Thursday, 31 March 2011


I have nothing to say
I am saying it
and that is poetry

Saturday, 26 March 2011


I was thinking about thinking while in the shower this morning. Specifically 'magical thinking'.
Most sceptics dismiss magical thinking as a part of our evolutionary heritage which is no longer useful to us and leads to errors and superstition.
So, I thought, yes maybe that is the case, but outside of science & research maybe there is a place for it in art, or of our subjective experience, so long as we remember what it is and how it works.
After all, you wouldn't want someone engaged in designing a computer program, circuit board, or drug to fight cancer to engage in magical thinking, would you? Well... once I thought of that I thought of Einstein, whose first notions behind Relativity came from daydreaming about riding along on a light wave. There are many other breakthroughs in many sciences which came not from logical deduction or reasoning, but from intuitive leaps.
Maybe there is a place in our all of our modes of thought & activity in which magical thinking, intuition and irrationality can lead us to new ideas, new modes of thought and new understanding of our experiential worlds.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Agnostic gnosis

I'd been walking for over an hour. Hadn't seen anyone since I left the campsite.
I had some water, a little bit of snack food and a light day sack, containing a few basics.
I had a few miles to go over rough but walkable, mostly uphill ground to walk before I reached the mountains.
Pete and Dave had left earlier and driven several miles down the road to walk the ridge.
The plan was that I'd meet them at the end of the ridge nearest the campsite.
Of course, they never made it, the ridge was too long and technical to traverse on a whim.
I was left to walk the couple of miles to the base of the mountain alone and, when I got there,
to scramble up a fairly easy route somewhere between The Great Stone Chute and the Cioch.
The only living things I was aware of were midges, a constant cloud of little annoying black
dots. They seemed to taper off with increasing altitude.

Now, I've never had much of a concept of "the divine", or of anything non-physical greater than myself.
That day, a couple of hours trek from the nearest human, alone and with only a few resources in
an environment in which it's all too easy for a simple, clumsy mistake to bring grave consequences,
I was both consumed and enveloped with a sense of almost overwhelming awe and connection to the environment.

Of course, much of that was from the range of the Cuillins stretching out for miles, bare rock above and below me. The sky seemed infinite, and all of human concern was beyond microscopic. I actually felt a part
of the world, not an actor on a stage, but part of the stage itself, if I may mangle that analogy.
That was the start of a spark which led to me investigating what is usually termed mysticism.
I still consider myself agnostic, and either atheist or pantheist (or both, if you're able to entertain
the notion of seeming dichotomies as mere parts of a whole), and I've rejected a lot of what passes
for religion, occultism, magic(k). But I think there is something in that mass/mess of philosophies, rituals,
beliefs, symbols, etc from which we can relearn our connection to the world.

It's often claimed that we cosseted Westerners live in a constant state of disconnect from the natural world.
We have no reverence for our ancestral roots, or the land which sustains us. We treat animals as mere commodities, whilst considering those who live in harmony with the land & animals to be somehow more primitive. I remember a documentary program I saw a while ago where a "primitive" tribesman (I forget the location, or of what "level of civilization" they had 'acheived') was explaining how they returned animal bones to the areas in which they hunted them, as a mark of respect. While we bulldoze animals into industrial mincing machines to make cheap, unhealthy, unnourishing garbage passed off as food. Yet THEY are the primitive ones?
Maybe they are, but they've retained something we've lost and which all of our fancy toys cannot replace. I don't consider all ancient knowledge to be "correct", of course a lot of what our ancestors believed was purely superstitious and not based on what we would now consider to be positive evidence.
I'm not advocating discarding our technologies, because any line drawn would be entirely arbitrary.
A flint axehead is technology, as were many even simpler tools. We're constantly progressing blindly away from our past, but new toys, new techne, new knowledge should complement old/existing ones, not replace them. I find that luddite desire to abandon our "wicked" materialist lifestyles & technology to be just more
of that harkening back to an age which was never really golden.

We need to relearn to see the world in both detail and wholly, specific and general, subjective and objective.
The nature of human evolution and progression is such that we have no destination, but we're at risk of forgetting  from whence we came, and then we may be well and truly lost.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Many Worlds – What Do You Believe?

My first post on this blog, initially posted on Facebook, was inspired by the book I’ve just started reading, “The Master & His Emissary (The Divided Brain And The Making Of The Modern World)” by Iain McGilchrist. It concerns the hemispherical division of the brain and its effect on our culture. The standard idea of brain division (left hemisphere = language, right = visual) is simplistic.
I was fumbling towards an understanding of the predilection for seeing the world in certain ways. And how we judge the validity of a worldview.
I don’t want to regurgitate chunks of the book, partly because I’ve only just started the second chapter, but it got me thinking about our view of the world and what, in our brains, filters or colours our experience of the world.
Most “higher”/social animals, it seems, have equally divided brains. On a base level, an animal needs to focus closely on something like prising a nut from its kernel, a worm from a hole, or something similar, whilst also maintaining a wider focus on its environment for predators, or  competition from others of its species.
The same seems to be true of humans, although obviously more advanced in what we process. One can think, in general terms, of half the brain focusing on detail and the other on whole systems.
Just as some are left-handed, or more artistic or more lingual, so we may favour one hemisphere over the other and, as McGilchrist says, this colours not just how we think about the world but the entirety of our experience.
From the last chapter of Chapter 1, regarding the asymmetry of the brain -
Experience is forever in motion, ramifying and unpredictable. In order for us to know anything at all, that thing must have enduring properties. If all things flow, and one can never step into the same river twice – Heraclitus's phrase is, I believe, a brilliant evocation of the core reality of the right hemisphere's world – one will always be taken unawares by experience, since nothing being ever repeated, nothing can ever be known. We have to find a way of fixing it as it flies, stepping back from the immediacy of experience, stepping outside the flow.
Hence the brain has to attend to the world in two completely different ways, and in so doing to bring two different worlds into being. In the one, we experience – the live, complex, embodied, world of individual, always unique beings, forever in flux, a net of interdependencies, forming and reforming wholes, a world with which we are deeply connected. In the other we ‘experience’ our experience in a special way: a ‘re-presented’ version of it, containing now static, separable, bounded, but essentially fragmented entities, grouped into classes, on which predictions can be based. This kind of attention isolates, fixes and makes each thing explicit by bringing it under the spotlight of attention. In doing so it renders things inert, mechanical, lifeless. But it also enables us for the first time to know, and consequently to learn and to make things. This gives us power.

These two aspects of the world are not symmetrically opposed. They are not equivalent, for example, to the ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’ points of view, concepts which are themselves a product of, and already reflect, one particular way of being in the world – which in fact, importantly, already reflect a ‘view’ of the world.
The distinction I am trying to make is between, on the one hand, the way in which we experience the world pre-reflectively, before we have had a chance to ‘view’ it at all, or divide it up into bits – a world in which what later has come to be thought of as subjective and objective are held in a suspension which embraces each potential ‘pole’, and their togetherness, together; and, on the other hand, the world we are more used to thinking of, in which subjective and objective appear as separate poles. At its simplest, a world where there is ‘betweenness’, and one where there is not. These are not different ways of thinking about the world: they are different ways of being in the world. And their difference is not symmetrical, but fundamentally asymmetrical.

Now, I’m not supposing that McGilchrist is going to, in further chapters, forward a theory pertaining to scientific vs magical thinking. He may well mention it, but his opening premise sparked me to thinking about how Robert Anton Wilson spoke of these 2 views as entirely reconcilable, and of the 2 jpgs I linked to in my first post. I’m thinking also of R.A.W.s “neurological model agnosticism”.

I think that maybe if we, as a species, wish to evolve our philosophy of the world, then we may need to start using both of our cerebral hemispheres equally – or as appropriate. Have to keep reminding ourselves that our models of the world (and I use “the world” to refer to the totality of our experience of the Universe) are not the world itself. They are, at best, the nearest simulacrum we could construct using data/evidence gleaned from our very fallible sensory perceptions. Models which do not fit new evidence need to be discarded, and even models which serve us well should not be held complacently, because it’s usually only a matter of time before we make idols of our models and begin confusing them with the real world. Cue cognitive dissonance.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Come on baby collapse my wave function

Before I was born, all of the atoms which made up my body at birth already existed, as did all the ones which make me up now. They're not the same atoms now as then. Apart from neurons, all of the cells in my body have been replaced several times over my life. All of these atoms will still exist after I die.
So what am I?
A pattern. Information.
I must be the blueprint of the pattern which those atoms/cells form themselves into.

Need information ever be destroyed? Maybe not even in black holes.

And Information Theory as a theory of Universe...
The information describing a system is proportional to it's surface area, not it's volume.
I lose a dimension and surf across spacetime?

Puking on the control panel of the Universe

 "All that is, is metaphor"
"We don't got to show you no steeenking reality"
- Dr Nick Herbert, physicist, (via RAW)

Belief, faith, knowledge. Not synonyms.

For want of an angel, for all the blood that you turned into ink, you find yourself still searching...

Only trusting in gurus who have no desire to be gurus, who tell you time and time again to not believe
anything they say to you
, as well as what all the other gurus say to you.
One of the greatest ideas to hit my young head, at the time, was from RAW...

The notion of neurological model agnosticism. General agnosticism about everything.
Take every idea, opinion & theory as only a model of reality and not reality itself (the map is not the territory),
hopefully based on the best data/evidence available to whomever thunk it up.

Unfortunately, most of us are content to only recycle models created by others. Which is fine and necessary, we have no choice in a lot of cases, if we don't want to spend all of our time testing them against our fallible sensory experience. Might be good for our brains to give them a bit of a workout sometimes and question our models, test them to whatever extent we're able.
If someone says something that we agree with, we tend to think of them as intelligent, and the converse seems to hold true, too. Other people have opinions which conflict with ours because they're stupid, ill-informed, uneducated. Or maybe they just had certain different inherent psychological proclivities and imprinted different reality models than we did.

Should we respect all opinions? I can respect someone as a person while finding their beliefs ridiculous.
Of course, I have the added armour of not having fixed, dogmatic beliefs, if any at all.
I guess the more fundamentalist types seem to think that everyone should respect their beliefs, because they represent the One True Reality. I've never had that certitude, and it doesn't exist in our best scientific models, either.
Okay, should I respect whatever you believe? Even if you're a racist paedophile who likes stamping on kittens?

Maybe we'd all get along a bit better if we looked at our own beliefs and learned to consider them from a cool distance, maybe laugh at them, pole them with a stick.

“I don't believe anything I write or say. I regard belief as a form of brain damage, the death of intelligence, the fracture of creativity, the atrophy of imagination. I have opinions but no Belief System (B.S.)”

“Belief is the death of intelligence. As soon as one believes a doctrine of any sort, or assumes certitude, one stops thinking about that aspect of existence.”

"...when dogma enters the brain, all intellectual activity ceases. " 

"We look for the Secret - the Philosopher's Stone, the Elixir of the Wise, Supreme Enlightenment, 'God' or whatever...and all the time it is carrying us about...It is the human nervous system itself." 

"...reality is always plural and mutable." 

"I don't believe anything, but I have many suspicions." 

"Is", "is." "is" — the idiocy of the word haunts me. If it were abolished, human thought might begin to make sense. I don't know what anything "is"; I only know how it seems to me at this moment"

To the woods and the wilds, the pathless way...

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Sifting through the bins round the back of the reality studio...

This WILL be a tad rambling and possibly disjointed. Chronic fatigue does little for the powers of concentration, so I could well forget my intentions for the next sentence before I finish typing the previous one.

I've been interested in "occult" subjects for as long as I can remember, despite having always been a rationalist & into science.
I have put it into practise to some degree in the past, too. So I thought I'd muse on the subject, in the hope that those of my friends who're more into it than I will proffer a few opinions. Opinions from the science crowd more than welcome, too!
ALL opinions gratefully received, whether or not you agree with me or I with you.
I'm not so insecure that I demand, or even care, if my friends agree with me.
Unless you don't like Motorhead, in which case we're going to have to have words...

I've always rejected all pseudo-science and irrational, unproven woo in all areas of science (which sounds a bit grand, as if I have an over-inflated sense of self-importance, but I just mean that I've excluded them from my world-view). Of course, I wasn't always as well versed on what is considered proven or scientific, so I have read a lot of books, articles, etc on subjects which I would now consider to lie within the unscientific/irrational/non-objective realm. I continue to read such books, when I can.

I've always been fascinated by what people believe and why they believe it, and I think that, even if it's not useful in furthering our objective knowledge of the Universe, it may well be useful in furthering our knowledge of ourselves, how we relate to the world we experience, etc.

I happened to be drawn towards Robert Anton Wilson's books at an early-ish age, all written from the perspective of one trained in science generally, but with an acceptance of the value of the other side of the coin.

see these 2 extracts from RAW's "The Illuminati Papers" for illustration 

I'd best set out my stall with regards to "what is science" before I dig myself in deeper, and for the those of you with a non-scientific view...

I am NOT a scientist. I have O and A levels in Maths, Physics, Computing, O levels in Biology & Chemistry. 2 years on a Combined Sciences degree that my crushing lack of self-confidence totally fucked up.
I've read A LOT of popular science books, mostly physics (cosmology & quantum mechanics especially) with a lot of maths and some evolutionary biology; and generally taken an interest in keeping up with developments and discoveries in all of the sciences. Yes, I did read all of "A Brief History Of Time" ;-)

Science, especially the "scientific method", in my interested-but-untrained view (I'm sure at least one person on my friends list could flesh this out, or correct any vague or incorrect points) is a process we use to formalise the process of forming hypotheses/theories about how some aspect of the universe works, figuring out ways of testing these hypotheses in ways which will prove or disprove them, evaluating the results from our tests/experiments and forming a robust theory based on the data/evidence.

nicked from the interwebs -

I. The scientific method has four steps
1. Observation and description of a phenomenon or group of phenomena.
2. Formulation of an hypothesis to explain the phenomena. In physics, the hypothesis often takes the form of a causal mechanism or a mathematical relation.
3. Use of the hypothesis to predict the existence of other phenomena, or to predict quantitatively the results of new observations.
4. Performance of experimental tests of the predictions by several independent experimenters and properly performed experiments.

The whole point of the scientific method is to filter out the innate cognitive & adopted/imprinted personal biases of those involved in the process. We all are born with certain psychological biases for and against certain views, and we all have views which may not be based on solid evidence. Having a formal system of peer-review, repeating experiments, demonstration of falsifiability, theories which make meaningful & measurable predictions, statistical analysis, meta-analysis all help to ensure that statistically meaningful data is collected.
Basically, our senses are all easily fooled, so we have to come up with a system of standard checks & balances to make up for it.

Many proponents of pseudo-science love the old appeal to authority, e.g. Professor So-and-so has a Nobel prize, and he believes that our Special Quantum Amulet made of a bit of quartz glued onto a bit of circuit board can balance your vital aura, but the Professor's Nobel Prize was awarded for some discovery or proof which has been backed up by a wealth of evidence in experiments repeated by other scientist/researchers. His belief in anything which does not have evidence backing it up is neither hear nor there and worth no more than anyone else's belief.
In fact, I'd go so far as to say that a large percentage of brilliant scientists, who have made some of the major breakthroughs in their fields, have also gone on to proclaim beliefs in weird, unproven pseudo-scientific ideas; or of clinging onto belief in old theories which have been dis-proven or updated in the light of new data.
NONE of us is immune to irrational or magical thinking, or of what RA Wilson called 'the New Idolatry',  "making idols of our theories/beliefs/models".
All science can ever give us is the best guess, the best model we can construct to describe a phenomenon from the data available to us. No absolute certainty. That belongs to the realm of religion, spiritualism and pseudo-science. Which makes it easier to spot purveyors of pseudo-science - they're almost always so damn sure of their belief, and no evidence will change their minds. Any scientist worth his salt will change his mind when presented with overwhelming new evidence (of course, being only human, many of them find it difficult to let go of long-held beliefs).

Question to friends who lean more towards Magic(k)/Occult than science -

How did you choose what you believe in?
There are a myriad non-scientific/spiritual beliefs out there. How do you evaluate "the one(s) for you"?
Is your worldview/belief system demonstrably superior to that of someone who just follows a mainstream religion and accepts it's dogmas?
Indeed, are all belief systems equally valid in some sense?

Not so long ago I was reading a similar musing to this one, although from someone with far more education that me. I can't remember where I read it, or the exact text, but one bit that stuck in my mind was talking about mystical experiences, if I may generalise that to any experience of some phenomenon not readily explained by science. The scientific model of any phenomenon, to be truly "scientific" has to have been constructed to filter out subjective bias, and can be communicated, as being as close to objective as we can ever get, to others who may repeat the investigation into the phenomenon.
The "mystical" model, on the other hand, is a personal, internal, possibly non-rational and totally subjective explanation and, so, cannot be meaningfully explained to anyone else.

The whole point of this whole musing/waffle is to say that I am NOT trying to denigrate the mystical/subjective/irrational, but to say it does have value. Just not the same value as the scientific/objective/rational, because we are not talking about the same "realm" (for want of a better term).

I've said before in conversations with religious people, those "into" (someone, please, tell me a better word for it than that!!!!) the occult and various flavours of magick - try running your computer, microwave or car on prayer, ritual or magick. I'd wager a fair amount that it won't work. These 2 different types of model (and I use that in the sense RAW did, of a model we create in our minds of the world/universe/phenomena) are not meant to describe the same "worlds" of experience.

I'd love it if the magic(k)al amongst you could go into some detail on how your view and/or practise of magick (to "k" or not to "k") fits into your overall/general worldview. Do you reject science outright? I can't even begin to imagine that. If so, how do you explain the world, specifically those phenomena for which science posits theories? I've never read any explanation of something, say, as simple as how a lightbulb works which fits better than the photo-electric effect.
I liked Crowley's notion of trying to create a scientific magick/religion, but I can't see that he really succeeded, except in the philosophy of magick, maybe.
Perhaps the mystical is some realm between science and art (has that been said before? I have a vague memory of it), perhaps something like the Universe of ideal Platonic solids or mathematical abstractions. Sometimes the borders between these realms seem pretty blurred to me. The farthest-out theories of spacetime read a lot like mysticism, and many physicists working on quantum mechanics, string theory, M-theory and the like seem to, if not merely lapse into mysticism, adopt outright views which are entirely mystical. RAW said that the artist is more valuable than the mystic, because the artist has the means to communicate directly with the rest of us (IIRC he was talking about Beethoven, who was - in RAW's view, a mystic and an artist, directly communicating mystical/non-rational states to the listener, emotions or states which just couldn't be conveyed or described verbally).

If Jamie (my tai chi teacher, to the rest of you) reads this - I could never believe in chi/ki as a real, objective force or energy which moves through my body and can be "blocked" by illness or cultivated by certain exercies. BUT, I can see and use it as a metaphor or model for health, or for when a certain movement is performed correctly, in harmony with the synergistic use of all of the muscles/skeleton involved.
I read that Chinese medicine was never based on human physiology, because of a taboo concerning the use of cadavers. While I respect cultural, artistic and other tradtitions, I can't help but think that if you want to know how the human body can go wrong, you need to have a rather good look at it. Theories of meridians based on 12 rivers... well, I wouldn't want to put my life in those hands.
Which is a pity, because I'm sure that a lot of traditional medicine from all cultures has some value, and actually works. Tai chi works, but I don't need theories of energies that no one has ever seen or described in any meaningful way for it to work. A certain stance or movement WILL deflect a punch, certain exercises WILL improve my health and well-being in several ways (lowered blood pressure, improved posture, meditative calmness, in the case of me with chronic fatigue, it's helping me to focus on what I can do, rather than what I can't do). All demonstrable effects.

Um... I guess it's no great revelation that science and religion both sprang out of our need to understand the world we find ourselves in, the roots of both are intertwined, but the branches are in different perceptual universes. It wasn't so long ago that medicine wasn't rooted in science as we would now define it. Attempts to convince doctors that bleeding people is actually rather bad for them fell on deaf ears for centuries.
Even after the seeds of the modern scientific method were born in early experiments like citrus fruit to ward off scurvy on board ships, the most eminent of physicians still relied on unproven methods, because that's what they were taught, by other eminent physicians. ("Trick Or Treatment" by Simon Singh & Edzard Ernst covers the beginning of real evidence-based medicine in one easy-to-digest chapter).
The pseudo- and un-scientific "alternative" medicines of today seem to me to be stuck in that era, before mainstream medicine got it's act together and sought evidence as to the efficacy of it's treatments. Relying on appeals to authority, baffling folks with scientific terms which have no bearing on the things they're being applied to, anecdote as evidence, a wilful inability to recognise the placebo effect. They like to tell you that "big pharma" is only after your money, while all the time eyeing up your wallet; they claim that mainstream medicines have side effects (which stands to reason, if they contain substances which have a real, measurable effect on one bodily system, they may well have a possible detrimental effect on another) and "kill millions" which is foul scare-mongering of the worst sort. Side effects of tested "mainstream" medications are known, and there is a system of reporting and recording adverse effects in patients. No such systems exist for "alternative medicines" (see for lists of people known to have been harmed or killed by untested alternative treatments).
The reason homeopathic treatments have no side effects? Because they're either 100% water or sugar pill.
Knocking a vial of water - which used to contain an active ingredient (the ingredients themselves having, usually, NO proven efficacy in the treatment of illness) before it was diluted 1000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 times - against a leather book isn't going to magically make the water remember the "active"  ingredient. If water did have a memory, why would it only magically remember the things you want it to? Oh yeah, magic.

1 ml of a solution which has gone through a 30C dilution is mathematically equivalent to 1 ml diluted into 10^54 m3 - a cube of water measuring 1,000,000,000,000,000,000  (10^18) metres per side, which is about 106 light years. If spherical it would be a ball of 131 light years in diameter.

And yet, people swear by it. Are they stupid? I think not. No more than any other group of people.
I'm not about to create a sceptic's guide to why treatments which don't work often seem to work, you can go and find plenty of them on the net. But, I am interested in the thinking behind acceptance of the impossible, the unscientific. Because, as I said before, we ALL do it.
The obvious example of the basis of magical thinking is the old "needing to know if there's a predator hiding in the bush" bit, and our ancestors all survived (& procreated and led to our existence) precisely because they saw the predator in the bush, even if there wasn't one there.
Similarly, we're "programmed" by evolution to recognise certain shapes, such as our mother's face. We tend to see faces in most random patterns. It only becomes a mental illness when you're certain that that was your mother's (or Jesus') face in the pattern on the bathroom tiles, and started conversing with it.
It's in our DNA, and there may be no escaping it. Not for millennia, at any rate.

But, that's fine. We can laugh because we're descended from the smart ones who evaded the predators, at least until they dumped a load into Mrs Caveman, if I may wax poetic about the act of love.
None of them other suckers who weren't ever born can't say that!
It does mean, however, we're stuck with these fallible senses, as mentioned previously. Hence our need to formalise our knowledge collecting systems.

Enough of the science side. Unfortunately, not being as widely read or practised in the mystical/magickal side as some of you, I can't speak too much about it.
I have read some Crowley, Regardie, Spare, some of the more recent chaos magic chaps.
A long time after I started reading, I tried some personalised (shouldn't it always be so?) rituals and there were subjectively measurable effects. I don't want to go into the details of the rituals, those of you better versed than I most likely passed through that stage yourselves, or something very similar.
I can't say that any of my experiences made me believe in any kind of supernatural forces or entities. I'll stick with the archetypes model (have read a bit of Jung, too, as well as Gurdjieff/Ouspensky).

Call all of the gods and demons "mere" psychological manifestations of primal atavistic connections to our pre-verbal ancestors, perhaps. But, I will agree that there are powers or forces there, benign, malignant or indifferent. They are us.
Maybe reminding us of the unnaturalness of our disconnection - from our ancestors, each other, all of the cosmos (and I mean that in a very scientific way, rather than any wishy washy hippie togetherness fantasy). A lot of what I've read in quantum physics, string theory, etc, does suggest the fundamental interconnectedness of everything. And, while I'll always immediately dismiss those charlatans who use terms from quantum physics as "explanations" of their batty theories about "creating your own reality" (see that huge pile of utter fucking shite, "What BLEEP Do We Know?" Fuck all, as it turns out), I wouldn't shy away from a serious theory which suggested - or even explained, if that's possible -  the model of the entire universe as one entity, everything causing and being caused by every other event in spacetime.
It's hard not to read books like Leonard Susskind's "The Cosmic Landscape" and it's theories of a multiverse (or similar ideas from M-theory) and not feel a sense of awe very similar to that concerning God(s).
Maybe I'm actually a pantheist.

One thing I'm sure you'll agree with is that our culture has, for the most part, stripped away any rituals it may once have had. Every ritual may not have equal value, but we seemed to maintain them for many centuries, if not millennia, until very recently. Perhaps our psyches benefit from ritualising certain parts of our lives?
Perhaps we can just, after reading about other rituals, create our own, to fit our own lives, beliefs and other practices? Perhaps we really should. As per the 2 JPGs from the Robert Anton Wilson book I linked to earlier, maybe we have more than one side, and most of us have let one or the other side wither somewhat by favouring the other.
I have just started reading "The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World" by Iain McGilchrist, which I think may touch upon this, or at least a theory analogous to it.
I like the bit I've already read about humans being the only animal which can live their lives on two axes - the horizontal plane of animal experience and the vertical axis whereby we can stand back from our experience and evaluate it. Which links into a theory I had that vegetarianism arises from our ability to contemplate our own mortality, then empathically project that onto the animals we use for food. If certain innate empathic levels occur in one's mind, maybe coupled with an event which imprints negatively for meat or animal slaughter, then one will reject eating meat.

I think I'd better leave it there and hope someone actually reads all of this waffle!

Thanks for plowing through this. I hope you'll see fit to comment.

The ponderings of greater minds than I, worth a gander.....

There is obviously only one alternative, namely the unification of minds or consciousnesses. Their multiplicity is only apparent, in truth there is only one mind.

 - Erwin Schrödinger 

[... the] Scientific Method (SM) [is] the alleged source of the certitude of those I call the New Idolators. SM is a mixture of SD (sense data: usually aided by instruments to refine the senses) with the old Greek PR [pure reason]. Unfortunately, while SM is powerfully effective, and seems to most of us the best method yet devised by mankind, it is made up of two elements which we have already seen are fallible. [...] Again, two fallibilities do not add up to one infallibility. Scientific generalizations which have lasted a long time have high probability, perhaps the highest probability of any generalizations, but it is only Idolatry which claims none of them will ever again have to be revised or rejected. Too many have been revised or rejected in this century alone.

– Robert Anton Wilson, The New Inquisition

"A true initiation never ends."
"I don't believe anything, but I have many suspicions."
"Existence is larger than any model that is not itself the exact size of existence (which has no size...) "
"The creative faculty, the god-power, is not used here with anything less
than literalness. When beauty was created by a godly mind, beauty existed,
as surely as the paintings of Botticelli or the concerti of Vivaldi exist.
When mercy was created, mercy existed. When guilt was created, guilt
existed. Out of a meaningless and pointless existence, we have made meaning
and purpose; but since this creative act happens only when we relax after
great strain, we feel it as 'pouring into us' from elsewhere. Thus, we do
not know our own godhood and we are perpetually swindled by those who
assure us that it is indeed elsewhere, but they can give us access to it,
for a reasonable fee. And when we as a species were ignorant enough to be
duped in that way, the swindlers went one step further, invented original
sin and other horrors of that sort, and made us even more 'dependent' upon
"When the mathematician Ouspensky was studying with Gurdjieff, he found it
very hard, at first, to understand this unique human capacity to forget
where one is, what one is doing, and what is going on around one. He was
especially dubious about Gurdjieff’s insistence that this “forgetting” was
a type of hypnosis. Then, one day, after World War I had begun, Ouspensky
saw a truck loaded with artificial legs, headed toward the front. Educated
as a mathematician and trained in statistics, Ouspensky remembered that—
just as it is possible to calculate how many persons will die of heart
attacks in a given year, by probability theory—it is possible to calculate
how many legs will be blown off in a battle. But the very calculation is
based on the historical fact that most people most of the time will do what
they are told by Superiors. (Or, as some cynic once said, most people would
rather die, even by slow torture, than to think for themselves.) In a
flash, Ouspensky understood how ordinary men become killers, and victims of
killers. He realized that “normal” consciousness is much like hypnosis
indeed. People in a trance will do what they are told—even if they are told
to march into battle against total strangers who have never harmed them,
and attempt to murder those strangers while the strangers are attempting to
murder them. Orders from above are tuned-in; the possibility of choice is—
"The search for certitude - like the pretense of moral righteousness -
appears to me as a medieval habit that should have vanished long ago. None
of us knows enough to be certain about anything, usually, and none of us
are nearly as 'moral' as we feel obliged to pretend we are in order to be
acceptable to 'Decent' Society.
If we are not totally stupid and blindly selfish on all possible occasions,
we are about as bright and ethical as anyone in history has ever been. The
greatest batters in the history of baseball all had batting averages well
below 0.500, which means they missed more than half the time they swung.
Medieval morality and theology have left us with the hypocritical habit of
pretending batting averages close to 0.999 in both knowledge and ethics.
(The Absolutists go around talking and acting as if their averages were
actually 1.000 or sheer perfection.) On average, I think I score under Babe
Ruth and I suspect you do, too.
There thus appears to be a great deal of conceit and self - deception in
the habitual poses of intellectual certitude and ethical perfection among
the educated classes. It would appear more in keeping with honesty, I
think, to recognize, as analogous to Murphy's Law, the unscientific but
useful generalization I call the Cosmic Schmuck Principle.
The Cosmic Schmuck Principle holds that if you don't wake up, once a month
at least, and realize that you have been acting like a Cosmic Schmuck again
then you will probably go on acting like a cosmic schmuck forever; but if
you do, occasionally, recognize your Cosmic Schmuckiness, then you might
begin to become a little less Schmucky that the general human average at
this primitive stage of terrestrial evolution. "
"The artist is greater than the mystic.The mystic, unless he or she is also an artist, cannot communicate the higher states of awareness achieved by the fully turned-on brain; but the great artist can"
 - Robert Anton Wilson

"God is a verb."

"I live on Earth at present, and I don't know what I am. I know that I am not a category. I am not a thing — a noun. I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process — an integral function of the universe."

"The Universe consists of non-simultaneously apprehended events."

"Our brains deal exclusively with special-case experiences. Only our minds are able to discover the generalized principles operating without exception in each and every special-experience case which if detected and mastered will give knowledgeable advantage in all instances."

 - R. Buckminster Fuller

"Whether you can observe a thing or not depends on the theory which you use. It is the theory which decides what can be observed."

"I believe in intuition and inspiration. Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research."

"Common sense is nothing more than a deposit of prejudices laid down by the mind before you reach eighteen."
- Albert Einstein 

"Humans can be literally poisoned by false ideas and false teachings. Many people have a just horror at the thought of putting poison into tea or coffee, but seem unable to realize that, when they teach false ideas and false doctrines, they are poisoning the time- binding capacity of their fellow men and women. One has to stop and think! There is nothing mystical about the fact that ideas and words are energies which powerfully affect the physico-chemical base of our time-binding activities. Humans are thus made untrue to "human nature." ... The conception of man as a mixture of animal and supernatural has for ages kept human beings under the deadly spell of the suggestion that, animal selfishness and animal greediness are their essential character, and the spell has operated to suppress their REAL HUMAN NATURE and to prevent it from expressing itself naturally and freely. "

"The only link between the verbal and objective world is exclusively structural, necessitating the conclusion that the only content of all 'knowledge' is structural. Now structure can be considered as a complex of relations, and ultimately as multi-dimensional order. From this point of view, all language can be considered as names for unspeakable entities on the objective level, be it things or feelings, or as names of relations. In fact... we find that an object represents an abstraction of a low order produced by our nervous system as the result of a sub-microscopic events acting as stimuli upon the nervous system. "

 - Alfred Korzybski

"Magic and Art are the same, Which is why Magic is referred to as The Great Art. They are both technologies of Will, both about pulling rabbits out of hats and creating something where there was nothing."

"Ancient cultures did not worship idols. Their god-statues represented ideal states which, when meditated constantly upon, one might aspire to.
Science proves there never was a mermaid, blue-skinned Krishna or a virgin birth in physical reality. Yet thought is real, and the domain of thought is the one place where gods inarguably exist, wielding tremendous power. If Aphrodite were a myth and Love only a concept, then would that negate the crimes and kindnesses and songs done in Love's name? If Christ were only ever fiction, a divine Idea, would this invalidate the social change inspired by that idea, make holy wars less terrible, or human betterment less real, less sacred?"

"Ideas, unlike solid structures, do not perish. They remain immortal,
immaterial and everywhere, like all Divine things. Ideas are a golden,
savage landscape that we wander unaware, without a map. Be careful: in the
last analysis, reality may be exactly what we think it is."

- Alan Moore

"Trying to define yourself is like trying to bite your own teeth."
"A person who thinks all the time has nothing to think about except thoughts. So he loses touch with reality, and lives in a world of illusion."
- Alan Watts

"Turn on' meant go within to activate your neural and genetic equipment. Become sensitive to the many and various levels of consciousness and the specific triggers that engage them. Drugs were one way to accomplish this end. 'Tune in' meant interact harmoniously with the world around you — externalize, materialize, express your new internal perspectives. Drop out suggested an elective, selective, graceful process of detachment from involuntary or unconscious commitments. 'Drop Out' meant self-reliance, a discovery of one's singularity, a commitment to mobility, choice, and change. Unhappily my explanations of this sequence of personal development were often misinterpreted to mean 'Get stoned and abandon all constructive activity'"

"The universe is an intelligence test."

 -Timothy Leary