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DoseNation 23: Mysticism and Consciousness

Our hosts discuss DoseNation business and their individual fields of study. Topics include mysticism, monastic spirituality, the spiritual traditions of the West, the science of consciousness, cultural programming, brainwashing, and more.

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Posted By jamesk at 2013-06-19 13:04:37 permalink | comments
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Eugene. : 2013-08-05 19:10:46
Hi James, thanks for engaging in this most interesting discussion. My statements about Consciousness have nothing to do with Gurus or old-time mystics; they are based on direct, personal exploration of my own Consciousness. I am my own Guru.The old Gurus have left interesting maps of Consciousness, garbed of course in cultural baggage, but maps of deep Consciousness nonetheless. I have no interest in theory, philosophy, or belief systems; my interest lies in exploring that which is Aware in me. And as I dive deep within through various techniques, I notice that Consciousness has depth, it has layers and levels, and that it ultimately slips into something that appears to be beyond my little me. I don't have a lab to splice brains open, but I do keep up with the latest finding in neuroscience, and trust the empirical evidence derived therein. But the inner sense of Being contains secretes and revelations about how my reality is constructed that goes way beyond what my brain surgeon can describe. And as a psychotherapist I am in constant communication with various neuroscientist in order to coordinate services for individuals. Neuroscience studies the brain; mysticism studies consciousness. To say that it doesn't exist is to deny your own existence and your felt presence in that existence. Theories and beliefs will always be limited; I am interested in the Witness behind whatever theory or belief is being entertained. You are right, we can ramp up the brain and its thoughts (stimulants), slow it down and shut it off (alcohol/opiates) or fully distort its input/output (psychedelics), but my interest is in Who is watching? What is that Awareness in which in/out, up/down occurs? When I rest in this Awareness, as in Samadhi, the inner "I" seems to transcend my individuality and merge into what seems like a timeless Void. There I experience freedom and bliss. Is this a distortion of my brain? Is it an illusion produced by my temporal lobe for some unknown reason? Maybe, and I am open to this possibility, but the evidence from my own inner studies seem to suggest a much deeper story.
jamesk : 2013-08-04 10:51:23
And no, my model does not "explain" where the universe came from, but it is not meant to, and I submit that any assumption about where the universe came from are inherently incomplete and wrong, so it is worthless debate. My model explains where *consciousness* came from, which is the question at hand. This model allows near-perfect understanding of consciousness within the boundaries of this universe.
jamesk : 2013-08-04 10:40:03
@Eugene, the argument you and I are having comes down to two simple assumptions about consciousness.

My assumption of the evolution of conscious is like this:

Universe -> Organisms -> Nervous System -> Perception -> Concsiousness (as a subset of physical perception)

Yours is like this:

Consciousness -> Universe -> Organisms (as radios for consciousness)

Basically, all current scientific and testable evidence supports my view, only Gurus and mystics support your view. Your view cannot be proven or even tested, and does not really explain where consciousness came from, or how it works, or anything about it, so it is essentially worthless as "theory", it is more like fanciful supposition. You can choose what to believe, but there is such a thing as evidence.

jamesk : 2013-08-04 10:18:58
@Eugene, you cannot prove consciousness is non-physical, yet I can prove it is physical. Your definition of non-physical consciousness, eg, qualia that cannot be measured, does not exist. It is a myth. As I have said, I can model physical consciousness and test it in the brain, turn it on and off, ramp it up and down, etc. You cannot demonstrate anything about your definition of non-physical consciousness, so quit assuming it is a real thing.
Eugene. : 2013-07-31 16:56:48
Consciousness is not a physical process; it has an external physical correlate, but the sentience of inner being is not physical; it is a qualia outside the measurements of science. We can understand the full workings of the circuitry, but the leap into the conscious experiencer is still way beyond the reaches of materialistic science. The question will always be, who's the observer, the witness, the inherent I Am. We can casually dismiss this fundamental question as just more complex PFC neural iterations, but this does not touch the very basic question: who are we anyways. Why is the cosmos even aware of itsel? Just for fun? aesthetics? A more interesting view, I think, is that consciousness exists because the cosmos is inherently Sentient, always moving and striving for greater expression, deeper sentience, and therefore more free will. The universe wants to express itself, therefor there is consciousness. We are the product of universal evolution, therefore embedded in its potentiality is Awareness.
Brian xyz. : 2013-07-29 18:21:24
Hey James and Jake.. This show was one of my favorites. I've actually been waiting on James to discuss some of his views on the show, entrainment, control interrupt theory, etc. . I listened multiple times. I don't quite understand why so many people are against the - consciousness is a physical phenomenon concept. How does consciousness being a physical phenomenon take away from any wonder? It just adds to it I believe. We can now look upon other believe systems in new ways. I hope to hear more shows like this! I haven't finished all of the latest podcast yet either. I knew this show would generate a bunch of comments too. Beyer, Nichols, Tannous, and R.U.Sirius were the other standouts to me. It would be cool to get Beyer back on. I'm reading Singing to the Plants right now and I find it to be an amazing read. Lots of great discussions in the book including the section on The Single Active Molecule, and The Telepathy meme. Great job guys, my favorite podcast. I've told a lot of friends. I'll try to comment on the board more often.
OurMethodIsScience. : 2013-07-25 07:45:00
I'm philosophically Gödelian overall--and, like him, I tap into the vein of Western Platonism (e.g., Leibniz). I think you should, too!

To be sure, your view on mathematics is philosophical; it is not a self-evident conclusion and it is not neutral. Heck, it's not even the worldview of most mathematicians.

There is a reason Pythagoreans and then Platonists insisted on mathematical instruction--it offers a taste of metaphysicality. When we calculate pi, we are not measuring a "pattern" of the universe. It is a priori, not empirical. Moreover, it is incontestable. These are incredibly strange properties for a materialist to handle; so most, like you, tend to dismiss them. (In fact, a recent gathering of well-established scientists and philosophers attests to the strangeness of mathematics: [link]

Indeed, this is not "speculative blather," but rather investigation of what reality is. We use numbers daily; our science rests upon such "tools." (This led to even Quine including abstract objects into his ontology.) The normativity of mathematics (and indeed reason) is inescapable peculiar, at least from a materialist point of a view.

To ignore these brute facts is not a sign of being a "hard-nosed realist" or some such contrivance, but merely to prejudice oneself against a more encompassing inquiry. Furthermore, the inquiry itself has a personal affect, even if conclusions are never definitively reached. For instance, asking why THIS particular universe (i.e., a sequence of contingent events) exists can be edifying, because other possible worlds (e.g., logically consistent) are likewise feasible.

jamesk : 2013-07-24 15:36:29
Mathematics is not the answer, it is just a tool. There is a philosophical wing of mathematics that treats mathematical models of the universe as actual things, while I see math as a neat short-hand for describing the pattern of things. There are mathematicians who literally drive themselves insane trying to figure out if reality is a continuum or if it is made of discreet units of force (quanta), and trying to figure out how to model those distinctions with a single unified field (or something). To me these distinctions do not matter, I do not get wrung out over mathematical paradoxes because the math is not the reality, it is just a model of one part of reality. Don't get too philosophical about the implications of the mathematical models because all math is inherently incomplete in scale and scope.
jamesk : 2013-07-24 15:26:39
Mathematics can be construed as a philosophy, but that it taking it too far for me. Mathematics is the language of patterns, and the language of describing patterns in the universe. You can get very philosophical about the nature of pi or phi or Fibonacci numbers and so on, but that does not mean anything, intrinsically, it is just speculative blather. I will take my mathematics without philosophy.

And when people start trying to dismantle my perspective by questioning the value of logic and reason then I start to think the conversation is over. This is why philosophy solves nothing, you can always peel the conversation back through some kind of semantic filter to question the "meaning of meaning" or the value of pure reason, etc., and never address anything real. A waste of time, mostly.

OurMethodIsScience. : 2013-07-24 13:38:49

Here is a tangible way "philosophy" must be included in your worldview, with far-reaching results.


Would pi be pi, necessarily, even if this universe did not exist, even if the contingencies of this universe did not exist? In other words, are the first thousand digits of pi non-spatiotemporal?

Furthermore, you are using reason to argue, yes? What naturalistically validates the rules of reason?

jamesk : 2013-07-24 09:54:38
@Eugene, mysticism is not philosophy but you can use philosophy to turn mysticism into an ideology (religion) instead of a practice (spirituality).

Next week's show is all about the points you bring up. Thanks!

Eugene. : 2013-07-23 19:52:48
Mysticism is not philosophy; it is an inner science with reproducible results. I wonder what you think anout my previous points James or Jake?
jamesk : 2013-07-20 22:24:34
@dimitri, I dismiss philosophy because it is focused on building abstract arguments with axioms, it is mostly a practice of language and supposition, which is all hot air when you get right down to it. In short, you can create and defend any philosophy with no physical proof or evidence. Buddha had a philosophy and so did Hitler, so did Stalin, so does Donald Trump and Alex Grey. Which is right? None. Philosophy helps no one and contributes nothing. Philosophy is a refuge for scoundrels who want to preach "truth" without wanting to be burdened by the weight of evidence. Never trust anything a philosopher says, they deal in half truths and deception.

Physics is correct all the time, so I will stick with physics.

And yes, I wanted to go into military intelligence and psychological warfare, psyops was my main area of interest as a young man. I did not know about MK-ULTRA when I was dealing with recruiters and trying to secure a position in intelligence, but when I learned of it a few years later I wondered if I could have wound up there. As I said, once I realized the military did not know what to do with my areas of expertise, and could not promise me a career path in intelligence, I was done dealing with them.

DImitri. : 2013-07-19 10:41:36
How can you "completely dismiss Philosophy" ? Did I just hear you say that you "would have liked to be the guy running MK-ultra?" Wow.
Eugene. : 2013-07-09 10:39:12
Hello James and Jake, wonderful discussion and topics. Some thoughts and points on this and the previous pod-cast:
1. When we talk about consciousness, there are two distinct dimensions to it that are completely different: the objective material dimension studied by neuroscience, and the internal subjective dimension studied by the inner science of mysticism.
2. The inner subjective dimension IS completely non-local, in the sense that you CANNOT find it in a space-time location: you can slice up the brain and every neuron in it, but you will never find the inner sentient subjective experience of a rose, an illumination, a vision, or the inner meaning of a thought.
3. the only true science that studies consciousness is mysticism, which is thousands of years old and uses systematic technologies that can be consensually validated by those who follow the step-by-step procedures. Neuroscience only studies the external brain: all it can reveal is the nature of the circuitry; it does not touch the inner experience, no matter how much of the brain is sliced up.
4. After thousands of years of inner exploration, all mystics have concluded that in the depths of the conscious experience there is a sense of oneness; not just as a human experience, but as a universal truth.
5. The new physics seem to be pointing toward a similar conclusion: all matter and the forces that govern their relations spring forth from a Unified Field or substrate; from one to the many.
6. The quantum realm is not 'out there' somewhere...we ARE the quantum realm at the base of our existence....and we know that what we call matter is only a frequency surrounded by 99.99% empty space. Why couldn't consciousness tap into this vastness in very sensitized states.
7. Jake mentioned the monastic mystics: in my mind they are true scientists of consciousness, eliminating sensory signals though isolation and decreasing mental noise to hear the deeper frequencies of nature. They unanimously claim the inherent Unity behind all creation. Again, similar to the notion in physics that all of creation springs forth form a Unified Singularity.
8. And finally, the brain-as-transceiver metaphor is actually quite useful, for we are constantly receiving various raw sensory signal that our brain reconstructs as what we call reality. Just like a radio converts electromagnetic info into sound.
9. I actually attempted to view the world from a purely materialistic stance, and it just DID NOT work, for the mystery of subjective sentience was not even touched by my models of complex circuitry.
Jake : 2013-07-03 10:49:04
We appreciate all the support, thanks for continuing to tune in! - Jake
OurMethodIsScience. : 2013-07-03 09:21:11
All fair points.

I am grateful for your attention. Once again, I find the podcast a treat and hope you both continue them (and I similarly hope you continue lecturing at events like Horizons).

I am not sure psychedelics can present propositional knowledge, but one lesson I have taken to heart is epistemic humility (e.g., even empirical regularities are uncertain). That is, RAW philosophically trumps A.J. Ayer. Regardless of my stance (and it's a bit narcissistic to present it in a comment, no?), I do think there is a valid place for your worldview alongside the excesses of ayahuasca tourists preaching the Gospel of Terence. Thanks, again!

jamesk : 2013-07-03 08:58:37
// I have purchased your book and consider this podcast one of my favorites. I am deeply grateful that you and Jake host such worthwhile content.

Much thanks! I'm sure Jake wants more arguments!

jamesk : 2013-07-03 08:46:29
Finally, I will concede that there is no way to "prove" that there is no invisible external source creating language in the brain (like god, or nonlocal whatever), but there are also no good ways to prove that there is, and only the thinnest, non-functional evidence points to this option.

In contrast, there is a bounty of evidence to confirm that consciousness is entirely localized in form and function of neural circuitry, and after performing precise functional scans we can perform surgery to fix, adapt, or remove whatever functions we choose. This is demonstrable and not in dispute. This answer is the simplest and most functional and has the best evidence and does not require any "metaphysics". I will always chose this option, no matter how slick your philosophy might sound.

jamesk : 2013-07-03 08:29:37
Also, I tend to ignore the disputes, because after studying academia for a couple decades I have realized that disputes often have nothing to do with evidence and are actually territorial pissing matches between this or that academic. This is the main reason I stayed out of academia. I did not want to study "disputes", I want to find good simple answers.

This is why I dismiss philosophy, because it is more interested in building arguments that solving problems. For instance, I see evidence of something simple, like a part of the brain that produces language when stimulated. Hey humans have this neat part of their brain that helps them create language. When it is injured it stops working. That is evidence of form and function in structure, end of assumption. If you want to say it is evidence of something else (external voices?) then YOU are the one who is jumping through hoops to explain something that violates physics because you have a "dispute". I see no dispute. What I see is indisputable. If you dispute the evidence, you should at least provide better experiments to prove your point.

jamesk : 2013-07-03 08:23:14
I understand there is dispute in this field, but to my best examination of all the evidence I no longer see dispute, I see what I see and am comfortable with my assertions, even if someone with more "credibility" than me wants to disagree. I have no stake in the game of arguing phenomena, I only want the answers that are the least wrong, which is where I will always err on the side of. If you want to go with an alternate answer that is fine, but don't get mad at me. I am not looking at the light or the bulb or the switch or the electrons, I am looking at the wires. The way the wires are connected is what makes the long and the short of consciousness. It is reductive, yes, but after studying all the evidence that is the least wrong answer.
OurMethodIsScience. : 2013-07-02 13:23:03
I want to add that I am not a troll.

I have purchased your book and consider this podcast one of my favorites. I am deeply grateful that you and Jake host such worthwhile content.

Personally, I found this episode a misstep--perhaps because of the juxtaposition especially. Whereas we first have a rounded, sympathetic portrayal of Catholic roots, we then get a "How can you use the Internet if you ain't a Darwinist?" sort of laughable reductionism.

OurMethodIsScience. : 2013-07-02 13:15:02
Moreover, I mentioned Chalmers, who can be dismissed (of course, will be dismissed with added nothing-buttery) as a philosopher.

Nonetheless, you did not dare dispute my other claim: neuroscientific scholarship is not a settled domain. As I said, even Damasio has his critics. My larger point is that more informed people than you, people that have specialized in both fields, contest your conclusions. So, to present "facts" and boast of one's intellectual might, is nothing but conceit.

John Eccles could run synaptic circles around you in the literature, I am sure. And he could likely fix what ailed my brain, too.

OurMethodIsScience. : 2013-07-02 13:08:31
You're missing the fallacy.

To create electrode-induced voices simply does not dispel any other occurrence of heard voices as illusory. More investigation would necessarily be required. In other words, if I hear your voice, you cannot simply point to these experiments as proof I was hallucinating.

jamesk : 2013-07-02 10:02:49
@OurMethod - And if you want to argue that voices created via electrode stimulation of a language center are not "of the brain" and are coming from an external source, like a spirit or something, then you have already demonstrated the silly lengths people will go to in order to ignore evidence in favor of something that is just plain crazy.
jamesk : 2013-07-02 09:59:31
@OurMethod, I'm sure you will go see a neuroscientist when your brain breaks, because a neuroscientist can locate and fix brain problems with reductionism. David Chalmers cannot fix anything with his philosophy. You can believe all the hot air you want but I will believe what can be demonstrated with a brain lying open on a table and a couple electrodes, which are the demonstrable "facts" I so smugly boast about.
OurMethodIsScience. : 2013-07-01 13:09:04
You're too old and too psychedelicized to speak the way you do.

Your conclusions, presented as necessitarian "musts," are not sufficiently informed by either science or philosophy. You smuggle in a host of presuppositions and then present your philosophic doctrines as "facts," in a misleading no-cards-up-my-sleeve manner. There's plenty of disagreeable content. Your insistence on nothing-buttery is comical, if not for the outsized confidence you baste them in.

David Chalmers, who is likely better equipped than you in both neuroscience and philosophy, would contest much of what you claimed as "fact." That is just one thinker out of a legion more who disagree with you on fundamentals. Basic inquiry into neuroscientific research shows underlying disputes, even with the talking points you present. Heck, not even everyone agrees with Damasio for chrissakes.

I mean, does pointing out the anatomical portion of the brain that processes language, ipso facto, prove that heard voices are entirely unreal? That's entirely fallacious.

I certainly appreciate a more scientific approach to this topic, but you are the worst variant of reductionist (reductionism can be a valid worldview, but you have perverted it).

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