My intention in this writing is to offer whatever benefit I am able from my experience of living these last 72 years, through my understanding of that experience as a Soul. This experience has provided me with a wealth of average general understanding as common sense, though some of it perhaps borders on the ergodidiotic. It has also brought me a respectable level of experience in three specified areas of investigation, all of which is unfortunately for me outside most mainstream accounts of such expertise. If I am able to show that that my uncommon sense is correct, their relevance will be understood.
To provide some background I start with the following letter, written in 2012 during a period of a few months’ email correspondence with a friend who shared a common interest in some of the foundational issues of theoretical physics. At that time, he was a postdoctoral physicist with a recently published dissertation and related work critical of various assumptions of Planck scale theory that agreed in significant ways with my own independent critique. For those unfamiliar with the concept of the Planck scale, among other assumptions it posits a fundamental measure of length scale that is as small compared to the measure of a neutron—as the reduced Compton wavelength—as that wavelength is to the length of a soccer field. Any experimental investigation of events at the Planck scale are theoretically incapable of verification. This fact formed a basis for our theoretically separate yet convergent mutual interest in the subject.
My friend’s work incorporated an acknowledged necessary component of subjectivity in his analysis and our discussion had ventured as a result into the subject of philosophy and metaphysics, which had prompted the following letter. He had expressed a deep dissatisfaction with the current state of theoretical physics as a career path at the time, and seeing no motivation for such a pursuit, we subsequently lost touch. I have redacted his name herein, and have made minor, non-substantive revisions for purposes of clarity:
I have just finished your thesis and have prepared some comments, but after re-reading our last email thread, thought I would send this first.
I remember the first time I was aware of being self-conscious; I mean conscious of myself as though seen through the eyes of someone else. I believe I have always been self-aware and empathetic in my relationships with others, but up to that point in my life I don’t recall feeling so objectified and at the same time so transparent. What transpired was not an intentional act on the part of my mother.
I was ten or eleven and had just finished an evening solo violin recital at a local school auditorium, one in an annual series put on by my instructor. I generally memorized the pieces readily and didn’t refer to the sheet music during the shows, so I closed my eyes as I played as I had recently seen a noted concert violinist do at a live performance.
“That was good. But why did you close your eyes?” she chided gently.
Putting herself in my shoes, as only a protective mother can do, she saw all eyes on her, silently asking “Why do you close your eyes? It’s pretentious!”
I have this by intuition now, of course, but at the time all I could think was, “Rubinoff did it,” as a response in having recently seen a famous concert violinist play at the high school auditorium in Laurinburg, “I even got his autograph.”
And so I said. She made it clear that was okay for him, but not for one so young. I was crushed, but she was right. It was pretentious; but then how else do we learn but by emulation, by pretending to be more competent than we currently are.
This was not some defining, motivating moment in my life, though it is still vivid. It is, however, indicative of what has always been a primary motivation, to live a competent life, fully self-aware, while at the same time completely unself-conscious.
I don’t like drawing attention to myself, but I do like interacting with others, especially on what some erudite individuals would call a mundane level. I know that I am high on the competent scale, not in terms of any socio-economic standard, but in terms of treating others by the Golden Rule. Not perfect, just highly competent.
I have always, always thought that everyone else was, internally, basically like me. I still believe, still know, that on an essential level we all have within us the desire, the need, and the capacity to know the truth about ourselves and the world in which we find ourselves and to give it voice and stature, but I know without question that such discovery is a growth process with its own time and seasons, and that one cannot force such cultivation. We can perfect neither ourselves, nor the world around us, before the time; still the time will come for both. Our correspondence to date leads me to believe you too have this understanding.
While I was religious in both a learned and a poetic sense when I was young, enraptured with both the God embodied in Judeo-Christian history’s ancient sweep and in the constitution of the cosmos, I was a child of the educational system and ethos of the time, and I had no problems giving up a seven-day creation. Still, I thought Jesus was someone to be respected and even emulated.
Eventually, somewhere in the middle teens, I awoke to find I had gone from doubter, to agnostic, to atheist. I was very sure that by the power of my intellect, I had exhaustively ferreted out every cranny wherein a creative cause and solace might be lurking and found none.
No doubt in manner similar to you, I still wanted to understand the “nuts and bolts” of life and the cosmos, and at the time of entering the university, I was still thinking strongly about a career in astrophysics. I had the romantic notion of an astronomer sitting on a mountaintop and looking for extra-terrestrial life. Unfortunately, as far as my studies went, I had also developed an interest in the opposite sex, which led to an interest in parties, and my freshman year did not go so well. In high school, my innate abilities enabled me to skate by, with no one, including myself, the wiser. I managed to hang on, and at the start of my sophomore year was enrolled in linear algebra, intent on staying with physics. Then I made a fateful decision.
The math course was at 7:30 in the morning and was taught by a grad student from India (paradoxically enough as things developed). He had an extremely thick accent, and I could hardly understand a word he said. After about three sessions and while drop-add was still available, I dropped the course and added another, thinking that I would take it the following semester. As it was, it was not offered until the next fall, and I was forced to rule out physics as a major, the choice of which had to be made at the end of the fall semester. So I ended up majoring in economics and took a comparative religions course that opened up the world of Eastern thought to me for the first time.
I was scheduled to go to grad school in economics, but the Vietnam War and the draft led me home to work for my dad, as I waited it out. I saved some money in the process and decided to go to Europe with a high school friend to travel and work and just see the world. I was romantically unattached, except to the idea of traveling around the world, so it seemed like a reasonable thing to do.
At this time, being dissatisfied with the materialistic assumptions of economics and politics, I had shifted my reading to various subjects addressing issues of a metaphysical nature, starting with the psychology of Freud, Jung, Reich, and Aldous Huxley. Naturally, there was the occasional pharmaceutical experiment, though not to the point of indulgence. So, in the fall of 1971, my friend from high school bought a VW van in Wiedenbruck, Germany, and we took off, working for the winter in Switzerland, spending several weeks in the early summer on a Greek island.
Sometime in the midsummer of 1972, after traveling with friends up through the Soviet Union to Finland, we found ourselves on a large overnight ferry, crossing to Sweden, when I had what I can only call an epiphany. There was a sauna on board, which I made use of before going to the bar. I was in an extremely relaxed frame of mind and none of the rest of our group was with me. I bought a beer and sat down at an empty space on a bench that ran along the wall opposite the bar. To my left was a fellow who appeared to be past his limit and to my right were a couple, she from Finland, he from Sweden, who engaged me in conversation in English.
At some point, the fellow to my left knocked over his beer, to which the Finnish girl whispered “drunk Finnish male”; the inebriated individual then grabbed my left shoulder, and as I turned toward him to see his left arm pulled back in preparation of throwing a punch, I felt a bolt of white-hot electricity run up from the base of my spine to the crown of my head and envelope me.
I felt a sense of absolute serenity and command of the situation and said in a benevolent tone of voice something to the effect of “Relax, everything’s alright.”
As he stared at me, his face blanched in fear, he let go, dropped his cocked arm and turned away mumbling. It was not like anything I had experienced. I am not a big guy or anyone that people would normally be afraid of. It was clear to me immediately that this was not biology at work.
This was a whole new dimension of existence that had been felt by both him and me. I must be clear. It didn’t feel like anything I did and yet it felt like I was myself in essence. From that point on, I had little doubt about the essential reality of a “spiritual” dimension, whatever it might be. This was a motivating moment, but still not a defining one.
This episode intensified a transition already begun from the study of western psychology and philosophy to the eastern teaching of Buddhism and Vedanta and Zen and Taoism and Yoga, with its chakras and kundalini and such. When I got back to the states in the fall, I continued this study. I worked for a couple of years, saved my money, and went out to Washington State, where J.C., my friend of the European trip, had bought some land, to help him build a cabin.
I subsequently built a cabin of my own, moved in and continued the metaphysical and meditational studies. I did mostly carpentry and some design work for bread and butter, during this period. As you can imagine, for every book that gives an authoritative description of a spiritual journey, there are many more that are simply the embodiment of the author’s wishful thinking and more again written by those who want to acquire a gullible following or just sell books. You must separate the wheat from chaff, as you might well know.
Many, perhaps most, of the books I read at that time had an appeal that in the final analysis was to the emotions or to ego gratification or to a desire to transcend the mundane or to become a devote of some master or saint or god. I intuitively shied away from such messages and was rather drawn by an appeal to reason and to social responsibility and inclusiveness.
Among the various schools of thought I investigated, two in particular stressed that the goal of enlightenment was work and not child’s play, not for the faint of heart, and not to be entered into lightly; it was only to be entered into after years and even lifetimes of preparation. Early on, it seemed reasonable to me that if we are souls instead of brain-inspired personalities, being born twice or more is as feasible as just once and makes more sense than a one-shot chance at learning life skills; from an early age I had a sense of “being here before”. Based on the tenets of these schools, the path to initiation consisted of a period of probation, during which one’s intuition and sensitivity to the mental and emotional states of others becomes well honed, followed by eventual induction into a spiritual, body politic. During this period, I began to have many lucid dreams of a definite spiritual content.
In the late fall of 1976, in the early hours of November 25 in my 28th year, after making the decision to come back to the East Coast to help with my ailing father and to get married, (it didn’t happen), I experienced an extremely lucid dream or vision in which I was looking out over a stadium size natural arena filled with radiant souls that I recognized as transcendent souls. I then found I was surrounded on either side and directly in front by such beings, others like myself, clothed in an intense, golden white light, of more intense golden, white light than any Steven Spielberg movie.
There were no names exchanged; none were necessary. The individual in front of me stretched out his arm in which he grasped some manner of rod or staff and touched the top of my head. I had the most intense sensation of an electric dagger shooting down through the crown of my head and along my spine. It was far more intense than the experience mentioned above in the bar. This seemed to last no more than a few seconds, but it was and remains the defining, motivating moment of my life.
I awoke immediately to the darkness of the cabin, then to the vivid memory of the initiatory experience, and went back to sleep. I found myself in a state of bliss for the next several weeks, during which time I returned to North Carolina and moved in with my fiancée.
Then all hell broke loose. After the few weeks of bliss, I experienced what can best be described as the opening of Pandora’s box. In the wake of this initiatory event, I experienced an extended period of the same feeling of omnipresent potential that I had on the ferry. In addition, I began to notice a gentle movement of pressure at different locations throughout my body, at times surging from my feet up to the crown of my head.
The intensity of this surging increased over several weeks with a certain distracting fascination, as if there was a phantom ferret loose beneath my skin. Having read accounts of the awakening of kundalini in various eastern teachings, I naturally associated my current condition with those accounts. After several weeks of this growing presence, at one point as I was talking with one of my neighbors, I felt the persistent, pulsing surge in my head bumping against the inside of the crown of my skull, the surge burst through in a current of energy, feeling like it had flowed out through the top of my head, and the internal surging ceased.
From that point on, I found it difficult to meditate for any length of time, to think clearly as I always had before. What occurred can be described as coming into direct contact with the chaotic flow of mental, emotionally charged images from the subconscious of other individuals who were in close proximity to me or who otherwise captured my attention. These were both beautiful and disgusting emanations, normally screened in most individuals by the need to attend the concerns of day-to-day life. It is like dumping the contents of your hard drive into the micro-processor without benefit of an operating system. It is what apparently happens to some people with schizophrenia.
The only difference between that pathological condition and this is that the initiate, by dint of meditational practice, has learned and knows how to shunt the flow of images to the crown of the head in an attitude of prayer, thereby rendering them inoffensive. But this takes time to learn to do with efficiency, and such thoughts have an inertia of their own. The intensity of this direct experience of the subconscious is sporadic and seems to decay in frequency and intensity with a half-life of sorts over several decades, but in the end, clarity is restored, and one enters the here and now, apparently and hopefully, in perpetuity. Needless to say, this experience is not very conducive to interpersonal relations or career advancement of most kinds, but nevertheless, if I understand it correctly from my experience and what I have read of others, it is the way to the greater Life.
As a result of this experience, I became aware of the development of continuity of consciousness. As a result, when I sleep, I go directly into the dream state, which has become increasingly lucid, and return to wakefulness without any period of unconsciousness. I don’t remember everything from such sojourn any more than I remember every detail of my day-to-day existence, but the thread of being conscious is maintained throughout. As a result, even when awake I have little sense of the passage of time, as I once had. I am mentally aware of things changing and cognizant of classical causal relationships, but there is no subjective feeling of time. Things simply move in and out of my field of wakeful consciousness as they do in dreams.
About seven years into this adventure, I felt sane enough to resume some semblance of a normal life, met Molly and eventually married. Life shared with her has been a joy, but for the occasional episodes as indicated above, with the attendant self–consciousness and discombobulation they inspire.
About seventeen years into this experience, I had a dream in which I won the Nobel prize in physics. Physics?, I thought in the dream, this doesn’t make sense. I have no interest and not much memory of physics. Peace would be nice: maybe I can write or do something really peaceful! I laughed in the dream and really thought no more about it until quite a while later. But one day while I was in Barnes and Nobles, I spontaneously plunked down a couple of hundred dollars on books on topology and general relativity and quantum mechanics and the Feynman lectures, and tensors, etc. etc. and so forth. I didn’t have any plan and I had forgotten about the dream until days after I had bought them. I put them on a shelf.
Twenty-one years into the event, while doing some writing on metaphysics I started wondering why uniting gravity and quantum mechanics was so difficult, so I pulled out the Feynman lectures and an old physics text. Then I did what apparently no one else has seen fit to do. I assumed Newton’s gravitational law still held in the nucleus of an atom! I assumed his gravitational constant was invariant even on that scale, I assumed that the existence of neutron stars with a density just above that of a black hole was an indication of the significance of the neutron in an understanding of gravity, I assumed that the reduced Compton wavelength was an actual physical property and not simply a statistical artifact and I naively plugged the neutron mass and wavelength parameters into Newton’s equation, solved and got a figure that was within one order of magnitude of the value of the neutron Compton squared. This seemed significant and started my obsessive investigation of the past 15 years, which Molly cannot understand. For me it has resulted in an understanding of physical phenomena that is seamless with Life itself.
Is all the above just a fantasy of my feeble brain? Am I crazy? Perhaps. You must judge. In light of my experience of life as encapsulated in the above, the extinguishment of individual consciousness at corporal death makes no more sense than the idea that the existence of this quite tangible world around me, both biologic and anthropogenic, in this room and outside my window, is due to the stochastic interaction of point particles emerging from a “big bang”. I spend roughly a third of my life in the protean world of dreams as it is, quite logical in its own fashion. The “afterlife” cannot be less real. The Lethe is necessary to keep one’s focus in this world, but in time the Mnemosyne must be crossed.
The lid is now back on Pandora’s box; Elpis, springs and by and large reigns eternal. Self-consciousness with all its phobias dissipates, and one is left with the calling to give voice to the Truth.
So, dear Friend, that Hope is why I pursue the physics, because if ever well-received, with or without the Nobel, it will show to anyone that might be listening, Life is not random or crazy, and the above account is not the fantasy of my feeble brain.
Peace to you and yours,
P.S. I ask you to guard this thoughtfully, though I see nothing to obscure or disavow.
I have come to generalize these three areas as a study of and insight meditation on:
1) Essential Principles that can help guide our understanding of Life. This has given rise to a type of theological modeling that is monistic, in that for the cosmic whole, there is only One Essence with a capacity that is changeless in its entirety and yet constantly in flux in its specificity—as One Principal that has the supreme potential to assume whatever actual form it desires as it manifests That Self in space and over time. This Principal can be referenced in representational form as Deity external to the Soul or formless as Spirit enveloping and pervading the Soul. Spirit governing Life is Divine Love. This same monistic modeling is applied to the other two areas of study, Physical Phenomena and Political Economy.
2) Physical Phenomena through a modeling of the emergence of the basic building blocks of nature in response to the intention and extension of that One Life in such a manner to produce the Appearance of all inertial and sentient lifeforms. This modeling can provide a better understanding for more environmentally safe and sound technological innovation for humanity and the planetary life.
3) Political Economy through weighted ergodic modeling of focused decision making that can elucidate a balanced economic and monetary framework for both public and private initiative in the implementation of policy for a better Quality of Life for all. This is based on an analysis of the structural changes in the US private and public national accounts and global aggregates over the last half a century in light of the introduction of neoliberal economic and monetary thinking.
These three areas of interest are reflected in the series of blogs under the title ‘Three Known Truths’, which can be accessed here for the price of a cup of coffee. I will make the total set of blogs available in pdf book form and possibly in printed form if sufficient interest is indicated. The extended essay is about ninety pages.