Saturday, 30 December 2017

Messianism In Fiction

Fictional expressions of Christianity include:

Aslan telling the children that he has a different name in their world;

Poul Anderson's Father Axor telling Diana Crowfeather that he seeks evidence of the Universal Incarnation.

Anderson also transposes a familiar historical situation to a science fictional context in The Day Of Their Return:

the Terran Empire imposes direct rule on the planet Aeneas;
some Aeneans plan a military rebellion;
many expect the Return of the Ancients.

Reading about the religious and political situation in Judaea at the time of Jesus, I am reminded of how well Anderson conveyed this sense of Messianic expectation and social/political volatility.

Friday, 29 December 2017

"Mind Has Mountains"

See Hopkins.

A material mountain is visible in its entirety only from a spatial distance.

A karmic consequence is a mental mountain, visible in its entirety only from a temporal distance.

Its foothills are fears and realizations.

Every new presentation to consciousness is the One appearing to Itself although an illusory separate self intervenes.

What comes up at each moment?
What is the least harmful response?
Is it possible to step back from imagined dialogues?
What is within apart from words?

Wednesday, 15 November 2017


Zazen is not observation of thoughts because observation and thought are incompatible. Thought about x involves attention to x, not to the thought about x.

Zazen is neither deliberate thought nor uninterrupted natural thought but natural thought interrupted by a repeated return of attention to the present moment.


deliberate thought is not applied to problems that it cannot solve;

natural thought is allowed neither to become deliberate thought nor to continue uninterrupted.

This at least provides a third perspective. Many problems are caused either by constant natural thought or by unhelpful deliberate thought.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Philosophy And Fiction

I will summarize a materialist understanding of consciousness, then outline how this impacts on two kinds of imaginative fiction written by Poul Anderson.

Everything interacts:

particles, potential or actual;
material bodies;
organisms with their environments.

Organisms are temporary, local, negative entropy.

Energized complex molecules changed randomly until one became self-replicating.

Natural selection favored multi-cellularity.

Organisms are sensitive and responsive to environmental alterations.

Naturally selected organismic sensitivity to environmental alterations quantitatively increased until it was qualitatively transformed into conscious sensation.

Sensation was naturally selected because pleasure and pain have survival value.

Responses became actions.

Brains process immediate sensations into perceptions of discrete objects.

Objects are conceptualized.

One social species communicates linguistically and internalizes language as abstract thought.

Interpersonal interactions transform human organisms into self-conscious individuals.

Individuals can transcend self-consciousness through meditation.

However, all consciousness remains an unintended byproduct of originally unconscious interactions.

Human beings interacting with each other projected interpersonal interactions onto their natural and social environments.

Thus, they personified, e.g., thunder as Thor and war as Tyr.

However, human beings have also come to understand preconscious processes.

Thus, they have created both mythology and science.

Poul Anderson wrote:

mythological fantasies, assuming the literal existence of Norse deities;
hard sf, including speculations about the course of evolution on other planets.

Most sf presupposes materialist evolution. Thus, authors ask: "What kind of organisms might have evolved in the Martian environment?," not: "What kind of organisms might have been created on Mars?" CS Lewis' theological sf has Ransom encountering on Mars beings that are both extraterrestrial and supernatural but that is unusual.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

The New Monotheism

If I were to subscribe to a monotheism, then it would have to be one that was entirely free from the Mosaic Law, the Crucifixion and Hindu casteism. Some reformed Hindu monotheisms do meet these criteria, especially if we are able to include Sikhism as both a reformed Islam and a reformed Hinduism. However, I am inclined to agree with other Hindus who regard the one God as a personification of the one reality which is either impersonal or transpersonal if the latter term has any meaning. The most appropriate pronoun would be either It or That.

Let us rededicate ourselves to the One.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Inner Swamp

Drain the inner swamp.
The channel to drain the swamp is blocked.
Neither intellect nor will can unblock it.
However, meditation places a steady pressure on the blockage, which can move suddenly.
Experience of the consequences of wrong actions can be devastating and illuminating.
Some questions and answers must be lived, not thought.
New work on the self begins now.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Many Mansions

Because religious and philosophical issues are involved, this post is first being published on the Religion and Philosophy blog and will later be copied to Poul Anderson Appreciation where it is also relevant.

I used the phrase "many mansions" here, then found it used in SM Stirling, The Sword Of The Lady (New York, 2009), Chapter Twenty-One, p. 640. For the original, see here. Mind-blowing explanations are given and a short story in Poul Anderson's collection, All One Universe, is relevant.

I have finished reading The Sword Of The Lady and have just started the sequel, The High King Of Montival. Rudi Mackenzie, the future High King, now wields a mysteriously generated sword that enhances his reasoning ability so that his future combats will differ somehow from what went before. Will Rudi be to some extent like Fionn Mac Cumhaill who gained knowledge, including military intelligence, when he put his thumb in his mouth?

Thursday, 29 June 2017

From Many Gods To One Reality

Contradictory Explanations 
Explain each natural or social phenomenon by personifying it, e.g., thunder is Thor; war is Tyr.
Expain nature as a whole by unifying it, i.e., every phenomenon has a single source.

Two Ways To Unify Reality
Deny that there are separate gods (Hebrew).
Affirm that all gods are really one God (Hindu).

Third Stage
Depersonify reality.

Two Ways To Depersonify Reality
Contemplate an impersonal Absolute.
Seek a unified field theory or Theory of Everything.

Contemplation and science: unity is intuited but never completely formulated.

Sunday, 11 June 2017


Two Ways To Perceive The World
The separate selfhood that we grew up with.
The universal consciousness that we can realize.

Two Ways To Perceive Society
Acceptance of the status quo.
Recognition of the need for a fundamental transformation.

Optimal States
Now: both universal and revolutionary consciousness.
Potentially: universal consciousness in a transformed society.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

In The Beginning...

In the beginning, there was neither a Creator nor a Designer but unconscious being.
Being is realizing its potential to become conscious.
The development towards consciousness was necessarily unplanned, undesigned and unconscious.
Many unconscious processes sustain consciousness.

Bodily functions and even many mental processes are unconscious.
Social processes are mediated through individual consciousnesses.
However, individuals may remain unconscious of the nature of social processes.
We were preceded and surrounded by unconsciousness.

The revolutionary party tries to organize the most politically conscious members of the working class.
Zen meditators practise consciousness of mental processes.
Neither individual nor social consciousness has yet been fully realized.
Any hypothetical superhuman consciousnesses must also have risen from unconsciousness.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

A Time Of Legends

(St Paul and the philosophers. Dig it. That is where I would be.)

SM Stirling, The Scourge Of God (New York, 2009), Chapter One.

Catholics and Wiccans find that they are living in a time of legends and do not like it.

"'But even Our Lord was refused when he asked that the cup pass from him.'" (p. 46)

This I do not get. What happened in antiquity?

(i) Pagans sacrificed animals to many gods.
(ii) Jews sacrificed animals to one God.
(iii) Jesus' followers believed that he was the Messiah who would lead them to victory...
(iv) ...but were traumatized by his execution as a criminal - conclusive proof that he was not the Messiah.
(v) Therefore, they reinterpreted scriptures as prophesying that the Messiah must suffer, then rise.
(vi) Paul interpreted the Crucifixion as a perfect sacrifice ending sin, the Law and every other sacrifice.
(vii) Pauline Christianity fitted the Roman Empire which wanted monotheism without divisive dietary laws or repeated animal sacrifices.
(viii) But do we now believe in the efficacy of sacrifice?

I do not understand how this belief can make sense now. Of course, if someone believes that the Resurrection happened, then they have to believe that the Crucifixion also happened and has some significance but what? I do not buy:

all have sinned;
therefore, all have deserved to suffer and die;
but Jesus took it all on himself;
but, being perfect, could not stay dead;

CS Lewis' soft sf assumes the truth of Christianity. Poul Anderson's and SM Stirling's Christian characters discuss their beliefs. Christianity remains widespread in the real world. So it merits discussion.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017


Zazen is:

"Neither trying to think nor trying not to think;
"Just sitting with no deliberate thought."

I have been trying not to think. Zazen is just sitting with awareness and natural thought. How do we remain alert and prevent abstraction?

I have also been trying to be aware of each natural thought as it arises. However:

to think about x is to attend to x;
to be aware of a thought is to attend to the thought;
thus, I have been trying to attend to the attention to x.

I can become aware that I have been attending to x but, at the moment when the natural thought arises, I am attending only to x. Zazen is becoming aware.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

One Detail Of Sikhism

Sikh men are surnamed "Singh" whereas Sikh women are surnamed "Kaur."

"Singh" means "lion" so does "kaur" mean "lioness"? See SM Stirling, The Sunrise Lands (New York, 2008), Chapter Eight, p.  187. If so, should the two words not have the same root but with an affix for feminine gender?

When learning about Sikhism, I was told or read that "kaur" means "princess." See here.

The Wiki article here tells us that "kaur" means "prince" but is applied to women as a sign of their equality.

Fictional Religions And Philosophies

In fictional works by Poul Anderson, we read about:

the Cosmic religion
Jerusalem Catholicism
the Ythrian New Faith
Ishtarian religion
Veleda's myth
the Johannine Church

SM Stirling presents the Anglo-Indian religion of the Angrezi Raj, the debased cult of the Peacock Angel (see here and here), a Theosophical "Church Universal and Triumphant" and a Wicca that is more neo- than pagan (see combox here).

Robert Heinlein presents the Angels of the Lord, the Fosterite Church of the New Revelation (for both of these, see here) and a new Martian religion.

In at least two of these cases, Cosmenosis and Wicca, it is possible to get into discussing whether these are viable world-views. Do the Wiccan Gods literally exist in this alternative history of Stirling's? A "Son of God" is a divine agent. "The Sword of the Lady" would be also.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Logic And Timelines

When I studied logic at University, I learned:

if p, then not not-p;
not (p and not-p);
either p or not-p.

For example, if it is the case that Socrates was executed in 399 BC, then it is not the case that Socrates was not executed in 399 BC - unless there are alternative timelines, in which case logical consistency is maintained by making our propositions, p and not-p, more specific. Thus, if it is the case that Socrates was executed in 399 BC in timeline 1, then it is not the case that Socrates was not executed in 399 BC in timeline 1.

This may seem obvious but I meet people who get their idea of logic not from Aristotle or his successors but from Mr Spock. "Logic" means something like thinking rigidly and unemotionally instead of just thinking and speaking consistently which everyone tries to do. No one openly contradicts himself on a matter of fact, then says, "I am free to contradict myself because I am not bound by logic like Mr Spock." And anyone who did say that would not succeed in telling us anything. "Socrates both was and was not executed in 399 BC in timeline 1 and I am free to contradict myself..."

It might be imagined that a rigidly "logical" thinker, having denied that Socrates could both be executed and not be executed in 399 BC, would then compound his rigidity by denying that there can be alternative timelines. Merely to reply that Mr Spock experiences alternative timelines is to confuse a conceptual question with an empirical question.

A conceptual question: Are alternative timelines possible?
Answer: Yes. There is no reason why not. No contradiction is involved.

An empirical question: Do alternative timelines in fact exist?
Answer, within the framework of the Star Trek narrative: Yes. They have been discovered and entered.

Not only Star Trek. We are grateful for the alternative timelines of Poul Anderson, SM Stirling and Harry Turtledove.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Must Being Become Conscious?

Being does not move in a single direction, towards consciousness, but instead moves in every possible direction. However, these include consciousness. Therefore, perhaps, being had to become conscious at some times and places. Such places include this planet. Consciousness is the lotus that has grown from the darkness.

Over-specialized species become extinct when their environment changes whereas alert and active animals can adapt their behavior and might become intelligent. Human beings are intelligent but not necessarily contemplative. There are degrees of contemplation.

Being was not able to advance directly to supreme enlightment but had to advance through stages:

degrees of contemplation

Stages were necessary because life was not designed but evolved.

Friday, 10 March 2017

The One...

The One is at every time and place...
...but not conscious at every time and place.
Every organism conscious of its environment is the One conscious of itself.
Each organism is the One...
...but It transcends them.
Death can be physically painful or accompanied by unresolved issues.
But the One transcends death.
It precedes and succeeds consciousness.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Karma + GIGO

Each human organism is born with karmic dispositions, characteristic ways of acting.
Then it receives social input, Garbage In, Garbage Out.
Thus, karma + GIGO = a person.
Serene reflection meditation unravels GIGO and addresses karma.

However, organisms die before the issues are resolved.
Organisms were not designed but evolved.
Therefore, no designer is responsible.
I think that karma is genetic, not reborn.

Monday, 6 February 2017

What We Can Say

We cannot meet the Buddha because he died a long time ago.
He was alive and we will be dead.
If he were alive now on another continent or planet, then we probably would not meet him.
However, he and we exist in different regions of space-time.

Therefore, we can say, "The Lord calls," meaning the Buddha.
Also, the One calls.
THAT is always here and now.
But It is not a person.

The One and the Buddha correspond approximately to God the Father and God Incarnate in Christian theology.
But only approximately.
Buddhism sometimes sounds like theism, sometimes not.
In particular, there is no Creator.

The Buddha addresses the cause of suffering but is not the cause.
He treats the wound caused by the poisoned arrow but did not shoot the arrow.
The One, not a person, is not responsible for Its internal processes.
It is our responsibility to respond.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

The Duality Of Thought

We manipulate the environment with hands and think about it with brains.
Thought both reflects and distorts reality.
Mythological thought personifies and mystifies aspects of reality.
Ideological thought rationalizes and legitimizes existing social relationships.

However, society changes and ideas change with it.
Scientific thought is tested against empirical reality.
Beliefs and psychologies diverge from reality.
The thought, "Where was God in the Holocaust?," combines belief with reflection.

"Experience of God" must mean "experience of life, theistically interpreted."

Monday, 30 January 2017

The Fall

Being ascended from unconsciousness into consciousness. However, the first moment of this ascent was also the moment of the Fall into suffering or unsatisfactoriness, as formulated in the First Noble Truth of Buddhism. Unconscious organisms respond to environmental alterations but do not feel or sense them. Feeling and sensation are the earliest stages of consciousness. An organism that has become conscious feels hot when it is hot and senses heat when there is a nearby source of heat. The feeling of bodily states probably preceded the sensing of anything external.

A conscious organism dislikes excessive heat or cold and therefore moves to a more comfortable position. It dislikes hunger and likes eating, therefore seeks food. Naturally selected organismic sensitivity to environmental alterations quantitatively increased until it was qualitatively transformed into conscious sensation because two kinds of sensation, pleasure and pain, have survival value. They are also interdependent. Hunger when unable to eat and satisfaction when eating are opposite ends of a single spectrum or two sides of a single coin. Therefore, there was no Paradisal state of consciousness before suffering.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Challenges Of Life

(i) To cope with practical tasks, most basically to survive/earn a living.
(ii) To do more, e.g., to run a business or to advance in a career.
(iii) To engage in meaningful activities that might not become a means of livelihood.
(iv) To understand and respond to society and life.

I have always been impractical and unambitious but interested in (iii) and (iv).
Some people let their received religion address (iv).
Judgementalism is unnecessary. People differ.

Monday, 9 January 2017

What Is The World Made Of?

According to Carlo Rovelli in Reality Is Not What It Seems (Allen Lane, 2016), p. 168:

Newton thought that reality was space, time and particles;
Faraday and Maxwell added fields;
Einstein 1905 united space and time;
Einstein 1915 united space-time and fields as covariant fields;
quantum mechanics referred to space-time and quantum fields;
quantum gravity has just covariant quantum fields.

It is not surprising that covariant fields generate space-time because surely space and time are relationships in any case. Newtonian space was relationships between particles and Newtonian time was relationships between relationships between particles. Now particles are regarded as quanta of fields.

What is counter-intuitive is that there are quanta of space. Mathematically, the number one can be divided into endless smaller fractions but apparently a volume of space cannot be divided into endless smaller volumes.

Addendum: Quantum gravity is a theory of fields but not yet a unified field theory.

Quanta Of Space II

Faraday's lines of force were infinitely thin and continuous and filled space whereas the closed lines or loops of quantum gravity are discrete and finite and are space.
The loops are links between points called nodes.
Each node is a quantum of space.
Two nodes are separated by a small area.
Photons are in space whereas nodes are space.
-Carlo Rovelli, Reality Is Not What It Seems (Allen Lane, 2016), Chapter 6.

Quanta Of Space

To measure a volume of space, it is necessary to place a particle in it.
According to Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, a particle placed at a point in space soon escapes from it.
The smaller the volume, the greater the velocity of the escape.
A particle escaping at a high velocity has a lot of energy.
A lot of energy in a small volume of space curves space so much that the particle becomes a black hole.
Thus, the attempt to measure a small volume of space prevents measurement of it.
The minimum volume of space is the minimum size of a particle before it becomes a black hole.
-Carlo Rovelli, Reality Is Not What It Seems (Allen Lane, 2016), pp. 129-130.

Friday, 6 January 2017


Carlo Rovelli, Reality Is Not What It Seems (Allen Lane, 2016), pp. 41-47.

Faraday intuited that " entity diffused throughout modified by electric and magnetic bodies and...acts upon..." them. (p. 41) This entity is a field consisting of many infinitely thin lines of force. Maxwell wrote equations that describe these lines of force.

The electromagnetic force:

holds electrons in atoms;
holds atoms in molecules;
makes chemistry, organisms and neurons work.

(I thought that the four forces of nature were gravity, electromagnetism and the strong and weak nuclear forces but here Rovelli describes just two.)

Maxwell's equations predict that lines of force undulate. The speed of their undulations, when calculated, was the same as for light because light is undulating electromagnetic radiation and color is different wavelengths. Maxwell also predicted invisible wavelengths which include radio. Thus, a technological revolution:

the internet

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Quantum Gravity

This is written from memory late at night so it is going to be wrong in details:

Newton thought of gravity as action at a distance;

Faraday thought of lines of force;

lines became fields;

however, quantum mechanics divides fields back into quanta;

quanta of space/gravity are lines joined by nodes;

moving nodes form lines and moving lines form surfaces.

I will reread the relevant passages of Reality Is Not What It Seems shortly. 

Who Is The Lord?

The Christian Version
The Biblical deity regarded as literally existent.
Jesus regarded as human, divine and resurrected in power.

Other Versions
Other specific deities, variously interpreted.

My Versions
An indeterminate or composite deity regarded as mythological and metaphorical.
The Buddha, who was human and died a long time ago.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Scientific Syntheses

Newton's universal gravity combines Kepler's celestial physics with Galileo's terrestrial physics.

Maxwell's and Faraday's electromagnetism combines electricity with magnetism.

Einstein's special relativity resolves contradictions between Newtonian mechanics and electromagnetism.

Einstein's general relativity resolves contradictions between Newtonian mechanics and special relativity.

General relativity describes continuous phenomena in curved space-time whereas quantum mechanics describes quanta in flat space-time.

Quantum gravity synthesizes Feynman diagrams and lattice calculations and will resolve contradictions between general relativity and quantum mechanics.

Carlo Rovelli, Reality Is Not What It Seems (Allen Lane, 2016), pp. 125-127.


Einstein discovered the relativity of simultaneity and, in his special theory of relativity, unified:

space and time;
mass and energy;
electricity and magnetism.

Newton: space, time and particles;
Faraday and Maxwell: space, time, fields and particles;
Einstein, 1905: spacetime, fields and particles;
Einstein, 1915: fields and particles;
Dirac (and see here): fields are particles;
quantum mechanics: spacetime and quantum fields;
quantum gravity: covariant quantum fields.

Einstein's general theory of relativity identifies space-time with the gravitational field.

Carlo Rovelli, Reality Is Not What it Seems (Allen Lane, 2016), pp. 51-107.

Monday, 2 January 2017

From Plato

Reality Is Not What It Seems. See here.

Rovelli shows continuity between ancient philosophy and modern science:

Plato asked his mathematical disciples if they could calculate the motions of heavenly bodies;

Ptolemy, summarizing centuries of Greek astronomy, wrote the Almagest, which predicts planetary movements;

Greek learning went to India and returned to Europe via the Arabs;

Copernicus revised Ptolemy, putting the Sun at the center;

Kepler improved Copernicus;

Galileo, using a telescope, discovered Saturnian rings, lunar mountains, Venerian phases and Jovian moons;

initiating experimental science, Galileo discovered mathematical laws for the movement of bodies on Earth;

Newton discovered that the same laws of motion applied to celestial and terrestrial bodies;

Faraday theorized electric and magnetic fields in space;

Maxwell devised equations for fields;

Maxwell's equations describe electricity, magnetism, visible light and invisible wavelengths;


modern technology uses electromagnetic waves.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Greek Philosophical Schools, Continued

I do not fully agree with this quote but it covers a lot of the territory. There is a problem with any proposition that begins with the word, "All..."

Reality Is Not What It Seems. See here.

There is continuity between Lucretius' "living proof" of atomism and Einstein's confirmation in 1905 of the existence and size of atoms.

Aristotle initiated and defined the sciences of biology, zoology and physics. Plato recognized the importance of mathematics which had been developed by Pythagoras, a disciple of Anaximander.

"Ptolemy was an astronomer who lived in Alexandria in the first century of our era, under the Roman Empire, when science was already in decline and about to disappear altogether, overwhelmed by the collapse of the Hellenistic world and suffocated by the Christianization of the empire." (p. 30)

This historical summary is relevant to science fiction "alternative histories." See here.


Carlo Rovelli, Reality Is Not What It Seems (Allen Lane, 2016).

"Lucretius decants in verse the thought of Epicurus and the atomism of Democritus, and in this way a part of this profound philosophy was saved from the intellectual catastrophe of the Dark Ages." (p. 20)

"The Catholic Church attempted to stop Lucretius: in the Florentine Synod of December 1516 it prohibited the reading of Lucretius in schools. In 1551, the Council of Trent banned his work. But it was too late. An entire vision of the world which had been swept away by medieval Christian fundamentalism was re-emerging in a Europe which had reopened its eyes. It was not just the rationalism, atheism and materialism of Lucretius that were being proposed in Europe. It was not merely a luminous and serene meditation on the beauty of the world. It was much more: it was an articulate and complex structure of thinking about reality, a new mode of thinking, radically different from what had been for centuries the mind-set of the Middle Ages." (pp. 24-25)