The Nightshirt Sightings, Portents, Forebodings, Suspicions

Lost in Translation (or, Don’t Look for a Matrix of Meaning)


I have been arguing that present experience contains associative traces of emotional events ahead of us in time; we are detecting (faintly) the future—the real future, not just some imaginatively forecast future—at all moments, mostly beneath the level of conscious awareness. But because the retrocausality implied in this model is so “hard to think” (and culturally taboo), we prefer to interpret our future-sniffing faculty in all kinds of other, classically causal ways. We reframe precognitive visions as telepathy or clairvoyance or spirit mediumship or “past lives“; we reframe precognitive psychosomatic symptoms as manifestations of an off-stage unconscious; and we reframe the surprising, seemingly coincidental outcomes of our precognitive orientation as “synchronicities” stage-managed by a meaningful universe or higher intelligence.

My dream is that the psi ranger of tomorrow will learn to detect and recognize the bent twigs of her own passage ahead of herself in time and understand them for what they are.

Even many parapsychologists dislike the idea of precognition. This results in a funny effect of reserving precognition only for phenomena that absolutely cannot be accounted for through one of the other classical psi channels. My favorite psi guide, psychoanalyst Jule Eisenbud, fell prey to this reasoning: Although he brilliantly analyzed numerous instances of unmistakable “paranormal foreknowledge” displayed by his patients (and himself), he always assumed that if a patient dreamed merely about the contents of the next morning’s paper, for instance, it had to be a case of clairvoyance and not precognition as long as the paper had already been printed at the time of the dream.

I call this the “impossible by degrees” fallacy: If something is hard to think, we assume that nature likewise must find it strenuous to achieve. But if we grant the existence of precognition at all, there is no reason not to think that it is an ubiquitous operating principle in our lives. The problem is we have never had a theory that made it believable or palatable to mainstream scientific thinking.

Nonlocality, commonly invoked in parapsychology since the 1980s, sounds like it ought to fit the bill, but it cannot. All things in space and time may indeed be connected, but that fact doesn’t explain how the psi eyes of a remote viewer like Joe McMoneagle can home in on a Russian Typhoon submarine under construction, amid all possible pieces of information in the universe; he doesn’t know what he is looking for or even where (or when) the coded target is located—and thus has no basis from which to recognize the “right answer.” And quantum entanglement, the basis of nonlocality, cannot explain why a mother might have a vision of her own son dying on a battlefield; the particles that ever linked the two individuals would, as far as we know, have long since broken their special bonds due to the quantum promiscuity called decoherence.

landofthelostmatrix2Although some psychics and psychical researchers have been tempted to see the mind as limitless or omniscient, or as somehow extensions of a higher (or deeper) collective (un)consciousness, I think this kind of explanation is a bit of a cop-out. It removes psi from the scientific pale, and it doesn’t really fit the data very well. Much evidence suggests ESP trades in intimate, idiosyncratic meanings that resonate across an individual’s unique timeline, not on something shared or exchanged across space and among people. “Extraordinary knowing” (to use Elizabeth Mayer‘s term) often can be shown to consist of knowledge that a psychic lacks direct access to currently but will acquire at some point thereafter, often imminently. Other paranormal phenomena like meaningful coincidences have a similarly personal, intimate character, and this should be the needed clue that these phenomena are fundamentally precognitive and likely linked to our own brain processes. It simplifies things considerably to think of them as phenomena related to memory. In fact, McMoneagle himself (in his book Mind Trek) came to exactly the conclusion I have been arguing: that somehow the psychic is sending him/herself information from a future point when the correct answer is learned. (Not surprisingly, the star remote viewer also reports a lifetime of extraordinary memory abilities.)

Thus despite my strong affinity with some aspects of New Age thinking, the scientist side of me is increasingly “anti” one of the strongest currents in that metaphysics, the idea of a transpersonal matrix of meaning connecting humans to each other and to objects, some oceanic amnion of significance in which we are all swimming, or a universal “field” of consciousness whose ripples somehow carry meaningful information across both time and space. This turns out to be a very hot-button issue, as shown in the reactions I sometimes get to these posts and in the forum discussion following my recent Skeptiko appearance. Many psi believers very much want to believe that we are ensconced in an intrinsically meaningful universe and that it is not simply, as I argue, our own meaning-making brains creating the meaning we seem to find in the world ready-made, such as in synchronicities.

In the Out Door

The matrix of meaning goes back, in the Western philosophical tradition, to Plato, who saw the real world imperfectly reflecting the perfect world of ideal forms. This basic idea is reflected in astrology and the hermetic tradition (“as above, so below”) and in the late Medieval theory of similitudes described by Michel Foucault in The Order of Things—a system of correspondences that maps nearly identically onto the tropes used by the dreaming brain in building our associative memory search system. That right there should be a big hint that when we think we see evidence of a meaningful universe, we are encountering our own cortical processes in reflection, a confusion of the subjective and objective.

As an inherently material phenomenon, meaning is really a false friend of any idealist wishing to unseat the dominant materialist paradigm.

The Platonic matrix of meaning has tempted an increasing number of modern theorists of consciousness, psi, and related anomalies. Ervin Laszlo’s “Akashic fields” idea and Rupert Sheldrake’s theory of “morphic fields” owe a great deal to Platonic (meta)physics. And many parapsychologists too adopt an implicitly or explicitly Platonic, matrix-of-meaning model, assuming that such a model is somehow the only possible explanation for psi. For example, in an essay in this past December’s EdgeScience, James Carpenter argues that psi implies

a universe of meaning that exists ‘out’ as well as ‘in.’ As Plato thought, meanings exist beyond the person and are not simply constructed by the person or by groups of people. In psi, we engage meanings that supersede any physical connection to the self. Yet we engage them, we are affected by them, we express implicit references to them. It seems that we find them much more than we make them, and we find them far beyond the normal bounds of the body and the current moment.

I love Carpenter’s “first sight” theory of psi, and agree with his basic argument that psi is not some extraordinary add-on to normal perception but reflects a fundamental substrate of sensation and awareness, basic to our survival. But as an anthropologist, I must challenge him on the idea of meanings existing beyond the person other than in materially instantiated symbols. Meaning is a semiotic phenomenon that is encoded culturally but is made by individual minds/brains; although codes can be transmitted in material form, meaning as such could not exist “outside the head” … and psi does not necessarily imply such an outside-the-head structure of meaning, even if it seems to at first glance.

All data from ethnography, psychology, human development, etc., point to meaning as particular and physically embodied, not transpersonal or reflective of an underlying unus mundus, as Jung phrased it (however appealing we may find such a notion). Cultural systems of meaning are particular to cultures and incommensurable across cultures—there is always something lost in translation. The very notion of a transpersonal or universal matrix of meaning runs counter to how meaning works and how it has to work: Just as there is no “language” as such but only specific languages, meaning is only, ultimately, when you zoom in, a plurality of meanings, which are semiotic in nature, resting ultimately on arbitrary (that is, artificial, made-and-not-found) distinctions within a larger symbolic system that has to be culturally transmitted.

landofthelostpylonMaking meaning requires imposing arbitrary divisions on otherwise smooth reality. Every meaning-bearing signifier reduces to an arbitrary attachment of a consensus value to some “cut” or distinction in a flow of matter or energy—for instance, a certain gesture in opposition to other possible gestures (or to no gesture), a certain sound in opposition to other possible sounds (or to silence), a certain shape in opposition to other possible shapes (or to emptiness), and so on. The ability of the cortex to pair such “distinctive features” (as they are known in linguistics) with associated values and link them to personal experience in memory is what imbues the world with meaning in the semiotic sense of the term. Meaning is information relative to a context and, most importantly, to a recipient who can use that context to decode and make sense of it, give it value.

As an inherently material phenomenon, meaning is really a false friend of any idealist wishing to unseat the dominant materialist paradigm. It is a human creation, encoded in culture, made and re-made endlessly in the individual mind/brain. It is also necessarily subjective, dependent upon a particular point of view. As such, it cannot really be collective, other than in the sense of roughly (culturally) shared.

When the World Was Jung

The updated modern version of Plato is Jung, who is of course a sacred and nigh untouchable figure in New Age metaphysics. He also persistently creeps into parapsychological theorizing because his concepts seem to offer at least a useful vocabulary for talking about psi phenomena; his concept of the “collective unconscious” is, like the world of forms, a transpersonal matrix of meaning somehow uniting humans to each other and even to the physical environment. People love the idea of a universal field of energy and insight where basic symbolic motifs exist ready-made and shared, like a central library we all draw from. But what does it really help explain? And how could immaterial ideas “reach in” and shape our lives all on their own, for instance in synchronicities? He was unable to answer this—indeed as Arthur Koestler argued in his essential book, The Roots of Coincidence, he essentially resorted to a causal model but simply called it something different.

The idea of archetypes fast-forwarded past the really meaty questions of meanings and how they are fashioned, negotiated, and transformed in ritual and social action.

Hypostatizing “archetypes” was Jung’s biggest mistake, and it is the main reason that Jung, unlike Freud or Lacan, has zero relevance for today’s social sciences. Even at the time Jung wrote, the sublime complexity of cultural meaning systems as studied by anthropologists and linguists, coupled with the sublime ingenuity of the individual unconscious as mapped by Freud, could already easily explain the commonalities of symbolism that Jung detected in his patients’ lives and dreams and regularities across the mythologies of different cultures. The idea of archetypes fast-forwarded past the really meaty questions of meanings and how they are fashioned, negotiated, and transformed in ritual and social action, and how these processes might produce forms that recur from society to society despite no history of contact.

Meaning is ultimately personal; it takes social action to make it collective, and that making-collective must be renewed again and again in ritual. Meaning is something built up within us over the course of life and perpetually renewed in cultural experience; again, there is no universal language giving meaning to human thoughts prior to learning a language and the other meaning systems constitutive of culture. This is why anthropologists have long looked to Freud and the Freudian psychoanalytic tradition for a basic theory of symbolic motivation, or how culturally encoded symbols become meaningful to the person by linking to our instincts, needs, and drives, and how personal/private symbols conversely become public. Nobody in anthropology reads Jung (except maybe for pleasure), because he unfortunately put the cart of meaning before the horse of embodied cognition.

dopeyIf many cultural symbolic motifs are similar all over the world, it is because they reflect human existential universals. Sexual reproduction is basic and universal, thus all cultures symbolize and personify various functions central to sex, motherhood, fatherhood, etc.; conflict and war are universal, so cultures tend to have similar martial symbologies; ironic unconscious processes always trip us up, thus all cultures have a “Trickster”; and so on.

It is nevertheless a human need to deep down believe in a larger guarantor of the arbitrary cultural meanings we were enculturated into. Jacques Lacan called it the “Big Other.” He assured us that the Big Other does not in fact exist, yet it may be a necessary illusion for users of culture to retain their faith in the symbolic currency of language and symbols—sort of the way a central bank declares and supports the value of its bank notes even if there’s nothing actually in the coffers. Jung’s “collective unconscious” is kind of a transcultural version of the Big Other.


Much confusion arises, I think, from the failure to draw the proper distinction between meaning and information, which is increasingly becoming the dominant conceptual lens through which physical scientists view complex ordered systems at all scales.

The scandalous irony is that causality as such, the object of scientific inquiry prior to our outside of meaning, is thus outside the known and can only be an article of faith.

Information is really a way to quantify causality. For instance in Seth Lloyd‘s definition, any measurable state of a particle (its spin, charge, etc.) is a “bit” of information. The amount of information in a system is the number of bits needed to describe it, and as chaos/entropy increases in the universe, so (thus) does the amount of information—leading to Lloyd’s argument that the universe can be thought of as a big quantum computer, each of whose physical interactions amounts to “computation,” the processing of information. The Information is not intrinsically meaningful, however, and this is where his metaphor fails a little—unless we imagine that God is sitting at his laptop awaiting some output of all this computation, because it was designed to answer some question in his mind. Computers are generally programmed to produce a desired output, not crunch numbers for no reason; meaning is what expresses this sense of purpose, the value somebody gives to information gained in measurement or computation, the value of information for and to someone. Thus information is a concept that conveys the virtual or potential meaning in causality; but information as such—that is, cause—has no intrinsic meaning, and meaning as such cannot be causal, except via our own actions.

landofthelostenikBut (I hear you protest) quantum physics insists that measurement—the giving of meaning to information—has a real physical effect through collapsing wavefunctions, etc. Many things could be said here: First, there is no consensus in physics about what measurement means or what the consciousness of the observer doing the measuring might mean. This is going to be debated for a very long time and may prove unanswerable. And anyway the “observer” that physicists are talking about, by virtue of being injected into the experimental context, has ceased being the subjective, philosophical, “I am here, this is me” consciousness centralized in anti-materialist metaphysics; it could mean just the capability to make a choice … but a computer could do that. The question is whether a computer could experience the answer to its own question—and whether that subjective experience matters somehow in measurement. It may be impossible to answer these questions, because it pushes knowledge and knowability to its limit (the Lacanian Real).

This is really what Heisenberg showed back at the birth of quantum physics: Measurement, which imparts a human-given meaning to a physical object like a particle, diverts what might otherwise be a “pure cause” into a flow of symbolic meanings usable by the mind-brain but at the cost that it is now useless for doing other work; we cannot know what a particle might have done if we had not measured it. For causality to flow unimpeded, it cannot be interfered with in the process of giving it meaning—that is to say, making it communicable—through measurement. Thus the indeterminacy principle showed not the role of meaning in nature (as some interpret it) but rather the incommensurability of meaning and cause, and thus the limits of human knowing, and the noncollapsible gap between subjective and objective. There is no traversing this gap. The scandalous irony of course is that causality as such, the object of scientific inquiry prior to our outside of meaning, is thus outside the known and can only be an article of faith.

The Sandbox of Confusion

As Robert Plant famously put it, “sometimes words have two meanings.” This is no more true than of the word meaning itself. I’ve discussed meaning is the semiotic sense, significance as signification; it can only be this sense of meaning that the universe could be thought to consist objectively of a matrix of correspondences that could be invoked to account for phenomena like meaningful coincidences or psi. But when anti-materialists decry the “meaningless” universe described and even created by materialist science, they also partly mean meaning in the larger “meaning of life” sense: A higher significance, a sense of connection, and so on, as well as just the sense of life’s potential and richness, its beauty and grandeur. Science (it is argued) wants to evacuate the world of these things, replacing any sense of God or higher purpose with the impersonal, cold interactions of objects and energy (i.e., information).

Good luck colonizing Mars, developing new antibiotics, or feeding the starving masses with a mindset that meaning has to be part of our scientific picture.

This other meaning of meaning is partly a sense of life being worth living because it interests and excites us—that is, it is a synonym for enjoyment. This kind of meaning can in fact be found in and enhanced by scientific inquiry, but it is certainly not (nor should it be) the point of that inquiry; the point of science is to expand our ability to manipulate the world, expand our instrumentality, and that is achieved via reduction and measurement—which entails setting aside personal preferences about the way the world is (which we call “bias”) and, as much as possible, dispassionately subjecting objects to an impersonal system of theory and measurement. Measurement, in turn, necessarily implies materialism as an operating assumption. Thus meaning not only is inherently material, it demands materiality, and thus is no friend of true idealists.

Some in the psi community think it is a futile enterprise to even use science to investigate or theorize psi phenomena, since such efforts have, after a century and a half, yielded little in the way of a theory. Remote viewer Paul Smith argues that the attempt to scientifically theorize psi reflects a kind of “Stockholm Syndrome,” adopting a framing that is inherently hostile and unhelpful to the real point of exercising psi abilities. It’s an understandable position, and there may even be a way in which understanding psi mechanisms inhibits the actual doing (a common ironic principle in life and art that Lacan summarized with his phrase “how the non-duped err”). But I cling (perhaps naively) to my belief that although the scientific framework has historically been hostile to parapsychology, it is not inherently so. Future scientific understanding could be an essential part of exploring and enhancing psi abilities in new ways. We just need to have faith in that future science … and perhaps give the obstructionist skeptics time to die off.

Science, as social construct, isn’t perfect, but as long as we play by its rules (and don’t oversell its ability to address philosophical questions), it is a valuable, necessary tool. None of us, it is safe to say, would even be here, alive (let alone able to debate these ideas) if it wasn’t for the technologies that reductive, materialist science has made possible, starting with the “concrete science” of myth that (per anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss) gave us tools and agriculture and animal husbandry. The “meaningless” world that science is sometimes accused of creating comes from the way humans use their crude as well as more refined tools to inflict pain and suffering on themselves and each other—that is, rob the world of spirit or enjoyment—but this is not science’s fault, per se, and it’s hardly a new thing. You can’t gaze at a megalithic site or a pyramid and not realize that the ancients had their own profound issues with and around materialism.

chakaandpylonAll this is to say, I’m not a fan of making science and spirit play together in the same sandbox. Since meaning is always meaning-to or -for someone, injecting meaning into science, despairing of causal explanations (as Jung did with his theory of synchronicity, for instance), would entail returning science to the pre-Copernican, Medieval world, where our personal wishes/biases (or, the wishes of the priesthood) dictated scientific truth. Good luck colonizing Mars, developing new antibiotics, or feeding the starving masses with a mindset that meaning has to be part of our scientific picture. Though we often confusedly call upon science to weigh in on philosophical or ethical or poetic questions, those exist on a completely different layer of discourse and experience. To think that these conceptually separate layers causally interact, or that the answers to existing scientific anomalies like psi are to be found in blurring the distinction between subjective (meaning) and objective (information), is to create a sandbox of confusion.

If the world comes to seem acquainted with our thoughts (as Jung very aptly put it), it is neither because we live suspended in an amnion of cosmic meaning nor because we are simply deluded about the probabilities of coincidence (as psychologists never tire of insisting), but because our brain is somehow predigesting, pre-metabolizing our future in some way we have yet to fully understand. My dream is that the psi ranger of tomorrow will learn to detect and recognize the bent twigs of her own passage ahead of herself in time and understand them for what they are. The first step toward such a future is casting aside the cultural models of time and causality that currently shackle our imaginations—which includes not only the rigid, unidirectional classical causality of the skeptics but also “matrix of meaning” models that inhibit our scientific inquiry into how the human organism inhabits time.

Postscript: The Spirit of Parallax

To argue against a matrix of cosmic or universal meaning is not a spirit-free stance. It accords quite well with Buddhism, in fact, which would say that enlightenment comes not from departing the material world for some world of meaning but from transcending both of these limited frameworks. The great beauty of the cosmos is in its meaninglessness, its transcendence of the symbolic order as well as material instrumentality.

We really need to get over the fear of dualism, a fear shared by both materialist and idealist extremists.

This higher transcendent dimension of awareness and bliss, the rarified sense of “consciousness” that mystics have always united with, and that I think is really synonymous with enjoyment as the Lacanian tradition describes it, surpasses all symbolic cuts and measures and forms. Those who have not united with it but admire it from afar wrongly suppose it to be a place rich in meanings, a “mind” in the everyday sense, as somehow a plenitude of thoughts and ideas and information. But bliss-awareness, at its root, precedes any structuration; there is no information or meanings there.* There is only meaning in that other sense of the word, as fulfillment and reward and a sense of connection.

We really need to get over the fear of dualism, a fear shared by both materialist and idealist extremists. The triumphal voices in both camps somehow think the only pure way to be is to be a monist, and thus they all, on whichever side of the divide, commit the sin of reduction, reducing or assimilating the opposite viewpoint to their own. Hardcore eliminative materialists try to destroy and assimilate meaning to the objective—a stupid, pointless position that only makes them feel better, less threatened by mystery and uncertainty and subjectivity. Hardcore idealists, on the other hand, equally falsely claim the scientific enterprise is bankrupt or a lie because it doesn’t make a place for meaning and spirit. They claim that, since the material world is “within consciousness” (a true-enough statement) then meaning ought to somehow be a causal term in scientific explanations (an unsupported and confused statement, not logically flowing from the first).

The fact is, humans are dual creatures; we need both points of view, subjective and objective, idealist and materialist, spiritual and instrumental, and these opposites do not add up or complement each other or form any harmonious unity. This is the uncomfortable condition of “parallax” described by Slavoj Žižek, identical to the “no self” of the Buddhist tradition. I am thus unashamed to be an anamorphic dualist, flickering between these viewpoints. I highly recommend such a position for stress relief: You no longer get angry at the arrogant reductive materialists or impatient with the fuzzy-headed New Agers (God bless ‘em). Both positions are expressions of monist extremism, fearful of impurity, wanting things to balance and harmonize. Instead, embrace impurity and meaninglessness and non-closure. Embrace parallax. That impossible no-space in-between is where Zen is.


* … Which is why it is important to always question the spiritual value of information-dense visions reported by Gnostic and psychedelic explorers. Gnosticism is an intellectual and critical path, but not a spiritual one. Terrence McKenna the entheogen prophet and Phil Dick the Gnostic prophet were among the smartest people I’ve ever had the joy to read, but neither strike me as anything like enlightened. And while they both reported back about plenitudes of “alien” information (McKenna’s solidified language in DMT-land, Dick’s hypnagogic galley proofs and data-dense milk cartons, etc.), with sparse exceptions they were never quite able to report the content of the information they had seen or glimpsed, just its form—as though it had the fleetingness and insubstantiality of a dream.

What neither could quite discern was that that alien information they saw was their own future writings (and talkings, in McKenna’s case). The invisible landscape of information, the robot satellites beaming Dick information, were just figurations for the information they would themselves produce through their brilliant inspired discourse; it was their own future products they were seeing. The insubstantiality of our precognitive visions reflects the fact that they can only be sketches until we ourselves have done the work of coloring them in.



I am a science writer and armchair Fortean based in Washington, DC. Write to me at eric.wargo [at]

28 Responses to “Lost in Translation (or, Don’t Look for a Matrix of Meaning)”

  • Your hypothesis seems to me to make a very strong testable prediction: precognition can only extend a short distance into the future, “three score years and ten” or whatever a human lifetime may be.

    For example (although I personally am not very impressed with Nostradamus) let us suppose that some writing of his is discovered that unambiguously and unmistakably predicts the course of, say, the Second World War. Clearly, Nostradamus could never have “remembered” the outcome of the Second World War at any point in his life. More specifically, he could not “pre-cognise” any event subsequent to 1566.

    So a prophecy of events unfolding after the prophet’s death would show, perhaps not that your hypothesis is false, but at least that some other mechanism is also at work, would it not? And does not the literature of psychic phenomena contain many examples (doubtless controversial, but no more so than most instances of short-range precognition) of just such prophecies?

  • Norman, yes, you’ve hit on THE central question, and the main way to test my hypothesis. There are a some cases that seem to defy my model, but I haven’t encountered very many that I found compelling. Like you, I’m not at all convinced by Nostradamus, although I’m no expert. Prophecy is an old literary genre abetted by scribal error and outright forgery, and so any of it must be taken with a hefty grain of salt.

    I’m more troubled by a case like Edgar Allen Poe’s novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, which uncannily predicted a case of cannibalism at sea that occurred 50 years later, after his death; and, especially, I’m intrigued by a couple of remote viewings by Pat Price. The case that most seems to disprove my thesis (at least at first glance) is Price’s RV of the Semipalatinsk site a year before his death and two years before confirmation of his viewing in an Aviation Week article. However, there’s so much ambiguity around his death, and pretty much everything about him, that it raises all kinds of questions. Some in the RV community think his death was faked, according to Jim Schnabel (and not because of the Semipalatinsk viewing); but even assuming he did die in 1975, he spent the last year of his life working at the CIA, where the data leaked in the Aviation Week article was probably obtained, so it seems reasonable to me he could have gotten his confirmation somehow through intelligence channels while he was alive–this seems most likely to me. But it’s a head-scratcher for sure.

    The way to test my hypothesis is by setting up precognition and RV experiments in which feedback is inaccurate (not sure if this has ever been done; my thesis would be supported if RV-ers provide correspondingly inaccurate target descriptions); in which feedback is not provided at all (which has been done, and supports my thesis); or, best of all, to get some elderly RV-ers to view targets for which confirmation won’t be forthcoming until after they are likely to have passed. 🙂

  • An old data point for determining the validity of precognitive information beyond physical death would be observation of anomalous decay of the body.

    Saints that smell like flowers? Or burial rites that seek to induce the after death causal connection; red ochre never sleeps?

    That could be some temporal thermodynamics as repurposed entropy.

    Of course, such a state would be some kind of resonant personal antiparticle carrier. Cognitive dirt.

    Competing visions of the future, and grave robbers. The ants dig up old bones and gemstones, and arrange them in astronomical patterns. Humans see that stuff, and lay out cities.

    Probably humbling to sense that the connections mean more than anything personal. Business.

  • A very interesting meditation. As usual, I probably need to read it at least two more times.

    I am nagged by the idea that one logically ultimate conclusion of this argument goes something like this: “‘Meaning’ is entirely subjective, but it isn’t.” Or how ’bout this: “‘Meaning’ is entirely subjective, but appears not to be.” Information “is”; meaning is… perceived.

    In his regular column in the March 2016 issue of *Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine*, Robert Silverberg discusses the influence of an obscure novel my Walter de la Mare (sp?) on himself and his work, and he discusses how he more or less ‘accidentally’ found record of an historical character who was a ‘seed point’ for de la Mare’s novel. Silverberg then discusses how this discovery further influenced his own work.

    The point being: there is a web of “meaning” between the historical record of a 16th century British sailor (Andrew Battle) and his adventures in Africa, a childrens’ novel by Walter de la Mare (The Three Mullah Mulgars), and the novels of Robert Silverberg that “exists” only to Robert Silverberg, the people who read that column, and anyone else who might stumble on to the line of connections available in the “information” available in the three sets of sources. But the “information” is out there – it’s not hard to imagine some dissertation somewhere about how de la Mare took material from Andy Battle’s unique memoir and is sitting on a shelf somewhere.

    Or maybe not.

    This kind of stuff is all over. Is this the material “culture” that is the matrix of ‘meaning’ (as opposed to some metaphysical, platonic matrix)?

    One of my preoccupations being ‘the provenance of ideas,’ I take this to indicate that one can never be too cautious about questions of where ideas and stories “come” from. I don’t know if you’ve gotten to spend much attention to Gordon White’s recent Star.Ships. I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve listened to several interviews he’s given about it, my recollection is that he draws upon recent anthropology to suggest that several “worldwide, ‘archetypal’ myths” stem from a time about 40,000 years past when a large proportion of our collective ancestors were “all together” culturally, and not the result of ‘common existential issues,’ much less some psychic space named ‘the collective unconscious.’

    But yet… sometimes, it feels like we *recognize* one another’s experience, as subjective as they ultimately are.

  • And, oh, yeah, the ‘reading the bow-shock’ idea is really great.

  • For the most part, I agree with your hypothesis. With a few exceptions. One ‘when you say PKD or Mckenna do not seem particularly enlightened, that is an easily agreeable definition of ‘enlightenment.’ BUT it contradicts, both the tenants of Buddhism, and subtly your own hypothesis. Enlightenment is by nature beyond definition, in the west, we tend to create a particular dualism around what it means to be enlightened, a moral and Christianized dualism. Take, for example, the public disgust around Genpo Roshi’s affair with a student, or other countless examples, we judge someone’s enlightenment by a standard of behavior which ultimately, is dualistic. The Ken Wilbur and the Integral philosophers come in handy here when they differentiate between states and levels. One can experience a state of enlightenment @ any point in development, but it will be expressed in the dualism of the level one is at. So for example, we have enlightened Zen Priests blessing Kamikazes. In fact blessing missions of death in support of the emperor. So PKD’s enlightenment was expressed in the way he could express it with the setting of his individual ego. Van de Wetering describes in After Zen a mandala he saw with Buddhas in every walk of life, from homeless to executive, manifesting in every way imaginable by the artist. Ultimately, judgements of someone else’s enlightenment, seem to quickly enter into a dualistic mirror game, and in our culture, that’s a great deal of judgement.

    It seems to me that what you are describing or hypothesizing is what occultists like Crowley call the Holy Guardian Angel (HGA) which as described and once glimpsed by me, is made up of every point along your own timeline. It is the experience of yourself as made up of every point from birth to death.

    Your hypothesis, of anti-meaning, is dead on in my thinking, (and deepened a bit my ongoing struggle with the MU koan, so Gratitude!;-) However my hypothesis, also struggles with meaning, does take in the phenomenon that is the post-singular timeline. It borrows from the time-travel trope “If time travel is invented it will have always existed.” If one accepts the HGA hypothesis and Kurzweil’s AI singularity (as one example) then if ‘Artificial consciousness’ is developed it will exist in its entire timeline, which means it exists now in the struggle for AI. Similarly, as a Voodoo Priest, with its deep association with ancestor worship, it would appear there are post singular-timeline information transmissions. In science, the current research on epigenetics is of value, for example,

    If we accept some memories can be transgenerational, and one accepts the (even partially) The genetic basis of consciousness (i.e. the bio-computer hypothesis) and the HGA theory than there is no reason some future or past memories to be bound to only one generation. Aboriginal ‘Dreamtime’ is a good model for this and as a poet, I call it the ‘Long Conversation.’ I have hypothesized that the Orisha and Lwa are not ancestral spirits as much as ‘future potentials’ that call back across generations. This does not necessarily require ‘meaning’ as you label it, but there is associated meaning within the individual ‘set and setting within a given timeline. From my own experience, when I mentor, I tell people that a genuine psychic impulse comes without any emotion: If you realize your partner is going to cheat on you, for example, that information will come as it is without any emotion, but being humans, with particular cultural and personal proclivities, after you see that truth, you will (most likely) associate a matrix of emotions. If what is being passed back is an emotion, then the intellectual content will come after (Interesting in writing this response I did deepen my hypothesis, so once again Thank You!)

    I’ve been calling this phenomenon a Flashforward since the 80’s, when I discovered, on certain days I could predict what particular chemical compound I would be offered and do later that same day, by paying attention to my consciousness throughout the day. I could tell when MDMA would be on offer later that night, by how my perception changed in the morning;-)

    Please keep it up. I find your work to be relevant and inspiring!

    Dr. Concrescence

    “Everything is Trying to prove the perfection of its own perception” – Dr. Concrescence

  • Dr.Concrescence:

    Very interseting.

    “From my own experience, when I mentor, I tell people that a genuine psychic impulse comes without any emotion: If you realize your partner is going to cheat on you, for example, that information will come as it is without any emotion, but being humans, with particular cultural and personal proclivities, after you see that truth, you will (most likely) associate a matrix of emotions. If what is being passed back is an emotion, then the intellectual content will come after (Interesting in writing this response I did deepen my hypothesis, so once again Thank You!)” …this so exactly matches one of the oddest ‘moments’ in my life. Thank you.

  • For the most part I agree with you here. “Meaning” is usually just a conceptual designation.

    However I do think there is “Meaning” intrinsic to the universe, and I think that this is apparent in all the Mahayana scriptures.

    All beings want to be happy, but due to ignorance they fall into suffering.

    So “The Meaning of Life” is to cause happiness to increase in living beings, and to decrease suffering.

    This, I believe, is the intrinsic topology of reality. All lifeforms exhibit aversion to pain, attraction to pleasure, and indifference to what is neutral.

    Of course in order to finally attain permanent happiness, one must cultivate non-grasping to pleasure and non-aversion to suffering, and a relaxed and compassionate interest rather than apathy and indifference.

    This “Meaning” is not a conceptual designation (de-SIGN-ation to attach a Sign), but that which is designated.

    You said:

    “Good luck colonizing Mars, developing new antibiotics, or feeding the starving masses with a mindset that meaning has to be part of our scientific picture.”

    I say why do any of that stuff at all? Unless you are (however unconsciously or subconsciously) trying to create happiness and reduce suffering at least for yourself, your family, and your nation/religion/species etc…

    I don’t think you can separate the Instrument (Science) from it’s purpose or meaning which is to create happiness, solve problems, and reduce suffering.

    Form and function, instrument and purpose, subject and object, emptiness and form, they are all inseparable within the single sphere of reality.

  • I find it hard to see how you can so boldly ‘reframe’ past lives as precognition. With all due respect, you are hardly the first person to consider the matter. Alan Gauld and Stephen Braude have written about this extensively in Mediumship & Survival, and Immortal Remains, respectively. Braude finds that such super-psi suffers from ‘crippling complexity.’ One very simple reason is that the reframing is the more complex ‘move,’ as academics are wont to say these days. Robert Almeder would also come down in favor of the other side – and the Other Side.

  • Clarification on further coffee and reflection: While past lives are often thought of as the subject of a necessarily imperfect inquiry, they’ve been studied extensively by Ian Stevenson and Jim Tucker. Although the evidence for survival from mediumship appears to this commenter to be evidential just ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’, past lives, through their connections to birth marks, provide perhaps the most compelling evidence for a ‘mind-stuff’ which exists independently of, and by no means necessarily arises from, a physical body. In fact, the physical->subjective progression would be exactly backwards. Somewhat relatedly, if we are willing to accept the unconscious so easily, perhaps we should at least posit, if only for consideration, some sort of non-personal consciousness, perhaps a la Bergson’s elan vital, which, in its unfolding, has the power to shape matter, possibly with our occasional cooperation. Both would fit with a different variety of dualism, namely that in which consciousness is primary and matter a secondary sort of vehicle.

  • Thanks for the comments, MD. A few responses: First, the belief in a non-personal consciousness is so intuitive and widely shared (indeed part of me also shares it) that I am trying to challenge both myself and readers to test it against a compelling alternative. So maybe I’m being a bit bold, but I’d rather be provocative than just rehearse the same-old same-old; while appealing and reassuring, the non-physicalist/anti-materialist position on these questions sets off all kinds of alarm bells for me that we may be missing something simpler. I’m not positing super-psi, but a radically reduced version of precognition, which the scientist side of me finds more parsimonious … although admittedly it’s probably a matter of what one personally finds most simple and reasonable.

    Apart from the birthmark stuff, what would you recommend as a particularly compelling source of survival evidence that eliminates or controls for feedback/later learning about a deceased person or even just elicitation of reward (e.g., elicitation of rewards from a parent or researcher for producing seemingly authentic information about a deceased person)? In what I am proposing, the subject need not “know” (or understand the meaning of) the behavior they produce; it just needs to be tied to a future reward — and various well-characterized social processes (including Melanie Klein’s “projective identification” etc.) could (I think) explain how certain kinds of parents may elicit uncanny psi phenomena from their children.


  • Thanks, Dr. Con! Re: your point about “enlightenment” — yes, sure, but I was simply trying to make a point about Gnosticism (and its variants) as a spiritual path. My more complete thoughts on that are here:


  • Thanks Akh. I think you hit on what I also realized as I was finishing this post, which is that I could have just said “The subjective and objective are two irreducible modes of apprehending reality; keep them separate” and left it at that.

    With the new baby, I haven’t had time for Star.Ships. It’s staring at me from my bookshelf, along with a million other things.


  • Delicious piece. Thank you!

  • It is the proverbial tough sledding to find other good examples which point bear so directly on the ‘material/immaterial’ conundrum. I have not read them, but the two volumes which comprise Stevenson’s ‘Reincarnation and Biology: A Contribution to the Etiology of Birthmarks and Birth Defects,’ runs to something like 2,000 pages. Braude (per Stevenson et al.) also discusses cases of apparent xenoglossy connected with cases of the reincarnation type, particularly in countries with multilingual cultures. The rewards aspect you mention is plainly applicable to the young children presenting, but fluency is a much different matter than knowing a few words or phrases, and thus that formidable complexity reappears. On a more general level, parapsychologists have long been flummoxed by veridical visions, with one camp wishing to explain them away, well before Freud, as having too many obvious, deeply-held personal motivations, and the other uncertain about ascribing such complex events to a ‘need’ for dressing up forgotten or clairvoyantly-obtained information in visions of deceased loved ones. There is the famous case of the husband and wife who awake in the middle of the night and watch a ‘phantasm’ of the husband’s deceased father demonstrate the location of a second, hidden will. Whose precognition felt it necessary to produce such a dramatic display, for whose sake, and how did it accomplish this? Would not a dream have sufficed?

  • Yes, multiple-witness cases wouldn’t be readily assimilated to my model. My question would be, how many such cases are there, really, in which both witnesses provided independent testimony that is reliable? Maybe there are such cases, but I suspect there a lot of “and my wife saw it too” in the archives, or stories that get re-told that way, and those don’t really count.

  • Actually there were quite a few in the days when Podmore, Gurney and others were investigating them. For the sake of intellectual honesty let me admit that I gave a slightly altered version of the one above for the sake of brevity. The husband heard the ‘phantasm’ speak, in which voice was revealed the location of the will, while the wife saw the vision but heard nothing. In any case, Myers was sufficiently convinced to think that no satisfactory theory of apparitions could fail to address them, a position which additionally appears to have caused him to undergo significant intellectual contortions. But don’t let my devil’s advocacy sidetrack you. Personally, I sometimes wonder if Plotinus didn’t have most of it figured out a number of years ago…

  • Hello, Eric! This is Vortex from the Skeptiko podcast and forum.

    First, thanks for giving an interview so suprisingly quickly after my initial invitation – and for participating in a forum discussion! The latter is a very rare occurence, since most interviewees do not engage into a debate after talking to Alex in a podcast.

    Second, I suppose you do know Bernardo Kastrup, don’t you (as I remember, you’ve mantioned him in one of your previous blogs)? He had an intersting blog post about the “stealing of meaning” by militant-anti-theists/materialists from the rest of the poulation:

    There is also a video by him inserted in this blog post, “Religion, reason, time and space”, concerning the symbolics and mythos of religion, its meaning and its role of this mythic symbolism and meaning for society:

    What do you think about this post by Kastrup, and his general position as expressed in the video?

  • Hi Vortex, thanks for inviting me onto Skeptiko, and it was my pleasure to engage in debate on the forum. I regret I wasn’t able to engage more fully, but I have a new baby and limited internet time (or just lucidity) these days.

    Great question (re: Kastrup). Yes I’ve read some Kastrup and I have somewhat mixed feelings — appropriately for an unashamed dualist like me. On the one hand, he’s a really good, very articulate explainer/popularizer of the idealist monist position. The first time I read Brief Peeks Beyond, I felt like he did a great job of restating with more up-to-date metaphors what one of my favorite Ch’an (Zen) writers, Huang Po, expressed in his 9th Century writings (On the Transmission of Mind). But my reaction on second reading was less positive — he came off (I thought) as a bit glib. I haven’t watched the video (and I don’t have time today) but I’ll respond to your question anyway.

    You’d get no argument from me about the value of myth. But I really worry about the anti-materialist movement that has coalesced around Kastrup and other writers (Chopra etc.), that it verges on the same over-simplicity and even (at times) arrogance that the atheist-materialist bad guys are so well-known for displaying. While the loss of capital-M Meaning (as described by Frankl etc.) is the number-one human problem, it can’t so readily be blamed on science or scientists or the scientific worldview somehow “stealing meaning” from people. This is a straw man.

    In fact, that language, “stealing meaning,” is a dead tip-off that what we are really talking about here is the “theft of enjoyment” (in the larger Lacanian sense, not the sense Dick means in Valis, which translates to pleasure; part of this is semantics) that is the fantasy at the root of all social antagonism: “They” (it could be the racial, sexual, class, or ideological other) have stolen some essential Thing from us, which we once possessed. But really, what does Kastrup think the militant atheists have stolen from him, or from their readers? In fact, they have given him precisely something to be passionate about, to form himself in opposition to. If his concern is, on the other hand, how scientific materialism is read and absorbed by less enlightened others and might lead them astray into meaninglessness, then it does not give enough credit to people to form their own judgments (or make their own meanings). In fact, in our society, we are inundated with messages that the universe is meaningful, and not just from the churches; and materialism is, as I said in this post, central to the scientific enterprise upon which our very lives rest.

    The atheist-materialists might be infuriating, but ultimately it’s all just talk; our language games and debates don’t by themselves have the power to restore or take away meaning from anybody. What they do have is the ideological power to buttress unjust social structures and hierarchies, but at this perilous time in our culture, I for one would much rather have an atheist in office than any of the partisans of religion currently on offer. The most interesting idealist in history was not Plato or Kastrup or even Huang Po but Hegel, whose dialectical philosophy gave rise to Marx and Lacan, which offer much more interesting vantage points of social and scientific critique, in my opinion (hence my constantly quoting Zizek, who best articulates the Hegel/Marx/Lacan synthesis). Idealism and materialism exist in a tension, requiring each other, and irreducible.

    I do get Kastrup’s point, and as a dualist, half of me agrees with him. But I think the real elephant in the room is signaled by the great Alan Watts quote that Kastrup cites, from The Book (on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are), about the “realpolitik” view of the cosmos (i.e. what we now call materialism) and how it favors “tough people who face tough facts.” What Watts didn’t come right out and say, nor Kastrup, is that this bleak universe favors men and maleness specifically, and is an outgrowth of a gendered Enlightenment binarism that sees nature not merely as “meaningless” but actually as stupid … and specifically, as female (in a negative, misogynistic way). The meaningless universe is not the fault of science; it is one of many expressions of male dominance and male sexual insecurity in a still-male-dominated culture. For months I’ve been working on a post on exactly this idea, and your question has inspired me to return to it, because I think it needs to be added to this debate, as an angle that hasn’t received enough attention. I’ll probably begin by stealing some of what I wrote here 🙂


  • Do you think it’s possible that human desires, taken as a broad category, might be precognition of our state in the afterlife? I’ve read quite a bit of Swedenborg, and others, and the afterlife they describe – a place of mansions and artistic wealth, and fulfillment of all kinds – might be the wellspring for our desires in this world? I am wondering if that coworker we all have who buys a dozen lottery tickets every week and spends their days endlessly fantasizing about what they will buy once they win the jackpot might really be misinterpreting a precognition of the state they will experience in the spirit world.

  • Hi Dammerung. My proposal is that “spirit worlds” and “the afterlife” (at least as experienced during our lives) may be misinterpreted experiences reflecting our lived future — the way the associative brain takes future information and interprets it in terms of various culturally constructed expectations, which could include expectations of an afterlife or world of spirits. (I hope it’s clear that I’m playing devil’s advocate a bit; I sense that everyone has jumped onto the anti-materialism bandwagon without giving materialist explanations for psi an adequate hearing.) This doesn’t mean consciousness doesn’t survive the death of the body, but knowledge per se, since it is symbolically mediated, has to be physical and embodied, so precognition (I am suggesting/arguing) would be confined to what the brain experiences before death. This is a testable hypothesis, whereas there is no way to test the idea that we are able to see/know the afterlife; Swedenborg’s descriptions of the afterlife (/other worlds) could be total fantasies — there’s no way of knowing. But we do know that his precognitive abilities in describing distant/future events in this life were formidable.

    To me the type of coworker you describe exemplifies the real ills of materialism — not “matter precedes mind” but “think of all the nice stuff I can buy!” 🙂

  • Eric, there is another unusual pro-paranormal thinker out there – sociologist (and parasociologist) Eric Ouelett. His “specialisation” is SHARED paranormal events, such as telepathy, psychokinesis, mass UFO sightings and the like. His blog, Parasociology, is related to evidental descriptions – and quite sophisticated intellectual discussions – of such “shared paranormality”. Or “social psi”, as Eric himself calls it.

    The fact is, there are a DAMN LOT of “multiple witness” type psychic manifestations – as well as demonstrations of highly precise physiological correlations between spatially distant (and isolated) subjects (remember my posts during the forum discussion?). So, the claim of purely INTRApersonal (exclusively precognitive/presentimental) model of psi simply cannot survive testing: there are definitely INTERpersonal (telepathic/bio-psychokinetic type) psychic phenomena.

    Yet, I like you and Ouelett equally (and Kastrup, too…). The reason is simple: it is better to have a working “theory of something” than uselss “theory of everything” – and you have a pretty interesting (and daring) model of intrapersonal-level psi; that is, acquiring of veridical (and later verified) information that is somatically unavailable in the moment of its reception. Your ideas may have some usage in analysing cases of personal anomalous (psycho)somatic effects, like exceptional (self-)healings in “holy sites” such as Lourdes spring. In your “field” of intrapersonal psi, you are quite strong, Eric.

    And I will let Ouelett provide explanations for interpersonal psi. And Kastrup’s idealistic ontology may be the bedrock of a upcoming model for SUPRApersonal psi, such as macro-psychokinesis.

    Being myself a bit of “multi-model agnostic”, I can learn from many sources, and try the model(s) which is useful and fruitful at the particular cases, without giving an oath of loyalty to them.

    And I can see the same “agnostic” traits in you, Eric – to your highest credit, you do not try to pretend that you can explain everything with your model; as I understand, you only claim that you may provide a possiblity of parsimonious and effective interpretation of SOME psychic phenomena. And you do provide the model one (including me) may use, even if one disagrees with its philosophical underpinnings (as I do).

  • Thanks, Vortex.

    Yes, I’m aware of Ouellet’s work and I think he’s doing some of the most interesting work out there. His recent book on UFOs is terrific.

    I have tried to be careful to avoid making any claims for my model when it comes to PK effects. I think that, largely, ESP and PK are separate phenomena, and we have perhaps been led astray by lumping them together under the heading “psi” and assuming that all anomalous “mental” phenomena must somehow be related. (I’m guilty of imprecision in my usage, since I sometimes use the term “psi” when I really mean ESP.) For example, the faculty that lets us gather visual information about objects (sight) is totally separate from the motor abilities that enable us to manipulate those objects (even if they ultimately boil down to electromagnetism), and I suspect that the same is true for ESP and PK.

    I leave it up to Ouellet and others who know the PK literature much much better than I do to try and explain it … BUT I would offer that it could possibly prove helpful to keep the apparently “meaningful” (semiotic) dimensions of PK phenomena separate from the simple mind-over-matter effects, because it might turn out that precognition is getting mixed in, making it look like something Jungian when there’s a more “nuts and bolts” explanation. My strong bias is to think that PK effects would be very blunt instruments, but that our own interpretation or precognition of them makes them seem far more precise (and somehow intrinsically meaningful). However, while I remain doubtful of collective ESP, I’m very convinced of collective (or social) PK — no argument from me there.

    The evidence that troubles me is ostensible collective psi cases that are limited to ESP (i.e. telepathy); but I find that many accounts, on examination, don’t really hold so much water (sort of like the apparition case mentioned by MD above — at first glance seemingly shared, but then not really when you examine it) and mostly can be explained by post hoc confirmation. But, I invite you to contradict me with examples.

    With UFOs we’re in murkier territory, because there seem to be precognition-genic effects that may affect multiple witnesses simultaneously (e.g., through some kind of EM radiation) and could give the appearance of a telepathic connection among the witnesses.

    I’m glad you see I’m not trying to be stubborn. In real life, I’m open to many explanations for these phenomena, but I think the anti-materialist movement often rushes to conclusions (or inconclusion) too hastily, and I feel like I’m waging a one-man last stand for the nuts-and-bolts. 🙂

  • I don’t think any scientific advance relies on materialism, or idealism/dualism/etc for that matter.

    It’s simply taking advantage of the relations we find between things. I believe Kastrup helped build CERN for example.

    As for meaning, that leads to the whole problem of intentionality and the arguments against computers having thoughts. So I don’t see how meaning could ever be inherently materialist even if it’s inherently subjective/user-dependent.

    In fact while like you I don’t think demonstrating Psi necessarily disproves materialism (PK being the one possible killer), I do think basic mental characteristics like memories, thoughts, and subjective experiences are enough to show materialism is false.

  • Agree with you on a subject of science, SPatel!

    Mario Beauregard, neuroscientist and NDE researcher:

    “Over the last several centuries in the West, many scientists have functioned within a strict materialist, reductionist framework that holds to one essential assumption: “Matter is all that exists.” This materialist viewpoint has become the lens through which most of us interpret the world, interact with it, and judge what is true. Within the view of materialism, everything is composed of collections of material particles. All that we experience—including our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, intentions, sense of self, and spiritual insights—results from electrochemical impulses in our brains.

    Along with an increasing number of scientists, I argue that science should not be equated with materialist metaphysics. In my view, science should be an objective process of discovery, i.e. METAPHYSICALLY NEUTRAL.” –

    – a quote from “Near-death, revisited”,, Sunday, April 29, 2012

  • Hi SPatel,

    I somewhat disagree. The power of post-Enlightenment science is its insistence on quantification and measurement; this gives science extreme power, but it requires treating the world as consisting of discrete countable objects. Materialism is the necessary operating assumption when approaching nature as amenable to this kind of scientific inquiry. (And per Iain McGilchrist, insofar as we have an instrumental, reductive left brain hemisphere, we are all essentially materialists to a significant extent, and couldn’t function if we weren’t.)

    The problem is when a small arrogant subset of scientists zealously elevate that operating assumption of the scientific method to some philosophical absolute, asserting there is nothing in the universe that can’t be quantified. I’m not trying to defend that kind of capital-M Materialism, but I also think it is a bit of a straw man because most people, and most scientists, would not really endorse such a view if pressed.


  • Hi Vortex,

    I do get your point, but (and this ties back to the original subject of this post) I would offer that I have had some profound spiritual experiences as a result of my Zen practice over the years, and in each case the beauty, bliss, and sense of connection I experienced was paradoxically tied to the otherwise bleak-sounding fact that I was “nothing but” a bewilderingly complex material being in an ocean of materiality. That may sound senseless and somehow anti-mystical when expressed in the crude materiality of language, but it’s how “suchness” presented itself to me. These things passeth understanding.

    It’s why I don’t blame the world’s ills on (scientific) materialism. In the right hands and in the right ‘spirit,’ materialism can be another path up the same mountain we are all climbing. The problem is arrogance and ego, which can draw its destructive power just as easily from religion and other forms of “meaning” as it can from science (albeit maybe without the megatonnage).


  • …I have to catch up on the comments.

    After reading this:

    “What Watts didn’t come right out and say, nor Kastrup, is that this bleak universe favors men and maleness specifically, and is an outgrowth of a gendered Enlightenment binarism that sees nature not merely as “meaningless” but actually as stupid … and specifically, as female (in a negative, misogynistic way). The meaningless universe is not the fault of science; it is one of many expressions of male dominance and male sexual insecurity in a still-male-dominated culture.”

    …I was struck, when listening to an interview of Jeff Kripal by Gordon White, that I thought that Kripal said something pretty much exactly to that effect.