N.B. The video presentations from the 'Men of the Infinite' channel aren't dissertations.
Also, the video imagery and spoken presentation contributed significantly to their overall meaning.
These transcripts are for people with slow internet connections and unable to download them.
ContentsIntroduction — Men of the Infinite — Hypocrisy — Time to Evolve — Architects and Builders of Self-Deceit — What it means to be a real man — Sex and Ideality — Beware the Pretenders — East, West, Woman, Woe — On the Nature of Beliefs - Part 1 — On the Nature of Beliefs - Part 2 — On the Nature of Beliefs - Part 3 — Spiritual Friends — On Sanity — Spirituality v Religion — Ego, Attachment, Fame — Some Random Thoughts — The Ultimate Truth? — The Nature of Existence - Part 1 — Reincarnation — News - Beliefs are Bad For Your Health — The Nature of Existence - Part 2 — Philosophy is Not for the Faint-Hearted — Am I a Buddhist? — 30 Proofs of God's Existence — Determinism and Indeterminism —
HELLO AND WELCOME to the Youtube channel of 'Men of the Infinite', your dedicated wisdom channel.
As is no doubt immediately obvious, this channel is explicitly about that very thing: wisdom. For the sake of understanding and clarity, let me state the following about this channel: Men of the Infinite is not a religion. It is not a faith. It is not a group nor an organisation of any kind. Nor is it an individual. It has no beliefs to offer. Indeed, 'Men of the Infinite' fiercely rejects the whole belief paradigm. It is not a creed or a framework of knowledge. It is not a movement, and does not have an agenda, save that of extolling the virtues of truth and reason, in a philosophic sense. That is what the Men of the Infinite is not.
What it is as best I can put it, is a state or way of being. A man of the Infinite is simply one who lives truly. One who truly lives.
These presentations exist for one purpose and one purpose only: to stimulate thought. The content is not gospel to be believed. It is merely data to be considered.
I hope you find your time here stimulating.
Men of the Infinite
THE TRUE MAN OF the Infinite is not bound by labels. He's more than happy to be called a theist, or an atheist, as long as the concepts behind such labels give expression to his Infinite nature. He's an atheist, in that he rejects all finite gods, which hold for him no philosophic significance; but a theist, in that he embraces the infinitude of reality, and is perfectly comfortable in calling that reality, God. Or perhaps, Tao. Or Brahman. Or Nature. Or Zingadee-Bingadee.
He doesn't get caught up in petty squabbles about strong or weak forms of atheism. He does not concern himself with the question of whether agnostics ought refer to themselves as atheists. He is above all such trivial disputation.
He alone concerns himself with those matters of ultimate importance. While people of all metaphysical persuasions spend their time debating the finer points of their various beliefs, the man of the Infinite goes immediately to core issues. He does not waste his time in irrelevancies or false piety. He strips reality bare and reveals its secrets. He penetrates to the depths.
The man of the Infinite does not engage in philosophical politics. His motivation is pure. He is a thinker, and a willer of truth. He is no mere intellectual, whose only concern is maintaining the causes of pride in his intellect. Where might such a man rest his pride? In his ignorance, should he have not overcome it? Hardly. In the grand emptiness of reality, then? How much folly springs from the very thought of that. There is nowhere for such a man to rest his pride. Therefore, he does not bother with pride. He goes straight to willing and knows nothing of pride other than its egotistical amenity.
Such willing is the opposite, and ultimate slayer, of pride.
The man of the Infinite is a world, and a will, unto himself. Such a world and such a will has no need of the callow bickering of those who have yet to even perceive the truth of their ignorance and wretched condition. What need could he have of the lesser ideas of such ones?
He cares nought for what it means to be a humanist. His concern is with what it means to be human.
He cares nought for what it means to be a citizen. His concern is with what it means to exist.
He cares nought for what it means to have knowledge; to know facts; to be privy to this theory or that theory. His only concern is how to be true in Nature.
I MUST CONFESS TO being guilty on occasion of causing people considerable agitation as a result of my claim that the world would be a far better place if there was considerably more — hypocrisy.
Despite their concerned bewilderment, I stand by this claim, unswervingly.
Genuine hypocrisy is relatively rare in these times of entrenched pragmatism, and spiritual and intellectual mediocrity. Genuine hypocrisy is not a virtue in itself, but all things are relative, and in this world currently, it comes so close to holding that status that it might as well carry that designation, if only for the sake of the positive effect it may impart.
A true hypocrite is one who upholds, or at the very least has some sense of, some higher virtue, but he subsequently ignores or does not live up to that virtue. The significant thing is that such ones have a sense of something higher. They actually recognise the reality of transcendant virtues, their inability to consistently live up to them notwithstanding. But in the world as it is, the very notion of higher virtue, transcendant virtue, or simply living a truly principled life, is considered tantamount to presumptive arrogance.
To authentically express one's principles is to show intolerance to others who do not share such principles. And in an era where relativism is the new theology, that's unacceptable.
It's horrible but true that nowadays we are too pathetic, too unprincipled, too blind to the idealistic spirit, to be capable of exhibiting anything remotely resembling authentic hypocrisy. In a time that views all idealism as pretentious and arrogant folly, genuine hypocrisy shines forth as a beacon of hope and virtue.
Time to Evolve
A MAN OF SOMEWHAT COMMON SENSIBILITY once said to me, "Where does this contempt for our animal natures come from? I see it as ego in disguise. One feels contempt for part of oneself because it stands in the way of being better than others. Why do you think excellence must necessarily include contempt for our animal nature? Why should such contempt be a prerequisite for achievement of excellence? Why can't an obsession to know, simply ignore the animal in us? Why can't our relationship with the herd be irrelevant? Why not accept what we are, and go from there?"
My response is this...
In evolutionary terms, it's clear enough that we are different from other animals. We're different in that we possess self-awareness, and the ability to reason in a conscious, deductive manner. We nevertheless remain linked to our animal heritage by the very fact of that heritage, and also by the limited development of our self-awareness. We are still very much animals. In some individuals, the drive to fulfil the destiny that that difference indicates, is such that they are compelled to view their animal natures as something to be outgrown, something to overcome. It doesn't mean, necessarily, having contempt for it, although while one possesses a great deal of ego, it is to be expected. But it does mean viewing it as a negative property of one's nature.
And what do I mean by fulfilling our destiny? Simply that we strive to become fully human, and fully conscious of our self-nature, which necessitates becoming conscious of the nature of reality itself.
Self-awareness creates an enquiring mind. A mind that needs to complete itself, and in some sense, become final. A mind that does not find such completion, is one that exists in a state of constant conflict and angst, and is driven by desires it does not even understand, or that it cannot successfully satiate.
But what of those who constitute the vast majority of human beings? Those who do not feel any such drive? What of those who are apparently content with their animal nature, and their lack of consciousness? Why should we adopt a prescriptive attitude towards them? The answer is simple: such ones are simply too unconscious to appreciate their own foolishness.
And what makes them foolish? Again, the answer is all too simple: people fail to see that the universal desire to be rid of their suffering, their confusions, their fears, anxieties, and insecurities, can only be sublimated by way of an understanding of reality. That is, by the final and complete consummation of our difference from other animals.
Such desires demand such fulfilment, by way of bringing our consciousness in line with what is ultimately true.
It is therefore essentially idiotic for anyone to deny the necessity of the quest for enlightenment. The only persons who can do this are those who are too ignorant to see the logical connections, and whose lives are rendered incoherent because of it. It is only those whose ignorance blinds them to the glaring fact that their suffering is entirely a result of their animal natures, of their lack of drive to fulfil the promise of the one thing that differentiates us from other species. That is, reason, and the level of consciousness that reason may afford us.
It seems a little strange then, for anyone to ask why we would have contempt for our animal natures. Do we not, at least in the beginning, have contempt for that which causes us to suffer? Of course we do. But because of our ignorance, we do not know where to direct that contempt.
Unfortunately, out of ignorance, we tend to toss our contempt up into the swirling winds of egotistical whimsy and care little for the injustices that ensue. Our contempt, we believe, wherever directed, is legitimate, because our suffering is not.
As my antagonist suggested, it may be that part of our contempt for our animal natures, is that it is something that unites us, and places us all on a level playing field, whence we must construct artificial edifices of valuation to allow us to judge ourselves against others. But it would be altogether cynical and unreasonable to see every expression of disregard for our animality as being of that nature. Some of us are evolved enough to see what is true and what is necessary in terms of the fate that nature has imposed on us. In Buddhist parlance, it is quite aptly known as being born in the human realm.
Architects and Builders of Self-Deceit
HELLO EVERYONE and welcome to another episode of 'Men of the Infinite' podcasts, a series of monologues on subjects of various interest to thinking persons.
Now, on the subject of ego, its nature, its failings, and how we do or should address it, let me offer the following allegory, entitled 'Architects and Builders of Self-Deceit'.
The world is full of experts, telling us what our problems are and how we should go about solving them. They flutter around in the confused maze of their own finite categories, their own fields of expertise, always busy and sounding concerned. But none of them ever deal with anything fundamental. None of them want to face the bottom line. None of them want to consider that all our problems lie in the very foundation of our being.
In this sense the world is like a skyscraper, that's been built upon a faulty foundation, and as a consequence is slowly crumbling, falling apart, so riddled with problems that it can't effectively serve any function ascribed to it. And those who live and work within its imperfect frame are constantly in fear of what might happen. They huddle together in protective groups, seeking out the safest areas, leading largely purposeless, meaningless lives, whilst constantly crying to all these 'experts' for help and solace, if not actual solutions.
And so a huge taskforce of architects and builders are assembled to inspect the hopelessly unstable edifice: philosophers, psychologists, theologians, sociologists, politicans, anthropologists, economists, journalists, radio and television talk-show hosts, not to mention people doing internet podcasts. A huge menagerie of opinionated beasts. They each inspect this faulty structure, bemoaning its faults and failings, offering opinions as to the causes of its problems, and sometimes even lyrically musing over its finer aesthetic points. They offer half-solutions, band-aid measures, placing supporting beams here and there, filling this crack, painting over that peeling wall, all the while puffing themselves up with pride at their grand efforts, in between arguing the point amongst themselves about every aspect of the problem they face, save of course the fundamental ones. But with every crack and hole and feature they patch up, along comes a new problem. So the task appears never-ending, even fruitless to some.
And then when that solitary, humble builder appears among them and suggests that they are wasting their time, and they must address the real problem, that of an inadequate, faulty foundation, they rail against him, mock him, demand his qualifications, his union ticket. Of course, he has nothing, save his technical ability and his willingness to truly solve the problem. But they won't listen, because he said they must tear it down, and start again, being careful to construct a new and suitable foundation. They see his point, but their attachment to various parts of this failed edifice is stronger than their willingness to repair it. And so they condemn themselves, to a future of makeshift solutions and half-measures, skilfully deceiving themselves as to the inevitable outcome of such folly.
And so it is with the true spiritual man, who speaks to all these experts and anyone with ears to listen, about the faulty foundation of the ego, and how it stands as the root cause of all suffering, violence, and delusion. But, they don't listen either. Instead, they rail against him, mock him, and demand his qualifications. And again, he has none, save his wisdom and his love of truth. They see his point, but their attachments are stronger than the most modest of his ideals.
And so they go on. We go on. Skilfully deceiving ourselves, listening to our menagerie of experts, our architects and builders of self-deceit.
Now, as individuals, we are the architects of our own self-deceit. Whether we do this willingly or unwillingly is ironically only a question that can be answered by seeking to engage in this very deceit.
We know that our attachments and desires cause us suffering. This is so because they cause loss, and lacking, which are necessary in a world characterised by flux. But why do we continually desire? Why do we have this almost pathological drive to form attachments? The key to these questions lies in what the ego is, and how it primarily functions.
Now this is a matter for quite substantive analysis and discussion, so I will at this point only say something as a preface to such a discourse.
The ego, as the concept of an inherently existing self, produces a perception of separation. This in turn produces insecurity, because the ego needs to ground itself somehow in reality. This produces attachments: the ego's attempt at concretion.
In an ephemeral world, this naturally causes loss and suffering.
This is what the dynamic of desire is all about: the unceasing grasping for things, for the ego to give concretion to itself in the world through attachment to things, through relation to things.
This dynamic is delusional, because the ego, at bottom, is false. We can examine why as part of the discourse I mentioned, and as part of this series of philosophical monologues.
For now, that's all we have, so I hope you'll be with us for the 'Men of the Infinite' series. Bye for now, and remember that truth is valuable.
What it means to be a real man
BOTH HISTORICAL AND CONTEMPORARY LITERATURE, though the latter being of a more confused and imprecise nature, is replete with notions of what it means to be a man in any given society. However, if being a man in any of these schemas means anything remotely less than being deeply infused with the will to express true individuality, and to stand naked before reality with the utmost sense of truth and integrity, then I cannot conceive of such a being as a man at all. To what end is a man fully a man, if he is not truly himself? In what sense is a man truly a man, if he cannot stand before reality as an individual, and declare, 'I am what I am' ?
Is it enough that he is a father? A husband? A law-maker and jurist? A provider, and a protector? Is it enough that he is willing to sacrifice himself, in every possible sense, for a society that is grounded in egotism and falsity? Hardly.
For a man to truly stand before reality as an individual, he must first aspire to an understanding of that reality. Otherwise he stands nowhere, but knee-deep in muck.
Wisdom is the true destiny, and completion of man. Man is incomplete without it. It is part of the nature of consciousness that it seeks to fulfil itself. That is, to be certain about those things from which certainty may be gleaned. And to the degree that any given person is conscious, to that degree he will aspire to truth, because he suffers for his ignorance, his lack of completion.
Unfortunately, certain intellectual and social forces have conspired to strip modern society, and modern man, of all ideality. No longer is any such completion, such certainty, deemed possible. Therefore, man is left in psychological and spiritual limbo, the social effects of which are all too obvious:
The increased femininisation of both society and men, the embracing of mediocrity and the democratic pragmatism associated with it, increased male youth suicide, the diminuition of masculine influence in the lives of young people...
Yet, as damaging as all these social effects may be, nevertheless, the true man has the ability to stand apart from it all, and strive for the completion of his own individual self. His duty to himself, if not to any other, is to embrace his reason, take heed of his conscience, and realise that the continual existential crisis that he finds himself in can never be truly abated without the fulfilment of the natural destiny of that consciousness.
The forces of modern society lure man to find himself outside of himself, outside of mind and contemplation. But this is madness, for the only thing that can authentically take a man outside of himself, is if he is reborn as a woman.
To my horror, more and more men are, seemingly, thus being reborn. However, what is lost in them, in not lost in me.
These others, and society in general, represent only one dimension of my purpose and values. The primary one relates to me personally. It is about my personal relationship to reality, and involves no other. So ought it be, indeed, so must it be, for each of us, if we are to be real men.
Sex and Ideality
ONE CANNOT STAND PASSIVELY before the great mysteries of existence, and hope that one will somehow be blessed by Providence, with wisdom, and do so on no more substantial grounds than that one is sufficiently beauteous as to be worthy of such an endowment. But this is precisely the manner in which the feminine aspect of mind, in both sexes, stands before all things in nature.
To have to fight for something, to have to march into conscious battle for some ideal or goal, is a thing entirely foreign to the feminine. It is indeed contrary to the whole pathos of the feminine, that any thing or any benefit, any object of desire, should not be naturally bestowed upon it, simply as a consequence of its existence.
A woman lives in constant fear that she is unworthy of all that ought be her natural due. When life does not proceed in such a way as befits her station, aside from her often incounsellable indignance, she is consumed with doubt as to her worthiness. Ah, but wait! This is not quite the truth of it. One can easily go astray on this point...
It is not her worthiness she doubts, but more her accurately: her femininity. For, this is the spring from which her worth issues.
If she is to be granted those things which nature and man have conspired to ordain as rightly hers, namely, anything she desires, then she must be, as perfectly as she can, that which is known to her as the beneficiary of the gifts of God and man. That is to say, she must be feminine.
But herein lies the most significant difference between the sexes, that which sets them apart, both in poetic effect and in practical reality. Man is made worthy by what he achieves, woman by being most properly what she is: feminine.
It is one of the great ironies of the history of humanity that man has built so much of his own worth on the back of one of his own greatest achievements: one of the greatest expressions of imagination and romantic ideation that one might believe possible of even the greatest of gods. That is, the social fiction of woman. It's ironic in that man finds worth for himself in the creation of a thing that finds its own worth in being a thing created.
An ideal is not something that is within the reach of minds that are simply: passively willing. It is something that must be attained by the exercise of will itself.
There is a vast difference between the exercising of will, and merely being willing. It is the difference between passivity and activity. It is the difference between the feminine and the masculine. One must forge an understanding with one's own sweat and blood, and the awe of one's reason, and not be content to buy it as some handsome trinket from a fancy jewellery store. I tell you, the world is full of counterfeit knowledge.
One must take nature, and one's own mind, by the throat and violently shake the truth out of them. One cannot settle for half-measures.
One must pursue knowledge, wisdom, and the character that only comes from the aggressive and uncompromising introspection, with a will that is unmistakably a characteristic of the masculine in man; and is, contrary-wise, unmistakably not of the nature of the feminine.
Beware the Pretenders
THE WORLD IS FULL OF PRETENDERS, wannabes, wouldbeiftheycouldbes, and claimtobes. Being able to discern an authentic spirit from a false one is important, in that it can save the truth-seeker precious time and effort by not involving himself with such a person.
The following is a general guide and warning for those rare seekers who want to avoid the ignominy of taking seriously one who is, themselves, not serious and who is ultimately cancerous to the spirit.
Beware him who speaks often and loudly, for such a one can neither think nor listen, and seeks only to bring attention upon himself. Such a one is full of ego and cannot stand to be out of the sun's glare.
Beware of him who speaks of his detachment, but his actions are full of attachment and petty meanings, for his soul is corrupt.
Beware of him who speaks in noble terms when he is weary of the world, but who embraces and revels in all things worldly and trivial when his energy is high, for he is but a dilettante.
Beware of him who appears generous, but ultimately demands more than he gives, for he is like the incubus.
Beware of him who speaks in embittered tones of Woman, for whilst there may be truth in his words, there is also ego and delusion within his motivation for speaking. If he does not speak of Woman in a matter-of-fact manner, but instead speaks with the twisted tongue of a moral serpent, he is unworthy of attention.
Beware of him who exaggerates his place in the world, and who wishes ill-will to be wrought against himself, for he is plainly an idiot.
Beware him whose soul has no centre, for he is buffetted by the flux of the world, and has no mind for reality. Such a one is but a feminine woman.
Beware him who holds in his heart no room for valid praise, but only for false flattery and knavery, for his soul is small and bitter.
Beware him whose mind dwells in logic in the ninth hour, but dwells in emotion in the tenth, for he has no centre.
Beware those who merely mirror your values, for they are but pale reflections, mere echoes of spirit.
Beware those whose behaviour sometimes seems insane, for I tell you they are not merely acting.
Beware those who are tolerant of most things, for they are yet intolerant of one thing: the soul.
Beware him who reaches up from the mud of the earth to grasp at the noble man who passes above, for he means not to raise himself up, but to drag the noble man down.
But more important than any of these things, beware of the existence of any of these traits in yourself. Strive to seek them out and eliminate them, for they bring nothing but disease to the spirit.
East, West, Woman, Woe
"IF I COULD turn back time. If I could find a way." Sang Cher, a few years ago, whilst strutting around an American battleship, wearing little more than a strategically-placed ribbon, see-through body-stocking, a couple of tattoos on her arse. She wasn't alone, of course. As she seductively straddled the barrel of a gun turret, like some huge metallic dildo, she was oggled and cheered by a hundred or more salivating or worshipping sailors, who seemed to be indicating that this strange creature strutting around before them, with a vacuous grin on her face, was just the thing they had signed up to protect from harm. This was what they had pronounced themselves willing to die for: the zenith of their culture.
Is it any wonder then, that in the aftermath of the tragedy in New York [the Twin Towers hit by two aeroplanes on 11th September 2002], we heard so much bemusement from Americans regarding the apparent fact that some people appeared not to like them very much, that some groups and cultures viewed them with suspicion, and dread, even disdain and hatred. But it ought not to be surprising to us, that some cultures view the wholly unconscious worshipping of the feminine, that is exemplified by almost every part of American culture, as a kind of social disease, and one that they should be innoculated against, if not one that they should seek to forcefully eradicate. Nor should the intensity of this negative reaction surprise us, in face of the fact that this insipid decadence has the desire to impose itself on other cultures by any number of means, both overt and covert. Why shouldn't the so-called East view the so-called West with tremendous suspicion, even trepidation and loathing?
Look at our cultures. Our greatest social heroes, or those which we most readily recognise, or take an active interest in, are mindless actors, violent rap-artists, female singers whose only real talent is that of flaunting their bodies and sexuality, supermodels whose one and only talent is walking up and down wearing someone else's clothing. In short, we worship brainless sluts.
That is to say, people who behave in a sluttish fashion towards society, and 'think' themselves more civilised than those who don't. I mean, are we serious?
The difference between western culture and, say, that of the Middle East, when it comes to women and the feminine, is not so much in the significance we grant them, because it's clear by the way women are treated in the Middle East that the feminine is granted a great deal of significance, but rather in the level of awareness and consciousness with which we treat them.
Both forms of civilisation worship the feminine, but there appears to be a greater appreciation for the nature of the feminine in the East, which is why certain aspects of its cultures seek to control and even suppress it.
Now, I'm not advocating such suppression, I'm simply pointing it out at this stage.
When these cultures see the overt and unadulterated spewing out of the feminine and female sexuality into the world by the West, they view it as a releasing of wild, uncontrollable, and dangerous animals into the world. And when you see spectacles like Cher prancing around in next-to-nothing, with hundreds of trained military men worshipping at her feet, like Muslims praying to Mecca, you can kind of see their point.
It's a bit like a pimp dropping by your dinner party with a bunch of scantily-clad whores, who spend all their time rubbing up against your guests and propositioning them. One could well understand why the host would want to make them leave. Of course, just for good measure, the whores will probably proceed to press their naked breasts against the windows from outside the house, forcing the party-goers to draw the curtains. And when they do, they will have to suffer the ignominy of being called 'backward', or 'uncivilised', or 'inhibited', or 'living in the seventh century', by the fools who understand not one whit of their own behaviour.
How many of us would feel truly comfortable if our next-door neighbours regularly held full-on orgies in their back yard? And kept dropping-in and inviting us over? Or kept wanting to borrow some milk, or sugar? Or petroleum jelly? Or be spilling over the fence in sexual rapture, and greeting our protests with comments like, 'Get with it man, this is the twenty-first century.'
What if they were wealthier, and more powerful than we are, and could basically ignore our rights and desires? What if they sought to actively recruit your wife, or sixteen-year-old daughter to their lifestyle? It's the unrestrained decadence that the East fears as much as anything else.
And although we may observe that this fear is somewhat generational, it still exists.
There is a fear of a breakdown of social values and cohesion. One does not have to be some puritanical, right-wing Christian type, to sympathise with such fears. One only has to look at American crime-rates, and homelessness, to get an insight into what happens to a nation that allows itself to slide into such unconsciousness. And, moreover, these perceptions don't have to be entirely valid, for them nevertheless to exist and for us to comprehend them.
You don't have to be able to agree with someone, in order to see their point of view. You merely have to want to see it.
Of course, all of this speaks only to certain elements of popular American culture and it is far from the whole story. But that's the dimension of a culture that is most vigorously presented and proselytised. So, the next time you watch an episode of Jerry Springer, or Ricky Lake, ask yourself whether other cultures have good cause to fear the influence of American and, more generally, Western culture.
Ask yourself what it is about such culture that might make it a worthwhile cultural export commodity.
It's hard to recognise insanity... when you're insane.
On the Nature of Beliefs — Part 1
PRAGMATIC BELIEF V RELIGIOUS FAITH —
However rational we might be, however scientific, however dedicated and faithful to the discipline and application of reason, one thing remains: that we cannot live without beliefs.
The most reason-loving and strident atheists yet have their beliefs. — But let me say it now, and without ambiguity, that these are functional beliefs drawn from experience, and have no association with the concept as applied in theology, of 'faith'.
For example, when crossing a busy street at traffic lights, it's a belief and only a belief, that no cars will ignore the red light and make of you a permanent resident of the asphalt. Yet, you cross. Whilst you cannot know you will be without the threat of being run over, you can reasonably believe, as a consequence of prior experience, that you'll be safe.
Now life is replete with examples of such functional beliefs, and we're all subject to them, for who could possibly function in this world without them?
If, then, such forms of belief are not only acceptable, but patently necessary, does this not constitute an adequate defence of beliefs pertaining to the supernatural, or to any of the ultimate questions posed by philosophy?
On no account is this so.
And it's the immediate hope and purpose of this essay to demonstrate as satisfactorily as possible, the important — indeed the crucial — difference, between a functional belief grounded in experience, and a metaphysical belief grounded in faith.
It's perhaps appropriate also that I give an account of myself in regards my use in this essay of the term 'metaphysical belief'.
The term 'metaphysics' has come to be associated vernacularly with the supernatural, the mystic, the occult, and otherworldliness, generally. This, however, is not how the term should be taken. The term 'metaphysics' comes from Aristotle, and was the title of his work which came directly after his Physics. It refers to the totality of what is real, that is, to Truth (with a capital t): what is ultimately true of reality.
The materialism of a rationalist is, in the end, as much a metaphysic, as the otherworldliness of a theist.
In this essay, my references to 'metaphysical beliefs' should be taken as those pertaining to those with religious connotations, which admit no analysis by accepted rational means, and which are therefore grounded in faith.
The traffic light example is only one of countless examples that might be proferred in the context of this argument. The one constant, in all such examples, is that of heuristics, that is, learning from trial and error, or from experience. Of course, the error needn't be our own, and it's often better that it's not.
We feel safe in our passage across the busy intersection, because previous experience has indicated this sense of security to be warranted. Of course, you'll note that even in such cases, the added precaution of checking the status of the traffic, or of looking both ways, is still employed. This constitutes a belief on our part. We cannot know with certainty that we will be safe. Only, that experience tells us that it's probable.
Our heuristic tools grant us an expedient passage through life, which is, it must be said, something less than perfect, but it must also be said, the best we can sensibly expect.
The question may then be raised about the nature of the first experience. That is, what psychological tool are we using when we first come upon such a thing as an intersection. If we are without prior experience, is our decision to cross not an act of blind faith?
A more fundamental question, perhaps, is whether we will in fact cross at all, assuming that we have no prior knowledge of the etiquette involved. Assuming also, that we are aware enough to perceive the potential danger of the situation. The answer to this question hinges on the degree of need. If we must cross, then crossing will be an act of necessity, rather than one of faith.
If, however, our need is not so great as to warrant taking any perceived risk, then we simply will not cross.
Unfortunately, our learning from experience is most often driven by need, rather than reason. But one thing is certain, no one other than the clinically insane, regardless of previous experience with intersections, would cross over on the basis of the decency of one's fellows.
So if we require beliefs to function in this world, at what point then do beliefs become unacceptable, or at the very least rationally indefensible? The short answer is: the point at which they are taken to be true. One of the most important differences between the functional belief which is grounded in experience, and a metaphysical belief which is grounded in faith is that the former is always taken as an expedient tool, whereas the latter is almost always taken as ultimately true. This is no minor point, and no minor difference.
On the Nature of Beliefs — Part 2
IT MAY BE USEFUL AT THIS JUNCTURE, and I suspect, necessary, to make a firm distinction in terminology between the two types of belief being discussed here.
For what has hitherto been described as a 'functional belief', may be more accurately described as a life-tool, or a pragmatic probability, given that the word 'belief' generally implies — even if only tacitly — some relationship to truth; the life-tools by which we function in a practical, daily sense, make no pretence to truth. Or, at least, they shouldn't.
Functional beliefs, or life-tools, are by their nature open to revision, change, and improvement, precisely because they are based on the principle of heuristics. They are flexible, not because this is a virtue in itself, but because they are founded in experience, which develops and changes with time. Thus, flexibility is an intrinsic and unavoidable part of their nature.
Metaphysical beliefs, on the other hand, invariably correspond to some kind of unsubstantiated or unsubstantiable deductional base assertion made about the ultimate nature of Reality, and are therefore not only beyond the vagaries of experience and change, but also, it would seem, beyond the common facilities of proof whether empirical or logical. Hence, taking them as true is seen to be, nowadays, an acceptable and socially benign quirk of the mind. But what of this mental quirk? this predilection for believing things in an absence of evidence? Is it rational? Or genuinely socially benign?
Let's consider that last question for a moment. It's been claimed by certain members of the theological community that it's arrogant to dismiss something simply because it cannot be proven rationally. This concept 'proven rationally' is worth considerable mirth on our part: how anything can be proven irrationally is surely one of the great mysteries. Still, this obviously scandalous misuse of language should not cause us to pass over the point, because it's of considerable importance.
If it is indeed arrogant to dismiss something on the basis that it cannot be proven rationally, then it surely behooves us all to believe everything that has ever been believed. Does this not follow? I believe it does. We should then, based on this criterion, believe in God, and Gods of all persuasions: angels, elves, cherubs, demons, Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, Limbo, zombies, all manner of witchcraft, unicorns... Need I continue? Indeed, based on this logic, we should — to be consistent — believe in, or at least the possibility of, anything that has ever been asserted to exist; further, anything that ever will be asserted to exist. It would surely take a voice of far less eloquence than mine to articulate the utter hopelessness of this. And yet, if theologians themselves are to be consistent, and avoid the arrogance they claim of rationalists, they must themselves believe in all these things. But I'm bound to ask: how many of them do?
Are we to assume then that the theological community, or part thereof, admits to no form of superstition whatsoever? All that is required of a concept to place it beyond what theologians would accept as rational proof, is any kind of supernatural predicate. And what superstition has ever been proferred without just such a predicate? We may not, it seems, without risking the dire consequences of an all-embracing arrogance, dismiss the possibility that epileptics are indeed possessed by demons. As disturbing as it may seem, modern theologians who hold to the notion that we must not dismiss something because it cannot be rationally proven are bound, by virtue of simple logical consequence, to accept the possibility of a demon-led assault on epileptics.
It's at all times imperative to make the most unambiguous distinction between accepting the theoretical possibility of the existence of something, and the unsupported belief in its actuality. For it should be clear that anything, capable of being created within the alchemy of the imagination, can subsequently be asserted to exist. But it's absurd to consider assertion alone, in any sense and to any degree, to be a criterion for belief.
It would seem as a general rule that the criterion of rational proof, or even evidence or argument, is not one that is ordinarily applied to metaphysical beliefs. So, what psychological tools are operating here?
Reason is clearly not one of the them. Nor does any kind of heuristic tool seem to be the basis of any fundamental tenet of the so-called sacred. Clearly, what we have here is the sublimation of emotional need, manifesting as beliefs that require no rational support, and which are founded on a disturbingly common predilection for believing things in an absence of evidence.
But, it may be asked by the defenders of the faiths: So What? People are entitled to believe what they will, and evidential criteria is a matter of personal choice. It has never, of course, been laid down in stone that people are entitled to anything particularly. Beliefs are not actually a right or an entitlement, because they cannot, since they ultimately exist in the mind, be taken away — physical manipulation of the brain excepted. What concerns us here is whether such beliefs are rational. And, clearly, they are not, and, are not even given as such. However, what is not rational is, by definition, irrational. And we must ask if irrationality is, in any sense, socially benign.
And the answer surely, is again no. We defend our own irrationality most often by simply denying it. But we defend the irrationality of others: the deliberately overstated ignorance of the impact of their psychology upon society, and therefore, on us. We tend to see human irrationality as socially benign, only when we can perceive no immediate connectedness to our own personal welfare. However, a simple illustration is usually sufficient to demonstrate where our ultimate sympathies would lie...
Let's suppose you've been accused of murder. And, as it happens, the particularly gruesome murder of a child: the kind of crime that causes people to become highly emotive and vengeful, though admittedly it takes very little for this to happen. As it happens, you are innocent. But there is a certain amount of circumstantial evidence attached to the case. Not only your welfare, but the welfare of your family, hinges on the outcome of the trial. You're standing in the dock. You look over to the members of the jury. So I put it to you: do you wish to see there, twelve rationalists, or twelve souls who have a predilection for believing things in an absence of evidence? That is, believing things in order to sublimate emotional needs. I put it to you very seriously.
Our tacit, and at times overt, acceptance of this kind of belief psychology, comes almost exclusively as a result of our inadequate appreciation for the connectedness of things in society — and, for the fact that even a little irrationality in one individual adds up to a great deal of irrationality when multiplied throughout the entire community. And, as truth would have it, also as a result of our guilt at being an obvious contributor. Or, is that — conspirator?
On the Nature of Beliefs — Part 3
WHETHER METAPHYSICAL BELIEFS are true or not should always be our primary concern.
But where our principles of evidence or proof are not accepted, we should then defer to psychology for our critique. It's not good enough to merely dismiss something on the basis of its obvious stupidity. It's the occurrence of stupidity itself that's as much a source of our woes as its practical manifestations.
Because metaphysical beliefs are taken as true, solely, it would seem, on the basis of the fervour with which they're believed, and in their utility in regards the sublimation of emotional need, and not as a consequence of evidence which can in any sense be made available to a non-believer, they rest in something called 'faith'.
Faith is: simply holding to the truth of an argument in an evidential vacuum. It has, through the various manipulations of scholastic theologians over the centuries, taken on the qualities of one of the great human virtues, at least in the eyes of many. But when seen, for example in the context of our earlier court-room scenario, it takes on the appearance of something far other than this. To believe on faith alone the innocence or guilt of the accused could hardly be perceived as anything more than a grotesque injustice and a sublime arrogance. If, however, faith is truly a virtue, surely it remains a virtue in all possible circumstances. But then, this is most assuredly not the case, unless we are to believe that condemning an innocent person or freeing a guilty one, on the basis of faith alone, is in any sense virtuous.
It should be noted that many attempts have been made, particularly in recent times, to reconcile faith and reason. But all such endeavours have amounted to nothing more than the spectacle of certain theologians using reason expediently, in an attempt to justify what they already believe on faith.
So let me return finally to the originally stated hope and purpose of this essay, which was that of demonstrating as effectively as my limited skills will allow, the difference between functional beliefs that are grounded in experience, and metaphysical beliefs which are grounded in faith. The object of such an exercise, in essence, is to demonstrate that whilst we cannot function as members of a society without beliefs of some kind, it does not follow that all beliefs are, by nature, acceptable. Or, as one might say in a more tolerant vein, justifiable.
The life-tools, our functional beliefs, are wholly justifiable, from the point of view of rationality, for they are taken for what they are: models of probability. They don't make any pretence to truth, and as such do not contravene any of the conventions or protocols of even the harshest critique of practical reason.
Metaphysical beliefs, conversely, not only pretend to represent truths but on no account open themselves up to proof by any rational means. They also, by their very nature, deny any scope of falsification by any future experience.
It's my contention that these facts render all such metaphysical perspectives unjustifiable; unjustifiable to any society that places value on its collective sanity.
That's it for 'Men of the Infinite'. We hope you'll stay around for our upcoming ' The Necessity of Wisdom ' series. Til then, bye for now and remember that truth is valuable.
SOMEONE ONCE REMARKED THAT FRIENDS ARE THIEVES OF TIME. I'd go a step further and say that friends are thieves of mind.
There is a world of difference between a true spiritual friend, and a friend the sense of which is commonly understood.
A true spiritual friend is also your greatest enemy. He's a constant reminder of the path to which you have dedicated yourself. He's a constant reminder of your imperfection, and of the egotism that remains in your character. He's a gnat that buzzes around your head and gives you no peace. He is the conscience that presents itself when your own one fails.
Conventional friendships exist for one purpose only: to boost one's ego. This is the sole reason one has friends. A friend is someone who validates us; who indicates to us that we are valued: a person of worth and substance. How many of us have friends that constantly tell us we're a worthless piece of shit? We may have spouses that do that, but that's another story altogether.
How can you have friends? — you who are supposedly on the path to enlightenment? — and who claims to be — an individual?
How can the true individual have friends?
The spiritual man is a solitary man by definition. Friendship is anathema to him.
Worldly friendships make us stronger in ego. They reinforce the false idea of our existence, and because of this, friends are always at each others' beck and call. Our connection to them is 100% about egotistical need. We choose our friends precisely on the basis of who best satisfies those needs. This point alone proves the wholly egotistical nature of conventional friendship.
The spiritual friend is one whose only concern is wisdom. He's not at all interested in your ego, other than in the sense of wanting to destroy it. Such a friend works to make us weaker in ego, and thereby more able to make room in our hearts and minds for reality.
Most people would not even be able to begin to think of such a one as a friend. He would be regarded as one who seeks to bring you down, to bring to ruination your self-esteem. And they'd be right. A spiritual friend is indeed one who seeks to facilitate your down-going. But that is exactly what makes him a true friend in spirit. That down-going is what makes us ripe for reality in our lives.
Most people are far too strong for reality. They have so many friends to give them support in their hours of need, so many friends to bring concretion to their egotistical delusions, so many friends to validate them. How could there possibly be room for reality? What possible need could there be for such a thing? What need could one have for truth, when there are so many friends willing and able to tell us the most exquisite lies?
Ultimately, the truth-seeker need have only one friend: his own reason.
However, if others should cross our paths, be sure that those with whom we consort are of good character. Good enough character to not be willing to lie to us.
LIKE SO MANY THINGS in a society driven by the herd-mentality, sanity is something generally defined within the parameters of statistical norms and social conventions. This leaves us with a criterion for sanity that will look something like:Sanity = Perceptions of reality that fall within the parameters of social conventions and statistical norms.
This many have some socially pragmatic value. But what does it mean for the thinker? Not much, frankly, as it doesn't speak to whether these norms actually have any relationship whatever to reality as it truly is.
A person could be judged sane even if he were a complete looney, simply because his perceptions fit within certain social norms. But how ridiculous is that? It's like saying that a person can be sane and mad at the same time. Such a view of the notion of sanity has no use for the thinker at all. He requires something more concrete, more objective, more absolute.
Therefore, the thinker's criterion or definition of sanity requires direct relation to reality, and will look something like:Sanity = The mind attuned to the true nature of reality. Any person is sane to the degree that his mind is attuned to that true nature.
Of course, the herd will instantly reject such a criterion, such a definition. Given that if one accepts that hardly anyone is enlightened, then this definition automatically means that almost all people are something less than sane. All people are to varying degrees, but most to a fairly high degree, insane. This would be too much for their fragile egos to cope with. And yet, what more logical definition could there be?
Why must we have two such different and competing options for the sanity? One, which values what the true nature of reality is; and one which does not? Why not abandon the conventional notion of sanity altogether, and instead speak of it as simple normality? At least the term normality directly speaks to what is socially normal.
And why adopt a criterion for something as important as sanity that does nothing but produce mediocrity? Sanity by democracy and statistics: how insane!
The worst part of this kind of convention is that it does nothing to inspire development. If one is statistically normal, one has no need to strive for better or sharper, more profound, perspectives of reality. If one does so, one runs the risk of stepping outside what is cognitively normative. One runs the risk of being perceived as less than sane.
But the thinker, if a true thinker he be, cannot care about such things, any more than he can afford to care about any herdly perspectives. He must consider only that which is conducive to the sublimation of his deep desire for understanding and wisdom. He must consider only that which is true.
Another common modern criterion for sanity is that one has good reason for one's beliefs, or perspectives. The possession of so-called 'good reason' apparently makes one sane. But once again we're faced with conventional notions, in this instance of what constitutes good reason. Once again, we're working within the parameters of a standard that is regarded as socially normative. But once again, the standard does not speak to what is actually true. It makes no pretence to any kind of objective or absolute standard. What is regarded as socially normative in regards to quality of reason might well be regarded as idiocy in a more enlightened society. This is surely unacceptable to any person who feels that the concept of sanity must have a direct relationship to reality as it truly is.
But here we are, living in a world which does not care about reality; one which cares only for what is socially normal, what is expressed by the greatest number. The folly of this approach to sanity and reason is readily demonstrated by simple virtue of the fact that it may be socially normal to believe one thing in one nation, and its opposite in another.
Someone once remarked that all religions are as true as each other. This can also be said of any statistical social norm. When we make a concept like sanity socially relative, we destroy its meaning and worth altogether.
Spirituality v Religion
I'M GOING TO SAY SOMETHING to you know that I suspect many of you will find rather controversial. Maybe even ridiculous. But I hope you will hear me out.
There is no real relationship between religion and spirituality. Spirituality has nothing to do with religion. There is no real relationship between the esoteric and exoteric. Genuine spirituality cannot manifest as religiosity. It simply can't.
Now, in an attempt to justify these statements, let me say a few things about the difference between the spiritual and the religious impulses in man. Hopefully, at the end of that, you'll have an idea of where I'm coming from, even if perhaps you don't find cause to entirely agree.
The spiritual impulse is an explicitly personal thing. It's about us as individuals, and our personal relationship to reality, and our place therein. The spiritual impulse is basically the same thing as the philosophic impulse. It's that which drives us to ask the essential questions posed by philosophy. It's about establishing what is true, and where we fit in that framework. It's at once a flight from the suffering wrought by our ignorance of such matters, and one to a perceived state of knowledge or comfort, or happiness, or completion. The journey of spirit, or the journey to philosophical truths, is one that can only be undertaken by the individual. You can't share the direct subjective experiences of mind with others. And frankly, nor do you need to.
The religious impulse, on the other hand, whilst nominally manifesting in a spiritual context, is nevertheless about entirely different drives and urges. It's an impulse to share, to congregate, to fit in, to be accepted, to have a framework for life laid out for us. It's the impulse of the herdliness in us. The difference between the spiritual impulse, and the religious, is a bit like the difference between a fashion designer and those that simply wear clothes to be — fashionable. Religion is but fashion in a quasi-spiritual dress.
The pope says it's good in God's eyes to wear pink and purple berets. Suddenly, everyone is wearing pink and purple berets, all the while thinking themselves spiritual. To the degree that any person consciously selects their religion and faith, they merely don an outfit that they believe will make them fit in and keep them in the fashion of the time. They do this in every other facet of their lives, so why not in this one as well?
Of course, most religious people are born and conditioned into their religious faith, and don't make much in the way of conscious choices in relation to it, save that of remaining within it perhaps. I'm probably being a tad generous here. Still, in that generous vein, let's assume that the religious have some kind of functioning mind, if only for the sake of argument.
The spiritual impulse is about striving for truth, the religious about resting in popular belief systems. The spiritual impulse is suspicious about religious faith; the religious, suspicious of spiritual reason. The spiritual impulse values the pursuit of the individual mind; the religious, the emotional highs of shared rituals. The spiritual impulse does not concern itself with the vagaries and whims of beliefs; the religious, cannot do other than concern itself with such things, since it is bound-up in them.
A cursory examination of history makes clear that humans are psychologically constituted in such a way as to cause the religious impulse to win-out over the spiritual, in all but a small minority of persons.
The spiritual impulse finds its most complete expression in the philosopher, and I'm not including academics working in university philosophy departments, since they don't really qualify.
One will not find a philosopher on every other street corner. But one will most certainly find a religious devotee: a dedicated follower of fashion. The message of men such as Jesus and Buddha were entirely about one's pursuit of personal spiritual drives; one's individual relationship to God, or Reality. Yet, in no time at all, the clamour is after ease and comfortable clothes, turning their message into religions, where belief in congregation was more than the striving for what is true and real.
No. There simply isn't any real relationship between spirituality and religion. There simply cannot be.
Ego, Attachment, Fame
THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE CONCEPT OF AN INDEPENDENT, SEPARATE I OR SELF, has a flipside, that being isolation and insecurity.
The ego is all about identity, and identity is dependent upon contrast to something else. Anything exists relative to what it is not. So the ego is constantly grasping for connection, or relation, to other, to make more concrete its own existence.
This is the basis of attachment. We attach ourselves psychologically to things, whether they be objects, other people, or ideas and beliefs, so as to make more secure the idea of our own existence. It may seem like a weird kind of dynamic, in that we're trying to find ourselves by trying to identify with something else, but that's how identity works.
This need to constantly reinforce our identity or ego, which is more acute the more spontaneous and unconscious we are, explains just about everything a human being does: from the central drives like survival, and the even more fundamental 'will to power', to things that tend to mystify us, such as a person taking a stance on some issue which is seemingly in opposition to their stated views and values, often expressed as a need to just be different from the rest rather than lose one's identity in the chaos of group-thinking, the identity therein being generated by one's sense of difference and contrast to those others.
We want to share because we need to relate in order to anchor our identity in something. But we don't want to lose power in that sharing.
It's like being in a group of some kind, and offering a really good idea, only for that idea to be dissolved in the nebulosity of the group, and its link to us essentially lost. Most people have suffered what they consider to be the ignominy of that. But that suffering is all about a loss of identity.
Or it's like standing in a huge canyon, and yelling your name, expecting it to echo back with increased resonance, only to hear nothing at all.
We assert our identity in the sharing of an idea with others, but it gets lost in their consumption of it. We want to offer ourselves to others but we don't want to be consumed by it.
Ultimately, to offer yourself is to have something of yourself taken away, and hence conflict arises. We experience the flow of gain and loss, which is the basis of samsara.
In the case of doing things to impress others, we're talking about the need for approval, which amounts to the need for outside recognition and confirmation of ourselves. One of the keenest expressions of this is to be found in the fact that most women would rather be hated by you than be the object of your complete indifference. She would much rather have your hate than your indifference, because your hate elevates and substantiates her existence; whereas your indifference is almost a denial of it.
This is why intimate relationships are so vital to our egos. We're able to see something of ourselves in that other. So, when we give, we don't really lose that part of ourselves, because it's constantly there in that other. It's like a quasi-merging of two egos. We've acquired for ourselves a biological mirror, not just of our physical self but of our emotions and conceptual world. So long as the close intimacy of the relationship is maintained, this benefit continues to exist. But as soon as the intimacy wanes, that benefit begins to evaporate, and we cease being so comfortable in giving of ourselves, because we begin to experience the loss and consumption I spoke of previously, rather than sharing.
So long as the mathematical formula of a relationship is 2 = 1, we're fine. If it degenerates into 1+1=1, we're in a bit of trouble. So is the relationship, usually. When we reach the 1+1=2 stage, divorce is immanent.
Also, when people court fame, they're expressing the same basic mentality, but there's a negative side to the coin of fame, which places one in a constant state of conflict. The basis of that conflict is: 'I need your approval and validation, but in doing so I lose myself and become an extension of your own ego. The loss of self experienced when a person courts fame is pretty obvious. One only has to look at the lives of celebrities to see that. What I find bemusing, though, is how you see them bemoaning that loss of privacy or identity, or the fact that those whose approval they seek want, more or less, to take ownership of them. It's as if they're too dense to see the correlation. Of course, they are that dense, but they don't know it any more than their fans know it.
One of the most pitiable expressions of this need occurs when the individual seeks the approval of those they know to be their inferiors, or of being incapable of fully appreciating their achievements. This is one of the reasons that guru types are so sickening. They accept the adoration of people who don't really understand a word they say.
Some Random Thoughts
WHILST SOCIETY CANNOT TELL the difference between wisdom and mere pretty words, it can tell when its most precious attachments are under threat. Its defensive response to that perceived threat can be quite significant. The would-be wise person ignores this to his peril. Since wisdom entails the abandonment or transcendance of just about everything society commonly values, it's necessary and inevitable that such a person will find himself in complete opposition to that society, or at least near-to-complete. That opposition doesn't need to be deliberate, or overt; it's just a natural consequence of what that person has discovered, and what they have become.
But one cannot abandon the false beliefs and attachments that surround them, and not be perceived by society as something quite alien to it. For the wise person to act in a way that made society perceive him approvingly, he would have to act in a completely false and deceitful manner. He would have to act in a way contrary to the nature he had built for himself.
Genuine truths remain true in any possible world, and in any possible state of consciousness. This is what makes them a genuine truth. If one can figure out what remains true of things, in what is called 'dreaming' and 'wakeful' consciousness, one has discovered something truly significant. Perhaps you'd care to consider the question of what remains true of phenomena in each of those states?
It All Starts With Ego
Truth is a goal. It's something you aspire to, like anything else. But you have to place value on it, to have any chance of attaining it. The motivational force that underpins the valuing of such an attainment will necessarily be egotistical security or happiness. This is for sure and certain. Every wise person begins his journey motivated by a flight from suffering, or dissatisfaction of one kind or another. When it comes to enlightenment, the specific kind of suffering that is necessary is the suffering over one's ignorance. It is impossible for a person with a fully intact ego, which is what everyone starts out with, to do other than value and pursue things egotistically. What happens along the way, however, is that the path itself undermines the ego, and that motivation falls away, and the pursuit of truth becomes increasingly pure. Which is to say, it simply becomes who and what you are, without the egotistical force.
Truth and the Rational Mind
To me, there's a significant factor in truth-valuing that is seldom recognised, and one that helps shed some light on why an individual might come to value such a thing. That factor is the tendency towards reason, and consistency, and authenticity of thought.
We tend to think that the cause of a person's truth-valuing is more likely to be that they have in the past been damaged by mendacity of some kind, either their own or that directed at them by others. Whilst this may be a factor, it's not the source of truth-valuing I generally speak of, or am particularly interested in. By that, I mean there is a difference between truth-valuing as in wanting people to be honest in their dealings, and truth-valuing as in wanting to have an accurate and consistent perspective on the nature of Reality.
The latter demands a natural tendency towards intellectual integrity. It demands a mind that experiences discomfort in any weakness, or any contradiction, or fault, in its concepts.
Everyone, at least in the beginning, is looking for happiness. The truth-valuer sets out on a course of enquiry that he hopes will sublimate a psychological need. That certainly looks like a search for happiness, to me.
But our natures, and therefore our values, are not static. We evolve in our consciousness, we evolve in our perception of things, and our values change as a result of that. We might experience an insight into some aspect of life or reality which changes irrevocably our entire value-framework.
Some of us will give expression to our natures by way of a desire to fulfil the psychological propensity that I spoke of earlier, that of the tendency towards consistency and completeness of thought.
Who and what we are at any given moment is the culmination of our past lives, that is to say, our causes. We can make some guesses as to the most significant factors in that evolutionary process, but ultimately the causes are infinite, and unknowable. We can point to certain biological facts and maybe some events in our lives that we believe to have been formative. But we can never say exactly why we are who we are. We can, however, consciously work toward being a particular thing. That is to say, we can will an authentic self.
To Be Well Adjusted
In society, genuine individualism is a kind of maladjustment. I'm not at all interested in a deluded society's notion of what it means to be well-adjusted. A person who is well-adjusted by society's standards, is almost certainly a fool by mine.
Drop In - Drop Out
One should be wary of any kind of psychological reflex. Non-conformist reflexes aren't really any better than conformist reflexes.
One of the difficulties we face is our inability to fully disengage from conventional notions of success. If you're not working hard, and accumulating stuff, or improving your social standing in some way, you're basically being anti-social. It's understandable, really. Society can really only measure your value on the basis of what benefit it perceives itself as deriving from you. Any wish you have to improve yourself, purely as an individual, is a bit too removed. Even though we may talk about, and even institute, something like paid maternity leave, it's kind of doubtful that you will ever see anything like paid enlightenment leave, where a person is paid to spend twelve months meditating on a hill in Tibet somewhere.
Self-improvement is something you're supposed to do on your lunch-break, not something you 'Drop-out' to do. You see, dropping-out is perceived as anti-social, because it suggests to society, implicitly if not explicitly, that society is not the solution to your malady, and that it's even, perhaps, the cause of it.
To You Atheists
If atheists insist on taking the intellectual highground, it behooves them to be actually occupying it. Their affirmation is not of religious untruthfulness, but their own valuing of truthfulness. I'm not having a shot at them here, necessarily. But I've encountered too many atheists who seem to have a phobia about being honest about the nature of their values in those things which they clearly affirm. It's as if they automatically associate affirmation of any kind with a religious mentality.
Many atheists, humanists, rationalists, and associated trumped-up braggarts who consider themselves to be the intellectual superiors of religionists, are all-too-often guilty of speaking the most insipid shit. Their worst crime is that of denying that they have any dogma of their own. That claim is quite galling when they, almost to a man, suggest things like: empirical observation, or science, is the only means of gaining knowledge of the world. They deny that this is dogma, yet in that denial they are denying life and vigor to reason itself.
Thanks once again for being with us, here at 'Men of the Infinite', your dedicated wisdom channel. We hope that you'll remain with us, and remember: Truth is valuable.
The Ultimate Truth?
IF ARTICULATING OR DEMONSTRATING the ultimate truth of Reality was an easy thing to do, wise men would have done so, in the simplest way possible. Indeed, they'd still be doing so, and we should be awash with wise people all embued with knowledge of the ultimate.
The ironic thing is that it actually is easy to do so. But having done so, there are certain spanners that automatically get thrown into the works. Nevertheless, for the sake of being mischievous, if nothing else, I'm going to tell you, or demonstrate to you, that very truth, that ultimate truth of Reality.
Now, some of you may be familiar with this demonstration. If so, when you realise what it is, you may want to go and make a cup of tea or something.
In a moment, I'll get you to pause this video for a few seconds. During those seconds, I want you to simply look at the things around you, whatever your current environment may be. But I want you to look at them in a particular way. I want you to look at them 'through innocent eyes'. I don't want you to think about them in any way whatsoever. Your mind will naturally move to label them; that's ok. That's what the mind does, even for Buddhas. Just don't think about the nature of those things in any way whatever. Just see them as a child might. Do it only for a few seconds, then come back to the video and we'll take the next step.
Firstly, thanks for coming back. Now, what you just saw, what you just experienced, is in fact, ultimate reality; the ultimate truth of existence. The brute fact of experience, or of that which appears, without any form of conceptual, metaphysical, or ontological layering, is what is ultimately true of reality and existence. You were expecting something a little fancier, I bet. But that's really just your ego speaking to you there.
So, that done, here's where the spanners start flying. Even though I know the truth of what I just told you, and what I got you to do, you don't. Or, presumably you don't. If you were now to go out through life accepting the immediate and spontaneous experience of phenomena as the ultimate truth of things, I'd be forced to accuse you of having the mind of a catfish, or the mind of a religionist. But hey, if you've subscribed to this channel, then you're by default not that kind of person, right?
The fact is, despite whatever end-hypothesis is presented to us, and no matter by whom it's presented, we must each do the philosophical work to gain such an understanding, if an understanding it be. And, always remember, there's a difference between having an understanding, and having the correct understanding.
Every speaker must reinvent the wheel, so to speak. This is one of the things that makes philosophy different from science, as an endeavour and as a discipline. You can't really make practical use of another thinker's products, without possession of the same understanding in the way that you can with science. I don't need to know how my tv works to use it, but only a fool would adopt, say, Spinozian ethics, without first knowing why they're valid.
Okay, so I've given you an end-hypothesis. I know it didn't seem like much. But what I forget to mention is that the mind that can in fact see and know the truth of that hypothesis is vastly different from the mind you now experience. Ah, see, that got your attention, right?
Okay folks, that's it for this particular presentation. In the next video, I'll look at — of all things — a leaf. But it will be a sort of 'now you see it, now you don't' kind of leaf. So be sure to be with us next time when we explore how it is that things exist. Bye for now and thanks for being with us here at 'Men of the Infinite'.
The Nature of Existence — Part 1
THE NATURE OF EXISTENCE, or, what it means to exist, or, what it means for us to assert that a thing exists, is a notoriously difficult subject to talk and think about. Philosophers have been grappling with the issue for millenia, and precious few of them did more than a fairly poor job at it. But I'm prepared to cut them some slack over that, precisely because of the level of difficulty.
Now, when I say that it's difficult, I don't mean it's complicated. Difficult and complicated aren't synonymous.
Existence is not really a complicated issue; it just requires some conceptual leaps that at times may seem counter-intuitive. That can be a hard thing for the mind to entertain.
The issue of existence is tricky because of the ubiquitous and essential, or foundational, nature of the thing. In talking about it, it's next to impossible to define the terms without falling into the trap of using synonyms to do so. I don't know about your experience, but mine has been that if you ask most people what it means for a thing to exist, they'll say something along the lines of: 'To exist means to be. A thing exists if it has being'. But 'to be' is merely a synonym for 'to exist'. It contains nothing and contains no explanatory force. We're none the wiser about the nature of existence as a consequence of such a definition.
So, yes, it's kind of tough, but we here at 'Men of the Infinite' aren't scared off by the difficult. So, I'm going to dive straight into the deep end, and say some things about the nature of existence, and what it means for a thing to exist. Of course, if you find me slipping into the aforementioned trap of using synonyms, please let me know. Don't let me get away with anything.
The first thing to be said about existence is: it is a designation. Existence is a thing asserted or designated by an observer. The reason why this is necessarily so will become clearer as we go along. That the quality of existence is a thing designated by an observer is proven in part that existence requires identity. That is to say, an existent thing must be differentiated, and differentiable, from that which it is not, to be granted thingness, or identity, as an individual phenomenon.
If any given thing is not demarcated, or bounded in some way, from what it is not, it must of necessity be the totality of all that is.
I hope this point is obvious enough such that I don't have to expand on it further. I mean, clearly the thing's not bounded or demarcated at all. It must be: everything.
But this is where the necessity of the observer comes in, because demarcation and differentiation are by-products of observers, whatever and whomever they may be. Boundaries are an artifact of mind.
This leads me to my working definition of 'exist', which is:A thing is said to exist if it presents an appearance to an observer.
Now, this naturally applies to the abstract as well as the empirical, as it must. Any definition of existence that doesn't incorporate the abstract as well as the empirical, is going to be, to my mind, absurd from the outset. Now I can tell you that I've known scores of people who seemed to want to divorce the abstract from their notions of existence. Seemingly, they don't think the content of their mind exists. At times, a sarcastic part of me wishes to agree. But I guess, to be fair to them, it's because they have become so utterly entrenched in thinking about things empirically, that that's become the only sense of existence their minds can accommodate.
But let me dwell on this point of identity a little more, because it's very important.
One of the few things that Aristotle got right was his formulations on the foundations of logic, pivotal to those being the law of identity. This law basically states that a thing is itself, and not something else, and indeed can't be something else. A very useful way to depict this law is with the formulation: A = A The law of identity, and A = A as a way to express it, will prove very helpful in our considerations of the nature of existence.
But more than that, we're about to do what a greatly many people vigorously assert to be impossible or fanciful. That is, we're about to know and understand a universal and eternal fact of existence. I hope you're excited by that prospect.
The law of identity speaks to the bare essentials of existence. Anything requires identity, to exist. Identity requires demarcation, for the reason I gave earlier. So, we can say that things can only exist relative to what they are not. No thing can exist of itself, because without demarcation, differentiation, relativity, boundedness, a given thing would not and could not be at all.
The beauty of this understanding of the essential nature of existence, is that it cuts across and is the basis of all possible forms of thought, all possible systems of thinking about reality: metaphysical, ontological, and so forth. The truth of A=A underpins any philosophical system whatsoever. It must be true in all possible worlds. At all possible times. In other words, everywhere, and everywhen.
Thought itself cannot arise without it, because thought has its own basis in identity, and its logical consequence.
Without all the things that I've just stated about existence, there literally couldn't be anything to think about. We don't, at this point, have to consider if things are real or illusory; objective or subjective. A = A, and the points I've made, still hold.
Now let me just quickly address an argument that's been thrown at me from time to time, regarding this issue. That being, that some people claim that they can conceive of a single thing existing by itself in the midst of nothingness, demarcated and differentiated from nothing whatsoever. That is, they can think of a thing that exists purely of itself. Prima facie this may seem like a reasonable argument, but it actually defeats itself even in its own formulation.
On the screen you'll see a representation of this argument: a lone thing in the midst of nothingness.* But what is that nothingness? Isn't it a 'something' that we differentiate from the object? Doesn't it demarcate and give identity to the object? Does that nothingness have any reality of its own, or does it require somethingness to even have meaning? I'll let you draw your own conclusions on that particular question.* Black screen with small white centred dot.
So the next time that someone tries to tell you that there's no such thing as universal truths — absolute truths about existence — throw A = A their way and see if it makes them sweat a little. At the very least it ought to cause them to rethink their position because it only requires a single counter-example to refute their claim. You've just given them one.
Okay, I'm about out of time for Part One of this particular series. In Part Two ('What are boundaries?'), I'll be introducing the leaf like I previously promised. I'll be using it to talk about the nature of the demarcations, the boundaries, that were discussed in this presentation. Then I'll be addressing the question, 'Where do things begin and end?' and 'Do they begin and end at all?'
I hope you'll stick around with us for the rest of this discussion on the nature of existence. Bye for now, and remember that Truth is Valuable.
WELCOME TO ANOTHER PRESENTATION OF 'Men of the Infinite'. Reincarnation is the reason most thinking people aren't interested in Buddhism.
This is because reincarnation has about as much evidence in its favour as does a Creator God, or Santa Claus, or the Tooth Fairy. Which is to say there's no evidence for it whatsoever.
In this presentation, I'll demonstrate that the Tibetan Buddhists have misunderstood the import of the teaching of reincarnation, and that they're presenting a too-literal, and too-materialist, interpretation of it. And, I'll show that the language of reincarnation is intended as a poetic expression only, to talk about cause and effect.
The Dalai Lama is the head of one particular school of Tibetan Buddhism, and he's become the face of Buddhism to many in the west. His followers believe him to be the fourteenth reincarnation in the line of Dalai Lamas. But the Dalai Lama himself reports that he can't remember any of his past lives, and nor has he been able to remember any past lives at any time in his life. This is exactly what we would expect, given that reincarnation isn't true.
Tibetan Buddhists don't believe in an individual soul that transmigrates from one life to another, like a spark jumping from one body to another. Rather, they contend that there's a stream of consciousness, which is ever-changing, and at the time of death the stream of consciousness somehow makes its way into a new body. But when it does so, it completely forgets all its past lives. Yet there's enough that carries over from the previous lives to maintain a continuity.
The diagram you're looking at illustrates the process [Figure 1]. Of special note are the thick black lines on either side which delineate the stream of consciousness from everything else in the Universe, including the separate streams of consciousness of other people. These strict demarcations are necessary in this system of thinking because when a person does something bad, like commits a violent murder, then the karmic consequences of that action must be felt by that individual and not by some other innocent person who wasn't responsible.
In sharp contrast to this fanciful view of the world, consider now what happens in reality:
Here we see there is no delineation between one person's stream of consciousness and that of another person. Each makes inputs into the other. Some of the criminal goees into making the victim. Something of the teacher goes into the student. Something of the parent in the child, and so forth.
So you can see that when it's taught in the language of reincarnation, that the karmic consequences of deeply ignorant people is rebirth in hell. We can see what this means in a very real and direct sense. For, when a torturer tortures a victim, he is re-born as that suffering victim immediately, in the very act. This is the way cause and effect operates in the real world. One thing causes another, and in doing so, becomes another.
But one thing's for sure. You won't hear these truths spoken in Tibetan Buddhism. In fact, there's no place in the real state of affairs for a solid and persistent ego or self, not even if it's disguised as a stream of consciousness.
No such linearity can be found in Nature, anywhere. One ... becomes many.
The Buddha once taught that re-birth happens in the same way that a candle can be lit from the flame of another. But cannot one candle light many others?
So. Can we be re-born in hell? Can we be re-born as an animal?
There's no hell, but, the hell you experience.
Whatever you desire, you are.*
* Image of long-haired, sweet-looking lady holding a long-haired, cute lapdog.
Image of mean-looking, puggish-faced, bald man beside mean-looking, short-haired, fighting pug-dog.
So what is reincarnation? In truth, it's only cause and effect. It is you, and it's everything that's happening around you. It's no mystery.
News — Beliefs are bad for your health
SPECIAL NEWS EDITION!
Wed Aug 27, 3:12 PM / OTTAWA (AFP). This story just in:
— An outbreak of mumps in westernmost Canada has been traced to a religious group opposed to vaccinations because they believe such are an affront to God, health officials said Wednesday.
There have been 116 confirmed cases of mumps and another 74 suspected cases in the Vancouver area since February, said the Fraser Health Authority.
The outbreak has lead to meningitis, deafness and concerns about sterility in several people, officials said. And the number of cases is expected to jump dramatically as students return to school next week.
The source of the outbreak is a Christian community near Chilliwack, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Vancouver, the health authority told AFP.
"My understanding is their interpretation of scripture is that to immunize would be to show a lack of faith in God's ability to protect them, and therefore they choose not to do that," Elizabeth Brodkin of the Fraser Health Authority told public broadcaster CBC.
Mumps immunization began in Canada in 1969. In 1996, doctors began administering two doses of the vaccine after studies found one is sometimes not enough.
Mumps is spread through saliva and can cause painful swelling of salivary glands, testicles, ovaries, pancreas, thyroid, and breasts. In severe cases, it can also lead to meningitis.
The British Columbia Centre for Disease Control announced it has also organized a taskforce to try to curb further spread of the disease.
NOW FOLKS, this story presents to us a perfect example of why the argument, that religious beliefs are ultimately a personal thing or a benign social force, is such a nonsensical argument. In their ignorance, this community of religious fools have placed their surrounding communities at risk by dint of their refusal to do something sensible. Their justification for non-action is a clear example of the egregious folly of religious conviction as one could ever hope to witness.
So, protecting themselves from disease in such a way is an affront to God. I've actually witnessed this mentality first-hand in my dealings with the Christian Science cult. But surely, to be consistent with this logic, protecting themselves from any circumstance must be an affront to God; to a God willing to protect them from harm.
I presume these Christians don't bother to use seatbelts in public transport, or concern themselves with whether food has passed its use-by date. Or even bother to brush their teeth, or use treated or boiled water. I imagine you could think of a hundred ways in which people could ordinarily protect themselves from potential harm using some form of technological intervention.
Of course, it's not just religious types that oppose vaccination programs. But they're the only ones doing so for such stupifyingly mindless reasons.
Now the idea behind this video is not to attack these Christians. They're not bad people. They're simply ignorant. Ignorant even of their own ignorance. The idea is simply to use this example to point out that metaphysical beliefs are not private nor socially benign matters. Metaphysical beliefs inform many of our thoughts and actions. They inform our values, which drive most of our thinking and behaving in the world.
Trust me. Your beliefs are someone else's problem.
The Nature of Existence — Part 2: What are boundaries?
IN THE PREVIOUS VIDEO IN THIS SERIES ON EXISTENCE, we looked at it from the point of view of differentiation, and the necessary codependence of things that are said to exist.
In this installment, I'm going to lead you into a closer peek at the nature of those differentiations; specifically, the nature of the boundaries that we perceive, because they make up the body of differentiation.
What exactly is a boundary? We perceive them, obviously, otherwise our minds couldn't distinguish between one object and another. But are they real, or merely inferred somehow? Do they exist out there in the object, or in here in the mind? Perhaps neither.
To help us with that analysis, I'm introducing the long-awaited leaf. Of course, it could have been any object really, and you're welcome to substitute one of your own choosing for the sake of this exercise.
Now, looking at our leaf, if I was to ask where does that leaf begin and end — where are its boundaries — you'd most likely say, 'Right there, pal, are you blind or something?' Yes, I see what you see; I know where it's boundaries seem to be: where they naturally appear within our consciousness. But, are they real ?
Where does this object definitively begin and end? And does it do so at all?
Let's take a closer look and see what happens. [Image zooms in]. As we get closer to look at the actual boundary of the leaf, or any other object, we find that a curious thing happens. That is to say, precisely nothing. At every step, we're still faced with the original dilemma, the original question. It doesn't matter how close we get or how minutely we observe. Indeed, if you get close enough to the thing in question, the thing effectively disappears. At every stage, what we perceive offers up the self-same mystery: that of where its boundaries are, where it begins and ends.
No matter what we do, we can't get past the inference of boundaries into something more definitive or absolute. So, are these inferences, these appearances of boundaries, actually themselves the final, absolute truth of what they are? Since that's all they can ever present to us, it must be.
Now, I know this is a visual medium, and we might imagine that particular rules apply here. But we can shift to other sensory examples and do the same mental experiment.
Imagine, for instance, you can hear a slow piece of continuous violin music, one that contains within it multiple note variations. The mind plucks out, differentiates, and identifies, or grants identity to, individual notes. Yet if you look into the continuum of sound, you won't be able to find a place where those notes begin and end.
Likewise with our sense of touch, when we experience shifts in temperature: you may suddenly feel cold and require a jumper. But if you examine the atmospheric dynamic of that experience, you simply won't be able to find a place where that sensation strictly began.
Now, I want to emphasise at this point that I'm not making an argument for solipsism. These points are not arguments in support of that unsustainable notion. I'm simply saying that the boundaries we perceive are products of consciousness, given they don't possess any objective reality out there in the world. In other words, the specific tapestry of appearances we experience are intimately bound up with our consciousness. We don't literally create reality with our minds, because our minds are necessarily a product of that reality. But our minds certainly produce the particular web of identity to which we give the label 'existence'.
Consider altered states of consciousness, for a moment, and you'll see the role that consciousness plays. Change the state of our consciousness and things begin to change appreciably, even if within limits given that certain aspects of our conscious state we can't alter. Familiar things look entirely different; sound entirely different; smell and feel entirely different. In altered states we draw our boundaries differently, and create new appearances, new things. In our normal state of consciousness, we look at the sun, and think we see its boundaries, its identity. Change our perspective to ultra-violet, or infra-red, and all of a sudden it's like a different object altogether. Its previous identity and boundaries disappear, and now seem to stretch out into the solar system.
Of course, any given state of consciousness presents its own limits, and its own natural mode for creating a tapestry of phenomena. However much things might change in certain altered states of consciousness, we nevertheless can't put our hand through a solid wall. That's because that aspect of our consciousness remains unchanged. When experiencing a green leaf, you can't not view a green leaf. That's what your consciousness is producing. You have to change your state of consciousness to perceive something different. You might view it in ultra-violet, and it might look completely different, maybe not like a leaf at all. Same thing with the wall. If I could change my state of consciousness, given my physical nature is part of that, and shrink down to the size of a subatomic particle, I could slip through the wall like a gamma ray on a road-trip. The fact that I can't put my hand through a solid wall doesn't speak to the fact that that wall has no beginning or end, other than where consciousness determines.
Okay, so where do all these thoughts ultimately lead us? They lead us to the conclusion that things lack inherent existence. Things do not inherently exist of themselves, and cannot exist without that which demarcates them, and without an observer who is doing the demarcating.
There literally is no objective world of phenomena. What we experience is a particular manifestation of an infinite potential; that infinite potential being reality itself.
Bees, for example, do not experience the world we do, other than to the degree that their consciousness, their nature, accords with our own. The reason human beings experience an almost identical reality is not because of some objective reality out there that we're all tapping into, but because we share a common consciousness and nature, which produces the same tapestry and phenomena, albeit with small variations.
So, now for the really big question: what does all this mean for us, as existent things? Are we the one thing that does possess inherent existence? Are we somehow immune from the arbitrariness of the boundaries drawn by consciousness? What about the self?
All that and more in Part Three of this series on the nature of existence.
Bye for now, and thanks for being with 'Men of the Infinite', your dedicated wisdom channel.
Philosophy is Not for the Faint-Hearted
A CHALLENGE TO INSIPID ATHEISTS.
In their attempt to discredit the Christian religion, and indeed the person of Jesus himself, atheists and supposedly rational types are fond of offering certain scriptures from the New Testament.
Now, I can make a point about the hypocrisy of such people criticising Christians for the scriptural cherry-picking they engage in, but I'll mention that only in passing.
One of the most notable of these scriptures is from the gospel of Matthew, where Jesus said,
Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law — a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.' Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
— Matthew 10:34-37
The ironic thing about the way these atheists deal with such scriptures is that the Christians they wish to demonise, with them, actually do for the most part a far better job of interpreting them. The way the atheist crowd tends to do so is so shallow that a flea couldn't drown in it. Indeed, the general world-view of most atheist types — certainly not all, but most — outside of the mental compartment of their metaphysical opinions, as important as those views may be, is usually shallow and mundane, and lacking in any ideational spirit whatsoever, or, seemingly, the ability to perceive or acknowledge ideational spirit in others.
So, what was Jesus really talking about in that quote ? Was he just crapping on like your average idiot cult-leader, just demanding complete personal devotion? Of course not. If you think that, then clearly it's your agenda to do so.
Jesus was simply using himself as a symbol of something: a particular ideal, an ideal to which devotion means certain things, and necessitates certain consequences, even certain sacrifices.
Oddly enough, atheists can't see the parallels in their own lives: that of their own struggle for intellectual independence and identity — in their own religious households. They can't see the familial consequences of deciding to uphold and dedicate themselves to the values they profess. They don't end up literally hating their families, and Jesus certainly wasn't talking about literally hating. One thing we have to keep in mind is that certain phrases and figures of speech are different in different cultures. They mean different things in different cultures; and different things in different times.
What Jesus is saying is essentially two things:
- That truth naturally stands against untruth. To the degree that one's friends and family dwell in untruth, they must be rejected, or if you like, turned against, by the truth seeker.
- That if one is to embark on the philosophical path, and spiritual path, then one must value that above all other things. The reason for that ought be obvious enough. Without that depth of valuation, truth will remain elusive.
Just think for a moment what dedication to such a path means. It means the critical examination, and potential rejection, of everything: everything that one values and holds dear; everything that one believes or holds to be reasonable. Now, this is no small thing, yet the philosophical path is nothing less than this. Anything less, and it's not the philosophical path at all. If you approach this journey as a dilettante, or as an academic or scholar, or as one expressing merely intellectual curiosity, or as some high-IQ savante with a chip on his shoulder and a point to prove, you are not on any authentic philosophical path.
Philosophy, or the path to truth, is not some compartmentalised intellectual activity one does because one can't think of anything better to do. It's an all-or-nothing, blood-and-guts, do-or-die commitment. If you can't stare that commitment, and all that it demands, in the face, and say a truly affirmative 'Yes', even if that 'Yes' carries a degree of trepidation (and it really ought to), then don't embark on that journey at all.
It's really not one for the faint-hearted.
I don't mean to sound theatrical here. It just isn't.
Embarking on the philosophical path is like buying a one-way ticket to a destination whose character we know nothing about. Logic dictates that the destination exists, but we can't know anything about its nature, or what we might discover along the way. I tell you, there are some things one sees along the journey that quite simply cannot be unseen. If you've ever seen Pamela Anderson's dalliance with plastic surgery, you'll know what this means. Some things once seen cannot be unseen. If you manage to get cold feet, and somehow scramble your way back home from this path, it is highly unlikely that home will ever again be exactly the same.
In short, the journey is really for those who are truly prepared to relinquish everything. If you lack that preparedness, then there's little point in proceeding.
Essentially, I have two reasons for speaking this way. One is ostensibly a selfish reason, and the other not-quite-so selfish. The first being that the dilettantes and academics, that I spoke of earlier, tend to do nothing but unnecessarily complicate the journey. They lay down false and misleading paths, often out of emotional needs to rest in safe places in their minds. Such people may possess enough insight to see that their thinking is leading them in directions that they simply cannot go. That is, there are yet some things they're not prepared to relinquish or question. So all they do is ruin the path for others. My not-so-selfish reason for speaking of such things is that I frankly don't like to see people get messed-up for no good reason.
So, the next time you see some atheist or secular protagonists using this or similar scriptures as weapons against Christianity or Jesus, just consider what Jesus said in the light of an ideational spirit. Consider that what he said is not really different from what the Buddha said, in offering his four noble truths, and his devised method of Buddhism as a means to escape the delusions of the world. That method is all about turning from the false, and all the things that abide in falsity; whatever, or whomever they may be.
It doesn't mean literally hating or wishing ill on anything or anyone. It simply means being authentic and true to one's goals and values.
Am I a Buddhist?
HELLO EVERYONE, and welcome once again to 'Men of the Infinite'.
This is going to be a far less formal, and rather more personal, presentation. I simply want to address fairly briefly a question that was put to me quite recently. That question being, of course, the title of this particular video: Am I A Buddhist?
Whilst the short answer to that question is: no, I'm not, the truth is sufficiently complicated such that a more fullsome answer might make for a passingly interesting presentation, even if one that is likely to tick off a lot of Buddhists.
I guess the reason that the question was put to me, was that some of my presentations seem to echo certain 'eastern' modes of thought, and use certain Buddhistic terms. It's true: they do. Whilst I do not and would not identify as a Buddhist, for reasons I'll get to shortly, my videos do echo the core teachings of the Buddha. They do so, because those core teachings are valid.
But then my videos also echo the core principles of philosophical Daoism, as well, and for the same reason — those core teachings are valid.
The reason I don't identify as a Buddhist, and am not technically a Buddhist, are essentially twofold.
The first is that I would never want to identify with the overly-complex religious mish-mash that is modern Buddhism. The religious face that Buddhism presents to the world is not something I could ever advocate, or approve of, not that my approval means anything other than to me of course. Buddhism is not a religion; yet, Buddhism as it expresses itself in the world most assuredly is a religion. The one form of Buddhism that somewhat escapes this critique is Zen. But even there, I'd be uncomfortable aligning myself with modern Zen, though I'd certainly suggest that any investigation of Buddhist method ought begin with that tradition, because I regard it as the best of them, and I certainly got a great deal out of it. In my opinion, Buddhism is simply too replete with superstition, religious group behaviour, and ritual, and farcicly complex scholasticism, to be taken seriously.
This goes for religious Daoism as well. Whilst I'd be the first to advocate inquiry into the ideas of philosophical Daoism, I wouldn't touch religious Daoism with a forty-foot pole. Neither should you, if you value your sanity.
One has to be careful not to judge these philosophical systems by the religious traditions they spawn. As I explained in my video regarding the differences between the spiritual and the religious impulses, it's a sad fact of human nature that the religious impulse tends to usurp and win out over the spiritual. Nevertheless, we should throw the proverbial baby out with the proverbial bath-water. The central teachings and method laid out by the Buddha are all but flawless. I would unhesitatingly encourage research into them, by any person with a strong sense of individuality. But I would also warn that where one sees complex scholasticism in any spiritual or philosophical system, that one avoids it like the plague. The tangled web that religious, spiritual, or philosophical scholars weave is something one might avoid like a perceptive fly might avoid a spider's trap, however prettily it may seem to glisten in the morning sun.
The second reason why I don't, and would not, identify as a Buddhist, is best explained by the question, 'Was the Buddha, let's say at the time of his death, a Buddhist?' The answer to that question is, 'No, he was not.' Buddhism in its purest sense, that is the sense the Buddha intended, is not a religion. It is not a set of beliefs, or dogmas. It's a system, or method of thought, designed to achieve a given purpose: namely, liberation from ignorance and suffering. This used to be called enlightenment, but it seems all-too-few Buddhists want to use that term anymore. Now, the Buddha having attained this goal obviously had no further use for this method, and was therefore no longer a Buddhist. A Buddhist is one who employs the Buddhist system or method. Having done that, one is no longer a Buddhist. You don't continue with tools after having used them for their intended purpose.
If you come across a river, that you have to cross, and there's a canoe available, and you use that canoe to cross over, unless you know there are yet more rivers to cross, you don't pick up the canoe and continue to carry it. You leave it there for others to use. In the case of the method of Buddhism, you might retain the method so as to relate it to others if you so choose, but you no longer need it for personal reasons. You are no longer a Buddhist as such, any more than a child remains a child after using the teachings of his parents to mature into adulthood.
So, for anyone wondering whether I am in fact a closet Buddhist, hopefully that question is now answered.
Okay, thanks for listening.
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30 Proofs of God's Existence
HELLO, GOD-FEARING PEOPLE.
Welcome to this special edition of 'Men of the Infinite'. You've been waiting for it, and now here it is...
30 Proofs of God's Existence:
- We can never really prove or disprove the existence of God. Therefore, God exists.
- The essence of being human is the freedom to choose. If there was no God, then there could be no choice of beliefs. Therefore, God exists.
- If there wasn't something keeping everything together, the whole Universe would fall apart. Therefore, God exists.
- God is all-powerful, and can therefore do anything he likes. Such a marvellous being would never want to not-exist. So therefore, God most certainly does exist.
- Life would be meaningless without God, and the thought of this simply makes me unhappy. We cannot live without hope. Therefore, God must exist.
- If there were no God, religion would have no meaning, and Society would tear itself apart. Therefore, God has to exist.
- Life is a miracle. All miracles come from God. Therefore, God exists.
- Even though I know very little about Nature, I feel certain that it could not have, by itself, produced things like consciousness, sunsets, and birds. Therefore, God exists.
- All of us have a yearning for something deeper, and God wouldn't have given us this yearning if he didn't actually exist. Therefore, logically, God cannot help but exist.
- The light in a child's eye comes from somewhere, and it couldn't possibly be that dull, grey mass called the brain. Therefore, the evidence points to the fact that God exists.
- The determined efforts of a child struggling to stand and make his first steps would be futile if there was no God. Therefore, God exists.
- The Bible says that God exists, and it would never lie. Therefore, God — exists.
- Millions of people believe in God, and they can't all be wrong. Therefore, God has to exist, you see.
- There are many religions in the world, and they all agree that God exists. Therefore, God exists.
- If God didn't exist, then the saints would be wasting their lives. This is simply not fair, so God has to exist.
- There have been many who have martyred themselves in the service of God. Look at the early Christians in Rome. It's simply inconceivable that they would have sacrificed themselves like this had God actually not existed. Therefore, it is clear that God exists.
- I am a person and therefore important. Therefore, God really does exist.
- When I kneel down and pray for God's forgiveness, I feel uplifted, as if touched by a higher power. Therefore, God exists.
- I've just entered into a heavenly state of consciousness, which was timeless and profound. Dreary old matter is not sufficient to explain this marvellously blissful experience. Therefore, I know that God exists.
- Since becoming a Christian, I've given up drinking and whoring, and have become a better person who cares for others. I'm currently at peace with the world. How can you account for this, other than the fact that God exists.
- When I entered the Christian community, I felt for the first time that I truly belonged. Here at last was my true family, a family I had never known. Therefore, you can have my word on it: God most certainly exists.
- Look, the Pope says He exists. Therefore, He exists.
- Even the atheist falls on his knees in a crisis and prays. What better proof that God exists?
- When I prayed to God, He cured my mother's cancer. Therefore, how can you say that God doesn't exist?
- Love is heavenly. Love is divine. Love is out of this world. Therefore, God exists.
- Unfortunately, we are only human. We cannot become perfect, as Jesus urged us to do. Therefore, God exists in order to console us.
- To believe in God enhances one's life more than not believing in Him. Therefore, God necessarily exists.
- I don't want to know anything. I just want everything to be a Great Mystery, like in childhood. I just want to bury my head in God's shoulders and cry. Therefore, God exists.
- I deserve a reward for the wretched life I've had. God wouldn't walk away from His responsibilities as Creator, and not exist, would He? Therefore, God has no other obligation, but to exist.
- Although my head tells me that God is a ludicrous concept, my heart cries out for His existence. Indeed, the fact that I see God as ludicrous is precisely a test of my faith. The more ludicrous God appears to be, the stronger is my belief in Him. Therefore, after examining the matter from all angles, I can only conclude that an infinitely ludicrous God exists.
Determinism and Indeterminism
HI FOLKS. I'M KEVIN SOLWAY, WHO makes the occasional contribution to the MenoftheInfinite channels. I don't have any videos up on my own personal channel at the moment, but if you're interested to look at my favourites or my subscriptions, you can find a link to my personal channel over there in the information pane.
In this video, there are two things I want to do.
First of all, I want to take a look at determinism and indeterminism and what they mean, if anything, hopefully untangling any of the confusion that surrounds them.
Then I want to take a look at so-called Quantum Indeterminism and whether there's anything truly extraordinary in the quantum realm that would distinguish that kind of indeterminism from ordinary, everyday interdeterminism.
The biggest problem we have in coming to an understanding of determinism and what should be its opposite, indeterminism, is that the word "determinism" has a number of different meanings, which are unrelated to each other. This leads to no end of confusion.
The first meaning of the word, determinism, is when it's used to express the idea that all things have causes, or are determined by causes:1. Things are determined (by causes)
In this case, it's not necessary to know what the causes are. It's not necessary to know what is determined.
This meaning of "determinism" is the one we use when we're speaking philosophically, such as in the classic argument against free will, which states that all our thoughts and choices are entirely the result of causes, and are therefore not free.
The second meaning of the word, determinism, and an entirely different one, is what is used to express the idea that we can determine or predict what's going to happen in the future, based on our knowledge of the causes, which of course need to be known to us:2. We can determine (the causes and consequences)
This second meaning, naturally enough, is most common in the scientific world, because science would like to predict the future as much as is possible.
Likewise, matching the two different determinisms, there are two different indeterminisms.
The philosophical one, meaning, things are not determined by causes, and the scientific one, meaning, we cannot determine or know the causes or the consequences.
- Things are not determined (by causes)
- We cannot determine (the causes and consequences)
Philosophical determinism doesn't tell us anything about whether an event is predictable. It only claims that things are caused. And scientific indeterminism doesn't tell us about whether a thing is caused, but only claims that causes cannot be determined or known.
These philosophical and scientific concepts come from entirely different spheres of interest, and they don't overlap or intersect at any point. Unfortunately, human begins are extremely vague thinkers, and don't like to clearly define their terms, so a lot of the argument and confusion over determinism and indeterminism arises because of a failure to clearly distinguish between the philosophical and scientific concepts.
Making the problem even worse is that science has become a religion in many respects, replacing the old traditional religions, and scientific indeterminism has become the God of this new religion: a vaguely defined God, just like the Christian one, which is specifically designed to resist investigation and attack.
The follower of this religion wants his indeterminism, his God, to be both philosophic and scientific, in just the same way as the Christian wants their God to be all things: they want free will, and they want mystery; they want power, and they want to be slaves. All logic goes out the window.
So, now that we've solved the problem of determinism and indeterminism, I want to dispel another myth. Specifically, about scientific indeterminism.
It's argued by the followers of this new religion of science, along with sundry followers of the New Age, that indeterminism in the quantum realm is of a fundamentally different type to the indeterminism of the everyday world, and they give it the title, "Quantum Indeterminacy,".
But how, I ask, is quantum indeterminacy any different to normal, everyday indeterminacy? When I throw a die, it is inherently impossible for me to predict what number I will throw. The unpredictability is a result of two things:
- Firstly, I don't know what causes are operating on the die when it is thrown. For all I know, someone could be manipulating the die from thousands of miles away, with some kind of tractor beam.
- And the second reason is, even if I could know what the causes were, which I can't, I'd never be able to measure them exactly, because I can't measure anything to an infinite number of decimal places' accuracy. Any measurements I do make will have a margin of error associated with them anyway.
So the reasons for indeterminacy in the everyday world are exactly the same as the reasons for indeterminacy in the quantum realm. Exactly the same.
It is simply a limitation of what we are able to know.
As I see it, the followers of this new religion of science are trying to make quantum physics into a kind of church, which houses their God, and they want it to have its own rules, and something really special: a land of magic and miracles. They're attempting a mystification of science, but that's really just turning science over to religion.
A note from transcriber:
Subsequent transcripts have not been added, but the videos, particularly 'Compartmentalisation', are well-worth investigating.
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