Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Goddess and the Volcano

Archangel Michael, Peruvian Icon, Oil on Canvas

In many traditions around the world, volcanoes are considered to be manifestations of the Goddess, particularly in Her terrific or destructive aspect.
In Hawaii She is known as the indomitable Pele. In Amerindian mythology Mt St Helens is the form taken by the maiden Luwit, and Mt Fuji in Japan is presided over by the goddess Konohana Sakuya Hime. 
The blood-like lava flows, the black smoke, the grey ash reminiscent of the cremation ground, the lightning and destructive fury, are all suggestive of the Hindu goddess Shri Mahakali, the terrifying destroyer of negative forces.

This painting depicts not the Goddess Herself but the Archangel Michael, who presides, with Shri Mahakali, over the left, lunar channel of the Subtle Body. This channel (also known as the Ida Nadi) has the universal quality of Tamas, the cold, dark energy of inertia, which acts as a brake to the overactivity of the solar channel of Rajas. The Icelandic volcano certainly applied a braking force to European air travel.

People who doubt that human activity has a significant effect on global warming often point to the huge amounts of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide emitted during volcanic eruptions. However, volcanoes also emit ash and sulphur, which can remain suspended in the atmosphere for several years, partially shielding the planet from solar radiation. This cooling effect is known as the haze effect. Volcanic eruptions enhance the haze effect to a greater extent than the greenhouse effect. Observational evidence shows a clear correlation between historic eruptions and subsequent years of cold climate conditions. Volcanoes have a net cooling effect on global climate.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Another Good Letter to NS

From Maggie Hamand:
"As someone with a first degree in biochemistry and an MA in theology. I am always fascinated by debates about religion and science. I was dismayed, however, to read [in New Scientist magazine] that belief in God is equated with belief in "supernatural beings". In Christian theology God is not seen as an object of our consciousness, and therefore cannot be described as a "being" or as a "thing". God is held to be both beyond being (transcendent) and being itself (immanent). As far as I am aware Judaism, Islam and indeed Buddhism and Hinduism have similar doctrines. It is human to constantly reify things which are abstract - as scientists do when talking about particles and black holes - or which are divine: but this should be resisted if we are to truly understand things."
London, UK.

Similarly, the Self is not a thing. Reification (also known as hypostatisation, concretism, or the fallacy of misplaced concreteness) is a fallacy of ambiguity, when an abstraction (abstract belief or hypothetical construct) is treated as if it were a concrete, real event, or physical entity. In other words, it is the error of treating as a "real thing" something which is not a real thing, but merely an idea. The habit of thinking about abstractions in terms of concrete objects is probably an inborn tendency in human beings. The word 'real' is quite vague, philosophers can't even agree on what the word 'existence' means. To say that God/Self should not be reified does not necessarily mean It does not 'exist'.

The Collective Self

"The idea that consciousness is the product of interaction between different areas of the brain may have begun with Bernard Baars in 1983, but German philosopher Jurgen Habermans (born in 1929) has long argued that knowledge arises from interaction between people. George Herbert Mead argued that mind itself arises from such interaction, rather than the other way around. It is far from surprising that the social and individual processes of the mind would mimic, or perhaps mirror, each other, and comes as no surprise to those of us who question the assumption that each of us has, or is, a fundamental single self from which all else proceeds."
-Steve Wilson, letter published in New Scientist


The conscious brain evolved at the level of the Visshuddhi Chakra, which is characterised by the quality of collectivity, the interaction, or play, between variegated parts of a whole. According to Advaita philosophy, the Self is singular, but also has innumerable aspects which can interact through the principle of collectivity. Many scientists are tending towards the idea that individual 'selves' are fictitious - a simulation, or an illusion. However, to answer what has been called the 'hard problem' of consciousness - how subjective experience arises from the physical brain - we will always need a single universal subject, or Self.

3D chess game from Star Trek. Consciousness arises through interaction and play.