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Issue #1329 - Friday, January 24, 2003 - Editor: Jerry

No Ghost in the Machine

by David Ruskin

Exclusive to The Highlights

There are no invisible entities. No ghosts or goblins. No fabric to the Universe as discussed by scientists. No ether or forces. No fields or strings. These invisible things were invented by people to explain the visible. They were designed specifically to account for experience and thus do in fact account for it. This is like a puzzle piece cut out to fit a missing space in a puzzle. It fits because it was cut to fit. But they are not themselves supported by experience. Where do they get their support? From systems designed by men to support them. Yet these systems themselves are supported by axioms that are made up by men to support them. These systems are consistent because they are designed to be consistent. But they are inventions, unsupported by experience.

It is said that they explain experience and their explanatory power is support that they are true. But this is a fallacy. For multiple systems can have equal explanatory power. That they provide an explanation, then, is no argument that they are true. As said before, they work largely because they are designed to work. When they do not work, they are corrected to work. When no correction is forthcoming, their proponents pride themselves in their patience.

It is taught that this is the only way to explain experience. That something that is not experienced must be postulated without support itself to explain experience. And if it can explain experience then this will be its support. But this teaching has no basis. For at any moment another alternative might arise. This is what this short paper is, the alternative that is said not to exist. There is no basis that it does not exist except that it has not existed before. But the very meaning of discovery is finding what is not expected.

When I open my eyes something very exotic takes place. A rich kaleidoscope of color, sound, smell, taste, and thoughts appear. My mind is taught from childhood to organize it, to name it, to build out of it other things based upon this organization and names. But what can I infer rationally from this event that occurs when I open my eyes?

Let me stop to clarify this exactly. When I say "infer rationally" I mean, what can I derive from this experience using well established rules of inference like modus ponens without inventing any axioms at all? Nothing. Can I infer, for instance, that the door experience is caused by a door? No. To do so I would have to include axioms that I invent that presuppose that there is. So my argument would beg the question. It would assume what it set out to prove. All I can infer rationally from this exotic thing that takes place when my eyes open is that it occurs.

Let me give an example of how an argument that I might give that a door that I cannot see is causing my door experience might start out.

Premise 1. I see a door.
Premise 2. For everything there is a cause.

Even these two premises already presuppose where they are leading. Neither is grounded in experience. Both are based on man-made axioms that have no support themselves. How do I know that everything has a cause? I can't observe everything. What is cause? At best we can only ever observe correlation or a sequence of events. But cause? What is that? These premises are actually axioms disguised as observations and they are part of a circular man-made argument to save the assumption that there is a door independent of the door experience, that there is an invisible entity which is a door causing my experience. It is logical, but it is circular. It is not grounded in experience. It is part of a system of belief grounded in faith among many systems of belief grounded in faith.

It is not philosophy at all, but sophistry. For the system was invented precisely to save the belief that it saves. It saves the belief because it was designed to save it.

So don't we have to do this? People will tell you we have no choice but to build these systems around our assumptions. But the very people who will tell you this will not be able to ground this belief either. They will tell you to take their belief on faith that we have to do it this way precisely because the belief that we have to do it this way supports the fact that they do. So the claim that we have to work this way is actually one of the axioms of their system, the one that says you must stay in the circles because you have to.

So if we do not have to work in circles of reasoning without support, what alternative do we have?

We replace metaphysics with mechanics. We choose only the players on the stage of life to enact our bold story of evolution. We do not dream up any new players. We look to see if we can find a mechanics observable in the record of evolution that could account for the world as it is out of the big bang without introducing any invisible entities or forces. This is science at its very best. Taking only the elements that experience allows and seeking a mechanics that can be observed and abandoning the insupportable metaphysical entities and forces invented by imagination to save its belief systems.

So where do we start? What are the players that are going to be in this drama? If nothing can be rationally inferred from experience, that seems a terrible empty stage.

Let's talk about experience a moment. Normally experience or perception is either dismissed as impossible because it does not conform to materialist systems designed specifically to save materialist assumptions, or it is imagined as a "thing" analogous to the objects of perception. Neither of these options makes sense.

Consider this. Current materialism imagines that an invisible, inconceivable material door causes your brain's illusory representation, the door of your experience. They believe that the material door that you cannot see is real, but your experience of it is not. From this comes movies like "Matrix." Materialism breeds idealism, solipsism and skepticism. It is the source of almost all metaphysical problems because it is metaphysical and claims not to be. But the materialist fails to see that he infers the hypothetical material door from his door-experience that he himself deems to be an illusion. So the materialist derives from this illusion his hypothetical reality. This is fine. But when he goes another step and says that the experience is not even happening (which currently is popular amongst materialists), then he has entered a self-contradiction. For he is denying the ground upon which he has shakily built his own theory of materialism.

So even the materialist has to admit that the door experience is occurring for it is from this that he sloppily derived his materialist theory. To turn around and say that his theory of matter now suddenly undermines the possibility of experience is like denying the existence of the ladder you are standing on.

Unlike the metaphysical substance of matter that is sloppily derived from experience, the fact that experience is occurring when I open my eyes is self-evident. I do not derive it from anything else because I do not derive it at all. It stands as evidence of itself. I do not derive experience. I derive everything else from experience. I can give no argument for it but when I am honest I must admit it. How do I know that experience is happening when I open my eyes? Because when I am honest and not being cute, I am forced to acknowledge that it is? This tears us up. We want to have an argument for something or against it, but here we can find neither. All arguments to deny that experience occurs either contradict themselves or are grounded themselves in the unsupported axioms of man-made systems. What argument is there that experience takes place? None. Is this because it is groundless like the man-made axioms of other systems? No. It is because it is its own evidence. There is no other fact that is self-evident than that experience takes place because all other facts are derived sloppily from experience. It is elusive precisely because it is the very ground. It can't be supported because it is, itself, the support. It is the turtles all the way down.

So here is our starting point. Experience is taking place. That experience is taking place is not an axiom. An axiom is simply an invented starting point with promise to lead us where we want to go. That experience takes place is neither derived nor invented. Rather all invention and derivation is made possible by experience.

How can we be sure this is right? Because if you open your eyes and experience happens and you say "It is false that experience is happening" what could you possibly mean by this? You're simply lying.

Now a philosopher might ask what I mean by experience? This question sounds profound, but it isn't. The very concepts that make such a question possible are derived from experience. As I go on, it will become clear why experience eludes us. It is, as is often said, as elusive as an eyeball that is in pursuit of itself. The eyeball can grow to feel very clever denying that it knows what you mean by it.

Now don't we have to postulate something else in this drama to explain the evolution of the universe? No. We don't. We can just use experience. But we must add one other possibility. We must steal it from Kant and nothing else from Kant and then forget Kant. This experience, let's suppose for a moment, not only occurs, but has ways of occurring. That is, we have perception and various ways of perceiving. These are called here, the "formative perceptual intuitions." These are ways of perceiving, ways of organizing the event of perception, or schemata of perception. Duality, space, time, the mathematical laws of nature, reference, analyticity, self-awareness, causation, induction, mathematics, logic, pretty, ugly, good, bad, all are evolved intuitions.

Think of Darwin and set aside any metaphysical assumptions. The evolutionary mechanics that Darwin observed evidence for is actually an evolution of perception itself. There is nothing in Darwin's work to contradict this. For Darwin's work is mechanical, not metaphysical. He was not interested in postulating what he could not see, only in accounting for what he could, using mechanical processes that he could observe.

With each successive new formative perceptual intuition a new era of evolution was made possible. Perception itself evolved. But no thing, as it were, ever evolved. No metaphysical "stuff." Rather the appearance of hard, fibrous, substantive stuff gradually emerges as the formative perceptual intuitions evolve. Each new successive invention in intuition is compounded upon the previous in a building up of complexity of what is seen. Applied to the previous products of perception, themselves made possible by the congeries of previous successive formative intuitions, complex objects moving about, eating, sleeping, mating, and shaving, appear.

What again is perception? Is perception a thing, an entity, a force? No. To assume it is a thing or force is to make the unfounded assumption that perception is analogous to the objects that it produces. Perception is the condition for the possibility of entities and forces that it produces. These entities and forces emerge ephipenomenally in perception. That our complex ability to perceive, think, and be aware also appears to evolve, is due to the increasing complexity of evolving perception and its increasingly complex formative perceptual intuitions.

Why is this not idealism? Because idealism inevitably has a "mind" or "mind-like" theoretical entity at work. This "mind" or "mind-like entity" in idealism is inevitably imagined by the idealist to be analogous to the entities or forces that are the objects of perception. They are imagined as unobservable theoretical "things." Idealism is inevitably just as Platonic as materialism. In perceptual realism there is no representationalism. The object that you see is the real original object as it is formed by your formative perceptual intuitions in the moment. It is not a copy. There is no "invisible world" no "spirit" no "noumena." There is only perception. There is only one world at any given moment and this is it. We depart from Platonism. We depart from the two-world view. We depart from metaphysics altogether into the world of immediate experience where we live.

Isn't perception itself a theoretical entity? If the fact that perception occurs when you open your eyes is a mere theory to you, then you have lost site the meaning of the word "theory" which means something guessed at to explain something else. That experience is happening when I open my eyes is no guess. If it is diaphanous, its obscurity is merely the result of its mundaneness. Its invisibility is due to its omnipresence, not its absence. For a person who could not experience, who was a zombie, the question of perception could never even arise. It is the experience itself that makes possible the question about what experience is. Thus the very question of experience proves its existence. To search for it proves it is taking place. A materialist will object, but he will do so from his own unsupported circle of illusion which is not based in experience and is thus nonscientific speculation.

If one examines this, all of the metaphysical problems of the last 2500 years turn out to be the result of metaphysics itself. Life removed of metaphysics is devoid of metaphysical problems. To do this we must remove all metaphysical entities, be made bare, and replace that metaphysics with a mechanics that is grounded solely in what we have left, perception itself.

If only I could be like my cells...

[ SATURDAY, JANUARY 25, 2003 11:45:23 PM ]   from

In our fragmentation and confusion, we have been ignoring the very model of a perfect spiritual life inside ourselves, says Deepak Chopra

What does it mean to live a spiritual life? Who can teach me the core principles of spirituality? Strangely enough, my own body can teach me everything I need to know. The cells of my body are already doing what I want to learn. My body does everything better than me. The cells in my body have no problem fully participating in life.

A hundred thousand billion of them signed on to the same silent agreement, which can be described through qualities that the most spiritual person would envy — but, at the same time, the most practical person would envy them too. These shared qualities speak eloquently for what a cell agrees not to do as much as for what it does.

Higher purpose: A cell agrees to work for the welfare of the whole body first and its individual welfare second. If necessary, it will die to protect the body. Skin cells perish by the thousands every hour, as do immune cells fighting off invading microbes. Selfishness is not an option, even when it comes down to a cell's survival.

Communion: A cell keeps in touch with every other cell. Messenger molecules race everywhere to notify the farthest outposts of any desire or intention, however slight. Withdrawing or refusing to communicate is not an option.

Awareness: Cells adapt from moment to moment. They remain flexible in order to respond to immediate situations. Getting caught up in rigid habits is not an option.

Acceptance: Cells recognise each other as equally important. Every function in the body is interdependent on every other. Doing it alone is not an option.

Creativity: Although every cell has a set of unique functions, these combine in creative ways. A person can digest food never eaten before, think thoughts never thought before, dance in a way never seen before. Clinging to old behaviour is not an option.

Being: Cells obey the universal cycle of rest and activity. Although this cycle expresses itself in many ways, such as fluctuating hormone levels, blood pressure and digestive rhythms, the most obvious expression is sleep. Why we need to sleep remains a medical mystery, yet complete dysfunction develops if we don't. In the silence of inactivity, the future of the body is incubating. Being obsessively active is not an option.

Efficiency: Cells function with the least expenditure of energy. Typically, a cell only stores three seconds of food and oxygen inside the cell wall. It trusts totally on being provided for. Excessive consumption of food, air, or water is not an option.

Bonding: Due to their common genetic inheritance, cells know that they are fundamentally the same. The fact that liver cells are different from heart cells, and muscle cells different from brain cells does not negate their common identity, which is unchanging. In the laboratory, a muscle cell can be genetically transformed into a heart cell by going back to their common source. Cells remain tied to their source no matter how many times they divide. Being an outcast is not an option.

Giving: The primary activity of cells is giving, which maintains the integrity of all other cells. Total commitment to giving makes receiving automatic — it is the other half of a natural cycle. Hoarding is not an option.

Immortality: Cells reproduce in order to pass on knowledge, experience, and talents, withholding nothing from their offspring. This is a kind of practical immortality, submitting to death on the physical plane, but defeating it on the non-physical. A generation gap is not an option.

We are selfish and greedy. As they evolved, cells learned what really works for survival. Your body can't afford to pay lip service to leading a spiritual life unless it wants to throw away aeons of wisdom. Yet, the vast majority of suffering in our personal lives comes about because we consciously choose to behave contrary to the soul bargain that keeps our bodies alive.

from Natural Perfumery

Musings on evaporation  

~White Ginger by Thymes~
We all know that the hotter the temperature, the quicker the oils in our
perfumes evaporate off our skin, Perfumery 101 :-) For that reason, we play
around with base accords that will hold on to the scent as long as
possible, and we recognize that oil-based 'bases' hold the scent, and
release it over a longer period of time, than alcohol-based ones.

I do have to share an observation with the group, as basic and naive as it
may seem, because it really hit home this week.

I love the commercial Cologne by Thierry Mugler. Supposedly made from a
14th Century formula, it smells like fresh, clean soap to me, as the citrus
in it is divine, a true ephemeral, lovely scent.

As you may know, I live in hot, humid Miami. The stuff evaporates off me in
record time, to the point I have seriously considered not repurchasing it.
Even when it's not hot and humid, it zips right off. I use sunscreen
everyday, on my topsides of my arms, and my upper chest area. I would put
the Cologne on my wrists, and on the neck and upper chest area over the

This past week, we had plunging temperatures here, and I wore long sleeves
and no sunscreen on my arms. The Cologne lasted for hours!

Now, i use commercial perfumes all the time, with a bias, of course,
towards the more natural ones, like White Ginger from Thymes (discontinued
now.) It is so persistent that sometimes I wash it off before bed.

I just wanted to share that I'm so happy that Cologne will now be a
winter-only scent with me (aside from my own blends and faves, of course.)

On a fashion group I frequent, the ladies there often talk about their
winter vs. summer fragrance 'wardrobe', and they chat when the seasons
change about how they're pulling out the seasonal stuff, like people do
with their clothes. Not news to us perfumers, of course, and we all know
the difference between 'day' and 'night' scents, it's usually just common
sense dictated by the perceived 'strength' or 'complexity' of the scent.

I've never seen this discussed on this group, so I thought I'd just throw
it out there, especially since I had such an awakening this week. If you've
never smelt Cologne by Thierry Mugler, I suggest you do. Avoid his Angel at
all cost -- smells like funky armpits the day after eating a spice-rich
Indian meal, and of course, it's the most popular perfume in the world.)

Cologne is billed a unisex scent, and I wish I could duplicate it :-)
With a more persistent base accord, of course!

Don't threaten me with love. Let's just  go walking in the rain.

— Billie Holiday

Silence is the true upadesa (teaching).
It is the perfect upadesa. It is suited
only for the most advanced seeker.
The others are unable to draw
full inspiration from it.
Therefore they require words to
explain the truth. But truth is beyond
words. It does not admit of explanation.
All that is possible to do is to indicate it.

- Sri Ramana Maharshi
contributed by Viorica Weissman to NDS

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Nonduality: The Varieties of Expression Home

Jerry Katz
photography & writings

The wind carves shapes into the beach sand

Search over 5000 pages on Nonduality: