2010-01-04

New Year

I'd like to wish everyone a happy new year as we look forward to many new years to come and eventually a better future world and a transcendence of the human condition.
 
Some people think the better future is coming inevitably, and that all they have to do is wait for it - they channel their excitement into impatience and irritation at the slow progress they see so far. They think the shiny new future is coming like a gift from Santa Claus.
 
But without US, without people all over the world working in many ways to prepare the better future that is coming - without us, the future will never come. If everyone waited around for everyone else to work on bringing about the better future, we'd still be waiting, no better off than we are now, a thousand years from now,
 
If the better future we look forward to is not coming fast enough for us, we should then be motivated to work all the harder. Faith in a better world to come leads to confidence, and that confidence brings determination, and results in effort and thought. Effort and thought, in turn, lead to success and tangible evidence of our progress. The faith we have, and the confidence it brings, must be deep and strong enough to carry us past any setbacks, obstacles, or difficulties, however grave or prolonged.
 
Let's dedicate ourselves again this year to doing everything we can to bring about a better future. If you have the time and talent, you might study to work in fields that advance the coming of a better world - not just science and technology, but also many other fields will contribute to our ultimate success.
 
We can all find ways to turn what we do toward sustaining and pushing forward the state of the world around us, even if only small and local ways.
If you have no time, but you have money, consider contributing to good causes - the Society for Universal Immortalism, of course, but also scientific and technological projects in almost any field and any organizations that help people and make the world a better place. Make sure such projects are yielding or likely to yield worthy results - not every organization that claims a lofty goal does so.
 
If you have no time or money, spread the word! Open your mouth to everyone you know and let them know what you think about the future and encourage them to grasp the possibilities. Most of all, grasp them yourself and make sure you enjoy, in your present life, a foretaste of the happiness that is to come.
 
Our thoughts must also surely be with those who have been placed into cryopreservation this year - may they have a safe passage.
 

2009-12-29

Living and Not

Before, I used a metaphor of a storm to describe a person, to explain how we can understand a person as a process. Each one of us is, indeed, a force of nature. We are like storms in matter that give rise to spiritual storms. We usually do not think that storms will last very long, but under the right circumstances, they can last indefinitely. Perpetuating a process requires preparing and maintaining the right conditions. Maintaining a life and a living person requires arranging the right conditions..
 
The spiritual is different from the physical, but the two are interdependent, and the spiritual depends upon the physical for determining the nature that it has. There can be body without spirit, if the body is incomplete or disordered or defective in some way. There can also be a spirit enabled by more than one type of body. But no spirit can exist without some sort of body, because spirit needs some type of embodiment to give rise to it. There can be many types of bodies - biological, robotic, virtual, utility fog. But in all of these, in some way, embodiment in the world can give rise to spirit.
 
The soul arises from the working of the body. That means the body is not worthless or inferior. The body must be working right in order for the soul to work right. When the brain is damaged, a person's mind is deranged. What people eat or drink may affect how they think or feel. This is because the soul arises from the working of the body. When injury to the body is healed, injury to the mind can be healed. This is why a person who has a fever may be delirious, but when the fever goes away, the person's mind returns to normal. So the soul depends upon a body, and the two are not separate or separable.
 
If the full, characteristic process of person does not continue for a time, for the time during which it does not continue, the person is not present. We can say that when a person is thoroughly unconscious, the person as a living soul is absent for that time. The distinctive person, as a living person, is paused. But if consciousness is regained, the person resumes. A person may continue in a modified form, as in a dream, but when the dream ends, the original person can continue.
 
When a person's body is lastingly altered, as in brain damage or brain illness, such as Alzheimer's disease, the person may be modified, so that the previous person as a distinctive process does not fully continue. Although the body may continue, and the mind of a discernible person may be present, worthy of all our compassion, disorder of the body can lead to a condition in which the previous person is absent in the most meaningful sense. So the continuation of the full person as a living spirit depends upon not only on an embodiment, but upon an embodiment which can continue the characteristic process of the person, including that person's character of mind or spirit. 
 
When a person's body "dies", the soul can still be available from the body which supported it, although the soul is inactive, similar in some ways to the case of a person who is undreamingly asleep or deeply unconscious. If the parts of the body which supported the soul are destroyed, the soul itself is no longer able to be supported, although it continues to exist, as what it was, in the past, along with all things that have been. But there can be no "ghosts" in the present, and there can be no disembodied spirits. There is no passing away or to another (to another place or to another person).
 
We have come to two conclusions that are not obvious to many - that the potential of soul, of a living person in his or her characteristic nature, can survive in the body after the cessation of heartbeat and all activity in the brain; and yet, the realization of that person can cease while the body continues to live, even when a certain person continues to be realized by the body as a mind. This is why we should not see the death of the body as necessarily the death of the soul, but we understand that the soul can die before the body dies.
 
Physical reality makes spiritual reality possible, not the reverse. Matter is the fulcrum of spirit. By controlling the physical, one can control the spiritual. The omnipotence over the physical and thus the spiritual also is an aspect of godhood, which is coming into being.
 
Uplifting the body is one way to uplift the soul, and this is important to understand, because the soul is not only enabled but also limited by its body. By uplifting the body, the soul can be uplifted. Our bodies must be able to support the realization of the divine nature, the divine mind and soul. Our present-day bodies cannot yet support the realization of this divine nature, so we must work toward uplifting our embodiment.

 


2009-12-20

The Living Soul

If the body gives rise to the soul, what we think of as the self, how can we understand the soul? What truly are we? We are not only our bodies, only material things, but we are also not only minds, disembodied or able to be disembodied. If the body gives rise to mind, then what we are is both together, in a way that is difficult to put into words.
 
We may take a metaphor from meteorology. A whirlwind is an energetic vortex of particles. The wind's movement takes on a pattern, and the wind picks up dust and moves them, and drops them, and picks up new particles as it moves along, changing in size and strength and structure depending on its surroundings, and it can change its surroundings, too, by its nature. A whirlwind is a storm in matter, whose true identity is not any particular particles, or even any particular configuration, but rather, the process.
 
A person is also a process. The soul and the body are ever changing in nature, dynamic patterns in which new elements are continually brought in and old elements removed, changed by what is around them and also changing what is around them.
 
The body takes in elements and removes them; the atoms in our body come and go - we cannot identify ourselves with any particular matter that may compose our bodies at any particular moment in time. Our minds also acquire new memories, and new memories can change old memories, and so our associations can change over time; we cannot identify ourselves with any particular state of mind we may have at one particular moment in time. The energy we draw in powers this process, and as we expend the energy we need to take in new energy to continue the process. Each one of us is a force of nature, in nature. We arise from the world in which we are embedded and change the world in which we are embedded, each in our own characteristic way. The self is a vortex, taking in streams of events from the world around it, and also producing streams of events.
 
So we are also storms in matter. As a person can be identified with a process, we understand that a person can be characterized at any given cross-section of space-time as a static pattern, which can be captured as information. Any elements of matter that can carry forward the characteristic process that is the person can do so, and there is no change in identity. A process can be stopped, and start again, and if it resumes its process in the state at which it left off, continuing in the same character as it had before, there is no change in identity. As we live, we are not a static pattern; we are not disembodied spirit; we are not a set of material particles; we are not the information that captures a specific, momentary state; we are not a supernatural soul.
 
In this way we can understand that we do not need to fear the loss of any particular embodiment, and that we, in all our uniqueness, may be embodied in many forms of matter. We are also not identified with the soul that arises from any particular matter, so we do not need to cling to any particular matter (and indeed, our bodies already do not cling to any particular matter; our bodies are also a process). So we can understand that a process can be paused, and it can resume under the right conditions. These conditions include an embodiment which can continue the characteristic process that we are. If the same process continues from the state at which it paused, in its characteristic nature, it is the same process, under whatever conditions it finds itself when it resumes.
 

2009-12-14

Spirit and World

Many people think there is not one world, but two - one world is material, the visible world or the scientifically detectable world; and the other world is spiritual and invisible, a holy reality. According to this view, the material world we see is only part of the full reality; alongside it is another, more important, world, containing things like God or Heaven.
 
We may call this the "two-worlds theory", which human beings invented long ago. The two-worlds theory was used to explain the many things that were invisible, like the wind, or to understand unknown forces of the natural world, or to irrationally deny that the dead had wholly disappeared. Even today, many people believe that the innermost core of their own personal identity, their soul, is not of this world, but of the spirit world. After all, we cannot see our own souls; therefore our souls must not belong to this world.
 
But there is only one reality, and in this one reality there are not two worlds – a spiritual world and a material world - but only one world, in which the material things in it give rise to things we regard as spiritual, when they are truly real. The wind may be invisible, but now we know it consists of small molecules of gases. We can now see what is in Heaven by telescopes and space probes. Human beings themselves have now entered Heaven, and found no god there, no angels or realm of the departed.
 
The things we consider our soul, such as our memories, our personality, and our consciousness, arise from material things, the nerve cells in our brains. The things we have considered spiritual arise from and depend upon material things. A human being is not a composite of two things, a body and a soul, but rather, a human being is one single entity. The body, when it is properly active, can give rise to the things which we call the soul, such as mind, feeling, emotion, consciousness, memories, temperament, and personality. We may not be able to touch our inner experience, but what we experience arises from what is material, from the activity of something that is material, and it is the experience of what is material. The soul depends upon the activity of the body in order to exist and have the character it does.
 
We are not spirits imprisoned in matter. We are spirits of matter, matter taking on a spiritual nature and giving rise to spiritual experience. The body is not the husk of the soul, with the soul the living seed; the body and the soul together are both alive, intertwined with each other, with the soul depending on the body. The soul arose from matter historically, because the bodies of primitive animals without mind existed before bodies that gave rise to primitive mind. Minds that could reflect on themselves arose from minds that could only feel pain or pleasure, by the evolution of bodies that could support greater mind. Subjectivity has evolved alongside the evolution of bodies and nervous systems, because it is a particular, material nature which makes a particular, spiritual nature possible.
 
The soul, then, is intimately associated with the body. When the body is properly preserved, the soul can be preserved. We know now that almost all of what we regard as our soul arises from even one organ of our body, the brain, and that by preserving this we can preserve the material basis for the soul. The brain may be inactive, or unable to function spontaneously, but if its nature is preserved, the information necessary to give rise to that particular soul is also preserved. The soul does not depend on only one body or only one type of body; it can arise from the working of many possible bodies. That is why we must preserve the body, so we can preserve the soul in the only way that it can be preserved now.
 

2009-11-22

Things Good and Evil

 
What does it mean to say something or someone is good or evil? When we inspect things closely, even if we try hard to see what is good in all things, we may have a hard time realizing what about some things could possibly be good. What is evil?
The ancient Christian philosopher Augustine of Hippo taught that evil is not a positive substance, but merely the absence of good. This way of thinking about good and evil can help us appreciate the world as it already exists while we also inspiring us to work toward a better world to come.
All things have some aspect of goodness, even if it is only the good of existing. What appears evil about a thing is how it lacks what is good, or what is better. Its evil is a defect rather than a present substance. So, however little there is about something that is good about it, we can, if we try hard enough, find this good in it and appreciate it.
At the same time, when we see evil as inadequacy, we can see the potential for good in all things, by their ability to be built up and repaired. In fact, seeing things in this way liberates us from a foolish, rigid dualism. All things are good in some ways, but also could be better, and thus contain elements of evil.
Since everything in the world is at the same time both good and evil, the way to greater good is by filling up what is lacking in good in all things. Evil, which does not exist as a positive substance, can spontaneously disappear, like an empty space being filled.
As it says in the Nag Hammadi Gospel of Truth, "As in the case of the ignorance of a person, when he comes to have knowledge, his ignorance vanishes of itself, as the darkness vanishes when light appears, so also the deficiency vanishes in the perfection. . . . In time . . . each one will attain himself; within knowledge he will purify himself from multiplicity into unity, consuming matter within himself like fire, and darkness by light, death by life."
All of nature, including ourselves, is potentially good, and also potentially able to become better, and to make itself better. We can become better to ourselves, and to others, and to all the rest of nature. The rest of nature, that which is not human, can also become better to themselves, and to us.
By uplifting ourselves and the rest of nature into a better harmony, one yielding greater happiness, we can aim to fulfill human nature and all of nature in its distinctiveness – the complete happiness of all sentient and sapient beings.
The evils of the natural world, including the evils in ourselves, are a temporary way-station, a time of transition from what is insufficiently good on the way to becoming something better. Nature is partly good, yet on the way to becoming something better, and human nature is partly good, yet on the way to becoming something better. Humanity will be fulfilled when it has fully realized its own nature by becoming fully human -- that is, by realizing its divine nature.
Right now, we are still vulnerable to sources of evil inside ourselves and outside ourselves in the natural world. But if we uplift ourselves and help the rest of the natural world uplift itself, we will be able to become what we will be, remedying every defect in our hearts and minds, healing every illness, strengthening every weakness, and supplying every inadequacy. In that way humanity will be able to become saviors of themselves and the rest of nature. It is not the gods we believe in that will save us; rather, it is the gods we will become.

 

2009-11-16

Nature and the Human

By nature we can mean all things, whether known or yet unknown. All things that really are, are real, as what they are. The non-natural and the supernatural  are incoherent categories and do not describe anything that exists.

 

Humanity is an expression, a manifestation, of nature. Humanity is thus natural, in all its nature (human nature). We can say that what humans make is

"artificial," but by this we mean still indirectly natural, since human beings are natural.

 

Human beings are a type of animal, not detached and separated from other animals, but kin to them and similar to them in many ways, and sharing their fate of living on this same planet Earth. The human species is not alienated from the rest of the natural world, and our way of being is not utterly alien to that of other life forms on this planet.

 

Human character, flawed as it is, is natural, of a piece with all the rest of nature, and understandable as a natural thing. Civilization, technology,

cities, and culture are products of nature and manifestations of nature, not something apart from nature.

 

Even though we are not the same as other animals, we can seek a harmony with the rest of nature, and that while still being true to ourselves - harmony, not in the sense of mere domination of humans over the nonhuman world, but harmony in the sense of a life worked out between humans and the nonhuman world which realizes our appreciation of that nonhuman world in its own nature, and our vastening to include it.

 

Human nature is dynamic not static, evolving not rigid, changing not unchanging. We human beings in our current form arose from previous animals with a different form, and in the future we will be beings with a different form. Humanity is not to be confused with some idea of a static form that we possess or possessed in the past, or with some adaptation that was relatively fit compared to other existing options in one time or place or circumstance; what we have evolved to be now is not our future destiny. In us, nature is striving toward the divine. And not necessarily only in us.

 

From insensate matter arose life with basic senses. From that life arose sentient beings -- those who can feel, those who can experience pleasure and pain, and those who are aware. From sentient beings arose sapient beings -- those who are aware of themselves as distinct from the rest of the world, and who can reflect on themselves and their lives. From sapience will arise the divine nature that will infuse the cosmos and become its final salvation.

 

We human beings know some things about the world. But the world still contains many mysteries; the things we will learn in the future will change what we think about what we know now. We are awed by nature when it challenges the limits of our ability to understand; there are things about this world which our human minds cannot properly grasp, because of the limitations of our minds in their current form.

 

So we human beings are not only limited in our knowledge about the world, we are also limited in our ability to directly imagine or adequately comprehend some of the aspects of what exists. For example, we can estimate the number of stars or galaxies, but we cannot really, actually, imagine this number, and we certainly cannot fully grasp the significance of so many stars and galaxies in our minds. We can represent vast numbers by sequences of symbols, but our minds cannot directly grasp the reality of such numbers.

 

We human beings exist in continual ignorance of things, to a certain degree. But as we learn more, our ignorance continually lessens. In the future, we will know far more than we know now, and we will also be able to comprehend more than we could comprehend now.

 

 

 

 

 


2009-11-08

Nature’s Double Nature

Nature is the source of all the good things we find in this world, such as the myriad sources of natural beauty. All that is good in ourselves and other persons is also part of the natural world.
 
We human beings evolved from insensate matter and non-sapient beings, so everything we care about and value in ourselves and our lives and the world arises from our natural origin. It is in us that nature possesses mindfulness and the ability to have concern for ourselves and others. The natural world includes the ability to feel compassion, empathy, sympathy, and appreciation because we human beings have evolved to possess those characteristics.

Much of nature does not yet possess mind or the ability to understand or know or be concerned about humanity. Much of the natural world does not yet have the ability to feel compassion, empathy, sympathy, or appreciation for any thing. So it is very important that we human beings, who possess these abilities as potentials, work hard to fully realize those potentials.

Yet nature is also the source of all suffering of human beings - for example, dangerous predators, deadly diseases, lack of food or water, heat or cold, or destructive weather. Because these elements of nature are generally mindless and without the ability to be concerned for human beings, they cannot be propitiated or negotiated with or appeased. It is only we human beings, by exercising our powers, who can come to understand these things and find way to protect ourselves from them.

We can enjoy the beauties of nature best from the vantage point of safety and comfort. If we are immersed in the dangers and threats of nature, we cannot afford the luxury of admiring what is harming and killing us. We bring ourselves and the rest of nature into harmony when we find a way to be happy in the midst of the rest of nature, without danger and harm, and yet while continuing to appreciate the rest of nature in its distinctiveness. A greater harmony, yielding greater happiness, will require bringing full happiness and an end to suffering to all sentient beings on Earth, and uplifting all sapient beings on Earth to their fulfillment.

The good things in us are natural, but so also are the evil things. Human beings suffer from things such as defects of the body that cause congenital diseases, aging, and death; defects of the brain that cause mental illness, mental weakness and vulnerability; and defects of character and personality; as well as instincts and innate patterns of thinking and behaving which are not best suited for our own happiness in all circumstances.

Human nature as it exists now is thus deeply flawed in some ways, while at the same time being exemplary in other ways, and divine in its potential realization. Individual human nature is thus neither purely nor originally good or evil or neutral. Each one of us contains a diversity of propensities and each one of us projects a diversity of effects on ourselves and the world around us. These propensities and effects can be good, or evil, or neutral.