Alpha: The Beginning. An arbitory point in time to be defined as that moment when another conscious individual chooses to engage in this dialogue. Omega: The End. That point in time where we reach a singularity in consciousness - which leads us again to: Alpha, the beginning of a new cycle.
A singularity in consciousness: Is it a natural advance, an evolutionary stage of human consciousness made possible, or more so necessary, by the technological innovations of the information age? I believe it is.
To discuss religion, philosophy, science, the nature of consciousness, one must necessarily have some knowledge of current thought in these fields. It is intended to utilise the internets capacity to disseminate information to create a common knowledge base from which to engage in syncretism. As it has been shown that syncretic processes generate complex hierarchical systems which demonstrate fractal structures reflective of our neurological processes, it is intended a systems approach be utilised to facilitate a metasystems transition. See "MetaSystem Transitions, Memes and Cybernetic Immortality" by Elan Moritz - ftp://ftp.vub.ac.be/pub/projects/Principia_Cybernetica?WF-issue/Moritz.txt ; Professor Wally's Philosophpy course server - http://www.n4bz.org/ and Fractal Ontology - http://fractalontology.wordpress.com/category/science-mathematics-technology/ ; for relevant background information.
The intention is to facilitate the emergence of a singularity in consciousness ( see The Consciousness Singularity - http://brainmeta.com/index.php?p=consciousness-singularity ) - a collective transcendence of human consciousness to the next level, via a metasystems transition; and thereby bring structure and stability to a new order. Clearly, not everyone is able to achieve the levels of integration and suprarational functionality required to realize this next level, however this next level is inclusive of the old patterns of understanding from which it emerges, and therefore of all of us. It seems likely that those who pursue an integrative approach to knowledge and society will converge to form the genesis of a new "more unified and more complex" conception of ourselves and our world. On the evolution of consciousness, please see Sri Aurobindo's "The Future Evolution of Man" - http://godconsciousness.com/futureevolutionofman.htm
I would like initially to discuss some contributions from the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. Friedrich was the syncretist par excellence; attempting to clear up what he viewed as "these blunders and misunderstandings" concerning religion. His method of "philosophising with a hammer" was not, as some have misconstrued, a brutal crushing of faith and religion - he was much to sensitive a soul for that - but rather, as the late Walter Kaufmann articulated, more akin to tapping empty vessels with a mallet, in so doing setting the teachings of the past into resonance with each other; inquiring deeply into their meaning; and projecting his thought into the future, to a day when conflicts over these systems were overcome through what he foresaw as the "transvaluation of all values". His philosophical contribution is encapsulated in his doctrines of the "will to power"; "the uberman", and the "eternal re-occurence". "Beyond Good and Evil" was subtitled "A Prologue To A Philosophy Of The Future", and his efforts provide a foundation for syncretism in the contemporary context.
To briefly summarize:
1. The Will To Power
The "will to power" was Neitzsche's response to the "survival of the fittest" conception of Darwin's evolutionary theory of natural selection. I have understood it as a description of the exhibited charateristic that any fundamental drive of any type, be it that of an organism; a political philosophy; a religion; a cultural tradition, competes with other types with which it shares it's envioronment, or domain, and desires to assert itself, to replicate itself and to dominate that which is 'other' to it. This idea was fundamental to the master-morality/slave morality dichotomy he saw as the basis for the evolution of social systems. Slave-morality posseses the will to power equally with master-morality, and Nietzsche saw the history of morals largely as an interaction of these two basic tendencies. From our early 21st century perspective I prefer the phrase "will to be", and to consider social structures as sytems of competing, interacting, interdependent and over-lapping memes. Successful memes attain cybernetic immortality.
2. The Uberman
Once the individual and society are concieved as products of the will to power, it becomes apparent that the only way to avoid endless conflict and bloodshed, is for man to overcome himself - to transcend this order, and learn to create beyond himself; which is analogous to the role traditionaly provided by faith. Man, therefore, is something to be overcome.
3. The Eternal Re-Occurence
If history is viewed from a Nietzschean perspective, it becomes apparent that this process of creating "tables of values" is one in which we are continuously taking part. A society creates itself around core concepts of the spirit, achieves its zenith, and then declines as the values on which it is created lose their strength and meaning, and are replaced by the another system more suited to the evolutionary stage of the culture; a process which re-occurs eternally, 'reality' becoming and dissolving in a fluid process. For the self, temporal knowledge reaches its limit in the realization that the same patterns of existence are repeated in this eternal cycle - ultimately, "the self returns to the self". Considered from this perspective, human social systems also fulfill the criteria for generating fractal structures: The process is cyclic, and the output of one stage becomes the input of the next.
'"Will to power is affirmative in its essence, and always therefore on the side of the active, noble agents. The negative is as much a "primordial quality" of will to power as is the affirmative, but this negativity is predestined to "transmute itself into affirmation", because in fact "only becoming-active has being": "becoming-reactive has no-being". In the eternal return being is purified of the negative; "the small, petty, reactive man will not return". The negative expires at the gates of being"' (Nietzsche's Voice; Henry Staten, Cornell University Press; p71).
Nietzsche provides a perspective from which the religious skeptic may allow a "faith" with no supernatural basis; the idea expressed by Walter Kaufmann in "Faith of a Heretic". The key to bridging the divide between religion and science is finding common ground between "belief" and "doubt" concerning the "supernatural". I feel we have come to a new understanding of what we have called metaphysical through non-linear philosophy and fractal ontology. Another significant contribution by Nietzsche is his desire to re-integrate the Dionysian, to create the "poetic Socrates" - to concieve of a God who - knows how to dance!
From the scientific perspective, we also have new insights generated by our vastly enhanced understanding of the physical world, from the quantum level to the Hubble horizon; the mapping of our genetic code; the neurobiology of the brain; systems theory, including complexity theory and the concepts of emergence in complex adaptive systems and metasystem transition (MST) which are integral to the realization of the singularity in consciousness. Stuart Kuafmann, in his attempt to "re-create the sacred", proposes we comprehend God as the "creativity in the universe". The relationship with which we situate ourselves in this new expanded vision of the cosmos and our evolution demands an ever increasing awareness from each of us: "A human being is a part of the whole, called by us the "Universe", a part limited in time and space. He expereriences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something seperated from the rest - a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of comparison to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievment is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner secutity" - Albert Einstien (quoted from "Physics - Concepts and Connections"; Art Hobson, p2).
The key to freeing ourselves from this optical delusion of the senses is to continually widen our circle of comparison... it is possible for human beings to attain this state of full awareness; and this is where the traditional role of religion is central to any concept of a unified consciousness. The role of religious systems should be to guide the individual to this full awareness as much as is possiple. The transpersonal experience represents "the unifying, integrative moment which provides the individual with a glimpse of all things...the micro-macro web of the universe, interrelationships of all peoples and all things" (Joseph Chilton Pearce). A website worth visiting with this in mind is http://www.prophecykeepers.com/mission.html Prophecykeepers have the mission "to teach you to gain direct contact with The Mind and Will of your Creator". The Elders at The White Roots Peace Council wish "to establish peace through the worldwide realization of our ancient common global relatedness". I live in hope!
Sri Aurobindo's article at God Consciousness outlines much of relevance, and I wish to reiterate some of the main points in setting the initial conditions for our dialogue:
Spiritual experience is the final goal of religion.
The upward impulse of man toward the accordance of yet higher opposites is the only logical completion of a rule and an effort that seem to be a fundamental method of nature.
A diversity in oneness is the law of manifestation; the supramental unification and integration must harmonize these diversities...not abolish them.
The gulf between mind and supermind must be bridged. This is to be achieved by "the ascent into supermind and the transforming descent of the supramental consciousness into our entire being and nature".
Finding of the self by the self in the self - intellectual seeking is replaced by supramental identity and gnostic intuition of the contents of identity. Matter is revealed as the instrument of the manifestation of the spirit.
Knowledge of God may only be obtained by self-transcending experience.
Supreme totally self-aware and all aware intelligence is Gnosis.
The idea that the potentiality for life was already contained in matter, the potentiality for mind was already contained in life, and the potentiality for the supramental already contained in mind.
There is not the least possibility of the whole human race rising in block to the supramental level.
A change in consciousness is the major fact of the next evolutionary transformation.
"Truth" self arranges; ie. self organizes.
Sri Aurobindo stresses that the spiritually evolved being is not a Nietzschean "Superman", but I do feel there is some congruity between the two. Both Nietzsche and Sri Aurobindo concern themselves with the concepts of an ultimate tansformation of the individual; the incessant drive to move beyond the limited self; the resolution of the conflict between the individual and the collective; the understanding that good and evil are relative values whose determination varies over time with the needs of the culture; that it is through the most advanced individuals that the collectivity progresses; that a religion of renunciation and mortification may be a force that discourages life; and that a spiritual man should live life fully. It should be remembered Nietzsche reported seeing "God in all his glory" at a young age, and much later in his life stated: "It is not the strength of exulted experiences but their duration which exults a man". The main difference I find between Aurobindos' spiritually evolved human and the "uberman" is that Nietzsche denies the possibility of any supernatural or "supramental" aspect of the metaphysical: "Man created God, not the other way 'round". What is noticable is a degree of resonance amongst some salient ideas and conclusions, what could be termed memetic isomorphisms.
Note that spiritual development requires the refinement of the intuitive functions, already identified as having room for further development in the brains frontal lobes, where the suprarational functions necessary for syncretism reside. It is worth noting here Steven Weinberg's four level model of consciousness, which placed intuition at the top of the hierarchy of the human psyche:
(see "The Light Pollution Handbook", p336 for further explanation of this model). It is important to realize that each level in this model is not discrete; rather the levels may be considered as sets, where each lower level is contained as a subset of the next level in the hierarchy.
Some further thoughts on how mind is stuctured from Consciousness In The Cosmos, drawn from the work of Douglas Hofstadter:
'"Intelligence resides in this brain hardware. Yet, it is of a *different quality* so infers Hofstadter. Intelligence, although brain bound, "can be lifted right out of the hardware in which it resides...or in other words, intelligence [can] be a software property." Hofstadter focuses on the pivot that configures intelligence, mainly information and its various expressions: such as words, stories, messages, and interpretations of meaning. [Ibid, p. 358] These expressions of meaning, in turn, make-up the software property of the brain's intelligence. Some words, whose meaning is fixed, "form a rigid skeleton, giving an underlying structure to the system." Other adjustable words, according to Hofstadter, fill in this skeleton with meaningful material. These words evolve into stories that operate on all levels of reality. Hofstadter observes that these stories can be nested, operating within other stories. They, too, become embedded. [Ibid, pp. 97, 184] Out of stories come the messages and eventually the interpretation of meaning. Hofstadter believes that information is intrinsically inside the structure of these messages; he puts it thus, "meaning resides in the text, not in the method of decipherment." Meaning, however, is a matter of interpretation. Our brains/minds contain interpreters; these interpreters, according to Hofstadter, are a "pulling-out mechanism of inner meaning." He continues, noting that much of the source of mental images, or eventual intuitive meaning, is "like an iceberg...deep underwater, unseen." [Ibid, pp. 164, 582, 713]
The brain is hardwired according to implicit, basic rules. Hofstadter believes that these embedded rules allow the potential for a flexibility and transitional capability to an almost infinitely complex level. Harkening back, through a long evolutionary journey, the compelling inner codes of DNA have written the rules for the brain as hardware. In turn, the discoveries of modern bioscience suggest an *underlying order* lodged in the DNA. However--when we reach out beyond the rules that formed our hardwired brain, when we move from hardware to software, we run into rules that can seem to be playfully creative and changing. As Hofstadter puts it, "rules that change themselves, directly or indirectly, are at the core of intelligence." For Hofstadter there must be some kind of "imaginable world, a world where the only restriction is that in it...logic should be the same as in our world." [Ibid, pp. 27, 99, 362] The brain is hardwired according to implicit, basic rules. Hofstadter believes that these embedded rules allow the potential for a flexibility and transitional capability to an almost infinitely complex level. Harkening back, through a long evolutionary journey, the compelling inner codes of DNA have written the rules for the brain as hardware. In turn, the discoveries of modern bioscience suggest an *underlying order* lodged in the DNA. However--when we reach out beyond the rules that formed our hardwired brain, when we move from hardware to software, we run into rules that can seem to be playfully creative and changing. As Hofstadter puts it, "rules that change themselves, directly or indirectly, are at the core of intelligence." For Hofstadter there must be some kind of "imaginable world, a world where the only restriction is that in it...logic should be the same as in our world." [Ibid, pp. 27, 99, 362]
Strange Loops are a kind of iteration, and there is also a correspondence to be found in fractal geometry. Fractals can be generated by iteration. Fractal geometry shows that shapes have self-similarity at descending scales. Is this not like arriving at the same point at different levels? The iterations of Strange Loops could also be compared with those present in the feedback cycle of chaos and order. Strange Loops, feedback cycles, and iterations are mechanisms of the creative complexity of intelligence; they are, for Hofstadter, the retrieval mechanisms of inner meaning. But what is this inner meaning behind the mechanics of intelligence, behind the sense of something implicit embedded deeply in the brain system? For the great mathematician Kurt Goedel, from whom Hofstadter draws, it is a universal, nonlocal Mind. [Rudy Rucker, INFINITY AND THE MIND, p. 183.] Strange Loops are a kind of iteration, and there is also a correspondence to be found in fractal geometry. Fractals can be generated by iteration. Fractal geometry shows that shapes have self-similarity at descending scales. Is this not like arriving at the same point at different levels? The iterations of Strange Loops could also be compared with those present in the feedback cycle of chaos and order. Strange Loops, feedback cycles, and iterations are mechanisms of the creative complexity of intelligence; they are, for Hofstadter, the retrieval mechanisms of inner meaning. But what is this inner meaning behind the mechanics of intelligence, behind the sense of something implicit embedded deeply in the brain system? For the great mathematician Kurt Goedel, from whom Hofstadter draws, it is a universal, nonlocal Mind. [Rudy Rucker, INFINITY AND THE MIND, p. 183.]
Perhaps Hofstadter could not say outright that the brain/Mind is a vessel for the expression of a Cosmic Ground, but he points his finger in that direction. Discussing perception, Hofstadter quietly says that "by gradually widening the scope of the brain/Mind system, one will in the end come to a feeling of being at one with the entire universe." [Hofstadter, GOEDEL, ESCHER, BACH, p. 479] If it were possible that the brain/mind system might be a vessel for cosmic expression, where might this scenario lead? Hofstadter contends that Strange Loops move us into greater consciousness. While pondering the emerging sense of self, he puts it thus: "My belief is that the explanation of emergent phenomena in our brains...for instance ideas, hopes, images, analogies, and finally consciousness and free will...are based on a kind of Strange Loop, an interaction between levels in which the top level reaches back towards the bottom level and influences it, while at the same time being itself determined by the bottom level." [Ibid, p. 709]
The above quote likens Strange Loops to a spiral in which at ever expanding higher levels, there exists the capability to suck-up continuing information input from the bottom, more basic level. And, as previously mentioned, these Strange Loops can also be compared to a feedback cycle of continual enfoldment and unfoldment. Finally, Hofstadter does show a tendency towards the direction of a "Noosphere"...a single brain/Mind system of the human species. After all, the concept of a Noosphere is really not too afar afield from Hofstadter's analogy of the ant colony. If he were ever to outright address the conjectures of a Noosphere, Hofstadter might employ his beautiful thoughts about wholes, of totalities, as exemplified in his marvelous statement on the fugue: "Fugues have that interesting property, that each of their voices is a piece of music in itself; and thus a fugue might be thought of as a collection of several distinct pieces of music, all based on one single theme, and all played simultaneously...each of these individually meaningful lines fuse with the others in a highly non random way, to make a graceful totality." [Ibid, p. 283]
In The Passion of the Western Mind, Richard Tarnas describes this subtler conception of Eros—espoused most eloquently by Plato—as “a complex and multidimensional archetype which at the physical level expresses itself in the sexual instinct, but at higher levels impels the philosopher’s passion for intellectual beauty and wisdom, and culminates in the mystical vision of the eternal, the ultimate source of all beauty."'
Blest is the happy man
Who knows the Mysteries the gods ordain,
And sanctifies his life,
Joins soul with soul in mystic unity,
And, by due ritual made pure
Enters the ecstasy of mountain solitudes;
Who observes the mystic rites
Made lawful by the Great Mother;
Who crowns his head with ivy,
And shakes his wand in worship of Dionysus.
The idea that emergent phenomena in our brains are based on a kind of Strange Loop - an interaction between levels in which the top level reaches back towards the bottom level and influences it, while at the same time being itself determined by the bottom level - may be applied to the four level model of consciousness, with each level nested within the higher levels in a recursive manner. Further, phylogenetic memory appears to be concievable in terms of topographical structure of our neurobiology: "There are established in the structure of the nervous system absolute internal relations - relations that are potentially present before birth in the shape of definite nervous connexions; and that are antecedent to, and independent of, individual experiences; and that are automatically disclosed along with the first cognitions...But these pre-determined internal relations, though independant of the experiences of the individual, are not independent of experiences in general: they have been determined by the experiences of preceding organisms". (Herbert Spencer, The Principles of Psychology 2nd edition, London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans,1880 p468, quoted from Social Suffering; Arthur Kleinmar, Veena Das, Margaret M. Lock, p254) "Each phylogenetic memory begins as an individual experience. To say that an experience is remembered means that it has left a neurological trace. These traces (which include memorized patterns) tend to fade over time unless they are periodically recalled and or re-enacted, in which case a trace evolves into a permenant neural pathway. Pathways grow progressively deeper as the organically registered experience of multiple generations are accumulated. In time, such pathways permit impulses to move unimpeded, so that no cognitive effort is required to move from initial perception to completed response. On reaching this point, a phylogenetic memory is equivalent to what is called an instinct.
One may argue that a phylogenetic memory is not really a memory,since it does not enter consciousness...In fact, the phylogenetic memory does enter consciousness: not through cognitive effort, it is true, but at the moment of reenactment. What is special about this conscious memory is that, at the moment of rememberance and reenactmemt it collapses time, fusing the ancestral past and the experienced present" (Ibid, p254).
We may consider the brain to be the hardware of mind with its embedded rules and intelligence as the adaptive software, with Strange Loops, feedback cycles and iterations as mechanisms of the creative complexity of intelligence, the retrieval mechanisms of inner meaning; this inner meaning behind the mechanics of intelligence that was for Kurt Goedel a universal non-local mind, a concept which brings to mind David Bohms "implicate order" (http://www.bizcharts.com/stoa_del_sol/plenum/plenum_3.html ), concepts which themsleves seem to be a modern reflection of Plato's "complex multidimensional archetype".
Some further observations on religion from Nietzsche: "Both [Buddhism and Christianity] belong together as nihilistic religions -- they are religions of decadence -- but they differ most remarkably... Buddhism is a hundred times more realistic than Christianity... The concept of 'God' had long been disposed of when it arrived. Buddhism is the only genuinely positivistic religion in history... it no longer says 'struggle against sin' but, duly respectful of reality, 'struggle against suffering.' Buddhism is profoundly distinguished from Christianity by the fact that the self-deception of the moral concepts lies far behind it. In my terms, it stands beyond good and evil." - Friedrich Nietzsche, The Antichrist, 20
"Buddhism presupposes a very mild climate, customs of great gentleness and liberality, and the absence of militarism; moreover, the movement had to originate among the higher, and even the scholarly, classes. Cheerfulness, calm, and freedom from desire are the highest goal, and the goal is attained."
- Friedrich Nietzsche, The Antichrist, 21 (http://www.island-of-freedom.com/siddharta.htm)
I disagree with Nietzsche that Buddhism is nihilistic, at least in some forms, for reasons I hope will become apparent as syncretic processes develop hierarchical structures and we approach our metasystem transition (MST); which will, should it occur, result in the realization of the singularity in consciousness (I may, of course be shown to be completely wrong in this assertion, and everything else), and the development of a single brain/Mind system of the human species, the Noosphere.
As a systems approach is being applied here, an "attractor" (a point or set to which a dynamical system evolves after a period of time) is required to allow the formation of a higher order control mechanism through a MST. Here, I wish to return to Zen, and propose Joshu's "MU" as that attractor:
Mumon on MU
"'To realize Zen one has to pass through the barrier of the patriarchs. Enlightenment always comes after the road of thinking is blocked. If you do not pass the barrier of the patriarchs or if your thinking path is not blocked, whatever you think, whatever you do, is like a tangling ghost. You may ask: "What is a barrier of a patriarch?" This one word 'MU' is it.
This is the barrier of Zen. If you pass through it, you will see Joshu face to face. Then you can work hand in hand with the whole line of patriarchs. Is this not a pleasant thing to do?
If you want to pass this barrier, you must work through every bone in your body, through every pore of your skin, filled with this question: "What is 'MU'?" and carry it day and night. Do not believe it is the common negative symbol meaning nothing. It is not nothingness, the opposite of existence. If you really want to pass this barrier, you should feel like drinking a hot iron ball that you can neither swallow nor spit out.
Then your previous lesser knowledge dissappears. As a fruit ripening in season, your subjectivity and objectivity naturally become one. It is like a dumb man who has had a dream. He knows about it but he cannot tell it.
When he enters this condition his ego-shell is crushed and he can shake the heaven and move the earth. He is like a great warrior with a sharp sword. If a Buddha stands in his way, he will cut him down. If a patriarch offers him any obstacle, he will kill him; and he will be free in his way of birth and death. He can enter any world as if it were his own playground. I will tell you how to do this with this koan:
Just concentrate your whole enrgy into this 'MU', and do not allow any discontinuation. When you enter this 'MU' and there is no discontinuation, your attainment will be as a candle burning and illuminating the whole universe.'" (Godel, Escher,Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid; Hofstadter, The Harvester Press Ltd, 1979).
Has a dog Buddha-nature?
This is the most serious question of all.
If you say yes or no,
You lose your own Buddha-nature.
To pass the barrier of the patriarchs, to see Joshu face to face, is to attain the transpersonal experience of unity with the divine and all that is in existence, that is Gnosis - Aurobindo's totally self aware and all aware intelligence. Remember that it has been proposed that intelligence, while residing in the hardware of the brain, can be lifted out of the neurobiological structure and viewed as a software property. I wish to promote the idea that humans have never really created anything - rather we have discovered or uncovered what is already there, ultimately revealing the non-local universal mind or implicate order. This is most apparent when we observe the structure of language, mathematics and music. Once again, the thoughts of Hofstadter are particularly relevant:
Grammars for Music?
"Then there is music. This is a domain which you might suppose, on first thought, would lend itself admirably to being codified in an ATN-grammar, or some such program. Whereas (to continue this naive line of thought) language relies on connections with the outside world for meaning, music is purely formal. There is no reference to things "out there" in the sounds of music; there is just pure syntax - note following note, chord following chord, measure following measure, phrase following phrase...
But wait. Something is wrong in this analysis. Why is some music so much deeper and more beautiful than other music? It is because form, in music is expressive - expressive to some strange subconscious regions of our minds. The sounds of music do not refer to serfs or city-states, but they do trigger clouds of emotion in our innermost selves; in that sense musical meaning is dependent on intangible links from the symbols to things in the world - those "things", in this case, being the secret software structures in our minds. No, great music will not come out of such an easy formalism as an ATN-grammar. Pseudomusic, like psuedo-fairy tales, may well come out - and that will be a valuable exploration for people to make - but the secrets of meaning in music lie far, far deeper than pure syntax.
I should clarify one point here: in principle, ATN-grammars have all the power of any programming formalism, so if musical meaning is capturable in any way at all, (which I believe it is), it is capturable in an ATN-grammar. True. But in that case, I maintain, the grammar will be defining not just musical structures, but the entire structures of the mind of a beholder. The "grammar" will be a full grammar of thought - not just a grammar of music". (Ibid, p626)
I hope that the idea of this dialogue as a 'musical' discourse is now clearer, analogous to Hofstadter's description of the fugue above, with the "harmony" generated by memetic isomorphisms. I'll give the final word before beginning this attempt to facilitate the singularity in consciousness to an immortal:
Day and night, no difference.
The sun is the moon: An amalgam.
Their gold and silver melt together.
This is the season when
the dead branch and the green branch
are the same branch.
Nightmares fill with light like a holiday.
Humans and angels speak one language.
The elusive ones finally meet.
Good and evil, dead and alive,
from one natural stem.
You know this already, I'll stop.
Any direction you turn
it's one vision.