Friday, July 24, 2009

Are You In Control?



Are we in control of ourselves, our lives, our families, our worlds? Or are we just aware and knowing what one can do if something unpredictable happens?
There are many explanations for why we do what we do. For example, Thomas Metzinger's new Book, The Ego Tunnel: The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self, seriously questions whether there is even an "I", let alone a "we." And Douglas Hofstadter's book, I Am a Strange Loop, contends that the "self" is a recursively self-referencing memory loop.
Hundreds of experiments by Benjamin Libet and others tend to conclusively confirm that our brain prepares to execute our decisions before we are even aware that anything is being decided. It alerts us to our decisions only in time (a split second) for us to veto them.

Libet postulates that it is quite likely that we have no so-called "free will" other than veto power over our specific actions. Our free will may consist instead of 1) being mindful about any ill-serving subliminal intentions and tendencies that inform our actions so that we are accordingly prepared to veto any action that they correspondingly inform, and of 2) programming (or reprogramming) our subliminal intentions to be more productive of the experiencing that we most desire.
Do we have the power to create our realities? Are we in control?
What do YOU think?
Artwork: Create by Ron Isom Many thanks.

56 comments:

Orna Ross said...

The older I get the more I realise that control is an illusion. Life is much more about allowing than steering - though never exclusively one or the other.

Wehireu said...

I am somewhat in control of my thoughts and in the material world, my personal circle-- what I can reach with both hands outstretched until the ends of my fingertips.

Tim said...

A fascinating topic for discussion - but I cannot yet get past the original question - the title of the post.
Are You In Control?
In order to proceed from there - I would have to understand implicitly who that "you" (me) was.
When I explore this - I find that the concept of there being a "me" becomes more and more illusory.
I am a being - I am 100% the product, the substance of life - of a predetermined reality with its own immutable law, its own pre-ordained potential.
I conclude that any part of this being that considers itself to be independent of origin, of existence, with an autonomy outside of that law and potential - is stretching it somewhat!
I conclude that "I" am the point at which my potential for experience (the subtle yet profound attribute of awareness) becomes experience itself - a process happening, unfolding continuously.
This, I have concluded, is the very nature of my reality - I am no more than a point in time - now - shapeless, formless - ever fluid - born simply in the contrast between the finite and the infinite - the relative and the absolute.
A point that nevertheless holds the key to the store of its past, previous experiences, lessons, memories - all contained within the mind.
"I" am simply the crest of an ever rolling wave - and like water and air - matter and spirit are what form the contrast - the ability for awareness to have any significance.

So - in the context of this post - perhaps we may affect the steering a little - but we haven't designed or built the vehicle, nor the environment, nor the possibilities, nor the restraints - and ultimately - if "we" are not separate from that which is or isn't controlled - that control is probably an illusion. The separation only exists in our conceptualisation - not in the reality.

Andras said...

A great question. Was supposed Judas in "control" or within the realm of the allusion of free will in the ancient Biblical story, or events set in place long ago had determined the circle of betrayal and doomed Judas along with Jesus? Was Crucifixion karmically "ordained" for Jesus, and if so why would Judas's act be so bad , after all? As a good paradox this proves the rule. We are in control, but sometimes the right decision to be made is overwhelmingly hard, near impossible. The ancient wisdom says, the decision often the hardest made is usually the right choice.

Tim said...

Our judgement system, our value system seem to be all rooted in a presumption of mortality - so where does "karma" enter into mortality?
That seems to be an incongruous statement - for a belief that encompasses the survival of consciousness, personality or soul beyond death would be essential for "belief" in karmic law - in which case - our judgment system can expand to a broader more infinite perspective?

Nabil said...

you ask the question, Do we have FREEWILL?

The answer my dear is YES
It is that Veto power that everyone has. It may be not apparent because we all do the same things most of the time. But it is there. Those who used this power, have changed us. Not to say that we wouldn't have changed anyway. There is a difference you see between reality and potential.
Freewill is about utilizing potential. When potential is limited, Freewill is limited as well.

Think of a bubble swimming in space. It can go anywhere
But if another bubble shares the space, then the potential changes.
Part of the decision is made by the motion already in progress
The other by the Veto power

George said...

We humans are highly conditioned beings. We are conditioned by family, friends, religion, politics and the environment to do certain things in a certain way. Some of these things are positive and some are negative. Some of the negative things we do are those things we wish we could stop ourselves from doing. For example if we are a member of a certain religion that we do not want to practice, conditioning from family and church may make it very difficult to break away from this religion. But here free will comes into play. We can choose to stay with this religion and be miserable or we can choose to break away from it and seek truth and be more happy and content. What we choose will create our reality for better or for worse. We can choose to control or be controlled. Freedom comes when we realize we do have this option to choose and we choose to control.

Nabil said...

Man, I was with you until the last sentence and the word control.
Once we understand that freedom of will is a universal principle, we see clearly how impossible it is to control reality. One has control only of his or her thoughts and behavior.

Abhaa said...

The indian philosophy professes incarnation of the soul/spirit as assuming physical existence( which is not in reality--this is going to divert the topic if the discussion is carried on this tangent).

"Every child born into the world brings with it a certain accumulated experience from previous incarnations; and the impress of this experience is seen in the structure of its mind and body. But the feeling of independence which possesses us all shows there is something in us besides mind and body. The soul that reigns within is independent stud creates the desire for freedom. If we are not free, how can we hope to make the world better? We hold that human progress is the result of the action of the human spirit. What the world is, and what we ourselves are, are the fruits of the freedom of the spirit."

What is 'we'? There is no 'we' but only one 'I', one spirit/soul appearing as many. This one spirit/soul/ the absolute is blissful and free of impurities ( rajas, tamas, satva gunas what constitute to make us feel/think /act as different souls/minds/bodies --the reason of all differences and hatred, ego and imperfection )
The subjective realities are only a perception of the soul/spirit.

francis said...

I think, welcome to Buddhist philosophy and self-development.

Mindfulness and Meditation are the sure ways to gain back control from our inherent programming.

Samuel said...

Hello. This sounds like the game of super-ego. (The part of ego we hear, talking to us, our inner dialog)

Who wants to control? Control of what exactly? What does that mean, being in control? Who wants to be enlightened? The ego.

In some ways, we are definitely creating our reality. But, what we are aware of, is so tiny and comparatively ridiculous to what really is, that having control of it, seems pointless.

And the idea of having control is only a super-ego notion, and super-ego knows nothing about truth. This is the mistake that followers of "the secret" fall into: The idea that their super-ego can create reality. It is certainly true that your attitude can change things around but then what about the rest of your massive ego that are in your unconscious, affecting you all the time? And the fact that ego also does not really have a clue because it is a fixation of reality.

Mark Thurston writes about four levels of will in his book "Discovering Your Soul's Purpose". If you can survive the shock of the book-cover (because oh my God who thought of that horrendous image?) the book is a great little read.

It is better of course to read the book but I will try to summarize what the four wills are. (It has been some time since I read the book)

1st will: To say "NO!" But that is how simple that is. There is not much power or control in that. We see 2 year-olds say no to everything.

2nd will: "No" with a reason. Or "Yes, but..." Where you seem to apply some logic, reason or argument to what you think. Most people are still in this stage. But it is mostly rational and really just another type of engagement with the "oppression". Not a free will. Even though the logic is there, it is not defending free will, it is more like saying: "ok, I'm not in control because I am so fat and I have not studied hard enough" etc.

3rd will: Where you can basically turn any situation to whatever you want. You really have learned to "master" the situation. (But this is still from an ego-perspective.) What "the secret" followers are after. Many "successful" people have learned this. Anthony Robbins is a good example. This is also one of the big "Darth Vader" opportunities - What are you going to use your power/control for? (Well, the "Darth Vader move" never goes away, but it is very apparent here)

4th will: Universal will: The title is almost the best description.
The will of God, where you are in sync with nature, your true nature, and there is no need to control anything. This, to the ego, feels like being controlled, and it will give you a serious fight to the death before it gives in to it. It feels out of control.

The power to create our realities? Well, from the perspective of just observing the enormous mystery that life is, I just feel this is totally irrelevant. It is happening right now. It is created right now. Creating our realities sounds like "what could be" and rejecting what is.

Steve said...

Here's a way in which we do have some degree of control, and to that extent, do create our own realities:

"My experience is what I agree to attend to." William James

Sally said...

In control?'
maharishi has said free will and destiny are one in the same.

Andra said...

Karma and "mortality" do not mesh, as karma presupposes reincarnation (which makes "death" nothing more than changing ones suit). In full understanding Karmic laws our judgement will enter into new horizons and gain a broader perspective, THEN and only then we shall know and UNDERSTAND than hurting others we only hurt ourselves.

frantheman said...

I've posted this reply elsewhere, Molly (as you know), but I'd like to take the opportunity to repost it here :-) :

Dan Dennett takes up some of the issues raised by Libet (and deals
with them rather well, in my view, in Consciousness Explained, pp.
153-170, Back Bay, NY, 1991). But then, of course, Dennet's
heterophenomenology and Multiple Drafts model allow for a much more
complex and manifold naturalistic view of consciousness in which we
are not compelled to work with an ultimate, atomic, unitary, observing-
judging-deciding "I" (in Dennet's words,"the observer in the Cartesian
theater").
(For those who want a small taste of Dennet's positions I recommend
the following short article: http://ase.tufts.edu/cogstud/papers/jcsarticle.pdf)
Even though we are constrained by all sorts for things, from physical
laws to neuroses, we do, in my opinion, create our realities at very
many levels. One need only contrast a pessimist's glass-half-empty
view with the optimist's glass-half-full view of a given situation.
There are areas in our multiple created realities where we need
control (or perhaps, in some cases, the illusion of control), as well
as other areas where we can trust enough to let go of control. To give
one personal example; as a recovering alcoholic, I need control when I
encounter alcohol, or situations in which alcohol plays a role, or
could play a role. That said, after nearly nine dry years, I need much
less control today than I did eight years ago, perhaps because I have
learned to trust myself more (or maybe my practiced self-conditioning
just works better :-)).
There is something wonderful about being able to let go of control.
This is a central reality of what love is about. And love is another
area in which we create our own wonderful realities - the fact that
they are shared opens whole new dimensions. Trust is essential.
Francis

countsneaky said...

Perhaps, the only control we have in our lives is making choices between perceptions. Since they are only perceptions and defined by our own prejudices, indoctrinations, conditioning, etc., etc, our choices are then
only based on illusions. We may have control only in forming illusions which may or may not have any validity in reality. Ooohhh! I think I just had a brain hernia!

Tim said...

I think we redesign our selves with every choice we make - our perceptions influence those choices - but it is all taking place in an internal, conceptual landscape - the actions that flow from our choices are of more influence, but are "controlled" by the restraints of Universal laws - completely beyond our influence.

Angela said...

There is an excellent article in the current (June 27 - July 3) edition of "New Scientist" Magazine. It's called "Disorderly Genius" and likens the brain to a "pile of sand."

"Have you ever experienced that eerie feeling of a thought popping into your head as if from nowhere, with no clue as to why you had that particular idea at that particular time? You may think that such fleeting thoughts, however random they may seem, must be the product of predictable and rational processes. After all, the brain cannot be random, can it? Surely it processes information using ordered, logical operations, like a powerful computer?

Actually, no. In reality, your brain operates on the edge of chaos."

This has something to do with "critical points" and the likening of the brain (dynamics wise) to earthquakes, avalanches, and wildfires." But this is self-organized activity, as chaotic as the period ruptures may seem.

This seems to coincide with what you have said here. If we can understand the brain and how it operates, we can be less reactive to the results of its processes/dynamic(s).

Neil said...

I'm lucky that I can have a bit of a bender and then climb back on the wagon for months Francis. I find myself depressed with a lack of hope in the world and my own inability not to care and some desperate need for purpose - something I can't find in claptrap or science. To be in control often feels like the opposite to me - to have accepted much that is unacceptable.

Ulysses said...

I mostly disagree with that assessment. Perhaps in short span time constraint moments there is a rash decision process that poses mere split second evaluation. But generally I find that pondering an idea easily allows for the self to initiate free will while directing focus on a desired outcome. I think this is exactly what differentiates how few of us project their realities from most who don't seem to grasp the idea and live in a post state reality always wondering what happened. This may be at the core of human frailty and inability to coalesce. I think it takes a great deal of mental energy to achieve the state of being in control but I see it as highly possible and feel I've accomplished much by living it. I often project on a potential reality then focus on what remedies are necessary for a satisfactory end result should the potential transition to actual. I see it as being one step ahead of what Libet is suggesting. My "self" projects, my brain decides and then I become aware of the decision which I still can veto at the last minute, it's an exercise of my free will.

Suzanne said...

Hi Molly , my thoughts are that if you seek the control of something of any nature , that this would be your ego wanting control and your ego would manifest whatever it is you are putting the energy into.
I think that the ego has a measure of free will , but this in reality is controlled by your concepts of reality. I think that the only true free will would be obtained by someone who has an enlightened consciousness and not bound by the frame work of the egoic mind.

Vamadevananda said...

I agree, it's easy to live ' post - mortem ' lives. It takes a lot to form a focus, sustain self - belief, overtake the inner processes to align its output, and consequently impact the outer events.

It's a drain, and oftentimes immensely trying. Untill, one realises its transcendent ( source and ) value.

Neil said...

On control, I have long believed we are controlled in some way similar to pack animals that cede reproduction to the alphas. We need something that encourages us to contribute and build capital, but seem to have this way out of balance. I'm not convinced the focus on positive individualism is the way and feel we need alternatives (competition) to the money-go-round to let us build.

Lee said...

In many ways we do create our realities, in the ways of how we perceive things certainly. In relation to how the world really is, maybe not so much.

If we each look at a tree in the park, it is the same tree that we stare at, even if our notice picks out things that others do not. So the tree is real, our perception of the tree may differ.

We do have the power of veto and I have long argued that this is the very basis of free will, so yes the fact that we can and do make decisions means we are in control. Think of it like a cars gears.

Those that drive automatics cut out the need to manually depress and engage the clutch, the clutch is still engaged though, but the car does not yet drive itself.

Neil said...

I tend to think pretty biologically about control as it's deep-seated in many animal systems. I think those moments when the conversation lowers when the boss turns up and when people start shuffling paper tell us a lot about control. I don't believe in free will much, other than that we can choose to do the right thing or not - and are often too scared to do much other than follow the herd. Leibniz made the arguments of Escher and Hofstader long ago and we might think of a world of logical possibility. Self seems only known in social context and I fancy a better understanding of biology could be much more useful than philosophy in helping us be aware of what is happening to us. I suspect we have lost control in leadership and it's become nasty, bitchy (not much to do with the increased presence of women) and lacking in that empathy that tells us to respect others and only rarely over-ride their concerns. The mechanisms in this are crude.

Molly Brogan said...

I agree Slip, in that it has taken me many years of examining my "moment" ...what I am seeing, how I am feeling, what I am thinking, what is around me in each moment...and...responding based on my highest potential. Most of it comes second nature to me now. Can we choose what we like and dislike? Most definitely, I think that we choose what we value, choose the meaning in our lives, choose the quality of our relationships by choosing our perspective and our actions. And yet, there is that seemingly random element to life that comes along and turns it upside down...the stock market crash...sudden war...unexpected death...events that consciously we would not choose for ourselves and yet they are part of our experience. We even sometimes joke or believe that events like an eclipse can have a larger effect on our behavior than our own conscious mind. I pose this question about control because I cannot say that I am in control even though, in the moment, I am aware and respond in ways that allow the greatest possibility known to me.

I was surprised when someone in a group accuse me of dishonesty for pasting some of the same conversations as this one, on to my blog. It is no secret that I post the same query in many internet groups, and combine responses on my blog. This bloke seemed to take it offense, even though the group admin allowed the cut and paste because of public domain (or fair use.) Perhaps his reaction to this thread was the gift of an example of how folks can lash out when they need to feel in control, but are not. How we respond in these situations tells us volumes about our need to control and if we can examine our reactions, our perspective and character. My hope for this bloke is that he finds his way though anger and need to control to a greater peace that he knows is possible and often speak about in the group. In the mean time, I have stopped including his comments.

As I find my work all over the internet in interesting places also, I can empathize with this reaction. The booming industry of intellectual property and the law is a reflection of this. What I tell myself is, that unless my words show up in places that are destructive or inappropriate (and they have) they are simply part of the Logos, and if my intended meaning is whole, they will be received in the same spirit. Even if they are holding a space of spirit in an environment of hate, they are holding the space of spirit where there was none before.

Lee said...

we can and do change how we choose to react to these established values. I was reared as a racist, I am not a racist.

Once we start to use our reason, many, many, many 'established values' can be examined and if need be our reaction to them can be changed. What enables that change?

Justin said...

It is possible to not want what one does want. It is impossible to choose what one does choose.

The word "decide" in this phrase: "I decide which hand to raise" is different from the word "decide" in this phrase: "I decide whether it is raining out" (assuming I am not seeding the clouds with silver nitrate!).

In the second case there is a reality that I must interrogate in order to detect the truth of the situation. In the first case there is no reality that I can interrogate because, once in possession of the answer I could just "choose" the opposite. In the first case I "make" the reality when I "make" the decision. (There is a similar ambiguity in the word "determine")

Now all "deciding" in the first sense occurs within a "capability" that I do not make. It is possible that I should decide to raise my right hand and when I try to it does not raise. No "making" of any decision is ex nihilo. Nevertheless within my capability I decide.

The question is then asked which of the two meanings of "decide" should be applied to "what I want". Is desire determinable by the will. In the Medieval world the notion of virtue and vice was related to the notion of habit. It was perceived that what one "desired" was not necessarily what would make one happy - or at least fulfilled. Instead there was a realization that, like the alcoholic that "wants" a drink, having it might bring worse misery. Some might say it brings pleasure now at the expense of pleasure later. It was believed that by "training" the will, causing the decision to be against what one "wants" in the immediate sense, then the will gradually adjusted like a tree that requires a rope to bend at first but gradually grows that way. One becomes habituated to the decision and eventually the affective motivational structure is changed and one "wants" the Good - or to say it another way - one would become virtuous. Virtue then consists in wanting what will actually make you happy or at least fulfilled, achieved through a habit of choosing what will achieve that same happiness or at least fulfillment *independent* of what one wants right now.

This set up culturally the disaster of the notions of "virtue" and "vice" being miss-perceived - that caused them to be perceived as being not related to what one wants - especially as the plays out with respect to sexuality. It is this mis-perception that often lies at the heart of the distinction between sincere liberals and conservatives in America. The theory of kundalini and its relation to the chakras is a good way to understand this.

Justin said...

So this seems to point to a dual structure of desire. There is "what you want right now" and "what you really want". Hence the phrase "It is possible not to want what you do want". It is just a play on words that distinguishes between the desire for immediate gratification and either latter gratification or in some cases in a larger desire as to the desired meaning that one wants for ones life. In a sentence: "Desires can be conflicting."

As an example, imagine a firefighter who goes into a burning building and rescues a young child. Assume that he knows that it will cause certainly his own death. Does he "want" to do it? In a sense yes, on balance perhaps, but in a very real way no - it is the opposite of what he wants and he wishes really that these circumstances were not present.

The notion of "compulsion" further complicates the picture because of the difficulty that can be experienced in actually doing "what one wants" in the final sense of the phrase.

It seems to me that this difference answers the question and that desire is not something that I cause by my decision but is something real that I perceive with the caveat that I may, through habituation be able to affect it somewhat and within the realization that my desires can be conflicting and also that the results of my actions can be such that a decision has a good benefit now but is a disaster latter etc. but realizing that at the bottom of it if I have any desire at all it is not a result of my will. The ultimate basis of my desire is not my choice. It is something given to me that I must perceive clearly.

Justin said...

Now when we look at this desire carefully instead of casually the plot thickens enormously. It does now and as we gain control of our affective natures through biological manipulation of our - well - I think neurology is overrated and endocrinology is underrated but you get the drift. Once we have that power the crisis will occur. It is already starting and you can hear it in the abortion debate but that is just a dull harbinger. The problem of desire and its expression in the experience of religious ecstasy, the will to power, the basic desires for food etc all must be resolved. We *must* see what it is we *really* want in an environment where we will be able to "manufacture" wants. Ethics and aesthetics merge into a single motivational force that must be perceived in order to know how to decide. The absence of care in this area and the presence of "power mongering" that results will decide whether we become insects not in some abstract way but literally. It is a choice we as a people will soon face.

So are we in control? What do I think? Well to coin a phrase *you betcha*. Perhaps not completely as we are limited by our capabilities that are a result of being and not our own creation but within being our capabilities are there and within being they are increasing very rapidly and we are just about to enter an historical era where control of our biology will overwhelm all previous historical trends and create an unprecedented problem.

The relationship of cognition to this problem adds another layer. The "forgetful-ness of Being" that Martin Heiddegar talks about, the notion of original sin in Western religion, and the notion of Maya in eastern religions - the fact and possibility of "conversion" not in some abstract religious sense but in the sense of a young boy afraid to jump in the water who suddenly summons his courage and in excitement "jumps" in - all of that must be dealt with if we are to "decide" correctly.

There will be those who say "there is no correct way you are free' to choose whichever way you want to go". It just doesn't wash because of the ontological structure of desire.

So my response - what I think - Is hell yes, we are in control and frankly, given how we behave and looking at the train we are on there is tremendous risk up the pike. A likely derailment even. What we, as a people and species will become is what is at stake. The hope is found only in the fact that we have been improving over the years. Even Bush did not light his garden with the flaming crucified.

For those who don't care because "they will already be dead" the only thing I can say is I think you are wrong about what you want. Yes, yes I know, only *you* are the authority on what *you* want, *you* can "decide" the issue. But all I can say is - just take another look.

Justin said...

Excuse me the first line of my post should have read....

...it is impossible to choose to not choose what one does choose...

Jim said...

For years I've pondered what goes on as I think and speak. Paying close attention to what I say when in discussions with others, I find that I really don't know what I'm going to say; I just have an urge to speak and know how to begin what I want to say. I only find out what I think as I speak - amazing. (Now if only I could develop that veto power you mention.) For most of my life I'd just taken it for granted that I was some sort of logic and memory machine that processed information and reached rational conclusions. Now I completely doubt that model. I find to be more and more true that we just seem to be actors on a stage, speaking lines that our prompter gives us. Disappointing to the ego, but still interesting. Thanks for all the info about this line of thinking, and thanks to all the others for their contributions to the thread too. I really couldn't care less, Molly, if you've posted it elsewhere. I'm just glad you posted it here.

Ulysses said...

Yes, the moment Molly, a key element in this process. I'm developing a triangulate here with Neil's animal take, my future projections and the actual moment. Examining the animal might be relevant in that differing species exhibit varying levels of control. The grizzly bear may just charge without consideration of danger while the house cat may just sit in contemplation in view of the edible enticement you are dangling and of course the dog wolfed it down in one second (possible finger loss). There is also the predator aspect, the calculating moment to achieve the kill and why did Mike Tyson bite off the ear of his opponent?. So considering the animal influence we should therefore take into consideration the human animal when evaluating human ability to seize the moment or more succinctly suspend the moment to allow for the synthesis of visual/physical stimuli and cerebral activity. I spend most my mornings thinking about how I want to mold my day and consider all that might happen within the day thereby conjuring up ideas on how I might control each issue in such a way as to make it conducive to a pleasant one. There are times that I feel a sense of uneasiness and literally cancel the day out, moving all activity into the next day or thereafter. This is the essence of self control within the self and the external. As you say there are unforeseen events that can skew the external world but then again they will only influence your world as much as you let them or as much as you are personally connected to the fallout. The level of your integration in the external world will determine the level of control you have within it and within the self. If you remember I've stressed the importance of my personal avoidance of the external world, I keep my distance and rather participate in the voyeuristic sense. There are other aspects that we could incorporate in the exploration of self and control, such as Jung's shadow and Nietzsche's take of overcoming the self to reach higher levels of consciousness. There is obviously an underlying concept here of "confronting the self" and "recognition and reconstruction" of self motivations in order to achieve that level of "control". So we as individuals must make effort to overcome the self, examine our inner being, confront, recognize and reconstruct in order to manifest our inner projections. This is the only way we can actually be "in control".

Molly Brogan said...

I agree, Justin, with your exquisite look at desire and the point of decision and our imperative to participate consciously. I would add that imagination, and more specifically, what Neville would call awakened imagination is key in how the universe responds specifically to our questions, desires and visions. From this viewpoint, all has changed and the basis of our responses changes in proportion to our experience. And yet - that random element remains - call it divine will - call it a reflection of collective consciousness - call it our unconscious participation. There is something there that cannot be denied or predicted.

Given that, I fully agree that the unexpected elements of life should not prevent us from participating in a way that demands our awareness and responses allowing the greatest good for all.

I just finished the book - The Years of Rice and Salt. It is a fascinating look at the development of science in areas of the world that are primarily Islamic and Buddhist. It also is a fascinating perspective on life, reincarnation and the bardo. At the end of the book, the main character gains the understanding that there is very little difference between life and bardo, and his life experience begins including both. At that point, his soul group, or the same characters that are involved in his life in each lifetime, becomes everyone living. In the end, there are no roles to play or lessons to learn, there is just being and becoming and peace. Peace with the expected and the unexpected.

Ulysses said...

Well Molly, your "allowing the greatest good for all" part seems off my list. My approach appears to be more selfish than that. I expressed a disengagement from the external, not necessarily an indifference but a personal, self imposed division while maintaining a juxtaposition. Further, it is the animal correlation and the many facets of control exhibited by that kingdom. While we represent a distant part of it, we are nonetheless a part and that would have bearing upon your control issue.

Considering further the issue of control, I would have to ask myself if I am really in control or do I focus on the cosmos in order to transfer the control over to some other universal energy that seems to work for me while at the same time thinking that I am in control or controlling a situation, morphing from the controller to the controlled in a metaphysical sense.

Molly Brogan said...

This may very well be the point where we differ, Slip. I do not see myself as separate from my shadow, the animal kingdom, you, anyone else or any part of the vast experience called living. If I am allowing the greatest good for all, I am allowing the greatest good for my self, because all facets of my experience are of me, internal and external. I don't think that we can barricade ourselves from the external or the internal and find a comfortable level of integration, although we may find a comfort zone for living for awhile. It seems to me that the more we look away from what makes us uncomfortable in an effort to control our lives, the more what we find uncomfortable comes into our experience in one way or another, usually in ways that are out of our control, like a shadow projection.

Vamadevananda said...

" Considering further the issue of control, I would have to ask myself if I am really in control or do I focus on the cosmos ... "

Looking entirely at the process I am familiar with, I find that this sense of " control," as in ' I ' am in control over ... myself, situation, something other than I ... keeps us on the path, at on - the - job - training as it were, but does not leave us ' free ' of the consequences / results that follow the moment, necessitating a review of our past ( action, judgment, belief ... ) and judging ourself in turn, which sticks and usually ' fudges ' our view of the future moment already upon us.

There is a need therefore to transcend the subject - object sense of control, however it is arrived at. The sense here is : Clarity, of the moment, that which is present, the now, including ( and strictly limited to ) all that is pertinent -- both the ' I ' and what it is faced with.

The Clarity I speak of covers what is in our view and what that ( which is in our view ) is doing to us ... to our emotion, to our mind, in our intellect, and to the ' I ' as we then are.

In the process, we are certainly called upon to answer : What do I want ? Which really isn't simple, as Justin's post elsewhere eloquently lays out. The question : What is desirable ? ... quickly reveals its obverse : What is electable ? The desirable is rooted in the ' I ' and the electable in the Whole or Totality. With our materialised habits, we cannot avoid proceeding with the desirable, that would leave us satisfied in the immediate time - frame. With experience though, of far more dissatisfaction with ourself, we wake up to the practise of sensing the electable, prescribed by the Whole or Eternity, as it were. Greater clarity of the electable spiritualises our habits. Molly's take of " allowing the greatest good of all " becomes meaningful in this context, of the electable.

Spiritual finesse takes us to the point when the desirable and the electable coincide. Which is not to say that matters become simplistic. We may have to elect " to kill " or " to destroy " or " to lie." Just as clearly as when we are called upon to elect the opposites. One would still suck. The other would be our good karma !

Finally, in it all, the actual result that manifests or materialises leaves us untouched. There is Eternity, for our actions to come true, for the good of oneself and of others ! Amen.

Molly Brogan said...

"in it all, the actual result that manifests or materialises leaves us untouched. There is Eternity, for our actions to come true,"

this may indeed be the point where the illusion of control falls away...yet our desire remains, and possibility (electable?) is infinite, and so our experience is manifest, whether or not we are aware of our role in it.

Ulysses said...

You've sorted through much more of the complexities, Vam. I especially think the elective aspect weighs in quite heavy. It almost seems to be one that all else impinges upon. What would all else matter if there did not exist the electable for the desired end result or an end result that was not an electable. It is actually like making choices from objects that are not available. Therefore the need for clarity becomes essential in the process as does being realistic.

Vamadevananda said...

I believe, from my limited experience, that Molly's assertion is right. With that unifying clarity, desire then willed come true, action then performed come good. It is the circularity in the phenomena that restrains me : then, one does not will what is not to come true, one does not act except in the cause of goodness to be. How ? Or, Why ? I cannot answer. That's for each one of us to discover and know.

Francis said...

I've just been looking over Molly's blog. Personally, I don't have any problem with Molly reproducing my posts here. She acknowledges all contributing groups openly as a source and - given that anyone on the web (with, perhaps, exceptions in places like China and Iran) can read what we post in the groups - I don't see what the big issue is in having it accessible from another source. This is, of course, assuming that our contributions aren't edited or changed without our assent. In fact, I find it interesting to read some posts on the subjects from other sources. I suspect that one result of this discussion will be me looking in on Molly's blog a bit more frequently in the future :-)

Molly Brogan said...

Thanks, Francis! An added bonus. I will say that in terms of the groups, I do not always include the whole thread, and do not copy posts that are not relevant to the topic, wandering off topic, bickering and argumentative, or too obscure to make much sense. It may seem like editing, but it is actually including the posts that are relevant to the topic. I always try to make sure that the main ideas of the conversation are clear and followed through to fruition.

I sometimes send a private email to posters that might be included if I think it necessary, asking permission. Because I do not reproduce these as a commodity, like a book that I sell, I do not believe they are not considered intellectual property, especially given the google conditions and fair use laws. But that is my opinion and I am sure the laws are ever changing and the group admin will work it out. Thanks Francis, and everyone who has voiced their support.

It is a nice segue into a discussion of "control" of public domain of the internet and openness and freedom of information and learning that results from our instantaneous access to information via the net. Do we really need to be in complete control of everything we write onto the web from our computers (I am not sure it is possible...) or is it more of a matter of morals and ethics (should we be writing anything we wouldn't want everyone in the world to see...

I have google searches performed daily of my name, company name etc. Google emails me every day with what they find on the web. The darndest things show up, and I find myself on myriad blogs and webpages. I have found very few instances where I asked that my name or articles be removed from a site. When I do, folks have always complied although given the current state of the laws, I really have no recourse to "make" them other than spending a ton of money pressing the legal issues if fair use does not apply or one of my copyrights has been violated. I think this is the way it should be. There is a freedom here, that benefits us in ways we cannot imagine. It connects us globally, and we discuss issues and think about things in ways that we might not otherwise. Why try to control it?

Michael said...

We have never been in control nor will we ever. The Creator controls, we the creatures go along with the program. At a personnel level We can modify some of the details, like our choice for breakfast, cornflakes or rice crispy's but in the end all must eat something. At a Macro level you must service the Creation and if you refuse,your passed over and replaced until Karman the Great Teacher shows you, your place and redirects your inharmoniousness into harmony.

Molly Brogan said...

"in it all, the actual result that manifests or materialises leaves us untouched. There is Eternity, for our actions to come true," - Vam

this may indeed be the point where the illusion of control falls away...yet our desire remains, and possibility (electable?) is infinite, and so our experience is manifest, whether or not we are aware of our role in it.

Vamadevananda said...

With that unifying clarity, desire then willed come true, action then performed come good. It is the circularity in the phenomena that restrains me : then, one does not will what is not to come true, one does not act except in the cause of goodness to be. How ? Or, Why ? I cannot answer. That's for each one of us to discover and know.

Allan said...

I agree with you lee, but like all religious books and dogma, they are made of mans ideas of what God wants. Often times people place their own ideas into something as they want God's view to be. They have been doing that for eons literally.

Lee said...

Well Alan I have to slightly disagree with that. Yes of course you are correct, but I would say that much searching of holy scripture needs to be done to find the true words that come direct from the divine. That they are there I am in no doubt, but ahhh man how to sort the wheat from the chaff huh?

Allan said...

Lee that is the tough part, But you have it right oddly the way I do it is much like tossing the wheat and chaff. You take a winnowing basket (Life ) place the teachings of God and man in it ant throw everything in the air, and the wind blows the chaff away. It seems to me that the Grain is very compact and dense, where the ideas of man are very verbose and light by nature. It seems that the wisdom of God never places blame, to me that is an oddity I have found over the years.

Edward said...

17 USC Sec. 102 holds your answer. TITLE 17 - COPYRIGHTS, CHAPTER 1 - SUBJECT MATTER AND SCOPE OF COPYRIGHT, Sec. 102. Subject matter of copyright: In general

(a) Copyright protection subsists, in accordance with this title, in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. Works of authorship include the following categories:
(1) literary works;
(2) musical works, including any accompanying words;
(3) dramatic works, including any accompanying music;
(4) pantomimes and choreographic works;
(5) pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works;
(6) motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
(7) sound recordings; and
(8) architectural works.

This is the raw law. Let me point you to http://uscode.house.go /download/pls/17C1.txt which along with the above law also has the historical and revision notes which describe what the law is intended to encompass and how it should be interpreted.

Molly Brogan said...

thank you, Ed, for the
research and legal opinion on copyright. Is this what Jim meant by
fair use? your effort and support
is much appreciated.

Edward said...

Title 17 Chapter 1 Section 107 (Limitations on Exclusive rights: Fair use)

§ 107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use

Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include --

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.

Neil said...

I sometimes try to work out how much of what I read, write, see and hear is original. Little enough is witty. My guess is that most is just fashion pretending originality in old argument created over and over again. My belief is that honesty has been absent so long that we may get round to seeing that as original again. I'm stuck trying to say something fresh about Darwin just now and am trying not to read about him to provoke a little creativity. Horrible phrase like 'a homology of sameness in difference' flit across the mind. I have already read far too much! If Molly fits that phrase into her simulacrum who knows what might copy what to no purpose whatsoever?

Ulysses said...

I hear evangelists speak of turning your life over to God, letting the Holy Spirit guide you. I hear of following rules and regulations, laws and dictum of governing bodies. I ask myself, where is there any room left for us to have any control? This goes beyond the Molly post as being self and the awareness of decision that was made prior. Are we not mostly controlled beings? Isn't control limited to our personal space and even then limited to no one knowing about that space? Isn't it true, what has been said, that the only privacy we have is that which exists in our minds? But then again, when we talk about control, spiritual control, external control isn't that also a matter that is questionable?

Allan Parker said...

What was it somebody said "Out of chaos comes order"?

In the every day life of humans there has to be some community control for sure, but within the individual there lies expansive room to freely let the imagination run wild. In the book Papillon, while he was in solitary confinement (controlled), he was actually living the life of Riley on some sunny Caribbean island, with a gorgeous wife and everything he could ask for. To those around him, his life was dark and solitary, while in his "reality" he was joyous and free. It's a wonder he wasn't tanned when they finally let him out!

I guess what I'm getting at is, yes, we are controlled to some extent in our communal lives, but our spirit and imagination offer freedom. They cannot be bound or taken away from us. In the relative impact of control in my life, the boundaries I am subjected to are bearable, and I have all the rope I need to go hang myself with the colossal freedom that I enjoy. An enthusiastic criminal may not feel the same way, and I am happy about that.

As long as ones ambition to do something is not considered criminal or harmful to others, there are not many meaningful control mechanisms that restricts the freedom to pursue most activities imo.

Lee said...

Yeah I sorta agree with you. We are largely free where it really matters, in the head. But do we really have ultimate control over ourselves?

I can't help but think that if I don't eat then I die, so there is no control there at all, I must eat or die, this is not my choice and so I have no control over it.

Ulysses said...

Would you actually go that far as to say the necessity of eating is a control issue. You know you love your sausage grilled, butcher Lee, and the other cuts as well. I don't recall you being a vegan. But point is we love to eat, we choose to eat and fact is we eat more than is necessary to survive which makes it a definite "choice" and not a control. We might as well add in bodily functions as being a control thing if we look at it your way. Is it a control issue because I sweat when it is hot humid?