Thursday, August 21, 2014

Baby Magician's 1st Lesson

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Anomalies: keys to the emerging paradigm

Marginalizing anomalies ensure that we remain stuck, hung up, suspended.

In the process of learning and observing, we will necessarily come upon anomalies—elements of experience and observation that don’t fit our current working hypothesis. Anomalies show up in academic studies as all of the data that don’t fit the expectations of the experiment or study. 

Anomalies show up in advertisements for legal drugs as disclaimers as to “side” effects. A drug has effects. A particular drug has effects the pharmaceutical company wants to market and make money on and it has effects that will make it less likely that the company will make a lot of money. It is this second group that they call “side” effects. They wish to marginalize these effects, to make them less important, to say they don’t matter. These are anomalies that don’t fit their making-money-hand-over-fist-no-matter-what-it-does-to-people paradigm.

Over time, anomalies grow in number and importance. At some point, our working paradigm will require that these anomalies be dealt with. Honesty and humility require that we keep an eye toward the anomalies, to those data that do not currently fit our working hypothesis; for, in those anomalies are answers for questions that we currently have, are in the process of formulating, or have yet to formulate.

Marginalizing anomalies ensures that we will remain exactly where we are. As long as we maintain our hypotheses despite growing evidence that change is needed, we ensure that our hypothesis will go from being a working hypothesis to an ineffectual one.

The mind likes clean, crisp lines, but the fact is, experience is full of data that doesn't fit our current conceptions.

When we go from having a working hypothesis to believing that what we have is absolute truth, we ensure that what we now hold to be true will at some point result in alienation of ourselves, both from the truth and from living effectively. We ensure a growing sense that we are light and all the rest of the world is wrong. We ensure that it will require “faith” in the edicts of an outside source, acquiescence to an external authority—text, institution, or deity. We ensure that what we want to call the “truth” is nothing more than an oppressive paradigm that likely does very little good in the lives of its adherents. We ensure that our only hope is the arrival of information that mercilessly (or mercifully, from a certain perspective) levels our machinations.

The Tower Card from the Thoth Deck -- signifies the abrupt arrival of paradigm-shifting information.

In a deck of Tarot card, The Tower Card, one of the Major Arcana, reveals that upheaval is coming. This disruption is in the form of realizing that all that one has believed is wrong, flawed, misguided, or just plain credulous. The Tower Card invites us to look at our view of the world, our view of ourselves and be open to change as we come into deeper and more expansive perspectives of all that is.

A spiritual journey is a road to transformation, one of a thousand and one paradigm shifts that get us closer and closer to knowing our Authentic Self and where we fit in the universe. To embark upon a spiritual journey is to adopt the notion that what I currently hold to be truth is nothing more than a working hypothesis. If we are honest and humble, we soften the blow of those times foretold by the Tower Card, when all of the anomalies we’ve been holding at bay crash in and require that we modulate our hypothesis. If we are open, we come to find a deeper, wider, more expansive sense of what is true, and maximize our relationship to that expanding reality.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Empty Headed--A Good Place to Start

All that we know is not all that much in light of what is possible to know.

For anyone embarking upon a spiritual journey, one of your greatest assets is the ability to know within yourself that you can’t possibility know all that there is to know, that even that which you know and feel is true beyond any question, might very well be shown at some point in time to be somewhere along the continuum from misinformed to flat-out ridiculous. In some respects, I would call the disposition to hold all that we know in a kind of permanent flux, humility. Not humility in the self-effacing sense, but in the sense that I never have a reason to assert the parameters of my current working hypothesis as anything more than a working hypothesis, certainly not the absolute truth.

I once saw a bumper sticker that said, “If everything you believed was completely false, how would you know?” In fact, we believe what we believe because we have formulated a working hypothesis. If that hypothesis didn’t work for us personally, it wouldn’t be our working hypothesis. We would have a different working hypothesis. As far as my own personal history is concerned, and my response to that personal history, my working hypothesis is true.

Anyone else living my life with the exact same experiences would experience my life differently than I have experienced it. 

Hypothetically, we could postulate that anyone else living my life under the exact circumstances and having the exact same experiences would very likely come up with a different, even if similar working hypothesis. But I want to say that it wouldn’t be all that similar. This is a part of being human. We have unique, subjective experiences no matter how “common” and “average” those experiences may be.

This is why it is not as easy as we might assume to prove guilt in a courtroom with many witnesses . Subjective observations of and responses to experiences are as varied as the number of people there to observe them. And certain predispositions, such as the race and the attire of a person, or that a person has tattoos, or looks like the uncle that used to mock my early attempts to play the guitar, evokes prejudice and other patterned responses to data that taint and color subjective experience far more than is commonly expected or accepted.

"I humbly empty myself of all I think I know."

Openness to the idea that we might not know everything that can be known, especially of those matters which we may consider ourselves expert, is the hallmark of wisdom. The best way to arrive at the truth is to take into consideration all that might be said about whatever we are considering. Whom do we respect more, a judge who has a position in a bureaucracy, who doles out decisions based on “the law,” or a wise man who takes all things into consideration, listens to all sides, and approaches the truth, not as something that can be absolutely established, but as the nearest approximation we might make on all that we know? For me personally, I’d prefer the wise man to help me make decisions about what is right and fair.

Friday, November 8, 2013

"Truth" as a Working Hypothesis

We might say that we have something of a working hypothesis for understanding the leading, guiding, prompting, and directing of the Authentic Self in our life, an ordered, patterned hypothesis that has certain “rules.” In the early stages of this development, this hypothesis is quite rudimentary and perhaps only the people closest to us can see real, substantive change in our lives. But as we continue to immerse ourselves into contexts, to observe, compare, contrast, and analyze, we come to see more and more clearly the work of the Authentic Self in our lives, and others do, too.

The core idea here is that at any point in time, our working hypothesis works for us in most contexts that we find ourselves, even if it is in many ways rudimentary. It is through the continual effort to continually learn, and evaluate that we succeed in fine-tuning that hypothesis. The reorienting of our hypothesis is important because it helps us mature and grow into a fuller capacity to both understand and to communicate our needs on a spiritual level. 

Remaining open and understanding that there is the potential in the universe that I don’t know everything there is to know allows room for growth, for such re-orderings when they become necessary. Unfortunately, this is not typical, especially with regard to spiritual beliefs. Rather, it appears that the common human practice is to settle upon a fixed set of ideals, beliefs, doctrines, dogmas, or teachings, and stick to them with the tenacious grip of a desperate man holding onto a half empty canteen in the desert.

Much has been hypothesized concerning the typical adult’s inability to acquire a foreign language without an accent and without interference from the languages he knows. The standing hypothesis on this is that children have some special ability to acquire language that gets lost somewhere between the ages of 14 and 20. There is no way to prove or disprove this hypothesis. 

Children seem to have a special ability to learn language, but is it not really just an openness and lack of limitation that allows them to learn unfettered?

I don't personally believe it's an ability that gets lost. The trouble with adults is that we very much like to settle upon what we believe is true, as if it is absolute, and resist any evidence that suggests that perhaps that collection of “facts” isn’t as true as we thought. There is an ossifying of the adult's mental capacities because they stop learning, often feeling they have learned all there is to learn. 

This is the pattern of behavior that you can easily observe in the world as first Copernicus, and then Galileo, Newton, Einstein, Heisenberg and beyond have discovered facts that have literally turned our ideas of what the universe is and how how it works on their heads, time and again, and each time with a great deal of resistance from every direction, most especially the religious institutions.  We don’t feel disdain as much as a level of pity for someone who can’t seem to understand that adjustments are needed to any working hypothesis, but would rather believe they have found the Truth.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

This one, Not that one...

The ultimate challenge:  following the promptings of the Authentic Self.

The greatest challenge of incarnating into the body is the volition to live life according to the direction, prompting, guidance, and leading of the Authentic Self. The term “enlightenment” in eastern philosophy defines a person who has come into a complete, unswerving understanding of being one with all that is, and acting solely upon that connection to the universe, regardless of the consequences that this may have.

And while one could argue that this is the ultimate purpose of incarnating and reincarnating into this body-bound existence, I am certain that no one ever said it is easy. Indeed, one reason that we may reincarnate so many times is that this is in fact such a great challenge that it takes many, many lifetimes to achieve it. And going from one incarnation to the next, the soul understands that certain exceptionally difficult challenges need to be redressed, maybe again and again.

The brain generates experiences from sense data, develops preferences, and seeks to replicate pleasant and pleasurable experiences while avoiding difficult and energy-depriving experiences.

This is what I call “karma,” a battery of lessons meant to help us get over the next hump in understanding, but that don’t pass until we “get it.” Our earth-bound existence happens within the context of a body immersed in nested and related contexts from cultural and societal to familial and local. Our brain—a part of the body—generates experiences from sense data, develops preferences, and seeks to replicate pleasant and pleasurable experiences while avoiding difficult and energy-depriving experiences. It does this by patterning—the making of groups of various “types” of experience.

By formalizing strategies based on producing certain types of experiences while avoiding other types, the mind builds a network of patterns by which to navigate through this earth-bound existence. The problem with patterning is that it, by necessity, involves marginalizing certain data while centralizing other data. For humans living in places where there are powerful and cunning predators, such as lions, tigers, and bears, this sort of patterning can mean the difference between survival and extinction. But for those of us living in the more “civilized” environs of a hierarchical society, we very rarely face this sort of danger, and yet, our penchant for patterning persists.

We tend to sort our experiences into categories of "preferred" and "non preferred."

In this way, we have a tendency to pattern our experiences, choosing at a very base level to view the world and all that is in it a certain way, marginalizing certain data while centralizing others. This includes opportunities and possibilities which we may marginalize and ignore or even turn down because of how we have constructed our experiences.

For example, if I grow up in a family with a ruthless tyrant as a parent, I may formalize a strategy of “laying low” and “keeping a low profile.” Perhaps I’m a gifted artist, but because of my patterning, I will have a tendency to hide myself even in environments where opportunities exist, such as a visitor at the school looking for early evidence of artistic abilities in first graders in order to help them develop these skills. And if these patterns are not challenged and changed—they typically aren’t—they persist into adulthood where I continue to “keep a low profile,” which is safe, but may very well keep me from following my destiny to be an influential artist. I may resist the promptings of the Authentic Self in my life in favor of my formalized strategies which no longer serve me, but in my own mind keep me safe.

As a boy, I developed the strategy "keep a low profile."

Monday, November 4, 2013

Many Voices, Many Selves

An "eastern philosophy" seems to presuppose a belief in reincarnation, among many other assumptions about why we are here and what we are doing. 

I find myself a part of what is frequently called the “eastern philosophy” camp of writers and thinkers. This term suggests a number of key factors, among them, a belief in reincarnation (even though beliefs in reincarnation exist in a wide range of cultures across time and around the world), a belief that a soul lives not only one incarnation but many, repeatedly, that the purpose of this repeated reincarnation is so that the universe, or “all that is,” might deepen its understanding of itself, and that the ultimate goal of this is oneness, that is, the soul realizing that she is not a separate entity, but connected to the universe, a part of the universe, one with the universe, one with everything.

Furthermore, “eastern philosophies” tend to teach that the “reality” that we accept as reality is an illusion and that there is an inherent sense of suffering that comes from taking this illusion too seriously, becoming attached to any part of the illusion, and coming to feel entitled to possessing or experiencing the many objects, entities, and events that form the illusion.

A key component of this illusion is the body the soul inhabits, the integration point where the soul and this world meet. The brain, a key component of this integration point, does many complex operations, including interpreting and modulating sensory data, using these to generate “experiences,” which it remembers and builds into narratives, distinguishing those it prefers from those it doesn’t prefer, thus creating a personality and ultimately a self, which strives to maintain the belief that it is complete, whole, and, most importantly, separate from everything and everyone else in the universe. This “separate self” is called the “ego.”

For “eastern philosophy,” the ego is a significant concept. The ego is generated and lives in the brain of each human. There is a saying that goes, “The mind is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master.” Anything we can say of the mind we can say of the ego because the ego depends on the mind—the rational processes of the brain—to maintain itself, its preferences, and its entitlements. 

Television:  a good metaphor for the body as a "receiver" of the soul.

We might consider a television as a metaphor for the body. A television has parts whose ultimate purpose is work together to project integrated images and sound which have been broadcast to it, or sent to it through a cable, onto a screen. The body, similarly receives a signal--the soul. Nevertheless, the major difference between a television and the body is that the body not only receives a signal—energy in the form of a soul—but also generates its own experiences within the material world, ultimately creating the ego. Whereas a television only projects what is broadcast or sent to it via a cable, the body both “receives” the soul, and “projects” its own experiences from the ego.

The body both receives a soul and projects its own experiences onto the "screen" of the mind. 

It is in this sense that we see the soul, our Authentic Self, working through a body that has the capability of generating its own experiences. It is in this way that we have a fragmented self in the form of the ego and its many parts as well as the Authentic Self--the soul who has incarnated into this material existence.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Earliest Memories, Deepest Beliefs

My family:  a tad off center, though I know my parent's did their best

I grew up in a family with two parents who both came from incredibly dysfunctional families, and while I understand that at any given moment while they were raising my bother, sister, and me, they were doing the best they could do, and better than their parents had done, we still lived in quite a hostile environment, rife with verbal and physical abuse, unswerving incriminations, passive-aggressive manipulations, and a general environment of anger, frustration, and feelings of injustice and unfairness.

Typical of children growing up in such an environment, each of us three kids took on roles—my brother the trouble-seeking scapegoat, my sister the favored and sycophantic mascot, and me, the lost child.

The Lost Child:  learns to survive by keeping a low profile.

I have the unusual ability to remember quite a lot from my early years. My earliest memory is of my third birthday. I stood next to one of our armchairs, one with exceptionally wide arms, and I was pushing a Tonka truck back and forth on this wide space. A parent, likely my mother, was in the chair. I speculate it was Mom because I was afraid of Dad, had by this age understood that he was a hostile, angry, and explosive man who didn’t much care for sharing his space with his kids.

The house was full of people, some that I recognized and others that I didn’t. I didn’t like any of them, felt they were too noisy and demanding. Indeed, I was afraid of them and didn’t want much to do with them, thus the strategy of focusing on my toy truck and hanging close to mom. Most striking to me is the feeling I had of feeling conspicuous and vulnerable. This was far too much attention for me.

The house was full of people, some that I recognized and others that I didn’t. I didn’t like any of them...

We form our core beliefs about the universe early, before most of us can remember. At the age of three, I had already come to understand that Dad was not someone I wanted to be near, that I wanted to remain hidden, out of sight, out of the way, and unnoticed. This suggests that by this early age, I had already formed a view of the world as a hostile dangerous place where you it is safer to be ignored.

Even at this early stage, I don’t remember making choices to view the world the way I did. I only remember feeling the transgressions of my formalized strategies by these people who’d assembled for my birthday. No wonder by the time we are adults we have so internalized these strategies that we don’t even notice we are employing them.

We tend to blame the world for the struggles we face.

Once we’ve acknowledged the possibility that it is a choice to view the world a certain way and to employ strategies to cope with this view of the world, it requires a great deal of purposeful attention and sustained effort to begin to truly see that this is what we do. 

And even then, I often stand by and watch my emotions run haywire, seemingly out of control, as events trigger these strategies and I once again inhabit the space I did as a small child in such a harsh, unloving, hateful, and hostile environment. It is not an easy mechanism to undo and reorder. It isn’t surprising that people tend to blame the world for the struggles we face.