Thursday, August 21, 2008

Cosmos ex Natura 6: The Perennial Tao

Mandala of Evolution - Dion Wright

1 The Continuity and Diversity of Life

This section, is an outline of how, in the light of the scientific description of the universe, and what we know from our own subjective experience of reality, we can approach the 'spiritual' significance of our conscious incarnation, in terms of one central purpose, which is safeguarding and enriching the future diversity of life, on Earth, and in the universe at large, while embracing the freedom of the individual to experience the conscious condition creatively and autonomously, to the fullest degree possible.

The principle of the safeguarding and enriching the diversity of life is central, in keeping the relationship between the 'sap and dew' of the physical paramount for the passage of the generations and the diversity of ongoing life, while liberating conscious experience.

2 Complementarity and Symmetry-breaking

This is consistent with the complementary relationship between the yin and yang receptive and creative aspects, of nature and consciousness, in the indescribable Tao, or way, of existence:

The way that can be told is not the eternal way.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.
The named is the mother of ten thousand things.
Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.
Ever desiring, one can see the manifestations.
These two spring from the same source but differ in name;
(Tao te Ching - Lao Tsu).

In all of its critical manifestations, the chaos-cosmos is expressed in terms of complements, rather than absolutes. In the existential condition we have the complementarity between subjective consciousness and our physical embodiment. In the physics of the universe between wave and particle aspects of the quantum. In the biological realm between the female and male sexes. In the realm of dynamics, between chaos and order, and in the Prisoners' Dilemma, between cooperation and defection. These complementarities are the key to the ability of the cosmic condition to become manifest.

Associated with complementarity is the idea of symmetry-breaking of the complementarity into polarized aspects each of which is incomplete without the presence of the other. Thus, while mental phenomena are indivisible and subjective, physical phenomena are both objective and decomposable into the myriad manifestations of the physical world. Again while the wave aspect of reality is continuous and indivisible, the particle aspect is discrete and multiple. And in biology, while the ovum and its excitable membrane are continuous, the many sperm which try to fertilize it are discrete competing motile packets of DNA. This is where the differences between the sexes become most profound.

In addition, the phenomenon of cosmic symmetry-breaking gives a complex polarization to the forces of nature, in which a single super-force becomes the four polarized forces we experience today, gravity, electromagnetism and the weak and strong (colour) forces; and in this polarization, the large scale structure of the expanding universe comes about, and the complexity of matter, from fundamental particles, through nucleons, to atomic nuclei, atoms, molecules and tissues, and hence the flowering of life, becomes possible.

Furthermore, symmetry-breaking between the biological sexes in animals, which in mammals gives rise to pregnancy, lactation and the birth and rearing of live young, leads to a central polarity. In human society, with its massive pregnancy and long term parenting is at an extreme of mammalian polarization. The strategic investments of the female and male sex, even though they are very different, the one based on long-term investment, and the other venture-risk competition, and each may challenge, or even contradict, that of the other. Nevertheless they are complementary, and human survival depends on the combined effect of both. In their perilous and unstable equilibrium, arises the catalytic stimulus for the emergence of human culture, and the explosion of runaway intelligence.

Human spiritual and religious traditions thus need to be founded on respect for the mutual interdependence of the sexes and the integrity of each, without resorting to attitudes of dominance - of mind over body, male over female, or God over Nature.

3 Sexuality, Mortality, Diversity and Love

Intrinsic to the complementarity of the Tao of yin and yang is the fact that all life is sexual, and by being sexual, and possessing the endless variety which sexuality enables, sexual life becomes mortal, forsaking the absolute genetic selfishness of parthenogenesis. Fusion sex transmits only half the genes in each parent, rather than the whole genome. This altruism results in the endless variety of sexual beings, each with their own identity and genetic makeup, thus giving each a unique ability to resist epidemic disease, profoundly aiding the survival of the species. Sexuality and sexual transgression is thus not the cause of death, and our downfall from the grace of God, but the very principle which makes life's diversity possible.

All life is sexual and sexuality needs to be respected as the interactive foundation of the diversity of life. Bacteria have a form of pan-sexuality using viral and transposable elements, which transfer bacterial genes, and enable conjugation, even between differing species. Fungi have differing forms of conjugation and fusion sexuality which permit up to twenty different sexual mating types, and plants and animals are universally sexual through dyadic fusion sex. Although many plants and a few animal species are capable of vegetative, or parthenogenetic, reproduction, they depend on the generation of sexual variety whenever environmental stresses occur, occasionally even mating with related species.

The mammalian sexual condition is highly polarized as a result of pregnancy, live-birth and lactation, giving the female a principal reproductive investment in parenting and humans with massive pregnancy and long-term parental care are at an extreme of this polarization. The female reproductive investment strategy of long-term out-front sustainability must not be subjugated to the venture-risk exponentiating reproductive strategy of human males and its association with male attempts to control culture and assert dominance through patriarchal religion.

Rather it is female reproductive choice of overt resource-bearing and/or covert genetic male sexual partners, and corresponding male genius in attracting female partners, which is the principal mediator of runaway human intelligence, despite a degree mutual mate choice also occurring in immediate relationship formation and falling-in-love. However, along with this manifest symmetry-breaking also comes a tacit need for acceptance of human polygyny, which, although it is often associated with patriarchal cultures, and male prerogatives, is fundamental to sexual symmetry-breaking. Polygyny is as much a product of female reproductive choice and selection of male suitors as it is an expression of the male strategy of sewing wild oats. Differences in the diversity of the X chromosome and autosomes across cultures, confirm the continuing prevalence of polygyny throughout human evolution, despite the religious ideal of monogamy being asserted in the Christian world on the basis of the Edenic myth of Adam and Eve - a mistaken conclusion, given the earlier mythological relationship of Adam with an all-too sexually liberated Lilith.

Sexuality is also the foundation of love, and love of the other, in partnership, parenting, kinship and comradeship. The ability to love is an emergent expression of the fulfillment of the spiritual quest grounded biologically in the altruism implicit in the sexual interconnectedness of all life. The capacity for love is an evolutionary endowment of the emotional repertoire of the mammalian brain, among other emotions, from fear and anger, through hate, to the chaotic unpredictability of humour, which enable us to relate to one another beyond the confines of genetic determinism.

The essential truth here is that, just as mind and body, or conscious spirit and physical form are complementary and symmetry-broken, so nature needs to be sacralized and respected as holy (whole) in completing the conscious, spiritual and religious quest for an unveiling, with the sexual foundation of the Tree of Life's perennial immortality across the generations. Only when nature and sex is respected as sacred in this way can a paradigm of sustainable life culture ensue for humanity, rather than the damnation and misadventure of hell fire and destruction.

4 Consciousness and the Transcendental

From birth to death, the only actual reality we experience is the subjective reality of conscious sentient existence. All our experience of the external world and one another comes about through regularities in our subjective conscious experience of reality. By contrast our experience of all aspects of the physical universe, and our relationships with other sentient beings, thus come about indirectly as a secondary effect of conscious experience.

Nevertheless we acknowledge that if we cut ourselves we bleed, and if we fall asleep, or are concussed, we may go into an unconscious state. Although we are subjective beings experiencing a subjective reality, we know that our continued survival depends on acceptance of the existence of the physical universe. In this way, subjective consciousness and the objective physical nature of our bodies and the universe around us, (as well as those we love and relate to), are fundamental complementary aspects of the totality of existence.

Despite the belief of many religious people in the existence of God, or gods and goddesses, or the afterlife, the only aspects of the universe we know to possess subjective consciousness of any kind are the biota. It is thus not God, but we ourselves that are uniquely at the sentient crest of the cosmic emergence, perhaps the critical and only way the universe is able experience itself in the conscious condition, giving additional impetus to the importance of the implicitly cosmic nature of sentient consciousness.

By contrast with the undeniability of our own consciousness, religions try to assert the necessity for belief in the godhead - because there is no verifiable evidence for it as such, so an affirmative act of belief, in the absence of real evidence, is necessary. If we are honest with ourselves, we would admit this fails the critical test of integrity in trust, in the same way pyramid schemes, confidence tricks, and other forms of fraud, fail the same test.

Nevertheless, since we do know we are subjectively conscious and that we are mortal beings in the sexual paradigm, we must needs take personal responsibility for this undeniable fact of reality, to leave the world a better place, because any other choice of action, from personal indulgence to psychopathic exploitation, is doomed to meaningless oblivion, in the inevitable event of our demise. This act of taking personal responsibility is the same act that all heroes and heroines, bodhisattvas, messiahs, shamans and sages of the spiritual traditions must take, and it is also the critical step to give our lives real meaning.

The ego is not the enemy of realization, nor is it intrinsically a selfish, grasping, delusory influence, but is an integral part of our mammalian emotional endowment, the dynamic manifestation of the life force, seeking the survival of the organism in the vagaries of a precarious environment. The suffering of the ego, which Buddhism draws attention to, without posing a creator God, is healed, not by renunciation of the world, but by acceptance of the ultimate altruism of sexual mortality, and understanding the fact that the only truly meaningful act we can perform, while alive in this world, is to work to improve the condition of sentient life, and the passage of the future generations of the diversity of life. This compassionate act of redemption is as real in the biological world as it can ever be, seen through a glass darkly, in the world of religious imperative and messianic salvation.

Our biological incarnation gives us the unique opportunity to witness and experience the awesome totality of conscious existence while we are alive in the incarnate condition. This free lunch gains its true meaning, and we gain our true peace, in giving back in turn to existence, and those that will follow us when we are gone, a world which is made better and more wholesome through the insights and good works we have performed in this life, to make the world a more bearable, habitable and sustainable sanctuary, for the generations to follow.

There may also be forms of compassionate dis-incarnate consciousness, with which our individual consciousness may co-integrate on the boundary of life and death, but there is no more evidence for reincarnation than there is for a creator God. Moreover, reincarnation of sentient beings, or even the desires and attachments they possess, violates fundamental principles of evolutionary biology, effectively subjugating the diversity of life to a narrow morality of reincarnating sentient beings, in which the evolutionary adaption of 'lesser' species are falsely imagined to carry a purely human social burden, and in which the diversity of living organisms is subjugated to the potentially endless recycling of a few morally corrupt sentient beings.

Nevertheless in eternal space-time, we are all part of the collective conscious process and the lives we lead and have led, when we come to pass away, continue to be an integral part of the ongoing manifestation of consciousness discovering itself in the universe, from alpha to omega, so the fear of death, and hunger for the afterlife, arise from a misplaced desire for the transient temporal, when the sentient universe is eternal in space-time.

This ties back to the cosmological evolution of the universe and the way sentient life becomes possible on the 'cosmic equator' mid-life in the universe's manifestation, where there are mature planets and galaxies, and the complexity of molecular life becomes possible over long evolutionary epochs. Even if biological life cannot survive the extreme conditions of the big-bang, or the heat death, or big crunch, these very extremes are necessary to make possible the kind of cosmic evolution that leads to the complexity of life on the cosmic equator. From the eternal space-time perspective the equator and poles are necessary features of a single, eternal, integrated manifestation, in which life, and sentient life, is as integral and fundamental a manifestation, and in no way futile.

5 The Prisoners' Dilemma and the Red Queen

Intrinsic to the complementary description of reality is the unstable cusp of the strategic prisoners' dilemma game between cooperation and defection, in which there is continual temptation to defect for higher payoffs, despite the relatively secure win-win of mutual cooperation, leading to double jeopardy in mutual defection. This is where all manner of strategies of altruistic punishment, such as 'an eye for an eye', or 'tit-for-tat' as it is called in game theory, come into play.

The strategic interaction between parties is caught on the unstable cusp between these two, so that neither cooperation, nor defection can never entirely eliminated and the rule of order can never be complete. Neither the faithful wife, nor the scarlet whore can be eliminated no matter what dire penalties, such as stoning for adultery, men invent in the name of religion, or God, to assert control over women's sexual choices, because the rarity of either commands a kings bounty. Likewise neither the faithful husband, the philanderer, nor the potentate, can be eliminated from the game entirely.

Moreover, the ecological relationships, both between species and individuals, including those of predator and prey, and parasite and host, are driven by a prisoners' dilemma Red Queen evolutionary race, running while standing still, in which all species need to be sexual to avoid the extinction of an entire parthenogenetic clone line of individuals. Hence sexuality can compensate, in a single generation, for the altruism of contributing only a half of one's genes, by providing the individual variation that limits epidemic catastrophes which would completely wipe out a monoclonal species.

Although predators and parasites exploit their prey and hosts, each are also dependent on the other, to varying degrees, to avoid population boom and bust, and the likely extinctions that result from population explosions to the point of starvation, in the absence of predators and parasites. Parasites also depend on their hosts for their own survival. It is therefore difficult or impossible to define universal moral laws about killing, theft, coveting, adultery, or other forms of violent or non-violent exploitation of one individual, or species, by another, except in terms of its likely effect on the survival, in diversity, of the ecosystem as a whole.

Although the female human makes the principal reproductive investment in parenting, the emergence of human culture, and the flowering of intelligence, is catalyzed by a prisoners' dilemma Red-Queen race between the sexes, in which each has had to run, while standing still, to secure the reproductive favour of the other. Thus any spiritual or religious paths that advocate domination, sequestering or control by one sex over the other, even in the name of their best interests, is in root violation of nature as a cosmic principle.

6 Religion and Oppression

Despite the higher values of compassion, and spiritual virtue, which devout followers place in their beliefs, established religions are social systems designed to shape the lives of their followers by manifest systems of control. Religion, by its very nature, (re-ligio - to bind together, islam - submission) binds the conscious mind from its autonomous freedom, while alive, to explore the depths of the cosmic abyss, which becomes manifest when we enter a state of repose, dream, or psychedelic, natural or mystical communion. Only in such states can we experience the disembodied cosmic 'self', many people witness in near-death and other white-light experiences.

Those who wish to discover the underlying nature of the cosmic subjective need to free themselves from all religious and scriptural imperatives, all doctrine and dogma, all fear of divine or social retribution, and all compulsions to believe, or obey God's will, and discover for themselves, with as few assumptions as possible, the nature of the abyss within.

Religions attempt to assert themselves, as imperatives, through several totalitarian manoeuvres. Firstly they expect one to believe under pain of taking God or al-Llah in vain if we don't believe. Secondly they assert that it is God's command that we obey him, depriving us of any choice in the matter. Thirdly religions try to convert through evangelical enticements, or coercive practices, like Islam's conversion by the sword. Fourthly religions try to invoke harsh, or even lethal penalties for apostasy, or recanting the faith, making it difficult or impossible to retreat. Fifthly, religions set out moral imperatives that must be followed, which confine the individual into a state of guilt and fear of transgression, and promote societies which punish and expose transgressors. Sixthly religions teach that the priests, mullahs, preachers and gurus know what is best for us all and deny our innate capacity to experience reality for ourselves. In virtually every religion the mystics who would experience spiritual unity in the first person, are repressed, punished or murdered. Seventhly religions of patriarchy set up dire punishments to control female sexual, legal and educative choices, to maintain control over female reproductive choice, and to ensure the expansion of the population of the believers, as part of a utopian aim of planetary control under the rule of God.

Religiosity is also found to have a significant genetic component, which although it may on some occasions trigger mystical experience, favours an individual's psychological need to believe in a higher power ordering their lives, and societies which become dominant over neighbouring cultures by imposing conservative morality, and punishment of defectors. Like the influence of patriarchy, the dominant controlling position of religions over the last four millennia, is liable to result in self-fulfilling genetic selection, undermining the capacity of both individuals and societies to pursue the unfolding of the conscious realm, free from coercive religious imperatives, and utopian designs.

For these reasons religions are the enemy of spiritual illumination, and stringent measures, equally effective to their own contrivances, are needed to keep religion from assuming diabolical control over our lives, and those of future generations.

7 Morality, Criminality and the Social Quality of Life

Morality is an emergent product of societies, in which individuals forsake personal advantage over others for the collective benefit of the group. Alexander's theory of the biology of morality asserts that morality arises as a way of reducing intra-social strife to gain greater capacity for inter-social competition and dominance. That is, moral societies can better survive onslaughts from their neighbours, because there is less internal strife caused by personal expedience, exploitation and corruption. The rise of kin altruism, mutualism, and reciprocal altruism in biological societies has a similar basis, which functions also in terms of individual genetic fitness.

There are thus no absolute standards of morality that we must abide by, and no absolute rights and wrongs. We are better served by learning from example from living ecosystems, which are sustainable over evolutionary time scales, even though they contain predators and prey, than allowing ourselves to be forced to commit to cultural moral imperatives which may be unsustainable long-term because they assert values which undermine natural viability. Control of female reproductive choice by violent punishment is an obvious example.

By the same token, attempts to crush criminality by dire, or deterrent, punishment, under the rule of law, is doomed to failure in the prisoners' dilemma game. Criminality is an integral part of the defection, which the cusp of the game is centered upon, and is legitimate, for example as protest movements, parliamentary opposition, and whistle blowing, if society is to remain free. Criminal defection can be minimized only through investing in a just society, with a high degree of familial and social connectedness, so that violent anti-social behavior has a high cost, in loss of social respect and support, in the local networks of society.

Dire penalties, even public executions, in an unjust, coercive society, simply lead to an arms race of criminal turf wars, and ever more cut throat professional criminal military organizations, which then pose a threat to society, itself as great as the coercive forces of 'order', or utopian religion, attempting to dominate it.

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