The Last Man

Categorized under Postmodernism, Science

Science has undoubtedly created numerous benefits for the world, but it has also been detrimental in many ways as well. By far its most detrimental effect has been the way it has steadily diminished the depth and scope of human consciousness over the past century. Despite the fact that we nowadays have access to vast amounts of information from all corners of the globe, the human race seems to be becoming dumber and shallower with every passing year.

With global communication tools such as satellite television and the internet, we are in constant contact with all kinds of different cultures, languages, perspectives, and theories, which has undeniably broadened our minds. But just as a piece of rubber becomes narrower when stretched, our consciousness has been thinning out as it has broadened. It is thinning out because people are unable to rationally cope with the torrents of information that are daily bombarding them. They have to resort to shutting down large swathes of their cerebral cortex in order to suppress their sense of confusion.

Since no one is ever encouraged to think powerfully in a logical manner, and since no one is able to take time out from their busy lives to engage in serious thought in the first place, people nowadays have no means of reconciling the conflicting views and beliefs that swirl around them. The only way they know how to deal with the confusion is either by seeking refuge in the simplified, pre-packaged answers of religion, or in the simplified, pre-packaged answers of postmodernism (i.e. truth can never be known; everything is uncertain; everything is subjective; everything is relative, etc). In both cases, the act of thinking is abandoned, the shutters come up, the confusion is pushed aside, and everyone can get on with the important business of mindlessly enjoying life.

The religious side of this shutting down process is already well-known, so I won’t bother addressing it in this blog. Religious people, as a whole, tend to be very generic and uninteresting. To spend one’s life suppressing reason and thrusting one’s mind into childish bed-time fantasies that are clearly designed to make the ego feel more secure would have to be one of the most boring activities imaginable. And when you look at their plastic smiles and forced jolliness, and their wooden conversation composed of religious clichés and scripts, it is obvious that their minds are almost completely dead. So instead I will be using this blog to focus on agnostics – that is to say, on those who seek refuge in the standard bundle of postmodernist clichés (i.e. truth can never be known; everything is uncertain; everything is subjective; everything is relative, etc). Not only are they a growing menace in today’s society, but their lives are filled with all sorts of interesting contradictions and amusing ironies that are worth highlighting.

But first we need to make a distinction between agnosticism and atheism. The primary difference between them is that the atheist openly makes claims of certainty, while the agnostic does not. For example, the atheist categorically rules out the possibility that God exists, while the agnostic believes it is impossible to be sure. From the agnostic’s point of view, the atheistic rejection of God is nothing more than an act of faith, and thus the agnostic believes that he is more rational than the atheist. What the agnostic does not see, however, is that his own position is supported by similar acts of faith.

Let us examine the typical agnostic more closely. You will recognize him instantly, for they are everywhere and they are all clones of one another. He is first and foremost a worshipper of science. He subscribes to the view that the scientific method is the only valid means of gaining meaningful knowledge about the world. He even goes so far as to equate rationality with science, such that the two terms become synonymous with one another, and thus he believes it is impossible for anyone to be rational in a meta-scientific manner. If he observes anyone moving beyond science in their search for understanding, he automatically dismisses them as religious fanatics who have entered the realm of blind faith, regardless of how rational and clear-sighted their search might be.

Just as a religious person has his mantras (“God moves in mysterious ways”, “Faith surpasses understanding”, “He who speaks does not know”, etc) and cunningly employs them to dismiss all opposing points of view, the agnostic too has his own mantra – namely, “Everything is uncertain”. Whenever he spies a thought beginning to emerge, whether in his own mind or in the words of others, he immediately wields his mantra like a sword and lops it off. Indeed, he comes to do this so regularly and so instinctively that over time the whole process slides imperceptibly into his subconscious and he is no longer aware that he is doing it. In effect, he has performed a philosophical lobotomy on himself and since forgotten that it ever happened.

I remember when I was younger and pushing myself ever more deeply into philosophy, I used to hate the fact that I was uncertain of everything. It is a truly terrible experience not knowing where to ground the mind. Being uncertain of everything is like having a bad acid trip, with everything flopping about topsy-turvy. It is not a realm in which you can rest and take it easy. Quite the reverse, in fact. It is very much a life or death situation, with the prospect of madness only a finger-snap away, compelling the mind to become intensely focused on finding the certainty of absolute truth. The very fact that agnostics do not have a problem with their supposed uncertainty – indeed, they even seem quite smug and comfortable about it – shows that something is seriously amiss.

To put no finer point on it, their proclaimed uncertainty is fake. It rests on all kinds of secret certainties that reside deep within their minds. Even the idea that “everything is uncertain” is subconsciously treated as a certainty.

It is one thing for a person to recognize that he is personally uncertain of everything and to say to the world, “I do not know anything” – for that would constitute an honest appraisal of his own situation. But for him to project this onto everyone else and state emphatically that no one can ever reach genuine certainty, or that it is impossible to know the absolute truth – well, that is something else altogether. That is his own dishonesty gone mad. In effect, he is claiming that he possesses mystical or supernatural powers and has peered into the minds of everyone who is alive today, as well as everyone who has ever lived in the past, to establish with absolute certainty that indeed no one has ever reached the certainty of absolute truth. Even the most fanatical of fundamentalists wouldn’t dare make such a wild religious claim, yet the agnostic is somehow able to perform this miracle without blinking an eye. And like all religious claims it is contradictory in nature, since it involves being certain (“I know for sure that no one knows anything for sure”) and uncertain (“I myself don’t know anything for sure”) at the same time.

Oh yes indeed, scratch the surface of a sober agnostic and there is always a religious nutter underneath!

Of course, in saying these things I have been a little disingenuous in my treatment of agnosticism. For I have been treating it as though it were a serious philosophic position, one that is worthy of being rationally analyzed, whereas in reality it is nothing more than a crude attempt to destroy philosophy altogether. The agnostic is happy enough to erect an intellectual facade for the sake of appearances, but in reality he is anti-philosophy and anti-truth to the core. Behind it all, what he really wants is peace of mind and the opportunity to live like a contented animal, enjoying the little things in life. That is the root of the matter. He wants to run along with the herd, make some money, have a social life, marry a woman, produce kids and grow comfortably to a ripe old age. His innermost desire is to merge into the crowd, to not create any waves, to remain invisible and mediocre. As such, the very last thing he wants to do is take logic seriously and form a relationship with truth.

We can think of agnosticism, then, not as an intellectual activity, but as a Borg-like process in which mediocrity consumes everything in its path and begets even more mediocrity.

Given this, you can see why the agnostic wholly commits himself to the scientific world-view and actively promotes the idea that the scientific method is the only valid means of gaining meaningful knowledge about the world. He is fully aware that the scientific method can only ever yield theories that are “provisionally true”, and therefore he knows that all scientific theories are fundamentally uncertain in nature. And so by praising the scientific method to the skies and dismissing everything else, it allows him to mount the argument that it is impossible for anyone, anywhere, to reach absolute certainty in their knowledge.

How does he know that the scientific method is the only valid means of gaining meaningful knowledge about the world? He doesn’t. He just makes it up. Having no interest in truth, he is free to make up what he likes. Again, all he wants to do is promote the uncertainty meme within the community. He wants the world to think that the very idea of absolute truth is a pipe-dream entertained by superstitious people who are anti-science. And why? Because in eliminating every other point of contrast, his own attachment to mediocrity can begin to gain a semblance of respectability.

It only takes a few moments to see through all this. It is very easy to become aware of the logical pathways that extend beyond science into the realm of absolute truth and thus see agnosticism for the nonsense that it is. For example, the view that “scientific theories are always provisional and uncertain” is itself a logical truth that is absolute in nature and can be known with certainty. Since a scientific theory ultimately relies on empirical evidence for its validity (i.e. on what is observed through the senses), and since what is observed through the senses always carries an element of uncertainty, it automatically becomes true by definition that all scientific theories are inherently uncertain. Poof! Straight away, with this piece of reasoning alone, the existence of absolute truth and the human mind’s capacity to apprehend it is proven without any shadow of a doubt. With a single stroke of logic, the irrationality of agnosticism is exposed. And yet this simple logical step, which only takes a moment to execute, is one that the agnostic will never take.

Since the agnostic spends his time blocking out deeper forms of logical thought, he is unable to see how foolish he is. For example, in his desire to present philosophy as a form of quackery, he often says things like: “Philosophy is to science what astrology is to astronomy”. What the fool does not realize is that if philosophy is a form of quackery, then science itself must also be a form of quackery, since the validity of science can only ever be established by philosophic thought. Turning to the scientific method does not help in this instance. It is meaningless to conduct a scientific experiment to test the validity of science, for that would involve pre-affirming what is being tested. It can only be tested and established by a higher methodology – that is to say, by a philosophic act of logic.

There are countless logical truths beyond science, with many of them able to provide meaningful knowledge about the world. For instance, there is the truth that nothing can exist of its own accord. A car, for example, is necessarily dependent on the parts that comprise it. If you take away its panels, windows, steering wheel, seats, tyres, etc, then you also take away the car. The very existence of the car depends on the existence of its parts being assembled together in the proper manner, and as such the car cannot exist of its own accord. The same principle can be equally applied to all things in the Universe without exception, including electrons, quarks and strings – and of course, ourselves.  Anything that exists can be divided into parts, either physically or mentally.  Again, this is not a piece of knowledge that can be uncovered by the scientific method. It is a philosophic truth, one that is purely logical in nature, and it is very meaningful to those who are awake to its implications.

Agnosticism is very much the flavour of the modern technological age. There is something about agnosticism and electronic devices which makes them so compatible. It is as though they are made for each other. They are like soulless-mates. A positive feedback loop has thus emerged in modern society, one that involves technological progress and agnosticism mutually reinforcing each other. As people become more and more overwhelmed by the pace of society and its endless technological distractions, they have less and less time to think and thus increasingly fall ever more deeply into the black hole of agnosticism; in turn, the mental vacuum created by agnosticism needs to be filled somehow and so the agnostic naturally gravitates towards information overload and endless distraction, if for no other reason than to ward off boredom. And so it goes on. A continuous cycle that is strengthening and gathering pace, consuming everything in its path. And all the while the intangible path of philosophic reasoning, together with all of its treasures and glories, slips further and further out of sight.

In the past, the masses used to be in awe of the religious temples and cathedrals that stood in their midst. These grand buildings, full of colour and religious imagery, created the impression that religion was a matter of great significance. To the ignorant peasants living in nearby hovels, these buildings seemed as though they belonged in another plane of existence far removed from their daily lives. How could they possibly begin to question the authority of those who build these temples and inhabit them? In a similar way, the technological marvels of modern science – computers, TVs, smart phones, cars, aeroplanes, space shuttles, etc – are seducing the masses like never before. With agnosticism effectively turning people into intellectual peasants, the authority of science in their eyes has become absolute.

The effect this is all having on children as they grow up is devastating. Without knowing what is happening, children absorb by osmosis the agnostic vacuity which is in the air, and so by the time they reach adulthood they are no longer capable of believing in anything. And as their own minds become increasingly more vacuous, they become hopelessly addicted to electronic devices. Indeed, their addiction is so ingrained that they can no longer bear the thought of being alone with themselves. They can barely sit still for a couple of moments before having to desperately reach for their mobile phones in order to send an inane text or watch a moronic video on youtube. They do not live, they flit. From one thing to the next, they flit, never stopping long enough to derive any real pleasure or satisfaction, always on the look out for the next quick hit, always on the look out for something to poke fun at. Laughing at anything and everything is the only thing they know how to do. However, it is not a laughter which comes out of intelligent understanding, but out of a desperate desire to gain a sense of control over their lives. For their lives have long ago fractured into thousands of disparate elements. They have become utterly disconnected from the deeper parts of their minds. They have reached adulthood and now they are spiritually dead. This has been agnosticism’s gift to the world.

Just as all closed systems invariably degenerate towards a state of maximum entropy, the world is gradually becoming more bland and homogenous. The signs of this are everywhere. How long will it be before the various nations and cultures of today are replaced by a vast mono-culture in which everyone speaks the same language, holds the same values and engages in the same kinds of shallow activities? It will be maximum entropy right across the board – physically, in the form of science, technology and market-based economics; psychologically, in the form of mindless hedonism and feminization; and intellectually, in the form of agnosticism.

Nietzsche, with his usual prescience, was able to discern this trend way back in the 19th century and wrote about it in the prologue of his seminal work, Thus Spake Zarathustra:

It is time for man to fix his goal. It is time for man to plant the germ of his highest hope.

Still is his soil rich enough for it. But that soil will one day be poor and exhausted, and no lofty tree will any longer be able to grow thereon.

Alas! there comes the time when man will no longer launch the arrow of his longing beyond man — and the string of his bow will have unlearned to whizz!

I tell you: one must still have chaos in one, to give birth to a dancing star. I tell you: ye have still chaos in you.

Alas! There comes the time when man will no longer give birth to any star. Alas! There comes the time of the most despicable man, who can no longer despise himself.

Lo! I show you THE LAST MAN.

““What is love? What is creation? What is longing? What is a star?”” — so asks the last man and blinks.

The earth has then become small, and on it there hops the last man who makes everything small. His species is ineradicable like that of the ground-flea; the last man lives longest.

““We have discovered happiness”” — say the last men, and blink thereby.

They have left the regions where it is hard to live; for they need warmth. One still loves one’s neighbour and rubs against him; for one needs warmth.

Turning ill and being distrustful, they consider sinful: they walk warily. He is a fool who still stumbles over stones or men!

A little poison now and then: that makes pleasant dreams. And much poison at last for a pleasant death.

One still works, for work is a pastime. But one is careful lest the pastime should hurt one.

One no longer becomes poor or rich; both are too burdensome. Who still wants to rule? Who still wants to obey? Both are too burdensome.

No shepherd, and one herd! Every one wants the same; every one is equal: he who has other sentiments goes voluntarily into the madhouse.

““Formerly all the world was insane”” — say the subtlest of them, and blink thereby.

They are clever and know all that has happened: so there is no end to their raillery. People still fall out, but are soon reconciled — otherwise it spoils their stomachs.

They have their little pleasures for the day, and their little pleasures for the night, but they have a regard for health.

““We have discovered happiness” — say the last men, and blink thereby.

It has long been one of my goals in life to eliminate religion from the face of the earth. I cannot begin to tell you how much I despise religion, with its insane theologies and banal rituals, its timid reliance on rules and scriptures, its closed-mindedness, its herdliness, its violence. To submit to a religion is truly cowardly behaviour. But even so, I would much rather have the company of a religious person than I would an agnostic. For no matter how insane or fanatical the religious person might be, at least he still has a bit of life in him. He might be a buffoon, but at least he can be an amusing buffoon.

But with agnostics you get nothing. It is like staring into a void. Aimlessly flitting from one petty thought to the next, passively accepting whatever happens to be fashionable on the day, passively going along with whatever the majority think, filling one’s life with emotional relationships and hedonistic pleasures, having no interest in the absolute truth or philosophic wisdom, living in the moment, waiting to die – can anything be lower than this? In letting himself go like this, the agnostic has committed a very grave crime, perhaps the biggest crime that a man could possibly commit. He has degenerated into a woman.

***

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54 Responses to “The Last Man”

  1. sdw Says:

    Hello again, David. This is an excellent analysis of the tragic downhill slide into a desultory hedonism that seems to be the current direction of human civilization. I wish it were possible to have this read & discussed by schoolchildren all over the world.

    I’m curious, though, about what exactly you mean by atheism. My understanding of your view is that you use the word God to refer to All That Is, or ultimate Reality. So are you saying that atheists assert that Reality does not exist or do you mean that they disbelieve in some other definition of God? One particular definition of atheism makes sense to me: disbelief in the existence of an uncreated creator. But I assume you mean something else.

    And, although I don’t expect it to make any difference to you, I still think it’s unfortunate that in your particular lexicon the word woman has an entirely negative connotation..

    Shardröl

  2. David Quinn Says:

    Hi Shardrol, good to see you again.

    In the blog, I was using the word “atheism” in the mainstream sense to mean the complete rejection of a creator God. To my mind, the definition you offer – “disbelief in the existence of an uncreated creator” – could apply to either atheists or agnostics. It depends on what is meant by “disbelief”. Atheism is just as irrational as agnosticism and theism, of course.

  3. Steve Byrne Says:

    Wow again! This is rich stuff. Thank you for the provocation. I deem you worthy.

    I perceive myself to be agnostic. What I mean is that as far as the existence of God, I actually don’t have an opinion. Scripture certainly isn’t evidence, but the existence of our own consciousness might be (I back off from using “existence of matter”, since it’s only my own consciousness that perceives matter). Obviously, in scientific terms, we don’t get to know. Existence and life are both absurd, so I have my doubts about reality being real. I don’t talk about that with too many people. On the Dawkins atheism scale of 1-7 I insist on a 4, and yes it is sometimes mildly amusing to watch the 1′s and 6.99′s going at it. I think it’s simply illogical to have an opinion.

    The problems are arrogance, liars and easy believers, not agnosticism. If an agnostic truly believes no one else can ever “know”, that is arrogant. Reality lives within the witness, not the scientific method. If you gave me the choice of being a witness or instead taking a picture and becoming a preacher, I would prefer to be a witness, because witnesses get to know something that other people don’t. To deny the experience of a witness would be very arrogant, no matter what the claim. Then we get to judge whether or not their experience is related to our own world and we become arrogant again. I despise religion mainly because it has corrupted our political processes, and slows the progress of humanity (why do I care?… maybe some sort of genetic drive?). The is way too much falseness and arrogance going around. As far as a thoughtful deist insisting a prior or overbearing consciousness must be at the root of our reality, or an atheist insisting it’s just not possible, I say let them be. If they think about it very much they’ll just end up with more doubt.

    There’s plenty to be certain about once you assume that matter etc. is all real. Most people assume they have certainty, because they were taught it. Some people have more certainty because they are either more stupid or more educated. Others may indeed be true witnesses. For myself it would mean that my ego has taken over and any belief would be more about ranking my experience higher than someone elses… not logical.

  4. Liberty Sea Says:

    The only problem with this blog is that it is not very informed due to David being unfamiliar with academic categories. As Dawkins pointed out in his book The God Delusion, there are two types of Agnosticism: 1. Temporary Agnosticism in Practice, or TAP, which denotes that there “is a truth out there and one day we hope to know it, though for the moment we don’t.”; 2. Permanent Agnosticism in Principle, or PAP, which denotes that there is no truth or if there is we have absolutely no way of knowing it, and their motto is ignoramus et ignorabimus, meaning “we do not know and will not know”.

    As David pointed out, the PAPs are just plainly insane, and a notorious example is the late Bertrand Russel, who went on and on about how we should not feel certain of anything, how enduring uncertainty was a virtue. But the TAPs stand for intellectual honesty, whose Representative is Sam Harris (more than the rest of the Four Horsemen of New Atheism). Harris promoted meditation, exploration of consciousness, denied the existence of Self, Free will and refuted moral relativism, and received much negative criticisms from academic philosophers for his book The Moral Landscape. I acknowledge that people like Sam Harris are a lot better than the majority of soulless academics.
    As many people denote that disbelief is just belief in the opposite, I simply call myself a non-believer, absent of belief (and a knower, in some essential issues).

  5. Kunga Says:

    ““What is love? What is creation? What is longing? What is a star?”” — so asks the last man and blinks. (Blinks… like the star he is) :)

  6. madlib Says:

    “The only way they know how to deal with the confusion is either by seeking refuge in the simplified, pre-packaged answers of religion, or in the simplified, pre-packaged answers of postmodernism (i.e. truth can never be known; everything is uncertain; everything is subjective; everything is relative, etc). In both cases, the act of thinking is abandoned, the shutters come up, the confusion is pushed aside, and everyone can get on with the important business of mindlessly enjoying life.” – david quinn

    What is wrong with keeping things simple? What context are you using simple?

  7. Kelly Jones Says:

    Steve wrote: ” Existence and life are both absurd, so I have my doubts about reality being real. ”
    What do you mean by “existence and life”, “absurd” and “reality”, and how did you come to that conclusion?

    __

    Liberty wrote: “1. Temporary Agnosticism in Practice, or TAP, which denotes that there “is a truth out there and one day we hope to know it, though for the moment we don’t.”;”
    The problem is, they think the reason they don’t know the truth yet is because they haven’t discovered it empirically.

  8. Bob Michael Says:

    I hate common humanity. This oafish crowd which tramples the ground whence my cloud-capped pinnacles might rise. I am tired of humanity – beyond measure. Take it away. This gaping, stinking, bombing, shooting, throat-slitting, cringing brawl of gawky, under-nourished riff-raff.

    The hope of mankind – what is it? That someday the Overman may come, that some day the inferior, the weak, and the bestial may be subdued or eliminated. Subdued if not eliminated. Their duty – it’s a fine duty too – to die! The death of the failure! That is the path by which the beast rose to manhood, by which man goes on to higher things.

    (H. G. Wells)

  9. Kelly Jones Says:

    “Krankwerden und Misstrauen-haben gilt ihnen sündhaft: man geht achtsam einher. / Turning ill and being distrustful, they consider sinful: they walk warily. ”
    This doesn’t make sense. If they consider it sinful to be distrustful, then they wouldn’t walk warily.

    I put it “Illness and distrustfulness they deem sinful: of those one is careful.” — they’re careful to steer clear of anything that causes effort and pain, such as anything that involves one personally in social division and contrast, for such experiences requires one to form concepts and substantiate one’s position. That is too much work.

  10. Bob Michael Says:

    D. Q.: It has long been one of my goals in life to eliminate religion from the face of the earth.

    Good idea, but it ain’t never going to happen until the necessary grand-cleansing of the all-too-terribly-many “weak” and “botched” human beings that presently occupy the planet takes place.
    ____________________________________________

    What is good? – Whatever augments the feeling of power, the will to power, power itself, in man.

    What is evil? – Whatever springs from weakness.

    What is happiness? – The feeling that power increases – that resistance is overcome,

    Not contentment, but more power, not peace at any price, but war, not virtue, but efficiency (virtue in the Renaissance sense, virtu, virtue free of moral acid).

    The weak and the botched shall perish: first principle of our charity. And one should help them to it.

    What is more harmful than any vice? – Practical sympathy for the botched and the weak – Christianity.

    (Nietzsche – ‘The Antichrist’)

  11. cathypreston Says:

    This is a very bleak picture, will the earth become a black hole from which no light escapes. In effect creating the heaven and hell men dream of, cut off, isolated. Oh the irony, to get what you wish for.

  12. Russ Says:

    Just a small note David, but I don’t think this post showed up on RSS or email.

  13. Kelly Jones Says:

    Cathy wrote: “will the earth become a black hole from which no light escapes”

    The Buddha even called it the *ultimate* extinction of the Dharma, which sounds a lot like there is no return. He predicts this era:

    - When the Dharma is about to disappear, women will become vigorous and will at all times do deeds of virtue. Men will grow lax and will no longer speak the Dharmas.

    - The masses will toil and suffer while the local officials will plot and scheme. No one will adhere to principles.

    - Instead, all people will be ever more numerous like the sands of the ocean-bed.

    - Good persons will be hard to find; at most there will be one or two.

    - As the life-span of males decreases, that of females will increase to seventy, eighty, ninety, or one hundred years.

    - Extremes of climate will soon be taken for granted.

    - The twelve divisions of the canon will gradually follow until they vanish completely, never to appear again. Its words and texts will be totally unknown everafter.

    - When my Dharma disappears it will be just like an oil lamp which flares brightly for an instant just before it goes out. So too, will the Dharma flare and die. After this time it is difficult to speak with certainty of what will follow.

    Uploaded here: http://theinfinitespeaking.blogspot.com.au/2008/05/ultimate-extinction-of-dharma.html

  14. David Quinn Says:

    Russ: “Just a small note David, but I don’t think this post showed up on RSS or email.”

    Can anyone else confirm this? I ask because I can’t see your name, Russ, in the subscriber’s list, so that might have something to do with it. But then if that is the case, I am wondering how you are able to post a comment. Perhaps you will need to unsubscribe and resubscribe.

  15. David Quinn Says:

    madlib: “What is wrong with keeping things simple? What context are you using simple?”

    If the various strands of the world’s complexity are resolved logically in the simplicity of truth, then fine. But if simplicity is sought as a way to avoid having to think and resolve the world’s complexity, then it becomes a major problem. It is akin to sticking your head in the sand and hoping for the best. It is the will to unconsciousness.

  16. David Quinn Says:

    Liberty: “The only problem with this blog is that it is not very informed due to David being unfamiliar with academic categories. As Dawkins pointed out in his book The God Delusion, there are two types of Agnosticism: 1. Temporary Agnosticism in Practice, or TAP, which denotes that there “is a truth out there and one day we hope to know it, though for the moment we don’t.”; 2. Permanent Agnosticism in Principle, or PAP, which denotes that there is no truth or if there is we have absolutely no way of knowing it, and their motto is ignoramus et ignorabimus, meaning “we do not know and will not know”. ”

    As Kelly alluded, the TAP agnostic is being irrational in thinking that scientific theorizing will one day uncover truth. Science can no more uncover true knowledge than reading the Bible can uncover meaningful scientific theories. It is the wrong tool for the job.

    I must say that Dawkins has been an incredible disappointment ever since he started his atheistic crusade. He has consistently shown that he doesn’t have the faintest idea how to think logically outside the realm of science, which hampers his efforts enormously. I don’t think he has ever entertained a deep thought in his entire life.

    Sam Harris is a lot better, but even he is a bit too lightweight. He reminds me of Spinoza in that he is somewhat going in the right direction, but he is still a long way from mastering absolute truth and opening his mind to the Infinite. But having said that, he is doing a pretty good job within his limitations, and the world could certainly do with a few more like him.

    In the blog, I did isolate the person who honestly assesses himself as being uncertain of everything (and therefore doesn’t know whether truth can be known) from my condemnation of agnosticism. If such a person were to value the ideal of truth and set about doing everything he could to uncover it logically, then that would be even better. This is the only acceptable form of agnosticism that I recognize. It is agnosticism with soul.

  17. Russ Says:

    Ah, I changed my nickname, that may have screwed something up. My username is bluerap. I’ll try to unsubscribe, resubscribe.

    edit: Actually, the RSS reader is unrelated to wordpress, so it shouldn’t have been affected by changing something with my wordpress account. But I didn’t get an email either.

    Not a biggie for me, I keep up well enough due to my visits to the forum.

  18. Russ Says:

    David wrote “Sam Harris is a lot better, but even he is a bit too lightweight. He reminds me of Spinoza in that he is somewhat going in the right direction, but he is still a long way from mastering absolute truth and opening his mind to the Infinite. But having said that, he is doing a pretty good job within his limitations, and the world could certainly do with a few more like him.”

    I read a good bit of Harris’s interview on the Amazon page for the book mentioned, and I came away thinking similar. It surprised me though to see someone show that much of an openness to reality, yet still somehow be limited enough to make him unable to break through into understanding ultimate reality.

    I’m still getting used to seeing things from a more ultimate perspective and a big part of that, to me, is figuring out how so many people are unable to do so and have never done so. This especially includes the scientific specialists like Harris.

    Of course, I know egotism is the root cause, yet it never fails to astound me how profoundly it controls people’s consciousness.

  19. Kelly Jones Says:

    It’s interesting to analyse how the ego is being handled with agnosticism. It’s really very cunning. The ego desires specific things:
    - feeling powerful in your control over the environment —> obsession with scientific details
    - feeling comfortable —> scientific knowledge put towards physical needs: health, agriculture, transport, politics etc.
    - feeling safe —> everyone acts, talks and “thinks” the same, creating anonymity and safety in the crowd

    But that system carries its own doom within it, because science depends on new discoveries. It needs loners, iconoclasts, explorers, law-breakers, new eyes and inventors. So it needs people who can cope outside the herd, people who want to go beyond safety and comfort, who can bear to think. What if that loner happens to ask a question like, who am I? what am I? If I am “my brain”, then how can “I” be dependent on “my brain”? It cracks the ego open.

  20. Bob Michael Says:

    “The world man lives in, the world into which he was thrown, is a cave, a prison, ruled by “principalities and powers” opposed entirely to the light and goodness of God. Our world is a house of ignorance and illusion, where spirit is captured by coarseness and density of matter. In that world, man is drugged and intoxicated, forgetful of his real origin and asleep to his higher destiny. Either through some great cosmic error and fall, or through the independent rapaciousness of a separate principle of Evil, this life, this world and everything that is in it, is pervaded by ultimate corruption. And it is peopled by human beings totally in the thrall of this corruption, human beings in appearance only. A few men and women, however, have the spark of God within them, and the sole aim of these special individuals must be to sever their bondage to the world and its people, to remember their real origins and escape from the death-dealing pleasures and pains of the created universe in which they find themselves.” (Jacob Needleman – ‘Lost Christianity’)

  21. David Quinn Says:

    Yes, the Infinite is too “out there” for most people. Or putting it another way, it is too immediate and direct. It requires one to unlearn everything to such an extent that you become too strange for mainstream people. If a Dawkins or a Harris were to go that route, they would be laughed out of their intellectual circles in no time. Their fans would think they had lost the plot. Their careers would die. And so they instinctively put up mental barriers to ensure that never happens.

  22. David Quinn Says:

    Russ,

    A couple of other people have told me that they received emails. I don’t know about the RSS feed as yet. Let me know if it happens again next time.

  23. Kelly Jones Says:

    Distrust the technology. It’s like the free love era of the sixties: the spirit of freedom was corrupted by the animal libido.

  24. Bob Michael Says:

    With the eyes of a hawk and fully awakened and enlivened senses, I walk the streets, ride the buses, stroll the malls, and sit in among various groups of people. And oh how very, very few people I see anywhere who have “the spark of God” or the spark of Love within them.

    Indeed, as Gurdjieff so often alluded to, “men are machines” (cold-hearted, unfeeling, and overly-thinking machines). And for the many it’s an irreparable neurophysiological dilemma stemming from being deprived of love in the critical formative years of life. Most surely we must be in the last days.

  25. David Quinn Says:

    I don’t subscribe to that kind of fatalism. Every generation likes to think they are in the last days, that the end of the world is near. It is an illusion that weak, insecure people in particular like to believe in, due to their hatred of the world and their egotistical need to feel special. I prefer to be an optimist. The human brain is a wonderful organ. Given a chance, it can flourish.

  26. Kelly Jones Says:

    Bob wrote: “overly-thinking machines”

    The problem is that they don’t think. They scheme and worry, then delude themselves that this is thinking rationally, and it doesn’t get you nowhere. How embarrassing.

  27. Kelly Jones Says:

    Hey Matt, how much •••

    HTML

    can we use?

  28. Kelly Jones Says:

    Obviously not “centre”, “sup”, “underline”, “big”, “small”…

  29. Matt Gregory Says:

    Kelly, I think you can use whatever html you want (

    <center><sup>
    <u> <big> <small>) If some tag doesn’t work, use a <div> or <span> with inline styles

  30. Steve Byrne Says:

    David said:

    “In the blog, I did isolate the person who honestly assesses himself as being uncertain of everything (and therefore doesn’t know whether truth can be known) from my condemnation of agnosticism. If such a person were to value the ideal of truth and set about doing everything he could to uncover it logically, then that would be even better. This is the only acceptable form of agnosticism that I recognize. It is agnosticism with soul.”

    Thank you David, this at least, gives a calculating logician a chair to sit in.

    One of my very best friends is a skeptic and he fits the agnostics you describe to the letter. He calls himself an atheist and worships Richard Dawkins to the point of appearing to me as fanatical. In my observations and assessment of his condition, he strikes me as moderately intelligent, but extremely vain about his intelligence. I also see this in Dawkins as well as many others in acedamia. In my friend’s case he has studied very hard and often quotes from various famous authors. He has a working knowledge of latin and rarely misses an opportunity to demonstrate his almost encyclopedic powers of retention. He depends entirely on peer reviewed consensus for his opinions and I think he is nearly incapable of independent thought. As he drinks and the workings within become more obvious he repeats his cliche’s and becomes thoroughly intolerable. He says he thinks any kind of God is just as probable as the flying teapot on the other side of the moon, a classic dawkinsian cliche.

    I simply can’t form an an opinion and am incapable of assigning a probabilty. How could a human mind possibly form an opinion? Based on what? The thinking of other humans? as they pondered the thoughts of other humans?… And herein lies a very key part of the human condition of socialization… that we care what other people think and want to be like them so they will approve of us. Vanity steers us into these corners and dead ends, wars, greed and power mongering. OMG do we have it bad! My mother had this transparent vanity that was a gift to me. Vanity and authority combined. It took a long time to understand it and how it can shape what we do. Ego drives the train and society provides the rails. I probably post here for my ego. Often I’ll write something and then realize my ego is driving me and the tell myself it would be nobler to delete it (better serving my ego). My ego doesn’t even need other people to know it is great to feel greater. Maybe I’ll flip a coin to remove myself from deciding whether or not to post this and then my ego can have the same glory I feel by not having to guess whether or not God exists. In the end, if anyone gets to read this, I may have decided it is simply more fun to have something out there for people to respond to. Maybe this makes me feel smarter… again my darn ego twithching me this way and that.

    Thank God we live in a material world where we can have fear and eat chocolate and drink or smoke pot and enjoy the warmth of a blanket, scratch our itches and finally sneeze after a bit of torture.

    Thanks David… this is a good blog.

  31. Kelly Jones Says:

    Steve wrote: “How could a human mind possibly form an opinion? Based on what?”

    Going back to what you wrote above, “Existence and life are both absurd, so I have my doubts about reality being real”, why not start with what you think is ultimately real, and then decide on existence and life afterwards? Surely ultimate reality is a good basis for an opinion.

  32. Adam Pfleghaar Says:

    Perhaps one of my favorite quotes, just happens to be from the bible, “Because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I spit thee out of thy mouth.” That pretty much sums up my stance towards agnosticism. The lukewarm laziness of cattle grazing on grass (more likely corn in this day and age). That docile, glazed-over look of self-satisfaction in their eyes, as they fatten themselves up, waiting to be slaughtered.

    Another pitch perfect blog David. Thank you.

    “He has degenerated into a woman.”

    Don’t quite know about this bold finale. I still haven’t figured out how gender has any significant role in understanding and immersing oneself in the Zero Totality/God (which is most obviously without gender). But hey, I still appreciate that it isn’t lukewarm.

  33. Kelly Jones Says:

    Adam wrote: “I still haven’t figured out how gender has any significant role in understanding and immersing oneself in the Zero Totality/God (which is most obviously without gender).”

    The role is psychological. The evidence suggests that males and females evolved very different psychologies to each other. While there are no apparent psychological differences between the sexes in the context of undemanding, everyday tasks, like brushing your teeth or answering the telephone, these differences leap out in the context of the spiritual life.

    For instance, the key psychological drive in the spiritual life is bodhicitta, which happens to have strong masculine resonances. Bodhicitta is the uncompromising attitude to realise Buddhahood as perfectly as possible in every moment, against the tremendous ongoing force of habitual egotism.

    That’s one very extremist attitude that needs a strong, centralised mind but more importantly, a self-sufficient, powerful personality. There just happen to be more males that can go it alone, and are at ease, in a solitary life, than there are females. By contrast, females tend to be swung about by the emotions and sensations, changing their minds according to what sits in front of them, minute by minute; and they tend to look outwardly to others for self-worth, identity, inspiration and initiative. When things get tough, women tend to think there is something wrong with them, and collapse in a heap, rather than inventing new solutions off the cuff. They don’t cope so well with stress. So it is far, far easier for masculine individuals than feminine to grow bodhicitta — and that said, it is by no means easy for blokes. Very few can bear it.

    However, these days, with discrimination against women being a major social faux pas, femininity is replacing masculinity, but it retains the same label. So masculinity has come to mean something weak-minded and highly egotistical: bodybuilders, violence, crime, promiscuity, racing cars, beer, labourers.

  34. Adam Pfleghaar Says:

    Yes I remember much of this from the old Genius Forum days. I do understand the associations you are trying to make. You mention modern, stereotypical gender characteristics for men (bodybuilders, violence, crime, racing cars) and likewise for women (codependency, impulsive, changing their minds, swung by emotions and sensations) but then somehow insist that the female stereotypes are truly “feminine” yet the male stereotypes are somehow not truly “masculine”, but rather “real” masculinity is this portrait you paint of the necessary characteristics of a bona fide truth revealer. I guess MAYBE it could be used as a visualization technique the way certain parables are used. Maybe … But the “metaphor” doesn’t quite work for me and I honestly believe once you start labeling these ideas with gender you are really diverting people’s focus from truth more than bringing them to it. Instead of arbitrarily labeling an “extremist attitude that needs a strong, centralised mind but more importantly, a self-sufficient, powerful personality” as a “masculine” ideal, you could simply say that it’s an ideal, and it wouldn’t cloud people’s understanding with unnecessary associations. The same if you started labeling everything as “ying” and “yang” it’s a convenient theory it just doesn’t cement so nicely in reality.

    “There just happen to be more males that can go it alone, and are at ease, in a solitary life, than there are females.”

    I’m a male and I go it alone and am at ease with a solitary life. You’re a female and I’m guessing you go it alone and are at ease in a solitary life. Unless there is some kind of empirical validity to this claim, some bizarre statistic you could reference, it wouldn’t ring true by my experiences and observations that men advance women at going alone and being at ease in a solitary life. But I could be wrong on that point I guess.

    “the uncompromising attitude to realise Buddhahood as perfectly as possible in every moment, against the tremendous ongoing force of habitual egotism.”

    This statement in particular is perfectly devoid of gender.

  35. Adam Pfleghaar Says:

    “It has long been one of my goals in life to eliminate religion from the face of the earth. I cannot begin to tell you how much I despise religion, with its insane theologies and banal rituals, its timid reliance on rules and scriptures, its closed-mindedness, its herdliness, its violence. To submit to a religion is truly cowardly behaviour. But even so, I would much rather have the company of a religious person than I would an agnostic.”

    This is such a great paragraph. Simply put, religion is blasphemy. But agnosticism is far worse.

  36. Adam Pfleghaar Says:

    Kelly. To try to sum up my point more succinctly. God is beyond gender. Likewise is the pursuit and realization of God.

  37. Kelly Jones Says:

    I take your points, Adam. Yes, the mind of a wise person is nothing at all, as is God.

    Kelly: Bodhicitta is the uncompromising attitude to realise Buddhahood as perfectly as possible in every moment, against the tremendous ongoing force of habitual egotism.

    Adam: This statement in particular is perfectly devoid of gender.

    Well, the ego evolved to assist in the pair-relationship between a mating couple. So the primary blockage to wisdom is within the realm of sexuality.

    Can I ask you a personal question? Do you see a long-lasting, intimate sexual and emotional relationship with a woman — i.e. “having a soul mate” — as an essential part of your well-being, or is the opposite true for you: your highest-reaching spiritual potential would be possible only if you were free of such emotional ties?

  38. Kelly Jones Says:

    Kelly:…within the realm of sexuality.

    Sorry, I’ll just clarify that. By sexuality I mean sex characters. That means all the traits that play some role in sexual relations.

    In case you are worried, I’m not trying to belittle women or put unnecessary hurdles in their way. I know you are diffident about my claims about the existence of certain feminine psychological traits. So, with an advance apology for typing a lot more, I’d like to offer a couple of personal anecdotes — hardly scientific evidence, but I think they are still revealing in showing how those psychological traits are far from being unrealistic stereotypes that don’t match up with anything in society.

    Amanda Bauer is an high-achieving astrophysicist in her early thirties, and we were chatting at my place when she dropped in, in the hope of finding a walking buddy to a remote cape near my place. After I mentioned my interest in gender differences, she mentioned how few women were in her field, and, off her own bat, she agreed on how different women’s psychology were to men’s. (Incidentally, I don’t think she was merely being friendly by showing sympathy with politically incorrect views, but instead, she was freely offering her own experiences.)

    Amanda mentioned an article about women having “imposter syndrome”, about how women entering a new social environment, particularly a workplace, basically felt immediately that they don’t belong, were timid and self-doubtful, and strongly preferred friends, acceptance and guidance to show them the ropes. Amanda herself believed women in her workplace preferred a level, cooperative, sociable playing-field while men preferred a more individualistic, lone-wolf, competitive approach, and concluded that there were so few women in her profession because women didn’t like competing with men, but preferred cooperative, supportive social environments.

    Now that’s astrophysics, a typically male-dominated arena for brainy types.

    Back to the remote cape on Bruny Island: it’s one of the best surfing breaks in Tasmania, so I’m learning to surf. I’ve been reading a lot of books, and there was one I picked on “surfing for girls”. While all the books covered a range of different aspects of surfing, the one for girls was disproportionately heavy on psychological pep-talk, and very basic stuff. Stuff like, don’t wear jewellery, or you’ll probably lose it in the surf. Don’t wear your hair long, or it’ll be hard to see anything when you emerge after a wipe-out. Don’t wear a bikini or you’ll probably lose it in the surf. But lots more on making friends, feeling confident, and a great deal about not being embarrassed by being a beginner and holding your surfboard the wrong way. That sort of thing.

    So we’ve got astrophysics on one hand, and surfing on the other. Can’t get more broad a spectrum of femininity than that, eh? Yet both express the same thing about feminine psychology.

    Again, I’m sorry about the extended post.

  39. Adam Pfleghaar Says:

    Kelly,

    No reason to apologize for lengthy posts. I just know that I am often verbose in non-constructive ways and end up beating a point to the ground in a hundred different roundabout ways (I’m not a writer). Also, I tend to grossly exaggerate for rhetorical effect (stemming from my background in the arts). So it’s a personal objective of mine to be more clear, succinct and tame down my manner of expression in regards to truth.

    “Do you see a long-lasting, intimate sexual and emotional relationship with a woman — i.e. “having a soul mate” — as an essential part of your well-being, or is the opposite true for you: your highest-reaching spiritual potential would be possible only if you were free of such emotional ties?”

    Well I’m not a fatalist so I don’t care to make definitive claims about exactly what will happen in the remainder of my time on this planet (I’ve done that before and life has proven me wrong). If somehow, magically, a “soul mate” exists, that we somehow have the exact same ultimate aims and our methods coincide, like two birds with no legs, free to fly anywhere we choose at any time, but for now fly in unison, never to land (being without legs to land on). That is “theoretically” possible. But so far, in the 31 years of my existence, the opposite has always shown itself to be true, that my highest reaching spiritual potential was possible only when I was free of the heroin addiction that some call singular “love” and sense pleasure attachment. (I wrote a cautionary parable about it that I feel rather nicely expresses why I feel this way, but it’s too long to post here.) That’s not to say that I deny myself all sensory and biological experiences. As much as I tried in my youth, I no longer delude myself that I am not also a biological, human animal. I occasionally immerse myself fully in life, in all its destructive glory, just as I immerse myself fully in God. That means that I am not afraid to try something and fail, try something and get hurt or damaged by it, or dive head first into the mud, so that I may rise above like a lotus blossom. But all the while, I maintain the attitude that my good friend William Blake poetically phrases, “he who binds himself a joy, does the winged life destroy, but he who kisses a joy as it flies, lives in eternity’s sunrise”. All that being said, I mostly live an ascetic lifestyle and have found much more fulfillment that way.

    I hope you don’t mistakingly confuse my position for one of “political correctness” or that I am trying to uphold some feminist agendas. This is certainly not the place for that and if it was, I wouldn’t be writing here.

    Your anecdotal examples are interesting and case by case, I can see the truth in what you are trying to express.

    To make an interesting contrast to your anecdotes, I’ve often worked under women in my previous jobs. By my past experiences, I’ve mostly encountered women, who while trying to compete in an aggressive, competitive, male dominated profession (movie industry), they over-compensate to make up for being a woman. They are far more aggressive, competitive, manipulative, fierce and ruthless, with “something to prove” (probably trying to get revenge, continuing the cycle of samsara, reveling in the pain of the past traumas caused by their sexist work environments). Therefor they are far more difficult to work under by my experience. But also, one of my most respected previous employers was a woman. I would never dare try to typecast her with any such normative psychology.

    All this psychological profiling aside. Despite the obvious biological fact that I am a man, with certain obvious masculine characteristics both biological and psychological (I go alone, actively engage in competition, even partake in spar heavy martial arts 4 nights a week, not that there aren’t women who I fight that aren’t as skilled and aggressive but …). In regards to my extremely pointed, single-minded aim, to constantly (eternally) experience (realize) God in literally everything, to stare it all dead in the eyes and never look away, in that regards, I do not consider myself in the light of being a “man” or a “woman”, in that regards, gender is totally insignificant.

  40. Kelly Jones Says:

    I’d like to read that cautionary tale, if you’ve still got a copy handy.

    Yes, I appreciate your point, that the genius reflects the whole world he perceives, and so is nothing in himself. That said, naturally there’s a closer match with human behaviour than with rock behaviour! So even though one is ultimately nothing, one is still a human being.

    The way I approach the generalisations about psychological traits is: some have helped me make spiritual progress; others less so. And, the very least desireable traits I see in myself can repeatedly be observed in women in amplified form, hence I can make generalisations. That is how I go about it.

    Now, you’ll have to bear with me for doing something that always makes me very unpopular. But try not to take it personally, if possible. I’m really speaking from my own experience, so if you think I’m blending rhetoric and psychological analysis too much for credibility, which is going to be unavoidable in an analysis of the psychology of a poet-artist-genius, then you can at least believe it’s got nothing to do with you. Introitus over. Now the Dies Irae:

    Adam: If somehow, magically, a “soul mate” exists, that we somehow have the exact same ultimate aims and our methods coincide, like two birds with no legs, free to fly anywhere we choose at any time, but for now fly in unison, never to land (being without legs to land on).

    Thanks for your candid response. You are obviously aware that one’s values and ideals have a 1:1 relationship to what one is attracted by in the world. For someone with an artistic and poetic nature, the world is even more so one’s own representation. I assume you can see your psychology at work in your creative urges and visualisations.

    For myself, I see your image of floating souls accompanying each other to be less like mirror-images of untethered Shantideva’s or wandering sages “in the vacancy of untroubled ease”, and more like the mental image thrown-up when the path ahead looks like it would be rather empty and unfulfilling without that matching pair, without a shadow to ground, a mirror to reflect, a shelter from the world, a crutch to strengthen one’s sense of purpose. It is the quiet but unmistakable song of the ego weeping. But what’s all this about? There are some mistakes in one’s conception of Reality. That’s all. Wisdom has revealed one to be nothing, but it hasn’t really sunk deeply enough. So one’s thoughts go something along the lines of, “I am existing, and wisdom wants to destroy me —- how horrendous, creepy, murderous, unfair! Life is unjust! Yet I love God, and I can never go back to mindlessness. But I don’t know that I can really bear this underlying feeling of dying and feeling deprived.”

    I might not be hitting the mark completely, but if something of that resonates, then it would result in wanting to see some possibility of like-minded souls in one’s environment — to reduce the sense of loneliness and isolation. And, in turn, the ability to imagine that women are closer to oneself than they really are, for they are quite easy to beautify and make attractive. Women do so love to smile. And if anything is unfair, it’s getting kicked while you’re down.

  41. Adam Pfleghaar Says:

    Kelly,

    I believe I emailed you the parable. If I have your email correct (let me know if you didn’t get it). It really is too long and I don’t want to distract attention away from David’s blog entry (and really have no desire to make my “voice” heard).

    You would be correct to assume that my psychology is also dominated by my artistic nature (among my many other psychological flaws/challenges yet to overcome). I fully admit that I am not a wandering philosopher, untethered in the vacancy of untroubled ease. I most likely will never be a philosopher. That is a very specific personality type and not necessarily mine. But I think you would be incorrect to assume that to be the only path to fully immersing oneself in God. That would be just as blasphemous as any religious statement because you would be unnecessarily limiting God and trying to dictate/control access to realization.

    “more like the mental image thrown-up when the path ahead looks like it would be rather empty and unfulfilling without that matching pair, without a shadow to ground, a mirror to reflect, a shelter from the world, a crutch to strengthen one’s sense of purpose.”

    This was very well articulated and there is some deep truth in this. I can see how that might reflect my little example of two birds with no legs, flying in unison. Though I thought I made it clear that I don’t ascribe to the fatalism of setting limits on possibilities, so this was just one “theoretically” possible and even “magical” scenario, therefor HIGHLY unlikely. If I was relying on this “fantasy” as my goal for emotional fulfillment then that would be a problem. But with me personally, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I was fortunate in that I was suicidal at a very young age. I became so intimate with my own death, so comfortable with that prospect that now, having fully overcome my suicidal demons, I am not looking for any mirror to reflect, a shelter from the world, a crutch. I VERY much relate to Huang Po when he says, “Those who hasten towards it dare not enter, fearing to hurtle down through the void with nothing to cling to or to stay their fall. So they look to the brink and retreat.” I really don’t fear hurtling down through the void with nothing to cling to or stay my fall. Thanks to my intimacy with death at a very early age, I’ll dive head first into that void and set fire to all my desires and attachements in the process. I certainly have no desire to reduce my sense of loneliness and isolation. I am all too comfortable alone and in isolation. If I have a fantasy, it is to finally retire from the world to become an ascetic monk or a hermit. But it’s not my time yet. I still have karmic bonds keeping me here, still have “work” to finish.

    “It is the quiet but unmistakable song of the ego weeping.”

    This was the most profound statement in your analysis. My definition of “ego” is merely the perception of self. The ego is not something to fight against, to destroy or overcome, something that can be eliminated or eradicated. Everyone has a “perception of self”. All of the greatest sages have an ego. The important point, is freedom from the the attachements and identifications of the ego. Am I perfectly liberated from my ego? In all honesty – no. It’s a continual, arduous process and requires constant attention and maintenance. At least in my case it does.

  42. Kelly Jones Says:

    Yes, you got my email right. I’ve got the file. While I ponder over it (which others might also like to read, so perhaps you could upload it to a server?) and your last reply, can I ask if the “karmic bonds” and “work” you refer to might include David’s film? I’ve read a few of his drafts, and I share his hope that you could help produce it before you enter solitude more deeply. It could be a very effective vehicle if done well…….. and a good transition for you. I’m also hoping to contribute in some way.

  43. Adam Pfleghaar Says:

    Absolutely. That’s the whole reason I’m working as a “prostitute” :)

  44. Adam Pfleghaar Says:

    In fact, the way things are developing I think that film could be made in the not too distant future.

  45. Kelly Jones Says:

    I’ll give my reaction to the parable here, if you don’t mind. My reaction was mixed. I liked seeing the flipside of the platitude, “If you love something, set it free” —> “If you love something, you are the one who is caged”. But the metaphors were a little unclear. Was the bird supposed to be a symbol for wisdom, i.e. an endangered species, in the forest of the Infinite? Or was it a woman that he was hoping to have children with?

    Love story: a short video that might interest you.

    Adam wrote: My definition of “ego” is merely the perception of self. The ego is not something to fight against, to destroy or overcome, something that can be eliminated or eradicated. Everyone has a “perception of self”. All of the greatest sages have an ego. The important point, is freedom from the the attachements and identifications of the ego. Am I perfectly liberated from my ego?

    What do you make of Hakuin’s saying, “If you aren’t there for even an instant, then you are just like a dead man?”

  46. Adam Pfleghaar Says:

    I would have to read Hakuin’s saying in the context it was written. if you aren’t “where”? What is this “there” he is referencing?

    I have not read Hakuin. Please recommend one of his works and I will read it.

    The metaphors in the parable were not necessarily written for people like you. In other words, I wasn’t preaching to the choir. My intention was that people like Joseph, could relate to Joseph, and understand why they will end up destroyed in the end. And it is a very specific subject being addressed not a broader spiritual philosophy.

  47. Kelly Jones Says:

    “There” just means, “there in your brain”. Or, “there at all”, “here”, “existing at all”, “anywhere at all”, or “appearing to mind”. I hope that covers it!

    Hakuin scribbled Zennish things in big characters on scrolls, for students. They’re standalone things, a bit like your parable. But a lot more literal.

    But in case you’d like to read a bit more, there’s a small selection from Hakuin’s autobiography, “Wild Ivy”, here. If after reading that, you’re still interested in what he has to say, then I can email you “The Essential Teachings of Zen Master Hakuin”.

    Kelly

  48. Adam Pfleghaar Says:

    It was a very good sampling and most definitely stimulated my interest in reading deeper.

    It was necessary to understand some context about who Hakuin is and what his perspective/teachings are. His koans may be stand alone things for his students, who are already familiar with him. But they are not stand alone for someone who is not familiar with him. For instance, I could see Krishnamurti or even Rene Descartes make that saying, “If you aren’t there for even an instant, then you are just like a dead man”, and it would have a VERY different meaning (I have strong philosophical disagreements with them, particularly Rene Descartes). Also, how you interpret being “like a dead man”? For instance in the context of David’s blog Believing in Death, you have to be like a dead man to conquer death:

    “A dead man has nothing to lose. Possessing nothing, being nothing, he is beyond all possibility of harm. And so too, if a person empties himself of utterly everything while remaining alive, if he becomes the nothingness that he really is, abandoning all desire for personal happiness, discarding everything he has gained from the past and renouncing every hope for the future, no longer seeking anything, no longer storing anything, no longer paying any attention to forms, being wholly unmoved in all circumstances, unmoved even to his own reputation, even to his own consciousness, even to his own life, even to wisdom itself – then death loses all of its power and meaning. It melts back into the charade that it has always been.”

    So what are you asking? What do I make of that koan from my understanding, or what do I make of it from the significance I think the author intended?

    There was one part of “Wild Ivy” that perplexed me.

    “The National Master Kanzan, for example, is said to have walked the entire length of the Great Eastern Road twenty times without once looking up to notice Mount Fuji as he passed beneath it.”

    This needs further clarification or more context. Because my initial impression of this is your average, sleep walking, thoroughly unenlightened person who walks about it life, living in their head, living in their fantasies, replaying thoughts over and over again, constantly trying to solve riddles or creating problems that don’t exist. I guess he sort of explained it later with the story of how he was lost in a koan reverie, leaning up against a house when a old woman beat him unconscious with a broom. So I’m guessing he is not advocating this type of sleep-walking delusion with his koans, but rather explaining the various stages of his spiritual growth??? What do you make of that example?

  49. Kelly Jones Says:

    I’ve emailed you a link to the scanned book of Hakuin’s essential teachings. Unfortunately it’s not text-searchable.

    “Also, how you interpret being “like a dead man”? For instance…”

    Yes, the quote from David’s blog you mention is alive with deadness.

    “So what are you asking?”

    Whether you think a dead man has a self?

    “The National Master Kanzan, for example, is said to have walked the entire length of the Great Eastern Road twenty times without once looking up to notice Mount Fuji as he passed beneath it.”

    The single-mindedness that comes from going beyond the knowledge that life and death are identical, to knowing they’re not even there. So he doesn’t get bored, or confused.

    Your post reminded me of another Zen story (p. 67):

    When Zen master Shih-shuang passed away and the brotherhood asked the head monk to succeed him as abbot, Zen master Chiu-feng Tao-ch’ien, who had previously served as the master’s attendant, came and addressed them.   He posed a question to the head monk,   “The master often told us to ‘cease all activity,’   to ‘do nothing whatever,’   to ‘become so cold and lifeless the spirits of the dead will come sighing around you,’   to ‘become a bolt of fine white silk,’   to ‘become dead ashes inside a censer in a forgotten old graveyard,’   to ‘become so that this very instant is ten thousand years.’

    “What is the meaning of these instructions?   If you show that you grasp them, you are the next abbot.   If you show that you do not, you aren’t the man for the job.”

    “His words,” said the head monk, “refer to the essential oneness of all things.”   “You have failed to understand the master’s meaning.” said Chiu-feng.

    “Get some incense ready,” replied the head monk.   “If I have terminated my life by the time that incense burns down, it will mean I grasped the master’s meaning.   If I am still living, it will mean I did not.”

    Chiu-feng lit a stick of incense and, before it had burned down, the head monk had ceased breathing.   Patting the lifeless man on the back, Chiu-feng said, “Other monks have died while seated; some of them have died while standing.   But you proved just now that you could not have seen the master’s meaning even in your dreams.”

  50. Adam Pfleghaar Says:

    Well it is very clear to me that I should read Hakiun’s teaching before trying to comment on it. So at this point I can only speak by my own understanding, off the bat.

    “Whether you think a dead man has a self?”

    Yes and no. Yes in that All is self. No in that self doesn’t exist.

    The concept of “self” has an interesting variation between Buddhism and Vedanta. In Buddhism there is no “self” because nothing exists independently, it is all contingent on cause and effect, everything, all that we know, comes from an infinite stream of passing dharmas which originates from Voidness (Sunyata). In Vedanta the self is literally everything. Infinite. Unchangeable. Non-Dual. It cannot be divided or added to. To differentiate is a delusion. The source of everything exists in everything. Everything is from the same source, nothing can exist separately, outside, or beyond the source, therefor everything and the source are of the same nature. So in Buddhism there is “No-Self” in Vedanta it is “All-Self”. I think it is obvious that they are both correct and incorrect.

    Bringing it back to my definition of “ego”. If self is Everything and Nothing, that doesn’t change the fact that we have a “perception” of self, which is our ego.

    “The single-mindedness that comes from going beyond the knowledge that life and death are identical, to knowing they’re not even there. So he doesn’t get bored, or confused.”

    Will you please clarify how this relates to this:

    “The National Master Kanzan, for example, is said to have walked the entire length of the Great Eastern Road twenty times without once looking up to notice Mount Fuji as he passed beneath it.”

    Are you somehow implying that Kanzan was so immersed in his walking, with absolute, single-minded attention on every step he takes that he could not be “distracted” by looking at Mount Fuji as he passes beneath it? Do you have to be “bored” or “confused” to be aware of your environment as you walk? Or are you saying he doesn’t notice Mount Fuji because it is “not there”? I’m really not making the connection here. And if my interpretations of what you are saying are correct then I’m not buying it.

  51. Kelly Jones Says:

    Adam,

    Regards Kanzan, yes, what I’m actually saying is a little deeper than your interpretation of what I am saying.   He’s not focussing exclusively on his steps, or somehow shutting off his perceptions out of the crazy belief that Reality is literally absolute nothingness.   He doesn’t have a psychological need to find beauty or relief by escaping from one set of experiences, like the proverbial monkey leaping from tree to tree in search of more fruit.   The story of Chiu-feng is an interesting one which could shed some light on what he’s doing.   It’s a step deeper than the head abbot’s “all is one self” (or nothing is self, which is another self).

    Adam:   Bringing it back to my definition of “ego”. If self is Everything and Nothing, that doesn’t change the fact that we have a “perception” of self, which is our ego.

    Well, if ego is Everything, and the barrier to enlightenment is attachment to Everything, is that even possible? Attachment presupposes separation between two things, before they can be attached.

  52. Adam Pfleghaar Says:

    I would like to revise saying “both are correct and incorrect”, to both are partially correct or bear partial truth.

    I didn’t say the ego was Everything. I said the ego was a perception of self, key word “perception”. Every human who ever existed, no matter how sagely or wise, has a perception of self. They go by a name of some sort and will answer when called. State their opinions. They recognize that they have a hand and therefor most likely do not stick that hand in a pit of hot coals unreasonably. They feed themselves on a regular basis. So on and so forth. Of course that is the most fundamental perception of self. It gets much more complicated when you dig deeper into that person’s psychology. Variations occur depending on what ways and on what level the consciousness of that person identifies with their perception of self. I have not finished reading Hakuin, but from what I’ve read so far, it is beyond clear to me that Hakuin had an ego and wisely yet brazenly displayed that fact. “I have always loathed monks of their type. they are tiger fodder, no doubt about it. I hope one tears them into tiny shreds. The pernicious thieves–even if you killed off seven or eight of them every day, you would still remain totally blameless”.

    May I ask you a couple questions, strictly from your own, personal perspective?

    1.) Are you referring to a “self” that is inherently non-dualistic?

    2.) Is it possible for a person to perceive separation while living fully awake as the inseparable?

    3.) Is it possible to perceive time yet live fully awake in timelessness?

    4.) Is it possible to indulge in the full spectrum of phenomena, while never identifying with any of it?

    5.) Is it possible for zero/infinity to perceive the number 1?

    As you know I also identify as being an artist. Just as Hakuin used paintings, calligraphy, and koans to communicate. I wish to relate to you a rather long winded free form poem. Feel free to comment. And please don’t walk on egg shells or hold punches with me :)

    Spend the rest of your life in a position of absolute regress. And let the rest. Behave with the grace of infinity.

    Curl up and relax. Spanning, landing, lasting, contrasting, laughing, wishing, but all of this is on the last of your creations best, with intentions only for those that seek.

    Two: With each is a new love of the imperceptible. A new birth for the weak. A new death for the strong. A new cry for the happy. A new poem for the song. A new dance for the rich and petty. New languishes for the insane. New pills for the ill. New laughs for those with a feeling of bold, old, long and told, withhold nothing, son of glory, and flourish!

    What if I told you infinity through a song? Would you listen then?

    Cry but once a year and dance but once a long and graceful night, clouds as faint as smoke, written on the sky, love as subtle as life itself. Do not behave innocent dear child. You have been on this planet long before your ancestors and will exceed long afterwards, to oblivion, and beyond thought, you exist, both within and without, exceeding the limits of the sublime, withholding the folds of time, within your breast, and without the rest, lest, we leaves are but shadows on smoke, written on the wills of souls lost, expanding outwards with our universe – towards what? Obviously. Infinity. How can there be a beginning and an end? There is no sense, yet we refuse to admit. Everything we see lives and dies, including our sight. Do we still need proof? OK. Drop your head. Rest your thoughts. Centered within. Do you feel something? Yes? What is it? Express the imperceptible. Express the inconceivable. Express the unexplainable. Express the …

    For in each drop is but a light of gold. This light is the beginning and the end, both zero and infinity. This light is what you have forgotten. This is where you exist but not with this time.

    You are with us but not with this time. My hands are but golden leaves open to give and open to receive.

    With this time you are now but an angel in the darkness. Blinded by your reality. If you so choose you can come back to us. Drop your head. Fix your gaze. And let your heart expand and envelope your body. Let your spine draw in energy. Let the mind relax. Drift with the energy and let it perceive itself, but only as a pattern of infinity. Trace that figure eight over and over, around each curve to the next. Then center yourself in the intersection of that figure eight. Light congregates in that open space like drops of rain in the curves of a leaf, like energy in the palms of your hand. Fold inside yourself. Again and Again. U are now in control. But you are not with this time.

    Here you have found that you are not perfect but only a reflection of your environment (that background seen through the opacity of smoke). You still fart. You still make mistakes. You are human.

    Yes you are human. You are human. You are human. You are human. You are human. You don’t want to be human? Why not? OK. Now you are human and now you are not.

    You are with us but not with this time.
    but YOU STILL HAVE A CHANCE. STOP PLAYING. START FEELING. WHAT ARE YOU?

    I am the center of the universe. Each point in the universe is expanding. Reconfiguring. Evolving. But the center always remains the same.

  53. Kelly Jones Says:

    Adam, I think I’m starting to get why you have that definition for ego, now. Thanks for the freeform poem. I think your definition is primarily a psychological device to help with changing one’s mental habits about what is ultimately real. It’s trying to “make everything me”, just like the saying “You are that”. On the other hand, presenting it in a less poetic-psychological form, and in a more tightly-reasoned form, it is a bit like wrapping a hot water bottle in so many layers that you can’t tell if it’s warm or not.

    If I break it down: attachment is to a perception of self, that is, to a perception of anything finite (since anything can be a self, but it makes no logical-existential sense to speak of an attachment to the Totality); but attachment is itself a perception, i.e. mental artifact; therefore, overcoming attachment means overcoming a particular perception (A) about another perception (B), or about any perceptions (BB), including that perception (A). It’s a bit too bulky for me. I think it’s more efficient just to correct one’s understanding of Reality, and that will include all things, perceptions, identifications, etc.

    But I agree that the psychological will to open every part of one’s mind to that understanding is important.

     

    May I ask you a couple questions, strictly from your own, personal perspective?

    1.) Are you referring to a “self” that is inherently non-dualistic?

    I would say that everything is inherently nondualistic, but then that means nothing whatsoever.

    2.) Is it possible for a person to perceive separation while living fully awake as the inseparable?

    All finite things are ultimately the non-finite, including consciousness, perceptions and separations. We are right now the Infinite, and we don’t suddenly blackout when we realise this.

    3.) Is it possible to perceive time yet live fully awake in timelessness?

    Time is ultimately timelessness, since time is a mental construct, and all mental constructs are manifestations of Reality, which is timeless. Every perception of time is a manifestation of timelessness. How could it be any other way?

    4.) Is it possible to indulge in the full spectrum of phenomena, while never identifying with any of it?

    I tend to experience consciousness as Reality, where everything appearing to mind is God, whatever form it takes — false thoughts or true. It’s not solipsism, or pretending that’s the only face of God. I assume there is other stuff going on that isn’t appearing.

    5.) Is it possible for zero/infinity to perceive the number 1?

    Infinity is not finite, not bounded, so it includes perceptions of zero and all numbers.

     
    I hope these answers satisfy your intentions.

  54. Adam Pfleghaar Says:

    I think this was the key to helping me understand:

    “I tend to experience consciousness as Reality, where everything appearing to mind is God, whatever form it takes — false thoughts or true. It’s not solipsism, or pretending that’s the only face of God. I assume there is other stuff going on that isn’t appearing.”

    Very well put too. I agree.

    I’m really digging the Hakuin thus far. It was exactly the read I was looking for at the moment. Grabbed me right away and hasn’t let go since. Thanks!

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