Reality vs Terminology – The Main Game?

Let’s start with the premise that language is an expressive code for a perceptual code from a receptive code of some thing that exists external to our code-making apparatus, including that part of our code-making apparatus we aren’t using in making the code while we are in attention to it.

There are two implications from this:

  1. We cannot perceive everything that exists; and of what we perceive, we are not describing that perception with accuracy but only generally. Receptive and perceptual coding is predefined by the physical structure that it is, only codes for what it codes for, and therefore does not necessarily code for everything that exists. In physical terms, receptor codes are loops of neural circuits, complex but static pathways stimulated by limited energy gradients conducted by the receptor nerves at the periphery of our physical awareness. Humans have millions of these loops receptive to external energy sources. Expressive coding has two portions: millions of additional loops among receptor code loops creating relationships between codes – a perceptual integration of the external world; and an additional intricate network looping among perceptual integration apparatus and motor (movement) effector loops such as associated with the human larynx. The motor effector loops that drive the larynx, literally give voice to the codes of perceptual integration. So there are four basic layers of coding that provides us with language, or, in other words, four physical re-interpretations of the energies of the world.
  1. Language itself, once commenced, began looping itself through perceptual fields, and the integrations of this constant internal looping makes increasingly varied relationship connections with elements of the derived world. The variations of looping create a capacity to deconstruct the world into elementals so long as a vocal attribute can be associated with the elemental. Language develops as vocal loops become associated with elemental loops. This looping provides the ‘naming’ of the elemental. Once the neural loops could do the trick of coding a ‘name’ a ‘noise’ for an external elemental, that trick could continue to be used to name parts of an external object, and also larger groups or patterns of external objects as elementals. Eventually, the trick of deconstructing form into elementals that can be named and reconstructing those elementals into something new, could be used to create a type of new elemental, and abstract form that doesn’t exist in the environment. Language is one such abstract set of elementals. Here are the foundations of thinking or internal speech. Once an elemental has been defined by ‘naming’ it can then be appropriated by additional loops with connections to special looping functions such as emotions, motor effect, language and another neural area recognised for extraordinary planning functions. As these loops become more diverse and increasingly resonant, we develop the consciousness – a constant internal conversation that relates both to the internal and external world and a conversation about that conversation. As consciousness or internal language becomes increasingly more complex, mathematics, sciences, philosophy, and social relationships become increasingly complex, giving rise to religion, and government and all various forms of community.

Our own body is party to this process and so our enquiry into our own mind-brain. Given that our body is represented in the brain by a code of neural looping, even the body cannot be said to be represented as a whole truth. And then, even our brains cannot be said to be more than a partial representation of its reality.

So, can we say with any reason what we are? Abdu’l-Baha explained the world and ourselves as a shadow or reflection of the spiritual world. We could call the spiritual world, the real world. We could surmise, then, that reality is not limited to our meagre three or four dimensions, but not limited at all. Perhaps we are part of a 4 dimensional being, and that is a part of a 5th dimensional being and so on and so forth. Yet all this supposition is just an extrapolation of some basic loops of language that other loops have ‘named’ mathematics, and so quite limited in its access to any greater reality, altogether. The story of dimensions, therefore, might not be even close to guessing at the reality. Yet we might wonder could we access our greater reality. Could it be that the disciplines of the Great Educators are just what we need to evolve the requirements for that perception?

Consider that, even if we are working as a 4 dimensional being, then that being would have its own coding and would still only be representing as that code, a part of reality, a code or symbol of reality, perhaps some kind of averaging or grouping of elements of reality.

From this we can say that terminology is never reality. That is not to say it is not honest in itself but that, without understanding that terminology is, at best, only an impression of reality, then we will probably be failing to use terminology honestly. We could say that, as an evolutionary process, language and terminologies exist as a function ie a workability in which language is a tool for optimising human relationships and development.

As a tool, though, language is not limited to honest usage, and cultural uses of language can support the dishonest use of language. Philosophical terminologies are often derived from internal linguistic looping layering processes. These terminologies have a very low relationship to reality. The terminology of theism and atheism is a case in point. While philosophers have designed these terms, there is no actual thing (form with identifiable characteristics) that the term describes except through the internal circular logics of the terms design. To wit, there is no religion that claims it is a group of theists, rather that a philosopher might use the term as a description of what the philosopher believes they are seeing. The philosopher might recognise that their perceptual code is limited, and so use the term as a tool to access the truth of religious idea. However, the philosopher who believes that the term ‘theist’ is a true thing, might, then, also believe that there is something that is theist and something that is not a ‘theist’ (an atheist). They might even imagine that there is a person that is described that they are atheist or theist. Even a person may then describe themselves by these terms, claiming that they are this term. Yet, even presuming honesty, if the language that is now quite abstract, a completely fabricated story of who we are, is not workable as an optimiser of human functions, then we may be seeing, in the complex modern world, a movement of language into a realm of dysfunction.

The conclusion, here, is that language in all its facets for human relationship, science, mathematics, and community, is a fantastic vehicle for the re-creation of the world. Yet, it is a tool that has been built out of some limited physical conditions and therefore its access to reality is probably very limited. Our stories can support the fantastic recreation of the world or it might support a dysfunction. Presuming we prefer a highly function, workable, society, acknowledging that the stories of our life are all not reality, and that, in a physical form, we will always be limited, it can still mean that we can be as access to anything that might take us closer to reality. It could be that there are many pathways to that access including trying to get behind language even just to see how the world is, or using language to explore the extent we can take our own creativity and relationships; and perhaps there is a way that looks for something as knowable as it is unknowable, that we might call God, a pervasive essence in all reality and an emanator of reality.

Science and Mysticism I

I recently came across reference to Mario Beauregard’s book The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Case for the Existence of the Soul (HarperCollins). In checking the intro of the book online, I discovered Tom Wolfe’s words, “Since consciousness and thought are entirely physical products of your brain and nervous system.” (Note, Mario Beauregard writes against this materialist proposition).  I immediately saw that this is not a verifiable statement and, therefore, not essentially scientific. Not for the first time, it occurs to me that such statements come about because it is difficult, even for the scientists who work in the field, to establish themselves ontologically ie BE, in this case, a human who lives as if the world is an illusion, even though the ‘physical’ science might suggest otherwise.

However, in a sense agreeing with the materialists, the mysticism of Baha’u’llah, founder of the Baha’i Faith, suggest that the world IS a type of illusion, mirage, reflection, of some greater reality. From this perspective, language maketh the world. Now this also became a 20th C philosophical idea associated with both existentialism and phenomenology. Baha’u’llah’s teachings seem to come down to the concepts that the mind/soul will acquire whatever it is ‘looking at’, and that, for the main, most of what we look at is fanciful. Rather, the Word of God is a literature (language) that intends to create a best practice foundation of language for the whole human population. Best practice literature acts to create a best ‘knowing’. In turn ‘knowing’, and here I tend to take a lesson out of that modern philosophical handbook, creates ‘being’ and ‘being’ automatically delivers action and behaviour. From a psychological perspective, ‘being’ is the state of true intent rather than the glossy brochure, and intent is the only attitudinal stance that is strongly correlated with behaviour. From best knowing, being (true intent) creates the act of enquiry (search, research, open communication), moral and ethical stance, and integrity.

The greater reality or worlds of God that Baha’u’llah then points to, becomes an ‘out of the box’ situation. That is, the mind is a black box which cannot see itself, only the data that it is pre-determined (by evolution if you will) to filter. However, by pointing to the limitations of the black box and the promise of a greater reality, Baha’u’llah, as other Great educators of the world, create infinite possibilities for the human being whether alive or dead.

Baha’u’llah’s interest lies, not in the rhetorical study, nor a prolonged practice of some mystical experience, for this can become ‘words that end with words’ or perhaps minds that are trained only for self-referent ‘bliss’, both fanciful traps of the mind. His interest lies in the extent that the practice of spiritual discipline, mystical insight and discourse translates into a type of being-in-action, in particular the development of true altruism and service to humanity. To Baha’u’llah, effort towards this framing is where any true knowledge comes from. The mystical viewpoint is all important to this, for unless there is a true intent in reaching for something that materialists say is physically / neurologically impossible, then there can never be a realisation of something that might be altogether possible.

Within this framework of the being-in-service, all mystical, spiritual and religious teachings, become subservient to fostering engagement through service among all human beings such that the whole global society is increasing perturbed towards an altruistic being.

Within that framework, scientific process becomes an essential tool against fancy and towards an understanding of God (The Hidden). Baha’u’llah’s view of science might be paraphrased again, as research-in-action-for-the-service-of-humanity. In one of His mystical works he encourages the leap of faith towards what He believed every human being would feel as granduer. Baha’u’llah seems keen to dispel notions that there is a different state of being of the scientist or the spiritual adept, that we are all seekers/researchers and that seeking requires certain moral and spiritual discipline even before technical skill.

As a social extension, however, Baha’u’llah suggests that the scientific and mystical processes are best expressed through the act of consultation. Governance, then, might be thought of as the dance of the acquiring of knowledge (science by individuals or groups), the social engagement with that knowledge (discourse involving knowledge, lived experience and spiritual meaning), and a daily enactment for best service through leadership consultation. By daily enactment, we might visualise a governance that is being an action driven responsiveness, a learning response, a governmental choice that is both determined on one hand, and fluid to the rapid revision of that choice on the other. Mysticism, in this form, creates an occurring for adherents in which their lives can be an engagement with others on an idea of a ‘reality of the heart’, a detachment from the power models, regardless of the overall social response, on the basis that such material responses as ‘unreal’. This creates a capacity for flourishing of great leadership. To the materialist this leadership might look to be the outcome of a self organising system. To the mystic, a simple question hangs, “Why Not?”, and becomes organising.

A Baha’i View of Being through Language

The human being is a being through language. The world of a human being is a world in language. In meditation, by allowing thought to move into focus and pass on without capture, the human being can experience a slight sense of the world as it is, without meaning, without language. This is a fleeting but important sense, an affective space that the world exists as it is, without meaning. This sense creates the possibility that the world can occur in language, and therefore, BE, in diverse ways.

In realising that the world of the human being is a world through language, we can see that reality is something else, something inaccessible behind language. While we can experience something of reality, immediately we are aware of it, immediately our mind focuses on some aspect of it, it becomes described with meaning and story. that relates to our own sense of ourselves. This focus through language and its reiterative story,  rather than exposing reality, builds layers of artifice upon it. Yet it is possible that, in recognising reality is not accessible, we recognise the layers of story and meaning and the built landscape that veils reality.

Now there are some premises I think can be said of the relationship between humans and reality.

Premise one. It is not for the human being to have direct access to reality. The human being is a vehicle formed to build a landscape of story. Yet, as I have shown, we have the capacity to know that there is a reality hidden behind the landscape of our language, description, story, meaning, and action.

Premise two. It is not for the human being to know that their story is not reality. While the human being is capable of recognizing the story as a mere symbol, a code, helping our limited minds in dealing with reality, access to that knowing comes from the teachings of a few special human vehicles spread across vast millennia. These special vehicles have been called prophets or Manifestations of God. Indeed, my own capacity to recognise this premise has flourished only through the teachings of Baha’u’llah. While some philosophers have written discourse on the same seeming without direct influence of the manifestation of God, the increased philosophical insight into the symbolisation of reality through language follows the advent of a new Manifestation of God whether of Moses, Krishna, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammed, and recently, Baha’u’llah. Among a hundred volumes of work, Baha’u’llah identifies the condition of existence and His role, “Know ye that by “the world” is meant your unawareness of Him Who is your Maker, and your absorption in aught else but Him. The “life to come,” on the other hand, signifieth the things that give you a safe approach to God, the All-Glorious, the Incomparable. Whatsoever deterreth you, in this Day, from loving God is nothing but the world.” “Bereft, however, of the essence of the mysteries of His wisdom, which We have imparted unto thee beneath the veils of these blessed and soul-stirring words, thou wouldst fail to attain unto even a sprinkling of the oceans of divine knowledge or the crystal streams of divine power, and wouldst be recorded in the Mother Book, through the Pen of oneness and by the Finger of God, amongst the ignorant. Nor wouldst thou be able to grasp a single word of the Book or a single utterance of the Kindred of God concerning the mysteries of the beginning and the end.”

Premise three. The Manifestation of God does not provide direct access to reality. Moving in the world of human language, the Manifestation of God provides a story of reality called the Word of God. The Word of God does not provide direct access to reality which might be called the worlds of God. Rather, the Word of God is the most powerful guide for the human society towards unveiling reality. Baha’u’llah (1817-1892) has provided the most recent access to the Word of God. He declares, “By God, the True One! I am Trustworthiness and the revelation thereof, and the beauty thereof. I will recompense whosoever will cleave unto Me, and recognize My rank and station, and hold fast unto My hem. I am the most great ornament of the people of Baha, and the vesture of glory unto all who are in the kingdom of creation. I am the supreme instrument for the prosperity of the world, and the horizon of assurance unto all beings.’ Thus have We sent down for thee that which will draw men nigh unto the Lord of creation.”

Premise four. The Word of God, has, at it’s heart, a covenant. The Covenant of God is the mightiest instrument for human society to reach for reality, the worlds of God, through the veils of meaning. It is the great attractor for all human knowing and action, for a period of human existence. All humans are in agreement with the Covenant of God. Some are unconscious of the covenant, yet all are moving by choice of language, being and action in diverse pathways, tangential to the reality hidden by the language of the covenant. The Covenant of God minimizes the story layers representing reality while optimising the possibilities of the human landscape. In this, the covenant of God provides the greatest possible liberation and power for all humans.

Trumping UnReality

From the LandMark Education newsletter.

Historians and fiction writers alike decide what is relevant to their enterprise and what isn’t. Some facts are brought to light, others left in darkness. History undergoes a constant process of revision. Reality is amenable to any construction placed upon it.1

Like historians and novelists, we too construe our own histories as we see them—and realities get created accordingly. Here’s how it works: Something happens. We simultaneously assess and interpret what happened—assign meaning, categorize importance, draw conclusions, identify action to be taken (or not), form opinions that linger. This melding or collapse between what happens and the meaning we assign to it happens so instantaneously that we somehow lose all memory that what happened and how we hold it were two independent and separate occurrences.

Consider there are two (ontological = being) domains of distinction in our day-to-day living: one in which life shows up as an experience, and another in which life shows up as a representation of, or a concept about that experience. We essentially live in the collapse between the two when our experience invariably devolves into a representation of the experience—memories, concepts, and descriptions of life (which are not life, but descriptions of it). We then experience subsequent events through these already existing conceptual frameworks. A conceptually-shaped experience reinforces the concept that shaped it. The reinforced concept more fully shapes the experience. The more fully shaped experience reinforces the concept some more and it goes round-and-round like this. Thus its name: the vicious circle.

Another way of saying it is: When something happens and we make whatever assessments we make at the time, we believe and think them valid. We think our conclusions are epiphanies of sorts—kind of indisputable, bottom-line truths. We see reality and ourselves in terms of that truth—as if it were us, not something separate or outside of us. We also map our behavior and future experiences onto it. Our identity, our persona, who we are, and how we see ourselves gets reinforced again and again—a “vicious circle” indeed, because of its relentless and mechanical nature. What’s disempowering in this vicious circle thing is not the interpretation or meaning we immediately assign, but rather the collapsing of those interpretations with whatever it is that happened. It is in the collapse that realities get set.

Now, there’s nothing actually wrong with stories. In fact, I love the richness, the tapestry, the depth of our stories—the moments we savor, the experiences we share, really are the stuff of our lives. If we think for a moment about those most precious people in our lives, each of them has a special story that’s uniquely their own–how we met our spouses, a time when a friend’s kindness made a difference, something we heard or saw that was so hilarious we nearly cried. It’s hard to imagine a life without the intricacies and intimacies of those moments—it would be a bit dull and boring.

Our stories represent the richness of what it means to be human—there is a power and validity, a value in them, but not when they’re confused with the presence of life. (Being in the presence of something is, obviously, quite different than being in the concept of it.)  When we begin to see inside the mechanical nature of this vicious circle, its bankruptcy becomes apparent.

While there’s no fixing it in the vicious circle, in the recognition of it being at play we can begin to “uncollapse” the two worlds and see ourselves separate from it. By recognizing the bankruptcy, we have a say in the matter of who we are, and the room to create and design our lives.

Knowing our stories are an interpretation (no more true or false than another interpretation), and that that’s not who we are, produces an opening, an access, a portal to a third domain—the domain of being. Possibility exists in the third domain. domain of being and isn’t available in the other two domains. It is here, in this domain, that we are able to create something from nothing—an existential act, and one that can hold both the experience and the circumstances. Possibility moves things around until our experience and our circumstances are a match for the possibility we’ve created. Distinguishing that is transformational. It shifts the horizon of what’s possible.

1 E.L. Doctorow, “Notes on the History of Fiction,” The Atlantic Monthly, Fiction Issue, 2006.


The Lesson of the Crucifixion

On this commemoration of the Crucifixion of Jesus, my thoughts return to its deeper significance for all humans. From within the Christian tradition I have recently found great inspiration from ‘A Course in Miracles’, supporting in a method for the mind, the teachings of Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha of the Baha’i Faith.

Image: 19th Century Baha'is in Chains

Persian Baha'is in Chains 19thC

To understand the crucifixion of Christ, one needs to understand that the contingent reality is a vehicle for the development of a greater reality, the reality of the next world and of the soul, the reality of love. The contingent world is a vague reflection of the greater, through which the human being can strengthen the nature of the soul. This is the reality that Christ lives. It is living in this reality that made Christ’s actions seem so contrary to reality. It is this reality which had Baha’u’llah stand fearlessly amidst great and persistent attack. It is insight into this reality which Baha’u’llah shared with a youthful Badi who quietly and peacefully sacrificed his life in delivering Baha’u’llah’s message to the Shah of Persia.

ACIM p 36 “The crucifixion did not establish attonement, the resurrection did.”
ACIM P 91 “..crucifixion was the last useless journey the Sonship need to take, and that it represents release from fear to anyone who understands it. The real meaning of crucifixion lies in the apparent intensity of the assault of some of the Sons of God upon another. This is impossible…. Assault can only be made on the body. ..destruction itself is impossible, therefore what is destructible is not real. It’s destruction does not justify anger. The crucifixion is to teach that it is not necessary to perceive any form of assault in persecution. If you respond in anger, you must be equating yourself with the destructible, and therefore are regarding yourself insanely.
The crucifixion was the result of clearly opposed thought systems ..between the ego and the Son of God.”

Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 49 “All were shaken but Mary Magdalen. She was a veritable lioness. She gathered the others together and said, “Why do ye mourn? Did not the Christ foretell his crucifixion? Arise, and be assured. They have killed but the body; the reality can never die, for it is supreme, eternal, the word of God, the son of God. Why, therefore, are ye agitated?” Thus this heroine became the cause of re-establishing the faith of the apostles. My hope is that each one of you may become as Mary Magdalen – for this woman was superior to all the men of her time and her reality is ever shining from the horizon of Christ. Be pure – to be pure is to be selfless.”     

ACIM P93 “.. if you react as if you are persecuted, you are teaching persecution. Rather teach your perfect immunity. Do not try to protect it or you are believing you are believing it is assailable. … In the face of less temptation to misperceive, do not accept them as false justifications for anger. What you believe you will teach… know you cannot be abandoned.”
ACIM P217 “.. attack from others and fear is an appeal for help, a call for love fear is a symptom of loss. When you perceive it in others, learn to supply the loss.”

Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v1, p. 193, 194 “Know thou that the Messianic Spirit and the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit is always manifest, but capacity and ability (to receive it) is more in some and less in others. After the crucifixion the apostles had not in the beginning the capacity and ability of witnessing the Messianic reality. For they were agitated. But when they found firmness and steadfastness, their inner sight became opened, and thy saw the reality of the Messiah as manifest. For the body of Christ was crucified and vanished, but the Spirit of Christ is always pouring upon the contingent world, and is manifest before the insight of the people of assurance. O thou seeker of the kingdom of God! If thou wishest thy speech and utterance to take effect in the hardened hearts, be thou severed from all attachment to this world and turn unto the Kingdom of God. Enkindle the fire of the love of God in the heart with such intensity that thou mayest become a flame of fire and a luminous lamp of guidance. At that time thy speech will take effect within the hearts, through the confirmation of the Holy Spirit. O thou sincere servant of the Lord of the KingdoPhoto of Iranian Baha'i Leaders before arrestm!”

This week also marked the passing of 10,000 days in prison of the Iranian Baha’i leaders. Sarah Sourd, a hiker arrested when straying across the Iranian border, recalls meeting one of the imprisoned leaders, Fariba Kamalabadi.

“Fariba Kamalabadi and I were being led blindfolded to the prison clinic. We were walking in single file and the first thing she did was reach out and rub my back affectionately. She smiled at me, whispering that she was sorry that I was alone, then hastily told me who she was,” Shourd said. “Later, when I was released and was able to learn more about the seven Baha’i leaders, who are being held without proper legal representation or a fair trial, I was even more astounded by Fariba’s kindness and bravery that day.”

Shourd is joining the call for the release of Kamalabadi and her colleagues, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Mahvash Sabet, Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Vahid Tizfahm.

“They are being held solely for their religious beliefs, for demanding the right of Baha’is to civil rights and an education,” Shourd said. “The Iranian government is in serious violation of international law regarding these cases and they must all be released immediately.”

Prior to their arrests in 2008, the seven were members of an informal national-level group that attended to the spiritual and social needs of Iran’s Baha’i community. They were each sentenced to 20 years imprisonment after six brief court sessions characterized by a lack of due process.