Saturday, 31 December 2016

Greek Philosophical Schools

Carlo Rovelli, Reality Is Not What It Seems (Allen Lane, 2016), 1 "Grains," pp. 3-26.

Thales and his pupil, Anaximander, were natural philosophers.
Hecataeus differentiated history from myth.

Thales: "All is water," i.e., there is a single material substance.

Anaximander: the sky continues beneath the Earth;
rain comes from evaporation;
plants and animals evolve and adapt;
men must have evolved from other animals.

Parmenides and his pupil, Zeno, rejected empiricism in favor of rationalism.

According to tradition, Zeno taught Leucippus.

Leucippus and his pupil, Democritus, continued natural philosophy and founded atomism.

Lucretius poetically expressed the atomism of Epicurus, a pupil of a pupil of Democritus.

Plato and Aristotle rejected causal explanations in favor of teleology.

Centuries Dominated By Monotheism

On the Poul Anderson blog, we have discussed the connection between monotheism and science. See:

The Birth Of Science
Religion And Science
Different Histories

Here is an alternative perspective:

"...centuries dominated by monotheism have not permitted the survival of Democritus' naturalism. The closure of the ancient schools such as those of Athens and Alexandria and the destruction of all the texts not in accordance with Christian ideas were vast and systematic, at the time of the brutal anti-pagan repression following from the edicts of Emperor Theodosius, which, in 390-1 declared that Christianity was to be the only and obligatory religion of the empire. Plato and Aristotle, pagans who believed in the immortality of the soul or in the existence of a Prime Mover, could be tolerated by a triumphant Christianity. Not Democritus."
-Carlo Rovelli, Reality Is Not What It Seems (Allen Lane, 2016), p. 20.

Plato: immortality of the soul;
Aristotle: a Prime Mover but the soul as the form of the body;
both: teleological, not causal, explanations of natural phenomena.

Friday, 30 December 2016

"Time Does Not Exist"

Whereas my son-in-law gave me Jerusalem by Alan Moore, my granddaughter gave me Reality Is Not What It Seems: The Journey To Quantum Gravity (Allen Lane, 2016) by Carlo Rovelli. Chapter 7 of Rovelli's book is entitled "Time Does Not Exist." Does this agree with Eternalism? I suspect not.

I think that Rovelli means not that reality is static and therefore that change is an illusion but only that commonsense ideas about time are inadequate. This would be unsurprising. Many commonsense ideas are inadequate.

Descartes argued, "I think, therefore I am," i.e., even if all my experience were illusory, I would still exist as the experiencer of the illusion. Similarly, change occurs at least within the illusion. To articulate "Change does not occur" is to change from articulating "Change..." to articulating "...does not occur."

I will carefully read Rovelli's account of the progression from Greek philosophy through classical mechanics and relativity to quantum gravity in order to gain a more accurate understanding of his "Time Does Not Exist." Rovelli will have to be read in conjunction with Jerusalem.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

"It was still there..."

"He'd see Patsy, and put Georgie Bumble and the day as it had thus far been behind him. But you couldn't, he reflected, could you? No one could put anything behind them, draw a line beneath it and pretend that it had gone away. No deed, no word, no thought. It was still there back down the way, still there forever."
-Alan Moore, Jerusalem (London, 2016), p. 109.

In zazen, "just sitting" meditation, we:

accept that it is all still there although not all of it will return to memory every time;

practice sitting with it - not suppressing, prolonging, judging or thinking about it but just letting it arise and pass through the mind like clouds through the sky.

Not God, Zen.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Preliminary Thoughts On "Eternalism"

Every moment is:

the present moment to any conscious being that is alive and awake at that moment;
real because neither imaginary nor fictional;
either earlier or later than any other moment;
thus, past from some perspectives and future from others;
not simultaneous with any other moment.

Simultaneous events occur at the same time whereas different times are not the same time and therefore are not simultaneous.

See also Space and Time.

I am starting to read Jerusalem by Alan Moore. Its central idea is Eternalism so I expect to comment more.

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Doctrinal Disagreements About What Exists

Hindus say, "Soul exists," Buddhists say, "Soul does not exist," and physicists try to find out what exists.

Reality transcends words and concepts.

"Soul" means spirit, an immaterial substance that is the perennial subject of consciousness.

Philosophically, "matter" means just whatever exists independently of consciousness.

Idealist philosophies deny matter in that sense.

"Matter" also means tangible mass as opposed to any other form of energy.

The most fundamental ontological category in Buddhist teaching is "emptiness," a perennial process, not a substance.

Every individual subject or object of consciousness is "empty" because it is a transient interaction, lacking any permanent underlying substance.

The category, "substance," might be denied to particular entities but affirmed of the totality? Interactions might be between substantial particles or other fundamental entities?

However, physicists envisage a vacuum full of energy. See here.

"Energy" implies dynamic potential whereas "substance" implies mere passive existence and inertia.

However, both energy and inertia, or change and resistance to change, are necessary for existence. See here.

Some energy condenses into mass, thus into "substance."

Energy preexisted mass, is invisible and omnipresent and becomes self-conscious through conscious organisms.

Therefore, energy has some of the features anciently attributed to soul or spirit.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Atman And Anatta

If each subject of consciousness is one with the transcendent, then none is a separate self. Therefore, Atman-Brahman entails its apparent opposite, anatta.

The Upanishadic rishis and the Buddha inherited the concept of Atman.
The rishis affirmed Atman whereas the Buddha negated it.
However, the rishis' affirmation of the oneness of Atman negates its separateness and thus agrees with the Buddha.

Thesis: Atman.
Antithesis: anatta.
Synthesis: Brahman-Atman.

Meanings Of A Word

The word "god" was a common noun before it became a name. I discern four main uses of the word:

a god/the gods
God (Semitic)
God (Indian, theistic)
God (Indian, monistic)

These are not unitary meanings. The Semitic tradition includes:

Catholic priests
Muslim imams
Rapture preachers!

Since I believe neither that the gods exist nor that ultimate reality is a person, the monistic meaning is the only one that I can agree with philosophically. Isa Upanishad:

"Behold the universe in the glory of God: and all that lives and moves on earth." -

- is interpreted both theistically and monistically. See here.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Responses To The Problem Of Evil

Buddhist: Individually, we can address psychological causes of suffering.

Marxist: Collectively, we can address economic causes of social conflicts.

Christian: Transcendentally, God is addressing the problem.

Assessment: I find the Buddhist and Marxist responses complementary and the Christian response implausible.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Stages In The Development Of Christian Theology

(i) Jesus as Messiah is in direct male line of descent from Abraham.

(ii) Jesus is not in direct male line of descent from Abraham but is the Son of God because the divine Spirit impregnated his mother.

(iii) Jesus is the Son of God not because of a miraculous conception but because he is the incarnation of a pre-existent divine agent, "...the first-born of all creation..." (Col. 1. 15)

(iv) Jesus is not the Son of God but God the Son because the one God is three Persons, Father, Son and Spirit, and Jesus is the incarnation of the Son, thus of God.

(v) Jesus is not an incarnation but a mere appearance.

Comment: Let's return to Jesus as just a man.

His Last Words?
"My God, my God, why did you abandon me?" (Mk. 15. 34; Mt. 27. 46)
"Father! In your hands I place my spirit!" (Lk. 23. 46)
"It is finished!" (Jn. 19. 30)

Comments: These three accounts cannot all be true. It looks as if Mark recorded what was said and Matthew followed Mark whereas Luke and John rewrote the story to show Jesus as in control until the end.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

The Company Of The One

I am inadequate and incompetent but have been accepted into the Company of the One. Every conscious organism is in the Company but does not necessarily realize it. All that the One requires of us is consciousness of It. We fulfill this role at every conscious moment. However, future goals distract attention from a present role. Some goals are necessary for practical purposes. Others are imagined by the illusory separate self. The only real self is the One. We are the instruments of Its self-consciousness, naturally selected for organismic sensitivity to immediate environments but now capable of dispassionate contemplation of the One and All. Fortuna determines which potential organisms are born and thus initiates them into the Company.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Ways To Oneness With The Eternal

Religion is oneness with the eternal.
Theism is personification of the eternal.
There are many personifications -
- and other conceptions.

Some Ways To Oneness
devotion to Krishna
belief that Jesus saves
prayer, alms, fasting, pilgrimage
meditation and precepts

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

This is It

Walking into town: sun, blue sky, life, activity, consciousness. The One is. This is It.

Various problems remain to be resolved but meanwhile enjoy It - if possible.

Monday, 30 May 2016

The One And The Lord

Because of the immemorial traditions of my ancestors, I spontaneously address the One as "Lord."

Although every self-conscious individual is unique, each became self-conscious only through social interaction. Thought is internalized speech. Guilt is internalized shame. Even a hermit reflects a social context. One hermit is Christian, another is Hindu, whereas a human child brought up by animals is an animal without any ability to reflect on, identify with, reinterpret or reject a tradition.

Having internalized speech, we address not only fellow human beings but also nature, the heavens and the transcendent. However, philosophy and science depersonify nature. Thus, I know that the Sun is not a conscious being. Nevertheless, I feel grateful and meditate on the light of the god Savitri in the morning.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

A Peculiar Question

Organisms interact with their environments.
Animal interactions include sensations.
Human thought refines and transcends animal consciousness.
Thus, thought is one kind of organism-environment interaction.

Therefore, thought should end when an organism does.
We should not remain conscious on another plane after death -
- unless organically generated consciousness either becomes disembodied or is reproduced in another medium.
But why should it be?

An empirical question can be answered positively or negatively in specifiable conditions.
Example: whether there will be an eclipse at noon tomorrow.
An operationally meaningless question cannot be answered.
Example: whether the universe was created a moment ago with false records and memories.

The question of survival after death will be answered positively if there is survival.
However, it will not be answered if there is no survival.
Therefore, the survival question is intermediate between empirical and meaningless.
Thus, it has a peculiar logical status.

Spiritualists claim to communicate with the dead.
Some Buddhists claim experience of postmortem mental states.
Such claims partly reflect inherited beliefs.
However, as experiential claims, they should be investigated.

Is the survival question meaningful?
If so, is there enough evidence to answer it?
It is inadequate to say: "We will know when we die."
If there is no survival, then we will not know.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

A Christian And A Mithraist II

See here.

There is a further issue here. Maximus contemptuously dismisses Gratillonius as "pagan," thus categorizing him alongside worshipers of the Olympian pantheon. Probably Maximus would not have liked it if the boot had been on the other foot: a Mithraist establishment classifying Christians as pagans? Or would Maximus have been a Mithraist if that had been the established religion?

A minimal requirement for mutual respect and understanding is that we describe others in terms acceptable to them:

Muslims should not be called "Mohammadans";
Catholics should not be called "idolators";
social democrats should not be called "communists" (these terms were synonymous but both have changed their meaning).

Are some Catholic practices idolatrous? It is important that we listen to Catholics and understand why they do not accept that description. On the basis of understanding, we might convert to Catholicism or continue to accept some other world-view. How much avoidable ill will is caused by wilful misunderstandings?

Monday, 25 April 2016

A Christian And A Mithraist

Poul and Karen Anderson, The King Of Ys: Roma Mater (London, 1989), p. 23.

Maximus: You are pagan.
Gratillonius: Sir, I do not worship Jupiter, if that's what you mean.
Maximus: But Mithras. Which is forbidden. For your soul's good, understand. You'll burn forever after you die, unless you take the Faith.

Maximus goes on to describe unChristian belief as "obstinate," as if belief were a choice. We still have these problems with many Christians:

(i) belief in the damnation of unbelievers;

(ii) an inability to discuss belief with unbelievers except on the assumption that the belief is true which, of course, an unbeliever does not accept!

(i) Belief becomes the self-referential subject matter of belief: "I believe that it is necessary to believe..." And the motive can be entirely selfish: if you do not believe, then you are damned.

(ii) Three men, A, B and C, are surrounded by an impenetrable fog. A thinks that they are at point X on the map whereas B doubts this and C is convinced that, wherever else they may be, they are not at X. If there were a D, then he might think that they were at point Y; E might think that the map is inaccurate etc. But let's just stay with A, B and C. Instead of first settling the issue of their location, A merely says, "Because we are at X, we must proceed north from here." When he is reminded that he has not yet persuaded either B or C that they are at X, he looks at them without apparent comprehension and then merely repeats, "If we proceed south from X, then we fall into a pit..." Eventually, B and C must strike out on their own.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

One Sun Now

The One is what is and all that is.
One is all and all is One.
Every conscious organism is a small part of the One.
Human beings can realize this.
The One has been personified, worshiped and contemplated.

The Sun gives light and life.
The One knows itself by the light of the Sun.
The Sun is the agency of unitive self-knowledge.
The solar disc symbolizes unity.
The Sun has been personified, worshiped and identified with the One.

The One and its unitive self-consciousness are always now.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

From Darkness To Light

Not: "In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth..."
or: "In the beginning was the Word..."
but: "The lotus grows from dark places..."

The "darkness of mere being" had four stages:


- and the light of consciousness also has four stages:

animal motivations
human delusions
spiritual practice
purified consciousness.

Being and nothing, potential and actual, interact in the void. Being emerges from the void and grows towards the light of purified consciousness. Solar energy, inanimate matter and unconscious organisms not only preexisted but also surround and sustain consciousness, which was not in the beginning. Not:

"In the beginning, God..."

Friday, 1 April 2016

Potential Perceptions

Before there were any conscious organisms, there was the electromagnetic spectrum but not yet any eyes to discern particular colors and there were vibrating air molecules but not yet any ears to discern particular sounds. The world was actual but the world as perceived by us with blue sky, white clouds, green grass, invisible air, felt winds and heard sounds was merely potential. One actual material world must contain many potential perceived worlds, each corresponding to a potential organism with eyes sensitive to different wavelengths or with different kinds of sense organs.

Before there could be any conscious organisms, there had to be unconscious organisms. Therefore, we do not perceive the world as it was before perception became possible. There were necessarily three stages:

(i) a material world, none of it organic;
(ii) a material world with organisms, none of them conscious;
(iii) a material world with organisms, some of them conscious.

We perceive (iii) and infer the earlier existence of (i) and (ii).

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Two Descriptions Of Zazen

(i) Focus attention on the present moment.
When you notice that you have been distracted by thought, gently return your attention to the present.
But do not suppress thoughts.

(ii) See what comes up.
Sit with it.
Do not add to it.

(i) implies that the present moment is just physical sensations whereas (ii) clarifies that it is also and primarily whatever comes up.

Dogen: "Neither trying to think nor trying not to think, just sitting with no deliberate thought..."

Focusing attention on the present moment and returning attention to the present moment sound like trying not to think. However, the present can include a thought as long as it is not thought about: thought as a noun but not as a verb. Sit with a memory or image but do not think about it.