Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Let not thy left Tao know what thy right Tao doeth - I

René Magritte, La Corde Sensible, (1960)
Let Not Thy Left Hand Know

Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth. – Matt 6:3

In the processes we call perceiving, knowing, and acting, a certain decorum must be followed, and when these quite obscure rules are not observed, the validity of our mental processes is jeopardized. Above all, these rules concern the preservation of the fine lines dividing the sacred from the secular, the aesthetic from the appetitive, the deliberate from the unconscious, and thought from feeling. I do not know whether abstract philosophy will support the necessity of these dividing lines, but I am sure that these divisions are a usual feature of human epistemologies and that they are component in the natural history of human knowledge and action. Similar dividing lines are surely to be found in all human cultures, though surely each culture will have its unique ways of handling the resulting paradoxes. I introduce the fact of these divisions, then, as evidence that the domain of Epistemology – of mental explanation – is ordered, real, and must be examined. In the present chapter I shall illustrate, with a series of narratives, what happens when these lines are breached or threatened.
Back in 1960, I was acting as a guinea pig for a psychologist, Joe Adams, who was studying psychedelic phenomena. He gave me a hundred grams of LSD, and as the drug began to take effect, I started to tell him what I wanted to get from the experience – that I wanted insight into the aesthetic organization of behavior. Joe said, “Wait a minute! Wait while I get the tape recorder going.” When he finally got the machine going, he asked me to repeat what I had been saying. Anybody who has had LSD will know that the flow of ideas is such that to “repeat” any piece is almost impossible. I did the best I could but this clumsiness on Joe‘s part established a certain struggle between us.
Interestingly enough, our roles in that struggle were reversed, so that later on he was scolding me for thinking too much instead of being spontaneous when it was my spontaneity that he had attacked with his machine. In reply, I defended the intellectual position. At a certain point, he said, “Gregory, you think too much.” “Thinking is my job in life,” I said. Later he went off and brought back a rosebud from the garden. A beautiful and fresh bud, which he gave me, saying, “Stop thinking. Take a look at that.” I held the bud and looked at it, and it was complex and beautiful. So, equating the process of evolution with the process of thought, I said “Gee, Joe, think of all the thought that went into that!” Evidently there is a problem, not simply to avoid thought and the use of the intellect because it is sometimes bad for spontaneity of feeling, but to map out what sorts of thought are bad for spontaneity, and what sorts of thought are the very stuff of which spontaneity is made. Later in the same LSD session I remarked to Joe, “This stuff is all very well. It‘s very pretty but it‘s trivial.” Joe said, “What do you mean, trivial?” I had been watching endless shapes and colors collapsing and breaking and reforming, and I said, “Yes, it‘s trivial. It‘s like the patterns of breaking waves or glass. What I see is only the planes of fracture, not the stuff itself.” I mean that Prospero was wrong when he said, “We are such stuff as dreams are made on.” What he should have said is, “Dreams are bits and pieces of the stuff of which we are made, and what that stuff is, Joe, is quite another question.” Even though we can discuss the ideas which we “have” and what we perceive through our senses, and so on, the enveloping question, the question of the nature of the envelope in which all that “experience” is contained, is a very different and much more profound question, which approaches matters that are part of religion. I come with two sorts of questions posed by these stories: What is the nature of the continuum or matrix of which or in which “ideas” are made? And what sorts of ideas create distraction or confusion in the operation of that matrix so that creativity is destroyed?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tao ethico

I - § 6.

What, then, is good? How is good to be defined? Now it may be thought that this is a verbal question. A definition does indeed often mean the expressing of one word’s meaning in other words. But this is not the sort of definition I am asking for. Such a definition can never be of ultimate importance to any study except lexicography. If I wanted that kind of definition I should have to consider in the first place how people generally used the word good; but my business is not with its proper usage, as established by custom. I should, indeed, be foolish if I tried to use it for something which it did not usually denote: if, for instance, I were to announce that, whenever I used the word good, I must be understood to be thinking of that object which is usually denoted by the word table. I shall, therefore, use the word in the sense in which I think it is ordinarily used; but at the same time I am not anxious to discuss whether I am right in thinking it is so used. My business is solely with that object or idea, which I hold, rightly or wrongly, that the word is generally used to stand for. What I want to discover is the nature of that object or idea, and about this I am extremely anxious to arrive at an agreement.
But if we understand the question in this sense, my answer to it may seem a very disappointing one. If I am asked, What is good? my answer is that good is good, and that is the end of the matter. Or if I am asked How is good to be defined? my answer is that it cannot be defined, and that is all I have to say about it. But disappointing as these answers may appear, they are of the very last importance. To readers who are familiar with philosophic terminology, I can express their importance by saying that they amount to this: That propositions about the good are all of them synthetic and never analytic; and that is plainly no trivial matter. And the same thing may be expressed more popularly, by saying that, if I am right, then nobody can foist upon us such an axiom as that Pleasure is the only good or that The good is the desired on the pretence that this is the very meaning of the word.

Monday, October 29, 2012

cognitivist Tao manifestations

The cognitivist hypothesis to the study of mind and consciousness has found historically wide application in a number of fields:

Manifestations of Cognitivism

Cognitivism in Artificial Intelligence
The manifestations of cognitivism are nowhere more visible than in artificial intelligence (AI), which is the literal construal of the cognitivist hypothesis. Over the years many interesting theoretical advances and technological applications have been made within this orientation, such as expert systems, robotics, and image processing. These results have been widely publicized, and so we need not digress to provide specific examples here.
Because of wider implications, however, it is worth noting that AI and its cognitivist basis reached a dramatic climax in Japan's ICOT Fifth Generation Program. For the first time since the war there is a national plan involving the efforts of industry, government, and universities, launched in 1981. The core of this program is a cognitive device capable of understanding human language and of writing its own programs when presented with a task by an untrained user. Not surprisingly, the heart of the ICOT program was the development of a series of interfaces of knowledge representation and problem solving based on PROLOG, a high-level programming language for predicate logic. The ICOT program has triggered immediate responses from Europe and the United States, and there is little question that this is a major commercial concern and engineering battlefield. (It is also worth noting that the Japanese goverment has launched in 1990 the Sixth Generation Program based on connectionist models.) Although it is only one example, the ICOT program is a major illustration ofthe inseparability of science and technology in the study of cognition and of the effects that this marriage has on the public at large.
The cognitivist hypothesis has in AI its most literal construal. The complementary endeavor is the study of natural, biologically implemented cognitive systems, especially humans. Here, too, computationally characterizable representations have been the main explanatory tool. Mental representations are taken to be occurrences of a formal system, and the mind's activity is what gives these representations their attitudinal color-beliefs, desires, intentions, etc. Here, therefore, unlike AI, we find an interest in what the natural cognitive systems are really like, and it is assumed that their cognitive representations are about something for the system; they are said to be intentional in the sense indicated here.

Cognitivism and the Brain
Another equally important effect of cognitivism is the way it has shaped current views about the brain. Even though in theory the symbolic level of cognitivism is compatible with many views about the brain, in practice almost all of neurobiology (and its huge body of empirical evidence) has become permeated with the cognitivist, information-processing perspective. More often than not, the origins and assumptions of this perspective are not even questioned.
The exemplar of this approach is the celebrated studies of the visual cortex, an area of the brain where one can easily detect electrical responses from neurons when the animal is presented with a visual image. It was reported early on that it was possible to classify cortical neurons, such as feature detectors, responding to certain attributes of the object being presented-its orientation, contrast, velocity, color, and so on. In line with the cognitivist hypothesis, these results have been seen as the biological basis for the notion that the brain picks up visual information from the retina through the feature-specific neurons in the cortex, and the information is then passed on to later stages in the brain for further processing (conceptual categorization, memory associations, and eventually action).
In its most extreme form, this view of the brain is expressed in Barlow's "grandmother cell" doctrine, where there is a correspondence between concepts (such as the concept someone has of her grandmother) or percepts and specific neurons. (This is equivalent - to AI detectors and labeled lines.) This extreme view is waning in popularity now, but the basic idea that the brain is an information processing device that responds selectively to features of the environment remains as the dominant core of modem neuroscience and in the public's understanding.

Cognitivism in Psychology
Psychology is the discipline that most people assume to be the study of mind. Psychology predates cognitive science and cognitivism and is not coextensive with either of them. What influence has cognitivism had on psychology? To understand something of this, we need some historical background in psychology.
We have already mentioned introspectionism and its differences from mindfulness meditation. It may be that when anyone first thinks to inquire about the mind, there are a limited number of possibilities of how to proceed, and turning to one's own mind is one of the universal strategies that will occur. This track, developed by the. meditative traditions of India, was aborted for psychology in the West when the nineteenth-century introspectionists, lacking a method of mindfulness, tried to treat the mind as an external object, with disastrous results for interobserver agreement. The breakdown of introspectionism into noncommensurable, warring laboratories left experimental psychology with a profound distrust of self-knowledge as a legitimate procedure in psychology. Introspectionism was replaced by the dominant school of behaviorism.
One obvious alternative to looking inward to the mind is to look outward at behavior; we even have the folk saying, "Actions speak louder than words." Behaviorism was particularly compatible with the early twentieth-century positivist zeitgeist of disembodied objectivism in science, for it eliminated mind entirely from its psychology. According to behaviorism, although one could objectively observe inputs to the organism (stimuli) and outputs (behavior) and could investigate the lawful relationships between inputs and outputs over time, the organism itself (both its mind and its biological body) was a black box that was methodologically unapproachable by behavioral science (hence no rules, no symbols, no computations). Behaviorism completely dominated North American experimental psychology from the 1920s until fairly recently.
The first signs of a postbehaviorist experimental cognitive psychology began to appear in the late 195Os. The trick of these early researchers who were still, strictly speaking, positivist, was to find experimental means for defining and measuring the effect of a given forbidden mentalistic phenomenon. Let us take mental images as an example.
A mental image is undisputably in the black box for a behaviorist; it is not publicly observable, so one cannot have observer agreement about it. Researchers, however, gradually devised demonstrations of the pragmatic effects of mental images. Instructing an experimental subject to hold a mental image during a signal detection task lowers the accuracy of the detection, and, furthermore, this effect is modality specific (a visual image interferes more in a visual detection task than an auditory task, and vice versa). Such experiments legitimate imagery even in behaviorist terminology-imagery is a powerful intervening variable. Furthermore, experiments began to explore the behavior of mental images in themselves, often showing that they had properties like those of perceptual images. In delightfully ingenious experiments, Kosslyn showed that mental visual images appear to be scanned in real time, and Shepard and Metzler showed that mental images appear to be rotated in real time just as perceptual visual images are. Studies of other formerly mentalistic (now called cognitive) phenomena began to be performed in perception, memory, language, problem solving, concepts, and decision making.
What influence did cognitivism have on this emerging experimental investigation of the mind? Interestingly, the initial effect of cognitivism on psychology was extremely liberating. The computer metaphor of the mind could be used to formulate experimental hypotheses or even to legitimate one's theory simply by programming it. Although the programs were almost entirely cognitivist (psychological processes were modeled in terms of explicit rules, symbols, and representations), the overall effect was to breach the constraints of behaviorist orthodoxy and admit into psychology long-suppressed, commonsense understanding of the mind. For example, developmental psycholinguistics could now explore openly the idea that children learn the vocabulary and grammar of their language not as reinforced, paired associates but as hypotheses about correct adult speech that develop with their cognitive capacities and experience. Motivation could be understood as more than hours of deprivation; one could now talk of cognitive representations of goals and plans. The social system was not just a complex stimulus; it could be modeled in the mind as representations of scripts and social schemas. One coulq speak of the human information processor as a lay scientist, testing hypotheses and making mistakes. In short, the introduction of the computer metaphor in a very general, albeit implicitly cognitivist, sense into cognitive psychology allowed an explosion of commonsense theory and its operationalization into computer models and human research.
Strict cognitivism in its explicit form, on the other hand, places strong constraints on theory and has generated primarily philosophical debate. Let us return to mental imagery as an example. In cognitivism, mental imagery, like any other cognitive phenomenon, can be no more than the manipulation of symbols by computational rules. Yet Shepard's and Kosslyn's experiments have demonstrated that mental images perform in a continuous fashion in real time, very like visual perception. Does this refute cognitivism? A hard-line cognitivist, such as Pylyshyn, argues that images are simply subjective epiphenomena (as they were for behaviorism) of more fundamental symbolic computations. Attempting to bridge the rift between data and cognitivist theory, Kosslyn has formulated a model by which images are generated in the mind by the same rules that generate images in computer displays: the interaction of languagelike operations and picturelike operations together generate the internal eye. One current view of the imagery debate is that since, at best, the imagery research demonstrates the similarity of imagery to perception, this simply points us to the need for a viable account of perception.

Cognitivism and Psychoanalysis
We stated earlier that psychoanalytic theory had mirrored much of the development of cognitive science. In fact, psychoanalysis was explicitly cognitivist in its inception. Freud attended Brentano's course in Vienna, as did Husserl, and he fully endorsed the representational and intentional view of the mind. For Freud, nothing could affect behavior unless it were mediated by a representation, even an instinct. “An instinct can never be an object of consciousness—only the idea that represents the instinct. Even in the unconscious, moreover, it can only be represented by the idea.” Within this framework, Freud's great discovery was that not all representations were accessible to consciousness; he never seemed to doubt that the unconscious, for all that it might operate on a different symbol system than the conscious, was fully symbolic, fully intentional, and fully representational.
Freud's descriptions of mental structures and processes are sufficiently general and metaphorical that they have proved translatable (with arguable degrees of loss of meaning) into the language of other psychological systems. In the Anglo-American world, one extreme was Dollard and Miller's hotly contested retheorizing of Freudian discoveries in terms of behaviorist-based learning theory. More relevant for us was Erdelyi's rather placidly accepted (perhaps because of Freud's preexisting cognitivist "metaphysics") translation into cognitivist-based information-processing language. For example, Freud's concept of repression/censorship becomes, in cognitivist terms, the matching of information from a perception or idea to a criterion level for acceptable accounts of anxiety: if it is above the criterion, it goes to a stop-processing/accessing information box, from whence it is shunted back to the unconscious; if below the criterion, it is allowed into the preconscious and, perhaps, then into the conscious. After another criterion match in the decision tree, it is either allowed into behavior or suppressed. Does such a description add anything to Freud? It certainly serves to translate such notions as the Freudian unconscious into what is taken to be a "scientific" currency of the day. It is also fair to say that many contemporary post-Freudian theorists in Europe-such as Jacques Lacan-would disagree: such theorizing misses the central spirit of the psychoanalytic journey-to move beyond the trap of representations, including those about the unconscious.
It is presently fashionable to say that Freud "decentered" the self; what he actually did was to divide the self into several basic selves. Freud was not a strict cognitivist in the Pylyshyn sense: the unconscious had the same type of representations as the conscious, all of which could, at least theoretically, become, or have been, conscious. Modem strict cognitivism has a far more radical and alienating view of unconscious processing. It is to this issue that we now tum as we discuss the meaning of cognitivism for our experience.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

2D Tao palindrome

Oppède-le-Vieux, Petit Luberon, Provence, France

first explanations on Tao

Monument Valley Mitchell Mesa; philiphyde
After the first encounter with Mescalito, Castaneda summarized what's happened in that occasion and get the first explanations by Don Juan:
Saturday, 5 August 1961
Later that morning, after breakfast, the owner of the house, don Juan, and I drove back to don Juan’s place. I was very tired, but I couldn’t go to sleep in the truck. Only after the man had left did I fall asleep on the porch of don Juan’s house.
When I woke up it was dark; don Juan had covered me up with a blanket, I looked for him, but he was not in the house. He came later with a pot of fried beans and a stack of tortillas. I was extremely hungry.
After we had finished eating and were resting he asked me to tell him all that had happened to me the night before. I related my experience in great detail and as accurately as possible.
When I had finished he nodded his head and said, “I think you are fine. It is difficult for me to explain now how and why.
But I think it went all right for you. You see, sometimes he is playful, like a child; at other times he is terrible, fearsome. He either frolics, or he is dead serious. It is impossible to know beforehand what he will be like with another person. Yet, when one knows him well — sometimes. You played with him tonight. You are the only person I know who has had such an encounter.”
“In what way does my experience differ from that of others?”
“You’re not an Indian; therefore it is hard for me to figure out what is what. Yet he either takes people or rejects them, regardless of whether they are Indians or not. That I know. I have seen numbers of them. I also know that he frolics, he makes some people laugh, but never have I seen him play with anyone.”
“Can you tell me now, don Juan, how does peyote protect . . .”
He did not let me finish. Vigorously he touched me on the shoulder.
“Don’t you ever name him that way. You haven’t seen enough of him yet to know him.”
“How does Mescalito protect people?”
“He advises. He answers whatever questions you ask.”
“Then Mescalito is real? I mean he is something you can see?”
He seemed to be baffled by my question. He looked at me with a sort of blank expression.
“What I meant to say, is that Mescalito . . .”
“I heard what you said. Didn’t you see him last night?
I wanted to say that I saw only a dog, but I noticed his bewildered look.
“Then you think what I saw last night was him?”
He looked at me with contempt. He chuckled, shook his head as though he couldn’t believe it, and in a very belligerent tone he added, “A poco crees que era tu—mama [Don’t tell me you believe it was your—mama]?” He paused before saying “mama” because what he meant to say was “tu chingada madre”, an idiom used as a disrespectful allusion to the other party’s mother.
The word “mama” was so incongruous that we both laughed for a long time.
Then I realized he had fallen asleep and had not answered my question.

Sunday, 6 August 1961
I drove don Juan to the house where I had taken peyote. On the way he told me that the name of the man who had “offered me to Mescalito” was John. When we got to the house we found John sitting on his porch with two young men. All of them were extremely jovial, They laughed and talked with great ease.
The three of them spoke English perfectly. I told John that I had come to thank him for having helped me.
I wanted to get their views on my behaviour during the hallucinogenic experience, and told them I had been trying to think of what I had done that night and that I couldn’t remember.
They laughed and were reluctant to talk about it. They seemed to be holding back on account of don Juan. They all glanced at him as though waiting for an affirmative cue to go on. Don Juan must have cued them, although I did not notice anything, because suddenly John began to tell me what I had done that night.
He said he knew I had been “taken” when he heard me puking.
He estimated that I must have puked thirty times. Don Juan corrected him and said it was only ten times.
John continued: “Then we all moved next to you. You were stiff, and were having convulsions. For a very long time, while lying on your back, you moved your mouth as though talking.
Then you began to bump your head on the floor, and don Juan put an old hat on your head and you stopped it. You shivered and whined for hours, lying on the floor. I think everybody fell asleep then; but I heard you puffing and groaning in my sleep.
Then I heard you scream and I woke up. I saw you leaping up in the air, screaming. You made a dash for the water, knocked the pan over, and began to swim in the puddle.
“Don Juan brought you more water. You sat quietly in front of the pan. Then you jumped up and took off all your clothes.
You were kneeling in front of the water, drinking in big gulps.
Then you just sat there and stared into space. We thought you were going to be there forever. Nearly everybody was asleep, including don Juan, when suddenly you jumped up again, howling, and took after the dog. The dog got scared and howled too, and ran to the back of the house. Then everybody woke up.

“We all got up. You came back from the other side still chasing the dog. The dog was running ahead of you barking and howling. I think you must have gone twenty times around the house, running in circles, barking like a dog. I was afraid people were going to be curious. There are no neighbours close, but your howling was so loud it could have been heard for miles.”
One of the young men added, “You caught up with the dog and brought it to the porch in your arms.”
John continued: “Then you began to play with the dog. You wrestled with him, and the dog and you bit each other and played. That, I thought, was funny. My dog does not play usually. But this time you and the dog were rolling on each other.”
“Then you ran to the water and the dog drank with you,” the young man said. “You ran five or six times to the water with the dog.”
How long did this go on?” I asked.
Hours,” John said. “At one time we lost sight of you two. I think you must have run to the back. We just heard you barking and groaning. You sounded so much like a dog that we couldn’t tell you two apart.”
“Maybe it was just the dog alone,” I said.
They laughed, and John said, “You were barking there, boy!”
“What happened next?”
The three men looked at one another and seemed to have a hard time deciding what happened next. Finally the young man who had not yet said anything spoke up.
“He choked,” he said, looking at John.
“Yes, you certainly choked. You began to cry very strangely, and then you fell to the floor.
We thought you were biting your tongue; don Juan opened your jaws and poured water on your face. Then you started shivering and having convulsions all over again. Then you stayed motionless for a long time. Don Juan said it was all over. By then it was morning, so we covered you with a blanket and left you to sleep on the porch.”
He stopped there and looked at the other men who were obviously trying not to laugh. He turned to don Juan and asked him something. Don Juan smiled and answered the question.
John turned to me and said, “We left you here on the porch because we were afraid you were going to piss all over the rooms.”
They all laughed very loudly.
“What was the matter with me?” I asked. “Did I . . .”
“Did you?” John son of mimicked me. “We were not going to mention it, but don Juan says it is all right. You pissed all over my dog!”
“What did I do?”
“You don’t think the dog was running because he was afraid of you, do you? The dog was running because you were pissing on him.”
There was general laughter at this point. I tried to question one of the young men, but they were all laughing and he didn’t hear me.
John went on: “My dog got even though; he pissed on you too!”
This statement was apparently utterly funny because they all roared with laughter, including don Juan. When they had quieted down, I asked in all earnestness, “Is it really true? This really happened?”
Still laughing, John replied: “I swear my dog really pissed on you.”
Driving back to don Juan’s place I asked him: “Did all that really happen, don Juan?”
“Yes,” he said, “but they don’t know what you saw. They don’t realize you were playing with «him». That is why I did not disturb you.”
“But is this business of the dog and me pissing on each other true?”
It was not a dog! How many times do I have to tell you that? This is the only way to understand it. It’s the only way! It was «he» who played with you.”
“Did you know all this was happening before I told you about it?”
He vacillated for an instant before answering.
“No, I remembered, after you told me about it, the strange way you looked. I just suspected you were doing fine because you didn’t seem scared.”
“Did the dog really play with me as they say?”
Goddammit! It was not a dog!

Thursday, 17 August 1969
I told don Juan how I felt about my experience. From the point of view of my intended work it had been a disastrous event. I said I did not care for another similar “encounter” with Mescalito. I agreed that everything that had happened to me had been more than interesting, but added that nothing in it could really move me towards seeking it again. I seriously believed that I was not constructed for that type of endeavour. Peyote had produced in me, as a postreaction, a strange kind of physical discomfort.
It was an indefinite fear or unhappiness; a melancholy of some sort, which I could not
define exactly. And I did not find that state noble in any way.
Don Juan laughed and said, “You are beginning to learn.”
“This type of learning is not for me. I am not made for it, don Juan.”
“You always exaggerate.”
“This is not exaggeration.”
“It is. The only trouble is that you exaggerate the bad points only.”
“There are no good points so far as I am concerned. All I know is that it makes me afraid.”
There is nothing wrong with being afraid. When you fear, you see things in a different way.”
“But I don’t care about seeing things in a different way, don Juan. I think I am going to leave the learning about Mescalito alone. I can’t handle it, don Juan. This is really a bad situation for me.”
“Of course it is bad—even for me. You are not the only one who is baffled.”
“Why should you be baffled, don Juan?”
“I have been thinking about what I saw the other night.

Mescalito actually played with you. That baffled me, because it was an indication [omen].”
“What kind of—indication, don Juan?”
Mescalito was pointing you out to me.”
“What for?”
“It wasn’t clear to me then, but now it is. He meant you were the «chosen man» [escogido]. Mescalito pointed you out to me and by doing that he told me you were the chosen man.”
“Do you mean I was chosen among others for some task, or something of the sort?”
“No. What I mean is, Mescalito told me you could be the man I am looking for.”
“When did he tell you that, don Juan?”
“By playing with you, he told me that. This makes you the chosen man for me.”
“What does it mean to be the chosen man?”
There are some secrets I know [Tengo secretos]. I have secrets I won’t be able to reveal to anyone unless I find my chosen man. The other night when I saw you playing with Mescalito it was clear to me you were that man. But you are not an Indian. How baffling!”
“But what does it mean to me, don Juan? What do I have to do?”
I’ve made up my mind and I am going to teach you the secrets that make up the lot of a man of knowledge.”
“Do you mean the secrets about Mescalito?”
“Yes, but those are not all the secrets I know. There are others, of a different kind, which I would like to give to someone. I had a teacher myself, my benefactor, and I also became his chosen man upon performing a certain feat. He taught me all I know.”
I asked him again what this new role would require of me; he said learning was the only thing involved, learning in the sense of what I had experienced in the two sessions with him.
The way in which the situation had evolved was quite strange.
I had made up my mind to tell him I was going to give up the idea of learning about peyote, and then before I could really make my point, he offered to teach me his “knowledge”. I did not know what he meant by that, but I felt that this sudden turn was very serious. I argued I had no qualifications for such a task, as it required a rare kind of courage which I did not have.
I told him that my bent of character was to talk about acts others performed. I wanted to hear his views and opinions about everything. I told him I could be happy if I could sit there and listen to him talk for days. To me, that would be learning.
He listened without interrupting me. I talked for a long time. Then he said:
“All this is very easy to understand. Fear is the first natural enemy a man must overcome on his path to knowledge. Besides, you are curious. That evens up the score. And you will learn in spite of yourself; that’s the rule.”
I protested for a while longer, trying to dissuade him. But he seemed to be convinced there was nothing else I could do but learn.
“You are not thinking in the proper order,” he said. “Mescalito actually played with you. That’s the point to think about. Why don’t you dwell on that instead of on your fear?”
“Was it so unusual?”
“You are the only person I have ever seen playing with him. You are not used to this kind of life; therefore the indications [omens] bypass you. Yet you are a serious person, but your seriousness is attached to what you do, not to what goes on outside you. You dwell upon yourself too much. That’s the trouble. And that produces a terrible fatigue.”
“But what else can anyone do, don Juan?
Seek and see the marvels all around you. You will get tired of looking at yourself alone, and that fatigue will make you deaf and blind to everything else.”
“You have a point, don Juan, but how can I change?”
Think about the wonder of Mescalito playing with you. Think about nothing else: The rest will come to you of itself.”

Sunday, 20 August 1961
Last night don Juan proceeded to usher me into the realm of his knowledge. We sat in front of his house in the dark. Suddenly, after a long silence, he began to talk. He said he was going to advise me with the same words his own benefactor had used the first day he took him as his apprentice. Don Juan had apparently memorized the words, for he repeated them several times, to make sure I did not miss any:
A man goes to knowledge as he goes to war, wide-awake, with fear, with respect, and with absolute assurance. Going to knowledge or going to war in any other manner is a mistake, and whoever makes it will live to regret his steps.”
I asked him why was it so and he said that when a man has fulfilled those four requisites there are no mistakes for which he will have to account; under such conditions his acts lose the blundering quality of a fool’s acts. If such a man fails, or suffers a defeat, he will have lost only a battle, and there will be no pitiful regrets over that.
Then he said he intended to teach me about an “ally” in the very same way his own benefactor had taught him. He put strong emphasis on the words “very same way”, repeating the phrase several times.
An “ally”, he said, is a power a man can bring into his life to help him, advise him, and give him the strength necessary to perform acts, whether big or small, right or wrong. This ally is necessary to enhance a man’s life, guide his acts, and further his knowledge. In fact, an ally is the indispensable aid to knowing.
Don Juan said this with great conviction and force. He seemed to choose his words carefully. He repeated the following sentence four times:
“An ally will make you see and understand things about which no human being could possibly enlighten you.”
“Is an ally something like a guardian spirit?”
“It is neither a guardian nor a spirit. It is an aid.”
“Is Mescalito your ally?”
“No! Mescalito is another kind of power. A unique power! A protector, a teacher.”
“ What makes Mescalito different from an ally?”
“He can’t be tamed and used as an ally is tamed and used. Mescalito is outside oneself. He chooses to show himself in many forms to whoever stands in front of him, regardless of whether that person is a brujo or a farm boy.”
Don Juan spoke with deep fervour about Mescalito’s being the teacher of the proper way to live. I asked him how Mescalito taught the “proper way of life”, and don Juan replied that Mescalito showed how to live.
“How does he show it?” I asked.
“He has many ways of showing it. Sometimes he shows it on his hand, or on the rocks, or the trees, or just in front of you.”
“Is it like a picture in front of you?”
“No. It is a teaching in front of you.”
“Does Mescalito talk to the person?”
“Yes. But not in words.”
“How does he talk, then?”
He talks differently to every man.”
I felt my questions were annoying him. I did not ask any more. He went on explaining that there were no exact steps to knowing Mescalito; therefore no one could teach about him except Mescalito himself. This quality made him a unique power; he was not the same for every man.
On the other hand, the acquiring of an ally required, don Juan said, the most precise teaching and the following of stages or steps without a single deviation. There are many such ally powers in the world, he said, but he was familiar with only two of them.
And he was going to lead me to them and their secrets, but it was up to me to choose one of them, for I could have only one.
His benefactor’s ally was in la yerba del diablo (devil’s weed), he said, but he personally did not like it, even though his benefactor had taught him its secrets. His own ally was in the humito (the little smoke), he said, but he did not elaborate on the nature of the smoke.
I asked him about it. He remained quiet. After a long pause I asked him:
“What kind of a power is an ally?”
“It is an aid. I have already told you.”
“How does it aid?”
An ally is a power capable of carrying a man beyond the boundaries of himself. This is how an ally can reveal matters no human being could.”
“But Mescalito also takes you out of the boundaries of yourself. Doesn’t that make him an ally?”
“No. Mescalito takes you out of yourself to teach you. An ally takes you out to give you power.”
I asked him to explain this point to me in more detail, or to describe the difference in effect between the two. He looked at me for a long time and laughed.
He said that learning through conversation was not only a waste, but stupidity, because learning was the most difficult task a man could undertake. He asked me to remember the time I had tried to find my spot, and how I wanted to find it without doing any work because I had expected him to hand out all the information. If he had done so, he said, I would never have learned. But, knowing how difficult it was to find my spot, and, above all, knowing that it existed, would give me a unique sense of confidence. He said that while I remained rooted to my “good spot” nothing could cause me bodily harm, because I had the assurance that at that particular spot I was at my very best. I had the power to shove off anything that might be harmful to me. If, however, he had told me where it was, I would never have had the confidence needed to claim it as true knowledge. Thus, knowledge was indeed power.
Don Juan said then that every time a man sets himself to learn he has to labour as hard as I did to find that spot, and the limits of his learning are determined by his own nature. Thus he saw no point in talking about knowledge. He said that certain kinds of knowledge were too powerful for the strength I had, and to talk about them would only bring harm to me. He apparently felt there was nothing else he wanted to say. He got up and walked towards his house. I told him the situation overwhelmed me. It was not what I had conceived or wanted it to be.
He said that fears are natural; that all of us experience them and there is nothing we can do about it. But on the other hand, no matter how frightening learning is, it is more terrible to think of a man without an ally, or without knowledge.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Tao genius and Tao madness: a study

Tao neither supernatural nor mechanical - V

by Liu Bolin
On the other side, the antimaterialist claims the power of mind over matter.” That quantity can determine pattern is a precise complement for the power of mind over matter, and both are nonsense. The belief that quantities can determine patterns is surprisingly pervasive and influential. It is, of course, a basic premise in contemporary economics and therefore one of the factors which determines international chaos as well as ecological disaster on the home front. I believe that this kind of ascription of the mental to the physical so that the physical becomes now the supernatural contains the ultimate in nonsense. It is now quantities that carry the divine onus of creating pattern – presumably out of nothing. Consider on the other hand the popular verbal cliché “the power of mind over matter.” This little monster contains three combined concepts, “power,” “mind”, and “matter.” But power is a notion derived from the word of engineers and physicists. It is of the same world as the notions of energy or matter. It would therefore be quite consistent and sensible to speak, say, of the poser of a magnet over a piece of iron. All three items – the magnet, the iron, and the power – come out of the same universe of discourse. The magnet and the iron and the power can meet each other in the same statement. But mind, since Descartes split the universe in two, does not belong in that world. So in order to give physical power to mind, we must give it materialistic existence. Alternatively, we might mentalize matter and talk about “the obedience of matter to mind.” One way or another the two concepts must be made to meet in one conceptual world. The phrase “power of mind over matter” does not bridge the gulf between mind and matter, it only invokes a miracle to bring the two things together. And, of course, once a basic contradiction is admitted into a system of explanation, anything is possible. If some x is both equal and unequal to some y, then all x‘s are both equal and unequal to all y‘s and to each other. All criteria of the incredible are lost.
In any case, the combination of the two ideas we have attributed to Descartes blossomed out into an emphasis upon quantity in scientific explanation which distracted men‘s thought from problems of contrast, pattern, and gestalt. The world of Cartesian coordinates relies on continuously varying quantities, and while such analogic concepts have their place in descriptions of mental process, the emphasis on quantity distracted men‘s minds from the perception that contrast and ratio and shape are the base of mentality. Pythagoras and Plato knew that pattern was fundamental to all mind and ideation. But this wisdom was thrust away and lost in the mists of the supposedly indescribable mystery called “mind.” This was sufficient to end systematic investigation. By the middle of the nineteenth century any reference to mind in biological circles was viewed as obscurantism or simple heresy. Notably it was the Lamarckians such as Samuel Butler and Lamarck himself who carried the tradition of mental explanation through that period of quantitative materialism. I do not accept their central thesis about heredity, but they must be given credit for maintaining an all-important philosophic tradition.
Already be the nineteenth century, the biological philosophers, like the engineers and tradesmen, were soaked with the nonsense of quantitative science. Then in 1859, with the publication of Darwin‘s On the Origin of Species, they were given a theory of biological evolution that precisely matched the philosophy of the industrial revolution. It fell into place atop the Cartesian split between mind and matter, neatly fitting into a philosophy of secular reason which had been developing since the Reformation. Inquiry into mental processes was then rigidly excluded – tabooed – in biological circles. In addition to his coordinates and his dualism of mind and matter, Descartes is even better known for his famous sentence, cogito ergo sum: “I think, therefore I am.” We may wonder today exactly what his sentence meant to him, but it is clear that, in building a whole philosophy upon the premise of thought, he did not intend that the dichotomy between mind and matter should lead to an atrophy of all thinking about thought. I regard the conventional views of mind, matter, thought, and materialism, the natural and the supernatural, as totally unacceptable. I repudiate contemporary materialism as strongly as I repudiate the fashionable hankering after the supernatural. However, the dilemma between materialism and the supernatural becomes less cogent when you discover that neither of these two modes, materialism and supernaturalism, is epistemologically valid. Before you jump from the frying pan of materialism into the fire of supernaturalism, it is a good idea to take a long look at the stuff of which material science is made. This stuff is certainly not material, and there is no particular reason to call it supernatural. For lack of a better word let me call it “mental”. Let me start as close to the material as possible and state categorically (and what is a category?) that there is no such thing as, for instance, chlorine. Chlorine is a name for a class and there is no such thing as a class. It is in a sense true, of course, that if you put chlorine and sodium together, you will see a reaction of some violence and the formation of common salt. It is not the truth of that statement that is at issue. What is at issue is whether the statement is chemistry – whether the statement is material. Are there in nature such things as classes? And I submit that there are none until we get to the world of living things.
But in the world of living things, the Creatura of Jung and of the Gnostics, there are really classes. Insofar as living things contain communication, insofar as they are, as be say, “organized;” they must contain something of the nature of message, events that travel within the living thing or between one living thing and others. And in the world of communication,
there must necessarily be categories and classes and similar devices. But these devices do not correspond the physical causes by which the materialist accounts for events. There are no messages or classes in the prebiological universe. We have then to ask, what is a descriptive proposition? And to resolve this question it is reasonable to return to the scientific laboratory and look at what the scientist does in order to make descriptive propositions. His procedure is not too complicated: He devises or buys an instrument to be the interface between his mind and the presumably material world. This instrument is the analog of a sense organ, an extension of his senses. We therefore may expect that the nature of mental process, the nature of perception, will be latent in the instrument used.
This is trivially the case with the microscope. It is less obvious in the case of a balance. If we ask him, the scientist will probably tell us that the balance is a device for measuring weight, but here I believe is the first error. An ordinary beam balance with a fulcrum in the middle of the beam and pans at each end is not primarily a device for measuring weight. It is a device that compares weights – a very different matter. The balance will only become a device for measuring weights when one of the items to be compared has itself an already known (or defined) weight. In other words, it is not the balance but a further addition to the balance that enables the scientist to speak of measuring weight. When the scientist makes this addition, he departs from the nature of the balance in a very profound way. He changes the basic epistemology of his tool. The balance itself is not a device for measuring weights, it is a device for comparing forces exerted by weights through levers. The beam is a lever and if the lengths of the beam on each side of the fulcrum are equal and if the weights are equal in the pans, then it is possible to say there is no difference between the weights in the pans. A more exact translation of what the balance tells us would be: “The ration between the weights in the pans is unity.” What I am getting at is that the balance is primarily a device for measuring ratios, that it is only secondarily a device for detecting subtractive differences; and that these are very different concepts. Our entire epistemology will take different shape as we look for subtractive or ratio differences. A subtractive difference has certain of the characteristics of material. To the language of applied mathematics a subtractive difference between two weights is of the dimension weight (measured in ounces or grams). It is one degree closer to materialism than the ration between two weights which is of zero dimensions. In this sense, then, the ordinary chemical balance in the laboratory, functioning between a man and an unknown quantity of “material,” contains within itself the whole paradox of the boundary between the mental and the physical.
On the one hand it is a sense organ responsive to the nonmaterial concepts of ration and contrast, and on the other hand it comes to be used by the scientist to perceive something he thinks is closer to being material, namely a quantity with real dimensions. In sum, the weighing scale does to (shall I say) truth exactly what the scientist does to the truth of psychological process. It is a device form constructing a science that ignores the true nature of sense organs of any organism, including the scientist. The Negative purpose of this book is to brush away some of the more ludicrous and dangerous epistemological fallacies fashionable in our civilization today. But this is not my only purpose, nor indeed my principal purpose. I believe that when some of the nonsense is cleared away, it will be possible to look at many matters which at present are deemed to be as fuzzy as “mind” and therefore outside the ken of science. Aesthetics, for example, will become accessible to serious thought. The beautiful and the ugly, the literal and the metaphoric, the sane and the insane, the humorous and the serious … all these and even love and hate are matters that science presently avoids. But in a few years, when the split between problems of mind and problems of matter ceases to be a central determinant of what is impossible to think about, they will become accessible to formal thought. At present most of these matters are simply inaccessible, and scientists – even in anthropology and psychiatry – will step aside, and for good reason. My colleagues and I are still incapable of investigating such delicate matters. We are leaded down with fallacies such as those I have mentioned and – like angels – we should fear to tread such regions, but not forever. As I write this book, I find myself still between the Scylla of established materialism, with its quantitative thinking, applied science, and “controlled” experiments on one side, and the Charybdis of romantic supernaturalism on the other. My task is to explore whether there is a sane and valid place for religion, somewhere between these two nightmares of nonsense. Whether, if neither muddleheadedness nor hypocrisy is necessary for religion, there might be found in knowledge and in art the basis to support an affirmation of the sacred that would celebrate natural history. Would such a religion offer a new kind of unity? And could it breed a new and badly needed humility?

Tao neither supernatural nor mechanical - IV

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

101 Tao: 62

62. In the Hands of Destiny

A great Japanese warrior named Nobunaga decided to attack the enemy although he had only one tenth the number of men the opposition commanded. He knew that he would win, but his soldiers were in doubt.

On the way he stopped at a Shinto shrine and told his man, 'After I visit the shrine I will toss a coin. If head comes we will win; if tails we will loose. Destiny holds us in her hand.'
Nobunaga entered the shrine and offered a silent prayer. He came forth and tossed a coin. Heads appeared. His soldiers were so eager to fight that they won their battle easily.
'No one can change the hand of destiny,' his attendant told him after the battle.
‘Indeed not,' said Nobunaga, showing a coin, which had been doubled, with heads facing either way.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Tao components: interactions

Family Tree

Charles T. Tart goes describing the interaction between two system components: psychological structures and awareness:

Interaction of Structure and Attention/Awareness
Many structures function completely independently of attention/awareness. An example is any basic physiological structure such as the kidneys. We infer their integrity and nature as structures from other kinds of data, as we have no direct awareness of their functioning. Such structures do not utilize attention/awareness as energy, but use other forms of physiological/psychological activating energy. Structures that cannot be observed by attention/awareness are of incidental interest to the study of consciousness, except for their indirect influence on other structures that are accessible to conscious awareness.
Some structures require a certain amount of attention/awareness energy in order to (1) be formed or created in the first place (software programming), (2) operate, (3) have their operation inhibited, (4) have their structure or operation modified, and/or (5) be destructured and dismantled. We call these psychological structures when it is important to distinguish them from structures in general. Many structures require attention/awareness energy for their initial formation. The attention originally required to learn arithmetical skills is an excellent example. Once the knowledge or structure we call arithmetical sills is formed, it is usually present only in inactive, latent form. An arithmetical question directs attention/awareness to that particular structure, and we experience arithmetical skills. If our original programming was not very thorough, a fairly obvious amount of attention/awareness energy is necessary to use this skill. Once the structure has become highly automated and overlearned, only a small amount of attention/awareness energy is needed to activate and run the structure. We solve basic arithmetic problems, for example, with little awareness of the process involved in so doing.
Note that while we have distinguished attention/awareness and structure for analytical convenience and in order to be true to certain experiential data, ordinarily we deal with activated mental structures. We acquire data about structures when the structures are functioning, utilizing attention/awareness energy or other kinds of psychological energies.
Although we postulate that attention/awareness energy is capable of activating and altering psychological structures, is the fuel that makes many structures run, our experience is that affecting the operation of structures by the volitional deployment of attention/awareness energy is not always easy. Attempts to alter a structure's operation by attending to it in certain ways may have no effect or even a contrary effect to what we wish. Attempts to stop a certain structure from operating by trying to withhold attention energy form it may fail. the reasons for this are twofold.
First, if the structure is (at least partially operating on energy other than attention/awareness, it may no longer be possible to change it with the amount attention/awareness energy we are able to focus on it. Second, even if the structure still operates with attention/awareness energy, complete control of this energy may be beyond our conscious volition for one or both of the following reasons: (1) the energy flow through it may be so automatized and overlearned, so implicit, that we simply do not know how to affect it; and (2) the functioning structure may have vital (and often implicit or hidden) connections with our reward and punishment systems, so that there are secondary gains from the operation of the structure, despite our conscious complaints. Indeed, it seems clear that for ordinary people in ordinary states of consciousness, the amount of attention/awareness energy subject to conscious control and deployment is quite small compared with the relatively permanent investments of energy in certain basic structures composing the individual's personality and his adaptation to the consensus reality of his culture.
Since the amount of attention/awareness energy available at any particular time has a fixed upper limit, some decrement should be found when too many structures draw on this energy simultaneously. However, if the available attention/awareness energy is greater than the total being used, simultaneous activation of several structures incurs no decrement.
Once a structure has been formed and is operating, either in isolation or in interaction with other structures, the attention/awareness energy required for its operation can be automatically drawn on either intermittently or continuously. The personality and normal state of consciousness are operating in such a way that attention is repeatedly and automatically drawn to the particular structure. Personality can be partially defined as the set of interacting structures (traits) habitually activated by attention/awareness energy. Unless he develops the ability to deploy attention in an observational mode, the self-awareness mode, a person may not realize that his attention/awareness energy is being drawn to this structure.
There is a fluctuating but generally large drain on attention/awareness energy at all times by the multitude of automated, interacting structures whose operation constitutes personality, the normal state of consciousness. Because the basic structures composing this are activated most of a person's waking life, he perceives this activation not as a drain on attention/awareness energy, but simply as the natural state of things. He has become habituated to it. The most important data supporting this observation come from reports of the effects of meditation, a process that in many ways is a deliberate deployment of attention/awareness from its customary structures to nonordinary structures or to maintenance of a relatively pure, detached awareness. From these kinds of experiences it can be concluded that attention/awareness energy must be used to support the ordinary state of consciousness. Don Juan expounds this view to Carlos Castaneda as the rationale for certain training exercises ("not doing") designed to disrupt the habitual deployment of attention/awareness energy into channels that maintain ("doing") ordinary consensus reality. And from experiences of apparent clarity, the automatized drain of attention/awareness energy into habitually activated structures is seen by meditators as blurring the clarity of basic awareness, so that ordinary consciousness appears and dreamlike.

Tao dance

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Tao neither supernatural nor mechanical - IV

Thus, there are those who describe “out–of-body experiences”, in which a nonmaterial something (a something which is not a something) is supposed to leave the body in a literal spatial sense, to have percepts and experiences while out on such a trip (although lacking sensory end organs), and to return to the body providing the owner of the body with narratable information about the trip. I regard all such accounts as either dreams or hallucinations or as frank fiction. Similarly, the belief in anthropomorphic supernaturals asserts the existence and ability to influence the course of events of persons who have no location or material existence. Thus, I do not believe in spirits, gods, devas, fairies, leprechauns, nymphs, wood spirits, ghosts, poltergeist, or Santa Claus. (But to learn that there is no Santa Claus is perhaps the beginning of religion.) Some supernatural notions appear to be based in materialistic science but are not on examination, they prove not to have those properties that belong to the world of matter. Of all examples of physical quantities endowed with mental magic, “energy” is the most pernicious. This once neatly defined concept of quantitative physics with real dimensions has become in the talk and thinking of my antimaterialistic friends the explanatory principle to end them all. My position and the reason why so many prefer to believe otherwise may be clarified by an exploration of the relation between religion and magic. I believe that all spells, meditations, incantations, suggestions, procedures of sympathetic and contagious magic, and the like, do indeed work – but they work upon the practitioner (as does “psychic energy”). But I presume that none of these procedures has any effect at all upon any other person unless that other participates in the spell of suggestion or at least has information or expectation that such spell or procedure has been performed. But where these conditions are met and the other person is partly aware of what is being done and aware of its purposes aimed at himself or herself, I am sure that magical procedures can be very effective either to kill or cure, to harm or bless. I do not believe that such magical procedures have relevant effects upon inanimate things. So far so good. I accept no story of action at a distance without communication. But I observe in passing that when the target person participates, the procedure becomes not magic but religion, albeit of a somewhat simple kind.
In general, magical procedures seem to bear formal resemblance to science and to religion. Magic may be a degenerate applied form of either. Consider such rituals as rain dances or the totemic rituals concerned with man‘s relationship to animals. In these types of ritual the human being invokes or imitates or seeks to control the weather or the ecology of wild creatures. But I believe that in their primitive state these are true religious ceremonials. They are ritual statements of unity, involving all the participants in an integration with the meteorological cycle or with the ecology of totemic  animals. This is religion. But the pathway of deterioration from religion to magic is always tempting. From a statement of integration in some often dimly recognized whole, the practitioner turns aside to an appetitive stance. He sees his own ritual as a piece of purposive magic to make the rain come or to promote the fertility of the totemic animal or to achieve some other goal. The criterion that distinguishes magic from religion is, in fact, purpose and especially some extrovert purpose.
Introvert purpose, the desire to change the self, is a very different matter, but intermediate cases occur. If the hunter performs a ritual imitation of an animal to cause the animal to come into his net, that is surely magic, but if his purpose in imitation the animal is perhaps to improve his own empathy and understanding of the beast, his action is perhaps to be classed as religious. My view on magic is converse of that which has been orthodox in anthropology since the days of Sir James Frazer. It is orthodox to believe that religion is an evolutionary development of magic. Magic is regarded as more primitive and religion as its flowering. In contrast, I view sympathetic or contagious magic as a product of decadence from religion; I regard religion on the whole as the earlier condition. I find myself out of sympathy with decadence of this kind either in community life or in the education of children. [The difficulty in all of this is to clarify the sense in which ideas and images do participate in certain kinds of causal chains, although they have neither location nor material being, and to related this to their embodiment in material arrangements, like ink on paper or synaptically linked brain cells. The idea of Santa Claus, communicated through appropriate material networks, can persuade the ten-year-old to clean up his room.]
It is becoming fashionable today to collect narratives about previous incarnations, about travel to some land of the dead, and about existence in some such place, etc. It is, of course, true that many effects of my actions may persist beyond the time of "my" death. My books may continue to be read, but again, this karmic survival does not seem to be what my friends want me to believe. As I see it, after death, the pattern and organization of the living creature are reduced to very simple forms and do not come together again. I can write words on the blackboard and wipe them out. When wiped out, the writing is lost in an entropy of chalk dust. The ideas are something else, but they were never "on" the blackboard in the first place. It must be remembered that at least half of all ideation has no referent in a physical sense, whatsoever. It is the ground that every figure must have. The hole in the bagel defines the torus. When the bagel is eaten, the hole does not remain to me reincarnated in a doughnut. Another form of superstition, exemplified by astrology and divination and by the Jungian theory of synchronicity, seems to arise from the fact that human opinion is strongly biased against the probability of coincidence.
People are commonly surprised by coincidences that are not improbable, for coincidences are much more common than the layman expects. Few coincidences justify the pleased surprise with which they are greeted by those who want to find a supernatural base for them. If things turn out to coincide with our desires, or with our fears, or with other things, we are sure that this was no accident. Either “luck” was on our side or it was against us. Or perhaps our fears caused things to be as they are. And so on. But indeed the efficacy of prayer and/or meditation as a technique for changing ourselves would seem to give an experiential basis for superstitions of this kind. People do not easily distinguish between changes in the self and changes in the world around them. For the rest, I find it hard to be interested in coincidence. It is of interest that harbouring superstition of one kind may lead to another, notably, for example, Arthur Koestler, starting from Marxism, achieved a repudiation of that metaphysical belief and progressed to a belief in synchronicity. Facilis decensus Averno; the descent to hell is easy. Koestler then progressed to arguing for the inheritance of acquired characteristics in The Case of the Midwife Toad. To believe in heredity of this kind is to believe in the transmission of patterned information without a receptor. It is notable also that belief in certain kinds of superstition moves rapidly to a willingness to indulge in trickery to reinforce that belief. [Indeed, the ethnography of shamanism is replete with examples in which the shaman, genuinely believing in his or her magical powers, still uses elaborate and practiced sleight of hand to help out the supernatural. There is sometimes a confusion between different kinds of validity,] as when right brain notions, which have their own kind of validity, are treated as if they have the validity of left-brain thinking. To repudiate the established ways of thought and control is, however, a very different matter from criticizing elements in the counterculture. I can make a list of items in the counterculture with which I do not agree, as I have done here, because a lack of tight integration or consistency is one of their principal characteristics. To quote Kipling, “In the Neolithic Age!": "There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays, And—every—one—of—them—is—right!” But my objections to the established system are of a different order. I cannot make a list of the pieces. My objection is not to pieces but is a response to the entire way in which many otherwise sensible components of culture such as money or mathematics or experimentation have been fitted together.
More important than all the species of supernaturalist superstition listed above, I find that there are two basic beliefs, intimately connected which are both obsolete and dangerous, and which are shared by contemporary supernaturalists and by prestigious and mechanistic scientists. The mass of superstition now fashionable even among behavioural scientists and physicists springs from a combination of these two fundamental and erroneous beliefs. It is a strange fact that both of these beliefs are connected to the same giant of philosophic thought, René Descartes. Both beliefs are quite familiar.
The first is the idea that underlies the whole range of modern superstition, namely that there are two distinct explanatory principles in our world, "mind" and "matter". As such dichotomies invariably must, this famous Cartesian dualism has spawned a whole host of other splits as monstrous as itself: mind/body; intellect/affect; will/temptation; and so on. It was difficult in the seventeenth century to imagine any nonsupernatural explanation of mental phenomena, and at that time it was already apparent that the physical explanations of astronomy were going to be enormously successful. It was therefore quite natural to fall back upon age-old supernaturalism to get the problems of “mind out of the way”. This accomplished, the scientists could proceed with their “objective” inquiries, disregarding or denying the fact that the organs of sense, indeed our whole range of approaches to study of “matter,” are very far from being “objective”. Descartes‘ other contribution also bears his name and is taught to every child who enters a scientific lab or reads a scientific book. Of all ideas about how to think like a scientist, the idea of using intersecting coordinates, the so-called Cartesian coordinates, to represent two or more interacting variables or represent the course of one variable over time, has been among the most successful. The whole of analytic geometry sprang from this idea, and from analytic geometry the calculus of infinitesimals and the emphasis upon quantity in our scientific understanding. Of course, there can be no cavil at all that. And yet, by the pricking of my thumbs, I am sure that it was no accident that the same man who invented the coordinates, which are among the most materialistic and hard-nosed of scientific devices, also dignified dualistic superstition by asserting the split between mind an matter.
The two ideas are intimately related. And the relation between them is most clearly seen when we think of the mind/matter dualism as a device for removing one half of the problem for explanation from that other half which could more easily be explained. Once separated, mental phenomena could be ignored. This act of subtraction, of course, left the half that could be explained as excessively materialistic, while the other half became totally supernatural. Raw edges have been left on both sides and materialistic science has concealed this wound by generating its own set superstitions. The materialist superstition is the belief (not usually stated that quantity (a purely material notion) can determine pattern.

Tao neither supernatural nor mechanical - III