Sunday, April 4, 2010


I received the following blog comment recently:

Hi Matt,

I hope you are doing well. I always check for new posts from you every week or so and I noticed you have not posted in a few months so I hope you and your family are doing well.

Below are some youtube videos that you might find interesting.

ABC Nightline Debate Commentary - Does God Have a Future?

ABC Nightline Debate Commentary - Does God Have a Future?

Is there anyone still out there? I took a hiatus from blog writing. There were many other things going on in my life that made it hard to concentrate on this material. Way back in college a friend wrote a two line poem that I will always remember,"How can I dwell on absolutes in a house full of relatives." Well, without going into gorey details, it was something like that. Another reason that I stopped for a while is very much in evidence in this debate that Rudy was kind enough to send to me.(Go to youtube and search for: Does God Have a Future). This debate shows what a seeming impasse we are at between materialists and people that have spiritual insight. I have a lot to say about this debate and I will try to say it in a reasonable way; but first let me get something off my chest. Two of the panelists on the debate, Michael Schirmer and Sam Harriss, are obviously very bright, very eloquent and very knowledgeable of history and science as well as both being spiritual nincompoops. Everything they say about God and religion is infantile and moronic as are the peanut gallery audience responses of Cal Tech scholars always ready with a good yuck at such pearls of wisdom as "That's woo-woo!," or "what have you been smoking?," or, "if God created the universe, why do my feet hurt?" Although they may have lofty IQ's and impressive vocabularies, the conduct of the audience was so idiotic that I was expecting them to say to the interviewer at the end of the debate something like, "I ain't had so much fun since Granny caught her finger in the meat chopper!" But, alas, those same people that were so dramatically and moronically rambunctious sitting in the anonymity of the audience, donned their scientific aura of 'objectivity' and reserve when being singled out by the camera after the debate.

Materialists often say things like, 'that's woo-woo,' or 'that's too far out for me.' The truth is that with real spirituality, it is not too far out, it is too far in. What is the proscription, the orthodox fundamentalist taboo among materialists against introspection, against looking within? I am not talking about looking within in the modern, Western sense, of looking at your deepest feelings, your most cherished memories or your underlying beliefs. Of course there is nothing wrong with introspection in this sense, but I am talking about something else. I am talking about going one step closer, one step deeper; not looking at your feelings, but at the feeler, not the memories, but the rememberer, not the sights but the seer, in other words experiencing yourself without any of the things that the self is habitually and continually involved in; not what you happen to be conscious of at any given moment, but consciousness itself. It can be done; you can experience yourself; you can dwell within yourself, but you cannot conceptualize it. Why? Because the moment you start to conceptualize, the moment you start to describe, you are pushing 'it' away from you so you can look at it. But 'it' is not an 'it', and your attempts to make 'it' an 'it' are doomed to failure. You are not a concept, but the conceiver. You cannot look at it outside yourself, because 'it' is the very self that you are trying to look outside of. And all of this, of course, sounds like woo-woo to the racing, competitive, analytical Western mind. You will never experience your 'self' until you train your mind to slow down and 'shut-up,' but it is a lot harder to do that than to dismiss the whole thing as 'woo-woo' and get ready for the next debate by overloading yourself with a whole new boat load of information and concepts.

We think we can figure out consciousness; if not now, perhaps in a few more years when we have done a little more research, have a little more information. We can figure out most things, but we can't figure this out. If we were just a little smarter, just read a few more books, just were a little faster and a little more accurate in our calculations, just had a bit more data, then everything would fall into place. We would find another law, like the law of gravity, or the laws of electromagnetism or the laws of chemical diffusion, that we could wrap our conceptual minds around and that would explain our consciousness and how we experience things. But there are no such laws because consciousness is not a physical thing. You can experience it, you can 'get' it, but you cannot understand it, or create a satisfactory concept for it. Whatever the concept you come up with, it is not the concept, but you, the conceiver of the concept. It eludes you not because it is too far out, but because it is too far in. That is why, while scientists/materialists are crammed full to bursting with data and lists of all sorts of things, like elements and atomic numbers and the names of enzymes and proteins and genetic sequences, and while we spiritualists may seem somewhat deluded and simple to them, they seem somewhat shallow to us. Are we not sober enough or are they not deep enough?


In the debate Schirmer gets the whole thing rolling by saying something to the effect that, "science is discovering so much about the way things work that soon there will be nothing left for God to do." This is one of those thoughtless statements that echoes through modern society making absolutely no sense but gaining seeming validity through mindless repetition. Science studies the material world and how it works. It studies how matter and energy react and from observing these reactions it teases out certain consistencies, or 'laws' that, once understood, can make these reactions, at least in a controlled setting, predictable. Science does not study actions, it studies reactions. In other words, in does not and cannot observe how anything 'initiates' action. And that is because things do not initiate actions. Beings (like you and me and, dare I use the G-word?, God) initiate actions. Also, science does not and cannot observe how things experience things and that is precisely because things cannot experience things. Beings (you, me and God) experience things. Let's put God aside for a moment and talk about you and me type beings. We initiate things, we do things, because we want to have a certain kind of experience for ourselves or for other beings. I am not talking necessarily about huge things like writing the Magna Carta or building the Taj Mahal. I am also talking about little things, like rolling over or blowing our noses. We roll over to have the experience of being more comfortable than we were before we rolled over. We blow our noses to end the unpleasant experience of pressure in our nasal passages. But the desire to blow our noses like the desire to build the Taj Mahal is not measurable, or part of the physical universe. And the experience of the relief of having blown our noses or the pride that one feels at having constructed such a gorgeous monument to the memory of one's young wife as the Taj Mahal, are also not measurable or part of the physical universe. Our noses are measurable; the stuff that comes out of our noses is measurable, and the Taj Mahal is measurable. But our desire to do or build these things and what we experience having done them and built them is not measurable. Desires that initiate physical change or creativity and experiences that are the result of this physical change and creativity, do not exist in time and space and are not measurable. And neither is intelligence. Let me go into more detail.

A simple act like rolling over entails an enormously complex series of electrical and chemical biological responses that result in a complex sequence of muscular contractions that produce the desired movement. According to Western science that movement begins with the firing of a whole series of neurons in our brains and ends with a whole series of muscular contractions and expansions. But what really initiates the movement is not the firing of neurons by themselves, but our desire to roll over which results in the firing of these neurons. Conscious behavior begins with our desire and then the particular and very specific and very complicated set of neurons fire which will deliver the desired result. But the desire is not in the physical universe. It can be experienced. In fact it is what we experience. We experience the desire to roll over, but we do not experience the firing of neurons that makes that movement possible. And while the desire is much more vivid for us than the firing of neurons which we can only accept intellectually, the firing of neurons can be observed and measured while our desires cannot be observed or measured. Only the brain activity which is the result of these desires can be observed. In the same way, the activity does not 'end' with muscular contractions and expansions. It ends with our experience of increased comfort at having achieved the desired position. Neither the desire nor the experience can be observed. Brain activity and muscular activity, electrical and chemical changes can be observed, but these are the intermediaries between desire and experience.

Again, a being does not exist in the physical universe. We have a body/brain that exists in the physical universe, that has a size and shape and weight, that changes over time, that develops and ages. But we, which is not our body/brain, but that which desires and experiences the fulfillment or the frustration of those desires through the agency of our body/brain; we do not exist in the physical universe. That means that we do not occupy any space or time. Biologists and neurologists cannot find us, no matter how sophisticated their instrumentation. And we take no time. That means, and this is truly miraculous, that when we desire something the extemely complex pattern of neurons that will deliver our desire will fire at the exact same moment that we desire it. It is not sequential in time. In the same way, when we, for instance, want to remember something, the neurons that, when fired, will deliver that memory, will fire at the exact same moment that we remember it. It may take us some time to 'remember' which means time to locate the right neurons. But when those neurons fire is the exact moment that we remember. It is not sequential. We do not desire something and then the neurons fire; and it is not that other neurons fire and then we experience something. It is instantaneous.

Let me explain it another way. It is often said that the brain is a computer. But it is not any computer; it is YOUR computer. It is a computer that you use. You are not the computer. You are that which uses the computer. There is a lot of research now taking place on brain-mapping, in other words, mapping those areas of the brain, those neurons, where various activities take place. Let's imagine that science had reached a point where they could locate so specifically various neurons, that they could, by giving a certain longitude and latitude and depth of the brain, locate those specific neurons that, when stimulated, would provoke in you the memory of your mother. Then they could use the same brain address, the same latitude, longitude and depth, on me and that would provoke in me a memory of my mother. My point, though, is that in you that would provoke the memory of your mother, not my mother. And in me it would provoke the memory of my mother, not yours. In other words, we, you and me, imbue our own brains with our own particular memories. In each case, it is the same set of neurons, whose biological structures are almost identical, with the same location within the brain and the same electrical firing whose voltage is identical, and the same chemical deposits connected with these firings; and yet our two memories are very diffent: your memory of your mother in a particular context that you experienced, and my memory of my mother in a particular context that I experienced. In the same way when you get a computer you fill your computer with the data that you want to fill it with, and I fill my computer with the data that I want to fill it with. The computer does not fill itself. A computer has no desire to seek out information. It stores information that it's owner wants to store and it expresses information that its owner wants to express. But you are not your computer. You are the owner; you are the one who uses your computer to help you fulfill various desires and experience various experiences. The computer does not, by itself, read or send e-mails. It does not follow or write any blogs and it does not, by itself, record or watch any videos. And that is simply because the computer has no self and neither desires nor experiences anything. But in our materialist age, since we cannot observe desires or experience and we cannot observe ourselves; our computer, the brain, has become synonymous with the self, and the firing of neurons is considered the beginning and the end of experience when obviously it is not.

Something else that is not in the physical universe, that cannot be measured or observed is intelligence. I am not talking about intellect, about your ability to solve hypothetical problems or do well on a Stanford-Binet test. Intelligence is not about hypothetical problem solving, it is about solving problems in the physical world that confront you in the moment. When you desire something (like the desire to roll over), how do you accomplish that? How do you actually accomplish anything that you want to accomplish? The very next thing that you want to do, right now, how do you do that? Tell me! You studied biology. You have advanced scientific degrees from prestigious institutions. You read all the books about the death of God. So tell me: when you want to get up and get a glass of water, how are you planning to do that? Again, I am not asking you to accept anything far out, or woo-woo. I am just asking you to take one step closer to yourself; to look closer. And to give up the idea that science has already discovered everything about you. Science hasn't even detected your existence!

As I mentioned above the process of translating desire into behavior is initiated on the physical plane by the firing of a very specific and very complex pattern of neurons among the hundreds of billions of neurons in your brain. The ability to locate the exact neurons that are required to fulfill your desire is intelligence, and it does not take place in time or space. It is instantaneous. When you throw a bread crumb in the air and a seagull adjusts his velocity and direction in mid flight and catches that crumb, that is intelligence. Intelligence is not the exclusive province of human beings, but is something that is enjoyed by every being that experiences a desire and that has to make an adjustment to its organism in order to satisfy that desire; which is ALL beings. In that instantaneous gap between desire and the firing of neurons is intelligence; and it is an intelligence that you use, but does not belong to you, or that you are even, necessarily, aware of. But the intelligence required to translate your non-physical desires into the precise set of firing neurons, is not only awesomely complicated and transcendentally brilliant, but this enormous intelligence could not possibly ever have evolved. The satisfaction of basic biological desires cannot be learned. A living being must already be able to satisfy these basic desires or, obviously and simply, that being would not be able to survive; and that goes for microbes on up. Imagine any living creature who did not know how to feed itself and had no parents to teach it; who, even more basically than that, did not know what to eat, or how to eat it; what to do when it got tired or hungry or thirsty; or even had not 'evolved' to have an experience of tiredness, hunger or thirst. This creature would perish within moments. That means from the very inception of life, the experience of hunger, thirst and tiredness, and the translation of those experiences into desires for specific foods, liquids and activities (evading, attacking, sleeping, eating) and the enormous intelligence to translate these biological conditions into experienced desires and the enormous intelligence to translate these desires into specific neural reactions that would deliver the behavior and adjustments to satisfy those desires, had to have been there from the very beginning. Intelligence did not evolve from living beings. Living beings evolved from intelligence.

Equally awesome is the ability to translate a pattern of electrons and chemicals into an experience. Now if you say that the pattern of electrons and chemicals is the same, is identical, with experience, then you have been so brainwashed by materialism that you may be a hopeless case. Is an apple the same as the experience of eating an apple? Of course not. An apple is related to the experience of eating an apple. An apple is a necessary prerequisite to the experience of eating an apple, but an apple is not identical with the experience of eating an apple. An apple is a physical, measurable object and the eating of an apple is a non-physical, nonmeasurable experience, which requires an eater, not just a digestive system and taste buds, but a being, you, that experiences that experience. A CD, which is a plastic physical object, is not the same as listening to a CD. Listening to a CD is an experience that requires a listener; once again, you. In exactly the same way, a pattern of electrons and chemical deposits in your brain is not identical with the memory of your mother. That particular pattern may be related to the memory of your mother; it may be a necessary prerequisite to the memory of your mother; but it is not identical with the memory of your mother. One is a physcial phenomenon consisting of a flow of electrons and chemicals and one is the non-physical experience of remembering your mother. If there is any chance of saving you from this robotic 'miniscule' understanding of yourself, please consider the fact that while every neuron in the brain is almost biologically identical, your experiences could not be more varied. There are colors and sounds and feelings and shapes and textures and smells and each of us in our biologically, almost identical brains, stores an amazingly varied collection of thoughts, memories, attitudes and values. Even within your own life time, with the firing of your very same brain, you have experienced a completely different world of experience. You once had gigantic parents that could lift you to enormous heights in the air. You once were fascinated by the sound of rattles and your ability to shmear food on your bib. Now you tower over your elderly parents and are concerned about their welfare. You see, the same brain,the same neurons, same axons, even the same genes, but you are now using all this equipment for very different purposes and you have imbued the billions of neurons in your brain with very different information.

Our brain assists us in defining the environment we are currently in by automatically firing neurons that are connected to experiences and objects similar to those that we are currently experiencing. Through our brain's activity, our world becomes familiar and defined. It becomes comfortable and gives us and the people around us a defined role to play within this defined world. But it is always we, ourselves, that is using the organization of the brain, by translating these patterns of electrons and chemicals into the specific world that we actually experience. This translation, this movement from electrical and chemical patterns to actual experience, does not take place in time and space; it is not accomplished by a yet to be discovered organ of the body. It is done by God or by the Universal Intelligence, if you prefer, and it is part of the miraculous equipment that we all, as living beings, have been given.

So going back to Schirmer's original question, "what will be left for God to do?", what is left and will be left is the initiation of any activity whatsoever, including anything that is the result of will, imagination, desire or purpose; and the experiencing of anything whatsoever including all feelings, emotions, thoughts and perceptions and the feeler, emoter, thinker and perceiver of all of these; which is the very moment to moment stuff (or non-stuff) of which our lives are composed.


Schirmer's second point is that since different societies at different times have had different ways of describing God, that this, therefore, is PROOF that God does not exist, and is purely the creation of the people that are describing Him/Her. Well, that is an interesting piece of scientific logic. But guess what? God is not a concept. That is why there are descriptions of God but there are also meanings that are subtler than physical descriptions. That is why Moslems never make an image of God, because that would be physicalizing (as in 'cheapening') what is beyond their ability to conceive. That is why the name of God in the Old Testament is intentionally unpronouncable. And that is why the Tao Te Ching begins with these words: 'The name that can be named is not the nameless name."

Let's talk about a creature that we do know exists, YOU. When you were born your mother described you as a little bundle of joy and a gift from God. When you were in that boring French class in high school, your teacher described you as the inattentive brat in the third row. When you dated your first girlfriend she described you as hot. When you got your first job your boss thought of you as possibly helpful to him. Now that you have your own business, your employees describe you as intimidating. Muslim fundamentalists describe you as an infidel. Members of your same church describe you as a brother. The Census Bureau describes you as a statistic. An African villager describes you as a material prince, while members of the Trump family describe you as a material pauper. But these are relatively small differences. A blood protozoan racing through your circulatory system thinks of you as a roaring river. One of the many billions of parasites in your intestines thinks of you as home. That louse in your hair thinks of you as both a very dense forest and a restaurant. Shall I go on? Every living being that you have any contact or association with has a different perspective of you and would describe you very differently than any other living being. All of which goes to prove, according to Schirmer, that you obviously do not exist and that you are a figment of the imagination of all the countless beings that have been forming these very different impressions of you. All of these impressions, by the way, are accurate from the perspective of the being that is describing you. That is truly their perspective. But is there not, then, anything else? Are you merely the figment of everybody else's imagination? Nothing but the sum total of all the myriad impressions that you have cast and continue to cast on other living beings?

Of course not. You exist. If you didn't, who is it that is reading this post? Although you are in possession of an almost endlessly complex body and endlessly complex brain, you are a unitary consciousness, that desires things and experiences things as a unit. Everything you do, you do with your body and your brain and the activities of these make impressions in the world, and these impressions vary completely and entirely depending on which beings are on the receiving end of these impressions (our two biggest American national heroes are Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. Lincoln, while he was being sainted in the North, was the most reviled man in the South in the 1860's; and Washington, our almost unanimously revered first President, was not winning any popularity contests in England in the 1770's). But you are something that is beyond the impressions that your body and your utterances and your constructions and your creations and your writings make. You are you: a self, a unitary consciousness, the context of your desires and your experiences.

Now in our materialst age we are taught to trust in the reality of solid, concrete, measurable things, and not in the reality of non-physical things, like love, desire, feelings, consciousness and the self. Yet, how can we trust, given what we now know scientifically, in the solidity, the concreteness of the physical world? What used to be considered an unbroken solid mass was discovered to be really a network of tiny pieces called atoms connected by a network of mysterious forces. The imperviousness of these forces is what gave us the illusion of solidity. It was later discovered that these tiny solid pieces, or atoms, were not solid pieces at all. That they, in their turn, were really groups of much tinier subatomic particles called protons and neutrons and electrons that were also, in their turn, connected by mysterious impervious forces. The imperviousness of these forces within the atom was what had lead us to the false conclusion that that atom was a solid speck of matter. And now, lo and behold, as we examine the neutron and the proton and even the minuscule electron, we find a previously undiscovered world of even much more miniscule particles: hadrons, leptons, bosons, fermions, mesons, baryons, quarks and anti-quarks, up and down quarks, top and bottom quarks, charm quarks, strange quarks, virtual quarks, valence quarks, gluons and sea quarks. And all of these unimaginably tiny pieces of matter are all somehow bound together by an impervious force field within these sub-atomic particles. And it is the imperviousness of this unimaginably minuscule force field that "really" creates the illusion of solidity. But again, is this bewildering array of unimaginably minuscule subatomic particles the 'real' reality, the real solidity of matter, or, ultimately, is there any matter at all? Will quarks and bosons and mesons also prove, with even more advanced optical technology, to be, themselves, force fields of a dimension way more minuscule than we have thus far unfolded? And what are these force fields made of? What is electro-magnetism, gravity, the strong force, the weak force anyway? Not how they effect matter, but what are they themselves without the matter they are effecting? They are laws and have no more actual physical reality, no more solidity, than any man made law. They are ideas, agreements, about how to organize the physical world. Laws are only made real because they are enforced. Natural laws are inviolable simply because whoever or whatever is enforcing them, never stops enforcing them. But the law itself, has no physical reality what so ever. At this moment scientists are involved in an enormously expensive search for an as yet to be seen particle that will confer 'mass' to atoms, because with everything we have uncovered so far we cannot detect any mass in the physical universe, what so ever. And yet it is in this same physical universe, whose mass and solidity continue to elude us, that we have put all our faith, and we have relegated the universe of love, conciousness, self, desire, feelings, insight, will and intelligence, in other words: everything that we cannot observe and measure but everything that we do actually experience, into the dust bin of foolishness, of 'woo-woo.'

Beyond relative descriptions that change according to who is doing the describing, there are two kinds of descriptions that are different, in that they are not dependent on any particular impression that you are casting off at any particular moment to any particular being. The first are scientific descriptions. These would consist of various measurements and lists of different aspects of your body: your weight, height, age, blood pressure, chemical make up of your blood, and even much more detailed descriptions like the length and weight and shape of all your different bones and muscles, long lists of your enzymes and proteins involved in the construction of various parts of your body; the kind and amount and location of your various electrolytes and fats and the shapes of all your organs, internal and external and even the organelles, within your trillions of cells, and, now, of course,the order of the three billion nucleotide pairings that make up your genome and are found in each one of your one hundred trillion cells. These measurements, while similarly trained people can agree on them precisely if they are making these measurements at the exact same moment, are constantly changing (the only exception being the genome, which although it is not, in itself, noticeably changing, the actual number of copies and the patterns of which genes are being expressed, is ceaselessly changing). In fact if all these measurements were done it would be not only exhaustive but lengthy, and the information gathered when the measuring began , would no longer be accurate when the measuring was finished. All of these measurements change (some more than others) when you grow, engage in activity, eat, excrete and sleep. And, actually, they change anyway from the myriad biological activities that are taking place in your body even when you are doing nothing at all. In fact everything that you are measuring scientifically has either a much shorter life than you, yourself, and is replaced by new material that looks like its replacement but is not in fact the same; or exists for as long as you do, but undergoes radical change in size, shape and composition during that life time.

Consider your face, that most familiar part of your body staring back at you in the mirror. The face is so familiar, in fact, that, in the West, it is often confused with the self, which is not the face but often expresses itself through the face. The actual cells that make up the bones and skin of your face have been replaced several times since you were born, and the material for your current facial cells was sitting, not too long ago, on a plate in front of you in the form of meatballs, fish sticks and scrambled eggs. (By the way, how this food is broken down and reconfigured into the material that makes up your face, is known, in part by science, but how this material takes the SHAPE of your face, which is really what you recognize in the mirror, is not known at all. All that is known regarding shape is that it is related to certain genes which is exactly as much information as you have when you know that pressing #7 on your channel changer will produce 'Jeopardy', 'Wheel of Fortune' and 'The Oprah Winfrey Show').

Although these scientific descriptions are more objective than the others, in that we can agree at the precise moment on the results of these measurements regardless of our particular relationship with what is being measured (in this case, you), my question is this: Are these scientific descriptions really describing you, at all, or are they describing all the fantastic equipment that you use? Which brings us to another description which is higher than all these others including the scientific descriptions; that is a description of what you are beyond the sum total of all the impressions that you leave with your body and your behavior or that can be measured by studying your body and behavior; a description that does not change regardless of your age, size or activity at any given moment: and that is a description of you from the perspective of you, yourself. You are a being that experiences the world through the agency of your body/brain and which is the milieu of your desires which you attempt to fulfill through your body/brain. You are the non-physical ground of experience and desire which expresses itself through your brain/body, but which is not your brain body nor any of the impressions you cast off to a multitude of different creatures as you make your way through your life's journey. (The only people that get real intimations of who you really are, are the people that love you). You are a unified consciousness that experiences the world through your body, but as one thing, and experiences it one moment at a time. You also desire things as a unit, and responds to these desires as a unit. In other words if you want to eat that apple there; it's not that the front half of you wants to and the back half of you doesn't. You, as a unit, want to, and you, as a unit, mobilize energy and move your entire body with all it's trillions of separate parts and chemicals and quadrillions of separate simultaneous biological processes, not leaving any part of it behind, to get yourself over to that apple, where it is eaten and digested for the benefit of your entire body, and where it satisfies the hunger of your entire self. Not different parts of your body, but your 'self', that unitary consciousness that experiences all your experience, and out of which comes all your desires, that non-physical context that is not your face, but that animates your face, that is not your brain, but that uses your brain to help you record and define your experience, and that is not your body, although you use your body to fulfill your desires; that non-physical context is the REAL you no matter what impressions your body or your behavior or your utterances or your constructions and creations happen to make with all the other creatures of the world that you happen to come into contact with, and no matter what conclusions scientists draw as they make physical measurements of your equipment. It is the exact same self that sees your sights and hears your sounds and thinks your thoughts. Although the activities that the self engages in are constantly changing, the self that is engaging in these activities does not.

What Schirmer doesn't realize in his comparative studies of religion is that God is not a concept. God is a being, in fact God includes all beings, and God, from our perspective is an experience, and when you have had that experience (which Deepok Chowprah has obviously had and Michael Schirmer and Sam Harriss have obviously not), then all your previous concepts and descriptions of God are transcended. They are no longer relevant. People in every society, as Schirmer has noted, have attempted to describe God. And they have written these descriptions down. But those descriptions are not how anyone experiences God. In every great religion there are people who experience God. That is what makes great religions great, that they work as a ladder, an avenue, for getting to an experience of the Divine. But the Divine is never what they thought they would experience before they experienced it. This is what Buddha meant when he wrote, "...a reasonable man will realize that the raft has been very useful to him in crossing the river and arriving on the other shore, but that once he has arrived, it is proper to leave the raft behind and walk on without it. This is using the raft appropriately." And that is, in fact, what all great religions are: rafts, for getting you across the river of material delusion. The rafts may be shaped differently and made from different material, but the reason they have survived over the millenia is that they continue to succeed in bringing people to the other side; to the exact same side regardless of the shape or appearance of the raft.

It's not that you get the description of God right. Every description is right from the perspective of that particular describer. There is nothing that is not God. It's that a description of God is very different than an experience of God. When you experience God you transcend your previous description. It's that you experience one-ness with the creator, which is a melting of your ego, a destruction, even momentarily, of the miniscule peephole through which you look out at the world.

Now, are there fundamentalists in every religion that think that their religion and their descriptions are right and that everyone else's descriptions are wrong? Yes, of course there are. Just like there are people that think their skin color is right and their culture is right and their etiquette is right, and their history is right, and everyone else's skin color and culture and history and rules of etiquette are wrong, etc. The problem with these people is not that they are spiritual; it is that they are not spiritual enough. They are spiritual materialists. They have had some experience of God, some intimations of God in the closeness, the bondedness that they feel with their fellow worshipers and the comfort and reverence they feel for their particular church or mosque or temple; but they have confused the trappings of God with the real article which is not physical, which permeates space and time, but is not really in space and time, and cannot, therefore, be described accurately to minds that are limited to space and time descriptions.

So, again, the you that is real, that is realer than all the descriptions of all the various creatures that have encountered you, and is real because it never changes regardless of where you are or what you are doing, how old you are or who you are encountering, is that you are context not content. You are the non-physical context of all your desires and all your experiences and you, in this life time, are attached to a body/brain so that when you experience this world through your body/brain it helps create for you a limited, defined, comfortable and dramatic world which includes victories and defeats, the satisfaction of desires and dreams and the frustration of desires and dreams, unions and separations, births and deaths. But all of that, all of it, is not you, but the contents of your consciousness. You remain the seer and the listener, the wonderer and the mourner and the celebrator of that. Scientists, with their exploration of the material world, of things and how they work, and with their magnificent technological instruments, have completely missed YOU, your endless depth, your endless dimension, and your ultimate lack of separation from the rest of the living universe.

You do not come face to face with the Divine. When you encounter the Divine you are not in your body and certainly not in your face. At that moment you have no face and neither does God. To have a face is to have a front, and to have a front is to have a back, all qualities of objects which God and you are not. You don't meet God; you expand, or melt into God. You, if even for a moment, lose all sense of your separate self, and experience yourself as an inseparable part of the consciousnes, love intelligence and will that underlies, transcends and holds the entire universe together. Again, you can consider this definition as being very far out, but it is also very far in. This is the you at the center of you. This is the self that is seeing your sights, thinking your thoughts, hearing your sounds; always, at every moment, and this is the same self which you can train, (through the avenue of any or all of the great religions) to look away from the body/brain and encounter, even in a brief and limited way, your real home, your infinite and eternal home: infinite consciousness, God consciousness, the entire universe from the perspective of the universal consciousness.

Back to Schirmer's point: the fact that different people of different ages and societies have described God differently proves only that God is, like all of us, a being, and as a being casts off different impressions at every moment. The variety of these impressions prove rather than disprove God's existence.


Let me first say that I agree completely with Deepak Choprah in every detail, every jot and tittle, of his understanding. This is NOT because we studied with the same teacher or read the same books or have the same belief system. I have never met Deepak Choprah or Ramakrishna or the poet Rumi or Martin Buber or Tiellhard de Chardin. Yet my understanding of the relationship of the spiritual to the material world, of the spirit to the body and the individual consciousness to the collective consciousness, is IDENTICAL with all of the above. Again, this is not because we share the same belief system. If someone is engaged in a genuine spiritual practice, they take on that practice initially because they believe in it. They have faith that it will produce a desired result. And, of course, we do that all the time in our normal everyday lives. We go to a movie because we believe that it might deliver good entertainment value. We train ourselves in a profession because we believe that that training will hopefully result in work that is lucrative and enjoyable. We make a financial investment in the belief that it will produce a good return. Then we have an experience. Either our belief resulted in the end which we desired, or it didn't. In either case, we no longer have a belief; we have an experience. It makes no sense to say, after you have seen a movie, that you hope the movie will be good. You've seen it. You now know that it is a good movie, or it isn't.

To believe and to hope are interesting verbs. When used in the present tense they still imply a future event or future realization. From a religious/materialist perspective, some people have beliefs or hopes, and these beliefs or hopes will be realized or not realized after they die. A true spiritual path is not dependent on anything that does or does not happen after you die. The goal is a realization which occurs in this life. As I said, if there is any belief, it is to practice something with a certain diligence, regularity and commitment in the hopes that it will deliver,in this life time, an experience or an insight that will reward that dilligence and commitment. The real issue in the debate is that Deepok Choprah claims that he has had and continues to have such an experience and Sam Harris and Michael Schirmer are calling him a liar.


This may sound 'Clintonesque' but when Sam Harris keeps insisting that we stop pretending to know that which we cannot possibly know (although maybe we can in a few more hundred years of research), he is talking about a different meaning of the word 'know.' He is also talking about a different understanding, a materialist understanding, of the self and God as opposed to a spiritual understanding. The way we 'know' a being and the way we 'know' a thing is very different. And God is a being not a thing. I knew my mother. If Sam Hariss wants to argue with me about that, then bring it on. I didn't know her blood type, her genome, her metabolism rate, her cholestorol level, but I knew her. Again Hariss is confusing one's material equipment with one's self. By his account, a lab technician looking at a battery of my mother's tests, who never actually met my mother, would know her far better than I would. This is the sort of idiotic conclusion that our materialist thinking is leading us to. I knew her not because I memorized and can babble back a thousand biological facts about her. I knew her because I experienced her; not her body, or her equipment, but her, her self, her soul, her non-material essence; the way that she expressed herself through her body. When we say that we know God, or we know that we are an aspect of the Divine, it is not because we measured it or physically observed it or saw the results of God's lab tests. It is not because we can describe or give a chemical analysis of God. It is because we have had a certain non-physical, non-measurable, non-observable experience which led us to a certain non-physical, non-measurable, non-observable insight. This insight, as with any insight, cannot be observed directly by others, but we can try and explain it. That is what everything that Deepok Choprah's writings and what this entire blog is about. In short, the reason all those people mentioned above and Choprah and myself are in perfect agreement is because we GET IT and Sam Harriss and Michael Schirmer, in spite of all their academic training and erudition, their expansive vocabulary and quick-wittedness, do not.


I have to mention that I just saw a short video of someone being interviewed by Richard Dawkins, an interview that he conducted with all the openness, the curiosity and the listening skills of a medieval inquisitor. The thing that amazes me when ever I see or listen to Dawkins is how differently people react to the same stimulus. Several years ago I started studying yoga and it was the gateway for me for a whole new world of spiritual understanding. Richard Dawkins, on the other hand, has been practicing yoga for years with no discernible spiritual effect.

Oh, how do I know that Dawkins practices yoga? It's obvious. Anyone with the spinal flexibility to be able to go through their entire adult life with their head so deeply embedded up their buttocks, had to have practiced yoga diligently for many years. And it is from this inky black chamber where Dawkins spends all his waking moments that he daily proclaims to all who will hear him, that there is no light in the world.


There was quite a bit of discussion in the debate about the first millisecond preceding The Big Bang. Deepak Choprah said whatever happenned prior to that first millisecond of time (considered to have been 10 to the minus fourty-third second, I believe) is considered to be, by at least some scientists, not known or knowable. After that millisecond, when all the laws of physics and chemistry and all the constants of mathematics were in tact, then the scenario is explainable by a continual series of reactions that operate according to these precise laws. Yet how did all these precise laws, without which there would be no material universe, come into being? In discussing this first millisecond, Deepak Choprah makes what I think is a big mistake by introducing statements by Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking that indicate that they both, at least at the time that they made those statements, seemed to have believed in God. And, of course, Schirmer and Harris, right on cue, come back with statements of Einstein and Hawking indicating that at other moments in time, they were both atheists. But who cares what they believed? This is not about belief. As Deepak said, "Belief is a cover-up for insecurity." Harriss talked about the audacity of Choprah discussing theoretical physics when he is not a theoretical physicist. But the whole point is that this is not about physics; what happenned after that millisecond is the beginning of physics; prior to that it is not physics; it is an entirely different field of study. The truth is that Einstein and Hawking have no more idea about the existence of God and no more clarity about it than the corner butcher. Their field is physics. God is not physical. Physicists, just like biologists, search for physical causes, but there is no physical cause to physics itself. You cannot look to matter and energy for the origin of matter and energy. Their research has brought them to the very beginning of the physical universe, but how do you go back that one further step?

The same kind of bewilderment happens when you materially try to recreate the beginning of life (really the beginning of life forms). James Watson, the biologist who, along with Frances Crick, discovered the double helix formation of the DNA molecule, said some words to the effect that the beginning of life was 'a miracle.' Now, does Watson believe in God? Again, it doesn't really matter. His expertise is in the field of organic matter, not the life which uses organic matter. With just the tools of observation and physical and chemical calculations he is just as baffled as anybody else.

Without pretending to understand that first fraction of a millisecond, I do want to say two things about it. First, it seems arbitrary to assign any length of time to that moment. If time measures the rate that things change, how can there be any time at all before there are things. That is not to say that that moment is less long or more long than scientists say it is. It is just to say that it (the formation of the laws of physics and chemistry and mathematical consistencies) did not take place in time. Time only begins once all that is in place. And second, I think it is very similar to what we were discussing earlier on a biological level: that when we experience a desire for something (which is not physical) that results instantaneously in physical neurons firing that will deliver that desire. The neurons firing are the instantaneous result of our intentions, just as, I think, all the laws of physics, chemistry and mathematics were the instantaneous result of God's intention to create a physical universe.


When Deepok Choprah makes the statement that 'consciousness is non-local,' Schirmer, Hariss and somebody from the audience who works with Stephen Hawking attacked him for using the word 'non-local' in a way that quantum physicists and Hawking in particular did not intend. Again, so what? Choprah is talking about consciousness, not sub-atomic particles. His statement should be viewed in and of itself. Choprah comes from an ancient tradition of people that have studied consciousness. What understanding, experience or even interest does Hawking have in any of that? If you understand the statement, and Schirmer, Hariss and Hawking's assistant obviously do not, it is brilliant. The truth of it is astonishing to anyone who can really hear it, but you have to hear it in and of itself and not in relation to anything that anyone else might have said or not said.

Look, I have nothing against physicists or biologists. Physicists are uncovering the ways that the physical world works. By studying phenomenon they tease out the laws, or the consistencies in the workings of inanimate matter. The efforts of physicsts open the doors for new ways in which we can manipulate and enjoy this physical universe. I give them great respect for that. Yet, I do not consider them to be in any way experts on God, life, consciousness or creation. Einstein and Hawking look for physical answers to physical questions, but when you come to the very edge of the physical universe (not just the edge in time, but the edge in space and the edge in size, the unimaginably tiny particles, and the huge objects moving at unfathomable speeds) then the physical laws that we have gotten used to give way. They either curve and bend back on themselves or disappear altogether. We are approaching the edge of space-time and if we peer past the edge with merely the tools and equations we use for understanding the physical universe, these tools will fail us. What's past the world of space-time is God or universal consciousness. The way to discover that is by an internal process, since we are each a part of that unbounded consciousness. That internal process and the insights that it yields are what every mystic, every transcendentalist of every major religion have gone through in one form or another. The opinion of anyone who has not undergone such a process and who has no interest in undergoing such a process, regardless of how knowledgeable they are about anything else, has no bearing on the validity of the process or its results.


The other atheist on the panel, Sam Harriss, talks at length about the history of violence and cruelty that he claims is CAUSED by religion. What? He is supposed to be a scientist. Don't scientists insist that you need a control before you can make an assertion? Where is the non-religious society that he has studied to compare the amount of violence and cruelty when religion disappears? Of course, there were few, if any, non-religious societies prior to one hundred and fifty years ago. That is when a few of us got the brilliant idea that humans with our pea brains and our sixy watt intellects, were the ONLY intelligence in the universe and this in spite of the fact that what we call intelligence is our ability to understand to any degree life and the world around us which supposedly was not created by intelligence. But what we can do, by way of comparison, is look to the twentieth century and immediately three monsters, three giants of cruelty and violence, leap up at us: Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong, each of which was personally responsible for the deaths of millions of people and the torture of many, many more. Is this the nirvanah that Hariss promises us the moment we are able to eradicate religion?

Throughout history people lusting for wealth and power have used the name of religion and the name of God to forward their aims. In the same way and for the same selfish aims they have invoked and perverted the idea of nationalism, race, gender, language, freedom, patriotism and anything else that they think will inspire armies of people to fight for what, in reality, serves their selfish interests. But what does that have to do with God? That is the lust for wealth and power, not the lust for God.

Nowadays it has become fashionable to insult and make dumb jokes about traditional religion. At this debate Deepak Choprah and Jean Houston (the two people on the spiritual side) were strangely silent at these attacks. They were saying basically, "oh yes, but that is the old religion; we are talking about the new religion." Hariss, Schirmer, Bill Mahr, and a whole host of talking head atheists crack smarmy jokes about religion and get off on their superiority to those silly fools with their beliefs in old wives' tales. What is always overlooked in these smears is that although many people of traditional religions were not as open-minded regarding the beliefs of people of other cultures, or, in fact, about anything regarding people of other cultures (people, religious or not, lived to a much greater degree in cultural isolation and were often fearful of anything that was different), but within their own communities, their religion provided a depth and fervency, a passion for life, a stable family structure, a richness of art and literature and music that modern day shallow atheists cannot even approach. Real humor and insight has been replaced by glib sarcasm; real depth and wisdom has been replaced by endless lists of memorized trivia; a gratitude and wonder for life and the universe is replaced by a callow sense of superiority at how 'modern' and 'progressive' we have become, and a sense of one's own spiritual self worth has been replaced by an inner emptiness and desperate ambition.


I should say something about the dynamics of the debate. Harris and Schirmer started out, I thought, in a very cocky way. They were going to make short work of these spiritual fools, pretending to be scientists. As the debate continued I did think that, especially Schirmer, was at least considering some of what Deepok Choprah was saying. Then Harriss got side tracked by Deepok's 'arrogance.' And I can understand how he felt that way. When discussing matters of the spirit, of God and creation, the conventional conversation is usually very tentative with a lot of questions; a lot of 'what if's and 'perhaps's. Choprah talks like a man who knows, with the confidence of a man who knows. He does not pretend to know all the details of the workings of the physical world or even as much detail as some of the research scientists in that auditorium. What he has is a difference in perspective, in context. To understand what Choprah knows requires not the addition of a few more facts, but an axis shift, a sea change in the way one holds all of this materialist information. What he is sure of is the basic way things are layed out: that matter comes out of spirit; that the universe and life forms are intentional; that we are unlimited spiritual beings committed for this life time to a particular body, brain and perspective that defines and dramatizes our point of view. So what is perceived as arrogance is really sureness about topics of which very few of us are sure, because very few of us have had that spiritual insight, and very few of us have undergone a disciplined system of spiritual training to lead to such an insight. And in this world, Deepok Choprah has a certain style, as all of us have a certain style. His style is not mine. He probably fared much better in this debate than I would because of his style. But the topics of this debate are way too important to be side tracked by stylistic issues. And I have hardly mentioned Jean Houston, and this is because I am not sure what to make of her. Some of what she says seems very piercing and truthful, and yet there is a muddledness. I don't know if it is due to her age, or the extent to which she seems taken by the exoticness of her own life and the interesting people that she has met. Sometimes she seems interested in impressing us with the breadth of her knowledge and her wide circle of prominent acquaintances, and this does muddle her message. God is within all of us, it is not the exclusive property of gurus and famous spiritual authors. A person of true spiritual insight should be talking directly to the self, the soul, in each of us, each of the people she is addressing at the moment, and not be diverted by trying to impress us with all the wonderful, famous people she has met, and all the interesting things that she has read and memorized.


Does God have a future? In truth, God does not have a future, nor a past. God is present. God does not improve. God does not benefit from technology. And GOD IS NOT A THING. Science is the study of things and how they work. But neither God nor our selves are things. We are not measurable or observable. Yes, we have bodies and brains which are things; but they are things that we have, not things that we are. We are that which uses our bodies and brains. We experience the world through our body/brain and we fulfill our desires through our body/brain; but we are not our body/brain. We are part of God, we are aspects of God and as such, we are beyond time and space, we are boundless. Now that can be experienced but not observed. The way to experience our true nature, which is non-physical, spiritual and boundless, is not by putting together clever words, by winning debates or by researching physics, biology, psychology or even researching religion. Spiritual insight is the result of search not research. Deepak Choprah understands the whole thing, but he is playing somewhat of a charade. He knows very well that you cannot get to God merely through science. You can get to wonder; you can get to intellectual bafflement; but you cannot get to spiritual clarity without having a spiritual experience and this is achieved through prayer, meditation, or a whole variety of spiritual practices whose forms vary but whose goals are IDENTICAL with each other, whether they were invented last week or in the last millenium, and whether they were invented in Bombay, Belarus or the Bronx.

There is much more that I could write about this debate, but I haven't published anything in quite a while, so I think I'll stop here.

Thanks for reading. Your comments are always welcome