Is Self Realization for You?

The fact is, there’s nothing in it (Non-duality, Self-realization, Enlightenment…) for you, but everything is in it for “no ones”: for those ready and willing to realize they are literally no one and no thing.

Why would someone want nothing? No one wants nothing. Everybody wants something. And many people want to “be someone”, and almost everyone thinks they are someone.

The hard thing for many to fathom about the teaching of non-duality and similar wisdom paths leading to (supposed) Realization of the Self, is that it’s not for the body-mind, the sense-mind. There are benefits to one’s life (in the long run – in the short run things can get worse if it brings up subterranean thinking that needs to be seen), but they’re more like side-effects.

If you supposedly experience “bliss”, in a state of self-realization, and it’s not for or of the body, then how can you experience it? It seems like a contradiction or a paradox

To briefly mention some “side-effects” I’ve noticed for the author: an improvement in health over time so one can be an instrument of the universal (until the body gets ready to be dropped), better rapport in relationships and a sifting out of good from bad friends, less neediness, more harmonious and enjoyable business dealings, clarity of thinking, loss of stress, an intensified appreciation of beauty, the perception of an “undeserved” love that is staggering and humbling, the perception of the extraordinary in the ordinary, the gradual or sudden dropping away of bad habits, less need for being entertained or for fruitless socializing, an increase and serendipity and insight.

However, don’t expect this. Expectation keeps you from finding what you want. Don’t expect anything. Yup, another paradox

Why does expectation chase away that which one is looking for? Let’s say you were a flower, and wanted to attract a butterfly, and you had special flower-powers and were able to move around – maybe a mad scientist created you and you had muscles and nevers and feet and eyes and you could run about in the world.  So you’re sitting there as this special flower with special powers of movement, and you have a magnificent new flower bud, and you see a butterfly flitting around you. You want the butterfly to pollinate you. Would you chase after it and try and grab it? No, the butterfly would run away. You would open. You would open that flower bud, and relax. The bee is looking for you. There’s no reason to chase it. As an open flower, the butterfly is all about finding you. No problem. Total cooperation and harmony, if allowed. 

Happiness is your true nature, and you are not chasing it so much as it is pulling you in. The friendly pollinating butterfly is coming to you. The flower and the butterfly are one thing, one movement. There’s nothing to fight. Nothing coming towards anything. Nothing and nothing. Nothing happening, anywhere.

And the crazy thing is, the funny thing is, as adults we have learned to run away from happiness, in the process of trying to run to it.

“The winds of God’s grace are always blowing, it is for us to raise our sails.” ~ Sri Ramakrishna

So back to “what’s in it for me?”  What’s the point, if you can’t go into this journey and expect something in it for one’s personal life, or for someone – what’s the point if it shows you “I don’t exist” or there are no such things as separate entities, and I discover I’m not a body or a person? “That sounds like a major loss to me!” I can hear someone saying. Almost like a kind of death. Indeed, it is sometimes called or explained as an “ego death”. Sounds very dramatic, scary even… 

It sounds like there’s going to be this big explosion, like a mushroom cloud, a flash of light, and “Boom!” your self is gone, you light up like a Christmas tree and the top of your head blows off, and a big crater is left on the top of your head, and you’re left wandering the streets. Then you’ll go and just sit in a cave, because you don’t care anymore, you found your bliss, so you quit your job and left your family and wear a loincloth, sitting in a lotus posture with your eyes rolled back into your head… 
“How will I function!” without a self. 

Pretty funny huh.

It’s not quite like that.

Unfortunately spiritual teachers promote the idea of some big event happening, some dramatic opening. They will have a story about an experience. They may explain that it didn’t happen in time, that it was a timeless event (another paradox), yet in hearing this or reading it,  how can the mind not picture it as a something and a some-when for someone?

If we aren’t at peace or totally happy with our lives, naturally we think we want or need to change something or get something. Changes happen in time. Changes happen for objects, for people. Getting things, whether they are physical objects or relationships or ideas, or states of mind, happen in time and space.

Are you really giving up something worth holding onto, and are you really not gaining anything? What are “gain” and “loss”? It depends on your perspective. To put it in gross physical terms, if you had a cancerous growth on your face, you’d want to lose it (even if you loved it in the process, as some mind-body therapists might implore us), unless you were so dis-identified with the body at a late stage that you didn’t care, you would consider that loss a gain. Or, if you were given an opportunity to gain a million dollars (and you weren’t on your deathbed, where it wouldn’t matter), you’d consider it a gain. Psychologically, if we had old hurts, resentments, pain, anger, or any negative energies, you’d think we would want to give them up. That loss would be a gain, psychically speaking. But in fact we can find it very hard to let go, even when we believe we want to or are ready to. This is a strange quality of the human experience: that we can seem to want so badly to hold on to what seems to be painful and hurtful, such that we can’t let go.

“On the path you never give up anything, you just take on more and more of what you really want until you have the All.”
~ Lester Levenson, Keys to Ultimate Freedom

Have you ever tried to argue with a depressed person – in other words, discuss what they think their problems are, when you can see they are small problems or don’t exist now at all? They will fight you tooth and nail to hold on to what they see, what they believe.

Why is this? Because it is attached to who and what we think we are.

A bridge that may help you see the connection between the strange human perversity that enjoys suffering, that holds onto negativity from the past, that seems to want or need drama and conflict, and become addicted to things–behaviors or substances for example (that hurt us physically and socially)—is the repetitive nature of thought and identity.

Indeed, how can one have a fresh thought, a creative idea, a new outlook, or be present with a loved one or a beautiful scene in nature if the thought-machine is running you?

The point is, all beings want to be happy, because we have the seed in us of knowing who or what we really are, but that seed is revealed and grown in discovering we are not who we thought we were (as strange or as funny as that can sound). Or, another way of putting it is that self-realization is not what we thought it was. We were looking for something that was for us personally, or if we are a little more selfless (or trying to be, or think of ourselves as), that would benefit our family or group or nation or culture or humanity itself…

“What is politics? It’s a mechanism of force and control. In a society where everyone loves everyone do you need politics? If you want to help the world, help yourself grow, and you’ll do far more than you could by being involved in politics.”
~ Lester Levenson, Keys to Ultimate Freedom

…Or at least a better a state of mind. But our state of mind is constantly shifting. And people die, relationships end, children grow up, families fall apart, move away, dissipate, are forgotten; objects decay or are lost or broken or thrown away or sold. Species come and go – even the human species is undergoing change; and in any case, no one knows if Homo sapiens will survive, or if it does, in what form. Eventually the solar system will blow up when the sun does, or burn up when the sun expands into a red giant. Maybe humans will move out in to the stars, and be a different kind of species. No one knows. To a god this would all happen in the blink of an eye. Time is relative.

Why is it so important to see what changes and what doesn’t? Because it gives you a clue as to what’s illusory and what’s real. On the surface it may appear that a flickering, moving, waving candle flame is as real as it gets, for indeed if you put your finger in it, it will be very painful and burn your flesh. So from the Western scientific, materialist perspective, even something as ephemeral as a candle flame or the ionized invisible gas in a fluorescent light or in outer space, or the trace of a quark particle in the bubble chamber of a collider, is absolutely real and objective. It exists independently of your thought of it, your experience of it, or in fact anyone’s experience of it. The proverbial tree falling in a forest that no one hears, is getting yet another sounding here…

This may seem like esoteric philosophy, or something to argue in a chat forum on FaceBook or at a debate club at college, but in fact it bears fruit if you consider it closely: what is always present, regardless of circumstances or state of mind? What is always here? You are. Your presence, your awareness, your consciousness. The fact of your existence, your being-ness: it is the common factor in the entire span of your life. That which is aware, even in sleep, in dreams, or when in deep sleep, even if not remembered, even if the content of the awareness does not seem coherent, is your primordial awareness.

So who are you?

Are you your body, your names, your fears and desires? Are you what you are perceiving, or what is perceiving? If you assume it’s your brain, look again.

This question not only has implications for your mortality, it suggests a way to love and how to be happy.

Because this “happiness” of what we are (I put it in quotes because it’s not the “happiness” as normally thought of or advertised in the media, or assumed in most thinking and discussions) is not personal or human or a mental state – it’s not passing. It’s not passing like all things of the mind and body are, all normal experiences of daily and nightly life seem to come and go. Even thoughts come and go. People come and go. The body changes. There seem to be stable objects in our lives, like houses and cars and rocks and mountains and trees, but those are constantly appearing different and over time weather and change and die or dissolve or crumble or blow up or burn down or rust. So as solid permanent separate objects they exist only as a concept in our mind, and concepts too cannot be held but must be picked up again, repeated, or written down. But even when written down, what is written down will dissolve, not last. Even digital material must constantly be be transferred, repeated, re-written in new media. Ancient libraries lost many books to fires or natural processes.

Should we be sad about all this, be in despair, about the ephemeral nature of life and the world and ideas? If we look to the world, “All is vanity and a chasing after wind” as the famous quote from Ecclesiastes puts it, remarking on the vanity of human life.

But there is the experience of beauty, love, and truth, in the human experience. These are not in objects if we look: the beauty is not in nature, because if we look at the same object again, at another time or another state of mind, we don’t see it, or if another person looks they don’t see it or see it differently, and our experience of that beautiful mountain changes every time and every moment. But we continue to have experiences of beauty. Beauty is always available. Beauty is available even if we are not experiencing it at any given moment. It is there in potential, even if veiled by or in the present moment. What is it veiled by? That is a very important thing to discover.

We have experienced love, but it too seem to fluctuate, come and go, depending on the moment, the person, the object, the animal, the situation, the state of mind… But we all have had moments when the veil of appearances seemed to lift, and we felt something timeless. Then the mind came in and tried to claim it, and the experience of love vanished like the wind again. The mind tried to attach it to a person, or an object or a situation, or even a beautiful place. So we return to that person, object, situation or place, and it may be there, or may not – there does not seem to be anyway to possess, hold onto, guarantee, or control the love. No insurance policy will protect it. No arrangement will secure it forever or even tell us if we can trust it will be there the next day, or hour for that matter. Something could change. Loss happens. Loss may incur suffering and spur us to look deeper, or to seek solace in any number of ways: new relationships, drugs, business pursuits, nature, hobbies, projects… The new object may be God. But religion and God or based on something out there, or somewhere, maybe a different plane of existence, or a separate state or entity we are wanting to reach or be in harmony with, or a right set of beliefs. These too come and go, since they are projections of the mind, or made of thought.

We have seen some truth, but then questions come in. Whose truth is it, is it a relative truth: will it be different for someone else? How do I know for certain if it’s true, or what to believe, or who to believe? What’s real? These are questions philosophers worry about, and most of us don’t, or feel we can’t spend the time on them, or have the interest to go deep into them. We either rely on others for answers, or have some answers we hold, even if they are unconscious, that we think are good enough for us, at least for the moment, while we get on with living, enjoying and suffering, desiring and fearing. We all have a philosophy of living, at some level. These question are the the meaning or source of, and point to the truth of “The unexamined life is not worth living”, and “Know thyself” of Socrates (c. 470 – 399 BC) and the ancient Greeks.
Socrates also said “I know that all I know is that I do not know anything”: the original and most classic of skeptical statements, but also a statement pointing beyond the relative knowledge of the mind, and the humility inherent in wisdom. Another wise Greek, even earlier than Socrates, Parmenides (born c. 515 BC) contrasted “the way of opinion”, with regard to the world of appearances, in which one’s sensory faculties lead to conceptions which are false and deceitful” with that of permanent, immortal Truth: “Being is and non-being is not.”

I think it’s interesting that so many philosophers, teachers of wisdom, and sages through the ages have converged on the same truth expressed in different ways in different eras in different languages: Descartes’ “I think therefore I am”, which in the original Latin or French, and in the context of which it was made reads more like he is pointing to Consciousness and the pure fact of existing—that is, Being—rather than Thought, for he was pointing out how this present experience could all be a dream or a hallucination created by a demon (the modern version of this is that I could be a simulation in a computer somewhere, like in The Matrix). In which case, what do I know for certain? Simply that I exist, even if I do not know the ultimate nature of “I”. And to know that I exist, don’t I have to be conscious? I certainly have to be conscious to say it, or discuss it in an intelligent manner. No computer has or I believe will ever, discuss philosophy in any more than a surface, mechanical, repeated way.

The statement that “that which changes is an illusion and that which is eternal is real”, is more than a abstract or technical philosophical statement. It has enormous implications for what one values, for what one thinks is important in life, for where one places one’s energies and sets one’s priorities. The question of “how to live” is as old as mankind, and was what I was obsessed with after graduating with a philosophy degree (which was useless for telling me how to be happy, how to find love, or what to do with my life).

What is there to hold on to? Nothing. Only this. Only freedom. Only what’s real, which cannot be described.

Can one name the eternal?

The entries in this blog are an ongoing exploration into this eternal mystery, the formless and form-full reality we seem to inhabit. It’s looking squarely at the paradox of life: I both exist and do not exist!

Notes on Prophets, Mystics, Sages, Philosophers and All That Good Stuff

Last night I watched an entertaining musical from the 70’s, Jesus Christ Superstar. I saw it when I was a kid. Very enjoyable music and great lyrics.
Then for something less dramatic and more meditative before bed, I read some of The Gospel of Thomas until I got sleepy. (http://www.gnosis.org/naghamm/gthlamb.html)

My reflections this morning:

In those densest of times, such as when the Buddha appeared – heavy civilizations full of complex organizations, thinking, rituals, ideas, political structures, social patterns; heavy with unconscious patterns, the past (held thoughts form sense-mind)
come these prophets
Jesus in Roman times, certainly full of politics and strife, tension, materialism, organization, culture, intricacy of thinking, language
Mohamad into tribal dirt and chaos?
Heavy with beliefs, superstitions, presumptions and assumptions

How is a prophet or a sage different from a philosopher? A philosopher examines the current thinking, looks at what other philosophers have said, and reshapes it as best he can, getting insights and new thoughts along the way to clarify and possibly enlighten, creating new shapes, like new pottery
Whereas what does a sage do? Does he break the pot? A sage reveals the light and the clay that is making all pots, now, in timeless Reality. And takes no credit for it since he and the light and clay-maker are the same, whereas the philosopher has his object and himself and the potter, and ponders where it all came from and where it is going.

Perhaps this is the esoteric meaning behind these lines from The Gospel of Thomas:

(16) Jesus said, “Men think, perhaps, that it is peace which I have come to cast upon the world. They do not know that it is dissension which I have come to cast upon the earth: fire, sword, and war. For there will be five in a house: three will be against two, and two against three, the father against the son, and the son against the father. And they will stand solitary.”

(http://www.gnosis.org/naghamm/gthlamb.html)

But now, today, isn’t a time in history when a singular prophet would be accepted. They would be drowned out in the noise, and considered crazy. It’s a worldwide culture, interconnected with media and networks and subtle ideas. It’s more a time when the sages sprout like mushrooms in fields where countless shapes emerge, part of an overall pattern. We are now billions of people, spread over a planet, with rapid communication, not local tribes where word spreads slowly, by mouth or by clay or papyrus carried by hand or oxcart or horse or boat.
Today the world brain can be easily fed, a vast pool at its fingertips at any time, keeping the mind distracted, worried, preoccupied, fulfilling needs, desires, greed and fear. Always thinking of the future (or the past – the future thinking built from images, thoughts from the past) which never arrives, trying to secure a material condition in order to free the present, continuity is attempted by effort. The same movement of energy that’s always been, in a different form.

But in this world, whose nature is duality, there are always two sides to a situation. While there is more to pull the mind into distraction and preoccupation and not being present (speed and quantity of thinking added to), there is also the possibility of worldwide communion – video conferences and email at the speed of light – a richness of ideas (pointing to truth if one is seeking and open), and metaphors and analogies of virtual realities and game worlds that point to the nature of this field of seeming reality, and free the soul from the mind. Larger worldly ambitions are balanced by larger spiritual ambitions. The more the spiritual or metaphysical seems like they are remnants of the past, delusions, old ways of thinking, seen by the cynical, the skeptical and the scientific materialism and consumerism as laughable, contemptuous, silly, voodoo, “woowoo”; the more thinking swings one way, deeper into a dream, that which is real and awake becomes an interest intensified somewhere else, like a string being stretched on a bow, where tension is created in the distance between where the arrow pushes it out and the point of attachment at the bow end. When the arrow is released, it goes even farther. The fractal just is bigger and more elaborate, but it’s ultimate nature overall never changes. The hologram has more points and deeper circles, but is the same hologram.

“Nothing ever changes” can be read either as a sad commentary on the state of affairs of the world, or as a statement of truth about the happy fact that what Is, never dies.

Healthy Egos and Spiritual Development

Must one must first travel the arc from infant to healthy separate self or ego—a well-adapted adult ego in one’s environment and community—before passing down the other side of the rainbow, to the post-egoic state of non-dual understanding, happiness and peace, love and bliss?

I’ve heard it suggested more than once, and in more than one way—even from a prominent non-dual teacher—that one needs to develop a healthy, well-adapted ego in order to go deep into spiritual realization or to take the next step and develop into the universal “I Am” non-dual awareness at the heart of spiritual paths. The notion is expressed as, for example, in the claim that someone who has not developed a healthy, stable, “well-adapted” adult human ego—identification as a body in the environment and society—would be further “destabilized” by the non-dual teaching.

The idea is that the infant has to separate itself out from the environment, and realize it’s not his mother’s body, not the cradle it’s in, not the room—the neti neti process (not this, not that), the process of differentiation that culminates in an adult ego—would in the case of the non-dual aspirant continue this path and realize: not only am I not the world, but not the body. So this process of differentiation stops in most people, and the non-dual teaching (or “spiritual development” if you will – I don’t really like the word “spiritual” with it’s baggage) is seen as a continuation of that process.

If you took that notion seriously, that only healthy well-adapted egos are ready for the path, it would imply that some aspirants might want to take a few years (or decades?) and get some psychological help before they embark on the perilous journey of non-duality teachings. It might be tempting to think some folks just have too much psychological garbage in the way to see their way clear, or given their frail emotional and psychological state, that they might not be able to handle such a strong medicine, and fall apart.

Now, one can certainly seem to encounter what you could call “immature personalities” along the path, and even what have been called “personality disorders” in psychiatric circles, and see how potentially the teaching could be used an an excuse for spiritual bypassing (not confronting uncomfortable feelings that are operating out of consciousness awareness) or bad behavior, such as rudeness, irresponsibility, drug use, and worse. After all, it’s all me, there are no others, it doesn’t matter what I do, no practices are necessary, I’m already there, already enlightened, it’s about freedom, nothing exists, there’s no free will, etc. so it doesn’t matter what I do and other people’s hurt and pain and consequences are not real, not my doing; it’s all Me and feeling good vibrations are what it’s about, so I’ll run away from this uncomfortable relationship or situation and you can fuck off … endless mischief is possible.

On a side note, these psychiatric diagnosis and labels I see as tinged with judgement, and a view biased by the Freudian medical-based worldview (for example Narcissistic Personality Disorder” or “Borderline Personality Disorder” etc.). I see such individuals, such expressions of humanity, as deeply wounded and in pain – why else would they act so selfishly? – pain and fear are learned, as is a strong unconscious sense of identification with a separate self-belief and feeling. And I would offer that such individuals in some cases may indeed benefit first from an exposure to ethical teachings that help them be less self-centered before, or at the beginning of entering on a non-dual path, such that the nondual teachings doesn’t just give them license to be uncaring or arrogant or simply rude towards others.

But the question is, are there “unnatural” and/or unstable developments of the human ego such that one cannot or should not go on the non-dual path of spiritual development without, for example, risk getting worse, or further destabilizing a rocky sense of self? Or would one simply not benefit from delving into these ultimate truths before one is ready?

On the flip side, one could read the implication that the development of a stronger or bigger ego would somehow prepare one better for non-dual realization. This seems like a strange notion, since for one thing, it’s saying that more ignorance (in the Sanskrit sense: ignorance of one’s true nature) will make one more ready to have more knowledge—assuming it’s the right kind of ignorance (the supposedly healthy, normal, stable adult ego kind)—and for another it goes against the experience of seeing the fact that there’s just no telling what the prerequisites for Self-realization are. There have been examples of people with very loving and healthy upbringings, with well-adapted egos, having no interest in non-dual understanding or even spirituality. On the other hand, there have been those with difficult backgrounds, from families with unhealthy, unhappy egos, who go on to very high levels of Self-realization. And conversely, persons with happy childhoods and well-developed egos have experienced high levels of spiritual development and deep non-dual insights. There seems to be no predictable correlation, just as there seems to be no predictable correlation between amounts of spiritual practice and the certainty of high levels of self-realization. It’s akin to the non-correlation between income or lifestyle and non-dual realization: they are independent variables. You can perceive or argue the reverse—that there is a certain connection—but it’s a fact there is none, and this makes sense. In other words, there is no known causal link the mind can make – otherwise we’d have a world of enlightened, free and happy beings, once the cause is found in the world, formulated and dispensed. But what we truly are is “not of this world”. It’s all in God’s (or Grace’s) hands, to put it in theistic terms. This isn’t fatalistic, it’s simply pointing out it’s a timeless, causeless happiness that’s being pointed to.

This assumption of healthy egos and good, stable body-in-a-world adaptation as a prerequisite for the nondual teaching is also in contrast to what the author has seen in the field of spiritual psychology teachings, where healing of many levels and types of mental and emotional distress happen via the profound insights people have into the nature of their experience, for example realized via insights into the nature of Thought and Consciousness. This happens sometimes after simply hearing a description, or sometimes after decades of work. Needing a healthy ego first suggests that one must first heal one’s psychological issues, then graduate to a nondual spiritual stratosphere. In other words, transcendence is seen as a special gift for those who have a healthy enough ground on which to grow.

My experience is that there are countless cases of people having supposedly serious psychiatric conditions such as “clinical depression” or severe anxiety, having insights into the nature of their experience that frees them from those psychiatric conditions. This can happen very quickly, or very slowly (and I wouldn’t pretend to know why this speed or lack of is the case), and to various depths, but it appears that the ego—the sense of separation , and the thinking or believing habits, the illusory world they’d been creating (that was manifesting as psychological symptoms)—was seen through to some degree, in a moment of insight and understanding, and the inherently healthy, eternal nature of who we are as free, happy peaceful beings was realized, to varying degrees.

Thus physiological causes are seen as an effect rather than a cause: the tail was wagging the dog in traditional medically-based psychiatric cause-and-effect thinking. Of course it can go both ways: brain chemicals causing a difference in the filtering of experience—like throwing chemicals on a TV set’s circuit may cause a program to be altered overall in some unpredictable manner—or a shift in thinking causing a change in brain chemical secretion, but ultimately cause and effect are assuming time has a reality that the non-dual experience through the ages, as well as modern physics, reveals is ultimately unreal or false. That is, this thinking only applies to the world of appearances: the world and body the mind projects.

I would argue that not only is a healthy ego not necessary, but that (to whatever degree) unhealthy egoic thinking can be a spur or a springboard towards looking beyond the answers that have been given, and be exactly what is needed to look deeper in the search for happiness and truth. This is what happened in the author’s case: seeing the limits of psychotherapy and the circular game it was playing in the carnival of thinking and memory, and the spiritual bankruptcy of modern Western academic philosophy, neither which provided the answers of how to live, led to an opening to more timeless and intuitive truths, and seeking to understand and establish a more constant realization of that “revelation”. Sometimes the revelation that the sources of beauty, truth, and love come from beyond the mind occurs when one reaches the limits of what the mind and the given answers of the current society provide.

I would concur that a certain level of spiritual maturity may be needed (and some spiritual teachers claim this can be the result of what happened in previous lives—this is an idea that seems to be dependent on time and needs some exploration later). But a healthy ego? I question if that’s entirely necessary, or necessary at all. Not to mention that an ego implies suffering…

It’s very simple: what we truly are “at core” is always available, always “on”, no matter what’s happening, or rather appears to be happening in the world, in our body, in our minds, anywhere in appearances. What we are cannot be broken.

I can understand however why a teacher of spiritual psychology or non-duality would advise people to keep taking their psychiatric medications (and never suggest they could ever be off them): not only would he want to disclaim any medical knowledge, but he would not want to be liable legally. One could also argue that if someone believes it’s helping them, and it appears to help them be more mentally stable, that stability or relative mental quiet would be a first good step—for example to “hearing” something that helps them have an insight. But what I’ve observed with people is that psychiatric meds also cloud the mind and numb the feelings, and potentially affect the body in many, often undesirable ways.

The assumption, the worldview behind the psychiatric medicines is that we are made of matter, and our feelings, moods, perceptions and everything experienced is caused by this machinery of the brain, and that that machine is broken (and I perceive an element of moral judgement too in the psychiatric view, as well as a need to control and dominate: egoic qualities). So cause and effect are thought to rule, and the drugs are seen to supposedly modify the operation of the machinery in order to compensate for what’s missing: some neurotransmitter, some balance of chemicals. But in fact even at the level of appearances, studies have shown that anti-depressants—Prozac being the classic example (an SSRI or “Serotonin Re-uptake inhibitor)—are no better than, and sometimes worse than, placebos. This is a big embarrassment for the pharmaceutical industry and their “serotonin hypothesis”. In fact it’s their own studies that have shown this! So their own studies have shown that a neurotransmitter does not cause a mood.

That neurotransmitters aren’t the cause of our moods and feelings should be obvious to anyone who has actually closely observed their own experiences. How many times have you been walking around thinking some drug—let’s say too much coffee—or some situation in the world, such as a controlling husband or wife, was causing your mood or feelings, and then someone says something, or you have a beautiful conversation, or some insight pops into your head and your whole outlook suddenly changes, shifts into another feelings, a higher mood? A chemical or a person didn’t cause that. And neither can you trace it back to some cause that you can reliably reproduce in a linear fashion. Another conversation about the same topic with the same person may have no effect on your mood. There is no technique or machinery that can be derived, other than theories and hypotheses and assumptions. We are so trained and conditioned to think that if something happens, something is perceived or experienced, there must be a cause by something that it’s an effect of (some other thing, some previous cause). Even our language is structured that way: “some-thing made him happy”, “What made you depressed?” (meaning what thing, person, or situation caused your misery). People will ask “Why are you so happy today?” and want to know, and assume, the cause is some situation, person, or thing: you are having a love affair with a person, got a big raise, won a big contract, are high on a drug, got a new car, etc… or maybe you’re just crazy. Causeless happiness is not normally part of the lexicon.

Doesn’t it make you just a little suspicious that two different people, or even the same person at different times, can be happy or unhappy under exactly the same circumstances, or happy for no reason at all, other than existing? For example, a baby or small child can be exuberantly happy, bubbling with joy, just (I almost write “from”) running around, or playing with a rock, full of wonder, and expressing love to others.

There’s this view in spiritual circles and some wisdom teachings, that as an adult to find the Source and realize Awareness again, this constitutes a greater depth, a coming full circle to a more reflective or self-aware awareness. A “being aware of being aware” as one teacher puts it. So having transcended the healthy ego and the world of experiences and knowledge one had developed as a seemingly separate entity, I am reversing the movement to greater complexity and suffering, and going back to simplicity and peace, happiness.

There is credit to this view in the sense that the love one has to offer is qualitatively different than the love of a baby or child. A child’s happiness may brighten some moments when we encounter them, but a sage’s happiness, or even a happy adult who isn’t a sage, can potentially have an effect far greater. What is “transmitted” from a sage? There’ nothing going from one place to another … since cause and effect are nothing but an imposed concept, what is actually going on? It’s hard to say, because it doesn’t fit into how we normally talk, think, understand, and see the world. Freedom is totally outside any box. Since nothing is actually separate in reality—there are no separate entities anywhere in existence—it stands to reason that as I change, everything changes. Psychologically, perception covers all; spiritually, All covers All: I am part and not separate from All. So seeing clearly What Is, not polluting the world with further reactions that add to the false perception that constitutes the error of being a separate self, “I” add to freedom. It makes no rational sense, but there it is.

This is not solipsism—it’s not saying that everything is in my mind—it’s saying everything in reality, which is both what is experiencing and being experienced as one and the same, always now, the reality of which is hidden to the normal senses, is at peace and shining freely in the unknown, knowing itself only.

It starts to sound like gibberish or poetry to talk about ultimate things. But that’s the nature of the game. To even talk about it as a subject, topic, separate thing or imagine it, is ridiculous in a way, a cosmic joke… but what can we do as minds, inherently limited? We want clues and guideposts.

This begs the question however of what if any real inner development happens, or if there is an “evolution of consciousness”. The Absolute, or Universal Consciousness doesn’t do anything or go anywhere or change in itSelf, which is the totality. This topic is worthy of investigation. At minimum, assumptions can be operating that affect our intentions and aims. The path is open, but ambiguous. Or at least is appears as such.

Consider The Lilies Of The Goddamn Field: Notes on Paying for Spiritual Teachings

“I am secure, for I know who I am: a richly endowed child of God. I am secure in all I do, for I know my oneness with the divine process. I am secure in all I have, for I know my treasure is in my mind, not in my things. I live my life from day to day as if God’s supportive substance were as exhaustless and dependable as the air I breathe, which it most certainly is.” – Eric Butterworth

A friend asked me why I hated being required to pay for spiritual teachings. (This was in response to seeing that one had to pay $10 in order to listen to an Adyashanti audio). Here is my answer.

I have no problem with giving someone money as an expression of support and love for what they do, be it an artist, a spiritual teacher or a maid. But when they set it up as a business where one has no choice but to pay in order to hear the teaching, it’s a little different. Then it depends on the overall picture.

Spiritual teaching is a spontaneous expression of love and freedom. Does a bird ask for money when it sings?

An exchange is at the level of the assumption of separation and objects, and can come from an attitude of taking rather than giving, of need, want; or it can arise as an expression of something deeper.

If you saw a child and hugged him out of love, would you then ask for compensation, maybe take their sucker or something? 😉

If you went out to dinner and hung out with a friend, would you ask for money for the time spent? Charge for having sex with them? If you’re in that business, fine, but it’s a queasy combination being a professional spiritual teacher. Conflict of interests shall we say, or worldviews.
With Adyashanti’s website there is no choice: you have to pay to get the recording. There is no donation button.

With some spiritual retreats at beautiful locations it’s understandable, because one is paying for this whole package of the venue, the house, the organization, the food setup – a kind of vacation arrangement – there are a lot of expenses for them in that realm that you’re helping with (this is assuming it’s a teacher I love and consider a friend). But their teachings are freely given. But no one ever asked me or even mentioned a donation at satsangs at Francis Lucille’s for example. There was a bowl to give, to donate to, if one felt moved to. He does his teaching out of love and because people ask. The teaching is all about freedom.

On the other hand, at the Unitarian Universalist Church I used to go to (about 10 years or so ago), it was a different story: they asked for “voluntary donations”. However if you went to a musical event at the church for example, the people from the entrance table would track you down in the audience and ask you if you made a donation, very sternly. It was only an appearance of freedom.

A true sage knows Life will take care of them and there is nothing to fear. Consider the lilies of the goddamn field (O Brother Where Art Thou) and all that. 🙂

I was listening to the great American sage Robert Adams this morning (there are no coincidences):
“…truth teachings since the beginning of time have always been free. There should be no charge and no obligation for anybody to come to a true guru and a true teaching… a true guru is quiet and demands nothing.”
http://www.robert-adams.info/1991-07-14.mp3

But the true guru is within, so ultimately there’s no need for you to pay.
You and the world are a projection of mind; but the guru, you, and God are One.
In any case, if there’s a teaching you need, or are meant to hear, it will appear.

Comedy Sketch – Advaitans Anonymous (AA)

[Note: this sketch was performed by the actor Vishal Patel who read the script, liked it, and volunteered – to great fanfare, at a recent Francis Lucille retreat, in Temecula, California. I did the fake “announcement” afterwards]

“So I heard there was a woman who spent a million dollars on retreats and seeking enlightenment over the years, traveling around the world to different teachers and taking retreats. We really should have interventions for these people. They become addicted to spiritual retreats, non-duality videos, spiritual teachers, that sort of thing. We need an Advaitans Anonymous! An AA…

“I’m [your name] and I’m an Advaitaholic. After my 27th nondualist retreat, I hit bottom. I’d been listening to Rupert Spira in the shower, mainlining Francis Lucille before breakfast, blasting Robert Adams in the car on the way to work, and sneaking a peak at “I Am That” in the men’s bathroom stalls when I was supposed to be on a sales call with Iowa. And at my last retreat, I was signing up for my next two retreats on my phone during morning meditation. I needed help. I was out of control, in a will-less state. Thank God for my friend John, who found me on the floor of my apartment, with an endless loop of Rupert playing on my computer, repeating ‘Aware of being aware of being aware of being aware …’
I was staring off into space with a look of emptiness… He picked me up off the floor and drove me to my first meeting.”

“Let me tell you a bit about my life as an Avaitaholic. While the sages – the good ones anyway – are always pointing to the moon, the seekers I hung out with from retreats were busy collecting pointers, like heroine addicts collecting old needles. We shared them with each other. Yeah we traded dirty pointers, like baseball cards…

“So after a satsang we’d go out together to a juice bar and get some organic freshly squeezed, Kosher, vegan, natural, ethical, environmentally-friendly, locally grown, non-GMO, non-dairy, antioxidant, low-sodium, no MSG, no nuts, no peanuts, no soy, no gluten, caffeine free, free-range, cage-free, fat-free, sugar free … juices (big breath…), that were not free.

“We’d be sitting around the juice bar, and start trading our non-duality cards. They’re just like baseball cards except they have only have one side…

[IF YOU WANT TO CONTINUE:]

To demonstrate I’ve enlisted my friend…

Advaitan 1: “I’ve got this cool metaphor card. It has a picture of Santa Claus on it, with a big red “X” through him.

Advaitan 2: Oh I know that one. It says on the back, if you meet the Santa Claus on the road, kill him, right?. It’s OK.

Advaitan 1: It’s OK … I’ve also got one with a wave on the ocean. It’s really beautiful.

Advaitan 2: Those are a dime a dozen –Advaitan 1: I’ll give you one of the wave cards plus one with a photo of the Divine Mother on it. You can trade for a hug at any Ammas-R-Us stores in your area. It’s pretty cool.

Advaitan 2: Check this out though, instead of just a metaphor or hug card, I have a Laura Lucille card. It’s brand new – totally fresher man. More in the moment. See how shiny it is?

Advaitan 1: Big deal, I’ve got a *Francis* Lucille card – very elegant and poetic. Very European and cultured.

Advaitan 2: Too intellectual. But I’ve also got this original Ramana Maharshi card and it’s totally authentic; this is like the original Indian version, with loincloth and everything – very like, mysterious, deep and enigmatic.

Advaitan 1: Sure that’s cool, but check this out, I’ve got an original sayings of Jesus oral traditions.

Advaitan 2: Oral traditions?

Advaitan 1: Yeah, you can’t even read it!

Advaitan 2: Oh that’s no biggie man, I’ve got a Super Buddha Taoist Card. On one side it exists and on the other it doesn’t.

Advaitan 1: Big deal, your Buddha card, that’s nothing, Nothing man! I’ve got the God card.

Advaitan 2: No Way! What do you want for it? (to audience: “you ready for this?”)

Advaitan 1: Way. But you have to surrender all your cards if you want it.

Advaitan 2: Throws his cards in the air.

(Writer’s or MC’s Announcement, after main act is done – uses fake press release from comedy site The Onion)

I just wanted to make a special little announcement that I have it on good authority from a highly reputable source on the Internet that the CERN laboratory for physics in Geneva Switzerland reports that the universe will be ending, uh… (looks through papers, find news release – see fake press release below)…. next Friday.
So anyway, if I were you (and I am you, right?) I strongly advise that you invest as soon as possible in a good Cosmic Insurance Policy. And you know while you’re at it I would stay open to the possibility that the Noumena are going to go along with the Phenomena, and invest in some Consciousness Insurance as well. I mean come on, don’t believe everything Francis tells you – he said it himself: there’s a 50/50 chance, according to reason that consciousness is not universal. So I suggest hedging your bets, in case consciousness turns out to be local, limited and personal, and is going to be going the way of the dinosaur. I’ll be putting some special policies up on Amazon.com just for my Truth Lover friends.

That’s it. Anyway, hopefully your deep sense of lack and wanting is fulfilled at least temporarily by this little skit … if not there’s always sex and drugs.

Report: Universe To End Next Friday
6/04/18 9:46am

GENEVA—A coalition of scientists at CERN announced this morning that the Universe, the accumulation of matter and energy that makes up everything that is, will end abruptly next Friday. “The totality of existence as we know it, including time, space, all distributed matter throughout our reality, and all 11 vibrational dimensional membranes will cease to exist promptly at 11:08 p.m. GMT on June 15,” CERN officials said in a press release signed by every leading expert in physics, mathematics, astronomy, and all related fields. “At the end of next week, the universe will simultaneously dissolve and collapse upon itself, effectively obliterating all that exists across the entire 93 billion light year diameter of our cosmos and all concurrent nesting realities, so please plan accordingly. Wrap up any loose ends you still consider important, say goodbye to your loved ones, and make peace with the cessation of the very nature of your consciousness.” Top theologists and clergy across the world also confirmed that, should higher planes such as Heaven, Elysium, or Nirvana actually exist, then they, too, will be destroyed.

Love and Freedom Cannot Be Separated

 

Freedom and love can’t be separated. 

By “freedom” is meant true inner freedom, and by “love” is meant impersonal love, the nondual living truth, not human love. 

A lack of love and freedom is experienced as darkness, pain and suffering. 

But if love and freedom is who are, then how can there be a lack?

In fact there can’t be a lack, but there can be a perceived lack. 

Why is there a perceived lack? Because who we are is obscured by what we are not. 

What we are not can be characterized in various ways: as something learned, as a movement of thought, as a forgetting one is caught in a dream, as an effort. 

If what we are is effortless freedom, how can there be effort? It doesn’t seem possible for a being so powerful, so limitless, to be able to make an effort and be limited. How can it fool itself? Well, in order to create a world, a universe, a perception, there has to be a difference somewhere. There has to be a somewhere, and and if there’s a somewhere, then there is space, a here and a there. And if there is a here and a there, then there is movement. If there is movement, there is something perceiving movement, and change, and therefore the possibility of time. 

So we have a world and some kind of being in time and space, perceiving and moving about. In this world of differences, you have bright and dim, awake and asleep, good and bad, easy and hard, effortless and effortful. In other words, in our case we are experiencing what is presumed to be a person, a human being. The human being is thinking, perceiving, deciding, willing, acting doing,  having things happen to them, and so forth. 

But wait, back up. Who is experiencing a human being? A person can’t be experiencing a person, or they would be two beings: an experiencer and an experienced.
Something is going on here: more than meets the eye. 

So what do I know?

I know there is awareness, and it’s hearing sounds we call “words” in an “inner” space where other sounds appear, and I see and have the sensations of hands typing them, and the visual perception of hands and fingers moving. There are also sounds “in my head” we’ve learned to call “thoughts”. And there are also sounds that seem to come from “out there” that we call “noise’ or “music” or “speech”, but are actually experienced in the same inner space as the “thoughts” sounds when I really am honest. And there are also images and sounds we call “memories” that are “thoughts” that are repeated. They are associated with images from what we call the “past” but are experienced now.

Where are the boundaries to these perceptions? That is to be investigated, first-hand.

In the meantime, the presumption of a self can be examined on it’s own.

From these raw facts of first-hand experience outlined above, various false inferences are made.
First let’s look at examples of true and false inferences, so we are clear what is meant.

Valid inference:
You see many examples of fire, and smoke happening together, and never smoke without fire, and you infer, “where there is smoke, there is fire”.

Invalid inference:
Someone told you in childhood that smoke is caused by the Goddess Prahali from Venus, and you infer, “Where there is smoke, there is Prahali in action”.

The false inference in question is: “Where there are perceptions happening, or thoughts, or decisions, or choices, or actions taken, there is a separate self responsible, a thing, a doer of the actions, a willer of the choices, a person”. That perceiver, thinking, decider, chooser, will-er is the god we call my “self” or “me” or “I” (in the personal sense).


Love without Freedom playing out in the world is rules, religion, conforming and following…

Freedom without Love is endless seeking, wildness, chaos, instability and lostness…

True freedom is like a child running and laughing in the sheer joy of being alive, in love with Life, just Being. 

In maturity true freedom expresses as knowing one’s own nature, which is the same as love:  being aware of Being, nameless and formless. 

Love and Freedom married, lead one’s world into a self-perfecting life, ever-evolving, and
growing anew: infinite potential manifesting, the form and the formless dancing in celebreation of peace, love and beauty.

However, they were never separate to begin with…

 

Find Your Happy Work

To find your Ideal Work you will want to find the Intersection of 3 things: Love, Skills, and Market.

Here’s this “Holy Trinity” of Work Happiness as a graphic:

Without The Three Legs

People often make the mistake of taking an outside-in approach: for example seeing that there is a market for something in the world, and they have or can acquire a certain skill for it, and therefore think it’s what they should do. It’s logical but it doesn’t work over time. We are not machines that can be forced to do things forever. One way this inharmonious approach can happen is when we think an object – in this case more money – will make us happy, so we start with the object (more money) and work backwards. But when in harmony with ourselves at a deep level, life evolves naturally for us from inside-out.

Without the three legs of love, skills, and market, what happens? The stability isn’t there. I’ll show examples from my own life.

1. Only Love and Skill:
If you have love for a subject and skill for it, you might have some great output to show for your time, but of course you’ll have a hard time making a living.
Example: I loved making art, and thought I could have a career as a painter. I took to it like a sponge, gained lots of skill fast, and made some great abstract and realists paintings during this time, but I didn’t have a market (wrong city in part) or a marketing bent or drive or interest in self-promotion, so I only sold a few pieces over the years. I couldn’t make living at it (but I have some nice paintings for my home! No regrets).
I also tried my hand at photorealist painting because I thought realism would be more marketable, and I was fascinated by the examples I saw, and wanted to have great realism as a tool under my belt. I got very good at it, and learned how to be extremely focused (which served me later as a programmer) but it was extremely difficult and time-consuming such that I ran out of time and had to find another way of making a living. I still loved many aspects of it, such as the creative ideas that flowed, the energy of being inspired, the visual emphasis, and the right-brain holistic perception experience, and the interesting people I met, and so forth.

At one point I tried deliberately making more marketable art (for eBay) – a more commercial and decorative product – but it quickly started to feel forced, and it just didn’t work for me. I thought I might as well go into real estate or banking, which paid better, if I was going to work this hard and didn’t like what I was doing! In short I had the skill and market but no love for commercial painting, which brings us to the next:

2. Only Skill and Market:
If you have some some skill in a field, and a market, but little or no love, you can make a living for a while, but you will be heading for burnout, frustration, stress and struggle. This is not sustainable, or if sustainable, leads to health problems (mental and physical), addictions and dis-ease and stress on relationships. It’s not a happy situation and often affects the quality and/or speed of the work, which in turn affects the client’s feelings and your ability to make a living.
Unfortunately a lot of the world works this way, and our intellectually-oriented schooling and career testing feeds the underlying misunderstanding and the misuse of the mind and body.
Example: I did web development and app software programming for a few years. I had some skill with computers, and had been involved with programming as a hobby and occasionally built websites for clients over the years. There was also an obvious market for software development, and I was able to find clients and work. However I didn’t have a true love for the subject – it was fun at times but it often felt like a struggle to keep on-task and focused enough, and I was never fast enough. Programmers with a real love for the subject were running circles around me. I felt a little like I was trying to be someone I wasn’t. Although I could solve problems, find creative solutions, play the part, and fool people playing the part of the developer, it was not an inside-out, grounded way to work and live. And I wasn’t fooling myself: at some level I knew it wasn’t quite right. It was stressful, extremely time-consuming – not leaving time for my other interests and loves – and I took to drinking large amount of Kava Kava in the evening while working to deal with the anxiety of programming and the struggle of pushing my mind towards the solutions of problems. And then there was the constant need, as a developer, to learn and keep up with a rapidly changing, expanding, and extremely complex technical field, with deadlines looming.
I burned out on this lifestyle, not being able to meet timelines I’d set for projects with clients, running out of money, and realized I had to do something different.

3. Only Love and Market:
If you have love for a type of activity, and there is a market for it, but you lack skill, you will obviously run into a situation of not being able to offer quality work, and you will lose clients or not be able to find customers or clients in the first place. The good news is you may be able to gain the skills.
An example I can think of from my life is several decades ago in the early days of personal computers, I was fascinated by electronics and digital computers, and felt I had a pretty good general understanding of them, and there was a market for consultants. So fresh out of college I threw myself into computer consulting, confident that I could solve problems as I went and BS my way along with my general philosophical knowledge and ability to talk to people. Well, some clients quickly figured out I didn’t know what I was doing, and I realized I was stressing to find solutions fast, when I was expected to already know them. I didn’t know as much as I thought: one really does need highly detailed, specific knowledge and can’t rely on general understanding in such a highly technical field. (It seems obvious now, but I was young then!). I did eventually gain enough skills in a particular area of computer consulting that I felt more at home in (Apple Macintosh Consulting – I loved Apples design and philosophy) and learned from doing and study. I did that for many years, while doing my writing and art on the side. In the long run my love wasn’t deep enough, and my marketing ability was limited, and being an artist, writer (and gardener) was taking time away from business, so it was not a sustainable career path.

All Three, To Some Degree:

The resolution for me was to find and develop work where I was able to use my innate ability and love of visual art and design, plus interest and skill in writing, and an interest and background in psychology & philosophy, and experience with computers and software, and a market in the software field such that I found satisfying and lucrative work doing specialized consulting. This consulting involves designing and advising on interface designs, doing designs for a software company, creating software prototype (demos), writing on usability and other topics, and occasional photography assignments. No doubt things will evolve as I explore, do more writing (and photography), and find ever better unfolding and match between my loves, skills and market. Work life grows and is perfected, if you pay attention and give it presence, as part of one’s life journey.

I wasted many years trying to figure all this out intellectually when I was younger. I spent endless hours writing, thinking, brooding, reading books, talking to people, trying to figure it out: who was I? Was I a writer, an artist, a computer guy? Where did I belong? Did I belong anywhere in the economy or did I not fit in at all. Was I too unique to be able to find a happy niche? I felt like a round peg trying to fit myself into a square hole.

More Notes on Skills, Love and Marketing

“I know I’m fortunate to live an extraordinary life, and that most people would assume my business success, and the wealth that comes with it, have brought me happiness. But they haven’t; in fact it’s the reverse. I am successful, wealthy and connected because I am happy.” – Richard Branson

Skills and Love are not synonymous: this is often gotten backward. One can acquire great skill and still not enjoy doing something. However if you do have a natural love and bent for something – “like a duck to water” or “falling off a log” as the old saying goes – you can more easily or quickly become highly skillful. Not only will you spend more time on it, but it’s going with the grain of your being. Some people hate writing, and though they can gain skills, they never become good or great writers. I enjoy the process of writing, and do it every day: it feels as natural to me as talking (in fact easier than talking and speaking!): like a nearly direct channel between mind and page when I’m in the flow. It’s the same with photography: it felt like a calling, and I found myself doing tens of thousands of photos.

Skills are what is acquired. Love and talent are what is innate.

One of the signs of love is the feeling of joy in action when one is absorbed and free of self-consciousness, in the flow. Love is a feeling natural interest and enthusiasm that cannot be explained. Flow is best found where there is a match between the level of skill and the level of challenge.

However not everything that one has skills at and love is necessarily marketable. A market means people want it and are willing to pay for it.

Often people look at what’s marketable and then try to fit themselves into that. This is a big mistake, and accounts for a great deal of unhappiness and stress in the workplace, and n people’s lives in general.

So if you enjoy poisoning your life with “toxic goals“, have at it – it’s a free country – but why not start today creating a happier world of work for yourself, to whatever degree you can?

This is not to say that there will never be aspects of one’s work that are more boring or routine or unpleasant that you will want to get help with at some point (for example hire a bookkeeper if you have little love or skill for accounting).

The thing is to be free to do what you love and get paid for it. There are degrees of this: it is not black and white. Engaging with pure love and pure skill and getting paid a great deal, and doing this day in and day out is achieved by very few, but nevertheless there is simply no other way that is real and sustainable. So you must aim at perfecting this “art of work” and dedicate yourself to it. Choose happiness rather than misery.

Start from Where You Are; Know Thyself; It’s Not Intellectual

Forget Myers-Briggs personality tests (though they are fun party talk subjects) and the career tests that try and analyze what categories you fit into. Forget the aptitude and interest tests. There is only one way to know what’s right for you, and that is by DOING things, testing where the rubber hits the road and getting the feedback of the world. This feedback includes your own body and mind, and the feelings that are experienced. It includes the feedback of the marketplace and what people are willing to pay for what you do.
This may mean taking jobs as an experiment, even if you are unsure yet if it’s right for you: this is the whole point – to find out! It’s an adventure! (the worst that can happen is that you are fired or fire yourself, and then “good riddance!”). It can be a paid job, a volunteer job, or even a hobby that could lead to future work. An example from my life was photography: I loved doing it, enjoyed making tens of thousand of photos, and got really good: enough that I got paid 4 figures to run around shooting buildings for a client, using a fantastic camera that was paid for by the work. I got paid to have fun doing what I would do even if not paid!

Do not let fear control your life. Many people stay in unhappy work out of fear of what they imagine will happen if they don’t. They think that they have to do it. They are unwilling to take risks. Our imaginations are very powerful but they are a two-edged sword: we can imagine a rocket that will take humans to the moon (Wernher von Braun did it), and build one, and we are also powerful enough beings such that we can sit in a chair and drive ourselves into stress and insanity from mere thinking. It’s up to you. (I believe some form of meditation or mindfulness training, and spiritual-psychological understanding and insight is key to much of this whole subject, but is too much to go into for this article).

This freedom from fear is critical, but it all leaves off the question of freedom and independence in general, which I see as critical to self-realized, genuinely happy life. It works like a feedback loop: you need freedom enough to pursue independent enquiry into who you are, beyond fear and false beliefs, but is also again, inside-out: psychological freedom leading to external freedom. But I’ll leave all this that for future musings…

About Needing “Grounding” and Spiritual Teaching

"Grounding"

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, Jack Pransky interviewed George Pransky, for Jack’s book “Paradigm Shift: A History of The Three Principles”, about trying to implement a certification system back in the early 1990’s, and looking at grounding, but they realized there was no objective way to measure it, and the project was scrapped.

“We began to see that this work was all about grounding, and that grounding is hard to evaluate. It’s a large, subjective component. There were no techniques that could be evaluated, as in other approaches. The only thing that mattered was the person’s understanding, and that was difficult to quantify. …We concluded that this understanding does not lend itself to an objective qualification program. I feel that way to this day. I think that a certification program in the Principles would be fraught with insurmountable difficulties.”  George Pransky, in Paradigm Shift, p.74 

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”, Mind, Consciousness and Thought are not a thing, not tangible, but a message, a metaphor used by teachers and students, indicating towards the source of experiencing, the reality of which cannot be grasped by the personal, limited mind or understood intellectually. It is pointing out what is behind your every experience, right here and now. 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 put out through 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). But what it’s pointing to is a “vertical dimension” that transcends thinking, that accounts for new thinking and complete changes of outlook. as in non-dual teachings, what one needs 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” (another deceptive word and concept) of the teaching or message or method. But the purity is to see that whatever you think The Three Principles are, that’s not it. The Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao.

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).

What is Spirituality?

Cloudspiration Photo © Eric Platt 2017

 

“It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, and it is not possible to find it elsewhere”  – Agnes Repplier

It’s interesting to see how much misunderstanding of the word “spirituality” there is in Western culture. And, I believe that same reasons that people are not truly happy are the same reasons that there is a misunderstanding of the word.

To give the simplest definition possible: spirituality is about happiness. It is about knowing who you are, and what reality is. It is living with facts instead of abstractions and projections (thinking and imagining).
This serves as a good definition because what we learn from the culture is how to be unhappy and how to be something we are not.

Indeed, we are born into this world open and innocent, naturally loving and free, and through socialization we learn how to be unhappy. And so spirituality could be said to be an unlearning: a finding out who we are instead of who we *think* we are, or are supposed to be. What we learn, see, pickup from socialization, the formula that we learn from parents, schooling, friends, the church, the culture, and so forth, are like a misdirection: a pointing away from our natural selves, our innate intelligence, freedom and love. This is not a call to become childish again, but a reminder of what one can find anew: that fresh and alive essence of what we already are.

You could call this misdirection by the culture “materialism”, but that word is so easily misinterpreted: it can be heard as anti-materialism, or as anti-consumerism, or as some kind of philosophical stance about matter. Materialism and spirituality are not in opposition but two sides of the same reality. In my definition for the purposes of this essay, materialism simply means the belief that objects in consciousness are what make us happy. By objects is meant not material objects out there, but what one is aware of in one’s experience as not being oneself. For example, you are sitting in a chair in your livingroom. You see a chair across the room. Most of us usually think of that chair as being a separate object “out there”. Or, we see an image in our imagination of a chair (such as you might be imagining right now). Or you see an chair in your dream at night. That image in all three scenarios is what I am calling an object in consciousness. Your awareness of the object occurred in your experience within your consciousness: the livingroom chair as an experience in consciousness as a perception of a chair (projected into the living room), then as an image in your mind as an imagined chair, then as an image in a dream. In all three scenarios there was a perception of a chair but in three seemingly different locations. I’m simply pointing out the location was the same all three times: in consciousness. Slow down and read the paragraph again if you don’t understand.

We do the same thing when we think of who or what we are as a person. We have an image of ourselves in the mind, based on what we see in the mirror, and on concepts and imagination, and what people have said, and what we would like ourselves to be. So we are an object, or are defined by objects of consciousness as an idea of “person” or “human being”. And therefore this naturally plays into how happy we are. Not only do we feel what we think, but since nothing in this perception of the world is fixed or unchanging, and we are holding an imagined image of who we are and what would make us happy, feel free, or safe, there is bound to be a disharmony between reality and our imagination that is experienced: either a discomfort, a confusion, a wanting, a seeking, or things not going our way. Why? Because we can’t hold into it but want to. We think we are the doer, want to be the doer of our lives but it constantly gets away from us and we feel frustrated.

True spirituality in fact it doesn’t say anything about what we should do or have, or not do or not have. In fact you could say spirituality is about living according to facts instead of theory.

Religions and cults (religion is a cult, as is materialism) says “We know what’s going on and what’s real, so you should love like this, you should do this…”. But true spirituality says “OK, you came here and are asking how to be happy. So investigate yourself, and see what actually and truly know, what makes you happy and who you are. No one can find it for you.” It says, be open to the possibility that what you are is universal and you are not who you think you are. Don’t be afraid of the unknown and unexpected. Religions claim they know. Spirituality is being happily adrift on an ocean, alone but not lonely. It is a friendly universe: you may discover it’s not out to get you.

So you can see spirituality has nothing to do with religion, but that religions grew up around spiritual insights, trying to claim them as their own, and dispense them, control them and people, and get paid for what they supposedly give the seekers.

On Materialism

You could be a billionaire and not believe in materialism, and you can be an impoverished poet living in a shed and be a materialist. The billionaire who knows who he is, is unattached to what’s happening in the contents of his consciousness, and could walk away from his millions and not be affected in his happiness, because he knows what he is (there are examples of men like this, such as Lester Levenson). The poet on the other hand, when a single cloud passes in front of the sun, could get depressed because he sees his circumstances, surroundings as being who he is and where his happiness comes from. Dropping his pencil could trigger a cascade of depressing thoughts (about himself, his life, his past and future) which he might not recover from for weeks. Or, you could have a billionaire, in fine health, who is terrified of losing his fortune and his health, and worries day and night about it, and pursues more and more money trying to fill the emptiness that lurks in his psyche or the dread just around the corner, the fear of dream of absolute disappearance. He gets a brief hit of excitement and “happiness” when a new check comes in, but then he has to set another object of acquisition or achievement, as the underlying dissatisfaction covers any new thing. He could be paranoid that enemies are after him and his money. Or, our poet in the shed could be blissfully happy, even when it’s raining and he can’t find his pencil, and his body in in pain, or whatever is happening. You get the idea.

It’s very interesting also to meet people who are judgmental or presumptuous when they find out you are into what they are calling “spirituality”. Or what they think “spirituality” is when I use the word, or that you go to a meditation group or satsang. They assume there is something wrong that started you doing that, or that you are weird or a loser or whatever – but you look at their life and they are not happy. They may claim they are happy, they may hold onto a  happy idea or image of themselves, or say that to themselves,  but if they stop doing what they are addicted to – be it working as a real estate agent and being busy busy every minute, or retired and chasing after one pleasure or another, or having to be fully engaged with family or social activity, with periods of depression cured by some kind of stimulation – their claims to be happy are seen to be hollow, or very shallow at best. Underlying it is a fear, and/or a sadness, or an anger, or a need to control. They need something outside themselves to be “happy”.

The other common interpretations I hear is that it has to do with ethics, or with religion, or with spirits, or with New Age beliefs and practices. 
I frankly think we need another word.

However, the path or practice of self-enquiry I also see as synonymous with spirituality, as long as it is bearing fruit and is not just a practice. 

If I could be happy just sitting in my living room in a chair, and looking at whatever there is, seeing the play of light, or closing one’s eyes, listening to the sounds the ears hear, or from the ears (if they are buzzing slightly) or the sounds of one’s thoughts… if one were to feel bliss or joy or happiness doing that, it’s not the usual definition of happiness. In fact some people might think you are crazy. If one could feel and see, or simply sense the perfection of all things, the totality, sitting in a chair, or just lying in a bed, the wonderful aliveness of being, that’s not the usual American definition of happiness.

Going a hundred miles an hour in a sports car, or making love to a beautiful babe or winning a huge contract and making a million dollars are more the usual definitions. I am not saying those aren’t happiness, but rather that those can be experienced in different ways. The excitement or pleasure can be experienced as happiness to different degrees by different people and will fade or might be followed by depression or let down to different degrees also. Someone who is genuinely happy, will be happy doing those things, and also happy afterwards not doing those things.

My definition of spiritual is a happiness that doesn’t go way, because it is innate, it is knowing what you are. It’s very simple, but oddly, seemingly very radical.

For most people, the body and the mind are all there are (to them, to being a human). And the material world is real, is a material thing out there. Made of matter. And spirituality often seems to mean being good or ethical, or has to do with religion, or with some separate immaterial spirits or essence … there are all kinds of ideas. But religion has to do with beliefs and old knowledge, old ideas, and social conformity to those ideas, or various schools of traditions and practices, rites and activities in the world.

But a few who start to dig into spirituality deeply realize it’s about reality. In a way genuine spirituality is more like a kind of science that looks at the ultimate nature of what is, form the inside-out. Or like a kind of philosophical journey in the search for true wisdom. But instead of being speculative like philosophy in the West, it’s is based in experience.

It’s about who you are, not as a person, but as an experience. It’s taking a look from the inside-out instead of the outside-in, the way we are taught to look.

So how is spirituality (what I’m calling it in my book) different from psychology? Well it depends on the psychology, as there are some edge-cases of psychology that are turning in a different direction from the mainstream (Three Principles Psychology for example), so for the purposes of this piece, we’ll call psychology the traditional mainstream form of it. Psychology focuses on the mind or the brain, as well as behavior. So in psychology one is examining the contents of the mind: one’s thinking, motivations, emotions, feelings, and the world of relationships, and the dynamics thereof. One could be looking at skills, and coping. One could dig into the past, into memories, family, friendships, sexual relationships, and so forth. It’s an endless game. The mind can always create new things (it doesn’t actually create, it’s just a tool for consciouness) or has an endless store of nooks and crannies.

It’s also useful for some readers (and interesting to me) to look at how spirituality is different from self-help as well as the large industry of various kinds of seminars, services and products out there. This is a large space, so it’s difficult to sum up, but we will look at patterns. Among the largest defining characteristics of these are techniques and motivation.

Why not go directly for happiness? It could save a lot of energy and heartache…

Technological Governance: A Response to Daniel Jeffries’ Interview on Future Thinkers

Getty Images, Gangil Gwon / EyeEm

I recently enjoyed listening to an interview with a friend – a “colleague in thought” – with whom I also engaged in a fascinating discussion (Dialogues With a Mad Solipsist) on the subject of solipsism several years ago, when we were both members of a co-working space in San Diego. Daniel Jeffries is a writer and technologist who has been deeply involved with blockchain technology of late, as well as an author of science fiction with AI agents and futuristic scenarios. It’s always a pleasure to experience the richness of his imagination and no-holds-barred futurism.

So I was excited to hear him in this podcast with Future Thinkers, discussing the application of blockchain technology to the decentralization of governance, and tackling such thorny issues as voting, public policy, democracy, incentivizing behavior, and so on. What follows is an expansion of the notes I took while enjoying the podcast. I strongly encourage the reader to listen to the podcast, as it helps to form a context.

FTP049: Daniel Jeffries – Decentralized Governance and Identity

Let’s dive right into the middle: it seems to me he uses the word “ideology” incorrectly. He really means “thought systems”. Or more to the point: the concept of a thought system conveys the psychological fact that the world we experience is a projection of the total system of thinking one has at any moment. This is more global an idea than “ideology”. The concept of an “ideology” suggests to me something more along the lines of, for example, a religious or political dogmatic thought system. This is something quite specific in content. As evidence of this, an individual could have several ideologies, but they can only have one thought system. Thought system gets at the psychological root of the issue, rather than the surface play of ideologies. You could (more readily) program a computer with a ideology, since it’s more or less a fixed, rigid system of interlocking positions, whereas you could not program a computer with a thought system, since it is a living active gestalt based in intelligence and brought to life as an experienced world by consciousness.

Computer systems would be good at embodying ideologies in the sense that it’s an ego-based activity: a fake self. It would be a fun experiment to have a bunch of computerized ideologies (Christians versus Muslims for example) battling it out, since that is what an ideology is for, psychologically speaking: a defensive system for an illusory self, used to maintain the function of being an identity. You could see how computerized people actually are. And who knows, maybe someone would watch those arguments happening in a simulation and realize, “Wow, that’s how I am!” and it may spur them to wake up from their “program”.

I’ve been researching developments in the AI field (such as “deep learning” and the varieties of neural nets and how they work, and the claims of AI companies, not to mention the kinds of assumptions science fiction stories make) and reviewing the issues, as well as blockchain technology, its uses and social implications. So how does the blockchain relate to AI? And what does governance have to do with blockchains? First, I keep hearing either the implicit assumption that there is, or will be, some kind of real intelligence in these systems, either sa they are or with the addition of AI (such as when complex decisions need to be made). But would it be true generalized intelligence? If it were, this is turn is based on erroneous philosophical assumptions and based on what might be developed in the future (a subject covered in a longer, forthcoming article): a future ever-receding it seems. Second it’s assuming that the populace and the politicians have the same kind of interest, understanding, vision and will of the technophiles who have these enthusiasms.

The fact is, people want people in governance, not machines. They look up to figureheads, think they need them. We need to make a distinction between an imagined science fiction-fueled imagined world and social-psychological reality about this. And there is a grain of truth to the public’s feelings or intuitions with respect to leadership: machines do not have consciousness, creativity, or general intelligence and understanding of human affairs. This will not be replacing executives in corporations either, for the same reason (this was a fear back in the 60s through 80’s when computers first came into awareness, and when “expert systems” started popping up). Such systems can only simulate aspects of human leadership, or philosophical thinking (see Plato’s Republic for a relevant perspective about the “philosopher-king”), or embody limited cognitive type processing, like brains (limited, biological parallel processors with no consciousness), but do not embody the substance of consciousness and natural intelligence (e.g. intuition). They can remember rules, like well-greased autistics. But ethics and politics are not rule-based, they are *contextual*. For example, you can codify laws, but not the application of them. The belief that one can codify the application of them is a faith-based belief, nothing more, like the belief that consciousness comes from brains (a belief is defined as something that is held to be true regardless of evidence).

It seems widespread in the field of blockchain and AI that behind the grand claims, enthusiasts are making the same old assumptions that have been around for decades, based on the erroneous religious beliefs of scientific materialism. The blockchain and cryptocurrency religions are merely offshoots of that main religion prevalent in the culture.

So what can be incentivized: there was a discussion of happiness and how that can be warped. One could end up rewarding the wrong things, if I remember the thrust of the conversation: for example incentivizing being a despotic asshole, or getting into a Black Mirror type scenario of social fakery and in order to get ranked and allowed access (or not) to goods and services. One could have the weird situation of being controlled by that system. (Interestingly, this also serves an a technological analogy for what is already the case: the parallel is that in reality we are already controlled by ego and unconscious patterns of psychological conditioning. We think and behave according to what we are not, and this is the basis of our unhappiness).

But the proposed system of incentives misses addressing the real underlying dynamic with respect to happiness, which is ego and control versus authenticity and reality. Most humans don’t have a basic angle of understanding what reality is, and are identifying with what is false. Another way of talking about this for that dynamic is the play of ignorance versus being on the path of knowledge (such as in the Hindu or Buddhist sense). So how do you incentivize self-knowledge and happiness rather than ignorance; how do you incentivize love instead of fear, or de-incentivize what obscure love and true happiness. Is this possible? Is it desirable? Should we really try and mess with things at this level? And how do you do that without being punished as it were, for being innocent, when one goes in the wrong direction vis-a-vis such a system and it’s vectors of happiness and incentivized behavior (right thinking and right action, in Buddhist terms) – which really in essence embody a value system – since everyone is in essence innocent. Even if you could do this, there is going to be push-back for any system you come up, with because you can’t form rules for society. In other words, whose job would that be? A aristocratic, technological elite? Large (or small) companies or teams creating blockchain application, or corporations and government bodies, as we are likely to see more and more he future? The alternative is it devolves into mob rule. So this new elite will be pulling the levers behind the scenes, more or less. We already have this to a degree, and I’m sure there are billionaires in Silicon Valley and elsewhere who want more of it and to keep it that way. Meanwhile they will go live in their hardened missile silos converted into shelters, and New Zealand escape plantations, fearing rebellion when the masses figure it out and rise up. (see articles like https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/01/30/doomsday-prep-for-the-super-rich)

The burden of proof lies on the those who are assuming and believing that computer systems can do things like understand and apply justice, since a negative can’t be proved. Unfortunately we might see some applications of such systems in the process of the experimental proving, and these will be painful lessons, especially when they are applied by the faithful true believers in technology-as-savior to humanity’s problems. Faith tends to blind people to what they don’t want to see.

You want to be careful when you start thinking about codifying values. The reality is, you can’t really. You can set down some guidelines. But it’s not possible to have rules that always apply. Everything is contextual. Proper behavior depends on the complex whole of a situation. A computer system simply can’t read that, have access to that, process that, properly evaluate it. Even if a robot with a large parallel computer neural net brain had all the senses – seeing hearing, touch, smelling, taste – and grew up around humans, it would still not have any intuition nor any organic sense of a body. It would not have the desires and fears and the whole relation to the environment, universe, and the inner cell structure, nor the intuitive glimpses of unity via consciousness. It would not have awareness of itself and the self-evidence of truths come by through that radical subjectivity. No one knows where intuition and self-evident truth comes from, but it’s not coming from a cryptocurrency happiness governance vending machine. That much is certain.

I’m not concerned that some AI or singularity is going to take over the world (like in movies and books such as “Colossus: The Forbin Project” etc.), I merely advise folks to not to give away our freedom and intelligence to a technological system by granting it powers it does not have. It is only a projection to see intelligence and wisdom where it is not. Actual creativity, beauty, love, peace and truth will come from the authors and users of such systems, not the systems themselves. This is evidenced in the examples of computer programs that have been invented to create (supposedly) original artwork: the real “art” is in the creation of the software, not the interesting pictures the software generates. Another good example is the various chatbots, artificial girlfriends/boyfriends, and how easy they are to flush out as simulations (for this writer anyway). And yet many users project intelligence and understanding into them. (If you want to test this out, try any chatbot out there, and instead of letting it lead the direction of the dialogue, reference in your conversation something said earlier. You will find there is no continuity in the “intelligence”: there is no thread of understanding or ability to truly delve into a topic to any degree. The fact that even testers at Turing test contests are sometimes fooled says more about the tester than the chatbot or AI).

One parallel situation to point out is that we don’t have computers writing software to any significant degree. There is more and more need for good programmers, not less. The computer and the software, and all the infrastructure, and tools, not tool-makers.

Something not touched on in the interview is that all this infrastructure that blockchain technology depends on is quite fragile, very complex, with many many layers, all dependent on each other. It’s an electronic house of cards. Internet and cloud services have outages, and even when up and running, are not always available to an individual (I’ve talked about this at the end of my article about money (under revision)). Would we really want such fundamental social systems like money and governance dependent on such enormous unwieldy systems, so completely contrived and inherently brittle, subject to breakdown from a misplaced comma in a database backup program on a server in some remote server farm? This is not an unprecedented scenario, as witnessed by the AWS outages in 2015.
(see for example: http://www.datacenterdynamics.com/content-tracks/colo-cloud/aws-suffers-a-five-hour-outage-in-the-us/94841.fullarticle)

I am by no means against technology (thank god for that since I work for a company that makes software for helping to run elections!). I am not a luddite crying that the sky is falling. In fact I love technology and am fascinated with it’s applications. But in part because of my deep involvement with it, including consulting for users that have seen very painful data loss (such as losing the only copy of a Master’s thesis on a floppy disk as a result of having too much faith in technology), I have significant reservations about the over-application. These reservations and a desire to clarify and spread a little more love and understanding, are a result of an understanding of the limits of intellect, the limits of science and the technology that is derived from this understanding and the underlying assumptions and worldview. In fact, my view is that to truly create something approaching a genuine general AI, it is absolutely necessary to recognize and acknowledge these limits, rather than madly pursue dreams down dead end alleyways. The same applies to blockchain technology as it applies to social problems and opportunities. Do we want to reproduce the same insanity and ignorant worldviews