Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Terence McKenna: A Tribute

Here is a tribute to one of the most original thinkers of the 20th century.

Terence McKenna
Terence McKenna (1946-2000) was a visionary of his day.  His views are still controversial and challenge the established order.  We cannot help but admire him.  His mind can be glimpsed by his excellent skills of communication matched with his keen insights into society, spirituality, Science and altered states.  The quotes we will be using here come from a recorded lecture entitled, Eros and the Eschaton.  We could not hope to improve his words so we will simply highlight and underscore them.  His views have affected technology, and singularity.  His actual words will be in italics, ours in regular type.

McKenna on Mathematical Models:
Why is it that numbers, which are after all constructs of the human mind, are so incredible powerful for the description of nature?  Nature after all is somehow given, we find it all around us and numbers arise in the depths of human ratiocination.  So what is the relationship of these things to each other?  This may appear to be an easy question, but it is such a difficult question that it was not even asked in philosophy until the 20th century.  I think it indicates a fundamental congruousness between processes that are mental and the structure of the world itself.

Here is a video by Tom Beddard which shows how mathematical models of fractals in this case can from beautiful art, which can lead to altered states of consciousness. If you cannnot see the embedded video here is the link: http://tinyurl.com/4jrqvq3.

The Formula from subBlue on Vimeo.

I am the inventor or a purveyor of mathematical theory of consciousness.  I believe that more powerful than any atom smasher, more subtle than any space telescope is the human mind.  The human mind is the most subtle and superb of all instruments for the study and measurement of nature, because, when we look into ourselves, we discover the same patterns that we discover in the birth or a death of a species, the flow of a river, the collapse of a corporation or the flowering of a love affair.  The process is under a universal aegis of description.  So it doesn't matter whether it is the birth and death of your hope, the rise and fall of the Assyrian Empire, or the evolution of the Pacific Ocean, processes always occur in the same way.  And this is why there is congruousness between the mental world of human beings, the world of abstract mathematics and the world of nature.

We show a 5 part series of McKenna on his connection of present chaos theory to his views on the essence of the universe and nature.  They are very intense so you may need to focus to follow them.   If you cannot see the embedded videos here is the link: http://tinyurl.com/4fu4gjg.

Ernst Mach
founder of Logical Positivism
These things are as if it were, different levels of condensation of the same universal stuff.  This is why the concept of truth can have some meaning.  I mean, when you think about it, truth, why shouldn't it be possible for us as monkeys to entertain that notion?  Where is it writ large that mammals traveling in packs should have any relationship to truth whatsoever.  And yet the faith is that somehow thinking means something.  It's not just something we do, it means something.  It means something because there is sufficient freedom within the human system to be both right or wrong.  And this right or wrong, lays upon us the obligation of mirroring nature in models which we build in our own minds.

Ludwig Wittgenstein
Now the old idea in Science was that these mathematical models of nature were in fact laws, truths, eternal platonic truths that were being teased out.  In the 20th century, slight epistemological sophistication leads to this word "models" where we say we're modeling reality.  And our model is only as good as we need it to be.  If we're trying to model the flight of an artillery shell, the model needs to be only good enough to get the shell to its target.  We don't to understand the essence of lead or the nature of motion there.  We simply need the model to kick out the data that interests us.  And in the twentieth century it's been understood that all knowledge is dependent upon the question asked.  The relationship of mathematics to nature is one of the profound indicators, I think, that truth can be known.  It may not be "the truth," but I always think of the positivist philosopher Wittgenstein who was once asked, in a classroom situation about a certain proposition, is it the truth?  And he said well it certainly is true enough!  That's where we are with our modeling of the world and our mathematics.  It is the truest truth we know.  True enough.

McKenna on Magic
There are two theories.  I mean magic is not a trivial thing at all.  There are two theories about how the world works.  And each one depends on a fundamental assumption about what the world is.

There is the scientific theory which states that the world is packets of matter squealing along through empty space at close to the speed of light, and, subject to a certain set of interlocking laws.  That's what Science tells us the world is.

Another theory, and to my mind more appealing and intuitively correct theory is that the world is language.  The world is made of language.  We can say that the world is composed of little demons doing calisthenics, each one the size of a piss ant's eyebrow, or, we can say that the world is made of wave-mechanical packets of matter flying along at the speed of light, but notice that what we get each time is words.  Our model of what the world is made up of words.  And the world is composed of description.

Rainbow Ocean by Thelma 1
Now in the era before Science, scientists like to say people were more epistemologically naive.  What they mean by that is that they didn't have a clear understanding of the division between the inside and the outside.  Between what we imagine and what actually is.  But if you live long enough I think you actually discover what we imagine actually is very close to the same thing.  Noe whenever you say the world is made of language, the positivists object by saying then why isn't the way we say it is?  I didn't say it's the way we say it is, I said it's made of language.  And part of the inspiration for my career is the realization that you could get up in front of audiences and say how the world is, and to a small degree, for a limited time, in a limited space, it shimmers, and recasts itself, and becomes the thing that we say that it is.  The mind is somehow a co-creator in the process of reality through acts of language.  And language is very very mysterious.  It is true magic.  People run all over the place looking for paranormal abilities, but notice that when I speak, if your internal dictionary matches my internal dictionary that my thoughts cross the air as an acoustical pressure wave and are reconstructed inside your cerebral cortex as your thought, your understanding of my words.  Telepathy exists, it's just that the carrier wave is small mouth noises.

All so-called primitive peoples know that the world is made of language.  That you sing it into existence, that what you say it is, is what it is.  It is maintained in existence by an act of rational apprehension.

Model of Virtual Space-Time
It is only Science that has taken this very weird approach and said no, no, the world is somehow independent from the act of description.  This is not a situation where we have two separate points of view, both open hearted and trying their best to work hard for you.  Science carried out it's analysis of nature, to the point where it shot itself in the foot.  Science carried out an analysis of nature that when to such depth, that  it discovered that nature doesn't exist except as an object of description, that there are no little objects winging their way through empty space,  there is only a situation describable by multilevel fishy formulas and when you drop a mind into that situation, the fishy formula can dense out into a little particle and be measured.  Mind is necessary for the world to undergo the formality of existing.  This is what quantum physics teaches.

Werner Heisenberg
Uncertainty Principle
Unfortunately this news has not reached the other sciences.  This is a real failure on the part of Science you see, throughout the 19th century, physics was the paradigmatic science.  It was the science everybody envied.  It is not unusual in physics for theory and experiment to be congruent to three decimal points of accuracy.  That causes scientists to go wild.  They love that, when theory and measurement fall into congruousness like that.   So everyone wanted to be like physics.  Chemistry sought that, sociology, psychology, biology.  Meanwhile, physics pursuing the exploration of matter, broke through to a domain where
Model of Hydrogen Atom
 matter ceased to be definable, ceased to even exist in any ordinary way, seemed to behave in incredible strange ways, time goes backward, energy crosses barriers without ever going through them by tunneling through them in some way.  Modern biology is still afflicted with physics-envy.  Meanwhile physics has gone on to a realm of such exotic and surreal uncertainty that it's at this point to the left of psychology in the precision of its metaphors.  Science has undercut itself and now exists in a state of unrecognized crisis that hopefully the psychedelic experience will exacerbate to the point that this will arrive on the plate of every experimentalist and observer of nature.

Despite what you may believe about all that McKenna has said, whether you agree with all of it, some of it or none of it, you owe it to yourself to at least seriously consider it with an open mind.  We think that McKenna would have agreed with the video we will show you now.  If you cannot see the embedded video here is the link: http://tinyurl.com/46sfzje.

We have only scratched the surface of this great mind.  But we felt this tribute was needed.  We hope you feel the same way.

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