Truth and Humanity - Dr Susan Blackmore

Some partial backups of posts from the past (Feb, 2004)

Postby Kelly Jones » Fri May 11, 2007 6:54 pm

Attacking Paul Davies is not the same as siding with Susan Blackmore, though.



Dan wrote:Kelly: My library hold of "The Selfish Gene" is likely to take a few weeks. In the meantime, I found this from Wikipedia:

The memetics movement split almost immediately into those who wanted to stick to Dawkins' definition of a meme as "a unit of information in the brain," and those who wanted to redefine it as observable cultural artefacts and behaviours. These two schools became known as the "internalists" and the "externalists." Prominent internalists included both Lynch and Brodie; the most vocal externalists included Derek Gatherer, a geneticist from Liverpool John Moores University and William Benzon, a writer on cultural evolution and music. The main rationale for externalism was that internal brain entities are not observable, and memetics cannot advance as a science, especially a quantitative science, unless it moves its emphasis onto the directly quantifiable aspects of culture.


This reminds me to point to my earlier query why Susan wasn't asked whether she thought memes inherently exist beyond consicousness.

Dan: I can think of a 100 questions that could have been asked that weren't. It's fairly pointless though thinking that way. Conversations just don't work like that. And I'm not sure how she could answer your question if she hasn't worked out what consciousness actually is.


This is not my point at all.

My point is that, if anyone is expressing great enthusiasm about a particular idea, meaning, their self-expression is clearly egotistical, then that idea ought to be delved into carefully. In Susan's case, "memetics" doesn't mean the enlightened view of cause and effect in relation to ideas and values, but one viewed through the lens of scientific materialism.

I'll try to unpack my theory more clearly, so you can have another look, as I think it's the most plausible explanation of her difficulties with the idea of non-attachment:

I believe Susan thinks that these memes are inherently existing in the world, outside consciousness, and are using human bodies to replicate themselves. She states she doesn't believe there is a soul, that replicates, because she has not seen any plausible scientific evidence, but is not sure. Note that she doesn't disbelieve in the replicating of selves --- this should ring warning bells. She holds selves to be memeplexes, or collections of memeplexes, meaning, bundles of cooperating memes striving for life. She does not state that memes are actually causally created - i.e. empty.

Now Susan's idea of her own consciousness is: memes, in the egotistical sense of the word. She sees herself as multiple, competing entities, striving for consciousness-resources. She believes that if she perceives consciousness to be driven by one coherent, unifying self, then that is a delusion leading to samsaric reincarnation ("I decide, I want, I think"). And, conversely, if she perceives consciousness as all these competing rebirthing memes, then that is a non-samsaric consciousness. The problem of not conceiving of one's finite self as a unified agent, is that one cannot logically use dualism. Sue discards dualism, she says something to that nature twice. The obvious flaw is that, to conceive of a memeplex in relation to one's consciousness, is to conceive of a unified self. But instead, Susan just conceives of herself as the Totality (of memes) - which she expresses as being "the interconnectedness of all things".

I came to this conclusion after some thinking, but I had a hunch immediately on encountering Susan's ideas a few years ago, that I should be on the lookout for the errors. I don't think one should agree with the "wise memes" (the enlightened view of memes, about wisdom) that a deluded person is expressing, because their understanding of those memes is guaranteed to be wrong.



Kelly: And it also looks as though memetics is definitely on the wrong track.

Dan: Ok, in what sense? Memetics seems almost platitudinously obvious to me.


Because the current meaning of this word is filtered through scientific materialism, in which ideas are not existing within the mind, but in cultures outside it.

Yes, I accept to be truthful what I believe your filter is: that memes don't inherently exist, but are simply meanings that continue to arise in the universe. That is not the filter Sue uses, Dan. Susan doesn't hold your view, nor does she hold the view that they don't exist at all (but she probably now believes you hold her view, which is simply that they exist - inherently). So your agreement with and support of Susan is wrong.



Kelly: I'm not saying she's completely gullible and fashionable, but she is noticeably susceptible to being influenced. Such that she'd absorb and replicate what others were fertilising her with, unless of course those ideas and values were too painful --- then she'd just steamroller them and say, "This is how it must be, and is, and always is, Amen".

Dan: Well, everybody's like this to some degree. Are you not influenced by Kevin when you sit and have conversations with him? It's a fine line between being open minded and simply open to influence. I can't really say where Sue Blackmore is with respect to that. She's not wise so there's probably a bit of both happening.


There is conscious cause and effect, and there is unconscious. To the degree I take ideas on board without reasoning to see whether they are viable, I have something wrong with my mind.

If a person doesn't have a strong value of truth, they are highly likely to take ideas on board without reasoning about them - or not take ideas on board for the same reason.

It was rather obvious with Sue's near-tantrum about emotions, don't you think? She simply asserted that emotions were necessary and human, without ever getting into any reasoning about why. To me, that indicates lack of the spirit of truth.



Dan: There's nothing inherently wrong with encouraging people. It's when you do their thinking for them that it becomes a problem.

Kelly: Suggestive behaviour is also a problem.

Dan: Can you be specific?


Losing one's train of thought after laughing at someone's joke, shows that one enjoys company and fun rather than truth. It can influence a vulnerable listener to steer clear of reasoning deeply, because they may think, "Reasoning is difficult, not fun, and unenjoyable, and I would rather fit in and be accepted".

Stumbling over one's words, and being emotional, shows that one is reluctant to think deeply and calmly, and to present one's view of reality exactly how one sees it. A listener may think, "There is something to be ashamed of in speaking about the truth. There is something bad about it. I don't want to engage in it."

Agreeing with someone when there is no need to establish areas of agreement shows one wishes to associate with someone, which can influence a listener to think, "He does not wish to present his own views, but to support whatever I say. Therefore, I must be right, or he must be weak to come over to my side. If my views are not sound, then his views are also worthless."



Dan: And there's also a difference between showing someone support and attacking the folly of their detractors. In my supportive attitude towards Sue I was actually taking an opportunity to attack people such as Paul Davies. I was using it as a vehicle through which to point out the irrationality of the science community. David did this too when speaking of academia.

Kelly: Logically, yes. But to a gullible person, it is the same as bonding with them.

Dan: That's unavoidable. Just talking to a person can have this effect.


Areeing with people worsens it. It is generally better to be silent when one agrees, and to talk when one disagrees - even if one's corrections are only subtle adjustments.

Being afraid of conflict is not a good thing for consciousness.


Kelly: I mean, your definition of memetics is purely unemotional, but Susan describes memes emotionally, so there is some egotistical meaning in there.

Dan: It's one of her major interests so I've no doubt there's some emotional attachment to it. She's obviously passionate about it, but I don't see her ascribing anthropic qualities to memes (other than in the poetic use of language).


If a person shows signs of loving to talk and go flowie, then you can deduct that they are ascribing egotistical properties to everything.


Kelly: Saying that her definition is accurate is therefore false, if you define memes as causes occurring in consciousness - meaning, empty of inherent existence.

Dan: You've lost me.


If you define memes wisely, and someone else defines them foolishly, then it is wrong for you to agree with their definition.



Kelly: Humour is great to undermine the delusion that things inherently exist, and can also be used to avoid thinking.

Dan: Still lost.


Referring to your "deep, sexy voice" joke.


Kelly: I'm kind of surprised at how flippant you are about your influence as a teacher. It's very feminine behaviour, Dan.

Dan: Hmm. The fact is I happen to think memetics is a perfectly valid way of seeing things (up to a point and within the limitations of what science can say). It's just an evolutionary theory framed within the principle of natural selection. It's not a profound philosophical thesis, though it does, like evolutionary theory in general, have some philosophical implications that can be followed.

It's my opinion that you don't understand it at all. Either that or I am, as you suggest, projecting validity and meaning onto it that isn't there.


Memetics is not a perfectly valid way of seeing things if it is viewed through the filter of scientific materialism, which is what deluded people do. Do you believe all things are memes, or that memes are only a certain type of finite thing?


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Postby Laird » Fri May 11, 2007 7:13 pm

Dan Rowden wrote:What do you find brilliant about that book?


Many things - its clarity and simplicity of expression, its wide-ranging subject matter, its structure and internal cross-referencing, its logical progression, its ability to convey the essence of the great scientific theories and philosophies.

When I read it I feel that I am in the hands of a prodigiously gifted writer and thinker.

Dan Rowden wrote:Anyway, here's a snippet of what he's said about memetics:


Thanks, that was interesting (where did you source it from?). I gather that what you find abhorrent in this passage is the implication that he believes that free will is a sensible concept?
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Free will

Postby Kevin Solway » Fri May 11, 2007 8:13 pm

Blackmore's survey, "Do you believe in free will?" is pretty meaningless, because different people can understand different things by "free will".

To one person it might have the popular meaning, but to someone else it might mean "the illusion of free will", or "the feeling of making a decision".

Likewise with Davies below:

"imagine a world where most people don’t believe in free will."


He is using a particular interpretation of what "free will" means.

In fact, free will is not something you have a choice about. If you are conscious, then your mind will be making decisions whether you like it or not.
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Postby Diebert van Rhijn » Fri May 11, 2007 9:34 pm

Jamesh wrote:
Susan said something in the end to the effect of it being 'inhuman' not having emotions. This is true of course as long as one defines humanity as including what one calls emotions.


I'd even go so far as to say that forms of life that have no emotions or feelings are not really "alive", though they may have many other attributes of life like consumption and reproduction. Mind you it is impossible to draw any line - even tiny insects may feel pain - it doesn't take that much brain circuitry to have the feedback mechanisms to direct reponses to changes in the environment.


Jamesh, I'm afraid you missed the point of the discussion you're commenting on. First of all you're just lumping in feelings with emotions which obfuscates the whole issue and then continue to talk about 'direct responses', which could include pain and pleasure behaviors, immune responses, reflexes and even metabolic regulation.

Emotions are very abstract in nature and the link to the somatic processes of life isn't very tangible and in many cases debatable. It involves a lot of imaginary things, events or people - identifications to even work.

Ironic thing is that the reverse could be the case, that a lack of emotion gives room to be more alive, more spontaneous and more connected to the realities of our own mind and that of others. One could be as emotional as a leopard with book reading skills.

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Postby Dan Rowden » Fri May 11, 2007 9:41 pm

Laird wrote:I gather that what you find abhorrent in this passage is the implication that he believes that free will is a sensible concept?


This is a few of the things that make it asburd to me:

"... Those aspects of the mind that are not predetermined by genetics lie at the mercy of “memetics.” Memes are the mental equivalent of genes-ideas, beliefs, and fashions that replicate and compete in the manner of genes. British psychologist Susan Blackmore recently contended that our minds are actually nothing but collections of memes that we catch from each other like viruses, and that the familiar sense of “I” is some sort of fiction that memes create for their own agenda.

These ideas are dangerous because there is more than a grain of truth in them.


And because of that they're dangerous? This statement doesn't seem to make any sense.

There is an acute risk that they will be oversimplified and used to justify an anything-goes attitude to criminal activity, ethnic conflict, even genocide.


This is laughable. I don't see how memetics can be oversimplified as it's dead simple to begin with. And Davies doesn't seem to appreciate the fact that we already have all those things mentioned along with multiple justifications for them.

Conversely, people convinced that the concept of individual choice is a myth may passively conform to whatever fate and exploitative social or political system may have decreed for them.


As opposed to what? What happens now? He must be kidding. What's the point of believing in free will if you don't use it? This is just emotional button pushing and scaremongering. It has no actual scientific or intellectual value whatever.

If you thought eugenics was a disastrous perversion of science, imagine a world where most people don’t believe in free will."


The issue of free will's illusory nature isn't the province of science. Davies had a bad habit of pretending science deals with everything. Whilst memetics attempts to provide an empirical model for the whys and wherefores of how will actually works, it is nevertheless a matter of logic that free will is an illusion. And when imagining a world where people don't believe in free will I automatically think of an infinitely saner and reasonable world than that which we currently occupy.
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Re: Free will

Postby Diebert van Rhijn » Fri May 11, 2007 9:46 pm

Kevin Solway wrote:
Davies wrote:"imagine a world where most people don’t believe in free will."


He is using a particular interpretation of what "free will" means.

In fact, free will is not something you have a choice about. If you are conscious, then your mind will be making decisions whether you like it or not.


I think in general the 'free' in "free will" is considered to be a moment of balancing on the edge, that the smallest influence could now become decisive. Up until the point of becoming a completely random process (drawing a card, throwing a dice). Free in the sense of no clear discernible set of causes.

So it becomes the belief in the existence of a decision maker, as a person made up by preferences that can manifest in choices that are not forced by discernible 'outside factors'. Since such a decision maker can be shown to be caused by outside factors as well, the only thing remaining is a belief in this construct, call it free will, to give us a better sense of responsibility.

This illusion of power could form in itself, as feedback loop, an influence on the decision-making process. Free will might be illusive, but faith certainly isn't.

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Postby Elizabeth Isabelle » Fri May 11, 2007 10:24 pm

Regarding not getting deep enough into the topic, I think the problem lies in that the hosts did not sufficiently stick with one topic. If the topic had stayed just on memes, there would have been more time to delve deeply into that topic. Instead, you ended up with a collage of astral projection, emotions, memes, dementia, grief... It was too scattered to get to the meat of any of the matters.
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Postby Dan Rowden » Tue May 15, 2007 6:23 pm

The format - so far at least - doesn't really allow for that; it may never do. It depends on the subject. But then, it's not meant - nor can hope - to replicate the depth of a text-based discussion that proceeds over an indefinite period.

The shows are meant to stimulate thought, not be a philosophical version of instant oats.
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Postby keenobserver » Thu May 17, 2007 9:43 pm

Kelly Jones wrote:
David Quinn wrote:There are thousands of ways that a conversation can be directed, thousands of ways that each point can be responded to. Dan and I chose one way. Kelly wanted another way. Such is life.


Yes. Are you're saying that it was better not to challenge Sue, since after all your experience of seeing how the ego manifests, you see these flaws and when it is best to challenge them? And then was not the time? That you wish to appear polite, and to allow people to present their views fully without any interruption, to attract other guests, and especially the females?

Haha!
Might it be 'cause she's hot? Sometimes an attractive woman especially one with something dear in common will have a tempering effect on a man. Perhaps they had an in-her-body experience in mind!
I havent tuned in myself yet, but
If I could know - Does anyone reckon she went away any wiser than whence she came? Was there any effort to enlighten her (or is that not going on in these interviews)?
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Postby Kelly Jones » Thu May 17, 2007 11:50 pm

I think it is unlikely that one can teach someone who is invited to speak on their views. They are not being treated as a thinker, but as a talking head.

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Postby ChochemV2 » Fri May 18, 2007 12:08 am

A show where the hosts lecture the guest would be 1.) Boring 2.) Disappear quickly due to lack of guests 3.) Not the point.

It's more interesting to hear about her beliefs than hear someone tell her she is wrong, it's up to everyone listening to figure out if they agree with her or not and not up to the hosts. I think they did a fine job of examining the topic and the host's involvement in it.

I would hate for this to turn into "Philosophy Crossfire"...
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Postby Jason » Fri May 18, 2007 12:12 am

[edit: not funny]
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Postby Elizabeth Isabelle » Fri May 18, 2007 12:16 am

ChochemV2 wrote:I would hate for this to turn into "Philosophy Crossfire"...


I thought that was the original idea.
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Postby ChochemV2 » Fri May 18, 2007 12:19 am

I thought that was the original idea.


If that was the idea then they show is quite far off the mark already.
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Postby Carl G » Fri May 18, 2007 12:48 am

I agree. So far the show comes across as a National Public Radio coffee klatch, quite the opposite from what I would expect from these "dangerous thinkers."
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Postby Kevin Solway » Fri May 18, 2007 3:01 am

As far as I'm concerned, the show is just about some human beings getting together and participating in some reasoning about some important matters - without showmanship as far as possible.

It would be good if the guests were changed at the end of the hour, but we can't hope to achieve too much in such a short amount of time with people who are well entrenched in their views. The guests aren't coming onto the show with the intention that they are going to abandon everything they believe in as soon as they hear a better argument.

I see it as our job to draw-out what the guest thinks, and then point out their errors.
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Postby David Quinn » Fri May 18, 2007 11:50 am

I'm not sure what Carl was expecting. As far as content is concerned, I've not heard anything on Public Radio that resembles the Reasoning Show.

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Postby David Quinn » Fri May 18, 2007 3:42 pm

ChochemV2 wrote:

A show where the hosts lecture the guest would be 1.) Boring 2.) Disappear quickly due to lack of guests 3.) Not the point.

Agreed.


ChochemV2: I would hate for this to turn into "Philosophy Crossfire".

Elizabeth: I thought that was the original idea.

ChochemV2: If that was the idea then they show is quite far off the mark already.

Lucky it wasn't the original idea, then.

I think the show will slowly evolve towards a more inquisitorial style over time, but I wouldn't want it to turn into a flashy, point-scoring affair, which may be entertaining on the surface, but likely to lack substance.

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Postby keenobserver » Fri May 18, 2007 7:25 pm

Kelly Jones wrote:I think it is unlikely that one can teach someone who is invited to speak on their views. They are not being treated as a thinker, but as a talking head.

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I see.
Do you know, is she sexy or youngish?
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Postby Ataraxia » Sat May 19, 2007 11:57 pm

David Quinn wrote:I'm not currently emotionless, but it is certainly my goal to become so. To reach the stage where no perception of any kind can disturb my clarity of mind and conscious immersion in nirvana.



Hi David.

First let me congradulate you and your comrades on a fantastic forum.It's a rare pleasure to come across such a thing on the net,or in life.

I must say I'm highly intrigued by your goal to attain emotionless clarity of mind.

I don't take drugs now(apart from caffeine and the odd beer drinking session) but in my earlier adulthood I experimented fairly extensively.

A couple of drugs,or combinations of drugs taken during a 'session' enabled me a number of times to get,at least for a short period, to a state I believe(at least at the time) very close to emotionless total clarity.

My question to you.

1.Where these states i acheived,all be it briefly,'valid' in your view.Or were they just a delusion.

2.If they were a delusion,then how will you know,assuming you ever attain your goal,whether, yours too,is not a delusion?
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Postby Carl G » Sun May 20, 2007 12:30 am

David Quinn wrote:I'm not sure what Carl was expecting.

Danger. Passion. Signs of Life.

As far as content is concerned, I've not heard anything on Public Radio that resembles the Reasoning Show.

The carefully modulated tone, that lull-the-listener-to-sleep drone of cordial reasonableness, is the same. There's also a common heavy intellectual bias that conveys the impression that none of these speakers know themselves, nor get any physical exercise whatsoever. They come across as disembodied talking heads, non-experts sharing opinions, with no weight, no gravity.

I had no idea Enlightenment makes one appear so dull!
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Postby keenobserver » Sun May 20, 2007 7:09 am

Ataraxia wrote:
1.Were these states i acheived,all be it briefly,'valid' in your view.Or were they just a delusion.


A1. Quite possibly valid. Judging from your post, Yes.

2.If they were a delusion,then how will you know,assuming you ever attain your goal,whether, yours too,is not a delusion?

A2. Have someone stomp on your toes in front of a mirror.
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Re: The Reasoning Show - Dr Susan Blackmore

Postby David Quinn » Tue May 22, 2007 8:41 pm

Hi Ataraxia,

I must say I'm highly intrigued by your goal to attain emotionless clarity of mind.

I don't take drugs now(apart from caffeine and the odd beer drinking session) but in my earlier adulthood I experimented fairly extensively.

A couple of drugs,or combinations of drugs taken during a 'session' enabled me a number of times to get,at least for a short period, to a state I believe(at least at the time) very close to emotionless total clarity.

My question to you.

1.Where these states i acheived,all be it briefly,'valid' in your view.Or were they just a delusion.

It is impossible for me to say without hearing more about them. Did these experiences impart any insight into the nature of Reality? Did they overturn deep, previously-held beliefs? Did they inspire you to want to become wise and seek the Ultimate Truth? If any of these things happened, then we can probably say that they had some validity.

I tend to judge an altered state on whether it makes me permanently wiser. You can have temporary altered states which can seem fascinating and mind-blowing at the time, but which leave little residue in the memory and don't have a lasting impact - and so I can't really see how these experiences are all that valid or useful. But other kinds of altered states can shake you to the core and change you forever. If that change propels you in the direction of wisdom, then something significant has happened.


2.If they were a delusion,then how will you know,assuming you ever attain your goal,whether, yours too,is not a delusion?

True wisdom isn't confined to altered states. In fact, it isn't confined to any state at all. It permeates all states, altered or otherwise. It also isn't confined to any particular point of view or concept.

So in effect, the true man of wisdom doesn't attach himself to any state, concept, outlook or form, and thus he no longer possesses anything to lose. He is entirely empty and beyond all danger.

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Re: The Reasoning Show - Dr Susan Blackmore

Postby David Quinn » Tue May 22, 2007 8:43 pm

Carl,

DQ: I'm not sure what Carl was expecting.

Carl: Danger. Passion. Signs of Life.

From my perspective, all those things are there in spades.


DQ: As far as content is concerned, I've not heard anything on Public Radio that resembles the Reasoning Show.

Carl: The carefully modulated tone, that lull-the-listener-to-sleep drone of cordial reasonableness, is the same. There's also a common heavy intellectual bias that conveys the impression that none of these speakers know themselves, nor get any physical exercise whatsoever. They come across as disembodied talking heads, non-experts sharing opinions, with no weight, no gravity.

I had no idea Enlightenment makes one appear so dull!

You seem to be wanting a more immediate, superficial kind of entertainment from these shows.

It reminds me of when I read "Siddhartha" by Herman Hesse when I was young. When I came to the part near the end where Siddhartha became a ferry-driver and did little else but stare into the water all day - all the while claiming that he was practicing the highest wisdom - I thought, "What sort of life is that?" The sheer lack of emotional drama appalled me at the time.

I think anyone who takes truth and reason seriously will get a lot out of these shows. But since Kevin, Dan and I have abandoned the emotions to a large degree, you probably won't get much in the way of emotional drama and conflict - at least not from our end. But the passion and danger is still there nonetheless. Speaking personally, everything that I know and say has been won with my own blood, and I dare say it is the same with Kevin and Dan.

Perhaps one of the problems you are having with the show is that all of the guests so far have been professional and mature, able to handle opposing points of view and unconventional line of thoughts without too much discomfort. We haven't had any flaky crackpots on yet, such as Christian fundamentalists or rabid feminists, people who could easily crack up and provide the kind of drama and conflict you might be looking for.

As for negatively saying that there is a strong intellectual bias to the show - a strange accusation to make for a program called the Reasoning Show - it might be a sign that you are on the wrong forum.

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Re: The Reasoning Show - Dr Susan Blackmore

Postby Ataraxia » Wed May 23, 2007 10:37 pm

David Quinn wrote:
It is impossible for me to say without hearing more about them. Did these experiences impart any insight into the nature of Reality? Did they overturn deep, previously-held beliefs? Did they inspire you to want to become wise and seek the Ultimate Truth? If any of these things happened, then we can probably say that they had some validity.
Thanks for taking the question seriously.Many wouldn't.

To answer your question,yes the final time I reached this state,it gave me great insight into my self and over turned some deeply held beliefs.Not insignificantly, and paradoxically, it led me to the immediate conclusion that taking these drugs in future would be a waste of my time(Not to mention damaging, to my now discovered, important brain.) I was able to henceforth completely abstain from those particular drugs without sufferning any mental withdrawels.

It also piqued, a previously unheld interest ,in philososphy.


True wisdom isn't confined to altered states. In fact, it isn't confined to any state at all. It permeates all states, altered or otherwise. It also isn't confined to any particular point of view or concept.

So in effect, the true man of wisdom doesn't attach himself to any state, concept, outlook or form, and thus he no longer possesses anything to lose. He is entirely empty and beyond all danger.

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I'll take those thoughts on board and have a think about them further.Cheers.
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