Thinking with the Heart

We think the world would be saved if only we could generate larger quantities of goodwill and tolerance. That’s false. What will save the world is not goodwill and tolerance but clear thinking. Of what use is it to be tolerant of others if you are convinced that you are right and everyone who disagrees with you is wrong? That isn’t tolerance but condescension. That leads not to union of hearts but to division, because you are one up and the others one down. A position that can only lead to a sense of superiority on your part and resentment on your neighbor’s, thereby breeding further intolerance.

True tolerance only arises from a keen awareness of the abysmal ignorance of everyone regarding deep truth. For truth is essentially mystery. The mind can sense but cannot grasp it, much less formulate it. Our beliefs can point to it but cannot put it into words. In spite of this, people talk glowingly about the value of dialogue which at worst is a camouflaged attempt to convince the other person of the rightness of your position and at best will prevent you from becoming a frog in the well who thinks that his well is the only world there is.

What happens when frogs from different wells assemble to dialogue about their convictions and experiences? Their horizons widen to include the existence of wells other than their own. But they still have no suspicion of the existence of the ocean of truth that cannot be confined within the walls of conceptual wells. And our poor frogs continue to be divided and to speak in terms of yours and mine, your experience, your convictions, your ideology and mine. The sharing of formulas does not enrich the sharers, for formulas like the walls of wells divide; only the unrestricted ocean unites. But to arrive at this ocean of truth that is unbounded by formulas, it is essential to have the gift of clear thinking. And clear thinking is the thinking we do with our hearts.

— Anthony de Mello, from The Way to Love

Radically transformative moment

You will have to walk out there, all alone, and discover for yourself. To walk alone means to walk away from every formula: the ones given to you by others, the ones you learned from books, the ones that you yourself invented in the light of your own past experiences. That is possibly the most terrifying thing a human being can do: to move into the unknown, unprotected by any formula. To walk away from human beings, as the prophets and the mystics did, is not to walk away from their company, but from their formulas.

Silence. It is only silence that you see, and the moment you see, you will abandon every book and guide and guru. What will you see? A falling leaf; the behavior of a friend; the ripples on the surface of a lake; a pile of stones; a ruined building; a crowded street; a starry sky…whatever.

After you see, someone will want to help you put your vision into words. You will shake your head and say, “not that—that’s just another formula.” What you saw cannot be related to the thinking mind. It is beyond all formula, beyond all meaning.

A strange change will come about in you, barely perceptible at first, but radically transforming. Having seen, you will never be the same again. You will feel the exhilarating freedom, the extraordinary confidence that comes from knowing that every formula is worthless. Then, you will never cease to learn, as each day you observe and understand afresh.

— Anthony de Mello, from The Way to Love

A Mystic-Physicist

Until about 1979, physicists thought that the laws of physics were just what they were, without rhyme or reason, and life arose taking advantage of whatever laws it found, building ordered, self-reproducing structures with the available tools.

But in that year, Bernard Carr and Martin Rees published an influential paper that consolidated some earlier ideas to put the Anthropic Principle on the map. They made a case that physical laws capable of supporting life were very special. “It’s as though the Universe knew we were coming.”

I was an astrophysics student, and I read the paper of Rees and Carr with great excitement when it came out. But it was only yesterday that I learned that Carr has had another role, as VP of the Society for Psychical Research.

The number of people in the world who find their path to mysticism through physics is small, but I am especially intrigued, and eager to learn from them.



The dawning of cosmic consciousness

From Cosmic Consciousness (1902) by Richard Maurice Bucke.

a) The person suddenly, without warning, has a sense of being immersed in a flame, or rose-colored cloud.

b) At the same instant, he is bathed in an emotion of joy, assurance, triumph, “salvation.” The last word is not strictly correct if taken in its ordinary sense, for the feeling, when fully developed, is not that a particular act of salvation is effected, but that no especial “salvation” is needed, the scheme upon which the world is built being itself sufficient. It is this ecstasy, far beyond any that belongs to the merely self-conscious life, with which the poets occupy themselves.

c) Simultaneously or instantly following the above sense and emotional experiences there comes to the person an intellectual illumination quite impossible to describe. Like a flash there is presented to his consciousness a clear conception (a vision) in outline of the meaning and drift of the universe. He does not come to believe merely; but he sees and knows that the cosmos, which to the self conscious mind seems made up of dead matter, is in fact far otherwise—is in very truth a living presence. Instead of men as patches of life scattered through an infinite sea of non-living substance, they are in reality specks of relative death in an infinite ocean of life. He sees that the life which is in man is eternal, as all life is eternal; that the soul of man is immortal as God is; that the universe is so built and ordered that without any peradventure all things work together for the good of each and all; that the foundation principle of the world is what we call love, and that the happiness of every individual is int he long run absolutely certain. The person who passes through this experience will learn in the few minutes, or even moments, of its continuance more than in months or years of study.

d) A sense of immortality, not an intellectual conviction, but a perception that he is presently an immortal being.

e) With illunination, the fear of death which haunts so many falls off like an old cloak—it simply vanishes.

f) The same may be said of the sense of sin. It is not that the person escapes from sin; but he no longer sees that there is any sin in the world.

g) All this is instantaneous; a dazzling flash of ligthning that brings a hidden landscape into clear view.

h) The appearance and presence of the person is transfigured, and hereafter is infused with joy.

Maurice Bucke (1837-1902) grew up as a farm boy in London, Ontario. In the winter of 1857–58, he was nearly frozen to death in the mountains of California, where he was the sole survivor of a silver-mining party. He had to walk out over the mountains and suffered extreme frostbite. As a result, a foot and several of his toes were amputated. He then returned to Canada via the Isthmus of Panama, probably in 1858. The transformative experience of which he writes (in 3rd person) was in 1872, while riding home in a horse-drawn carriage after an evening with friends.

Bernardo Kastrup’s Ontology

[The following text is transcribed from Jeffrey Mishlove’s interview with Bernardo Kastrup, with some paraphrasing and editing by JJM]

The content of experience varies from day-to-day, but the dative* of experience—that to which the experience is disclosed—the subject of experience never varies.

There is always one and the same subject of experience. If you eliminate all the contents of your consciousness, all of your memories, everything you know, everything you think, all your opinions—eliminate all that, then check how you feel. And if I do the same, I will feel exactly as you feel, because we will both be the pure dative* of experience: contentless experiencer.

Before you experience anything, you experience “I am”. That is the pure dative* of experience, and it is the same in you as it is in me.

What Richard Maurice Buck realized is that some people have found a way to identify with the pure dative*, and their experience was one of being the whole universe.

People come back from these experiences and they say they have seen behind their heads, they have seen to the ends of the universe in every direction. But I think when they are in that state, they cognize something that is completely ineffable. They cannot attach symbols or referrents while they are in that state, but they carry vestiges of it back to the body. And it is only when they come back into the body that they code their experiece with words. What they have experienced is the pure dative*, the subject before everything that comes from a nervous system.

That’s who he is. That’s who we all are before we put on this “meat suit”.

We can know intellectually that we are pure consciousness, prior to sense experience, but it is only when we have a direct experience that we really believe it. I think this direct experience is accessible to all of us. In certain moments.

We conceptualize reality with a library of concepts that may be innate or may be learned. But the library is limited, and there are glaring holes in what we are able to conceive. I think that time is one of these holes. Our limited conceptualization of time leads to artifacts.

From personal experience and accounts of people close to me, I know it is empirically a fact that the “future” can be perceived, sometimes with an astonishing degree of accuracy. Similarly, it is an empirical fact that sometimes people acquire knowledge across space, with no physical intermediary to transmit the information.

But the language that we use to code these phenomena is contaminated by our limited concepts of space and time. You want to know if there is a self that survives death. Well, certainly the dative* self, the experiencer survives. It was never dependent on a body in the first place. But what about the memories, the knowledge, the attitudes and experiences that are part of your human life? Perhaps this question comes from an improper framing. Time exists while we are incarnated, and in our conceptual system we can talk about reincarnation and past lives and precognition and clairvoyance. But the deeper reality is what is there when you are not dressed in a meat suit. From a perspective outside the human framework, we would not talk about a soul that dwells for a time in the body and returns in a different body. Maybe another way to say this is that the Akasha exists outside of space and time.

I am a story in that Akashic record, and so are you. I’m speaking of the conventional you and I, the human bodies and minds. The real you and the real me are an experiencer—one and the same experiencer that exists outside physical space-time.


* Dative case is a grammatical construct that exists in Latin and Germanic languages, but not in English. It is like the object of a preposition. In the phrase, “I can show you the world,” “I” is the subject, “world” is the direct object and “you” is in the dative case.

Kan, the Deluge

Arising torrent sweeps away the past.
The cleansing of some ways is overdue,
But must inspired beauty perish, too?
You’ve known that nothing physical can last
Forever, yet you mourn the senseless loss,
The indiscrim’nate dissolution of
Your culture, nature, people that you love
Along with the corruption, lies, the dross
Of institutions that outlived their use.

There’s no resisting any tide so strong.
But is your substance pure enough to be
The water that diffuses and renews?
If not, then you, too, must be swept along
Recycled into new reality…
It may not be your place to choose.

— JJM = #29 in the I Ching Sonnet Project

29. K'an – Abysmal (Water) | I-Ching Ponderings from a Modern ManSonnet + One


Art by Denise Weaver Ross

The Mathematician and the Mystic

“Once there were a brother and sister who devoted themselves to the search for truth. A brother who spent his long life solving problems. A sister who died before she could solve the problem of life.” The sister was Simone Weil (pronounced “vay”), a philosopher and political activist who died in 1943 at age thirty-four and gained fame with the posthumous publication of works, assembled from her voluminous notebooks, on society, justice, and the mystical life of faith. Her elder brother André, who lived to ninety-two, was a prodigy who became one of the twentieth century’s preeminent mathematicians.

Book review at New Atlantis

The Weil Conjectures: On Math and the Pursuit of the Unknown

The Ego that Never Was

There’s an experience commonly referred to as “ego death” which people sometimes experience on psychedelics, in deep meditation etc which refers to the experience of no self; there’s just sensory input and maybe some light mind flickerings without the sense of a separate self.

The thing is, the ego never actually goes away during these experiences, because it was never there to begin with. There is no solid thing to be found anywhere in experience that can be called an ego or a separate self; there’s just thoughts, memories, sense impressions, etc.

In other words, there is no “ego” that can “die”. What actually disappears during these experiences is your belief in the separate self, the “me”, the ego. It’s the belief that dissipates, a belief in something that was only ever an illusion. All the entheogen/meditation practice/whatever did was make it possible for you to see the reality of your actual experience; it didn’t change anything about you, it just clarified your vision so you could see clearly what was always already the case.

The cool thing about this is it means you can learn to experience egolessness in your normal, everyday life, not just during special “mystical” moments, because it’s just perceiving the reality of your experience as it is actually occuring. It’s just a matter of investigating your own experience and then re-training your perceptual habits to align with your findings. Look for the separate self. Really hunt it down. Leave no stone unturned within you. All you’ll find is thought, sense impressions, feelings, etc.

Egolessness is not a matter of attaining some special state, it’s a matter of training oneself out of an erroneous habit of perceiving. Most human organisms are simply misperceiving the reality of the raw data that’s showing up on their screens, and we can learn to correct that.

So all you need to do is sincerely get curious about the reality of your everyday experience. Investigate the nature of perception, consciousness and self in your own experience and see the reality of egolessness. The truth is life is just happening without any separate “me”. Once you discover the reality of egolessness, you can learn to stop imbuing the imaginary separate self with the power of belief. All psychological suffering ultimately stems from this fundamental misperception.

This isn’t something which requires any faith or trust in me or anyone else; it’s simply a matter of investigating your own experience, seeing through the illusion, and then ceasing to place belief in that illusion. It needn’t be difficult or prolonged.

— Caitlin Johnstone