Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category
As an introduction to Martin Witz’s outstanding documentary on Albert Hoffman, The Substance, I thought I’d share my experience of ingesting 20,000 mics or so of White Lightening acid when I was 16 years old – my first religious experience and one that reverberates through my being still to this day. It was a typically hot and humid Washington D.C. afternoon in 1967 and John and I were packing what was reputed to be Owsley’s latest batch of White Lightening acid into gelatin caps. The source was close to Owsley and the quality was certainly of Owsley’s caliber. We had no reason to believe it was anything less. John was my high school English teacher and he had good connections in San Francisco. He’d fly there regularly to purchase the latest batch of acid from Owsley’s people: Licorice-flavored Batman acid, purple tabs, orange tabs, white tabs, window pane, blotter, white powder…Was it all certified Owsley. We liked to think so.
Filling double 0 caps with fine LSD-laced powder was tricky business. We wore surgical gloves and masks so the acid wouldn’t get into our mouths or the pores of our skin. White Lightening was extremely pure and powerful LSD and the pile we were working with contained several thousand doses (at approx. 500 mics per dose). It wasn’t a precise system but we were careful. Packing the caps just so, not too tight, not too loose.
At one point, we stopped to take a break. There was a fan in the room that kept the humid air circulating and relatively dry. It was cautiously pointed away from the table. I had taken off my mask to get some air and was feeling slightly high from being exposed to some of the powder. John was feeling higher and did something stupid or, depending on how look at it, divine. He got up and absent-mindedly turned the fan in the direction of the table and the pile of acid. The White Lightening immediately became a psychedelic dust storm spinning toward my face and into my mouth and eyes. I ran to the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror. I looked Marcel Marceau. But this wasn’t clown makeup. This was several thousand micrograms of high grade LSD. I blurted out “oh shit” and it was punctuated by a puff of white dust.
I started splashing my face with water, irrigating my eyes and washing out my mouth. But, it didn’t help. The acid was kicking in and I began the ultimate ego death trip.
Timothy Leary said if you didn’t go through a death trip experience on LSD you hadn’t taken enough. Well, I had. I sat on John’s living room floor and for what seemed like an eternity (and it was, relatively speaking) I died, was reborn, died again, born again, flipping the metaphysical television dial from cosmic station to cosmic station, whipping through the Bardo planes while hungry ghosts growled and laughed and mocked and danced and poked at me with their long ancient galactic fingers, chakras opening/closing, kundalini doing the serpent power mambo up my spinal cord, heart unfolding like a giant pulsing red lotus. I was passing through dimensions not even Rod Serling could imagine. Walls shimmered and breathed, rainbows everywhere, mandalas spinning like heavenly roulette wheels…I was so fucking high! And as far OUT and IN as I went, I remained calm. I was so overwhelmed that my ego made no attempt to resist. I was without fear. I felt at one with everything: huge, expansive, complete and unbounded, totally absorbed by the entirety of the Universe. GOD, or whatever you want to call it, wasn’t somewhere out there, it was suffusing me, penetrating me and I was dissolving into its essence. I was in that moment of complete union with all things. I was no longer functioning as a separate entity; there was no fear because the one who did the fearing no longer existed. I was complete in my absolute non-existence. This was the white light experience where the ego is absorbed into the infinite molecular dance of absolute reality.
Enlightenment doesn’t happen to you because there’s no “you” for it to happen to. Enlightenment is there always. It’s that door of perception you walk through and suddenly disappear into. One moment you’re on the diving board. The next, you’re in the ocean.
12 hours later as I started to “come down”, I felt exhausted but refreshed, renewed and reborn. Within a matter of days, I returned to being my usual egocentric little self. But, I had had a genuine religious experience, one that has lingered throughout the years and one I often return to in small ways to put things into their proper perspective. LSD was wonderful. I tremble still in awe of its magic and often dream of finding some really pure acid out there…if it still exists. The Church of My Brain could use a nice house-cleaning.
I tried the old acid back in the eighties. Never had a bad trip, it was all good, actually very good. Music for one was 20 times better. When high on the psychedelic I appreciated the essence of everything, nothing was unimportant. Everything, from flowers to a brick wall, had a deep intrinsic value. And all problems and stress disappeared, it is like they say, you were only in the immediate moment, the past or the future didn’t matter. We would pop a few hits and go to punk gigs, the ensuing experience was exhilarating. The roaring dynamic punk rock would go right through you.
But it wasn’t for everyone. Some people would rekindle old negative baggage and get depressed. Being depressed on acid is a potentially harmful state to be in. When taking acid a person has to be in a positive mood and in a friendly and safe setting. I had very interesting experiences on the stuff.
Never under-estimate the creativity of human beings. Especially when it comes to the meaning of life. Many groups are in the seeker category. They are seeking the ultimate truth, the meaning of existence. One such group that seeks the truth in a very secretive way are the Rosicrucians.
Rosicrucianism is a generic term referring to studies or membership within a philosophical secret society said to have been founded in late medieval Germany by Christian Rosenkreuz. It holds a doctrine or theology “built on esoteric truths of the ancient past”, which, “concealed from the average man, provide insight into nature, the physical universe and the spiritual realm.” Rosicrucianism is symbolized by the Rosy Cross.
The Fama Fraternitatis presented the legend of a German doctor and mystic philosopher referred to as “Frater C.R.C.” (later identified in a third manifesto as Christian Rosenkreuz, or “Rose-cross”). The year 1378 is presented as being the birth year of “our Christian Father,” and it is stated that he lived 106 years. After studying in the Middle East under various masters, possibly adhering to Sufism, he was unable to spread the knowledge he had acquired to any prominent European figures. Instead, he gathered a small circle of friends/disciples and founded the Rosicrucian Order (this can be deduced to have occurred around 1407).
During Rosenkreuz’s lifetime, the Order was said to consist of no more than eight members, each a doctor and a sworn bachelor. Each member undertook an oath to heal the sick without payment, to maintain a secret fellowship, and to find a replacement for himself before he died. Three such generations had supposedly passed between c.1500 and c.1600, a time when scientific, philosophical and religious freedom had grown so that the public might benefit from the Rosicrucians’ knowledge, so that they were now seeking good men.
Another philosophical position is that there is no ultimate meaning to life. There is only the here and now (Zen position). The question is: Where were you before you were born? Nowhere. So when we pass on we go back to Nowhere.
WELL WE KNOW WHERE WE’RE GOIN’
BUT WE DON’T KNOW WHERE WE’VE BEEN
AND WE KNOW WHAT WE’RE KNOWIN’
BUT WE CAN’T SAY WHAT WE’VE SEEN
AND WE’RE NOT LITTLE CHILDREN
AND WE KNOW WHAT WE WANT
AND THE FUTURE IS CERTAIN
GIVE US TIME TO WORK IT OUT
We’re on a road to nowhere
Come on inside
Takin’ that ride to nowhere
We’ll take that ride
I’m feelin’ okay this mornin’
And you know,
We’re on the road to paradise
Here we go, here we go
Maybe you wonder where you are
I don’t care
Here is where time is on our side
Take you there…take you there
We’re on a road to nowhere
We’re on a road to nowhere
We’re on a road to nowhere
There’s a city in my mind
Come along and take that ride
And it’s all right, baby, it’s all right
And it’s very far away
But it’s growing day by day
And it’s all right, baby, it’s all right
They can tell you what to do
But they’ll make a fool of you
And it’s all right, baby, it’s all right
We’re on a road to nowhere
This Higgs boson particle (sometimes referred to as the God particle) has been all over the news for the last few days. I have heard, watched and read at least a dozen scientists and astronomers try to explain it in layman’s terms. I still don’t have a clue.
One fellow said it was like building a house out of bricks, then trying to understand what the bricks are made of, mortar you idiot!
This is something very few can grasp. But at least somebody is grasping it, it sure as heck isn’t me.
Does anybody get any of this?
A typical “candidate event” in the Higgs-hunting CMS experiment. Red lines represent high-energy proton beams while yellow lines show the tracks of particles produced in the collision.
In the years since the Higgs field and boson were proposed, several alternative models have been proposed by which the Higgs mechanism might be realized. The Higgs boson exists in some, but not all, theories. For example, it exists in the Standard Model and extensions such as the Minimal Supersymmetric Standard Model yet is not expected to exist in alternative models such as Technicolor. Models which do not include a Higgs field or a Higgs boson are known as Higgsless models. In these models, strongly interacting dynamics rather than an additional (Higgs) field produce the non-zero vacuum expectation value that breaks electroweak symmetry.
The Higgs boson is often referred to as the “God particle” by the media, after the title of Leon Lederman’s popular science book on particle physics, The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question? While use of this term may have contributed to increased media interest, many scientists dislike it, since it overstates the particle’s importance, not least since its discovery would still leave unanswered questions about the unification of quantum chromodynamics, the electroweak interaction, and gravity, as well as the ultimate origin of the universe. Higgs is an atheist, and is displeased that the Higgs particle is nicknamed the “God particle”, because the term “might offend people who are religious”.
As one comedian said the other night, there are 2 or 3 people in the world that truly understand quantum physics, one is Stephen Hawking, the other one or two are likely in insane asylums somewhere.
Losing Your Religion: Analytic Thinking Can Undermine Belief
A series of new experiments shows that analytic thinking can override intuitive assumptions, including those that underlie religious belief
By Marina Krakovsky
People who are intuitive thinkers are more likely to be religious, but getting them to think analytically even in subtle ways decreases the strength of their belief, according to a new study in Science.
The research, conducted by University of British Columbia psychologists Will Gervais and Ara Norenzayan, does not take sides in the debate between religion and atheism, but aims instead to illuminate one of the origins of belief and disbelief. “To understand religion in humans,” Gervais says, “you need to accommodate for the fact that there are many millions of believers and nonbelievers.”
One of their studies correlated measures of religious belief with people’s scores on a popular test of analytic thinking. The test poses three deceptively simple math problems. One asks: “If it takes five machines five minutes to make five widgets, how long would it take 100 machines to make 100 widgets?” The first answer that comes to mind—100 minutes—turns out to be wrong. People who take the time to reason out the correct answer (five minutes) are, by definition, more analytical—and these analytical types tend to score lower on the researchers’ tests of religious belief.
But the researchers went beyond this interesting link, running four experiments showing that analytic thinking actually causes disbelief. In one experiment, they randomly assigned participants to either the analytic or control condition. They then showed them photos of either Rodin’s The Thinker or, in the control condition, of the ancient Greek sculpture Discobolus, which depicts an athlete poised to throw a discus. (The Thinker was used because it is such an iconic image of deep reflection that, in a separate test with different participants, seeing the statue improved how well subjects reasoned through logical syllogisms.) After seeing the images, participants took a test measuring their belief in God on a scale of 0 to 100. Their scores on the test varied widely, with a standard deviation of about 35 in the control group. But it is the difference in the averages that tells the real story: In the control group, the average score for belief in God was 61.55, or somewhat above the scale’s midpoint. On the other hand, for the group who had just seen The Thinker, the resulting average was only 41.42. Such a gap is large enough to indicate a mild believer is responding as a mild nonbeliever—all from being visually reminded of the human capacity to think.
Another experiment used a different method to show a similar effect. It exploited the tendency, previously identified by psychologists, of people to override their intuition when faced with the demands of reading a text in a hard-to-read typeface. Gervais and Norenzayan did this by giving two groups a test of participants’ belief in supernatural agents like God and angels, varying only the font in which the test was printed. People who took the belief test in the unclear font (a typewriterlike font set in italics) expressed less belief than those who took it in a more common, easy-to-read typeface. “It’s such a subtle manipulation,” Norenzayan says. “Yet something that seemingly trivial can lead to a change that people consider important in their religious belief system.” On a belief scale of 3 to 21, participants in the analytic condition scored an average of almost two points lower than those in the control group.
Analytic thinking undermines belief because, as cognitive psychologists have shown, it can override intuition. And we know from past research that religious beliefs—such as the idea that objects and events don’t simply exist but have a purpose—are rooted in intuition. “Analytic processing inhibits these intuitions, which in turn discourages religious belief,” Norenzayan explains.
Harvard University psychologist Joshua Greene, who last year published a paper on the same subject with colleagues Amitai Shenhav and David Rand, praises this work for its rigorous methodology. “Any one of their experiments can be reinterpreted, but when you’ve got [multiple] different kinds of evidence pointing in the same direction, it’s very impressive.”
The study also gets high marks from University of California, Irvine, evolutionary biologist Francisco Ayala, the only former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science to have once been ordained as a Catholic priest, and who continues to assert that science and religion are compatible. Ayala calls the studies ingenious, and is surprised only that the effects are not even stronger. “You would expect that the people who challenge the general assumptions of their culture—in this case, their culture’s religious beliefs—are obviously the people who are more analytical,” he says.
The researchers, for their part, point out that both reason and intuition have their place. “Our intuitions can be phenomenally useful,” Gervais says, “and analytic thinking isn’t some oracle of the truth.”
Greene concurs, while also raising a provocative question implicit in the findings: “Obviously, there are millions of very smart and generally rational people who believe in God,” he says. “Obviously, this study doesn’t prove the nonexistence of God. But it poses a challenge to believers: If God exists, and if believing in God is perfectly rational, then why does increasing rational thinking tend to decrease belief in God?”
Religious belief in North America
The Buddhist truth states: Desire is the source of all suffering.
The Occupy Wall Street movement has become a phenomenon across the globe. It is an anti-corporate movement protesting corporate love of money. When people think of corporations they think of a few top executives that make all the decisions related to the company. But most corporations are publicly traded and have shareholders as the main policy directors. The shareholders vote on company policy and strategy and ultimately direct the company.
On 60 Minutes last week there was a story on Jeffrey R. Immelt, the chairman of the board and chief executive officer of the U.S.-based conglomerate General Electric. GE has been moving many jobs to foreign countries to take advantage of lower wages. The 60 Minutes journalist asked Immelt if he felt an obligation to try to keep jobs in the United States. Immelt responded that he did, he would like to keep jobs in the U.S., as an American he felt a responsibility to help his people. But Immelt went on to say that ultimately he had to answer to the shareholders, and the shareholders only care about the bottom line, they are in it only to make a profit. Shareholders are greedy individuals that are basically gambling that their company will make profitable dividends for them. Then the shareholders can retire comfortably and move to Florida.
The avaricious man is like the barren sandy ground of the desert which sucks in all the rain and dew with greediness, but yields no fruitful herbs or plants for the benefit of others —Zeno
One has to look out for him or herself. But the greed tendency is way to powerful in most people. Desire for things is powerful. Excessive desire to acquire or possess more (especially more material wealth) than what is necessary is what Wall Street capitalists and greedy shareholders represent. There is more to life than material gluttony.