1. More eye contact when talking to people.
2. More physical greetings and exits (hand shakes, hugs, fives, etc.).
3. Be a man.
4. Lose ego and thereby find inner peace.
As easy as 1, 2, 3, 4.
“The Twentieth Century is, among other things, the Age of Noise. Physical noise, mental noise and noise of desire—we hold history’s record for all of them. And no wonder; for all the resources of our almost miraculous technology have been thrown into the current assault against silence. That most popular and influential of all recent inventions, the radio, is nothing but a conduit through which pre-fabricated din can flow into our homes.
And this din goes far deeper, of course, than the ear-drums. It penetrates the mind, filling it with a babel of distractions—news items, mutually irrelevant bits of information, blasts of corybantic or sentimental music, continually repeated doses of drama that bring no catharsis, but merely create a craving for daily or even hourly emotional enemas. And where, as in most countries, the broadcasting stations support themselves by selling time to advertisers, the noise is carried from the ears, through the realms of phantasy, knowledge and feeling to the ego’s central core of wish and desire.
Spoken or printed, broadcast over the ether or on wood-pulp, all advertising copy has but one purpose—to prevent the will from ever achieving silence. Desirelessness is the condition of deliverance and illumination. The condition of an expanding and technologically progressive system of mass production is universal craving. Advertising is the organized effort to extend and intensify craving—to extend and intensify, that is to say, the workings of that force, which (as all the saints and teachers of all the higher religions have always taught) is the principal cause of suffering and wrong-doing and the greatest obstacle between the human soul and its divine Ground.”
- Aldous Huxley, The Perennial Philosophy
“For the animal to be happy it is enough that this moment be enjoyable. But man is hardly satisfied with this at all. He is much more concerned to have enjoyable memories and expectations – especially the latter. With these assured, he can put up with an extremely miserable present. Without this assurance, he can be extremely miserable in the midst of immediate physical pleasure.
Here is a person who knows that in two weeks’ time he has to undergo a surgical operation. In the meantime he is feeling no physical pain; he has plenty to eat; he is surrounded by friends and human affection; he is doing work that is normally of great interest to him. But his power to enjoy these things is taken away by constant dread. He is insensitive to the immediate realities around him. His mind is preoccupied with something that is not yet here. It is not as if he were thinking about it in a practical way, trying to decide whether he should have the operation or not, or making plans to take care of his family and his affairs if he should die. These decisions have already been made. Rather, he is thinking about the operation in an entirely futile way, which both ruins his present enjoyment of life and contributes nothing to the solution of any problem. But he cannot help himself.
This is the typical human problem. The object of dread may not be an operation in the immediate future. It may be the problem of next month’s rent, of a threatened war or social disaster, of being able to save enough for old age, or of death at the last. This “spoiler of the present” may not even be a future dread. It may be something out of the past, some memory of an injury, some crime or indiscretion, which haunts the present with a sense of resentment or guilt. The power of memories and expectations is such that for most human beings the past and the future are not as real, but more real than the present. The present cannot be lived happily unless the past has been “cleared up” and the future is bright with promise.”
- Alan Watts, The Wisdom of Insecurity
Living in the moment without letting anxieties about a projected future steal your joy…another reason to be more like a dog.
“The value of philosophy is, in fact, to be sought largely in its very uncertainty. The man who has no tincture of philosophy goes through life imprisoned in the prejudices derived from common sense, from the habitual beliefs of his age or his nation, and from convictions which have grown up in his mind without the co-operation or consent of his deliberate reason. To such a man the world tends to become definite, finite, obvious; common objects rouse no questions, and unfamiliar possibilities are contemptuously rejected. As soon as we begin to philosophize, on the contrary, we find, as we saw in our opening chapters, that even the most everyday things lead to problems to which only very incomplete answers can be given.
Philosophy, though unable to tell us with certainty what is the true answer to the doubts which it raises, is able to suggest many possibilities which enlarge our thoughts and free them from the tyranny of custom. Thus, while diminishing our feeling of certainty as to what things are, it greatly increases our knowledge as to what they may be; it removes the somewhat arrogant dogmatism of those who have never travelled into the region of liberating doubt, and it keeps alive our sense of wonder by showing familiar things in an unfamiliar aspect…
…Philosophy is to be studied, not for the sake of any definite answers to its questions, since no definite answers can, as a rule, be known to be true, but rather for the sake of the questions themselves…”
- Bertrand Russell, The Problems of Philosophy
We continue exploring John Hick’s, The Fifth Dimension, a book in which Hick makes an extended argument for the reality of a “spiritual dimension to life.” If his argument holds, it would mean that God / “the Transcendent” / “the Divine” (depending on if you use Western, personal categories or Eastern, impersonal categories) is an ontological reality, not simply a projection of humanity’s imagination. Today we’ll look at Chapter IV where Hick discuses elements of the human experience which he believes are “windows on the Transcendent.”
After spending Chapter III arguing for the mere possibility of interpreting the universe in spiritual terms, Hick spends Chapter IV laying fourth evidence that leads him to believe in a “spiritual dimension to life,” or that God exists. He calls these aspects of the universe “Windows on the Transcendent” and looks at three in particular…Windows of the Mind, Windows in the Natural Word, and Windows in Human Life.
Windows of the Mind
Something exists that we call “Mind” or “Consciousness.” Its nature and correlation to the physical world is, in the eyes of many, a sheer mystery. While many naturalist philosophers identify “mind” as identical to the brain (“mind-brain identity theory”) or see “mind” as simply a byproduct of physical events in the brain (“epiphenomenalism”), Hick believes each of these theories to be wrongheaded. In regards to the “mind-brain identity theory,” Hick makes the seemingly obvious observation that mental and physical events are not simply different in degree, they are different in kind. To say that an electrical impulse between synapses literally is the picture in a person’s consciousness which it produces (or at least correlates with) seems absurd. He elaborates:
Suppose a surgeon has exposed an area of a patient’s brain, and because this contains no pain nerves the patient is conscious and able to report what is going on in her mind. Suppose she is visualizing a seaside bay, the waves sparkling in the sun, a harbour with moored fishing boats at the foot of a grassy cliff, and on top of that a ruined castle. It makes sense – whether true or false – to say that the electrical activity in the brain which the monitors are recording is causing this particular content of the patient’s consciousness (the ‘qualia’ in the philosophical jargon). It also makes sense – again, whether true or false – to say that the visualizing could not occur without this particular brain activity. But does it make sense to say that the visualized scene literally is activity in the grey matter which the surgeon can see and touch? Surely this is not even a coherent possibility. There are no pictures or colours, no images of sea and harbour and fishing boats and castles on a hill, in the brain. There are synaptic connections between the millions of neurons, and electricity flowing through a region of these connections in a pattern which somehow either produces or is produced by this particular mental effort of imagination…
Basically Hick doesn’t really know what it means to say that the brain is the mind. It just doesn’t makes sense. I agree.
As for “epiphenominalism,” the belief that consciousness is simply a temporary byproduct of brain activity which ends at death, Hick sees two problems. First, why would “mind” arise in the course of evolution? If “mind” is simply a byproduct of physical causes in the brain, and “mind” can’t actually control anything (it’s kind of just “along for the ride”), there is absolutely no survival value…no conceivable reason for its development. Second, Hick, along with many others, believes that epiphenominalism cannot be reconciled with free-will.
Consciousness as a passive reflection of brain activity means no free will, no capacity of the conscious mind to initiate change…
Although there can be the illusion of freewill (‘compatibilist’ freewill) in a physically determined world there can be no genuine (‘non-compatibilist’ or ‘libertarian’) freewill. But in that case, as Epicurus pointed out long ago, ‘He who says that all things happen of necessity cannot criticize another who says that not all things happen of necessity. For he has to admit that the assertion also happens of necessity.’
In other words, if you believe that every thought is simply the byproduct of a determined physical world, you also have to believe that that very thought is also simply a byproduct. You didn’t reason your way to it. It’s not a better idea than any other. It is simply a byproduct of inanimate matter in motion. So you “reason” your way to a position in which the concept of “reason” or “rational thinking” doesn’t make sense. You cut the branch off that is supporting you. This is a common argument against Naturalism (the belief that only physical matter exists) … it makes free-will and reason a facade. Which means you can’t argue for it!
…we are left with the mysterious but undeniable fact of consciousness as a non-physical reality, a reality which we have to assume is capable of free self-determining activity. This opens a window onto the possibility of the kind of non-physical reality to which the religions point as God, Brahman, the Dharmakaya and the Tao.
Windows in the Natural World
Hick believes the concept of “Beauty” leads to a spiritual worldview. Meh.
Windows in Human Life
Hick believes that “Love” and “altruism” in human life leads to a spiritual worldview. Meh.
Thoughts: There are all kinds of arguments for the existence of God (or a Spiritual Dimension)…Hick is by no means exhaustive in this chapter. I think by far the most interesting argument he brings up here is the idea of consciousness or “mind” as a non-physical reality. If we follow Hick’s line of reasoning and accept our own minds as a non-physical reality, might it make sense to say that there may be another non-physical reality (i.e. God or a “Spiritual Dimension”) as well? It sure might…
All things Hick, including other Fifth Dimension Chapter reviews, can be found here…
And this will be, in all likelihood, my last on the Fifth Dimension. What made me think I could do a 25 part series?
I kind of like this poetry run I’m on. It continues….I shall call this lyrical creation:
An Ode to Soda
A Harlot in the street.
Calling me, luring the Impulsive Man to your abode.
Gaseous carbon becomes encased, saturating your smooth liquid nectar in a Divine Ratio.
States of matter somehow exist in harmonious relation.
You seduce me.
I devour you.
My delight, immediate.
Yet premonitions persist – only emptiness will follow.
Calories, merely a vacuum,
pulse through my humanity.
Riding Transit until their departure, in handles of love.
Cellular osmosis destroys the will.
Biological Reserves, meant for this emergency, seemingly absent.
I curse you, as a serpent!
I banish you from this garden.
An eternally pleasing poison.
You will soon whisper from beyond the flaming swords,
And I will answer.
Once innocence. Taken for granted.
Once tea parties with inanimate, infant companions.
But the glitter has spilled.
Thirsty eyes find their rest in unicorns,
for a moment.
Soon only Jagger quenches.
A product; liquid plastic fills a Template.
Somewhere a Ponytailed Man lights a cigar.
It’s not your fault.
Ke$ha with a Dollar Sign.