Friday, July 3, 2020

What is Death? Part I



Here we’ll look at one of the most essential questions of the human condition, which has plagued human consciousness since it arose. Both an absolute condition and a seemingly impenetrable barrier, there seem to be as many opinions about death available on the planet at any given time as there are individuals.

Yet if we begin to understand time differently, and begin to absorb the question of eternity not as a theory, but part of the marrow of the universe’s bones, a different picture of awareness and intelligence begins to emerge. There is a breathing in and out of intelligence and awareness; it diffuses and concentrates itself rhythmically, which is a process we see emulated and recapitulated in an infinite number of physical processes. The physical reflects the spiritual; that is, the physical is a mirror of the metaphysical. Emmanuel Swedenborg recognize this and wrote about it at great length, calling it doctrine of correspondences. Interestingly, he said that ancient people such as the Egyptians understood this doctrine well, and that all of their— to us—mysterious and extraordinarily evocative art was an illustration of its variations.

The idea of the physical as a mirror of the spiritual, of course, is not a Swedenborg original; it’s Platonic and even pre-Platonic in nature, since the recognition of this fact has been alive in spiritually competent beings since spiritually competent beings first arose on the planet.

Coming to terms with death and its nature, as well as its meaning, begins with the question of spiritual competence. To be competent means to be fit or proper; to conform to requirements. Death begins within life as a requirement. It’s impossible to separate it from life, so it is the same thing as life. 

It's just a part of it that doesn't seem to make sense to us.

Yet individuals with spiritual competence have, it seems, always found a way to come to terms with death and accept it. Death does not just inhabit the physical spirit that life arises in; it is equally a metaphysical entity with a metaphysical counterpart that corresponds to its physical existence. We can know this because under the terms of metaphysical humanism, all of the reality is merely a piece of clay into which the spiritual has been pressed, leaving an impression. It is a dynamic, eternal, and evolving impression, but it is always a reflection of God's Being; and not itself unto itself alone.

In order to approach a more intimate embrace of the nature of death, we might begin with permanence. The Buddhist doctrines teach that there is no permanence, that everything is impermanent; and of course mechanistic rationalism teaches much the same thing. Yet all of these observations are derived from observations of the natural world, not its metaphysical counterpart. Metaphysical Humanism demonstrates that the natural physical world is a derivative reality; and so we can’t understand death less we understand it from its metaphysical perspective. It’s equally impossible to understand a metaphysical event’s reflection in the natural world unless we understand the laws that govern it. 

As I pointed out in the original exposition of metaphysical humanism, there are three sets of laws that govern natural or material reality as we understand it, and two of them are metaphysical. Gurdjieff actually indicated this to his pupil P. D. Ouspensky when he explained that Man's "higher being-bodies" were not physical bodies, but “astral-intellectual” and “astral-emotional” bodies. He didn't use those exact terms (which here basically mean “of the stars”) but it captures the gist of his teaching on the matter in the sense that these higher bodies are metaphysical entities. They are on a higher level that is not physical in the way we generally understand the word. And because they are not physical bodies, they are not under physical laws.

In understanding death, then, we must attempt to understand it from the perspective of metaphysical law. We need to understand not just the physical fact of the cessation of existence of an individual being within the natural world, but also the intellectual and emotional law that govern that same apparent cessation of being.

Before we look at that in more detail, let us briefly touch on the fact that our impression of impermanence, which I brought up just a bit earlier, is already entirely wrong. From a metaphysical perspective, within eternity—which lives outside of time –there is and can be no death. The existence of all creation within eternity guarantees its absolute permanence. The experience of impermanence is a subjective one arising from the perception of time from within its action.

This should be considered in regard to Gurdjieff's discussion of time in his magnum opus, Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson. In the book, time – which Gurdjieff refers to as the merciless heropass —causes the substance of God's place of existence to erode, provoking him to create the universe. Gurdjieff’s comments on time come up rather early in the book (page 127) and state:

Only Time alone has no sense of objectivity because it is not the result of the fractioning of any definite cosmic phenomena. And it does not issue from anything, but blends always with everything and becomes self-sufficiently independent; therefore, in the whole of the Universe, it alone can be called and extolled as the ‘Ideally-Unique-Subjective-Phenomenon’.

Thus, my boy, uniquely Time alone, or, as it is sometimes called, the ‘Heropass’, has no source from which its arising should depend, but like ‘Divine-Love’ flows always, as I have already told you, independently by itself, and blends proportionately with all the phenomena present in the given place and in the given arisings of our Great Universe.

Several intriguing things emerge from this passage, which otherwise amply illustrates my point that the perception of impermanence is subjective. The first is that Gurdjieff compares time to Divine Love, which, by the way it is described, is almost certainly a reference to Emmanuel Swedenborg’s teachings on the subject; and the second is that by comparing it thus, he de facto assigns time the status of qualities that are emanated by God; even though he later outright states that God Himself is not in absolute control of time. Hidden here is, perhaps, the idea that, like human beings, God has parts of himself that turn out to be unmanageable. The idea is at the very least intriguing, and would underscore the idea that in even the most irritating particulars, man is a perfect reflection of God – right down to his numerous imperfections.

But let's get back to the subject of death. The point, once again, is that impermanence is a subjective impression. Within eternity, the concept of impermanence is meaningless. Impermanence can be inferred only in the presence of time. In this sense, already, we encounter Jeanne de Salzmann's well-known comment: there is no death.

But if there is no death – what is there? There is something.


May your heart be close to God, 
and God close to your heart.















Lee



Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Life-Before-Life


April 19, Sparkill.

The Redwing blackbirds are singing outside my window. The Piermont marsh has a relatively large flock of them—in the thousands, to be sure. They have a habit of moving out of the marsh en masse just as the sun breaks the horizon. They do this by a form of consensus: in the minutes just before dawn, they exchange in a fluidly raucous chorus that gets louder and louder as sunrise approaches.

Astonishingly, there is a single moment where suddenly the entire flock becomes silent, as if by complete agreement with one another. This happens every morning – it isn't a coincidence, like the rare times in a filled room where suddenly, by accident, the whole room become silent. There is an intelligible intention behind their silence.

They are silent for just a moment. Then, suddenly, the quietly explosive sound of thousands of wings beating the air erupts, and the entire flock begins to take flight. It's a breathtaking moment; I've been in the marsh time many times to observe it.

Those who know me well know I write a lot about metaphysics and spirituality. Some of it is quite complicated; and yet there is nothing truly complicated about true practice of Being. The birds are engaged in it; and we can learn from it.

The word intelligent means, in Latin, understanding. That word in turn is constructed from two Latin roots, -inter, between, and -legere, to choose. So we discover – and perhaps we shouldn't be surprised, if we ponder it for a moment – that intelligence consists of making a choice between two things, that is, discrimination. This is one of the essential functions of awareness; and in the case of the birds, we see that both as individuals and as a community, they have a moment at the beginning of their day – just a moment – where they all choose to be silent together. Perhaps it's just an instant; but it is an essential instant. A moment of recognition before action.

This moment of silence before action is a valuable practice; and it's what I engage in each morning, what I often write about here.

Kasyapa, one of the Vedic masters, said the following:

Undisturbed am I, undisturbed is my soul,
Undisturbed mine eye, undisturbed mine ear,
Undisturbed is mine in-breathing, undisturbed mine out-breathing,
Undisturbed my diffusive breath, undisturbed the whole of me.

This is the moment of life-before-life, the moment of awareness that contains life inwardly but has not yet admitted it outwardly. It is an eternal moment with in our awareness: it's always there in us, preceding the arrival of our outside impressions.

This awareness of Being is an exquisitely fine and soft clay into which the outward world impresses itself, leaving a mark. The difference between this clay and a potter’s clay, however, is that this clay is eternally new and capable of receiving the impressions of the outer world over and over again. We could liken it to an endless series of Babylonian cuneiform tablets, inscribed with a stylus: all within our Being, a huge library of impressions.

Life-before-life awaits; it awaits in silence, it awaits in stillness. It's free of opinions and beliefs. It is available to discriminate. It is available to choose.

Part of what is available to be chosen is the newness of life as it is, rather than the previously inscribed version of it. If I inhabit myself undisturbed, I have the option of receiving this newness of life.

This is a tricky thing, but there is a way to inhabit the undisturbed life of the soul and receive life while participating very actively in it. Stillness and action are part of the same world. What needs to be recognized is that action, while vital, does not effectively inform (inwardly form) stillness.

Stillness, however, can perpetually lie at the root of action and inform it—because it is already inwardly formed.

In this way, the inner can inform the outer, but the outer does not truly inform the inner. This is because what is inward is forever the origin of Being; and the outer is what forever follows it.

So, today, as every day, I search for this undisturbed moment in me which is always available. My intelligence, my discrimination, my ability to choose begins here.

How will this life be today?

I'm prepared to see it.

May your heart be close to God, 
and God close to your heart.















Lee



Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Metaphysical Potential, part II


In discussing the concept of metaphysical potential, its importance in the scheme of human experience and inner development can't be overstated.

This morning, my wife was trying to understand the concept. In order to grasp its implications, we had to begin with a discussion of the behavior of photons at the quantum level, where they behave as both waves and particles. This curious phenomenon has been known since the early days of quantum studies, and I remember my grandfather — one of the founders of quantum theory — explaining it to me when I was a child.

Quantum theory is all about metaphysical potential. The wave/particle duality is a direct reflection of the nature of physical reality as it is constructed. 

Put in the terms of metaphysical humanism, waves are spiritual, and particles are natural. Reality (Meister Eckhart’s Creation, which means, basically, everything that is or could be, all that we are capable of knowing or understanding) is a blend of both of these qualities; and human beings are equally the same blend of both things. 

The fact that we are made of quanta, each and everyone of which embodies this duality as a present fact in the very act of existing in the first place, demonstrates the way that both the spiritual and the natural interact within Being at every moment. 

In every instant, all of Being has a freedom to determine of itself the nature of its manifestation: spiritual or natural. Metaphysical or physical. These qualities are not contradictory; and their expression is never separated. (Remember that one can never properly express the spiritual simply by the crudely simplistic approach of rejecting the natural.) Yet an act of conscious choice is necessary in order to resolve the nature of the moment. It may be spiritual; it may be natural. Perhaps it's a blend of both. But if I am passive and simply inhabit a preconceived construct of Being, the decision is made not consciously but, as Gurdjieff said, mechanically.

So what I want to discuss this morning is the idea of freedom in relationship to metaphysical potential. 

Metaphysical potential establishes the rule that all metaphysical properties of human consciousness are embedded in the fabric of reality of itself. 

 It also establishes an inviolable rule that a freedom of choice always exists in the instant before reality manifests. It's a cosmological law.

The metaphysical potential of the present moment, as well as all moments, rests in the state of perfect stillness and nothingness which contains all possibilities; it is only in the arrival of consciousness that a determination regarding that potential is made. The Free Will Theorem demonstrates a potential in every situation and in every instant that is free – it is not determined by what came before.

It is in no way overstatement to remark that Jeanne de Salzmann’s personal notebooks about her lifelong inner effort (currently published in a highly edited form as The Reality of Being) are a record of her effort to come into contact with this shared metaphysical potential. 

To come into contact with the instant before anything exists, where inner freedom is still present. 

Every single remark that she makes about freedom—and there are quite a few of them, because this was a very large part of her own personal aim—is in direct relationship to the question of what happens before time, in this inherent freedom from cause-and-effect. Our assumptions, our habits, our association and our experience draw a set of blinds down between us and an initial state of experience that still contains the freedom expressed in the quantum fabric. She speaks of this repeatedly in many different ways.

In the same way, every one of Meister Eckhart’s sermons comes in one way or another to grips with the question of metaphysical potential, which, as he also repeatedly says, must always be invoked by stripping us of everything we are. (Eckhart and de Salzmann have much in common.) If we read Eckhart closely and often – a necessity, since his insight is of a much higher order than our own—it's only in a complete abandonment, paradoxically, of both the spiritual and the natural state that we can reach our metaphysical potential, which is embedded not in our own thought, but in the very thought of God itself. This paradoxical abandonment of even the spiritual itself—something it is quite likely did not please the Catholic Church at all—lies simply in the fact that even our conception of the spiritual is already of the natural

Insidious, that; and yet we must ultimately come to terms with the facts: we are wrong even about the things we have right. 

There is nothing ridiculous about the idea that we are capable of inhabiting this place: spiritual masters of one kind or another have spoken about it for millennia. Each one of them, however, brought their own intuition as fractured by their own psyche. We all suffer from this deficiency.

Some of our modern insights into the natural world, especially the world of quantum physics, have finally provided questions that speak more clearly to the exact nature of this freedom and what it consists of. 

Metaphysical potential is the key concept in exploring this from a practical point of view; and it restores our responsibilities as conscious beings to engage with nature in a radical act of unknowing, which is a profoundly spiritual and metaphysical — not natural and material — action.

 So we can fairly say that the game has changed; it is just up to us to recognize it.

May your heart be close to God, 
and God close to your heart.















Lee



Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

The Now of Goodness


Part of the spiritual path is being willing to look very carefully, within the being and the body of one’s own physical presence and intelligence, at what the spiritual part consists of. 

I need to develop a clear discrimination between that which is of this world and that which belongs to God.

They're not the same thing at all.

We live with in the midst of very coarse and approximate forces which achieve much of what they achieve through coercion of various kinds. The use of this kind of force, a force that demands and compels, is routine for humanity; yet it doesn't emerge from a compassionate essence. It's born of our egos, which insist on playing God and trying to run everything. Ego thinks it knows everything; it thinks it can achieve everything; and in many cases, it insists that God is telling it what to do every minute of every day. 

It is a liar that takes us away from our spiritual presence and replaces it with corruption.

The only way to get some distance from this and to begin to come into relationship with a finer quality of Being that's inspired by the Holy Spirit, we need to quiet down a great deal. One can be certain that anything that is driven by great passion and accusations, yelling and fighting, is not of the Holy Spirit. It is of man. It will only lead to more accusations, yelling, and fighting. 

The least taste of spiritual sobriety will immediately make this clear; the life of the spirit is infused first with love, before anything else happens. There is an essential goodness available to us that can flow into our lives from this spirit of love, which is a material presence, a substance that flows into Being within us. Its action can be physically felt when it is present.

Essential goodness does not come from what we think up, the plans we make, the opinions we have. It begins in this inflow of Divine Love. We are responsible, as representatives of the Holy Spirit on earth, for receiving this love quite quietly in the innermost and most essential core of our Being, which is quite close to where God touches the soul. 

When we receive it, we then become responsible for doing our best to live from the center of gravity it creates in us, expressing love as the fundamental condition from which all other action takes place. 

This is a terrifically difficult task, because everywhere we turn within ourselves, ego wants to co-opt these conditions and turn them to its own purpose.

Human beings are unable to craft some future goodness. Goodness that springs from the eternal and divine quality of the spirit can only ever be crafted now, in this moment, in the actual moment in which I manifest. If goodness is manifest within the moment that I live, right now, then goodness will be more present. It is only present to the extent that each person takes responsibility for this action in the present moment. 

Goodness must, in other words, be perpetually renewed as a principal from which to live now.

I speak of goodness not as a moral code which dictates how others should behave, but an inner code of Being which naturally infuses me with the intelligent behavior of love. I'm highly resistant to this process, but as I spend my life watching how I behave, experiencing myself, seeing how I am, I gradually soften in such a way that this Divine Love can influence me more deeply. It's a natural process that achieves its best results when allowed to act naturally. My chief participation begins in my own mindfulness.

I’m speaking about this this morning simply because I watch the chaos and anger seizing the world today and I realize that we, as a species, are beset with various powerful kinds of insanity. The intensity of ego and selfishness is concentrating in ways that destroy. 

The only thing that can be brought against it is a deeper commitment to the Holy Spirit; anything that comes from me will simply be a doubling down on the original problem. 

I need to open my heart to God more and more.

One recalls the words in Isaiah 58: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and My ways are not your ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” This simple fact of the relationship between the spirit and the world is so easily forgotten. Much of our behavior is characterized by an arrogance that dismisses this essential passage.

As I come into relationship with this energy of the Holy Spirit this morning, a bit more of its presence speaks within me. It touches every molecule; and I realize that the soul is connected to God in subtle ways that cannot be appreciated by any approach that goes by my own way. 

It is our duty as human beings to seek a better and deeper connection with the essence and the spirit of love, not later, but now; to infuse ourselves as best we can with that essence by quietly attending to our connection with it; and to mindfully act from the goodness that flows into being as a result. 

The only time this can ever have an effect on the conditions on this planet is now. If I’m not responsible for setting an example of my own, nothing can be improved. 

I need to do that now. 

I wish to do that now. 

I will not make excuses for myself and wait until later when I think conditions are better.

This is where I plant my hope today.

Regards,

Lee

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

The Spiritual and the Natural


When we examine the question of metaphysical potential, and understand that at the quantum level, particles are able to behave in a way that's not a function of the past, we realize that reality as we encounter it and perceive it is mathematically free of preconditions.

This expression, mathematically free of preconditions, has important implications. First of all, it sounds entirely and exactly correct in a way that arouses an objective consonance in Being. Second of all, it reminds us that, in a universe with a fabric that is quite clearly constructed of material that interacts according to the structural discipline of numerics, that is, parts that can and cannot be counted, the fundamental rule – the mathematical rule—dictates a freedom from time. That is, reality is not dependent on time.

I say this because the word preconditions is itself a creature of time. What the Free Will Theorem essentially says is that mathematics is eternal, that is, the structural foundation of the universe exists outside of time. It is metaphysical, not physical. 

Mathematics itself is a form of metaphysics; it's a thought form, and thought forms exist outside the physical. It may seem peculiar to draw a line that links metaphysics to physics through mathematics, but this is actually the same line that the universe forms itself along. So here we have the most powerful interpretive mechanism mankind has ever devised for explaining the universe – 100% of our modern technology is a direct  consequence of that form —and it turns out that it is both metaphysical and eternal.

Sometime ago, I explained the difference between the metaphysical and the physical as the difference between the spiritual and the natural. Emmanuel Swedenborg recognized that the spiritual is what inwardly forms everything natural; he called it the inflow. What we're presented with in the modern world is the argument between metaphysical humanism and mechanistic rationalism. Mechanistic rationalism believes that the spiritual is an imaginary force arising from the accident of the natural. Metaphysical humanism, on the other hand, takes the position that the natural is an imaginary force arising from the intention of the spiritual. 

Put it in simpler terms, the question is whether nature creates the image of the soul or the soul creates the image of nature. 

Do we live in a world of accident punctuated by intention, or a world of intention punctuated by accident?

Imagination is mindful; that is to say, it requires an intelligence to manifest it and create the image. A mindless, accidental nature cannot give rise to mindfulness. But mindfulness can give rise to an intelligible nature. The metaphysical, in other words, is in every way able to give birth to all that exists; yet the physical has none of this ability whatsoever. The physical is a subset of the metaphysical, and not the other way around. This is another straightforward way of describing the situation.

Human beings have both natural and spiritual, or physical and metaphysical, Being. Their ability to act in all of the ways that life and consciousness truly act –agency, perception, intelligence, foresight and so on –is what constitutes responsibility, that is, the ability to perceive and respond. These metaphysical aspects of Being are what make Being possible in the first place; without any of the metaphysical aspects, the physical materials do nothing. There is, in other words, no doubt that metaphysics acts on physics, and not the other way around. 

We discover the origins and nature of our consciousness in eternity, that is, in an arising that exists outside of time and has no preconditions. It is metaphysical; it is spiritual. 

Quantum uncertainty is metaphysical; it's impossible to see it, to measure it, to manipulate its outcomes: we can only see its outcomes. 

In the same way, consciousness cannot be seen; only the outcomes of its existence can be perceived and measured. Every perception of the natural, in other words, is a perception of and from the spiritual. In this sense, the action of consciousness itself is an unnatural act – it comes from beyond nature. This is the reason that the sciences have had such great difficulty explaining consciousness. There is no natural explanation for it.

These ideas are not new at all, of course. Meister Eckhart's sermons create a core literature laying a foundation for this perspective in Western thought nearly a thousand years ago—and he himself came from a long line of spiritual thinkers. 

The effort of mechanistic rationalists to deconstruct this deeply human vision and force it into a world of brute matter with no intelligence has been alive for as long as those who know better. 

Yet the effort itself is wholly disingenuous. Those putting it forward have over time falsely adopted the essential humanistic underpinnings of metaphysical humanism as secular values, this in order to conceal their destructive efforts to undermine man's spiritual nature and put ego at the center of creation. 

The metaphysics of thought and feeling that create the image of the world we know are entities far greater than these tiny men and women who, despite the deceivingly vast scale and scope of their vision, can think no further than dull matter. How they have managed to put their negative theology at the base of western civilization is another question, perhaps all to easily answered. Human beings love the natural over the spiritual, because the natural is a thing of the ego that serves the self. The spiritual is of creation and serves much greater forces. 

The whole of the human saga centers around the conflict between these two forces. Even dumbed down to the vulgar ubiquity of the modern media, almost every program shares one feature in common: the bad guys are always the ones who are egoists serving themselves. The good guys are always those who serve a higher purpose. This is a crude rendering of the tension between the natural and the spiritual; so even the silliest good guy/bad guy program is a discussion not of physics, but metaphysics.

Think about this the next time you watch a program – even a quality one, such as, for example, World on Fire (PBS/BBC.) These shows, in the length, breadth, and scope of their drama, appear to be about natural events — people having babies, things blowing up – and yet in the end every situation they present is a question centered not in the physics of the interactions, but the metaphysics of the morality. 

There is no drama without a question of morality. And morality is a spiritual, not a natural, entity.



May your heart be close to God, 
and God close to your heart.















Lee



Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Monday, June 22, 2020





...sometimes necessary to have people around you that you dislike. If people always pleasant, you like them—no incentive for work.



Gurdjieff, to C. S. Nott in 1925 or 1926; from "Journal of a Pupil", page 113. 

Sunday, June 21, 2020

The nature of consciousness




Although, in a broad sense, consciousness is an emergent property of matter, emergent properties don't preclude the existence of conscious intent at lower levels. It’s a question of dispersed agency--the property is not wholly latent at lower levels, but dispersed and hence less active. Remember that per the law of metaphysical potential, existence itself embodies every metaphysical property from the beginning, even before it manifests in a visible way. 

Aggregation simply intensifies the action of what is already there. If there were no consciousness or intention at the root of existence it would not "emerge" later. I'd say it isn't emerging... not per se. It is becoming more concentrated, as in de Salzmann's discussions of concentration of force in awareness.

My friend Paul asked me recently what I thought consciousness consisted of. I answered him as follows.  

A conscious subject is able in degree to manifest the following actions:

Agency. The ability to undertake volitional action. Repair molecules in cells do this.
Perception. The ability to perceive an environment external to the self. Repair molecules do this too, even though their perceptive tools are molecular orders rather than organs.
Intention. The ability for said volitional action to have an aim. Again, molecules do this.
Foresight. The ability to anticipate results of volition. Cellular molecules do this too.
Memory. The ability to catalog sensory input for later comparative retrieval. Cellular molecules definitely have this, because they evaluate damaged molecules against remembered inner templates.
Discrimination. The ability to make decisions and choose between alternatives. Cellular repair molecules? They do this too. Given the huge number of molecules found in a cell, there are by deduction an even wider range of damages that may be encountered, so evaluation of the nature of the damage must be essential to successful molecular recruitment and repair.
Altruism. The ability to act on behalf of the interests of others, even at one’s own expense.

Readers note—I don't think the ability to replicate is de facto evidence of consciousness, except at the lowest of levels.

In my view, the repair molecules in cells are conscious. Ascribing the complex set of repair actions they undertake as mechanical seems to grossly underestimate the action. 

How do individual molecules without brains exhibit such complicated behaviors? If they don't have an awareness, exactly how is all the data that drives their inarguable form of independent agency encoded, and to what end? I think the point made about bees--that they appear to display complex conscious behaviors in the absence of any evidence for supportive neurological structures that ought to be there, per standard theoretical models--is one hundred, perhaps even a thousand, times more true for our nuclear repair molecules.

By taking a concise look at the behavior of cellular molecules, which by themselves and alone are not even considered as alive by scientists – they are merely "mechanical" agencies functioning inside a creature that is, by some interesting stretch of imagination, “alive” in a way that the individual molecules are not –we see that they undertake an extraordinary range of actions any one of which would ordinarily be assigned as a conscious action by a higher organism. When these same properties are documented not in intracellular molecules, but also in extraordinarily simple organisms such as dinoflagellates and various types of bacteria, they still aren’t considered as evidence of consciousness. 

Keep in mind that if a human being fails to exhibit some of these properties – such as intention or foresight – we still refer to them as conscious, even though, in this regard, bacteria can outperform them. If "lower" organisms display an entire range of behaviors that we associate with conscious behavior in higher organisms, how is it then possible to claim the lower organisms are not consciousness and the higher ones are? This implies a confirmation bias and an imperialism of scale. Those two actions, as it is well known, are all too human in every way – and we equally know that when engaged in, either one of them produces false results. 

The clear inference is that in regard to what consciousness consists of, modern science finds itself in the grip of a dogma of denial regarding things that are already—in its own eyes—well-established and more or less incontrovertible facts.

Once we reach higher organisms such as bees, the action of agency, intention, foresight, memory, discrimination, and altruism become so patently obvious that scientists are left scratching their heads. The evidence for conscious intelligence here it is so powerful that it can't be denied; and it exists in the absence of the complex physical structures that we suppose such conscious properties must have available to them in order to organize and manifest in the first place. The study of intelligence and bees has blurred so many lines in the question of consciousness that it is beginning to reframe the dialogue about its nature within various levels in the biological scale. Yet the law of metaphysical potential points us towards a perspective from which the bees are actually nearer the top of the ladder in a scale of conscious behavior, rather than a lower rung.

These things are well worth thinking on, I believe.

May your heart be close to God, 
and God close to your heart.












Lee



Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Metaphysical Potential


Readers of Metaphysical Humanism may recall that I explained consciousness cannot exist on the (relatively) macroscopic scale we exhibit and experience it in unless it’s already built into the fabric of the universe.

Although I didn't use the term in the book, what this represents is metaphysical potential: that is, a potential for action that is already built into the fabric of created reality. Anything we see arising in reality is already inherent to its nature – not acquired. Because of the way that levels of created reality function, what is inherent to it expresses itself differently on different levels, but the principle — the metaphysical principle, that informs – that is, inwardly forms—such inherent aspects of nature remains consistent and universal throughout. Thus, if human beings are intelligent, the cells they are made out of have an intelligence; and the molecules those cells are made of have an intelligence; and the atoms those molecules are made out of have an intelligence.

It’s in the nature of both science and philosophy to make mistakes; and as we observe intelligence on our own level, we make them in regard to our intelligence, consciousness, and other properties of being, presuming our modes of agency to be unique. Yet they are unique only in character, not in substance, because the substances that give rise to the character have these properties in the first place.

It's possible to approach this using the theory of two prominent mathematicians, which is referred to as the Free Will Theorem. This exercise was constructed in order to make a point about cause-and-effect. According to those who agree with the theorem, it demonstrates quite conclusively that atomic particles behave in a way that is not a function of the past. This means that our reality is by no means deterministic, even though it presents a strong appearance of determinism at macroscopic scales.

My purpose, however, is not to engage in a discourse in determinism. It is, rather, to show that phenomenon such as free will – the ability to choose, which is a signature feature of agency —exist as factual behavioral premises at the foundation of the created cosmos. This is what I call metaphysical potential

The law of metaphysical potential, as introduced here, states that all metaphysical activity has its roots in an objective metaphysical potential which is built into the fabric of what we call reality. Another way of saying that is that the metaphysical behaviors that humans express –thinking, feeling, love, anger, and even agency itself—are already present at the beginning of the material state. In what I call the Georgia version of this theory, “ya cain’t have it at tha top if ya hain’t got it at tha bottom.” 

The concept of free will as a fundamental universal state has an enormous amount to do not only with the way the quantum level functions, it is also essential to human behavior and its metaphysical properties. The idea that particles do not have to behave in a way that is a function of the past has everything to do with the possibility of new and unexpected things happening. And, indeed, that is what happens all the time. Everything appears, to our conscious state, to take place as a function of what happened in the past; and yet, in point of fact, in every instance of time all the things that happen are, from a metaphysical point of view, entirely new. Their resemblance to things past, as well as their dependency on them, arises from an illusory quality imparted by relationship. What imparts the appearance of causality is not an actual causality inherent in manifestation in time; it is an imparted causality constructed by our perception of it. That is to say, agency and perception assign causality—which is, by the way, exactly what experiments and quantum physics have taught us.

Agency and perception are incontrovertibly metaphysical properties. Although they manifest within a physical world, they cannot be measured with instruments – only their apparent causes and effects can. The properties themselves are functions of movement through time and space, undertaken in relationship.

In this very real and fundamental sense, metaphysics creates physics, and not the other way around. This bears great deal of thinking about, because it suggests that we have our entire understanding of the cosmos upside down.

Following on this set of observations, a further hypothesis is that from the quantum state onwards, all materials and their actions are a priori infused with the metaphysical properties the govern both the observations made about them and the creatures that make them. Life, in other words, has the capacity to concentrate pre-existing and naturally dispersed metaphysical aspects of materiality; and as it does so more and more apparent and perceptible expressions of the metaphysical foundation of the cosmos are able to arise.


In this sense, consciousness itself – which is the quintessential metaphysical property encompassing the features of agency, intention, foresight, memory, discrimination, and altruism — is a natural outgrowth of an already present metaphysical property embedded at the root of reality as we know it. 


May your heart be close to God, 
and God close to your heart.















Lee



Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Dream Interpretation


June 16.


Last night, a dream about being in a movie theater. 


The portion of the dream that I remember begins outside the theater, with a crowd gathering. The movie is an important and popular one. It has just opened.


 I’m with a group of three other people; we have a block of tickets which were hard to get. The seats are supposed to be together, but when we get into the theater, it’s a bit confusing which is which. The seats are so far away from the screen that I think to myself we’ll need binoculars to see the movie.


I think about sitting next to my daughter Rebecca, but we’ve had an argument recently and I’m not sure it’s okay to sit with her. I check the row directly behind her, thinking I’ll find a seat there; but, oddly, one of the tickets they’ve sold us is for a seat that’s —quite surrealistically—only one inch wide. We decide to go to the management and protest it; but the scene morphs into a moment when I’m in the seat (a normal sized one), all questions about seating having been resolved by themselves. I’m eating some sort of candy or snack. There is a cupboard in front of me in the seats, as though I were in my own home. I open a door and take a package of gummy bears out of it. The bag is already open and more than half eaten. 


Nonetheless, what remains in the bag looks very fresh. They’re Haribo gummy bears (the best!) which have many white ones in the selection—white being my absolute favorite flavor. The woman next to me, attractive but much younger than me, asks for some gummy bears for her kids. I readily agree. I don’t have my usual disturbing, selfish thoughts of keeping them for myself. 


I notice that she’s sitting much too close to me, leaning into me as though there were some form of romantic attraction, but at the same time I realize she’s much too young to be interested in anyone my age. I look at her closely. She tends towards being a redhead and is freckled. I don’t remember what she says to me, but the sense of the conversation marks her as an intellectual.


Interpretation:


The theater represents life. As a whole, it’s an important new event that most of me, the unconscious (the unfamiliar crown of theatergoers) attends. Being there for it is desirable. It’s always new. Yet getting to it (having tickets) requires a special effort.


I represent my own real “I”, and the three people I am with the three centers of my being. Only one of those centers has a clear identity, my daughter. Yet I don’t interact with any of them in this dream; my identity is firmly placed in my three-brained existence, a formed and unified self. The fact that I am hesitant about sitting next to my daughter indicates that at least one of my parts, probably the feeling, which I am most drawn to emotionally — the fact that it has the identity of my child shows how close I am to it, since the other two centers have no clear identities — and I are not getting along too well. Despite its essential function, our relationship has its troubles. The fact that we are very far away from the movie screen and may need special instruments to see what is going on indicates that there is still a long way to go towards full participation in life. This particular concern is forgotten almost as soon as it arises in the dream, because it isn’t a critical consideration. The presumption is that, while imperfect, what is taking place is good enough. It can be accepted.


The tiny seat is an indicator that this new part of myself, this wholly formed identity, is having a bit of trouble finding its real place in life. It has been invited, but it is unsure of where to locate itself. The authority that apportions such matters (the ticket office) has made a mistake.


The fact that this apparent dilemma resolves itself effortlessly and without requiring a protest or confrontation about the matter indicates that this is a natural condition that will easily take care of itself.


There is sustenance available in my new condition. It is just like home, there is food to be had for the taking right in front of me. It consists of things that will satisfy me a great deal and are special (the gummy bears.) The fact that they are already mine and some of them seem to have been eaten in advance indicates that I have been dining on this food before I got to this place in life. Now I need to be generous and share it with new parts of myself with which I am completely unfamiliar (the woman in the seat next to me.) Those parts are much more familiar with me than I am with them. I need to give them the best parts of the food that’s available (the white gummy bears) even though I like them the best. I’m willing to give these away without concern (I don’t have the thought of keeping them for myself) because I understand that it’s the right thing to do. This new part of myself has offspring (her children) that need to be taken care of, but I don’t meet them.


All in all, this dream is an allegory about forming new being and traveling with it to the place where life enters. It is a beginning; the show hasn’t really started yet. There is uncertainty; it appears as though there isn’t a place for me, but then it is effortlessly provided. This represents the action of grace. There is food; again, effortlessly provided. I need to share it with new and unfamiliar parts of my being. All of this takes place in a public place — the movie theater, which represents ordinary life. 


Ordinary life is presented as an important event (the movie), a phenomenon that all of being participates in through relationship. The structure it’s presented in, a movie theater, indicates both a hierarchical organization (the assigned seating in rows) of those relationships in their order, as well as a place where everything needs to be observed. There is a lot of preparation for observation (the crowd seating itself) and that needs to be done in the proper order. Thought needs to be given about where I belong in this (not sitting next to my daughter, that is, parts which I may be in conflict with, and the confusion about the seats.) 


It turns out that watching the movie, at the end of the dream, is not as important as attending to the food that is available and the parts of myself that I am in immediate relationship with. There’s an intimacy to that question which calls for generosity and putting myself aside.




A note to readers:


I will do dream interpretations for free if the dream is an interesting one. Readers who want a dream interpretation are welcome to contact me at doremishock@gmail.com with their dream. Dreams should be described in as much detail as possible. If there are emotional attitudes or other nuanced inflections in the dream, include them.


Guidelines:


1. Readers who submit dreams should be willing to release the rights for the dream along with permission to publish it (anonymously, of course) for blog readers. 


2. Readers who want a dream interpreted need to include their actual name and address, along with a brief (one paragraph) personal background statement so I can know who you are. 


3. Sending in a dream does not guarantee an interpretation; if you receive one it will not be published without your permission.


4. No prank dreams, please.


Be well,


Lee