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Friday, October 31, 2014

Hands off the tiller

Over the past two years or so this blog has completely changed.  It's because my whole way of life has changed.  I am letting my life steer itself.

This started  when I began to realise that the notion of free will that almost everyone believes they have is a mistake.  Give that idea up and your life will run more smoothly.  Plus, you won't be regretting choices or wondering what to choose, or debating with yourself over the correct course of action.  Just do what appears to be appropriate to do, it may seem like I am making choices but I am not worried about whether they are good choices or not, which I certainly often used to do.

The Nature of Reality II

1. It's hard to imagine what the world would look like if we weren't there to experience it, simply because the act of imagining it involves our presence.  Would there necessarily be any world if we were not there to experience it?  It would be simply a matter of assertion, about which there could be no direct evidence.
2. Since we cannot demonstrate the existence  of the world when we are not experiencing it, we have to doubt it.
3. We cannot even demonstrate the existence of the world when we are apparently experiencing it.  I have already said in the previous post that we perceive only images.  Even if we were to concede the existence of eyes and a brain, what we are perceiving must be created by us somehow, there's no way of establishing that those images represent some reality external to us.

There is a big mental problem here.  For someone like me who has been interested in the scientific view of the universe for a lifetime, it's a very big change to start questioning the very existence of that universe.  It's an exciting feeling but how can I actually start to believe in what logical enquiry is telling me? For eight decades I have been believing stuff that now, upon careful enquiry, starts to look like mere assumptions, mental constructions - for there can be no doubt that that is what our "knowledge" of the universe amounts to.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Philosophical thoughts about the nature of reality

For a while I am going to use this blog to clarify my philosophy regarding the nature of the world by writing it down as clearly as possible.

1.      Contact with objects in the world is through our senses.  I only know the perceptions of those objects coming to me through my senses, I do not know the objects directly, since I have no direct contact with them.
2.      I seem to have direct contact with my senses, though.  You might even say I am my perceptions. They are at least a part of me, if not all of me.  I don’t really  have a perception, since without someone to perceive it there can be no perception.
3.      For a perception to exist, there must be something perceived, real or imaginary.  Now I come to think about this, there does not seem to be any way to tell the difference between a real object of perception and an imaginary one.  That at least suggests that all percepts could be imaginary and we would never know it.
4.      So a perception needs a perceiver and something to be perceived, otherwise there is no perception.
5.      Without any perceptions, I am just potentially aware.  I can hardly say I am aware if there is nothing to be aware of.
6.      But perhaps I can be deep asleep, not dreaming.  Am I aware then?  I don’t know.  My senses are ready to work, I can be woken by a sound or a touch, or even a smell. So there must be some awareness, even though there isn’t anything to be aware of.
7.      Since perceiver-perception-perceived cannot be dismembered without disappearing, all I know about the world is a part of me by virtue of its being perceived by me.
8.      But the world does not feel to be a part of me.  For over eighty years I have been  used to regarding it as separate from me, and arguing that it isn’t, as I have just been doing, isn’t enough to convince me.  I am a creature of habit.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Radical teaching

I ask you only to stop imagining that you were born, have parents, are a body, will die and so on. Just try, make a beginning — it is not as hard as you think.

Nisargadatta Maharaj

McKenna, Jed (2010-02-28). Spiritual Warfare (The Enlightenment Trilogy) (p. 119). Wisefool Press.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Our little fish pond

Rose likes to keep fish and breed them.  One female Swordtail has recently given birth to more than 80 babies. I am amazed at the number she manages to keep in her body, she is about two inches long and the babies are about 1/6 inch long.  How are the babies fed in her womb, I wonder?

The fish normally live in our pond which is a little less than two metres square, but when a female looks pregnant and might be about to deliver, She is put in a tank, then when she has finished delivering her fry, she is returned to the pond and not kept with the fry because parents sometimes like to eat their children.  The fry will be transferred to the pond when they are big enough not to be eaten - perhaps 3/4 inch long.

Th pond itself is one foot deep at one side, sloping to two feet at the other.  There are three water lily plants (they multiply) and a large quantity of Acharis, a fast-growing plant that can choke up the whole pond and has to be severely pruned from time to time to give the fish room to swim and us the possibility of observing them.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

I have re-blogged this from Goran Backlund's excellent blog

Free Will: How Would It Actually Work?

Free WillThe notion of free will simply doesn’t make sense. Having realized the fictitious nature of objective reality, the question is a non-starter—there’s simply no entity to possess it—but even if, for the sake of discussion, we grant the existence of a material universe, there’s still no way in which “free will” could ever be an intelligible notion. That is, if we ask ourselves what we actually mean by the word “free,” we can’t seem to come up with an answer.
Commonly, the notion of “free will” means something like: To be able to have chosen otherwise. In other words, “I did this, but I could have done that instead.”
But what does it mean that ‘I could have done differently?’
Let’s say that I chose vanilla ice cream. But I firmly believe that I could have chosen chocolate instead. I believe that the choice to take the vanilla flavour came from myself, that the choice was mine. Sure, I may have been influenced by external forces, but I alone ultimately decided whether I wanted vanilla or chocolate ice cream today. Right?
But if the choice to take the vanilla was caused by me, what then caused me to cause that choice? There has to have been a prior cause; some force making me decide what to eat—whether internal or external—otherwise that choice to take the vanilla ice cream is simply indistinguishable from a random one. In other words, unless I decide to decide, or something decides for me, the choice is simply random.
So, do I decide to decide? Of course not. Then we would have to admit another decision, one that decided that we were going to decide to decide, and so on ad infinitum.
The only possibilities left are either that choices are random, or they’re caused—their causes themselves being caused, and so on, “all the way back,” so to speak—but neither of these alternatives fit what we mean by the word “free.” So, what do we mean?
Well, there’s the problem. When we truly  try to comprehend the concept of “free will,” we realize that we don’t even know what we mean.  The notion is literally inconceivable.
Either choices depend on something, in which case they’re not “free,” or they don’t, in which case they’re indistinguishable from random ones. There’s no third alternative here.
Even if we grant the existence of some kind of “soul” that exists outside of the chain of causation, yet with the ability to inject decisions into it, we would still be unable to come up with an idea of how ‘free will’ would actually work. If we as the source of a decision exist outside of the chain of causation, how’s that decision any different from a merely random one? And do we really mean to say that our souls are uncaused? We usually think that some force put us here; but if anything, whatever is responsible for putting us here would then also be the ultimate cause for any decisions that we come up with.
Does all of this mean that there’s no possibility of choice? That there aren’t a multitude of possible outcomes? That everything is “on rails,” so to speak? Yes it does.
The idea that anything could be different than it is, is simply delusion. The idea that there were multiple possible outcomes to an event is nothing but a way of thinking. We call events “random” when we couldn’t predict what was going to happen, mentally creating a plethora of “possible outcomes” – but all of that is just in thought. It’s just a way of thinking. None of that exists in reality.
The way things are, is simply the only way they could be.
When you realize this—that nothing could be different than it is—the habit of incessantly worrying about past and future decisions can finally come to an end. Thoughts surrounding the notions of selection and choice need not to occupy our consciousness anymore; instead, their absence signifies a newfound freedom: anything but constant perfection is starting to become unthinkable. In the absence of these thoughts surrounding the notion of “free will,” we can at last rest assured that everything is always unfolding exactly as it should.
by Göran Backlund

I strongly recommend Goran's book "Refuting the External World" , the clearest exposition of what reality is that I have yet read.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

The cause of human suffering and conflict

I have re-blogged this from

The cause of human suffering and conflict is our commitment to the illusions we call values, morals and ethics. Values, morals and ethics do not exist outside of our cultural- existential minds. They do not exist in reality and are therefore a figment of our culturally and existentially indoctrinated imagination. We believe or think values exist when in fact they do not. This describes the schizophrenic mind. The schizophrenic mind is separated from reality and centered in unreality or what psychologists call fantasy, believing this fantasy to be real. Cultural/existential humanity exists entirely within the framework of illusionary values, morals and ethics and is therefore absolutely schizophrenic. We are either affirmatively committed to the existence of values, morals and ethics or we are not. If we are committed to the existence of values, morals and ethics, we are schizophrenic and consequently insane. If we are not committed to values, morals and ethics, then confusion, conflict and insanity are not a part of our psychological nature. The term insane is used to describe the personal and social actions of the schizophrenic personality. There can be no conflict without the values of right or wrong being offended or defended. There can be no guilt or repression without the values of right or wrong, good or bad having been applied. There can be no psychological neurosis or psychosis without the fears associated with the loss or gain of that valued. There can be no anxiety without the anticipation or expectation concerning future uncertainties about success or failure. There can be no frustration without a desired goal being thwarted. The illusionary concepts of values, morals and ethics exist so that we may judge, separate and divide, and then pit the one side against the other. This enables the persons involved to feel either superior or inferior as the case may be. This is the underlying motivation for all cultural-existential activity. Due to the divisive and conflicting nature of duality, cultural/existential humanity can be described as being not only sociopathic (anti-social) in its attitude and response to humankind, but also psychopathic (aggressively anti-social) much of that time. Since confusion, conflict and insanity are the consequence of our commitment to values, morals and ethics, and peace exists when there is no confusion, conflict or insanity present, it can be concluded that peace is the consequence of having no values, no morals and no ethics. If values, morals and ethics are the direct cause of all human suffering and conflict and do not exist in the tao/eden/reality, and if peace and sanity are to be realized, we must refuse to take part in their use.

Friday, September 19, 2014

"Like and dislike is the disease of the mind." Hsin Hsin Ming by Seng-ts’an from the 6th century. Thanks to Graham Ellis,

The Great Way is not difficult, for those who have no preferences. Let go of longing and aversion, and it reveals itself.
Make the smallest distinction, however, and you are as far from it as heaven is from earth. If you want to realize the truth, then hold no opinions for or against anything.
Like and dislike is the disease of the mind.
When the deep meaning (of the Way) is not understood the intrinsic peace of mind is disturbed.
As vast as infinite space, it is perfect and lacks nothing.
Indeed, it is due to your grasping and repelling That you do not see things as they are.
Do not get entangled in things; Do not get lost in emptiness. Be still in the oneness of things and dualism vanishes by itself.
When you try to stop motion to achieve quietude, the very effort fills you with activity.
As long as you hold on to opposites you will never know the One Way.
Those who do not understand the Way will assert or deny the reality of things.
Deny the reality of things, you miss its deeper reality;
Assert the reality of things, you miss the emptiness of all things.
The more you think about it, the further you are from the truth.
Cease all thinking, and there is nothing that will not be revealed to you.
To return to the root is to find the essence, but to pursue appearances is to miss the Source. The moment you are enlightened, you go beyond appearances and emptiness.
Changes that seem to occur in the (empty) world, appear real only because of ignorance.
Do not search for the truth; only cease to cherish opinions.
Do not hold to dualistic views, avoid such habits carefully.
If there is even a trace of right and wrong, the mind is lost in confusion.
Although all dualities arise from the One, do not cling even to this One.
When the mind exists undisturbed in the Way, everything is without fault.
When things can no longer be faulty, it is as if there are no things. When the mind can no longer be disturbed, it is as if there is no mind. When thought-objects vanish, the thinking-subject vanishes.
When the mind vanishes, objects vanish.
The arising of other gives rise to self; giving rise to self generates other. Know these seeming two facets as one Emptiness.
In this Emptiness, the two are indistinguishable and each contains in itself the whole.
When no discrimination is made between this and that, how can you prefer one to another?
The Great Way is all-embracing, not easy, not difficult.
Those who rely on limited views are fearful and irresolute; the faster they hurry, the slower they go.
Clinging, they go too far, even an attachment to enlightenment is to go astray. Just let things be in their own way as they are,
and there is neither coming nor going.
Be in harmony with the Way
and you will be free of disturbances. Tied by your thoughts, you lose the truth, become heavy, dull, and unwell.
Not well, the mind is troubled.
Then why cling to or reject anything?
If you wish to move in the One Way, do not dislike even the world of senses and ideas.
Indeed, to accept them fully is identical with true Enlightenment. The wise attaches to no goals, but the foolish fetter themselves.
There is but one Dharma, not many.
Distinctions arise from the clinging needs of the ignorant. Using mind to stir up the mind
is the original mistake.
Peaceful and troubled derive from thinking; Enlightenment has no likes or dislikes.
All dualities come from ignorant inference.
They are like unto dreams or flowers in the air, the foolish try to grasp them.
Gain and loss, right and wrong, abandon all such thoughts at once.
If the eye never sleeps, all dreams will naturally cease.
If the mind makes no discriminations, all things are as they are, of One-essence.
To understand the mystery of this One-essence is to be released from all entanglements.
When all things are seen without differentiation, you return to the origin and remain what you are.
Consider the movement in stillness and the stationary in motion, both movement and rest disappear.
When such dualities cease to exist even Oneness itself cannot exist.
This ultimate state is not bound by rules and descriptions.
For the Realized mind, at one with the Way, all doing ceases.
Doubts and irresolutions vanish and the Truth is confirmed in you.
With a single stroke you are freed from bondage; nothing clings to you and you hold onto nothing.
All is void, clear, and self-illuminating, with no need to exert the mind.
Here thinking, feeling, knowledge, and imagination are of no value.
In this world of “as it really is” there is neither self nor other. To swiftly accord with that, only express nonduality.
In this nonduality nothing is separate, nothing is excluded.
The enlightened of all times and places have personally realized this truth.
The Truth is beyond time and space, one instant is eternity.
Not here, not there - but everywhere always right before your eyes.
Infinitely large and infinitely small, no difference, for definitions have vanished and no boundaries can be discerned.
So too with “existence” and “non-existence.”
Don’t waste time in arguments and discussion, attempting to grasp the ungraspable.
One thing and everything move among and intermingle without distinction.
To live in this Realization is to not worry about perfection or non-perfection.
To put your trust in the Way is to live without separation, and in this nonduality you are one with the Way.
Words! Words!
The Way is beyond language,
Words never could, can not now, and never will describe the Way.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

How come this book is so popular?

A couple of days ago I stumbled on this site.  Ann Voscamp, the owner of the site and author of a best-selling book, and her family are such an attractive bunch of people, so I looked on Amazon for the book and reviews. I took advantage of amazon's "look inside" facility, and read some, but the style was so difficult to read and the subject-matter so - in my philosophy - (as in Hamlet I mean) blindly Bible-believing and dangerously misguided that I started wondering (for the thousandth time) how such lovely people could espouse such impossible beliefs. Perhaps it's just Ann, but most likely her husband, too, and then inevitably at least some of the children, some of whom are old enough to have developed beliefs of their own or at least abandoned those of the parents.

 Then I started reading some of the reviews. As it happened, the reviews were shown in order of "helpfulness", and the most helpful ones turned out to be generally unfavourable, often reflecting my own views especially as to style and readability. I found it astonishing that such a difficult book should become a Number 6 best seller on amazon. I also felt anew the very familiar feeling of puzzlement about a large number of apparently sensible people adopting such apparently non-sensical beliefs and using those beliefs as guides to an apparently useful and fulfilling life.

This is the whole problem of religion, for me. To religious people (and I think that means the majority) belief is all, it doesn't have to make sense, but it has to appeal to the emotions. Glaring inconsistencies, such as the existence of other religions with different beliefs underpinning them, are ignored or treated the way I treat all religions: they are mostly mistaken and their adherents misguided. The fact is that life treats everybody with indifference, whatever religion or lack of religion they espouse. Life does not care whether you are a Christian or a Muslim or an atheist, whether you are a philanthropist or a mass murderer. People want to see order and reason in life (though there is really no necessity for it) so they invent stories which seem to justify their situation or the situations of others; but I don't believe such stories. Karma, the wrath of God, Satan's tempting, past lives, judgement after death etc - all stories, pure invention.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Growing old

One thing about getting old in this country, people go out of their way to help quite often.  If I am standing at the back of a long line at the supermarket, I may find one of the male staff suddenly appearing at my side, taking my cart and gently pushing it and me right through the checkout and towards a cash desk in another area of the store which for some reason does not have anyone waiting.  Then again, I went into the bank last week to withdraw some cash and many of their lights weren’t working.  I took my withdrawal slip to an area where there seemed to be more light (my vision in poor light is bad and writing by hand has been very difficult for me for the past three or four years due to tremor) and Joyce, one of the tellers, immediately came round to me with a pen and withdrawal slip in her hand, asked me what my requirements were, wrote out the slip herself and a minute later the other teller was giving me my cash in the assorted denominations she knows I like.  It was all done with smiles into the bargain.
I have never regretted leaving UK and settling in this country.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Reality again

When considering the substance of reality, what things are actually made of, how about considering the substance of what dreams are made of?  What is the scenery of your dreams made of?

Could it be the same with the substance of our “real” world?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Suggestions for Happiness (practical and philosophical)

1.     Eat what you like, but no more than you need
2.    Spend money only if you have it.  I have a credit card but the balance is paid in full automatically every month.  It’s a convenience mainly for shopping online.
3.    Life happens, so it’s best to accept fully whatever Life brings to you. Non-acceptance is called suffering.
4.    Assume you do not actually control anything. It’s very likely nobody controls anything, anyway.  If you think you are controlling your life, you may be mistaken. Just do what is there to be done. There can be no evidence that you have or had any choice in the matter.  This will save you a lot of worry. Giving up the illusion of free will is a radical step, but don’t you think some radical steps are needed?
5.    Understand that the past does not exist.  Memories are thoughts and feelings and if they arise they are happening now.  Life, including thoughts and feelings, can only be happening now. Even the concept “now” implies some other time, but there is no other time. The future does not exist, either; hopes, fears, expectations are thoughts and feelings only.  They are happening now.

(If there is inconsistency in these suggestions, please don’t expect a tidy scheme.  Take it or leave it.)

If there is no other time than now, then there can be no actual time, it wouldn’t make sense. The whole idea of time is just that – an idea. A convenience for everyday living.  For scheduling stuff.

I have found it very instructive lately, very helpful, to investigate carefully the nature of what is seen as reality.  Just going by my actual experience, without making any assumptions, I can see that everything I have been used to thinking of as “out there”, outside me, is really inseparable from my perceptions – in other words, a part of me.  So I could say that my world is inside me.  Or is me.  What I have been used to thinking of as “reality,” separate from me, is a thought construct,  a set of assumptions.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Sense of “I”

There’s something very strange about the sense of “I” each of us has.  Have you never wondered why you feel to be the person you are and not someone else?  Who decided you should be you? And if you were someone else, you wouldn’t realize it, probably.

There are a (relatively) few people who have lost this sense of “I”, some after much searching for the answer to this riddle or to some other universal question, but in many cases just suddenly and unexpectedly without any searching at all. They say this relieves them of worries, hopes, fears and regrets - in other words, they no longer suffer - and gives them freedom; they now understand that they are not a person: that person they thought they were was just a tiresome, restrictive illusion, and they call this new state of affairs liberation or enlightenment.  

You cannot get this liberation by looking for it, they say, because your idea that you don’t already have it is part of the illusion, so looking for something you already actually have makes no sense and gives no result.  You only need to realize it. 

No paths lead to it, you cannot get nearer to it just because the idea that you are not already enlightened is an illusion.  A “person” never becomes enlightened, because enlightenment entails the loss of the illusion of being a person. There never was a person .

Enlightenment doesn’t result in a life free from pain and problems, because the body/mind organism you have been used to thinking of as yours is still living the human game, of which pain and problems are an intrinsic part. There is no person but there is still a body with its associated thoughts and feelings we call the “mind,” and apparently its character is usually little changed by the transformation.   It is just no longer a personal possession.  To outward appearances, it seems the same as before, but the subjective experience is radically different.

To add to the fun, enlightenment appears to bring the realization that there is no such thing as free will.  Life happens, normally we think we are controlling our little bit, at least to some extent; but this, too, is part of the illusion.  And you don’t need enlightenment to realize that not having any free will is a distinct possibility, because it is impossible to demonstrate that you could have done something differently at the  time you did it.  If something can never be demonstrated, it is probably just an assumption and not true at all, but that doesn’t stop most people from believing it, because belief in free will is one of the important aspects of the game of being a human on planet Earth. I sometimes try to imagine what life would be like if everyone knew they had no free will.

Absence of free will means, of course, absence of any agent capable of exercising it. This alone reduces our personhood to very little – a completely passive thing, obviously not a person in any meaningful sense of the word.
Philosophers of every persuasion have had something to say about free will, so it seems that a little thought will give us pause and cause us to wonder if we really have such a faculty. Here is a link to a discussion of the matter of free will in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

The great majority do not wish to apply their thinking abilities to these tricky questions, they just prefer to get on with life as they believe it to be normally lived.  My wife is a good example: when I ask her to show that she really has free will, she cannot, or she will assert that merely saying she is going to do something and then doing it means she has free will.  Anyway, she believes she has it and that's enough for her!  She, like most, wants to use thinking to work out how to play the game more successfully, not to question the whole setup.  Thinking too closely may seriously interfere with the rules of the game!


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