Tag Archives: Wolfram Schommers

What Is your Newest Book About?

9 Jun

Since I first posted about the publication of my newest Book- The Buddha’s Radical Psychology: Explorations, I have had numerous inquirers asking about the content of the book. I thought the quickest look at the book contents would be to list the Table of Contents. Good reading!

The Buddha’s Radical Psychology: Explorations



Chapter 1 Introduction 1

Chapter 2 Self/No-Self 7

Chapter 3 Self as Construction 23

Chapter 4 The Human Being as a Collective, Unified Unit 35

Chapter 5 Awakening and Enlightenment: Psychological Transformation and Transcendence 61

Chapter 6 Enlightenment: Reality, Actuality and Transcendence 73

Chapter 7 Knowing and Not Knowing – What is Possible? 81

Chapter 8 The General Doctrine of the Law of Dependent Co-arising 99

Chapter 9 Kamma 109

Chapter 10 Sense of Agency 119

Chapter 11 Agency Labelled as Self 129

Chapter 12 Dividing Existence – Duality 143

Chapter 13 Language Construction of Duality 163

Chapter 14 Identification 181

Chapter 15 The Buddha’s Compassion 197

Chapter 16 Memory 207

Chapter 17 The Unconscious 227

Chapter 18 Habits 243

Chapter 19 Cognitive Biases 253

Chapter 20 Meta-cognition and Mindfulness 267

Chapter 21 Automatic Influences on our Actions and Perceptions 277

Chapter 22 Organisms as Coherent Embedded Systems 299

Chapter 23 Happiness 379

Chapter 24 The World without a ‘Self’ 391

Chapter 25 Closing Thoughts 405

Appendix A Explanation of the effects of stress on the different systems of the human body 411

Appendix B Special experiences 415

About the Author

Rodger R. Ricketts, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist and mindfulness meditation teacher. He has been studying Buddhism for over thirty years, both as part of his own personal quest and also in the application its principles as a therapeutic tool in psychotherapy. He has written three books exploring the foundation of the Buddha’s Teaching in psychology. Rodger has given numerous presentations at wellness and professional psychological conferences on the topics of cognitive psychology, mindfulness and wellbeing. Rodger continues his study of both science and Buddhism, and maintains a regular meditation practice.

Fascinating and Mysterious Life

11 Aug

This small project of mine began a few winters ago after I had time to begin to search for some further trends in thinking from some of my previous experiences and research in the area of Buddhism and science. It has turned into a fun and interesting search of ideas which are presented here as quotes. Life ideas are like reading a good mystery novel where the plot twists and turns as you contunue the story and you are never really sure what is the “truth”. While no “truth” is always forthcoming, ‘trends’, patterns, “evidence” starts to appear which create important hypothesis or propositions about the nature of life, reality, knowledge, etc, as well as show the mystery, complexity and strangeness of life. I share those now on my blog(s). I hope you enjoy the thread!                                                                                                                                                                                             —————————————————————————————————————————-

Mystery is not something negative that has to be eliminated. On the contrary, it is one of the constitutive elements of being. B.D’Espagnat  

Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine. A. Eddington

The Big Bang Theory is just a model and is not accepted by all astronomers – although the vast majority of the do accept it. This idea proposes that 14 billion years ago the energy of the Universe was suddenly created, with all the energy required to produce it concentrated into what was essentially a point, a point with no volume referred to by scientists as a singularity. From that point the Universe expanded outwards and 14 billion years later has evolved into what we observe today. The implication of this model is that, at the instant the Universe began, space and time did not exist. One cannot refer to a time before the Big Bang because there was no such thing as time before the Universe began. Again, one cannot ask what the Universe expanded into because the only space that exists is within the bounds of the expanding Universe. … On the basis of the Big Bang theory what was the Universe like at the instant it began? It was an unimaginable concentration of just pure energy – no matter could exist. Then it began to expand and, once this happened, then time and space came into existence. … From the beginning to 10(-12) seconds, there would be no clear distinction between energy and matter and the forces that operated would be of an unfamilar kind. During this period there occurred a rapid expansion … at a speed greater than light. Michael M. Woolfson

Steven Hawking, George Ellis, and Roger Penrose. According to their calculations, time and space had a finite beginning that corresponded to the origin of matter and energy.”3 The singularity didn’t appear in space; rather, space began inside of the singularity. Prior to the singularity, nothing existed, not space, time, matter, or energy – nothing. So where and in what did the singularity appear if not in space? We don’t know. We don’t know where it came from, why it’s here, or even where it is. All we really know is that we are inside of it and at one time it didn’t exist and neither did we. There was no explosion; there was (and continues to be) an expansion. Rather than imagining a balloon popping and releasing its contents, imagine a balloon expanding: an infinitesimally small balloon expanding to the size of our current universe. anonymous

The cyclic universe model *space and time exist forever *the big bang is not the beginning of time; rather, it is a bridge to a pre-existing contracting era *the Universe undergoes an endless sequence of cycles in which it contracts in a big crunch and re-emerges in an expanding big bang, with trillions of years of evolution in between *the temperature and density of the universe do not become infinite at any point in the cycle; indeed, they never exceed a finite bound (about a trillion trillion degrees) *no inflation has taken place since the big bang; the current homogeneity and flatness were created by events that occurred before the most recent big bang *the seeds for galaxy formation were created by instabilities arising as the Universe was collapsing towards a big crunch, prior to our big bang. In the new paradigm, each cycle proceeds through a period of radiation and matter domination consistent with standard cosmology, producing the observed primordial abundance of elements, the cosmic microwave background, the expansion of galaxies, etc. For the next trillion years or more, the Universe undergoes a period of slow cosmic acceleration (as detected in recent observations1), which ultimately empties the Universe of all of the entropy and black holes produced in the preceding cycle and triggers the events that lead to contraction and a big crunch. Note that dark energy is not simply added on — it plays an essential role. The transition from big crunch to big bang automatically replenishes the Universe by creating new matter and radiation. Gravity and the transition from big crunch to big bang keep the cycles going forever.Paul J. Steinhardt

Eventually the universe will become a cold, dead wasteland with a temperature approaching what scientists term “absolute zero”. Professor Priyamvada Natarajan (which contradicts the Cyclic Model)

And so without even quoting about string theory or M theory, the obvious question that goes beyond our present ability of understanding is the question “how did it all begin” or “where did the massive energy that appeared to become our known universe orginate?”, etc.. These questions can also become the fodder for religious thought, ie “God created the Universe” and it can be left at that for at this point science just can’t answer that question. Neither “answer” can be “correct” because science admits it is unanswerable and religion takes it on faith. So, as T. Caryle says, the world is an inscrutable and magical place. Rodger

Wonder is retained by wise pondering.” –Ravi Zacharias

Xuan(Tao) is the dark mystery beyond all mysteries.Han Zhongli

The more I learn, the more I understand that life is amazing, sensitive, responsive, mysterious  and totally interconnected . -Rodger  

It remains admitted that to this day we don’t have a convincing notion of why there is something, why not merely nothing: What “spiritus rectot breathes fire into the equations and makes the universe for them to describe?”- raising the question, what do the laws of nature permit beyond what actually exists? H. Genz  

In the realm of particle collisions and quantum processes, antimatter is produced as often as ordinary matter. In fact, the big bang should have produced equal amounts of both—not a good thing, because each piece of antimatter would destroy an equal amount of matter. The big bang should thus have created universe of only light and energy, free of any solids, liquids or gases. So, some sort of asymmetry occurred that skewed the universe’s evolution toward matter. It would not have taken much—just one extra matter particle for every billion particle-antiparticle pairs. Researchers have discovered an asymmetry between the behavior of matter and of antimatter, called charge–parity violation, which could have skewed things to our side of the material world. But for this subtle bias to translate into an excess of matter, the primordial universe would have had to go through a wrenching period of imbalanced conditions, and so far no one knows how that might have happened.Philip Yam      

We are mounds of quarks in trios, we are proton-and-electron families. …There is but a single family on this planet, just one life-form stretching out its tendrils, testing possibilities as dust and stars did once upon a time. Face it, we are all in this together, microbes, seaweed, starfish, salamanders, humans, every strange extrusion of nucleic acid chains. We are the kin of yeast, the brothers of cockroaches, the sisters of sugar beets, and the cousins of maize. We share a common birthright born of ancient gene-and-membrane teams. All of us are children in the clan of DNA. Howard Bloom

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed. –Albert Einstein  

The religion of future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend a personal God and avoid dogmas and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual as a meaningful unity. Buddhism answers this description… If there is any religion that would cope with modern scientific needs, it would be Buddhism. perhaps Albert Einstein

A human being is a part of the whole, called by us the “Universe,”a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something seperate from the rest – a kind of optical illusion of his consciouness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security. Einstein

We know from science that nothing in the universe exists as an isolated or independent entity. M.Wheatley

The most important scientific revolutions all include, as their only common feature, the dethronement of human arrogance from one pedestal after another of previous convictions about our centrality in the cosmos.S.J.Gould

This world, after all our science and sciences, is still a miracle; wonderful, inscrutable, magical and more, to whosoever will think of it. T. Carlye

What is the mind of ours? Last week’s potatoes!…The atoms come into my brain, dance and dance and then go out-there are always new atoms but always doing the same dance, remembering what the dance was yesterday.  RP Feynman  

“… all those who apprehend the single significant whole, or experience cosmic religious feeling, with or without the awareness of the existence of the principle of cosmic order, are engaged in similar acts of communion with the Whole. Yet any translation into conscious content of that experience , in scientific or religious thought, invokes reductionism where it cannot be applied. …all knowledge in the conscious content is a differentiated system that cannot by definition articulate the universal principle of order. Just as there can be no one-to-one correspondence between physical theory and physical reality, there can be no such correspondence between religious descriptions of beings and Being itself.” and ” … conceiving of a human being, as Einstein put it, as “part of the whole” is the leap of perspective that will prove most critical. It is only in making this leap that we can begin, as he suggests, to free ourselves of the ‘optical illusions’ of our present conception of self as a “part limited in time and space”, and to widen “our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty”.  and ” The central problem… has been trying to “prove” the existence of Being when it can never be proven because of its inherent undivided wholeness. Being neither requires or permits “proof”. It merely is, and accepting this abundantly obvious fact can provide a “foundation”, as Einstein put it, ‘for our inner security.’ …the description of the parts cannot disclose the existence or nature of the Whole. Yet one cannot, of course, merely reason or argue oneself into an acceptance of this proposition. One must have the capacity for what Einstein termed ‘cosmic religious feeling.’  Hopefully many of those who have the capacity will also communicate their awareness to others in metaphoric representations in ordinary language with enormous emotional appeal. …As described by Jonas Salk: ‘…By using the processes of Nature as metaphor, to describe the forces of the Cosmos by which it operates upon and within Man, we come as close to describing ‘reality’ as we can within the limits of our comprehension. Men will be very uneven in their capacity for such understanding, which, naturally, differs for different ages and cultures, and develops and changes over the course of time. For these reasons it will always be necessary to use metaphor and myth to provide ‘comprehensible’ guides to living. In this way, Man’s imagination and intellect play vital roles in his survival and evolution’.” from The Conscious Universe  

“The whole is something else than the sum of its parts” K. Koffka

The usual conception of the world is that matter is “embedded in” space and time. …this cannot be the case. There are many factors which indicate that reality is “projected onto” space and time. … The picture and also its frame, space-time, are located in the mind of the observer….the fact that reality is not embedded in space-time but is rather projected onto space-time. …space-time is not installed in the brain as a definate system but it is only “inserted” if there is actually something to be portrayed or represented, i.e., when our sense organs register objects and processes from the reality outside. W. Schommers  

I am therefore inclinded to think that “the Real” – alais human-independent reality- is not embedded in space-time. And, indeed, I go so far as speculating that, quite on the contrary, the nature of space-time is… not “noumenal” but “phenomenal”, that space-time is a “reality-for-us.” B.d’Espagnat  

Time is a dimension in the domain of descriptions, not a feature of the ambience. H.Maturana

According to classical physics, the universe consists of bodies in space. We are tempted to assume, therefore, that we live in a physical world consisting of bodies in space and that what we percieve consists of objects in space. But this is very dubious. J.J.Gibson

Most of us still think like Newton, regarding space as sort of a vast container that has no walls. But our notion of space is false. Like time, space is neither physical nor fundamentally real in our view. Rather, it is a mode of interpretation and understanding. It is part of an animal’s mental software that molds sensations into multidimensional objects. time does not exist independently of the life that notices it. Robert Lanza and Bob Berman  

The concept of time cannot actually be understood. We are accustomed to thinking that time is something which can be found or which one has. But it actually has no existence. The physicist says time is something that can be measured in one way or another by a clock. But what does the clock measure. Nothing but time!E. Dammann   

In recent years many planets have been found around nearby main-sequence stars, all of the Population 1 variety, and it is generally accepted that the material of these planets will have come from the same source as that which formed the parent star. This is how the material that formed our world came into being – its atmosphere and solid substance, the biosphere and everything within it, including us. An eminent American astronomer, Carl Sagen (1934-96), a great expositor of popular science, once described humankind as being evolved from star stuff. How right he was! Look around you- look in a mirror. All the matter that you see, living and non-living, has been through the violence of several supernovae, and may do so many times more in the distant future. Michael M Woolfson  

Unknowingly, we plow the dust of stars, blown about us by the wind, and drink the universe in a glass of rain.–Ihab Hassan  

What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset. Crowfoot, Blackfoot warrior and orator 1830 – 1890 

So, I don’t really know how to justify my love for the electron. Perhaps it is because an electron has no location. Electrons interact via the electromagnetic field, aka the photon. All the electrons in the universe and all the photons in the universe are talking to each other all the time. They are all connected, no matter how far apart, by the electromagnetic field, which has infinite range.Jon Butterworth 

Steven Hawkings and Alien Life

9 Jul

Steve Hawking and Alien Life

Recently the world renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking created a stir by saying, “If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they can reach.” Hawking said this in a forthcoming documentary made for the Discovery Channel. He argues that, instead of trying to find and communicate with life in the cosmos, humans would be better off doing everything they can to avoid contact.

Hawking believes that, based on the sheer number of planets that scientists know must exist, we are not the only life-form in the universe. There are, after all, billions and billions of stars in our galaxy alone, with, it is reasonable to expect, an even greater number of planets orbiting them. And it is not unreasonable to expect some of that alien life to be intelligent, and capable of interstellar communication.

However, Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the SETI (standing for Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) Institute in California, the world’s leading organization searching for telltale alien signals, is not so sure. “This is an unwarranted fear,” Shostak says. “If their interest in our planet is for something valuable that our planet has to offer, there’s no particular reason to worry about them now. If they’re interested in resources, they have ways of finding rocky planets that don’t depend on whether we broadcast or not. They could have found us a billion years ago.”

Paul Davies, an astrophysicist at Arizona State University and chair of SETI’s post-detection taskforce, argues that alien brains, with their different architecture, would interpret information very differently from ours. What we think of as beautiful or friendly might come across as violent to them, or vice versa. “Lots of people think that because they would be so wise and knowledgeable, they would be peaceful,” adds Stewart. “I don’t think you can assume that. I don’t think you can put human views on to them; that’s a dangerous way of thinking. Aliens are alien. If they exist at all, we cannot assume they’re like us.”

Several more arguments by Paul Davies are proposed as to why the scenario of hostile aliens visiting earth is inaccurate and they include the following:

Earth is about 4.5 billion years old, and there were stars and planets around long before the solar system even existed. Assuming intelligent life is likely, as Hawking suggests, then some alien communities would have emerged a very long time in the past. If resources are the motivating factor, then at least one group of aliens would surely have spotted Earth as a desirable destination millions of years ago, and come here when they could have had the planet for the asking, without pesky humans to complicate the takeover.

Another problem with Hawking’s picture is the sheer distances involved. The galaxy is huge by human standards. The nearest star is over four light years away -– about 25 trillion miles. Within the scientific community, even the optimists believe the nearest civilization could well be hundreds of light years away. Because nothing can travel faster than light, the Hollywood image of aliens plying the vast interstellar voids in star fleets is absurd. It’s far more likely that alien civilizations would limit contact to radio communication rather than engage in the sort of close encounters favored by movie makers.

Suppose by some fluke aliens did come to visit Earth in the near future, then comparisons with Columbus are in any case wide of the mark, and reflect the rampant anthropocentrism that pervades much speculation about alien life. Just because we go around wiping out our competitors doesn’t mean aliens would do the same. A civilization that has endured for millions of years would have overcome any aggressive tendencies, and may well have genetically engineered its species for harmonious living. Any truly bellicose alien species would either have wiped itself out long ago, or already taken over the galaxy.

Other responses were mixed in their agreement or not of Hawking’s warning.

The Journal of Cosmology compiled responses from a dozen scientists and has published them online. Some criticized Hawking’s use of human behavior to predict what aliens would do, but others said that human behavior was a reasonable yardstick. Few, however, questioned the premise of Hawking’s statements — which alien life forms probably exist and we are likely someday to encounter them.

Blair Csuti, a biologist at Oregon State University, defended Hawking’s trepidation, arguing that the principles of evolution would have shaped those beings just as they did life on Earth, selecting for self-preserving behavior. “Aliens visiting newly discovered planets, like Earth, would place their own interests above those of unsophisticated indigenous residents.”

Robert Ehrlich, a physicist at George Mason University agreed, further imagining that the aliens would be “adaptable robots whose mental processes reflect those of their senders.”

Others, like Chandra Wickramasinghe of Cardiff University in the United Kingdom and B.G. Sidharth at the B.M. Birla Science Centre in India, took a more low-tech view of alien invasions. They argued that the threat would come not from green people with fancy stun guns, but from pathogenic microbes that could infect life on Earth.  “When Columbus was followed by the Spanish conquistadors, it was not advanced weaponry which destroyed the native civilizations, but disease,” Sidharth wrote.

Randy D. Allen, a biologist at Oklahoma State University, argued that a smart-enough species could develop a quantum computer and eventually transfer their consciousnesses into it. “Perhaps … they can “see” or “feel” the entire universe. Maybe they’ve gained the ability to manipulate elementary particles and can control its evolution and its fate. They would have become, by any human definition, gods.”

GianCarlo Ghirardi, a physicist at Italy’s University of Trieste, asked why intelligent aliens should have negative intentions toward earthlings. “If Hawking’s aliens are anything like humans, then I am optimistic … that their scientific development should be accompanied also by an ethical development, and (they) might value life,” he wrote.

Another physicist wrote several years before Hawking’s warning, a different but I think much more sophisticated and reasonable hypothesis about us humans communicating with extra-terrestrials. This scientist is Wolfram Schommers. In his book ‘The Visible and the Invisible’, Schommers uses an example of a turkey as a non-human life form in a discussion on perception and world views. If we think extra-terrestrial instead of his turkey, the results are the same discussion. He writes the following: ‘Objective’ does not mean that a certain fact actually exists in (basic) reality in the form experienced by an observer (whether the observer is a turkey or a man). In what form a certain entity (e.g. a chick) exists in objective reality is something that we can principally know nothing about and make no pronouncement upon…Since however a turkey’s (alien) experiences in everyday life are fundamentally different from those of the human observer, the particular questions which a highly developed turkey (alien) brain would raise, can be expected to be fundamentally different from those of the human observer. We should not forget that experiences at the level of everyday experience are the basis of any science. …The turkey (or organism which evolved from it) will possibly know very little about ‘our’ cosmos or ‘our’ elementary particles. Accordingly it could also hardly recognize the sense of a radio telescope (SETI uses radio waves to try to communicate with extra-terrestrials) or a particle accelerator. Instead of these devices the turkey (alien) would possibly construct and manufacture devices whose deeper sense remained hidden to human observers. …We can never recognize fundamental reality, but only versions dependent on the particular biological species and system.

So what I take from this particular argument (and this is only one aspect of a much deeper analysis of matter and mind in physics) by Schommers is that an extra-terrestrial, having evolved in a very different manner than humans will have a very different brain structure, perception system, etc. and understanding of objective reality. They probably won’t have developed the same constructs or technological instruments to correspond with human ones.

Therefore, the previous anthropomorphic descriptions of possible alien motivations, world views and technologies by Hawking et al. – except Paul Davies- are in the end naïve and unsuccessful. While most astrophysicists and astronomers agree that alien life forms are likely in the vast universe, I suggest they become more sophisticated in their understanding of evolutionary biology and its effect on systems of perceiving, worldview construction and, therefore, comprehension of this mysterious cosmos of which we are a part.