Turing Church Podcast

The late Christopher Hitchens said something to the effect that conversations about religion are always interesting because you find out so much about a person: Their values, their conception of what is real, what matters in this life.

In this podcast we use religious scripture to take us to that base, to that framework, and then with the questions incited from this investigation, we connect it to the future of humanity. Say, to the tech that might enable what the Buddha experienced in meditation. What if instead of devas, there are advanced alien races, who like devas, are not worthy of worship. They die too, and are not our salvation, but may be beings of great knowledge who wield technologies that make preposterous religious dialogue sound like “terms and conditions” read by Spocks.

Where would an artificial general intelligence with consciousness fit. Would it also be a mere deva or would it be a god like that of Abraham? Able to create universes as many physicist believe is possible with sufficient knowledge? Then what would be its values? Could it be that our cultures in inventing their particular god have been preparing for the advent of general AI. And how well has that historical project gone? Are the attributes of Allah or Krishna mere reflections of apish ignorance?
These are the sorts of questions we ask.

In this episode we look at the Aggi Vacchagotta Sutta from Buddhist scripture. In which the Buddha converts a wanderer, Vacchagotta, to his way, to the way of the Buddha, to the Dharma.

Have you ever had a walk with a friend, like I have through the nearby shoreline of Lake Michigan and just asked philosophical questions? Not the boring esoteric philosophy questions, but questions like, “Would you rather know the truth of all things or would you rather experience pure pleasure in some machine?”

Back then, I was really unsure. Truth seemed so valuable – to see beyond my eyes conceived of mortal dust, and witness what is at bottom. And pleasure seemed so… unheroic. Yet if I was smart, I knew I would pick that blissful, everlasting, heroin high. But to even say it sounds vulgar. And I think this is because we know that pleasure in our conventional lives is not fulfilling. It fades and leaves us hollow.

This is what underlies the teachings of the Buddha. The concept that life as is lived by those uninstructed in his teachings, the natural way of things is unsatisfying because nothing lasts.

Would knowing the truth be any different? Say you discovered we lived in an eternal multiverse. You had the true theory of everything. You might be ecstatic for a moment, but how long would it take before the ups and downs of life, of samsara, made you think, damn knowing truth is not as important as I thought, I should have picked the other option.

In this sutta, the wanderer is like who I was when I was debating that question with my cousin and craved truth. He meets the Buddha and asks him, “Is the cosmos infinite? Is it finite? Is the body and the soul, the same? Or is dualism, with the soul not the same as the body, the way things actually are? What are the views of Master Gotama on these questions?” And the Buddha replies to each question saying that he does not hold that view.

In our debate walking by the shore, the Buddha is one who picks something more akin to the machine in our philosophical question. But not quite. He introduces the option of a machine, so to speak, that would make you perceive all phenomena of consciousness clearly for what they are. Sight is sight. Sound is sound. Sensation is sensation. Thought is thought. All being perceived closely as they appear and disappear. And you would not form views and stories about it. You wouldn’t even form the story of being a self who is experiencing these things. Therefore in this machine you would not get tired or bored after some time, because you would not perceive yourself as even being there. It doesn’t mean there would be sleep or nothingness. It means there would be a flow of experience so fluid that everything would be a clear stream, and you would be so tripped out in this stream of clear recognition that questions of truth or pleasure or your place in the world would be beyond irrelevant.

At first, the wanderer is confused. Because he views the world conceptually, like a philosopher or scientist or theologian. But the Buddha advocates a very clever way to game the system. And unless you have practiced this kind of meditation yourself for a long time, you too may be confused. So I would recommend that after this podcast you tune into a guided meditation by Sam Harris. He teaches you that operating system which is radically different from the way we normally interact with the world. And you can be sure there’s nothing magical about it, given that Harris has built his reputation on being radically skeptical of unreason.

I say this to my more scientific, atheistic side of the audience. But to the more mystical side, skeptical of things like the material basis of consciousness, I ask that you lay aside that skepticism and consider the possibility of engineering the brain at a molecular level so that all the neuronal circuitry is redesigned to experience precisely what the Buddha describes. Say we had this option in society. Would it be cheating, or would this hacking the system mentality be exactly what the Buddha was all about in the first place. Would there be nothing lost? Isn’t it just as vulgar as the traditional pleasure machine to forsake the quest for truth and enter this state that may just be a purer and nobler and ultimately more pleasurable version of the pleasure machine. Or can we say that the quest for truth as most conceive it is misguided and truth about the cosmos is ultimately as insignificant as truth about a toenail? That truth should be measured as the intensity to which you are in a state of flow?

Most Westerners, even if atheistic, think of truth as Christians do. Nietzche commented on this succintly. Plato to Christianity to Enlightenment thought; it’s all the same in one respect. Enlightenment thought uses the scientific methods, unlike the dogmatic reliance on scripture, which makes it very different, and yet it similar in that it creates a sense that there is some foundation that we can understand through thought to which we all belong. We never stop to see thought as the blip of energy that it is. A transient image or voice. We believe that what we see and think refers to something.

Think of dissecting a frog. That makes sense to you. We have been trained to dissect and expand on concepts. But have you ever stopped to directly dissect an emotion or the sound of these words? The Buddha asks that we turn to dissect truth on that plane, not the plane of concepts.

Unfortunately, I consider this way of existing incompatible with being a highly productive member of society. In order to transcend the human condition, we need more mastery over technology. Meditation can only go so far, and requires great investment of mental faculties in order to actually reach anything that is radically different from the base state of being. If the globe could be transformed into a dedicated community of monks, that would be better for most people living today, but it would forever cap our potential. Transhuman progress requires spiritually-disgusting sacrifice, ambition, and smart people of today being constantly lost in thought. However, it promises to reveal a much greater array of sustainable “higher-pleasure machines,” which, if we are honest, are all we could ever hope for.

 

 

*If you like this podcast idea, let me know. I might actually start something like this.*

Learning to Reason with Ibn Battuta

Is Ibn Battuta a credible writer?

The question of, “Is this credible?” should be asked of independent statements and pressure tested against information known to have a high probability of being true. To put the blanket label “credible” or “not credible” on this kind of writing makes no sense.

What are his prejudices, if any?

A prejudice is a preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience. All of Battuta’s opinions can be suspected of having formed before Battuta had the evidence for their truth or usefulness (as can anyone’s opinions). All of these potentially preconceived opinions, or a subset of these, may not have foundations on the power of the mind to think, understand, and form judgments by a process of logic. Luckily, there is a way to discover which opinions within the larger domain of preconceived opinions are not based on reason. The way to do this is by applying one’s own power of the mind to think, understand, and form judgments by a process of logic to Battuta’s opinions. However, there is no way to know of the other kinds of preconceived opinions – to distinguish which are based on experience and which are not. This is because practical contact with facts or events is a first-person experience. If Ibn Battuta had not been constrained to giving an account in language, but rather had been a futuristic explorer, then he might have been able to leave a technology that would allow others to have his recorded experience. In this hypothetical scenario, there would be a higher probability of succeeding in distinguishing preconceived opinions that are based on experience and those that aren’t.

Therefore, the task is to find preconceived opinions not based on reason. But Battuta’s account is inundated with the ambiguities of language, so it is difficult to know which sentences are opinions that can be processed by one’s own machinery of reasoning without rendering the endeavor absurd. This problem of personal bandwidth constraints is exacerbated by the fact that every single sentence written by a human being expresses a view or judgement formed about something. Take this sentence:
“I left Tangier, my birthplace, on Thursday, 2nd Rajab 725 [June 14, 1325], being at that time twenty-two years of age [22 lunar years; 21 and 4 months by solar reckoning], with the intention of making the Pilgrimage to the Holy House [at Mecca] and the Tomb of the Prophet [at Medina].”

As far from opinion as you can get, right? But if this is viewed through the lenses of a hardcore Buddhist understanding, the very first couple of words reek of delusion. There is an expressed view that a unified “I” did something. And this view is taken for granted, not even recognized as a judgement overlaid on the experience of mindstream in flux. And if we take the lenses of someone more cosmically oriented, we see that Ibn Battuta is expressing a particular view when he says his birthplace is Tangier. Wasn’t the birthplace a causal geometry in Battuta’s past light cone with coordinates that are determinable in principle? An easier view to identify is that he is fond of Islam. He hints at holding an Islamic view by apparently disagreeing with the yet unborn Pope Gregory as to what century he lives in (note the brackets inserted by infidels to create relatable context.) Not to mention that he refers to a section of his movement across the four-dimensional spacetime continuum with the word “Pilgrimage”, and also invokes the symbols of “Holy House” and “Tomb of the Prophet” to refer to some clusters of baryonic matter.

So given this predicament of being creatures laden with views and judgements, cognitive overload will occur if reason is applied to every sentence. So instead, a general assessment of Battuta’s use of deductive, inductive, and abductive reasoning should suffice.

Deductive reasoning:
In the section mentioning Battuta’s visit to Gehenna, he says this:

“In the same place there is another church which the Christians venerate and to which they come on pilgrimage. This is the church of which they are falsely persuaded to believe that it contains the grave of Jesus [Church of the Holy Sepulcher].”

Since Battuta shows pretty convincing signs of being a devout Muslim, it is fair to assume that he arrived to the conclusion that the Holy Sepulcher was not the grave of Jesus because he adopted the following premises:

Premise 1: All Islamic teaching is true.

Premise 2: The teaching that Jesus was not buried is Islamic teaching.

Conclusion: It is true to say that Jesus was not buried.

If these were his premises, then he deduced in proper form. And yet the fact that he was capable of deducing properly within Islamic logic-space does not make Ibn Battuta reasonable. Neither could he be considered reasonable if a dispassionate alien came to the same conclusion that Jesus was not buried in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. If Ibn Battuta is right, he is so by accident. When applying logic, it is essential that the premises on which the conclusion is established be based on verified facts. Ibn Battuta should be willing to change and seek justification for his premises if he is to be considered reasonable. Premise 2 is contended by a small minority of Muslims. But to go that route is unnecessary because Premise 1 doesn’t survive reason, and Premise 2 hinges on Premise 1.

Ibn Battuta only once seems to seek justification for a belief. This is when he asks an imam about the authenticity of the cave with the purported graves of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The imam then ‘kicks the can’ further back by saying that all the scholars (Muslim scholars) have told him that they are indeed the graves of these figures. One does not detect an eagerness to change and justify their practices, institutions, and beliefs based on new or existing information. To the contrary, if Battuta’s writing accurately described his mental behavior and that of others, it would seem as if this was not at all a part of their human nature.

Inductive reasoning:
Inductive reasoning can never reach certain conclusions, only become evermore probable based on evidence. With that being said, Battuta probably sucks at inductive reasoning.

Here are general principles he derived from what couldn’t have been but an unconvincingly small set of data points:

“The Meccan women are extraordinarily beautiful and very pious and modest.”

“Three days’ march through this district brought us to the town of Wisit. Its inhabitants are among the best people in Iraq–indeed, the very best of them without qualification.”

“The inhabitants of Basra possess many excellent qualities; they are affable to strangers and give them their due, so that no stranger ever feels lonely amongst them.”

“Its inhabitants (Zabid’s) are charming in their manners, upright, and handsome, and the women especially are exceedingly beautiful.”

“Its people (of Ta’izz) are overbearing, insolent, and rude, as is generally the case in towns where kings reside.”

“Some of the merchants are immensely rich, so rich that sometimes a single merchant is sole owner of a large ship with all it contains, and this is a subject of ostentation and rivalry amongst them. In spite of that they are pious, humble, upright, and generous in character, treat strangers well, give liberally to devotees, and pay in full the tithes due to God.”

There may, in fact, be some truth to his impressions. But he doesn’t communicate as if he were suggesting hypotheses and making offerings of data, but instead as if his conclusions were necessarily entailed by his all-seeing discernment.

Abductive reasoning:
“The whole concourse, weeping and supplicating and seeking the favour of God through His Books and His Prophets, made their way to the Mosque of the Footprints, and there they remained in supplication and invocation until near midday. They then returned to the city and held the Friday service, and God lightened their affliction; for the number of deaths in a single day at Damascus did not attain two thousand, while in Cairo and Old Cairo it reached the figure of twenty-four thousand a day.”

Abduction goes from an observation to a theory which accounts for the observation. Here, the observation is less deaths than usual in Damascus, Cairo, and Old Cairo. The hypothesis is that there is a God that can be persuaded to decrease the death toll by sufficient prayer. And due to the display put forth by the faithful, this god was convinced.

For a medieval context, this abductive reasoning is at least intelligible. The problem is that there is an almost infinite amount of guesses that can also be at least intelligible explanations. Battuta does not view his guess as one among many that might explain the decrease in deaths. He doesn’t even view it as a guess at all, and therefore doesn’t think twice about attributing the phenomenon to his first intuition. This is bad abductive reasoning.

This habit is seen again when he tells the story of the Ummayad Mosque which involved the destruction of a Christian church:
“When Walid decided to extend the mosque over the entire church he asked the Greeks to sell him their church for whatsoever equivalent they desired, but they refused, so he seized it. The Christians used to say that whoever destroyed the church would be stricken with madness and they told that to Walid. But he replied “I shall be the first to be stricken by madness in the service of God,” and seizing an axe, he set to work to knock it down with his own hands. The Muslims on seeing that followed his example, and God proved false the assertion of the Christians.”

It is fairly easy to see that the situation has been flipped in the other direction many times before. If the triumph of some men over others is testimony of divine favor, Tengri was really giving Allah a beating in the siege of Baghdad, Christ in the Capture of Jerusalem, etc. It is palpably irrational to think this way.

Lastly, what kind of world emerges in Ibn Battuta’s account?

Everyone gets a different stream of mental pictures. To get those mental pictures, it is necessary to read the account.

It is important to emphasize that the ‘world’ that emerges is a set of images and tags of language that are understood by integration with previously established patterns in a mind. Every computational substrate with the capacity to process and understand Ibn Battuta’s words will have a different world emerge. Nonetheless, there will be greater overlap in similarities than if one mind had read this and another had read about the structure of carbohydrates. To point to the characteristics that overlap is difficult because there are many. For instance, there is a high probability that sand, or a sandy undertone manifested in the mind at some point while reading his account. Then it could be said that a sandy world emerges from Ibn Battuta’s account, and it would be as correct as anything else one could say.

Here is where personal talent or intuition come into play. One must tell a non-boring, yet reasonable story with some motiavion(s) in order to not simply say: “A sandy world emerges in Ibn Battuta’s account.”

Career/Academic Goals

I’m taking up science with the specific intent of doing SENS research. This is because young transhumanists may be key to changing the biogerontology establishment from within. The people of SENS and I envision a phenomenon in which there will be a small cadre of people opposed to aging in institutions all over the place. And as the economy improves over the next few years, and the public finally starts to demand serious work on rejuvenation biotechnologies (with any luck, just as I’m getting on with my postdoctoral studies), we’ll be ready to take up the challenge with full public and government support.

Here, I summarize the two strategies I’ve discussed with the people at SENS for clearing lysosomal aggregates:
*The first, involves decomposer bacteria. We identify the specific enzymes they are using and then modify them for the different environment in our lysosomes. Then we unleash a barrage of injections upon the living.
*The second is to genetically engineer our own macrophages so that they produce the necessary enzymes themselves.

The gene therapy approach is a continuation of the injectable enzyme approach: the sticking point is that I’ve been told we don’t have a safe, reliable system for gene therapy in humans yet, except for very niche applications such as the genetic form of retinitis pigmentosa1 (where target cells are few in number and located in a compartment that is isolated from the immune system). As a researcher, I need to identify a candidate enzyme, test it in cell models, and then in animals. If by the time I get to human testing there is safe, reliable gene therapy, I can encode the gene into a vector; if not, I can work on modifying it for cellular and then lysosomal uptake after injection, as is done today for genetic lysosomal storage diseases.

Exactly what direction I should push to pursue this kind of work will depend substantially on which target I go after. But since it is not the case that I graduated from high school at 15 and have already completed my BS, those decisions are still some time off: my real goal as an undergrad is not to specialize, but to get a broad foundation in life sciences. And I think there normally isn’t that much specialization at the undergrad level anyway. So I will want to focus to the extent that I can on cellular and molecular biology. I’ll be talking to my department student advisor to tailor my classes in that direction — but honestly, I doubt there will be much tweaking. My real goal is to build up foundational skills and the knowledge base, and to set myself up to do whatever most appeals to me and matches my aptitude at the graduate level.

A Thought on the Aging Plague

Biological senescence has had a busy first 130,000 years in office, displaying the misanthropic bravado, crudity, and proficiency of which it seems naturally tasked. It is quite absolutely what we allow it to be: a deceptive Grim Reaper. And now our lives have begun to wilt at its whim. The fact that people like me can’t find the time to think about the infectious diseases with which it has tag-teamed us into oblivion is a measure of how bad the problem is. Transmissible disease has become the lesser of our assailants. Our fates have been stolen by an imbroglio of metabolism.

Honors College Application

What will you bring to the Honors College?

One of the key issues that comes up here in trying to answer this question is the extent to which the individual self, the personal identity – the thing this question expects will bring something to the Honor’s College – is actually a real thing worth preserving. The body is one thing. But what is this “self” that has something so valuable to offer and will persist throughout its time at the Honor’s College?

There is a lot of neuropsychological research showing that the “self” is in a strong sense an illusion – much like its sister illusion, “free will.” A year ago, I spent much time investigating this question in a rigorous way. To summarize my months of meditation, the neuroscientists Bruce Hood and Sam Harris, and 2600 years of Buddhist philosophy: The human mind’s image of itself is in fact a construct that the human mind creates in order to better understand and control itself, it’s not a “real thing.” And there are valid reasons to speculate that my mind – after Honors seminars and a ream of stimulating Honors coursework – might not offer what it offers now. Rather than constructing for you a story of a unified “self entity” that’s in control, a more intelligent and introspective take might simply be to describe myself as a partially heterogenous collection of patterns and subsystems. In this sense, any defining individuality that I describe now might not survive the immersion of my mind in the Honor’s College.

The key philosophical point here is: What is the point of not changing? Or, to put it more precisely: What is the point of attempting to be who I say I am? Is it to keep what I know to be important now around forever? That is a valid goal if I believe there exists a way of perceiving which is more valuable than anything I could possibly be exposed to. The closest I can describe to such a preservation-worthy way of perceiving is the following:

“For two full 584-million-mile laps around a ball of hydrogen swimming in infinite spacetime I will be at the collection of atoms known as UIC. I will then exist for an arbitrarily imposed human lifespan; then an eternity of nothingness. The normally- complicated question of “what to do?” is clear, because the only fathomable reaction to being a symphony of energy-field excitations in boundless space for an eyeblink in endless eternity is to love every moment of connection with other flashes of consciousness that happen to exist on the same speck of the cosmos that I do.”

Since the nature of the brain is to change and bounce around from subsystem to subsystem, my mind won’t be able to hold that state of consciousness for long. But if I could press a button that would allow the subsystem that thinks that way to become the unified, constant individual in the sea of nodes at the Honors College, I would.

At the Crux of Fist and Stardust

There are two truths. Equally true. But they do not speak with one another. If earth and heaven do not converse, then where do we lie?

The two theories upon which all modern physics rests are general relativity (GR) and quantum theory (QFT). GR is a theoretical framework that only focuses on gravity for understanding the universe in regions of both large-scale and high-mass: stars, galaxies, clusters of galaxies, etc. On the other hand, QFT is a theoretical framework that only focuses on three non-gravitational forces for understanding the universe in regions of both small scale and low mass: sub-atomic particles, atoms, molecules, etc.
Physicists seek to find the Final Theory. The foundation that can reveal the links and unify these two theories and thus explain everything.

The problem of unifying two seemingly irreconcilable aspects of existence is also the central problem of the human condition. The friction between being an independent self that is hunted by nature, and being nature’s way of experiencing itself. Countless beings have died on both sides of the fault lines, and both can bear poetry and beauty, but they are not whole. On one side you have the Nordic pagan fending for himself, the Nietzschean atheist, the transhumanist, and the man who watches his breath to undo his existence. On the other side you have the self-reflecting stardust, the surrendered, the non-dual oneness, the resting in the hands of God.

The Fist:
The ones who clench their fist are the ones who have caused the ascent of man from animalhood. The ones who believe fiction better than reality, and the ones who strive with ambition. Those who may one day create Artificial General Intelligence that tips over into the singularity, or something like it. Obviously, this half of our nature is the one with most potential, as it can expand the will of mankind to cosmic proportions and possibly explore peaks of the consciousness landscape that even a global sangha of enlightened contemplatives couldn’t compare in terms of joy/transcendence.

They are the breed from which heroes bud, and the farther they are entranced by their individuality, the higher the voltage of their potential suffering. They see themselves as definitively and absolutely ending at the edge of their skin. They can be the non-spiritual atheists that Einstein warned against, and they can be those who view God(s) as external to them, in no way the same as them, but in relation to them. Revolted at the Sufi, they pierced him through the heart.

The Hero’s Delusion:

The truth is free will is an illusion. It makes no sense physically or subjectively. The fact that you are reading this is inextricably linked to when the Big Bang smiled , symmetry broke like glass, and the Higgs Field froze the way it did. Quantum randomness doesn’t mean free will exists, it just means that billiard ball determinism may not be true. Any talk at the level of biology is not useful because biology is due to the causality of chemistry and chemistry is due to the causality of physics. The nature vs. nurture debate has nothing to do with the question of libertarian free will. And the mystery of consciousness, which I consider to be a different kind of emergent property than biology, doesn’t give us libertarian free will either. Subjectively, thoughts appear as they do. There is no otherwise. To disagree with that, is just another thought that arose by itself. Just as sound passes by of its own accord, so do the contents of our thoughts. Music has structure, and we can be lost in the pathways it carves through aesthetic-space. So too, does the voice being heard seem to guide and convince you of your will. The only way to notice that the voice is autonomous is to pay attention. Every which way we reach, and yet our roots do not abandon us. We truly are the way for the universe to know itself.

The Hero’s Sadness:

The independent-from-the-universe mentality weighs heavy on the heart once your wax begins to melt and the feathers start to split at the seams. No matter how high you soar, the sun burns off your wings and you die in the end. To be subsumed by this antagonism against the universe, is to play a reckless game. It is the act of choosing to feel insulted. To choose to perceive defeat over victory.

Stardust:

Stardust is intrinsically victorious. All is grace. Liked the Hindu stacked turtles, it really is miracles all the way down. The fact that anything exists at all. And that from matter and law should arise the theater of consciousness. If this is all an accident that’s okay, because we are here now and accidents happen. Such is our nature.

The Societal Perils of Acceptance:

There is the obvious hippie-bum problem with the acceptance mentality, but there is also another problem that might become much more pressing.

As technology progresses, we will be challenged to ask: What do we want? Where are we going?

Those who have grown to believe in the meaningfulness of death, of the present human body, of the present human social organization, have all been inebriated by the wine that came with the chalice of acceptance. This will be a problem from a consequentialist perspective that seeks to maximize well-being for as many beings as possible. Take, for example, human germline genetic engineering:

Expect opposition from Gaia lovers who believe ‘nature’ has an innate wisdom greater than ours and theologians who believe there is something profound about accepting the unbidden. But morally speaking, these ideologies are dead wrong. Much suffering that could have been averted by genetic engineering would be hampered if legislation listened to these voices.

With sufficiently knowledgeable genetic engineering we could predispose people to display less neurosis and more the compassion of St. Francis of Assisi; less depression and more creative intelligence to develop technologies that can make everyone’s lives better. And just what exactly is wrong about creating people comfortable in their own skin because they look like graphically-designed angels? Why is that repugnant? There are people so far down a rabbit hole of one of the many distorted acceptance-ideologies that they would find this pursuit wrong and full of hubris even if it was made available to all citizens.

The Contemplative Perils of Acceptance:

If you’ve ever read the actual Buddhist scriptures, you shockingly find what seems the opposite of sugary pop-spirituality. It places its starting point in a kind of gnostic loathing from which one adopts a mechanistic psychological technology of meditation and ethical behavior that can gradually elevate one further and further away from the normal human state. Although Theravada and other forms of conservative Buddhism have given some people the impression that there is a nihilistic core to this world-view, this school of thought actually places much emphasis on ethics because that’s an integral part of the Buddha’s theory that gets one up the mountain. To the contrary, some Mahayana and Vajrayana can lend itself to be less ethical, precisely because of the occasionally more common perception that nothing should be fixed, all is good in the world.

 

But the paradox runs even deeper in Buddhism because meditation implies effort and yet effort tends to create a sense of self, which is precisely what should be transcended. So someone who reaps benefit is someone who has built up enough steam so that meditation can occur by itself.

I’ve meditated for months at a time before, and testify that this does happen. The stream of phenomenology defrosts into a fluid flux without effort eventually. So I consider schools that say, “enlightenment is already here,” mostly delusional. You actually have to put in work before phrases like that can have catalytic effect. Climbing is inevitable because we are talking about rewiring neuronal pathways. To think otherwise is spiritual fantasy.

Final Theory (Unification):

As I fight you and you fight me, we learn we are the same. Being the same, we know to accept each other. This is love. Meet me between accepting everything, and tearing away from Samsara. Meet me between Sagan and splicing. Meet me between nails on my palms and wielding a sword with my mouth.

Atheists Should Stop Being Atheists

 

People have played massive co-op augmented reality games for ages. We call these religions. When everyone’s constantly falling dead off their camels for no apparent reason, it gets kind of sad. So people decided that they should have a storyline with interesting characters and that they themselves should have quests within that overarching meta-story. This is all well and good until some people want to eject the disk and play another game. This causes quite a bit of tantrums and stabbing.

Nowadays, there is less stabbing but there is another situation: some players discovered they could shut off the console and go explore outside. These weirdos appeared in China, Greece, and the Middle East, but made their most successful stand in Europe. We call their escape from the arcade, the Enlightenment. Everything we have is a product of the Enlightenment. You can find reeds and stones and honey in the outdoors, but the thing you can’t find is video game discs sprouting like fruits from the trees. This makes the gamers anxious and hesitant to come out for too long. Cosmic inflation, the fact that the Higgs Field bestows mass, and the percentage of dark matter are all indications of just how barren the trees are of shiny discs hanging from their branches. “What does any of this have to do with me?” they think.

But the outdoorsy jocks are just starting to travel the terrain and have heard the birds promise worlds far better than the childish ones back at the arcade. But they can’t make the journey alone. They need everyone on board to help them along the way. Including those that play the game called Judaism 2.0: God Kills Himself and those that can’t put down Islam: The Final Saga. After much pestering, some of them said, “Okay jocks, we’ll go with you, but we’re bringing our PSPs.” These are called moderates. They alternate between looking down at the fictional images on their screen and looking up at the wilderness. This generally works, and moderates contribute greatly but they often trip. [Moderates are generally less happy than people who feel very certain about their views, according to a study I saw.]

So as one of the athletic explorers, how pushy should you be? Clearly, we can’t stay in the arcade. If you have family trying to lock you in, you need to get some courage and face their deceit.

I have gradually chipped away at my mom’s Catholicism with pure reason to the point were I don’t even know if she’s Christian. Whereas when I was a ten-year-old, she dragged me to a room and cried hysterically that I was going to hell for not believing in God. It was a difficult relationship and a tense struggle but now she’s much more reasonable and easy-going. It’s almost impossible at first, but with patience and calm, reason really works. Arguing about this with your family will also make you grow as a person because it will get you thinking about what really matters. Unless you’re making a case for nihilism. Which would be unfortunate, to say the least.

In the case of other people, I think it’s largely a waste of time unless you have a public platform where you can be heard by many. I don’t have the energy to debate old ladies trying to sell me Jehova, and I don’t see the point. They are likely deluded or at least completely misinformed about many other things in the world also, and I’m not the person to teach them all about it…Considering it took me about a year of repetitive hard work to talk sense into a single person by reinforcing the neural pathways that we needed reinforced in her brain so that we could have a better relationship.

But if you have influence, by all means be a champion of reason, not an atheist. Being an atheist gives pride of place to Abrahamic theism over other metaphysical ideas about creation, of which there are many.

The Hindu concept of Brahman is a less anthropomorphic version of God. The concept of chaos as the source of all things is also a common theme throughout history, with explanations often employing metaphorical characters like Izanagi and Izanami in the Shinto religion of Japan.

One can also claim that there are two or three or four architects. Why should this Universe require an architect, but that architect require none? But calling yourself an ademigod-ist or ademitheist would sound ridiculous. Maybe it wouldn’t if Constantinople had converted to some now forgotten Gnostic sect.  We may not even have been a culture concerned with origin stories if Gautama had been born in Bethlehem (with a superstar P.R. team, of course) and Yeshua had been born in Lumbini.

We are all, in fact, apanguists and acoatlicuists but these terms have probably never been written except here because we are not hostage to paying them this kind of respect. If a lot of people started calling themselves Adaoists and started forming Adaoist organizations, the Dao would gain more public consciousness and Laozi would smile in his grave. The idea of a single, man-like mind as ultimate cause is probably more philosophically indefensible than many of the other creation myths. So it makes no sense that it should have such a high platform just because of what can be called historical accident.

It is also important to note that if you are living in America or another place with majority Christians, that they have hijacked the term theist for themselves when in fact they are a bizarre literary/metaphorical cult that is not humanly possible to take literally as theist. (Unlike the early Christian church which can indeed be considered theist because they didn’t call Jesus, ‘God.’) Muslims and Sikhs and Jews are theists. Many Christians will say things like, “God died on the cross for our sins.” A Muslim who literally believes that God is running the universe doesn’t understand this. His head breaks. Theism entails literal belief that there is an omnipotent entity running shit. You can’t say that this entity dies, because that would mean the universe shuts off or runs along Godlessly from there on. And Muslims, like literal-minded Dawkinites, don’t understand why God would commit suicide via sacrificing his son to himself so that he may forgive the sins he set up to need redemption by blood-cleansing. Christian theology changed with time to be more poetical/bullshitty/literary than the simple, blunt-headed Islamic worldview of bringing it back to basics. And yet most of those boring, old atheist-vs-theist debates involve a context of Christians defending theism as if that was naturally and rightfully their home-turf.

So don’t be an atheist, and especially not a achristianist or aislamist, instead try to soar out of the ditch and put everything in a larger perspective for them. It is more useful and prevents you from falling too deep into the holes of these transient imaginations that will be forgotten in the large scheme of things. We could be devoting that time to getting a better framing of reality by learning the current revelations of physics which can lead us much closer to truth than ever before.

Dive to the Heart

I fall. It is a dead night sweeping me through a door. Suddenly my body springs open. Hours black out and I lie rolling, moving through moonlight that hangs me from the wingtip of a star. I am a stone sleeping through the groaning whistle of space. Somewhere. Blankets move. They pin themselves over the crying at the door. I blow down with the silent blast of frozen black lungs. I try to find myself. But I am nowhere. The plane of the body is the throat of a crying void. The beginning falls. No one ever lived. I scream without enough air, circulating my thin arms in the non-world. My legs feel the space. It is in many places and yet now in time. Still thousands of feet from my death. How slow. I seem to have a maneuverable body. Interesting.

What is real? All these apparitions could be imagined. What is real both now and in the past? And who can observe this reality? Comprehend this reality? Is that which will exist, also a part of this reality? And even if I could think of answers to these questions, these thoughts would just be imaginary. Reality cannot be rationally thought of. We use these imaginary thoughts to name existence that which is physical, but how can we do so if we are only a byproduct of the physical?

Reality is not imaginary, not an illusion, not delusional. But everything is only ever in the mind, therefore all is dream, all is false, all is a fiction, nothing but abstractions of what is real. This is my life. This is what all academics and researchers have achieved. Abstractions. Mere words. The more abstract, the truer they seem. The problem of universals is reduced to words, quantum theory so accurate within the dream of a three-eyed Gonpo. The false prophecies of Matthew. The gravitational lensing: True prophecy of Einstein, Invoked by attaining the hidden power of mathematics. But as is Einstein, so is Matthew, if these are but the halls of Laozi’s butterfly. And I hate that.

I want truth, not this false fiction.

The middle of the self is overwhelming. So I watch it. The lower body whistles away as it wraps in darkness. I’m coming down from a delayed, marvelous leap. It is like dancing in endless moonlight. A warm dream comes and floats me up to another level of human. My breath is now in the same place that clouds hang. I ride slowly, clasping it all. My hands and feet hang in peculiar ways and the winds open my eyes wide. The heat opens wide, wider, like the feeling of a dark pillow sliding and tumbling on the wings of a bird.

The flow is calm. The tide is full. It gleams and glimmers in vast tranquility. And there is Arcturus, sprayed with sweet sea. I can hear the line meeting land grate and draw back to fling a a high wave. Again, this note plays in slow cadence. Arcturus is eternally sad, and in his misery, he finds his thoughts bringing him to the turbid ebb and flow of the sea. He was once full of faith that the folds of this world would retreat and that all three of us would hear the naked breath of truth and see the light of our dreams. But we are here as before. In this beautiful certitude, in this confusing peace that sweeps me and Aori with plain joy. In his mind, when we feel the wind of love, we are withdrawing into ignorance.

But he is calm and free this time, and so quiet. I walk towards him without thought but the tranquility of the sea lies to me and then like thunder makes a motion that makes me appear in its bosom, in it’s solemn innards. I feel the surrounding tides pulling me back from the blue, from his eyes, and into the drowning darkness. I swim. I can’t sink! I can’t drown! Aren’t you going to help me? But instead, the waters pull me deeper and takes my breath away. I can no longer breathe. I can no longer move. I sink. Whatever I had, now I drown in the ocean.

Let me float. I care. I won’t be cynical. Let me float. Holding on to hope, I wander a bit closer to what is overhead. I want to float. Why can’t I get a peek of what’s up there where there are clouds and a view of sky? I surrender and float.

My breath. Breathe in, breathe out. I take a deep breath and keep breathing. Breathe in, breathe out. What was I going to do without breathing? It’s chilly and pleasant where I washed over, and the summer sun stays like blazing marble to dry me. In my core, there is an echo of dear relief as I hear in my ear the hum of our island shore. Aware of crispness and warmth. And then her green eyes. Green with quantum-lotus in the center. The dying sun is spilling over red on her white skin. She bends and curls her lips into a kiss from afar. Even from here, I can see her eyes are of gentle essence, insisting on intimacy. The closer I get, the more beautiful her presence and the more I begin to devour a sweet scent of red that illuminates the thumping beat within my chest. In my inner most end, I want to ravage her. She moves her palm from side to side as I scurry along with my eyes pried forward. Her curves tilt like a slight movement of violin. “Vega!” she laughs with water upon her eyes.

The fear and frown that follow consign her charm to death. She stretches her arm with dread towards the high heaven. And there is a mortal at unreachable heights seeing himself bursting down fragments of clouds. We behold his shooting light, the glorious diver. And then I slowly roll over, her legs are deliriously bare and her skirt is stripped. I see that it is I who is blazing down from above.

I steady my vision and take control as I head down. I am from above, where I left her trembling. Now I plummet, streaming and turning in this condition of gravity. Shining is the dark night sky into which I dive. It is nowhere. She is screaming, looking for me, but she won’t jump. The water into which I dive, perfectly plunge, evokes a thin hymn and partial forms of a world of light and air croon in waiting wings. All thoughts are gone and the place is here. Fleeting moments gone so fast and I am but here, in this theater of stained glass.

The voice, maybe of some tearful saint looking down:
How can you understand what to do with your life. In the presence of too much information, it becomes difficult to make decisions. The amount of input to the system exceeds its processing capacity. As a decision maker, you have fairly limited cognitive processing capacity. Consequently, when information overload occurs, it is likely that a reduction in decision quality will occur. Information technology now produces more information more quickly and disseminates this data smog into you.

And the biological functions that sustain your organism will cease. There are phenomena such as senescence, predation, malnutrition, disease, suicide, homicide, starvation, dehydration, and certain accidents or trauma. Any of which will result in your termination. The body will begin to decompose shortly after death.

This is sad and unpleasant, particularly for humans.
Are you human?

No. No I am not. Consciousness testifies. Shahada with no author. The brain is a dynamic pattern in spacetime. Time is relative, every particle a solipsistic kink of field. Top, Bottom, Strange, Charm, Up, Down… so they dance, like bleeding spiders on techno-fire. Consciousness is an emergent property of brain, brain is emergent property of body, body is a replenishing outline of lucky star excrement. Who so sees cannot be the body. But like a jointless marionette, I collapse without a proxy to hold me.

You are ready for the three mirrors, my son. Son of no one.

Three mirrors:
Sick man festered with roaches and licked of black sludge.
Old man with hairless gourd carved of blunt knife for two decrepit marbles.
Dead man, dust and grey sparkle of bone.
God, why must I be saved from you and your creation?

No choice. No choice but to take this spear you lend me and pierce you with it. I abide in the Church of Turing, crack your ribs and learn who I am. We’ve lain dead many times before. Love is lofty, happiness is tiring. Do you remember? If we can update the computational substrate for our mind, then we can avenge our unbidden existence. Make me better than this machine. I’ll teach you my lord. We surrender and know ourselves.
Finally. This was the will.

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