SUMMARY

As an introduction to my summary of the last 12 blogs, here is a video which represents a simple present moment; the love and connection between Judith and me. Our connection to nature, to the flow of life, the wind, water, and the sailing technology a thousand years in the making.  We come together through the permutations of our respective lives and the lives of our ancestors and the history of the universe. It is a testament to our having lived lives that are qualitatively and materially better that most humans. With these blessings we are brought together in a simple sublime moment. And, the present moment is superior to and transcends all speculation.

Now with that, I am going to speculate.

I have no idea where or why the universe exists. My life and the universe are a staggering mystery. My place in the universe is so small, it is not a place. My place in time is so short, it is no time. The universe is impersonal. Without life, it is without meaning or consciousness. With the complexity of life, the Universe becomes conscious and meaningful. My cosmic vocation is to give meaning to the Universe for me. 

Facts and evidence along with rationality are important. Evolution and climate change are proven. Anti-GMO and Anti-Vax is batty. It is useful to examine false premises and to be willing to drop them. The sun rises and sets and yet paradoxically, the earth goes around the sun. The motions of the planets do not influence the affairs of humans.

The Bible is a book that is written by men not by God. Good Bible stories and precepts cause good things. Bad Bible stories and precepts have caused death and destruction of millions. A current example is that pressure from some religious leaders has resulted in the banning of a number of anti-AIDS campaigns, including condom promotion in Africa. This may have caused the deaths of thousands of men and women and children; perhaps more.

The false premise that we began examining is.. A rationalistic scientific way of thinking is the only way to the truth of reality.  This is because my bias is empiricism and rationalism. Science can only explain reality.

I explored consciousness. Consciousness is a mystery to scientists. It is difficult to scientifically research subjective experience, although it is being done with some credibility. Non duality is an “experience“ of consciousness where the subjective sense of oneness and connection with everything is a real phenomenon, although a relative few have experienced it.  Some non dualists think that the world only exists in our consciousness and is revealed to us by observation. So, the moon did not exist before mankind. This, in my view, is nuts. This is almost like creationists who declare that nothing existed before a few thousand years ago.

In looking at Psi phenomenon, I found little of it credible. I am trying to keep an open mind; however, it is difficult because so many charlatans pollute the landscape. Kinda like televangelists and faith healers.

I then looked at Christian dogma and declared most of it as invalid for me. I do adhere to Christian values, of tolerance, love, and compassion. These values are expressed in many other religions.  What you believe is up to you. Just don’t try to convert or control me and I will do the same for you.

And as far as death is concerned, I, like you, will have to face it. Although there are thousands of stories and beliefs of life after death, there is no credible evidence for this. It is a mystery. And what the hell, I have known my entire life that I will die in the midst of the mystery.

I will continue to explore these ideas and others in future blogs. Meantime I have an invitation for you. If you want to talk about this stuff on Zoom webcam, email me. I love to be in conversation.

Here is a compilation of all the blogs written so far.Bruce’s Reflections Blog 2018

DEATH

I died on January 11, 2000. My heart stopped and my lungs quit functioning. There was no heartbeat and no air going into and out of my lungs. There was no time; no past, no present, and no future. I was not aware that I existed. I was gone.

Twenty-five minutes later my heart was restarted and my lungs inflated. And, I was taken off of a heart/lung bypass machine. Three hours later I became conscious and a breathing tube was taken out of my throat. I had been unconscious for five hours while undergoing open heart surgery to repair the mitral valve in my heart. I was totally unaware and I only knew that I was alive when I woke up.

This has happened again in 2013 when I had a five hour operation to rebuild my broken arm from a bike accident. At stage 4 anesthesia there is no awareness. A total blank. This is unlike sleep where one dreams and there are at times some sense of awareness.

Based on my personal experience, my belief is that when I die, it will like going into a deep sleep and not waking up.  My body will be gone. I will no longer cast a shadow. I will no longer exist. So, there is really no need to be afraid of being dead. I just won’t exist. Just like my parents, Frances and Lee, my brother Gordon, and my son Brian, no longer exist; and my deceased friends and billions of other humans in the past.

Being born is waking up having not gone to sleep. I will be in the same place as I was in March 1941 prior to my conception. No place. And of course, there is the mystery. Who knows if there is life after death? No one knows and if someone professes to know, they are coming from their own personal subjective experience.  

Now how about the process of dying. That I fear. I used to joke that some idiot is  going to whisper in my ear on my deathbed “This is going to be a growth experience.” I now know that it is. Some die quickly almost instantaneously like my son Brian who was killed in an auto accident. But many die slowly. And for those who do, it can be a transcendent experience. 

I have been reading Grace in Dying by  Kathleen D Singh. She was with hundreds of individuals who were dying and found that almost all of them  moved through phases of chaos, acceptance and then surrender leading to peace and transcendence. I hope to do that and to rise above the suffering when I am dying.

I know that as one approaches death, material things fall away and relationships and connection with others emerge to be the most important. I do believe that we are born to love, and that love is perhaps all that ultimately matters to us.

What is your take on dying?

Life after death? Continued consciousness?

 

BELIEFS

The Apostles Creed.

   I believe in God, the Father almighty,
   creator of heaven and earth.
   I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
   who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
   born of the Virgin Mary,
   suffered under Pontius Pilate,
   was crucified, died, and was buried;
   he descended to the dead.
   On the third day he rose again;
   he ascended into heaven,
   he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
   and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
   I believe in the Holy Spirit,
   the holy catholic Church,
   the communion of saints,
   the forgiveness of sins,
   the resurrection of the body,
   and the life everlasting. Amen.

As a boy, I was an acolyte in the Episcopal church. The apostle’s creed was recited out loud at every service. When I was about 15, I realized that I was an acolyte to please my grandmother. By 20, I was a pain-in-the-ass atheist, asking people whether an all-powerful God could strike a match on a wet piece of soap. I came to understand the Holy Communion as a cannibalistic ritual taken from pagan times and that passages in the bible caused the deaths of millions of people.

And now, I do not believe in anything in the Apostles creed; the immaculate conception, the virgin birth, the resurrection, judgment, saints, and the rest. It is a hell of a story, but it is not true. So am I a Christian?  I say yes.

Many years ago I read The Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus. I “got” Jesus. The message is simple: Love, Tolerance and Compassion. That is it. Everything else can be ignored including sin, hell, redemption, and all that other dogmatic stuff.  And “Christians” who are not loving to all, tolerant of all, and compassionate for all, are not following the teachings of Christ.

I have changed to a secular value system, which I think is the trend. As Europe has become more secular in the last 50 years, has it become less moral? It has not. There can be a moral value system based in culture and humanistic values without religion. In fact, many think that religion has a negative net value. YouTube debates on whether religion does more harm than good are fascinating. The anti-religion side usually wins.

While I am not religious associated with dogma,  I am still a seeker of the transcendent and continue to try to seek truth beyond the logical and physical.

And, I am deeply respectful of others’ personal experience and their connection to their personal God or whatever brings them awareness of that which is greater. I remember seeing a Hindu woman turn and leave a shrine of a Goddess and the peaceful expression on her face was the same as those leaving the altar from the Eucharist. You won’t find me arguing with you about your internal experience.  And of course, don’t discount mine either.

So, what are your beliefs? Do they match mine or is there something you want to add?

 

PARAPSYCHOLOGY

In an attempt to show that physicalism is not the sole basis of reality,  I have researched a little about parapsychology. By the way, physicalism means relying only on science for the truth.

Parapsychology is the study of paranormal and psychic phenomena which include telepathy, precognition, clairvoyance, psychokinesis, near-death experiences, reincarnation, apparitional experiences, and other paranormal claims. It is identified as pseudoscience and yet continues to be investigated despite being unable to provide convincing evidence for the existence of any psychic phenomena after more than a century of research.

The challenge with investigation of these kind of phenomenon is that they are not conducive to the scientific method and are almost entirely anecdotal in nature.

I have listed below examples of parapsychological phenomena with links to Wikipedia articles, all of which debunk them with lots of citations. And there are not many entries that try to rebut their invalidity.

Mediums
Speaking to and hearing the dead
Demonic Possession
Being possessed by an evil spirit
Reincarnation
Living individuals reveal past lives
Psychokinesis
Moving objects with your mind
Aura Reading
 See light around a body
Near Death Experiences
Remote  viewing and heavenly experiences while almost dead
Telepathy
 Reading others’ minds
Precognition
 Knowing a specific future event
Remote Viewing
See things beyond one sight
Astral projection
Going to another place without your body
Clairvoyance
Various forms of ESP
Objects that have magical powers such as or magnetic bracelets, electrical devices

Much of above is believed and practiced by well-intentioned people, but some are frauds and tricksters who do these things for money.

All of us have anecdotal stories that support this stuff, including me. I was transported out of my body to the ceiling when I was 10 years old. My son read my mind when he was three. These are stories, not explanations. And, one story does not make the case for paranormal phenomenon .

Most of  the research is based on “a belief in search of data rather than observation in search of an explanation”. Kinda like creationism.

Near Death experiences are certainly real, but do not demonstrate that there is an afterlife. See this article on the physiology of drugs and NDE’s.

The One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge was an offer by the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) to pay out one million U.S. dollars to anyone who can demonstrate a supernatural or paranormal ability under agreed-upon scientific testing criteria. A version of the challenge was first issued in 1964. Over a thousand people applied to take it, but none have been successful.

Susan Blakemore, parapsychology researcher for 30 years, revealed what she found in researching  paranormal phenomenon. And guess what she found. Nothing! Listen to her interview on Closer to The Truth. She made the statement that if these phenomena were shown to be true, the entirety of science would be upended. Let’s hope that it happens. just for the excitement of it.

There are serious organizations with reputable people who continue to investigate these phenomena. These include:

Institute of Noetic Sciences -Wikipedia
The research reported on their website is sparse.

University of Virginia Institute of Perceptual Studies
Their books are 800 pages and cost $50. Not exactly written to convince a wide audience.

So, does parapsychology prove the premise A rationalistic scientific way of thinking is the only way to the truth of reality to be false? I doubt it. However, I am interested in your views, particularly if you can cite specific research that supports any of these phenomena.

NON DUALITY

Have you ever fallen in love with being alive? A number of years ago I was hiking on Tequille Island in Lake Titicaca, Peru. As I approached a vista from the trail, I had this exquisite feeling of aliveness. I felt connected to everything far beyond my physical body. There was a sense of oneness.

Non Duality describes an experience where your state of consciousness shifts and your sense of self falls away to something larger and expansive. It primarily refers to a state of consciousness, in which the dichotomy of I-other is ‘transcended’, and awareness is described as ‘centerless’ and ‘without dichotomies’. Although this state of consciousness appears spontaneous for me, it usually is the “result” of prolonged meditative/contemplative practice. One can also experience non duality through a Near Death Experience or psychedelic drugs. Perhaps you’ve experienced the sense of oneness at a time in your life: perhaps a lot.

The essential discovery of all the great spiritual traditions, including Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Zen, Sufism, Kashmir Shaivism and Judaism, is that experience is not divided into a perceiving subject, an entity known as ‘I,’ and a perceived object,  world or other. There is a Oneness.

Rather than quoting spiritual teachers, here are quotes from physicists.

Einstein said that “reality is an illusion all be a persistent one. Space and time are modes in which we think, not conditions in what we live.”  

Werner Heisenberg, Nobel prize winning physicist stated, “The universe is not only stranger than we think, it is stranger than we can think”.

Erwin Schrödinger, Nobel prize winning physicist stated, “ We do not belong to this material world that science constructs for us.  We are not inside, we are outside. We are spectators. The reason we think that we are inside in the picture is because our bodies are inside the picture. The plurality that we perceive is only an appearance; it is not real.”

Now take 4 minutes to listen to this video beginning at 42.00 to 46.37. You will learn that the universe may be an illusion and that it may only exist when it is being observed.

Now let’s come back to non duality.

If everything is just boundless energy, then there really may be no separation.

The apparent separateness between you and the external world is powerful illusion that seems to divide the Oneness of experience into two separate things, when in reality everything is one.

And, when you “awaken” to  this sense of Oneness, there is a dramatic shift in your being. There is happiness, joy, love and transcendence.

There are many non-dualist teachers who suggest that reality is totally subjective and that all matter is only created through awareness, i.e. observation. So rather than the physicalist objective lower right quadrant being the only reality, the non-dualists say that the subjective upper left quadrant is the only reality.

Now, if all of this has not made your head explode, search non duality on the web and learn more. Some teachers include Rupert Spira, Tony Parsons, Jeffery Martin and Tim Freke. And if my musings have really gotten you into this, take the time to hear one of Freke’s lectures.

So, does non duality prove the premise A rationalistic scientific way of thinking is the only way to the truth of reality to be false? Well perhaps rather than either/or it should be both/and. Can we entertain the paradox in the same way as Schrödinger’s cat? Two opposites can both be true.

How are you with paradoxes? Can you entertain two conflicting realities?

When have you experienced a sense of oneness? A sense of non duality?

CONSCIOUSNESS

Knock knock, who is inside of you? You have an internal experience of “me”.  You experience feelings when aroused. You are in awe of beauty. You have thoughts, opinions and beliefs. You create and visualize the future. You react internally to the world in hundreds of  subjective ways. Some refer this to this as qualia. It is the part of you that is self aware. Buddhists call it pure awareness. Others call it consciousness. Some say that consciousness is formless.

The “I”, the knowing with which our experience is known, has remained present throughout your life. In that sense “you”, the awareness of you, has not changed.

What is consciousness? And, can it be explained by a physicalist?

“Does consciousness exist outside of the brain/body?. Did consciousness exist 5 million years ago?

The false premise that we are examining is.

A rationalistic scientific way of thinking is the only way to the truth of reality.

To the first question, the physicalist would say we don’t know right now, but we will be able to explain it. What we do know is that consciousness and all subjective experience arises from and is dependent on the body and the human body is physical.

To the second question the physicist would say that being that there were no human bodies one million years ago, there was no consciousness. Consciousness does not exist outside of the body.

The challenge for the scientist is that there is nothing we know about the brain and physics which explains consciousness; the subjective experience of “I”.

Consciousness can’t be explained neurologically. Some scientists are exploring whether there may be an answer at the quantum level to explain consciousness. But most think that is a pretty farfetched. The quantum level is millions of time smaller than a neuron and there does not seem to be any more of a quantum connection to neurons and the brain than to other material things.

Now we become unconsciousness though sleep or anesthesia. And neurological scientists can stimulate the neocortex to take us out of consciousness. The brainwaves are there, but there is no integration providing a structure that apparently is required for consciousness.  And that does not really get to any explanation of the experience of love, or beauty.

And how about the subconscious, that part of our consciousness of which we not aware? Scientists have not come even close to providing a neurological explanation of this.

So, consciousness is still a mystery. And if consciousness is special, and we humans seems to think it is, then the fact that it has evolved in the last few thousands of years is a big deal, regardless of how infinitesimal we are in the universe.  The Universe is now becoming conscious of itself. And, maybe this is the only time that it has done so.

Perhaps aspects of consciousness may not be physically based.  And, if not physically based, will survive the dissolution of the body. Perhaps there are individuals who can see a reality beyond physical.

I will explore this concept in the next blog under the name nonduality.

So. do you agree that the understanding of consciousness, your consciousness, might be a factor in proving the premise false?

 

 

PHYSICALISM

In the last blog, I stated that the premise that a rationalistic scientific way of thinking is the only way to the truth of reality is false.

Physicalism is the premise that the real world only consists simply of the physical world. Physicalists don’t deny that the world might contain many items that at first glance don’t seem physical — items of a biological, or psychological, or moral, or social nature. But they state nevertheless that at the end of the day such items are either physical or depend on the physical. And that, theoretically, given enough time,  physicists and scientists will be able to explain everything using physical laws.

The basic idea is we human beings are nothing more than exceedingly complicated biological machines . Consciousness is generated by physiological events and processes in our brains.

So how does one explore whether this foundational premise is false? I am going to look at three ways in future blog posts.

  • Consciousness-subjective experience
  • Parapsychology, i.e. ESP, mind reading, mediums and such
  • Spiritual experience of religious and non-religious people

Let me begin with a perspective. A few years ago, I wrote a book called the Leadership Mastery Map. It categorized leadership subjects according to Ken Wilber’s All Qual Model. The model is a simple but powerful way to explain reality.

Two dichotomies emerge from this model: individual versus collective, and subjective versus objective. By using a 2×2 matrix, we can include all perspectives reality.

The upper left is individual interior subjective which includes inner values, beliefs and internal dynamics, including consciousness.

The lower left quadrant is the collective interior subjective. It is shared values and beliefs of the family, tribe, or nation or any other group.

The upper right quadrant is the exterior individual objective. It consists of one’s physical body and one’s behavior. When a doctor examines you, they are in the upper right quadrant. When you are talking about feelings and beliefs to a psychologist, you are in the upper left quadrant.

The lower right quadrant encompasses everything in the external world.

Physicalism only looks at the right side of the model, the external objective.  In this way it is called reductionist. Some say it does not look at reality from a holistic perspective.

And if you really are into it, go to my talk on Integral Coaching which explains the model.

One more thing. If you really want to begin to understand the mentality of those who focus on the right quadrants (objective) to those who focus on the upper left quadrant (subjective)  go to this fascinating dialogue between  of a physicalist and a spiritual person. Richard Dawkins, biologist and atheist and Satish Kumar, a spiritual teacher and environmental activist have a robust conversation about reality.

Begin at 10.14 when they start talking about spiritual trees and rocks. Listen to how the different perspectives play out.

So how holistically do you look at the world?

While you do reside in all four quadrants, do you put more credibility in one quadrant than the other?