Inside and Outside

Why does my mind matter more than my body? Why is it that it’s what’s inside that counts? Isn’t the shape and character of my face as much “me” as the trends and moods of my personality? Aren’t they each a symptom of the other? My personality is my reaction to the other faces I’ve come across. But I base my reactions on my own foundations. So a person’s idea of the world is never really their own because their personality is never really their own, as it’s just his reaction to other people’s behavior and expectations (to the collective karma). So a person’s idea of the world is never close to being concerned with any “actual world” that exists regardless of humanity and completely separate from it. Our ideas are always reactions to one another. We don’t care about the “actual world.” We care only about the world as we agree to it by reacting to one another’s spontaneous recreations of words and cultures past. We use a standardized alphabet to produce meaning by reassembly into various phonetic combinations. “I hear what you say” and “I understand what you mean” are not synonymous. I can hear what you say or read what you write without experiencing the image you are attempting to convey. I can just respond to the symbols with my own symbols, putting them in order like a game. Just a bunch of lines bent up by a mental blacksmith into swords we think defend us from the chaos of the universe. Only when you understand what I mean can you use the lines as a ladder with which you may climb up, or down, or through, or out of the boxed-in rationalities of your word-infested mind. Use this line to transcend this line. It is a reminder not to take these lines seriously; just listen to them and see where they take you. Don’t judge these words.

Originally posted Nov. 25th, 2006

Impersonal text for no one in particular

Talking out loud is tiring, it is inevitably personalizing. If I want to stick to impersonality,
it pays to write. Remaining faceless avoids the glare.

Spontaneously talking into a camera to post your face on the Internet is pornographic. It is pop-thought, public nudity, mass consciousness. It is confronting the superego and shouting spells at him hoping he will understand you. Why do I care, though? Did Jesus Christ beg His Father for forgiveness? No, He already knew His Father loved Him.

Yeah, it’s time to talk about God. You can only become an atheist by talking a lot about Him.

Is it fair to say science has not replaced God, just put him in the background, made him a little more unconscious? The monotheistic view is basically the political view, after all, the view of law and order, of higher and lower causes and their effects as measured through space and time. Those men who still think God lives in the sky wear a church robe, those who think He lives in the dirt wear a lab coat. But both believe in God, in the Law. Both are priests. Both are initiates. Both understand, or at least have access to, the hidden law. Whether it was handed down from above or is toiled over in the mud, the law is in charge!

As an atheist, I’m still living in my father’s dream.

I’m trying to talk the superego into loving me, trying to get me to accept him; but behind the scenes it’s also him trying to accept me. My dad is lying asleep on his bed dreaming about what life should be like for me, his unconscious avatar.

I’ve had glimpses of wholeness (emptiness) and love, but the Sun always rises in the morning (the Moon always sets at night). The contrast returns. Vision blurs, time becomes tangled, I am strung up: a puppet with a master, a gear in a machine, nothing but a ghost in my father’s memory of the future (reflection of the past).

My person (my ego) is talking about my biological father. The soul is talking about God.

This could be more pleading with God to let me into heaven, or it could be a continual emptying of karma into infinity. Either a massage for the ego, or a burning bush for the soul.

Am I trying to polish a mirror or open a wormhole?

Am I free to decide?

If I say yes, am I then determined to be free, or also free not to be? That’s what throws me off with this freedom v. determinism game. It seems that I am so free that I can choose determinism. I can decide to be predetermined. Plenty of people have convinced themselves of this, so I’m inclined to believe it takes the same kind of convincing to believe otherwise. There is a limited amount of evidence on each side, so choosing one requires a great deal of self-talk, of arguing with God, of trying to convince the law of your innocence while defending yourself from the guilt-producing freedom of your instincts.

What if neither convincingly pulls Humpty over one-way or the other, and he sits comfortably on the wall avoiding the fall into pieces?

If I tip one way and I am free, I forget I am determined, that my mind needs a body like light needs darkness, that without a pretext there is nothing to compel me to act, and I fall into pieces. Experience becomes split in two.

If I tip the other way and I am determined, I forget I am free to declare so, I think other than I say, and I fall into pieces. My mind has free thoughts but speaks determined words, and their friction ignites an unconscious.

How to avoid the fall? We can’t just not pick a side… we have to see that picking is impossible. But knowing (gnosis) what “impossible” means is a bit like untying an inter-dimensional knot. You need arms in both dimensions at once.

In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus says: “Split the stick, you will find me there”.

This reminds me of the Trinity. The Father and the Holy Ghost are God and Man, respectively. Jesus is the God-Man. He ties the dualism together completing the loop.

To TheModernMystic (YouTube)

TheModernMystic @


the gap has been leaped. 1st person and 3rd person are equally illusory. No “I” and no “it”. There is no single observer just like there is no single observed. In fact, there is no observer or observed at all, they are not two.

Thou art That.

I am It. No, not Matthew is It. “I” mean all “I”s, whatever the gap between Matthew and his experience is, that which every named person alive experiences, is It.

So have I leapt the gap, or has the river between the two sides dried up?

Is it that I walked across the gap which was a mirage, or is it rather that there is no time to go across at all?

What do we mean by “now”? Isn’t it the same thing we mean by “I”? We mean this, right here, right now that “I” experience. But if there is no “I” to experience any “now”,or rather if that stopping to say “now”, or to remember “time”, is itself what creates that experience of “I”, then, well, the gap has no time to be leapt.

Hm. Well strange thing is I now have no idea what has happened to the gap. I can still talk about what it supposedly is all day (and night), but i haven’t been able to pin it down with that technique quite yet. It isn’t one of the two poles that one uses to “make sense” whenever one attempts to describe something they’ve experienced by talking about it. It isn’t “I” or “It” that is really real, it isn’t mind or matter that ultimately decides our fate (or freedom). Those are all figures of speech.

The question I have been poorly trying to articulate up until now is this:

How can there be a describer separate from what is described?

Whenever we open our mouths and start vibrating words into intelligence (into rational sense that others agree with), it is absolutely necessary that “I”s and “It”s exist. Otherwise there is simply nothing to talk about, or at least nothing that would “make sense”.

“Sense,” or consciousness, is the appearance of dualism. The illusion of separateness. Without separateness, there is no one who talks and no one to talk to, there is no world to be sounded or word to be written.

Think about it: If you are not separate from the words you’re reading, you couldn’t possibly be able to understand them. The fact that you do “understand” them is purely an illusion, because WHO could it possibly be that is “understanding” anything? From what perspective does this “recognition” or “representation” occur from? Sure, it could be that we are just unconsciously trained to put phonemes and letters together to form coherent responses to the utterances we take in from outside, “coherence” being judged by the amount of emotional reward we receive from others while chatting.

But surely it doesn’t seem this way. Surely it seems like we really do KNOW what these words mean, we really are SURE (we directly “sense” it) what they are.

This assurance is an illusion. But the illusion is real, it occurs. Separateness exists when we speak, when we attempt to communicate (or think) using language. And language is not just English or French or German or Mandarin. Language is bird song. Language is gestural. Language is genetic. Language is atomic. Language amounts to the only real “difference” even between light and dark. But difference creates “sense”. Without dualism there is no meaning to anything, there is no leverage from which to lift a temporary “perspective of a world” (an “I” experiencing an “It”) out of the original eternal oneness.

But blah blah blah, that is not it either.

The gap is God, or God is in the gaps.

The gap is all there is, maybe that’s it.

The cloud of unknowing, that is where and what and when “we” are.

We exist nowhere as no one in no time.

But you must have understood those words I just used to describe what we are and felt that they had meaning… how does that happen?

Oh, I’m at it again.

The gap is God.

What do you think about this? Or rather, do you agree that you could not possibly think anything about it because YOU ARE IT. you can not move around about it, take a stance from beyond it, view it from outside and pronounce objectively that you’ve discovered the one true description of its essence.

Are you it? Is this all?

“Every now and then when `me thing` is being played with by the brain, `me thing` does something funny, loving or anything positive – it is `seen`, that being, just `me thing`, does not stop the fun and love and other positives.
Slowly one can learn to drop the `me-individual-ego-important-special-ness` and be more of `just a cog in a mega machine`.”

So is it that we shouldn’t think “we” are special, or that there is no “I” or anyone who could possibly be labeled special?

Humility is just as silly as hubris at the end of the day, isn’t it? They are both equally impossible.

They are emotions maybe. But who “has” them?

Is that feeling of there being a “haver” of feelings what goes away when we focus in on them?

Focus in on boredom and it disappears! Or does the focuser disappear?

“Individuals would have to be reprogrammed to see themselves as, not individuals, but as `things`.
It is a hard first step, but it does not need to be jumped up all at once.”

Programming scares me. I think the computer metaphor carries an illogical stowaway, or rather an implicit metaphysic involving a “receiver” of “code”, or an “I” that has “experiences”. Sure, we can describe everything a computer is by listing inputs and outputs (code) but that is not what the computer actually does. It actually transforms the consciousness of the humans who use it. Humans complete the loop that allows computers to be processors of “information”, rather than just empty meaningless digits.

Ah, what’t the point? I’m saying we are not code readers. We can’t be! Because there is no reader of any code! There is “code reading”, that I think I can safely say. But there is no one who reads code, and no code that is read by someone.

So we are not code readers. Does that mean we’re something more special? No. It’s all special. I and It. All of it, including “you” and “me”. It is all unique. Even more unique than one of a kind. It is not a kind among other kinds. It simply is what there is, and there is only one.

But so what? If we can’t reprogram people (because people aren’t people), then what do we do? If we can’t do anything because we don’t exist as free wills inside the body, or as mini-Sisyphuses who push around boulders, then what are we worried about? Or rather, who is it that is worried?

Let’s focus in on the worry.

Hmm… yes there is plenty of worrying going on. But who is worried? And who are they worried about?

If we’re going to talk about reprogramming people, we better start talking about God (ie, the programmer). There is no other voice that could undo human programming and replace it with angel programming.

But I’d rather not get into that discussion. Christianity has already got it wrapped up nice and tight, in knots as a matter of fact.

So I am suggesting that the computer metaphors go the way of the Jesus metaphors. And maybe also that the desire to save the world is impossible. It’s not that it can’t be done. It’s that there is no one to do it, no one to have it done to.

Or its already saved, if you don’t might the weight of the “specialness” this might imply. It’s probably much lighter if we don’t talk about it at all.

Ego trying to transcend Ego

Oh, I am dizzy from the never ending torment of chasing my own tail around and around and around. I feel deflated, not for any particular reason, but more so because I need a reason not to be.

Why spirituality? Why demand that existence be meaningful? Because it just feels so much better that way! For who? For me!

Yes, this is a self-emptying textual gesture. I am trying to get it all out on the table, trying to describe exactly what it is that has been eating me from the inside out. Will naming the monster remove it from my mind?

There are so many desires buzzing around in there (my mind)… I don’t even know which one to focus on first. I desire a more fulfilling social life. I desire a deep relationship with a significant other; I want to fall in love. I desire a clear career path, something I can devote my time and energy to without doubting myself, without second guessing my commitment to the cause. I desire real meaning, something I am growing increasingly unable to distill from the cloudy shit storm raging around me. And I’m not blaming others, not saying everyone else is the problem. I’m saying the world is growing increasingly unreal. It becomes harder every day to believe anything. It all seems to disappoint after further investigation. Endless surfaces, shiny packagings offering total fulfillment. But then you unwrap them and nothing is inside. Just more emptiness.

I’ve reached a point where I feel like I’ve heard it all before. I want help, yet I know I can only help myself. What a conundrum.

I could easily write another spiritual poem or feel good declaration of the ongoing awakening of consciousness, but it’d be a cover up, another fancy wrapper around a hollow core.

The core is hollow, there is no ego here. Suffering is an illusion created by attachment to something that doesn’t exist. Yes, I’ve read it all in many different words, written it all in many more. But still the experience of life does not seem to change. Time for a new approach? I’m open to suggestions.

Wittgenstein and Language

What is language? Wittgenstein’s early project was to define language in the terms most familiar to the Western tradition, running through Augustine up until Russell. His aim was to show that all philosophy consisted in defining the logical form of sentences. A certain proposition was thought to be isomorphic to a certain event in the world. When this isomorphism lined up (i.e., when the sentence referred to a real state of affairs in the world) then the sentence was true. This project, of course, rests on the basic assumption that the world is independent of the proposition (and presumably the being who proposes it). This separation between the world and its description (and describer) is what lead the early Wittgenstein to see language as a mirroring of the world’s pre-given state [i.e., as a sharing of its logical form, or an accurate depiction (picturing) of it]. In this sense, a true thought is a thought that logically matches an event that occurs in the world. Philosophy’s job was to analyze these thoughts and sentences to make sure they were expressed in their true logical form. The driving force behind this project was, quite simply, to end all philosophy.

As far as the early Wittgenstein was concerned, the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus was the solution to every philosophical problem. To get the book published, however, Wittgenstein needed to include an introduction to his work courtesy of the more popular Russell. Russell seemed convinced that Wittgenstein was a genius. Wittgenstein himself, on the other hand, remained skeptical that Russell even understood the book. Nonetheless, the book was published and Wittgenstein left philosophy to pursue a career as an elementary school teacher. Years latter, he came into contact with the Vienna Circle, an influential group of thinkers that had built themselves up around what they took to be the central tenets of the Tractatus: a) we get knowledge only from sensory experience, and b) we can accurately understand that experience only in terms of logical analysis. These maxims are based on the Tractatus’ characterization of language as being composed of simple atomistic statements referring to empirical truths discovered in the world, such as “It is raining,” or “The ground is wet.” Such linguistic atoms can then be built into meaningful molecules of propositional thought, such as the statement: “It is raining outside, therefore the ground is wet.” The building and clarification of such statements is, for the Circle, the goal of all logically sound philosophical discourse. Their goal was to usher in a new age of thought centered around scientific positivism and linguistic analysis. Their biggest target was metaphysics, both theological and existential. For the Circle, any statement about the world that did not make reference to some sensory state given by that world is meaningless (i.e., it is a pseudo-statement). They saw the struggle between metaphysics and positivism as identical to the one between an out-dated, childish religion and a mature, levelheaded science. One ought to face up, the Circle would say, to modern human existence, an existence in which a statement’s meaning referred to its logical accuracy in comparison to the objective world, rather than to its value in relation to some silent and unseen transcendental realm unreachable with analysis. Wittgenstein, however, thought his work had been misunderstood once again.

The whole purpose of the Tractatus, he would try to explain to the Circle, was to show the limits of philosophy and logical analysis. It was not, as the Circle saw it, to make such logical positivism the be all and end all of humanity’s understanding of itself; quite the contrary, it was to show that logic, objectivism, and any breed of universalizing philosophy was necessarily silent on issues concerning genuine human life. In the final pages of the Tractatus, Wittgenstein discusses what his supposedly complete picture of language and its relationship to the world leaves out. He begins by asserting that “all propositions are of equal value” (6.4) In other words, every true statement about the world is just as true as any other true statement about the world. None of them are in any way more important or more valuable than any others. He does so to set the stage for the actual point of the whole book, which is to substantiate the ethical to a sphere beyond anything logical positivism could ever swallow up into its methods of analysis. The ethical is the intuitive sense an existing individual has concerning what is most important about life. Wittgenstein did not think being such an ethical being was optional, as even the members of the Circle made a value judgment by assuming their method of investigation was the most important among all other methods. One cannot live without making ethical judgments. It is for this reason that Wittgenstein thought “the sense of the world must lie outside the world” (6.41). If all propositions are of equal value, and yet “there is a value which is of value” (i.e., a value which is important), then “it must lie outside the world.” It does indeed follow from this that “there can be no ethical propositions” (6.42), which the Circle certainly agreed with. However, Wittgenstein did not mean to say that ethics was therefore meaningless. His claim was that ethics only existed outside the world of objects known to empirical/logical investigation. It was one of those areas of human existence that Wittgenstein chose to remain relatively silent about in the more philosophically oriented Tractatus because he felt it was transcendent and therefore propositionally inexpressible. For Wittgenstein, the question of ethics was always intermingled with the question of religion, as both are equally transcendent in his view. He saw the question of religion as being essentially about personal identity and the notion of an immortal soul. “The temporal immortality of the human soul, that is to say, its eternal survival after death, is not only in no way guaranteed, but this assumption in the first place will not do for us what we always tried to make it do. Is a riddle solved by the fact that I survive forever? Is this eternal life not as enigmatic as our present one? The solution of the riddle of life in space and time lies outside space and time.” (6.4312). In other words, because it seems that our current temporal existence is no less mysterious than any supposed eternal existence would be, we can only suppose that the solution to the problem of life comes from another dimension entirely. This removes the problem of life from the set of logical problems that natural science might attempt to solve. It makes a question of life that positivism cannot even begin to answer because it transcends the world that positivism can make propositional claims about.

“How the world is, is completely indifferent for what is higher. God does not reveal himself in the world” (6.432). What is “higher” is what is important, what has value, what senses the world from outside the world. The religious, for Wittgenstein, has nothing to do with how the world is, but that it is. “The contemplation of the world from the view of eternity is its contemplation as a limited whole. The feeling that the world is a limited whole is the mystical feeling” (6.45). “We feel that even if all possible scientific questions be answered, the problems of life have still not been touched at all. Of course there is then no question left, and just this is the answer” (6.52). Wittgenstein has already defined the only proper and true use of language as being the logical picturing of the world. He then showed how the problem of life, of its meaning and value, does not fall within the world that can be so pictured. The problem of life is transcendent because its value is not equal to the value of all other logically definable propositions, but is somehow higher. But because it transcends the world, one cannot speak about it and make any sense because all language can refer meaningfully only to facts within the world. Therefore: “The right method of philosophy would be this: To say nothing except what can be said, i.e. the propositions of natural science, i.e. something that has nothing to do with philosophy: and then always, when someone else wished to say something metaphysical, to demonstrate to him that he had given no meaning to certain signs in his propositions. This method would be unsatisfying to the other-he would not have the feeling that we were teaching him philosophy-but it would be the only strictly correct method” (6.53). The other “would not have the feeling that we were teaching him philosophy” because there is an insincerity, a sophistry, about such a philosophical method. However, if philosophy is to leave behind its metaphysical past and come to terms with the empirical knowledge of science, it must let go of its otherworldly strivings and concentrate on logically mapping language to the facts of the world. This was Wittgenstein’s prescription for what he considered to be the disease of philosophy. He hoped it would also lead those who actually understood it to a solution to the problem of life, as “for an answer which cannot be expressed the question too cannot be expressed” (6.5). In other words, because science and philosophy are silent when it comes to the riddle of life, then there must not be any riddle to begin with. If there were, surely we would be able to answer it using their methods. “If a question can be put at all, then it can also be answered” (6.5). If we doubt that we understand the riddle of life, we do so only because we question our own existence. But no question can be posed that cannot be answered, as if the question itself is meaningful then the answer must be implied by its logical structure. That Wittgenstein would have preferred to remain silent about all of this we can infer from the final lines of the Tractatus: “My propositions are elucidatory in this way: he who understands me finally recognizes them as senseless, when he has climbed out through them, on them, over them. (He must so to speak throw away the ladder, after he has climbed up on it.) He must surmount these propositions; then he sees the world rightly” (6.54). He goes on to give what some might argue is the central thesis of the entire work: “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent” (7).

The Tractatus was motivated by the early Wittgenstein’s desire to lift the ethical, religious, and mystical spheres of life so far above the hands of science and positivist philosophy that none of their methods could ever, even in theory, touch them. He wanted to save the transcendent from those who might try to call it sheer nonsense by removing it from the world of objects that is supposed to make sense. In a way, he was attempting to beat the positivists at their own game by pointing out the meaningless nature of metaphysical statements better than even they could hope to do. However, he did so not to make the purpose of such statements insignificant, but to elevate them beyond the “lower” significance of language (where value comes only by virtue of mirroring a true state of affairs in the world) into the “higher” significance of life (where value is assigned by virtue of what is beautiful). In so doing, he separated language and life in an attempt to preserve the best of both. However, by giving up the possibility of making meaningful statements about life and demanding that we pass over it in silence, Wittgenstein may have done more harm than good. Truth (science, the “It” world) had the persuasive power of language on its side, and so it was much more intellectually convincing than the mere silence offered by the Beautiful (life, “I” world).

Wittgenstein realized his mistake in his later works, most notably Philosophical Investigations. He totally revamped his theory of language in order to give life back its linguistic sense. Instead of seeing meaning as the correct representation of the world, Wittgenstein realized that language was the very fabric of life itself. It’s meaning did not rest on the empirically verifiable facts of the physical world, but on the use it was put to in the every day conversations of people. If philosophy attempted to take language out of this context in order to find the underlying essence or logical structure of a phenomenon, it would only force the meaning of the words themselves to dissolve into uncertainty and confusion. Meaning emerges in the context of use, rather than logico-empirical designation. Our ability to communicate depends on the silent context of grammatical normativity, not the correspondence of our words to an independent world.

This new view of language makes it resemble what complex systems theorists call an emergent property. Our ability to speak, write, and think (in short, our ability to exist as a mind) seems to emerge from our simpler bodily skills into a domain all its own. To say that the mind is an emergent property is to say that it forms its own autopoietic totality. In other words, the mind enacts a world, and this mental world cannot be explained away by reference to lower autopoietic levels (such as the biological or physical levels). If we view the entire kosmos as a nested hierarchy, from matter, to body, to mind, we find that the physiosphere (matter) must make up the lowest rung on the ladder. That is to say, the physical universe composes the most fundamental, and therefore the simplest and most common, level on the hierarchy. Positivist empirical science progressed as quickly and triumphantly as it did precisely because its object of inquiry (the physical world) was the easiest to understand. Emerging out of this lowest level is the biosphere. To emerge means to transcend the prior level while still obeying its basic laws. So the biosphere does something more complex that the physiosphere could ever do on its own, but never does it contradict the laws of matter. Organisms begin to enact their own autopoietic domains, building on the laws of matter to create a higher level of complexity. In so doing, they swallow up the world of the physiosphere, so to speak, forever altering our understanding of what it means for the kosmos to exist as it does. Once life is taken into consideration, no purely reductionistic explanation will ever satisfy us. That organisms, made of nothing but atoms, are somehow “alive” proves that matter is not at all what the materialists would have us believe. And when we begin to consider the emergence of mind, we see that life, too, is not at all what we expected. With the mind we have an even more complex autopoietic system built atop both matter and body. It is this level of mind that gave rise to our linguistic ability, and we can see in the work of the early Wittgenstein that this higher ability was mixed up in a kind of level crossing with the lower, physical level. He believed that language (or the mind) can state (or think of) nothing but what it finds in the material world. This belief was based on the power of the empirical method of investigation, which had proved so valuable when applied to the world of matter. When applied to the mind, however, it begins to show its limits. Sensory empiricism does indeed reveal the hidden laws of the physical world, but when we try to explain our use of language based solely on sensory experience we end up turning it into a kind of calculus or measuring device. To say that the only correct use of language is to logically map the facts of the external world is to revoke the very sense from language, destroying the significance that is vital for a full, ethical life. Language is not merely a tool designed to describe the physical world, though it can be put to this use. Rather, it is the “house of being” as Heidegger put it. It forms the matrix of our cultural worldspace. It brings us into a domain far above the physical world where ideas, values, and meanings take on a life of their own.