free download. But as an example of the problem society faces today gains import. Do we miss the forests for the trees? Forest was stamped all over the book explaining this as a site for downloading books. Did I fail in my explanation .or did the reader simply not take his eyes of the trees? I think we are conditioned to do the latter. The ruling elite does not want us to see the forest. And what is worse, we are content not to look. They tell us lies, and we believe them. All we need to do is think positive. The longer this goes on, the greater the problem becomes. Ultimate responsibility always lies with the citizens. There are more of them than there are of leaders. Who else could possibly supervise the supervisors? The system always breaks without individual responsibility to guide it, and shutting down is always better than a train wreck at the end, but we are almost a runaway already.
So much for freedom, what about God? In court, proof of innocence is not demanded; sufficient doubt about guilt is adequate. Similarly, in metaphysics we do not need proof of a Higher Power; we just need sufficient reason to believe in One. Think about it. With all the wonder in the world is none of it is sufficient to consider the possibility of God. What do we need, parlor tricks and dancing bears? Is it not pretentious of us to ask? For one thing our higher power is not likely to match our conception of time, space, and causality. Everyone realizes those concepts make no sense at the limits, but they refuse to seriously consider those implications. If time is infinite, then it never began. And if space is a real why does it not have structure like everything else that is real? It has to end somewhere–but what then contains that limit? The bottom line is that we are looking in the wrong place for God if we expect him to show up in sandals on a mountain top. In fact we are wrong to be looking at all. Internal experience might be a better venue. Schopenhauer thought music connected us to God, Hocking preferred consistent perceptivity. But evidence from the inside might have more do with the spiritual than sensory based data. Apperception appears to be outside space/time. Reason led to an apple tree six thousand years ago. "That’s my story and I’m sticking to it" appears a bit stubborn today. "Every one who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe-a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble."--Albert Einstein
Suggesting that the reader look at the books on this site settles the literal issue that started this post. Explaining why the reader might have failed to see the forest for the trees could be an example of where we go astray. Hiding in plain site is where we miss most of our targets. With science there is no purpose, no God and no immortality. (It always amazes me how science can say it is entirely a causal world, and yet they experience their science as having a purpose of seeking the truth. But if science and scientists themselves are just pool balls bouncing around, they where do they extract purpose for their efforts. They too are caused, and they too mean essentially nothing.) Science says we are supposed to ignore the issues we cannot understand, and focus on those we can. Half a glass is supposed to be better than an empty one, but not if cannot set the big issue down. I do not think our life is complete if we do not ask what the universe might mean? The question has a life of its own. "The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a
holy curiosity."--Albert Einstein
The answer to that question, tentative or not, also determines how we live. If we conceive of meaning to the world, then we will wonder what that is. Speculation will define our purpose. If there is no meaning to the universe then it all means nothing and eat, drink, and be merry makes sense. The problem is that happiness is not an end, the harder one strives for it, the further it recedes. Happiness is what happens when one is living his or her purpose. It is a gratuity, not an end. If there is a God, it follows there is a purpose to the universe, and hence a likely purpose for us. Perhaps we should be seeking that. Apathy might be the disorder and consequence of our "evidence-based" perspective. It ignores everything that makes us different from rocks. "The man who regards his own life and that of his fellow creatures as meaningless is not merely unfortunate but almost disqualified for life."--Albert Einstein
Kant sought to make the world safe for faith. He did so with his "Copernican revolution." Copernicus took what was thought to be objective, stars moving across the sky at night, and made them subjective. They did not move, we moved. The earth rotated which we misinterpreted not due to our change of position, but to a change in the stars. Kant took time and space, thought to be objective, and interpreted them as subjective modes of function necessary for us to convert physical stimuli into mental concepts. Space and time are not out there. They are inside us projected into and fundamental for us to have experience at all. Our data has to make sense for us to use it. That sense comes from the time and place we impute to all perception. We know only perceptions of things outside of us, not the real nature of these things. Kant made the world safe again for faith by granting science its physical truths about perceptions of things, but the things in themselves lie outside our ability to conceive them. That of which we can say nothing we must confine to silence. God, purpose, and immortality cannot be perceived. Perhaps they are in some way accessing through apperception (that which comes to us from within). But for our purposes, that of offering sufficient reason to believe in faith, it works to know they are just possible, if not probable. Remember, faith is a choice, not a requirement. Science can not disprove God, nor spirituality prove it. And faith cannot prove there is a God, which is probably how it should be. Faith being a choice makes it our own, which runs laps around following orders. "Intelligence makes clear to us the interrelationship of means and ends. But mere thinking cannot give us a sense of the ultimate and fundamental ends. To make clear these fundamental ends and valuations and to set them fast in the emotional life of the individual, seems to me precisely the most important function which religion has to form in the social life of man."--Albert Einstein
There is a logic to this post. There might be a sense of pretentiousness also. Weighty issues should be perhaps reserved for someone like the President. On the other hand, the President appears too involved with the trees to have much time for the forest. A congenial smile and upbeat personality might earn votes; but we need principles, not just numbers. On the other hand, principles and numbers might work. We are those numbers. The buck stops with us, the citizens. And we likely need help from above.
Turning back recently to metaphysics from the therapy wars, I had struggled long enough with Kant (he is not comprehensible for mere mortals), and turned to Bertrand Russell and then David Chalmers for a style break. They are brilliant, run laps around me, but I became worried that all the newer minds might be atheists. I do not think we can survive in a meaningless universe. Without a purpose in the world, then it is truly dust to dust, ashes to ashes. Don’t stare at that too long.
So I pulled out a book from my favorite philosopher, William Ernest Hocking. He is brilliant, articulate, and compassionate. In fact he is my hero--I am not too old for that yet. He allowed me to sleep that night.
I was so impressed with his work that I am compelled to cite a few pages here. This is right on point to what we have been discussing recently, and it cannot be said better. Hocking feels we have been running an experiment on getting along without God for the past three hundred years and thought we should see how it is going. It is the battle between humanism and religion. Interestingly, it appears he is also describing the therapy war we have just been discussing. So I am going to toss him the ball and run up the score a bit. It’s called a dialectic, i.e., to ride one’s hypothesis until it shows a fallacy–and if it does, then correct it.
William Ernest Hocking, from Science and the Idea of God:
"Experience as a teacher shows us a good many things we might not otherwise have thought of; but perhaps its chief excellence is that it reminds us of things which we might easily have thought of, and perhaps did subconsciously know very well. It is not otherwise with this "mortal god" of ours, whom we are experimentally setting up in a place of the immortal God. As long as the immortal God is there to fall back upon, we can endure the defects of the finite deity we call Society. But once we abolish God, we become acutely conscious that Society fails to measure up to the role. The death of God leaves Society in the place of the Absolute; and like many another potentate who falls short of omniscience as well as omnipotence, we realize that his pretensions are tolerable only when he is humble and recognizes a law above him. Once his will becomes the definition of good and right, once the corporate selfishness of the state becomes the rule of virtue for the citizens, the moral individual knows that he is shut out from the free sky of his own convictions, and that a principle of evil has entered history in the guise of deity. Just in the moment in which Society is made an object of worship, just by that act man is warned that Society is something he cannot worship.
Like God, Society protects us and comes to our aid, so far as its knowledge and resources allow. But how far do they allow? Society has its cruelty, arising from its limitations, the more severe because it intends so well. It is never perfectly just because there is an appalling amount it never knows an can never find out. It is only partly responsive because it acts through men whose energy and patience give out. It knows how to deal with the usual cases of hardship in moderate numbers. When hardship becomes general, unusual, excessive its hands fall helpless; it can only "do its best" like physicians fighting a pestilence. It is partly tolerant, but it feels safest with its own kind; it accepts strangers and its own inner strange folk with a reserve which delays adoption. In the end its best services command the price of conformity, and the nonconforming have to learn an aspect of repression which is in part born of fear. Society rests itself but little on the waters of "dangerous thought"–a strange timidity for a God!
Just for the deepest wishes of the human heart Society has neither understanding nor sympathy It provides for the group the current coin of culture: it brings to each doorstep the products of the thinkers and the artists; it offers amusements and the enjoyments of art: these are the daily bread for which its worshipers pray. The tame and common desires are ministered to: the wild are prudently trimmed away, and those who would cater to them are censored out of sight. This is as it must be in a world which must regulate itself by averages and probabilities. But there is another and fertile wildness, that of the best in man. That also is shut away. Society has not yet come in sight of the meaning of that best. Everyman somewhere finds the social pabulum limited, and is irked by the sense of an inner starving or warp which gets no relief. It is the total ciphering of Society at this point which begets many of those mental cases which then, by a weird psychiatric circle, are referred to Society for cure. But for all men, the Providence of Society is superficial. Even language, its most perfect product, conveys only the coin of market and forum. It is just the unique individual who cannot speak and remains somewhere the inner rebel and critic of the world.
Most men surrender in large part to the commonplaces of Society accept a million petty compromises and ally themselves resignedly with the imperfect because the discover none but this imperfect God . They may happily find somewhere a relieving version of Society an individual friendship which gives breath to the suffocating regions of the solitary soul. A Society with personal love in it comes nearer God than a Society with nothing but social justice. But even so, this doubleness remains a defect in the deity; the halves of the soul are not brought together. It was this residual craving to which religion once brought its release. God was defined as he who knew "all men ignored in me". If then God becomes identical with "men" and their knowledge, this residual rebel called "the soul" must perish unsatisfied, and with it dies the most precious element of humanity, the growing edge of the self which is parent of the future.
It is one of the curious episodes of modern self-consciousness that Freud has well recognized and defined this function of religion, and then with a startling duplicity has poured scorn upon it. The strength of religious ideas he says is "due to the fact that they are the fulfillment of the insistent wishes of man". What are these wishes? One gathers that they arise from the common failure of both society and nature to sympathize deeply enough with the subjective kernel of the individual; and because of this the maturer man wishes that the domestic canopy which in childhood protected and spoke to just these deeper levels of selfhood should be projected in the great world as its essential attribute. God is the image of a heavenly father "created by a continuation of the child’s helplessness before his earthly father". Religion is thus diagnosed as an infantilism. Freud’s shaft strikes not religion, but first of all the human self and then the universe in which that self lives. His judgment is that the "most insistent wishes of man" would, upon maturity, properly cease to exist. And why? Because the universe has no satisfaction for them. Freud should be taken on as a patron saint of Humanism. But as a psychiatrist, I suspect that the prescription, "Extirpate your most insistent wishes," will achieve few cures, and that the cost of taking such advice would be the loss of all the poetry, all the art, all the unborn beauty of the future race.
The result of this first step of dialectic is that Society in the role of the "mortal god" is not a satisfactory substitute for the God of individual souls. When the sun is out of sight, the moon makes a brave and apparently independent show as a source of light; but if the sun were abolished, where would the moonlight be? "
This blog is a means to an end. The end is to finish the second book. Its title (A Republic, If You Can Keep It) is simple enough, but the underlying problem is not. I am after what mankind has sought since antiquity: God, freedom (of will), and immortality. The route to keeping our Republic lies in metaphysics, not merely social systems. And the issue is not failing to see the problem; it is looking away from it. Perhaps the title is a misnomer, but it keeps the focus on the practical--living this life, not waiting for another.
Having become enmeshed in metaphysics, however, silences me on this blog. The regress is almost endless. Kant spent ten years conceptualizing his major work, although it only took four months to write it. Something like that (minus the major work) could happen here. This site is fairly busy. People mainly read the blog. Ten years is a long time between posts. So I will try to do both.
The book should be relevant to anyone. The blog will be more personal and have more value for someone with a history of post-traumatic stress disorder because that is what colors my experience. The book will have to share time with the blog, but they should be complimentary. I would not be writing about metaphysics if I swam with the other fishes. No one in my town here is struggling with Kant or Hegel. However, something new typically comes from an individual working alone. Nothing innovative is ever created by committee.
So to track my current experience, I must reflect on my previous post. It needs revision. The interview occurred and did not go as I expected. It was not a battle between good and evil. It was simply some information about post-traumatic stress disorder. No one gave a political speech for the therapy offered to the new veterans. So erase the one to nothing score. But it missed the important message that what the veterans are getting is of dubious value and alternatives should be available to minimize the damage. We missed an opportunity to tell a message. My experience in this area pointed a finger of responsibility at me to express my perspective. That did not happen. We need an after action report to assess and improve. Somewhere I/we should have done better.
I know about post-traumatic stress disorder because I have it. So I get a view from the inside out. (Chapter One of Requiem.) Subjectivity can make one biased, but there is no doubt it adds to the data from which to theorize. And there is no doubt that the vets and I fit together because we share a similar problem. Helping them their issues helped me with my own. I would not have done the job as a volunteer, but the intrinsic benefits probably outweighed the financial. Burn out was never going to be a problem. Nor was listening to calamities. Hearing problems is not a stressor. Being unable to address them is the usual culprit, not unlike PTSD itself. However, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat has its moments.
So I understand PTSD because I deal with it myself, which helps with the connection. but one only lives well with it by having adapted one’s life to a new personal truth. Changes are required. Just as you could not lose your children on Christmas Eve and ever experience Christmases the same again, so could you never again walk blissfully in a park similar to that on which your buddy lost a leg. These things are forever. Such events change you, and you cannot pretend otherwise.
So what went wrong with the interview? The flip side of my understanding PTSD is having PTSD. Yes, it is attenuated, but only at the cost of living within limits. This might be similar to having diabetes. Unattended it can become unwieldy, but managed one can get by quite well. It takes me longer to prepare for an interview than someone with a clearer past. The station wanted me in a couple days, I needed a couple weeks. I have to consider more contingencies. Normal people and I almost speak a different language. If I attend to my issues, things can go well. But fail to do so, and I can arrive with my metaphorical blood sugar out of balance.
I wish I could have just walked in and done the interview, but I wasn’t comfortable without preparation. I can work around my issues, but not simply walk right over them. Knowing that, it made more sense to do what I felt necessary to give this story what it deserved. Twenty-four Iraqi/Afghan vets are killing themselves every day. The reporter did not realize how big a story we had. I felt it deserved my best. So we just passed in the night. I wish it could have gone better, but there was nothing malicious here. Perhaps next time.
Also, I need to rethink my position that metaphysics and post-traumatic stress disorder are separate issues here. Actually, they are intertwined. I see the world through PTSD. Nothing about my existence today fits the norm. Who reads metaphysics today? I would not be touching the subject but for my history. Also, my resolution for the possible salvation of humanity involves the concept of death as a form of existential post-traumatic stress disorder. That suggests we fail to see the truth because we can’t stand the truth. This view resonates with me because of my experience. Being subjective does not make it wrong–it may lend more credence.
Buddha said there are only two ways to go wrong on the road to truth: not going all the way, and not starting. That makes the choice easy, doesn’t it?
Thinking can, and apparently often does, conflict with authority or convention. Truth can be at risk. Consider Copernicus, Bruno, and Spinoza. Why did nobody for thousands of years ask what the sky would look like if the Earth was rotating, rather than the sky circling? Copernicus delayed publishing his revolutionary theory until on his death bed. Bruno was burned at the stake for thinking there were other solar systems. Spinoza delayed publishing Ethics until after his death. Today, why do so few question how we can spend our way to wealth? Physical science vouches for more truths today, whereas yesterday conviction was mandated through revelation and authority.
We typically grow up trusting our caretakers; natural selection tends to eliminate the skeptics. So there is natural law, that we induce from experience, and authoritative law of the "because I said so" type. The later usually ends any debate.
I do not intend here to make broad general statements about the nature of knowledge, but rather, again, have been recently focused on the issue related to my previous employment. I worked with post-traumatic stress disorder at the Veterans Administration for twenty-five years, compiling about 170,000 patient hours of group psychotherapy. The number makes it hard for me to ignore the experience--it carries with it a certain responsibility. Once again duty called, although I no longer work there, and it raised the issue of whether I should present my reservations about the VA’s one size fits all PTSD therapy. A local television station will be doing a show about combat PTSD. I agreed to an interview and wanted to do everything possible to get ready for it. My message is important for the veterans, i.e., that they need an alternative approach. I modeled my preparatory activities on Bobby Knights’s aphorism that "the will to win is not nearly as important as the will to prepare to win." For three weeks I did little else but prepare, which made more sense than just showing up. Lives are at stake here. This is post-season play.
My life is not simple, although one would not notice that merely by observing my activities. I rarely leave the house. However, sitting at home before a desk need not equate to playing Slingo. It can be reading The Critique of Pure Reason. Kant might have an insight on eternity. Big fish might be out there in the dark sky. Still, it is hard for me to get a grasp on the issue that somehow in my unpretentious little existence something important could be happening. Yet following my personal truth has led me to see more combat veterans in group therapy than perhaps anyone else on the planet. I do not particularly like that fact, but neither can I can ignore it. Certainly, it was never planned.
The issue here involves reason versus authority. No one burns at the stake today, but they can burn out from the sheer effort of fighting Goliath. Yet the finger of responsibility apparently pointed at our group, or possibly just me. This group might have been the last one standing to oppose Cognitive therapy. We fought for our approach (Existential or "common sense") twice before and received support from Washington each time. Today’s conflict becomes a question of personal truth versus intrusive authority. The VA mandated that all treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder be Cognitive-Behavioral because of CBT’s claim to be scientific. This entails a major blunder, which goes as follows: 1) Science uses only data that can be seen or heard; 2) the mind cannot be seen or heard; 3) therefore, science cannot study the mind.
There is no getting around this. Science can study the brain, but not the mind. All the King’s horses and all the King’s men cannot put those premises together again.
Claiming to be scientific should send Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy to the back of the class, not the front. I know what it is like to be a person because I am one. I do not have to walk out of the house and look in to see if anybody is at home. That is what science attempts to do. The psychology Emperor has no clothes. Someone needs to note that. The finger of responsibility pointed to me. I even quit my job to buy back my opinion.
So philosophy was put on hold again for pragmatics. My interview now, in fact, will not even occur due to a logistical problem, the responsibility for which can probably be equitably distributed to both sides. I do not intend to run this drill again. This is the second such event. For the past three weeks Kant was set aside to prepare for the interview. I am retired now. The vets are in my rear view mirror. The mountains of Kant lie ahead, and they are where I need to go. I understand that something needs to be said about a plan that simply cannot turn out well, but not when no one cares. There is a price for persistence, and sometimes it is not worth it.
The last three weeks were all PTSD, but people do not want to hear what I have to say. Psychotherapy can make changes, but it cannot affect anyone who does not want to change. Change is paid for in blood, sweat, and tears. It is hard work, blocking and tackling, letting go, and starting over. The effort is worth it but does not feel like it every minute of the way. And motivation cannot be taught. Lou Holtz was asked how to motivate a football team. His answer was: "Get rid of those not motivated." I have something important to say, and have said it in Republic, but there is a point of no return. That is too bad. I feel sorry for the vets but am tired of the drama. Authority, 1; Personal Truth, 0.
There is work to be done in metaphysics. It is a new team, and I shall get used to the surroundings. My intuition sees metaphysics as the last frontier for a possible chance at Man's salvation. Kant holds the possibility of immortality. The path would likely not be scientific, which might quite be why truth lies there. Some truths are more important than others. God, freedom (of will), and immortality sit at the top. Value is a qualitative, not a quantitative concept--another issue science deals with poorly. We have to stick with our personal truths. Authority should determine truth only for children.
This site was created to download a book that was in process, Requiem. That book is now finished and can still be downloaded by clicking the book cover on the Home Page or below. Requiem is about the state of the world and what we can do about it. It rests on 1) a premise that we are doing very badly, with a calamity of untold dimensions about to befall us, and 2) a premise that we will never get things right until we settle our metaphysics. Metaphysics deals with issues that cannot be resolved with empirical data--essentially the issues of God, freedom, and immortality. Reason necessarily tacks meaning onto the highest level of abstraction in its quest to find meaning. Whether or not a Higher Power exists anchors meaning to everything below it--which includes our entire physical existence. Inherent in this is our inability to come to grips with death. Ernest Becker wrote a Pulitzer prize winning book called The Denial of Death. He postulated that we cannot face death, nor leave it alone. Science lies in a parochial position which tethers us to material substance. It cannot provide evidence about God, freedom (of will), and immortality. And science offers little comfort against death, other than blind stoicism or blind faith (which of course is not science at all).
Central banking (that which grants counterfeiting privileges to the chosen elite) is now world wide. There is no escape from it. The world has never faced that before. What awaits us now has more potential for damage than anything humanity has ever experienced. Division of labor allows a geometric increase in our capacity to produce. Take that away and we cannot support one tenth of the current world population. Take away money, which is what the central bankers are doing, and you take away markets, which will reduce everything to barter and eliminate the division of labor. Do the math.
There should be no question about what social system works best, capitalism or socialism. The United States was capitalistic in the nineteenth century and produced enough to transcend marginal existence. Communism essentially collapsed with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It produced armaments and little else. But socialism is taking over the planet. It promises the moon but pays for its handouts with counterfeit money. No country attempts to pay for entitlements out of taxes; they all borrow, which ends up being paid for with counterfeit money. The money is legal, but it is sterile. It is not the product of someone’s production. There are no commensurate goods introduced into society. It is just created out of thin air and paid for by the inflation that devalues the money of everyone else. There is no free lunch. Store up something while there is still time.
Requiem is intended to increase the individual’s capacity to survive. First we need to know our short comings. We cannot win this war when fighting the last one. My Vietnam vets cannot face today while they still have bumper stickers about Jane Fonda. We must resolve those things from the past that continue to demand our attention. Most of us have them. I offer mine as an example in Requiem, but Requiem is by no means an autobiography. That section is merely an example of unresolved issues that most of us need to resolve to be suited up for today.
The second part of Requiem concerns what we are. Are we mind and body, or mind, body and spirit, and how does either group function? This is important because purpose is essential to make any sense of human experience, and yet science excludes purpose. To science we are merely pool balls, not people. And what do we do with God and immortality? We may not be able to vote yeah or nay on these issues, but our implicit beliefs determine our total experience. Meaning flows downhill. If there is purpose in the universe we can have some hope; if it all blind chance then perhaps we should grab for all the gusto today. That sounds like a recipe for disaster.
Once we have done all we can to resolve issues of our personal histories and come to grips with a workable metaphysics, we are capable of organizing society. The facts are incredibly simple. Our limits are not due to ignorance. They are about intransigence. If the sun is not shining, we ask for the moon. The sun cannot shine until we come to grips with death. Is it simply dust to dust, ashes to ashes? If so, then we are doomed. Yet if there is more, blind faith does not seem to convince us. Faith needs some sort of marriage to belief. But belief on God, freedom, and immortality is outside of the bailiwick of science. We do not have the answers, but we need to know that we must somehow address those issues. Twenty-two thousand square feet homes are not going to bring comfort, nor an idealized other, nor international fame. There is no answer in substance. Is that because we are also spirit?
I wrote the above because the comments I receive on this site are about the blog. That is cool, but the books are the issues here, not the blog. People typically say that they appreciate the posts and look forward to more, but my blog posts are just comments relative to the more complete works. I get that the comments are on the front line today, but if anyone wants more, go to the books. Requiem has four sections. Do not get lost in the subjectivity of the first section. At issue is the universe, not personal experience; but, curiously, everyone of us can only experience the universe subjectively. Where ever we go, there we are. So let’s examine that for parallax and realize that objective is not the only game in town. Do not lose the camera in the pictures.
Book two, A Republic, If You Can Keep It, is in progress. It continues the same themes. Read the books, not just the blog.
Click on book for pdf.
I no longer work with the vets. That is a big transition, going from pragmatic issues to theoretical. My focus now becomes the new book (A Republic, If You Can Keep It.) The new:
Metaphysics is the division of natural philosophy that deals with ontology, cosmology, and epistemology. Translated this means: the nature of being, the order of the universe, and the structure of knowledge. A simpler and more dramatic explanation would be that it deals with God, freedom, and immortality. Also, it can be said that it is the division of philosophy that deals with issues that cannot be resolved objectively. Science is objective. It’s data must be evidence-based. This means it must be perceived as well as conceived. It gets its license by entry through one of our physical senses. We do not simply conceive science; we must also perceive it. For example, zebras and unicorns are both subjective, but only zebras are objective. Zebras might be just as unlikely as unicorns—but there they are. Science cannot deal with unicorns. Metaphysics does not deal with zebras.
Evidence-based data has a legitimate cousin in pure thought called a priori, which means prior to experience. A priori reason is not the product of experience; it is the other way around. A priori reason is built into the system, without which experience would not be possible. If we were DVD machines, this is the part of us that turns electromagnetic waves into movies. It is this connection that gives a priori its legitimacy. Science gets its legitimacy because it reads signals. A priori gets its legitimacy because it allows us to read signals. Without a priori reason, science has no signals to read. Space, time, and causality are examples of a priori reason. They are part of our receivers, not part of the signals. This was what Kant called his Copernican revolution, that reason is not a product of the signal, but signals are product of our reason. Welcome to quantum psychology. There are laws to reason, just like there are laws to physics. The idea that "what it seems is what it is" (subjectivity) and "what it is is what it seems" (objectivity) is the holy grail that opens a new world to something more than unicorns.
That more is God, freedom, and immortality. This is where it gets scary. Kant said there is a form to conception (subjectivity) than conforms to perception (objectivity), a hand in glove experience, the mind to body experience. Darwinism kicked aside the major prop to faith by suggesting that everything in the world could have occurred by blind chance. A person could previously look at the wonder of a creature like a dog and not conceive it could have come into being without a designer. Darwin said it is all just chance, pool balls to infinity.
But Darwinism presupposes materialism. Analytic dissection of the term produces an equivalent statement that the whole universe can be explained on the basis of physics, which is totally causal, i.e. materialism. The world is blind chance, with no design and thus no designer. Darwin’s world had tired of kings, with their divine right, ordering everyone around. People thought they could do better directing themselves rather than trusting in corrupted faith. Chance looked better than tyranny. So they viewed Darwin as an improvement, but he never established there was no God. He simply ruled God out of bounds in such in his system and suggested how chance might result in a dog. (Sorry, I cannot escape my subjectivity here.) Darwin had a one horse race. No one seemed to care. He did not disprove God, he disqualified Him.
If Kant is right, Darwin is in trouble. Materialism says everything is just little objects bumping into other little things according to physical laws and becoming bigger things. But there is nothing other than randomness of little atoms or quarks. Kant expands the playing field to include thought, whereupon Darwin becomes impotent. Little particles are all there is. Atoms cannot bump into thoughts, quarks into the number four. Objects live in time and space, numbers live in conception. Cast where ever the atoms might be, they can never touch a number. How do we then explain the magic fit between conception and sensation?
The apparent answer is that we again have a two horse race: causality versus purpose, materialism versus idealism, man alone versus man and God. Interestingly, I did not ask for much in the previous chapter—just that we keep an open mind to both positions. That makes sense here also. Those who corrupt science, like those who corrupt religion, need absolute power to defend themselves against inner doubt. Power, whether through science or religion, corrupts. Reason does not such limit itself. Science cannot rule out faith today, any more than faith could rule out science yesterday. Some day they will not hate each other.
God, freedom, and immortality are the major issues in life today, as they have been since man could reflect. My basic premise for this quest is that we can only pretend to accept finality—i.e. death and disappearance. Being polite and gracefully stepping aside to make way for a new generation does not do it. Interestingly, my work with post-traumatic stress disorder leads to the conclusion that out of sight is not out of mind. I simply generalize here (as well as follow the lead of Ernest Becker) that death is a horror for all living creatures who can grasp the concept— a systemic post-traumatic stress disorder situation. The implication is that without a handle on death we spend our lives defending against it, and these defenses cause incalculable damage. If five million dollars does not provide security, then neither will five billion, if death is what that security is needed to prevent. Greed might lead to the five billion dollars, but Earth is a finite pie and much of that money comes at the expense of others.
Basically, either we stand and face the existential problems of existence or we will destroy ourselves. A Higher Power alone does not appear to provide the requisite security. Perhaps faith needs a push from reason. Kant tries to provide that reason. For sure, we need to grasp these issues. The discipline called upon to do that is metaphysics. It involves dealing with the issues that cannot be solved by science, yet which will also not leave us alone. The question is whether we have some reason to believe in more than dust to dust, ashes to ashes. Perhaps faith and facts do not need be in perpetual war. Maybe we just need better facts. Facts alone (atheism) is never going to be enough. Faith seems to need some help. Kant started us out on that journey. Let’s follow.