Sunday, 31 May 2015

Consciousness And Reflection

Consciousness is a process in an organism.
Not in an immaterial soul.
Therefore, it is continually affected by other organic processes.
Most, including early, consciousness is not dispassionate.

Instead, it is motivated by biological processes.
Then by emergent psychological processes.
Psychology is of consciousness.
However, paradoxically, many psychological processes remain or become unconscious.

Momentary individual consciousness contains:
immediate sensory impressions;
wants and fears;
emotional reactions;
apparently random thoughts caused by unconscious mental processes.

There may also be:
the ability to reflect;
consequences of the practice of reflection.

Levels of being:


Can society encourage individual reflection?

Friday, 29 May 2015

After Meditation

Through a window after meditation:

blue sky
white clouds
green leaves

That is all.
It is enough.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

The One and the Sun

Reality develops through qualitatively different levels.
From a vacuum filled with virtual particles to consciousness contemplating total reality.
Emergent levels incorporate and transcend earlier levels.
Religion is response to the highest transcendence.

The highest transcendence is total reality, incorporating every level.
Religions refer to trans-human consciousnesses.
However, imagined gods are myths, metaphors, projections and personifications, not realities.
Reality is single, thus the One.

The One is legitimately personified as a solar deity, thus the life-giving Sun. 

Tuesday, 26 May 2015


I was brought up and educated by people who took for granted that I ought to conform, compete and succeed. I had no inclination to do any of that but it took me a long time to realize what I should have been doing instead. A better agenda would have been: change society and self. I had some idea of self-change but it was distorted by the religious indoctrination which was massively inconsistent: issues of religious belief and practice are ultimately serious but don't take them too seriously - unless you become a priest, in which case you are compartmentalized and pigeonholed for the rest of your life. We were told answers before we knew what the questions were.

Of course, in zazen, we do not act on the self to change it. We are merely aware of it. However, the transition from unawareness to awareness is itself a change. We do not try to change ourselves but do in fact change as a result of the practice. However, the change is usually gradual and not externally measurable. Merely to talk about it is to invite the reply that there is no discernible change and there is no need to deny that.

Meanwhile, acting collectively to change society is a matter of urgency. But we do this with others who agree that it is necessary. We do not argue with those who meditate that they should instead be changing society or vice versa. And it can take decades to realize this. But life was not designed for our convenience. It merely happened.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015


At what age or stage do we become capable of reflection and self-criticism? And how soon after that do we start to be reflective and self-critical? Some people never seem to. I knew a man who was always in conflict and always obviously in the right - in his opinion.

Present consciousness did not perform past acts but this psychophysical organism did perform them and present consciousness needs to acknowledge that. The first person singular pronoun refers both to the organism with a history of acting in particular ways (karma) and to present consciousness with the potential to transcend karma. I am neither identical with nor different from my past self so it is necessary to understand the relationship between past and present selves.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Materialism And Transcendence

I keep trying to use the form of Indian philosophical sutras to express my understanding of materialism and transcendence although this involves repetition of phrases that are my best attempt to account for the emergence of consciousness from unconscious biological processes -

Naturally selected organismic sensitivity to environmental alterations quantitatively increased until it was qualitatively transformed into conscious sensation.
Then, sensation was naturally selected because pleasure and pain have survival value.
Thus, animal consciousness is a biological means to survival.
However, human consciousness has become a moral end in itself.

We exist for consciousness, not for self.
Being became self-conscious through psychophysical organisms.
Thus, being is the universal subject of consciousness although most natural processes remain unconscious.
Individual organisms are not separate selves but members of the one universal self.

Mara And Other Myths


is the Buddhist tempter;

mythologically, is a distinct supernatural being;

but is adequately explicable as an aspect of mind or psyche, a perverse mental process;

can be experienced as a distinct inner voice because the self is not a unitary entity;

was Gautama's doubts arguing against the potential Buddha - contradictory psychological processes in a single organism;

teaches only the First Noble Truth whereas the Buddha taught all four - Suffering, Cause, End and Way;

says, "You are entitled to feel resentment and obliged to feel guilt - continue to suffer;"

is not the same inner process as the Goddess although they might cooperate, e.g., by fusing desire and resentment.

We are not entitled to exist but are obliged to avoid wrong actions and to right past wrongs if possible although not to wallow in guilt. The present is the moment when reality appears, or when being presents itself, thus the moment of revelation and realization. Reality appears to those parts of itself that have become psychophysical organisms. It follows first that reality did not appear before it became such organisms and secondly that it ceases to appear to organisms as they cease to function. If, after my death, my memories and sense of identity are reproduced elsewhere, then the reproduction of my consciousness will be astonished while I, this organism, will be dead. (See here.)

Reality appears to human beings both as an immediate environment and as memories of past deeds. However, the past is a distraction from the present. It is necessary to accept a memory while it is present but not to think about it when, like the deeds remembered, it has become past and thus is no longer a presentation to consciousness. Reality presents itself anew at every moment. Some moments require a response from rational or practical thought but not from the negative thoughts inspired by Mara. We already experience on the Terrestrial plane what we will allegedly experience on the Bardo plane, past deeds preventing realization.

To use Biblical terminology, every day is the Day of Judgment but in Buddhism we judge ourselves. To use Biblical imagery, the Son of Man is always coming on the clouds of heaven but we look up and do not see. The Son of Man who came to find what was lost is a Bodhisattva. (At least one Bodhisattva must transfer merit to those who call on the name of Jesus.) Hindu gods are the man on the road to Emmaus and Krishna's million faces. Many are One and One is Many.

Words can be distractions, abstractions or realizations. Some texts are revered as inspired scriptures, e.g.: "Now I have seen you, builder of the house of ego. Your rafters are broken. Never more will you build."

Monday, 4 May 2015

Virtual Gods II

Gods have matured with us. They began as personifications of whatever was awesome and dreadful, outwardly experienced seas and storms, inwardly experienced lust and greed. Such gods could demand human sacrifice and were later regarded as demons. The most powerful Roman god (see image) broke all the moral laws.

Antithetically, morality without awe is secularist. Rudolf Otto argued that "holy" synthesizes "awesome" and "righteous" and that this synthesis defines the Biblical deity. Such an idea of God develops in the Bible. These categories remain meaningful even when we have ceased to personify them. CS Lewis rightly argued that fear of a ghost differs qualitatively from fear of a man-eating tiger and that both differ from the dread that we would feel if we believed that we were uncomfortably close to a "great spirit." To combine this dread with moral obligation is to complete Otto's synthesis.

However, I think that:

awe is part of our response to impersonal nature;

morality results from the natural selection of intelligent social animals - we help others either because they bear the same genes or because they might help us in return and this motivation is experienced as moral obligation, not as calculating self-interest, which is what it sounds like when expressed in biological terms.

These reflections on the development of religion and humanity were prompted by reading Poul Anderson's account of Hanno bearing gifts to Melqart. See here.