Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Edge

The Edge

The following is an excerpt on an interesting interview by Matthew Joyce of Peter Russell . . . interesting to me, anyway. My question is: why is philosophy dead? Indeed, to me it is dead if all it is about is one philosopher parroting another, still another philosopher denying the first, then another philosopher explaining what the other three meant, and still another philosopher contradicting the fourth, and so on, ad nauseum . . . without any one of them saying anything worthwhile to advance our common knowledge. Why is it that the following excerpt has to come from The Lunatic Fringe? And why is it that The Lunatic Fringe makes more sense than any philosopher since Socrates? Why? Because Socrates himself was a card carrying member of The Lunatic Fringe -- and THAT is where philosophy should be. The 'saneness' of mainstream Society, of mainstream philosophy, of mainstream -anything- is an illusion. The Mainstream is quite mad. I reject and refute and refuse it. The Lunatic Fringe is quite sane. Perhaps you have to have gone through the purifying fires of despair, perhaps you have to have desired to beat the shit out of Society's god, perhaps you have to have been to The Edge in order to See. Yes, that is it. Sanity is about exploring the boundaries of consciousness. If you've never cried out to the Universe for mercy, if you've never fled from all human contact, if you've never wanted to just be as Blind and Dead as the billions of Drones crowding you with their incessant and inane and ignorant chatter . . . then you've never been Alive, you've never been Sane, you've never Been.

Why am I writing this and posting that? Good question. I have no answer. I just want to. This guy ain't so smart, he just has open eyes. That, in itself, sets him apart from 99.9999% of humanity.

The Coming Paradigm Shift and What It Means

MJ: Our conversation today is going to start with some big picture issues and then focus on what people can do to advance their own spiritual paths. Can you tell us a little bit about this paradigm shift that's occurring and what's going on?

PR: It's something I call the super-paradigm because it's a paradigm of paradigms. Just to remind people, a paradigm is the basic model behind any area of science. The theory of relativity is a paradigm. In biology it has to do with DNA and RNA. The super paradigm is the much larger paradigm in which all of science - physics, biology, astronomy - does its work. That paradigm says the fundamental nature of the physical world is matter. It is material in nature and in that sense it is dead unconscious matter.

Few people in science question it. But as with all paradigms certain things can't be solved within the paradigm. The classic case was the old paradigm of the earth being the center of the universe. It couldn't explain the movement of the planets. So Copernicus said maybe the earth is revolving around the sun, which was heresy at the time. But he questioned the fundamental assumption.

The problem today with the material paradigm is that it explains everything pretty well except for the fact that we are conscious - that we have experiences and an inner world of thoughts, feelings, and imagination. There is nothing in the scientific worldview that says the dead inanimate matter that constitutes our brain cells should give rise to an experience. According to modern physics all that activity in the brain should be going on in the dark without any experience arising. Nobody can explain that.

MJ: That's a fairly large hole in the paradigm.

PR: It's a huge hole because in a sense the only thing we know with absolute certainty is that we are experiencing beings. We can doubt any aspect of our experience. We may be living in The Matrix. Our experiences may even be fed to us and there may not even be a real world. But even if I'm in The Matrix I can't doubt that I'm experiencing something. So there's always this problem of how does matter give rise to experience.

What a growing number of people have been doing is questioning the fundamental assumption that matter is not conscious. I believe there is no point at which consciousness appears. We know other animals are conscious. They experience. We see dogs and they seem to dream at night. It doesn't mean an ant thinks and feels like we do. But there is an inner model of its world. There is a subjective experience. It might be a billionth of the intensity of our consciousness. But there's something. It isn't completely unconscious.

When you take that view that conscious awareness is always there, then this problem of how dead inner matter gives rise to experience dissolves. As life has become more complex, so the inner life has got much richer and more structured until we have the magnificent rich consciousness that we experience. It's always been there.

MJ: Its one thing to talk about living things like ants or bacteria being conscious. But are you extending consciousness to what science would consider non-living matter?

PR: That's the leap. Where science normally draws a line is the nervous system. They say as soon as the nervous system evolves you have consciousness. But you still have to explain why a particular structure gives rise to experience. If you go back further and say a bacterium has some inner light but a virus doesn't, then you have to explain again this magical step of how come a bacterium has some sort of inner light. As soon as you draw a line you come up against this problem. So what we need to do is say there is no line. The consciousness of the bacterium is like a billionth of ours and the virus DNA is much less still. But there is never a point where that inner light is completely extinguished. That doesn't mean rocks think or have experiences like we do, but they are not absolutely, completely dead.

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