Universal mind and individual mind

Today I pulled together three thoughts that before I had recognized separately 

  1. All mystrical traditions and many moderns who report on psychedelic experiences tell us that we are one.  But individuality is such a powerful illusion, if illusion it be. How to make sense of this unanimity on the subject of oneness in light of the fundamental fact of our senses: that we each experience free will with regard to skeletal muscles of one individual human only?
  2. Thoughts from moment to moment are mostly out of our volitional control.  Anyone who tries to meditate learns this. Maybe I shouldn’t say “tries” to meditate, because this is meditation’s central message.  One becomes aware that whoever “I” is, this entity is not in control of the thoughts with which “I” is so identified.
  3. Experiments in telepathy show a consistently positive statistical effect, but famously unreliable, inconsistent, out of control.  Telepathy is not a modality we can count on to deliver a message, but in a well-designed experiment with just a few hundred trials, we can be confident in seeing the statistical fingerprints of telepathy.  There is certainly an influence of one mind on another, but it is mostly undirected and beneath conscious awareness.

Tentative synthesis: My thoughts have control over my body, but “I” have only partial control over my thoughts.  This is what it feels like to be a part of the universal consciousness. These thoughts that come unbidden to my mind are the universal mind of which my conscious awareness is just a part.  One function of my brain is an antenna which receives thoughts and images from people I am close to, but also from anyone who directs attention toward me, and in part from a larger sphere of humanity or all life and all nature.

universal mind depiction

Old mystics, shamans, acidheads agree
Connection universal binds us all
The I that seems so separate and small
Is but conceit, conditioned vanity.

My mind in meditation doth defy
My will, assimilates unbidden thought.
Thus meditation’s lesson aptly taught
Asks who, if not my neurons, am this “I”?

Our science if more honest, would concede
Statistics show telepathy is real,
Though not a force we hear or see or feel.
From what source do its messages proceed?

From psi research and from my meditation,
The mystics’ message earns consideration.

— Josh Mitteldorf

Twitter Bans the Donald

“President” Trump’s twitter account has been deleted, including past history that goes back to 2009. Twitter spokesperson April Asina announced yesterday that the social media giant was taking the next step in helping the unwashed masses to separate Gospel from Heresy.

Trump could not be reached for comment. None of the usual places that feature his drivel had a single word of it this morning.

It is rumored that White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders held a press conference, but it was sparsely attended, and none of the usual channels seem to be reporting it. It’s hard to tell, because Google News is no longer indexing Trump’s pronouncements, or, for that matter, any news coming from the White House.

In a New York Times OpEd, Lawrence Lessig, professor of media studies at Harvard Law School, wrote, “This is not necessarily a good thing. If they can censor Trump’s lies, they can censor your truth. It’s a slippery slope.” But Lessig’s article was run underneath an unsigned editorial that took a firm stand against Fake News. “People in a democratic society depend critically on a reliable source of news to make the decisions that ultimately control our government. We at the Newspaper of Record pontificate that our democracy cannot survive the divisiveness that is brought about by alternative perspectives.”

“Everyone is entitlted to his own opinion, but not her own facts,” wrote George Stephanopoulos, on the ABC News web page.

Professor Patrick Stokes of Deakin University in Melbourne has probably bloviated more extensively than any other windbag about this question of the thin line between censorship and enforced standards of responsibility in journalism. “The problem with ‘I’m entitled to my opinion’ is that, all too often, it’s used to shelter beliefs that should have been abandoned. It becomes shorthand for ‘I can say or think whatever I like’ and, by extension, continuing to argue is somehow disrespectful,” he explained in The Conversation .

But Susan Herman of ACLU spoke in alarmist terms about a “crisis for our democracy”. “If they can censor the President, you can bet your bippy they won’t stop there.”


Seeking diversion

The sense of this ditty is just to amuse you
Providing distraction, albeit quite brief;
Pretense to instruction would only abuse you,
Command your attention, abscond like a thief.

Bombastic!  Cantakerous! Trumping, galumping
Explosion in ecstasy, fallen to hell;
Salcious, moist body parts, elephants humping,
Revulsion and passion have served us all well.

Still with me, I see? so I must be succeeding
(At least you have not yet turned on the TV.)
Now dare I leave off what’s tlll now kept you reading,
Endeavoring slyly to —— set you free?

To look with astonishment on mere existence
Cannot be a grace that’s evoked by a poem;
’Tis you must endeavor to banish the distance
That separates you from your primeval home.

Something has beaten us down and prevented
Our touching around us what’s present and real;
It sings to us, rainbow-hewed, subtly scented,
Adrift in our heads, we’re unable to feel.

Stop reading!  I mean it. Turn off your computer,
Tune in to the raw state of being in time;
Put down this device, or abandon this book,
Don’t wait for the poet to leave off his rhyme.

Could it be you’re still waiting for me to stop writing?
Well, then, I will

Image result for lightning

A modest proposal

I just received a survey in the mail from the Democratic National Committee asking about my priorities.  There were about a hundred check boxes, but not one related to peace.  (But several asked if I wanted to raise our military profile or “stand up to Putin”.)

Here’s my proposal.  At present, the US military budget is more than 1/3 of the world’s total, more than the next ten countries combined.  That doesn’t include the black budget, hidden from Congress and from the American people, which according to this Michigan State Univ study is three times larger than the official accounting on which the chart below is based.


Effective immediately, I propose that We the People demand our legislators take action to end the black budget and limit the official budget to the sum of Russia + China together.  This comes to an 80% reduction.  Starting tomorrow, we spend only 1/5 as much on guns and bombs.

We should then announce that we will limit our future military spending in the same manner, never to exceed the next two rivals combined, so that as other countries reduce their military, the US will follow them in disarmament.

*Saudi Arabia is a special case.  Historically, they have been the largest supplier of crude oil to the US, and in order to avoid a huge balance of payments imbalance the House of Saud royal family has purchased far more American hi-tech weapons than any other country.

A fragment of parchment

Last year, after the death of my mother, I discarded a great number of papers from her attic, and distributed keepsakes to friends and family.  Among the contents of a khaki footlocker, my attention was drawn to a fragment of parchment, apparently torn from a much larger scroll, and covered with an unfamiliar cursive.  I needed only to post an image of the writing on a listserve of classical linguists to find, within days, a Georgetown professor who volunteered to render its contents comprehensible to me.  Reproduced herewith is the text that he returned to me the following day in an email attachment. It remains for me only to apprise the reader of a family tradition, according to which my mother’s father’s father was conscripted briefly at the close of the Great War, and was stationed in a region called at that time South Asia, which would correspond to present-day Iran or, possibly, Afghanistan.

In the nine and sixtieth year of my sojourn, I beg forgiveness of the Beloved and from my teacher, Govralendim Biri, the Annointed One, blessed be his soul.  These sacred teachings which have been entrusted to me through the patient generosity of my teacher and countless teachers before him, I undertake herein to commit to writing.  I do this in violation of tradition and of good sense, and in spite of the affliction that will most certainly attend any who read this scroll, now or in the distant future.

In rampant disregard of my reader’s wellbeing, I separate these teachings and instructions for practice from the rituals and discipline that alone can render mind and body strong enough to contain them.  

To you, my dear reader, I owe the deepest atonement; for I have opened a window, and it is certain that anyone who once observes reality through this window will be rendered mad, as madness is ordinarily understood.  He will be unfit for the intercourse of human society, commerce, or any trade (though it may be that his innate capacity to till the earth will survive unimpaired). It is far less certain that to him will accrue any compensatory understanding, any wisdom or ascendance*.

Yesterday, alas, the pestilence has claimed the last of my three disciples, and being too infirm to commence undertaking the education of another, I have determined to assume the risk of transcribing my received heritage in written form.  It is certain that this teaching will be the downfall of many a worthy soul. My loyalty is not to future scions of Allah, but only to the tradition itself, which might otherwise be lost. Accordingly, the reader—no matter how strong his constitution—is cautioned to seal this scroll and to read no further, or should he be determined to read on, most assuredly not to attempt the exercises described herein, lest he…

* The word here translated as “ascendance” is “جشن گرفتن”, and in Sufi usage, it refers to a consciousness that includes remembrance of past lives and anticipation of future lives.

— Josh Mitteldorf


The Body Clock (flash fiction)

We might delay, but cannot avoid death.  Even if you had the Goblet of Gilgamesh, the actuaries would offer even money whether you’d survive your thousandth birthday.  The world is just too full of drunk drivers and mutating viruses. You know this, of course, but I didn’t. The only excuse I can offer is that fear of dying was clouding my reason.

When I was 46, I walked away from a career in computer science to go to med school.  I wanted to learn the science of aging, and convinced myself there was a chance—I was not too proud to grasp at a thread—that the Breakthrough would come in time for me.  I never imagined making the discovery myself, but hoped I might be close enough to the field to secure a place near the head of the queue when human trials became available.

I was lucky.  Aging, it turns out, is epigenetic.  It’s all about gene expression, and Big Data yielded to Bigger Database.  I’m 69 years old, and I have in hand a vial with a transcription factor that will set my body’s clock back 40 years.

The grey fog of fear has lifted, and I can think about death for the first time.  I can read about children’s past lives, mediumship, and NDEs. I can plan. A thousand years feels, at once, too long to occupy one body, and completely beside the point.  When I’m 900 years young, will I still be able to learn? Will I still dread the looming Void?

A faint glimpse into the obvious.  The best gift of that vial is already mine.  All I really wanted was a view of life outside the fog, and this I have been given.


The Seventh Seal