We want to live long…

Screenshot anime Erased

Screenshot from the anime “Erased”, in which the main character’s mind travels back to his childhood to change the past. Well, that’s one way of living long without growing old: Living the same time over and over… Of course, I thought of that years before the anime.

Thanks to the current ongoing Shellfish Festival here in Mandal, I get some free live music whether I want to or not. Today I caught a very catchy tune that has been around for a while here in Norway, “Vi vil level lenge” by Halvdan Sivertsen. There’s a YouTube clip for those who may want to listen to it, but it is in Norwegian. It is actually a song mocking cosmetic surgery mostly, but the recurring lyrics are some I can certainly identify with: We want to live long, but we never want to grow old.

Curiously this is the theme of my current main dicewriting project. Not the cosmetic surgery, but living long without growing old. It is a story about psychic time travel, in which the mind rather than the body travels back in time. You may remember one extreme instance of this as the movie Groundhog Day. I thought also reviewed the book The first fifteen lives of Harry August  by Claire North, but it seems this is one of the innumerable entries I have written and not uploaded? There are a number of related stories that largely fall in between these, featuring people whose minds are sent back in time (usually without their control) giving them the chance to “do over” some part of their life. It is something that I am sure a lot of us have thought about. It is a natural human trait to do this in our minds, although for me as a hyperlexic it is difficult to do so without something to write on.

So anyway in my Imaginary Random Psychic  series, the main character has the ability to travel at will into the past (although not before puberty) and stay there until he decides to leave, or until he catches up with the time he left. At that point, he returns to Real Time. The catch is, the timeline he was in disappear shortly after, like a dream. Even though it feels completely real while he is there, nothing of it remains when he returns. Nobody else remembers anything of it, and even his own memories soon become vague and dreamlike. Skills he has cultivated in the other timeline are reset, as is his health. Only a vague narrative remains. He is able to maintain a connection to a timeline for a couple minutes, allowing him to write brief diary entries during long stays in the past, but if he stays longer the timeline is lost in the swirl of All-Possibility.

The “imaginary psychic” part refers to a secondary effect of traveling through the fourth dimension of time: Gradually he starts to drift sideways in the fifth dimension and vertically in the sixth dimension, gaining supernatural powers. The powers of the fifth dimension augment his natural abilities, making him stronger, faster, more intelligent, resistant to damage and to ageing. The powers of the sixth dimension are indistinguishable from magic: Telepathy, telekinesis, healing, various forms of energy manipulation. But these abilities increase very slowly, rarely noticeable from year to year and hardly from decade to decade. It is only over centuries of living his life over and over that he gradually becomes aware of his supernatural powers and gets used to them. And like everything else, these abilities too fade when the returns to Real Time.

It seems like a slow and steady wish fulfillment fantasy, and I intend it as such too, but there is a subtle undercurrent that undermines that aspect of it: No matter what he achieves, it is un-achieved by time. If he finds love and a family, he is sure to lose them. If he makes friends, they are sure to forget him. Even when he gains some power to change the world for the better, the world forgets him and reverts to what it was. Even inside the story, all his triumphs are hollow from the start.

Of course, the same could be said for real life. “Futility! Futility! says the Preacher. Utter futility! All is in vain. What does a person gain from his labor that he strives with under the sun?” (Ecclesiastes 1, the Bible.) Or, to translate the Buddha’s partings words: “All things that have form are subject to decay.” We who have meditated for a while may actually have caught some glimpses of the fifth or sixth dimensions, but the truth is that even eternal time is not enough. Anything that can be accomplished within time is trapped within time. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, as the Americans say. Only the spirit can transcend the six dimensions of space and time.

We want to live long, but even then we will just as much be forgotten. Transhumanists want to reverse ageing or upload the mind to computer networks that can last for millions of years. Certainly that would be great, but even the stars fade and galaxies shatter. There is no escape hatch that can be opened from the inside of creation.

Subjective time

Screenshot anime Nozaki-kun

The time measured by clocks is constant, but the time measured by the soul is bewildering.

Time is something we are all very familiar with, and yet some scientists doubt that it exists: The equations that describe the universe work just as well without time. It seems to be just a name we have put on the increase of chaos: Intuitively if we see a video of a glass assembling itself from scattered shards, we know that it is being played in reverse. And yet, arguably, for most of our lives we are such a thing as that glass coming together. Our memories come together creating a more or less whole and balanced self. Even plants that grow are such things, being assembled from tiny pieces into an impressive whole. Life is like a countercurrent in the stream of time.

Although recent science dismisses time, and classic science presents a clean arrow of time, most humans have a more vague sense of causality. Yes, causes lead to effects, the past creates the present and the present the future. But we also feel that the future is real and influences the present. In English we even use the same word, for instance: “The reason I get paid is that I go to work. The reason I go to work is to get paid.” How can the two things be each other’s reason?

Our mind seems able to travel through time to a certain degree. Through the power of our memory, we can revisit the past and relive the joys and sufferings, although we cannot change it except in our imagination. By the power of anticipation we look into the future, although a future that is less certain than the past, and we take with us information back to the present. We study the outcome of our actions before we even act. And then we decide: “No, it is not worth it” or “Yes, it is worth it” and so the future – which does not yet exist – changes the present, which definitely exists.

Time is weird.

***

Time does not always seem to move at the same speed, either. Objectively it does, or very nearly so. (It slows down slightly when we accelerate, or so the theory of relativity says. But in ordinary life this is not measurable. You won’t live longer by speeding on the highway, possibly quite the opposite!)

When we are children, time seems to move quite slowly. A summer holiday is an ocean of time and we arrive on the other side as a changed person. In old age, the same summer is like a puddle in the road that we step over, barely noticing. Or that is the general tendency. But do all of us experience time the same way? I don’t think so. I have a strong feeling that, for some reason, my subjective time runs less fast than others my age.

“If you are a lifelong bachelor, you may not live till you are 100, but at least it will feel that way” someone said when I was a kid. As a lifelong bachelor, I certainly agree with this, but I don’t see it as a bad thing. “Don’t kill time, it is your life” said the Christian mystic and teacher Elias Aslaksen. I try to not dissolve completely into my habits and obligations, but learn something new and be aware of at least some of what goes on during my day.

Part of my subjective feeling of slow time is that I spend a lot of time observing lower worlds where time moves faster. Most notably, I have read books since I was little, although I read less novels now. The experience of the book’s characters are added to my own, giving me a feeling that I have lived much more than I actually have. (It is not just me: Old people sometimes tell of something that happened to them when they were younger, which the bookish listener will recognize as having happened to a literary character.) I am not sure if the same applies to movies, in which case most people should have this experience. I don’t watch movies much, except for some Japanese animation.

As a (mainly hobby) writer, I create worlds where years pass over the course of weeks of real time. (Not all writers do this – some my spend a year on describing a week.) I also play games such as The Sims series, where simulated humans live, age and eventually die after some days or weeks of real time. Other favorite games of my past are the Civilization series, where entire civilizations rise and fall over the course of a few days. Watching this gave me a subjective feeling of old age, which blends well with my lifelong interest in history and my reading of old books. I know objectively that I was born in 1958, but a part of me feels like I wandered the streets of ancient Uruk before Rome was even a village.

***

Yet another factor that determines subjective time may be how fast you process information. The more data that passes through and is consciously registered by your brain, the more time would seem to have passed. We know that in certain critical moments, the doors of perceptions are thrown wide open and time seems to slow to a crawl. Unfortunately it is usually not possible to make your body speed up to the same degree.

In my fourth dicewriting story, which I stared just after my previous entry, the main character seems set to become a speedster. Not on the scale of The Flash from the TV series that I believe is still ongoing in America, or the comic books of the same name. Just … living faster.

In that story, speed is one of Erlend’s five specializations, and with an expected duration of 6 years this could make a big difference. I look forward to seeing how this will unfold when we reach the borderlands of human experience. How is it like when the world slows down to half speed and a day feels like it has 48 hours? How do you interact with the people around you? If it happens gradually enough, you probably adapt seamlessly, and don’t rock the boat by being too different in everyday life.

As it happens, I have a coworker of sorts – technically his company is the client of ours, but we work together and eat lunch together – and he is highly intelligent, possibly more than me. It is hard to say: While my intelligence is exceptionally wide, reaching into thoughts that most people never consider thinking, his intelligence is fast. Ordinary humans try his patience, because he knows what they are trying to say while they are still beginning to say it, and then they just keep rambling on, unaware that he already understands it better than they do. Usually he spends his lunch break reading his smartphone. The leftover attention is sufficient to keep up with what everyone in the room is saying.  This guy strikes me as a good match for a “near speedster”, someone who lives fast in a slow world. (Of course I won’t borrow any other traits from him. My characters are all unique, not based on real people.)

The clocks keep ticking, but perhaps we each hear them tick at our own speed…

To reign in Hell

Screenshot anime Yahari Ore no Seishun

We may be unaware that there are people among us who have, in this life, in a certain sense “fallen to hell”. Sometimes they are quite hard to spot, at least early enough to help them.

In his influential little book “Paradise Lost”, John Milton does a new and disturbing thing: Making Satan understandable, a person one might sympathize with. I believe his purpose was not to spread goodwill for Satan, but rather to make us recognize the part of ourselves that is similar. By far the most famous line from this book is the statement from the fallen Satan: “Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.” Many young men in particular quote this as if they agree with it.

I will hold up the opinion that a lot of us have chosen to reign in Hell without knowing it, not in any literal sense (if there even is a literal sense, I do not know) but in a sense proportionate to our nature and abilities. This is something that I just now saw more clearly, although I have mentioned related topics over the years.

***

When I was around 19 years old, I had an idea for a novel and it would not let go of me. Months turned to years, I prayed but did not get rid of it. It bothered me for a number of reasons that would be ironic to bring up now. It was basically a science-fiction story, and I saw it as nothing more at the time.

In this story, our world was one of several worlds, not just side by side, but also vertically. The world right up from ours would be similar, with life and a breathable atmosphere, but not identical. More importantly, the higher world is more real, more solid, more energetic. It is more “dense”, less “porous” in all aspects. When a man from this world arrives in that higher world, he finds himself in a world of pain: The light of the sun sears him, the cold of the night freezes him, gravity sends him crawling on his belly; even the air burns in his lungs with each breath, and water seems to etch him like acid. This is not because these elements are particularly intense – the temperature is the same as on our earth – but because they are more real, and he is less. He is reduced to a fraction of his strength and solidity in every way. Like a snail trying to cross a road on a sunny day. At first he is only able to survive in this higher world for minutes at most before he has to crawl back to the alien mechanism that transports him between worlds. But gradually he becomes able to tolerate it, as each breath he takes replaces some of his low-reality atoms with high-reality atoms from the higher world. As he begins to adapt a little to this new world, he discovers that he is becoming inhumanly strong and durable in the normal world.

Conversely, there is a world below ours. A man who finds the same alien means of traveling between worlds, chooses to instead descend to the lower world. In it, he suddenly all at once finds himself extremely powerful, able to jump buildings in a single leap and resist damage that would kill a normal man. He thoroughly enjoys his newfound abilities, impresses the locals and becomes a hero and an influential person. Unfortunately after a while he discovers that his newfound strength slowly evaporates. And returning to his own world, he finds himself weak and sick, to the point where he returns to the lower world to recover. But the longer he stays there, the more he exchanges matter with that world, and becomes a normal person there. By now he is unable to safely return to his birth world, and he fears revenge now that he is vulnerable. He starts searching for a similar device to descend to the next world down, resolving to be more careful this time. But on his descent to the next lower world, he notices that each world down is uglier and more chaotic than the one above. Unable to return safely even to the first “underworld”, he is trapped in a disturbing world where even his strength cannot bring him happiness, even as it slowly leaks from him and he faces the prospect of having to descend into pure chaos or else live as an ordinary man in an inferior world.

***

Looking back at this peculiar “science fiction” story, I am surprised that it took me decades to realize that it was a parable of the worlds of the mind. I live in Norway and had never read or heard of C.S. Lewis’ book The Great Divorce, which has a similar theme but is straightforward allegorical.

The lower worlds should be familiar for any even partly neurotypical man, for the world of daydreams is just such a place. This world is less real than ours, and therefore it is easily malleable. We have the power to shape and rearrange things just as we like them. In the world of daydreams we can suddenly be rich, or powerful, or beautiful. We can go anywhere we want, have anything we want … and anyone we want, if we so decide. There is nothing and no one except our conscience (if any) to keep us from exercising godlike powers in an ungodly manner – in other words, to reign (rule) in Hell.

For Hell it is: Not when we first arrive, but when we find ourselves trapped there. I have mention the Japanese phenomenon of the “hikikomori”, young men (and occasionally women) who confine themselves to their room in their parents’ house and emerge only briefly at night to buy food, or not at all if their family feeds them. These started as ordinary “otaku”, nerds obsessed with anime, manga and games. But at some point they became unable to live in the ordinary world. They sleep during the day and watch anime through the night, seeking refuge in a 2-dimensional world, unable to bear the hardness of the ordinary world. (Admittedly the ordinary world for adult Japanese is somewhat harder than here in the west.)

If we think of such a thing as computer games, they often fall in the category of “the world just below ours”, in the sense that they are less real and bestow greater power on us, but still have rules. If you play World of Warcraft, you have to start at level 1 and work your way up, and you cannot be a great sword fighter and wizard at the same time. But in daydreams, there is nothing you can’t do. But there is also nothing that does not turn to dust and blow away on the wind.

***

Conversely, there are higher worlds also in this life. The worlds of mathematics, for example, are such worlds. Math is hard, which is why so few people study it, despite its obvious usefulness. The prosperity of a nation is tied closely to the number of engineers. The more engineers a nation has, the more other people can it also employ. But physics and math are higher realms, in which the human mind finds itself weak and struggling against hard and unyielding realities. Vague ideas and approximate guesses will not let you survive long in these worlds, and so you quit and begin studying psychology or feminism or some other topic that does not make your mind bleed if you collide with it.

In this same category is traditional religion, although today there are many forms of religion that are soft and woolly and require very little from us. But the traditional worlds of religion required a lifetime of discipline, denying oneself not just outward luxuries such as delicious food or various sexual experiences, but even “inward luxuries” of being allowed to think whatever we want. Naturally most people find this hard. They do not realize that when they conform to a higher reality, they become personally more real as well, and this carries over to whichever world they may be in. They also do not realize that when the pain fades, they notice that the higher world is amazingly beautiful, larger than life, shining with an inner glory that captivates the soul’s eye.

Or so I’ve heard, when I’m not busy playing The Sims 3. ^_^

THIS is a summary??

Screenshot anime Date A Live

You probably have many questions, but I am terrible at explanations. And here I prove it once again.

I will try to summarize the thing I have been babbling about most of the month: The Human Operating System version 3.

The operating system on a computer decides what kind of programs it can run, and some are better than others in certain situations. In the same way, humans have a set of basic abilities that are necessary for us to use our brain in the normal way. This “operating system” is not something we are born with, but we acquire it very early in life. The most obvious part of it is language.

Humans like us existed for a long time – a hundred thousand years, perhaps much longer – using an earlier operating system, basically the same as the Neanderthals used. Their culture was focuses squarely on survival, and the tools were fire and the hand axe, which they made exactly the same way for tens of thousands of years. Invention was practically unknown. Any form of art or decoration was absent. And we believe language as we know it was not part of their abilities, although they had the physical ability to make any sounds we can make.

I call the stone axe survival culture “Human Operating System version 1”. It worked: These humans slowly spread all over Africa, and races with the same mindset (Neanderthals and Denisovans) roamed Eurasia in the depths of the last Ice Age.

As you may have noticed, humans are different now. This is because we have a new operating system, which we download when we are infants. We are able to talk, we are creative and imaginative, we cooperate on a larger scale and usually without the use of hand axes.

Outbreaks of the current mindset (Human Operating System version 2) appeared in the most densely populated areas of Africa, first briefly showing some limited aspect of culture, and finally with a broad range of features that seems to have spread like wildfire to all human populations.Those that did not change, went extinct quickly. While we have improved on this steadily, the basic abilities today are still the same.

***

I believe that a great transition is going to happen again, and humanity will once again get a new operating system that is suited to the large number and the power we now wield on Earth. The new operating system will allow us to cooperate much more seamlessly, to use our resources much more efficiently, and to understand our world much more deeply.

And like there were outbreaks of version 2 before it spread everywhere, so I also believe there have been “beta tests” or early deployments of version 3. I believe ancient legends, and the world’s great religions and philosophies, are the memories of individuals and small groups who had this new operating system, this new way of thinking and feeling and relating to everything.

We need to bear in mind that in the form we know these legends, they have been transmitted to us by people like us, who have the version 2 mindset. As such, we tend to “translate” the thoughts of the higher minds into the familiar patterns of our own mind. This is similar to how you translate a globe into a map, and when the globe is lost, you think the map is the real thing, and that the world has four corners and edges from which you will fall off. But when you start to explore the world, you will realize that the map was a projection of a globe all along.

I believe that those with the Human Operating System version 3 also had access to one more dimension of the mind, the fifth dimension. We humans cannot directly sense time: We can only experience moment by moment with our senses. But in our minds, we reconstruct the dimension of time. We are not born like that, it is an ability that gradually becomes solid during our early childhood, and is improved on for a long time. In a similar way, the New Mind has the ability to mentally intuit the fifth dimension, a second time dimension at right angles to the first.

Just as the current Human Operating System version 2 brought amazing, almost miraculous abilities that were not present in version 1, so also version 3. This does not necessarily mean that every miracle reported in every religious tradition of the world is literally true, of course. But something about these people made it perfectly natural for others to expect them to be able to do pretty much anything. So it seems likely that they did show abilities not known before. It may even be that some of our modern technologies are inspired by those stores, and are in effect a kind of “copy”, similar to how the Neanderthals made imperfect but still usable copies of some Cro-Magnon tools just before they died out.

***

I believe the most important trait of the Human Operating System version 3 is openness, or unity as it is more commonly called. Under version 2 we have a lot of walls inside, that divide us into rooms, where different aspects of ourselves hide out and work each toward different goals, sometimes sabotaging each other outright. This can seem useful in the short run, as we can get material benefits by being different people in different situations. In particular, it helps boost reproductive success, especially in men, so it is natural that this trait has persisted so long. But getting rid of those walls frees up a lot of energy, and ending the internal squabbling gives a great strength to accomplish what a divided self could not.

Next is overcoming the walls between ourselves and others. This is rather hard to achieve when we have walls internally in ourselves, and this is why this should be a priority: Before all else, to avoid self-deception.

From time to time there are people who – randomly or after seeking it for years – experience a wordless unity with everyone and everything. They perceive the whole world, the known cosmos and beyond, as a single connected unity of which they are a small part. This changes everything… or so they think. But despite their experience of no-self, or no-distinction, after a passing of time the outside observer will notice that they again manifest egoic traits. The New Mind is not “fire and forget” – it is something that must be worked on, expanded, lived and cultivated. You may think you now have a Buddha mind, but you don’t really have any Buddha accomplishments. People don’t feel a Buddha compassion radiating from you, or sense a Buddha purity of mind. The experience of Enlightenment or Liberation is actually just a break-through into a new and larger open field, into which you will grow for the duration of your lifetime at the very least.

***

I have rambled about this for weeks, and it could be that some of it is just science fiction. The part about the fifth dimension will certainly seem like that. Science cannot even say for sure whether the fourth dimension, time, exists objectively or only in our minds. But the concept is certainly useful. For instance, when I bake a cake, the logical observer will be right to point out that the cake only exists in my head. I imagine a future in which there will be cake, somewhere ahead of me in the mental dimension of time. But the cake does not exist, so the skeptic is right. And imagining it will not make it magically appear. But this imagination allows me to work toward the goal of bringing a cake from the unseen and private “future” of the fourth dimension, into the 3-dimensional now where the cake is edible and delicious.

If you talk to a toddler, skepticism toward the fourth dimension is rampant: “Chocolate later” is almost indistinguishable from “chocolate never”. This is strikingly similar to how adults perceive eternity. “In eternity” means “pie in the sky when you die”, to them. They are not yet aware of eternity as a dimension that exists here and now, a dimension they will be able to intuit as clearly as if they actually perceived it, just like they have come to do with time.

The benefit of having more dimensions in your mind is that your model of the world becomes more realistic. To the toddler, the cake appears in mysterious ways. There was no cake, there may have been mention of cake, the Parent does something and cake appears! And it was good. The toddler may then implore the Parent for more cake, over and over and over again, and eventually more cake appears, so it seems that words do have power to cause cake, when directed at the proper target, often enough and with enough emotional intensity. But sometimes the cake does not appear as expected. Life is full of disappointments! But during this process, the child gradually begins to get an idea of TIME and how it works, and eventually the mental model snaps into place. The child has become One Of Us.

***

Since the wisdom of the current age is to show “newest first”, I shall finally post links to each entry in turn, so as to make it easier to read the ramblings in the almost random order in which they were rambled. Just press Back in your browser to get back here if you actually read any of them.

Human Operating System 3.0

The end of this world

Beta-testing eternity

Caution: Religion!

Surpassing fate while alive

Downloading eternity

Ascesis

The Harbingers

The Open Field

Here to help you – sort of

That said, I still suspect I said it better the first time, during the week-long series starting June 18, 2005:

The Next Big Thing

Here to help you – sort of

Screenshot anime Oregairu (Yahari Ore no Seishun...)

Why do I have to help you grow as a person? Well, first of all because there is no greater joy than to see you walk on the Way. The faster and the further, the better. We do not compete.

In my previous post, I claimed that people who have expanded far into the Open Field, are able to maintain a presence in the mind of people who resonate with them. This is presumably the reason behind the practice of venerating saints (in Christianity), bodhisattvas and tathagatas (in Buddhism) and “immortals” (in Daoism), as well as similar practices in Hinduism and Shinto. It may even be behind the Chinese practice of ancestor worship, although it hopefully goes without saying that the vast majority of ancestors never expanded into the Open Field in the sense we are using it here.

The way I have understood it, there is actually a sliding scale of this expansion, so there are some whose presence will only extend to a few and perhaps for a limited historical time, while others may extend to a great number of people over the course of thousands of years. Some of the greatest of them may have been worshiped as gods in the past, but today we are kind of wary of assigning that label to anyone other than the Primordial Source of Creation. The Shakyamuni Buddha, for instance, seems to never have considered himself anyone’s god, but a great number of people in the Orient worship him in a way that is not very different from the western worship of God. The Hindu avatar Krishna is worshiped in a way eerily similar to the Christan worship of Jesus Christ. But let us not here go into a debate of which God or Savior is the real one, if any.

What I want to make clear is that non-local operators are always waiting for your call. But if they originate within the paradigm that I have described – if they are have the Human Operating System version 3 – there are certain things they do not do. Most notably, they do not rape your mind. Even though their presence in your mindspace may be stronger than your own in some ways or even in general, they will not force you. They do not try to take over your mind or your body. They also never threaten you in an accusing manner. They may reveal to you consequences of your thoughts and actions, and this can be scary, but only because it is true. They do not try to demean you or belittle you (although you may notice in their presence that you are, in fact, rather small). They seek to help you, and they seek to help others. They will not assist you in causing suffering to yourself or others.

The resonance with the Harbingers is certainly not the only processing that takes place in your brain apart from your own ego. Each of us generates naturally a number of shadow personalities with their own agendas, so it is not like every stray thought that sounds “not like me” is from the fifth dimension or above. That is why I try to make it clear that the agenda of the Harbingers, the Immortals, the Teachers, is to help you and others. Don’t respect every stray thought. If you also have the life aspiration of helping others, every time you center yourself in that aspiration, there is a great chance of resonance with a Helper. If you only want to take and get and receive, the resonance fades.

You may then reasonably ask: “Why would I want helpers who only want me to help others? What’s in it for me?” Well, it helps you flatten those walls that keep you trapped in the current system of thought. A system of thought that is nearing its expiration date. As our power and our numbers increase, the possible outcomes no longer include “business as usual”. Either we transition to a higher level of consciousness, or we die out, or we somehow survive losing our power and our numbers, for instance through a nuclear war or some other massive catastrophe that sets us back hundreds or thousands of years.

It is imperative for the whole world that we prepare for the transition, regardless of whether we come to personally take part in it. But it is also important for ourselves to break down as many of the walls as possible, because it is a happier, light-filled life.

It may hurt for a while, and perhaps in the end we won’t be able to change. There are many who have become enthusiastic, but once there was a challenge, they did not have the strength to continue. There are many who had the best intentions, but the attachments of the current lifestyle gained the upper hand and the upgrade to Version 3 slowly faded to a standstill or less.

This is why it is necessary to remind ourselves that non-local operators are waiting for our call. In so far as history has preserved some of their words and deeds, this can serve as a seed to get our resonance started. And if there is a community of like-minded people (who have not been hijacked by personal ambition, as usually happens after a  while) these local operators are a great help. But be warned that if you aim for transformation, you won’t have a lot of companions locally in time and space. Not yet.

But for each of us who gets a tiny little hole in the cosmic egg, the brightness inside our shared world will increase a little, and it becomes easier for the rest. And the only place to make that little crack in the walls of our mind is in the Now.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the Light gets in.

-Leonard Cohen, Anthem

Ascesis

Screenshot anime Sakurasou

I have no interest in most things in this world.” There is a particular detachment that is necessary to install a new operating system to the brain.

Wikipedia is helpful again. Here’s some words from its article on Asceticism: “The founders and earliest practitioners of these religions lived extremely austere lifestyles, refraining from sensual pleasures and the accumulation of material wealth. They practiced asceticism not as a rejection of the enjoyment of life, or because the practices themselves are virtuous, but as an aid in the pursuit of physical and metaphysical health.

Mostly metaphysical, I think. Let us go back to the metaphor of downloading a new operating system for our computer. We are talking about something really massive here, and there is a limited bandwidth. Now while you are downloading this, you also want to stream a movie, then play an online game, then download a folder full of music. All on the same trickle of a bandwidth that you use for downloading the new operating system. It’s going to take its sweet time, isn’t it? And unless you constantly set that big download on pause or at least low priority, it is going to make a hassle of the other things you want to do, so you don’t get the satisfaction you expected from them either.

It is like this with the new Human Operating System. Life is disturbingly short (despite what you may have thought as a teenager) and our capacity is limited. To first download and then implement the New Mind, replacing part by part of the Old Mind, we always have two alternatives from which to choose: Prioritize the Old, or prioritize the New.

There are two aspects in particular: Time and attention. These are always limited and they give strength to whatever you invest time and attention in. As the saying goes: “Which one will win? The one you feed.”

It is in this perspective we must also see the puzzling practice of celibacy. There are men who are born to sleep alone, there are men who are made to sleep alone, and there are men who have chosen to sleep alone for the sake of the New Mind. It is exceedingly difficult to download and install the New Mind, even in part, while you maintain a mutually interdependent intimate relationship. Of course, it is also difficult to be celibate. If your spouse is as interested in personal transformation as you are, they may even be a help. But then there are your children, if any. Children are an amazing and wonderful project to undertake. But they drain your time and attention like whoosh. Children are not pets. (And even pets are not toys.)

Food is a lot like sex (at least for men) except you actually can actually die from lack of food. So you can’t simply quit. You have to maintain a balance for the rest of your life. If you are too attached to food, you will think about it a lot, spend a lot of time on it, and possibly eat a lot of it and so ruin your health. (Somewhat depending on how physically active you are.) If you eat too little, hunger will keep hammering on the doors of the psyche, disturbing you at all times of the day. So to free up bandwidth, it is best to eat simple food and in moderation.

The ancient practice of fasting is still recommended from time to time. Think of it as a test on how attached we are to our personal body. We may think we have free will, but fasting will tell us something about the matter. Instead of waiting for unexpected tests to jump us, we may take the fight to the enemy, so to speak, testing ourselves under controlled conditions. Or not – unless this is a required part of a Tradition you have chosen to follow, it is voluntary, and it should not be done to excess.

In days of yore, food was scarce. (At the time of writing, the Earth produces enough food for the average person to get just a little chubby, but this has not always been so.) So there was also the element that if you ate less, someone else could eat more. And if you subsisted on gifts (as many monks did) it was just common decency to not fatten yourself.

Entertainment is a bit different from this again. On one hand, it is not really an urgent need. On the other hand, it is not something you bind yourself to with iron chains. Even if you watch a movie tonight, you don’t need to watch one tomorrow, or ever again really. Each case stands alone. Or that is how it looks like. But this also means that you can always, as game reviewers say, “just play five minutes more and then suddenly it is morning”.

There are a lot of things of which we can say: “But it is not a bad thing!” Asceticisms – from the Greek word askesis, meaning training or exercise – basically refers to abstaining from good things for the benefit of something better. It does not refer to abstaining from vices, much less outright evil. To abstain from evil is a necessity even in the current version of the Human Operating System, because evil is corrosive. Evil destroys our harmony with others and within ourselves and comes back to bite us for sure. It is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die, or like picking up burning coals with your bare hands to throw at others. It is utterly insane, but even this is hard to accept when we are excited by our emotions, on the verge of falling back into Human Operating System version 1 (“all problems can be solved with a hand axe.”)

Next to destroying the soul by hate and envy and such straight out poisonous thoughts, there are the lesser vices that erode our health and our relationships, typically greed in its many, many forms. Lust as a vice can be called “sexual greed”, for instance. Gluttony is “food greed”. Greed is a wish to have something that does not belong to us, or to control something (or someone) that is not ours to control. Evils and vices are bad for us in and of themselves, so it is not ascesis to drop those. (And even then it is hard for most of us.)

But the things that are good and praiseworthy in normal life for normal people, but have to be cut out to make room for an even greater good – making that sacrifice is ascesis.  It is not a coincidence that an expression from sports has been chosen, for even humans with no goal beyond the life of their own body still can make such sacrifices to win a sports competition or become a professional.

It is not that the practices themselves are virtuous, as Wikipedia points out. In fact, overdoing them can cause a surge of pride in the old Ego: I am holier than thou, better show me respect or all hell is loose! The Buddha recommended the middle way, and he was not the only one. Modern Judaism frowns on ascetic practices of any sort, encouraging instead the pious to remember the Creator whenever they enjoy anything created.

But if there is no ascesis at all, the Old Mind will happily expand to fill all available time, and all available attention, and the New Mind will never be downloaded, much less installed.

I am obviously not a god or an angel, I am pretty sure I am not even a saint. So if your religion tells you that there is a Higher Being that enjoys to see you suffer, I will not tell you otherwise. I am not a teacher of religion, I think. I just want to share a new branch of psychology, which has been hidden inside of religious and philosophical traditions for thousands of years and has only recently taken on a life of its own, now that many different cultures meet and people can compare their similarities (and their differences).

But if you want to download and install the Human Operating System version 3 beta, it will be necessary to make space for it by reducing the time and attention that goes into the Old Mind, the way of living according to this age which is about to end.

It will be necessary, but not enough. Even a very ascetic life will take you nowhere (in this context) unless you have a reliable source of the New Mind, and it resonates with you inside, and you meditate (or do some other corresponding practice).  “Meditation brings wisdom, lack of meditation leaves ignorance” to quote the Buddha.

You have to download the New Mind (from fellow disciples, Scriptures, or a living Master if you live in an age that has one). Then you have to install it, which requires slowing down the old mind through meditative practice. Then you have to test it in practice and see if the installation has worked, or if the Old Mind still runs the show. This is a process that is repeated over and over, leading to growth over time. If we stop, our progress stops as well. I know this too from experience.

Downloading eternity

Screenshot anime The Laws of Eternity

Ignoring the text for now, this artist’s image of the Sixth Dimension may symbolize the intricate web of Light and more and less Enlightened souls across the fourth and fifth dimension, the first two time dimensions.

This is part of a series about the Human Operating System version 3, which is slated to replace the current mindset (version 2) much like this again replaced that of our speechless, handaxe-wielding ancestors of 100 000 years ago. Or perhaps not. Think for yourself. It is just a thought experiment, remember.

According to Buddhist tradition, there are three main types of Buddhas: A Buddha who becomes fully enlightened on his own but does not teach others; a Buddha who becomes fully enlightened on his own and teaches others; and a Buddha who becomes fully enlightened after being guided by a previous Buddha. (For more details, Wikipedia has an article on Buddhahood.)

It is not uncommon for a superior mind to have disciples, apprentices, students, sincere followers seeking to obtain the same mind as the Master. Indeed, to establish a great and lasting tradition, this may be essential. But an apprentice is not over his master; if he is perfected, he becomes like the master. This rarely happens to a lot of people for a long time. The tradition starts to falter, losing depth as it grows in numbers. At some point, it becomes a doctrine acceptable to the normal mind.

We have to understand that it is possible to be elevated beyond the usual measure of Human Operating System version 2, and yet be incomplete, partial, in terms of the next level. If there is someone more complete than you, they can guide you, but otherwise you may even miss some of it.

There are those who have an exceptional experience of Enlightenment and change radically. But because they think this is final, this is perfection, this is being “god”, they do not continue to grow, and eventually may trip in the fragments of the old self and fall down. It is not such an easy switch to flip.

Living as an apprentice of someone who is stabilized in H.O.S. version 3 is an extraordinary opportunity. You do not simply get to listen to their teachings, you get to observe them in their daily life, and this is the truly amazing and overwhelming part. To see with your own eyes is an exceptional privilege, and yet for many this is not enough. There must also be a resonance inside.

When there is no such Great Teacher around, but you do have the resonance, the words of the past Masters can still move you, and the stories by those who saw them. It is not a knowledge like memorizing vocabulary or formulas, but more is by nature the knowing of a person, even though that person is long gone from this world.

I mentioned that there is a fifth dimension involved, a second time dimension to be more exact. Through learning about those who went before, and the awakening of a resonance inside yourself, this connection is established. Even if you do not see them, they still see you. In their age and time, they not only “saw” into the past, but also into the future. The link between you and them is mostly of their making, or rather made by That which they incarnate; but there must be a seed, an opening, a hook.

I have used the analogy of the file sharing network BitTorrent. When a file is shared on such a network (for instance a new release of Ubuntu Linux, to take a common example) there must at first be someone who has the whole package. Various people around the world then begin to download, but they don’t all download the same part at the same time. Each downloads many small parts. Once they have done so, they can also upload that part to someone else, but of course they cannot share what they do not have themselves. After a while, the original can stop “seeding” (as it is called) and yet, even though nobody has 100% at the time, they can gradually re-assemble the whole by getting the missing parts from each other.

This is of course not a perfect description of a Tradition, but it is one aspect of it. Even if the Master is no longer present, it is possible to download more than anyone around you, and at least in theory it is possible to regain the fullness of that which has left the world.

As you can see, I believe there is both a “natural” part to this (understandable by someone with a purely Version 2 mind) and a “supernatural” part (which can only be understood by the new mind – I do not mean literally supernatural necessarily, because nature is far more super than most people know.)

You can assemble a certain amount of Version 2 knowledge by hearing, reading and thinking. But to absorb the Version 3 Knowledge (with a capital K), we need to spend time in timelessness – meditation or some other suitable spiritual practice, as it is called. I cannot think of any way in which one can become sensitive to the fifth dimension without such practice.

Once you have begun to sense the fifth dimension, it requires less to maintain that sensitivity than it took to reach it in the first place, but it can be gradually dulled.

Again, if you are familiar with a religion, and you want to explore the Human Operating System version 3, I am not sure you should do so within your own religion. It could destroy your simple faith at a time when you have nothing else to support you.  Of course, if you have already lost your simple faith and now hate that religion with a searing hate, you will definitely not gain anything from it. So I think sometimes it may be useful to explore a different tradition. But also risky, and perhaps best suited for the agnostic.

That is, if you even want to go this path. I am not sure why you would do that. The price is unimaginably high. There is a period during your Awakening when you can still return to the Dream, but it will not last forever.

Surpassing fate while alive

Screenshot anime Sakurasou Pet

“You can’t move others’ hearts unless you can move your own heart.” Today let us look at the story of three wise men in the East, who each sought to move his own heart and ended up changing the fate of civilization for thousands of years.

(This is a continuation of a series about the Human Operating System version 3, or the New Mind which must replace the mind that is common today. Today we look at the Far East.)

New Age people here in the West find the Eastern concept of reincarnation comforting: Even if we have to leave this world, we’ll be back after a while. But for the original owners of these religions, the concept of reincarnation was a very disturbing thought. It was like a prison in which they were trapped. Even if they did good deeds and were rewarded with a good rebirth, it was not a final solution. They had to keep running just to stay in place. There was no escape from the endless cycle, millions of years of temptation, separation and loss, the pain of birth and the pain of death, over and over for all time. Unless they could somehow reach Liberation. Salvation for them was not to live forever, but to cease living forever.

The Buddha became popular because people believed he had found the answer to ending this eternal cycle of life and death. In East Asia, many revere him or even worship him as a god. But if we look at it from a safe distance, his teachings are not a promise of Salvation after you die. No. This Liberation, the Nirvana (or Nibbana, in Pali) is supposed to happen in this life. If you do not reach Nirvana while alive, you’ll have to enter the ring again. In this sense, Buddhism is not a “faith”: It is experiential, and more of a science. There are methods, and peer review, and you are supposed to make observations. You can’t close your eyes and wish that you’ll get to Nirvana someday. You have to listen to the teachings, temper your desires, restrain your anger, overcome your fear, practice meditation and eventually reach the state of mind that is Nirvana.

(In later times, many of the Buddha’s followers have taken up beliefs and practices that – at least from a  distance – look a lot like closing your eyes and wishing to go to Nirvana someday. I can certainly understand this, but that was hardly how it began.)

If we go even further East to the homeland of Confucius and Lao-Tzu, they seem to have very little interest in the afterlife at all. Confucius certainly recommends venerating your dead ancestors, but I get the impression that this is necessary for your own sake rather than for theirs. To accumulate virtue and improve your soul while alive, this is itself the greatest goal. It is not something you do in order to get bonus points from gods. Indeed, I get the impression that the Sages would reject anyone who came to them with such an underhanded plan. To become a Noble Person, or in the most extreme case a Sage, this is the uttermost goal of earthly life.

The goal of your life must be reached while alive, and the earlier in life, the better. Nor is it a dreamy ecstasy – although ecstasy may happen earlier – but a state of mental clarity, of harmony and of being useful. The Sage is someone who can lead people in a natural way, by means of his example as much as his advice. There is no search for good feelings; if there is happiness, it is in the harmony with our purpose and in the good of many. It is not a life that would appeal much to an egotist, even had such a person been able to reach it.

(This hasn’t stopped later Daoists from fervently chasing after physical immortality, or at least extreme longevity. Belief in Immortals is rampant in folk Daoism, and a number of rituals are in circulation that are supposed to help you towards achieving this honor. I can certainly sympathize with that, but that was hardly what was intended.)

Confucius sums up his own life, early in part 2 of the Analects: “At fifteen, I had my mind bent on learning. At thirty, I stood firm. At forty, I had no doubts. At fifty, I knew the decrees of Heaven. At sixty, my ear was an obedient organ for the reception of truth. At seventy, I could follow what my heart desired, without transgressing what was right.” It was this latter stage which was the culmination of his progress, and which is very hard to objectively achieve. You may think what you do is right, of course, but you could simply be morally stunted. But Confucius was not simply some guy who thought highly of himself. He says himself that he did not consider it a loss if no one had heard of him. He was to live only a couple more years after he was seventy, but he changed the fate of the world’s largest empire and is revered even today.

I believe that all these three men – the Buddha, Lao-Tzu and Confucius – were examples of the Human Operating System version 3, where the center of the personality is no longer in the ego or the body-mind. There have been others since, and quite likely before as well, but these are well known and their words are clear and luminous. If you want to hear from the Sage’s own mouth, this is a good place to start.

Be crazy so we can be sane

Screenshot anime Sakurasou Pet

“Love is simply an electrical bug in the human neural circuit.” Now if only we had a forum where we could get together and assure each other that it is the rest of the people in the world who are crazy…

The trigger for this entry came from another absurd question on Quora. This time: Should religious belief be classified as a mental illness?

It is kind of disturbing that people even ask this, but there are in fact a disproportionate number of the mentally ill who manifest their illness in terms of religion. That is perhaps not so strange, since religion is already the domain in which we have the most unusual experiences and traditions, and insanity is pretty unusual for most of us. It is hard to manifest insanity in the form of accounting, for instance.

Science comes somewhere in between, I guess – I see some pseudoscience that looks nothing like sanity to me, but still has some few but vocal supporters. Like “Venus was a comet which passed Earth during historical times before entering its current orbit.” But enough about that. But then again, ten years ago we weren’t a result of interbreeding with Neanderthals, now we are. (That would explain me, to some degree…) So science is pretty crazy even when it is true.

Given that almost everyone is religious, the notion that “religion is insanity” sounds more like a projection if anything. Like people worry in the dark corners of their mind that something may be wrong with them when they are so different from other people; therefore all the other people must be crazy, that would explain it!

The truth is, as I have said before, that almost all modern atheists are really half-a-theist: They tend toward Socialism, which gives them the option to serve a powerful, invisible, mostly benevolent invisible being that already has an established caste of servants dedicated to bettering the world on behalf of the otherwise invisible Greater Power, which in this case is called the State. True, the State does not offer an afterlife, but neither did Moses. Read the Pentateuch – the original Torah – and you will see that the question of the afterlife was left open. God promised them that their cows would have calves and their enemies would flee. Socialism is on that level now.

But atheists don’t know how similar they are to other believers, so they need to fabricate this vast gulf between them, with the believers being crazy. Luckily this is still a minority position among atheists, it seems. But the fact that some seem to really think so, made me think back to another small group of people who were Different.

For many years, I was part of a church (or sect, as pretty much everyone else called us) which was very pious. We took the Bible very seriously, although not always literally. If you think Jesus was literally a door and Christians are literally sheep, I guess some suspicion is in order regarding your mental health. This was not a congregation where you just went to church on Sunday and otherwise went on with your life as if nothing had happened. The founders and early adopters, in particular, were men and women of heroic virtue. They set aside even the usual “harmless” cravings of human nature: Entertainment, tasty food, pretty clothes, sightseeing … stuff that no one else would consider sinful, but they set it aside so they could use their time and money and thoughts to serve God and help their fellow man.

But by generation three and four, most of their descendants were not like that. They were still good people who stayed away from crime, drugs, drunkenness and fornication, by all means. But they had hobbies (much like me), they had tastes and interests and wants and wishes that were their own and not those of God. They were by and large human, although very good humans, loved by employers for their loyalty, honesty and hard work.

The problem was that they were really good people with a doctrine saying that they were far more than that. The chosen ones, the bride of Christ, the saints, the overcomers. They should be exceptional, rather than just good. And so, subtly and softly like the slow falling of night, rumors spread. Not rumors about anyone in particular, friend or foe. But rumors about The World and those who lived there, those who had not been saved. This is indeed a motley crew, as life will show us, but the attention became steadily more selective, until The World was a cesspool of depravity, an ongoing parade of drug abuse, divorce and drunken gay sex. All of which certainly happen in The World and not in the Church, but … you see the point, I hope. Because they could not get better, others had to become worse to keep the distance.

And that, I think, is where the more sectarian atheists are today. Because they aren’t all that different from believers, the believers need to become worse. Crazy, evil, or at the very least amazingly stupid. Because the need to feel superior is very strong, particularly in those who are average.

Viewpoint character

Screenshot anime Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai NEXT

“Because I’m chosen by God!” Yes, but to be a viewpoint character, not the main character!

I have been left less than impressed by the MMORPG Champions Online, which I started subscribing to soon after City of Heroes shut down. The two were made by the same company, Cryptic Studios, and Champions was the newer of them. It sure has a lot of options, but it just does not engage me. There is something lacking. Or perhaps that’s just me growing up.

In any case, I came across an entry from early 2010, in which I fretted about the possible negative influence on my soul by all the fighting in City of Heroes (although at least it was heroic fighting – to protect the innocents and chastise the wrongdoers, I descended time after time). Less than two years later, the game closed down. Problem solved! but not by me.

(Incidentally, there are already RPGs where you can level up by healing and blessing people. I just don’t play them.)

Seen from my point of view, as the Very Important Person, I could say that God closed down CoH in order to help me focus on less violent activities. There is nothing wrong with that point of view, as long as one retains enough sanity to realize that this was not the only and hopefully not the main reason why the game closed down. (I believe the main reason was that it stuck out like a sore thumb in NCSoft’s new profile, where they focused on their Asian RPGs. Even though the game was profitable in itself, it might turn off potential customers with its America-centrism. America is no longer cool in Asia, where NCSoft has its headquarters and core audience.)

A bad leader focuses on micro goals instead of macro goals, a good leader focuses on macro goals instead of micro goals, but a great leader is aware of opportunities to combine them. God is a great leader, so it makes sense that he would throw me a boon while taking care of more important business.

The problem arises when the Viewpoint Character mistakenly thinks that he is the Main Character. I attended a Christian meeting here in Norway shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, where an until then rather unassuming elderly member of the congregation informed us that he had prayed for Soviet Union to fall, and now it had happened. Yes, I am sure he had, and it had undeniably happened. Good for him! He had prayed according to God’s will, evidently, which is a comforting thought. But the moment you think God is your hammer that you can wield to bring down empires, you have a problem. Oh yes.

During the last frenzied month of America’s economic bubble, gas prices reached new heights (although they never reached European levels). Faith-filled believers gathered to pray down the prices. Behold! From out of Heaven! The gas prices plummeted. All it took was the crash of the banking system and millions and millions of people losing their jobs, no longer needing to drive to work or affording to drive elsewhere. There we go! Problem solved! Good job, guys! When God is your hammer, anything is breakable.

In reality, of course, God is not our hammer. I am not the Main Character. What I am is a Viewpoint Character. I think it is great that there are viewpoint characters. Sometimes our goals are aligned with the greater good, sometimes the opposite (although hopefully we don’t do that on purpose), and sometimes not really related. The role of the Viewpoint Character, I feel, is quite valuable. As long as neither the Viewpoint Character or others confuse this with being the Main Character.