Tim Rhodes (proftim@speakeasy.org)
Wed, 31 Mar 1999 11:47:21 -0800

Eric wrote:

>Have been bandied about on virus before, try the cool picture at
>A deeper modification of the above eventually came out, with three
>axis's instead of two -- Belief, Evidence and Meaning, with various
>names given to the eight quadrants thereby defined. Anybody seriously
>interested should search the archives -- try starting with
>and searching in and around that area.

Somehow I knew you'd have the references for those handy! Thank you.

>Tim: I am interested in discussing this topic, although we may face
>the same difficulties as Reed and Robin are having -- how does one
>talk about the un-talk-aboutable? Another problem is that without a
>little conflict, virus discussions die down quickly -- one of us may
>have to play the devil's advocate.

So true. One of these days we need to get around to actually discussing the nature of list communication. I know people have tried to start the discussion, but it always seems to peter out too soon. I know (using this message as a fer-instance) that I am often more motivated to write replies to things I strongly disagree with first, and get back to the things I only marginally disagree with later (or sometimes, not at all). Someone once said,

"If you want to find out about a topic on a newsgroup, don't ask, "What can you all tell me about X, Y & Z?" Rather, obnoxiously state, "X, Y, & Z are a load of crap and anyone who fall for it is an idiot!" You'll get much better results."

Maybe that's part of our nature and something we should come to terms with. Or maybe its just a load of bad, useless memes we're all infected with. ???

But back to what you were saying:

>we may face the same difficulties as Reed and Robin are having -- how
>does one talk about the un-talk-aboutable?

I don't think it is "un-talk-aboutable," though. The subjective experience of the particular individual might fall in that category, but if we look at it from a behavioral POV (that's shorthand for "point of view" BTW) I think we can talk about it quite well. There is a stimulus--the religious experience--and a resulting modification of behavior. It doesn't seem to hard to discuss if your willing to approach it in those terms.

>Anyway, to start the discussion (and further solidify my grasp on
>phaith), do you see the same links between phaith and noŽtic
>experiences as I do? KMO proposed that phaith frequently results from
>"an experience of boundary dissolution and/or seeming participation in
>a wider, more pervasive consciousness than is the accepted norm",
>which is probably right, but a little wordy for my taste. Could we
>say instead that phaith emerges from noŽtic experiences?

I think that is many ways a correct reading of KMO's definition. It would be interesting to explore how those types of experiences are brought on and what they consist of.

Let's face it folks, shaman and ministers and Zen masters and cult leaders have all been highly effective at creating an atmosphere that is conducive to these states for eons now. If the Rationalists can't figure out how to generate a similar experience in people around the idea of "Reason"... well, their touted "rationality" isn't really worth a damn as a memeplex, is it?

>To further clarify my understanding of noŽtic experiences, can we try
>to rule on what types of experiences are noŽtic and which are not? I
>have a few examples, let us figure out where they belong:
>(1) "Enlightenment" -- that feeling of sudden intuition, the ecstasy
>of understanding.
>(2) "Orgasm" (description omitted, although I'd like to see someone
>(3) "Here and Now" -- e.g. the feeling you get after a really good
>work out, the awareness of yourself in-the-moment. Also to be had by
>resting on a warm couch in the sunshine (a favorite activity of mine)
>(4) Religious Revelation -- I personally have no experience with this
>category, but I have read about it -- e.g. "Dancing with the Gods",
>which I have referenced here several times; and certain Christian
>conversion experiences I have had described to me.
>While it's obvious (IMO) that (1) and (4) are noŽtic, are either of
>(2) or (3)? Does (4) count even if there is no *content* to the
>experience, i.e. the revelation feels profound but leaves nothing (I'm
>told some types of drugs can do this)?

I think, from my POV, that the deciding factor should be something along the lines of a modification of behavior/beliefs resultant from the experience. (That keeps us out of the subject's head and on more objective footing for the time being.) So where (1) and (4) seem likely to imply such a change, (2) and (3) are less likely too do so. (Although if after having an orgasm you go from "This is just going to be a 'lay' " to "I love you, marry me!" I suppose that orgasm could fall in the "noŽtic" category somewhere.)

>Finally, what relationship do noŽtic experiences and phaith have to
>gnosis? (which my dict. of religions defines as "a self-knowledge or
>self-understanding both on the existential level and on the
>transcendental level")

Good question. Is the self-revelatory, "this is it!" nature of noŽtic experiences and phaith why they end up taking precedence in the mind over even more rational, yet less seemingly "genuine" descriptions of the world?

>All good questions, Tim, but I'm not a neuro-scientist, and the only
>brain I've got to work with is my own.

You can do a lot with just one brain, or so I've been told.

>I think the second last
>question could be answered in a memetic framework, relating to
>self-fulfilling prophesies and the benefits of sounding sincere when
>trying to convince others... but, I'm having trouble believing that
>language and memetics have been around long enough to have made such a
>profound impact on gene's.

Language has probably been around since at least the Neanderthal's era, so I wouldn't discount it's role in shaping selection. (Not many thick-browed oversized-cranium sorts left around these days, are there?)

There was an interesting point about this made by Paul Marsden on the Journal of Memetics list a few days ago. I'll post his post here if I still have it around somewhere.

>A better guess would be that noŽtic
>experiences have evolved from something that is already present in our
>ancestors -- possibly only the primates, but maybe mammals in general.
>Now if I could just think up a plausible reason for primates to need
>something like noŽtic experiences, we'd be somewhere!

I'm sorry, but I don't buy that in its entirety. We have a few additional neurological qualities tacked on to those of primates and mammals that could also be the root of it. But, yes, your right. There could very well be a root in pair-bonding or the cohesiveness of social animals as well. The similarity to "near-death" experience might be a clue. It would be mighty handy for a species to develop a trait whereby those who come very, very, very close to "offing-it" radically re-focus all their behaviors--just to insure that that sort of thing doesn't happen to them again, if nothing else!

-Prof. Tim