Thursday, 14 January 2010

False Logic

According to a recent poll, 52% of Britons believe that religion is becoming a divisive issue in society. Are differences between religions a cause of evil? In my view, the cause of the world’s evils is greed, lust, anger and pride, all coming from the ego, and don’t most religions agree on this? And yet most people of faith are not very logical when putting their beliefs into practice. You don’t need to be a student of history to know that! But many people of no faith, despite their logical scepticism, are not very logical either – we’re all human after all – in believing that without the motivation of differing ideologies, the conflict between peoples would magically disappear. One problem with this is that it is in itself an ideology (and one of the tenets of communism). But more importantly it is based on a false logic. “Conflicts are usually along lines of ideological difference. Therefore it is the differences that cause the conflict.” Without ideological differences, the greed, the lust for power, the anger that drives us to retaliate and the pride that makes us value ourself over another still remain. The differences are merely a vehicle through which the evil expresses itself.

This kind of false logic is tremendously prevalent. The latest form that I’ve come across is the following, which seems to be a widely held view even among intelligent people. “Most terrorists are Muslims. Therefore, there must be something about Islam that encourages terrorism.” This is the same false logic. To see why, we can give examples of other statements of this form.  

“The sun rises in the East. Therefore, there must be something about the East that makes the sun rise there.”  

“Most witch-burnings were carried out by the church. Therefore, there must have been something about Christianity that promoted witch-burning.”  

“Most communist sympathizers were well-educated. Therefore there’s something about being well-educated that made one more liable to sympathize with communism.”  

“Most child sacrifice is carried out by witch-doctors. Therefore, there must be something about witch-doctor beliefs that encourages child sacrifice.”  

“Most developing countries that sign up to international trade agreements become more prosperous in subsequent years. Therefore there must be something about signing such agreements that increases prosperity.”  

“Most bananas come from tropical countries. Therefore, there must be something about the tropical environment that’s great for growing bananas.”  

As these examples show, this is false logic, but just because it’s false logic doesn’t mean that the deductions we arrive at can’t be true. In each case, if the second statement were true, then that would explain the first, but the truth in the first instance (except for the one about bananas) is almost always more complicated. Of course if there were something about Islam that encouraged terrorism, that would explain why most terrorists in recent years have been Muslim. And if it is ideological difference that causes conflict, that would explain why conflict is often along lines of ideological difference. In both cases however, history shows that it has not always been this way. The danger of ideology is that it provides organizational structures for evil. The original source of evil however lies deeper and without a suitable ideology its expression will always organize itself into some new ideology which it will use to justify itself as we saw in 1930s Germany. The original source of all evil lies in the ego. Ironic is it not that the wily old ego should take control of the steering wheel of even those structures, all the different religions, that most desire to control it.

Finally there’s another false logic that the terribly unequal treatment of women in some Muslim countries is also the fault of religion. At face value, this is undeniable with the Koran saying that women should inherit half that of men and so forth. But something which I came across recently (in a book called “Women of Sufism” by the American Camille Adams Helminski) is that it fails to recognize the context of Arabia at that time. Even in the West, an estate went to the first-born male, while in uncivilized Arabia maltreatment of women was severe and polygamy the norm. The Koran actually marked a revolution in women’s rights. How few people realize that today! So much so that the first Islamic saint is regarded to be Rabia who not only was a woman, but came from a very poor background. For anyone to rise out of obscurity was very unusual in the ancient world, let alone a woman. Nevertheless, the radical fundamentalists of today use the Koran to subjugate women. It is the lust for power and the over one-thousand year book provides a convenient pretext. But in light of the context of the Koran, it would certainly be false logic for us to blame their behaviour on the religion and as we shall see their behaviour is also based on false logic.  

Context is important because it recognizes intention. The fundamentalist believes that “The Koran was literal truth. Truth never changes. Therefore it still is literal truth.” But this is false logic, if we were to recognize that truth lies not in the moral laws and beliefs, but in the relations between those beliefs and society, in their intention. Another thing I learnt recently is that even in the short time during which the Koran was written, morals changed with slavery and polygamy going from acceptable to discouraged and alcohol going from discouraged to prohibited. Recognizing underlying intention, and letting go of the false logic of the fundamentalist regarding truth, the Islamic world would become a much more enlightened place, but for the moment they are stuck in a cultural time machine of former glory and shattered dreams. Perhaps they need another saint like Rabia to save them.  

More seriously though, the key is education.

But how to respond to injustice and achieve collective harmony? Seeing the tragedies of natural disasters and man's inhumanity throws us off balance. All each of us can do is realize that peace is an inside job and begins on the individual level. It cannot be imposed from outside us. "Be the change you want to see in the world." And how difficult it is for each of us to be mindful of not ourselves falling into false logic such as anger when we have been wronged and resorting to acts of war within our mind and emotions. So we must work on ourselves with devotion, mindfulness and compassion.

Edit: But now I see that I've caught myself in a false logic. Because if I truly believed that peace begins on the individual level, then I wouldn't have written this blog nor held up a mirror to the false logic in the world before that mirror was truly polished and I knew myself. Yet even if our own mirrors are not yet polished, there are times when to not speak out is to be an accomplice or in reverse if another were to point out our errors we might sometimes be grateful of that. A timely intervention could save another from trouble. So I guess I've got my own false logic to work through... On the one hand, I believe that we should "judge not lest we ourselves be judged", yet I also believe that we should speak out against injustice. So maybe I shouldn't have published this blog until I'd polished my own mirror of false logic, or then again maybe you'll allow that even a foggy mirror can shed some light. So if you'll forgive my foggy mirror, I've got some polishing to do, and in the meantime I'll try not to hold it up to the world unless absolutely necessary.

Blessings! And I hope you enjoy the song... "If the Stars Were Mine" by Melody Gardot.


  1. i'll return... i have run out of time this morning!

  2. I just recognized that I've got my own false logic to work through, so I've added an edit explaining.

    I've also added a link to the question on Y!A by < I > where I first heard that song.

  3. Marvelous blog, Okei! (AND loved the song!)

    So much of Islam is based on the interpretations and opinions that came later, and there is no question that we will be front row center watching their own "Reformation" and probably "Counter-reformation" over the next couple hundred years.

    Education is certainly key, but serious scholarship is also critical.

    Something I came across a couple of weeks ago (hope you didn't blog it!) was a review of a new book re-translating a document at the heart of some of the long established myths of Islam. The document was the original one describing how in paradise a man is promised 72 virgins..... The accurate translation of the text was about the promise of succulent GRAPES in paradise. :-))))

  4. Ah this is a good blog Okei!

    You seemed to have tied yourself in a knot though with the edit.

    I used to do that...

    Organized religion often has the Us versus Then mentality. That fosters loyalty... It occurs with Patriotism, street gangs ... any group that offers answers to the pain folks do not want to feel.

    But more than anything, it absolves people from the responsibility of choosing for themselves. Not everyone in a religion does this. But it is so easy to do.

    People look for that. They look to political leaders, even TV personalities for this absolution.

  5. Thank you Jamintoo.

    Your contributions are so often about deeper thinking, and further thinking. And to the point.

    Mindfulness, yes. I like that.

    Take care.

  6. I think education comes before scholarship, though of course the latter can help. People interpret scholarship to suit what they believe.

    No, that wasn't me. I haven't posted a single review yet. I always wondered where the idea of the 72 virgins came from. The first I heard about it was when it was put forward as a motivation for the terrorists and that never made any sense. Maybe it was part of a propaganda campaign to convert people in the bad old days somewhere.

  7. Thanks Cyn! I do believe that peace begins on the individual level, but this doesn't mean we should tie our hands behind our back and not interact with the world, just that we somehow must make sure we do so with equanimity. To say everything must be done purely internally first is what I would really wish to believe, but it is too idealistic.

    Yes, organized religion has "collective ego", just like governments and the other examples you gave, so there are parallels with the individual case. And it might give the individual ego pride to be part of a collective, and as you say absolve some of its control to something greater in return for the security this offers. Free itself even from having to think for itself... interesting point! That's true if the ego doesn't like too much thinking. Yes, we all need a break sometimes, lol.

  8. I usually post poetry, but I guess I'm veering into the more philosophical. I think I'm subconsciously reflecting my contacts.

    Yes, importance of mindfulness. One day I'll understand what it means. ;^)

  9. I also posted this on the Buddhist Travellers site, and had a lot more thoughts inspired in particular by Erica's response which she posted there but not here.

  10. I've been reluctant to respond to this posting as it is the sort of thing I'd rather discuss in the flexible environment of a real live conversation. But two quick comments . . .

    On the one hand, I sympathize with your idea about false logic. In my experience (speaking generally here) people do not do a good job of thinking about things with clarity and distinctness. It is a difficult matter to assess 'the facts'. If we begin with false assumptions, instead of the facts, the result is inevitably false conclusions. So, the question is: how do we get at the facts in the first place?

    On the other hand, I am a bit puzzled by the analogical examples you cited above. "Most bananas come from tropical countries. Therefore, there must be something about the tropical environment that's great for growing bananas." The conclusion here would seem to be entirely reasonable: the environment does indeed have an impact on the kinds of things that grow within it. And bananas are in fact considered a tropical fruit. To grow bananas in some other climate is either impossible or requires some alteration of natural circumstances.

    Or again: "The sun rises in the East. Therefore, there must be something about the East that makes the sun rise there." As in the preceding case, the conclusion is reasonable, if perhaps awkwardly stated, because the east is that direction toward which the earth rotates.

    So I wonder if these examples really support your argument. In any event I offer my ideas for your further reflection.

  11. Terrific! I applaud to no end, dude!
    Beautiful song too!
    Hope you write even more like this.... Really awesome!

  12. Jim, I was trying to be impartial and include at least one example where the deductions from the false logic were true. (Though for the "something about the East" I had more in mind an image of some dragon or something spitting out the sun there.)

    The point I'm making is if people know/believe something to be true, then they likely accept the false logic as providing a proof. They could be mistaken, but their acceptance of false logic gives them false certainty in their beliefs.

  13. Jach, thanks! I wrote more in the comments linked below if you're interested...

  14. Okei,

    I think there is a difference between thinking and choosing...

    Some times, it is best to just go with one's gut rather than using logic.

    Sometimes what appears wrong is right but if we are bound by rules of a religion or group of any kind, and we adhere strictly to the rules, then we choose in error.

    Absolute truth in ethics ????

    No I do not think it exists. ;-)

  15. I agree. And I like the idea of both thinking and choosing.

    But I think there's also a difference between gut action which is pure intent and gut reaction which is based on prejudice, fear and yes, often false logic. The gut isn't a great thinking-machine, so it can be pretty irrational. I'm trying to make the distinction between that rare thing of intuition and inner knowing, and the very similar feeling that comes as a response to some input. It's probably pretty hard to distinguish the two in practice.

    If I say to you as I did in the blog above, "all evil comes from the ego", this can produce a gut association of ego with evil, and this is a false logic of the same kind as those examples above. This is not what I'm saying at all, and the ego like any tool can be harnessed for good in beautiful and extraordinary ways. Though, I do believe that in doing so, it would forget itself in the process, and almost vanish into its expression.

    As for rules, I also agree. At least we should choose the rules we have. Rules are part of the ego if you think about it. They can be good or bad. Better perhaps to say they are skillful or unskillful.

    There are at least boring types of absolute truth in morality, such as the fact that you don't believe in it... see that's the truth, it is not part of the beliefs you choose is a fact about your beliefs. Facts about beliefs can be true or false... and it's our choice whether they're true or false... I'm uncomfortable if they're inconsistent though.

  16. I guess you are right about reaction in some sense... I guess because my reaction to fear is flight rather than fight, I have not really done anything amoral if I misunderstood...

    The thing is, basically, I am a child.... I trust people in general until proven that I should not. Whereas most people distrust until proven that they should.

    So going with my gut is usually a good thing... does this make sense?

  17. I'm still thinking about this. At least I think I have a better sense of what you're trying to say. If I understand you correctly, it would seem that your point is that analogical reasoning can lead to wrong conclusions sometimes. Would that be a fair summary?

  18. Cyn, I definitely wasn't saying anyone was being immoral, just illogical, logic being the cause of self-deception. Now, what you're saying is that it's sometimes best not to use logic at all, and that's fine and I respect that. In fact, it's an ideal I'd aspire to because logic always has its limits, so to be in touch with your inner self in this way and see things with the eyes of a child, not hold on to beliefs even in the face of contrary evidence, see things as they really are, like the blank calculator ready for everything... yes, that makes a lot of sense! :^)

  19. Hi Jim! Analogies are useful, but yeah, it's true that analogies can lead to false conclusions. We can pick and choose the analogy that suits the argument. I wasn't criticizing analogies in particular, but "surface thinking" in general, something the media is particularly deft at. Lack of perspective, lack of dimensions, lack of depth are the source of much confusion and much trouble in the world today. If people sometime fall foul of this, it's understandable, but the media are often no better or even part of the cause of it, nor even corporations and governments whose success depends on clear thinking, good legislation etc.. The banking crisis and the government response have both involved some pretty muddled thinking. Good government needs integrity. Integrity needs a thorough understanding of the issues and flawless logic, not the conglomeration of special interests.

    Another example of the false logic I described in the blog which I came across recently... "Religion provides a moral compass. Therefore without religion, people won't have morals." Religion is neither the source of our morality, nor the cause of our conflicts. It's more of a guiding force that can guide us in the direction of morality, or guide us in the direction of conflict depending on how we choose to be guided.

  20. Yes amoral was a bad word...

    I was thinking of the saying: "The path to hell is paved with good intentions."

    I think logic works. But that is dependent on two things.

    1. That its originals premises are absolutely true.
    2. That its original premises consider all variables.

    In my opinion, all fact involves perception and judgment. It is a means to discovering fallacy not truth.

  21. I agree with your take on logic.

    And fallacy is all that I was talking about. So there was no false logic for example in the belief the earth was flat. Just a lack of perceptiveness, lol.

    As for the road to hell being paved with good intentions, it may well be, but perhaps maybe that's just because good intentions make great paving stones, not because there's anything immoral about them. (To deduce from the above statement that there was, would be false logic, lol.)

    I don't understand why people would want to give intentions a hard time. Consequences are unknowable and unforeseeable. All we can have in the present is good intentions and that mysterious extra ingredient of mindfulness. If someone did something wrong, but didn't mean to, the only thing that can be held against them is thoughtlessness.

    And yeah, I see what you're saying now... because false logic is a kind of thoughtlessness. The other two kinds of thoughtlessness are the ones you described, false premises and premises that don't take in all the facts. How logical of you!!! :^)

  22. Yes. I agree with all you say....

    Awhile back, I decided that I was not going to be sure of things that I assumed were facts... to keep an open mind.

    Well in the beginning, it is like being lost at sea... rocked to and fro..

    But it feels better now when I am wrong. ;-)

  23. I'm not sure what that means in practice. I'm guessing it's just a change of attitude? Definitely, not to make assumptions about things. And wouldn't that make you more certain in some ways about the things you *knew* were facts? ...things in the present moment.

  24. No... not really. But I can't explain it now.... I will try again in future.... remind me if I forget. ;-)

  25. I'm glad you posted this :-) Another brilliant post Okei...there's alot here to think about.

    My first reaction is that ALL logic is false logic. Logic is the domain of reason and it's the domain of ego. And ego is the source of all conflict, I'm right you're wrong, you have this and I want it, this is mine and you can't have it, etc... All parties on either side of any conflict believe that they are justified and in the right. Transcending ego is the only thing I believe will ever result in world wide peace and harmony.

    This is why you are correct, it can only be done on an individual level. We can't force another to honestly look at and break down their own egotistical nature. One can only do that for themselves. Which brings me to your mirror analogy. In my opinion, reflecting back out to the world the descriptions and constructs that make up our 'reality' only serves to reinforce it. Much the same as pointing out someones faults rarely, if ever, prompts them to change, rather it has the opposite effect of kicking their ego into full gear and puts them in a more defensive position. The only thing we can do is live/lead by example and act when needed to be true to ourselves and represent what feels right to our inner most selves, if we are sure that it is not simply our own egos telling us what is right. We don't need to polish our mirrors....we need to break them. When enough people stop reflecting out what is already in the world that is in discord and start radiating the love and harmony that can only come from our spirit, at some point critical mass will be achieved. Reality as we know it will shift and we will be free to recreate the world based on peace and love. Or maybe I am just delusional to even believe this is possible. But its a delusion I I think I'll keep it :-)))

  26. Put in another way. Logic comes from thoughts and thoughts are limited in their perception. It is like having a house full of furniture (thoughts) and you are constantly rearranging the furniture. There comes a point when logic and thoughts don't work. At that point intuition has to come into the picture. No thoughts. Empty the mind and pay attention to the feelings. "Intuition is the only valuable thing." A. Einstein

  27. karolmw
    delete reply
    karolmw wrote on Jan 15
    roddyg said
    . At that point intuition has to come into the picture. No thoughts. Empty the mind and pay attention to the feelings. "Intuition is the only valuable thing."
    I know you have referred to intuition on several occasions , and I am wondering if you mean being present in the moment, because to me that is different from intuition. You can be present without being intuitive. Being present does not particulary have feelings at the focus, but awareness of everthing that is present in that moment, including feelings, and those feelings can be neutral, so that is not intuitive. I don't know if I am getting it across. but to me, intuition means , "I can sense something" "I am getting a strong feeling about something" ????

  28. In my opinion, evidence is like statistics - it can be twisted to fit into any scenario we want. I have seen many examples of this. So just because there is evidence doesn't make the conclusion right or wrong. It's all perception. I'm not saying that logic is 'bad' or that it doesn't have it's place, but ultimately it is the domain of the ego and how it processes whatever 'eveidence' is presented.

    I look at intuition as silent knowledge - a knowing that is beyond thought or feeling.

  29. Thank you all. You inspired a lot of thoughts.

    Erica, thank you for your inspired and inspiring comment. I’m not sure whether I agree or not with all of it, but then disagreement and difference are not the source of evil, but the ego that uses differences to divide us. ;^) So yeah, that was the first thing I disagreed with. I don’t think right and wrong are of the ego. And (yeah, this is a technicality, lol) disagreement isn’t either; it is simply a statement of whether the belief is consistent with one’s own beliefs. The beliefs themselves are of the ego, but the relations between them are not. Ok, perhaps you’re right, because the most I can say is whether I “believe” it’s consistent with my own beliefs, and secondly because our beliefs can be fluid (as I’ve just demonstrated, lol). If I were a computer though, then we could still disagree, and since a computer has no ego (I think?!) that proves that disagreement doesn’t come from ego. Because I’m not a computer (I mean honestly which computer could write such nonsense… points up at this paragraph), I have a sense of free will and “choice” and it is this choice of what to believe that suggests to me that disagreement between people (unlike disagreement between calculators) does indeed go through the ego. Is it possible to make choices without ego?

    So, to summarize the previous paragraph, beliefs and disagreement probably involve ego, but there is such a thing as truth which connects objects of our perception. The rightness and wrongness are merely logical connections of ideas (Roddy calls it moving furniture around, but the furniture is there to be discovered and sometimes behind a sofa it might tell you to stop moving it around and look deeper.) At some point we have to get down to basic perceptions, ideas and beliefs we choose and also because logic only takes us so far, also intuition, but isn’t intuition just another kind of perception?

    Ego uses logic, religion, anything (!), ice cream flavours, lol, to divide, but if we can transcend the ego, that’s not to deny the existence of truth, spirituality or the fact chocolate is best! Yeah, ok, so chocolate must go along with the ego. And we see everything from a more well-rounded perspective. Like the saying goes about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes... Then, if you still disagree with them, you’re a mile away and you’ve got their shoes. Clearing away all our beliefs we arrive at Roddy’s analogy of the empty house. Personally, I don’t know if we should be clearing away our beliefs, or just recognizing them for what they are, choices of the ego, and open to possibility and not being attached to them.

  30. By false logic, I mean false deductions. I gave several examples in the blog, but here’s another good one. “All evil comes from the ego. Therefore the ego is evil.” In my view, the ego is a tool. Like any tool it can be used for good or evil. Unlike any tool, it gives out continuous instructions regarding its use. So we must learn to manage it, perhaps one day transcend it. But there are no doubt many people in the world who do many good things and who are motivated to do them by the ego. In fact, society is based on rewarding people who appear to be doing good work and punishing bad behaviour, thus using the ego as a tool to encourage good work and behaviour.

    So the statement “all evil comes from the ego” almost subconsciously associates the ego with evil and I might jump to a false conclusion. The power of imagination allows the mind to make connections like between ego and evil, sometimes great leaps between things which logically might seem unrelated, like we saw earlier how ego arises from the choices we cling to, so does that mean evil comes from choice??? The connections are without judgment or even causality, just curiosities. This kind of imagination is incredibly useful for the scientist, so maybe that’s what Einstein meant by intuition, and then he goes back and tries to prove it. But we must go back and check. All the examples I gave in the blog are just careless deductions of this kind, which we often make and only question if they contradict our existing beliefs. Sometimes they turn out to be false and in pure logic, like mathematics, there’s no ego involved in that. Sometimes they are true, and quite often, especially in real life, the truth is simply more complicated. If we just want to prove our beliefs are logical and consistent, there’s no ego in that. Ego comes in when we become attached to those beliefs in accepting only that which reinforces them and rejecting that which contradicts them. Ego comes in when we hear only what we want to hear.

    When Einstein insisted, “God does not play with dice”, was that prejudice or intuition? Who can tell? On the one hand, all the evidence points to randomness. On the other hand, the universe is just too intelligent in making more decisions than it has the “capacity” to do. Perhaps the latter might be better understood one day and Einstein proved right after all!

  31. I think there might be a higher intuition though and perhaps this is what Erica and Roddy were referring to. I’ve never experienced it, but from my understanding it is knowing without a knower or a thing known, like a sign. Of course, it is beyond ego. But to interpret or express the intuition it seems one would necessarily need to pass via the ego, and error could still arise. If the intuition far surpassed our understanding, how could we grasp it? (Like Nostradamus predictions, only in retrospect could we understand and allocate significance, lol.) Or maybe for those who know better, they would disagree?

    I heard once that to know something, we must be right, we must know we are right and we must be justified in our knowledge. To use the analogy of an arrow, the arrow hits the target, the arrow was supposed to hit the target and it hit the target through the skill of the archer and not because of a lucky breath of wind. So, perhaps while truth is free of ego, knowledge is not because it requires an “I” who knows, but perhaps the “I” can be swallowed up in the knowing, just like a tennis player “in the zone” can be swallowed up in the playing, or a lover in the loving. Erica, your ideal seems to be a world with love but without the mirrors of knowledge, but really in this mysterious state, love, knowledge and courage would all become one. We are not angels shining an inner light, so as you say it would be a reflected light. Some would say we have tasted of the fruit of knowledge. The fruit of knowledge has given us self-consciousness. This has led us to judge, but it also has given us the ability to become conscious of self, to know oneself. The mirrors of knowledge are what allow us to reflect the light of Love, and perhaps we could do with some dark matter to clean our mirrors and swallow up all our false beliefs and fears. ;^)

    As for shining our mirrors out on reality, I think a distinction must be made between shedding light in the darkness and a bright continuous light that seeks out for imperfections. To use the analogy of a schizophrenic patient, the former is necessary for diagnosis. The latter, of finding every problem and every symptom will do no help to heal the problem. Part of the patient wants to heal, part does not. So having diagnosed, the doctor must turn to the cure and encourage those parts that are working for the best, recognize them and not be cynical about the hopes for their success one day. Treating the patient as a problem and only reacting negatively to the problem side and ignoring any improvements will as Erica says reinforce the illness. Unfortunately, it’s the latter approach that’s prevalent both in medicine and in the media. A perfect example of this is how a large quiet demonstration will get almost no news coverage, but a violent or controversial one, however small, will get all the media excited and give tonnes of attention to those who least deserve it.

    But I do think pointing out faults has its place, especially where these faults are unknown. A child will often make the same mistakes in mathematics or spelling for example, and awareness of the mistake will often immediately put an end to it. How similar it must be in life, but how much more difficult to develop that awareness! I guess that’s what mindfulness teaching is all about. When Wilberforce reported back the truth of how slaves were treated, this was genuine news for people in Britain who really had no idea and though there were powerful forces in the slave industry, we didn’t want anything to do with it and action was eventually taken as a result. Shaming the ego into a positive response is possible. They say openness is the best disinfectant. Conversely, corruption and loss of civil rights are usually foreshadowed by a loss of free speech. On the other hand, the continuous glare of propaganda, well-intentioned or not, usually only increases prejudice and entrenches the problem. The symptoms are addressed but not the causes.

  32. Some more thoughts... we are seekers of truth. I think this is a good thing. The truth lies at the root and not in the branches. If we are to break chains of illusion in ourself or in another, or encourage another to take action, then we must find the link in the chain that is (i) essential, (ii) weak, and (iii) as free from ego as possible. The scattergun approach of rattling every chain is excellent motivation of something we are already convinced of. But it is also the way of propaganda, of creating new chains, like in an election campaign with a new reason given each week. If I convince myself of something with a proof, then give another and another and another, all these other proofs are interesting and justify my conviction, but for one who is unconvinced, all these different proofs imply that the deduction is more important than the reason. So propaganda entrenches one’s own ego, and also that of the “other”. It is a tool of war to make one side feel justified and make the other “brittle”. Even if no action is taken, it keeps the other under a state of threat. If you mean well for someone, then you would not engage in scattergun propaganda against them, but rather use the former approach. Unfortunately, those using the former approach can be drowned in the scattergun of others involved in propaganda. Even among well-meaning individuals, each could be rattling a different link in the chain of a single ego, or even the same link, and in the former case it would seem to them like propaganda while the latter would increase the ego-defensiveness about that link. Good examples of this are among teenagers or sportsmen, which is why the latter often learn to stop reading the media so they hear just the one voice, of their coach.

    Finally, logic though limited in scope does far more than hold its place. Technology depends on it. Sound government depends on it. Interest groups and the collective ego undermine it. The same is no doubt true on the individual level which is why this mysterious concept of mindfulness is no doubt so important. Of course statistics can be manipulated to prove almost anything, and this is done by using false logic or picking out evidence that fits one’s purpose and discarding that which doesn’t. False statistics is false logic, usually of the same kind to which I devoted most of my blog. It is to see a connection between two things and deduce a plausible reason for that connection, often one that fits one’s agenda, instead of examining the reason in the first place. Did you know that over the last few decades, average women’s skirt lengths got longer in times of recession and got shorter again in the good times? Now, you can use your imagination and come up with all kinds of reasons why that might be! The statistics are a fact, but the reasons are pure speculation until they are themselves put to the test. :^)

    As you can see you inspired a lot of comments.

    Blessings! And thanks for playing!

  33. Whoa....Okei :-))))) Brilliant, as always. You make a lot of good points. Lots to contemplate... The ego has been my main focus lately....I'd like to play some more after I let this settle and re read a few more times....

  34. LOL! You just provided all that rocket fuel, I couldn't help it. ;^)

  35. Why I do believe in such a thing as truth....can you give me an example of a universal truth? One that is not based on perception or circumstance? I haven't really been able to come up with one. One without a possible scenario where the truth isn't open for interpretation of perception. All truth's seemingly tie in with morality which in itself is subjective.

    Well, no ego clashing here - everyone knows that chocolate is indeed best!

    I also believe we should be clearing beliefs. There is no possible way to believe something and not be attached to it. You wouldn't believe something that you 'knew' was wrong, right? So by simply believing 'anything' the ego must accept that it is true and correct in that belief - or it wouldn't believe it in the first place. That is the attachment. So if the ego attempts to let go of that attachment, it is faced with the predicament that if the belief is true and then there is the attachment to the self satisfaction - where the ego says - whoo hooo - look at me, I was right...which leads can lead to much deeper levels of self righteousness. Or the ego has to accept that it was duped into believing something that wasn't true or 'right' - and falls subject to - poor me - lack of self respect - resentment - and an attachment to these negative perceptions. Or the ego refuses to yield and keeps on perpetuating a believe on some level it knows to be 'wrong'. Either way the belief itself has a ripple effect of attachments that spirals ever downward - whether the root of the belief is positive or negative - the cycle of attachment invariably ends up in a perpetual cycle of self indulgent thoughts.

    Much better to just know what you know at that deeper level and be done with it - not believe anything. Perceptions are always liable to change and shift only with the empty house can things come in - be experienced - open to all the possibilities, as you said - and then let go again with out the ego attaching to it. When the ego is engaged it just builds walls around stuff and tricks us into thinking that we 'truly let it go' when its only really just hidden from our perception.

    I agree with everything here. The ego is indeed a tool. We can't function in our daily lives without it. I'm not sure it comes with that great an instruction manual though - lol - I find it endlessly deceptive and resourceful....

    Yes, many are motivated to do 'good' based on personal gain. Which does beg the question of if a truly 'selfless act' exists. I say there is - but it is difficult to discern the line. Many do good things for a truly selfish reason - which doesn't diminish the 'goodness' of the act itself, but which does not qualify it as a true selfless act.

  36. Erica said "Yes, many are motivated to do 'good' based on personal gain. Which does beg the question of if a truly 'selfless act' exists. I say there is - but it is difficult to discern the line. Many do good things for a truly selfish reason - which doesn't diminish the 'goodness' of the act itself, but which does not qualify it as a true selfless act."

    Which is why it is best to not sit and evaluate what the motives are for others but to look at our own and be honest with ourselves.

  37. Only he could ever truly know if that was prejudice, intuition or some combination of both.

    I don't see that all evidence points to randomness - I just think the scope of the organization of the apparent chaos is beyond the scope of our understanding. And not so much as the universe being intelligent and making decisions - but more so the whole fabric of the universe is designed so that all the various sub systems can function and evolve within its framework. Kind of like how we can all play on the internets - we can create and express and do all manner of things - almost limitlessly - yet we are still all complying with the 'laws' that are laid down in all the code that makes all the computers run.

  38. I believe in the truth of such concepts as truth, good and beauty. I admit these are subject to perception and circumstance, but the concepts in their broadest sense exist (in so far as they are useful values to us). So there's vague general truth. They are choices though. I agree there are always exceptions in morality, so you can't lay down strict rules. But you can believe in overall directions, like right view, right intention, right concentration etc. in the Buddhist philosophy. This isn't very satisfactory. The only precise truth seems to be scientific truth that perceptions seem to fit predictions or mathematical truth or logical truth which could be considered like tautology. Still, I feel logic has a place in morality and believing in "thou shallt not kill" and then taking life unnecessarily does seem like a good example of a contradiction to me. As would doing anything which you felt was wrong. Umm.... am I getting tied up again? Lol.

  39. "I think there might be a higher intuition though and perhaps this is what Erica and Roddy were referring to. I’ve never experienced it, but from my understanding it is knowing without a knower or a thing known, like a sign. Of course, it is beyond ego."

    I think it's pretty clear from some of your poetry that you have indeed experienced this. And yes, I agree, it all does have to pass through the ego and that is where errors arise. This is the daily struggle.

    When our intuition surpasses our understanding - that is 'knowing'. And it's a 'knowing' without belief.

  40. "Which is why it is best to not sit and evaluate what the motives are for others but to look at our own and be honest with ourselves."


    Though I must admit that there are times where it's difficult, not so much to 'be' honest with myself - but being sure that I am being honest. The ego always first thinks itself to be altruistic,

  41. okei said: "Erica, your ideal seems to be a world with love but without the mirrors of knowledge, but really in this mysterious state, love, knowledge and courage would all become one. We are not angels shining an inner light, so as you say it would be a reflected light. Some would say we have tasted of the fruit of knowledge. The fruit of knowledge has given us self-consciousness. This has led us to judge, but it also has given us the ability to become conscious of self, to know oneself. The mirrors of knowledge are what allow us to reflect the light of Love, and perhaps we could do with some dark matter to clean our mirrors and swallow up all our false beliefs and fears. ;^)"

    Yes! In a way that is what I'm saying...this is what is at the heart of the Garden of Eden tale. In a sense I say we 'are' all angels with an inner light - that we've gotten caught up with reflecting what is without that we dull that light or just hide it behind the mirror. Yet I acknowledge that you are correct in that the fruit od knowledge is what made us self aware and be able to judge. But not to 'know ourselves' but to know our ego's - our persona's. So actually my ideal state would be to break the mirror - to allow the ego to channel only the spirit fully and fully embrace each experience to it's fullest - all the while returning the spirit to that state of innocence where love, knowledge and courage are indeed one.

  42. "I also believe we should be clearing beliefs. There is no possible way to believe something and not be attached to it. You wouldn't believe something that you 'knew' was wrong, right?"

    The beliefs we choose are our choices. There's no need to attach right or wrong to them. We could even avoid attaching true or false, and then perhaps you are right, they can hardly be called beliefs, for to believe is to believe something is true... but not necessarily!!! I think it's instructive to look at mathematics which is built up from all its basic axioms as simple as 1+1=2, but at some point when dealing with infinity, it is useful to accept the following belief. It is impossible to prove, so it is neither true nor false, neither right nor wrong... here goes:

    Given an infinite set, you can pick an element from it! (Axiom of Choice)

    How simple that would be... infinitely many to choose from, no? But consider the set of all numbers which cannot be expressed in the English language. Of course all the integers are not of this form, nor fractions, nor pi. But it's quite easy to see that there are infinitely many numbers of this form, in fact any random number is of this form. How can you pick such a number? You can't express it in English, yet it's useful to be able to assume the above axiom and without it, it makes dealing with anything involving infinity incredibly difficult as you can imagine.

    Mathematical truth is then merely anything that follows from the axioms we have chosen to believe. No ego involved. Of course, morality isn't so simple... but I think the comparison is really instructive... the question is what form axioms in morality would take? Precise rules as you say would not work because of exceptions... vague rules are too open to interpretation... basically most things are open to belief... what kind of a resolution would it be to say "Thou shally not kill except on the 23rd October, 1834 because I couldn't help it." Personal rules for yourself alone, or common rules among society which make for smooth operation and understanding... or no rules at all, because rules are merely "of the object", so do what a virtuous agent would do... but that's merely of the subject. Buddhism's got it about right imho when it talks of "right view", "right intention", "right mindfulness", "right concentration".

  43. Well, I think mathmatical truth is a whole seperate kind of truth. One that I can only barely skim the surface of understanding. But the aspects of mathmatical truths that even the most intelligent minds can fathom I feel are mere glimpses into understanding the form and structure of the construct we call the universe.

    Gotta love irrational numbers lol....and I still maintain that 0 = 2

  44. 0=2 is a perfect belief for meditating... breathe out 0, breathe in 1, breathe out 0, ... and maybe eventually the in-breath and out-breath disappear into just breath for advanced practitioners and they would say 0=1. 0=1 also makes times tables really easy. 3x4=0, 3x5=0, 3x6=0, .... lol. But then when you want change back for your 20 dollar note, you choose a different belief, right? The one that says that you should get some change back. After all, the guy at the other side of the counter isn't buying it.... 24 dollars, so that will be 0, here you go! So yes, we choose our beliefs, but the "normal" mathematics does make life a bit more interesting (and difficult) than 0=2. But the Axiom of Choice I gave shows that even once we've made those choices, there will always be more choices to make, and however we choose to make them creates different realms of possibility.

    I'm going to come back to your older comments later. Thanks again!!!

  45. "In a sense I say we 'are' all angels with an inner light - that we've gotten caught up with reflecting what is without that we dull that light or just hide it behind the mirror."

    Maybe, maybe :^) Or should I say, speak for yourself, angel.

    So...... where does our dark side come from? Ah yes, perhaps darkness is merely a lack of light. And are there any positive aspects of darkness? (Thinking of fantasy here, like Lord of the Rings and whether the darkness is needed as a contrast and enemy, as part of the struggle without which the hero could never prove him or herself.)

    Oh, and I just came across this great article on Buddhist ethics which looks really interesting...

    And finally, I was thinking at some point we should work out parallels between Castaneda and Buddhism, because I was reading about the four roads to power in the Abhidhamma, and recently reading Art of Dreaming over Christmas, so I'm sure there are some interesting connections.

  46. Trust me, this context...I'm no angel ;-)))

    I don't think our dark side 'comes' from anywhere. I don't think it's a lack of light, I think it just is. But using the LOtR analogy - are you equating darkness with evil? I don't view these as the same. From my perspective, darkness 'is' and does have a purpose. Evil on the other hand is man made - a description of an ego run amok whether is be violence, greed, power, etc.

    I'll be back later to check out that link....

    I think that would be very interesting to work out the parallels between Castaneda and Buddhism! I know Castaneda well, but I'm very lacking on my Buddhist knowledge.

  47. We Are Not Angels (France Gall) ... I could have posted Dido's No Angel, but this is far more interesting!

    Nous ne sommes pas des anges .........We are not angels.
    Les anges du paradis ..........................Angels from paradise
    Trouveraient ce monde bien étrange...... Would find this world very strange
    S'ils descendaient jusqu'ici ..................If they came down here.
    Non nous n'avons rien des anges .........We have got nothing of angels
    Des anges du paradis ..........................Of angels of paradise
    Laissez-les au ciel là-haut les anges .....Leave them up there in heaven, the angels
    La terre n'est pas le paradis ..................Earth is not paradise

    Les garçons on dirait des filles..............The boys look like girls
    Avec leurs cheveux longs.....................With their long hair
    Quant à nous les filles..........................As for us girls
    On dirait des garçons............................We look like boys
    Les filles en pantalons...........................Girls in trousers.

    Les garçons embrassent les filles...........The boys kiss the girls
    Les filles en pantalons...........................The girls in trousers
    Quant à nous les filles............................As for us girls
    Nous aimons les garçons.......................We like the boys
    Avec leurs cheveux longs.......................With their long hair.

  48. Question: what are unwholesome desires?

    I was thinking along the lines of... things which want to draw stuff to us, rather than extend stuff outwards...

    Buddhism (from the link below) answers this along the lines, of (i) greed, (ii) lack of compassion, and (iii) lack of wisdom, with (iii) encapsulating (i) and (ii). These are all errors of view or intention. But of course evil can happen though intentions are good (we were discussing this earlier ;^)) so this is where intent, mindfulness and concentration come in.

    I think the Buddhists call intent "right effort":
    "To generate desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds and exerts his intent in order to...
    Prevent the unwholesome that has not yet arisen in oneself.
    Let go of the unwholesome that has arisen in oneself.
    Bring up the wholesome that has not yet arisen in oneself.
    Maintain the wholesome that has arisen in oneself."

  49. I know little about either Castasneda or Buddhism. But I do think there are definitely parallels. Two things I noticed

    The 4 roads to power

    Concentration of Intention (Chanda)
    Concentration of Consciousness(Citta)
    Concentration of Energy(Viriya)
    Concentration of Investigation(Vimansa)

    I'm not sure what the corresponding thing is in Castaneda. And the other thing was the idea of death as a counsel. I'm not sure exactly the corresponding reference in Buddhism.

    So actually, I've failed to make a single "connection", but it was just a spirit of similarity. But Castaneda does come across as like some esoteric branch of Buddhism kept secret and never revealed except to the "chosen ones". So it's great to be living at a time when we can find out about these deep teachings without necessarily becoming an "initiate" to the specific chosen path.

  50. And finally, ... sorry for bombarding...

    I was thinking purely theoretically if I could apply the ideas below about breaking a "chain of illusion" to the ego itself. We would have to choose a link that was weakest, as far away from the ego as possible so the ego couldn't fight it and which, on breaking, would bring the whole chain crumbling down, in particular so that it didn't just settle into some new "compromise chain" that keeps us bound. Unfortunately, I couldn't think of any "fundamental link" like this. So, here were some thoughts in search of that critical link... If anything, I came down to a four-fold link that keeps us bound and every one of the four must be broken, but perhaps it need not happen directly or perhaps there is some better positive approach?

    Maybe, the ego doesn't exist until we create it. It is a point of view that we choose on the universe and the associations, memories, sensations, and meaning that layer upon layer are built up from this point of view. And yet I have this point of view and you have that. And so duality arises. So it seems to me that to a large degree we make ourselves up, at least as far as ego is concerned. The ego is a sphere of influence of sensation, feeling, perception & will. But really, all that exists are the constituent parts and the background of mind on which they appear. To what must the will, feeling, perception, sensation surrender? I don't know if it surrenders, or if it merely rises out of and returns to emptiness. If anything, it surrenders to itself, to the nothing that swallows up everything. What is this nothing, empty mind? A space created for divine will, a sense of flow.

    But if this is right, then the ego doesn't actually exist. As the will/consciousness turns inwards on itself, it perceives its sphere of influence, and then it creates an imagined "ego" imagining it to be that which created it. The ego derives self-importance as the source of the will, sensation, consciousness etc. and the ego-idea subsists both passively (receiving affirmation, love, attention, possession), and actively (in expressing, pursuing and fulfilling its desires). This imagined ego thus becomes either the passive Idol, "our sensations are the sensations of the ego" (other for the ego), seeking attention, or the active Master "our will is the will of the ego" (ego for the ego), seeking to satisfy its desires. To surrender the will/consciousness which make up the imagined ego to either kind is to be self-centred, or egocentric. The opposite extreme is to surrender it to other, another ego, or a greater collective ego and this is to make the imagined ego into an Idolator, the ego as object acting for the sake of "other" e.g. ego acting for its betterment so as to look better to others (other for the other) or as Slave, ego as subject acting for the purpose of "other" (ego for the other).

    These four extremes can be imagined in a square,

    Each is unbalanced, and yet, the ego might lose itself momentarily even from an extreme starting point. In the act of doing or in the state of being, the ego can forget itself, but the state is temporary and need not be worthwhile of itself. It is this state of concentration, which must be combined with right intention and mindfulness.

  51. When the consciousness is neither active nor passive, neither self or other, I imagine that must be the state of perfect balance without ego to strive towards with right effort. Doing neither for the ego, nor for the other is doing for the "good", doing neither for the sake of the ego nor for the sake of the "other" is for the sake of the "good". So the middle way we logically arrive at is to "do what is good for the sake of what is good". Without ego, there is no controller, nor one controlled.

    God is in the mean between these extremes, like Buddha's middle way... there's some quote I once read about God being in the spaces between people, but really it means in the space between the ego and anything, even between the ego and the space.

  52. :-)))) beautiful!

    Ok - I'm gonna have a stab at this. This is, as always, just my point of view....

    The 'dark side' and darkness are not the same thing,

    The 'dark side' is usually equated malicious thoughts - but that is not how I see it. Take the movie The Wall as an example - the clip I posted was 'dark' - morbid in places - yet profoundly moving and deep, to me anyway... We all have tendency, I think, to indulge in morbidity or moroseness at times - this is what I call the 'dark side' - yet it is not evil. Actions can be evil that arise from such thoughts - but the thoughts themselves are not evil. This I why I say that evil is a man made.

    Darkness on the other hand is simply the 'void' - it represents depth, the well from which all things come forth, the divine feminine principle.

    Not sure if any of that ramble males sense ???

    My opinion is that any desire, whether it draws or extends, can be unwholesome, if it is allowed to turn to obsession. The feeling of a desire is neither good nor bad - but the actions that arise from it can be...

    There definitely are parallels - just might take a bit of research to uncover them.

    But the major difference I sense is that Buddhism is all warm and gentle and loving - and the Warriors path is harsh and unforgiving. The tactics to overcoming self importance are more forceful. But that could just be my ignorance of Buddhism, but that is my impression.

    This I will come back too :-) Need to absorb a little.....

  53. Thanks for explaining it. Yeah, it kind-of makes sense. Though it does seem that evil can spring from the dark side and the dark side from darkness, so it does seem like "morbidity or moroseness" needs to be kept an eye on in a way that the opposite feelings don't? (With regard to your next comment about things turning into obsessions for example. Though perhaps some obsessions are good...)

    Oh, and I'm sure all kinds of layers of hidden meaning can be read into your wonderful typo about that which comes from the divine feminine "rambling male sense" but I'm in the dark as to what they are exactly. Perhaps the misinterpretations of the Adam and Eve story would be a good example.

    I hadn't realized that... I think punishment is more ingrained in the system in the East as is respect for the "Master" and laziness is not an issue, though self-importance is. Meanwhile, in the West we have a softer approach, equality is ingrained, there is not the same respect for "betters" and laziness is much more of an issue. So, if you'll excuse the gross exaggerations/generalizations, any spiritual system naturally counters the background within it lies which would explain why Buddhism would have a softer approach.

    There is this though...

    Will come back to the Castaneda ideas later. Thanks for that insight though. :^)