Author Archives: Alexander Bard

Syntheism and the Creative Commons

Dear Friends

One of Syntheism’s utopian beliefs and practices is that ideas should not be owned by anybody but deserve to be shared and spread to as many people as possible, We call this the Free The Meme principle. This is why we are proud to acknowledge that all the material published here at syntheism.org is also free for all to use under the rules of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0. So go ahead and let the Syntheist meme take over your mind too.

Hourtopia – a participatory artistic take on “The Infinite Now”

You may already be familar with the Syntheist concept of The Infinite Now – the idea of a transcendental experience within which all of time and history seems encapsulated into one single moment  and place in passing. While The Infinite Now is of course the name of the Syntheist baptism act, and as such a both dividual and communal event of immense importance, the concept also refers to kairos, the classic Greek concept of time as a short moment when everything happens at once, as distinct from kronos, time as pure duration.Hourtopia

An interesting and highly recommended online participatory art project with a similar theme is Hourtopia. Please feel most welcome to check it out at the Hourtopia web page or on Facebook and make your own artistic contribution.

Where and when does all of history seem encapsulated into a short time span and at a specific place in your own life? Would you even like to contribute to Hourtopia with a picture of your own Syntheist baptism act?

American Syntheist Philosophy: Robert Corrington on Ecstastic Naturalism

Dear Friends

I have had the most fascinatiing email discussion recently with American philosopher and theologian Robert Corrington. He is the author of the much recommended books Nature’s Sublime: An Essay in Aesthetic Naturalism, A Semiotic Theory of Theology and Philosophy and Nature and Spirit: An Essay in Ecastic Naturalism.

Robert Corrington

Corrington has basically studied and written about what we conduct here at syntheism.org for almost three decades. Unsurprisingly, he shares our love for Leibniz, Schelling and most of all the great American Pragmatists, such as Charles Sanders Peirce and William James.

As for the question on how to handle “The God Concept” from a Syntheist perspective, here is the response Corrington gave me and which I now publish here at syntheism.org with his kind permission.

First, I affirm that whatever is, is a natural complex, that is, that ‘it’ is in and of nature and is complex. There can be no such thing as a simple. There can be nothing out of nature, as nature has no boundary or circumference, and by the same logic, nature can have no center and no telos either internally or externally. It follows logically that God must be a natural complex that/who is in and among all of the other orders of nature natured. This is a finite but LARGE god that has great but not infinite scope—I prefer to say “indefinite” scope instead—a bit like the view of William James in his 1907 Pragmatism Lectures.

Hence, in terms of immanence, god is active in the world but in profoundly limited ways. For me, this is where god-ing and involution operate—on the outer edges of evolution. Our encounter with microbursts of spiritual energy lifts up our metaphysical gaze to an expanded consciousness and to an enriched sense of the infinite modalities of nature that simultaneously enables us to look downward into the abyss of nature naturing. Nature is all that there is and a deep pantheism starts from that realization—hence there is no place for an ontological act of creation in Neville’s sense. Rather we get my definition of creation in this definition of nature naturing: “Nature perennially creating itself out of itself alone,” while nature natured is: “the innumerable orders of the world where there is no order of orders.”

Following Feuerbach I argue that 99% of what we call God is in fact a species driven ego-ideal that comes from a kind of wounded narcissism in the pre-Oedipal stage that tries to replace a non-existent or weak parental ideal with a fiction of an omnipotent father idealization that operates as a projection of the idealized idol of our species-being. In one sense Karl Barth is right; namely, after Schleiermacher, theology becomes anthropology. And I say, yes it does, and that is a good thing—up to a point. The ego-ideal is a valid projection that quickens the selving process—its pilgrimage in the dark world of space, time, and causality. However, further individuation requires both deconstruction of these species-wide idols and reconstruction on the other side were we see images of wholeness coming out of the arts and no longer just out of religion with its tendency to lapse into heteronomy and violence.

Thus far we have the gods of the collective unconscious that get projected onto the infinite motility and movement of nature, and a unifying drive to find just one God to anchor the self in history and place. This drive fails for finite Dasein (Heidegger) or Existenz (Jaspers) as the psyche is geared to embrace a wild free zone of polytheism. Heidegger’s a-theism (and Neo-Paganism) has this part right—his topos is in the no-person’s land that is pre-Socratic and post-Christian. Few Heideggerians realize that the ‘master’ developed contempt for both Catholicism and Protestantism.  His eschatology is absolutely not Christian even if he uses language from the Christian world—but how changed in meaning!  There is no bridge connecting The History of Being with The History of the Sacred (Geist).

Second, we have the issue of nature naturing. Some simply equate it with God. I do not—that would be too simplistic. Nature naturing is the fecund ground of the potencies (Schelling), which serve as the enveloping womb for the complexes that are ejected into the world of nature natured. This transition, like Schopenhauer’s idea of the objectification of the Will, is a profound mystery right on the extreme edges of ordinal phenomenology and its own remarkable powers. The gods and goddesses of the collective unconscious, working through projection, arise in the liminal zone between the collective and personal unconscious—sometimes reaching consciousness and sometimes not. They are the standard bearers for the archetypes.

But, God is curled up in the very abyss of nature naturing—different from ’it,’ but an absolute kind of prevalence that I call, following Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine. I will have more to say about nature naturing and the Life Divine in the books I will be writing in the months and years ahead.

 

Breaking Convention: Multidisciplinary Conference of Psychedelic Consciousness

We’re very pleased to announce that videos of lectures from Breaking Convention: Multidisciplinary Conference of Psychedelic Consciousness at the University of Kent in 2011, and the University of Greenwich in 2013 are now starting to appear free online at the Ecology, Cosmos and Consciousness salon channel alongside videos from this lecture series.

ECC

Speakers so far include (in order of appearance):

Dr Serena Roney-Dougal
Dr Cathy Montgomery
Dr Matthew Watkins
Charlotte Walsh
Casey Hardison ex-PoWD
Aimee Tollan
Charles Shaw ex-PoWD
Dr Carhart-Harris
Prof Ralph Metzner
Amanda Feilding
Prof Bernard Carr
Leaf Fielding ex-PoWD
Andy Roberts
Dr Andy Letcher
Dr Ben Sessa
Dr David Luke
Peter Sjostedt Hughes
Joseph Bicknell
Oli Genn Bash
Dave King
Mike Crowley
Alan Moore
Mark Pilkington
Mike Jay

Marrying Physics with Philosophy, Lee Smolin opens the door to an exciting merger with Religion too

Lee Smolin (born 1955) is one of the world’s leading theoretical physicists. He is a Professor at the Perimeter Institute at the University of Ontario, Canada. Smolin is best known for his contributions to quantum gravity theory, in particular the approach known as loop quantum gravity (LQG). He advocates that the two primary approaches to quantum gravity, loop quantum gravity and string theory, can be reconciled as different aspects of the same underlying theory.

Lee Smolin

Frustrated with the abrupt stop, spanning over the last three decades, to the amazing Physics revolution which began with Albert Einstein’s theories on general and special relativity and the Quantum Physics revolution – which was kickstarted by Max Planck and peaked with Niels Bohr’s amazing philosophical as much as physicist work in the 1930s – Smolin has pursued a highly original path in Physics, for example with his controversial mainstream breakthrough The Life of The Cosmos, a highly recommended book where he argues for a new approach to multiverse theory which he calls cosmological natural selection.

Smolin has summarized his citicism of contemporary Physics in his tombstone The Trouble With Physics, only to then explore some brand new controversial ideas in his latest work Time Reborn. There Smolin argues that Time is the constantly underrated factor in Physics. Ever since Plato and all the way up to Einstein (via Isaac Newton), Physics has tried very hard to turn Time into an illusion, or at least merely an extra domension to Space (which has been presented as the true constant of Physics).

Smolin turns the Spacetime Paradigm around by making Time the mysterious constant of Physics, the undeniably true factor which Physics has yet to explore properly. Time is not merely a dimension of Spacetime as if a clumsily added dimension to Space. Time is the rather the beginning and end of everything physical, and the main factor to which everything else in Physics has to relate. This move radically changes almost everything we have heard from speculative Physics during the last few decades.

Relying on the classic mobilist philosophies of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and David Hume, Smolin then pursues a mobilist rather than totalist approach to Physics. We doubt he has read Gilles Deleuze, Manuel De Landa, or Karen Barad yet, but if anything, it is among these thinkers that Smolin is likely to find his strongest supporters in the world of Philosophy.

Because the daring questions Smolin raises are: What if there are no universal laws outside of The Universe (as Plato, Newton, and Einstein have all insisted)? What if the Universe is truly contingent? What if the future is truly open? Niels Bohr proved that The Universe is properly indeterministic (to Einstein’s enormous frustration). Is Smolin perhaps the true ancestor of the formidable Bohr today? At least you can’t deny hardly anybody has made the borderland between Physics and Philosophy this exiciting for a long long time.

Why just stop at relativism, why not go all the way, and propose full-on relationalism? Perhaps there are no such things as objects in The Universe to begin with? Perhaps there are just fields and relations? So how do we relate to such a revolutionary new understanding of reality? Let’s just say Syntheism is well prepared. We add Lee Smolin to our potential future saints, and place him next to Gilles Deleuze, Manuel De Landa, and Karen Barad. Marrying Physics with Philosophy, Lee Smolin opens the door to an exciting merger with Religion too.

What is a flash mass?

Syntheists experiment with the celebration of flash masses. A flash mass is a hybrid between a flash mob and a spontaneous street mass, and the most obvious large scale example is of course the burning of The Man on Saturday night every year at the Burning Man festival  in Nevada. However, a flash mass can be celebrated just about anywhere at any time – indoors or outdoors – and although it may have thousands of participants, it actually requires no more than two friends gathering and is often small scale.

Flash Mass

A simple and often celebrated form of Syntheist flash mass is initiated merely a couple of days in advance, and is typically celebrated in somebody’s home or a nearby public park, lasting anywhere between 25 to 45 minutes. A flash mass often opens with a sounding ceremony; where the participants hold hands while standing in a ring and make sounds to make their bodies feel as one, rather than as the usual seperate entities. This is followed by a homilia; a short speech on for example a spirtitual, scientific, or syntheological matter. This is in turn folllowed by a meditation, a social moment of silence.

The meditation, which may be as long or as a short as the participants wish, is followed by a personal testimony, a story which can be told by just about anybody in the group on what brought them to the flash mass. The testimony may for example be a shared insight into a personal spiritual quest. Next the participants often listen to, or make, music together, after which they share peace hugs with each other; hugging as many of the other participants as they can or want to, followed by the pressing of hands to the right top of each other’s chests, looking the hugging partner into the eyes, while wishing her or him peace.

You and your fellow Syntheist friends may of course experiment with the celeberation of flash masses too anywhere and at any time you like. Please feel most welcome to share your experiences here at syntheism.org. This is indeed religion in the making.

Religion and Psychedelia: The Syntheist take on a controversial topic

One of the most controversial issues in theological debates is the widespread and growing use of psychedelic substances to encourage religious experience. Undeniably, psychedelic substances like magic mushrooms, LSD, MDMA,  and ayahuasca activate the very same areas of the human brain as traditional religious experience and have been widely used in various religions for thousands of years. So why the current controversy, and is there a Syntheist take on the growing use of psychedelic substances for religious purposes?

Psychedelia 3

Some Syntheists prefer the exclusive use of techniques such as mediatation and contemplation to achieve their religious experiences. Others welcome the occasional additional usage of psychedelic substances. Since the former is widely accepted in contemporary society while the latter remains highly controversial, the important thing is not to succumb to a temporary contemporary morality – many things we now take for granted as part of our human freedoms have been banned in the past for the most ridiculous and prejudiced reasons, the bias against psychedelics may very well be one such area of prejudiced moralism today – but to leave the decision on whether to use psychedelic substances for religious purposes to each individual practitioner and to increase scientific reasearch on the long-term effects of psychedelic substaces rather than succumb to moralistic prejudice.

Syntheism therefore takes the stand that we respect the choice of religious practice each grown-up responsible individual Syntheist makes, leaving our religion in the making open to sound and creative experimentaton, and that laws and regulations in society should be adjusted to scientific knowledge and not to biased prejudice. Denying people the right to a proper religious experience on the grounds that the practices are morally upsetting to other people – whom it does not really concern – is unacceptable and could rather be viewed as a modern form of religious persecution.

Psychedelia 2

So while neither encouraging nor discouraging the use of psychedelic substances for religious experience, Syntheists are asked to act responsibly and with respect to scientific knowledge (please remember science is sacred to Syntheists) while not succumbing to the moralistic prejudices prevalent in contemporary laws and regulations. After all, we worship Syntheos and not the Logos of any government when such a Logos contradicts our firm beliefs in human and religious freedom.

To be a Syntheist is to be open, creative, on the move, especially in relation to the wrongs and injustices of the times we live in. To be a Syntheist is also to act firmly against any form of drug abuse, since abuse is opposed to the freedom and enlightenment we support and encourage for all human beings. But non-abusive and enlightening drug use can and should not be categorized as abusive, on scientific and ethical grounds.

Syntheism is after all the utopian religion par excellence. We do not believe God created us, we believe we are capable of creating God. And for some well educated and responsible people, this ambition may include the occasional use of psychedelic substances. Live and let live!