I know this has been discussed before, but I have read Sam Harris' book Free Will and Michael Shermer's book The Believing Brain, and I must say that I agree with both authors. Studies show that our brains make a decision on an unconscious level three tenths of a second and sometimes more before we even consciously know we're going to act. To take a short quote from Shermer's book: "The neural activity that precedes the intention to act is inaccessible to our conscious mind, so we experience a sense of free will. But it is an illusion, caused by the fact that we cannot identify the cause of the awareness of our intention to act".
But there seems to be a omnipatient being.
And also an omnitangential being (the ability to go off on infinite tangents). ;-)
Sometimes it becomes too tiresome to continue.
If existence is subject to time, then it cannot comprise time (e.g. determinism). If concepts such as determinism "exists", then you cannot subject existence to time.
To be clear we'd be saying that "a deterministic universe exists". Determinism is addressing the causal process of the universe through (the dimension of) time (if the universe is entirely causal).
Trick, are you familiar with McTaggart's descriptions of time, the A-series and B-series? I was wondering if you held a position on either the A-theory or B-theory. Judging by what you've typed here, I'd say that you agree with the A-theory of time. Would this be correct or do you not espouse either?
Time is another gigantic topic in itself and yes, I am familiar. And we have gone off on way too many tangents of the original subject. That being said, this will be a brief summary (compared to what it could be which is a book worth of info) of my thoughts and may be a little confusing (due to it's shortness), but here goes anyway:
I align with the B-series of time in that past, present, and future are "relative to", but at the same time I think the relation "exists" objectively so I don't agree with those B-series-ists who say there is no ontological reality to the properties that exist within relative temporal bubbles - and due to this have some ideas about A-series I think true.
I think a number of mistakes are made on both the A-series and B-series notions when attached to ontology. I'm a space-time-ist, which means I think time is just another dimention of space (duration), and that duration can stretch with speed (which can be measured only through relations) - special relativity. And of course the same type of time dilation happens with gravity (due to space-time being curved) - general relativity.
In this way I see no difference between the ontology of time and the ontology of space, other than one is just an extension of the other.
To put it another way, if a photon is bouncing at the speed of light up and down between mirrors, and it's on a train moving forward at a fast speed, the distance it's traveling from mirror to mirror is longer than the same setup on a platform, yet (obviously) the photon isn't traveling at faster than light speed. To account for that, time slows down within the relativistic bubble of the inside of the train, when compared to the platform (this type of special relativity has been proven experimentally with synched clocks on jets and various other experiments). At the same time, as with A-series theorists, I think that if we were to take a static snapshot of the universe, the clock on the platform would pause showing more hits, while the clock on the train would pause showing less hits, so I think we could assess a "past, present, and future" even with time depending on the actual relative bubble. In other words, those relations and energy/matter configurations "exist" inherently. The actuality isn't that time is ontologically different, but rather that space-time has a different ontological configuration due to motion and speed of light physical restrictions.
I know...that was a mouthful ;-)
I'm not sure how familiar you are, Trick, with "mystical experience," or let alone the very topic of "mysticism." I have to assume that you've not had such an experience, so I'd like to go over some details about it. I sort of indirectly alluded to it earlier in this thread by mentioning the fictional Tralfamadorian extraterrestrial race in Vonnegut's book and Michael Hoffman's "Ego Death theory" of religion.
I'll try and be and brief as I can, 'cause I tend to go off on tangent with this topic, but I believe it has an intimate relevance. People throughout history who've been suspected to have such an experience often express an acosmist point-of-view. In Hinduism, you could posit that a "mystical experience" is the very goal of the religion. Of course, they don't call it that, they have other names like moksha, savikalpa samadhi, non-duality, etc. This so-called experience would be better described as a phenomenon in consciousness or a colossal altered state of consciousness such that if this were to happen to you, you'd have no iota of doubt that what you were experiencing was vastly different than your ordinary state of consciousness. I know you said at one point in your life you were interested in eastern philosophy, then you might be familiar between the distinction between a Buddhist and a Buddha. The Buddhist is the person interested in the philosophy or seeking nirvana or "truth," and the Buddha is someone who has awakened to truth, and therefore is no longer seeking.
The experience of "savikalpa samadhi" in Hinduism is often described as a dissolution into Brahman. Brahman is defined as being synonymous with the notion of sunyata in Buddhism. A void, but not void because it is nothingness, but void in the sense of "ultimate consciousness," a term Alan Watts used, and I'll attempt to describe what that means. It should be made clear first that Brahman, although some Hindus might consider it "divine," do not let that word mislead you. Brahman is not a God in the traditional sense of the word. Brahman is not an "all-powerful, all-knowing entity." The qualities given to Brahman are that it is unmanifest, formless, infinite, and eternal.
Now, more contemporarily, there is a term in the psychedelic community (the angle from which I came into this) and that is "ego death." I was prompted by Terence McKenna's advocacy of the "heroic dose" to actually pursue this, that is five dried grams of psilocybin mushrooms taken on an empty stomach. About five years ago, I had an experience which I could not deny that seem to be quite akin to how these so-called "mystical experiences" are described in religion. Of course, I wasn't interested in mystical experiences at the time, I was just curious about what would happen.
As I'm sure that maybe you've read, people often report during these experiences where time seemingly ceases to exist. After about five years of mulling this over, I've tried to sharpen my ability to describe what it felt like. There was an overwhelming impression of a panesthesia, the impression that I was undergoing every experience to be experience at once. Past, present, and future seemed to all melt together into one point, every point in time coalesced into a single point. People often use such phrases as "fourth-dimensional" or "beyond dimensionality" to describe this experience (if they're experienced with this terminology). Of course, if you're not, then you might be inclined to believe that you've met "God," or you've temporarily fused consciousness with the "Tralfamadorian" (not specifically the Tralfamadorian, but obviously an extraterrestrial consciousness eons and eons ahead of ourselves in evolution), or if you're a Hindu, you might be inclined to call it "Brahman."
So, from this vantage point, Brahman could very well be seen as synonymous as the "block universe" interpretation of Eternalism or even the "11-dimensional hyperspace" of M-theory. The absolute ultimate reality. I want to suggest a way to play with this notion. If you could imagine that "Brahman" or "11-dimensional hyperspace," for that matter is a "place where all possibilities are contained." A kind of pure unmanifest potential that is, essentially, every single possibility that could exist, that stretches infinite in every direction and is static and eternal. That is why I believe it is often referred to as the "ultimate reality." This, I believe, is what is meant when Alan Watts says "ultimate consciousness," it is often conceived of in eastern philosophy as consciousness, however it is a consciousness that has cognized of every single possibility, that is why it is void. There's nothing else to do, there's no time from the perspective of Brahman, everything, in a sense, is already done.
Now, to this day I ponder this experience, and I wonder how such an experience is even possible. I'm not sure how J. M. E. McTaggart conceived of his notion of the B-series of time, but you can almost sense a mystical undertone to it. I believe something like it must exist to account for the psychological content of this experience. Sam Harris is an atheist that openly admits to his use of psychedelics, and has experienced such phenomenon, but attempts to describe it in neuroscientific terms. There are avenues of research already set out to accomplish this very thing as in neurotheology and rational mysticism. Sam Harris thought that because these psychedelic compounds that have such a profound effect on consciousness, because they are essentially neurotransmitters themselves that have a lock-and-key fit into the serotonergic receptors which excite the pyramidal neurons which are located all throughout all the lobes of the cerebral cortex, then perhaps it is this sort of overhaul or excitation of these neurons throughout our brain, even dormant areas, that give way to an impression of having a full spectrum of experience at once. Perhaps so.
However, there is this overwhelming impression that something like this "Brahman" that I've described here is experienced, it may be the mind, but the mind lit up to such a degree that the experiential content becomes seemingly God-like, incomprehensible, etc. Perhaps our consciousness is something like a fractal piece of Brahman, a fractal as you may know is a self-similar pattern expressed across scales. The piece contains the whole, but simply a smaller scale of it in the very same way that 7 buckets on the night ground would each contain a complete reflection of the full moon.
So, if you consider all this, our perception right now may be a projection of patterns into space-time. That this seeming duration that we experience is actually our minds that are projecting a three-dimensional slice into a higher-dimensional block that gives us the illusion of duration and experience. Hindus actually refer to this as "Maya," The Great Illusion. That we're only experiencing this higher dimension through lower-dimensional frames that pass through our perception.
Ah, I told you I'd go off on a tangent. I really got a find a way to end this. Well, I suppose I'd really like to ask you, Trick, if you'd ever consider taking psychedelics to perhaps challenge your ontological perspective of time. I know it's illegal in most countries, however there are countries where it's not, and I'm not asking you to break the law, but I find that most people who do seek such endeavors quite earnestly and yearn for a challenge often do. I suppose the law can be seen as part of the risk in the challenge, but if someone's not willing to do that, the only other viable option is to hop on a plane to Peru where this stuff is legal and they hand out ayahuasca freely to tourists. Most people, I'd imagine, don't have the money to do that. Another option is to induce it naturally through meditation, but most people don't have the patience for that, and it's not always guaranteed that you'd have such an experience. That's why I think most people opt for the on-demand psychedelic method which can guarantee you this experience. At the very least, you could read into it, I suppose. And maybe you have... Anyway, talk about a mouthful! ;-)
I'm not a drug sort of guy. That being said, in my youth (late teens and early twenties) I was much less of a critical thinker that I am today. Though I didn't (at that time) believe in god (I did prior), I believed in a whole bunch of obscure occult stuff. For example, I used to strongly believe in mind-body dualism, astral planes, and so on. I used to practice meditation and astral travel, and at that time I felt I actually "lifted" out of my body (by ears would pop sort of like on an airplane and I would rise out). I was able to see my body. The first few times I was pulled back in and awoke. Times after that I had problems getting through doors (I got stuck in a door). My objective was to find someone, observe what they were doing, come back to the body and wake up, and find or call that person to "verify" that what i saw was accurate. I was never able to make it to that point of observation and verification.
I also believed that the astral planes had differing "time" in that the ethereal was on a faster plane. So you ask about mysticism, and though I've never done psychedelics, I can relate much to why people think the way they do in many f these regards.
Later on as I became more educated I became much more of a skeptic. I learned that the feeling of out of body experience could be replicated in the lab, and I also recognized that such was more of lucid dreaming where my desire for something drove what I experienced of it.
That is when I honed a more rigorous epistemological standard (standard of knowledge), and my philosophy began aligning more and more with the analytic variety (which I think has the most rigor). I'm no longer a mind-body dualist, no longer believe in astral travel (or that I actually accomplished it), and so on.
If taking psychedelics gave me a different experience, the chances are I'd write it off as a hallucination or drug induced manipulation of my senses, and (like dreams) not anything with any ontological significance other than my brain state changed in such a way that it gave me such and such experience. In other words, the experience would be real, just not the things experienced (if I experience a unicorn, that experience of the unicorn is real, the unicorn itself isn't).
Not sure if that answers your question or not...but I tried. ;-)
BTW, when I use time being a 4th dimension, I mean that there is width, height, length, (space) and duration (time) --- as used in space-time - physics.
I want to respond to this more elaborately, unfortunately I do not have the time right now to do so. What you've expressed is a common cynical point-of-view of those who've not have such experiences. I know you've admitted to not having any psychedelic experience, and you say you're not a "drug guy," but Dennis McKenna would respond to that statement by saying, "Well I'm here to tell you that all experience is a drug experience. We're all on drugs, all the time. That's largely because we're MADE of drugs." In other words, what issues out of this biochemical process, all these neurotransmitters and hormones moving around our brain. It's drugs.
So, it wouldn't make any sense to say "I'm not a drug guy," but I understand your inference. You're saying that you're one not to engage in the intake of exogenous substances. I suppose briefly I'd just like to point out one simple thing before I return to this for a more contemplative response, and that is do not let the word "mystical" in the term "mystical experience" mislead you. That is not to say that there is some kind supernatural occurrence here. This is simply a term that refers to this phenomenon, whatever it may be, and to whatever method may induce it.
I think the chances would be slim that you'd simply write it off as a "hallucination" or "drug-induced experience," I admit in one aspect it is that, but there may be more to this picture going on that is not being pointed out, as in your example of the "unicorn," as I pointed out in my previous post that hallucination isn't simply a projected object into space-time, as in the case of the unicorn. There is, instead, an even more powerful impression that what is being experienced is somehow the very fountain from which all possibilities spring from. So, this "unicorn" is simply one aspect of infinite inside these tryptamine-based hallucinations. I mentioned Alan Watts use of "ultimate consciousness," and there is this powerful impression that a kind of end state in consciousness in which there are no longer any possibilities to conceive of. You're sort of witness to the infinite spectrum, as it were, and I believe that's why it's such a challenge to attempt to describe this experience. It's almost as though the English language itself is too dimensionally low a language to even begin to speak about such an experience, because it's all based on tense. Past, present, future tense, etc. Well, it seems as though all those boundaries are dissolved in this very peculiar experience. Well, I'll return to this for a more elaborate response, but in the meantime I'll leave a couple of links. In the one with Watts, there's the piece where he uses this term "ultimate consciousness," and I'd also listen out for "final Self," because this is his attempt to describe what I feel anyone who does have such an experience is at great pains when trying to wordify this experience.
On the Sam Harris video, I'm linking to the 1h34m24s mark, but if it doesn't begin there because of the ads (I have an ad blocker), just skip to that point.
Don't get me wrong, I do agree the bio-chemistry and configuration of our brains produce the output we experience. I just tend to think the need for better and better data (data more consistent with reality) was an evolutionary advantage and other drugs simply interfere with that process ...which is not to say it's not good to interfere with such data at times, or that it is bad to, but rather that such wouldn't be a measure that we can utilize to parse reality.
I also think drugs can be quite helpful (I'm certainly not anti-drug in any way and use over the counter all the time). They can reduce or stop pain, assist with depression, help with ailments (e.g. nausea), increase creativity, and much more.
I am. however, fairly sure I would write off a psychedelic experience as a "hallucination" or "drug-induced experience" ...though I'm sure I'd probably think it could be a "cool" or "fun" experience. But like I said, I actually experienced leaving my body and seeing it on my bed. I experienced a sensation I'd never experienced before. Yet today I write it off as a lucid dream because when I look at it through a more rational lens I can recognize it as such.
BTW...I used to consider myself a Buddhist at one point as well (just no more).
I do want to read Sam Harris's new book but haven't gotten around to it yet (read most of his others). I've seen that interview you linked. :)
I know you only say this because you've no experience. Try reducing it to that after that fact. ;-)
Perhaps. I just know my epistemological standard very well. Experience is one thing, being able to verify experience intersubjectively (consensus reality?) is something else. It also needs to be filterable through logical consistency for me. If, for example, I experience something that, afterward is (by it's very nature) a contradiction - then it is more likely that the experience itself was faulty. I don't put a lot of weight into individual experience. There are people who truly feel they have experienced god, ghosts, and so on...and even some who think they see leprechauns, fairies, and a load of other things. But just because they experience it and truly feel it's true, doesn't mean it is.
So though "reality" itself is only modeled by our brain states, there are methods that are more consistent, reliable, verifiable, and measurable than others.
Interesting thoughts however.
I don't put a lot of weight into individual experience. There are people who truly feel they have experienced god, ghosts, and so on...and even some who think they see leprechauns, fairies, and a load of other things. But just because they experience it and truly feel it's true, doesn't mean it is.
So though "reality" itself is only modeled by our brain states, there are methods that are more consistent, reliable, verifiable, and measurable than others.
I'm not sure if you've read or heard about Dr. Rick Strassman's book "DMT: The Spirit Molecule," but he records his findings in his book that he gathered by intravenously dosing dozens of volunteers with pharmacologically pure dimethyltryptamine. While these altered states are not as easily manageable as our comparisons with verifiable data in "consensus reality," nevertheless there is a kind of consensus that is met. In other words, when each volunteer was interviewed very closely after the experience, there were striking overlaps in the descriptions of these experiences or "places."
I think people who've no experience with these substances tend to assume a Freudian model, that the hallucinations are some kind of projection of the personal unconscious. I sort of had this impression when you typed, "I don't put a lot of weight on individual experiences," that perhaps you shared this point-of-view, as well. It can be filtered through your personal experience, but I believe it transcends the detritus of the personal unconscious. These experiences are often described as being impersonal or transpersonal in that the content of the experience doesn't necessarily relate to the individual, there are motifs and thematic archetypes within the experience itself that cannot be reduced to the individual.
It seems to exhibit something more of Jung's "collective unconscious," but even that concept seems insufficient. It seems to illuminate a universal phenomenon rather than an experience that is unique to each individual. Although, the individual does have a unique personality in which these experiences are being filtered, the experience itself nevertheless seems to be a universal phenomenon, and I believeStrassman's work, the work done with psilocybin atJohn Hopkins University have shown this to be true.
So, it's not necessarily projecting the detritus of the personal unconscious, but rather that it seems to be because we all share the same substrate in which these chemicals interact with, i.e. brain, it's some kind of illumination of the substrate that is then projected into consciousness in quite a universal way. You know, Christian mystics who'd enter into these altered states would even refer to this state as "Christ consciousness."
So, I don't think it's necessarily that what is seen on these substances is "untrue," as in your example of the leprechauns and fairies, it's more to the point that these substances illuminate consciousness in a very similar fashion that dropping ink into a bowl of water would illuminate or reveal the convection currents operating within the standing water. So, instead of the dynamics of the water being completely invisible, the ink would allow us to see how the water operates by tracing out the physics of trajectories within the water. Well, the psychedelics work precisely like that, and they're like a dye-marker being dropped into the aqueous system of mind, and I believe what they reveal in that sense can be considered to be true.
It's not like a random display of chaos, where memories and abstract thoughts are rolling in some kind of visual kaleidoscope of nonsense. To the contrary, there is a beautiful order to these hallucinations which, relative to tryptamine-based hallucinogens, often take the form of iridescent fractals which move about in a very logical manner. In fact, Jason Padgett, a person who was an average joe until he was brutally mugged one day and suffered a severe concussion that caused brain damage that forced his brain to overcompensate in other areas of the brain that are usually dormant in most people, is now a mathematical savant as a result of this ordeal. He sees fractals in every direction that he looks.
Now, people in Strassman's book who describe their DMT experience often report fractals. Of course, some of them don't say it like that. This is what I mean by while the experience is universal, the unique personality that it's being filtered through is not. For example, if you're not familiar with the concept or word "fractal," then you might reach for synonymous diction as in "geometric pattern." And people often do. They'll say mandalic or kaleidoscopic or geometric pattern, but truly, this visual phenomena is fractal. Even Jason Padgett admits it took him a while to realize what he was staring at were fractals. Prior to his injury, he had no idea what a fractal was.
Strange phenomenon, indeed. I'm not sure as to why the brain would generate these fractals, but perhaps it's no surprise since the surface of the brain is fractal within its structure itself. So, it goes back to substrate, and this where I think psychedelics can reveal something that is "true." It's truth relative to the inner workings of the brain rather than the critic's point-of-view where the leprechaun doesn't exist in consensus reality, and therefore is untrue. That's not the argument, that's missing the point, but unfortunately that is the common cynical point-of-view and people's attitudes towards these things are based on that, so their natural reaction is, of course, to laugh whenever someone is talking about "truth" relative to psychedelics.
"In other words, when each volunteer was interviewed very closely after the experience, there were striking overlaps in the descriptions of these experiences or "places."
I have no doubt that a similar drug could often produce a similar experience.
But even in our "non-drug" world there are people with very similar accounts of aliens and abductions (not to mention just about every crazy thing). But without multiple people seeing the same alien at the same time, and verifying that it really is an alien and not some guy in a mask, these accounts just aren't credible even if they truly feel they have experienced one.
Perhaps if I saw an alien myself I might think what I saw was real. It may even fool me enough that I won't skeptically understand that it could be in my mind or something else. But even me "changing my mind" wouldn't make it true if it's not. I'd just be lowering my standards.
So saying that "if I experienced it" I may change my mind could in fact be true...but even if it was, it doesn't really say much about what I changed my mind on really being true.
Indeed, if there is any chance it would change my mind, I think I'd be better of not doing it, as the only way for it to do so would be to lower the rigor on my methods.
I'm also not really that fascinated with fractals. ;)
And don't get me wrong. I'm not laughing at you or anyone else who decides that psychedelics helps in understand things. I also believe it could be "mind expanding" to have such an experience - especially in the creative realm. It's just not something a person "like me" has any real desire to do - but take that as no disrespect for anyone who does.
Perhaps one day some will be brought to me and I'll be like - sure...why not try. ;-)