Autogenic Disease

The following piece is based on a segment from a work in progress.  The book as planned will deal with the issues surrounding the breakdown of mediaeval Christendom resulting in the Reforma­tion of the 16th century that divided Christian Europe between Protestants and Catholics.  My reflections on that historical watershed, influenced by the transcendent materialism that I have become convinced represents the real world, go beyond the standard religious interpretations.  This essay and its sequel comes from that point in the book where I am trying to stake out the ground from which I will view events and base my judgments.

 Autogenic Disease

So, having explained that the central focus of this study will not be politics, or ecclesiastical allegiance, or theological distinctions, or any of the social, technical and economic developments of the age, but rather the much deeper and more elusive issue of religion, allow me to begin to flesh out the elements of what I believe is involved.

Working backwards, I want to begin with a key antithetical notion: “autogenic disease.” I am using the term to refer to what I claim is a generalized, multi-millennial, specifically Western pathology where the human mind, in an act that seems to belie the presence of intelligence, identifies its own body as alien and tries to destroy it.  Contrary to what we in the West like to tell ourselves about our mental prowess, and despite all our brainy achievements in science and technology and our reputed “materialism,” the fact that we are biological organisms in a material universe seems to exceed our ability to comprehend.  We do not accept it, and we do everything in our power to refute, ignore, disregard and repress it.  We may admit we have … but we do not believe we are … bodies … and we conceive our destiny in other terms entirely.

That other destiny, of course, is spiritual immortality. Thus is generated the potential for an insuperable disgust for what we actually are.  We are biological organisms in a material world where all biological organisms of whatever kind dieWestern culture, forged in the crucible of its own distorted version of Jesus’ message, does not believe it; and that, I submit, is the source of our malaise.  Western Christianity appropriated the message of Jesus and used it to support a ritual and symbolic form of Platonism.  It claimed that we die only because our material bodies were corrupted by human sin; it projected another world of “spirit” from which we fell and to which we long to return … and in so doing internalized a disdain for all things material, including our own bodies.  That religion shaped European humankind whose culture now rules the planet.  The suggestion that this is an ominous development that presages some kind of universal disaster, is fully intended.

Among the myriads of life forms that the earth has spawned, humankind is the only one that is capable of this kind of insanity, for we are the only species that can despise itself.  To be fair, it’s not entirely our fault.  It’s a function of having an imagination.  Since we can imagine being other than we are, we are capable of wishing we were especially when things are not going well.  If being happy can be defined as “having what you want … and wanting what you have,” Western culture promotes unhappiness for in fact, it tells us to not like what we have, and it encourages us to want what is beyond any possibility of obtaining.

In our Christian past we had other ways of obeying our cultural imperatives and escaping our organic reality.  Mainstream monasticism is a prime example; it offered salvation for the “spirit” through a lifelong programmed pursuit of the “mortification” of the flesh.  But generally we have abandoned it, due in part to the Reformation, both Protestant and Catholic, which tried to make everyone a monk and everyday life monastic, rendering withdrawal into monasteries superfluous.  In modern times our escape vehicle is technology.  We are persuaded that our technology will launch us out of our earthbound lives and into an orbit of cerebral happiness.  At the present moment, the pathology of displacement has gone so far that many of our people look forward to the day when technology will make us something other than human.

Popular culture generates images that reflect this dream: bionic individuals, robotic cops, iron men, mutants and laboratory-created superhumans of various kinds.  These projections are more than adolescent cinematic fantasy.  Already many of us have bodies that have been significantly modified by medical science with joint replacements, coronary bypasses, organ transplants, pacemakers, and a warehouse of chemicals that sustain a functioning balance that our bodies may not be able to maintain on their own.  We believe if only we have enough time that someday we will conquer all the inimical forces of nature that cripple us and embitter our lives … we will provide ourselves with the means for the universal absorption of knowledge and control … we will overcome all our shortcomings, our mental and physical limitations, our vulnerability to disease, the causes of misunderstanding and relational disharmony … we will do away with diminishment of any kind … and, yes, someday we will conquer death.

For all our materialism, you will notice, these projected conquests anticipate transcending the stubborn, stultifying impotence of our biological organisms — organic matter that must struggle to survive in a material universe.  We see all our problems as stemming from the inefficiency of our bodies to deal with the invariable “laws” of nature.  Our bodies do not correspond to the limitless scope of our imagination.  We can imagine anything, but reality gets in the way — specifically this body-in-this-world, ours or others,’ betrays us — and we find we are just not strong enough, or fast enough, or smart enough, or detached enough to realize our dreams.  What we want slips through our fingers.  It is all reducible to a mind-body disparity: our minds can think what our bodies-in-this-world cannot do and we will not accept it … and here’s the rub: our cultural Mother has told us since time immemorial we don’t have to.  It tells us to strive for what we don’t … and can’t … have: to live forever in a state of ecstatic happiness.

We have assigned to our technology no less a mission than overcoming the limitations of the way matter has evolved on earth since our planet was formed 4.5 billion years ago.  Our efforts are based on a conviction that all our “unhappiness” is due to nature.  And so we want to learn how nature works, not because we cherish it and want to collaborate with it, but in order to transcend it and advance our principal goal: to no longer have this body in this universe.  We don’t want what we have … we don’t like what we are: human beings.

Every victory in this direction encourages us to trust the path we have taken and to believe in “the dream:” someday we will redesign everything; we will become strong, invulnerable, immortal … and we will be happy … because someday we will stop being what we are; we will stop being human beings.

If getting what you want is one path to “happiness,” wanting what you’ve got is the other.  While these two statements seem to have parity when viewed abstractly, in practice they are wildly disproportionate.  For in the West, after two millennia of Christian tutelage we have placed all our bets on the first and abandoned the second.  What we want is to live forever, and despite the overwhelming evidence that it is the most pathetic of delusions, we now think we have a natural right to it.  That we are not immortal we take as standing proof that there was indeed some kind of “fall” that caused all this.  For the last 2000 years all our energies have been focused on overcoming the “limitations” of the body — flying off to some spirit world where perishing matter cannot follow us — a world concocted by our “spiritual” imagination.  And even when people stopped believing in the other world and spirits, they didn’t change their immortal aspirations — which by that time had been elevated into unquestioned “truth” — they simply re-applied the dynamic to another content: the technological paradise.

Hence from paradise in another world to paradise in this one, it’s still “paradise” — a never-never land that does not exist.  The result is that the practical pursuit of learning to live with what-we-are and adjust our wants (and our sense of the sacred) to what we’ve got has totally atrophied.  This madness of make-believe has so penetrated every aspect of our lives that our global economic system itself is irreversibly grounded on the myth of endless expansion, satisfying a population of endlessly increasing numbers with limitless desires to accumulate and consume, provisioned by a universe made to yield endless supplies to our endlessly innovative technology.  Our global survival system is locked into these fantasies as its only source of drive and direction; the system runs on investment, and investors will not buy stock unless they see growth.  Growth is sine qua non, despite the known fact that the earth’s resources cannot meet our imagined needs.  It’s as if we were on automatic pilot watching ourselves plummet to disaster, powerless over the very machine we created to carry us aloft.

The role of the Church in promoting impossible aspirations has now been taken over by the new ideological guardians of our well-being: the entities responsible for the production of goods and services and insuring their avid consumption.  The message to consumers of an earthly “paradise” is being delivered by a chain of interconnected actors: commercial advertisers, career politicians, purveyors of mass information, paid by wealthy corporate providers of consumer products and services, whose businesses are kept growing by powerful financial, energy and human resource enterprises protected by a coercive legal and police apparatus all run by the very same wealthy and powerful people.  What drives it all is the new “immortality:” the promise of the happiness of being endlessly lifted out of the limitations of our material organisms by technology.

Death is “conquered” (in reality, endlessly postponed) by medical technology … or when that fails, death is held in contempt as we are wont to do with an opponent who constantly gives the lie to our pretensions.  We take a delusional satisfaction in projecting that someday we will finally get what we want — we will win the definitive victory over death.  In the meantime we forego the contentment that comes from cherishing what we are … wanting what we’ve got.

Cherishing what we are.  Most people have never had the experience.  “Stress reduction” programs … therapies, exercises, meditations, rituals … that aim at achieving such an adjustment are relegated to the private sphere where they are tolerated as “personal taste” or derided as crutches for the weak, but no one would ever consider organizing society around them.  And so “speech” that promotes exaggerated need and discontent in order to increase sales is officially “protected.” It is not entirely unlike the mediaeval Church that told us we were all corrupt from birth and damned without its products and services.  That “speech” was also officially protected.

Our wasteful economy is based on the illusion of endless resources mentioned above; it literally cannot function without it.  There is no thought of promoting and providing contentment and stasis: a zero-growth goal requiring, first of all, peace of mind that comes from the elimination of inequality, a guaranteed access to the basics for all, and then simplification, reduction in consumption, the encouragement to eliminate the superfluous, avoid wasteful display and unnecessary luxury, aim at optimal functional efficiency in the energy-consuming machines we use every day: our cars, our houses with their refrigerators, washer-dryers, cook-stoves etc.  The word “luxury” has lost its original sense of being “too much” — wanton excess — and has now become a necessity, a desideratum, encouraged, of course, by those who profit from the sale of luxury goods and who are fast becoming the only voice we hear.  Superfluous — unnecessary, wasteful, destructive — consumption becomes a value we are encouraged to live for, the conspicuous display of one’s “achievement” as a human being edging ever closer to the ultimate control of everything provided by technology — the new paradise.  This pursuit, I contend, is a major source of the inequalities among us; for in order that some may acquire more than they need, others are forced to live with less than they need.  Pie on earth is as dysfunctional for us as pie in the sky.

Do not misunderstand.  I am not starting a new list of do’s and don’ts or advocating the rejection of technology.  I am using these examples to illustrate a mindset.  I am talking about changing the foundational attitudes that stem from our primary perceived relationship: who we think we are and how we are related to the world around us.  How we apply technology to everyday life follows from those attitudes; that primary relationship is what I mean by religion.  

Next post:  Energy and entropy, LIFE and death:


21 comments on “Autogenic Disease

  1. mj7blackwell says:

    Good stuff. Reminds of one of my favorite chapters from “Unsettling of America, The Use of Energy” The last two pages are amazing; “…we can make ourselves whole only by accepting our partiality, by living within our limits, by being human – not by trying to be gods. By restraint they make themselves whole.”

  2. Inigo Rey says:

    I suppose, tony, I feel like Marx to your Feuerbach. I like almost all of it, but I want to stand it on its head. To me it seems obvious that the ‘spiritual’ is not opposed to matter, nor does it transcend it, but it sub tends it, in a sense. Matter exists only as an expression of pattern. At a relatively shallow level, it is made up of different arrangements (patterns) of the same Protons, Electrons etc. We indeed are material beings, but with different kinds of patterns to rocks, water, gases etc.
    When we switch off the computer, where does the program go? Where does the pattern go? From active to passive ‘memory’. Or maybe we print it out and years later enter it into another computer, and it ‘lives’ again. The philosopher Karl Popper wrote of different ‘worlds’, one of which was the world of what I call pattern. Maybe it is matter which is the illusion and information, even thought, that is transcendent, or so some of the ‘Copenhagen School’ of quantum theorists think. .Matter is just an expression of thought. A. ‘Word’, if you
    like. But words can be vibrations in the air, or modulations of high frequency carrier waves in the electromagnetic spectrum or, maybe an organization in darker energy..or?
    Our bias toward seeing in a material way and being blind to the independent existence of pattern was what Plato was getting at with his cave analogy. Maybe the problem is that Aquinas was insufficiently ‘Platonic’. I’m a long time fan of Aristotle myself, but look what Tom of Aquino made of him! My ontology is a little platonic, but my epistemology is Aristotelian / pragmatist.

    Much enjoy reading your work, and like the way you reason..


    • tonyequale says:

      Inigo, thanks for you comments.

      You say: “Matter exists only as an expression of pattern.” That’s the way our pattern-programmed minds find it. We cannot think in terms other than pattern. It’s the way we understand. But it’s not the way “pattern” was introduced. Matter survived by trying one “pattern” after another (without even realizing that it was a pattern) until it hit on the arrangement that survived. Whatever pattern that happened to be was embedded thereafter like a concrete foundation and all future construction had to “fit” into that “pattern” or it would not survive.

      Looking at things with our minds as we do at the end of the process makes things look like they were obeying some “mind’s” marching orders from the beginning. But they weren’t. Our insistence that there is “pattern” there tells us more about our apparatus of perception than it does about the etiology of “pattern.” We perceive “pattern” because our minds are our interface with our surroundings the way the canine olfactory capability, which far exceeds any thing we can imagine, is their interface with reality. Just because a dog “comprehends” reality through its extrordinary nose does not give it the right to draw the conclusion that some odoriferous cause intentionally chose the various smells as identifying characteristics and then implanted them in the various animals so that dogs might survive and come to know their odor-creating benefactor.

      “Pattern” is secondary in the order of causes; it is only primary in the order of human discovery. “Pattern” has no independent existence … and Aquinas was as a matter of fact entirely too Platonic. Plato was the one who was looking at the world standing on his head. He was dead wrong.

      Matter’s existential imperative — to survive — drives the process, all else, including “pattern” is fallout.


    • tonyequale says:


      This is a response to your second and third replies. If it appears to be out of the proper place it’s because the bloghost won’t allow more “stacking.”

      I appreciate your contributions very much. By all means keep them coming. I will try to respond as circumstances permit. I may disagree with you … a disagreement that may really only be to the way your point was expressed … but disagreement is no reason to stop the conversation. It’s the interchange that stimulates, clarifies and draws out others’ contributions, and I would hate to have you stop. So please, continue on. My skin is thick, and I will assume yours is too.

      With regard to your last remarks I would just point out that while you claim to eschew any dualism, for me your mode of expression evokes exactly that. For example you say:

      Causally, matter is unable to act as a causal agent unless it has form (pattern), but pattern is unable to act as a causal agent unless it is instantiated. Two conjoined aspects of causality are involved in all material causation. Why privilege matter over form? We only ever encounter them together.

      From my point of view this is dualist language. You speak as if there were two realities here: two “things” or two “forces” or two “dimensions” when there are in reality only two different ways of speaking about one and the same thing. My position is a monist materialism. There is nothing but “matter” out there. If we find it doing things that we used to attribute to “spirit,” all that does is to expand the definition of what matter is. If you are claiming that that aspect of matter that gives rise to the idea of “form” or “pattern” in our heads is somehow different from “matter” you are back into the multi-millennial dualism that we are barely emerging from. I can fully understand the difficulty in using other terminology than the categories of our dualist past, but I believe we have to try, or we will slip on the slope and slide back into it and our last state will be worse than the first. In this regard I would recommend reading the “epilogue” from my book Religion in a Material Universe where I criticize John Haught for exactly such verbal (and latently metaphysical) recidivism

      • inigo rey says:

        I guess I’m heavily influenced by quantum mechanics particularly in the Copenhagen interpretation. Of course European thinkers like Marx and Feuerbach were dualists. Marx took the materialism side and Feuerbach the idealism side, in the categories used at the time. No doubt Feuerbach thought Marx was standing on his head, or would’ve done.

        There are number of different ways to resolve a dualism. Famously, at the time, the dialectic was quite a popular logical construct: a synthesis of the opposing sides of the duality. Of course you can always seize one of the horns of the dilemma. That usually involves reducing one side to the other, say, idealism to materialism, or materialism to idealism. That’s not what I’m trying to do.

        At the quantum level material causes do not operate in the same way as at the meso, macro or micro level. The appropriate logic is quantum logic which, among other things, rejects the law of the excluded middle. in my limited understanding, the Copenhagen school generally holds that information and observation operate in a quasi-causal sense.

        And in much the same way as microscopic interaction between objects (and indeed some meso-scopic) interaction between objects can be reduced to chemistry and then to physics, all of that can be reduced to a subatomic level, and then a quantum level, and quantum mechanics appears to be able to be reduced to “information”. And information has effects associated with it. It is, in a specific sense, causal, but not causal in the same way as micro and meso material objects.

        I see no reason to privilege the micro, meso over the quantum. Quantum effects come into play at the interface between quantum and micro, as do micro effects at the meso interface. At a cosmic level though, quantum effects are also important. Bell’s experimental suggestions have to date strongly supported quantum mechanics at the micro, quantum and macro/cosmic levels against rival approaches from classical and neo-classical (relativity) physics.

        So I want to be monistic too, but my bedrock is information/consciousness, not micro/meso material level causality, which is reducible to quantum phenomena, which in turn are in the process of being reduced to information phenomena as we speak. That’s what I mean by “pattern”; not forms in the Platonic sense, outside matter and life, but forms in the sense of deep reality, in the same logical relation to material phenomena as the physics of electrons, protons etc are to chemistry.

        All that having been said, much (almost all) that I have read of your work so far, remains standing. We appear to differ largely around a question of whether or not the universe has an autochthonous capacity for the evolution of intelligence. If the category ‘spiritual’ has any value, I see it as something which gives us, and the cosmos an ‘expressive’ capacity.

        There, now I have jettisoned all the tangles of past misconceptions (Aquinas..Aristotle..Plato..Einstein…), I have made some room for my own misconceptions.
        No doubt it will be fun to find out what they are.



      • inigo rey says:

        Yes, of course you can look at it as a deepening of the definition of matter, but there are subtle shifts as you go deeper. A different logic and mathematics emerges, and a different ‘kind’ of causality. Tracing the effects of these at the meso level of human cultural production are interesting, after all the foundational physics of the emergent level of chemical reality relate to that level in a different way to the way that chemistry relates to the interaction of celestial bodies etc.What is the opposite of emergence, anyway?

    • tonyequale says:


      This is a reply to your last “P.S” (July 30)
      I thought for a moment there that you had found a way in your own categories to transcend dualism, but then, in this PS your insistence that there is a “different kind of causality” slides you right back into it. We have no right to call it “different.” All we have a right to say is that we perceive it differently … otherwise you are assuming that our perceptions reveal metaphysical properties … the way a dog might believe its nose reveals the “essence” of things.


      • inigo rey says:

        Quantum theory posits a causal role for observation, in the sense that some quantum states are indeterminate until and unless they are observed. But I put ‘kind’ in quotes because the notion of causality is basically a logical one, which is still a matter of a very diverse range of theories among philosophers, and is simply defined by many philosophers of science as a complex set of related ideas concerning the linkage of events to mainly prior events.

        At the quantum level events determined by other events can occur before them as well as after them, or simultaneously, as in the postulated case of the causal role of observation. The role of observation here appears to create a problem for ‘physicalist’ definitions of causality. Because of the significant problems with the various attempts to provide a satisfactory account of cause, many contemporary logicians, take the view that the notion of causality can be dispensed with altogether, and that science can proceed quite happily without it. Others regard it as an indispensable logical primitive.

        It seems to play a quite different conceptual role in cosmology and quantum mechanics to the role it plays at the micro/macro ‘Newtonian’ levels of the organization of reality.

        I don’t believe that this constitutes a dualistic problem, just a problem of an expanded and more complex theory of causality.

        But I believe that the step some take from quantum theory to deism or theism is nothing more than a leap of faith, as far as present understanding of logic and science is concerned. Which, of course, is as it should be!

        It seems to me that it is a conception of the spiritual that puts it over and against materiality that is the root of dualism in this area, and that dualism is not entailed by our attempts to provide a full account of the integration of consciousness within our accounts of reality in general. Hard, though, to avoid dualistic terminological connotations, since they a built into the language.



  3. Mick Daly says:


    To begin: My reaction to your presentations to date remains the same: They’re excellent in every way, substance and form.

    And, if I don’t offer some comment now, I’ll need a volume of my own. So:
    As I finished your last two pieces, I kept thinking of my own early on favorite relevant sources: Adler, Chardin, and Maritain. Each brilliant, each deeply invested and learned in physical sciences, each superbly gifted and trained in philosophic analysis And, each immersed in analyses involving the nature of matter. I already mentioned to you Adler’s loopholish obiter dictum in the epilogue to his book, Mind Over Matter. Chardin’s unique evolutional vision depends on a finally indefinable force within matter moving toward an all-inclusive destiny for all of reality. Last, but hardly least, Maitain’s understanding of the essentially intuitive, non- mediated nature of the process of knowing (whose perfect demonstration is in art), which he addresses variously but especially in his Preface to Metaphysics. They’re all invested in the ultimately indefinable process of knowing, transcendence in the understanding of being and analogy in terms for its reality.

    The intellectual context within which they all worked and identified (even Adler to a very large extent) was the shared consciousness and institutional theological provenance of the Catholicism of the historical period within which they lived. The doctrinal understanding and shared theological moral reflection of that period depended substantively on long held interpretations of Sacred Scripture, of which there are today only vestiges. It’s interesting to note that, although Adler became a great Thomistic scholar, and was considered by contemporaries as on the verge of becoming Catholic, he chose the Episcopal Church instead. Many of Chardin’s writings were condemned, needed torturous reviewing before acceptance. And, Maritain, although he was critical of much Vatican II implementation because of what he feared it would do to the institution, continued to maintain his orientation to the process of knowing.

    I mention all the foregoing only to indicate that your approach to an entirely new grasp of the usage of the term, matter, and denial of its absolute separation from the referent of the term, spiritual, may well have very profound antecedents. What’s more, as far as I can tell, the only ones resisting your unfolding commentary as well as your fundamental critical analysis would be conservative, conventional, licensed, Catholic theologians. If indeed there were any strong resistance.
    Relevant to the foregoing is the fact that there has been no movement of rapprochement or realignment with the institutional church from within the thousands of priests and educated Catholics who’ve departed the Church during the past nearly half century, at least not in significant numbers. The phenomenon indicates, in my opinion, that whatever common belief there might have been residually during the great surge of that exodus simply no longer exists.

    As far as I can tell, contemporary in-house leadership vis a vi matters theological, philosophical, and ecclesiastical is essentially the same as one might find in pre-conciliar documents. And, at the same time, thinking congruent with your own is entirely absent from the broad spectrum of Christian institutional reflection. And, I mention all of the foregoing above to indicate how truly radically different your approach is to what have historically been seen as deeper issues of religion.
    And what that implies for the meaning of the term, religion, you’ve already begun to establish quite forcefully

    Finally, to put in a nutshell what should be a whole separate consideration, the need to realize the implications of your thinking (its relationship to most social institutional history) as preface to radical social reform, I hope will appear here soon.
    And, more anon… ….Mick

  4. rjjwillis says:

    Tony, I think, for me, Inigo in his remark hits the nail on the proverbial head. The traditional argument holds that matter which is un-patterned shows patterns. Therefore, it must have had an intelligent designer to put into matter what it can’t have in itself. It is that “can’t” which is contestable. The practical me sees, with the traditionalists, patterns in material nature; the practical me says that those patterns in nature simply mean that nature over the millennia has developed patterns that work for it. I am not forced to find an intelligent designer outside of matter to explain what I see in nature. I take it that Inigo does, just as any good Platonist would. With you, I think that both he and Plato are wrong; they demand evidence when the evidence is already there: matter is capable, and shows it, of developing its own patterns, without any help from outside, thank you.

    • tonyequale says:

      Bob, I agree. Inigo has articulated with great clarity the classic mistake. It’s hard for us to avoid it. Perhaps a scientifically well-educated future generation will find the emergence of “pattern” from random trials easier to swallow. I’m sure that people in Galileo’s time found it equally difficult to imagine that the sun was not circling the earth but that we were actually sitting on an immense spinning globe … but we find it easy.


      • Inigo Rey says:

        I’m glad I have been clear. But apparently not clear enough. I don’t think the fundamental organizing process that patterns energy and dense energy (matter) is outside the process. It is clearly inherent in it and inherent too, is a tendency toward the evolution of thought. I am not a fan of guided evolution, for instance.
        I am not a Platonist, although I was careless in my reference to the cave and gave that impression. My influences have been Dewey and Habermas, (and old Ari).
        I like so much of what I am reading here, but I keep wanting to give it a twist. For instance, the reason why humans look for pattern is that they are a product of it. You could define intelligence in terms of a certain tendency to look for and ability to find pattern. The present height of negative entropy, as far as our local circumstances indicate to us, is just that, but what state negative entropy has reached elsewhere in the universes, or elsewhen, we don’t know.

        Have to say what a joy it is to read such fundamental exploration of ways we might reconceptualise who and what we are. Needless to say, I hold my views extremely tentatively, and fallibilistically. No point in larding my sentences with maybes and possiblies, though. Great fun!


        Got the email right this time…

      • Inigo Rey says:

        To make it clearer..I agree that humans find patterns in the same way dog’s do and that they are geared to finding patterns that they have found useful in the past. But we have now entered a stage where we have developed relatively evolution-independent pattern finding systems, in scientific, logical and mathematical enquiry.
        I may have suggested that pattern was independent of matter, but I meant only conceptually. Pattern is just as real as the substance in which it finds it’s instantiation. Causally, matter is unable to act as a causal agent unless it Has form (pattern), but pattern is unable to act as a causal agent unless it is instantiated. Two conjoined aspects of causality are involved in all material causation . Why privilege matter over form? We only ever encounter them together. ( which is why transubstantiation is a non-scientific fudge)
        Tony, if you find my line of enquiry too unproductively related to your own, don’t feel bad about letting me know. I’ll stop posting on your site, but I’ll keep reading!

        Warm regards,

  5. theotheri says:

    Tony – I agree with your basic thrust and certainly with your anti-Platonic position. I also agree that much of modern thought arises out several millenia of Western thought in its pursuit to get around the seeming nothingness caused by our inevitable death.

    But it seems to me there is also a hopeful side of our post-death myths that may include but go beyond Western thought, whether it be the Christian Platonism of heaven & hell, or the scientific pursuit of immortality. In our myths as far back into our pre-history as we can see, there have been various versions of life-after-death. It may take the form of reincarnation, or Sheol, a great resurrection or many recycling versions of life in pagan religions.

    So what’s so hopeful about that? With our human brains we are able to think of what we may call the transcendant (or maybe even the sacred, a word which has been ruined forever for me by the damage caused by my early socialization that sex was “sacred — damage it took me years to repair) only in terms of metaphor. We cannot conceive of the transcendent “in itself,” as it were. But the great mistake we so often make is to take these metaphors literally. Once we do that, of course, we have stripped the metaphor of its basic value, its insight into the transcendent mystery within which we exist.

    But if we don’t make that mistake of concretizing our metaphors, I think we have what is close to a universal human insight – that in some ways we are all part of a continuing whole in which, in some form or other, we continue to participate after death. By “we,”, of course, I do not necessarily mean our individual consciousness, that beloved “self” to which each of us is so profoundly attached, and which modern Christianity teaches us to remain so egocentrically fond. But there is a suggestion in our many metaphors that we actually do not merely return to ashes, but may actually enter into some greater reality transcending the personal isolation of consciousness this trek through human life imposes on us.

    Be interested to know what you think. Great post, btw. I think one of your best.

    • tonyequale says:

      Terry — Thank you for one of the clearest and most concise statements of the issue that I have seen to date … including mine. I hope you don’t mind if I send it around to others … or practice some literary larceny and incorporate it (well disguised) into some of my own output.

      Yes, once the “scientific” has been clarified, and the religious metaphors have been rescued from their captivity to the literal/physical mindset, they can return to their rightful place as poetry; they regain their evocative power. That’s when we begin to notice ourselves becoming whole again and wonder how we were ever able to live so conflicted and disintegrated for so long. The thing about the “sacred” is that by characterizing absolutely everything, it is transcendent; and transcendence should protect it from ever being mis-taken again.

      I look forward, as always, to more of your insightful comments.

      • Sal Umana says:

        Tony, Bob Willis, Mick Daly, and all the others whom I do not personally know, thank you for all your work. It is a delight to romp through your fertile minds. I have just finished “An Unknown God” which I found the most exciting of all of Tony’s writings, and I have on order the only Equale Book I have not read: “The Mystery of Matter.” I hope I finish it before Tony’s new book comes out. As far as the present discussion goes, I find the last comment by Terry the closest to my thinking:

        “But if we don’t make that mistake of concretizing our metaphors, I think we have what is close to a universal human insight – that in some ways we are all part of a continuing whole in which, in some form or other, we continue to participate after death. By “we,”, of course, I do not necessarily mean our individual consciousness, that beloved “self” to which each of us is so profoundly attached, and which modern Christianity teaches us to remain so egocentrically fond.” I wrote a book: “The Day My Ego Died” about the dark night of the Ego which I think all of us have to go through in order to reach the enlightenment of the “Cloud of Unknowing.”
        Sal Umana

  6. Joris Heise says:

    I wrote a longer piece, but it seems to have disappeared. 1) After-life is an Egyptian construct which has filtered down through the millennia. 2) Jesus, a good Jew, did not believe in an after life. 3) With Jesus I believe in the mystery that is “NON-time”–that there is a sphere, universe, dimension beyond (and within?) this one where time is of a different quality–and THAT is the mystery (of caring, and growth). I enjoy quantum mechanics for its introduction (or re-introduction) of probability, mystery and intrigue-to-find-out-more, and believe, with Jesus, that even on the cross(es), one can be “with Him” in “paradise.”–not a spiritual, nor material, world, but something else….

  7. rjjwillis says:

    Tony, When I first contacted cancer, I asked the oncologist how this had happened. He said, “Your body turned against itself. The cancer cells decided for their own gain to multiply even though in doing so they would wreck havoc on your whole body. Cancer cells are individualism run rampant.”

    When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, it decided to emphasize itself no matter what this meant to our world. It set about multiplying itself; it left in its wake the ruin of any peoples who dared not believe as it did. Most destructively, it preached a rejection of this world in favor of a future world to which it held the officially-given, God-granted keys. Thus would the super-natural trump the natural: don’t worry about what happens here, to nature, as it really doesn’t matter that much.

    We see around us the ravages that have happened to, are happening to, our natural world, all in the name of a cancer-distorted god.

    I follow a Jesus who declared that the kingdom of god is within you, that we need not rely on the religiously rampant individuals who alienate us from ourselves and from our world. This is the disease that must be rejected and killed.


  8. Mick Daly says:

    Terry and Tony,

    I’m very much aligned to Terry’s comments and Terry’s response in agreement. Reading them in conjunction with Inigo’s shared delving into quantumist(?) evaluation re-inforces the demand for new vocabulary. Scientific quantum observations, minus more appropriate terminology for the uninitiated reader, border on the language of mystics. If and as such clarification occurs, the implications for vast social changes, redefining the simplest human relations to the most comprehensive understanding of what we now call political reality..Wow! What passes now for science fiction doesn’t come close.

    • Mick Daly says:

      Ooops! In that first sentence, it should read: “Tony’s agreement…”

    • tonyequale says:


      I agree. The implications are nothing less than revolutionary. But that just goes to reinforce how far we have drifted from embracing ourselves for what we are. For all our “selfishness” we have never learned to love ourselves … and we have built an entire way of life on that alienation.


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