Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Original Karma

What are the biological or psychological causes of the phenomenon called "original sin" or "karma" in different religious traditions?

We were:

(i) active organisms long before we became reflective subjects;
(ii) necessarily immature and uninformed during several years of upbringing and education;
(iii) divisively indoctrinated from an early age;
(iv) often unempathetic as children;
(v) inclined to learn by imitating...;
(vi) not only subjects but also objects of consciousness, therefore sometimes performing for an audience;
(vii) treated in ways that exacerbated problems instead of resolving them;
(viii) arbitrarily endowed with different intelligence levels, aptitudes, interests, strengths and weaknesses;
(ix) often unaware that our world-view is not simply identical either with other world-views or with the world itself;
(x) inclined to identify with one group as against others.

Motives, experiences and conditioning generate unconscious mental processes that affect conscious thoughts and actions. Thus, there were multiple causes of misunderstanding and conflict even before society had divided into economic classes. 

Monday, 3 November 2014

Not Many Atoms Or Souls But One Reality

Some people thought that matter was composed of atoms existing independently of, although interacting with, each other and that consciousness was composed of independent souls, each interacting with a material body. Thus, material objects, including organisms, are transient, composite and interdependent whereas each atom and soul is permanent, simple and independent. Even on this hypothesis, I would argue that, if all that existed was a single soul, then that soul's consciousness would be merely potential because it would have no objects to be conscious of. Further, an unconscious immaterial entity with no external relationships would be a nonentity.

However, consciousness arises from and returns to matter, "dust"; subatomic particles arise from and return to energy. Thus, we are forms of a single being, not independent beings. The properties of every object and organism, including self-conscious organisms, depend on their relationships to everything else. An element that is fluid on Earth is solid on an outer planet. Each of us results from a particular course of history and did not preexist history.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

What I Should Have Done

What I should have done while still at boarding school:

become more aware of other people;
become less introverted, insensitive, inconsiderate, selfish etc;
thought about society and politics;
seen through religious indoctrination more quickly;
practised zazen.

However, "should" implies "can," whereas, at that time, I was completely incapable of doing most of these things. "Should" can only mean "It would have been better if..." A completely different upbringing and education would have helped.

If we knew that some adults meditated without any supernaturalist belief, then we would have had the opportunity to inquire further. Years of merely reading about religions in general and Buddhism in particular could have been bypassed.

Friday, 3 October 2014

What We Know Through Science

There are four forces.
Matter is composed of molecules, atoms and sub-atomic particles.
Properties of particles differ qualitatively from those of macroscopic objects.
Time, volume and mass differ with velocity.
Light speed is an upper limit for acceleration of mass.
Simultaneity is relative.
Mass and energy are inter-convertible.
Natural laws and inanimate matter generated life.
Species were differentiated by natural selection.
The Sun is the center of the Solar System.
There are planets beyond Saturn.
The Sun is a star.
Stars generate heavy elements necessary for life, then explode, thus spreading the elements through space where they condense into a second generation of stars and planets.
There are many galaxies.
The universe is expanding.
There are black holes.
There is dark matter and dark energy.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014


After decades of practicing zazen, I experience extreme distaste for many aspects of myself, past, recent and current. However, I feel exactly the same distaste for the behavior of some, though not all, of the people that I have interacted with. Blame is inappropriate. Distaste is not.

In particular, Catholic indoctrination reinforced by physical coercion was simply abominable. At least I learned how not to bring up a child or to educate young people. Many good and intelligent people never see through or break from their early conditioning and pass it on to the next generation. Members of each new generation have to think and inquire for themselves. Anyone could have been taken as a child and indoctrinated as a Muslim instead of as a Catholic or vice versa, yet each thinks that, fortunately for them, they have been brought up in the one religion that happens to be true as against any of the many that are so obviously wrong.

I started to inquire, at first by trying to rationalize received doctrines, but was paying insufficient attention to the bastards around me.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Thou Art THAT

Everything that we perceive is the one reality appearing to itself. Each of us is that reality conscious of itself. Thus, reality is always here and now, not elsewhere. But we need to realize that.

We need to realize a reality that is not remote because it is us, although not only us. We also perceive it by observing to the event horizon of the universe. Reality is within us and everywhere outside us and develops by transcending its earlier levels:

consciousness transcends unconsciousness;
self-consciousness transcends sensation;
development and transcendence continue.

Thus, reality is immanent, omnipresent and transcendent. Epithets applied to the supreme being in theism can instead be applied to being as understood by impersonalists and materialists.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Incarnations Of The One

As someone approaches us from a distance, we might recognize him facially or he might turn out to be wearing a badge that identifies him as a fellow member of a church, party or other organization. Otherwise, although we might exchange greetings as we pass, we will have no reason to stop and speak.

Imagine that there ceases to be a distinction between friends, acquaintances, relatives or fellow members on the one hand and mere passersby on the other. If the many are incarnations of the One, then the appropriate response is to recognize and respect every other person as a fellow member of the universal self.

We really are all in it together despite the fact that current economic and social relationships set us apart. In fact, we already recognize a basic unity underlying social divisions:

theoretically, everyone is equal before the law;
if a Duke and his servant are trapped inside a burning building, then the Fire Brigade's only concern is to rescue two living human beings, not to get the Duke out first;
the Duke should agree that, if a choice had to be made, then a woman and child, even if they are commoners, should be got to safety before he is.

Imagine a civilization based on recognition of unity. For a start, no borders. Olaf Stapledon's Last Men gather and stand silently in public places or outside their dwellings when they make a telepathic linkage that temporarily generates the Racial Mind. This may not be possible, nor is it necessary. If humanity survives, then it will have to value difference without division and unity without uniformity. And everyone will be equally at one with their environment when alone as when in company.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

"...Inside You There Is A God"

Originally published on Comics Appreciation,26 July 2014.

Mr Cream tells Michael Moran:

"Mr. Moran...Listen very carefully...You are a fool. You are a weakling and a coward...But inside you there is a GOD. Inside you there is SOMEONE BETTER THAN US... ...And whatever the cost, you must PROTECT him."
-Miracleman No 7 (New York, 2014), p. 16.

Comic book dialogue has its own ways of emphasizing words and phrases.

I quote this dialogue because it is true of Moran while he is not Miracleman but also because it is true of every human being.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

The One And The Self

At every moment, we face towards the One or the self.
The One is without, symbolized by the Sun.
The self is within, a mental construct.
But the One is within, an inner oneness.
And the self is without, superficial thoughts and distractions.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Wisdom And Delusion

The Buddha knew that he would die and would not be reborn.

Jesus believed that, after he had vicariously suffered for Israel but while he was still alive, a legion of angels would rescue him from the cross and that God would then reimpose His direct rule over the whole Earth. He died realizing that this approach had failed.

St Paul believed that Jesus had risen, had appeared to him and would return to initiate the kingdom as soon as he, Paul, had completed his mission to the Gentiles.

Maybe all three had some insight but the second and third let their imaginations generate illusions.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Gratitude And Imagination

I find it natural to express thanks, e.g., for sunlight and to address the imagined giver as "Lord," although that title is culturally specific. St Augustine imagined that the Sun, planets and stars told him, "Don't worship us. He made us." What they tell us is: "Don't worship any Giver. We evolved, as you are evolving."

It is possible that more highly evolved beings help the development of the less evolved. As we are, they were. As they are, we will be. We can imagine, without believing in the literal existence of, a deity who, with power, wisdom and compassion, directed the formation of our universe and who currently watches its evolution from a distant shore or balcony while his brothers and sisters oversee other cosmic realms. They are young but older than universes.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Reality And Appearance

When the one reality becomes self-conscious, it necessarily appears to itself as other, many, extended and enduring; thus as many discrete objects, including some individual subjects, coexisting in a spatiotemporal realm. Each psychophysical organism is simultaneously the one self-conscious reality and one of many individual subjects. Unconscious organisms are intermediate between inanimate objects and conscious organisms.

A spatiotemporal realm of objects none of which is a subject is a pre- or post-conscious state of reality. A material object external to consciousness is not necessarily an object of consciousness or vice versa. The latter also include abstractions, like concepts and possibilities. 

Sunday, 22 June 2014


Some antitheses are clear:


The four forces, or single unified force, of nature are impersonal and function unconsciously. Empirically, consciousness arises only in certain organism-environment interactions.

Logical and mathematical relationships are atemporal. We do not say that two plus two equals four now at 12.25 on Sunday, 22 June 2014 but might not later.

Consciousness and personality cannot be atemporal but could they be transtemporal and, if so, what would that mean? There is a qualitative difference between animal and human consciousness with different levels of each. Superhuman consciousness, again with different levels, is at least possible. We might contact or become it.

Can there be transpersonality? It would have to incorporate personality just as solids incorporate plane figures which incorporate lines, but how?

The atemporal negates time whereas the transtemporal would have to transcend but incorporate it. If we contemplate a fictitious biography, then we do not regard any moment of that biography as present although we do imagine that the fictitious character regards each moment as present while experiencing it. Thus, we transcend the fictitious timeline but not our own. How would it be possible to transcend time as such?

I think that everything has to be either conscious or unconscious. There might be higher levels of consciousness but how could there be a third category of "trans-consciousness?" 

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

The Lotus

The lotus grows from dark places. Consciousness and potential enlightenment grow from the memories of unenlightened actions. If, at each moment, we had no memory of any previous moment so that every sensation began and ended simultaneously and had zero duration, then we would be unconscious.

However, memories perpetuate attachments, aversions and identifications that are unenlightened responses to present awareness.

Saturday, 7 June 2014


What is the relationship between the present subject of consciousness and the remembered self of past actions? The present and remembered selves are spatiotemporally continuous. This is the criterion of personal identity for practical, legal and moral purposes. In this sense, it is undeniable that a past action was performed by me and not by anyone else.

Spiritually, past and present selves are neither simply identical nor simply different. I did it although it was not the present I that did it. (On the other hand, the very recent self has remained capable of "wrong actions," in Buddhist terminology.)

In meditation, we approach:

acceptance of responsibility, as against attachment to guilt, by letting memories of past actions arise and pass without denying, suppressing, rationalizing or analyzing them, except when the analysis can lead to a beneficial outcome;

an awareness, realization and understanding that are deeper than feelings or emotions and that cannot be hastened by either thought or will - so we need patience.

I also need more clarity about past and present selves.

Friday, 6 June 2014


It has become this and us.
We contemplate this and It.

Do we need another pronoun for the Absolute? Advaita Vedantists, quoting Chandogya Upanishad, say, "Thou art That." So should I write "That" instead of "It"?

It is currently understood as energy. I think that we are It's self-consciousness.

Sri Chinmoy, using theistic language, said:

"Man said, 'I need you for my realization.' God said, 'I need you for my manifestation.'"

He also compared Hinduism to a mother who listens when one of her children meditates and says, "Mother, God is impersonal," and also when another of her children meditates and says, "Mother, God is personal." In both cases, she says, "I see, my child."

The Purpose Of Life?

What is the purpose of life?

Life was not designed but evolved so it has no purpose.

Is survival not its purpose?

It has no purpose. Some organisms survive longer than others because they are better able to survive in their environment but survival is not their purpose. All organisms die but death is not their purpose.

Why do conscious beings have purposes?

Organisms were naturally selected for sensitivity to environmental alterations.
Therefore, sensitivity quantitatively increased until it was qualitatively transformed into sensation.
Then, sensation was selected because pleasure and pain have survival value.
Therefore, survival and pleasure are purposes of conscious organisms but not of life.

So we have purposes although we do not exist to fulfill any purpose?


What purposes should human beings pursue?

"And it harm no one, do what thou wilt."

But what needs to be done? (Lenin: What Is To Be Done?)

Self-conscious purposive individuals exist only in social relationships so the question, "What is to be done about human life?" divides into "What is to be done about consciousness?" and "What is to be done about society?"

Well, what is to be done about them, then?

Many answers are given but I think that the most helpful are Zen for consciousness and Marxism for society. Zen is practice of immediate awareness without a future goal whereas Marxist practice is purposive and aims to make itself redundant.

I am thinking of Rev W, a Zen monk, and Comrade M, a revolutionary socialist who left the organization because of problems last year. These men seem to have nothing in common and even to be opposites in many respects but both addressed the question, "What is to be done?" The logic of changing society is to change mental states and vice versa although those who approach the question from opposite ends rarely meet.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Religious Experiences

I was indoctrinated in Catholicism but have heard and read enough Evangelical propaganda to know the difference between these two interpretations of Christianity. I accept Evangelicals' testimony that belief in Christ can change lives. It does not follow that a man who died two thousand years ago still exists as a supernatural being. The mind is powerful enough to generate illusions and alternative perceptions of reality.

The content of visionary experiences is culturally conditioned. Mystical experience is of inner union or identity between self and other. Numinous experience is of an awesome power or presence perceived as transcendent. None of these experiences requires an object that is personal, let alone identical with a semi-historical figure.

Evangelicals must accept my testimony that practice of zazen changes understanding and perceptions. It does not entail the continued existence of the Buddha as a supernatural being.

I heard an Evangelical street preacher inform the public that, without a personal relationship to Jesus, all the cultural wealth, knowledge and experience of humanity is worthless. This is obvious nonsense.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Four Spiritual Insights

The Buddha: There is a way to the end of suffering.
Bodhidarma: zazen, just sitting meditation.

Patanjali: Yoga is control of thoughts...by practice and nonattachment.
Krishna: karma yoga, nonattached action.

I accept these insights, not the teachings in which I was indoctrinated.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Preparing For Death

Plato wrote that philosophy was preparation for death, preparing to think without a body.

Christians believe that their religion prepares them for judgment after death.

Tibetan Buddhists believe that meditation prepares them for the bardo or intermediate state.

I suggest that meditation does prepare us for death - for letting go of everything, including thought and belief.

We are always close to death because life is temporary local negative entropy. We cannot swim against the stream indefinitely and will be swept down to the lowest energy level, the heat death of the universe.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Embodied Divinity II

many morphic gods; the Wanderer
pure monotheism
one never incarnated god; prophets
Petrine and Pauline Christianity
a man raised up by God
apparent incarnation
many temporary descents
Johannine Christianity
one permanent embodiment
Krishna and Aslan
perennial embodiment

This sequence begins and ends with gods like men, and sometimes like animals. "Morphic" means anthropomorphic and sometimes zoomorphic: Anubis, Ganesh, the evolutionary avatars of Vishnu. The Wanderer is simply Odin/Wotan on Earth. Krishna is the supreme deity on Earth according to some of his devotees.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Embodied Divinity

Non-Incarnational Traditions
In Jewish, Muslim and Sikh traditions, there is only one god who is never incarnated.
In Peter's Pentecost sermon and in Paul's Mars Hill sermon and Epistles, Jesus is a man raised up by God, not God.
Petrine Christianity was a Jewish sect; Pauline Christianity was transitional to Gentile Christianity.

Incarnational Traditions
In most Hindu traditions, many gods temporarily descend in animal or human form.
In Johannine Christianity, the power that created the universe in Genesis was permanently embodied at the Incarnation. An invisible spirit became a visible person. Divinity created, transcended and was embodied in the universe, then re-transcended it while remaining embodied. The key texts are the First Book of Moses and the Fourth Gospel.
In the Christian-influenced Krishna Consciousness tradition, the supreme god is permanently embodied as a blue man.
In a work of Christian fiction, the creative power was embodied as a talking lion in the beginning but returned to the human form at the end.

I discuss acknowledged fiction alongside scriptures in accordance with Alan Moore's dictum that "Religions are higher fictions." Here are four divine-human interactions:

never incarnated;
raised up;
temporarily descending;
permanently embodied.

Christ, Krishna and Aslan are the three permanently embodied divinities.

Addendum, 25 Mar '14: I omitted Gnostics and Docetists who, generally, assert that matter is evil, therefore that God cannot have been incarnated, but who also give an account of the apparent Incarnation as only an appearance. Their views may be akin to those of the Hindus for whom an incarnating deity merely descends, then re-ascends, without remaining permanently embodied.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

He Is Risen?

Everyone dies. In fact, nothing lasts. Inanimate objects are only apparently permanent. Some products of manual and mental labor endure for considerably longer than individual human beings. When it was pointed out to a Northern Irish coal delivery man that he was careless about leaving coal stains in a house, he replied, "There'll be fluers 'n' duers when we're a' deed." (There will be floors and doors when we are all dead.)

Long-lasting mental constructs include religious beliefs ("God"), philosophical concepts ("the Word") and religious-philosophical syntheses ("...the Word was with God and the Word was God"). Long-lasting physical constructions include temples and cathedrals which can even be adapted to express changing beliefs. (One building has been temple, church and mosque.)

Religions usually offer some form of immortality. Buddhism emphasizes mortality while also referring to a timeless Nirvana that is not endless survival but is also mysterious. Some religious post-death states negate or transcend individuality whereas others preserve it.

Spiritualists claim to prove immortality of the soul. Christianity is differentiated from all other religions by the proclamation that "Jesus is risen," not that he was revived two thousand years ago but that he is now and forever alive, having conquered death not as a spirit surviving a body but in a new kind of spiritual body. Quite a claim, if it were true. Christians can access Jesus' immortality but in entirely different ways: Catholics receive Communion; Evangelicals merely believe.

Jesus is also believed to be both Messiah and Savior but the Resurrection is supposed to verify both the Messiahship and the salvation so the Resurrection remains crucial. The belief that he is risen could only have been founded after his death so it was not founded by him. Peter proclaimed the Resurrection and thus founded Christianity. Jesus' teaching, while he was alive, was not Christianity but the same as John the Baptist's, "The Kingdom is at hand." Christians claim that the Kingdom came in the Resurrection but that was not its original meaning.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Two Ways

Two ways that meditation might go:

attention focused entirely on the present - no memories arising;
memories still arising but also a resolution of the identity yet difference between the self that performed past actions and the self that remembers having performed them.

The present self must neither deny responsibility for past actions and their consequences nor remain attached to guilt about them. I performed and remain responsible for discreditable actions even though it was not the present I that performed them. Intuitive understanding of the causes of the past self's actions might help the present self to resolve guilt and continued meditation might generate intuitive understanding.