Believing is Seeing

You choose your belief

I’d love to be wrong, I really would – but unfortunately this is all there is. That means belief in spirits, other realms, and even escaping the cycle of death and rebirth is all in your head. Their only real reality lies in the psychological impact those notions have upon you and your emotions.

To put it another way, it’s as if you had a red sweater but you imagine it’s blue – you do this because it makes you feel happier and you wear it more often that way.

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The Infinite Tablecloth

Imagine a super-stretchy tablecloth that goes on forever in all directions. Or it could be infinitely-stretchy but fixed in a huge wooden frame, for the purposes of this metaphor, both work as well.

Now it starts off perfectly flat. This is the ‘fabric of reality’ and it’s right now both all and nothing: it’s the ‘stuff’ that all is made of and ‘all’ you have to work with, but since it’s perfectly flat, ‘nothing’ exists, there’s no thing which stands out from any other thing.
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The ‘Good Enough’ Principle

I know, that doesn’t sound like a very ‘formal’ philosophical principle, but bear with me.

To exist means to stand out (from Latin “ex-” meaning ‘out of’ and “stare” meaning ‘to stand’), and so for a Thing to exist it must be different from all other Things. But how different? Just enough. In fact, any amount of difference is ‘difference enough’ for existence. (yes, there’s a circular tautology in there – you don’t have to like it).

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Reality is all …

Fill in the blank

When referring to the nature of Reality – what it’s made of – as soon as someone begins their statement “It’s all made of … ” the next word could be anything – gouda, gold, god, tao, apeiron, the force, consciousness, anything. The reason I know this is because I’ve understood what “all” means to our human brains.  The next word may as well be “all” for what it’s worth, and it would be a more honest answer because at least the speaker recognises the futility in putting a label on it.  In that light, anything you wish can be what it’s all made of – the significance lies in the fact that it is what you feel is closest to your understanding of what Reality is made of.  It becomes the context or raw material from which you make sense of the world.

My own personal struggle is trying to reconcile my modern scientific understanding of the physical world with the deeper insight of how my brain operates.  Sameness and Difference.  That is how my brain operates (and how I think we all operate at the most fundamental level).  My scientific mind interprets Sameness and Difference being ‘made of’ Transformation (in the mathematical and physical/mechanical sense) so to that part of me, “It’s all Transformation.”  But my spiritual inclination wants to say “It’s all Magic” or “It’s all Chi/Ki” or “It’s all The Force” and the two aren’t friends yet.

Trying to do something with Ki/The Force/Magic feels supremely silly and foolish because I know at the same time it’s all transformation – and transformation doesn’t behave in the way I want Magic/Ki/The Force to behave.  Magic then becomes merely my own will, and to get more banal than that seems impossible to imagine.  Sure, my ability to ‘will’ my arm to move may seem magical if we really ask ourselves how that works (the whole mind/body interaction), but my ‘will’ and thus my capacity to ‘do magic’ goes no further than my own body.  Then I have to get creative and make excuses for this ‘magic’: if I want a glass of water to appear before me, I have to “concentrate very hard” and “gather up all the strength of my willpower”, “channel” it and “release it out into the world” (i.e. I ask you to get me a glass of water), whereupon the “influence” of my magic extends outwards (you walk to the kitchen). Then my “energies will be returned back to me” (you’ve come back from the kitchen) and voilà! I have a glass of water!

Do you see how silly that is? I’m irrationalizing the rational!

However, there is a non-negligible aspect of magic when you do think of reality in those terms. There is an undeniable “power” to words that gives us pause. If my magic is my will, then I must become cautious of how I use it (what words I say out loud, what gestures and actions I use my body to effect).

But this perspective is also an open door to madness: every thought I provoke in you, every image you experience in your mind through the “descriptive power” of my words, become the very real effect, however subtle it may be.

But working of magic as none other than the cautious application of will sounds very much like Mindfulness doesn’t it?  Where one is highly conscious of one’s gestures, thoughts, and words.  Everything becomes deliberate and full of careful intent.

And thus the working of magic regains its respectability, as the phoenix of decorum rises from the ashes of folly.

So to close this with a quote I give you:

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

Spencer-Brown: Cataphatist

George Spencer-Brown (GSB) did some wonderful work for a system of logic that has us consistently painting ourselves into a corner. That’s the problem. His work contributes to a system of reasoning that is consistent but incomplete.
What he doesn’t see (and few who I’ve encountered who understand his work) is that he is stuck within a cataphatic mode of thought. When he says “Let us take the form of distinction for the form.” he effectively merges the boundary between things with one of the spaces that boundary ‘encloses’.
So he takes ‘the mark’ as being indicative of what it encloses. This is wrong – or maybe it’s better that I say it’s ‘too eager’. Continue reading “Spencer-Brown: Cataphatist”

The Deep Symbolism of the Mobius Strip

The Mobius Strip

If ever there was something which merited the name “God” in my eyes, it would be the Mobius Strip. But I don’t believe in a personal, let-alone sentient, god. I’d be far more inclined to call it “Tao” instead. Buddhists might call it “Om” (or “Aum”). Mathematicians should call it “i” (the square root of negative one), but there are even more examples in Mathematics (the involution, the half-rotation, inconsistency, contradiction, “not” or the symbol ¬). Electronics circuits represent it as the inverter whose ouput feeds back into its input. Philosophers might call it “contradiction” or more formally the “paradox of self-reference” epitomized in the Liar Paradox:

“This statement is False.”
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Strange and relative thinking: two examples


On Infinity and Boundaries:

You have to understand that if you have an infinite “expanse” of sameness that is unchanging, and that you (I say ‘you’, but I mean ‘it’ or ‘unknown’ for the time being) cause a Thing to exist from that sameness, if it is to ‘exist’, then it must necessarily be perfectly bounded; and if it is perfectly bounded, then, reciprocally, so too is the ‘infinite’ sameness (which is now clearly not infinite).
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