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It’s just you.

 
burt
 
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burt
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10 August 2021 19:50
 
weird buffalo - 10 August 2021 12:08 PM
burt - 10 August 2021 11:05 AM
weird buffalo - 10 August 2021 06:31 AM

I found this, if it’s what you’re talking about.

Starting off on the far side of the room, he sees me as a full-length man-with-a-head. But as he approaches he finds half a man, then a head, ten a blurred cheek or eye or nose; then a mere blur and finally (at the point of contact) nothing at all. Alternatively, if he happens to be equipped with the necessary scientific instruments; he reports that the blur resolves itself into tissues, then cell groups, then a single cell, a cell-nucleus, giant molecules … and so on, till he comes to a place where nothing is to be seen, to space which is empty of all solid or material objects. In either case, the observer who comes here to see what it’s really like finds what I find here – vacancy. And if, having discovered and shared.

As an example, this is an equivocation fallacy.  In essence, he’s using the particularities of methods of observation to conclude that nothing is there, such as bringing the eye so close to the object that you can no longer see it.  That doesn’t mean the object stops existing, it means that the method of observation has limitations.  Then he switches to examining the distance between particles on the extremely small scale as evidence that there is nothing there.

It’s as ridiculous as saying that since I’m sitting in my house, and if I hold a piece of paper up to my face, and can no longer see the walls, floor, and ceiling… therefore there is no house.

If I stand between two cars in a parking lot and look at the ground in such a way that I cannot see any cars… that doesn’t mean the parking lot is empty and has no cars.  It means I have situated my method of observation in such a way that prevents me from seeing the things around me.

Just because we perceive things a certain way (such as having no head) does not mean our perception is correct.  Standing in a field, it can be hard to imagine that the Earth is round.  Our native perception ability is useful for dealing with things in that field, but it isn’t evolved to perceive the field as a tiny part of the whole Earth, and so we have to rely on other specific observations actually designed to detect whether the Earth is round or flat.

Another example would be magic.  And by magic, I mean the performance of magicians and illusionists who perform tricks for audiences.  Just because we perceive an illusionist causing the Statue of Liberty to disappear does not mean that the Statue of Liberty actually disappeared.  It’s a trick that is fooling our perception.

I’ve experienced mental states such as the one described in the link above.  It’s amazing and wonderful.  And yet, I have no reason to believe that it is a product of anything other than the physical state of my brain at the time.  There’s no evidence that there’s anything other than my brain and the environment around me influencing my brain that causes that mental state.  There’s no evidence that someone without a physical head can experience that.  In fact, we find an astonishing lack of reporting from anyone without a head about any experience whatsoever.

I can attest that the headless state he describes is an actual experiential state. What’s behind it, I wouldn’t want to say. The point is that there is a state of consciousness in which the normal, socially constructed and conditioned self is not present but there is still awareness. That, I’d say, is evidence for the claim that consciousness is distinct from our ordinary self-consciousness and pre-exists (although certainly not in the way that our everyday consciousness does, constrained as it is by the limitations of brain and body). So when you say that there is “no evidence that there’s anything other than my brain and the environment around me influencing my brain that causes that mental state,” that is not relevant. The question isn’t about what causes the state but rather about its nature: does consciousness (without an object) emerge from material brain processes, or does it pre-exist and is experienced in terms of brain processes. In the first case, you have to say how this emergence happens, how do brain processes produce the actual awareness you experience (the zombie question); in the second case, you assume that consciousness is an innate property of reality.

I completely disagree.

For one, when you say “What’s behind it, I wouldn’t want to say.”  That’s fine… but then you have to stop there.  You can’t say “I’m not going to say what the explanation is” and then go on to try to explain it.  Well, you can do that… since you just did, but it clearly calls into question everything you say.  It’s like when someone says “I don’t know what I saw, but I’m sure it was a ghost.”  No, no, no, no.  If you don’t know what it was, than the explanation that it was a ghost is already false.

If you note in my above post, I agree that the brain state described exists.  I admit that I’ve felt it as well.

If someone wants to claim that this brain state is caused by some non-physical phenomena… then this has to be demonstrated.  Our brains ability to perceive things is easily deceived, and just because it “feels like” you are separated from your self-conscious persona does not mean that you are experiencing something that is not produced by your brains interaction with your body and the environment.

Here’s a dichotomy to consider:
1) that brain state is produced by something that is possible to detect in the discipline of Physics.
2) that brain state is produced by something that is NOT possible to detect in the discipline of Physics.

At the moment, for consciousness to be separate from the brain, option 2 would have to be true, at least as far as we understand Physics right now.  In addition, this process of consciousness would have to have some way of interacting with the neurons in our brain in some way that cannot be detected.  When a neuron fires it releases sodium until a positive charge is built up sufficient to cause the electrical impulse to fire.  For consciousness to be outside of the brain, it would need some way of interacting with this process.  We know how brain cells work.  Sure, there’s a lot we don’t understand about the entire structure of the brain, but fundamentally we already know the basic physics and chemistry at play.  For consciousness to be “somewhere else”, it means you’d have to discover some new mechanism in this process that we were previously unaware of.

That seems like a bit of a longshot at this point.

First off, if you had actually experienced the state you could not say what you have said.

Second, you say I’m trying to explain how an experience happens. I didn’t do that. I said that there were two views that could be taken. The first is that consciousness exists outside of our brain as an aspect of reality and our brain has become sufficiently complex that we can become self-aware, and then experience awareness without that culturally and socially constructed self. The second is that our consciousness in all its possible experiences is only a matter of events exclusively in the brain. I favor the former, you seem to favor the latter.

 
weird buffalo
 
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weird buffalo
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10 August 2021 21:54
 

I’m telling you that I have experienced the state that was described in that chapter.  Do you have some method of falsifying my claim?  Because without such a method, then it would seem that you have to take my word for it.  Otherwise… you are in the position of making declarative statements about my experiences… with no way of falsifying what my experience actually was.  At which point, the rational and logical thing for me to do would be to dismiss anything you have to say about it.

Taking the position that you know what someone else has experienced better than they do requires extremely strong footing.  If you don’t have it… then nothing you say will ever be convincing to them.  It’s generally why I try not to tell people what their motivation or experiences are, and just take them at their word.  Because if I’m wrong, then they should dismiss any conclusions I base off those claims.

[ Edited: 10 August 2021 21:58 by weird buffalo]
 
weird buffalo
 
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10 August 2021 23:03
 

And I will continue to contend:

There is no reason to think that the source of an experience is external to our brain’s functioning until such time that such a source can be demonstrated to exist.

The reason why we must conclude that, is because if the internal perception of ourselves and others is sufficient evidence to conclude that such a source exists, we would then also have to conclude that most religious experiences are also true.  Since many religions are contradictory to each other (ie, they cannot all be true), then we can be fairly safe that this level of evidence is insufficient to reach a conclusion.

Any method of reasoning that reaches the conclusion that all sects of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism are simultaneously true can and should be dismissed.

 
burt
 
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burt
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11 August 2021 09:03
 
weird buffalo - 10 August 2021 09:54 PM

I’m telling you that I have experienced the state that was described in that chapter.  Do you have some method of falsifying my claim?  Because without such a method, then it would seem that you have to take my word for it.  Otherwise… you are in the position of making declarative statements about my experiences… with no way of falsifying what my experience actually was.  At which point, the rational and logical thing for me to do would be to dismiss anything you have to say about it.

Taking the position that you know what someone else has experienced better than they do requires extremely strong footing.  If you don’t have it… then nothing you say will ever be convincing to them.  It’s generally why I try not to tell people what their motivation or experiences are, and just take them at their word.  Because if I’m wrong, then they should dismiss any conclusions I base off those claims.

Okay, give a description of your experience.

 
burt
 
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burt
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11 August 2021 09:26
 
weird buffalo - 10 August 2021 11:03 PM

And I will continue to contend:

There is no reason to think that the source of an experience is external to our brain’s functioning until such time that such a source can be demonstrated to exist.

The reason why we must conclude that, is because if the internal perception of ourselves and others is sufficient evidence to conclude that such a source exists, we would then also have to conclude that most religious experiences are also true.  Since many religions are contradictory to each other (ie, they cannot all be true), then we can be fairly safe that this level of evidence is insufficient to reach a conclusion.

Any method of reasoning that reaches the conclusion that all sects of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism are simultaneously true can and should be dismissed.

There is debate among philosophers of religion about this. On one side are those who claim, as you do, that different religious experiences are contradictory and can only be understood in terms of the conditioning effect of religious training so that Muslims have Islamic experiences, Hindus have Hindu experiences, and so on. Thus, their argument is that the religions programming that goes on determines the nature of the experience. On the other side are those who claim that while mystical experiences in different religions are conditioned by the particular religious training of the experiencer, they are all aspects of the same underlying reality. Tellingly, this is the usual position of people who have actually had such experiences. The usual description goes under terms like “knowledge by presence,” or “knowledge by identity.”

I’d say that the position it all comes out of the brain as it has been conditioned by training is correct. And that the position that there is something beyond that is partially experienced in that way is also correct. There is an analogy in math in the study of large cardinals (i.e., levels of infinity). Part of this study involves positing “the absolutely infinite” together with the principle that anything predicated of this absolute infinite is already true of a lower level of infinity. In religious studies that goes under the term negative theology. In your position, I think you will agree that you cannot experience everything. That is, whatever your brain produces in your experience, it is limited by the bounds of your qualitative representation spaces. You can’t see x-rays, hear very low or very high frequency sounds, etc. The experiential states available to a dog are more limited in vision, but more expansive in scent. Some birds have four (rather than three) dimensional color spaces. And so on. In terms of sensory experiences (including the entire sensory world and your sense of self as located in this world) different species (and perhaps even different members of the same species) will have different experiences of the same reality. I think you see the analogy to different religious positions.

 
unsmoked
 
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11 August 2021 12:46
 

1.  When we consider the migration of Monarch butterflies,  (as one example), can we agree that we’re talking about instinct and not intelligence?

2.  Can we agree that this instinctive navigation ability is in the DNA of the butterfly?

3.  Can we agree that it took millions of years for this ability to evolve?

4.  Can we agree that the DNA (genetic code) that is the source of this navigation ability may be in more cells than brain cells?

5.  Can we agree that the butterfly isn’t conscious of this ability?  Having been born in Canada and never ‘trained’ by parents, and now flying to a particular grove in Mexico thousands of miles away - the mechanism for this guidance system is in its genetic code?

A thousand years ago, Zen philosophers were pointing out that when the conditioned mind is quiet (say the ability to navigate at sea by using a sextant) we become more open to inherent ‘talents’ that the conscious mind (brain) has no knowledge of.  If we deliberately try to tap into this realm, that’s just the conditioned self trying to gain another kind of knowledge.  If the conditioned self is quiet, this other mind is there.  It’s always there.  These philosophers talk about the ‘host’ and the ‘guest’.  The host mind is the mind you are born with, like the mind the Monarch butterfly is born with.  The guest mind is the Jeopardy mind - added knowledge, memory, experience - the ability to use a sextant, for example, not to mention all the feelings, emotions, desires that ‘busy’ our minds as adults

https://www.landfallnavigation.com/w-p-primary-navigation-set.html?gclid=EAIaIQobChMItd-yg8up8gIVMR-tBh2gzwT6EAQYBCABEgJ9-PD_BwE

Again, notice that the Monarch butterfly is navigating without a sextant, knowledge, memory, or training.  Have scientists determined which genes are responsible for their ability?  Genes that are only in the brain?

 
 
weird buffalo
 
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11 August 2021 12:49
 
burt - 11 August 2021 09:03 AM
weird buffalo - 10 August 2021 09:54 PM

I’m telling you that I have experienced the state that was described in that chapter.  Do you have some method of falsifying my claim?  Because without such a method, then it would seem that you have to take my word for it.  Otherwise… you are in the position of making declarative statements about my experiences… with no way of falsifying what my experience actually was.  At which point, the rational and logical thing for me to do would be to dismiss anything you have to say about it.

Taking the position that you know what someone else has experienced better than they do requires extremely strong footing.  If you don’t have it… then nothing you say will ever be convincing to them.  It’s generally why I try not to tell people what their motivation or experiences are, and just take them at their word.  Because if I’m wrong, then they should dismiss any conclusions I base off those claims.

Okay, give a description of your experience.

I am satisfied with the subjective description in the chapter I linked from the Dennett website.  Certainly specifics were different, like I wasn’t in the Himalayas, but the argument that there is something beyond the physical mind doesn’t seem reliant on such details.

 
burt
 
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burt
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11 August 2021 14:07
 
weird buffalo - 11 August 2021 12:49 PM
burt - 11 August 2021 09:03 AM
weird buffalo - 10 August 2021 09:54 PM

I’m telling you that I have experienced the state that was described in that chapter.  Do you have some method of falsifying my claim?  Because without such a method, then it would seem that you have to take my word for it.  Otherwise… you are in the position of making declarative statements about my experiences… with no way of falsifying what my experience actually was.  At which point, the rational and logical thing for me to do would be to dismiss anything you have to say about it.

Taking the position that you know what someone else has experienced better than they do requires extremely strong footing.  If you don’t have it… then nothing you say will ever be convincing to them.  It’s generally why I try not to tell people what their motivation or experiences are, and just take them at their word.  Because if I’m wrong, then they should dismiss any conclusions I base off those claims.

Okay, give a description of your experience.

I am satisfied with the subjective description in the chapter I linked from the Dennett website.  Certainly specifics were different, like I wasn’t in the Himalayas, but the argument that there is something beyond the physical mind doesn’t seem reliant on such details.

Were you present and aware that you were having the experience? Or, was the experience itself simply present?

 
weird buffalo
 
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11 August 2021 22:11
 
burt - 11 August 2021 02:07 PM
weird buffalo - 11 August 2021 12:49 PM
burt - 11 August 2021 09:03 AM
weird buffalo - 10 August 2021 09:54 PM

I’m telling you that I have experienced the state that was described in that chapter.  Do you have some method of falsifying my claim?  Because without such a method, then it would seem that you have to take my word for it.  Otherwise… you are in the position of making declarative statements about my experiences… with no way of falsifying what my experience actually was.  At which point, the rational and logical thing for me to do would be to dismiss anything you have to say about it.

Taking the position that you know what someone else has experienced better than they do requires extremely strong footing.  If you don’t have it… then nothing you say will ever be convincing to them.  It’s generally why I try not to tell people what their motivation or experiences are, and just take them at their word.  Because if I’m wrong, then they should dismiss any conclusions I base off those claims.

Okay, give a description of your experience.

I am satisfied with the subjective description in the chapter I linked from the Dennett website.  Certainly specifics were different, like I wasn’t in the Himalayas, but the argument that there is something beyond the physical mind doesn’t seem reliant on such details.

Were you present and aware that you were having the experience? Or, was the experience itself simply present?

I find all descriptions of those kinds of experiences to be extremely limited, incomplete, and inadequate.  They’re wonderful, and I agree they exist.  Sometimes they only happen for a literally seconds, other times they last for minutes.  I don’t think I’ve every had one that I would describe as lasting more than 10-15 minutes though (though within the experience, the passage of time doesn’t really mean much).

This is all irrelevant though, since by acknowledging that I’ve one or more similar experiences to the one the author describes, I am already admitting that I agree that such experiences exist.  I am not debating their existence.

What I disagree with is the interpretation of what it means about the human mind.

 
weird buffalo
 
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11 August 2021 22:19
 
unsmoked - 11 August 2021 12:46 PM

1.  When we consider the migration of Monarch butterflies,  (as one example), can we agree that we’re talking about instinct and not intelligence?

I think this distinction is not as clear as you would like it to be.  Human capacity for speech is just as much a part of the structure of our brain as is the monarch butterfly’s sense of direction.  We aren’t just evolved to be capable of speaking, we are evolved to use it as major form of communication as part of our evolution as a social species.  I would agree that the instinctual compulsion to speak to an infant (who is incapable of speaking words back) is less compulsive than the direction a butterfly flies, but speech is so central to how we function that unless we are incapable or nearly incapable of it (ie, someone who is deaf) it’s almost automatic.

The structure of how we think is determined by biology, just like how a butterfly knows which way north/south is.  Many details of what we think are culturally determined, but the overarching how is biology.

 
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11 August 2021 22:28
 
burt - 11 August 2021 09:26 AM

On one side are those who claim, as you do, that different religious experiences are contradictory and can only be understood in terms of the conditioning effect of religious training so that Muslims have Islamic experiences, Hindus have Hindu experiences, and so on.

This was not my argument or point.

If we consider a subjective report of a mental state to be sufficient evidence to consider that an otherwise undetectable phenomena is real (ie, the linked chapter from the previous page is reporting a real phenomenon of a mind behind our mind), then we would also need to conclude that any report from a religious person about their religion is also true.

D.E. Harding reports that he had an experience of a separate consciousness from his body.
Person A reports that the felt God’s love while praying.
Person B reports the memory of being on an alien spaceship and being probed.

If Harding’s report is sufficient evidence that his experience is true, then Person A and Person B reports must also be considered true.  My point is not about what these experiences are, my point is about the standards of evidence we are accepting in order to build our framework of what is and isn’t possible.

I do not doubt that Harding had his experience (in the other post, I concede I’ve had similar experiences, and so therefore I am confirming that such experiences do exist and I’ve had at least one).  What I doubt is his explanation for it, and I contend that the experience itself should not be considered self-confirming, because if we consider it self-confirming, then we would also have to accept all religious experiences and alien abduction stories as also self-confirming.  And since religious experiences from different people can be contradictory, we can already reasonably conclude that treating self-reported experiences as self-confirming is a false methodology of determining what is true.

 
burt
 
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11 August 2021 23:20
 
weird buffalo - 11 August 2021 10:28 PM
burt - 11 August 2021 09:26 AM

On one side are those who claim, as you do, that different religious experiences are contradictory and can only be understood in terms of the conditioning effect of religious training so that Muslims have Islamic experiences, Hindus have Hindu experiences, and so on.

This was not my argument or point.

If we consider a subjective report of a mental state to be sufficient evidence to consider that an otherwise undetectable phenomena is real (ie, the linked chapter from the previous page is reporting a real phenomenon of a mind behind our mind), then we would also need to conclude that any report from a religious person about their religion is also true.

D.E. Harding reports that he had an experience of a separate consciousness from his body.
Person A reports that the felt God’s love while praying.
Person B reports the memory of being on an alien spaceship and being probed.

If Harding’s report is sufficient evidence that his experience is true, then Person A and Person B reports must also be considered true.  My point is not about what these experiences are, my point is about the standards of evidence we are accepting in order to build our framework of what is and isn’t possible.

I do not doubt that Harding had his experience (in the other post, I concede I’ve had similar experiences, and so therefore I am confirming that such experiences do exist and I’ve had at least one).  What I doubt is his explanation for it, and I contend that the experience itself should not be considered self-confirming, because if we consider it self-confirming, then we would also have to accept all religious experiences and alien abduction stories as also self-confirming.  And since religious experiences from different people can be contradictory, we can already reasonably conclude that treating self-reported experiences as self-confirming is a false methodology of determining what is true.

Well, yes. That’s what I said. Your interpretation is one view of things. As I see it that view leaves you with lots of open questions that can’t really be answered other than saying “the brain did it” (or “the drugs did it” or “the social conditioning did it”). That’s not much different than BM saying that God did it. If I say that it’s a matter of the brain entering a state in which the self-structure is held in abeyance. What that offers is an explanation that (a) suggests consciousness is not an emergent of the brain, rather than brain experiences aspects of it; (b) asks the question of what is the structure of the self; and, (c) asks whether access to this non-self state (or other states) might have value.

 
weird buffalo
 
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12 August 2021 07:45
 
burt - 11 August 2021 11:20 PM
weird buffalo - 11 August 2021 10:28 PM
burt - 11 August 2021 09:26 AM

On one side are those who claim, as you do, that different religious experiences are contradictory and can only be understood in terms of the conditioning effect of religious training so that Muslims have Islamic experiences, Hindus have Hindu experiences, and so on.

This was not my argument or point.

If we consider a subjective report of a mental state to be sufficient evidence to consider that an otherwise undetectable phenomena is real (ie, the linked chapter from the previous page is reporting a real phenomenon of a mind behind our mind), then we would also need to conclude that any report from a religious person about their religion is also true.

D.E. Harding reports that he had an experience of a separate consciousness from his body.
Person A reports that the felt God’s love while praying.
Person B reports the memory of being on an alien spaceship and being probed.

If Harding’s report is sufficient evidence that his experience is true, then Person A and Person B reports must also be considered true.  My point is not about what these experiences are, my point is about the standards of evidence we are accepting in order to build our framework of what is and isn’t possible.

I do not doubt that Harding had his experience (in the other post, I concede I’ve had similar experiences, and so therefore I am confirming that such experiences do exist and I’ve had at least one).  What I doubt is his explanation for it, and I contend that the experience itself should not be considered self-confirming, because if we consider it self-confirming, then we would also have to accept all religious experiences and alien abduction stories as also self-confirming.  And since religious experiences from different people can be contradictory, we can already reasonably conclude that treating self-reported experiences as self-confirming is a false methodology of determining what is true.

Well, yes. That’s what I said. Your interpretation is one view of things. As I see it that view leaves you with lots of open questions that can’t really be answered other than saying “the brain did it” (or “the drugs did it” or “the social conditioning did it”). That’s not much different than BM saying that God did it. If I say that it’s a matter of the brain entering a state in which the self-structure is held in abeyance. What that offers is an explanation that (a) suggests consciousness is not an emergent of the brain, rather than brain experiences aspects of it; (b) asks the question of what is the structure of the self; and, (c) asks whether access to this non-self state (or other states) might have value.

No, it isn’t what I said.  You are moving forward with the argument to a place that I haven’t gone yet.  I did not offer an explanation for anything in that post.  I was pointing out a flaw in the standards of evidence that you are using.  I was pointing out a flaw in the epistemology that concluded something beyond the structure of the brain existed.

I’m assuming that we both agree brains exist.  If we open up someone’s skull, we will find a lump of matter that we refer to as a “brain”.
You want to go one step further and propose that something else also exists.  As I see it right now, the only evidence being presented is that people sometimes report a feeling. (and I agree, those reports and feelings do exist)

My point above, is if we use reports of feelings as evidence, then we are suddenly open to accepting many, many, many claims.

I am not like BM in this situation.  You are.  You are both telling me that you have experienced something.  This something cannot be demonstrated though.  If our epistemology tells us that we should accept these reports as accurate and valid, then we must also accept BM’s claim that God is real is just as true as your claim that there is a mind beyond the brain.  You cannot invalidate BM’s claim by just saying that he’s experiencing the thing you are claiming.  You have to accept BM’s claim as equally valid in all its parts as your claim.  Your experience cannot be used as evidence of whether his claim is valid or not, they have to be evaluated independently.  I am pointing out that your method of evaluating claims is flawed.

 
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12 August 2021 11:17
 

A thousand years ago Zen master Foyan told an assembly, “You should become aware of the nondiscriminating mind without leaving the discriminating mind, become aware of that which has no perception without leaving perception.”

Thoreau was aware of Eastern philosophy.  I’m guessing that one way he experienced the quiet mind without leaving the normal mind is suggested in his remark, “Sometimes I think I could rest in the palm of God like a field stone and let it all go by like a torrent.”  (for a short time at least, take a ‘mental time out’ and rest the brain).  The value of doing this should be as obvious as the value of taking any kind of break from physical or mental tasks.  I’m guessing Einstein had insights when he was away from the blackboard . . . . folding an umbrella or something.

“When the hands are busy the mind is free.”  https://www.khou.com/article/features/the-connection-between-busy-hands-and-brain-chemistry/285-585762582

 
 
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12 August 2021 12:01
 

Burt, you’ve frequently expressed concern about the error of presentism, and you’ve strived to protect your students from its logical inconsistencies. Has your opinion on the matter changed recently?

 
 
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