Category Archives: Philosophy

The philosophical foundation of syntheism

On Surface Tension and the Fathoming of the Depth Beneath the Storm to Come

There is a stone I wish to throw in the pond, wondering what ripples will be brought back to me.

Concerning the surface tension of names and the depths that rears beneath them, the trinitary concepts of Being, Nothing and the movement of Difference are standard, easily hooked up onto the traditions of philosophy from Parmenides to post structural process philosophers. The point where there is a storm brewing is Utopia – the Kingdom Come – whose injunction has found a peculiar home on the horizon, exactly by being both obscured by the cynicism of our age fueled by the doubt that makes us question the very goodness of our place in the world, but also by being this ephemeral thing over on the edge of possibility. Here the concept is actually mysterious and not clear-cut while its name is temptingly and trickingly clear.

Here the concept cannot be contained by an abstraction as its content wanders towards the very possibility of community and asks for a concrete realization of exactly the space in between being and its possible not-yet future that hovers over and beyond it. It is exactly in case of Syntheos/Utopia that we can fathom the risk involved, as the idea or fantasy of the possible has been for millennia distracting communities from the here and now as they attempt to reify their fantasy, obscuring contact with being through their single minded focus on a specific mode of the possible future.

Naming these ‘gods’ and worshipping them is such a small step, compared to the problems that hover above us in the task of actually plotting the complex reality of the intricate communities that are motivated by myriads of vectors of desire that are implanted by the ancient regime of hyper-capitalism, and the question of how they can be inverted/converted/ecoverted into Utopia.

The congregation and mass itself plays on the surface tension wrought by the rearing depths of our mind and the spirit machines that fuel our desires. Utopia itself being the remnant of a promise intrinsic to the Abrahamic religions that made us forgive the problems of the current in expectancy of the kingdom come that would baptize reality in the injunction of the deluge of grace. In this sense Syntheism is formally identical to this grand historical movement of expectation for the future.

But how exactly is the waiting converted into action instead of pacifying us like it has done throughout the ages?

Syntheism in its co-creative rituals and Bacchanals have got the first miracle of Jesus down: turning water into wine, bringing people together in a new way, high on the contemplation of the possible. But what about kicking the money lenders out of the temple? A sermon on the mount? Shaming the Pharisees by revealing their fetish of law? And the longwinded battle of conversion through letters akin to the apostle Paul? These moments brought down a spiritual empire and instated a new one, pointing to the revolutionary character of the movement. It brought with it a concrete dialectic that charged the fort of the old, and converted it.

The devotional ritual for Syntheos should thus be (r)evolutionary in action, not merely some formal procession where attention to an abstraction is enacted.

It is these questions that lurk beneath the surface, fueling the storm that is brewing around the world. It is pointing us towards an meteorology of the spiritual-political-industrial complex and the search for the butterfly that is able to flap its wing in exactly the right way to make the Storm come.


Image: The Spiritual Form of Nelson Guiding Leviathan in Whose Wreathings are Enfolded the Nations of the Earth, circa 1805-9, William Blake 1757-1827.

I am, because of you


One of my greatest heroes recently passed away, Nelson Mandela. Seeing his image or hearing his name makes me proud to be human, just happy to exist. So it was with heavy heart I received the news of his death. If we want to be more like him it is fitting to explore his philosophy of life. He had a simple credo, Ubunto, which I think, can be applicable to Syntheism as well.

The idea is that what we are, as humans, is created by others. Our place in our communities defines who we are. The human as a purely social animal. Without a collective to share with, we do exist, but not as humans. We need others to care about, affirm their feelings, hopes and desires and in turn be affirmed by others. People are not people, without other people.

 

I am because of you.

The longitudinal Grant study, where 237 Harvard students have been followed for 75 years, does strongly indicate that sharing and giving to others is what makes us happy. Another way to say it is that Ubuntu seems to be hard-wired into our genes. So we might as well live by it.

It’s not a complicated credo follow. But it is hard. It requires you to let go of your ego now and again and focus completely on somebody else, to allow yourself to be there for others.

Quotes on Ubuntu

“One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity.

We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.”

– Desmond Tutu

“A person is a person through other people strikes an affirmation of one’s humanity through recognition of an ‘other’ in his or her uniqueness and difference. It is a demand for a creative intersubjective formation in which the ‘other’ becomes a mirror (but only a mirror) for my subjectivity. This idealism suggests to us that humanity is not embedded in my person solely as an individual; my humanity is co-substantively bestowed upon the other and me. Humanity is a quality we owe to each other. We create each other and need to sustain this otherness creation. And if we belong to each other, we participate in our creations: we are because you are, and since you are, definitely I am. The ‘I am’ is not a rigid subject, but a dynamic self-constitution dependent on this otherness creation of relation and distance”.

– Michael Onyebuchi Eze

“A traveller through a country would stop at a village and he didn’t have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food and attend him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu, but it will have various aspects. Ubuntu does not mean that people should not enrich themselves. The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve?”

-Nelson Mandela

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ubuntu_(philosophy)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grant_Study

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.

 

God Matters, and the Question of God’s Existence is Irrelevant

The question of whether or not God exists has traditionally been the central focus of debates between theists and atheists, along with related epistemological questions such as under what conditions we are justified in believing in or rejecting belief in God. In the context of these debates, “belief in God” is generally understood in terms of belief in the existence of a more or less (though usually less) well-defined entity or being with a number of properties (e.g. “personal”, “conscious”, “supernatural”, “transcendent”, “omnipotent”, “omniscient”, “omnibenevolent”, “creator of the universe”, and so on). For both theists and atheists working with such a conception of God, the religious/anti-religious struggle becomes a matter of providing arguments and evidence either in favor of or against the existence of such an entity.

Considering the popularity of this approach to religion and God, the title of this text may at first glance seem somewhat paradoxical, or in any case a bit counterintuitive to a lot of people. After all, most theists and atheists seem to hold the question of whether or not God exists to be of utmost importance. In the end, isn’t the existence of God what religion is all about? The Syntheist response to this question is a resounding “No”. However, this does not mean that Syntheists need to dismiss the concept of God as unimportant.

awe

As I’ve pointed out before, the four key concepts of Syntheism—Atheos, Pantheos, Entheos and Syntheos—all have the word theos (i.e. god) embedded in them. This doesn’t mean that when we are talking about for example Pantheos, we are postulating the existence of a particular being with certain properties. Rather, the use of a term like Pantheos, which can be translated as “the Universe as God”, is meant to express a certain attitude—in the case of Pantheos, toward the Universe or Existence as such, which we choose to regard as divine. In a similar way, our use of the term Syntheos is meant to express a certain attitude toward our relationships and our longing to belong with the Other, which we too regard as divine.

Given that our use of the terms Pantheos/Syntheos etc. primarily expresses our commitment to regarding the Universe/our relationships etc. as divine, it makes no sense to ask whether or not Pantheos/Syntheos “exist”—to do so is to miss the point of our talk about God or the divine entirely. The appropriate question to ask is rather what role these concepts play in our lives; how our decision to regard the Universe and our relationships as divine and holy affects us.

Thus, from a Syntheist point of view, the question of whether or not God exists is irrelevant, because we do not conceive of God in terms of a particular being with certain properties; nor are we interested in fervently denying the existence of such a being. While Syntheism is sometimes described as the “religion of spiritual atheism”, this description is a bit misleading, for Syntheism aims to move beyond both theism and atheism. Rather than wasting our time arguing for or against the existence of God, we choose instead to appropriate the concept of God to suit our spiritual needs and desires. God thereby becomes a name for those aspects of reality that we choose to regard as divine and holy, and in this sense, God still matters as much as ever.

Overcoming grief

_gorilla_grief

Allwetter Zoo, a mother holding her dead son

 When it comes to overcoming grief and emotional pain, it turns out, humans are not all that unique. It’s true that we have a wide variety of methods with which to flee our troubles. Examples are: work, drugs, sex, relationships, hobbies, physical exercise etc. But when it comes to what we need to do to face them and move on we are all remarkably similar. 

When I had a painful loss in my life I couldn’t deal with alone, I came in contact with the research of John W James and Russell Friedman of the Grief recovery Institute. In order to better help people in their practice they did extensive research and identified several discrete steps all grieving need to take to overcome their pain. I’ve come to recognise these principles in various religious practices. It seems like major religions have already figured these steps out, if not in theory, at least in practice, and are all acting on them:

James’ and Friedman’s steps to overcoming emotional pain:

1. Acknowledge that you have issues and define what they are. When we feel emotional discomfort our first instinct is to avoid the pain. Instead try to allow yourself to feel what you feel.

2. Accept that you have part of the responsibility to overcome your grief.

3. Identify your thoughts and feelings. Especially feelings you haven’t expressed yet.

4. Express those feelings in a safe environment.

5. If you’ve been honest with yourself and done the work you should be able to say goodbye to the pain. Find strength and joy by this. Learn and grow.

Intellectualising emotional pain, by itself, never works. Understanding why you are sad won’t make the pain go away. Feelings have their own rational and rarely cooperate. Contrary to popular belief time doesn’t heal all wounds. Keeping busy and trying to ignore the pain will only serve to prolong the pain. In time we may push the pain into our subconscious, make it part of our personality. But until we dare face it and deal with it, it will linger, draining us and dragging us down.

In order to feel safe and be relaxed enough to face our fears, honestly share and be open with how we feel we need a people around us we feel safe with. We need to feel respected and cared for. We need to be able to weep together and laugh together. The mending of broken hearts requires hard work and is difficult to do alone. This is the kind of basic unit around which all religious communities are built.

So what about other people’s sorrow?

If we want to be part of the supportive community for others we need to know what to do. Best advice. Don’t over-think it. Just say “I’m sorry. I can’t imagine how it must feel for you. How have you been doing?”. It communicates that you care, that you’re not about to belittle their pain or give them unwelcome “expert” advice and it gives them the opportunity to talk to you about it without it coming off as prying.

The mortician Caitlin Doughty has a witty and fun vlog about her job and death called Ask a Mortician. Here’s a good video from her on the topic of grieving.

 Rituals to help us overcome emotional pain

Burial rituals are designed as a sacred space where the grieving are given a safe space to express their pain, say words they feel need to be said to the deceased and a to take a final farewell. They all contain the above steps and components.

埋葬-001-1024x768

Shinto burial ritual

  1. “yukan,” washing the corpse, the family washes the deceased.
  2. “kiyu hokoku,” The family announces the death through prayer
  3. “makura naoshi no gi,” the deceased is placed with the head facing north.
  4. Food, sword and a knife is left of the the deceased
  5. “nokan no gi,” the placemend of the deceased in the coffin.
  6. “kyuzen nikku,” daily offerings to the deceased at the altar.
  7. Announcement of the return of the spirit.
  8. “bosho batsujo no gi,” earth purification ceremony of the grave site.
  9.  “Kessai,” priest’s purification
  10. “tsuya sai,” the wake
  11. “senrei sai,” transfer of the spirit, a priest transfers the deceased’s spirit from the body into a wooden tablet. The tablet is held over the deceased while the priest says a prayer.
  12. “settai,” refreshments, food cooked and is served to the mourners.
  13. “Shinsosai,” the funeral service. The room is purified, offerings are made and eulogies are given by the priests.
  14. “kokobetsu shiki,” farewell ceremony, mourners file out past the deceased and say farewells.
  15. “hakkyu sai no gi,” the preparation of the coffin for removal to the grave site.
  16. “soretsu,” funeral procession.
  17. “hakkyu-go batsujo nogi,” purification of the house, priests and relatives purify the house with cleaning after the coffin leaves. The funeral altar is removed and a new altar is set up.
  18. “maisosai,” burial rites, family and close friends assemble at the grave site or crematorium with the body. More offerings are placed with the coffin.
  19. “kotsuage,” picking up the bones, bones are removed from the crematorium ash and put in a vase.
  20. “Kika sai,” coming home, step 20, is the return of the ashes to the home. The family thanks the people who helped with the funeral and places the ashes in the family shrine.

Priests have in all times been trusted persons to safely share with. Ideally, it’s a person who exists apart from everyday life only to be a spiritual guide, to share with and who can be trusted never to abuse their position. We don’t have priests in Syntheism. But we do have a community and the shared wisdom collected in all the world’s religions.

Priest hears confession durng 2012 men's retreat at New York high school

Catholic confession

It’s important to actually say goodbye. Even though Syntheists don’t believe in an afterlife, the soul, ghosts or anything supernatural you still remember those you have lost. You know them, their mannerisms and the kinds of things they would say. You can still talk to them in your head, feel their presence. I’m sure we’ve all had such solo dialogues. In such an internal discussion you can admit things, forgive them or tell them things you need them to hear, and it’ll still have an impact on you as if they really were in front of you.

If you have unfinished business with somebody you have lost, you can use this method to settle things. Say it out loud. Preferably in the presence of another person. Whatever you need to say, say it and it can help to heal your wound. For psychological reasons, saying it out aloud with trusted people present is much more effective for healing this kind of pain, than just thinking it in your head. Community and the support from others is critical. We all need an understanding voice that listens.

Will the circle be unbroken (written by Ada R. Habershon). Sung by Bernice Johnson Reagon. A Christian lament for a dead mother

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1046549/A-mothers-grief-Heartbroken-gorilla-cradles-dead-baby.html

http://www.griefrecoverymethod.com

http://www.rotunda.ie/MaternityCare/MaternitySupportServices/Bereavement.aspx

http://people.opposingviews.com/20-steps-shinto-funeral-2693.html

http://www.pbs.org/thebuddha/blog/2010/Mar/11/buddhist-perspective-grieving-roshi-joan-halifax/

http://www.catholic.org/prayers/confession.php

An Alternative Creation Myth Part I: The Universe

Introduction

Syntheism has unlike other religions ingeniously placed God in the future rather than in the past. While other religions have been built on the idea that God created the universe and then man, Syntheism has quite logically done the reverse. Any definition of God is in essence that of an unfathomable power with a complexity beyond human understanding, and as our capacity of understanding the universe and ourselves grows, an historical God diminishes. He is in essence continuously pushed to the boundaries our science and knowledge has yet been able to reach. This is “The God of the gaps”. Before we understood rain, it was a work of god. When we found out the Earth revolved around the sun but couldn’t explain how, there God was again. The Big Bang can in effect be described as the final blow that put God out of history altogether, relegating it to a realm of pre-time and pre-existence where he is safe from further attack, but also quite useless.

Creating A God

Some interesting questions arise…

Syntheism has no need for a God of the past, and the sciences put him where he belongs: In the future. This is not just a logical and creative way to handle the God concept, but also quite useful. Rather than assume an existing God, we have a goal to strive towards. We are aware that the old God doesn’t exist, but at the same time aware of our need for what post-atheism religion can offer, such as community, a sense of meaning and something to strive toward. None of those things need a historic God to exist. In fact, a historic God has often been nonconstructive and lead us humans astray. Many atrocities have been committed in the name of Gods and the absolute truths supposedly handed down through a variety of human vessels. Whether these prophets were enlightened people or just skilled opportunistic politicians can often be hard to deduce.

The fact we don’t actually need a Creation Myth can be viewed in two ways. We can just use the idea of Big Bang as the creation of universe and accept scientific claims that there is no point in asking what happened before that. But there is however another view to take. One that is more in line with the Syntheism movements idea of creating the values that other religions have managed, but without the superstition or logical inconsistencies that come with it. We could create our own Creation Myth.

Since we are unbound by preconditions and don’t actually need a Creation Myth, it gives us quite a lot of freedom. We can create one that brings both a sense of awe, meaning, purpose and perhaps even comfort. Our only restrictions are that:

  1. It can not contradict what science today knows about the universe
  2. It can not be logically inconsistent

That on the other hand leaves a wide scope of creativity, limited only by our imagination. And if you don’t like a particular Creation Myth, you can disregarded it, suggest changes or come up with your own. Here’s mine, I hope you like it:

The God of the Future

The universal definition of God is an entity with the capacity to create a functioning universe that has the capability to sustain life. And science shows that life strives through natural selection towards higher and higher degrees of complexity. At the beginning of the Big Bang, about 14 billions years ago there was barely no complexity, at least compared to what we have now. Time unlike other dimensions seems to move in only one direction, and complexity in form of intelligence and life, is a continual growth into more and more complex system as a function of time.

Therefore it makes absolute sense to place God ahead of us rather than behind us. And just as the power of today’s civilization would appear god-like to our previous hunter-gatherer societies, it makes sense that our future civilization will appear god-like to what we are right now. With the exponential growth of knowledge, technology and power we are experiencing, it would not defy logic to assume that we will sometime in the future be successful in creating (or becoming) God(s) in the very fundamental definition of being able to create universes that themselves have the capacity to generate life and intelligence, assuming we don’t destroy ourselves in the process of getting there.

That last bit is important. Because if we are talking about an entity, be it a collective as a civilization, an Artificial Intelligence or something else, it also follows that this entity would have a morality that matches its power. An omnipotent entity or collective will have a capacity for destruction that means that in order to get there, it will have to develop a super morality. We as humans have already passed the threshold that allows us to completely annihilate our existence, but our morality and capacity to co-exist has not been able to keep up with this development.

But if we in the future manage to achieve the ability to create or simulate complete universes, it seems inevitable that it will be done. After all, once you have that capacity, why not use it? If we are, as we like to think, a creative species, this would be the ultimate act of creativity. Today we are limited to creating offspring, inventions, buildings and many other marvelous things, such as the computer I am writing this text on. But unless we manage to collectively destroy ourselves on the way, we should inevitably end up with the capacity to create or simulate completely new universes.

I use the words create and simulate inter-changeably since there is in essence no difference, at least not for the universe and inhabitants of the creation or simulation. Whether you’re real or simulated makes no difference. As long as you think you’re real, you are real in the only way that matters.

One interesting point of this idea is that it is universally true. Up until now I’ve focused on the human race that is living in the 14:th billion year of the current universe, in a galaxy with 200-400 billion stars. One German super computer put the total number of galaxies at roughly 500 billion. That would give a shy estimate of 200 billion stars times 500 billion galaxies. That’s 100.000.000.000.000.000.000.000 or 100 sextillion stars.

No matter how you look at it, that’s a lot of stars. And no matter how you look at it, 14 billions years is a lot of time. In fact, it’s not just a lot of time it’s all the time there’s been up until now. So if one planet circling one of 100 sextillion possible stars has developed life to the point that we can now seriously start to see in the dim distance future the possibility of true creation, we have to acknowledge that it might also be going on elsewhere. More than that, we have to consider the fact that it might already have happened.

Once the ability to create universes becomes a reality, it will of course be used. After all, the only way to get the possibility is by a combination of intelligence, creativity and moral, on a scale beyond what we can currently comprehend.

And if we allow for the possibility that we in the future can achieve this, and that this is universally true, there is no logical limit to the amount of universes that can be created this way. So you have to ask yourself the question: What is most probable, that we are the one ‘original’ universe, and the only planet with intelligent creative life, or that we are one of the infinite amount of universes that can be created? Interpreted in mathematics we are basically forced to compare the probability of 1 thing against what could well be an infinity, if at least not a very big number. Following that logic, it seems a lot more probable that we are in effect living in one of the simulated universes.

Now two questions naturally arise:

  1. What does that mean? Well, in reality it doesn’t really change anything. What we consider reality is per our own definition reality, whether it is simulated or not.
  2. Other than the argument itself, is there any evidence for this Creation Myth?

Well, as previously pointed out the main criteria of a post-atheism Creation Myth is not whether it is supported by science, but rather whether it contradicts what we at this point know about the universe. As far as I am able to assess it, there is no conflict between this hypothesis and the current scientific consensus. Big Bang would simply be regarded as the start of the simulation, the Syntheist god in whatever shape pushing the universal start-button.

Got any evidence?

Of course I don’t, but in order to spark further debate I have come up with some scientific findings that I would like to creatively use as inductive suggestions of evidence. Some require more leaps of imagination than others:

  • There seems to be an absurd over-abundance of information storage capacity in everything, fractal geometry is one example. One gram of active carbon having the area of a football field is another and our own DNA a third. Our DNA only needs about 3 percent of it, the rest seems to be information that somehow has been resistant to the process of natural selection.
  • Dark matter and energy, what’s up with that? Most of the universe seems to be made up by it, what is it hiding from us?
  • String theory has come up with a bunch of new dimensions, but also describes the building blocks of matter as vibrating strings. An open string is a loop (basically a 0), and a closed string is a strip, basically a 1. That’s how a computer thinks. And if you add a vibrating frequency to it, you exponentially grow the amount of information it can carry. A binary language can with two binaries mean 4 different things (00, 01, 10, 11). But if every 0 and 1 can vibrate in different frequencies, the information capacity is incredible. Even if we limit it to say only 10.000 frequencies, two binary numbers can now have 4×10.000×10.000 meanings. We’ve gone from 4 to 400 million.
  • The speed of light seems to be the ultimate speed limit, which would make sense if the simulation we live in uses light as the information carrier. Basically nothing inside the simulation can travel quicker than the simulations ability to send information.
  • Last but not least, we have Time itself. Time has been proven to behave strangely, namely by being relative. This is connected to two things, density and speed. Now if we are living in what could be described as a super computer, this makes sense. Density is simply a lot of stuff in the same place at the same time, and will beyond a point be so taxing on the processing capacity that it will slow down time. Even though this super-computer we live in is in effect omnipotent, beyond a certain point things will simply be so taxing for it that it takes longer to compute or render it at a normal pace, hence time will slow down. Just as a more complicated program takes longer to run that a simpler one. And as things approach the speed of light, the same phenomenon occurs. As things start moving closer to the maximum speed of information transformation within the system, they take longer to compute. And if they somehow manage to reach the ultimate speed limit, it won’t compute at all and time will effectively stop.

The Unknown

Are you serious? And what do we get out of it?

Is any of this true? I have no idea, and I’m not even sure that is the point. But it seems like more fun than the current ideas, without violating the scientific discoveries we’ve made. And when given the choice of two otherwise equal explanations, I prefer to go with the more creative one.

On a final note I’d like to come back to some things I mentioned as things to strive for in a Creation Myth: Added values. Any Creation Myth that does not fly in the face of current evidence is acceptable, but it would be nice if it could also bring some added values. So I will put forward some of the bonuses of this particular myth:

The most important one I think is comfort. If we assume this world is indeed the creation or simulation of an entity far beyond what power we can imagine, it must also be a highly moral entity to have been able to come so far. In essence, morality comes down to avoiding suffering and creating well being in other conscious forms of life. Within the simulation we experience all sorts of sorrow, suffering and in the end death. A truly super-moral creator would however not let the intelligence or consciousness that has been created go to waste, nor the inevitable suffering of life be the only reward of consciousness. One scenario would be that once your body dies, your consciousness is saved and either transferred into another part of the simulation or brought out of it. So why not assume that once you die, you’re either freed from the simulation or entered into another?

The other is freedom, creativity and a sense of meaningfulness. What is the purpose of life? Well from the perspective of the creator, life and its increased complexity is its own purpose. After all, a bunch of rocks are simply not that interesting. Striving to learn, develop and promote life in more and more advanced forms would be an external preference from a creator. The more advanced and complicated we become, the more interesting we become from an outside perspective. And in the end we want community. Why not assume that whoever is behind this creation wants that too, and is waiting for us to mature to the level that we can be considered ‘adult’ in its eyes?

And whether we are part of the original universe or one of the simulations, we could always strive, as we Syntheists are doing, to create God. Whether that ends the current simulation or just creates new ones would be interesting to see. I know I’m curious about it.

Of course, by this way of thinking, the brilliance of Syntheism putting God in the future might inadvertently also have ended up putting the God in the past. But at least it is a God we can all respect, a God based on science and morality, and probably with a sense of humor as well.

Embracing the Absurd: Camus and Syntheism

In The Myth of Sisyphus, Albert Camus famously wrote that there is only one truly serious philosophical problem, namely, the problem of suicide, which basically amounts to the simple question: Is life worth living or not? While one need not necessarily agree with that this is the only truly serious philosophical problem, it is certainly the case that this problem in a sense precedes all other philosophical investigations. By turning your attention to another philosophical problem, you have already as it were answered this fundamental question—if not explicitly, then at least implicitly. In fact, in order to do anything (besides contemplating suicide or trying to commit suicide, I suppose), you must first admit that, at least for the time being, life is worth living.

If you admit that life is worth living, another question immediately arises: What makes it so? Several religions have traditionally answered this question with reference to a supreme creator God who, through His mere existence or His having a divine plan for everything, somehow ensures that our lives are inherently meaningful, and therefore worth living. Furthermore, the notion of an afterlife is often used to lend support to the conviction that life has an objective purpose. The logic is as follows: your life fundamentally matters in the grand scheme of things, because your actions in this life will determine what’s going to happen to you after you die; whether you will spend eternity in Heaven or in Hell, whether you will enjoy everlasting bliss or suffer everlasting torment.

Camus rejected the idea that life has an absolute, God-given meaning. However, the question that primarily interested him was not whether or not such a meaning exists, but rather, whether life can still be worth living, even if it has no absolute purpose, goal or meaning. While recognizing that humans have a longing for meaning, order and purpose, he could not help but to also acknowledge the apparent lack thereof, what he called “the unreasonable silence of the world.” This conflict between the human longing for meaning, and the seemingly indifferent and meaningless universe, gives rise to what Camus termed the Absurd.

How to deal with this realization of the basic absurdity of our existence? On Camus’ view, there are three possible responses:

  1. To commit suicide.
  2. To take a Kierkegaardian “leap of faith,” in other words, to give in to a religious belief in a reality beyond the Absurd (e.g. a transcendent God). (Camus dismissed this option as “philosophical suicide.”)
  3. To embrace the Absurd, i.e. to accept the absurdity of our lives, and to go on living in spite of it.

Camus defended the third option. In embracing the Absurd, the absurdist simultaneously affirms life and revolts against the conditions of his existence, fully aware of his own mortality and of the fact that all human endeavors are doomed, not exactly to fail, but to be completely forgotten:

To work and create “for nothing,” to sculpture in clay, to know that one’s creation has no future, to see one’s work destroyed in a day while being aware that fundamentally this has no more importance than building for centuries—this is the difficult wisdom that absurd thought sanctions. (Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus)

How, then, should a Syntheist respond to this above-mentioned conflict between, on the one hand, our longing for meaning, and on the other hand, the “silence” of the universe? On my view, the proper Syntheist response is very much in line with Camus’: to embrace the Absurd; to view life as worth living in spite of the apparent lack of God-given purpose. However, Syntheism takes it one step further: rather than merely accepting this lack, we consciously choose to celebrate it as the very condition of possibility for the co-creation of values and meaning and for the freedom to decide what our lives ultimately are or should be about. To put it differently, it is precisely this lack of God-given meaning that enables the creative emergence of meaning through us. Since Syntheists hold the intersubjective generation of meaning and values to be a sacred activity, the death of God (and with it, the death of God-given Meaning with a capital M) is not an event to be mourned, but, on the contrary, an event to be affirmed and a cause for rejoicing if there ever was one.

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

Today’s Saviors and Superheroes

anonymouse_s640x427Picture yourself an average citizen on planet earth.  You know as a fact the system is wrong yet you are not sure what to do.  You go about your daily life starting with a cup of joe and a shower before work.  You slept in so you may not even have time to cook a proper breakfast.  In that case you may have a bowl of cereal which may not be too healthy for you, but is inexpensive.  You ask yourself “why is the food which is luxury so expensive while the food I need, I cannot afford?”  Regardless, you obey the routine and go about your day.  You go to work.  If you are in the United States, you are lucky if you can call in sick or have a paid vacation.  Life is not as convenient for you as it was for your parents or grandparents when they were young adults.  The prosperity taken off the backs of indigenous people’s from the west of Africa and in the Amazon of Brazil that began in the 1950’s is deteriorating.  You receive a text on your phone.  As you look at it you may not see the man held at gun point in Kenya so you can have the precious mineral that helps your phone operate.  Yet you know something is not right.  You know deep down that you are not happy with the regiment of your day.  Deep down you know the system has made it mandatory for you to be an addict just to get by.  You know this as you take a sleep aid to go to bed early so you can wake up on time.  How you have your morning coffee to keep you awake.  One day you go on youtube.  Maybe you just want to be entertained by something funny.  Not looking for anything in particular but you just want to wind down and forget about the day.  Out of shear curiosity you click on a random video.  Then a figure pops up.  It’s a drawing of a suit with its arms behind its back.  The message in the synthesized voice says “Greetings Mastercard.”   You watch with anticipation as the voice gives them an option to cease in stopping free speech on the internet.  The voice may sound kind of creepy.  Maybe a little scary at first but there is something in you that is building hope.  At the end of the message the voice says “We are Anonymous.  We are Legion.  We do not forgive.  We do not forget.  Expect us.”  You are unsure what you just saw, but as you go and watch PBS or RT, you see that whoever Anonymous is, they did in fact crash MasterCard’s system.  This says they mean business!

                What does this indicate?  It indicates the very nature of this entity called the internet.  Alexander Bard, a philosopher from Stockholm illustrated in Berlin how for ages information only came from the top down and how the invention of the internet has just severed that line.  In this day with the invention of the internet information can come from wherever.  The pitfall is that most of the information is Poppycock.  The upside is that just about the most accurate information in the world is available online if one knows where to look. 

                Many Folklorists and religious scholars see the Adam and Eve story as symbolic of the transition from foraging to agriculture.  How after Adam and Eve ate from the tree, they had to till the soil, wear clothes, woman had to be submissive to man and once out of Eden (foraging) they can never return.    All of which are traits of agrarian society and the origin of property.  The invention of humans that made cities and States possible.  This is neither good or bad.  There is much mankind can be thankful for due to agriculture in terms of the innovations that came from it.  However agriculture combined with the idea of ownership is what led to stratification, patriarchy, even slavery and last but not least warfare.   So while the invention of farming brought us out of Eden, the internet may bring us back.  The way Timothy Leary said Psychedelics would.  😉

                So where are today’s superheroes one may ask?  When is superman coming to save the world?  When will the savior come or return to cleanse the world of its ills?  Who is this savior?  Who is this superhero?  No use waiting, because he is not coming.  But there is good news.  You can be this savior or you can be this superhero!

                To begin, examine what a superhero is.  Before they were called superheroes, these comic book icons were called mystery men.  Though on the surface these characters may be filled with ego as they were made from the egos of some nerdy pulp writers.  However if you take a closer look, they are an example of a high standard of altruism.  This concept was borrowed heavily from Nietzsche’s idea of the ubermensch.   Superman as well as Batman, Spiderman, ect . Do incredibly kind and heroic acts.  They often get despised even by the people they are saving.  But they wear a disguise as they do not want recognition for the heroic deeds they do.  They as Zarathustra says “righteousness for the sake of righteousness alone.”  Even in the case of Batman who was at first out for revenge against the murderer of his parents.  Once he had revenge he realized that crime still exists, and that he must not stop doing his job.  Batman is a good example with where this essay is going as he does not have any special powers.

                As for the savior!  The original savior idea came out of Zarathustra’s message of the Saoshyant meaning bringer of hope or happiness.  Unlike later views of the Saoshyant, Zarathustra did not say that this figure will come.  Zarathustra advocated that we all strive to be Saoshyants and bring the paradise here to earth right now.   

With the invention of internet we are in a day where all human beings can be Saoshyant.  The truth is humans always had that opportunity.  The internet is now practically handing it to us.  And yes.  Superheroes are real in this sense.  You do not have to be known for what you are doing when you do right for our environment or for humanity.  You may not have to be a hactivist, but you have a means to get the message across and be heard.  You have the means at your fingertips to organize.  You no matter how small you may see yourself in the world can make a major shift in the world perspective to create Heaven here on earth.  Anonymous are not only today’s superheroes, but today’s saviors.  We the people can be one or both if we choose, and if you have a computer, the tool is available to you.

                  Like the superheroes of Marvel and DC comics Anonymous has a secret identity.  You never know who they are.  They could be your neighbor or classmate, or work colleague.  Never the less like Spiderman he/she could be a teenager.  The Anon will go about their day and when near a computer provided no one is looking will open a proxy server, go on a Gmail account or twitter that does not have their real information and put on their secret identity.  This person will go on irc not telling the other Anon’s his/her real information.  They discuss an injustice happening in the world.  It could be something big like the shutting off of the internet in Egypt.  It could even be a local incident like the teenage girl who was raped and killed by the guys on the high school football team but the courts were trying to dismiss it.  Either way whether one agrees with their methods they are working to protect the common person from tyranny.  So on the irc these Mystery Men and Women vote to see if these atrocities should be leaked.  If by consensus all agree, they hit their target. 

Wait a minute?  How did the internet suddenly flip back on?  Pepper spraying the faces of college students?  Fine Mr. police officer, we will just post all your information.  Bet you thought there would not be consequences eh? 

                Here is the genius of the whole thing.  Anonymous, as well as Arab Spring, and the Occupy movements all over the world do not have leaders.  This is the strength of this global rebellion.  It is useless to arrest someone.  It is also useless to assassinate anyone.  There will always be replacements.  In a day in age where we are handed the chance to be savior’s, who needs leaders?  The internet is uniting the collective.  While agriculture created hierarchy and male dominance the internet is doing away with it.  It may take a while but like all shifts, it happens sooner than we realize.  Perhaps the dominion of the Great Intellect is happening now as it has always been happening.  It’s just a matter of waking up to the possibilities of having a paradise here on Earth.  Sure there are camera’s and they are watching us, but we carry our own camera’s in our cell phones and we are also watching them.  When a cop is using excessive force he will be recoded and leaked on youtube.  While we are all losing our privacy because of the entity called the internet, those on the side of justice and truth will not face the repercussions as much as those whose injustices rely on secrecy. 

                Syntheism which has its foundations in the teachings of Zarathustra, as well as Nietzsche, Aldous Huxley, ect. strives for direct action against institutions that create inequality and injustice.   Syntheism may be thought of as idealistic as Island by Huxley is one of the society types we stand for.  However it is an idealism that promotes the ultimate realism.  Where the phrases “never” or “will not happen” do not have a place in the ideology of the evolution of human ethos.  As Aristotle once said “In pursuing an ideal, we may assume what we wish, but must avoid impossibilities.”  i.e. we not only as Syntheists but as citizens of mother earth,  must never assume the impossibilities in the goal itself, but must be realistic and go by the step by step process while we work to achieve our vision.

 

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.