Materialism – A Brief Introduction

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Materialism is a set of related theories which hold that entitles and processes are composed of – or are reducible to – matter, material forms or physical processes. All events and facts are explainable, actually or in principle, in terms of body, material objects or dynamic material changes or movements. In general, the metaphysical theory of materialism entails the denial of the reality of spiritual beings, consciousness and mental or psychic states or processes, as ontologically distinct form, or independent of material changes or processes. Since it denies the existence of spiritual beings or forces, materialism typically is allied with atheism and agnosticism.’

The English word ‘matter’ has its origins in the Latin words ‘mater’ (i.e. ‘mother’), and ‘materia’ (i.e. ‘all physical things’). As existence is composed of matter, matter is viewed as the foundation of all things. Generally speaking, all matter is said to possess both volume and mass. Within the Chinese language, the concept of ‘matter’ can be expressed using the ideograms ‘物质’ (wu4zhi2). ‘物’ (wu4) is written using the left-hand particle ‘牛’ (nui2) – meaning ‘cow’, ‘bull’, or ‘ox’, and the right-hand particle ‘勿’ (wu4) – originally meaning ‘flag’. When combined together, the ideogram ‘物’ (wu4) literally means ‘matter’, ‘things’, and ‘objects’. ‘质’ (zhi2) is written using the ideogram ‘贝’ (bei4) – meaning a hard sea shell, and the right-hand particle ‘斦’ (yin2) – originally written as ‘two axes’, but also used to refer to a measure of weight equalling around one kilogram (i.e. ‘two catty’). Within Chinese thought, when taken together, the concept of ‘物质’ (wu4zhi2) represents the entirety of existence, or by implication, that physical substance which possesses  (measurable) mass and volume. Ancient India, despite its association with spirituality within popular culture, developed a school of materialist thinking named ‘Lokayata’ (लोकायत) in Sanskrit, which suggests a system of developed thought grounded in the observation (or perception) of the physical world (which is directly accessible to the senses). This school rejected all religious thought that advocated karma and karmic retribution, a belief in ‘invisible’ theistic constructs, and any notion of ‘rebirth’ or ‘reincarnation’. Therefore, the validity of inference and the authority of scripture are firmly rejected. For the Lokayata followers, only that information directly perceived through the senses is real. The Lokayata developed a theory of physical existence that involved four basic elements which combine to generate all of material reality. As a consequence of this thinking, Lokayata is associated with ‘atheism’. The origin of this school is problematic (due to the loss of primary texts), but evidence suggests a date anywhere between 600 – 300 BCE – with the possibility that the ideas associated with this school could be far older.

Whatever the case, the Buddhist Pali suttas mention the Lokayata, which is associated within the tradition of Buddhist commentary, as representing a ‘hard materialism’ (not favoured by the Buddha). However, detailed with the ‘five aggregates’ teaching of the Buddha, it is clear that his system of mind-matter integration is a form of ‘soft materialism’, which recognises a plurality, (but not a duality). This is because the Buddha’s system is premised upon ‘rupa’ (रूप) – or ‘physical matter’, which he defines as particles (paramanu) that flash in and out of existence (similar to the observed behaviour of sub-atomic particles within quantum physics). The Buddha sees the physical world as ‘existing’, but being non-substantial and changeable in nature. This ‘Buddhist’ definition of matter is different to that of the ‘Ucchedavada’ (ဥေစၧဒ) – which the Buddha criticised for assuming a permanent and unchanging physical world – despite the fact that the Buddha agreed with the Ucchedavda that there is no ‘atma’, or permanent soul. The Buddha’s soft materialism deviates away from the hard materialism of the Ucchedavada (which maybe directly linked to the Lokayata), by stressing that karma does function (in a limited, non-theistic sense), and that moral behaviour is required to escape worldly suffering.

Western scholars tend to date the Buddha as living either 563-480 BCE, or 483-400 BCE, whilst within traditional Chinese Buddhism, his date is given as 1028/29-948/49. Obviously, the Buddha’s existence, if dated accurately, would determine the antiquity of the Indian schools of materialism. In ancient Greece, however, the materialist origins of philosophy are said to have developed through the thinking of Democritus (460-370 BCE), who conceived of the universe as being composed of tiny, irreducible atoms unobservable to the naked eye. These atoms operate in a deterministic fashion, and combine to form the various forms associated with physical existence. Epicurus (341-270 BCE) – the student of Democritus, developed this thinking by asserting that every so often atoms ‘swerved’, as a means to explain unusual behaviour or happenings in the physical world. Ancient India developed a theory of materialism, whilst Buddhism developed a theory of the atom, but the (modern) Western world follows the ancient atomic models as devised within the Greek philosophical tradition. Whatever the origin, the doctrine of materialism stands in philosophical opposition to that of ‘idealism’. Idealism is usually understood as advocating that ‘mind’ is primary, and that the physical world exists only as an expression or appearance of that mind. This suggests that the physical world is not truly ‘material’, but rather ‘psychological’, or ‘mental’ in origination and nature. Within the Western philosophical tradition, theistic idealism is associated with Berkley, transcendental idealism of Kant, and the absolute idealism of Hegel. Idealism is often interpreted as being a secular version of theology, and directly related to ‘creationism’, whereby the physical world is viewed as being created by an unseen theistic entity (theology), or ‘projected’ into existence by the agency of mind (idealism), as if by an act of will and/or perception.

Within the subject of ‘philosophy of mind’, the theory of materialism has three distinct definitions, the first two of which represent ‘hard’ materialism, and the third ‘soft’ materialism:

  1. Eliminativism. This theory seeks to ‘eliminate’ entirely any notion of ‘mind’, and all theories of ‘psychology’ from modern science, on the grounds that such notions are the product of misunderstanding, and akin to ‘fairy tales’ that are the product of the residue of religious thinking. How human beings perceive their own minds is viewed as erroneous and the consequence of historical and cultural conditioning. As a consequence, as there is ‘no mind’ in reality, there can be no true experience of ‘raw feelings’ (qualia), or the exercise of intentionality. Theories of psychology are viewed as expressions of out-dated science which need to be abandoned as a necessary means to progress scientific understanding.
  2. Reductionism. In its simplest form, ‘reductionism’ reduces all psychological states to that of easily observable and measurable behaviour (i.e. ‘behavourism’). This reduces mind states to a mode of expression acceptable to modern science. Mind processes might exist as a function of the physical brain, but are viewed as knowable only through the measuring of behaviour. Other than as a producer of behaviour, the mind cannot be directly understood (because although it might generate qualia and intentionality, it does not ‘independently’ exist), and is of no further interest to reductionist.
  3. Irreducibility of mind. Although it might be accepted that ‘mind’ could exist as an apparent independent entity, nevertheless, its existence is so inherently related to matter, that this apparent ‘independence’ is not an issue. The mind is related to matter in a matter far more profound than mere causal independence. This means that the irreducibility of the mind is not a threat to the primacy of the materialist theory. Mind is a product of matter, even if the exact process of the emergence of consciousness from matter is as yet not fully understood.

Karl Marx studied Hegel’s absolute idealism, and understood it (through the work of Feuerbach) to be ‘inverted’ in nature. When turned the right way around, Marx developed the theory of ‘historical materialism’ (which replaced Hegel’s theory of ‘historical idealism’). The theory of historical materialism is ‘scientific’ in nature, and states that it is the economic reality of a society that determines the physical reality of that society. This is an ongoing historical process that does not allow for any ‘divine intervention’ in the affairs of humanity. It is through this materialist theory that Marx explains the historical reasons why it is that the impoverished working class (i.e. proletariat) exists in a subordinated and exploited manner, whilst being dominated by affluent middle class (i.e. bourgeisie), and how it is that this situation contains within itself, the seeds of its own inevitable transformation (through the agency of ‘revolution’). On this point, Marx states ‘In the social production of their life, men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will, relations of production which correspond to a definite stage of development of their material productive forces. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political and intellectual life process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.’ (Preface: A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy). Marx goes on to say that at some point in time, the material productive forces if become so strong that they out-grow the current organisation of society, and come into direct conflict with the existing (bourgeois) relations of society. As the workers become aware of their own material and productive powers, they mass organise and initiate an era of social revolution, eventually seizing the means of production, and radically transforming society through the agency of a socialist revolution. This is the playing-out of class antagonisms, and explains why Russian Marxist Georgi Plekhanov further developed this idea (in 1891), by referring to this process as ‘dialectical materialism’. This was developed from the work of Friedrich Engels (found in his book entitled ‘Dialectics of Nature’) whereby Engels uses the term ‘materialist dialectics’ as a means to combat and neutralise ‘idealistic dialectics’. The theory of scientific socialism as developed by Marx and Engels adopts a materialist outlook to explain human society and the human condition, but Marx and Engels rejected two forms of materialism prevalent in the 19th century, namely those of the ‘mechanistic’ and the ‘metaphysical’ variety. Marx rejected the mechanistic view because it suggested nothing could be changed, and he rejected metaphysical view because he recognised the existence and purpose of a human consciousness – even if it is generated from the brain and conditioned by outer circumstances and events. Marx views the immense productive forces of labour as the driving force behind the unfolding of history. The unfolding of the historical process is not a passive or indifferent passing of events, but is a dynamic, directing and transformative force within human affairs. Metaphysical materialism, strictly speaking denies the existence of this dialectical and historical materialism that Marx clearly sees as operating throughout human history, where it has reached a particular intensity after the Industrial Revolution. The concept of ‘dialectics’ within Marxism can also be applied to personal education, and the development of a proletariat mind that is freed of the oppression and limitations of the past, and which is collective in outlook, and thoroughly progressive and scientific in nature. This maybe taken as the use of Hegel’s dialectic of thesis, antitheses and synthesis – reworked to interpret the changes of the material world (through the negation of the negation) rather than the changes of the ‘idealistic’ (or ‘religious’) world.

 

 

Philosophy: Three Theistic Terms

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Technically, the three following terms more correctly fall into the category of the ‘Philosophy of Religion’. Obviously, whether or not an individual ‘believes’ or ‘disbelieves’ in religion is irrelevant to the philosophical exercise of striving to understand the theoretical basis and practice of religions that evolve around a central theistic core element or elements. This is important because theistic religion has served as a primary source for human knowledge and purpose of action for thousands of years, and still continues to exercise that influence over a great many people in the world today. Even if some people describe themselves as ‘atheistic’ (i.e, ‘not’ accepting or believing in a divine concept, or any teachings emanating from such a theistic entity), secular society tends to exhibit religious trends of thought (as morals, ethics and attitudes), although devoid of any obvious or direct religious content or control. In the West, this has been the Judeo-Christian tradition, whilst in modern China, it has been Confucianism, Buddhism and Daoism that have set the moral and cultural (national) character. In modem India it has been Brahmanism, whilst in the Middle East it has been Islam, etc. This secular development tends to manifest as a parallel stream of psychological and physical influence alongside the practice of more traditional modes of religion, albeit to varying degrees of intensity, or definitional sociological frameworks. The three Greek terms under discussion in this short essay are:

  1. Theogony
  2. Theurgy
  3. Theology

Theogony literally translates as the ‘origin of the gods’, or more specifically the ‘birth and genealogy of the gods’. It stems from the original Greek word ‘theogonia’ – with ‘theo’ meaning ‘god’, and ‘gonia’ meaning ‘birth’, and by implication, ‘growth’ and ‘development’. ‘Theogony’ is a poem written by the ancient Greek poet Hesiod (8th-7th Centuries BCE), which describes the origins of the ancient Greek gods.This body of knowledge may be considered augmented by the myths and legends as recorded by Homer.

Theurgy literally translates as ‘divine work’, and stems from the original Greek word ‘theourgia’. This term is found in the thinking of ancient and classical Greece, and later in the works of Plotinus. It originally referred to rituals that created the conditions on earth for a ‘divine intervention’ in human affairs. Sometimes referred to as ‘magic’, the practice of ‘theurgy’ is used by Plotinus to refer to the act of ‘contemplation’ or ‘meditation’ designed to ‘unite’ the individual with the ‘divine essence’. In this sense, ‘theurgy’ refers to a set of (disciplined) purification practises, performed with the body and mind, which generate a ‘frequency’ of being here and now, which through its rarefied structure, facilitates the manifestation of a divine presence in the affairs of humanity.

Theology literally translates as the ‘study of god’, or the ‘science of god’, and is a Judeo-Christian term referring specifically to the study of the theory, faith and practice of the monotheistic, Christian tradition in all its various branches, sects, schools and lineages, etc. Theology stems from the original Greek word ‘theologia’, and was used by the early Christian thinkers after Christ, as a means to develop a distinctly ‘Greek’ interpretation of teachings originally delivered in Syriac-Aramaic (the probable language of Jesus Christ), which expressed religious terms as preserved in Hebrew – the language of the ancient Jewish religion. This transition became vital for the early Christians – after that sect of radical Judaism – was ‘expelled’ from the Jewish religion and had to develop an entirely ‘new’ way for interpreting its guiding strictures. The early Christian were Jews who routinely used Hebrew to communicate their non-conformist ideas, and the use of Greek philosophical terms was considered a viable alternative. In this transition, of course, the Greek philosophical terms were ‘changed’ in meaning to suit the strictures of early Christian thought, and to ‘distance’ the emerging Christian Church from the pantheistic and atheistic tendencies found within Greek thought proper. This explains why later Christian leaders ‘banned’ all original Greek thought. As a consequence, and unless otherwise stated, Christian theology ‘rejects’ the notions of ‘theogony’ and ‘theurgy’ as examples of pre-Christian pagan practises and modes of thought.

The Material Basis of Quantum Mechanics

Quantum theory is an extrapolation of quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics is the study of the construction and functionality of low level physical matter. It is not a theology, a metaphysics or a spirituality. Without quantum mechanics – that is the mathematical analysis of low level physical matter – there can be no quantum theory. Quantum theory in its strict scientific manifestation, has been taken by idealists and adapted and adopted to serve all kinds of disembodied thinking – effectively the process of distorting hard material science to justify theological thinking – or the exact opposite of what scientific thinking is supposed to be. The reason this happens is because the implications of quantum mechanics (essentially the paradoxical idea that light energy can behave as either a ‘wave’ and a ‘particle’ – but never at the sametime), suggests that low level reality is different from that of macro reality as described by classical physics. As classical physics serves most human needs within macro reality (i.e. the everyday world), the low level world of quantum mechanics gives the impression to the ordinary mind that there are two radically different realities functioning simultaneously. This suggests ‘nothing is certain’, and this idea has been incorrectly used to allow for theology to be used as a consequence of this paradox – but this is illogical. Theology is not a product of science and remains ‘unscientific’ from beginning to end – and this remains the case regardless of the extent of the development of scientific understanding. The way the human mind is used to develop science, is very different from the manner in which the mind has been used in the past to develop theology (with its accompanying mythology that its theistic content was somehow developed ‘outside’ the mind that conceived it). The reality is that the micro (low level) world of quanta (or small pockets of energy), and the macro world of everyday life do reconcile – albeit in a manner that is not yet fully understandable to the rational mind. This is an ongoing process of scientific development and discovery. Even if it is allowed that human perception somehow ‘adds’ to the phenomenon being observed – there is no evidence that this process exists outside the world of physical matter. This would suggest that ‘consciousness’ (used as a back-door into science by religionists), is not an entity ‘separate’ from matter (like a theological ‘spirit’ or a ‘soul’), but is rather part and parcel of an integral aspect of material existence. Whatever consciousness is – it does not lie ‘outside’ of the realm of material existence. This is because it is incorrect to associate ‘consciousness’ with a theological concept of ‘soul’. Why this happens is curious, because even within theological teaching, it is clear that a ‘soul’ is very different from humanity’s ‘ordinary’ conscious awareness. Modern science does not speculate beyond the logical analysis of physical existence – whereas the entire premise of theology is that it speculates about what might lie beyond the boundaries of material existence. Both systems of thought are completely different and cannot be reconciled without one over-coming and subsuming the other. The theories that underpin quantum mechanics are scientific and not theological. Conscious awareness – regardless of its origin, nature and functionality – is not a ‘spirit’ that stands in opposition to physical existence. Therefore, it logically follows that quantum mechanics – regardless of its paradoxes and implications – cannot be used as a substitute for theology. Once the material basis of human consciousness is fully understood and appreciated, an in-depth study and analysis of its implication and functionality can be ‘scientifically’ pursued outside of the limitations that theological understanding suggest and impose. Without firmly separating the study of evolutionary consciousness from theology – the true extent of the power of the human mind will not be fully understood.

Four Theories of Mind Rooted in Material Science

An excellent video covering 1) Singularity Theory, 2) Simulation Theory, 3) Multi verse Theory, and 4) Retro-Active Pre-Cognition. Many other scientific theories are included in these ideas, with a number of variations of interpretation. For those who are attracted to telepathy and telekinesis, etc, Retro-Active Pre-Cognition will be of particular interest. However, for material science to progress, theistic theology (and its assumptions) must be placed to one-side. This is because theistic theology presumes itself to be a ‘complete’ and ‘perfect’ theory that is beyond improvement and not subject to criticism. Retro-Active Pre-Cognition does not have a ‘religious’ component, but suggests that the human brain-mind nexus possesses an ability to ‘predict’ the content of a future memory test (in the present time) – BEFORE such content is presented for consideration. This suggests that those being tested appeared to fore-tell the content of a FUTURE test within the present moment (whilst participating in a test with different content). This is interesting, but I do not think it is ‘mystical’. I suspect that the human mind may well possess an innate ability to ‘see’ a possible future premised upon the psychological and physiological circumstances of the present. As these biological processes are not static, but continue to exist and function over-time (barring physical death), it may have been important from an evolutionary perspective, for human-beings to develop a very subtle ability to read eventual outcomes premised upon current conditions, and the likelihood of certain scenarios playing-out in the physical world. One speculation is that this ability may have been far more obvious and prominent at an earlier stage in human evolutionary development. This ability could well be ‘intuitive’ in nature, and could have been dislodged by an intellectual development that gave a definite advantage for human survival in a possibly hostile environment. The Buddha, of course, within his method of perceptual science, stated (within the Four Noble Truths teaching) that the human mind capacity to ‘think’, possesses the ability to directly sense the presence, re-call the past, and speculate about the future. Essentially recalling the past and speculating about the future requires the imaginative reconstruction of events that may or may not have happened in the past, and the construction of events which ‘might’ occur in the future – the scientific question about the latter, is the extent of the connection between ‘imagining’ the future and that ‘imagined’ future actually coming to pass. By accurately analysing patterns of material change in the environment, the ‘imagination’ might well be able to give an educated guess to how matters will eventually transpire. Of course, an extra element of intrigue is added if it can be scientifically proven that the human mind can predict the future whilst possessing no relevant data that could lead to any known outcome.

Mind Beyond Matter (PSI)?

The following documentary posits that consciousness exists outside the brain, and that conscious minds can communicate with one another irrespective of physical interaction. In other words, individual minds – through an act of will – can communicate with one another (over distance) without recourse to the use of physical actions, language or any-other form of mechanical communication. Evidence for this assumption stems from very small examples of statistical data that measure a little over the 50% expected from pure chance. Furthermore, outside of parapsychological (psi) experimentation, this statistical data (or its apparent implications), does not appear.

What is being suggested by these experimenters? 1) minds can communicate with one another – either singularly or in groups (over distance) – without the need for physical proximity or physical interaction. 2) Despite these experimenters attempting to remain within the discipline of materially based science, there is an implication that ‘consciousness’ pre-exists the brain that produces (or ‘experiences’) it. This position would logically suggest that consciousness is an independent continuum that exists outside the brain (but ‘somewhere’ within time and space), with each human brain ‘connecting’ with this ‘stream’ of consciousness either in the womb or shortly after birth. A further extrapolation would suggest that at physical death – the individual brain ‘disconnects’ from this continuum but leaves an imprint of the individual’s life experiences as part of the ‘collective’ nature of this model.

The problem with this model is that it is a modern replication of the medieval theology of the Judeo-Christian tradition, with ‘spirit’ and ‘god’ simply replaced with ‘mind’ and ‘consciousness’. Of course, people such as Rupert Sheldrake (who has admitted to me that he is using the strictures of modern science to ‘prove’ Judeo-Christian theology to be ‘literally’ correct). pursue parapsychological research as a means to re-assert a peculiarly ‘theistic’ view of existence. This is not science, but an application of theology using certain (and therefore ‘skewed’) scientific methods designed to prove ‘material’ science wrong. In reality, the danger of this disembodied consciousness model is that it lets the Christian Church back into mainstream thinking (by the usurpation of science), and the re-assertion of a theology that in over a thousand years of dominating Western thought, never produced any technical or scientific advancement (not even an egg timer), that could have made life easier for ordinary people. The brain-mind nexus does not require theistic religion as a means to explain its evolutionary existence, or its functionality within human society or the world. After-all, even the Buddha – in his earliest teachings – specified the ‘material’ basis of the mind, and stated that the mind (and ‘consciousness’) cease to exist at the point of physical death (when the inherent link between brain-mind, consciousness, sense organ and sense object is permanently ‘broken’ for the individual concerned). There are other ways of viewing existence that does not require ‘falling back’ into Judeo-Christian theology.

To be clear, I am not making a value judgement about Judeo-Christian theology, but I am stating that such a theistic-based methodology is not a material science. However, the ideas contained within this theology still permeate Western existence, even influencing the minds of those who might otherwise state that they are ‘secular’ in their approach to psi research. Of course, modern, Western secularism grew-out of the Christian theological tradition, and so a long-lasting and ongoing affect is to be expected. This might explain experimenter bias, for example, where the outer garb of the ‘scientific method’ is used to express a deep-rooted theological influence – i.e. the ‘idealism’ that spirit creates matter. This idealism strives to replace the premise of material science – i.e. that a special arrangement of physical matter generates consciousness. Spirit does not create matter – matter generates spirit (or ‘consciousness’). This being the observable case, I would say that psi should proceed from a strictly material scientific basis, with no psi a priori assumptions sullying the reading (or generating) of results. This means that I do not ‘reject’ in principle the notion of psi, but that I do insist upon a material basis for its study. Judeo-Christian theology, regardless of its nobility and short-comings, should be completely eradicated from the scientific method, simply because both methods are unique to their own particular fields of expertise. Science will not prove the existence of god – and theology will not disprove the efficacy of material science. If minds communicate with one another (over distance), it is important to work-out the material basis through which this is happening. Such a discovery would be a monumental advance in human understanding, and have all kinds of profound influences on medicine, education and space travel, for instance. Such an understanding could be used to inoculate humanity against its destructive habits of ‘warfare’ and oppressive modes of social, cultural and political existence.

The Scola Experiments – a Peculiarly ‘British’ Deception

The compromising of scientific objectivity is not only the basis of conventional Judeo-Christian theology, but also of its modern equivalent – ‘spiritual medium-ship’. Many people (but not all) who describe themselves as ‘scientists’, but who join paranormal societies and develop supernatural theories and experimental methods – obviously possess a mind-set that deep-down still believes in a theistic religion (to the exclusion of all other means of interpreting reality). These types of people do not believe in science – they believe in religion – but they use a basic scientific method in passing, as an expedient means to re-establish the supremacy of Judeo-Christian theology over that of the logical thinking of the objective scientific method. Of course if you were to ask these individuals if this is what they are doing, they would usually deny it – stating that they possess a genuine scientific interest in the paranormal. If this were true, then such individuals would not be peddling fantasy as fact. Furthermore, such a lax attitude ignores the historical interaction between theology and objective science, and the fact that from a strict scientific perspective – the paranormal as a distinct phenomena – has never been proven to ‘exist’. On a practical front, the research methodology applied to this investigation by the (British) Society for Psychical Research (SPR) is appalling and at times bordering on the pretentious! Witnessing middle class buffoons laughing together, and playing along with an obvious hoax is as disturbing as the nature of the hoax itself! If a ‘disembodied’ hand touches you on the shoulder – why not grab the arm that is undoubtedly operating that hand under the cover of darkness? Instead of agreeing to be ‘touched’ from behind – why not insist on being touched from the front – where there is a better chance to ‘see’ the fakery? In his book the Dialectics of Nature, Friedrich Engels describes in detail a number of so-called ‘Psychic’ acts in Victorian London – all of which without exception – proved to be ‘fake’ upon deeper investigation. The very idea that the SPR could render a judgement that there was no proof of fakery in this case is not only bizarre, but borders on the criminal. I am reminded of the excellent work of James Randi – a Conjurer by trade – who has dedicated his later life to debunking many high profile fraudulent claims of supernatural ability – even in people who had previously been declared genuine after scientific investigation. The point is that the scientific method must not be allowed to be compromised simply by the stupidity and charisma of certain individuals who are invariably motivated by profit. The following documentary is embarrassing for British academia, although it is interesting to note that its format is followed today by virtually all paranormal, supernatural or ghost orientated drama series that now inundate the airwaves.  This ‘Scola Experiment’ is a terrible example of the use of the ‘inverted’ mind-set designed to usurp objective science which is still being taken seriously today.  On a personal note, I am neither opposed to the paranormal, or to religion for that matter, and think both are interesting human constructs within their own particular historical and cultural contexts. However, I am a staunch supporter of objective science as a means for discovering and developing genuine knowledge. It is objective science that must prove the paranormal to be real – not idealism or personal opinion.

 

 

 

Why ‘Inner’ Science?

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All science, although it manifests through the material plane, originates within the human mind. This is a concrete fact as it is the agency of human consciousness that has perceived worldly phenomena, logically ordered that data, and eventually calculated, extrapolated and elucidated reliable theories and understanding about how the universe operates, how it came into existence, and its developmental history has unfold. Of course, the human mind and body is (and remains) fully part of this evolutionary process, and the fact that the mind has been able to transition from a mode of pure instinct for survival, to a state of profound observational contemplation, is testament to this fact. Generally speaking, science is the ordering of thought when the mind is engaged in observing the physical world and its processes. Just as the physical world unfolds according to discernible laws, the thought processes can be gathered together, focused, and directed in a particular cognitive direction – this consistent ‘direction’ is termed ‘logic’ – as the thought process and patterns that unfold in the head take on the the structure and direction of the material processes. In a very real sense, the inner mind becomes a tangible reflection of the functioning of the outer world. When there is a ‘disconnect’ between the inner mind and the outer world, the human state of existence is said to be ‘mythic’, or ‘illogical’ in nature. This is because the human mind remains ‘unaware’ of how the external world is operating, is unable to ‘reflect’ that operation, and instead subjects existence to being defined through the faculty of ‘imagination’. This is the religious view of the world which is premised upon the ‘mystery’ of ‘not knowing’.

Inner science is the acknowledgement of the importance of the human brain and its ‘mind’ function. This includes not only viewing the world in a logical manner (which is required if humanity is to progress its existence), but also includes the study of the ‘illogical’ or ‘religious’ mind-set. Certainly, it must be stated that the faculty of ‘imagination’ is not an error, and has served a very important purpose within human evolutionary development. In fact, although religion is generally inverted in mind-set (i.e. prone to set the cart before the horse when assessing reality), nevertheless, religion and religious beliefs (of whatever kind), were the first human efforts to rise above the animal kingdom, and the requirement for survival through an often ‘brutal’ manifestation of instinct. This function of religion also introduced the earliest concepts of ‘law’ where none existed, and the first ideas of ‘altruism’, whereby other humans (and animals) might be treated with compassion and understanding – simply because they were other living beings. In this respect, the shift from ‘instinct’ to ‘religion’ was a very important evolutionary development that still has important ramifications for humanity today, even when fully acknowledging the secularisation of the West and other areas of the world.

The implications are that formal logic grew-out of human religious thinking, as the understanding of the world developed over long periods of time. In India, for instance the Buddha reformed Brahmanism into a new and logical philosophy that emphasised the detailed assessment of human perception existing within a physical world. This development was nothing short of the creation of the science of perception. In ancient Greece, formal logic developed out of polytheism. In the Middle East, Jesus Christ rejected various aspects of Jewish Scripture, and created if not exactly a logical system of thought, certainly a view of reality that moved away from the dogma of theology (despite the later Christian Church re-asserting the primacy of theological interpretations – even if only spuriously connected with Christ). The point is that Christianity appears to have both hindered the development of the Western mind, whilst simultaneously preparing it for the resurgence of secular Greek logic during the renaissance – fuelled as it was by the rediscovered ancient Greek texts preserved in the Islamic libraries of Byzantine and elsewhere. Islam, of course, has always valued knowledge and wisdom without compromising its theological base, which has accommodated other ways of viewing the world. However, even the old religions, as superstitious as they are, should not be entirely dismissed out of hand, although I would stress that a religion should not seek or possess political power in its own right, as this sphere of activity has nothing to do with the achievement of inner peace.

The crux of the matter is this; as the human mind is the area through which logic and understanding emerge, it is within the best interests of humanity to make a study of this inner terrain without falling into ‘subjectivism’, or ‘myth’. This requires a certain strength of being whereby an inner explorer is like a cosmonaut heading to the stars, but is involved in the intimate and detailed exploration and mapping of nothing less than the ‘psychic’ fabric of the mind. I suspect that this exploration will only add to the power of objective thinking and analysis, and thereby ‘strengthen’ the human potential for generating scientific thought. Anyone can embark on this journey simply by sitting quietly and ‘looking’ within’. What do you see? Write it down and keep detailed notes of your experience. Later, objectively look through your notes and learn to distinguish between ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ observations. In this way the psychic phenomena experienced in the mind serves as the most direct form of experiential data. This type of exploration maybe viewed as ‘introspective’, and of course it is, but when deliberately performed as a part of the objective development of science, its process takes on an entirely ‘new’ meaning, and its conclusions maybe used to enhance human understanding of the mind, body and environment.

Email: Help with an Exorcism (6.5.2017)

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I received today, an unexpected email from the UK entitled ‘Help with an Exorcism’. As this email contains private information from ‘D’, I will not post it here (but I am posting my email responses to it). This email explained that the individual in question (and their family), suffer from a ‘generational’ curse, which they interpret as ‘demonic’ possession. ‘D’ (who is intelligent and sincere), explained that doors open and tables move on their own, (together with other objects), and the family ‘hears’ demonic voices. ‘D’ further explained (in a subsequent email) that the family had sought medical assistance, and that as the family is open-minded, they had also consulted Islamic and Hindu practitioners – with the spirit bothering them being described as stronger than a ‘Djinn’. Of course, although I respect other people’s experiences and opinions, and listen with a compassionate ear – this does not mean that I necessarily subscribe to what they think. I do acknowledge, however, that ‘fear’ is a great motivator in human affairs, and that once a mind-set is in its grasp, the individual concerned can suffer terribly from its presence. I do not ‘believe’ in ghosts, spirits, demons or gods for that matter, and interpret such notions as being the products of an over-active imagination, often inspired and encouraged by archaic systems of theistic worship (which usually includes the ever-present threat of ‘divine’ or ‘demonic’ punishment). Furthermore, it is my considered opinion that such entities can be cleared-up by a radical transformation of the functionality of the human mind, which (providing the individual is healthy), can be produced through meditation and other forms of mental discipline and specific forms of education.  Obviously if mental illness is involved, the issue might be as simple as a chemical imbalance causing all kinds of unwanted and distressing experiences. Of course,I have never met ‘D’, but I offer here a highly ‘generalised’ response to her plight as an indicator of how logic and science can be applied to the paranormal. I very much view my approach as being one of the use of clarity of thought, as a means to over-come disturbance of thought. Below are a number of my emails to ‘D’:

Subject: Re: Help with an Exorcism
Date: Saturday, May 06, 2017 09:12
Dear D
Thank you for your email.
Have you considered medical help? Belief can be a powerful stimulus – but the human mind can be subject to all kinds of dysfunction. The reason other methods have not worked, may be because they are non-medical. Will power at a distance cannot affect the inner workings of a mind (or ‘minds’) that is generating certain impulses of a disturbing nature. Of course, this non-religious approach may not be what you are looking for, but I think it is worth consideration.  I suspect that science is the answer – and not theology. As for the Buddhist philosophical approach, the Buddha teaches that all experiencable states are generated by the mind of the individual – and that when a group experiences visionary perceptions – each individual in the group is internally creating the conditions for said projections. Your problem ultimately stems from the outer material conditions processed by the inner workings of the mind – change those outer material  conditions and what the mind has habitually generated will change. These are my initial thoughts and I am open to further discussion on this matter.
Kind Regards
Adrian
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Subject: Re: Help with an Exorcism
Date: Saturday, May 06, 2017 10:19
Dear D
Thank you for your interesting reply.
For what it is worth, I have studied paranormal activity for over a decade, and have not found any genuine cases of paranormal activity. Generally speaking, an individual (or group) state that they can see, hear, taste, smell, or otherwise ‘feel’ sensory stimulus that is not discernible by an objective observer. In other words, what they think is happening is internally generated and has no correlation to the material environment. On the other hand, as is easily discernible in popular entertainment, many misconstrue physical phenomena as having a non-material basis. A door opening on its own, for instance, can be viewed in any number of illogical ways – including invisible spiritual forces ‘making’ it move. However, if you are immersed in a theological view of the world, material science will seem illogical, and theology will seem correct. My scientific words will come across as ‘not understanding’ your plight, and my view of theology as being illogical, as denying an eternal truth. I can assure you that I am doing neither. I must advise you, however, that genuine Buddhism is a perceptual science and not a religion. It does not accept a god concept as being central to creation, and advocates a logical approach to the interpretation of existence. Meditation strips the mind of greed, hatred, and delusion, and allows the ‘enlightened’ practitioner to perceive a) the empty nature of the mind ground (or perceptual essence), and b) the fact that there is no eternal ‘self’ or ‘soul’. As the Buddha rejected superstition, generally speaking Buddhist monks and learned lay-follows do not recognise the theistic concept of an ‘exorcism’. However, in some places such as Thailand, for instance, on very rare occasions, a Buddhist monk might recite a Buddhist sutta at the bedside of someone who is psychologically and/or physically ill, in the hope that by hearing the words of the Buddha, the (usually very poor) person can straighten their mind and purify their karma (or ‘willed’ thoughts and activities). You sound like a very well educated and sincere person, and if we can move beyond one another’s initial differences in approaching this matter, perhaps our communication can generate somekind of benefit.
All Best Wishes
Adrian
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Subject: Re: Help with an Exorcism
Date: Saturday, May 06, 2017 10:32
Dear D
Just a thought – have you contacted the Society for Psychical Research (SPR)? This is UK based and I am a Member. This organisation studies paranormal activity and might well be able to offer you the kind of advice and help you require.
Tel: 0207 937 8984 – Email: secretary@spr.ac.uk
All Best Wishes
Adrian
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Subject: Re: Help with an Exorcism
Date: Saturday, May 06, 2017 11:18
Dear D
Thank you for your interesting email.
May I enquire as to your ethnic-cultural background? My family is Anglo-Chinese and although I look European, other members look Chinese – but we are united by a common cultural approach. We practice Chinese Ch’an Buddhism and our root teacher is Master Xu Yun (1840-1959). Ch’an penetrates the ’empty mind ground’ and returns all senses to their non-perceptual root. This clears-up all perceptual matters – as all ‘stills’ in the mind and body. As demons are linked to activity of the deluded mind – any apparent demonic possession also ceases. This is why the Buddha spoke about all kinds of gods and spirits in the unenlightened stage – but stated that they all cease to be generated in the enlightened state. Yes – any number of beings can exist in the unenlightened stage – but do not exist (in a dualistic sense) in the fully enlightened state. Certainly, once greed, hatred, and delusion are uprooted, there is nolonger any negative energy for ghosts and spirits to be created in the mind, body or environment. On the other hand, as delusion is over-come with loving kindness and compassion, even in the deluded state, demons can be struck down with the sword of wisdom. The question is ‘who’ knows this?
Best Wishes
Adrian
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Subject: Re: Help with an Exorcism
Date: Sunday, May 07, 2017 05:12
Dear D
Good idea! The SPR certainly has many decades of experience dealing with this type of phenomena and may well be able to assist or advise you in a manner applicable to your needs and situation. Perception and experience are the essence of human existence, but of course, there is a scale of sensation that spans happiness, neutrality and suffering (to varying degrees). Being stuck in any of these modes of sensation can be problematic, even more so if the perceptions and sensations are of a highly fearful, strange or unusual nature. Whatever the case, and regardless of any outcome in this matter, I think it is important to recognise that perception is as much inwardly generated, as it is a matter of external sensation.
Best Wishes
Adrian

A Non-Threatening Mystery

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The problem with the agency of ‘mystery’ as a conveyor of meaning, is that it is premised upon ‘not knowing’. This means that in the process of acquiring certainty, uncertainty becomes a prime mover. This differs from modern science in as much as the method of knowledge acquisition is dependent upon the eradication of ‘uncertainty’, as a means to secure ‘certainty’. Of course, a scientific mystery is different from a religious mystery in as much as it indicates an area of research not yet clarified through logical investigation. A religious mystery, on the other hand, provides a type of emotional support lacking in the scientific method, but does not supply a similar robust intellectual response. Yes, theology can be sophisticated, meandering, complicated, obscure and dogmatic, but it can never be scientifically ‘proven’ to be correct or to even exist – but such is the nature of reality. For some, for instance, the prospect of space travel can appear mysterious because it is unknown, but this does not mean that it is ‘unknowable’. Religion, by its very nature, is known only through its ‘unknowable’ nature, and herein lies its attraction for many people. It is not a matter of being ‘anti-religious’, but rather a matter of understanding the difference in how the human mind functions within the two systems under discussion. The problem with theistic rapture, is that the experiencer can stay in a dark cave for decades, and end his or her life staring at what is believed to be the divine, whilst contributing nothing to the scientific development of humanity. Poverty, illness, famine, drought, illiteracy and homelessness are not resolved by this approach to self-absorption. Although somekind of inner freedom is hinted at, nothing changes on the outer plain. Science, strictly speaking, does not require religion to function, and the same can be said for religion and its relationship to science. Both systems exist in parallel, but the battle in recent centuries has been which paradigm should direct human affairs – and secular science has proven its material worth by making human life better. Of course, with regards to the technologically-led destructive nature of the arms industry, a case can be made to suggest that science (at least in part), has contributed immeasurably to the over-all suffering of humanity, quite often in some of the most brutal ways imaginable. This criticism of science (and one of its uses) is undoubtedly true. However, the monopoly upon social destruction is not owned exclusively by science, as the Christian religion has had its fair share of committing mass atrocities over the last thousand years or so (the same observation and criticism can be equally levelled at numerous other religions). Perhaps it is better to state that humanity has a thread running through its genetic programming that has the capacity for immense violence, and that this capacity has been activated and operated in a vicious manner at various stages of its evolutionary development. This being the case, it is this propensity for violence that needs to be developed out of the human system as a means to secure a better future. This is where the various peace-orientated ideals contained within most religions and spiritual paths can be useful for the further evolution of humanity. This need not clash with the scientific paradigm, but exist peacefully alongside it. Although science may pursue a non-religious narrative, this does not necessarily mean that science is ‘anti-religious’. In reality, as religion cannot be ‘measured’ or ‘quantified’, it is of no interest to the scientific method, and exists outside of it. As science does not operate through the agency of ‘faith’, religionists should have no opinion about it, and yet the world is full of individuals that purport to support religion or science from a diametrically opposing position. This is not useful or helpful for the development of humanity, but this is not the complete story, as many religionists today study science, and many otherwise hard-nosed scientists profess a religious faith outside the laboratory. An appreciation of nature, and the sheer randomness of its creation and functionality maybe termed a non-threatening mystery that does not compromise the material essence of modern science. From the scientific perspective, religion can be explained scientifically (through the auspices of psychology and psychiatry, as well as secular philosophy), and need not necessarily be an issue that requires confronting, even if it does not obviously contribute toward the scientific method.

The Problem with Biblical Giants

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Much of pseudo-science is premised not on ‘science’, but on ‘theology’, and is an attempt to usurp the current age of scientific reason. Pseudo-science a priori assumes that the bible’s narrative is literally correct, and seeks to draw all the apparent ‘facts’ revealed by modern science, into a realm subsumed by theistic thinking. Evolution is either false (and from the ‘devil’), or ‘real’, but not as modern scientists contend (as being a product of accidental natural selection). In the latter sense, evolution is a product of god’s will, and scientists have got it all wrong – the earth has evolved, but is only 6000 years old, and early humans lived alongside dinosaurs. Even from this short list of comparisons, the reader can gain the two different directions in which the human mind is being used. Theology is an imagination arranged in an illogical order, that is taken by its adherents to be a ‘higher’ logic, or divine wisdom that ordinary human beings simply cannot understand (as their resisting mind is clouded by the ‘devil’). Rational science, on the other hand, objectively ‘measures’ the material world, and with that knowledge seeks to make life better here and now for humanity, and not in somekind of ‘imagined’ paradise at sometime in the future.

Recently, I have noticed an increase in taking seriously, claims that purport to state that within modern archaeology, a species of ‘giant’ human beings has been ‘dug-up’ around the world, being notably prominent in 19th century USA. Quite often these claims are accompanied by no evidence, or poor quality photographs that could be anything (in the modern era, there is obvious CGI hoax pictures doing the rounds). The usual narrative is that these finds ‘prove’ the bible to be literally ‘correct’, and that the ‘giants’ mentioned in that religious text are physically ‘real’. When asked where the bones are today, the answer is always that they have gone ‘missing’, or that mainstream academia has deliberately ‘hidden’ this ‘truth’ because it undermines the rational (secular) reality of science. If modern science is ‘wrong’ about biblical giants, then what else is it wrong about? The apparent existence of biblical giants would begin the collapse of the premise of modern science, with the demise of reason and the re-establishment of the dominance of imagination (and ignorance) over the mind of humanity.

Within the modern human species, genetic variation allows for adult people to be any height from 4 feet (or less) to 7 feet (or more). This is because modern humans are evolutionarily adapted to the environment within which they live. Human culture has evolved around catering for the ‘average’ height (or length of leg), and ‘average’ reach (or length of arm), and people who are very short or very tall have issues living within a cultural setting that more or less ignores their very real needs (the same can be said for people possessing all kinds of disability, as they live in a world defined by ‘average’ ability).  Of course, a civilised society makes allowances for these differences, and extends help or assistance to those that need it, whereas an uncivilised society punishes those that stand-out from the ‘average’ crowd. The point is that there is a tremendous diversity of height even within modern humans, but in the past there has been different early human species that were as short as 3.5 feet tall (Homo Floresiensis), and as tall as six feet (Homo Erectus), with each being perfectly adapted to its environment, and with a variance of height diverging from the ‘average’ applicable to a species. A 3.5 foot person might well find a 4.5 foot person to be a giant, or a 6 foot person might find a 7 foot person a giant, etc, and so ‘giantness’ is all a matter of perspective, and not in and of itself a specific ‘issue’ relating to a distinct ethnic group. Giants – that is a type of human that is on average 9 foot tall – could not logically existed in our environment simply because this evolutionary environment does not provide the conditions to make the human species 9 foot tall on average. Such an adaptation would be an evolutionary disadvantage to the human species existing in the natural environment, and would probably lead to its extinction. The biblical notions of giants are counter-scientific and attempt to replace evolutionary science with illogical theology. Giants of excessive height forming a distinct species as the norm, is illogical and unscientific, and therefore could not have existed.  This can be doubly asserted as correct by stating that if ‘giants’ a) existed, and b) were better adapted to their environment, than modern humans would die-out over-time for being maladapted, but then I am working from the very science that religionists reject.  It is not that exceptionally tall (or short) people exist (they undoubtedly do), but rather that a separate species of unnaturally ‘giant’ humans inspired by an ‘imagined’ religious text do not, and have never existed on the physical real. If they have ever existed, then provide the physical evidence for scientific scrutiny.

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