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Rupert Spira teachings of non-duality

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 Pefa 03 Oct 2019

The essence of ultimate reality explained from someone who speaks from that place, to that place, in each of us.

https://non-duality.rupertspira.com/read/the_true_nature_of_experience

A few short videos of his which are very interesting but don't listen to these when you are very tired as his cosy fireside voice will tuck you in warmly and snuggly. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mwmsFubaoz4&

' Everyone and everything is an expression of an infinite and indivisible whole'.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=va4bXUM1M8Q&

'The isness of all things is the screen of consciousness' 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6id-iLt5eE&

' The infinite cannot experience the finite as the infinite'

Thoughts or non-thoughts? 

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Lusk 03 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

Excellent, should help my insomnia

I'll stick with watching Limmy on Netflix, thanks.

 cp123 03 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

I got about 2mins into him explaining that cause and effect in the world is not real before giving up as it was a load of nosense, however upon reflection, I'm not sure if that was the reason why I stopped watching....

Cheers

 DaveHK 03 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

> Thoughts or non-thoughts? 

Why do these people always express themselves so poorly? 

Is it because they know and exploit the fact that many people confuse the incomprehensible with the profound?

Post edited at 18:48
 john arran 03 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

Sceptical would have been an understatement but I clicked your link anyway in the hope of a surprise.

"What else can we know for certain from experience about our self? ‘I’ am aware of thoughts, sensations and perceptions but am not made out of a thought, sensation or perception. ‘I’ am made out of pure being and knowing."

I needn't have bothered.

 DaveHK 03 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

I just googled him. If I wanted words of wisdom from a potter Grayson Perry would be my first choice.

In reply to Pefa:

Have a go on 'how mumbo jumbo' conquered the world' by Francis Wheen, an entertaining read 

In reply to john arran:

> Sceptical would have been an understatement but I clicked your link anyway in the hope of a surprise.

> "What else can we know for certain from experience about our self? ‘I’ am aware of thoughts, sensations and perceptions but am not made out of a thought, sensation or perception. ‘I’ am made out of pure being and knowing."

The first sentence makes Descartes' key point very badly (he much more cleverly concentrated on thought), but leaves us with the perennial crucial problem of mind-body duality; the second is absolutely meaningless. As you warned, a waste of time.

 DaveHK 03 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

If you genuinely believe that stuff it was brave of you to post it on here. You've been on here long enough to know it wouldn't gain much approval.

In reply to Pefa:

Thanks but I think I will stick to listening to The Orb instead.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MOxUzm_0Do&

Post edited at 19:49
Lusk 03 Oct 2019
In reply to DaveHK:

Haha, you know Pefa, she's not a shy woman!

 Stichtplate 03 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

> The essence of ultimate reality explained from someone who speaks from that place

That place being his arse apparently. Can you imagine being trapped in a lift with someone totally at one with themselves, who knew only happiness?

Shit the bed! I’d rather be trapped in a lift with a flatulent vegan cross-fitter.

😂

1
 thommi 03 Oct 2019
In reply to DaveHK:

For well spoken philosophy that actually makes sense, you can't beat Alan Watts 👍

 Timmd 03 Oct 2019
In reply to john arran:

> Sceptical would have been an understatement but I clicked your link anyway in the hope of a surprise.

> "What else can we know for certain from experience about our self? ‘I’ am aware of thoughts, sensations and perceptions but am not made out of a thought, sensation or perception. ‘I’ am made out of pure being and knowing."

> I needn't have bothered.

It's a funny one, infrequently, I find myself feeling entirely at peace and secure within myself and the world, and a sense of 'pure being and knowing' fairly closely sums up how I feel at those times, though 'a sense of secure stillness' probably fits too. 

I think people like him are trying to put into words that which is very subjective, and which might be given a different name by whoever experiences it, meaning that charlatans and genuine people can be hard to tell apart, and the profound and the incomprehensible could be too. I dunno really, speaking for myself I just try not to think too much so that my mind doesn't go round in circles. Seeing thoughts as clouds which drift past is a helpful analogy.

For myself, I'm hoping that as I follow my zigzag path towards (hopefully) being more fulfilled, these infrequent moments might become more frequent. I'm not surprised at all that charlatans exist who lead group sessions where they sit and look peaceful and speak in vague terms, hopefully there's a milder level of hell where they're confronted with each other and drive one another mad.

Post edited at 21:38
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 Timmd 03 Oct 2019
In reply to john arran:

I should probably add that I don't believe I'm especially enlightened or 'knowing' by the way.

 Timmd 03 Oct 2019
In reply to JJ Krammerhead III:

> Have a go on 'how mumbo jumbo' conquered the world' by Francis Wheen, an entertaining read 

A brother was funny on discovering that pet reiki exists, started talking about the fairies at the bottom of his garden needing crystal healing.

 freeflyer 03 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

Truly, having a teacher who inspires you is a marvellous thing

My favourite teacher, when she was given her life task (to teach and help others), confessed that she couldn't possibly take that on as she felt totally incapable of any such thing, and begged to be given absolutely anything else. Her mentor said gently, "you will do for others what you would never be able to do for yourself".

 DaveHK 03 Oct 2019
In reply to freeflyer:

>  Her mentor said gently, "you will do for others what you would never be able to do for yourself".

Is this about licking elbows?

In reply to Pefa:

> Thoughts or non-thoughts? 

My experience of 30 years designing electronics and writing software is that if something is hard to understand it is almost certainly wrong and even if it is easy to understand it will probably be wrong until it has had the f*ck tested out of it.

Therefore, my operating assumption is that philosophical statements which are written in a language with poorly defined semantics like English, are extremely hard to understand and impossible to test against the physical world have almost no chance of being correct.

 Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

https://non-duality.rupertspira.com/about/non-duality/

A more in depth passage. 

Post edited at 01:56
 Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh:

Thoughts as in rational thoughts and non-thoughts as in spontaneous insights or realizations.

I was playing with words, it's the content of what is there I am interested in not how it's dressed up. 

 malk 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

> ' Everyone and everything is an expression of an infinite and indivisible whole'.

David Bohm talks about that here : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDKB7GcHNac&

(link to film 'Art Meets Science & Spirituality in a Changing Economy' looks interesting)

 Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> The first sentence makes Descartes' key point very badly (he much more cleverly concentrated on thought), but leaves us with the perennial crucial problem of mind-body duality; the second is absolutely meaningless. As you warned, a waste of time.

How so? 

 Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to john arran:

> Sceptical would have been an understatement but I clicked your link anyway in the hope of a surprise.

> "What else can we know for certain from experience about our self? ‘I’ am aware of thoughts, sensations and perceptions but am not made out of a thought, sensation or perception. ‘I’ am made out of pure being and knowing."

What are we left with when we strip those away ? 

 Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to DaveHK:

> Why do these people always express themselves so poorly? 

> Is it because they know and exploit the fact that many people confuse the incomprehensible with the profound?

See my answer above on thoughts and non-thoughts where you can gain insights from rational thinking (thoughts) and alternatively insights which arise spontaneously in meditative states where the mind is still, non-thinking (non-thoughts) 

3
 john arran 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

Have you tried not thinking defensively but thinking critically?

 Eric9Points 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

> The essence of ultimate reality explained from someone who speaks from that place, to that place, in each of us.

What is "the essence of ultimate reality" and where is "that place"?

 Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to john arran:

What are we left with when we strip those away? 

1
 john arran 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

> What are we left with when we strip those away? 

Nonsense.

 Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Eric9Points:

> What is "the essence of ultimate reality"

Pure awareness, knowing, consciousness which has timeless qualities of vast space,ultimate truth, being part of the whole universe in fact being the whole universe, complete peace, unending love and consequently joy. It is difficult to describe and those words (and indeed in any words as it is formless) do not do it justice but it is "that place", that you know already and when experienced it's as if you are back to the true you that has been hidden. 

When some of these people who have a great deal of experience of this tell us about it then it can make a connection with the same part in us all. 

Spiro is helpful as he is direct and speaks in an easy to understand way that is suited to intellectual westerners and more importantly to the modern age where we don't have any needs to fawn over deities or worship this or that. In fact we demand spiritual matters to be more rational, scientific, secular even and he speaks in this language whilst taking the words of other wise sages through the ages who also spoke from this place of infinity from within us. 

Post edited at 14:10
2
 Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to john arran:

> Nonsense.

Yes although I would frame it as non-sense which leaves us with what? 

2
 john arran 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

Well apparently it's "pure being and knowing".

The former is axiomatic and the latter is either meaningless without the sensory context you've denied it, or is fundamentally unknowable. Neither is in any way helpful. Hence nonsense. About as useful as saying 'my being exists in a different universe'.

 Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to john arran:

> Well apparently it's "pure being and knowing".

There are many ways to describe this see my reply to Eric above. 

> The former is axiomatic and the latter is either meaningless without the sensory context you've denied it, or is fundamentally unknowable. Neither is in any way helpful. Hence nonsense. About as useful as saying 'my being exists in a different universe'."

Let me get this right, you are questioning that we cannot experience when we do not experience" sensory context", of thoughts or feelings from the five senses ie " non-sense"? 

Post edited at 14:33
In reply to Pefa:

I got sacked for using flashy philosophical wordplay.

Called my boss a Kant

 Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to john arran:

> Have you tried not thinking defensively but thinking critically?

Have you tried not thinking? 

5
 Philip 04 Oct 2019
In reply to DaveHK:

> Why do these people always express themselves so poorly? 

> Is it because they know and exploit the fact that many people confuse the incomprehensible with the profound?

When you buy a curly wurly, are you buying the chocolate or the holes? Or an aero, the chocolate or the bubbles? To hear more send £50 to my PayPal.

 Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Philip:

There is no requirement to have money in order to look inward deeply and with focus as it is one activity that is completely free and thus available to the billionaire and the homeless person equally. 

 Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to malk:

That was interesting thanks. 

 john arran 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

If you read what I wrote more carefully you'll find that I said something very different.

1
 Timmd 04 Oct 2019
In reply to john arran:

> Nonsense.

I think what she's aiming at, might the awareness we have when we are in a state of being 'without thought', when our minds are still and we're aware of that but not thinking about anything. Some people call it mindfulness, or meditative, or whatever it is, but that's my take on what she's alluding to. 

I read a Zen Buddhism thing, where it was asking the reader to imagine oneself sitting in an assembly or similar, and trying to concentrate on the person talking at the front, while being distracted by other things happening and back ground noises, and it asked the reader which part of the mind it is, which is being aware of trying to concentrate and to steer their focus towards the person at the front and away from the distractions. 

Edit: To be honest, I'm slightly confused by what Pefa posted, but I'm glad it reminded me of the above Zen Buddhism thing.

Post edited at 16:37
 john arran 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Timmd:

The best Zen Buddhist type things I've read have painted a picture of the unknowable and coloured it a pleasant shade. I'd go so far as to accept that there may be real world benefits to some from contemplating and believing such unknowable things, so I'm not averse to the ideas per se.

Most imitators seem to use the same words but without taking care that they put them in a meaningful order, ending up with the kind of rubbish we see in the OP's link.

 Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to john arran:

> If you read what I wrote more carefully you'll find that I said something very different.

I was referring specifically to - 

> the latter is either meaningless without the sensory context you've denied it

 john arran 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

Yes I know you were.

Here's a clue: was I referring to experiencing or knowing?

 Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to john arran:

What is this unknowable you speak of and what makes you think Spira is an imitator and what specifically is rubbish in this OP? 

 john arran 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

> What is this unknowable you speak of ...?

That which is not possible to be known. A good example would be whether the multiverse theory of quantum mechanics is true. Another example would be what I'll have for breakfast tomorrow.

 Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to john arran:

Was it the frustrated climber in the drawing room with a No 11 hex? 

 Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to john arran:

> That which is not possible to be known. A good example would be whether the multiverse theory of quantum mechanics is true. Another example would be what I'll have for breakfast tomorrow.

In the context of your previous post not in general or was that what " The best Zen Buddhist type things I've read" referred to? 

 john arran 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

> Was it the frustrated climber in the drawing room with a No 11 hex? 

Now you're getting close!

 Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Timmd:

Don't be shy in asking me what you don't understand. 

 Timmd 04 Oct 2019
In reply to john arran:

> The best Zen Buddhist type things I've read have painted a picture of the unknowable and coloured it a pleasant shade. I'd go so far as to accept that there may be real world benefits to some from contemplating and believing such unknowable things, so I'm not averse to the ideas per se.

Yes. a while ago I had a thought, that all people are possibly looking for when it comes to meditation or drugs or adrenaline sports- or whatever it is, is a state which is as close to childhood as possible, which is when one is most fully absorbed in the moment, and not preoccupied by distractions in the way that adults can be. We apply different kinds of meaning to things, myself included, but I think that's at the root of things, which doesn't invalidate how profound these different things can feel. 

Post edited at 17:22
 Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Timmd:

No its nothing to do with childhood Tim that's nostalgia you are thinking of. Have a look at the videos I posted in the OP and you will understand without me having to explain everything that is already there and which is explained much better than I can. 

1
 Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to john arran:

> Now you're getting close!

I know, but that's not my fault and you know that.

Cludo was fun when a child. 

 Timmd 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa: I'm talking about being in a frame of mind which is 'without worry or distaction', whenever we're absorbed in something which puts everything else out of our minds, on a certain level - that's something akin to how most of us experience childhood if we're lucky. As I say, I'm not undermining how profound certain things can be though, I just suddenly looked at the different things adult humans find meaning in, and they all seem to be things in which one is fully absorbed without distraction. I'll admit it's fairly simplistic, and I don't insist it's 'an absolute truth', it's just something which struck me suddenly.

Post edited at 17:36
 Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Timmd:

Yes so you are talking about mindfulness when we are doing things which is great but only if you have first experienced pure consciousness or awareness stripped bare.

To use a Spira analogy the actor John Smith thinks he is King Lear like we think we are separate from this infinite pure awareness or ultimate reality in Buddhist terms.

Now John Smith must go back on an inward path to experience himself as John Smith (ultimate reality/pure awareness) then when he goes back to play Hamlet he does not think he is Hamlet he knows he is the infinite ultimate reality being Hamlet.

So being mindful is correct but when you have realised the ultimate reality first. 

There are different ways to achieve this profound experience I am told but deep focused and long meditation practices are what worked and continue to work for me.

Edit, Although I must add Spira has guided meditations which closely investigate what the experience of awareness is through sensory inputs that dont involve deep states of meditation. 

Post edited at 17:59
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 Eric9Points 04 Oct 2019
In reply to DaveHK:

> Why do these people always express themselves so poorly? 

> Is it because they know and exploit the fact that many people confuse the incomprehensible with the profound?


Possibly.

"The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns, as it were instinctively, to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink."

http://www.public-library.uk/ebooks/72/30.pdf

Politics and the English Language, George Orwell.

Or possibly because the author has no clear idea of what they are trying to say, it is therefore impossible to say it clearly.

 Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Eric9Points:

What do you have difficulty understanding? 

 Eric9Points 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

How ultimate reality can be a place.

 Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Eric9Points:

> How ultimate reality can be a place.

As it is something formless it isn't really a place as such but it is pure awareness experienced without the five senses and thought.

It is so hard to describe as it is empty yet with qualities of knowing and the other points I described to you earlier. 

Post edited at 19:31
2
 Eric9Points 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

What particular qualities of knowing?

 Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Eric9Points:

Not qualities of knowing as in different qualities of knowing but the qualities of knowing and the other qualities I mentioned. The knowing or awareness is what we are.There are no parts to it as it is empty but when you experience it you experience the real pure you,untainted beyond all duality 

4
In reply to the thread:

Here's a different view on essentially the same thing (it's Sam Harris, that won't surprise some people...).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1cnR9rfk6I&

I agree with Sam that the idea of "being a self" doesn't make any sense scientifically. What we are is a load of cells, some of them neurons, and the activity of those neurons creates the feeling - or illusion - of being a self. The neurons could, though, be doing something else, like being asleep or creating an experience that doesn't involve the feeling of being a self.

Through meditation, it is possible to train the neurons into generating this self-less experience (something similar can happen under the influence of psychedelic drugs, too), and apparently it's a really profound (/trippy) experience when it happens. People meditate for years and never have that experience, but those who do tend to interpret it in all kinds of "I have seen the ultimate reality" ways that lead to them into making all kinds of nonsensical claims about the world, as we see in the OP.

Which is just to say these people aren't talking about nothing, making up something that just doesn't exist. I strongly believe that they're talking about something that can and does happen in the brain, but they're interpreting it in a way which throws the whole baby of rational thinking out with the bathwater of the illusion of the self.

Post edited at 11:24
 aln 09 Oct 2019
In reply to Eric9Points:

> How ultimate reality can be a place.

Is that place the Ingleston Exhibition Centre? I'm sure I experienced this ultimate reality thing in there about 4.30am one weekend in 1991. 

In reply to Jon Stewart:

> Which is just to say these people aren't talking about nothing, making up something that just doesn't exist. I strongly believe that they're talking about something that can and does happen in the brain, but they're interpreting it in a way which throws the whole baby of rational thinking out with the bathwater of the illusion of the self.

Yes, something like that.

I'm just glad that there's someone sensible like you who has the energy to engage at all with this kind of... unfocused thinking.  I wouldn't know where to start.

In reply to Dave Garnett:

> I wouldn't know where to start.

A brilliant place to start is The Self Illusion by the lovely psychologist Bruce Hood. This doesn't go anywhere near the trippy ego-loss/meditation stuff, but arrives at a similar conclusion through conventional scientific inquiry.

https://www.worldofbooks.com/en-gb/books/bruce-hood/self-illusion/GOR005019007?keyword=&gclid=Cj0KCQjwivbsBRDsARIsADyISJ8-mVsfpFC92RAU1rsM7bEmJOP5GLPLfpjMBW-c58S371rFyQdWVoMaAvAjEALw_wcB

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdBdsqSF-bg&

Sam Harris, as explained in the link, is keen on both neuroscience and meditation as ways of exploring the self, free will, and related philosophical questions, from a rationalist standpoint. His short book 'Free Will' doesn't take long to read, but can take a long time to digest if you're wedded to the ideas of the self and free will. Obviously not everyone agree with this worldview, but I think the argument is compelling.

https://www.google.com/search?q=sam+harris+free+will&rlz=1C1CHBF_enGB770GB770&sxsrf=ACYBGNTySzIiHcYR0EzRCE_34ASbxCCCgw:1570620952510&source=lnms&tbm=shop&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj30s3_io_lAhXUQkEAHSusDOYQ_AUIEygC&biw=1282&bih=591#spd=15818738742776580864

In reply to Jon Stewart:

> A brilliant place to start is The Self Illusion by the lovely psychologist Bruce Hood.

I was being a bit flippant actually, but, as always, you've set a good example...  

I will do some reading, although I did get a bit distracted by the philosophers vs sophists / mathematics vs science stuff in the Sam Harris Delusion blurb.  I've heard some of Bruce Hood's arguments and they seem sound to me, as well as the premise being intuitively obvious.  

 Pefa 13 Oct 2019
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> Here's a different view on essentially the same thing (it's Sam Harris, that won't surprise some people...).

> I agree with Sam that the idea of "being a self" doesn't make any sense scientifically. What we are is a load of cells, some of them neurons, and the activity of those neurons creates the feeling - or illusion - of being a self. The neurons could, though, be doing something else, like being asleep or creating an experience that doesn't involve the feeling of being a self.

> Through meditation, it is possible to train the neurons into generating this self-less experience

When you meditate are you training to generate a self-less experience or are you experiencing being without all the objective experiences that happen all the time? By saying we do it for such and such reason only is not accurate as we do it to find what is there when we do it without trying to attain some state which is already determined, like a self-less experience. That is unscientific. We strip away everything until we experience what is left. 

> (something similar can happen under the influence of psychedelic drugs, too), and apparently it's a really profound (/trippy) experience when it happens.

And most run around having a laugh when tripping. 

>People meditate for years and never have that experience,

Similar to a trip most people need some guidance to achieve a spiritual experience when meditating or tripping but some don't, for some it has happened under completely different circumstances to others. 

> but those who do tend to interpret it in all kinds of "I have seen the ultimate reality" ways that lead to them into making all kinds of nonsensical claims about the world, as we see in the OP.

> Which is just to say these people aren't talking about nothing, making up something that just doesn't exist. I strongly believe that they're talking about something that can and does happen in the brain, but they're interpreting it in a way which throws the whole baby of rational thinking out with the bathwater of the illusion of the self.

So what are they experiencing? You are telling us that people who experience and have experienced spiritual or ultimate reality and everything that goes with it are mistaken. Why do you think that and how are they mistaken? 

Ps. I didn't realise there were any other new replies to this or I would have responded much sooner. 

 Pefa 13 Oct 2019
In reply to Dave Garnett:

> I'm just glad that there's someone sensible like you who has the energy to engage at all with this kind of... unfocused thinking.  I wouldn't know where to start.

But it is precisely unfocused thinking that clouds reality and focused attention that unclouds it. 

 Pefa 13 Oct 2019
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> Through meditation, it is possible to train the neurons into generating this self-less experience (something similar can happen under the influence of psychedelic drugs, too), and apparently it's a really profound (/trippy) experience when it happens. People meditate for years and never have that experience, but those who do tend to interpret it in all kinds of "I have seen the ultimate reality" ways that lead to them into making all kinds of nonsensical claims about the world, as we see in the OP.

What we have here is science catching up with the 2500 year old teachings of Guatama Buddha and all the other people who have experienced ultimate reality. Now some neuroscientists are confirming what Buddha stated 2500 years ago in that there is no separate self. But they "throw out", everything else because it doesn't fit what they want or cannot cope with. 

Well a few years ago science was telling us that of course there is a self and don't be so silly.

Maybe it will take science another 2000 years to catch up with the other extensive experiences of thousands of other people who directly experienced what the Buddha has.

Ps. I totally get that you will not know something until you know it or experience it and only when you do will you then know. 

Post edited at 22:05
In reply to Pefa:

> When you meditate are you training to generate a self-less experience or are you experiencing being without all the objective experiences that happen all the time? By saying we do it for such and such reason only is not accurate as we do it to find what is there when we do it without trying to attain some state which is already determined, like a self-less experience. That is unscientific. We strip away everything until we experience what is left. 

When I meditate I am merely giving myself the space to notice what my consciousness is like. Without meditation, I'm just constantly lost in thought, without realising that I'm lost in thought. Through meditation I can observe what consciousness is like, what thoughts are, how they arise and disappear and are caused by brain processes rather than being authored by "me". If there is an "aim" it's to gain a bit more control of attention - this can be helpful if you're being dragged into some sort of rage (or whatever) by your thoughts, if you can deliberately disengage attention from thoughts, then you can stop yourself descending into some all-consuming quagmire of negative emotion. 

I don't really think meditation is much of a therapy for depression and/or anxiety, because when these mental states dominate, all motivation and ability to meditate evaporate. But maybe regular practice makes one less susceptible to depression and anxiety - I think there may be evidence to support this.

I am interested in the idea of the self-less experience. I am intellectually convinced that the self is an illusion, one that evolution endowed us with for good reason. I don't think I've experienced the profound state of selflessness - although I can see that there isn't "space" within my consciousness for a thinker in addition to the thoughts. But maybe that is "selflessness"?

> And most run around having a laugh when tripping. 

True! Tripping can be a laugh with friends and in that setting won't generate the 'ego loss' experience that might occur if you lie in the dark by yourself, tripping balls (which doesn't sound like so much of a laugh, but I'm sure it's fascinating all the same). FWIW, I like a fairly low dose of psychedelics with some really good art.

> So what are they experiencing? You are telling us that people who experience and have experienced spiritual or ultimate reality and everything that goes with it are mistaken. Why do you think that and how are they mistaken? 

What I think is that when people talk about "ultimate reality" they're massively over-egging the pudding. There's no getting around the facts of the universe: we're creatures made of atoms that were forged in dying stars, and we evolved brains that work by neurons interacting through electro-chemical signalling. It's a profound mystery how that electro-chemical signalling generates consciousness, but one way or another, it does. *That* is, as far as we know, the ultimate reality: physical reality.

There simply isn't any first-person experience that can reveal any more truth about the universe than this. To believe that a first person experience can shed more light on the nature of the reality than the shared, comparative, consistent experience of many conscious people is to simply throw rationality out of the window. Truth isn't about how something feels, it's about explanatory value and consistency with objective reality. I have no doubt that a profound experience through meditation can dissolve one's sense of separateness from other entities; but I don't see any reason to believe any claims about the nature of reality - e.g. that all physical objects are actually *made of* consciousness - made purely on the basis of such first person experience.

Post edited at 22:00
In reply to Pefa:

> What we have here is science catching up with the 2500 year old teachings of Guatama Buddha and all the other people who have experienced ultimate reality. Now some neuroscientists are confirming what Buddha stated 2500 years ago in that there is no separate self. But they "throw out", everything else because it doesn't fit what they want or cannot cope with. 

Maybe they throw out crap like reincarnation because there are no good reasons to believe it's true. It has exactly the same value as the Christian God and Jesus' party tricks: it's made up.

> Well a few years ago science was telling us that of course there is a self and don't be so silly.

I don't think science had anything to say about the self - except to throw doubt on the idea recently.

> Maybe it will take science another 2000 years to catch up with the other extensive experiences of thousands of other people who directly experienced what the Buddha has. 

Maybe in 2000 years science will conclude that actually, the Koran is the literal word of god. But I doubt it!

 Pefa 13 Oct 2019
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> There simply isn't any first-person experience that can reveal any more truth about the universe than this. To believe that a first person experience can shed more light on the nature of the reality than the shared, comparative, consistent experience of many conscious people is to simply throw rationality out of the window.

No one is denying that on the relative level all that is what we experience. 

> Truth isn't about how something feels, it's about explanatory value and consistency with objective reality.

What feeling do you mean? 

> I have no doubt that a profound experience through meditation can dissolve one's sense of separateness from other entities; but I don't see any reason to believe any claims about the nature of reality - e.g. that all physical objects are actually *made of* consciousness - made purely on the basis of such first person experience.

I get that we must not believe any old theories postulated by others and expect to blindly accept them. And it is a big claim that I to am trying to get my head around having never heard it until a few months previously. However from the position of ultimate reality it does make sense as all we are is pure consciousness and when you experience this you don't " feel", self-less, you experience that which is beyond mind. You are out of mind (no not like that lol) and experience you as everything and that everything is a few things - infinite, eternal, pure love(not a feeling but a being), empty, timeless, gender less, stainless, beyond all objects. So from ultimate reality relative reality is a play of ultimate reality. 

 Pefa 13 Oct 2019
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> Maybe they throw out crap like reincarnation because there are no good reasons to believe it's true. It has exactly the same value as the Christian God and Jesus' party tricks: it's made up.

That's a point I too would have up until a year ago stated just like you have but since then I have heard from different people that a thought is a reincarnation. An arising of an object in pure awareness. Now I totally agree with the scientific angle you are coming from with respect to all the gods and dogmas and ridiculous matters religions have thrown at us and asked us to believe and subsequently proven patently wrong. I think there is however a credible argument for various genuinely spiritual people(Through the ages) who have reached the stage where they must tell what they have experienced to others but then covered it in metaphorical language that is acceptable or understandable to the spiritual level of a particular culture and age in which they find themselves in order best to help the people in that particular time.Then over millennia the real message gets buried in the literal. 

> I don't think science had anything to say about the self - except to throw doubt on the idea recently.

So before recently they had no doubt. 

> Maybe in 2000 years science will conclude that actually, the Koran is the literal word of god. But I doubt it!

Or that there is no self like they have recently discovered and some of those who experimented their entire lives with looking inward already knew, 2500 years ago. 

2
 DaveHK 14 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

> Well a few years ago science was telling us that of course there is a self and don't be so silly.

This notion that 'science tells us' shows a pretty limited understanding of what science is. Science is a body of different ideas not a single thing. You also seem to be advancing the notion that 'science' changing its mind about stuff is a weakness whereas it is actually one of its great strengths.

> I have heard from different people that a thought is a reincarnation. 

Let's be honest, this thing you're talking about is whatever you want it to be isn't it? It's a place but not a place, a thing but not a thing etc. For that reason, it's not falsifiable in any way which renders any discussion about it rather futile.

Post edited at 08:27
 cb294 14 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

> What we have here is science catching up with the 2500 year old teachings of Guatama Buddha and all the other people who have experienced ultimate reality. Now some neuroscientists are confirming what Buddha stated 2500 years ago in that there is no separate self. But they "throw out", everything else because it doesn't fit what they want or cannot cope with. 

The difference is in the method. Science is different from astrology and other such disciplines because it works. So Buddha or any other old sage may have stumbled upon something that by chance is true (or can with copious amounts of good will be interpreted as such), but there is no reason to trust it. Science makes claims in a much more careful manner, always ready to be superseded by evidence.

> Well a few years ago science was telling us that of course there is a self and don't be so silly.

Of course there is a self, but it is an emergent state of the electrical and hormonal interactions of our neurons. It has evolved that way because it offered selective advantage: It can make sense to think of "I" when protecting one's genetic interests. Other solutions are possible (worker bees...)

Other than that, I just have to laugh at reincarnation. Being reborn as an animal is an option? Statistics tells you that you will come back as krill, a soil nematode or, if lucky, an ant for the next few billion turns...

Alternatively, if reincarnation were limited to humans the numbers simply don't work out, not enough souls going round to support our current population explosion. Anyway, I am wondering why those that claim remembering former lives always are reincarnations of Charlemagne or Genghis Khan, never Jenny the pox ridden prostitute from Soho (stolen from Dara O'Briain, IIRC)

CB

1
In reply to Pefa:

> But it is precisely unfocused thinking that clouds reality and focused attention that unclouds it. 

(a) Only if it's focused on something real.

(b) Insofar as meditation works it's because it allows the subconscious to figure things out before finally (if you are lucky) sending a confirmatory note up to the conscious.

In reply to john arran:

> Have you tried not thinking defensively but thinking critically?

That is almost not fair in its rapier-like slash. 

Ouch. 

Nail and head. 

2
 Pefa 14 Oct 2019
In reply to DaveHK:

> > Well a few years ago science was telling us that of course there is a self and don't be so silly.

> This notion that 'science tells us' shows a pretty limited understanding of what science is. Science is a body of different ideas not a single thing. You also seem to be advancing the notion that 'science' changing its mind about stuff is a weakness whereas it is actually one of its great strengths.

If neuroscientists have now stated new findings where they say there is now not a self then it only goes to say that before that they thought there was a self or didn't know if there was a self. Where am I saying science changing its mind is somehow " a weakness"? I'm not but I am saying that many scientists are very quick to dismiss some things and call them nonsense and then forget they say that when they discover they were wrong. 

> > I have heard from different people that a thought is a reincarnation. 

> Let's be honest, this thing you're talking about is whatever you want it to be isn't it? It's a place but not a place, a thing but not a thing etc. For that reason, it's not falsifiable in any way which renders any discussion about it rather futile.

Where has anyone said its a place but not a place or thing but not a thing? 

No. If pure awareness is between thoughts as it cannot be thoughts then anything arising from pure awareness is a manifestation of pure awareness from the view of pure awareness so it follows that all manifestation from that place is a reincarnation. 

 DaveHK 14 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

> Where has anyone said its a place but not a place or thing but not a thing? 

You referred to it as a place and when someone asked you about that you said it wasn't a place as such. You've continually used self contradictory language in describing whatever it is you're trying to describe.

> pure awareness is between thoughts as it cannot be thoughts then anything arising from pure awareness is a manifestation of pure awareness from the view of pure awareness so it follows that all manifestation from that place is a reincarnation. 

This is quite literally gobbledegook. 

 wercat 14 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

I thought ultimate reality was about a kind of piton, did you not realise that?

 Pefa 14 Oct 2019
In reply to cb294:

> The difference is in the method. Science is different from astrology and other such disciplines because it works. So Buddha or any other old sage may have stumbled upon something that by chance is true (or can with copious amounts of good will be interpreted as such), but there is no reason to trust it. Science makes claims in a much more careful manner, always ready to be superseded by evidence.

I think you do a massive disservice to ancient old sages who devoted their entire lives not just a 9 to 5 scientist's workday to studying what we are which is slightly different to "stumbling around". If scientists say there is no-self then why should we believe them? Where is their proof? Where was the Buddhas proof when he stated this 2500 years ago after many hours of self enquiry the scientist would ask? If you have a general consensus through 3000 years of people who worked intensively on self enquiry that come to similar conclusions but call them by different names and the same conclusions are verifiable to others using the same techniques today then surely that is a scientific method. 

> Of course there is a self, but it is an emergent state of the electrical and hormonal interactions of our neurons. It has evolved that way because it offered selective advantage: It can make sense to think of "I" when protecting one's genetic interests. Other solutions are possible (worker bees...)

Yes at the relative level no one says otherwise. 

> Other than that, I just have to laugh at reincarnation. Being reborn as an animal is an option? Statistics tells you that you will come back as krill, a soil nematode or, if lucky, an ant for the next few billion turns...

> Alternatively, if reincarnation were limited to humans the numbers simply don't work out, not enough souls going round to support our current population explosion. Anyway, I am wondering why those that claim remembering former lives always are reincarnations of Charlemagne or Genghis Khan, never Jenny the pox ridden prostitute from Soho (stolen from Dara O'Briain, IIRC)

I would be lying if I said I know about reincarnation as in karma dictating whether you come back to Samsara in a karmic cycle of births and rebirths tbh.That was the en vogue spiritual orthodoxy before and during the time of Siddhartha Gautama so I don't know if he just went along with that or not. From personal experience in ultimate reality there is no self and it is definitely free from karma so I don't see what part of the I can continue after death to then be reborn. Perhaps though there are matters I have yet to discover on that issue. 

4
 Pefa 14 Oct 2019
In reply to Dave Garnett:

> (a) Only if it's focused on something real.

Is awareness not real? 

> (b) Insofar as meditation works it's because it allows the subconscious to figure things out before finally (if you are lucky) sending a confirmatory note up to the conscious.

What is the subconscious? 

 Pefa 14 Oct 2019
In reply to DaveHK:

> You referred to it as a place and when someone asked you about that you said it wasn't a place as such.

Forgive me as it is very difficult to describe the indescribable as the Japanese Zen Buddhists would say if you can describe ultimate reality then that is not it.Im doing my best. 

> You've continually used self contradictory language in describing whatever it is you're trying to describe.

Show me where. 

> > pure awareness is between thoughts as it cannot be thoughts then anything arising from pure awareness is a manifestation of pure awareness from the view of pure awareness so it follows that all manifestation from that place is a reincarnation. 

> This is quite literally gobbledegook. 

No it makes complete sense. A thought is a manifestation, an object, so it is not pure awareness or knowing but arises from pure awareness. 

3
In reply to Pefa:

Just to ask one question: what do you mean by 'pureness' here, as opposed to 'impure awareness'? Wherein lies, and whence comes, this 'purity' in a way that makes it reliably so?

 Pefa 14 Oct 2019
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> Just to ask one question: what do you mean by 'pureness' here, as opposed to 'impure awareness'? Wherein lies, and whence comes, this 'purity' in a way that makes it reliably so?

I am using the word pure to try an indicate a level of awareness that you cannot go beyond, you know? You have reached the end its not dual as in pure and unpure but complete would perhaps be a better description or perhaps the word pure is extraneous altogether.

Sometimes it is helpful to others to add things in order to get your point across and that is the communication I am attempting and probably failing to get across. I might have attained certain insights and spiritual experience but that doesn't automatically make you into a Jon Stewart*.

Edit- * Meaning someone who is quite brilliant at communicating. 

Post edited at 20:16
2
In reply to Pefa:

> I am using the word pure to try an indicate a level of awareness that you cannot go beyond, you know?

OK, that seems fair enough, though I don't quite know how one knows when one's got there, and there's nothing to tell us that our awareness might be quite poor and corrupted.

>You have reached the end its not dual as in pure and unpure but complete would perhaps be a better description or perhaps the word pure is extraneous altogether.

Again, how does one know it's 'complete' in any useful sense? I'm glad you're now suggesting that the word 'pure' is not really helpful, and probably redundant.

 Pefa 14 Oct 2019
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> OK, that seems fair enough, though I don't quite know how one knows when one's got there, and there's nothing to tell us that our awareness might be quite poor and corrupted.

> > You have reached the end its not dual as in pure and unpure but complete would perhaps be a better description or perhaps the word pure is extraneous altogether.

> Again, how does one know it's 'complete' in any useful sense? I'm glad you're now suggesting that the word 'pure' is not really helpful, and probably redundant.

It is a word I have added which I thought might be useful but it is probably not used by enlightened people. 

I have described it (as best I could) I think twice in this thread already as the unmistakable experience of the ultimate reality which is just a lifting of all the objects that cover it up and is what each of us is at this very moment. It is unmistakable as you go through stages or deeper levels or whatever label you want to put on them before you reach this last one which opens out so much more than those before. 

In reply to Pefa:

Again, I'd ask: how do you know when you'v reached 'the last level'? If you've gone through all these (apparent) ever deeper levels, how do you know there isn't still another deeper one?

Overall, I'm not at all sure how productive this kind of rarified intellectual discussion is.

 Pefa 14 Oct 2019
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> Again, I'd ask: how do you know when you'v reached 'the last level'? If you've gone through all these (apparent) ever deeper levels, how do you know there isn't still another deeper one?

Good question, I don't but I have never went beyond that and there is a knowing that you are there, at the source, this is it. You are everything and everything is you. There is much more to it as  I've described twice upthread and Im pretty sure you can't go beyond the essence of what we are. 

> Overall, I'm not at all sure how productive this kind of rarified intellectual discussion is.

Productive in what way? 

Post edited at 20:59
In reply to Pefa:

> Productive in what way? 

= Do we learn anything meaningful or useful from it? Does it enlarge our understanding?

 Pefa 14 Oct 2019
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> = Do we learn anything meaningful or useful from it? Does it enlarge our understanding?

Presuming you experience this real you which is connected to and a part of everyone and every little life then you would not treat others as separate from you in the way that we currently do.This realisation would change the entire world from wars, to inequality to treatment of all life which would be the biggest transformation for the better the world has seen since.... I duno the invention of medicines and surgery perhaps but I suspect it would be the greatest transformation the world has ever seen. 

Post edited at 21:23
In reply to Pefa:

When you understand God in the sense of this profound loss of distance, separation, and otherness, that can be experienced through meditation, then Jesus' great commandment is clearly about losing your sense of self and the great transformation that comes with it.

"The Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

 Pefa 14 Oct 2019
In reply to cumbria mammoth:

Yes i used to be a virulent atheist who thought Christians seen God as a person in the Sky which isn't really very credible. Since then however I have come to realise that God is just another name for our true spiritual state which is called other names by other spiritual teachers. 

In reply to Pefa:

I'm sufficiently agnostic, non-atheist to think that there is some kind of spiritual level/dimension to life, and that this becomes most apparent with intuitions that go far beyond any scientific evidence - e.g. that gut feeling one can have that some situation is bad/wrong when there's very little to go on ... which later proves to be spectacularly correct. It's as if one taps into something deeper and broader in those situations. Quite rare, but they do happen. BUT (huge but this): we always have to be so careful not to fall into what Ruskin called the 'pathetic fallacy' - of thinking we're a lot more in tune with nature than we actually are. Probably best now called something like the 'symbiotic fallacy'. The kernel of Ruskin's point was that we can all too easily fall into the trap of thinking we're more important than we are, including being unusually in tune with/at one with nature, when all we're really doing is playing out some kind of 'closer to God/Nature than thou' fantasy.

In reply to Pefa:

Well, to me God is either the indivisible universal consciousness that our apparent self forms a part of, or he is the creator of it all. Either way, what difference does it make for our relationship with him and those around us?

What I would say though is that those other spiritual teachers may have been given partial revelations but Jesus Christ is the full revelation so people seeking spiritual truth should look to his message above all others.

1
In reply to cumbria mammoth:

Another naughty question from Gordon. Why, when talking about God, do you say 'him' and 'he'? It's particularly curious when most of the earliest peoples on our planet had this extraordinary God-as-gendered fallacy the other way round, and saw all their most important Gods as goddesses?

The idea of 'God' having a gender, let alone a sex-life, is obviously ridiculous. All these peculiar anthropomorphic concepts making the notion of God ever the more ridiculous (when it starts from quite a reasonable position).

Post edited at 23:33
 Pefa 14 Oct 2019
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

You say you are aware if a spiritual side to life well I wish I could say the same because for many years I rejected any notion of a spiritual side to existence. In fact if someone had told me three years ago that I would have put a like and agreed with the post CM put a wee while ago then I would have told them they were crazy. 

I'm not aware of Ruskin so I was relieved when I seen your summary of his meaning. Would it be fair to say his "closer to God/Nature than thou", statement means- I'm closer to God than you in an egotistical way?

In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

It's just cultural isn't it. Rightly or wrongly it would sound unusual in our culture to use she or it, you would only use those terms to make a point.

Re your post to Pefa, I'd 100% agree. The avoidance of falling into the trap of thinking we're more important than we are, including thinking that we are more godly than others even where outwardly we have done good deeds, is the major point of Jesus' teaching. 

 Allovesclimbin 14 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

Mmmmm. 
Typical thread for a prolonged spell of bad weather. This is similar *allegedly* to what climbing was like as a student , with plenty of mind altering substances and people thinking they were talking profound truths .....mmmmm. 

 Pefa 14 Oct 2019
In reply to cumbria mammoth:

> Well, to me God is either the indivisible universal consciousness that our apparent self forms a part of, or he is the creator of it all. Either way, what difference does it make for our relationship with him and those around us?

Oh it doesn't but as Spira stated in one of the above videos we are finite creations of the infinite. 

> What I would say though is that those other spiritual teachers may have been given partial revelations but Jesus Christ is the full revelation so people seeking spiritual truth should look to his message above all others.

Could it not be that these teachers had the same realizations and are spreading the same message but using different ways to do that? 

Edit-From Jina Vardhamana Mahavira to Vedic teachers to Buddha to Jesus to Mohammed to Moses to Lao Tzu to all the other spiritual teachers did they all not say we are all one and spread teachings of compassion and love in different ways? I'm talking about the actual spiritual teachers/prophets not the doctrines. 

Post edited at 00:06
 Pefa 15 Oct 2019
In reply to Allovesclimbin:

Lol. The trouble with substances is you are smashed and poisoned whilst having a brief glimpse at an enlightening experience if you are lucky, but to do it fully bright eyed and bushy tailed is completely different and yes It's dark early, windy and rainy so no better time to take full advantage of that and meditate. 

Post edited at 00:16
In reply to Pefa:

> Edit- * Meaning someone who is quite brilliant at communicating. 

Thanks! That's one of the nicest things anyone's said to me on UKC It's worth knowing that I'm mainly repeating things other people have said.

Last night I wrote a really detailed reply that tried to answer your questions and tried to give an argument for physicalism rather than idealism. But my laptop has this thing where if it gets a knock (even pressing a key too emphatically) the bastard crashes. Ah well.

The general gist was that I would watch out for the tricks that people like Spira employ. Consciousness is a very difficult phenomenon to describe, because it has a different way of existing to everything else: first person rather than third person ontology, as John Searle explains in his delightful way here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oYk7fMmfIw&

I really recommend watching a lot of these videos, because Kuhn interviews all manner of different people with completely different positions on the big philosophical questions without introducing any agenda of his own. I think he's even given the mic to Deepak Chopra (and obviously not managed to get him to utter an iota of sense).

What Spira is doing is exploiting the difficulty in pinning down the nature of consciousness and its relationship the physical world, and using this as a "gap" into which he inserts enormous claims about reality that just don't make any sense.

The main reason his claims don't make any sense is that he uses really big, really crucial terms like "infinite consciousness" that literally don't mean anything. There is no definition of that term. He isn't making an argument for idealism (consciousness being the fundamental "substance" from which the physical world is made), he's taking idealism as a doctrine. A big problem I have with him is that the tone he employs is one of carefully explaining difficult ideas to people who are struggling to grasp them; but the reason we're struggling to grasp them is that what he's saying doesn't make sense. He's using mystical terms that have no definitions and relying on assumptions or axioms that we have no reason to believe in (e.g. "unlimited mind is pure consciousness"). The tone he uses is constructed to make us, the audience, feel like it's *our* fault we don't understand, rather than his fault for talking total bollocks.

 cb294 15 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

No I don't do the old sages a disservice. Their thinking and feeling has no corroboration, very much unlike science, where any discovery is embedded in a context of knowledge and a consistent model of a real world out there (RWOT): I could not do my work as a biologist without relying on the insights of chemists and physicists, whose findings describe the same world, if at different levels. Philosophers, for thousands of years, pulled their insights out of their collective arses. There is no derived technology or alternatively, non-technological progress (like e.g. in pure mathematics) to prove that they have successfully captured an aspect of the RWOT. 

Just postulating the existence of, say, chakras or the meridians of TCM does not make it so.

With respect to the self "not existing", I actually think that you are misunderstanding the current debate in neuroscience. Clearly, dualism, as still entertained as a hypothesis well into the 20th century, is dead: There is no consciousness or soul that, like software, runs on the hardware of our brains. Instead, it is clear that the experience of the self is, like so many other mental states, emerging from the complexity of the zillions of connections and activity states in the human brain. Of course, disentangling this complexity is extremely difficult and will take time, but the progress biology has made so far in understanding the foundations of consciousness and the self far exceed what philosophers and sages and in particular charlatans like Freud and other psychoanalysts have ever achieved. 

Of course, as these guys say, there are both conscious and unconscious layers to our self perception and actions (and a simple animal may only have the latter), but their interplay is not as simple as one may intuitively think. The best example for this is experiments where probands are asked to respond to some stimulus that they have to consciously process (e.g. categorizing words popping up on a screen and pushing buttons with either legs or arms, accordingly). It is easy to generate conditions under which the command to the motor regions actually precedes the processing in regions of our neocortex involved in conscious processing of the input. This also works with stimuli that have emotional connotations.

A simpler but conceptually related phenomenon is sight: What we think we see in our visual field does not represent the input our eyes and optical cortex actually receive at any given moment, even accounting for real time signal processing in the retina. Instead, what we think we see is a construct where the brain assembles a virtual image or even film over time. This can be easily shown using optical illusions, which is actually a misleading term, as these are simply conditions/inputs under which the construction of the virtual image becomes unreliable or even wrong. The easiest is to suddenly look at your watch: The first step of the second hand will always seem to take much longer than the subsequent ticks. This is simply your processing catching up, generating virtual film with a ticking hand (whereas previously, when your watch may even have been in your field of view at the end of the hand, that level of detail was not include in the periphery of the virtual image assembled by our brain). We would, nevertheless, not say that we actually do not see. Instead, the process of seeing is simply more complex than thought, even if it will be magnitudes less complex than self awareness.

However, there is plenty of progress being made there as well.

And anyway, from where do you get the idea that scientists work 9-5? 

CB

In reply to Jon Stewart:

> A big problem I have with him is that the tone he employs is one of carefully explaining difficult ideas to people who are struggling to grasp them; but the reason we're struggling to grasp them is that what he's saying doesn't make sense. He's using mystical terms that have no definitions and relying on assumptions or axioms that we have no reason to believe in (e.g. "unlimited mind is pure consciousness"). The tone he uses is constructed to make us, the audience, feel like it's *our* fault we don't understand, rather than his fault for talking total bollocks.

Very well put.  It's by no means restricted to this subject but, of course, it's particularly easy to do it with concepts that are largely untestable.  I take a pretty hard line about any untestable hypothesis but anyone is free to come up with a model if they feel it's useful (whilst accepting that it's wrong).  Useful models should at least have some predictive value.  Deliberate use of vague, abstruse or grandiose language, especially from a self-publicist, is always a danger sign.

It took me a long time to gain the confidence to believe that if I couldn't understand a theory (or, indeed, real experimental results), no matter how many times I went through it, then there was something wrong.  At the very least, an important element had been left out (often confounding evidence) and, just occasionally, it was just all nonsense.   

In reply to Dave Garnett:

> It took me a long time to gain the confidence to believe that if I couldn't understand a theory (or, indeed, real experimental results), no matter how many times I went through it, then there was something wrong.  At the very least, an important element had been left out (often confounding evidence) and, just occasionally, it was just all nonsense.   

Totally agree. This was the conclusion I came to when I tried to read Dan Dennett's abysmal and grandiosely entitled, "Consciousness Explained", sometimes referred to as "Consciousness Ignored". I've spent a fair bit of time studying the relevant psychology and neuroscience (and to a lesser degree philosophy), and I couldn't make sense of his reasons for the ridiculous proposition that consciousness doesn't really exist. He's ostensibly trying to convince people without the scientific background, so he should have an easy job with me...something is most definitely fishy there!

1
In reply to cb294:

> Philosophers, for thousands of years, pulled their insights out of their collective arses.

True. They're not great at coming up with answers, but they are good at working out what the most interesting questions about reality are.

> With respect to the self "not existing", I actually think that you are misunderstanding the current debate in neuroscience...Instead, it is clear that the experience of the self is, like so many other mental states, emerging from the complexity of the zillions of connections and activity states in the human brain.

There's a bit more to the idea that the self is an illusion: it's not just about the neuroscience. From first person experience you can "crack through" the illusion of being a self with free will; on close examination, the concepts of free will and the self seem to fall apart. The scientific view of the brain as an evolved machine is consistent with this philosophical position, but is only one strand of the argument. Personally, I'm fine with that, but it is a big deal philosophically and for the way we organise our society. It is far from accepted that free will is an illusion and that moral responsibility is inconsistent with a scientific understanding of reality!

> Of course, as these guys say, there are both conscious and unconscious layers to our self perception and actions (and a simple animal may only have the latter), but their interplay is not as simple as one may intuitively think...A simpler but conceptually related phenomenon is sight...

> However, there is plenty of progress being made there as well.

It feels to me like you're glossing over the "Hard Problem" of consciousness there. There is a radical explanatory gap in the neuroscience of consciousness. It is helpful, but in no way sufficient, to correlate brain activity to conscious experiences. We have made no progress on *how* and *why* those brain processes result in an internal, subjective experience.

As a physicalist, not wanting to introduce any magic souls or whatever into my description of reality, I'm left with some rather unappealing options:

1. Radical Physicalism/Identity Theory. Consciousness literally *is* the activity of neurons and there's nothing to explain. This is basically saying that consciousness doesn't exist, so it's obviously wrong as I disprove it with every waking moment

2. Radical Emergence. Somehow, consciousness with its first-person ontology, emerges from brain process which have objective/third person ontology. The brain does something so special that it brings about something which has its own unique way of existing. That's not easy to swallow, but it is actually my preferred position.

3. Panpsychism/Idealism. Consciousness is fundamental to the structure of the physical world (either in it everywhere, or is the fundamental stuff at the bottom). If you can't swallow radical emergence, then it's this kind of trippy stuff I'm afraid. I'm much happier to rule out Radical Physicalism than panpsychism, personally.

Here's a banging argument deriving panpsychism from the phsysicalist starting point:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3lgaiVWKGY&

Philosophers aren't going to find answers to these questions - but they're usefully reminding scientists not to ignore them!

Post edited at 10:50
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 cb294 15 Oct 2019
In reply to Jon Stewart:

Thanks for the video, I will watch it later but think I know the gist of the argument. I don't think (and neither do maybe half of neurobiologists) that the "hard problem" exists at all. Technically hard, of course, but not conceptually hard. I have no problem believing that any process sufficiently complex to generate consciousness has internal feedback, checksumming and cross-matching mechanisms (which is essentially what qualia can be thought of). Consciousness could be likened to some supervisory or meta level, where the mental process in its entirety makes sure it runs correctly. Of course we don't know yet how this is implemented mechanistically, but IMO we are slowly getting there. This is close to your option 2.

Admittedly, as yet this is all guesswork or, if you will, belief on my part. However, support comes from two lines of argument. The first is good old Occam's razor: All other mental processes like abstract thought or sensory perception are purely physical and emergent properties of our brains' complexity. Why would consciousness and self perception be any different? No need to invoke other mechanisms or concepts.

The second hunch or clue is intuitive for me as a biologist: We see graded emergence of multiple aspects of self awareness appearing all over the animal kingdom: Examples include self recognition and recognition of alteration in rodents, whales, birds, and primates, evidence for theories of minds in birds and primates and presumably whales, empathy in rodents and information/memory processing involving clear correlates of sleeping and dreaming (a large part of the discussion about unconscious contributions to the self) as far down the evolutionary tree as fruit flies. 

Finally, the technological progress made in recent years is staggering. Who would have thought 20 years ago that it is technically possibly to implant, edit, fake, or delete specific memories in mice? Granted, such experiments are still constrained in their scope, but they do get more sophisticated.

CB

In reply to cb294:

> Thanks for the video, I will watch it later but think I know the gist of the argument. I don't think (and neither do maybe half of neurobiologists) that the "hard problem" exists at all. Technically hard, of course, but not conceptually hard. I have no problem believing that any process sufficiently complex to generate consciousness has internal feedback, checksumming and cross-matching mechanisms (which is essentially what qualia can be thought of).

I can intuitively agree that the internal feedback etc mechanisms might be necessary for consciousness, but see no way of showing that they're sufficient.

> Consciousness could be likened to some supervisory or meta level, where the mental process in its entirety makes sure it runs correctly. Of course we don't know yet how this is implemented mechanistically, but IMO we are slowly getting there. This is close to your option 2.

That sounds a bit like Granziano's "attention schema" idea, which is a great solution to how to make a computer look like it's conscious, but totally ignores the problem of qualia. I think the challenge for neuroscience is to come up with a convincing explanation of *how* brain activity results in conscious states. What are the necessary and sufficient conditions for generating consciousness?

> Admittedly, as yet this is all guesswork or, if you will, belief on my part. However, support comes from two lines of argument. The first is good old Occam's razor: All other mental processes like abstract thought or sensory perception are purely physical and emergent properties of our brains' complexity. Why would consciousness and self perception be any different? No need to invoke other mechanisms or concepts.

I don't think I follow. How have you decoupled sensory perception from consciousness?

> The second hunch or clue is intuitive for me as a biologist: We see graded emergence of multiple aspects of self awareness appearing all over the animal kingdom

I think consciousness must be something that a fruit fly has a bit of, but a monkey has a lot of. I don't see that as helpful though. If anything, it starts leading down a panpsychist path! Or, less trippily, towards Tononi's Integrated Information theory - which could possibly be an account of my option 2 "radical emergence". 

> Finally, the technological progress made in recent years is staggering.

Absolutely, I think it's a mystery that can be cracked. In much the same way we once thought that life was some kind magical mysterious substance or property, I think consciousness will be shown to be a result of physical processes. I just think there's currently a profound explanatory gap, the "hard problem" is real.

Post edited at 12:14
 Pefa 15 Oct 2019
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> It's worth knowing that I'm mainly repeating things other people have said.

We know that's only partly true but it's good to see you are humble as well.

Thanks for the video but I must say I expected more than ' we don't know' and 'if we could', so tbh it didn't really help explain consciousness from a materialist point of view at all except to say we wish we could recreate it and what we speculate that it is.

The trouble is that you are looking at Spira's views as if he is writing a scientific hypothesis which you then critique from a materialist viewpoint as unscientific, mystical and therefor fraudulent which goes on to say that he is deliberately bamboozling or conning people.

The trouble with that is Spira's views come from spiritual experiences not one's you can set up in a lab and he does not anywhere at any point say differently.

All your physicists, biologists, chemists in fact all scientists do not have a clue what consciousness is, plain and simple and their speculations about it are just that even after 200 years or so of Science, splitting the atom, putting someone on the moon etc etc the greatest scientists still haven't a clue.

Yet you and cb294 are so quick to completely dismiss the work of those who actually study consciousness and even call them conmen. Could it be that science has reached its limitations with the purely materialist outlook and as we see it has no answers and that is what prompts such a severe reaction by scientific or materialist minded people to attack genuine truth seekers for going to places that by definition materialism cannot go?

Cb294 - (RWOT) what of the (RWIT)?

You guys are completely dismissing all the realizations of great spiritual teachers by basically saying they are either deluded, mistaken, conmen or some such. You are denying that the millions of people who have real spiritual experiences of ultimate reality/the infinite/consciousness/God's being are all wrong or mistaken or deluded or even charlatans because you and your scientists don't have a clue about consciousness.

And you can dress it all up in a myriad of fancy (and quite impressive I must say) scientific terms but that is the reality. Now I'm not patronisingly saying materialists are conmen, deluded or obviously wrong like you do to people who go where you are restricted from by your own closed minds and strict religious adherence to a materialist dogma but for starters in the interest of a civil debate I think you all would make yourselves look more credible if you didn't react like crazed scientific fundamentalists when people who do venture down these paths state their findings.

2
 cb294 15 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

Hi Pefa,

I had hoped I was debating quite civilly, but apologies if I come across too harsh. 

My issue with the philosophers and psychoanalysts (and the faithful of any religion) is that anything they claim is uncorroborated. There is no intrinsic authority in the venerable age of any tradition, and anecdotes or experiences do not count either.

In science, every theory comes with a markup that tells you its limits. Most of what we have is so called effective theories, stuff that works for a certain set of circumstances but which we know, for some reason or other, not be the whole truth, and our main effort is to bang our heads against these limits to find more generally valid theories. The only thing that can tell you that you are on the right path with your explanation of the world (what we in science call a theory) is its predictive power.

In that sense, the scientific idea of the RWOT, materialism, essentially anything that differs between the end of the middle ages and today, has acquired a huge heap of corroboration. What we know about physics or biology has already been used for the rational design of technology and medicine many times over. The materialist world view just works.

None of this can be said for religion or traditional philosophy. Any prediction derived from religion, say for the day of rapture, has been a dramatic failure. Neither is there any piece of philosophical technology.

As for the RWIT, my argument would be that it is entirely part of the RWOT. Spiritual (for the lack of a better term) experiences are no less real than everyday sensory experiences, which are generated by our brains by filtering and editing sensory inputs. As I used as an example above, what we "see" is very different from the input our eyes receive. Our visual experience is a processed, virtual information feed that is read out both consciously and (most of it, actually) unconsciously.

Spiritual experiences are simply our brains getting confused by a different activation state of our brains, whether induced by meditation or drugs or anything else that allows us to mess around with the interplay of the multiple inputs into our self perception.

The results are generally weird, hard to interpret, or confusing, but they are "real" experiences in the same sense that our vision is "real". The reason for this is that our minds, including our self awareness, are machines and routines for making sense of things, both external and internal: What is happening, and how does this affect me, and how do I react? This is what our brains were selected for in evolution. Screw this program up, and you end up with a rubbish in, rubbish out situation.

What spiritual experiences or drug trips do NOT reflect are any deep and fundamental but normally masked truths, insights into some other realm, or access to non-RWOT levels of the world.

This does not mean that such experiences cannot be calming, focussing, or enjoyable, all of which will justify to different extents, say, yoga, meditation, or religious prayer and rituals as tools for making our lives more pleasant.

CB

 john arran 15 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

> The trouble with that is Spira's views come from spiritual experiences not one's you can set up in a lab and he does not anywhere at any point say differently.

Then the only thing he can say with any degree of conviction is that he experiences things.

He can describe those "spiritual experiences" any way he chooses and people are then free to make of his descriptions what they wish, including whether to class their own spiritual, drug-induced or even mundane experiences as being the same or similar.

But literally any and every attempt made to interpret, explain or extrapolate from those "spiritual experiences" in a way that is genuinely accessible to others requires him to communicate in a common language with those other people. And the common language we as people have developed to explain our world is Reason. So unless he is able to portray his ideas using this common language of reason, using terms and reference points that are based in and derived from observable reality, he may as well be describing purple to a room of blind people.

In reply to Pefa:

> Could it not be that these teachers had the same realizations and are spreading the same message but using different ways to do that? 

> Edit-From Jina Vardhamana Mahavira to Vedic teachers to Buddha to Jesus to Mohammed to Moses to Lao Tzu to all the other spiritual teachers did they all not say we are all one and spread teachings of compassion and love in different ways? I'm talking about the actual spiritual teachers/prophets not the doctrines. 

To a great extent yes, but Jesus says that he is God. It doesn't stack up for him to be a mad man puffed up with pride. He has the clarity to discover and communicate the truest philosophy mankind has ever known and he demonstrates the spiritual enlightenment that results in the loss of ego, just as he teaches. I believe he is telling the truth.

So, there can be no harm with seeking help from people who have spiritual knowledge but there are differences in the teachings and, since we have the word of God in the 4 gospels, Jesus' own words are the ultimate guide.

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 Pefa 16 Oct 2019
In reply to cumbria mammoth:

> To a great extent yes, but Jesus says that he is God. It doesn't stack up for him to be a mad man puffed up with pride.

I couldn't agree more with that but could god be this same experience of ultimate reality that every well known and not so well known seeker has also experienced? You see the realizations and insights that occur when experiencing this place where there are no thoughts are all the same,as are the other descriptions.

This tells me it's the same experience but interpreted differently in each time, culture, location, tradition and told by whoever had the experience in a way that best suits the time, culture, location and traditions. 

 Pefa 16 Oct 2019
In reply to cb294:

Hi cb the dismissiveness directed toward this issue and me is similar to the arrogance I once showed toward those who believe in a God. So I fully understand the materialist view and you guys are very gentle compared to how I used to react to non-materialists I can tell you. 

Your first point addresses lack of corroboration for; let's call them spiritual experiences which means you can't measure it or see it under control conditions. We know that 2500 years ago and before some people developed techniques too study consciousness and after great effort and time discovered what is left when the thoughts, body sensations and all sensory input are left behind. Since then innumerable people have used the same techniques and confirm the same results which is corroboration. The fact that not everyone does achieve the same results is no fault of the method or the results. 

> 'The materialist world view just works.'... 'None of this can be said for religion or traditional philosophy.' 

If I could be more specific and repeat myself :if mankind were to take the actual teachings of those who have reached spiritual enlightenment then all wars would have been inconceivable as would killing 600 million battery chickens a year, destroying the earths ecosystems and species and generally treating each other as if we are against each other with all the attendant pain, suffering and misery. You see looking outward we are fooled into thinking we are separate when we are not this is what science and materialism tells us which justifies all horrific behaviour. So to say the discoveries of those who looked inward don't work is wrong. 

> 'Neither is there any piece of philosophical technology.' 

​​​​​​Meditation,teachings,sangas,satsangs...

> 'Spiritual experiences are simply our brains getting confused by a different activation state of our brains, whether induced by meditation or drugs or anything else that allows us to mess around with the interplay of the multiple inputs into our self perception.'

Can you prove that massive statement please? (obviously it applies to various drugs but I'm not talking about them) You want scientific proof from me so it's only fair you give that to me. In spiritual states there is complete absence of confusion it is pure knowing, and that knowing knows and experiences that which can only be experienced and when all is stripped away you are left with the most mind-blowing experience you can ever have that is consistent with the reports of innumerable people through the ages.

As I said at the start I was once a rabid materialist so I totally get your logic and rational thinking as well as agreeing with it  but i can look at the non-objective world logically also as I don't see why we should limit ourselves to just the material and dismiss everything we don't yet understand . Don't get me wrong the only reason I'm not totally on your side as a full materialist is because a spiritual experience happened to me out of the blue otherwise I would be giving all spiritual folk like me a hard time. 

Post edited at 02:30
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 cb294 16 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

Plenty of work today, so just briefly:

Our brain is a complex machine that have been honed by evolution to work well and make sense of internal and external inputs under normal conditions, e.g. allowing us to split our attention to avoid being eating by a bear while looking for food.

The amount of control over unconscious levels of our brain meditiation techniques can offer is amazing: I have seen people clean their nasopharyngeal tract by snorting up a piece of fuzzy string and pull it out through their mouth. I would have thought the sneeze and gagging reflexes would be fully autonomous and not under voluntary control.

The same control can be achieved over internal filtering processes, resulting in altered experiences. Hence, you need to learn and practise meditation techniques to access such altered states of mind. 

Of course it is possible to disrupt the normal way this machine works by deliberately changing the input or the processing: Meditation/focus that lets filters rund idle, drugs that strengthen or weaken communication between different subsystems, sensory deprivation, etc.. 

That the experiences resulting from any such interference are reproducible does not corroborate that any theories made up ages ago by "looking inward" are in any way true. The only thing they show is that our brains are pretty similar in their overall hard wiring, and can therefore reproducibly be made to generate misleading (i.e., not corresponding to the raw sensory input) experiences.

I will see whether I can find the relevant articles again that describe fMRI imaging of subjects in deep meditation or prayer, and about the reproduction of the associated spiritual experiences by local brain stimulation, but probably won't have time today. I posted a few of them a while ago on one of the infamous religion threads, but that will have long been binned.

I totally agree with you that capitalism, which developed at the same time and in parallel with technology has led to unacceptable, unethical consequences such as industrial meat production.

However, this is entirely separate from our knowledge about the world. Science deals with what is, not what should be. Ethics has no scientific basis.

CB

In reply to cumbria mammoth:

> To a great extent yes, but Jesus says that he is God. It doesn't stack up for him to be a mad man puffed up with pride.

I'm really not sure that follows.  If not pride, then possibly paranoid schizophrenia.

1
 Allovesclimbin 16 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

I’ll put my running shoes on and pound the hills , or maybe clean the kit room. 

In reply to Pefa:

> I couldn't agree more with that but could god be this same experience of ultimate reality that every well known and not so well known seeker has also experienced? You see the realizations and insights that occur when experiencing this place where there are no thoughts are all the same,as are the other descriptions.

> This tells me it's the same experience but interpreted differently in each time, culture, location, tradition and told by whoever had the experience in a way that best suits the time, culture, location and traditions. 

That would be exactly how I see it for every other holy teacher who has had this insight except for Jesus who is not just another holy man. Jesus may well have practiced meditation but he didn't need to meditate in order to gain this insight because he is the creator and had known it for eternity. He was God manifest in the flesh in order to deliver his message and suffer with us so we can be saved.

So the way I see it, he has given everybody access to spiritual knowledge in all cultures and times (in fact I think we all start with this spiritual knowledge and unlearn it as we grow up and become indoctrinated into society), so there is worth in us looking into what insights we can gain from how different cultures and times have interpreted it, but now we have access to his own words we should use them as the ultimate guidance to make sure we are not being led astray by false or erroneous teaching.

2
In reply to Dave Garnett:

> I'm really not sure that follows.  If not pride, then possibly paranoid schizophrenia.

Would a paranoid schizophrenic with delusions of grandeur have the clarity of thought to meditate deeply enough to discover and communicate the truest philosophy mankind has ever known and inspire the people that knew him in life to testify that he is God just as he said even when that testimony results in their death by torture?

In reply to cumbria mammoth:

I find your post absolutely terrifying, quite frankly. It seems to represent a kind of very extreme orthodox view of Christianity that many Christians no longer subscribe to.

> That would be exactly how I see it for every other holy teacher who has had this insight except for Jesus who is not just another holy man. Jesus may well have practiced meditation but he didn't need to meditate in order to gain this insight because he is the creator and had known it for eternity. He was God manifest in the flesh in order to deliver his message and suffer with us so we can be saved.

This is just so dogmatic. '... not just another holy man' ... 'he is the creator' ... 'he was God manifest'. I think many/most Buddhists and Muslims would be offended by this (mind you, Islam makes exactly the same wild claim as yourself).

> So the way I see it, he has given everybody access to spiritual knowledge in all cultures and times (in fact I think we all start with this spiritual knowledge and unlearn it as we grow up and become indoctrinated into society), so there is worth in us looking into what insights we can gain from how different cultures and times have interpreted it, but now we have access to his own words we should use them as the ultimate guidance to make sure we are not being led astray by false or erroneous teaching.

But just how do you know that your own teaching is not 'false and erroneous'? I think the answer is simply because you assert it. I.e. you 'know better'. Far too grand for me, sorry.

Years ago, when I was studying Beethoven's music in depth and first came across his 'Missa Solemnis', I was struck by the way he, in effect, censored about half the Creed by having the chorus singing the words ridiculously fast while being nearly drowned out by the orchestra - so that it is reduced to a kind of babble. Then suddenly, he homes in on 'Et homo factus est'. And dwells on it. Obviously he was much more interested in the idea of Christ as a good human being, and the 'spirit of God' somehow being in him rather than regarding him as God. Then there comes the Benedictus: 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord'. Beethoven dwells on that very ambiguous phrase 'In the name of the Lord' for at least twenty minutes. He obviously sees Christ as some kind of representative rather than God himself. (BTW, isn't that the point/one of the points of the so-called 'Holy Trinity' - the son of God being a kind of metaphor? The whole thing being a deliberately easy-to-understand, anthropomorphic metaphor.)

The metaphor is clever because it lets ordinary human beings relate to this human being who 'comes as a messenger'.

The whole business of the Virgin Mary was not just to get round the awkward puzzle of God having a child, but (actually, in historic truth) to win over all the pagans who traditionally worshipped a Mother/Moon Goddess. 

Post edited at 23:03
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

I think you've either misunderstood me or you have very little knowledge of the various religious doctrines (this won't have come through in this thread but I am sceptical of organised religion as Jesus was also). I don't think many dogmatic Christians would admit, as I do, that Buddhists and Muslims have discovered spiritual truth. I don't know better, Jesus does and I have faith in what he says.

1
In reply to cumbria mammoth:

> I think you've either misunderstood me or you have very little knowledge of the various religious doctrines (this won't have come through in this thread but I am sceptical of organised religion as Jesus was also). 

Do you mean like, e.g., the clash in early medieval times between the Augustinian and Promonstratensian Orders?

In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

What Christian doctrine are you aware of that teaches that Jesus is just a good man or that maybe Islam is the true religion? You are of course right that he was a human being sharing all our weaknesses, which can help us to relate to him, but his divinity is also crucial.

I mean the clash between Jesus and the Pharisees who were extremely concerned to follow ritual to the letter but went to great lengths to come up with clever ways to interpret scripture so as to avoid helping their fellow man. Christianity is about your relationship with God, not your ability to follow ritual or having the correct theological knowledge of the trinity. I think the early Christian saints had far more in common with say a humble sun worshiper who helped the sick, thereby loving the Lord and loving their neighbour, than with say a self righteous Augustinian who was proud because of his understanding of the trinity but unwilling to mix with the poor.

I don't see shared beliefs between religions as a trick to win over pagans. I see it as spiritual people from varying traditions have had partial revelations, including visions of the coming of Christ, and when the early Christians encountered them in their homelands they were happy to adopt the elements that were compatible with the full revelation as revealed by Jesus. 

The one God is the same God whether people label him as YHWA or The Moon and the early Christians would have recognised holy men from other traditions where they encountered them.  They also practiced the meditation and ascetism which leads to a spiritual understanding which can be shared by all people of all cultures at all times and results in the acute loss of ego that Jesus teaches about.

1
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> Do you mean like, e.g., the clash in early medieval times between the Augustinian and Promonstratensian Orders?

Be gentle with him Gordon!

 Pefa 17 Oct 2019
In reply to cb294:

> Our brain is a complex machine 

Agreed but is the ghost in it we are looking at. 

> The amount of control over unconscious levels of our brain meditiation techniques can offer is amazing... 

The gagging reflex can be overcome quite easily although it is uncomfortable and is a routine part of endoscopy with or without a sedative and certainly without meditation. 

> Hence, you need to learn and practise meditation techniques to access such altered states of mind. 

> Of course it is possible to disrupt the normal way this machine works by deliberately changing the input or the processing: Meditation/focus that let's... 

How do you know that the state of meditation where you are in the now with no incessant chattering mind and thoughts is not our 'normal', state? You see meditation is not an altered state it is our normal state in fact it is addiction to thoughts that run around incessantly that is the 'altered state' and not our natural one. I mean mindfulness is 100% natural and applies to every activity we do. 

> That the experiences resulting from any such interference are reproducible does not corroborate that any theories made up ages ago by "looking inward" are in any way true. The only thing they show is that our brains are pretty similar in their overall hard wiring, and can therefore reproducibly be made to generate misleading (i.e., not corresponding to the raw sensory input) experiences.

'Misleading'? What is misleading about being in the now completely again surely that is our natural state? We are so addicted to thinking every moment of everyday that we see it as normal. 

> I totally agree with you that capitalism, which developed at the same time and in parallel with technology has led to unacceptable, unethical consequences such as industrial meat production.

> However, this is entirely separate from our knowledge about the world. Science deals with what is, not what should be. Ethics has no scientific basis.

The lack of 'ethics' in science in your second paragraph goes a long way to account for the lack of ethics stated in your first paragraph but is not the entire reason for that lack of ethics . You can put any economic system in place that you want but until we recognise that we are all one and not separate then it will still result in horrific abuses to fellow life and the only remedy for this is realizations attained from experiencing what we really are, (not just momentary satori) the ghost in the shell. 

Incredibly we can work out the big bang, cure numerous diseases, work out what happened millions of years ago by looking at fossils, go into space but we don't know what we experience everything in. The hard question-consciousness- we cannot apply all our technology to it as it hits a brick wall so what is it and why after all these years of saying we can work it out do we fail even though we have AI, neuroscience and super computers we still know nothing about it other than seeing the activity of it from the outside?

Yet for over 2500 years we have been told by people who actually study it from the inside that they have discovered what it is and millions afterwards can confirm this but a certain section of the community deliberately choose to ignore them. I mean will not even entertain any other hypothesis unless they are physical material things. Well is love or peace or compassion or knowing or consciousness physical matter or even just electrical energy? No yet we want to use the tools for checking matter on that which is not matter, that which is formless, it doesn't make any sense from a purely scientific approach. 

Post edited at 13:16
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 cb294 17 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

No, a state of meditation or a spiritual experience are very much not the normal base state. This is easily proven by having to undergo certain, often difficult to master, exercises to achieve that state.

Also, it would be highly selected against during evolution. Any Australopithecus sitting in his cave in lotus posture, totally focussed on his inner self would have quickly been eaten (or if not, starve to death). Attention, and making sense of both our environment and our internal state is the key job of our brains, and any breaks from this are minimized as good as it gets. Yes, you need to sleep, but not at any cost. 

As for meditation being misleading, I would argue that yes, any action or practise that leads to a state of mind and an experience not consistent with the actual internal and external sensory input is misleading.

As I said before, the resulting spiritual experiences are real, but because the normal processing mode has been actively altered, the outcome is unreliable, even if it is at the same time reproducible due to the constant organization of our brains. This is an exact analog of an optical illusion, where carefully crafted inputs can mislead our visual processing system in a predictable manner.

In meditation (or drug use) we are simply using our internal state as input, play around with the processing, and come up (reproducibly!) with whatever. Indeed, something similar happens during dreaming: Just because my brain can conjure up a more or less consistent story from whatever fragments of memory happen to be being processed and sorted while I wake up and the conscious levels of my brain are coming back on line , it does not mean anything of what I experience in my dreams is real (luckily of unfortunately, depends...). As an aside, this again shows that our brains are machines for making sense of inputs, whether they are external or internal, consistent or conflicting.

I also completely disagree (as you will have guessed) by anyone claiming that the problem of consciousness is conceptually hard, rather than merely technically hard.

Finally, meditating or eating interesting mushrooms, and then making up some stories about energy flows or whatever, does not constitute studying consciousness! Tradition is no guarantee for anything.

In any case, I find the subject of consciousness highly interesting, not only as a scientific topic but also as a literary one. I can only recommend the Corporation Wars  trilogy by Ken McLeod, where the question of what constitutes conscience is essential to a rather wild science fiction plot.

Off to the microscope, got to run...

CB

In reply to Pefa:

> Incredibly we can work out the big bang, cure numerous diseases, work out what happened millions of years ago by looking at fossils, go into space but we don't know what we experience everything in. The hard question-consciousness- we cannot apply all our technology to it as it hits a brick wall so what is it and why after all these years of saying we can work it out do we fail even though we have AI, neuroscience and super computers we still know nothing about it other than seeing the activity of it from the outside?

Just because a problem is obvious, it doesn't mean the solution is.  The two Really Big Questions are consciousness and time, which are both ubiquitous and personally experienced. 

I think you're being a bit hard on the shortcomings of technology and neuroscience.  We've only had even basic functional MRI since the 1990s, the human genome wasn't published until 2003 and practical deep next gen sequencing has only really been available in the last 5 years.  The sort of single cell analysis and organoid culture we need is in its infancy right now.  The scale of computing power that anything resembling true AI would need will take another step change (quantum computing?).

I don't think there's anything fundamentally unknowable about how consciousness arises and technology is developing at an unprecedented rate.  I think real breakthroughs could easily arrive within the next 20 years.   

 Pefa 17 Oct 2019
In reply to john arran:

> > The trouble with that is Spira's views come from spiritual experiences not one's you can set up in a lab and he does not anywhere at any point say differently.

> Then the only thing he can say with any degree of conviction is that he experiences things.

The only thing anyone can say is that we experience. What do you experience that is outwith experience? Everything is experienced so it is a strange statement for you to make I mean all there is is the experience of. 

> He can describe those "spiritual experiences" any way he chooses and people are then free to make of his descriptions what they wish, including whether to class their own spiritual, drug-induced or even mundane experiences as being the same or similar.

> But literally any and every attempt made to interpret, explain or extrapolate from those "spiritual experiences" in a way that is genuinely accessible to others requires him to communicate in a common language with those other people. And the common language we as people have developed to explain our world is Reason. So unless he is able to portray his ideas using this common language of reason, using terms and reference points that are based in and derived from observable reality, he may as well be describing purple to a room of blind people.

I completely agree but I would then ask you to describe what consciousness actually is. I think he does a great job of being very down to earth in his explanations in fact that is one of the reasons that make his methods so accessible to everyone although I would add it will help if you genuinely try out some of his experiments or genuinely work at meditation. Or as you put so well with describing purple to someone blind from birth. 

 Agar Jelly 17 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

One of my colleagues keeps reminding me how the sub atomic universe behaves differently depending whether it's being observed or not. Consciousness interacting with matter!

This is utterly bonkers (if true), it means we are all gods.

1
 Timmd 17 Oct 2019
In reply to Agar Jelly: I was pondering things to do with what is being observed being changed by it being observed, while in the dentist today, after not a lot of sleep I was feeling rather detached from things and trying to find 'a chilled place' from which to go through my fillings - my mind is still pretty fragmented feeling as it happens but caffeine is helping, and while my mind was wondering I thought that there's almost something akin to Schrodinger's cat in social interactions, regarding how people can change how they behave upon being felt to be observed, even if the observer has the same intentions towards them before and afterwards, there's a fluctuating nature to them. I wondered if that possibly ties in with the 'illusion of self' as seen within Buddhism, and then gave up and went back to trying to find a chilled place. That's kinda difficult when a drill is going drrrrr into one of your molars, but I had the diversion at least.

Post edited at 14:33
 Agar Jelly 17 Oct 2019
In reply to Timmd:

I can think of no more pertinent situation where finding an inner zen is critical!

(I squeeze the arm of the dentist's chair with my left hand to disassociate from the torture).

 Timmd 17 Oct 2019
In reply to Agar Jelly: I hand't thought of that. I wonder if zen meditation via dentist could be a new thing for people to attend? 'Out on the other side, is peaceful detachment...'  She said to raise my hand if I wanted a break, and I suddenly realised the discomfort wasn't going to get any worse, and then it was over.

it had me pondering the ego and having to relinquish control over things, my mind went off on a proper ramble while I lay there.

Post edited at 14:35
 john arran 17 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

> The only thing anyone can say is that we experience.

May I just point out that your spiritual guru himself declared that "we know for certain " that "‘I’ am made out of pure being and knowing." I think I can see where you're coming from but the woolly language and inconsistent messages don't help convince that anyone has discovered any ultimate truths. 

> I completely agree but I would then ask you to describe what consciousness actually is. I think he does a great job of being very down to earth in his explanations in fact that is one of the reasons that make his methods so accessible to everyone although I would add it will help if you genuinely try out some of his experiments or genuinely work at meditation. Or as you put so well with describing purple to someone blind from birth. 

There are three very useful words that, for the most part, separate science from religion: I Don't Know.

Some things I do know, as well as can reasonably be determined at least.

Some things I don't know but others do - experts in the field or maybe just those more well read than I. I'm cool with that; nobody can know the sum of human knowledge.

Some things are knowable but we haven't yet figured out how to obtain the answer. I'm cool with that; it's exciting to read of new discoveries and to ponder remaining mysteries.

And some things are fundamentally unknowable. I'm cool with that too. 

For some reason, religious and spiritual thinking seems to find it difficult to accept the last two categories (and sadly also the first two categories in a depressing number of cases).

I can't help thinking the world would be a much better place if we weren't constantly looking for phantom shadows in the darkness of the God-shaped hole. 

 Pefa 17 Oct 2019
In reply to cb294:

> No, a state of meditation or a spiritual experience are very much not the normal base state. This is easily proven by having to undergo certain, often difficult to master, exercises to achieve that state.

> Also, it would be highly selected against during evolution. Any Australopithecus sitting in his cave in lotus posture, totally focussed on his inner self would have quickly been eaten (or if not, starve to death). Attention, and making sense of both our environment and our internal state is the key job of our brains, and any breaks from this are minimized as good as it gets. Yes, you need to sleep, but not at any cost. 

> As for meditation being misleading, I would argue that yes, any action or practise that leads to a state of mind and an experience not consistent with the actual internal and external sensory input is misleading.

> As I said before, the resulting spiritual experiences are real, but because the normal processing mode has been actively altered, the outcome is unreliable, even if it is at the same time reproducible due to the constant organization of our brains. This is an exact analog of an optical illusion, where carefully crafted inputs can mislead our visual processing system in a predictable manner.

Ah this is where this one part of your argument falls down. It is as if you are reading from a materialist handbook on meditation here and not from any practical meditation experience as you have made this self evident by what you wrote above. I will give you one example why- In Japanese Zen schools it was customary practice for a Zen master during meditation practice to go to an area where his pupils were in deep meditation and discover which ones were not if he managed to hit them with a stick. The ones in deep meditation would be aware of him approaching and would get out the way. Being in deep meditation is not sensory deprivation as awareness is never more felt than then. 

> In meditation (or drug use) we are simply using our internal state as input, play around with the processing, and come up (reproducibly!) with whatever.

Drug use is not meditation they are very different even psychedelics are very different. That wee bit above does you no favours as it is a bit rushed, generalised and dismissive and is the type of thing I would also write if I was in a rush. Meditation is like clearing away a lab bench full of clutter before you can see what is really going on, it's as simple as that. 

> Indeed, something similar happens during dreaming: Just because my brain can conjure up a more or less consistent story from whatever fragments of memory happen to be being processed and sorted while I wake up and the conscious levels of my brain are coming back on line , it does not mean anything of what I experience in my dreams is real (luckily of unfortunately, depends...). As an aside, this again shows that our brains are machines for making sense of inputs, whether they are external or internal, consistent or conflicting.

As a point of interest do you only dream that which you have taken in as memories from waking states? BTW I am not disagreeing that a brain is matter and works as a kind of machine. 

> Finally, meditating or eating interesting mushrooms, and then making up some stories about energy flows or whatever, does not constitute studying consciousness! Tradition is no guarantee for anything.

As I said mushies, dmt, lsd, mescaline whatever are like dreaming whilst awake but they are nothing compared with a continuous meditation practice, there is no comparison. Meditation has told us 2500 years ago that there is no self and now neuroscience is confirming that but you say it tells us nothing about us and consciousness. 

> In any case, I find the subject of consciousness highly interesting, not only as a scientific topic but also as a literary one. I can only recommend the Corporation Wars  trilogy by Ken McLeod, where the question of what constitutes conscience is essential to a rather wild science fiction plot.

Thanks I'll try and remember it. I agree but I think it is the key to everything although I'm pretty sure science will never discover what consciousness is other than to agree with those who have spent a lifetime studying it in depth. 

> Off to the microscope, got to run...

When you are remember to be mindful and watch out for a whack with a stick. 🙂

2
 Pefa 17 Oct 2019
In reply to john arran:

> May I just point out that your spiritual guru himself declared that "we know for certain " that "‘I’ am made out of pure being and knowing." I think I can see where you're coming from but the woolly language and inconsistent messages don't help convince that anyone has discovered any ultimate truths. 

OK let's test it, from your experience what are you other than the knowing of your experience? And being is your essence which is consciousness so what is wooly? Now I fully agree that in everyday life and discourse we don't delve into these terms so perhaps it is because we are unaccustomed that we find them woolly or vague. 

> There are three very useful words that, for the most part, separate science from religion: I Don't Know.... 

If you asked an enlightened person if it was possible to do any given complex specialised scientific exercise they didn't know anything about they would say 'I don't know'. So it is obvious that there are plenty of things spiritual people don't know but the rest of us do as we can be experts in our field just like they are in theirs. So why dismiss their field? When asked you cannot describe consciousness but when experts in that field do, you instead of being open and saying 'oh right that's interesting let's look at what they say and see if we can learn from this', you immediately after a few sentences spit the dummy because of a couple of technical terms those experts in that field use. Do you do the same when reading how to change a clutch and you see a couple of technical terms you don't understand? No, you have instantaneous resistance to anything in this field apparently. 

> Some things I don't know but others do - experts in the field or maybe just those more well read than I. I'm cool with that; nobody can know the sum of human knowledge.

> Some things are knowable but we haven't yet figured out how to obtain the answer. I'm cool with that; it's exciting to read of new discoveries and to ponder remaining mysteries.

> And some things are fundamentally unknowable. I'm cool with that too. 

> For some reason, religious and spiritual thinking seems to find it difficult to accept the last two categories (and sadly also the first two categories in a depressing number of cases).

So you say spiritual seekers (let's call them) can't accept that "somethings are unknowable“and some other things are" "fundamentally unknowable", so how do you know that? 

> I can't help thinking the world would be a much better place if we weren't constantly looking for phantom shadows in the darkness of the God-shaped hole. 

Do we do that? I have never heard of anyone doing that. And what is God? And what is a phantom? 

Post edited at 16:07
 john arran 17 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

Your argument appears to boil down to:

I know. I know that I know. I know that other people know too; they've known for centuries. And even though those people often use different (sometimes very poorly defined or contradictory) words to convey what they know, I know that what I know is the same as what those other people know. What I know can never be doubted or disproved.

In which case, I'll leave you to it. It sounds like you're happy with your thoughts.

 Pefa 17 Oct 2019
In reply to john arran:

> Your argument appears to boil down to:

> I know. I know that I know. I know that other people know too; they've known for centuries. And even though those people often use different (sometimes very poorly defined or contradictory) words to convey what they know, I know that what I know is the same as what those other people know. What I know can never be doubted or disproved.

Lol take a bow. I see you constantly dodge every single one of my questions, preferring to give a false impression of what I write and think. Why would you rather misrepresent what I write rather than engage in an open friendly discussion? Could the reason be you have had much resistance to it from the very start? but that's OK if that is where you are at its perfectly understandable. I've experienced that resistance coming from myself in the past so know it well. So no worries. 

> I know. I know that I know 

Nearly but there is no ' I', to know. It should be knowing knows knowing.

> What I know can never be doubted or disproved.

Everything must be doubted and questioned so that is you making a false statement about what I am saying. I mean show me anywhere or time that I have said none of this can or should be doubted or questioned. I think you are being a bit unfair there. Likewise with being disproven. 

> In which case, I'll leave you to it. It sounds like you're happy with your thoughts.

From experience thoughts bring only temporary happiness. 

Post edited at 17:30
 Timmd 17 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

Have you looked into Buddhism much? Some of your posts (and other peoples') have me thinking about what I've read about the inability of one person to comment on what is happening within the mind of another person, in the sense of being able to inherently/precisely see things from another person's frame of reference. When it comes to the talk of absolute truth, the possibilities seem as varied as there are people, for the range of interpretations of what experiencing this feels like. 

Post edited at 19:40
 Pefa 17 Oct 2019
In reply to Timmd:

> Have you looked into Buddhism much?

I read up on it when I was about 16 and it clicked,bought a book on Vipassanā meditation on equanimity at 18,gifted the Tibetan Book Of The Dead at 20, I attended zen meditation classes for about 6 months and Tibetan ones for a year or so in Glasgow , a few times I been down on meditation practices at Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery many years back. I was a member of the Free Tibet Society for about 8 years Got my good pal into it and she was a regular at the Mahayana place in Dundee and also joined Free Tibet Society and sponsored a kid in Dharamsala for years, I have around a dozen Buddhist books and had a set of 16 CD on Tibetan meditation practices which was a course at Dundee. I have had the same wee Buddha statue set up in my living room for 15 years and have laboured intentions of becoming a Buddhist layperson for probably 20 ish years. Oh and I have had a tattoo of the Tibetan Raja Yama or Lord Of Hell for 19 years. Lol. And was at a Buddhist 8 hour all day meditation just 2 weeks ago. 

> Some of your posts (and other peoples') have me thinking about what I've read about the inability of one person to comment on what is happening within the mind of another person, in the sense of being able to inherently/precisely see things from another person's frame of reference.

Sorry do you mean with respect to the materialist v spiritual debate on here? 

> When it comes to the talk of absolute truth, the possibilities seem as varied as there are people, for the range of interpretations of what experiencing this feels like. 

Yes just as the well known practitioners who emphasised certain qualities for example Buddha called it an end of suffering and emptiness others will state other qualities which are all relevant but what would not be done by someone who has experienced it is to say its just a nice feeling or oh that's relaxing or that felt great for a while,because that isn't it then. The reason being is that what has happened is the most profound experience you can have. 

 wercat 17 Oct 2019
In reply to Agar Jelly:

you can't observe without a physical connection - so all that principle is saying that matter can appear to obey different rules depending on whether it is in isolation or in a system where it is interacting with other matter.  without that mechanism of interaction there can be no observer, and the mechanism affects what is observed. A particle sufficiently interacting with other particles in a body can be said to being observed or measured by those other particles so has already passed from the realm of an unobserved individual particle in free space whose only affector is vacuum energy.

The method of observation also affects the influence on the observed.   If you observe something with radio waves from Radio 4 LW then you can only detect rather large objects without affecting their physical state so much as if you aimed Gamma rays at them.  Unfortunately, although the short wavelength of Gamma Rays theoretically would allow you to measure extremely tiny things very precisely, they carry such high energy the thing you observed may be left in a somewhat distressed state afterwards and somewhere else!  Elvis would have left the house

Post edited at 22:20
 Agar Jelly 17 Oct 2019
In reply to wercat:

Nice try but I remain flabbergasted and in awe of the double-slit experiment...

"observations not only disturb what has to be measured, they produce it… We compel [a quantum particle] to assume a definite position."

http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20170215-the-strange-link-between-the-human-mind-and-quantum-physics

In reply to Pefa:

Firstly, sorry that you found my post annoying. Fair enough - I was pretty harsh about Spira.

> Thanks for the video but I must say I expected more than ' we don't know' and 'if we could', so tbh it didn't really help explain consciousness from a materialist point of view 

I posted the John Searle clip just to explain what I meant by "first person ontology". Searle is really good at bringing pretentious philosophical jargon down to earth, and he makes an important point that is usually overlooked by the hardcore materialists (I'm a materialist, but not a hardcore one!): that consciousness really is something weird and special. It has it's own way of existing and that is pretty weird and special. That doesn't mean however, that it's anything other than a natural phenomenon, part of the universe which exists in space and time and follows the laws of physics.

> The trouble is that you are looking at Spira's views as if he is writing a scientific hypothesis which you then critique from a materialist viewpoint

Not quite. I love a good non-materialist argument. There are excellent reasons to be agnostic about materialism, or to expand the usual materialist worldview to include some weird trippy shit like Galen Strawson or David Chalmers' panpsychist penchants. 

The reason I love their philosophy, but didn't react well to Spira  was because they play by the rules of reason. I'm happy to doubt any particular philosophical or scientific position if there is an argument to cast doubt on it, within the rules of reason. The weirder and trippier the position, the more I'll probably like it (in the sense of intellectual entertainment), so long as it really is justified by good, thorough, open-minded, fair, reasoning. The trouble with both Spira and all religious views is that they're simply not playing by the rules of reason. I'm happy to bin materialism if there are good reasons, but I won't bin reason itself. Without reason, we have a free for all, where anyone can make up any old shit they like and claim it to be the ultimate truth. That is a bad world to live in, and I will instantly dismiss any view, no matter how compelling it seems to the person who holds it, or how well-meaning their intentions in promoting it, if it's not playing by the rules of reason. This is totally fair - and I am arguing, necessary.

> All your physicists, biologists, chemists in fact all scientists do not have a clue what consciousness is

That's not really true. We know that consciousness is the first-person experience caused by brain processes. We can turn it on and off with anaesthetics. We can study how it changes when different brain areas are damaged, stimulated or suppressed; or when drugs alter the processing by mimicking or blocking the actions of neurotransmitters. It's really very clear that consciousness, with it's peculiar first person ontology, is a result of brain processes - but we don't know how the magic happens, "how the water of the brain is turned into the wine of consciousness" to quote David Chalmers.

> Yet you and cb294 are so quick to completely dismiss the work of those who actually study consciousness and even call them conmen...

> You guys are completely dismissing all the realizations of great spiritual teachers by basically saying they are either deluded, mistaken, conmen or some such. You are denying that the millions of people who have real spiritual experiences of ultimate reality/the infinite/consciousness/God's being are all wrong

What I'm saying is that their experiences are real, but their theories about reality don't play by the rules of reason. I don't believe anything that doesn't follow reason. I don't believe Christianity, or Islam, or Buddhism, or any other system of belief or claim about the world that won't play by the rules of reason. Once you throw away those rules, you've got nothing left, and knowledge becomes impossible. That's not somewhere I want to find myself.

Post edited at 22:34
In reply to Pefa:

> From experience thoughts bring only temporary happiness. 

From my experience thoughts only bring temporary consciousness.

In reply to Agar Jelly:

Wercat is bang on about how observation, as shown in the double-slit experiment, is everything about particles bashing into each other, and nothing at all to do with consciousness.

The double slit experiment demonstrates beautifully how describing electrons and photons as particles or waves is mathematically useful, but how our mental images of little balls or ripples on a pond are a long way off the mark. We just can't imagine what the sub-atomic world is like, because we've evolved to understand macroscopic objects through our senses.

If you like this kind of thing, here's a great talk:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GzCvlFRISIM&

This doesn't rule out nor support Penrose's quantum-whatnot theory of consciousness, but it does set out the problem very neatly.

Post edited at 23:31
 Agar Jelly 17 Oct 2019
In reply to Jon Stewart:

Thanks, I'll watch this in the morning. Hopefully 8 hours kip will reboot my brain enough to understand the talk, on some level. Currently it's saying "That guy looks a bit like Michael J Fox!"

 aln 17 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

> temporary happiness. 

A bubble in a stream.

How has your spiritual awakening affected your Marxist and Communist beliefs?

In reply to Timmd:

> When it comes to the talk of absolute truth, the possibilities seem as varied as there are people, for the range of interpretations of what experiencing this feels like. 

No one can know what is in another person's (or dolphin's or whatever's) consciousness. This is why we have language and reason and science: ways to describe and compare what we each experience so we can disentangle what's just in our own minds, and what's part of the RWOT.

I know it's nice to accept everyone's experience as equally valid and true, but that just doesn't get you anywhere. It means you have to accept any old shit, such as nazism and other bad things as "valid". If you want to know anything, you've got to sift through what's just personal experience and feelings, and what's actually real, or part of the RWOT. If you don't care whether there even is a RWOT, fair enough, but then you also by definition don't care about what's in anyone else's experience.

And the words "ultimate" and "truth" just don't go well together. "Something that seems to be right, at least for now" is about as far as us humans should expect to be getting. But when we say that, we should be confident, and mean it. What we think of as "truth" (or let's say "knowledge" to be less dogmatic) should be stuff that we have really good reasons to believe correlates to, or describes, the RWOT. If it's not doing that, it's not knowledge, and it sure as shit isn't "true".

Post edited at 00:24
 Pefa 18 Oct 2019
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> Firstly, sorry that you found my post annoying. Fair enough - I was pretty harsh about Spira.

Yes I thought you were a tad but I understand your reaction. 

> I posted the John Searle clip just to explain what I meant by "first person ontology". Searle is really good at bringing pretentious philosophical jargon down to earth, and he makes an important point that is usually overlooked by the hardcore materialists (I'm a materialist, but not a hardcore one!): that consciousness really is something weird and special. It has it's own way of existing and that is pretty weird and special. That doesn't mean however, that it's anything other than a natural phenomenon, part of the universe which exists in space and time and follows the laws of physics.

OK but if it has its ' own way of existing' then how can it be limited by being in ' space and time'? 

> I love a good non-materialist argument. There are excellent reasons to be agnostic about materialism, or to expand the usual materialist worldview to include some weird trippy shit like Galen Strawson or David Chalmers' panpsychist penchants. 

What about the work of computer scientist Bernardo Kastrup who Spira recommends and says speaks his language? https://www.bernardokastrup.com/?m=1

> The reason I love their philosophy, but didn't react well to Spira  was because they play by the rules of reason. I'm happy to doubt any particular philosophical or scientific position if there is an argument to cast doubt on it, within the rules of reason. The weirder and trippier the position, the more I'll probably like it (in the sense of intellectual entertainment), so long as it really is justified by good, thorough, open-minded, fair, reasoning. The trouble with both Spira and all religious views is that they're simply not playing by the rules of reason. I'm happy to bin materialism if there are good reasons, but I won't bin reason itself. Without reason, we have a free for all, where anyone can make up any old shit they like and claim it to be the ultimate truth. That is a bad world to live in, and I will instantly dismiss any view, no matter how compelling it seems to the person who holds it, or how well-meaning their intentions in promoting it, if it's not playing by the rules of reason. This is totally fair - and I am arguing, necessary.

Well is that not like having a go at someone who knows when she switches her TV on every night that it does go on for not knowing how nuclear reaction in a power station works? I mean Spiro has been meditating for over 20 years not studying science for 20 years ye know. 

> That's not really true. We know that consciousness is the first-person experience caused by brain processes.

Where is the proof it's caused by brain processes? 

> We can turn it on and off with anaesthetics.

You are telling me we can knock it out ie. what we can do to it but not what it is. 

> We can study how it changes when different brain areas are damaged, stimulated or suppressed; or when drugs alter the processing by mimicking or blocking the actions of neurotransmitters.

We have MRI scanners yes but that still doesn't tell us what consciousness is. 

> it's really very clear that consciousness, with it's peculiar first person ontology, is a result of brain processes - but we don't know how the magic happens, "how the water of the brain is turned into the wine of consciousness" to quote David Chalmers.

I am aware of these studies and how we can map activity in the brain under certain conditions which does, I concede show we know something rather than nothing about consciousness however it is of practically zero use in telling us what consciousness is and repeatedly stating its definitely a function created by the brain is not proof I am sure you will belatedly agree. 

> What I'm saying is that their experiences are real, but their theories about reality don't play by the rules of reason. I don't believe anything that doesn't follow reason. I don't believe Christianity, or Islam, or Buddhism, or any other system of belief or claim about the world that won't play by the rules of reason. Once you throw away those rules, you've got nothing left, and knowledge becomes impossible. That's not somewhere I want to find myself.

Well said! Naturally I agree but if you indulge in hypothesis which are rational but from a view that is beyond what the limited mind can grasp then how is that not rational? And at what point do the materialist give up banging their heads against the walls trying to solve a non-materialist question using materialism? And if techniques were devised thousand of years ago to work that out and have been verified millions of times by others since then how is that not a scientific method or rational method? 

I mean what can consciousness be, what is left for it to be from a materialist perspective? 

 Timmd 18 Oct 2019
In reply to Jon Stewart:

Pardon? How/why might I end up seeing Nazism as valid? Never in a month of Sundays.

We can end up projecting things onto what people post, I find, without first checking that we're right in what we think they mean, and think

'' I know it's nice to accept everyone's experience as equally valid and true, but that just doesn't get you anywhere. It means you have to accept any old shit, such as nazism and other bad things as "valid". ''

I don't have the time to unpack your whole post, but make fewer assumptions and ask more questions, it makes for an easier dialogue.

Post edited at 00:58
In reply to Timmd:

> Pardon? How/why might I end up seeing Nazism as valid? Never in a month of Sundays.

By saying "When it comes to the talk of absolute truth, the possibilities seem as varied as there are people" it sounded like you weren't keen on making any judgements about the value of what anyone decides they want to believe is the ultimate truth. And if you take that position, you gotta take the rough with the smooth.

It's a simple critique of wishy-washy relativism, not an accusation that you, Timmd, are a massive f*cking Nazi.

> We can end up projecting things onto what people post, I find, without first checking that we're right in what we think they mean.

It takes two to tango. If you're vague and wishy-washy, some bastard is bound to take the least charitable interpretation. Do yourself a favour and don't give them the opportunity!

 Pefa 18 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

Waow! I just looked up to notice 16 dislikes for my OP, lol, at least it means its being read and digested and theres a certain gratification from the fact that behind all the dislikers is their real infinite eternal spiritual selves that they have yet to realise going 'what ya doin ya d*ck wake up!' when they did a wee dislike.

Namaste ( I bow to the divine in you) 

 Pefa 18 Oct 2019
In reply to Dave Garnett:

> From my experience thoughts only bring temporary consciousness.

That would mean you are not conscious when you are not thinking but you are. 

 Timmd 18 Oct 2019
In reply to Jon Stewart:

Given the tone of the rest of the thread, being about the self, and consciousness, and my own post not being dissimilar, it seems rather random (and slightly odd) of you to bring up Nazism, and then tell me to be less vague. 

My post wasn't one of my best due to going to sleep at 4 (or past that), and up at 10, but you were definitely random, the rest of the thread hasn't had a single mention of it, or similar fascist leanings.

Post edited at 01:33
 Pefa 18 Oct 2019
In reply to aln:

> How has your spiritual awakening affected your Marxist and Communist beliefs?

I'm not rigid about it anymore and I can see the trouble it caused in many ways which I previously pushed away and would not admit. It's nice to be free from the structural constraints of any ideology be it capitalism or socialism for me personally as i was getting bitter and angry about it and anger is your own worst enemy. But I still think socialism is the best political hope we have. In fact I know it is. 

It's funny though because I see three - call them spiritual teachers - who are obviously enlightened and I have great admiration for especially one of them and they have not a good word to say about socialism and the one I go to most is all wrong about the USSR which is still a bit of a red rag to a bull with me as he is seriously wrong and it makes me think some people should maybe stick to what they know and say nothing about what they think they know but dont. I got him re-educated though on YouTube. Lol. 

What about you what's your thoughts on all this spiritual kerfuffle? 

Post edited at 01:35
 Pefa 18 Oct 2019
In reply to Timmd:

Jon's using the worst case example of the Nazis to show how his point about the need for people to think rationally is important or we could all end up becoming Nazis or something else that's irrational. 

That's all Tim no worries. BTW I hate when I get that irregular sleeping, it happens to me when I need to do night-shift sometimes. It's a pain in the neck. 

 wercat 18 Oct 2019
In reply to Agar Jelly:

Undoubtedly staggering but natural.  I've never really accepted duality - I prefer to think of wave like things underlying everything that only appear as particles at the point of measurement/interaction

In reply to wercat:

> Undoubtedly staggering but natural.  I've never really accepted duality - I prefer to think of wave like things underlying everything that only appear as particles at the point of measurement/interaction

One way of describing that could be to say they become 'real' from our perspective only at the point of our observation of them. But were they not real before we observed them? In which case could this potentially point to another perhaps more fundamental perspective on reality than is revealed by our senses?

In reply to Pefa:

> That would mean you are not conscious when you are not thinking but you are. 

Aware, perhaps, but not conscious.  There's a difference between responding to stimuli and processing them for meaning.  Flatworms and protozoa respond to stimuli.

In reply to cumbria mammoth:

> In which case could this potentially point to another perhaps more fundamental perspective on reality than is revealed by our senses?

Out senses aren't responsible for collapsing the wavefunction! I know it looks like that in schrodinger's cat, but a sensible interpretation of the thought experiment is that it reveals QM is missing something. 

Roger Penrose tries to solve this problem and use that same solution as a putative explanation of how the brain generates consciousness (hex's link above summarises). It's nice, but there aren't any particularly good reasons to think he's right. 

In reply to Jon Stewart:

> Out senses aren't responsible for collapsing the wavefunction! I know it looks like that in schrodinger's cat, but a sensible interpretation of the thought experiment is that it reveals QM is missing something. 

Steady on, that sounds like a declaration of faith there! There's no scientific consensus about what causes the collapse of the wave function as I'm sure you are aware, there's a number of competing interpretations each with disturbing philosophical implications. 

In the context of this thread what matters is that the underlying nature of the fundamental building blocks of reality seems to be profoundly different than our senses would lead us to believe. At the macro scale, our sense of space and time is not the reality of how the universe behaves either.

It seems to me that our senses have evolved to simplify the bizarre nature of the universe, filtering out information about the workings of the universe that isn't needed in order to compete for the resources we need to survive and reproduce. Maybe in meditation we are able to get past this brain processing and get a feeling of how the universe really is?

1
 wercat 19 Oct 2019
In reply to cumbria mammoth:

Doesn't have to be meditation.  I had a moment of "cosmic awareness" one winter's night having just ascended No 1 gully above Red Tarn in the dark, with Mars visible upwards along the axis of the gully as I climbed.

On the upper slopes I suddenly felt connected with the whole of reality as if it were a vast set of material bearing fields, the stars and my own material and that of visible Cumbria, the lights of settlements in the Eden Valley and around Ullswater all forming a whole of a single medium out to the farthest reaches of space and time.   The  matteriferous space congealing into matter in the stars and around me, the upper neve slope on which I was perching, but all connected by visible and tangible energies and the invisible vacuum energy in which it all sat.  The joy of connected existence.

Post edited at 10:17
 ena sharples 19 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

Vegetable rights and peace.

 Pefa 20 Oct 2019
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> = Do we learn anything meaningful or useful from it? Does it enlarge our understanding?

I need to add one other point to my previous reply on this which is to say it takes away any fear a person may have of dying.Since you are already this infinite consciousness which we are all manifestations of, and happiness and love as well as mindfulness and meditation take us back to. When you love someone the illusion of separateness vanishes so you are connected again to that oneness that is infinite consciousness, our real selves. It comes and goes though if you rely on that and other temporary things for your connectedness and if that person leaves or dies you lose that connectedness with what you truly are. Death though is only the death of this particular manifestation but your consciousness cannot die as it is a part of infinite consciousness(in fact it isn't even a part it is infinite consciousness) which is eternal and also total love. So that is quite a wonderful knowledge which shows us all that we do not have anything to worry about at that time and this can be accessed by going inward in deep meditation for long periods.

If I can do it anyone can and I have had to overcome a hurdle to meditation that most others won't have because every time I start to meditate all I can hear is a constant high pitched whining noise (pretty bad tinnitus) which hampered my meditation for years and is like having thoughts that won't go away no matter what you do but longer sessions help. 

Post edited at 18:09
In reply to cumbria mammoth:

> Steady on, that sounds like a declaration of faith there! 

No it isn't, it's abductive reasoning (inference to the best explanation). The reasons to believe consciousness collapses the wavefunction are very weak in comparison to the open minded explanation that QM is incomplete by not providing an account. 

> It seems to me that our senses have evolved to simplify the bizarre nature of the universe, filtering out information about the workings of the universe that isn't needed in order to compete for the resources we need to survive and reproduce. Maybe in meditation we are able to get past this brain processing and get a feeling of how the universe really is?

What meditation *is* is just a different pattern of brain processing. There is no reason to believe that this different style of brain activity magically reveals the underlying structure of reality. It's an absurd proposition that throws reason out of the window. 

1
In reply to wercat:

> Doesn't have to be meditation.  I had a moment of "cosmic awareness" one winter's night having just ascended No 1 gully above Red Tarn in the dark, with Mars visible upwards along the axis of the gully as I climbed.

> On the upper slopes I suddenly felt connected with the whole of reality as if it were a vast set of material bearing fields, the stars and my own material and that of visible Cumbria, the lights of settlements in the Eden Valley and around Ullswater all forming a whole of a single medium out to the farthest reaches of space and time.   The  matteriferous space congealing into matter in the stars and around me, the upper neve slope on which I was perching, but all connected by visible and tangible energies and the invisible vacuum energy in which it all sat.  The joy of connected existence.

Good post but I thought you were arguing against there being another possible perspective on reality in your replies to what the hex?

What did that experience do to your sense of self?

In reply to Jon Stewart:

> No it isn't, it's abductive reasoning (inference to the best explanation). The reasons to believe consciousness collapses the wavefunction are very weak in comparison to the open minded explanation that QM is incomplete by not providing an account. 

I was being a bit cheeky there referring to faith, should have chucked an emoji in or summat. It's still a mainstream scientific view though that an observation/measurement (not consciousness) is what collapses the wave function. Your inference to the best explanation just means you have a preferred theory or set of theories when there is no consensus about the best explanation.

> What meditation *is* is just a different pattern of brain processing. There is no reason to believe that this different style of brain activity magically reveals the underlying structure of reality. It's an absurd proposition that throws reason out of the window. 

Nothing magic about it but as our normal brain processing does not give us a true feeling of the fundamental nature of reality then it does not seem absurd to me that a different style of brain processing might give us at least an insight. 

In reply to cumbria mammoth:

> Your inference to the best explanation just means you have a preferred theory or set of theories when there is no consensus about the best explanation.

No, my best explanation is just to say that qm doesn't give an account of collapse of the wavefunction. If you start to postulate a mechanism, then the burden is on you to give reasons.

Post edited at 13:34
 cb294 21 Oct 2019
In reply to cumbria mammoth:

> Nothing magic about it but as our normal brain processing does not give us a true feeling of the fundamental nature of reality then it does not seem absurd to me that a different style of brain processing might give us at least an insight. 

How, mechanistically? You have to, at least, give a hypothesis of how this could work, otherwise the hypothesis is pointless. I have to think, occasionally, about how fluorescence of certain protein sensors I build is altered by a quantum mechanic effect (FRET), but even that just boils down to distance between excitable pi electron systems. I have no idea about how you would alter the activity of a whole cell in a way that could not be understood classically. So, how does, or at least could, the quantum nature of things impinge on brain activity?

After all we know and can document using proper evidence (e.g. fMRI), meditation or prayer is just still neurons influencing the activity of other neuronal circuits, albeit with different filters and feedback loops in place, leading to altered processing and perception of internal and external inputs.

That this suddenly should allow the brain to access levels of insight into the true nature of things is patently absurd. The Penrose stuff on quantum conscience might look vaguely plausible to physicists, and is used as a scientific fig leaf by the esoteric crowd, but for a biologist it is more of an example of why sticking to talking about stuff you understand is usually better.

CB

 cb294 21 Oct 2019
In reply to Jon Stewart:

This. As far a I understand it, the Schrödinger thought experiment is just that, a though experiment demonstrating that the quantum description of micro systems cannot simply be expanded to macro phenomena. A cat IS either dead or alive.

That said, there are currently attempts under way that use quantum entanglement with an oscillating piezo cantilever to see how big a load you can put on that cantilever before entanglement breaks down. Can you have a living bacterium simultaneously in the up ad down positions, i.e. blurred out across a few µm? What about tiny, meso scale multicellular animals? 

However, even if you could eventually experimentally generate Schrödinger's nematode or water bear, this tells you nothing about the brain. 

CB

In reply to cumbria mammoth:

> our normal brain processing does not give us a true feeling of the fundamental nature of reality then it does not seem absurd to me that a different style of brain processing might give us at least an insight. 

All that you perceive is based on how your brain processes afferent signals from your senses.  It matches patterns of input to known previous constructs and models and has to think a bit harder about poor matches or contradictions. 

However, I'm not sure what 'fundamental nature of reality' you think is accessible without data from observations from technology that genuinely augments our own senses.  Anything based on introspection, meditation, psychotropics, religious revelations or psychosis is simply an alternative internally generated model, which might or might not be useful.  It may generate more accurate insights by interpreting incoming sensory data in a more detailed or more sophisticated way, but unless you believe that it has direct access to some sort of extrasensory input, then it's all subjective. 

It's all, literally, in your head.   

 Pefa 21 Oct 2019
 Offwidth 21 Oct 2019
 cb294 21 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

AAARGGHHH!

Why does everybody reference physicists pontificating way outside their area of expertise? I enjoyed reading Smolins's books on physics as an interested layman, but when he strays into biology in the end (my are of expertise) it always ends up in a mess. 

Give me one good reason to assume that conscience does not emanate from the activity state of or brains, and the processing of internal information about that state, and that this did not appear gradually during evolution, and I am willing to listen to any ideas about from whatever other magic source it is supposed to come from. Come on, we can turn conscience on and off or alter our self perception in a predictable and reproducible manner using drugs with known modes of action.

And don't even mention "qualia", or I will vomit all across the internet.... I think it is in Smolin's idiotic last chapter of his book referenced in your link where he states that we can never know how seeing in UV would feel. Actually, this is dead easy: Just ask someone with some early, UV permeable lens prostheses (our blue receptors can detect near UV reasonably fine, it just does them no good in the long run).

Anyway, phrasing conscience as a "hard problem" is not science but either naive faith in spirits or a cynical sales ploy to maintain the relevance of philosophy in the face of neuroscience (who actually made progress where the cognitive philosophers failed for milennia).

CB

 Offwidth 21 Oct 2019
In reply to cb294:

Qualia qualia qualia qualia qualia  (I'm just scientifically curious about the nature of and results of a conscious choice to internet vomit  ;-)

 cb294 21 Oct 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

You are right, of course, thanks for providing links! I have no doubt that some aspects of biology cannot be properly understood without taking quantum effects into account. Your last link about polarization is one, but light harvesting "antenna" systems for photosynthesis are a much more obvious example. I see no reason that conscience should be such a field. In contrast, I think biology can learn a lot from adopting tools developed in mathematics and physics to deal with complexity and emergent behaviour, and in particular when dealing with consciousness.

As far as Penrose's original ideas are concerned, all his speculation about microtubule arrays and gap junctions have shown not to correspond at all to the true subcellular organization of our neurons, especially not unfixed, live neurons.

CB

 cb294 21 Oct 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

Bleaarchhhh!!! Take that!

Nothing arriving on your side? Probably some quantum effect.

CB

In reply to cb294:

> AAARGGHHH!

> Why does everybody reference physicists pontificating way outside their area of expertise? I enjoyed reading Smolins's books on physics as an interested layman, but when he strays into biology in the end (my are of expertise) it always ends up in a mess. 

Yes, I have enjoyed much of Penrose's writing and he's undoubtedly an exceptional mathematician but he must have been on drugs when he came up with his microtubule stuff.   

 cb294 21 Oct 2019
In reply to Dave Garnett:

That or, more likely, getting carried away by his success in mathematical physics. The more success you have had in one field, the more tempting it appears to be to use the tools you have developed on other problems, e.g. in biology, whether they are suitable or not.

There are several Nobel prize winners in physiology and medicine, all notable biologists, who have fallen into the reverse trap to a greater or lesser extent.

CB

In reply to cb294:

> There are several Nobel prize winners in physiology and medicine, all notable biologists, who have fallen into the reverse trap to a greater or lesser extent.

Linus Pauling got two Nobel Prizes but still came up with his share of nutty ideas, especially his vitamin C fixation.

 wercat 21 Oct 2019
In reply to cumbria mammoth:

I think I would describe it as an enlightening vision of reality based on what I gleaned from years of reading trying to find out things like "how do radio waves travel?" and "what is stuff made of?"

The idea of an underlying reality that is nothing to do with everyday experience is not new to me - I've had it most of my life, thinking of what we see as being a painted surface of the fields and charges underneath.  After all, what do we ever encounter but electrons?  Protons may be there too but unless you experience bombardment by a particle beam  all that you see and most of what you experience is generated by the electron layer. (OK that is ignoring the big obvious one, Gravity, but you can't see that, though you can sense it)

 wercat 21 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

> So what is consciousness then? 


experience of existence - I suspect it arises eventually from the existence of emotions, ie a sense of feeling a reaction to experience

"Big Thing coming my way, FEAR = Do something Quickly and ask questions later"

An internalised model of the world also allows feeling about memory "Shudder, this morning was stomach churning, what if it Had squashed me?"

Me is the centrepoint from which emotions based on experience move you in a positive or negative wat

Post edited at 17:42
In reply to cb294:

> Give me one good reason to assume that conscience does not emanate from the activity state of or brains

There are none.

> And don't even mention "qualia", or I will vomit all across the internet.... I think it is in Smolin's idiotic last chapter of his book referenced in your link where he states that we can never know how seeing in UV would feel. 

That's just a bad example. The problem of explaining qualia is real, and is well set out in the thought experiment Mary's Room:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mGYmiQkah4o&

So if qualia are some kind of vomit-inducing nonsense what's your get-out for the knowledge that Mary gains by seeing the red apple? 

My own view is that those who like to deny qualia are evidence that we actually live in a blade-runner type scenario where some of the population are non-conscious AI (or "zombies" in Chalmers' terminology). You can't start an argument from the position that your own conscious experience doesn't exist (as Dan Dennett has tried).

> Anyway, phrasing conscience as a "hard problem" is not science but either naive faith in spirits or a cynical sales ploy to maintain the relevance of philosophy in the face of neuroscience (who actually made progress where the cognitive philosophers failed for milennia).

That's just a misunderstanding of what the "hard problem" means. David Chalmers who coined the phrase would love to see a neuroscientific explanation of consciousness. He doesn't need a ploy to keep philosophy of mind relevant, you biologists are doing that job by firstly failing crack the puzzle of consciousness (if it's not "hard", why haven't you solved it?) and then more seriously by not even recognising the problem itself. And of course many neurobiologists do think there is a hard problem, Susan Greenfield says that she doesn't even know what kind of answer you're looking for and until you do, you'll be stuck with working on the neural correlates of consciousness (the "easy problems").

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuGZhTYnlY4&

The question is: what are the necessary and sufficient conditions for consciousness to arise in a physical system? I'm sorry but answers like "lots of complexity" "self-referential information processing" just don't cut it. They don't explain why, as far as we know, only some very specific physical systems generate phenomena like pain, or the colour red, which are ontologically distinct from the physical system that creates them.

Roger Penrose might be onto a total loser with his quantum microtubules, but he did make a good point with respect to computation and consciousness. A lot of people believe the brain is a computer, and if we do computation really really fast, we get consciousness. Which just seems like bad metaphor with a splash of blind faith to me. Penrose gave good reasons to believe that consciousness is by categorically non-computational (and then went off on one about microtubules).

Post edited at 20:26
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> No, my best explanation is just to say that qm doesn't give an account of collapse of the wavefunction. If you start to postulate a mechanism, then the burden is on you to give reasons.

Mainstream scientific interpretations do say that the wavefunction collapse is due to an observation/measurement. Do you really not accept this or are we arguing at cross purposes here? 

 wercat 21 Oct 2019
In reply to Jon Stewart:

I agree that complexity does not of itself imply that something will emerge, other than complex processing.

There has to be something else and I think that something is the  ability to suffer pain and enjoy pleasure.   These go beyond complex processing in that there is something essentially different from pure information/signal processing going on.   It is somewhat easier to imagine a complex processing system examining the information of experience plus information of effect in pain/pleasure and inferring somehow the existence of something that feels pain or pleasure and then making a link between its knowledge of sensory input data and coincidence with feelings.

Just how the biochemical effect becomes sensed as plain or pleasure will go along way I think to explaining the emergence of emotion and consciousness and self.

I hope personally that we leave this alone experimentally as there is something loathsome about learning how to build something that can feel or suffer and be terminated as a piece of research equipment or physical property to be mistreated

In reply to cb294:

> How, mechanistically? You have to, at least, give a hypothesis of how this could work, otherwise the hypothesis is pointless. I have to think, occasionally, about how fluorescence of certain protein sensors I build is altered by a quantum mechanic effect (FRET), but even that just boils down to distance between excitable pi electron systems. I have no idea about how you would alter the activity of a whole cell in a way that could not be understood classically. So, how does, or at least could, the quantum nature of things impinge on brain activity?

> After all we know and can document using proper evidence (e.g. fMRI), meditation or prayer is just still neurons influencing the activity of other neuronal circuits, albeit with different filters and feedback loops in place, leading to altered processing and perception of internal and external inputs.

> That this suddenly should allow the brain to access levels of insight into the true nature of things is patently absurd. The Penrose stuff on quantum conscience might look vaguely plausible to physicists, and is used as a scientific fig leaf by the esoteric crowd, but for a biologist it is more of an example of why sticking to talking about stuff you understand is usually better.

> CB

You've got it the wrong way around, I'm not suggesting that our senses tune into something that they can't usually detect, I'm suggesting that the brain may usually filter out inputs that are always there but not normally needed. Just a suggestion - might well be wrong but doesn't seem absurd. What is definitely correct though is that, at the micro and macro scales, the universe behaves in a way that does seem absurd when compared to our everyday experience through our senses.

In reply to cumbria mammoth:

> Mainstream scientific interpretations do say that the wavefunction collapse is due to an observation/measurement. Do you really not accept this or are we arguing at cross purposes here? 

The question is what is meant by observation/measurement.

In the classic case of the double slit experiment, to make a measurement of which slit your particle goes through, you have to interact with it somehow (e.g. put some kind of particle-detecting device into the set-up). When you make this interaction (which is an interaction of normal physical things, no consciousness needed), the wavefunction collapses and you lose your wave-like behaviour.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9tKncAdlHQ&

Here, Jim does not press the point of why it matters whether the detector is plugged in or not. A plugged in detector has to send out some kind of wave/particle itself and interact with the atom that has passed through the slit. The "observed double slit experiment" is a very elegant demonstration of how talk of conscious "observers", being needed to collapse the wavefunction, is hokum.

The problem of Schrodinger's cat remains though. What counts as an observation in that case? We don't know. Roger Penrose came up with his "objective reduction" theory and the "many worlds" is a more popular way around the problem. So it's a problem, but not a problem about consciousness.

In reply to Dave Garnett:

> All that you perceive is based on how your brain processes afferent signals from your senses.  It matches patterns of input to known previous constructs and models and has to think a bit harder about poor matches or contradictions. 

> However, I'm not sure what 'fundamental nature of reality' you think is accessible without data from observations from technology that genuinely augments our own senses.  Anything based on introspection, meditation, psychotropics, religious revelations or psychosis is simply an alternative internally generated model, which might or might not be useful.  It may generate more accurate insights by interpreting incoming sensory data in a more detailed or more sophisticated way, but unless you believe that it has direct access to some sort of extrasensory input, then it's all subjective. 

> It's all, literally, in your head.   

That's 100% what I'm saying, in fact you've summed it up better than I have, especially the bit I've highlighted. I'm not suggesting extrasensory input, I'm suggesting that our brains may filter out input that we don't usually need.

Edit - because it's not really highlighted - just a darker shade of grey.

Post edited at 22:09
In reply to wercat:

> There has to be something else and I think that something is the  ability to suffer pain and enjoy pleasure.   These go beyond complex processing in that there is something essentially different from pure information/signal processing going on. 

Yes, but pain and pleasure are just special cases of subjective experience, or qualia. The experience of the colour red or the smell of coffee is just as impossible to get from pure computation - and it doesn't make any difference whether you like or dislike the colour red or the smell of coffee. It's the existence of *any* subjective experience at all that is crying out for explanation.

 wercat 21 Oct 2019
In reply to Jon Stewart:

Perhaps what I'm saying is that the ability to have a subjective experience arises from the ability to feel pain or pleasure - ie something special is added to the ability simply to process information so that pain and pleasure become possible.  That something extra could be the step that allows more to arise, a step change in what can arise within "the system", but is not achieved simply by more of the same circuitry as before. 

Pain and pleasure allow goal seeking behaviour to evolve - extending them to emotion then allows goal seeking by intent rather than automatic reaction

Post edited at 22:19
In reply to Pefa:

> OK but if it has its ' own way of existing' then how can it be limited by being in ' space and time'? 

My consciousness definitely changes with time and events that happen in space: it is subject to the laws of cause and effect, like everything else in the physical world. However, there is something a bit weird about it, when you ask the question: if you picture in your mind a white bear, *where* in space is that image? I can't answer that question, and that indicates that consciousness has its 'own way of existing'. So it's governed by the laws of cause and effect, and changes with time, but it does have some peculiar way of existing in space. 

> What about the work of computer scientist Bernardo Kastrup who Spira recommends and says speaks his language? https://www.bernardokastrup.com/?m=1

I've watched one of his talks and I have some sympathy with that type of philosophically justifiable idealism. At the end of the day, solipsism cannot be disproved and Descarte was right with "I think therefore I am". From that starting point, I think it's always going to be possible to construct arguments for idealism.

But I would ask anyone committed to idealism whether they believe in evolution. If the world outside consciousness isn't real, why does the world look the way it does? Evolution provides explanations for all the types of behaviour we see in living things - how does an idealist tackle the problems that religions fail to solve, like the problem of evil?

> Where is the proof it's caused by brain processes? 

> You are telling me we can knock it out ie. what we can do to it but not what it is. 

> We have MRI scanners yes but that still doesn't tell us what consciousness is. 

You don't get proof from science. You get evidence that provides good reasons to think that something is true. The way that the consciousness is affected by brain injury and drugs provides good reasons to believe that consciousness is generated by the brain.

If consciousness is not generated by the brain, then why does ingesting psilocybin, which binds to the 5-HT 2a receptors in neurons in my brain, so dramatically alter my conscious experience? It's obviously because it's interfering with the consciousness-producing and modifying processes. That is good evidence that brain processes cause consciousness. 

> Well said! Naturally I agree but if you indulge in hypothesis which are rational but from a view that is beyond what the limited mind can grasp then how is that not rational? And at what point do the materialist give up banging their heads against the walls trying to solve a non-materialist question using materialism? And if techniques were devised thousand of years ago to work that out and have been verified millions of times by others since then how is that not a scientific method or rational method? 

Things being old does not make them rational. The techniques you talk about have not been "verified". For a theory to be rational, it has to be a make specific, falsifiable claims. We have good reasons to believe such claims when they provide the best explanation for things we know to be true. Theories about "ultimate reality" and "infinite consciousness" don't pass these tests of rationality.

Post edited at 22:40
In reply to wercat:

> I think I would describe it as an enlightening vision of reality based on what I gleaned from years of reading trying to find out things like "how do radio waves travel?" and "what is stuff made of?"

> The idea of an underlying reality that is nothing to do with everyday experience is not new to me - I've had it most of my life, thinking of what we see as being a painted surface of the fields and charges underneath.  After all, what do we ever encounter but electrons?  Protons may be there too but unless you experience bombardment by a particle beam  all that you see and most of what you experience is generated by the electron layer. (OK that is ignoring the big obvious one, Gravity, but you can't see that, though you can sense it)

I agree, that's the way I see the world we inhabit as well.

A profound experience then. If you were seeking the type of spiritual enlightenment the OP describes then through meditation you can go further and experience the 'ego death' where your concept of self entirely dissolves temporarily.

 Pefa 22 Oct 2019
In reply to cb294:

Many prominent scientists always end up with things to say about the other science fields or branch out onto them but equally none know what consciousness actually is, although you could say the fact he is an expert on AI would provide some insight into the possibilities or limitations of consciousness being mimicked or reconstructed by technology. 

Leaving aside innumerable experiences by ordinary people through the ages of an infinite higher consciousness or even the ancient sages of India who called infinite consciousness Lila a theatre created by itself.Which is obviously the only experience I have in this complex subject so forgive me if I counter with some links or cut and pastes from time to time.From this essay we can see that the only rational argument for consciousness is the one which says that ordinary reality and matter arises from consciousness and not the other way around. https://www.bernardokastrup.com/2015/04/the-reality-nervous-system.html?m=1

Idealists don't dispute evolution which is an obvious demonstrative fact they do however dispute saying it was caused by randomness rather than a pattern.Kastrap makes an unrelated point that during evolution it would have wired our brains for survival purposes only which would filter out everything else and as such means to this day we still look at the world through a survival filter that doesn't represent the full picture of reality. Which I thought was an interesting point. 

> Anyway, phrasing conscience as a "hard problem" is not science. 

If you biologists and neuroscientists would  stop messing about with finding us cures and figure out what consciousness is then it won't be a hard problem anymore.

When Smolin wrote "that we can never know how seeing in UV would feel", could he have meant if someone who could was describing it to someone else who couldn't? 

Post edited at 04:21
3
 DaveHK 22 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

Some things are ineffable. Be content with the experience itself and don't even try to eff it.

If someone claims, like your Spira man, to have effed the ineffable then its its clearly effing bollocks because the one thing we know about the ineffable is that it can't be effed.

In reply to DaveHK:

> If someone claims, like your Spira man, to have effed the ineffable then its its clearly effing bollocks because the one thing we know about the ineffable is that it can't be effed.

Indeed, it can be quite useful.  Have you watched Good Omens?

However, I'd be cautious about deciding what's effing possible in our barely post-industrial state of technology.  Look at the insights into consciousness and persistent vegetative state that came out of functional NMR.

In reply to cumbria mammoth:

> That's 100% what I'm saying, in fact you've summed it up better than I have, especially the bit I've highlighted. I'm not suggesting extrasensory input, I'm suggesting that our brains may filter out input that we don't usually need.

Ok, glad we agree!  I'm still not sure what you think a better insight or improved internal model has to do with the fundamental nature of reality though, if, by that, you mean some sort of ultimate objective truth. 

I've no idea what that would mean anyway, or where you would need to be standing in order to see it.  And why can't it just be quantum weirdness all the way down?

 cb294 22 Oct 2019
In reply to Jon Stewart:

IMO, the concept of qualia and the "knowledge argument" are either esoteric mumbo jumbo or philosophical marketing that unnecessarily complicate things. Of course what you experience depends on the means by which you gain a given piece of knowledge. In the thought experiment, seeing the apple for real will e.g. come as a surprise to Mary, all her future memories of the apple, or even her concept of apples in general will therefore include a memory of being surprised. Also, the colour red is not arbitrary: Red has been selected as a general alert colour throughout evolution, indicating either that a fruit is ripe and "wants" to be eaten or alternatively that a particular species of spider is venomous. Part of this evolutionary significance will be hard wired in her brain and will of course tinge the experience she gains from seeing that apple.

What I I cannot see is why all these metadata that are summed up as qualia and collectively make up our experience an the resulting mental concept of the apple are supposed to be encoded in any way differently from the factual information of the apple's presence.

If you want to  introduce this IMO artificial distinction, you need to to show me how this encoding works, otherwise the hypothesis that there is no difference is the much more parsimonious explanation and wins by Occam's razor.

CB

 DaveHK 22 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

> From this essay we can see that the only rational argument for consciousness is the one which says...

I do have to chuckle at some of the massive leaps of reasoning you make. That essay advances one argument, it doesn't show that it's the only rational argument.

Post edited at 10:01
 cb294 22 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

> If you biologists and neuroscientists would  stop messing about with finding us cures and figure out what consciousness is then it won't be a hard problem anymore.

I am a stem cell biologist  but I do not look for cures for anything, except claiming so in grant applications as biomedicine is where the money is. Most neuroscientists working on memory and consciousness will be similarly curiosity driven, except that they will have to write something about curing PTSD in ther abstracts (which is highly useful, don't get me wrong, but most research is curiosity driven).

> When Smolin wrote "that we can never know how seeing in UV would feel", could he have meant if someone who could was describing it to someone else who couldn't? 

Possibly, but this is either wrong or trivial.

CB

In reply to Jon Stewart:

> If consciousness is not generated by the brain, then why does ingesting psilocybin, which binds to the 5-HT 2a receptors in neurons in my brain, so dramatically alter my conscious experience? It's obviously because it's interfering with the consciousness-producing and modifying processes. That is good evidence that brain processes cause consciousness. 

Indeed.  I always find the effect of a couple of mg of midazolam profound too.  How anyone who has experienced that sort of instantaneous chemical cosh can believe that a personality might survive cremation beats me.  

 cb294 22 Oct 2019
In reply to cumbria mammoth:

Yes, that way round is more plausible, but I still do not buy it. We would still have to sense (how?) and process that mystery input (what is it?) in the background. This is costly in energy and brain space, a limited commodity (see how more brain capacity is given to auditory and tactile processing if a person loses their sight), and would be weeded out by evolution.

CB

 Pefa 22 Oct 2019
In reply to wercat:

> experience of existence - I suspect it arises eventually from the existence of emotions, ie a sense of feeling a reaction to experience

> An internalised model of the world also allows feeling about memory... 

> Me is the centrepoint from which emotions based on experience move you in a positive or negative way

So you are you saying the same as me that consciousness is awareness? 

 wercat 22 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

yes, awareness of existence, though self-awareness might be a step further, the development of a concept of self might be preceded by a feeling of self.

The basis of what I am saying though is that consciousness arises not from intellect but from emotion and is therefore probably something that is present in all animals that have emotion though obviously there would be a spectrum of consciousness.

Emotion without consciousness would be pretty meaningless as it takes a "me" that is being affected to react emotionally rather than automatically.

Post edited at 18:14
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> The question is what is meant by observation/measurement.

> In the classic case of the double slit experiment, to make a measurement of which slit your particle goes through, you have to interact with it somehow (e.g. put some kind of particle-detecting device into the set-up). When you make this interaction (which is an interaction of normal physical things, no consciousness needed), the wavefunction collapses and you lose your wave-like behaviour.

> Here, Jim does not press the point of why it matters whether the detector is plugged in or not. A plugged in detector has to send out some kind of wave/particle itself and interact with the atom that has passed through the slit. The "observed double slit experiment" is a very elegant demonstration of how talk of conscious "observers", being needed to collapse the wavefunction, is hokum.

> The problem of Schrodinger's cat remains though. What counts as an observation in that case? We don't know. Roger Penrose came up with his "objective reduction" theory and the "many worlds" is a more popular way around the problem. So it's a problem, but not a problem about consciousness.

Looking at that video then the only factor I can see is the conscious observer.

  1. Particle bombardment, 1 slit, no detector = particle pattern observed. (No surprise, particles were fired off and also observed).
  2. Particle bombardment, 2 slits, no detector = wave pattern observed (Surprise that particles are detected as waves. Leads to the query whether the multiple particles could be interfering with each other?).
  3. One particle at a time, 2 slits, no detector = wave pattern observed (very strange - did the single particles somehow go through both slits?)
  4. One particle at a time, 2 slits, 1 detector = particle pattern observed (quantum weirdness as this is the same experiment as 3. but gives a different result).
  5. One particle at a time, 2 slits, 1 detector turned off = wave pattern observed. (I don't see why this is surprising, a turned off detector is the same as having no detector surely?)

At 4. though the only thing that I see that has changed from 3. is the information available to the conscious observer. It isn't the physical interaction between particles at the point of detection (the slit) because there was only a detection at one slit so what caused the collapse of the wavefunction at the other slit?

In reply to Dave Garnett: cb294:

> I'm still not sure what you think a better insight or improved internal model has to do with the fundamental nature of reality though, if, by that, you mean some sort of ultimate objective truth. 

> We would still have to sense (how?) and process that mystery input (what is it?) in the background. 

I'm just speculating. What I'm interested in is that there is another perspective on reality and that our everyday senses don't give us everything after they have been interpreted by the brain, therefore the experience we can have during deep meditation might not just be a purely internal experience after all.

How much scientific value there is to be had in that experience I don't know, but I do find it interesting that every spiritual teacher throughout history has told of the illusion of self and the interconnectedness of all things, and now it is being revealed that at the micro end of the scale each particle exists in a wave of probability throughout the whole of space and time and then at the macro end space and time themselves are an illusion that collapse to zero at light speed.

 Pefa 23 Oct 2019
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> My consciousness definitely changes with time and events that happen in space: it is subject to the laws of cause and effect, like everything else in the physical world.

How does your consciousness change with those things im interested to know thanks ?

> However, there is something a bit weird about it, when you ask the question: if you picture in your mind a white bear, *where* in space is that image? I can't answer that question, and that indicates that consciousness has its 'own way of existing'.

That is the same as a thought though which arises in your consciousness and if you manage to visualise a bear then again it is created in your consciousness just like everything else is.

> I've watched one of his talks and I have some sympathy with that type of philosophically justifiable idealism. At the end of the day, solipsism cannot be disproved and Descarte was right with "I think therefore I am". From that starting point, I think it's always going to be possible to construct arguments for idealism.

Yes it makes sense to me as well in a logical way but more from actual experience but it goes against everything we are taught and i might add everything we percieve. From the point of view of the eastern traditions Descartes got it the wrong way around by equating being with thinking and an identity of self from thought rather than thought being not the real ' I '.

> But I would ask anyone committed to idealism whether they believe in evolution. If the world outside consciousness isn't real, why does the world look the way it does? Evolution provides explanations for all the types of behaviour we see in living things - how does an idealist tackle the problems that religions fail to solve, like the problem of evil?

Evolution is undeniably real and idealists don't say any different from what i have read however the world outside consciousness is a part of consciousness.Here is a short but elegantly described clip of Spira on how can there be evil-  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6id-iLt5eE&

> You don't get proof from science. You get evidence that provides good reasons to think that something is true. The way that the consciousness is affected by brain injury and drugs provides good reasons to believe that consciousness is generated by the brain.

A bit of one of Kastrup's essay's on brain function- 

Clearly, there is a broad and consistent pattern associating impairment of brain function with—in the words of Harris—“extraordinary scientific, artistic, and spiritual insights.” That this happens in but a small minority of cases isn’t surprising: damage affecting memory pathways, metacognition, language centers, or any other cognitive function necessary for recalling or reporting inner life erases the signs of such insights. A person lying in a vegetative state could be having indescribably rich inner experiences and we would be none the wiser. The evidence is necessarily constrained to a narrow window between brain function impairment insufficient to trigger self-transcendence and impairment that renders self-transcendence unreportable to self or others.

It is conceivable that brain function impairment could disproportionally affect inhibitory neural processes, thereby generating or bringing into awareness other neural processes associated with self-transcendence. However, if experience is constituted, generated, or at least fully modulated by brain activity, an increase in the richness of experience must be accompanied by an increase in the metabolism associated with the neural correlates of experience.17 Any other alternative would decouple experience from the workings of the living brain information-wise. As such, it is difficult to see how partial strangulation, hyperventilation, G-LOC, cardiac arrest, etc.—which reduce oxygen supply to the brain as a whole—could selectively affect inhibitory neural processes whilst preserving enough oxygen supply to fuel an increase in the neural correlates of experience.

Alternatively, one could speculate that experiences of self-transcendence occur only after normal brain function resumes. This, however, cannot account for several of the cases mentioned. For instance, during the neuroimaging studies of the psychedelic state researchers collected subjective reports of self-transcendence while concurrently monitoring the subjects’ reduced brain activity levels. The same holds for the neuroimaging study of psychography. Finally, in cases of acquired savant syndrome the savant skills are often concomitant with the presence of physical damage in the brain.

 > If consciousness is not generated by the brain, then why does ingesting psilocybin, which binds to the 5-HT 2a receptors in neurons in my brain, so dramatically alter my conscious experience? It's obviously because it's interfering with the consciousness-producing and modifying processes. That is good evidence that brain processes cause consciousness. 

Again i defer to the expert -  https://www.bernardokastrup.com/2014/08/magic-mushrooms-and-brain-activity.html

> Things being old does not make them rational. The techniques you talk about have not been "verified". For a theory to be rational, it has to be a make specific, falsifiable claims. We have good reasons to believe such claims when they provide the best explanation for things we know to be true. Theories about "ultimate reality" and "infinite consciousness" don't pass these tests of rationality.

The idealists view and the tried and tested thousands of year old spiritual knowledge both provide the answer to what consciousness is insomuch as consciousness creates everything and the scientific view still doesn't know that which we experience everything in or what knows knowing.

 DaveHK 23 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

Having read that, and thought about it whilst soloing about today his argument seems to be:

1. When on schrooms a person experiences a higher level of consciousness than when not on schrooms. More consciousness is the phrase he uses. 

but

2. Schrooms reduce the overall level of brain activity 

however

3. Materialism says that more consciousness must correlate with more brain activity.

4. This is a problem for materialism because it cannot account for 'more' consciousness with less brain activity.

which leads on to 

5. The brain does not create consciousness but filters or localises it so reduced brain activity leads to increased consciousness.

There's certainly an argument in there but there I can see a whole heap of problems with several of the stages.

1. Other than in fairly basic terms (dead, comatose, sleeping, awake) does it make sense to talk about more consciousness? I'm not sure it does. I'm not sure it even makes sense to talk about someone on schrooms being in a higher state of consciousness. If we just refer to it as different or altered then his argument seems to evaporate as it depends on it being higher or 'more'

2. Schrooms might reduce the over all level of activity but they change the nature of that activity. Could that not explain the changes a person experiences?  He slightly acknowledges this but dismisses it ("convoluted, ambiguous, obscurantist arguments about the interplay between excitatory and inhibitory brain activity"). Apparently we need to buy the book to find out the detail on that one but I can't say I'm inclined to do that.

3. This is a funny one. He says it's not that simple near the start: "Granted that this dependency is not as trivial as to say that the more activity there is, the more consciousness there should be. That would be an exceedingly simplistic and naive misinterpretation of materialism." But then goes on to state it in quite simplistic terms at the end "results showing a tight correlation between decreased overall brain activity and unfathomably expanded awareness and cognitive function remain, and will always remain, highly problematic for materialism". Which is it? Ultimately his argument depends on it quite simplistically.

Plus, do psychedelics really offer 'unfathomably expanded awareness and cognitive function'? Does expansion in one area not come with deficits in others?

4. See 1. It might not be able to account for it but it only needs to in Kastrup's definition of what materialism is.

5. I like Phillip Pullman's books as much as the next person but I read them as works of fiction...

Post edited at 22:15
 wercat 23 Oct 2019
In reply to DaveHK:

or perhaps consciousness is just crosstalk in the processes linking subunits, main store and backing store and when it is suppressed a bit the brain runs cooler and faster, unimpeded by standing waves cluttering up the signal paths

Let go your conscious mind Luke ..

After all perhaps it is just the politician in the system making a lot of noise, claiming to be doing a lot and then leaving office at bed time ready for next morning's "new government".  Brexit politicians haven't exactly accelerated Britain visualised as a brain processing stuff, rather have paralysed it.

Post edited at 22:19
 DaveHK 23 Oct 2019
In reply to wercat:

> Let go your conscious mind Luke ..

I know what you're getting for Christmas Luke...

I felt your presents.

Post edited at 22:25
In reply to cb294:

> IMO, the concept of qualia and the "knowledge argument" are either esoteric mumbo jumbo or philosophical marketing that unnecessarily complicate things...

> What I I cannot see is why all these metadata that are summed up as qualia and collectively make up our experience an the resulting mental concept of the apple are supposed to be encoded in any way differently from the factual information of the apple's presence.

The concept of qualia is a lot more straightforward than you think it is.

Mary knows everything there is to know about how light reflected from the surface of an apple is transduced by the excitation of cone cells in a certain ratio, and all the steps of processing in the retina, visual cortex and higher brain areas. She can describe the *precise* neural events that are caused by the sight of the apple, but she has never seen the colour red herself.

Then she sees the red apple, and for the first time she *experiences* the colour red, subjectively, from her first person perspective. Does she learn something that she did not know before, even though she already knew literally everything there is to know objectively about the perception light reflected from surfaces exactly like that of the apple? Of course she does. The argument is just that the first person experience is real and not identical to the third person phenomenon of neural activity. There is no additional layer of encoding. There is however a real existence of the experience of the colour red, which exists only for the subject, and is distinct from, not identical to, the neural firing. If it was identical, Mary would not learn anything new by seeing red, since she already had all of the knowledge of what red is.

Qualia, like the colour red, or the sensation of pain, or itching, or the sound a construction sight, or the the emotion of gratitude, or the mental image of a white bear, all have first-person ontology - they actually exist for the subject, but no one else. This isn't the same for other natural phenomena. The network of neurons and electrochemical signals between them exist objectively, anyone can in principle see/detect/examine/analyse them. 

Any theory of consciousness has to account for the existence of qualia. If it doesn't, it isn't a theory of consciousness, it's a description of brain processes that are the neural correlates of consciousness - it's solving the easy problems. That's what Chalmers means by the hard problem.

> If you want to  introduce this IMO artificial distinction, you need to to show me how this encoding works, otherwise the hypothesis that there is no difference is the much more parsimonious explanation and wins by Occam's razor.

There's no additional encoding. The neural activity causes the qualia, there is no extra step. The hard problem is *how* does the neural activity create things with first-person ontology, things like the colour red, or pain or sounds or emotions or thoughts, which really exist subjectively, but which don't exist objectively.

A "radical physicalist" or proponent of the "identity theory" of consciousness says that there is no hard problem because the neural activity that correlates to the experience of red (which Mary knows completely) literally is the experience of red (which she has never had before she sees the apple). The thought experiment refutes this view convincingly. This position doesn't employ Occam's razor, it's Occam's guillotine, chopping off one's own head, getting rid of one's own experience of reality because it's too hard to explain. It's obviously wrong!

I'm not yet sure whether you're taking this "radical physicalist" position or not.

In reply to DaveHK:

> Plus, do psychedelics really offer 'unfathomably expanded awareness and cognitive function'?

No. On psychedelics, the brain is pretty obviously "broken", but in a funny and interesting way. When your visual system is working properly, you're making loads of guesses about what might be in front of you, then those guesses are being compared with sensory input and adjusted accordingly. What you end up with is a visual perception that maps accurately onto the real world so you can navigate it properly. When you're tripping, it doesn't work properly, so loads of the guesses get through to conscious perception without being amended by comparison with the sensory input. Which can look pretty cool.

Similarly with any cognitive or social function. You just can't do them properly when tripping, but you can experience all kinds of novel mental states, which might feel "spiritually enlightening" if that's how you happen to interpret the novelty.

It can kind of feel like "higher or expanded consciousness" because you become much more open to strange, ambiguous ideas that wouldn't normally hold your attention. That's because your thoughts become untethered from all the usual assumptions you take for granted; the usual patterns of thoughts and associations aren't linking together properly.

Psychedelics are great because they're not physically dangerous and they offer peculiar and fascinating experiences. But whether they cause an increase or decrease in some average quantity of brain activity has nothing to say about materialism vs. idealism. What they do is disrupt the usual organisation of brain activity, and in doing so generate bizarre and novel mental states. Specifically, Carhart Harris' work shows that the 'Default Mode Network' which seems to be involved in generating the sense of self is less active under psilocybin, accounting for the "ego death" or self-transcendence experiences with these substances. 

The materialist account for how psychedelics affect brain function and thus conscious states is compelling. The argument that these studies somehow support idealism is not.

 Pefa 23 Oct 2019
In reply to DaveHK:

> which leads on to... 

> There's certainly an argument in there but there I can see a whole heap of problems with several of the stages

> 1. Other than in fairly basic terms (dead, comatose, sleeping, awake) does it make sense to talk about more consciousness? I'm not sure it does. I'm not sure it even makes sense to talk about someone on schrooms being in a higher state of consciousness. If we just refer to it as different or altered then his argument seems to evaporate as it depends on it being higher or 'more'

It depends how much you take as to how much perception is altered and by how much and the same for altered states of consciousness or higher states of consciousness so yes it is relevant. I mean you can take say standard 180 mg lsd for the first time and get a quite busy intense experience for hours where you would bet that the activity in your brain is considerably more than your usual ordinary brain activity in many ways and you get access to higher states to. But you go doubling that or taking other things etc etc then you are in for a turbo charged kaleidoscopic roller-coaster, face melting, fast-forwarded barrage of heaven, hell and everything in between that won't stop in which your brain seems to be working flat out for 7 hours or, if you want a higher state of consciousness. 

> 2. Schrooms might reduce the over all level of activity but they change the nature of that activity. Could that not explain the changes a person experiences?  He slightly acknowledges this but dismisses it ("convoluted, ambiguous, obscurantist arguments about the interplay between excitatory and inhibitory brain activity"). Apparently we need to buy the book to find out the detail on that one but I can't say I'm inclined to do that.

I'm definitely going to be buying at least one of his books as I find his work ties in with personal experience. It also ties in with his essays on impairments to brain function and how much brain activity there in certain areas when people are shown things in MRI scanners being more than that when under psychedelics. It was either that or in dream states I can't remember which. 

> 3. This is a funny one. He says it's not that simple near the start: "Granted that this dependency is not as trivial as to say that the more activity there is, the more consciousness there should be. That would be an exceedingly simplistic and naive misinterpretation of materialism." But then goes on to state it in quite simplistic terms at the end "results showing a tight correlation between decreased overall brain activity and unfathomably expanded awareness and cognitive function remain, and will always remain, highly problematic for materialism". Which is it? Ultimately his argument depends on it quite simplistically.

That is a simple one as his first point is explained in his example of everything firing up being as useful to nothing firing up so it has its limitations but his hypothesis stands but not to its extreme. 

> Plus, do psychedelics really offer 'unfathomably expanded awareness and cognitive function'? Does expansion in one area not come with deficits in others?I

1)It depends on how you use them tbh, I mean you can run around like a kid giggling for a few hours, be in a dream world, TV, computer in your head or go to the sacred and you will go to higher places. Again it depends on quantity to a great extent and what you want from it. 2) Yes you definitely do lose out in other areas of functioning. 

> I like Phillip Pullman's books as much as the next person but I read them as works of fiction...

There doesn't appear to be any others who are trying to work out what consciousness is that can dispute what he says and what he says does ties in logically although I am still trying to get my head around it to as it does then begin to pose many other questions. 

Edit: I just want to say psychedelics are not really that helpful to real experience of infinite consciousness as it is difficult whist under them to be focused with everything else that is going on. Meditation though longer and requiring more time and effort is the true real path not the psychedelic short cut. 

Post edited at 00:01
 DaveHK 24 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

> in which your brain seems to be working flat out for 7 hours or, if you want a higher state of consciousness. 

Those two are not the same thing.

> That is a simple one as his first point is explained in his example of everything firing up being as useful to nothing firing up so it has its limitations but his hypothesis stands but not to its extreme. 

So where does 'maximum consciousness' occur? 99% activation? 90%,80%,70%? What he's done here is set up a false characterisation of what materialists/neuroscientists believe. I'm not an expert but I suspect many such people believe it's the quality and type of brain activity which matters rather than the quantity. It's a straw man.

>  2) Yes you definitely do lose out in other areas of functioning. 

So like I said, not an overall improvement or heightening. Kastrup's theory seems to depend on that point.

> There doesn't appear to be any others who are trying to work out what consciousness is that can dispute what he says 

I'm disputing what he says and so are others on this thread, there seem to be some pretty gaping holes in it. We're just amateurs obviously but perhaps the philosophical pros just don't think it's worth their effort?

Here's another one for you:

He believes the brain filters and mediates an external consciousness of some kind and that psychedelics suppress brain activity thereby allowing access to more of that consciousness.

How can that theory account for drugs which suppress brain activity and suppress consciousness?

Post edited at 08:31
 cb294 24 Oct 2019
In reply to Jon Stewart:

I disagree. In my opinion the concept of qualia is either artificial (when it is presented as something ineffable), or it is trivial (conceptually, not technically), and the thought experience shows nothing profound. Of course knowledge about how the brain processes receiving, evaluating, and annotating the sensory and internal input we assume Mary possesses will not trigger the same changes to her mental state as having these processes run in her own brain. However, the qualia, everything that is associated with seeing an apple, from some deep evolutionary legacy circuits flagging red as an alert colour to surprise (in her case) to ennui (in case of the 10000th apple) are produced by additional circuits. In this sense I would indeed say that the experience of red IS the activity of these circuits, even though there are many more circuits involved than just the visual processing (as Mary should of course have known in 1981 had she really understood how seeing an apple would affect her brain).

I am also not alone in thinking that we should move away from the "conceptually" hard problem and treat it is a mere technical challenge. The Templeton foundation (normally throwing money at anyone exploring links between religion and science) is currently running a competition where they fund proponents of competing models of consciousness to try and prove or disprove each other's theories. That this offer is actually taken up by reputable labs shows that the field has moved on from speculating about what is hard and what not.

CB

In reply to cb294:

> I disagree.

You seem to be disagreeing and agreeing at the same time!

> In my opinion the concept of qualia is either artificial (when it is presented as something ineffable), or it is trivial (conceptually, not technically), and the thought experience shows nothing profound.

I've explained what I understand the concept to be - the existence of first person experience - and I think you're saying that this is "trivial" (I would say "obvious"). Which I agree with. The trouble is that both philosophers e.g. Dennett, and theorists (those who develop computational models of consciousness, e.g. Granziano) are quite content to deny the obvious, which is why it needs pointing out. 

> Of course knowledge about how the brain processes receiving, evaluating, and annotating the sensory and internal input we assume Mary possesses will not trigger the same changes to her mental state as having these processes run in her own brain.

Then you're agreeing with me. Mary has a mental state that is caused by her brain processes. 

> However, the qualia, everything that is associated with seeing an apple, from some deep evolutionary legacy circuits flagging red as an alert colour to surprise (in her case) to ennui (in case of the 10000th apple) are produced by additional circuits. In this sense I would indeed say that the experience of red IS the activity of these circuits, even though there are many more circuits involved than just the visual processing (as Mary should of course have known in 1981 had she really understood how seeing an apple would affect her brain).

I think that contradicts your previous statement that Mary has a mental state that is caused by the triggering all of the red-producing brain processes and whatever else goes along with red apple qualia. 

The question is: do you think Mary has a mental state, that is real and exists only for her, which is caused by her brain; or do you think that there are only brain processes (and her mental state is somehow identical to the brain processes, a position that makes absolutely no sense to me)?

> The Templeton foundation (normally throwing money at anyone exploring links between religion and science) is currently running a competition where they fund proponents of competing models of consciousness to try and prove or disprove each other's theories.

I agree with you that it's a technical problem. But theorists differ on whether they're trying to come up with an account of how physical systems generate first person experience (the hard problem) or whether they're trying to come up with a way to make something that is indistinguishable from something having a first person experience from the outside. These are two different problems.

Post edited at 10:44
 cb294 24 Oct 2019
In reply to Jon Stewart:

Yes, I indeed partially agree. However, I wonder about mental states being "caused by" the brain.

If I understand you correctly, we agree that the brain adopts a particular connection and activity state by processing, filtering, modelling, etc. its external and internal input. This state is obviously unique to Mary (no two human brains will ever have the same connections, even if the overall wiring is similar, and of course both connections and activities of individual neurons and circuits also change continuously and rapidly in time).

Again, if I understand you correctly, the totality of this pattern of connection and activity (plus neurotransmitters, hormones etc., ,..) then CAUSES a separate mental state that is distinct in nature from the global activity and connection state as such.

This is where I do not follow, to me the two are identical. That the experience/consciousness is in either case unique to Mary and represents a first person POV seems obvious. Mary's brain provides feedback about itself to itself.

Of course, the problem of independently detecting awareness of the apple is hard. We do not even have a comprehensive real time activity and connection map of a simple brain like that of a nematode with its couple hundreds of neurons, even if activity across smaller circuits can be tracked. 

Nevertheless, we can selective implant, edit, spoof, erase, or force the retrieval of specific memories in mice, changing the mood of the animal accordingly (e.g. if the memory of being in a white or black room is experienced as stressful following a standard fear conditioning paradigm). 

CB

In reply to cb294:

> If I understand you correctly, we agree that the brain adopts a particular connection and activity state by processing, filtering, modelling, etc. its external and internal input. This state is obviously unique to Mary (no two human brains will ever have the same connections, even if the overall wiring is similar, and of course both connections and activities of individual neurons and circuits also change continuously and rapidly in time).

Yes.

> Again, if I understand you correctly, the totality of this pattern of connection and activity (plus neurotransmitters, hormones etc., ,..) then CAUSES a separate mental state that is distinct in nature from the global activity and connection state as such.

Yes (crucially).

> This is where I do not follow, to me the two are identical. That the experience/consciousness is in either case unique to Mary and represents a first person POV seems obvious. Mary's brain provides feedback about itself to itself.

You've introduced a criterion for consciousness here, a system that provides feedback about itself to itself, that doesn't work. A thermostat meets this criterion. Clearly for any system to have a first person POV, it needs to do something a bit more than provide feedback about itself to itself.

An interesting phenomenon that sheds light on how brain processes and consciousness are not identical is binocular rivalry. A whole load of brain processes are happen using the input from each eye equally, but pretty much randomly one half or the other of the processing is "promoted" to consciousness - the brain activity associated with each eye continues all same. I'm fairly certain that experiments on binocular rivalry haven't identified the crucial brain regions/circuits/neurons that need to be active for the processing to appear in consciousness, there isn't a consciousness "gate" through which signals must pass (or perhaps there is, it just hasn't been found yet).

It's really not the case that brain activity *is* conscious experience. Brain activity is of course necessary, but it's not sufficient. Binocular rivalry is a very vivid example, but so much complex brain activity happens without affecting consciousness. By looking at brain activity from the outside (even with a theoretical "fMRI Ultra" that could theoretically map the firing of every neuron and the transmission at every synapse), no clues are available as to which activity causes conscious experience, and which doesn't. And we know that not all of it does. To say that brain activity is identical to first person experience is in direct contradiction to the facts, because the two don't even correlate well.

There clearly is a mystery, an explanatory gap, or a hard problem here!

> Of course, the problem of independently detecting awareness of the apple is hard.

A different problem all together.

Post edited at 20:20
 Pefa 25 Oct 2019
In reply to DaveHK:

> Those two are not the same thing.

Some old Buddhist Lamas were given high doses of lsd and registered no difference but that isn't most of us. Even ordinary meditators using it as a tool will find it more direct but all the other activity makes it a waste of time. Everyone reports periods of peace, oneness, love but also coupled with constant relentless high intensity for many hours and all the other turbocharged 100 mph fractals, kaleidoscopes etc we all know the score. Which leave you physically exhausted afterwards. 

> So where does 'maximum consciousness' occur? 99% activation? 90%,80%,70%? What he's done here is set up a false characterisation of what materialists/neuroscientists believe. I'm not an expert but I suspect many such people believe it's the quality and type of brain activity which matters rather than the quantity. It's a straw man.

If your experience shows you considerably much more is going on than usual then the logic dictates more activity not less but the studies show less everywhere in the brain. 

> >  2) Yes you definitely do lose out in other areas of functioning. 

> So like I said, not an overall improvement or heightening. Kastrup's theory seems to depend on that point.

Now this is where I tend to agree that could be a possibility but I cannot definitively say so, though if you asked someone to ride a bicycle during the peak of a trip then It would be impossible as would many other activities. Though that is not really relevant to brain scans in an MRI though i suppose as all the intense flashing activity in a psychedelic experiment covers everything from all visual images, emotions and heightened perceptions as well as you questioning what is going on all the time. 

> I'm disputing what he says and so are others on this thread, there seem to be some pretty gaping holes in it. We're just amateurs obviously but perhaps the philosophical pros just don't think it's worth their effort?

If it is so easy for them to dispel his theories then why would they not? Many have tried and no one has succeeded yet. 

> Here's another one for you:

> He believes the brain filters and mediates an external consciousness of some kind and that psychedelics suppress brain activity thereby allowing access to more of that consciousness.

I think that is beautifully rounded by fitting into all the other explanations on impaired brain function, psychedelics and meditation as well as fitting into the overall theory of consciousness. 

> How can that theory account for drugs which suppress brain activity and suppress consciousness?

I will argue from Kastrup's view and say- some people wake from seemingly unconscious states in which there is little measured brain activity due to drugs or brain impairment recalling wondrous spiritual experiences. This fits into his model that says less measured brain activity does not mean the level of consciousness a person experiences correlates with the outside measurement/observation. Which also fits the psychedelic experiences. 

Post edited at 00:20
 cb294 25 Oct 2019
In reply to Jon Stewart:

Your "mystery" sounds like esoteric woo to me. What is consciousness encoded by if not neuronal activity and connectivity?

Also, ocular dominance is easily explained, I have no idea how you conclude that this phenomenon shows that consciousness cannot be identical to the neuronal activity. Our brain constantly picks inputs that it allows higher levels of our consciousness to become aware of, while the vast majority is filtered out. In fact, what happens at higher level can affect the filtering thresholds lower down: Of course I started to be aware of itching on my arm and head when I read one of your previous posts where you mentioned that sensation, same again now that I am writing this sentence.

That the overall correlation between activity and consciousness is low is no surprise, either: Not all brain activity will be involved in consciousness, at least all the time.

CB

 DaveHK 25 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

> Some old Buddhist Lamas were given high doses of lsd and registered no difference but that isn't most of us.

Any evidence of this? Sounds like urban myth to me.

> Everyone reports periods of peace, oneness, love but also coupled with constant relentless high intensity for many hours and all the other turbocharged 100 mph fractals, kaleidoscopes etc we all know the score. Which leave you physically exhausted afterwards. 

This doesn't sound anything like the the "unfathomably expanded awareness and cognitive function" Kastrup's describes. It sounds like a brain going haywire.

> more activity not less but the studies show less everywhere in the brain. 

That's not what the study Kastrup referred to showed. I haven't read the actual study but the bit he quotes speaks of increased activity and increased variability of activity in certain regions. Kastrup's first point (which I agree with) is that this can equate to less activity overall.

> If it is so easy for them to dispel his theories then why would they not? Many have tried and no one has succeeded yet. 

I'm a long distance runner but I doubt if Eliud Kipchoge would see much point in challenging me to a race. Why? because I'm not on his radar and it would be so ridiculously easy as to not be worth his effort.

​​​​​Have you found some serious philosophers who have engaged critically with his theory? I'd be interested to see that.

> I will argue from Kastrup's view and say- some people wake from seemingly unconscious states in which there is little measured brain activity due to drugs or brain impairment recalling wondrous spiritual experiences.

The studies I'm aware of in these situations show all sorts of surprising brain activity including regular sleep/wake cycles which could account for such experience.

>This fits into his model that says less measured brain activity does not mean the level of consciousness a person experiences correlates with the outside measurement/observation. Which also fits the psychedelic experiences. 

So people who are unconscious are more conscious that those who are conscious? This is either a total contradiction or you need to define terms better.

If less brain activity equals more consciousness then brain death=ultimate consciousness do you agree with that?

In reply to cb294:

> Your "mystery" sounds like esoteric woo to me. What is consciousness encoded by if not neuronal activity and connectivity?

Consciousness is obviously encoded by, caused by, neural activity. The question I'm asking here is, what is the difference between the neural activity that does not contribute to consciousness, and that which does?

Have you got any ideas? 

> Also, ocular dominance is easily explained, I have no idea how you conclude that this phenomenon shows that consciousness cannot be identical to the neuronal activity.

The point of binocular rivalry experiments is that you have contrasting stimuli that have equal salience and the brain is forced to choose which will enter consciousness and which will be suppressed. (Have you done such an experiment btw, it is quite weird, perceptually). So, by studying the neural activity occurring while a subject reports which of stimuli they can see over time, you should in theory see what the "additional" processing is that turns run-of-the-mill neural activity into consciousness. But there isn't any. 

An explanation that "the neural activity just is the conscious experience" is plainly wrong, because the neural activity corresponds to the processing of the retinal signals from both eyes, whereas the conscious experience is that from only one. They are demonstrably not identical. 

Look into a brain with an "fMRI ultra". All you can see is neurons firing, synaptic transmission, more neurons, times a few billion, in different configurations. Some configurations correlate to a visual experience, others to smells, emotions, thoughts, intentions etc. Are you, the neurobiologist going to point to a certain pattern of connections and activity and tell me that "that is the smell of coffee"? I'm going reply "no it isn't, the smell of coffee is a smell, it's something completely different in every way". Neural activity is not identical to consciousness experience. 

Post edited at 12:50
1
 cb294 25 Oct 2019
In reply to Jon Stewart:

Yes I have volunteered for similar experiments, they are indeed really weird. Since then I also have a certificate that I am in possession of a brain, officially issued by our fMRI imaging department, so beat that!

I am not surprised that the switching is not detectable, you simply need to turn a few neurons off to prioritise one input over the other. No need for loads of extra processing. 

CB

Edit: pressed save too early.

I agree that the smell of coffee is just a smell (the chemicals in the air plus the firing of the relevant olfactory neurons). The conscious perception of a smell of coffee (recalling having encountered the smell before, recalling that you like the associated taste, thinking about breakfast and suddenly feeling hungry,....) is nevertheless certainly encoded by some activity and connection pattern of neurons. I do not see why I should not in principle (but quite likely not in practise, at least not yet) be able to point at this and say that you are thinking of coffee.

We can do similar things, albeit at a much simpler level in mice and flies (based e.g. on fear conditioning and Pavlovian food preference models). That the complexity of the system is such that it may never be practical does not prove that there is a category difference between some specific neural activity and conscious perception.

Post edited at 14:16
In reply to cb294:

> Yes I have volunteered for similar experiments, they are indeed really weird. Since then I also have a certificate that I am in possession of a brain, officially issued by our fMRI imaging department, so beat that!

Yes, I've watched my brain matching cartoon facial expressions, trying to distinguish the same face with different expressions from different faces with the same expression (actually, I'm not great at facial recognition but they can't have known that), so I know I have a brain too.  I also watched my heart filling and pumping, which I found of even more immediate interest. 

 cb294 25 Oct 2019
In reply to Dave Garnett:

Possibly, but I have the OFFICIAL certificate! No certificate, no brain. Otherwise anybody could come and claim they have one...

The weirdest I have seen is an old film of somebody eating, chewing, and swallowing filmed under continuous X-ray. Bizarre.

CB

In reply to cb294:

> I am not surprised that the switching is not detectable, you simply need to turn a few neurons off to prioritise one input over the other. No need for loads of extra processing. 

Fine, we can't see the switching mechanism, but presumably there is one. One pattern of neural activity correlates to the RE percept, a different pattern correlates to the LE percept, and the patterns are oscillating back and forth, we just can't detect that. The experiment tried to detect it, but the two patterns were too similar.

It's interesting that two very similar patterns of neural activity correlate to such markedly different mental states. The brain is quite shy when it comes to revealing the difference between neural activity that gives rise to conscious experience, and neural activity that doesn't. This is the technical nature of the hard problem: brain scientists have spent decades looking for the differences and can't find them. It's definitely not a trivial problem.

Until we have some theory that sets out the necessary and sufficient conditions for generating consciousness, it's going to continue to be hard.

> I agree that the smell of coffee is just a smell (the chemicals in the air plus the firing of the relevant olfactory neurons).

No, you disagree. I think that the smell of coffee is the subjective experience of the smell of coffee. The actual smell. The chemicals in the air are not a smell - they're chemicals in the air! They trigger olfactory receptors, the olfactory nerves fire and this firing *causes* the smell of coffee.

> The conscious perception of a smell of coffee (recalling having encountered the smell before, recalling that you like the associated taste, thinking about breakfast and suddenly feeling hungry,....) is nevertheless certainly encoded by some activity and connection pattern of neurons.

There's no need to start to bringing in associated aspects of the subjective experience. I'm talking only about the smell of coffee. That is the qualia in question. It is a smell, that is the form it takes, and has a first person ontology. The smell is most definitely not the molecules that trigger the neural response, nor the neural response. The smell is the conscious experience that is generated by the neural activity.

> I do not see why I should not in principle (but quite likely not in practise, at least not yet) be able to point at this and say that you are thinking of coffee.

Nor do I, that wasn't the question. I agree that you can point to any given pattern of neural activity and say quite accurately that it correlates to the smell of coffee. What I asked you was whether you could point at some pattern of neural activity and say that it *was* the smell of coffee. And you can't. Because a bunch of action potentials isn't a smell. A smell is a phenomenon that exists only to a subject.

You may think that this is some kind of tortuous philosophical mumbo-jumbo, but it's totally obvious to me. And I'm pretty good company with people like Christof Koch who find the idea that the physical brain *is* the conscious experience to be completely nonsensical.

Post edited at 17:10
 cb294 25 Oct 2019
In reply to Jon Stewart:

I don't think you can dissociate the connotations some input has (which may differ between individuals, either because of genetics or experience), from the processing this stimulus undergoes before it becomes a conscious experience. 

To talk about first person perspectives as qualia indeed sounds like an angels on pinheads type argument to me. The fact alone that you use the smell of coffee as an example you expect me to understand means that there must be something generalizable about the chemical signature of coffee that is common between us. Whether I love coffee or find it revolting is something you cannot know (event though you might guess knowing I am a scientist), but if anything is first person specific it is the connotations.

This is even more clear cut in the case of stimuli that have long become fixed in evolution, hence the widely shared propensity to be alerted by the colour red, or repulsed by the smell of tertiary amines.

I also still do not understand how you want to separate the global neural activity and connection state that is coincident with a given conscious state from that state itself. I see it as an in principle (if not in practise) copyable state: Take another blank brain, ensure that it has exactly the same connections, the same activity of every single neuron, the same levels of neurotransmitters floating around etc., and the brains will have identical experience. For obvious reasons of complexity, this is only a thought experiment, even if it is a common trope of science fiction literature. It would actually be interesting to see how much or how little of that complexity is actually required to achieve similar states, but even that is too far off.

However, it is already possible to first implant and then artificially recall memories in mice that trigger fear (e.g. by pharmaco- or optogenetics). The mouse will then behave exactly the same whether it is physically returned to a room it has learned to associate with electric shocks, or if neurons involved in storing that memory are artifically excited in a context it has learned to be safe. . I would describe this as triggering the activity of a limited set of neurons in addition to what is anyway running in the background generating consciousness (e.g. feedback processes monitoring overall happiness) to generate a totally different state. It does not work under anaesthesia. 

Similar, more complex experiments can be done using e.g. the empathy of mice exhibit towards littermates, thus avoiding a trigger operating at an admittedly very basic level with a presumably relatively strongly subconscious component

Need to run, time for training, but thanks for the stimulating discussion!

CB

In reply to cb294:

> Take another blank brain, ensure that it has exactly the same connections, the same activity of every single neuron, the same levels of neurotransmitters floating around etc., and the brains will have identical experience

cf 'A Silicon Brain', UKC, 23 October, 2002...

 Pefa 25 Oct 2019
In reply to DaveHK:

> Any evidence of this? Sounds like urban myth to me.

https://www.ramdass.org/ram-dass-gives-maharaji-the-yogi-medicine/

> This doesn't sound anything like the the "unfathomably expanded awareness and cognitive function" Kastrup's describes. It sounds like a brain going haywire.

Because he refers to a small amount of psilocybin where I am talking about large amounts of the stronger psychedelic LSD. I don't know if a small amount of psilocybin improves cognitive functions as he says but large amounts certainly don't. 

> That's not what the study Kastrup referred to showed. I haven't read the actual study but the bit he quotes speaks of increased activity and increased variability of activity in certain regions. Kastrup's first point (which I agree with) is that this can equate to less activity overall.

A quote from Kastrup's article -

"Indeed, a 2012 paper by Carhart-Harris et al. has showed that psychedelics only reduce neural activity, with no increases anywhere in the brain." 

> > If it is so easy for them to dispel his theories then why would they not? Many have tried and no one has succeeded yet. 

> I'm a long distance runner but I doubt if Eliud Kipchoge would see much point in challenging me to a race. Why? because I'm not on his radar and it would be so ridiculously easy as to not be worth his effort.

Kastrup is the fore most idealist which is very relevant to the hard question debate and shown by his inclusion in loads of general articles on this subject which I have only noticed because I have been digging around on this matter because of Spira and this thread. 

> The studies I'm aware of in these situations show all sorts of surprising brain activity including regular sleep/wake cycles which could account for such experience.

Sorry I don't follow. 

> >This fits into his model that says less measured brain activity does not mean the level of consciousness a person experiences correlates with the outside measurement/observation. Which also fits the psychedelic experiences. 

> So people who are unconscious are more conscious that those who are conscious? This is either a total contradiction or you need to define terms better.

Not at all but seemingly unconscious from the outside doesn't follow that you are experiencing that on the inside. 

> If less brain activity equals more consciousness then brain death=ultimate consciousness do you agree with that?

Yes in a way as you are fully united, sorry not united but fully realised as infinite consciousness again, which is what we are so it makes sense. However you don't need to be physically dead to =/realise ultimate consciousness. 

Post edited at 22:09
In reply to Pefa:

> fully realised as infinite consciousness again

They're dead, Dave. Everybody's dead, Dave, everybody is dead.

Not 'fully realised as infinite consciousness again'.

In reply to captain paranoia:

> They're dead, Dave. Everybody's dead, Dave, everybody is dead.

Wait. Are you trying to tell me everybody's dead?

 wercat 27 Oct 2019
In reply to FactorXXX:

What, even Blake?


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