09-14-06 11:11S&M

Victoria: I was wondering if and how kinky sex fits into a spiritual path. Can S&M be spiritual?

It is when I wish it to be.

Victoria: When I showed you a quote from my favorite bit of S&M literature, you said the author seemed "trapped by preconceptions of what he has to be and playing out the same old song, and unable to see beyond simple pain into actual power and dominance." Can you elaborate on this?

Used well, pain and its threat or denial is just a tool to create the specific effects you wish to create (endorphin release, submission, anticipation, whatever). But, if one gets too caught up in it, it becomes the end instead of one of the means. Then it is just an addiction and one surrenders control to the need for its constant satisfaction. Like any such destructive addiction, it degrades the user and the actual satisfaction becomes more and more difficult to actually achieve.

The person in the story sounds like one who has let his needs subvert his will. It has become just about pain and that is never enough. He would do well to consider the works of Epicures. While he wrote in terms of pleasure, it really has application to any transient stimulation. Also, he would do well to understand the buddhist teachings on suffering. What you know how to alleviate, you also know how to create.

As it stands he is trapped in just the way that Marx describes. The "master" is bound to the "slave" and wholly trapped in the mutual dependence of the relationship. The "master" may enjoy more benefits, but only by sacrificing his own freedom.

Thus, in wanting to cause pain he is trapped by his submission to his own desire. In wanting slaves he gives them power and sacrifices his own freedom.

Actual mastery of this sort is only achieved when it is not desired.

Victoria: So, I take this to mean that you do engage in a bit of S&M.

When I care to.

Victoria: Do you, personally, use pain et.al. to create the specific effects you wish to create?

Of course.

Victoria: If so, a) what are those effects?

It varies with the context and could be just about anything: good behavior, sharpened attention, obedience, submission, the exercise of a whim.

Victoria: b) do you desire to create them?

Pain itself holds no real interest for me except as an aspect of consciousness. The effects can be fun as an occasional whim, but I don't find them particularly compelling.

Victoria: and c) if not, why do you do it?

Because I can and sometimes because I care to favor one who asks nicely.

You forgot: why do you not do it?

Because I can and sometimes because I don't care to favor one who asks nicely.

Busybody: One of my chief concerns about S&M is that it's not really a conscious choice, but rather driven by impulses to recreate past trauma or mistreatment, and an extension of dysfunction...

It really depends on the people. Neither of us have those issues in our past.

Trauma, pain and other things of that nature release endorphins which like their opiate brethren are highly addictive. If one over indulges there is a price. If on top of that one reinforces poor behaviors, then it can become a mess rather quickly.

Busybody: For me personally, I prefer any roughness to be a form of play, and if its gets much more serious than that, it kinda creeps me out. Am I in denial? Am I missing something?

Different people have different tastes. You are not missing anything if that is what you/both enjoy. You and your partner benefit most from knowing and being true to you and your partner, first and foremost.

My sweety enjoys knowing there is the edge of reality behind the play.

09-13-06 9:11Time

Ken: Have you ever experienced timelessness? What is time, anyway, and how does it relate to the feeling of timelessness? How does entropy fit in?

Just like I find it is easier to think of gravity in terms of acceleration, I find it is easier to think of time in terms of motion. Also, as matter-energy form a diad, so time-space form a diad.

So, time can be thought of as motion through space.

Ken: But, isn't time just a bunch of perceptions compounded?

It is an error to confuse what is being perceived with the perception itself.
Thus I would say we perceive certain aspects of time in a number of ways.

Entropy happens in time, but it is an effect of matter and energy.

I don't claim any of this is any thing other than subjective and non-literal metaphor, but that's about the best I can do in terms of description.

I have experienced two kinds of timelessness.

The first I can best describe as a sense that the universe happens all at once, repeatedly, and we only seem to have time as we move along. The timelessness comes from slipping slightly to the side a bit so as to get a view of the entirety for a moment. Or to use a different metaphor. We have only this life, but we have it always. We experience it temporally on one axis, but we live and relive it along a perpendicular axis which can occasionally be used to step look out from to glimpse the whole without the normal temporal frame.

The second is more accurately called time stop. It was a complete stepping outside the normal experience of time. Clocks did not progress. There was no sense of time passing. It was extremely disturbing as entire eternities passed by yet there was but a single instant. Still once over the initial shock, it is an interesting experience. Words are inherently time biased so I'm not sure I can convey more than that.

Ken: Thanks for describing your experience. Scientifically, though, I'm not sure how these relate: matter, energy, time and entropy.

Generally it breaks out as "matter/energy - space/time", or MEST. All four interrelate and effect each other, especially under high acceleration (like near black holes) and at high velocity aka approaching c (the speed of light).

*Grossly* over-simplified: matter is what, energy is how, space is where and time is when.

Entropy is -how- matter disorganizes.

09-13-06 2:12Gas

Ron: Here's my question: Gas in the Zendo - whattaya do about it?


Martin: I just sit and fart alot anyhow. Is that a practice? Some kinda religion? I have no faith!

Faith is for people who don't have gas.

09-12-06 2:12Emergency

Claude: I made a mistake! It was stupid, but I didn't stop to think - I thought it was an emergency. How can I avoid this in the future?

Here is my rule for emergencies, peril, etc.

If it doesn't involve blood and immediate threat to life and limb, it is not actually an emergency and there is no real peril.

If you can grok that, your level of stress will never get out of hand and you'll have a cool head as life and unpleasant people try to inconvenience you.

No blood or immediate threat to life and limb? No sweat, no pressure.

Take the time you need to make better decisions.

09-12-06 9:13Psychosis vs. Spiritual Awakening

Lila: I think that what some people consider a psychotic break is really an experience of spiritual awakening. What's your take on this?

I would say they are not equivalent by any stretch of the imagination.

Lila: Oh, just try harder. I'm sure you can do it with some effort.

Why would I want to try harder to pretend what is not the same is the same?

Lila: Because it's like a Venn diagram...there are *huge* overlaps, and it can be exceedingly helpful to understand this.

Venn diagrams are for highlighting both similarities and dissimilarities, but that doesn't mean the things examined are necessarily the same or even similar.

If you have such an examination stop beating around the bush and lay it out.

After all, they all involve non-ordinary states of consciousness. But that is like saying all paintings involve paint. There even are some relevant similarities, but that doesn't mean that equating them was in any way justified.

Lila: Oh yeah? This article shows a link:

Article Linking Psychosis with Spiritual Awakening

I will give you one *personal* bit of advice though: If you ever get any kind of sense that this is happening to you, be *exceedingly* careful about the words you choose to express yourself to others.

Feel free to reject the comparison offhand, but recognize that you do so at your own potential peril.

Ooo! Peril. Very scary.

I find it interesting that the article author feels the subject has not progressed much past James and she quotes Grof, while scoffing at psychedelics.

James was a big nitrous oxide fan you know, a direct link to god he said. Grof was one of the top LSD researchers and still enjoys a bit of mind expansion.

I've no doubt this author has experience treating psychosis and has studied it and even studied spirituality to some degree, but I don't get the feeling she has directly experienced it, or has directly experienced a spiritual awakening.

Sailor: I agree, I find this link to lack much substance, despite being by a psychiatrist. Why do you suppose that is?

These are topics which demand a personal experience to fully plumb the depth of them.

Sugar and salt look like they have a lot of similarities, until you actually taste them. Then you know that despite the apparent superficial similarities, their personal effects are diametrically opposed.

This author has treated psychosis and studied spiritual awakening, but I get no sense that she has tasted them and so what she offers is unsatisfying.

James, Grof, even Laing actually took a taste and so what they have to say on the subject is, as she intimates, at a level she has yet to catch up to.

Lila: I still say you need to know what others think about this kind of thing, and be especially careful what you say to mental health professionals. Peril, I tell ya, Peril!

Now that is interesting advice. What did you let slip?

Lila: Ohhhh, all *sorts* of things.

This is a piece of advice that I wish I would have been given at least, oh, say, two years ago, though I doubt I would have taken it.

There are two kinds of learning: the hard way and from others. Only the first of those is applicable to certain experiences, particularly the first time through.

I doubt you would have taken it at the time too. It is the experience you had which has opened up the possiblility that you could receive such advice.

So here is some honest advice. You have jumped to conclusions which cannot be supported based on preconceptions given to you by people who are not personally experienced. In other words, you were told to look for something, directly or indirectly, and you found something, then you concluded that what you found is what you were looking for.

These sorts of experiences are malliable. They are willing to conform to a degree with what you ask of them or what you need from them, but in doing so they form a "gate" of desire and satisfaction which you "stop" at.

But if you can enter them without preconceptions or needs, it is possible to "pass through" to an "otherside." My sweety calls it the "no words place" but its as easily the "no ideas place" the "no place place," etc. It is worth checking out, but of course even what I've said here is creating preconceptions and needs so please disregard it as well.

Lila: At the time, I knew virtually nothing of the "symptoms" of any of them or of how these things are thought of/related/equated/compared/contrasted/dealt with by the populace in general, scholors/philosophers/theologists, psychiatrists, etc. Let's say that I was "undereducated." To my own personal peril.

Ye have been warned.

I am flattered that you are concerned enough to warn me.

I did not enter into the stream unaware as you seem to have. This is a topic I have been interested in, experienced and studied from multiple perspectives since high school, 30 odd years ago.

Here is a second piece of advice. I know the social sting of whatever your faux pas was still smarts, but if you walk the path you cannot let the threat of peril do more than advise you. One of the fundimental conditions which changes is what you value and what you fear. What seems like peril in the begining may come to seem trivial. What you may have dismissed originally may come to be seen as a great loss.

Lila: You say, "What seems like peril in the begining may come to seem trivial."

True, 'dat.

My original experience happened in '81. It was so wonderful I gave my car away and got a nice rep for being a bit eccentric. Ah, the joys of "peril."

09-11-06 9:12Satori

Kelly: People were saying that athiests don't have spiritual experiences. Actually, I think that very few atheists or theists have these kinds of experiences. Most theists are delusional and brainwashed, and many atheists are so busy recovering from such inculcation that they throw the baby out with the bathwater. What do you think?

If you mean satori, then few people of any kind fully achieve it, though it would seem the atheists lead in this particular experience since Zen is non-theistic.

But as far a perceptions go there is no reason to believe that one side has perceptions the other doesn't. The difference seems to lie in what is done with those perceptions.

Kelly: Why do you say athiests lead at satori?

Satori is specifically the end result of pursuing zen meditation.

Zen is a non-theistic tradition.

Kelly: A measurement / detection index of satori-experiences would be an interesting thing to peruse.

You could contact various Zendos and discuss the matter.

Traditionally one must satisfy oneself and one's master, then one must travel to other masters and satisfy them as well.
Detection is traditionally only fully possible by another who has already passed through and even then it can be difficult, hence the double-checking.

Kelly: The method by which satori-experiences were defined as separate from other mental / physiological states would be highly interesting to examine.

Alas, satori cannot be defined as seperate from other mental / physiological states and it cannot be laid out for you to examine.

You either do it yourself, or you peer through the glass darkly.

Kelly: So if the state of the end result of pursuing zen meditation is achieved in a way other than through pursuing zen meditation, it is, by definition, not satori?

That is a difficult question to answer. On the one hand, if two painters pursue their works and achieve mastery, then they can each paint a masterpiece. Each masterpiece is unique to the artist, but artists who learn together often share stylistic similarities and can be reasonably grouped in particular schools of painting, such as the impressionists or the cubists.

Zen and satori are part of a particular school. Sufis are part of a different school. Tibeten lamas are yet another school which is more related to zen than to sufism. Each of these hope to awaken their practitioners, and each is noted for some success in doing just that.

But just as you would not call the masterpiece of an impressionist a cubistic miracle, calling the achievement of a sufi "satori" would be inappropriate.

Do these point to the same thing? I have seen evidence that they do and they don't. Perhaps the best answer is until you succeed in at least one yourself, it doesn't really matter for you.

09-11-06 9:11Proof of Perception

Enrika's Roomate: The topic was how some people can "percieve" God. You said to Enrika, "One can examine brain states in another in order to determine that *something* is being perceived."

As stated though, this is really an oversimplification that glosses over some potentially relevant issues.

It's one sentence, not a dissertation.

ER: Suppose that, in some kind of science fiction situation, you had continuous access to subject S's brain activity. Suppose, for example, that S is a Martian, and his brain is quite different from the brains of terrestrial animals. Suppose also that the *only* information you have about Martians is your detailed data about S's neural activity. From that alone, you can't even determine whether or not Martians can see or hear!

Suppose that we invent weird hypothetical impossible counter-examples. Sorry, but that is not impressive.

ER: If you didn't already know which areas of the brain are relevant...

But we do, so that particular weird hypothetical is useless. Also we aren't dealing with Martians, sheesh.

ER: There is a difference between perception and perceptual experience.

I did bring this point up when I mentioned schizophrenia and hallucinations. Activation of the centers of perception can result from things other than actual perceptual stimulation.

ER: In some cases, my sensory organs gather information and process it, all without my having a conscious perceptual *experience* of the information in question.

I didn't qualify the statement as having to be a conscious perception.

I'm well aware of blind sight and other mental oddities caused by brain damage. We were not discussing these issues and conscious perception was not the question.

ER: In other words, if you're dreaming, hallucinating, a brain in a vat, etc., then it only seems to you that you're perceiving, but in fact you are not. It only counts as perception (on this usage of the term) if it's really caused by a perceptible object in your environment that you are related to in the proper way, etc.

I completely disagree. It is quite possible to differentiate when a person is in the act of perceiving vs when they are in the act of imagining or remembering, as very different areas of the brain are active. Also, it was the act of perceiving which was in question, not perceiving a particular source such as the external world. Perceiving a dream or hallucination is actual perception of those internal stimuli and are just as valid as perceptions as perceptions of sensory stimuli for my purposes here.

ER: You also said, "I can have direct perceptual/sensory awareness of a rock and it is not hard to prove that to you, by say, dropping it on your foot."

It is certainly *logically* possible that we are all in the Matrix and, if so, my experience as of your dropping a rock on my foot is no proof at all that the rock is an actual object with which any of us have direct sensory contact.

First, it doesn't matter if we are "in the Matrix" since the Matrix is in the world and in a real sense, you are already in the matrix of your brain. What you "see" is not actually a picture of the world. It is a neural simulation based on the evaluation of photons hitting the eyes.

Further, dropping the rock on your foot is still proof of the rock's existence as an object. It just is an object in the matrix. It is still real as matrix code even if you think it is a rock. Everything is actual in this universe. All your delusions, hallucinations and illusions actually are something. They just aren't what you think they are. Patterns in your mind, heat waves, it all has a basis or there would be nothing to be confused about.

ER: Putting aside radically skeptical concerns like the Matrix, there are also problems of "local skepticism." The zebra case is a standard example:

I go to the zoo and I visually perceive some black-and-white striped animals of a horse-like shape in a pen labeled "ZEBRAS." Based on this, I am generally willing to assert things like "I see some zebras". The fact is, however, that I am not a zoologist or a field biologist, and I could not (under the circumstances described) tell the difference between zebras and cleverly painted mules.

Though unlikely, it is conceivably *possible* that an unscrupulous zookeeper is passing off painted mules as zebras, in which case I would not be perceiving what I think I'm perceiving. The fact that my (non-expert) friends also say, "Yep, those are zebras" doesn't help. My sneaking into the pen and touching one of the animals may not help either (provided the paint doesn't rub off!). Most people couldn't tell the difference, but most people nonetheless make and accept a perceptual claim like "I saw some zebras at the zoo today." I see we are delving back into bizarre hypotheticals. To cut to the chase, I am not requiring absolute certainty nor am I excluding the possibility of deception, self or otherwise. Due dilligence is required, and double-checking to arrive at 'good enough' is expected.

However, good enough is good enough and in the absence of "wet paint" signs on your zebras, I see no reason to get bogged down in absurd speculations about unknown malevolant entities playing tricks on us. Also, I am not making claims about the act of perception beyond its reasonable presence.

ER: Moving beyond fake zebras, we can imagine a bizarre situation in which almost *any* commonplace perception turns out to not really be what we thought it was. The "rock" you dropped on my foot could be a fake rock that someone made for a sculpture class!

Doesn't matter. "Rock" is just an arbitrary appelation any way. You may freely examine what impacted on your foot to attepmt to fully discern its true identity as you please, but in doing so you implicitly acknowledge that you perceived something.

ER: The point is simply this: "See it, feel it, drop it on your foot" is not *absolute* proof of anything. A perception-based belief about a nice concrete object *can* be overturned by a more theory-laden possibility.

Crying for *absolute* proof is just a dodge. Your sore foot will be proof enough for you to act on, and I bet you will ask me to stop based solely on that first example since my rocks tend to be extra heavy for troublesome people.

Trying to apply absolute proof to physical questions is an error of kind since absolute proof only applies to rational constructs. There is no absolute anything in the examining the physical world.

ER: Maybe I'm dreaming, or insane, or blah blah blah.

Since you aren't, maybe you'll get to a point?

ER: My point is, my experience of a rock being dropped on my foot may convince me that (a) the rock is a real object and (b) that *I* am in direct sensory contact with it. How does it prove to me that anyone *else* perceives the rock?

If you can't find other people and ask them, you have more problems than trying to perceive a rock and there isn't much point in bothering with you.

ER: Suppose the rock was dropped by a robot? Suppose dolphins... Suppose... Suppose a bee could drop a rock ... just like ... Surely ...

You really ought to get that fixed. But, if you can find a robot who passes the Turing test like you wish, then it would not be unreasonable to assume it perceives well enough for our purposes here.

ER: Even once I grant that a subject *has* perceptual abilities (of some sort or other), there are numerous complications regarding the existence and scope of various sensory modes.

That's mighty big of you to grant that a subject *has* perceptual abilities. There are zero complications regarding the existence and scope of various sensory modes because all they have to do is function.

ER: Conclusion: That perception is of an "actual object" simply does not mean the perception is shared by all or that proof is easy or trivial.

Actually the conclusion is that some people will try to obfuscate even the most trivial proofs. I'm not a bee. You aren't a dolphin. We aren't in the matrix. You aren't insane or hallucinating. My rock is an actual rock which any number of normal people can identify without effort as such, and I guarantee, or double your money back, that if I drop it on your foot under these very normal conditions, you will do some serious perceiving.

Hypothetical extrordinary and absurd counterclaims do not disprove anything.

ER: Here's a different sort of example. "By the prickling in my thumb, something wicked this way comes" sounds like -- and almost certainly is -- a silly old superstitious saying. When Joe says, "By the twinge in my bad leg, I know it's going to rain," his claim may appear, at first glance, equally silly. But it might not be!

However, Joe can't just shake his arthritic leg in front of others and say "See? Storm coming!" Proving that his perception is real will take some time and work.

Actually Joe can rely on the body of work concerning healed bone and changes in barometric pressure to set forth some nice supporting previous work. He can also have the bone density and structure examined, possibly revealing the pockets of air in question. And he can establish a nice chain of examples of noting changes in barometric pressure (as opposed to claims about storms which isn't actually what he is sensing).

If he was sensing god instead of barometric pressure, the god question would be settled pretty darn quick as far as reasonable people are concerned. Joe actually is sensing something real and it is readily apparent.

There are 34,000 sects of xtianity alone because no godder is actually sensing anything real.

09-10-06 9:11Not Dead

Billy: So I said, Everybody knows deep down that there is no afterlife. I was trying to connect to others through that. The actual 100% truth of the matter is that none of us knows for sure until we die!

If you are still knowing, you aren't actually dead.

Billy: That's a circular argument. If there really were an afterlife, it would mean continued experience no longer anchored to your body.

It would just mean that your body is not the seat of your life.
Experience and knowing are attributes of life.
If they are happening, you may not have a body, but you aren't actually dead in any meaningful use of the term.

Billy: If you want to define death as the absence of consciousness no matter what the anchor is, then that's your prerogative.

Feel free to improve on it if you wish, but it seems to be a good start.

Billy: It's not in line with most people's definition.

Actually it is in line with a large number of people's definition. You've perhaps heard of "brain dead?"

The absence of consciousness without hope of its return is dead, even if the body has not yet returned to the earth.

The presence of consciousness is alive, even if you aren't hanging out in a particular body.

09-10-06 9:10Problem of Evil

Krampus: We have discussed the Problem of Evil. Your claim that I treat "evil as a thing to be excluded" sounds like I treat rape, murder, kidnapping, and burying alive of a member of a protected class (children)...it sounds like you think I believe these acts are like olives (which I dislike) to be left off (excluded) a supreme pizza. I made no such implication.

I thought you had some philosophical training. If I was mistaken you have my apology.

The problem of evil is based on the presumptions that (evil exists) and (an all powerful good deity would not only be able to exclude or prevent evil from existing, s/he would be constrained by their nature to actually do so). In arguing for the problem of evil as a rational argument for disallowing the existence of such an all-powerful good deity, you cannot avoid holding that evil could and should be excluded from reality. "Like olives" is exactly the implication you suggest; otherwise your arguing for the problem of evil is moot. If you hold it is inherantly impossible to exclude evil from reality then complaining that a deity hasn't done it is just silly.

The bible/torah/koran and judeo-xtian-muslum faith is full of theological contradictions, but that is a whole other can of worms. We are specifically on the problem of evil argument, which I don't see as relating specifically with those contradictions. The problem of evil is a general purpose argument against the coexistence of evil and any all-powerful good deity. You use it to conclude against the deity, but I am saying that you have failed first and foremost to show that evil itself does exist.

Now perhaps I'm not presenting my position clearly enough, but it is hardly a novel position. It runs throughout western and eastern philosophy as a minority position usually held by mystics and such, though it is a standard position in buddhism. I find it quite odd that you seem not to be familiar with the notion that evil, like meaning, good and purpose are things which we create for our selves and they are not inherant properties of the reality around us. Because we create them at need to facilitate our understanding, there is nothing for your hypothetical deity to act on.

Evil is a judgement made by an intellegence apprehending its experience. It can only be removed by choosing not to bother making that judgement. The first problem of evil is that it, like deities, does not exist per se.

Krampus: What happened to Jessica is something more than a personal "dislike" or personal preference. That act is wrong, always, and forever--it is categorically wrong!!!!!

Acts are neither wrong nor right. They just are, like all else which is. Wrong and right are just how you happen to feel about them. Those states have no existence outside your mind.

Read more in the Archives.