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My Beliefs and Practices that lead to a Good Life

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Showing 226-250 of 263 posts in this discussion
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 23, 2012, 12:34:00 PM PST
Astrocat says:
Albert, I understand that you don't "believe in an I that survives the death of the body." I think that we tend to define other people's terms in light of our own definition of those terms, and that's certainly not unusual nor even "wrong", but it does get us into all sorts of interesting do-si-does, dancing around the point and never quite getting there.

So, when I say "I", I do mean "I, the Soul", the eternal essence that created this personality called Nancy and will never cease to exist. This "I, the Soul" is Consciousness in or out of the forms. That said, the personality called Nancy will cease to exist upon its death, but the experiences, the knowledge gained, will go with "I, the Soul", into the next incarnations. Those things, that "gnosis" never dies.

The little self, the personality, is just a tool to be used for a specific task. Nancy cannot be used for the task set out by Nelson Mandela, nor can she solve great mathematical problems, she doesn't have that kind of mind. But the next personality "I, the Soul" build might be a great figure on the world stage, or might choose to be a pig farmer. (God, I hope not!) So there is the little self, the small "ego", and the Soul, the big "Ego", the true "I".

I don't know if this will make sense, nor am I trying to convince you of anything, Albert, just defining terms so we'll be able to have a reasonably intelligent conversation.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 24, 2012, 7:40:10 AM PST
Albert and Nancy,

When I applied for admission to a Methodist college, I identified my religion as "freethinker." I don't really have a religion. Rather, I have always been working on developing my personal theory of everything (PTOE).

I said earlier that in my view what we call reality is in fact a virtual reality generated and experienced by a universal consciousness and that we are like smart remote sensors placed in the virtual reality so that universal consciousness can experience the virtual reality as quadrillions of players rather than just an onlooker.

I have always had a strong bias towards universal consciousness as being the source of everything, including our consciousness. If I assume that universal consciousness is a dimensionless something (energy?) that can produce the apparent experience of space-time, matter, and movement for itself, then it is a good candidate as the very first (and only) state. It is reality and there is nothing else.

In the meantime, in later life I developed a professional interest in how brains work. In time, this led me to think about the nature of our consciousness. This led me to the scientifically supported idea that the content of minds is organized into hierarchies of experiential categories arranged from the concrete at the base to successively more abstract, inclusive, and general categories at higher levels. That fits our psychology very well. Our small minds are samples of the universal consciousness to which we have access. It seems reasonable to extrapolate from how our minds work to how universal consciousness works.

This argument suggests that the content of universal consciousness also exists as hierarchies of experiential categories. These hierarchies are what generate our virtual reality, including us. The hierarchies of my mind are a very small set of the hierarchies in universal consciousness - or the Great Mind. The hierarchies of our minds influence what opportunities we seek in this life and in turn are modified by our experiences in those opportunities. Further up, the hierarchies of the Great Mind also influence the likelihood of various kinds of opportunities in our lives and are modified by our experiences in those opportunities. Our experiences in our lives help shape the continuing evolution of some of the hierarchies in the Great Mind.

While in physical life, the content of our minds comes from our brains. We don't know how this happens. Most scientists believe consciousness is some kind of biological emergent. Others believe it is some kind of panpsychism; that is, a universal property of reality. In either case, it is a belief. There is no scientific evidence either way. But, in my view, consciousness is not a property of reality because it does not exist in our virtual reality: Rather, consciousness is a substrate that generates a virtual reality that it experiences as reality.

When we die, the hierarchies of our minds continue as a tiny subset of the hierarchies in the Great Mind. But the concrete categories in our hierarchies are no longer being fed by inputs from our bodies and brains, so they transform gradually to empty categories. They regain concrete content when we enter a new experience - a new body in a new life.

Why don't we just fade away entirely? As I see universal consciousness, it builds on what it already has developed. That is pretty much how our minds work. Its categories can be transformed or modified, but not destroyed. It goes through cycles of generating better and better universes and better and better inhabitants in those universes.

Each of us continues through endless cycles of better and better experiences. But what continue are the evolving little hierarchies of our minds by which we categorize our experiences and which are modified by those experiences. There are no accurate memories from one life to the next or even within one life. Our minds do not build memories: They build experiential categories. Categories can reconstruct approximations to previous states or events, but not exact replicas. There is an unbroken thread of universal consciousness experiencing through the changing and more abstract categories in the hierarchies of my mind. That is how I exist as an eternal being.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 24, 2012, 9:28:44 AM PST
Astrocat says:
Nicely put, Paul. It's fascinating how these - to me - eternal truths are contacted and recognized in so many, varied ways by the thinkers among us.

My view, succinctly, is that we are all, as souls, manifestations of the universal consciousness, and that we, in turn, create the physical forms in which we then incarnate for a brief time. At the end of each incarnation we take the information and experiences gained back to the home base, which is called Egoic Lotus, Temple of Solomon, Causal Body, and probably other terms as well. That Lotus/Temple/Body, is where everything we as Soul have accomplished during all our lifetimes. At some point all the petals in that Lotus are fully formed and then the whole thing is destroyed, the Soul is liberated and returns, fully conscious, to the universal consciousness from which it came, adding everything that has been learned and accomplished to that Consciousness that is, after all, everything.

This is why it seems to me that everything, including this Consciousness, is a work in progress. There is no absolute truth nor absolute anything, it's all moving forward, gaining and becoming.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 24, 2012, 9:44:40 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 24, 2012, 9:46:00 AM PST
Thank you, Nancy. I also find it fascinating that we have had such views going back to literally ancient times. I have certainly been aware of that for most of my life and have dabbled very lightly in some of them. But my interest has always been in deriving and understanding such concepts in current idioms and metaphors so that people today don't need to learn an ancient language and ancient culture to arrive at similar viewpoints. I feel that such a modern statement will help others to develop similar outlooks.

Agreed. Everything is a work in progress with no absolutes. So there is room for many variations in our PTOEs.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 24, 2012, 9:52:38 AM PST
Astrocat says:
Paul, for me, the use of the terms like "Egoic Lotus" and so on, are a kind of short hand. To describe the Egoic Lotus in modern terms would take many paragraphs, but let me see if I can do it more succinctly.

As the Soul works through its various personalities, the achievements, recognitions, realizations gained are stored on the higher mental plane, in a specific container. This container is very gradually filled, and when it is at the point of overflowing is destroyed, allowing the Soul life to escape and return to the universal Consciousness, carrying with it everything that has been gained over the uncountable incarnations it has experienced.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 24, 2012, 10:42:29 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 24, 2012, 11:33:43 AM PST

You are far more scholarly than I am. I think, but I don't study other people's thoughts in much depth at all. I am too impatient. My experimental professor in grad school advised us that when we were starting research on a new phenomenon, we not start by reading the literature. First, write down what we thought about the phenomenon and how it worked and our hypotheses about it. Then -- read the literature. If we read the literature first, we were too likely to simply promulgate the errors of those who came before us.

Over the years, I have come to a very different view of how we remember, guided by Edelman's neuroscience. We don't store an information replica of some event or body of knowledge and then retrieve it. Rather, we develop experiential categories by which we experience an event or apply a body of knowledge and then reconstruct approximations to that original categorization. This is a process that is fraught with common errors. So I account for the content of consciousness (both ours and universal) in terms of categorizations and recategorizations rather than in terms of storing and retrieving information.

Think about what this does to the idea of the Akashic Records. They now become the Akashic Error-prone Approximations or the Akashic More-or-Less False Memories. No wonder Edgar Cayce got some predictions wrong and some history muddled.

Actually, I stand in awe of the scholarly. I can't do it. Basically, I am a simpleton -- I need to keep things as simple as possible. <:o[

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 24, 2012, 10:55:45 AM PST
IFeelFree says:
ARR: To repeat, Buddhists, and I, do not believe in a permanent self. I have tried and tried to find mine, and always fail. All I find is change, constant change, nothing permanent.

IFF: Who or what is witnessing or observing this change?

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 24, 2012, 6:36:00 PM PST
Astrocat says:
IFF, what a good question!

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 24, 2012, 6:38:23 PM PST
Astrocat says:
Paul, whatever works best. That's the whole point, to me, of why we incarnate in so many different personalities, so we can test out a wide variety of hypotheses, experiment, experience, express. I've lived lives of nearly total isolation, with no book learning whatsoever, so I think that's why I chose this lifetime, where I was born into a reading family, a family that valued education, but essentially self-education, with whatever help the public schools could give. I am self-taught, in the main, and my curiosity quotient is very high, which is why I keep studying and reflecting, discussing and observing. It makes for a fascinating life.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 24, 2012, 6:52:27 PM PST
And that is why I so like the acronym: GoD = Generator of Diversity

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 24, 2012, 9:20:21 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 24, 2012, 9:23:14 PM PST
J. Strehlow says:
"I plan to post in this topic daily and believe that will help me lead a good life. I hope others will join me. I believe my exploring my own beliefs, writing them down will help keep me focused on living a good life."

I think that's a good idea.

" I believe an appropriate degree of focus and paying attention at all times are necessary to my good life."

I agree; that is important.

"I believe learning and teaching help me live a good life. I hope to learn from other's posts here, but have less confidence and belief that others might learn from mine."

I think that you have much to contribute.

"I welcome disagreements with what I write. I believe they can help me correct useless, unrealistic, impossible beliefs I might hold."

Good, you are open to others ideas and that will enable you to learn.

"I believe that keeping my posts here to reasonable length, neither too long, nor too short, is a good idea. I believe "coming to my senses" helps me lead a good life. I believe specific practices I use daily helps me "come to my senss." I believe that the specifics of what I do are for more important to my leading a good life than big broad abstractions."

I also believe that we all need to come to our senses and that how we live our lives is very important. But some abstractions can be very important, Some abstractions are liberating; they help free us from delusion.

"I believe others calling my attention to my not being specific and simple enough in my posts will also help me. Perhaps even others. I believe I have gone on long enough."

That is what it is about, helping ourselves and others. And when doing that it is important to not let our biases get in the way. One needs to be impartial.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 25, 2012, 3:25:18 AM PST
Lao Tzu says:
Here for the Music - What a nasty surprise your post is!!

Good religion has good philosophy behind it, plus some unsupportable myth. Why not strip away the myth and examine the philosophy? And Albert is sharing the philosophy of his life directly so he is one step ahead.

I did not expect you to be a pessimist of the horse variety.

Also horse, you may not care, but I will try to be less vindictive with you. After all, I imagine you see your posts as doing some sort of good. I would only be vindictive when you are clearly out to harm others (and again, you may not care).

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 25, 2012, 7:36:59 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 25, 2012, 9:09:27 AM PST
J. Strehlow says:
ARR: To repeat, Buddhists, and I, do not believe in a permanent self. I have tried and tried to find mine, and always fail. All I find is change, constant change, nothing permanent.

IFF: Who or what is witnessing or observing this change?

J Strehow: It's said that this one who observes the change is unperturbed by change. We mistakenly take the impermanent to be our self but our true self is always there.

Impermanence is a very helpful contemplation but even ideas such as permanence and impermanence can hinder ones Buddhist practice.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 25, 2012, 9:23:50 AM PST
Astrocat says:
J., this is the philosophy that works best for me, that is, that this personality called Nancy is, indeed, impermanent, but I, the Soul am the one who garners and gathers the results of the experience, and takes what is worthwhile or what needs to be adjusted, into the next experience, the next incarnation. I, the Soul am, as you say, unperturbed by change, in fact it's change that gives me the fuel, the "nutrients" needed to continue building the Path.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 25, 2012, 11:02:56 AM PST
IFeelFree says:
JS: Impermanence is a very helpful contemplation but even ideas such as permanence and impermanence can hinder ones Buddhist practice.

IFF: That's because when you are contemplating ideas you are remaining in the realm of mind, of thought, which is transitory. That which is impermanent is experienced directly when the mind is absolutely still.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 25, 2012, 4:14:55 PM PST
Astrocat says:
I think that depends on how one defines the mind. The concrete, lower mind, yes, that can definitely be stilled when one is contemplating, because in contemplation it's the Soul that does the thinking. In meditation, however, it's focussing the lower mind, not stilling it, that's the key.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 25, 2012, 8:47:36 PM PST
witchie+ says:
Nancy: "lower mind, yes, that can definitely be stilled when one is contemplating, because in contemplation it's the Soul that does the thinking. In meditation, however, it's focussing the lower mind, not stilling it, that's the key."

Hmmm--hadn't thought of it that way. Thanks for the perspective.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 25, 2012, 9:05:00 PM PST
Astrocat says:
You're welcome, Kathleen. What's your perspective?

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 25, 2012, 9:21:47 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 27, 2012, 2:32:00 PM PST
witchie+ says:
Interesting, Nancy. I am still not settled on how the different levels of consciousness operate. I was trained in psychology so I am aware of the "unconscious", but I am not sure that system really works from a truly spiritual perspective. When I ask questions of God, I get answers and they are always true and correct. Where does that come from? Somehow, I get those answers. 40 years ago, I could not count on the answers. Somehow, things have changed. I no longer have trouble concentrating like I did when I was younger--whether it is during meditation or balancing my checkbook :-)

Meditation over the years, desperation in dealing with psychic vampires like my mother, schizophrenic brother, etc who all keeping trying to attach themselves to me to use my energy. All of those experiences have driven me to a mental focus that is pretty amazing so I can protect myself spiritually.

I just called in hospice to help my 95 year old mother in her journey to the other side. Finally, her body is failing her--dementia has robbed her of what personality and talents she had for the last 10-15 years. As she is leaving, I am picking up more and more fear from her and my schizophrenic brother. I just know that my heart tries to go into atrial fibrillation whenever this happens and I must sit down along for 10 minutes for protect myself at a physical level. All of this is thanks to my meditation education and training.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 26, 2012, 9:17:46 AM PST
12/24/12: "What is the what that is witnessing the change?"One answer I could give is that my eyes do. But then I or you would have to ask. who or what has the eyes? Conventionally I would answer, I do. Who then is that I? Then we could go on forever with question and conventional answer.

Instead, I will do a bit of linguistic analysis and analysis of my own experience. I plan to post this in a topic in the Christianity forum titled "What is the soul?" and in "My beliefs and practices..." in the Religion forum.

Do you agree that we need to define terms and agree on their meaning in order to communicate? I'll assume an answer of yes, since your saying no would mean you are not interested in communicating.

First, let's define the word "I." It is a word, probably defined as "first person singular." That is and is not the way I experience myself. I, like everyone else uses the word over and over without thinking which of our uses of the word refers to something in the real world, or even something that we personally experience. Keeping in mind that our question is "What is the soul?" or the same question put personally, "What am I?" let's look at some ways everyone uses the word "I".

Should someone ask me, "Who are you?" I would respond, "I'm Rusty." You would do something quite similar. But both us would know we are not just that name. Presumably we both would know a name is just an identification tag to be used in records or to hang on bodies. So we're back again to the question, "What am I?" or as you put it "What is the what that witnesses?"
Witnessing usually refers to seeing. Most of us say, "I see the world." A more accurate way to put it might be "I am the world."When I look at my own experience of seeing, I find no I in it. What I experience is all out there, outside my skin. There is seeing, but no me doing it.

I can turn my eyes to the parts of my body I can see, and then I am willing to say "I am my body." But this is totally contradicting the separation of body and soul or I that most people make. Body and soul are not the same thing for most people. Are you starting to get confused? Language and words are very confusing, especially if we try to apply them carefully to what we experience personally. A basic reason for this is simple, "The word is not the thing." Put another way, words are not reality. They are one and often many, many steps away from reality depending on how concrete or abstract a word is.

What is the what that is witnessing? The word what is many many steps from reality. It is almost totally abstract. When I try to make sense of your question I cannot, in one way of looking at it, find any reality to attach to either of your "whats."

So I'm back to trying to define "I" again. "I am seeing" and "There is seeing" refer to the same phenomena. Both are accurate grammatical statements. The difference is purely grammatical. In one there is an I, a first person singular. The second is true of my experience of seeing. There is no "I" in my seeing. It is all out there. I agree, a part of my body is seeing, but I, and perhaps we, have already agreed that "I" am not my body", let alone a single part like my eye. So once again we're back to What am I? or your more complicated "What is the what that is witnessing...?"

Let's try on "I am a soul" or the more conventional, "I have a soul." Most people, except some Buddhists refer to a soul (a synonym for "I)" as something separate, something they have rather than something they are. This is very confusing, although most people think it makes perfect sense. Things I "have" I think of as being "not me." If what I said of most people is true, they are saying that soul, their "I" is something they "have" which makes their "I" not a part of their "I." I see what I have written in this paragraph as logical. I would be happy if someone refutes the logic.

At the same time, my bet is that most readers are shaking their head and saying, "That makes no sense," by which they mean it is not logical. Perhaps if they "came to their senses" instead of losing themselves in words they then could "make sense" of ths paragraph.

But if they really "came to their senses" they likely would lose the I they think they have. They would realize that I is not something given them by their senses, but is only a word in their head. I'll repeat again, for Buddhists words are not reality, our only knowledge of reality comes from the sensory nerve impulses reaching our brain. Confusing? Logical? Every reader will have a different opinion.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 26, 2012, 10:15:08 AM PST
Astrocat says:
Kathleen, from my perspective, when you get answers from God, you are really getting answers from the real You, the Soul, the Higher Self, and that means that you've become more conscious on the Soul plane. But that's my perspective, offered only in the interests of a different point of view.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 26, 2012, 10:25:32 AM PST
IFeelFree says:
ARR: "I am seeing" and "There is seeing" refer to the same phenomena.

IFF: No. A camera "sees" in the sense of recording visual information. However, there is no "I" there. There is no witness or observer. That requires awareness. Only a self can proclaim, "I am seeing".

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 26, 2012, 11:12:02 AM PST

Do you take your own consciousness as a given that does not need to be explained? Many do - and wrongly so. The word "consciousness" is a word of many meanings, so let me try to winnow out the meaning I am not concerned with. I do not mean whether you are conscious as a biological state of being awake rather than unconscious or asleep or knocked out or drugged. Whether you are either awake or dreaming while asleep or knocked out, you experience colors, forms, and textures; hear the voices of others talking, the sounds of music, and background noises in your ears; feel the touch or temperature of objects and creatures against your skin or feel the pull and movement of your clothing as you move about; or sense where your limbs are and what they are doing. Science is not able to explain why or how we experience such things. We know that our sensory experiences are correlated to various neural activities in our brain's thalamocortical system, but we don't know what accounts for our capability to experience. Why doesn't it just end with the neural activities? As far as neuroscience is concerned, we could just as well be zombies. We are not zombies, but we don't know why or how we are not zombies.

The traditional explanation is that we have souls. The current explanations offered by philosophers of mind are of two kinds: 1) consciousness emerges in some way from biology and 2) consciousness is a panpsychic phenomenon based on its being a universal property of reality in some way. There are many variations of each of these possibilities. Most scientists adhere to some version of consciousness as a biological emergent.

There is no evidence whatsoever favoring one kind of explanation over the other kind. We simply don't know. Various philosophers and scientists have developed rational arguments for explaining consciousness in one of these categories or the other - but no evidence. In one of his earlier books, the neuroscientist, Gerald Edelman, freed the reader to choose any theory he wished -- because we simply don't know. In a recent book, he offers no new evidence but now favors the politically correct view among scientists of biological emergence.

The philosopher Dennett says it is not an issue: The problem will be resolved automatically as we do more neural correlate research. As far as I know, he stands totally alone in his view and perhaps a little derisively so.

So where can we place Albert with regard to consciousness?

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 26, 2012, 4:24:07 PM PST
Are you telling me that you know my experience better than I do? Or are you saying my experience has to be the same as yours? I repeat, I have searched for a permanent I for years and have never found one. All i have ever experienced or found is impermanence, change. Please tell me, have you ever discovered a permanent I in yourself? How long does your awareness stay the same, unchanged? Or do you have an I that is independent of your awareness? If so, how do you know it is there? The self that proclaims "I am seeing." is proclaiming that it is a very temporary phenomena, namely seeing.

Posted on Dec 26, 2012, 6:44:49 PM PST
Here's an excerpt from a paper by Chalmers in which he differentiates the easy problems from the "hard problem."

"The easy problems of consciousness include those of explaining the following phenomena:
* the ability to discriminate, categorize, and react to environmental stimuli;
* the integration of information by a cognitive system;
* the reportability of mental states;
* the ability of a system to access its own internal states;
* the focus of attention;
* the deliberate control of behavior;
* the difference between wakefulness and sleep.

All of these phenomena are associated with the notion of consciousness. For example, one sometimes says that a mental state is conscious when it is verbally reportable, or when it is internally accessible. Sometimes a system is said to be conscious of some information when it has the ability to react on the basis of that information, or, more strongly, when it attends to that information, or when it can integrate that information and exploit it in the sophisticated control of behavior. We sometimes say that an action is conscious precisely when it is deliberate. Often, we say that an organism is conscious as another way of saying that it is awake.

There is no real issue about whether these phenomena can be explained scientifically. All of them are straightforwardly vulnerable to explanation in terms of computational or neural mechanisms. To explain access and reportability, for example, we need only specify the mechanism by which information about internal states is retrieved and made available for verbal report. To explain the integration of information, we need only exhibit mechanisms by which information is brought together and exploited by later processes. For an account of sleep and wakefulness, an appropriate neurophysiological account of the processes responsible for organisms' contrasting behavior in those states will suffice. In each case, an appropriate cognitive or neurophysiological model can clearly do the explanatory work.

If these phenomena were all there was to consciousness, then consciousness would not be much of a problem. Although we do not yet have anything close to a complete explanation of these phenomena, we have a clear idea of how we might go about explaining them. This is why I call these problems the easy problems. Of course, "easy" is a relative term. Getting the details right will probably take a century or two of difficult empirical work. Still, there is every reason to believe that the methods of cognitive science and neuroscience will succeed.

The really hard problem of consciousness is the problem of experience. When we think and perceive, there is a whir of information-processing, but there is also a subjective aspect. As Nagel (1974) has put it, there is something it is like to be a conscious organism. This subjective aspect is experience. When we see, for example, we experience visual sensations: the felt quality of redness, the experience of dark and light, the quality of depth in a visual field. Other experiences go along with perception in different modalities: the sound of a clarinet, the smell of mothballs. Then there are bodily sensations, from pains to orgasms; mental images that are conjured up internally; the felt quality of emotion, and the experience of a stream of conscious thought. What unites all of these states is that there is something it is like to be in them. All of them are states of experience.

It is undeniable that some organisms are subjects of experience. But the question of how it is that these systems are subjects of experience is perplexing. Why is it that when our cognitive systems engage in visual and auditory information-processing, we have visual or auditory experience: the quality of deep blue, the sensation of middle C? How can we explain why there is something it is like to entertain a mental image, or to experience an emotion? It is widely agreed that experience arises from a physical basis, but we have no good explanation of why and how it so arises. Why should physical processing give rise to a rich inner life at all? It seems objectively unreasonable that it should, and yet it does."
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Latest post:  Dec 27, 2012

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