|DR. ROBERT PUFF|
Waking from the Meme Dream
Paper presented at:-
The Psychology of Awakening: International Conference on Buddhism, Science
and Psychotherapy Dartington 7-10 November 1996
Department of Psychology
University of the West of England
Bristol BS16 2JP
Wake up! Wake up!
Errrr, ummmm, grrrrggr, Oh yes, Im awake now. Wow, that was a weird dream.
I really thought I had to escape from the slurb, and it mattered terribly to
get to the cupboard in time. How silly! Of course, now I see it wasnt real
Wake up! Wake up!
What do you mean, wake up, Im already awake. This is real. This does
matter. I cant wake up any more. Go away!
Wake up! Wake up!
But I dont understand - From what? And how?
These are the questions I want to tackle today. From what are we to awaken?
And how? My answers will be From the meme dream and By seeing that it is
a meme dream. But it may take me some time to explain!
There is a long history, in spiritual and religious traditions, of the idea
that normal waking life is a dream or illusion. This makes no sense to
someone who looks around and is convinced there is a real world out there
and a self who perceives it. However, there are many clues that this
ordinary view is false.
Some clues come from spontaneous mystical experiences in which people see
the light!, realise that everything is one, and go beyond self to see the
world as it really is. They feel certain that the new way of seeing is
better and truer than the old (though of course they could be mistaken!).
Other clues come from spiritual practice. Probably the first thing that
anybody discovers when they try to meditate, or be mindful, is that their
mind is constantly full of thoughts. Typically these are not wise and
wonderful thoughts, or even useful and productive thoughts, but just endless
chatter. From the truly trivial to the emotionally entangling, they go on
and on. And whats more they nearly all involve me. It is a short step to
wondering who this suffering self is, and why I cant stop the thoughts.
Finally clues come from science. The most obvious (and scary) conclusion
from modern neuroscience is that there is simply no one inside the brain.
The more we learn about the way the brain functions the less it seems to
need a central controller, a little person inside, a decider of decisions or
an experiencer of experiences. These are just fictions - part of the story
the brain tells itself about a self within (Churchland and Sejnowski, 1992;
Some say there is no point in striving for an intellectual understanding of
spiritual matters. I disagree.
It is true that intellectual understanding is not the same as realisation,
but this does not mean it is useless. In my own tradition of practice, Zen,
there is much room for intellectual struggle; for example, in the
cultivation of the dont know mind, or in working with koans. You can
bring a question to such a state of intellectual confusion that it can be
held, poised, in all its complexity and simplicity. Like Who am I?, What
is this? or (one I have struggled with) What drives you?.
There is also a terrible danger in refusing to be intellectual about
spiritual matters. That is, we may divorce our spiritual practice from the
science on which our whole society depends. If this society is going to have
any spiritual depths to it, they must fit happily with our growing
understanding of the workings of the brain and the nature of mind. We cannot
afford to have one world in which scientists understand the mind, and
another in which special people become enlightened.
So I make no apologies for my approach. I am going to try to answer my
questions using the best science I can find. We seem to live in a muddle
that we think matters to a self that doesnt exist. I want to find out why.
Darwin's Dangerous Idea
There is one scientific idea which, to my mind, excels all others. It is
exquisitely simple and beautiful. It explains the origins of all life forms
and all biological design. It does away with the need for God, for a
designer, for a master plan or for a purpose in life. Only in the light of
this idea does anything in biology make sense. It is, of course, Darwins
idea of evolution by natural selection.
The implications of natural selection are so profound that people have been
awe-struck or maddened; fascinated or outraged, since it was first proposed
in The Origin of Species in 1859. This is why
Dennett (1995) calls it Darwins Dangerous Idea. Sadly, many people have
misunderstood the idea and, even worse, have used it to defend indefensible
political doctrines which have nothing to do with Darwinism. I therefore
hope you will forgive me if I spend some time explaining it as clearly as I
All you need for natural selection to get started is a replicator in an
appropriate environment. A replicator is something that copies itself,
though not always perfectly. The environment must be one in which the
replicator can create numerous copies of itself, not all of which can
survive. Thats it.
Can it really be that simple? Yes. All that happens is this - in any one
copying generation, not all the copies are identical and some are better
able to survive in that environment than others are. In consequence they
make more copies of themselves and so that kind of copy becomes more
numerous. Of course things then begin to get complicated. The rapidly
expanding population of copies starts to change the environment and that
changes the selective pressures. Local variations in the environment mean
different kinds of copy will do well in different places and so more
complexity arises. This way the process can produce all the kinds of
organised complexity we see in the living world - yet all it needs is this
one simple, elegant, beautiful, and obvious process - natural selection.
To make things more concrete lets imagine a primeval soup in which a simple
chemical replicator has arisen. Well call the replicators Blobbies. These
blobbies, by virtue of their chemical constitution, just do make copies of
themselves whenever they find the right chemicals. Now, put them in a rich
chemical swamp and they start copying, though with occasional errors. A few
million years go by and there are lots of kinds of blobbies. The ones that
need lots of swampon have used up all the supplies and are failing, so now
the sort that can use isoswampin instead, are doing better. Soon there are
several areas in which different chemicals predominate and different kinds
of blobby appear. Competition for swamp chemicals gets fierce and most
copies that are made die out. Only those that, by rare chance, turn out to
have clever new properties, go on go on to copy themselves again.
Clever properties might include the ability to move around and find the
swampon, to trap isoswampin3-7 and hang onto it, or to build a membrane
around themselves. Once blobbies with membranes appear, they will start
winning out over free-floating ones and super-blobbies are made.
Another few million years go by and tricks are discovered like taking other
blobbies inside the membrane, or joining several super-blobbies together.
Super-dooper-blobbies appear, like multi-celled animals with power supplies
and specialised parts for moving about and protecting themselves. However,
these are only food to even bigger super-dooper-blobbies. It is only a
matter of time before random variation and natural selection will create a
vast living world. In the process billions and billions of unsuccessful
blobbies have been created and died, but such a slow, blind process produces
the goods. The goods on our planet includes bacteria and plants, fish and
frogs, duck-billed platypuses and us.
Design appears out of nothing. There is no need for a creator or a master
plan, and no end point towards which creation is heading. Richard Dawkins
(1996) calls it Climbing Mount Improbable. It is just a simple but
inexorable process by which unbelievably improbable things get created.
It is important to remember that evolution has no foresight and so doesnt
necessarily produce the best solution. Evolution can only go on from where
it is now. That is why, among other things, we have such a daft design in
our eyes, with all the neurons going out of the front of the retina and
getting in the way of the light. Once evolution had started off on this kind
of eye it was stuck with it. There was no creator around to say hey, start
again with that one, lets put the wires out the back. Nor was there a
creator around to say Hey, lets make it fun for the humans. The genes
simply do not care.
Understanding the fantastic process of natural selection we can see how our
human bodies came to be the way they are. But what about our minds?
Evolutionary psychology does not easily answer my questions.
For example, why do we think all the time? From a genetic point of view this
seems extremely wasteful - and animals that waste energy don't survive. The
brain uses about 20% of the bodys energy while weighing only 2%. If we were
thinking useful thoughts, or solving relevant problems there might be some
point, but mostly we don't seem to be. So why cant we just sit down and not
Why do we believe in a self that does not exist? Someone may yet explain
this in evolutionary terms, but at least superficially it appears pointless.
Why construct a false idea of self, with all its mechanisms protecting
self-esteem and its fear of failure and loss, when from the biological point
of view it is the body that needs protecting. Note that if we thought of
ourselves as the entire organism there would be no problem, but we dont -
rather, we seem to believe in a separate self; something
that is in charge of the body; something that has to be protected for its
own sake. I bet if I asked you Which would you rather lose - your body or
your mind? you wouldnt spend long deciding.
Like many other scientists I would love to find a principle as simple, as
beautiful and as elegant as natural selection that would explain the nature
of the mind.
I think there is one. It is closely related to natural selection. Although
it has been around for twenty years, it has not yet been put fully to use.
It is the theory of memes.
A Brief History of the Meme Meme
In 1976 Richard Dawkins wrote what is probably the most popular book ever on
evolution - The Selfish Gene. The book gave a catchy name to the theory that
evolution proceeds entirely for the sake of the selfish replicators. That
is, evolution happens not for the good of the species, nor for the good of
the group, nor even for the individual organism. It is all for the good of
the genes. Genes that are successful spread and those that arent don't. The
rest is all a consequence of this fact.
Of course the main replicator he considered was the gene - a unit of
information coded in the DNA and read out in protein synthesis. However, at
the very end of the book he claimed that there is another replicator on this
planet; the meme.
The meme is a unit of information (or instruction for behaviour) stored in a
brain and passed on by imitation from one brain to another. Dawkins gave as
examples; ideas, tunes, scientific theories, religious beliefs, clothes
fashions, and skills, such as new ways of making pots or building arches.
The implications of this idea are staggering and Dawkins spelt some of them
out. If memes are really replicators then they will, inevitably, behave
selfishly. That is, ones that are good at spreading will spread and ones
that are not will not. As a consequence the world of ideas - or memosphere -
will not fill up with the best, truest, most hopeful or helpful ideas, but
with the survivors. Memes are just survivors like genes.
In the process of surviving they will, just like genes, create mutually
supportive meme groups.
Remember the blobbies. In a few million years they began to get together
into groups, because the ones in groups survived better than loners. The
groups got bigger and better, and a complex ecosystem evolved. In the real
world of biology, genes have grouped together to create enormous creatures
that then mate and pass the groups on. In a similar way memes may group
together in human brains and fill the world of ideas with their products.
If this view is correct, then the memes should be able to evolve quite
independently of the genes (apart from needing a brain). There have been
many attempts to study cultural evolution, but most of them implicitly treat
ideas (or memes) as subservient to the genes (see e.g. Cavalli-Sforza and
Feldman, 1981; Crook, 1995; Durham,1991; Lumsden and Wilson, 1981). The
power of realising that memes are replicators is that they can be seen as
working purely and simply in their own interest. Of
course to some extent memes will be successful if they are useful to their
hosts, but this is not the only way for a meme to survive - and we shall
soon see some consequences of this.
Since he first suggested the idea of memes Dawkins has discussed the spread
of such behaviours as wearing baseball caps back to front (my kids have
recently turned theirs the right way round again!), the use of special
clothing markers to identify gangs, and (most famously) the power of
religions. Religions are, according to Dawkins (1993), huge co-adapted
meme-complexes; that is groups of memes that hang around together for mutual
support and thereby survive better than lone memes could do. Other
meme-complexes include cults, political systems, alternative belief systems,
and scientific theories and paradigms.
Religions are special because they use just about every meme-trick in the
book (which is presumably why they last so long and infect so many brains).
Think of it this way. The idea of hell is initially useful because the fear
of hell reinforces socially desirable behaviour. Now add the idea that
unbelievers go to hell, and the meme and any companions are well protected.
The idea of God is a natural companion meme, assuaging fear and providing
(spurious) comfort. The spread of the meme-complex is aided by exhortations
to convert others and by tricks such as the celibate priesthood. Celibacy is
a disaster for genes, but will help spread memes since a celibate priest has
more time to spend promoting his faith.
Another trick is to value faith and suppress the doubt that leads every
child to ask difficult questions like where is hell? and If God is so
good why did those people get tortured?. Note that science (and some forms
of Buddhism) do the opposite and encourage doubt.
Finally, once youve been infected with these meme-complexes they are hard
to get rid of. If you try to throw them out, some even protect themselves
with last-ditch threats of death, ex-communication, or burning in hell-fire
I shouldnt get carried away. The point I want to make is that these
religious memes have not survived for centuries because they are true,
because they are useful to the genes, or because they make us happy. In fact
I think they are false and are responsible for the worst miseries in human
history. No - they have survived because they are selfish memes and are good
at surviving - they need no other reason.
Once you start to think this way a truly frightening prospect opens up. We
have all become used to thinking of our bodies as biological organisms
created by evolution. Yet we still like to think of our selves as something
more. We are in charge of our bodies, we run the show, we decide which ideas
to believe in and which to reject. But do we really? If you begin to think
about selfish memes it becomes clear that our ideas are in our heads because
they are successful memes. American philosopher Dan Dennett (1995) concludes
that a person is a particular sort of animal infested with memes. In other
words you and I and all our friends are the products of two blind
replicators, the genes and the memes.
I find these ideas absolutely stunning. Potentially we might be able to
understand all of mental life in terms of the competition between memes,
just as we can understand all biological life in terms of the competition
What I want to do now, finally, is apply the ideas of memetics to the
questions I asked at the beginning. What are we waking up from and how do we
Why is my head so full of thoughts?
This question has a ridiculously easy answer once you start thinking in
terms of memes. If a meme is going to survive it needs to be safely stored
in a human brain and passed accurately on to more brains. A meme that buries
itself deep in the memory and never shows itself again will simply fizzle
out. A meme that gets terribly distorted in the memory or in transmission,
will also fizzle out. One simple way of ensuring survival is for a meme to
get itself repeatedly rehearsed inside your head.
Take two tunes. One of them is tricky to sing, and even harder to sing
silently to yourself. The other is a catchy little number that you almost
cant help humming to yourself. So you do. It goes round and round. Next
time you feel like singing aloud this tune is more likely to be picked for
the singing. And if anyone is listening theyll pick it up too. Thats how
it became successful, and thats why the world is so full of awful catchy
tunes and advertising jingles.
But there is another consequence. Our brains get full up with them too.
These successful memes hop from person to person, filling up their hosts'
minds as they go. In this way all our minds get fuller and fuller.
We can apply the same logic to other kinds of meme. Ideas that go round and
round in your head will be successful. Not only will they be well
remembered, but when you are next talking to someone they will be the ideas
on your mind and so will get passed on. They may get to this position by
being emotionally charged, exciting, easily memorable or relevant to your
current concerns. It does not matter how they do it. The point is that memes
that get themselves repeated will generally win out over ones that dont.
The obvious consequence of this fact is that your head will soon fill up
with ideas. Any attempt to clear the mind just creates spare processing
capacity for other memes to grab.
This simple logic explains why it is so hard for us to sit down and not
think; why the battle to subdue our thoughts is doomed. In a very real
sense they are not our thoughts at all. They are simply the memes that
happen to be successfully exploiting our brain-ware at the moment.
This raises the tricky question of who is thinking or not thinking. Who is
to do battle with the selfish memes? In other words, who am I?
Who am I?
I suppose you can tell by now what my answer to this one is going to be. We
are just co-adapted meme-complexes. We, our precious, mythical selves, are
just groups of selfish memes that have come together by and for themselves.
This is a truly startling idea and, in my experience, the better you
understand it, the more fascinating and weird it becomes. It dismantles our
ordinary way of thinking about ourselves and raises bizarre questions about
the relationship of ourselves to our ideas. To understand it we need to
think about how and why memes get together into groups at all.
Just as with blobbies or genes, memes in groups are safer than free-floating
memes. An idea that is firmly embedded in a meme-complex is more likely to
survive in the memosphere than is an isolated idea. This may be because
ideas within meme-groups get passed on together (e.g. when someone is
converted to a faith, theory or political creed), get mutual support (e.g.
if you hate the free-market economy you are likely also to favour a generous
welfare state), and they protect themselves from
destruction. If they did not, they would not last and would not be around
today. The meme-complexes we come across are all the successful ones!
Like religions, astrology is a successful meme-complex. The idea that Leos
get on well with Aquarians is unlikely to survive on its own, but as part of
astrology is easy to remember and pass on. Astrology has obvious appeal that
gets it into your brain in the first place; it provides a nice (though
spurious) explanation for human differences and a comforting (though false)
sense of predictability. It is easily expandable (you can go on adding new
ideas for ever!) and is highly resistant to being overturned by evidence. In
fact the results of hundreds of experiments show that the claims of
astrology are false but this has apparently not reduced belief in astrology
one bit (Dean, Mather and Kelly, 1996). Clearly, once you believe in
astrology it is hard work to root out all the beliefs and find alternatives.
It may not be worth the effort. Thus we all become unwitting hosts to an
enormous baggage of useless and even harmful meme-complexes.
One of those is myself.
Why do I say that the self is a meme-complex? Because it works the same way
as other meme-complexes. As with astrology, the idea of self has a good
reason for getting installed in the first place. Then once it is in place,
memes inside the complex are mutually supportive, can go on being added to
almost infinitely, and the whole complex is resistant to evidence that it is
First the idea of self has to get in there. Imagine a highly intelligent and
social creature without language. She will need a sense of self to predict
others behaviour (Humphrey, 1986) and to deal with ownership, deception,
friendships and alliances (Crook, 1980). With this straightforward sense of
self she may know that her daughter is afraid of a high ranking female and
take steps to protect her, but she does not have the language with which to
think I believe that my daughter is afraid ... etc.. It is with language
that the memes really get going - and with language that I appears. Lots
of simple memes can then become united as my beliefs, desires and
As an example, lets consider the idea of sex differences in ability. As an
abstract idea (or isolated meme) this is unlikely to be a winner. But get it
into the form I believe in the equality of the sexes and it suddenly has
the enormous weight of self behind it. I will fight for this idea as
though I were being threatened. I might argue with friends, write opinion
pieces, or go on marches. The meme is safe inside the haven of self even
in the face of evidence against it. My ideas are protected.
Then they start proliferating. Ideas that can get inside a self - that is,
be my ideas, or my opinions, are winners. So we all get lots of them.
Before we know it, we are a vast conglomerate of successful memes. Of
course there is no I who has the opinions. That is obviously a nonsense
when you think clearly about it. Yes, of course there is a body that says I
believe in being nice to people and a body that is (or is not) nice to
people, but there is not in addition a self who has the belief.
Now we have a radically new idea of who we are. We are just temporary
conglomerations of ideas, moulded together for their own protection. The
analogy with our bodies is close. Bodies are the creations of temporary
gene-complexes: although each of us is unique, the genes themselves have all
come from previous creatures and will, if we reproduce, go on into future
creatures. Our minds are the creations of temporary meme-complexes: although
each of us is unique, the memes themselves
have come from previous creatures and will, if we speak and write and
communicate, go on into future creatures. Thats all.
The problem is that we don't see it this way. We believe there really is
someone inside to do the believing, and really someone who needs to be
protected. This is the illusion - this is the meme-dream from which we can
Dismantling the Meme-Dream
There are two systems I know of that are capable of dismantling
meme-complexes (though I am sure there are others). Of course these systems
are memes themselves but they are, if you like, meme-disinfectants,
meme-eating memes, or meme-complex destroying meme-complexes. These two
are science and Zen.
Science works this way because of its ideals of truth and seeking evidence.
It doesnt always live up to these ideals, but in principle it is capable of
destroying any untruthful meme-complex by putting it to the test, by
demanding evidence, or by devising an experiment.
Zen does this too, though the methods are completely different. In Zen
training every concept is held up to scrutiny, nothing is left
uninvestigated, even the self who is doing the investigation is to be held
up to the light and questioned. Who are you?.
After about 15 years of Zen practice, and when reading The Three Pillars of
Zen by Philip Kapleau, I began working with the koan Who...?. The
experience was most interesting and I can best liken it to watching a meme
unzipping other memes. Every thought that came up in meditation was met with
Who is thinking that? or Who is seeing this? or Who is feeling that?
or just Who...?. Seeing the false self as a vast meme-complex seemed to
help - for it is much easier to let go of passing memes than of a real,
solid and permanent self. It is much easier to let the meme-unzipper do its
stuff if you know that all its doing is unzipping memes.
Another koan of mine fell to the memes. Q. Who drives you? A. The memes
of course. This isnt just an intellectual answer, but a way into seeing
yourself as a temporary passing construction. The question dissolves when
both self and driver are seen as memes.
I have had to take a long route to answer my questions but I hope you can
now understand my answers. From what are we to awaken? From the meme dream
of course. And how? By seeing that it is a meme dream.
And who lets the meme-unzipper go its way? Who wakes up when the meme-dream
is all dismantled?
Ah, theres a question.
Firstly for me meme is nothing but concretized "conditionings".
And in that last sentence is where Science will always come and stop,
because it then needs for the observer to be observed.
When the observer is the observed, there is no observation left and without
observation, science is no more.
What Is, ahhhhaaaaaaaa
Re: Waking up from Dreams-Memes
Fri, 27 Nov 1998 10:51:21 +0530
"Sandeep Chatterjee" <[email protected]>
"Jerry M. Katz" <[email protected]>
You have raised a very important and interesting issue here.
>> And who lets the meme-unzipper go its way? Who wakes up when the
>> is all dismantled?
>> Ah, theres a question.
>> Un quote
>> Firstly for me meme is nothing but concretized "conditionings".
>> And in that last sentence is where Science will always come and stop,
>> because it then needs for the observer to be observed.
>> When the observer is the observed, there is no observation left and
>> observation, science is no more.
>> What Is, ahhhhaaaaaaaa
>Thank you, Sandeep. Excellent article. I did not know about memes. It
>sounds like something scientists could sink their teeth into. I agree
>with you in that it is nothing more than an appealing and smart way of
>talking about conditionings, and that a final question always remains. I
>guess we can ride those conditionings to the final question, or to the
>My real concern is that I see a sort of following happening on the
>Nondualism/nonduality salon list. I feel I've taken a leadership role
>and created an atmosphere and have established that there is a certain
>way of viewing the world which is quite pure, valid, rooted in the heart
>of religious tradition, worthy, and knowable by focusing one's attention
>on something such as the I Am.
>All that is a meme complex, isn't it?
Till the moment "someone" is left to proclaim anything, any view, Personal
Saviour, Nothingness, Enlightenment, or Nirvan, I Am or Oneness of all etc
etc, these will all be variations of one meme or the other.
When the dew drop is no more, no meme can exists, only the Ocean IS.
Now my saying so, thus a "me" around to say so, all that I have done is
created another Meme of "Ocean IS".
However I fully agree with you, that one cannot speak orally or over the
cyberspace with out creating memes one after another.
That is why for me the way of negation , Not this, Not this cuts through all
memes including the meme which is this "concept of meme".
Look at how the concept of meme is spreading through me. You are reasonably
shaken up to see through your own motivations for the Nonduality Salon.
Since I have let loose this article in cyber space, I am getting flooded
with refutations and acceptances.
Since the meme survives even in refutance and definitely so in approval,
what it seems I have done is let loose a Pandora's box which even Susan (the
original writer of that article) may not have imagined.
Finally memes, it is also a joke, a game, just as the apparent "solidity" of
all around us is a myth.
I know that. In fact, I have seen
>it form, and I see it grow. I'm not sure what to do about that, other
>than to emphasize the principle of 'not this, not this', in one form or
The first thing that comes up for me is that the cyber space is a virtual
world within the so called "actual" world.
Now if we accept that the "actual world" is itself an illusion, cyberspace
is an illusion within an illusion.
So cyber talk is worth that much, unless somehow from "this illusion within
illusion", a melting of the heart takes place, real tears flow and one
starts "living" in a different way of beingness.
Why do scriptures amount to nothing as far as human evolvement is concerned?
It is dead, not alive,and yet has a potential like a finger pointing to the
Same as cyber talk or what you have created in your web page.
Your web page is an excellent tool to shake some body.
However, shaking is to happen, otherwise what will happen is theological
excellence, now theology not being about God, but of "IAM" and "Nothingness"
>Really, we talk to people on and off these lists, in person and
>otherwise, yet we really cannot communicate Truth. We can only point the
>way. But isn't it memes pointing the way? Don't we have to keep burning
>the memes (the bridges) until we get to our destination? Is not a meme
>like a raft to the other shore, which is then left to float away or rot?
Yes. Totally agree.
All I was trying to convey there, was the mechanism how "conditionings"
work, perpetuate and strengthen their survival skills.
A very apt example indicating what you said is through desires.
Throughout the history of humanity, "desires" and the "desiring ego" has
been the Devil to be stamped out in any spiritual path.
Now God, Existence, Whatever in order to "created" this multiplicity,
"desired" so and hence was born the EGO (lets denote it in big letters to
differentiate with the small ones of ordinary mortals.
What's the difference between EGO and ego, in essence)
The example goes on to indicate that it is the very path of desires which
has to be traverersed, in order to reach that "original state" from where
the EGO sprung.
The ladder through which the descent to Hell took place (grin), is the same
ladder on which the ascent back to Heaven is to take place. No other Ladder
This very illsuion needed to BE, so that piercing through takes place to
which is not illusory.
The meme's required to be burned so that in that very light, "that" which is
not a meme can been seen, can be melted into, so that no body is even around
to confirm or proclaim the happening.
Thus with all dues respects to people like Harsha who keeps proclaiming his
Nirvakalpa Samadhi , I smile at this "ancient meme" struggling to keep
>We have to recognize memes, and when a group forms around us, memes form
>very quickly and grow quickly and, like the Blob (remember that movie?)
>they consume the origin, the purity.
The tool in the hand has become the hand.
To recognize what is a meme, a simple test is enough.
Whatsoever has "happened" to oneself if one can explain, describe, proclaim,
bring it into the confines of words, language, any forms of communication,
anything on which one can "think", "reflect", "ponder" all these are
possible, any positive assertions, any affirmations, all one has done, is
either one has discovered an ancient meme or created one new one.
That is why can you see Jerry, those who 'attained" did not even say "IT IS
ONE" because what else is this but another meme.
99% of those who "attained" remained silent and hid from mankind because
they did not even wished to create a "meme" which was that "Silence was the
way to indicate about THAT".
Those who saw the suffering around of ones asleep and spoke out of
compassion, used the path of negation. They said it was Not Two. (Advait)
Buddha said "you" will be not.
What will be, he kept silent.
(He did not want to create any more memes)
>I'd like to hear your comments, especially on what specifically could be
>done to keep the meme from taking over a group. Meanwhile, I'll pass the
>article along to the mailing lists and recommend it be studied.
>It is my opinion that Sharleen has been very sensitive to this
>conditioning and has tried to approach me on it, as she senses that a
>conditioning lies as a veneer over my 'truth'. Lobster speaks also of
>this conditioning. I don't. But I agree with them. I just don't talk
>about it. And so there is a healthy division between what Lobster does
>and what seems to attract people on the nondualism list. I'd appreciate
>any comments you have on that.
Jerry just what drives you to do all that you do, the web site, Nonduality
I only sense in you Jerry, a deep compassion without any message to be put
Just like creating a Sarai (water hole), anybody thirsty come over, seek
your thirst quencher and stay or go about, whatever.
Does this describe your inner most essence.
Have a look as to what drove you to have this question in you ?
Recently, an article appeared in New Scientist about memes.
The issue was brought forward earlier but this article leaves no
doubt and offers a simple experiment. Here is a part of it:
"Hold out your arm in front of you. Whenever you feel like it, of your own free will, flex your wrist.
Repeat this a few times, making sure you do it as consciously as you can. You'll probably experience
some kind of decision process, in which you hold back from doing anything and then decide to act.
Now ask yourself, what began the process that led to the action? Was it you? Neuroscientist Benjamin
Libet of the university of California in San Francisco asked volunteers to do exactly that. A clock
allowed the subjects to note exactly when they decided to act, and by fitting electrodes to their wrists,
Libet could time the start of the action.More electrodes on their scalps recorded a particular brain
wave pattern called the readiness potential, which occurs just before any complex action and is
associated with the brain planning its next move. Libet's controversial finding was that the decision act
came after the readiness potential. It looks like there is no conscious "self" jumping into the synapses
and starting things off. This and other research has led me to believe that the idea of "self" is an
illusion. You are nothing more than a creation of genes and memes in a unique environment. Memes
are ideas, skills, habits, stories, songs or inventions that are passed from person to person by
imitation. They have shaped our minds, leading to the evolution of big brains and language because
these served to spread the memes. But the memes with the cleverest trick are those that persuade us that
our "selves" really exist. We all live our lives as a lie."[...]
This means the end of ego; from the perspective of memes, meditation is a tool to still especially competing memes. Instead of
speaking about Self-realization, it is more appropriate to speak about getting rid of self-illusion. It is possible to shut up all
memes to the extent that they will only come to the surface when a condition arises requiring a response; without that condition
the mind remains blank.
From the perspective of memes, religions, cults and methods of meditation are a kind of virus; they will start competing with the
already present memes and if one is "lucky", the virus-meme will win and become dominant. If this is accompanied by "special"
visions and experiences, one will claim "realization", whatever that means and attract followers, eager to have these visions and
experiences too. Such a meme, being able to multiply, is called successful. It is contrary to knowing one's real nature, as this
means getting rid of (dominance of) memes, the most important one being the illusion of self.
> If that set of self-replicating ideas known as the selfplex
> comprises what we might call the illusory self, then it is
> that particular idea of "me" that is the linchpin of the
> whole structure.
> When the idea of "me" is obliterated due to full absorption
> in the Self, the other ideas that comprise the selfplex
> continue to exist as impressions in the mind. You still
> have the idea that "you" are making decisions, but when
> you "decide" to remember who you are, there is nothing
> there to remember except the Self.
Unless the self-meme has disappeared, one cannot know other memes were
dependent on it. Without the dependence caused by the self-meme, the others
are just assets, as their former importance was derived from the self-meme.
In order to exclude confusion, one could "link" the disappearance of this
meme to the disappearance of the third eye as a focus for concentration.
> Will we be able to convince science such a Self exists?
> I believe not. There is simply no way to verify the
> existence of the Self. While some scientists may infer
> It's existence based on what they've come to understand
> about the phenomenal universe, because the Self Itself
> lies completely outside the manifest reality, it is not
> there to detect *except* by Itself.
As the differences between presence / absence of the self-meme will be
measurable in some way, eventually science will find circumstantial evidence
for its absence. The remaining set of memes will "behave" very different
after "attainment" of moksha. Though this doesn't prove "existence of Self",
it will point in the direction.
Phil Burton wrote:
The implications of memes preserving and
replicating themselves are on the edge of spooky. I (meme) don't (meme)
know (meme) what (meme) to make (meme) of it (meme). It seems to me you
could drive yourself crazy trying to unravel that one. And I doubt that the
meme of doing meditation (to outwit memes in general) is a meaningful way of
doing meditation, or even effective. Buddha was enlightened under the
Buddha-tree, went around yadda-yadda-ing for scores of years, and has his
legion of imitators. The meme goes on ...
Tim Gerchmez responded:
It seems to meme... err, to me, that (formal) meditation is
temporary pushing aside of memes. If self comes back after the meditation,
what's the gain (other than a sense of relaxation)? No memes that I know
of are "destroyed" in the process. Unless the loss of self is lasting,
perhaps following years of meditation and other forms of practice. Then
one might say that a meme has been "killed." Seems like an awfully long
process just to kill off one single meme (the sense of self). There are
certainly other methods aside from meditation.
This brings me back to J. Krishnamurti's words again about "conditioning."
Perhaps the best we can do is to avoid cultivating further memes. Don't
watch TV, don't follow formal religions, live for the Now only... or
perhaps in the absence of *attachment*, memes die naturally. It's
difficult to say.
Perhaps one day we'll have medicines for "curing" various memes. Hell, we
already have antidepressants, antianxiety agents, etc... why not antimeme
I'd like to tack on my thoughts to the Meme thread.
Memes are a fun concept to think about, and as a metaphor they have a kind
of extravagant appeal, but I want to suggest that the Meme Metaphor is, at
best, mind candy. That is, fun to chew, great tasting, but without a lot of
Meme theory tries to explain the way ideas replicate by drawing an
elaborate analogy to genes and they way they replicate. Richard Dawkins,
who wrote "The Selfish Gene", also invented the concept of Memes. Dawkins
is a Darwinian who, in effect, says that gene-based beings are nothing more
than hosts that support the persistence of genes.
This is an idea out of flatland. It commits the Materialist Fallacy. The
Materialist Fallacy is a worldview which must of Western science is already
growing out of. It says that there is only one level of reality, the level
of matter, and that all of life can be explained in terms of chemical
goings on in matter. The materialist denies that there is such a thing as
Spirit, and that there is such a thing as a Great Chain of Being. The Holy
Grail of the world view is to explain consciousness in terms of matter, in
terms of chemical reactions in the brain. Explaining consciousness in terms
of memes is a natural extension of this fallacy.
The key phrase to a Materialist is "nothing but". Consciousness is "nothing
but" chemical activity in the brain. Sexual attraction is nothing but a
chemical response to pheromes. Life is nothing but a project on the part of
genes to perpetuate themselves.
This is like saying that computers are just the way that processors built
by Intel and Motorola perpetuate themselves. My writing this mesage is a
way my Pentium II gets me to perpetuate its race.
The article in question that started this thread uses this "nothing but"
argument implicitly. It says "Meditation is itself a meme" (hear the
implied "nothing but"). It also says "the choices you make are not made by
an inner self who has free will, but are just the consequence of the
replicators playing out their competition in a particular environment."
Note the phrase: "just the consequence", another variation of the "nothing
I've heard this said by a psychiatrist whose main healing protocol is the
dispensing of Prozac: "Depression is nothing but low levels of serotonin in
the synapses of the brain."
I had a discussion once with a Materialist about near-death experiences. He
maintained that the typical reports of those who have died but come back of
white lights, visions of their dear departed waiting for them, etc. as
nothing but the brain's interpretations of random chemical events occuring
in the dying brain.
Richard Dawkin's view of the Selfish Gene is a rogue theory which is not
even given credence by other evolutionists.
Meme theory attempts to explain the way ideas spread. How is it that jokes
suddenly appear all over the country? Suddenly on Monday morning the same
Monica Lewinsky joke is being told around thousands of office water coolers
- why? A highly succesful meme. And I find that the idea of a meme is a
useful way to explain the infection caused by Computer Virus Warnings, in
which well-meaning people email all their friends the latest warning about
the latest virus. The major infection occurs in the minds of the people
spreading the virus warning, not in actual computer systems (okay, the
Melissa virus was an exception, but notice how quickly it was stopped.)
By contrast to the Materialist, Flatland view, the spiritual view is one of
hierarchies - from inanimate matter to animate matter to soul, to spirit,
to the Subtle, to the causal, to the NonDual (I take this from Ken Wilber
with deep apologies for oversimplying). Each level of the hierarchy
subsumes the lower levels. A higher level can explain the lower levels but
not vice versa. What goes on in a rock cannot explain what goes on in a
cell. The soul can intuit spirit but can't explain it. A gene can't explain
soul. A meme can't explain consciousness - or meditation.
As a spiritual community it would be suicide to accept a "nothing but"
explanation for things like meditation. Meditation is an entry way into
increasingly subtle experiences of the transpersonal realms, and not "just"
a way to clear-out the meme of self.
Of course, what I have said is "just" a meme that I learned from reading
Ken Wilber, a meme which is at this very moment trying to infect you. <g>
|DR. ROBERT PUFF|