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.  They are constructed in various ways, for various kinds of perception, with or without cognitive, 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.  We 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.

And, if that is not enough:

Somehow, we are aware of ourselves being aware, and we are aware of others being aware of their self awareness, and we feel like this awareness is disembodied”  – outside of our physical being

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, all the time.  It has a 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 will decay, or where they will decay.   This is all 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 responses of the ‘many body’ systems of matter, to the pounding of quantum field energy fluctuations, inevitably yields perturbations of synchronization, and this synchronization then brings forth order, in both time and space.  In any infinite set of random collisions of movement, there will randomly – and inevitably – be collisions that repeat themselves, identically, in time and space, and these collisions, again, inevitably, foster further repeating and further establishment of the created patterns.  As Isaac Newton stated in his third law – for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  And so, inevitably, the beat of synchronicity arises in 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.  It is a useful abstraction. 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 world is a musical instrument.

We are Electromagnetism

Fish swim in water.   We swim in electromagnetism.

We experience the gravitation field, we manipulate the quantum field, we ponder about a field of consciousness, but we live in the electromagnetic field.  Electromagnetism is light, it is energy, it is charge, it is magnetism, it is electricity.  And electromagnetism is chemistry – the dynamically ordered and structured flow of electrons between atoms.   And as life is ordered . . . structured . . . dynamic . . . self-organizing . . . self-reproducing . . . and sub-critically stable . .  chemical complexity, and so 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 discharges of electromagnetism.  Our moods and state of consciousness flow with electromagnetic, EEG brain waves.

Electromagnetism is a wave, but we don’t really know what is waving.  It 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.  It binds protons with electrons into atoms, creating the matter, the ‘stuff’ of our existence.  It streams as packets of energy – photons – creating information, communication and computers.

The shimmering of gold itself is electromagnetism, the shared electrons of the atoms of its metallic structure,  all traveling between the atoms 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 than electromagnetism, and it has no mass, and does not exist at rest.  Because of this invariant fact of its finite velocity, and its stable dimension, we have a world of knowable space, time and causality.

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

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

It was all photons. . . in the beginning.

“The early universe contained both matter and anti-matter and 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 universally recognized God – by 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 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  –  sensing – things as they really are.  He called his type of person  a ‘verbalist‘.  He realized that he was a very successful verbalist, a renowned writer of fiction and non-fiction, and that 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 verbalist.  He learned about mystical religion, and decided to try LSD.  H was hoping for . . . some kind of change.

And he found it.  LSD.  He tried it and it gave him 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.”

. . . the percept had swallowed up the concept . . .

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 propaganda – words – control a society that values rational ‘stability’ – verbalism! – above all else. People in this world require soma, a tranquilizer, a physical suppression of being, 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”. 

To oppose verbal tyranny – the power of propaganda –  he concludes that we must have “smaller, more autonomous units of government – self-governing, voluntarily co-operating groups “, not unlike a contemporary, George Orwell.

And so Aldous Huxley, this 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 intravenous LSD . . . as he requested.


Ancestor Hominin

Fossilized footprints of Neanderthal were recently found in the sandstone of an ancient beach in northern France, adults with children going one way, adults only going back the other way.

Starting forty thousand years ago, Neanderthal gradually disappeared, the last of them living in caves in the north and eastern sides of the rock of Gilbraltar.

We are not sure why.

The Neanderthal made fire, made and used tools, and lived in nomadic groups. They were mostly ambush hunters, striking from woodland cover, with hand-held spears. They did not have  projectile weapons.  They may have had burials, and likely decorated themselves.  They may have had rudimentary art.

Their disappearance coincided with the arrival of modern humans, who came into Europe from Africa and the Middle East and hunted much the same food as the Neanderthal – elk, horses, reindeer, aurochs, bison, and the woolly mammoth. The Neanderthal were bigger and stronger than modern humans. We have no evidence of war.

“We should see evidence of the direct killing of neanderthals by modern humans – and we don’t.. 

We have always assumed that we modern humans were smarter.  We maintained larger groups.  The white sclera of our eyes empowered our social and verbal communication.  We had projectile weapons, and could better hunt in the open – courser predators . . . We could hunt in packs.  We hunted for furs as well as for food, used bone needles for sewing, and made better clothes.  Our shelters, and burial ceremonies were more elaborate.  We clearly made art.  And we harnessed the skills that reside in the genes of other species, for our own advantage.  We domesticated wolves, and our dogs were immensely helpful in hunting, able to run down prey, hold them at bay for the kill, and help defend against scavenger predators.

Perhaps we simply out hunted Neanderthal.

But maybe not.

Something else happened just as modern humans arrived – the Campanian Ignibrite Eruption, the largest volcano eruption in Europe of the past 200,000 years.  This happened in the Gulf of Pozzuoli, just west of the modern city of Naples, Italy, and just east of Mount Vesuvius.

Before the time of Pangea – the great universal continent formed when all tectonic land masses came together –  there was a great sea that encircled the globe, the Tethys Sea.  This sea became the Mediterranean Sea as the African tectonic Plate migrated north and collided with the Eurasian Plate to complete the super continent.   This collision created the the cliffs of the northern mediterranean shore, the volcanoes of western Italy. . . and the Campanian eruption.

The eruption sent volcanic ash 7000 km, in all directions,  covering all of Italy and  eastern Europe.  A volcanic winter followed, with cold temperatures over all of Europe, causing loss of game and the woodlands, changing the game of survival.

Modern Humans were able to get to Southeast Asia and Australia 50-70,000 years ago.  Cline Findlayson suggests that maybe Neanderthal were able to keep them out of Europe . . .until the Campanian Eruption.

More than the modern human mind, it may have been the modern human body, the more gracile, more energy efficient body from Africa, better at walking and running over longer distances, that favored survival for modern humans in the cold and open steppe terrain that Europe became.

“I maintain that humans are the most invasive species that has ever lived.”  The Invaders,  Pat Shipman.

Neanderthal do live on, their genes living on in the genes of modern humans.  They are our. . . ancestors.

Philosophers have tried to understand the nature of human nature for thousands of years.  Hominin ancestors like Neanderthal can tell us.

Neanderthal lasted for 400,000 years. . . . Will we?

Bottom Up

Sir John Cowperthwaite was financial secretary of Hong Kong from 1961 – 1971.

His administration did not collect any economic data during his tenure.”  Jairaj Devadiga

“if I let them compute theses statistics, they’ll want to use them for planning.”

During Cowperthwaite’s administration, Hong Kong grew “ from being only one fourth as rich as the United Kingdom in 1961, to being 40% richer by 1996′.

What should poor countries do?  His advice:  “Abolish their office of natural statistics”.

When management is driven by statistics. it leads to what is called. . . Surrogation.  Metrics get misinterpreted as goals.

Measurement, contrary to all conventional wisdom, leads to mismanagement.  

Case in point:  Soviet Russia

Fifty years ago, 180,000 whales disappeared from the oceans”.  Charles Homans.

This was due to Soviet fishing. “In one season alone, from 1950 to 1951, Soviet ships killed nearly 13,000 hump back whales.”

But Russia didn’t need whale fishing product.

The Soviet whalers . . . were motivated by an obligation to satisfy obscure line items in the five year plans that drove the Soviet economy.  In the grand calculus of the country’s planned economy – the dictates of the State Planning Committee of the Council of Ministeries – whaling was considered a satellite of the fishing industry

Gross fish tonnage was the metric goal.  Harvesting whales was the easiest way to tonnage.

No matter what, the plan must be met.”

It is common to think of society as a unitary whole with unitary motivations, something which requires central control, top-down, to achieve focused goals, driven by the statistics of outcomes.  “Mussolini made the trains run on time.”

Thomas Friedman:

“. . .when [one party autocracy] is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as china is today, it can also have great advantages.  That one party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century.”   

And yet societies in history that have flourished, and have been more adaptive and thus more stable,  have been more biologic bottom-up, ecological networks of distributed motivations, interests, and initiatives, with freedom of action and opportunity to learn from experience.

Margaret Thatcher:

”. . .  they are casting their problems on society, and who is society? There is NO SUCH THING as Society.   There are individual men and women and there are families and no government can do anything except thru people and people look to themselves first.”

Milton Friedman:

”Voluntary exchange is a way to get cooperation among individuals without coercion.  The reliance on voluntary exchange, which means on a free market mechanism, is thus central to the liberal creed.”

”Both sides to an economic transaction can benefit from it, if the transaction is voluntary and informed”.

  Matthew Ridley:

Innovative societies are free societies where people are free to express their wishes, and where creative minds are free to experiment to find ways to supply those requests . . .”






Zen Spider Man

Stuff of Reality

What something is, is different from what something is not.   It is fundamental logical truth that when something is something, it can not also, then, be what it is not.

What physicists seem to have found, however, is that the very basic stuff of reality. . . is both what it is and what it is not.  It is both continuous and discontinuous. . . smooth and flowing like a wave, and discrete and moving like a particle.

Physicists today call this wave-particle stuff quantum fields.  Quantum fields are invisible ghosts of potentiality.  Undisturbed, they are undulating waves of continuous possibility.   Disturbed – ‘measured’ –  ‘observed’, they are moving particles and events.

Erwin Schroedinger discovered an equation that describes the state of a given quantum field and how it behaves.

There is no ‘energy’ in the Schroedinger equation, a central point that means that whatever is ‘waving’ in the Schroedinger wave equation is neither energy or matter.  It is terribly important that no one knows ‘what’ is waving in the Schroedinger wave equation.”   Stuart A. Kauffman.

Slam a quantum field with an intense point of energy.  This is what Particle Accelerators do.  With long tunnels of electromagnetic and superconducting powers, they drive particles to ever higher speeds, and focus them, with extreme precision, to collide into each other – “like aiming a rifle at a mosquito sitting on the moon“.  Leon Lederman  From how the bits of debris scatter, and where they scatter, physicists learn about quantum fields.

There are different kinds of quantum fields, it seems, quantum fields of gravity, of electromagnetism, and of nuclear forces.  They must be unified in some way.  This was something that Albert Einstein was trying to discover in the last thirty years of his life.

Peter Higgs, in Scotland, 37 years ago, figured that a certain other kind of field must also exist, a field that interacts with radiation and energy, and creates mass, and the material world that we can know.  When particle accelerators became powerful enough, in 2012, the Higgs field was found.

“Over the 20th century, we came to picture all forms of matter as accumulations of transient disturbances in ubiquitous fields.  Some of those fields, when cold, create space filling mists – the Higg’s field is one.  Like morning dew, they are spontaneous emanations, thrown off as the fields settle into equilibrium.”  Frank Wilczek.

Quantum fields seem layered, creating a giant jello cake Universe, in which some layers are like whipped cream and allow radiation unhindered to travel at the speed of light, the fastest anything can go, and some layers are like caramel, with resistance to movement causing mass and the gravity that creates the planets and galaxies.

The layers jiggle as events occur. . .  not totally randomly, but with predictable probability . .  and  with mysterious unity.  Where there is a bounce one way, there is somewhere else a bounce the other way.

There must be other layers. . . A field of consciousness. . .maybe?

“I’d expect complex biochemistry to be consistently biased in the direction that leads closer to consciousness, as gravitation biases motion towards massive objects.  I have no evidence for this idea.  It’s just the way biology seems to work.” David Gerlenter

And God said . . .

Science Priest

Isaac Newton got the concepts right, perhaps better than anyone else in history.    Mass is quantity of matter.  Momentum is quantity of motion. Force is change in motion. Change of motion is acceleration.  Mass is resistance to force.  Force equals mass times acceleration.


This equation “is the basis of our mechanical, civil, hydraulic, acoustic, and other types of engineering; it used to understand surface tension, the flow of fluids in pipes, capillary action, the drift of continents, the propagation of sound in air and in steel, the stability of structures like the Sears Tower or one of the most wonderful of all bridges, the Bronx-Whiteston Bridge    Leon Lederman

Alone on his aunt’s farm, to escape the plague after graduating from college, he developed the laws of motion for both the planets in space and falling bodies on earth.  To explain his laws, he developed a whole new system of mathematics, the calculus, which gives dynamic change to geometry.  He is still the greatest scientist of all time.

He seemed to know that his mind was different.

Common people did not know how to abstract their thoughts from their senses.  Speaking always of relative quantities or measures, they are thus unable to discern the true, real world that lay beyond their perceptual cloaks.”

He was certain that his ideas were correct.

He was not much interested in convincing others. He avoided argument – the ‘legal sphere’.  Why waste one’s precious time?  He kept his discoveries to himself for almost 20 years, until Edmond Halley,  of Halley’s comet, pressured him to publish.

Born into the puritan tradition, an orphan raised by priests, he was a devout believer in God, and an exacting student of the Bible.

He was a ‘natural philosopher’ and that included theology.  Getting the concepts right meant getting God right too.  Be clear about God so as to be clear about Nature.  God is both immanent – in all things, and transcendent – above all things.   Absolute Space is the universal presence of God.  Absolute Time is the omniscient consciousness of God.  The Laws of Nature are Transcendent, like their creator.  Gravity, like God, is a omnipresent, a universal power, active everywhere.

The principles I consider, not as occult qualities supposed to result from the specific Forms of things, but as general laws of Nature, by which the things themselves are formed; their truth appearing to us by Phenomena, though their causes be not yet discovered.”

As We are in God’s image, our reason is God’s gift to us to discover the laws of nature.  And as God is unitary, so is truth.  Truth must be consistent and agree with observation.  Science, for Isaac Newton, was a religious calling, Our human reason can be trusted.

His great treatise,  Philosophiae Principia Naturalis Mathematica – the greatest book of science ever written – for him, was written in the tradition of Moses of the Bible.

And yet he remained humble, mindful of what he didn’t know.

Thus far I have explained the phenomena of the heavens and our sea by the force of gravity, but I have not yet assigned a cause to gravity. . . I have not as yet been able to deduce from phenomena the reasons for these properties of gravity, and I do not ‘feign’ hypothesis.”

Isaac Newton gave the same intensity that he gave to natural philosophy, to the study of Christian history.  Any polytheism is blasphemy,  and always leads to corruption. . .  in all things, in theology. . . and in natural philosophy.

His studies convinced him that the notion of the Trinity was wrong –  a giant conspiracy starting at the Council of Nicosia, with the falsely added 1 John 5:7, and 1 Timothy 3:16 verses to the King James Bible.  In his time, in England, denial of the Trinity was a capital crime.  He kept these views to himself.

Sir Isaac Newton didn’t like music, poetry, or literature.  He never married, and had no known personal companion.  He was buried in Westminster Abbey . . . ‘like a king’.


A fish won’t stare at you, but an octopus will.  They watch you, with their human-like camera eyes, as much as you watch them. They are the smartest animal that has stayed in the sea, the only invertebrate – animals with no backbone – with a large brain.   Though as primitive as shell fish, they have as many neurons as a dog.

Octopus are hunters and predators, but with no physical defense.  Unlike their ancestors, they did not retain their shells.  They can ink the water to escape, and do instantaneous camouflage, and a few are poisonous, but mostly they are mobile, and smart. . . brains over braun.  Two thirds of their brain cells are in their eight arms.  They can squeeze thru an opening as small as one of their eyes.

They are minds that swim.

Their squishy bodies, with no hard parts, are pure tasty, and quick, digestible meat.  They are hunted by all the predators of the sea.  Their life span is short, they die shortly after breeding just once.  Life is risky, they go for broke.

They are ingenious at escape, and always try.  They have been known to open a jar . . . from the inside . . . to get free.  They seem able to recognize particular individual humans.  When they escape, they are uncanny at picking the moment you aren’t watching them.

When you work with fish, they have no idea they are in a tank, somewhere unnatural.  With octopuses it is totally different.  They know they are inside this special place, and you are outside it. All their behaviors are affected by their awareness of captivity.”  Peter Godfrey-Smith

They have been found to have perceptual constancy –  they understand an object is the same object, from different points of view.  They have comparative memory analysis – they can bring past experiences to bear on present situations and decisions .  They have curiosity.  They will interact with something, even when they know they can’t eat it.  They do step by step action, like other animals with consciousness, they can navigate mazes.

They are not considered to be social, but divers have known then to ‘high five’ each other . . . !

They have three hearts and blue-green blood.

We humans are not just conscious, but also are self-conscious, we have awareness of ourselves along with our awareness of the world, an eerie sense of two-ness that haunts us, and we sense that the octopus has that too.

Meeting an octopus, is, in many ways, the closest we are likely to get to meeting an intelligent alien.” Peter Godfrey-Smith 

They may BE alien.  Scientists have very recently decided that since their genetics and intelligence are so much a leap from their origins that some of their DNA, literally, may have come from outer space, carried in the spray of meteors from outer space.

the genome of the Octopus shows a staggering level of complexity, with 33,000 protein-coding genes more than is present in Homo Sapiens. . . the possibility that cryopreserved octopus eggs arrived in icy bolides [in meteors] several hundred million years ago should not be discounted, as that would be a parsimonious cosmic explanation for the Octopus’ sudden emergence on Earth circa 270 million years ago.”   Steele, et. al.  Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology, March 2018.