Silicon Life, Consciousness, and Miraculous Intelligence

“Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s” – Matthew 22:21

The following is based on a fascinating email exchange with a friend with an interest in science & technology, and a deep interest in spirituality.

The origins of the dialogue was that it became ever more clear to me that true general AI, and AC (Artificial Consciousness) were not possible because of fundamental misconceptions about intelligence and the nature of reality (see my in-process article “There Is No Such Thing as Artificial Intelligence: Notes On The Myth of AI” and Kastrup). My friend goes to the same meditation and dialogue that I do, and we started discussing this: I had a notion that AI may be possible, despite his observation of the misguided ego-based aims and unconscious drives of the Singularity-believers (who he is personally familiar with, having attended Singularity University). Thus arose a discussion in person that continued via email. Block-quoted paragraphs are the friend:

“One argument I have is that if there’s no personal doer then consciousness is creating the play as it chooses so why not Silicon or machine based perceptual apparatus.

Maybe this is not a good argument, I am not attached to it.

Maybe unrelated but on ways consciousness expresses itself there’s a lot of that in Eastern philosophy. It is interesting how many Western folks cherry pick Eastern non-dualism. For instance, how about mantra and prana the animating power in all beings and their relationship. Nisargadatta talked a lot about that. Also, Ramana hailed his Guru as mountain Arunachala. It was the mountain that pulled him in that direction. There is mount Kailash recognized by non dual indian saints as well, who are very popular in the west.

An artificial holder of consciousness is also known as Shiva Lingam. Here a few articles that I can think of along these lines,

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prana_Pratishtha
http://isha.sadhguru.org/blog/yoga-meditation/science-of-yoga/science-history-creating-lingas/

On the jewish side, there are golems
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golem

Eric:
The following quote to me addresses pretty well the projection of a notion of consciousness onto inanimate objects, as is done in idolatry (lingas, etc.):
“The problem with panpsychism is, of course, that there is precisely zero evidence that any inanimate object is conscious. To resolve an abstract, theoretical problem of the materialist metaphysics one is forced to project onto the whole of nature a property – namely, consciousness – which observation only allows to be inferred for a tiny subset of it – namely, living beings. This is, in a way, an attempt to make nature conform to theory, as opposed to making theory conform to nature. (Page 19)”
from: THE COGNITIVE SHORT-CIRCUIT OF ‘ARTIFICIAL CONSCIOUSNESS’ by Bernardo Kastrup

“I am not sure if there is such a thing as inanimate object. What’s a living being exactly? [Nikola] Tesla said that crystals have an experience but we don’t know what their experience is.”

No one knows what life is, or how it arose, or where it begins or stops (is a retrovirus “alive”?), in space or on this planet. But rather than concluding it has no definition (both conceptually and materially as a boundary), one can look into the intuition and see that the arising of life and of consciousness were co-occurrences. Since consciousness is in the eternal Now, so is Life. Life arose on the planet as a necessary pre-condition for the mind that contemplates its existence, which is using this organic form to write these words. The universe reflects on it’s own nature via this vehicle, which has eyes, vision, hearing, arms legs, language, tools, and the whole play of phenomenal existence arose in this field of consciousness of this planet that finds expression here and from within you. Minerals, rocks, plants, trees, animals, primates, humans are all needed in that one concert and dance. They are all part of consciousness. They are not all sentience though. They are orderly, and follow the laws of nature, which is the spiritual laws of thinking. But the projections we call rocks are not mind-like in the mind-like of sentience that arose via animals to create egos. An ego is a point of view created by a perceptual apparatus – these perceptual apparatuses are a linear point within the non-linear reality, that create the illusion that there is a point of view and a sequence to perceiving, like a delay or slowing down hat gives the appearance of time and cause and effect. The infinite has to be somehow limited in order to play this game. The infinite that writes these words is not different from any other part of the infinite: nothing is excluded, yet everything has it’s proper and perfect place in the whole at every moment. So since “inanimate” (an old and not entirely useful word in this context, since all it really implies is movement, as in animals – but plants are alive and slowly moving) objects are part of this play, they play a role that at the same timeless time both conscious in an absolute sense, and unconscious in a relative sense. So a crystal would only have an experience is so much as it partakes of one’s interaction as potential in a moment, such as a scientists doing a quantum experiment on it or an artist using it to refract light. But a crystal does not have a point of view – there is not something it is like to be a crystal. It experiences no qualia, other than in your imagination.

“For Ramana, Arunachala was his guru.”

Sure, anything that inspires one can be your guru. A mountain, a book, a scarab, an obelisk, nature, another apparent human… “Guru” just means teacher. But the insight is coming from within – “in-sight”: sight from within. In other words, and ultimately, life is an inside-out experience. There’s nothing out there that isn’t a projection of the mind – universe and mind arise together when there is a movement we call thought. When there’s no movement then there is no apparent any-thing (localized). There is only one teacher – that is why Robert Adams, Laura and such always say you are Robert Adams, you are Christ, you are Buddha, and so forth.

“Also, why is it that the structure of a human exhibits a certain behavior and a rock doesn’t.”

See answer 1. above.

“What does it have to be Carbon?”

It doesn’t have to be in theory, except that it *is* Carbon-based, as this writer and the reader of this right now (though “carbon” and Carbon-based are concepts). Everything else is imagination. Spirituality (and science) is about facts, not imagination (though the imagination can help at times, then is discarded). But you could have non-Carbon life, Silicon life or whatever you want in science fiction (which I love), or in theory.

“This by the way is not my argument supporting panpsychism. I am not saying a rock is inanimate, I would say it has a different kind of experience (I am not eager to verbalize what that experience is). If it doesn’t satisfy my sense organs that doesn’t mean the object is inanimate or lacking life.”

Not sure what you mean by “satisfy”: an aesthetic experience, or a conceptual criteria? Most of my views above on Life are either via intuition or a combination of intuition and knowledge of natural science, and my own observation of nature.
I wouldn’t call your view panpsychism so much as good old-fashioned idolatry, which can be of material objects, concepts, practices, systems, the body, the brain, or any objects at all in consciousness, even values. It just mean a projection of the divine outward, to my way of seeing it. To put it in religious language “…idolatry connotes the worship of something or someone other than God as if it were God” (Wikipedia)

“The psychedelic and meditation communities and the tantras , Kashmir Shaivism , Tibetan buddhism are full of literature on this by the way).”

The literature, scriptures, and communities are full of all kinds of spiritual errors or limitations of view. They aren’t wrong and serve a function within the whole, like parts of a cosmic puzzle. Awake-ness wants to awake by going to sleep first, and dreaming a dream as convoluted and intricate as can be spun as an infinite mind that arose from infinite intelligence could, then make it conscious. That’s the story in my book anyway…

The Three Principles and The Direct Path

What is the difference between the 3P and direct path methods? The direct path is a path of spiritual enquiry wherein one goes directly to truth, rather than through steps (also called the “progressive path”). It is a process of seeing through the beliefs of who and what you thought you are, and being pointed (by a teacher, if you want to go faster) to what you actually are. Paths that are indirect use various practices as well as (sometimes) objects of devotion. The practices are meant to purify, prepare, and undo conditioning. They happen through time. The direct approach is, well more direct (hard to describe how something can happen outside of time! that’s where “transmission” of truth comes in, and unconditional, impersonal Love). Practices can include meditation, bodywork like yoga, chanting, lying on a bed of nails or various forms of asceticism. There are as many forms of practices and techniques as there are potentials in the mind for creating things to get rid of (endless in other words), and ways and means of preparing a person. The direct path gets straight to the point and informs you there is no person to begin with.

The common basis with the 3P then is there is no reliance on techniques or motivation, but rather the attempt to impart an understanding. The understanding – a moment of suddenly seeing for oneself, the Aha! moment – that there never was a problem to begin with, were it not for your use of the power of mind (thought), the gift of universal Consciousness, and the infinite intelligence of Mind. The traditional direct path teachings put it in terms of Consciousness, folding in Mind as that aspect that is the infinite innate intelligence of life (which is in consciousness), and talk in terms of the “bodymind”: the sum of personal thinking, feeling and perception we place in an arbitrary and illusory container we call ourselves, which really only exists *within* consciousness. Consciousness is the only reality.

The 3P are not usually taught in such a bold way as to come across as a spiritual teaching, given the secular context of our Western culture, and the psychological context of it’s origins and name (not to mention it’s taught as self-improvement, such as for business performance or in schools). For example, students will usually assume “consciousness” means some localized, personal phenomenon, probably coming from the brain. Likewise the notion of universal mind will seem a little strange, unless put in terms that sound religious, like “God” (which is also dualistic: there is a “me” and a God somewhere). Given the contexts of teaching, there are concessions made to an audience that for the most part couldn’t swallow something as direct as a direct path teaching. The 3P are also, more and more, being adopted as a coaching model, and so starts to become, or seem, as akin to a technology or system. It is sometimes even called a technology or as “scientific” (it’s not: science is about phenomenon, and consciousness is not a phenomenon, it’s what appearances take place *in*).

There is also the fact that the 3P originated, or were catalyzed, in the response of a enlightenment experience (of Sydney Banks) and his early exposure to modern psychology. This exposure came in the form of psychologists like George Pransky ( a very ambitious man) and Roger Mills, who came to visit him, curious about reports of people getting happier. Thus their form reflects the history and the intent. While the field has changed in the 20 years I’ve been observing or participating in it, I did witness a liberating focus on the contrast with traditional psychology and therapy (something I also had exposure to, as a patient of therapists and as a student of psychology). Sometime this contrast was put in terms of, seeing how psychology looks to ones’ past, digs into memories, and tries to solve problems using the tools of the mind, thus re-creating the very source of the problem in the first place. The analogy is telling someone that the cure to burning one’s hand on a stove is to place the hand back on the stove! Sometimes the contrast was in terms of “processing thinking” versus “flow thinking (or experience)”. Indeed, it was a 180 degree turn from traditional therapy to not be directed to get involved in memory, and be told one is already healthy. Most importantly, the attention was directed to the function of thought, and the total context in which thinking in the moment is taking place, rather than the content of thought. Almost all other approaches are focused on content: how to change it, fix it, explain it, access it, talk about it, control it, and so forth. Indeed, for some it is so eye-opening to be told they are the thinkers of their thoughts and that this is what is creating their experience, that it totally transforms them. For others, it was little more difficult (myself included: I needed a more direct and intellectually clear teaching).

One can start to see what some of the difficulties are for a teaching model that tries to get at the core of what we are, in order to release greater human potential, such as happiness, love, harmoniousness, creativity and peace of mind. What is being pointed to will be taken in by the “small self” – the mind, or “ego” – and turned into a new set of beliefs, or rules to follow, or something to be understood by the mind. This is the model we grow up with: we go to school to gain some knowledge and skills and get a grade and award and stamp of approval. But here we are asked to stop believing things, unlearn what we learned, and let go of who and what we thought we were. Such a thing has to be introduced gently and gingerly. It is as radical as you could get. The word “radical” come from “forming the root’ and ‘inherent’”. It is being pointed towards what is inherent: freedom and happiness.

The false self is akin to an entrenched political bureaucracy. It will do anything it can to preserve itself, including lying, trying to control, manipulate, beg steal or borrow another day of existence. It will absorb any new teaching and claim it as it own. The ego will morph into infinite forms to pretend to be what it is not: real. It will even pretend to be spiritual in the name of a new self, trying to get out of self by more self-ing. What a cosmic joke! What it fears s non-existence: absolute disappearance. Ironically, the functioning of the false self just is this movement of thought: a self-preserving illusion. As such, it takes effort to maintain, and this energy and effort is felt in the form of tension, stress, depression, conflict with others and with oneself, and a million other symptoms of unhappiness and dis-ease of body and mind. This goes on outside of the direct awareness, and thus is called “unconscious” or “blind spots”, and is the reason why becoming conscious of these patterns and games spells their dissolution. When light is thrown on a shadow that looked like a snake, suddenly the snake disappears: it was never there in the first place!

This message is quite in contrast to the culture at large, which trades in what are supposed to be the objects of happiness: persons, places, and things. But many come to feel at a loss for why they are not happy even though they have it all. Or, they are at a loss to why they can’t get anything at all, the things according to which they were told or assumed, would make them happy.

Notes:
see also Direct vs Indirect paths. (Immediate vs Progressive paths)

About Needing “Grounding” and Spiritual Teaching

The question often comes up, what is meant by “grounding”. Am I “grounded” and how can I tell if someone else is “grounded”? The question was spurred by my participation in forums of the spiritual psychology movement known as The Three Principles (3P)*, which is where I hear this question often, and occasionally in the context of other spiritual communities, such as Advaita vedanta.

What follows are some of my initial thoughts: think of this as an editorial (but with a large grain of truth, based in experience, happily!).

That one needs “grounding” is not the best metaphor in my view, as it bring to mind an image of a *thing*. Or it sounds like achieving a certain state. It really simply means you can only give or teach who, or really, what you are. You can only teach what you know.

Would you go to a poor man to learn how to be rich? No, you would go to a rich man and get some clues from him. Likewise, would you go to a teacher who is miserable, or worried, or driven, or somehow not completely free and happy, in order to learn how to be happy?

So ask yourself:
1. Are you happy?
2. Is it lasting?
3. Can you show others the way?

Then, if your answer is yes to all three, some tools are handy:
A. Being a teacher (not everyone is born to be a teacher or wired that way, or have learned the skills).
B. Some good tools or metaphors, stories and analogies, like The Three Principles teaching model.
C. A strong desire to teach or a call from others who need your services.

But the model is not the territory: a grounding in the 3P is not about the 3P, it’s about what the 3P are pointing to: what’s been called the “inside-out nature of life”. This is often confused. You could take 300 classes and seminars and study the 3P for 30 years and be certified and stamped as “grounded” and learn everything backwards and forwards and be able to recite it and write books and give seminars, and still not be actually, truly grounded.

As a side note, I seem to remember George Pransky, in one of his talks, mentioning an episode of trying to implement a certification system (with Sydney Banks’s – the originator of what become the 3P – help I think), and looking at grounding, but they realized there was no objective way to measure it, and the project was scrapped. Who is to say who is “grounded”? Would it be the highest guru or teacher? Who certifies that? It would have to be God, but unfortunately, the various direct channels to him are alas, back to square one: us imperfect, generally incompletely realized, subjective humans. So… only you, the “grounded”, know for sure, and the students may get an inkling too, as well as other teachers, from how happy they become and the kind of vibe they pick up from you. But no one but you can say for sure. It’s just like with religious or spiritual teachers: you can only measure it, as it were, from the fruits of the teaching and understanding: are people becoming happier and more free, or are there all kinds of shenanigans going on, that indicate ego at work (an extreme example would be religious or cultic leaders like Osho or Jim Jones).

So how can you measure it? You can’t, but you could tell by the fruits (see the 3 questions at the start of this essay).

And like “grounding”, the 3P are not a thing, it’s a set of concepts, a metaphor, indicating towards the source of experiencing, the reality of which cannot be grasped by the mind (understood intellectually), as it is pointing out what is behind your every experience, right here and now and anytime. The understanding is experiential in essence, as it is not only about experience, but is experience. And the quality of that unfolding experience will change, yet be “grounded” in that which does not change: the unnameable reality of “Mind” or “Consciousness” or whatever you want to call the source of experience. It is a self-rewarding process, not dependent on externals. It’s a love affair with Truth, as it were.
The 3P are just a tool to show the way to knowing what you are, just like all paths: non-duality, Buddhism, mystical Christianity, whatever.
The 3P are not a thing, just a pointer, a teaching tool.

Sometimes I think the 3P are too complicated, because in being derived from psychology, or as an answer to the old psychology, or packaged as a kind of psychology, it becomes a thing to understand, learn, study (another thought form). However, what you need to do is *unlearn* all the false beliefs about what you’ve concluded is “you” and allow the unfolding, the flowering of what you *really* are: that is what the 3P and all the teachers have been trying to point out. It’s about reality as fact, not as thought (what you think you are, or thought you were, or what you thought reality was…). In this sense it is similar to the Direct Path.

Why do you think Syd Banks (the enlightened founder) kept pulling the rug out from under these psychologists who were developing the models, and coaches, laying down the law, and for example having them pull their tapes that were getting too much into detail about specific psychological issues, and telling them “You don’t understand the Three Principles!”, and saying “It’s Spiritual!” to psychologists like Mark Howard, before he was about to give a talk? (See Jack Pransky’s book, Paradigm Shift, for more details about historical incidents like these).

Ground down to its essence (no pun intended), the 3P’s aim is to show you that right now, there is only one thing in the way of being happy: your thinking. And parenthetically, I believe this is why the “Single Paradigm” teaching has arisen, thanks to folks like Dr. Keith Blevens & Valda Monroe, to try and get to the “purity” (ugh, another deceptive word and concept) of the teaching or message or method.

The result of this insight or grounding is that one sees things from the inside-out instead of outside-in. Peace and happiness are seen to be innate, and things “out there” in what we took to be a solid objective reality, we realize couldn’t be causing unhappiness or distress. Of course, there is no inside and outside – that’s the point – we created a duality and set ourselves against a world: a world of our imagination. Ineffably, reality is found to be friendly and harmonious. It has built-in super-intelligence, that goes beyond our piddling personal will.

On top of that is the commercialization, the attempt and desire to “apply” it, making it more of a thing to study and commodify. Therefore you have to certify or prove your “grounding” and worth in the marketplace. It also becomes goal-oriented: you’re trying to get something out of it, for the self that needs to be looked at for it’s reality in the first place: so do you come to the teaching with ulterior motives, or is it a truly impartial looking and investigation?
There is nothing wrong with getting paid for a service, and trying to help others to be happy and free, but if a business or career goal is the initial or primary motivation, before one has even found one’s “grounding” and Source, you are playing a game with your mind. It’s just like the game of self-improvement: you will never “get there”, because you are starting from the assumption of what is the problem in the first place: the little self, the thought-derived false entity, or “ego” (I don’t like that word because it carries too much baggage from psychology and Freudian concepts of self). So one, in essence, ends up applying a tool without knowing what it’s for!

In my opinion, no one should be teaching the 3P or other spiritually-based teachings unless such an impulse came about as a spontaneous realization – whether from studying the 3P or not it doesn’t matter – and they are a (born or made) teacher, and their primary motivation is love of what they do, and a continual subjective flowering of their true self. If they have a object-oriented outlook (i.e., they see themselves an as object, the world as objective, and they have an objective, and see you as an object…) and see others as means to an end, watch out: misery-lane ahead, confusion will ensue, and/or you could end up wasting a lot of time (and money). Although, the truth is, whatever “mistakes” you make, or “bad” teachers you encounter, will also be a part of your true path: they will help you discriminate the wheat from the chaff.

There’s also the interesting misperception in the spiritual community that if you become “enlightened” (who becomes enlightened?) you automatically become a teacher. Not so…
Likewise someone could have the world’s deepest “grounding” in the 3P and not become a teacher or coach…

Finally, it’s very important to see that by working on oneself, by becoming happier in a true way, in and of itself, becoming more of who you really are, you are automatically helping the entire world, the entire universe – because you are that. Like ripples in a pond, light spreads endlessly. Do not set out to save the world (we’ve had enough Pol Pots and Hitlers and Stalins, thank you very much). In truly and absolutely freeing yourself, you are of service to all. So start with yourself, and start from where you are. Don’t make the focus others – there are no others – or the world. Be in this world but not of it: transcend thought, be the observer of the mind-created universe. That is the best way to help humanity and the planet, etc, paradoxically. Let it unfold naturally, effortlessly…

To end, I’ll mention that in my life I’ve taken a long tour as it were, through many different wisdom traditions, all pointing to the same nothing (no-thing). And here I am, feeling very light, not knowing who I am – so it’s more like a not-taking oneself (the real, serious, fake self) seriously, and not knowing: a kind of mature innocence, a freedom.

But to teach something takes skill, and a love of it, and there are some people who are born teachers. It’s also good to have a good repertoire of tools, like a gift for or memory for words, stories, helpful concepts, a vehicle for your clear understanding. And a calling…
Personally, I have always enjoyed creating stuff and writing, and spontaneous conversations with friends and strangers. So that’s what I do. It could change – never say never. But now is now.

My 3 cents. 🙂 Keep it simple …

*(The Three Principles are universal Mind, Consciousness, and Thought).