Dr. Donald DeGracia, NIH Medical Scientist Talks Yoga and Consciousness |388|

Discussion in 'Skeptiko Shows' started by Alex, Sep 4, 2018.

  1. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    I suppose my point is that yes, there is evidence of abrupt changes, but since NS needs gradual change to be feasible, the real question is what mechanism can replace NS as the main driving force of evolution - 'dynamics' seems a bit vague!

    As things stand I think the Intelligent Design crowd have a really strong case (athough I don't see Yaweh as a super nerdy biochemist!) because the minimal amount of mechanism needed for life to exist, is obviously quite large - even if we try to imagine a pre-DNA, pre-RNA biochemistry, and there doesn't seem to be any physical law that would create it.

    An abrupt change resulting from a shuffling of exons can only produce something viable if the structure of those exons actually anticipated a future shuffle - which really means it must have been designed - like the air bag mechanism in a car is designed to come into use only in specific circumstances.

    However if the physical world really is inside our mind, isn't it extremely likely that intelligence has been involved in the creation of the structure we encounter as 'reality'?

    Again, I know there may be political reasons why you would not want to explore those ideas in public.

    David
     
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  2. Don DeGracia

    Don DeGracia New

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    Hi again, David!

    LOL! All of my writing is publicly and freely available so, no, there are no political hangups with what I say in public.

    There are many different ways to approach your comments. First a couple specific things:

    > NS needs gradual change to be feasible. Darwinian evolution is a qualitative idea. As such it is infinitely flexible and there is no such constraint that it be gradual. Now, when I say it is a qualitative idea, that is actually a major dis. The same cannot be said, for example, about quantum mechanics, which is a precise mathematical model of a unique and specific structure. As such, QM has very specific constraints and anything violating those constraints will not match with physical measurements.

    > 'dynamics' seems a bit vague. No, exactly the opposite. Go to amazon and type "dynamics" in the book search and you will find many text books. Dynamics is a branch of physics with very specific and detailed content. It is an extremely interesting topic.

    Those little nit picks said, you really raise many interesting and complicated points all at once.

    Let me first put on my scientist hat and pretend I am a pure physicalist. One of the legitimately hot topics in physics and chemistry is reaction networks. This is both experimental and theoretical work. There have been ideas since at least the 1960s that reaction networks are the basis for how life evolved. You can see this in classical biochemistry where the center of cell function is a series of cyclical reaction networks with names like Kreb's cycle, TCA cycle, and so forth. These are examples of non-equilibrium chemistry...of chemical systems that form only when energy is input into the system, and maintained only as long as energy is supplied to the system.

    One can imagine how such simple organic chemical networks were the first structures to form, and over billions of years, more complex structures were build on top of these.

    So, at this point, there are imaginable mechanisms by which life could spontaneously evolve, being powered by the Sun and geo energy sources.

    Let me take of my physicalists' hat now. The one thing that no physical mechanism can explain is consciousness. Any well-informed intellectual will concede that the only way to put consciousness in the picture is by assuming it was there all along. This viewpoint is also supported by the mass of findings in neuroscience. The mind/body problem is just as unsolved today as it has been at any point in history.

    So, the obvious conclusion is that, here in the West, we by no means have all of the picture at hand. Instead, at this level, we have a number of seemingly conflicting views: materialism, idealism, panpsychism, etc. Ideas that are familiar to people on this discussion board.

    Well then...what is one to do? If one is to be totally honest, it has to be admitted that we just don't know.

    This is why I have studied such a broad range of topics. What I have found to distinguish the various world views is how inclusive they are. It makes a spectrum from very inclusive to not very inclusive. I am inclined to go with the viewpoints that accept as much as is tenable under their umbrella. And that is why I have ended up at Hinduism and more specifically yoga. Particularly with respect to understanding the nature of the mind, the Hindu ideas have so much more to offer than Western science, religion, and philosophy. The major difference between Hinduism and Western ideas is that Hinduism points inward, meaning inward with respect to the mind, and the Western ideas are generally focused outward towards the world (materialism) or God (Western religions).

    Reading the Hindu teachings, they are consonant with ID ideas, but much more flexible in their approach. Meaning, they don't contradict or fight with any scientific concepts, but tend to embrace and extend them. Hence, the directions I've gone with respect to the questions you raise are mostly Hindu.

    The Hindus teach existence is an eternally appearing and disappearing multiverse made of uncountable universes (which I have been referring to as the Relative). At least 2000 years ago, they were talking about how this multiverse exists for some trillions of years. They talk about processes that are now translated in the West as "evolution" and "involution". Evolution and involution are complimentary processes whereby the Absolute generates the Relative (evolution), and the Relative eventually redissolves back into the Absolute (involution). One cycle of this is the life of a multiverse.

    The multiverse is complex beyond our wildest dreams and imaginations. In fact, everything we can possibly imagine is but an infinitely small slice of the multiverse. The whole thing is ordered in a fashion beyond our human understanding, but what we can understand is that it is perfect beyond anything we can imagine. Leibniz kind of deduced this fact when he logically realized we live in the best of all possible worlds. It is beyond the ability of an average human to understand how such perfect organization can arise and manifest. The best we can do is make little metaphors that give us some sense of the forces and factors at work.

    Given this picture, I can say that your intuitions and hunches are much more on the track of the truth than someone who wishes to believe that dead matter some how spontaneously and randomly organized to form conscious beings like us. I think the closest metaphor to understand how the Relative comes into being is akin to how a painting comes into being. There is a plan, and image beforehand, then the material is properly organized to manifest the image. This is quite like the ID picture, but I think more precise. I am skipping a huge amount of detail to keep this understandable.

    So, that's about my main thoughts on this. I'd be happy to go into more detail if you wish, but will close here for now. Thanks again for the interesting conversation, David!

    Best wishes!

    Don
     
  3. Steve

    Steve Member

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    Hi Don

    Are we not judging if we put characters into these separate categories? Do you think Jesus would do so? Who were his ‘betters’? I am not a Christian or of any other religion btw.

    I feel really uneasy when you write about ‘lesser rank’, ‘equals’ and particularly ‘respect your betters’.

    I would have to go a long way from where I am to be comfortable with such ideas.
     
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  4. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    First I'd like to say how much I am enjoying this discussion - it is fun to talk to a guy who knows his science and yet is also into a non-material view of consciousness and reality.

    Fine - it is just that I sense that some people just don't want to be seen speculating too far out of the box, for professional reasons!
    Well I guess I am thinking in terms of the evolution of a new protein to perform some new task - particularly back in the early stages of life. If you need to specify 150 codons (say) to specify a new protein, that will have 20^150 possibilities of which only a handful can be expected to do the job. NS is supposed to help by doing that process step by step where each step represents an enhancement - so it can be individually selected!
    Do you mean Newtonian dynamics, or the dynamics of charged particles, or what exactly?
    Well unfortunately my imagination doesn't stretch that far because we are talking about organic chemistry before enzymes existed, and in reality (as I know first hand) organic reactions need carefully controlled conditions, and even one step produces a substantial amount of bi-products. Therefore after most steps in a synthesis, you have to purify the desired product from what is affectionately referred to as 'tar'. There is a famous organic chemist, who has managed to create a few very simple molecular machines. His work is fascinating, but he comes to the conclusion that random chemistry is just never going to work:

    The Krebs cycle only runs because of a whole set of enzymes. I don't think it would run in the primordial sludge!

    Video replaced.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=43&v=_zQXgJ-dXM4



    He seems to be a fundamental Christian, which I certainly am not, but that doesn't seem to figure in this lecture. You can easily skip around in it to get the gist of what he is saying - though you might want to view it all because the chemistry he has done is pretty breathtaking! I'd highly recommend this video, even though it is rather long.

    Right, and while consciousness obviously cant be generated by purely physical interactions, other possible limitations of conventional physical science are certainly less clear-cut. However, if you think back to our discussion about AI hype, I think the reason why AI generates so much hype, is based on the following 'logic'. We know the brain creates the mind by purely physical processes, and we have an analogy with computers, which are undoubtedly physical, so the brain must work something like a computer, so computers must be able to implement human level intelligence and beyond!

    Likewise I feel there is a similar 'logic' We know that life got here by accident, so it must have got here as a result of random chemistry, however improbable that might seem!
    Right - so in the end we don't seem as far apart as all that, and both think in terms of some form of intelligence involved in creating life. I don't think for a moment that that intelligence is the Christian God - not least because many predator-prey pairs seem to engage in an arms war of evolution - so it is easier to think of multiple intelligences at work.

    Meanwhile I am ploughing through YVC. It is very heavy going because of all the unfamiliar words from an ancient language.

    David
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2018
  5. Don DeGracia

    Don DeGracia New

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    Hi Steve

    There is a difference between moralistic self-righteousness and making an evaluation. A child, a cat or dog, someone with disease, etc. are the "lesser rank". If you don't like the term, that is fine, we can replace it with "people to whom we should respond with compassion". And I generally can evaluate and recognize my peers vs those superior to me in some respect. Someone who is a master pianist, for example, is much better at piano that I will ever be, and such a person should be respected for their talent. I know a small handful of scientists who are my peers on a professional level, but their scientific skills dwarf mine. I recognize that and give them due respect.

    It is the meaning of what this sutras teaches that is important, not the specific words used to convey it.

    The idea here is that some people take advantage of those at lesser levels, for example, child or animal exploitation. Other people are jealous of people who are better than they are. Some people are mean and highly competitive with their peers, perhaps lying about them to get ahead. This sutra is teaching a moral orientation to avoid such pitfalls.

    Best,

    Don
     
  6. Steve

    Steve Member

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    In my opinion that’s a difficult concept to grasp without some possible misunderstanding. I guess seeing it being carried out is more effective than having it taught theoretically. How many guru's have the purity to be such a teacher in the real world?

    Often we have only ‘specific words’ to convey things on paper? These are all we have where The Bible is concerned for example. As I have often commented, things would be so much easier if telepathy were available. (We’re not yet ready for that though!)

    I don’t know, but something deep within me doesn’t see even an insect in any way less than me. I see a really talented pilot, or musician or the President as my equal, I just don’t like the idea of being worse or better at all. As you can see, I’m no monarchist! Maybe it’s the Libran in me?
     
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  7. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    Arghhhhh! Don, The video I referenced above is not the right one. The one I described doesn't seem to be available any more.

    Got it! This is the video I wanted you to view.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=43&v=_zQXgJ-dXM4

    It is a bit preachy, but I think he does explain the real problem with life forming from non-biological chemistry. He is basically making the case out for the need for intelligence (read consciousness) right from the start

    David
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2018
  8. Wormwood

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    We know that our minds affect our body through the placebo affect. Quantum physics seems to be telling us that our minds affect mater unrelated to our bodies, and psi research shows us that our minds have bizarre powers which we are not even beginning to understand.

    That, combined with the issues that David is raising, along with just the intuitive feeling that this sort of evolution isn’t something that “just happens” leads me to believe that there is indeed a conscious process behind it all. To me, it seems extraordinary unlikely for a highly functional and advantageous mutation to not only form, but to be passed on successfully and adapted by offspring even ONCE. But according to neo-Darwinism, this just keeps happening and happening and happening. I cannot belive that these extremely implausible and unlikely events keep happening again and again and again and AGAIN without fail unguided.

    Given that our consciousness seems to have some power over matter (as mentioned in the top paragraph), and given my opinion of what I wrote in the paragraph above, I have no doubt that these physical changes which have occurred over time are in some way shaped by some form of consciousness. Is it a higher form of consciousness? Is it the living creatures of our world? I’m inclined to believe that it is both. If morphic resonance is true, I think this conclusion is very likely.

    The thought a random explosion should occur, and go on to see it’s flying, random,and colliding particles give rise to our bodies and consciousness by accident to me seems rather silly. I cannot believe that this is “just what happens.” Of course there has been a physical progression of some sort. But it has all the signs of a conscious project rather than being the result of accidental lumpings together. But, it’s the best thing that maintstream academia has to work with regards to their beliefs, so it’s not even questioned by the vast majority. I think it’s extraordinarily obvious that we are amidst a guided process of some sort. Either through our consciousness, subconsciousness, or perhaps other forms of higher consciousness.
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2018
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  9. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    Don,

    I notice that in DO_OBE, you explain the phenomenon using occult ideas. Does that mean that you see occult ideas as somewhat equivalent to the more abstract and difficult Yogic ideas?

    David
     
  10. Michael Patterson

    Michael Patterson New

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    Here is a link from CBC's Ideas that follows the theme of Consciousness. Biocentrism dovetails with Don's ideas in many ways.

    Download Biocentrism: Rethinking Time, Space, Consciousness, and the Illusion of Death (Encore Oct 4, 2016)

    I am a huge fan of Ideas - I have encountered no other public broadcaster willing to go where these Canadians go (the Ideas menu is much wider than might be evident here -I just selected a few shows that link to the present theme in some way)

    Download Shaking the snow globe: Michael Pollan on the therapeutic use of psychedelic drugs

    Download Panpsychism and the Nature of Consciousness

    Download Decoding Death: The science and significance of near death experiences (Encore Dec 7/16)
     
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  11. Raimo

    Raimo New

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    I really think that Donald Degracia was the worst guest ever. He promotes a version of spirituality that is negated by the best survival evidence. His doctrine is also detrimental, because it leads to nihilism. His doctrine causes fear and depression to those who believe in it.

    http://michaelprescott.typepad.com/michael_prescotts_blog/2009/05/the-simple-life.html

    Evidence gained from psychical research suggests that discarnate spirits retain their personalities:
    https://med.virginia.edu/perceptual...ildren-who-report-memories-of-previous-lives/
    https://notendur.hi.is/erlendur/english/JournalArticles.htm

    There are also good philosophical arguments which support the personalistic view:
    http://txtxs.nl/artikel.asp?artid=618
     
  12. Michael Patterson

    Michael Patterson New

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    Hey Raimo

    I get where you are coming from, but I beg to differ. Hindu metaphysics is complex and it is easy to misunderstand. I know this because I spent years missing the point. Part of the problem is that the notion of dissolution of self means that who we are becomes absorbed into some final whole. That is an intellectual statement that has merit in certain respects, but which also completely misrepresents the actuality. To fully appreciate the deeper meaning you have to get your head around some ideas that can seem to be mind bending.

    I have found that Frank DeMarco's 'Awakening from the 3D World' is one of the best explanations in contemporary English - as opposed to efforts at translating yogic philosophy. So often those efforts are nowhere near the mark. I think I spent close on 20 years with really badly screwed up ideas because I relied on not very good interpretations.

    I don't want to attempt to condense what should be a decently expressed set of ideas. But in essence who and what we are now, and will become, isn't negated, does not cease to be. It is not self that ceases to exist, but the idea of self as separate. In essence what transforms is our self identity, and through that, how we express our selves.

    I believe that the earlier misinterpretation was popular because those in the west who took to Eastern philosophy like what they saw as a counter to the awful prospect of the Christian idea of heaven. Compared to that, the blissful dissolution of self into the Godhead seemed preferable. In fact I held to that very idea. But it was an intellectual, and not an experiential, position - and it was wrong.

    Don's arguments about consciousness are not informed by that past position, and he focuses on a particularly technical angle. I haven't directly discussed your issues with him, but in my communicated with him he has not given me the impression that he would take the line that generates your concern.

    You do make a very important point that we who enjoy the intellectual play with ideas about consciousness forget. It is something I should recall from my own experience of existential trauma at the prospect of being annihilated as a necessary consequence of spiritual enlightenment. It was a distressing experience for me for a number of years.

    I think DeMarco places things in a better context.
     
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  13. Raimo

    Raimo New

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    Your interpretation may be correct, but to me this quotation seems to imply that in DeGracia's view self gets annihilated:
    Larry Dossey is the author of the book One Mind. In it he promotes a view that all individual minds are part of a collective consciousness. Dossey says this about individuality:
    http://www.dosseydossey.com/larry/Larry_One_Mind_Twenty_Questions.pdf

    To me it seems that unlike Dossey, DeGracia does advocate totally abandoning our sense of individuality and self.

    I agree with Titus Rivas about Hindu philosophy:
    http://txtxs.nl/artikel.asp?artid=614
     
  14. Michael Patterson

    Michael Patterson New

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    I take your point, but individuality is a perception, rather than a reality. I tried to address this in a blog post a few months back. I tried to draw the distinction between individuality and distinction. For instance a hill on a plain is not separate. It is a distinct form that is an individual expression of hillness. There may be other hills on the plain, but they are not separate entities except in a conceptual sense. They are distinct forms. Self as distinction makes more sense in my mind. Self as separate individual is a problematic concept for me.

    Don may or may not think the same way. I will ask him. If he does, then I would say he has simply been caught up in the same errors that got me and who knows how many others. But it could also be that when you are comfortable with an idea you forget how others may not read it the way you mean it.

    You have raised an important point. It only in being reminded that I recalled how distressing the idea of ceasing to be was.
     
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  15. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    It seems to me that this idea does need more thought - I mean the standard materialist notion that when you die, you die, seems uncomfortably close to the idea that when you die, you get absorbed into the cosmic whole!

    I don't feel your metaphor makes me feel any less uncomfortable!

    Perhaps what is really meant is somewhat different - more like joining a community, but in a rather more intimate way (mental communication).

    David
     
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  16. Michael Patterson

    Michael Patterson New

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    I think somethings have to be uncomfortable. But I agree that ideas can be better expressed. I am reading Strieber's The Afterlife Revolution. Its a bit of a hagiography for his wife, but it still conveys important ideas with lucidity. I particularly like "Lives are brief and bodies are transitory, but souls are enormous, complex entities, each of them on a journey toward ecstasy that it would never, ever abandon. Something that big and nuanced can’t finish its work in just a single lifetime."

    He writes that egos are important in this life, as our means of relating. This is something a lot of earlier commentary on Eastern traditions got wrong. It is extreme to seek egolessness. If you a yogi in a cave that may be fine. But for a regular person, like you and me, its crazy. A balanced ego is another matter. In essence the ego is our persona of being in the world. It is how we manage our experience. But it is also a fusion soul and biological awareness. So when we die it hasn't much use, seeing as there is no biology. So it dissipates, and we are left with an awareness attuned to our new situation. I would say that a new ego arises - that maybe, say, soul plus astral awareness.

    I look at it this way. I am starting to get pressure from family about retiring. I love my professional life, so I resist strongly what I think are silly notions. But I do know that when I retire my professional persona will dissipate over time and a new one will emerge. I spent quite a few years in recruitment and I saw early retirees desperate to return to work, but they had lost their professional 'edge', and struggled to recover it. Some of us can have many personas, or egos. They are disposable. So our persona of being in a physical body really is just another disposable contingent identity.

    But of course, if that is all you know, its loss can seem catastrophic. It can seem like annihilation. But its not. If you haven't had an OBE or a NDE, then all you have is faith that the reports are real.

    I have been reading 'messages from the other side' for years now. Strieber has written something that is a genuine addition to quality insights. But I think reading him in isolation is not as useful as seeing him as a the next step in rendering important ideas in an accessible form. I have deep respect for A.E. White (The Betty Book and The Unobstructed Universe), but he is stylistically hard on the modern eye and mind. Frank DeMarco is better. I'd add the Seth books by Jane Roberts and Robert Monroe's OBE books as well. There are others, of course, but these are my go to sources. Others may suggest more.

    Contemplation of a post mortem future is an uncomfortable business. We have to allow a natural biological aversion to respond. Our living identities are part biological, and its nature is to avoid death. So it does not respond well to us contemplating its demise. But we get over that. It never goes away, it just becomes manageable.

    We endure. If we accept the proposition that there is finally no time then our lived reality is a permanent feature of the cosmos. We function in a paradox in a way. Time passes and it does not. The materialist notion of death as ceasing to exist is idiotic. Nothing that exists can cease to exist. We may cease to be present in the familiar here, but only because we are present in another place/state.

    Strangely, migration is an ideal analogy. You leave a country to live elsewhere, and for a long time memories of where you came from stay with you and shape so much of your subsequent experience. Then eventually you adapt and where you are becomes the dominant awareness. So many folk say that migrating is a chance for a 'new life', because the conditions of where they have come from no longer apply. The persona of self in country of origin is transformed into the self in country of arrival.

    In a particular way death is utterly unremarkable.


     
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  17. Steve

    Steve Member

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    Very interesting post Michael. You’re ‘on form’ today, as the Irish might say.

    The ego thing is what I’ve been interested in a lot recently. I had come to the conclusion that we shouldn’t be trying to lose it. It’s part of us, and we should embrace it. At the same time, I think it can be like a big unruly dog that needs training, or it will take over.
     
  18. Michael Patterson

    Michael Patterson New

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    Yes, there has been a lot of BS perpetrated about the ego because of how Eastern thought has been interpreted. The ego is our medium of interchange. But there is an imperative for us to evolve it away from the primal impulse for physical survival toward higher values of compassion, mercy and love - those that have a spiritual focus and are what we might regard as 'self-sacrificial'. In essence the attributes of goodness and kindness are more suited to our higher survival imperatives as soul attributes are more and more expressed in our lived experience. What Maxwell Smart calls the forces of niceness are what we are aiming for.

    We must train the 'unruly dog' of instinctive physical survival to be quiet when we are not really under any risk. But for that to happen we must also have a sense of values and ideals that give us something to aim for - and hence structure our aspirations. The good has to be valued enough that we will endure suffering to attain it.

    I see the ego as the manifest expression of our struggle for the good, exposing our successes and our failures.
     
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  19. Raimo

    Raimo New

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    I recommend this book:
    https://www.amazon.com/Survival-Sou...val+of+the+Soul+and+Its+Evolution+After+Death

    Michael Tymn wrote about this book in his blog post:
    http://whitecrowbooks.com/michaeltymn/entry/a_new_number_one_book_on_the_afterlife/

    In The Afterlife Revealed there are several quotes from discarnate spirits, which confirm that individuality is retained. Silver Birch said that:
    The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die by Michael Tymn, page 119.

    About ego:
    Asatru: A Native European Spirituality by Stephen A. McNallen, page 99.
     
  20. Michael Patterson

    Michael Patterson New

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    Thank you. Interesting books. I will check them out. I think we agree on a general theme here. There has been reckless expression of ideas, using ideas that are not always well understood, when it comes to Eastern thought.

    For me there is abundant evidence that we do persist after the death of the body, but what does fall away is the aspect of the personality that is particularly attuned to being in a biological body in the physical world. Its attributes are irrelevant to a post biological/physical existence. There is nothing remarkable about this.

    Because of my age people are talking to me about retirement. I know, from past experience in recruitment, that the work personality differs from the unemployed or retired personality. I have spoken with a few men who have left long term military service and who have struggled to adapt to 'civilian' life. Our personality has layers that we shed from time to time (marriage bust ups are a prime example).

    The I that I am in a physical body is acutely attuned to the imperative of biological survival, so it does not do death well. Part of its job is to fear death. But its not all of who we are, and not even most. We all do things that stir up a frisson of fear, which is there to ensure that we are not utterly reckless. We need that balance of an impulse for self-preservation (in the biological sense) - but one day it will be in vain.

    We don't talk about death enough as a culture. Years ago I read an atheist who scorned at religious believers, saying that they believed because they feared death. In fact the most fearless were often the most ardent believers. The idea that fear of death makes people religious is ludicrous nonsense. Atheism has made a fetish out of fearing death, and locked it into our politics and our economy, an our culture.

    I sometimes wonder whether there is some use in believing that when you die physically that is it. But since it isn't true, maybe it is useful only to a few as a therapeutic counter to excessive belief. However, I can also see it as a counter to the excessively romantic notions of an afterlife - as an eternity of blissful boredom in a saccharine fog, lulled by numbing harp music into a mindless stupor. I would prefer to be vaporised on drawing my terminal breath, if that were the alternative. The Christian hell was just as tedious.
     
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