Missing the clothes of reality

First a bit of practical business to share, then on to the missing clothes metaphor.  I did not mention in my last post – it was still stinging a bit – but I have been asked to not return to the Chenpo Terma for the time being.  So I won’t, or rather, can’t. I know its location on a map and have been there, but traveling to the Himalayan plateau is not a trivial matter to be attempted alone and the locals will have been warned not to help me.

I have asked Chonyi to appeal again to the Sangha-dhatu council of elders to change their minds, but I know the difficulties I face gaining their trust again.  The earthquake, and my tendency to push them to go public, have led to understandable resentment, trepidation, and the like.

Add to that the fact that the relic was in my possession when it was confiscated and me being a fugitive from the international relic police (yes Interpol)… neither has bought me points with the council.

What the relic police would do if they caught me remains a bit of a mystery, but I do not want to find out.  That is what the bad guys are betting on too.  Plus they know I would not keep my mouth shut about my suspicions, which would probably get me charged with slander (and what I’m writing here, if I weren’t using pseudonyms, would be called libel).  Whatever to build some kind of case against me.   How far Bernie Ghes would go to keep the relic from me (and any positive attention from the relic or my brother) is hard to imagine, but he is not one to do dirty-work himself.  The real question is, How far would do-gooders and career criminals hired by a self-important academician go to keep the relic out of my hands?

So why do I care if I ever hold or view these terma again?  Why not move on?  Obviously they have cultural value, but UNESCO should be able to advocate for that if provided enough information.

So here’s the thing.  I have experienced first hand the power of these terma.  Not raw physical power like a sword, but gnostic power.  Under their influence I saw with a clarity rarely achieved, even when I find myself by the remotest stream on the clearest day.  Such assertions cannot be quantified, much less believed, given modern fascination with all things testable.  I realize I may just be being sentimental too because I had insightful moments with them in mind (something my brother never seemed willing to admit about his own experiences with the relic).  I do not know for sure which interpretation is accurate, but I know I want to have the chance to find out what my experience means.  And others should have the chance to experience it.

One such insightful moment happened as follows.  The day after a friend and I literally cracked open the relic to reveal its three puzzle-like layers, I sat turning it over again and again in my hands, linking and unlinking the pieces in their various combinations.   What I saw was this:  when a holistic truth or unified physical reality is manifest through three interconnected continua, meta-theories tend to form around subsets of two continua with the third being neutralized, or made a null set, in order to analyze the other two in relation to each other. At the time I was thinking specifically of physics theories, but the wider relevance is also apparent to me.

So by way of example, let’s take Newtonian physics, special relativity, and quantum mechanics – three physics meta-theories.   Assume three continua are at work, let’s call them MODE, VEHICLE, and PARTICLE, and ascribe one continua as missing from each meta-theory’s symbolism.  For the sake of (a non-coincidental) argument, say Newtonian physics is missing MODE, special relativity is missing VEHICLE, and quantum mechanics is missing PARTICLE.  If we make a single diagram in which each of the three continua are represented not only by an interrelated symbol but by color coding, then vary the background color so that it corresponds for a time to each continuum’s color, you get an animation like the one above.  A visual representation of how the same underlying reality looks different but connects back to the whole if we define the continua as interrelated (one symbol) but distinct (variable color).  I chose the carvings on the relic to create my representation.

Overlapping meta-theories is a non-controversial observation.  When interpreted this way it can be seen as evidence that interrelated and likely hidden continua are at work behind reality (and I don’t mean hidden dimensions! you don’t want to get me started on that!).  Important conceptual hurdle to get over, but just the beginning of what would end up being an intellectual obstacle course.  Clearly, the correct complement of continua have to be identified and defined in an interrelated way.   Not a small task given that each continua falls into the hidden/missing/background role naturally when relying on known types of analysis.

It should not be surprising at all that modern science cannot get its meta-theories to mesh together.  Each is based on an assumption where one essential continuum is demoted to the role of backdrop.  Symbolic languages are adopted for the resulting meta-theories and, most importantly, links to the temporarily nullified continua are lost.

Each meta-theory is like a stage production, with its own characters, story and backdrop.  That is the science we have come to know and love, and now, after the fact, we expect to be able to build holistic models of it?   Call it the Ghost of Reductionism, or Human Longing for Predictability, or the commercial value of Paradigms-R-Us.  Consumers and the majority of professionals in science and culture long ago severed their ties with reality and associated holistic truths when they accepted the model of interpreting the scenes and stories played out in each human field of investigation as more than what they are:  non-real parallel universes of thought.

We are a society of clothes-less emperors.  All missing the clothes of reality, with no one to challenge us.  I am here to advocate for the advantages to donning colorful, real accouterments once again.

Since there is stripping going on, try to relish the thought of taking away the backdrops and removing the symbolic languages from existing theories, if just for a moment.  What we are left with is not only the potential connectedness of meta-theories but, with all these hidden continua to uncover, a likely critical role for nothingness itself.  Maybe we are getting somewhere after all.

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The Relic

Until a year ago I had NO idea there were intricate international, government and law enforcement bodies dedicated to protecting old stuff.   Registries of things-people-might-want-to-steal and valuable-stuff-that-doesn’t-look-it abound, including registries of already looted relics and art.  In principle I’m glad people care about history, prize beauty, etc.   I’m less impressed by rich people wanting to protect or even escalate the value of their abstract investments. I’m really frustrated at being forced to the wrong end of this good-intentioned scheme that has no independent system of justice.  Those in positions of power get to use it to their advantage.  Period.  Oftentimes they’re working for good and playing fair, but when it’s for bad, too bad.

When my brother John and I were given a relic in 2008 while on a trip to China and Tibet I never imagined I would be lamenting such a thing.

(Wondering about my political views on Tibet… see my Anti-political Disclaimer.)

The relic was taken from me and Brooklyn (John’s widow) at a physics conference in Turkey a year later.  Brooklyn began an invited talk on the relic and its relationship to John’s unconventional observations of physics, and ten minutes in UNESCO’s cultural property police, who were waiting in the wings, confiscated it.    I suspect Dr. Bernie Ghes orchestrated the whole thing.   He’s been wanting to get his hands on it ever since John’s death.  Death to the relic too.  I’m guessing his wish has come true and it’s been bagged and labeled into oblivion.

Our gift was stolen from us by bad guy good guys.

Here’s a stylized rendering of the carvings found on and WITHIN the relic.   Again, we never dreamed it would be stolen and have little record of it other than what we remember.  My friend Peter created this last summer from sketches and descriptions I provided.

Tibetan relic series of carvings

The relic looked basically like a dingy, lumpy brick.  It was hundreds of years old and apparently made of rock that is common but sacred in Tibet, not a man-made material like metal or ceramic.  “Positive” and “negative” carvings, in the pattern you see here in the top frame, decorated opposite faces of the brick.  The patterns of the bottom two frames were visible as carvings only when the brick was pried open at its two center seems.  So in each case there was a carving and its “negative” on opposite faces.  A three-dimensional puzzle of sorts.

Another friend Cam, a philosophy grad student, was the one who noticed the seams along the uncarved sides and proposed prying at them.   Luckily, at the moment we had butter lamps at our disposal, and that did the trick getting the old joined together pieces to release.

John never saw the relic open so he only saw 1/3 of its content.  Relic aside, he was fixated on wave-particle duality.  So the pattern he saw (the first frame) on the relic bolstered his fascination (though at least one friend has joked it looks like a snake with a tumor).  What he always described when he talked about the relic was its, how do I put it, magical properties.  He claimed that the relic changed in unpredicted ways in different types of light.   He died the same night he took it out for a moonlight ride – to see if he might discover different properties in that kind of light.

Early on I was more interested in establishing connections to the relic’s origin.   The discovery of the embedded carvings opened up a whole new question in my mind of the significance of the set of carvings though.  Recently, with the visit to the Chenpo Terma, the two perspectives finally converged.

The carvings on the relic and “portrait” in the Chenpo Terma are not connected to the existing understanding of Dolpopa’s 14th century central doctrines (on emptiness) in an obvious way.  Still, both terma, literally “wisdom treasures,” are ascribed significance by those who know his doctrines well.  Which leads me to conclude they may have significance all their own.  Could they represent cosmological extensions of Dolpopa’s doctrinal work?  It’s entirely possible that esoteric gnostics actively pursued such insights up until the middle of the 17th century.   Not coincidentally, that is was when Tibet’s civil war ended, and all but Gelukpa (the dominant “yellow hat” sect headed by the Dalai Lama) doctrine was banished.

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