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    In Tolkien's unpublished work the Notion Club Papers, one of the characters, Ramer, reports to the other members of the Notion Club mentioned in the title (based on the Inklings) about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 real AI agenda

    On a post  by Wm Briggs, about artificial intelligence, a commenter with the monniker "ItsAllBullshit" writes:           "...