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How is the self an illusion and what does it imply. In exactly what sense is the self an Illusion.

 
madscientist
 
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madscientist
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13 November 2013 09:55
 

      I am trying to come to terms with the idea that the self is an illusion but it is kinda hard due to the fact that when I die the thing that people believe is most likely is that your mind will cease to exist. Now If what sam is saying is true about the self being an illusion then it logically follows that “you” and “I” are the universe as a whole fooling itself. Simular conclusions are being found in both physics, chemistry, and evolutionary biology, buddhism, and philosophy of the mind. Some of the examples are the quantum field, string theory, big bang, evolution, the nebula formation theory, atman (buddhism), and even cognitive neuroscience. Not only that but the theory of weak emergence, and the illusion of free will point to the same conclusion that I am not a seperate entity from the universe. Now, if I am the universe as a whole and the self is an illusion then If “I” cease to exist and the universe still exists then It would discredit all this nonsense about the self being an illusion. How can “I” cease to exist if “I” am the universe, I mean you could argue that to loose the sense of self is to not have a mind but there are many beings in the universe that have a mind and they are all me. I am having alot of trouble with forcing these 2 concepts to coexist in my mind. If I can’t square these 2 then the one that has to go will most likely be the nonsensical idea that the self is just a subjective illusion. Look at alan watts the real you on youtube and you will see what I am talking about.

 
truefork
 
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20 November 2013 12:15
 

This may be the wrong forum for this question?

I think you may be taking “illusion” a little too literally… anyway there are no doubt various angles to approach this, but the way I see it, the self is an illusion in the sense that it doesn’t exist as a separate “thing”.

Perhaps an analogy will clarify; think of a candle flame. What is going on in the candle flame is that carbohydrate molecules in the candle wax evaporate from the heat, mingle with the airflow around the candle and oxidize, releasing heat which keeps both the airflow and evaporation going and causing luminescence in some of the molecules involved. This appears to us as a coherent process which we call “a flame” even though there is no actual “thing” with continued physical existence that IS a flame. The illusion is that there is a “thing” where there is only a series of reactions between individual molecules which create an illusion of continuity. (Let’s ignore that this pretends there are such “things” as molecules)

This doesn’t mean that what we call a flame doesn’t involve a coherent set of processes, or that you won’t burn your finger if you try to prove the illusionary nature of the flame. And while we somewhat arbitrarily draw a line between the processes of “the flame” and the rest of “the universe”, it doesn’t follow that the whole universe or any other “thing” in it is “the flame”.

It does mean, I think, that questions like “if I put out the candle and light it again, is it the same flame or a different one” are misguided. The “flame” doesn’t “cease to exist” because it was never a “thing” with a continuous existence to begin with; one moment there were molecules oxidizing, the next moment there were molecules doing something else altogether.

I think this is what Alan Watts means as well. The waves are not separate existences from the ocean, they are the ocean waving at us. What happens to your fist if you open your hand?

Anyway, that’s my take on this, hope it helps.

 
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23 November 2013 14:23
 

This is so hard to take in. At first I thought that this was just another blow at dualism (which did not make sense to begin with). On the surface it seemed like self contradictory nonsense but I will try to understand your candle flame analogy, and when I am done I will post another reply.

 
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23 November 2013 14:44
 

Okay I see so you are saying that the self being described as an entity is a incorrect way of describing it because it is a process like a flame lighting. I would like to describe our existence as like one tub of wax with many candles melting and being constructed. So this means that there is no this combustion and that combustion because it cannot be described as a coherent thing but as a collection of mechanisms that are individuated subjectively hence the self is an illusion. Correct me if Im wrong because I want to share this with people because if you are right then there is virtually no reason to reject science even when it comes to topics such as death. This will be a finishing blow to the anti science movement, and a great advantage to us secularists.

 
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24 November 2013 06:20
 

It’s hard to explain in words, so it’s very possible that I didn’t manage to get the ideas across properly. Also keep in mind this is my attempt at explaining my understanding of what Alan Watts meant, I don’t mean to imply this describes “reality” in any absolute sense (and neither does Alan Watts, I think), more like a way of looking at “self” from an entirely different viewpoint than one usually does.

I regret to say that I don’t understand how this constitutes a “finishing blow”, they are just words, and if people can’t in any way relate them to their own experience then they won’t convince them. By all means feel free to share them, but not as some absolute dogma of truth…

I’m not saying the self as an entity is “incorrect” so much as that it’s a “convenient fiction”, a shorthand description that doesn’t correspond to a fixed “thing” like the “they” in “they say…” and such.

Perhaps I can clarify a bit with another point from Alan Watts about the self; we usually consider our “self” in a rather restricted way as our consciousness or “ego” - most of the time we’re even disidentified from our bodies, let alone the world at large. Who grows our hair, who digests our food, who beats our heart? In a sense it’s not us, in another sense it can’t be anything else. Can we even say that our thoughts are of our own making? If you try not to think of a green elephant, where does the thought of the green elephant come from?

A somewhat different take on the self as illusion, not related to Alan Watts, but my own; you know in Star Trek how they beam around with the “transporter”? When I was young, this used to terrify me, because it seemed like people were disintegrated at one point, and an identical copy created at another point. To me it was like the person was killed an replaced by an exact clone with identical memories who only looked like the same person to others (and to the clone itself). I would never have stepped into a transporter, because I was sure my own consciousness would just end, I would die there and a copy would take over.

Later on I realised that I couldn’t prove that this didn’t happen to me every day, or even every second. I mean, we wake up in the morning and think we’re the same person because we have memories, but there are “gaps” in our consciousness, right? So on what grounds can we assume that it’s even a continuous thing at all? I mean, continuity is a concept we project (rather arbitrarily) onto reality, it’s not really inherent in reality as such. It depends on which regularities and differences we choose to observe and which we choose to ignore. Like we say a school is a continuous “thing” even though the student body and staff change every year…

[ Edited: 24 November 2013 06:25 by truefork]
 
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24 November 2013 13:52
 

Well I never said that I believed we had 100% certainty. We dont even have 100% certainty in things like evolution, or illusion of free will but I doubt that something with that much evidence to back it up will be mostly wrong let alone entirely false. That does not mean that I will go around preaching that evolution is the absolute 100% truth because just one fossil out of place can disprove the entire theory. I completely agree that me stating that it was a finishing blow was a little cocky because most mortalists have never even come up across and considered this concept, and some people cant let go of dualism, or an eternal paradise. That does not mean that the illusion cant be broken temporarily through meditation. Also I am certainly not saying mortalism is false but now that Ive heard and examined this ridiculously unintuitive concept im starting to have serious doubts about it. There is no doubt that the illusion of self is an important one because it allows us to better function in “the outside world” like many of the false impressions given by our delusional brains. One question though, why do we feel that the self is only the process of conciousness when the intimately interconnected physical world is responsible for it? That is what I mean by “I am the universe”. I think that solves the “if the self is an illusion then who knows that the self is an illusion” word play that most people throw out when told this.

 
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24 November 2013 14:16
 

Oh when it comes to your last point i agree entirely because nothing in reality is continuous. We constantly exchange atoms with the outside world and in less than a decade you will have none of the little pieces of stardust that once made up your body. You will be an entirely new “me” in both body and mind because you die little deaths all the time. You are always loosing massive amounts of your memory and personality through life that made you a unique individual. Your brain also is constantly being rewired and forming new neural connections due to outside stimuli, I believe its called neuroplasticity. Not only that but the universe itself is a process that is unified at its source. All matter is concentrations of energy that formed during the big bang. Heisenberg put it beautifully “atoms are not things but tendencies” much too the dismay of michael shermer. These tendencies are behaving according to the same laws that formed it. The laws themselves cannot be said to be continuous because they themselves have to be corrected and held together by the quantum field. I dont see how anything in our reality can be considered anything more than a process. I asked a question on yahoo answers like that a while back but now I know I sound stupid. It is http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20130916105648AALo62f. Let me know what you think.

 
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25 November 2013 10:01
 

The illusion of Free Will, that Sam Presents is based on…Reality is a bunch of little solid bits of stuff (fundementally real)...all colliding with each other causing everything to happen; It is true you can not get Free-Will and intellegence from that.
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And he would say, I think, if asked why all of modern physics disagree’s with that model, is because we haven’t yet found or can understand where all the other missing bits of stuff is nor how it works. And that the only reason we seem to have FW and intellegence is just a very unlikely accident.
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You can see that all the problems in science is trying to “make” reality fit the scientist beliefs. You either have to admit your model is completly wrong (reality is not fundemetally little bits of solid real stuff) or create fudge factors in the equations and call them Dark matter,( ie. invisible matter) and Dark energy (ie, invisible energy). And String theory (taking all the equations and forcing them together and making up the missing pieces then…Thinking the question…What objective thing can (be anything) and justfify the stuff we made up…O’ how about point like strings with mulitiple deminsions that can vary their ferquency in any way we want them to…they could be anything and we could then make what ever equations we want and say the strings did it.
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See science only knows how to handle scientific problems one way… because of their beliefs…they ‘demand’ there is a from with in the reality cause for everything. Because that is what our eyes see… On a large scale we experience our reality objectively and reality is approxamely objective on normal human perception scale
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The one thing science has always told us is that reality is the illusion.
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You percieve reality in you. You process reality. Reality is information. The point is to enhance your preception. To do that you have Free-Will that tries options that are unique to you. This is the only way to learn. To become something you are not. To evolve your awarness.
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You are a “thing” that has properties
*Memory
*Awarness
*Free-Will
*Intent
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When that thing is put in use processing it gains sentientness the feeling of a self an “I” exist. So your are more accuretly a verb a mechanism in action.
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What is, an illusion is that…
*You are not your body
*You are not your mind
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To percieve a reality and create action in that reality you need an Interface. Some way for you to get information and express a direct action in that reality (imput information in). See a tree doesn’t have, this mystical port.. that allows for input to spawn in the reality. Thus a tree is not sentient nor has that “thing” that we do. Humans do have this mystical port..where input can be spawned.
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Your memories are not in your brain
Your thinking is not in your brain
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Your virtual brain…Is a (settings profile or a rule set…Kind of like our phsyics rule set…not really stuff in reality) that constrains what you are allowed to express/spawn in the reality.
Your physcial brain in your head, is required by our physics rule set to interpret and ochastrate the input into complex action in the body.
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Your mind is a consequence of processing a reality. To continue a reality, you must procreate and survive. Your biology is set up for you to value those things…When they are in risk you body lets you know.
Our intellect makes judgements on what is we think if valuable. It helps us obtain those things or pretend to obtian those things. That whole process is ego/mind that is how we are habituated toward precieving a physical reality.
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Meditation is the process of percieving other information/realities - not through your body and not through you brain-based mind…Obviously to do this you need to limit the input from the body and stop processing with your brain based mind (judging the information and pattern matching it to earth imformation..ego)
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So when you die, that “Thing” we are using to operate on creates a new body and a new mind (new persona).
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Sounds harsh…But as crazy as all this sounds…It is something that once you experience its like, OO ok this shit is all pretty straight foward and implied everywhere in life.

 
madscientist
 
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29 November 2013 12:26
 

    I do not have free will and neither do you. You can get free will and intent from the movement of molecules and the exchange of energies. The reason for this is the development of our higher order mental functions which are really nothing more than the addition of more complex organic material to your brain. If I hit you with a 2 by 4 you will be either hurt or unconcious, and If I give you certain types of drugs changes will occur in your concious awareness. The problem you are addressing is the hard problem of conciousness and it has nothing to do with the illusion of free will. Qualia and intentionality are problems being worked on by many scientists and philosophers today but it will not change the fact that the illusion of self and conciousness are processes that depend on electrochemical exhanges between nerve cells in “your” brain.
    I am not a thing I am packets of force and energy forged in the big bang. Energy is the capacity to do work so In other words I am the processes and forces of this universe themselves.
    I do not know what you mean by virtual brain. I understand that reality is jam packed with illusions but to say it is virtual is a really esoteric interpretation of it all. You sound like David Icke. Yes you can get sentience from the laws of physics we just dont know how yet. We will soon.
    What are you talking about when you say other realities through meditation? Are you talking about the ether and akashic field, because if you are then what you are talking about are lucid dreams that our stupid superstitious ancestors had. They did not understand that subjectivity is not a good way to understand this objective world. Yeah the universe is me so in a deep sense it is subjective but not in anything more than poetic spiritual terms. I understand that mystics are to be taken seriously but introspection only gives a vague, symbolic understanding of reality. Cold reading in other words.
   

[ Edited: 01 December 2013 09:33 by madscientist]
 
Feather
 
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30 November 2013 21:39
 

I was throwing meat to the lions wasn’t I.
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I get where your coming from I really do. I was coming from the same place at one time. I don’t have a mystical bone in my body. I am an engineer…stuff has a logical premise…There is no woopla in me. 
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I started having experiences, (typical experience people will have by meditation). My no non-sense engineering personality. Made me think up experiments that would prove that the experiences were whoopla. I set up target information and when I wound up in those state at night, I viewed the target information I set up. It was correct, again and again and again and again.
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See to me all that stuff was a crook a shit. But the difference between me, and I am assuming you, is that ultimately I didn’t give a shit what which way is correct and which way isn’t. It honestly doesn’t have significance to me and who I think “I” am.
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To me most people think with an agenda…Meaning there is way they “want” things to be…and they then think to obtain it.
Free-thinking…first involves not really caring one way or the other. I think that is a difficult trait for many people to have.
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So basically PSI effects, became evident. Then as I latter became more educated in physics, it is pretty clear reality is virtual or informational. If you are unaware of this. Learn physics. Don’t learn it from what biologist or neurologist view of it. They have agenda’s. They have to defend their field from extreme religious quacks. How is a reality being information going to sell Sam Harris new book? These people are in a religious war. There is wining and losing. There is prejudice and risk. Informational reality makes them lose some of their political power in the religious war.
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Real Scientist are to busy doing research to go on CNN and spread an agenda. The scientist at CERN, I just herd, admitted electrons don’t actually exist. That they are just point like conceptualizations. Doesn’t that also sound like David Icke whoopla to you?
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It is extremely hard if not already impossible to make a case that reality is…Objective and fundamentally Real.
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The claims you have made…no body in the world can explain how they work. See there is big difference in what we are both saying.
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I can explain and show years of scientific evidence how an information reality works. You can only tell me what people think they will understand in the future.

[ Edited: 30 November 2013 21:42 by Feather]
 
madscientist
 
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01 December 2013 09:27
 

I understand that reality is an illusion. My earlier comment agreed on that statement. Electrons are not things they are tendencies but there is a difference between saying that they are illusions, and saying they are not real. Put your hand on a wire of an open circuit and see if the electrons are not real. I am sorry to say that I am some what of a mystic. I interpret the experiences that I have during meditation seriously. I try to understand its symbolism and see how they relate to the real world without moving from them, taking them literally, and making incoherent claims about the nature of reality. I have had no reason to believe that my out of body experiences are anything more than lucid dreams. When you dont expect to see things like ghosts, other realities, and dead relatives you get to experience these phenomena for what they really are… a dream. No longer do I have to worry about negative astral entities that will suck out your positive emotions, harrass you, molest you in your sleep, and possess your family members. There are people out there who have missed out on some of the best experiences in the world because of this superstition and nonsense. Some of these experiences include a showering of love from the universe, exploration of the cosmos, astral sex (which nothing can compete with), shared dreams, shared thoughts, a temporary feeling of not having a cumbersome material body, and sometimes a true appreciation of the present moment. Sure realizing that its not real comes with a price, you no longer think its special. However something replaces it, you realize that its virtual reality, not a lucid dream unstable virtual reality…no im talking about non material indistinguishable from the real world virtual reality. The true unparalled nature of reality reveals itself when you take a rational approach. The universe is more amazing, and more mysterious than anything we can make up. I have had experiences of connections with other people that exceeded what is thought possible through pure chance alone. My guess is a phenomena called quantum entanglement. It is not proven that the human brain uses this phenomena (let alone repeated shared conscious experience) but that does not mean that humans are special in any bad way either. There are a ridiculous amount of organisms that utilize this function. Actually a huge whoping chunk of the organisms on this planet harness the laws of the quantum world and I would be stupid for believing humans are an exception. Paranormal science is a protoscience and quantum biology will prove this. However experiences related to duality are 9.5 out of 10 times easily debunkable fakes like for example the infamous “Mrs. Z” experiment. If there are spiritual people and mystics out there, they are no doubt the scientists. This does not mean that I agree with everything scientists believe. Speeches stressing our insignificance in the cosmos are bullshit, and so is mortalism. The mind is identical to the brain, the self is an illusion, the brain is physical, the physical world is a unbroken whole. It cant get any simpler than this.

[ Edited: 01 December 2013 09:57 by madscientist]
 
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02 December 2013 09:34
 

What I mean by Ilusion is “derived from something else”. When you play video game the environment you see is not ALL there is and absolute. It is derived from information in the server outside of the reality. What Main stream Science and Militant Athiest believe is that this world we see is “ALL there is and Absoulute” and Not derived from anything or any influence that is not appart of the world. It is such a classical view that is not consistent with the results of science. Main stream science feels its job is to take all these wierd experiments and “make” them fit thier beliefs. By making things up (dark matter, mulitidimentional wiggling strings, god particles) then spending 100 years looking for them all while ignoring the experiments that controdict their search (QM, PSI experiements). TO ME, that sounds a whole lot crazyer and than a reality “derived from something esle”.
Why can’t it be?
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Real means = not imagined, not an imitation, not artificial.  This reality is not “real”. Your experience IS “real”.  Experiencing electrical shock is authentic, is actually being experienced.
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What you are saying in that last line of your post…Is the opposite. That your experience is derived from the brain and that the brain is “real”.
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There are 2 ways to do science and find option above is true and which is false.
1. Test if the external reality (brain) is real… This requires learning physics. A real reality has to be made of matter that takes up space, has a definite size (can’t change by itself), and can not be influenced by anything that is not objectively impulsing (contacting it).  Modern science has “so far” stated the oposite of this. That it can not be “real”.
2. Test if the experience (OOBE or PSI) is real…This requires doing any psi experiment such as Remote Viewing, or Telepathy, etc. IF you can remote view, with a certian acurracy (1 in a billion you were not getting lucky) by doing it over and over for the correct number of trials.
>>>>Your experience is “real” it is not imagined, not an imitation, and not an artifact of your brain.
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Your brain is the artifact that helps you experience. It collects data in to your experience…And gives data out from you back into the reality.
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Those who want to know truth and what is evident…It is unpractical not to do the above two steps. IF somebody thinks they have big truth and didn’t do the proper science and experiements above…They are probably worshiping what they want to be correct…Or they got a lucky guess.
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The reason I call what is deriving reality a “THING” is becuase, it states that it is there…Yet we can not introspect what it “Is” or made of because it it outside of our reality. That “Thing” isn’t “God” or a giant lizard spirit. It is a rational thing comprised of “something” that has rules and logic.
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My best guess is it evolved naturally in its own regard. And that the “Thing” is informational based.
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The experience you have…are the same experiences I have.
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I can tell no difference from those experiences and experience in this world…Like you said they are “indistiguishable”...I have to experiement to tell (pass through a window to tell). So when I hear people say “o thats just a dream, an halucination” my reply is…“Ya! and this world is an halucination also”.
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I eat demons and wierd shit for lunch. “Its just data” its something wanting to play on people’s beliefs and fears to control them by acting like something. You have no arms to get eaten off, you have no brain for them to eat..They have no teeth they have no body…Those things are halucinations (something you percieve) when you are in a reality (like earth) that has consistent rules as a large multi-awarness interaction fuck-fest.
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What you have and what they have…Is intent…(a property of an awarness that can process information) Somes intent has less entropy than others and can modify the halucinations (experience of self and others) more.
>>>this is proven in science by meditators intent modifying outcomes of double split more than regular people…Check out Dean Radin stuff.
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I think that the attitude you have is a great one…having the wrong attitude and having dogma and beliefs is what prevents people from having these kinds of experiences.
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But you are mixing up the nature of it. You process information…not with your brain…(the brain puts constraints on incoming information to your awarness and then gives your action back into the causality of the reality)...OOBE and is you processing “other information” NOT through your brain…Because “Other” information has nothing to do with Earth Reality informational input and output.  YOU do not need an interface (brain) to operate in an OOBE because it isn’t a Mulit-Awarness rule driven reality where things have apparent objective causality. Then you would need some type of input/output interface. On earth need those constraints inorder for me and you to both agree upon how computers work so we can type back and forth and learn from each other.
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It is because there isn’t a strict rule set to OOBE that something can Appear to be a Monster. Its just sending you data with out a network of rules regulating it.
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Any ways…As you were.

[ Edited: 02 December 2013 09:40 by Feather]
 
madscientist
 
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02 December 2013 10:57
 

http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/the-mystery-of-consciousness. Sam Harris put it perfectly. In a world full of illusions the only thing that is real is the ability to experience those illusions. The line between the dream world and the “external world” is that dreams are caused by internal stimuli and life is caused by “external” stimuli. Once again, I get where you are coming from. I understand that reality is an illusion, but believing it is not “real” may be factual in a physical sense but if you stick a fork in the socket you are going to get zapped, and burned. We do not have that much control over this universe yet. We do not live in an era where broken bones can be healed instantly. What does it mean for something to be real. Well the best definitions define it always as an event that appears in conscious awareness as a result of inputs from the “external world” and if it does not appear in it in this way then by those criteria that thing or event can not be considered real in most cases. The line between the inner dream and the outer dream is a little blurry, but it is not something you should take that seriously, the line is still extremely sharp. The “thing” that you are talking about may be real. Well in theoretical physics and in many various branches (if not all) the multiverse and higher dimensions are an unavoidable and very explanatory hypothesis. When you talk about the “server outside reality” what you are most likely talking about is the multiverse and higher dimensions. I dont see how it could be a server in a sense of a central processing unit because not even the brain works like that. The brain works through billions of tiny organisms interacting with each other and reality most likely will work in the same way. The multiverse has no server it merely has a landscape from which the multiverse can be viewed and string theory supposes that in the 10th dimensional lanscape there is a sheet of energy that slams into other universes creating big bangs. I do not know if this is true or not (we are talking about some really esoteric stuff lol, and by the way I dont know that much about string theory, most of my information on string threory comes from Brian Green and Michio Kaku). Whether or not it is real the 9th dimension and 10th dimension move beyond anything that can be seen as physically real and moves into patterns of information only. They are self organizing and emergent as Michael Shermer said. http://www.skepticblog.org/2010/09/21/is-god-a-nonlocal-quantum-mind/  Patterns which organize themselves in such a way to allow our universe to exist. That is the only thing that I can picture when you are talking about your informational “whoopla” as you call it. I dont consider it to be bull. It is a legitimate hypothesis that both academics, and non-academics alike need to weigh in on in order to advance our understanding of the nature of the cosmos. Rather instead of coming in and trying to convince people of your idea which comes across on the surface as woo, you should talk about the multiverse theory because it parallels what you are talking about in every which way. Here is a video to give you a basic understanding of what the multiverse is and what the higher dimensions are and how they work. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gg85IH3vghA. My email address is .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and I am a blogger on the imagining the 10th dimension website.

[ Edited: 02 December 2013 11:55 by madscientist]
 
truefork
 
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02 December 2013 12:11
 

I’m not sure I can still follow the thread of this conversation. It’ always amusing to ask if the self “really” is an illusion. If reality is really an illusion then the illusion is real, Samsara is Nirvana, etc.

The idea of “stuff” - in the past we had the idea that material things were composed of some undifferentiated stuff, inert stupid dead formless matter, and everything that was not formless, stupid or dead was attributed to spirit. Yet we’ve never seen form without matter or matter without form. We looked deep into matter to find its basic substance, but we find less and less “stuff” and more and more just pattern and behavior. So this idea that “matter” is not “spirit” or vice versa seems really outdated. But the new scientific insights haven’t yet filtered into our language and “common sense” so it’s all still counterintuitive. Maybe it’s too early to make this intelligible without sounding woo.

 
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03 December 2013 08:12
 

Yes I agree. Modern physicalism is much cooler than 19th century materialism. Its much better. I dont think that embracing such a change will make you sound woo unless of course you incorrectly use the terms like Chopra. In a deep sense we understand the “spirit” aspects of the universe more than our idealist or dualist ancestors ever could, we just labeled them physical. Whatever you choose to call it doesnt matter, its all still awesome in the end.

 
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23 October 2017 09:12
 
truefork - 20 November 2013 12:15 PM

This may be the wrong forum for this question?

I think you may be taking “illusion” a little too literally… anyway there are no doubt various angles to approach this, but the way I see it, the self is an illusion in the sense that it doesn’t exist as a separate “thing”.

Perhaps an analogy will clarify; think of a candle flame. What is going on in the candle flame is that carbohydrate molecules in the candle wax evaporate from the heat, mingle with the airflow around the candle and oxidize, releasing heat which keeps both the airflow and evaporation going and causing luminescence in some of the molecules involved. This appears to us as a coherent process which we call “a flame” even though there is no actual “thing” with continued physical existence that IS a flame. The illusion is that there is a “thing” where there is only a series of reactions between individual molecules which create an illusion of continuity. (Let’s ignore that this pretends there are such “things” as molecules)

This doesn’t mean that what we call a flame doesn’t involve a coherent set of processes, or that you won’t burn your finger if you try to prove the illusionary nature of the flame. And while we somewhat arbitrarily draw a line between the processes of “the flame” and the rest of “the universe”, it doesn’t follow that the whole universe or any other “thing” in it is “the flame”.

It does mean, I think, that questions like “if I put out the candle and light it again, is it the same flame or a different one” are misguided. The “flame” doesn’t “cease to exist” because it was never a “thing” with a continuous existence to begin with; one moment there were molecules oxidizing, the next moment there were molecules doing something else altogether.

I think this is what Alan Watts means as well. The waves are not separate existences from the ocean, they are the ocean waving at us. What happens to your fist if you open your hand?

Anyway, that’s my take on this, hope it helps.

Actually, Alan Watts talks about the exact same example of a flame when he talks about the illusion of the self. If I remember correctly it’s from this talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHQDDMyjap0

 
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