by Nicholas P. Snoek
Mr Sean has called Jack into his office. "Victor, would you be interested in a part in the Church Christmas play?"
"Oh, I don't think so. I'm kind of a straight-man; I wouldn't make any sort of actor."
"Well, you wouldn't have to do much. We just need another wise man. Aren't you suitable for that? You wouldn't need to say anything, or even act anything, as far as that goes. Just look wise and sort of dignified -- that should't be hard, for you!"
"Thanks. Say, would you happen to know if that new girl is in it? The tall one with the long darkbrown hair?"
"As a matter of fact, I think she is. And her brother too. I believe she's one of the angels."
"Okay. Well, count me in. What do I do?"
"There's a meeting right after Mass this Sunday. It'll be announced with the sermon."
"Good, I'll be there."
"And how is it going otherwise, Vick. You pretty well ready for exams?"
"Oh yes. Can't see any problem there.
I've been trying to figure out something. About perception. There's a lot of argument about sense data, that when we see something we don't see an actual object but an extract or sample of its appearance, a view that is conditional on our physical perceiving apparatus and on our situation or position. You must have had a lot of psychology; can you shed some light on that?"
"Well, to some extent I can. The idea of a sense datum is useful; I think of it as the thing that happens in our sensing system when we perceive something. Exactly how that ties in with a physical object is a philosophical question I can't say very much about. But I make a habit of thinking things through starting from whatever hard facts I can find that have to do with what I'm chewing on, and I've always thought that there's a key to this perception thing in the pains that people get from an amputated arm or leg. Have you heard about that?"
"You mean they can feel pain in an arm that's been cut off?"
"That's right. And that should be impossible, if pains are really where we think they are. Say you hit your thumb with a hammer, or you stub your toe. Where is the pain?"
"The pain has to be in the thumb, or in the toe. It can't be any other way. I know. It hurts like hell, right where you hit it! How can there be any question?"
"It sure seems that way. But no matter how much it hurts, or how strongly convinced we are that the thumb or toe is having pain, that's not what happens.
The pain... is in... the brain."
"Mr. Sean, that's really hard to imagine. When you hurt yourself the feeling of pain is so immediate, so sharply localized. How can it really be in the brain? Especially considering that when surgery is done on the brain it needs no anesthetic. Because cutting into the brain does not give rise to pain!"
"You're right about that, but still, I am convinced that the pain we think we are feeling in our body actually happens in the brain. They've found that the brain has an area where it maps out the body. Every part of your body has a corresponding bit of brain dedicated to information about it, coming or going. Okay? Now, nerve impulses in the brain go back and forth, they're flying all over the place, connecting, disconnecting, firing in volleys, dying away, recharging -- it's a welter of activity.
But there are patterns. Very difficult to pick out, in all that seeming chaos, but anyway, a pain signal actually happens THERE, in the body image mapped out in the brain. It only seems to us that the feeling is where the damage is, because that's what we need to know about, about the damage if any, at that spot, so we can deal with the problem, with whatever is wrong."
"That doesn't seem very compelling."
"Well, hold on. Just think about that phantom limb for a moment. The brain is used to receiving and sending data having to do with that limb, from all the time when it was there. Suddenly it isn't there anymore. But the part of the brain specializing in data exchange regarding that limb hasn't died, and it's still active. The brain is only an organ, remember. Like a computer, it doesn't know anything, it just image-embodies some physical state representation by way of what it has been given through the afferent nerves.
Suddenly there's a problem having to do with the data about that limb, and it's causing a mixup in the signalling system. There is activity caused by signalling that has lost its former connections. Some of those disenfranchised signals we interpret as pain, even though there is no pain. There cannot be pain in a limb which is not there, right? So the pain has to be in the brain map of the limb, which IS still there."
"Wow. Neat idea. The brain, which feels no pain when a surgeon is working on it, is normally the home of ALL pain."
"Ha. Right! Fascinating, hey?"
Jack is starting to have some misgivings about the more bizarre stories he has come across in the occult literature. And he has difficulty with reincarnation's supplying such a ready avenue of escape from responsibility.
If the next life will offer perhaps an easier way to deal with some situation why should a person exert himself in this one? And if the teaching of karma entails the inevitable rectifying of all wrongs, why should one face the unpleasantness of trying to set things straight before it is necessary? If it will all come out in some future great all-forgiving wash in any case, why get upset about a small inequity here and there?
If a great record hall of all knowledge is accessible to anyone with the potential gift to consult it, why should one strive to learn at all? If it's available already, why bother?
Would an all wise omniscient God design so poor a system?
If evolution, supervised from above or no, proceeds as Darwin taught, why does Edgar Cayce's guide speak of temples where deformed or extra limbs, unwanted feathers or scales, and other kinds of monster parts have to be excoriated burnt and salved and excised all away? To make life more endurable for those particular unfortunates? Or for their offspring? But removing those things would not affect their progeny. So why those drastic measures? What is missing in this lore.
And all those poltergeist phenomena! Or even more to the fringe, things like dead hands coming out of swamps to avenge some longpast crime; interrupted journeys, and sonorously hollow messages from stellar hosts in glowing UFO's.
It starts to grate. It gets to be too much. Where is the boundary between real and imaginary?
How does one decide what are the essential characteristics of a real thing, an existent? Does it have to be `out there' in some physical manifestation? Most scientists seem to think so.
But an idea is real. Ideas change the course of history. How much more real can something be than that? Wars are fought and won due to the compelling force of ideas.
There is no sound before hearing occurs. The sound is not real until perceived; perception makes it real. And perception is a form of ideation.
What is force, what is thought, what is love?
What is Jack? What is the self inside of me? What exists, and what is reliable? How does revelation work?
There must be better ways to go. There must be better answers. And not in virgin births or papal bulls infallible. What about biblical prophecy? There is a suggestive similarity between many of the psychic experiences reported by mediums and those who study them, and the accounts of visions, raptures, and out-of-body transports found in scripture and in the lives of the mystics and the saints. What are the common elements, and wherein lie the differences?
Brother Andre, what are you doing right now. Have you found your monks. If I wrote you a long letter about these things could you shed some light on them?
Dad has bought a sick cow.
Almost the whole of one hind quarter is swollen all out of shape. The poor thing can hardly walk. Jack wonders why Dad got it. Must have cost very little, it's going to be dead soon. What can you do with such an animal?
Soon Dad shows Jack what you can do. Together they tie her to the fence, and to Jack's nauseous horror, Dad takes a sharp pointy boning knife and lances the swelling! The red-green pus shoots out in a thin stream, and Jack gets it all over the thigh part of his jeans. What a stinking mess!
The cow moans, and starts to sag to its knees. Dad shouts, and kicks the poor thing back up. Then, in a few minutes, they untie her.
"Vick, get her some water to drink, will you?"
"Okay." Jack goes to the garden pump and fills a bucket. He splashes away the filth on his pants, then brings the cold well water to the cow. She drinks greedily, and seems to pep up from it. And soon she limps away. She'll be alright.
Dad is nowhere in sight. He knows.
Sunday comes. Jack anxiously goes down the stairs to meet the other players. And she's there! Looking every bit like an angel, to him. She takes little notice of this gangly greeneyed creature; she's busy with the play. Her name is Leda.
Tossing and turning in his bed, Jack cannot get to sleep. Poised on a cliff-edge at meeting this new girl; dismayed she is not more receptive, and having little confidence to just approach her in a friendly way... Oh, to be, or to become, a shuddering swan, to that Leda!
And what is that? Is that love? Is that lust? How different are they -- where does the one start and the other stop. Do they overlap in the middle?
What was it that transpired in the barn, a mile away. Why on earth did Agnes come out to play? She must have known what was in the wind. Lust all around? Past playing doctor, that. In comparison, the barn playmate stuff I did with my friends is almost platonic.
That girl in Penticton, Addie at the old orchard, the girls staying in the water letting the boys play between their legs, Agnes who came to play. Where does desire become consent? And what outward evidence of either is sufficient to mark the point of change from persuasion-seduction to out and out rape?
And after all his reading, his searching and thinking, Jack still has hardly any satisfying answers about anything at all. The mechanism of evolution still eludes him, even in broad outline, although he is convinced now more than ever there was no special creation of man as such. The apparent unacceptability of so many of the doctrines of his native religion confuse and confound him at every turn.
Reincarnation has such appeal, it must be real, and yet it really cannot be!
What is the answer?
Lord, Lord above, give me some help, I cannot cope, I cannot win, at anything. Send me a light, a shining light, illuminate my consciousness, irradiate my aching brain, and give me peace!
/// "Hello, Jack."
"Deborah, thank God! And I do mean that!"
"You're in quite a state, aren't you?"
"I'm absolutely miserable. The harder I try the less I know. The more I learn the less I find I trust in anything. What is happening? What am I doing wrong?"
"You're learning the hard way, Jack. All by yourself. Remember what we were saying about the farmers? They often talk themselves into strange attitudes because they have no one to talk back to them? You're very much like that. You've gone your own way so long, you hardly listen to anyone anymore.
Of course, there is a positive side to that. You do this way make progress where others would just stop to breathe and rest. You do break trail, Jack, you turn up a lot of new material."
"It doesn't feel like any kind of progress to me."
"No, I realize that. But don't despair, it's not as bad as it seems. You've done some good things. Let's go over them. Do you remember visiting the akashic museum and its display about human evolution?"
"I did? Hmmnn! Oh, right! With all those vicious lively little animals that learned to walk upright, and build shelters and dig underground burrows. Yes, I remember that."
"That was to show you the beginnings of your origins, the animal part. Human beings developed that way, from hominid ancestors; they were vicious fighters, and they were carnivores. But you shouldn't look down on them. Without that background they could not have the vigour and resourcefulness that gave rise to the human races.
And the part you did not stay to see, is that they also learned to share, to sacrifice, and to care for each other. And in doing that they made the essential progress that enabled them to surpass their less altruistic cousins. It was sharing and caring and the communication it requires, that transformed the little savages into human beings."
"I see. First in bloody tooth and claw but later by the laws of love and kinship."
"Oh my, Jack. You have a way with words. Good for you."
"Thank you. But what about evolution itself? Did it take place under supervision, like the Edgar Cayce material suggests? Were there temples of cleansing and purification where scales and feathers and deformities were dealt with? And what about reincarnation? Do we reincarnate, life after life for ages, until we reach some desired level of perfection?
And if that's the case, where does a soul start? Is mine the current version of whatever soul one of those savage little pre-humans had? And if new souls are started off with each increase in earth's population, or with the achievement of human status by some proto-human creatures, why not a new soul for each individual to begin with?"
"Too much, Jack. Too much too fast. Now think this out a little. You already have a lot of the answers.
First, about evolution. It did take place under a sort of supervision, but not in any direct way -- it was the physical surroundings and not the creatures themselves, that were manipulated. Evolution was not accidental, it was purposeful. But not supernatural, mind. It was a natural built-in propensity of earth's life pattern, to develop that way. And that life pattern was instigated and initiated by design; again, not accidental.
The first fully human beings, in all significant respects very much like yourself, achieved a level of perfection not far below your own almost exactly one million years ago. The history of their progress, or one might almost say their regress, for much of the time since then, is full of ill conceived strife, superstitious sacrifices of the best specimens, a foolish mixing with their lower simian cousins, and a tragic lack of the biologic upgrading that would have taken place except for the Adamic default.
There were, about 500,000 years ago, some temples of the sort depicted as you suggest, but you might better think of those as hospitals, and the procedures and the ailments were not nearly as fanciful as removing scales and feathers, and it really had nothing at all to do with human evolution. You must remember that the process of psychic revelation takes place across several levels of intervenient symbolism, involving a translation of mental pictures and frame patterns into linguistic concepts. It's a wonder the result is ever worthwhile at all. And as you've been discovering lately, the outcome can at times be nonsense, pure and simple."
"I guess so. Something else. There's always a lot of talk about missing links, and I was wondering if the Sasquatch or Bigfoot is a missing link."
"No, it's not. The Sasquatch is a type of specialized ape. Its ability to live in temperate to cold rainforest, and its adaptation to an upright walk, like those of the Abominable Snowman, which is essentially the same creature, exemplify an evolutionary development parallel to that of man. But there is no other relationship, none at all."
"Why have no bones or other fossils of these creatures been found? What happens to them?"
"But they have, Jack. They have, mostly teeth. It even has a scientific classification, Gigantopithecus. You can look it up for yourself. Except people who know about Gigantopithecus think he is extinct. And he is not. Like the Coelacanth, he is very much alive. You must remember too, that the giant upright ape has never been a very successful, in the sense of prolific, species.
But about remains, think a bit. You've done some wandering around in the woods, both here and in Bhutan. How often have you come across the bones of any of the more populous animals? Deer, horses, cows, dogs, cats."
"Almost never, really."
"So it's an unreasonable expectation, that any bones of such shy creatures like the Sasquatch or Bigfoot would come to light. There is even reason to believe they bury their dead. So what chance then, of finding any remains? Also, the soil in this part of North America is quite acidic -- eats up bones like you wouldn't believe.
About the question of missing links, there are some better candidates for that category. In many of the remoter portions of central and east Asia there are lingering remnants of primitive near human creatures or apemen often called Almas. They are much closer to man than Bigfoot. Actually, there are small pockets of them in almost every part of the world. But they are more intelligent than the Sasquatch, and so they're even more retiring and unapproachable than he is. They've learned that contact with human beings as often as not results in getting hurt."
"They're not human?"
"No, they are not human. But some of them are very close."
"Okay, with us, now, with people. What about souls? What about reincarnation?"
"Oh, yes. Try to remember an earlier conversation we had, when you asked me if I was an angel. Remember?
And I said I am something like an angel, and that you in your dreaming state here talking with me, are something like a soul or mind. And I pointed out that your language really does not permit a clear rendition of the required concepts. But I guess we have to try.
Alright. At conception a human life is given a personality, and is endowed with spirit guided mind potential. At the age of reason, usually about seven years, the child is granted a god-fragment, which has been variously named thought adjuster or mystery monitor.
It's in the working together of all these endowments, expressing themselves through and from the physical body and brain by way of the mind, that the soul gradually develops. It cannot do so, and the mind cannot develop in its human pattern, without a suitable brain to facilitate the electrochemical trans-imaging or transduction from physical to mental and back.
So the part that evolution plays is to develop the body-brain which will support a human mediating mind. The mind connects indirectly with the physical, on one side, and the spiritual on the other; it provides a transducing medium, a half-way scaffolding.
And soul is the crowning glory. You grow your soul, Jack. You nurture it and cultivate it. By making spiritually significant choices and decisions. By running your life with a godly purpose."
"That sounds awfully complicated. I don't know if I'll ever understand it. But what about reincarnation?"
"Push, push, push! Are you thinking at all about what I'm telling you? Or are you just standing by, waiting to fill in some blanks on a questionnaire?"
"I'm sorry. It's just that I'm afraid I'll miss getting the answers I'm looking for."
"Relax, Jack. Remember what I told you about these teaching sessions. What needs doing shall be done. Your questions will be answered. Time serves.
Okay. Reincarnation. Now here, especially, you already had the answer. You only had to look inside yourself to find it. Remember what I said when you asked me about what sort of being I am? I'm a noncorporeal being, working my way to Paradise by successive experiences through ever more spiritual stages in a long, long journey of development, of spiritual growth.
And the main difference between you and me is time. In time you will be as I am, doing the things I am now doing. Now, strange as it may seem, it is the adulterated and imperfectly interpreted revelation concerning these progressions that plays a large part in leading people to adopt the erroneous idea of reincarnation.
You were born on earth, Jack. Just once. And you will not be born there again. You will, however, in the normal course of events, be `born' on other worlds. In a body designed for the experiences of those worlds, but not a body of the coarse and elementary tridimensional style you now incorporate."
She stops, looking at him quizzically.
"Do you understand?"
"I think so. No reincarnation in the sense of re-enfleshed. Is that right? My unequal knees will not follow me. But what about the memories of former lives that seem so evidential? And what about the results of regressive hypnosis? What about the unfinished human life of a baby that dies before it even lives?"
"Oh goodness. How many subjects do you think we should explore tonight? You're likely into overload already."
"Please? Just that one?"
"Very well. Now, here too you've been given a good part of the answer before, but I will refresh your memory. In your ordinary life and in your ordinary activities you are restricted to linear time. Your past glides into your future by way of an invisible ephemeral elusive point you call the present. That point has, like a point in geometry, no physical size.
But a point in geometry has location, a position in relation to some framing x-y grid, or some other space supporting concept, whereas the point in time does not have location. And it has, by definition, no duration. So what is there left for it to be? No size, no location, and no duration. What can it be, really? It's an idea, a conventional idea, agreed on by a consensus of human thought. A useful fiction, Jack.
So the present is an illusion, invented to make three dimensional existence partway understandable. And what is even more unsettling yet, past and future are also inventions, they are also illusions to allow low level space-time functioning.
Humanity creates these concepts to make sense of its existence. But they are illusory, just as Daniel said to you about the running rabbit. Past, present, and future are merely convenient representations arrived at by consensus, to give shape and form to mundane experience. Reality is not linear; it is, in several respects, multivariant. But more of that another time. If you want to check this out, try reading Ouspensky. That'll give you some idea of what I'm talking about.
Okay. One of the ways in which people escape from these selfimposed fetters of linear time, is by dreaming or by going into trance. In dream or trance you travel in time, as the expression goes, you go through a time warp. You can observe an event that happened in the past or will happen in the future, by `going there.'
Think what that implies. Anyone can go back and look at a life that was lived by someone else. A former life. Not his own but another's. You see?
With regressive hypnosis the evidential memories could have been gleaned the very night before. Or the material might be observed in current time and reported in the present and have nothing to do with anyone's past. As a matter of fact, it could be someone's future life.
How does one decide? No good answer there, really.
Regressive hypnosis yields results in accordance with the beliefs of hypnotist and subject. Not necessarily or even usually an intended deception, more like self-deception. We tend to see what we expect to see, the same way we interpret what we see by filtering everything through preconceptions, concepts we already have. Like colored glasses. If you believe in former lives you'll be inclined to view a life with which you can identify, and so you will be tempted to think it was your own previous existence.
Like that of any other psychic revelation, the material obtained under hypnosis should be approached with caution. The manner of obtaining testimony cannot provide any guarantee of its validity.
How would you compare the oracles at Delphi and the prophecies in the Bible with the material you've been reading on mediums and psychics? You apply the same tests to all of them, right?"
"But how? What tests."
"The same tests you normally use to evaluate new or different information. You check it for coherence, for reasonableness, for fitting in with more familiar and well founded knowledge; you assess the tenor and the scope of what would follow from acceptance; and you try to gauge the probity, sincerity and possible intentions of the party or parties at the source.
And if you get mixed results from these assessments you postpone your acceptance or rejection until further investigation sways the balance.
No easy answers, Jack. No easy answers, and no infallibility. The same quality of pipe can bring clean water or sewage.
Well, I think that just about does it for now. I hope you'll be more content. Try to sort some of these things out for yourself a little more, but don't get so anxious about them."
"Wait, wait! What about a dead baby? What happens there?"
"Oh, my lord. There are special provisions for them, Jack. Special places where they, and anyone else who has not led a full human life, can complete their life experience, to bring them up to par with others who did. Okay? Now, that's it. I have to go. See if you can sort some of these things out a bit more for yourself. You have the knowledge you need for that."
"I'll try, Deborah. I'll try. Thank you." \\\
Sunday has come.
Jack has been watching the crowd in the pews down below, and he doesn't see her. What's going on? Where is she?
After Mass he does go down to the basement but he's really wondering whether he wants to do this. If she isn't going to be here he has little interest. A bunch of kids doing a Christmas concert... What does he want with that?
But look! There she is! Alright. Let's go see what we can make out of this.
He looks for a chance to get close to her, to get involved in the conversation. But there is little opportunity. All he accomplishes is to offer a really dumb comment, when the talk turns to what the angels should wear. "Something sheer and transparent" is his stupid contribution! Good thing she hardly notices. The others just giggle a bit. Jack. Jacko. Jackass!
Why does he feel inferior before her? Before any girl he has ever really been interested in. What's that for? Is he the only one who feels that way? Do girls? She seems at ease. Where does she get the confidence? She doesn't know there's anything going on here, that's why.
But he's so much the silly fool, gangly greeneyed all agog, just like the volley ball players over that girl in Penticton.
What should he do? How can he get closer?
He is too embarrassed to do anything. He wanders off home, to think about things. Thinking and thinking.
He's giving Mr Culke a hand at the mill this weekend, sawing up some private timber, a custom job.
The logs are partly frozen, and that's tricky. A log completely or uniformly frozen can be dealt with more simply, but spots of soft thawed wood in uneven patches can really cause trouble. The saw will run, so the clearance it usually has from the sawbits being wider than the blade is insufficient, causing contact between the wood and the side of the sawblade. At the speed such a saw runs, there is instant heat, and that leads to any number of consequences.
A standard circular saw stands about four feet high. When cutting, it rotates at top speed, and at that speed it should hold steady. When you check it as it rotates, viewing it front edge, it should look like a sharply defined very thin rectangle, with no wobble or variation.
But the revolutions are so high that even the top quality steel of which these sawblades are made will stretch towards the circumference from the centrifugal force. That would cause a wobble if not provided for.
Wobbling is circumvented by hammering the saw in such a way that a tension is instilled which the stretching will relieve.
Since a sawblade wears away from use, and loses its tension from repeated heating and cooling, it has to be periodically hammered back to the right state of tension. And all this to achieve a steady state before the logladen carriage is ever moved to start the first cut!
More wood is usually cut on the carriage side than on the sawyer side, because the logs are round, and the saw is typically removing the outside wood. The outside wood is sapwood too, which is softer than the heartwood. The saw will take the path of least resistance; it will creep away from the log, it will run out.
Runout will be more extreme with the dulling of the sawbits, brought on faster than usual by dirty logs. The removable chisel teeth lose their sharp corners, first on the carriage side, because the dirt is less free there to fly off, so it gets mashed into the wood, where it sticks, forming an abrasive surface. The remedy is to grind back the bits with a drill-mounted emery stone so the corners will be sharp again.
To prevent this runout due to left-right unevenness, the saw, the shaft it is mounted on, and whatever arbor arrangement is holding the whole thing, are aligned to angle very slightly into the log. In other words, the saw is just a bit off parallel to the carriage tracks, thus leading into the log, usually about an eighth of an inch.
But after the slabs are off the log, there is no longer a left-right unevenness, planks are then sliced off in even cuts. Because the saw is angled into the carriage path there is now a run-in situation! The blade would tend to run into the wood and into the carriage. That would make a mess. Those bunks are very hard, coated with top quality steel.
To prevent this from happening, two guides consisting of one to two inch diameter dowels made from low friction heat resistant material, are mounted one on each side of the saw just below the cutting part. Adjustable brackets hold them in exactly the right place, just clearing the sawblade.
All these things in position and in optimum condition, it helps if the logs are of fairly uniform consistency. If they are not, as in the case of partially thawed ones like these, the saw runs first one way, then the other, unpredictably. It flops around and heats up and turns to jelly! The guides usually restrain the front part of the blade well enough, but the rear edge is free to flap back and forth. Guides on the rear wouldn't help, they would only heat the blade further.
Mr Culke keeps some snow handy, so he can hold it onto the side of the sawblade to cool it quickly. And he grinds up often. But even so, several times there is a banging and clattering when things get out of control, and sawbits go flying like bullets, making more light holes in the tin roof! A dangerous business, this sawmilling.
Jack is relieved when the job is done.
Jack wonders about the real, the existing universe. An idea is real. The idea, the legend of the Sasquatch is real, whether or not he is at this moment roaming the hills of B.C. And this idea has a reality, an effect generating and an other reality affecting existence, even if it is not a part of the actual physical world.
People talking and writing about Sasquatches, that makes an objective and real phenomenon out of it, right?
What about an event? Does the fact that something has happened make it a part of things that exist, of existence?
A lot of time and money, legislative and judicial expertise, are expended on ascertaining which events happened or did not, and why, and what was their exact nature, and what was in the minds of the persons involved.
An event can have a devastating effect. It must exist. It must be real, part of the universe.
What are the different kinds of real things? Perhaps it would help if he tried to set up some categories of things that exist.
First, of course, the physical. It includes the obviously material things like rocks and trees and books. And it includes the atomic and sub-atomic particles, and so it would embrace electrical and electronic phenomena, even those which translate into or from energy. Energy itself must be included. Does force qualify? In that it moves physical things? But what about a forceful man? Force seems to fall into two types, one having to do with the physical, another with purpose or will.
There's the first step out of the physical. A type of force almost epitomizing a living thing, characteristic of an organism which is alive, and not of an organism that is not alive but was alive. Life, it's about life.
It makes almost no sense to speak of an organism that's not alive. It has lost something essential, life, which is closely tied to the sort of contained organization that is a sine qua non of the concept of organism. What is there about an organism that is separate and apart from the purely material-physical? Is it just that? Life?
If I clearly and thoroughly describe organism, would that be an approach to identifying defining delineating life?
Let's see. One might say an organism is self-contained or cohesively unified. It is reactive, in an adaptive self reconstitutive way; it avoids injury, and it repairs itself when injured. It reproduces. It's an electro-chemical organization with procreative potential. Biologically it exhibits something more basic than, or below, purpose. And that has to do with reactivity, with awareness, at whatever level. Let's use the concept mind, for that. Where there is life there is mind.
So then, the second level of existence is that of mind.
Now, is there anything that exists which is not included in the physical or in the mental? Which is not in the world of things, nor in the world of mind?
Rocks and trees and books. Physical and living and.... What about history? Culture? Education? Events, ideas; ideas of events.
They come to us in a form that is not in any mind -- outside of mind, but still from mind. Ideas are among the products of mind, but they're not part of mind. Mind as an expression, or effect of life, is active, and no mind can long hold steady any idea, or be busy with any significant number of ideas.
And an idea will be one thing in one mind but quite a different thing in another mind, and often quite a different thing in the same mind at another time.
Mind in private and idiolectic flux. And of course, if an idea held in mind is characteristically gossamer-ephemeral, our only objective and negotiable avenue to and from mind and its workings, even our own, is by way of its output, its signpost in physical form, however temporary. Speech, writing, printing, recording in all its many forms. All media to mind.
But an idea will also be different as presented in one book, paper, or discourse from any other of its (re)presentations.
Well, we must work with what we have. In somewhat the same way that a paleontologist deduces from the record-in-rock with growing certitude an increasingly accurate and detailed portrayal of a former culture, so must we use the record, in whatever form we find it, of ideas, of mind reflection, of knowledge, that is not actively in mind but recorded or in physical form in some way, to ascertain with growing certainty whatever is of interest in the way of culture, culture in the widest sense.
And that includes the recording, either as imaginative or must-have-been recollection and reconstruction of events, as in the archived output of the media, of case law and history, secular and otherwise, biblical, religious, and even occult.
So the third level of existing things would be the record of mind output.
In the beginning was the Word. Certainly physical in form, but the form is not the primary concern, it is the content, pointing to and from, mind. Is there anything else? What about that book of books, the Bible, and its reputed author, God? The Record, in that and other places, points to another level of reality, above and beyond mind, the realm of Spirit.
Okay, in somewhat the same way as we have to take a mental look inside ourselves to interpret and test what the Record gives us relating to Mind, so we have to resort to private experience to evaluate and authenticate what we find in the Record regarding Spirit.
Of course a person who has decided there is no such thing as spirit or soul, will have to make do with just three levels.
And a really hard case might decide to eliminate the Mental, perhaps as some sort of reflection or epiphenomenon. A halo over the physical, so not really `real.' An unreal halo. That's sad. Self imposed limitations. But, to each his own.
For me, there is Physical, Mental, Record, and Spirit.
So from now on, for any particular question, I shall try first to identify its approximate topography on the globe-map of that which is, or exists: is it a matter of physical reality, object of knowledge or science in the narrow sense; or mental reality, subject to the social and sociological disciplines such as the doing of science, including psychology and philosophy; where can evidence be found in the record concerning the question at hand, or is there any; or is it an issue of spiritual import, and if so, what religious or theological material can be found in the record, and what germane revelations?
And for all but the first level, an introspective sounding should be resorted to for valid testing echoes.