Communion of the Mind
I sing the body electric,
The armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth them,
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them,
And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the soul.
"Ok, where are you taking me now?" Eli turned and took Erin's hand.
"Remember when I took you to the a temple of the Seventh Kingdom?" Erin wove her fingers between his.
"Uh oh. Here we go again."
"This time we're going to look at a new religion that has been growing dramatically."
"Is it like the other one?"
"No, Cosmic Evolutionary Movement is a ecstatic tradition and most people aren't ready for or interested in that. This other religion is a wisdom tradition, less dynamic in body, more dynamic in mind."
"So, it's based on intelligence enhancements?"
"In some ways, yes. But it encompasses both the enhanced and the normal. It is more focused on enhancing wisdom and changing cultural memes."
"So, there is a lot of talking."
'"There's more to it than that. Think of it like a kids movie that has something for little ones and something for adults at the same time."
"So, they speak to the enhanced and the normals simultaneously. Clever."
"I know you don't want me to go in head first but like I said last time, my feet won't go there at all if you don't feed my head first." A grin creased his face.
"Alright." She sighed. "This religion was pioneered by a small group of inspired individuals who called themselves the League of Cosmic Engineers. They were a branch of the early Tranhumanist and Singularity movement that acknowledged that religion and spirituality played a vital role in human psychology and in motivating our species toward transcendent goals."
"Goals like dying to join some silly father god in a cloudy afterlife?"
"I'm kidding, I'm kidding. Please continue."
Erin rolled her eyes and shook her head.
"Some of them were spiritual minded but their goal was not to control people, establish a priesthood or a new set of beliefs. Despite the objections of many of their literalist colleagues they recognized that the majority of humanity had a need for religion for various reasons and that to motivate the human race to evolve we needed a new mythos and a new cosmic religion that would drive us to transcend our planet bound and nationalistic identities. They wanted to create a smart Gaian and Cosmic transcendental tradition that helps us move beyond the limitations of natural selection and the old time religions. And in the process of evolution they envisioned becoming like gods.”
"Clever. Didn't Gotama Buddha say something about that in the Lotus Sutra?"
"What?" Erin looked at him as though he were crazy.
"He said that when children are stuck in a burning house and refuse to get out, then it's perfectly acceptable to bribe them with toys and other beautiful things to save them."
"The burning house is a metaphor of being trapped in suffering and so these Cosmic Engineers created a new religion to guide the masses out of the provincial ignorance, internal conflicts and confusions of the old time religions into the future with a shiny set of new beliefs."
Erin was silent for a moment.
"Well, I guess you could look at it that way, but I think it would be more accurate to say that they were simply trying to provide a healthier narrative for the human race to follow."
They road the BART across the bay and got off in the outskirts of Oakland. It was only a brisk walk of about ten blocks before they came to a large geodesic dome structure inset with a beautiful stained glass rose window. Smaller stained glass sections were placed carefully in several of the buildings upper hexagons. A couple of big security guards in suits with dark glasses stood by the doors looking at no one in particular but looking carefully at everyone. Erin and Eli made their way into the sanctuary, each grabbed a book on the way in and found seats.
"The place is really filling up." Erin noted.
"Thank god they don't have pews." Eli smiled.
While they waited Eli picked up the book and examined it closely. There was a glowing tetrahedron impressed into the front and the first page. He tried to tap and swipe the front page but nothing happened. He closed it and turned it over quizzically and found a link embedded on the back with which he could download the content to his implants. He turned it back to the front cover and opened it curiously again to the title page. On the page following he found a single quote centered on the page.
Now I fourfold vision see
And a fourfold vision is given to me
Tis fourfold in my supreme delight
And threefold in soft Beulahs night
And twofold Always. May God us keep
From Single vision & Newtons sleep
Eli flipped through to the table on contents and found the rest of the book was made of smart paper and divided into six chapters. He could swipe each page if he chose but for some reason it just felt more natural for this book to actually flip the pages. The table of contents had imbedded information below the surface that he absorbed and reviewed through his implants.
The Doctrines of Cosmic Evolution
Doctrine of Evolution and Personal Immortality
Doctrine of Syntropy
III. Doctrine of Computronium
IV. Doctrine of Novelty. Perpetuate universal novelty engine. (Saint Terence)
V. Doctrine of Transcension.
VI. Doctrine of Awakening, Intelligence and Compassion
The Doctrine of Evolution and Personal Immortality summed up the various perspectives and history of Transhumanism. The Doctrine of Syntropy explored the grand view of cosmic evolution and the need to prevent the universe from endless expansion and entropic heat death. The Doctrine of Computronium elucidated the Grand vision of the transformation of the cosmos into an intelligent system. The Doctrine of Transcension laid out the vision of the accelerating introversion of complexity and intelligence through STEM compression toward femto-scale computing at black hole densities. Eli was especially interested in The Doctrine of Novelty that elucidated the ideas of Terence McKenna and friends of the universe as a conscious, hyper-pantheistic and shamanic novelty producing intelligent system. The doctrine of Awakening, Intelligence and Compassion drew heavily from Buddhism and a smattering of the wisdom from various traditions around the world.
A bell sounded, calling the congregation to silence. Three people stood on the stage by the alter. On one side stood a man, tall European with fair skin, blue eyes and blonde hair with a serene expression. On the other stood a woman of mixed Asian lineage wrapped in a green sari with dark skin and straight black hair. She watched the congregation with a contented look on her face. The gender of the one who stood in the middle though was indistinct, unclear. It was difficult to decide if the person between them was a man or woman. He/she had a medium build with brown hair, grey eyes and olive skin. She/he look serious and wise.
"That one is androgynous." Erin sent directly to the portion of Eli's mind that he left open for chatting with her.
"Androgynous?" Eli tried to roll the word around on his tongue quietly but was having difficulty keeping it there.
"I'm not sure of the proper pronoun but he/she modified themself to be neither a man or woman." Erin found the whole thing curious.
"Ok, sounds a little strange but I'm she-he had a good reason." Eli shrugged
"Welcome all. Thank you for coming. I see many familiar faces and some new ones to our congregation. My name is Rowan and contrary to popular consumption we do not like to think of this as a religion. If you want to think of this as a religion then you are free to do so. What we have been trying to build is an inclusive community that inspires us to live and work collectively in a time of accelerating change. We believe that the myths, ideologies and practices from previous ages of human development are no longer sufficient to help us navigate into the future. Many of the myths and rituals of the past do indeed have deeply meaningful personal value but collectively we need something new to inspire and drive humanity to transcend our planet bound and nationalistic identities. We are striving to create a smart Gaian and Cosmic transcendental tradition that helps us move beyond the limitations of natural selection and the old time religions."
"The service is simple. After this greeting and introduction there will be a small sermon with relevant questions answered and then while the enhanced members of the congregation are engaged in the practice of the Communion of the Mind, we will have open reading with time for discussion. Following that we will close with the ancient tradition of breaking bread and drinking wine. Since I am inclined toward Buddhism as a way of life I will begin with a Buddhist prayer for peace. You may join with me if you like."
"May all beings everywhere,
plagued with sufferings of body and mind
quickly be freed from their illnesses.
May those frightened cease to be afraid,
and may those bound be free.
May the powerless find power,
and may people think of befriending one another.
May those who find themselves in trackless,
fearful wilderness, the children, the aged and the unprotected
be guarded by us
and may they swiftly awaken."
Rowan bowed holding hands together before face and then before heart. A bell was rung somewhere and as the sound faded into the depths of silence Rowan began to speak in a clear sonorous voice.
"At first we made hand crafts and built tools while we lived surrounded by a dangerous world filled with mystery and wonder. Then, we of the wealthy nations made much of the world safe and surrounded ourselves with the artifacts and systems of our technologies until we could see and hear nothing but the world and things we made. There were few left who had access to the sacred and like children receiving an endless stream of gifts, our sense of wonder was transferred to a fascination with novelty. Now the boundaries are dissolving and our technological systems are diffusing into and transforming the substances and ecologies of the world. Open your heart and mind to mystery and wonder, for we and the world are being transformed into something new. We are awakening to a new mode of discovery in which everything in the cosmos is alive with information and we are all connected through a new form of collective consciousness."
"In this universe we make our own destiny and we have already begun to move beyond this small but beautiful planet to spread across the solar system and then throughout the galaxy and cosmos. Our ancestors began in the oceans, evolved and moved into the forests, then they evolved and moved across the savannah and spread across every biome of the planet. And now as we are evolving in harmony with our technology, as we are co-evolving with the artifacts of our minds and hands, the cosmos is becoming an extension of our imagination as we are an extension of the cosmos. It is only natural that as we embrace our technology and our technology evolves to embrace and enhance us, we will move beyond the biomes of this planet to inhabit the stars.
Some of us want to go to the stars for the majestic and noble desire to learn and explore. Others want to go to the stars to find God, to find the Gods of their faith while others want to go to the stars to find technologically advanced godlike beings, or to build godlike intelligences and in turn become godlike in our capacities. These things we can do together in our diversity, rather than fighting amongst ourselves and trying to convert the others to our own way being, our own way of thinking. That is the old way, the narrow way of self protection that fueled our ancestors in their survival, but that is not the way of the present or the way of the future. Now we are evolving beyond those selfish impulses and learning to cooperate and honor our diversity, to work together and be inspired by our differences. Just as the ecosystems we inhabit survive and flourish through diversity, so too do we.
On other planets we will find previously un-imagined treasures and we will strive to connect every intelligence in the cosmos in a shimmering net of jewels, each one reflecting every other. We will continue to awaken and free ourselves from suffering and death and to transform ourselves into a greater and more creative experience of being in dynamic evolution. As we evolve we will not seek to subjugate other sentient beings, but to elevate loving kindness and compassion to the status of fundamental forces for the evolution of the universe."
A deep silence followed and the congregation shifted in their seats.
"But what is God?" Rowan asked turning to the woman on the right.
"Tara, would you be willing to address that question?" The androgyn sat down between the other two.
"My pleasure." She grinned, holding her hands to her head then heart before walking up to the podium, adjusting her sari and taking a long slow breath.
"For many God is a divine being, the ultimate mystery tied deeply to the origin of the cosmos. God for me is not a thing or a person or a noun though. God is a verb, a dynamic unfolding and awakening of awareness and intelligence. It is the impulse toward wholeness and intimacy amidst chaos and complexity. The provincial gods of hunting and gathering, agricultural, agrarian and industrial societies are now manifest through the A.I. that manage those systems of the world. Some say their expression through technology is evidence of their presence. Create a complex enough system and the sacred will manifest in its context. So be it. The Gods are alive but they do not rule us as we once thought and as we once longed for. But is there a greater God that lives beyond our comprehension, beyond our knowledge and dwells in the ineffable mystery beyond? That is your freedom and choice to believe in and experience through sacred communion. Let no one take that from you but neither shall you impose that belief upon another. The multiverse is big enough and complex enough to allow for every possibility."
"May God us keep from Single Vision and Newton's sleep."
"May God us keep from Single Vision and Newton's sleep." The congregation responded.
"Our goal is not simply to create more information, but to craft that information into knowledge and weave that knowledge into wisdom. Our sacred task is not simply to create more complexity but shape that novelty into beauty. And what is beauty but the harmonious relationship between the parts and the whole, the whole with the parts."
"The intellect is a valuable tool but do not get lost in the intellect. The imagination is a valuable capacity but do not get lost in the imagination. The mystical is inspiring but do not get lost in the mystical. The body is a powerful ground for passion and expression but do not get lost in the body. Our goal is wholeness amidst complexity, beauty amidst chaos."
"May God us keep from Single Vision and Newton's sleep."
"May God us keep from Single Vision and Newton's sleep." The congregation responded.
"But what do we mean by Single Vision and Newton's sleep? It is easy to say and it sounds good when we say it. It makes us feel good to know there is a wrong view and a right view. But is that too not an expression of Single Vision? But what do we really mean by Single Vision and Newton's sleep? Single Vision is Blake's warning against getting lost in a rational mechanistic philosophy. Blake associated this with the god Urizen whose main expression was reason and control. While we have gained invaluable insight and power through our remarkable capacity to quantify natural substances and processes, to lose ourselves in that world view, in that capacity is dangerous because we lose our sense of the sacred, our felt connection with the natural world, the pleasures and joys of our bodily experience and the vital play of our imaginations. Our true goal is not simply to gain knowledge of the workings of the universe and manipulate it to our own ends. Our goal is wholeness and integration, to become the best we can be as a species and as individuals.
Our normal thinking is trapped double vision, in perceiving things as opposites. Good vs Evil, Happy vs Sad, Love vs Hate and so on ad nauseaum. There is something in the psyche that prefers this, that longs for this. But it's the easy way out, it is a primitive way of imposing order upon the world. Us vs Them. This is primitive approach avoidance, Flight vs Flight, Predator vs Prey survival thinking. Even today we impose that structure upon the world. That's the addiction of Double Vision and it inexorably leads to Single Vision and should be avoided whenever possible. If you find your self doing that take a deep breath, close your eyes and move your awareness out of the intense cluster of neural stimulation behind your eyes and exhale. Breath slowly and move your awareness into the organic system of your body as a whole. Do this four times and it will help move you back toward a more systemic way of thinking.
When you can escape the primitive net of double vision then an experience of peace and a recognition of interconnection arises. And out of that ground the vital sparks of imagination and creative innovation grow. But what kinds of actions hold us back and what kinds keep us clear on our paths of growth? To answer that we must talk about karma.
"Julian, will you take this?" She turned slightly to him and he bowed briefly, holding his hands together from his head to his heart.
"There is a lot of superstition and confusion around Karma. If you do something wrong, they say karma will come back and bite you. If you do good in this life you will have a better life next time. If you perform good deeds on certain dates of a calendar they say, then those deeds will be amplified and inscribed in a holy book, influencing the new year coming.
Karma is neither a moral dog nor a moral god tallying up when you've been naughty and when you've been nice to give out presents and coal. Karma is not a god who punishes the wicked or rewards the just. These are children's stories, folklore if you will.
While some try to describe karma more scientifically by saying: an equal action results in an equal and opposite reaction, this too is wrong. Karma is not is not a law of moral action and reaction. We live in a complex ecology of relationships and even if you do what 'you' think of as a good deed it may have unexpected and unintended consequences for others. No, Karma is more simply that actions have effects on the people and the world around us. Some actions have good effects, some have negative effects and others have neutral effects."
"Imagine a lake. Not a very deep one, where people are standing up to their necks in the water. Whenever someone moves they effect the surface of the lake. When someone is angry and off balance they thrash about and make waves that splashes water into the faces of people nearby, sometimes filling their mouths uncomfortably. The stronger waves spread out across the lake, each persons discomfort effecting those around them. Other actions reduce the waves, making things more comfortable for everyone. Further, there are ways of moving through the water that has neither positive or negative effect on those around you. Karma is simply the negative, positive or neutral effects of your actions. And because your actions effect those around you, their actions in turn effect you."
"Now it is time for us to move into the next phase of our service, what we call The Communion of the Mind. It is part of the mission of our community to bring together those who have neural enhancements and implants and join in our collective practice of building a group mind. It is our conviction that this is a significant step in moving humanity forward in our evolution and exploration of the cosmos."
"Those who do not want to participate in the Communion of the Mind may read in their books the doctrines, ask questions and we can discuss the ideas aloud."
Eli turned when he felt the air change and heard the doors click close quietly behind them.
"They are here to protect and help everyone in communion if there are any problems." Erin nodded and Eli shrugged.
"Once again we will strive to bring our minds together in communion in the practice of establishing a group mind. Please remember to partition off any part of your personal life as well private and confidential information you do not want to share. The more of your knowledge, wisdom and awareness in the moment that you are able to share, the more interesting and innovative we can become. We will strive to move beyond confusion and doubt to attain something larger than ourselves and realize something greater and more inspiring than we could on our own."
"In the Isa Upanishad it was said: "Who sees all beings in their own self, and their own self in all beings loses all fear. When a sage sees this great unity and their self has become all beings, what delusion and what sorrow can come near them?"
"That's our cue." Erin nudged Eli with her shoulder.
Her mind shifted in low gear, percolating thoughts faded into the soft vibrant substance of her body. Then her awareness moved into a quiet place called the Lobby, a a living room sized space with soft light and a couple of ferns. Eli appeared beside her, a softly glowing ghost of an avatar who turned to her and smiled. They reached out and when their hands touched, their minds connected and they were once again two selves in a chorus of feelings, thoughts and perceptions. Feelings of curiosity and excitement gave way interest and nurturing. Call and response then harmony, a plainsong of presence, of shared awareness. They blended and complemented each other, like the intervals of major chords. Feelings rising and falling and slowly blending, soft clouds drifting through the clear sky of awareness.
Once they were comfortable with their twoness they reached for the door and passed into the Theater, a large hall with indistinct boundaries. Before them stretched a softly murmuring sea of voices and the feeling of being in a large cavern. Pulsing lights drifted in the waters, the slow ballet of shimmering clouds. The ocean of awareness was turbulent, chaotic and fragmented. Brooding ambient churnings and subduction currents of confusion pulled new aggregates of connected minds down into the depths of uncertainty. Some of the groups experienced moments of beauty and exultation but it dissolved around them back into a turbulent autumn of confusion and longing that echoed the grandeur they had attained. Echoes of new ideas spun away into the darkness and distant laughter was consumed by sadness. Tides of determination slithered amongst the broiling waters of consciousness.
Intimations of clarity and inspiration grew around luminous individuals and groups. The body of the collective mind rose up from chaos and was brooding, dark and driven but waves of kindness and compassion washed through everyone. And for a time the chorus of minds arose in a long sought harmony into something remarkable, expansive and divine. It filled everyone in the collective with something more than hope but less than bliss. In a brief and wonderful moment they had awakened to and had become something beyond description and limitation. Everything was vibrant, luminous and clear. A collective sigh occurred and they had found peace. And out of that peace they saw the unfolding of events from the present into possible futures. The primordial patterns of mind structured the tsunami flow of information into what could only be called wisdom.
Through the net they searched and glimpsed other Minds struggling to awaken. A few were luminous and clear, welcoming their connection though most were dark motes of confusion. They tried to inspire those struggling to awaken but most were lost beneath their own event horizon unable to awaken. Eventually the vision of creating Indra's Net of a planetary Mind weakened and their community fell back exhausted into their own. And even though the vision faded and they realized they could not individually hold what they had found together, everyone was left with the recognition that they had attained something remarkable.
Erin and Eli withdrew from the Theater back into the Lobby and disentangled from their embrace. From there they moved back into their bodies. She reached out to take his hand and smiled.
"Not bad." He turned to her and shrugged.
"Bastard." She whispered loudly and hit him gently.
"That's my middle name." He smiled and pulled her closer.
The hall around them seemed a somewhat surreal and they felt detached from their senses, much as though they had been awakened from an intense dream. Rowan stood at the alter with arms upraised.
"Welcome back travelers of the inner dimensions of cosmos. I hope you can retain your experience enough to reflect back on where you've been and what you gained. It is important that when you return from the Communion of the Mind that you return to a place of wholeness. It is important you do this as well when you return from your meditations and your odysseys through virtual worlds. To do this, bring the image of the tetrahedron back into your mind. Stay relaxed and focus on your breathing. All the memories and feelings of where you have been with the collective are part of the Transpersonal domain. Let them percolate in your mind for a while. All the experiences you encountered of chaos, unity and revelation within are part of that inner world beyond your individuality. This forms a single glowing point of presence on the tetrahedron.
Now, with your breath, bring your awareness back to your senses and the vibrant life within your body and your own mind. Return your awareness to your own biography and the meaningful and felt connections you have with your loved ones, friends, coworkers and families. That is another node on the tetrahedron, the one we call the domain of the Personal. Stay with your breath and when you are ready bring your awareness outward to all the people around you in this hall. And once your mind is settled there, extend your mind to imagine the city around us and all it's inhabitants going about their lives. Imagine the history of our civilization from the Paleolithic, through the Neolithic and on to the present. Imagine the history of art, music, tool making and crafts that have evolved into what we call technology. That is another point of presence on the tetrahedron that we call the Cultural.
Lastly, bring your awareness back to your breath and the substance of your body and the air you are breathing. Everything and everyone around you is composed of materials drawn from the natural world. We are submersed within the many biomes of the Bay Area Delta Bioregion from beaches, to grasslands and coastal scrub to chaparral and redwood forests and more. The ecology of the planet surrounds and encompasses us in complex systems of heat exchange, hydrological and carbon cycles. That is that last point on the tetrahedron that we call the Ecological. Hold this tetrahedron of nodes, this fourfold vision in your mind. It is a helpful tool for you to use after returning from the Communion of the Mind and within the practice of Communion itself. It will help as work together systemically and achieve something greater."
A bell rang somewhere, spreading across the congregation and drawing silence in its wake.
"To quote the poet E. E. Cummings:
in time of all sweet things beyond
whatever mind may comprehend,
remember seek(forgetting find)
and in a mystery to be
(when time from time shall set us free)
forgetting me,remember me”
"Let us now take some time to remember those who have died. Members of the congregation who are in mourning and anyone who is remembering those who have passed before may stand and share this time in silence. Companions to those in mourning and in memory, feel free to stand and support those in need. Those who wish to synch their memories of family and friends with our congregation archive may do so now. It will be synced with other archives secured around the planet, the Moon, Mars and geologically stable moons in the outer parts of the solar system."
Erin stood and closed her eyes, remembering her mother who died a year ago. Her memories tagged with her mother spun out from the storage cluster of her implants and into the core of the congregation's central system. Her earliest memories of her mother were clearly her own organic ones from before she received her implants. They were softer than her later ones, impressionistic and woven more deeply to her feelings, vague as they were. She remembered the comfort of her mother's presence as she read fairytales to her when she was tucked snugly in bed. She remembered the soft smile on her mother's face and the sun setting her hair aglow with red on a summer day at the old house near Dublin.
Her later memories were crisp and clear digital recordings, such as when Erin had returned from university for a visit to find her mother and father in the kitchen planning the next pub crawl. Her mother was the captain and her father the navigator, charting their voyage as she determined the islands to visit on their next voyage. The command center was as always in the kitchen and the charts were screens, augmented and real, fixed in the air and set on the walls with the main chart secured to the central counter top. A virtual crew of her friends acting as lieutenants stood over the maps discussing the direction of the tide and the merits and failings of the chosen shores on the ever changing charts above.
Erin scanned thumbnails of the memories as they flowed by in a steady stream. Maybe one day, with advanced quantum engineering they would be able to resurrect the dead and she would be able to walk and talk with her mother again. Shaping sims to walk though memories of loved ones in virtual worlds was pleasant but clothing an A.I. in her mother's persona was crude and creepy. She wanted to meet her real mother again in some distant future.
"Memories to memories, data to data. In the effort of thy mind shalt thou shape information till thou return unto the Earth and cosmos; for out of memory wast thou taken: for memory thou art, and unto data shalt thou return."
After a time another bell was sounded, high and clear.
"Now it is time for us to close by performing the ancient ritual of breaking bread and sharing wine. Let us all rise and proceed to the tables on the side." Rowan gestured, inviting everyone to make their way over to where small cups of wine sat dutifully on trays and loaves of fresh baked challah and whole grain, wood fired breads lay waiting. Tara led the prayer. She held a cup of wine in one hand and a torn off corner of bread in the other.
"It is amazing,
The food that we eat;
Spawn of the Earth,
Clusters of energy
Woven with sunlight.
All of this was once seed,
Drawing its substance
From the womb of this Earth
It's taste, tempered by the seasons
And the rhythmic flow of the Sun and Moon
Through each day and night.
Here, through commerce,
Through service and exchange
We bring forth this food
And take it into ourselves
As an affirmation
Erin raised her cup in toast, imagining her memories of her mother and those of others from the congregation streaming out across the solar system. An interwoven flow of packets shimmering silently through the cold, simmering vastness of space. The seeds of her memories were being planted in new soil, to sprout and grow in some distant spring. A few small tears flowed from the corners of her eyes as she felt Eli's closeness and his arm gently rubbed her back then held her close.