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.
Question: Is Awareness one aspect of Mind that pertains to the Whole and consciousness another aspect of Mind that pertains to the apparent division of the Whole? And these two seen together are the One Mind?
Response: Yes, more or less, though we can’t say precisely. As I point out in The Grand Delusion, can’t say “yes,” can’t say “no.” Good question, though.
Question: I’ve read and re-read TGD and have gained more intellectual understanding but it hasn’t helped much with the deep ache of the heart.
In these times of uncertainty and insanity more intellectual understanding doesn’t really help. People are suffering and telling them that seeing through non-substantiality will clear everything up doesn’t make sense as how are they to do that when they don’t “see” it. Telling them to drop substantiality (in chapter 9) and not how to drop it except suggesting meditation which too is no guarantee, just makes the situation quite hopeless. It seems as if there is no way out of this despair. Either there is “seeing” which happens of its own accord or there isn’t and there is nothing that can be done to make it happen.
Response: You are correct. More intellectual understanding doesn’t help. It only increases the deep ache of the heart—if only because, in and of itself, intellectual understanding can never be brought to completion. So, I did not write The Grand Delusion to assist ANYONE in expanding their intellectual understanding of anything—even though, as you indicated, it can’t be helped. Intellectual understanding mostly accumulates. As I state in the book, though, I’m only trying to help people wake up. I don’t want to give people more ideas. Mainly I’m just pointing out the faultiness of all beliefs—particularly our unexamined and unwavering belief in substantiality. Forming radically new ideas is not going to help us here. For this, we have to just see. You ask me how. The entire book points to it. Just notice. Please turn to chapter 37 where ANYONE asks: “Notice what, though?” Then, very slowly, reread what follows. I reiterate just a few echoes of what the dialogue was all about.
Question: I have no doubt that belief causes all sorts of evil in the world, and that experience is a far better barometer to gain true knowledge. However, is that just not a belief as well? Can we truly ever get away from beliefs?
Response to Q1: Yes, for those who think your opening statement is True.
Response to Q2: Yes, it is quite possible to not hold particular beliefs. I don’t believe that there are pots of gold at the ends of rainbows, for example. It is even possible to not hold any beliefs at all, but you will probably have to work at it before that becomes the backdrop of your mind. I know of no one who can manage this perfectly. But we can certainly learn to not be governed by beliefs and to be vigilant whenever beliefs begin to carry us away. As Sextus Empiricus put it, “For it is sufficient to live by experience, and without subscribing to beliefs….”
Thank you. I’ve been waiting for over 30 years for someone to ask me this question.
Question: My question would be pertaining to your concept of "grand symmetry." What is it? Is it "above" duality? Would an examen of grand symmetry be everything being mind, below which is mind and body?
In other words, everything is one (mind), though that "one" can exist as two (mind and body/matter)?
Response: Symmetry, as used in The Grand Delusion, is defined as the two truths which ultimately manifest in Grand Symmetry where phenomena unceasingly appear in constant flux while Reality, as Whole, remains forever Thus. Consequently, beyond appearances, we cannot say there is either “above” or “below.” Nor can we say otherwise. You might want to reread chapter 36.
Question: Consciousness, as defined in The Grand Delusion, is not the same as the everyday distinction we make between consciousness and unconsciousness.
Unless I'm misreading, consciousness (as you define and describe it) would include, for example, a dream that I might have while I'm asleep. I would be unconscious, but the dream would still involve consciousness, since there would be an experience of the dream. Similarly, an experience of being asleep without dreaming would also involve consciousness, as long as there is some awareness of being asleep. Presumably, a sunflower's experience of the sun and its urge to grow toward it would also be a manifestation of consciousness.
This seems quite different from consciousness as the opposite of unconsciousness, which are two states, like being drunk or sober.
Such "states of consciousness" do appear to be either mediated or shaped by the brain, just as tastes and sounds are. Most neuroscientists think that these states are created (rather than shaped or mediated) by the brain. But I don't see how they—or a lab experiment—would be able to tell the difference between mediation and creation.
Can you speak to this?
Response: Indeed, consciousness, as defined in The Grand Delusion, makes no distinction between consciousness and unconsciousness whatsoever since, as is implied throughout the book, we can make no sense of unconsciousness. Please reread the last couple of exchanges between ANYONE and me at the end of chapter 25, and then turn to endnote 61. Also, please reread chapter 22, and then reflect on the implications of Bell’s theorem. It seems you might be conflating the terms “awareness” and “consciousness.” To see how these terms are being used in this book, please consult the glossary. Finally, I also suggest that you reread Appendix B.
Question: I take it that Buddhist Pure Land practice is another construct from our minds. So too the Bodhisattva ideal. Is there any value in these efforts and for whom?
Response: Yes, these are mental constructs. And, as stated in The Grand Delusion, concepts and actions based on thought constructs often seem very helpful and useful to people. Though the opposite often seems true as well. As mental constructs, though, I wouldn’t put much stock in either. We only need to live life directly.
Question: My assumption is that when the quantum field collapses into a point, that this is when the awakened are experiencing NOW. Because the endless possibilities must crystallize into an “actuality” of sorts when examined by awareness. Is that the right way to look at this? All possibilities are there, but when we are looking at the NOW, the reality, there is only what is happening NOW so the possibilities collapse.
Response: I would loosen my grip on everything you are assuming here. Just consider this: Awakened or not, all we ever experience is now.