Posts Tagged ‘materialism’

A tree falls alone in the forest. It makes no sound, because there is no one to hear it. There can be no sound without the ear to hear, no scent without the nose to smell, and no colour without the eye to see. Nor can any of these things be apprehended, without the brain to reflect them as qualities upon the dark mirror of the mind, thereby creating the human experience of the world.

The common-sense story of the world says there is a universe of material objects – galaxies, stars, chairs, tables, teapots, atoms – all of them occupying space, and enduring for a time, in time. We are objects, too, but, unlike teapots, we have senses plugged into a material brain which, together, and by an unknown process, provide us with a mental image of reality. They also produce this thing we call “mind”, which enables us to be self-aware, to be conscious of ourselves.

This is the orthodox “materialist” story, born of the scientific revolution, and the consequent death of all the gods. It makes sense to us, because we all “seem” to share the same world. The world doesn’t “seem” to depend on our presence. The moon is still there when we are not looking at it. The ocean tides still follow a regular, and calculable pattern that is not of our imagining. And when we experience things in the world, our brains show measurable activity. All of this suggests the material world-model, and our separate subjective mental awareness of it, is the correct way of viewing things. It is the right story to tell, and to believe in. It is the right story to tell our children.

But we cannot explain how the material brain gives rise to the quality of feelings aroused by a sunset, or by falling in love, or the pleasure we take in the taste of things, or the scent of a rose, or in the ways music can move us, or even the perception of our favourite colour. These are all qualities, and are unresponsive to mathematical analysis. Mathematics favours the material. Materials have length, mass, time, temperature, current. But there is nothing about them that explains how they create the mental experience of sensed reality. The material universe exists materially, but our experience of it does not.

This, then, is the often told story of the world, but it has a gaping hole in the middle of the plot, because it does not explain the nature of our selves. And those writing this story are now so frustrated by the stubbornly inexplicable nature of “mind” and “consciousness”, they conclude it must be an illusion, that it is generated by an emergent property of the brain. Thus ends our journey into the material realm, with the conclusion that, although we think we exist, actually we do not. We have already eliminated the gods. Now we have eliminated ourselves.

So, a tree falls alone in the forest, it makes no sound. This is confusing, because we mistakenly believe the material world itself possesses qualities like colour, taste and sound – that the greenness of the grass, the scent of the rose, the sweetness of the musical note, are in themselves physical, and “out there”. But they aren’t. That’s not what the material world story is saying at all.

What is the sound of the falling tree? In material terms, it is a wave of pressure. Quantities of pressure are called Pascals. Pascals are Newtons per square meter, which is a mass, multiplied by gravitational acceleration, which is meters per second, per second. Add it all up, and what have we, got? We have a mathematical statement of mass, length and time. What we do not have are timbre, rush or roar. What is “roar”? What is the mass-length-time of a roar, of a rush, of a timbre? Materially, there is no answer. Only the mind knows these things. What we don’t know is how the mind knows them.

What can we say with certainty about the mind? Let’s ask the materialists: It correlates with brain activity, they say. This is reasonable. But by the same reasoning, one would expect the mental experience to increase in proportion to the measured activity. A brain, lit up and buzzing with neuronal action, would be experiencing a greater degree of mental activity than one that is not. Let’s go further and say an inactive brain should give rise to no experience whatsoever. Such a brain would be unconscious, or even dead. However, there is persuasive evidence that the opposite is the case.

A dramatic reduction in recorded brain function correlates with the most profound expansion of the subjective mental experience. Two areas of research confirm this: near death studies, and the experience of psychedelics. In both cases, there is a diminution of the measured brain function, yet a corresponding explosion of subjective mental awareness. This awareness is not chaotic, as in an hallucination, nor is it passive, as in ordinary dreaming. It is lucid, coherent, memorable and profoundly meaningful to the individual. What does this suggest? It’s hard to say for certain, but there is the sense of a door opening.

A normally functioning brain gives rise to our experience of the world, but that’s not all. It also seems to be restricting access to a transcendent experience of being, one in which we seem to exist as a kind of psychical alter, in a realm of pure mind. This would otherwise overwhelm us for our day-to-day purposes, so there is a narrowing of the mental experience, one that is so difficult to escape, we conclude, quite reasonably, the material world is all there is. The transcendent experience however reveals that by far the greater sense of our being exists in a purely non-material sense, transcending the apparently material dimension. Is it then too far a leap to say that, in the normally parsimonious nature of the universe, there may not be a material reality, as we think of it, at all?

I don’t know, the answer to that question, but I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it, and I sense the story of the world is not yet done, that a fresh and extraordinary chapter is beginning. With luck, it’ll patch up that glaring plot hole, and arrive at the conclusion we might exist after all, just not in the way we’ve come to think we do. It’s a curious concept, a little unsettling, just like the idea that when a tree falls alone in the forest, it makes no sound.

Thanks for listening

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moss1I’m struggling with my reading at the moment – a couple of difficult books on the go. One of them is Erich Neumann’s Origins and History of Consciousness. The other is Bernado Kastrup’s Decoding Schopenhauer’s Metaphysics. The Neumann is from 1949, a distillation of Jungian thinking on the nature of the unconscious. The Kastrup is a recently published book that revisits the eighteenth century idealist philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer.

Reading books like this, way beyond my intellect, I accept I’ll only grasp them dimly and in the hope the effort goes some way towards expanding the mind, even a bit. But their greater impact is on the imagination, where even imperfectly grasped imagery can take on a life of its own, dance with images gleaned from elsewhere, and in ways the authors never intended. And there are some startling images in those books.

It’s thus, stumbling through other books, I’ve gleaned bits of metaphysical ideas over the years, and begun assembling a story that’s making sense in layman’s terms – if not in its details, then in its broad generalities. But sometimes I wonder if I’m mistaken, not so much in the truth of these matters – though there is always that of course. It’s more the question of embarking upon such a quest in the first place. Is my head, in fact, pointing in the wrong direction?

When we speak of metaphysics we’re talking about the origins and the inner workings of the universe, also its reflection in the structure and the flow of the human mind. It’s unlikely you’ll get any of this if you’re a materialist, and view the universe as comprising purely material stuff that was big-banged out of nothing. There is another view though – the idealist view – that there is no material, that what we experience in the world is a result of our being conscious within a greater consciousness, a consciousness that sets the stage, and the rules we play by.

If materialism is true, then fair enough, the game is up, life is absurdly pointless, and we’re all doomed. But with idealism, everything is still to play for, and the possibilities worth exploring. I used to be a materialist – as an engineer you more or less have to be – but that stopped making sense for me a while ago. Idealism may be wrong but it’s much more fertile ground for the imagination.

It was once intimated to me that we already know the true nature of things, but we’ve forgotten them as a precondition of being born. At some point though, when we fall asleep for good, we’ll go: “Oh yea, I remember now!” I say it was “intimated”, and the realization did feel very real at the time, but of course I’ve forgotten it all again now. However, the point is, why spend decades of your life banging away at this stuff, when you’ll be gifted it all back in crystal clarity anyway? And if such talk is nonsense – as it may well be – then it doesn’t matter either way, does it? So why the imperative to probe the metaphysical? And if it was so terribly important for us to know – I mean to help us all get along in the world – we’d be born with a greater sense of it than we have, wouldn’t we?

I don’t know. Would we? Do we, actually? Are those haunting aspects of existence, things like love and beauty, not metaphysical intimations? And what about dreams?

Are you still with me?

What I mean is, pursuing the metaphysical can be like scaling a waterfall when it’s in spate. The general flow of being is in the other direction, and perhaps we’d do better to flow with it. Maybe it’s a reaction to the chaos of a world gone mad that we’d even bother trying. Maybe it’s one’s apparent inability to effect much change or understanding of things that we want to escape from the madness. So we seek to resist the flow of life, which seems permanently bound for disaster, and swim back upstream to rest in the formless, as far away from ground zero as we can manage.

But then the chaos we see in the human world is a result of those same intrinsic energies that give vent to life. Left to itself, the natural world will thrive on those energies. It will be red in tooth and claw, and endlessly self consuming, but it will not be self-reflective. It will be ignorant of its own beauty, and that strikes me as a gap worth filling.

Self reflection is an imperfect instrument though, and comes with risks. It can distort how we see the world. Sit that on top of largely simian instincts and you can see how easily we land ourselves in trouble. If we are not to destroy ourselves, we need to wise up! But what can one do if the route to wisdom is so difficult, and only the Neumanns and the Kastrups can attempt an understanding of it, for are they not too few to form a critical mass? Must the rest of us wait for a divine transformation to enlighten us?

Imagine, jealousy, greed, hate and the evil that is lifestyle blogging, all gone in an instant. Imagine, enlightenment as instinctive as the knowledge never to wear brown shoes with blue trousers, enlightenment that we can look back upon our history with equanimity and wonder how there could once ever have been a people so benighted.

There are those in the human development movement who believe such a thing will happen, but this sounds more to me like the second coming of the Christians, a thing I suspect should be interpreted in terms rather less than literal. In other words, I’m not holding my breath. I’m reminded that in the Daoist way of thinking, mankind stands with one foot in the world, the other in the heavens. Some of us are more inclined one way or the other, but the important thing is to find a balance. Which means,…

It’s time to set the Neumann and the Kastrup aside for a bit. Instead, I’m picking up Le Carre’s “Agent running in the field“, and, delight of delights, I am to spend a week, holed up in tier three isolation, with no interruptions, and Niall Williams’ “This is Happiness.”

Let it rain!

[Unless you’ve got plans, then let it shine]

Graeme out.

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materialism is baloney

Bernardo Kastrup’s cheeky title here belies a serious book. It looks at the prevailing world view of materialist philosophy and uses materialism’s own logic to argue that it is self-contradictory, and leads to absurd conclusions. What this means is the view most of us have of the world, a place of “common sense” material stuff, is wrong. It also means none of the problems facing science and society today can be resolved from a materialist perspective. Why? Because the world is not what it seems, and neither are we.

Materialism is a mindset that looks at the mysteries of the universe and assumes everything is ultimately knowable through scientific reasoning. More, it tells us everything can be explained in material terms, even apparently immaterial things like consciousness. But the problems of materialism begin with quantum mechanics. This is the study of the nature of the foundations of what we think of as material stuff, or “matter”. But quantum mechanics also tells us matter cannot be said to exist until it is observed. This is awkward to say the least, and we get around the problem in daily life by politely ignoring it. Clearly though, there’s a gap in our thinking, and it will have to be reckoned with sooner or later.

The alternative view, one that might reconcile these paradoxes and explain the nature of consciousness, is philosophical idealism. Here Kastrup builds on the works of Emanuel Kant and Arthur Schopenhauer, and brings them forward into the twenty-first century. I’m not qualified to say whether he’s right or not, only that his views support the direction of my own thinking. His robust reasoning also provides a reassuringly intellectual rigour to what might otherwise, admittedly, seem a very strange way of looking at things.

Although a serious book, I found it engaging and accessible, but you’ll still need your wits about you, because the concepts here are so startling. Through the use of metaphor Kastrup introduces us to the idea of the universe as an infinite “thought”, that the material world is a phenomenon dreamed up by the consciousness of the universe itself. This is not to say the universe is “intelligent” or capable of self reflection, more that it is somehow blindly instinctive in bringing to fruition what we perceive of as life.

Philosophers call such a thing “Transcendental Idealism”, and one cannot delve into that subject without also touching on spiritual matters. So, as well as covering the nature of the universe, the book also looks at the purpose of life. From the more familiar Materialist perspective, life is meaningless but Idealism begs to differ. Indeed, it grants humankind a primary role. It tells us we are the eyes and the ears of a universe waking up and exploring its own nature the only way it can – by enfolding parts of its self into discrete pockets of self-reflective awareness. That’s us. Otherwise, the universe would be like an eye trying to see itself.

When we dream we accept the dream entirely as our reality, and it’s only when we wake we gain sufficient perspective to see the dream for what it was. In the same way, in the dream of the universe, we have no choice but to accept the dream of it as real. Indeed, it is real. It’s just that the nature of that reality is not what we think it is. It also means that ultimately we are the same as whatever we are looking at, because whatever is dreaming “it” into being, is dreaming us too. And equally startling, it means the sense of “I”, looking out through your eyes right now, is the same sense of “I” looking out though mine. The only difference between us, is our life story.

This book will appeal to anyone who finds the high-priests of materialism, and their more fundamentalist dogmas, a little too shrill. It will appeal also to anyone seeking to restore meaning to their lives but who are similarly repelled by religion, as well as finding the otherwise seductive language of the New Age at times somewhat anaemic. I think the world according Bernardo Kastrup is a very interesting one, and well worth exploring. It is both plausible and profoundly positive, building on a rich heritage of idealism, and putting us back at the very centre of a universe driven towards the creation of life.

Although essentially blind and instinctive, its evolutionary drift seems to be towards an awareness of itself, through us. So, while things may not be the way we think they are, what each of us sees and thinks and does, and feels in life,… about life,…

Really matters.

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sky clouds building industry

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Once upon a time there was a King and his kin who ate and ate and ate, and when they’d stripped the kingdom bare with their eating, they made war on their neighbours and ate their land bare too. They felt they had no choice in this, that if they ever stopped eating – even for a moment – they would disappear, that only by eating more and more could they remain fully present in the world and meaningful, and their followers, the people, who also ate excessively, would still worship them. The strange thing was the more everyone ate, the sadder they became, and the King told them the reason for their sadness – though he’d no idea really – was because they had not yet eaten enough.

But when all the neighbours had been slain and the King and his kin and their followers had stripped the earth bare, all the way down to the shore of the sea, and when there was nothing left to eat, and even the fishes were choking on the King’s excrement, the King and his kin sat down in puzzlement. They were still hungry, and sad, and in their hunger they despaired and became grumpy with one another. And their followers, the people,  were confused and afraid, and hungry too – and as they grew hungry they grew angry there was nothing more to eat. After all had the King not told them it was their duty to eat as much as they could every day?

So the King and his kin turned their anger back on the people for questioning the wisdom of the King, and they sent the King’s army out to beat them until they bled, and while they were at it, to rob the people, to search their pockets for any last crumbs that might sustain the King and his kin. But the crumbs were few, for in truth the people had been hungry for a long time. So the King took to his bed and his kin, fearing the end of the world, sent for the wise man.

Now the wise man knew the King and his kin were foolish in their beliefs, and tyrannical in the lies they told the people, most of whom knew no better. But they were many and stubborn in their beliefs, because everyone had been eating for so long it was impossible for them to think of any other way to be.

“But you’re forgetting the stars,” he said to the King.

“The stars?” said the King. “What about the stars?”

“Everyone knows there are planets orbiting the stars,” said the wise man. “I shall build you rocket-ships to take you there. Just think of all those planets waiting to be exploited in the name of the King.”

This rather excited the King. “And all of us can go?” he said. “My kin too? I wouldn’t want to be without my kin, who tell me daily whatever I want to hear.”

“All of you,” said the wise man. “I insist.”

“And what about us?” said the followers of the King and his kin.

“All who wish to go and eat, shall go,” said the wise man. “But there’s a catch. These rocket-ships will use up the very last of our materials and our fuels on earth, and there will be no chance of ever returning.”

So the King and his kin looked around at the wasteland of the earth and they laughed, thinking this wouldn’t be a problem. So the wise man gathered the experts, who gathered the materials and the fuels and they built the rockets and fitted them out with the most wondrously luxurious state-rooms, and filled their larders with the very last of the fruits of the earth.

Of course, as is ever the way in human affairs, not everyone was able to find a berth on the rocket-ships. The old and the sick were decreed by the King and his kin unwelcome, as were the poor for fear they might bring bad odours and misfortune with them. But the wise man comforted those doomed to remain, and promised he would stay behind to look after them.

“You mean you’re not coming?” said the King.

“What need have you of me, your majesty,” said the wise man. “when each of your rocket-ships is equipped with the most artificially intelligent computer ever known to man?”

“Fair enough” said the King, who had perfect confidence in computers. He didn’t much like the wise man anyway, was always afraid he knew something the King didn’t. And with the wise man gone, the King’s wisdom was once more the last word.

So came the day and all the rocket-ships blasted off into the void of space, never to return, and the wise man watched them go and he bid them good riddance, knowing everyone aboard would be long dead before they’d crossed even a fraction of the distance to nearest star. And just as well for he would not have wished such an obscene  pestilence to be visited on another world.

Then he turned to the old and the sick and the poor, and he took from his pocket a bag of seeds and he said:

“We’d best plant these then, and try not eat so much next time.”

So the people planted the seeds, and in sharing the work of the tilling and watering and the harvesting, they realised they were happy, yet they had nothing and were still hungry. So they asked the wise man: “How come we’re so happy, when we’ve not yet eaten?”

“Perhaps,” said the wise man, “the greatest nourishment is that which we find in harmonious relationship with others.”

And so the old and the poor and weak and the sick all looked at one another and agreed they’d do well to remember that, and not eat so much in future. And as the earth slowly recovered and grew green once more, and the remaining shy creatures came from their burrows and multiplied, the people looked around at this new beginning.

And saw that it was good.

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Dreams are mysterious things, too often dismissed as unknowable, and denigrated by materialists as being little more than brain-burp, as bubbles of waste psychical-gas, rising from who knows where to break the surface of who knows what. We can forget them then; life is troubling enough, they say, without bothering our minds with the nonsense of dreams.

We all dream, every night, though we don’t always remember. Indeed some of us never remember our dreams, lending the impression we do not dream at all, which reinforces the point: if such a faculty as dream recall can so easily be lost, how can it be considered important? Well, perhaps it isn’t, unless of course the dream performs a function that can be usefully fulfilled outside of conscious awareness, that we need not be aware of the dream in order to live it, or be informed by it.

But what about those of us who do recall our dreams? not only that but treat them as a meaningful phenomenon? Dreams reveal themselves as beguiling, deceptive even mischievous yet it may be that for all our most earnest efforts we can come up with nothing more informative regarding their nature than if we were to close our minds to them completely. And yet,… there is still something about the dream that rewards us if at the very least we grant it our attention.

Recording our dreams is even better. This allows them to inform our conscious awareness more intently, night after night, revealing aspects of our lives we were perhaps unaware of. We might note then our dreams are, to a degree, coloured by waking life, even by aspects of our waking life we are at first pass unaware of. Looking then more closely at our dreams we can see echoes of our insecurities, and if we are honest about them with ourselves – by no means an easy thing – we can help our soul grow in the direction it most needs to grow. The content of dreams can also colour our waking day. So powerful they can be, they draw attention to themselves and challenge us to take stock, to own this thing we are again perhaps unconsciously avoiding.

I hesitate to describe dreams as “tools” for “self development”, for that would be to dishonour them. Certainly they have always been used in psychoanalysis, as messengers from the unconscious, but sometimes this can be confusing when we neglect to see the dream as having its own existence within us. Indeed we have only to turn our attention to them to realise they can become as much a part of life as our waking experience. Yes, we can get by well enough ignoring our dreams, but that is also to live a life lacking depth and colour.

One of the most remarkable things dreams reveals to us is that our concept of space and linear time is incomplete. We dream of something, a striking image, an event; usually such things are informed by happenings in our recent past, but occasionally a dream will show us something we have yet to encounter. The more materially minded will struggle with this concept, and if you are indeed vehemently opposed to it, I suggest you follow your instinct and dismiss it as bonkers or it will seriously disturb your frame of reference. But we have only to make a record of our dreams to find that it is so.

It needn’t be a dramatic glimpse ahead in time, indeed my own experience suggests it rarely is. For me it happens with places I’ve visited, or images I’ve seen on screens. I dream the image, the place, and then encounter it. True, by all rational reckoning, such a thing is impossible, yet it happens – admittedly not very often and never in ways that are helpful, like revealing ahead of time the number of a winning lottery ticket, But then it does happen, it’s always startling.

It’s as if a par of us has passed that particular way before, just a little ahead of ourselves, and the dream has found the imagery we encountered useful for its own purposes, careless of our line in time – as if indeed we might be following many life-lines simultaneously, some similar, others not. The writer JB Priestly made a study of this oftentimes eerie phenomenon and wrote a book on it: “Man and time”. This is a classic of the genre but he was careful to avoid drawing any rigid conclusions regarding what this might actually mean, I mean regarding the temporal structure of universe, and I shall be careful to follow his lead.

Indeed what we do with this depends very much on our nature. If we are highly egotistical and equipped with a smattering of scientific knowledge, we might want to formulate an explanation, but therein lies madness and the loss of friends as we become too shrill. The wiser ego is chastened by the phenomenon, softened and becomes more accepting of the mystery of life, though nonetheless amazed and inspired by the apparently multi-dimensional nature of consciousness that’s implied.

At best it enables us to step back when the arch-materialist pontificates and sucks out all meaning from life, leaves it as a dried up husk, because we know it’s not like that. Indeed establishing a rapport with our dreams suggests that in addition to the waking life we are aware of, we are also each engaged in some form of psychical existence beyond the bounds of space and time, whether we know it or not.

And that’s interesting.




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Great Hill, West Pennine Moors

Great Hill, West Pennine Moors

I was sitting in the cross shelter on the top of Great Hill on Friday, sharing the view and passing the time of day with another walker. He was in his late middle age, what I’d describe as a robust pedestrian and a good sort. He was knowledgeable about the area and about the bird-life. I’ve never met him before and I knew him for all of ten minutes, but we got on well. Such encounters with strangers on hilltops are not unusual. The mere fact that you’re there means you already have a lot in common.

It’s a very beautiful spot, Great Hill, in a low moorland windswept sort of way. It’s about 1250 feet high, and miles away from the roads or any form of habitation. There were larks a plenty and a couple of curlew plaintively piping. To the north, we could see as far as Pendle and beyond to the Dales. Westwards we had the Lancashire plain and the sea. To the south lay Winter Hill, all of it crisply delineated in the mid-morning sunshine, and shimmering over the long moorland causeway known as Spitler’s Edge. This is a very beautiful patch of territory, otherwise known as the Western Pennines, and not twenty minutes drive from where I live, also not twenty minutes drive for a couple of million other souls as well, and unfortunately suffering from the stress of it.

Suddenly my new found companion advised me never to be in the area after 9:00 pm, that there were far too many unsavoury goings on these days. If it wasn’t boy racers killing themselves and others on the narrow moorland roads, he said, it was people up to goodness knows what on the public carparks.

“You know,” he said. “Those unsavoury parties and such-like.”

He explained those “unsavoury parties” were the reason the Higher House car-park at Rivington is now locked at night by a sophisticated electric rolling gate – or at least it was until the trolls came up and stole the solar panel that charged its batteries. Another car-park in the area, he informed me, is now padlocked at all times – no one can use it, day or night.

With a worldly sigh, he set his hat upon his head and bade me good morning. It was a curious encounter, possibly daemonic, and one that’s had me thinking ever since.

great hill summit

As I watched him ambling away, I reflected on other stories I’d heard about these nefarious goings on, and how they are increasingly interfering with people’s innocent enjoyment of the countryside. I suppose I take it personally because it’s my back yard and I grew up treasuring what it has to offer – its beauty, its wide open space, its antiquarian oddities, and its walking of course – so a part of me does resent this rather rude intrusion of what I call the grey world and its creeping ugliness.

It spreads like litter.

And of course the West Pennines isn’t the only area under siege by such unsavoury goings on.


An elderly lady and her husband drive to a local beauty-spot. There’s a pleasant car-park under the trees, a shimmering lake in the distance, a shapely green hill rising beyond. It’s all sunshine and blue skies – a midday week, about lunchtime. They park their vehicle, unpack a picnic and are about to pour coffee from the flask when a man walks by in a pin-stripe suit, carrying his trousers, neatly folded, over his arm – only his shirt tails to spare his modesty.

They used to bring their children here for picnics on Sundays, they’d go walking and playing hide and seek in the woods. It’s a public car-park, a handy public loo, but unknown to them it’s also become what the police have unofficially designated a public sex area, in this case mainly for gays, looking for anonymous encounters. The street smart call it “Cottaging”. The police call it a public nuisance, but don’t want to be seen as homophobic, so unless someone gets hurt or there are drugs involved it’s mostly tolerated.

Then imagine:

A young woman takes her dog out for a walk, early evening. It’s another car-park, another beauty spot. She’s followed by a man who begins making lewd remarks, so she beats a hasty retreat, understandably in some distress. As she drives away he calls her stuck up for not wanting to have sex with him. When she calls the police, she’s told the area is a well known “Dogging” location, Dogging being a euphemism for what might be loosely termed public sex. People drive for miles to these spots and rendezvous for anonymous intercourse, this time of the heterosexual variety.

The young woman didn’t know all this of course, not being familiar with that sort of thing.

In an attempt to curb the problem, and I’m sorry dear Doggers and Cottagers, but you are a problem, the council locks the carparks at night, unless they run out of money and can’t afford to pay a warden, in which case they simply shut the car-parks altogether and the amenity is denied to others who merely want to walk or picnic and generally enjoy the greenery and the scenery on their doorstep. But because that green is within spitting distance of a conurbation, the grey tide washes up a thick line of unsavoury detritus.

I’m not sure how these things take hold, nor how the innocent among us are supposed to know that lay-by or car-park where we habitually leave our car of a summer’s eve, while we take a couple of hours out across the moors and enjoy the sunset, is now a public sex area. It’s a very British phenomenon – apparently – this dogging thing, but it’s all rather sordid too, and though it’s not like me to moralise, I really don’t like the thought of it in my back yard.

Of course, it’s not a good idea, sex with strangers, but even less so with lots of strangers. It’s a sure way to catch an STD for a start, possibly a fatal one, but that never stopped anyone from doing it, so moralising and pointing out the public health implications is never going to solve it. The other problem is it also creates bad feeling among the locals – these immoral urbanites travelling out to our rural idyll to perform their beastly functions. And there’s a resentment too that the innocent ones had better be locked indoors, with the curtains drawn by dusk, because there’ll soon be trolls about and there’s never a burly copper around to see them off.

Anyway, I came down from Great Hill, returning via the woods at Brinscall, then along the Goit to White Coppice. I saw more curlew and lark, heard cuckoo and woodpecker, and found what I believe to be an unmarked standing stone, though possibly a Victorian facsimile. It was a beautiful day, a pleasant walk, a beautiful area, an area well known to me, an area well known also, apparently, for dogging.

standing stone

As an interesting, though not entirely unrelated aside, today I took the good Lady Graeme out in the MX5. (We might as well enjoy it while the sun shines) We drove to Saint Annes on Sea and had a picnic by Fairhaven Lake. We used to go there a lot with the children, but today’s journey was considerably enhanced by travelling in an open top car. In fact it was a delight, and it was also wonderful to see my teacher wife smiling again after weeks of stress during the build up to yet another school inspection. On our return, my good lady, one eye on the wing mirror, asked me if I was aware the car behind the car behind us was a police car.

I was not.

I wasn’t speeding, but that aggressive looking Hyundai cruiser was suddenly an intimidating presence and, driving that MX5 I felt like I had a target on my back. I have been indicted for my carelessness before (SP30) – there were extenuating circumstances, but I didn’t argue them. I have also been falsely accused by a traffic officer of using a mobile phone when driving. I was not using it, and was able to prove to his satisfaction I had not been using it, but was given a stern warning for using it anyway. I was also once stopped and asked, with blistering sarcasm, if indicators were optional on my car, sir. It’s unfortunate but my only contact with the boys and girls in blue is when I’m behind the wheel of a car, and my confidence in them is tainted by that experience. I recognise it as a neurosis, and could perhaps use some desensitisation therapy, but I no longer feel protected and served. Instead I feel vulnerable.

So, if you were the traffic officer two cars behind when a blue Mazda MX5 pulled into the petrol station at the Warton filling station this afternoon, I admit I wasn’t really pulling in for petrol. I was merely wanting you off my tail because you were spoiling my day out with my wife. And by the way, did you know, as I write there are people committing acts of public indecency in nearby beauty spots, frightening the life out of old ladies and young women, and horses too?

What’s that? You do?

Clearly one is less likely to attract the attention of the constabulary these days cavorting in public areas without one’s trousers than one is when merely driving from A to B.

The material world is endlessly fascinating. While it so often seems bent on self destruction, I seem able to watch it these days from the detached perspective of a mostly docile middle age, but it doesn’t stop me from occasionally getting my dander up when the unconscious among us use what few bits of beautiful English green we have left to us for wiping their bottoms on.

Except, reading back on all of this it sounds like rather a long editorial from the Daily Mail – World going to hell in a handcart, public morals shot to pieces, and the police doing nothing about it. But in truth, though I am aware of what goes on, I have never personally witnessed such public indecency as I speak of here, and I don’t lay awake at night worrying about it,  so the West Pennines remain for me another country, and long may it remain so. Policemen are also human beings and do a decent job that many, myself included, would be incapable of. Yes, I’m paranoid about traffic policemen, I break out all nervous and sweaty when one settles on my tail – which is precisely why I imagine I attract them –  when all the guy’s probably thinking is “please let there be no more calls before I finish my shift”. If I could learn to love them, I would no longer care so much when one settles on my tail. That’s going to be quite a challenge, probably beyond me, but its been an interesting weekend’s journey from my first sitting down on Great Hill on Friday morning.

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fortune telling“Why prove to a man he is wrong? You can’t win an argument, because if you lose, you lose it; and if you win, you lose it. You will feel fine. But what about him? You have made him feel inferior, you hurt his pride, insult his intelligence, his judgement, and his self-respect.” *

So Deepak Chopra reminds us in his introduction to Dean Radin’s latest book: “Supernormal”, in which Radin turns the spotlight of scientific rigour onto the so called siddhis – the paranormal side effects reported by experienced meditators – things like Psychokinesis, Presentiment, and Telekinesis.

You don’t believe in this sort of thing? Perhaps those words even embarrass you? Well, just hold on,… belief isn’t a word I like to use. I need to have a reason for my thoughts, and that comes down to a mixture of knowledge, experience and – yes – intuition as well, but I think there’s a body of evidence now we can no longer ignore. But I’m not going to argue about it, and neither is Dean Radin. Radin seeks instead to build a body of evidence so large it cannot help but change formerly skeptical minds, like mine. Supernormal Perception? Materialism is wrong? How do you get that message across in the face of overwhelming prejudice to the contrary? Well, you don’t. You simply present the facts, and hopefully at some point the other guy, like me, will think it was his idea all along.

For now however, Materialism remains the prevailing scientific paradigm. It tells us we are the sum of our material parts, that even our thoughts are due entirely to mechanisms going on in the goo of our brains. According to this materialistic doctrine, our consciousness, our sense of self, is an illusion. In short we do not exist. But how can that be right? Of course we want there to be something more to the world than its materials, we want there to be something more to ourselves other than the goo in our brains. We want the ghost in our heads – the thing that keeps telling us we’re real – to be telling the truth: that we do indeed exist!

Materialism has been a successful way of looking at the world. It’s taken us from horses and carts to automobiles and aeroplanes, and from printing presses to the internet, but its core assumption that “material” is all there is renders it blind to evidence to the contrary, renders it dismissive of anomalous experience, renders it unable to grasp the idea that consciousness might actually be real, that it might be independent of any currently understood material paradigm. Thus materialism crosses the line from reason into more of a belief system. Then, like all belief systems, it runs out of steam, stranding us at a point in our evolution where it feels safe, but is unable to move on, unable to address anything other than what it already knows.

But there’s a growing body of evidence now that suggests materialism is an incomplete model of the way things really are. Materialists still pour scorn upon it because that is their nature, but the emerging picture is this: that the mind can indeed sometimes see around corners, that we do indeed have premonitions of future events, and we can indeed alter outcomes in the here and now simply by the power of the mind. The evidence resides, not in one or two flamboyant individuals with mesmeric stares and peculiar tastes in clothing, but in the population at large. It is a small effect, but reliably demonstrable in all of us. And Dean Radin, among others, has been demonstrating it for decades.

It’s nothing new. The evidence has been around since the 1930’s, and merely grows ever more persuasive with each fresh pass. Nor is this evidence anecdotal – it’s based upon thousands upon thousands of published trials, subject to scientific rigour and statistical analysis. But such is the power of the status quo, this is a body of work largely unknown, even today.

Why is any of this this important? So we can read minds at parties and amaze our friends? So what? But, if we can show that the mind is not confined to the brain – and I think we can – if we can show that its reach extends beyond the body and that it can extract information from the environment at a remove in both space and time – and I think we can – it has profound implications for our view of what the mind is, and how the universe works. It also changes our ideas of what we are, and how we might be capable of evolving.

The end-game of Materialism is intrinsically pessimistic: there can be no happy endings; the disintegration of organised matter is fact; we are all going to die and that is that, and the vast majority of us will live and die, our lives unnoticed. But to have confidence that one can explore the world, psychically, to intuit it, even to shape it, to be an integral part of it by virtue of the mind alone, places each of us back at the centre of our lives, and at the outset of a great adventure into the new and the mysterious. It also grants us the power of a self determination, and a psychical integrity that Materialism has long denied us.

It’s a dangerous idea.

We should be careful who we tell.

*Dale Carnegie – 1888-1955. Writer, motivational speaker, lecturer, author of “how to win friends and influence people”.

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It’s been rather a soggy weekend here. I woke up this morning to find that all of my plans for the day were off because it was raining, and I’d have to find something else to do. So, I stood in the back porch and caught up on my Qigong practice, which I’ve been neglecting recently.

It’s interesting that I immediately ran into a consumerist distraction, thinking I was bored with the music I usually practice to – an album (do they still use that word?) of traditional Chinese music by Hong Ting. So I dialled up iTunes on my iPod and began searching on music for Tai Chi. Half an hour passed during which my finger hovered dangerously close to the purchase button – a quick click and £7.99 might be gone on an electronic download – except I resisted the temptation, realising in time that I was suffering from the curse of wanting what I’d not got, and no longer appreciating what I had, so I put Hong Ting on the player and I began my practice.

For the next hour I ran through the 8 Brocades, which is my usual routine, then did some memory jogging on the Yi Jin Jing – another set I learned a while ago, then some standing meditation. Afterwards I sat with coffee, marvelling at the smell of it because I’ve been without a sense of smell now for several years, and for no reason I can think of this week it’s come back and increased the depth and texture of my world immeasurably. But anyway, as I sat there, I was thinking about my writing and where it’s going, and if I should think about charging for the next one, which is called “The last guests of La Maison Du Lac”. Should I, I thought, put it up on Smashwords or Kindle bookstore, or even step over to the darkside again and resume my quest for that most mythical of characters – an agent? Fortunately I looped back through all the same arguments for why I shouldn’t. As a UK writer I need to get as US tax id before those websites will let me sign up, which is fair enough but it seems a complicated process, and am I really going to sell that many copies to make it worth my while? Smashwords distribution on “The man who could not forget” is hopeless, and it’s free. So if I charged for it,… blah-di-blah-di-blah. As for the agent, I find I’m still in not in the frame of mind to want to waste years chasing one. I mean, there are so many other works I want to pursue without getting bogged down again trying to publish something that is for me ‘old news”. At the moment it takes me about half an hour to publish, and I can pretty much guarantee a decent distribution – and isn’t that better than beating your head against a brick wall? So I come back down to Feedbooks and Lulu as my usual outlets and decide to keep things pretty much as they are. It’s a bit like that earlier consumerist distraction – why don’t I want to make a shedload of money from my writing? Why would I want to spend years writing a story – the best part of a decade in the case of “Lavender and the Rose”, beating myself up over it and wrestling it into a shape I think will make a half decent read, and then just give it away? Answer: I’m fortunate in having the day-job to pay the bills, and if I lost that job I’d have to get another conventional kind of job – though probably one nowhere near as well paid – what generation x might call a McJob, just to cover the bills while I go on writing in my spare time. Because this is how it is for most writers, and just be thankful the internet came along when it did or you’d be really bitter and twisted by now.

And then I get to thinking about my life and how it’s such a small thing, and without wishing to appear morbid, does it really matter what I think or feel or do about anything? Maybe I shouldn’t mix qigong with strong coffee, but sometimes I sit there in the qi-tingly afterglow and my mind casts off for lands unknown,… but I’m thinking that it does matter – not that many people read my words, because that’s not the point, and the most important thing in all of this is that you’re somehow offering up a gift of your thoughts for your maker. There’s a hexagram in the I Ching that’s always fascinated me. It’s called Ting, which is basically a melting pot, a cooking vessel. The vessel is you, your life, and what it contains. You heat up the contents and the vapours rise to heaven, and the important thing is that you offer up what’s most sincere about yourself. It doesn’t matter if it’s just between you and the universe. It doesn’t matter that not another living soul knows nor cares what it is that you think, and the ability to be accepting of that is an important step along the way to making peace with the world, as well as yourself. Perhaps the first step towards realising your immortality is to embrace the beautiful imperfection and the fleeting ignominy of your mortality, and carry on anyway.

The rain continued, and I tuned in to the news around lunch-time to find there’s been yet another twist in the so called phone hacking scandal that’s currently gripping the British media – where certain newspapers famed for their scandalmongering have been caught out hacking into people’s telephones and somehow accessing all manner of private details – not just of the great and good, but also of the bereaved in certain high profile murder cases. And though I share in my nation’s revulsion in all of this, I’m surprised that anyone is surprised. At the same time I thank God for my small life and that no one would want to hack my phone – not that they’d find much on it, though it impresses me that even though I’d struggle to tell you my own mobile ‘phone number, a newspaper could have it with so little effort, and access details which I probably couldn’t myself because I’ve forgotten my blasted passwords. How is it done? Well the only thing that springs to mind is corruption of those in authority who supposedly guard the digital gateways to this mine of personal information, which comes down to money again and the corruption, not only of those in authority, but through them the values we should be aiming for as human beings: sincerity, humility, and dignity. Instead the ‘phone hacking scandal seems to highlight the degree to which we have become each of us commoditised, our details, our selves apparently up for sale in an amoral free-market free for all.

And then as the day closes, we have a two hour TV special of “The Apprentice” – not about apprenticeships as I understand them of course, but a reality TV show where the future captains of this free-market free for all have the opportunity to strut their corporate stuff – and a pretty tawdry show they make of it as well. And I wonder, with the economies of the western word in such dramatic decline, if we don’t have need of a different model of leadership these days? That you can only go so far in undercutting the financial bedrock and the dignity of the vast majority of the citizens of the world – who just want to make a living – without the whole lot coming crashing down on top of you.

And now it’s 9:00 pm and the rain’s finally abated, and the sky’s a uniform blue-grey, deepening by the minute, and it’s work in the morning, and I’m contemplating a pile of stunning novels I’ve managed to pick up for a few pounds from the charity shops in town, and I’m wondering if I should start one or save them all for my two weeks annual leave coming up next week, and how, living such a small life those two weeks are the world to me, and I wonder what’s the world to those captains of the tawdry sleazy landslide of the western economies?

And what can we do about it? Well,… believe there is a power working silently for the good – behave yourself, and never mind the rest.

Thank you Beatrice.

Graeme out.

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