Sunday, December 30, 2012

Inner and Outer Life

In Christianity there are a lot of writings about internal things and external things, and sometimes it can be a bit negative toward external things. I believe the distinction is important but muddled as there wasn't an accurate neural/psychological/philosophical framework to make the distinction clear. However, Cognitive Science now provides us with this framework.

I wrote elsewhere that no joy can come from external things. This is true because joy is a product of your brain. External things can only trigger joy as a reaction to things. The brain reacts based evolutionary programming and learned experience, sometimes called conditioning or habit in Buddhist literature. Likewise, what we perceive is constructed by the brain based on signals from outside. We now know that a lot of (unconscious) choice and interpretation is involved in this. We experience life in a world generated by our brains that is perceptually correlated with the outer world. Scientifically and philosophically this is known as the noumena (external) and phenomena (internal). Essentially it's like the Matrix movie, only we each generate our own Matrix.

The external world that mystical Christianity is so distrustful of is (I believe) the matrix world that we generate in our brains. In the matrix world, perceptions are intricately linked to our programmed desires and needs. Historically, this has been muddled in Christianity, leading some to reject and mistrust the actual external world (the noumena). However, careful reading of the best sources reveals (I believe) that the goal is to become free from the conditioning we have built up from our basic evolutionary needs and through our lifetime of social conditioning. This programming, to be greedy, to be afraid, to be hateful, is the actual source of the demons that we fight. 

This bad programing is referred to as ignorance in Buddhism and is regarded as the ultimate source of suffering. The good news is that compassion and joy arise simply by stopping the program and being silent and free. To attain this we need to create new programs that allow us to be still, to listen for our compassion and to be directed by it. 

So, the external world in mystical Christian writings should refer to the world that we we create in our heads and perceive as external. It is an image of the actual external world colored and tainted by our desires and passions. The actual external world, as noted in Genesis, is good.

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