State of Being

Question of the Day ~ 20 August 2013 ~ STATE OF BEING

Do you have a significant viewpoint you would like to share on the intellectual/emotional – conscious/subconscious state of being?


It seems that to be human is to exist simultaneously on at least 20 different states if being.

Most of those states are subconscious.

It seems clear that our conscious awareness of being is an emergent property of a complex set of software running on the very complex set of hardware that is our brains and bodies.

The software includes all of the stories of our “culture” in the very widest of sense, as well as all of our personal sets of distinctions that we have made and added to culture.

The path of progression from childhood to adulthood usually results in the creation of many different “personalities” within each of us.

The task of “spiritual development” is to reintegrate all of those diverse entities into a single awareness incorporating all aspects into a single entity.

For each of us, that will be a very personal and unique experience; and there are many levels of commonality available within it.

While there are many example of circles, there are also other geometric forms available, including infinite spirals, and all manner of straight and curved lines and surfaces and beyond.

The possibilities appear to be infinite.

[followed by]

Hi Judi

One thing you said seems to display a rather common misunderstanding:

You said

But then words, which originate in thought, can’t really explain what is outside of thought, but we try

Which to my understanding is clearly false.

Words can explain something outside of thought, that is the definition of an explanation.

Where most people make a mistake is to equate an explanation with the thing being explained.

There is no identity there.

An explanation is, by definition, a conceptual model of something else.

It is, by definition, not the thing it is explaining.

It is a model, a map.

It is a model, sculpted in words.

No model is ever the thing itself.

We need to all be very clear that we can explain anything, and no explanation is ever the thing itself, never pretends to be.

All explanations have more or less utility in specific situations.

There is no such thing as a perfect explanation of anything real, there are only more or less useful explanations in the particular context.

[followed by]

Hi Lulu

You raise a good issue, which is an aspect of what I was describing.

I suspect the issue is infinitely recursive, and I strongly suspect that all of our models of reality will always be inadequate in some essential sense, and that all we can ever do is use the best model that we are capable of conceptualising at that specific time.

I strongly suspect that there are no “ultimate answers” in respect of reality, just ever more powerful approximations.

And there will always be trade-offs between the levels of processing required to deal with something at a particular conceptual level, and the time and resources available to make a decision, and the ability to integrate with lower order approximations.

These thoughts are basically informed by the work of Stephen Wolfram on enumerating computational algorithm space, and the potentially infinite nature of that space, and the impossibility of enumerating any infinity within anything finite.

[followed by]

Hi Judi

I have a very different understanding to yours.

For me, the concept of “ineffable” makes no sense.

For me, all things can be understood to a level that is “fit for purpose” in a sense.
When I am building, I work as if the earth is flat. I know the earth is round, but at the scale of measurement and errors involved in cutting timber and building a house or a shed, considering the earth to be flat is a perfectly useful approximation, one that all builders use.
That analogy works at one level.

There is another level, at which there is a process involved as to how neural networks come to grips with any new event.
There must sufficient exposure to the “thing” to be able to distinguish that there is something there.
This can apply to something physical (like a well camouflaged flounder in shallow water) to something conceptual. The first phase is the distinction, and the next phase is becoming sufficiently familiar with that distinction that it incorporates into their “common sense”.

So all things new appear beyond understanding for a time, then become more understandable with familiarity.
To me that is how it must be, at all levels of abstraction, perhaps to infinite levels of depth.

[followed by]

Hi Judi

I understand that you and many others see logic and merit in the argument for their being something ineffable,and I do not share that view.
I did go so far as to put “thing” in quotes, to try and indicate that it did not necessarily refer to anything made of matter or energy as we normally know those things.
To me, it makes no sense to say that there is something beyond form, that gives form, that is ineffable.

I can agree that it seems probable that there will always be ever more subtle aspects of reality that are beyond our current understanding (should we live a billion years), yet I do not admit of the probability that anything is beyond the possibility of understanding (at least to a useful level of approximation for the situation at hand).

And in another sense, I can get that the notion of “ineffable” is a useful first order approximation for most people.

And in another sense I can understand why most people think of the experience of loss of self in something greater and more immediate in the way you describe. And that is not how I interpret it.

While I have a substantial breadth of experience in the “material world” most of my time in the last 25 years had been spent in the non-material world of systems, with ever deepening levels of abstraction and non-linear logic.

I am absolutely clear that what I know that I don’t know is vastly greater than what I know; and logic tells me that what I don’t know and don’t know that I don’t know is almost infinitely vaster than what I know that I don’t know.
I have some small inkling of the vastness of my ignorance, and I am comfortable with that.

[followed by]

Hi Judi

For me, there is a huge distinction between the idea of something not currently known, and something not knowable.

I acknowledge that there are things, like Pi, that cannot be known to the last digit, as they are infinite, non repeating numbers, in any integer numeric base.
I can acknowledge similar attributes in reality.
And yet I count Pi as something knowable, as we can work it out to a sufficient level to be useful for any purpose we have. I used to have the first 100 digits of pi memorised, until I worked out that such a degree of accuracy was sufficient to define the angular width of a hydrogen ion (a proton) in the Andromeda galaxy – and I could not think of a use for such precision, so now I simply have 3.14159 memorised, and it works for all practical purposes to date. And I know where to go to find Pi to 1 million decimal places, should I ever have a need for it, and I could write a program to work it out to any arbitrary limit of accuracy.

To me, the term “ineffable” describes something that is not knowable, even to a useful approximation, ever. That idea simply doesn’t make any logical sense to me.
Unknowns, make sense to me, at many different levels, yet the idea that something is unknowable even to some sort of useful approximation simply doesn’t work for me. It doesn’t seem to be supported by the evidence of my existence.

The quote you ascribe to me “reality can not be known, that the material world is a model of reality, not reality itself” is not something I have ever said, nor would ever say.

What I say is that we have no direct access to reality. What we experience as reality is not reality itself, but rather a model of reality created by our brains that is slightly out of phase with the reality that is being modelled.
It is my understanding that the material world exists, yet what we normally think of and experience as this reality is not actually the reality, but rather our brain’s model of it. There is an extra step in the process that most people are unaware of. That extra step explains a great deal of the variation in experience of “reality” that people report.

Our being does exist in reality, and it is a reality within a reality. The reality within our brains that we experience as reality is not the external reality itself, and it is, in most situations, a fairly accurate model of it.

The distinction is a bit mind bendy to grasp, and once grasped, can give a great deal of power to the interpretation of our shared experience of humanity.

Detailed understanding of the mechanisms underlying the operation of that model, both hardware and software systems, is interesting to me (and is something I have spent many thousands of hours studying and contemplating), and is not required to get a general feeling for the nature of the systems as a whole.

[followed by]

Hi Judi and OM

I guess part of it is that we just use words differently.

For me, I am clear that conscious awareness is so slow that it cannot possibly deal with very much of reality at all. Our brains have to chunk down the inputs coming from our senses into models simple enough for our awareness to deal with. I can understand all the principles of how this happens, and from the flip side (of experiencing it in action) I get to be the result of all of these systems in action.

I have certainly experienced many states. Some which seem very similar to the states of being you each describe.
It seems that we each have very different models (explanations, understandings) about the nature of those experiences. This appears to be “normal” and I suspect that the range of classes of understandings available with the total human population will grow exponentially over the coming decades. Such growth of diversity seems likely to continue indefinitely.

I am extremely suspicious of any claims to “ultimate reality”, and certainly don’t make any myself.
I clearly acknowledge that the models I use are, at best, useful approximations; and they are the best such that have found to date, and I am always looking for better.

And I am clear that most people use very different schema indeed.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Comment and critique welcome

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s