As per usual. I take a day off sick and how do I spend a large number of my hours of relaxation and leisure? I start randomly writing. So it keep going from this afternoon and somehow, because I included a quote or two, ended up as a essay. It was not structured. It evolved. It is not academia and there is much room for improvement. As always, I have failed to adhere to all the steps necessary to fully elucidate any argument. But this is not really an argument. It is an attempt to capture the workings of my mind in a given moment of time. Hopefully it will evoke conversation and perhaps an actual paper could emerge from these musings. In the meantime, here is another instance of Cavan spewing forth verbal diarrhoea in an attempt to express the inexpressible. With humility and love. None of this is true, everything is up for revision and ultimately utter renewal.
An old quote first discovered during my time as an undergrad comes to mind today as I wrestle with the paradoxical underlying condition of individual consciousness. So what do I believe individual consciousness is? Well, today, I believe that it is, (maybe), the non simultaneously apprehended subjective introspections of universal consciousness. (My revision of the Buckminster Fuller definition that underpins Robert Anton Wilson’s ‘Maybe Logic’, 2003). My very definition echoes Wilson’s need for a lack of truth or adherence to a given model or institution. A desire to deal in probabilities rather than absolutes. An awareness that truth, like all of reality, in in constant flux. So I come back, once again, to Pragmatic Truth and William James.
“There are no differences but differences of degree between different degrees of difference and no difference.” (William James, 1882)
The distinctions in truth and belief concern me less than the consequences. It does not matter what I believe. What matters is the transformational powers of that belief. What does believing it do for the benefit of the Whole? Static belief systems are a limit on freedom and have only very limited relevance to a continually changing emergent universe.
As Terrence McKenna puts it: “My technique, which I recommend to you, is don’t believe anything. If you believe in something, you are automatically precluded from believing its opposite. Therefore you have given up a portion of your freedom, and freedom is the dearest thing we’ve got.” (McKenna, 1985)
People continuously confuse truth with paradigm and yet even within the existing paradigms, what we hold to be true, is emergent, evolving and pragmatic. Interestingly, the very word paradigm immediately brings to mind the relatively recent idea of a paradigm shift. A paradigm shift is a fairly rare occurrence and yet we not only allow for such shifts but as the rate of change accelerates in society, we are applying the term paradigm shift with increased multiplicity. This would seem once again to demonstrate good reason for accepting an emergent universe that demands a constantly updated belief system.
Yet many people still only go this far. Their belief system is fluid and they love to be proved wrong and develop and refine their BS (nod to Robert) until it gets closer and closer to the Truth. This is a common approach for some in the Sciences, for example. It is this notion of singularity of truth that leads people to the very impractical situation of having only one belief system. Having spent a number of years now holding various concurrent belief systems that can, and do, conflict, I can report that I find this not only acceptable but very helpful.
Non simultaneously apprehended subjective introspections of universal consciousness. Think of just your own consciousness. Have not things been true in one time or place that are not now true? Because it is not true now, did it make it any less true then? As our world view alters so do the truths that underpin it. One can suggest that the truth of ‘now’ is more true of course; but all of the evidence suggests a future revision is probable. Anything that purports to be 100% true can only be so in and of an instant, and relating to a particular point. The truth relates to only that time/place and I struggle to make a hierarchy of truth based on linear time. If things thereby get more and more true, the process must go on for as long as time does. The point is that singularity of truth cannot be found outside of a singularity itself. We are not singular. We are processes. Verbs. All that which constitutes our being, is evolving. To quote the amazing verb and influential process, Buckminster Fuller: “I live on Earth at present, and I don’t know what I am. I know that I am not a category. I am not a thing — a noun. I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process — an integral function of the universe.” (Fuller, 1970). This singularity of truth can only come about, I would reason, if we come to an end.
But this is not our experience of the world. This is precisely why the paradigms of Quantum Mechanics and Newtonian Classical Physics are both true and cannot be reconciled. Because they relate to different points (and by extension to different planes) in space. If you see spacetime as a continuum, truth then, varies over both space and time. This may help us understand cultural perspectives and variance of truth and paradigm over geography. From East versus West to Northern versus Southern England and so on.
The variance of truth is not linear: it is multidimensional.
If things can be conflictingly true within just one organism why do we seek singularity of truth in the greater organism of all being? Surely we can see the Earth as an organism? The Universe? Can they not too have variant truth over time and space? The whole is always greater and more complex than the sum of its parts and so it is with the Universe at large. No entity is an object, they are always a process; and so any attempt at objectivity invariably relates to a mere transection of that entity. A slice through spacetime. A lower dimensional apprehension.
Of course, it is under this way of thinking, reasonable to assert something can be true in a given moment and relating to a given place. Or even that there are levels of practical value in holding certain consensus realities as true, for a given amount of time, in a given place. But if one blindly protects the institutions that are built of consensus reality one slows the pace of progress. And it is progress that produces novelty, innovation and provides ever more freedom. The greater concern, is the horrific actions these institutions will undertake, to ensure their own survival (even over the survival of humanity itself).
The very fact that their domain is primarily within only a given place and time, this also puts geography, and the associated cultural variance, forward as an enemy of our institutions. This creates further conflict. How many times do we hear about “a threat to our way of life”? But what they really mean is “a threat to our current cultural institutions”. The threat they fear is not to life, or you, but to the actual immaterial institutions themselves. And because the only way for any given institution to survive is to be the only option available, they must persist over time and extend spatially, eradicating competitive world views or ‘truths’. This is the root of Globalisation and Empire building. Not only are the consequences horrific but the ends are unobtainable and fundamentally flawed. All Empires fall. Or at least, are utterly transformed. (Such as the Roman to the Holy Roman Empire, for example.) Within this fight for survival, it is no accident that free thinking, is so often discouraged by the institutions of the day. The atrocities in this vain, by states, religions and corporations are clear, utterly devastating to humanity and too plentiful to even begin to list here. All of this, in a cycle of destruction, intended to perpetuate, our variously failed and crumbling institutions of fleeting relevance.
Systems are useful. But what use are systems that are not updated, innovated and replaced? Let me return again to Terrance McKenna and his notion that cultures are our operating systems. In many ways this is true (or better put, in light of this discourse, there are many useful practical reasons for accepting/believing it is true). For example, my ‘Irishness’ creates an operating platform wherein drinking alcohol is more accepted and more acceptable for the most part within society. And of course running the Irishness 3.1 Leprechaun Edition, a number of other accepted paradigms and operating systems exist for the structuring of standardised ‘Irish’ behaviour. We tend towards these cultural groups and stay with them to feel part of a tribe. To experience a sense of belonging. But by adopting a cultural platform we deny other possibilities. This is the precise problem I have with being labelled a hippy, for example. I fear that such a cultural operating system is both limiting for myself and the way that I can be viewed (indeed I have no doubt this statement will invariably be used in evidence of my hippy nature). It is not to say I do not retain similarities with both these groups/systems/institutions but that I deny their limitations and the associated divisions and oppositional conflict this propagates.
Given my prominent use of Terrence’s cultural operating system ideology here I will let him paraphrase in his words:
Well, why should culture imprison us, and somehow place a barrier between ourselves and our true humanness? Well, I think I said at the beginning of this thing, culture and ideology are not your friends. They are not your friends. This is a hard thing to come to terms with, because a certain kind of alienation lies at the end of this thought process. On the other hand, you can’t live in the cradle for ever; you can’t be clueless for ever. So somebody might as well just lay it out for you, and say: Culture is for the convenience of culture, not you. How many times have your sexual desires, career aspirations, financial dealings and aesthetic inclinations been squashed, twisted, rejected, and minimised by cultural values? And if you don’t think culture is your enemy, ask the 18-year-old kid who is given a rifle and sent to the other side of the world to murder strangers if culture is his friend. (Terence McKenna, 1999)
So, certain programmes can be run on certain operating systems. This is true of both machine and cultural operating systems. However, if we focus on machine computer systems for a moment, the idea of staying with Windows XP from here to eternity would be abhorrent and nonsensical. Not only do we currently update our existing computer operating systems but we are willing to completely change them if a more suitable system comes along. People do give loyalty to a familiar platform or indeed one to which they feel a community relation too (bloody Apple Mac) but they soon get left behind. They are very clearly preventing themselves from getting the most out of technology as a platform generally.
So OK, you may be running, Conservative 5.0 with the Christianity Free Presbyterian MX plugin right now but who is to say that these are anything more than currently useful to you? Programs in cyberspace are not true, they are useful. And paradigms are not true, they are useful. Just as you can triple boot your desktop, I’m here to say you can run concurrent conflicting paradigms and access them based on your practical needs. That cultural systems, if used, do not require your loyalty. They do not define you. You define them.
They are malleable, up for constant revision and alteration, and should they impede your progress in any way; they should be cast aside, ignored or variously reappropriated. The decisions which inform this should be those that you reason, holistically and as a human being, and not through the limitations of unrelinquished, outdated, institutionalised, thought processes.
What has brought humanity this far is our ability to adapt to given conditions. This ability is inherent and not delivered by our institutions. Homo Sapians. Homo – Man (sorry to all women but it does mean man, even our classification of species is sexist), Sapiens, the wise. It may arguably be ‘the knowing man’, but I prefer the hugely predominant translation, the wise man, for obvious reasons. All the evidence points to how little we know; but can we be wise? I believe we can. The wisdom of the ancients is clear, if we look, and throughout time, great and wise humans have variously attested to how little we know. Therein lies our wisdom. As creatures of wisdom rather than creatures of knowledge, we can adapt and change, applying technology and enquiry to our surroundings and evolve our understanding and relationship with the world. We do all this, in happy awareness of our ignorance.
By way of example I have literally immeasurable source. So for brevity I will mention just two greats, and founding fathers, of Eastern and Western wisdom respectively:
“A wise man has no extensive knowledge; He who has extensive knowledge is not a wise man.” (Lao-tzu, c.550 B.C.E.)
“‘I am wiser than this person;for it is likely that neither of us knows anything good and beautiful, but he thinks he knows something not knowing, while I, as one who does not know, do not think that I do.'” (Attributed to Socrates by Plato, 399 B.C.E.)
If the desired outcome of all of this truth searching really is stasis, then we seek a universe in which nothing can happen at all. We are looking to an End. If the root cause is a quest for the best possible quality of life, then we should be as willing and able to shift our beliefs, as happily and readily as we upgrade our mobile phones.
I for one cannot wait for the next transformational shift in cultural structuralism. The one so huge that from our current perspective we could label it Humanity2.0. I hope that it will mirror its counterpart in the machine world; and herald the emergence of hyperconnectivity on a truly human level.
I embrace change. And I do not fear differences. Differences after all, are really only differences in perspective. Different apprehensions of an everpresent universal consciousness. Literally, different ways of looking at our reflections and our projections. We are all one mind experiencing myriad labyrinthine reality tunnels though our very selves. What lies in the darkness then is our own shadow. Do not fear yourself; even those parts you do not yet know. As a very dear fiend of mine likes to continually reminds me: There is no dark side of the moon.
- Fuller, R. B., 1970. I Seem to Be a Verb: Environment and Man’s Future. Bantam Books.
- James, W., Subjective Effects of Nitrous Oxide. Mind Vol. 7, 1882.
- Lao-tzu, Lao te Ching c.550 B.C.E.
- McKenna, T., Culture and Ideology are Not Your Friends. In: Whole Life Expo, Denver, April 1999
- McKenna, T., Under The Teaching Tree. In: Ojai Foundation, 1985
- Sanderson Beck, 1996. Apologia Sokratous: Defense of Socrates. [online] Available at: <http://www.san.beck.org/Apology.html> [Accessed 10 November 2010].
- Wilson, R. W., Maybe Logic, The Lives and Ideas of Robert Anton Wilson, 2003
April 2, 2011 @ 4:28 am
Very stimulating article. You say that different things are true at different points in history/geography – I would say different things are HELD to be true…who is to say what is actually true and what on earth do we mean by Truth? As you say, how useful is a belief to us – do it make us happy, enable us to make toasted sandwiches or impress a girl. Or indeed, all three simultaneously! Also we talk about Truth as if it is something other than ourselves – yet we are an inextricable node/part of this experience – ultimately there is no ‘we’, only ‘…..’ so dwelling in that is our answer.
As an aside, someone posted a Chuang-tzu quote on FB today – ‘The true man breathes through his heels, others labour through their nostrils…’.
April 2, 2011 @ 4:30 am
Interesting read, with several nice points I like, and a couple I really don’t get on with, but can see where you are coming from with.
I like the comment you make: “Anything that purports to be 100% true can only be so in and of an instant”
I dislike (and completelly disagree with):
“And if you don’t think culture is your enemy, ask the 18-year-old kid who is given a rifle and sent to the other side of the world to murder strangers if culture is his friend.” (Terence McKenna, 1999)
The Iraqi government of several years ago, felt that they liked to bully their citizens politically in the persuit of wealth and global standing. We smashed them down, so their citizens felt safer voting and could instill a government of their own choice.
(Yes, more people voted in their last election than have ever done in the past)….but then you get to the other arguaments: What did WE have to gain from such action? etc etc.
Such topics are fraught with in-and-outs we’ll never really know the truth of.
And so comes the issue of ‘trust’. Because i’d consider myself to be arrogant if I believed myself to be more knowledgable or educated than our leaders, I am forced, by logic, to trust them in their actions….
Ins-Outs-Ins-Outs-Ins-Outs-Ins-Outs . . . . . . . . .
ps – Can I post this on a forum a frequent, please? (either accredditted to you or not?)…as i’d like some other friends oppinions on the matter, and can see it opening up some interesting views 🙂
April 2, 2011 @ 4:33 am
@ Nick – Thanks man. I would agree entirely that different things are only HELD to be true… this is why I refer to consensus reality and mention the Truth (as absolute) only once. But you are right, it is worth me being explicit that this is my concept of truth. I really should define my terms clearly (as I said I rushed through this draft), I will revisit this.
Your second point is even more relevant and I have a great deal I could say regarding this very problem. The issue of the observer affecting outcome, and this continuum between process and interaction is of course very well considered elsewhere but given this has scientific grounding and studies is definitely worth referring too it here. Not to mention that this further elucidates Robert Anton Wilson’s position which would be useful. Given:
“we are simply units of “interacting processing” amongst a reality of stimulus that is Tuned-In or not Tuned-In by our interacting processing units. We process information, and interact with reality in such a way that we assimilate that which is already established within our reality tunnel or construct.”
@ Chris. Really I wanted some friends to read this basic outline so I could re-draft it more carefully, then I will re-post and you can certainly share. If I can manage it perhaps I can finish building my blog very soon and publish it there and then you can forward the link wherever and people are free to comment directly if they wish.
As for your criticisms.
“But each believes he is fight for a specific truth, or to uphold what they hold dear.”
This is what I have said, so are you agreeing here?
“The Iraqi government of several years ago, felt that they liked to bully their citizens politically in the persuit of wealth and global standing. We smashed them down, so their citizens felt safer voting and could instill a government of their own choice.”
Fair enough but WE also bully our citizens in the pursuit of wealth and global standing. As do America. Indeed the USA and UK bully many other nations and their citizens also to retain our position as economic and military powers. Could not this be given as reason for an attack of our nations? If we compare the damage Iraq has done globally to the damage that has been done by the US and UK in both the private sector and militarily?
If you truly believe that the Iraq war was about empowering people and providing free elections then why did we intervene there and not in other non-democratic countries? Indeed there is much evidence of the opposite. The US/UK are better known for assisting in military coups that have in a number of cases removed democratically elected officials.
Have you looked into the 1953 Iranian coup d’état for example? We helped the overthrowing of the democratically elected government of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh. Both the intelligence agencies of the United Kingdom and the United States. If you check it (if you haven’t already of course) you will find the smell of oil (and money) throughout the dirty dealings.
“Such topics are fraught with in-and-outs we’ll never really know the truth of.”
No indeed but if we look at the sense that it makes economically we can certainly build a very strong case that economics is a major consideration in most wars. We cannot know the truth but we can search it out and we can make informed decision nevertheless.
I would recommend doing so because the word of your government is clearly worth little. I really do not think I need to give evidence for this, there is so much evidence that the general distrust of politicians is (rightly) staggering.
“Because i’d consider myself to be arrogant if I believed myself to be more knowledgable or educated than our leaders, I am forced, by logic, to trust them in their actions…”
This is an interesting position. But if we look historically at the actions of our governments we can see that they are (often) self-interested and self-sustaining. Indeed it is the responsibility of a citizen to hold his government to task and to ensure their behaviour is acceptable. They are OUR government. It is not about believing you are more knowledgeable or better educated, it is about accepting that you may well be equally so. Indeed you are in a better position to judge because they are hampered by the necessity to retain their position of power and so must initially serve this end before they serve the best interests generally.
The old phrase, evil is when good men do nothing has often been related to the World Wars for example. Does your point by extension not mean that under any other regime your are forced by your logic to trust them in their actions? Does this include Hitler’s regime? Stalin’s? Indeed even Saddam’s were you an Iraqi? Or do people have the right to overthrow their governments if their actions are abhorrent. This is what you suggest we assisted the Iraqis do… but one cannot judge whether this is just unless one investigated and judges the actions of their government. Well I have done so extensively and again and again I see war and enforced poverty. The lives of millions ruined because of our desire for economic prosperity.
The exact point of what Terrence is saying is that the child with the rifle is as much a victim as anyone else in war.
I would just like to add as a final word that I am acutely aware of the particular relevance today of our discussion. People often think that we are against the troops etc. Rather it is the fervent wish of people such as myself that their lives are not lost at all. Do be willing to die is such an amazing position for a human to take and to allow that person and many others to go through the hell of war and indeed even die … well the reasons for that must be above all criticism. Our dead soldiers are definitely victims. The numbers of victims, civilians and soldiers alike, breaks my heart. This is precisely why I desire change.
April 2, 2011 @ 4:33 am
The facts remains the same, the interpretations change…though it is hard to know what are the facts sometimes – due to the difficulty of gathering information, reliability of witnesses and indeed the distorting effect of the particular ideological spectacles that we may be wearing in different contexts…
The 18yr old soldier is a friend of culture – whether culture is a friend of him is debatable. Soldiers, whatever their private beliefs, have to defer to the wisdom/desires of the military/political commanders. Of course it is psychologically expedient to believe you are fighting a just cause in a particular conflict. If you come to different conclusions the cognitive dissonance will be harsh, as will the difficulty of extracting yourself from the war machine. It is not arrogant to question the judgment of the government – as Cavan said, it is our democratic duty – and if we come to different conclusions – to register that difference. It is naive to assume that just because someone is in power, that they are more wise or knowledgeable than you. Often it is more a case of their determination and cunning to get to the top of a power hierarchy. Witness Bush’s recent invocation of universal human rights as a justification for invading Iraq and in the same breath justifying torture. He hasn’t done his moral maths. Quite besides the ambiguity of how universal human rights should be defined and then applied. These are abstract concepts and open to personal interpretation.
As Above. So Below. » The Mushroom [ themushroom.net ] - Filmmaking : Graphic Design : Blog
April 11, 2011 @ 11:34 am
[…] of relationships being absolutely correct. Such absolutes are extremely unhelpful. See my article “There are no differences … Maybe” for more on this […]