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.



Biology is not Physics

You’ve found the spark that makes the sun burn bright
and tracked the orbits of the distant stars.
You’ve harnessed energy for planes and cars—
success convinces you you’ve got it right.

You think the rule of physics must be strict,
yet only in the aggregate do maths
apply to living things. Their single paths
take twists and turns that you cannot predict.

Man’s thirst for knowledge never can be quenched
while minds refuse to grant the role of mind
that regulates the quantum. You won’t find
broad truth while narrow physics is entrenched.

What sort of physics would it take to know
how neurons fire, hearts beat, and grasses grow?

— sonnet by JJM (not part of the I Ching)

Collective Insights:

What does it feel like to be wrong?

  • embarrassed?
  • shamed?
  • lost face?

No, that’s what it feels like to find out that you have been wrong. What it feels like to be wrong is

  • confident
  • talking a little too loud
  • domineering

Where does humility come from? For most of us it comes from being humiliated. For Carl Sagan and Albert Einstein, it comes from learning so much that they began to glimpse how much they don’t know.

Charles Eisenstein speculates that it is only hubris that leads mankind to think we are on a road toward more perfect understanding. Probably, there is much more that we don’t know how to learn than that we do know how to learn; more that we cannot coprehend with the brains that we have than that we can.

Daniel Schmachtenberger asks: Imagine you had to consciously manage the metabolic processes of a single cell in your body.

We, the human species, are modifying ecosystems by killing off insects, by pulling out weeds, by restoring wetlands and by planting forests. We imagine we know what we’re doing and what the effects might be. Do we think that ecosystems are less complex than cells?

What happened when we reintroduced wolves to Yellowstone Park?

Why has light been given to the world-weary?

(German text from a hymn by Martin Luther)

Warum ist Licht gegeben dem Mühseligen,

Und das Leben den betrübten Herzen? Warum?

Die des Todes warten und kommt nicht

Und grüben ihn wohl aus dem verborgenen;

Die sich fast freuen und sind fröhlich,

daß sie das Grab bekommen. Warum?

Und dem Manne des Weg verborgen ist,

Und Gott vor ihm denselben bedecket? Warum?

Lasset uns unser Herz samt den Händen aufheben zu Gott im Himmel.

Siehe, wir preisen selig, die erduldet haben.

Die Geduld Hiob habt ihr gehöret,

Und das Ende des Herrn habt ihr gesehen;

Denn der Herr ist barmherzig und ein Erbarmer!

Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin,

in Gottes willen,

getrost ist mir mein Herz und Sinn,

sanft und stille.

Wie Gott mir verheißen hat,

der Tod ist mir Schlaf worden.

Why has light been given to the weary of soul,

And life to the troubled hearts? Why?
They who wait for death, and it doesn’t come;

They who dig for it even out of secret places;

Those who almost rejoice and are happy

That they achieve the grave. Why?

And to the man whose way is hidden,

And from whom God himself has been concealed?


Let us lift up our hearts, together with our hands, to God in heaven.

Behold, we value them as blessed who have endured.

You have heard of the patience of Job,

And the Lord’s conclusion you have seen:
For the Lord is merciful and has compassion!

With peace and joy I depart

in God’s will,

My heart and mind are comforted,

calm, and quiet.
As God had promised me:

death has become my sleep.

Per Enevold und Mitglieder des NDR-Sinfonieorchesters
(North German Radio Orchestra)

Jia = Family

Your isolation, not inborn, was taught
To you. You had to learn to feel apart.
Contracted and alone within your heart,
Connection is the soul of all you’ve sought.

Pursuing one who’s worthy of your love,
You’ve known great blessing, calling her your wife.
And then this child, whom you love more than life
Has taught you lessons you never dreamed of.

That love is not a thing one can deserve
That will-to-power yields to will-to-serve.
Your family is a microcosm where
You need not pose or try to prove you care.
All roles are tried here, dreams and visions nursed
And to the end, your family will come first.

— JJM = #37 in the I Ching Sonnet Project

37. Chia Jen / The Family [The Clan] | I Ching Community

Eat manganese

Photosynthesis is the energy foundation for all (?) life today. But photosynthesis was invented by cyanobacteria half a billion years into the history of life on earth. Life is older than photosynthesis by more than half a billion years. So what did life do for energy in the time before photosynthesis.

During this time, oxygen was rare in the atmosphere. The oxygen was almost all tied up in CO2. This means that metals that now exist as metal oxides in the earth’s crust were once in their shiny metalic form, not oxidized. There was an opportunity to make a living by swapping carbon out of CO2 and combining the oxygen with metal,

Now for the first time, a modern bacterium has been discovered that does just this. It lives on manganese (which is surprisingly common in the earth’s crust) and it was discovered by accident in glassware in a Caltech laboratory.

Story at ScienceBlog.com

21 benefits of meditation

from the blog of Vince Giuliano and James P Watson

Archeologists and scholars speculate that primitive hunter-gatherer societies may have discovered meditation and its altered states of consciousness while staring at the flames of their fires, although there is little recorded pre-history on the origins of meditation. Meditation as a systematic practice gradually evolved in India and China. The earliest documented records of meditation stem from the teachings of the Vedas in ancient India, about 1500 BCE….

Much of the rest of the article is about documented biochemistry and epidemiological research.

#18: Meditation is an “Epigenetic Drug, changing gene expression