the Natural Christian

the world is full of people whose heart

is Christian through and through, but who

cannot, with good justification, grant themselves

this name, for that name has been stolen by others

this little book is for them

by Joel A. Wendt

social philosopher...and occasional fool



part one: how may we describe the consciousness of an ordinary human being, in ordinary terms?

part two: what does Science Believe it Knows about Consciousness?

part three: ordinary consciousness studies itself.

part four: Is Science Limited to its Present Methods of Investigation?

part five: the psychology of the moral life of a natural Christian.

part six: the relationship of Natural Science to Thinking.

part seven: the relationship of the natural Christian to thinking.

part eight: culmination and integration: becoming scientific about our own consciousness and self-consciousness.

part nine: arguments with God; a personal view, offered ...

appendix: BICYCLES - a Children's Christmas Story, which is also for Adults -

- introduction -

First ... I can't answer all questions here, but I'll try to point out some things that might be helpful to people, especially those who say something like: well, I'm not religious, but I am spiritual.

What I have in mind here, by the idea of a Natural Christian, could even include Sam Harris, the author of the End of Faith, who believes himself to be more of a atheist, than a religious person.   The God he finds described in most religious texts (especially as interpreted and practiced by modern individuals who consider themselves to be believers of Christian Faith) seems to him to be completely irrational.  I think Harris is quite justified in this view.

The practice of religion, by many who name themselves Christians, is often irrational, and what is often worse - even more often hypocritical.  This is not to suggest, by the way, that anyone who calls themselves Christian is of this tendency.  The reality is more difficult to apprehend and come to terms with.   Which is why this essay is being written - to help anyone who stumbles upon it to perhaps orient their own nature and life with greater surety of purpose.

One of the peculiarities of the present time, especially with connection to those organized religious institutions that call themselves Christian, is that while there are many who have beliefs, few actually practice the teachings.  To actually follow the teachings of Christ, as most anyone who bothers to read the Gospels knows, is rather difficult.   A lot is asked for.

As a consequence of this difficulty, Christianity has become today mostly a system of beliefs, with different institutions espousing radically different points of view, from the Roman Catholic Church to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons).  Holding beliefs is a lot easier than following those oh so difficult teachings.  Not to say there weren't a lot of people who tried to follow the teachings, it just that a lot of them got killed for heresy* by the Roman Church, or if they agreed (submitted) to correct institutional doctrine, had to end up living in domiciles for the members of Religious Orders (Franciscans, Carmelites etc.).

*See the essay the Transcendentalist Impulse and Heretical  Christianity, included with this essay in the book: New Wine.]

Since most systems of belief became rigid (rules and doctrines and dogmas), one could ask whether this had any value at all.   This question really has significance when one considers the meaning of Faith in the psychology of a human being.  In the prologue to the Gospel of John, we find these lines: "...There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him.   He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light."

Even Christ understood this: "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."   Most religions make a great deal of the idea of Faith, but perhaps get confused when they insist that it has to be Faith in their version or system of beliefs.  Even Harris, mentioned above, called his book, the End of Faith, but if you read him carefully, he is actually highly critical of beliefs.   We could say that people today don't understand the distinction, or the importance given to all this by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13: "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love."  Faith is as much an act of trust in the Divine Mystery, as it is anything else.  To equate Faith, however, with a system of beliefs, is to mistake the superficial (beliefs) with the depths of religious practice (Faith).

Why can I say: that people today don't understand?

It is mostly a question of the difference between reading about something in a book, and learning to actually do it - to practice it.   Obviously we can recognize that a person who reads all kinds of books about the martial arts, knows a great deal less than a person who has become a master of their practice.   The same is true in religion.  Reading about religion in a book, and actually practicing it for a lifetime, are two very different things.

Someone who goes to Church on Sunday and prays the Lord's Prayer in public (as most Christian Churches do) doesn't understand the first thing about the Sermon on the Mount, which very clearly says to say the Our Father in secret.  Out loud and in secret.  To actually follow Christ's instructions (say, for example, about the mote and the beam in the Sermon on the Mount) leads to experiences, the same way the practice of martial arts leads to experience.

No pain, no gain is the modern cliche.   Same is true in religion.  Its easy to have a belief system.  Its comforting.  It doesn't ask too much.  You hang out with a bunch of folks who all believe the same thing.   Sort of like a club.   Thing is Christ didn't say join a club.  In fact He said kind of the opposite: He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more that me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.  He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me.

Then, of course, there's the example.  You know the one.  Preaching what was essentially a bunch of ideas contrary not only to the dominant local  religion of the time (according to the Hebrew Priesthood), but also all kinds of social ideas not exactly in accord with how Rome conducted its political business.   We know not to talk at dinner about religion and politics.   Christ didn't seem to know that one.  He thought the truth was more important.  Then they killed him.

Afterwards - well in the beginning anyway, there were a lot of people running around telling the good news, telling the story.  Churches were founded (of a sort).  Women were often leaders.   The story didn't agree with the beliefs of the Hebrew religion.  Disciples were martyred, both for religious reasons and political.   People, ordinary people, liked the story.  It was impressive.   The Disciples were impressive.  The Romans were often jerks or thugs and the Hebrew priests often hypocrites. 

Then comes Emperor Constantine, who unites the declining Roman Empire with some of the bishops of the emerging Christian Church.  Institutional politics and institutional religion make for good authoritarian bed partners, and the teachings of Christ starts (had already started, but here it gets serious) getting re-interpreted.   For example, the Gospels, in the original Greek, don't have the word sin (the Greek word means missing the mark, or making an error).   Where Christ (again in the Greek) says you are to love God with all your mind and all your heart and all your spirit, the Roman Church drops the idea of an immortal spirit, and substitutes the idea of the soul (you are to love your God with all your heart and all your mind and all your soul).   Not only that, but the New Testament gets organized, leaving out a whole bunch of books that talk about things like Gnosis (how to have direct experience of the Divine Mystery), as well as Faith.  I could go on.

Periodically certain personalities try to refocus on what Christ actually said and did, and that maybe we should be worried about living the way he taught, and no so worried about whether our system of ideas is officially approved by the head guy (and his cohorts) in Rome (or other places).  The so-called Christian religion slowly more an more loses its connection with what Christ actually taught.  Yet...

These moral ideas have become part of the general cultural background of Western Civilization.  When science arises, those who want the truth instead of doctrine again become martyrs to the truth, only this time to the truths of science, which in the beginning was just another heresy to the Roman Church.

Are you getting the picture yet?

Now not everyone in an organized Church is a fool, or stupid.  Many scientists are quite religious, in all kinds of ways.  Kepler was an astrologer.   Newton was an alchemist.   Faraday was a deeply religious Christian.  Einstein, born a Jew, reacted to the probability theory in quantum mechanics by saying: that God doesn't play dice with the universe.

A lot of people get turned off to organized religion, yet are very concerned about what they call ethics.  The belief systems are weird (as Sam Harris and others have observed), but even the new atheists are inclined to ethics. Some scientists are so convinced that people are often moral, that they try to find a way to explain this using evolutionary psychology (which believes something got hardwired into the brain in evolution, including moral behavior, which has to have a survival utility, or so it is often assumed).

If we look at what people do, and not just at what they believe, we often find that many people struggle to do the right thing.   While some find the idea of the right thing as an aspect of their religious beliefs, many others want to decide for themselves what is right to do.  Fundamentalists speak of moral relativism, and find evil where their particular interpretation of morality is violated (mostly biblical - that is in a so-called holy book, which as we know was very much edited by institutions with other agendas).  Even though warned about the mote and the beam, preachers of absolute biblical moral truths  (e.g. all abortions are murder), still don't get it. 

No practice, and all beliefs, is not following  Christ.  You follow Christ, you get in trouble.  You join a comfortable club, you get to hate everyone that isn't in it with you.  Apocalyptic end times eschatology isn't Christ based.  Its human mistrust of the actual world, and a vain delusion that only the true believer has it all right.  The rest of us can go to hell, literally.

So are there real Christians out there?  Of course, and many are in organized Churches.  There's also this other group.   People with a personal ethic, that if you trace the history of their particular ideals, you'll end up with the influence of Christ's teachings on Western Civilization.

What's weird is that because the institutional Churches made a primacy of belief (instead of practice), the focus of modern critics has been on the irrationality of the ideas in the beliefs.   The Churches have leaned far too long on rigid doctrines, and not having actually practiced the teachings of Christ, don't have a clue where the real meat is.   Where's the beef? said the lady in the commercial.   In the practice folks.   Want to know the real meaning of what Christ taught - follow the teachings.

In a sense there is a considerable difference between a world view or a cosmology (thus the arguments between creationists and neo-Darwinian evolutionists) and the experiences provided by the practice.   Our ideas and beliefs about the fundamental questions of reality are one thing, while the religious life (the practices) are quite another.  Modern scientists are right to question (as they did 500 years ago when natural philosophy first appeared), whether the world-pictures espoused by the Roman Church (and other similar religious institutions) are true.  What is the truth about human origins is one question.   How do I be a moral person (should I so choose) is a different question.

The truly odd thing, however, is that if one really practices the teachings a new state of being arises.  In the cultural East, this is seen as the pursuit of enlightenment.  In the cultural West, the following of the teachings of Christ will lead to a related state of being, but one which is more appropriately called: initiation.  The John Gospel, for example, is a description of a path of initiation - a path leading to Gnosis or direct personal experience of the Mystery (when we are practicing, that is being truly moral, our life more and more takes on the following qualitative characteristics: washing the feet, the scourging, the crowing with thorns, the carrying the cross, the crucifixion, the entombment, and the resurrection - that is, the true moral life becomes a Path or Way).

In the midst of these apparently conflicting views over cosmology and the goals of the religious life, there are the countless biographies of ordinary people, whether they are living in the East or the West in the wider cultural frames of reference.   What does all this mean for them?  Does being a member of a church have anything at all to do with the moral life of the individual heart?

Hopefully now the reader will appreciate that there are many questions, some a bit strange, others quite down to earth and practical.   This essay (and booklet), the Natural Christian, seeks to shed some light on these questions.  Hopefully this process will enlighten the reader as well as initiate them into the deeper aspects of the true Christian religious mysteries, without leaving behind the rational nature of the human mind.

In order to proceed carefully, and logically, it will be necessary to give some order to the themes to be elaborated.   This book then takes the course of trying (one can always fail) to proceed by sticking to knowable facts as much as possible, well all the while not forgetting that even though we may be involved in very practical aspects of human psychology, we will also have living in us fundamental questions due to our experience of the teachings of natural science.

This then is the basic structure - to alternate the subject matter of the chapters or parts.  We will start with psychology, of the sort everyone can appreciate, and then move to the scientific riddles which so enchant us.  Close personal questions and wider questions of meaning and significance, will then be elaborated in the different parts, in a kind of alternating rhythm.

To make this all a little more concrete, consider the following:

We all know, in ourselves, that we have something we call: mind.  We think, and out of our thinking we make decisions.   Scientists study this, as do psychologists.  So one kind of question is very personal and concerns our own understanding of our own inner life, or mind.   How do we operate our decision making process?  Not just what do we think (the content), but how do we think?   Is there somewhere an operating manual for the mind, and how do we make moral decisions with our own mind and remain free?  That would be the theme of the one sequence of parts.

The other sequence of parts would concern the wider questions.  Where does mind come from?   What is the relationship between consciousness and the physical brain?   Are we only matter, or are we also spirit?   With these many questions in mind, let us begin...


part one

How may we describe the consciousness

of an ordinary human being,

in ordinary terms?

One of the interesting things life has taught me is that quite often the simplest matters are the most important.  Not only that, it is frequently the case that the simplest matters are subjects about which there is sometimes the greatest confusion.

For example, there is sleeping and waking.  This, it would seem, is all very obvious, but hopefully as we go forward in this first part, the reader will discover that these obvious and simple matters, when carefully thought about, can be remarkably instructive.

When we are awake, that is conscious, certain processes go on within our minds.   When we sleep, these process may or may not cease, but at the very least it is clear that we are unaware of them.   Certain kinds of injuries cause unconsciousness.   We can also faint from not eating right, and then experience momentary unconsciousness.

So we know two quite different states.  Being awake and being unconscious.  Yes, there are dreams, but keep in mind that dreams have a number of odd characteristics.   In them we are aware, but of what.   The world of dreams is quite unlike the world we know when we are truly awake in the normal way.

When we are conscious in a normal way, we are conscious of some object. We experience through the senses.   We hear sounds, see things, smell smells and so forth.  We are also aware of inner states - things others can't see.  Our thoughts for example - no one (apparently) sees/knows our thoughts, but us.

We are also aware of our self as a subject.   We are ourselves, and then there is the world that is not us.  So there is not only, when we are conscious, that which we experience, but also that which experiences.  Most of us call that which experiences our I.   We say: I saw the cat scratch the dog.  Or, I experienced a certain idea.

We also have feelings, which also tend to be invisible, but sometimes these are so expressive that others can read them in our face, or in our posture.   Of someone we know well, we could notice when they are angry or afraid.  Other times we need to speak of our feelings, for others to know of them.

In certain times of developing intimate relationships, our anxiety over the possibilities will make us tongue tied.  We have thoughts and feelings of which we are conscious, but we can't express them.   Our language is full of such descriptive phrases as tongue tied.  If, to continue the example, we have to hold in our anger we might say: I had to bite my tongue.

We could say that we have both an outside (which others experience through their senses) and an inside which only our I experiences.  Thus the wonderful phrases: you can't tell a book by its cover.  Or, beauty is only skin deep.  Or, still waters run deep.

Now we all know these very simple things, don't we.  Our whole social life and a great deal of our language takes account of these very simple observations.   Where things get interesting is when we try for more detail, especially when we go for more detail about the experience of our inner world by our own I.

Some of this is also embedded in our language, although occasionally in odd kinds of ways.  We have, for example, the word insight.  We can even describe a person as insightful.  We also speak of some people as bright, or that someone had a bright idea.  In a cartoon, when a character has a bright idea the cartoon has a picture of a light bulb going off above the person's head.  Then there is the word enlightened.

We have another word: intuition.  We also speak of gut feelings.  Some people today, who a few decades ago would have described themselves as a psychic, will now call themselves an intuitive.  In a recent New Yorker magazine I just read there is an article called: The Eureka Hunt: why do good ideas come to us when they do? (by Jonah Lehrer).

Of course we have such words as: thinking, thoughts, ideas, concepts and so forth.  Our inside is rich, and somewhat mysterious, for while we have learned more and more about the brain (see the next chapter), the scientists of consciousness still have to confess that they do not know just quite how the material brain produces this assumed subjective state known as consciousness, much less why we have this sense of the I itself (self-consciousness).  Oh, there are plenty of theories, but real accurate scientific knowledge is hard to come by.

Now lets take the mystery all the way out there, as far as it can go (perhaps), with this quote from Christ in the Gospel of Luke: "The kingdom of God doesn't come with watching like a hawk, and they won't say, Here it is, or There it is, because you know what? the kingdom of God is inside you." The Unvarnished Gospels, by Andy Gaus. [emphasis added]

Of course, among scholars of the Gospels (and the Bible in general) the version above is disputed (what isn't disputed in the Bible?).  Recall, however, from the introduction, the difference I pointed toward with making a distinction between systems of belief (which has to include any effort at interpretation), and what is learned by practice.  If we read the writings of the truly religious, as against the writings of the true believers, what Christ says in Luke above makes a lot more sense.  Serious practitioners of Christ's teachings have experiences via their inside.

So that we may make one fundamental question obvious: Do good ideas come from God?   That would be one reasonable question, although there are many many more.   This being the case, perhaps we should now move to a short part more explicitly on science, since many readers will be somewhat familiar with those ideas concerning these kinds of questions.


part two

What does Science Believe

it Knows about Consciousness?

The first thing we have to recognize is two general assumptions common to scientific thinking in this field of interest.  They are somewhat related.

1) The world only consists of physical matter and all phenomena will be discovered to the based upon matter (no spirit).

2) The mind and consciousness are products of the nervous system in the human being, particularly the physical brain. (although no one presently has a satisfactory explanation for how the physical brain produces consciousness, or self-consciousness).

A lot of behavior is also thought to be rooted in our evolutionary past.  The general idea here is that through processes of natural selection, various behaviors become hard wired in the brain, or are the result of a similar process occurring at the genetic level.  Again, in these ideas science is consistent, with the result that solely physical explanations are arrived at for how and why we act as we do.

Some theorists even go so far to say that self-consciousness (our sense of an I) is an illusion produced by electro-chemical processes in the brain.  We really don't have an I according to this view, it is just a convenient illusion manufactured by the brain for the purpose of ... well, here the explanations (theories) get a bit fuzzy.

The article mentioned above (the Eureka Hunt) describes some current research, and certain aspects of the method used in that work are quite common today.  Various individuals are wired up to EEGs or put in MIR tubes (or both at the same time), and then images (or other kinds of sense experience) are shown to them, while the scientist records data on which parts of the brain show greater activity when stimulated in this way.  In the essay in the New Yorker they showed their subjects puzzles, and tried to map what happened in the brain when the subject had a "aha!" moment when they solved the puzzle.  Science has also worked with people with various defects and injuries, where the brain seems not to function normally (in part), and thus this data adds to the total pictures created.

Basically all modern scientific research into consciousness takes this same general path.  Subjects are studied and data accumulated.  The scientist approaches the subject through his own senses, stimulating the subject and measuring electrical and other physical changes in the brain.   There are of course also purely psychological studies conducted often in the form of interviews, but again the scientist comes to the experiment with a certain formal approach.

We need to keep in mind that research of this kind is held to certain standards (unless it is part of government black operations or similar secret and probably illegal corporate research); and, we also need to keep in mind that in most scientific disciplines funding is needed.   A lot of research on the brain is also done by looking at the chemistry.  The basic question here is what happens in the nerve cells at this level.  The pharmaceutical industry supports, or itself carries out, a lot of this research, especially with regard to developing medications for what we call: mental illness.  Multiple motives drive the nature of this research - it is not always purely done for the purposes of seeking the truth.

The totality of the work, legitimate and otherwise, is extraordinary.  Detailed maps of the brain have been created.  Left hemisphere, right hemisphere, spacial sense, motor skills, language areas, what happens when we think, what happens when we run - the terminology is almost endless.

Of course, the two assumptions mentioned above are the overriding ideas determining everything else.  The very tricky problem of causality (what causes what) is not well understood.   For example:

"It is old hat to say that the brain is responsible for mental activity. Such a claim may annoy the likes of Jerry Falwell or the Ayatollah, but it is more or less the common assumption of educated people in the twentieth century. Ever since the scientific revolution, the guiding view of most scientists has been that knowledge about the brain, its cells and its chemistry will explain mental states. However, believing that the brain supports behavior is the easy part: explaining how is quite another." (Mind Matters: How the Mind and Brain interact to Create Our Conscious Lives, Michael S. Grazzanica Ph.D. pp 1, Houghton Mifflin, Boston 1988). [Emphasis added]

and, from the same book:

"A thought can change brain chemistry, just as a physical event in the brain can change a thought."*

*[pssst, Michael, I think you goofed here.   If a thought can change brain chemistry, what causes the thought if not the I?  Oh, yes well, don't actually know that do you.  We'll come back to this riddle later.]

Now this book quoted above is 20 years old, but these problems remain unresolved today.   20 more years of research into consciousness has not rescued natural science from the mystery of how the brain produces consciousness and self-consciousness.  Of course as Grazzanica admits above, for the working scientist this causal problem is resolved by a common assumption.  Mind and brain are assumed to be one thing.

Perhaps the scientist has not yet asked the right question, because his assumption stands in the way and blinds him.

There is one very very big peculiarity in modern consciousness research.  The dominant thinking (there are tiny exceptions) assumes that the present nature of scientific method will yield results, and further this thinking acts more or less as if nobody ever studied consciousness before.

This last is a major paradox.   Human beings have always wondered about their minds, and any look at the history of human thought, in the cultural West and the cultural East, finds not just all kinds of philosophical examinations of mind in great detail, but also rather elaborate disciplines where the fundamental truth of mind is sought to be known through what are essentially experiments (practices that teach).

There is a difference, however.   What the older mind sciences do is something quite radical in relationship to modern consciousness studies.  Mind, in these disciplines, is studied from the inside, not from the outside.  Those who lead the consciousness studies in modern natural science look upon another person as a subject to be studied.   The more ancient (and far wiser), and some modern disciplines, require of the subject that he study himself.

Know thyself said the Greeks.   The Zen Master practices meditation daily for hours.   The Carmelite Nun prays for hours every day.  A serious student of Anthroposophy (a modern Christ-oriented spiritual discipline) spends years thinking about thinking.   All study their inside, although the methods differ.


part three

ordinary consciousness studies itself

Don't be shocked, we already do this.  Who is more curious about our self than us?  If there is a limit, it is a bit natural too.  Most of us forget our adolescence with all its "who am I" questions, ambiguities and uncertainties.  We are, as we grow psychologically, inventing our self.  We participate, as an I, in the construction of our personality.  If we can stand the pain of remembering this time in our psychological development (adolescence), we can become aware in detail just exactly how we constructed our personality - how we created a kind of mask by which we lent to the world one image of who we are, and kept private a great deal of the rest.  There is a lot that shapes this, of which I'll remind the reader soon, but lets make this first point as clear as possible.

The natural or instinctive elements of psychological growth run out of steam in our 20's.  This is why so many adult men and women seem to remain emotional children.  To a degree this is an artifact of culture.  If our cultural experiences don't teach us that we can continue to grow and psychologically mature, we end up just letting the development of our personality become fixed - become a set of habits.

Now culture itself grows and develops.   What we remember as the 1960's was (among much else) an explosion of ideas whose essential common center (from multiple points of view) was that we could continue to grow spiritually and/or psychologically.   We take up meditation.   We go to encounter groups.   We join AA.   We enter therapy.  The result is that there is a near endless list of transformative processes in which people can be engaged today.

Many people do more than one.  Sometimes they'll do several at the same time, and other times they will do them serially - one at a time, but still be always involved in personal growth.  Those who didn't do this, would often make fun of it.  Stuck in their own post-adolescence stasis they talked of the me generation, or new agers, or moral relativism, or family values or culture wars - demonstrating all kinds of ways to label the natural curiosity to become something more and something new, possessed by others, as some kind of defect.

Many people are afraid of change, and they seek others of a like taste and relationship to life.  They form different kinds of clubs, and these clubs often resist the natural movement of culture and of human nature.   Many of these clubs sought to label themselves as Christian, or found in certain Christian sects a warm safe home.  At a psychological level what they really were looking for was something fixed, just as their personality was fixed.   Some even went culturally backwards.   They tried to bring alive in the present something of the past.  The ambiguities of the 1960's frightened such people, and they wanted the family to be just like their romantic idea (probably taken from television) of family life in the 1950's or earlier.

Once you take such a view, which is at its roots driven from fear of change, it becomes easy to use a text like the Bible to provide justification for the need.   So our society itself devolves into factions - those moving forward, those holding still and those trying to run backwards.

Underneath this are fundamental questions, which some are willing to face as they mature, and which others can only find comfort in relationship to, if they hold still and get answers from the outside.  They don't want to think and decide their own beliefs, they want to be told what to believe.

Who am I?  What am I?  Why do I exist?  What do I believe?   How do I find love?   How do I find comfort?  How do I avoid pain?   How do I be moral?

These questions began for many in adolescence as our own thinking woke up.   We wanted, we hungered, we were uncertain.   It was so painful finding our self in the midst of all those hormonal changes and inner psychological developments.   Our parents wanted one thing and our teachers another.  So did our friends.   Everyone around us had an idea of who we were supposed to be.  But what about me - what did I want?

Everyone knows today that their High School experience seriously sucked.  It sucks even worse today, since we live within a culture with a lot of aspects which are decaying and dying.   When I was an adolescent (the 1950's), the world wasn't so sexualized or so full of drug temptations.  I have raised five children through adolescence now, and it always amazes me what they have had to face - the older ones with less troubles of a certain kind, the younger with issues I never could have imagined possible.  The miracle, however, is that they seem equipped to handle these experiences.  I would not be able to do what they do, for they endure a much tougher adolescence (rite of passage to adulthood).

Social change today is accelerated.  The structure of society is falling apart.  In other places in my work I write of this time being the end of Western Civilization.   Whether you buy that or not, I don't think many people today think we live in simple times.   Who we are is affected by this social context.  The context pushes more questions at us.  If we reflect on this we can see that there seem to be laws in operation here.

My self understanding is influenced by my cultural experience.   One of those simple things, that we know in such an obvious way, is perhaps far more important a fact then we realize.  We will return to this later.


part four

Is Science Limited to its

Present Methods of Investigation?

Lets move away from the direct study of consciousness by science, and take a look at modern physics, in particular quantum theory and mechanics.   If one appreciates how basic aspects of science advance, physics is generally the leading edge.   As a general observation we could say that it takes sometimes as much as 30 or more years before a discipline, such as microbiology for example, is able to integrate into its fundamental ideas what the physicists have already learned. 

One of the more interesting scientists to look at this is the mathematician Roger Penrose.  To call him a mathematician is a bit lame in a way, but he is quite skilled at the pure and abstract thinking of a leading mathematician.   He takes these skills and tries to integrate knowledge from other disciplines.   At the same time he is very open minded.  He is more interested in discovering the truth than he is a proving a favorite theory can't be touched or changed.

For example, in his book The Emperor's New Mind he wrote (in 1989):

"It seems clear to me that the importance of aesthetic criteria applies not only to the instantaneous judgments of inspiration, but also to the much more frequent judgments we make all the time in mathematical (or scientific work) Rigorous argument is usually the last step! Before that, one has to make many guesses, and for these, aesthetic convictions are enormously important..."


"...I cannot help feeling that, with mathematics the case for believing in some kind of ethereal, eternal existence, at least for the more profound mathematical concepts, is a good deal stronger..."

A very open mind indeed...

Following this early book, which was rather popular, Penrose began to speculate that what goes on in the brain, if connected to ideas about quantum states of matter, might begin to explain consciousness.  These were controversial themes, but lets look a little at quantum theory to see what it says about substance or matter, for after all the brain is matter and the assumption of science is that consciousness arises from matter.

What is matter to modern physics?  If you've never run into these ideas, don' worry.  However, they are a bit strange if you are not familiar with them.  All the same we need to dip into the past a little bit, for a lot of ideas grow out of earlier ideas.

For example, it used to be thought that at the fundamental smallest level of matter there was a thing.  An object.   Very tiny yes, but you could with instruments perhaps see it.   Some scientists even did (or thought they did).  But then the idea of fields came into play (Faraday).   You know, like the magnetic field that organizes a bunch of iron filings.   There is no tiny thing there, in the field.   But anything that enters the field is affected by it.

The next idea was that when we spoke of a particle (like the kinds of particles that are smaller than atoms, and from which atoms are made) this particle was a result of the intersection of various fields.  Where the fields intersected, this point in space (which was not fixed, but moved) resisted being penetrated.  So while a rock, for example, seems very dense and full of what it is made of, in reality it is mostly empty space punctuated by intersections of fields of force.   A sub-atomic particle began to be more and more conceived of as no longer a thing occupying space, but as a dynamic (moving and changing) point center created by intersecting fields of force.

It gets worse.

Experiments with photons (split beam experiments and the like) suggested some very odd ideas.  Indeterminacy theory emerges, and theorists decide you can't predict anything at this level anymore.   Its all probabilities.  (Thus Einstein's comment that God doesn't play dice with the Universe - he couldn't believe these ideas).  Not only is matter mostly empty space (that is there is no there there), but even worse, whatever it is, it only exists as a potential, as a probability.  It might be here, it might be there.  It definitely isn't yet.   Something has to intervene before the probability collapses into definiteness.  For something to actually be, and to have a there (mass or being-ness and position or there-ness) consciousness has to influence it.

Did he really write that?!?!?   Want your mind to start to fray at its edges?  Google "consciousness and quantum mechanics" and start trying to read that stuff.   Is this a problem?  Not really.  In my view it is better understood as a limit.

Science has followed carefully the examination of smaller and smaller conditions of matter until matter disappeared, first into the interactions of fields of mysterious forces, and then finally into conditions of indeterminacy.  Of potential.  Of not yet.  Of a constant state of becoming, in which the I or self-consciousness of the experimenter was the final contributing factor.   The fall from potential into manifestation only arises when the experimenter goes looking for either the being-ness (position) or the there-ness (movement) of an object, which to his mind has none of those qualities* until he acts).

*[Physics, in spite of its efforts to deal only with data that could be counted and measured, that is with only quantities (but never qualities), has been unable to fully abandon qualities (being-ness and there-ness).   In spite of generations of effort to eliminate the subjectivity of the observer as well, physics has ended up discovering that this very subjectivity is essential to maintain its present line of experiments.  This subject we'll take up in more detail later.]

One thing is certain, if you read what these physics writers try to say about consciousness.   They don't know much about it.   They mostly live in the same assumptions as those scientists studying consciousness directly from the outside - which is that at some point we must figure out how to show consciousness emerging from the matter (which simultaneously doesn't become determined without consciousness?).  Did you get that?

At a fundamental level there is a huge circular system of reasoning (a tautology) at the root intersections of modern quantum physics and theories about how the brain produces consciousness.   We study the brain, but can't figure out how it makes consciousness from matter.  We study matter and observe that it needs consciousness to become determined.  Yet, of consciousness itself we are very very ignorant. 

We know consciousness directly, but we never study what is right before us in our own minds.  We study it indirectly, using others as subjects, but avoid our own mind.   Perhaps there is a reason for that.


part five

the psychology of the moral life

of a natural Christian

A main difficulty for those engaging in the self study of their own mind is those nasty moral questions.  Right at the beginning of such a study we already know the own dark within.   That is, if we have what is called: a conscience (some folks don't appear to have one).   This fear of facing the own shadow is what keeps many from being willing to look within.

This is partially why Alcoholics Anonymous has the forces for true  change it has.  The Twelve Steps help you take that journey of facing the dark inside.   Hitting bottom is a life experience that tends to wake people up and confront them with a choice.  Do I take my life (particularly my inner life) in hand, or do I just continue to let it spiral out of control, destroying all those I love in its wake.  Those are powerful moral questions, and the process of AA's Twelve Steps walks you through this minefield in a very healthy way.

The fact is that AA is universally valid as a Path, and need not be confined to just people with obvious addictions and flaws.   Everyone is flawed, everyone.  A lot of so-called Christians, for example, are addicted (selfishly in love with and hooked on certain systems of belief, by which activity many others are harmed).  There could well be a recovery group for former fake Christians.  Lets look at the Twelve Steps a bit and see if we can appreciate their deeper nature.

Twelve Steps, twelve Disciples, twelve Signs of the Zodiac.  One Sun in the Center, shedding light and warmth on All.

From a certain point of view, the Twelve Steps can be conceived of as three processes, through which the soul is mastered (its dark and its light integrated - healed and made whole).  These three processes elevate the spirit for the mastery of the soul.  The self-consciousness (the spirit) becomes awake in the consciousness (the soul).  What was fallen in the soul is redeemed, by the forces of the own I.

The first stage of this total process is surrender.

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol -- that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

The first part of surrender is directed at our egotistical idea that we can, out of the present state of being of our own I, rule our life of soul, in particular its shadow elements.   The second part of surrender is to recognize that something other than our own I can help us.   The third part of surrender is to choose to include this other-ness consciously as a force within.  The fourth part is to surrender the I's defenses of its own dark truths about itself.  In a way the 4th Step and the 1st form a circle.

In the surrender phase (and keep in mind people don't always get it the first time or the tenth time) we circle around ourselves, trying to create a true attitude of surrender to the truth.  Admitted powerlessness, sought help from something greater, let this something greater have more influence over our self than our own egotism, and began the work of understanding that egotism (too much I, not enough Thou) in brutally self-honest detail.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

Having learned surrender, we now move away from egotism toward the Thou, via the higher nature of our I.   In this process surrender becomes confession and contrition.  We include others - we confess to ourselves, to another and to God as we understand him (maintaining our freedom to think for ourselves).  We ask for help.  And, we get ready to face our responsibilities.   This is the central process, and it takes us away from our self as the egotistic center of our life, and involves us in community.   Confession and contrition makes us better social beings.   AA is a social process - we don't do it alone, but as part of something greater.

In a certain way this gesture of movement away from self and toward community is the heart of the Twelve Steps.  It is clearly, to those who actually become able to experience it, the hardest step of all, and the one most difficult to maintain.   We don't get perfect.   We don't recover.   We continue to have a dark inside, as well as a light.  Yet, to help us maintain (continue one day at a time our recovery), we have the process of the last four Steps.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

The process of the last four Steps is: practice leading to service.   We need a daily practice, just as a monk or nun, or meditating Zen student needs.  One day at a time, - but to do that we have a form as it were - a Way of Life.  The beginner in AA is encourage to do 90 in 90, that is to make 90 meetings in 90 days.  A lot of those well into their recovery and able to help others go everyday.  If things get tough, you go more than once a day.   If things get really tough in the dark of the night, you call your confessor, your sponsor and they will come and sit with you.

We don't have to be alone in our trials.

We redeem the past, and as there is always more past as we walk into our future, and as we are in recovery and not recovered, we will continue to screw up.   We never stop making amends, we just get used to being occasionally idiotic (making mistakes and missteps) and learn how to deal with it.

So, three processes.  Surrender.  Confession and Contrition (social acts as part of a community).  Practice and Service.  If you re-read the steps you will see that 4 and 5 together meditate between those two processes, while 8 and 9 also mediate between those two processes.

Everyone has a Way, everyone.   We think of it as our routine.  A prisoner has a routine as does his jailer.  The wonderful movie Groundhog Day is a beautiful modern fable of what can be done if we take the right attitude to the Day.   This movie understands that we do wake up everyday the same person, and that there is no change or development (growth past the end of adolescence) unless we use each given Day to move, one step at a time, forward on our Way.

part six

the relationship of Natural Science

to Thinking

Recall Grazzanica above:


"A thought can change brain chemistry, just as a physical event in the brain can change a thought."

We now need to explore more carefully the paradox observed here by a leading neurophysiologist, as that might illuminate the problem of causality in our thinking.

The scientist of consciousness studies the brain by stimulating this physical organ in another human being through the vehicle of the senses (although sometimes directly by electrical stimulation of parts of the brain - a course of action I find a bit reprehensible).  This is done in part because of the idea the scientist has about his own subjectivity.  Scientific method, with its experiments, seeks to overcome human subjectivity by designing experiments that can be repeated and requiring that all conclusions be open to argument and logical reasoning by peers in the scientific community.  In a sense, the scientist surrenders his own subjectivity to the community activity of peer review, and through this process hopes to discover objective truths.

The scientist's relationship to this method is his belief system.  He believes he will more and more approximate the truth (he confesses a limit to his knowledge, when forced to so confess).

The scientists in the Eureka experiments noted previously, stimulates the puzzle solving ability of the brain (his assumption) and tries to measure in which part of the brain there is increased measurable activity when the puzzle is solved.  The scientist's subjectivity asks something of the subjectivity of the experimental subject.  He says (essentially): I am going to give you a puzzle to solve, and then I am going to measure what happens in your brain when you solve it.

Notice the pronouns above, which are essential in order to communicate his ideas about his experiment to the ego of the subject.  The scientist makes a kind of appeal, from his I to the Thou of the subject: please cooperate with my experiment by helping me, through your trying your hardest to solve this puzzle.  Even a scientist convinced (theoretically) that there is no self-consciousness never actually uses language in such a way, or probably even thinks in such a way.   Ask yourself this: can he even think about his own brain or your brain, without a subjective pronoun?   Nobody can do this.  Nobody can form a thought that does not contain the subjective pronouns in some variation of I and Thou.

The activity of mind cannot think discursively (more in a minute) and at the same time deny its own subjective nature.  There is no social speech without pronouns, all of which parts of speech are rooted in the commonly shared obvious truth of the existence of self-consciousness.

In a way it is impossible for the self-consciousness of any thinker to deny that self-consciousness, because once we become awake to this during our psychological development, the existence of an independent self as against a world of others is, as the Founders of the American Experiment said: self evident.  "We hold these truths to be self evident", they said.

At the same time, and during the same period of history that gave birth to the American Experiment, natural scientists recognized the existence of flaws in the subjectivity of the human being, including themselves.  All the arguments in which they engaged are silly unless they are based on the recognition of the limits of human thinking in relationship to the discovery of the truth.  Out of this emerges scientific method, so that at least there is a community of discipline (surrender, community and practice) among seekers of the truth (scientists).

As we have seen so far, however, consciousness and self-consciousness retain a degree of mystery, both for the researcher on brain function and processes, and on the researcher into the real nature of matter (of which the brain is supposedly composed).   Grazzanica above recognized the fundamental paradox, for if the researcher asks of his subject that he undertake certain kinds of inner activity, this thinking activity will produces measurable effects to the instruments observing the brain.  Different kinds of thoughts give rise to effects in different parts of the brain.  Memory in one place, language in another, puzzle solving in a third and so on.

The subjectivity of the research subject is often a necessary and needed participant in the experiment.  It is the subjectivity of the research subject that lets Grazzanica write: "A thought can change brain chemistry, just as a physical event in the brain can change a thought."

In both this realm and the realm of quantum experiments, the subjectivity - the self-consciousness - of someone present (the experimenter in physics and the experimental subject in brain studies) is an essential part.  Also in both case thinking activity plays a role.  The experimenter must choose to seek either knowledge of mass or position, thus bringing about by his intervention in the experimental process, the collapse of potential into actuality.   While in the other case, the experimental subject must choose some inner activity (such as to solve a puzzle) in order for the observer to have something to measure.

As we observed previously, the thinking subject, even if they believe there is no self-consciousness, can't actually engage in discursive thinking (the inner dialog we all recognize as the first stage of conscious thought) without using pronouns, which by their very nature have to be based in a conception of the subjectivity of I and Thou.  Some scientific thinkers as noted above, will put forward their view that the I is an illusion of the matter based material processes in the brain, while at the same time be incapable of using language (either in thought or in speech and writing) that is able to divorce itself from personal pronouns.

In fact, by asserting the ability of the brain to create an illusion of self-consciousness (a fundamental operation of the brain, apparently), they open all thought into question, including their own.  If self-consciousness is an illusion, could not everything the scientist thinks be an illusion?

Perhaps there is here not an illusion, be a delusion.  In the face of illusion we are perhaps more passive, but a delusion is more actively created.  Why do some scientists want to get ride of the self-evident fact of self-consciousness?  Why does it trouble them?  Is it perhaps that they instinctively recognize that self-consciousness (the presence of a real subjectivity within the human being), suggests that something other than matter is involved?

Recall once more Grazzanica's remarks: "A thought can change brain chemistry, just as a physical event in the brain can change a thought."

What causes the thought that changes the brain chemistry?  In this problem of causality, which is everywhere present in many studies of brain activity (the subject has to be a participating actor), the paradox of imagining that there is only matter and no spirit more and more manifests itself.   The thinking of the scientist of the brain is running into the same problem (but from a different direction) that the quantum physicist did.  The brain researcher can't figure out how matter produces consciousness, and since a large part of his experimental process includes him having to ask a subject for participating mental activity (puzzle solving for example), the researcher confronts his own inconsistency.  If it is only matter that makes a human being, why does he need to require its cooperation?  Would you ask a rock to move and expect it to do so?  A plant?  Animals can be trained (domesticated), but everyone knows the difference between cats and dogs.  The cat is indifferent to our commands, unless its own instinctive self interest is involved.  The dog lives for our attention, and readily obeys (when so trained).   We have the wonderful expression noting how much some human beings are like cats.  We say:  To get this group of people to cooperate is like trying to herd cats.

part seven

the relationship of the natural

Christian to thinking

When we try to practice Our Way each Day in Life, we run into moral and ethical dilemmas more or less constantly.   Some are very ordinary, such as if we are given too much change at the store do we return the overpayment?  Some are potentially catastrophic, such as do I start an affair with my best friends spouse.

Further, we know we are inconsistent.  In one mood we are more generous and naturally ethical and more; and, in another mood we are downright dangerous and propelled toward risks almost without any control of our emotions at all by our I.  That inner dialog I have called discursive thinking (we talk inside our own minds to ourselves - that is our self-consciousness speaks into our consciousness) is often in forced flight, and seldom calm and collected.  Life-demands propel us through the day: wake to the alarm, feed the children and get them to school, go to the job, hassle with the boss, come home, argue with the spouse and on and on and on.

So much seems out of our control, especially in the present times of seemingly more and more social chaos world-wide.  It really is not surprising that some groups just want to check out of the world, and form communities of zero change or even try to enliven past social forms and realities.  Other individuals can't find a club, unless it is the club of checking out into one kind of addiction or another.  For some it is shopping, for others overwork.   Even madness beckons to a few - they hide inside their own minds and become completely disconnected from social reality.

At the same time, everyone thinks or has thoughts.  Sometimes thoughts are intrusive and even illusory.   The whole field of mental health, and as well criminal justice, deals with social and individual problems that manifest out of something whose causal reality is within the own inside - the consciousness we see that others do not.

We worry.  We get depressed.  We get high, we use downers.  We zone out on TV.  We escape into books or sex.

Yet, for most of us, there are a few simple facts (remember those I talked about in the very beginning of this little book) worthy of noting.  Our thoughts have a content, which we sometimes call ideas or concepts or mental pictures or whatever.  The activity of the self-consciousness produces a mental or conceptual product via the discursive thinking.  We know these are our thoughts, and we often guard them quite carefully.  They are very personal, and rare is the other - the Thou - with whom we will share.

Oh, we do have all kinds of glib chatter.  Hello, how are you, how's your sister and so forth.   Most of the time we don't expect the truth, and often are shocked if we get it.  Actually screw you and I'm going crazy and I just killed my sister

A lot of the content is culturally produced.   We suckle it in in childhood simply by learning our native language.   We are raised in families and churches and schools, all of which try to forge our beliefs and the content of our thoughts.  As noted previously, in pre-adolescence and adolescence proper we start to free our thoughts from these influences, and sometimes can't do this until we leave home, and move far far away.  Our self-consciousness wants freedom in this most intimate aspect of our consciousness - our thoughts.  Don't we say: I'm entitled to my opinion!

At the same time, even as adults our social environment often requires conformance of thoughts.  The work place, in spite of our being in a so-called country with free speech, is not a place we can afford to speak freely.   Remember above where we noted the phrase: I had to bite my tongue.  Spontaneous speech, while often a true representation of our thoughts and feelings, just as often can get us in a lot of trouble.

What happens when our boss (or a close relative) requires of us an action we know (to our own view of things) is not ethical or moral?

Now the point of this is not so much that these obvious things go on all the time, but rather that they go on all the time for all of us.  Each individual human being, as a thinker, is born into a world of concepts and values, from which they may or may not emerge into some kind of personal or ethical/moral freedom.   What is especially odd, is how often we forget that all of us have values, and ethical and moral rules that are different.

We easily become angered when someone doesn't act like we would act.  We know what is right to do, don't we?   Shouldn't they know this too?

We normally don't think carefully about this particular fact, which is so important (see my little story Bicycles in the appendix) to understanding the world in which we live.  When we do, however, (and many do) there is a shift in our relationship to other people.  Usually we call this: tolerance.   We accept that others necessarily think differently, and in our own thinking we find a way to live with this when we can.

Sam Harris's book The End of Faith (noted at the beginning) makes a big deal of this.   He finds the tolerance of moderate Christians of the irrationality of so-called extremist Christians, a worse moral failure than the irrationality he describes.  He doesn't tolerate this, so why should they?

Mr. Harris, who is a natural scientist of a sort, doesn't yet know what to do with human social facts he doesn't like.  He seems to believe that there are purely rational ethical principles (in this he is not alone) that are so soundly reasoned that everyone ought to agree.  His difficulty is one typical to us all, and which we noted above on our way to looking at the Twelve Steps.

We all have a dark inside, all of us.  If you pretend you don't, you'll make false assumptions, often hypocritical ones.  If Our Way doesn't include some confession of the own dark inside, as well as the light, we will make missteps along the Way.  Christ in the Sermon on the Mount called it the problem of the Mote and the Beam, and while a lot of these teachings are present everywhere as ideas in Western Civilization, not all of them are practiced.   Remember: surrender, confession and contrition in community and practice.

At the least, we should recognize that while many of us are natural Christians, because we have taken in certain fundamental values that are sourced out of Christ's parables and teachings, we are not finished yet.  Life growth can stop or can go on, and this too is a moral or ethical choice that belongs to our own freedom to decide.

There is a kind of a trick here, or perhaps a puzzle that needs to be perceived and then worked with.   This puzzle is with our own thinking. 

We think instinctively.   That is we don't generally think about thinking, or study our internal life as a puzzle, we just do it.   We swim in the sea of our mind, not paying much attention at all to the content, mostly because life makes so many demands we just don't have time to be reflective or introspective. 

That a lot of people don't think the same thoughts, we already know.  That is pretty obvious.  What is less obvious (except perhaps to professional educators or others who work with people intimately) is that not only is the content clearly different, but how people think is sometimes also radically different.   There are a lot of different ways in which this has been observed, depending on the context and the discipline making the observations.

It is most obvious to those teachers in the field of special education, however.   The ADHD student, or the dyslexic student or the autistic student or the aspergers student - all these children have a different how of thinking.  Artists tend to think differently as well.  A couple of examples: the emotional relationship to color is for one most important, while for another it will be the tactile relationship - how their medium of art feels to the sense of touch.

A lot of people end up in jobs where their naturally different how of thinking finds a place.  A highly disciplined abstract thinker (who lives only in conceptions, and hardly in their senses at all) might become a mathematician.   Someone who thinks with their limbs might become a dancer.  Someone who thinks with their hands might become a carpenter, or other kind of craftsman.

If you walk through your own life, asking this question: what ways or way does this person think and feel that are different from my own? - a whole other world within the social environment will light up before your own thinking.  In a way, you are letting what you can observe about their outside (not just how they look but how they act and in what kind of environment have they come to live), show you a way to see deeper into their inside.  With this kind of question (and its variations) you will begin to understand (in practice) how to come awake to the Mote and the Beam.  It is our semi-conscious reaction to the outside that comes from the own Beam, while our self-conscious seeking after the inside takes us much nearer the Mote.

part eight

culmination and integration:

becoming scientific about our own

consciousness and self-consciousness

Lets first look at something we passed by above, namely our recognition that our life pushes our consciousness and self-consciousness all the time.  Life makes demands.  Life is suffering is the first Noble Truth of the Buddha.  People get martyred on a cross of truth all the time, sometimes not so obviously, but all the same, they get fired from jobs and/or are left by a spouse.

The wise cliche is that god never gives us more than we can handle, but a lot of people who check out certainly don't seem to be handling life at all.

Wasn't there a Country and Western song about giving someone an attitude adjustment?  A lot of us recognize the importance of attitude.  When we form our personality we take on a costume of attitude (or what an acquaintance of mine Catherine MacCoun, in her book called On Becoming an Alchemist called style.  Everyone has a style or attitude (a personality), that originates in the self-consciousness (which some call our: immortal spirit).

These are all individual and unique in their formation, but often imitative in the presentation.  Right from the start our personal biography pushes at us, and as we grow we create this response: the attitude or style we present to the world.  We don't expose all, except in very significant personal relationships, because we are taught by life that such exposure often leads to pain (we get hurt). 

Natural Science hardly talks at all about this.  Hard to quantify a hurt, or a style or an attitude.  When Natural Science did approach this it first did so in the soft sciences (as against the hard sciences such as physics or chemistry), such as psychology or history or sociology.  In recent years such disciplines as evolutionary psychology have tried to imagine that they can think reasonably to the roots of human behavior, inner and outer, by supposing some kind of adaptive mechanism, sometimes getting all the way into the DNA.  The brain and the genetic code adapt to evolutionary pressures (the pushes of life).  A lot of work wants to compare us to the higher mammals, and certainly we have the idea of the human animal.

That last phrase, while common in our language, is a kind of very subtle  oxymoron (a figure of speech that combines into a more or less contradictory set of terms).  What's the point of the word human in that phrase: human animal?   We often use the terms quite separately and everyone understands in those uses the distinction.  We also have the variation: humane.  Would we ever call an animal humane and have such a sentence mean anything?

Animals, for example, aren't moral.  They are instinctive.  They don't create art or language.  We can project on them human qualities (and often do this to our pets), but no one is every going to call a tiger in the wild humane.  The confusion between the human and the animal is just a result of very sloppy thinking.

Now human beings can forget their humanity.  We even have a phrase recognizing this: man's inhumanity to man.  Or, he was such an animal.  In the latter case, the term animal is more of a metaphor than it is a rational judgment.  But Natural Science seems to be committed to this idea, and finds rationale for it in such well know facts that the difference in the nature of the DNA between a higher order mammal and a man is slight.

Remember, however, that this train of thought is completely based on the assumption that only the physical is real.  Hopefully, in the above parts, we have somewhat deconstructed this idea in our examination of consciousness and self-consciousness.  This problem then leads us to something that is a kind of socially sloppy disagreement: Intelligence Design vs. Random Evolutionary Processes.  I say sloppy, because most of those involved in these arguments haven't bothered to look at the history of the development of science.   In that history this issue was originally everywhere, and it has never gone away.  Its just gotten buried under more and more assumptions as time went on, and as Natural Science seemed more and more to occupy an intellectual territory that was increasingly abandoned by orthodox religions, as they lost themselves in the vanity of their belief systems, at the expense of the actual practice of their teachings.

Another acquaintance of mine, Don Cruse, writes about the development of ideas that have led to the conceptions of Darwinian Evolution: random processes and so forth.  He has a web site and a book: Evolution and the New Gnosis: anti-establishment essays on knowledge, science, religion and causal logic.  On the web there is a wonderful essay Dogma and Doubt by Ronald Brady [] that thoroughly unzips the basis of evolutionary biology as a rational system of thought.

Cruse puts the whole thing quite simply.  For long time in the history of science, the scientists used metaphorical language to communicate their understanding, such: as mechanism.  Nature was a randomly created mechanism.  The problem, says Cruse, is that that word, mechanism, means only one thing, something created.  Human beings make mechanisms, and to export, from our understanding of the creative activity by which a clock is made, to nature the idea that nature is a mechanism is to define it as designed and created.  He actually challenges them, in his book and in letters to scientists, to forgo (if they can) the use of such metaphors to describe what they observe.  Create, he insists, a language that isn't based on an analogy to human creativity, but which truly describes evolution as a random accidental process.   They can't do it.

Whenever they stop the process of analysis to take up the task of synthesis (making a whole of the data or parts discovered in experiments), they always use metaphors rooted in one way or another in human intentionality.  The hand of natural selection.  Even the term selection involves a meaning of human intentionality.  A truly random process can't select anything.  It doesn't - it can't - make choices.

Hopefully the reader will now see that Science has reached limits.  It has very definite views (assumptions and ideas), but in the brain biology (the study of consciousness) and in quantum physics (the question of what actually is matter), and even in evolutionary theory, some element of human intention - participation - can't be gotten rid of.  If then, self-consciousness is spirit - the I is spirit, and consciousness is soul, then the need to use the idea of some kind of intention in explaining the facts of evolutionary theory leads only to one place: a Divine Mystery.  Moreover, the story of Christ's teachings in the Gospels, when practiced, lead to the same place.

If one goes to what is described in other essays of mine (and in books), and studies there either Anthroposophy or Goethean Science, then it is clear that New Revelation was poured over humanity in the 20th Century.  How?  Why?  Good questions, not all of which can be answered here.

part nine

arguments with God;

a personal view, offered

Among the ideas that reality teaches is that the human being is being born more and more into a co-creative role with the Divine Mystery.   In fact, something of the Divine Mystery itself lives in the ego or I of the human being, and to be co-creative, as Owen Barfield suggested in his book Saving the Appearances: a study in idolatry, is to engage in final participation.  In Ages Past the human being was more passive and less free (original participation).  Now we are more free and more potentially active.  This, to my experience, has brought certain consequences.

One of these is quite odd, and I was surprised to discover this mood of soul.  The more I understood the design of the creation (at least this present part - see my book the Way of the Fool), and even more and more appreciated it, the more certain aspects of it bothered me.  These next paragraphs then come from such a mood.   I start by recognizing my antipathy towards certain elements of the what some might call: Gods Design.  In effect I recognize that Lucifer was not entirely wrong to go through a period of rebellion, and I have begun to think that part of developing fully the Divine Mystery of the own I is to (on occasion and quite deliberately) approach our observations of the design with a critical faculty.

We are, after all, quite intimately involved in this situation.  To just sort of roll over like a good dog and always love everything the Master does and did, is to loose something that is part of being human.   Like a child becoming truly free and responsible, I am finding that part of the separation, that has to precede the choice and pursuit of reintegration, must include taking the attitude of whether we find everything just perfect. 

Some urge upon us the idea that the Gods make no errors, and this is becoming more and more to me one of those truths that paradoxically can be seen from a totally different direction to be false.  In point of fact, a fair reading of Rudolf Steiner's researches into the supersensible worlds will come upon many comments where it is clear that the communities of spiritual beings that have led the way so far were not in agreement on all aspects of the Creation.

We could actually say that our critical examination of the design is quite necessary if we are to ultimately become responsible for many of its future aspects.  In the light of this I want to share an odd thought that has come to me many times now, and which I confess I find to be more and more true.   Let us call this: the mobius strip incarnation idea.

First call to mind what a mobius strip is.  If I have a belt-like form, and make it into a circle by joining the two ends, I have two surfaces and two edges that don't exactly connect.  If before I join the two ends together, I give a half twist to the form, I end up with one continuous surface and one continuous edge.   If I make the form geometrically perfect, by having the edge be without measure - that is it is zero in thickness, I can still have a geometric form that is plane-like, and circular, while at the same time endless - that is without two sides.

Now lets apply this idea to the Creation, to repeated earth lives, to reincarnation, and to what appears to be the separation from God which ancient ideas of the cultural East often considered to be an illusion.  Some readers will have noticed the goal of ego-lessness, which is urged by teachers from the cultural East.   They say things like there is no ego, there is no I, there is no am.   In the cultural West we have the opposite idea (in a way).  Here in the West we say there is an ego, the I-am is what God named Himself in the ancient texts, and that in that the individual human being has an I, another name for it would be: immortal spirit.

In different words: we all come from the same Source and to that Source we will return.   With the Mobius Strip Incarnation Idea, I mean to suggest that the truth is that both East and West see the same reality from different (and necessary directions) and that for developmental purposes the idea of each of us having a separate ego is important for some purposes and not so important for others.  I mean to suggest here that there is just One Ego, and as it enters Time and Space (the Creation) it separates into distinct parts in order to learn.   And, that if we followed each part in Time we would find that like the Mobius Strip there is only one continuous surface.

I am you.  You are me.   We are Christ and the Buddha and the Holy Mother.  But in Time and Space we are sequential, like the Mobius Strip.   We are to live all these apparently separate points of view in Time and Space in order to become at the end of Time and Space, when on the other side of the Last Judgment we all unite in Eternity - in timelessness and spacelessness, something that only arises because of this becoming and that was impossible before the Creation.  Through this process of sequential becomings, the Father Principle and the Mother Principle will not only have become something they were not before, but they will also have lived all the lives, of all the parts, from the human part to the dog part to the tree part to the atom part to the gluon part and on and on and on.

Thus Christ says: Whatsoever ye do to the least of these my brethren, ye do so also unto me.

In the meantime, in order to fully separate from the Divine Mystery (from a human perspective), arguing with God about the design is a natural and necessary act.  This necessary spiritually adolescent attitude is in fact everywhere already (what after all is scientific materialism and atheism).   This has often led at various times to so much fear in certain egos, egos that imagined themselves as superior religious and moral authorities, that they murdered and tortured heretics (non-believers in their doctrines).  Sam Harris, and those of like mind, are right to see such an attitude as the height of irrationality.  These new atheists, however, just don't get it that that guy over there that is making (to them) so much trouble has a quite valid aspects of his point of view and an equally valid state of being.  (Love God with all your heart and all your mind and all your spirit, and love your neighbor as yourself.)  Getting the picture yet?

"I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.", sang the Beatles in I am the Walrus (Lennon/McCartney - Lennon, according to Wikipedia got the idea while on a acid trip).

But who is this I that is we?  Our discovery of this I goes through it, that is through individuality.  Developing our I fully is how we come to any deep spiritual realization.   The Narrow Gate.  Where people, who want to put down new age and other religious ideas outside their own limited vision Christian beliefs get confused, is where they think you arrive at the goal by being saved.  And then, by saving others by teaching them to give themselves to God.  Not a bad idea, were they just the opening bars of the song of development.  Thing is most fake Christians stop there.   They cherry pick the Gospels for what serves their own ideology, and either feel the rest is superfluous, or too hard.

Beliefs are assumed superior to practice (not by works alone).  This would make sense if all fake Christians had the same beliefs, but the very fact of their constant bickering over these matters, sometimes leading to horrible wars and other crimes, pretty much ruins such an idea as anything reasonable at all.  But the idea of not by works alone also doesn't say being saved alone.  Belief, in the form of true Faith (trust) belongs together with practice.   Ora et labora is the Latin for prayer and labor.  Prayer is the main practice of Faith, and meditation in action the main faith of Practice.   Meditation in action is another way of saying prayer in action, or acting from the center of our heart, or acting out of moral grace.  It is my prayerfulness (meditative inner attitude) that enables me to know the Good, and to act on that knowledge.

But this is a bit more complicated and has to be read elsewhere: The Meaning of Earth Existence in the Age of the Consciousness Soul; and, In Joyous Contemplation of the Soul Art and Music of Discipleship.

In this essay (booklet) I just wanted to walk the reader through some basic questions and ideas, as a help to prepare them for discovering their Own Way.

Blessings and good luck.



           - a Children's Christmas Story, which is also for Adults -

         This story is dedicated to Gabriella, Catherine Rose, Ross Gregory, and Adam, who were on my mind Christmas Eve, 1996, as their fathers (of which I must confess I was one) were absent from home for the Season. It was written the following Christmas Morning.


  There once was a girl, who found herself weeping in the dark, alone in her room.

           This is nothing unusual. Many people, not just children, can be found weeping, alone with their pain in the dark of the night.

           But there was a difference. Although it was not a difference as infrequent as we might imagine.

           And the difference was this. While she was weeping an Angel appeared, sitting quietly at the end of her bed.

           It was quite a while before the girl noticed the Angel. Yet, this did not bother the Angel, who had been, if we do not mind, created out of patience and joy.

           After a time the girl stopped weeping, and the two simply looked at each other for a while.

           Finally the Angel reached out and touched the girl on the shoulder, and asked: "What is troubling you child?".

           Now it is true that the Angel already knew the answer to this question, but the Angel also knew that the girl needed to talk about her grief.

           This was the girl's answer.

           "It is Christmas Eve." she said, "My father and mother have quarreled and my father is not here. I don't even know when, or if, he is coming home."

           At this the girl, who was at that very awkward age between being a child and being a young woman, began to weep again, even more deeply then before.

           After a while she stopped, looked at the Angel and asked: "Why?" and, then began weeping some more.

           Now you may wonder why the girl wasn't troubled or confused by someone being in her room at night. The fact is that when you meet an Angel there is no question about what is happening. No doubt, no confusion. Angels aren't like anything else except Angels.

           This is how the Angel answered the girl.

           "Are you ever bad?" asked the Angel.

           "Yes", she said, a bit hesitantly.

           "Are you ever bad on purpose, knowing you are being bad?"

           "Yes", she said, almost whispering now.

           "Are you ever bad by accident, not having thought about what might happen?"

           "Yes", she said, a little more confident.

           "Do bad things ever sometimes happen even though you were trying as hard as possible to do something good?"

           "Yes", she said, back to herself finally.

           Then they sat together for a while. She was thinking and the Angel just was.

           "O.K.", she eventually said. "Mother and father aren't trying to hurt me, and I didn't do something wrong."

           "Right", said the Angel.

           "But", she said, having just reinvented philosophy, "Why is the world such a terrible place?"

           After a very long pause the Angel said, "It's because of the bicycles."

           Now this was said with a straight face, as much as an Angel can be said to have a straight face, their normal countenance being filled with patient joy.

           Even so, the girl's dark mood broke and she laughed, and then caught in this odd feeling she tried to stop and ended up almost falling out of bed because she was giggling so much.

           Again there was a passage of time, so that the girl could ask her next question without breaking up. It actually took several attempts before she could get the question out.

           "What do you mean by "it's the bicycles"?" she said, pulling up the hem of her nightgown, as much to distract herself as to dry the tears of both suffering and mirth.

           "Well", said the Angel, "As you have guessed the bicycles are invisible, being made out of ideas and dreams, hope and despair, all stuck together with bits of conscience and just plain stubbornness.

           "Everyday people wake up and ride around on their invisible bicycles, forgetting the bicycles are there and then because they have forgotten them, people just keep banging into each other.

           "Soon all the bicycles are in great disrepair. Some with flat tires, some with crooked wheels, and some without even handlebars to steer by.

           "It takes a great deal of courage for people, for mothers and fathers, to get up in the morning and ride their bicycles out into life each day. A great deal of courage."

           Then the Angel was quiet again and so was the girl.

           After a while the girl, having graduated from philosophy to theology, asked: "Why does God let this go on? Why doesn't he fix the bicycles or make people learn how to ride them without banging into each other?"

           "Hmmm." said the Angel

           Now before you imagine the Angel is pausing to think, I should tell you that is not what was happening. Angels do think, but when they do something happens. For Angels thinking creates. The reason the Angel said "Hmmm" was so the girl would first reflect a little about what she had said, before the Angel answered her.

           "Do you ever talk to God?" asked the Angel.

           "I think so," said the girl, tentative again, and rightly so.

           "You should you know.", said the Angel. "You can't interrupt him, or bother him when he's doing something else. He always listens. Always. And when you talk to him he never interrupts you, never tells you he's heard it before or done it himself or knows more than you. You couldn't ask for a better listener. And when you're done he doesn't give advice, or tell you what to do, or criticize what you've done or tell you, you aren't adequate. He just listens, and accepts you and loves you, whatever you have to say."

           Then the Angel asked another question.

           "Do you ever get angry at God?"

           "What!" exclaimed the girl. "Get angry at God !?!"

           "Of course." said the Angel. "God loves you and wants your love. People who love each other get to be angry with each other. It's a way to care. God doesn't mind your anger. Now your indifference? That's another matter."

           "O.K." said the girl, now a little more in touch with her own frustration. "But you still haven't said anything about repairing the bicycles or giving lessons on riding them."

           'Didn't need to" said the Angel. "All kinds of excellent repair and riding manuals already out there. There's the Bible, and the Vedas, and the Torah, and the Koran, and the Sutras, and the..."

           "O.K.. I get it." she said, interrupting the Angel, who didn't mind at all. Then she paused and thought a little.

           "All right." she said. "This is what you've said. The reason the world is so difficult is because we all have our own ideas and dreams and conscience and stubbornness, and when we go out and ride these "bicycles" in life we bang into each other, or ride over each others feet, because we have forgotten about these invisible things. But if we want riding lessons and repair instruction, that information is already there. We just have to use it. Right?"

           "Right." said the Angel.

           "O.K." said the girl, after a very deep sigh, "Just one more question."

           "Granted God is the best listener in the world, always available and never critical. But how come he never answers me?"

           This last was spoken with a great deal of anguish, as only the very young can feel at the impossible burdens they sense when they contemplate growing up and being really free and responsible for themselves.

           Again the Angel waited for a while, as silent and beautiful as a starry winter night.

           "How well do you listen?" the Angel answered. "He always answers you, always. You just don't always hear him. He answers in many ways. With the continued breath of life, or with a fading sunset. With the touch of a breeze on the cheek or a crash of thunder. In the most quite place inside yourself he whispers to you. More softly then the endless beat of your heart he sings to you in the voice of the dancing colors that delight the eye. You eat his answers for breakfast and when you walk barefoot through the dew wet grass his answers touch your feet.

           "Do you have eyes, ears? Or if not even these, you have the thoughts you choose. You believe or not. Is that not a great gift itself?  To have faith or not, hope or not, charity or not, according to your own will. God does answer. With life, with freedom. And yes, with sorrow and with pain. Are these not gifts as well?"

           Again there was a harmony of silence between the two of them. Then the girl smiled and looked mischievously at the Angel.

           "Do you have a bicycle?" she asked.

           Then the Angel laughed. And outside the girl's window the birds sang to greet with joy the first hints of dawn on Christmas morning.