being natural, global change, human being, Intelligence, natural, simplicity, Taoist, Uncategorized

Being a Taoist Today

Taoism began about 2500 years ago, with a short book, the Tao Te Ching, written by an unknown author (in Chinese Lao Tze just means “the old guy”). That was a very different world. Today we have unprecedented problems. The list is alarmingly long: climate change; serious decline of all natural life-support systems: rapid species extinction: the threat of nuclear war; gross inequalities; and overpopulation.

We therefore need unprecedented solutions. This means several things: taking our problems much more seriously; acting with urgency; addressing the deeper underlying malaise of materialism; and approach our problems at all levels.

If we were all 21st Century Taoists, we would not have any of these problems. Why? Because we would be fully human, fully who we are capable of being. And we would act naturally, in accordance the the timeless principles of Nature. Unlike a Taoist 25 centuries ago, we would also be planetary, because we would be conscious of the planet as a whole, and of the global interconnectedness of everyone and everything.

I have today decided to write a book about this, about what it means to be a 21st Century Taoist

 

 

global change, the big questions, Uncategorized

The Big Questions

If you Google “the big questions”, you will be referred to a UK TV programme of that name. Although it poses some important questions, it rarely asks the truly big questions. We sometimes use the phrase and we know more or less what we mean by it. Today I would like to examine the topic more closely, and for a particular reason.

My friend Frank asked me to write a booklet on what needs to happen in the world today. My very short response is “fundamental change”. But, of course, I need to explain what I mean by this and how people might be induced to change fundamentally. The most powerful change I can think of is a change in our core beliefs. Change these, and everything else changes, including our values, our goals, and our lifestyles and behaviour. Much depends on how we answer the “big questions”. This is a centrally important issue. In this short paper I will simply outline the main parameters of the discussion. In the booklet I will lay out all the arguments.

Here is my own personal list of the “big questions”, in no particular order…

Is the universe wholly physical and material, or is it non-physical and spiritual too?

Is the universe without intrinsic meaning and purpose, or is it wholly meaningful and purposeful?

Did the universe, and life, happen by chance, or are they the deliberate product of some immense intelligence and part of some great purpose?

Is there no “God”, or could “God” be one and the same as the intelligent, purposeful universe?

Is consciousness simply a product of matter (i.e. the brain), or is matter the product of some greater consciousness?

Is our home planet just a large physical ball, or is it a “being”, in the sense of being alive, intelligent and consciousness?

The same question for stars and other parts of the universe

Do we exist only after conception and until the death of our body, or do we exist before conception and after the death of our body?

Are paranormal experiences, such as telepathy, precognition and NDEs, impossible (as claimed by science), or are they not only possible but perfectly natural?

This does not claim to be a full list of the big questions, but I think it is a useful sample for this discussion. It will no doubt be obvious that if you answer in the affirmative to all or most of the first parts of the questions, then these will be your core beliefs, and you will subscribe to the materialist worldview, which is the worldview of science. I hope that it is also obvious that if you do happen to subscribe to that worldview, this will strongly influence all aspects of your life, such as your values (what you believe to important), your goals (your central purpose), and your lifestyle and behaviour. If a majority of people in society have these materialist core beliefs, then society as a whole will reflect this. It will be very materialistic, with a tendency towards atheism, and with a strong belief in the “truths” of science. I hardly need add that this is the situation in many countries today, and the consequences are clear to anyone who has been paying attention. We have created unprecedented problems. This requires unprecedented solutions.

So, yes, humanity does need to change fundamentally. For this to happen, change has to occur at the deepest level, at the level of our core beliefs. How we approach and respond to the big questions is at the heart of this change.

 

christhomson1000@gmail.com

global change, Intelligence, Uncategorized

The Devil’s Delusion

This is the title of a book by David Berlinski. As the title may suggest, it is a refutation of the arguments set out in Richard Dawkin’s “The God Delusion”. I have read quite a few good refutations of Dawkins, but none as good as this one. It is short, always to the point, and well argued and written. I highly recommend it.

If you know Dawkins’ work, you will know he is a militant atheist. He is at pains to show that God does not, and cannot, exist. I do not think it an oversimplification to say that his argument is as follows:

There is no scientific evidence for the existence of God.

In any event, there is no need for God, because science has shown how the universe began, how life got stated, and how we human beings have evolved to what we are today.

Science may not have all the answers, but it will eventually. (I believe that the inference is that science’s “truths” are the best truths)

Berlinski refutes all of this, with very compelling arguments. I am much more convinced by Berlinski than by Dawkins. But this raises an interesting question: why are Dawkins’ book and arguments so well known and so widely accepted, and why are Berlinski’s book and arguments so little known? Is it because of the zeitgeist? Is it because we are living through very materialistic times, this reflected in the current predominance of the beliefs and worldview of science? There is no doubt that this is part of the reason. However, I think it is also because we non-materialists tend to be quiet. We tend to keep our beliefs to ourselves, rather than trumpeting them loudly in books, conferences and on YouTube.

All this puts me in mind of the “intellectual dark web”. If you have not come across this, you could do no better than explore the videos put on YouTube by Rebel Wisdom. While some of the content and some of the personalities (notably Jordan Peterson) make compelling viewing, one is left with the impression that much of it is just scientific materialism dressed up in new clothes. For example, much time is devoted to evolutionary biology, of which Dawkins is a big part. To be fair, Jordan Peterson is clearly a fan of Carl Jung and his archetypes, and he appreciates the significance of deep myth, including some of the stories in the Bible. And I am heartened to see that Rupert Sheldrake is getting the airing that his ideas have long deserved. Overall, however, there is little that is new. Yes, it is true that Ken Wilber has made some recent appearances on the IDW, but Ken and his ideas have been around since 1973, the year of his first book “A Spectrum of Consciousness”.

My thoughts about all this are still not fully formed, but I will end this with just one thought. I do believe that there is a need for some new thinking about the big, important things. But I also believe that this needs to go well beyond what Rebel Wisdom seem to be trying to achieve. It needs to include intelligent, open exploration of those topics and questions that are largely ignored by science. The list is alarming long, and it includes unusual forms of consciousness (not induced by drugs), as well as the whole range of so-called paranormal experiences and phenomena. Now, that would be an intellectual web that I would be proud to be part of!

 

Chris Thomson

 

christhomson1000@gmail.com

 

global change, Intelligence, natural, Uncategorized

Order out of Chaos?

This is the title (without the question mark) of Ilya Prigogine’s 1984 book. He made the radical suggestion that order always emerges from chaos, and he noted that it is impossible to predict exactly what kind of order will emerge from chaos. Specifically, he suggested that this happened when systems were in a “far from equilibrium” state. Although he was writing about chemical and physical reactions, I believe that his findings are equally valid for social and political systems.

 

There can be little doubt that we are living in “far from equilibrium” times. On good days, it feels confusing and dispiriting. On bad days, of which there are many, it feels dangerous. If you doubt this, you have not been paying attention. I will just mention a few items from a very long list. A lying narcissist has direct access to the world’s biggest nuclear arsenal. An extreme right-winger who wants to commercially exploit the Amazon rainforest (“the lungs of the planet”) has just been elected President of Brazil. The UK is committing an act of massive self-harm by exiting the European Union. Economic and social inequalities are now greater than they were in Victorian times. Human behaviour is changing the climate dangerously. As if all this were not enough, all this planet’s life-support systems – yes, all of them – are in serious decline. i.e. clean air, clean water, forests, topsoil, aquifers, fisheries, wetlands, and biodiversity. This is because we human beings (and only we human beings) overuse and abuse them.

 

In these circumstances, it is a matter of astonishment that we continue to believe that we are the most intelligent species on this planet! Yet I believe that Prigogine’s findings give us cause for hope. There is clearly a strong sense of collapse and chaos. Things are very evidently far from equilibrium.  In the domains of chemical and physical reactions, this situation leads to great change – change that cannot be predicted. I suspect that this is exactly what we are going through now, on a human scale. I believe that we are right on the cusp of global changes that we can barely imagine. Yes, it looks dark outside now. But a new dawn is just about to break. Are we ready for it? It means that we have to be prepared for anything, including things we can barely imagine.

 

christhomson1000@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

consciousness, global change, Intelligence, natural, Uncategorized

CONSCIOUSNESS, CHARACTER, AND CAPACITY

Although our behaviour often suggests otherwise, human evolution has not stopped. And although many of us are fat and unhealthy, we are almost certainly still evolving physically. What we will look like, and sound like, in 1,000 years is anyone’s guess. However, my main interest is in the other ways in which we seem to be evolving. In my opinion, we are still evolving in consciousness, in character, and in capacity, and all the evidence suggests that we still have a very long way to go. I will say a few words about each of these.

Consciousness is just another word for experience. We are conscious, for example, that it is getting warmer, and we are conscious that we feel good, or bad. We are evolving in consciousness when we notice more – in quantity and in quality. You notice more about yourself, about other people, and about the world. This is the quantity of your consciousness. But you also notice more about the same things – such as shades of feeling, nuances of meaning, and so on. This is the quality of your consciousness. Ideally, as you become more conscious, you also become wiser. This takes us to the evolution of your character.

You are evolving in character when you behave better, more wisely, more ethically. More often than before, you do the right things, in the right ways, at the right times. It is significant, I think, that the evolution of consciousness and character go hand in hand with the evolution of capacity. They are all closely interrelated. They need each other!

You are evolving in capacity when you can do more things, and you can do them better. For example, you learn to speak Catalan and, eventually, you are able to speak it well. Or you begin to learn to ski and, over time, you become a competent skier. It could be any activity or any ability. The point is that your capacity to do things evolves.

Ideally, as you evolve in these three respects, you will one day become a highly conscious individual, of impeccable character, with the capacity to help make the world a better place. And ideally (yes, I know that this is the third time I have said this!), the whole human race will one day be highly conscious, of excellent character, with wonderful abilities. That day will come, of this I am sure, but not for a while! I do believe that this is the general direction we are taking. Of course, there is evidence to the contrary and, of course, we will stumble and fall many times on the way. But with a good deal of faith and application, it is ever onwards and upwards!