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mikeccolella

Is there a unity consciousness?

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Thanks for the good article, Mike. I agree the world is deeply mysterious and beautiful, and perhaps one step in our long process ahead for exploring outer space will begin with virtual reality. If we can put on some cheapo glasses, look at the blue and white marbled planet earth from afar, we're surrounded by all that blackness, maybe we'll be inspired. These interim steps to get out there into the cosmos -- SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic -- may they be given strength by virtual reality experiences.

 

Anyone buying virtual reality? I admit I'm not into it yet.p

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Mike,

 

One reason I want to stick around as long as possible on this green earth is so that I can live long enough to get off it! I'd love to visit space. After a depressing 40 year lull, it looks like things are picking up again in the human space exploration department and it might just be possible for average humans to visit space within my lifetime. I for one am very excited about it, whether or not the sense of awe it inspires has anything to do with connecting to or instilling in us some kind of mystical unity consciousness.

 

--Dean

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We are all one. That is indisputable IMHO. It is totally consistent with everything we know. I think religion and science got off to a bad start, Galelio and all that and rightfully so. But there is a place for awe and the mystical when that simply means that we are all connected in the deepest sense. That is what the great Aldous Huxley had in mind when he studied religious experience and wrote his classic work "The Perrenial Philosophy". So spirituality is to simply experience that Truth and act accordingly. It is not something most of us come to easily due to the evolutionary drive for survival and the obsession we have with that, but that obsession is delusional in that it compels us to imagine we are distinct.

 

That there are scientific geniuses we readily accept. I think Huxley and many others would argue that there have been spiritual geniuses throughout history and that they touched on a deeper truth about existence, consciousness and love that science is ill equipped to explain because it is not something that we can easily measure and quantify.

 

Of course religion, like most human endeavors becomes polluted with all kinds of nonsense and idiocies. Nothing unusual about that. But I don't think we should jump to the conclusion that it is all based on wishful thinking.

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Mike,

 

 

We are all one. That is indisputable IMHO. ... It is not something most of us come to easily due to the evolutionary drive for survival and the obsession we have with that, but that obsession is delusional in that it compels us to imagine we are distinct. 

 

Why the distinction / dichotomy? Why can't we all be One and and still be distinct and unique individuals, with our own separate 'projects'?

 

I liken it to the individual cells in our body. Each is distinct and each has a separate agenda, yet at the same time each is part of a much larger whole.

 

There is nothing wrong with our evolutionary drive for survival. There is nothing imaginary or delusional about thinking of ourselves as distinct and therefore being self-interested. It is just the way the individual parts are configured to operate and interact in order to fulfill the agenda of the whole.

 

--Dean

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So, eat shrooms and get this sense of oneness, and it lasts sometimes for months -- all love and peace and flowers and earth. Life transforming, really. No mention of Huxley and feelings of oneness would be complete without mention of psilocybin.

 

http://www.nature.com/news/psychedelic-chemical-subdues-brain-activity-1.9878

 

"In his 1954 book The Doors of Perception, novelist Aldous Huxley, who famously experimented with psychedelics, suggested that the drugs produce a sensory deluge by opening a “reducing valve” in the brain that normally acts to limit our perceptions.

 

"The new findings are consistent with this idea, and with the free-energy principle of brain function developed by Karl Friston of University College London that states that the brain works by constraining our perceptual experiences so that its predictions of the world are as accurate as possible."

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Sthira,

"The new findings are consistent with this idea, and with the free-energy principle of brain function developed by Karl Friston of University College London that states that the brain works by constraining our perceptual experiences so that its predictions of the world are as accurate as possible."

 

I love Karl Friston. He's a (neuro)scientist with an open mind about the nature of reality. Check out this debate entitled Down the Rabbit Hole between Friston (who is more or less a Realist when it comes to metaphysics) and another favorite of mine, Anti-realist Hilary Lawson, whose book Closure:A Story of Everything I'm in the middle of reading at the moment.

 

At the bottom of this post is a really intriguing video by Lawson on his mind-bending theory of Closure, whereby there are no "things" in the world per se, only our idiosyncratic carving up of a continuous world into separate objects that we reify in order to operate more effectively.

 

The analogy he uses to explain his theory of Closure (modified slightly by me) is to compare our concepts (like "tree") to a constellation in the night sky. We project a pattern of our own creation onto a set of stars, e.g. we project a ladle onto a set of seven stars and call it the "Big Dipper".  There is really no "Big Dipper" pattern out there in the real world, only in our mind - i.e. those seven stars are not in any fundamental way associated with each other. Nevertheless, once we've reified the "Big Dipper" into an existing, distinct and easily identifiable thing, we can use it to more effectively operate in the world - you can find true north and navigate effectively if you're lost by projecting off the edge of the "cup" of the Big Dipper to find the faint star Polaris, the "North Star", as illustrated in this image:

 

big-dipper-and-north-star.jpg

 

 

Lawson contends that all are concepts (trees, people, God, free-will, unity consciousness) etc are like the Big Dipper. They are ways of "holding the world" (his words) or "projecting patterns onto the world" (my words) in an attempt to make sense of something we'll never entirely grasp, so that we can operate more effectively in the world. It doesn't matter if our projections are "Real" (i.e. really "carve the universe at its ontological joints") - as an Anti-realist Lawson doesn't believe in a mind-independent reality, at least one that we'll ever be able to grasp. But as long as our projections "work" (help us operate effectively in this mysterious world), that's all that matters.

 

This directly relates to my point to Mike about "Both/And" - sure we are ultimately all One (undifferentiated), but we project separate identities and carve up the world into disjoint "things" in order to make sense of the world, and to get through life more effectively. 

 

--Dean

 

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But surely Dean, this perspective of Lawson's about "Closure" is crazy talk. Some things just are not relative. They are true or false in Reality with a capital R. For example "London is the capital of England". That statement is objectively True - a mind-independent reality. Right? It represents a correspondence between our language and the objective, "real" world. Right? And "London is the capital of France" is an unequivocally false statement, right?

 

Not according to Lawson. Here is his (pretty compelling IMO) argument, by example:

 

The statement 'London is the capital of England’ is identified as true because its realisation is not in question, while  ‘London is the capital of France’ is less easily realised and we  are correspondingly inclined to describe it as false. 

 

However like any combination of tags [words - DP], closure is possible and if realised the sentence then becomes true at  the point of realisation. If for example, the closure  ‘London is the capital of France’ is achieved in the context of the opening lines of a contentious speech to French bankers, with the implication that the power of the city of London is sufficient for it to be regarded as the capital of France, its status for the speaker is no different from  ‘London is the capital of England’ [i.e. it can be held in this context as true - DP]. Both have  been realised and have thus generated material [i.e. a useful way of viewing the world], and are therefore true. For [some - DP] members of the audience the closure may fail and for them it would be false.

 

At first it seems like crazy talk, but the more I think about it the more it makes sense to me. We project meaning, and therefore truth and falsity onto the world, rather than these features of the world being "baked in" and independent of us.

 

--Dean

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https://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/mar/05/psychedelic-drugs-like-lsd-could-be-used-to-treat-depression-study-suggests

 

Thanks Sthira for mentioning the psilocybin and see the above. It seems psychedelics may very well be a gateway to increase perception as Huxley suggests. The Yaqui Indians and others seemed to understand this. Of course they were careful about monitoring and ritualizing the process, unlike many who took these drugs such as LSD recreationally. It is also noteworthy that the psychiatrist Stanislov Grof published extensive research using LSD to treat his patients. Of course this therapy needs to be supervised and done in a way that protects the patient.

 

The goal is to achieve an experience, as Huxley describes, that makes the patient feel more connected to the world or reality rather than isolated and disconnected. The profundity of that experience according to the research leads to a sense of purpose, connectedness and has powerful implications for mental health.

 

Dean my thoughts on what you say are that it is an inherent contradiction to be one and distinct at the same time? Sure we feel distinct because we are wired for that. Our genes demand it, but I would contend that is it illusory and false.

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Psychedelic drugs like LSD could be used to treat depression, study suggests

 

Prof David Nutt’s study has suggested mind-altering drugs – like LSD – could help reverse entrenched patterns of addictive or negative thinking

Psychedelic drugs could prove to be highly effective treatments for depression and alcoholism, according to scientists who have obtained the first brain scans of people under the influence of LSD.

 

Early results from the trial, involving 20 people, are said to be “very promising” and add to existing evidence that psychoactive drugs could help reverse entrenched patterns of addictive or negative thinking.

 

However, Prof David Nutt, who led the study together with Amanda Feilding of the Beckley Foundation, warned that patients are missing out on the potential benefits of such treatments due to prohibitive regulations on research into recreational drugs.

 

Speaking at a briefing in London, the government’s former chief drugs adviser, said the restrictions amounted to “the worst censorship in the history of science”.

 

After failing to secure conventional funding to complete the analysis of the latest study on LSD, Nutt and colleagues at Imperial College London, are now attempting to raise £25,000 through the crowd-funding site Walacea.com.

 

“These drugs offer the greatest opportunity we have in mental health,” he said. “There’s little else on the horizon.”

 

There has been a resurgence of medical interest in LSD and psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, after several recent trials produced encouraging results for conditions ranging from depression in cancer patients to post-traumatic stress disorder.

 

A US study in 2014 showed that LSD helped patients with life-threatening illnesses overcome anxiety about death, in 2012 MDMA (the active ingredient in ecstasy) in combination with psychotherapy was shown to be effective at treating post-traumatic stress disorder and a 2006 study from scientists in Arizona found that psilocybin relieved symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

But government and funders in the UK remain unwilling to engage with the potential clinical benefits of psychoactive drugs, Nutt claimed.

 

He equated the barriers to research to the Catholic church’s censorship of Galileo’s work in 1616. “We’ve banned research on psychedelic drugs and other drugs like cannabis for 50 years,” he said. “Truly, in terms of the amount of wasted opportunity, it’s way greater than the banning of the telescope. This is a truly appalling level of censorship.”

 

Ravi Das, a neuroscientist at University College London who is researching the effects of ketamine, agreed that there is an institutional bias. “The potential benefits are definitely downplayed in face of these drugs being used recreationally,” he said. “People view their use in a research setting as ‘people are just having a good time’.”

 

However, the Medical Research Council, said that funding is simply allocated according to the quality of research. “We’re certainly not cautious about funding studies just because they relate to an illegal drug,” a spokesman said. “Professor Nutt currently receives over three quarters of a million pounds directly from the MRC for his psilocybin research and last year alone we spent over £860,000 on studies related to cannabis.”

 

In the latest study, carried out at Cardiff University, 20 healthy volunteers who had previous experience of LSD were injected with a “moderate” (75 microgram) dose of the drug before having the activity of their brains monitored using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

Robin Carhart-Harris, also from Imperial College, said the dose produced “quite profound effects”, in terms of brain activity and the mood and mental state of the participants. None of the volunteers reported having a “bad trip”, although three suffered some anxiety and temporary paranoia.

 

“I wouldn’t say that it’s a dangerous experiment but I would say that LSD has potential negative effects,” he said. “It’s not uncommon for people to have anxiety during a psychedelic drug experience. The experience can be nightmarish at times.”

 

He added that even those who had a challenging experience were “somehow psychologically refreshed” afterwards.

 

A previous brain imaging study, by the same team, showed that psilocybin decreased blood flow to certain important “hub structures” in the brain, meaning that closely linked brain areas became less tightly synchronised. The scientists believe that this could explain why the drug appears to help patients overcome conditions such as depression, addiction and post-traumatic stress where pathological patterns of thought become so entrenched they are difficult to reverse.

 

The team are planning a new psilocybin study in patients with depression, due to begin in May.

 

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Drugs are illegal where scientific and medical analysis has shown they are harmful to human health. We have a clear licensing regime, supported by legislation, which allows legitimate research to take place in a secure environment while ensuring that harmful drugs are not misused and do not get into the hands of criminals.”

• This article was amended on 9 March 2015 to acknowledge the role of Amanda Feilding of the Beckley Foundation in the research project on psychedelic drugs.

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There is a deep mystery in conscious awareness. Sadly it is under cultivated.

 

Consciousness is deeply mysterious, but there's no reason we shouldn't someday develop good explanations for what exactly it is, how it works, and why.

 

 

We are all one. That is indisputable IMHO. 

 

An "indisputable" assertion based on no evidence of any kind whatsoever.

 

 

Sthira,

"The new findings are consistent with this idea, and with the free-energy principle of brain function developed by Karl Friston of University College London that states that the brain works by constraining our perceptual experiences so that its predictions of the world are as accurate as possible."

 

I love Karl Friston. 

 

Dean, I'd encourage you to read something like David Deutsch's "The Beginning of Infinity" which offers as clear and concise an explanation of what science and knowledge are in the context of the only valid framework that exists, Popperian epistemology.

 

I just don't see how you could fall for the example you've posted above.

 

Yes, of course we project meaning, and yes, of course the meaning of a symbol (e.g. a word) depends on its context. Where *else* could "meaning" be but inside of us? But you of all people appreciate that the laptop on which I am typing this is not constructed of frozen yogurt.

 

If you say that "frozen yogurt" could simply mean "a cpu, etc" then you're just playing trivial word games.

 

Friston is himself just playing word games. He's drawing false conclusions from (trivially) true premises by stating those premises in such a way as to make them seem new and profound. Respectfully, Friston is "not even wrong."

 

As usual, it seems that Friston assumes that "truth" and "falsehood" are about justified beliefs, but it's precisely *because* beliefs are inside of us and the only way to "justify" beliefs is by comparing them with other beliefs that "justified belief" is impossible. Truth and falsehood have nothing to do with those things, as the laptop on which I'm typing this will continue functioning in exactly the way it was designed regardless of my beliefs about it.

 

Having spent time seeing human beings in various forms of distress and mortal danger, I can just picture someone saying... "But he hasn't *really* OD'ed on heroin! You're only projecting that onto him. I'm projecting something entirely different, and who's to say which "meaning" is actually "true"? After all, there is no "objective truth" outside ourselves. In fact, I believe that what you call 'narcan,' I call 'laundry detergent,' and he clearly doesn't need that. In fact, what you call 'asystole,' I call 'ballroom dancing' so we all might as well dance along!"

 

The fact that anyone (including Friston) compartmentalizes silliness about "no mind-independent reality" as you go about your daily life, eating and drinking to survive, relying on technology (let alone helping to design it, as you do Dean), and medical treatment, etc should give an indication of how objectively "true" Friston's claims are.

Edited by Taurus Londono

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Mike,

 

Dean my thoughts on what you say are that it is an inherent contradiction to be one and distinct at the same time? Sure we feel distinct because we are wired for that. Our genes demand it, but I would contend that is it illusory and false. 

 

Wouldn't you acknowledge that a cell in your body has a separate distinct identity but is at the same time part of a much larger whole. I don't see a contradiction. But even if so, I say embrace the contradiction. 

 

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

and:

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. - F Scott Fitzgerald

 

--Dean

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BTW:

I apologize if my above post seems rude or disrespectful towards you, Dean.

I sincerely respect you a great deal, and your posts were of tremendous personal value to me several years ago when I first became interested in CR. I consider you to be a pioneer (in more ways than one).

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Taurus,

 

I apologize if my above post seems rude or disrespectful towards you, Dean.

 

No worries! I have a very thick skin, and didn't find your challenges to be rude or disrespectful in the slightest. Simply insightful provocations. To wit:

 

Dean, I'd encourage you to read something like David Deutsch's "The Beginning of Infinity" which offers as clear and concise an explanation of what science and knowledge are in the context of the only valid framework that exists, Popperian epistemology.

 

I indeed enjoyed the rational optimism Deutsch expressed in his book, The Beginning of Infinity. While it's been a while since I read it, looking back on the notes I took shows that my current metaphysical worldview, and even Lawson's, seems to be quite compatible with Deutsch's Popperian perspective on knowledge - at least the way I understand it, which is all that counts

 

He focuses throughout the book on the fact that humans have been successful because we've sought "good explanations". This seems exactly like what Lawson calls "Closures" or "ways of holding the world". What you may think sets Deutsch's perspective apart from Lawson's is the fact that Deutsch insists that a "good explanation" must fit the data (observations of the world), and further, that these explanations shouldn't be arbitrary, or easy to vary without breaking them.  Saying "God did it" or "God set things up that way" are very poor explanations because they provide no constraints - they could be used to explain anything and because they are so vague and open-ended, they can't falsified (i.e. they are too easily varied to explain any fact), and further can't be used to discover new knowledge or make predictions.

 

This is entirely consistent with Lawson's perspective, as far as I can tell having read both men's work. Lawson says a 'closure' (aka Deutsch's 'good explanation') is a good one if it allows us to operate effectively in the world, make predictions, leverage it to discover new relationships, etc. The Big Dipper analogy shows exactly that.

 

My notes also remind me that Deutsch is a fallibilist - there is no such thing as ultimate knowledge - i.e. fully and properly justified true beliefs. Instead, we can't be sure of anything. We can only try to come ever closer to approximating the 'truth' by always subjecting our beliefs to criticism - i.e. Popperian falsificationism. We can never be sure, and should never pretend that we are - because when we feign certainty, we stop improving our models of the world. Neither our reason nor our perception is infallible. I'm not sure if Deutsch mentioned it explicitly, but Plato's allegory of the cave analogy comes to mind. The ideas that withstand criticism and win out in the marketplace of competing ideas seem to us to become increasingly better approximations of reality, or at least more pragmatically useful.

 

That is what I read in(to) Deutsch's book. Obviously that is my interpretation of what Deutsch wrote, and you may have another perspective. Neither of us is right, since we project our own perspective onto the text

 

You wrote:

Truth and falsehood have nothing to do with those things, as the laptop on which I'm typing this will continue functioning in exactly the way it was designed regardless of my beliefs about it.

 

Ah, I think I understand where you are coming from. Let me suggest that I may have confused you about Lawson's metaphysics and epistemology based on the examples I gave - involving the Big Dipper and the statement "London is the capital of France".

 

As far as I understand, Lawson is not an Idealist. He doesn't believe everything is just a figment of our imagination, dependent for their existence only on our beliefs, and that we're making it all up. In that directly lies solipsism... Instead Lawson acknowledges there is something out there creating all our sensory impressions. After all, how else could we have such uncanny agreement on what we each individually observe? So there really is something giving us the impression of the individual stars we interpret as the Big Dipper, and something giving us the sensory impressions (or second hand knowledge) of what we label as "London" and "France".

 

But what Lawson claims (as far as I can tell) is that we can't know (or be sure we know) anything about the true nature of whatever is out there - because everything we observe is mediated and filtered by our senses. He calls this unknowable something out there "Openness" to avoid pinning it down inappropriately with constraining terms like "cities", "stars", "the universe", "quarks", "vibrating strings", etc - those are all just metaphors we've made up to try to describe and cope with the unknowable something(s) out there using our limited language and thought patterns. 

 

I just don't see how you could fall for the example you've posted above.

 

So do you believe the seven stars of the Big Dipper are tied together in some fundamental way, independent of human conceptions? Or that it's not possible to "hold" London as the capital of France in the context Lawson describes?

 

You may not thing you can generalize from such examples to all of reality, but denying the reasonableness of his examples seems to me to be an untenable and narrow-minded perspective. 

 

I can just picture someone saying... "But he hasn't *really* OD'ed on heroin! You're only projecting that onto him. I'm projecting something entirely different, and who's to say which "meaning" is actually "true"? After all, there is no "objective truth" outside ourselves. In fact, I believe that what you call 'narcan,' I call 'laundry detergent,' and he clearly doesn't need that. 

 

Ah Narcan - now that dredges up a horrible memory. Oxycodone is a great drug, but it's no fun when too much of it causes someone you love to 'code' in the middle of a brain CT scan... Narcan is a life saver. Taurus I too have seen my share of harsh reality. But I digress...

 

Both Deutsch and Lawson would (and do) say that the beliefs we project onto the world have to line up with our observations. We all agree there is something out there constraining our observations, as well as rewarding some behaviors and punishing others. In fact, Lawson often uses an example similar to yours - food vs. cyanide. Labelling the white powder as 'sodium cyanide' and 'poisonous' rather than 'food' is a better 'closure' using Lawson's terminology, because it allows us to more effectively operate in the world - i.e. avoid poisoning that part of 'openness' we label as our 'self'. But that's just our human perspective - to a cyanide-eating bacteria cyanide is food, and not poison.

 

In short, there is some kind of amorphous 'world' out there (even the word 'world' is too constraining), but we can't ever entirely grasp it. We can only approximate it with our mental models, which are simply analogies we inherit and adopt to help us get along in the world. We would therefore be wise not to pretend or assume that our mental models capture the way things are in any ultimate sense, or that our concepts carve the universe up at its ontological joints.  

 

--Dean

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Taurus I doubt "our" consciousness can ever comprehend itself; there seems to me a logical barrier to that happening, but of course you may be correct.

 

Also regarding your comment about evidence of "oneness" all I can say is you lack imagination. Anyway it's a chit chat forum so I don't need to provide a list of research

 

Dean, love your quotes! Great comeback.

 

I think the disconnect is caused by our reality which is certain, but our misunderstanding about what that reality is. We exist as a particular form which is the same reality as what makes a star or a wave. The person form is as you say distinct from the rock form. So in that sense we probably agree. Ultimately the person is one form and a dog is another form, both are the same reality simply expressed as dog or person etc. so ok In one sense I think I get your point Dean

Edited by mikeccolella

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