The Squint of the Outward Gaze

Research indicates that when we employ our peripheral vision, our sense of presence, awe and wonder increases. We relax, gain a deeper perspective of our place in time and space and our capacity for spatial memory improves. We become more positive about the future and the jigsaw of life begins to piece itself together. Thus, as our gaze habitually collapses outward while peripherally constricting, we lose touch with the human spirit.

We cannot look at the absence of integrated intelligence (the marriage of intellect and intuition) in modern discourses, in theory or praxis, without noticing that the way we humans perceive the world has changed dramatically in recent times. An indigenous shaman was likely to have spent thousands of hours in an altered state of consciousness, often induced by sacred herbs. Buddhist monks in Tibet spent years meditating in silence. Hunters and gatherers would have spent their entire lives dealing directly with nature. The “weather” for them was not a talking head stuck inside an electronic box, standing before an abstract map. The weather was a direct experience of the wind, the rain and the sunshine which fell upon their faces.

Today most people cannot name their great grandparents, and probably could not name a single fact about any of those eight human beings who lived but three lifetimes ago. Yet for traditional cultures, the ancestors lived on within their psyches, such as in the dreamtime of the Australian Aborigines. They trusted in their senses, and often in their dreams and intuitions. They had little choice. For many of our ancestors in pre-industrial societies, integrated intelligence was a very necessary and a very real thing.

But as time has gone on, we have become more and more estranged from our physical senses, and from our psyches. Our gaze has turned increasingly outward, our view and worldview evermore mechanized, congruent with our vision’s increasing reliance upon mechanical devices. In his book Seeing and Believing, Richard Panek traces the history of the telescope and how it has impacted human perception and imagination. One passage in the book strikes me as very relevant to where we find ourselves with today’s digital society.

It wasn’t only what the telescope had helped reveal qualitatively – the celestial bodies visible in a variety that until very recently would have been beyond imagination. It wasn’t even what the telescope had helped render quantitatively – the dimensions and distances that approximated the way the universe actually works. Instead what had changed astronomy at least as much as these observations was faith in the telescope itself.[i]

Over time, the process whereby we came to trust in technologies like the telescope has been repeated with other technologies. The traditional telescope was made from two lenses and a tube, but eventually became replaced by the radio telescope (and most recently the magnificent James Web Space Telescope). Here the data is digitally interpreted for us, delivered to us via our screens, even as the actual world around us recedes from our vision.

Research indicates that when we employ our peripheral vision, our sense of presence, awe and wonder increases. We relax, gain a deeper perspective of our place in time and space and our capacity for spatial memory improves. We become more positive about the future and the jigsaw of life begins to piece itself together. Thus, as our gaze habitually collapses outward while peripherally constricting, we may lose touch with the human spirit. This is not necessarily an either/or scenario. Technologies can also inspire awe. Images of nature can also induce many of the effects written about in this paragraph, for example.

This historical process has culminated in the point we have reached today, where for many human beings their understanding of the world is delivered predominantly via the devices that they are squinting into. The spaces where our gaze typically falls are decided not so much by our intuitive sense of our place in nature, or from what is intuited as being of value to the spirit, but increasingly by invisible algorithms, their hidden signals laden with stealthy agendas, seeded by Big Tech. Just as GPS systems in our cars have led to a gradual decay in our spatial awareness and capacity to navigate around a city (without the technology), our ceding perceptual power to the Big Tech robots has come with a loss of faith in the knowing contained within our bodies, within our psyches. Our bodily intuitions, and the deep knowledge of our integrated intelligence, has been replaced by a knowing delivered to us by third-party mediators and their automatons. As the age of the Metaverse dawns upon us, we are in danger of completely ceding our intuitive faculties and sense of embodied presence to the machines and their shadowy masters.

Could the rise of the doomer movement be related to our overuse of digital technologies and dissconnection from our peripheral vision, as well as our inner wisdom?

This is an extract from Marcus T Anthony’s upcoming book, Power and Presence: Reclaiming Your Authentic Self in Weaponised World.


[i] Seeing and Believing, Richard Panek, p. 89.

How a Lion Tamer Came Face to Face With Death… and Life

South African author and lion tracker Boyd Varty learned early the deep knowing which life seeks to instil within each of us: that there is something profound which transcends and connects our discrete human minds.[ii]

Varty’s tale of the terrifying involves a single night, set in time a moment or two following the initial post-apartheid elections in South Africa, when chaos and violence were common bedfellows across the troubled nation.

不出戶, 知天下.

不闚牖, 見天道.

其出彌遠, 其知彌少.

是以聖人不行而知.

不見而名,

不為而成.

Without stepping out the door,

You can know the world.

Without looking through the window,

You can see Heaven’s Way.

The longer you travel, the less you know.

Therefore:

The sage knows without traveling,

Perceives without looking,

Completes without acting.[i]

Lao Zi, Tao de Qing, chapter 47.

South African author and lion tracker Boyd Varty learned early the deep knowing which life seeks to instil within each of us: that there is something profound which transcends and connects our discrete human minds.[ii]

Varty’s tale of the terrifying involves a single night, set in time a moment or two following the initial post-apartheid elections in South Africa, when chaos and violence were common bedfellows across the troubled nation. Barty was but eighteen years old at the time, and he and members of his family were staying in a house in Johannesburg. The nightmare began when Varty was shaken awake, and driven to instant alertness by the sight of a gun being pushed into his face. The young man looked to his left and right to see that his mother and sister were both bound, the male house invaders in complete control of the fate of Varty and his family. Pure terror saturated his being, for he knew well that such incidents often end in rape or death. Or both.

Varty sat fixed with shock, powerless. But things were about to get worse for the South African youth. Moments later he was led outside of the house by the intruders. He relates what occurred next, as follows.

They put a gun to my head… and they basically said, “Now we’re going to kill you.” And the fear was so intense. Then I remember looking up the barrel at the man who was holding the gun to my head and we looked into each other’s eyes. And in that moment something happened… I can’t say what happened…  You might call it the peace of God that surpasses understanding. But I think it was too big for my ego structure to hold, and it collapsed. And as I looked at him all fear left me, and all concern for my own bodily safety left me, and I just felt a profound human connection with him. And as… there were three of these guys standing around me, as that moment happened it was… kind of a weirdness came over everyone. It was as if everyone had become glimmered. And they put the guns down and everyone just stood there confused. And I walked back inside totally unaccosted in any way. And I got the car keys, walked back out and I gave them (to the intruders and) said, “Get in that car and leave.” And they did.

In the years that followed, Voyd Barty contemplated often the happenings of that “bizarre” day.

I felt like I glimpsed through the most terrifying situation… That was the first freezing experience that I had. It was terrifying… I think sometimes of Jung’s description – of what is unconscious will be made conscious. It will manifest into your life until you become more conscious about what you’re carrying.[iii]

What was it that came over those four men in that moment? There was something intangible that Varty says appeared to visibly “glimmer.” Some structure of consciousness, or perhaps spirit, that transcended them as individual men living separate lives. And separate deaths. This transcendent connective field of consciousness is what I call integrated intelligence. By definition, integrated intelligence is within us all. And beyond us all. And it is what Part 3 of this book is all about.

This is an extract from Marcus T Anthony’s upcoming book, Power and Presence: Reclaiming Your Authentic Self in a Weaponised World.


[i] Stefan Stenudd, (n.d.). https://www.taoistic.com/taoteching-laotzu/taoteching-47.htm. Retrieved April 18, 2021.

[ii] Tim Ferris, Boyd Varty. https://youtu.be/sCVJUZlokEU. 14 March, 2022. The quoted section here has some small edits. I have removed some repetitious use of words, as the story is narrated verbally by Voyd Barty in his interview with Tim Ferris.

The University of Suffering

Howling at the Machine

In Ginsberg’s rendering of the Machine, our intrinsic joy or “Heaven” has been consumed by the ravenous Moloch, along with our innate spirituality and embodied presence. We have become “loveless,” chasing “unobtainable dollars” like dumb mules stumbling towards carrots on a stick, not seeing what lies beyond the desirous thing dangling immediately before us.

In his mid-twentieth century poem Howl, Allen Ginsberg penned his thoughts on the rise of modern industrial civlisation. I know of no better poetic rendering of what I refer to as the “Money and Machines Society.” Here Ginsberg metaphorically summons the dark spirit of the pagan god Moloch, one who demands human sacrifice as means to power and control.

In Ginsberg’s rendering of the Machine, our intrinsic joy or “Heaven” has been consumed by the ravenous Moloch, along with our innate spirituality and embodied presence. We have become “loveless,” chasing “unobtainable dollars” like dumb mules stumbling towards carrots on a stick, not seeing what lies beyond the desirous thing dangling immediately before us.

The poem reminds us of the demonic AI systems of much late twentieth-century science fiction classics like Snowcrash, The Matrix and Terminator. We have become “Consciousness without a body,” lost in a “Mind” of “pure machinery.” And where the “sphinx of cement and aluminum (has) bashed open (our) skulls” and consumed our “brains and imagination.”

The poem is dashed with references to an absent transcendent realm of mind and spirit that has been stolen from us, only to be substituted by concrete, steel and hard cash.

And now, as we spiral towards the mid-twenty-first century, and as the concrete and steel shape-shifts into the miasma of Metaverse, can we see any more clearly? Or perhaps better stated, can we feel any more truly?

This from Stanza 2, of Howl.

*           *        *

What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination?

Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unobtainable dollars! Children screaming under the stairways! Boys sobbing in armies! Old men weeping in the parks!

Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the loveless! Mental Moloch! Moloch the heavy judger of men!

Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the crossbone soulless jailhouse and Congress of sorrows! Moloch whose buildings are judgment! Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the stunned governments!

Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose blood is running money!

Moloch whose fingers are ten armies! Moloch whose breast is a cannibal dynamo! Moloch whose ear is a smoking tomb!

Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows! Moloch whose skyscrapers stand in the long streets like endless Jehovahs! Moloch whose factories dream and croak in the fog! Moloch whose smoke-stacks and antennae crown the cities!

Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch whose soul is electricity and banks! Moloch whose poverty is the specter of genius! Moloch whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen! Moloch whose name is the Mind!

Moloch in whom I sit lonely! Moloch in whom I dream Angels! Crazy in Moloch! Cocksucker in Moloch! Lacklove and manless in Moloch!

Moloch who entered my soul early! Moloch in whom I am a consciousness without a body! Moloch who frightened me out of my natural ecstasy! Moloch whom I abandon! Wake up in Moloch! Light streaming out of the sky!

Moloch! Moloch! Robot apartments! invisible suburbs! skeleton treasuries! Blind capitals! demonic industries! spectral nations! invincible madhouses! Granitecocks! monstrous bombs!

They broke their backs lifting Moloch to Heaven! Pavements, trees, radios, tons! lifting the city to Heaven which exists and is everywhere about us!

Visions! omens! hallucinations! miracles! ecstasies! gone down the American river!

An Oath to Your Power and Your Presence

As we spend more time online, it is very easy to lose track of what is important. It is very easy to lose our mindful, bird’s eye view of the world and our lives, and instead get caught up in earthbound cat fights. Often the squabbles and projections are with people we barely know, or do not know at all. I’d like to think that the Oath to Power and Presence, whatever version you make of it, can inspire you to keep your life on track, an dto affirm the higher values that we humans share as a collective.

It was a simple enough tweet, though mildly cryptic:

Are we sick of this yet?”

The writer was Sam Harris. The date November 17, 2021.

I think I know what he was alluding to.

The madness. Online.

Besides being a well-known author and social critic, Sam Harris is a regular meditator and mindfulness practitioner. That’s why I suspect that he was alluding to the increasingly unhinged discourse of today’s increasingly virtual world. Of course, I might just be projecting.

Harris’ tweet did get me thinking about something that Peter Limberg and Conor Barnes wrote back in 2018: the need for “a culture war equivalent to the Hippocratic Oath.”[i] Such a public pronouncement, they said on medium.com, could be affirmed by the leaders of the various online tribes, as well as regular netizens.

It would prove beneficial if journalists, authors, bloggers, and professors alike took this oath, but any social media user could take the oath, by pledging their name and accepting some sort of e-badge. Promises can be broken, but breaking public promises can generate swift social feedback.

What would this Oath consist of? At the bare minimum: a commitment to good faith dialogue, the principle of charity, and intellectual humility. The last virtue is critical. A caveat of “I could be wrong” underlying strongly held beliefs helps even the most difficult conversations, a shared commitment to that caveat helps even more.

The question then becomes, what motivation do we have to make such an oath? Do individuals and organisations have the desire to transcend “outrage porn” and produce more socially responsible content? For that matter, what motivation do I have?

It was this self-reflection which led to my beginning my book Power and Presence: Reclaiming Your Authentic Self in a Weaponised World with an “oath to power and presence.” These are words that can be affirmed on a daily basis by the reader, should they wish to take up the challenge of embodying a higher level what I call “cognitive responsibility:” this is developing the right relationship with thoughts, feelings and perceptions as they arise within the mind. The oath to power and presence is thus not a pledge to the book, but to embodying its key ideas and values. Power and Presence is about how we can develop a sense of personal empowerment by establishing a mindful sense of embodied presence. Its message is about being more present to ourselves and the world, less emotionally drawn into real world and online stories, memes, drama and projection. The context is our increasingly virtual lives, as the Digital Age morphs into the possibility of an all-immersive Metaverse. Our chances of becoming unstuck and returning to drama and conflict ridden online environments is immense. The motivation to choose embodied presence over online mayhem and distraction has to be daily affirmed, perhaps not unlike an alcoholic’s daily recanting of the serenity prayer. It is a reminder to ourselves of what is most important, and why we are here.


Oath to Power and Presence

It is my oath upon this sacred day
To say “yes” to my Authentic Self
And to the story that I have consciously chosen.
I say “yes” to that which reflects my highest values and “no” to that which does not.
I say yes to power, to love and to grace
For I am beautiful, I am powerful and I am lovable.

It is my oath upon this sacred day
To honour and give with generosity to those with whom I talk, work and play.
I choose to judge not those of differing views
But in presence to see beyond their shadows
And into their Authentic Selves
Beginning with common understanding and shared humanity.

It is my oath upon this sacred day
To stand in presence with those who stand with me
And with grace I step away from those who choose to be hurtful in word or deed.
I will not be drawn into tribes
Nor their stories, their dramas and conflicts.
My story is not theirs to steal.

It is my oath upon this sacred day
To stand in my power (as a man/woman/preferred identity)
And to listen to the genuine intuitions within which my mind rests.
I say yes to this moment
To its power, wisdom and grace
I say yes to love.

It is my oath upon this sacred day
To own my anger, my blame, my sadness and my fear
For they belong to me only.
I will stay here, I shall not flee.
And I will not add a single spark of rage
To enflame hatred in this world

Upon this sacred day
I am power
I am beauty
I am grace
I am gratitude
I am forgiveness
I am love.
Thank you. I love you.

You might like to change parts of this oath to make it more suitable for your journey. Or, just make up your own oath, one which affirms your highest values. For it’s a personal thing. You can say it first thing in the morning, or whenever you find yourself embroiled in online or real-world drama. Sometimes the mind needs a little nudge, a bit of encouragement. Sometimes it just has to be pushed firmly into line, like a recalcitrant child.

You may ask: is this an oath, or is it a prayer? The answer is that it is whatever you make of it. For me personally, it is more like a prayer, an affirmation to something greater than myself. To my Authentic Self. And to something beyond even that. But it is also an oath, a reminder to my small-s-self to honour my Authentic Self, and the greater good of the world and its people.

As we spend more time online, it is very easy to lose track of what is important. It is very easy to lose our mindful, bird’s eye view of the world and our lives, and instead get caught up in earthbound cat fights. Often the squabbles and projections are with people we barely know, or do not know at all. I’d like to think that the Oath to Power and Presence, whatever version you make of it, can inspire you to keep your life on track, an dto affirm the higher values that we humans share as a collective.

This is an extract from Marcus T Anthony’s new book, Power and Presence: Reclaiming Your Authentic Self in a Weaponised World


[i] Limberg, P., & Barnes, C. (2018). “The memetic tribes of culture war 2.0.” Medium, Sept 14, 2018. Retrieved Mar 27, 2020, from https://medium.com/s/world-wide-wtf/memetic-tribes-and-culture-war-2-0-14705c43f6bb。

Mindfulness or Ritual? Which One Works Best?

Mindfulness is often most potent when combined with other practices. We shouldn’t employ mindfulness in our lives, naively assuming it is the most powerful problem-solving tool ever invented, while excluding other practical and useful methods and behaviors.

Imagine that you want to lose weight, but have a tendency to eat a little too much at your meals, and like to top your dinner off with a delicious calorie-laden bowl of ice-cream. Not surprisingly, you are finding the weight hard to take off. Desperate, you go to your local meditation center and ask the resident guru what you should do. After he adjusts his white robe, lights the incense and clangs a little bell, he pauses dramatically and peers deeply into your soul.

“You must be more present at your meals,” he announces, bowing his head slightly. “The art of eating is sacred. You must be mindful of each mouthful, and let the food fill your spirit, not merely your belly!”

You bow three times as you exit the room walking backwards, expressing your great thanks. A deep feeling relief fills your soul. But as you stroll mindfully to your car you notice a street sign on the opposite side of the road, indicating the presence of a dietician’s clinic. So, just to hedge your bets, you cross the road and enter the dietician’s office. You sit with her and share your problem. You mumble the bit about the heavy meals and the weight problem. She looks at you as if you are a little dull, but nods her head.

“When you sit for each meal, follow these three simple steps,” she says. “You must adhere to this ritual at every meal, and do exactly as I say. All meals. Every day. No exceptions!”

You listen, skeptical but excited. “Please do share. What are the three steps!?”

The dietician nods quizzically, a sparkle in her eye.

“First, you must cut the food.”

You nod slowly. “Uh huh. And…”

“Then, you must arrange the pieces symmetrically on your plate. In the shape of a triangle”

You scratch your head. “I see…”

“Finally, you must tap your plate three times with your fork. Only then may you begin to eat.”

“That’s it?”

“Yep. That’ll be forty-nine bucks, thanks. My standard consultation fee for ten-minute sessions.”

After flipping your wallet open, you walk out feeling a little foolish.

So, whose advice should you take? The spiritual guru’s, or the dietician’s?

The possible answer may surprise you. Harvard professor Francesco Gino and colleagues conducted a recent experiment, taking a group of people trying to lose weight and dividing them into two groups. The first group was told to be mindful during meals, and the second was told to follow a ritual similar to the dietician’s one, in the fictional story above. Surprisingly, the ritual proved to be more effective in reducing consumption of calories, fat and sugar.[i] As Nir Eyal notes in his book Indistractible, rituals can be powerful. They can help break bad habits and build an empowering identity.

Mindfulness is often most potent when combined with other practices. We shouldn’t employ mindfulness in our lives, naively assuming it is the most powerful problem-solving tool ever invented, while excluding other practical and useful methods and behaviors. Rituals, as indicated here, are very compatible with presence practices. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can also be combined with mindfulness, helping you manage thoughts and feelings more rationally, without undue hyperbole, catastrophism and generally neurotic thinking. And throughout this book I am suggesting the importance of emotional release as a means to help mindful states of awareness, and to heal trauma. I suggest you experiment with mindfulness, and seeing how it can operate together with your current knowledge base, beliefs and practices.


[i] Allen Ding Tian et al., ‘Enacting Rituals to Improve Self-Control’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 114, no. 6 (2018): 851–76, https://doi.org/10.1037/pspa0000113.

This post is an extract from my upcoming book Power and Presence: Reclaiming Your Authentic Self in a Weaponised World, which will be out by mid-2022.

Presentation: “Embodiment, Classical Intuition and The Future of the Metaverse.

This is my very recent presentation at the Society for Consciousness Studies, 2021. “Embodiment, Classical Intuition and The Future of the Metaverse.” My central argument is that it is vitally important that we retain a strong sense of embodiment & intuitive intelligence even as the 3D Digital Society evolves. To further diminish that awareness would represent the deepening & perpetuation of a major civilisational error that has engendered the crisis in sensemaking. It thus represents an existential crisis that is potentially catastrophic, literally &/or metaphorically. Establishing an Authentic Self via Embodied Presence is a vital component of all this.

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Below is the video of my very recent presentation at the Society for Consciousness Studies, 2021. “Embodiment, Classical Intuition and The Future of the Metaverse.” My central argument is that it is vitally important that we retain a strong sense of embodiment & intuitive intelligence even as the 3D Digital Society evolves. To further diminish that awareness would represent the deepening & perpetuation of a major civilisational error that has engendered the crisis in sensemaking. It thus represents an existential crisis that is potentially catastrophic, literally &/or metaphorically. Establishing an Authentic Self via Embodied Presence is a vital component of all this.

1. About Marcus T Anthony (1:15)

2. What is Critical Futures Studies? (5:10)

3. Context: The Metaverse, Embodiment & the Crisis in Sensemaking (6:45)

4. Deep Futures vs Money & Machines Futures (14:55)

5. Integrated Intelligence & the Extended Mind (16:45)

6. Scenarios: Four Possible Futures of the Metaverse (27:20)

7. Conclusion: Rediscovering the Authentic Self (33:10)

The Shift

We are entering a liminal phase where we humans are being asked to question our place in the cosmos. This podcast episode represents the promise of the internet when it was first conceived. It is sensemaking at its finest. We have an interviewer, Curt Jaimungal, allowing his guest to speak, sometimes challenging him, but without constant interruption or moral and intellectual superiority. We have two people open to the wonder of both science and spiritual insight.

I simply loved this podcast. This is the promise of the internet when it was first conceived. It is sensemaking at its finest. We have an interviewer, Curt Jaimungal, allowing his guest to speak, sometimes challenging him, but without constant interruption or moral and intellectual superiority. We have two people open to the wonder of both science and spiritual insight.

I particularly love the intellectual humility of Luis Elizondo. He refuses to lecture on that which he does not genuinely know, clearly differentiating those issues on which he is competent to elucidate and those on which he is merely able to offer partiality and opinion. But mostly, I love his use of metaphor and analogy. This is a master class in sense-making, as it could be, and should be.

And by the way, we are entering a shift phase where we humans are being asked to question our place in the cosmos. We futurists talk of emerging uses. But sometimes we get lost in trivialities, waxing and waning in regard to superficial trends of little import, while lacking the courage to challenge the status quo. Lest we be evicted from the discourse.

Is Artificial Consciousness Impossible?

In AI theory they refer to “the Jetson’s Fallacy.” As with the 1960’s futuristic cartoon show, many people today naively believe that AI is just going to walk beside us into the future. But no. It’s going to increasingly walk inside us. The interface of human and machine intelligence is going to become increasingly blurred. And don’t think that people won’t let it happen. The steps to get there will come one at a time. Many of us alive today might find it abhorrent to have a neural chip drilled into our skulls. But the shift won’t happen all at once. Each generation will likely take one step further towards cybernetic embodiment.

Can machines ever be conscious? David Hsing argues not in his aptly titled article “Artificial Consciousness Is Impossible.”

For those who don’t want to read the whole thing, the essence of Hsing’s argument is found in the following quotes.

Learning machines” are “Learning Rooms” that only take on the appearance of learning. Machines mimic certain theoretical mechanisms of learning as well as simulate the result of learning but never replicate the experiential activity of learning. Actual learning requires connecting referents with conscious experiences. This is why machines mistake groups of pixels that make up an image of a gorilla with those that compose an image of a dark-skinned human being. Machines don’t learn- They pattern match and only pattern match.

And…

The fact that machines are programmed dooms them as appendages, extensions of the will of their programmers. A machine’s design and its programming constrain and define it. There’s no such thing as a “design without a design” or “programming without programming.”

Finally…

Artificial consciousness is impossible due to the extrinsic nature of programming which is bound to syntax and devoid of meaning.

In general, I agree that machine consciousness is unlikely in the foreseeable future. Hsing makes the crucial distinction between intelligence and consciousness. Machines can process information, but they aren’t going to feel themselves being themselves anytime soon.

The similarity between computers and brains is superficial, and I believe the conflation of the two is a kind of reverse pathetic fallacy. The ancients believed that exploding volcanoes and furious hurricanes were God’s wrath. Today, our environment is filled with machines, and we sometimes attribute them with human qualities, including consciousness.

I agree with Hsing that Kurzweil and the transhumanists are basically deluded. But I have no objection to their attempts to upload their minds onto machines. Just as long as they don’t come back.

And still… it pays to remember that the future is an awfully long time…

In AI theory they refer to “the Jetson’s Fallacy.” As with the 1960’s futuristic cartoon show, many people today naively believe that AI is just going to walk beside us into the future. But no. It’s going to increasingly walk inside us. The interface of human and machine intelligence is going to become increasingly blurred. And don’t think that people won’t let it happen. The steps to get there will come one at a time. Many of us alive today might find it abhorrent to have a neural chip drilled into our skulls. But the shift won’t happen all at once. Each generation will likely take one step further towards cybernetic embodiment. For our grandchildren who will already have neural chips and cybernetic enhancements, taking one more step towards an enhanced and increasingly artificial intelligence will seem like less of a quantum leap.

I have digressed a little, but now let me make my main point. We probably won’t need the machines to be conscious. We will almost certainly merge with them. Don’t look now, but its already happening. How far we go with the whole experiment remains to be seen…

Hsing also argues that functionalist explanations for possible machine consciousness are faulted. Those arguments insist that if we just know what neurons do, then we will know what brains do. And if we can copy a brain, then we can create artificial consciousness. But Hsing sees this as a hopeless task, because to duplicate brain function we need to know all those functions and their dependencies. And we just don’t have any way to measure all that. It’s way too complex. Further, he says consciousness is “underdetermined.” If I understand him correctly, he’s suggesting reductionist arguments for consciousness are wrong, or at least inadequate.

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Of course, the biggest issue is that we just don’t know what consciousness is, or how it arises. But as I said, the future is a long time. Maybe we’ll eventually discover the nature of mind, and there could be something in that discovery which renders Hsing’s last point invalid. We may not need to reverse engineer anything. For example, I’ve long argued that consciousness has non-local properties. Though not widely accepted in mainstream science, there is a hundred years of experimental evidence which is suggestive of this, as well as endless report-based evidence. I refer to what I call “integrated intelligence.” If the foundation of consciousness is not found in biological systems (a foundational presupposition of neuroscience), then it is theoretically possible that we might be able to access that via machine learning. But how that might happen is anybody’s guess.

Perhaps we will not need to know all the micro-foundations of the mind to eventually create machine consciousness.  After all, we can create ice crystals without needing to understand all the parameters of their formation. We simply re-create the pre-existing conditions which cause water to freeze in the right way. Perhaps it will be the same with AI consciousness. Consciousness would appear to be a far more complex phenomenon. But as Hsing points out, consciousness does not merely arise from complexity. The Mars Perseverance Rover remains no more conscious than a dial telephone.

Marcus

The Rebel & the Firestarter

When The Rebel is unable or unwilling to assume responsibility for what arises in his mind and emotional body, an inevitable result is a descent into drama. Drama emerges within any given life situation because we fail to develop the right relationship with our judgments and anger, and they become projected onto the other: onto the parent, the spouse, boss, the leader, the institution, the system and so on. The Firestarter typically hits out in scorn and rage, and tries to damage or even annihilate that which is around him. Fights, arguments, backstabbing, gossip, formation of angry tribes, gangs and work cliques are common behaviours for Firestarters.

The following is an extract from my upcoming book “Power and Presence: Reclaiming Your Authentic Self in a Weaponized World.” In the discussion to follow, I am going to use the masculine pronoun “he” when referring to The Rebel, but the discussion applies equally to both men and women.

Around about now, with the US election situation having become so volatile, many people are experiencing a lot of anger. Many are active online or even on the streets, seeking what they perceive to be justice – or maybe even revenge.

Perhaps you have one eye upon the world (the object of your anger), and one eye turned back upon yourself, concerned about the strong or even destructive ideas that are moving through your mind. If you are one of these, this article is for you. It’s about noticing how angry you have become. And it’s about being The Rebel, and how that can be either a positive development, or a destructive one.

Let me leave the US election for a moment (I will return to it at the end of the article).

There is an essential idea I wish to share early on. Being a Rebel is both necessary and healthy for all humans. At some point we all need to say “No!” to someone: to our parents, to our siblings and friends, to the boss, to the priest, to our institution or to our culture.

Yet rebellion is only truly healthy if there is a sufficient level of cognitive responsibility behind the actions that The Rebel embodies. When the Rebel’s propensity for cognitive responsibility drops below a certain threshold, The Rebel can become the Firestarter. If all hope fades, he may become the Nihilist, who in turn may express violent and destructive tendencies.

The Rebel Gone Wrong has many common expressions, including:

  • The Firestarter
  • The Nihilist
  • The Tyrant or Fascist
  • The Bully
  • The Bad Boy or Bad Girl
  • The Bad Mother or Bad Father
  • The Bastard, the Arsehole or the Bitch (we can’t discuss rebellion without a few cusswords!)
  • The Trickster
  • The Crusader

Even though these expressions vary somewhat (and debatably), I will use several of them interchangeably, below.

When The Rebel is unable or unwilling to assume responsibility for what arises in his mind and emotional body, an inevitable result is a descent into drama. Drama emerges within any given life situation because we fail to develop the right relationship with our judgments and anger, and they become projected onto the other: onto the parent, the spouse, boss, the leader, the institution, the system and so on. The Firestarter typically hits out in scorn and rage, and tries to damage or even annihilate that which is around him. Fights, arguments, backstabbing, gossip, formation of angry tribes, gangs and work cliques are common behaviours for Firestarters.

If The Rebel sees no avenue for outward projection of his pain and anger, he may alternatively turn that inward. Instead of trying to destroy the other or destroy the system, he becomes self-loathing and self-destructive. Instead of, “It’s not fair! It’s all their fault!” the crestfallen cry becomes: “I deserve this. It’s all my fault.” His behaviour becomes passive, and the anger and shame is internalised. Depression is highly probable, because the anger and sadness has nowhere to express itself.

When we talk about cognitive responsibility, we have to talk about developing the right relationship with anger, because it is anger that drives The Rebel. The Rebel energy, when activated, gives a long, loud raspberry to The Man. To the system. To the Establishment. The (potential) power of the Rebel is his decision to say “No!” It is the decision to set a boundary, or at least an attempt to set a boundary against someone or some system which is seen to be undesirable or perhaps oppressive.

When The Rebel expresses his defiance while exhibiting high levels of spiritual or psychological maturity (cognitive responsibility) combined with personal and moral courage, we get an empowered expression of The Rebel archetype. We get Gandhi. We get MLK. We even get Mother Teresa.

With enhanced cognitive responsibility there is then a strong potential for the healing of the pain body, and thus the integration of the consciousness that is seeking resolution. When drama arises, the healthy Rebel is able to identify his part in the chaos, assume responsibility for that and pull out of the drama. Where judgment and blame arise in his mind, he is able to witness it, work with it, and allow it a healthy expression.

There are not so many clear names or expressions for the idea of the healthy Rebel, but we can see the character in various other archetypes.

  • The Freedom Fighter
  • The Hero or Heroine
  • The Noble Leader
  • The Good Mother and the Good Father
  • The Spiritual Master
  • The Healer

As is often noted, one man’s Freedom Fighter is another man’s Terrorist. That may be because the frame is being controlled by opposing outside parties, or simply because not everyone’s values and goals are the same.

It may also be because of the inconsistent behaviour of the individual. No Rebel ever stepped forth into the world without being a Firestarter on some occasions. Indeed, it may be necessary to witness oneself as The Asshole or The Bitch, and to acknowledge that, before we can move beyond that expression, before we can pull out of any given drama and integrate the consciousness of it. To heal. To find empowerment.

Is it me or is it them?

The Rebel’s healthy expression of judgment and pain often requires little or no participation from the perceived opposing force. This is something that is very important to understand. It lies at the root of personal empowerment. Quite often the oppressive narrative that we are reading onto our experience – onto “The Man,” onto society, onto the world – is self-generated. Such narratives can spawn endless cycles of drama. In this situation, we merely own our part in the story and pull out of the drama.

The situation is complicated by the fact that quite often the drama we are participating in is driven by our unresolved issues or pain. Our suffering is the hook. If that is the case, we may need to develop the right relationship with our emotional body, to find some safe space where we can express our anger, hurt and sadness (more about that in my next article).

Further, we all live in societies where our psyches are embedded culturally, ideologically and politically within narratives (and perhaps even consciousness fields) that are seeking to exploit us in order to enhance an agenda. That agenda will usually involve some push for power and control over us.

Thus it is the task of The Rebel to determine as honestly as he can how much of what is unfolding in his experience is due to his own behaviors and attitudes; how much is due to the irresponsible and disrespectful behaviors and manipulations of others; and how much is due to genuinely undesirable or oppressive systems. The distinctions are rarely black and white. No group, no system, no leader, no parent is a perfectly evolved entity. Nor are we.

The 2020 US Election (again)

I write this just days after the 2020 US presidential election, where The Rebel energy – and in particular anger and blame – has emerged at levels that are historically high. The potential for an unhealthy expression of that archetype is great. Individual and tribal responsibility levels are extremely low, and both drama and the need for drama is gravely elevated.

Many – probably most – people will take sides in the battle, and this is to be expected. Human beings are tribal by nature. We identify with our group, our team, our heroes and our stories. We love to project against our villains, to blame them for the evil we see in the world. Or in ourselves.

Thus, right now we have a very high potential for a destructive expression of The Rebel archetype to (further) emerge. In particular, we can pay attention to the following scenarios.

  • Leaders and political parties may fail to assume a sufficiently high level of responsibility for their own issues and their own shadow energy, choosing instead to manipulate people and ferment conflict and chaos.
  • Your institution, profession, or tribe is probably exploiting (deliberately or unconsciously) the widespread high need for drama. Projection, judgment and blame are commonly being fermented.
  • Many of your friends and colleagues, both in real life and especially in virtual space, will currently have low levels of cognitive responsibility, coupled with a high potential for drama. Indeed, many are probably smack bang in the middle of several dramas at this moment.
  • Right now, you too probably have a high need for drama, and your cognitive responsibility level is probably much lower than usual. Therefore, you are likely more vulnerable than usual to being drafted into someone else’s frame, narrative or drama, including destructive and violent ones.

Although it may be difficult to see it, all this means that there is an incredible opportunity to further develop in your own level psychological and spiritual maturity. To become more wise. Opportunities like this do not come along all that often in any given lifetime.

The check list

So, what can you do right now in response to the current time of elevated tensions?

First, check to see if you have given your power away to a leader or group, and in particular whether you are projecting some kind of saviour – or demon –  narrative onto power figures.

Reflect carefully also upon the narratives and dramas that are now circulating through your mind, and through your information sources. Are these ideas and thoughts really yours, or has your mind become colonised? Are you possessed? How did that narrative get in there? When?

Is your consciousness expanding or contracting along with your chosen focus? You will know the answer to this last question intuitively.

Is it possible to reconfigure the story you have adopted; or better still, to pull out of the narrative and drama altogether?

If you are involved in some kind of political activism or even just some online commentary, how much of that is representative on a healthy Rebel consciousness? Or have you become the Firestarter?

In the end, we need a strong motivation for choosing to do the kind of inner work I am sharing here. For me, it is knowing that my own healing and intentionality is helping humanity evolve. The light that we shine within ourselves helps light the world, if only just a little. That light, I believe, transcends time and space, helping heal past and future; for us as individuals, and for all those whom we are connected to across time, space and mind. And for that to unfold we need to develop a high level of awareness of how our minds work, and in this case how The Rebel energy can be expressed healthily – or destructively.

You will also require a suitable set of tools to do the work. That will be the subject of my next article.

I don’t know who I am anymore: when the limbo state descends

The limbo state, consciously speaking, is the phase when we find that we are moving from one known situation to the next unknown state, from one state of being towards that which follows. When that which is to come remains unseen. The limbo state is a phase of which we face many times in life. When we enter the limbo state, the tendency is to go into fear, or into control mode, attempting to impose certainty on an uncertain dynamic.

The danger in that is twofold. Firstly, we lose the opportunity to experience the expansiveness of who we truly are, by imposing the known and the certain upon something infinite and unknowable (at the level of mind). Secondly, by rushing to impose the known upon the unknown, we delimit the potentiality of what may come, instead imposing the mind’s delimited perspective of who we are upon the world. We end up returning to what we already once were. We tread water, turning in circles of ever-deeper confusion.

The alternative is to let go, to surrender, to allow ourselves to float for an indeterminate period in an ocean of the unknown, the unknowable. To trust that there is something that is to come, even though we may have no conscious idea of what that might be.

The limbo phase may feel like the end. Like death. Like you are lost and that there is no way home. But that is precisely what it is meant to be. In allowing that “not knowing,” that feeling of emptiness, that loss of certainty and control, we allow that which is to follow to arrive in its perfect form and timing. And we get to sense the infinity of self beyond the illusion of who we ”think” we are.

Sometimes we just have to let go and become nothing, before we can become something else.

And sometimes it is not just about you. Families, organisations, nations and civilisations can enter the limbo state. What is to follow may not always be clear. Yet the attitude we take rewards that unknown may determine much of what is to follow.

When you find yourself in the limbo state, say “yes” to being lost. It’s OK. Something is coming. You just don’t know what it is. And that could be a wonderful thing. Maybe being lost is where you are meant to be.

For now.