Sacred Fire

What if parity between the cosmos and our physical perceptions of healing already existed due to such perceptions having the capacity to be in harmony with the cosmos itself. Ancient traditions refer to a sacred fire. What is it or could it be comparable to in modern physics and metaphysical philosophy?

These are the kinds of questions I hope those who visit my newer site Healing Generation will begin to formulate.  The answers – the direction and momentum – will unfold, but not before the uncertainty of letting go of old ideas reaches a fever pitch!

I am not longer making new entries on this blog — it is a finished work of curiosity.  I hope you will glean something from it as it is a healing story, the end of which is writing itself now in my revealed life.  No longer Cherokee Paul but Michelle Kathryn McGee, cosmic muckraker!

Even more important to be patient with yourself than with others.  If each of us is in charge of our own patience, we all have all the time we need! Anyway, don’t be afraid to start at the beginning of what you think you know — and at the beginning of this blog.


Truthiness and fictionality

Truth is a complex idea, and Stephen Colbert’s truthiness construct reveals just how painfully funny it is that truth must be taken so seriously.  To simply write about such an idea leaves something to be desired.  Paradoxes are nutritious but lack in flavor.  Bland, boring, cream-of-gray-matter stuff.  A room-full of PhD’s or a clever columnist surely could (and regularly do) whip the idea of truth into a fluffy meringue — enough to elevate the blood sugar but not to sustain a person.

Embody truthiness in a complex character like Colbert though, add a dash of political analysis and a smidgen of satire, and what emerges is a piquant recipe for human insight.  Add a first course of Jon Stewart, and you have a well-rounded, satisfying meal.

I am here to point out that the other side of truthiness, for those who relish (pun intended) not only its nuances but its irony, is fictionality, by which I mean:

It is possible at times for fiction to better represent reality than that which is writ large as real.

Colbert won’t talk about fictionality, but it is easy for those of us who suspect him of as much to revel in.   His duplicitous discourse challenges not only the interpretation of the pseudo-reality he creates, but the one presented by the Media he imitates — that which is writ large.  Historical fiction and conspiracy fiction like The DaVinci Code are more specialized examples of fictionality at work.

Scientists (writ large) like to think of themselves as playing by a special set of rules, guided by the special pretenses of the scientific method and rational analysis.   Once you are in the club, the rules say you can leap bias in a single bound and are capable of superhuman feats of paradigm shifting.  A lot of grandstanding with little grounds for being exempt from criticism as far as I am concerned.  In this regard, hardly different from the politicians, corporate wonks, and “real people” Colbert pokes fun at.

All people, advanced scientific degrees or not, have the ability to understand the logic, reasoning and inspiration behind insights, scientific or otherwise.  Whether they exercise the ability or not is another issue.   The nuances are part of the fun for those who do.  Those talented purists who hold the Truth-is-a-lock-and-________ (God, logic, science, FSM)-holds-the-key ideal no doubt find such ideas distasteful to think about.  Yet truthiness and fictionality must not be relegated to the empty halls of thought.  They should be elevated to food for the soul.  Truth and Fiction are just bland ideals without truthiness and fictionality to spice up the rations we get.

Bon appetite!

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Now you see it – now you don’t

While I trod my riparian route today my inner musings took a strange turn.  I was thinking about the universe and magic.  (The strange turn came later.)  It seems to me that we all arrive ready for a magic show.   From my earliest memories, I can remember welcoming the feeling of being amazed.  We want to not believe our eyes.

Then reason enters the picture, and the intellect starts to reflexively conclude “this must be a trick” when magic happens.  Considering that stage, street, and other forms of illusional magic are timeless arts drawing audiences of all ages even since the Age of Reason there must be an explanation.  It seems our innate capacity for awe literally overwhelms the rational function of our minds when the tricks are good enough, seemless enough, slight enough.  The same goes for optical illusions.  Like magic they create an inescapable and sometimes troubling experience that says at its most fundamental any understanding of experience is bound to be circular.  We realize we are easily deceived – benignly, beautifully, perplexingly so.

“The universe is quite the trickster,” I continued playfully.  Its magic is meta-magic though.  Instead of speaking to the personal it speaks to the whole.  If the cosmos practiced slight-of-hand (and I’m here to suggest that it does) how would we know given that personal experience is our primary guide?  Would that make God a magician?  I’m pretty sure none of the traditional religions would be interested in reconciling such a seemingly trivial view.   Still I got excited at how a slight-of-hand metaphor is the perfect way to explain my unique view on how dark energy comes into play in the universe.

“But wait!”  I couldn’t believe where my path had taken me. Quantum theory already re-introduced the trickster god.  The 20th century science pantheon of mathematically-indocrinated theorealities would not be complete without a god who ruled quantum indeterminacy, Heisenburg’s uncertainty theory, and the Copenhagen interpretation.   The forest transformed from inviting sanctuary to foreboding trap.

My own repose was doubly vexed.   I know the pitfalls of quantum theory, but in wanting to present the cosmos’s slight-of-hand there was quantum theory’s legacy pointing the way.   I realized the source of the irony several hours later.  The trickster and the magician are related and even blend together under dualistic thinking.  But Ancients understood the difference.  I had ignored it – briefly.  The distinction is that the trickster works from the insecurity created by illusion; the magician builds on the awe.

Quantum theory has primed us to see the universe as more than it seems.   I will give it that.  But I hope we are still capable of seeing that the cosmos is more than the work of a trickster.  More than mere now you see it now you don’t imperceptible tricks suggested by quantum mechanics, the cosmos streams from imperceptible slight-of-hand where a broken string becomes whole again and one ball becomes dozens.  Where coins disappear from a hand only to reappear behind an ear.  Where no laws of nature are violated, only made irrelevant by the possibilities beyond perception.

Let me be specific.  What makes the boats in the painting above?  The blend of bridge and clouds.  Unbelievable, yes.  But real, yes, at least in the perception created by the artist.

What makes matter?  The blend of dark energy and radiation.  Unbelievable, yes.  But real, it is possible.  A coherent cosmos is one where nothing is more magical than what is real.

Clever Lass with a Lucky Guess

Over the last few weeks I have been participating in an active NPR-based blogging forum known as 13.7 Cosmos and Culture.   Very fun.  Have not been sure where it would lead but enjoy having scientists to “talk” to.

Scientists willing to talk to me are in short supply.   Dr. Dinsch is the exception of course, but he’s a research physician, which doesn’t count (jk… Roger’s the best!).

The posts on 13.7 – and it seems most of the comments too – are made by forward-thinking scientists.  I have added comments here and there, but basically kept a low profile.  At this point its readers, like most scientists, are unlikely to see my saga as anything but melodrama.

One post I have been following is Marcelo Gleiser’s  “To Unify Or Not Unify: That Is (Not) The Question” (June 24, 2010).   A comment posted Sunday really hit home.  Steve O observed that “even if you can prove an inability to measure our way to a complete understanding, maybe some clever chap will make a lucky guess!”

That is exactly the way I see myself in relation to redefining physical theory.  Cleverness, the most respected trait in Tibetan culture by the way, is one I have heard myself described as more than once.   Chonyi said as much the first time I met him to discuss apprenticing in his restaurant.

And how lucky am I to have had access to perhaps the most distinct tools in all of history for making a lucky guess  – 350-year-old carvings from an obscure group of Buddhist gnostics. Plus translated-into-English scripts from cosmologically-minded doctrine that preceded that by another 250 years (The Buddha from Dolpo, text and translations by Cyrus Stearns 1999).  That plus having a brother who was immersed in physics and yet compelled to question its central tenants.

I have not presented my “lucky guess” formally here yet — I hope I have demonstrated some small bit of cleverness.  Continued  concentrated effort is needed to work out what appears to be the final piece of the puzzle:  gravity.  I have all of the edge pieces of the puzzle in place, have even filled in most of the picture, and what remains is a hole where gravity should be. Actually I know gravity manifests as part of the VEHICLE continuum, I just have not settled on what its complement (opposite end of the continuum) is and why.

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Good news mixed with fear

Double-slit experiment

I heard from Chonyi a few days ago.  He had good news.  The Chenpo Terma site we explored in April just one day before the earthquake is intact for now.  The entry to the underground portrait room had been blocked, but a few dedicated and brave individuals, working slowly and in secret as usual, cleared away the collapsed rock and were able to enter once again.  They even returned with the naljorpa who lives nearby to renew the blessings and protections on the site.

This development was so great, but it meant I had to soul-search all over again.  I have been paralyzed, not knowing what to do, or not do.  The location and the secrets behind it and the relic too have been hidden for over three hundred and fifty years.  Events (like the earthquake) and some people’s bad intentions keep conspiring to keep them hidden.  Am I just an overreaching American, a Scooby-Doo style meddler?  People, nice people, are telling me I should let this lie, that I am making things worse – for myself and for their efforts to protect what is precious to them.

Then I turned on Coldplay.  Listened to the song “Fix You.”  “Lights will guide you home,” he crooned.  And yes, tears did stream down my face.

I keep talking about physicists perpetuating dark, insidious theories about reality.   Keep the lights out… just question the darkness!  I preach.  But we are all susceptible to its most basic form.  Everyone experiences fear, some groups just build on it with fancy names and elaborate theories is all.  Others of us conspire with it to hide a tough reality we are reluctant to face.   My Tibetan friends have made a lifetime of commitments over generations to hide the Chenpo Terma, and they are afraid to let go.

Light is bound to reach us in the darkness.  When we wait for it rather than reflexively turning on the self-conscious light of limited understanding, perhaps more so even,  it may pain us, it may surprise us, but it will slowly warm and enliven us again.  Our first thought in this new state should be, If there is a god, it is a Cosmic God.

Personally, my second thought was, Repeat to yourself, mantra-style, The paradox of revealing nothingness. The paradox of revealing nothingness. The paradox of revealing nothingness.

Preferable to The paradox of preaching hypocrisy, which is what I was toying with these last few days.

Ours is a paradox, in which nothingness may be revealed and somethingness is certainly hidden.  I can only promise for now that the motive remains.


I started out to write a review of the movie A Serious Man, released last year and directed by the Coen brothers.  Seemed relevant enough.   While reviews are not my specialty murking around in the depths is.  My feelings about this movie (and those of many others, from what I could tell looking at reviews online) were heavy in the murky department.  I am still, three days later, unclear whether it was a waste of two hours or a useful intellectual exercise.

What did the first scene mean?  Was the woman supposed to be the depiction of crazed certainty, or was she a temporarily misunderstood heroine for her village?  Why did the protagonist, an academic physicist, have an older brother who was pointlessly addicted to his own genius, among other things?

The “conclusion” they reach, in the context of retelling the biblical tale of Job, is predictably catastrophic.  The conundrums it reveals – religious, scientific and otherwise – are grossly stereotyped.  The combination on screen, and in the hands of the Coen brothers, has an uncomfortable if unsurprising effect, which is, dumbfoundedness.  Some people like that feeling (rave reviews!); others hate it (insulting reviews).  I am in the middle, preferring a bit more substance and less  in the obscure allusions department.

I lured you along with this sparkly movie talk so I could hook you with a big juicy worm of a Revealing Tangent.  (It took a tangent of this magnitude to get me to reconsider writing anything about this movie after three days of dumbfoundedness).  So hang on to your holy books, because you’re going to be wondering where the answers are hidden.

An obscure branch of philosophy known as modality concerns itself with what it means about reality that some aspects of it are possible, necessary or contingent.  For instance, it is possible that George Bush could have lost the 2000 presidential election.  It is necessary that your parents are yours.

Really important at this point that you not “turn on the lights,” but be willing to muddle about in this darkness for just a bit.  Remember, that is where mysteries about reality reside.   The non-mysterious, lights-on version of reality today, when faced with the questions I want to pose, is simple:  parallel universes explain all confusing aspects of reality.

It may be true that they unconfuse a confusing situation, but explain parallel universes?  Go ahead.  Examples would be helpful… no.  Can you see this leads to a dead-end?

So, now humbled, we can get back to the tangent at hand.

First let me answer the question, what does philosophical modality have to do with the movie A Serious Man?

The reality of movies is the perfect metaphor for modal primitivism.  (Tangent – I warned you!)  Modal primitivism  is a metaphysical interpretation of philosophical modality.  It says the universe’s underlying reality is not just about nailing down the facts, so to speak, via solving enough mathematical problems or adding enough dimensions or worlds to account for everything.  The metaphysics of primitivism creates an essential distinction.  Some kind of carrier of necessity and possibility is needed above and beyond “modal facts,” or  logical statements about cause and effect.  Modal primitivism says, for instance, that connections between objects and their origins are necessary.  A mental image of a chair is not a real chair.  Possible outcomes are part of reality if and when they are contingent on a set of quite real initial conditions.  And finally, modal primitivism suggests that existence which manifests from nothing must be possible, particularly if you wish to suggest the manufacturing of an infinite number of parallel universes (aka possible worlds) to solve every problem imaginable!

Which brings me back to movies.  Movies are the closest we have come yet to making parallel universes real – a story acted out, filmed, viewed by millions.  Their existence proves that modal primitivism has to be satisfied before any model of reality can be accepted as complete.

In the period just before John died he had left academic physics and was studying modal philosophy and Buddhism.  But not in a human potential way you might expect.  He had an agenda.  He was intent on cracking open the problems that crop up in physics so often in the form of dualities, exclusion principles, and generally irreconcilability among the scales of physics.

[See my newly minted Physics Disclaimer.]

I got hints and insight about his thinking from time to time.  I grew up hearing about physics from him and the people he studied with.  Later we shared an interest in Tibetan Buddhism, me because of my mentor-in-the-kitchen Chonyi, him because of its ancient and varied doctrines. That was easy to continue after he was gone.  But the modal philosophy proved a bit trickier.  I ended up asking for help from a friend of the family, a philosophy professor, who hooked me up with a grad student who wanted an interesting thesis project, in this case, studying an ancient relic in relation to modal primitivism.

Nothing in modern physics fills this “primitive” metaphysical requirement.  Or I should say nothing-ness.

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