Saturday, February 11, 2006

Can Evolution Have Purpose in the Absence of a Creator?

Justin's post on evolution this morning at American Buddhist Perspective gave me the kick in the arse that I've been needing to do my own post on evolution. So here it is. I'm not going to try to introduce mind into evolutionary dynamics, as Justin did. Worse, I'm going to try to introduce awareness.

I believe in evolution--mostly. The part that bothers me are the Darwinian assertions of random variation, natural selection, and continuation, basically the foundation of the whole theory. Natural selection offers several possibilities for the evolution of new traits and/or new species, but for the most part, they are all based on randomness. I don't accept that evolution is random. But I also don't accept that there is a divine architect guiding the whole Kosmic process.

Any attempt to remove the randomness from evolutionary progress is labeled orthogenesis, the belief that evolution moves forward due to some unseen internal or external force or drive.
Orthogenesis, orthogenetic evolution or autogenesis, is the hypothesis that life has an innate tendency to move in a unilinear fashion due to some internal or external "driving force". The hypothesis is based on Essentialism, finalism and cosmic teleology and proposes an intrinsic drive which slowly transforms species. George Gaylord Simpson (1953) in an attack on orthogenesis called this mechanism "the mysterious inner force". Classic proponents of orthogenesis have rejected the theory of natural selection as the organising mechanism in evolution, and theories of speciation for a rectilinear model of guided evolution acting on discrete species with "essences". The term orthogenesis was popularised by Theodor Eimer, though many of the ideas are much older (Bateson 1909).
The only real objections to the randomness element have been in the form of untestable hypotheses involving some variation of essentialism. But what if evolution isn't random, and what if the source of the evolutionary drive is not some "unseen force"?

I tend to believe that evolution is directional (toward greater complexity) and that it is not random. As a way to explain this stance, I am positing the possibility that DNA is "intelligent," that it is aware of its environment, and that it is the source of the evolutionary drive on Earth.

Before I try to offer proof of that idea, let me give an example.

Coyotes are one of the most adaptable creatures on the planet. When the population density of coyotes in a given area is low, litter size increases. When the population density is high, litter size decreases. The proposed mechanism for this adaptability is availability of resources. But resource availability can only influence survival rate, not conception rate. How might a female coyote "know" to drop a smaller number of eggs for fertilization during times when population density is high? Clearly, this is an adaptation to the immediate environment that is not random. I'll come back to this example in a moment to see if I can make sense of it.

Back to the intelligent DNA idea. Every molecule of DNA emits tiny pulses of light called biophotons. Most scientists make no distinction between all other photons and those emitted by biological systems, but Fritz-Albert Popp, a German researcher, does make a distinction:

In the 1970s the then assistant professor Fritz-Albert Popp, and his research group, at the University of Marburg (Germany) offered a slightly more detailed analysis of the topic. They showed that the spectral distribution of the emission fell over a wide range of wavelengths, from 200 to 800 nm. Popp further proposed the surprising and unprecedented hypothesis that the radiation might be both semi-periodic and coherent in the quantum mechanical sense. This hypothesis is still regarded as an outsider hypothesis in the scientific community.
Popp is not alone in his views. Other prominent scientists have proposed meaningfulness for biophotonic emissions. Karl Simanonok (proposes coherent light as basis of consciousness) and Mitsuo Hiramatsu (showed that our hands, feet, and foreheads emit light) have done useful research into the activity of biophotons. Other examples include the finding that cancerous cells emit biophotons at higher levels than healthy cells (Popp had already proposed this, but many recent studies have confirmed it), and that bioluminescence, the light generated by biophotons, is thought to be responsible for communication between bacteria, as well as for the attraction between deep sea-fish.

Popp has offered proofs that biophotons are coherent light and convincing evidence that a significant portion of biophotonic activity originates from DNA. "Ordinary light is not coherent because it comes from independent atoms which emit on time scales of about 10^-8 seconds." Coherence in this context suggests that "emitted photons are 'in step' and have a definite phase relation to each other," or that biophotons carry information about their source.

Popp and Mae-Wan Ho have proposed a unified theory of biophysics and ecology, Gaia and the Evolution of Coherence, that attempts to make sense of biodiversity and evolution using the foundation of biophotonics that both Popp and Ho have been studying for years. Looking at both the storage of solar energy by biological systems and the transmission of bioluminescence between systems, they have reached these conclusions:
[T]he fact that there is always enough energy available in the biological system confers on it the following properties:

1. Optimal signal/noise ratio for communication,
2. Existence at a phase threshold between a chaotic (S - , N - ) and a coherent (S - 0, N - 1) regime, where S is the entropy, and N is the number of degrees of freedom, and
3. The possibility to extend energy storage, or the f(l) = const. distribution to longer and longer wavelengths in the course of evolution, and hence to expand the range of communication from distances between molecular within the cell all the way to distances between individuals in a population.
Their third point is crucial. If cells emit biophotons throughout the spectrum of wavelengths described, they are communicating internally, among themselves within the organism, and externally, between themselves and other organisms.

How might this determine evolution?

Returning to my favorite canines, when the DNA cells of a female Coyote do not detect a large number of biophotons in the environment from other coyotes, her body might respond by increasing the number eggs dropped during ovulation so that litter size will increase. Likewise, if the environment is swimming in biophotons from other coyotes, her body might respond by limiting the number of eggs dropped so that litter size decreases. In essence, such a system will maintain a relatively stable coyote population. [This is why efforts to cut coyote populations through hunting invariably result in a population explosion.]

So what if other organisms, such as humans, also interact with the environment at the biophysical level? Let's say some early humans have migrated out of Africa and are encountering unique environments that test their skills as hunters and gatherers. Natural selection would posit that these humans would experience random mutations in their DNA that might make some of them smarter than others. The smart ones might decide to eat some of the creatures swimming in the rivers they have been crossing. These individuals would survive better and pass on their genes to the next generation. Through this process, brain size and complexity would grow over time.

For me, the problem with this theory is that it assumes such evolutionary adaptations are random. What if they are not at all random but are instead the result of "intelligent" DNA interacting with the environment and changing the organism accordingly? What if the biophotonic information available in the environment is the trigger that generates evolutionary change, both within an organism and in the diversity of existing organisms? This may help explain punctuated equilibrium and quantum evolution.

A right quadrants approach (the science of "its") would not attribute any awareness or intention to this hypothesis, if it could even entertain the possibility (so far it hasn't). But a left quadrants approach (interiority's need for meaning) might seek some sort of meaning to explain this process.

I do not pretend that my hypothesis is the answer, but I think it is testable. Escherichia coli populations have been observed evolving over a human time scale as a result of food availability. In the absence of sufficient food, they have evolved to reproduce twice as fast as their ancestors did and have grown twice as big (conserving size in the absence of sufficient food). Similar experiments can be performed using fast-reproducing species, such as fruit flies. By exposing different populations to different biological variables, we might see what effect they would have on the evolutionary patterns of E. coli.

Nearly all existing examples of evolution have shown movement toward greater complexity. This implies, but does not necessarily prove, directionality--what some of us might call intent. In the absence of proof, I prefer to err on the side of Spirit. I wouldn't make a good scientist.

My theory in summary: If evolution has directionality, or intent, and if the primary mechanism of evolution is the ability of DNA to communicate with its environment through biophotons, both internally and externally, it becomes impossible to reduce the whole of evolution to random mutations. It also doesn't require an omniscient old, white-bearded man in a robe running the whole show.

Friday, February 10, 2006

On the Emotions (Dzogchen, Diamond Way)

[Emotions 3 by Maja]

From: "Seeing into the True Nature of Emotions," by Lama Gendyn Rinpoche

Emotion is the habitual clinging that makes us automatically categorize our experiences according to whether our ego finds them attractive (desire), unattractive (anger), or neutral (ignorance). The more clinging there is, the stronger our reactions will be, until we reach a point where they finally break into our conscious mind and manifest as the obvious feelings we usually call emotions.

The above reactions are termed the three poisons, to which are added those of considering our own experience as predominant (pride) and judging our own position in relation to the object perceived (jealousy), to give the five poisons. The word poison is used because these reactions poison our mind and prevent the appearance of its intrinsic wisdom.

To abandon the five disturbing emotions is to take a less direct path to enlightenment. It is the way followed by the sravakas. But seeing into the true nature of the emotions as and when they occur is not an easy task. If we just allow ourselves to be look at the emotions one after the other as they appear in the mind in the usual way, we are no different than before. Nothing has changed. If we actually enjoy our emotions, deliberately increasing their strength until we feel completely intoxicated by them, we are behaving like someone possessed, with the result that we accumulate the karma of a demon.

If we do manage to look directly at the reality of each of the five poisons as they appear, we recognize them to be none other than the five wisdoms. In the poison of anger and hatred we perceive the mirror-like wisdom that corresponds to the Buddha Dorje Sempa. Looking directly at the true nature of pride, we find the wisdom of equality and the Buddha Ratnasambhava. In the nature of desire we discover the discriminating wisdom and the Buddha Amitabha. If we look at jealousy we see the all accomplishing wisdom and the Buddha Amoghasiddhi. And when we look at ignorance we find the wisdom of the dharmadhatu, reality itself, and the Buddha Vairocana. [
Go here for info on the five Wisdom Buddhas.]

These Buddhas also correspond to the different elemental energies in the body, each of which are related to one of the emotions. Seeing into the emotion produces not only the realization of an aspect of wisdom, it also transforms the corresponding element of the body into one of the five Buddhas.

On this path we do not seek to abandon the five emotions, only to look directly at their essence or reality, upon which they are automatically transformed right then and there into the five wisdoms and we generate spontaneously the minds of the five Buddha archetypes.

BUDDHISM TODAY, Vol.2, 1996. Copyright ©1996 Kamtsang Choling USA.


[Ruby-throated Hummingbird]

Tossing the Bones

Suppose the fragile wing bones
of a hummingbird
tossed into the circle:

the wing because flight
fills our fleshy bodies
with mystery.

We read the omens
as they scatter
bleached white on dark cloth.

Within the ancient circle
we see our limitations
opening to the sky,

and the revelation is not
our fate, but how we
gently pick up the bones

and walk away.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Preliminary Observations on Integral Relationship, Part Three

[From Osho Zen Tarot: "The Lovers"]

[Reading part one and part two might help this make a little more sense, but not necessarily.]

Part Three: Doing the Work

I promised an attempt to describe integral relationship from the inside, or at least to describe what it feels like to work toward integral relationship. This will necessarily be less of an argument than it is a meditation on the nature of romantic love as a spiritual path.

I must state up front that I do not pretend to know what an integral relationship IS--only what Kira and I are trying to do that might contribute to creating an integral relationship.

First, I firmly believe that all integral practice must have a relationship element, whether it is romantic, platonic, deep friendship, or something else. We discover so much about ourselves in relation to others. It has taken me years to learn this lesson. I recently came across a book by Christian de Quincey, Radical Knowing, that argues the following:

We are not who we think we are. Instead, we are what we feel. Giving disciplined attention to feelings reveals the most fundamental fact of life and reality: We are our relationships. Most of us think we are individuals first and foremost who then come together to form relationships. De Quincey turns this "obvious fact" on its head and shows that relationship comes first, and that our individual sense of self--our "private" consciousness--actually arises from shared consciousness. (From the publisher's blurb at their website.)
I'm not sure I fully agree that we are what we feel, especially considering that emotions tend to drop away at higher stages of consciousness, but his thesis applies in the lower levels of consciousness and is the foundation of Western psychology. I look forward to reading the book.

We are our relationships. Yet we live in different bodies, have different thoughts and different needs, and at nearly any moment in a relationship the two people involved are not likely to share the same feelings. In this difference is the beauty and pain of loving another human being.

In fact, each partner is likely to "push the buttons" of the other from time to time in ways that seem almost unbearable. This is when relationship is doing its true work on us. Psyche chooses for us the partner who can help us complete the next stage of our growth. In every intimate relationship, the other person will be able to expose our raw spots in ways we dread and would do anything to prevent. We can be stripped bare by a look, a word, or anything that pokes at our wounding. Our psyche has been drawn to this other person because he or she has this horrible power. Sometimes it's a lifetime deal, and most of us certainly go into relationship with the hope that we will find that person.

I always hold that intention in my relationships, while also knowing that I have no control over the needs of my partner, and she has no control over what my psyche may pull me toward. When Kira and I first were together, we experienced some difficulty over this issue. She liked to talk about and plan the future, while I could never promise anything more than my intention to build a long-term, healthy relationship with her. Since then we have settled into an awareness that we both intend authentic intimacy, a nurturing compassion for the other, and a commitment to each other's growth that allows for the possibility that we may one day separate. We both hope that never happens.

The hard part of relationship, once you know that it may not last forever (and as a Buddhist, impermanence is the only truth), is finding the strength to open yourself and be vulnerable to this other person. This is the authentic intimacy I mentioned. It requires that we make every effort to know our minds and our shadows with as much detail as humanly possible. Meditation practice, journaling, therapy, shadow work, subpersonality work, and art therapy are all good ways to do this kind of exploration. It's important that we hold this as part of our own quest for wholeness and not do it simply for the relationship or because the other person wants us to be more in touch with our emotions. Again, this is a lesson I had to learn the hard way.

It isn't enough to love our partner and intend to be vulnerable with him or her. Being vulnerable requires that we be fierce in our exploration of self and then be able to share that with our partner. Vulnerability is not my strength. I have to work hard in therapy, on my own, and with Kira to feel safe being that open. I think many men might feel the same way. I have a long way to go before I will feel capable of creating authentic intimacy in any kind of advanced way. Many days it's simply baby steps.

Which brings me to the idea of nurturing compassion. For some people, it's easier to be compassionate with our own weaknesses than it is to be that way with our partner. For others, like me, it's easier to be compassionate with our partner than it is to feel that softness for ourselves. Either way, relationship gives us the opportunity to work on our ability to be compassionate.

I am working on turning the compassion I find so easy to share with Kira toward myself. I have a harsh inner critic that drives me to be a perfectionist. I have little compassion for my mistakes and my weaknesses. My clinging to ego is powerful here, so part of my integral practice is finding ways to hold for myself the same compassion I find so easy to extend to Kira.

Compassion is a second-tier form of love--it is love at its highest level. If our love moves into the second tier, we begin to see how it evolves along the Spiral from purely physical procreation, to physical pleasure, to sexual love, to emotional intimacy expressed in our physicality, to union of archetypal opposites, to pure compassion.

In feeling compassion, the individual ego begins to drop away. In pure compassion we have transcended ego. This can be a part of romantic love--physical love-making can be a transcendent experience. I have had brief tastes of this state, but I look forward to more in-depth experiences.

Lastly, I want to mention the idea of the relationship as a separate entity. I have no idea if other people talk about this or practice it in some way--or if it is even a healthy thing to do. Kira and I are individuals first and foremost--we both reject the kind of merging energy that some couples engage in, a first-tier attempt to transcend ego. We do not believe that we complete each other or are two halves of one whole. We are each whole people (as much as we are able to be) who have come together in relationship.

As whole people, we hold our relationship as a unique, separate entity in which we participate. It has its own rhythms, needs, energies, and drives. It seeks higher forms of expression just as we do. It has needs that must be met just as we do. It has ebbs and flows of energies just as we do. And we must be aware of when the relationship is experiencing a disconnection of some sort--when one or both of us has unplugged from the relationship. This happens and is nothing to fear, but it must be addressed when it happens. Addressing a disconnection looks a lot like a fight.

When we fight, and all couples must be able to fight (fairly) if they hope to have a healthy relationship, we both try to hold in our hearts that we must face the pain in ourselves in order to work through the issues that generated the fight. The relationship depends on it. We both bring our own issues to the relationship. For the relationship to thrive and grow, we must be willing to face those weaknesses or wounds in ourselves when they threaten the relationship. But we must want to make ourselves healthier first and foremost. The health of the relationship follows from that.

Having reached this point, I feel like I've said all I can say. I welcome comments and the opportunity to dialogue on this topic. I do not in any way believe Kira and I have all the answers to how integral relationship should look and feel, but we both are seeking that higher form of relationship with each other. If there are comments that spark new ideas, I will post another entry on this topic. I also welcome anyone else who feels they have something to contribute on this topic to drop me a note--we can discuss a guest post.

See my Further Observations.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Suffering Is Not Enough

[Image source]

In all kinds of situations, we can find out what is true simply by studying ourselves in every nook and cranny, in every black hole and bright spot, whether it's murky, creepy, grisly, splendid, spooky, frightening, joyful, inspiring, peaceful, or wrathful. We can just look at the whole thing. There's a lot of encouragement to do this, and meditation gives us the method. When I first encountered Buddhism, I was extremely relieved that there were not only teachings, but also a technique I could use to explore and test these teachings. I was told from day one that, just like Bodhidharma, I had to find out for myself what was true.

However, when we sit down to meditate and take an honest look at our minds, there is a tendency for it to become a rather morbid and depressing project. We can lose all sense of humor and sit with the grim determination to get to the bottom of this stinking mess. After a while, when people have been practicing that way, they begin to feel so much guilt and distress that they just break down, and they might say to someone they trust, "Where's the joy in all this?"

So, along with clear seeing, there's another imporant element, and that's kindness. . . .

Sometimes it's expressed as heart, awakening your heart. Often it's called gentleness. Sometimes it's called unlimited friendliness. But basically kindness is a down-to-earth, everyday way to describe the important ingredient that balances out the whole picture and helps us connect with unconditional joy. As the Vietnamese teacher Thich Nhat Hanh says, "Suffering is not enough."

Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart

Christofascists Picket Soldiers' Burials, Argue They Died Because America Harbors Gays

These people are scary. These idiots protest at the funerals of fallen soldiers and tell their families that the dead soldiers were struck down by God because they were defending a nation that supports and gives comfort to gays and lesbians. According to this jackass, "God Hates Fags." Yep, you read that right. They also protested at the funerals of miners killed in West Virginia with signs that read "Thank God for Dead Miners," "God Hates Your Tears" and "Miners in Hell," arguing that the miners' deaths were a sign of God's wrath at America for tolerating gays.

These people are filled with hate and fear. They are a tiny percentage of the Christian population in this country, but they are loud. Loving, open-hearted Christians need to be louder. They need to shout down these hateful idiots and prevent them from equating God with hatred--Jesus taught that God is love.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

WHO OWNS GOD? (Part Three)

[Image copyright by Don Beck]

[In part one of this series, I introduced the premise that the culture wars in America are not so much about values as they are about the definition of God. Americans are not split between believers and non-believers, but they certainly do not agree on how to define God. Part Two examined the ways different worldviews define God. In this final installment, I propose that the culture war is really a battle for possession of the "correct" Memetic definition of God. Each section is also cross-posted at Raven's View.]

Toward an Integral Politics, Part Three

God in America

The great divide in this country is not between believers and non-believers--it is between different Memes of the Spiral. Evangelical Christians are heavily rooted in the absolutist values of the Blue worldview. The growing edge in America is the Green worldview, as exemplified by the environmental movement, humanistic psychology, liberation theology, animal rights, and cultural diversity. To the Christian right, the Green Meme represents "Multicultural Madness," which was the title article in a February 2005 issue of the Whistleblower Magazine, an ultra-conservative Christian magazine. For those people centered in the Blue Meme, the culture war is not merely a media catchphrase, but a literal battle for the hearts and minds of all Americans.

The materialist, individualistic worldview of the Orange Meme, with its reliance on rational science, is just as big an enemy of the Blue worldview as is the relativism of the Green worldview. At its best, Orange scientism seeks to dispel Blue mythological thinking and replace it with a rational understanding of the world. At its worst, Orange thinking reduces the entire mysterious universe to the interactions of atomic particles in adherence to the immutable laws of physics. Our entire medical model is based on a mechanistic science that does not permit soul or spirit into the equation. Corporate capitalism is based in an economic model that does not value the Earth as anything other than a source of natural resources or human beings as anything other than a source of labor.

Over the last year, the Orange scientific worldview, especially as exemplified by Darwin's theory of evolution, has been under frequent and fierce attack by Blue mythic believers. Dover, Pa., became the battleground last year after the school board voted to include "intelligent design" in the science curriculum. The controversial decision and subsequent lawsuit by parents opposed to allowing creationism into the science classroom received national attention. The school board members lost the legal case in December, but had already been voted out of their positions last November. Similar controversies are ongoing in Georgia (where "intelligent design" was recently overturned) and Kansas, as well as other small towns across America.

Meanwhile, Green is very idealistic and egalitarian, and wants everyone to be free and equal. In this quest, however, Green often attempts to break down Orange economic structures and Blue law-and-order strategies, which unleashes Red and creates instability throughout the system (Don Beck points to Zimbabwe as an example of this practice, while I might point to America's inner cities). Green's relativistic embrace of all forms of religious and spiritual practice infuriates the Blue belief in a single, true God and just looks like superstition to Orange rationalism.

These are the basic contours of the divide that currently exists in America: a traditional Blue Meme worldview with its corresponding view of God as opposed to a progressive, relativist Orange-Green worldview that allows for a more personal understanding of God--a God more universal and expansive than the God of the Bible. Conservative Catholics joined Evangelical Christians in seeking to defeat John Kerry in 2004, seeing in him the scientific rationalism (Orange) and cultural relativism (Green) that they believe threatens to corrupt their faith.

The battleground for this divide has traditionally been abortion and school prayer. Lately, however, the teaching of evolution and the right to die on one's own terms have entered the fray. Very recently, pharmacists are claiming moral high ground in refusing to dispense birth control and morning-after pills because to do so would violate their faith. As the Christian right continues to gain ground, its range of influence will continue to grow. Progressive worldviews are on the defensive and, so far, have done little to defend the ground they gained during the last one hundred years.

It must be noted that being a Christian does not automatically pigeonhole a person in the Blue Meme, just as being a Buddhist does not necessarily mean a person resides in Green or in the second tier. One Catholic may strictly follow the Church's teachings (Blue), but another may understand God as more loving and inclusive (Green), while a third person may perceive God as a benevolent life force completely devoid of human traits (Yellow or higher). Likewise, a Buddhist may worship many of the lesser gods (Red), but another Buddhist may accept the doctrine of anatman (no soul) and seek to dissolve personal identity into nondual awareness (Yellow or higher). Although most religions are founded within a certain cultural Meme, within every religion there may be people with a variety of cultural Memes.

Resolving the Conflict

The divide will get wider before it begins to heal. The clash between red and blue states (more accurately, Blue Meme and Green Meme) will certainly persist into the next election cycle (2006) and beyond. There is only one way out of this war of the worldviews--we must elect leaders who are not so strongly aligned with their own first-tier Memes that they cannot see the validity of other positions. Ideally, we need leaders who can operate from the second tier--what Beck and Cowan have termed Spiral Wizards. A Spiral Wizard can see the whole Spiral, recognize imbalances between Memes, see pathologies within Memes, and act to harmonize opposing worldviews. Unfortunately, there are few of these people around, and most of them are not likely to be involved in politics.

Bill Clinton, despite his personal weaknesses, was able to work outside of his own worldview as a politician. According to Beck and Cowan (pg. 127), Clinton's thinking was as much as a full step ahead of American voters, yet he was able to create policy that was only one-third to one-half step ahead, which made his goals more attainable. However, when he tried to impose too much change too quickly, as he did in appointing his wife, Hillary, to lead a healthcare reform panel, he failed miserably.

Clinton's personal mistakes were the impetus that catapulted the religious right into action in 2000, [almost] electing a candidate who shared their views and promised to restore moral dignity to the White House. The events of September 11, 2001, solidified the return to a more heavily Red/Blue-influenced worldview--the "bunker mentality" of the White House that was also adopted by the American public. The majority of Americans took on Bush's Old Testament and Wild West "eye for an eye" approach to justice, which caused our nation to fall a full step on the Spiral, from blue-Orange to red-Blue (the dominant Meme is capitalized). With the unprovoked invasion of Iraq that followed, America experienced a renewed sense of patriotism (with its concomitant "my country right or wrong" slogan), a hallmark of the Blue Meme.

Automobiles around the country sport yellow ribbons that ask God to bless America. In a few progressive cities, similar stickers have "bless" crossed out and "forgive" scribbled in its place. Again, this reveals the split in the way God is understood by different groups in this country. For those ensconced in the Blue Meme, God chooses sides and favors His Christian children. For those who are moving into the Green Meme, God not only refuses to choose sides, but S/He opposes violence as a means to resolve conflict.

In the final analysis, the way one understands God will be determined by the way one understands the world. For the Red Meme, which is about power and control, God is angry, vengeful, and selfish. For the traditionalist Blue Meme, which rewards good behavior and demands law and order, God is strict but loving, offering a heavenly afterlife to those who obey His commandments. For the Orange Meme, where rationality and self-interest are privileged, God operates much like the CEO of a corporation or a scientist in a lab--detached and objective. For the Green Meme, with its emphasis on community and the environment, God is a loving being who seeks to support all of creation with compassion.

Until we have politicians who can speak to each of these worldviews and honor their divergent understandings of God, we will continue to experience a moral and political divide that threatens to rend the fabric of our culture. The resurgence of the political power of the Blue Meme and the growing emergence of the Green Meme will dictate the return of Spirit to the political life of America. We can no longer leave God out of the discussion without alienating large numbers of people.

The fate of our democracy rests with the leaders we choose to guide us into the future. If we do not choose wisely, electing leaders with the ability to understand these divergent worldviews, our democracy may regress to a theocracy (some would argue that it already has). We are currently fighting two wars to prevent theocratic governments in other countries. Are we so blind as to not see the same future awaiting us here?

Paul's ILP Experiment

Integralawakening turned me on to Paul S.'s 90-day experiment with the ILP kit. I wasn't really on board with the whole ILP kit thing until I read this post. Now I need to know the "secret modules" of ILP that have been hidden from the common folk, like the one Paul practiced on day four.

This is from day four, "Secrets of the Vice Module":
So, last night I engaged in one of the "secret modules" of ILP I'm not supposed to talk about, namely, the Vice Module. The practice I use to exercise this capacity is, of course, drinking in shitty bars, namely The Catacombs, Boulder's basement dive of choice.

Technically, I didn't practice the Vice Module by itself, I included it with a practice from the Relationships Module I call "shooting the shit with my work buddies". (Is this getting a little too jargon-y? So be it. My AQAL Matrix will transclude your holonic turquoise meta-mind and you will like it). When you combine two modules at once, we call that a "Combo". Much the way "kick-punch-kick-block-punch" is a far more effective attack in Tekken 4 than a simplistic "kick-kick-kick", combining your Modules could make your practice even more bad-ass.

I digress.

How would you make "chillin' with the homies at a shitty bar" a practice which could transform your life? For one, right intention. If you go out with Bob and Frank from Accounting with the intention of ignoring them to watch the Stanford game, chances are you're not going to be cultivating any major aspects of your body-mind. But if you go with the intention of listening to them bitch, offering moral support, and seeing if you can keep their girlfriends entertained without making it seem like you're hitting on them, then you're in for a Transcendental Treat.

Read the rest here.

Sam Harris Replies to Critics of His Atheist Manifesto

Truthdig has Sam Harris's response to critics of his "Atheist Manifesto." What follows is the slightly edited comment I posted at the Truthdig site.

Harris presents three basic refutations to his article:
1) Believers in God must carry the burden of proof (Bertrand Russell's argument)
2) You can't rid of religion, so stop trying
3) Religion is not the only viable basis for a moral life

As usual, Mr. Harris only presents the objections to his narrow viewpoint that he can hold up as straw men and then knock down. Only one of these actually addresses a belief in God, which is what the Atheist Manifesto claims to be arguing against. It's much easier to rail against religion than to address people's faith in God. A May 2005 Gallup poll shows that 90 percent of Americans believe in God, while only 4 percent are atheists. It would be my guess that not all of the people who believe in some form of God are pre-rational adherents to mythic religions.

Harris’s atheism is a flatland worldview. He conflates pre-rational and trans-rational into irrational because both are non-rational. Human experience evolves from pre-rational (the religions Harris so often criticizes) to rational (Harris’s own worldview) to post-rational or trans-rational (an understanding of the world based on human faculties more advanced than rational thought). Harris never addresses this objection to his argument.

Another area that he fails to address is that the religions he hates so much are part of the natural development of all human beings. They may be pre-rational, but so is a five-year-old, and no one tries to make the child change its understanding of the world. Harris must learn to accept that human cultures, like human beings, have developmental stages (see Jean Gebser) and that stages cannot be skipped, no matter how much he loathes them.

What Harris could do, if he were about change rather than negation, is work to create life conditions that might allow people who live in the traditionalist/mythic worldview of monotheistic religion to progress to the next step in their evolution. This would actually require that he speak to Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists, and offer them a worldview that can transcend and include the one they currently hold.

So, Mr. Harris, do you care to put your efforts where they might do some good?

Sunday Poem: Hayden Carruth

I, I, I

First, the self. Then, the observing self.
The self that acts and the self that watches. This
The starting point, the place where the mind begins,
Whether the mind of an individual or
The mind of a species. When I was a boy
I struggled to understand. For if I know
The self that watches, another watching self
Must see the watcher, then another watching that,
Another and another, and where does it end?
So my mother sent me to the barber shop,
My first time, to get my hair "cut for a part"
(Instead of the dutch boy she'd always given me),
As I was instructed to tell the barber. She
Dispatched me on my own because the shop,
Which had a pool table in the back, in that
Small town was the men's club, and no woman
Would venture there. Was it my first excursion
On my own into the world? Perhaps. I sat
In the big chair. The wall behind me held
A huge mirror, and so did the one in front,
So that I saw my own small strange blond head
With its oriental eyes and turned up nose repeated
In ever diminishing images, one behind
Another behind another, and I tried
To peer farther and farther into the succession
To see the farthest one, diminutive in
The shadows. I could not. I sat rigid
And said no word. The fat barber snipped
My hair and blew his brusque breath on my nape
And finally whisked away his sheet, and I
Climbed down. I ran from that cave of mirrors
A mile and a half to home, to my own room
Up under the eaves, which was another cave.
It had no mirrors. I no longer needed mirrors.

This is one of Carruth's lesser poems, but the Buddhist element in it is appealing. Carruth is sometimes known as a "Jazz Poet," but I feel such a limiting tag does a disservice to his mastery of language, unique vision, and often metaphysical content.

A little biography:

Hayden Carruth was born on August 3, 1921, in Waterbury, Connecticut, and was educated at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Chicago. For many years, Carruth lived in northern Vermont. He now lives in upstate New York, where until recently he taught in the Graduate Creative Writing Program at Syracuse University. Noted for the breadth of his linguistic and formal resources, influenced by jazz and the blues, Carruth has published twenty-nine books, chiefly of poetry but also a novel, four books of criticism, and two anthologies. His most recent books are Collected Shorter Poems 1946-1991 (Copper Canyon Press, 2001); Doctor Jazz: Poems 1996-2000 (2001); Reluctantly: Autobiographical Essays (1998); Selected Essays & Reviews; Collected Longer Poems; Collected Shorter Poems, 1946-1991 (awarded the National Book Critics' Circle Award); and Scrambled Eggs and Whiskey (1996), which won the National Book Award for Poetry.

More Carruth poems and interviews are available online:

Poem Hunter
Academy of American Poets
A Review
Hayden Carruth's Website