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Questioning Self and Others: Are you an individual?

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  • Woodstock Library Meeting Room

    6008 SE 49th Ave -- (503) 988-5399, Portland, OR (map)

    45.478653 -122.612350

  • We are meeting in the Woodstock Library meeting room
  • "We are often encouraged to believe that all religions are the same: All teach the same ethical principles; all urge their followers to contemplate the same divine reality; all are equally wise, compassionate, and true within their sphere—or equally divisive and false, depending on one’s view.

    "No serious adherents of any faith can believe these things, because most religions make claims about reality that are mutually incompatible. ...

    "...this notion of a “highest common factor” uniting all religions begins to break apart the moment one presses for details. For instance, the Abrahamic religions are incorrigibly dualistic and faith-based: In Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, the human soul is conceived as genuinely separate from the divine reality of God. The appropriate attitude for a creature that finds itself in this circumstance is some combination of terror, shame, and awe. In the best case, notions of God’s love and grace provide some relief—but the central message of these faiths is that each of us is separate from, and in relationship to, a divine authority who will punish anyone who harbors the slightest doubt about His supremacy.

    "The Eastern tradition presents a very different picture of reality. And its highest teachings—found within the various schools of Buddhism and the nominally Hindu tradition of Advaita Vedanta—explicitly transcend dualism. By their lights, consciousness itself is identical to the very reality that one might otherwise mistake for God. While these teachings make metaphysical claims that any serious student of science should find incredible, they center on a range of experiences that the doctrines of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam rule out-of-bounds.

    "Of course, it is true that specific Jewish, Christian, and Muslim mystics have had experiences similar to those that motivate Buddhism and Advaita, but these contemplative insights are not exemplary of their faith. Rather, they are anomalies that Western mystics have always struggled to understand and to honor, often at considerable personal risk. Given their proper weight, these experiences produce heterodoxies for which Jews, Christians, and Muslims have been regularly exiled or killed. ...

    "If one should happen to discover that the sense of being an individual soul is an illusion, one will be guilty of blasphemy everywhere west of the Indus."

    ~ Sam Harris, "Waking Up". Chapter one is available at:

    > Do you believe your essence is individual simply because of cultural pressure?

    Meeting Guidelines

    The meetings serve as forums for discussing issues related to self-inquiry and self-definition. This is a tricky proposition – using the mind to understand the mind. To expedite the process, a facilitator directs the discussion.

    Typical meeting formats are round-robin style, where participants have an equal amount of time to air their views. The object of this airing is to help each person clarify contradictions, tracing them back to prides and fears that cloud our mental processes. One of the ways of doing this is a friendly mode of challenging, or confrontation, not of the person but of his or her assumptions, beliefs, values and ethics. The facilitator is not to be confronted, as this disrupts the flow of the meeting.

    A successful interchange relies on the cooperation of all participants and their willingness to "play the game." No one should preach or be subject to preaching. As much as is humanly possible we should try to:

    Listen actively, without interrupting, maintaining a felt connection with the speaker. Keep the focus on each participant in turn, avoiding the temptation to shift the attention to ourselves – either out of a desire to rescue the person from tension or a desire to be the center of attention ourselves. When such a shift occurs, the facilitator or other participant should point it out. Try to understand the speaker's point of view and challenge him to question his own thinking, not argue with him or try to sell our views.

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  • Patrick

    "When I later thought about the native belief in such ceremonial magic, I had to admit that the positive result of the rain ceremonies should not surprise us. The people in native cultures might not be technologically advanced, but they are not stupid. It is hard to imagine that they would continue venerating shamans who would conduct one ceremony after another without being able to show any results. For the tradition of rainmaking ceremonies to continue, they have to be successful in a significant number of cases. That does not mean that the relationship has to be causal in the sense that the shaman is actually making the rain. We have seen in other stories in this book the significant role that, on occasion, the principle of synchronicity plays in the universal scheme of things." - Stanislav Grof, When the Impossible Happens: Adventures in Non-Ordinary Realities


  • Patrick

    "Proprioception depends on an attitude of learning, of being aware of the impulse to move and the results reflected back at the same time, without having to think about it. In proprioception you're not aware of a separate observer who's observing. The awareness is there without thinking there's a self who's observing. Once you begin to think of a self who is learning you have introduced a division. You have introduced this confusion between the result of thought and the process of thought. Therefore, you're not able to learn because you can't keep straight what is independent reality and what is not." - David Bohm

    3 days ago

  • Patrick

    From 'Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness' by David Chalmers (1995).

    "It is undeniable that some organisms are subjects of experience. But the question of how it is that these systems are subjects of experience is perplexing. Why is it that when our cognitive systems engage in visual and auditory information-processing, we have visual or auditory experience: the quality of deep blue, the sensation of middle C? How can we explain why there is something it is like to entertain a mental image, or to experience an emotion? It is widely agreed that experience arises from a physical basis, but we have no good explanation of why and how it so arises. Why should physical processing give rise to a rich inner life at all? It seems objectively unreasonable that it should, and yet it does."

    "The really hard problem of consciousness is the problem of experience. When we think and perceive there is a whir of information processing, but there is also a subjective aspect."

    3 days ago

  • Patrick

    "In the 2030s we are going to send nano-robots into the brain (via capillaries) that will provide full immersion virtual reality from within the nervous system and will connect our neocortex to the cloud. Just like how we can wirelessly expand the power of our smartphones 10,000-fold in the cloud today, we'll be able to expand our neocortex in the cloud." - Ray Kurzweil

    3 days ago

  • Patrick

    "The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you." - Werner Heisenberg

    3 days ago

  • Patrick

    "I resisted mind-body dualism for a long time, but I have now come to the point where I accept it, not just as the only tenable view but as a satisfying view in its own right. It is always possible that I am confused, or that there is a new and radical possibility that I have overlooked; but I can comfortably say that I think dualism is very likely true. I have also raised the possibility of a kind of panpsychism. Like mind-body dualism, this is initially counterintuitive, but the counterintuitiveness disappears with time. I am unsure whether the view is true or false, but it is at least intellectually appealing, and on reflection it is not too crazy to be acceptable." - David Chalmers, The Conscious Mind

    3 days ago

  • Patrick

    "'Divine' is another name for sacredness; the radiance, beauty, truth and goodness of God; the infinite love and cosmic intelligence of evolutionary creativity. We are drawn to the divine because it is our true nature, our own living centre of consciousness. Christ said, "The kingdom of Heaven is within." The only place we will ever see God is in the divine imagination during the mystical experience, where the normal boundaries around our self-image begin to dissolve into a vast expanse of compassionate unity with all beings and things. Mohammad said, "To know oneself is to know Allah." The oneself — the godself — is the transcendental witnessing presence alive in us, as us. The manifest world is a theophany, an appearance of God. Nature is sacred and everything is connected. We are each nodes of the infinite divine being of the cosmos." - Alex Grey

    3 days ago

  • Patrick

    "Modern science is based on the principle: 'Give us one free miracle and we'll explain the rest.' The one free miracle is the appearance of all the mass and energy in the universe and all the laws that govern it in a single instant from nothing." - Terence McKenna

    1 · 3 days ago

  • Keisar B.

    My +1, Karla, will be coming to as many philosophy meetups as she can, presumably. I'm just considering her to be on the list by default unless or until i hear otherwise. Hopefully she won't cause an overflow :P

    4 days ago

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