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Dreamless Sleep

Our consciousness vanishes in dreamless sleep every night. It’s such a familiar experience that we pay no attention to the annihilation of our sentience. I imagine we experience death as the dreamless sleep from which we never awake to notice that time has passed and the world has gone on without our awareness.

All the earth is a grave and nothing escapes it,
nothing is so perfect that it does not descend to its tomb.
Rivers, rivulets, fountains and waters flow,
but never return to their joyful beginnings;
anxiously they hasten on the vast realms of the rain god.
As they widen their banks, they also fashion the sad urn of their burial.

Filled are the bowels of the earth
with pestilential dust once flesh and bone,
once animate bodies of man who sat upon thrones,
decided cases, presided in council, commanded armies,
conquered provinces, possessed treasure, destroyed temples,
exulted in their pride, majesty, fortune, praise and power.

Vanished are these glories, just as the fearful smoke vanishes
that belches forth from the infernal fires of Popocatepetl.
Nothing recalls them but the written pate.

(A poem purportedly written by Nezahualcoyotl, King of Texcoco)

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Cult of Personality

[Kullervo's thoughts about a personal god triggered some thoughts of my own which I left in a comment there. I also wanted to chronicle them here.]

I’m of two minds about the Divine these days.

My first thought is that God or Gods are an artifact of human consciousness. In this case, the Divine is an experience of an internal mental state like the experience of love, anger, or fear. God would then be intimately personal because each human consciousness holds its own God. When that human consciousness changes or ceases, so too does its God. The personal flavor of God is then rooted in his mirroring of our selves back to us. God then is created in the image of each human being, male or female created they Him, Her, or It.

Or perhaps the Divine represents a reality outside of our consciousness. Something outside of our heads causes our experiences of awe and connectedness. In this case it seems that to be a human conceit to believe that we are created in its image. We would seem to have the same relationship to God as everything else. If we are children of God, then so are the flies and fishes, the wind and rocks.

It seems that we project human personality onto the root of the world because we experience our world through the lens of a personality. I find it highly improbable that the source of all being resembles us in any great detail. Human beings are then no more or less special to God than everything else. We’re just one particular phenomenon at one tiny sliver of time on one inconsequentially small rock in the unfathomable, empty immensity of the universe. The universe spent billions of years without humanity. I doubt that it missed us. Someday, humanity will cease to exist as we know it. Either a worldwide catastrophe will wipe out all complex lifeforms or we’ll have evolved into something new. Will the universe miss us then? It is the height of athropocentrism to see human personality at the root of reality or to see ourselves as resembling it better.

In either case, there seems to be a real experience at the root of our belief in the Divine. We each experience it differently through the unique lenses of our selves. We’ve enshrined our experiences of whatever God is in various religions. The original purpose of religion might have been to collect and share all we knew about Divinity: what the experience was and how to trigger it. But religion has taken on a life of its own. Religion no longer serves just that purpose. By embellishing on the experience that started it all, we lose sight of what the Divine is and is not. Religion seems to be more of an impediment to experiencing the Divine than a help in many cases. In other words, we’ve entombed God in religion.

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I’m Objective, You’re Biased

The Situationist (one of my new favorite blogs) posted about our ability to judge our own bias relative to others’.

Because bias tends to occur non-consciously, searching for it in one’s explicit thoughts is a little like looking for one’s car in the refrigerator. In assessing other peoples’ bias, however, we tend to look at their behavior.

In other words, we overestimate our ability to judge the intentions of our own mind. We scan our conscious thoughts for bias even though bias is often unconscious and therefore opaque, even to ourselves. We don’t know ourselves as well as we think.

People’s willingness to recognize their own biases is, of course, an important first step in prompting them to correct for and overcome those influences. Once people are able to recognize that they can be biased without knowing it, perhaps they can stop relying on their good intentions and introspectively clean consciences for evidence of their own freedom from biases that range from corrupt, to discriminatory, to unfairly conflictual behavior. From that more humble starting point, they may be more open to engaging in efforts to rid themselves of their own biases and to understanding how others can be biased without knowing it. Such efforts are not just scientifically sensible, they are socially wise.

So there is hope.

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The Doors

What if I told you that there was a medicine which could alleviate the fear of death in terminally ill patients? A medicine which could put us in touch with the transcendent?

It was like I traveled into myself and broke through to the other side, and I was in the presence of God. I was in communion with all that ever could be, and experienced love beyond measure. I experienced a person loving me. Being love. Being all. Total peace. The end of all fear. Eternal joy. I was in union with an infinite person who had nothing but perfect love for me and in whom I was in union and it was ALL, capital A, double L…

The man who had that experience later became a Catholic priest in part because of that experience. He wrote that letter describing his experience to Huston Smith, author of Cleansing the Doors of Perception. This man had taken a dose of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD).

Trust the Canadians to produce an even-keeled documentary about this demonized drug. The documentary includes interviews of many of the early players in LSD’s history.

The History Channel has also done a documentary on LSD:

I’ve never dropped acid, but I’m left with the impression that it has tremendous potential that isn’t tapped by its current casual use.

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Alan Watts: I

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