December 31, 2009
A nun who was searching for enlightenment made a statue of Buddha and covered it with gold leaf. Wherever she went she carried this golden Buddha with her.
Years passed and, still carrying her Buddha, the nun came to live in a small temple in a country where there were many Buddhas, each one with its own particular shrine.
The nun wished to burn incense before her golden Buddha. Not liking the idea of the perfume straying to others, she devised a funnel through which the smoke would ascend only to her statue. This blackened the nose of the golden Buddha, making it especially ugly.
December 31, 2009
To follow on from the blog entitled “On The Formation Of Suns And Their Planets…” AND as a sort-of tonic to Professor Jim Al-Khalili’s three part BBC documentary series, entitled ATOM, which was aired on the BBC earlier this year… I’d like to present an amazing book by Theodore Gray that merges the art of photography with the wonder of science… “The Elements!”
I’ve said it before… And I’ll say it again…
“If all life is simply comprised of chemicals that are made up of various atoms, which were born from the hearts of stars… Then consciousness is purely just a by product of the chemical reactions between the different components of star dust in our bodies… I do not possess a soul. Rather I am a soul, forged in the hearts of stars, burning brightly in all I do, experiencing only the Here and Now, witnessing the birth of future generations in the vast furnaces of the heavens above.”
Praise for The Elements:
“This glorious book is more than just a guide to the elements; it will fundamentally deepen your appreciation of the substances that make up our world.”
-Oliver Sacks, author of Awakenings and Uncle Tungsten
“This is the element book that in style and content outshines all element books! My reaction: elemental delight.”
-Roald Hoffmann, writer and Nobel Laureate
“The book is gorgeous. I lost an hour after it arrived just diving into it.”
-Adam Savage, star of MythBusters
To get your own copy, please click here.
December 30, 2009
A lord asked Takuan, a Zen teacher, to suggest how he might pass the time. He felt his days very long attending his office and sitting stiffly to receive the homage of others.
Takuan wrote eight Chinese characters and gave them to the man:
Not twice this day
Inch time foot gem.
This day will not come again.
Each minute is worth a priceless gem.
December 30, 2009
Basically I’ve just read this neat little blog… And I wanted to highlight it within another blog here, as I feel it beautifully illustrates the confusion that can arise when trying to understand the complex idea of the “whole” through terms of simple units of basic processes. One should never take literally the romantic notions of simplicity that mankind likes to use to describe nature’s tortuous flow. We should be continually on our guard against embracing these ideals without remembering what they really are… In this case, Daisyworld is nothing more than a tool which helped crystallise the notion that feedback to the environment can alter the forces of natural selection, something that has been described as ‘selective feedback’ (Lenton, 1998) and as ‘system-dependent selection’ (Lansing et al., 1998).
As I have written once before… From time immemorial, man has desired to comprehend the complexity of nature in as few elementary concepts as possible. And having forged the new scientific disciplines of Chaos and Fractal geometry, We have been able to transmute some of the complexity that We witness around us into simple yet ominpotent ideas that give us the chance to glimpse at the underlying order which lies behind an ancient and seemingly impenetrable process, one which seems to guide almost every flow of nature here on Earth… Chaos, which was once perceived to bear only total disorder and pandemonium, actually allows one to see similar patterns repeating themselves across various and sundry dynamical systems… Systems, that upon a first glance, might seem unattached/unconnected/unalike. But to a trained eye, and with brute force of computational calculation, one can yield patterns from within their flow that elude to the presence of attractor like basins. Thus, in today’s modes of understanding, the computer has truly become mightier than the pen… For it allows man to study the central ‘ideal’ underlying our Chaotic design in a ‘manageable’, if somewhat over-simplified, way – just as Euclid’s perfectly flat plane once allowed scholars to study the basic system of ‘ideals’ lying behind all geometric shapes and forms.
But, as mankind all too readily discovers time and again, ‘reality’ is obviously much, much, much more complex than these ‘ideals’ could ever truly demonstrate… So these ‘romantic’ tools are simply the toys with which we ‘infants’ play, allowing us to kindle the flames of a Knowing that will ultimately arouse and illuminate new and previously unseen concepts; concepts which lie hidden deep within the Universal Whole. For just as a child plays with models of cars and dolls, simulating adult behavior, until one day they realize and become what they have imitated for so long… So too Life will begin to sufficiently understand the fathomless flow of the Tao, so that we may ultimately release ourselves into the ever evolving currents of creation, and drift along its majesty, free from the infantile callowness that our cradle, planet Earth, has let us hang on to for so long…
Thus I present Bill’s blog, which I feel raises some very interesting and pertinent questions concerning James Lovelock and Andrew Watson’s classic computer simulation, “Daisyworld…” A simulation that was brought into being simply as a toy that might allow one to develop an understanding about how the weather here on Earth might regulate itself.
Musings On Daisyworld
James Lovelock and Andrew Watson’s classic computer simulation Dasiyworld is a major proof for the Gaia (“Earth as one organism”) hypothesis. In the simulation, a planet has only two species, white daisies and black daisies. The black daisies warm themselves; the white ones cool themselves. According to the simulation, when the planet’s temperature is cooler there is a predominance of black daisies, and when it warms the white daisies increase in number as the black ones decrease. The idea is that the combination of the white and black flowers serves to regulate the planet’s temperature to a certain extent. The Daisyworld planet’s temperature is more moderate than that of an empty planet because of this balancing effect. This has been used to “prove” the Gaia hypothesis because it highlights that fact that organisms can unwittingly work together to function as one large organism.
However, I feel I must deprecate this idea. Though I cannot refute the fact that organisms often work together as a single organism, there are too many random factors involved for this hypothesis to be true. Evolution itself is a random factor, brought about by the mutation of genes. A random mutation could easily create a new species that does not fit into “Gaia.” I suspect humans are the perfect example of this—how is it that Gaia would welcome a species that is psychologically unstable but can build nuclear weapons? Also, environmental or other external factors can clearly unbalance this cycle.
Because of all this, it is absurd to think that this kind of a relationship between species exist for more than a short period of time. Though this kind of symbiosis can occasionally occur, the idea that the whole planet follows this pattern seems a bit of a stretch.
And I posted the following response:
An Antidote To “Musings On Daisyworld”
Just read your article “Musings on Daisyworld.” And I couldn’t help but notice this particular part of your musings:
“A random mutation could easily create a new species that does not fit into ‘Gaia.’ I suspect humans are the perfect example of this—how is it that Gaia would welcome a species that is psychologically unstable but can build nuclear weapons? Also, environmental or other external factors can clearly unbalance this cycle.”
Bearing this in mind… I wanted to ask you a question.
If everything is natural i.e. mankind was produced by natural laws of physics, chemistry, nature, evolution and natural selection, to name but a very small few of the billions and billions and billions of processes that precluded our creation… AND which precluded all other life forms on earth too… Then… By who’s “meter” are you assuming a species “does not fit into ‘Gaia’”?
The reason why I ask this is… I fail totally to see the point of the question that you have asked here… Why should this be an issue? Why should we even ponder this? Im essence there is no true answer for this. It is a matter of perception. In many ways it is much like an ant, with all its miniscule capabilities and its own perceptive drives, asking “how is it that man would welcome “iced-cream” into a world where the average ambient temperature is 10 degrees C above the freezing point of water? For ice is unstable at such high temperatures, and tends towards melting!”
For an ant to wonder at this (if indeed an ant does wonder at such things), using its own perceptive stances of the miniscule is nothing more than the ant exercising its own egocentric views via a rhetorical question. For when the ant asks, “Why does man produce ‘iced-cream’ in temperatures that hamper the ‘iced-cream’s’ nature i.e. turns it from solid, ‘joyous’ iced scoops of colorful, creamy flavor, into a gooey, runny, warm mess… Thus why would man welcome it into his world?”, it is failing to understand the true nature of man. So what could the ant be missing?
Well… Despite the fact that this world, on the whole, does not provide “iced-cream” with a suitable ambient temperature at which to exist… I suppose there are many, many reasons why man would welcome “iced-cream” into his world. Most of these reason we, as human beings, may never know, OR even glimpse at, ourselves. But some of the reasons we do know, for sure, are things like: man enjoys cream. It’s soft, creamy texture is pleasing to our pallet. Plus it’s tasty. And when it’s “iced” it is a cooling thing to eat on hot days, as when ingested, it lowers our body temperature sufficiently to keep us cool. There are other deeper reasons behind man’s “likes” and “dislikes” too… Reasons which many of us do not even consider to question ever in our short lifetimes i.e. cream is fatty, which has high energy potential for our bodies, and fat can easily be stored for future energy needs… Man likes to remain cool, because the Glycolysis metabolic pathway and other bodily functions and related chemical reactions, all run better at cooler ambient temperatures than a hot stuffy day affords. AND then there are others, like… Man likes sweet things because sweet things denote the presence of sugars, which the brain (using 80% of the energy needs of the body) needs to remain active with i.e. think, ponder with and regulate the rest of the body…
So just imagine how an ant’s little six legged body, which has feelers, eyes and jaws with which to roam, perceive and chew its way around it’s environment… How could an ant understand what it is like to be a human? By a similar decorum… For a human to understand why Gaia would create an organism that can blow itself up with nuclear weapons (and possible destroy a lot of life on earth doing so)… Well… We would need to let go of our human understanding, and think like a “Gaian” would. However, this is a hard thing to do when one is only a humble, egocentric human being.
Buddha noted this when he reached enlightenment (or emptiness), and posited the Buddhist theory of Interdependent Origination.
I’m a mathematician/philosopher/musician, who is looking into chaos theory and the interdependency of variables within dynamical systems. And while I once used to avidly try to understand why things happen as they do… I’ve got to say… After 10 years of studying complex systems, the more I look at trying to understand the seemingly random nature of non-linear dynamical equations, the more I realize that it’s impossible to do so thinking like a human does… Rather than using reason, it’s better to look at abstract patterns within the dynamical system’s flow, and look for similarities between data sets… Why? Because randomness ultimately has no meaning… Random is random. Chaos is random, and thus seemingly unpredictable at best… When we try to marry up abstract ideas with infallible human logic, we sometimes ascribe meaning to something where no meaning really lies. Kurt Gödel and other philosophers demonstrated this beautifully.
However… Once I let go of the need to understand, I realized that there was some kind of underlying order interlinking most non-linear dynamical systems together. These patterns, while undiscernible through simple observation, primarily due to their unpredictable chaotic flows, gave rise to analogous shapes when analyzed under computer iteration i.e. Lorenz attractor like patterns plotted in 3D phase spaces… And these molds of chaotic flow, while precisely unpredictable, actually allowed me to gain a good general idea of the over all outcome of a system. Many of these patterns crop up time and again across a broad range of nonlinear dynamical systems, many of which don’t actually seem to be related to each other in anyway whatsoever… That is, they look unrelated only IF you think like a human being does.
Chaos does not preclude human logic or understanding… Chaos, while understood in very simplified terms, is still precisely unpredictable. When we ultimately understand it… IF we ever ultimately understand it… Then it would become predictable.
Thus… While we understand what chaos means in a very simplified manner i.e. we still use very simple data sets to model immensely complex, real-world, chaotic systems like the weather, or turbulence patterns within fluid flow… To get our models to even work in a ‘slightly’ refined way of real world happening is still at best a fiction.
I think what Lovelock and Watson’s classic computer simulation showed, more than anything, was a very over simplified version of a dynamical system i.e. a planetary system who’s overwhelming complexity (a complexity that resides within the simple non-linear dynamics of an isolated world) simply resides on nothing more than how two species of daisy interact, regulating temperature change, and affecting one another’s growth patterns. No doubt it’s very simple… Malignly so… But that’s the beauty of it. Complexity comes from simplicity. Lovelock and Watson’s simulation is the simple, little part of the whole, which gives the biggest clue as to how complex the real world system is.
Just like in the Zen story “God,” these individual parts are not an accurate representation of the whole. NOT IN THE LEAST! But when this simple idea is iterated out into other seemingly unrelated areas i.e. how the pH of the soil might also affect daisy growth, and how pH of the soil is regulated from the black and white coloration chemicals within the petals of the flowers (black produces a high, alkaline pH, while the white produces a low, acid pH, for example), OR how partial pressures of carbon dioxide, nitrogen and other atmospheric gases also affect their growth and spread patterns, etc… Then we can begin to marvel at the complete picture of the “elephant.”
When all of our “simple” points of view come together… And we see all of those little systems interlinking i.e. soil types, cloud cover, sun spots, etc… All of which, when iterated over and over again, show the shear enormous complexity of nature’s universal flow across the macroscopic and microscopic… Then we can see the whole. This is what Spinoza spoke of… “God, or Nature!”
Take this simplified idea of Daisyworld, and add another 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 variables into it… The majority of which are interrelated to one another indirectly, while only some might be directly related, and we “begin” to touch on the infinitely complex interrelationship of all systems here on earth, and in the universe. No doubt some species are interlinked in ways that are simply dipolar in effect i.e. perhaps in closed-off ecosystems, like in underground caverns… But, as you so rightly pointed out, this is not the case on the whole. Rather than simple duplexes, like the Daisyworld described in Lovelock and Watson’s simulation, things in our world are interlinked in intricate, cascading chains of complexity, forming vast multiplexes of dynamical systems… Multiplexes that are near on infinite in measure, and which would probably take the whole of mankind, and many, many, many Deep-Thoughts the lifetime and breadth of eternity to unravel.
Spinoza once said, that with a system so complex i.e. “God, or Nature,” the only “thing” that would ever be capable of grasping/knowing all its wonder and understanding its ultimate flow… Would be the system itself! For the system itself IS the totality of itself. Thus it can BE everything it is at all times. And as it unravels, it does what its design intended it to do. Thus it becomes omnipotent and omnipresent. We are parts of the whole, nothing more and nothing less. If we open try to understand the world/universe through man-made terms/notions, we can become as blind as the ant trying to understand “iced-cream.” We need to forget all we have learnt, having learnt it, and empty ourselves to begin to glimpse the Tao… To see past the dogmas of misunderstanding. We need to empty ourselves, and remain humble before “God, or Nature…”
So what Lovelock and Watson’s computer simulation essentially shows, is only just a fractured little bit of simplicity, within a manageable type of complexity. This gives us a taste for the system’s dynamic mode of interaction. It’s only one man-made romantic notion to demonstrate the essence of complexity within a multitude of self-similar multiplexing cascades. And, thus, with this simplicity grasped, one can then begin to reiterate this idea, over many different modes of interaction, to see how the totality of the whole’s unimaginable complexity interlinks into the divinely multifarious flow of creation… While mere men see only walls, floors and ceilings to a room i.e. we use our intellect to separate the whole into manageable bites sized parts (just the men feeling the elephant), Buddha saw the “ceiling, wall, floor, carpet, chair, table continuum,” where everything merged and was interdependent with everything else. Why I do my best to view the simple complexities from a “Buddha-like” point of view, I find the math that I do easier to simply DO… Doing without the need to understand.
Here, away from understanding, Buddha sat for the rest of his existence, free from the delusion of man’s own self-made suffering… And thus he was able to clearly see the super-fine weave on the complex tapestry of Life’s dynamical, interlinked threads, which were made up of fibers, made up of individual strands, made up of polymer like molecules, that were really strings of atomic structures, which were made up of electron and proton arrangements… Into the infinity, and out again, of existence.
This is ultimate wisdom (jñana in Sanskrit). This ultimate wisdom refers to a direct realisation which is non-dualistic, and contradicts the way in which we ordinarily perceive the world. The experience of ultimate truth or emptiness is beyond duality.
It is important to remember that emptiness here does not refer to nothingness or some kind of nihilistic view. Emptiness refers to the fact that ultimately, our day-to-day experience of reality is wrong, and is ‘empty’ of many qualities that we normally assign to it. Thus asking the question, “How is it that Gaia would welcome a species that is psychologically unstable but can build nuclear weapons?” is forged from nothing but mankind’s own self-imposed delusion.
Describing this non-dual experience in words is not really possible, as language is based on duality and contrasts. Trying to explain this experience – which contradicts our normal perception – is a bit like explaining colours to someone who is born blind; difficult to say the least.
Thus it is a similar story with Daisyworld and weather dynamics. Trying to understand chaos/unpredictability is like trying to describe why randomness is random. If we understood why randomness was random, it would become predictable… And as we have seen chaos theory has allowed mankind a certain amount of predictability for the totality of a system over long periods of time. However, within a higher resolution time-frame the system is still unknowable. Much in the same way, when we call nothing “nothing,” we make it something. But by calling nothing “nothing” we can grasp the idea of nothing as something.
Such is the dichotomy of true understanding… And here, dare I say, lies the way of Zen and the Tao.
No doubt… Before we can walk that path, a simplicity within understanding must be grasped to see the complexity of the Way. For once we grasp these basic “ideals,” then we can hope to begin to engage ourselves with the Way in which the Tao flows. But to impose our own dualist views onto the universe i.e. “A random mutation could easily create a new species that does not fit into ‘Gaia.’” is to misunderstand the nature of the universe. To glimpse the Tao, we must be like the drop of rain that gives itself to the ocean. When let go of what we think, and find emptiness in the totality of the whole (as Spinoza called it, “Nature, or God”), then we can truly begin to Know… Otherwise we will only muse upon man-made grooves.
Which reminds me… Whenever my uncle used to see me jumping ahead of the game while trying to build a wooden model tug boat, because I wanted to avoid doing the boring complex bits… Bits that seemingly had no purpose in their individuality… But non-the-less added up to the whole… “Small steps, boy. Small steps. For it’s all in those small steps taken each day that we will add up to the distance of our lifetimes.”
I hope that made sense… And I hope it sort of addresses the questions you’ve so pertinently raised… At least in some manner?
To find out where I sourced Bill’s article from, please click here.
OR to learn more about Daisyworld, please click here.
December 29, 2009
When the nun Chiyono studied Zen under Bukko of Engaku she was unable to attain the fruits of meditation for a long time.
At last one moonlit night she was carrying water in an old pail bound with bamboo. The bamboo broke and the bottom fell out of the pail, and at that moment Chiyono was set free!
In commemoration, she wrote a poem:
In this way and that I tried to save the old pail
Since the bamboo strip was weakening and about to break
Until at last the bottom fell out.
No more water in the pail!
No more moon in the water!
December 29, 2009
December 28, 2009
A soldier named Nobushige came to Hakuin and asked: “Is there really a paradise and a hell?”
“Who are you?” inquired Hakuin.
“I am a samurai,” the warrior replied.
“You, a soldier!” sneered Hakuin. “What kind of ruler would have you as his guard? You look like a beggar.”
Nobushige became so angry that he began to draw his sword.
Hakuin continued: “So you have a sword! Your weapon is probably too dull to cut off my head.”
Nobushige drew his sword.
Hakuin remarked: “Here open the gates of hell!”
At these words the samurai, perceiving the master’s discipline, put away his sword and bowed.
“Here open the gates of paradise,” said Hakuin.
December 28, 2009
As some of you may have already seen, littered within the pages of these blogs, there is plenty of scientific data to suggest that psychology is a very powerful tool indeed. And the question that I am going to ask here is… Should it’s methods be used to change the way We, as human beings, perceive our environment? Even if it is for the “greater” good of mankind?
Should we be influenced by adverts and slogans specially tailored to beguile us into action… ? Should we be exposed to charms that appeal to our psychological hardwiring… A hardwiring that has occurred over millions of years, on which we rely upon for survival itself? EVEN if it is to create a better world for ourselves, and our children, and their children, to live in? Hell… Who should decide what a better world is?
Addressing this very issue, I recently heard a radio documentary, pieced together by Claudia Hammond, which discussed this very idea beautifully… AND quite literally! While I’m certainly not against a little impetus for us to look after ourselves, I still feel that you, the “good” people of the world, should be made aware of the issue at hand here.
Before you listen to it though, please do read the following introduction that was provided with this documentary.
“What would convince you to change your lifestyle and use less energy? Despite more people than ever knowing about climate change, few actually do much to minimise their environmental impact. Why are people so reluctant to change their ways and how can they be persuaded?
“Claudia Hammond looks at the psychology of saving the planet through the science of persuasion and the subtle techniques which might get us all to behave differently. She is joined in the studio by two guests, Simon Retallack from the British think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research which has produced a detailed report on how to get British people to adopt six chosen behaviours to minimise environmental impact, and Professor of Psychology Alan Kazdin from Yale University who recently gave an address to the American Psychological Association on the role of psychology in climate change.
“Among the conclusions of the discussions and research are that more information about Climate Change is not effective in making people change behaviour – instead techniques that use financial incentives, fashion and fun are more likely to succeed.
“Professor Noah Goldstein from the University of California at Los Angeles reports on his own successful trial using persuasion to make people in hotels re-cycle their towels. By changing the wording in hotel rooms he increased re-cycling of towels by 33 per cent. If people are given information that lets them know that other people in the room before them re-cycled towels they tend to want to do the same. If they are only told that recycling towels will help the environment far fewer people choose to re-cycle.”
“Psychology And Climate Change” – The BBC World Service’s “Health Check” with Claudia Hammond:
To learn more about the good work that Claudia Hammond is doing, please click here.
Or to learn more about “Health Check” on the BBC’s World Service, please click here.
December 27, 2009
In early times in Japan, bamboo-and-paper lanterns were used with candles inside. A blind man, visiting a friend one night, was offered a lantern to carry home with him.
“I do not need a lantern,” he said. “Darkness or light is all the same to me.”
“I know you do not need a lantern to find your way,” his friend replied, “but if you don’t have one, someone else may run into you. So you must take it.”
The blind man started off with the lantern and before he had walked very far someone ran squarely into him. “Look out where you are going!” he exclaimed to the stranger. “Can’t you see this lantern?”
“Your candle has burned out, brother,” replied the stranger.
December 27, 2009
Recently a friend bought me a rarity of book that was written by the late Dr Albert Hofmann. It is a detailed exposition of a journey into Knowing and Understanding that occurred through direct experience with his prodigal child, Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, otherwise known to many as LSD.
The following excerpt, which is taken from the final chapter of this unique and insightful book, is presented here. The reason why I have chosen this part of the book above all the others is that it eloquently describes the deep impact that Hofmann’s experiences had upon his understanding of reality and, thus, they show a thread through to the other sides of reality… A multifaceted reality that must be seized in order for man to live wholly in the light of balance with Nature.
LSD Experience and Reality
What more can a person gain in Life
Than that God-Nature reveals Himself to him?
I am often asked what has made the deepest impression upon me in my LSD experiments, and whether I have arrived at new understanding through these experiences.
Of greatest significance to me has been the insight that I attained as a fundamental understanding from all my LSD experiments: what one commonly takes as “reality,” including the reality of one’s own individual person, by no means signifies something fixed, but rather something that is ambiguous – that there is not only one, but that there are many realities, each comprising also a different consciousness of the ego.
One can also arrive at this insight through scientific reflections. The problem of reality is and has been from time immemorial a central concern of philosophy. It is, however, a fundamental distinction, whether one approaches the problem of reality rationally, with the logical methods of philosophy, or if one obtrudes upon this problem emotionally, through an existential experience. The first planned LSD experiment was therefore so deeply moving and alarming, because everyday reality and the ego experiencing it, which I had until then considered to be the only reality, dissolved, and an unfamiliar ego experienced another, unfamiliar reality. The problem concerning the innermost self also appeared, which, itself unmoved, was able to record these external and internal transformations.
Reality is inconceivable without an experiencing subject, without an ego. It is the product of the exterior world, of the sender and of the receiver, an ego in whose deepest self the emanations of the exterior world, registered by the antennae of the sense organs, become conscious. If one of the two is lacking, no reality happens, no radio music plays, the picture screen remains blank.
If one continues with the conception of reality as a product of sender and receiver, then the entry of another reality under the influence of LSD may be explained by the fact that the brain, the seat of the receiver, becomes biochemically altered. The receiver is thereby tuned into another wavelength than that corresponding to normal, everyday reality. Since the endless variety and diversity of the universe correspond to infinitely many different wavelengths, depending on the adjustment of the receiver, many different realities, including the respective ego, can become conscious. These different aspects of the reality, are not mutually exclusive but are complementary, and form together a portion of the all-encompassing, timeless, transcendental reality, in which even the unimpeachable core of self-consciousness, which has the power to record the different egos, is located.
The true importance of LSD and related hallucinogens lies in their capability to shift the wavelength setting of the receiving “self,” and thereby to evoke alterations in reality consciousness. This ability to allow different, new pictures of reality to arise, this truly cosmogonic power, makes the cultish worship of hallucinogenic plants as sacred drugs understandable.
What constitutes the essential, characteristic difference between everyday reality and the world picture experienced in LSD inebriation? Ego and the outer world are separated in the normal condition of consciousness, in everyday reality; one stands face-to-face with the outer world; it has become and object. In the LSD state the boundaries between the experiencing self and the outer world more or less disappear, depending on the depth of inebriation. Feedback between receiver and sender takes place. A portion of the self overflows into the outer world, into objects, which begin to live, to have another, a deeper meaning. This can be perceived as a blessed, or as a demonic transformation imbued with with terror, proceeding to a loss of the trusted ego. In an auspicious case, the new ego feels blissfully united with the objects of the outer world and consequently also with its fellow beings. This experience of deep oneness with the exterior world can even intensify to a feeling of the self being one with the universe. This condition of cosmic consciousness, which under favorable conditions can be evoked by LSD or by another hallucinogen from the group of Mexican sacred drugs, is analogous to spontaneous religious enlightenment, with the unio mystica. In both conditions, which often last only for a timeless moment, a reality is experienced that exposes a gleam of the transcendental reality, in which universe and self, sender and receiver, are one. [The relationship of spontaneous to drug-induced enlightenment has been most extensively investigated by R. C. Zaehner, Mysticism: Sacred and Profane (The Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1957).]
Gottfried Benn, in his essay “Provoziertes Leben” [Provoked life] (in Ausdnckswelt, Limes Verlag, Wiesdaden, 1949), characterizes the reality in which self and world are separated as “the schizoid catastrohe, the Western entelechy neurosis.” He further writes:
…In the southern part of our continent this concept of reality began to be formed. The Hellenistic-European agonistic principle of victory through effort, cunning, malice, talent, and later, European Darwinism and “superman,” was instrumental in its formation. The ego emerged, dominated, fought; for this it needed instruments, material, power. It had a different relationship to matter, more removed sensually, but closer formally. It analyzed matter, tested, sorted: weapons, object of exchange, ransom money. It clarified matter through isolation, reduced it to formulas, took pieces out of it, divided it up. [Matter became] a concept which hung like a disaster over the West, with which the West fought, without grasping it, to which it sacrificed enormous quantities of blood and happiness; a concept whose inner tension and fragmentations it was impossible to dissolve through a natural viewings or methodical insight into the inherent unity and peace of prelogical forms of being… instead the cataclysmic character of this idea became clearer and clearer… a state, a social organization, a public morality, for which life is economically usable life and which does not recognize the world of provoked life, cannot stop its destructive force. A society, whose hygiene and race cultivation as a modern ritual is founded solely on hollow biological statistics, can only represent the external viewpoint of the mass; for reality is simply raw material, but its metaphysical background remains forever obscured. [This excerpt from Benn's essay was taken from Ralph Metzner's translation "Provoked Life: An Essay on the Anthropology of the Ego," which was published in the PSYCHEDELIC REVIEW I (1): 47-54, 1963. Minor corrections in Metzner's text have been made by A. H.]
As Gottfried Benn formulates it in these sentences, a concept of reality that separates self and the world has decisively determined the evolutionary course of European intellectual history (see Cartesian philosophical ideas). Experience of the world as matter, as object, to which man stands opposed, has produced modern natural science and technology – creations of the Western mind that have changed the world. With their help human beings have subdued the world. Its wealth has been exploited in a manner that may be characterized as plundering, and the sublime accomplishment of technological civilization, the comfort of the Western industrial society, stands face-to-face with a catastrophic destruction of the environment. Even to the heart of matter, to the nucleus of the atom and its splitting, this objective intellect has progressed and has unleased energies that threaten all life on our planet.
A misuse of knowledge and understanding, the products of searching intelligence, could not have emerged from a consciousness of reality in which human beings are not separated from the environment but rather exist as part of living nature and all the universe. All attempts today to make amends for the damage through environmentally protective measures must remain only hopeless, superficial patchwork, if no curing of the “Western entelechy neurosis” ensues, as Benn has characterized the objective reality conception. Healing would mean existential experience of a deeper, self-encompassing reality.
The experience of such a comprehensive reality is impeded in an environment rendered dead by human hands, such as is present in our great cities and industrial districts. Here the contrast between self and outer world becomes especially evident. Sensations of alienation, of loneliness, and of menace arise. It is these sensations that impress themselves on everyday consciousness in Western industrial society; they also take the upper hand everywhere that technological civilization extends itself, and they largely determine the production of modern art and literature.
There is less danger of a cleft reality experience arising in a natural environment. In field and forest, and in the animal world sheltered therein, indeed in every garden, a reality is perceptible that is infinitely more real, older, deeper, and more wondrous that everything made by people, and that will yet endure, when the inanimate, mechanical, and concrete world again vanishes, becomes rusted and fallen into ruin. In the sprouting, growth, blooming, fruiting, death, and regermination of plants, in their relationship with the sun, whose light they are able to convert into chemically bound energy in the form of organic compounds, out of which all that lives on our Earth is built; in the being of plants the same mysterious, inexhaustible, eternal life energy is evident that has also brought us forth and takes us back again into its womb, and in which we are sheltered and united with all living things.
We are not leading up to a sentimental enthusiasm for nature, to “back to nature” in Rousseau’s sense. That romantic movement, which sought the idyll in nature, can also be explained by a feeling of humankind’s separation from nature. What is needed today is a fundamental re-experience of the oneness of all living things, a comprehensive reality consciousness that ever more infrequently develops spontaneously, the more the primordial flora and fauna of our mother earth must yield to a dead technological environment.
Mystery and Myth
The notion of reality as the self juxtaposed to the real world, in confrontation with the outer world, began to form itself, as reported in the citation from Benn, in the southern portion of the European continent in Greek antiquity. No doubt people at that time knew the suffering that was connected with such a cleft of reality consciousness. The Greek genius tried the cure, by supplementing the multiformed and richly colored, sensual as well as deeply sorrowful Apollonian worldview created by the subject/object cleavage, with the Dionysian world of experience, in which this cleavage is abolished in ecstatic inebriation. Nietzche writes in The Birth of Tragedy:
It is either through the influence of narcotic potions, of which all primitive peoples and races speak in hymns, or through the powerful approach of spring, penetrating with joy all of nature, that those Dionysian stirrings arise, which in their intensification lead the individual to forget himself completely… Not only does the bond between man man come to be forged once again by the magic of the Dionysian rite, but alienated, hostile, or subjugated nature again celebrates her reconciliation with her prodigal son, man.
The mysteries of Eleusis, which were celebrated annually in the fall, over an interval of approximately 2,000 years, from about 1,500 B.C. until the forth century A.D., were intimately connected with ceremonies and festivals in honor of the god Dionysus. These mysteries were established by the goddess of agriculture, Demeter, as thanks for the recovery of her daughter Persephone, whom Hades, the god of the underworld, had abducted. A further thank offering was the ear of grain, which was presented by the two goddess to Triptolemus, the first high priest of Eleusis. They taught him the cultivation of grain, which Triptolemus then disseminated over the whole globe. Persephone, however, was not always allowed to remain with her mother, because she had taken nourishment from Hades, contrary to the order of the highest gods. As punishment she had to return to the underworld for a part of the year. During this time, it was winter on the earth, the plants died and were withdrawn into the ground, to awaken to new life early in the year with Persephone’s journey to earth.
The myth of Demeter, Persephone, Hades, and the other gods, which was enacted as a drama, formed, however, only the external framework of events. The climax of the yearly ceremonies, which began with a procession from Athens to Eleusis lasting several days, was the concluding ceremony with the initiation, which took place at night. The initiates were forbidden by penalty of death to divulge what they had learned, beheld, in the innermost, holiest chamber of the temple, the tetesterion (goal). Not one of the multitude that were initiated into the secret of Eleusis has knowledge of the universe through the spirit of truth, and thereby to understanding of our being one with the deepest, most comprehensive reality, God.
Ecclesiastical Christianity, determined by the duality of creator and creation, has, however, with its nature-alienated religiosity largely obliterated the Eleusinian-Dionysian legacy of antiquity. In the Christian sphere of belief, only special blessed men have attested to a timeless, comforting reality, experienced in a spontaneous vision, an experience to which in antiquity the elite of innumerable generations had access through the initiation at Eleusis. The unio mystica of Catholic saints and the visions that the representatives of Christian mysticism – Jakob Boehme, Meister Eckhart, Angelus Silesius, Thomas Traherne, William Blake, and others – describe in their writings are obviously essentially related to the enlightenment that the initiates to the Eleusinian Mysteries experienced.
The fundamental importance of a mystical experience, for the recovery of people in Western industrial societies who are sickened by a one-sided, rational, materialistic worldview, is today given primary emphasis, not only by adherents to Eastern religious movements like Zen Buddhism, but also by leading representatives of academic psychiatry. Of the appropriate literature, we will here refer only to the books of Balthasar Staehelin, the Basel psychiatrist working in Zurich. [Haben ind Sein (1965), Die Welt als Du (1970); all published by Theologischer Verlag, Zurich.] They make reference to numerous other authors who deal with the same problem. Todday a type of “metamedicine,” “metapsychology,” and “metapsychiatry” is beginning to call upon the metaphysical element in people, which manifests itself as an experience of a deeper, duality-surmounting reality, and to make this element a basic healing principle in therapeutic practice.
In addition, it is most significant that not only medicine but also wider circles of our society consider the overcoming of the dualistic, cleft worldview to be a prerequisite and basis for the recovery and spiritual renewal of occidental civilization and culture. This renewal could lead to the renunciation of the materialistic philosophy of life and the development of a new reality consciousness.
As a path to the perception of a deeper, comprehensive reality, in which the experiencing individual is also sheltered, meditation in its different forms, occupies a prominent place today. The essential difference between meditation and prayer in the usual sense, which is based upon the duality of creator-creation, is that mediation aspires to the abolishment of the I-you-barrier by fusing of object and subject, of objective reality and self.
Objective reality, the worldview produced by the spirit of scientific inquiry, is the myth of our time. It has replaced the ecclesiastical-Christian and mysthical-Apollonian worldview.
But this ever broadening factual knowledge, which constitutes objective reality, need not be a desecration. On the contrary, if it only advances deep enough, it inevitably leads to the inexplicable, primal ground of the universe: the wonder, the mystery of the divine – in the microcosm of the atom, in the macrocosm of the spiral nebula, in the seeds of plants, the body and soul of people.
Meditation begins at the limits of objective reality, at the farthest point yet reached by rational knowledge and perception. Meditation thus does not mean rejection of objective reality; on the contrary, it consists of a penetration to deeper dimensions of reality. It is not escape into an imaginary dream world; rather it seeks after the comprehensive truth of objective reality, by simultaneous, stereoscopic contemplation of its surfaces and depths.
It could become of fundamental importance, and be not merely a transient fashion of the present, if more and more people today would make a daily habit of devoting an hour, or at least a few minutes, to meditation. As a result of the meditative penetration deepened reality consciousness would have to evolve, which would increasingly become the property of all humankind. This could become the basis of a new religiosity, which would not be based on belief in the dogma of various religions, but rather on the perception through the “spirit of truth.” What is meant here is a perception, a reading and understanding of the text at first hand, “out of the book that God’s finger has written” (Paracelsus), out of the creation.
The transformation of the objective worldview into a deepened and thereby religious reality consciousness can be accomplished gradually, by continuing practice of meditation. It can also come about, however, as a sudden enlightenment, a visionary experience. It is then particularly profound, blessed, and meaningful. Such a mystical experience may nevertheless “not be induced even by decade long meditation,” as Balthasar Staehelin writes. Also, it does not happen to everyone, although the capacity for mystical experience belongs to the essence of human spirituality.
Nevertheless, at Eleusis, the mystical vision, the healing comforting experience, could be arranged in the prescribed place at the appropriate time, for all of the multitudes who were initiated into the holy Mysteries. This could be accounted for by the fact that a hallucinogenic drug came into use; this, already mentioned, is something that religious scholars believe.
The characteristic property of hallucinogens, to suspend the boundaries between the experiencing self and the outer world in an ecstatic, emotional experience, makes it possible with their help, and after suitable internal and external preparation, as it was accomplished in a perfect way at Eleusis, to evoke a mystical experience according to plan, so to speak.
Meditation is a preparation for the same goal that was aspired to and was attained in the Eleusinian Mysteries. Accordingly it seams feasable that in the future, with the help of LSD, the mystical vision, crowning meditation, could only be made accessible to an increasing number of practitioners of meditation.
I SEE THE TRUE IMPORTANCE OF LSD in the possiblity of providing material aid to meditation aimed at the mystical experience of a deeper, comprehensive reality. Such a use accords entirely with the essence and working character of LSD as a sacred drug.
Not doubt these are bold words… However, for any of you who have been exposed to the effects of hallucinogenic inebriation… OR even those avid, regular meditators who have come across moments of enlightenment… One can certainly see how what Hofmann so vividly describes as a “healthier worldview of Life and its patterns of being” might actually help mankind emerge from our current state of existent awareness, into new bounds of global consciousness. If we are seriously to embrace a kinder heart, and kindle a better attitude towards understanding our current modes of over consumption, in order to become less blasé to the impact We are having, as a growing population of Earth, then we must ultimately make our psyches softer and more open to the surrounding world of Nature and its chaotic flows, thus so We can see through the veil of our herd, apathetic mentality, into a deep and penetrating understanding of the interconnection of everything… Much as described in the Buddhist Theory of Interdependent Origination.
As I have no doubt stipulated on several occasions already within the pages of these blogs, the key to beginning an understanding of the processes that created us are contained herewith. All they need is some time in reading and consideration…
To learn more about Dr Albert Hofmann and all the work he did while he was with us here on Earth, please click here.
If you would like to purchase a copy of Dr Hofmann’s book, why not do so direct from the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies… Or MAPS for short… And help Dr Hofmann’s dream become a reality. Just click on the MAPS logo below!