Can Science Rule Out God?

Theology, Religious Studies, religion, god, faith and other topics of a spiritual nature.

Re: Can Science Rule Out God?

Postby T. Burbank on January 20th, 2020, 3:47 am 

Charon -

Sorry for the late response. Took awhile to think through what to say....
I don't think of the "me" as material

I know, we don't like that idea. But the 'me' is a thought process and thought is definitely material. If all thought ceases, where are you then? Is there a 'you' at all? There is physically, the body is still there, but there's no sense of self.

It's not that I don't like that idea (of the "me" being something material), it's that it doesn't make sense to me. My priority is to find the truth, if possible, and I think I'll be happy to accept well-demonstrated truth whatever it is. I am probably biased toward some ideas, but I hope that I'm not in this case and I'm trying not to be. If you can explain how conscious awareness, something without any of the normal properties of matter – mass and physical extension, for example – is nonetheless material, I think I'm open to it.

But maybe the problem is that we have different definitions of "material"? To me anything material has to have mass and physical dimensions, no matter how small. It has to be at least in principle possible to detect its existence directly. And I don't believe this to be true of my conscious awareness, although I know quite clearly that it does exist. Maybe we're talking about the same thing, but just have different definitions of "material"?

And so regarding the rest of what you say here, well… imagine that all of the neuronal interactions in the brain that accompany the specific thought "me" happen exactly as they always do, but this time for some reason or other no thought "me" arises. As I see it, it is not the material part of the thought process that has ceased here, but something else. And you're right, there is no longer a "me" with a sense of self at all.

Forget their theories, they're irrelevant. What matters is that we understand it, not someone else.

I do deny it, but I'm no authority to be quoted. I deny it because, if one examines it, which we can all do, the idea falls apart.

I don't entertain that theory because some famous authorities have proposed it, I entertain it because it seems like it might explain my own personal experience (but I do assume that Kant and Husserl were being honest, and also basing their beliefs on careful introspection of their personal experiences)…

I remember once when I was 10 or so, and I don't recall what it was but I was in the midst of doing something stupid, and I was suddenly aware of a separate part of me that was watching, and recognized that I was being childish – not critically but objectively, with no emotional involvement at all. Not sure how an inexperienced 10-year-old comes to have such a mature part of himself, nor why I was so clearly aware of that part for that brief moment (I don't think I've ever been aware of it so clearly since, and have mostly not been aware of it at all).…

Now, maybe that wasn't the transcendental ego, which is supposed to be almost impossible to perceive. I've read ego state (parts) therapists who describe a state that sounds similar to what I experienced. Unlike most ego states, this one has existed since the subject's birth, and seems to not do much of anything but watch:

It has wisdom; it is nonjudgmental; it has information… and it can be a great resource for the therapist. Though not emotional, it does care about the preservation of the total system… Its inner function is to observe. Some therapists refer to this entity as the inner mind, the higher self, the center, the natural self… the observer, etc. " (Watkins & Watkins, Ego States: Theory and Therapy, p. 114).

So I may not be quite clear exactly what the transcendental ego of Kant and Husserl is, if they are right (I guess it could be the "I" that I said was "suddenly aware of" this entity). But the idea of something(s) of some kind in the background contributing to holding the different ever-changing "me"s together as parts of a fixed whole does not fall apart when I examine it; it seems to hold up pretty well.

So don't ask 'How am I to die?', find out if you're frightened of losing something and ask why. What makes you cling? Is it fear or loneliness? Is it the desire for things to continue as they are at any price?

Death is only a problem is one refuses to let go, that's all. But the person who won't let go is a self-created prisoner and he suffers the consequences of that. But one can quite easily live without all that. If things change, and they always will, then they change. Too bad!

If one understands this factually, in real life, not as some kind of intellectual conclusion, then living is a joyous thing, not a nightmare. Either we live in bondage to ourselves or we don't, it can never be partial.

I think I agree with you on most of this, and I do try to live that way – although not always successfully. I learned a long time ago how to let go despite fear of the unknown, at least when I know letting go is necessary. In many cases I don't realize that it's time to let go as early as I probably should. I seem to have to double check and triple check first.

But I don't think this means that happiness comes from a peaceful willingness to just let go of everything, all of the time. If you have money, other people will be glad to take it all from you in an instant if you don't resist. How is it going to make your life joyous if you just roll over and let them? I think there are times when it is appropriate to cling to things to some extent, as long as this is not at the expense of more important other things.

Ultimately, though, we really don't own any of the many wonderful things we've been given to enjoy in this life, so yes it is silly vanity to believe that they are ours to keep.
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Re: Can Science Rule Out God?

Postby charon on January 20th, 2020, 10:56 am 

Burbank -

I'm glad you thought about it. Too many people have already up their minds with quite the wrong conclusions and just bang out some answer. Never a good idea.

If you can explain how conscious awareness, something without any of the normal properties of matter – mass and physical extension, for example – is nonetheless material, I think I'm open to it.


You know, science hasn't really grasped consciousness. There are a ton of theories but it's accepted that it's a bit of a mystery.

Our awareness is sensory, isn't it? The brain takes in information via the senses and processes it. It's a sensory process and therefore material. I'd say that any process of the brain was material simply because it's a material organ. Thought is also a sensory process. Thought is sensation. Our feelings are sensation. One could say our whole perception of life is sensory.

It's a physical, material world. Everything we know here is made of matter - nature, our bodies, the environment, and so on. Without matter we wouldn't be here. And I'd say all the information we take in is also like that. They quibble over light, for example, but light is part of our physical world.

But what is the 'me'. Is there a 'you' without thought, which is sensation? If thought has created the 'you' and thought is sensation then the 'you' is also the result of sensation.

And what happens when there's no 'me' or 'you'? Then consciousness or awareness is qualitatively different. and that may not be sensory. But one has to actually discover it and not speculate.

I don't entertain that theory because some famous authorities have proposed it, I entertain it because it seems like it might explain my own personal experience (but I do assume that Kant and Husserl were being honest, and also basing their beliefs on careful introspection of their personal experiences)…


I understand, but I'm not very good with theories. To me, theories are speculation (well, not to me, they are!) and one can spin them ad infinitum and be nowhere in terms of understanding and discovery at the end.

I remember once when I was 10 or so, and I don't recall what it was but I was in the midst of doing something stupid, and I was suddenly aware of a separate part of me that was watching


When you say 'a separate part of me' then it's still part of your daily consciousness. We can go into different states, that's known. People who've committed murder or violence often say they felt apart from themselves, as though they were an observer watching the terrible thing taking place. So consciousness, which is strange affair, can do that. It can fragment itself - but it's still what it is.

Can I put it another way? Does that happen when we're not being stupid (!)? When we're living happily and there's no problem, does this happen? Or is it a reaction to some form of trauma? Perhaps it's a form of self-protection.

So there's no sense of being a distant observer when everything is normal. Only the disturbed or neurotic person feels apart from themselves. And, if one really has no problem at all in any way, is there a separate observer at any time?

Sorry, I have to explain this. Forgive the length... How does the sense of an observer happen? We can call that observer something mysterious, or 'spiritual', or psycho-analytical, but isn't it still part of our background, of our thought and feeling? Isn't it also sensory?

If the mind's in conflict then it's divided in itself. That's the essence, the very definition, of conflict. A person in conflict, whether little or immense, is in a state of inward schism. We accept it up to a point in ordinary life but it becomes a real issue when it produces psychological problems. That's what psychological problems are, the lack of integration. A whole person doesn't have it.

The whole trouble in the world is this feeling of being separated. We're reared in separation, it's encouraged, society's based on it. And you know what society is, a horror, and we're told we have to fit into it...

I do try to live that way – although not always successfully. I learned a long time ago how to let go despite fear of the unknown, at least when I know letting go is necessary. In many cases I don't realize that it's time to let go as early as I probably should. I seem to have to double check and triple check first.


Why don't you do it all the time? That way the mind's shedding the past constantly, which doesn't mean one loses one's memory. Then every day's a new day. Not just in relationships but with everything, all the time.

But the whole of life is relationship anyway, not just with people but everything - money, property, ideas, nature. If we feel separate in that relationship then there is no relationship, then there's loneliness and all the problems arising from it. That's one source of fear, terror, and all the rest of it.

So living begins when one starts to become aware of that loneliness and its separation. See what causes it, watch the processes involved. One is separating oneself all the time and the very root of it is this thing called 'me', call it the ego or whatever one likes.

But I don't think this means that happiness comes from a peaceful willingness to just let go of everything, all of the time. If you have money, other people will be glad to take it all from you in an instant if you don't resist. How is it going to make your life joyous if you just roll over and let them? I think there are times when it is appropriate to cling to things to some extent, as long as this is not at the expense of more important other things.


Absolutely, it has nothing to do with letting people take your stuff! They shouldn't be doing it, it's stealing in whatever form. So one needs to be very awake. What do they say? Wise as a serpent, gentle as a dove.

Being awake is part of intelligence. If one has that then it applies to everything in life, not just naughty people doing harm. It functions in all our relationships, not just the personal ones. But that intelligence is very dangerous, it might put you at odds with society, and probably will.

Ultimately, though, we really don't own any of the many wonderful things we've been given to enjoy in this life, so yes it is silly vanity to believe that they are ours to keep.


We may not keep many things outwardly but we like to keep our memories. Not memory, obviously, that's essential, but the things of yesterday, the experiences, the problems. Not to have all that is a great freedom. A mind not burdened by the past is a living mind.
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Re: Can Science Rule Out God?

Postby T. Burbank on January 21st, 2020, 9:25 am 

TheVat » January 17th, 2020, 4:01 am wrote:"Red" is what, say, "occipital C-fiber firing in response to 650 nm EMF impinging on the retina" is like when processed internally in a neural network. The fact that we could not ever describe "red" to someone who had spent their life in a black-and-white room (like Frank Jackson's "Mary") only means that "red" is the aspect of the perceptive event that is experienced internally.

"It's what occipital C-fiber firing is like"… "It's how we experience H2O molecules in large numbers"…. No argument about the accuracy of these descriptions, but summing up conscious experience in these ways seems to me to sort of sidestep the issue. I guess a cup of water could be described as "what it's like if we hold a cup under a tap and turn it on for a couple of seconds."

But can the "experience" of red be said to exist - even if only internally? I'm looking at a red book at this very moment, as I type. I wonder if my experience itself, of seeing that book in its shelf, can be considered to exist. And if so, shouldn't it be in principle possible to precisely locate that experience if it is material? Or does it not exist? Or… am I stretching use of the verb "exist" too far?

It's sort of like "wetness." Looking at a few H2O molecules, there is no "wetness" there, but we don't conclude that wetness is some sort of supernatural immaterial phenomenon.

I'm not arguing for a "supernatural" phenomenon, I'm suggesting that maybe immateriality is an aspect of nature. Well… unless everything that can ever possibly be found in nature is defined as material beforehand, in which case then yes, the conscious experience of wetness is indubitably material. Maybe a different kind of material than a cup of water is, but what are you gonna do?

But there are strange things out there, so of course we can't rule out such a cosmic network or an exotic physics that would enable it to work.

Amen to that!
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Re: Can Science Rule Out God?

Postby charon on January 22nd, 2020, 6:09 am 

Maybe I'm jumping the gun a little but it's possible that Burbank, bless him, is still grappling with what is material and what is not.

Life is both energy and matter. Forms are matter, whether they're visible to us or not. Energy creates forms. There's the question of whether energy without form exists but the answers are speculative. I could say there was but it couldn't be proven. By me, anyway.

Our senses aren't the measure of all things. Through science we know there are colours and sounds both above and below the range of our senses. But those instruments themselves are limited, they can't measure everything. The instruments, made by us, are material.

So it's highly likely, in fact inevitable, that matter can exist in forms beyond anything we know. There's no reason to suppose we are privy to every possible material form. It's an absurd, non-logical idea.

Then there's consciousness. Consciousness is energy and also matter. Thoughts are material, make no mistake about it. They are forms which arise in the brain, itself a material organ, and are visible and audible to us. But this is not to say that this is all there is to consciousness. For precisely the reasons above.

It's known that consciousness may exist outside the body. The die-hards may dispute that fact but there are too many instances of people experiencing these phenomena. Anecdotal they may be but because science as we know it can't measure it doesn't mean it's not true. Our science is not all it's cracked up to be.

Consciousness therefore is something which is tangible but, on other levels, just like sounds and colours, may exist in forms we know nothing of. In short, if it exists it must be existent. If it's existent then it is tangible. If it's tangible, which it obviously is, then it cannot be formless.

So there may be a pure energy and it's almost certain that we, as consciousness, can exist beyond the gross material world. But it's still material although we may not be able to understand it or capture it.

I suspect Burbank may be a believer in spirit, if not spirits and souls. All a spirit is is a disembodied consciousness. In other words, some of us is evidently material in the form we know it and some of us isn't. But the temptation is to class everything that we can't see as non-material. That's a mistake. It still exists, it's just we don't normally see it. But our not seeing it or being able to measure it is not proof that it's not a form of existent matter, albeit very diffused, for want of a better word.

Don't let us be conditioned by the word material, attributing it only to what is within the reach of our senses or instruments. Widen the definition to include anything that exists but is not absolutely pure energy without form.

Therefore it also follows that consciousness may be immense, not just the part in which we live and of which we are. Our consciousness - yours and mine - may be only a very small segment of a far greater whole of which we aren't aware. On the rare occasions we transcend that limitation we become aware of far greater things. Hence clairvoyance and so on.

But - and this should be thoroughly realised - that consciousness is still limited. Understand it. Because it exists it has form. It is not formless or pure, unalloyed energy so it is still bound by a sense of limitation. To use an old analogy, a raindrop can fall into the ocean but it doesn't mean that ocean is limitless. Oceans are not limitless, just as all the waters of the world are not limitless.

The word spiritual is just that, a word, a word we give to those things that don't belong to the kind of material life we know. A person who is said to be spiritual is just someone whose mind or being isn't wholly immersed in the gross matter we're familiar with - the physical body, the things of this world, and so on. That's all. It means that their consciousness has ascended beyond the normal immersion and is in a higher state - but it's still consciousness.

This isn't hippy-dippy stuff. All of us at some point or other have become aware of things beyond our ordinary life in this world - and there's lots beyond it. It's only our vanity and arrogance that assumes that this is all there is. It's not all there is because life is limitless, infinite. Can you hear what a dog hears? And that's just a dog.

There's no limit to existence. It's a fact :-)
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Re: Can Science Rule Out God?

Postby T. Burbank on January 24th, 2020, 5:58 am 

Hey, Charon...

It's possible that Burbank is still grappling with what is material and what is not.

No, that's not what I'm doing. All that I'm doing, I think, is saying these two things: 1) I know that my conscious experience exists, and 2) I know that it is different in nature from the physical world perceivable through my five senses, which also seems to exist.

I.e. all that I'm doing is insisting that these are two distinct types of existent phenomena. And that it doesn't matter which terms are used to identify them – "immaterial and material," "two different material forms," or what have you – as long as we both use the same terms when we try to discuss them with each other.

I'm not sure that everyone will, but from what you say it seems that you yourself do agree with me that these "two different material forms" exist (although I'll admit I'm confused by your also calling consciousness "visible," "audible" and "tangible," because I've never seen, heard nor touched mine):
Don't let us be conditioned by the word material, attributing it only to what is within the reach of our senses or instruments. Widen the definition to include anything that exists but is not absolutely pure energy without form.

So your definition of material is "anything that exists [except for] absolutely pure energy." And you are apparently not restricting this to a mere two material forms, which I tend to believe is all that there are.

But I wonder… what is this immaterial "absolutely pure energy without form" of which you speak?

And what evidence makes you believe that there is such a thing?
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Re: Can Science Rule Out God?

Postby charon on January 24th, 2020, 7:21 am 

I'm confused by your also calling consciousness "visible," "audible" and "tangible," because I've never seen, heard nor touched mine


Then how do you know it exists?

So your definition of material is "anything that exists [except for] absolutely pure energy."


Yes.

what is this immaterial "absolutely pure energy without form"... And what evidence makes you believe that there is such a thing?


Ah, I didn't say there was. I introduced the idea to contrast it with different material forms. Energy is form and energy transfers from form to form but never disappears. So where there is energy there is form and vice versa.

If we're to talk about material as opposed to non-material, as you have, then what is 'non-material'? If it exists then it must be a form. So to posit something 'non'material' means it cannot have a form. Which means it has no energy. Which probably means it doesn't exist :-)
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Re: Can Science Rule Out God?

Postby T. Burbank on January 25th, 2020, 10:32 am 

We may be pounding on this poor old horse a bit much, but:

I'm confused by your also calling consciousness "visible," "audible" and "tangible," because I've never seen, heard nor touched mine.


Then how do you know it exists?

That's a good question, but I do not see it, hear it or touch it (although I am conscious of my seeing, hearing and touching other, physical things). There is a use of the word "tangible" that does seem to fit, which means something like "perceptible by logical thought." I should have only said that I was confused by "visible" and "audible," sorry.

If we're to talk about material as opposed to non-material, as you have, then what is 'non-material'? If it exists then it must be a form. So to posit something 'non-material' means it cannot have a form. Which means it has no energy. Which probably means it doesn't exist :-)

I don't agree that "if it exists it must have form." Consciousness obviously exists, but it has no physical presence (you can rap on your skull with your knuckles but you can't ever rap on your mind, even during an out-of-body experience). So if it doesn't have extension in the physical world, how can it have "form"?

I also hesitate to accept your view that consciousness has energy. The neural activities involved in a thought clearly consume energy, so there is a relationship between consciousness and energy. I'm not sure exactly what that relationship is, but I tend to think consciousness causes energy in some way. That's kind of just casual speculation, though….
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Re: Can Science Rule Out God?

Postby charon on January 25th, 2020, 11:17 am 

Burbank -

Thanks for the reply. I don't think we've quite flogged it to death yet. There's consciousness to consider but, more importantly, what lies beyond it, if anything does.

That's a good question, but I do not see it, hear it or touch it (although I am conscious of my seeing, hearing and touching other, physical things). There is a use of the word "tangible" that does seem to fit, which means something like "perceptible by logical thought." I should have only said that I was confused by "visible" and "audible," sorry.


But what do you mean by consciousness? Let's clear that up first. Obviously you know it exists. If it were truly unable to be sensed - touch, smell, vision, hearing or taste - then something about it must be tangible.

When you say 'perceptible by logical thought' be careful there. Can thought actually see anything except what it itself projects? And are those projections not part of consciousness itself?

Let's be clear what we mean by consciousness first.

So if it doesn't have extension in the physical world, how can it have "form"?


That's what we're asking. Our consciousness is limited, isn't it?
I also hesitate to accept your view that consciousness has energy


Isn't man himself energy? Aren't you?
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Re: Can Science Rule Out God?

Postby T. Burbank on January 26th, 2020, 9:19 am 

charon » January 26th, 2020, 1:17 am wrote:But what do you mean by consciousness? Let's clear that up first. Obviously you know it exists. If it were truly unable to be sensed - touch, smell, vision, hearing or taste - then something about it must be tangible.

Can you, Charon, touch, smell, see, hear or taste your consciousness? If so, please explain how because I've never heard of such a thing.

But if not, then how do you know that it exists?

I know my consciousness exists based on the fact that I am conscious of being conscious of things (or is it "conscious of being conscious of being conscious of things"?) Is this a logical process – I know, therefore I am? Not sure; I haven't spent too much time trying to analyze exactly how I know this, I just take it that I obviously do and run.

Let's be clear what we mean by consciousness first.

Well, whatever it is… thank Brkfgrl for consciousness, because without it we'd never even realize there was anything (including consciousness itself) to question the existence of.

Isn't man himself energy? Aren't you?

I don't think I'm energy, although yes exchanges of energy seem to be involved in (almost?) everything I do.
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Re: Can Science Rule Out God?

Postby charon on January 26th, 2020, 10:12 am 

Burbank -

Your consciousness is what you think, that's all. And you can both see and hear your thoughts.
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Re: Can Science Rule Out God?

Postby TheVat on January 26th, 2020, 1:18 pm 

Well, whatever it is… thank Brkfgrl for consciousness, because without it we'd never even realize there was anything (including consciousness itself) to question the existence of.


I lean toward the theory that Brkfgrl is a contraction of Breakfast Girl, owing to the fact that any girl who would bring me breakfast is a goddess.

I am following the "aspect dualism" part of this chat with some hope that terms may be better defined. Aspect dualism, from a wiki paragraph:

In the philosophy of mind, double-aspect theory is the view that the mental and the physical are two aspects of, or perspectives on, the same substance. It is also called dual-aspect monism.[1] The theory's relationship to neutral monism is ill-defined, but one proffered distinction says that whereas neutral monism allows the context of a given group of neutral elements to determine whether the group is mental, physical, both, or neither, double-aspect theory requires the mental and the physical to be inseparable and mutually irreducible (though distinct).

Burbank, I often have the same speculative inclination to see the mental as somehow irreducible, in that reductive scientific accounts of a mental state ("the scent of chocolate is just neurons firing in the olfactory tract, etc.") seem doomed to be incomplete. For one thing, there is a holistic aspect to conscious experiences ("qualia") that seems to be absent when we just look at what's happening with atoms and electron chains in our brains. The holistic aspect seems only accessible through a person's introspective report. Various scientists, like Penrose and Crick, have tried to develop physical accounts of neural function that introduce holistic physical mechanisms, but not in a terribly credible way to the vast majority of neuroscientists.

Making the leap away from monism, however, seems (as Charon has pointed out) unwarranted. As people even in Descartes' time asked, how would something truly spiritual in its substance be able to causally interact with something physical? (for Rene, the point of interaction was the pineal gland) If two substances interact, then we have to presume they share some properties such that both are physical. That's at the heart of our definition of physicality: things that can causally affect one another. It could be an incomplete definition, but it would require extraordinary changes in our perspective on reality to change it.

Maybe that's the appeal of notions like panpsychism, which seems to draw mentality under the umbrella of monism by making consciousness a fundamental property of matter. If you can find any writings on this by David Chalmers, it may be worth your time.

Great thread. Wondering if I should move it back to Phil of Science forum.
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Re: Can Science Rule Out God?

Postby charon on January 27th, 2020, 12:14 am 

Hi Vat -

If you do move it back to Science then it'll no longer be the thread it was intended to be. Personally, I'm only discussing matter because, ultimately, I want to point to something, or things, that may not be material. If that's possible.

To do that we have to wade through what is immediately perceptible to us first. We've already got there in previous posts but I suspect it's passed by unnoticed. Ultimately, all investigation must begin to include ourselves since we are the agents of inquiry. To find out what may be beyond ourselves, if anything is, we must begin with ourselves - that is, our own consciousness, which is what we are.

There may be a danger in this becoming an argument about matter vs possible non-matter in scientific terms. I'm not saying, naturally, that such a thread/argument shouldn't exist but I would say that unfortunately science doesn't know the answer (sorry!) so it may become a pointless exercise.

Making the leap away from monism, however, seems (as Charon has pointed out) unwarranted.


It's not entirely unwarranted because matter didn't create itself. Neither did energy, come to that. I'd more or less agree everything's 'made of the same stuff' - but it certainly doesn't mean there's nothing beyond that.
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Re: Can Science Rule Out God?

Postby T. Burbank on January 27th, 2020, 8:39 am 

Charon -

Your consciousness is what you think, that's all.

Don't you agree that it's possible to stop yourself from thinking, and still be conscious? I believe I am able to do that, although thoughts do have a way of starting up again all on their own uninvited.

And you can both see and hear your thoughts.

We must be assuming different meanings for the same words.

I am thinking a thought right now – it's "I hope this will show Charon what I mean." And there is just no way that photons are bouncing off of that thought to work their magic on my optical nerves so that I can see it. Nor is this thought stirring up sonar waves in the air around it, which then strike my ears and affect my auditory faculties so that I can hear it.

If you mean that in thinking that thought I visualize in advance myself typing this, then posting it, and then you posting back in response… well that's a different meaning of "see" than I had in mind. I guess when I'm thinking I can also imagine myself speaking the words that I think, but again that's a different use of "hear" than is normally intended.

But I'm guessing you actually mean that my perception of the red book in the bookcase by my desk is a thought, and in that sense I am "seeing" a thought. If so I understand what you're saying. But then you can't say I can see and hear my thoughts, but only that I can see and hear some of them. I can't "hear" my thought of the red book, for example, and the thought "I hope this will show Charon what I mean" is neither visible nor audible in this sense.

Or is there some other way in which you can see and hear your own thoughts?
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Re: Can Science Rule Out God?

Postby TheVat on January 27th, 2020, 11:00 am 

I should clarify that the philosophy of science thread is in the philosophy forum, and deals with philosophic or "meta" issues to science. But here is fine, I'm not much concerned about it. Back later.
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Re: Can Science Rule Out God?

Postby charon on January 27th, 2020, 12:32 pm 

Vat - Okay, sorry.
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Re: Can Science Rule Out God?

Postby charon on January 27th, 2020, 1:23 pm 

Burbank -

Yes, but look, this is the whole problem with meditation. Please do listen to this.

First, how can you stop yourself thinking? You can't, can you? The idea to stop yourself and the effort to do it is still the process of thought, isn't it? The entity who says 'I'll stop thought' IS thought. He's not an entity apart from thought who can act on it. All that entity can do is suppress his thoughts, which is why they just start up again when the practice ceases.

If you see this then why does he want to stop thought at all? What's his motive? You know, when meditation has a motive then is it meditation at all? Meditation is something done for its own sake; the beauty of it is in itself, not for what it may bring.

But first let's sort out the business of consciousness. Which means I'm going to have to be long again. I'm sorry if your time here is limited.

One trouble is that we're constantly using the word to refer to something discrete, out there, not quite to do with ourselves. But it has everything to do with ourselves; it's we who are conscious.

If all thought ceased, stopped, disappeared, would you be conscious? Would there be a conscious you at all? Obviously not, your very being is to be a conscious entity.

What I'm saying is that thinking and consciousness are the same thing. What's the content of your thought? All your knowledge, all your ideas, beliefs, what you've read about science and whatever else. All the thoughts about your activities in daily life. All the memories of recent and past times. All the awareness, which is knowledge, of what's going on in the world. All the problems which aren't different from what all of us go through, the personal issues, fears, opposing desires... everything is there - which is your consciousness, right?

That's all, so our consciousness is all that we think, rooted in accumulated knowledge and experience. And, naturally, it's limited; we don't know or remember everything. So consciousness is limited. We may have all kinds of ideas about it, that it's some sort of cosmic blah - which is still part of our thinking, of course - but it's not, it's just what it is.

Then there's the interesting and vital question of who experiences this consciousness? Is he a separate entity or is he the very consciousness itself? Obviously he is that consciousness; it's what he is. Without it he wouldn't exist.

If that's so then any attempt at all to examine, investigate, analyse, or act on it only breeds a schism in the mind. The actor and the acted on are the same. The watcher and the thing watched are identical.

If one sees that radical truth then all division disappears. Then any form of meditation based on the idea that one can control oneself, ones thoughts, or go beyond oneself, is fallacious. There IS a going beyond of oneself but not that way.

So when your thoughts start up realise there's nothing you can do. All you can do is be aware of it. Being aware of them isn't a practice, it's not something you 'do', that you actively undertake. So that awareness is not a conscious effort. If it is then it's no longer awareness.

So in meditation there's no effort, no motive, no attempt to achieve some experience. If there is it's mere self-centred activity. That has to completely, radically understood otherwise there's no end to struggle and disappointment.

But anyway -

I am thinking a thought right now – it's "I hope this will show Charon what I mean." And there is just no way that photons are bouncing off of that thought to work their magic on my optical nerves so that I can see it. Nor is this thought stirring up sonar waves in the air around it, which then strike my ears and affect my auditory faculties so that I can hear it.


You're complicating it. You know when you're thinking because you're aware of them in your head, like we all are. That's how you know they start up again! You can see it very clearly.

But what you probably don't see is that the person who says 'Oh, here they come again' is part of the whole thing. The perceiver is himself a thought; it's he who is thinking.

One has to be very aware, sensitive, to catch every thought, every motive, every desire, every contradiction, and so on. That's all you can do. Then isn't your mind very alive? It's only the dull, sleepy mind that isn't cognisant of its own responses.

So you see that this whole idea of doing something about thought, to stop it, shape it, interfere with it, is foolish. There's no point to it. But if one's radically aware of the whole process then you'll see something extraordinary happening - there's change without your volition. Obviously, because what you are is being exposed, brought into the light, and you'll see what takes place then.

And when you see what thought is, how it operates, all the tricks it plays, you're already beyond them, aren't you?
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Re: Can Science Rule Out God?

Postby T. Burbank on January 28th, 2020, 7:36 am 

TheVat » January 27th, 2020, 3:18 am wrote:
I am following the "aspect dualism" part of this chat with some hope that terms may be better defined.

Thank you for the feedback, Vat. I know that my terms won't do for debating philosophy of mind based on the usual approach. I studied some of that a few years back, but am not up on the arguments anymore. Which terms in particular that we're using do you feel need to be better defined?

In the philosophy of mind, double-aspect theory is the view that the mental and the physical are two aspects of, or perspectives on, the same substance. It is also called dual-aspect monism... [It] requires the mental and the physical to be inseparable and mutually irreducible (though distinct).

If the mental and the physical are recognized as distinct from each other, while still being inseparably linked, then as I have said we may be on the same page and our dispute just a matter of semantics. Or maybe not, depending on what is meant by "aspect"/"perspective" and "same substance."

If we consider my experience of seeing a cup of water, I guess by this theory the cup of water is the "same substance," which from one perspective stimulates neural activities in my brain, and from the other perspective a mental experience of the cup – a visual image in this case. That seems fine; I would prefer to contrast my mental experience not with the neural activities involved in perception but with the actual physical cup itself, but I guess that doesn't matter.

But I don't feel bound to discussing the mind-body problem from only the same angle(s) that philosophers of mind do. You may have noticed my repeated concern with the "existence" of consciousness. This is a notion that I'm not sure philosophers of mind address (not even to dismiss it as indefinable), but surely it is significant. If consciousness exists, as I think it clearly does, then what is it made of and where does it exist? Not easily answered questions, obviously – or at least not when asked about the "mental" aspect of the "same substance" (they seem to be quite easily answered when asked about its "physical" aspect.) But at least trying to answer them might shed some new light on things….

If two substances interact, then we have to presume they share some properties such that both are physical.

Unless they're both mental instead, right?

Maybe that's the appeal of notions like panpsychism, which seems to draw mentality under the umbrella of monism by making consciousness a fundamental property of matter.

Well, if I have to choose a monism it's going to be mental. My back of the bar napkin model has consciousness at one "end" of the material world, with the whole material world existing "between" it and something else that is non-material (God? Or consciousness's total opposite? Or…?) at the other "end." And it is only the separation of these two non-material entities that makes possible the material world, which is itself a (very convoluted) reflection of their separation.

Front side of the napkin's got some wack stuff on it, too.
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Re: Can Science Rule Out God?

Postby TheVat on January 28th, 2020, 1:51 pm 

That's an interesting napkin there. I may need to digest all this some more. In the meantime, I guess where I was looking for more rigor with terms was with "consciousness" -- when someone forms the habit of treating it as a "thing" or a "substance." Pretty much everything we know about consciousness suggests that it's a process or a collection of interconnected processes, rather than something that can be categorized as a substance or essence. I.e. it's not like the oil in your car's engine and more akin to a summation of all the electrical processes and energy transactions in the cylinders and so on. In this light, consciousness doesn't exist so much as it happens. It is the process, not the things that are undergoing the process. Sorry, I'm am short of time, so I'l leave it there for now.
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Re: Can Science Rule Out God?

Postby charon on January 28th, 2020, 3:08 pm 

As I said, it's a thought process, thought being the reaction of that part of the brain to a stimulus. When there's a response it comes out of stored knowledge.

It's very simple to watch. Hear a word like boss, money, death, wife, and so on, and there's a reaction by thought, from memory. That reaction is what one is. As we think, so we are.

That's the whole process of consciousness. From experience there is knowledge, from knowledge there is thought. Then a part of thought says 'I am the thinker and I will order my thoughts'. So it's not true that the thinker is eternally existing, the thinker only arises with thought.

All this is a sensory process, the input of experience via the senses. Experience becomes knowledge and that becomes thought. It's pretty simple. It means all thought is already old and entirely limited to knowledge stored after any event.

I know those who are interested in science want their answer to consciousness in terms of neurons and all that. And those who are interested in that kind of thing repeat what they've heard or read - but that is precisely the same process as I've just described. They experiment, store knowledge, and think according to that.

It's obviously of interest to some to treat consciousness as a technical brain process which no one quite understands yet. I see the point in terms of medical science but if they started with themselves first they'd understand it quicker. The study of the brain is not the study of consciousness because consciousness is what we are, not just some mysterious bio-electric thing in the brain.

That's why brain science isn't going to solve human problems. Only we can solve them because WE are the problem, not the brain.

I'm beginning to feel like a crank pushing this stuff out but I'm not a crank. That's the trouble with all this. If it were being said by Prof. X with a list of letters after his name you'd all pay great attention, but alas - or thankfully - I'm not.

So I'll say it again. Consciousness is not 'out there', it's what we are. And what we are is what we think. If you're thinking scientifically, technically, that's what you are. Similarly the person who thinks in military terms is that. Or the businessman is that. Or the religious person is that. See it, it's so simple. You are as you think.

How much more do you want? I could go on all day. When you start translating consciousness into science terms it's the thought process reacting from memory, which is knowledge. But you only see what you're thinking about, not the actual process going on. And you are the thing which is going on!

Please, someone see the logic of this. Just one :-)
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Re: Can Science Rule Out God?

Postby T. Burbank on January 29th, 2020, 9:25 am 

Charon –

I hope to be able to give you a more thought-out response before long, but for now just one quick question:

It's very simple to watch. Hear a word like boss, money, death, wife, and so on, and there's a reaction by thought, from memory. That reaction is what one is. As we think, so we are.

Okay, so "there's a reaction by thought, from memory." But you also said "it's very simple to watch," inviting us to watch and observe this "reaction by thought." And my question is this: if the "reaction is what one is," as you say, then what is the entity that is watching the reaction?
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Re: Can Science Rule Out God?

Postby charon on January 29th, 2020, 9:26 am 

Burbank -

you also said "it's very simple to watch," inviting us to watch and observe this "reaction by thought."


Oh no, I'm not inviting you to do anything! It's entirely up to you. I'm just saying this is a very simple thing. Don't you know when you're reacting to something? Good lord.

I really don't understand the difficulty. I mean, you said before 'the thoughts come back'. How do you know that?

my question is this: if the "reaction is what one is," as you say, then what is the entity that is watching the reaction?


But I just covered that extensively! Aren't you reading the posts?

Maybe you missed it.

viewtopic.php?f=46&t=35755&p=349226#p349226
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Re: Can Science Rule Out God?

Postby TheVat on January 29th, 2020, 11:01 am 

I think (ha) I get your point, boatman. The self is created by thought, there is no numinous Self that somehow exists independently and watches thought, no little homunculus observing cognition. Or as some psychologists put it, "we are the stories we tell. "
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Re: Can Science Rule Out God?

Postby T. Burbank on January 29th, 2020, 11:37 am 

Charon -

But I just covered that extensively! Aren't you reading the posts?

I've actually spent a lot of time rereading all of your posts in this thread for a second or third time today, to try to figure out what you are saying that would be so earth-shattering if you were a professor with a bunch of academic degrees.

But as far as this particular question goes… well, there's a reaction by thought – I hear the word "wife," and I visualize my wife's face. That is one thing, and I agree that it is what happens. But I am trying to get you to accept that my awareness of that reaction is another, separate and independent thing. Which to me seems more closely linked to "what one is" than the "reaction by thought" that you're impressed with but to me seems closer to a conditioned response.

I'm sorry if that upsets you.
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Re: Can Science Rule Out God?

Postby charon on January 29th, 2020, 12:19 pm 

Burbank -

I've actually spent a lot of time rereading all of your posts in this thread for a second or third time today


Then you can't possibly have missed the answer to your question about 'who is the seer?'.

there's a reaction by thought – I hear the word "wife," and I visualize my wife's face.


Hooray! In other words you see it! I think I need a lie down.

But I am trying to get you to accept that my awareness of that reaction is another, separate and independent thing.


I know, and we've done that too. I'm saying it's sensory. All this that we're talking about is in the sensory area. There's only something non-sensory when this whole machinery of thought is absent. That's the whole point.

Which to me seems more closely linked to "what one is" than the "reaction by thought" that you're impressed with but to me seems closer to a conditioned response


Exactly! It is, precisely, a conditioned response. All thought is obviously conditioned - by knowledge, memory, tendencies, influence of society, etc etc. There's no part of the sensory apparatus which is not conditioned.

Try to think of something totally original, it's impossible. The whole mechanism is bound, solidly, to the past as memory. Therefore it's a limited process. The word conditioned means that, to be limited in a certain condition.

It's not that I'm impressed by it - I wish I was, it would be very easy, I could be impressed all day. Rather it's a question of seeing the reality of one's own process. Seeing it as it is releases one from it.

Before, I simply reacted mechanically to everything. Once I realise that's all I'm doing, something else happens. In becoming aware of one's own conditioning there's the breaking free of it.

As for being upset, there's no reason for it. We're just examing things and hopefully getting something out of it.
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Re: Can Science Rule Out God?

Postby charon on January 29th, 2020, 12:28 pm 

Vat -

I think (ha) I get your point, boatman. The self is created by thought, there is no numinous Self that somehow exists independently and watches thought, no little homunculus observing cognition. Or as some psychologists put it, "we are the stories we tell".


Yes. The Big Self is invented by the small self because it wants to be eternal or something. As the God we invent is invented by the self because it wants comfort and security. As you say, the stories we tell ourselves.

There is something numinous but the self can't get to it. There must be the absence of self, and that absence can't be brought about by itself. It only happens when there's love.
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Re: Can Science Rule Out God?

Postby T. Burbank on January 31st, 2020, 10:26 am 

Charon -

Then you can't possibly have missed the answer to your question about 'who is the seer?'.

Well, again… it's not that I missed your answer, it's that I think your answer is wrong. You say "The watcher and the thing watched are identical." But that doesn't jive with my own experience of consciousness, first of all. And second of all, I have logical trouble with the idea of a single entity doing both of two distinct things at the same exact time – a) reacting to a thought, and b) noticing its own reaction to the thought. If it can do them, that would seem miraculous to me.

But I am trying to get you to accept that my awareness of that reaction is another, separate and independent thing.

I know, and we've done that too. I'm saying it's sensory. All this that we're talking about is in the sensory area. There's only something non-sensory when this whole machinery of thought is absent. That's the whole point.

Not sure how this really deals with my claim that awareness of a thought is separate from that thought. But anyway, I don't think it (my awareness) is sensory. The reactions of thought, I agree, certainly in the examples you give (of hearing words like "boss"), are related to the senses. But I don't see what the sense data is that can cause awareness of those reactions.

I can't speak for anyone but myself, though, so all I will say is that I don't believe my own awareness of consciousness is derived from any of the five senses. Which has been my position all along. But you of course have the opposite position, and I guess we're never going to agree on this. No problem, rather than continuing to object I'll just shut up now and listen. I am quite interested in where you're going with this, even if I don't buy all of the details.

Try to think of something totally original, it's impossible. The whole mechanism is bound, solidly, to the past as memory.

This is interesting, seems like it may be true. But it makes me wonder - have I ever had an original thought? Was the first thought I ever had an original one, or was it just a response to my first sensory experience? I.e. did my consciousness come into existence through my first sensory experience?

It's a question of seeing the reality of one's own process. Seeing it as it is releases one from it… Before, I simply reacted mechanically to everything. Once I realise that's all I'm doing, something else happens. In becoming aware of one's own conditioning there's the breaking free of it.

I might well ask "How can thought see its own process as it is?" Since, as you say, "We can't step outside ourselves to observe, we're both the observer and the thing observed." And "You only see what you're thinking about, not the actual process going on." But of course, I can't see the color of my eyes either – not directly. Yet I can still know with certainty that they are blue.

Such quibbles aside, you sound as if you yourself have achieved this – the breaking free from your own conditioning. And if that is the case, then I probably shouldn't be arguing with you about it because I'm nowhere near to breaking free (not to say that I'm terribly bothered by that shortcoming, though; I'm content to do what I can from where I am).

I do like many of the things you say. Especially "The study of the brain is not the study of consciousness because consciousness is what we are, not just some mysterious bio-electric thing in the brain." Plus you also recognize that consciousness "exists," rather than just being something that "happens" as philosophers of mind want to explain it. Which I think is important.

Let me see if I understand your teaching correctly:

1. Consciousness is identical to thinking; consciousness is the thinker; consciousness is totally sensory.
2. A person's consciousness is limited.
3. Consciousness cannot be examined by the thinker, because it is him.
4. It can, however, be "seen as it is" by the thinker.
5. Once the thinker realizes that he has been reacting mechanically in his thoughts, he is able break free from that process. He will stop clinging, and "let everything [that he knows] go."
6. This breaking free can only happen "when there's love," which brings about an "absence of the self."
7. He will be "awake" now, and in a better position to try to find "truth or the unknown[, which] is non-discoverable by the one who is conscious." He will be able to experience something "non-sensory."
8. He will realize that the "separation and distinction [among people] is an illusion." We are all the same.
9. But this "is very dangerous, it might put [him] at odds with society, and probably will."
10. He will learn of something that is not material (something "numinous"), which created matter and energy – "some kind of timeless origin of everything that exists." Which, to bring us back to the topic of this thread, is something that we might even perhaps call a "God."
11. This can help us "to solve human problems."

Some of these things seem to be waiting to be fleshed out more (what's love got to do with it, for example), but do I have this basically right?
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Re: Can Science Rule Out God?

Postby charon on January 31st, 2020, 6:48 pm 

Burbank -

it's not that I missed your answer, it's that I think your answer is wrong.


Ah!

But that doesn't jive with my own experience of consciousness, first of all. And second of all, I have logical trouble with the idea of a single entity doing both of two distinct things at the same exact time – a) reacting to a thought, and b) noticing its own reaction to the thought. If it can do them, that would seem miraculous to me.


Okay, fair enough. But bear in mind I'm not trying to persuade you!

First, forget whether it's logical or not. Trying to sort it out with logic isn't going to do it. Logic, though admirable, is thinking, right? It's a thought process and the thought process is the very thing here under scrutiny. So the question is whether thought, as a process, can observe itself.

When you watch, or are aware of yourself thinking, who is doing that? What's the awareness that is aware of the process going on? What's it's relation to thinking?

If there's choice, like, dislike, or any kind of evaluation taking place, then would you agree that is also a process of thinking? It must be, mustn't it?

Evaluation is thinking. According to what does one evaluate? Obviously according to one's knowledge, judgement, choice, and so on. So all that too is part of the thought process. It must be, it can't be anything else.

So perhaps you'll agree to that but then ask what if, in that awareness, there's no movement of thought at all? Is that possible? I'm not saying it's not, I'm just asking.

But, if you try it out, there is still an entity who is watching, who is aware. So who is the watcher?

Put it the other way, is there a watching or awareness in which there's no watcher at all? That means there's no choice, no deliberation, no motive or effort involved. So it must be a completely unconscious watching, right? I know that sounds a bit crazy but it's not.

The moment it's a conscious watching then it's still part of the whole process of the mind, which is the brain. It's part of the whole sensory apparatus. You know you're watching. Which means it's within the area of your consciousness. It means one part of consciousness is observing the rest.

If you see that then you'll see that consciousness is both the seer and the thing seen. I agree it may appear that the two are different but are they? It's still all within the same area of sensory awareness.

After all, if there was no thought what is there to observe? Would you say there was a watcher if there was nothing to observe? Or does the very thought process create the watcher?

I'll leave that one with you. Test it out, not with logical thought, but by observing yourself, see what's actually going on.

The reactions of thought, I agree, certainly in the examples you give (of hearing words like "boss"), are related to the senses. But I don't see what the sense data is that can cause awareness of those reactions.


That's what we're trying to find out.

But it makes me wonder - have I ever had an original thought? Was the first thought I ever had an original one, or was it just a response to my first sensory experience? I.e. did my consciousness come into existence through my first sensory experience?


Well, most of that is speculation. If we could go back to our first sensory experience that would be wonderful :-)

I probably shouldn't be arguing with you


Oh, argue away, definitely! We have to find out, I'm not dictating to you. God forbid.

Let me see if I understand your teaching correctly


Burbank, I'm not a guru, just an ordinary bloke. I agree I've done most of this (otherwise I wouldn't talk about it) but I'm not an authority to be followed.

In any case, it's not me that needs to be understood, it's your own self, your own inward processes. That's what's important because that gives you insight - your own insight, not someone else's. In any case, I could be totally wrong. And a lot of gurus are definitely wrong, no question about it.

Your summary's quite good, after all that :-)

(what's love got to do with it, for example)


What has love to do with it? Oh, everything, hasn't it? When there's love the whole thing's over but it's the self which destroys love, prevents love.

Apart from technical issues, our whole life is based on thought, isn't it? Think what it means. Thought is knowledge, memory. That means we're acting from the past all the time. Life is new all the time, every second, and we're responding all the time with our old conclusions, habits, traditions, formulas. So we're not really responding at all, it's just a mechanical way of living.

In some ways that's okay because we have to do things, like a job, but psychologically it's death. It means the mind's never free to see anything new, it never gets any fresh air.

do I have this basically right?


Yes, you do, but having it clear as an explanation is one thing and seeing it actually happening is another. The fact is more important than the words. Understanding the idea is interesting but understanding the fact as a reality creates real change.
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Re: Can Science Rule Out God?

Postby charon on February 1st, 2020, 1:47 am 

Burbank -

Sorry, the real post is just before this one. I rushed through it a bit last night, too many things to do.

It's right except for one thing, which is No. 5 on your list, so I better correct it. You said:

Once the thinker realizes that he has been reacting mechanically in his thoughts, he is able break free from that process.


No, he can't break free from the process because he is that process. The thinker is the process of thought, and vice versa. Thought itself is the thinker; it's thought which thinks.

One thought can say 'I am different, separate and apart from my thoughts' but I'm saying that's illusion, the one is the other, they're part and parcel of each other.

The breaking free is to realise this. When the mind sees that thinking is one process, not two, then the dualistic process ceases, which means the conflict between them ceases.

If there's no conflict there's a completely different state of mind. That is freedom, that is intelligence. Then one can think in a totally different way.
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Re: Can Science Rule Out God?

Postby T. Burbank on February 2nd, 2020, 9:47 am 

Charon -

You know you're watching. Which means it's within the area of your consciousness. It means one part of consciousness is observing the rest.

If you really mean that consciousness has multiple "parts," then we agree. That's how two separate thought processes at the same time are possible. But it seems you don't really mean this? (You say later that one thought telling itself 'I am different, separate and apart from my thoughts' is an illusion).

Test it out, not with logical thought, but by observing yourself, see what's actually going on.

As I'm writing these responses to you, I sometimes get totally immersed in what I want to say, and barely even notice (from the distant edge of the conscious background as it were) that there is an "I" who is thinking. At other times, if I try to be, I am much more aware that I am engaged in a thought process of writing something.

I probably shouldn't be arguing with you

Oh, argue away, definitely! We have to find out, I'm not dictating to you. God forbid.

Nah, not if you really know how to transcend this world. It would be like Lapu-Lapu insisting to Magellan that the world was flat (although Lapu-Lapu did actually win that debate, didn't he?)

It's the self which destroys love, prevents love.

Again, that seems like something to be fleshed out. It's a platitude, but I've always heard that you have to love yourself first before you can love anyone else.

Thought is knowledge, memory. That means we're acting from the past all the time. Life is new all the time, every second, and we're responding all the time with our old conclusions, habits, traditions, formulas. So we're not really responding at all, it's just a mechanical way of living.

I like this. Not sure I totally agree, though. We do deal with new situations based on our past experience. But that often seems to be quite useful, helps us avoid the mistakes we made in the past when we had less experience. I agree that past experience probably won't help us deal with a totally new situation. From what you say we won't even be able to recognize something totally new. If there is such a thing….

Having it clear as an explanation is one thing and seeing it actually happening is another. The fact is more important than the words. Understanding the idea is interesting but understanding the fact as a reality creates real change.

Of course.
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Re: Can Science Rule Out God?

Postby charon on February 2nd, 2020, 11:53 am 

Burbank -

Here we go. You do ask some questions!

If you really mean that consciousness has multiple "parts," then we agree. That's how two separate thought processes at the same time are possible. But it seems you don't really mean this? (You say later that one thought telling itself 'I am different, separate and apart from my thoughts' is an illusion).


Yes, it can divide and fragment itself but it's nevertheless all one thing, working as a total unit. Like a computer has various partitions. It can carry out seemingly distinct activities but it's all one operating system.

Bear in mind we're talking about what we are, not something we 'have'. We say 'I am conscious' but consciousness is ourselves. It's not an adjunct, not outside of us, it is us. The person who wants to understand consciousness really means he wants to understand himself.

The trouble is, as I've said before, is that we talk about consciousness as though it were 'over there' somewhere. That means, in trying to understand it, we're putting the observer or examiner apart from it, separate. That's why any examination by such an observer is going to be partial and superficial. It's also going to take time, step by step.

So one asks if there's a way of observing the totality of consciousness. Not one part examining the rest, but a holistic perception of the whole thing as one. And there is, which is to observe without this division as the seer and the thing seen. That seeing doesn't take time, it's just going on outside of time.

As I'm writing these responses to you, I sometimes get totally immersed in what I want to say, and barely even notice (from the distant edge of the conscious background as it were) that there is an "I" who is thinking. At other times, if I try to be, I am much more aware that I am engaged in a thought process of writing something.


Yes, one loses oneself in doing something and then 'comes back' again. Where were you when you were absent?

Nah, not if you really know how to transcend this world.


I'm only saying if you really disagree, say so. I don't mean arguing in the petty sense, I mean putting a clear point of view. Which you are, I think. At least, I hope so.

Again, that seems like something to be fleshed out. It's a platitude, but I've always heard that you have to love yourself first before you can love anyone else.


I agree, it's a bit of a cliche, but it's definitely true. Love and selfishness can't abide together.

We do deal with new situations based on our past experience. But that often seems to be quite useful, helps us avoid the mistakes we made in the past when we had less experience. I agree that past experience probably won't help us deal with a totally new situation.


As I said, at work, especially doing something technical, knowledge and experience are absolutely necessary. A doctor, an engineer, a musician, a builder, couldn't possibly work without it, it would be ridiculous. We need to know what we're doing and learn as we go along.

But psychologically, in the field of human relationships with its problems and issues, does that apply? Or is the accumulation of experience there detrimental and self-protective?

Any relationship is always new, isn't it? We may do the same things fairly repetitively but haven't we always to shed the past all the time? Otherwise we're living in recriminations, regrets, blame, resentment, and all the rest of that misery.

I've no doubt you've lived in a close relationship, most of us have. If a situation is particularly difficult we can try little tricks to try to keep the peace. What we're actually doing is 'training' ourselves to avoid certain things, thus we become dumbed down and function in a dull, fearful world, treading on eggshells.

That's no way to live, it turns life into a nightmare. So tricks, however well intentioned, don't work. They may work for a time but sooner or later the whole thing explodes. So in that there's no freedom, no joy at all.

So can one approach every situation anew, afresh? That means there's no accumulation of experience in the psychological sense. It doesn't mean loss of memory but it means, when one meets that person, there's no residue.

What normally happens is, on seeing them, the whole ugly past springs back up and off we all go again, tension, arguments, all that. But it's totally possible NOT to live that way.

If one sees the danger of accumulating the past in that sense then one stops doing it. And if memory comes back there's no reaction to it. After all, that is intelligence, isn't it? Intelligence understands the problem, is aware of it, but doesn't react - which means there's quite a different reaction. Which, if you explore all this, is actually love. Love and intelligence are the same thing in this sense.

I'm sorry this is so long, it's not something that can be just chucked out in a few words.

From what you say we won't even be able to recognize something totally new. If there is such a thing….


Yes, if we recognise something it must from prior experience. But there are new things in life. Not recognising something isn't the same as not being aware of it.

What happens when something completely new does take place? New to us, at any rate. It's just there. For that split second there's no response, no recognition. A moment later there's a reaction - like, dislike, comparison, evaluation, labelling it... and that new experience becomes an old experience.

We reduce the new to the old all the time, which we call learning. As one grows older one's 'seen it all before'! So learning for us is accumulation. But there is a learning which is not accumulation, which is simply to be timelessly aware all the time.
charon
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