Saturday, June 08, 2019


If we do not have a strict father in the sky to tell us what the rules are, what is morality?  What is the relationship between morality and "spirituality"?  Is there a morality about non-humans?  What about non-life?

My position is that morality is always a concept in humans.  A rock cannot have a morality.  Morals are principles and experiences that come out of the evidence of the pre-front cerebrum of the brain, but are only part of an operating system that takes a human being through their "life tunnel."

In an article called "Morality and the Sacred: Human Life and the Earth" by Drew Chastain, he suggests some answers by examining Ronald Dworkin's "Life's Dominion" (1993).  They connect morality to the sacred and to the known/attached.  It appears that Dworkin connects morality to what he calls "sacred" through the concept of the taboo: that which is absolutely forbidden to hurt or destroy.  This blocks a morality of "lifting up" that which is good, beautiful, and confirming.

Chastain introduces a spectrum idea of morality so that there is a weak and sort of universal "sacredness" to everything which he calls "pansacramentalism" which is a little misleading since he doesn't mean ceremonies /sacraments but something more like the Transcendentalist idea of sacredness in existence itself, which is really more like a kind of crypto-Buddhism and associated with an almost feverish attitude, nearly Christian Science and partly worship of the natural.  The idea tells us very little about how to treat all the uninspiring physical management of what's around us.  

Chastain's other idea is about what he calls "strong" morality based on our attachment to what we know.  This is where home, place, other people, and even valuable objects take on a visceral valuing that cause us to say they are "sacred".  He calls them sources of vitality and identity and they surely are.  We treat them with respect, which is an aspect of morality.  He suggests that this aspect of morality is something that we "grow" into, at first weak when we barely know the object and then becoming much stronger as attachment increases.

This idea is helpful if one is arguing against the "paranormal", a hallucinated "divinity", or the fear of consequences if one violates the forbidden.  "The correlation of respect and fear is found in [Rudolph] Otto's Western religious phenomenology, and is also widespread among indigenous peoples."  Joy and beauty as desiderata of positive morality are quenched by the tendency.  This is marked in the moral problem of birth.  The biological expulsion of the infant is messy, painful, and arduous, but attachment can begin then because it is not abstract.  Constant attention to joy and beauty can also begin, but it is the  interaction and familiarity with the new being that deepens attachment and opens the future person's capacity for both intimacy and perception of the Holy.

In reality, moral practices mostly boil down to what will protect the needed and remove the waste and debris.  This is a general enough statement to apply it to the one-celled eukaryote which probably has inheritable triggers for need and passes them on to us.  It continues as principles through many other forms of life and human arrangements until we come to the overwhelming morality of the planet -- where we are about to run out of exotic trace elements that make our cell phones possible at the same time that we have contaminated existence with bits of plastic everywhere from the bottom of the sea to the stomach of the turtle.  We have not developed our consciousness of the Sacred planet into daily practices that protect it.  Until we learn them, all our art and joy about the planet are too weak.

There is another approach to morality and human practices that is based on the idea of what humans take into themselves as reality.  This idea is called a "reality tunnel," which effectively marks our ability to ignore everything we don't know about as though it didn't exist.  How can we develop true morality if we don't face "reality" in spite of hallucinations?

"Reality tunnel is a theory that, with a subconscious set of mental filters formed from beliefs and experiences, every individual interprets the same world differently, hence "Truth is in the eye of the beholder". It is similar to the idea of representative realism, and was coined by Timothy Leary (1920–1996). It was further expanded on by Robert Anton Wilson (1932-2007), who wrote about the idea extensively in his 1983 book Prometheus Rising.

Wilson and Leary co-wrote a chapter in Leary's 1988 book Neuropolitique (a revised edition of the 1977 book Neuropolitics), in which they explained further:
The gene-pool politics which monitor power struggles among terrestrial humanity are transcended in this info-world, i.e. seen as static, artificial charades.

The idea does not necessarily imply that there is no objective truth; rather that our access to it is mediated through our senses, experience, conditioning, prior beliefs, and other non-objective factors. The implied individual world each person occupies is said to be their reality tunnel. The term can also apply to groups of people united by beliefs: we can speak of the fundamentalist Christian reality tunnel or the ontological naturalist reality tunnel.

A parallel can be seen in the psychological concept of confirmation bias—the human tendency to notice and assign significance to observations that confirm existing beliefs, while filtering out or rationalizing away observations that do not fit with prior beliefs and expectations. This helps to explain why reality tunnels are usually transparent to their inhabitants. 

Wilson—like John C. Lilly and many others—relates that through various techniques one can break down old reality tunnels and impose new reality tunnels by removing old filters and replacing them with new ones, with new perspectives on reality—at will. This is attempted through various processes of deprogramming using neuro-linguistic programming, cybernetics, hypnosis, biofeedback devices, meditation, controlled use of hallucinogens, and forcibly acting out other reality tunnels. Thus, it is believed one's reality tunnel can be widened to take full advantage of human potential and experience reality on more positive levels.  A video version of the above.

In summary, what we call morality is one of the most flexible and conditional parts of "religion," in part because it comes from individuals bundled into a community with changing needs and accumulated debris. It could be improved by emphasizing joy and beauty rather than punishment and taboo.

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