The symbolic truth of Medieval Cosmology

    In this post, I want to discuss how medieval cosmology is symbolically true.  This post will be highly speculative and outlandish, but none of the ideas discussed are original to this post; they all have been around for a long time.  Indeed, I think that they show that ancient and medieval people had insights into the nature of reality that have been lost in modern times.

    I have become increasingly convinced that the medieval world system is true, but symbolically, not physically.  They did not have our physical science so they did not know as much about the physical universe.  In addition, one of Owen Barfield's ideas about the evolution of consciousness is that as consciousness has developed through time, thought has become more separated.  For instance, the word "pneuma" meant both "spirit" and "wind."  So, the people of the Middle Ages might not have distinguished between the physical and symbolic interpretations to the same extent we would have.  

    The following picture, from Peter Apian's Cosmographia shows the medieval universe: 


Here is another picture in color, from the luminarium website: 

    In the medieval world system, the Earth is situated at the center of the universe, then above the Earth are concentric spheres, which form the Heavens.  The boundary between the Earth and the Heavens is the sphere of the Moon.  Then above the moon we have the spheres of Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and the stars.  

    Everything above the sphere of the Moon was believed to be unchanging, while in the air, between the surface of Earth and the Moon there lived "airy beings," subtle creatures, neither angels nor demons but perhaps kin to fairies or such legendary creatures.  

    In his post "We Are Not Alone", William Wildblood writes: 

    "The physical world we are aware of is something like the outermost crust of  sphere of being which has many levels corresponding, no doubt, to the many mansions that Jesus told us were in his Father's house.  There is this difference though.  Whereas in, say, the case of an orange the outer skin is the largest part of the whole, the exact opposite is the case with this order of reality.  Every inner section or plane is greater than the one external to it, and, not only that, but it includes further dimensions beyond he three we know as well.  Langugae fails here or, at least mine certainly does, but the idea that the inner is greater than the outer should not be so difficult to grasp if we think of the outer as essentially projected from the inner or a more limited version of it."

    This corresponds with the medieval model, except in that model the higher levels are outer rather than inner.  For example, the sphere of the Moon contains the sphere of Earth and the sphere of Mercury contains the spheres of both the Moon and the Earth.  But in both cases we are using a spatial metaphor to describe something that goes beyond the spatial, so both ways are helpful.  

    According to this idea, we should think of the spheres not as physical expanses, but as levels of reality.  Each higher level is less restrictive in terms of consciousness and other aspects than the preceeding level.  

    But, perhaps there is a distinct break corresponding to the boundary between the Heavens and the Earth at the sphere of the Moon.  In his book The Discarded Image (which is about the Medieval cosmology), C.S. Lewis writes that below the sphere of the Moon was the world of Nature, the physical world of change with which we are familiar.  I believe that the people of the Middle Ages were basically correct in this.  But rather than viewing the world of Nature as simply the Earth, we should consider it to be the entire physical universe.  

    In all the levels of reality above the physical universe, there is no entropy.  Rather it is what Bruce Charlton has called "open-ended creation."  So all change is positive, adding to what exists rather than taking away.  The people of the Middle Ages made a mistake in equating change with degeneration, but their insight is correct if we substitute change for entropy. 

    I believe that entropy is just the tendency of the universe to return to its original state of chaos.  The alchemists and Aristotelians were right to envision matter as pure potentiality, the ability to take on any form.  This form  comes from the spiritual realms, the levels of reality above the material universe.    This undifferentiated matter naturally shapes itself to take on whatever qualities are presented to it, but after a period of time, the qualities leave to go somewhere else.    

    And if we view the physical universe as a level of reality, then that might make sense of the multiverse.  I am not sure whether to attribute this statement to William James Tychonievich or not, since he heard it in a dream, but it makes sense:

     "This has convinced me that there is no such thing as a parallel universe.  The universe we are in is in fact the only universe.  And that means it is real -- fully real."

    Two parallel universe theories, the quantum multiverse and the string theory landscape both consider the universe as merely an instantiation of one of many possibilities.  The fundamental reality is the spectrum of possibilities.  On the contrary, if there is a single universe, then it comes from some deeper reason, something more real and more meaningful.  

    Just for the sake of interest, I include this quote from Plato in the Timaeus, where Timaeus raises and rejects the possibility of a multiverse (the word used is world, but since later in the dialogue different planets and stars are discussed, it is clear that in this case world means the entire cosmos): 

    "Are we right in saying that there is one world, or that they are many and infinite?  There must be one only, if the created copy is to accord with the original.  For that which includes all other intelligible creatures cannot have a second or companion; in that case there would be need of another living being which would include both, and of which they would be parts, and the likeness would be more truly said to resemble not them, but that other which included them.  In order then that the world might be solitary, like the perfect aniimal, the creator made not two worlds or an infinite number of them; but there is and ever will be one only-begotten and created heaven."

    But suppose there are other intelligent beings?  Where would they be?  Rather than thinking of multiple cosmoi, multiple planets makes sense.  Since this level of reality is physical, then it makes sense that the realms of these beings would be separated by a physical means.  The universe is so vast and there are so many stars that I do believe some have planets which are inhabited.  However, the inhabitants of any planet seem to be prohibited by vast distances from visiting any other planet.  One reason might be to prevent beings from one planet from destroying or corrupting others from another planet.  

    Also, suppose we interpret the air between the Moon and the Earth symbolically, as subtle realms between the physical and the spiritual?  William Wildblood has written about this, referring to it as the psychic plane:

    "The psychic plane is higher than the physicla (higher meaning freer and more expansive) and relates to it as the mind does to the body.  But still it is the plane of subjectivity, being comprised of our thoughts, feelings, desires, beliefs and experiences, both individual and collective.  This gives us the clue that it is largely a creation of the created.  Spirit and matter are divine realities but the psychic plane is the product of human and non-human thinking and imaging.  (Non-human as it contains entities that are of a different order to ourselves, entities known in folklore and myth).  It is both formed of and contains the psychic impressions and experiences of all created life."

    What about the level directly above ours?  I think Dante had insight into this when he put the Garden of Eden directly atop the mountain of Purgatory, right below Heaven.  Indeed, I believe the level directly above ours is indeed the Garden of Eden.  That would mean the Fall of Man was indeed a fall, from a higher level of reality to a lower one.  If there are beings on other planets, they may have their own Edens, different realms from ours but in the same level of reality.  

    If that is true, then that level may be very similar to the Earth as we know it, while others may be much difficult to imagine, not because they are alien but because they are richer and more expansive than the physical universe.  For example, someone hearing the word hippopotamus, which literally means "water horse" may think that a hippo is just some exotic type of horse, when it is really a qualitatively different animal.  It's not that a hippo is alien; it is just difficult to imagine some things without experiencing them.  For example, in 2 Corinthians 12: 2-4, Paul spoke about seeing the Third Heaven, which I would interpret as the level of reality three levels above this one.  There may be some connection between the levels of the spiritual realms and the 9 choirs of angels, where each choir of angels qualitatively differs from the preceeding level.  If there is any truth to this traditional classification, then perhaps each choir lives on a different level.

    A natural question is, is there a level of reality below the physical universe, one more restrictive?  Yes, I think so.  That is the level that is called Sheol or Hades, the underworld depicted in mythology, which Bruce Charlton has written about.  I would distinguish Hades from Hell.  Hell is not a level because the levels of reality are not evil in themselves, they are just states of being.  Hell is parasitic on Creation.  It is using the power of wicked souls to corrupt Creation, to carve out a space of concentrated evil, excluding good.  

    Although, the story of the rebel angels being cast out of Heaven probably means that Hell can only exist in the physical universe, in Hades, or on the psychic plane.  There may well be parts of Hades that have been taken over and are what we refer to as Hell, but I do not believe that this is true for all of Hades.

    Interestingly enough, the spirits of the dead in mythology are depicted as demented and witless, which corresponds with a level of reality where consciousness is so restricted, that it is almost impossible to think.  Also, it seems that the higher levels can give "energy" to the lower levels.  One example would be a miracle.  If matter naturally shapes itself according to the spiritual, then an angel who wanted to heal someone would have no need to make use of such crude methods as surgery.  The angel could simply tell the matter what to do and it would shape itself according to the form presented to it.  The ancient Greeks also seemed to have a similar belief with regard to our world and Hades.  This is recorded in the story of the Odyssey, where Odysseus kills a sheep so that the shades of the dead can drink its blood and speak to him.  In other words, they are dependent on the energy within the blood of the sheep in order to speak.  

    This also relates to the tradition that between His death and Resurrection, Jesus descended to Hades, referred to in 1 Peter 3:19, where it is said that Jesus spoke to the "spirits in prison."  No one but Jesus had the capability to leave Hades under their own power.  

    I will close with a quote from The Discarded Image

    "a medieval man on a nocturnal walk was 'looking up at a world lighted, warmed, and resonont with music.'  The modern man looking at a night sky feels he is looing out; medieval man was looking in

Tacking between virtue sets

    In Wiliam James Tychonievich's post "Satan divided against himself", he uses a metaphor of a boat tacking against the wind to describe the progression of evil from Luciferic to Ahrimanic to Sorathic.  Tychonievich also makes use of the idea of Virtue Sets from G. at the Junior Ganymede blog in this post to describe two goods: Devic Good and Ahuric Good.  In the "Satan divided against himself" post, William James Tychonievich describes human nature as to "Pursue good, avoid evil"  From this, he then describes Ahrimanic Evil as "Sacrifice the pursuit of good in order to avoid evil" and Luciferic Evil as "Sacrifice the avoidance of evil in order to pursue good (e.g. to seek pleasure)."  From this, Tychonievich describes Ahuric Good as the type of good that seeks further good and Devic Good as the type of good that avoids evil.  
    I have a somewhat different attitude towards Luciferic and Ahrimanic Evil than that expressed in Tychonievich's post.  But the focus of this post is not Ahrimanic and Luciferic Evil as such but the tacking metaphor and the concepts of Ahuric and Devic Good, both of which are valuable insights.  So, why not combine the two?       
    In this diagram, evil is above the line in the middle and good is below the line.  The left is associated with seeking good and the right with avoiding evil, so Devic Good and Ahrimanic Evil are on the same side, while Luciferic Evil and Ahuric Good are on the same side.  Also, since in the tacking metaphor Sorathic, purely destructive evil is the endpoint of evil, there needs to be something on the opposite pole of good.  According to Rudolf Steiner's cosmology, Sorath will incarnate in several thousand years and will be the Biblical Antichrist.  So, Christ is naturally the opposite of Sorath.  (I do not personally believe in this idea of Steiner's about the Antichrist but since Rudolf Steiner's ideas of Lucifer, Sorath and Ahrimanic Evils are the original source of this model, it makes sense to consider these ideas). 

    On the other hand, since Sorathic evil is destruction, the opposite is creation.  Further, the two goods Ahuric and Devic Good can be thought of as both coming together to form Creation.  We need both to pursue good and to avoid evil to have Creation.  If there is no pursuit of good, then nothing will happen but if there is no avoidance of evil, then creation will degenerate.  
    In Tychonievich's original tacking metaphor, human beings can start one of two ways.   Either by being enticed into evil by Luciferic means, then overcorrecting to avoid evil leading to the Ahrimanic, then destructively raging against the Ahrimanic, leading to Sorathic.  Or, by pursuing Ahrimanic Evil for safety through control or for desire for power, then moving towards the Luciferic in reaction against the dehumanization of the Ahrimanic.  Then, trying to manage the Luciferic, making it even more destructive, leading to the Sorathic.  
    When I first had the idea of this diagram, I just tried to make a mirror image of the above pathway towards Sorath.  But it turns out that it works with the model.  For instance, in order to tack away from the Luciferic, one moves towards Devic Good, (in other words, one avoids the evil one is pursuing).  On the other hand, to move away from the Ahrimanic, we move towards Ahuric.  In other words, we bring forth some new good to push past the constricting mechanization of Ahriman.  And this actually fits with Steiner's idea, that in the modern world we were supposed to bring forth a new development, that we have to combat the Ahrimanic by moving through it.  
    The other important thing is that since this model is two-dimensional, to escape from evil it is not enough to move away from the evil in question, we also have to move towards good, towards Christ and Creation.  For instance, it appears that those who are most susceptible towards Luciferic evil are often not susceptible to Ahrimanic and conversely, the Ahrimanic are less susceptible towards Luciferic evil.  
    New Age types correctly deplore the evils of the Ahrimanic: the mechanistic dehumanization of the modern world.  However, they are also more vulnerable to the Luciferic - all the usual cultural subversions.  
    On the other hand, many of those who are resistant to the Luciferic are most vulnerable to the Ahrimanic.  This can be seen in individuals, but is also seen in countries.  The most Ahrimanic countries in the world are not particularly Luciferic, but it's a mistake to think that their Ahrimanic tendencies are thereby a good thing.  Ahrimanic Evil is still evil and for that reason, Ahriman won't save us from Lucifer.  Indeed, it's no coincidence that almost all of the worst cultural subversions, particularly those associated with the Sexual Revolution come from Ahrimanic and Luciferic conditions working together, from using technology to strengthen subversion.  

    The way to escape from the Luciferic is by cultivating Devic Good, virtue and discipline.  To flee one evil by moving towards another is no real escape.  The two-dimensional model of virtue sets is helpful for this reason because it reminds us that to move away from evil, we must move towards good.  

The Logic of Freedom

    This is the follow up post to "The logic of the system."  In the first post, I wrote that there is no room for freedom in the System.  But what is this freedom?  

    There are two big ways to think about freedom: negative freedom and positive freedom.  Francis Berger has referred to these as "freedom from" and "freedom for," respectively in several posts, such as this one.  These terms are useful because they clearly express the nature of each of these freedoms.  Freedom from is an absence of restrictions.  This is the most obvious type of freedom.  Indeed, most discussions of freedom only consider freedom from, particularly from a political point of view.  On the other hand, freedom for is more subtle.  Freedom for is internal; it is acting from within, from what Bruce Charlton has called the "true self."  

    Ultimately, freedom for only makes sense from a spiritual perspective.  If there is no spiritual aspect to human beings, then any action can only come from arbitrary desires with no deeper meaning.  On the other hand, if human beings are fundamentally spiritual, then freedom for means acting (however imperfectly) from the spiritual.

    These are the background concepts, but in this post, rather than the metaphysical issues, I want to discuss at a more specific level what freedom from would look like.  

    Both types of freedom are most fundamentally concerned with consciousness.  Political descriptions of freedom are incomplete.  Frequently, freedom from is described as something that is given to people by governments.  It is envisioned as a matter of choosing a system of governance that will provide freedom.  But this kind of description is incomplete because it doesn't go deep enough.  

    An example that highlights these issues is the Constitution of the United States.  The Constitution did not gift freedom to the citizens of the United States.  Indeed, if the consciousness of Americans at the time was contrary to the principles underlying the Constitution, then the new government would have been entirely unsuccessful.  It would have had to be imposed by force and would quickly have fragmented.  The Constitution was a crystallization of the consciousness of a particular time and place.

     From about 1740, consciousness in the West changed.  Among the changes was incresed individualism which meant (among other things) the gradual weakening of cohesion within groups.  But this was meant to be transitional.  We were supposed to move towards ..., well something that we can't quite imagine becuse it is qualitatively new, which hasn't been seen before.  Since the new has not been brought forth fully and the old has weakened, we have deteriorated.    

    The good thing is that since the Constitution was framed towards the beginning of this period, the spirit in which it was written is more aligned with common sense and truth that our current consciousness.  But, because it is a snapshop of what was meant to be a transitional stage, the Constitution no longer has the force it once did: most people simply cannot properly respond to it with their current consciousness.  But the solution is not to go back because we cannot.  It just doesn't work that way.  We were supposed to move forward towards a different kind of consciousness.  That is why originalism (the doctrine of trying to understand how the framers thought of the Constitution), though well-motivated is not a long-term solution.  Even though an individual person can, through study and imaginative engagement come closer to the consciousness of the framers, as the consciousness of the general public moves farther and farther away, the originalist will be increasingly less able to explain to others what he has learned and to persuade them based on this knowledge.  

    This is a specific example, but the increased political freedom that emerged starting from the Renasisance and increasingly from the 18th century is the consequence of changes in consciousness.  That is the only way to make sense of multiple changes that all built upon each other, the only way to make sense of things that seem to "just happen."  They don't just happen, rather, a subtle change that is not directly observable (except within each individual's mind) explains them.  

    Likewise, freedom for, positive freedom also takes place in consciousness.  It is internal.  It is possessed by each person individually and is not given by governments.  To try to envision what a world with this kind of freedom might look like, we want to consider the System and then take the opposite.  

     In the System, everything is impersonal.  Each individual is assigned a role, but it is the role that is primary, not the person.  The role could, in principle, (at least according to the logic of the System) be assigned to anyone else who satisfies whatever qualities are determined to be necessary.  On the contrary, with freedom for everything is personal.  A job is based on personal knowledge and personal capabilities.  We can imagine this as similar to apprenticeship.  Apprenticeship is fundamentally personal.  The apprentice learns from an individual master.  The master will be part of a broader tradition but it is the master who personally communicates both tradition and his own knowledge to the student.   

    Also, in the System, everything is abstract.  The System is run according to abstract, bureaucratic categories.  On the other hand, in a world of freedom for, no one is "running" anything.  People interact with each other based on their concrete, individual circumstances.  Also, because the System is abstract, all qualities not recognized by the System are declared non-existent.  Not only that, the System works by means both subtle and overt to diminish and eliminate any qualities it does not recognize.  With freedom for, all real and good qualities would have room to be expressed.  There would be no abstract, overarching categories that define what qualities are real and which are not.

    In the System, the goal is for everything to be mechanized and hence predictable.  Everything must happen according to predefined rules and there can be no deviation from these rules.  A world of freedom for would be entirely unmechanical.  That doesn't mean it would be chaotic.  It is possible to predict the behaviour of someone whom one knows well.  But this is an entirely different kind of prediction than prediction by abstract modeling.  Similar to miracles.  Miracles are fundamentally personal, not mechanical and that is one reason why the modern worldview cannot accomodate them.   

    Thus, although we cannot fully imagine a world of freedom for, we can get a better idea by thinking about these issues.  This post by Amo Boden also discusses some of the same issues, considering a civilization based on individuality.  Another good reason to think about freedom for is because if it is indeed true that this is what we are supposed to move toward, then freedom for provides the long-term goal for us.  But, by the very nature of freedom for, there is no formula; it isn't another abstract program with "freedom" stamped on it, but something qualitatively different.  It can therefore be approached in different ways for different individuals.  Let us move towards this freedom, in whatever way we may.


Tolkien and Psychedelics

     In my last post, I posted some Tolkien quotes and other thoughts related to William James Tychonievich's post " St. George, stake for the sun and inevitable 'miracles' "  As it so happens his post "Gadianton Canyon syncs" reminded me of some more Tolkien quotes.  Tychonievich discusses entities that people who have taken psychedelics, in particular DMT and ayahuasca claim to have seen.  

    In Tolkien's unpublished work the Notion Club Papers, one of the characters, Ramer, reports to the other members of the Notion Club mentioned in the title (based on the Inklings) about dreams that he has had.  Ramer believes these dreams to actually have been experiences where his mind was able to have experiences of other planets.  Bruce Charlton has convincingly argued on his Notion Club Papers blog that some of the character Ramer's descriptions of these dreams are autobiographical in the sense that they are things that Tolkien either dreamed or thought about.

    Ramer describes going through a process of training his mind to remember his dreams and get to the point where he can dream about things outside his experience of day to day life.  While describing this process, he says:

    "But it couldn't make much of it.  By which I suppose I mean that I couldn't remember much about such inspections, although I was now becoming pretty good at remembering large passages of more vivid and pictorial dreams.  And that mean I suppose also, that my mind was not able (at least not without more practice) to translate the notes into the terms of the senses which I can handle when awake.  All the same, I used to get at that time very extraordinary geometric patterns presented to me, shifting kaleidoscopically but not blurred; and queer webs and tissues, too.  And some other non-visual impressions also, very difficult to described; some like rhythms, almost like music; and throbs and stresses."

    Now, this is a very interesting passage because the Notion Club Papers was written in the mid 1940s when psychedlic drugs were not easily available.  Furthermore, I am certain, knowing Tolkien's personality, that he used no drugs other than alcohol, tobacco, and nicoteine.  Yet, this description of seeing shifting geometric patterns sounds very close to what people report from psychelic drugs.  Further, I think I remember reading somewhere that some people experience hearing humming sounds.  William Wildblood has written in a comment on a post

    "The barriers in our mind that separate us from higher states (and drugs just remove these barriers I think) are there so that we can focus on building a spiritual character.  Trying to bypass these barriers might be said to constitute a refusal to learn the lessons of the material plane."

    I find this idea to be plausible, that such drugs, by influencing the brain, break down barriers that are there for our own good.  But, because these barriers are broken down in an artificial way, what comes through is distorted.  Further, from the little I have read of the beings that people describe seeing, they seem to be at best of no relevance to humans or at worst, ugly and malevolent.  

    Interestingly enough, Ramer describes meeting beings in a dream visit to another planet: 

    " 'It's the same with Ellor.  Ellor!' he murmured.  'Ellor Eshúrizel!  I drew it once in words as best I could, and now it is words.  That immense plain with its silver floor all delicately patterned; the shapely cliffs and convoluted hills.  The whole world was designed with such lovliness, not of one thought, but of many in harmony; though in all its shapes there was nowhere any to recall what we call organic life.  There "inanimate nature" was orderly, symmetrical, unconfused, yet intricate, beyond any mind's unravelling, in its flowing modulations and recollections: a garden, a paradise of water, metal, stone, like the interwoven variations of vast natural orderes of flowers.  Eshúrizel!  

    Blue, white, silver, grey, blushing to rich purples were its themes, in which a glint of red was like an apocalyptic vision of essential Redness, and a gleam of gold was like the glory of the Sun.  nd there was music, too.  For there were many streams, water abundant - or some fairer counterpart, less wayward, more skilled in the enchantment of light and in all the making of unnumerable sounds.  Ther the great waterfall of Ӧshül-küllösh fell down its three hundred steps in a sequence of notes and chords of which I can only hear faint echoes now.  I think the En-keladim dwell there.'  

    'The En-keladim?' asked Jeremy softly.  'Who are they?' 

    Ramer did not answer.  He was staring at the fire.  After a pause he went on.  'And there was another world, further away, that I came to later.  I won't say very much.  I hope to look on it again, and longer: on Minal-zidar the golden, absolutely silent and quiescent, a whole small world of one single perfect form, complete, imperishable in Time, finished, at peace, a jewel, a visible world, a realization in material form of contemplation and adoration, made by what adoring mind I cannot tell.'

    'Where is Minal-zidar?' asked Jeremy quietly. 

    Ramer looked up.  'I don't know where or when,' he answered.  'The travelling mind does not seem very interested in such points, or forgets to try and find out in the absorption of beholding.  So I have very little to go on.  I did not look at the sky of Minal-zidar.  You know, if you were looking at the face of somebody radiant with the contemplation of a great beauty or a holiness, you'ld be held by the face for a very long time, even if you were great enough (or presumptuous enough) to suppose that you could see for yourself.  Reflected beauty like reflected light has  special loveliness of its own - or we shouldn't, I suppose, have been created.   

But in Ellor there seemd to be lights in the sky, what we should call stars, not suns or moons, and yet many were much larger and brighter than any star is here I am no astronomer, so I don't know what that may imply.  But I suppose it ws somewhere far away, beyond the Fields of Arbol [the solar system]."

    Ramer later describes the En-keladim, the beings he met:

    "And I've seen the En-keladim, my En-keladim, playing one of their Keladian plays: the Drama of the Silver Tree: sitting round in a circle and singing in that strange, long, long, but never-wearying, uncloying music, endlesslly unfolding out of itself, while the song takes visible life among them.  The Green Sea flowers in foam, and the Isle rises and opens like a rose in the midst of it.  There the Tree opens the starred turf like a silver spear, adn grows, and there is a New Light; and the leves unfold and there is Full Light; and the leaves fall and there is a Rain of Light.  


    My En-keladim I see in humane forms of surpassing and marvellouslly varied beauty.  But I guess that their true types, if such there be, are invisible, unless they embody themselves by their own will, entering into their own works because of their love for them.  That is, they are elvish.  But very different from men's garbled fables of them; for they are not lofty indeed, yet they are not fallen.'

    'But wouldn't you reckon them as hnau [sentient beings]?' asked Jeremy, 'Don't they have language?' 

    'Yes, I suppose so.  Many tongues,' said Ramer.  'I had forgotten them.  But they are not hnau; they are not bound to a given body, but make their own or take their own, or walk silent and unclad without sense of nakedness.  And their languages shift and change as light on the water or wind in the trees.  But yes, perhaps Ellor Eshúrizel - its meaning I cannot seize, so swift and fleeting is it - perhaps that is an echo of their voices.  Yes, I think Ellor is one of their worlds: where the governance, the making and ordering, is wholly in the charge of minds, relatively small, that are not embodied in it, but are devoted to what we call matter, and especially to its beauty.  Even here on Earth they may have had, may have still, some habitatiion adn some work to do.

    Now, in this passage, Ramer called the En-keladim elvish.  Terrence McKenna, has also called the entities he claims to have seen elves.  McKenna also referes to a "visual language" in the passage cited by William James Tychonievich.   The En-keladim also have a "visual language": the song takes visible life among them.  This idea of a living song or drama is something that Tolkien describes in more depth in On Faery Stories: 

    "Now Faërian Drama - those plays which according to abundant records the elves have often presented to men - can produce Fantasy with a realism and immediacy beyond the compass of any human mechanism.  As a result their usual effect (upon a man) is to go beyond Secondary Belief.  If you are present at a Faërian drama you yourself are, or think that you are, bodily inside its Secondary World.  The experience may be very similar to Dreaming and has (it would seem) sometimes (by men) been confounded with it.  But in Faërian drama you are in a dream that some other mind is weaving, and the knowledge of that alarming fact may slip from your grasp.  To experience directly a Secondary World: the potion is too strong and you give in to Primary Belief, however marvellous the events.  You are deluded - whether that is the intention of the elves (always or at any time) is another question.  They at any rate are not themselves deluded.  This is for them a form of Art, and distinct from Wizardry or Magic, properly so called.  They do not live in it, though they can, perhaps, afford to spend more time at it than human artists can.  The Primary World, Reality, of elves and men is the same, if differently valued and perceived.

    So, what is interesting in these passages is that Tolkien in his story describes something similar to what psychedlic experiences or entities, but in sharper consciousness and good or at least indifferent to humans instead of menacing.  

Some associations with St. George and Inevitable Miracles

     In this post, I want to make some associations with William James Tychonievich's recent post "St. George, stake for the sun, and inevitable 'miracles'. "  

    The story of St. George and the dragon made me think of this passage from The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien

    "But they were still living on the borders of myth - or rather this story exhibits 'myth' passing into History or the Dominion of Men; for of course the Shadow will arise again in a sense (as is clearly fortold by Gandalf), but never again (unless it be before the great end) will an evil daemon be incarnate as a physical enemy; he will direct Men and all the complications of half-evils, and defective half-goods, and the twilights of doubt as to sides, such situations as he most loves (you can see them already arising in the War of the Ring, which is by no means so clear cut an issue as some critics have averred): those will be and are our more difficult fate.  

    But if you imagine a people in such a mythical state, in which Evil is largely incarnate, and in which physical resistance to it is a major act of loyalty to God, I think you would have the 'good people' in just such a state: concentrated on the negative: the resistance to the false, while 'truth' remained more historical and philosophical than religious."

    And this is part of the significance of the St. George story.  In it, George faces evil embodied in a physical form, as a dragon.  Resistance to evil is not subtle, but obvious, though it requires courage.  This calls to mind the following passage from The Fellowship of the Ring

    "The Balrog reached the bridge.  Gandalf stood in the middle of the span, leaning on the staff in his left hand, but in his other hand Glamdring gleamed, cold and white.  His enemy halted again, facing him, and the shadow about it reached out like two vast wings.  It raised the whip, and the thongs whined and cracked.  Fire came from its nostrils.  But Gandalf stood firm. 


With a bound the Balrog leaped full upon the bridge.  Its whip whirled and hissed.  'He cannot stand alone!' cried Aragorn suddenly and ran back along the bridge.  'Elendil!' he shouted.  'I am with you Gandalf!'  'Gondor!' cried Boromir and leaped after him. "

    The Balrog is an uncanny monster, stronger than any human being.  Gandalf had earlier said "This is a foe beyond any of you."  Yet, Aragorn prepares to help Gandalf fight it.  And Boromir, who although he has Numernorean ancestry is weaker than either Gandalf or Aragorn follows Aragorn's lead.  This is a brave action deed from Boromir who has never heard about or thought to face such creatures.  

    In another letter, Tolkien also takes up the theme of choosing a side:  

    There are also conflicts about important things or ideas.  In such cases I am more impressed by the extreme importance of being on the right side, than I am distrurbed by the revelation of the jungle of confused motives, private purposes, and individual actions (noble or base) in which the right and the wrong in actual human conflicts are commonly involved.  If the conflict really is about things properly called right and wrong, or good and evil, then the rightness or goodness of one side is not proved or established by the claims of either side; it must depend on values and beliefs above and independent of the particular conflict.  

    Tolkien also had another interesting statment about sides in a letter to his son, Christopher: 

    "In real (exterior) life men are on both sides: which means a motley assortment of orcs, beasts, demons, plain naturally honest men, and angels."  This sentence is interesting because Tolkien describes the wide variety of human types and goes into more detail than most usually do.   

    As far as the idea of inevitable miracles, that makes me think of astronomical or astrological events.  So, it is appropirate that the Tintin comic refered in William James Tychonievich's post showed an eclipse.  Many ancient people regarded natural phenomena as having significance that could be interpreted by human beings.  Yet, often these events, especially astronomical phenomena are predictable because they follow regular patterns.  So, unexpected events portended by events in space could be thought of as inevitable miracles.  

    One thing I thought of was the Comet ATLAS.  I remember reading towards the beginning of the madness of 2020 that this comet was brightening and would draw closest to the sun on May 31, which happened to be Pentecost that year.  But, instead, the comet broke into pieces.  There seems to be some significance to that.  Ancient people thought that comets portended disaster, so what does a comet breaking apart mean?  Also, the article, describing the breakup says, "30 fragments on April 20, and 25 pieces on April 23."  There's April 23 again.  Furthermore, May 31 is close to May 30, which the day of Joan of Arc's death.  

    I don't have any conclusions, but I write this post in response to the statement in Tychoievich's post: "I'm not sure where this is all going yet, but it certainly feels as if the synchronicity fairies are introducing a new 'theme' that they intend to pursue for a while.  We'll see how it plays out.

     A good rule of thumb for synchro-mysticism is to make connections first and then see what happens.

The Logic of the System

    Over the past 30 or so days, Francis Berger has written multiple posts about freedom.  Freedom is an essential concept for these times because so much of what happens now and has happened in the modern world is based around freedom and its absence.  This post will be the first of two posts on freedom.  First, I want to discuss the underlying logic of the System that has co-opted so much of the West and by means of the West, the rest of the world.  In the second post, I will discuss the spiritual freedom which should be our goal.  Contrasting these two will aid understanding of both of them.  

    One way to think of the System is as one big Chinese Room, where Chinese Room refers to John Searle's famous thought experiment, which he used to argue that understanding and algorithmic rule-following are not the same.  In the experiment, a person who can speak English but not Chinese is placed in a room and given a set of instructions which explain how to manipulate Chinese characters according to certain rules.  Communications written in Chinese can then be slipped through a slot into the room.  The instructions tell the individual in the room how to respond, but the instructions never translate the characters into English, so the operator never knows the meaning of what he writes in response, only the form of the characters.  

    The operator is merely following a step-by-step process: no undestanding is required.  Certainly, if the operator can read and write Chinese, then he would do a better job than someone who can neither read nor write the language.  But, that person would be able to respond as he wishes rather than according to the program of the designer of the room.  And this is what we see in the system.  Many jobs have been gradually changed to become rule-following procedures.  Human beings are encouraged to think and act mechanically.  This has happened very quickly, especially accelerating over the past 20 or so years.  

    In previous times, a task depended on the competence of the person performing it, but now the goal is for someone to be minimally competent to follow instructions.  There have been many economic, sociological, or technological reasons put forward for these changes, but none of them are really satisfying explanations.  For one thing, most of them argue in some form or fashion that these mechanizing changes are inevitable.  But they clearly are not.  Indeed, in many cases they make things worse and less efficient and lead to silly errors that human beings who are thinking like humans would catch easily.  What is really happening goes deeper than this.  It's something happening in the consciousness of the managers who have implemented these changes.  An idea has taken control of their minds.  And the idea has to come from somewhere.  

    This level of coordination for things that make no sense and that everyone can see make no sense lends some credence to the idea of Rudolf Steiner that a being named Ahriman is the motive force driving the mechanization of the modern world.  In a lecture, Terry Boardman has said that he thinks Ahrimanic spirits are influencing people to invent technologies that ordinary human consciousness would not conceive of.  There may be something to that.  Whatever is happening, the standard explanations are not sufficient.  Indeed, Rudolf Steiner in a different context made the point that typical modern thinking cannot understand the true causes of events initiated by changes in consciousness.  The modern explanation simply describes how what is later came from what was earlier, but never says why in this way and not another.  

    So, the System consists of a large number of people following micro-specialized algorithmic tasks that are linked together into a larger design.  A good concrete example of this, with respect to VW, is shown in this post from the Brief Outlines blog.  

    And no one is supposed to think while performing their tasks or think about how the pieces fit together.  Even at what are supposed to be (though I do not believe they necessarily are to the extent they are portrayed) intellectually elite locations, such as Harvard and Silicon Valley, people are not supposed to think.  I have never been to either of these places, but reading about them gives one this impression.  

    In contrast to Emerson and Thoreau's day, when Harvard was about giving a liberal education, the education of a free man, someone meant to think for himself, a Harvard degree is now a certification of extreme conscientiousness and high intelligence.  But the intelligence isn't to be used to evaluate and understand for oneself; it's just to follow complex instructions.  Likewise, I have read that many technical professionals in their 30s have a difficult time being hired by Silicon Valley firms.  On the one hand, this seems surprising because one's 30s is when people who have been working at something for many years start to deepen their understanding, when they start to become experts.  But, it makes sense if you realize the companies do not want understanding.  They want to hire people in their 20s because they have the energy and the lack of obligations to work long hours.  These companies want high intelligence in the sense of quick learning, but only to be used inside the box they construct.  

    This restriction of thinking goes along with the idea of Ahrimanic forces as described by Rudolf Steiner.  In this post, Bruce Charlton quotes Steiner who says: 

"The Ahrimanic beings want to keep humans bound forever to earthly existence.  This is why they want to mechanize everything.  By doing this, they would transform the earth in their way.

They do not have the desire to rob human beings of action; indeed they want them to be as busily active as possible - so long as this is all done in a routine and stereotyped way. 

Ahriman is a great fan of convention!  He, it is, who inspires the constant compiling of statues.  Whenever Ahriman sees a committee at work compiling statutes, he is in his element! 

Point 1, Point, Point 3 ... First this will be done, then that; thirdly this member has these rights, fourthly that member out to do such-and-such.  The member would not dream, of course, of respecting these rights, nor doing what it says at all ... 

But this part of it does not matter.  The important thing is to compile the statutes and cultivate the Ahrimanic spirit. Then, you can point to paragrph so-and-so.  

Ahriman would like people to be active, but everything should be run along programmed lines.  Everything should be forced into legal terms ...

Every morning, a person should (as it were) find a list lying on his bedspread telling him what to do throughout the day, and he should do it mechanically ..."

    An important insight of Steiner's is that it doesn't particularly matter what the tasks are, the mechanistic form of the tasks is what imprisons people's thinking.  

    In addition to restricting thinking, the system also views everything as abstract.  It views all work as commensurable because it can all be converted into money.  Though of course we all know you can't really convert, say taxi driving to cooking by some sort of financial alchemy.  And money has become abstract because it has moved away from cash to electronic transactions.  Joe has a good post about this titled "Postmodern Vertigo."  He writes: 

    "Everything we interact with is just the surface layer and beneath it are layers upon layers of abstraction, and the vast majority of people, if not everyone, don't know all the layers between the concepts we have in our heads that let us interact with it and the physical reality around us tht we can see and touch.  There are entire fields of knowledge, entire communities of individuals, complete layers of reality that mostly everyone is unaware of."

    Not only is money conceived abstractly, but even the goods produced by the System are thought of in this way.  In reality, everything produced is produced for some reason and people must do work to produce it, but the System is viewed as a perpetual motion machine that produces and distributes goods.  

    In many posts, Bruce Charlton has described how the industrial revolution and the developments since have led to astonishing abundance never before seen in world history.  These developments all came from people made technological and scientific breakthroughs and then those others who undestood, improved and worked with these breakthroughs.  Yet, according to mainstream public discourse, all these things "just happen."  

    Ultimately, this will be the downfall of the rulers of this world.  They believe their own propaganda.  They think that the System really is a perpetual motion machine that can be entirely controlled by financial manipulations.  But of course this is not true.  For instance, research can be funded but this does not mean it will be successful.  Claiming that some technology will happen and spending lavishly will not actually cause the technology to be invented.  

    Likewise, the stregth of the System is that it can organize people according to abstract categories, such as by economic manipulations.  It takes no account of family, religion, community, any of the deeper bonds of humanity.  So, the System can control vast numbers of people without taking account of any human factors.  But, none of these abstract categories is fundmentally real.  They cannot last forever, they are not deeply ingrained in human beings.

    Thus, the System, which views everything as abstract and which restricts thinking is the enemy of freedom.  Everything is accounted for by its preordained place in the system, not based on what it is internally.  Hence, there is no place for freedom in the system.  

    In the next post, I will discuss the freedom which exists beyond the system.    

Miscellaneous thoughts on genius

    In this post, I am going to discuss some miscellaneous ideas about genius.  I will be working within the framework explored in Bruce Charlton and Edward Dutton's book The Genius Famine.           

    The main idea of this book is that breakthroughs whether in science or any other area (there can be geniuses in any field of human endeavor) don't "just happen"; they are the product of individual geniuses.  Another idea in this book is the "invisibility of genius," the idea that genius can go unrecognized because once a genius makes a breakthrough, the breakthrough becomes "obvious."  Many technologies that we take for granted, such as the needle and the wheel were at one time the product of genius.  

    Geniuses work at different levels of generality.  The geniuses that are most often recognized are the geniuses that work at a middle level, something that combines theory with application, for instance Newton's work on physics.  However, the geniuse who work at the most general and the most specific levels often go unrecognized.  I would call them meta-geniuses and micro-geniuses, specifically.  

    A meta-genius is someone who begins a paradigm that others then follow.  They make a breakthrough at a conceptual level and once the idea exists, then it can be elaborated on.  Often, a meta-genius's ideas may only be appreciated by a few and so they are considered a dreamer rather than someone who made an important breakthrough.  Two examples would be Rudolf Steiner and Paracelsus.  Paracelsus's ideas motivated people to develop different approaches to medicine and Rudolf Steiner's ideas about the evolutionary development of consciousness were also a conceptual breakthrough.  

    By contrst, micro-geniuses figure out how to make the details work together.  They take an idea or an existing technology and improve it.  Many people think that this is mere "tinkering," not genius at all.  But it certainly is.  There is a great deal of creativity involved in making something work.  An example of this kind of genius is Presper Eckert, who worked on the ENIAC computer with John Mauchly.  Mauchly was the "idea man" and Eckert figured out how to put the ideas into practice.  Here is what Jean Bartik, one of the programmers for the ENIAC said about the two: 

    "And they complemented each other so well, because John [Mauchly] said tht the thing about Presper was when he would give him an idea, Presper would say 'Well, we can do it if we're careful.'  And he said 'He never pooh-poohed any of my ideas.' He's always considered them.  And John says that he believed that Presper was the greatest component engineer in the country at that time, in terms of components."

and also

    Bartik: The thing that made Pres Eckert such a great engineer was that - and I guess nobody had really thought of it up to then - those decade counters were made up of a series of flip-flops, and they just flipped back and forth, like the binary system; but the working of this machine did not depend that much on the amplitude or the cleanness of the signal, because he arranged it so these signals only had to act like a trigger: either it triggered or it didn't trigger.  So you didn't have to have that good a signal to do it.  Everybody said, 'Oh, well, these vacuum tubes won't work, because the signals would fluctute'; but he designed it so that they didn't have to work very well for them to still work. 


So it was robust.


Robust? [laughs.] Well, I guess you could say that!  It was robust, but it was clever, and nobody thought it would work.  But Pres said, 'If we're careful, it will work.'  He was a brilliant man.  

    Another commonly held idea about genius is discussed in this post by Bruce Charlton: 

    "During the 1800s it was generally recognised that 'great men' - including geniuses - were essential to the survival, problem-solving ability and progress of societies.  If there was an insufficient supply of geniuses, then society would be static at best, and would crumble and collapse as soon as it encountered a novel threat which tradition or trial and error was incapable of solving. 

    But through the twentieth century the idea emerged, especially in science, that no individual person made an essential contribution - and that if Professor A had not made his big discovery, then one or several of Professors B, C, or D would have made essentially the same breakthrough within a short space of time.  This suggested that science was primarily a process, and tht no individul was indispensable.

This idea was propagated even among some geniuses, and even when arguing for the existence of exceptions - for example Paul Dirac (himself a genius) said in praising Einstein for the uniquely personal breakthrough of General Relativity that all other breakthroughs in physics (including his own) merely accelerated the progress of the subject by a few years at most.

    But I believe this view was an artefact of the extremely-unusual high prevalence of geniuses in science during the couple of centuries leading up to the mid-twentieth century; the fact that many were working in certain specific areas such as physics, and the sudden pooling of talent resulting from fast international travel and communication.  For a while, a short while in fact, just a few decades, there were more physics geniuses than were strictly needed - and any one of them (except probably Einstein) had 'back-up' from one or more individuals of similar ability and interests."

    This is a very important point.  The amazing thing is, when one considers the history of science in the West, from the early 1600s up until 1970 or so, it is amazing that even though certain geniuses stick out from others (Newton and Leibniz for instance, in the late late 17th century) there are many others any one of whom would stand out tremendously were they to live today, such as Christopher Wren, Hooke, Halley, Huygens, and even among non-geniuses many people of tremendous knowledge and technical skill.  Over the broad scope of history this is a very unusual situation.  In fact, it has only happened once in world history so far as we know.  

    So, looking back on the history of the West, people tend to think that genius is something that "just happens," that there is always a baseline level of genius and given the opportunity, science will occur.  But that is not the case.  This situation lasted for approximatley four centuries, but is now gone.  This is discussed in more detail in The Genius Famine book, but essentially what has happened in many instances is that new ideas have dried up and old ideas are being mined for smaller and smaller scraps. 

    In his book Meditations on the Tarot, Valentin Tomberg discusses an interesting idea about the horizontal and vertical aspects of the human being.  The horizontal is influences of ancestors, whether genetic or spiritual, while the vertical is the influence of each individual human.  

    This concept applies exactly to genius.  Any breakthrough of a genius takes place within a broader paradigm (the horizontal influence) and the geniuses individul breakthrough is the vertical influence.  It is commonly believed that breakthroughs (especially technological breakthroughs) are neutral, but this is not true.  Some are.  For example, the knife is an invention that is very close to neutral.  The circumstances of a breakthrough determine whether it is good, bad or neutral.  

     Both the horizontal and vertical influence have an effect.  The horizontal are the ideas and influences drawn on by the genius and the vertical are the character and motivations of the genius.  For example, social media isn't netural.  It was deliberately designed as a form of ersatz socializing.  Further, the inventors of social media were, at best people duped into believing it was inevitable and at worst, expecting huge amounts of money and influence.  Under those circumstanes, a good invention will not come about.  

    By contrast, think about the dog.  The dog is one of humankind's greatest "inventions" in the sense that there had to be a first person or group of people, maybe a family who first conceived of the idea of domesticating wolves.  Maybe multiple people had this idea independently, but nonetheless, the domestication of the dog was the product of a genius.  And, since the dog has maintined its loyalty for many thousands of years, I would guess probably one of the greatest geniuses who ever lived.    

    The importance of this idea is that we need to recognize that the situation we are in now is not inevitable.  Because technological change is impersonal as opposed to cultural change which manifests itself in personal manner, it is easy to just consider technological and scientific change "background," something that just happens and couldn't be otherwise.  But this is not true.  The last two centuries could have been entirely different had people made better choices.  And then the present would be something almost unimaginable.  But to recognize this fact is very important for the present time.  It allows us to recognize that there is always an option to make a better choice.  The system is not inevitable and, so, at least spiritually, we can not give in.  

Is it possible to upload human consciousness to a computer?

    Short answer: No.  

    However, this is a topic that is worth discussing further because it touches on some important issues, especially the question of how the soul relates to the body.  

    There are two means which are suggested for "uploading" human consciousness.  The first is based on the idea that human thought is something like software.  The idea is that since the same software can run on multiple machines, if an individual's thought processess could be perfectly simpulated in a computer, the computer would then contain an identical copy of their consciousness.  The second believes that thought is more like hardware; it is not sufficient to simulate the processes of thought, in addition, it is necessary to make a new brain, either biological, technological, or a mixture of both. 

     The first thing to notice is that the way these arguments are usually presented involves a philosophical sleight of hand.  That is to say, in the typical scenario, the body of the person whose consciousness is to be transferred is destroyed in the process, or the individual is removed from the picture in some way.  We are presented with a situation that starts with a person and then ends with a either a computer or robot that acts like the person.  But removing the person is not necessary.  If it is possible to build an electronic brain or to simulate someone's consciousness, then why is it necessary to destroy their body in the process?  

    And if we imagine the scenario in this way, then we can envision a human being and a computer or robot side by side.  And then it's quite clear that consciousness has not been transferred at all.  Even if we assume for the sake of argument that the computer or robot may is conscious, the human is clearly not inside the computer or the robot.  The human being has the same consciousness as before, it has just been mimicked.  If the computer or robot were moved to Antarctica, the person would not suddenly feel cold.  Even the word "upload" implies the fact that consciousness has not actually been transferred.  When a file is uploaded from one computer to another, it's not like sending a letter since the file does not leave the computer it originated on; the information contained in the file is simply copied by the second machine.  

    Likewise, even if we assume consciousness can be copied, that's all that has happened with these situations.  And so this means that if the person whose consciousness was copied dies, then their conciousness goes wherever it would normally go after death, which is not into a machine.  So, this idea of uploading cannot cheat death.  

    Also, notice that in the revised scenario where the human being and computer both appear together, what has not been copied is the subjective sense of self, the "I," as it is referred to by Rudolf Steiner. This suggests that the subjective sense of self has an important relation to consciousness.  

    The second thing is that arguments for the possibility of uploading consciousness are based on an analogy, between the mind and either software or hardware.  Ironically, materialist computer scientists argue by analogy all the time: almost all their wild futurist speculations are based on analogies, but they automatically rule out religious arguments by analogy.  Argument by analogy is neither automatically good nor automatically bad; it depends the analogy in question.  

    In his Meditations on the Tarot, Valentin Tomberg has the following to say about analogy: 

    "Now 'pure induction' is founded on simple enumeration and is essentially only conclusion based on the experience of given statistics. Thus one could say: 'As John is a man and is dead, and as Peter is a man and is dead, and as Michael is a man and is dead, therefore man is mortal.' The force of this argument depends on number or on the quantity of facts known through experience. The method of analogy, on the other hand, adds the qualitative element, i.e. that which is of intrinsic importance, to the quantitative. Here is an example of an argument by analogy: 'Andrew is formed from matter, energy and consciousness. As matter does not disappear with his death, but only changes its form, and as energy does not disappear but only modifies the mode of its activity, Andrew's consciousness, also, cannot simply disappear, but must merely change its form and mode (or plane) of activity. Therefore Andrew is immortal.' This latter argument is founded on the formula of Hermes Trismegistus: that which is below (matter) (energy) is as that which is above (consciousness). Now, if there exists a law of conservation of matter and energy (although matter transforms itself into energy and vice versa), there must necessarily exist also a law of conservation of consciousness, or immortality."

    So, we must look at whether the analogy between hardware or software and consciousness is a good analogy or not.  I will first consider the software analogy.  This analogy misses the subjective and qualitative element of consciousness.  What is it like to run an algorithm?  Well, we know what it's like because everyone who has done long division or multiplication has run an algorithm.  But the experience does not come from the long division algorithm itself, the consciousness is already there and the experience of doing long division is one thing among many that can be experienced.  If anything, we might say that this example shows that consciousness can run programs: it puts the shoe on the other foot.  

      Thus, consciousness is something extra that goes beyond an program.  We know consciousness can generate programs.  Indeed, all of the computer programs we know have come about by precisely this means.  But there is no reason to assume that programs generate consciousness.  A program is just an abstract procedure with no subjective element inherent in the program.  So, the analogy fails for this reason.  

    The problem with the hardware analogy is that it assumes that if we mimic the human body and brain, then consciousness will automatically happen.  But this is just kicking the can down the road.  Even if it were possible, the designers of the hypothetical robot would not be creating consciousness, they would just be taking advantage of a natural (or perhaps supernatural) process that gives rise to consciousness.  Similar to setting a broken bone.  The body heals itself, the cast only helps the body heal properly.  But since we have no idea how consciousness connects to the body, there is no reason to believe that we can make it happen by mimicking the body, so this analogy fails as well. 

The Logic of Leftism: Outsourcing our Thinking

    What is leftism?  It has taken many different forms over the course of time, but in 2021, the essence of leftism is simple: outsourcing one's thinking to the System, in particular the mass media.  

    One of Bruce Charlton's crucial insights is that the mass media (which includes social media) is the driving force of leftism.  It sets the direction that everything else follows.  And if the media changes, then leftism changes.  

    Another feature of Leftism that Bruce Charlton has pointed out is that Leftism is no longer based on a particular ideology or political theory, but is purely oppositional.  It opposes traditional Western culture, Christianity, and in general anything good, but leftism really has no positive program.  Anything can be taken up, used and then discarded.  

    One good example of this is the New Atheist movement.  Had the New Atheists not been picked up by the media, the movement would have remained fairly academic.  It would have been known among people interested in philosophy and religion but not been widely recognized by the general public.  However, the movement is now gone.  And this was also done by the media.  The New Atheists were either ignored or attacked by the media.  And I believe it was because they were ineffective.  In fact, by attacking religion directly, the New Atheists caused more people to think about religious beliefs.  After all, if you have a debate about the existence of God, some of the people listening might come to the wrong conclusion.  Not only that, for every atheist book written, there were multiple religious books being written in response.

    Hence, New Atheism as a movement was started by the media and ended by the media.  It was just one tool among many.  

    Bruce Charlton's insight is important because it is easy to fall into the trap of believing that if we can just come up with the perfect argument against Leftism, then we can steer people away from it.  Because leftism seems to be concerned with ideas, like equality, tolerance, etc.  But these aren't the essence of leftism.  Tolerance and equality may be bumper stickers, but they aren't the one driving the car.  Any words or ideas may be used but those words and ideas will mean whatever the media wants them to mean.  

    Now, this is not to say that argumentation and logic are ineffective.  Rather, their power does not lie primarily in the arguments themselves.  It lies in the person considering the arguments.  There are many ways out of leftism and people can be reached in both logical and emotional ways, but the crucial point is that it must come from within.  It is vanishingly rare to leave leftism passively.   

    Leftism will never go away until people stop outsourcing their thinking.  The media can give canned responses for anything.  And people who want to believe will grasp at them, not so much becasue they are plausible as because they are no longer thinking for themselves.  Bruce Charlton gives an example of this in his recent post "The ongoing collapse of brain-thinking":

    "All that happens now is an ignorant 'parroting' of the superficial forms of brain-thinking - such as managerialist flow-charts and checklists - whose application is rigid but whose content is increasingly arbitrary and incoherent."

    But leaving leftism is only the beginning of thinking.  For those of us who are not leftists, the task is not only to think for ourselves, but to think from ourselves, which is intuition.  (Both Bruce Charlton and William Wildblood have written many posts on this subject).  Rather than thinking by means of methodologies that we have adopted, we need to know and understand things for ourselves.  

Summary and Discussion of Ecological Formulas

     This post is a continuation of the previous two posts which came from William James Tychonievich's excellent post "Calculating beta diversity."  I want to write this post to describe these issues in an intuitive and "big picture" manner and in such a way that the earlier posts, which give the details, can be skipped.  In those posts, I derived two formulas: 



    each of which relates γ (the probability of picking two different trees from a population of trees sorted into forests) to of other variables.  α is the average probability of picking two different trees from the same forest, δ is the average probability of picking two different trees if each one comes from a different forsests, and F is the number of forests.  δ was also described by William James Tychonievich in the original post, where it was called Approach 3.  β is the average proportion that the composition of a  pair of does not overlap.  For example, this picture by William James Tychonievich shows an example where β = 0.5 for two forests: 

    Here is another picture showing the same situation in a different way: 
    B is the spectrum of values that beta can take over all pairs of forests, so Var(B), the variance of B is a measure of the spread of the values of B, i.e., how close these values are to β, the mean.  

    Both of these formulas were derived under the assumption that every forest has the same number of trees, but they do not depend on the number of species of trees, or the particular composition of each forest.  If we allow forests of different sizes, then we will have to follow the suggestion given in comments by John Goes and William James's brother Luther from the original post and use weighted averages.  This is because alphas for larger forests will have a greater influence on gamma than those of smaller forests and likewise, the influence of beta and delta values from pairs of large forests will have a greater influence than beta and delta values for pairs of small forests.  
    Discussion of Formulas: 
    In this part of the post, I am going to discuss what these formulas tell us about the relationships of these measures of ecological diversity.    

    Formula 1: 
    This formula expresses γ in terms of α and δ and this makes sense because of how γ is defined.  γ is the probability of selecting two different trees from the population as a whole and there are two ways to do this.  We can either select two different trees from the same forest or from two different forests.   And our equation has terms expressing the average probabilities of both of these options.  

    Aside: If we wanted to know the probability of selecting three different trees, then I suspect that there would be an equation with three terms.  There are three ways to select three different trees: all three trees from the same forest, each tree from a different forest, or two trees from one forest and one from another.  We would probably have terms expressing the average probability of these three options, somehow related to the number of forests.  

    The derviation of this formula involves first expressing γ, α for each forest, and δ for each pair of forests and using algebra to substitute expressions for the individual alphas and deltas into the formula for gamma.  
    This formula tells us that if the number of forests stays constant, then as either α or δ increases, γ increases as well.  And this makes sense because if there is a greater chance of selecting two different trees either for a single forest or pairs of forests, then the probability of selecting two different trees from the forest as a whole should rise.  
    Also, if α and δ are constant, then as the number of forests increases, γ decreases.  In other words, if individual forests have less variety of species, then as the number of forests increases, the population as a whole will have less variety.  

    Lastly, we see that the coefficient of δ is F-1, so as the number of forests increases, α has a much smaller effect on γ than δ.  We would expect this because if there are a large number of forests, then there will be many more ways to pick two different trees from different forests than from the same forest.  

    Formula 2: 

    This is a somewhat strange formula.  I was not expecting it and certainly did not expect to see the variance of the different betas involved.  This is an inequality, not an equation, but it shows that γ is larger than the expression on the right.  The main idea is that if we calculate β according to William James Tychonievich's slice-matching method, then there is a relationship between beta for a pair of forests and delta for a pair of forests.  Give a pair of forests, if we pick one of the trees from one of the non-overlapping regions from one forest and one tree comes the other, then we are guaranteed that these two trees will be of different species.  If we have the pair forest j and forest i, then the relationship can be expresed by the inequality:

    Where the left hand side is delta for this pair and the right hand side contains the beta for this pair.  After this, one has to get an expression in terms of delta to substitute into the original equation.  

    This formula tells us that β has a direct relationship with γ.  As β increases or decreases, γ increases or decreases as well.  And this makes sense because if the composition of forests becomes more similar, then the probability of picking two different trees will decrease.  In addition, as β decreases, the contribution of the second term shrinks, so α has more influence on γ.  Likewise, Var(B) has a direct relationship with γ.  If there is a larger spread in the different beta values, then γ will increase.  Also, as Var(B) increases then the effect of α on γ becomes greater as the second term shrinks.  
    What is interesting about this inequality is that it shows one of the formulas given in the original post:  β = γ - α, which we can rewrite as γ = α + β, correctly expresses the relationships among these variables.  α and β both have a direct relationship with γ and γ depends on both α and β.  The above inequality helps by allowing us to calculate more precisely the effect of these variables on each other.  


The symbolic truth of Medieval Cosmology

    In this post, I want to discuss how medieval cosmology is symbolically true.  This post will be highly speculative and outlandish, but n...