UKC

Spirituality

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 john arran 09 May 2021

'Spiritual' is a word that gets used a lot, seemingly to mean any of a variety of poorly defined concepts. In many cases it can simply be replaced by 'religious', but often its use suggests a wider meaning, possibly due to wanting to dissociate it (and therefore the user) from the negative connotations of organised religion.

Sometimes its use implies nothing overtly supernatural at all, such as when people use it as a synonym for soulful, mindful or even ethical.

I'm wondering why we as a society embrace such a woolly and poorly defined concept and use it so readily, somehow assuming that others will understand what we personally mean by it?

Is it loose shorthand for something we value and would like to be in some way 'true' or 'real', but for which we can't find tangible justification?

And is there any evidence that any other (i.e. non-human) animal shows any sign of spirituality as a concept or as a practice?

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 freeflyer 09 May 2021
In reply to john arran:

Humans have an amazing ability to model the world around them, and are able to use it to see some of the structure that defines how the world works and why people do what they do. But those models are never totally accurate, and worse, they can prevent us from seeing the world exactly how it is; instead we see the model.

If you suggest to someone that their spiritual beliefs, or lack of them, limit their world view, you are likely to get short change. No doubt in a while, the atheists and philosophers will be along to give us the benefit of their unshakeable convictions

Wonder is a lovely thing, and by definition is woolly and poorly defined; the ability to sit on a hilltop and just look at the beauty around you. Or listen to a relative spouting on, and make no judgement about what they are spouting. Or sit in a Christmas service that you've been dragged along to, and take in the event for exactly what it is.

I don't think that other animals do much similar although we do plenty that they do. Elephants apparently visit the bones of their dead relatives. Horses on the other hand are quite interesting, once their stable mate dies in the field, they ignore it; there doesn't seem to be any grieving as such.

Now, where's my popcorn...

 john arran 09 May 2021
In reply to freeflyer:

All very interesting. But I see you appear to have taken spirituality to be a synonym of wonder, and a key part of my question was how and why people are happy with this and other widely differing definitions apparently being plucked from the air to suit.

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 Stichtplate 09 May 2021
In reply to john arran:

You're right, 'Spiritual' is a weird one. In my (limited) experience, the sorts of people who describe themselves as 'Spiritual' could easily swap the word out for 'shallow', 'two dimensional' or even 'a bit thick' and they'd be providing the observer with a far more apt descriptor.

Hope that helps.

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 waitout 09 May 2021
In reply to john arran:

Whereas I see religion as a refusal to see logic and evidence, I see 'spirituality' as more a dance around them. They both suffer from faith and belief, but spirituality seemingly less so by degree as it seems to not require the level of organization religion does, being a bit more individualistic and bespoke. Spirituality almost by default is about cobbling together ones own personal mythology.

Religion too just ignores evidence, but spirituality seems to reweave it, often attaching it to where observed data ends as per the perennial fads of spiritual explanations for things found in physics, meteorology, acoustics, physiology etc. Hence it will always be wooly because it simply realigns every time something is explained, almost happily as if vindicated. There will always be the edge of unknown and spirituality will always inhabit that area.

Do other animals have it? I don't know, but once had some gold fish that would make circles in the pebbles in the bottom of their tank each night, which seems to be something most spiritual humans have an illogical urge to do as well.

Do roosters crow at dawn for any logical reason (I know about the dragons who stole their horns)?

 magma 09 May 2021
In reply to john arran:

I'm with Russell: youtube.com/watch?v=0B4EaLvjGfw&

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In reply to john arran:

My experience is that "I'm a very spiritual person" means "I'm not into organized religion but I'm not a big fan of logic or science either". I find it's clearly enough defined to be a useful indicator that I'm probably not going to get along with them all that well. Bumble (online dating app) gives "spiritual" as one of the possible answers for the religion question, which is handy.

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 Boomer Doomer 09 May 2021
In reply to waitout:

> Whereas I see religion as a refusal to see logic and evidence, I see 'spirituality' as more a dance around them. They both suffer from faith and belief, but spirituality seemingly less so by degree as it seems to not require the level of organization religion does, being a bit more individualistic and bespoke. Spirituality almost by default is about cobbling together ones own personal mythology.

You should read some Plotinus (or as someone here recommended to me, some Wordsworth). It is quite possible to feel an intangible rapture from things that are epistemic... like gazing at a star filled sky or feeling the wind on your face or watching a bird soar on the wing. The concept of spirituality is necessarily woolly because it brackets things that are not necessarily epistemic, but things that are experienced through the emotions. Sure, you could go all Sam Harris and say emotion is just the result of chemical balance in the brain, but do you want to live in a world that is purely defined by "logic and evidence"? Where does that leave certain social justice causes? Do you think life would be better if it were strictly defined by logic? I don't. What place does art have in such a world... or love... or indeed climbing?

Now flakey new age cultism or religion or anything dogmatic is a totally different matter. Don't make science dogmatic or akin to a religion or cult, things must always be questioned, as the science is never settled.

Post edited at 12:49
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 john arran 09 May 2021
In reply to Boomer Doomer:

>  do you want to live in a world that is purely defined by "logic and evidence"? Where does that leave certain social justice causes? Do you think life would be better if it were strictly defined by logic? I don't. What place does art have in such a world... or love... or indeed climbing?

I don't see your examples being in any way spiritual, by my interpretation of the word at least. What makes you think that science and logic could not explain the appreciation of art or the love of climbing? That wouldn't diminish the appreciation or the love, indeed it potentially could enhance it. Just because we don't yet have the tools to do such things, and indeed to some extent may never have them, doesn't mean they should be in the same category as things that actually contradict our body of knowledge but that people choose to 'believe' anyway.

 freeflyer 09 May 2021
In reply to john arran:

> But I see you appear to have taken spirituality to be a synonym of wonder, and a key part of my question was how and why people are happy with this and other widely differing definitions apparently being plucked from the air to suit.

I was dodging the question, temporarily. Good thread though

In reply to john arran:

I spent too many years avoiding the band 'Spiritualized' simply because of their name! Then I listened properly and was able to get past it. It is still an awful band name though

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 Boomer Doomer 09 May 2021
In reply to john arran:

> What makes you think that science and logic could not explain the appreciation of art or the love of climbing?

I don't think that and it might enhance our appreciation. I just have my doubts. For instance, I find Sam Harris' view of reality to be an utterly ghastly concept... not that I'm saying he isn't correct. I think there is something that is quite pleasurable in contemplating and wondering at that which is personally unfathomable. I find it inspiring and I just don't need to know all the answers, it's a childlike wonder that I'm quite happy not to dispel and I feel it makes my life better.

I think we do have a different concept of spirituality and I believe the woolliness inherent in the term is a necessity. I don't want to be like Spock or Sam Harris.

Post edited at 13:28
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In reply to john arran:

Since so many accounts of spiritual and religious experience insist that its essence cannot be communicated in mere words, it's hardly surprising that it seems so poorly defined and capable of meaning such significantly different things to different people. I am of course aware that those who claim to have had such experiences will nevertheless devote countless words to something that is supposedly beyond language. I do think that most such accounts have in common an element of transcendence - a sensation that the experience goes beyond the normal, whether beyond normal sensory experience in terms of its (some would say hallucinatory/psychotic) intensity, or beyond material reality to some god or mystic intuition.

I certainly find the word useful in relation to particular writers like W H Murray who in their descriptions of (often post-climb) experiences of the wild and remote suggest an intuition of something greater (ie God) beyond this sensory world.

I find it less useful when applied to taking a nice candlelit bath while Popular Classics for Mindful Moods plays quietly in the background.

 john arran 09 May 2021
In reply to Boomer Doomer:

>  I think there is something that is quite pleasurable in contemplating and wondering at that which is personally unfathomable. I find it inspiring and I just don't need to know all the answers, it's a childlike wonder that I'm quite happy not to dispel and I feel it makes my life better.

I see nothing to object to there. What I would add though, is that I wouldn't see the experience to be in any way diminished were I to know "the answers", or to be aware that the answers were knowable or known to specialists in whatever relevant field.

A rainbow is no less enchanting once the science behind it is known.

 Boomer Doomer 09 May 2021
In reply to john arran:

Agreed. Andy Clarke above (who incidentally recommended Wordsworth to me) has better encapsulated what I was trying to convey, I suppose the term "transcendence" is a key term here.

I do like candlelit baths though, but not so much "Popular Classics for Mindful Moods"! Chopin is alright I suppose. 😉

And to be clear... I find a lot of the so-called "new-age" spirituality... comical.

 Timmd 09 May 2021
In reply to john arran:

I asked a relative recently (confirmed atheist) 'How do they know that something is spiritual?', and they replied 'Because it makes them happier'.

Maybe it is kinda woolly, but it seemed like a nice enough reason to not be too sceptical of those who use it. It puts me in mind of a quote I read, about humans not always seeking 'happiness', but 'rapture' -  along the lines of what they're doing being entirely aligned with their desire at that point in time.

Which seems to fairly closely fit with fleeting moments of being in the outdoors, which is as close as I can find to something spiritual (as an ex Catholic), in a none human relationships context.

I saw a programme, where some primates gazed up into the sky in a wondering and blissful way when it rained, which it was pondered might be the closest thing they had to a spiritual or religious experience.

It's a different journey for everybody, some people find helping others to be a spiritual experience (probably related to the sense of reward connected to that).

Post edited at 17:52
 Boomer Doomer 09 May 2021
In reply to Timmd:

> I asked a relative recently (confirmed atheist) 'How do they know that something is spiritual?', and they replied 'Because it makes them happier'.

Right... I'm off to consume copious amounts of chocolate in the hope of finding God.

 Timmd 09 May 2021
In reply to Boomer Doomer:

Ha, seems to relate to being a part of something bigger than oneself too, sometimes.

The Incas or the Aztecs had cocoa as a part of their rituals, I think they were onto something.

 Mick Ward 09 May 2021
In reply to john arran:

I think the essence of spirituality is a feeling (a feeling, not necessarily a belief) that we are part of something in some sense greater than our physical and social worlds. This may well be no more than a yearning or utter self-delusion. But some people undoubtedly feel it - whether they wish to feel it or not.

The classic mystical experience is of oneness - of everything being one and of the person being part of that oneness. Again it's a feeling. It's not a belief. Again it may be utter self-delusion. But some people feel it - a sense of coming home to something which always was and always will be.

Mick

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 waitout 09 May 2021
In reply to Boomer Doomer:

> You should read some Plotinus (or as someone here recommended to me, some Wordsworth).

Yes to Plotinus but I'll pass on Wordsworth, having tried and finding his use use of emotion for input unpalatable.

It is quite possible to feel an intangible rapture from things that are epistemic... like gazing at a star filled sky or feeling the wind on your face or watching a bird soar on the wing. The concept of spirituality is necessarily woolly because it brackets things that are not necessarily epistemic, but things that are experienced through the emotions. Sure, you could go all Sam Harris and say emotion is just the result of chemical balance in the brain, but do you want to live in a world that is purely defined by "logic and evidence"? 

Yes I personally do. I find the thrill of seeing that the phenomenon of the universe runs along discernable ways, albeit often discernable only with very complex or reality-bending paradigms, to be more livable than ascribing to myth. The Sam Harris version that replaces electro-chemical activity for angels & prana I think is no less beautiful, satisfying & enlightening, in fact more so as it pushes the line of what's knowable further out to then jump into the unknown.

It's the unknown that is the attraction, and if one can simply fill it in with cherry picked voodoo and incense where's the beauty in that?

Where does that leave certain social justice causes? Do you think life would be better if it were strictly defined by logic? I don't. What place does art have in such a world... or love... or indeed climbing?

Doesn't really change any of those things, only the explanation for them, the feelings still exist and the ethics I think can be found to be based in biology. 'Logic' is just as bizarre and deep as myth or spirituality is, without the need to resort to suspending inquiry. Nor does it exclude it - as spirituality and religion don't reciprocate - one can still appreciate fairy tales and creation myths without giving away logic. Personally I have a huge interest in such things, particularly stuff involving the use of psychedelic compounds - about as wooly as it gets - but find the explanations provided by the sciences to be more than enough to satisfy my brain.

> Now flakey new age cultism or religion or anything dogmatic is a totally different matter. Don't make science dogmatic or akin to a religion or cult, things must always be questioned, as the science is never settled.

Yes completely. Science not being settled not meaning it's proven after all that either Yoga or yoga is responsible, but that what logic and evidence we thought we had, had even more beyond it, yet again showing the limits of belief. If that's not the thrill of existence I don't know what is.

Post edited at 20:21
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 profitofdoom 09 May 2021
In reply to Timmd:

> I asked a relative recently (confirmed atheist) 'How do they know that something is spiritual?', and they replied 'Because it makes them happier'. > Maybe it is kinda woolly............

That is kind of woolly

Especially since "spirit" and "spiritual" just mean connected to emotions, feelings, mood, and attitudes: not connected to the material / the physical

Buttered crumpets make me happy. That is not spiritual IMO

Thanks anyway, let's keep talking, interesting subject

 john arran 09 May 2021
In reply to Timmd:

> I asked a relative recently (confirmed atheist) 'How do they know that something is spiritual?', and they replied 'Because it makes them happier'.

That's actually pretty close to a key element in the definition of God in many religions, i.e. if a thing is good then it's God's work or it's evidence of God. Since Satan fell out of fashion there's been a bit of a vacuum in explanations for all of the evil, or just plain dull, in the world; God really does need an arch rival superpower to make for a compelling narrative.

Curiously also, if your axiom is that making happy = spiritual (which means inexplicable), then 'Ignorance is Bliss' follows pretty much directly. Not a great outcome by my reckoning. 

 Timmd 09 May 2021
In reply to john arran:

It strikes me that we can all take differing logical leaps, even when starting from the same place.

Post edited at 21:41
 Timmd 09 May 2021
In reply to profitofdoom:

> That is kind of woolly

> Especially since "spirit" and "spiritual" just mean connected to emotions, feelings, mood, and attitudes: not connected to the material / the physical

> Buttered crumpets make me happy. That is not spiritual IMO

> Thanks anyway, let's keep talking, interesting subject

I'm thinking that buttered crumpets, in containing the right proportions of fats and carbs and sugars, trigger hard wired reward pathways in your brain. 

I've often thought that people get caught up in drugs or adrenaline sports, or activities which wholly absorb them, because that's the closest experience to what childhood is (when one is lucky), which is living in the moment and 'without thought' (with 'without thought' including not pondering the preoccupations and complexities of adulthood - such is the joy childhood). 

The Buddhist approach to enlightenment (if such a thing exist) seems to talk about detachment from one's thoughts too (as well as detachment from desire). I'm leaning towards 'the closest adulthood approximation of a childhood freedom of burden', or something close, as what people mean by 'spiritual', but it's always going to be woolly, with it being particular to the individual. 

That it's a woolly term, possibly doesn't mean that it isn't valid for the individual who is using it.

Post edited at 21:58
 Stichtplate 09 May 2021
In reply to Timmd:

> It strikes me that we can all take differing logical leaps, even when starting from the same place.

There's not much logic to be gleaned from a subject as utterly nebulous (vacuous?) as spirituality. Dependent on who you talk to it can encompass anything from stroking a fluffy bunny rabbit to whipping yourself to ecstasy with a rusty length of barbed wired.

When a concept becomes entirely detached from the objective and the observable it is reduced to the purely subjective individual experience. Shorn of all objectivity you're left with a wholly subjective playground perfect for the likes of Russell Brand to pontificate themselves right up their own fundament, as amply demonstrated in the link up thread.

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 profitofdoom 09 May 2021
In reply to Timmd:

> That it's a woolly term, possibly doesn't mean that it isn't valid for the individual who is using it.

I agree with that, true IMO

 Timmd 10 May 2021
In reply to Stichtplate:

Hello there Stichtplate, Russel Brand is most definitely a pain in the bum. 

Post edited at 07:07
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 Timmd 10 May 2021
In reply to Stichtplate:

You remind me of a comedian talking about disliking Russel Brand because of having a daughter, and worrying that one day she might bring somebody like him home for dinner, with him talking about 'This engagingly mellifluous sound, which assailed my auditory senses;'

Post edited at 09:35
 Stichtplate 10 May 2021
In reply to Timmd:

> You remind me of a comedian talking about disliking Russel Brand because of having a daughter, and worrying that one day she might bring somebody like him home for dinner, with him talking about 'This engagingly mellifluous sound, which assailed my auditory senses;'

HaHa...completely the wrong way around mate. The Russel Brand-a-likes of this World should be worrying about being brought home to meet a spikey, cynical old git like me. 

 elsewhere 10 May 2021
In reply to freeflyer:

We are but hairless chimps!

'Mysterious Chimpanzee Behavior May Be Evidence of "Sacred" Rituals'

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/mysterious-chimpanzee-behavior-may-be-evidence-of-sacred-rituals/

I always think the idea of evidence for the supernatural is daft for theists and atheists alike.

If a theist claims evidence that is daft because so far there is nothing observable in the natural world that says the supernatural exists.

It an atheist decries the lack of evidence in the natural world that is daft because if the supernatural exists it is "super" (outside) the natural world.

Post edited at 11:16
 Stichtplate 10 May 2021
In reply to elsewhere:

> It an atheist decries the lack of evidence in the natural world that is daft because if the supernatural exists it is "super" (outside) the natural world.

No, not really. Most major religions rely on miracles to support their veracity. The Catholic Church even has a panel dedicated to evidencing miracles.

Yes, it's daft. Yes, they believe this stuff is happening in the natural World.

 magma 10 May 2021
 Crewey-Rob 10 May 2021
In reply to Stichtplate:

Re: Mr Brand... Everything is so mind blowing that there's really no need to make up fairy-stories, I agree. Crusty men in leather trousers can get overly excited about casting their chromosomes into infinity and yes and that is tiresome but it shouldn't stop you or I from marvelling at whatever we like.

Some will highjack 'spirituality' to get their ends away or to extort money but that doesn't mean there is anything inherently nefarious about spirituality in itself.

Don't let them steal your peace of mind!

 Stichtplate 10 May 2021
In reply to magma:

> grief is on the spirituality spectrum?

No, it's an emotional response, like boredom. Is boredom on the spirituality spectrum?

 yorkshireman 10 May 2021
In reply to freeflyer:

> I don't think that other animals do much similar although we do plenty that they do. Elephants apparently visit the bones of their dead relatives.

A lot of what we attribute to animal behaviour might not be what we think it is though. I always subscribed to the theory that elephants go to the 'graveyard' to die. However out in the African bush a couple of years back a conservation guide told me that basically the bones all tend to congregate around areas of certain vegetation. As elephants get old, their teeth grind down and they're only capable of eating softer plants so migrate towards these when they're in a state more likely to die.

Haven't looked this up or tried to confirm it mind.

> Horses on the other hand are quite interesting, once their stable mate dies in the field, they ignore it; there doesn't seem to be any grieving as such.

Long story but we ended up adopting a donkey (as in, it rocked up in a van to our house, not ordering a certificate online and getting sent photos kind of thing). We learned they get very lonely and need a companion so we got a small horse to go with it.

The horse is 25 and has already had a couple of brushes with carking it and everyone has told us that when she does die, we need to leave the donkey with her body for long enough that she accepts that she's died - apparently they go through quite a grieving process.

I've certainly learned there's a connection between equines and humans that's at least as strong as it is with dogs and you can see they do have some significant level of intelligence. Obviously not spirituality though.

 magma 10 May 2021
In reply to Stichtplate:

> No, it's an emotional response, like boredom. Is boredom on the spirituality spectrum?

emotional responses include grief and spirituality..are you on the spectrum?

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 Stichtplate 10 May 2021
In reply to magma:

> emotional responses include grief and spirituality..are you on the spectrum?

Spirituality is an emotion now is it?.... are you able to access a dictionary?

 magma 10 May 2021
In reply to Stichtplate:

it's a lot of things..

what is mindfulness?

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 Stichtplate 10 May 2021
In reply to magma:

> it's a lot of things..

It's a catch all useful to charlatans and people with too much time and too little purpose.

> what is mindfulness?

You're still having trouble accessing a dictionary then.

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 elsewhere 10 May 2021
In reply to Stichtplate:

It's daft for an atheist to say "show me the evidence" to a religious person (or atheist) who replies "don't be daft, the supernatural does not show up in the natural world, there is no proof". 

It's daft for the Vatican say "here is the evidence" to a religious person (or atheist) who replies "don't be daft, the supernatural does not show up in the natural world, there is no proof". 

> Yes, it's daft. Yes, they believe this stuff is happening in the natural World.

T​​​​hey don't really. Some people believe that but I don't think most do. Faith in the supernatural is more common than belief there is evidence in the natural world.

Although I did know somebody (now a born again pastor, very much not what I would have expected when I knew him) who wanted a mutual friend (now in charge of an international lab) to scientifically prove that god exists. People are strange.

Post edited at 17:23
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 freeflyer 10 May 2021
In reply to yorkshireman:

>  we need to leave the donkey with her body for long enough that she accepts that she's died - apparently they go through quite a grieving process.

I'm no expert so I'll have to ask the owner of the horse I was thinking of (now long gone) whose field companion died. I totally agree with your horse / dog parallel; her current fairly young highland is always trying it on and has a pretty good idea of what she can get away with.

I'm sure some of the horsey types would be more than happy to say they had a spiritual relationship with their animals. If you've ever watched Monty Roberts or Kelly Marks working, you'll know what I mean.

If I was a softie I'd ask for a picture of the donkey and friend

 Stichtplate 10 May 2021
In reply to elsewhere:

> It's daft for an atheist to say "show me the evidence" to a religious person (or atheist) who replies "don't be daft, the supernatural does not show up in the natural world, there is no proof". 

It's not daft for an atheist to demand evidence to support privileges granted because of supernatural beliefs (tax breaks and seats in the House of Lords for instance). 

> It's daft for the Vatican say "here is the evidence" to a religious person (or atheist) who replies "don't be daft, the supernatural does not show up in the natural world, there is no proof". 

Yep...but that's exactly what the Vatican does and their scam has been delivering cash, kudos and power for two thousand years.

> T​​​​hey don't really. Some people believe that but I don't think most do. Faith in the supernatural is more common than belief there is evidence in the natural world.

Some believe, some don't. An awful lot pay lip service for a variety of crap reasons.

> Although I did know somebody (now a born again pastor, very much not what I would have expected when I knew him) who wanted a mutual friend (now in charge of an international lab) to scientifically prove that god exists. People are strange.

People are strange and I find the religious stranger than most.

My Father-in-Law died on Friday. A good man and a stalwart of the church in the tiny village he'd lived in for 45 years. He'd been church warden, wound the clock, helped maintain the building and grounds and been heavily involved in the fundraising that kept the whole show on the road. His was a slow and terrifying death as his lungs slowly packed up and even high volume home oxygen, 24/7, couldn't raise his sats much above half what they should've been.

In the final months there was no sign of the Vicar. No support, spiritual or otherwise, from the institution he'd supported his whole life. What comfort he got came solely from his devoted family (including our loopy dog), dedicated clinicians (the GP and district nurse were absolutely stellar, well above and beyond what their duty demands) and the modern pharmaceutical wonders of morphine sulphate and midazolam.

God was notable by his total fecking absence.

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 john arran 10 May 2021
In reply to elsewhere:

> Faith in the supernatural is more common than belief there is evidence in the natural world.

What would cause someone to be convinced of the existence of a supernatural 'presence' that has no effect whatsoever on their lives or on the world around them? Why would you believe in a supernatural talisman that didn't change your luck, or a ghost that never showed itself to anyone? If it had any effect at all, even the slightest interaction (which presumably is why they believe in something supernatural in the first place) it would be potentially measurable, even if such evidence may be limited to personal mood or behavioural characteristics.

Such a person clearly couldn't have thought it through.

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 Morty 10 May 2021
In reply to Mick Ward:

> I think the essence of spirituality is a feeling (a feeling, not necessarily a belief) that we are part of something in some sense greater than our physical and social worlds. This may well be no more than a yearning or utter self-delusion. But some people undoubtedly feel it - whether they wish to feel it or not.

> The classic mystical experience is of oneness - of everything being one and of the person being part of that oneness. Again it's a feeling. It's not a belief. Again it may be utter self-delusion. But some people feel it - a sense of coming home to something which always was and always will be.

I was going to have a go at answering this but then I read your post - you sum it up beautifully. 

 freeflyer 10 May 2021
In reply to Timmd:

> I'm leaning towards 'the closest adulthood approximation of a childhood freedom of burden', or something close, as what people mean by 'spiritual', but it's always going to be woolly, with it being particular to the individual. 

> That it's a woolly term, possibly doesn't mean that it isn't valid for the individual who is using it.

I like your description of 'a childhood freedom of burden'.  The Zen teacher Bankei kept everything very simple, unlike some of his more inscrutable contemporaries, and spoke a lot about casting off all aspirations, doubts and fears, etc, and returning to what he called "the Unborn", which is pretty much what you are describing.

I like to talk about a 'spiritual path' as that brings the focus around to what is it actually for, rather than profitless demands for evidence and so on. A spiritual path represents a search for whatever it is that you are searching for and can't articulate; there are as many paths as there are people.

Some people claim of course that they are not searching for anything. Perhaps that is so.

 elsewhere 10 May 2021
In reply to john arran:

> What would cause someone to be convinced of the existence of a supernatural 'presence' that has no effect whatsoever on their lives or on the world around them? Why would you believe in a supernatural talisman that didn't change your luck, or a ghost that never showed itself to anyone? If it had any effect at all, even the slightest interaction (which presumably is why they believe in something supernatural in the first place) it would be potentially measurable, even if such evidence may be limited to personal mood or behavioural characteristics.

There's absolutely no requirement for anybody to share your logic or place the same value on logic. It makes more sense to accept people think differently.

> Such a person clearly couldn't have thought it through.

So what? There's absolutely no requirement for anybody think in a particular way.

Post edited at 18:26
 elsewhere 10 May 2021
In reply to Stichtplate:

Please accept my condolences.

 MonkeyPuzzle 10 May 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

> I spent too many years avoiding the band 'Spiritualized' simply because of their name! Then I listened properly and was able to get past it. It is still an awful band name though

Their original name More Heroin For Jason Please seemed to keep the record companies away though.

 john arran 10 May 2021
In reply to elsewhere:

> There's absolutely no requirement for anybody to share your logic or place the same value on logic. It makes more sense to accept people think differently.

> So what? There's absolutely no requirement for anybody think in a particular way.

You're right, of course. More generally, there's no requirement for anyone to think at all.

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 elsewhere 10 May 2021
In reply to john arran:

> What would cause someone to be convinced of the existence of a supernatural 'presence' that has no effect whatsoever on their lives or on the world around them?

Obvious potential effect on life would be companionship, community and psychological comfort which are real and tangible benefits regardless of whether or not god exists.

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/religion-happy-atheism-psychology-faith-belief-emotion-mental-health-christianity-a8766376.html

> Why would you believe in a supernatural talisman that didn't change your luck, or a ghost that never showed itself to anyone? If it had any effect at all, even the slightest interaction (which presumably is why they believe in something supernatural in the first place) it would be potentially measurable, even if such evidence may be limited to personal mood or behavioural characteristics.

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/bering-in-mind/gods-little-rabbits-religious-people-out-reproduce-secular-ones-by-a-landslide/

A real and tangible effects backed by evidence that exist regardless of whether or not god exists.

https://bigthink.com/culture-religion/religion-parenting-fertility

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2723861/ 

> Such a person clearly couldn't have thought it through.

If they're happier and more successful in Darwinian terms then their thought process appear to produce superior outcomes.

Post edited at 19:31
 john arran 10 May 2021
In reply to elsewhere:

"even if such evidence may be limited to personal mood or behavioural characteristics"

 wbo2 10 May 2021
In reply to elsewhere:

> Obvious potential effect on life would be companionship, community and psychological comfort which are real and tangible benefits regardless of whether or not god exists.

I struggle to accept that reliance on what is effectively a psychological safety blanket is a good thing. It seems to me to be a reliance, a drawing of comfort, that there is something bigger than what we can observe, and that there is a plan, a greater meaning.

One thing that I think the spiritual, religious should be aware of is that I can look at the stars, the beauty of nature, have an understanding of the magnifience of our universe, and still have a great feeling of joy without this need to assign a great deeper meaning.

I have evangelical neighbours, I suspect they are skewing the numbers for the whole population of 'religious '

 yorkshireman 11 May 2021
In reply to freeflyer:

> I'm sure some of the horsey types would be more than happy to say they had a spiritual relationship with their animals. If you've ever watched Monty Roberts or Kelly Marks working, you'll know what I mean.

I guess it's down to the label. We did some work with a local trainer with the horse (well actually she's what the French call à double pony) and a lot of the emphasis on controlling them (eg on a rope in a round pen, but also riding) is as much about your own behaviour as it is the commands. They're pretty receptive to your emotions so to get the horse to slow down you're advise to try to be calm yourself, to slow your breathing and relax your body language and its quite amazing to see them react to such subtle changes like that without any actual commands. 

I guess it's easy to see how people could call that a spiritual connection. 

> If I was a softie I'd ask for a picture of the donkey and friend

Happy to oblige. We used to keep them in a field of ours but we've since moved to somewhere with less graze able land so they're both in stables down the road. I don't miss breaking the ice from their water in the mornings, mucking out or collecting them from down the road at 3am when the pony decides she wants to escape and go and see the boys in a paddock further down the valley (and the donk would invariably follow as she panics when the pony is out of sight). 

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bg-pEYiApGE/?igshid=151hdedv87gix

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bt_SFFDAmdP/?igshid=xbdnxzq90zgo

 freeflyer 11 May 2021
In reply to john arran:

> What would cause someone to be convinced of the existence of a supernatural 'presence' that has no effect whatsoever on their lives or on the world around them? Why would you believe in a supernatural talisman that didn't change your luck, or a ghost that never showed itself to anyone? If it had any effect at all, even the slightest interaction (which presumably is why they believe in something supernatural in the first place) it would be potentially measurable, even if such evidence may be limited to personal mood or behavioural characteristics.

> Such a person clearly couldn't have thought it through.

I have no factual answers to your questions, but perhaps some ideas and pointers as to why people might want to believe in these things.

My favourite teacher is a lady who runs a Zen monastery in California, along pretty strict lines for the residents, but who also provides spiritual guidance for the affluent California community in the San Francisco Bay area. In the introduction to her first book she wrote this:

"When I began guiding people along a path of spiritual growth, I realized that much of my role was to be an external representative of the unconditional love and acceptance they were seeking to find in themselves. I also realized early on that they didn't know what they were seeking or that I was playing that role .... [Some] grew to see that no-one could give them what they were seeking because it was already theirs, already within them. They found that the work was to realize it for themselves."

People want to believe in things that give them comfort, hope and reassurance. It's not a question of fact, more one of emotional need.

 john arran 11 May 2021
In reply to freeflyer:

> People want to believe in things that give them comfort, hope and reassurance. It's not a question of fact, more one of emotional need.

And I would argue that such people are (unwittingly in many cases, I'm sure) acting selfishly. They may well derive "comfort, hope and reassurance" from a belief in fairies, horoscopes or whatever fantasy is currently fashionable, but at the same time this reduces the take-up or effectiveness of real-world policies and interventions that are based on observable reality. E.g. no point in getting vaccinated if you have a long lifeline.

Sure, not everyone with irrational beliefs will act upon then in a way that is damaging to society, and often the effects will be very subtle, but it's rarely admitted that there is a downside to mass delusion to be balanced against commonly touted personal 'benefits'.

3
 elsewhere 11 May 2021
In reply to john arran:

Rationality is the product of a squishy bag of wet chemistry that is a human brain.

If you place value on god, you (a squishy bag of wet chemistry) can come up with one set of rational and logical beliefs.

If you place value on observable evidence, you (a squishy bag of wet chemistry) can come up another set of rational and logical beliefs.

Logic seems to be mostly predetermined by what a squishy bag of wet chemistry places value on. Hence I see logic as massively over-rated compared to importance of wet chemistry.

I (a squishy bag of wet chemistry) see no reason to believe what I place value on (observable evidence) is determined by logic rather than my squishy bag of wet chemistry.

If religious squishy bags of wet chemistry are happier and an evolutionary success then the observable evidence that has value for my atheist squishy bag of wet chemistry suggests that religion is a logical and rational choice if happiness and reproduction are desirable.

Post edited at 11:06
3
 john arran 11 May 2021
In reply to elsewhere:

> religion is a logical and rational choice if happiness and reproduction are desirable.

I see little evidence to suggest that religion itself increases either happiness or reproduction. While it is true that in modern day society it is often religious groups that have higher rates of reproduction, I see no reason to assume there's a causal relationship predicated on the religion itself rather than other aspects of religious groups in society.

The rest of your message is rather too reminiscent of Trump's "choose your own facts" for my liking. Religion is only rational and logical, in anyone's squishy bag of wet chemistry, until it encounters a real-word contradiction, which is why many world religions have seen their god-shaped holes diminishing over the years as the the body of observable human knowledge has grown. Its set of rational and logical beliefs is either not complete, not unchanging or not compatible with observable reality.

1
 elsewhere 11 May 2021
In reply to john arran:

> The rest of your message is rather too reminiscent of Trump's "choose your own facts" for my liking.

Trump's "choose your own facts" is yet more real world evidence that logic, rationality and evidence are over-rated because they have so little relevance to real world events driven more by the illogic, irrationality and falsehoods of group think and group identity.

2
In reply to Mick Ward:

> I think the essence of spirituality is a feeling (a feeling, not necessarily a belief) that we are part of something in some sense greater than our physical and social worlds. This may well be no more than a yearning or utter self-delusion. But some people undoubtedly feel it - whether they wish to feel it or not.

> The classic mystical experience is of oneness - of everything being one and of the person being part of that oneness. Again it's a feeling. It's not a belief. Again it may be utter self-delusion. But some people feel it - a sense of coming home to something which always was and always will be.

> Mick

Yes, I think all religion is based on this spiritual experience you describe, an experience which is usually described as a revelation of the ultimate truth. There is no self, there is unity with the entire conscious universe. An encounter with the omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient God.

I haven't had this experience, I'm a Christian who always looks to further my knowledge of God/Jesus and when I started to understand the implications of the reports of this experience it was a revelation in my understanding of Jesus's teachings.

Post edited at 22:23
4
In reply to Timmd:

> It strikes me that we can all take differing logical leaps, even when starting from the same place.

Possibly more importantly, nobody starts from the same place as another so depending on your foundations applying the same steps logic may take  people in different directions.

Nobody thinks logically anyway. We have our beliefs (I mean about every aspect of the world, not just theology) and then we try to justify them if we need or want to do so. Some of us may be more willing to change our beliefs in the face of new knowledge and rational argument than others.

 freeflyer 12 May 2021
In reply to john arran:

> I would argue that such people are (unwittingly in many cases, I'm sure) acting selfishly. 

Ok, so let's assume that you have decided to do something about the selfish actors. You are standing in your lofty pulpit of rationality and have a number of arguments available to try to convince them of their folly:

You could tell them that their beliefs are irrational, and that instead they should educate themselves and go get vaccinated. Not much comfort and reassurance there: they are stupid, lazy and should do something they're scared of. Not going to work.

You could engage with their beliefs and tell them they will die and burn in hell unless they get vaccinated. There are few things more entertaining than a good hellfire sermon! Would probably work on some.

As above, but you could say God, Queenie and the government loves them, now be good and go get feckin vaccinated. A very popular approach.

 Rob Exile Ward 12 May 2021
In reply to cumbria mammoth:

'the entire conscious universe' Um, pardon? What is the difference between that and the entire universe?

FWIW I love the idea that we are who we are as a result of an almost infinite series of objective events that can be described (more or less) as physical phenomena. Evolving from single celled organisms - before that non cellular - before that replicating strands of chemicals - on a planet convulsed by atmospheric and volcanic change - created from some conglomeration of space debris- etc etc etc. All the way back to 'the singularity'.

And I particularly like the question about where did the singularity come from, or what was there before it occurred? Is there space for God there? - if so he's pretty remote. It's so improbable that the only justification for even bothering to think about it is, by any reasonable standard, we're actually here; we actually exist.

 john arran 12 May 2021
In reply to freeflyer:

I'm just glad I'm not charged with trying to convince people who seem to be more convinced by woo than by rational argument.

But I'm guessing that the best way, at least in some cases, may be to try to convince people that the government doesn't want them to get vaccinated! 😉

 Lankyman 12 May 2021
In reply to john arran:

> I'm just glad I'm not charged with trying to convince people who seem to be more convinced by woo than by rational argument.

> But I'm guessing that the best way, at least in some cases, may be to try to convince people that the government doesn't want them to get vaccinated! 😉

I've yet to come across a 'rational argument' for climbing. Or many human activities. Because it is there?

 john arran 12 May 2021
In reply to Lankyman:

You may be confusing rational argument with practical benefit. If something gives us pleasure, that itself may be part of a rational argument for doing it, though obviously it won't be the only factor.

 Lankyman 12 May 2021
In reply to john arran:

But that practical benefit can be achieved by many other ways (cheaper, easier, less scary?) other than climbing. Most people think climbing is irrational perhaps other than as an odd form of exercise.

1
 wercat 12 May 2021
In reply to john arran:

> But I'm guessing that the best way, at least in some cases, may be to try to convince people that the government doesn't want them to get vaccinated! 😉

well if so it's definitely working with me.  I'm desperately trying to book my second jab locally as it's due in a week (I've been trying for 8 weeks) but the booking website, NHS111, NHS119, local hospital vaccination team and GP have all failed to help.  I've emailed No 10, Cumbria NHSWatch all to no avail.  Just who or what is being vaccinated at the Mass Vaccination Centre in Penrith (operating for more than 6 weeks)? Our lizard overlords, aliens or is it just a way of someone getting money out of government friends?

Post edited at 11:42
In reply to john arran:

Spirituality, like so many other words has different meanings to different people (just like nationalism, socialism, feminism, religion etc). You might find you agree with some peoples definitions and not others.

I would describe spirituality as attempting to notice the barrage of ego driven thoughts in my head for what they are, and trying to see through them to the little things that make me happy in the moment. So basically trying to wake up and smell the flowers when millions of years of evolution keep telling me I need more, more, more!

 john arran 12 May 2021
In reply to Lankyman:

> But that practical benefit can be achieved by many other ways (cheaper, easier, less scary?) other than climbing. Most people think climbing is irrational perhaps other than as an odd form of exercise.

You've got it the wrong way round. I said that we don't need a practical benefit to form a rational argument, so any talk of practical benefits and how to justify them is completely missing the point.

In reply to john arran:

Go along to the photos gallery. There's any number of examples of climbers' responses to the reality they find themselves in. Landscape photos are of course, merely a record of some geomorphological and meteorological phenomena. On the other hand they are more than that, in several ways. It's a level of experience that is extra to the literal; the simply material. Perhaps spiritual. 

In reply to Rob Exile Ward:

> 'the entire conscious universe' Um, pardon? What is the difference between that and the entire universe?

It's not different. I'm just adding the idea that a conscious force sustains and permeates the entire universe, connecting all things.

> FWIW I love the idea that we are who we are as a result of an almost infinite series of objective events that can be described (more or less) as physical phenomena. Evolving from single celled organisms - before that non cellular - before that replicating strands of chemicals - on a planet convulsed by atmospheric and volcanic change - created from some conglomeration of space debris- etc etc etc. All the way back to 'the singularity'.

I'm also in awe of the majesty of creation and the wonders that are revealed by the scientific method.

> And I particularly like the question about where did the singularity come from, or what was there before it occurred? Is there space for God there? - if so he's pretty remote. It's so improbable that the only justification for even bothering to think about it is, by any reasonable standard, we're actually here; we actually exist.

He's not remote, he's everywhere. With each of us during our highest highs and through our darkest hours.

3

> I'm wondering why we as a society embrace such a woolly and poorly defined concept and use it so readily, somehow assuming that others will understand what we personally mean by it?

I’m not clear that ‘we’ (society) do embrace and assume as you describe. To which society do you refer?

Post edited at 23:30
 waitout 13 May 2021
In reply to Lankyman:

> I've yet to come across a 'rational argument' for climbing. Or many human activities. Because it is there?

Is there an irrational argument for climbing?

I've always found climbing to have quite mundane reasons for it, with anything remotely esoteric (never mind 'spiritual') being dismissed with rolled eyes.

 Stichtplate 13 May 2021
In reply to cumbria mammoth:

> He's not remote, he's everywhere. With each of us during our highest highs and through our darkest hours.

...and entirely non-interventionist, omnipotent yet impotent, without effect or agency.

If any of this supernatural overlord bunkum were even remotely true, what exactly is the point of this cosmic voyeur, floating around and doing bugger all?

3
 Lankyman 14 May 2021
In reply to Stichtplate:

> If any of this supernatural overlord bunkum were even remotely true, what exactly is the point of this cosmic voyeur, floating around and doing bugger all?

That, surely, is the first question of philosophy? Although I suspect the question might be phrased differently. Good luck with your search for meaning.

In reply to waitout:

> I've always found climbing to have quite mundane reasons for it, with anything remotely esoteric (never mind 'spiritual') being dismissed with rolled eyes.

I agree as far as punters in the pub go. However, there's plenty of the esoteric and spiritual to be found in some of the very best climbing writers, like W H Murray, Ed Drummond, Andrew Greig, Julian Lines or Johnny Dawes.

 Stichtplate 14 May 2021
In reply to Lankyman:

> That, surely, is the first question of philosophy? Although I suspect the question might be phrased differently. Good luck with your search for meaning.

No search for meaning going on at this end thanks. Try to live a useful and purposeful life and the meaning comes free.

1
 Rob Exile Ward 14 May 2021
In reply to Andy Clarke:

Never quite understood all that guff!

In reply to Rob Exile Ward:

> Never quite understood all that guff!

And this from a man who titles one of his (very fine) photos, Raison d'Etre? 

 john arran 14 May 2021
In reply to Andy Clarke:

> I agree as far as punters in the pub go. However, there's plenty of the esoteric and spiritual to be found in some of the very best climbing writers, like W H Murray, Ed Drummond, Andrew Greig, Julian Lines or Johnny Dawes.

Good writers, as with good artists of many kinds, and as with nature itself, may generate feelings of awe and of wonder, may raise questions and suggest possible answers, may generate the feeling of experiences inside your head, and may leave you in a changed emotional state. 

I'm still wondering why people use the word 'spiritual' for such experiences, a word that so often is associated with things not of this world.

In reply to john arran:

> Good writers, as with good artists of many kinds, and as with nature itself, may generate feelings of awe and of wonder, may raise questions and suggest possible answers, may generate the feeling of experiences inside your head, and may leave you in a changed emotional state. 

> I'm still wondering why people use the word 'spiritual' for such experiences, a word that so often is associated with things not of this world.

Here's a passage taken from Murray pretty much at random (ie by flicking through the endings of a couple of chapters). It's from The First Ascent of Clachaig Gully:

...the mountains of Ardgour rose in sharp outline, yet without substantiality. One looked not at them, but into them, as through the mouths of caverns filled with purple haze, and still one looked beyond... They delighted not by crude colour, breath-taking as that can be, but with atmospheric subtlety and noble shape. These were the mountains of true vision, not of this world, causing one to mourn his lost splendour during this life of exile, yet rejoicing him with promise of a return...

J1234 14 May 2021
In reply to john arran:

possibly listen to this https://slomo.buzzsprout.com/843595/8216519-dr-pim-van-lommel-a-life-changing-conversation-on-the-evidence-of-consciousness-beyond-death

Mo Gowdat is an engineer, like you, and he is a Hyper Achiever, and as you are a High Achiever, maybe you can relate.

He has come to Spirituality through the death of his Son Ali, and I because I have had Multiple Cardiac Arrests (also an out of body experience at Gogarth, where it was climb or die, I am sure you must have had these). 

Anyway, the audio is not great and Mo apologises for it, but it is worth listening to, if you truly want to understand why some people are Spiritual.

As Spirituality cannot be measured (yet) and engineers thrive on measurement and replication, we do not know and probably will never know if Animals are spiritual, well not until we die, but to quote Steve Jobs No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. So maybe it not in that much of a rush to find out if animals are spiritual.


Apologies if I have misunderstood you OP.

 john arran 14 May 2021
In reply to Andy Clarke:

I'm not seeing your point. A writer appealing to the common association between emotionally charged moments and out-of-this-worldness does not describe anything out-of-this-world. We've become so used to the (in my view unnecessary) association between emotions and other-worldness that it's only to be expected that writers will often use that association as part of their craft.

Maybe that sounds like it's dismissing Murray and many other excellent writers, but the intention couldn't be further from the truth. A writer will write in terms that resonate with a readership, and may do so powerfully and beautifully. In many cases I'm sure that both writer and readers believe there to be some spiritual element to emotionally powerful moments in the hills, but that doesn't in any way show it to be the case. The emotional power of the moment is there regardless of from which world you perceive it to have appeared.

In reply to john arran:

>  In many cases I'm sure that both writer and readers believe there to be some spiritual element to emotionally powerful moments in the hills, but that doesn't in any way show it to be the case.

I think you and Murray take diametrically opposed positions on this!

 john arran 14 May 2021
In reply to Andy Clarke:

> I think you and Murray take diametrically opposed positions on this!

That wouldn't surprise me at all.

What it boils down to is whether you think the perception of spirituality (in the sense of other-worldness) is of itself evidence for the existence of spirituality, because perception is really all we have to go on. I can see how some moments we experience are so powerful emotionally that we struggle to find any other explanation, and it must be very tempting, even heartening, to arrive at a spiritual conclusion. But in my view it is simply unnecessary and not having explanations in no way diminishes the experience. Nor, it must be said, the enjoyment of wonderful prose!

 cb294 15 May 2021
In reply to waitout:

Not getting drawn into that spirituality thing (spiritual = deluded), but birds sing at dawn because they can afford to do so.

Territorial and mate attracting behaviour is important, but survival is even more important. Most birds need to build up reserves to get through the night (roosters are at the heavy end for that, so possibly in this case it is just an evolutionary legacy), so during the day they are busy feeding. If they are finished early, they may join the dusk chorus. In the morning, when the weather looks as if there will be sufficient time for feeding, they will sing until they need to start feeding. Note how shit weather suppresses bird song, while even a few rays of sun in February get the songbirds going!

This very rough pattern of  is course modified by ecology (what other birds are around, what density is the own species,...), but for most species it is more or less correct.

CB

In reply to john arran:

The following quote will no doubt earn me a barrage of raspberries, but after all these years something in it still resonates:

“In our world," said Eustace, "a star is a huge ball of flaming gas."

"Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is, but only what it is made of.”

 C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

2
 freeflyer 16 May 2021
In reply to john arran:

I can't imagine how a thread on spirituality has got this far without a Terry Pratchett quote, so here is one, from the excellent TV movie of the Hogfather, where Terry discusses the human need for fantasy (an unsurprising endeavour) through his wonderful character Death:

THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET - AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME... SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.

 Rob Exile Ward 16 May 2021
In reply to Andy Clarke:

Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.) 

 aln 16 May 2021
 cb294 17 May 2021
In reply to Pete Pozman:

I do not know the book you are quoting from, but his is not even wrong. I am tired of people confusing the actual nature of things with our ideas and, even worse, our feelings about this nature.

This mixing of categories seems a deliberate ploy to pull wool over our eyes and blunt intellectual rigour. Intriguingly, this ploy is used both by religious "thinkers" and postmodern philosophers.

CB

2
 neilh 17 May 2021
In reply to cb294:

I assume you have heard of C.S Lewis? If not perhaps some research to understand why the quote is so good.

5
 wercat 17 May 2021
In reply to neilh:

although it isn't in the same league as The Magician's Nephew for cosmic imagination, dying worlds etc

 neilh 17 May 2021
In reply to wercat:

Visited the Pub where him and some unknown bloke called Tolkien sat and mused things over a pint.

 cb294 17 May 2021
In reply to neilh:

I certainly know of CS Lewis, but had not seen that quote. My immediate reflex though is avoid like the plague.

Christian apologetics and/or painting by numbers philosophy of the worst kind, regardless of whether the ideas are presented as literature (that Narnia dreck, the Screwtape Letters) or as academic lectures (Mere Christianity).

Substandard crap, intellectually not much better than the pamphlets various religious nutters hand out on street corners......

CB

5
In reply to cb294:

> I am tired of people confusing the actual nature of things with our ideas and, even worse, our feelings about this nature.

> This mixing of categories seems a deliberate ploy to pull wool over our eyes and blunt intellectual rigour. Intriguingly, this ploy is used both by religious "thinkers" and postmodern philosophers.

> CB

By ‘mixing of categories’, do you imply a impenetrable boundary between those who possess intellectual rigour and those with emotional intelligence, and by extension, a big ‘no entry’ sign on either side?

As an arty farty philosophical type myself but with more than a passing interest in science, I find it somewhat baffling that the trains of thought can be so profoundly polarised and suspicious of one another (though I’m with you on religion). Why don’t each have symbiosis and legitimacy within the whole of what the human brain is capable?

2
 wercat 17 May 2021
In reply to neilh:

that unknown bloke's grandson taught me Chaucer! And Sir Gaweyne

 cb294 17 May 2021
In reply to AllanMac:

No, I mean the ability and willingness (or lack thereof) to rigourously distinguish properties of a materialistic, physical real world from our thoughts, concepts, insights or feelings about these properties.

Some French postmodernists in all seriousness claimed that scientific facts are a social construct and were duly ridiculed for it outside their circles own (note that there cannot be any doubt that our scientific KNOWLEDGE certainly is formed as a social construct).

Religion and peddlers of religious woo like CSL continuously commit the same crime as a matter of course.

I find the idea that you cannot experience wonder or awe in the natural world if you do not come from a spiritual POV both idiotic and extremely condescending, similar to the insulting idea that you need belief in some deity to behave morally.

As for the example given above, the sun e.g. burns 5 million tons of hydrogen every second, and will continue do so for the next few billion years. I find that extremely "awesome" in the most literal sense, similar to considering the distances to the stars we see (or would see if we had less light pollution).

As a biologist I will probably both recognize and appreciate the diversity of insect life in my garden more than a layman, even if I know that some of the "cutest" hoverflies I see are extremely nasty brood parasites.

I just do not get the need for sprituality!

CB

3
 neilh 17 May 2021
In reply to cb294:

I would think Lewis and his drinking mate Tolkien would run you round the block. .........

5
 cb294 17 May 2021
In reply to neilh:

And don't get me started on Tolkien...

Bad enough that my son continuously tells me about LOTR... Like NArnia, religiously infested second hand mythology that is not even remotely entertaining or plausible as a fantasy world.

Here is all that is left to say about that abomination of a fantasy story:

youtube.com/watch?v=KBkooXZWPuU&

CB

4
 Stichtplate 17 May 2021
In reply to cb294:

> I just do not get the need for sprituality!

Spirituality/ religion:

at one and the same time, both the withered leg and the crutch that's propping it up.

4
 john arran 18 May 2021
In reply to neilh:

The only argument for the existence of any kind of spiritual realm I've ever come across essentially boils down to 'it's such a profound experience, it couldn't possibly be of this world', which in my view is just nonsense. I fail to see any reason why my sense of wonder and awe at any natural event or sensation is fundamentally different to those experienced by writers of great repute, and if I don't see the need to invoke hokum to be accepting of such sensations in our real world, I don't see how anyone else could justify declaring such hokum to be essential to the explanation.

It might have resonated with wishful thinking people for centuries and continue to do so, but does that make it real in any sense at all?

3
In reply to john arran:

> The only argument for the existence of any kind of spiritual realm I've ever come across essentially boils down to 'it's such a profound experience, it couldn't possibly be of this world', which in my view is just nonsense. I fail to see any reason why my sense of wonder and awe at any natural event or sensation is fundamentally different to those experienced by writers of great repute, and if I don't see the need to invoke hokum to be accepting of such sensations in our real world, I don't see how anyone else could justify declaring such hokum to be essential to the explanation.

I don't disagree about the non-existence of the supernatural, but I do think it's worth pointing out that some who claim such a "spiritual realm" exists do not do so on the basis that it's "a sense of wonder...at any natural event or sensation." They do so on the basis that they directly experienced something which doesn't exist in the material world - eg an interaction with some god or other, an acid trip minus the acid, a chat with dead relatives etc. This is very different to being enraptured by the beauty of the world. Good luck with convincing such people their experiences were illusory.

Post edited at 08:50
 john arran 18 May 2021
In reply to Andy Clarke:

How did they "directly experience something" without it having been a "sensation"?

I never for one minute suggested that anyone's experiences were illusory, just implied that experiences that have no apparent physical manifestation are indistinguishable from sensations.

1
In reply to john arran:

> How did they "directly experience something" without it having been a "sensation"?

> I never for one minute suggested that anyone's experiences were illusory, just implied that experiences that have no apparent physical manifestation are indistinguishable from sensations.

Would you not suggest that a sensation of hearing the voice of God was in some sense illusory?

 john arran 18 May 2021
In reply to Andy Clarke:

> Would you not suggest that a sensation of hearing the voice of God was in some sense illusory?

No, the sensation is not illusory at all. I would suggest that the interpretation of the sensation was without foundation.

1
 Stichtplate 18 May 2021
In reply to Andy Clarke:

> Would you not suggest that a sensation of hearing the voice of God was in some sense illusory?

Try using the "God told me to do it" defence in any court and you'll soon find how society the World over has already answered your question.

2
 Timmd 18 May 2021
In reply to Stichtplate:

> No search for meaning going on at this end thanks. Try to live a useful and purposeful life and the meaning comes free.

I think the 'emotion sense of being spiritual' probably comes down to a sense of rapture or transcendence, and feeling free of burden in a sense approaching that of childhood, and it's a winding path which perhaps all of us are following, around the complexities of adulthood.

I'd be surprised if the cynics about the term spiritual weren't seeking out those moments in life as well.

I can't get my head around gurus and people who call themselves spiritual, though, I end up thinking 'How do they know?'.

That may display a lack of imagination on my part.

Post edited at 11:03
 Stichtplate 18 May 2021
In reply to Timmd:

> I think the 'emotion sense of being spiritual' probably comes down to a sense of rapture or transcendence, and feeling free of burden in a sense approaching that of childhood, and it's a winding path which perhaps all of us are following, around the complexities of adulthood.

Otherwise known as Feeling Very Happy?

> I'd be surprised if the cynics about the term spiritual weren't seeking out those moments in life as well.

Of course, it's just the implied supernatural/other worldly aspect that I find hard to swallow.

> I can't get my head around gurus and people who call themselves spiritual, though, I end up thinking 'How do they know?'.

The difference between someone who likes to help others be happier and someone claiming to be a guru or spiritual leader tends to boil down to monetisation.

> That may display a lack of imagination on my part.

or a healthy level of scepticism 

 neilh 18 May 2021
In reply to john arran:

And in a way " so what".

Life would be very boring without a few people being "spiritual"and as they say " to err is to be human".

1
In reply to Andy Clarke:

> I don't disagree about the non-existence of the supernatural, but I do think it's worth pointing out that some who claim such a "spiritual realm" exists do not do so on the basis that it's "a sense of wonder...at any natural event or sensation." They do so on the basis that they directly experienced something which doesn't exist in the material world - eg an interaction with some god or other, an acid trip minus the acid, a chat with dead relatives etc. This is very different to being enraptured by the beauty of the world. Good luck with convincing such people their experiences were illusory.

Also, the most intriguing accounts to me are not describing a separate spiritual realm at all. The direct experience of a universal consciousness and the loss of self is described as an enlightenment about the true nature of our material world, it is our everyday experience of self and separateness that they describe as the illusion. 

This complete loss of self is sometimes described as the ego death and I think this makes sense of a number of the sayings of Jesus, e.g.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

2
 Stichtplate 18 May 2021
In reply to cumbria mammoth:

> Also, the most intriguing accounts to me are not describing a separate spiritual realm at all. The direct experience of a universal consciousness and the loss of self is described as an enlightenment about the true nature of our material world, it is our everyday experience of self and separateness that they describe as the illusion. 

Could you explain why you feel so compelled to lend credence to the belief that 999.9% of peoples actual lived experience is illusory and the 'spiritual realm' as the true reality? I find this mystifying considering you've not experienced any transcendental or other worldly states yourself. Do you feel your life's incomplete some how?

> This complete loss of self is sometimes described as the ego death and I think this makes sense of a number of the sayings of Jesus, e.g.

> “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

> “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Isn't it weird that none of these spiritual teachers can ever say what they mean in plain language and instead leave everything utterly vague and open to a multitude of interpretations? In real life I find the deliberately vague and evasive are usually talking bollocks. I doubt this is entirely coincidental.

2
 john arran 19 May 2021
In reply to Stichtplate:

> Could you explain why you feel so compelled to lend credence to the belief that 999.9% of peoples actual lived experience is illusory and the 'spiritual realm' as the true reality? I find this mystifying considering you've not experienced any transcendental or other worldly states yourself. Do you feel your life's incomplete some how?

I don't know why it's only just occurred to me, but this kind of 'it isn't me, it's the rest of the world that doesn't understand' thinking is highly similar to that of conspiracy theorists. Many humans seem to have a psychological attraction to such a stance.

Post edited at 07:04
3
 cb294 19 May 2021
In reply to john arran:

Religion generally is succesful fake news.

Just consider the story of Jesus' birth. There is no record of a census, and even if there were, no known census in any Roman colony involved people travelling back to the home town of their clan. That is pure, invented bullshit made up later so that the back story matches the prophesies about the messiah found in the Torah.

CB

3
 neilh 19 May 2021
In reply to cb294:

My wife studied both archaeology and religious studies. She would agree with your view. Most of the constructs and interpretations etc in the bible were in effect made up later.

but there is also evidence of people like  a disciple John travelling round the Middle East. 
 
she is not religious in any way., just finds the subject interesting. 
 

 mondite 19 May 2021
In reply to neilh:

> but there is also evidence of people like  a disciple John travelling round the Middle East. 

Then again that is true of many myths. Starts with a grain of truth but over time that gets buried away.

 neilh 19 May 2021
In reply to mondite:

He was just a traveller no more than that. What is interesting is how people migrated around at that time and transferred technology and ideas. 

 mondite 19 May 2021
In reply to neilh:

> He was just a traveller no more than that. What is interesting is how people migrated around at that time and transferred technology and ideas. 


I think one of the big changes in historical understanding is realising just how much people moved around over time. Genetics and istope analysis is giving a lot more insight.

Adrienne Mayor has some interesting books about myths vs history especially around how dinosaur bones could have led to some of the mythical creatures.

 neilh 19 May 2021
In reply to mondite:

Spot on. It was unreal.

In reply to Stichtplate:

> Could you explain why you feel so compelled to lend credence to the belief that 999.9% of peoples actual lived experience is illusory and the 'spiritual realm' as the true reality? I find this mystifying considering you've not experienced any transcendental or other worldly states yourself. Do you feel your life's incomplete some how?

I'll start with the one that you will immediately discount as a valid reason. I already believe in God so I'm interested to learn of anything that may give us an insight into the nature of God.

I've definitely had a strong feeling that everyday life is not quite real though, well before I started to look into these encounters with the "ultimate truth". Looking it up just now I see that the feeling has a name - derealization/disassociation (reading these descriptions my case is mild). So I've had experience of the question but not experience of the answer.

And, we learn from scientific research that our everyday experience is in fact an illusion. Our brains do create our perception of reality which is a brain generated model of the way the world works and is why illusions are possible (when something happens that the brain can't fit into the model).

> Isn't it weird that none of these spiritual teachers can ever say what they mean in plain language and instead leave everything utterly vague and open to a multitude of interpretations? In real life I find the deliberately vague and evasive are usually talking bollocks. I doubt this is entirely coincidental.

I agree with you about deliberately vague and evasive "teachers" but how do you describe something that happens to "you" in plain language when the very concept of "you" is not a valid descriptor?

Another point to make is that Jesus was evidently convincing and clear enough in his teaching to attract a significant following. His words and deeds are recorded by others and condensed into a few pages. Religion in the ancient world was not just a ritual undertaken once a week on a Sunday but was an important part of fabric of the everyday lives of ancient people. Ideas about religion would have been a major topic of discussion, especially in the cultural melting pot of the Eastern Roman Empire. The writers of the Gospels didn't need to school the MTV generation about the basic ideas in religious thought.

1
 wercat 19 May 2021
In reply to cumbria mammoth:

what we perceive with our senses is a painting of substance over a fabric of infinitesimal electric charges formed from vibrating energy born of the vacuum"

who knows or can know what is the reality bound up in the square of the velocity of a sunbeam?

Post edited at 22:32
 Stichtplate 19 May 2021
In reply to cumbria mammoth:

> I'll start with the one that you will immediately discount as a valid reason. I already believe in God so I'm interested to learn of anything that may give us an insight into the nature of God.

Cool. Which one? A quick Google shows there are anywhere between 1500 current deities and 28,000,000 historic ones. 

> I've definitely had a strong feeling that everyday life is not quite real though, well before I started to look into these encounters with the "ultimate truth". Looking it up just now I see that the feeling has a name - derealization/disassociation (reading these descriptions my case is mild). So I've had experience of the question but not experience of the answer.

Everyday life is quite real enough for me ta. I have no idea of your level of engagement with your fellow humans and the worlds they've created for themselves but if you put a little effort in I'd maintain you'll find them fabulously, extraordinarily and often quite terrifyingly real.

> And, we learn from scientific research that our everyday experience is in fact an illusion. Our brains do create our perception of reality which is a brain generated model of the way the world works and is why illusions are possible (when something happens that the brain can't fit into the model).

Yep our brains filter and present our surroundings to our consciousness, but it requires a fair degree of hair splitting and pedantry to argue that it's all illusory. I'll do you a favour and ignore all the multitude of ways science has quantified, calculated, modelled and verified our reality and just consider "reality" in terms of human experience:  Comfort the cyclist that's taken a 30mph header into the windshield of a stationary Ford Mondeo with the theory that their fractured clavicle is just a clever construct, even better (or actually much, much worse) tell a Mother that unfortunately her child is dead and there's nothing else we can do, but hey, it's not really real so get over it.

In the actual moment of crisis theories about the illusory nature of reality or religious belief itself are sod all use to anyone. Further down the line some people can convince themselves that its a comfort blanket worth grasping onto but then so's substance abuse.

> I agree with you about deliberately vague and evasive "teachers" but how do you describe something that happens to "you" in plain language when the very concept of "you" is not a valid descriptor?

Dunno? Language is for communication, if you've failed to adequately communicate your meaning don't blame the concept, blame the communicator.

> Another point to make is that Jesus was evidently convincing and clear enough in his teaching to attract a significant following. His words and deeds are recorded by others and condensed into a few pages. Religion in the ancient world was not just a ritual undertaken once a week on a Sunday but was an important part of fabric of the everyday lives of ancient people. Ideas about religion would have been a major topic of discussion, especially in the cultural melting pot of the Eastern Roman Empire. The writers of the Gospels didn't need to school the MTV generation about the basic ideas in religious thought.

History is full of convincing charlatans. Their success doesn't mean they weren't charlatans, it just means they were successful charlatans.

Post edited at 23:21
5
In reply to Stichtplate:

> Dunno? Language is for communication, if you've failed to adequately communicate your meaning don't blame the concept, blame the communicator.

Whilst I don’t think this points to anything religious, I do think you are over selling language a bit.

Reading someone’s autobiography is not the same as actually living their life, no matter how good a communicator they are. The experience of being human transcends language’s capacity to fully describe being human (or anything else). A description of colour to someone born blind, or pain to someone who’s never felt it, will always fall short of experiencing it yourself. That’s not the fault of the communicator.

I don’t think there is anything spiritual going on there either though, just that there are limitations to all the various systems of symbolic representation that we use to communicate.

J1234 20 May 2021
In reply to Stichtplate:

> Isn't it weird that none of these spiritual teachers can ever say what they mean in plain language and instead leave everything utterly vague and open to a multitude of interpretations? In real life I find the deliberately vague and evasive are usually talking bollocks. I doubt this is entirely coincidental.

You could replace "spiritual teachers" in that sentence with "economists". An awful lot of what we deal with in the world is just mass imagination. Money, Ltd Companies, Nation States etc. This book https://www.ynharari.com/book/sapiens-2/ gives an alternate view of the world, which I found interesting.

What always surprises me how upset some people seem to get about other people being Spiritual or religious, its almost a proselytising of Atheism. Some say that a lot of wicked things have been done in the name of religion, but one could say the same about money or oil or political ideologies, so I would say that some people are wicked are just looking for a justification for that wickedness.

Post edited at 08:59
4
 Stichtplate 20 May 2021
In reply to J1234:

> You could replace "spiritual teachers" in that sentence with "economists". An awful lot of what we deal with in the world is just mass imagination. Money, Ltd Companies, Nation States etc. This book https://www.ynharari.com/book/sapiens-2/ gives an alternate view of the world, which I found interesting.

> What always surprises me how upset some people seem to get about other people being Spiritual or religious, its almost a proselytising of Atheism. Some say that a lot of wicked things have been done in the name of religion, but one could say the same about money or oil or political ideologies, so I would say that some people are wicked are just looking for a justification for that wickedness.

All true (apart from the "upset" bit. I'm not at all upset) and all entirely irrelevant deflection from the OP under discussion. Nobody is arguing that self deception is confined to the spiritually minded. Nobody is arguing that charlatans are a purely religious phenomenon.

2
In reply to Stuart Williams:

> Reading someone’s autobiography is not the same as actually living their life, no matter how good a communicator they are. The experience of being human transcends language’s capacity to fully describe being human (or anything else). A description of colour to someone born blind, or pain to someone who’s never felt it, will always fall short of experiencing it yourself. That’s not the fault of the communicator.

I can't agree. I hold Heisenberg's poor grasp of English entirely to blame for my failure to master quantum mechanics.

In reply to J1234:

> What always surprises me how upset some people seem to get about other people being Spiritual or religious, its almost a proselytising of Atheism.

When the top guys enjoy being known as The Four Horsemen I guess it's a sign they're pretty cross.

J1234 20 May 2021
In reply to Stichtplate:

> All true (apart from the "upset" bit. I'm not at all upset) and all entirely irrelevant deflection from the OP under discussion. Nobody is arguing that self deception is confined to the spiritually minded. Nobody is arguing that charlatans are a purely religious phenomenon.

I said some people get upset, and the thread is a discussion, where the OP sought to understand, not an argument. If someone believes in Jesus or Socialism or whatever, there is no argument, its their belief, but it can be interesting discussing the issue with them to try and understand better.

1
 Stichtplate 20 May 2021
In reply to J1234:

> If someone believes in Jesus or Socialism or whatever, there is no argument, its their belief, but it can be interesting discussing the issue with them to try and understand better.

Are you having a laugh? If differing beliefs clash of course there's an argument to be had and since when were beliefs set in stone? I change my mind about stuff all the time, all it takes is new information or a persuasive argument with a solid foundation.

1
 wercat 20 May 2021
In reply to Stichtplate:

>  since when were beliefs set in stone?

can't believed you asked that ....

 Stichtplate 20 May 2021
In reply to wercat:

> >  since when were beliefs set in stone?

> can't believed you asked that ....

From Wiki:

"A belief is an attitude that something is the case, or that some proposition about the world is true. In epistemology, philosophers use the term "belief" to refer to attitudes about the world which can be either true or false."

You disagree with the definition? Reckon attitudes come with lifetime guarantees? Perhaps for some people, mainly the chronically incurious and close minded.

1
 wercat 20 May 2021
In reply to Stichtplate:

obvious, innit ...

set in stone since when?  since Moses came down the mountain

 Stichtplate 20 May 2021
In reply to wercat:

> obvious, innit ...

> set in stone since when?  since Moses came down the mountain

Those were commandments, supposedly the direct word of God. Beliefs are a totally different ball game.

2
In reply to Stichtplate:

> Cool. Which one? A quick Google shows there are anywhere between 1500 current deities and 28,000,000 historic ones. 

The one God.

> Everyday life is quite real enough for me ta. I have no idea of your level of engagement with your fellow humans and the worlds they've created for themselves but if you put a little effort in I'd maintain you'll find them fabulously, extraordinarily and often quite terrifyingly real.

The biggest illusion would seem to be the identification of ones self with a body, indeed the identification of a self at all would appear to be shaky ground.

> Yep our brains filter and present our surroundings to our consciousness, but it requires a fair degree of hair splitting and pedantry to argue that it's all illusory. I'll do you a favour and ignore all the multitude of ways science has quantified, calculated, modelled and verified our reality and just consider "reality" in terms of human experience:  

Science has verified a lot of surprising things about our reality. At the fundamental level nature doesn't operate in the way we experience it in our everyday lives.

> Comfort the cyclist that's taken a 30mph header into the windshield of a stationary Ford Mondeo with the theory that their fractured clavicle is just a clever construct, even better (or actually much, much worse) tell a Mother that unfortunately her child is dead and there's nothing else we can do, but hey, it's not really real so get over it.

Why would anyone want to pick that moment to discuss metaphysics, but if you did would presenting a purely materialistic view of reality provide any better comfort?

> In the actual moment of crisis theories about the illusory nature of reality or religious belief itself are sod all use to anyone. Further down the line some people can convince themselves that its a comfort blanket worth grasping onto but then so's substance abuse.

The actual moment of crisis is one of the main routes that lead people to discover the illusory nature of reality and why do you expect that it should be of use to anyone?

> Dunno? Language is for communication, if you've failed to adequately communicate your meaning don't blame the concept, blame the communicator.

Language has its limits.

> History is full of convincing charlatans. Their success doesn't mean they weren't charlatans, it just means they were successful charlatans.

You're switching the argument here, I said that Jesus was convincing to many in his time to make a case that he probably wasn't deliberately vague or evasive in his teaching.

10
 Sir Chasm 20 May 2021
In reply to cumbria mammoth:

> The one God.

Which one? Thor? Apollo? Atingkok? You need to be more specific. 

> The biggest illusion would seem to be the identification of ones self with a body, indeed the identification of a self at all would appear to be shaky ground.

Without a body there is no self. 

> Science has verified a lot of surprising things about our reality. At the fundamental level nature doesn't operate in the way we experience it in our everyday lives.

Your "we" is doing a lot of heavy lifting, I completely accept you have different beliefs, but they don't alter other people's reality. 

> Why would anyone want to pick that moment to discuss metaphysics, but if you did would presenting a purely materialistic view of reality provide any better comfort?

Better than "ah well, god's will"? Different for different people maybe. 

> The actual moment of crisis is one of the main routes that lead people to discover the illusory nature of reality and why do you expect that it should be of use to anyone?

The "illusory nature of reality"? Is all reality illusory? If gods are real are they also then illusory? 

> Language has its limits.

It does when you bastardise it. 

> You're switching the argument here, I said that Jesus was convincing to many in his time to make a case that he probably wasn't deliberately vague or evasive in his teaching.

You don't know there was a jesus and if there was then you don't know what he taught. Reality is an illusion, apparently. 

4
 cb294 21 May 2021
In reply to cumbria mammoth:

> The one God.

Self parody at its finest!

> The biggest illusion would seem to be the identification of ones self with a body, indeed the identification of a self at all would appear to be shaky ground.

Remove or inactivate the body, and see how much "self" is left!

> Science has verified a lot of surprising things about our reality. At the fundamental level nature doesn't operate in the way we experience it in our everyday lives.

That is a convenient misrepresentation. At the scales we can directly experience, nature very much operates EXACTLY as science predicts. If we leave these scales, nature operates in whatever way it operates at these scales. The question is how our macro experience emerges from this. Here, our experiences fail way before any quantum weirdness, e.g. we experience matter but not atoms, heat but not particle velocities.... I

t is really amazing how new agers and religionists jump at the unsolved problems at the cutting edge of science, in particular physics/cosmology and neuroscience, topics to which their approach to understand the world made no useful contribution at all ever since we crawled off our tree, and claim the open questions as support for their mumbo jumbo.

> Why would anyone want to pick that moment to discuss metaphysics, but if you did would presenting a purely materialistic view of reality provide any better comfort?

Absolutely, as it offers me a chance of proper insight rather than deluding myself. Life evolved as a means to carry the genetic information it is encoded by through time. The invention of sexual reproduction more than one billion years ago means that we are disposable somata, and sex will kill us in the end! Humans serve no ulterior purpose except those we set for ourselves. There is no universal mind or spirit we are part of, or universal plan or purpose we serve.

> The actual moment of crisis is one of the main routes that lead people to discover the illusory nature of reality and why do you expect that it should be of use to anyone?

Crisis is a great trigger for our brains to malfunction.

> Language has its limits.

Ha, here is one I actually agree with!

> You're switching the argument here, I said that Jesus was convincing to many in his time to make a case that he probably wasn't deliberately vague or evasive in his teaching.

So was Hitler! I win the internet for today....

CB

4
In reply to cb294: Sir Chasm:

I think that when you unravel disagreement between people a lot of it merely comes down to misunderstanding about the meaning of words because two people can use the same words but have different concepts in their heads.

I think I would do better to use the phrase "illusory nature of self" rather than "illusory nature of reality". That said, here is a collection of articles from scientifically minded people who don't seem to have a problem with the idea that "reality" may not correspond exactly with our everyday perception through our senses.

https://www.newscientist.com/round-up/reality/

My claim is not that our physical world does not exist. My claim is that the brain distorts our perception of the physical world we inhabit. The reason for this would be that our brains are geared into getting our physical bodies to perform the actions that are needed to keep them alive. This need to survive generates a sense of self but when people probe at their experiences they discover that there is no self. There is no separation between you and the external world, between here and there, between past, present and future. We possess nothing as all moments and all things are transient, even our bodies, our thoughts and our feelings. All moments, all events, all experience is interconnected. This is not a philosophical idea that people come to understand, this is a direct experience of unity that they feel and when they do it is pretty much always described as a revelation of the ultimate truth.

I don't expect that you will agree here but I understand this revelation to be an insight into the nature of the one omnipresent God. I believe that Jesus and his followers were fully aware of the illusory nature of self and that is why his teachings are full of concern for the humble rather than the powerful, they teach to turn the other cheek, to love your enemies. In all his teachings the right way is the way that goes against the ego.

The follower of these teachings lives selflessly and puts their own desires last and you are right this is no use to the self but it turns out that this knowledge does bring joy and why do you expect that the truth should be of use anyway?

2
 freeflyer 22 May 2021
In reply to cumbria mammoth:

Great post.

I have some sympathy for your idea of 'the illusory nature of self', which is straight out of the Zen textbook, and your following discussion of the relationship between our sense of personal identity and the outside world is excellent.

However I don't think you've made the connection between all that and the 'one omnipresent God' very clear. It seems easy for me to argue that it is just a fantasy - a lie if you like - which helps you to deal with something very big and very difficult to understand.

As for teachers, they are great, however they are subject to having their words reinterpreted by whoever, to mean whatever they want them to mean. I would not accept that another human being, no matter how wise, would have all the insights I need to help me live my life. I need to do that work for myself.

No arguments with the selfless / lack of desires / joy part though

ff

 Sir Chasm 22 May 2021
In reply to cumbria mammoth:

I completely agree that there's a misunderstanding, for instance when you say "My claim is that the brain distorts our perception of the physical world we inhabit", I don't know what you use to perceive the world if you don't use your brain. And when you say "We possess nothing as all moments and all things are transient, even our bodies, our thoughts and our feelings. All moments, all events, all experience is interconnected. This is not a philosophical idea that people come to understand, this is a direct experience of unity that they feel and when they do it is pretty much always described as a revelation of the ultimate truth." all I can do is laugh. Not only are you claiming there is an ultimate truth, but you're claiming that someone (you?) knows what it is, is it 42?

And we've" discussed" your omnipresent god before, until you can explain what your omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent god actually is I'm going to dismiss him/her/it with a cheery "I don't believe in pixies". 

3
 john arran 23 May 2021
In reply to Sir Chasm:

The problem is that people want to believe in fairies. Well, perhaps not fairies as such, wot live at the bottom of the garden, but something equivalent. People want to believe that a non-physical experience (idea, feeling, dream, revelation, enlightenment - choose your name for it), which occurs without any physical interaction with the world outside of our brain, is caused by something outside of our brain. So we invent or latch onto ideas such as connectedness, timelessness and other ill-defined concepts, by means of which we're able to hang our 'explanation' on a vaguely plausible-sounding hook.

And the reason such experiences cannot be explained simply by internal processes within our brain is usually ascribed to the sheer strength of the experience, which when reasoned logically doesn't make any sense at all, but when argued from an emotional point of view becomes a new axiom from which anything and everything may then follow.

Post edited at 07:16
2
 cb294 23 May 2021
In reply to john arran:

I would argue that people have EVOLVED in believing in fairies, or rather, in attributing agency to any event they perceive.

It clearly is safer to assume that a twig cracks because a bear tramples through the forest and you should better retreat to your cave than to assume that the twig broke just like that.

In the same vein, it quite reasonably appeared unlikely to our ancestors that a cloud  generated thunder and lightning or the sun rose "just like that", much better to invoke a thunder or sun god.

The point that I do not understand is why people do not recognize and accept this evolutionary trap and, given our scientific insight, decide to move on from obsolete concepts like gods, immortal souls, universal conscience,...

CB

3
 paul33 23 May 2021
In reply to john arran:

thanks for sharing this information

In reply to Sir Chasm:

> I completely agree that there's a misunderstanding, for instance when you say "My claim is that the brain distorts our perception of the physical world we inhabit", I don't know what you use to perceive the world if you don't use your brain. And when you say "We possess nothing as all moments and all things are transient, even our bodies, our thoughts and our feelings. All moments, all events, all experience is interconnected. This is not a philosophical idea that people come to understand, this is a direct experience of unity that they feel and when they do it is pretty much always described as a revelation of the ultimate truth." all I can do is laugh. Not only are you claiming there is an ultimate truth, but you're claiming that someone (you?) knows what it is, is it 42?

> And we've" discussed" your omnipresent god before, until you can explain what your omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent god actually is I'm going to dismiss him/her/it with a cheery "I don't believe in pixies". 

If you're not really interested and just want an opportunity to point score then feel free to carry on laughing at ideas that don't fit into your world view.

Here's an attempt to explain anyway.

God is the creator, the living boundless conscious force that sustains and comprehends everything that there is. God is present throughout the Universe so is a personal God present with each of us. Perhaps he is the universe or he contains the universe?

The experience of oneness that is attested by many is an awareness that the boundaries of your perceived individual identity have completely vanished and instead you are aware of a boundless conscious unity with everything that there is.

5
In reply to freeflyer:

> Great post.

> I have some sympathy for your idea of 'the illusory nature of self', which is straight out of the Zen textbook, and your following discussion of the relationship between our sense of personal identity and the outside world is excellent.

> However I don't think you've made the connection between all that and the 'one omnipresent God' very clear. It seems easy for me to argue that it is just a fantasy - a lie if you like - which helps you to deal with something very big and very difficult to understand.

> As for teachers, they are great, however they are subject to having their words reinterpreted by whoever, to mean whatever they want them to mean. I would not accept that another human being, no matter how wise, would have all the insights I need to help me live my life. I need to do that work for myself.

> No arguments with the selfless / lack of desires / joy part though

> ff

Thanks,

The Buddhist tradition doesn't label this experience of unity as an encounter with God but other traditions do see it as unity with the divine. Would this description of the experience ring true with you - a boundless conscious unity with everything that there is? As someone who associates with Buddhist thought you might not believe in God but you will be aware of the concept and so how would you define God?

It's not something you hear about a lot in Christianity but there is no doubt that the early Christians were practicing these ideas. I'm interested in the traditions of the early British Church which would seem to have had a more spiritual focus than the Roman church with many tales of hermits and monks.

One idea I wonder about is that the takeover of the old pagan religion by the new may not have been a particularly hostile takeover at all. The stone circles across Britain would seem to be cathedrals to the sun god and in those times there could be no doubt that the sun ruled and sustained all that was known. When the druids had this spiritual experience of unity they had misidentified God as the sun. To add the teachings of Jesus as a more complete knowledge of God to their pre-existing knowledge may not have been any more earth shattering than it was to people brought up in the Jewish tradition in the Near East.

4
 Stichtplate 26 May 2021
In reply to cumbria mammoth:

> Thanks,

> The Buddhist tradition doesn't label this experience of unity as an encounter with God but other traditions do see it as unity with the divine. Would this description of the experience ring true with you - a boundless conscious unity with everything that there is? As someone who associates with Buddhist thought you might not believe in God but you will be aware of the concept and so how would you define God?

You're describing a state experienced by only a tiny, tiny minority and the majority of those while under the effects of extreme stress or psychedelic drugs. Hardly a level of exclusivity you'd expect from an all loving, all encompassing, ubiquitous God.

> It's not something you hear about a lot in Christianity but there is no doubt that the early Christians were practicing these ideas. I'm interested in the traditions of the early British Church which would seem to have had a more spiritual focus than the Roman church with many tales of hermits and monks.

The experiences you describe were mostly associated with self isolation, starvation, sleep derivation, exposure to the elements or self flagellation. Hardly surprising these practices fell out of favour with the church, also hardly surprising that extreme physiological stressors result in curious psychological presentations.

> One idea I wonder about is that the takeover of the old pagan religion by the new may not have been a particularly hostile takeover at all. The stone circles across Britain would seem to be cathedrals to the sun god and in those times there could be no doubt that the sun ruled and sustained all that was known. When the druids had this spiritual experience of unity they had misidentified God as the sun. To add the teachings of Jesus as a more complete knowledge of God to their pre-existing knowledge may not have been any more earth shattering than it was to people brought up in the Jewish tradition in the Near East.

You seem to be saying that all religions are centred on the same deity, just with different interpretations of their form? I find it very odd that the religiously minded can find equivalency between Gentle Jesus Meek and Mild and the Old Testament God who was totally happy with rape, enslavement, child sacrifice and Genocide. Then there's the enormous gulf between the likes of the Quakers and the multitude of blood thirsty death cults. God may be all powerful and all knowing but his marketing department is shocking.

Alternately religion is bollocks and all the various extraordinary mental contortions required to lend it credence are just desperate grasping at straws.

Post edited at 10:18
2
 Stichtplate 26 May 2021
In reply to Stichtplate:

I do wish the dislikers would show some courage in their convictions and actually engage.

On the other hand, maybe you’re just massive fans of working in mysterious ways😂

4
In reply to cumbria mammoth:

> One idea I wonder about is that the takeover of the old pagan religion by the new may not have been a particularly hostile takeover at all. The stone circles across Britain would seem to be cathedrals to the sun god and in those times there could be no doubt that the sun ruled and sustained all that was known. When the druids had this spiritual experience of unity they had misidentified God as the sun. To add the teachings of Jesus as a more complete knowledge of God to their pre-existing knowledge may not have been any more earth shattering than it was to people brought up in the Jewish tradition in the Near East.

This is not strictly correct. The Stone Circles in Britain were equally 'cathedrals' to the moon goddess; indeed, before the Romans, the moon god reigned supreme in Celtic (and most 'primitive') religions. Robert Graves' 'The White Goddess' is very good on this, but there are many other important studies.

 Sir Chasm 26 May 2021
In reply to cumbria mammoth:

> If you're not really interested and just want an opportunity to point score then feel free to carry on laughing at ideas that don't fit into your world view.

> Here's an attempt to explain anyway.

> God is the creator, the living boundless conscious force that sustains and comprehends everything that there is. God is present throughout the Universe so is a personal God present with each of us. Perhaps he is the universe or he contains the universe?

I completely accept that's what you believe, if you believe in gods then gods exist for you personally, in your brain. I have no such belief so for me gods don't exist. 

> The experience of oneness that is attested by many is an awareness that the boundaries of your perceived individual identity have completely vanished and instead you are aware of a boundless conscious unity with everything that there is.

People make themselves feel good through a variety of methods, prayer, meditation, drugs etc. It doesn't mean they cease to have individual identities or have discovered some sort of mythical boundless conscious entity.

 Lankyman 26 May 2021
In reply to Stichtplate:

> I do wish the dislikers would show some courage in their convictions and actually engage.

> On the other hand, maybe you’re just massive fans of working in mysterious ways😂

I would engage in this discussion but your scorn and contempt of any alternative to your world view is extremely off-putting. I'm not particularly 'spiritual' or religious but neither am I a fundamentalist materialist feeling the need to ridicule and deride those who hold those views dearly. Whatever happened to live and let live?

3
 Stichtplate 26 May 2021
In reply to Lankyman:

> I would engage in this discussion but your scorn and contempt of any alternative to your world view is extremely off-putting. I'm not particularly 'spiritual' or religious but neither am I a fundamentalist materialist feeling the need to ridicule and deride those who hold those views dearly.

Scorn and contempt? Nope. Vigorous and reasoned argument.

Whatever happened to live and let live?

The OP set out a discussion on spirituality and brought up the question of evidence. If you can't bear to have your beliefs questioned perhaps you'd be better off just scrolling on past?

3
 Lankyman 26 May 2021
In reply to Stichtplate:

And there you go again. I will just bow out now because I can't be doing engaging with such implacable certainty. I envy you the clarity of your views.

5
 Stichtplate 26 May 2021
In reply to Lankyman:

> And there you go again.

Do I?

>I will just bow out now because I can't be doing engaging with such implacable certainty. I envy you the clarity of your views.

I certainly don't envy the clarity of your reading comprehension nor the readiness with which you ascribe others with feelings such as scorn and contempt.

4
 cb294 27 May 2021
In reply to Lankyman:

Scorn and contempt?

I thought the "mysterious ways" line was a rather funny comment!

Looking for scorn and contempt? That is more my department! It really is what I feel about people who deliberately close their eyes before actual evidence* and ways of dealing with new insights proved to work ever since the age of enlightenment.

With this I mean not only organized religion hell bent on carrying bronze age myths and, even worse, bronze age or, at best, early medieval rules and ethics into the digital age andforce them onto anybody else.

If they kept their ideas to themselves I could tolerate them like in earlier times everybody indulged the village idiot:  "Es soll jeder nach seiner Façon glücklich werden".

Indeed, I find people who reject organized religion and instead opt for recently made up new age woo or imported, second hand "Asian Wisdom" to scratch some spiritual itch even worse.

FFS, to hell with the progress offered by materialist science, let's not worry about vaccines, next time a pandemic comes round we will just burn a bunch of witches...

CB

* The proof is in the pudding. Science gave us technology, but show me one flying cart propelled by angels...

4
In reply to Stichtplate:

> You're describing a state experienced by only a tiny, tiny minority and the majority of those while under the effects of extreme stress or psychedelic drugs. Hardly a level of exclusivity you'd expect from an all loving, all encompassing, ubiquitous God.

It's an experience that's available to everybody through meditation though and the lesson of the experience, that we should try to live our lives as free from ego as possible, is available without going through the experience of oneness.

> The experiences you describe were mostly associated with self isolation, starvation, sleep derivation, exposure to the elements or self flagellation. Hardly surprising these practices fell out of favour with the church, also hardly surprising that extreme physiological stressors result in curious psychological presentations.

I'm sure there were some extremists but I think that the success of the early medieval British and Irish churches was down to a more simple and cheerful, austerity which won many to its teaching rather than the ceremonial dignity and authority of the Roman church which was not so successful in winning hearts and minds but it did eventually win the race politically.

> You seem to be saying that all religions are centred on the same deity, just with different interpretations of their form? I find it very odd that the religiously minded can find equivalency between Gentle Jesus Meek and Mild and the Old Testament God who was totally happy with rape, enslavement, child sacrifice and Genocide. Then there's the enormous gulf between the likes of the Quakers and the multitude of blood thirsty death cults. God may be all powerful and all knowing but his marketing department is shocking.

Yes, exactly, there is only one God and the fundamental messages of pretty much every religion teaches the same thing. I see this as because all religions are rooted in the same truth which this experience awakens in all that experience it, that there is no separation between ourselves and the rest of the infinite universe and we are to “Love the Lord your God [the omnipresent God who connects and sustains and is present with everything that exists] with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” and “Love your neighbour as yourself”. As I see it, all religions are based on a revelation of God but only one is based on the full revelation of God as passed to us by Jesus Christ.

So the foundation of all true religion is a teaching that we should try to live our lives as free from ego as we can possibly manage, but the world fights against this message, the message gets distorted and, for many, religion itself becomes an identity and the following of rules and rituals becomes all important. This promotes the ego and a sense of separation from other groups of people and is the opposite of the original message.

The Old Testament contains the message but it is also layered with the Hebrew national mythology. When looking for truth in a spiritual teaching my advice is to check it against the teachings of Jesus as recorded in the 4 Gospels.

1
In reply to cb294:

> * The proof is in the pudding. Science gave us technology, but show me one flying cart propelled by angels...

Religion gave us science.

I find nothing more deeply off putting than the small minded view of the world you seem to keep putting forward that knowledge is only of value if it has a use.

I am as fascinated by the findings of science as anyone but I couldn't care less whether the mind blowing discoveries will one day allow us to communicate a bit faster or whatever, my interest is in the impact of the new knowledge on philosophical ideas.

What does it mean for our relationship with animals that we are actually related by dna to a chimp or a fish, a tree or a microbe? How does it affect our place in the universe that neither space nor time are constant?

8
 Stichtplate 28 May 2021
In reply to cumbria mammoth:

> It's an experience that's available to everybody through meditation though and the lesson of the experience, that we should try to live our lives as free from ego as possible, is available without going through the experience of oneness.

No it's not. A great many people practice meditation on a daily basis, very few have experienced oneness with the universe. In common with most religions you're starting with a false premise and stating it as fact. A while ago you stated that you'd never experienced this 'cosmic consciousness' yourself, has this changed?

> I'm sure there were some extremists but I think that the success of the early medieval British and Irish churches was down to a more simple and cheerful, austerity which won many to its teaching rather than the ceremonial dignity and authority of the Roman church which was not so successful in winning hearts and minds but it did eventually win the race politically.

You're ignoring my point about psychological presentations provoked by extreme physiological states in favour of a rose tinted and largely evidence free view of a period we know very little about. We do know that Christianity was relatively inclusive and tolerant during this period, but then this was a time when Christians were selling and establishing the brand in a crowded market place. As soon as market dominance was achieved the church turned to strict hierarchy and orthodoxy reinforced with torture, massacre and burnings at the stake.

God forbid you discover the Earth rotates around the Sun during this time. Literally, God forbids.

> Yes, exactly, there is only one God and the fundamental messages of pretty much every religion teaches the same thing. I see this as because all religions are rooted in the same truth which this experience awakens in all that experience it, that there is no separation between ourselves and the rest of the infinite universe and we are to “Love the Lord your God [the omnipresent God who connects and sustains and is present with everything that exists] with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” and “Love your neighbour as yourself”. As I see it, all religions are based on a revelation of God but only one is based on the full revelation of God as passed to us by Jesus Christ.

> So the foundation of all true religion is a teaching that we should try to live our lives as free from ego as we can possibly manage, but the world fights against this message, the message gets distorted and, for many, religion itself becomes an identity and the following of rules and rituals becomes all important. This promotes the ego and a sense of separation from other groups of people and is the opposite of the original message.

You've completely discounted and ignored the fact that most religions through history have been polytheistic and follow radically different views of the nature and demands of those Gods. Tellingly you use the phrase "the foundation of all true religion is". Totally subjective value judgment based not on evidence or objective reason but on faith alone.

> The Old Testament contains the message but it is also layered with the Hebrew national mythology. When looking for truth in a spiritual teaching my advice is to check it against the teachings of Jesus as recorded in the 4 Gospels.

So when you boil it down, you completely discount the experience and faiths of the vast majority of  people through history, the vast majority of Christianity's actual actions over the last 1000 years and finally, the vast majority of the bible itself. To be honest, you don't seem to be very tolerant or inclusive

3
 cb294 28 May 2021
In reply to cumbria mammoth:

> Religion gave us science.

This is ridiculous. Religion blocked scientific progress and denied scientific facts at all points until it could hold out no longer, replacing it with made up stories about gods that transferred power on a small clique that had the power to make the sun rise and make the Nile floods come through their prayers....

Religious groups also striving for non religious knowledge did/do exist, e.g. the Jesuits for a certain period, but are clear outliers.

It largely continues to do so today, except that in the secularized West it is less successful with its bullshit doctrines and the powe derived from these than it used to be.

No point in even discussing with you if you are not acknowledging that historic and social fact.

CB

edit: pressed send too early.

Of course, knowledge is not only valuable if it can be translated into useful technology. If I did believe this I should and could not be a biologist.

However, the existence of technological progress proves that the general framework of the scientific world view must have got something right. Clearly not everything, but being aware of its own problems and limitations, and openness towards revision are important and intrinsic parts of the whole scientific endeavour, something that very much differentiates it from anything based on faith.

There is no equivalent mode of support for any religion, or indeed for other world views such as psychoanalysis or Marxist  philosophy (the correct analysis of economic power structures does not mean that there is a "scientifically proven" trend in history towards worker's rule. Politicizing science simply does not work, communist agrogenetics killed millions under Stalin)

Post edited at 09:27
1
 freeflyer 28 May 2021
In reply to cumbria mammoth:

> The Buddhist tradition doesn't label this experience of unity as an encounter with God but other traditions do see it as unity with the divine. Would this description of the experience ring true with you - a boundless conscious unity with everything that there is?

Yes. that is how it is often described by the mystics, and is seen by some as a goal to strive towards. It does sound rather pleasant I can't say that it's a particular goal of mine; instead I try to see how I interact with the world around me. Do I create it, or is it there??? The best answer I have is that it's a bit of both, inevitably. The Buddhists are very strong on the idea that the world we create is an illusion, and the best way to see reality is to dismantle that illusion. Not everyone finds this idea interesting however

> As someone who associates with Buddhist thought you might not believe in God but you will be aware of the concept and so how would you define God?

The idea of a God inevitably reminds me of the William Blake painting 'Ancient of Days' and the anthropomorphic aspects of that make me smile. Lots of folk really like the idea of a heavenly father who looks after them though, and in a more abstract way, I'm happy with the idea that everything has come together to make this place the perfect one for our existence. In this sense, God is a bit like dark matter; you can only observe it via its effects on the world around us.

> It's not something you hear about a lot in Christianity but there is no doubt that the early Christians were practicing these ideas.

The main advance of Christianity was that it took the abstract idea of the God of the Jews (not worshipping trees etc), and began the process of removing the priest from the equation. Now you can have a direct relationship with God through Jesus. This is a brilliant idea, and a great step forward from the previous situation where you were in thrall to your priest/prophet.

> I'm interested in the traditions of the early British Church which would seem to have had a more spiritual focus than the Roman church with many tales of hermits and monks. One idea I wonder about is that the takeover of the old pagan religion by the new may not have been a particularly hostile takeover at all. The stone circles across Britain would seem to be cathedrals to the sun god and in those times there could be no doubt that the sun ruled and sustained all that was known. When the druids had this spiritual experience of unity they had misidentified God as the sun. To add the teachings of Jesus as a more complete knowledge of God to their pre-existing knowledge may not have been any more earth shattering than it was to people brought up in the Jewish tradition in the Near East.

I love listening to the theological scholars as they are so good at putting Christianity in its social and historical context. My understanding is that the Romans didn't care what you worshipped as long as you paid your taxes, and they were happy to take on board whatever gods you were able to offer. Of course, loads of them were converted to Christianity.

In reply to Stichtplate:

> No it's not. A great many people practice meditation on a daily basis, very few have experienced oneness with the universe. In common with most religions you're starting with a false premise and stating it as fact. A while ago you stated that you'd never experienced this 'cosmic consciousness' yourself, has this changed?

I don't feel my circumstances give me the chance to practice meditation at the moment and that hasn't changed since the other day. The experience is available to me though as it is to everyone and the lesson of that experience is even more easily obtained.

> You're ignoring my point about psychological presentations provoked by extreme physiological states in favour of a rose tinted and largely evidence free view of a period we know very little about. We do know that Christianity was relatively inclusive and tolerant during this period, but then this was a time when Christians were selling and establishing the brand in a crowded market place. As soon as market dominance was achieved the church turned to strict hierarchy and orthodoxy reinforced with torture, massacre and burnings at the stake.

To me there are two different points here.

Extreme physiological states can indeed induce the experience of oneness, the accounts of people who have had near death experiences also include the loss of self which is again reported as a great truth. That these reports often come from people who weren't looking for a spiritual experience seems to me to be a major reason to look seriously at the experience.

I don't think the inclusive and tolerant Christians of 600AD were harbouring a secret plan to eventually unleash a cruel and strict hierarchy when they became dominant in 1200AD. Rather I think that the religion is inclusive and tolerant but as it becomes popular it also gains influence and organisational hierarchy, then people who seek power become attracted to the high offices, then the original teachings become distorted, and over hundreds of years the message of selflessness is lost and the people at the top of the tree are power crazed political tyrants rather than spiritual teachers. 

> God forbid you discover the Earth rotates around the Sun during this time. Literally, God forbids.

God doesn't forbid. The people who became powerful on the back of a distorted idea felt threatened by the truth and powerful people can forbid access to the truth.

> You've completely discounted and ignored the fact that most religions through history have been polytheistic and follow radically different views of the nature and demands of those Gods.

Yes, many ancient cultures look to have been polytheistic but when you look at it many of the more minor gods were responsible for ever more mundane tasks and I see this again as a distortion of the original message where people are adding more and more layers over millennia. The pantheon of gods can all be viewed as aspects of the one God as they are in Hinduism rather than as independent deities. Even in Christianity some interpretations of the message could be seen as a drift towards polytheism with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and then greater and lesser angels.

> Tellingly you use the phrase "the foundation of all true religion is". Totally subjective value judgment based not on evidence or objective reason but on faith alone. So when you boil it down, you completely discount the experience and faiths of the vast majority of  people through history, the vast majority of Christianity's actual actions over the last 1000 years and finally, the vast majority of the bible itself. To be honest, you don't seem to be very tolerant or inclusive

The OP sees spirituality and religion as a woolly and poorly defined concept and you have joined in with that criticism. I am putting forward an idea that grounds the whole concept in a single type of experience that can be shared, or at least looked into, by everyone and now you criticise me for having a clearly defined concept of what the root of these ideas is. I'm describing my own ideas about what true religion is. If other believers have different ideas about religion I'd be interested to hear them.

Post edited at 23:53
In reply to cb294:

>> Religion gave us science.

> This is ridiculous. Religion blocked scientific progress and denied scientific facts at all points until it could hold out no longer, replacing it with made up stories about gods that transferred power on a small clique that had the power to make the sun rise and make the Nile floods come through their prayers....

> Religious groups also striving for non religious knowledge did/do exist, e.g. the Jesuits for a certain period, but are clear outliers.

> It largely continues to do so today, except that in the secularized West it is less successful with its bullshit doctrines and the powe derived from these than it used to be.

> No point in even discussing with you if you are not acknowledging that historic and social fact.

> CB

> edit: pressed send too early.

> Of course, knowledge is not only valuable if it can be translated into useful technology. If I did believe this I should and could not be a biologist.

> However, the existence of technological progress proves that the general framework of the scientific world view must have got something right. Clearly not everything, but being aware of its own problems and limitations, and openness towards revision are important and intrinsic parts of the whole scientific endeavour, something that very much differentiates it from anything based on faith.

> There is no equivalent mode of support for any religion, or indeed for other world views such as psychoanalysis or Marxist  philosophy (the correct analysis of economic power structures does not mean that there is a "scientifically proven" trend in history towards worker's rule. Politicizing science simply does not work, communist agrogenetics killed millions under Stalin)

I think we should leave an analysis of Marx for a different thread.

The idea that religion and science are in conflict is a recent idea. People looked for laws of nature because of the idea that there was a creator that could impose laws on creation. In the medieval period after the collapse of technological civilisation it was the monasteries that preserved knowledge and made the breakthroughs that would transform society for the better. Scientists throughout history have been philosophers hoping to gain an insight into the mind of God.

 Stichtplate 30 May 2021
In reply to cumbria mammoth:

> I don't feel my circumstances give me the chance to practice meditation at the moment and that hasn't changed since the other day. The experience is available to me though as it is to everyone and the lesson of that experience is even more easily obtained.

A very great many people meditate, vanishingly few report back that they became one with the universe. Sorry, but thems the facts.

> To me there are two different points here.

> Extreme physiological states can indeed induce the experience of oneness, the accounts of people who have had near death experiences also include the loss of self which is again reported as a great truth. That these reports often come from people who weren't looking for a spiritual experience seems to me to be a major reason to look seriously at the experience.

I can assure you that very few people (a total of zero in my experience) in extreme physiological states report experiencing oneness with anything. They're mainly scared, panicked or out of it. Rather than oneness with anything it's far more common for people to report the exact opposite, extreme loneliness, which is why the dying and very ill take such great comfort from the simple physical contact provided by holding their hand. Sorry, but them the facts.

> I don't think the inclusive and tolerant Christians of 600AD were harbouring a secret plan to eventually unleash a cruel and strict hierarchy when they became dominant in 1200AD. Rather I think that the religion is inclusive and tolerant but as it becomes popular it also gains influence and organisational hierarchy, then people who seek power become attracted to the high offices, then the original teachings become distorted, and over hundreds of years the message of selflessness is lost and the people at the top of the tree are power crazed political tyrants rather than spiritual teachers. 

> God doesn't forbid. The people who became powerful on the back of a distorted idea felt threatened by the truth and powerful people can forbid access to the truth.

That's your take on it and one I largely agree with. If all religions practiced their creed the way the Quakers do then they'd have my support (though not my credence) and I'd view their influence as largely beneficial. Unfortunately that isn't the case.

> Yes, many ancient cultures look to have been polytheistic but when you look at it many of the more minor gods were responsible for ever more mundane tasks and I see this again as a distortion of the original message where people are adding more and more layers over millennia. The pantheon of gods can all be viewed as aspects of the one God as they are in Hinduism rather than as independent deities. Even in Christianity some interpretations of the message could be seen as a drift towards polytheism with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and then greater and lesser angels.

You can view it how you like but that isn't how the practitioners viewed it. From my perspective you're simply making an evidence free plea of "My God's better than your Gods". This argument has all the validity and intellectual rigour of two 5 year olds arguing over who's talking unicorn tells the funniest bed time stories.

> The OP sees spirituality and religion as a woolly and poorly defined concept and you have joined in with that criticism. I am putting forward an idea that grounds the whole concept in a single type of experience that can be shared, or at least looked into, by everyone and now you criticise me for having a clearly defined concept of what the root of these ideas is. I'm describing my own ideas about what true religion is. If other believers have different ideas about religion I'd be interested to hear them.

I'm arguing my case because you're making statements about common experiences that simply aren't true and insisting that the beliefs of other religious practitioners are misinformed distortions while your own beliefs are true and correct, but with no evidence or direct experience to back your position beyond blind faith. 

2
In reply to Stichtplate:

Strange. I'm sure I, and many climbers, when I've been climbing well (not very often) have experienced oneness with the rock.

 Stichtplate 30 May 2021
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> Strange. I'm sure I, and many climbers, when I've been climbing well (not very often) have experienced oneness with the rock.

Are you talking about adhesion here Gordon?😂

 john arran 30 May 2021
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> Strange. I'm sure I, and many climbers, when I've been climbing well (not very often) have experienced oneness with the rock.

What does "oneness with the rock" actually mean?

I suspect it's an allusion to a kind of induced mental state, but I'm struggling to see where rock or oneness come into it, except in ill-defined ways as an apt way to describe an ill-defined experience.

In reply to john arran:

> What does "oneness with the rock" actually mean?

> I suspect it's an allusion to a kind of induced mental state, but I'm struggling to see where rock or oneness come into it, except in ill-defined ways as an apt way to describe an ill-defined experience.

I wonder if it's what is often referred to as a "flow state" about which plenty has been written, particularly in relation to sport and art. Such a state seems to be relatively well-defined if you dip into the appropriate psychological literature.

 Stichtplate 30 May 2021
In reply to Andy Clarke:

A common enough experience and one that in no way supports the existence of a big beardy man floating on a cloud.*
 

* other deity characterisations/ caricatures are available 

1
 Mick Ward 30 May 2021
In reply to Andy Clarke:

It's a flow state - a different experience to 'spiritual oneness'. Much more common.

Mick

 john arran 30 May 2021
In reply to Mick Ward:

> It's a flow state - a different experience to 'spiritual oneness'. Much more common.

But what's different about it, fundamentally?

Why is "oneness with the rock" any different to "oneness with the universe", except perhaps (but arguably) in terms of strength of experience or emotive response?

In reply to Stichtplate:

> A common enough experience and one that in no way supports the existence of a big beardy man floating on a cloud.*

A flow state a common enough experience for climbers you say? Not for a punter like me it isn't! I reckon I get one about once  a year - and then it's normally only in the context of soloing stuff I should have more sense than to get on alone at my age. The risk no doubt releases something in what's left of my brain. 

 Stichtplate 30 May 2021
In reply to john arran:

> But what's different about it, fundamentally?

> Why is "oneness with the rock" any different to "oneness with the universe", except perhaps (but arguably) in terms of strength of experience or emotive response?

Perhaps someone who’s experienced “oneness with the universe” would care to enlighten us. Mammoth reckons it’s a common enough state available to anyone familiar with the lotus position and the whiff of joss stick.

So how about it UKCers? Can I get an Ommm from anyone out there who’s been indulging in oneness with old Stichty without my knowledge, consent or even a courtesy reach around?😂

1
 Mick Ward 30 May 2021
In reply to john arran:

> But what's different about it, fundamentally?

> Why is "oneness with the rock" any different to "oneness with the universe", except perhaps (but arguably) in terms of strength of experience or emotive response?

John, I can't give you an answer which will satisfy you - especially 'fundamentally'.

They're simply different experiences. Shyness is different from being pissed. And, although one could say, what's different fundamentally and why is shyness different from being pissed, the simple fact is that they're different experiences.

Flow state isn't so much oneness with the rock, it's more like being lost in the activity. It happens when we're totally focussed on what we're doing. It's very common indeed. I can't imagine there's anybody on this thread who hasn't experienced it (though they may not have been particularly aware of experiencing it or - more likely - they may have forgotten).

I suspect that the classic experience of 'spiritual oneness' is not that uncommon (though far less common than flow state). Maybe people don't talk much about it for fear of ridicule?

People may interpret their experience of 'spiritual oneness' as confirmation of their religious beliefs. That's their choice: there's no logic for (or against). They may simply think, well that was a bit different. Or they may not think about it, at all. (As with flow state, maybe most people forget all about it?)

Mick

 Stichtplate 30 May 2021
In reply to Mick Ward:

> John, I can't give you an answer which will satisfy you - especially 'fundamentally'.

> They're simply different experiences. Shyness is different from being pissed. And, although one could say, what's different fundamentally and why is shyness different from being pissed, the simple fact is that they're different experiences.

Most people could provide a pretty comprehensive explanation of how and why they’re different, complete with personal experience, anecdotes and a diagram if necessary.

> Flow state isn't so much oneness with the rock, it's more like being lost in the activity. It happens when we're totally focussed on what we're doing. It's very common indeed. I can't imagine there's anybody on this thread who hasn't experienced it (though they may not have been particularly aware of experiencing it or - more likely - they may have forgotten).

Agree

> I suspect that the classic experience of 'spiritual oneness' is not that uncommon (though far less common than flow state). Maybe people don't talk much about it for fear of ridicule?

In over 50 years on the planet I’ve met one person who’s claimed to have experienced “universal oneness”. He was completely off his tits on microdots at the time, which doesn’t necessarily detract from a state which profoundly altered his perspective on life for some months afterwards.

> People may interpret their experience of 'spiritual oneness' as confirmation of their religious beliefs. That's their choice: there's no logic for (or against). They may simply think, well that was a bit different. Or they may not think about it, at all. (As with flow state, maybe most people forget all about it?)

Are you suggesting it’s possible to experience complete spiritual oneness with the universe, go “Ho Hum” and promptly completely forget about it? 
 

(I’m loving how this thread is expanding my personal consciousness of the universe by the way)

😂

Post edited at 12:36
 Mick Ward 30 May 2021
In reply to Stichtplate:

> Most people could provide a pretty comprehensive explanation of how and why they’re different, complete with personal experience, anecdotes and a diagram if necessary.

As ever, I lag far behind, lost in the distance.

> In over 50 years on the planet I’ve met one person who’s claimed to have experienced “universal oneness”. He was completely off his tits on microdots at the time, which doesn’t necessarily detract from a state which profoundly altered his perspective on life for some months afterwards.

I suspect that pure acid might well nudge people towards the experience, a la Aldous Huxley. The first acid I ever took (blotting paper) seemed pretty pure but stuff like green microdot was evil and horrible - not conducive.

At Uni, I knew a guy called Steve, very much out for the main chance. He was off his head on acid one night (even straight people did it, back then) and suddenly realised he'd found the meaning of life. Yup! Being Steve, he could immediately see dollar signs. So, also being the smartest dude in the room (hey, he was the only dude in the room) what did he do... but scribble it down. Money in the bank, huh. Next day, when he came round, he thought, "Bloody hell!" jumped up and grabbed the piece of paper. "What did it say?" I asked (just interested). Steve waved a hand airily, "Oh, it was just bollox..."

> Are you suggesting it’s possible to experience complete spiritual oneness with the universe, go “Ho Hum” and promptly completely forget about it?

I don't know about 'complete', 'the universe', "Ho Hum" or 'promptly'; these are your words, presumably emanating from some higher level of consciousness.

But I do know that people forget about stuff all the time. Life gets in the way. The cat needs to be fed. The bins need to be put out. That's just the way it is. Boring, I know.

Mick

P.S. Serious point to anyone reading this. As Kris Kristofferson said about Janis Joplin and drugs: "Was the going up worth the coming down?" Not for her. Not for many others. And not for me (I was lucky to survive). Best avoided.

 Stichtplate 30 May 2021
In reply to Mick Ward:

> "Was the going up worth the coming down?" 

On a climbing forum?

 freeflyer 30 May 2021
In reply to Mick Ward:

> Was the going up worth the coming down?

Definitely.

freeflyer

Post edited at 17:10

 Timmd 30 May 2021
In reply to john arran:

> But what's different about it, fundamentally?

> Why is "oneness with the rock" any different to "oneness with the universe", except perhaps (but arguably) in terms of strength of experience or emotive response?

I think when it comes to talking about this kind of thing, there's always going to be difficultly in defining, and then communicating what is meant, possibly in a similar way to how we can't know what colours or sounds are like when other people experience them.

Having experienced a sense of oneness with the rock when climbing, I'm not sure where detachment from the ego and the sense of self, and one's thoughts and ideas ends, and a sense of oneness with the universe begins (or why that might be any different from feeling at home when out in the mountains), but a sense of oneness with the rock, and the frame of mind I've described do seem to be different, in my experience. 

I've only experienced it twice, and quite out of the blue during my 20's, and one time was while coming home through Sheffield city centre, and I felt entirely at peace with the fact that I was human, and that everybody else was, and I almost felt as if I was 'standing aside' to myself, in having the sense that ideas and opinions were unhelpful because they caused people to disagree, and that whatever people thought which was different to me, was fine, and that the noise and the urban-ness was fine (usually I'm not a fan of 'urban decay and mechanicalness'), and it was a state of being agreeably without thought and entirely at peace with things just as they happened to be. In contrast, in the years following, I've had many moments where I've been entirely unreasonable and argumentative, and 'triggered' one might say, but at the time it was a complete sense of tranquility.

My experience of a sense of oneness with the rock, is where one is wrapped up in the moment of enjoying the rock on the skin, and 'being in a state of flow' once the climbing has started while appreciating the beauty of the situation and environment while climbing, and that the activity of climbing needs to be engaged with to keep the mind 'centered and within the process of climbing', so that that sense of oneness can be felt. It's a frame of mind which ends when the climbing has finished.

One seems to be a frame of mind which can just arrive, and the other seems to require a certain physical process to be engaged with to find a sense of peace or oneness, with a qualitive difference between the two frames of mind (once one has experienced each one). I wouldn't know what other people mean by describing a sense of oneness with the universe, but that's my thoughts on the difference between a sense of oneness with the rock, and another kind of oneness, it's about as close as I can get to exploring or describing any differences.

I think minds can be shifting and fluctuating things, which is why things like climbing can be so agreeable, in giving them something to completely focus on, which may be how the sense of oneness arrives (because there's nothing else to think about).

Post edited at 17:53
1
 Timmd 30 May 2021
In reply to john arran:

If I knew how to find the frame of mind I experienced during my 20's again, that would be great, but I'm entirely in the dark as to how.

Post edited at 18:23
In reply to john arran:

I think atheism, especially in its aggressively militant form, creates a stigma around anything even vaguely related to religion, such that spirituality is only spoken about in the muted tones of an apologist. I say that as an atheist myself, but one who realises there's something else going on psychologically and perceptually, other than the verifiable truths of what can be explained by logic and science.

I'm wondering why we as a society embrace such a woolly and poorly defined concept and use it so readily, somehow assuming that others will understand what we personally mean by it?

I think spirituality is a woolly and poorly defined concept because it's personal to the beholder (those who perceive it), although there are shared similarities with others. The problem with collective similarities in this sphere, is that it can and does easily form the basis for a religion and would potentially be vulnerable to the kind of indoctrination and brainwash that organised religions suffer from. With that in mind, I personally would not want to perceive imponderables like spirituality the way others do, and would want to stick to the way I perceive them.  Furthermore, I would not want neuroscience (fascinating though it is) to explain how I feel; there are certain mysteries that should remain mysterious and unattainable, which I think is the birthplace of awe, wonder and oneness with nature - and what is loosely termed spirituality.

 john arran 31 May 2021
In reply to AllanMac:

> I think atheism, especially in its aggressively militant form, creates a stigma around anything even vaguely related to religion, such that spirituality is only spoken about in the muted tones of an apologist. I say that as an atheist myself, but one who realises there's something else going on psychologically and perceptually, other than the verifiable truths of what can be explained by logic and science.

> I'm wondering why we as a society embrace such a woolly and poorly defined concept and use it so readily, somehow assuming that others will understand what we personally mean by it?

> I think spirituality is a woolly and poorly defined concept because it's personal to the beholder (those who perceive it), although there are shared similarities with others. The problem with collective similarities in this sphere, is that it can and does easily form the basis for a religion and would potentially be vulnerable to the kind of indoctrination and brainwash that organised religions suffer from. With that in mind, I personally would not want to perceive imponderables like spirituality the way others do, and would want to stick to the way I perceive them.  Furthermore, I would not want neuroscience (fascinating though it is) to explain how I feel; there are certain mysteries that should remain mysterious and unattainable, which I think is the birthplace of awe, wonder and oneness with nature - and what is loosely termed spirituality.

I agree with much of that but not the last sentence. As I think I mentioned upthread, a rainbow is no less of a wonder and no less aesthetically beautiful now that we know the physics behind it. Indeed, with many scientific discoveries that explain what previously may have been regarded as mysteries (e.g. eclipses, gravity, genetics) have led to ever more wonderment at how amazing and baffling our world appears. To me, willing a state of permanent ignorance will always be akin to tying ones feet while trying to run.

 Mick Ward 31 May 2021
In reply to john arran:

> To me, willing a state of permanent ignorance will always be akin to tying ones feet while trying to run.

Totally agree. We are creatures who want to see as far and as clearly as we can. The rainbow need be no less wondrous. (Indeed it may be more wondrous if we have developed our capacity for wonder.)

Mick

In reply to john arran:

> To me, willing a state of permanent ignorance will always be akin to tying ones feet while trying to run.

I understand what you mean, but it depends on what value system one puts on it. To some, it is as you say, 'willing a state of ignorance' but to others it is more an attempt to prolong a state of heightened perception which goes some way beyond what is rooted in certainty.

The 'otherness' I was talking about is related to the interconnectedness of things, rather than reductionist collections of a series of single, isolated material entities. Roughly speaking, it is about engaging the wide-ranging, exploratory 'right brain' instead of being solely dependent on the narrowly focused left, which wants to close everything down to certainties. I guess what I'm driving at, and why spirituality is so compelling, is a kind of need to exist in the desirable hinterland (to me at least), between certainty and unpredictable chaos, between explicit and implicit. This is why I enjoy certain types of music so much, as an example, because it occupies that same hinterland.

Prof. Iain McGilchrist has an interesting and very convincing take on the right/left brain conundrum, and the attention each brain hemisphere pays to the world, in his book "The Master and his Emissary - The Divided Brain and the making of the Western World":

He talks about it here:

youtube.com/watch?v=HRMiHwT0H4M&

 john arran 31 May 2021
In reply to AllanMac:

> The 'otherness' I was talking about is related to the interconnectedness of things, rather than reductionist collections of a series of single, isolated material entities. Roughly speaking, it is about engaging the wide-ranging, exploratory 'right brain' instead of being solely dependent on the narrowly focused left, which wants to close everything down to certainties. I guess what I'm driving at, and why spirituality is so compelling, is a kind of need to exist in the desirable hinterland (to me at least), between certainty and unpredictable chaos, between explicit and implicit.

I've tried, but I'm really failing to read anything into that that can't be paraphrased as 'Ignorance is bliss'.

I have absolutely no idea why some music on some occasions transports me to a hugely enjoyable mental state, as do plenty of other experiences. But I fail to see why knowledge about how these sensations are produced should diminish them in any way at all.

 cb294 31 May 2021
In reply to AllanMac:

> I understand what you mean, but it depends on what value system one puts on it. To some, it is as you say, 'willing a state of ignorance' but to others it is more an attempt to prolong a state of heightened perception which goes some way beyond what is rooted in certainty.

But spiritual experiences are not a state of "heightened perception", at least not of the external world!

We have fMRI studies of devout Christians during prayer that clearly show activation of the language processing centres in the brain. So, for them, hearing the voice of god is an actual and undeniable experience. Similar experiments were done with Buddhist monks during meditation.

Quite clearly, however, these spiritual experiences are generated in and by the brain, and it seems possible that this involves a degree of failure in the filtering processes separating subconscious and conscious mental processes. Similar effects can also be induced by drugs or hypoxia, confirming that spiritual experiences are a deviation from normal brain function.

Spiritual practise can clearly lead to some kind of conscious or at least deliberate control of these changes: People can deliberately enter states of uncoupling through meditation or activate speech processing without actual auditory input through prayer rituals (the input will be instead taken from elsewhere in the brain, it is therefore not surprising that prayers seem to be on topic!).

Whether these altered states of mind help you gain any valuable insights about your own brain, consciousness, or psychological state is a different issue. Certainly they can alter your mental makeup and psychological state, at least over a longer course of time, e.g. make you more relaxed or content.

What they will clearly not do is transfer messages from supernatural beings or connect you with the universe at large!

CB

1
In reply to cb294:

> But spiritual experiences are not a state of "heightened perception", at least not of the external world!

You say that with some certainty, but you cannot be sure about the experiences of others who make sense of the world differently to you.

One of the major reasons I go out into the hills and mountains is precisely to heighten my perception and receptivity to the external (as well as my own internal) world. I see and feel more things than I would have done otherwise. It works most times, lasts several days afterwards if I'm lucky, and softens the hard knocks of life either side of it. Whether this is 'spirituality' or not is another matter, but it certainly is a valuable 'something' which I wouldn't have had otherwise.

> We have fMRI studies of devout Christians during prayer that clearly show activation of the language processing centres in the brain. So, for them, hearing the voice of god is an actual and undeniable experience. Similar experiments were done with Buddhist monks during meditation.

The complexity and existential nature of 'self' is not verifiable in coloured patches on fMRI scanning imagery. It is a diagnostic tool that gives an idea of the where, but not the how, of critical brain functioning. Although it provides pointers for navigating further analysis, it is essentially just a high res 3D map.

If the hard problem of consciousness is somehow solved (I don't think it can), then how will we be any different to any mechanical entity in which every component is (or can be) known?

Is the world not a better place in which unknowns still exist?

> Quite clearly, however, these spiritual experiences are generated in and by the brain, and it seems possible that this involves a degree of failure in the filtering processes separating subconscious and conscious mental processes. Similar effects can also be induced by drugs or hypoxia, confirming that spiritual experiences are a deviation from normal brain function.

Interestingly, you use the words 'failure' and 'deviation' to describe the gamut of what some might consider fully functioning brains. You also use the word 'normal'. How do you know so precisely what normal is, and what it isn't? Is your interpretation of normal the same normal that everyone else should be subscribing to (and if they can't or won't, they are somehow deviants and failures)?

> Spiritual practise can clearly lead to some kind of conscious or at least deliberate control of these changes: People can deliberately enter states of uncoupling through meditation or activate speech processing without actual auditory input through prayer rituals (the input will be instead taken from elsewhere in the brain, it is therefore not surprising that prayers seem to be on topic!).

> Whether these altered states of mind help you gain any valuable insights about your own brain, consciousness, or psychological state is a different issue. Certainly they can alter your mental makeup and psychological state, at least over a longer course of time, e.g. make you more relaxed or content.

> What they will clearly not do is transfer messages from supernatural beings or connect you with the universe at large!

One person's supernatural woo could be reified as another person's spooky action at a distance. Both are weird, don't you think?

2
 john arran 02 Jun 2021
In reply to AllanMac:

> If the hard problem of consciousness is somehow solved (I don't think it can), then how will we be any different to any mechanical entity in which every component is (or can be) known?

This is a very telling statement, suggesting that fear of losing one's special place in a perceived hierarchy of existence is stronger than the excitement of breaking knowledge barriers. Christians have long struggled with something similar in their insistence that only humans (out of the whole animal kingdom) are blessed (whatever that means) with souls (whatever they are).

> Is the world not a better place in which unknowns still exist?

Apart from the likelihood that some things will always remain unknowable, why would it be? And presuming you agree that wilful ignorance is usually deplorable, where would you arbitrarily draw the line and start encouraging it to somehow make the world a better place?

 timjones 02 Jun 2021
In reply to john arran:

> Apart from the likelihood that some things will always remain unknowable, why would it be? And presuming you agree that wilful ignorance is usually deplorable, where would you arbitrarily draw the line and start encouraging it to somehow make the world a better place?

Maybe we shouldn't be drawing lines based merely on a persons thoughts ot knowledge?

How do you plan to punish those who wilfully choose to eschew knowledge that you believe they should possess?

There is are reasons for drawing lines based on actions rather than thoughts alone.

3
 john arran 02 Jun 2021
In reply to timjones:

> Maybe we shouldn't be drawing lines based merely on a persons thoughts ot knowledge?

Maybe we shouldn't be drawing lines at all.

> How do you plan to punish those who wilfully choose to eschew knowledge that you believe they should possess?

I'm pretty sure I never proposed criminalising wilful ignorance, so punishment wouldn't be relevant.  

> There is are reasons for drawing lines based on actions rather than thoughts alone.

Go on then, give me an example of a piece of knowledge that I as a rational and responsible human would be objectively better off not knowing.

 Stichtplate 02 Jun 2021
In reply to john arran:

> Maybe we shouldn't be drawing lines at all.

absolutely, and it doesn’t typically seem to be atheists drawing the lines, but I often come on here, engage in discussions on religion and get told I’m being rude, disrespectful and condescending. I don’t think I’m being any of those things. I’m just writing what I think and explaining why.

> I'm pretty sure I never proposed criminalising wilful ignorance, so punishment wouldn't be relevant.  

Yep, thought crime has a much longer history amongst the theists.

> Go on then, give me an example of a piece of knowledge that I as a rational and responsible human would be objectively better off not knowing.

ooo, where to start: where your food comes from, the personal hygiene of those preparing it or the intensely disordered and dysfunctional personal lives of some of those you entrust with the health, wellbeing, education and protection of you and those you love.

...and that’s the least of it😂

 Timmd 02 Jun 2021
In reply to cb294:

> But spiritual experiences are not a state of "heightened perception", at least not of the external world!

> We have fMRI studies of devout Christians during prayer that clearly show activation of the language processing centres in the brain. So, for them, hearing the voice of god is an actual and undeniable experience. Similar experiments were done with Buddhist monks during meditation.

> Quite clearly, however, these spiritual experiences are generated in and by the brain, and it seems possible that this involves a degree of failure in the filtering processes separating subconscious and conscious mental processes. Similar effects can also be induced by drugs or hypoxia, confirming that spiritual experiences are a deviation from normal brain function.

Couldn't whether spiritual experiences are (due to) a deviation from normal brain function depend on the experience and in which context somebody is using the term spiritual?

During the occasion when I felt detached from my sense of self, my ego and the subjective judgements I was putting upon my own thoughts, and the people and the world around me (as described up thread), I wasn't on drugs or having difficulty getting oxygen, I just felt entirely at peace, 'without thought and none judgemental' about myself and the world around me. 

It'd be cool to find that state at will, but I've no idea how...

Post edited at 18:33
1
 john arran 02 Jun 2021
In reply to Stichtplate:

> ooo, where to start: where your food comes from, the personal hygiene of those preparing it or the intensely disordered and dysfunctional personal lives of some of those you entrust with the health, wellbeing, education and protection of you and those you love.

I disagree with all of those. Knowledge gives us more ability to make better decisions. It also gives us chance to reassess sometimes irrational squeamishness or overemphasis on hygiene. I once went into a cheap restaurant in the middle of New Delhi and, just as my friends were heading upstairs to more seating, I saw a rat scurry along by a wall. Then the kitchen door swung open and I saw a guy in a loincloth sat cross-legged on the wet kitchen floor, kneading dough! I chose not to tell my friends until afterwards. Nobody was sick, and I thoroughly enjoyed the meal 🙂

I might just have been lucky though!

In reply to john arran:

I went to a restaurant on Connaught Place, New Delhi, in 1978, which was half respectable, but there were rats zapping across the floor between holes in the skirting boards. There was Swedish couple sitting at the next table, and suddenly the lady gave out a scream and leapt up onto her table and squatted there like a Buddha. I rat had gone between her legs. The waiter thought the whole thing was very funny and regarded the rats as no more of a nuisance than a few flies!

Post edited at 19:17
 Timmd 02 Jun 2021
In reply to John Stainforth:

Somebody squatting on a table is possibly funny whatever the situation.

 Stichtplate 02 Jun 2021
In reply to john arran:

Hat’s off to you Sir, you’re made of sterner stuff than me! The list of things I’d rather not know about the habits, wants and proclivities of others seems to grow longer with every passing day 🙄😂

 timjones 02 Jun 2021
In reply to john arran:

> Maybe we shouldn't be drawing lines at all.

Weren't you the one that asked where the line should be drawn?

> I'm pretty sure I never proposed criminalising wilful ignorance, so punishment wouldn't be relevant.  

If it's not criminal and does no harm why do you feel that it is deplorable?

> Go on then, give me an example of a piece of knowledge that I as a rational and responsible human would be objectively better off not knowing.

As rational and responsible humans we can choose what we want to know and what we feel that we do not need to know.

It seems a bit judgemental to claim that wilfully deciding that we don't need to knos something is deplorable.

 john arran 03 Jun 2021
In reply to timjones:

> Weren't you the one that asked where the line should be drawn?

Rhetorically, yes. In response to a suggestion that there are things that we'd be better off not knowing, which I disputed. The only answer I have so far comes down to squeamishness.

> If it's not criminal and does no harm why do you feel that it is deplorable?

That's a good question. Note that I wasn't talking about ignorance, but wilful ignorance, which means consciously cutting yourself off from knowledge, not just being content enough without it. I still don't have a great answer to the question though, except that we have evolved with a capacity for knowledge and learning, and deliberately denying that part of our nature feels like stifling part of our humanity. I would ask why we would rather than why we shouldn't.

> As rational and responsible humans we can choose what we want to know and what we feel that we do not need to know.

That's a misinterpretation. We're not discussing what we do not *need* to know. I asked for examples of thing we're objectively better off not knowing.

> It seems a bit judgemental to claim that wilfully deciding that we don't need to knos something is deplorable.

I agree, but again I wasn't talking about the *need* to know.

 timjones 03 Jun 2021
In reply to john arran:

Surely we are objectively better off not knowing all of the things that we pay others to do because it is more efficient to pay someone else to do a job than to learn how to do it ourselves?

Sometimes it will also be safer to wilfully acknowledge our ignorance and move onto a job that we have the knowledge to safely complete.

On a more "spiritual" level the answer is far more personal to each of us and there is no universal answer.

To use an example from last weekend, I find more joy in observing the flight of a Red Kite or Skylark if I don't get geeky over the technicalities of wind, weather and aerodynamics.  That could be called wilful ignorance but is it deplorable?

 Sir Chasm 03 Jun 2021
In reply to Timmd:

Part of the problem for me is that the people describing these experiences (feeling at one with the universe, finding the one true answer, communing with gods, detachment from self etc.) are rather incoherent. You say 

> During the occasion when I felt detached from my sense of self, my ego and the subjective judgements I was putting upon my own thoughts, and the people and the world around me (as described up thread), I wasn't on drugs or having difficulty getting oxygen, I just felt entirely at peace, 'without thought and none judgemental' about myself and the world around me. 

But who felt detached from your sense of self? Well, you did. You say it yourself "I felt detached". So you thought it and you felt it, but somehow you've decided that the sentient being doing the thinking is no longer yourself. It's bollocks really isn't it?

3
 john arran 03 Jun 2021
In reply to timjones:

Judging by the responses, I feel I've not managed to communicate well enough the distinction between wilful ignorance and the choice to selectively prioritise the acquisition of knowledge.

Wilful ignorance requires one to actively resist acquiring knowledge, not for practical reasons like those you allude to, but out of a belief that the knowledge itself (not the time or other resource invested in gaining it) would reduce the quality of one's life experience. For example by deciding: I would no longer be able to marvel at the beauty of a rainbow were I to know how it appears, or I would no longer feel life was meaningful were I to know that I was no different to a biological robot, or had no free will, or whatever.

It may be a relatively subtle distinction from the more prosaic 'I choose not to devote the time to learning quantum mechanics, or plumbing' but it's a very important distinction philosophically.

In reply to Sir Chasm:

> But who felt detached from your sense of self? Well, you did. You say it yourself "I felt detached". So you thought it and you felt it, but somehow you've decided that the sentient being doing the thinking is no longer yourself. It's bollocks really isn't it?

A loss of reflective self-consciousness is one of the typical components of a flow state. I assumed Timmd was referring to such a sensation.

 Sir Chasm 03 Jun 2021
In reply to Andy Clarke:

> A loss of reflective self-consciousness is one of the typical components of a flow state. I assumed Timmd was referring to such a sensation.

If you add words in to what people write I suppose you can assume anything.

2
 Timmd 03 Jun 2021
In reply to Sir Chasm:

> Part of the problem for me is that the people describing these experiences (feeling at one with the universe, finding the one true answer, communing with gods, detachment from self etc.) are rather incoherent. You say 

''During the occasion when I felt detached from my sense of self, my ego and the subjective judgements I was putting upon my own thoughts, and the people and the world around me (as described up thread), I wasn't on drugs or having difficulty getting oxygen, I just felt entirely at peace, 'without thought and none judgemental' about myself and the world around me.'' 

> But who felt detached from your sense of self? Well, you did. You say it yourself "I felt detached". So you thought it and you felt it, but somehow you've decided that the sentient being doing the thinking is no longer yourself. It's bollocks really isn't it?

Except, I didn't say that I wasn't doing the thinking. I said that I felt 'without thought', and you have projected onto what I wrote that I decided that the sentient being doing the thinking was no longer myself, not in any of my comments have I implied that there was another being, other than myself, doing any thinking.

I've acknowledged that it's always going to be a wooly concept, too. I'm attempting to describe a fleeting state of mind which is unlike any other, what I'm not doing, is saying that there was somebody else doing the thinking. By 'detached from my sense of self' it is possibly more accurate to say that I felt detached from my ego, and subjective judgements about the world around me, but, like I acknowledge up thread, it's always going to be a wooly concept, and difficult to describe. with a qualitative difference to feeling at one with the rock, which can only be appreciated once both have been experienced.

My (or the) difficultly in communicating how it felt, doesn't mean that I didn't experience the state of mind I've been attempting to describe (in it being a singular state of mind, which in myself being entirely at peace, is the closest I've found to what I'd term 'spiritual'). What I'm not doing, is attaching anything supernatural, god based, or other worldly upon or behind said state of mind.

It might be that what each individual experiences as spiritual is different to another persons', this is merely my attempt at describing, thus far, my closest experience of what felt like 'spiritual', and, being a subjective human experience, it's always going to 'not be real and definable'. In the end, I don't really mind what label I put upon it, it could be spiritual, or the most tranquil I have ever felt, but if one was to ask me what the closest experience I have had to being spiritual has been, that is the one I would mention.

Post edited at 13:32
 Sir Chasm 03 Jun 2021
In reply to Timmd:

Here you provide an excellent demonstration of the incoherency, in the same sentence you say that you were both "without thought" and "doing the thinking". Well which was it, or perhaps you were thinking and not thinking at the same time? And detached from your ego? Don't make me laugh, look at the words you've used to describe that so-called feeling, "I", "my", "I'm", "me", it's all about the ego. When "you" say "you" feel at one with the rock that's all about "you" and how "you" feel, it's wholly about the self, because that's all there is.

3
 Timmd 03 Jun 2021
In reply to Sir Chasm: I've also acknowledge that it's a wooly concept and difficult to describe.

If you're the kind of personality who likes to have arguments on the internet, you can have a field day picking apart peoples' attempts at describing such a thing.

Post edited at 13:46
 Sir Chasm 03 Jun 2021
In reply to Timmd:

> I've also acknowledge that it's a wooly concept and difficult to describe.

Come on, you said you were without thought and doing the thinking in the same sentence. Don't blame me for wondering what you're babbling on about.

> If you're the kind of personality who likes to have arguments on the internet, you can have a field day picking apart people's attempt at describing such a thing...

Here you are on the internet...

2
 Timmd 03 Jun 2021
In reply to Sir Chasm:

> 'But who felt detached from your sense of self? Well, you did. You say it yourself "I felt detached". So you thought it and you felt it, but somehow you've decided that the sentient being doing the thinking is no longer yourself. It's bollocks really isn't it? 

You're very good at this, I have to admit. I corrected you , in that I hadn't decided that the being doing the thinking was no longer myself, clarifying it as being 'without thought'. After I did, you've come back along the lines of 'So you were both doing the thinking, and without thought, which is it?'

Nowhere did I actually say write I was both doing the thinking and also without thought, I just clarified my state of mind as being 'without thought'. I can't attempt to describe it any better than I have done, it's almost akin to trying to describe with cabbage smells like, without using the term cabbage.

I can't continue without repeating myself, and I have tidying to do. Have a good day.

Post edited at 14:04
 Sir Chasm 03 Jun 2021
In reply to Timmd:

Eh, now you're claiming that being "without thought" actually means you were thinking? In an earlier response I referred to the bastardisation of language, truly it has come to pass.

By "tidying" to you mean another edit?

You have a nice day too.

4
 Timmd 03 Jun 2021
In reply to Sir Chasm:

I have my doubts that you've got to your mid 40's (?) without knowing the difference between 'without thought' and 'thinking'. I certainly know the difference and wouldn't interchange them.

Post edited at 14:10
In reply to Sir Chasm:

Words are symbols that we can only understand by associating those symbols with experiences we have had.

All of our everyday language relies on the everyday experience that a self exists and that there are other things that exist separately.

Language cannot adequately describe the experience that there is no self and no separation between things because this is a fundamental experience that cannot be described by building up from other understood concepts. The words I, you, me, we, etc, are all about the self and other self's and are not correct as descriptors of the experience of no self. A word could be made up but you still wouldn't relate to it.

If you haven't had the experience of oneness but wish to understand the concept being discussed then you will have to draw on experiences and ideas that may have occurred to you in the past and use your imagination which is exactly the same way you understand any other words that describe a concept that you haven't come across before.

 Sir Chasm 03 Jun 2021
In reply to Timmd:

> I have my doubts that you've got to your mid 40's (?) without knowing the difference between 'without thought' and 'thinking'. I certainly know the difference and wouldn't interchange them.

It's you who apparently doesn't know the difference, you're claiming that you can be without thought and be thinking at the same time. It's rubbish, but then that's only to be expected 🙂

3
 Sir Chasm 03 Jun 2021
In reply to cumbria mammoth:

Oneness with what? 

 Timmd 03 Jun 2021
In reply to Sir Chasm: No I didn't, I clarified a difference, my argumentative UKCer. Nice try though.

Post edited at 16:25
 wercat 03 Jun 2021
In reply to Sir Chasm:

I think you need to re-tune your receiver

this thread has gone on long enough.  I'm off to think about pink, aquamarine and beige quarks

Post edited at 16:36
 Timmd 03 Jun 2021
In reply to wercat: I think he's on a mission to prove that feeling 'spiritual' is a nebulous concept which it tricky or near impossible to define, and picks apart people's posts in that aim.

Since I stated as much, before describing a spiritual (feeling) experience, it's interesting to observe in an abstract way. 

It's almost another polarised internet discussion, with some seeming to think that because a person might have had what they describe as a spiritual experience, they can't acknowledge that it's also particular to the individual and nebulous as a concept. Happy days, either way, since it's only a thread.

If I was up in court, I might want Sir Casm to represent me rather than myself, though, from how he managed to temporarily tie me in knots, it seems to be the quicker minds who fair better. My intelligence is more one for 'pondering concepts'.

Post edited at 16:59
1
In reply to john arran:

> This is a very telling statement, suggesting that fear of losing one's special place in a perceived hierarchy of existence is stronger than the excitement of breaking knowledge barriers. Christians have long struggled with something similar in their insistence that only humans (out of the whole animal kingdom) are blessed (whatever that means) with souls (whatever they are).

> Apart from the likelihood that some things will always remain unknowable, why would it be? And presuming you agree that wilful ignorance is usually deplorable, where would you arbitrarily draw the line and start encouraging it to somehow make the world a better place?

It isn't fear, and I don't occupy any special place in any such hierarchy - so it's no loss to me. It is in fact quite the opposite - acceptance of my own insignificance in the greater scheme. Again, being in nature emphasises and strengthens that place. Furthermore, I actually depend on it, literally, to maintain my own sanity and to remind myself of what is important.

I am as fascinated by cutting edge knowledge as I assume you are, except the line I am happy to stand behind, marks a restraint on the ambitious expectation of knowing all that there is to know. Such ambition feels to me like a path to a reductionist dystopia, if such explicit knowledge lacks wider implicit context. It is not wilful ignorance in any pejorative sense, and neither is it some ghastly holier-than-thou virtue signalling, but simply a self-mediated, functional limit in knowing what is needed in order to further the greater good. It's just how I have personally been nailed together and wired up. I don't expect anybody else to be the same - and actually I'm thankful for that.

 Lankyman 03 Jun 2021
In reply to Sir Chasm:

> Oneness with what? 

When I go to Heaven my old dogs and cats will be waiting for me. It'll be a struggle getting all of them on my knees. Especially fat Charlie and big Lottie. I'm sure Jesus will appreciate the extra help with the feeding and scooping out the litter trays. What are you looking forward to when the time arrives?

 Timmd 03 Jun 2021
In reply to Lankyman:

As an atheist, I'm looking forward to not having to think anymore (life is cool, but there's much to navigate and think about here and there). Could be a shame I probably won't be conscious to appreciate it, but there you go , death holds no fear for me in lacking the concept of heaven.

I appreciate life for it's preciousness, in seeing this life as being all there is.

Post edited at 18:04
 wercat 03 Jun 2021
In reply to Timmd:

you are already dead. yet you are alive, yet you have not yet been born, nor at other coordinates even conceived.  All moments co present in spacetime from alpha to omega.

should you be already dead and somehow the cursor moves to where you alive it will be different!

 Sir Chasm 03 Jun 2021
In reply to Timmd:

> No I didn't, I clarified a difference, my argumentative UKCer. Nice try though.

Rubbish, you're claiming you can have thoughts without thinking (or to think without having thoughts). Nice try at trying to gently squirm away from talking woowoo. 

2
 Sir Chasm 03 Jun 2021
In reply to Lankyman:

> When I go to Heaven my old dogs and cats will be waiting for me. It'll be a struggle getting all of them on my knees. Especially fat Charlie and big Lottie. I'm sure Jesus will appreciate the extra help with the feeding and scooping out the litter trays. What are you looking forward to when the time arrives?

I'm looking forward to seeing your face when Pete doesn't let you through the pearly gates. 

 Jon Stewart 03 Jun 2021
In reply to Sir Chasm:

> Part of the problem for me is that the people describing these experiences (feeling at one with the universe, finding the one true answer, communing with gods, detachment from self etc.) are rather incoherent.

You're right that people's accounts of the experience of "ego loss", "oneness" etc. don't really make sense. You can't interrogate them, and expect to find some kind of compelling evidence of what they experienced. However, the fact the people can't describe them in ways that make sense doesn't provide any evidence that they're not *trying* to describe something very strange, of great personal significance, which they did indeed experience.

> But who felt detached from your sense of self? Well, you did. You say it yourself "I felt detached". So you thought it and you felt it, but somehow you've decided that the sentient being doing the thinking is no longer yourself. It's bollocks really isn't it?

No, not really. Just an experience that's entirely within a person's conscious experience that is extremely difficult to communicate. 

Probably the best place to start is by listening to a good writer who tries to put the experience (or an experience of this nature) into words, but still falls short by his own assessment, acknowledging the paradox "if *I* don't exist, then who or what is has having *this* experience?". Here's the brilliant Michael Pollan:

https://longreads.com/2018/05/30/michael-pollan-on-why-its-a-good-idea-to-lose-your-self/

There is a scientific literature on "mystical experiences" and psychologists have come up with scales to quantify them through interview/questionnaire evidence. I consider conscious experiences to be both real and part of the natural world, caused entirely by the brain, which is entirely made of atoms. As such I don't consider anything "spiritual" to exist other than as a way of talking about features of the natural world.  It's no surprise to me that the brain can produce certain types of conscious experience as a result of meditation, psychedelics, etc. that can't be described well in words. 

Maybe you just need a bit of imagination, or a high dose of psilocybin*, to understand what people are talking about?

*I've never experienced this whole "ego loss" thing on psychedelics nor through meditation, but it's clear from the evidence that lots of people do. Perhaps if I did, that would loosen my materialist convictions about the brain and mind?

Post edited at 22:19
 Sir Chasm 03 Jun 2021
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> You're right that people's accounts of the experience of "ego loss", "oneness" etc. don't really make sense. You can't interrogate them, and expect to find some kind of compelling evidence of what they experienced. However, the fact the people can't describe them in ways that make sense doesn't provide any evidence that they're not *trying* to describe something very strange, of great personal significance, which they did indeed experience.

I'm not looking for evidence they're not trying to describe something they've experienced. I'm suggesting, as it's all happening inside their head, that it is something they feel that is very much a part of themselves.  

> No, not really. Just an experience that's entirely within a person's conscious experience that is extremely difficult to communicate. 

But not an experience that the self doesn't experience. 

> Probably the best place to start is by listening to a good writer who tries to put the experience (or an experience of this nature) into words, but still falls short by his own assessment, acknowledging the paradox "if *I* don't exist, then who or what is has having *this* experience?". Here's the brilliant Michael Pollan:

> There is a scientific literature on "mystical experiences" and psychologists have come up with scales to quantify them through interview/questionnaire evidence. I consider conscious experiences to be both real and part of the natural world, caused entirely by the brain, which is entirely made of atoms. As such I don't consider anything "spiritual" to exist other than as a way of talking about features of the natural world.  It's no surprise to me that the brain can produce certain types of conscious experience as a result of meditation, psychedelics, etc. that can't be described well in words. 

> Maybe you just need a bit of imagination, or a high dose of psilocybin*, to understand what people are talking about?

I've enjoyed high doses of psilocybin, it's great. But you're going to struggle to convince me that some blokes ramblings after he's had a good evening are mystical. You take some good shit, it plays with your brain for a while. 

> *I've never experienced this whole "ego loss" thing on psychedelics nor through meditation, but it's clear from the evidence that lots of people do. Perhaps if I did, that would loosen my materialist convictions about the brain and mind?

Perhaps if we could nail down what the ego is and what the loss of it would look like I could climb aboard. 

1
 freeflyer 03 Jun 2021
In reply to john arran:

>> If the hard problem of consciousness is somehow solved (I don't think it can), then how will we be any different to any mechanical entity in which every component is (or can be) known?

> This is a very telling statement, suggesting that fear of losing one's special place in a perceived hierarchy of existence is stronger than the excitement of breaking knowledge barriers. 

FWIW I absolutely agree with you about the so-called 'hard problem'.

I personally believe that fear is the key, in contrast to other posters.

It may also be called anxiety, lack of confidence in their place in the world, or in their ability to understand or engage with more complicated and potentially more verifiable explanations. In the latter case, it's a simplification which may have survival value, and that explanation may do for the others as well. They may have better evolutionary fitness than you, if their genes make them believe --- and increase their number, and so on.

I remember back in the day our new sales director telling us that hope was not the basis for an effective strategy, while haranguing his entrepreneur directors and his arch-enemy the marketing director.

So what about 'hope' then? Surely there is no place for hope in your rational world view. Are you hopeless?
 

 Jon Stewart 03 Jun 2021
In reply to Sir Chasm:

> I'm not looking for evidence they're not trying to describe something they've experienced. I'm suggesting, as it's all happening inside their head, that it is something they feel that is very much a part of themselves.  

I agree with you that it's all happening within their consciousness. The point is that the brain can generate a conscious experience that does not include any sense of self.

> But not an experience that the self doesn't experience. 

That doesn't make any more sense than those who say that their "self" disappeared for a bit. You can point to a person and say *they* (a real thing that definitely exists) had an experience. But that experience may or may not have included a sense of self. The self doesn't enjoy that same status of being a real thing that definitely exists from a third person perspective.

Bruce Hood's book The Self Illusion is a brilliant unravelling of the concept of the self, as just a trick the brain conjures to help us navigate the world. He's a plain old materialist psychologist (he doesn't talk much about these ego-loss or "spiritual/mystical" experiences). If you see the self as a feature of conscious experience, and not as a thing that really exists like the brain, then it's no surprise that with drugs or meditation, you can make the brain generate a self-free experience. It's also no surprise that we can't describe it without using the only language we have "I felt like...".

> I've enjoyed high doses of psilocybin, it's great. But you're going to struggle to convince me that some blokes ramblings after he's had a good evening are mystical. You take some good shit, it plays with your brain for a while. 

I'm not trying to convince you there is anything except atoms arranged into brains which generate experience. I am trying to convince you that that experience does not have to include a self, because the self is just a trick the brain plays for evolutionary purposes.

> Perhaps if we could nail down what the ego is and what the loss of it would look like I could climb aboard. 

Read some accounts then, there is a whole scientific literature on this. Michael Pollan is the best I've read for the layperson. I don't see how else you expect it to be nailed down.

Post edited at 23:09
 Sir Chasm 03 Jun 2021
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> I agree with you that it's all happening within their consciousness. The point is that the brain can generate a conscious experience that does not include any sense of self.

> That doesn't make any more sense than those who say that their "self" disappeared for a bit. You can point to a person and say *they* (a real thing that definitely exists) had an experience. But that experience may or may not have included as sense of self, which doesn't enjoy that same status of being real thing that definitely exists from a third person perspective.

This makes no sense, your "self" is "I". The "I" can't think the "self" disappeared, you don't stop being you when you go to sleep at night and resume being you when you wake in the morning. 

> Bruce Hood's book The Self Illusion is a brilliant unravelling of the concept of the self, as just a trick the brain conjures to help us navigate the world. He's a plain old materialist psychologist (he doesn't talk much about these ego-loss or "spiritual/mystical" experiences". If you see the self as a feature of conscious experience, and not as a thing that really exists like the brain, then it's no surprise that with drugs or meditation, you can make the brain generate a self-free experience. It's also no surprise that we can't describe it without using the only language we have "I felt like...".

Well, yes, all we've got is what the brain generates. 

> I'm not trying to convince you there is anything except atoms arranged into brains which generate experience. I am trying to convince you that that experience does not have to include a self, because the self is just a trick the brain plays for evolutionary purposes.

Meh, define self then. 

> Read some accounts then, there is a whole scientific literature on this. Michael Pollan is the best I've read for the layperson. I don't see how else you expect it to be nailed down.

Oh go on, in your own words, define your ego as something you can be separated from. 

1
 Jon Stewart 03 Jun 2021
In reply to Sir Chasm:

> This makes no sense, your "self" is "I". The "I" can't think the "self" disappeared, you don't stop being you when you go to sleep at night and resume being you when you wake in the morning. 

Lots of people report experiencing that their sense of self disappeared. The fact that you can't understand what they're banging on about does not make their accounts any less credible.

> Meh, define self then. 

> Oh go on, in your own words, define your ego as something you can be separated from. 

The ego or sense of self (synonymous) is the feeling that you are an autonomous agent, situated midway between and behind your eyes, looking out at and separate from the world outside and controlling your body. 

This sense of self is an illusion created by the brain. This illusion disappears when you go to sleep and starts running again when you wake up (although it's present in dreams too). The illusion can also disappear while the rest of consciousness is still running, and when this happens people say things like "I had a mystical experience" "I was at one with universal consciousness" "I experienced ego death" etc. It's a well-documented and fascinating psychological phenomenon; and having such an experience also seems to correlate to positive effects on people's subjective wellbeing.

 Sir Chasm 03 Jun 2021
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> Lots of people report experiencing that their sense of self disappeared. The fact that you can't understand what they're banging on about does not make their accounts any less credible.

And it doesn't make their self a different entity to them. 

> The ego or sense of self (synonymous) is the feeling that you are an autonomous agent, situated midway between and behind your eyes, looking out at and separate from the world outside and controlling your body. 

You mean it feels like being you (and me). 

> This sense of self is an illusion created by the brain. This illusion disappears when you go to sleep and starts running again when you wake up (although it's present in dreams too). The illusion can also disappear while the rest of consciousness is still running, and when this happens people say things like "I had a mystical experience" "I was at one with universal consciousness" "I experienced ego death" etc. It's a well-documented and fascinating psychological phenomenon; and having such an experience also seems to correlate to positive effects on people's subjective wellbeing.

And what is the brain creating if it isn't the "self"? Don't forget that we (some people, you?, but not me) are arguing that the self is something that you can separate from you. But you can't. Sorry. Saying that it's well recorded that people have experienced universal consciousness is meaningless bollocks, people think god talks to them, some people think they're Napoleon. Just because "people" say it don't make it so (even if they, or you, could explain what they mean). 

2
In reply to Sir Chasm:

> And what is the brain creating if it isn't the "self"? 

Spot on. 

1
 Jon Stewart 04 Jun 2021
In reply to Sir Chasm:

> You mean it feels like being you (and me). 

Yes, under normal conditions. It (apparently) doesn't feel like this being you or me when you're experiencing ego loss.

> And what is the brain creating if it isn't the "self"?

The brain is creating the self, under normal waking conditions. But it can also generate a conscious experience that does not have this character, under other conditions (meditation, etc).

> Don't forget that we (some people, you?, but not me) are arguing that the self is something that you can separate from you. But you can't. Sorry.

I'm arguing that you can have an experience in which you lose your sense of self. You no longer feel like a separate, autonomous agent with beliefs, desires, memories, that's situated behind your eyes controlling your body. You feel as though there is no boundary between you and the rest of the world.

You seem to think that people who say that they've experienced ego loss are saying that they've spawned another entity, 'me' as well as the self. That's taking the language too literally: read the Pollan thing, he's better at describing it than anyone. The sense of 'me' *is* the ego. That is what disappears. This unusual conscious experience doesn't feature any 'I' at all, and that's what makes it hard to describe. There aren't two things, the ego/self and 'me' which separate. There is just a conscious state that is free from the feeling of being 'me' and instead feels something like "merging with universal consciousness" or whatever jumble of words people come out with to try to explain it.

They're not making something up that didn't happen. They're trying to put into words something which language can't communicate properly, because our language depends on identifying ourselves as 'I', 'me; etc.

> Saying that it's well recorded that people have experienced universal consciousness is meaningless bollocks, people think god talks to them, some people think they're Napoleon. Just because "people" say it don't make it so (even if they, or you, could explain what they mean). 

I said that people experience a psychological state which does not include any sense of self. When they have this experience they say things like "I was at one with universal consciousness". I'm describing a psychological phenomenon second-hand, I'm not claiming that universal consciousness actually is a real thing, or even a concept that makes sense. I think they're describing an unusual experience of loss-of-self generated by their brain.

Post edited at 00:24
In reply to Sir Chasm:

> Oneness with what? 

The experience I'm interested in is the complete loss of a perception of self which is replaced by a boundless conscious unity between everything that there is.

> I'm not looking for evidence they're not trying to describe something they've experienced. I'm suggesting, as it's all happening inside their head, that it is something they feel that is very much a part of themselves.  

> But not an experience that the self doesn't experience. 

> I've enjoyed high doses of psilocybin, it's great. But you're going to struggle to convince me that some blokes ramblings after he's had a good evening are mystical. You take some good shit, it plays with your brain for a while. 

> Perhaps if we could nail down what the ego is and what the loss of it would look like I could climb aboard. 

There is no self in the experience but the experience is transient, people come back to their sense of self and then try to make sense of what has been experienced and explain it using symbolic language. 

It may be in the head but it may not be. The people who experience it tend to describe it as a glimpse of a more authentic reality. When it comes through meditation it is a deliberate focus of awareness done with a clear mind and the report is that it doesn't alter the sensory input but transcends it with a new perception of oneness. It's not a different reality but maybe an analogy to describe it is as a revelation that individual waves are all part of one ocean.

Similar experiences can be induced by drugs and similar experiences occur in extreme circumstances like Near Death Experiences so we have interesting accounts which have varying degrees of credibility. Some by people who were in control of their mind but the accounts may be biased because they were looking for a spiritual experience, on the other hand we have accounts of atheists becoming spiritual due to experiences that they weren't looking for but these accounts may be due to distorted brain activity.

 john arran 04 Jun 2021
In reply to freeflyer:

> I personally believe that fear is the key, in contrast to other posters.

> It may also be called anxiety, lack of confidence in their place in the world, or in their ability to understand or engage with more complicated and potentially more verifiable explanations. In the latter case, it's a simplification which may have survival value, and that explanation may do for the others as well. They may have better evolutionary fitness than you, if their genes make them believe --- and increase their number, and so on.

I'm not getting the connection between abstract belief and evolutionary fitness. Yes, I'm happy to accept that there may be one - either way - but I don't see a clear directional driver for it.

> I remember back in the day our new sales director telling us that hope was not the basis for an effective strategy, while haranguing his entrepreneur directors and his arch-enemy the marketing director.

> So what about 'hope' then? Surely there is no place for hope in your rational world view. Are you hopeless?

Hope seems to me to be a perfectly rational way of making sense of uncertainty. As limited individual beings, we don't know everything that is going to happen, even if it may be theoretically already knowable. In the face of uncertainty we need to make decisions, even if the decisions we make are already predetermined by our biological state. And hope is a construct we use to direct, or to justify, our decision making.

 Sir Chasm 04 Jun 2021
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> Yes, under normal conditions. It (apparently) doesn't feel like this being you or me when you're experiencing ego loss.

You're assuming that ego loss is a thing.

> The brain is creating the self, under normal waking conditions. But it can also generate a conscious experience that does not have this character, under other conditions (meditation, etc).

So what experiences that "conscious experience" that the brain creates? It can't be the self, because apparently that's gone. So now we have the self, the conscious experience and the other thing that knows you're having the conscious experience, it's getting crowded in there.

> I'm arguing that you can have an experience in which you lose your sense of self. You no longer feel like a separate, autonomous agent with beliefs, desires, memories, that's situated behind your eyes controlling your body. You feel as though there is no boundary between you and the rest of the world.

There is no boundary between me and the world, I am a part of the world. 

> You seem to think that people who say that they've experienced ego loss are saying that they've spawned another entity, 'me' as well as the self. That's taking the language too literally: read the Pollan thing, he's better at describing it than anyone. The sense of 'me' *is* the ego. That is what disappears. This unusual conscious experience doesn't feature any 'I' at all, and that's what makes it hard to describe. There aren't two things, the ego/self and 'me' which separate. There is just a conscious state that is free from the feeling of being 'me' and instead feels something like "merging with universal consciousness" or whatever jumble of words people come out with to try to explain it.

And again, what is it that experiences this if it isn't the self?

> They're not making something up that didn't happen. They're trying to put into words something which language can't communicate properly, because our language depends on identifying ourselves as 'I', 'me; etc.

People('s brains) make up all sorts of mumbo jumbo to communicate things they can't wrap their brains around, ghosts, gods, goblins, ghouls.

> I said that people experience a psychological state which does not include any sense of self. When they have this experience they say things like "I was at one with universal consciousness". I'm describing a psychological phenomenon second-hand, I'm not claiming that universal consciousness actually is a real thing, or even a concept that makes sense. I think they're describing an unusual experience of loss-of-self generated by their brain.

And we're back to your blind acceptance that you can lose your self and somehow still have your self that experiences and can recount that loss of self.

1
 Sir Chasm 04 Jun 2021
In reply to cumbria mammoth:

> The experience I'm interested in is the complete loss of a perception of self which is replaced by a boundless conscious unity between everything that there is.

> There is no self in the experience but the experience is transient, people come back to their sense of self and then try to make sense of what has been experienced and explain it using symbolic language. 

Who experiences this loss of perception of self?

> It may be in the head but it may not be. The people who experience it tend to describe it as a glimpse of a more authentic reality. When it comes through meditation it is a deliberate focus of awareness done with a clear mind and the report is that it doesn't alter the sensory input but transcends it with a new perception of oneness. It's not a different reality but maybe an analogy to describe it is as a revelation that individual waves are all part of one ocean.

Of course it's in your head! Where else do you have thoughts? 

> Similar experiences can be induced by drugs and similar experiences occur in extreme circumstances like Near Death Experiences so we have interesting accounts which have varying degrees of credibility. Some by people who were in control of their mind but the accounts may be biased because they were looking for a spiritual experience, on the other hand we have accounts of atheists becoming spiritual due to experiences that they weren't looking for but these accounts may be due to distorted brain activity.

Something is certainly distorted.

 freeflyer 04 Jun 2021
In reply to john arran:

> I'm not getting the connection between abstract belief and evolutionary fitness.

I think the biologists would give me a stern lecture and point out that EF applies specifically to genes, but I've always wondered whether it's possible to make a connection between that and the resulting behaviour of the entity they create. If there is, there might be simplistically a 'gene for religion', which I doubt, and if not, are we saying that nurture - abstract belief in this case, can drive evolutionary success. Are we destined to all believe in something?

> Hope seems to me to be a perfectly rational way of making sense of uncertainty. As limited individual beings, we don't know everything that is going to happen, even if it may be theoretically already knowable. In the face of uncertainty we need to make decisions, even if the decisions we make are already predetermined by our biological state. And hope is a construct we use to direct, or to justify, our decision making.

This sounds to me as close to a belief system as it's possible to get without actually using the word!

 john arran 04 Jun 2021
In reply to freeflyer:

> > Hope seems to me to be a perfectly rational way of making sense of uncertainty. As limited individual beings, we don't know everything that is going to happen, even if it may be theoretically already knowable. In the face of uncertainty we need to make decisions, even if the decisions we make are already predetermined by our biological state. And hope is a construct we use to direct, or to justify, our decision making.

> This sounds to me as close to a belief system as it's possible to get without actually using the word!

I'd accept that if you could just tell me what is is that I'm 'believing'

That's assuming, of course that you're not taking the phrase 'belief system' to include objective observable reality and its logical implications. If you are including that then, yes, guilty as charged m'lud, I'm a believer!

 cb294 04 Jun 2021
In reply to freeflyer:

Genes clearly generate and modify behaviour, which is just another phenotype subject to selection, and therefore influences evolutionary success.

Simplistically, we have all been selected to attribute agency long before we were human. It makes sense to be afraid of cracking branches in the forest, something big, powerful and dangerous might be responsible. Everymammal not happy with this idea gets eliminated by dinosaur....

Much later this propensity for attributing agency affected our interpretation of unexplained phenomena such as the recurring floods of the Nile, the rising of the sun, or thunder and lightning: I cannot make these things happen, it is safer to assume something big, powerful, and dangerous is responsible, let's better make sure this thing is friendly to us!

A similar argument goes for our acceptance of authority: It did help to listen to your parents and stay in the cave quietly, rather than sneak out while they were away hunting, play a game of footrock and get eaten by the bear.

Together these tendencies make for a nice recipe for religion.

I simply do not get people who decline using our scientific insight accumulated over the last few centuries, and in particular the insights of behavioural evolutionary biology and neurobiology to overcome this evolutionary ballast of gods or spiritual entities as explanation for phenomena beyond our control.

We have quite obviously done so in fields like ethics (early humans were cannibalistic), mating systems (primates including humans are NOT typically monogamous), etc.

CB

2
 magma 04 Jun 2021
In reply to cb294:

> I simply do not get people who decline using our scientific insight accumulated over the last few centuries, and in particular the insights of behavioural evolutionary biology and neurobiology to overcome this evolutionary ballast of gods or spiritual entities as explanation for phenomena beyond our control.

talking of ethics, i draw the line when human scientists overcome gods by doing dodgy gain of function experiments in secret labs..

Post edited at 13:40
2
 cb294 04 Jun 2021
In reply to magma:

Do you even have a f*cking clue what gain of function experiments are before spouting off?

CB

 magma 04 Jun 2021
In reply to cb294:

yes..

your response shows what sensitive a subject it is- i got banned from this forum the last time i raised the subject..

Post edited at 16:52
2
 Duncan Bourne 04 Jun 2021
In reply to cb294:

>And don't get me started on Tolkien...

> Here is all that is left to say about that abomination of a fantasy story:

> CB

And in a single comment you lose all credibility I held for you.

When a man is tired of Tolkien he is tired of life - to misquote Dr Jonhnson

2
 magma 04 Jun 2021
In reply to Duncan Bourne:

> And in a single comment you lose all credibility I held for you.

 same for me with his GoF comment..

3
 magma 04 Jun 2021
In reply to john arran:

reminds me of the 'what is mind?' thread on supertopo that continued to an abrubt end: http://www.supertopo.com/climbers-forum/1593650/What-is-Mind

 cb294 04 Jun 2021
In reply to magma:

Why? Do you actually have the slightest idea about how modern biological science works? I really do not need or want your respect or approval.

As a hint, we do GoF experiments ALL THE TIME, nothing in modern molecular biology would work without e.g. expressing fluorescent proteins in our cells or organism of interest, expressing regulatory proteins to identify their targets etc.

All these are GoF experiments based on their molecular genetic mode of function, unlike, say, gene knockouts in cells or organisms.

By all means, there are GoF and LoF experiments that IMO should not be done, be it for ethical or for safety reasons.

As an example of the former, I e.g. very much disagree with the UK regulators with respect to the conditions and limitations under which you are allowed create human/animal chimeric embryos.

As for the latter, I assume you are talking about experiments such as "resurrecting" or reverse engineering pathogens such as the 1919/20 "Spanish" flu virus.

Such experiments are certainly dangerous, but absolutely necessary to improve our ability to deal with the next deadly pandemic. The issue here is how to publish the results of that kind of research.

On the other hand, there are experiments that are too dangerous to be done for the amount of insight they promise. Back whenever I declined doing a PhD thesis I was offered following my master's thesis in virology, which would have involved creating an oncogenic herpesvirus that might well have been able to infect humans and cause disseminated leukemias (as it could already do in new world monkeys without the envisaged alteration), the main rationale being that one could save a few 100.000 Euros per year the institute spent on one single cytokine.

In the end, none of the group leaders in the institute was willing to do this, but the big cheese of the whole place had already secured regulatory approval.

It really hacks me off that every fool feels qualified to comment on what bioscience should or should not be allowed to do, presumably because they saw some idiot video on youtube.

Seems to be what passes for professional judgement these days!

CB

 Jon Stewart 04 Jun 2021
In reply to Sir Chasm:

> You're assuming that ego loss is a thing.

I'm not assuming. Look at the quantity of research on this topic:

https://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&as_sdt=0%2C5&q=ego+dissolution&oq=ego+diss

You don't get it, fine. It's a weird concept. That's why I posted the Michael Pollan piece. He's a talented communicator who wrote a brilliant book about this stuff, from thorough research and full-bodied personal experience.

> So what experiences that "conscious experience" that the brain creates? It can't be the self, because apparently that's gone. So now we have the self, the conscious experience and the other thing that knows you're having the conscious experience, it's getting crowded in there.

No it isn't. 

This is an interesting philosophical problem to untangle. If we use a mish-mash of language which confuses third person descriptions with first person description, then we end up in a mess. Here's a serious attempt to try to clarify - I think this is fascinating so it would be good to try genuinely to see what's going on.

Let's call the things that have conscious experiences "persons". Persons exist objectively, anyone can point to a person and label it "person A", and they're all talking about a real thing in the outside objective reality we share. Hopefully you're on board with there being an objective reality and you're not going to disagree with that for the sake of it.

Then we have the content of each person's conscious experiences. Things in this category don't exist in the outside objective reality, stuff like colours, thoughts, intentions, etc. They only exist to the subject who experiences them (first person ontology) - and can only have first person descriptions. My memories only exists in my consciousness there is no third-person description of it (a third person would just see neurons and synapses - no good!). My sense of sense, my ego, my perception of being an autonomous agent situated behind my eyes, is in this category. It has first person ontology, and only first person descriptions are available for it.

You think there's a problem with saying "I lost my sense of self", and there is, as Michael Pollan says and I highlighted at the start of our discussion. But this problem is a quirk of all our first person descriptions of what goes on in our heads. Have you ever "given yourself a talking to"? Were there two selves, one talking and one being talked to? In normal waking consciousness, where we "stop ourselves" hitting someone, or "are pleased with ourselves", there do seem to be spare selves in there, so maybe one of them can be dispensed with and we can still remain in existence and conscious? The problem you  highlight doesn't show that people who speak of ego loss are talking bollocks, it highlights that the whole notion of a self who experiences consciousness, is in some way, bollocks.

> There is no boundary between me and the world, I am a part of the world. 

That's true in a third person description, but we're talking about first person descriptions here, what it feels like from the inside. That shift you made just creates confusion; it's not an honest first person description (it's just disagreeing for the sake, as usual, which is different from devil's advocate btw). Before you said:

> The ego or sense of self (synonymous) is the feeling that you are an autonomous agent, situated midway between and behind your eyes, looking out at and separate from the world outside and controlling your body. 

You mean it feels like being you (and me). 

So, from a first person perspective, which is true? Are you separate from the world, or are you part of it? I am assuming here that you only perceive one first person perspective - this may not be the case...

> And again, what is it that experiences this if it isn't the self?

The thing that experiences anything in consciousness is the person. That's a third person description of what experiences both the self (when it's there), and the loss of self (when it's disappeared). You seem to want a third person description (an experiencer having an experience) and a first person description (I felt...) to be identical. There is no reason this should be the case because objective reality and subjective experiences are ontologically different. They are different categories of things, things that exist from the first person perspective simply do not exist in the objective world, and if you don't appreciate that, we'll just talk past each other.

Interesting bit of philosophy that, I reckon.

> People('s brains) make up all sorts of mumbo jumbo to communicate things they can't wrap their brains around, ghosts, gods, goblins, ghouls.

Yes.

> And we're back to your blind acceptance that you can lose your self and somehow still have your self that experiences and can recount that loss of self.

It is not blind acceptance. It's an interest in an area of human psychology and neuroscience which is well-studied. I haven't made up the stuff I'm saying, I read it in books, generally written by people who study human brains in scanners (Sam Harris, Bruce Hood, Michael Pollan, Robin Carhart-Harris). The ego is sufficiently well-studied that it's been mapped to activation of the Default Mode Network brain structure. This shows reduced activity when the person in the scanner is experiencing ego loss during meditation or a psychedelic trip. I've also meditated for a hundred or so hours and taken high doses of psychedelic drugs not only in social situations, but also lying down with a blindfold on (with music), which are the staple methods of subjectively investigating the nature of one's own sense of self. 

You've got a long way to go if you think you're going to convince me, and then presumably all the scientists whose work I've followed, that, in Sam Harris' words, "there's no there there".

Post edited at 22:45
 cb294 04 Jun 2021
In reply to Jon Stewart:

Even if your post was not directed at me, here is my 2p:

>  Hopefully you're on board with there being an objective reality and you're not going to disagree with that for the sake of it.

Sure.

> Then we have the content of each person's conscious experiences. Things in this category don't exist in the outside objective reality, stuff like colours, thoughts, intentions, etc. They only exist to the subject who experiences them (first person ontology) - and can only have first person descriptions. My memories only exists in my consciousness there is no third-person description of it (a third person would just see neurons and synapses - no good!).

This claim is IMO the critical leap of faith. I am sure that you agree that these feelings and experiences are created by the activity of the brain as the hardware, responding to proper external stimuli (light of some wavelength, etc.)

You seem to believe that this sense of self and the experiences of the self can in principle only be accessed from within the system that generates these mental activities.

In contrast, I believe that it is, as yet only as a thought experiments due to technological limitations, to access the higher states of a consciousness also externally. We certainly can tell whether a mouse experiences fear from recordings from its amygdala, or, even simpler, whether a sleeping fruit fly processes memories from which of the two olfactory stimuli it experienced when it was awake. We can also decode thoughts about letters to allow paralysed patients to communicate by "writing".

I see no fundamental reason why we should not eventually be able to detect and possibly even recreate the processes leading to the establishment of the self, even if today we are as yet only able to interfere with it. Ketamine works wonders for dissociation of the self from actual sensory input (e.g. pain), but don't yet ask how exactly!

The issue you raise about memories is an even more gray area, as we can in mice already edit existing memories or implant false memories, at least within the context of controlled  experiments, mainly using fear conditioning as the experimental paradigm.

Interestingly, insights from these experiments have already even been used in humans, trying to treat PTSD by memory editing!

CB

 Jon Stewart 04 Jun 2021
In reply to cb294:

> This claim is IMO the critical leap of faith.

To me it doesn't seem like a leap of faith. It's self-evidently true to me, that I know what my memories consist of, but no one else does. And we have no prospect of a scientific way of anyone else accessing these memories (or any other conscious experience) - what would that look like? Would the memory appear on a screen - that wouldn't work, they're not just visual, they have many more qualities. Would they be 'piped into' the brain of an observer? There is no science here.

> I am sure that you agree that these feelings and experiences are created by the activity of the brain as the hardware, responding to proper external stimuli (light of some wavelength, etc.)

I do. But external stimuli aren't crucial - see dreams. The brain creates an internal first person reality, using data from the senses, or not.

> You seem to believe that this sense of self and the experiences of the self can in principle only be accessed from within the system that generates these mental activities.

Yes. But not quite "in principle" - I wouldn't go that far. I just have no idea how they could be accessed externally, I can't imagine what that would look like.

> In contrast, I believe that it is, as yet only as a thought experiments due to technological limitations, to access the higher states of a consciousness also externally. We certainly can tell whether a mouse experiences fear from recordings from its amygdala, or, even simpler, whether a sleeping fruit fly processes memories from which of the two olfactory stimuli it experienced when it was awake. We can also decode thoughts about letters to allow paralysed patients to communicate by "writing".

What's happening there is that the neural correlates of consciousness are being represented in ways that can be interpreted externally. It tells you absolutely nothing about what the mouse or fruitfly is actually experiencing. Such experiments are not dealing with the first person world of the subject - they will not tell you anything about What Is It Like To Be A Bat.

> I see no fundamental reason why we should not eventually be able to detect and possibly even recreate the processes leading to the establishment of the self, even if today we are as yet only able to interfere with it. Ketamine works wonders for dissociation of the self from actual sensory input (e.g. pain), but don't yet ask how exactly!

We'll know a lot about the easy problems eventually, yes. When you say "recreate", do you mean in another human observer, or somewhere else? If you "recreate" the sense of self in a computer, say, how will you know if you've succeeded? Passing the Turing Test is not enough!

> The issue you raise about memories is an even more gray area, as we can in mice already edit existing memories or implant false memories, at least within the context of controlled  experiments, mainly using fear conditioning as the experimental paradigm.

When you say "memories" you're talking about information storage, which you can judge from a third person perspective by observing behaviour. When I say "memories" I'm talking about the first person experience of having a memory, e.g. remembering what it felt like when I first went scrambling in the Lakes as a kid. There's no getting at that from the outside - there's no behavioural signal that can be interpreted so you know what it was like the first time I did Sharp Edge with my Dad. That conscious experience of me remembering is private. The memory has first person ontology, even if it has a third person correlate in the structure of synapses, and the neural firing that occurs when I attend to the memory.

You, like Dan Dennett, will probably say "the neural firing is identical to the experience of the memory", to which I'll say, "no it isn't, that's stupid and makes no sense".

> Interestingly, insights from these experiments have already even been used in humans, trying to treat PTSD by memory editing!

Fascinating stuff

Post edited at 23:24
 freeflyer 04 Jun 2021
In reply to john arran:

> That's assuming, of course that you're not taking the phrase 'belief system' to include objective observable reality and its logical implications. If you are including that then, yes, guilty as charged m'lud, I'm a believer!

I guess I'm using the phrase 'belief system' to talk about ways of thinking that help us deal with uncertainty, especially where that uncertainty is created by our emotions or by our emotional behaviour.

We could have the discussion about the practice of science being a verifiable belief system, but that is not the subject of your original post! So for the purpose of this thread, no, I don't think you are a believer as you've defined it.

I am curious though, because I do all sorts of crazy stuff for which there is not much rational explanation, and I really value the extra insights that spirituality gives me into my internal balance between calm logic, instinct and raw emotions of various sorts. I also know that loads of other folk manage their fears and anxieties by believing in fairy stories, and I'm sure they are better off for having those beliefs, up to a point.

I guess it's complicated. I think science doesn't currently contribute much, and in fact contributes very little, to that process, so spirituality fills the gap. Sure, sometimes they go off the rails a bit, and it's very hard to understand what the drivers are for why that happens. However, a primary goal of zen, and therapeutic techniques in general, is to help the believer dismantle those beliefs in some supportive way that allows them to grow as a person.

My guess is that everyone has their own way of dealing with these things, which probably depends significantly on their physiological makeup, on their upbringing, and whatever training they may have had through life experience or in other ways, including climbing.

 john arran 05 Jun 2021
In reply to freeflyer:

> I am curious though, because I do all sorts of crazy stuff for which there is not much rational explanation, and I really value the extra insights that spirituality gives me into my internal balance between calm logic, instinct and raw emotions of various sorts. I also know that loads of other folk manage their fears and anxieties by believing in fairy stories, and I'm sure they are better off for having those beliefs, up to a point.

That sounds like you're viewing spirituality as a kind of halfway house between rational inference and full-blown religious adhesion. The Libdem of woo, if you like 🙂.

It's such a common theme that people feel, if not a need then certainly an advantage, in having something with which to help fill the void of ignorance we inevitably all must face. To me, that's the essence of belief, a reluctance to accept the unknown and the unknowable.

And calling such unexplained experiences 'spiritual' to me is akin to naming a medical condition a syndrome, i.e. we have no idea what causes it yet but giving it a name helps us to discuss the symptoms and simply feeling that it's a known entity in some way can make some sufferers feel less worried!

In reply to john arran:

> And calling such unexplained experiences 'spiritual' to me is akin to naming a medical condition a syndrome, i.e. we have no idea what causes it yet but giving it a name helps us to discuss the symptoms and simply feeling that it's a known entity in some way can make some sufferers feel less worried!

... So the existence of 'the phenomenon of that syndrome' (forgive mouthful) doesn't go away by giving it a name. To that extent it's surely a 'known entity' even if it's not explicable.

 freeflyer 05 Jun 2021
In reply to john arran:

> That sounds like you're viewing spirituality as a kind of halfway house between rational inference and full-blown religious adhesion. The Libdem of woo, if you like 🙂.

> It's such a common theme that people feel, if not a need then certainly an advantage, in having something with which to help fill the void of ignorance we inevitably all must face. To me, that's the essence of belief, a reluctance to accept the unknown and the unknowable.

> And calling such unexplained experiences 'spiritual' to me is akin to naming a medical condition a syndrome, i.e. we have no idea what causes it yet but giving it a name helps us to discuss the symptoms and simply feeling that it's a known entity in some way can make some sufferers feel less worried!

Great post

 john arran 05 Jun 2021
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> ... So the existence of 'the phenomenon of that syndrome' (forgive mouthful) doesn't go away by giving it a name. To that extent it's surely a 'known entity' even if it's not explicable.

Absolutely. But I think no more so than other experiences or feelings we have, such as sadness, or shock. There's no more reason to invoke other-worldiness than there is for any other emotions or neural responses .

 Jon Stewart 05 Jun 2021
In reply to john arran:

> Absolutely. But I think no more so than other experiences or feelings we have, such as sadness, or shock. There's no more reason to invoke other-worldiness than there is for any other emotions or neural responses .

I agree with you from an objective standpoint, but that's easy for me to say as I've never had a "mystical experience" (this term is well-defined in the psychological literature). From what I've read, it's no surprise to me that people who do have such experiences call on the supernatural as an explanation (a bad explanation, mind you).

Were I to have a mystical experience (and I've tried), I most likely wouldn't put it down to anything supernatural, because my naturalist/materialist worldview is such a big deal to me and my identity. I suspect that because of my beliefs and expectations, my sense of self happens to be very hard to dislodge/unravel/dissolve, and I'm not prepared to go to the excessive pharmaceutical lengths that it might take (I'm pretty sure smoking 5-meo-dmt would do it, but I'm not *that* committed to the pursuit). But if I was quite open to the idea of "universal consciousness" or other realms beyond the physical beforehand, then that would seem like a good way to explain an experience which is qualitatively significantly different to emotions like sadness, shock etc.

I know that here I'm talking about a very narrow definition of "spirituality" - that which is used to explain the classic mystical experiences of ego loss, and your question was about a much broader, wishy-washy definition of "spirituality". I think it's worth paraphrasing Michael Pollan: after encountering these mystical experiences, he came to the conclusion that the opposite of "spiritual" is not "material" but rather "egotistical". This is in line with Sam Harris' view of "spirituality without religion" he talks about in Waking Up. Like you, I don't see any value in bad explanations of psychological phenomena that invoke the supernatural, but like Harris and Pollan, I think there is a baby in the bathwater that we shouldn't throw out. Experiences of "oneness" where the rigid sense of self is at least softened, if not completely obliterated, seem to be good for us - they correlate to improvements in wellbeing. There are practical reasons not to completely dismiss anything that's got a whiff of woo about it.

 freeflyer 05 Jun 2021
In reply to john arran:

> That sounds like you're viewing spirituality as a kind of halfway house between rational inference and full-blown religious adhesion. The Libdem of woo, if you like 🙂.

> It's such a common theme that people feel, if not a need then certainly an advantage, in having something with which to help fill the void of ignorance we inevitably all must face. To me, that's the essence of belief, a reluctance to accept the unknown and the unknowable.

However - the need for woo (a great word) is actually more than a need or an advantage for some. If for example, you try to argue against free will from a scientific viewpoint, you will rapidly run into serious trouble with the woo-ers. Take a look a this discussion:

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2021/apr/27/the-clockwork-universe-is-free-will-an-illusion

Poor Galen Strawson receives death threats after positing some armchair philosophy, and realises this. He says "I think for these people, it's just an existential catastrophe".

Maybe woo is essential to the survival of some folk.

 Jon Stewart 05 Jun 2021
In reply to freeflyer:

Interesting article, thanks for posting. If the lovely Galen Strawson gets that kind of grief, imagine what David Benatar's (who argues that bringing a new life into the world is immoral) postbag is like!

 freeflyer 05 Jun 2021
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> David Benatar

Goodness me. I invoke rule 34.1: there is philosophy of it.

Wrt your baby in the bathwater - "softening the sense of self" - you have a lot of support from eastern philosophy, which values greatly the process of controlled ego loss. I am watching the mindfulness brigade with interest, and some amusement at their position that they've invented everything from scratch, with no reference to any philosophical antecedents. It does seem to be getting some traction though.

 Sir Chasm 07 Jun 2021
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> This is an interesting philosophical problem to untangle. If we use a mish-mash of language which confuses third person descriptions with first person description, then we end up in a mess. Here's a serious attempt to try to clarify - I think this is fascinating so it would be good to try genuinely to see what's going on.

> Let's call the things that have conscious experiences "persons". Persons exist objectively, anyone can point to a person and label it "person A", and they're all talking about a real thing in the outside objective reality we share. Hopefully you're on board with there being an objective reality and you're not going to disagree with that for the sake of it.

With you so far.

> Then we have the content of each person's conscious experiences. Things in this category don't exist in the outside objective reality, stuff like colours, thoughts, intentions, etc. They only exist to the subject who experiences them (first person ontology) - and can only have first person descriptions. My memories only exists in my consciousness there is no third-person description of it (a third person would just see neurons and synapses - no good!). My sense of sense, my ego, my perception of being an autonomous agent situated behind my eyes, is in this category. It has first person ontology, and only first person descriptions are available for it.

Nearly with you, but I'm discounting colour, we might interpret colours differently but there is an objective reality there.

> You think there's a problem with saying "I lost my sense of self", and there is, as Michael Pollan says and I highlighted at the start of our discussion. But this problem is a quirk of all our first person descriptions of what goes on in our heads. Have you ever "given yourself a talking to"? Were there two selves, one talking and one being talked to? In normal waking consciousness, where we "stop ourselves" hitting someone, or "are pleased with ourselves", there do seem to be spare selves in there, so maybe one of them can be dispensed with and we can still remain in existence and conscious? The problem you  highlight doesn't show that people who speak of ego loss are talking bollocks, it highlights that the whole notion of a self who experiences consciousness, is in some way, bollocks.

Actually I'd highlighted it to Tim before you joined in. And it's still a problem. What you're describing is called an internal monologue, we all do it but it doesn't mean we're talking to another party (you know that? Support lines are available). But now you're saying the self doesn't experience consciousness, so does the self experience ego (and therefore ego loss)? 

> That's true in a third person description, but we're talking about first person descriptions here, what it feels like from the inside. That shift you made just creates confusion; it's not an honest first person description (it's just disagreeing for the sake, as usual, which is different from devil's advocate btw).

No, it's true from my first person experience. There is no boundary between me and the world. But you might feel differently and I shouldn't have assumed you also had no boundary.

> Before you said:

> You mean it feels like being you (and me). 

> So, from a first person perspective, which is true? Are you separate from the world, or are you part of it? I am assuming here that you only perceive one first person perspective - this may not be the case...

Still no boundary here. Still very much an indivisible part of the world.

> The thing that experiences anything in consciousness is the person. That's a third person description of what experiences both the self (when it's there), and the loss of self (when it's disappeared). You seem to want a third person description (an experiencer having an experience) and a first person description (I felt...) to be identical. There is no reason this should be the case because objective reality and subjective experiences are ontologically different. They are different categories of things, things that exist from the first person perspective simply do not exist in the objective world, and if you don't appreciate that, we'll just talk past each other.

The person? Ok, so the person (let's call him Jon) experiences consciousness, but it isn't Jon's self that experiences consciousness because Jon's person can experience consciousness without there being any self? Is Jon still conscious of being Jon when he has lost his self? Can Jon decide that it's time to find his self again? And if the self can be consciously switched back on by Jon was it ever actually lost?

> Interesting bit of philosophy that, I reckon.

Hmm.

> Yes.

> It is not blind acceptance. It's an interest in an area of human psychology and neuroscience which is well-studied. I haven't made up the stuff I'm saying, I read it in books, generally written by people who study human brains in scanners (Sam Harris, Bruce Hood, Michael Pollan, Robin Carhart-Harris). The ego is sufficiently well-studied that it's been mapped to activation of the Default Mode Network brain structure. This shows reduced activity when the person in the scanner is experiencing ego loss during meditation or a psychedelic trip. I've also meditated for a hundred or so hours and taken high doses of psychedelic drugs not only in social situations, but also lying down with a blindfold on (with music), which are the staple methods of subjectively investigating the nature of one's own sense of self. 

I thought I'd have a go at removing stimuli, so I went down a cave and took a high dose of psychedelic drugs, no light, very little sound. Unfortunately it appeared that I'd taken my self into the cave with me. It was an interesting experience but I could have stayed at home and laid on the floor listening to tunes.

> You've got a long way to go if you think you're going to convince me, and then presumably all the scientists whose work I've followed, that, in Sam Harris' words, "there's no there there".

Au contraire, it's all there because there's nowhere for it to go.

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