These thoughts were motivated reading Rupert Sheldrake’s SCIENCE SET FREE. They have not been organized to “make a point”, but are shared because they are relevant as we examine the expanding and uncertain context within which we all live.
I sense a confusion between what Sheldrake calls materialism and what I will call space-time existentialism. Sheldrake posits the existential reality of space-time featuring fields, including his own speculative morphogenetic fields. I have supported Sheldrake in his hypothesis and have developed my own variant I call Feedpast Bootstrapping.
- It is interesting that almost everyone (maybe everyone, including myself) while criticizing the absolutism of others find it impossible not to phrase their own suggestions in terms implying absolutism. Sheldrake claims the physical existence of his morphogenetic fields, and even that they occur in the space-time of plasma fields of the cosmos.
The confusion comes to a head in discussion about whether the mind must be in the brain. I realize that my positing “nuet” as my inner-woven world – facilitated by my biological brain – makes me susceptible of being labeled a materialist. Recent difficulty attempting to share the concept of “a nuet” to another alerted me to the fact that “it” isn’t all that obvious. Also an issue may be my demoting personal consciousness to but one aspect of reality and not, necessarily, dominant.
- Again, there is that tendency of those who fight for their minority (and often rejected) positions to elevate them to an alternative dominance. There are few who posit a balance between the material and consciousness.
This is motivating me to re-conceptualize my reality as it concerns these issues. To this point I have been intermittently reading Sheldrake and then “meditating” on thoughts as I recover from minor surgery. This composing is to bring a bit more formality into the exploration.
Over the years I have been playing with ontologies, process vs existential. I am not sure what I mean by “ontology” or “reality”. The use of “ontology” as formal descriptors for computer programs didn’t resonate well. However, I was not ready to shift to a dominant process ontology (as I read about now it has a long history) and preferred to view them in complementarity. Why only two alternatives?
- See: Andrew Pickering, The Cybernetic Brain
- For me, human imagination and knowledge systems remain in their evolutionary infancy, if not still embryonic. I am open to accept that humans will never be equipped to fully comprehend a “bigger reality” – whatever than may entail.
In a sense I interpret Sheldrake as giving the space-time for his fields an existential reality parallel to that materialists give matter. Fields, from my studies in physics, relate to potentials of points in space-time to enable change in the observed character of matter.
- For example, a charged particle will experience force in an electromagnetic field. Indeed, this is how we detect fields – we do not observe fields “directly”. We observe something else at that space-time location as evidence for the presence of the field.
- I have heard that Richard Feynman, in his Nobel acceptance speech, posited that we could do away with the concept of field (light) by simply coding the time delay between creation and annihilation events. This would run into circular difficulties when we attempt to nail down the reality of actually detecting creation and annihilation events.
- The weirdness of space-time in special relativity further points to “space-time” as a (conceptual) construct – in the active “minds” of humans. It is not that objects moving near the speed of light have their dimensions and clock processes altered; but that the STRUCTURE of space-time takes the Lorentz Transformation forms when space-time COORDINATES are determined using light signals and clocks – and when we require that the speed of light be constant, independent of the relative speed of different observers of that same light signal. Re Feynman, we create/map coordinates of photon creation, reflection, and annihilation events (by macroscopic indication from instruments we observe with our ordinary senses and notice in our explicit consciousness).
How are our minds related to our brains? This is not a simple query, and we must explore the nature of “query” itself, as well as our meaning for “related”, and even “meaning” itself. Indeed, a whole “system of ideas” “weave in ways” that “defy linear logic” and are “founded on gut metaphors and habits”. I will not attempt to “define” everything in quotes, as that would require a side venture into the nature of language, data-2-wisdom, and life. Rather, I will continue to weave the output of languaging (from Larry’s nuet) in hope that patterns of ideas within you (dear reader) may “resonate”.
Sheldrake makes the point, repeatedly, that our everyday experience of perception has things being “out there” and not in our brain. He accuses materialists of claiming that all experiences are located “in the head” – and he is correct that many may superficially make that claim without giving much thought to its implications. I have been sloppy myself in this way. What is evident to me is that how and what we do experience is strongly dependent on our brains. And, the worlds we weave, and which govern our behavior, are strongly dependent on our life experiences.
- This super strong dependency does bring to question the issue of mind existing independent of body and even surviving death
Resonance-across-time is a very significant contribution that is featured by Sheldrake. (I don’t know the history of this idea.) Sheldrake comes to this by questioning whether memories are stored as material structures or whether there is a resonance-across-time between different “temporal states” of an entity existing-through-time. On examination, this idea should force a serious re-examination of space-time concepts – which Sheldrake appears unable to do.
- I came to this concept independently by generalizing a psychic resonance I postulated to account for the very strange similarities of identical twins separated at birth. I suddenly realized that if the twins resonated because of similar structures – how similar were the structures of the same entity moment to moment.
- I speculate a cosmic reality where all beings, from conception to death, “exist” and resonate. This resonance would be according to some “laws”, as it is not a dominant phenomenon – except for Sheldrake’s proposal that our scientific laws are habits of such resonance.
- The (limited but convincing) evidence for “reincarnation” can be explained by such resonance, as Sheldrake does.
- That I may “continue to exist” as an entity stretched over time from my conception to my death – and possibly relate to other such entities (once the dynamics of biological life have ended) is a far more reasonable idea than the survival of something that was “me” after the death of my body. Which “me”, at what age?
- I have recently begun to examine the use of the term “soul” to refer to nuet.
Reading Sheldrake’s confusion about the location of mind alerts me to an issue whether “location” is even relevant to our ideas of mind. This is Sheldrake’s obsession – positing an existential space-time in which to anchor his morphogenetic fields. That my conscious experience appears as in a perceptual space-time where objects move and other people interact says nothing as to where that experience is occurring. That the content often is from the perspective of my eyes and ears, it is natural to attribute the observer as in the head. But, the observer of conscious experientials is never observed – the unobservable observer.
- We can observe others behave and infer some characteristics of their observer. And we can retrospectively observe records of ourselves observing, from which we can infer some of our observer characteristics (and even attempt to improve on them).
- At least I have never observed my observer. Possibly those who have mastered deep meditation practice can report observing their observer.
Strict materialists may posit the mind as nothing but brain dynamics if the organism is viewed as a strictly deterministic stimulus-response mechanism. There then should be a one-to-one correspondence between experientials and brain processes. This leaves open the “nature of experience” – is it necessary – but the agenda of materialists is limited and this loose end is no bother to them.
I have long viewed the brain in analogy to a musical orchestra and “mind” as analog to “music”. Individual musical compositions are enabled by the properties of the orchestra – but the orchestra doesn’t create the musical compositions. Mental activity are more like patterns imposed on the dynamics of the brain rather than patterns emergent from the brain itself.
- That the higher patterns of mental resonance could be mapped onto fine details of brain activity is not grounds to assert that these fine details “cause” the higher mental patterns (related to experientials). The patterns of information in the composition playing the brain can be views as mind=>body causality.
- Musical compositions can be influenced by patterns of sensory stimuli (feedback), and there could be periods when a person’s mind/brain is being played by their environment. But, even in these cases the specific content of the experientials may have qualia and qualities that are not represented by brain processes – but by the intricate patterns in the process.
- This analogy has its limitations, as musical orchestras have human musicians playing instruments (or singing, themselves being the instruments). I don’t wish to posit tiny thinkers playing brains. Rather, the patterns are autopoietic (self generating) AND we can consider morphic resonance with other beings (both alive at the time and having lived).
Brains possibly have powerful and intricate bio-molecular resonance properties, as do musical instruments, which are utilized by human minds. The similarity of human brains contributes to what coherence does appear in human societies. The individual differences between human brains seafs the creative emergence we have experienced in our brief evolutionary history and portends to a fantastic future (should we navigate our Crisis-of-Crises).
- Given the dismal performance of most humans, with strong evidence for enculturation and indoctrination coupled with ego issues facing creative consciousness and responsibility, the human SOUL is not a well developed entity today. Even those few who have been exceptional, and examples of what may be possible, all have also had significant deficiencies. Humankind, as a first example of nu emergence into the creative domain involving languaging and art, remains embryonic.
- IMHO, our future is dependent on a balance between individual souls (nuets) driven to express their inflated uniqueness (from Tea Partiers to mystics) and the creating of social & societal environments to seaf collective emergence.
- I am afraid to say that this is more evolutionary POTENTIAL today, than manifest reality.
- How quickly humankind might activate the first stages of this new emergence is unknown.
- But, this will require acceptance of the emergent few that they are special only in the fact that they are in position to themselves change very significantly and abandon ego attachments to their talents. It is the unique matching of their talents and their human network positions that is most relevant.
We might shift this exploration to the functioning of the genome representative in each biological cell. The multi-coiled ball of chromosomes, all linked in the cellular nucleus, might have processes as complex as the brain. Genetic mind music could play on these – and our “soul” may have components that move up from DNA to neuron.
Instead of attempting to force empirical findings to fit ideological worldviews, we need to highlight them as beacons in our navigating/composing emergent realities. A few of these empirical findings are:
- Some hydro-encephalics have their brains squeezed to a thin layer inside their skulls and yet can have normal functioning, even exceptional.
- Sheldrake’s examples of formative causation – morphogenetic learning.
This essay is not a comprehensive review of Sheldrake’s new book (or his TED presentation that is reported as censored). While I agree with most of Sheldrake’s assessment of the limitations of contemporary science, and that some of his recommendations would lead to an improvement, I feel that he continues and shares with his contemporaries troublesome beliefs as to the “nature of science” and “reality”.
- There appears a “Gunfight at OK Coral” between an OBJECTIVE UNIVERSE and PERSONAL CONSCIOUSNESS, or at least a conflict the nature of which is not properly comprehended by either party.
- ALL that humans know about reality, from quarks to quasars & DNA to corporations, are locked into the (conscious) experientials of humans. We read reports and we discuss reality – in our experiential fields. In a sense, ALL IS CONSCIOUSNESS. Each of us lives in our own experiential world; that contains others who claim also to live in their experiential worlds. These worlds we each live in contain galaxies and planets, dictators and economies, pains in joints and the ecstasy of orgasm.
- In our experiential worlds we find ourselves players in dramas with others. We are entwined in social dynamical systems. We love & hate, raise children and bury parents. We grow and produce, make war. ALL THIS IN THE CONSCIOUS EXPERIENTIAL REALM. Thoughts about all this also occur in this conscious experiential realm.
- Our experiential worlds can contain scientific instruments that produce sensory patterns of data analyses we can observe. From these patterns we come to beliefs that we life in objective universes filled with matter and energy. Some have come to accept a pattern of behavior we call SCIENCE that informs us about TRUTH. Others identify with societal orders called RELIGIONS that inform us about (different) TRUTHS. In some of these belief systems, the personal conscious experience is trivialized.
Larry/nuet, the author of this essay, is OK being unresolved as to the ultimate nature of reality and truth. It is exciting to be alive and a vital participant in this process – whatever it is. I have no compulsion to define it, but I also am driven to contribute my “two cents” towards a better future.