Monthly Archives: November 2010

i once was a hippie

… and probably still am.  for your amusement, while you wait for this blog to be healed (again!  how often does this happen?!) here’s an image of me i found while checking whether google searches about me actually point to me again, not to those sites the hackers had redirected them to.

what is science?

i was rooting around in my computer the other day trying to find something i had written about the german philosopher max scheler (see my comment about knowledge in my last post about ann mortifee’s new book).  in this sojourn i stumbled across a philosophy journal i was writing on and off and which contained a nice little assortment of quotes on the question of “what is science?”.   maybe you’ll enjoy it.

antony flew, a dictionary of philosophy:
(no entry under “science” – the following is taken from the entry of”philosophy of science”)
organized empirical science provides the most impressive result of human rationality and is one of the best accredited candidates for knowledge …science does not consist merely in making timid generalizations from wide collections of data, for the scientist’s selection of data is dictated by some theoretical interest, and his results are not simply inductive extrapolations, but rather explanations, models, and theories … another part [of science],emphasized by popper, is the creation of bold, predictive theory … the cumulative character of scientific theory … is characteristic of successful sciences …

georgi schischkoff (philosophical dictionary, in german – quick translation):

science (gr. episteme, lat. scientia) – a cultural endeavour which has not been and is not now practised by all cultures and at all times … science is the epitomy of human knowledge; the body of knowledge and insight, ordered by principles (kant); the ordered cohesion of true judgments, hypotheses and possible questions about the body of reality or certain parts of it … as opposed to unordered empirical knowledge, science not only deals with descriptions but also with reasons … scientific progress consists in evermore systematic penetration into the depth and breadth of reality, into the elements of existence and of events and the connections between them – into the intercoherence of that reality which we call “the world” … science at its loftiest is universal science [as opposed to ‘particular sciences’ such as physics, mathematics, etc.]

microsoft encarta

science (latin scientia, from scire, “to know”), term used in its broadest meaning to denote systematized knowledge in any field, but applied usually to the organization of objectively verifiable sense experience. the pursuit of knowledge in this context is known as pure science, to distinguish it from applied science, which is the search for practical uses of scientific knowledge, and from technology, through which applications are realized.

… and a few quotes:

science is organized knowledge. (herbert spencer)

science is the systematic classification of experience. (george henry lewes)

science is simply common sense at its best, that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic. (thomas henry huxley)

science is nothing but trained and organized common sense differing from the latter only as a veteran may differ from a raw recruit: and its methods differ from those of common sense only as far as the guardsman’s cut and thrust differ from the manner in which a savage wields his club. (thomas henry huxley)

science is nothing but developed perception, interpreted intent, common sense rounded out and minutely articulated. (george santayana)

science is the desire to know causes. (william hazlitt)

in essence, science is a perpetual search for an intelligent and integrated comprehension of the world we live in. (c. b. van neil)

i venture to define science as a series of interconnected concepts and conceptual schemes arising from experiment and observation and fruitful of further experiments and observations. the test of a scientific theory is, i suggest, its fruitfulness. (james bryant conant)

the aim of science is to seek the simplest explanation of complex facts. we are apt to fall into the error of thinking that the facts are simple because simplicity is the goal of our quest. the guiding motto in the life of every natural philosopher should be “seek simplicity and distrust it.” (alfred north whitehead)

“in love with the mystery” – ann mortifee’s new book

“mystery” – how do you talk about it? “the deeper you go into it, the more difficult it is to name,” says ann mortifee, and “everything becomes mysterious after a while.”

the first mystery that struck me as i entered st. mark’s church where ann mortifee’s launch for her new book and CD in love with the mystery was held was the image of paul horn, her soul mate and husband. there he was, standing in front of a cross as he gracefully welcomed the raging applause. why did this image speak to me so insistently? i don’t know. there seemed to be, in my experience (was it only mine? did others feel it, too?) a sort of communion, communication occurring between the man and the cross. who knows? no, i don’t know.

the word “mystery” is rooted in the greek myein, to shut, to close. it is that, perhaps, which is closed off to our knowing. all our knowing? or just the intellectual knowing?

ann certainly walks bravely into that thicket of unknowing: with words, images, music, and her voice. oh, her voice! it comes from a deep, deep place … and reaches a deep place inside us. when she let all her shamanic power loose and hurled that voice into space, she sang it into our ears and hearts – and again, into those deep spaces in between, where the mystery lies.

in love with the mystery is something physical you can take away that captures all of this. all the senses are engaged. “the whole work is a synaesthetic feast, an offering for the divine beloved,” says carol sill, who did the editorial work. the book feels good, has a nice heft, the pages are lovely to the touch. strange to talk about a book like that – aren’t you supposed to talk about the content? but any book lover will understand. there is something exciting, almost erotic, about touching, holding, weighing, allover feeling a new book. in love with the mystery is a book you want to hang out with, a book you can open on your lap while you drink a cup of tea on a quiet sunday evening, and while you listen to the music that accompanies the book. in addition to ann’s powerful voice and paul horn’s flute, miles black and edward henderson’s beautiful guitar complete the synaesthetic whole.

there is something melancholic about in love with the mystery – and it makes sense, given its history. in her talk, ann spoke often about the pain that deepens our understanding – shattered dreams and “the grit of disappointment.” these experiences inform the content of the book but there is more. the gentle images that form the background to ann’s writings were created by award-winning photographer courtney milne, who did not live to see the finished work of art. as well, the stunning design by diane jensen-feught was crafted in grief, as the designer mourned the death of her parents.

instead of an excerpt – you’ll just have to read for yourself – a few poignant lines from the talk:

“how does the mystery come?” asked ann.
“just keep breathing.”

“be love now” by ram dass – annoying or enlightening?

be love now is ram dass’s newest book.  it will be misunderstood by many.  in fact, it – or at least ram dass himself – already has been misunderstood.  “ram dass is a superb writer,” the san francisco chronicle says.  calling ram dass a superb writer is like praising the world’s most lovingly raised organic carrots for their orangeness.  for sure, it’s one characteristic but it’s not the one that’s most important or even relevant.

a characteristic of this book that stands out is how much ram dass talks about his guru, maharaj-ji.  the title of the book is “be love now – the path of the heart.”  so why does ram dass go on and on (and ON!) about his guru?  he mentions i don’t know how many times how his guru was able to read his mind or when he did or didn’t manage to see maharaj-ji in person.  and all those references to indian deities – ram, arjun, and for goodness sake, hanuman the monkey devotee.  this is all very faraway and weird-like stuff.  who in the west really wants to have a guru?  of course there are all these people who are called gurus, or like to call themselves gurus.  “the blogging guru” or “the guru of golf”, etc.  this doesn’t really make the idea of a guru more appealing.

and then …

… then there is all the love that shines through this book, the deep, caring, overarching, limitless love that emanates from ram dass.  if we let this work on us, then everything suddenly has a different meaning.  the going on and on stops being annoying and begins to take on the ever-deepening quality of repeating a mantra or saying the rosary.

like the st. john of the cross that i mentioned last week, ram dass is a mystic, a person who “dwells in the love of god.”  (please, let’s take “god” in the widest sense here.)  this dwelling might be one that we have consciously experienced here and there as a short vacation destination, but most of us do not call it our home (and let’s add a comforting “yet”.)  that means that many of the perspectives are unknown or at least unfamiliar – often uncomfortable – for us.  as a point in fact, i had help writing this article by having someone read the passage below to me for easier typing.  there was much sighing and eye-rolling and sarcastic intonation.

from this strange abode of dwelling in the love of god, ram dass says

i am loving awareness

i have a practice in which i say to myself, “i am loving awareness.”  to begin, i focus my attention in the muddle of my chest, on the heart-mind.  i may take a few deep breaths into my diaphragm to help me identify with it.  i breathe in love and breathe out love.  i watch of all the thoughts the create the stuff of my mind, and i love everything, everything i can be aware of.  i just love, just love, just love.

i love you.  no matter how rotten you are, i love you because you are part of the manifestation of god.  in that heart-mind i’m not richard alpert, i’m not ram dass – those are both roles.  i look at those roles from the deeper “i”.  in the heart-mind i’m not identified with my roles.  they’re like costumes or uniforms (^^^) hanging in my closet.  “i am a reader,” “i am a father,” “i am a yogi,” i am a man,” “i am a driver” – those are all roles.

all i am is loving awareness.  I AM LOVING AWARENESS.  it means that wherever i look, anything that touches my awareness will be loved by me.  that loving awareness is the most fundamental “i”.  loving awareness witnesses the incarnation from a place of consciousness different from the plane that we live on as egos, though it completely contains and interpenetrates everyday experiences.

when i wake up in the morning, i’m aware of the air, the fan on my ceiling, i’ve got to love them,  I AM LOVING AWARENESS.  but if i’m an ego, i’m judging everything as it relates to my own survival.  the air might give me a cold that might turn into pneumonia.  i’m always afraid of something in the world that i have to defend myself against.  if i’m identified with my ego, the ego is frightened silly because the ego knows that it is going to end at death.  but if i merge with love, there is nothing to be afraid of.  love neutralizes fear.

awareness and love, loving awareness, is the soul.  this practice of “i am loving awareness” turns you inward toward the soul.  if you dive deep enough into your soul, you will come to god.  in greek, it’s called agape, god love.  martin luther king jr said about agape, this higher love: “it’s an overflowing love which is pure, spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless and creative.  the love of god operating in a human condition.”

it’s the love maharaj-ji spreads around, the unconditional love.  he loves you just because, just because.  spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless. he’s not going to love you because you are an achiever or a devotee, or a yogi, or because you’re on the path.  he loves you just because.  can you accept it?  can you accept unconditional love?

when you can accept that kind of love, you can give that love.  you can give love to all you perceive, all the time.  i am loving awareness. you can be aware of your eyes seeing, your ears hearing, your skin feeling, and your mind producing thoughts, thought after thought after thought.  thoughts are terribly seductive, but you don’t have to identify with them.  you identify not with the thoughts, but with the awareness of the thoughts.  to bring loving awareness to everything you turn your awareness to is love.  this moment is love.  i am loving awareness.

if you put out love, then you immerse yourself in a sea of love.  you don’t put out love in order to get back love.  it’s not a transaction.  you just become a beacon of love for those around you.  that’s what maharaj-ji is.  then from the moment you wake to the moment you go to sleep, and maybe in dreams, too, you’re in a loving environment.

try using i’m loving awareness to become aware of your thought forms and to practice not identifying with them.  then you can identify with your soul, not your fears or anxieties.  once you identify with your spiritual being, you can’t help but be love.

it’s simple.  i start with the fact that i am aware, and then i love everything.  but that’s all in the mind, that’s a thought, and loving awareness is not a thought.  or if it is a thought, it’s pointing to a place that’s not a thought.  it’s pointing at a state of being, the way the concept of emptiness is pointing at emptiness, which is really fullness.

souls love.  that’s what souls do.  egos don’t, but souls do.  become a soul, look around, you’ll be amazed – all the beings around you are souls.  be one, see one.

when many people have this heart connection, then we will know that we are all one, we human beings all over the planet.  we will be one.  one love.

and don’t leave out the animals, and trees, and clouds, and galaxies – it’s all one.  it’s one energy.  it comes through in individual ways, but it’s one energy.  you can call it energy, or you can call it love.  i like to look at a tree and see that it’s love, don’t you?