Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Intention Experiment

It just hit me exactly what I recognized all those months ago.

I was trying to work out the "There's no me" thing, and couldn't get past the overwhelming feeling that there was. I mean, the evidence for a me was plain: The intention to perform actions was mine, I willed thoughts into existence. 

I think, therefore I am.

How could there be no me when I was clearly doing stuff? My existence didn't just seem ironclad, it felt ironclad, right down to the core. But, if you've been reading this blog, obviously now I'm pretty damn vocal about there being no self. 

So what was it? What was that single click, the thing that permanently took what I thought to be my life, sucked it out of its thought-constructed fantasy world, and slammed it right into the simple place called "reality"? 

Well, nothing nearly that epic. It was just seeing that the intention to do things isn't my intention: it isn't caused by an intender, willed in by a willer, or anything like that. Intention itself is the cause of intended actions.

All credit for narrowing this down goes to StepVheN by the way, he's been digging into this stuff for a few months now.

Anyway, here's an experiment for you to try:

Think of a flying pig.

Just popped in your mind automatically, right? Right. I'm magic.

Now think of your personal favorite animal. Flying. For 15 seconds.

Takes a bit more effort, doesn't it? Notice the feeling of that effort, that intention. If you haven't seen no-self yet, you'll interpret this as the feeling-equivalent of the effort *you are* putting into thinking. Just take note of that, how the driven thoughts feel different than the automatic ones.

Now raise your arm. Same feeling of effort, right? The intention.

Blink consciously. Wiggle your toes. Same thing, yeah?

Of course, man, get to the point!

Well, instead of looking at these actions as you are causing them to happen, look at them instead as if intention itself is the driving force behind them. Effort is the driving force behind them.

Look at how much better that fits what's going on. For everything. Everywhere where it feels like there's a you which causes the action, look at if as if the drive to do the action itself is driving it. Inseparable from the action, as well.

Look at how the intention doesn't come from a you. It may be triggered by curiosity, or passion, or any other reason.

If I remember correctly, the action that got me to see this was wiggling my toes. Could've been any conscious action.

The point is, it's that simple. Once you see it there's no going back. And by seeing, I mean seeing - noticing, directly in the world of phenomenon, how this plays out. Scientifically. It's insane.

Now at the time I just interpreted this as "Life's is running automatically on it's own, no core causer in control", which is true. But when I try to explain that to people, I keep getting the "But it feels like there's a me" argument.

Sometimes it's fancier, like "The sense of self is necessary, why are you saying we should get rid of it?"

I'm not saying you should get rid of it. I'm saying it's not a sense of self - it's a sense of effort, of intention, of a drive to do something (also the sense of an experiencer to life, but that's a different angle to take this). Tacking an "I" onto that drive, and saying that it causes the drive is false. That's the error that the entire human population is stuck in, however.

Obviously, don't agree with this, don't disagree with it, etc. etc. etc. This isn't an argument, it's an experiment. Try it out, and give me the results.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Philosophy's Gone Astray

Philosophy is fucked.

Which is a shame, because it has amazing potential. But unfortunately, it's lost it's practicality, because it's lost it's direction.

I'm talking about modern philosophy - analytic philosophy, academic philosophy, linguistical analysis - anywhere where the focus is on argumentation and logical structures.

I'm not talking about the greats: Socrates, Kant, Schopenhauer, Hume, Magee, all of these guys knew what the smart game was: destroy their false assumptions and look at how the world actually works. That's how they were so good - that's where their passion came from.

Philosophy to them wasn't a hobby, it was a deeply personal investigation. Even Descartes, who's main conclusion is the polar opposite from that of this site, had the right idea.

Why am I talking about philosophy?

Well, I've brought up the subject of no-self to a lot of online philosophers, or philosophy hobbyists. Every time, I get asked things like "Do you have any proof?", or "I know this is true, x already said it, why are you bringing it up?" or the dreaded "If there's no you, why do you keep using the word 'I'?"

And these are understandable. From the perspective of the people asking them, it does look like I'm jumping to conclusions, or restating the obvious, or contradicting myself. But that's because their goal, and if you're a Westerner, probably your goal, is one of building up and defending belief structures, as opposed to tearing them down in favor of recognizing the reality they should be based on.

It just doesn't make sense to them that ideas about reality can be tested by watching how reality works.

For example - If your a passionate atheist, you'll often seek out new proofs and reasons for why gods don't exist. But how many challenge that assumption? How many will be able to honestly set aside their beliefs, give the whole god-thing the benefit of the doubt for even a day a day, and really at the world through the eyes of another perspective?

And this applies to literally all positions, not just major religious/political ones.

It's hard - I still have trouble doing it. Even after drastically cutting down on the pull of my self-image (do that here, it's awesome), it still feels unnatural to challenge my beliefs so radically. Belief structures just don't like being fucked with.

But to live an honest life, it has to be done.

And as long as people aren't willing to get humble and feel the burn that comes from doing this, we'll never grow out of our immaturity. As long as you're not willing to do this, you'll be a slave to unchecked beliefs. (Heh, it's not always as bad as I make it out to be, a lot of the time it's like facing fear, which is one of the more awesome things in life).

The goal of a philosopher shouldn't be to increase the general "knowledge" of their subject while the possibility of turning themselves into a weapon of clarity, capable of doing the same to others, is wide-open.

But of course, it doesn't appear to be wide-open. Only a lucky few stumble onto it by chance, because the idea of challenging assumptions to a radical degree (and I mean radical, surrendering each thought/concept to the phenomenal reality it's supposed to represent) isn't found anywhere in our culture.

Obviously start with your core delusion, the assumption of a self. Much of this blog is dedicated to this goal - I'd recommend clicking on the "Start Here" link above. I like writing about this stuff 8-)

What's your goal: having a nice collection of ideas, or seeing the world as it actually is?