I enjoyed "the end of faith"very much.In my mind the epilogue is
the most important chapter of this most lucid book.After having
destroyed our idols,Sam offers us a glimpse of the higher reality.
Truly,one has to be blind not to see that the god of the Bible is
nothing but a composite of all the ancient deities.These deities
were themselves reflections of man's own visions filled with Love
and Selfishness,Ignorance and Thirst for Knowledge.The
pictures,the golden calves,the empty-eyed carvings,the jupiters
are gone,but we have not succeeded in destroying the spiritual
idols that these images embodied and from which we have
recreated an image of God that is just as improbable and illogical.
P.226-"Indeed,we know enough at this moment to say that the God of Abraham is not only unworthy of the immensity of creation;he is unworthy even of man."
P.227-"This universe is shot thru with mystery.The very fact of its being,and of our own, is a mystery absolute, and the only miracle worthy of the name. The consciousness that animates us is itself central to this mystery and the ground for any experience we might call "spiritual"....."for us to realize, one fine day, that we do in fact love our neighbors, that our happiness is inextricable from their own, and that our interdependence demands that people everywhere be given the opportunity to flourish.
In my opinion,Sam Harris shows a great clearness of thinking and a
deep love for the unfathomable beauty of the universe.My hope is
that "The End of Faith" will be followed by another lucid book;one
where he would explore with us the ways by which higher states of
consciousness are achieved and the ecstasy that surges into the
person who reaches that state.I have no doubt that if a framework
of parameters can be elaborated to analyse the visions and the
allegories by which the visionaries pass-on their revelation, Sam
would meet the challenge.He has shown that he can express with
clarity the intuitions and apprehensions that have transformed the
beast who once shared this planet as equal with the great apes
and the other animals into what we call "Man" today;ultimately
isn't man's capacity to experience Love- this overarching concern for
the well-being of something or someone other than himself the
only difference that separates Man from the beast ? Could it be
that Man was born at the very moment that his consciousness
was awakened to the reality that he was sharing life with all other
life around him?The acquisition of knowledge is directly associated
with this capacity to take the Other into our consciousness.
. . . ultimately isn’t man’s capacity to experience Love- this overarching concern for the well-being of something or someone other than himself the only difference that separates Man from the beast ? Could it be that Man was born at the very moment that his consciousness was awakened to the reality that he was sharing life with all other life around him?The acquisition of knowledge is directly associated with this capacity to take the Other into our consciousness.
I enjoyed your poetry, 3-D. It’s something I often wish I had more ability with, and I’ve been hoping for more writers such as you, willing to share their gift. My only correction (in my opinion) is to say that humans inherit the chemistry/circumstances behind what we call love, from “lower” primates, and perhaps even further back evolutionarily.
Care to further discuss what exactly differentiates humans from so-called beasts? I realize it’s an old saw, but I’ve always found the question appealing anyway.
That was a beautiful overview of where Sam Harris was pointing us - and poetic as well. However, I agree fully with homunculus when he states that loving the other is something we probably inherited from “lower” primates. It is our ability to explicitly articulate our “love for the other” that might make us specifically different from other animals but I think they already know what love is in a much more direct and spontaneous way. Perhaps we get fleeting glimpses of that kind of selfless love, but our SELVES are way too predominant in our thinking and in our feeling for us to ever truly get to that sort of pure and unconditional love that many animals experience (and sometimes express to us).
60,000 years ago or so, when our species was squeezed down to just a few thousand individuals, how were we able to survive extinction? Was our aggression tamed by our love, or was our love aided by our aggression? Yes and yes. Did evolution provide us a fine balance between the two? Not at all; but what we had was a good enough balance (probably tipped toward aggression - of course what works changes with the situation), and the luck of that balance working well enough in that east-African environment to get us here. (Balance is too clean of a word because it all ebbs and flows.) Perhaps the aggression required to succeed in a hostile environment, and the evolution of our brains to support our aggression, now obscures 3-D’s inherited selfless love (not to mention the huge shadow cast by CanZen’s “SELF”). This is surely over-simplified - the chaotic, butterfly-effect of a complex species interacting with itself and a constantly changing and challenging environment is impossible to explain, but possible to maybe approximate.
But how we address the challenges we face now to see past our desires for aggression, our desires for cheap explanations (see any book written by a “god”) can certainly point us toward that “higher reality.” Are we correct to think this way? Are others wrong to think otherwise? All we really have is the evidence before us to help us decide. If we think we’re right, are we obliged to preach this gospel to others?
If we were able to strip away everything we have learned (or been brain-washed by), and have only what we inherit, our basic instinct is to survive. Basic morality comes from this instinct. If survival is not a goal, what would basic morality look like then? Thus, I have a instinctive problem with those who would have me not survive, really regardless of the reason. Maybe our ultimate survival as a species really does lie in the Koran and tribalism. The evidence before us may point to a self-evident solution, but the best solutions can easily be counter-intuitive, counter to the evidence at hand. But all we have is the evidence, and to throw that away, when our very survival is on the line, is unacceptable.
Once we have survival, an individual is fulfilled by different degrees of challenges and freedoms. Too much of either will leave one defeated, dead or empty, any of which runs counter to survival. With our tendency to project our feelings onto others, we don’t really want to see others suffer (this tendency is broader and gives rise to anthropomorphism) and it’s nice to see others happy. This last part sounds a little sappy. Anyway, I hope I’ve added something here. Thanks for the inspiration. It’s late and I’m tired now.
I have never been satisfied with my previous answer.I got carried away in a different “stream of consciousness” as my wife would call it,and it also missed a lot of different issues that all of you raised.
I hope that this will get closer to what I want to express.
Based on the ideas elaborated in my letter to The Champ, “Be Carefull”, this is how I view man’s relationship with nature.I will use imagery that The Champ could probably follow, since my mind does not seem to be as quick and nimble as yours,I am affraid; just like I was doing great in Physics with the old british system until all the familiar concepts had to be grasped and explained with calculus and differential equations! I was struggling, let me tell you!
So,for all the reasons I tried to convey to Champ,from the day life appeared on this planet,life was conscious;when an organism becomes capable of reflecting on itself, it should therefore, become aware of the whole,also alive and conscious.
We just don’t know at what point a specific animal becomes capable of reflecting on itself,but I think it fair to say that any conscious thing could follow the train of thougth I elaborated with the Champ.And find the big flaw in it,I suppose;I count on you guys for that.
But in the progression of complexity of all different life forms we reach a point where there is no doubt that some animals are aware and conscious and capable of all the things man is capable of doing;in different degrees of course,but this is just a matter of adaptation rather than mental capacity.Just like we can imagine flying like a duck but never be able to do it .A duck could very easily perceive us as inferior to itself for that,if in its consciousness the idea of superior and inferior ever arose.
Animals in possession of this knowledge that they are conscious; capable of concluding thru the computing of their brain,that they are a part of the whole that they experience around them,could very well be wise enough to live-on without feeling a need to change the way they live.After all,there is enough wonder in the life of any animal to keep ist consciousness satisfied for its whole existence.
Living alongside them,are the humanoids,who for some reason become ‘flawed’;until now they have shared the same habitat,in a sort of equilibrium.Now ,a defective program starts running in his internal computer,with the result that a concept of “not good enough” starts coloring his consciousness.A concept that something is better if it is made different.This concept may be present sporadically in some animals,but here,in the humanoid,it is like a virus taking over the whole consciousness .
The whole idea that something is better changed,ineluctably (don’t ask where I got that word,it just came!)leads to the idea that something is good and it’s opposite is bad.
You see where I am going with this now,I am sure.
In my experience with animals,as limited as it is,the concept of good and bad does not seem to be present ,or rather to be working in the same way.Animals seem to be attracted to what is safe and sustaining, and frightened away by what looks or feels threatening.Pleasure and pain, acquired by direct learning,Will then increase the attraction or the fright.Could it be that what we call “love” in animals is simply a case of hightened attraction;as soon as the object of attraction proves to cause pain,the attraction is replaced by fear and flight.I wonder if it is that simple?
The concept of good and bad could be what is at the origin of man’s creativity,in the sense that we feel compelled to do things that will change our environment.
The concept of good and bad is also a “self reflectice"concept,if I may express the idea this way:
Good is always expressed as what is good for Me.Even our most altruistic notions have the flavor of Good because they satisfy an idea in our mind.
Bad always comes from outside of me.It is never Me who is bad for me, but the other.
That concept of Good and Bad is a phenomenon unique to man’s mind,I think.
And because Good is always from Me,
And because Bad can only be from You,
Everywhere You and Me are,
We will have discord,
We will have fights,
We will have War.
And the endless cycles of discord,fighting and war,
Are the spinning sword
That keep You and Me
From reentering paradise.
Is it not what the story is all about?
It was truly a poison fruit,
That came from the Tree of Knowledge
Of Good and Bad.
Woops!Sorry about this last bit .It was stronger than me,but I guess you know me by now.
Anyway,I truly think that there is more to the stories than what the stories tell.They were written by men like us .And inside of us we have these intuitions that we can only express thru our own reality.
I hope that I did not bore you with this long rambling.Does any of this make sense to you?
Recenlty I watched National Geographic or Discovery or one of those channels on the Dark Side of Apes or Monkeys or something.
It showed a gang of adolescent male chimpanzees roving out of their “territory” and killing a young male of another “pod”.
I know from watching shows about wolves that within the pack, they are capable of self sacrafice for the good of the pack, but only within their pack, they would not do the same for a wolf outside the pack.
I know dolphins are also extremely aggressive, especially the males, and somewhat chavanistic even, they also organize in pods, and within those pod exhibit “love”.
I have thought long and hard about “love” and what “kinds of love” are instinctive for the survival of the species, and I begin my thinking by asking what emotion is it that we call “love” that we do not share with animals?
Loyalty to the tribe(self-sacrafice)....animal
Loyalty to the territory(patriotism)....animal
Well, I was left with two things I haven’t found animals do that humans do, so these must be counter to instinct and the result of our consciousness….
Care and Feeding of Elderly or members unable or too old to contribute….(most pack animals who become useless however go off to die on their own, elephants do seem to try to care for those that are hurt…so I am still thinking about this one)
Compassion toward members or others outside your tribe or your territory….never have seen it, this alone seems to be the only human brand of “love” that is not instinctive, that is not necessarily based on survival instincts, that is counter-intuative to survival, and coincidently, it is also the kind of “love” that was at the core of the teachings of Jesus and OTHER people we consider “holy”. Some animals will adopt orphaned infants and adolescents, but to me that is maternal love, not evidence of compassion.
To sum up, I think our survival instincts end with our own pack or tribe, with those we identify with. The result of higher consciousness is to understand that all those that our outside our group or tribe are also human, and deserve to be treated as such, and that even those that can no longer contribute to the survival of the pack deserve care and feeding to alleviate suffering. In effect, it can be considered just a broadening of the definition of tribe to include all humanity, but I think that definition misses the recognition of “others as self” we have become capable of.
I am not sure when humans developed this vision, although I can find traces of it some of the older mythologies. But for sure we have not perfected it.
I think you have just put your finger Right on the clue,of where altruistic love could originate as a concept in our mind.
By living in pack,or tribe ,we experience that our survival depends on the co-operative bond of every member of the group.At some point,also,the members of the group ,become more tolerant of each other,because they know from experience that in spite of conflicting urges,they can all live better,let alone survive.Often,shunning by the pack, is an automatic death sentence,with no protection from predators,and no prey to share.
From tolerating another member of the tribe results a more intimate acquaintance;I see that often when we introduce new ducks to our flock.At first,the new arrivals are picked-on by most,specially if they are of a different specie.But soon they settle in a tight group,extremely tight when they feel threatened.Last spring,we had ducks who were joining their nests and sharing the sitting;when one ducks wanted to leave the nest for food or excercise,the other would pull her eggs into her own nest.We even saw one of our smaller duck, “tucking” a big white mama of a different specie on her massive nest,going around picking up bit of duvet and stuffing them around the big one.There seemed to be a kind of understanding between them that is hard to describe but fascinating to watch.
So from tolerance,to acceptance to acquaintance I think this leads to better knowledge of the other.And to me ,logically,knowledge and love are inseparable.In the same way,conscious love ,or rather knowledge,that the other is necessary for our wellbeing,leads us to try to find out about the other.The moment we have crossed that kind of invisible “barrier” this kind of innate distrust of what is foreign to us,true love is being born…which leads to ever greater knowledge.
To sum up, I think our survival instincts end with our own pack or tribe, with those we identify with.
And 3-D Scrabble wrote:
So from tolerance,to acceptance to acquaintance I think this leads to better knowledge of the other.
It would seem we each need for our definition of pack or tribe to include the whole human race rather than isolating ourselves in our specific ethnic, social, national, political, and/or religious groups. Once the majority of people understand that in reality there is only one true pack (humankind), we’ll begin to solve the world’s Big problems.
So now that most of us here have given up the religious barrier, anyone for giving up their social and political affiliations?! The work has just begun ...
I think that the moment we realise that the lives of all humans are intertwined, we realise that it also includes all the life forms that share the planet with us.If all the preachers who preach about the existence of a God took the “beam out of their own eye” and considered that the moment the existence of God is invoqued, it MUST follow that all life is divine and all matter and energy is also divine; otherwise they are only invoking a deity,a concept smaller than the great whole. If they were true to the faith they proclaim, they would teach their followers to see the divinity alive in the other,( man or animal ) looking at them through the others’s eyes.Could they raise their hand in anger at someone just as divine as themselves?Could they withold food or even insult such a one?I suspect our behavior would change very rapidly.
Just how do you make a believer rational in dealing with his concepts?
I’ve been reading Joseph Campbell’s talk with Bill Moyers called “The Power of Myth”. Of course I never would have gotten to that point without Sam’s EOF, so I am grateful. Anyway, the native societies of North America understood of what you speak, that all life is so intertwined. All societies based on the hunt undertood this. They also understood that the basis of all life (except maybe the most basic photosynthesizing organisms, of which I’m sure they were not aware) involves the death of another. I can’t eat buffalo without killing it first. So that animal has made the ultimate sacrifice for me (involuntarily of course) and because I see another Thou there, I feel reverence. Life begets death begets life. The cycle is inescapable, even for the Jains of which Sam speaks. This perspective seems to have an Eastern flavor to it as well, a study I have only begun. “To see the divinity alive in the other,( man or animal ) looking at them through the others’s eyes” is the golden rule. But Jesus was not the first to make this point. As I understand it, you will find this in Hebrew writings dating to before the New Testament (I haven’t seen them myself yet, but I’ve heard about them mentioning this “rule”) as well as sanskrit from the East dating before Christ, and many other places I’m sure.
It seems to me the Christian literalists of today (to pick on one group) have become the Pharisees portrayed in the New Testament, and that these Christians, by embracing so much dogma and exclusion, have completely missed the point. They are following the letter of law and not the spirit of the law.
How do you make a believer rational? I don’t know. I think they need to be shown how to discard part of their irrational beliefs, that is, their dogma, their irrational claims about the divine origins of certain books (thanks Sam). The other part of their irrationality is the mystical/spiritual side, assuming that part hasn’t been murdered by their dogma. That part needs to be retained because that part leads to the realizations of which you speak.
Your question arises again, though How? It’s a frustrating dilemma. Here’s a tangent If “we” have the power and we think we are right and we think they will ultimately destroy us, do we have a moral obligation to kill them first? What if “they” are jihadists hell-bent on reaching paradise and taking us with them? The answer seems sort of easy. What if “they” are “Book of Revelations” literalists trying to get the Armageddon ball rolling with a nuclear bomb to usher in the second coming of Christ? Will civilization as we know it be wiped out in 50 years by these freaks? Sam admits little optimism, and your question of “how”, with a clear answer missing, points in the same direction. How’s that for a Thankgiving message. Bleh! ?
Yes, that book is quite fantastic - and we can actually see that power playing out in many strange ways today, especially by people who don’t understand a damn thing about it! When you finally comprehend the MYTH aspect of ‘belief’ then you can get a true larger picture of the human conditiion and it’s too bad that all the power is in the hands of the literalists in America today.
On the Golden Rule and its origin . . . Confucius (KungFuTze) was one who articulated the earlier version (circa. 650 bce). But his version goes, “What you do not want done to you, do not do to others.” In my opinion, this is the version of the Golden Rule that works best, because “if you do to others what you would want done to yourself” (christian version) then YOU get to decide what is GOOD and that’s an awful lot of power to give to any person. But if you only get to decide what is BAD and refrain from doing it, then it leaves the good to be decided by the larger community and through individual consent, which is the way it should be in a truly ethical system.
I was totally stunned at the love I felt for my newborn baby. It did not hit until after she was actually in my arms. I had wondered how I would fit in as a mother as I was an only child and did not even baby sit for my friend’s kids.
It was a shocking reaction and I wondered if it could be hormornal in some way and would decrease with time. That baby is now 48 years old and the feeling still is as strong as ever. I have seen this with mothers bonding with baby animals and even within certain animals that bond for life.
6 years later I had another baby and bang! I was again taken aback by the emotion of the whole thing.
There’s a lot more to this love stuff than we realize. I never once tried to put God into this emotion because I feared I was quite emotionally insane. Nope, it is quite common among women and some men. I enjoyed every minute of my madness!
I was totally stunned at the love I felt for my newborn baby. It did not hit until after she was actually in my arms. I had wondered how I would fit in as a mother as I was an only child and did not even baby sit for my friend’s kids.
“Stunned.” That’s a good word for it. I felt the exact same wave of emotion and was utterly unprepared for it. I on the other hand was the youngest of five kids, came from a large (42 first cousins counting both sides ... ) and babysat atleast once if not twice a week, plus weekends here and there, all throughout my teenage years and on into my twenties.
For all this immersion in the world of kids and family though, I still preferred being on my own and independent. THE biggest worry I had while pregnant was that after the novelty of a new baby had worn off, I’d get bored with being a mother and want back my freedom and independence.
Eleven years and two more kids later, I couldn’t imagine my life without the incredible experience of being a mother. It’s been by far THE best learning and living experience. And somehow I’ve manage to maintain (more like regain) my sense of independence by following some interests that are solely for my own enjoyment/enlightenment.
To describe what it is to feel that rush of emotion and the attachment/love/concern that never ends to someone who has never been there is impossible, don’t you think? I have tried here and there when I’ve wanted to reassure a new mother-to-be that that feeling will carry them through the fatigue and frustration and give them the motivation to get through the difficult and/or embarassing moments. But no one gets it until the baby actually cries and struggles to open their eyes.
Seems to me all life and death moments share that in common. No one knows the depths of grief from losing a loved one until they do, and no one knows the height of pure joy from birthing a child until they do.
I think we should be optimists.I think a strong stirring, an awakening, is underway. More people are starting to question.The media, the internet, transport our mind, our consciousness, into the lives of others. A lot of good new writers are also contributing to this. If we all knew each other as endless variations of the self, in our needs and aspirations, we would not fear. Do we not always fight as a result of some fear?
How can we do our bit in speeding up the awakening? We have to keep trying to wake up the xtians. The xtian vision in spite of all its absurdities, contains at its heart the One vision we all share: the complete interdependence of all life. Their vision of one creator who warns against judging what is good and what is bad is at the core of the concept but gets buried under so many layers of misinterpretations and absurdities, that unless one stands back and looks at the whole story instead of poring at chapters and verses, reality will never be grasped. To complicate matters, the story was written by so many different tellers, each with his own interpretation of reality.
In other words, I think we have to come up with a different vision of the story, one that includes Reality. Big job.Is this life not marvellous in spite of all the pain? If tomorrow all the xtians could have the vision, what a world this could become. Anyway, if they won’t play, the events will take them there kicking and screaming, as they have in the past. why do we have to get there the hard way in the mean time?