Self, Soul, and God

Mystics always seem to, alone in solitude, find themselves, and find God, at the same time.

The neuroscientist, Michael Graziano, thinks that Self, Soul, and God are all related manifestations of the human neurologic system of mental social perception.  NOT, mind you, mental social thinking, rather mental social perception.  He emphasizes perception – the experience of our senses – what we automatically and unconsciously consider to be real.  Perceptions, he says, are believed.   And what is fundamental about God, Self, and Soul, is that they are believed.

He explains, however,  that our perceptions are actually constructed models in the brain that create our experience in predetermined ways.  We don’t experience them in this way,  though, we experience them as objective aspects of the real world.   Our minds fool us this way . . . very, very convincingly.  Our minds are virtual reality devices.

Evolution has created these constructed models of perception, in our brains, not to be ‘true’ as we think of objective reality as being ‘true’, but for the purpose of promoting our evolutionary interests and goals – survival and reproduction.  These models are constructed in various ways, for various kinds of perception, with or without cognitive, perceptual, or motor elements, and with or without conscious elements, as natural selection has found to be best.  Most importantly, Graziano emphasizes, we are NOT built to be conscious that they are constructs,  Rather, we are built to believe – to feel – that they mirror objective reality.  We don’t ‘think’ them, we ‘know’ them.

The perceptual machinery in the brain automatically constructs models about the mental states and intentions that underlie events.  We are built to do it.  We do it all the time.  We can’t help it.  It is our heritage as social animals.

Our social perceptions, perceptions about what other living beings, particularly other human beings, are thinking, feeling, wanting, and planning to do, are no different than our other perceptions of the world. Our evolutionary needs require intense social perception, as other living beings are key elements of the problems and opportunities of our lives. We conjecture about the awareness and intentions and perceptions of other beings and model their world of perceptions and what they are thinking and feeling so as to understand  and cope with their actions.

We live immersed in self-created models of minds crowding around us.”

Further, we apply social perception, both consciously and unconsciously,  to ourselves.  We perceive ourselves – our thoughts, our feelings, and intentions – using the same system we use to perceive others.

And, very importantly,  we have as much objectivity . . . and lack of objectivity . . . about ourselves as we do of others.  Our self awareness is as limited as our objectivity of others is limited.  And because it is a perception, our self awareness feels as real as our other perceptions, which, unconsciously, feel objectively real. . . in us and outside of us.

Somehow, we re aware of ourselves being aware, and we are aware of others being aware of their self awareness.  We feel like this awareness can be or is disembodied.”  

Disembodied, our self awareness becomes our Soul, and the intentions and awareness in nature becomes God.

Our social perception modeling apparatus is always on, operating, unconsciously, all the time.  It has the built- in bias of agency and intention.  We see, wherever we look, inside ourselves and outside of ourselves, agency and intention, all the time, the presence of Self, and Soul, and God.

What is God but the perception of intentionality on a global  scale?

                           God, Soul, Mind, Brain        Michael S. A. Graziano, 2010.


The Music of the Universe

How do such simple things as atomic nuclei, or even more elementary particles like neutrons or muons, ‘know’ their half life?  . . .  These objects are like hair trigger bombs in an storm environment.  Space itself, seething with quantum fluctuations, supplies passing gusts, and every so often one is strong enough to to trigger an explosion.  In this picture, nuclei are basically simple and passive.  It is space, empty space! that is complex and active. 

Nobel laureate physicist Frank Wilczek tells us about beta decay.  It is radioactivity of certain atoms, which have spontaneous release of beta particles – electrons and neutrinos.  This release is predictable . . .  in time, but only with probability . . . in space.  We can know how many atoms will decay in a unit of time, but not precisely which ones or where.   This is caused by the ongoing, spontaneous energy fluctuations of vacuum space –  the Void, that energize the release of particles from atoms.  And these energy fluctuations of empty space are the actual powerhouse of those mysterious fields, quantum fields, the most basic known elements of fundamental physical reality.  They are the invisible, ghost power of the Universe.  Predictable, when, probabilistic, where.

Yet, our lived world is one of predictability in both space and time, one of self-organization, arising out of , and floating in, it seems, this sea of random quantum field energy fluctuations.   How can randomness form the ordered and predictable world?

Chvykov,, in the journal Science, say that it is because of Rattling.  Rattling is when the random and variable responses of the ‘many body’ systems of matter to the pounding of quantum field energy fluctuations inevitably yields perturbations of synchrony, and this synchronization then brings forth order, in time and space.  In any infinite set of random collisions of movement, in time and space, there will randomly – and inevitably – be collisions that repeat themselves, identically, in time and space, and these collisions, again, inevitably, foster further repeating and embellishment of the created patterns. Isaac Newton’s third law – For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  And so, inevitably, the beat of synchronicity grows thru the system, much like mechanical clocks, on a shelf, eventually all tick and tock in unison.

And so, despite a basis of random, unpredictable, fundamental actors and actions – the energy fluctuations of quantum fields – order inevitably and always arises.  Randomness only exists theoretically, and a useful abstraction it is.  But real . . . it is not.

From nothing comes a beat, and from the beat,  order.  Not unlike how melody arises from iterations of rhythm.  John Lennon – of the Beat-les – once said:  “Its got to have a beat.”

Reality is the ‘music of the spheres’.  The Universe is a musical instrument.

We are Electricity

Fish swim in water.   We swim in electromagnetism.

We experience the gravitation field, we manipulate the quantum field, we wonder about a field of consciousness, but we live in the electromagnetic field.  Electromagnetism is light, it is energy, it is electricity, it is magnetism, it is charge.  And it is chemistry – the dynamically ordered and structured flow of electricity between atoms.   As life is. . . ordered . . . structured . . . dynamic . . . self-organizing . . . self-reproducing . . . and sub-critically stable . .  chemical complexity, then life, too, is electromagnetism.

Electromagnetism is how our nerves conduct signals by firing across electric charge gradients, across axon membranes. Our brains, our hearts, our muscles, our thoughts, our emotions, our vision – all fire electromagnetically.  Seizures and cardiac sudden death are electricity out of control.  Our moods and state of consciousness flow with electromagnetic EEG waves.

Electromagnetism is a wave that wave’s itself, like an undulating rope, electric charge swinging magnetism and magnetism swinging electric charge.  It can travel in a vacuum, we don’t really know what is waving.  It binds protons with electrons into atoms, creating matter.  It streams as packets of energy – photons – creating information, communication and computers.

The shimmering of gold is the shared electrons of the atoms of its metallic structure,  traveling at the speed of light.

Electromagnetism is the one and only invariant reality of our universe, the one non-relative entity of unchanging dimension to all observers.  Nothing can travel faster.  It does not exist at rest.  Because of its finite velocity, we have space, time and causality.

People can perceive flashes of light as feeble as a single photon“.  Nature Communications 7, 12172, 2016

We can actually see a tiny photon – a subatomic entity – with our naked eyes, testament to its central role in our being.

It was Photons. . . from the beginning.

“The early universe contained both matter and anti-matter and that these two forms of matter annihilated each other into photons when they were brought together.  There was slightly more matter than antimatter in the early universe; without this asymmetry, the universe would be pure energy-no stars, no planets, and certainly no life.” 

The world was without form, and God said let there be light.

Electromagnetic Light is our most universal God, with the Inca in Peru, the Egyptians on the Nile, the Aztecs in Mexico, and the Judeo-Christians in the eastern Mediterranean.

We are fish in the electromagnetic sea.


The Skill of Zen

The German professor of philosophy, Eugene Herrigel, as a guest professor in Japan,  studied the art of archery from a Zen Master, for 6 years.  He wrote of this in Zen and the Art of Archery, to explain the technique of Zen skill training.

It was, for him, a mystifying and frustrating time.  Some how, one is not to try.  The setting of the arrow and the release of the bow are to be effortless.  The bow should release itself, like as a tree branch bends to release the snow.

This is the ‘artless art’.

Remember that archery is not meant to strengthen the muscles.  When drawing the string you should not exert the full strength of your body, but learn to let only your two hands do the work, while your arm and shoulder muscles remain relaxed, as though they looked on impassively.

Don’t think of what you have to do, don’t consider how to carry it out!  The shot will only go smoothly when it takes the archer himself by surprise.  It must be as if the bowstring suddenly cut through the thumbnail that held it.  You mustn’t open the right hand on purpose.”

”The right art is purposeless, aimless!  The more obstinately you try to learn how to shoot the arrow for the sake of hitting the goal, the less you will succeed in the one and the further the other will recede.  What stands in your way is that you have a much too willful will.  You think that what you do not do yourself does not happen.”

Concentrate entirely on your breathing, as if you had nothing else to do!”

Skills must be ‘spiritual’.  A state . . . “In which nothing is thought, planned, striven for, desired or expected, which aims in no particular direction and yet knows itself capable alike of the possible and the impossible”.

It was very hard for Eugene Herrigel to come to allow the arrow ‘release itself’.

“How can the shot be loosed if ‘I’ do not do it?”

“‘It’ shoots.

“And who or what is this ‘It’?”

Once you have understood that, you will have no further need of me.”

Zen skill training is a system of learning which encodes the skill completely in the subconscious, and it insists that the skill reside no where else.  To the western mind, this subconscious is a not-so-subconscious act that requires effort, it requires a disciplined Ego.  To the Zen mind, it is the place of the unknowable, the unthinkable.

There are processes which are beyond the reach of understanding.  Do not forget that even in Nature there are correspondences which cannot be understood, and yet are so real that we have grown accustomed to them, just as if they could not be any different. .  The spider dancers her web without knowing that there are flies who will get caught in it. . . The archer hits the target without having aimed – more I can not stay.”

At the end of his training, Herrigel was privileged to a demonstration of Zen archers, splitting arrows in targets, at 80 yards, blind folded, one after another.

The Verbalist

Aldous Huxley was highly educated, at Oxford, in all the right subjects:  history, religion, the classics,  literature and philosophy.  He was blue blood.  His brother Julian was a renowned biologist.  His grandfather, Thomas Huxley, was the famous defender of Charles Darwin.

Somehow he came  to realize that he did too much thinking, with words, and not enough perceiving  –  experiencing things as they really are –  with his senses.  He called this type of person  a ‘verbalist’.  He realized that he was a very successful ‘verbalist’, a world renowned writer of fiction and non-fiction and nearly all of his privileged, upper class friends were also successful ‘verbalists’.  He increasingly found himself, however, unhappy, and came to see, in his friends and in himself, a distressing obsessiveness, egotism, and alcoholism.

In a world where education is predominantly verbal, highly educated people find it all but impossible to pay serious attention to anything but words and notions.”

He sought to try to stop being such a thing as a ‘verbalist’.  He learned about mystical religion, and decided to try LSD.  H was hoping for . . . some kind of change.

And he got it.  LSD gave an experience of intense perception, a profound awakening of his senses.

A large pale blue automobile was standing at the curb.  At the sight of it, I was suddenly overcome by enormous merriment.  What complacency, what an absurd self-satisfaction beamed from this bulging surface of glossiest enamel! . . . the percept had swallowed up the concept.  I was so completely absorbed in looking, so thunderstruck by what I actually saw, that I could not be aware of anything else.”

He found wonder and awe, and a newfound reverence for the non-verbal  – “the glory and the power of pure existence belongs to another order, beyond the power of even the highest art to express. . . an impeccable sense of gratitude for the privilege of being born into this universe.”

In Brave New World, his most famous novel, he presents a world where words of propaganda control a society that values rational ‘stability’ – verbalism! – above all else. People there need soma, a tranquilizer, to tolerate it.

Huxley concludes that we must be  ‘amphibians‘ –  alive in both the worlds of perception and of thought. We must have “education both in facts and in values, and in the abuses as well as the uses of language”,  and to oppose verbal tyranny, we must have “smaller, more autonomous units of government – ‘self-governing, voluntarily co-operating groups.

A four star intellectual manages to transcend the confines of enlightened philosophical and linguistic habit and discover life in the here and now, and people as they are.

In his last novel, The Island, a utopian answer to Brave New World, he writes of a ceremonial ‘Island Service’ of death in which the experience of death is fully embraced, with no sedation.

Aldous Huxley died of throat cancer, in 1963, on the same day John F. Kennedy was assassinated.  In his final moments, his wife gave him IV LSD . . . as he requested.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email