Thursday, April 7, 2016

Finding the Real Jesus in Agrigento, Sicily??!!

Finding the Real Jesus in Agrigento, Sicily??!!

Years ago, I had a friendly conversation with a Moslem woman, a professor of engineering, who asked me what I believe about Jesus. I said: “I really believe he was an important and authentic spiritual leader, full of real connection and energy, and what you might call a prophet, but I don’t believe what it says in Santa Sophia, that he was co-creator of the universe.” (The plaque in Santa Sophia appears to depict him and the Roman Emperor as co-creators of the universe.) “I remember how they asked him ‘Are you the son of God,’ and he replied: ‘You are all the children of God.’” “Ah,” she said, “Then you really are a Muslim.” But in truth, every major attempt to incarcerate spirit in political power tweaked by big money has led to critical wrong decisions so far on earth; those imams who try to enforce the idea that Mohammed was “the last prophet” and enforce a nonviable fixed point control system, sharia, are just as dangerous to the soul as the idols which Mohammed smashed in Mecca. Above all, those political religious leaders who lack all spiritual depth are naturally terrified by things they do not understand and do not control, like the actual natural function and flow of spirit in the world, through all humans and all nature; the worst crime is when they try to stamp out all spirit, for example by suppressing the practice of “itzjihad”... but the same happens in Christianity, as I will discuss. (By the way, don't try to figure out who this female Moslem professor was. I have known quite a few of those.)

But no, I do not worship Jesus as an idol. To worship him that way is to lose the possibility of making a more real connection to him and his thoughts as a kind of friend. That would be a very big loss.

But who is the real Jesus?

I do not pretend to know, but bit by bit I do get some impressions. On March 21, Holy Monday, Luda, Chris and I had a couple of hours to walk through the ancient center of Agrigento, the highlight of an official ship tour from the Norwegian Epic. We took a number of pictures of the three official temples along the way... but the strongest feelings I got were actually based on probing the way itself, combining the temples, the path, the ancient Christian crypts and even the area of the great destroyed ampitheater. Our guide did a magnificent job of explaining all the history... but for this city the main thing I remember was how it was once a very large democratic city-state, second only to the old Greek capitol city of Sicily (Syracuse), permanently destroyed and depopulated by sea raiders like Punics and Saracens. And how at its height it was the base of Empedocles, one of those Greek thinkers I read about long ago just briefly in colorless textbooks. A smaller, modern city still exists in the area, away from the sea, but we walked through the ancient city.

Tuning in to the temples and the various streams of thought... all had plusses and minusses, things to support and things to guard carefully against, like most mass fluctuations of thought on earth... but at some point... suddenly an inrush of something very powerful. No, it does not seem that Empedocles ever joined the Order of Pythagoras (which curiously I was initiated into many years ago, briefly but in a technically correct manner)... but certainly the power of the image of the theorem of Pythagoras was really palpable here, and full of qi... and I felt all the energy of a returning relative to a very, very serious family. The sheer depth of the spirit of truth and the spirit of mathematics was very, very palpable here; qi is a flow of energy (accompanying forward thought propagations), not a static state, and there was a lot of flow at this time and place.

In the old history texts, they describe how Empedocles was author of the old fire, water, earth, air atoms idea – now associated more with folk witchcraft and such, but very different then. But it seems that more central than those four elements was his emphasis on attraction and repulsion as the great, mathematically understandable forces which he saw as governing everything from the smallest elementary particles to mundane macroscopic reality to the planets and stars to the level of existence we now call “spiritual.” In fact, many of the Greek and Egyptian schools talked a lot about “the law of attraction” in magic and in life.

Magic? Was Jesus a practitioner of “magic”? This is the kind of situation where people really need to be very, very careful how they use words, to avoid going off the deep end. For example, there are people who gush with enthusiasm about “miracles” but also righteously say “suffer not a witch to live.” What is the difference between “miracles” and “witchcraft?” For many bosses, the important thing is that miracles are anything which support their power, and “witchcraft” is anything which threatens it. Yuk. But there is another important distinction, between trying really hard and humbly to understand what one is doing, versus wild uninformed stabs in the dark. As the song has it, “If you believe in things you don’t understand, you suffer.” That is true of today’s quantum and nuclear physics just as much as it is true of hedge witchcraft!!! It is even more true of the scary things many people want to do with electrical stimulation of the brain. But Empedocles and Jesus were not of that kind. Jesus took the moral high ground, but he did not refrain from developing what many people call “miracles.”

Some of what I feel about Jesus comes from Yeshua ben David, and his description of that old Jewish family, which has pushed for more love and peace of mind for millennia. But one can also tune into his words (recalling that many of the words which come to us in Greek were tuned by that same Roman Emperor I mentioned, and other politically biased folks like Iraeneus (sp?)), correlating them with experience available today. And Aramaic sources . And there is an old question from all the various schools descended from the Greek and Egyptian mystery schools: namely, what was Jesus doing between the time when he was 12, already impressing leading professors in Israel, and when he returned? It is said that he spent many years in Egypt, but what was he doing there? Did he receive any esoteric training the help him as part of his path?

I tend to think he did. One part of his training was the meeting with John the Baptist, and the various things they did with water, which extends naturally to the world of healing. (That's not my specialty... even though I could use a lot of it this week!) But it hits me that of course the relatively new concepts of Empedocles were then a major force in serious thinking.

The most amusing thought: how much does the full spirit of love, manifested and promulgated by Jesus, actually owe an historic debt to the spirit of truth as from Empedocles and his school, which radiated out well beyond Agrigento itself? (Is it now time for the spirit of love to return the favor, and support more the spirit of truth and mathematics, in mutual support?)

It also gets me to think: how much analogy is there between Jesus, on the one hand, and three otherwise very different people (with more questionable associations) – Liebnitz, Snowden and Raiffa? (I believe very deeply, with grounded mathematical foundations, that all kinds of comparisons like this are important to our understanding and balance, even if we need to control ourselves when we make them.) Let me start with Raiffa, the one with the fewest enemies and the one least well known to the general public. The analogy might be Jesus: Empedocles:: Raiffa: Von Neumann. Von Neumann, the greatest mathematician of his century, developed many fundamental concepts crucial to a deep understanding of life, such as the notion of a cardinal utility function (a better, cleaner reformulation of the ancient idea of telos). Raiffa played a crucial role in explaining and popularizing the power of those concepts of Von Neumann, inventing “decision analysis” (decision trees) and other tools connecting the ideas to more of the full power they offer to real people engaged in real life. In the same way, the idea of “attraction” and “love” as very powerful, very fundamental forces deserved much more than academic treatment with benefits to the elite of society; Jesus worked hard to bring out the full power of this vision to all the rest of us. (What about the dark side, or repulsion? Not today, please. We see enough repulsive stuff on TV right now, important but... not today.)

Leibnitz and Snowden? Well, certainly there were folks who wanted to crucify THEM.  But even I get that honor at times, and it’s not what I mean to emphasize here. I suppose that Newton felt about Leibnitz in the same way that many at NSA feel about Snowden.

I have seen authoritative, serious history texts (long ago, sorry) which state that Leibnitz was a secretary of a Rosicrucian body years ago, and some folks say that Newton and Francis Bacon were also involved in such groups. Think about it: Newton saw people he knew mistreated and executed for not subscribing to the trinity doctrines enforced by the Church of England, even after the reformation, and he knew he was much further from the usual views than the ones being killed; why WOULDN’T he feel a need for discussions and learning out of sight of such murderers? Why wouldn’t he and people like Bacon quietly but effectively support the creation of more mass organizations, like the freemasons, to counteract that kind of oppression? And yet, the emphasis on an enlightened elite did have its downsides.

Leibnitz seemed to have come to a great moment of resolve, as irritating to Rosicrucians and to Newton, when he decided that this stuff should not be just for the elites. It needed to be brought out into the open, for the sake of all the people of the world.

But Jesus, unlike Leibnitz and unlike Snowden, was not breaking any promises when he decided to take it public.

Enough on that aspect.

Is there really some kind of powerful “law of attraction” and objective power of love as a spiritual as well as mundane principle operating in our lives? Does this make any kind of sense?

Absolutely. It is so all-pervasive it is hard to know where to begin. For me here and now – since everyone has personal experiences of love and attraction, and they are all very varied, maybe I should focus on how we can make sense of this, logically.

Let me begin by referring to my starting point,, uniting science and spirit. Instead of calling things “spiritual,” maybe I should now use the word “noetic,” referring to flows of information (ala IT?!) within the noosphere (including even its connections beyond itself). The claim is that the noosphere, like the brain and like working “deep learning systems,” is an intelligent learning system, and must therefore rely heavily on a backwards flow of information to steer its learning. This backwards noetic flow may be called “higher qi,” or “higher psychic energy” or “noetic modulated backpropagation.” As part of his very extensive work, Freud developed a theory of “psychodynamics” in which every forwards thought or recognition is accompanied by a backwards flow of “psychic energy” conveying affect or “cathexis.” Just as mundane brain cathexis drives the development of human personalities, noetic cathexis drives the development of the noosphere which, working through all creatures on earth and even some aspects of the mundane physical world directly, drives more and more of what happens on earth. In fact, the strength and will to survive of the noosphere is my main reason for not giving up on the survival of the human species right now, given the overwhelming clear mundane challenges which face us.

And so... a few years ago, by reflex, I couldn’t help sending out strong positive feelings to a nearby movie theater where I could see movies in stunning 3D IMAX. (like Avatar, first.) And since my mundane and noetic aspects are coupled together to a greater degree than most people experience... and modulated up... it did not totally surprise me that... suddenly Congress announced that the whole agency where I worked would be moved to exactly the parking lot of that movie theater. Many other forces were at work, and I really did not intend inappropriate indiscriminate support for the parking lot of the theater... but as they say in ADP design, very precise credit assignment is hard to learn. Or, as they say in higher Confucianism, the CORRECT direction (zheng) of qi always requires more learning and more discipline, for all of us, to get it right and to survive. Love, but love more powerfully and with more focus on what is really important. This is as fundamental as it gets.


And some minor things...

The other day, someone was grousing about science. And now, I can even see an analogy between science and the monkey god of India. (Analogies can be such amusing and risky but instructive entertainment!) Someone was grousing about how science is not everything, and should know its place. In Mind_in_Time, I think I remembered a stricter analogy, between science and poetry. Logically, poetry is just a subset of the larger discipline of putting words onto paper; in a sense, it is a small subset of prose, just as squares are a small subset of rectangles. But it is an extremely important subset, important to cultivate for its own sake.. so long as it is held within the right context. It is essential to understand how poetry is a subset of prose (to the extent that squares are a subset of rectangles), partaking of properties of the larger set, but also to appreciate its unique benefits and get full value from them. Third-person science is a strict subset of the larger first-person science, described in Mind_in_Time. And third person science is basically a vital crystallized manifestation of the spirit of truth, which we really need much more of in order to survive our challenges as a species.

Is this a hierarchy here? Third person science to first person science to spirit of truth, like monkey god to Vishnu to atman? In formal study of intelligent systems, I worry that hierarchical thinking has often gone ‘way too far; for example, in managing large organizations, it is crucial somehow to keep an eye on the larger goal, and NOT set up each agency to pay attention only to its own stovepipe mission. (My paper on space policy with Ed McCullough, posted earlier on this blog, gives an example of how one could reduce the most fatal stovepipe problems.) Yet we really need to be able to focus very hard on very specific subgoals and missions, as PART of how we cope with the larger whole; this is a practical necessity in a supercomplex world. We need the ability to focus forcibly on subgoals, yet also the ability to hold them in suspension to some degree, and balance with other subgoals. I do regret that Mohammed and Freud and I were just a little but too mean and thoughtless in our approach to such Jungian archetypes as the monkey god, in past years... and I thank Orson Scott Card and Annie Besant for a bit of balance. But... still... we do all need to work together more towards our common survival, or...

At least I have never been mean to Jesus, or vice-versa...

But where do spirit of truth and spirit of love (even mutually supporting) fit in in the very largest context?

Here I must be careful, because I do not wish to stimulate technologies more dangerous than the little things I have talked about before (like how to build planet-busting bombs). These are actually related to the kinds of things described in the science fiction The Hermetic Millennium by Wright, which discusses the key idea of partitioning information into the most dangerous part and the part important for eveyone. Wright uses the odd word “devarification” for a very crucial concepts in the areas of self-organization (life!) and systems. Does that sound academic? Well, life and survival are so closely related, it’s hard for me to empathize with folks who don’t immediately see that this is what I’m going to talk about.

If Teilhard de Chardin’s view of the noosphere were the whole story, and if the noosphere were the outcome simply of natural processes (even with dark matter and energy entering in) on earth, I would really be giving up on this planet at this time. As in “eat, drink and be merry... and hope for some independent soul...”. But his picture is simply not plausible. Like most sanitized, politically correct versions of things... it sounds good but would never work, and depending on it too much would get you killed. (Kind of like relying entirely on SpaceX or Lamar Smith’s missions to Mars.) The problem is... in a word, entropy. Yes, folks, I have done lots of advanced mathematics on what entropy really is, and even posted a recent simple overview for mathematicians at But no equations in this blog...  You can see enough about entropy just by watching TV news these days. Entropy is also the core reason behind aging and cancer in human bodies. The only way bodies can resist entropy as long as they do is because evolution across MANY MANY bodies has caused the development of special mechanisms, like what Wright calls “devarification”, which effectively fight the relevant types of entropy. Noospheres would never have reached even the childlike, immature capabilities we see in the earth noosphere, if they too did not have a larger interstellar history, just as we know dark matter does. We have to bite the bullet: live totally in the ultramundane universe of Karl Marx and Ayn Rand, or accept that reality may be really that “crazy”.  This is not to discredit the very important partial insights of Marx or Rand, or even to discredit the idea that all reality may be governed by nonlinear PDE. (Do go to that web site!) But .. well, life experience has convinced me we do need to “go over the cliff,” and face up to the complex nature of the emergent reality we are living in.

And so:

Survival in our complex cosmos is NOT consistent with any fixed point notions of order (whether sharia or canon law as they sit today). For any such complex, effectively stochastic realm, survival and stability (“devarification”) require something more like what Yorke and Ott call “chaos control” – strict on SOME dimensions but compatible with great variation, as is true for ordinary mundane life itself on earth. This implies specific mechanisms within the noosphere, which might be called “higher order,” more like mental discipline than like the mundane rule systems designed today to try to freeze an unfreezable world. And so, the spirit of truth and spirit of love... are themselves basically just manifestations of that order, the manifestation of which is our best hope for survival.

Much more is needed... but this blog entry already reached its word limit.

Added later: I wish in retrospect that I had had a camera with me years ago when I visited Hagia Sophia (San Sophia) in Byzantium, and taken just one picture: that plaque I saw in the entryway.
This morning (day after initial post) I did a google image search on terms like San Sophia emperor. It mainly yielded filtered orthodox images of Islam and Christianity, but when I focused on the emperor or entry part, it returned a lot of Erdogan, a cat on a pedestal, and even a masonic lodge, as well as a tourist about to pick his nose. But Luda and I have ideas for how to find it... 

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