Causation

Monistic Idealism is a metaphysical theory which states that consciousness, not matter, is the ground of all being. It is a monistic theory because it holds that there is only one type of thing in the universe, and it is a form of idealism because it holds that one thing to be consciousness. In India this concept is central to Vedanta philosophy.

It rejects any notion of consciousness being an accident or the mere side product of material interactions. Instead, consciousness comes before matter. Monistic idealism is the fundamental wellspring from which reality is created.

It is theorized that everything is made of matter, and everything can be reduced to the elementary particles of matter, the basic constituents or building blocks of matter. Cause arises from the interactions of these basic building blocks or elementary particles. Elementary particles make atoms, atoms make molecules, molecules make cells, and cells make the brain. But through all of this, the ultimate cause is always the interactions between the elementary particles.

The belief is that all cause moves from the elementary particles and is called upward causation. In this view, what human beings think of as our free will does not really exist. It is only a secondary phenomenon, secondary to the causal power of matter. Any causal power that we seem to be able to exert on matter is simply an illusion. This is the current view of reality.

The opposite view is that everything starts with consciousness and is the ground of all being. In this view, consciousness imposes downward causation. In other words, our free will is real. When we act in the world we really are acting with causal power. This view does not deny that matter also has causal potency and that there is causal power from elementary particles upward. It insists that there is also downward causation. It shows up in our creativity and acts of free will, or when we make moral decisions. In those occasions we are actually witnessing downward causation by consciousness.

Power

The Sun is a yellow dwarf star at the center of our Solar System. Energy from the Sun, in the form of sunlight, supports almost all life on Earth and regulates the Earth’s climate and weather.

Sunlight is Earth’s primary source of energy. Photosynthesis by plants captures the energy of sunlight and converts it to chemical form, while direct heating or electrical conversion by solar cells are used by solar power equipment to generate electricity or to do other useful work. The energy stored in petroleum and other fossil fuels was originally converted from sunlight by photosynthesis in the distant past.

Humanity’s most fundamental understanding of the Sun is as the luminous disk in the sky, whose presence above the horizon creates day and whose absence causes night. In many prehistoric and ancient cultures, the Sun was thought to be a solar deity or other supernatural phenomenon.

Worship of the Sun was central to civilizations such as the Inca of South America and the Aztecs of what is now Mexico. Many ancient monuments were constructed with solar phenomena in mind. Stone megaliths accurately mark the summer or winter solstice. Some of the most prominent megaliths are located in Nabta Playa in Egypt and at Stonehenge in England. The pyramid of El Castillo in Mexico is designed to cast shadows in the shape of serpents climbing the pyramid at the vernal and autumn equinoxes.

During the Roman era the winter solstice was a holiday celebrated as Sol Invictus which is an antecedent to Christmas. With respect to the fixed stars, the Sun appears from Earth to revolve once a year along the ecliptic through the zodiac, and so Greek astronomers considered it to be one of the seven planets, after which the seven days of the week are named in some languages.

Ultraviolet light from the Sun has antiseptic properties and can be used to sanitize tools and water. It also causes sunburn, and has other medical effects such as the production of Vitamin D. Ultraviolet light is strongly attenuated by Earth’s ozone layer, so that the amount of UV varies greatly with latitude and has been partially responsible for many biological adaptations, including variations in human skin color in different regions of the globe.

Observed from Earth, the Sun’s path across the sky varies throughout the year. While the most obvious variation in the Sun’s apparent position through the year is a north south swing over 47 degrees of angle, there is an east west component as well, caused by the acceleration of the Earth as it approaches its perihelion with the Sun, and the reduction in the Earth’s speed as it moves away to approach its aphelion. The north south swing in apparent angle is the main source of seasons on Earth.

A rare optical phenomenon may occur shortly after sunset or before sunrise, known as a green flash. The flash is caused by light from the sun just below the horizon being bent, usually through a temperature inversion, towards the observer. Light of shorter wavelengths, such as violet, blue and green, is bent more than that of the longer wavelengths yellow, orange and red, but the violet and blue light is scattered more, leaving light that is perceived as green.

Sunlight is very bright, and looking directly at the Sun with the naked eye for brief periods can be painful, but is not particularly hazardous for normal eyes. Looking directly at the Sun causes visual artifacts and temporary partial blindness. Long-duration viewing of the direct Sun with the naked eye can begin to cause sunburn-like lesions on the retina after about 100 seconds, particularly under conditions where the light from the Sun is intense and well focused.

Partial solar eclipses are hazardous to view because the eye’s pupil is not adapted to the unusually high visual contrast. The pupil dilates according to the total amount of light in the field of view, not by the brightest object in the field. In the overall gloom, the pupil expands, and each retinal cell exposed to the solar image receives about ten times more light than it would looking at the non-eclipsed Sun. This can damage or kill those cells, resulting in small permanent blind spots for the viewer.

Feedback

Scrying, also called crystal gazing, is a practice that involves seeing things psychically in a medium, usually for purposes of obtaining spiritual visions and more rarely for purposes of divination or fortune telling. The media used are most commonly reflective, translucent, or luminescent substances such as crystals, stones, glass, mirrors, water or smoke. Scrying has been used in many cultures as a means of divining the past, present, or future. Depending on the culture and practice, the visions that emerge when one stares into the media are thought to come from God, spirits, the psychic mind, or the subconscious.

A toy known as the Magic 8-Ball consists of a plastic ball filled with an inky solution that contains a buoyant icosahedron. Each face of the icosahedron has different answers printed that appear to the consulter through a small window when held upright.

Although scrying is most commonly done with a crystal ball, it may also be performed using any smooth surface, such as a bowl of liquid, a pond, a crystal, or, as expert scryers can, a thumbnail. Scrying is actively used by many cultures and belief systems and is not limited to one tradition or ideology. However, like other aspects of divination and parapsychology, it is not supported by mainstream science as a method of predicting the future or otherwise seeing events that are not physically observable.

The visions that scryers see may come from variations in the medium. If the medium is water, then the visions may come from the color or ripples produced by pebbles dropped in a pool. If the medium is a crystal ball, the visions may come from the tiny inclusions, web-like faults, or the cloudy glow within the ball under low light.

One method of scrying using a crystal ball involves a self induced trance. Initially, the medium serves as a focus for the attention, removing unwanted thoughts from the mind in the same way as a mantra. Once this stage is achieved, the scryer begins a free association with the perceived images suggested.

The technique of deliberately looking for and declaring these initial images aloud is done with the intent of deepening the trance state, wherein the scryer hears their own disassociated voice affirming what is seen within the concentrated state in a kind of feedback loop. This process culminates in the achievement of a final and desired end stage in which rich visual images and dramatic stories seem to be projected within the medium itself or directly within the mind’s eye of the scryer, like an inner movie.

Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism and the Latter Day Saint movement, said he used two stones called the Urim and Thummim, in his 1829 translation of the Book of Mormon. The Urim and Thummim is mentioned several times in the Old Testament. In Mormon theology it is an instrument prepared by God that assists man in obtaining revelation and in translating languages.

In J. R. R. Tolkien’s fictional universe of Middle Earth, the Palantír is a stone that allows seeing what any other Palantír sees, and the Mirror of Galadriel is used as a type of scrying device used to see visions of the past, present, or future.

In the television show Charmed the main characters use crystals suspended over maps to scry for people. This is different from other forms because it just shows location and not a picture, which leads many people to call this practice dowsing.

Augmentation

Transhumanism is an international intellectual and cultural movement supporting the use of science and technology to improve human mental and physical characteristics and capacities. The movement regards aspects of the human condition, such as disability, suffering, disease, aging, and involuntary death as unnecessary and undesirable. Transhumanists look to biotechnologies and other emerging technologies for these purposes. Dangers, as well as benefits, are also of concern to the transhumanist movement.

Although the first known use of the term dates from 1957, the contemporary meaning is a product of the 1980s when futurists in the United States began to organize what has since grown into the transhumanist movement. Transhumanist thinkers predict that human beings may eventually be able to transform themselves into beings with such greatly expanded abilities as to merit the label posthuman”. Transhumanism is therefore sometimes referred to as a form of transformational activism influenced by posthumanist ideals.

Although some transhumanists report a strong sense of secular spirituality, they are for the most part atheists. A minority of transhumanists, however, follow liberal forms of Eastern philosophical traditions such as Buddhism and Yoga or have merged their transhumanist ideas with established Western religions such as liberal Christianity or Mormonism. Despite the prevailing secular attitude, some transhumanists pursue hopes traditionally espoused by religions, such as immortality.

Several controversial new religious movements, originating in the late 20th century, have explicitly embraced transhumanist goals of transforming the human condition by applying technology to the alteration of the mind and body. However, most thinkers associated with the transhumanist movement focus on the practical goals of using technology to help achieve longer and healthier lives, while speculating that future understanding of neurotheology and the application of neurotechnology will enable humans to gain greater control of spiritual experiences, and thus achieve more profound self knowledge.

Transhumanist thought and research depart significantly from the mainstream and often directly challenges orthodox theories. The very notion and prospect of human enhancement and related issues also arouse public controversy. Criticisms of transhumanism and its proposals take two main forms: those objecting to the likelihood of transhumanist goals being achieved, and those objecting to the moral principles or world view sustaining transhumanist proposals or underlying transhumanism itself. However, these two strains sometimes converge and overlap, particularly when considering the ethics of changing human biology in the face of incomplete knowledge.

Critics or opponents often see transhumanist goals as posing threats to human values. Some also argue that strong advocacy of a transhumanist approach to improving the human condition might divert attention and resources from social solutions. Sometimes there are strong disagreements about the very principles involved, with divergent views on humanity, human nature, and the morality of transhumanist aspirations.

One transhumanist solution proposed by Nick Bostrom is differential technological development, in which attempts would be made to influence the sequence in which technologies developed. In this approach, planners would strive to retard the development of possibly harmful technologies and their applications, while accelerating the development of likely beneficial technologies, especially those that offer protection against the harmful effects of others.

Trickery

Anansi is one of the most important characters of West African lore. He is a culture hero, who acts on behalf of Nyame, his father and the sky god. He brings rain to stop fires and performs other duties. There are several mentions of Anansi’s children. According to some myths his wife is known as Miss Anansi or Mistress Anansi but most commonly as Aso. He is depicted as a spider, a human, or combinations thereof.

In some beliefs, Anansi is responsible for creating the sun, the stars and the moon, as well as teaching mankind the techniques of agriculture. Another story tells of how Anansi tried to hoard all of the world’s wisdom in a calabash. In the end he realizes the futility of trying to keep all the wisdom to himself, and releases it.

Many Anansi stories deal with him attempting to trick people into allowing him to steal food or money, or something else that could turn a profit, but frequently the tricks ultimately backfire on poor Anansi. One of the few times Anansi himself was tricked was when he tried to fight a tar baby after trying to steal food, but became stuck to it instead. The tar baby tale appears in a variety of ethnic African folklore tales. It is best known from the Brer Rabbit version, found in the Uncle Remus stories.

Most cultures which feature Anansi in folktales also tell the story concerning Anansi becoming the King of All Stories, not just his own. In the original Ashanti version of this story, Anansi approaches Nyame, the Sky God, with the request that he be named King of All Stories. Nyame then tells Anansi that if he can catch The Jaguar With Teeth Like Daggers, The Hornets Who Sting Like Fire, and The Fairy Whom Men Never See, he will be King of Stories. Anansi agrees, despite Nyame’s doubt that he can do it. Anansi then tricks the jaguar, who intends to eat him, into playing a game that allows Anansi to tie him up. He tricks the hornets by pretending that it is raining, and telling them to hide in a calabash. He tricks the fairy with the tar baby trick addressed above. He then takes them to Nyame and becomes King of All Stories.

Anansi the Spider narrated stories from African folklore on the PBS series Sesame Street. He was voiced by Ossie Davis. These cartoon segments were introduced by Sonia Manzano who plays Maria on the show. Children’s singer Raffi wrote and recorded the song Anansi for his 1978 Corner Grocery Store album. The song describes Anansi as a spider and a man. It tells a story about Anansi being lazy yet clever, using flattery to trick some crows into shaking loose ripe mangos from his mango tree for Anansi to enjoy without having to pick them himself.

Purity

The Calla Lily is a genus of flowering plants in the family Araceae, native to southern Africa from South Africa north to Malawi. The flower serves as a symbol of Easter and signifies purity and hope, especially the white lily. There are many legends that are related to the flower, and in Roman mythology it is associated with Juno, a daughter of Saturn.

They are rhizomatous perennial plants growing to 2-3 feet tall with a white flower shaped like a funnel with a yellow central spadix. All Calla Lillies produce large, showy flowers and are often grown both as ornamental plants and for cut flowers. Some of its relatives of the plant can survive minimum winter temperatures below zero

Many plants in the family are heat producing. Their flowers can reach up to 100 degrees F even when the surrounding air temperature is much lower. One reason for this unusually high temperature is to attract insects to pollinate the plant, rewarding them with heat energy. Another reason is to prevent tissue damage in cold regions. The eastern skunk cabbage is a related species in the family that also produces heat as well as odor. This is to attract flies to pollinate the plant. The heat produced by the plant helps to convey the scent further.

All species are endemic to Southern Africa. It grows naturally in marshy areas and is only deciduous when water becomes scarce. It grows continuously when watered and fed regularly. The Calla Lily is a very strong and sturdy plant, being able to grow in many soils and habitats, multiplying by rhizome offsets. It is naturalised and regarded as a weed throughout much of the world.

The reason behind the use of lily in the festival of Easter is that it represents purity and it is for this reason it is associated with mother Mary. During the tradition of Easter the Calla Lily is used to honour the resurrection of Jesus and it is for this reason that churches are decorated with white lilies. Lilies also serve as a gift during the festival. It has often been used in many paintings, and is visible in many of Diego Rivera’s works of art.

The species are very poisonous, capable of killing livestock and children. All parts of the plant are toxic, and produce skin rashes. Irritation and swelling of the mouth and throat, acute vomiting and diarrhea occur when it is injested.

Symbiosis

Lichens are composite organisms consisting of a symbiotic association of a fungus with a photosynthetic partner, usually either a green algae or cyanobacterium. The morphology, physiology and biochemistry of lichens are very different to that of isolated fungus and algae. Lichens occur in some of the most extreme environments on Earth, such as arctic tundra, hot deserts, rocky coasts and toxic slag heaps.

They are abundant on leaves and branches in rain forests and temperate woodland, on bare rock, including walls and gravestones, and on exposed soil surfaces in otherwise harsh habitats. Lichens are widespread and long-lived, however, many species are also vulnerable to environmental disturbance, and may be useful to scientists in assessing the effects of air pollution, ozone depletion, and metal contamination. Lichens have also been used in making dyes and perfumes, as well as in traditional medicines.

Lichens must compete with plants for access to sunlight, but because of their small size and slow growth, they thrive in places where higher plants have difficulty growing. Lichens are often the first to settle in places lacking soil, constituting the sole vegetation in some extreme environments such as those found at high mountain elevations and cooler latitudes. Some survive in the tough conditions of deserts, and others on frozen soil of the Arctic regions. Recent research shows that lichen can even endure extended exposure to space.

The form of most lichens is quite different from those of either the fungus or alga growing separately, and may strikingly resemble simple plants in form and growth. The fungus surrounds the algal cells, often enclosing them within complex fungal tissues unique to lichen associations. In many species the fungus penetrates the algal cell wall, forming penetration nodes or roots similar to those produced by pathogenic fungi.

The algal or cyanobacterial cells are photosynthetic, and as in higher plants they reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide into organic carbon sugars to feed both symbionts. Both partners gain water and mineral nutrients mainly from the atmosphere, through rain and dust. The fungal partner protects the algae by retaining water, serving as a larger capture area for mineral nutrients and, in some cases, provides minerals obtained from the substrate. If a bacteria is present as a primary partner or another symbiont in addition to green alga as in certain tripartite lichens, they can fix atmospheric nitrogen, complementing the activities of the green algae.

Lichens are capable of surviving extremely low levels of water content. However, the reconfiguration of membranes following a period of dehydration requires several minutes at least. During this period a solution of metabolites from both the fungus and plant leaks into the extracellar spaces. This is readily available to both forms to take up essential metabolic products ensuring a perfect level of mutualism. Other epiphytic organisms may also benefit from this nutrient rich base. This phenomenon also points to a possible explanation of lichen evolution from its original components with its subsequent migration from an aquatic environment to dry land. Thus, during repeated periods of dehydration in an algae and the resultant leakage of beneficial metabolites to an adjacent aquatic fungus, the mutalistic patterns slowly became constant.

Lichens may be eaten by some animals, such as reindeer living in arctic regions. The larvae of a surprising number of Lepidoptera moth and butterfly species feed exclusively on lichens. These include Common Footman and Marbled Beauty. Lichens are also used by the Northern Flying Squirrel for nesting, food, and a water source during winter.

Extracts from many lichen species were used to treat wounds in Russia in the mid-twentieth century. The lichen Umbilicaria esculenta is collected from cliffs for use in a variety of traditional Korean and Japanese foods.

Many lichens produce secondary compounds, including pigments that reduce harmful amounts of sunlight and powerful toxins that reduce herbivory or kill bacteria. These compounds are very useful for lichen identification, and have had economic importance as dyes such as cudbear or primitive antibiotics.

There are reports dating almost 2000 years of lichens being used to extract purple and red colors. Of great historical and commercial significance are lichens belonging to the family Roccellaceae, commonly called orchella weed. The pH indicator litmus is a dye extracted from the lichen genus Rocella tinctoria by boiling.

Consolidation

Nondualism may be viewed as the understanding or belief that dualism or dichotomy are illusory phenomena. It is accessible as a belief, theory, condition, as part of a tradition, as a practice, or as the quality of union with reality. A nondual philosophical or religious perspective or theory maintains that there is no fundamental distinction between mind and matter, or that the entire phenomenological world is an illusion

Many traditions state that the true condition or nature of reality is nondualistic, and that these dichotomies are either unreal or inaccurate conveniences. While attitudes towards the experience of duality and self may vary, nondual traditions converge on the view that the ego, or sense of personal being and control, is ultimately an illusion. As such many nondual traditions have significant overlap with mysticism.

It should be pointed out that there can be no such thing as a nondual perspective or theory or experience, only a realization of Oneness or nonduality. One cannot accurately claim to experience nonduality, because the concept of experience depends on the subject-object distinction, which is a duality. The subject experiences an object, which is something separate from the subject. This is incompatible with a truly nondual realization. Thus there cannot truly be an accurate verbal account of this union, only words that insufficiently point to the realization.

All schools of Buddhism teach “no-self”, or pali anatta. It is the non-duality of subject and object, which is very explicitly stated by the Buddha in verses such as “In seeing, there is just seeing. No seer and nothing seen. In hearing, there is just hearing. No hearer and nothing heard.”

Dzogchen is a relatively esoteric tradition concerned with the natural state, emphasizing direct experience. The Dzogchen practitioner realizes that appearance and emptiness are inseparable. One must transcend dualistic thoughts to perceive the true nature of one’s pure mind. This primordial nature is clear light, unproduced and unchanging, free from all defilements. One’s ordinary mind is caught up in dualistic conceptions, but the pure mind is unafflicted by delusions.

Through meditation, the Dzogchen practitioner experiences that thoughts have no substance. Mental phenomena arise and fall in the mind, but fundamentally they are empty. The practitioner then considers where the mind itself resides. The mind can not exist in the ever changing external phenomena and through careful examination one realizes that the mind is emptiness. All dualistic conceptions disappear with this understanding.

Zen is a non dual tradition. It can be considered a religion, a philosophy, or simply a practice depending on one’s perspective. It has also been described as a way of life, work, and an art form. Zen practitioners deny the usefulness of such labels, calling them, “The finger pointing at the moon.”

Sikhism is a monotheistic religion which hold the view of non dualism. A principle cause of suffering in Sikhism is the ego, the delusion of identifying oneself as an individual separate from the surroundings. From the ego arises the desires, pride, emotional attachments, anger, lust, etc., thus putting humans on the path of destruction. According to Sikhism the true nature of all humans is the same as God and everything that originates with God. The goal of a Sikh is to conquer the ego and realize true nature or self, which is the same as God’s.

Unexplainable

An unidentified flying object or UFO is a popular term for any aerial phenomenon whose cause cannot be easily or immediately determined. Popular culture frequently takes the term UFO as a synonym for alien spacecraft.

Unexplained aerial observations have been reported throughout history. Some were undoubtedly astronomical in nature such as comets, bright meteors, or atmospheric optical phenomena such as parhelia and lenticular clouds. Sightings throughout history were often treated as supernatural portents, angels, or other religious omens. Some objects in medieval paintings are strikingly similar to UFO reports. Art historians explain those objects as religious symbols, often represented in many other paintings during the Renaissance.

Carl Jung theorized that UFOs might have a primarily spiritual and psychological basis. He pointed out that the round shape of most saucers corresponds to a mandala, a type of archetypal shape seen in religious images. Thus the saucers might reflect a projection of the internal desires of viewers to see them. However, he did not label them as delusions or hallucinations outright, defining them as more in the nature of a shared spiritual experience.

However, Jung seemed conflicted as to possible origins. At other times he asserted that he wasn’t concerned with possible psychological origins and that at least some UFOs were physically real, based primarily on indirect physical evidence such as photographs and radar contact in addition to visual sightings. He also considered the extraterrestrial hypothesis to be viable.

It has been speculated that UFOs might have their origins not in space and time as we know it, but outside of it. There has been noted an almost exact parallel between UFOs and  visitations from folklore of fairies and similar creatures. The significance of these parallels is disputed between mainstream scientists, who contend that they are fanciful demonstrations of a poorly understood phenomenon interacting with humans to cause the sightings.

Terence McKenna, in contrast, believed that UFOs are manifestations of the human soul, or collective spirit. He thought they appeared to individuals and groups in order to exert psychological influence over the course of history and might preside, in the year 2012, over history’s end.

A large part of the available UFO literature today is closely linked with mysticism and the metaphysical. It deals with subjects like mental telepathy, automatic writing and invisible entities as well as phenomena like poltergeist or ghost manifestations and possession. Many of the UFO reports now being published in the popular press recount alleged incidents that are strikingly similar to psychic phenomena.

Alteration

A prepared piano is a piano which has had its sound altered by placing objects between or on the strings or on the hammers or dampers. The idea of altering an instrument’s timbre through the use of external objects has been applied to instruments other than the piano, such as the guitar. Although it is possible to prepare an upright piano, it is far easier, and far more common, on a grand piano.

A composer using prepared piano extensively was John Cage, who is often credited with inventing the instrument. He first prepared a piano when he was commissioned to write music for Bacchanale, a dance by Syvilla Fort in 1938. For some time previously, Cage had been writing exclusively for a percussion ensemble, but the hall where Fort’s dance was to be staged had no room for a percussion group. The only instrument available was a single grand piano.

After some consideration, Cage said that he realized it was possible to place in the hands of a single pianist the equivalent of an entire percussion orchestra. With just one musician, you can really do an unlimited number of things on the inside of the piano if you have at your disposal an exploded keyboard. Cage would often quip that by preparing a piano he left it in better condition than he found it.

In Cage’s use, the preparations are typically nuts, bolts and pieces of rubber to be lodged between and entwined around the strings. Some preparations make duller, more percussive sounds than usual, while others create sonorous bell-like tones. Additionally, the individual parts of a preparation like a nut loosely screwed onto a bolt will vibrate themselves, adding their own unique sound.

By placing the preparation between two of the strings on a note which has three strings assigned to it, it is possible to change the timbre of that note by depressing the soft pedal on the piano, which moves the hammers so they strike only two strings instead of all three. Other prepared piano sounds can be reminiscent of mbiras, marimbas, bells, wood blocks, Indonesian gamelan instruments, or many other sounds less easily defined.

American composer Chris Brown created a type of prepared electric piano, the Gazamba from the shell of a Wurlitzer electric piano. American composer Eric Glick Rieman has composed extensively for prepared Fender Rhodes pianos. Ross Bolleter has taken the idea into an innovative direction, exploring the use of ruined pianos, or pianos decayed by weather and time.

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