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Michael, "...but individual consciousness is the I-Thought filtered through the prism of the particular information matrix associated with a given personality. In that case, we are all one (we share the I-Thought) but also are all different (we have different informational prisms that serve to individuate our consciousness)."

I think this is probably true to some large extent.

One or two nuances I'd like to add, though, is that the examples you provided from information theory, etc. are all either digital or presented as if they are digital (e.g. on/off, 1 or 0). I guess the digital computery type analogies really turn me off (no pun intended).

It seems to me that the information the oversoul(s?) are really interested in is *analogue* (as opposed to digital) in nature. There's all this complexity in the feelings and emotions, the human triumphs and failures, the joys and the sadness, the giving and the taking, the good, the love the blessed and the selfishness and vendettas; all the sorts of things that are experienced in the life review and probably beyond by the individual soul and that are absorbed into the greater realities of the oversoul and the akashic records and passed into karmic streams and rebirths.

So I'm not really sure what I'm trying to say other than the digital computer models of information leave me cold. I sense that the information produced by and/or contained in the soul is not like a CD. It's got a much richer warmer continuous feel to it than that. I'm thinking that this is, for one, because, as you say, we are all one. Our experience as a conscious being isn't stored on some kind of separate drive or CD type thing. Rather, it's part of a dynamic feedback loop within an evolving system. There are no sharp edges. Again, there is an emotional content to the information that cannot be reduced to 1s and 0s. Yet is information all the same in a broad sense. Emotional information, continuous (aka analogue) sensations and feelings.

The being of light doesn't seem to be so much interested in digital factoids as it is in deep emotional content. How did you make people *feel* and how do you *feel* about that? The being of light exudes a *feeling* of great joy and peace and love that is more important in the NDE experience than facts.

I'm probably rambling about nothing more mincing words, but there is always a hazard in using the current state of technology to create analogies for everything.

Yet another possible notion is that consciousness as such is something apart from information, something akin to the pure awareness of the Witness (the I-Thought); but individual consciousness is the I-Thought filtered through the prism of the particular information matrix associated with a given personality

"Another possibility is that both the physical world and consciousness are emergent properties of an information matrix"

Or, a mixture of both, the one consciousness emerging from a vast information field and the virtual physical world emergent from consciousness. Each virtual world a prisim for the developement of individuated consciousness. I think Tom Campbell may hold this view.

In IT we used to make the distinction between data and information. Data was simply 'facts' - usually binary numbers (yes I'm that old). Information was interpretation or meaning given to the data.

I dunno if that adds to the discussion or not.

"What's crucial to information is not awareness but alternatives."

Consciousness, mind, intelligence, seem to be inherent to the deeper nature of information. The bare existence of alternatives between somethings is called "Shannon information" - a mere configuration which may or may not have a meaningful pattern. A randomly selected alphabet soup containing the same number of letters as a page of prose from a novel would have the same amount of Shannon information or raw data. As would a perfectly shuffled deck of 52 cards versus the deck arranged in the perfect order of suit and rank. But there is an obvious difference in the nature of the information between these patterns.

We intuitively use the concept of specified complexity when considering this. A specification is a given ordering or independently given pattern. We know that the perfectly ordered deck of cards wasn't shuffled, and the novel page wasn't produced by random letter selection (at least within any reasonable bounds of probability); we know they were the product of mind. This is the crucial difference between the natures of two basic kinds of information. Unfortunately although we know this difference is real we can't prove it and come up with an objective formula that distinguishes between chance (and even the natural ordering of the atoms in a snow crystal), and design. I think this is another aspect of the the mystery of the nature of consciousness - it's all connected.

Another mystery of information is whether information always, in order to exist, has to be encoded in some sort of "material" medium. In this world this is binary bits on silicon chips, DNA code written on DNA molecules, or words printed on paper pages. Is information ultimately its own substance, that is does it have a platonic reality with no substrate?

"So I'm not really sure what I'm trying to say other than the digital computer models of information leave me cold . . . there is always a hazard in using the current state of technology to create analogies for everything."

My feelings exactly, no one. This is one place where Michael and I have quite a different perspective.

None of the reports of NDErs or other mystics, none of the channeled info I enjoy reading, none of my favorite researchers or scientists, and most importantly, none of my own experiences, inspire me in the least to think about information as being central to reality, or even a juicy metaphor for what's going on.

Remember: there was the machine age, and now the information age (and certainly other ages to come). And think how silly the metaphysical viewpoint of the machine age looks to us now.

"I guess I need more information ..." - M.P.

Me too. I have trouble understanding what physicists mean when they are discussing whether or not information gets permanently destroyed in a black hole. Some of them find the concept of eternally lost information to be absolutely abhorrent.

What kind of information are they talking about? The complete annihilation of subatomic particles? The obliteration of their last email?
And why does it bother them? Damifino.

I mean, I kinda get what they're saying, but not really...

Think of it this way. Information is the simplest thing, followed by intelligence, followed by consciousness. You can have information without any intelligence (for example, a book listing phone numbers). You can have intelligence without any consciousness (for example, a computer program).

"Another possibility is that both the physical world and consciousness are emergent properties of an information matrix."

I have suggested something like that, but for it to work it requires programming, a computation engine, and a database engine. It is very plausible that such things exist on a cosmic level, mostly undiscovered by us.

See my web site devoted to theorizing on just this topic:
Programmed Cosmos

I don't know if this adds much, but I see information as just raw events. The events can be really slow (grass growing) or fast (a horse race), but they're just events. It takes consciousness to create meaning out of those events (I've gotta mow the lawn/I just won $50). And everything, from a shark smelling blood a mile away in the ocean, or a lawyer sensing a good class-action lawsuit, has that consciousness to create meaning out of events. How far that consciousness goes, who knows - I'd say at least to bugs, probably microbes, because they can sense events, maybe even vegetation.

Information to me is just raw data as opposed to consciousness- being awake and aware of self, others, one's environment and acting with purpose.

Here's how plants show sentience if anyone is interested- warning, a very long read.

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/12/23/the-intelligent-plant

Cheers Lyn.

Was that a subliminal connection between sharks and lawyers Kathleen? :)

Of course, Paul! But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how both are necessary to their properly functioning ecosystems. (Sharks are an apex predator without which other fishes' populations would explode and become unhealthy; lawyers are necessary to ensure fair play in society without resorting to violence.) So we have an amazing universe where everything has it proper place and purpose.

Lynn, I've read various interesting studies about the consciousness of plants. The interesting thing is for those who've read Jane Roberts' Seth books is that Seth seems to imply at least once that even mountains and rocks have consciousness.

Michael,

I feel very accurately cited, thank you! And the post is great.

no one,

||It seems to me that the information the oversoul(s?) are really interested in is *analogue* (as opposed to digital) in nature.||

GregL,

||Or, a mixture of both, the one consciousness emerging from a vast information field and the virtual physical world emergent from consciousness.||

Ding ding ding! This is the Void-Plenum paradox.

MarkMahin,

||Think of it this way. Information is the simplest thing, followed by intelligence, followed by consciousness.||

So many brilliant commenters here! I think this is pretty close to the truth. Two other elements I would add are a priori truth (e.g., 2 + 2 = 4, which is universally true regardless of whether or how it is expressed) and sentience, which arises before consciousness.

Bruce,

||None of the reports of NDErs or other mystics, none of the channeled info I enjoy reading, none of my favorite researchers or scientists, and most importantly, none of my own experiences, inspire me in the least to think about information as being central to reality, or even a juicy metaphor for what's going on.||

I think it's a misunderstanding. If we are looking at "how things work," I think we must ultimately conclude that Reality is not built from objects but from information. It is no more or less "central" to Reality than, say, atoms, quarks, or anything else that might be perceived as fundamental or indivisible (atoms are obviously divisible, but eventually we come to "objects" that can only be described in mathematical or probabilistic terms, which would seem in accord with our intuitive sense of what "information" is).

doubter,

||Another mystery of information is whether information always, in order to exist, has to be encoded in some sort of "material" medium.||

I think it has to be, ultimately, medium-free. If this were not so, then the properties and transformations of the medium itself would be describable, which information would itself require a medium, leading to an infinite regress and also an infinite amount of information to encode anything, no matter how small.

no one,

I meant to agree with you that information is fundamentally analogue. Technically, since it is medium-free and undifferentiated, it is neither digital nor analogue. Like the monads of Leibniz...

I think it's possible to have pure consciousness without any information and that's where coming here and spending time in the 3 dimensional + 1 time universe is all about. Gathering information so that the consciousness becomes "somebody."

And the idea of a machine spontaneously becoming self aware and conscious I don't believe will happen. I think consciousness is something else entirely from information. But that's just me.

No one's comments regarding the superiority of analogue over digital reflects a view strongly held by Neil Turok - one of the world's leading mathematical physicists. Turok also holds the view that there is a further level of information: quantum information or super analogue.

Here's a 3 minute taster from You Tube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ydf71MwbV4A

I fully recommend the full lecture and his book which I read earlier this year.

Take a look at this, what are your thoughts?:

http://andrewgelman.com/2014/09/03/disagree-alan-turing-daniel-kahneman-regarding-strength-statistical-evidence/

Simon, thanks for the link. I absolutely agree with Turok's every word.

The link from Ingrid is really quite interesting, and I think it represents a new trend in the materialists opposition to evidence for psi: they're just not going to accept any statistical evidence at all.

So, they're not going to accept any "anecdotal evidence," and they're not going to accept any evidence from the lab... so they're going to feel fine denying forever.

But... at the same time, we're supposed to believe the mathematical models of global warming just because the scientists aver that they are right. And we should castigate anyone who refuses to believe as a "denier" and fellow traveler in the destruction of the planet. Hmmm... what's wrong with that picture?

The sociology of it all is disheartening.

"The sociology of it all is disheartening."

Matt, indeed.

Looking back on my 50 years of experience in this world I am toying with the conclusion that humans are not interested in the truth of things; maybe the truth is beyond our capabilities. Moreover, maybe, just maybe, there really is no objective truth to be comprehended and disseminated. Regardless, humans seem to me far more interested in concocting stories - or myths - that encode the values of the dominant forces in society at a given point. These myths are then stood up as "Truth" and people are quite satisfied to leave it at that. When myths conflict, people are willing to fight to the death, if need be, to have their myth prevail.

Nothing but stories evolving and competing and fading to give way to new stories.

I think that viewpoint is overly pessimistic, No One. Our stories do get closer to the truth. The Big Bang is closer to the truth than the Book of Genesis or tribal myths. Quantum physics is closer to the truth than Newtonian physics, which was closer to the truth than the theories of Democritus. Progress is slow, but it happens. However, it's true that most people, including most intellectuals, are not original thinkers. Ayn Rand was wrong about many things, but she was right in pointing out that the person of truly independent vision is nearly always an outsider who is misunderstood, ignored, derided, or reviled by conventional thinkers.

"The Big Bang is closer to the truth than the Book of Genesis or tribal myths."

Do you really think it's as simple as that?

I myself wouldn't turn to either the Bible or mainstream science for Truth with a capital T, but I think it's clear that each has its strengths and weaknesses.

And since I'm more interested in the "tribal" part of your comment than the Book of Genesis, let me say it this way: all preliterate peoples--like all mystics--understand that the universe begins with life, with consciousness, with meaning and purpose.

Mainstream science may grasp many of reality's details, but it has lost that basic truth. Which part of the equation is more important? Which has a greater impact on how we live our lives?

I'm reminded of Fritz Capra's comment: "Mystics understand the roots of the Tao but not its branches; scientists understand its branches but not its roots."

I think it's a pretty small thing to know about the Big Bang, if you've lost the spiritual context within which the physical story unfolds, and if you believe your world to be a cold, lifeless, accidental thing, and spend your days in fear of annihilation.

Conversely, you may think the universe sits on the back of a turtle, but if your basic worldview is imbued with the sense that you are an integral piece of something sacred, beautiful, meaningful and eternal, you may have a better shot at living a good life.

So when you compare it to the wisdom of (for example) pre-contact Native Americans or Aborigines, the atheistic scientific mindset that arrives at the Big Bang is far from a clear winner in the search for truth. Unless your "truth" has more to do with iPads than spiritual understanding.

A final thought: to say that we're closer to the Truth than the Ancients, seems as crazy to me as to say we're closer to the Truth than birds and trees. I love this excerpt from John Star's NDE:

"'Look at that,' I marveled. 'The whole civilization is no more permanent and no more important than a patch of wild flowers! It's so simple from here, and so beautiful. Whether it is a patch of wild flowers or a mighty civilization, the process is the same. It is only life, trying out different shapes and then returning from where it came.'

By the way, Michael, I'm not saying that we're necessarily *farther* from the truth than our ancestors. (John Star's quote makes that clear.) I was merely responding to your insistence on Progress with a capital P, which, as you know, I really don't see.

To give the entire quote from Fritz Capra:

"Mystics understand the roots of the Tao but not its branches; scientists understand its branches but not its roots. Science does not need mysticism and mysticism does not need science; but man needs both."

"I think that viewpoint is overly pessimistic, No One.The Big Bang is closer to the truth than the Book of Genesis or tribal myths"

Michael, you're probably right. I guess I am a little depressed as well as pessimistic given that here we are, in the 21st century, and we still have crazed barbarians spouting fundamentalist savage religious beliefs, conquering the countryside and chopping off non-believers' heads, shooting them in ditches, enslaving their women and, in doing so, attracting even more followers. What more, at least some of those new followers have rejected 21st century ideas that they have been exposed to and are more impressed with head chopping fanaticism than they are with the culture they were born into; the culture that brought us the big bang theory (I am thinking about those immigrating from the US, Britain and European countries to join IS' "jihad"). All keeping in mind that we are not talking about a few random nut jobs, but probably a few hundred million people who, while they may not all actually slaughter people themselves, more or less agree with the same beliefs as the head choppers. There are more that believe in the medieval vision than believe in the big bang theory.

I probably could benefit from a news vacation.

At the risk of sounding like I've descended into schizophrenia, I've begun seriously examining the possibility that we are not at all who we think we are. Rather, we - our minds - may be controlled by gods and demi-gods (who are somewhat like the Greek gods or Hindu gods). Perhaps we are mere expressions of these higher orders of organization.

To use language more modern, these "gods" would be something like a combination of Jung's archetypes and Sheldrake's morphic fields; maybe even some kind of system of oversouls. Our receiver antennae pick up (merge with is a better term?)intelligent signals from these sources. At different times and places different intelligence fields (gods) are sending clearer and stronger signals. I would say that disincarnate spirits also are out there playing at this information transfer as well. These "gods" can also fight or cooperate with each other. Our activities on earth are physical manifestations of the "gods'" dramas and desires.

The signals/connections from above contain analogue information that causes emotional, mental and physical reactions in us; everything from the impulse to commit to war, to engineer technology, to write poetry, to make peace.

We have only the illusion of being independent free thinkers, though we can choose, to some extent, if we are aware of the possibility, which "gods" we will obey - or maybe we are fated to follow a certain god because that is the will of the higher organization. This is all an ancient idea, but it is making more sense to me at some gut level.

Crazy, huh?


Michael,

||Ayn Rand was wrong about many things, but she was right in pointing out that the person of truly independent vision is nearly always an outsider who is misunderstood, ignored, derided, or reviled by conventional thinkers.||

Yes, the tough thing is that for every original thinker who has a grasp on the truth in a new way, there are 10,000 kooks who are, well, being kooks. Thus it's *usually* a safe bet for "smart" people who want to play safe to deride whoever bucks the consensus.

Thus, as you say, progress is slow.

Being part of the "herd" has many benefits.

Being an outsider can be very difficult even dangerous.

Religion, politics, and science are interesting examples of this herd phenomena.

Bruce, beautiful comments.

Thanks, no one. I enjoyed your comment, too, in which you said:

"there really is no objective truth . . . Nothing but stories"

This is essentially my perspective, but with a difference: I see this state of affairs as a good thing!

I've said it before: I think stories are more fundamental than atoms. In the physical realm, Source creates atoms, gravity, and all the rest, because it wants to immerse itself in certain kinds of plot lines.

And stories don't improve over the ages (to get back to what I was saying to Michael), they just change.

"This is essentially my perspective, but with a difference: I see this state of affairs as a good thing!"

Bruce, to clarify, I don't see it as either good or bad; just the way it is (or, as I suggested, maybe the only way it can be).

To clarify further, the story thing happens at all levels; micro and macro. We even tell ourselves stories about ourselves, as unique individuals, and those stories result in us being happy or miserable or something in between. We receive analogue information from wherever and then we process it into stories. Then we act according to the story lines we have concocted; which reinforces the validity of the story.

Stories come in a wide variety of flavors. That's what makes the world an interesting place, IMO.

Unfortunately, sometimes the stories are ugly and destructive, but these have always been around; have always been a way of building something out of the negative information that one can receive from the universe. I guess maybe I have been paying these negative stories too much attention lately what with them being everywhere on the news, etc.

"Bruce, to clarify, I don't see it as either good or bad; just the way it is (or, as I suggested, maybe the only way it can be)."

Your post had a gloomy feel to it and I was responding to that.

"We receive analogue information from wherever and then we process it into stories."

While you make a good point, no one, I've been looking at the word "story" from a different angle. I'm thinking more of the loose script we set up *before* coming into the physical and its ramifications, rather than our battlefield interpretation of what's going on.

Interesting thoughts from Bruce and No One.

I'm partial to the idea of progress; I would hate to think we're just going in circles, even if we are coming up with (or acting out) some great stories along the way. I also think there can be a tendency to idealize tribal life, which, I suspect, varied mostly between the boring (scraping up nuts and berries to fill a growling stomach) and the terrifying (running like hell from a growling tiger).

I'm reminded of Margaret Mead's writings on Samoa, which romanticized tribal life as idyllic; later an anthropologist named Derek Freeman did his own fieldwork and reported that Mead had misrepresented the facts, and that violence, drunkenness, and other decidedly non-idyllic features were very much part of the Samoans' culture.

http://faculty.usfsp.edu/jsokolov/314mead1.htm

I doubt that human nature changes very much, whether we're in tribal Samoa or downtown New York. But I would argue that the educated New Yorker has a wider view of existence. He or she simply knows more of history, science, literature, psychology, and so on than the tribal villager does.

But is something important lost along the way? It can be. Today's materialist cosmology does lead people to existentialist despair. Still, modernity need not inevitably embrace materialism. This was merely a choice made around the time of the Enlightenment, as part of the understandable and necessary reaction against religious authority. It has, I think, been carried too far, as a rejection not only of doctrinal religion but of all spiritual aspirations and belief — even a rejection of the self and consciousness as such. But this is a historical fluke, a case of the pendulum swinging too far. And it can't be corrected by returning to some primeval Eden that probably never existed; the only cure is more and better knowledge — a still wider view of existence, encompassing more, not less, territory.

So, bottom line: I think we do make progress in terms of knowledge and (eventually) wisdom; but it's a slow process, full of frustrating setbacks and maddening wrong turns. The big picture, though, is one of improvement, however gradual and incomplete.

Them's my two cents.

"That's my two cents worth"

That is a pretty good two cents.

Thanks for your response, Michael. It's a pleasure to talk with you on a subject that, as you know, is of such interest to me.

"I also think there can be a tendency to idealize tribal life"

Yes, I used to think that tribal life was better than our contemporary experience. Now I suspect that they're just different.

"tribal life, which, I suspect, varied mostly between the boring (scraping up nuts and berries to fill a growling stomach) and the terrifying (running like hell from a growling tiger)"

Think about what you're saying. You're discounting the experience of our ancestors for hundreds of thousands of years. Does it really make sense to you that they were leading such miserable lives for so long? That all they needed for the *real life* to commence was for books, refrigerators, and dentists to come on the scene? Do you think history, and the universe, work like that?

And what did man evolve from? Were all those earlier species likewise living lackluster lives, and do they continue to do so today?

"But I would argue that the educated New Yorker has a wider view of existence. He or she simply knows more of history, science, literature, psychology, and so on than the tribal villager does."

What you're talking about here is the intellectual life, as if that's the sine qua non for a happy existence. Is it possible that some of the least intellectual among us--many downs syndrome people, for example--might be among the most joyful?

And how about the exuberance and joie de vivre of puppies and kittens and little children? Is it possible that they know satisfactions that are as deep, or deeper, than the pleasure you get from contemplating science and history?

The "wider view of existence" that makes a true difference, I would argue, is the ability to love more and more of what surrounds you. And that's not a product of schooling, and not more likely to be a contemporary quality than an ancient one.

"So, bottom line: I think we do make progress in terms of knowledge and (eventually) wisdom; but it's a slow process, full of frustrating setbacks and maddening wrong turns. The big picture, though, is one of improvement, however gradual and incomplete."

The likelier picture to me is that a gain in one area always constitutes a loss in another. We may be less likely to starve to death, but giving up the hunter-gatherer's lifestyle has cost us dearly in other ways--which is no doubt why so many of us spend 50 weeks a year pushing a pencil around so we can spend 2 weeks hunting, fishing, and walking through the few remaining wilderness areas that our safe and comfortable suburbs haven't yet gobbled up.

Yes--I'm glad we have dentistry. And sad that I never got to enjoy this planet in its unspoiled magnificence. Something's gained, something's lost, and as I see it, Progress (with a capital P) is a concept we cling to because it helps to ease our pain.

Michael, I generally agree. Tribal life could be quite brutish and unhealthy.

However, maybe the New Yorker's cosmopolitan exposure just makes for more intricate and varied detail in the "story", but not necessarily more "truth".

Or, then again, maybe more variety is, in a way, getting closer to the truth.

As you say, the pendulum swung way over to the material side with the advent of the enlightenment. Hman living conditions were so abysmal in the civilized sectors that the swing to use material science to improve those conditions is very understandable. And, as you also have noted - in fact are participating in - there is now a move back to spiritual concepts.

I do think the human species is evolving rapidly into some new social form. It should be interesting. Will peace and love triumph in the end? There will be a lot of pain and suffering in the process, that is for sure. We see that today. Lots of competing ideas and stories.

Bruce, I think when it comes to humans, the intellectual life is crucial. As Aristotle said, man is the rational animal. Our particular form of consciousness is what distinguishes us from other species. Learning, knowledge, the development of our intellectual powers — I think this is largely what human life is about. Note that this kind of personal development is not limited to academic knowledge. It includes street smarts, knowledge of human relationships, introspection, ethical and moral judgment, artistic creativity, etc.

It seems to me that our defining characteristic — the ability to think conceptually — is the one we should highlight and emphasize. Not to mention that our physical survival depends on it, since we lack the physical advantages of the animals that compete with us (acute sense of smell, heightened night vision, claws, fangs, insulating fur, homing ability, reliable instincts ...). All we really have going for us, survival-wise, is the mind/brain with its unique properties and potentialities.

Animals are a different story. I have no idea what their experience of life is like. It appears to me that many of them live in a state of near-constant vigilance, agitation, and fear (for instance, rabbits that freeze every few seconds, alert for predators), but whether or not they feel the emotions that humans would associate with those conditions is unknown. Are rabbits "happy"? I doubt the concept even applies.

"It seems to me that our defining characteristic — the ability to think conceptually — is the one we should highlight and emphasize."

It's interesting how differently we see this, Michael. In my view, we've gone overboard with conceptualizing, making us all fundamentalists in one way or another. I think we need to let our hearts catch up with our brains.

Such a fascinating topic. I wish I had more time to write today!

Bruce, you make a persuasive argument, to my mind at least, for development of the "heart" being at least as important as development of the mind.

My own perspective is that both development of the intellectual life and development of the heart are needed to become a complete human being. Theoretically, this should be possible.

I see there being several issues that arise in the real world that give intellectualism a bad name in some circles. These issues arise commonly enough that I too am cautious about praising intellectualism in favor of spiritual development.

One of the most common is that a lot of people that are very cerebral are only cerebral about a narrow range of topics. They aren't holistic thinkers and they don't follow the logical conclusions of their activities as they impact the whole.

Another issue is that intellectuals often begin their pursuits from a false premise established by their predecessors and the false assumption never gets examined properly. The train is on the simply wrong track! Worse, it leads to furthering existing problems.

Yet another issue is the pure intellectual being cold blooded. We've seen a lot of that in the past hundred years. Just one example can be found in Marxist (Marxist were intellectuals) revolutions where cracking of a few eggs to make the glorious omelet meant killing millions of people. We see a lot of very well developed intellects working strictly for the profit motive or as cogs for the profit machine.

We could say that all of the above are just examples of half-baked intellectualism, but what would full-baked intellectualism look like? I see the No True Scotsman Argument potentially coming into play in defense of intellectualism.

On the other hand, I like modern medicine, heating and cooling, being able to buy foods from all over the world all year round; basically all the comfort things that intellectuals have brought to us. But also, I like being able to discuss ideas with thoughtful people who live far from me and who I will never meet in person (something that could not be done in a tribal situation). The exposure to fresh outlooks is fertile grounds for enhanced understanding of life.

Then again, invention is often the mother of necessity.

At any rate, I have to agree with Bruce that intellectual development is not necessary for a person to be *happy*. It may be necessary for the completion of some other higher purpose. I don't know. It's an open question at this point, IMO. And we certainly see examples of very well developed intellects that are not happy; even in existential crises.

Or another way to look at would be like this:

A person can view a field of wildflowers and experience blissed out awe and joy in communion with the beauty. He doesn't even need to have the word "flower", let alone know about the cellular structure of the plants, their life cycle, soil preferences, etc. to experience this happiness.

I think the assumption in preference for the tribal is that tribal man could more often dwell in this state of sacred bliss because he lived in harmony with the land and the plants and animals on it. There was plenty of food and water. He had well developed migration patterns that kept him moving from plenty to plenty as the seasons changed.

More importantly, there was far less need to differentiate, categorize and to think. He could spend much more time (than modern man) simply experiencing.

This sounds pretty nice, if not somewhat idealized. Still, I believe there is a lot of truth to it.

Modern man spends a lot of time and energy intellectually differentiating, categorizing, assigning value and, in doing so, has largely lost the ability to simply experience and connect.

A modern intellectual man looks at the field of wildflowers (still there 3,000 years after our tribal man looked upon them with wonder) and dismisses it if there is no profit to be made off them. Perhaps he considers a better, "higher", use for the land; a condominium or nursing home or a golf course. Government contracts are great; maybe a nuclear missile launching site!!!

Perhaps he sees value in wildflowers as a commodity and he immediately sets about learning how to clone them and grow them into new more marketable forms. He calls his lawyer and a marketing firm and goes into business. The money he receives as profit from selling flower products makes him feel successful and proud. If the product fails to sell, he becomes upset and develops an ulcer and drinks too much.

Then we have philosophers who also seem to have trouble simply enjoying the wildflowers. Gazing upon them their minds become active and troubled with burning questions; "am I really seeing wildflowers, or is it an illusion"?, "Are the flowers mere shadows of eternal forms"?, "If I stop looking at the wildflowers to they continue to exist"?....etc. etc.

How is all of this mental agitation an improvement? Yes, it's good that we can genetically alter the flowers to grow cloned food to feed our exploding population, but beyond that?

"My own perspective is that both development of the intellectual life and development of the heart are needed to become a complete human being."

Exactly, no one. A balance is needed. And speaking personally, one of my main projects in this lifetime has been allowing myself to feel more and think less.

I like how Jean Liedloff expressed this: "To make of the intellect a competent servant rather than an incompetent master . . . "

Somehow, this comment I made yesterday never got posted:

What I meant by "going overboard with conceptualization" in an earlier comment is that we take our concepts too seriously. For example, ISIS has a concept: the world would be better off if we all lived under strict sharia law. And they're so hypnotized by that notion, that they've lost touch with the best parts of themselves, and most noticeably, their compassion.

I think in one way or another we're all fundamentalists, all clinging to ideas about how things *should* work, instead of living from our deeper intuitions.

That's what I mean about letting our hearts catch up with our brains.

"I think in one way or another we're all fundamentalists, all clinging to ideas about how things *should* work, instead of living from our deeper intuitions."

Yes. This is also true at the personal level, Bruce.

We all have ideas about who we should be, instead of living our lives as who we really are. This is the source of a tremendous amount of angst in the world.

"We all have ideas about who we should be, instead of living our lives as who we really are."

Makes me feel good to hear you state this so clearly. I said earlier that a major project of this lifetime has been allowing myself to feel more and think less. But what you're getting at here--the yearning for authenticity--is what drives the engine.

What should and should not be is indeed a major source of suffering in the world. The human ego worships at the altar of should and should not thinking.

The lower the spiritual development the more should and should not thinking.

To some extent I agree with Bruce and No One. Most of us today do have a tendency to live "in our heads," getting caught up in our thoughts, often to the exclusion of reality. The late Richard Carlson stressed this point in his self-help books. Though his most famous book was Don't Sweat the Small Stuff, I think his best was an earlier book, You Can Be Happy No Matter What. In that book he argued that we frequently make ourselves unhappy, angry, upset, depressed, etc. simply by getting into a spiral of negative thoughts that feed on themselves - a "thought attack." He advised ignoring these thoughts or recognizing them as "only thoughts," rather than as reality. This simple approach can be surprisingly effective.

Eckhart Tolle's books also stress the idea of silencing the mental chatter that accompanies us, much of which is simply repetition of stale thinking. Finding your inner silence - something akin to listening to "the still, small voice" inside you - can be therapeutic.

There are definitely drawbacks to having a conceptual consciousness.

Michael, right. There are also drawbacks to NOT having a conceptual consciousness.

Healthy balance...healthy balance.

I guess my prescription (sigh....if only I could follow it better myself) would be to find yourself within the inner silence and your place in the merging with the information of the world, then use clear conceptual thinking to develop the tools and environment in which to express yourself.

"There are definitely drawbacks to having a conceptual consciousness."

That's a concept I can abide.

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