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The spirit of adventure

Ancient wisdom impresses our minds with a freshness that is truly staggering.  What we name the material world, for example, cannot be said (with any confidence ) to exist anywhere except in a human consciousness.  We can only know the world because we are conscious of it.  We cannot go outside of our consciousness to verify that there is world ‘out there’.  For to go outside of consciousness is to be unconscious – and aware of nothing.

Fireside adventures

When we are truly unconscious, the material world simply dissolves ; so does time ; and so does space.

The great twentieth-century physicist, Max Planck, even went so far as to say, “Consciousness is everything ; matter is derived from consciousness.”

The building blocks of ‘recognizable’ matter are atoms.  But, as Bertrand Russell reminded us, these are known only by sets of difficult mathematical equations whose interpretation is obscure.   For nobody has ever directly seen an atom, and nobody ever will.  The models we learn at school and elsewhere are just that,- models.

But consciousness, where we do our seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling and maths, is obviously not a material thing.  Perhaps Ernest Rutherford made it plainest, “Whether we like it or not, we live in a spiritual world.”  We seem to have derived our spirit of adventure from that world.

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Before Descartes, roses were red and violets were blue.  Since Descartes, that has changed.  Since Descartes, body and mind have been split asunder ; the world and the person have become two distinct (and some say incompatible) things ; matter and spirit have been divorced.  This was not all Descartes’ fault ; it was not his intention ; but it resulted from people adopting his philosophy.

So why are roses no longer red?  Because the rose of itself has been split from our perception of the rose.  The rose is one thing ; our perception of it is another.  The rose is a material thing, while our perception of it is a psychic, or spiritual, thing.  The rose exists in the world, while our perception of it is a cognitive model of that existence.  This view of things is quite logical but it has some puzzling consequences.

The rose is now no longer red, because redness is a psychical quality ; redness  exists in our consciousness but not in the material world.  It is a quality that exists in our consciousness, but not in our material brains.  You may examine a brain as closely as you like, but you will find no redness in there ; in fact, you will find no roses in there either.

After Descartes, the relation between our selves and the world has become bewildering.  So bewildering that many people are now afraid of psychology ; afraid of psychical phenomena ; in fact, afraid of themselves.

And yet, they are fascinated by it all.  They feel drawn to it willy-nilly.

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I remember being indoctrinated at school.  “There’s knowledge in books,” they said.  “Lies,” I thought, “There’s only paper and ink.”  And all that paper and ink in the book is meaningless ; knowledge exists only in minds.

I tested my hypothesis by consulting a book written in Greek ; it conveyed nothing intelligible to me at all.  I then consulted a book written in English ; it conveyed a wonderful story to me.  Is it something about Greek ink that causes this strange difference?  or Greek paper?  At any rate, I concluded that the experiment supported my hypothesis : there is no knowledge in books.

But was I right in my thinking?  Wouldn’t it be truer to say that there is knowledge in books for those with eyes to see and a mind to understand?  If this is so, then there has to be more to a book than mere paper and ink.  What is that ‘something more’?  And where does it come from?  It cannot be a material thing, for nothing material is added to  the paper and ink.

Dare one say that, if knowledge (or wisdom) is not a material thing, then it must be spiritual.  Knowledge is not a quantity but a quality.  And if it comes from somewhere, then surely it has to come from either the writer or from the reader ; or from both.  Or does it come from language itself?  Does the writer merely re-arrange the knowledge inherent in the words? So the words are the material symbols which represent (and are connected to) the spiritual knowledge.  And is the reader’s mind stimulated by the sight of the material symbols, so as to awaken his own spiritual knowledge to the new arrangement of words?

I have no doubt that some of the very finest of minds have unravelled this mystery.  I shall be content to wonder at the hidden power of words.

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