WHAT DO WE TAKE? … A) from Feuerbach

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FROM FEUERBACH:

(i) “… human needs determine consciousness

(ii) “The essence of man is the Origin, Cause and Goal of history …”[1]

In THE ESSENCE OF CHRISTIANITY, Feuerbach examines the need for God, which he describes as an emotional need. This is true, but within that emotional need is also a need for an ultimate meaning to existence; a need for eschatological meaning; an answer to the question: where are we going?

The problem with this need is that it is easily manipulated: the very essence of religions is an indication of how sentimental attachments to symbols and fetishes can be easily implanted in society. Religions have also shown us how this implantation can be used by interested groups to socialise the masses in a way that is obviously beneficial to the groups that are controlling the manipulation. Religions are always, primarily, forms of exploiting the emotional need for existential and eschatological meaning in order to build easily controllable societies and cultures.

If we accept Feuerbach’s thesis that human needs determine consciousness and that God is an emotional need, we can see that obliterating what God is does not obliterate the problem of God, for, although we can obliterate religious superstition, without a substitute for God, we fail to satisfy the emotional need we have for an ultimate meaning to our existence.

To resolve this dilemma, we need to find another kind of final goal for humanity, one based on scientific and mathematical data, that can satisfy the human need for ultimate meaning and replace the purely mythical eschatologies of our religions. For example, it is a more positive idea if we construct our needs for ultimate meaning on the very physical and evolutionary nature of the cosmos, and our possible role within that evolution itself, rather than waiting for a supernatural End of Days.

We know that the Universe exists, and it is much easier to prove than the existence of God.

We can speculate on the purpose of the Universe in a scientific way, and such speculation can produce far more satisfying and pragmatic results than speculation on the existence of God.

Human purpose in the Universe depends on our relationship with the same Universe, and this idea ultimately leads to an interconnectivity between everything, both material and spiritual, that is lacking in the monotheistic religions that disparage the material in favour of an all-important, but also most-obscure idea of the spiritual.

In order to properly answer where we are going, we have to redraw our home, the where-we-are, away from the ambiguities of God, but not into the abyss of no-place, yet rather into the concrete reality of the Cosmos. Between God and No-God, lies the Universe.

If God is eternal, the Universe created itself out of nothing. If God is omnipotent, the Universe if driven by a blind will that needs sapient organisms (like us) to see.  In God there can be no evolution; no authentic progress, whilst the Universe is always expanding and changing, and we are the conscious part of that evolution and change. In God, we are insignificant; in the Universe and its evolution to self-consciousness, we are a fundamental, purposeful ingredient.

[1] As quoted in Althusser: ESSAY ON SELF-CRITICISM, p.101, (ebook)

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IF WE ARE ALONE …

X-FILES-i-want-to

We are either alone in the Universe, or we’re not alone. Until formal contact with an extra-terrestrial life-form is established we can only affirm that: Intelligent life exists beyond the planet Earth or it doesn’t.

Nevertheless, we can statistically try and calculate what the possibilities of life existing beyond Earth are, and yet … does it matter? Well, if a positive, progressive energy can be generated by the conclusion, then yes, it does matter.

*

This week, the media have been latching on to a recently published article from Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute that argues the case that statistically we are most probably alone in the Universe.[1]

The article in question, by Sandberg, Drexler and Ord, called “Dissolving the Fermi Paradox” adds very little to arguments already put forward by Ward and Brownlee in their Rare Earth Hypothesis formulated nearly twenty years ago. Despite this fact, the media have picked up on the FHI paper as if it were a totally new discovery, proving that we must be very much alone.

New or not, the Rare Earth Hypotheses argues that the astrophysical, geological, chemical and biological combinations needed to create the cocktail for the evolution of intelligent life is so complex and needs to be so precise that our own existence is a freak stroke of luck, and that the accident we are is so special and fluky that it is very doubtful that is has been repeated anywhere in our Universe.

Yet, should we now assume this hypothesis as definitive? And if we do accept it, can this ‘we are alone’ perspective be beneficial for humanity in any way?

*

There is an X-Files episode (Redux, the first episode of season 5) in which the hero, Fox Mulder, is in a motel room watching a video of symposium featuring astrophysicist Carl Sagan amongst other, in which the question of the existence of life beyond Earth is being discussed. The actual symposium was held in 1975 and was joint sponsored by NASA and the Boston University.

In this conference, it was argued, in a proclamation by Richard Berendzen, that “the amount of stars in our galaxy alone is so staggeringly large, to the order of 1011 or more; the probability of stars having planetary systems is so high, perhaps half; the probability of those planetary systems might be comparable with our own and that the stars have some kind of ecosphere … suitable for life and it’s not too hot, not too cold … it begins to lead to the sorts of conclusions … that life must exist in the Universe and it must exist quite abundantly.”

Carl Sagan then affirmed that the most optimistic estimates about the number of civilisations there would be in the galaxy is in the order of a million.

Once it had been established unanimously that civilisations had to exist in the Universe, all of the speakers at the symposium expressed the view that contact with an advanced civilisation would have to be positive and enlightening for humanity. With the exception of the scientist and Nobel Prize Winner, George Wald. Wald began his speech with a positive affirmation of life in the Universe, like the others, but ended with a very sobering reflection. The tone of his voice suddenly drops into a melancholy register and he confesses that: “I can conceive of no nightmare as terrifying as establishing such communication with a so-called superior … advanced technology in outer space.” For Wald, such an encounter would be: “The degradation of the human enterprise.” He then went on to describe this enterprise: “One of the greatest of human enterprises is our understanding; something that men have sweated out to the greater dignity and worth of man, and to see the thought that we might attach us by some umbilical cord to some more advanced civilisation, science and technology in outer space, doesn’t thrill me, but just the opposite.”

What Wald is warning us of here, is that an encounter with a superior civilisation would rob ourselves of our purposiveness. And what is implicit in this argument is that humanity could have no meaningful place in any world populated by superior beings, because all our understanding would suddenly be rendered obsolete; and, as such, the human race would itself suddenly become obsolete.

What Wald is describing here, is our reason for being, which is encapsulated in our understanding.  

 

Reflecting on this point, and on our own civilisation at this point in time, we have to conclude that our own lives are very much alienated from this meaningfulness which is our understanding of things, and this displays the tremendous decadence of our system.

But what Wald’s observation also tells us is this: That if we are not alone, it is best to believe that we are alone.

*

If we are alone it imbues humanity with a tremendous responsibility – the obligation to be sapiens; to understand; to develop the human enterprise toward the fulfilment of knowing; to enjoy the meaningful pursuit of becoming knowledgeable; and, through this understanding, participate in the very Being of the Universe.

The Universe can only really exist in a qualitative way, if there is a conscious entity within that Universe that understands that It does exist. The homo sapiens is the species that knows and reflects on that knowledge. Whether or not we are the only species that knows in this Universe, believing that we are fills us with a powerful, driving purposiveness.

Embedded in this purposiveness is a duty to prolong existence in time and increase the quality of that existence, through progress.

And, in order to do that, we have to overcome the deep, nihilistic decadence that infects our civilisation today.

But again, we run into another paradox, because the human enterprise of understanding necessitates the exploration of the possibility of discovering other intelligent life-forms, even though there is a possibility that we may encounter civilisations so superior to ours that our meaningfulness in the Universe will be totally diminished.

However, perhaps this paradox is false. When we do have the technological capabilities to encounter other civilisations the dilemma would no longer have relevance for we ourselves would be advanced enough to communicate on a partnership level with the other civilisation. Likewise, if Ufologists are right, and we are being visited by extra-terrestrial civilisations already, these civilisations are wise enough to disguise their presence from us, precisely in order not to destroy our purposiveness.

[1] SEE: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jun/27/aliens-exist-survival-universe-jim-alkhalili

https://metro.co.uk/2018/06/25/probably-intelligent-life-universe-depressing-study-finds-7657344/

 

 

 

LOVE, THE REAL & THE IDEAL

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I

Reality is out there, but first it must be brought into view. But what, or more correctly who, can carry out this viewing, if not some biological form blessed with the gift of perception. And what good is being perceived if that which has the power of perception is incapable of appreciating that reality and understanding it in a meaningful way.

The capacity for appreciating, and a desire for understanding derived from that appreciation, is a kind of energy unique to Sapiens species. It is the result of a creative evolutionary process, an evolution unto the power to know and be known, a process possessing such an energetic vitality that we think it is suitable to describe it as a kind of loving, the love to know things. It may well be the same power of transference that we often use the term ‘love’ for, for all kinds of love are desiring processes of trying to know, and wanting to be known. To know one must understand, and there is nothing more vital in the success of human relationships of any level of complexity, from couples to intricate societies, than that of understanding. However, the connections between love and understanding are often not made at all when the term is expressed, producing the many vague forms that the term is used for at all levels of life.

So, if (A) reality is that which has been perceived and the understandings that have been made from that perception; and (B) the perceiving-understanding element in the Universe is the Sapiens species; and if (C) this process of wanting to know is part of what we call love, then, we can affirm (X) that the Universe without Sapiens is a loveless place, but also (Y) that the Universe with Sapiens is a reality embedded with love.

Love (the desire for understanding), is, partly, a power of transference and partly the capacity to receive information in order to make a deciphering of that information received. Love, therefore, may be felt, and confused, emotionally, but its basis is fundamentally intellectual.

And if love comes basically from transference of information, then this is also the foundation of all physics. From quantum particles to the couple in love, unto the stars and galaxies, there is a constant and necessary transference of information going on.

Love is not only that which is desired, it is also that which is needed for reality to take place at all.

In evolutionary terms, from the microcosm to the macrocosm, the highest form of transference-evolution resides in the middle of the cosmological map – in life. And in the Sapiens entities that have evolved in life.

If appreciation and understanding are evolutionary high-points in the development of transference, then love is a result of becoming that is, we believe, still becoming; still developing.

II

The Sapiens relationship with the Universe, therefore, comes through love, and this is the highest form of relationship that exists in the evolving Universe.

This is not a mystical statement; its metaphysical conclusions have been drawn from our scientific perceptions of the cosmos and from evolutionary principles. Truth is in the real as we, the Sapiens, being that Real, with a capital R, into view. The Universe becomes and will continue to become as we unveil it by perceiving it. All meaningfulness is wrapped up in this process of becoming; all meaningfulness is contained in us. We are the centre of the cosmos. All real positivism is contained in this fact.

III

There is another quality involved in love and, as such, in the Sapiens’ relationship with the reality of the Universe, and that is the desire for preservation which in its ultimate form is a longing for the eternal. In this way we can see love in the form of a triad: APPRECIATION + UNDERSTANDING + PRESERVATION = LOVE.

Love triangle

 

Information (2): Vs Religion

In our previous entry (Information 1), we proposed the idea that information is a metaphysical concept that bridges the divide between the material and the spiritual. We argued that information is omnipresent and that it is part of the subatomic fabric of the Universe. Subsequently, information is in everything and that everything is basically information; and, because the end result of information is ‘knowing’, this also makes information (in its complete form as the Universe) omniscient.

Of course, this is all sounds like a description of God, so perhaps we could create a new religion from it … A religion? Another religion? Oh, please, God forbid!

No, we don’t want another religion; but perhaps if we consider information as God and try, in a post-Leibnizian way, to imagine what an Information-worshipping religion might be like, then we may also get an insight into the way religions work as well.

So, if God was Information then how would the Church of Information be different to other religions:

FIRSTLY: There would be an absence of the mysteries that other religions are shrouded in. There is nothing mysterious about Information. The religion would operate without any occult pretensions; its followers would be awestruck and inspired by its magnitude and by its infinite possibilities in the same way that the arts and sciences can be awe-inspiring once one embraces them.

SECONDLY: Information in its pure form is not usually dogmatic, whilst religions are dogmatic. We have shown, in the previous post, that Information can be ethical because the uses we have for Information can be good or bad. Yet, while there is a kid of sin involved, if we use Information in a way that could be fatal to Information itself, there is no divine retribution.

THIRDLY: Information is not ceremonious: the celebration is inherent in the concept itself. Life as a conscious deciphering of information, is itself the celebration.

FOURTHLY: Religions are traditionally based on the idea that there is a better world beyond this one, and hence, this place and life is a mere transition to the other world. In an Information based religion there would be no Apocalypse or Final Judgement, no Paradise or Hell beyond this Universe. Leibniz was right in saying this is the most perfect of Universes, but not because it was created by God, but because it is the only Universe. There is Existence (through conscious, information deciphering entities that, through the objectifying consciousness of their collective subjectivities, allow existence itself to come about) or non-Existence. The final purpose of Information is to ensure that conscious, sapiens organisms can exist permanently in the Universe, and, by doing so, ensure the Permanence of the Universe itself as well. It is through the idea of idea of Permanence that a new optimism arises, that will bury the old nihilisms and point us in a positive direction with deep will for survival.

Without mysticism, dogma, ceremony, an Apocalyptic eschatology or any Heaven or Hell, our religion of Information can hardly be considered a religion at all. The real question that arises here is: Can a positive principle be expected to motivate large groups of people, and create positive revolution, without the vulgar trappings of mysticism, dogmas and promises of Paradise?

But, in order to answer that question, we need to examine the organisations that make religions work. We need to look at Ideology.

The Mind

Molecular Thoughts

Collage of human head, molecules and various abstract elements on the subject of modern science, chemistry, physics, human and artificial minds

Perhaps the greatest miracle in nature after the creation of the Universe, is the creation of the mind. It is through the mind that the Universe is able to be perceived and be made intelligible. It is through the mind that existence is awakened and affirmed. It is in the mind that the cosmos is spread out, and the world that exists, unfolding itself before us whenever we open our eyes and ears, is inside, in the brain, in the mind. What we perceive; that which we are so sure of to the world around us, is in fact an image, being projected back within us. That so much information is able to be absorbed as reflection, in an upside-down way, digested by the mind and turned the right way up again, analysing it, drawing conclusions about it, and creating physical responses to all that information in the body, all in a microsecond instant, is truly incredible.

We know the mind is in our brain: damage that brain and the processing of reality becomes distorted or even totally incapacitated. The brain is in the world, so the mind is in the world too. But, is it? The world is in space, but the mind defies space. From a mountain top you can open your eyes and look at the horizon: how can that space be enclosed in your mind, in the physical space of your brain?

The reality perceived is not reality, it is just a representation of reality perceived on a certain scale and frequency. In fact, most of reality is unperceived by human sensors and we need reason and technology in order to measure and grasp the kind of reality that our dogs and cats, or the flies buzzing around our faces, can perceive quite naturally.

 

As for flies: what must the mind of a fly be like? So tiny is the fly’s brain compared to the magnificent super-computer that is the human mind and yet the fly constantly out perceives us. It flaps around our face, darting through the hairs of our legs to suck annoyingly on the liquid oozing out of our pores. Its compound eyes make our lenses-type eyes seem so primitive. How is it that their pin-prick sized brains are capable of processing the Universe in such a way that time moves slower for them? That is why we cannot catch the fly. No matter how fast we try to slap it, it sees the danger coming fly-minutes before the hand reaches it. In the slow-motion universe that the fly inhabits, it always has plenty of time to calmly fly away.

In order to understand where the mind really is, and not fall into the logical trap of concluding that it is outside space, we need to understand the enormous amount of space that exists in the quantum world. In a sense, we, and all living organisms are in the middle of the Universe as far as size goes.

The Universe is 1026 times bigger than us and 10-26 times smaller than us on the quantum scale. We have to multiply 10 with 26 zeroes in order to get to the limits of the Universe, and divide it by 10 with 26 zeroes to reach the space so small that nothing can fit in it.

Perhaps it is that detail that explains how we are capable of seeing all the way to the horizon and projecting it back inside our mind. The reality spread before us is a quantum perception of it within us, and the space within is just as vast, in potential, as the space without.

All outward exploration is an inner one as well.

The Sublime

Salvador-Dali-00

The sublime experience is one which is elevated and inspires awe. Some would say, an experience that touches us or moves us deeply. Many would say that the experience of the sublime is a feeling that behind the phenomena lies some substantial but inaccessible thing – like God, for instance. Because of this the sublime is often put forward as an example to demonstrate the presence of God in our lives. But, we think this is a total misreading of the sublime.

In fact, the experience of the sublime is not that which points toward the inaccessible at all. The experience of the sublime is really a discovery of the real substantiality of things. What the sublime experience tells us is that there is a substantiality in all things, but habit and closeness have robbed us of the magic of it. A magic which is really based in the simple fact that we are perceiving it.

The first great miracle of the Universe is that it exists. The second great miracle – almost more miraculous still – is that we can perceive it. And the greatest miracle of all is that we know we perceive it. The sublime is the experience of knowing that we perceive existence, and that that is a miracle. It has nothing to do with God.

When we see the light behind the grotesque or the beauty in the monster’s interior, we are making a leap from our subjective prejudice to the universal perception. All sublime feeling is an immersion in the universal, whether that be the universality of our species or the universality of the Universe itself. The sublime is a perceiving that suddenly blasts out of a state of not-perceiving. A great work of art can move us in a sublime way on repeated occasions because it is always opening up different doors for us to perceive things from. However, the sublime sensation of the work will not be generated if we have it hanging on our living room wall or if it is a recording that we listen to every day. The sublime has to be a surprise, a way of snapping us out of our subjectivity. Sometimes it can be an absolute shock, as if we were suddenly pushed under water at a moment of complete lethargy when we had practically forgotten we were even floating.

Human Purpose in our Unconscious Universe

Collage of human head, molecules and various abstract elements on the subject of modern science, chemistry, physics, human and artificial minds

The Universe is either blind or not. A belief in God is a belief in a universe that knows itself because it can perceive itself. The difficulty with the idea of God is primarily the problem of conceiving how this omniscience could possibly be. If we manage to do this we believe we face an even greater difficulty – if the Universe can perceive itself, what is the purpose of life in such a universe? For a conscious universe, life, and its own perception of the universe could only be a distraction for the universe and its own perception of itself. In a conscious universe, life would be undesirable as it would distort the same, pure consciousness of the Universe itself.

As such, we believe that the presence of life in the Universe proves that the Universe cannot be self-conscious.

The Universe is blind. It is an eye which cannot see itself, and it has nothing to see outside itself. Nevertheless, the evolution of the Universe and its cosmological fine tuning indicates that it intuits itself in an unconscious way. At some time in its blind creation it came to intuit its own possibility of Being. It even seems possessed of a primitive determinism that has been capable of organising itself into its present complex form with complex organisms like human beings.

However, in order to be sure of its own existence, the blind Universe must create a way of seeing itself for what it is. How can this be done if it can only operate within itself? It only has power inside its own limits of space and time.

The Universe can only operate according to its own laws of physics, within its own material reality. To see itself, the eye that does not see must create a perceiving entity within itself. A kind of mind’s eye. An imagination for itself. To perceive itself, the Universe had to create something that could perceive within itself. It needed to create life.

The Universe is either blind or not. A belief in God is a belief in a universe that knows itself because it can perceive itself. The difficulty with the idea of God is primarily the problem of conceiving how this omniscience could possibly be. If we manage to do this we believe we face an even greater difficulty – if the Universe can perceive itself, what is the purpose of life in such a universe? For a conscious universe, life, and its own perception of the universe could only be a distraction for the universe and its own perception of itself. In a conscious universe, life would be undesirable as it would distort the same, pure consciousness of the Universe itself.

As such, we believe that the presence of life in the Universe proves that the Universe cannot be self-conscious.

The Universe is blind. It is an eye which cannot see itself, and it has nothing to see outside itself. Nevertheless, the evolution of the Universe and its cosmological fine tuning indicates that it intuits itself in an unconscious way. At some time in its blind creation it came to intuit its own possibility of Being. It even seems possessed of a primitive determinism that has been capable of organising itself into its present complex form with complex organisms like human beings.

However, in order to be sure of its own existence, the blind Universe must create a way of seeing itself for what it is. How can this be done if it can only operate within itself? It only has power inside its own limits of space and time.

The Universe can only operate according to its own laws of physics, within its own material reality. To see itself, the eye that does not see must create a perceiving entity within itself. A kind of mind’s eye. An imagination for itself. To perceive itself, the Universe had to create something that could perceive within itself. It needed to create life.

Hieronymus_Bosch_-_The_Garden_of_Earthly_Delights_-_The_exterior_(shutters)

The Universe is the subject that does not know itself. It is substance evolving toward subject. But how can such an evolution take place? What we are talking about is an evolution of consciousness, evolving from perception into knowing. It’s an evolution we have seen in our own world. The evolution of our own species: the process that transformed the protozoa into a Da Vinci or an Einstein. Human purpose is to know the Universe, both without and within – to invent and create according to our knowledge and sculpt from the material that is to create an even better Universe, the Universe that ought to be.

The Universe is the subject that does not know itself. It is substance evolving toward subject. But how can such an evolution take place? What we are talking about is an evolution of consciousness, evolving from perception into knowing. It’s an evolution we have seen in our own world. The evolution of our own species: the process that transformed the protozoa into a Da Vinci or an Einstein. Human purpose is to know the Universe, both without and within – to invent and create according to our knowledge and sculpt from the material that is to create an even better Universe, the Universe that ought to be.