Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Vedanta, brains, Qatar and threats to the President

This morning, I woke with a clear picture of what's really happening in the US right now. I summarized it to Luda, who said "Ah, but what can you do about it." My reply: "I have no idea. I certainly don't want to start new conflicts making life even worse for people." But an impossible series of coincidences did move me to say a few things ... a small initial part of the answer, maybe.

Part one, reply to a guy from the Vedanta list:


On Wed, Jun 7, 2017 at 6:10 AM, '... wrote (to someone else on the list):
[S.P.] I repeat for the second time: electric impulses (or the physical sensory signals) have nothing to do with my writing the replies. My reply is a product of my consciousness. Second. Electric impulses do not carry information.

I wonder. In writing the replies, did you actually use your hands, or did you use telekinesis?

If you used your hands, there were electrical impulses along the nerves of your hand. So electrical impulses had SOMETHING to do with it.

I have heard many people say "in my out of body experience, I felt a wonderful experience of being far more intelligent and conscious than in everyday life."
Yet Ingo Swann, who was one of the people most successful in displaying consciousness under such circumstances, discussed how he found it much harder to remember numbers in such situations than he did in ordinary life. Jane Roberts had some beautiful images in her "Oversoul" science fiction trilogy,
which somehow moved me more than her more formal ponderous writings did.

A physical brain is a really great thing to have and to use, as dependent as it is on electrical impulses. 
I am always reminded of the commercial "don't leave home without it." And don't be careless about chemical or electrical interventions that might weaken it, either for you or for others. 

I am reminded in a way of the time when my father had to retire, and lost access to many of his physical filing cabinets. 
"You have no idea how painful it is to be without that repository of information. They are my brains! Without them, without that information, I am far less intelligent and capable than I was." It really was a great loss to be without them. They really did contain useful information.

At times, when people ask me to explain in concrete, intelligible terms what Gurdjieff was really trying to tell people, I say:
"He said, if you have important information you want to save, work to put it on a more permanent place, like the hard disk. That doesn't mean just erasing or disrespecting what you currently have only in volatile storage."

Best of luck,



Part two, another vedanta post:

Every one of us has struggles we are called to face up to, for our spiritual evolution. This morning, it was really incredible for me to see two related messages next to each other in my inbox, one of them yours, especially:

On Wed, Jun 7, 2017 at 4:03 AM, .... wrote:

Thus, when you say about incompleteness of machines, it perhaps can be construed that it is part of the Evolutionary transition, as everything else.
Maybe. I see it as a step toward the contemplation era. Today we are in the "production era".

(And I just now note our reference to a book by Daniel Cohen, and I wonder whether it might possibly be the same Daniel Cohen I knew at Princeton long ago)

The other being an article from the Wall Street Journal, from a network aligned with the outgoing (lingering?) science policy czars:

A Hardware Update for the Human Brain

From Silicon Valley startups to the U.S. Department of Defense, scientists and engineers are hard at work on a brain-computer interface that could turn us into programmable, debuggable machines

EMILY BORGHARD has a computer inside her skull, but you wouldn’t know it to look at her. A small bump behind her left ear, the only external evidence of her implant, is partially covered by a tuft of hair that’s still growing in from the last time she had the batteries changed.
Before Borghard received a brain implant, she was having as many as 400 “spikes” of seizure-like activity a day, along with multiple seizures. This unrelenting storm of abnormal neural activity turned her teenage years into a semiconscious nightmare.

The article strongly endorsed a vision of Brain Computer Interface explicitly intended to turn humans into well-controlled peripheral units of the Internet of Things, very similar to the helmets depicted in the most recent movie in the Star Wars sequence (or in the Winter Soldier movie which my son insisted I see).

One of the details which rattles me even more than it rattles you is the way they think of "spikes." It reminds me that all this heavy technological intervention is in fact based on deep ignorance of the actual neural code, as we see it in actual scientific analysis of 24khz data from higher centers of the brain:

See: Regular Cycles of Forward and Backward Signal Propagation in Prefrontal Cortex and in Consciousness, by Paul Werbos and Yeshua (J.J.) Davis, Front. Syst. Neurosci., 28 November 2016. (Note the clickable link to the open access paper.) It is "can do" manipulative intervention no more justified than the frontal lobotomies which once were popular.

The effect is not to develop deeper, higher bandwidth mundane communication, but rather to corrupt the reinforcement centers of the brain,
exactly like the opiate drugs which impair many people's spiritual growth along with their physical well-being, and convert people into puppets 
of greedy drug-dealers.

I do not see these stories as a call to go to extremes. On the one hand, we really are called to understand ourselves better, which includes the development of serious brain science and barin understanding as one part of it. Understanding the mathematics of intelligent systems also offers a kind of "reality testing" to our own higher intelligence, just as higher physics and pure mathematics do. But we are walking a difficult tightrope.
It is a difficult balance. These two inputs are only one example of contrasting, conflicting inputs spiralling out of balance, and it is not obvious how to stabilize the system while maintaining progress. 

But certainly the effort to being spiritual growth and science back into balance in human thinking is an important positive step.


The sheer shock of all the many things happening at once... well, if there is someone you trust, I am very tempted, just for reasons of personal sanity. 
People do need to get things off their chest. Then again, my wife is very intelligent, and talking to her can help me maintain sanity.

But even if the US is at risk of going the way of the Roman Empire... something I can see in quantitative terms... the survival of the species as such is more important. The message about the Antarctic and the need for geoengineering needs to get out, and if it can be done in an inflammatory but nonpartisan way, that would help.

This morning, I am stunned by the insane claims on CNN that the Saudi break with Qatar was a Russian plot motivated by Saudi misperception that Qatar supports Iran. This morning, the ISIS/ERdogan/Qatar people made it quite clear how they feel about Iran, and actively refute the "Russian claim"...
But just the day before, CNN reported what the Saudis actually said, which clearly shows this new claim is trash. 

Why did CNN repeat such an insane claim, and who put it out?

In a way, the core problem is corruption. Lots of Democrats know the important book Dark Money, as well as Brock's book, but not the final chapter of "A G Man's Journal," where he describes how a kind of deep corruption entered the top management of the US government. Clinton is fully aware of how dark money corrupts elections, but it is tragic how neither she nor Trump understand how it has gone even further to take over US government agencies. 
I have seen them fall like dominoes, one by one, but I do not believe it is appropriate that I personally go too far in naming names.
(Well, I have at times discretely said that the Congressional investigations should get deep into Lamar Smith, one of the central players in the network
threatening to engulf us all.)

The key problem is that when government agencies are for sale, they end up serving the highest bidder, and doddering old fundamentalist billionnaires in 
Turkey and Qatar (supported by their governments) and in  Saudi Arabia (whose government is trying to rise above all that now, and which even knows what a "Pareto optimum" is) feed into puppets like Smith who run folks like Comey. NO elected president, whether Clinton or Trump, is safe from their growing presumption that they should be running everything, and their top goal right now is to cause a war between US and Israel versus Russia and Iran, in order to cancel out both main obstacles to a truly global Third Caliphate. Trump has been utterly disgusting and embarrassing in many ways, as he shows all his worst thoughts to everyone, but there is a serious imminent risk of even worse by folks who are very calculating about hiding how awful their plans really are.


Trump would at times ask: "Where are the details of your methods and sources? Why don't you give them in detail on live TV?" There are many, many of those, and I am certainly not referring to psychic inputs without veridical corroboration. But unlike the folks who want to start a war, I do not want to waste energy on distraction. Nor do I have plans to show up on CNN.  

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

post to vedanta society on planes of existence

Many have asked: how could one reconcile the concept of planes of existence (as in etheric, astral, mental, whatever) with any of the variants of science, such as -- most extreme -- Einstein materialism?

Clearly one CANNOT reconcile concepts like astral worlds with utter debunking, in the school of Hansen, whom many have rightly complained about here. 
I do not really view that school as a branch of science, but as a branch of politics. 

Still, it is a big decision for scientists whether they believe at all in powers of the mind beyond what is seen in the normal mechanical functioning of neurons, glia and chemical flows in the brain. It is very understandable that many sincere scientists agree with the analysis of D.O. Hebb, in his important classic book, the Organization of Behavior, one of the two strands of thought which started the neural network field. (The other strand was the Von Neumann strand, quite different.)  Hebb argued that parapsychology is a beautiful example of Bayes' Law, where the probability of a theory after experience is proportional to its empirical likelihood, its fit to the data (technically pr(data|model)) multiplied by its prior likelihood. Since psychic powers are almost impossible, apriori, based on our understanding of physics, he argued that it is very unlikely in the end despite the fact (which he acknowledged freely) that it long ago passed all the standards normally used in psychology research.  That was my own view until spring of 1967, when the likelihood term became rather overwhelming and inescapable in my personal life, and I revised my views to 50-50. Once it was 50-50, I then looked further, and by 1971 or 1972 it was inescapable.  Psychic phenomena and objective reality BOTH are grounded in our minds based on experience, if we are fully sane, and not just engaging in florid fantasy and ego boosting.

But then: how could one reconcile the two of them, objective reality and the full range of experience? How to reintegrate?

The concept of planes of existence is tricky. I certainly remember, back in graduate school, respecting and resonating with yoga people exploring the planes of existence (not just with fantasy), but puzzled by what could really be going on here. 

There is a nice easy-to-read book "What Dreams May Come," somewhat better than the video version on Netflix, portraying one image of another plane of existence, not so different from many accounts of the astral plane. It is easy for people to resonate emotionally with that book, but not so easy to sort out in clear terms what it really implies if true. How to make it more completely coherent? How to get beyond the "sponge thinking" syndrome, where people believe in multiple inconsistent things with equal fervor at the same time?

In my view,  the vast bulk of serious, accurately reported experience of "other planes" and of "out of body experience" on this planet can be understood as travel not in some other physical world, but in the interior mental space of "the noosphere," the greater common mind we are part of, which some people call "Gaia" (though I do not add spurious associations to that). All brains we know of have many parts and levels of consciousness within them; as part of the noosphere, we can experience different levels and parts. The noosphere is not infinite and infallible, but RELATIVE TO US it seems that way.

How can noospheres exist in our cosmos? The explanation offered by folks like Teilhard de Chardin does not make sense in tough scientific terms, because evolution on one planet alone is not enough. But this past year, maps have become available showing the vast web of interconnection of dark matter (far more plentiful than the mundane/ordinary forms of matter understood as yet in mainstream physics) all across our cluster of galaxies. There has been plenty of time and scope for natural evolution of the whole species of noospheres. In my view, the simplest, most natural explanation (  is that "our" experience is the experience of a hybrid lifeform, a symbiosis of a mundane component and a noospheric component. Our own local noosphere is a young child of that species, certainly not a mature or stable adult, and may or may not survive the challenges which any young child faces in nature.

What fraction, if any, of valid, nonimaginary experience of "higher planes of existence" goes beyond the region of earth?

That is a very tricky question. All of us have limits on how far we can see, and on our ability to do reality testing to make sure that it is not fantasy. Physics and mathematics themselves do offer some reality testing here, as we might expect there are some things in those areas not known yet on earth which could still be evaluated on earth. 

Earlier I mentioned Annie Besant, whose books are still there on Ghandi's bookshelves in Mumbai, and who wrote about causal, astral, mental planes, etc. She is often described as "the number two" person in Theosophy, versus Blavatsky, founder and number one. Besant's books rang true, as authentic in spirit, grounded in experience (albeit not science), and I read a few myself. But Blavatsky says a lot about planets beyond the earth which did not feel right to me. Perhaps the immature, undisciplined minds of our world impose a requirement for pubic relations and fantasy and false conviction (wishful thinking, defense mechanisms catalogued by Freudians)... and she was not alone in that. Or maybe one of the various, very different florid theories about life beyond earth is more real. It is important that none of us overestimate the range of our vision. The less we overestimate our current range of vision, the better our chances of extending that range with time and care and discipline, the kind of discipline that a true scientist also exerts.

For those of us who live near Washington DC, however, it is a serious challenge right now how to cope with what we already see. 

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Earth to US on climate change: urgent need for a new approach

A DC-based policy group asked: what should we do now about climate after Trump dissed the Paris climate words? My reply:
To address this policy issue in a constructive way, as with many policy issues, it helps to start with the question: is there hope of a positive way forward here? Can we think of a positive way forward consistent with the most basic values of the key decision maker we are looking at in this moment, which in this case is Donald Trump?
Trump has stated that he is not (currently) taking a stand against constructive action on climate change, but that the Paris agreement was a bad deal. He said something like: “I now invite climate change people, including even Democrats, to come work with me on something more effective.” After the experience with health care, it is understandable that many people have reason not to take him at his word, but if we do not try to take the moral highground here we will share in the blame for what happens, which in my view could kill us all.
It is understandable that many people believe that climate change is not important enough to distract us from other more serious issues, such as the dangers of new wars, especially serious when some folks would push us into a war between US and Israel versus Russia and Iran, in much the same way as they calmly pushed us into a war with Iraq under Cheney. In 2009, working for Senator Specter (one of the few people who gave priority to the search for truth over PR advocacy for selected external groups), I was impressed by the conclusions of the International IPPC effort, which estimated that “business as usual” energy policy would result in a 5% loss to world GNP in 2100 due to climate change — not exactly a matter of life or death to the world as a whole.
However, there were serious loose ends in everyone’s understanding back then, and I did wonder about John Kerry’s forceful argument that we should pay serious attention to the “25% probability that Hansen might be right, that the Antarctic might start to melt, resulting in sea level damage much worse than the base case.” Kerry argued “even a 25% probability of something that bad requires.. precautionary principle.” In the second half of my recent paper,, I review the new information which has forced me to be MUCH more worried now. A big crack is starting to fissure right now, this month, in the Antarctic, following Hansen’s worst case scenario (as did the retirement process applied to Hansen himself) — and, even worse, the crucial currents which bring oxygen to the Pacific ocean have shut down. THE PROBLEM IS NOT GLOBAL WARMING; THE PROBLEM IS ANTARCTIC WARMING. So far as I know, global warming elsewhere is a problem no more serious than what IPCC IV depicted, on the whole, but Antarctic warming has the potential to literally kill all humans on earth, if one looks with hard eyes at the system of system effects in operation now.
And so: if President Trump wants to do something more useful than the Paris accords, focused directly on keeping us all alive at minimum possible cost, he does have an opportunity to work with Democrats to take positive action, to propose a new international partnership on something much smaller on cost but much bigger on value. More precisely, he could offer to lead a new international coalition apply the Teller/Caldeira/Wood geoengineering scheme NOT to cool the earth, but specifically to cool the Antarctic, under a strategic effort focused on restoring the oxygen-bringing ocean currents at the soonest possible time.
Of course, Ed Teller was far from a fuzzy-headed left winger. If anyone here does not know his name, I sure hope you will do a web search; even dead, he is still a person whom everyone in energy should know about. Lowell Wood, his former science advisor, is still alive, and I have often hoped that Trump would consider him for OSTP — someone compatible with Trump’s general attitudes but deeply competent. At
, an important site for energy and environment research, it is reported that total global cooling by geoengineering would cost only $700 million per year. That may be low (as most cost estimates at this stage are, for aerospace projects or for nuclear power plants, etc.), but compare that with the $500 billion per year in substantive “allowances” which the Obama climate bills would have given out.
People who wanted that $500 billion per year were understandably violently worried about the risk that right-wingers would do something so cheap instead (even if geoengineering the Antarctic ended up costing, say, $2 billion per year to be split across all the nations now working together in Antarctica). Would this hurt the politics of the effort to get other larger actions, such as laws which force greater use of renewable energy? But maybe we have wasted too much energy on political double-think and triple-think. Yes, if Trump offers this to Democrats, some of them may object because of such calculations, but by taking the moral highground and making the offer sincere and visible to everyone, the worst risk would be that he would strengthen his position politically. Those of us who truly recognize the nature and urgency of the problem would not hesitate to save our lives, regardless of other considerations. (Waxman type bills are not the most realistic way to move renewables faster in any case.)
Does anyone see any hope of making this kind of middle way opportunity more visible in serious political circles? Or will we just waste our time in useless ego wars and mutual posturing? I wish Specter were still part of this game, but if anyone knows Murkowski or Collins or Cantwell…

Saturday, June 3, 2017

reply to Vedanta guy on use of drugs for spiritual development

A member of the Vedanta Society recently asked a large group:
 One question. Do you think the experiences Rishis had in meditation are similar to those under psychedelic drugs even though most of them could not have taken these drugs? Your description of Mukti is much more general than Vedic concepts of liberation of soul etc. Well, quantum mechanics may not be a path to mukti! But it sounds like a bridge to non-sensory world. Though,  of course, the story is unfinished yet. Many people challenge even the existence of non-sensory world.

My reply:

Two years ago, during a lunch break in Udaipur, my wife (whose higher doctorate came from the Institute of Physiologically Active Compounds of the Russian Academy of Sciences) showed me and a fellow traveler involved in yoga an article in Smithsonian Magazine discussing the controversies about the new NIH protocols allowing administration of psilocybin to humans in research. It seems that this new research (and the debates informed by it) represent our best direct scientific knowledge right now.

In reaction to that article, my immediate knee-jerk response was to discuss a book (I think a thin book called "Thought Forms") by Annie Besant, where she said that the human mind contains natural protections which block inputs which we are not yet mentally prepared to make positive use of. To become open to those inputs, she recommended that we work hard and develop the kind of inner discipline and clarity (vivid, coherent  clarity) which prepares us to be able to benefit in a more positive way from the inputs; then, she argued, the inputs would come naturally. Forcing the inputs in, unnaturally, through any use of drugs, would not only violate nature but do more harm than good to the mind. This fits very well with the details of an important paper by Greeley and McReady ("Are we a nation of mystics", a summary of a large NSF-funded study of deep values of Americans, reprinted in the book 
Consciousness edited by Goleman available for about $1 now via Amazon) describing how many, many PhD Americans do have an experience with another level of consciousness, but recoil because of inability to cope with it constructively. It also fits with what I heard long, long ago from an MIT professor and teacher of Daoism, who said that many of their exercises are intended to produce readiness, not enlightenment; "enlightenment is easy," he claimed, "but not the ability to survive it." There is a Gopal Krishna who wrote a book on what happened after he raised kundalini, which fits the picture as well. 

The folks around me expressed great skepticism when I discussed another odd book in my collection, The Seven Lives of Annie Besant, which described how she served as a kind of teacher and mentor to Ghandi. However, when this simple Gate1 tour moved on to Mumbai, we not only saw the street named in her honor in that city, but we saw several of her books in the treasured book collection of Ghandhi. I wanted to send you a link to the photograph my wife took of the books in his library, but it would take more time digging into my blog than I can afford this morning.

One serious faction described in the Smithsonian article argued that the new protocols may prevent the terrible risks which accompany normal use of mind-altering drugs. People like Andrew Weil would probably say that some of the native cultures of earth have evolved similar effective protocols -- but human cultures morph and res[pond to political forces and wishful thinking in a way which tends to mutate any such disciplines, and we see really huge damage all over the planet due to persistent misuse of drugs even by people who have reason to think they know better.

I was also amused by some aspects of the movie "Men Who Stare at Goats," which has some basis in things which really happened (described in the book).

For myself, I would prefer to avoid serious risks in something so important. 

Quantum physics and related areas of physics (like dark matter and study of emergent phenomena in general) can help with
the core problem of natural readiness as Greeley depicts it. It is unfortunate that I have not seen major follow-on to some of the open research questions posed in Greeley's paper.