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Who’s In Control?

February 8, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

Quora:

About freewill, thought origination, etc.  I do not claim to have the answers but share the following observations.

Our experience reflects two phenomena which can be summed up as the totality of our existence.  Those two are the physical and the mental.  I believe a little further contemplation reveals that the two can be reduced to one.  We are aware of the separation and boundaries of the physical, this thing, that thing, etc.   However, when it comes to the mental we experience no such separation.  Does not the mental comprise it all?  If the mental, awareness or consciousness was divided, bounded, separated or limited how could one thing have awareness of the other?  If you and I are defined by our awareness, mentality, consciousness, knowing or whatever you wish to call it and are separate how can we be aware of each other and where or what defines the boundary between us?  Obviously, our brain does not confine our consciousness.  If it did we could not be aware of anything else.  By definition there cannot be an Infinite and anything separate.
Does not the fact that I am aware of me, other people, the world and the universe mean that I AM beyond the aforementioned?

We are aware of physicality changing, seemingly coming and going, etc. and in a constant state of flux.  However, awareness remains changeless, invulnerable and cannot be created or destroyed.  Can we not then conclude that there can be no limit, boundary or separation within Consciousness?  If so, we can further conclude that there is only Consciousness because if there is no separation in Consciousness there can obviously be nothing existing separate from it.  There is only, All that Is and we are IT.  Many will say claiming to be God is a flagrant affront to God or a terrible sacrilege.  But, in fact, the opposite is actually the case.  If we claim to be separate from God we necessarily limit Him/Her/IT.  God cannot be infinite or limitless and be separated by other “stuff”.

How then do we explain individuality?  Since we have established by deductive reasoning that there can be no separation, we can now conclude that there is no separate you and I.  Further, since nothing can exist separate from Consciousness, nothing but Consciousness exists.

Yet we are aware.  Can we not now further conclude that we are all that is or the Consciousness that we have already established is all?  Taking this line of reasoning a little further, while we have awareness, we are at the same time aware of not being fully aware.  We seemingly are aspects of infinite intelligence but not infinite or at least not aware of it.

From here we can only speculate.  I suggest that Infinite intelligence chose to express and Its only means of so doing was to project an illusion of physicality or that which we experience as this universe with inhabitants of limited awareness.  They could not have full awareness or they would cease to be the projection but the Projector.

The next question then is, do we really have individual thinking, freewill and are we really capable of changing or controlling anything?  I am, of course, totally aware of how we think we are and how difficult it is to give up such an idea and I’m not going to make judgment one way or the other at this point except to say I have struggled a lot with the question and will simply throw out some thoughts on the subject.

Back to the physical and the mental.  We have already established that the physical does not really exist.  Only the mental is capable of creating a thought.  The physical is nothing but objects including our body and brain.  I do not believe a brain ever created a thought.  The physical cannot possibly create.  The brain may very well act as some sort of filter or receiver but I do not believe it can ever be creative.  Further substantiating this is the fact that we do not have much idea what our next thought will be.  Nor can we control what it will be or how long or often it may reoccur.  Likewise, we have many thoughts we would rather not have at times.  If we were controlling them why would we have undesirable ones?  You have no idea what your next thought will be but I do and you cannot possibly avoid it unless you stop reading right now.  Your next thought will be visualizing a flying elephant.   So, I believe it obvious that our thoughts are originating from somewhere beyond the physical brain.

About control of life otherwise. We did not control when or where we were born. We had no control of who were our parents, siblings or status, financial, fame or otherwise.  We  had no control of our gender, original health, inherent tendencies,  etc.  We had no control of our early upbringing, how we were treated,  what we were exposed to, nourishment, etc. We had no control of our  early education or exposure to outside influences, etc.  We had no control whether we were bullied or abused sexually or otherwise.

We now do not control our bodily functions, heartbeat, digestion, respiration, etc.  We have little if any control over viruses, infections, immune systems, accidents, etc.

We do not control when, where or how we die.  We do not control all those little or sometimes big unexpected events occurring daily in our lives.  Yet, we think we are in control of our lives.

Of What?

We  think we are making decisions between multiple choices but are we  really?  We say we could have chosen the other option.  But why didn’t we?  We weighed the options, consequences, etc and made a decision.  In  other words it would have required different consequences or circumstances for us to have  made a different decision.  But only what is, IS.  So, was a different decision ever in the picture?  Who could deny that things would be a lot different if we were truly determining the events of our lives?

It is very obvious that our lives are being greatly influenced if not totally controlled by outside forces.

So, you ask, what then is the point in it all?  Why this essay?  Why make the effort to be good?  Why not just live fast, love hard and die young?  You are what you are and you’re not going to deviate from it.  Afterall, you’re not really in control!

Does it really matter whether or not we are in control?  If it makes us feel better, than fine.  What difference does it really make if we get over there and realize that, hey, we weren’t really in control afterall?  Will we not just laugh and say, I sure as hell thought I was.

Or could it be that within the projection, the mentality of the inhabitants really does have freedom of choice?  It’s all illusion anyway but as Thomas Troward said, even though it is illusion, because it is a projection of the Almighty it is real as far as we’re concerned.

In keeping with the spirit of the question, I will answer it not in the way that I would like to ideally, but in the way that my circumstances seem to compel me. Having to get to sleep soon, I don’t have time to craft a thorough answer, (which nobody will probably bother reading) and if I leave it until tomorrow I might not remember what I was going to say. Here then is my circumstantially compromised, short order version of my contribution. I’ll be happy to go into it in further detail later on if anyone is interested.

1. Mental and physical are neither the same thing nor different things, they are opposite ends of a continuum of sensory-motor participation, which is, in my estimation, the fundamental component of the cosmos.

2. Free will and determinism are similarly not mutually exclusive but are defined by and help to define the aforementioned opposite ends of the universal continuum, which can be best understood as public and private ranges of experiential ontology. Public experiences are based on spatial extension, and private experiences are based on temporal narratives, and the two aspects are orthogonal/perpendicular in every way. They two ends also merge in another range of the continuum, which I call the profound edge, where transcendent experiences blur the boundary of private and public.

3. Physical matter actually is ‘real’ in the sense that the foundation of realism lies in the persistence of matter’s spatial extension, which acts as the single firmament of public interaction. All other interaction is biographical and private.

4. The nature of free will is complicated because our understanding of the nature of human consciousness is still very primitive, made more difficult by the seemingly irreconcilable approaches of what could be called the Oriental program, which places subjectivity as the absolute foundation and materiality as derived illusion, and the Western program which leads to the opposite and mutually exclusive conclusion. In my analysis, the opposition of these two programs to each other is a critically important revelation of the nature of consciousness itself, as the capacity to select either extreme and to dial between them mirrors the function of human culture and individual psychology in general.

In my opinion, strict adherence to either the Eastern or Western extremes tends to lead to a pathological worldview, in the sense that fanatical defensiveness and hypocrisy replace a respect for the plain truth. Moving forward to a new synthesis requires, in my opinion, that we keep the Eastern model of hierarchical levels of awareness (chakras, alchemical monochord, etc) but reconcile it with the Western model of physical scale (molecular, cellular, somatic, geological-evolutionary, astrophysical). The way that I propose arranges the sensory-motor experiences hierarchically so that our personal awareness and participation is flanked by a sub-personal or root range of qualia and a super-personal or meta range of intuition and inspiration flavored feelings, insights, and connections.

Anyhow, yes, our personal will does have a modicum of freedom, which expands in proportion to how deeply ‘within’ the context is. Within our own imagination, we have a fantastic degree of freedom, but are still limited ontologically by our human description and by the physics of privacy itself. The further we get from the immediacy of our private realm, the more that our freedom is constrained by the confluence of our own sub-personal and super-personal agendas as well as the nearly infinite impersonal agendas which surround our body in the public presentation of our world. To make things happen in the public world requires slowing our will down, ordering it strategically and persistently, matching the conditions of our environment, and making all manner of compromises. In the end, we may not see that much is left of what we thought we had intended personally, but nevertheless, we were the ones who had to pay attention and care about the outcome, so that’s something. Besides, often we find that the surprises that we discover in the public world are beyond what we could have intentionally dreamed up for ourselves, for better or worse…and that, I suspect is usually part of the larger (super-personal) agenda… if there is one.

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  1. Joseph McCard (really)
    February 10, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    “Our experience reflects two phenomena which can be summed up as the totality of our existence.”

    JM: The conscious self (ego consciousness), sits as in a window, looking out at physical reality, but also looking inward toward the mind. This is the shifting of consciousness back and forth, which I posted to jcs-online as an experiment each of us can do. Our conscious experience, the experience of the self, reflects two phenomena which can be summed up as our physical and mental existence. It is not the totality, for we are each multidimensional personalities, with other physical and mental existences.

    You are not your mind and your body. You are a soul (what you might call a sense). Minds and bodies are things you have. Understanding this will help you to develop a framework within which you can locate free will.

    “Those two are the physical and the mental. I believe a little further contemplation reveals that the two can be reduced to one.

    JM: Yes. In this case, the “one” is the self.

    “We are aware of the separation and boundaries of the physical, this thing, that thing, etc.”

    JM: Yes.There is this and there is that and there is that which makes this and that possible. Reference Alfredo’s Triple Aspect Monism (TAM). Or, Thom Mandel’s two sides of the coin, and the coin itself.

    “However, when it comes to the mental we experience no such separation.”

    JM: An important point. In the end, there are no separations between the physical and the mental. Wittgenstein said this as, “I suggest the difficulty of separating the boundary of the rest of the world from the observer”(Tractatus Logico Philosophicus). The Tractatus was written by him during a time when he underwent what has been described as revelationary experiences, in his early career. So, you are in good company.

    “Does not the mental comprise it all?”

    JM: As above so below applies here. The physical is the actualization of the mental. That is how we create. Through free will, we cooperatively create the physical world. Our beliefs, which we freely choose, create or thoughtsThoughts become physicallized.

    “If the mental, awareness or consciousness was divided, bounded, separated or limited how could one thing have awareness of the other?”

    JM: Separation is maya. The appearance of a separation was so that All That Is could experience Her/His Self. We are God, experiencing.

    “If you and I are defined by our awareness, mentality, consciousness, knowing or whatever

    JM: So, from my above statements, YOU are the sum total of all you experiences. Your experiences are unique to YOU. Alasdair MacIntyre explicates this in his Narrative Conception of Selfhood, in his book “After Virtue”. You might say something like, you are what you SENSE.

    “how can we be aware of each other and where or what defines the boundary between us?”

    JM: It is called ego consciousness (or call it ego sense if you prefer). Ego consciousness is a state resulting from a dilemma, which happens when consciousness of self, or SENSE, (call that God being aware of only Her/Him Self) attempts to separate itself from action. The equivalent in sense terms may be that sense attempted to divide itself. But in the first case, that is impossible, since no consciousness can exist without action. In the sense case it is also impossible for no sense can exist without sense.

    Consciousness of self (sense) involves a consciousness of self (or sense of self) within and as a part of action (or sense). Ego consciousness (or ego sense), on the other hand, involves a state in which consciousness of self (or sense of self) attempts to divorce itself from action (or divorce itself from itself, sense), an attempt on the part of consciousness (or sense), or the attempt on the part of sense, to perceive action, or sense to perceive sense, as an object, and to perceive action (or sense) as initiated by the ego as a result, rather than as a cause, of ego’s own existence.

    “Obviously, our brain does not confine our consciousness.”

    JM: Right. You are not locked inside your brain.

    “If it did we could not be aware of anything else. By definition there cannot be an Infinite and anything separate.”

    JM: Right.

    “Does not the fact that I am aware of me, other people, the world and the universe mean that I AM beyond the aforementioned?”

    JM: That’s how I see it.

    • February 11, 2013 at 2:13 am

      Not sure what the context was here, but the parts that I disagree with are those which bet on personal thoughts creating impersonal realities. It’s not completely untrue, but it is simplistic to bet on wishcraft.

      Consider, for example that there was no amount of spiritual power that could have intervened on behalf of Native Americans in the face of genocidal conditions brought on by European exploration and conquest. To the contrary, the entire colonization of the New World was rooted in technological superiority and deadly pandemics.

      That doesn’t mean that what we focus on personally, what we dream, can’t potentially improve our luck in achieving it. It is difficult to say whether it is our will that is really transforming circumstance, or whether they just coincide, since it is quite possible to dream of things all of your life which don’t ‘come true’ in the way that you hope. Some individuals have different experiences also. It is difficult to tell whether luck helps attract more luck, but there are enough ‘Behind The Music’ stories to prove that not everyone who gets lucky has a happy ending. To the contrary, most people with extraordinary good luck in some area are often plague by bad luck in other areas.

      As far as the ego looking out on ‘physical reality’ and ‘inward toward the mind’, I see that as an obsolete model. Instead, I suggest that world of the body and the experience of the mind are both physical, the former being the spatial presentation and the latter being the temporal presentation. When we dream, for example, we experience a physical environment which can be nearly indistinguishable from a ‘real’ world, but the difference is that it is not publicly accessible and has very little inertial persistence. Realism is neither a product of solipsistic simulation nor a flawed representation of objective truth. It is not under our conscious control, but neither is it as indifferent to our presence as it might seem. What realism is about is accessing greater significance through multiple channels of sense and multiple opportunities to compare them.

  2. Joseph McCard (really)
    February 11, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    “Not sure what the context was here”

    Your questions.

    “Consider, for example that there was no amount of spiritual power that could have intervened on behalf of Native Americans in the face of genocidal conditions brought on by European exploration and conquest. ”

    “God” has promised to never intervene. She has given us free will. But, it is the human spirit that is the most powerful force in this Universe. So, you are right, nothing could have intervened. But, you are assuming the Indians did not choose to be born into that time, and that they were not aware of the possibility of the difficulties they would face. I understand that you might question the sanity of anyone wanting to experience that. And so, we disagree.

    Clearly we have different beliefs about the nature of reality. I was simply answering your questions within my frame of reference, thinking you might like the contrast. You know, just for the fun of the experience.

    ” ‘To be or not to be?’, that is the question.” I suspect you don’t think we have a choice.

    • February 11, 2013 at 4:12 pm

      This is a good summary of some of the positions which I think of as the ACME (Anything Can Mean Everything) polarity. Faced with what seems to me clear contradictions with our actual experience, the theory of idealism is preserved and all other considerations of realism, sense, or morality are jettisoned. At this point, if taken literally, the philosophy becomes pathological. To say that people choose to have awful things happen to them or that God is good even though she sits idly for eternity while her influence inspires torture and murder, all while condemning those who do the same. That makes God either the ultimate hypocrite or the ultimate sinner of omission.

      You may not be able to stomach the idea that you could actually be wrong about this, because not many people can, but it’s really the truth. Your position as stated can be used to justify any level of totalitarian horror. If someone is able to wipe out an entire nation with chemical weapons – oh well, I guess they were aware, on a spiritual level, that this was going to happen to them and *must have* volunteered to be burned alive with white phosphorus or whatever. Don’t you see how stilted and improbable that is. How convenient and comforting it is to have this kind of one-size-fits all machina-ex-deus to plug any argument?

      While the OMMM facing position overplays the hand of cognitive bias and doubt, that doesn’t mean that the opposite is any more valid. Confirmation bias is real. Wishful thinking is not always sound, even though it can be appropriate in some circumstances, especially within our own private dreams. Once we try to make any of our dreams public however, there are other considerations besides imagined consent.

  3. Joseph McCard (really)
    February 11, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    Jonathan: “Your starting point is fine, but as old as the hills.”

    Craig: “As far as the ego looking out on ‘physical reality’ and ‘inward toward the mind’, I see that as an obsolete model.”

    Otmar, Live from New York, it’s Saturday night!

    • February 11, 2013 at 4:13 pm

      eh?

      • Joseph McCard (really)
        February 11, 2013 at 7:34 pm

        This is a case of you become what you condemn.

      • February 11, 2013 at 8:45 pm

        Are you talking about you or me?

      • February 11, 2013 at 8:48 pm

        Have you considered Joseph, that you are actually arguing with your own shadow rather than me? That you have created the version of me that you need to believe exists in order to examine your own prejudices and control issues?

  4. Joseph McCard (really)
    February 11, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    ” To say that people choose to have awful things happen to them”

    Why does God allow any suffering at any time? Why have suffering at all? Why have even the possibility of suffering?

    You cannot know and become what you are in the absence of that which you are not. You (Craig) are not allowing each of us to walk our own path. You are denying all of us the freedom to choose. It is not your decision, and I do not believe it is appropriate, for you to interfere with my, or anyone else’s choices. I believe it is particularly inappropriate to condemn my choices.

    “If someone is able to wipe out an entire nation with chemical weapons – oh well, I guess they were aware, on a spiritual level, that this was going to happen to them and *must have* volunteered to be burned alive with white phosphorus or whatever.”

    You get to choose to characterize being burned alive with white phosphorus as horror, because someone, either directly, or indirectly as a result of the consequences of their beliefs, chose to experience being burned by white phosphorus. You have speculated that being burned alive in such a way is horrible, but until you have actually been burned alive with white phosphorus, all you have is an idea about being burned alive with white phosphorus.

    “…or that God is good even though she sits idly for eternity while her influence inspires torture and murder, all while condemning those who do the same. That makes God either the ultimate hypocrite or the ultimate sinner of omission.”

    Nothing exists -nothing – without a reason understood and approved by God. God’s plan is for us to create anything -everything -whatever you want. In such freedom lies the experience of God being God -and this is the experience for which we were createdGod does not love hot more than cold, high more than low, left more than right. It is all relative. God does not love good more than bad. Hitler went to heaven.

    Everything is acceptable in the sight of God, for how can God not accept that which is? To say that it is not O.K. is to say it is not a part of God, and that is impossible.

    First. No condition is “good”or “bad” It just is. So stop making value judgements. Learn what the soul’s will or motive is, and go with that. Go with the soul. The soul wants to to feel itself, and to know itself in its own experience Second, nothing stays the same. Which way a thing changes depends on you.

    Just as you might say there is no separation between sense and you, I say that there is no separation between me and God. I (and I believe you) are God experiencing Himself. There is no separate identity that you can put the onus of responsibility onto. You are the creator.

    • February 11, 2013 at 8:43 pm

      “Why have even the possibility of suffering?”

      Suffering arises from conflicting agendas.

      “You (Craig) are not allowing each of us to walk our own path.”

      You (Joseph/Otmar/Tom) are not allowing me to walk my own path. Your path seems to lead right through my website, but how have I trespassed against you?

      “You get to choose to characterize being burned alive with white phosphorus as horror, because someone, either directly, or indirectly as a result of the consequences of their beliefs, chose to experience being burned by white phosphorus”

      This is a good example of how following the ACME assumptions to their literal conclusion leads to absurdity and pathology. You are advocating that we view horror relativistically. Maybe slavery should never have been abolished – slaves were choosing to experience being slaves – not that others kidnapped them and imprisoned them, but that they somehow invited it so that we could experience the vicarious thrill of others being slaves. I understand why it makes sense in theory, but in the actual universe in which we live, it fails because discernment and preference matters.

      ” but until you have actually been burned alive with white phosphorus,”

      That would be true if the universe were a philosophical thought experiment where logic is presumed to be the ground of being. Fortunately with sense as a primitive, we don’t have to engage in that kind of sophistry. Maybe drinking battery acid feels great, and its just an acquired taste? No. It doesn’t. I don’t have to have experienced it first hand to be able to understand that it doesn’t feel great. What’s more, even if your view were true, by your logic, you can’t presume to know what I don’t know. Maybe I’m omniscient about being burned alive?

      “Nothing exists -nothing – without a reason understood and approved by God. ”

      That is another aspect of ACME. It’s unfalsifiable and has confirmation bias built in from the start. Even if it were true, so what. If God doesn’t help anyone, then what difference does it make to us if he understands why we are suffering?

      “God’s plan is for us to create anything -everything -whatever you want.”

      Do you think that you know God’s plan?

      “God does not love good more than bad….”

      This is all Eastern Philosophy 101, but it doesn’t really work any better than the Western view. This impartial God has no free will. It is just a machine with no preference, doling out misery and pleasure for reasons known only to itself.

      “To say that it is not O.K. is to say it is not a part of God, and that is impossible.”

      Remember earlier on in your comment you said precisely the opposite?

      “I do not believe it is appropriate, for you to interfere with my, or anyone else’s choices.”

      So everything in the entire universe, especially Hitler, is OK, except for me (Craig). Dare I say that your performance on the hypocrisy test is somewhat lacking?

      “First. No condition is “good”or “bad” It just is. So stop making value judgements.”

      Ah, ‘Do as I say, not as I do.’. I judge you to be judgmental. If I was the kind of person who tells people what to do, I would suggest that you invest in a mirror.

      “I (and I believe you) are God experiencing Himself”

      Again, Eastern Phil 101. Do you think that I could talk about the Absolute Totality as the fundamental inertial frame without understanding that? The difference is, that I don’t make God into a person, because I have noticed that there are other things in the universe besides people.

      “You are the creator.”

      No. We are co-creators at best, which is in the privacy of our own imagination. As far as being a public creator, well, that is dictated to a large extent by circumstance. That’s why we have cities full of monotonous glass buildings and depressed, anxious people rather than orgies on magic purple clouds.

  5. Joseph McCard (really)
    February 11, 2013 at 10:35 pm

    “That you have created the version of me that you need to believe exists in order to examine your own prejudices and control issues?”

    Well, examine a particular belief system anyhow, “Conversations With God”, Neale Donald Walsch.

    Want to play again???

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