Space, Time and Who Gives a Flying Fig?

KeanuToday a friend of mine posted an article about how there really is no time. It’s a pretty good article, although the source it comes from is a bit questionable. Other articles they have posted include pieces on some fat flush drink flushes fat away, and the 7 most effective ways to induce an out-of-body experience.

Still, although it contains some cool, thought provoking stuff, it’s one of those articles in which someone not too terribly schooled in current physics tries to tie together things they’ve read in a lot of pop culture magazines and books about current physics. I’m not qualified to judge how close such articles are to understanding real physics.

One problem I have with these kinds of articles is the way their writers always seem to want to jump to the conclusion that something called consciousness underlies everything. The writer of this particular piece strays from the stack of Discover and Scientific American magazines he’s been quoting to throw in his own speculations, which go like this:

“Consciousness is the formless, invisible field of energy of infinite dimension and potentiality, the substrate of all existence, independent of time, space, or location, of which it is independent yet all inclusive and all present. It encompasses all existence beyond all limitation, dimension, or time, and registers all events, no matter how seemingly miniscule, such as even a fleeting thought. The interrelationship between time and consciousness from the human perspective is limited, when in fact it is unlimited.”

For a long while I thought this was something like the Buddhist view of things. But then Nishijima Roshi blew my mind one day with a simple five word sentence.

“Consciousness is just an illusion,” he said.

He made this statement in reply to someone attending one of his lectures who hijacked the Q&A session to deliver a monologue that made pretty much the same points as the writer of the article my friend posted. I remember the guy literally sputtering in response.

In Buddhist terms, consciousness is just one of the five things that come together to form a human being, or, by extension, to form the universe. These five are 1) form 2) feelings 3) perceptions 4) impulses and 5) consciousness. So consciousness, in Buddhist terms, is not only not the substrate of all existence, it isn’t even the most important of the five elements that constitute existence. Also, when you push a little deeper into Buddhist ideas, all five of these elements are different manifestations of the very same thing. And if you dare to go beyond that, the ultimate answer is, “I don’t know.”

But, to me, an even deeper question is why does this even matter?

I mean, I get why people are interested in it. I certainly am interested in these kinds of trippy ideas. But if they’re just things for bros to trade with each other when they’re stoned, who really cares? Do these questions have meaning in a world where religious maniacs are burning people in cages, where the planet we live on is getting hotter and nobody’s doing anything about it, and where this coming weekend the Grammys are going to tell us that yet another batch of talentless pretty-boys and glamour-girls are the best musicians the world has produced?

Actually, I think maybe it does matter.

It matters because we will only be able to solve our problems when we are willing to look at life realistically, and see it for what it is.

The problem with saying things like “Consciousness is the formless, invisible field of energy of infinite dimension and potentiality, the substrate of all existence” is that you have reached a conclusion. You have defined life. You have boxed it in. And now that you have your box of life, you can swing it around at other people’s boxes of life and see if your box can break theirs.

What Nishijima said to that guy was a challenge to go beyond the box that he had created. He was asking him to question his own answer.

There is a lot we can learn and discover about the universe we are living in. We can, in fact, even discover the ultimate answer. Yet that ultimate answer does not fit into any box. When you think you’ve found the ultimate box, that’s when trouble starts.

*   *   *

Every Monday at 8pm I lead zazen at Silverlake Yoga Studio 2 located at 2810 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90039. All are welcome!

Every Saturday at 9:30 am I lead zazen at the Veteran’s Memorial Complex located at 4117 Overland Blvd., Culver City, CA 90230. All are welcome!

Plenty more info is available on the Dogen Sangha Los Angeles website,

*   *   *

Space and time may not exist, but my rent does. Your kind donations help me keep doing this blog by helping me rent a place to write in. Every little bit helps. Thank you!


184 Responses

Page 2 of 2
  1. Mindfulness
    Mindfulness February 11, 2015 at 6:36 am |

    Grand Canyon, are you doing ok? What’s going on?

    1. The Grand Canyon
      The Grand Canyon February 11, 2015 at 1:08 pm |

      I am fine. Thank you for asking. SamsaricHemorrhoid seems to have gone off the rails on a crazy train, though.

      1. SamsaricHelicoid
        SamsaricHelicoid February 11, 2015 at 3:55 pm |

        Shut up Grand Canyon. I’m sorry if some metaphysical questions are beyond you.

        I told you i got my BS in Neuroscience with a high gpa. I don’t think the brain generates awareness entirely. This is a metaphysical, not scientific, question.

  2. Fred
    Fred February 11, 2015 at 7:08 am |

    Koan 2,000,736


    “One Mind is universal, because homo floresiensis, and intrinsic brain gloop qua Rupert Lankavatara Sheldrake, ergo type f-monism”

    Grand Canyon replied:

    “You are a retarded queer cuntshit sand-n*****r”

    1. Fred
      Fred February 11, 2015 at 7:12 am |

      Shin Chan , I don’t think that’s it’s right for you to call Mr. Canyon a Common Tard

      1. Shinchan Ohara
        Shinchan Ohara February 11, 2015 at 9:46 am |

        This has nothing to do with Herr Canyon. I was referencing a biblical quote given 128,405 koan-kalpas back by Sr. Gran Canaria on

        Just open the hand of thought, and plausible deniability is everywhere.

  3. SamsaricHelicoid
    SamsaricHelicoid February 11, 2015 at 8:05 am |

    “Most people don’t ascribe personhood to dream characters. Do you?”


    Let me tell you 3 other dreams I’ve had:

    I have had a similar dream where I fell in love once, and while waking up, I was told not to seek my loved one. However, in another dream I sought her, and found a malformed entity that had attributes of her mixed with others…

    I also had a dream once where I saw my body shaking in third person. Then I saw lines appear and felt a movement into another space. I then saw something akin to a surgeon asking if I’m awake yet. I saw the lines appear once more, and there was this blinding light… I felt as if I was being pulled into it, and I started thinking, “Who am I? … I don’t want to forget who I am!” and woke up sweating.

    Another dream I had involved coming across a man, and I told him he is nothing but a fragment of my dream. Unlike my other friend, this one laughed and said I shouldn’t mess with him like that. All of a sudden I saw his face flash, and I felt immense pain. I heard him mutter some stuff too, and I begged him to stop. He realized he was not fully separate from me.

    My dream with the boy crying and these point more to the Vedanta kind of understanding.

    I may leave Zen behind and just become a Hindu. I strongly believe my dreams reflect a deeper reality, perhaps algorithmic. I would agree with you about it being fantasy after one or two times. However, after 8 profound dreams, I do not believe it is just coincidence. This life is nothing but a dream too considering it’s empty.

    This life is like a dream too and there is something like MANA-YOOD-SUSHAI dreaming us, but not in the literal sense. When we awaken, we awaken as MANA-YOOD-SUSHAI who is no different from us:

    1. SamsaricHelicoid
      SamsaricHelicoid February 11, 2015 at 8:15 am |

      Also, once I questioned within a dream whether I should ascribe personhood to those I confront during a dream. I gave the exact same question as you within a dream, Shinchan.

      I came across someone and talked to them. We had tea. I was so impressed that I cried saying he most certainly has personhood…

      When I talk to you Shinchan, do I see ‘you’? When you talk to me, do you see ‘me’?

      There is a solipsistic-like aspect (not full-blown) in life. No one has ever truly talked to another. We are all absolutely alone. This is an absolute: being alone. If I am the one to ascribe personhood can never grasp it, given its lack of intrinsic essence, have I ever truly gained anything or loss anything in this life, including this body? What makes a dream character less or more real than people here? It’s like a dream.

      I try to treat each dream character with compassion and love. However, I had one dream where I once failed. Let me tell you of another dream on the bottom.

      When we get old and look back on this life, it will be like a fleeting moment, a forgotten dream. But all dreams influence the next dream, and this dream will influence the next rebirth. Let me tell you of a painful dream I once had with Buddhist imagery:

      “I dreamed of an idyllic town where everyone cultivated the land and played chess. Everyone was jolly until strange beings from the sky invaded and started mutilating everyone. I experienced everyone’s unique private experience and pain; it felt as if the feeling of loss was stronger than gain in life. Eventually everyone in the dream stood still and stares away from the dream’s circumference towards “me” asking why I dreamt them into existence just to suffer.

      I appeared as a golden bodhisattva, don’t know how, and promised to stop the onslaught from the alien invaders. I was able to mitigate their damage and send them back, but as a consequence, the land was no longer arable. New children were born and played amongst a river that froze into black ooze while the older generation remained with the harsh memories, jaded from realizing they can never enjoy life like before the onslaught.

      In short: the most painful way to die is to become a pantheistic deity because life is about pain and loss ultimately. You would consequently feel the pain and suffering of everyone without division because that what life truly is. Their groaning and lamentation shall come in unison as one voice. There would be a multiplicity of dying and suffering within your One Body, and you’ll be slowly murdered as you can feel everything deteriorate or something like that.

      The dream was depressing as hell, but I liked it, I guess.”

      1. SamsaricHelicoid
        SamsaricHelicoid February 11, 2015 at 8:34 am |

        I should also probably go more into detail about the dream where I fell in love. If I could edit, I would. Sorry if I am wasting bandwidth, but I feel going into detail would help put it into a context.

        I feel in love in a dream, and I was holding hands with the one I loved. I wanted to live in the dream eternally, as I hugged her. However, I fell down and stared at her, asking what was going wrong. She told me I was waking up. I cried, and said I will go back looking for her. She said under no circumstances should I seek her again.

        In another dream about a few days or week later, I sought her during another narrative that involved a party in a studio of some sort. I went searching through a strange labyrinth of pipes that had strange green ooze, away from the studio. I eventually came across a strange beast that had attributes of her. It was so frightening and depressing. I realized I could never find her again in the same form, so I went back through the pipes and labyrinth in disappointment.

        I have had a lot of dreams like this, especially when I was younger. Also, when I was was younger, I was watching a Hey Arnold! cartoon. I was talking to this other “entity” that felt like it flew into me. I was watching the cartoon. The entity then told me what is it I want. I told “it” I want to become a part of the cartoon. “I” then viewed myself from third person while watching myself become a stream of the narrative cartoon, perhaps in hypnagogia, but there was still a third-person viewing of the “me” in the cartoon’s narrative. This is why I believe mind is a bit more fundamental the physical, in the sense it precedes and suffuses matter.

        Another dream I had that was interesting was this:
        I also had a dream where I fell in a dark hole. In the darkness, I saw another “me” who asked what it is I want most deeply. I asked to experience the true nature of reality. All of a sudden, I began seeing my body shake in third person. Then I saw lines appear and felt a movement into another space. I saw something akin to a surgeon asking if I’m awake yet. Then I saw the lines reappear once more, and there was this blinding light… I felt as if I was being pulled into it, and I started thinking, “Who am I? … I don’t want to forget who I am!” as the “I” was dissipating and woke up sweating.

    2. Fred
      Fred February 11, 2015 at 8:18 am |

      All dreams are fantasies including the one you are in right now.

      The dream phantasy is the formless, invisible field of energy of infinite dimension and potentiality, the substrate of all existence, independent of time, space, or location, of which it is independent yet all inclusive and all present.

      1. SamsaricHelicoid
        SamsaricHelicoid February 11, 2015 at 8:45 am |

        Energy is non-conscious, non-reflected awareness. The early Ch’an Buddhists called it “non-abiding awareness”

        “The dream phantasy is the formless, invisible field of non-abiding awareness of infinite dimension and potentiality, the substrate of all existence, independent of time, space, or location, of which it is independent yet all inclusive and all present.”

        This is true.

  4. Fred
    Fred February 11, 2015 at 8:24 am |

    “All things leave and all things arrive right here. This being so, one plants twining vines and gets entangled in twining vines. This is the characteristic of unsurpassable enlightenment. Just as enlightenment is limitless, sentient beings are limitless and unsurpassable. Just as cages and snares are limitless, emancipation from them is limitless. The actualization of the fundamental point is: “I grant you thirty blows.” This is the actualization of expressing the dream within a dream.”

  5. SamsaricHelicoid
    SamsaricHelicoid February 11, 2015 at 8:51 am |

    Grand Canyon, you are stupid. Nothing in Neuroscience points to the acceptance of materialism. Read that Lieberman quote I gave again. There’s no misinterpretation of Science here. There are just hypotheses on how the solve “The Hard Problem of Consciousness”.

    I have no problem with people of different backgrounds or beliefs, but I have a problem with people trying to make Zen compatible with materialism.

    We don’t even have a cogent definition of physical. I don’t agree the mind is generated by brain. I think “matter” has a internal mental quality, and life is more continuous with mind. Something like that.

    Check out this book by an actual Buddhist with a strong Neuroscience background:

    I plan to read it soon. It’s by Evan Thompson.

    Regardless, emergentism and reductionism are not compatible with Zen. Something like double-aspect theory, panpsychism (i.e., matter having an internal mental life), and etc. are more compatible.

    Also check out the dreams I just referenced

    1. SamsaricHelicoid
      SamsaricHelicoid February 11, 2015 at 9:00 am |

      This question is pretty difficult…

    2. The Grand Canyon
      The Grand Canyon February 11, 2015 at 12:56 pm |

      “I don’t agree the mind is generated by brain. I think ‘matter’ has a internal mental quality, and life is more continuous with mind.”

      Where is your evidence?

      1. SamsaricHelicoid
        SamsaricHelicoid February 11, 2015 at 1:01 pm |

        You can’t give evidence to this kind of stuff the same way you can for falsifiable hypotheses. As the Lieberman quote pointed out, even the vie that mind is reducible to brain activity is unfalsifiable. I can’t give you arguments but only metaphysics, phenomenology, and pointing: Check the post on February 10, 2015 at 7:39 am |

        Also, science is not about studying the nature of reality, as I pointed out, and this was the first thing I was taught in my Design of Methods class. We were taught to simply form a hypothesis and set an alpha value. If after gathering data (with set controls, IVs, and DVs), we statistically analyze it and get a p-value less than the set alpha value, the results are significant and the null hypothesis is rejected. The information can then be used to form predictive models or analyze patterns, but it does not say anything about the nature of reality, its substratum, which involves a different dialectic, that of metaphysics and praxis of practices involving phenomenological insight (i.e., in our case, just sitting with no intent to get anything).

        1. The Grand Canyon
          The Grand Canyon February 11, 2015 at 2:04 pm |

          Please, do not lie by implying that you used probability and statistics to come up with the outrageous, unsupported, logically invalid and unsound claims of “I don’t agree the mind is generated by brain” and “I think ‘matter’ has a internal mental quality, and life is more continuous with mind.”

          1. SamsaricHelicoid
            SamsaricHelicoid February 11, 2015 at 2:12 pm |

            Grand Canyon, have you even read anything I’ve said hitherto? I’m saying metaphysical questions such as the “Hard problem of Consciousness” cannot be answered through the scientific method because they are unfalsifiable. Materialism, for example, is unfalsifiable. So an interdiscplinary approach is needed.

            As a neuroscientist who has a deep background in philosophy such as the “Hard Problem of Consciousness”, I have reason to believe mind is not generated by brain. Read post on February 10, 2015 at 7:39 am , like I politely asked you to.

            However, if mind is generated by brain, then I have reason to believe in some vitalistic force at work that is not separate from emergent system processes.

            You cannot rely on naive realism to answer these questions: “claims that the senses provide us with direct awareness of the external world.”


  6. Fred
    Fred February 11, 2015 at 9:14 am |
    1. SamsaricHelicoid
      SamsaricHelicoid February 11, 2015 at 9:22 am |
  7. david s
    david s February 11, 2015 at 9:38 am |

    “Regardless, emergentism and reductionism are not compatible with Zen.”

    HS, you have a particular angle of entry into Buddhism and that is fine. But you seem focused upon the nature of reality which is endlessly debatable. What Buddhism is singularly aimed at is the end of suffering. What we believe about the nature of reality may not ease suffering.

    I like discussing the nature of consciousness and how it exists in relation with the world as much as you do. But I also recognize that we do not need to agree, and our disagreement can easily be seen as attachment to our thoughts. Such attachment carries a form of suffering when such a discussion heats up and we lose sight of the relative nature of our beliefs.

    I disagree completely with this statement of yours because essentially such discussions were not the central intention to practice in the first place. I can benefit from practicing as much as you can. Beliefs are to be let go of in the end. In this regard what Shinchan Ohara posted on 2-10-15 7:34pm was an interesting point of view.

    1. SamsaricHelicoid
      SamsaricHelicoid February 11, 2015 at 9:58 am |

      No, as with everything, there are exceptions. This particular question is an exception.

      If the mind emergent from brain or is reducible to brain, there is no reason to practice. McMindfulness self-help approaches are better than the approach of becoming a monk or going to tough retreats. Mind, thus, becomes cut off from world given it being either emergent or reducible, because at a certain point there is not-mind (material) and mind (non-material). Emergentism gives primacy to matter which the early Ch’an Buddhists denied with the Lankavatara Sutra, mountain poets like Han Shan and Shiwu (check poems), and etc. Within the practice of Ch’an, views such as there being a kind of internal mental life of matter or that it coalesces itself into certain psychophysical forms are more suited for Zen practice.

      This post by Brad was very ignorant, in my view. I respect Brad but not this particular. Stuff like this, while being strange, should not be jumped to conclusions: (you can Google for information on this particular recent study on NDE from University of Southampton)

      I will study hard, meditate hard, etc. to figure out the Hard Problem of Consciousness (though I would prefer it was reworded as Hard Problem of Non-Conscious Awareness).

      If awareness is emergent or reducible, it’s better to become a libertine without values. Marquis de Sade has thus won. The points he has raised has totally decimated Zen/Ch’an if mind is emergent or reducible. Check out his philosophy a bit and read it impersonally without judging it (even though I think his sick, he does he make good points).

      I agree, life is suffering, but I view it more in the sense of Schopenhauer’s Will and his pessimism. His pessimism is always in relation to mystical monism, that is possible to experience through denial of the will. His aphorisms are very powerful. If mind is emergent or reducibe, man is worthless, forever living in his bubble:

      “Every happiness that a man enjoys, and almost every friendship that he cherishes, rest upon illusion; for, as a rule, with increase of knowledge they are bound to vanish. Nevertheless, here as elsewhere, a man should courageously pursue truth, and never weary of striving to settle accounts with himself and the world. No matter what happens to the right or to the left of him,–be it a chimaera or fancy that makes him happy, let him take heart and go on, with no fear of the desert which widens to his view. Of one thing only must he be quite certain: that under no circumstances will he discover any lack of worth in himself when the veil is raised; the sight of it would be the Gorgon that would kill him. Therefore, if he wants to remain undeceived, let him in his inmost being feel his own worth. For to feel the lack of it is not merely the greatest, but also the only true affliction; all other sufferings of the mind may not only be healed, but may be immediately relieved, by the secure consciousness of worth. The man who is assured of it can sit down quietly under sufferings that would otherwise bring him to despair; and though he has no pleasures, no joys and no friends, he can rest in and on himself; so powerful is the comfort to be derived from a vivid consciousness of this advantage; a comfort to be preferred to every other earthly blessing. Contrarily, nothing in the world can relieve a man who knows his own worthlessness; all that he can do is to conceal it by deceiving people or deafening them with his noise; but neither expedient will serve him very long.”
      – Schopenhauer

    2. SamsaricHelicoid
      SamsaricHelicoid February 11, 2015 at 10:23 am |

      If mind is either emergent or reducible to brain activity, there is no Buddha nature.

      I have studied this question for ~4-6 years. I got into Neuroscience because of this question but remained unsatisfied with how the answer was not evident (i.e., I wish I got into Physics instead to figure out ways to formulate ways to approach this question).

      I repeat: if non-abiding awareness is either emergent or reducible to brain activity, then quit your Dharmic babbles. No one has Buddha nature and we are infinitely cut off from this world and each other given this scenario. Become like a Carvakan figure; engage in sensual indulgence until there is no end in sight because there is no point in practice anymore:

      These guys, the Carvakans, won then:

      I repeat one last time: earlier Ch’an followed a form of type-f monism. This IS a fact and no amount of Zen speak can ignore it. Zen WAS a practice based off a form of type-f monism called the “Original Face”. Dharmakaya was seen to have an intrinsic mind-like quality that we can open our own individual minds to, since it was not separate from it. No amount of riddles can ignore this fact. The point of all the riddles and koans in the past was to lead to this type-f monism.

      ” In his latest book, ‘The Character of Consciousness’, David J Chalmers argues that a sufficient materialist explanation of consciousness will prove impossible. In its stead, Chalmers advocates what he calls ‘Type-F Monism’: “Type-F Monism is the view that consciousness is constituted by the intrinsic properties of fundamental physical entities … phenomenal or protophenomenal properties are located at the fundamental level of physical reality and in a certain sense underlie physical reality itself … If so, then consciousness and physical reality are deeply intertwined … the view can be seen as a sort of idealism” (pp.133/4)

      I might as well burn the Lankavatara Sutra alongside my Buddha statue if emergentism (e.g., epiphenomenalism) or reductionist (e.g., eliminativism, token-identity physicalism) accounts of non-conscious, non-reflective awareness are the case.

  8. SamsaricHelicoid
    SamsaricHelicoid February 11, 2015 at 11:05 am |

    A vitalist-emergentist theory of awareness is compatible with the Dharma. Such a theory is more like Schopenhauer’s Will from “World as Will and Representation”.

    However, in such a case, vitalism cannot be separated from emergentism. Emergentism entails vitalism as being true:

    Such conceptions lead more towards a kind of Deleuzian understanding which is perfectly compatible with Dogen and much of the Dharma.

    However, if you are not a vitalist and an emergentist, then quit practicing.

  9. SamsaricHelicoid
    SamsaricHelicoid February 11, 2015 at 11:10 am |

    So far these two views on the nature are compatible with Buddhism:

    1) non-abiding awareness as fundamental and universal – a kind of type-f monism

    2) vitalism coupled with emergentism – a kind of Deleuzian approach, this is fine – emergent system properties are thus ‘alive’ to a certain extent

    Unless you want to go full out Nihilism and take Nagarjuna’s BS to the max to the point of deconstructing everything, then take up Ray Brassier’s nonsense. I’ve actually read this guy, and you should be very afraid of Buddhism heading this direction. A greater acceptance of reductive forms of materialism will lead it in that direction.

    I don’t think people understand how fundamental this convo is to Buddhist practice. You can’t separate the intellectualizing from practice. I sat in half-lotus during this convo during some time points.

  10. Michel
    Michel February 11, 2015 at 12:21 pm |

    SamsaricHelicoid, you give much too much importance to your dreams. Not that dreams have non importance, but that they haven’t got that much.
    I once dreamt of a galley rowing its way out of a harbour. It just happened that I was living a difficult period, and that the French use “galère” (galley) for a difficult passage where you get the impression of having to row endlessly and uselessly in order to go on.

    I once dreamt of a motorcycle accident in a give landscape and when I had said accident in said landscape in Tuscany, realised that warning dreams are useless because either you listen to them and the dream no longer corresponds to anything in your life, either you don’t and the dream comes true.

    I once dreamt of the visit of someone I didn’t know along with my flatmate. He had a violin case in his hand. I woke up thinking that if I were to meet him, I’d know him. He came a month later, along with my flatmate, except he had a guitar instead of a violin. And that’s all. It didn’t mean anything.

    So, I’ve got a thousand dreams written down. They’re fun to read, but that doesn’t bring me anywhere.

    1. SamsaricHelicoid
      SamsaricHelicoid February 11, 2015 at 12:32 pm |

      The point is, given how things lack an inherent nature, this life is like a dream too.

      What is real and what is unreal?

      “Those who assert dependent phenomena. As like moons in water, As not real and not unreal, Are not tricked by views.” Nagarjuna

  11. david s
    david s February 11, 2015 at 4:05 pm |

    SH, I guess I must be a conundrum for your pickle. I practice and I think that we exist as dependently originated consciousness emerging from brain activity and its interconnection/interdependence with the world. Nothing separate to be found here.

    I have had 2 experiences with altered states coming from meditation. Both were occasions in which I was absorbed by the sensation I was concentrating upon. Once the sensations started to pull my mind into them I lost all sense of control, and clarity and peacefulness came. One was an abstract swirling, radiating sort of space, expanding and flowing with enormous rapturous sensations. Afterward I was moved to believe this was another realm, energy, or vitalism I suppose. It left me with a sort of religious quiver that has carried me to this day with wanting to know more. The second, I was once again in an abstract sort of event where there was nothing except the abstract sensation of rising and falling, and a loud whooshing sound (of my breath) accompanying this movement. I had no separation from this stripped down version of sensation and it was devoid of any sense of a body or context whatsoever, completely empty of any other impressions. I had no thoughts. The experience was all it was. I had no sense of being a separate viewer of this, nor any notion of self. There were no visuals. There was no sense of space even. It had an uncanny peacefulness due to the lack of sense impressions. Afterward, I found that I had been in this state for an hour, so it then became evident that I had no sense of time either.

    In looking around for information in books I found reference to the jhanas, which I had not heard of before. I actually found it odd that these two absorptions were described as being part of a mapped out set of qualities. They seemed at face value to be unrelated. The second one according to Buddhist maps was accorded greater significance. Interesting.

    One thing that came from these experiences is quite simple. Seeing how the second one was deeply lacking sense contact and total lack of a sense of self, and how this produced an equanimous sublime peacefulness, it contrasted with the affect of the first in which the rapturous feeling produced in me a religious fervor (I am an atheist) of belief in some seemingly other worldly sense. This contrast gave me the clue that the even this feeling of religious fervor was itself empty, just an affect of that particular state. The second experience was closer to being empty of everything and the quality of the experience of peacefulness was more sublime.

    So I can see why some experiences lead people into believing in what they perceived to be some hidden all pervasive energy. But I do not think such impressions can be taken at face value because this very thinking arose in me from sensations which themselves passed away like all the rest.

    I see no reason to believe anything other than by manipulating the use of my consciousness this altered the pathways in my brain and released some heavy doses of chemical rapture, and my mind really really liked it! But if the second experience is ‘higher’ than this one then it becomes a relative and dependent experience. But even such a view as this does not lead me to throw away my practice. I still think that practice leads me to changes which I could not attain through thought alone. I presume that new pathways are being developed and new perceptions unfolded accordingly. Hopefully practice will help keep me balanced in life, and help me in understanding the relative nature of my own mind. And hopefully these qualities will infuse my life in ways akin to that sublime peacefulness which arose out of the second experience. Something practice could help me keep in tune with.

    1. SamsaricHelicoid
      SamsaricHelicoid February 11, 2015 at 4:44 pm |

      david s, your phenomenological experiences are interesting. “I” have had many experiences like that all the time too when doing Zazen, but my main reason for Zazen is not for some McMindfulness therapy.

      You cannot separate the metaphysics of a religion from the praxis of practice. Otherwise, you are no longer a part of the religion…

      The question of the Hard Problem of Consciousness (I personally prefer non-conscious awareness) gets very difficult when we look at it in terms cognitivism, connectionism, or enactivism. It is almost intractable without serious study.

      And they do tread on some religious views, since it’s all metaphysical debates, mostly on the relation between mind and external world (i.e., mind-body problem or hard problem of consciousness). We know experience is always in tandem to the body, but what exactly is a “mental representation” and how does it relate to the world? I believe emergentism is fine when it is synthesized with vitalism, as in the case of Schopenhauer and Giles Deleuze whose Wikipedia I recommend reading (note, his views are very much like Dogen’s). Here, read this on Schopenhauer:

      The fundamental question is this, which empirical scientists don’t fully address (cuz it’s not their job): what “informational content” is or how it magically “arises” from physical systems…

    2. SamsaricHelicoid
      SamsaricHelicoid February 11, 2015 at 4:51 pm |

      This is a good summary on Schopenhauer’s beliefs too:

      “Schopenhauer says that matter is merely a form of our representation of the world, it does not exist in itself, and the mind is a tool that gives rise to that representation. A tool of what? A tool of the Will. Both mind and matter are pretty much immaterial, the mind existing as an instrument of knowledge used by certain objectifications of Will (like human beings) and matter existing as a form through which that knowledge is carried out.

      Most people think that we come to desire the things we know. That is: first there is knowledge, and then you start to desire some of the things you happen to know. According to Schopenhauer, it’s the other way around: we come to know the things we desire. Knowledge arises from the Will, it’s our way to guide ourselves towards the satisfaction of our needs and our desires. There is knowledge because there is the Will to obtain something. So knowledge, at its origin, is not a contemplative and passive exercise. It’s a means to an end.

      Though Schopenhauer acknowledges that it is possible for knowledge to become a contemplative activity unrelated to the Will. It’s a mild form of “negation of the Will”. That is, the Will goes against itself and denies itself. As objectifications of the Will, we are supposed to follow our basic instincts and satisfies our needs. Yet we seem to be capable of betraying our own nature, like when we produce works of art that do not satisfy any of our needs or when we use our time studying some science without any practical end in sight. Knowledge and representation are offspring of the Will that came into being to serve the Will and its end, though they have the potential to go against the Will and deny it.

      The objectifications of the Will are “instances” of the Will that manifests themselves in space and time. Living beings are objectifications of the Will. Natural forces like gravity, electromagnetism, weak interaction and strong interaction are also objectifications of the Will. Pretty much anything that happens in this world is caused by some objectification of the Will.

      Since space and time are merely a priori forms of our knowledge, Schopenhauer concludes that the noumenon of every object is one and the same. Through a noetic and intuitive knowledge, Schopenhauer asserts that his own noumenon (the noumenon of the man Schopenhauer) is something that could be called “Will”. Since once he strips himself of every representation, the only thing he believes that remain is the “Will”.

      Being the noumenon of things one and the same because space and time are a product of our knowledge, he concludes that everything else is also an objectification of the Will. Him, other humans, cats, trees and everything.”

      1. SamsaricHelicoid
        SamsaricHelicoid February 11, 2015 at 4:52 pm |

        Read the whole topic though. Schopenhauer is an emergentist.

  12. Fred
    Fred February 11, 2015 at 4:38 pm |

    “. I had no separation from this stripped down version of sensation and it was devoid of any sense of a body or context whatsoever, completely empty of any other impressions. I had no thoughts. The experience was all it was. I had no sense of being a separate viewer of this, nor any notion of self. There were no visuals. There was no sense of space even”

  13. SamsaricHelicoid
    SamsaricHelicoid February 11, 2015 at 4:56 pm |

    Emergentism is only compatible with Zen if you pick it up with vitalism, like Schopenhauer or Deleuze. Such a view avoids the perceived ridiculousness of type-f monism without tarnishing the Dharma.

    Otherwise, you’re being a materialist tool, and might as well become an eliminativist to make your views more compatible with the average, contemporary biases of a Neuroscientist .

  14. david s
    david s February 11, 2015 at 5:07 pm |

    “Schopenhauer says that matter is merely a form of our representation of the world…”

    SH, so in your concept if it relies on this sort of solipsistic thinking is very suspect. Ego that rules all matter. Many people still believe this stuff.

    “Zazen is not for some McMindfulness therapy.

    You cannot separate the metaphysics of a religion from the praxis of practice. Otherwise, you are no longer a part of the religion…”

    Oh, so you are kicking me out of your religion? No argument here. You underestimate the core teaching of Buddhism is of suffering, not metaphysics.

    I think I will just leave it be. I’ve said enough. I expect others to have differing experiences and will draw differing conclusions, but much of the central issues regarding what constitutes suffering, its arising, its cessation, and the path seem to not be of interest to you. You belittle this topic by referring to such as McMindfulness therapy. All said and done.

    1. SamsaricHelicoid
      SamsaricHelicoid February 11, 2015 at 5:14 pm |

      But… you do realize if suffering ceases completely after we die, there is no point in practice then? Rebirth, even after physical death, was considered a compelling reason to practice in those times.

      If you accept vitalist-emergentist or type-f monism, the notion of rebirth after dying is not complete nonsense.

      If mind is entirely a product of brain activity. or reducible to it, and there is nothing greater than that, then why practice when it all ceases when one hits the bucket? It seems better to be a libertine in the sense of Marquis de Sade then… This was kind of the point of the Carvakans and Libertines when they sound to engage in sensual indulgence because it all ends with the end of the body, which I don’t agree with.

      This. is. WHY. I. say. to. put. serious. thought. into. these. topics. cuz. our. religion. depends. on. them.

      Right now, it seems more crucial to not be sitting and instead reading a lot of diverse stuff on this particular question. I think Stephen E. Robbin’s Time and Memory is pretty good and gives some good arguments based off computer science and physics about the possibility of a holographic form of storage for explicit memory… These questions are serious and have parallels with lankavatara sutra.

      This is not a feel good religion only concerned with the here and now. It’s more than that… even though it is primarily concerned with that.

    2. SamsaricHelicoid
      SamsaricHelicoid February 11, 2015 at 5:26 pm |

      “SH, so in your concept if it relies on this sort of solipsistic thinking is very suspect. Ego that rules all matter. Many people still believe this stuff.”

      Also, you misinterpreted Schopenhauer.

      Schopenhauer is saying ego rules all matter. Why don’t you read this a bit more carefully?:

  15. david s
    david s February 11, 2015 at 5:25 pm |

    OK one more post (said me..)

    “If mind is entirely a product of brain activity. or reducible to it, and there is nothing greater than that, then why practice when it all ceases when one hits the bucket? It seems better to be a libertine in the sense of Marquis de Sade then… This was kind of the point of the Carvakans and Libertines when they sound to engage in sensual indulgence because it all ends with the end of the body, which I don’t agree with.”

    You really haven’t understood that suffering is experienced in this life? Have you not understood that one can suffer due to desire alone? Pleasure always ends, leaving one in a state of grieving its loss and desiring again. Practicing equanimity is all about tempering one’s grasping and clinging to such feelings. This is reason enough.

    1. SamsaricHelicoid
      SamsaricHelicoid February 11, 2015 at 5:30 pm |

      That’s a very selfish reason, in my view, considering Buddhism prior to industrialized, modernized was about more than that. Practicing is mostly about not clinging to any skandhas before dying and not viewing an individual “as going”, so that way one is not reborn. This is the “cessation of perception and feelings” or parinirvana. Practice is primarily to leave behind the world because both and life and death are false states of existence.

      Also, you misinterpreted Schopenhauer. He’s not saying ego molds matter. Read this more carefully:

      Intellectual speculation is very, very important. You cannot separate it from the paxis of practice. Read sutras like the Lankavatara Sutra and etc. Read a lot of philosophy too and try to understand how the materialist conception is incompatible with Zen/Ch’an as a religion.

      It’s not good to bastardize a religion and take “out its baggage” because it doesn’t conform to “secular” biases.

      This is the Kali Yuga.

  16. david s
    david s February 11, 2015 at 5:40 pm |

    You are very clear about your beliefs. Practice always begins with one’s own mind. This is not selfish. The Buddha himself practiced this way.

    We have differing world views, yet we suffer similarly.

    1. SamsaricHelicoid
      SamsaricHelicoid February 11, 2015 at 5:48 pm |

      You don’t get it: we’re not supposed to have differing world views. It’s only due to loss of the cultural context and modern biases in this new modernized industrialized setting that we have lost the wisdom of the ancients. We now practice a distilled form of it, reinterpreting the teachings to fit in a new modern materialist context.

      I made it clear to you that there is no evidence in neuroscience that points to mind as being a causal result of brain activity. I spent significant time studying and got a 3.5 GPA for my Neuroscience degree…

      Have you ever killed an animal? I had to decapitate rats, and I can tell you that there is a dreamy surreal quality when one does this. For you to reduce all subjective experience to brain activity, then disregard the major tenets of our religion (i.e., ch’an’s rebirth, One Mind, etc.), makes me question whether we’re even practicing the same thing, and it raises entirely new existential problems that simply wasn’t evident in older Ch’an:

      “I am a neuroscientist and so 99% of the time I behave like a materialist, acknowledging that the mind is real but fully dependent on the brain. But we don’t actually know this. We really don’t. We assume our sense of will is a causal result of the neurochemical processes in our brain, but this is a leap of faith. Perhaps the brain is something like a complex radio receiver that integrates consciousness signals that float around in some form. Perhaps one part of visual cortex is important for decoding the bandwidth that contains motion consciousness and another part of the brain is critical to decoding the bandwith that contains our will. So damage to brain regions may alter our ability to express certain kinds of conscious experience rather than being the causal source of consciousness itself. ” “I don’t actually believe the radio metaphor of the brain, but I think something like it could account for all of our findings. Its unfalsifiable which is a big no-no in science. But so is the materialist view- it’s also unfalsifiable” (Lieberman, 2012).

      1. SamsaricHelicoid
        SamsaricHelicoid February 11, 2015 at 5:49 pm |

        to brain as being the causal source of mind*

  17. Wedged
    Wedged February 11, 2015 at 6:50 pm |

    i was just at a retreat where the teacher went on about the env. and reading from Brad “where the planet we live on is getting hotter and nobody’s doing anything about it”. i’m realizing these statements give me a very subtle, under current of anxiety. because…seriously, wtf am i or can i do about it? recycle, reuse, reduce? lobby govn’t? vote for al gore? i wonder if i should maybe also start telling people this, so i can feel like i;m doing my part…by making the other person anxious. no dis on Brad, just…honestly…the earth is prob toast, i have 2 kids, i live in canada where they are raping the land, no more hippy bs “it starts with you”. no it doesn’t. i don’t get the point in rattling people, even though i agree. are we hoping generations to come won’t be complacent like we are? who are we blaming? it reminds me of growing up, hearing how i had to be careful or i would be fat, but…no words of advice, no plan…just general warning.

  18. david s
    david s February 11, 2015 at 7:32 pm |

    “You don’t get it: we’re not supposed to have differing world views.”

    You are really stuck on your righteousness. This is not what is important. How suffering arises and how it ceases is. Arguing like this has been going on for 2500 years! How does it help ease suffering?

    There are more central issues that we share as that of the causes of suffering and the path leading out.

    1. SamsaricHelicoid
      SamsaricHelicoid February 11, 2015 at 8:07 pm |

      While decapitating rats for lab, I would always chant a mantra.

      Older Buddhist lay practitioners were told to do this hoping for a better rebirth for the rats.

      You say mind is nothing but a product of brain activity and rebirth after death is a delusion contradicts the entirety of the teachers. It means I said those mantras in vain.

      You do realize sometimes I want to decapitate myself? I think back to all the animals I’ve devoured and realize they’ve lived life with more vigor and meaning. Human beings are corrupted, always doing shit like spraying pesticides, deforestation, killing others, and etc. This list is endless for the corruptions.

      To tell me we are nothing physical processes is nihilistic and not Buddhist. You do realize I have thought deeply on these questions and I don’t your anti-intellectual modernized, industrialized Kali Yuga nonsense that totally destroys everything Buddhism stands for.

      The whole modern notion of superstition vs. naturalism is a fallacious one and nonsensical. Stuff like rebirth and enlightenment are central to Buddhist practice. This is not a McMindfulness thing… This is a practice of life and death.

      I intellectualize like it is life and death. I sit like it is life and death. I dream like it is life and death.

  19. david s
    david s February 11, 2015 at 9:15 pm |

    SH, I don’t agree with your assessments on what emergent consciousness is limited by. I also don’t agree with your assessments that this would be nihilism. One Buddhist leader spoke of the two extremes, that of Absolutism, which he equated with solidity, and of Nihilism, which he equated with there being nothing, and then of that of the middle view in which everything was relative. Emergent consciousness would indeed make consciousness relative and codependent/co-arising. The Buddhist notions of the six sense bases directly relate to those of the brains regions for processing this information, thus consciousness is experienced as what is formed out of this information. This is in line with the Buddhist model not counter to it. Even our senses are unified with the world, and thus the mind is not isolated.

    Experiences such as I had of a form of awareness lacking perceptions and functions such as thinking, a self, and a sense of time can be understood as those functions going dormant. In the Book Zen and the Brain the neuroscientist James H. Austin describes how such states may come to be. The author is a Zen practitioner as well. So it is conceivable to understand these experiences not from a traditional woo-woo reincarnation view.

    OK. Now let me turn this a bit. I can see that your thoughts make sense of what you have experienced and the intellectual concepts you have gathered together. It all makes sense to you so you believe it as true. I do the same with my experiences and concepts. So this is understandable.

    Now consider how what you are presenting to me if I were to take it on it would only exist for me as a belief without experience. I can’t see how if I were to accept this on belief alone it would be anything other than some idea. I also don’t see how this would release me from the 5 aggregates of consciousness. Wouldn’t holding onto just some idea simply be grasping and clinging? Wouldn’t holding on to such a form of belief without knowledge block me from moving into release?

    Only understanding through experience itself will move one towards wisdom.

    1. SamsaricHelicoid
      SamsaricHelicoid February 11, 2015 at 9:26 pm |

      I’ve had experiences like you on the cushion too, and dreams too, that push me more towards a type-f monist interpretation. However, I do question the extent of these interpretations, hence why I’m still studying this question.

      I’ve read some of James H. Austin’s stuff. He is cool, but he has a heavy materialist biases due to his background as a neurologist.

      It’s a big assumption to assume from material things non-material things can emerge. I don’t see how that works. At what point do material thing turn non-material? How does the material “generate” the non-material thing? Our conscious lives depend on a thalamocortical loop, but it doesn’t tell us how our consciousness “emerges” from the thalamocortical loop. There is an explanatory gap. How does the non-material thing relate to the material brain?

      What pisses me off about you is how you assume this is all entailed by Neuroscience. Neuroscience is an infant field and not really that great. Why don’t you look a bit more into metaphysics because that is what religions are all about. Why do you think stuff like Alzheimer’s rates are going up? Because people are sedentary, eat shit (e.g. stuff with aspartame, dangerous pesticides, preservatives like BHT, HFCS, etc.), and get Aluminum and other toxic crap from processed foods into their systems. Also people take drugs like adderall for studying without contemplating on the long-term effects that isn’t really studied. Most of industrialization and modernity have given the illusion of “greater knowledge”, when in fact we lost our touch to the Sacred more and have become more unhealthy in body and spirit. We have lost the value of tradition and practicing like it is life and death. We can easily change our views to “reflect science” more, when in fact science has no answers on the deeper ontological questions.

      Your revisionist approach to reforming and understanding the Dharma is ridiculous.

  20. SamsaricHelicoid
    SamsaricHelicoid February 11, 2015 at 10:39 pm |

    Many prominent physicists have believed that consciousness is primary and matter secondary. It solves a lot of problems if consciousness is the ultimate constituent of the universe, not matter.

    Max Planck, Nobel Prize for Physics, and the inventor of Quantum Mechanics:

    “As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear-headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force … We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.”

    “I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.”

    Erwin Schrödinger, Nobel Prize for Physics:

    “I am very astonished that the scientific picture of the real world around me is deficient. It gives a lot of factual information, puts all our experience in a magnificently consistent order, but it is ghastly silent about all and sundry that is really near to our heart, that really matters to us. It cannot tell us a word about red and blue, bitter and sweet, physical pain and physical delight; it knows nothing of beautiful and ugly, good or bad, God and eternity. Science sometimes pretends to answer questions in these domains, but the answers are very often so silly that we are not inclined to take them seriously.”

    “The observing mind is not a physical system.”

    “Consciousness cannot be accounted for in physical terms. For consciousness is absolutely fundamental. It cannot be accounted for in terms of anything else.”

    Max Born, Nobel Prize for Physics:

    “There are metaphysical problems, which cannot be disposed of by declaring them meaningless. For, as I have repeatedly said, they are ‘beyond physics’ indeed and demand an act of faith. We have to accept this fact to be honest. There are two objectionable types of believers: those who believe the incredible and those who believe that ‘belief’ must be discarded and replaced by ‘the scientific method.’

    Niels Bohr, Nobel Prize for Physics:

    “I myself find the division of the world into an objective and a subjective side much too arbitrary. The fact that religions through the ages have spoken in images, parables, and paradoxes means simply that there are no other ways of grasping the reality to which they refer. But that does not mean that it is not a genuine reality. And splitting this reality into an objective and a subjective side won’t get us very far.”

  21. SamsaricHelicoid
    SamsaricHelicoid February 11, 2015 at 10:56 pm |

    This is interesting, from David Chalmers, David Chalmers: Consciousness and the collapse of the wave function.

  22. david s
    david s February 11, 2015 at 11:04 pm |


    “What pisses me off about you is how you assume this is all entailed by Neuroscience.”

    You have it wrong. I know it is not understood. You are grasping to explain a problem of your own making. Your concepts block you from seeing that experience could be the affect of processes and thus not essentially anything at all. We are just this. Nothing but affect. The explanation of the processes is in its infancy and we should not throw ourselves back into beliefs we have no explanation for. We go on what we know and build from there. Much has been learned by those who work with people who have malfunctioning brain functions. What else we may come to understand is open and unknown. But simply whipping ourselves into believing in brains as antennas is laughable. Where does the information come from then? How does it become organized into individual lives? You have no possibility for any true knowledge using such inventions. Whereas, we already have become to understand the mapping of the brain functions. We know very little. It is much too early to claim it a failure when progress it at hand each year. You want it all too easy. Easy is thinking we are the central feature of reality when we could become extinct in the coming centuries. It is a fools knowledge. You claim reincarnation is true, but Buddhism claims there is no self. This is a problem. Both cannot be true. Brahmins’ believed in reincarnation and the Buddha countered their belief with that of the delusion of an everlasting self. If reincarnation was true, then whatever made one person become another would be proof of such a self. You are not a Buddhist.

    1. SamsaricHelicoid
      SamsaricHelicoid February 11, 2015 at 11:19 pm |

      I just read that post:

      “Buddhism claims there is no self. This is a problem. Both cannot be true”

      Uh… yeah… When we grasp at the skandhas, it influences the proceeding moment or the way our Minds conceptualize it, or project the illusion of inherent attributes.

      It’s kind of like how our last thoughts, unconscious or not, influence our next dreams, and how dreams can influence our first thoughts in the morning after reintegration or so.

      Also, why do you have so much faith in Science? It’s disgusting. Neuroscience is a ridiculous and disgusting field. It has caused more problems than is worth, as I enumerated. Modernity and industrialization are destructive, as I enumerated.

      1. david s
        david s February 12, 2015 at 7:36 am |

        “Also, why do you have so much faith in Science? It’s disgusting. Neuroscience is a ridiculous and disgusting field. It has caused more problems than is worth, as I enumerated. Modernity and industrialization are destructive, as I enumerated.”

        Use over simply where the problem lays when you blame science for all modern man’s problems. Knowledge doesn’t cause the problems. They come from how the knowledge is applied. The knowledge isn’t bad. Remember even Zen supported killing and war. Look at Myanmar today. And religion is general can be said to be disastrous and involved in fomenting hatred. But when looked at more closely it is how it is used and not necessarily what it represents. We can only blame our desire, selfishness, and sort sightedness in how we use knowledge. We do not need to return to some previous era as if it was so much less troubled.

  23. david s
    david s February 11, 2015 at 11:13 pm |

    “Dogen accepted Mind-only”

    I get it you are a believer.

    And the Pope believes in a God who made the universe in 6000 years.

    I can think for myself.

    1. SamsaricHelicoid
      SamsaricHelicoid February 11, 2015 at 11:15 pm |

      I am thinking for myself too. I’m saying emergentist theories of mind make sense only when vitalism is accepted. Then you move more towards a Schopenhauer theory of the world which is compatible with Buddhism:

      ^ read this fully. Schopenhauer was an emergentist but also a non-dualist at the same time.

      I like Deleuze’s approach too. He is an emergentist and vitalist too.

      You cannot have emergentism without vitalism. it is always entailed by the acceptance of emergentism. I want to look more into this…

      But still… “At what point do material thing turn non-material? How does the material “generate” the non-material thing? Our conscious lives depend on a thalamocortical loop, but it doesn’t tell us how our consciousness “emerges” from the thalamocortical loop. There is an explanatory gap. How does the non-material thing relate to the material brain?”

  24. david s
    david s February 11, 2015 at 11:25 pm |

    How do computers fly planes and drive cars?

    1. SamsaricHelicoid
      SamsaricHelicoid February 11, 2015 at 11:34 pm |

      Negative feedback systems?

      Oh… I see what you did there.

      But still, that doesn’t explain much, especially about consciousness’ ontological character… but you’re right, negative feedback systems are crucial to consciousness and its evolutionary role in modulating behavior to minimize homeostatic expenditure for goal-related task behavior…

      You know… I have read a lot of stuff from Antonio Damasio and more.

  25. david s
    david s February 11, 2015 at 11:34 pm |

    Also take into consideration that what science models as matter is looking more like forces. The gap no longer exists.

    But please don’t jump to conclusions that forces must be sentient. Then we’d have to define sentience. And what we think of sentience is based upon our consciousness which is a construction of our brain functions. And this is not applicable to stretching this notion across all phenomena. If it was in that case a thermostat could be sentient.

    Solipsism creates many distortion regarding our conceptions. And our conceptions form little frames which may not accurately take into consideration other factors.

    1. SamsaricHelicoid
      SamsaricHelicoid February 11, 2015 at 11:43 pm |

      Schopenhauer’s theory is vitalistic, not panpsychist:

      read this carefully:

  26. david s
    david s February 11, 2015 at 11:43 pm |

    ” Our conscious lives depend on a thalamocortical loop, but it doesn’t tell us how our consciousness “emerges” from the thalamocortical loop.”

    Have you read Douglas Hofstadter’s books? he won a Nobel Prize for ‘Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid’ and many years later he discovered many people did not understand his point and misinterpreted it. So he wrote I am a Strange Loop’.

    He doesn’t say he has found a solution to the many riddles in modeling conscious. He instead gives thought to issues and plays with expanding on them. One was the notion of looping feedback systems and how complexity can arise and new more complex structures can form out of simple inputs. it goes further in posing a reason for how to answer your critique above.

    Thinking like his opens the possibility that new ways of looking at such problems may be yet developed.

    1. SamsaricHelicoid
      SamsaricHelicoid February 11, 2015 at 11:47 pm |

      You didn’t really answer the question…

      I have read a bit of the book (I have I am a Strange Loop on the shelf), but it could equally point to the possibility of a reflexive monism:

      All it’s doing is arguing for a self-referential to aspect in consciousness and brain dynamics. I don’t see how that points to emergentism, and it doesn’t address the metaphysical issues with emergentism.

      Also, read that link I gave on Schopenhauer. I think emergentism always requires vitalism, which isn’t the claim everything sentient but that it is alive to some extent or has desire, idk.

  27. david s
    david s February 12, 2015 at 12:18 am |

    SH, I will take some time to read your references. I glanced at that site referencing Schopenhauer but given that it is not really something that makes immediate sense to me in the least I left it for later (and it is too late tonight). My knee jerk reaction to it has the same issue as making claims of sentience and misusing ill-defined language. The use of ‘will’ seemed likely to becomes less and less meaningful and diluted. For the sake of discussion tomorrow I will look at it. And I’m not sure if a bunch of bloggers will describe it in ways that will answer any questions that I come up with either.

    “that it is alive to some extent or has desire”

    Desire? OK here we go again taking human traits and spilling them over into areas which do not relate.

    Alive. Now that is where the action is. Science hasn’t even begun to model life. This I could see having features which due to complexity arrive in sentience, yet still pertain to systems much lower and non-sentient. A very blurry subject. Much dependent on definition and scope. This I could go with to describe wider sorts of phenomena. But even then some issue would require more clean divides between phenomena that changes (as all does) and that which reproduces copies of itself.

  28. SamsaricHelicoid
    SamsaricHelicoid February 12, 2015 at 9:23 am |

    Watch this david s,

    David Chalmers is a great philosopher

  29. david s
    david s February 12, 2015 at 9:49 am |

    SH, I read one of your links, someone called InfiniteOpening summarizing Schopenhauer ‘s thesis. I’ll quote from that and respond.

    “In reality, there is no space, time, causality, qualia, etc. All of these things are merely structural filters of human minds.”
    If there was no space, time, causality, qualia, etc, then there would be nothing existing at all in the first place, including ‘structural filters’ and no ‘human minds’. It is a self-defeating statement.

    “We humans are born with space-time and causality as mental faculties.”
    This can be spoken of in two ways. As if the mind’s faculties make these come to be perceived, and contrarily, that such are non-existent as reality but are all a mirage. I would go with the first and I’d guess you the second, mainly because of my statement above.

    “For instance, if we did not a priori, before experience, presume causality we could not infer external objects cause their perception of themselves in us. And likewise, if we did not presume space a priori we would not translate these perceptions as existing in a three-dimensional world exterior to ourselves. Without these a priori forms of the mind, there would be no subject-object dichotomy.”
    How could one presume causality at birth? It looks to me that he is simply making a presumption that complex perceptions already exist prior to what they are being claimed to create, i.e. the world and one’s very own body. And if one in essence has no body why would such a presumption arise and result in creating causality?

    “In sum, third-person knowledge is conditioned by the structure of the mind.”
    How could the mind have a structure if there was no space?

    “High serotonin levels in the brain (third-person knowledge) are correlated to happiness (first-person knowledge) for example, but they are not correlated because first-person knowledge causes third-person knowledge, as it were, as is the belief of dualists (spirit and body interactionists who believe in free-will — most religious people).”
    A very contradictory statement once again. Where do serotonin molecules exist? What is knowledge? If there already exists a bank of complete knowledge then there would be no reason for it to even manifest into illusions of existence.
    And if it is all an illusion then why not just kill oneself to return to union with this knowledge?
    Knowledge is a human endeavor. We all have to participate in its formation and this is how it comes to be. I use concepts as analogies to relate to reality, they relate to existence. Existence doesn’t conform to my concepts. I have to organize and attempt to form concepts that correlate to experience as accurately as possible. But these concepts are not in themselves constitute nor create reality, they are disposable and empty. The only power they have is how accurately the correlate with reality. The simplistic reversal taken above cannot explain knowledge’s existence. It is apparent to me that what is going on here is a phenomenological solipsism at work.
    The way I see it is that one over a lifetime has used concepts to understand the world. And when confusion arises as to how reality exists then what was simply a tool of correlation, these concepts take on a form they did not have, they begin to be viewed as self-existing quasi-objects themselves. They now appear to fit together as if they make more sense if it is presumed they existed prior to one’s very invention of them. But in relation to what could such knowledge exist in the first place? It is a dead end. It is a self-contradictory conceptual model.

    “My feeling of happiness is my first-person knowledge of the same thing that my third-person knowledge sees as many serotonin molecules in the brain.”
    So happiness exists how? It is something eternal? It really makes more problems than it solves. It becomes unknowable. Yet another closed system which cannot account for its very existence.

    “First and third person knowledge is of one type of substance, what Schopenhaer calls ‘the will’. This is not free-will, a concept Schopenhauer refutes. Rather, it is to be understood as energy or force.”
    Lots of people revert to calling anything and everything energy as if this answers some question and explains it. It is just a label, which has no power of explication. It offers itself as a pacifier to questions not yet understood.
    In meditation it is clear to me that much of what comes to be sensed as energy moving is an affect of the very system in place from which all comes to be sensed. The nervous system jitters and flows, and builds up potential wells, and cracks to altered levels of activity. (Kind of like when I saw Patti Smith in 1979 shoving her guitar into the amplifier speaker and it screeched out wailing feedback.) But the origin of such sensation is its existence as an affect. The conscious processes of feedback systems brings it to being an experience. No one can explain it fully, but this is what appears to be occurring.

    “…the world as will and representation.”
    All these sorts of concepts to me are the result of solipsism. ‘Will’ is a very human thought. It speaks to our sense of decisional control. I’m open to looking more at whether what we call ‘will’ is actually truly a choice, or just a bit of ‘self’-ing going on. The answer is probably going to be a bit fuzzy and be both somewhat true and somewhat an assumption we take on. What is a representation cannot be understood at this time. We may never know. But just to take both of these difficult issues and place them as prior and self-existent doesn’t do them justice. It is a non-answer.
    All these theories seem to me to take the easy way out and once again project our experience of consciousness out onto the world, and then mistakenly place it into a central role in producing reality. I’m sorry, but you and I will probably never be able to bridge this gap. I ca not see how it could ever work, nor how it could ever answer the very question of its own existence. This attempt seems to flatten out the issue into conceptual muddles.
    In not understanding the complexity of a brain this doesn’t mean there are no answers. Look at how even in the quotes above new discoveries are being accepted into metaphysical answers, like serotonin levels related to happiness. Religion makes claim to knowledge only after others make progress. Science is an open-ended proposition for knowledge. Its theories can fail. Paradigms can shift. It is makes no claim to knowing everything. It is a very human attempt to formulate concepts which furthers our relationship to existence.
    All my lifelong experience points to how experience and knowledge is within my body. I may dream very emotional scenes but they never can be returned to, but I awake to this reality day after day. It is not too difficult to understand its distinctness and my dependence within it.

    PS: I will respond to that video after I take the time to watch it. have to get away from this computer and out of my head. Enjoy your day!

  30. SamsaricHelicoid
    SamsaricHelicoid February 12, 2015 at 11:09 am |


  31. SamsaricHelicoid
    SamsaricHelicoid February 12, 2015 at 11:09 am |

    Just ignore my other posts and read this david s:


    I wrote a long paper considering emergentism and other possibilities 3 yrs ago. Lots of Neuroscience is contained in that forum post.

  32. SamsaricHelicoid
    SamsaricHelicoid February 13, 2015 at 11:50 am |

    Here is a tiny url link to the zenforuminternational topic I want you to read:

    Focus on sunyavadi’s posts.

  33. blake
    blake February 17, 2015 at 6:56 am |

    the ultimate answer is, “I don’t know.”

    You mean, “Don’t know”?

Comments are closed.