The miraculousness of an event is due to its origin, not its frequency.There are extremely unusual occurrences which cannot be called miraculous. Drawing a royal straight flush from the first five cards you are dealt from a shuffled deck may be, even for an avid poker player,a once in a lifetime experience, but it is not a miracle. Monkeys jumping up and down on keyboards may type out a poem; they may even type out the complete works of Shakespeare. (Although if you're in the laboratory waiting for this to happen, I hope you remembered to bring your lunch.) Looking at it at the level of statistics, these events are highly improbable, but still possible (of course for space purposes we must ignore, for now, the much larger issue of the probability of anything of coherent complexity on the order of monkeys, humans or keyboards appearing in a random universe in the first place; and the even larger issue of the probability of a precise, mechanistic universe obeying a whole raft of inviolable physical and chemical laws emerging from a consciousless, purposeless, meaningless void). Coincidences also, even the most unusual, can be explained in terms of probabilities. So, if on the same hand of five cards one person draws a royal straight flush, which is a probability of one out of twenty-three million seven hundred sixty-two thousand seven hundred and fifty-two, and another person draws a full house, which is a probability, by itself, of one out of two thousand one hundred and ninety-seven; it would probably give the loser little comfort to find out, after he bet and lost his entire life savings on his full house, that the possibility of those two events happening together would be a whopping one out of fifty-two billion two hundred six million seven hundred sixty-six thousand one hundred fourteen. A very unusual circumstance? Yes. A miracle? No.
The origin of an event determines whether or not it is miraculous. A truly miraculous event is one that is caused by a non-physical source, by something that cannot be observed or measured; something that is not part of the physical universe. An event that begins in the non-physical,the spiritual, and ends in the physical; that is a miracle. Most people think of a non-physical cause, if such a thing exists, as emanating from a divine being, so miracles are considered divine. But some people consider human beings and even all living beings, even though they inhabit bodies, as being essentially spiritual, or non-physical. From this perspective, anything that starts with an intention (Divine, human or otherwise) is miraculous since intentions are not part of the measurable, physical universe. Intentions, or desires, are the bridge between the non-physical world of being and the physical world of matter and energy. Within the non-physical realm I include the moment to moment experience of your life, which you experience but which no one else can either observe or experience; your Self, not your body or cells, or genes or neurons, or all the quadrillions of simultaneous biological processes that occur in your body at every moment, but that which experiences and benefits from all of these and which cannot be measured or observed by any outsider, including any scientist, and cannot be observed even by yourself. I also include the impossibly complex organization of living beings; not the matter that is being organized, but the organization itself, which is often referred to in scientific circles as 'the program' which governs the synchronization and organization of quadrillions of processes that deliver growth, replication, metabolism, digestion, elimination, and the ability to sense the external world. This 'program' and all the knowledge and intelligence needed to run it has never been seen by anyone or through any instrumentation, and it never will be. Will, intelligence and desire are also non-physical. They are experienced but not observed. And, finally, I include natural forces, like gravity, electromagnetism, the weak force and the strong force. I am not talking about the matter and energy that is affected by these forces, but the forces themselves. We know the forces are there because we can see their results, but we cannot observe them directly. How did they get there and does their existence have a material bases?
Regarding attitudes toward miracles, the population can be divided into three basic groups. The first is what I call the material materialists or atheists. This group believes that there never is and there never was anything that can be called a miracle; that everything can be explained in terms of physical antecedents. Non-physical things are considered to be the result of matter. Consciousness is considered to be the result of the measurable electro- magnetic patterns surrounding the brain that are caused by firing neurons. You, or the self, is considered to not exist at all, but to be an illusion perpetrated by matter (the brain) to allow an organism to concentrate on one thing at a time (although if you are an illusion, who is it that is doing the concentrating?). Complexity of organization is considered to be the cause of intelligence, rather than vice-versa; and the amazing complexity of living creatures is considered to be the result of matter (nucleotides) arranged in genetic sequences. Also, the will to survive is considered to be the result of, to be emanating from, the DNA molecule. Supposedly this DNA molecule or some molecule similar to it suddenly emerged from the chance combination of chemicals armed with an unobservable but relentless determination to replicate itself that it was able to pass on, by itself, to its progeny from that moment forward to the present time, even though no molecule leading up to that moment had the least ability or interest or will to do anything at all, much less to replicate. Also, physical forces are considered to be the result of matter. For instance, electro-magnetic energy is considered to be emanating from and formed by electrons (or even tinier particles within the electron force field) and protons (or tiny particles within the proton force field); and gravity is considered to be the result of mass, and mass is considered to be the result of a theoretical particle which has not as yet been observed, but scientists are so sure that this mass conferring particle exists that they have already given it a name, the "Higgs Boson."
We will get back to all of these later in this post, but it should be noted that none of these causal relationships are known at this time. It is the belief of the material materialists (you didn't think that materialism meant the absence of beliefs, did you?) that these causal relationships will eventually be worked out and that the formulas and equations will be discovered that will enable us to understand and even replicate the processes whereby chemicals are turned into life, genetic material is turned into living bodies, consciousness and intelligence are created from electronic complexity, the will to survive is concocted from a combination of organic chemicals and the forces of physics are manufactured from sub-atomic particles. Rather than living in a miraculous world, material materialists live in a world that is completely explainable by observation of physical reality; or, really, that will be completely explainable as soon as the research is completed and the relevant equations and formulas are discovered. In the interim, which is now, none of it is explainable; but material materialists live in the hope and the belief that eventually, and perhaps even in their lifetime, it all will be.
I don't want to be a spiritual killjoy, but I know that none of this will happen. You cannot explain the origin of material by pointing to other material. I am not saying that there aren't sequential reactions, physical causes and effects that can be scientifically studied and observed. Of course this is true. The whole inanimate physical universe can be regarded as one gigantic sequence of causes and effects that began once precise physical laws were in place (it's the origin and make up of those laws that is the tricky part). Matter does not initiate anything and it does not experience anything. It merely reacts. Beings both initiate and experience, and the reason, ultimately, for the initiation of anything is so that a being can have a certain kind of experience. The initiation of anything by a being is called an intention, and the purpose of every intention is to manipulate matter or energy to provide an experience for that being or for other beings. Matter and energy are always the medium through which intentions are expressed, but matter and energy are never the origin nor the ultimate result of intention.
Let's put it another way. The universe is now being described in terms of a spacetime continuum and a fabric of space which bends and expands. This fabric of space is often likened to the surface of an expanding balloon. Although it has four dimensions (height, width, depth and time) it is considered to be all on one plane, like the surface of that balloon. When scientists study this physical plane and look for causes (how this or that happened to come about) they look for physical, observable antecedents within this plane. But all these answers to causal questions are lateral, in that the causes come from the same plane as the results. What if the entire plane was a result and the causes were elsewhere? What elsewhere could there be if the entire physical universe is encompassed in this plane? I am talking about something which is non-physical, which is no thing, which is beyond space and time and therefore, impossible to conceive. But for a conception that might be useful just as a way of trying to understand it, we could imagine, if we return to the image of the expanding balloon, that what I am talking about is the non-physical interior of the balloon, the endless surroundings of the balloon and the surface, itself, which is intersected at every point by this non-physical plane.
Although the non-physical plane (which is not even really a plane but encompasses and transcends all planes) is devoid of matter and measurable energy, it is, by no means, empty. I will talk more about the contents of the non-physical plane later in this post. What I should mention here is that most physicists, who are far more knowledgeable than I am about this spacetime continuum, do not realize that they, themselves, are not part of the spacetime continuum that they study; just as biologists are not the electrical, chemical protein mass that they study. We are not what we are studying, but that which is doing the studying. We are that which experiences that. We are not of spacetime, but we participate in spacetime. What we are transcends the plane of the fabric of the universe, although we operate within it. We, ourselves, are part of, are from, the non-physical plane.
Now I know that you cannot observe any of these things I am talking about, precisely because they are not things. But you can experience them. You can know the truth of them from your experience. If I say that you are not a thing, that you are the non-physical ground of your experience, and you are the non-physical milieu of your intentions or desires, you can give a knee jerk reaction and pooh pooh it as a fairy tale, or you can take it in, let it sit with you, and see that, although it doesn't jive with what you may have learned in biology class or Sunday school, it does jive with your actual experience. Are you your body, or are you that which experiences your body? You were once less than two feet tall and less than ten pounds. Were you that size or did you occupy a body that was that size. You were even once the microscopic size of a fertilized ovum. Was that you that was that size, or was that the size of the body that you were occupying? Do you experience yourself, not your body, as having any size at all? I am not asking if you ever entertain any thoughts about how tall you are or how much you weigh. I am wondering about the size, not of the body that you are thinking about, but the size of you that is doing the thinking. Do you, the thinker, have any height or weight? Also, your body ages, but do you age? I know you think different thoughts and dream about different things than you did when you were a young child. But you, not your thoughts, but that which is having those thoughts, not the contents of your experience, but the ground, the context, of your experience, have you aged, have you changed, or are you exactly the same context, the same observer, the same seer, the same thinker,the same listener, that you always were? Although in this life we are committed to this body/brain, we are not this body/brain. Our body occupies space but we do not. Our body changes and we call that rate of change time. But we do not change. Our body/brain is in spacetime but we are not. Spacetime with its physical contents was not created by itself. Spacetime is the result of intention and intention comes from being.
SPIRITUAL MATERIALISTSThe second group, regarding miracles, would be the spiritual materialists, or fundamentalists. This group believes that miracles once occurred fairly frequently, especially in the 'Creation' stage of the universe, and then the Creator (God) more or less finished His work and retired. Nowadays this God rarely leaves His Great Condominium in the Sky to intercede in human events and, when He does, it is not to settle wars, pandemics, ethnic cleansings or natural disasters. No, for some reason this God intercedes only at sports events. He (God) is supposedly male, although male being a relative term, there are no references to anyone or anything female in the divine realm that He would have an opportunity to be male with. This God also seems to have a penchant for the state of New York. So, He managed to avoid World War II entirely, but then arrived at Yankee Stadium in The Bronx, New York in 1951 to help Bobby Thomson's eye hand coordination and to diminish Ralph Branca's pitching skill so that Thomson could hit "the shot heard round the world" and the New York Giants could win the National League Pennant. Then He completely overlooked Viet Nam, but in 1969 went, instead, to Shea Stadium in Queens, New York to guide the Amazin' Mets through their pennant race and World Series. And of course, there was the Divine intercession in 1980, this time in Lake Placid, New York, enabling the United States Hockey team to receive a gold medal in the 1980 Olympics. The goal , then, of many in this group is to coax the Creator out of His retirement so that He will return to earth not just for sports events, but to perform more serious miracles and not just in New York but throughout the entire planet and especially in the Middle East, that will save not so much the planet, but specifically those good souls that believed all this time in Him that He will call to His bosom just moments before the entire planet and all its non-believing inhabitants are obliterated.
Allow me to digress for a moment about this Second Coming that so many people are praying for. If I am expecting the arrival of an honored guest in my home, I get very busy cleaning it up. The more honored the guest, the harder I work to make my home immaculate. I may have a little time to pray that things go well during the visit, but most of my time and attention is taken with preparing and most of that preparation is cleaning. Now we are talking about the most honored guest of all, who is, supposedly visiting not just my house, but the whole planet. And, dear reader, I have to tell you that our planet is filthy; it's disgusting.
More than six million children under the age of five, an entire Holocaust, needlessly die on our precious planet every single year, by diseases that can either be prevented or treated. These include Aids, diarrhoea, malaria, measles, and pneumonia. Another four million children die every year before they are five years-old because of poor public health policies. More than four million die before they are one month old, largely because of preventable problems at birth. Another four million children die from diarrhoea or pneumonia. Malaria is responsible for one million deaths while HIV claims 300,000 lives each year. At least 100,000 children die from measles. (For those of you who are obsessed about the Holocaust, your mantra "never again," rather than keeping you more vigilant, has lulled you to sleep. There is a Holocaust taking place right now, right under your nose. What Hitler accomplished over twelve years with his insane malice, we are accomplishing every year with our insane neglect.)
A series of simple measures could prevent most of these deaths. Encouraging new mothers to breastfeed their children could save 1.3million lives each year. Breast milk can protect infants against diarrhoea and pneumonia by boosting their immune system. Encouraging mothers to start giving their children food as well as breast milk at six months, which would help fight diarrhoea, pneumonia measles and malaria, would save another 600,000 lives. A further 326,000 deaths from diarrhoea could be prevented if everyone had access to clean water and better sanitation. Spraying insecticides could help to save another 700,000 lives by protecting against mosquitoes, which are responsible for spreading malaria. Vaccinating against measles and haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) could save more than half a million lives. Providing children with antibiotics to fight pneumonia, malaria, dysentery and blood infections would save an additional two million lives, while giving oral rehydration therapies to children with diarrhoea would save 1.5million lives.
There is no need to wait for new vaccines, new drugs or new technology. There is no need to wait at all. Our governments spend countless billions of dollars every year to train and supply armies to kill each other. If we spent a fraction of that to train and supply armies to save each other the problem would be solved (and our foreign policy problems would be solved as well). We simply have to transfer what we already know into action, deliver the interventions we have on hand to the children, mothers and families who need them.
And for those of us who have managed to survive all that, we are grappling with epedemics of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Our rivers and our bloodstreams are filled with pollutants that diminish the health and vitality of our planet and our bodies and that are put there by commercial interests that put their short term profits above the health of their planet and their customers. What is lacking is will. But if you really believe God is coming, what are you waiting for? And I do sincerely believe, in fact I am absolutely convinced, that if we really did clean up the planet, if we really did treat each person and each society as if they were a precious and integral part of the divine fabric, then God would be here. We wouldn't be able to see Him, and He wouldn't necessarily be a He, but the presence of God would be felt wherever we went and we would, truly, create a heaven on earth.
I call this group of believers spiritual materialists, because although they believe in God, in a spiritual cause of creation, they believe that this God has a physical body; that He is a male; and that He has a name. That many of these spiritual materialists come from a Judeo-Christian tradition is very surprising to me. There are many references in the Bible to the omnipresence of the Creator. How could God be omnipresent if He were in a body that occupied one particular part of space and not the rest?
When I was a boy the translations of the Bible that I read began with these words:
"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light."
The first thing that God creates, or the first result of this interplay of Heaven and Earth (of two complementary, antagonistic forces), is light. Einstein, looking at it from a material perspective said that the speed of light is the fastest speed that a thing can travel and still be a thing. But what if we look at the speed of light not as a cosmic speed limit, but as a cosmic threshold? Suppose that we say that the speed of light is the point at which matter or energy stops being a thing and becomes no thing. This no thing accelerating past the speed of light would achieve infinite speed because there would be no 'thingness' to limit its acceleration. No thing travelling at infinite speed would be everywhere at the same time, since it would take no thing no time to travel from one spot through the universe and return to the same spot. So no thing would be infinitely fast and absolutely still simultaneously. Also, there would be no separation between any one part of no thing and any other part. There would be no parts, since there would be no matter, no thingness, no boundary, to divide one part from the other. Therefore, no thing would both occupy all of space and take up no space. Whatever entered into no thing would enter into oneness with the entire universe of no thing. So, no thing is beyond space and time. Now instead of looking at it Einstein's way, as matter speeding up, let's look at it the other way, from the other side of light. If we were no thing (and we were and still are) and we were omnipresent and eternal and moving at infinite speed, and we wanted to create a physical universe of space and time, the first thing we would do is to slow down, and the first thing that would happen, the first thing that would be created, that would result from this slowing down, which would be the bridge between the spiritual world (no thing) and the material world (things), would be 'light!'
Each generation has a somewhat different fashion and style of expression as does each different culture. We each express ourselves in a different way and particularly when we are trying to express the ineffable. We use parables and symbols and examples from the physical universe to help teach truths about the non-physical spiritual universe, and, of course, we use those examples that would be most relevant and meaningful to whatever group we happen to be talking to. But what is always true is that the examples that are written are examples from the world of matter to give insights into the world of spirit. They are not to be taken literally; to materialize the inifinite. The older the book, the more out of fashion its style of expression may be. But there are universal truths, timeless truths, that outlive the fashion of the moment. If you are looking for timeless truths a good place to start would be in books and treatises that have been revered for thousands of years.
But I am digressing. Let's get back to our attitudes about miracles. Finally, there is the third group; the spiritual spiritualists, or mystics. This group does not think of miracles as something necessarily infrequent or even unusual. If a miracle is any occurrence that starts without a physical cause, then, from their perspective, pretty much everything in the universe and the universe itself is miraculous in that it proceeds from intention. Intentions do not start from physical matter, from chemicals or energy waves, or even from molecules or atoms. Intentions begin with beings. And there are two types of beings. There are limited beings, like you, me and the goldfish; and there is an unlimited Being (life forms and life formless). All living beings are, at the same time, aspects of this One unlimited Being, and also separate beings with a separate limited consciousness and separate intentions or desires.
Beings are the milieu of intentions. Intentions originate with beings, not with physical matter. The physical universe has no intentions. It is completely indifferent. This may be clearer with the inanimate world than the biological world. Chemicals do not want anything. They react according to very specific laws, but they never initiate or experience anything. There is no consciousness there and no desire. If chemicals behave purposefully, like the gasoline in your car engine or the electrons in a pattern of computer code, it is certainly not the gasoline molecule's intention to get you where want to go, or the electron's intention to communicate the message that you are trying to send. Obviously, that intention begins in the beings that invented and built that car and that wrote that computer code and continues in you who is the being that is trying to get somewhere and trying to send an e-mail.
Living beings are purposeful. It is commonly accepted, even by the first group, the skeptics, that living beings are imbued with purpose. If nothing else, there is at least the purpose to survive. This is obviously, observably true. What may be a little confusing is that this purpose to survive does not start from the bodies of living beings. There is nothing in the proteins and certainly not in the fats or the trace elements of a living body that wants to survive. Again, we are just talking about matter that doesn't care what the temperature is, how many nutrients are circulating in that body, if it is serving a healthy, fully functioning being, or if it is a corpse in the process of being devoured by micro-organisms. The part of living beings that cares about the temperature, and getting enough to eat; that cares about survival at all, is not a physical part, but the non-physical being that inhabits that body. When the survival attempts fail, and we mourn the passing of a human being, we don't mourn the passing of a human body. The body is still there, in tact, at the funeral. We mourn the passing of the being that experienced things through that body and that imbued that body with intention. Certainly, the body is not in mourning. There is nothing in that body that could care one way or the other if it is being inhabited by a being or not, if it is preserved in ice, embalmed, decomposing in the earth or left somewhere to be eaten by scavengers. The desire to survive, or will, begins in a being not in a body. Our desire to survive is not a desire for the body to survive, but it is a desire to continue experiencing things through our body/brain and to continue to have our desires met, or to have the possibility of our desires being met, through our body/brain. If we feel that our body/brain can no longer deliver the experiences that we cherish and no longer has any possibility of fulfilling our desires, then we are ready to move on.
The Miracle of Willful Action
So how does it work? How does the physical universe manifest as a result of a non-physical intention? Let's start with a limited being, like you and me. Now at this point we are all somewhat acquainted with brain research that has been conducted over the past thirty years and we know that whatever we decide to do, or see or listen to, neurons will start firing in various centers of the brain related to thought or sight or listening; and these paths of neuronal firings will create a flow of electric current that can stimulate a muscle to contract, allowing us to move where we want to move. Light waves entering the eyes and sound waves entering the ears stimulate neurons that create a flow of electric current through the brain that helps us makes sense out of what we want to see and hear. According to brain scientists, it is the neuronal firings that initiate these sequential processes, and "the brain" is discussed, and "our neurons" are discussed as if they are the initiators of these activities, as if they have a will of their own. But neuronal firings are not causes, but results. What really initiates these flows of electrons, the cause of these responses, is not a stream of electrons or light waves or sound waves. What initiates these processes are your desires. You want to do, or see or listen to something and your desire (desire links the non-physical to the physical) stimulates the neurons that start the whole pattern of firing. Your eyes and ears focus on certain stimulations, on certain waves, because you want to focus on these waves. The neural stimulation leading to the elaborate patterns of muscular contractions that enable you to move across your room and open the book you want to read or to eat the snack you want to eat, was initiated by your desire to read and eat. I have emboldened these words because neither you nor your wants or desires have ever been observed by any scientist or by any scientific instrumentation; yet all of the things you choose to do or experience or think about or remember or build or create begin with your non-physical intention which begins with you, a non-physical being. So the fact that you are able to do anything at all, that you are able to intend to do something, and then do it (and I am not talking about starring in a Broadway show or winning a Nobel Peace Prize) even if it is the most quotidian of activities; like opening your eyes or getting out of bed and brushing your teeth; the fact that it starts in the spiritual and manifests in the physical, makes your entire life miraculous. A very unusual experience? No. A miracle? Yes.
And please don't take my word for it. After all, who am I but some anonymous jerk with a weird blog. If you question the miraculousness of wanting to look at something and then actually being able to see it, speak to a blind man. If you wonder what the big deal is about wanting to move across the room to turn on the television, and then actually moving across that room; talk to someone with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease). Take any of the countless things we accomplish every day, things that we completely take for granted, and talk to anyone who is not able to do them if you want to discover their real value. The fact that we can start from ourselves, from a non-physical place, and have a non-physical desire, and then have it manifest in the action and perception and behavior that we want, is miraculous. Everything that we choose to do and then actually do, is a movement from the non-physical to the physical, and these processes that biologists diligently study are the very processes that are initiated by our desires and serve our needs. Everything that we choose to do, experience or think about, is miraculous.
Can this be explained? Well, it is miraculous, so whatever explanation I can offer is limited and symbolic; a way of explaining it that merely gives some sense of how we could imagine it happenning. You have heard of psychokineses, or telekineses. This refers to the much disputed ability of the mind to cause movement in objects. Uri Geller, the famous paranormalist, has made a career of seemingly bending spoons and other metal objects simply with the power of his concentration. Popular movements like 'The Secret' claim that you can change not only the experience of your life, but your success in various endeavors simply by learning these 'powers of the mind.' All of this is hotly debated in the general population and probably scoffed at in scientific circles. What is not scoffed at is the obvious effect that one's undivided attention has on another human being. Athletes, statesmen, actors and musicians understand the palpable difference between rehearsal or practice and an actual peformance or game where a large group of people are in attendance. We are energized by people's attention.
The Miracle of Life FormsIf it is miraculous that we are able to use our equipment to fulfill our desires, what about the equipment itself? Our amazing body, with its ten quadrillion simultaneous processes, that responds to our desires and allows us to get our needs met; is the construction of our bodies, itself, miraculous? According to modern biologists and evolutionists, all of this complexity has a verifiable origin in the physical world; our genes. Aren't our bodies caused by our genetic sequences?
Scientists describe genes as recipes for enzymes, the basic building blocks of living bodies. The approximately thirty thousand genetic sequences in every human cell are recipes for thirty thousand different enzymes and in combination with each other, for the one hundred thousand different enzymes and amalgams of enzymes that make up our bodies. But wait a minute! Do recipes create meals? If I left a cookbook in a locked kitchen and was assured that no person had entered that kitchen since I had left; and then when I came back the next morning I discovered that every recipe in that cookbook had been translated into a delicious cooked dish, what would I think? Would I think that the cookbook had somehow figured out how to prepare its own recipes by itself? Of course not. We know that cookbooks are matter and matter doesn't have a self and cannot initiate anything. That is obvious. Yet, how have we come to believe that genes, which are also matter and are also a collection of recipes, can engender, by themselves, not only our bodies with their distinctive and inherited shapes but also all the myriad processes (easily ten quadrillion at every moment) that allow us to translate our non-physical needs and desires into actual physical activity and experience? And as far as we know, the genes are simply coded for enzymes, which are not even the recipes for limbs or organs or body parts; they are just the recipes for the raw materials that are used in the fashioning of limbs and organs and body parts. I am not saying that our genetic inheritance does not determine our shape and lots of our instinctive behaviors and the impossibly complex organization of our processes. I am saying that even though our genes may determine all that, they do not cause all that. In the same way I can push button number 4 on my channel changer and get the Jay Leno Show; that little button with #4 on it determines that I get the Jay Leno Show, but it does not create the Jay Leno Show. What creates that show are the unmeasurable, ineffable talents of numerous beings that know how to translate their desires to make something entertaining and efficient and attractive and profitable from a non-physical dream into a physical reality.
But what about our bodies? Keep in mind that the exact same set of recipes (genes) in every cell of every person manifests, depending on which genes are expressed and in what sequence and what amount, into a fetal body, an infant body, a teenage body, an adult body and a senior body. Also, from the exact same set of recipes (genes) again depending on which recipes (genes) are expressed, are manifested muscle cells, nerve cells, skin cells and stem cells. And all of this is continually shaped and reshaped with amazing precision to create our growing and constantly changing bodies. Who or what is it that is combining these recipes with such transcendent precision to create the myriad organs and structures and shapes and then to imbue them with the precise amount of energy and purpose to deliver at every moment a functioning human body? The truth is that no one knows! That is because the organizer, the planner and the decider of all this activity has never been observed by any scientist, either with their naked eye or through any instrumentation. The only things that can be seen are the results.
Without ever seeing the program, the programmer or the intelligence behind the program, without ever locating it in space and time, scientists continue to talk about the program and even its origin and development. They tell us the program has evolved over many millions of years and has gotten more and more complex as we have learned more and more about our environment. Now it is true that evolution is certainly not just the accumulation of more genes (more recipes). That may increase the number of possible raw materials (enzymes) that would be found in an organism, but it would not, by itself, increase that organism's complexity. So, yes, the program for a human being would have to be much more complicated than the program for a microbe, but, again, where is it? With each program that I am familiar with, I can show you the disc where the program is inscribed, I can show you the computer that it runs on, and, with a little research, I can produce the name of the programmer who created it. With this 'living program' where is the soft ware, where is the hardware, and where is the programmer?
Also, scientists will tell us that over millions of years we have learned how to........(whatever the miraculous biological thing is that we are looking at). But who has learned this? Are we talking about the 'programmer." Yet, the whole point of modern evolution, as I understand it, is that everything has evolved by itself. So, are we the programmer? Have we learned how to do all these biological wonders? When? Where? I know of not one living being, human or otherwise, contemporary or otherwise, who has ever learned one biological process that takes place within the body of any living being. Do you know how to digest? how to eliminate? how to reproduce? how to grow? I am not talking about the few superficial facts that you may have learned in a biology class. You were growing, digesting and eliminating just fine way before you learned any of those facts or ever heard of the word biology. Where is all this learning going on? Do you think that your cells have learned how to produce enzymes? You're kidding! A little microscopic cell? If you have no idea what your cells are doing, do you really think that your cells have any idea what their molecules are doing? Do you think cells have any ideas period? And please don't say that genes, submicroscopic specks of nucleic acid, know anything either! What happens over and over in modern science is that scientists confuse location with agency. So, yes, metabolism and digestion and growth are going on in my body, but I am not doing the metabolizing or digesting or growing and neither is some mythical being called 'my body.' Yes, there are electrical processes going on in various areas of my brain every time I think about something or remember something or see something, but a being called 'my brain' is not thinking or remembering or seeing them. In the same way, there are a lot of ballgames going on in Yankee Stadium, but Yankee Stadium is not doing them. Yankee Stadium is merely the location where they are taking place. Likewise there are a lot of processes going on in my kitchen when a meal is being prepared, but a being named 'my kitchen' is not doing those either.
And what did we supposedly learn over all these millions of years? How to breathe? How to digest? How to grow? Please use your common sense. How would a life form exist for even a minute, never mind from generation to generation, if it didn't already know how to breathe, metabolise, digest, eliminate, grow and reproduce? No living being ever learned any of these things, EVER! The truth is that we are the recipients and the beneficiaries of everything that happens biologically in our bodies. We never learned how to do any of it and we never actually do any of it. And, of course, none of the little particles that compose our bodies ever learned any of it either.
In addition to creating mythical beings by infusing physical locations with the powers of agency, knowledge and desire ('our brains' want this,'our genes' want that) evolutionary biologists also create historical myths. There is an entire branch of speculation called 'pre-biotic evolution' which not only is nonsense, but has been proven to be nonsense over and over again, and yet it is still repeated and reprinted in textbooks and communicated as reliable knowledge. This is the supposed chemical evolution of organic material in Edenic tidepools on this planet for hundreds of millions of years leading up to the chance accumulation of DNA or a DNA type molecule which suddenly started replicating exact copies of itself, which means that not only the identical molecule was reproduced but the molecule's method of and commitment to replication was reproduced identically in a way that has continued, in tact, to the present day (no molecule, DNA, or otherwise, has ever been known to replicate except as part of a whole cell's replication). These ideas continue to be espoused even though it has been determined that the early earth was a roiling, boiling, exploding hellhole which was incapable of supporting any life what so ever, much less able to support the delicate structures of organic material that was supposedly floating around and staying in tact in these tidepools for many millions of years (in our bodies our organic material is protected from the elements by a cell wall, our skin, our ability to maintain a consistent internal temperature, etc. When I say organic material, think raw eggs outside of their shells). How long would such organic material last in a temperature above the boiling point of water, in an environment that is too base or too acidic, or too exposed to ultra violet light, or violent movement. Moreover, vestiges of microbial life that metabolizes, digests, eliminates, senses its environment, grows and reproduces has been discovered in abundance dating back over three and a half billion years to the very moment when the surface of the planet was cool enough to support any life forms (a temperature below the boiling point of water). And hundreds of millions of years before that there was hyper-thermophilic life alongside thermal vents in the ocean floor, that survived in temperatures well above the boiling point of water because of the extra bonding of their molecules. How could such creatures be 'accumulated' in an environment where any of their individual parts would break down as fast as you could boil an egg?
I say the following as both a mystic and a realist. I say it not because I want to believe it, but because my observation and my life experience leave me no other conclusion: Before there were life forms, there was life formless. Life formless is intelligence, love, creativity and will without limit. We have come to this life to participate in the world of matter and energy and we do that by making a commitment to a particular genome which becomes a particular body/brain. But we come from life formless, which is also called cosmic consciousness, which is also called God. And life formless, with its unlimited intelligence, will and creativity, is what provides and grows and maintains this miraculous equipment that allows us to participate with each other, to live this life of dreams and the fulfillment of dreams, of desires and the fulfillment of desires. Will, or the commitment to survive, which permeates every biological process in every living being on this planet, is the materialization of God's desire to have separate beings with separate consciousness and separate experiences. We are here in our physical bodies because God (non-physical) wants us to be here. So, living bodies: Very unusual? No. Miraculous? Yes.
The Miracle of the Inanimate UniverseThe inanimate physical universe passively obeys very precise and consistent physical laws. The only exceptions to this passive obedience are machines that are designed to use energy to overcome natural forces in the service of an objective; including both natural machines (living bodies) whose objective is the survival of the relationship between the being that dwells within that body and it's body/brain and the fulfillment of any desire that that being may have; and man-made machines, which are also designed to overcome physical forces for the satisfaction of the desires of the inventor or the desires of the people that she invented the machine for. So what is the source of these laws that all matter must obey and that we have to build machines to expend energy to overcome?
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth andRegardless of which perspective, the materialist or the spiritual, that you subscribe to, what are these physical forces? Take away the matter that is affected by the law of gravity or the law of electrodynamics and what are you left with? You are left with a law. A law has no actual force and no physical existence; it's only force and existence comes from the agreement that beings make to create it and comply with it. There is no actual force emanating from stop signs that stops cars. There is no measurable force that prevents you from murdering or raping someone. It is just an agreement. The reason the force of any law has any force what so ever is that we have agreed to obey it. Human laws are there because we feel as a society that we need these agreed upon boundaries to function safely and effectively. But there is no physical reality to our man made laws, just as there is no physical reality to our natural laws. From my perspective, these laws were put in place because God, or the cosmic consciousness or life formless, realized that we could not ultimately have life forms without a physical world that had a certain consistency and dependency. So these perfectly precise laws (laws which, if they were altered the least iota, would have prevented the physical world from ever happening at all) were put into place to insure that eventual outcome.
rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for
yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt,
and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure
is, there will your heart be also."
The Miracle of Consciousness
The final miracle that I want to mention is consciousness, the actual experience of your life, whether that experience, moment to moment, be thoughts, perceptions, memories, sensations or feelings. Now why do I consider that to be part of the spiritual, non-physical realm? Because although you experience your experience, no one else can either experience it or observe it. I know that you are looking at the same sunset that I am looking at, but whether or not what you are actually seeing bears any resemblance to what I am actually seeing is indeterminable. Even if our reactions to an event are similar, the way you actually perceive it may be entirely different from the way I do.
Now some scientists are saying that consciousness is tied to the brain and does not exist at all; that consciousness is the brain (Steve Pinker). As I have said in other posts, I can be tied to a pole. Does that mean I am the pole? No. In fact, it implies that there are two separate entities that are tied into some kind of relationship. It's that relationship that bears looking into. If you are looking at that same sunset and I am looking at a scan of your brain while you are doing that, you realize that I am not looking at your sunset, and I am not looking at any sunset at all. You realize that there is a huge difference between a pattern of electrons and sunsets; just as there is a huge difference between patterns of electrons and Beethoven concerts, and patterns of electrons and great Thanksgiving dinners. All of them are connected to paths of electrons, but how is it that we all experience the enormous variety and richness of our conscious life and, as far as the brain goes, it is always related to the same flows of electrons with even the same amount of voltage? Yes, the location, within the brain and the paths that these flows take, vary, but how does that correlate, how does that translate with the beautiful and ugly, loving and hateful, light and dark, soft and hard, poetic and mundane, delicious and repulsive, thing that we call our life?
Even more mysterious, in the exact same areas of the brain with the exact same current going through the almost identical neurons (except for their genes) one person sees Manhattan and one person sees the Kalahari Desert. Refiring the same sets of neurons one person conjures up her mother and another person conjures up hers; two completely different people. All the people and places and environment, the whole milieu of your life is completely different from another person's on the other side of the world, and yet when you think about your life, the same sets of neurons are fired with the same voltage of electricity that is fired when that far away stranger thinks about her very, very different life. In fact all the thoughts that created the entire contents of all the great libraries in the world on every subject and in every language were all accompanied by identical electrical flows through almost identical neurons.
The inescapable conclusion is not that we all have a Kalahari desert neuron and one person found it and the other didn't. The only conclusion is that we, not our brains, think and see and hear and smell and our brains are the equipment that we use to assist us with that. The so-called unconscious brain is where connections are made between firing neurons and muscles and glands that allow all the automatic survival mechanisms to operate (which is the fulfillment of God's or life formless' or the cosmic consciousness' objective that you have a sustainable existence in this body); but the conscious brain is mainly a recording device. When you experience something you experience it and God has given you a brain that records it, so that you can refer back to that experience and so that your present experience is informed by your previous experience. You know what things are. You know what is, for you, familiar and what is strange. You know, for you, what is safe and what is dangerous. And you know, for you, what is attractive and what is repellent. And you know their names. All of this knowledge you have encoded in your brain through previous experiences and it automatically gets fired and automatically effects your present experience whenever you perceive something that you have neuronally connected to that stored information. How you are able to do this and then to translate it back to the original experience you had, when you remember something, is God's gift. It is some kind of code that we all know how to use but have not even discovered yet. (That is not strange. We were all benefitting from the genetic code for a few billion years before anyone discovered that code either.) The problem for material materialists is that the we that is using the brain, that is causing those neurons to be fired, that is experiencing things and imprinting the brain with the memories of these experiences; that is seeing things and recording those sights in our brain and that is hearing things and recording those sounds in our brain; that we cannot be seen.
But if you accept the fact that we are not physical, as we demonstrated in an earlier experiment in this post, then a lot of the 'mysteries of consciousness' are cleared up. We can focus on any part of our brain or nervous system that we choose to. At any given moment we all have little pains and aches and discomforts that we can experience if we attend to them. Even intense pain can be attended to or not. People involved in championship boxing matches and football games, in battles and in life or death escapes, have reported being so focussed on their desire to win or to survive, that they completely ignored their sprains and fractures and wounds and did not begin to experience that pain until the emergency was over and they were in relative safety. What we call pain is a certain chemical and electrical activity in our nervous system that we only experience as pain when we attend to it. The body feels no pain. The nervous system feels no pain. We feel pain. Likewise, the brain does not remember. We remember. The brain contains electrical pathways and chemical deposits that we interpret as certain memories when we attend to them. All the information in the brain is not information at all. It is chemcial deposits and pathways that only become information when we fire those pathways and we attend to those traces.
Also, the brain does not see or hear. We see and hear. There is a little synapse behind the retina of the eye where the light image gathered at the end of the retina reaches across this little space and excites the neurons at the beginning of the optic nerve. Right there, in that little space, is where we are when we are focussed on seeing things. There is another little space at the end of the cochlia of the ear where the movement of the little hairs of the cochlia create a vibration that excites the neurons at the beginning of the auditory nerve. And it is right there where we go when we are focussed on hearing something. By the time those electrical impulses are going up the optical nerve and the auditory nerve, we have already experienced the sight and the sound in all the richness and diversity that a human eye and a human ear provide. Those electrical impulses connect through the cortex to other associations that help us ascribe meaning and feeling to what we are seeing and experiencing. So we know that the structure we are looking at is a house and that we live there, and that what we are listening to is a symphony orchestra and not a magpie or a leaky faucet. And, importantly, those electrical impulses, and the neurons that are fired and the chemical traces that they leave, record our experiences so that we can refer back to them by translating that code from these traces so that our knowledge and familiarity with the particular part of our environment that we are perceiving deepens over time. In other words, we (the ground of our experience) can move wherever we want to move in our nervous system and we are perceiving the world directly through our sensory organs and not by first interpreting electrical signals in our brains; and we are recording not what the brain wants us to record but what we have already experienced. Our conscious life has so much variety because we experience the world in all its variety directly through our sense organs and not through the intermediary of electrical signals.
Also, we, not our brains, are thinking. When we think about something we fire up all the related neurons and get back in touch with the previous thoughts that we had about this thing. But if we have a new thought, it is our thought and not our brain's thought. Our brain dutifully records this new thought and then we have access to it when we return to thinking about this same issue, but it was our thought and it is our thought and not our brain's. Scientists will never discover the 'intelligence' of the brain through their observations, no matter how sophisticated their instruments and how detailed their observations. It would be like trying to discover the genius of Isaac Newton by microscopically examining the ink and the paper of his original manuscripts, or trying to find the genius of Shakespeare hidden within the physical letters of his written plays. The intelligence of any equipment resides, non-physically, in the inventor and constructor of that equipment and in the user of that equipment. The unlimited intelligence of God, or the cosmic consciousness or life formless, created the transcendently brilliant structures of the brain and its ability to record our experiences; and the non-physical limited intelligence of human beings is what is able to use that equipment in order to think, create and understand our environment more deeply.
Our relationship to our brains, nervous system and sensory organs is like a child at Disney Land. Within ourselves we can travel to whatever part of the brain we want; fire whatever neurons we want and think or dream or remember whatever we want. If we choose to deal with the external environment we can see or hear or taste or touch whatever we want by focussing on whatever sensory organs we choose to focus on. Just like a child at Disney Land who can go on a variety of rides, meet a variety of characters, eat a variety of foods, we experience what we want to experience among these options wherever our desires lead us. What Steve Pinker and the majority of his material materialist colleagues are saying is that the child was created for Disney Land. What the spiritual spiritualists are saying is that Disney Land was created for the child. Once again, the appeal of mysticism is not an appeal to beliefs, but an appeal to common sense.
And who creates the organization of the brain? We do. If something frightening happenned to us at a certain location then we make a neuronal association between that location and the experience of fear. Depending on the intensity of that experience that association may last for a long time, or until we have a very different experience of a positive nature at that same location and the new association, especially if that, too, is an intense experience, begins to replace the old one. We get the impression that 'the brain' has a mind of its own because we are often at cross purposes to the way that we organized these recorded impressions when we were much younger. So, it is not us vs. our brain, it is us vs. our earlier selves, and especially our childish selves which received impressions and organized our experience in a way that no longer serves our current needs, but the residues in the form of these coded neuronal impressions are still there and still get fired when we no longer want them to.
We are consciousness. The contents of that consciousness are the products of our desires. We choose what we want to experience. We even choose this human existence and we choose to experience the universe through the filter of our human sensory organs. We use our neurons to help us remember and organize this experience so that we can have a richer, more comfortable, more defined and deeper relationship with our culture and our environment. Our conscious life starts with the non-physical (us and our desires) and goes through the physical (sensory organs and neurons) that help us create the richness, depth and variety of our (non-physical) conscious life. So consciousness starts in the non-physical, is assisted by the physical and manifests in the non-physical. Unusual? No. Miraculous? Yes.
You don't have to be very astute to have figured out at this point that I count myself as a member of the third group, the spiritual spiritualists. What you may not realize is that I did not come to join this group, and none of the people that I know have come to join this group because of any belief system that they had blindly accepted from their teachers or peers. They are members of this group for two reasons: One is that they have had an experience that has proven to them that they are not their bodies; that they are that which experiences their bodies. The second is that they have thought long and deeply about life and death, about matter and spirit, about who they are and why they are here, and their spiritual understanding is an inevitable result of that deep introspection.
Being a member of any of these groups affects one's attitudes toward a lot more things than miracles. One that I would like to mention in closing is one's attitude toward joy. For material materialists joy is the rational and short lived result of winning a competition and achieving a material goal: you got the job, you won the award or you were accepted into the school of your choice. Any joy that does not seem to have an external justification is dismissed by a biochemical explanation prefaced by the word just. It's just your endorphins. It's just dopamine. It's just your blood sugar. It's just a release of opiads. Spiritual materialists condone irrational joy but only in specific circumstances. Joy experienced in their church is considered a great blessing. Joy experienced in a different church is considered delusional and dangerous. Before passing judgement on any experience of joy, spiritual materialists want to look into it first; to find out the setting in which it was experienced and the manner in which it was achieved. Spiritual spiritualists live in a miraculous world. They consider joy to be the natural outgrowth of the recognition of this miraculousness and the recognition of the oneness that they share with whoever or whatever they happen to be relating to at each moment. Are all spiritual spiritualists always joyful? No. We live in a society that is dominated by materialism and a sense of separation. In that regard, there is no sense of a being, human or otherwise, or even any aspect of a being, that is beyond evaluation and compare. We are ranked and criticized and judged. We are told what is good and what is bad, and the good things are, by their definition, scarce and hard to come by. But what we have is the ability to step back from this society, from this age of endarkenment, and go inside ourselves where we always find the light. And we even try to spread some of that light into the darkness. I hope that has happenned with this post. Peace.
Your comments are most welcome.