The worst thing about the humanities

The worst thing about the humanities is so many of our insights and discoveries are used to harm people, manipulate them, propagandize them.

Another bad thing is the open, confessional, and exploratory styles of artists too often are used against them by gaslighters, scammers, back-biters.

If we cannot even allow artists and social scientists to speak openly, all of us suffer from the reduced culture that results.

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first posted on AUGUST 22, 2017

Consciousness as reality itself

In Buddhism the idea that consciousness is reality and reality is conscious is called “mind only” or Yogachara.

David Ray Griffin, a process theologian, has come to similar conclusions—that reality is fundamentally conscious.

As has Donald D. Hoffman, a professor of cognitive science at UC Irvine.

Hoffman came at this subject from a mathematical angle, but arrived at a similar conclusion to Yogachara Buddhism. Hoffman says:

As a conscious realist, I am postulating conscious experiences as ontological primitives, the most basic ingredients of the world. Iโ€™m claiming that experiences are the real coin of the realm. (The Case Against Reality)

I tend to reach similar conclusions when I think about everything in terms of signals.

The advantage of thinking in terms of signals is we get a good picture of “reality” without needing to say what is real beyond the signal itself.

This kind of thinking is helpful for metaphysics but it is also extremely practical when it comes to human psychology.

Rather than posit personality types and what goes wrong or right with them, we analyze how people send and receive signals instead.

In thinking along these lines, I have come to the conclusion that most psychology as most people understand it uses “arms-length” language, the language of meso and macro signals rather than the much more precise language of the micro signals that actually comprise our shared “realities.”

The difference can be illustrated in this way: Rather than explain your most recent signal (sent or received) in terms of personality, explain it by accessing the micro-signals of short-term memory to find its true antecedents.

If you do this again and again by using a game such as FIML, you will probably come to conclusions similar to the above—that there is no deeper substance to psychological reality than your consciousness of it. ย 

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first posted 08/05/17

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The danger of all identities

Recent revelations have exposed a secretive homosexual subculture within the Catholic Church.

(Cardinal McCarrick scandal inflames debate over gay priests)

Please completely ignore the homosexual part of that. Instead focus on the secret identity aspect of that.

Wherever there is group identity, there will be a subculture of people with dark personality traits who seek to and often succeed in taking it over or subverting it.

To be brief, in the Catholic Church there is a subculture of homosexuals. Due to Church teachings this subculture became secret. And due to its secrecy, it became stronger and either contains a dark sub-subculture or has been taken over by a dark sub-subculture.

Ignore again the homosexual part, because the same thing will happen in all groups. Wherever there is group identity, there will be a subculture of people with dark personality traits who seek to and often succeed in taking it over or subverting it.

This must be true in Buddhist groups. And it must be true in governments, news media, spy agencies, charities, ethnic groups, religious groups, ideological groups, schools and universities.

The older and larger the group, the more likely it is that a dark subculture is parasitizing it.

Group identity is the deluded human ego writ large. This dark tendency resides in all humans without exception.

The human spirit, soul, mind, mind-stream, bhavanga, pudgala—call it what you will—exists within a haze of moral ambiguity. It wallows in it, lives and breathes in it, forms its passions within it, and can barely escape being destroyed by it.

There’s no way around this. Whatever you identify with will almost certainly lead to you being morally compromised if not destroyed. And it will almost certainly lead to you furthering your identity group being morally compromised if not destroyed.

This process happens in groups and individuals. It must be constantly guarded against.

This is the reason we all need to do FIML practice. You cannot possibly be honest with yourself without the help of another person. There is no way around this fact.

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EDIT 9:00 AM 08/20/18: I wish that was all there is to it. A deeper level is even if you solve your problem and your group’s problem with dark tendencies, you will still have problems with other groups who have not solved their problems. Thus, all of us must overcome our own dark tendencies—both individual and group—and also guard against the dark tendencies of other groups and individuals.

Take the Church as an example. I am sure most priests are not part of the dark group of sexual predators. But I am also sure that they did not stop that dark group from acting on its dark tendencies, harming thousands of children and undermining the Church.

Take American universities as another example. In light of the above, isn’t it clear that dark groups of left-wing ideologues have taken them over almost completely? How else did we come to have higher education crippled by slavish adherence to a single point of view? Notice homosexuality has nothing to do with this. It is an ideological darkness.

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first posted AUGUST 20, 2018

The invented God argument

The invented God argument is similar to the simulation argument, but does not have to be earth-based or limited to historical sims.

Our universe is some 13.2 billion years old. Somewhere in that universe, maybe within our own galaxy, there likely is at least one civilization with technological capabilities that are many millions of years more advanced than ours.

A civilization of that type would be something like a Type V or beyond civilization. Their powers would be God-like. We may be part of their “world” or they might be us far in the future, able to reach back to us now.

In this sense, even a strong atheist is forced to admit that there may indeed be God, gods, higher realms, divine intervention, immortality, heavens, hells, reincarnation, karma, ghosts, visions, divine forgiveness, divine laughter, effective prayer, and so on.

The Buddhist tradition has six realms, billions of world-systems and Buddhas, Buddhas and bodhisattvas with “supernatural” powers, Dharma protectors, demons, rebirth, enlightenment, karma, and much more.

The usual way Buddhism is understood today by “educated” people is little if any of that stuff is true; it’s just the beliefs and superstitions of people of yore that have accreted to the tradition or that were used by the Buddha (who thought like us, of course) to make his points to “uneducated” audiences.

The invented God argument could also be called the invented Buddha argument or anything else that pushes the limits of our imaginations. I take this argument seriously and find it well-worth contemplating as doing that forces us to shift off the narrow seat of materialist/physicalist complacency and the fake sense of certainty that goes with it.

I don’t think we need to buy everything in every religious tradition from the past, but we can with little effort today see that the real state of our universe and our knowledge is complex and that we do not know its limits. Why wouldn’t having a pure mind, a developed moral sense, openness to visionary insight and higher realms be valuable skills?

One of the best Buddhist sayings, which I heard from Master Hsing Yun some years ago, is simply “make your mind bigger.” This saying can be applied to any problem, including the problem of unnecessarily narrowing our understanding of where we are and what is going on here.

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To vent or not to vent?

Venting is a common concept in American English.

It is a metaphorical word connoting other metaphors with similar meanings: blowing off steam, getting something off your chest, getting something out, getting it out there, clearing the air, etc.

I think it would be much better if we greatly demoted these small metaphors and replaced them with plain speech, such as: I want to speak about something with you and hope you will listen to me and provide some feedback.

Speech is sacred. Speaking honestly to someone who listens honestly is always transformative. Our common metaphors for needing or wanting to speak with someone too often obscure the beauty and profound potential of these important speech acts.

Another distantly related point to this is all the deconstructing going on right now in American society.

What I want to say to you about this is simply: any technique used to deconstruct America can very easily be used against any society anywhere in the world during any period of time.

All groups can be deconstructed easily because all groups are fundamentally simple. They are lowest-common-denominator communication systems shared by their members.

A little deconstructing and intelligent analyzing can be good, but too much is destructive. It’s much easier to destroy something than build it. And building new or better things does not always mean destroying established things first; in fact that approach rarely works.

Personality disorders and signaling

In my opinion, “personality disorders” are more easily understood as signaling problems.

All types of personality disorder involve dysfunctional signaling with other people. Signals are both sent and received in ways that result in suffering.

As currently defined, personality disorders “develop early, are inflexible, and are associated with significant distress or disability.”

Thus, if there are no significant brain injuries or other biological problems, all personality disorders (PD) develop through experience.

This means that during childhood the PD sufferer has received many bad signals (and/or interpreted many signals badly) resulting in their failing to form a coherent well-functioning internal signaling system.

The way to fix this is work with the signals. And the best way to do this is FIML practice. A professional psychotherapist cannot possibly provide this level of treatment.

This brings me to a second point: is there anyone who would not benefit from improving their signaling?

Why do we view psychotherapy as treatment designed merely to make us look and feel “average”? Why don’t we instead work to optimize our psychologies every day?

The Buddha said we are all crazy. We are. We all need to work on our signaling—our personality disorders—all the time.

The distinctions between one PD and another and those who have PDs and those who don’t are vague. This is because all PD problems (absent significant biological deficits, which may include intelligence) are idiosyncratic varieties of signaling malfunctions.

If signaling is the core problem, it should follow that all acquired PD will be classifiable as some kind of signaling malfunction. And that is precisely what we see.

Narcissism is a too simple signaling system. Borderline is an unstable signaling system. Compulsive, passive aggressive, histrionic, avoidant, and so on all are variations of a poorly formed internal signaling system.

The way to study this is through interpersonal semiotics; that is interpersonal semiotic analysis of real-time, real-world communicative signs and symbols.

All people need to do this to optimize their psychologies (their internal signaling systems). Why would anyone not want to do this? Maybe not wanting to do this is the surest sign of PD there is.

The hardest part about doing FIML is finding a willing and able partner. To me, this shows how pervasive bad signaling is. Most people will do almost anything but examine their own signaling with the help of another person.

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first posted

Dangerous times, dangerous thoughts, dangerous acts

This fictional exercise appeared over three years ago but it rings even truer today. We are living in dangerous times. We’ve seen what China has done. We know what Antifa is doing. Here’s something else that might happen.

“Seven”.
The earpiece crackled in Jake’s ear from one of the handheld radios they were each tuned to. They’d picked up a couple of dozen surplused Motorola LE-only encrypted radios on eBay, and after a lot of work, Gene had programmed them all to use a normally unused simplex channel reserved for the authorities for tonight. All anyone else would hear was a brief bit of static with the factory encryption, but they still stuck to brevity codes.
Jake calmed himself. He knew the signs of buck fever, and he took a few moments to stretch his whole body, starting with his toes, and ending with his fingers. It wouldn’t be long now, and he didn’t want to be fighting adrenaline when the moment came.
The van he was in was non-descript. It was the twin of one belonging to a local business the next city over, and the plates on it would be back in the morning, with any luck at all. Inside was dark and quiet, but he could already hear the noise of the protesters as they moved down the main street, closing at the speed of a 6000-footed caterpillar, fueled by youthful exuberance, and a healthy amount of stupidity. Well, they were about to get a lot more education than what they’d gotten at U Cal, and he was happy to be a teaching assistant tonight.
He focused on the intersection, and checked over his gear one last time inside the darkened vehicle, as the sounds of yet another leftist temper tantrum grew louder by the moment. (Tomorrow)