The Newsletter for Dangerous Thinkers
(Issue 10 October 2001)
Welcome to the latest edition of Genius News, a monthly newsletter based on the world's liveliest email forum: Genius-L. Genius-L is a discussion list dedicated to the nature of genius, wisdom and Ultimate Reality, to the total annihilation of false values and the femininity in all of us. That is to say, it is a list intended solely for those who value consciousness.
According to the scriptures, "No man knoweth the Father but the Son," and hence, if ye desire to know God, ye have to be not merely like the Son, ye have to be the very Son himself. Meister Eckhart
The symbol will return you to this contents table from each major section.
- The Limitations of Art -
A conversation from Genius Forum
David Quinn: I have no reason to believe that Goya, Van Gogh or Picasso had any kind of developed understanding of Reality. They certainly weren't enlightened (i.e. fully conscious of Ultimate Reality). Like the scientists, they may have had a bit of an inkling of the "mystical oneness" of everything, or a vague conception of eternity, or whatever. But it's pretty obvious that they didn't refine and develop their understanding to the point where they had a clear and precise knowledge of what Ultimate Reality was, nor the skill to open their minds up to it at will.
I can't think of any artist who was even remotely close to developing this kind of wisdom. The closest I can think of was Hakuin, a seventeenth century Japanese man who painted works of calligraphy, but even he was primarily a Zen master, rather than an artist.
The understanding of Reality is a discipline in itself, and can only have a minimal input from science and art. People seem to think that if you are a great scientist or artist or musician, then you automatically become a great philosopher. But that isn't the case. In fact, the opposite is more likely to be the case - the efforts spent on becoming a great artist are necessarily a diversion from efforts made to become wise.
If an artist were to ever make the effort to discover Ultimate Truth, he would quickly realize that it isn't something which can be commmunicated very well through painting, sculpture, music, and the like. He would see that simple straightforward language is the only way to go.
So I can't take any artist seriously if claims to understand Reality and yet relies on art to communicate his knowledge of it. It tells me that his understanding is still very shallow. You can certainly entertain people through the medium of art, and you can stimulate their minds and expand their horizons to some degree, but you can't teach them about the path to Reality to any precise degree.
Carbon: Ok, here is a simple question, can you say more with words (language being the limited device of human hands that it is) or more to paint (painting being only a formula capable of infinite range)?
David Quinn: The answer can be found in the fact that we are currently using words to discuss these ideas. If painting really was a superior mode of philosophical communication, then we'd all be exchanging pictures instead.
Carbon: What is lacking in prose is the limitations of human understanding (the enterpretational limitation of the audiance turned in apon it's self) and their effects on the language, that even a skilled and thoughtfull man is not able to perfectly reflect (the ultimate reality of) what he describes in his prose.
David Quinn: Maybe not. But he would still have a lot better success with prose than he would at painting. Prose is a lot more precise in its depiction of ideas. How does a painting demonstrate the truth of A=A, for example? It couldn't even begin to make the attempt. It is totally struck dumb in the face of these higher matters.
Carbon: Prose relies on the sense of sight, and in the act of communicating with said sense it does a poor job of conveying naturaly digestable data to said sense.While it is capable of crudely communicating details, it misses the Greater whole, and must therefore strive ten times as hard to reach many conclusions easely grasped with a painting. In many cases prose simply is not capable of stirring with in the mind what can be given to the eye by a painter.
David Quinn: I agree with that. But the fact that painting has advantages over prose in this particular area doesn't mean that it has the same advantages over prose in the realm of philosophy. Depicting abstract truths about the Infinite is a very different kettle of fish to depicting visual landscapes.
Carbon: I may be mistaken, however am I not the only practicing visual artist on this forum? If so would my ability to produce visual communication not excell above many who are simply not fammiliar with the formal methods envolved in producing and enterpreting said works not skew the results?
Marsha Faizi: You are probably the only practicing visual artist on the forum. However, I am a formerly practicing visual artist.
Having had the experience of using paint and brush as language tools, I must say that prose is a much more explicit and exacting language. I have the capability of using prose in such a way that it can make you forget that there are words on the page. Indeed, that is the point of writing. The intention is to express thought in such a way that the reader becomes absorbed enough; focused enough; in what is being expressed that the tool being used is only a tool and nothing more; not a part of the thought. I have never seen this accomplished in painting or sculpture. The tools and the materials used are always a part of the featured object of thing.
You cannot get a group of artists together without the discussion becoming centered on the medium. Artists, like construction workers, never tire of discussing materials and tools. It is exceedingly rare that a group of artists will come together to speak of their philosophy of painting. In fact, I can say that this is something that I have never witnessed and I have spent a good deal of time among artists.
With very few exceptions, artists are artisans; craftsmen. They know nothing else. Most artists are limited in their thinking. Their desire to produce art is primarily a blatantly egotistical one. Indeed, most visual artists are so completely self absorbed that they are only nominally aware that anything exists outside themselves. They believe themselves to be God-like and specially endowed with God-like gifts. They walk the earth like bulls; their mighty hooves causing the ground to shake and quiver under their colossal weight. All humanity should cower before them, the Mighty Bulls -- giants among men. They have ears but hear only themselves. They have eyes but they can only see what makes them look good. Their senses serve only to perpetuate and to feed their bloat.
David Quinn: No artist, either visual or text-based, can produce any masterwork that exceeds his level of wisdom. So if an artist has little or no wisdom to begin with (and most don't), then no amount of technique or knowledge of methods is going to produce a wise work. This goes back to a point that I made earlier, that wisdom is itself a discipline and an artform that require many years of devotion and practice to master. If an artist choses instead to fritter away his time painting pretty pictures...... well, he has to live with the consequences of that.
Carbon: Hey why stop there, why waste your time learning to write and developing that as an art when you could be spending that valuable time considering ultimate reality?
David Quinn: The two aren't incompatible. Expressing your ideas in the written language helps organize them into more coherent structures. It can also crystalize what you are thinking and help bring it into clearer focus. So not only can prose be an effective means of communicating wisdom to others, but it can also help the individual to develop himself mentally.
Carbon: In painting (I mean true painting, or drawing or any image rendering) there are many precision methods I am fairly sure you have no knowledge of. Perspective which is (in its greatest applied state) both teacher and test of one's true understanding of the functionings of space. Color theory, which is actually about mixing light, and using this knowledge to mimic (and thereby understand) the fashion in which visual reality is composed, and why. There must be in depth studies of anatomy, biology, botany, physics, geography, geology, topology, and for the spirit of the painting philosophy. All of this knowledge must be carefully applied to produce not only a thing of accuracy, but also a thing of spirit. Would you now say that there is no precision involved?
David Quinn: Oh yes, I am well aware there is much precision involved in painting as far as technique is concerned. But our discussion is focusing on an entirely different issue - namely, a painting's ability to precisely convey abstract ideas and sophisticated lines of thought. Although a good painting can certainly do it to some degree, it will always fall a long way short of the level of precision and subtlety that good prose can achieve.
If we were to set up a scale which has total unconsciousness at one end and supreme consciousness at the other, then even the best artist would fall considerably below any philosopher worth his salt. Here is a rough sketch on how I rate various people in terms of consciousness and wisdom:
10 - Buddhahood (the ideal)
6 - Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Weininger, Buddha, Lao Tzu
4 - Oscar Wilde, Marquis de Sade
3 - Kant, Dostoyevski, Shakespeare
2 - Einstein, Darwin, Newton
1.5 - Dali, Escher, Da Vinci, Bach
1.0 - Mozart, Beethoven, Van Gogh
0.5 0.1 - Tiger Woods, Michael Jorden, Dalai Lama, the pope.
0.05 - The average person
Carbon: I know of both painting and prose, for I have done both, and undertsand the methods of both, the benefits of both and the greater scope of both. You know only prose. You can therefore not make ANY informed opinion on painting, and what little of it you grasp is thanks only to painting's ability to express to the natural senses.
David Quinn: I don't need to know all the intricate details of the Ku Klux Klan to know that it is an absurd and brainless cult. I also don't need to know the inner workings of a gun to know that it is incapable of eating doughnuts and writing great poetry. Likewise, I don't need to know all the technical details of painting to know that it is seriously limited when it comes expressing great truth. What I do need to know, however, are the great truths themselves.
Marsha Faizi: I have known many painters and sculptors in my life and none of them were capable of philosophy. Artists are too in love with themselves and with the objects they create to be capable of life as philosophy. Art is an extension of the ego in much the way that a child or a lover is an extension of the ego. Art is production. It is possession. It is ownership.
In order for an artist to be a philosopher, he would have to sacrifice his art for the creation of himself. Art is also an occupation; a business venture. Art is something that is sold as a thing with value, not much differently from how jewelery is sold. Art is competative, not terribly different from how a beauty pageant is competative.
In order to succeed as an artist, an artist must constantly sell himself. For obvious reasons, this need to dazzle and to sell by dazzling is compromising. There is nothing philosophical about whoring and pimping.
Art is, therefore, a feminine preoccupation. It is a beauty pageant. When someone who professes to be a philosopher engages in like activity for the purpose of selling his work, he is an artist.
Carbon: I feel moved to mention that neither the Genius News nor this forum would exist without design which we have thanks to painting, nor the internet, nor the graphic user interface, nor tv, nor opera, nor any insight into ultimate reality that has ever been gleaned through the eyes.
David Quinn: Except for the "insight into ultimate reality" bit, I agree with you. Judiciously used, paintings and pictures can enhance the mind's receptivity of any truths that are contained in the accompanying text. They can set the mood, create an atmosphere of open-mindedness and learning, induce an alterted state of consciousness, speak evocatively to the subconscious, etc.
I used to own a copy of the Tao Te Ching which had black-and-white photos of nature on every second page. It was an excellent translation and the photos suited the text perfectly. They enhanced the whole experience of reading it. As soon as you opened the book and saw the photos, your mind was immediately placed in a mood of contemplation and reverie, which then made the reading of the text much more fruitful.
- East, West, Woman, Woe -
by Dan Rowden
"If I could turn back time. If I could find a way," sang Cher, a fews years ago, whilst strutting around an American Battleship, wearing little more than a strategically placed ribbon, a see-through body stocking and a couple of tattoos on her bum. She wasn't alone, of course - as she seductively straddled the barrel of a gun turret like some kind of huge metallic dildo, she was oggled and cheered by a hundred or more salivating and worshipping sailors who seemed to be indicating that this strange creature strutting around before them with the vacuous grin on her face was just the thing that they had signed up to protect from harm. This was what they had pronounced themselves willing to die for - the zenith of their culture.
Is it any wonder, then, that in the aftermath of the tragedy in New York, we hear so much besumement from Americans regarding the apparent fact that some people appear not to like them very much; that some groups and cultures view them with suspicious and dread, even disdain and hatred. But it ought not be surprising to us that some cultures view the wholly unconscious worshipping of the feminine that is exemplified by most every part of American culture as a kind of social disease, and one that they should be inocculated against, if not one that they should seek to forcefully eradicate. Nor should the intensity of this negative reaction surprise us in the face of the fact that this insipid decadence has the desire to impose itself on other cultures, by any number of means, both overt and covert.
Why shouldn't the "East" view the "West" with tremendous suspicion, even trepidation and loathing? Look at our cultures: our greatest social heros (or those that we most readily acknowledge and take an active interest in) are mindless actors, violent rap artists, female singers whose only real talent is that of flaunting their bodies and sexuality; "supermodels" whose one and only talent is walking up and down wearing someone else's clothing. In short we worhip brainless sluts (i.e. people who behave in a sluttish fashion toward society) and think ourselves more civilised than those that don't. Are we serious?
The difference between western culure and that say, of the Middle East, when it comes to women and the feminine, is not so much in the significance we grant them, because it is clear by the way women are teated in the East that the feminine is granted a great deal of significance, but in the level of awareness and consciousness with which we treat them. Both dimensions of civilisation basically worship the feminine, but there appears to be a greater appreciation for the nature of the feminine in the East, which is why certain aspects of its cutures seek to control and suppress it. When these cultures see the overt and unadulterated spewing out of the feminine and female sexuality into the world by the West, they view it as a releasing of wild, uncontrollable and dangerous animals into the world. And when you see spectacles like Cher prancing about in next to nothing with hundreds of trained military men worshipping at her feet like Mulims praying to Mecca, you can kind of see their point.
It's a bit like having a pimp drop by your dinner party with a bunch of scantily clad whores who spend all their time rubbing up against your guests and propositioning them. One can well understand why the host would want to make them leave. Of course, just for good measure, the whores will probably then proceed to press their naked breasts against the windows from outside the house, forcing the party goers to draw the curtains. Then, they'll have to suffer the ignominy of being called "backward" or "uncivilised" or "inhibited" or "living in the 7th century" by the fools who understand not one whit of their own behaviour.
How many of us would truly feel comfortable if the next door neigbours regularly held full-on orgies in their backyard and kept dropping in and inviting us over, or kept wanting to borrow some milk or sugar, or petroleum jelly, or began spilling over the fence in sexual rapture and greeted our protests with comments like: "Get with it, man, this is the 21st century"? What if they were more wealthy and therefore powerful that we, and could basically ignore our rights and desires? What if they actively sought to recrute your wife or 16 year old daughter to their lifestyle?
It is the unrestrained decadence that the East fears as much as anything else, and however much we might observe that this fear is somewhat generational, it sill exists. There is a fear of a breakdown of social values and cohesion. One does not have to be some puritanical, right-wing Christian type to sympathise with such fears. One only has to look at American homelessness and crime rates to get an insight into what happens to a nation that allows itself to slide into such unconsciousness. And, moreover, these perceptions don't have to be entirely valid for them to nevertheless exist and for us to be able to comprehend them. You don't have to agree with someone to be able to see their point of view, you merely have to want to see it.
Of course, all of this speaks only to certain elements of popular American culture, and is far from the whole story, but that is the dimension of a culture that is most often vigorously presented and proselytized, so, the next time you watch an episode of Jerry Springer or Rikki Lake, ask yourself whether other cultures have good cause to fear the influence of American, and more generally, Western culture. Ask youself what it is about such behaviour that might make it a worthwhile cultural export commodity.
Women on Men
All young men are world-changers, before they marry. - Doris Lessing
* * * *
This world-wide phenomenon (in which small boys turn away from women, enjoy being unkempt and dirty, and show intense hostility to girls) has only a pallid complementary reflection in the lives of little girls. - Margaret Mead
* * * *
Know ye not, oh foolish ones, that a man dreadedth a female cynic as a small boy dreadeth an education. - Helen Rowland
* * * *
It is delightful to be a woman, but every man thanks the Lord devoutly that he isn't one. - Olive Schreiner
* * * *
Men choose the self and women choose others. - Mary Field Beleny, Blythe McVicker Clinchy, Nancy Rule Goldberger & Jill Mattuck Tarule
* * * *
The male ego with few exceptions is elephantine to start with. - Bette Davis
* * * *
Boys call each other by their last names, draw attention to any extra departures from cleanlines. There always seem to be more of them in the room than there actually are. - Margaret Atwood.
* * * *
The male is psychically passive. He hates his passivity, so he projects it onto women, defines the male as active, then sets out to prove that he is ("prove he's a Man") ........ Since he is attempting to prove an error, he must 'prove' it again and again. - Valerie Solanus
* * * *
The man I used to know has become my child. - Anne Szumigalski
* * * *
War is the ultimate male ego trip. - Barbara G. Walker
* * * *
Isn't this "reputation" the deepest of all masculine instincts? - Virginia Woolf
* * * *
Outside of every thin woman is a fat man trying to get in. - Katherine Whitehorn
* * * *
Men love and fall in love romantically, women sensibly and rationally. - Surveys reported by Nancy Chodorow
* * * *
It is hard to fight an enemy who has signposts in your head. - Sally Kempton
* * * *
Man has been defined as a woman-caressing animal, and the definition is so absolutely correct that it is beyond controversy. - Emily Gowan Murphy
- What Men Really Think -
The Courier Mail, 29th September, 2001
Talking of his childhood, Billy Connolly [comedian/actor] said, "My father said I was a Jesse, which is the biggest insult you can get in Scotland. It means that you're leaning to the feminine, a bit of an old woman."
Comment: The bias of a patriarchal culture? Or an inkling of truth?
- Science is diminishing consciousness -
The Sydney Morning Herald, 8 September, 2001
(An edited extract from the book "Terrible Beauty" by Peter Watson)
It seems obvious to me that, once we get away from the terrible calamaties that afflicted the 20th century, once we lift our eyes from the horrors of the past decade, the most interesting, enduring and profound development is very clear. The past century has been dominated intellectually by a coming to terms with science. The trend has been profound because the contribution of science has involved not just the invention of new products, the extraordinary range of which has transformed all our lives. In addition to changing what we think, science has changed how we think.
In 1988, in "Conversations with Claude Levi-Strauss", the French anthropologist asked himself the following question: "Do you think there is a place for philosophy in today's world?" His reply? "Of course, but only if it based on the current state of scientific knowledge and achievement .... Philosophers cannot insulate themselves against science. Not only has it enlarged and transformed our vision of life and the universe enormously, it has also revolutionized the rules by which the intellect operates."
.......Science has no real agenda. It cannnot be forced in any particular direction. Its necessarily open nature ensures that there can only ever be a democracy of intellect in this, perhaps the most important of human activities. What is encouraging about science is that it has now become important as a metaphor. To succeed, to progress, the world must be open, endlessly modifiable, unprejudiced. Science thus has a moral authority as well as an intellectual authority.
...... The advances in technology are one of the most obvious fruits in science, but too often the philosophical consequences are overlooked. Rather than offer universal solutions to the human condition of the kind promised by religion and political theorists, science looks out at the world piecemeal and pragmatically.
...... Science is a cumulative story, because later results modify earlier ones, thereby increasing its [moral and intellectual] authority. That is part of the point of science, and as a result the arts and humanities were to an extent overwhelmed and overtaken by the sciences in the 20th century, in a way quite unlike anything that happened in the 19th century or before. A hundred years ago, writers such as Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Friedrich Nietzsche, Henri Bergson and Thomas Mann could seriously hope to say something about the human condition that rivalled the scientific understand then at hand ........
Comment: A typical expression of the theological dogma currently sweeping the Western world. This article neatly encapsulates the sheer philosophical unconsciousness of the late 20th century science devotee. In centuries to come, people will be laughing at these kinds of sentiments, just as we laugh nowadays at the naive and antiquated views of those in the Dark Ages. Watson is right in one point, though. The utter pervasiveness of science is literally changing how we think, so much so that we are losing the ability to mentally go beyond science and think in profound, non-empirical ways. Indeed, we are becoming so unconscious that we are no longer even aware of our deficiencies in this area. A fish has no consciousness of the land and sky, nor does it care. The openness of science (which is its virtue) has unwittingly led to a mentality which, believe it or not, is even less responsive to the callings of philosophic wisdom than the most rigid example of religious closemindedness. This is not the fault of science itself, of course, but its current adherents. They've pulled up the shutters and allowed themselves to drift off to sleep.
- Pull of the pokies attracts female gamblers -
The Courier Mail September 6 2001
Story from New York
WOMEN get hooked on gambling to escape trouble at home while men become addicted chasing the thrill of a win. Research also has revealed women are more likely than men to become addicted to non-strategic games such as poker machines and bingo. Men, on the other hand, are vulnerable to strategic games such as blackjack, poker and horse racing that require face-to-face contact with other players or dealers.
It found the gender gap underpinned gambling addiction which it said was a serious medical disorder similar to drug and alchohol abuse. "Females appear more likely to enagage in non-competitive or non-strategic gambling such as slot machines," Marc Potenza said. Other key findings included:
# Women tend to become addicted to gambling later in life. A large proportion are aged between 45 and 64. Male addicts tend to be aged 18 to 34.
# Once started, at risk women get hooked more quickly than men.
# Females who report a gambling problem are 10 times more likely to be widowed.
# Women who gamble heavily are more likely to receive mental health treatment
Comment: This is yet another example of the general differences in the psychology of the sexes. Women exhibing the passive, submissive aspect of the feminine; men, the proactive, aggressive and dominating aspect of the masculine.
- Art and Ethics -
From Genius Forum
David Quinn: One can consider the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre and the pentagon as a powerful work of art. In particular, the images of each plane crashing into the towers, coupled with the timing of the four crashes as the event unfolded, was very dramatic and memorable. On CNN these images were played over and over again, to the point of ad nauseum, as though in recognition that everyone was completely transfixed and dumbfounded by what had occurred. Only great art is capable of doing that.
If the towers had merely been demolished in the traditional way of using explosives, then, while it would still have been devastating and horrific, it probably wouldn't have had the same impact world-wide that those two planes have caused. There is something very primal and symbolic about their imagary. They seem to neatly capture the essence of a new era that we are entering as a species, in regards to life in the 21st century.
As a spectacle unfolding on television, the whole event was expertly choreographed, as though the terrorists (in conjunction with the media) were deliberately playing to an audience. One can just imagine a frustrated artist with a flair for drama at the heart of it all. Perhaps terrorism gave him a creative outlet that he could find nowhere else. Who knows? I'm sure we'll find out soon enough.
Carbon: Thats not art, thats terror and violence, and it's wrong. Art depicts life it doesn't destroy it. You are very confused if you think that is art. I would have to question the sanity of anyone who is even capable of calling mass murder art.
David Quinn: I don't necessarily support or condone what happened, but I can still recognize the artistry involved. Are you saying that anyone who doesn't share your moral values can't be considered an artist? That's rather Stalinistic, isn't it?
Carbon: No of course not. But in extreme situations such as this where you have claimed mass murder to be art simply because you yourself do not like art or artists, I must contend that if you actualy believe that, you are an enemy of mankind. People who believe such things often end up collecting bodies in the basements. And, thats the second time you have tried to cause art and artists to appear violent and evil in an indirect fassion, it's obvious what you are doing, stop it.
David Quinn: I have never said that I don't like art or artists. That's something you've projected onto me just because I said that painting is limited when it comes to philosophical communication. Within the bounds of its limitations, art can be a wonderful thing. It can stimulate the brain, open up mental horizons, and train people to experience the world more richly. So in and of itself, I have no complaint against art.
Carbon: Terror and murder is not art and can therefore have no artistry to it.
David Quinn: There you go again. You're dictating what values an artist should and shouldn't have.
Pangaia: Ok, let's change it a bit, Dave. Are you saying that anyone who doesn't share YOUR moral values (if any) can't be considered an artist?
David Quinn: I'm saying that the work of an artist shouldn't be dismissed on the basis of the artist's morality or by the morality that the work in question is trying to express. A work of art is essentially the skillful expression of a vision or idea. In my view, it should be judged on the skill with which it is expressed, not on the content of the vision itself. My point is that an artwork shouldn't be dismissed just because we don't like the idea that is being communicated. That's Stalinism.
From the Twilight Zone:
"The US has never targeted innocents."
- The Limitations of Science -
From Genius Forum
Pangaia: Ok, I understand your passion and your urge to find a meaning for your life. You can introduce yourself as a prophet or genius or truth-miner (words seem to have a floating meaning in this forum). Yet, do you willingly accept that other people have something to open your horizons with, and overturn your own myths? It seems you don't. You seem to lack basic knowledge of the philosophical background, and your intuitions have no tangible form, so that you present them immune to anyone who might like to encounter them. You seem to erect ghost giants where there are only wind-mills, and challenge people to fight them. If they don't want to, you think of them as biased; if they fail, you pity them as incapable to conceive the ultimate reality. I think that you are the one who close your own horizons, when, e.g., denying any philosophical significance to painting, or rejecting science as a source and a means of philosophical thinking.
David Quinn: Science and art can certainly stimulate philosophical thinking, but they can't bring resolution to basic philosophical questions. Here is an interesting analogy which illustrates my basic stance in this matter:
Imagine that the human race was forced from the surface of the earth for some reason and became lost deep within a vast system of underground caves. Also imagine that after several generations have passed, all memory of the earth's surface disappears, save for a few vague parables and tales. The human race settles down in the caves and etches out a comfortable existence as best it can. In this scenario:
- The underground caves represent the immense philosophical ignorance which currently afflicts the human race.
- The artist is the person who sits around painting pictures of life within the caves. He never searches for the surface himself, although he may paint a few soulful yearning pictures of what he imagines might exist beyond the caves.
- The scientist is the one who measures the walls and floors of the caves and constructs theories about how the caves were formed.
- The academic philosopher sits around having obscure formal debates with other academic philosophers, just as they always do.
- The spiritual person is the one who becomes deeply dissatisfied with life within the caves and goes off in seach of something better.
- The enlightened person is the one who actually succeeds in reaching the surface.
- The spiritual teacher is the one, who having reached the surface himself, constructs black-and-white arrow signs which help direct other seekers along the complex pathways of the cave system, and is roundly laughed at by a disinterested humanity for his troubles.
Victor Danilchenko: Great analogy. Let's explore it further (and let's not forget the debt it owes to Plato).
"The scientist is the one who measures the walls and floors of the caves and constructs theories about how the caves were formed." Indeed. At first, they go along with the old legends -- that the entire Cosmos is solid rock with caves throughout. Then they start asking: Really? All the way through? That's an awful lot of rock." Then they start drilling, exploring, and at one point either drill or explore their way to the surface. Once they discover it, they see the stars, eventually formulate the theory of gravity, etc.
David Quinn: As far as my analogy is concerned, scientists as a group will never leave the caves because science is essentially a cave-dwelling activity. It is the tool by which we model the world of samsara (the realm of ignorance). Beyond this, it cannot go.
Obviously, the earth's surface is meant to stand for Ultimate Truth. The person who leaves the caves and reaches the surface represents the spiritual person who has left behind all philosophical ignorance and become enlightened. This isn't a scientific activity, but a philosophical/spiritual one.
Most scientists don't believe that the surface even exists (i.e. they don't believe there is an Ultimate Truth). They also tend to have large mental blocks which prevent them from even forming the concept that there may be passages which lead out of the cave (i.e. they have no comprehension of the nature of philosophical ignorance, nor of the need to abandon it.)
If an individual scientist wants to become enlightened, then he, like anyone else in the community, will have to abandon all cave-dwelling activities, such as science and art, and become a spiritual philosopher. Science doesn't provide any short-cuts in this regard.
Victor Danilchenko: Science analyzes the world (the paths in the caves). if there is a path that your mystic can take, then it's a path that science can take -- and science will generally take that path before the mystic.
David Quinn: A ridiculous claim. People such as Buddha and Lao Tzu were immersing themselves in Ultimate Reality long before modern science was born.
Victor Danilchenko: Which leads to my point exactly. How do you know they were accessing "ultimate reality" and not something else? For that matter, how do you know that you are accessing "ultimate reality" and not something else?
David Quinn: How do I know that I am conscious and having experiences? By making use of my introspective reasoning.
Victor Danilchenko: There is nothing that prevents science from acquiring the knowledge of "ultimate reality" you claim is available -- provided it is indeed available (I count mathematics and logic and related disciplines among the sciences here).
David Quinn: It is available to anyone who is prepared to go beyond science and the current fixation upon empiricism.
Victor Danilchenko: Bullshit. If it was, you would have been able to draw a detailed map and then lead others along it, proving your conclusion; but you cannot.
David Quinn: People have been creating these detailed maps for centuries - The Dhammapada, Bhagavad Gita, Tao Te Ching, The Heart Sutra, The Diamond Sutra, The Teachings of Huang Po, The Lectures of Hakuin, and so on.
Victor Danilchenko: In science, there is a method for verifying explanatory and predictive power of theories. Science attains knowledge, precisely because it's a social endeavor with multiple error-checks in place. You on the other hand, in having claimed "enlightenment" to be a personal thing, have disclaimed any possibility of falsification, thus rendering your claims meaningless.
David Quinn: It's personal in the same way that my ascertaining that I am conscious and having experiences the world is personal. It has nothing to do with anyone else. But the fact that it is personal doesn't mean that it is meaningless and arbitary. The knowledge is indeed falsifiable, via the use of introspective reasoning. In other words, the rigid dichotomy that you create between "objective, collective knowledge" and "meaningless subjective knowledge" is an illusion.
Victor Danilchenko: You have a very naive and romantic (as in, 19-th century European sort of "romantic") view of the world, David; it just happens to be the view which allows you to maintain your unrealistically high self-esteem without actually expending any effort on supporting it. It's not like you even have to do the actual legwork, as the explorers in your example do. You just claim that you are thinking about it, and that's that.
David Quinn: I could just as easily the say the same of you. To wit: "You have a very naive and romantic (as in 20th century American sort of "romantic") view of the world, Victor; it just happens to be the view which allows you to maintain your unrealistically high self-esteem without actually expending any effort on supporting it ......." And so on. Totally meaningless.
- Math and Spirituality -
From Genus Forum
Victor Danilchenko: Math is very spiritual, if you understand it.
|eip + 1 = 0|
-- generally considered to be the most beautiful and elegant equation in mathematics (it's s special case of Euler's formula for complex powers, which is: eiX = cosX + i*sinX)...
It is the formula that ties together the three most fundamental constants of mathematics:
e : The natural logarithm base -- 2.7182...
p : Pi, of the trigonometric fame -- 3.1415...
i : v-1, the base of all imaginary numbers.
The end result is magnificent in its simplicity, and yet it is the math equivalent of the Unified Field Theory in physics (well, maybe not quite as grand, but close). eip + 1 = 0 -- how much closer to perfect elegance can you get? This is the kind of stuff that makes math a consummately spiritual pursuit.
David Quinn: A=A usually does it for me.
Victor Danilchenko: You have my condolences for your mathematical and logical naļvete.
David Quinn: Math can certainly be very aesthetic. But beauty and elegance aren't necessarily related to spirituality. "Truthful words are not beautiful. Beautiful words are not truthful." - Tao Te Ching. It is your attachment to mathematical elegance, combined with your need to feel self-important, that is speaking, and nothing more.
Victor Danilchenko: Art is beautiful; stars are awesome; a verdant forest is spiritual; but Euler's formula is the Universe speaking to us in directly, the language that is the foundation of very existence -- math. This unification of the three constants is our glimpse into the core of being, and at the concise elegance that pervades it.
David Quinn: On another forum, you stated that ultimate truth doesn't exist. But here you are describing Euler's formula as though it were the ultimate truth. Why? If you don't think it is the ultimate truth, then why do you describe it in terms of spiritual magnificance, the Universe speaking directly to us, providing glimpses into the core of our being, and so on? Are you not engaging in the usual scientific habit of extreme hyperbole?
Victor Danilchenko: It's not an "ultimate truth". It's just a glimpse of the elegance of mathematics, the latter describing the relationships between pretty much everything in the Universe.
David Quinn: "Pretty much everything"? Can math describe the relationship between, say, true thoughts and false thoughts? Or between spiritual genius and mediocrity? Or between psychosis and sanity? Or the philosophical relationship between the Totality and its parts?
Can math describe the evolution of the individual mind from ignorance to enlightenment? Or account for the lack of conscience in most people? Or describe why women are so mediocre when it comes to the higher disciplines of science, philosophy, and wisdom?
Victor Danilchenko: At the fundamental level, yes to everything -- because math describes the behavior of the very matter that we consist of, and therefore of our brains and minds. Tractability of reduction is not an issue here.
David Quinn: I think it is. There are always many different levels of description and explanation, even of the same event. Math might have the ability to describe the movement of matter and energy at a certain level, but it is fairly useless as an explanatory tool on other levels - e.g. when examining the nature of the religious impulse, or the nature of love, or the motivations of an individual, and so on.
So the only possible way you could say that math has the power to describe "everything" is by redefining "everything" in a way such that it no longer means utterly everything.
Victor Danilchenko: Math is the language of science at all levels, from nuclear physics and chemistry to psychology and sociology and economics. Yes, you do not use mathematical terminology to describe religious impulse -- but if you want to do so precisely, as psychologists would, you would indeed describe it quantitively. You may not wish to use math to describe music, and yet math has a lot to do with what music we consider beautiful. You may not wish to use math to describe a painting, and yet math (in neurobiology and psychology and AI) is very much relevant to understanding what we consider beautiful.
You can gloss over math, but you cannot escape its pervasiveness.
David Quinn: The main problem with math, as far as uncovering Ultimate Truth is concerned, is that it exists at the distance of the imagination and cannot come any closer. It does not, and cannot, integrate the core of our own subjectivity with what is logically reasoned to be true. Only logic combined with philosophical concepts can do that.
In other words, math will always remain an abstract intellectual pursuit and nothing more. It cannot radically transform our minds and our perceptual reality in the way the philosophical reasoning can. Most importantly, it cannot open our subjective consciousness up to the nature of Reality.
That is why math is vastly inferior to philosophical logic, as far as ultimate understanding is concerned.
Victor Danilchenko: See, there you go again. All of your disingenuous protestations notwithstanding, it still comes down to "subjective consciousness" when you are talking about "ultimate reality" -- not to logic, not to reason, but to this mystical incommunicable BS.
David Quinn: You're creating a false dichotomy here. It isn't just a stark choice between "subjective consciousness" and reason. Genuine philososphy is all about marrying one's subjective consciousness (i.e. who we are; our soul; our entire being) with reason, with what is ultimately true. It's a process of transforming our inner relationship with everything via the use of reason.
Aacdemic philosophy, by contrast, divorces our reasoning from the subjective side of ourselves. This leads to a production line of intellectual beings whose lives are never touched by their philosophical reasonings. They confine their philosophizing to an isolated portion of their minds, and outside of this, they remain as mediocre and normal as everyone else. That's why it's almost impossible to distinguish an academic philosopher from a sales executive or a bank clerk.
Avidoloca: I've also found there to be an invisible unifying essence to mathematics that seems spiritual in nature. But I've found it hard to communicate exactly why I had that reaction to noticing the connections and presence of something greater underlying all of it, which is a normal problem when you seek to analyse the mystical. There's a fine line between what can simply be seen as logic, and what appears to have something much more powerful behind it than that.
David Quinn: I think what you are describing here is a combination of two factors - (a) an egotistical reaction to the making of a mental connection, and (b) a subsequent altering of consciousness.
Whenever we make a mental connection - e.g. gain an insight, have an intuition, make a breakthrough in thought, etc - we are (hopefully) conquering ignorance to some degree, which automatically boosts the ego and causes it to feel more powerful. If it seems like a particularly deep insight, or a very elegent solution, the ego can suddenly feel as though it has conquered the Universe itself, which would then translate into a sense of great triumph and bliss.
Also, if a particular breakthrough in thought is significant enough, it can easily shunt the mind out of its everyday conceptual frameworks and transport it into an altered state of consciousness. This in turn can lead one to experience a quantum leap in mental clarity and confidence, and even a sense of timelessness. If the mathematician is ignorant of the workings of human psychology and has no knowledge of the nature of egotism, then more than likely he will falsely link the two together and imagine that his mathematical insight is mystical in nature.
GENIUS-L at a glance:
I realize that what I am about to write may not be well received. I also am disheartened by the attacks and loss of life in New York City and at the Pentagon.
However, if anyone recalls, a couple of months ago, I posted some excerpts from an article detailing the massive bombing strikes by the United States on Iraq both during and after the Gulf War. Thousands and thousands of Iraqi people have been killed in those mass bombings, including children.
As I watched the aircraft bombings of the World Trade Towers, I could not help but think that this was retaliation.
The American people are naive. They believe only in their own goodness. They are incapable of any sort of introspection regarding actions by their government abroad. The only thing that they see is a "terrorist" act as though such an act can only be committed by an Islamic. They fail to recognize their own terrorism abroad. Marsha Faizi
The fact of the matter is, in order to prove the existence of God, the concept of God must be explicitly and unambiguously defined. You cannot build a building out of a cloud, which is what all these scientists and theologians are trying to do. For starters, God must be either infinite or finite, meaning it must encompass everything in the entire universe, or not. It cannot be both. For example, God cannot be described as infinite one moment and love the next in any sensible way. It is completely contradictory and, therefore, complete nonsense. It is equivalent to saying that 1+1=2 and 1+1=3 at the same time. It is a contradiction and a total non-thought. It sounds nice, but it is not an entity that can exist in our consciousness, so it is a futile direction; we might as well forget about God altogether and it would have the same effect.
Anyway, what are the ramifications of God being finite or of God being infinite? If God is finite, then what is He? If God created the known universe and set it in motion, apart from Himself, then what does that make Him? He would be just a super-powerful alien, subject to the law of cause and effect like everything else, and therefore not a god at all.
So what if God is infinite? Well, we have to understand what it means for something to be infinite. Infinite, in a philosophical sense, not a mathematical one, simply means "without bounds". No boundary can be ascribed to the infinite without making it finite. It is limitless and beyond imagination. It transcends time and space, it is all-powerful, it is the "creator" of all things, it is the Totality of all that is and is not, and cannot be pointed out, indicated, or alluded to without finitizing it. So, if God is infinite, then God is the Totality and doesn't need to be proved.
The very notion of proving either god is absurd. Trying to prove that a finite god exists, is like trying to prove that an apple exists. It's impossible. We see it and that's all there is. That's enough to know for certain that it exists, because it exists by definition. Even if the apple were an illusion, it would still certainly exist because we define "apple" as that which we perceive as being an apple. We can't go beyond that, and we can't give it any more existence than that. On the other hand, trying to prove that an infinite god exists is equally ridiculous because if it is the case that God is infinite, then there is nothing that is not God. So, basically, proving that an apple exists and proving that the Universe exists are identical tasks. Matt Gregory
Chosen by God?
"For all my flaws, I believe I have been chosen by God and commissioned by history to be the model to the world of justice and inclusion and diversity without division."
If I dared utter such words in public, people rightly would laugh at the absurdity of the claim or angrily chastise me for my arrogance, or both. On the surface, the hubris of the statement suggests I am the person least likely to be chosen by God to do anything but embarrass myself.
Yet when George W. Bush -- trying to recover from his association with the painfully public bigotry of Bob Jones University -- boldly proclaimed in March that the United States had been so chosen and commissioned, it was dutifully reported in the press without a hint of irony or sarcasm.
Forget about the obvious problems with his statement as it applies to race and ethnicity -- that those "flaws," which include a brutal history of genocide of indigenous people, African slavery and the legalized subordination of non-whites, and an ongoing social and economic apartheid, render the claim absurd. The deeper problem with Bush's remarks is what we might call the pathology of the anointed.
The invocation of a direct connection to God and truth is a peculiar, and particularly dangerous, feature of American history. The story we tell ourselves goes something like this:
Other nations throughout history have acted out of greed and self-interest, seeking territory, wealth and power. They often did bad things in the world. Then came the United States, touched by God, a shining city on the hill, whose leaders created the first real democracy and went on to be the beacon of freedom for people around the world. Unlike the rest of the world, we act out of a cause nobler than greed; we are both the model and the vehicle for bringing peace, freedom and democracy to the world.
That is a story that can be believed only in the United States -- and there only by a certain privileged segment of the population -- by people sufficiently insulated from the reality of U.S. actions abroad to maintain such illusions.
But try selling the idea to the people of Guatemala, still rebuilding their country from the legacy of four decades of terror at the hands of a military government installed and funded by the United States. Try explaining the United States' chosen status to the children of Iraq, who are dying at the rate of 5,000 a month because this country continues to back the harshest economic embargo in modern history. Try defending the thesis to the people of Vietnam, who for a decade stood up to U.S. bombs, bullets and chemical warfare because they wouldn't accept "freedom" managed by a U.S. puppet government.
The United States, in short, acts like a nation-state, and nation-states are not benevolent institutions. For much of its history, the United States also has been a great power, and the record of great powers is even less savory. Now, as what folks like to call "the lone superpower," the future behavior of U.S. policymakers is unlikely to suddenly become saintly. We expect individuals who proclaim themselves chosen by God or commissioned by history either to be hucksters, cloaking themselves in a higher calling to cover crasser motives, or simply psychotic. There is no reason to think anything else when such claims are made at the level of the nation-state.
It is tempting to laugh at and dismiss these rhetorical flourishes of pandering politicians, but the commonness of the chosen-by-God assertions and the lack of outrage or amusement at them suggests that the claims are taken seriously both by significant segments of the public and the politicians. Just as it has been in the past, the consequences of this pathology of the anointed will be borne not by those chosen by God, but by those against whom God's-chosen decide to take aim. Posted by Matt Gregory from unknown source.
In reality nothing is "in" or contains something else as well. Two things can't share the same space. A thing may be around or beside some other thing, which is not irrational, but it's still two things. Mind possess no inherent boundary such that it may contain something, such as processes. However it is we define processes, by the same charge we define mind. Leo Bartoli
Do you think one can one state absolutely, "I am enlightened"? Clinton
Absolutely. A person is enlightened when he makes that all-important breakthrough in thought and fully grasps the nature of Reality. And what's more, the enlightened person is fully conscious that he is enlightened. There is no confusion at all. David Quinn
- Sitting Amidst Wolves -
Bryan McGilly: For those who've read works by Hakuin:
I recently came across a passage regarding various sages putting themselves- for lack of a better word -at risk to test their spiritual accomplishments. One such test involved sitting among a group of ravenous wolves and practicing zazen. Another such similar test involved practicing zazen in an area filled with murderous youths with the aim of remaining unscathed.
Has anyone on this list ever tried this? What would be the point of such an exercise? I think such a risk is to test one's identity with the Totality, but for what purpose? To exert influence over individuals withing oneslf (the Totality)?
Matt Gregory: I think those stories are meant to be indicative of the level of concentration, single-mindedness and devotion required to break through to reality... maybe?
Fifi: A more cynical school of thought might suggest that such acts were merely attention seeking. "He who shouts loudest...."
Matt Gregory: Well, my point is, is that I don't think they really engaged in that type of activity. The whole of point of Zen is to endow the student with a self-inquiring mind, meaning a mind that can push forward on its own. At least, I think that's part of it. I think those stories were designed to awaken the reader to that process, and people like me were designed to explain them and ruin the whole thing, so take what I say with a grain of salt
Fifi: Sorry, yes I understand that perfectly. I was attempting to extend the table of thought by providing an answer that was not sought....
However, to put a thought more acceptable forward... Prophetic and visionary experiences are thought to have often been due to drugs. Hallucinogenic mushrooms were involved in the initiation ritual of Elusis; the event was meant to mark the subject so profoundly that they were changed for life. Perhaps these long walks and perilous encounters you mention are metaphorical; either they are either trip reports, or attempts to describe insights through emotionally stimulating scenarios (as Neitzsche does).
Keith: Zen is essentially a way to encourage a 'sudden revelation' of the nature of things and has sometimes been called the 'fast track' Buddhist path to enlightenment.
As such its sole purpose is to free us from the illusions that attach us to the passing phenomena which most of us take for granted as the 'real world'. The notion of pride and being tougher or better than other people or proving one's bravery would be totally alien to this tradition, as would be the notion of developing some sorts of special powers or what have you.
Some of the stories you refer to are meant to indicate the level of non-attachment the student/monk might have had - to the point where he had no fear of his own death or injury - or the degree of non-attachment or concern about his passing emotions.
In other words these stories are not meant to impress the reader with the prowess of the men concerned but rather their level of development. Pride would not be a factor and if it were the point of the story would be defeated.
Bryan McGilly: But, regarding my question, what is the motivation of the Sage who puts himself at risk in the ways I have stated? True, they could be metaphors, as much of Hakuin's accounts in "Wild Ivy" seem to be. Like the fox spirit that was once a revered priest who possessed a man... whether true or not, the main gist remains: everything one does comes back to him (in the true sense of the Totality).
But it seems to me that the propagation and spreading of the truth is more important than putting oneself at risk. Of course, it's not quite like Mr. T walking into the crime capital of the world and fearing for his gold, the Truth remains anyways. Should Mr. T be robbed of gold and life, it is but an affirmation of the Truth of C&E.
Matt Gregory: Actually, now that I think about it, the wolves probably represent worldly things; the spiritually dangerous as opposed to the physically dangerous. In any case, I think he was expressing the fact that it is desirable to be mindful of the Infinite at all times and all situations.
David Quinn: Putting yourself in fearful situations can bring any ego that exists inside you to the surface. So if you were very spiritually advanced and never experienced emotions and fears in normal situations, you would probably find it worthwhile to enter more threatening situations to see whether or not the ego really has disappeared. The "unscathed" bit refers to one's mental and spiritual ability to stay fully focused on Truth.
This is one of the big drawbacks of the monastic community concept. It is easy to achieve a high level of tranquility in a nice, country retreat where threats are few and far between. But because it is never "tested", it could easily be a false form of tranquility - one that's generated more from the external surroundings, than from any inner accomplishment.
One would have to have a very good reason to deliberately enter a threatening situation because of the increased risk to major injury or death. It would be a shame to lose your life on the basis of a whim.
I have an acquaintance here in Brisbane who likes to regularly put himself in threatening situations by working as a bouncer in a night club. And he even says that he does it to "test" himself. The trouble is, he isn't very wise or spiritually-advanced, and so he ends up coping with these situations by building strong egotistical defences. So it isn't his spiritual attainment that is being tested, but his ego fortifications.
Keith: Please take it from someone who knows the literature that this sort of story is nearly always about the level of detachment from the illusions of the material world or 'samsara' to use the Buddhist terminology. Within this tradition there is no room for self aggrandisement or pride. These are the converse of the desired goals that these practices are meant to achieve!
There are of course folk tales and legends which come from the martial arts traditions - the Monkey Tales and the Water Margin for example in China, but these are more in the tradition of the Robin Hood and King Arthur legends and lack a certain 'spiritual' dimension!
Dan Rowden: My personal feeling is that contrived "tests" of one's spiritual attainment are kind of stupid. The very act of doing is should indicate a real lack of development. The simple fact is that our development is put to the test every hour of every day. If we are aware of our reactions to things, which we should be if we have made any progress at all, we can see in each situation we meet where we may still have work to do. We certainly do not need to place ourselves in life threatening situations. That would just be totally brainless.
Bob M: Don't we all dwell among ravenous wolves in all sorts of sheep's clothing who are not only ready, willing, and able to, but energetically eager to inhibit the flowering of our true human spirit, wherein lies the growing soil of our only true defence,that being wisdom which is never truly complete unless it too comprises love, and compassion? Likewise murderous youths too are everywhere and continue to be on the rise to further aid the process. Creating 'tests' (foolhardy) is not necessarily the path, nor is taking the 'safe' (cowardly) road. Both manifest from the conditioned and fraudulent self which is our only real enemy.
Genius Forum is a new web-based discussion board for those who prefer that style of discussion to email forums. It will serve as a companion forum to Genius-L and, like Genius-L, high quality contributions will be used in the pages of Genius News. Go there now and check it out!
All images in this publication are taken from "The Devil's Gallery" http://www.theabsolute.net
Disclaimer: editorial opinions expressed in this publication are those of its authors and do not, necessarily, reflect the views of subscribers to Genius-L. Dialogues adapted from Genius-L and Genius Forum have been edited for the purpose of brevity and clarity. Certain spelling mistakes and typographical errors have been corrected to preserve meaning.
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