Friday, January 29, 2010

The Mahakala of Chaos and The Fully Conscious Ordering of Infinite Life

R, Aurelius has left some follow-up questions to my last post on  "The Harmonic Convergence of Acausal Reality", which was a response to previous comments by him:
“…The problem is, there's no such thing in real life as a strictly material event. There's always a human consciousness involved in it somehow, either as a seeming actor or a seeming observer…”

True, but to what extent? And again, why does there seem to be such a reliable predictability to what falls onto consciousness or what waves consciousness collapses into reality? If I send 10 people at different intervals to have a look inside my garden shed – and write down what contents they find – they would all very likely report the same thing (a lawn mower, a rake, some dried leaves, and an old bicycle). Yes, consciousness is involved. But, as you write below, who or what caused this to arise in consciousness? And why does it seem to arise with such regularity (i.e. the garden shed contents)? Are we all having the same dream? Is our “function” merely to collapse waves into this dimension? This is still not clear to me.
First, let's be clear that there is no moment in which consciousness is not present in experience, because without consciousness, there is no experience. The common, seemingly objective viewpoint is that our experience is unnecessary to the existence of the body, the world, and other people. We presume that if our consciousness is not present, that everything goes along just fine without us. We presume that our consciousness is limited to our own body and mind, which is just an insignificant part of a totality which barely notices its existence. But if we actually examine ourselves as consciousness, we will notice that these presumptions have little validity. They are beliefs that are reinforced by the belief itself, creating a circular logic that has no actual basis independent of consciousness. The reality of our experience is that we, as consciousness, always come first, and what we experience in consciousness, whether it is our body, the world, or other people, comes second. Even while we identify with the body, this is always the case, and there's never a moment in which this is not the case.

So the real question is, how can a secondary aspect of our existence come to be seen as primary, and how can the primary aspect of our existence come to be seen as secondary? Part of the answer is found in Aurelius' question. We notice that the world around us has some regularity to it, and that our own internal subjectivity does not. Since our intuitive sense is that whatever is constant and regular and seemingly "permanent", or closest to that, is real, we presume that the world outside our subjectivity is real, and that our subjectivity is the illusion. The problem with this logic is that it confuses our internal thoughts and feelings with consciousness, when if we observe these things we will see that they are actually just as "objective" to us as the external world. Both internal thoughts and external experience are composed of objects to our awareness. We tend to identify ourselves with the internal thoughts, rather than the external, sensory objects, and so we tend to see the outer world as "objective", and the inner world as "subjective", but this is an artificial distinction. The real distinction is between the observing awareness of experience, and the objects of experience.

It's extremely important to notice both the falseness of the distinction between inner and outer objects of experience, and the bare facts of our own awareness. Another thing to say about this notion that all observers will find the objects in the shed to be the same is that it just isn't true. For one, each observer will bring his own subjective and even objective interpretation to the shed, and see things somewhat differently. Everyone's senses will perceive the shed slightly differently, everyone's brain and nervous system will process that information somewhat differently, and everyone's subjective thinking and emoting about the shed will be different. So no one will experience the shed exactly the same. Likewise, the conditions in the shed will change over time, even over very slight periods of time. But even further, and most importantly, everyone will experience the shed as a phenomenal object arising in their consciousness, and not as a truly independent, objective event outside of their consciousness. The distinction between inside and outside objects is a false one.

The reason this is so important is that if we genuinely are looking for something that is regular, reliably present under all experience and in all conditions, regardless of how they change, it is this observing awareness. This is the one real constant in our experience. We are not in a world of unchanging shedness. The shed is a temporary and fleeting part of our awareness that we simply cannot remain constantly aware of, and even if we try, that "shedness" will change, and our experience of it will shift and change with our moods and perspective, even if we try to preserve its objective nature as long as possible. The fact that ten people will inventory the objects in the shed in a fairly similar way only tells us that limiting consciousness to the body of a single individual is not meaningful, that our consciousness is connected in important ways. But it also tells us that to the rest of the world, this shed is not terribly important. Consciousness never really has the same contents twice. Time makes sure of that.

A famous scientist once defined time as "God's way of making sure everything doesn't happen at once. Causality cannot exist without a concept of time, and yet, if we are attentive we will notice that we never experience anything but a single moment of time. We have a concept of time only because we create memories of past moments, but these memories do not actually exist in the past, they only exist in the present. So even our notion of time exists only by comparing present experience with present memories. We have no guarantee that our memories of the past are true, because we have no actual past to compare them to in the present, we only have our present.

One of the most famous and bewildering of scientific paradoxes is called the "Boltzman Brain Paradox", invented by Ludwig Boltzman, who is most famous for inventing/discovering the principle of entropy and the notion that the universe was created by random fluctuations - this long before even the notions of quantum mechanics were known. Boltzman's brain paradox is a mathematical proof that it is far more likely, in a universe of random fluctuations, that a single brain would manifest with false memories than that many brains would manifest with true memories. The numbers aren't even close. The suggestion, therefore, is that either the universe isn't truly random, or we are living in a world of false memories, not true ones, and that there aren't really other people at all, but only a single mind.

Whether or not the Boltzman brain paradox is true, it's rather obvious thatwe can't ever be certain that our memories of the past are true. Even if we compare them to the memories of other people, and the results of some mechanical device like a camera, these too are appearing in our consciousness, and we can't be certain of their reliability therefore. All we can be certain of is that our own consciousness exists as an awareness that is constantly observing and "experiencing" everything. The "everything" always changes, but the observing awareness does not.

The primary illusion of life that we all have to face up to, therefore, is that our consciousness is secondary to experience, and thus a secondary part of reality, and that objects to our consciousness (whether inner or outer) are actually primary to experience, and therefore to reality. We grapple with this illusion every day, and move in and out of identification with either internal or external objects, but seldom do we simply allow ourselves to be who we are, which is this observing awareness.

If we begin to examine our experience from the perspective of this observing consciousness itself, the one unchanging constant in our experience, we begin to discover what our real relationship to reality is. As Aruelius suggests, we begin to see that we are all experiencing the world as a "dream", as something that arises in and to our consciousness, and that the objects of our consciousness have some kind of regularity only because consciousness is not separated by body and brain, but has a larger expanse than that.

And let me be clear, I'm not suggesting that anyone go around with some concept in their mind that we should try to be aware of ourselves as "the observing consciousness". No effort is needed for this to be the case, because if we examine ourselves honestly in any moment, we will notice that this is just who we are. This is our reality, and it requires no concept to be imposed on us for that to be so. If we notice ourselves in any moment, we can see that we simply are observing everything in and around us, whether it's a thought in our mind, a memory of the past, or the perception of a bicycle in our shed. In all such cases, we are the observer of these things, and we are the reality of them, not the other way around.

One thing to notice is that we choose which objects to our awareness we confer the status of "reality" to. We can call our dreams at night real or unreal, depending on our perspective, and we can call some things in the objective world real or unreal, depending on our disposition towards them. We can call some memories real, and some false. In all cases, we decide what is real, and reality is conferred upon the world by us, not by the world itself. If we choose to decide that our own consciousness is unreal, and the objective world is real, that is the reality we will live in. One of the problems we face, then, is that different people have decided these things differently from us, and this upsets us. We tend to associate with people who have made similar choices about reality to ourselves, and consider variations from that forms of "craziness". We wonder to ourselves how people can be so insane, without recognizing that we are insane also, because we have confused reality with our own projections of reality upon a chosen set of objects, rather than recognizing that the source of all feelings that things are real is in us, not "out there". And by "in us", I don't mean merely in our own subjective thoughts and feelings, because these too are merely things that we give some the sense of being "real", and others the sense of being "false". We are not actually the same as our subjective thoughts and feelings, these are still just objects to us that we confer reality upon according to our own choosing.

”…We all intuitively know what it means not to operate by cause and effect notions, because we do this all the time in reality. It's actually only in relatively rare moments that we operate by cause and effect - usually when things go wrong and we feel a need to blame someone. Or when we are trying to figure out some practical problem of material mechanics..”.

I would say rather that we do operate by a cause and effect awareness (sometimes on an unconscious level) of reality more than we think. When things go wrong our focus is on why something went wrong in order to understand it and eventually correct it. If nothing goes “wrong” then we simply don’t think about it – because things are “working” according to expectations. My car not breaking down also appears to have “cause” (i.e. proper maintenance, model type and age, wear and tear – or lack thereof, etc.). So then, in what way do you mean that we intuitively not operate on a cause and effect level? 
What must be said first about this is that cause and effect is a conceptual interpretation of experience, it is not how we actually experience anything. One has to learn to think this way, it is not something immutable in our experience. So in that sense, we don't actually go through the day thinking "cause and effect", we only interpret things that way after they have already happened, or in anticipation of their  happening. But in the present moment, there is no actual cause and effect, because we can only experience one present moment at a time. Of course, even the brain and nervous system conspire against us in this regard, in that it's been shown that our nervous system creates a kind of "cache" of sensory experience that it assembles into an artificial "present moment" that in reality is built of briefly stored memories. This is one of the reasons why eyewitness testimony is actually one of the least reliable forms of evidence - our actual brain-based experience of things is unreal even by the standards of science. In moments of crisis, the brain assembles "facts" together unreliably, even confusing the order of events.

How reliable is our own brain then? How reliable is our bodily-based experience? Well, not very, even by "objective" standards. This suggests we can't even rely on our own thought process and sensory experience. Rather than submit to some external, objectified notion of reality, this suggests that we should be based in what is genuinely reliable to us - our own observing consciousness. We can observe our own internal thoughts and experience, even our brains as they process sensory data and internal thoughts. We can be what we actually are in the midst of all the confusions of experience - consciousness. That can be our reliable ground of experience, not the conceptual fabrications we create around us, including the concept of cause and effect. Even when we seemingly observe cause and effect, we are the observer of these, not the object of them. We see objects seemingly related to one another by cause and effect, but we, the observing consciousness, are never either a cause or an effect. We only seem to be when we identify ourselves as an object, such as the body or the brain, rather than as what we really are, which is this observing consciousness.

So Aurelius is correct that we do enter into cause and effect mode at times, when we need to think of some kind of way to change our present situation, or to account for changes that have happened. But this cannot be maintained for long. It persists only through stressful effort, and we forget it all too often in the midst of trying to deal with the present moment, because cause and effect can't exist in the present moment.We have to step back from our actual experience in the present in order to see things as ruled by cause and effect. So this notion that cause and effect makes us participants in life, whereas being the observing consciousness is a way of removing ourselves from life, has things exactly opposite. It's an inversion of reality to think this way. Actual reality has us always as an observing consciousness, and it is only by removing ourselves from reality that we can see it as a cause and effect phenomena. And since we actually do live in reality, whatever we may think about it, we don't actually experience the world as a cause and effect matter.

We tend not to notice this much simply because our minds tend to be confused and identified with our own confusion. But even our confusion does not come about by cause and effect, and it can't be undone by removing what we might think is its cause, or by creating a cause that will produce the effect of undoing our confusion. Our confusion is simply false identification, like seeing the rope as a snake. We cannot "undo" the snake, because the snake is not caused, and it never actually came into existence. Likewise, the causes of our confusion don't exist, because confusion is not real to begin with. It is only by thinking that it's real that it becomes real to us. We confer reality upon our confusion, in the same way that we confer reality upon the snake that doesn't really exist as a snake, but is actually a rope. If we try to undo our confusion by acting upon it, trying to create clarity as an effect of our actions, we have merely reinforced our confusion rather than worked to undo it. What will actually undo our confusion is noticing what is not confused, and has never been confused, which is our own consciousness. We have to notice the rope that we are, and that will clear things up. Doing things to the snake does nothing but tell us that there really is a snake, and that's the nub of the problem right there.

It would be great to be able to just be there in tune with what it is and act in harmony with the situation as we are presented with it. I truly believe this. It would indeed be a relief - as you put it. But it does seem, by your own account, “we” can still mess things up – looping us back into a cause and effect scenario. We somehow get in the way (cause) and we end up messing ourselves up and producing unintended results (effect). It seems that dropping the obligation of seeing myself as a causal being continues to be an elusive goal. Could you comment here? I believe this is the crux of the discussion. To say that life just arises in consciousness – seems to imply that there is no participation in life other than observing and passively going along. Does saying that we can mess things up not throw us right back into the cause and effect equation – which to me – would validate a cause and effect universe on almost every level?
Once one begins thinking of things as occurring by cause and effect, everything falls into these conceptual categories, even acausality. One even sees the origins of cause and effect thinking in terms of cause and effect. It's logic can be applied to virtually anything and everything, and thus becomes inescapable. This is why I say that we have to begin by throwing away cause and effect, and not gradually get there.We have to recognize what is real, and proceed on the basis of that, rather than on the basis of some concepts we have about reality, which will end up being re-devoured and regurgitated as cause and effect if that's how we begin. We have to begin with what we actually know directly, not some concept in the mind like cause and effect. And what we actually know is our own conscious awareness. All the objects we know are secondary, and all concepts we have about ourselves and the objects of our experience are tertiary. The first person is what matters, not the third person concept we have of ourselves. If we stay with the first person, we won't become confused. If we leave the first person behind, and instead presume the third person through conceptual notions, we will quickly become lost. Cause and effect is one of the primary ways that we presume the third person by means of conceptual interpretation, and lose our direct experience of reality.

What must be said loud and clear is that being the conscious observer is how we participate in life, it's how we experience everything directly, and how we act directly. If we don't live as the conscious observer, we are separating ourselves from life through concepts and interpretations that render us as "third persons" to our own experience. This is why we feel separate and apart from our experience - because we are not being genuinely related to it, we are instead conceptually related to it, identified with objects, even subjective objects, rather than knowing ourselves as the conscious subject, consciousness itself. This is also why our efforts to be "in the moment" fail if we are identifying with the body-mind, and trying to act to produce results through the body-mind, rather than with our native consciousness. Our efforts backfire and simply reinforce the source of our problem. That is the problem with all cause and effect efforts, even the effort to undo our confusion by cause and effect.

If we interpret all of this as meaning that "identification with the body is the cause of our confusion, so let's engage in some effort to undo that identification, in other words eliminate the cause or do somethign that will  have that effect", we haven't actually learned anything at all. We are just recycling these simple truths through the conceptual mind of cause and effect, and we will indeed become only more disassociated as a result.The simple answer to this is simply not to interpret all this through cause and effect notions, and not to look upon our confusion as the result of a cause, or the cause of some further effects. This is one of the problems with much Buddhist dharma on cause and effect. Rather than step out entirely from the mindset of samsara, it tends to reinforce samsara by imagining the "solution" to our entrapment in karma is more cause and effect, rather than less. And people who naively engage in Buddhist practice with the notion that it will undo their karmas, or void the causes of suffering, are not getting the real point of genuine "emptiness". Genuine emptiness transcends causes and effects, it is not the cause of some effect we might call "enlightenment". And the same goes for all forms of spiritual practice conceived of as causes that will produce spiritual effects.

What is necessary is a genuine insight into all this, a genuine breakthrough that goes past cause and effect and stays there, and which becomes the basis for all spiritual practice, which simply means life itself, free of concepts. It is important that such insight not be re-subsumed into our cause and effect conceptualization of reality, therefore. It must develop the strength to stand apart from all that, which means to stand in reality itself, directly, in the first person, not the third person, unruffled by concepts about cause and effect. This is how karma is actually undone, by standing in reality. One can never "work off" one's karma by cause and effect - that is simply endless, because the method merely reinforces the conceptual illusion of cause and effect, which is what karma is to begin with.It is precisely by not trying to cause enlightenment that enlightenment is found. And even that cannot become a conceptual method to produce enlightenment. It must be a direct understanding. There is no other way.

“…When we exclude consciousness from the equation, it doesn't go away, but it reappears in our experience as randomness…”
Can you be more specific here – when you talk about random intrusions? Any examples?
The experience of randomness is far more common than that of cause and effect, but it too is an illusion. Behind all cause and effect interpretations lurks the incomprehensible monster of chaos.  We try to resolve chaos into causes and effects, but despite the academic findings of science and philosophy, our actual experience is always chaotic. Even the science of chaos theory is merely a superficial stab at trying to grasp just how complex and chaotic life actually is. Even quantum mechanics tells us that every moment is a series of probabilities governed by randomness, not an ordered universe. Cause and effect breaks down at the quantum level, which means our hope of finding an orderly cause and effect universe is simply in vain. So everywhere we look we see chaos, randomness, and chance, rather than orderly causes and effects we can predict with any certainty. Cause and effect is a reaction to this experiential fact, rather than the underlying reality behind it. It is an attempt to keep ourselves from facing the Mahakala of Chaos, by erecting fences of orderly cause and effect. But the Mahakala always wins out in the end, not our theories of cause and effect.

What I am suggesting is that if we examine our experience from the perspective of consciousness, we will find that in reality there is no chaos, no randomness, no infinite multiverse of all possibilities, but only the single reality of consciousness itself, which is unity and uniform throughout all of experience, and which is reflected in all experience. What we perceive as randomness is merely the acausal nature of consciousness confronting us in the midst of a life we are scrambling to interpret in some other way, because we have made our own conscious existence a secondary, unconscious, even tertiary affair. When consciousness, which is acausal in nature, is made unconscious is us, pushed aside for the third person viewpoint, it does not vanish, it merely acts in an unseen, unconscious manner, which we see as chaos and randomnness. But randomness is not actual random at all, it is merely acausal. It operates by a different principle of order than we are accustomed to. It doesn't operate by cause and effect, but by acausal unity. Our conceptual mind can't grasp that, so it sees it as an enemy, a force that must be broken and tamed by cause and effect interpretations. But it turns out that even all our cause and effect efforts end up finding an irreducible randomness to life that is impenetrable to cause and effect, even at the most scientifically refined levels of understanding. What "causes" randomness? Well, clearly it wouldn't be random if it were caused, that is precisely the problem with randomness. Randomness exists precisely because it has no cause. And this points us back to the acausal nature of reality.

It can be difficult to discern if we have surrendered to life or simply to a concept of “life flowing spontaneously”. And there is always that nagging feeling that perhaps we have not really surrendered – leading to the “mess up”. How do you approach this?
It's not really all that hard to discern. If we are operating by a concept, we are not living spontaneously. If we have that nagging feeling you describe, we are not surrendered. What to do then? Well, it's very simple. Merely noticing that we are not surrendered is enough, because that noticing is a return to consciousness. We need not engage in anything other than mere noticing, in order to return to reality. If we have that nagging feeling, just notice that. Don't try to undo that nagging feeling, just notice it. If you notice that you are trying to undo that nagging feeling, just notice that. Ad infinitum. Eventually, just noticing will purify us of what we notice. We will find ourselves returning again and again to consciousness, to being consciousness, naturally and effectively. The more we simply notice this, the more our own consciousness will grow in intelligence and clarity. The more our responses to experience will be spontaneous and true, and in accord with reality. We will notice consciousness itself in the process. We will notice ourselves as primary to all our experience. We will find ourselves more and more established in our real nature, simply by the power of noticing, which is rooted in the first person, not the third person. Messing up is inevitable, but not a problem, if we simply notice it. In the process, we will also notice that there is a principle of acausality that is governing everything, rather than cause and effect. We will notice that cause and effect is not how things actually operate in real life, that it's just a conceptual interpretation of reality based on illusions, rather than on how things actually are.

“…We tend to attribute even the bad things that happen as a result to some cause and effect mechanism, when in reality it is merely due to not living as our consciousness actually operates...”

Again, is this not the cause and effect mechanism at the ultimate dimension?
No, this is merely how it seems if we interpret even this understanding by cause and effect notions. The result of living by cause and effect notions is that we seem to be trapped in causes and effects, and can't get out of it by resorting to further causes and effects. It is only be seeing that even the illusion of cause and effect is not actually caused, that it never actually became real, that we can penetrate this illusion. It is a self-created illusion, in other words, and self-reinforcing within its own logic. The ultimate dimension knows no cause and effect, and it sees that no illusions of cause and effect ever actually exist. The consequences of living in illusion is that the illusion seems to persist, and that is how cause and effect seems to be our pervasive experience. That is karma. Living in reality has no effect on our illusions, any more than turning on the light has an effect on the snake. It merely makes reality obvious, and illusions vanish without cause, because they were never real to begin with. From the perspective of illusion, light is a terrible threat, and is seen of some cause of the dark's destruction. But there is no such thing as darkness, there is merely the absence of light. Light does not actually do anything to darkness. It merely makes light obvious. It does not cause the darkness to "die". Similarly, consciousness does not come about through any cause, and it is not a cause in relation to anything else. The noticing of our own consciousness is not another cause that dispels the darkness, it merely reveals the acausal nature of all arising, which we mistakenly perceive in the dark as "randomness". In the light, it isn't random at all, but the fully conscious ordering of infinite life.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Harmonic Convergence of Acausal Reality

An anonymous commenter on my previous post asks some good questions here:

I would be interested if you elaborated still a bit further here. The cause and effect model is deeply embedded in our consciousness and it is compelling precisely because it appears to be what happens in our experience moment by moment. Yes, there are gaps that we may attribute to karma, coincidence, wages of sin or whatever. But for the most part those gaps are few and far between. On a daily level, we tend to see relationships between cause and outcome in almost everything that happens. If we set fire to gasoline, it ignites. We draw the curtains or close the shudders on our windows and it gets darker. I wash my hands with soap after working in the garden and the dirt comes off my fingers (mostly). I refuse to pay my taxes and the tax man comes after me. There is such a consistent regularity to these actions and outcomes on the immediate level that no one feels the need to keep reducing them back ad infinitum to find a first mover principle. 
I can see how on an existential level this applies as well - though we often misunderstand what causes leads to what results. On a deeper level I can also see your point about how peace and happiness are uncaused - that they are simply there in the same way that the "rising" of the sun is not caused by anyone - even though earlier generation probably attributed their activities to its daily reappearance.

Can you explain why simple actions in our reality lead to a consistent regularity of outcomes (i.e. driving my car too fast around a corner (at 80km) under normal conditions causes my car to swerve but slowing to 25km does not cause it to swerve? Do we simply change the verb to "arises"? Then do we say that these events simply arise spontaneously? How do we account for their predictably? I would appreciate your insights here.
I appreciate these questions, in part because I don't have a lot of personal reasons to write more on this topic at this time, so it helps if someone raises questions and prods me to fill in the blanks in my presentation of the acausal viewpoint. I consider such questions to be example of acausal synchronicity, so to speak. They may seem to cause me to write a response, but the truth is that they are just part of the harmonics of how ideas unfold.

Which is already answering the question in an important respect. One way of looking at events as they unfold is to see them as purely material happenings, which seem to us to clearly operate by cause and effect. All the examples given, such as gasoline igniting when we heat it, presume that these things just "happen", without any consciousness being involved. But I will argue that this is never actually the case. Even when something that seems in no way caused by human beings, such as the earthquake in Haiti last week, occurs in our consciousness, or it does not have any meaning to us at all. I would argue that both an earthquake in Haiti, and let's say a military invasion in Iraq, killing the same number of people, perhaps, would both be events we cannot sensibly understand without looking at our human consciousness of these events.

In the one case, we seem to have a random act of nature - tectonic plates letting off a little tension - and in the other, a deliberate act of human beings. One can try to ascribe these events to specific material causes, but will that really help us understand the actual experience of these things? I would say not. In the first case, we look to science for a cause, and the answer we get is pretty much devoid of meaning to most people. There's a reason why scientific explanation of cause and effect leave us rather cold and empty. It suggests that we live in a world that is devoid of meanings, that is random, indifferent to us, and cruelly disposed much of the time. Even worse, it doesn't seem to be conscious. Human beings like stories with villains and heroes and conscious acts. We like the idea of Gods being behind every act of nature, not because we are stupid, but because we intuitively like the idea that there is consciousenss behind everything that happens. This is why people like to believe in spirits and witches and voodoo, speaking of Haitians, and of Gods and devils and some kind of battle between good and evil, speaking of Pat Robertson's infamous attribution of the earthquake to some pact with the Devil he alleges they made some 200 years ago.

While I understand that need to create some way of including consciousness in the equation, the real problem with the Voodoo or Pat Robertson interpretation of these kinds of things is that it feels obliged to find a cause to blame for these things. Science tries to rectify this by looking for purely material causes, and this works if we confine ourselves to strictly material events analyzed in a strictly material way. The problem is, there's no such thing n real life as a strictly material event. There's always a human consciousness involved in it somehow, either as a seeming actor or a seeming observer. Science likes to push the conscious observer as far out of the picture as possible, in order to analyze things on a purely material place. They like to consider consciousness to be virtually insignificant, secondary, or really just tertiary, whereas the primary matter is material actions and reactions.

The problem is that once we take the human consciousness out of the picture, we have also taken what is real and primary out of the picture also, since consciousness if primary to every single one of us, and not at all secondary or tertiary. There are no "third persons" in life, there is only the first person, the "I" who experiences and acts and observes. So there's no way we can discuss such things as gasoline igniting or earthquakes striking or wars breaking out without making consciousness primary to the whole experience. And when we do that, it's no longer possible to see the event in strictly causal ways. Who observed the gasoline ignite, and why was he there? Who struck the match, and why? If we try to seen this as a caused event, we have to find out who caused it to arise in our consciousness, and how?

Even if it looks like a causal event, we can't account for our observation of it by cause and effect. Our actual experience is not of being the abstract observer of an effect, as in science, or the recipient of an effect, or the cause of it. If we look at the even without including the primary fact that it occurred in our consciousenss, we can point to causes and effects, but if we see it as arising in consciousness, this no longer makes sense. If we dream of lighting gasoline on fire, can we really say afterwards, knowing that this whole thing appeared in our subjective consciousness, that the fire was "caused" by the match we lit in the dream? Clearly, it was not. We dreamed of the match and the fire as causally linked because that's how our minds think. And the same is true in life. Our waking life is not actually different from a dream, in that it arises in consciosuness and unfolds by seeming causes and effects which might make causal sense if viewed as independent from our consciousness, but once we realize that they are not independent of consciousness, that there is no 'objective reality' outside of our consciousness, then we can't any longer naively imgaine that things happen by cause and effect, even if they might appear that way to us.

The set of views I am essentially arguing against are all views that seek to exclude consciousness and all its levels of experience from consideration. When the commenter mentions that causation "is deeply embedded in our consciousness and it is compelling precisely because it appears to be what happens in our experience moment by moment,"I have to point that this has not always been the case for human beings. It's particularly true in our materialistic era, dominated as it is by scientific thinking, but this has not always been the case. The scientific-minded among us would agree, but would probably argue that this has been a good thing, that previously people were deluded by superstition and magical thinking, and that now we understand cause and effect properly and can see that this is how the world really works. Well, I'd disagree with a lot of that viewpoint. There's certainly been some significant progress in understanding the material plane from a cause and effect viewpoint, but the method of excluding consciousness has actually led to one of the most ignorant eras in human history, not one of the best.

Fortunately, the strict cause and effect viewpoint has not totally dominated our thinking, even if superficially people feel obligated to pay lip service to it. Most people don't actually think like scientists, and they don't actually believe in pure cause and effect. They are pretty clear that we don't really know how we got here, why we got here, or how we got here. In our actual human experience, no one is really a scientist, not even scientists. But there is certainly a kind of formal PC expectation that we all have to have some kind of causal logic for doing the things we do, if someone important asks.The reality, however, is that most people intuitively know that they don't know why they are doing what they do, or why things happen to them. Which is part of the reason why they resort to Voodoo or Pat Robertson.

Scientific answers to our questions never satisfy our consciousness, because consciousness is always excluded from the scientific equation. Even psychology doesn't really get to the bare existential facts of our experience, in part because it all too often tries to find a cause and effect explanation for how our minds work, when that isn't how our minds work at all. Part of the reason I am writing so much about acausality is that I see a whole lot of people feeling deeply unsatisfied by what causal explanations have to offer them, and they literally can't quite grasp what it would mean not to operate that way - this questioner among them. This isn't their fault, and I'd also suggest it isn't even true. We all intuitively know what it means not to operate by cause and effect notions, because we do this all the time in reality. It's actually only in relatively rare moments that we operate by cause and effect - usually when things go wrong and we feel a need to blame someone. Or when we are trying to figure out some practical problem of material mechanics.

Buit even working out practical problems of material mechanics - is even that actually done by cause and effect? Aren't the material problems that confront us arising in consciousness, and isn't the method we come up with also part of our consciousness? Do we really have to allow our consciousness to be dominated by a cause and effect method that excludes consciousness from the equation to figure these things out? Or do the proper thoughts just arise in coincidence with the roblem, when we are in a state of surrendered consciousness?

It's a common experience to everyone, including scientists, that oftentimes the correct solution to a problem simply comes to us after we have given up the struggle to figure it out, but instead merely relax and think of something else, or even go to sleep, and let ourselves dream the answer. There's plenty of famous examples of this sort of thing, but I think it's something everyone has had the experience of, even on a daily basis. Some psychologists will conclude that this is the result of the unconscious working behind the scenes on the problem, but I would suggest that even that isn't quite accurate. The real way these thing work is that when we surrender this effort to cause something to happen, we also simply allow it to happen naturally, by synchronicity. The mind and body simply act in harmony with the situation we are presented with, and the right thoughts, and the right action, naturally flows through us, without our being the cause of it, or even figuring out the cause.

I've mentioned before the example of an Indian devotee of Papaji who was a civil engineer in charge of all kinds of important projects, who described how in the course of the day he never thought of all the technical cause and effect notions of how an engineering project must be done, he just found that through his devotional surrender to Papaji that all the correct words and work flowed from his mouth and hands, without having to even think about it. He moved through all the paperwork that came across his desk, handled it just fine, was praised for his work and given raises and promotions, without ever actually trying to figure anything out. He had no sense of being the "doer" of his actions, and no sense of actually puzzling through the problems he was given to work on. And yet, buildings and bridges and so forth were built on the basis of this work, and all seemed to go well.

So what I'm suggesting is that this kind of thing, which is experienced by all of us to some degree or another every day, is a greatly overlooked principle that we should be making conscious use of,. ratther than constantly feeling obliged to believe in cause and effect. We can and actually do operate by principles of consciousness, which does not actually operate by cause and effect, and which can actually be a more effective way to go about our daily work and business and interactions with other people, because it does not divorce us from the consciousness principle which is our primary experience in life.

Personally, I find that my day goes much more smoothly when I simply surrender the effort to motivate myself or think through the cause and effect results of my actions, and instead merely act in harmony with consciousness. I think many people have the same experience, even if they are not able to explain it in the fashion I have tried to do here. And I think it's a shame that there is so much doctrinal and moralistic opposition to this approach, as if I am threatening something that is foundational to human experience, when I am not at all. First, causality is not foundational to human experience, it's a conceptual approach that has some uses as a limited discipline, but it's far from primary to our experience. And second, it's not a threat at all, it's relief to those who are feeling obliged to think of ourselves as causal being in a causal reality, when this only creates tension and stress for us all. And third, its merely an acknowledgment of the reality of how human consciousness operates, which is primary to us all, and thus essential for us all to understand and adapt intelligently to.

If people disagree with any of that, I simply welcome them to observe their own consciousness and see how it actually works. The temptation is always there to impose causal explanations upon our consciousness, such as the belief in witches or demons or karma, but I think if we simply observe our own consciousness, and how it operates, we will find an absence of these, and an absence of causation altogether. We will notice that our consciousness does not actually cause anything to happen. This is not a passive attitude, as opposed to an active one. It's an observation we can make in the midst of the most active of lives, in which we handle all kinds of practical things, such as the engineer fellow I mentioned above.

Of course, it may seem odd for an engineer to operate this way, but many of the brightest people in the world find that it's often best to simply act, and not spend a lot of time thinking about it. And obviously a lot of writers, artists, musicians and creative people of all kinds frequently find this to be the most effective way to work, and that being limited by cause and effect thinking is actually stifling and unproductive. Insights and creative breakthrough come to us most often when we are not trying to cause them, and are not thinking in causal terms. I am simply suggesting that this is a foundational principle for right action, not merely some strange trick to use when we are stuck and unable to break through some cognitive impasse. This is not an "unconscious" solution to our problems of daily life, it's an acknowledgment of how consciousness actually operates for us all.

I'm further suggesting that when we obstruct this acausal approach to thought and action, we actually tend to mess ourselves up, and endup producing result that often vastly differ from their intended results. The Iraq war comes to mind. How'd that turn out? The best laid plans, you know?

Part of the problem with cause and effect thinking, of course, has to do with the chaotic nature of real world events. The invasion of Iraq was expected to last about three months and cost under 60 billion dollars, but the realities of life and consciousness create a chaotic world in which it's almost impossible to operate effectively through cause and effect thinking, and the results therefore almost never correspond to the analysis of the causes involved. Chaos, of course, is just another word for randomness, and randomness is precisely how consciousness appears to operate when looked at in strictly materialistic terms.

When we exclude consciousness from the equation, it doesn't go away, but it reappears in our experience as randomness, which even from the scientific viewpoint ends up ruling all of the material world through quantum effects. It's just that science can't recognize randomness as consciousness re-apprearing in its equations, because it has no means by which to recognize consciousness. And life is the same way. When we are unconscious in any way, consciousness rears its head as some seemingly random event. Nothing, in reality, is actually random, it is merely a part of a pattern in consciousness that we are not fully aware of.

I remember years ago a funny, random event that helped me to think more deeply about this matter of causality.My youngest son was just learning to read actual books of normal length, and he was very proud of his abilities, and was always coming up to me to show me how far he'd gotten in some book. One morning, I was coming out of meditation, and he stopped me in the hallway with a book in hand, and asked me excitely, "guess what page I'm on". I had no idea when he started the book, and I didn't even bother to think about the question. My mind was in a deep state of relaxation, however, and I just blurted out "Ninety-two". He stopped in a kind of wonder, and said that was it exactly. He hadn't really been expecting me to know, and the truth is, I didn't know. You could call that random luck, or maybe psychic mind-reading, but really, I understood instantly that it was none of those things, it was just a matter of being surrendered into the pattern of the moment, and letting the answer simply arise in mind in accord with that moment of my son's question.

Of course, it's hard to live that way all the time, because we tend not to trust ourselves to simply be that surrendered and to freely respond to life as it comes to us. We think we're supposed to add up all the causes and effects, and figure out the right answer that way. And yet, that seldom really works for us all that well. It makes us even more tense and unsurrendered to live that way, and the results are usually disharmonious living that never quite pans out as we think it should. We tend to attribute even the bad things that happen as a result to some cause and effect mechanism, when in reality it is merely due to not living as our consciousness actually operates. So we tend to view even "stress" as a cause of our problems, and try to come up with cures for stress, some cause that we can apply to the problem of stress that will make it all better. And this just tends to make it worse, unless we gain some basic insight into this whole mechanism, and cease to live by cause and effect itself, but instead by a different principle.

So my point is that not only are peace and happiness uncaused, but even ordinary actions we perform every day are uncaused. Nothing just happens on its own, all of it requires consciousness. Even washing  our hands requries consciousness. We don't wash our hands because of some cause, we simply do these things consciously, or if we do them unconsciously, we suffer the random intrusions of consciousness in our life as if it comes from outside us. The grease does not come off our hands because of the soap we applied to them, but because we consciously washed our hands - that was part of our conscious experience, like a dream is a part of our experience.

Because of quantum mechanics, even physics is having some serious questions about causality of late, and I have some confidence that many of the new theories meant to address the holes in both QM and relativity will open up the casual window even wider. Just as physics has already demolished all kinds of ordinary assumptions we make about the way things work in the material realm, I feel rather confident cause and effect is also in a weakened state and in need of some serious adjustments, even within science. Beyond science, in the realm of real experience, I think causation is well past its prime, so to speak. If we want to be attentive to the real quality and functions of consciousness, I think it becomes very clear that causation must be put aside, and acausal principle developed to understand how consciousness actually operates, If we have a wrong understanding of how conciousness operates, it's all the more difficult to live a consciously enjoyable life.

This question still requires a good explanation:

Can you explain why simple actions in our reality lead to a consistent regularity of outcomes (i.e. driving my car too fast around a corner (at 80km) under normal conditions causes my car to swerve but slowing to 25km does not cause it to swerve? Do we simply change the verb to "arises"? Then do we say that these events simply arise spontaneously? How do we account for their predictably? I would appreciate your insights here.
 Yes, using the world "arise" might be a good start, but I think a better way to look at these kinds of regular consistencies is to see them as expressions of an harmonic pattern. Let's use the metaphor of an series of harmonic waves travelling through an uneven medium. If the medium were consistent, the waves would appear the same throughout. But if the medium is bumpy, with some areas that are thicker,and some thinner, the same wave will produce different results in different places. And yet, it will also produce consistently different results wherever the two contrasting mediums are of similar ratios of contrast. Thus, the same wave, coming from the same source, will produce a similar ration of waves as it spreads and encounters contrasting densities in the medium. You will thus see a consistent "result" between two events that are close together, and one could say by observing those results that one event caused the other, when in fact neither caused nor effected the other, they were merely both reflecting the same wave pattern as it manifested itself at the same time, but in consistent ratios that produces results that would appear to an observer as if the one were causing the other, when that isn't really the case at all. In reality they were related to one another only because they each were manifesting the same wave pattern in proximity to one another. Neither actually caused the other, but their harmonic relationship to one another made this appear to be the case.

The actual manifest reality is really nothing more than an infinite patttern of harmonic waves that creates an image, like that of a multi-dimensional movie screen, in which everything is related to everything else by this infinitely complex wave pattern that is the same everywhere, but manifests everywhere in a somewhat different way. If we examine that image in a flat-screen manner, with only one dimension seen, it gives the illusion of a cause and effect pattern of events unfolding, when in reality none of those events are actually causing one another, they are merely appearing harmoniously in relation to one another. So we see the laws of physics appear in a causal manner when we see only one dimension, but when we look at the total picture we see an infinitely dimensional harmonic wave pattern that arises from an infinite source simultaneously, in all places and times at once, and it only appears to be causal in nature from that limited viewpoint. Causation requires time, but in reality even time is multi-dimensional, and thus there is no reality to our notion that one event follows another and is actually separated, Instead, time itself is merely a plastic of consciousness, and it too is a projection of the harmonics of this infinite wave pattern. The reason one moment of time seems similar to the nest is that of harmonics, not causation. Each moment is in harmony with every other moment, and this harmony look to us, when seen in only one dimension, as causation. But seen in its totality, it is pure "harmonic convergence", so to speak.

And perhaps there's a reason why that psychic event, the "harmonic convergence" of 1987, is so named. We are at a time in human history, I think, where this kind of understanding of how consciousness works is coming to the fore, and even ordinary people like you and me are able to ride that train to a deeper grasp of these principles, and perhaps actually live by them. Of course, every moment is in reality a moment of harmonic convergence. We just need to recognize it as such.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Beyond Magic and Magicians, Into the Spontaneous Quality of Real Life

A comment on my last post on Both Happiness and Illusion Are Uncaused makes this point:

Hmmm. I'm right with you until the last paragraph. The problem with causation as I see it is finding the first one. No first cause then no causation. The trouble here is when you start talking about 'Magicians holding secrets' and 'using this insight' and the like, it sounds suspiciously like the beginning of causation. There was no power to cause anything but now suddenly it's manifest. Am I missing something here?

(I've been enjoying your tenacity and persistence re this, btw. Of course I see no first cause. cheers and Thanks!)
It's good to hear that there are some people out there who actually find this samyama on acausality interesting, but it's clear I need to clarify some of my references, particularly this matter of magic and magicians, and the gradations of apparent causality that people experience.

I agree with the commentator that one of the problems of causation is that of finding the "first cause" that set it all in motion. Without identifying a first cause, it's hard to construct a logical train of causes that produces our present and future lives. However, I think this argument is also rather weak, in that it relies largely on logic rather than direct experience, and it doesn't explain why people tend to perceive causation when they look at their own lives, and the world around them. People tend not to give much weight to purely logical arguments, and are swayed instead by their actual experience. If in their own experience they see causation all around them, that's what they are going to believe in, regardless of whether they can locate some original cause that set the whole thing in motion.

So my approach here is to set aside most of these purely logical arguments, and examine the nature of our own direct experience and consciousness, and look for the gaps in our perception of causation that reveal it to be an illusion of convenience. I don't think there's any other way to genuinely expose causation as having no genuine basis in reality in a way that is at all personally convincing, rather than merely intellectually consistent. People will tend to reject intellectual consistency in favor of their own direct experience, at least in their actions if not always in their minds. My interest isn't in merely convincing myself that causation can't be supported logically, but that it can't be supported experientially. If my experience is that causation is true, but my mind insists on logically disbelieving it, this will create a tension, and a resulting cognitive failure that can't be resolved unless I re-examine my experience and begin to directly see the failure of the cognitive model and its ramifications in life.

One of the basic themes I'm trying to get across is that causation is not merely an intellectual idea, it's also a very basic cognitive model of dealing with life.  People intuitively assume causation without inspecting the truth of it, and they tend to build a cognitive model of life around this assumption. They do so because it seems to work in their minds. In fact, it works simply because that is how their minds have been trained to think, and to the degree that this seems to work for them, it gets reinforced in their minds as a truism. However, it doesn't entirely work, and it leaves serious gaps in our lives that the causation model can't fill, and this often leads to belief systems which try to posit casuation as operating at hidden and unseen levels of the mind and the universe which attempt to explain these experiential gaps. And here various forms of cognitive dissonance actually reinforce these belief systems, covering over the gaps and inconsistences with mental certainty about various causation ideas such as karma and spiritual methods which are guaranteed to produce results.

On the other side of the spectrum, we also have intuitions of an acausal universe that goes against some of our causation models. We intuit that the universe may also operate by a series of "coincidences" wherein things just seem to fall into place. Some people can easily be led to adopt these views, simply because the causal explanations seem strained past a certain point. If you look at the number of people who believe in things like astrology, tarot, I Ching, and divination methods of all kinds, you can begin to grasp how widespread these intuitions are. And yet, even in these fields there is confusion about causation. Many astrologers, for example, will tend to attribute the correlations of astrology with our own psychic and life patterns to some subtle "influence" of the stars and planets, and will assume that there is some kind of subtle energy these celestial bodies are emanating which affect our minds and lives and the whole world around us. This is the result of people trying to come up with some kind of causal explanation for astrology, when the deeper understanding of this art is one of simply "reading the signs", rather than finding subtle causal explanations for our psyche's patterning.

One of the problems with the causation model and its cognitive process, as my last post tried to make clear, is that it opens the door to a model of spiritual dependency on the causal agents who are the alleged sources of our spiritual growth and awakening. This is what I was trying to refer to in my last post as "magic and magicians". I tried to use the magician as an example of someone who is creating an illusion of being that cause of some literal effect, when in reality he is simply a poseur who is merely taking credit for a natural process that is not even causal in nature. The magician is selling his act, and relying on the naivete of the audience and their desire to believe in causes and effects, including a big and powerful magician who can reliably produce the desired effect if we simply are obedient to him. The magician takes advantage of our desire for this kind of magical ability to trick us into thinking he is the causal source of the effects they desire. They enter into a subtle hypnotic state of suggestibility, in which they will attribute whatever effects they seem to experience to the magical hypnotist himself, and not recognize that what is going on is not actually cause and effect, but a subtle indoctrination into an illusion.

I've written before at some length about the hypnotic relationship between the cult leader and his followers, and who they conspire together to produce a situation in which the followers can act out their own unconscious fantasies in relation to the cult leader. Part of what makes this possible is the fantasy that the cult leader is the cause of the effects the followers experience, that he is "transmitting" some kind of spiritual energy to them, and that whatever they experience is an effect of the cult leader's power. In reality, this is not the case at all, it is merely a form of hypnotic suggestion that cult followers are all too eager to accept internally and act upon, because it allows them to play out various internal fantasies they have long dreamed about. They get to believe themselves to have a special relationship to a special person or power, one which is the true cause of spiritual growth and happiness, without which they are mere "wretches". This makes them special as well, though their specialness is dependent on their relationship to the causal source of this power, the magician'/guru/cult leader.

Of course, this also opens the followers to a massive, fraudulent exploitation of their desires and illusions by unscrupulous poseurs who like to think of themselves as the  magical cause of whatever is going on in their follower's spiritual lives. They encourage the follower to think of them as the cause of whatever good occurs in their lives, and likewise, they like to encourage the idea that it is their followers' egos which are the cause of all the bad that happens. This creates a pattern of blaming the ego of the follower and exalting the personality of the guru, all of which is dependent on the notion that there really are causes and effects governing all of these processes, and that identifying the causes and their effects is what spiritual understanding is all about. Even those who criticize cultism still tend to examine the process as one of causation, they simply see the cult leader as a cause of evil rather than of good, and they blame him rather than praise him for the effects he produces in his followers. But this does not truly liberate anyone from the illusions of this whole process, it merely inverts the illusion upon its head, and creates an opposing model of causation, not a genuine alternative.

It's my observation that wherever one sees a powerful model of causation at work, one is going to find  exploitation going on. This is even true in simple psychic disciplines like astrology and psychic reading. Those who promote the causal model in these disciplines unwittingly end up promoting exploitation and dependency. They make themselves into powerful magicians who have special powers over the world around them, and they tend to make others dependent upon them, which allows them to charge more and more money for their services. This of course occurs in the spiritual world as well, where some people are able to charge huge amounts of money by positioning themselves as causal sources for the spiritual advancement of their followers, who depend on them for the magical effects they seek, not realizing that this is not at all what is happening, even when genuine spiritual growth does occur.

I also want to make it clear that not all forms of spiritual practice require the causal model in order to work. This is what I was trying to get at in the final paragraph the commentator referred to. I don't want to suggest that all action, or all forms of spiritual practice, are useless, meaningless, or pointless, and only lead to illusions. There is indeed a class of spiritual practice that can be engaged by us that is not based on causation, but which is based on an understanding of the genuine relationship we have to our own source and nature, and that by relating rightly to our own source and nature, we can foster our spiritual growth. One can suggest that this is merely another kind of causation, that I'm suggesting that acting in a certain way is going to cause various positive effects. I can only say that this is itself merely a symptom of the underlying assumption we tend to have that all forms of action and life are the result of causes and effects, and that the only way to escape cause and effect is to not act at all. But this is of course precisely the viewpoint that I'm arguing against. I'm not at all suggesting that there is any reality to cause and effect, even in our ordinary lives. I'm suggesting that all action, even ordinary action in life, is not actually caused, and that we need not refrain from the life of action in order to escape cause and effect, but that we need to understand that action is actually uncaused, that it is merely a natural and spontaneous process that arises in consciousness without cause, and that if we participate in our lives of action with this understanding, we will enjoy the natural ease and harmony and happiness of our real nature and being, rather than the life of conflict, opposition, and stress that the causal illusion perpetuates.

Of course, until we awaken fully to the uncaused nature of peace and happiness, we will tend to see some form of cause and effect at work, so it's virtually impossible to impose upon ourselves a purely non-causal interpretation of events. Even harmonizing with the acausal nature of reality will be looked upon us as a kind of causal practice, which we hope will produce better results. And to the degree that we look upon it that way, we will also limit its usefulness, and even limit the "effects" of the practice. The more we look for effects, the less we will see, and the less we look for effects, the more positive our growth will be. This seems paradoxical, and leads to the seeker's desire to limit his desire for effects, in order to produce better effects! One can go a little crazy pursuing these logic paths, and end up tying oneself in knots. It's best to notice that this is exactly what the causal approach does to us - it ties us up in knots! When this is felt deeply enough, we can sponteneously just let it go, and surrender to our own real nature, and allow our lives to actually become spontaneous events that unfold naturally from our own depth of consciousness, and not as the result of a series of causes and effects.

The acausal model does not eliminate the notion that there is a genuine source of our life and consciousness and spiritual growth. It merely understands that our source is not a causal one, outside ourselves, that operates as some power that produces effects. One might reduce it to that model as a shortcut to understanding that requires no real revolution in our cognitive processes, so as to make it "easier" to grasp. That's generally what happens with the common notion of "God". The most common way of understanding God is as the causal source of the world, the being who created the world, who caused it to come into being, and who acts as an ongoing cause of all that happens, good or bad, handing out punishments to those who are bad and rewards to those who are good. This makes sense to people because it doesn't strain the causal model. One can say at the very least that it helps to point people in the right direction, in that it posits a source to our own consciousness, but by presuming this to be a causal source, it leads us into a great many illusions and potential exploitation. Slowly, as we ponder the nature of God we may begin to see that the causal model isn't real at all, that the nature of God is actually acausal, and that our relationship to God is a harmonic one, not dependent on a causal source, but is an entirely acausal source in which we are not in the least but separate from God.

This requires that we understand that the source of our life and consciousness is not caused at all, that we are not its effect, that it did not occur in the past, and is not moving towards some future. It is spontaneously arising right now, uncaused, and that the patterns of our own mind and psyche are not causally related to one another, nor causally related to our own mind and world. In fact, we may begin to see that the assumption of a causal relationship to all these experiences is coincident with suffering, which then begins to seem caused itself, and produces a life of trying to cause the end of suffering by either undoing those causes or finding some causal source of magic which can cancel out those causes and allow us to be free and happy. That whole cycle reinforces its own illusions through the deeper and deeper assumption of more and more causes and more and more effects, until we are seemingly trapped in such a deep web of causes and effects that there is almost no hope of becoming free of it, except by the most gradual of processes of "paying off karma". The problem is that paying off one's karma only reinforces the causal illusion we are trapped within, and it turns it all into a process that literally takes forever.

The approach I'm suggesting, and trying to take myself, is one of freeing ourselves from the illusions of causation at the root, in the heart of our own awareness, and not falling for the ways in which this illusion tries to creep back into our lives. This can only be done by actually being directly attentive to the present pattern of our own mind and awareness, not by merely intellectually theorizing about it. This requires a sense of direct vulnerability to our experience, even to the sufferings of ourselves and others, and not recoiling from these, or creating intellectual justifications for them, but genuinely entering into a harmonic relationship even with our own suffering, and the sufferings of others. This does not produce "effects", because it is not a cause. And yet, we will also notice that when we really do this, it expands the sphere of harmony beyond our own assumed limits of mind and life. We may be tempted to see this as a subtler form of causation, but that's not what it is, and it's important to notice that, and not be sucked back into the causal model of life by it, thinking we've found a more genuine way of causing peace and happiness.

Of course, to some extent that's just what we will do, until we penetrate the illusion entirely, and we have to be tolerant of ourselves and others for making these kinds of assumptions. They are inevitable and unavoidable. Rather than reacting to that in ourselves, and trying to oppose that, we have to harmonize even with these aspects our own mind and life which are not so enlightened as we might wish. This means merely staying in relationship to our conventional mind and psyche, and that of others as well, and that of the whole world, and not imagining that we can undo it by cause and effect. We undo it by merely being the loving observer, the sympathetic heart who merely listens and empathizes, rather than tries to take charge and produce the desired results. That is how real magic happens. Be being present merely as uncaused love, and not trying to save anyone, we can help ourselves and others see through these illusions and know their own nature, and thus be free of the illusory cycle of cause and effect. This is what real compassion means. It requires a humble appreciation of our own inability to actually produce the effects we seek to cause, our inability to save either ourselves or others, regardless of our good intentions, and an approach of self-surrender rather than self-effort.

This approach is not for the faint of heart. It will literally break your heart. There will be pain in the process, but also much heartfelt love. One cannot avoid that, nor should one want to. Reality is a bitch, but she means to help us, just not in the way we expect. We want the pleasant effects, and we seek whatever causes we think can bring these about. That's why we tend to be attracted to magicians, rather than to the acausal source of real life. And magicians will always prey upon us until we break through that whole approach. It requires some real insight to put that behind us. And it requires that we actually exploit that insight, make much of it, actually let it guide us and teach us and be attentive to it, rather than passively expect it to come to us, as if it is caused and will affect us on its own.

We have been exploited for so long that we somehow tend to think we should simply remain passive, rather than active, in relation to even these genuine insights. But real insight is an active process, something which awakens us spontaneously to the real process of spiritual life, and we have to engage it as such, and not simply sit back and expect it to happen to us. Reality is not a passive process. Acausality does not mean inactivity, even if we are sitting still and calm. Such simplicity masks a process of intense, uncaused activity. We simply have to understand that genuine, true action is uncaused, and seeks no result. It is free, and sometimes appears quiet and still, but it is free to act as well, without any resort to cause and effect, and not producing karma, therefore. Karma is produced by the mind that is trapped in the illusions of cause and effect, not by action itself, which is uncaused in reality, and thus produces no effects. Understanding this frees us to act in true and real ways. It does not condemn us to inactivity or stasis. It simply unveils the spontaneous quality of real life.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Both Happiness and Illusion Are Uncaused, and Cannot Be Created or Dispelled by Causes

Elias has a good post on causation over at the forum. I've written a reply which I'll reprint and expand upon here:

Nice article.

One thing I might point out is that the question of the "nature of the mind" also depends on the "nature of reality", especially in regards to understanding how such things as insight meditation work.

If meditation is viewed as a causal process, in which inner peace and happiness are an effect produced by the cause of meditation, it implies that they did not previously exist, and thus are dependent on meditation to bring them about. So the question is, where did they come from, and how did they appear in our consciousness? Were they actually produced by meditation, or were they simply not previously noticed?

The approach of Advaita and Ramana (and such Buddhist paths as Dzogchen) is that peace and happiness are always the case, but the egoic mind is deluded by appearances such that it does not see them. The purpose of meditation and spiritual practice, therefore, is merely to dispel illusion, not to actually produce any effect of peace and happiness. Not to beat a dead snake, but the snake-rope analogy applies here. If we bring light to the snake, it does not cause the rope to come into being. The rope was already there. The light merely illuminates our illusions, and thus dispels them, leaving the rope obvious.

The point here is that the that peace and happiness are uncaused. The effort to engage in some activity which will cause peace and happiness to come into being is rooted in the notion that they can be caused, that some special meditation technique has the magical ability to make ropes for us all, or some alchemical trick that turns snakes into ropes. But these are illusory processes, since the rope was there all along. Someone posing as a magician, wearing all the right outfits and hats, pronounces a few magic words, waves his hands, and viola, we see a rope appear. And then disappear. We misunderstand what has happened. We think that the magician has some secret trick for producing ropes, or changing the snake into the rope, and we think if we can learn his trick, and get really good at it, we can get the snake to go away and have the rope persist for a very long time, maybe forever if we're really good at it. But this of course requires tremendous effort and persistence and "faith" in the magical process we have learned. What it lacks is a genuine understanding of what is really going on.

Magical activities, like ordinary methods for gaining respite from our miseries, play upon a basic fact - that real happiness and peace are uncaused, and we can experience that directly in moments in which our minds are briefly suspended and the effort of seeking is temporarily abated. That relaxation can release the underlying peace and happiness of our own being into the mind and life. The "knots" of the mind and body can open, and we can experience a flood of peace and happiness. But once that moment passes, there is a return to the norm. If we don't understand how that happened, we can become deluded into thinking that the magical activity itself produced the peace and happiness we experienced, and thus we pursue this new "path" of trying to experience deeper and deeper effects from these new causes. This become bondage, however, since we are operating under the illusion that our happiness was caused by these methods, rather than that it was already true, and we merely glimpsed this truth in a moment of insight.

The common search for peace and happiness is rooted in this causal presumption, that we can engage in actions - eating ice cream, for example - that will create peace and happiness. So we pursue those activities which seem to correlate with that result. The problem is that this misunderstands the nature of peace and happiness, and presumes that it can actually be caused by our efforts, as an effect of them. Which is why people engage in all kinds of actions to gain happiness, to pursue it, etc. They think that these actions will either kill snakes or produce ropes. In reality they do neither. At best, they can produce temporary relaxations of our craving, usually when we achieve some kind of pleasurable result. But even then, we identify our happiness with these stimulated states of pleasure, rather than with the underlying nature of reality.

What "works" is, as you say, to merely observe the process of mind itself, and to penetrate its illusions and see its fundamental nature, which is peace and happiness. But this is not a way of actually engaging in a causal approach. There must be an actual "insight" to guide this process, the insight being that peace and happiness is already the case, and not something to be produced at all. The meaningful process is one of the removal of illusions, not the production of peace and happiness. And the method of removing illusions is a matter of direct insight into the very nature of our own minds, not a technique that produces results.

It's important to note that even the removal of illusions is not a causal approach. There is no formula for the removal of illusions, such that if one does x, y, and z, illusions will vanish. Again, it doesn't work that way. Illusions don't have a cause, and they can't be removed by one either. The search for a primal cause to our illusions is like looking for a primal snake in the rope. That is itself part of the illusion. There is no "Devil" producing the illusion that there is a Devil in us. That is the illusion to be dispelled. And what dispels it? Nothing more than the inherent power of our own consciousness, the "light" of which is our own awareness. If that awareness is brought to our own mind, then the "snake" illusion is dispelled, and the peace and happiness which are our own real nature become conscious in us, rather than hidden in unconsciousness. But even this is not a causal process, as there is no actual snake to act upon or be removed, it is merely an appearance that naturally vanishes when the light of our own awareness is brought to the mind. We are not battling snakes with light/consciousness. We are just noticing what is really and truly the case.

Using this understanding to examine our ordinary activities in life can be extremely interesting, in that if one thinks that cause and effect actually do guide our actions, then that is what we will see, just as if we think that snakes really do exist, that is what we will see, and not ropes. This is why the recommended approach is not to observe and analyze objective events, since what one sees will be determined by the underlying presumptions of our own mind. Instead, insight meditation directs us to examine the mind itself, and its presumptions, so as to break the grip of these illusions upon us. In that process, nothing is "caused". Even so, as our illusions begin to fade, even a little bit, we begin to experience the peace and happiness that is inherent to our own existence. It's easy to mistake this for a cause and effect process, and to become re-enslaved to some new system of "de-conditioning", as if there really is a cause of our illusions, and a way of removing these causes by some other cause. This is one of the primary traps of the spiritual process, one which can keep us ensnared for a very long time, and undermine the entire process of dispelling our illusions by creating new ones which have the patina of spiritual authority to them.

It's important to recognize how deeply our minds are fooled into thinking that we are unhappy and lacking in peace, and how in need we are of some grand cause that can remove our unhappiness and give us the peace we desire. It's important not to proceed with spiritual life, or even ordinary life, on the basis of these assumptions. Instead, it's necessary to at least suspend judgment on these matters, and look instead to the nature of our own minds, and simply be attentive to how our minds have become structured to believe in cause and effect at so many levels it's hard to untangle them directly. It's best to simply be agnostic on these matters, and to examine one's own mind directly, without presumptions, and find our real nature. If the truth is that we really, truly are lacking in peace and happiness by our very nature, well then, we really do need to construct some kind of peace and happiness that can be renewed by our efforts, or just accept the fact that we'll never actually be happy and just make do the best we can - whatever that means.

But if we have the insight that breaks through these illusions, even for a moment, and don't confuse that insight with some methodology that is seen as its cause, or some great Magician who holds the secret to reproducing it, then we have an opening we can exploit.  We can use that insight to expand this opening, and create a window onto reality that will dispel more and more of our illusions, and increase our awareness of the natural peace and happiness of our own real nature. This means nothing more than becoming more and more aware of who we are, by allowing our awareness to know itself as it is. It is a process of surrendering to ourselves, and allowing that uncaused process to be the guiding principle of our lives, not some method that seeks to produce this as an effect. It is using freedom not to fight bondage, but to multiply itself by self-procreation. This aligns us with the real process of consciousness itself, which is uncaused through and through, and naturally includes the awareness of all. Illusions merely fall by the wayside in this process, they are not empowered by it.What is empowered is our own native strength and happiness, which is not properly understood as a cause of anything, but a natural form of intrinsic harmonious relationship to everything that appears in and through and as our consciousness and awareness.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Quantum Solace: Further Debates On Synchronicity

There's a good thread going on over at the Forum called "Quantum Solace: Acausality for the Compleat Idiot...', which gets into some interesting ideas about synchronicity and causation. This is my reply to Elias' original post, which quotes most of his original piece and includes my replies. For the full debate, follow the link above.

Elias said:

I. Your consciousness influences events simply by 'being there'.
In Quantum Physics Theory, the universe is not deterministic (i.e. causal). Rather it is called probalistic -- meaning that events can only be described and measured by their probability of occurring. Bye bye Newton, hello Niels Bohr.
That said, the original theory also stated that probabilities collapse into specific actualities at the moment of measurement. This, as we know, was picked up by Fred Alan Wolf and spun into a series of popular books about the "quantum" interaction of consciousness and reality --

There's been a long debate in quantum mechanics about the implications of the theory, particularly in whether the probablistic aspects of the theory are purely a mathematical abstraction, with no real-world meaning, and whether the quantum effects only apply at the level of the very tiny, and get washed out at the larger, human level of experience. The biggest issue is whether there really is an objective universe out there before we observe it, and that the problems with quantum mechanics merely show that there are limits to our ability to observe it. The famous "Copenhagen Compromise" was essentially an agreement not to even address these issues. Since then, however, experiments have come close to conclusively demonstrating that the universe really does not "collapse" the wave function and produce a "real world" of objectively and priorly fixed attributes until we actually observe it.

See this remarkable article on these recent series of experiments.

The basic conclusion is that "realism" is essentially disproven, and that this applies not just at that level of the very tiny, but at the everyday level of large objects in the visible universe. The reason we don't see these effects so readily is simply that our senses are a bit too crude. Our sense and brains tend to wash out these effects and create a sense of continuity which is not actually there.

I wouldn't call that interactive connection direct (or mechanical) causality, at least in our naive or "simply present" state. I notice that events appear to be shaped by my presence, but I can't seem to find a set of gears at work behind the Universe which are mechanically responding to my consciousness. Rather, I can only note the synchronistic data and feel the non-verbal ways in which I am part of everything around me.

It's important to understand that my "theory" of acausality isn't a black and white one, in which there is no causality to be observed at any level. It's a shaded theory, that from the perspective of ultimate truth, there is no causation, but that the appearance of causation creeps in as one's view becomes limited. In the most limited, one-dimensional view, such as in materialism, causation seems at first glance to be solid as a rock and indisputable. So there's two extremes, that of pure causation at the one-dimensional level, and pure acausality when dimensionality becomes infinite. In between, which is where we all tend to live and think and view the world and experience our lives, we get a hazy sense of both, an indeterminate impression of a synchronistic world that perhaps operates by a much subtler kind of "causation" than the purely mechanical determinism of the one-dimensional materialistic view. This is because we are conscious, and no matter how dim-witted we may be or limited in our consciousness, the mere fact of being conscious introduces new dimensions to our experience than the purely material one.

Which is why, I think, the results of even scientific theory ends up introducing acausal principles. The reason is that scientists themselves are conscious beings, not purely mechanical machines, and the more they examine their experience even within the highly disciplined materialist strictures of science, the presence of their own observing consciousness is seen to be involved in the process of the material world's own existence and function. This makes it impossible to see the world as a purely causal place, and requires notions of acausality to explain even material phenomena observed by us.
But based on accumulated life experience, my presence and my conscious perception do seem to affect this hypothetical "synchronous wave" of events. There is causality there -- it's just not Newtonian causality, at least in terms of my knowledge of what's going on. (It might be Newtonian, or mechanical, of course. But I don't yet know that. In fact, the only way I, as a human, can describe this kind of influence is to appeal to the theories of quantum physics, as Wolf as done.)
The experience of causality is not vanquished merely by theorizing, or even by noticing consciousness as an active part of the equation. It merely diminishes the role of causality as we begin to examine our experience from multiple dimensions simultaneously. Consciousness, as we explore it, includes many dimensions, and when we start to acknowledge these, causality breaks down more and more. Ultimately, according to the Ajata view of Advaita, it breaks down entirely. Before that, however, it creates a kind of indeterminate haze, in which we sometimes will still see causation, and even presume that consciousness is a cause, in some indeterminate way, or an effect in some cases, but in a much weaker sense than we previously thought. And these views change as our point of view either expands to include more dimensions of consciousness, or contracts to concentrate on fewer of these dimensions. Depending on our needs for either an expanded or a focused viewpoint, our sense of causality will also change.
This leads me to my next point, which is two-fold. First, it is my sense that those who embrace acausality in the way BY apparently does are looking for a way to absolve themselves of responsibility for the evil in the world. They want to restore a lost childhood innocence, a "pre-egoic" bliss if you will. (In Jungian terms this would be called "losing the Shadow".) One of the ways they do this is to prove to themselves that events -- past present and future -- are largely beyond their influence. Furthermore they claim that the very idea that there is a causal connection between themselves and "random events" is "a false model of the world" which derives from the ego. The ego, being an illusion, can't really exist. Voila, all causality disappears! And with it goes responsibility, the result -- they hope -- being moksha!
I think I've already dealt with these issues in the dialog with EE. SInce the issue of my motives is an entirely subjective one, it can't be resolved here. You will undoubtedly think as you will about this. Just remember that it's a two-edged sword. Your own motives in arguing as you do are not pure either, I'm sure. The larger point, however, is that I've made it clear that the acausal viewpoint does not relieve us of responsibility. It merely sees responsibility as an acausal one. We are not in control of what happens in our world, as virtually everyone knows. The idea that responsibility means being in total control of everything is a false one. Real responsibility acknowledges that most of the world "just happens", and our control over things is very limited, to say the least. We can of course do things that affect the world around us in relatively small ways, but I can't stop earthquakes in Haiti from happening. I can't stop Glen Beck and Sarah Palin from scheming to take over the world. I can laugh at bit at the folly of people who think they really can control this world, but I can't really stop them from trying. What I can do is simply live my life in harmony with the world I experience, even in relation to earthquakes (we had a big one here last week as well) and Glen Beck. I can cease to act as an opponent of anything, trying to battle causes and effects, and instead live in peace and loving relationship to those around me. If that is considered an irresponsible attitude by some, I can't really argue with that. I don't know what these people think they are doing to take responsibility for the world they live in, but I guess they think there's a difference. And maybe there is.

The second part of my next point is this: In our conscious perception of arising events, there is a way that we influence events by purifying ourselves of dishonesty and motives of greed, anger, and so forth. The events around a saint will (it has been observed) be much more benign than those around a hardened criminal. Good vibes? Or is it that there is a causal connection between our state of consciousness and ongoing feedback from the Universe?

Yes, this is quite true. I'd simply argue that what you are describing is not a causal influence, but an acausal harmonization. The problem with the notion that this is an actual causal "influence" is that it introduces a number of illusions into our viewpoint, such as the notion of "spiritual transmission" that you decried in our other thread. One of the insidious things about this notion of "transmission" is that it presumes a causal relationship within spirituality. It presumes that some causal force emanates form spiritual people, spreads like electromagnetic waves through the ether, and produces an effect on the devotee. This leads of course to the notion that our spiritual life is an effect that is caused by someone else, by some great Maha Waddadoo, and thus that we are dependent on that Maha Waddadoo, because without his causal spiritual force we cannot experience spiritual effects.

My view is that all of that is really just an illusion created by a limited perspective in consciousness. It's not that there is no atmosphere of peace and spiritual energy around saintly people, it's that it's not a causal one. It simply coincides with out own spiritual nature. It harmonizes with us naturally, and helps us to see our own spiritual nature. Nothing is actually "transmitted". There is no force that travels from one person to the other. There is no causal process enacted. Instead, there's simply a synchronistic affiniity that becomes more and more conscious, in more and more dimensions of our consciousness, which it becomes clearer and clearer is not actually causal in nature at all. However, it may appear to us to be causal, because we may be limited in our own conscious awareness of all the dimensions involved. And that can bring about a lot of trouble, because then either we, or the Maha, may try to exploit this causal impression by claiming to be the source of it, the cause of the positive effects we experience. And it tends to create illusions in us as well, because we identify the spiritual process with the causal effects we see, rather than with the deepening and broadening of our own conscious perspective. Thus, we may end up seeking effects through methodical causes, including all kinds of techniques and practices, or slavish devotion to the causal source, the Maha Waddadoo, all of which tends to obscure the real nature of the process that goes on in genuine spiritual practice, which is essentially an acausal one.

The role of the ego in all this is, I think, that of limiting our point of view, such that we tend to interpret these things as causal in nature, centered on the ego in us and the ego of the spiritual "source", such that transmission is seen as a causal force which emanates from the ego of the Maha Waddadoo and is received by our own ego. The more limited our point of view, the more egoic this whole process becomes, and the more rigid our conviction is that it's a causal relationship, rather than an acausal syncrhonous one.

Another way to describe this is to say that taming the ego (becoming humble) has the effect of harmonizing the "synchronous waves" of arising events. For the arrogant or narcissistic personality, arising events lose their resonance with "God's harmonious guitar" and start to take on the discordant qualities of a techno-rock composition, so to speak.

I think that's a good perspective on the issue.

This too is causality, an observable connection between my consciousness and the Universe.

Not all observable connections are causal in nature. That's the assumption we tend to make, based on the limited point of view tht is socially and culturally and even spiritually ingrained in us by all kinds of people and their presumptions. When we see two clearly connected events, we all too often immediately search for a causal connection, because we tend not to think there could be any other way things are connected. But there is, and that is acausal synchronicity, which operates by harmonization rather than causation. There's certainly a sense in which we can still view this as a sublter kind of causation, but I think the more we examine it, the greater our perspective is, the less actual causation we will find.

Lastly, after one has taken note of the relationship between seeing itself and arising events, one may take up the practice of various yogas and meditations to positively or negatively affect events.

Yes, all this is good, but I would argue that seeing that as a cause producing an effect actually limits the effectiveness of these practices. One is not actually producing a causal effect, one is merely harmonizing with the universe. Because the actual nature of the universe is acausal, when we take up these practices naturally, without trying to produce an effect, but simply as a way of harmonizing with what is real, this produces an harmonious sense of relationship and concordance. Yoga does not "cause" this effect, it is simply the manifestation of a process going on synchronously in all our parts.

This is a large area of consideration, and there are many simplistic (and archaic) ideas about how it works. I will attempt to say a little (or a lot) about all of this in my next post.

Yes, I agree, and it's helpful to me to get this kind of feedback to ponder the issues more deeply.