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A Theory of God
By Travis Snyder
Exact quotes from a reference are in red. Comments are appreciated.
Disclaimer: This paper reflects only ideas and theories, not necessarily my personal opinion, and is only intended to encourage discussion and thought. It is not an attempt to proselytize, criticize, or demean any faith or belief.
God has never been defined to the satisfaction of rational man. Indeed, even His very existence has never been universally acknowledged. From Thomas Aquinas's famous '5 proofs of God' (3) and the writings of other great philosophers of the catholic church, to the tautological hierarchical constructions of modern philosophers (1), there has never been a logical argument strong enough to force all the atheists and agnostics of the world to believe.
It has been said that men are only truly passionate about things that are not innately obvious to everyone. (2) The bitter and acrimonious debate over the curvature of the earth that took place in the 15th Century would today be met with laughter and derision because the fact that the earth is a sphere is so obvious to nearly everyone. Although any one religion, or even God Himself, is not universally accepted in the same way, a large majority of people across the world profess a belief in God (over 90% of Americans believe in God (68), (69) ).
However, we must also consider that the vague definitions of God may contribute to His apparent non-universal acknowledgement. If we can't define what something is then how can people communicate their belief in it? It is most interesting is that this lack of definition is present across nearly all the world's religions:
Christianity/Judaism: I am that I am. (Exodus 3, 14)
You cannot see my face; for man shall not see me and live. (Exodus 33:20)
Christianity The blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords: who only hath immortality, dwelling in light unapproachable; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power eternal. (1 Timothy 6:16)
Islam: The 99 Names of God, according to Islamic tradition, are the names that God, or Allah, has revealed to man. (3)
Hinduism: A common prayer for Hindus is the Vishnu sahasranama, which is a hymn describing the one thousand names of God. (4)
Sikkism: God according to Guru Nanak is beyond full comprehension by humans and can be called by an infinite number of names. (5)
Taoism: Lao Tzu begins the Book of Tao by telling us that the Tao, the absolute, cannot be defined with words. (39)
Some of the Eastern Religions, such as Confuciusism, Shintoism, and Buddhism, are generally labeled non-theistic religions. Upon closer examination we discover that this may be just a matter of definitions and semantics. Confucius is generally regarded as a philosopher, but his metaphysical statements also avoid specifics. One of his disciples is quoted as saying:
Our master's views concerning culture and the outward insignia of goodness, we are permitted to hear; but about man's nature and the ways of heaven, he will not tell us anything at all. (8)
Confucius did place heavy emphasis on morality and moral law. He spoke of the heavens, saying:
At fifty, I knew the will of the heavens. (10)
If you offend Heaven, there is no one you can pray to. (9)
Shintoism, practiced in Japan, is a very complex and varied religion. It is generally based on spirit worship, but there is acknowledgment of a greater power. For example, the inner sanctum of the shrine of the sun god Amaterasu is sometimes symbolized by a mirror, or nothing at all:
This Emptiness does not mean non-existence; rather, everything that one sees through the mirror is the embodiment of Amaterasu and every other kami [spirit].(7)
Shintoism borrows heavily from Buddhism, especially concerning this concept of Emptiness.
In the Heart Sutra the Buddha tells us that all is shunyata, generally translated as emptiness. This emptiness is in fact fullness with all things. (11)
A further explanation contrasts well with our established pattern of vague definitions:
Emptiness is usually the description of Enlightenment. To the western mind, this description is often difficult to comprehend, leading to the idea that it is "nothing," and therefore quite unattractive. Two points will help correct this view. First, "emptiness" can be understood as the Buddhist way of saying that Ultimate Reality is incapable of being described, much the way that many Christian theologians view the Christian God as beyond our human attempts to describe. Second, the "emptiness" should not be thought of an another place. Instead, it is identical to the world or universe humans experience in this life. (12)
In other words, when the concept of Emptiness is meditated on, one is attempting to focus on the nature of Consciousness, being, and the universe itself and experience this without the ever present reflections, judgments, and distracting thoughts, and thus work to reduce these afflicting states of mind.
When we just change the terminology a bit, we find that this is not much different then, say... a Christian point of view: during prayer one focuses on God, and faith and asks His forgiveness for one's sins and that one might not be led into temptation.
Using this color coded scheme we could play around and interchange the various sections of our prayer/meditation and find little change in the overall meaning and functional process. The deep meanings of a pair of opposing terms are actually quite similar. The most stubborn contrast is probably the light blue. Let's do a more in-depth examination of both phrases using opposing terms.
experience this without the ever present reflections, judgments, and distracting thoughts is saying that during prayer one has to become aware of the thoughts that cause one to sin and that we all are sinners. Becoming aware of these thoughts will bring one closer to God in heaven and increase one's happiness here on earth. In the bible Jesus teaches against these thoughts: But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman with lust in his eye has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Mathew 5:28) But I tell you anyone is angry with his brother, he will be worthy of judgment. (Mathew 5:21)
asks His forgiveness for one's sins is saying that during this meditation we recognize that suffering is inevitable, we all suffer, and that only by knowing the true nature of Consciousness, being, and the universe itself, can we then view our suffering states in the proper light and attain purpose and happiness. The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism are: 1. Life means suffering. 2. The origin of suffering is attachment. 3. The Cessation of Suffering is attainable. 4. The path to the Cessation of Suffering. (13)
Notice the similarities between the terms sinning and suffering. Christians believe we are all sinners. Buddhists believe we are all suffering. Since all sinners suffer (all religions teach, and common sense shows, that the most immoral people are generally the most unhappy (excluding biological predispositions and disorders) and the most moral people are generally the happiest) and all sufferers sin, (no one is perfect: "To live means to suffer, because the human nature is not perfect" (13), "if any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw the stone at her." (John 8:11)), then it follows that the terms, although different, are actually both compatible and comparable with each other.
There are other similar merges that take place all across Buddhism and Christianity. For example, Dr V. A. Gunasekara, an authority on Buddhism, describes something akin to Christian angels:
The term deva literally means a shining or radiant being, and describes their physical appearance rather than their supernatural powers (as the translation "gods" seems to imply). To prevent confusion with the notion of a supreme personal God we shall refer to these beings of Buddhist cosmology as devas. Many other religions also postulate the existence of non-human beings who are referred to as `gods' or `angels' if they are considered to be in a better position than humans (with respect to their material conditions of existence). (14)
Further evidence for this pattern emerges from a surprising area: neuroscience! Why God Won't Go Away is an interesting book by a pair of neuroscientists who used high tech imagine devices and brain scanning equipment to examine Buddhist monks in meditation and Franciscan nuns in prayer. Their brain imaging showed both groups undergoing similar physiological processes:
As the data and brain photographs flowed in, the researchers began to find solid evidence that the mystical experiences of the subjects "were not the result of some fabrication, or simple wishful thinking, but were associated instead with a series of observable neurological events," explains Newberg. "In other words, mystical experience is biologically, observably, and scientifically real.... Gradually, we shaped a hypothesis that suggests that spiritual experience, at its very root, is intimately interwoven with human biology." (16)
Regardless, the terms 'prayer' and 'meditation' are probably not considered comparable by the religious authorities of both faiths despite the fact, as we have previously noted, meditation and prayer are often geared towards the same goals. For example, In the art of Happiness, The Dalai Lama's statement:
In Buddhist practice, you can use your personal suffering in a formal way to enhance your compassion -- by using it as an opportunity for the Practice of Tong-Len. This is a Mahayana visualization practice in which one mentally visualizes taking on another's pain and suffering, and in turn giving them [enemies] all of your resources, good health, fortune, and so on. (15)
Contrasts well with Jesus' teachings:
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Mathew 5:45)
In conclusion, in contrasting Christianity and Buddhism, we observe a great number of surface differences that melt away under careful analysis. Of course this is not to say that there are no differences between the Buddhist and Christian religions, but these differences are not nearly as significant as one might think.
How does this all fit in with the definition of God? Buddhists deny they worship God and the major religions of the world accept them as atheists. Various Buddhist sources state the following:
Buddha told his disciples not to enquire into the origin of the world, into the existence and nature of God. He said to them that such investigations were practically useless and likely to distract their minds. (17)
The concept of a personal God does not fit into the Buddhist system of religion. Today there are many sects of Buddhism. Many differ in their concept of the divine and of Buddha. In general, Buddhists are pantheistic in their view of God. Many view God as an impersonal force which is made up of all living things and holds the universe together. (18)
Here are what some of the most prominent of scholars say of the Buddhist view of God. Dr. John Noss states, "there is no sovereign Person in the heavens holding all together in unity, there is only the ultimate impersonal unity of being itself, whose peace enfolds the individual self when it ceases to call itself 'I' and dissolves in the featureless purity of Nirvana, as a drop of spray is merged in its mother sea." (18)
However, it is unclear how the Buddhists can deny their faith in something which is undefined. Emptiness, the nature of Consciousness, being, and the universe itself, unity of being itself, holds the universe together, and the purity of Nirvana certainly sounds as vague as any of our other definitions of God. Regarding creation, Buddhists claim that the Universe has always existed. Christian/Jewish/Islamic faith states that God has always existed and created the Universe. But perhaps 'the Universe', as undefined by the Buddhists is 'God', as undefined by the Christian/Jewish/Islamic faiths? How can really we know? Both sides don't define what 'God' or the 'Universe' is besides to say they are indefinable!
Continuing this line of thinking, how can even atheists rationally deny a belief in God? Let's say an atheist states he only believes in Good, not in God. Well, does God come from Good or does Good come from God? If Good comes from God then this can only mean that there is no such thing as an objective Good, it's merely defined by God's whim. If God comes from Good then it lowers the power of God because Good can exist without Him. Spending too long on this puzzle can soon result in brain rot, as there seems to be no solution available that satisfies the appetite of reason. The unknown nature of God, and perhaps to a lesser extent the unknown nature of Good, combine to artificially create a fallacious intellectual quagmire.
In the bible it is said Christ is God in human form. Without a clear definition of God this too is difficult to understand and comprehend. However, Jesus spoke of his faith in this way: If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth shall set you free. (John 8:48) A new command I give you. Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:31) If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. (John 15:31) Jesus' commandments are generally found throughout the other religions of the world, albeit phrased slightly differently. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free--and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. (Corinthians 12:12) Using these definitions, cannot anyone who believes in Jesus' teachings be considered a Christian, even if they don't label themselves as such? Might the same be true of other religions as well? And Jesus warns those of his followers: Why do you call me, 'Master, master', and not do what I say? (QS 14).
So, we have established that definitions of God may lead to misconceptions about belief in Him and difficulty discerning His nature. Can we take any clues from our own nature? Is it not said: God created man in his own image. (Genisis 1:27)? Or, in the traditions of Buddhism:
The Buddha is calling us to surrender our selves so that we may be embraced by His light of wisdom and compassion; by the true reality that infinitely enriches us and gives our life true meaning. (20)
'Turn back' is acknowledging that our true self has always been with us, it's just that we have lost touch with it. (19)
In other words, unavoidable sin/suffering and our world experience have hidden the original perfect nature of ourselves and God/the Universe. Jesus said: Let these children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. (Mathew 20:15)
Therefore, our investigations must take us back into our own minds in search of God's nature. Upon introspective examination, a good starting point is that we are conscious - ie experiencing thoughts and feelings. Hence Descartes' famous, "I think therefore I am.", and Aristotle's, "being as being". In other words, when I put my hand on a hot stove I don't just pull my hand away in apparent pain, I actually feel pain. Consciousness is a curious phenomena because there seems to be no real reason for it to exist. The nerves in my hand could detect heat, fire the information on up to my brain, which would then fire information down to my hand saying, "move!", and my hand would move away. There is no need for me to feel/experience anything to accomplish this task. Robots can be programmed to react to stimuli quite well without, as far as we know, feeling or experiencing anything.
Problems arising from explorations into Consciousness are so vexing that academia invented the term 'Zombie' to describe an individual without Consciousness, who acts exactly like a conscious individual. Using the aforementioned stove example, my theoretical Zombie twin would pull his hand away heat in the same amount of time and yelp in the exact same way, yet he would not actually experience the pain. If you ask my Zombie twin if he was conscious of the pain he would say, "Yes"!
Are Zombies possible? The problem is that we each only have access to our own conscious experiences. If I were to punch the next person I see in the face, I might guess this person would instantly be made aware/conscious of some mixture of fear, anger, and pain. However, my reference for guesstimating my victim's actual experience debarks from a rickety hodgepodge of empathy derived solely from my own past conscious experiences. I have no way of knowing what the experience was really like for this individual, even if he/she sits down and describes it detail by detail afterwards. I assume that this individual is not a Zombie because I believe I am not a Zombie. :)
David Chalmers, professor of philosophy at the University of Santa Cruz, writes in his insightful 1996 book The Conscious Mind, that the philosophers/neuroscientists/physicists/theologians who study consciousness fall into three broad categories with about a third of the academics falling in each category. The first category hold that Consciousness does not exist (we are Zombies and just don't know it), or if it does exist it is a product of the physical world that performs a function necessary for survival. The other two categories involved various forms of dualism (mind and body are somewhat separate and consciousness is not a physical property). Various theories differ as to whether Consciousness is a by-product of the physical workings of our brains, whether the physical workings of our brain is a by-product of Consciousness, or whether there is a two way street in which the phenomenal properties of Consciousness and the physical world can have casual effects on each other. (21)
Brace yourselves because I am going to make a big leap of faith and, throughout the rest of this paper, also assume that Consciousness is a real phenomena and that we are not Zombies.
Where does Consciousness come from? If Consciousness costs living things energy to produce then one would think it would quickly become a significant liability for an organism. Because their are no benefits associated with it (evolutionary fitness ratios) it is surprising that it ever would evolve. This problem cannot be grouped with typical biological puzzlers such as the mystery of sexual mating (as opposed to seemingly more efficient asexual methods), and falls into a more obscure category bordering on impossibility. Therefore, we can conclude that Consciousness arises or emerges from the physical world largely as a side effect of the workings within the physical world.
Humans and animals that experience Consciousness do so as a result of their normal physiological functionings - specifically, processes occurring within the brains. How do we know this? Stroke victims and people with brain damage loose functioning and Consciousness/experience/feeling simultaneously in the same areas. The phenomena of 'phantom limb pain', reported pain in the extremities of a limb that is no longer there, is further evidence that Consciousness arises from the brain.
Our brain contains an estimated 60-100 billion neurons (nerve cells) and over a trillion glial cells (helper cells). It accounts for less than 2% of our body weight, yet uses 20-30% of the Oxygen and Energy and produces a similar unbalanced amount of heat and waste. Neurons communicate with each other by growing links to each other, this process is aided by the glial cells. When one neuron communicates to another it fires an electrical pulse down it's link to another neuron(s) and this causes a release in chemicals, called neurotransmitters, which then activate the neighboring neuron to fire an electrical charge at it's neighbor. A vast neural network of over 5^15 connections, a number greater then all the stars in the Universe, crisscrosses the brain. (22), (23)
The intricacies, workings, and power of the human brain are almost beyond description. The theory of Intelligent Design emerged as a result of the awe some scientists experienced in their attempts to comprehend the power of the human brain (and other features of human biology too). Yet the human brain can be described in more concrete ways than God. Although God is still undefined, the complexities of our own mind are clearly subservient to His nature.
The calculating power of machines are attempting to match the computing power of the brain. Every year, following Moore's Law, the computing power of machines doubles. The following Chart shows the growing efficiency and progression of Computer power. This chart is already old, currently the fastest computers can calculate and are more efficient then a rat brain (24):
This chart is extremely misleading in a number of important ways. Computers calculate one step at a time. While I am listening to Music, downloading a song, and playing a computer game, my computer is not doing these things all at once, but is shuffling between them so rapidly that it gives an appearance of simultaneousness. However, I can type this sentence, listen to music, and think of a sports game, all at once. And these are only the processes that I am conscious of; I am also breathing, regulating my heart rate, digesting, waste managing, and performing a near infinite amount of biological and neurological functions all at once. This is called parallel processing and computers cannot do it, or do it only with great difficulty. Parallel processing computers are still at the experimental and theoretical stage.
If we think about this it actually makes sense. Computers and Humans don't 'think' alike at all. Computers are extremely good at number crunching and calculating enormous amounts of data. Humans have trouble with this, but are infinitely better then the most powerful computers at pattern recognition, common sense, thinking, emotions, communication, logic, and so on - even diaper changing :). These limits of computer power are best seen in the following Chart (24):
Unlike the exponential shape of the first computer power graph, this one appears to be logarithmic. Despite more and more calculating power, the computer processor has (seemingly) come close to reaching the ceiling limit of chess proficiency. Kasparov lost to the supercomputer Deep Blue in 1997, but then tied with supercomputer Fritz in 2002. (25)
Now, are computers conscious? Again, since we only experience our own consciousness we can't be sure, but we have some clues. We appear to have some sort of Free Will (Volition), which seems to linked, somewhat subserviently, to Consciousness. For example, when are dreaming we are Conscious without Free Will, yet it is difficult to constrict a scenario where we exercise Free Will without being aware of it. I am aware of the various arguments against Free Will, and the debates over what degree we are truly able to choose actions and thoughts, but this is outside the scope of our immediate discussion because it is only the appearance of Free Will that is important because computers do not exhibit this at all.
Computers have to be told what to do via their programming. They are completely predictable and exhibit no creativity besides that which is generated by crude programming. We are constantly wrestling with thoughts, emotions, compulsions and feelings, and appear to have the Volition to choose actions. Thus, if computers are conscious, their Consciousness must manifest itself in a markedly different manner.
In fact, it might be the case that the very predictability of a computer restricts it's ability to process the more abstract concepts that we Humans juggle daily. So a computer that needs to be told what to do, (in a specific manner via programming etc..) will be incapable, by definition, of abstract thought, Volition, and human type Consciousness, no matter how powerful it may be. And it will be impossible to construct a computer capable of fully simulating the abstract thinkings of a human being, without it being: 1. unpredictable 2. conscious in a human sense. 3. possessing Volition. From this analysis we see Zombies are impossible.
This concept is reminiscent of the famous, Heisenberg 'uncertainty principal' regarding small particles; The more precisely the position is determined, the less precisely the momentum is known in this instant, and vice versa. (26) As computers advance to the point where they are capable of human like functions they will becoming increasingly harder to control. It puts a bit of a limit on the power of conventional computing (as shown by the second Chart).
CNN reports on what might be the future of computing:
A Florida scientist has developed a "brain" in a glass dish that is capable of flying a virtual fighter plane and could enhance medical understanding of neural disorders such as epilepsy.
The "living computer" was grown from 25,000 neurons extracted from a rat's brain and arranged over a grid of 60 electrodes in a Petri dish.
The brain cells then started to reconnect themselves, forming microscopic interconnections, said Thomas DeMarse, professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Florida. (64)
Returning to the debate over Free Will, the arguments against humans possessing Free Will are centered largely around the fact that our brain is geared to take in a lot of information from the environment. Halfway through fetal development we actually posses twice as many neurons as we ever will have for the rest of our lives, an estimated 200 billion. By birth about half of these have died, but the number of connections between them has increased at an exponential rate to about 1000 trillion connections. By age 10 about half of these connections have died. (27), (28), (29)
We must not repeat the error that was made with computers and assume that because infants and toddlers have more 'calculated computing power' that they are therefore more conscious and intelligent then us adults. In fact, they are complete idiots. :) The reason the game 'peak-a-boo' works so well with babies is because they have no concept of object permanence and don't realize that an object - you - still exists when they cannot see you. But the game is played because it assists them in strengthening their existing neural connections, a process known as learning. Toddlers learn at a voracious rate, it has been estimated that toddlers between the ages of three and five learn about 28 new words a day. (30) This learning is tough work, a toddler's brain consumes 225% more energy than an adult brain. (29) We can see why raising young children correctly is so important. It is estimated that adult apes have the same general cognitive abilities as a 4-6 year old child.
Comparing this early neural network to an electric grid might provide clarity. Say we have an electric grid that covers an entire city. There are five main generators (5 senses) spread throughout the city, which are each connected to a large number of adjacent houses. The generator managers receive instructions over a radio (outside sensory information), which tells them what adjacent houses to send electricity too. The electricity they send is large enough that it spreads from the first houses adjacent to the generator some distance into the city. The grid is set up so that if electricity flows through an area once, it will likely return again as that area of the grid is strengthened. Connections that don't receive use soon fall into disrepair.
A generator manager that receives the same radio signal over and over again will find incredibly strong connections among those certain adjacent houses that correspond to that particular signal, but desolation elsewhere. Since a near infinite number of radio signals are possible, a healthy city will receive many, many combinations of electricity from the 5 generators. As connections become stronger and the generator managers become more competent, the swirling electric pulses become more standardized and predictable. If you show a baby his bottle, he might recognize it. In fact, other generators start to appear throughout the city. The one that represents hunger might send out an electric pulse that swirls drunkenly (figuratively :))across the brain before coming across an area that had also been crossed by electricity from the visual generator. In fact, it was an area that had been crossed over by an electric pulse that came from a radio signal that meant 'bottle'. In time, the baby can almost see (imagine) a bottle when he is hungry. And he wants it.
I realize this is an oversimplification, but the point is that a baby is completely at the mercy of his senses and developing compulsions and emotions. It's unclear to what extent babies have Volition (choose to do anything), or what their conscious experiences are. Most people have no memory of anything under the age of 2, although memory isn't necessarily a precondition for Consciousness (ex - hard night of drinking :) ). Only as we age and our neural network becomes developed are we capable of abstract thoughts. Religion concurs with this assessment: Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (Mathew 5:5) Meekness is most powerful, for it harbors no evil thoughts, and, moreover, it is restful and full of strength. as it is free from evils, it is sure to be honored by all. (Buddha) (37)
Those arguing against Free Will state that because our genetics influence the basic structure of our network and our environment influences how our this structure is shaped, that by the time we are cognoscente enough to think for ourselves it is entirely predictable as to how we will react to further environmental stimuli. The basic premise of this argument is true enough, we have little initial control over who we are, but once we mature it does seem like we are able to make choices. Humans are not predictable beings. We have no choice, but to follow the principals of Occams Razor and believe the simplest explanations, that Consciousness exists because we feel Conscious and that Free Will exists because we are Conscious of exercising it.
In conclusion, Consciousness, Free Will, and
Unpredictability, always appear to correlate together. If we can attempt to move from a computer, to
a baby, to an ape, to a human, and then continue and extrapolate these terms to imagine a 'being' with
an ability to conceive of the most abstract concepts, thoughts, strategies, etc... that 'being' will,
by definition, have the greatest possible Consciousness level, greatest possible Volition and be
nearly impossible to predict.
The dotted line next to Deep Blue is supposed to indicated the uncertainty in whether it experiences any Consciousness or qualifies as having any human type computing power. Obviously this is just a rough sketch, we don't know where exactly all of these computers/living things fall, only where they seem to fit relative to each other.
One thing to note is that there appear to be certain areas that are off limits to everything. For example, it appears 'mathematically impossible' for something to exists which has Consciousness, Free Will, Unpredictability, but doesn't have some form of network computing device that generates human type computing power. It is almost as if things can only exist if they fall into a widening 'Funnel' that extends from God to a circular area with it's center at 0,0. Or might it be a strait line?
Now, although we have established a solid framework for describing the nature of God, we have really just been touching on the What, rather then the How or the Why. To try to answer these questions, we have no real choice but to again return to look at the What within us and attempt to figure out what makes it tick.
There are many theories as to How Consciousness arises within our brains. We have already affirmed that the physical interactions that give rise to parallel processing are likely responsible for Consciousness. Dr. Stuart Hameroff, an Anesthesiologist, teamed up with renowned physicist Roger Penrose to develop a quantum theory postulating that Consciousness arises from microtubules, small tubes made of protein that aid in cell structure and are plentiful in the brain. (31) Michael Conrad, an eclectic computing researcher, believes Consciousness arises from the interactions of proteins within the brain. 'Jigsaw Computing', is a method of computing that uses chemistry and microscopic molecules in a lock-and-key type model of storing information. (32) Others focus on the traditional interactions within neurons (harmonious pulsations), electric pulses, quantum mechanics, string theory, and quark theories, in an attempt to explain from whence Consciousness arises. (33)
In The Conscious Mind, Chamlers lays out a theory that is large enough not to get caught up in this academic broo-hah-hah, but small enough to give us useful ideas regarding the origin of Consciousness. Chamlers first states what we have already established thus far: 1. Consciousness exists. 2. There is little reason for Consciousness to exist. 3. Consciousness is a by-product of the physical world. Chalmers expands on this to state says that Consciousness is caused by information exchange (interactions) within in the physical world, is created from the physical world, but does not exist in the physical world. Our Consciousness only changes when areas of our brains are messed with. It is not possible for our brain state to change, but our Consciousness to stay the same, or vice versa. Any given conscious feeling will have a physically present, corresponding brain state that matches it and only it.
This might seem simple enough, but here's the kicker, Chalmers is leaving the door open for all kinds of conscious states to exist, provided the unknown laws that necessitate the existence of corresponding physical states are fulfilled. Non-biological entities can experience Consciousness in the right environment, with the right processing network. This ties in with our discussions of computer processing. Computers who begin to think like humans, most probably by parallel processing, will be, in some sense, conscious. It may be possible that some computers who process serially experience a form of Consciousness. Human's don't process serially at the intense level that computers do, so we have no way of empathizing with what (if anything) they are experiencing.
As previously mentioned, we are not Conscious of everything that occurs in our body. We tend to be conscious of macro-level type, super-complex, thoughts, feelings, desires, sensory experiences, etc... For example, there are certain neurons that react only to strait lines in microscopic areas of space in our vision field. We are not conscious of their individual activity, rather we are conscious of the overall image that is produced from the aggregate mass of visual neurons, subsequently computed by other neurons, and raised to the level of Consciousness.
However, despite our parallel processing skills, it seems that certain conscious experiences are stronger then others and can block us from experiencing lesser conscious experiences. If we are intensely focusing on something, we might not notice some movement in the corner of our eye that we would normally be aware of if we weren't distracted. Notice that the part of the brain sensing the movement stays in the exact same physical state during both instances. What changes is extra activity elsewhere in the brain. For a more extreme example, if we return to my punch-in-the-face scenario, that person will have their previous conscious experience overwhelmed by an instantaneous onslaught of new experience.
Therefore the question is: When our attention processes do not select a smaller thought/feelings/experience for amplification to our Consciousness does it still generate Consciousness somewhere? Our attention processor(s), often called the command center of the conscious brain, has been compared to a pilot flying a packed, raucous airplane. The pilot is trying to get instructions on where to fly the plane and everyone is shouting at once. He does the first thing that he hears shouted out of the crowd. Sometimes this is a women shrieking at the far back, or perhaps it is the old lady behind him who just whispers in his ear. (33) Thoughts compete for our attention, but if we don't hear them are they still heard? If a tree falls in a forest with no one to hear it, does it make a sound?
To further experience this, close your eyes and attempt to think about nothing. It is nearly impossible. There are whole Buddhist meditations dedicating to practice maintaining thoughts of nothing. It is like a near infinite stream of Consciousness is bubbling forth from a brook deep within the brain, yet we only seize and amplify a small part of it. Might some of these conscious processes themselves have some Volition? Perhaps the people represented in the raucous airline are really pilots themselves, listening to their own raucous airliner passengers. Maybe they are conscious and possess the Free Will to choose what they want to shout to our macro attention processes! Another possibility is that our Consciousness represents the Consciousness of all our pilots in an aggregate, additive way, whilst they still retain their own immediate experiences and Volitions. There is a time in your living of God's Word that, "The whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts," and that greater whole is your living by the faith of the son of God, which is now, "Christ in you!" (Galatains 2:20) Life is synergy, the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. (Ishvara) (38)
Science offers us some indication that this might be the case. Multiple personality disorder is a curious phenomena in which control over Volition is apparently hijacked by competing personalities, most often shattered apart by a traumatic childhood event. Talking to ones self, inner voices, and other psychological disorders, stokes, and brain damage, collectively show inner battles, a confusion over the nature of self, or the seeming existence of alternative Consciousnesses within a person. If it is true that any ordered physical interaction leads to Consciousness then even our individual cells are conscious on some level.
It is a difficult thing to guess about the natures of the various levels of Consciousness or the physical states necessary to represent them. How does all this speculation bring us any closer to God?
We've discussed the neural network nature of the brain, the necessity for physical representation of Consciousness, the possibility of additive Consciousness or scalar Consciousness, and pattern of increasing Consciousness from animal, to man, to God.
There are some six billion people in the world who interact in incredibly complex ways. We are all intricately linked to each other. It has been estimated that no more than 6 people (and normally less) separate any one person from just about anyone else in the world. From our intimate family structure, to our close friends, casual acquaintances, and strangers, we are always exchanging ideas, culture, opinions, experiences, and knowledge. This intense information sharing is not uniformly distributed, some people serve as bridges, connecting huge swathes of otherwise isolated populations. Writers, artists, researchers, teachers, and journalists make information available to the general public in an unbalanced, chaotic, yet somehow orderly way. (34), (35)
Might this network use our individual Consciousnesses and/or this information exchanging in an additive or scalar way, and generate a type of Consciousness and Agency (Volition) so massive and powerful as to make any attempt for us to qualify it useless? And might we call this being God. You are citizens with everyone else who belongs to the family of God. You are like a building with the apostles and prophets as the foundation and with Christ as the most important stone. (Ephesians 2) We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make our world. (Buddha) (36)
This picture shows the similar networkings that may give rise to Consciousness and Volition in us and God. Obviously there are a number of unknowns; how far Consciousness and Volition spiral downward in the human brain, to what extent the intermediate circles experience Consciousness and Volition in both the human and God (angels?), and the exact structure of the networks. The two blue lines indicated the position of a single human in God's network.
I recognize that comparing biological neural networks, Consciousnesses, and human will to God's will might seem quite radical. But bear in mind, I am not the first to make this comparison:
For as the body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of that body, though many, are one body--so also is Christ. So the body is not one part but many. If the foot should say, "Because I'm not a hand, I don't belong to the body," in spite of this it still belongs to the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I'm not an eye, I don't belong to the body," in spite of this it still belongs to the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? (Corinthians 12:12-17)
`Mi' means `limitless.' `Dana' is giving. `Para' is the crossing over from life-and death. Humans are connected to their heads, and heads are connected to their eyes, and eyes are connected to the flesh, and flesh is connected with sacrificing one's body to hungry tigers because of giving. Thus Dana-ParaMi... (Buddha) (58)
This model enables us to theorize on a number of previously unexplainable concepts. For example, in Christianity, a theological stumbling block has been the seeming incompatibility between the fact that we have choices, and are judged on our actions, yet are also fulfilling God's plan, exercise His will, and are made in His image. In our above diagram, we can see how all of these can mesh together. We have our own Consciousness and Free Will, yet are also subject to influences from God as He enacts His will.
In Beyond Bio-Feedback, Elmer & Alice Green describe that by using electrodes, electric sensors and meditation, subjects of theirs have been able to control the firing rate of a single motor neuron! The authors were shocked that their subjects were able to attain such results, and found other researchers had attained similar findings:
Such delicate control was learned that subjects could produce various rythmes of single nerve firing - gallop rythms, drum beats, doublets, roll effects, and roll effects - after only 60 to 90 minutes of training. (40)
Motor neurons are rarer then most other neurons and more easily controlled. A recent experiment at Brown University saw a monkey move a cursor on a computer screen by just thinking about moving his arm - using electrodes implanted with only 7 motor neurons. (41) Buddhist monks and trained mediators have the ability to lower and raise their heart rates on command, raise and lower body temperatures, and heat their fingers. Prayer, visualizations, and meditation have claimed to be behind many miraculous medical recoveries. So, if we can influence some of the deepest workings of our own body and mind with our Volition, then might not God have a similar relationship with us?
In the body, certain cells, or groups of cells, will destroy themselves in order to attack an invader, prevent cancer, or, in the case of Neurons, die from overwork. Other forms of agency, ie the small circles in the diagram representing possible conflicting thoughts and feelings, may all work and occasionally sacrifice for the collective common good of our body and mind. In the same way, we humans strive to do God's work to the best of our abilities, and if necessary, are willing to pay the ultimate price.
We can't speculate about the nature of God's Consciousness, or the heavenly goals and plans He has for us. A neuron or group of neurons does not have the capability to understand our will. God's will may sometimes seem cruel to us, but senseless and random death and terrible suffering may all fit into His grand vision of which we can never even begin to conceive. If God's Consciousness is constructed in a similar vein to our neural network, there may be events that transpire beyond His control.
For example, some years ago a supervisor of mine was attempting to go to Seminary school, but was unable to because of financial obligations. He was a goodly honest man, attempting to do the Lord's work and worked hard to save. He burdened no one or very few with his troubles, yet someone anonymously made a large donation that enabled him to attend Seminary school. Let's pretend we know that he prayed for a solution. Those who discount prayer might say, "Nah, someone just wanted to help him out.", or, "He inadvertently gave himself the solution through his reflections.", or, "It was God's will irregardless of his prayer." Those who believe in prayer might say, "God provided this money because of the prayer". In reality, we have no way of knowing if all of the hypothesizes are saying the same thing, or if only one if right. Someone may have just wanted to help him out and he may have unconsciously led this person to help, but it may also have been God's will. It seems nearly impossible for God's will to be performed without the acquiescence/initiative of individuals, and difficult for individuals to fight against God's will. What is unknown is the degree of omnipresence of God's will.
There are often many paths to one solution. Assume it was God's will that my supervisor attend Seminary school and let's pretend that the individual who donated the money instead refused to do so. God might then use others in an attempt to get His will done. However, if we consider a network, there are not an infinite number of connections to a given point. Individuals most likely to donate money: A) have money. B) probably know my supervisor. C) are religious and/or spiritual. One would think it would be difficult for someone in Zimbabwe to be moved by God's will to choose to solve the Seminary problem. Our own neural network can exhibit amazing plasticity (exhibit different ways of fulfilling cognitive functions), but this is nearly always accomplished locally.
If all the individuals that are realistically capable of enacting God's will thwart His will then His will cannot be accomplished. Of course, it is foolish to presume to know God's will. God is not all controlling, an individual can act without the will of God. Our brains and bodies (luckily) do a great deal of things without our explicit consent.
Researcher Stanley Milgram Began sent out 160 letters to random people instructing them to attempt to get the letters to a stock broker in New York using only people they personally knew. So someone in Nebraska might have a cousin in Jersey, who had a friend in New York, whose girlfriend worked on Wall Street, who knew someone in the same firm, who knew one of the stock brokers' friends, who would give the letter to the stockbroker. Much to his surprise Milgram found that almost all of the letters arrived through just one of the stock broker's friends. (34)
Some neurons within our brains serve as 'superhub connectors', these neurons have hundreds of connections to relatively disparate areas of the brain and are vital to the functioning of our brain and the maintenance of our Consciousness and Volition. Certain individuals may also be more intricately linked to God's plan. In other words, God may take more active interest in the activities of some people then others. Through our Volition, we may bring ourselves closer to God and have a better chance of understanding His will and performing it.
There are two ways this might occur, but when we flesh them out it begins to look like they are really just two sides of the same coin. The first way is through enhancing our own Consciousness. This is done most efficiently through inner reflection via prayer or meditation. Education and experience can also enhance our awareness. Many studies have demonstrated the physical healthiness and mindfulness of those who pray or meditate. The Washington Post reports:
"What we found is that the longtime practitioners showed brain activation on a scale we have never seen before," said Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist at the university's new $10 million W.M. Keck Laboratory for Functional Brain Imaging and Behavior. "Their mental practice is having an effect on the brain in the same way golf or tennis practice will enhance performance." It demonstrates, he said, that the brain is capable of being trained and physically modified in ways few people can imagine.
Davidson says his newest results from the meditation study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in November, take the concept of neuroplasticity a step further by showing that mental training through meditation (and presumably other disciplines) can itself change the inner workings and circuitry of the brain.
The meditation novices showed only a slight increase in gamma wave activity while meditating, but some of the monks produced gamma wave activity more powerful than any previously reported in a healthy person, Davidson said.
In previous studies, mental activities such as focus, memory, learning and consciousness were associated with the kind of enhanced neural coordination found in the monks. The intense gamma waves found in the monks have also been associated with knitting together disparate brain circuits, and so are connected to higher mental activity and heightened awareness, as well. (42)
Recall the similarities reported in Why God won't Go Away, between meditation and prayer. By enhancing our own Conscious experience we also boost our intelligence, compassion/morality, happiness, Volition, and unpredictability. By enhancing our Consciousness we become aware of what causes us to act, think, and feel the way we do. This gives us more choice (Volition) over our actions. All of these things bring us away from the Ape and Child and closer to God (as shown on our rectangular chart). If Consciousness is additive, then we also enhance the glory of God by contributing to Him.
The second way one might become used by God is through one's connections to a very many people. A powerful person, or an extreme socialite, can have a great deal of influence on the conscious experiences of great many people and facilitate information exchange across a large area. As God enacts His will, such a person will inevitably be caught up in God's plan, provided this person chooses, though Volition, to act with God's plan.
The differences between the two are easily reconciled. An individual who, through prayer or meditation, achieves a greater Consciousness will most likely have greater abilities then the average person and, if the person lives in a free society and in a merit based system, will quickly advance to positions of power and authority. Or this individual may follow the path of monks and evangelicals and devote his life to spreading the word and teachings of God. Individuals who are able to approach very close to God and posses the proper characteristics (as He judges them) may, provided they are willing, become great teachers and holy men and influence millions or even billions of people. Such people arrive few and far between. The Buddha said:
...'I am not the first Buddha Who came upon this earth, nor shall I be the last. In due time another Buddha will arise in the world, a Holy One, a supremely enlightened One, endowed with wisdom in conduct, auspicious knowing the universe, an incomparable leader of men, a Master of angels and mortals. He will reveal to you the same eternal truths which I have taught you. He will preach to you His religion, glorious in its origin, glorious at the climax and glorious at the goal, in spirit and in the letter. He will proclaim a religious life, wholly perfect and pure, such as I now proclaim.' His disciples will number many thousands, while Mine number many hundreds.' (55)
Was he speaking of Jesus, or another prophet? Can he really know? The Bible foretells a future prophet and other religions speak of the future. Most religions were founded by individuals. However, even as these 'prophet' humans work to enact the will of God, they are inextricably a product of their times, culture, and individuality. One must be careful not to loose God's true messages by focusing on the style of their writings, rather then the essence of it. In the future there is no reason to doubt that others will be used by God in similar ways. "Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called. Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God" (Corinthians 7:20) Jesus said, If anyone chooses to do God's will he will find out whether my my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. (John 6:57)
An individual who is already in a great position of power or social influence will most probably feel great responsibility and his conscience might direct him to enact the will of God. Also, he/she will probably already posses a substantial amount of education and experience, which might work independently to raise their Consciousness. Depending on how God's Consciousness is constructed, this person may receive pressures directly or through others. In other words, the pressures of God's agency will (potentially) be felt from all directions and this individual must decide if he/she is going to enact God's will, or do something else. One would think that the very nature of performing God's will would enhance one's own compassion and modify one's neural network in a way that gives rise to greater Consciousness and Volition in oneself and perhaps lead to the practice of prayer/meditation. And of course, God's influence is not just felt by the connected and powerful.
In the body, groups of neurons work together to pulse and engage in vital functions. In society, family, friends, or even acquaintances might find themselves bonded, or drawn together to enact the mysterious will of God. The sharing of experience brings people closer, such as soldiers at war. Shared or compatible personalities can result in strong personal bonds. People might just randomly choose to have close relationships with others. But people may also be brought, if they choose to be, together for reasons of God's will. We can do certain mental exercises to strengthen or link certain disparate areas of the brain. Might it be possible to become aware of 'spiritual bonds' that may be created? It is uncertain how to recognize these, but we can hypothesize on their existence. (66) One would think the act of choosing one's life partner would a very significant event that might attract the attention of God and His will.
In cases where an individual chooses not to follow God's will the situation can turn tragic. After all, if God arises from our Consciousnesses then if we do others ill we are like a cancer cell in the brain, damaging the collective entity that (might be) God. What you do unto the least of my brethren you do unto me. (Mathew 25:40) Struggling against the will of God is most difficult because everything around them is likely moving with God, while he/she stands alone. In the name of short term pleasure, sadistic delight, or the thrill of a power trip, this individual will spiral down into a well of rage, hate, malice, and insanity. Near their end, it is reported that Hitler and Stalin suffered severe psychological breakdown and bouts of depression, anxieties, and nervous ticks. (43), (44) Henry XVIII, Nero, Hermann Goering, Saddam Hussein, Uday Hussein, Ali Hassan al-Majid (Chemical Ali), Charles Mason, and Pol Pot have all been described as, delusional, raging, depressed, and mad. (45), (46) Indeed, all evil men (and women) eventually destroy themselves. Yet, many will kindle a fire and consume themselves. (Isaiah 26:11) What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean'. For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. All of these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean'. (Mark 7:7) Those unrelentingly cruel ones, objects of compassion, Maddened by delusion's evils, wantonly destroy themselves and others. (47) (Tenzin Gyatso) We have great compassion for them, because they do not know the truth. They destroy Buddhism-they destroy themselves. (48) (Maha Ghosananda)
Or, perhaps it is better said that they chose to be destroyed by God?
They encourage wickedness in an evil matter: they commune of laying snares privily; they say, Who shall see them? They search out iniquities; they accomplish a diligent search: both the inward thought of every one of them, and the heart, is deep. But God shall shoot at them with an arrow; suddenly shall they be wounded. So they shall make their own tongue to fall upon wickedness: all that see them shall flee away. (Psalms 51-75)
Lo, this is the man that made not God his strength; but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened himself in his wickedness. Let death seize upon them, and let them go down quick into hell: for wickedness is in their dwellings, and among them.Yea, in heart ye work wickedness; ye weigh the violence of your hands in the earth. Psalms (51-75)
What do heaven and hell really represent? They are said not to be physical substances and not be present on Earth. We have established that Consciousness shares these qualities. It is clear that good compassionate deeds bring forth their own reward and evil deeds sow their own pain and misery. Perhaps Heaven and Hell, as defined as such, are being experienced in real time [again, after removing biological influences and chance]. In thinking about our true fate after death, it seems we must abandon rationality and work off faith.
Some Christians are uncomfortable with some modern theologic teachings stating the world is only a few thousand years old when science seems to show that it is billions of years old. Using our model, the network that might sustain God could only exist in fragmented form right up until the first organized monotheistic religions began to form. Yet, He would have existed in some form even when humans first began to have higher cognitive functionings. Thus, God was only really formed when the earth's population had grown to a significant point and interactions increased to whatever level necessary for Him to begin to have powers of Agency. Other forms of God's Consciousness, discussed later, may require this to be reworked.
All Muslims are required, if financially able, to travel to Mecca at least once in their lifetimes on a holy pilgrimage called a Hajj. Some 2 million pilgrims visit Mecca during the 5 days of Hajj. CNN reports:
Wander the streets of Mecca and you will see flags from nations across the globe hanging from the sides of buildings, while the crowds speak languages and follow cultures too numerous to count, underscoring the huge distances traveled by the pilgrims. (62)
If we think of this in terms of network and interaction, it is clear that this can only strengthen the Muslim religion and, benefit all those who participate.
For another example, turn to the powerful simultaneous information exchanges that occurred in this most watched television event ever in the history of the world:
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The poor and powerful
joined in a final farewell to Pope John Paul Friday at a momentous Vatican funeral watched by
hundreds of millions of people across the world he had traveled.
Flags and banners, many from the Pope's native Poland, bobbed in the ocean of humanity that stretched from St. Peter's Square for as far as the eye could see.
The funeral ended a security nightmare for Italy, which had closed the airspace over central Rome and called in extra forces, anti-aircraft missiles and patrol boats to guard possibly the biggest ever gathering of world leaders. (71)
It is hard to believe that all these happenings could not be God's will.
We can even examine governments in these terms. The two extremes of government are, Communism (complete Government control, no private property) and, what I define as, Republicism (the only Government control is the basic rule of law, basic rights are enshrined that cannot be voted on or changed). Communism has resulted in over 100 million dead, more than all the World Wars combined. It has brought economics stagnation, cultural stagnation, knowledge stagnation, and moral stagnation to billions. Republicism has defeated Tyrannies, spread prosperity, liberated billions, and stands nearly invincible (although one might argue it is and has been in danger of decaying from within :)). Why are these contrasts so vivid?
Pure Communism puts little emphasis on trade, family, travel, and learning. People are forced into 'self sufficient' collective communes with little interactions. Religion is abolished. All devotion and work must be to the state. In this case, we should not view this 'state' as a mirror definition for God, although it might be possible that it attains a conscious state subservient to God. The state, through burdensome regulations, confiscatory taxes, and draconian civil laws, stifles information exchange, prevents dissident thought, and discourages creativity and technological innovation. (46) In comparing this to our brains, this would be like going in and cutting every second connection, or leaving a young child in a darkened room for years; one's Consciousness would diminish, one would draw further away from God, have less Volition etc.. (or using political terms: less freedom and liberty)
In the United States, for the first time in human history, a new order was established that eliminated laws based on birth and the usurping 'divine right of kings', as was the practice in Europe, and created a system of limited government, where an individual answered not to Government, but to God. (50) This freedom unleashed a creative burst of energy that the world had never seen. For more on this I highly recommend 'The Founding of the United States'. People flocked and still flock to the United States to increase their own happiness and, ostensibly, fulfill the will of God. As the following graph shows, the only time where immigration stagnated was during the era in which government was exponentially expanded by the Roosevelt administration. Of course, this largely coincided with the Great Depression, but is still interesting nonetheless (49):
To view this more clearly let's view Pure Communism and Pure Republicism in terms of human networking/interaction:
The stiflingly stratified, stagnating lawyers of Communism result in a sickly brown Consciousness, which contrasts starkly with the rich red Consciousness rising from the vibrantly interacting, uninhibited Republic. Saying God is on our side is not just a figurative term, as we can see, it may be literally true! As Georgia Senator Zell Miller said: God is not indifferent to America. (51) In the same way that individuals may become swept up in God's plans, so too will nations.
In The Wisdom Of Crowds, James Suroweicki documents how groups of individuals are often more accurate then any single individual in the group. He isn't sure how exactly to explain this, but gives many, many examples. He is especially puzzled how all the right bits of information are gleaned from all the disparate interacting individuals and somehow congealed into a correct response. It is unclear if this an indirect way of measuring God's power, or if any given group just represents one of the lower red circles on our first chart, super-conscious and computing, but not God.
It might also be argued that a network such as the Internet will also give rise to a super-conscious being. While it may be the case that the Internet is conscious, as it is an organized network of physical interactions, it is not conscious in any form close to the God state we have been describing and is doubtful that it has any Volition. The reasons for this lie in the nature of the network. The bits of information that are transferred from one site to another do not spread, multiply, and pulse like the neurons in our brain. The Conscious states of 'whatever it is' that makes up the foundation of the Internet are likely negligible, whilst the network that makes up God is composed of the most highly conscious, creative, thinking, information exchanging, unpredictable living things that we are aware exist in the Universe: us.
Because we do not know exactly how the laws of Consciousness, Free Will etc.. function, ie How they arise from physical states (networks/interactions), we need to address a few other alternative possibilities. The first is found in String Theory, which depicts a universe of curled up dimensions, where the most basic form of matter/energy are super, super, super microscopic strings that vibrate together. (67) If these basic interactions generate a form of Consciousness, then perhaps our Consciousness and that of God's is based upon a scalar extrapolation of String Theory.
Even without String theory, God's Consciousness could arise from non-living things, such as pulsations in the Sun, or the rhythmic energies of Quasars and/or black holes. God would thus extend across the whole Universe. It might even be possible for there to exists a Universal God and a God sustained by Human interaction.
In such scenarios, when we die we return to enter into God's Consciousness. Purported evidence for this might include near death experiences, and prayers/meditations where brain activity is reduced to such a low level that individuals report being as one with God or the Universe. In other words, our Consciousness, which arises out of the background Consciousness of God, fades back into it upon our death.
Our discussions about predictability were very important in our analysis of computers, but have been since been somewhat ignored. Is this a mistake? The nature of randomness is as mysterious as Consciousness, Free Will, and God, and just as neglected by scientific study. (60), (61) Many of these mysterious entities seem correlated and linked together. Predetermination is a much simpler and logical concept to accept then any attained by delving into the instable nature of randomness. Is all randomness caused by Free Will, or elements thereof? In other words, might the same physical interactions that give rise to Consciousness, give rise to randomness?
Another relevant development is the movement from theoretical to practical teleportation. Scientists have found that certain subatomic particles can remain linked to each other in strange ways. When one particle undergoes change, the other also does simultaneously, despite being separated by infinite distances:
In subsequent years, other scientists have demonstrated teleportation experimentally in a variety of systems, including single photons, coherent light fields, nuclear spins, and trapped ions. Teleportation promises to be quite useful as an information processing primitive, facilitating long range quantum communication. (52)
In all the excitement over this it was never asked how this might effect Consciousness. Family members sometimes report 'knowing' when a loved one is in trouble, psychics and meditators have claimed to have had long distance exchanges within their minds, and prayers to God and prayers for others are routinely undertaken. Unfortunately, scientific study of some of these claims is difficult because of the permeations of much agenda driven research and other seeming hocus-pocus/quackery. Might it be possible for information to be exchanged over distances via Free Will? In other words, can physical states be changed from afar?
When husband and wife sleep side by side night after night, perhaps subatomic particles in their brains become 'linked' in the manner seen in teleportation. Brains emit heat, radio waves, and radiation. Twins, sharing a womb as they grow up might have similar linkages, some of the most amazing claims of long distance knowing has come from twins.
When we have an itch, the skin that itches tells us that it needs scratching and we move our hand to scratch it. Can we attempt to influence the Almighty in a similar way? More research needs to be done in this area. Despite popular belief, religion (if not misinterpreted) has consistently remained ahead of the curve of science.
In final conclusion, now that these thoughts and ruminations about God and His nature have been laid out, we can return and compare how the world's religions compare with these views. As we have seen, almost every religion is compatible, provided we take off the glasses which show only the surface meanings of words. With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (Peter 3:8) And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:1) The worldly can speak of it in a worldly way only, they use worldly similes and worldly words. (54) (Buddha)
Christian and Buddhist references were used liberally throughout this paper because they are often viewed as being very different, and because both are strong religions, which I deeply respect, that appear to exemplify certain strengths and weaknesses.
The Buddhist approach provides the most detailed exercises for raising our own awareness/Consciousness/Free Will and improving mental acuity. Having been an avid mediator for some years, and having read books and papers documenting it's scientific benefit, it seems clear that meditative practice is not only compatible with, but will even enhance the practice of any other religion. Over time one begins to be able to gain control and become aware of processes that one never before chose to notice. If issues or troubles arise, one can train the mind to deal with them in an orderly way. Early thought recognition, the ability to sense approaching thoughts or feelings at an early stage, is also very valuable in controlling compulsions and distracting emotions and enhancing Free Will. (56)
The Christian approach does offer similar benefits and advancements through prayer. However, the inner reflections and awareness exercises are not always an intricate part of the Christian religion and are sometimes lacking entirely. Christianity focuses on God, rather then self and Buddhism focuses on self, rather then God. Often times the difference between the two can be broken down into mere semantic differences, but it seems to me both religions might benefit from occasionally shifting their focus, Christians to self and Buddhists to God. By focusing on self you raise your awareness, enhance your compassion, and thus can more easily understand God and fulfill the will of God. Focusing on God enables one to step outside of oneself and, by viewing yourself objectively (instead of subjectively), lead one to become more in-tune with oneself and become more in tune with God's will. Different perspectives of the same thing can lead to fuller understandings. In understanding the game of football, it might help to view the game from the perspective of both a player (self) and a coach (God).
There are also subtle differences in attitudes towards science, knowledge, and culture. The structure of the religions may contribute to this. Christianity tends to be more structured and organized, while Buddhism is somewhat more decentralized and individualized. Some elements of Buddhism tend to embrace science as a means of legitimizing Eastern practices in the eyes of the West. (63) Christianity tends to have an uneasy relationship with science, perhaps rooted in the Catholic Church's historical presumptuous assumptions that it and it alone was the sole authority on all the pertinent metaphysical questions. Much of this tension might lie in the current secular and liberal nature of most modern academics and researchers, who tend to be equally distrustful of Christianity and have many misconceptions around what Christians represent. In reality, non-biased science offers support for the fundamental tenants of Christianity and Buddhism.
Christian teachings are a bit vague on whether violence is condoned by God. Jesus preaches against violence and turning the other cheek, yet the bible is filled with examples of Biblical characters defending themselves against enemies, attacking evil, and of God's swift justice. Jesus' anger and denouncement of evil is described in Mathew: Jesus entered into the temple of God, and drove out all of those who sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the money changers' tables and the seats of those who sold the doves. He said to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer,' but you have made it a den of robbers!" Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitened tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but inwardly are full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. You blind guides, who strain out a gnat, and swallow a camel! You serpents, you offspring of vipers, how will you escape the judgment of Gehenna?" (Mathew 21-23)
Buddhist teachings of complete passivity and non-violence, while commendable in theory, seem lacking in practicality for a world that is governed by the aggressive use of force. The Christian slogan of 'God, Family, Republic' is particularly appealing. (65)
A main critique of the Buddhist faith is it's lack of focus on family. The Buddha said, Men are tied up to their families and possessions more helplessly than in a prison. (53) Whosoever has laid aside human ties, leaving behind the powers of attraction of the gods, free of all bonds, that man I call holy. (Buddha) (Ud 33:52) (59). We must not be careful not to misinterpret this because it is said in the bible: If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters - yes, even his own life - he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26) Many of these parables are probably just making the distinction between understanding God's will and overly focusing on the distractions of family. Context is everything. Yet even so, there are plenty of instances in the Bible where emphasis is on family, but there is little reference to family in Buddhism (70).
Treating certain pleasurable feelings as a weakness is understandable, both Christianity and Buddhism warn of the lure of gratifications. But Buddhism seems to travel too far and deny even the feeling of love or attachment to another. Love can be a dangerously afflicting thing and can irreparable cloud one's judgment and reason, thus interfering with God's will. But it also seems that raising children and staying faithful to a wife is God's will. It is what makes our society whole and replenishing, and provides great individual fulfillment and happiness. To deny this 'indulgence' on cause that it might all be lost, in a Ying and the Yang type theory, seems to me to be both overly pessimistic and a bit nonsensical.
Indeed, some of the most beautiful phrases in the bible are:
"Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder" (Matthew 19:6).
"Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife" (Corinthians 7:3,4).
"So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones" (Ephesians 5:28-30).
This piece is still under development.
I am working on a separate meditation paper, which will be published on this website in a week or 2 (or 3). :)
Many of my comments on and criticisms of meditation and Buddhism, are, in retrospect, misplaced.
See also, 'Good Karma, Bad Karma?'
See also, 'Ideology, Emotion, and Reason'
See also, 'Personal Responsibility, Mental Responsibility'
See also, 'Personal Responsibility, Mental Responsibility Part II'
See also, 'In Pursuit of Happiness'
Posted 1/4/07 (By Travis)
Free Will, Now You Have it, Now You Don't
1/2/07 New York Times
Posted 12/11/07 (By Travis)
Lack of Mirror Neurons may help explain Autism
7/22/07 Scientific America
This article was the first I had heard of a 'mirror neuron'. Here is the basic idea:
These neurons are active when the monkeys perform certain tasks, but they also fire when the monkeys watch or hear someone else perform the same specific task.
..when a person observes another person's action, their motor cortex becomes more excitable
The existence of these mirror neurons quantifies what we already know from our own experience and further illustrates the broad degree to which we are influences by our environments. Mirror neurons are likely very active in learning processes like infantile modeling,
But some form of 'mirror neurons' or their equivalents are present in our language, behavioral, and emotional centers, and will form an integral part of any cultural/societal theory.
For example, when a large audience sees an event on TV, like the superbowl, or a blockbuster movie, or listen to a presidential address, they all undergo similar subtle neurologic changes stemming from the same environmental input, which aggregately form the common ties that bind us as a people and influence our environmental output. Not a bad thing, if freely chosen.
We can quickly shift this into a political field. In communism, the attempt is through state control to influence culture and indoctrinate (called educate) the population in a controlled way, increasing the commonalities of culture, creating a uniformly good populace, and attaining the ideal culture and society. This, of course, presumes the state (and the those learned individuals who run it) know what is the best end result and the most feasible path to this enlightenment.
However, most societies today only do this partially; they have 'state owned media', and regulate the culture (like France and Venezuela who mandate a certain percentage of their media must be from in country). These actions send an energy wave (negative we assume), pardon the brief divergence to eastern terminology, through the populace and the mechanism is in part demonstrated by the pathophysiology of described mirror neurons.
It should also be of interest to examine the same phenomena on an individual level. When one sees a horror movie, fights with a friend or family member, or hears about or witnesses people acting unkindly, mirror neurons are firing and changing the brain in subconscious ways. When we see anger, whether in film or in real life, or even read about it, a tiny bit of this negative energy is incorporated into our psych via said neurologic mechanisms, with the result being 'suffering', ie a more negative and less happy conscious experience in life.
But, on a positive note, this also lends both credence and importance to the goals of living a good life and improving oneself. If one lives a life of goodness and honor, besides the aforementioned direct benefit to oneself in the form of increased happiness, one spreads positive energy, as others view your example and their mirror neurons fire to their subconscious and/or conscious. Additionally, this positive influence on the environment will indirectly provide self benefit in the future, fulfilling the karmic theory.
It can be argued that this post really doesn't say anything new, simply rehashes old theories in a new light, and I'll certainly accept that. A scientific mechanism based explanations for philosophy and spirituality is often sorely lacking or, worse, even discounted by the very proponents of such ideas. Different ways of saying the same thing should be pursued and elucidated; after all, all roads lead to Rome, but one can only travel one road to get there.
Comments are appreciated.
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Additional Articles and links
I posted this in the religion section of FreeRepublic.com a Conservative website. (more about Freerepublic on my links page) You can read the debate and the often brutal criticisms of this paper here :). Many did not seem to know that I was the author. I am posting under the name traviskicks.
This is your brain on God 7/11/99 Wired.com Runs a long interesting article about brain waves and ways to artificially change them. I have been interested in purchasing a brainmaster for some time and think nuerofeedback is a fascinating and growing field.
http://www.kurzweilai.net/index.html?flash=2 - Interesting site that I was altered to after I had written this paper that deals with AI and is run by the guy who wrote the famous 'spiritual machines' book, which I intend to read. I have gone through some of the stuff on here and it is pretty neat, although I don't agree with all of it. I'll comment more after I read some more.
(2) Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M Pirsig
(15) The Art of Happiness, The Dalai Lama, Howard Cutler
(16) Why God won't Go Away, Andrew Newberg, M.D., Eugene D'Aquili, M.D., and Vince Rause
(21) The Conscious Mind, David Chamlers
(32) Biomimicry, Innovation Inspired by Nature, Jannie M. Benyus
(33) Exploring Consciousness, Rita Carter
(34) Nexus, Mark Buchanan
(35) The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell
(40) Beyond Bio-Feedback, Elmer & Alice Green
(43) The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, William Shirer
(44) Stalin, Adam Ulam
(45) Saddam Hussein, Reign of Terror, Con Coughlin
(46) The Black Book of Communism, Various
(56) Breathe! You are alive Thich Nhat Hanh
(57) The Wisdom Of Crowds James Suroweicki
(60) A New Kind of Science, Stephan Wolfrom
(61) Chaos, James Gleik
(66) Celestine Prophecy, James Redfield
(67) Universe in a Nutshell, Stephan Hawkings