An analogy to clouds: porous consciousness

Thursday, September 9, 2010

6:15 AM. My friends?

Scanning the previous one or two sessions will help bring you closer to our intent at the moment. We mean this as a general principle. Even if we go off on an entirely different tangent, it will still bring you within the railroad station, even if a different train is leaving on a different track.

You guys are showing your age.

We’re showing yours! Whose mind are we rummaging through for analogies?

Very funny. So —

Let’s devote a few more words to the porous nature of your consciousness. We think we did indeed get across something of the nature of a voluntary consciousness as a halfway house among many influences, but perhaps it would be as well to remind you that the word “layer” or “level” implies a flatness and solidity and definiteness that are quite mistaken as concepts in this connection. Think instead, perhaps, of clouds. Your – our – brain might almost be looked at as one localized area of a continuing lightning storm, lighting up various areas of the overall cloud in such a way as to make the areas appear to be more distinctly divided into sections or units than is true. This analogy has its problems, but it has its instructive aspects, too, so we will pursue it for a bit – reminding you first that it is an analogy, not a scientific identity. A map, not a territory, and in fact not even a map so much as an impressionistic interpretation of a naturalistic painting of a map. In other words, as we said, an analogy.

Think of some world like Venus or Jupiter where the entire atmosphere could be looked at as one huge cloud, and forget the boundaries of that cloud-atmosphere in outer space or on the planet’s surface. We want to raise an image in your minds of a huge expanse, as changeable as air, as locally organized as storms, as invisible as any atmosphere, and as stratified, those strata being only loosely and one might say temporarily defined.

No hard and fast edges.

No edges, correct. Perhaps you have a temporally persistent feature such as Jupiter’s Red Spot, but even in such a feature, it persists only because the pattern persists while the constituent molecules of gas continually move in or out or about it.

In such a fluid but not featureless or homogenous mass, can you see that geographers are going to have a hard time drawing boundary lines? How do you set frontier guards if the frontier itself moves continuously? Yet, if there are no hard-edged lines, still there are zones of division that result in, or rather result from, differences in composition that are organized, persistent, and meaningful as expressions of variation in condition resulting from the underlying conditions set up by the nature of the planet whirling through space.

Again, remember our purpose here. We want to free your consciousness from ideas that restrict your ability to intuit more productive relationships.

Now, if, within this vast sea of atmosphere with its own rules of being, we concentrate on any particular bit of it, our area may have a certain cohesion for some reason, but defining it is necessarily going to be arbitrary. It will be a setting apart for the sake of clarity of things that belong together quite as much as the things that are contained within the unit you create by your definition. Can you write boundaries in sea-water? Only as abstractions. The water itself flows. We could use an ocean as an example nearly as well as an ocean of atmosphere, and either analogy would have its particular drawbacks and advantages.

You can see perhaps why we discouraged you from starting to sketch the porousness of things. To think in terms of levels is well and good, but not if it exaggerates the solidity of the level at the expense of its continuity wherever divisions are made. We still don’t want the illusion of individuality sneaking back in through the side door.

Now, ground the analogy. It is difficult to find a three-dimensional model for a non-three-dimensional reality. We are tempted to explore the tendril-and-plant analogy but that sacrifices all the fluidity of the model we need. (It might be instructive in another context, of course. Everything in life provides analogies; the trick is to discover what the analogies refer to.)

Let us discard analogy for the moment and say it straight, and perhaps the appropriate analogies will suggest themselves. What we mean to say is simple enough, it is merely unfamiliar. But sometimes the clarification (the analogy) itself requires clarifying, and hence is better set aside for the moment.

Revert to the idea of strand-consciousness, or strand-mind, person-mind, and group-mind as each being similar in composition but each functioning in a specialized way relative to minds at other levels. Obscured in this model is the very important communication and interaction person-mind to person-mind, that is, communication at the same level. Given that it occurs at the level you are familiar with, the person-mind, and given that we are discussing mind not body (in other words given that we are discussing a non-physical not a physically-dependent phenomenon) perhaps you can see that what is true at your level is also true at the group and at the strand levels. Consciousness is a matter of input from all other levels including other consciousnesses at the same level. (A molecule of air may descend or ascend or move sideways, so to speak, but again the analogy is poor except for the aspect of fluidity and absence of rigid boundaries.)

Now, if any given bit of consciousness includes input from other layers, and if other bits of consciousness also include input from other layers, and if the same group-mind contains strands that each consider themselves independent person-minds, and each strand-mind is itself the group-mind of strands of its own, is it not one inseparable swirl?

This for the moment undervalues the separateness of things because concentrating on the unity of things; nonetheless, it is one valid aspect of reality. Everybody is connected not as neighbors with boundaries, but as a cloud or an ocean with separation more by specific gravity or buoyancy or by the pattern of established currents.

You will remember that we have long tried to explain the strands as connecting to other bits at different wave-lengths, or specific gravity, or buoyancy. This is what we were getting at. If a given person-mind comprises strands at many different levels (there’s that word back again) it in effect lives in each of these layers at the same time. A Hemingway may thus occupy a huge range of positions because his person-mind’s strands include such widely different levels. A highly specialized person’s person-mind might by contrast comprise huge numbers of very similar strands, rendering him or her relatively blind to much larger segments of reality so as to put one higher contrast the brilliantly lighted segments it concentrates on.

You are born with a limited range of options: There is no expanding the range of strands that are alive to you. But that limited range is immense. It is your alphabet, your palette, your raw material. By your choices among the strands you decide and create. The links you strengthen are the links you carry over to this side when you drop the body.

Surely you can see that if, at death, you were the same as you were at birth, nothing would have been accomplished. You would have no gifts to bring to the higher self, so to speak, no additions to make to the group-mind. Your time on earth would have been a non-event, a nothing. This cannot happen, as life and the passage through time impels you to choose continuously, but there is a difference between the sculptor tapping bits off a rock in order to make manifest what (for the moment) only he can see, and someone hitting a rock at random.

Don’t live your lives at random. It’s a waste of opportunity.

But are not some people doomed to live a life at random because of the initial makeup of their person-group?

No. But this is a large subject. We will begin on it but will scarcely finish.

Any given life has several coexisting purposes and processes. What is child’s play for one person-group is higher mathematics for another, and is an appropriate field of study for third. Every person-group has within it, and before it, its appropriate task that may be attacked well or badly. This is one more reason not to judge one’s self or that of others, because you don’t begin to understand what the various purposes are or how they are to be addressed or how they may interfere with each other or reinforce each other within the given person-group.

Instead of thinking of strand-mind as simple-minded or less conscious or in any way different from person-mind, or person-mind in relation to group-mind, consider that at each level are some at all possible levels of complexity and field of inquiry. Your own constituent strand-minds are not homogenous within themselves any more than all of them, considered as part of your person-mind, are homogenous among themselves.

And a moment’s thought will show you that it must be this way, as anything else would apply an absolute separation.

But – would it? A relative separation I agree, but absolute?

If you think group-mind are most abstract or most developed or most anything, and strand-mind least so, you are setting up a vertical separation.

The complication we are introducing here is only a complication because the physical brain will persist in analogizing to the 3-D model that it knows, and we must correct for the bias. But the really important theme we have introduced is that choice determines substance. And of that, much more to come.

Consciousness

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

1:15 AM. Asthma again. Well, it is September, after all. Since I’m up, you guys care to continue where we left off?

The volatility and porous nature of consciousness, and how (as well as why) the individual may be looked on as a convenient fiction.

Volatility, because no two moments of time necessarily have the same components. Porousness, because you can’t necessarily know or control who is coming in, from what level. Convenient fiction, because the features that provide continuity within a given individual are often not as strong as the things that separate the component parts.

You – not you personally, but your time, including even the most advanced “New Age” thought – have some very ungrounded concepts coexisting uneasily, adding up to a very fuzzy picture. Thus, spirit guides, past lives, ET’s both physical and non-physical, saints, possession….

Many concepts that don’t seem to have anything to do with one another, or that seem to contradict one another, require merely a certain orienting principle in order for their inherent inter-relation to become clear. Such an orienting principle usually – perhaps always – requires the destruction of a previous orienting principle that prevents a new way of seeing. In this case it is the unstated and usually unconscious assumption that people are individuals, and that individuality means separate mind and body, [and] continuity as that same personality, from life to life or, if reincarnation is not in the picture, a separate destiny, be it heaven or hell or some other idea.

When you realize how greatly the idea of you as individuals depends on one way of seeing things, one consistent set of rules as to what to notice and what to ignore, the arbitrary nature of the concept becomes inescapably obvious, as we have been pointing out.

If you as a person-group comprise many strands, each of which is a person-group, and if your person-group considered as a whole forms one strand of a higher-level person-group, and if, as we have said, these relationships continue up and down the chain of being so that everything is inextricably part of everything else (as only makes sense, from our viewpoint), there is your porousness. Your momentary consciousness holds the ring and attempts to impose a consistency. Regardless whether it succeeds largely or little or not at all, the nature of its contents does not change. Multiplicity is multiplicity. And since the effective active composition varies moment to moment, there is your volatility.

It will repay effort – for you, for anybody who reads this – if you go back over your personal experience and see if it doesn’t look different in light of these concepts. Past lives, you’ve already seen, look different. So must the guys upstairs whether named or unnamed. So do elements of telepathy. But maybe we should start with what you call robots.

Robots are your term for what we would describe either as split-off bits of consciousness or as pieces of strand-mind.

I’m muddling this, aren’t I?

Just continue as you can, quit when you must. You don’t have to do this now, and you scarcely have the energy to do so. The alternative – trying to go back to sleep – won’t necessarily be as difficult as you think.

We’ll see. I’ll try, and I’ll be back hopefully on all cylinders.

6:30 AM. Well, that’s remarkable. I got several hours of sleep, not having to fight asthma at all. How did you do that – and why not 60 years ago?

We didn’t do it, you and we did it. As a large part of you knows. Have you ever been prevented from doing something you really wanted to do?

I don’t know. I would have assumed so.

Well, as so often, we will continue to talk about the topic, using as illustration something topical.

You know – because we, and your experience, and your thoughts about the experience, which somewhat means “we” again, taught you – that a person’s health is a relationship between mental and physical factors. If they change their mental body, they may experience quick, even instant, change, but it is unlikely to persist because mental states fluctuate by their nature. If they change their physical condition, it is likely to require effort and time, but any change is likely to persist, because the body structure may be said to have an inertia to it

These are clues that can be better understood when you realize that none of you is a unit, even physically, so much as a coalition. Naturally if your health depends upon your mental and physical states, and if those states are actually the prevailing compromise among a congeries of what might seem to be smaller-scale individuals, you’re going to be at the mercy of many temporarily prevailing conditions – and, on the bright side, you’re going to have many a resource behind you, once you learn how to use them.

Yes, it’s pulling together. And you were just about to talk about robots when we broke off a few hours ago.

And that is where we could have gone then perhaps, and will go now. You taught yourself (which means, you let yourself be guided by seemingly external forces and seemingly autonomous inner forces (us) and then thought about and applied what you had been shown) you taught yourself how to deal with the physical and emotional problems of others by envisioning the forces in play as doing what they thought was right for the individual, but doing it mindlessly, repetitively, and so at last inappropriately. You learned how to reprogram those robots, and learned, through the experience of your friends as you worked with them, that not only could reprogramming stop negative behavior, it could be redirected back to positive channels.

You must for the moment regard your consciousness not as a thing, not as solid in any way, not as permanent. Your consciousness is not the same thing as you, any more than the volatile and temporary contents of a computer’s RAM are the same thing as the computer, or as the computer’s software, for that matter.

There is nothing permanent about a state of consciousness, and this is because it is not designed to be permanent, and could not do what it does if it were permanent. As we said, one permanent state of consciousness would be the equivalent of a computer locking up. Consciousness fluctuates. It is supposed to. It was designed to. It is in those fluctuations that it expresses the fluctuation of the forces exerted upon it from various and changing agents including external circumstances, the nature of the given moment, the effective pressure of other consciousnesses, and the effective participation of its strands and group-mind, moment to moment.

If instead of identifying with your momentary state of consciousness, you realize that it is an interim summing-up of your life at that moment (for so it may be seen) or as the result of your past choices (for it may be seen that way, too) or as the interplay of your known and unknown inner and outer components (a third way it may be seen), you will see both how at the mercy of other forces your daily life is and how vast an array of abilities you may command merely by realizing the fact.

There is a lot packed into that paragraph, and we advise that you re-read it more than once, and wrestle with it until (in connection with your ever-helpful guys upstairs, of course) you have anchored it to your practical everyday life. Ultimately it will ground and anchor many a free-floating concept, rendering the whole more coherent and usable.

As to porousness. Again, you must let go of the idea that you are the unit you think yourself, any more than that your emotional makeup is the same at age 8 and 15 and 28 and 60. It just isn’t so, and the attempt to see as consistent and unitary what is neither can only be made by slurring over all the detail and by resolutely forgetting vastly more than you remember. And this is what is customarily done, of course, but it does not serve you.

Remember that your consciousness at any given moment is the person-mind comprising many strand-minds and participating in a group-mind. This, remember, is over-simplification, but it is complicated enough until you have anchored the concept among your other mental orienting concepts; perhaps later we can then add nuance and exception and complication.

But what is true for your person-mind is also true for the group-mind of which you are a strand-mind, and equally true for the strand-minds that make up your person-mind. Again – always – as above, so below.

Therefore all is movement, and change, and interaction – and is this not your experience of life? This porousness is why and how you do not stagnate. At one and the same time, life is freedom and fate, and it does not depend upon viewpoint in this case. That is, we are not saying that life may be viewed as freedom or fate, depending upon the point of view. We are saying, instead, it is both, always, in the same way that there cannot be an up and no down, or an inner and no outer. The two – freedom to create; being created with – are inextricably linked because the same. If you pull on a string, the string also pulls you.

My thanks, not least for your assistance in getting a night’s sleep.

Quite all right. Given that you consciously lay there relaxing and not letting yourself tense up, as you learned, you may also thank yourself.

Our lives as discontinuities

 

Monday, September 6, 2010

4:40 AM. Today is an anniversary that grows in importance to me year by year. On September 6, 1966 – 44 years ago – I made my first journal entry. This present 6 x 9 spiral bound journal book is my 81st. I do believe that the simple habit of keeping a journal has done vastly more to give my life continuity than any other thing I ever did. Other than the mechanics of keeping body and soul together, what other habit has continued for 44 years? From time to time I have tried to stop; the way I was keeping it has petered out; what I was getting out of keeping it was a mystery to me – but I kept on doing it because in a way I had to keep on, not knowing why. It was never a diary after my college years. In my year of grad school in Iowa City I began keeping it as a repository for thoughts that came to me as I did my required reading – I found that I could jot the thoughts down in the journal and then be free to continue reading without distraction. Over the years it became something of an in-house psychiatrist, or anyway someone I could tell my troubles or perplexities too. And, beginning in 1989, it became my natural medium for conversations with The Boss – my first conception of The Guys Upstairs. Something in me knew a hell of a lot more than that 20-year-old boy why it was important to buy a blank book and start keeping a journal.

So. My friends, shall we continue? Don’t think I don’t feel your gentle nudges – how do you propose to use that paragraph about the journal to further your purposes? Or anyway, continue as you would.

Writing in a journal book is a good image for living life in 3-D. The only page you write on is the current blank page. Each written page recedes psychologically and – shall we say mentally, or emotionally, or both? The current page is of importance to the task of the moment. The previous pages might be looked at as being merely to bring you to the latest page, or might better be seen as each one forming a page in a whole, each having its own intrinsic importance; no page having been written for the sake of any given future page, yet each forming a link in the chain of pages. The analogy is not perfect, but it will serve.

I have just experienced two dis-continuities. I took Free Cell off my computer because I was playing it too often when I had nothing else in mind, and I finished the Star Trek videos, at least I think I have seen them all, and having watched three seasons of a weekly show in five weeks or so, that too had become a habit.

And the analogy is that in life one has periods of intense immersion in a given experience, and then perhaps that experience is gone forever as one moves on to other things. Being the parent of a newborn, or an infant, for instance, is something radically different from life before or after the event. Being a school child, or a young married, or any of what are thought of as the stages of life, marks a leafing-off. But this is obvious. Your lives are not monotones even when monotonous. As notes must vary if a different tune is to be played, so your discontinuities are a necessary part of the continuity that is any one human life.

And I hear you saying, each such life is a discontinuity in the larger life.

That’s right. And it is true on any scale you care to apply, for life – reality –- is all one thing regardless of appearance. If you were reading a musical score and could not see the scale for what it is – a sort of reining-in of variation to produce a set effect – you might think it random; you would very likely think it a mass of separate items whether coordinated or not. And it is true that it could be looked at that way. But a higher, more comprehensive view sees that the mass of notes have what you might call a contingent existence, whose purpose embodies them all because it transcends any one of them, or any combination of them. Thus, any life, and life in general, up and down the scale of the great chain of being.

It is because your time has lost sight of the meaning of the score that it thinks each given note of ultimate importance, which quickly amounts to thinking any given note of no importance at all. But if you can regain the sense of the music as a whole, you will automatically value the notes comprising it at their proper value. For, is a C of greater, or lesser, value than any other note? Is one chord intrinsically valuable – and does it exist except as a combination of notes, and does it have meaning except in a context beyond itself?

You know all this. We are veering off into the “why” of things when we intended to provide you with your own intuition of the “why” by setting out a better understanding of the “how” of things. But perhaps there is nothing lost in occasionally reminding the studio audience why we are all cooperating in this explanation. To resume the exploration of the “how”:

Consider the consciousness with which you are experiencing these words. It is provisional and temporary, and in your life serves only as a bridge between the present moment it is reading and the overall pattern that is your soul. At any given moment, your consciousness has different components, hence a different flavor, a different purpose – or purposes, for you usually have more than one at any given time. That momentary consciousness may be looked at like an electrical field, volatile, unstable, unsubstantial, and important only for what it can convey and transform. The electricity in your computer is not valued or even recognized for itself but for the work it makes possible. Another analogy: Your consciousness at any moment is like the RAM in that computer, filled each moment with different content depending on what programs you have been running, what data you have been flowing through it. But if that RAM ever stops flowing, stops fluctuating, you experience it as a computer locking up. It cannot function as it was designed unless it flows, and fluctuates, hence is highly impermanent.

Remember always, your mind is non-physical; it translates into the physical through the brain. The brain has rules established partly by its architecture and partly by the firmware installed. Translation errors, or perhaps we should say biases, are inherently probable, hence they might as well be considered part of the package. To use your joke, an unfixable bug becomes a feature.

The interface between the brain and the mind is your unique makeup. And the interface between brain/mind and the passing moment is your fluctuating consciousness. That fluctuating consciousness is the means by which your life makes its impression on your mind (your soul) and thereby on the group-mind. In other words, each moment is a moment of flux, of choice, and therefore each moment is the unique opportunity to affect your soul and the entire scheme of things.

Fortunately for you as individuals, no given individual can affect the whole very much. Where would you be if anyone could? And yet no one’s input is negligible, nor can you see at any moment what will be seen as important and what will not. This paradox cannot be resolved within binary logic, that is, within the mental world as it exists when filtered through the brain. You’ll just have to trust the sense you get that the information resonates.

I am starting to experience the limitations of the way we are working. I begin to get too tired just as we are in full flow. I get the sense that if we could continue, we could get vastly deeper stuff.

But that is not a path open to you. Do you care to teach people by your example to burn themselves out, as Edgar Cayce did, as Jane Roberts did? And anyway there is a better way, but it involves work as well as effort. There’s a difference.

I’m listening.

Yes, perhaps you finally are. All right, then. The effort is doing what you have been doing – basically, taking dictation. The work is what you must begin to do, or do more consistently – think about what has been received, and – in your case, Frank – reshape it so that it may teach others. A book that can be absorbed in a few sittings is likely to be more influential than a mass of material however valuable that has to be absorbed day by day as you and your guinea pig/volunteers are doing. In the case of those volunteers, and any who come to read these words, your work is to think about and make part of you what resonates herein. What does not resonate, leave untouched, and do not feel obliged to “correct” what has been given; merely give your own take on it, as Frank is going to give his take on it. This is not scripture and is not meant to be blindly accepted nor blindly attacked. It is an instruction manual translated from a foreign language, which means it has valuable instructions perhaps occasionally garbled unintentionally.

Can we return to the volatile nature of consciousness? I’m sorry I interrupted, in a way.

No harm. We are always on plan B. But the time is running out, as always.

Let us say this. If you will begin to realize – some of you already know it well, abstractly, as a concept, but if you come to experience, moment by moment – that your momentary consciousness is continually fluctuating, continually is made up of different elements, just as you have come to see that different “guys upstairs” enter and leave that consciousness perceived or unperceived, identified or unidentified – then you can begin to understand the porous nature of who you and we really are, why we say truly, without exaggeration, that the individual is a convenient fiction. This is the key to many things, this volatility of consciousness, and it is here that we shall resume.

Thoughts as things

Sunday, September 5, 2010

5:50 AM. Thinking, for some reason, of “The Search For Spock” and the TVs episodes of Star Trek that I have been watching (the complete set of DVDs, the gift of a friend who is uncluttering so as to be able to accumulate new clutter, as do we all). Watching so many TV shows of the same program, essentially one after another, makes so clear how the formula runs, and shows the central flaw in it as drama. If, every time it’s time for a commercial, it looks like it’s curtains for Kirk or Spock or the Enterprise – in order to build enough suspense to force or entice the audience to sit through the commercials and not change channels – and then of course it turns out to be (big surprise) not curtains after all…

Even more, if the whole plot, episode after episode, consists of unthinkable perils or massive catastrophes that the viewer knows well isn’t going to happen, it becomes chewing-gum for the mind. The viewer would have to willfully go along with the producer to pretend to be afraid for the ones in peril. S/he would have to deliberately get used to experiencing a fake emotion rather than a real one. It is the very genesis of the “happy ending” – and a country that is continually fed happy endings is being thereby divorced from reality, not because endings are always or even sometimes sad in real life but because of that basic dishonesty of the emotion the viewer is fed. It is more than tugging at their heartstrings. It is teaching them to think they feel what they don’t feel.

And I can prove it. The end of “The Wrath Of Kahn” was Spock’s death, and that death moved people regardless of whether it was overdrawn. And the end of “Nemesis” was Data’s death, and it was a shattering ending, not punning, either. But what if Data could have been “resurrected” as Spock was? Wouldn’t it have cheapened the previous emotion as Spock’s resurrection in movie number three somewhat cheapened (retrospectively) the emotion experienced in number two?

Nor does it make any difference that these were “merely” fictional characters. We can love fictional characters quite as much as real people. More, perhaps, in that we may understand fictional ones better, and we are not challenged by them as they do not arouse sleeping robots or dragons. People loved Data as they loved Spock. From the mind’s point of view (literally) a functional representation of life is little different from the real experience of life, and so we may have many friends who never had a body.

[TGU] And In that (if we may break in) you could learn something. What are the guys upstairs, what is a past life, but characters without bodies in your moment of life? From your experiential point of view, what is the difference?

Aha! I always knew I was making you up!

We smile. But, you see, even in your novel [Babe In The Woods] you had one of your characters point out that imagination and memory are perceived in a way similar to each other and different from any other perception.

Yes I did. One of your bright ideas turned into one of my thoughts, I suppose?

There is no ownership of ideas. But now consider this: This is what Edgar Cayce’s voice meant in saying that Thoughts Are Things.

That would be a good title for a talk, in fact.

Yes it would, for it could be used to shed light on your lives.

Okay, now, I was going along with an idea like a house afire, and in midstream realized in a half-aware kind of way that it could be looked on as you talking even though it was me talking. I get the sense that it was as much a demonstration as anything else it was.

And then we interrupted. But sometimes you set out one view of things and then say “but it isn’t that simple” and explore with equal sympathy and intensity another aspect of a given subject. What do you suppose is happening there?

Well that’s very interesting. Sure, another person in my strand-mind is horning in, or maybe another part of my group-mind. A “past life” or one of the guys upstairs – and alternately or concurrently.

With you as coordinating intelligence, yes. But you in the body must agree and cooperate or nothing can be done, though the thoughts can still be suggested.

Thoughts are things. This does not mean merely (though it is important enough in its own right) that as you think, so you become. It means that thoughts are as real as events to the mind (which is non-physical, remember). Just because your violent or lustful or uncharitable thoughts are not expressed to others (and of course, often enough they are) – does not mean they are confined within your skull, harmlessly and unperceived. Not only do your chosen thoughts change you; they affect the mental environment which affects people which affect the physical environment sooner or later.

Look around you and see the results of decades of worship of wealth, of disbelief – active and passive disbelief – in a greater meaning to life than transitory temporal matters. The ruin of your world is incubated in the riotous mind, as World War I was forced upon a reluctant civilization by the accumulated pressure of so much undirected hatred and fear.

I’ll spell out that thought as I transcribe; it will be easier.

[Diplomacy and militarism and the various complicated political events that led to the war were only the “how” of it. The “why” of it was an intense emotional – dare we say spiritual? – pressure that had built up in the wake of a century of physical “progress” accompanied by spiritual regress. I don’t mean that Europeans ceased to be actively believing Christians, though that was the surface manifestation of it; I mean that they – like us today, ominously enough – had ceased to experience any but material life, and it built up an intolerable though untraceable pressure that resulted in an explosion. I do not pretend that this is a common view of the cause of World War I, but it is one that the guys and I share. (Big surprise!) Consider the emotional difference between the nature of the European and the American participation in the war, or say the Japanese participation, which was merely opportunistic. The more closely you look, the less you can see the war as having any rational purpose or cause. After the war, reaction set in, but in most cases did not extend beyond outrage at the behind-the-scenes manipulation of the “merchants of death” who had fueled the arms race. This too was part of the “how,” not the “why” of the war.]

Okay. So then, this is only one more aspect of our theme. What you are is central; far more than what you do. What you are is as a beacon; it shines and you cannot prevent it from shining. Your unique duty – anyone who reads this – is to decide what you will shine, and you do this not in an abstract pattern of thought but by what you choose, moment by moment. As you choose, so you are. As you are, so you radiate. As you radiate, so is your effect. This is not a trivial responsibility. It is not made trivial because billions of others on earth and uncounted uncountable numbers in other star systems are each equally uniquely responsible for their own stewardship of a bit of creation. Numbers do not enter into it, any more than mass enters into a dream, or inertia enters into an altered-state experience.

The very experience of living a life while persuaded of its meaninglessness is meaningful. Living persuaded of entire predestination still entails continual deliberate choice after choice.

Now, to return to the beginning. You had a thought and set out to follow it. As you did, you recognized that the feel of this experience of writing it out did not appreciably differ from talking to us. At first you thought it was the time of day and the accustomed place at the table and the coffee. Then the thought came – I wonder from where? – “This is how I could write the book, and maybe not doing it this way is why I haven’t been able to do it.”

And so on down the chain of influences. Your lives are not separate from the non-physical influence of other aspects of yourselves at various levels. How could they be? Your mind – our mind – exists in the non-physical. It exists as part of an undivided whole, as your bodies exist as part of undivided physical nature both vertically in time – genetics, for instance – and horizontally in space – breathing air, living on food and drink, interacting with the world.

And so it doesn’t make as much difference as we usually think, who is driving.

More like, your ideas of who is “you” are too constricted. Why separate in your mind your thumb from the rest of your hand? Why draw absolute distinctions between things that are integrally connected? After a useful period of intellectual halfway-house concepts, why differentiate between “you” and “the guys upstairs” or between “you” and your “instincts,” or “moods” or “traits” or anything else? We are encouraging you to think of group-mind, person-mind, strand-mind not because we want to give you a new absolute but because we want to give you alternative models to loosen the grip on you of inadequate physical-sensation-based models that are no longer counterbalanced by spiritual models designed to be held at the same time. Your age no longer believes in body and soul. It effectively believes – by not seeing anything around it, being blinded by its “scientific” materialism – that only what can be measured exists. It knows better, if it would properly weigh the evidence, but it needs an excuse to believe what it already knows.

That’s my old statement about what Hampton Roads was publishing – books that gave people an excuse to believe what they already knew.

We knew we stole it from somewhere. We smile.

It always surprises me, how these pages fill. Hemingway would have liked to fill his so easily.

He spoke truly when he said that writing came hard to him. He was an expert fisherman, and could fish the feeling out of the air, but it was hard slogging to find the words and concepts to clothe them in. He and Fitzgerald – that is, Hemingway’s profundity and Fitzgerald’s phenomenal talent in expression – would have made an even greater impression on the world. But they had different jobs to do, and somewhat complementary roles to fill.

Enough for today, I think.

We think so too. Thanks for doing some of our work for us.

I’m smiling too. Till next time.

The group-mind’s effect on us, and vice-versa

Saturday, September 4, 2010

4:45 AM. You were going to conclude your list of the way our lives change by discussing how we express various aspects of ourselves.

And, as you knew immediately, this was a major topic far too important and too involved to be dealt with as an afterthought or even dealt with on the same basis as the others. Nor is our list necessarily complete; thought would suggest other ways in which lives in the three-dimensional world change. But it is complete enough for our purposes.

Now, in talking about change in various aspects of a given group, we come to the center of our explanation/argument. For, you will remember, we said that various “levels” of reality each changed within the level, and both did and did not affect other levels, an impossible paradox, surely. And we said that “levels” like “individuals” is a convenient fiction. And above all, we said, as above, so below, which says, investigate your own level closely enough and you can come to understand the repetitive pattern that constitutes the reality in which we live and will always live.

A strand-mind, a person-mind, a group-mind – seen from any given point of view. There is always something more and less complicated than you, something larger and smaller, and they always are of the same substance and nature. There is no other.

Now, bear in mind, our statements that may be taken as absolutes about the nature of things are to be taken as rough estimates, as ready-reference guides, or rules of thumb. We do not have the purpose of spelling out All That Is in any absolute sense, nor do you have the background or the inclination. Our task is to render more comprehensible the life you lead, now in the body, then outside the body – which means, temporarily in the physical, then in the non-physical. Science and metaphysics will eventually come up with a joint understanding far more sophisticated and powerful, but that time is not yet, nor could you and your contemporaries do any more with it than with what we are providing. In other words, it is enough, what we’re giving you. If you use it, it will guide you to greater life. Anything beyond the immediately useful may almost be regarded as a mere intellectual amusement. Not harmful, not trivial, but not essential in an emergency.

Is this an emergency?

It is, shall we say, an emergency in the sense of the end of the former business as usual, but not necessarily fireworks, gunplay and destruction. The end of the old and the interface with the new, however it plays out.

Now – and this may proceed slowly, Frank, so be willing to plod, and don’t count pages per hour as you are inclined to do. Slow and steady.

As you re-examine your lives, you reading this, in the light of what we have sketched out for you, you will more clearly see that your expressed life is the result of the interplay of various strands within your person-group. Once absorbing that fact, you will more easily understand that same process as it plays out at other levels, the strand-minds that you initially called robots and the group-mind that you have been calling The Guys Upstairs.

Nothing is static and unchanging. Everything changes. In a sense, then, the overall pattern of continual change does not change. This is not a mere paradox, and it is certainly not meant as intellectual pyrotechnics or somersaults. A pattern of continuous change cannot change although (or even because) the constituent forces that are changing, themselves change patterns.

The reality is a continuously changing light-show, or kaleidoscope – provide your own analogy. And – as above, so below. Nothing is static. Even an appearance of non-movement will change.

So, examine your life. If you did so during our listing of the kinds of changes possible, you should have been able to identify at least one example of each in your life. So now let’s look a little more closely. Where the net effect is fluctuation, progress, growth, discarding or pruning, regress (losing ground) and incorporation, what was the cause? Each of these effects is produced by the mechanism of your expressing aspects of yourself. So, you see, that is why the mention of expressing aspects of your person-group seemed a major new topic. It marks a transition from effect to the mechanism that produces the effect.

By the way, if it has not occurred to you, you could make symmetrical these concepts by pairing them: progress and regress; growth and pruning;         incorporation and rejection. (We didn’t mention rejection separately but it is implicit.) Notice how – the structure of the physical brain being what it is – there is something more satisfying in pairs along dualities than separate itemizations without coordination of concept.

All these forces amount to shaping, by various levels of the total being, but ultimately by your choices.

You getting sidetracked, a little?

Maybe a little, but it’s still worth saving. Very well, the main track for the session remains: You, in the body, have the ability and the right and the responsibility to do what only may be done within the limitations of the physical; you pick and choose what you want to live, what you want to be. In so doing, you affect your various strand-minds as they affect you. You have your effect on the group-mind as it does on you. Let’s pursue the aspect of things in which you – we – affect each other level.

Think back to Hemingway as an example not specific to any of you but accessible to any of you. You have on your own record the inner Hemingway, long past pretense or defensiveness, judging his life, showing how it appeared to him. Yet you have seen how even after leaving the confines of the body, he didn’t necessarily automatically understand everything that had happened. It’s a matter of concentrating on it.

Well, there was the creative writer, the craftsman (not quite the same skill sets, therefore by implication you should see, not quite the same set of strands), the borracho, the competitor, the avid learner, the skillful teacher, the sensory man, the intuitive man, the good friend and the vindictive enemy, the tower of strength and the example of weaknesses, the magnanimous and gracious man, the suspicious and mean one, etc. etc. A biographer is kept at full stretch, trying to fit this complete man into a pattern, or trying to account for so bewildering a mosaic of “moods” or “sides to his personality.” The superficial observer often enough collects certain expressed traits, decides that these are the “real” ones, and disregards or denies that others are as important or as central or even as genuine. In so vast and towering a complete man as Hemingway this is necessary unless and until one has the key – which is why, he cooperating, we are using him as model.

As you re-envision Hemingway not as a unit but as a person-group holding together such a vast array of traits, think of him as being somewhat under the spell of one or another strand-mind depending upon the circumstances, and then, ultimately, imposing his person-mind will upon them to bring them into temporary cohesion. The shape of that cohesion will alter according to circumstance, just as the expression in his life will alter depending on the balance of power among the various strand-minds when the person-mind is not in charge, is not enforcing its will and its view of things.

And, remember, you are doing this not out of an obsessive interest in a man nearly 50 years dead, but out of an interest in yourself. For we are using a model, here.

Every person-group interacts with its higher and lower levels. Sometimes the group-mind (the guys upstairs) drive, and sometimes they are driven, little though you might recognize your influence. Sometimes the strand-minds (robots, or habits, or traits, or moods, depending on how it strikes you) drive and sometimes you do. In all cases it is a question of how conscious you as a person-mind are, and how inclusive, and how receptive, and how purposive. We’ll have lots more to say about all this – or rather, you will, once we spell out the general principles.

Evolution and change in our lives

Friday, September 3, 2010

4:50 AM. Still pursuing the statement that any given level does not depend upon or affect other levels – and yet does.

Clever of us to put it  just that way, apparently. It holds your interest and it holds continuity.

All right. And I have it in mind that you intend to illustrate your point by way of inner biography.

Yes but not quite in the way you are expecting. That will come more as you structure the book, or the serial, or however you end up shaping the material. You will find it inherent in what you have learned and will insert it yourself.

I will insert what I don’t know?

You will see in the facts examples of principles we have given.

Now then —

The central theme here is that no matter what level you examined, the same process is going on. Your friend’s analogy of continual evolution is not wrong as an analogy, but it is, shall we say, a bit overdramatic. What’s wrong with saying, merely, that life at any level is continuous growth and change? But it isn’t necessarily growth and change in a particular direction, as if God were mending china, or as if life were nothing but evolving without equivalent de-volving. Can there be all construction and no destruction? One end toward which everything is striving? That can easily be so from a given viewpoint, only. From another viewpoint, all that progress is so much wasted effort resulting in destruction.

I get it. How about phrasing it this way? Progress in building a city is – from another point of view – progressive destruction of the natural world.

Yes, that is the idea. One man’s progress is another man’s progress towards the devil. It depends upon values, and viewpoint. That being so, how could you expect that the universe would see things in a way that any limited viewpoint would see them, value a goal as one viewpoint would value it?

Thus, any given goal one might choose may be a perfectly valid expression of one’s own values – but those values can never be absolute for the universe. Indeed, it might be said that the reason you/we are in physical and non-physical form together is so that each may express the values inherent in our makeup, the whole being the sum of so many contradictory and complementary parts.

“Nothing is good or bad, save thinking makes it so.” Not an exact quote, but that idea?

We hesitate to talk about “good or bad” because it brings in so many emotionally charged eddies. Let us say provisionally nothing is pleasing or displeasing but thinking makes it so; that’s closer to the point we want to make. And, to stick to the argument about evolution, no goal is desirable absolutely; it would mean that competing or contradictory goals were un-desirable absolutely. That just isn’t so. Life is far bigger than your idea of it – or ours, either. It isn’t a train schedule, or a jigsaw puzzle, or a long-distance race, any more than it is a grab bag or a terrorist’s bomb of random and destructive energy. That is, it isn’t all plan; it isn’t all randomness.

Now that may seem a diversion, that critique of the emotional underpinning of the idea that life is evolution toward a particular goal, but it isn’t a diversion, it is one more boundary of our investigation. One more fence marking our field of inquiry, if you prefer. It is this idea of evolution as an absolute that gets in the way of seeing life as it is, entirely as much as the idea of an all-seeing directive God. (And by the way, the former concept serves the exact emotional need that the other did, and developed in reaction to the discrediting of the latter amid the recognition that a purposeless life is an absurdity and is in any case impossible in practice.)

To see any new conception it is necessary to suspend belief. But it is also necessary to suspend belief in contradictory schemes such as meaningless chance, or a God who sets rules and then judges, or a mechanistic or even a purposive process aimed toward one goal, however ultimate the goal.

Note, this is not an attack on any of those beliefs. Each will serve some and not others. But each is a belief, and needs to be recognized as such if it is not too assume undue importance in an individual’s life. The word “undue” is, of course, a value judgment on our part.

All right. This is very persuasive to me, for whatever that’s worth. I suppose you couldn’t very well bring in ideas I violently disagreed with, and I suppose that my ideas have been shaped as I went along by your input – for I can dimly remember having been an evolutionist a la Shaw and Wilson many decades ago.

Of course one’s own guys will have views compatible with their own downstairs expression. It is tautology. That doesn’t mean we won’t sometimes startle you – but it’s true, we are unlikely to present to you the opposite of strongly held views, because we ourselves are unlikely to hold such opposite views, or we wouldn’t be resonating with you. There is an exception here, to be noticed but not followed up this morning: Sometimes a view may be contradictory when approached from one direction (or along one line of thought or emotion) and not contradictory along a different kind of approach. Bookmark that for another time.

So all of this is to clear the way to express how life changes by (for the moment) clearing away the question of why – for what purpose – it changes.

You – in your life – change in several ways. You fluctuate, you progress, you grow, you discard, you lose ground, you incorporate, you express first this then that aspect of your total person-group. Each of these processes is different in nature, and shall be examined. And notice and remember, as we do so, that what is said of any level equally applies to other levels – the processes are the same and the conditions as experienced are more or less the same – and in this way a close examination of the life you know sheds light on the life you cannot know.

You fluctuate. At some times in your life a given thing has a more central place in your consciousness than at other times, then it fades and returns and fades again. So, perhaps you have a long-term interest in fishing, but then other things intervene and you spend years without wetting a hook – Hemingway in his early years with Hadley is a rough example – and then circumstances change and a new kind of fishing attracts you, or the previous kind again becomes important. Not only the expression in action but the relative importance emotionally may fluctuate along the years. Still it remains a permanent or seemingly permanent star in your sky.

You progress. You master one stage of life or one skill in life and the mastery allows you to tackle the next stage, and so on. You don’t forget how to tie your shoes. You don’t forget how to ride a bicycle, or add a column of figures, or any skill you have learned and built on. Your ability to perform the skill may be lost over time, perhaps, but the progress was made and is not reversed. One may still know after one can no longer do.

You grow. You build upon what you are, and the net result is an organic growth, as the growth from cells to embryo to newborn child to adolescent to grown-up to elder. This is not a fluctuating process nor one dependent upon your ability to learn. And the very breakdown of the body that happens unless the life is truncated suddenly is part of the growth process, though not commonly seen that way – for otherwise one would attain a stage and get stuck there (which, in the guise of “eternal life” is some people’s somewhat shortsighted daydream).

You discard. Life is more than the process of addition. Addition without subtraction is not wealth, but clutter. You prune as you grow – old ideas, values, friends, associations, habits. Discarding is as much a form of shaping your life as acquisition.

You lose ground. Progress in one area may amount to regress in a complementary or a contradictory area. An adolescent loses the spontaneous charm and coordination of the child, and has little of value to replace it with until the process is completed and the child has been replaced by the adult. But, more than that, high ideals at one stage of life may prove too expensive at another stage, and be lost however regretfully. Or the nectar of life that is sipped at youth may fade into the common light of day – a la Wordsworth. These things may or may not be avoidable, but certainly they are not necessarily progress.

You incorporate. Something comes your way and you say “this is for me!” How long, Frank, did you read Thoreau before adopting him body and soul, so to speak? One chapter in Walden? Less? This influence came to you and captured you, and you captured it, and you were permanently changed. John F. Kennedy, the same, and a decade earlier. Lincoln a few years before that. You see? Not skills, not growth; sudden incorporation.

You express various aspects of yourself, of the person-group that you are.

Let’s stop here. It’s 6 AM and that last one sounds like a major topic in itself.

It is. Very well, till next time.

A conversation with Lincoln (2)

[Thursday, February 9, 2006]

 (8 p.m.) Mr. Lincoln. I have a pretty good idea what you want to talk about. I’m ready if you are ready.

I had given thought to the state of the nation as we would find ourselves with the end of the war. It is an abiding regret that I could not offer my guidance in this crisis as I had through the war itself, for I believed that I understood the situation as no man could who had not been in my position.

When a terrible war has been survived, those who find that they have lived through it usually want the one thing that can never be: They want things to go back to the way they were. I could not well understand this. “The way things were” led to the war. For us to return to the way things were would be to return to the path of war, would it not? And how was it to be achieved in any case? Would the almighty restore 600,000 men to life, and restore the massive damage to property that war always brings? Would we ask God to restore four million human beings to slavery – and return our minds to a condition of being able to live with slavery as a necessary evil?

No, clearly, to return was impossible, and undesirable even if possible. But then in what direction ought we to attempt to move? Was it desirable to restore the south as it had been, only with slaves now free? If so, what should be their status? How would they live? For that matter, where would they live? And the plantation owners: Without the capital those slaves represented, without a reliable labor supply, without the innumerable social supports taken for granted in the north – free education, free press, railroad connections, immigrant labor, a thousand useful machines – without all that, how would those plantations be operated? And if they could not be preserved, what was to replace them?

All these questions needed thinking through, and the overwhelming need was for thought and not mere bitterness of feeling, to determine the course that would lead forward.

You know my Louisiana plan. I was convinced that the sooner we got functioning state governments back into the union, the better for all. And the smaller the hurdles we made them leap, the sooner they would be back inside in feelings as well as in law and custom. But this was not to be, and it took me as much pondering “on this side” as you put it as ever I put in on the other side, in life, before I began to see.

The passage of time has made clear that many calamities that fell upon the Union cause early in the war ultimately conduced toward a higher end. As Joseph Smallwood correctly said, had McClellan crushed the rebellion in 1862, as he well might have done, the task of eliminating slavery would have been left not only unaccomplished but rendered less possible than before. It would have been a long time ere Union politicians raised the slavery issue after so near a miss – for so it would have been seen.

No, Union arms met defeat after defeat until we were driven into a corner and there was no way left; then I could proclaim emancipation and know that I could carry the country with me – probably. It was not a sure thing even then, but fortunately the contrabands had begun to transform the attitudes of the soldiers, then of the soldiers’ communities by way of their letters and visits. And the very mounting of casualties hardened the people’s resolution too, so that America in January 1863 was a far different place in its attitude toward slavery than America in January 1861.

There was even shame in it. The Tsar of Russia had freed the serfs in 1862! Were we to be the only people on earth holding slaves?

But just as time made it clear that our defeats played into the design of providence that all men should be free – so our terrible defeats after the war, after I was gone, were doing the will of providence no less. It took a while, but I came to see it.

The aim, as I see it now, was never to set up America as the world’s one successful free nation. It was, again, to have America lead the way to wider understandings. America has stood for reshaping itself, time after time. I have come to see that as a sort of model for the world. We having done it, others could be encouraged by our example to dare to follow.

We were a nation of white men, Englishmen. Then, English and Irish and German, and we had to absorb that. At about the same time – the ‘40s, as you well know – agitation for women’s rights and emancipation and the beginning of industrial strife all came at us together. When the war ended, we were faced with expanding our view of citizenship to the negro. In California, the Chinaman had no representation and few rights, but a time would come when they too would want to be included fully. In your day you have perhaps forgotten how wide the gates swung – southern and eastern Europe, China and Japan, finally India and every nation.

It is all part of the same problem, and it will not be solved by America alone or by America thinking alone. The problem is this: Is there going to be any division between people or is there going to be one common people? It is the same question that nearly foundered us in my day.

You see the Muslims and the Europeans, a clash of cultures, this very day. The task as I see it, looking down a long number of years, is to find a common sense of community for all the world’s peoples. That will represent success, and anything else, an incomplete success, or a delayed success, or, finally, failure.

This task will stretch you to your limits, as our challenge did us. You will not be the same people at the other end of this test, win or lose. However, in this is but another turn of the wheel. Your task is global but so are your resources. So is your influence, good and bad. What you lack chiefly at the moment is the vision of what you ought to be struggling for.

You copied my words and put them on your wall, and that was a good thing for you to do. I say it again on your behalf. “Determine that the thing can and shall be done, and we will find a way.”

Perhaps my thought is not as clear as I could have made it when I was flesh, but you understand. State it ever more clearly. Hold to it. America was founded as a city on a hill. That is what our puritan ancestors said. They meant by that not a city exalted, but a city in everyone’s sight, succeed or fail as it might.

It is for the living to carry forth the work that America has been carrying forth these four hundred years, knowingly or unknowingly, willingly or not. America itself, as I have come to realize, is nothing but another country. America as vanguard, though, America as trail-breaker, remains unique. It is for you the living to carry on the work, keeping in your mind’s eye the nature of the struggle. It is not mere survival, certainly not comfort, and not predominance that is at stake in your time, but the latest iteration of the age-old struggle – shall the world be divided or shall all the world be one? “United” does not mean all one thing. It means, all different things part of something bigger than each, bigger than all. In this I see no exception to the maxim so long ago entered into the language: A house divided against itself cannot stand. In my time we had to hold together the initial experiment in self-government. In yours, you must hold together an ideal, a model, upon which may be build a broader humanity. In this you have much support from “this side” – but you must act. Such action need not be political or even cultural but of necessity they must be acts of spirit. In this spirit is everything created; all else is but the working out below.

Enough for now.

Thank you again, Mr. Lincoln. God bless you.