[NB] Winding Evolution and Consciousness More Closely

I’m building up to a larger idea, but I want to start with some small steps, taking my discussions about consciousness and evolution just one increment further. This started with my comparison of consciousness and evolution in order to preserve the concept of consciousness as a process and retain the practical reality of individual consciousnesses (which I will try to call ‘intelligences’ to help differentiate the two levels).

This will be a little abstract to start, but I hope to start digging down into the dirt of it as time goes on.

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[NB] The Memory of Trees

I took a walk in a botanical garden and let myself drift lightly through it, listening to the place, to its subtle hum. I enjoy the way it feels to be in the midst of a gathering of trees because even young trees project this sense of being from another time, a time before there were people.When you walk through a gathering of trees, it becomes more pronounced. My partner and I once wandered off a path into swath of pine trees that were probably not even decades old, but once we lost sight of the path, it was like stepping backward into time. Thirty feet away from the path, we got turned around and it took us ten minutes to find our way to the margin.

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Noodling over Divination

Tim Powers writes a lot of fiction about magical topics but is himself a conservatively religious sort of guy. I quite respect that sort of attitude–cautious awareness of the wider spiritual world joined to a serious respect for the very humane spiritual traditions that have traditionally been kind to people qua people. Anyway, I quite like the way he portrays Tarot in his book Last Call (which seems to mirror his own personal distrust of Tarot): when you spread out the cards, the spirit world has a chance to look at you. It is something of a one-way mirror, so that while you see in the reading yourself and your situation, the spirits see you. Like a one-way mirror, you can’t always tell if there is someone on the other side, but there might be.

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Unintended Consequences

In my last post, I proposed that a portion of what we might call spiritual technology is a good deal like other sorts of technology, i.e. it results from human experimentation rather than direct divine inspiration or straightforward exploration. From this perspective, spiritual traditions are a mish-mash of spiritual guidance, spiritual accident, and human cleverness.

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The Cave

I can assume we are all familiar with the allegory of the cave, right? If not, well, follow that link for the crash course. I have generally thought about it only in passing because of its account of the blindness and clumsiness that follows illumination. A dream put me in mind of it, so I took a look at it again. It’s a funny allegory. Plato spends so much effort describing the shadows on the wall, but when he moves to describe the intelligible realm, what does he do? He uses the same visual register that defines the shadow realm. Which is sort of weird, right?

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The Real World

The ‘really important’ things discussed in the last two posts (here and here) are also what I take to be the really real things. Here I diverge somewhat from some strands of gnosticism that borrow too heavily from Neoplatonism, transforming these really real things into derivative things, illusions that vanish in the bright day of enlightenment. Gnosticism depends upon making a distinction between that which is real and that which is the source of the real (the reality of the real to talk a little like Ibn al’Arabi), not on the reduction of one to the other.

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What’s in a name?

Back in my university days, I took a seminar with a professor who, whenever the conversation began to flag, would pose the same question in appropriately thoughtful tones: “So, this book we’re talking about is called [fill in title here], why do you think that is?” It’s a bit silly of a question and I’ll confess that as conversation slowed a few of us would glance across the table with knowing looks, waiting for what would inevitably fill the silence. Still, it’s not a bad pedagogical technique. Silly as it is, it would get people talking again and engaged with the substance of the book even if we chuckled to ourselves or rolled our eyes as we were doing it.

[Good advice: don’t be afraid to look silly, but only if you accept an important bit of qualifying advice of don’t try to be silly.]

Which is why for the first post I am going to pose that very question to myself and answer it. I want to get myself talking and this seems like as good a trick as any. It might even be one of the better question I could start with, so thanks Dr. Sullivan.

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