Peter’s Correspondence on the Actual Freedom List
with Correspondent No 60
PETER: When I came across Richard it gradually became obvious that he was an expert in matters of spiritualism and mysticism – indeed whilst I had been busily dabbling around in the shallows he had been doing laps of the pool for years. Given what he had to say about the revered spiritual teachings and mystical traditions I took the time, and made the effort, to investigate whether what he was saying was correct and this investigation also involved enquiring into the extent to which mysticism and spiritualism continues to influence much of the world of science.
Whilst you may not be able to readily see that theoretical physics and cosmology embody the ancient mystical traditions of science it would be an opportunity wasted not to investigate the matter for there have been other correspondents on this mailing list who have turned away from actualism rather than inquire in to their own mystical ‘hang-ups’.
RESPONDENT: Could you be more specific?
Physics (The branch of science that deals with the nature and properties of matter and energy, in so far as they are not dealt with by chemistry or biology; the science whose subject-matter includes mechanics, heat, light and other radiation, sound, electricity, magnetism, and the structure of atoms (Oxford Dictionary) is an empirical science whereas it is apparent that theoretical physics deals with the supposed nature and properties of assumed abstract phenomena and hypothetical forces based on thought experiments and mathematical equations (see Paul Davies below).
When I came to understand this of this I realized that theoretical physics is a continuation of the ancient mystical traditions of philosopher/scientists who, due to a lack of empirical knowledge and practical understanding, could do doing nothing but think and theorize about nature and properties of the matter and its associated energies that constitute the material universe.
Cosmology (The science of the evolution and structure of the universe; a theory or postulated account of this. The branch of philosophy or metaphysics which deals with the universe as a whole (Oxford Dictionary) is a branch of science that is devoted to studying the evolution of the universe – for something to have evolved it must have had a beginning and must have an ending – its central tenet is that the universe was created, not whether or not it was created or whether it has always existed and always will exist. I then understood that the whole science of cosmology is predicated on finding empirical evidence to support the mystical creationist legends and myths and the belief that ‘Someone’ or ‘Something’ created the physical universe.
But hey. I’m not making this up as a theory or a philosophy or writing to you for the sake of arguing a contrary position (as men in particular are wont to do) – a little bit of research into the historical development of the empirical science will reveal that in ancient times the belief in mystical energies and forces and metaphysical matter was absolute and that these beliefs still hold sway in modern science today, and no more so than in the fields of theoretical physics, cosmology and the environmental sciences.
RESPONDENT: In what way is, say, Einstein’s physics inconsistent with actual observation of the actual universe’s behaviour?
PETER: Einstein’s physics has no relevance at all to the actual objective observation of either the matter that is this actual universe or to the qualities of that matter and this glaring anomaly is explained away by Einsteinian physicists with the glib dismissal that Einstein’s physics do not apply to ‘locally-observable phenomena’ or to any conditions that we can experience on earth lat alone those that we can sensibly relate to our everyday lives. Local phenomena and objective observation are not the realm of Einstein’s physics – a sure sign that His physics have nothing to do with actuality. Einstein apparently has such a Guru status within the scientific community that few dare to question his theories for to do so would be to dare to challenge the accepted current status quo of science itself.
RESPONDENT: Better still, so as not to get too far off track, how is it inconsistent with what one experiences in a PCE?
PETER: In a PCE, there is no psychological or psychic faculty present to be interested in, let alone capable of, indulging in imaginative scenarios or fanciful thinking about the nature and properties of matter and energy. What does become startlingly apparent about the nature and properties of matter is that the matter that is the universe is not merely passive – the very matter that is this universe is in a constant state of change and transformation, often imperceptibly slowly, sometimes dramatically evident. I have had a more detailed correspondence about this subject which may be of interest to you.
In a PCE, the direct sensual experience of this non-passivity is experienced as a vibrancy that is magical in its immediacy and one is free to gaze around in wonder at the fact that all this is happening in this very moment. This direct experience of the inherent properties of the matter that is this universe is only possible because ‘I’ have vanished from the scene along with ‘my’ atavistic mystical/spiritual/religious beliefs, fears and fantasies.
In other words, in a PCE the facts of matter are easily distinguished from the human beliefs about matter because there is no ‘me’ as an identity present to produce, maintain and cherish any mystical beliefs whatsoever. Due to ‘my’ absence this flesh and blood material body is no longer separated from the material universe.
PETER: As for Richard being ‘a well-meaning madman’, that was a definite attraction. And my ‘proven track record of long-term devotion to causes that ultimately lead to disillusionment’ apparently means that I have a far better experiential understanding of the inherent failures of spirituality than any of my peers.
RESPONDENT: Perhaps also a propensity to interpret the whole of human endeavour in stark binary terms, based on your personal experiences.
PETER: And yet it was the PCE, an experience that is common-to-all and not personal, which revealed that peace on earth already exists in the actual world. And it was the PCE that which revealed that despite this already existing peace on earth all human beings are either passionately involved in a ‘self’-centred grim instinctual struggle for survival and/or desperately believe in the existence of a fairy-tale or science-fiction mystical other-worldly realm.
RESPONDENT: So you saw that there was an immense and immaculate actual universe beyond the human drama, and that most people most of the time are so caught up in the illusions and delusions of the human drama that they are effectively (affectively) blind to it. Everything they try to do leads them further away from actuality. So far so good. I’ve been there myself, and I’m as satisfied as I need to be that we are correct.
PETER: If I can just interject here – before you start agreeing that ‘we are correct’, I find it somewhat curious that you are having concurrent conversations with others on this mailing list where you are now dismissing the PCE as being inferior to an altered state of consciousness. Vis:
As such, in your statement of agreement it appears that you are describing an altered state of consciousness experience whereby ‘you’ as an observer remain a ‘watcher’ to this human drama whilst simultaneously interpreting the ‘immense and immaculate actual universe beyond the human drama’ as being of a ‘psychedelic’ nature.
There is a world of difference between cultivating a seemingly new identity as a ‘watcher’ to ‘the human drama’ and being actually free of the human condition. At one stage when the list was quiet I posted a series of critiques of the spiritual tradition of creating a new ‘watcher’ identity based on my experience of being a watcher and how this translates in practical down-to-earth lived practice. They may be of interest to you.
RESPONDENT: Now, how did the PCE reveal anything about the origin, composition, extent, or duration of the actual universe?
PETER: As I said above, in a PCE it is clearly experienced that there is nothing at all mystical, nor spiritual about this actual world we live in and this direct sensual experience of actuality is all the more magical because it is devoid of the fears and fantasies of mysticism. What the PCE reveals is that if one at all aspires to live the PCE 24/7 then, when one inevitably returns to being ‘normal’, there is much work to be done – one needs to set out about becoming free of all mystical and spiritual beliefs, no matter what the consequences. Seemingly the most difficult of these beliefs for many is the belief that the physical universe is ephemeral rather than being substantive, as in eternal and infinite.
It’s not for nothing that the first topic I wrote about in my journal was death.
RESPONDENT: How can the few cubic centimetres of brain inside your skull ever be privy to the ultimate nature of something that is too vast (and too small) for the senses to perceive directly, or the mind to reason about?
PETER: ‘The few cubic centimetres of brain’ inside this skull is the matter of the universe as much as is the plant beside my computer, as much as is the soil in which the plant is growing and as much as is the pot in which it is growing. Contrary to common belief and one’s own atavistic feeling, human flesh and blood bodies are not alien to, or separate from, the physical universe – they are in fact animate matter and our very mortality ensures that we – as what we are not ‘who’ we think and feel we are – are inseparable from the physical universe.
To propose that these few centimetres of matter with its millions upon millions of sensory receptors is incapable of making sense of this unfiltered sensory input during a PCE is to denigrate the magnificence and the wonder of the physical universe – not only can these few centimetres of matter make sense of what it is physically sensing but it can also be aware not only of the matter that it is sensing but also be aware that it is aware that it is sensing – or to be aware that it was not being aware if that was the case at the time.
RESPONDENT: I start from the position that there is an actual universe that is mind-bendingly immense in its scope.
PETER: I do appreciate that thinking about the infinite of the universe is a mind-bending exercise and a therefore appears to be a futile one. In a PCE, however, one can directly experience the infinitude of the universe because not only does ‘my’ egocentric view of the world disappear but ‘my’ atavistic anthropocentric beliefs about the nature of the universe disappear as well.
Because I remembered having had such an experience, I followed Richard’s lead and set about patiently dismantling both ‘my’ egocentric view of the world as well as ‘my’ atavistic anthropocentric beliefs about the nature of the universe so as to be more able to experience the actuality of the infinitude of the universe. Another hint I can pass on is that if one puts one’s ‘self’-centredness aside for a while and muses about the infinitude of the physical universe then such contemplation may occasion the onset of a PCE – but as you would know such musings can also bring about an ASC so I am usually somewhat hesitant in recommending such experiments to those who still retain a fascination for things mystical.
RESPONDENT: An infinitesimal fraction of existing facts, existing actualities, are directly knowable by us.
PETER: This is what the mystics would have us believe.
Human beings have thus far done an amazing job in exploring the inanimate and animate matter that is this planet and by developing instruments they have been able to do so in microscopic and macroscopic detail. The development of the telescope in its various forms has extended this exploration to an area of some 12 billion light years’ diameter around this planet and the development of rocketry has seen human beings journey to the moon some 40 years ago. All of this that was unknown and hence inexplicable and mysterious to earlier human beings is now known to be fact.
Whilst there can be no doubt that there is more to be discovered and that more will be discovered, sufficient has already been discovered to put paid to the superstitions and myths that gave credence to mystical and spiritual beliefs … but apparently not for those human beings who desperately cling on to these beliefs, come what may.
RESPONDENT: The portion that is knowable to us is seen ‘through a glass darkly’ as it were, distorted by sensory limitations, conceptual models, and sheer cognitive power.
PETER: Again this is what the mystics would have us believe. Their presumption is that there is ‘something’ mysterious in the universe that is by its very supernatural nature beyond detection by human perception or instrumentation and beyond our limited understanding. As Paul Davies says in the quoted passage below
What the PCE reveals is that there is another world other than the affective human world of grim reality but this world is not a mystical creation, it is a magical fairytale like actuality, this actual world is not a metaphysical world, it is nothing other than a physical world, this actual world is not ephemeral, it is perpetually ever-changing … and that this actual world can only be sensately experienced when one’s affective and imaginary faculties cease ruling the roost.
RESPONDENT: The temporary abeyance of the instinctual passions that produce ‘self’-hood (and all of its illusions and delusions) enables a stunningly clear perception of our little slice of actuality, including the mind that perceives it, but it does not remove our limitations entirely. It does not magically make the entire universe knowable. That in itself smells of mysticism.
PETER: You are bending over backwards in trying to make a PCE something that it is not – one does not become omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient when one has a pure consciousness experience nor when one is actually free of the human condition.
I have had PCEs in several parts of this planet that I can remember – several at sea, once in the mountains, once by a lake, several in the hills, several on beaches and so on. Whilst they definitely occurred in a specific location relative to say where the nearest town was, or were the sea was or which hemisphere I was in, I never had the experience that I was experiencing ‘my little slice of actuality’ for I was cognizant of the fact that in the infinitude of the universe I was no-where in particular – in other words both ‘my’ egocentric view of reality and ‘my’ atavistic anthropocentric view of the universe had temporarily ceased.
This is how I described one such set of experiences –
And this is how you described a similar experience –
RESPONDENT: For somebody who is being encouraged to investigate such matters, it is just not good enough to say: it was revealed to me, and I just knew.
PETER: Well you have reported having had a PCE so it is up to you to do what you will with the experience.
What pure consciousness experiences revealed to me was that there is a paradisiacal actual world that exists right under my nose as it were, whenever ‘I’ temporarily cease to exist. A PCE is not an experience of ‘me’ feeling myself to be omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient – on the contrary, all questions about the meaning of life simply dissolved because the meaning of life was readily apparent all around wherever I looked.
As a normal person, what ‘I’ did was follow Richard’s lead and began to question and investigate all of the facets of the human condition that stood in the way of me being happy and which caused me to intentionally or inadvertently cause harm to others. In the course of doing so I have unveiled a good deal about the workings of the human condition and how it operates as ‘me’, an experiential understanding based on conducting my own down-to-earth investigations.
And as I said, the first of the beliefs that I investigated and wrote about was the mystical belief that the physical universe is ephemeral, a belief which leaves the door open to the possibility that ‘I’ may well be constant, as in deathless.
RESPONDENT: There are two kinds of people in the world: those who say there are two kinds of people in the world, and those who don’t.
PETER: This appears to be a comment aimed at denigrating the fact that a new experiential discovery has been made about the fundamental workings of the human psyche – one that renders all past theories, propositions, myths and legends utterly redundant.
In the mid 16th century a Flemish physician by the name of Andreas Vesalius was appointed a lecturer in surgery at the University of Padua with responsibility for giving anatomical demonstrations. At first, Vesalius had no reason to question the theories of Galen, the 2nd century Greek physician whose books on anatomy were still considered as absolutely authoritative in medical education in Vesalius’ time. However, in 1540, breaking with this 1400 year old tradition of relying on Galen, Vesalius openly demonstrated his own method … doing dissections himself, learning anatomy from cadavers, and critically evaluating the ancient anatomical texts. His own hands-on experience of the human anatomy soon convinced him that Galenic anatomy had not been based on the dissection of the human body, a practice, which had been strictly forbidden by the Roman religion. Vesalius revealed that Galenic anatomy was an application to the human form of conclusions drawn from the dissections of animals, mostly dogs, monkeys, or pigs.
As can be seen it took the inquisitiveness of one man and his willingness to engage in hands-on empirical research as well as his having the audacity to question the revered ancient texts to wipe away 1400 years of misinformation and mythology in order to set medicine on the path to being an empirical science. Radical discoveries such as these make all the previous ‘wisdom’ of all the previous venerated ‘experts’ completely redundant and entirely useless.
Vesalius’ discovery of the actual structure and workings of the human anatomy is directly analogous to Richard’s empirical observations as to the actual structure and workings of the human psyche and his ground-breaking discovery that it is possible to rid oneself of the instinctual passions that give rise to human malice and sorrow.
RESPONDENT: No, I’m not arguing against that possibility. My natural tendency is to want it to be correct in all details. I’d consider myself pretty fortunate if such an authentic discovery has been made in my lifetime.
PETER: Your reply to your statement, ‘there are two kinds of people in the world: those who say there are two kinds of people in the world, and those who don’t’ begs the question as to which type of person you would like to be – one of those who hold steadfastly to the old understandings and the old ways or one of those who wholeheartedly welcome new discoveries that put paid to the old ways that are not producing tangible results?
RESPONDENT: Given freedom to define the terms, you can pull any rabbit out of your hat, as you have done with Einstein and Paul Davies and other ‘spiritual scientists’.
PETER: I haven’t pulled a rabbit out of my hat – I deliberately inquired into theoretical physics because they were proposing theories about the universe that did not gel with my own experience of the infinitude of the universe that I had experienced in a PCE.
RESPONDENT: I’m curious to hear more about this.
PETER: It appears that the point I was making passed you by.
What I did was make my own enquiries into theoretical physics rather than rely on the reports of other people’s enquiries. Or to put it another way, I put ‘the few cubic centimetres of brain inside this skull’ to work and did some thinking and investigating for myself, rather than sit back and allow others do my thinking and investigating for me.
RESPONDENT: It is this kind of stuff that, in my opinion, converts actualism from a very coherent and original psychological assessment of (and remedy for) the human condition into a form of reductionist dogma verging on fundamentalism.
PETER: You are not alone in wanting actualism to accommodate some aspects of the human condition and to demand that an actual freedom from the human condition retain some aspects of the human condition. Some want religious tolerance to be retained, some want love fitted in somewhere, some want to hang on to imagination or to romance or to science fiction – all demanding a conditional personally-tailored freedom, rather than an actual and complete freedom from the human condition in toto.
RESPONDENT: Ok, but you (quite reasonably) assume that this stems from a personal desire to retain something that one is unwilling to sacrifice.
PETER: My observation is founded on the well-documented universal human instinctual drive for self-preservation – a drive which is also manifest as a psychological and psychic craving for ‘self’-preservation. I also know this from personal experience as there were a good many beliefs and passions ‘I’ desperately wanted to hang on to and the only reason I gave them up was because I had an overarching intent to completely rid myself of malice and sorrow.
RESPONDENT: My position is that it is only common sense to ascertain whether something needs to be sacrificed in order to bring about the desired result – happiness, harmlessness, peace on earth. You can remove a gangrenous toe by amputating a leg, but it’s not the only way. My own experiences (so far) suggest a possible refinement, and I’d be a complete fool to reject that possibility for no reason.
PETER: In hindsight it was only because I had experientially explored the ‘other ways’ and found that they all lead to some form or other of ‘self’-gratification or ‘self’-glorification that I was naive enough to try something new. Although you have said in the past –
– I do somewhat understand that you now might want to explore the other choices for yourself in order to find out if they do make you both happy and harmless and if they do indeed lead to the actualisation of the already existing peace on earth.
By your own description you know not only how to twig these other experiences but you also acknowledged the ‘self’-centred nature of these types of experience –
If such experiences are what you want, then that is what you want, but to proclaim these long-practiced ways of evoking an altered state of consciousness as being a ‘refinement’ of actualism is akin to saying that 2nd century Galenic anatomy is a refinement of the discoveries Vesalius made in the 16th century.
RESPONDENT: Richard may be spot on (and I think it’s more likely that he is right than I am). I just don’t know that yet, so I have to base my stuff on experience, not faith.
PETER: When I say that I can somewhat understand what you are doing, what I mean is that I understand that you have opted for the status quo, but I don’t understand why you would want to. I remember a particular axiom that stuck in my head in the early days of actualism and one, which served to bump me out of my comfort zone at the time – ‘a lunatic is someone who continues to do something again and again despite the fact that it doesn’t work’.
RESPONDENT: The mind and universe contain things that are not actual, yet not supernatural or spiritual either. The meaning of a sentence is not actual. It’s not the black and white symbols on your screen, and it’s not the electro-chemical processes that cause them to appear on your monitor. It’s not the neural activity in my brain or yours. It depends on all of these things as its representation undergoes physical transformations, but it is not any of them. It’s also not supernatural, and it’s also not spiritual. The number 3 is not actual, but neither is it supernatural or spiritual.
PETER: So am I to take it that when you say that ‘the meaning of a sentence is not actual’ then it is impossible for human beings to communicate with each other that when you say ‘the meaning of a sentence’ is not the black and white symbols on your screen’ then I can’t know what you mean by the sentence?
RESPONDENT: That’s the physical representation of the sentence. I’m talking about the meaning of a sentence. We both agree that sentences have meaning, but where is the meaning? Where actually is it? Is the meaning actual or metaphysical?
PETER: The meaning of a sentence is inherent to the symbols that make up the sentence, be it written or spoken. In other words the meaning of the sentence is in the sentence itself. ‘The few cubic centimetres of brain inside this skull’ interprets the meaning of a sentence (provided of course that it is written in one’s learned language), exactly as it interprets a particular sound to be the sound a kookaburra makes or can distinguish between the taste of a cup of coffee or a cup of water or can interpret a lack of clouds as meaning it will not rain … or that can spot a bit of dissociated philosophy when one comes across it.
PETER: It’s no wonder that men drive women mad, when push comes to shove, they are apt to make a philosophy out of anything, including ‘the meaning of a sentence’.
RESPONDENT: No, it’s a simple and straightforward matter. Is the meaning of a sentence actual or metaphysical?
PETER: Well you have just said that ‘we both agree that sentences have meaning’ – to me that is a simple and straightforward matter. If you agree that sentences are actual then the meaning that is inherent in that sentence is also actual. The way to ascertain this is also simple and straightforward. I will write a sentence for you in a moment and indent it. Baring mechanical failure you will see that it is an actual written sentence and you will no doubt also be able to see that the sentence has a meaning to it –
RESPONDENT: A quick note re Paul Davies: you mention him receiving the Templeton(?) prize for religion, as if this supports the charge of ‘spiritual scientist’. Readers of his books would conclude that he was awarded this prize for demonstrating how and why some conventional religious beliefs are untenable, for explaining that physics is better placed to describe and explain phenomena than religion, for explaining that science can account for most aspects of the universe’s behaviour without God’s intervention, and for cautioning against invoking God to explain the hitherto unexplained, ie. invoking a ‘God of the gaps’ to explain tricky phenomena like consciousness, the illusion of free will, etc. It is also a bit rich to criticise a theoretical physicist, whose job is to construct explanatory models that are consistent with observable phenomena, for ... doing his job
PETER: Rather than speculate upon what ‘readers of his books would conclude’, here is what Paul Davies himself has said on this very subject –
Given that he so blatantly champions the cause of metaphysics and the mystical, it is no wonder he was awarded the Templeton Prize of 795,000 Pounds Sterling – ‘the Templeton Prize honours and encourages the many entrepreneurs trying various ways for discoveries and breakthroughs to expand human perceptions of divinity and to help in the acceleration of divine creativity’. Website of the Templeton prize Website of the Templeton prize Website of the Templeton prize
PETER: No comment? You raise an objection claiming that Paul Davies has been misrepresented, I respond by posting Mr. Davies’ own words and then you don’t even bother to respond. Perhaps it is that you consider my response somewhat moot? If so I will let Mr. Davies say a bit more on the subject –
RESPONDENT: All of this clangs for me.
PETER: Aye. The only reason that one would even dare to leave mystical imagination behind is if one wanted to live the actuality that one experiences in a PCE, 24/7. I remember one incident that particularly stood out for me at the time I was enquiring into the differences between imagination and actuality ...
A pragmatic example that the actuality of this infinite, eternal and only universe far exceeds the paltry imaginations of anything the ancient mystics, and their modern day pseudo-scientific equivalents, have ever – or could ever – dream up.
RESPONDENT: Well, here we are in complete agreement. The actual is far more intricate, astonishing, wonderful than the wildest imagination could ever devise. By contrast with what is actually there, imagination is indeed a pitiful thing.
PETER: And yet despite your ‘complete agreement’ you made no comment to Paul Davies’ call to abandon pragmatic empirical physics in favour of the imaginary world of metaphysics and also you made no comment with regard to Vesalius’ discoveries that put paid to Galen’s imaginary scenarios of human anatomy. These omissions appear to indicate that your complete agreement is a conditional agreement – conditional on how far you are willing to question the human reverence for imaginative thinking and passionate feeling and especially those theories that continue the mystical tradition of insisting that the physical universe is ephemeral.
PETER: You referred to Thomas Metzinger’s philosophy as a possible explanation of your ‘interesting experience’ and how and why it was different from a PCE and I was simply fleshing out the differences. If you re-read the quote you posted, you will see that you have misunderstood what he is saying.
RESPONDENT: I’ve done so, and I do not think I have misinterpreted it.
PETER: I’m not saying you misinterpreted it, merely misunderstood it.
RESPONDENT: I think it is you who has misunderstood it. Let’s see if we can iron this out.
PETER: Metzinger makes it quite clear that the subjective experience of ‘being someone’ is one’s normal state and he contrast this normal state with an altered state of being, as in ‘being no-one’
RESPONDENT: In the section I quoted, he does nothing of the sort. He is saying that selves are subjective illusions that do not exist in actuality.
PETER: Okay. I cut the quote you posted for brevity but here is what followed on from the above –
As you can see, in the quote you posted, Metzinger clearly goes on to say that the subjective experience of ‘being someone’ is experienced ‘simply as ourselves living in the world right now’, in other words as I said ‘being someone’ is one’s normal state. Is this not your everyday experience? Do you not normally experience yourself as ‘being someone’?
RESPONDENT: Yes, the subjective experience of being someone is the normal state. So far so good.
PETER: And the reason this is good to understand is because many people latch on to the philosophical view that the self is an illusion and then set off in search of their authentic ‘non-illusional self’.
PETER: ... and he contrast this normal subjective state of ‘being someone’ with a paranormal objective state of ‘being no-one’ –
In reflecting on this conversation, it occurred to me that another way of describing altered states of consciousness would be to describe them as altered state of being.
RESPONDENT: No he does nothing of the sort. He’s not talking about ‘being no-one’ as an alternative to ‘being someone’. He’s just pointing out that the ‘self’ is an illusion. He’s not prescribing a way to become free of it. I’ve read other reviews of his book (though not the book itself), and they all support my interpretation, not yours. (One example is the article I referenced in ‘Neo-Virtualism Revisited’). He’s offering a conceptual model of the virtual self, explaining how the illusion comes to be formed, and how it comes to be experienced as real. He’s saying that it does not exist in actuality, but he’s saying nothing whatsoever about how to become free of it.
PETER: Okay. Would you agree that Metzinger’s philosophical take is that we are ‘being no-one’ because ‘what we think of as ‘the ‘self’ is a representation generated by the brain’? Thus he maintains, from a philosophical viewpoint, that we are ‘being no-one’ because the self is a psychological illusion, whereas as you have confirmed that the subjective experience of ‘being someone’ is one’s normal state. Would you agree that these are two different experiences of consciousness, one philosophical and the other is one’s everyday experienced reality?
If Metzinger is not saying how to become free of the illusionary self, his philosophy is certainly in accord with the notion that the illusion of the ego is root of the ‘normal’ human consciousness, a notion that is derived from ancient Eastern spirituality.
PETER: As you can see, in the quote you posted, Metzinger clearly goes on to say that the subjective experience of ‘being someone’ is experienced ‘simply as ourselves living in the world right now’, in other words as I said ‘being someone’ is one’s normal state. Is this not your everyday experience? Do you not normally experience yourself as ‘being someone’?
RESPONDENT: Yes. Now you tell me: where is he suggesting or prescribing an experiential alternative to the experience of ‘being someone’? Where is this ‘altered state of being’ he’s allegedly proposing? I argue that his book, based on the reviews I’ve read, does nothing of the sort. It is theoretical, intellectual critique of the ‘self’. This again strikes me as a tendency of yours: to see spiritualism lurking everywhere, not just hiding behind the scenes, but right there for all to see, provided we don’t ... uhhh ... misunderstand it.
PETER: I take it that you don’t normally go around experiencing yourself as ‘being no-one’ – you normally go around experiencing yourself as ‘being someone’. Should you go about your daily business thinking of yourself as ‘being no-one’, you would not be experiencing yourself as you would normally experience yourself. I would call that two different states of being, one real and one dissociated … and I say that because that is my own experience when I followed the ‘ego-is-an-illusion’ path.
RESPONDENT: He is saying nothing whatever about an experience of self-lessness, or an altered state of self. Where?
PETER: Where – in the quote directly above. Why do you think he uses the term ‘being no-one’ in contrast to the term ‘being someone’ if he is not talking about an altered state of being – as in experiencing oneself as an other-than-normal being?
RESPONDENT: Why? Because the experience of ‘being someone’ is an illusion that has real consequences.
PETER: And from the review I have posted it is apparent that Mr. Metzinger takes this observation a step further in that he says ‘Not even being no-one protects us from misfortune, harm, and sorrow’ – which is the reason I commented on Mr. Metzinger in the first place.
RESPONDENT: ‘being no-one’ means, no such things as selves exist in the world.
PETER: Indeed, and if you believe this philosophy – based on the Eastern philosophy that the egoic-self is an illusion –
RESPONDENT: Fuck, here we go again. It is not based on Eastern philosophy, it is based on neurology. He is saying the same thing as Richard: there is no ‘little man’ in there running the show. It’s an illusion created by the body-brain. Unlike Richard, he’s not proposing that it be eradicated, and unlike spiritualists he’s not proposing that it be transcended or altered; he’s simply describing how it originates in the brain. It is an intellectual work, not a spiritual one.
PETER: Whilst I do appreciate you imagine I have ‘a tendency …to see spiritualism lurking everywhere’, presumably where it doesn’t exist, I can only suggest you do a little reading up on philosophy as I did when I first became interested in actualism because what I found was that not only philosophy is deeply ensnared in its mystical traditions but that it has been profoundly influenced by what is sometimes described as ‘the Wisdom of the East’, and particularly so in the last 100 years.
PETER: [Indeed, and if you believe this philosophy – based on the Eastern philosophy that the egoic-self is an illusion –] you might even come to think and feel that rather than being ‘some-one’ you are ‘being no-one’ – as in ego-less. And yet as Metzinger points out, ‘being no-one’ does not mean you will be free from sorrow – which was the point of my posting the quote.
RESPONDENT: I don’t have any disagreement with this, Peter; never did. I know the self cannot be just ‘thought away’. (I’ve tried it; useless).
PETER: Yes. You have written about this before –
which only leaves me bemused as to why you are proposing that a philosopher who is reported to have stated that –
– is not proposing these very same Eastern spiritual beliefs that you have found to have been useless in the past.
PETER: Okay. Given your own reports to this mailing list, when you are ‘being some-one’ – experiencing yourself ‘as you are living in the world right now’ – then you are apt to experience sorrow from time to time.
RESPONDENT: Yes. A lot of the time.
PETER: What Metzinger is saying is that even if you think and feel you are ‘being no-one’, as in realizing that the ‘subjective experience of ‘being someone’ (which) emerges from this physical neural process’, then you will still not be free from sorrow.
RESPONDENT: If this is another way of saying that the self can’t just be willed or thought away, then I have no argument with that at all.
PETER: Yes, you made that plain in your post to No 55.
RESPONDENT: This is no different from Richard saying that whilst selves are not ‘actual’ they are very ‘real’.
PETER: There is a world of difference between Metzinger’s philosophical/ spiritual ego-centric notion of what ‘being some-one’ means and Richard’s experiential understanding of both the psychological and the psychic nature of ‘being’.
PETER: Metzinger, like all adherents to Eastern philosophy, <snipped>
RESPONDENT: There is no point in saying any more unless and until you are willing and able to revise your own interpretation, and consider that you, not I, have misunderstood what is being said here.
PETER: Before you lapse into silence, I’ll just repost the remainder of the sentence as others who read this might be interested in what you snipped –
PETER: At least three thousand years of history have attested to the fact that ego-death does nothing but produce delusionary states of grandeur – often cunningly disguised as Humbleness – and all because an impersonal identity, as in Metzinger’s ‘being no-one’, is still an instinctual being at heart and, as such, still capable of not only feeling sorrow but also of being malevolent.
RESPONDENT: There is no reference to a paranormal state here, AFAICT.
PETER: As I read the reviews of his book, Metzinger has written a philosophical book entitled ‘Being no-one’ in which he makes it clear that one’s normal state is ‘being someone’ and in which he expounds upon the illusionary nature of the ego, or the psychological self. Given the title of his book his thesis apparently is that ‘being no-one’ is a state one reaches when one realizes that the state of ‘being someone’ is an illusion – a thesis that is not surprisingly in complete accord with the Eastern mystical philosophy of ego-death.
RESPONDENT: Again, I don’t think he’s talking about altered states of being at all. I was, but I don’t see that he was.
PETER: I do realize that all of what is termed ‘the philosophy of human consciousness’ is confusing and the reason why this is so is because –
When I first dipped into the philosophy of human consciousness after meeting Richard – when I began to check out the bona fides of actualism for myself – I came away shaking my head. Because I had considerable experience of the practical failings of Eastern mysticism, I was easily able to see that their whole philosophy was based on a flawed premise – that the transcendence of a personal ego is the summum bonum of human existence.
RESPONDENT: Yeah. I see this as the big difference between Actualism and all that has gone before it.
PETER: And yet you insist that Metzinger’s philosophy of human consciousness is not based on ‘all that has gone before’ – the ancient philosophy that the transcendence of a personal ego is the summum bonum of human existence. And you do this despite the fact that he is quoted as defining the ‘self’ as a mental construction only, whilst ignoring the readily-observable fact that the ‘self’ is predominantly an instinctual passionate being at heart, i.e. an affective being.
As I said before, there is a world of difference between Metzinger’s philosophical/ spiritual ego-centric notion of what ‘being some-one’ means and Richard’s experiential understanding of both the psychological and the psychic nature of ‘being’.
PETER: This inherent restriction in consciousness studies to date is the equivalent of trying to study anatomy based on Galenic 2nd century anatomical theories whilst blithely ignoring the host of empirical discoveries that has been racked up since Vesalius first dared to question Galen’s pre-eminence by conducting hands-on investigations of the human anatomy.
PETER: An agreement with the proviso that I should exclude Mr. Metzinger’s philosophy because I need to understand that his philosophy is not based on 3,500 year old Eastern philosophy?
PETER: And the reason I gave ‘a rat’s’ and made mention of Metzinger’s philosophy is that he makes it quite clear that such altered states of being do not bring about an end to sorrow (exactly as such altered states of being do not bring about an end to malice). Every now and again I like to try and bring the conversations on this list back to the raison d’être of this mailing list – actualizing peace on earth by way of ending human malice and sorrow.
If you look through the archived correspondence on the web-site you will notice that by far the majority is concerned with peripheral issues – either correspondents desperately defending their own other-worldly spiritual beliefs or correspondents petulantly propounding the current crop of meta-physical pseudo-scientific theories – and very little is about the business of bringing an end to human malice and sorrow.
RESPONDENT: In the time that I’ve been reading the list, I haven’t seen it this way.
PETER: I guess it’s just that I take being happy and harmless for granted nowadays so much so that I am puzzled that others would not want it for themselves – regardless of the price to be paid.
RESPONDENT: Fair enough. It is good to know that happiness and harmlessness is the actual result of this practice anyway.
PETER: Yep, although I do get sidetracked into having to discuss many other topics, this is the reason I have written some 2-3 million words over the last 6 years – to pass on to anyone who may be interested that becoming happy and harmless is possible.
RESPONDENT: I see people keenly interested in the psychological, physiological and practical implications of actualism, but I also see quite justifiable reservations regarding actualists’ assertions outside their area of expertise.
PETER: I presume you are commenting on the current thread of discussions concerning one particular aspect of the mystical tradition that permeates all of the sciences. The emergence of empirical evidence-based science from the ignorance, superstition and mysticism of the past is an on-going struggle – an emergence of fits and starts, often resisted tooth and nail by those who have a vested interest in maintaining the mystical tradition at any cost. The mystical tradition is still very much alive and kicking in all scientific education as it is in any discipline.
RESPONDENT: I don’t actually disagree with you here, but I do think you tend to see it where it never is and never was. I dunno Peter. I don’t want to turn this into a slanging match, and I certainly don’t think I know it all – but I’ll be buggered if I start concurring with what I perceive as your reds-under-the-bed paranoia re spirituality. Who knows, maybe I’ll start seeing them too in time. Maybe they’re actually there.
PETER: As I have said before, the only reason I started to investigated these matters for myself was that I had trod the spiritual path and had found it wanting but I was buggered if I was going to give up searching. Just as an aside, I once thought that actualism would have appeal to those who had not trod the spiritual path but experience to date indicates that actualism will probably only appeal to those who have personally experienced the inherent flaws in spirituality and are still actively looking for something better and something more down-to-earth.
As for spiritualists-under-the-bed – mysticism, spirituality and other sundry beliefs in the supernatural permeate every facet of the human condition; found not just under-the-bed, but found everywhere.
PETER: My architectural education had two distinct streams – one was pragmatic, down-to-earth and practical and the other was mystical, fanciful and ‘creative’ and it was instilled into me that the latter was more meaningful than the former. To be pragmatic, down-to-earth and practical was seen as boring, mundane and ‘uncreative’ whilst to be mystical, fanciful and creative was where the true meaning of life really lay.
Apparently the same applies in the fields of scientific endeavours as not only are whole fields of science devoted to the pursuit of the mystical, the sacred and the profound but many mystical scientists have won fame and fortune and the accolades of his or her peers for championing the mystical tradition.
RESPONDENT: I know there is a huge potential audience of people who are virtually begging for science and religion to be reconciled somehow. I know some authors prey on them. I also know that scientists are human beings who are subject to ‘human condition’.
PETER: It’s not a potential audience; it’s all of humankind.
PETER: In fact, a clear-eyed look at the current state of the sciences reveals that a significant turning back to the mystical roots of the past has been occurring – a turning back that closely parallels the current fashionable obsession with Eastern spirituality and philosophy.
RESPONDENT: I’ve seen some signs of this in the trend toward the primacy of consciousness. Solipsism by any other name. But honestly I don’t see it to the extent that you do. (I also don’t have any personal attachment to scientific theories: they’re just models as far as I’m concerned. It’s the actuality behind them that is interesting, not the model).
PETER: And yet this was what you had to say to me about Paul Davies –
– and when I posted quotes of Paul Davies (whose work involved studying model ‘toy universes’ and not the actual universe) in which he contradicted your personal interpretation you didn’t respond.
I knew very little about the inner workings of the world of science until I made my own clear-eyed investigation – and I can only recommend that anyone who is at all interested in the extent to which religion, spirituality and mysticism influences the world of science do likewise.
PETER: The discovery of an actual freedom from the human condition renders the whole mystical tradition not only irrelevant but it exposes it for what it is – an aberration from the dim, dark ages of humanity.
RESPONDENT: Maybe I should have asked you from the start: what precisely do you mean by ‘mystical’?
PETER: Yea. My knowledge of the spiritual world was an experiential ‘insider’ knowledge and it was only by undertaking a clear-eyed investigation into the spiritual world that I came to have a more intellectual understanding of its various nuances. Perhaps the following explanation from the Encyclopaedia Britannica will serve as a useful beginning to understanding mysticism –
Compiled from the Encyclopaedia Britannica
PETER: The discovery of an actual freedom from the human condition renders the whole mystical tradition not only irrelevant but it exposes it for what it is – an aberration from the dim, dark ages of humanity. Far from being outside of an actualist’s area of expertise, the mysticism still taught and practiced in current day science is precisely the field of expertise of an actualist. A practicing actualist has a hands-on experiential understanding of the workings of the human condition (including the instinctive lure of mysticism and spiritualism).
RESPONDENT: Yeah, but does he have a privileged insight into the ultimate nature of the universe? I need to hear more about your basis for arguing this with such surety.
PETER: I am not arguing anything, I am only pointing to the facts. You made the statement that it is a bit rich to label Paul Davies as being spiritual and I simply posted a quote in which he champions metaphysical science. I didn’t need to rely on my ‘privileged insight’, as you put it, I simply went to my bookshelf, pulled out one of his books – it happened to be one of those ones that I read when I was investigating the extent to which spiritualism still dominates science – and sat down and typed out the quote. Given that you didn’t reply I then added another quote for further clarification.
As for your reliance on Paul Davies’ expertise and his insight into the ultimate nature of the universe, you might have noticed that his own research was conducted on a ‘toy universe’ that had only one spatial dimension and not the three spatial dimensions of the world that you and I live in. So much for down-to-earth common sense.
PETER: A practicing actualist has a hands-on experiential understanding of the workings of the human condition (including the instinctive lure of mysticism and spiritualism) and as such is more capable of making sensible down-to-earth observations and evaluations and is more readily able to discern between what is mere belief or theory and what are the facts of the matter, unlike an impassioned scientist steeped in the mystical tradition.
RESPONDENT: Peter, your (or Richard’s) criticisms of Einstein sound anything but down-to-earth or sensible at this stage. I think No 59’s phrase ‘boneheaded absolutism’ describes it somewhat more accurately.
PETER: I see that you have now moved on from Paul Davies to Albert Einstein. If I may ask – does my labelling of Paul Davies as being spiritual still ‘sound anything but down-to-earth or sensible’ or do you still regard it as ‘boneheaded absolutism’?
RESPONDENT: But, in all sincerity, I’m fully open to what you have to say.
PETER: In my experience, those who remain open to what others say only do so because they are unwilling or unable to see the facts of the matter for themselves. This was certainly the case when I was confronted with having to find out for myself and I am only too happy that I have made the effort to do so.
RESPONDENT: My personal observation, for what it’s worth, is that the questioners often seem to be at least as open-minded, i.e. willing to refine or modify their synthesis of the facts, as the answerers.
PETER: I do appreciate that it is early years for actualism. Because it is such a radical departure from the previously accrued wisdoms and because it represents a complete break with the past, the sensibility inherent in actualism will take a long time to be understood, appreciated and absorbed – but now that the findings are published the wisdoms of the past will increasingly fall into the category of historical curiosities.
RESPONDENT: I also see that questioners are in a bit of a double-bind. Success in this enterprise is not possible without total sincerity. Total sincerity is only possible if one can assuage one’s doubts concerning the bona fides of Richard and Actualism w.r.t. matters of fact.
PETER: And I don’t for a minute make light of the bind as I have experienced it myself. I can remember my head literally spinning as I struggled to come to terms that everyone has got it 180 degrees wrong, including me. I quickly came to the conclusion that I knew very, very little about the human condition and about the revered wisdoms of humanity, which is why I had to set off on my own path of exploration. I came to see that to sit down and argue matters out with Richard was a waste of both his time and mine.
RESPONDENT: If the attempt to assuage these doubts is not directly pertinent to the daily practice of being happy and harmless, they are intellectualising, dealing with peripheral issues, or not fulfilling the raison d’être of the mailing list, or having ‘knee-jerk reactions’.
PETER: Well said.
No 33 recently made a similar comment about beliefs, values, morals and ethics –
Because a belief is an emotion-backed thought it quickly became clear to me that the way to spot one of ‘my’ beliefs was to be aware of the emotion that accompanied my thinking about a topic or an event – am I getting annoyed, am I feeling frustrated, am I avoiding, am I fudging, am I nitpicking, am I having a knee-jerk reaction and so on? This daily practice of being happy and harmless also includes writing on this mailing list because nowhere will one have one’s own beliefs challenged more than on this mailing list.
RESPONDENT: Lately I’ve done a lot of shooting from the lip, so to speak. It’s become clear that I need to stop ranting and firing questions left right and centre, and give all this a chance to sink in ... or fade away as the case may be. Thanks for giving me plenty to work on. I appreciate your time, patience and persistence.
I’m gonna give actualism a practical test drive for six months at least before I rejoin the discussions.
PETER: I was just working my way through a response to your last two posts when you wrote the following –
This is good news, I am very glad to hear that you are sticking around as I appreciate the sincerity of your contributions to this mailing list.
I am wondering if you would find it useful for me to respond to your latest posts as it seems to me that a good deal of it has somewhat degenerated into a t’is, t’isnt discussion? I am only too happy to continue the discussion if you see it as being of use ... but I will leave that call to you.
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