Sunday, 23 December 2012

Merry Christmas, all the world!

Rejoice that we are now living AFTER THE END OF THE WORLD as allegedly predicted by the Mayans! We have survived yet another end of the world!

Now we can celebrate not ends, but beginnings. Of course every beginning has an end just before it. Consider your own birth: it was the end of being nothing and the beginning of being far as you KNOW, that is, because you can't trust your hard drive to search for signs of existence before your own birth.

You can't trace the beginning of consciousness, because consciousness doesn't necessarily have a memory attached. I believe some people whose memories are wiped out by Alzheimer's are powerfully conscious.

When your television goes wrong, you'll perhaps see meaningless shapes on the screen or nothing at all, and a visiting alien might suspect that in the absence of evidence to the contrary, the BBC is dead and gone. But it isn't. It's in the air, alive and kicking, right in front of our and the alien's noses. It's simply that he doesn't have a working apparatus to perceive it.

Consciousness is unique. There is nothing in the entire universe that can be known to exist without it.
You can't stretch out and touch consciousness with your hand, but you can only know your hand with your consciousness. As I have said many times, I am not at all convinced that everyone is conscious, that is, that they know the difference between I am and I am not. A computer can work out many things, but it is very doubtful that it knows it is working them out.

So when you consider the Nativity, think of the jump from is not to is and from not here to here. Why do you think a baby is fascinated by the 'joke' of peekaboo? Now you can't see me, now you can. Now I can't see you, now I can. Now I am not, now I am. Is it surprising that a baby finds this funny and amazing? It is the riddle of incarnation, the incarnation of consciousness.

Sunday, 21 October 2012


Reality can be pared down to three elements: Source, Other and Self (SOS). God is Source, I am Self, and all my friends, enemies and everything else are Other. Love could not enter my experience (indeed, there wouldn't be any experience - for me) if any corner of this triangle went missing.

I apologise for writing disparagingly last time about the brain. Yes, of course it is important, and surely nobody can enjoy exploring its parts and functions more than I do. But when we try to understand what reality is we should not allow study of the brain to elbow its way into number one position. After all, the only thing that we can observe directly is our own experience and is it sensible to think of the physical universe, which is outside and Other, as more real than we are ourselves? In other words, if someone puts electrodes in our brains and makes certain observations, is the information gleaned more significant than what we can observe or know directly by our own consciousness?

I believe that reality is fundamentally mind-like. I can't avoid making comparisons with dream, which is obviously mind-like. That is not to say that waking life is a dream: no. Waking life follows consistent principles which we call Natural Law and which is best studied by science. It contains pain which can forcefully convince us of its reality. Pleasure, ecstasy and fear occur in both waking life and dream, and whether we are awake or asleep, these three augment our sense of reality. My son Julian tells me he has experienced pain in a dream, which spoils my theory that pain is a characteristic only of waking life. Oh! At any rate, waking life certainly scores in terms of consistency and its willingness to conform to Natural Law.

Now I am going to say something very shocking, which may alienate the few readers that I perhaps have (I've had very few comments and I wish there were more. Am I too peremptory?) If reality is fundamentally mind-like as I believe it is, then there is a very strong possibility that the mind is not in the brain. It seems to me that otherness consists of largely uncontrollable and unpredictable mindstuff which presents itself to us as being solid, consistent and subservient to laws that we can study. The mind does not sit comfortably inside matter. For one thing, it doesn't seem to have dimensions like matter. Where is the top of your mind? Where is the bottom of your mind? Where is the left-hand extremity of your mind? Where is the right-hand extremity? It doesn't really seem to have any extremities, in which case it doesn't have a grid-reference either. You can't truly say that it is in your brain. But the brain can be perceived by the mind. It seems much more likely then that the brain is in the mind rather than the other way round. The mind that harbours, or rather is matter, is otherness-mind and just as independent and just as worthy to make up the universe of our experience as non-mental matter!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Sims or Souls?

Forget the brain for a moment. Would you explain a dream by an object in the dream carried around in a cranial box?

What we have is Self and Other.

Other is only truly other because it is largely uncontrollable and mainly unpredictable. If we had perfect control and foresight the whole universe would dissolve into a solipsistic globule and we (I?) would be God.

If the universe were predictable and controllable by God Himself then He would have no creation. The whole thing would simply be one hellishly boring puppet, unsurprising, unchallenging, lonely and eternally obvious. If God kept control of us we "would just be Sims" as one of my Chinese pupils put it. Perhaps there would be no suffering, but there would be no love either because there would be nothing other to love.

So to put it simplistically, but in the only way I can understand, God did not (does not) plan every detail of the creation, but creates the physical laws by which it creates itself and sustains the substance, energy, waves and rays which give it body. He upholds time and space from which He stands independent. (I make no apology to transient gender tribalism by using 'He' as common gender. Obviously God has no gender).

Although God is able by compassion to intervene, when he does so the independent being of His creation is compromised. He may submit to closing the gap of otherness when one of his creatures prays in love to Him. This is what love is: a longing to return to the original union. If it succeeds too well, however, creation telescopes back and loses its multifariousness.

I may be wrong. Please put your comments.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Gender Tribalism

Revolutions are caused by tribal regrouping. If you can reclassify people you may well be able to bring about a new revolution.

Tribes first were large matrilineal communities. The women would have had a strong influence on the internal culture, whereas the worth of the men would have depended mainly on their efficacy in war, protecting the weaker members on whom the tribe depended for its continued existence. Fight for territory would probably only have set in when land became a scarce commodity, but there would have been a lot to gain from fighting other tribes. The invaders could obtain what their victims owned, use the despicable aliens for slaves, steal their women (as the Vikings did) and introduce 'new blood' to get stronger, more beautiful and intelligent offspring.

Tribes regrouped by their approximate positions in relation to rivers, mountains and seas,  according to the languages they developed together, and most importantly, according to the customs, religions and thoughts associated with those languages.

Tribes became almost coincident with nations. Jingoism was rife. Of course tribalism demands that you 'talk up' your own tribe and 'talk down' other tribes in order to justify fighting them and probably stealing everything they've got.

Nationalism was followed by Communism. Marx came along and reclassified (although he was not the first) people according to social 'class'. People regrouped. Instead of saying 'I'm British' and being proud of that, you may have begun to say 'I'm working class' and the working class became the tribe. Then we had to 'talk down' the other tribes, even refuse to acknowledge their very existence (who will acknowledge the existence of an 'upper' class?). 'Middle Class' was an acceptable term, because that sounded despicable and mediocre. Don't forget, it is acceptable to hate other tribes.

Once people are successfully regrouped, it is a short step to revolution, because revolution, even though perhaps starting as high-minded indignation, gathers energy from tribalism. The other tribe has all the goodies. We want those goodies. We'll fight for those goodies.

You can see the progression from clans to class (which stratified us horizontally, cutting across national boundaries).

What stage are we at now? Do we have to wait a hundred years for historians to tell us retrospectively?

No. It is obvious. The new tribes are based on gender. Gender can overthrow any tribal structure throughout the world. What we think we are is the basis for tribalism. With the rise of feminism and 'women's studies' our minds are becoming conditioned to identify ourselves first by gender. It is a very small step from that to the notion of gender exploitation. "The other tribe has all the goodies. We want those goodies. We'll fight for those goodies."

When we have food, shelter, education and social order preserved by parliament and police, women no longer seem to need protection by men. The State becomes the father. Families are weakened by easy divorce, while serial polyandry makes the bond between man and woman loose and exchangeable.

But please remember, all the great civilisations that we know of were based (and please tell me if you can think of a high point of invention and culture which was not) on the new idea of family. The idea is probably no more than four thousand years old, which of course is nothing compared with the whole development of mankind. Strong stable families are our only bulwark against tribalism.

As the family breaks down, tribalism returns. Do we want this?

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Why Families Break

Tribes. Long ago pre-Abraham, tribes made up the essential building-blocks of society. Instinctively, people realised it was better to outbreed than to inbreed: the offspring were more intelligent and beautiful. Today of course, we would talk of better genetic variety: earlier we find the expression 'bring in new blood'.

So tribes might turn a blind eye to their girls getting pregnant by a man from another tribe. If they made a fuss, the girls themselves would briefly turn against their own tribe so that they could meet their foreign lovers.

But once the babies were born, the mother's tribe would WANT THOSE CHILDREN BACK! They had the tribal culture to sustain, and of course without new children to replace the old, the tribe and all its delicious ways would die.

So the next thing was TRIBAL WAR.

Tribal members had to be kind and polite to others within the tribe, but to anyone outside the tribe they could be as hostile and horrible as they wished. They would only get praised for it. It was best to VILIFY the alien parent before one robbed and possibly murdered him.

In general, because in ancient history families in the modern sense had not been thought of, the tribes would naturally be matrilineal and therefore the women had tremendous power. They would, on the other hand, rely on their brothers and grown-up sons (and maybe a few pathetic inbreeding henpecked local fathers) to fight off the alien genetic contributors who had provided them with a nice new set of babies.

So who was the alien father's number one enemy? Of course it was that formidable matriarch, the mother's mother. She would be the one who would lead the father-vilification program that would start the tribal war which would bring the babies back into her own tribe.

Where do you think all those mother-in-law jokes come from?

We see the first stage of the process in Romeo and Juliet. Juliet looks to another tribe for a mate. She turns against her own tribe so that she can meet her 'foreign' lover. If she had successfully produced babies with Romeo, it would have been Lady Capulet's job to vilify Romeo and pull those babies back into the Capulet tribe. The tribal war between the Capulets and the Montagues would have been stepped up to new levels of horror and murder.

Now of course all this wrangling, fighting and murdering did not produce great civilisations. It was not until the invention of something new (something which is now in deep trouble) that the oppressive power of the tribe could be overturned. It was this invention that provided small tough units that could think independently, challenge injustice, bring down dictators, but above all conserve that energy which had previously been wasted in tribal conflict. Like putting coffee in a thermos flask, it stopped the dissipation of heat that could now be used for a useful purpose. You've guessed it. It was the idea of the family.

By Shakespeare's time the family was well established, but tribal wars were still in the air. The struggle between Lancaster and York were well remembered, but fresher in Shakespeare's mind would have been the violent clashes between the tribes of the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk on which the Capulets and the Montagues were surely based. Nor did it end with Shakespeare. The Civil War between the Roundheads and the Royalists was still to come.

Even in Tudor and Stuart times the integrity of the family was threatened by tribal war.