Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Approaching the Cosmology Question

Cosmology is a tricky subject.  If mathematics is to physics as logic is to philosophy, cosmology is to physics as metaphysics is to philosophy.  At least as early as Kant it was realized that there were statements about the universe as a whole where the thesis and the antithesis seemed equally plausible.  For instance, it seems equally plausible to say of the composition of reality that "Everything in the world consists of the simple," as to say that "There is nothing simple; rather, everything is composite."  Or about the nature of causality, that "In the serious of causes in the world there is some necessary being," seems as fair to say as "There is nothing necessary in it; rather, in this series everything is contingent."  In his set of theses and antitheses, Kant also included the following: "The world has a beginning (boundary) with respect to time and space," and, "The world is infinite with respect to time and space."

The mutual plausibility of claims like these stems from the fact that it seems nigh impossible to come up with a way to affirm one of the claims and refute the other.  For instance, we can accept the standard model and say that everything is composed of quarks, leptons, and bosons, but we cannot deny that saying "it's got electrons" does not tell us much at all about the properties of water as a solvent.  In recent decades the notion of holarchy has provided a way of getting past petty arguments between simplicity and composition by synthesizing the two views.

The second example, pertaining to necessity and contingency, has two equally plausible opposites for a different reason - we cannot have done otherwise than we did, if we did not do so in the first place.  In terms of a previous article, we cannot see whether there is something of necessity or complete contingency because we cannot travel through the sixth dimension.  Again, we have approached something resembling a synthesis of these viewpoints in the postmodern age with the anthropic principle.  We needn't say that a universe must have observers in it in order to exist, but we can surely say the universes with observers in them are a lot more likely to get noticed.  While this doesn't entirely solve the problem of counterfactuals, this type of compromise, to me, is a sign we're getting closer.

Another music post

I'm working on a few monological posts, doing some reading and getting my ideas together.  In the meantime, I realized I haven't updated this blog in almost a week.  I hope you guys don't mind a few more music recommendations.  Also, vote in the poll to the right!

This one always brings me tranquility - the motif repeated throughout the song yields the feeling of cyclic existence, and the patterns created by the later harmonies wrap nicely around the wheel.  If I could listen to this song all at once, I think I would hear a mandala.  Even as I trace the sounds of it around the wheel, I feel like I'm in the center.

If that last one put you to sleep, this should wake you up.  It's an among the more calmly flowing things by this composer, but it's still got spunk.  I think he uses a steel guitar for this - it would explain the slidey notes.  Sorta reminds me of how much I'd love to get a continuum.  Click "read more" for the other two songs in this post.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Progressive metal, anyone?

Survey says: post about music!  I was considering doing a whole spiel about Devin Townsend's crazy concept album, but I'd rather suggest a couple musical selections.  First is a song from that album.  It's called "Planet Smasher", and it's close to the heaviest end of the spectrum of my tastes.  You can understand most of the words, and and though it has some death grunts, they aren't particularly grating.  There's a lot of metal that I simply can't stand because constantly it sounds like it's being sung by goblins.
The whole album is great to listen to, but I picked this one because it's got a nice mix of the comedy, schizotypy, and grandiosity that I like about the album.  I also rather enjoyed the fan-made video, especially with Eris and Dysnomia at the end.

Next we've got a great song from the second Liquid Tension Experiment album.  This is the group that guitar virtuoso John Petrucci and Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater made along with Tony Levin and Jordan Rudess when they were trying to persuade the latter to join their band.  Listening the keyboards, you can see why they wanted him.  His keyboard solos are certainly the best parts for me of the live albums Dream Theater has made since then.
Say what you will about darker progressive metal bands like Symphony X, but this is joyous music.  I like how the uploader put a slideshow of smiling people for the visual component, but even without them I can't help but feel bliss when I hear this song.  The rest of their work (two albums) is also worth checking out, but this is definitely the capstone for me.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Wands and Orbs, Dumbledore and Damodred

Today it's time for another post about magic (just a note - when I use the word 'magic,' I don't mean legerdemain).  This time I'll be discussing the implements that many magicians use in their practice.

Most of you reading this probably don't know any practicing magicians as such.  For various reasons beyond the scope of this article it is unwise to advertise one's practice of magic (both due to societal concerns and because a certain degree of secrecy heightens magic's functioning).  However, you may know someone who practices without your knowledge, or you may yourself be a practitioner.  It's likely though that you do not have much familiarity with the practice of magic, except through a variety of media outlets.  To provide a nice contrast and tie in fictional worlds you may be more familiar with than the practice as it exists in ours, we'll look at the how implements work in the worlds of the Harry Potter series and the Wheel of Time series.

In the alternate modern world of Harry Potter, a tremendous amount of power is vested in wands.  The statement that "the wand chooses the wizard" is no aesthetic sentimentalization; it is simply how things work in that world.  A wizard without their wand is like a space marine without magnetic 'gravity' boots, an author without implements of writing, or a news anchor without a camera.  Nearly all of the magic used in this series depends on the use of one's wand, besides things like potion-making.  Wizards deemed unfit to practice magic simply have their wands broken and the power to control it is stripped nearly entirely away.

This is far from an accurate depiction of magicians, but it does fit the way J.K. Rowling chose to write her tale.  The characters come from the modern world with all of its banality, so their capability to move beyond that into a world of glamor must be explained by an object, especially given the materialistic rules of the Muggle consensus reality.  This approach does reflect on a certain aspect of real modern magicians - implements have a well-placed role in designating certain moments as liminal ones where the situation involves magic, and their absence in other moments can help remind that it's time to deal with the mundane side of the world.

In the Wheel of Time series, however, (at least as far as I am into it, which is not very at this point) there are no magical artifacts that would resemble the power of a wand at Hogwarts.  Magic, in this series, truly comes from within, and in the first book Moiraine repeatedly reminds characters who are less knowledgeable about magic that their function is chiefly to direct the attention of the mage.  Of course, Moiraine can do some incredible things when she directs her attention with an implement that has a long and legendary history, but the magic always comes from within.

It's probably fairly reasonable to make the assertion that a fantasy author's attitude towards magical implements and how necessary they are reflects certain attitudes toward technology.  These days many people get a great deal of stress simply when their internet service goes down, much less when they suffer a power outage.  They are certainly living in a reality-tunnel where the wand chooses the wizard.  Others simply go outside.  However, I don't want to confine our interpretation of magical implements in fantasy stories to a symbolic one, so let's discuss how they are actually used in the real world.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Philosophy of Liberty - and Radiation Prevents Cancer!

Got a relatively short post for today.  First is a video I think everyone who has noticed the word 'liberty' being thrown meaninglessly around ought to see.  

Second, a link.  If you haven't heard about Ann Coulter's recent "Glowing Report on Radiation," about how the bright-green lining to the disasters in Japan is that high dosages of radiation effectively acts as a cancer vaccine, read it straight from the horse's mouth.  Before you ask, no, that was not meant as a crack about Ann Coulter's appearance.

Tomorrow, I'll post a new set of consciousness-raising exercises, but this evening I need to commune with my source.

Not Hera.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Experience in Infinity

Well, that was a nice vacation.  It was great seeing some of my cousins again for the first time in a few years, I played the piano more than I do on a typical day at home, and I also learned a fair bit about stargazing.  This evening, though, as promised, I'm going to talk about infinity.

The focus is not mathematical infinity, mind you.  There are plenty of interesting things about infinity from a mathematical standpoint, such as the fact that any number divided by infinity would pretty much be zero, and conversely that any number divided by zero is pretty much infinity.  There's the fact that you can remove an infinite number of infinite sets from infinity and (if you choose the right sets) still have an infinite set: for instance, if you remove all even numbers from the set of all integers, you can still take out the infinite sets of numbers that are products of numbers greater than 1 and 37, 31, 29, 19, 17, 13, 7, 5, and 3 and still have the infinite set of prime numbers, as well as a sprinkling of other integers.  This property may be useful to remember, but again our focus here won't be mathematics.  These sets (such as all even integers) are more specifically called transfinite sets.

Instead, let's hop back to the many worlds interpretation of quantum physics we talked about in the previous post.  It's worth noting that this interpretation won't give us infinity unless we already have one.  That is, unless time and/or space is already infinite, there's always a finite number of alternative worlds created by differences in how the randomness of quantum behavior unfolds.  Fortunately for our coming speculation, Big Bang cosmologists tend to agree that space is, indeed, infinite, and those physicists who reject Big Bang theory typically hold instead that time is infinite.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Free Will? The Fifth and Sixth Dimensions

"The purpose of common sense is to be shocked into uncommon sense."
~ I wish I remember who said this.

I'm going away for a few days (until the Vernal Equinox), so today we're going to bite off more than we can probably chew in just one day.  You might want to give the ideas presented here some time to sink in, because they may seem rather alien at first.  We're going to grapple with the issue of openendedness and determinism, and we're going to talk about the fifth and sixth dimensions.  Then we'll discuss two interpretations of quantum mechanics that pertain to these dimensions and find that each interpretation complements the other.

The Fifth Dimension
The fifth dimension is invisible but obvious.  It may be that it seems to exist due to the way we think, or it may be real, but we'll get to that issue later.  First let's talk about what the fifth dimension would be.  In this post I am treating the fourth dimension as time, so what I'm calling the fifth dimension is really the second dimension of time.  You've probably heard this story before:

One morning, you wake up late and rush out to your car, stressed and in a hurry to get to work, school, or whatever controls your time.  You realize you've forgotten your keys and take a minute to step back inside and get them.  As you drive to work, you get held up on your way by a terrible traffic accident.
One morning, you wake up late, grab your keys, and rush to your car, stressed and in a hurry to get to work, school, or whatever controls your time.  You realize you're in the wrong lane and rush to get into the left one to turn without checking your blindspot, and a large SUV whose driver is on the phone smashes right into you.  You are never able to move your legs again.

Often a version of this story is presented in order to encourage people to appreciate things like the butterfly effect, whereby small decisions or mistakes can have large unpredictable consequences.  Here, however, we're looking at it because it's an example of where two timelines (i.e. lines in the fourth dimension) diverge from one another.  One of the questions that has kept philosophers arguing with each other for thousands of years is how we end up in one timeline or the other.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Banishing: A basic but effective approach

Today I'm going to discuss banishing.  Though it may not be the most interesting practice in magic, it's one of the more important ones.  It's also quite misunderstood to people not versed in magic.  While it may be of some assistance if you encounter a bona fide haunting, it is useful in a great many more situations than in the presence of paranormal activity.  An important part of the magical perspective is that in complement to the commonly realized fact that entities and spirits can be understood as facets of the mind, facets of the mind can be dealt with as if they were spirits.  If you find that someone has evoked a demon for you, for instance by going on a tirade against a particular religion whose evils come to obsess you, a banishing is appropriate.  If you have built for yourself a cage of coherency, a set of ideas which seem inescapable wherever you look, and you think you have found the secret to understanding the universe, I recommend banishing.  Daily banishing is used by some to maintain clarity of mind, but it's important not to let banishing itself obsess you or there is no point to such an activity.

You can use banishing any time you wish to return to a more neutral state of mind.  Certainly it can be abused for excessive suppression of certain thoughts, but that risk is less than the dangers of equating reality with your ideas about it.  Like any technology it is best when used wisely.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Dreams: awaken a sleeping facet of your life

Sorry about the horrible pun.  Today's post is about dreams - keeping track of them and directing them.  I'll mention lucid dreaming a bit, but mostly to emphasize that you can do a lot of neat things without it.

Dreaming is cool.  It lets you become far more immersed in adventures you wouldn't want to have in your waking life than any material technology (such as a video game) does, it gives you insight into yourself and your relationships, and it takes place during time that you can't use for anything else.  Personally I think that every parent should encourage children to keep track of their dreams from an early age, but it may be awhile before we get anywhere close to that in this society, because the importance of having an inner life is very downplayed.  As a consequence of the outward emphasis of society, some of us don't even realize that an amazing world awaits them between their ears.  Some people even think that they don't dream most nights.

This is not true unless you are a very bizarre mutant.  You dream or go into some form of inner activity that we might as well call dreaming at least once during every sleep cycle.  If you believe that you don't dream, consider that, since dreaming does not have consequences outside of your mind, it is nearly impossible to tell the difference between not dreaming and forgetting that you have dreamt.  So the first step is to get those dreams into your consciousness.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Reverse Signification

So here's a weird one.  Today we're going to talk about something that I think is the mechanism behind certain manifestations of schizophrenia (delusions of reference) as well as behind some artistic and religious perspectives, though it also plays a role in science and magic.  Let it be clear that I am not denigrating these disciplines by pointing out how this process plays a role in them, because I personally believe there is nothing intrinsically wrong with this way of experiencing the world.  It can be just as debilitating in some contexts as the 'normal' way of perceiving things can be.

I'll call it 'reverse signification' because it resembles an inversion of the process well-documented by semiotics, but again, I emphasize, that does not mean that people who perceive this way 'have it all backwards.'  To understand reverse signification, let's first take a look at the signification process ordinary semiotics deals with.

In semiotics, a sign is something that somebody interprets as representing something, either itself or something else.  An easy example of this is money - a silver certificate represents a certain amount of silver held in the treasury of the issuer, while a note of fiat money represents itself.  In semiotic parlance, this relationship or process is called 'signification.'

So when I say to you, "It's raining," you hear or read the signs I have sent and interpret that, where and when I created the signs, rain was in the process of falling.  In this particular relationship of signification, we have two things: what is signified (the experiential reality of precipitation) and what signifies (the words quoted in the previous sentence).  You already knew this, but breaking it down into terminology makes it easier to see how the less familiar process of reverse signification mirrors it.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Astrology and the Situation in Wisconsin

Adsense is hilarious sometimes.  Particularly on my last post it was amusing to watch it struggle to find relevant ads - the best one I saw was for a flight simulator.  It will probably have an easier time with this post, but we'll see...

Today I'm going to post about some of the astrological things going on lately.  I'm not going to explain all the basics of astrology - I do that in the book I've been working on, and this page does a pretty decent job too.  I will explain the concepts I touch on, though.

Today we're going to look at ongoing world transits, because those apply to everyone on the planet.  To chart world transits means to look at the angles between planets' current positions as seen from the Earth.  Even though every sane astrologer these days admits that the planets revolve around the Sun, it's still useful to take the geocentric perspective here, because we're curious about astrological conditions on Earth.

There are two mutually supporting ways to look at world transits: the first is to look at the angles different planets make to compare them, looking for specific angles (called aspects), and the second is to look at what part of the sky (what sign of the Zodiac) the planets are in.  Today we'll be focusing primarily on the first way, using the second as a method of fleshing out the information gleaned from the aspects.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Myth?

Somewhere far, far away, but nearer than you might think, a great race of beings created the perfect technology.  It allowed them to navigate through time in any direction as they willed.  As their civilization consolidated itself across its own timeline, all this species' opportunities to experience suffering were eliminated.  They brought their advanced technologies to the beginning of their own existence, so that they would never know strife in the process of meeting their survival needs.  They took control over their own emotions which had evolved to help them survive, for there was no need to fear.  There was nothing to anticipate, either.  The universe, for them, was like a compact disk played forever on repeat - the passage of time was like going for a jog around the block.

Given that they had bleached out their simpler emotions, they were not saddened by this lack of ups and downs in their lives.  Many of them succumbed to utter stillness.  But those that kept moving were faced with quite a dilemma: why do anything at all?  There was no beauty they had not crafted a thousand times before, and no danger threatening them.  What was the point of it all?

Some of them became very nostalgic when they thought about this question.  They remembered, so faintly, but still remembered, the days when that question would've seemed utterly silly.  'What was the point of asking what the point of it all was?' their former selves would have retorted, and plunged back into struggle and joy.  So the beings created simulations.  They quickly found that the simulations were largely worthless, however, as long as they retained any idea of their real situation.  If the situation created in the simulation was known to be anything less than absolutely real, it became another bland consumption, just another notch on the belt.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Quality and Quantity - The Origins of Number?

Thanks, everyone!  I'm stoked to see that I've got 600 page views as of today.  In appreciation of that, I'll be writing a post about numbers today.  We're going to try to figure out what a number actually is, and how we might have arrived with a concept like that.

Let's jump right in.  What is a number, and where does it come from?  Functionally, it's a concept that allows us to keep track of quantity.  That doesn't tell us very much, though - it only pushes the question back so that it becomes "What is a quantity?"  We could of course define quantity in some other convenient term, but we'd end up with an infinite regress of questions that don't quite touch at the root of it.  Number is very fundamentally rooted into our ways of thinking, making it harder to get at than many concepts.  The question I'm trying to look at here is not "How can we show the correctness of numbers once we have them?" but "How can we get to numbers from a place without numbers?"

While studies of the evolution of cognition are only getting started (notably, the recent book Adam's Tongue explores the evolution from animal communication systems to linguistic communication in great detail), I do have a hypothesis to suggest about how numbers arose.  First, though, a question: what do you think is more fundamental to the experience of being human: noticing quantity, or noticing resemblance?  If we look back at animal communication systems, which is a great way for telling which category has been around longer, it's fairly clear that resemblance is a more fundamental category.  Vervet monkeys, for instance, have multiple alarm calls to warn their fellows of danger. They don't use the different alarm calls to indicate different numbers of predators, but they do use them to indicate different types of predators, distinguishing a threat from above from one on the ground by use of two different calls.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Magic and Science

Some of you may have heard the phrase 'magical thinking' before.  According to many people trained to think causally, magical thinking often involves treating a link of correlation (that is, a tendency to be associated) as a causal link: for instance, if we did a study that found that people with a greater body fat percentage tended to have more heart attacks than those who did not, and so we gave them a drug that had been administered in a study where it was found that the people who received the drug tended to have fewer heart attacks, we would have done purely magical thinking under this definition.  After all, it's very likely that rather than having high body fat itself causing heart attacks, something that also contributes to body fat raises heart attack rates.  And similarly, it may be somewhat likely that the people who received the drug in the second study were already less susceptible to heart attacks than those who did not.  I'm not trying to fling verbal feces at the medical establishment; I'm just trying to show that, even if ritual and dance and ecstasy aren't involved like they are in some practices of magic, there's still a strong current of magical thinking manifest in our society.

I don't think this is a problem.  As Ramsey Dukes points out, the technologies we create using science change society at a rate faster than science itself can keep up with.  It's not necessarily a bad idea to avoid using prescription drugs or food additives that correlate with nasty side effects or poor health in order to avoid those maladies, particularly if more extensive research has yet to be performed.

In fact, this type of thinking can help avoid some of the pitfalls which science is subject to.  For a long time, people were advised to avoid exposure to the sun due to harmful ultraviolet rays that can cause cancer.  These rays are basically high-energy light that very occasionally will hit one of your at least 230 trillion chromosomes and may cause a genetic mutation, a small subset of which will cause cancer rather than simply the death of that cell or no impairment in function.  Much more recently there has been a lot of news on the web about how important exposure to the sun is to health, with studies linking Vitamin D (which our body produces from sun exposure) to lower cancer rates, fewer allergies, and a variety of other health benefits.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

An End to Feudalism: a suggestion for a new monetary system

I'm going out of town for a few days, so I decided to make another post tonight.  I'll try to keep up with everyone's blogs, but I probably won't have time to make another post for a bit.  Rather than leave you hanging about alternatives to the Federal Reserve system, I'll sketch out my idea.

First, let's go over the Fed system in a nutshell.  Despite its flaws, it does have some good aspects.  For instance, it allows the money supply to be more fluid than fixing it to a single commodity, like gold.  It also has a way to keep inflation at least somewhat in check: taxes which go directly into paying the national debt (which is really just a measure how how much the government has inflated the currency).  I think we can retain both of these benefits while not slanting the system in favor of the people who regulate the money supply, and also with the benefit of tying the money supply to actual resources.  The Fed money system lets money go off into its own mind and do all sorts of absurd things without much regard for the actual amount of resources available, and that's how it causes most of the economic problems facing our country as a whole.

Now, if we're interested in tying the money supply to actual resources, we should favor a tax on consumption rather than a tax on earnings.  Lots of people do jobs that don't consume non-renewable resources, such as people in the helping professions who help their clients work through things rather than prescribing tons of drugs.

Here's the plan: first we repeal the Federal Reserve Act, re-asserting the power of Congress to coin money and regulate its value.  With the Fed gone, there are two ways the government can affect the money supply: by spending money implementing programs and providing grants, and by taxing money and removing the money taken in this way from circulation rather than spending it.  This allows the government to inflate and to deflate the currency, depending on the total sum of taxes vs. spending.

Coherency, Perception, and Truth

Instead of pushing further into economic territory for this evening's blog, I'm going to hop over into psychology, logic, and synaesthesia.  We'll look at a couple models in order to try to understand how we perceive the world.

I'm not an atheist or a theist, but one of my favorite chapters on perception comes from The End of Faith by Sam Harris.  Rather than quote it extensively, I'll leave it on my bookshelf next to The Reason for God and summarize instead.  The basic reasoning is that in order to think something, we temporarily experience a world where we believe it.  In order to make sense of the thought "I'm about to be bitten by a dog," we have to comprehend an imaginary reality where that is the case.  Conversely, in order to believe something, we must be continuously thinking it in the background.  Thus a faithful Discordian looks at the world with the assumption, "God is a crazy woman and Her name is Eris."  This allows them to make sense of the world in the Discordian way, and highlights their perceptions of chaotic things.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Modern Feudalism part 2: Ideology and Tithes

"I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered."
~ Thomas Jefferson

In the last article, we briefly discussed the profound control money exerts over our lives, and explored how the Federal Reserve System makes it necessary that there are always some people who fail to pay back their loans.  Also mentioned was the inflation inherent in this system.  Today we're going to discuss the political effects of this system, the way it is similar and differs to chattel slavery and feudalism, and explore some of the detrimental effects it has for those who aren't benefiting from it.

Now, as I mentioned, when all the money that exists is created for loans that must be paid back at interest, it's automatically going to happen that some people will default.  One of the major divides of political outlook in America between the 'Left' and the 'Right,' particularly among the middle and upper classes, involves how downtrodden people are viewed.  Rightists tend to hold the perspective that these people's station in society is reflective of their ineptitude and unfitness, as well as perhaps their laziness, while leftists see them as being 'down on their luck' or trapped in a cycle of poverty.  Both sides in American politics see their situation as a natural consequence of human nature playing out, however.

What if it's not human nature, though?  What if their situation is something that results automatically from the monetary system?  Well, we should do something about that, right?

If you ask the right, we need to make things easier for businesses so that they can employ more people.  This won't solve the fundamental problem, because someone's still going to have to pay their loans, and some people still won't be able to.  Employment rates would rise, but wages would ultimately go down as the money would have to be spread out if held at a constant supply to avoid inflation.  The left's view tends to be that we need to have more government funding for social programs.  This does solve the problem in a way - essentially, the government assumes the debt of defaulters, but it creates inflation, and with the same system in place people are going to need even more funding social programs later.  In the meantime, the national debt figure (currently rising over $14 trillion) erodes our nation's international reputation, making it so that we have to make more and more money to get the same amount of goods in trade.

Neither of these parties solve the problem at its root by re-asserting the constitutional power of Congress itself to issue currency and regulate its value.  To understand this, we have to see who benefits from the system being the way it is.

Modern Feudalism: The Imperial Cult of Mammon ~ part one

"Let me control a planet's air supply, and I care not who makes its laws."
~ The Great Cthulhu

Money has a profound effect on people's behavior.  As Robert Anton Wilson states early on in Prometheus Rising, money's ability to provide us with food makes it a surrogate whereupon all the Freudian neuroses pertaining to the breast can be projected.  When we don't have enough money, we go into the same states of psychological and physiological stress as does a hungry infant deprived of its mother's milk.  He calls money 'bio-survival tickets', appropriately.

Since Wilson's book there have been studies on chimps where the animals were taught to use a token economy, where in order to obtain food they had to provide tokens that were given to them by the experimenters for doing particular acts.  The chimpanzees easily assimilated into this system, and soon they were doing whatever silly thing the trainers wanted rather than the productive behaviors that would normally provide food.  When the tokens became intentionally scarce the chimps became harshly competitive.

Since money has profound psychological effects, and since manipulation of its supply can be used as a means of very effective control, it's probably worth knowing where it comes from.

Imagination exercises, part two - heightening the senses

To balance out some of the abstract theological matters discussed in the last post, this evening I'll be introducing another practical exercise for use in cultivating the imagination.  This is an old trick, but there are lots of ways it can be used.

The basic trick is that when you imagine things with more of your senses involved in the image, the experience becomes more intense and immersive.  Here's a simple example: imagine the smell of buttered popcorn.  It seems kinda vague if you try to do it with just that.  But now add in the sound of it popping.  The smell becomes a little easier to recall, right?  Now recall how it looks, how it feels to lift a small handful out of the bowl and into your mouth, and take a bite.  The imaginary smell becomes a lot more vivid as you do this.

This works for all of your senses.  Try imagining the sound of raindrops.  For some people this comes more easily than for others.  But if you add to that image the feel of dampness in the air and the smell of rain, the sound gets stronger.  Bring in the feel of raindrops falling on your head, and the image of them splashing on the ground, and perhaps the taste you remember from catching them in your mouth when you were a kid, and you can definitely hear the sound of rain in your mind.

So as you can see, the imaginary senses (that is, the faculties for perceiving imagined things) work in synergy with each other, just like the real senses do.  And just like you can train your visual acuity, refine your palate, or develop an ear for music, you can improve the depth, richness, and fluidity of your imaginary senses.  And fortunately, it's actually easier to do this than it is to fine-tune your senses for the physical, since you don't have to travel around to seek out diverse stimuli.

What follows is a simple exercise for the imaginary senses.  First I'll present the skeleton of it, then I'll suggest possible elaborations.  If you come up with some neat ways to enrich it in your own practice, I'm eager to hear them in the comments!