Thursday, January 31, 2008

On Consciousness

Sometimes it seems to Pretty Lady that no matter how simply she explains herself, her ontological epistemology is chronically misunderstood. At any rate, whenever she brings it up, in however flowery or truncated a form, the more college-educated of her friends generally respond with the standard collegiate Cartesian Sum-Up, and subsequent dismissal. They utterly fail to perceive that the contents of Pretty lady's consciousness are anything but Cartesian; Pretty Lady does not exist because she thinks, and nobody else does either. Dear René missed the point entirely.

In fact, this business of 'belief,' in Pretty Lady's view, is an enormous Red Herring which, over literally millennia, has been tested in the empirical laboratory of the Human Mind and found wanting. For, as ought to be perfectly obvious, the contents of consciousness have nothing to do with the substance, or existence, of consciousness itself.

This is quite a relief, as if Pretty Lady were to be assessed by her beliefs, nobody would know what to make of her. Beliefs, in Pretty Lady's world, are little more than tools for consciousness-testing. She has been known to believe twelve impossible and mutually exclusive things before breakfast, without batting an eyelash, just for the fun of it. What interests her about beliefs is not so much their objective veracity, as she more than suspects that 'objectivity' is a fundamentally untenable concept (the reason why will be discussed presently), but their results, when applied in a puckishly sincere manner.

No, Pretty Lady's serious endeavors in the matter of consciousness consist in the experiment she makes, when she temporarily attempts to cease thinking entirely. As the sages attest, this is by no means an easy experiment. Try as she might, thoughts will arise. At the very least she may observe these thoughts, and simultaneously note that a thought which may be observed is not the Observer.

For, as she said, the contents of consciousness are not consciousness itself. To get to the bottom of what consciousness is, then, we must remove those contents, and see what's left.

And Pretty Lady is very pleased to report that on the very few occasions when her experiment appears to have succeeded, she was able to confirm what millennia of sages have attested. The fundamental nature of consciousness is:

1) Infinite.

2) Undivided.

3) Loving.

It is most important that it be understood that belief has nothing to do with this; Pretty Lady is speaking of direct experience. You are perfectly free to believe whatever you like regarding her experience, including that she is a batty fruitcake of a lady who took too much acid in college; you would of course be wrong, since Pretty Lady was renowned for her distressing conservatism at that point in her life. But she has no real objection to your beliefs, as they are mere temporal whims in any case.


Anonymous said...

Removal of the contents is not needed. Ignoring the content is enough.

Also, by noticing that the real thought is not the words, but precedes the words and has no need of the words except to communicate the thought to others, one can see that the speed of thought is infinitely quick.


Pretty Lady said...

Excellent points, P.T.

Anonymous said...

The focus many have on beliefs has puzzled me for a long time. The character and essence of a person is much more consistent, reliable, harder to change. A 'belief' can be abandoned as it was adopted. It can be held yet have little influence upon one's actions. It can be stated yet not exist. Or lied about for expediency. And it can be most wrenchingly, truly, wholly believed - but if the ideal of it cannot be met a statement of hope can lead to guilt and despair. The fortunate have beliefs that build up both them and those near them and produce the most amazing lives. But I see them as rare. Give me a sense of the person's virtues, weaknesses, driving forces, hopes and wishes, past experiences and actions. Belief is important but is layered upon and interacts with all of that. It is, as you say, a content of consciousness, not the thing itself.

Your earlier 'ontological epistemology' was delightful. And the argument under it reminded me of why, much as I love discussing the actual *idea* of a philosopher, I could never wade through the actual arguments and texts in college without thoughts of Dante's purgatory. But I do seem to recall that Descarte is not the only philosopher and that Aristotle did not make every statement hold up as a proof of the last (like a tower of bricks) but played with variations on a theme before laying out his preferred conclusion. Leaving others room to think, not treating the mind as a thing to box in.

(Plus, true or not, I once heard that Descarte had an agenda - to break the spiritual link between mind and body as held by the church so that they would loosen their ban upon doing autopsies. Anyone know the truth of this?)

Having said what I did on beliefs earlier though, I wish I actually did have PLs. For they make for one of those beautiful lives. And they are the real sort - a part of her heart and character, how she sees and treats others, herself, the world. And that highlights how so many of us - including myself - have beliefs that are largely of the mind. Or even worse, that noisy sort from the ego. It takes an active choice, a lot of work, a willingness to risk oneself, and an acceptance of what comes - including pain - to share PL's beliefs. I suspect that it is worth it.


Anonymous said...

The results of prolonged mind control are not a belief they are a reality that can be entered through practice.

The true essence of the person can then come through all of the lifelong accumulated detritis.

To refuse to accept the possibility of this and to remain mired in a materialist view is, however, a belief.


Pretty Lady said...

Exactly, P.T. Thoughts themselves are actually blocks to the experience of reality.