Wednesday, January 24, 2018

response to IEEEUSA post "Canada ahead of US in climate race"

I don't know where to begin with this.

I was really sad when a guy came to our local Quaker meeting from the local Interfaith Climate Alliance, and discussed how our area could "lead the race" by requiring local buildings to install solar panels and giving out little brown stars people could display. It is sad that most people can do little more about climate change than make such fashion statements, but IEEE(USA) is unique in being in a position to actually help in a large and useful way which could really make a difference. It is deeply painful to me that we aren't doing it. No amount of political calculations could possibly justify our failure to speak truth to power as we, because of our expertise, have a unique responsibility for doing.

IS net carbon emission from electric power generation one of the important big drivers of bad climate change? Maybe that's a bit beyond our capacity to agree on, but 
the article on Canada certainly assumes so, so let us ask what that implies. 

In my view, the number one thing the US could do to accelerate renewable electricity in this country, within current budgets (and without really big hidden taxes), is to give FERC authority to approve interstate transmission lines EXACTLY as it now has authority to approve natural gas pipelines. At the last meeting I attended of EPC, there seemed to be a strong consensus to try to go ahead now, as we would if we really cared (not just to make a fashion statement but to make a difference). EEI has told me they tried hard to push this years ago, as did Pickens (who was ready to build and invest if regulations had not prevented it). But they did not have visible enough or articulate enough "public"  types of supporters. But then the hired staff informed us that "STEM spending" is the all-arching required priority, and that the best we could do is advise spending new money at NAS to talk about the issue, to be buried somewhere deep where no one would really see it anyway. Others told me that this kind of cutting through today's tangle of regulation would play into Trump's priorities too much, and they feared helping Trump too much by making him look good.
So I keep wondering: do we ONLY care about fashion statements, or do we care about survival? 

In fact, after my year addressing climate in Specter's office, I learned more and more that the really serious, urgent threat from climate change is (1) NOT simply warming, and certainly not acid oceans; and (2) FAR worse than the public knows. See I do not believe that any economically or politically plausible effort to reduce CO2 emissions would have much chance of preventing the very worst outcomes, involving some combination of (1) sea level rise due to the expansion of the new crack in the Antarctic; (2) massive H2S emission from the Pacific, to be expected in maybe 40 years when oxygen layers thin out (but new research is needed to pin that down better); and (3) less massive problems of the same kind in the Arctic, coming sooner because of how shallow that ocean is, also threatening the Gulf Stream (via a new effect, not the salinity gradient we see now from Greenland melting, but a temperature gradient effect). In my view, IEEEUSA could have helped by opening the door to developing geoengineering options, as part of a new space policy, but once again the iron triangle political approach (aka "swamp") stopped that. 

I really hope I was wrong to give up here, but I will not be surprised to hear that I am politically out for even talking about such distractions as whether we all live or die in the end. 

It is true that other nations still offer some hope of survival, but that's a complex subject even more horrifying to the swamp.

Could Congress replace Trump with Romney/Kasich?

OK, it sounds crazy, but things have gone south to an incredible degree in DC, and the more plausible outcomes all look really awful.

Not that things were great before Trump's election either.  Folks who say there are no conspiracies active in DC either haven't been here or don't have open eyes. (Still, I am reminded of the CNN reporters who covered the women's march Saturday, and did not comment on the mass effect of bathrooms being locked up and the unusual resulting flows of people. I suppose there are things no one talks about to the media.) No matter what other mistakes Trump made during the election, he seemed to make two key commitments: (1) NOT to start a war with Russia and Iran, as "the swamp" clearly wanted to force on us; and (2)  to drain the swamp. But he has not been very effective with (1), and demonstrated how lack of situational awareness can make a person worse than nothing regarding (2). Though I voted for Hilary Clinton myself, I did so with a lack of energy and enthusiasm because she too lacked enough situational awareness, and would probably be in even DEEPER trouble than Trump at this time if she had been elected. The issues (1) and (2), in the noosphere surrounding US voters, rammed through Trump. (Yes, folks, predictive models do require adequate inputs on key variables. No, I don't need a lesson on first grade predictive analytics. I refrain from teaching the advanced classes, because I know who is ready to misuse it immediately and thoughtlessly.)

Carl Icahn explained his support for Trump on TV in 2016: "We need a new Teddy Roosevelt." We certainly do.

Many have asked: will Trump simply become the new Queen of England, utterly emasculated, an obedient lap dog of the swamp? He mainly seems to be just standing by, stupified and distracted by events in his own bathroom (CNN), even as the would-be new Great Caliph (Erdogan) not only invades Syria but murders the allies who stopped the last great pretender.

Or will the Russia hysteria not only get rid of him, but return to the stupid war agenda of the defense lobbyists in the swamp (not civil servants but the kind of lobbyists accurately depicted in the book Atlas Shrugged, the real swamp, who have direct wires into almost all federal agencies, the real "secret societies" of hired hands well-known to top DOD folks)?

Is there any hope at all for this country, or are we on an iron path to repeating what Byzantium experienced, something I have learned a lot about through time?

OK, let's go back to Teddy Roosevelt. There was once such a thing as an honest government movement, which was more than just a tea party but tapped into the honest noosphere part which tea party also INITIALLY tapped into. My (orphan) mother's guardian, Mary McFadden, may have done more to safeguard this republic than I ever have, because of the work she did with the Pennsylvania Economy League... AND what it connected to and led to.

No impeachment of Trump is going to replace him with Hillary Clinton, and Pence has supported chaos and lies and demonstrated even less awareness than Trump of what really goes on in DC. So in that case, Romney might well be the best hope. Not Romney/Ryan; Ryan is not a healing figure for the nation, and civil strife is a growing risk at multiple levels. (With enough civil strife, we all lose, no matter who seems to win. I feel sad as I say that, as 23andme says that Ryan is a distant cousin, at least if his Irish forbears were in the wave of the 1600's.) But Romney/Kasich might just do it.

But is it even possible? Well, if ever there was a time when folks might reconsider amending our constitution to be more like Germany's, this might be it. Brilliant US political scientists and military leaders helped Germany write a new Constitution after WWII, specifically engineered to cope with extreme political polarization. Could it be that this is our time now? 

Or then again... will the constitution erode further, and result in a 2020 election, say, between Schwartzenegger and Hillary Clinton? (Don't underestimate the noospheric energy which might support Schwartzenegger.) It's funny, because the first part of the movie Terminator III looks exactly like that. The movie is horrible... but great in depicting what to avoid. Or at least part of what to avoid. There is also more truth than you might think in the movie Wall-E.


In truth, yesterday I went with Luda to see "The Last Jedi," in fantastic IMAX 3D at the national air and space museum. (Unlike Saturday, we walked to metro and took metro to get there.) There were about 12 of us at the 6PM showing. Some parts make no sense to me, but I really do worry about what could happen to The Republic here, and I am sad about the naive belief that any kind of emperor could know enough personally to prevent degeneration and collapse of human life itself. Trump has far less power than that, but is already a great object lesson in delusions about what a Great Leader can do without a responsive social structure as well. There are also "libertarians" who effectively stand for nothing but absolute unlimited dictatorship by forces outside the legal government as such even less responsive and informed -- i.e. "the swamp".

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

How and why to explain and enhance psi (aka “soul”)

There has been an intense discussion this week about “psi” this past week, sponsored by the Vedanta Society but including major skeptics, leading parapsychologists, neuroscientists and others. Here is what I come out with from that.
Contents: the bottom line for humanity here; issue of whether it is real; why I propose the “baby noosphere” theory to explain it; practical applications, response to what they sent me about “third eye” yoga; and evaluation of the mixed impact we have seen from major religions, sometimes helpful and sometimes serving other interests.

BOTTOM LINE =======================================================
Many of us believe that there is overwhelming evidence that humans have “psi” abilities beyond what we can explain by the mundane capabilities of the brain. In my view, there is no way to explain such a thing rationally without assuming that we have what some call “souls” – living parts of us. I will give you my logic soon, but first, as a quick summary – it is like Dante’s idea that we ourselves are half beast and half angel. It leads to the old Rosicrucian idea that we should not waste time and energy on wars between the beast and the angel, but should seek an amicable and efficient “alchemical marriage” of close cooperation between the two.
For me, the bottom line is as follows: In trying to help humanity as much as I can, I focus on two ultimate, overriding values: (1) minimizing the probability that our mundane species (“the beasts”) becomes extinct before its time; and (2) maximizing the full attainment of human potential, for example by developing special schools aimed at maximizing the growth and strength of human bodies, brains AND souls. (Friends Community School in Maryland was set up with that charter, as was West Point! But on a recent visit to West Point, their talking points about soul all involved football and such, not quite living up to all that we humans can learn to do. George Washington understood better, but I guess he was never on their faculty.) The challenge of developing the soul part is an age-old value, which has inspired all kinds of wild efforts, but if we can understand better what is going on here, we may be able to do better.

ISSUE OF WHETHER IT IS REAL ==============================================
In my view, it is rational that some people simply do not believe in the existence either of psi or of soul. Others disagree. The discussion:
X wrote: However, from my perspective as an empiricist, I see the insistence of a theory before acceptance of data as not only completely backwards, but antithetical to science. Data must be allowed to trump theory, otherwise science is the same as religion.

My reply:
OK, epistemology, including epistemology of science (first person or third person), is a proper subject for this list. There are times when the followers of Popper and even Kuhn seem to be as far out of touch as the most extreme hermits in the woods.. but the subject is important.

I deeply respect Donald Hebb's reasons for rejecting parapsychology, and believe we need to understand and respect them. Hebb understood what science IS as much as anyone. I view him as the grandfather of the neural network field, on its mother's side. (Von Neumann being the other grandfather, more my side.) His book, The Organization of Behavior, does say a FEW things which now look silly to me, but it is far more profound than most of what I see written today about those subjects, and I recommend it to anyone who is serious about brains and consciousness. 

In the preface to his book, he argues that we need to think of inference by science itself in Bayesian terms. (My updated version of that is in, published in Russia.) As we try to develop the kind of theories which are capable of predicting things, we ask what their probability of truth is. From Bayes Law, we know that it is a convolution of the "likelihood" term (probability we would have seen what we did, if the theory is right, REQUIRING stochasticity in serious theories) WITH the "prior" term. The two terms are precisely EQUAL in importance in the mathematics. For psi, he argues that the likelihood is better than what we see with most theories in psychology (lots of evidence) but not so much better that it outweighs the low prior probability based on what we know about how the universe works. For many years, I agree with Hebb, but then two things happened to change MY first person probability assessment:

    (1) a direct personal experience so overwhelming (veridical) that it forced me to be open-minded, to upgrade the likelihood term;
    (2) after I was open-minded, not only more experience, but study of physics showing me that it is not so physically impossible as I had thought (for reasons I have mentioned here).

It is quite rational for some people to feel that there is very little probability of psi being real, based on the information available to THEM about the likelihood term and the prior term. 
It is rational for scientists engaged in science to follow Bayesian thinking. Discussions related to the prior term are also within the rules of third person science, if those discussions themselves are rational. 

I discussed this in more detail in the Mind_in_Time paper. I have wondered: how many of us have had the kind of first person experience which justifies our paying real attention to this area? One of the Vedanta discussion group members recently told us about a study which shows that the belief of scientists in psi correlates very closely with whether they really looked in a serious way at the empirical findings, which in turn correlates with their personal experience, but how many of us are there? Heisenberg’s interest in yoga and Vedanta is very well-documented, as is Schrodinger’s in Sufism, but activist opponents have argued that people like Heisenberg and Schrodinger were just sloppily falling into believing what their parents believed or that they were not as independent and creative in their thinking as the activists themselves. I wonder.

How many of us are there? The best information I know of to answer that question comes from a massive  NSF-funded survey aimed at probing the deep values of the American people. The survey had many findings, but I am most intrigued by those described in a popular summary written for the New York Times Magazine, “Are we a Nation of Mystics?”, by Greeley and McCready, reprinted in Goleman’s book Consciousness (which I recommend very highly to anyone interested in that subject). Based on their analysis of variance, about 70% of Americans with PhDs in the peak earning years would answer “yes” to the question: “Have you ever had the feeling of being very close to a powerful spiritual force that seemed to lift you out of yourself?” That sounds a lot more lurid than the experience in March 1967 which drive me to be open-minded about psi, but also a lot less
“veridical”. (That experience is described in section 3 of, a chapter in Krone, R. M. (2006). Beyond earth: the future of humans in space (Vol. 58). Collectors Guide Pub., Apogee Books.) Greeley and McCready called for further survey research to learn what is really going on here, but I haven’t found any evidence that it was ever funded.

70?!!!  Could it really be that high? Could it be that issues like psi and spiritual experience have become taboo subjects, like sex in the Victorian era, when babies still kept being born but many people pretended they had no idea how or had nothing to do with it personally? As best we know, that’s how it is here. In any case, those of us who seriously think there may well be (or certainly is) something real here have good reason to pay lots of attention to the big question:

What IS going on here? How could we possibly explain it? What does it imply, logically, for our larger plans in life?

My answer:
The Vedanta group recently discussed two issues regarding psi: (1) demonstrating that psi is real (where I basically just agree with Dean Radin); (2) understanding how and why it works, SO THAT we have a basis for expanding and developing it further.

Many years ago, in pondering the second question, I asked myself questions like: "Does QED allow the construction of a box smaller than a sphere of diameter one meter, capable of using quantum technology to pick remote sites anywhere on earth at will and send back an image of what is there?" Governments have spent billions on that kind of thing, and I don't see any sign of a hope of a possibility of doing it. If WE HUMANS can do it (as in the huge literature on remote viewing), how could we explain it , in a way which helps us do it better?

I am sorry, Ram, but I don't see how attaching words like "consciousness" to fields like the fields of QED and EWT would make the explanation easier, or the device constructable, either by machines or in biology. The sheer switching capability involved in picking a remote part of the earth, or, even more, tapping into thoughts far away,
is ONLY plausible in my view, if it exists as a property of an EVOLVED COMPLEX BIOLOGICAL SYSTEM CONNECTING those remote locations with our location.
In short, it requires a "noosphere," a living "brain" based on something OTHER than the familiar fields of QED. Since we know that dark matter is more plentiful than ordinary matter in our cosmos, and we now know that it forms a kind of vast connected ocean, this is actually a very natural and logical explanation, once you get used to it. One would actually EXPECT evolution to lead to bodies, brains and consciousness in such an ocean of life anyway; the idea that we are CONNECTED to such a noosphere brain is just as plausible as any of the other proposed answers I have heard to Fermi's paradox. (Brin's pleasant novel Existence includes a nice review of the others.) 

I do hope that some of you would be interested in following up on that approach and what it implies, citing:
[1] P. Werbos, Unification of Objective Realism and Spiritual Development,
[2] David Brin, Existence, Tor Books, 2012

[1] is not just an abstract explanation; in fact, it points to operational possibilities for trying to enhance paranormal and spiritual development, presented (if slightly veiled) in my 2012 paper in Neural networks. And yes, it was informed by reviewing lots of practical mystical literature, including yoga and many other traditions. 

My theory here is NOT identical to that of Teilhard de Chardin, who suggested (like Verdansky) that our noosphere is simply the product of evolution on earth. But in practical terms, there are many similarities, and similarities as well to folks like Sheldrake. For example, de Chardin's book The Activation of Human Energy is very important to the praxis here. Those who just disappear into a cave and seek nothingness may indeed dissolve away into nothingness (as folks like Bannon and ISIS may do in a more active way), but that is not the more natural and sane goal of "mindfulness" which the Dalai Lama talks about. Our progress and survival is very much a function of the invisible spiritual connections we grow to the rest of humanity and to our local (earth? solar system?) noosphere in general. And, OK, it's not JUST connectedness, it is also what we contribute to those connections, as the word "mindfulness" BEGINS to suggest. The analogy to the internet is somewhat useful, but of course it is a much richer network than all of that. 

Perhaps my new theory might be called the “Baby Noosphere Theory: From Gaia to Terry.”

So what are the practical implications of the new theory, relevant to practical issues in psi?

An initial discussion:

On Thu, Jan 18, 2018 at 11:12 AM, Vasavada, Kashyap V <> wrote:
Dear Alex,
Have you seen the video posted by Kushal about third eye demonstration? I would like to know your opinion, since you are both a scientist and Vedanta scholar. I am circulating this among my scientist friends to see their opinion. I posted it on a physics blog. The two responses I got were saying that it must be a scam! It is a tough road ahead for scientists studying paranormal activity!
Best Regards.

Thank you, Alex and Kashyap!

I am sorry that those two people were so virulent in dismissing this. But there are many times when the two people who speak first on a list are not representative, but merely the most extreme and overconfident. 

I am also reminded again of what the followers of Levi-Strauss said: remember the witch doctors who unknowingly used penicillin. Even if you dismiss the theory, don't ignore the experience or data which can be found there. If I were not overbooked this week, I might look more deeply into the issue of how to extract what can be learned from this group, and how.

There is a very readable simple book by Paul Sanders, You are Psychic, probably inexpensive from Amazon, which INCLUDES related experience as one of the four types of psi he has tried to work with in a very practical way. In many ways, I prefer Sanders' treatment, because he is not pretentious, because he focuses very directly on what he has learned over the years paying real attention to hundreds of people, and because the "third eye" part is rightly seen as just one of several ways people can develop their psi capabilities. Sanders is highly empirical, not up to the usual standards of third person science, but neither was Carl Jung; even Freud did not quite make it, and it took many years before his most basic ideas were translated into workable mathematics which we now use to build intelligent machines. But the kind of start which Sanders (and earlier Freud) offer is an important part of the "food chain" of scientific understanding, and it should be valued. 

My explanation of this, and of "chakra" stuff in general, is NOT that any part of the brain functions as a third eye, or as a dedicated receiver/transmitter of the force fields which carry psi information. Instead, the active receiver/transmitter is located in our "souls", the nonmundane biological part of our being, which are also capable of learning over time. Some people LEARN to interface via the frontal part of the brain (as do the "third eye" people, as do the folks whom Sanders classifies as the "intuitive" types). Some people learn more to interface through visual cortex, or auditory cortex. Part of the learning is in brain, but more is in "soul" learning better how to express itself through brain, in a process somewhat related to poltergeist and PK. 

Actually, my wife and I and younger son had great fun playing with Sanders' book when we first saw it in my brother's house. (It now sits in the kindle reader on the Imac I am typing into right now.) I clearly fit into his "intuitive" category ( a third eye type), while my wife was roughly half that and half clairovoyant. (The system is oversimplified, but so much better than assuming just one type like third eye.) One can use exercises of various kinds to try to enhance or diversify -- and it really would be important to understand better exactly how to do that, on a more comprehensive basis. In minor efforts to improve clairovoyance, I have found it helpful to focus on the visual cortex area WHILE also providing the kind of training input related to that task, in real time (not once-per-minute cards and such). Correct, concrete theoretical understanding does help, even if it is far from the explicit mathematical level. Of course, many attempts at training exercises have been tried by many groups through the millennia, sometimes with success, sometimes not, certainly all needing improvement.


One of the Vedanta people argued that the leaders of major religions have been 100% helpful in raising consciousness and capabilities here... but I argued that it has been a kind of mixed picture, like Toynbee's picture of the up-and-down progress of civilization in general:

How much have factors like simple mundane adrenalin, testosterone and androgen converted human religions and ideologies into a mixed bag, some growth but some regression, even at the birth of great cultural movements? 

I referred to only TWO aspects of how I have at times analyzed the progressions in more detail:  the new Freudian concept of defense mechanisms (as people may learn more mature ego defense mechanisms, described by Valliant) and a more general Hegelian concept (resolving contradictions, as in thesis antithesis synthesis, perhaps familiar to Joe as the "law of the triangle" in Western mysticism). But I also felt bad later that I did not even mention Freud's initial core concept, of working out traumatic (or euphoric) memories which bias the mind; we now understand these in mathematical terms, and this mathematics is what I was REALLY thinking about when I referred to "hot buttons".

Those of you who have already attained godhood (unlike humanity as a whole or even the noosphere as a whole) need not learn more about the challenges of further spiritual progression, and may simply sign out of discussing details irrelevant to them. But I for one freely admit I am quite imperfect, and need to work on all these dimensions (and more) of my own personal consciousness, both mundane and spiritual, both of self and of Self. Even our authentic spiritual leaders have had imperfections and struggles; indeed, they would never have gotten as far as they did WITHOUT those struggles, struggles which like physical exercises in childhood are vital to development and growth. 

We started this thread discussing Islam, an aspect of our collective intelligence which we will never forget if our consciousness is at a high enough level. There are certainly some interesting stories out there of the struggles which Mohammed went through, as there are of Jesus in the desert and such. I especially remember the story of a general confronting Mohammed as to whether his feelings about a coming battle were part of his verified spiritual input (like the white horse place) or a more ordinary mixed kind of feeling. Mohammed struggled with that (as best I recall), and said that THIS case was more the second type. His struggle and his admission were crucial to the success in that battle. At that moment, he struggled with a common kind of delusion of grandeur, and won that struggle with himself, his itzjihad. But victory was not just done and over. ALL of us on a meaningful, authentic spiritual path must CONTINUE to constantly struggle both with delusions of grandeur and delusions of helplessness. None of us are infallible, not even the leaders of authentic spiritual movements, let alone political imitators of such. 

I also felt bad, thinking over my initial post, that someone might imagine a criticism of Pope Francis. (Since many people "hear" things different from what I wrote, I have been even more worried.) The doctrine of infallibility, like the doctrine that Mohammed is the last prophet, do both have a kind of basic status of anathema, but Francis in particular has done so much to bring back more authenticity and spirit to the Catholic Church that I would certainly not want to propose changes which elevate folks like Ted Cruz instead. Somehow that reminds me of Condoleeza Rice and the challenge of how to actually strengthen democracy and freedom in a meaningful way -- not a trivial challenge, and not unrelated to allowing authentic growth of the spirit. 

As for Yeshua himself -- certainly a valid theme for discussion, but this particular email is maybe too long already. I did mention him in my initial post -- a long post, but brief relative to the subject itself. 


During Vashshitha or Vishwamitra's period, neither there were temples nor Hindus. Their message was meant for all humans of that period as well as for future generation.

During Buddha's period, neither there were Buddhists nor any pagodas. The message of Buddha was equally applicable to all sections of humanity at that period and of future.

Perhaps I should at least have added Buddha to my brief list. Fair enough. I was just giving examples, but yes Buddha is important enough I should have added one word anyway. Sorry.

As for the Aryan initiators of core Vedas, I deliberately did NOT pick an example, because it is too complicated and too hard to access in an agreed fashion so many millennia later in time. I would sooner have picked Lao Tzu, who is said by some serious people to be more than one person. But certainly they were wrestling with very serious and cosmic issues, beyond even just this tiny planet, even as they also had struggles with lots of adrenalin, testosterone and androgen. (Indeed, how much did estrogen and progesterone get reflected directly in the Vedas too?  I leave that questoin for others to wrestle with.) If I felt called to write a longer summary of the spiritual history of humanity, I would certainly have mentioned "the people of the horse" (like the early Indo-Aryans and like Genhghiz Khan of "the great blue sky" and Tiananmen and my wife's people and Scythia), the "people of the boat", the shamans of hunter-gatherers, and the priest kings of settled agriculture from early Sumeria. Lessons from that entire history are pertinent to this list, but  again this email is a bit long already, especially when some folks may only read the first sentence or two. 

Then who did prompted the dogfights? some mistaken followers of these spiritual leaders, who forget and started misinterpreting the universal teachings of their own spiritual leaders. created an ironclad institutional set up around their teachings. The fact is that over the period universal teachings of the great spiritual leaders have become secondary while institutional setup, having a complex network of customs/rules/regulations. This is the irony of every religion on the globe.

Yes. Even science and ideology have the same kind of entropy at work. (PLEASE, no one, take this use of the word "entropy" in too much of a cosmic or absolute sense!) Many forms of growth are "punctuated," with periods of surge forward, and periods of reconsolidation. The "entropy" both in religion and in government world-wide seems so overwhelming that I would EXPECT this species to go extinct relatively soon, were it not for a serious hope of "divine intervention" -- an intervention which we as part of the noosphere can contribute to directly, if we care enough to struggle enough with ourselves. I do consider the initial elevation of Pope Francis to be an example of that.


OK: they asked more..

... wrote:

Regarding what Charles Whitehead wrote: """What impresses me is not that psi disobeys natural laws, it doesn't seem too obey any laws at all, natural or supernatural. To me, this suggests that psi comes from a more fundamental level of reality than the laws of physics. """ and your and others' replies...

Me: This quotation from Whitehead should be followed by a quotation from Arthur C. Clarke, easily found on a google search:
Clarke's Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Clarke's Fourth Law: For every expert there is an equal and opposite expert. Clarke's Law of Revolutionary Ideas: Every revolutionary idea — in science, politics, art, or whatever — seems to evoke three stages of reaction

I really enjoy being able to recall an old book, and instantly get a link to where you could buy it for $3 from Amazon if you are really interested in the topic. (Lately, I do a lot of"kindle one-click" to see something instantly.) Clarke's "Third Law" has rightly drawn a lot of attention:


The term "doesn't seem to obey any laws" certainly applied to things like weather and lightning for many centuries. What "seems" magical and inexplicable is relative to what one understands.

In the Western tradition, Rosicrucians have been especially emphatic that nothing they study is "supernatural"; it is all about trying to understand and apply the relevant natural laws. That approach certainly goes back to the ancient Greeks. I have wondered at times how much Yeshua himself might have owed to Empedocles... though ofcourse we now have more of the prerequisites to understand such things. (Actually, there is a part of the New Testament where someone asks Yeshua why he uses parables so much, instead of being explicit. As best I recall, Yeshua replied: "Sorry, you don't have the prerequisites yet to understand it all explicitly. But in the future, the Spirit of Truthwill appear upon the earth, and the prerequisites will be made available." I sure hope so, and I hope we survive this very difficult period we are entering. It is so much like teenage years in nature, where we may grow or we may die. 

On Sun, Jan 21, 2018 a..... wrote:
Regarding your, """If we were still awaiting the Spirit of Truth then I think I would agree with your [Paul's] somewhat despairing tone. 

Me: This is an interesting sentence for me to wake up to today. {SHUTDOWN DAY 2). There are days when we must wrestle with delusions of grandeur, and days when we must wrestle with delusions of helplessness. All of us must, forever, except on OTHER days, and except for those who are resigned to ... less connection. But today's despair feelings are  not at all related to what I said about spirit of truth. I understand Colin's reading of what I said, but when I posted that quote from Yeshua/Jesus I had a thoroughly positive view. The view is that a lot of the apparent insanity and fragmentation in our world is NOT really insanity, but is ACTUALLY just a natural, normal process of immaturity and growth. Like three year olds looking at a car, we don't know the algebra needed to really know how cars really work (like Carnot's Laws), but we WILL learn it in time, and it IS HERE to some extent now. 

What causes me to feel bad this morning are reminders, for example, that presence of the spirit of truth and the acceptance of that spirit are not the same thing. Access to an algebra class is not the same as learning algebra. Debates on the government shutdown now underway here
have involved issue not only of truthfulness, but of respect for honor, duty, and the basic simple floor provided by basic principles of the constitution (which does NOT speak on all issues, but speaks very clearly on some). I even did facebook and twitter posts yesterday: 
"How to create an instant swamp: wait until 100,000 people come to the national mall, and then lock up all the bathrooms." (The reality of this was brought home to me because my wife and I walked from one side of the mall to the other, and back, and took pictures of this.)

But there are other difficulties which I probably should not discuss here and now. 

It is wrong to elevate the words "calm, relax" (CR?) into a theory of the meaning of life (or lack of it), but there are times when that is what is called for as one part of the larger rhythm, as we sort things out. It is ironic that one of the topics of debate in Washington is whether certain people (like certain Zen style Buddhists, quite the opposite of Tibetan in some ways) have OVERUSED the CR, and avoided what must be faced up to.

Who knows?

Best of luck,


HIM: However,  as I suspect that the Spirit of Truth is what has got us to this point,  I think we have reason for hope (though I would agree that it looks like there are difficult times ahead). Of course,  we all must die. Science certainly gives us reason to doubt that any afterlife we have will be anything rich and meaningful if it is up to chance where we end up.  Consequently,  if there is any hope of beating chance through securing the assistance of an omnipotent consciousness, I would jump at that opportunity.""",  

ME: It doesn't have to be omnipotent or omniscient to offer more hope. Maybe when children are VERY small, their chances of survival are greater if they simple assume their parents are all-wise, so that they listen when given guidance that can save their lives. But at some point, we can realize BOTH that our parents are not abstract deities, AND that we should listen to them, and even try hard to learn to listen better.


HIM: My guess, regarding  the Spirit of Truth trying to communicate with humans through individual humans, is s/he/it would often likely have to settle for "Close enough..." where we move through a series of successive approximations, via shifting tectonic plates, more or less like we witness as having happened and doing. 

I apologize that I did not make this point myself clearly enough to begin with

Sunday, January 14, 2018

review of the Caribbean cruise we returned from yesterday

Today (Saturday Jan. 13)  we disembarked from the MSC Seaside cruise to Western Caribbean, originally planned to be Eastern Caribbean. Overall it was the most frustrating and unpleasant of the 9 sea cruises we have taken so far, but I will try to be specific about good parts, bad parts, and things to watch for.

The best part for me, by far, was the ship excursion to Kohunlich. We have already visited many other Mayan sites, in the company of world-class archeologists, but our tour guide, Edna, whose home town is along the bus route we took, told us many interesting things we did not know yet. This experience, and a new look at the ocean from the 19th floor, were the two spiritually meaningful parts of the cruise, without which R&R would be the only justification. (Well, now that I think of it, getting a waiter one day became an esoteric experience too.)

The ship itself was the next best part. It is shiny, new, big and beautiful, more than any of the others we have traveled on.

The Jamaica port day was lots of fun.  My wife wisely booked a local driver, through Juta tours, who took us very early first to the main falls (Dunn? Another D name?), and then to botanical park tour. We really enjoyed clambering up from the bottom (labelled only as "exit") over rushing water and smooth rocks to the top, stopping to copy the three locals who stood in a natural shower and take pictures. But if any of us did not have perfect attention  to our immediate surroundings, it would have been easy to die. As we left, we shivered to see the huge crowd entering, to think what THAT implied for safety and fun where we just were. My wife says that the ship excursion requires the whole line of people to hold hands, a terrible mess, but understandable given the safety issues. We did learn a little at the botanical garden as well.

That was the great and good stuff OFF the ship. But on the ship, there were so many snafus it is hard to know where to begin.

There were only 4 free restaurants, a large cafeteria (like Norwegian garden cafe but not the same scale), a tiny cafeteria up near the main pool, and two normal restaurants, Seaside and Ipanema. Perhaps because of overpopulation, even the main cafeteria was controlled-access much of the time, open only to certain people at certain times. So for example, when we returned to the ship at about 3Pm from GrandCayman island, the only food I could get was an overcooked dry hamburger and an old style fatty hot dog with a little plastic package of relish and mayonnaise (no ketchup) from the pool area. People were willing to promise hot tea with lemon in the restaurants, but 1/3 of the time they delivered and 2/3 it became another case of no food.
For dinner, it was assigned seating and time, in group tables, for the lucky ones. As black card folks, we had a wonderful window view and waiters much better than any others we saw aboard the ship, but the random selection of table mates was a bit jarring.  We knew to race home from Mexico, and not change clothes, to meet the assigned time. (It was that or no food that day; we are glad they did not enforce the strict dress code on us that day, but rules in general were somewhat random.) Our table mates had no food that day after breakfast because they did try to meet the dress code, and it was closed. Even yesterday, it said "closed" to us, but we physically opened the doors and mentioned Captain's event, so they let us in. On Norwegian, we never had to worry about no-food days.
We signed up for lots of bennies -- spa, drinks in mealtime, coffee package, medium wifi. Wifi worked well, in the end,BUT we lost a lot of time because no one told us we had to type "" in the address bar even after successfully navigating the tricky web site which comes up. It woukd be so easy for them to just tell us that,on the web site itself, instead of creating huge unnecessary lines in the reception area for people asking the same question.
The drink and coffee packages work great if you like to start your day with wine over breakfast and end with a couple of cappuchinos as you go to bed.  But we ended up using less than half the coffee coupons, because restaurants would not take them, and none of the venchi places would accept them for anything but coffee. If your caffeine intake is limited, maybe you should forget the coffee package, and just give in to the regular restaurant coffee -- unless you prefer eggs with water.
The eighth floor buffet was reasonable for lunch. Meat in sauce was OK. Bar offered just heineken inside for beer on the mealtime drinks package, but around the corner outside newcastle ale was also available on draft; helpful and friendly folks. Seaside restaurant had great salmon for breakfast, but seating and waiters were a nightmare.
(First day: "sorry for the delay; we are looking for a cook." Later: "sorry, we do not know where the waiter for your area is.")
On assigned dinners, Italian dishes were generally much better than others, though the prime rib on the last day was great. I am surprised the French Embassy has yet to complain about the so-called French onion soup, a tasteless red glob.
On the very first day, they were clear we should go to the emergency station indicated on our cards and on the map in our room. But the two did not match.  Folks were tested on going to what their cards say, but we had no map of where to find it. But crew had signs, so we survived that.
There are also gates connecting balconies. On the first day,  I was disconcerted to see unfamiliar kids on our balcony, laughing and peering in to us. We called steward who needed a special tool to lock the gate, but a few days later in the night the gates got loose again on both sides, banging noisily all night.

Captain was proud spa is "the biggest." One of the NCL ships had a spa which SEEMED a lot bigger, with views outside the ship and more powerful jets, but still the spa WAS good. Great background music. Steam baths, finnish sauna, access to a jacuzzi on private outdoor deck. Snow room.

The shows were mostly not up to NCL standards. Time-travel show was the best for me, "powerful but disconnected." But if you don't build time machines, it might be less powerful for you.
Specialty restaurants -- Yamaguchi is a real artist and we enjoyed quality things we haven't seen anywhere else. At chef's table, huge volume of food, including giant shrimp, but desert cake was the only bit of real flair. I am reminded of a table mate who ordered chicken, asked for some sauce, and was told that Tabasco and ketchup were the only choices.

One table mate commented about the effect of too many people on elevators.  I just shrugged my shoulders; I have never seen fast elevators on any cruise ship, and don't mind walking. But when 2 of the 4 next to us stopped working, and many folks became surly due to missing food and such, it really did become an issue.

At Grand Cayman, the tour we booked was cancelled due to earthquake, tsunami alert and such. We were not the only ones a bit frustrated. But local people had nice $20/person 7 stop tours. Near the port exit, to the right, was a small but amazing marine park; if we had brought our own snorkeling gear.. but it was amazing anyway. I wonder what those huge fish were right by the ladder and the steps down into the water.

Consider bringing a bar of soap and a simple workable salt shaker before you come on board. The elegant bath foam was so astringent that I had hours of on-again off-again intense pain after my first shower. After that I avoided washing all parts which medicine most demands we wash. The tables have many beautiful glass salt grinders,  and they can be made to deliver a little salt for a little while. Yes I understand the philosophy, but I also understand voodoo and do not want to be forced to practice it.

MSC practiced language diversity more than other cruise lines, but not other kinds of diversity, freedom and choice.



Our very first cruise, long long ago on Carnival, was previously the worst and we never sailed on it again. Like MSC, they had assigned seating. They assigned us to eat with a Biblical family from Waco. When they lectured us on how sinful our  thinking was... well.. not fun. I was somewhat worried as we approached the MSC at Miami, right next to Carnival ships, knowing that for the second time we would face assigned seating again. Great worry, but not to fear. Our seat assignments were with a family very similar to old neighbors of mine with high mafia connections. Much easier conversations, but it seems once again we scared people somehow, though it didn't seem that way. Later debate: is the mafia irrelevant now, because the FBI downed it? Or did they take over the reins to the FBI itself? Or is that an issue of semantics?

Time to end this post.

Well... when I get two pictures of Hell from Luda, I will do a facebook post linking here:


Grand cayman: anyone who tracks financial networks should not be surprised that there is a convenient express lane to hell there. Still, we were surprised when we got off the boat (URL) and were told: "Your tour is cancelled, because a 7.6 earthquake hit right where you were sailing, with a tsunami alert." Well, not exactly there, but I had been thinking how Trump's new tax law does not do justice to the game theory aspects of where the money goes around the world,  or to the Panama papers scandals well-known in Europe. With or without the new tax law, the US could bring back more money by cooperating more with EU and others who actually care about the strength of the people, enough to plug the most horrible leaks.
But this earthquake was small compared to what hit Mexico and NAFTA this past year...

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

To Vedanta folks about events and deep spirit in Iran

Just a few months ago, one of the sponsors of this list organized a major conference in Mumbai (which we discussed at the time) on interfaith dialogue with Iran. I regretted not being able to just pay my own way and come, because I am living off of a retirement pension now -- comfortable enough if I do not spend unnecessarily.

What I regretted most was missing a chance to connect with Mohsen Qomi,  one of the key speakers. Given his role on the program, I did a web search, and learned that he is a really key adviser of Khamanei, and a really powerful thought leader in Iran. But I was baffled by a huge dichotomy in his thinking:

(1) On the one side, he has stressed the importance of developing spirit and not just formalisms, and been emphatic that the formalistic faithful and total materialists are equally abhorrent. This is really central to our human spiritual reality as I see it, and it is exciting to see someone in a position of power who claims the same foundations.

(2) But in many writings, he urges something which looks like a mindless racist crusade to kill all Americans and Israelis. People from those nations have made many mistakes, but so have people from all nations on earth, and uncompromising hatred as a primary value can contaminate everything else, including even (1) itself. 

The events of the past week suggest that we are not called to put these difficulties on a back burner. Donald Trump's comments about Iran remind me of his comments about the FBI; it is good that he cares, but it would be helpful if he said less when he doesn't quite understand what is going on. (My wife says the same about some of my recent efforts to make sense of hairy quantum physics experiments; we all are fallible, and therefore human society needs to become less fragile with respect to that universal fallibility.) Obviously I would not take his comments as a proper starting point for the dialogue which is needed here. 

IN PRINCIPLE, Khomenei's idea of an Islamic Republic (not Khamanei, but Khomenei) does not logically depend on any effort at mass murder of Jews or Americans. Also, the current protests directly address that core idea, not the issue of relations with the US or Israel, and naturally create enormous concern in the leadership of Iran.  Dialogue about that idea itself will be important, both on the mundane level of our existence and on the spiritual levels.

Like the bhakti movement and St Paul in Christianity (and Bernard Shaw in Back to Methusaleh), Qomi emphasized the need to develop and manifest spirit in human life, that law alone is not enough. It seems reasonable to guess that the most important decision makers in Iran have concluded that Western nations like the US have not just separated church and state, but have impoverished the energy, attention, focus and funding used to support the growth and mobilization of the nonmundane aspects of human minds. The concept of Islamic Republic was to modify the notion of Republic to fill that hole. Protesters in the streets of Iran are now complaining about the huge flow of funds to madressas, caused by the power of the clerics, even in devout parts of Iran which most supported Khomenei's revolution in the first place.

One odd thing is that Donald Trump himself and Bannon are supporting the same kind of greater flow of funds to (Christian) madressas, and reduced separation of church and state, in the US itself (as the Ray Moore event illustrates). But he supports Christian formalists... well, like what Qomi rightly complains about. 

If the vast funding of madressas in Iran had funded folks like Sufis or yogins developing real spiritual energy, and positive impacts, I doubt we would see what we now see in the streets of Iran. In principle, the discussions we had with Ramanuja Foundation and Quakers about how to develop real spiritual strength and not just narrow indoctrination, are relevant to the core hope of Komenei, which  the present structure of Iran (providing excess recruitment to power of folks aimed at goals like hatred and suppression of others) is not doing justice to. Spirit alone would be enough to create more harmony, if it were truly stronger. 

Of course, there are karmic effects as well. Iran rightly says we should think about the Palestinian refugees, but Syrian refugees are now a much larger locus of pain on this planet. 
Khamanei would say that support of Assad was necessary to prevent narrow soul-suppressing sectarianism in Syria, which is rational, but which leaves his hands no less pure than those of the US here. It is very sad what tradeoffs have been faced by both nations, and only by less narrow approaches (less narrow than either Quds or Trumps) can we come to have better choices. 

So: time to rethink education of the spirit, and what it really requires? In my view, any really authentic growth of the spirit makes us closer to the noosphere, and thus to each other. 

But of course, narrow and temporary things like the economics of the oil industry have also caused regressive phenomena in all nations. That too will pass.


Added later:
These are important issues, and I tried to be careful yesterday to do justice to higher intelligence.

But I also agreed yesterday.. if anyone is at all interested, there are more mundane, human and humorous aspects we could discuss here.

For example, when Khamanei said.. "I detect the sign of outside influence here. It is clear that someone with high levels of intelligence is involved..",
was he trying to make it clear to everyone that he was NOT blaming Trump? (Or did he actually believe it was Trump and trying to flatter him the way Putin does so successfully in that case? Putin does have experience in dealing directly with billionnaire oligarchs.) 
If Khamanei were to believe (as Quds folks undoubtedly try to persuade him) that Trump is behind this, it would be as unrealistic as Trump's similar beliefs that an unemployed and depressed old woman in New York (Hilary Clinton)  is the secret Fu Manchu behind the Deep State. (The Deep State or The Swamp is basically a real and serious concern, but it is more like Bannon himself than Hilary Clinton. I have seen quite directly what it is and how it works in many situations, and how it gets to be outside the law by centering itself outside the legal state proper. Using Mercer money to fund theocracy is a beautiful illustration of contradictions fostered deliberately.) The sheer location of the protests should make that clear. Yes, there are a few fingerprints of higher intelligence in these protests, but a different kind of intelligence, not one that we are called to ignore. More like mandate of heaven issues. 

But in the end, sheer demographics are a pervasive source of instability for all nations of the Middle East, likely to grow and affect ALL organized states, as the mobilized mass unemployment rises. In the end, the restrictions on women, forcing them to dedicate more of their lives to having children and reducing their options in other spheres, are a key cause of that, and it is grossly ironic that so many clerics both in Islam and in Christianity demand such an assertion of male biological urges over and against spirit when they claim to be representing spirit. The misunderstanding and misquote of Aristotle by power seeking hypocrites in the West is one of the many deep cultural problems of this world; Iran is certainly not alone in being in a "GOD" (Grow Or Die) situation.


A few more rough add-on thoughts on interfaith dialogue.

A few weeks ago, Turki Faisal gave a major talk in DC, where he summarized HIS view of spirit and religion in one word: "obedience."

In truth, just as hatred is a kind of central problem in Iran, I have long felt that there is one most central problem in the basic beliefs of Catholicism and Salafism. I gave up Catholicism when I was 8 to 12, because I felt it would be dishonest to accept the axiom that the Pope is infallible. That is central to that organization, because the axiom is basically the foundation for an epistemology of unquestioning obedience to a chain of other people. In Salafism, the belief that "Mohammed is the last prophet" AND that direct spiritual revelation is no longer admissible to anyone (let alone nonclerics) is equally fatal as an axiom. I was excited to see that Qomi appears to reject that viewpoint, but what about "obedience"? I could ask "What does Turki Faisal MEAN by obedience if he rejects any direct personal connection to God?" Just a question.

But it reminds me of a curious situation with Quakers.

In the one time I visited India (2015), I was surprised that the visa on arrival required that we identify religion, by checking about six options or "other". 
It is curious to be asked to define exactly what one believes about spirit and life in just one or two words. But when we have to, we have to, and those who demand this should of course respect the fact that most of us must have reservations about any two-word summary.

In my case, I picked "Quaker Universalist." About half the Quakers in this area are Christocentric Quakers, people of "the book," which in this case means the Bible or the New Testament. About half are Quaker Universalists, people of many books, who generally do look deeply into the Bible but also look just as deeply and respectfully to all the great books conveying the greater mass of human experience and thought. (Certainly Buddhism gets deep attention here.) I usually feel comfortable with that and many other definitions of Quaker Universalism (including the weekly group meditation practiced by all Quakers), but when I think about Islam I suddenly realize the ways in which I seem to be a minority of one.

The vast majority of Quakers, either Christocentric or Universalist, would be JUST as comfortable with THEIR version of obedience to God as Turki Faisal, maybe even more. The vast majority believe that the most important part of the weekly meeting for worship (and meditation practiced elsewhere of course) is to try to listen for the voice of God, and try to obey it. This is not an easy practice, but what is easy and what is right are not always the same. It demands a lot of mental discipline, and people do try to help each other respectfully in learning that discipline, as well as some of the basic disciplines discussed in the New Testament like removing the beam form one's own eye first, and so on). 

But no, I do not rest my mind in the normal fuzzy image of what the word "God" means. I suppose I am closer in a way to those people I met in the high Andes, who think of something like earth mother (more precisely noosphere) and sky father (our deep connections to galaxy and beyond, even a phrase pater galacticus which I have used at times in meditation, with proper respect to Yeshua). And I think more of alchemical marriage than of simple obedience. (My wife at times enjoys how I see analogies between relation with her and relation with God.) I suppose, in the end, this says that OTHER Quaker Universalists are closer to islam than I am.. but the uncompromising quest for real truth might have a few supporters  as well, and I do hope the new dialogues will make room for them.


Later, one of the Vedanta folks commented:
There are two worst thing which mankind has done to it in past 5000 years. First it divided itself into  different nationalities -
mostly based on artificial  social, economic, religious, cast  and political  considerations. Up to the  
administrative point of view, one could understand the division of mankind into different  nationalities. But when the different
nationalities, created based on artificial social/religious/caste,/economic/political considerations start looking antagonist to each
other, things become worse to worst

The second worst thing which mankind has done to it is  its division in different religions which started looking antagonist 
to each other, None of the so called founder  of any  religion had actually set up any religion during their time. The so called
founders of all religions were actually very secular , truly spiritual, all loving people and  their message and teachings  aimed
equallyat the entire humanity and not a particular section of people. Centuries after the departure of the so called founder of the
 religions that  some of their misled followers, who themselves had gone  astray from the original teachings, created such a
  hardcore instituitionalized  setup around the original teachings that original message became obscure  to the extent that only
outer institution started becoming visible and that is how   separate religions took birth.

================ my reply:

Your post reminds me of a beautiful theory, less realistic than your version of the story, but still useful in a poetic or metaphoric sense.

Many of the old cabbalists believed that the whole cosmos was once just one great mind, God, but that it somehow fractured into trillions of tiny sparks. Our true duty, they argued, is to bring the sparks back together. The novel Voyage to Arcturus by John Lindsay echoes that beautiful but incomplete view.

It is very scary, in a way, to think that we were once whole, and fell into schizophrenia. As we look at the religions and politics and cultures of earth, it does have a depressing similarity to hopeless total insanity. Why not just give up on the whole planet? 

As that thought hit me again this morning, I replied with a sentence I wrote a year ago for some folks in the high Andes: "pachamma es una nina." The mental characteristics of insanity (schizophrenia in particular) are sometimes easy to confuse with the characteristics of simple immaturity. We simply have a lot to learn. It is still possible we will not learn enough of the right mix of things, soon enough, to survive at all as a species, but it would be irrational and unnatural not to keep trying, especially as we do seem to be learning and coping bit-by-bit with complex challenges.