Question: It “seems” from everyday experience that humans tend to be delusional...more so than otherwise...the efforts to provide direction toward “seeing” or “waking up” has a poor record for being of interest to us...is there anything to be said about this pattern except to point out its possible illusory nature?
Response: Yes. You can point out actual Illusion.
It is helpful to bear in mind that delusion is belief. Not so, illusion. For example, you see what appears to be water on a highway. You even see reflections of more distant objects in the “water.” As you draw near, however, the “water” disappears. It was a mirage. An illusion. Before recognizing the illusory nature of the experience, it’s easy to be fooled into believing that there’s actually water on the road. This is delusion.
My concern in The Grand Delusion is that people are regularly deluded into believing substantiality is Real—which is the source of virtually all pain and distress. I wrote the book to help people wake up from this “grand delusion.” (You may want to listen to my elucidation of the last page of Chapter 10 in The Grand Delusion. You can find it if you scroll down on the home page and click on the Wednesday discussions. Click on the talk, “What We’re Missing,” dated Feb 17, and then click again at about the 45-minute mark and follow to the end of the talk.)
Questions: You state that a machine which is conscious will not be created. Can you please explain how you have certainty that this will never happen? It seems like a belief [see response to Q1, below]. If we grant that even a little bird ‘has’ consciousness (I understand this cannot be proven), why not a machine? Dividing lines between ‘animals’ and ‘machines’ are surely just conceptual [see Q2].
You also state on p.123 [near end of Chapter 22] that when you ‘hear a bell, smell a rose, see a bird,’ so many elements are involved…from neurons in your brain to the space in between, to the sense organs, to the bell or rose. You say that if you remove any bit of this, ‘there’s no experience.’ I accept that if you remove the rose, there would be no experience of a rose, but there would still be experience [see Q3]. If you remove the brain, surely there would be no experience whatsoever (as far as we can reasonably assert) [see Q4]. It seems to me then that the brain is essential for any experience to happen whereas ‘the rose’ is not. ‘The rose’ is only essential for experience of ‘the rose.’ I would be quite happy for ‘the rose’ to be removed but not my neurons. How about you? [see Q5]
Response to Q1: As is shown throughout The Grand Delusion, consciousness does not appear to originate anywhere—let alone that it derives from matter. On the contrary, as shown repeatedly throughout the book, things, thoughts, and feelings—including matter—appear only with consciousness. Nothing else supports their verity. They appear as mind objects only.
Response to Q2: I do not grant that a little bird has consciousness. In fact, I do not grant anywhere in The Grand Delusion that anything whatsoever, whether machine, plant, animal, or human, has consciousness. (Carefully reread endnote 130.) The main reason I don’t grant consciousness to things is because, as is shown in multiple ways throughout the book, beyond conceptual appearances, we can’t find things—including time, space, motion, thoughts, feelings, locality, people, cats, birds, heartaches, photons…. You name it. Conscious awareness appears to come along with The Whole. It doesn’t inhere in “things.”
Response to Q3: There would still be perceptual experience, yes, but not necessarily conceptual experience (of a rose, say).
Response to Q4: Oh, but we can eliminate the brain from our attempts to account for consciousness (such as in Chapter 7, for example), yet there remains perceptual experience.
Response to Q5: There doesn’t appear to be anything necessary for perceptual experience. Still, I’d prefer to “keep my neurons”—in spite of the fact that “they” keep changing.
Question: It seems you are saying that Virgil, the man who had his eyesight restored midlife [Chapter 11, in the Time Out!], was having a religious experience that he could not recognize as such, in fact it was a source of confusion. Please elaborate.
Response: I made no assertion that Virgil was having a religious experience. His confusion was in his inability to (visually) conceptualize perceptual experience. I only used his story in The Grand Delusion to illustrate the distinction I am making between perception and conception.
Question: One question not asked by Anyone but which has always niggled me is where deep sleep figures in all of this. Is it Pure Awareness or is it a relative dualistic truth forming part of the duality of awake/asleep?
Response: Deep sleep holds no special place. Pure Awareness is direct Knowledge—i.e., pure perception, Objectless Awareness. It is immediate. Sleep (deep or otherwise) as well as waking, are mental constructs—i.e., pure conception—and neither immediate, nor direct.
Question: On page 195 [Chapter 36] of The Grand Delusion where you say of relative truth “It’s the familiar world that appears, not to consciousness but as consciousness.” [Q1]: Is consciousness none other than formless Awareness appearing as the multiplicity and diversity of things, form, time, space, thoughts (that is even though they appear as something they are the same formlessness as Awareness appearing just so)? [Q2]: So then even though they are not two, does consciousness appear to Awareness? [Q3]: That is, is consciousness the appearance of Awareness appearing to itself? [Q4]: And so to ‘SEE’ that this is so, one just needs to get out the way, via meditation, or repeatedly coming back to this moment as it arises?
Response to Q1: Conscious awareness, not be confused with Awareness (see glossary), is the appearance of diverse things, thoughts, and feelings. These appearances are of continuous flux, but they need not always appear.
Response to Q2 and Q3: No. Pure Awareness has no objects.
Response to Q4: Meditation cannot be used for anything. If you’re using “it,” “it” is not meditation.
Question: On page 195 [Chapter 36] of The Grand Delusion you state that Reality with a capital R is “... seamless UNCHANGING World of Totality ...” What I am misunderstanding is that I thought that Reality was CHANGE and FLUX. You state on page 227 [Appendix B, part 3] that “[This objectless] World of [undivided] Wholeness is none other than the everyday world of this and that.” Now the everyday world seems to be one of change and flux. So, if it is identical to the World of Undivided Wholeness, doesn’t that imply Reality is also change and flux? Or are you saying that things only APPEAR to change? That change and Nonchange are the same.
Response: Excellent questions. You’ve gotten to the heart of matter. But notice the title of Chapter 36: The Two Truths. Bearing this title in mind, slowly reread page 195 and continue on for three more paragraphs to where I point out that the “first aspect appears dynamic; the second, eternal.” Then skip to the top of page 207 (near the end of Chapter 37) where ANYONE asks, “What are not two?” Read from there to the end of the chapter. Please take special note of the line where I tell ANYONE to “first set down everything you’re carrying.” Including, I would add here, even the idea that “I exist,” as Zen master Ikkyu points out before the start of Part II. Set down everything. That’s actually the “secret” which, of course, is always in plain view.
Question: Throughout The Grand Delusion I think your “case” about the utility of science / belief within a limited sphere (Chapter 34) is fairly clear. At the same time, (Appendix B) you point out myriad problems (e.g. unwarranted assumptions like those contained in the hard problem) with the current status quo in branches of neuroscience and the philosophy of mind. Collectively, your “case” seems to at least approach a generalized skepticism about their inherent projects (i.e. given so much of their entire endeavor is predicated on “flat earth” perspectives, we may do more to perpetuate confusion rather than clarify).
Do you have any thought on what salvaging the metaphoric “baby” from the bathwater would look like for these branches of science / research? To put it another way, in Appendix B, Part 1, you say, “A radically different understanding of what is actually going on is needed.” Concretely applied, do you have thoughts on what that could / would that look like?
Response to Q1: Salvaging what baby? To continue with your metaphor, all such “babies” (I assume you mean “hypotheses”) are necessarily made of clays (concepts) which inevitably dissolve in the bathwater of silent, astute observation.
Response to Q2: Rather than formulating yet another hypothesis, what’s required is a response much like what I’ve laid out in this book. That is, one that encourages us to abandon searches for solutions solely within the conceptual but instead directs us to rely on perceptual experience alone—i.e., on pure Awareness, with no thought or mental construction (i.e., concepts) whatsoever.
Question: In TGD you state that physical processes in the brain have never been demonstrated to give rise to subjective experience (Appendix B). What do you make of experiences occurring in neurosurgery, in which physical stimulation of parts of the brain do cause conscious patients to experience mental phenomena? Or, for that matter, transcranial magnetic stimulation inducing subjective phenomena to occur? Both of these seem to undermine your assertion that these are merely correlated but not causative.
Response: You present yet another example of the “hard problem” that David Chalmers identified, and which I quote immediately above the passage you refer to in my book: “How do physical processes in the brain give rise to subjective experience?” Your examples don’t answer this question. Though you refer to “cause,” if you look carefully, your examples don’t actually show cause. They show that physical stimulations of the brain accompany mental phenomena. But cause? How? What? Where? Why? Nor will any other such examples ever show cause. All such demonstrations only continue to beg the question of the hard problem without ever making even the slightest bit of headway in answering it. I suggest that you read TGD again but this time give more attention to the disintegration of substance—physicality and subjectivity—as it’s being pointed out. Note that these impressions always appear, not with, but as consciousness and never otherwise. Thus, as I point out repeatedly in the book, physicality reduces to Mind. There simply are no cases showing the reverse. Nor could there be.
Question: Are you saying that we already SEE the whole/totality, but we get so caught up in the concepts that arise through consciousness appearing to split the whole that we miss the absolute truth/Awareness which together with the relative truths/consciousness comprise Ultimate Truth? This is, so to speak, our basic problem?
And all we have to do is wordlessly pay attention to the Whole and this imbalance between the two truths will clear up and balance or symmetry will be restored?
Response: Yes, basically—at least to your first question. Just be aware that the terms and phrasings you’re using take things a bit off. For example, when you write “we already see the Whole/Totality,” or “which together with,” or even “wordlessly pay attention to the Whole,” the implication is that there are things. What is seen, however, is never an object, as your language might suggest. We don’t actually see consciousness as something splitting another something called “The Whole.” Consciousness simply is the divided appearance of the World “we” see, hear, feel, think. Apart from such appearances there is never any imbalance between the two truths since they’re not exactly two.
Question: I think I'd like to experience Totality, but is it better to consider that I am the Totality experiencing itself from the perspective of 'Chris?'
Response: Better still is to not take hold of anything as either Totality or as Chris. All that is ever experienced, Chris, is Totality. There is no “experiencer,” as such. “You” only wordlessly need to pay attention. Don’t think.