More Musings on Mythos

-- In which the author muses a bit about symbolism, religion, morphic resonance and the Eurycosm, in the context of some personal recollections about recent visits to Ethiopia and Paris...

The Mystical Heart of Ethiopia

Addis Ababa is often rated Africa’s dirtiest city.  The air is filled with particles of dust — not small particles like one finds in developed cities, from factories or car exhaust, but large particles resultant from endless cars driving across unpaved or partly paved roads, stirring up clouds of dust in the air.   The traffic is ridiculous and chaotic, with cars driving every which way and veering millimeters away from each other, making it seem miraculous there aren’t many more accidents and injuries than there are (and there are surely a lot).  

On the other hand, Addis is also where the energy is, where the action is.  It’s where everyone comes from the “rural side” looking for jobs or business opportunities.  The level of opportunity for the young ambitious person in Addis, without pre-existing wealth or strong social connections, is very low compared to what one finds in developed-world cities.  But it’s massively higher than in other Ethiopian cities.

Addis has a vibrant nightlife and a huge variety of subcultures of interesting, friendly, outgoing people.   Like pretty much everywhere in Africa, one gets a feeling that people are just more HUMAN, more  interested in and capable of genuine human-to-human contact, than in other places.

Even in rapidly modernizing Addis – and even in the hi-tech, sciency corners of Addis culture -- one can still find plenty of “old mysterious Africa”, not too far beneath the surface.   As an example, I have had some discussions with a physics professor from an Addis university named Abraham Ameha, who is working on a theory of the spiritual world, somewhat analogous to Einstein’s general relativity theory – a theory of the curvature of the spiritual dimensions, it seems.  He also talks a lot about demons, and at least based on one conversation, seems believe that there literally exist demons under the ground, beneath Ethiopia.   He gave a talk at a symposium I co-organized at Addis Ababa University, and I was thrilled to see his PPT slides combining tensor field equations with mentions of giant demons and the apocalypse.   

After Dr. Ameha’s lecture, my Hong Kong colleague Gino Yu, whom I’d brought on that trip to Ethiopia, gave a talk about a sort of goggles that induced an altered state of consciousness in the wearer by flashing lights in their eyes in a complex pattern.   The goggles experience was fascinating and successful for most of the students and professors who tried it out there in the Addis Ababa University student center, but they caused one of our AI programmers to have what appeared to be an epileptic seizure, right there in the university campus lounge.   But  Dr. Ameha was not taken aback by the seizure at all; he said that was the sort of thing he saw frequently during exorcisms.  And thus I learned that in Ethiopia, traditionally, what we in the West think of as epilepsy, is generally thought of as a manifestation of demonic possession…

Indeed ideas of demons are never too far from mind in Ethiopia, it seems.   There was the time Ruiting, Getnet and I encountered a drunken Ethiopian in a Chinese restaurant near the Addis airport, emphatically lecturing me and my dinner companions on why Ethiopian politics was so fucked up: interference of the demons under the Ethiopian soil.

But still, while it’s there, in Addis the mystical aspects of Ethiopian culture are not right out in front, constantly hitting you in the face and the heart, like it is in some other parts of the country.   In Addis the theme is the quest for modernity and the urge to make it big — money, success, stardom, whatever.  

Of the places I’ve visited in Ethiopia Harar is probably my favorite — a Muslim walled city from 1000AD or so, with Arabic alongside Amharic on the signs, and close to 100 mosques in a rather small area among the tiny winding streets, outdoor market stalls and little cafes.  

One can also visit the house of poet Arthur Rimbaud, who lived there for 11 years and took an Ethiopian wife.   At that stage of his life Rimbaud had long since given up poetry (all his famous poems were written during his teenage years) but when one visits his house one sees his artistic impulse was still very much alive and well during that phase of his life … the display of the photographs of Harar at the turn of the century (the end of the 1800s) are beautiful and striking. 

Rimbaud’s poetry was very important to me in my own teenage years — both for the unique beauty of the writing and for his vision, expressed in his letters, of “the poet as the thief of fire”, as a Promethean adventurer grabbing inspiration from the world beyond and pulling it into this world, often at great personal cost.  Years afterwards I discovered Scriabin’s “Prometheus” which has a similar feel and theme to it, but more grandiose than any of Rimbaud’s works, even than “A Season in Hell.”   Rimbaud dove into the other world to grab inspiration and then quickly beat a retreat back to his life as a tormented artistic teen.  He sought the “disorganization of all the senses”, finding that when the orderly input from the everyday senses ceased, then the mind’s ability to grab patterns and feelings from the other world kicked in, and the disorganized senses could serve as antennas for forms from beyond, forming themselves into shapes obtained from the greater universe (much as, e.g., memories of past lives tend to come into the minds of young children whose episodic memories are not yet well organized, rather than into those of older children whose episodic memories are full of order and structure already).   Scriabin on the other hand immersed himself in the patterns from the other world more and more fully, internalizing both the joy and the torment of feeling its transhumance patterns flow into his human body and push its mental and physical limitations to the bursting..

Rimbaud was also gay, and it’s notable that while he had an Ethiopian wife for the 11 years he lived in Harar, he didn’t produce any children by her.  One suspects the native wife was a convenient cover for his other sexual activities.  But modern Africans don’t like gays very much, so mentioning Rimbaud’s homosexuality in Harar is definitely a way to make yourself rapidly unpopular.

A young Muslim named Hadi Awad – a friend of a friend -- struck me particularly when visiting Harar, due to his unique combination of technical brilliance, devout Islam and sheer enthusiasm and good-heartedness.  Hadi is sufficiently devout that when he talks to me he punctuates nearly every sentence with “Inshallah” ….   I suppose the density of Inshallahs is higher when talking to me than in his usual conversation because we talk so much about the future, and the tradition is to say “Inshallah” — “Allah willing” — whenever making a projection about the future.   “Once the Singularity comes, Inshallah, then scarcity will be gone, Inshallah.   And it will be beautiful, Inshallah.  Artificial intelligence will be more beautiful than the ordinary human mind can imagine, installah.” ….  

Hadi is studying computational linguistics and machine translation, and running a small cafe’ and an IT support and computer repair shop, and doing all manner of other entrepreneurial things, all while praying many times each day and — like nearly everyone in Harar — constantly chewing khaat (a psychoactive leaf that is very widely and cheaply available throughout that whole region of Ethiopia, and that seems to have the majority of the population of the region in a kind of pleasant addicted semi-stupor).  

When my friend and colleague Ralf Mayet visited Harar he met Hadi as well, and due to fortuitous timing, he got to accompany Hadi to a Muslim prayer ceremony atop a local mountain, with a group of Hadi’s friends.   The species of Islam practiced in Harar is somewhat close to Sufism — it’s a mystical variety of Islam, with a significant aspect of directly perceiving the divine through “altered” states of consciousness (of course that is always present in Islam via the regular prayer ritual which in itself involves an altered state of consciousness, but some kinds of Islam place more emphasis on this aspect and have more rituals that seem explicitly oriented toward deepening altered/mystical states of mind)….

In early 2017 I brought a number of Western friends with me to Ethiopia, to collaborate on R&D at iCog Labs in Addis Ababa, to see the first Ethiopian robot soccer competition, and to join me on a side trip to Lalibela, a World Heritage Site in the north of Ethiopia what is famous for its medieval stone churches.   Many of these churches are architecturally exceptional as they are buildings carved out of a single rock.   The Ethiopians traditionally believe the Lalibela churches were built by hand by one man — King Lalibela — with the help of angels.  

The stone churches in the town of Lalibela (population 15K or so) are architectural wonders, dating from 900AD or so, but are also rather touristy at this point, with lots of foreigners poking around with cameras, verbose tour guides and local children ceaselessly begging for money.   I found visiting the churches on the outskirts of Lalibela more interesting and moving.  Climbing 3 hours up a mountain to a more remote stone church we spent some time inside with the resident priest, who took out a religious book from 900AD, the pages made of goat skin and beautifully preserved, with bright-colored pictures of Biblical scenes, including scenes from the Ethiopic Book of Enoch, which is not part of the standard Christian Bible but which seems to play a particular role in the Ethiopian Orthodox religion.   An aged man with a beard and a robe was sitting by the outside of the church, by the edge of a cliff over which there was an amazing view of the countryside, looking down at the ground muttering and praying or just breathing and being silent.  Was he a crazy homeless man or an enlightened mystic meditating on the mountain?   What was the difference, exactly?

A 17km drive out of Lalibela, we found a church from a slightly later period (the 1300s), with amazing weird paintings inside, including not only the usual angels and saints but also many animals and space aliens.  The local priest explained that the bird-man on the wall was named Aristophorus, and was an alien from another planet (another physical planet in this universe, not another dimension of reality), whom God had transported here to help the local Ethiopian Christians do battle with some of their enemies.  We found no documentation of this alien on the English Internet, but Hruy — one of our Ethiopian colleagues from iCog, who was along with us on the trip — found brief mention of him in an Amharic version of the Book of Enoch. 

Hiking 2.5 hours up a mountain from this church and its aliens, past small villages that obviously did not see many tourists, we got to another church, which was built around 600AD.   This one was situated inside a cave, and also had strange evocative paintings inside it (painted in the 1300s, when the church was already ancient).   There were two skeletons lying near the church, with bits of mummified skin on them.  A few days before we’d visited another cave-church, which had had 5000 skeletons nearby, in a big pile near the back of the cave.   But these two were easier to inspect, lying right out near the church, and had more of a personal feel to them.

The church was still in everyday use as the local place of worship of the people in the villages nearby.  It had been in continuous use for Christian services since shortly after 600AD — a time much closer to them time of Jesus than to the present day.  

The guard in front of the church asked us — via Hruy, the only member of our party who spoke Amharic — not to proceed further up the path, as there were 5 monks who lived up ahead, and lived under a vow that no other human should see their faces.   They lived and prayed atop the mountain, preparing their own food and avoiding the rest of society.   If people came up to disturb them, they would retreat further into the wilderness.   But a couple times a year, we were told, they could come down from the mountaintop at midnight for a religious ceremony, making sure their long hair was covering their faces so nobody could see them.

Tongue-in-cheek, we cooked up a plan to come back there with a drone carrying a camera, so as to secretly photograph their mystical retreat.   This is one of those plans somewhat unlikely to get executed in practice, however…

Addis is a whole other world from developed countries.  After flying back from Addis to Hong Kong I’m always disoriented for a week or two … I feel like I’m paying 20x too much for a bottle of water or a hamburger, and I feel perplexed that there are no hungry young children following me around begging for money.  I feel surprised when I go into a public bathroom and there is toilet paper there, and a nice clean toilet seat … and when the Internet “just works” on my smartphone everywhere, without random outages and slowdowns.  

But then, the mountains around Lalibela, and the alleys of Harar, are a whole other world than Addis.   Addis is trying to be part of the developed world, and it’s struggling but it’s getting there.   Our work at iCog Labs is one small part of the process the city is going through as it seeks to become part of the modern technological economy and culture.   These more remote areas — which I realize I can barely begin to understand in any real way, due to language and culture barriers — are still vibrant with a different mode of living and experiencing, which is tied into the past rather than the future, and into symbolic and mystical rather than scientific or commercial ways of thinking.  

There is a church a couple hundred kilometers from Lalibela that, it is said, contains part of the actual cross on which Jesus was crucified.  In the Ethiopian version of the Bible, Jesus traveled to Ethiopia after Egypt at a certain point.   To the locals this story is literally true and also holds a powerful symbolic power that I can barely begin to relate to.   (In general, while I’m fascinated to brush up against the ancient profound mysticism of Ethiopian Christianity and Islam, I’m very aware that I can perceive and understand it only at a very superficial level … due to language and culture barriers, and also due to me not putting much time into understanding the relevant subtleties and complexities.   So it goes.  I find these cultural and spiritual matters intriguing and important but not quite so much so as AGI, life extension, fundamental physics and the other things I spend more of my time thinking about it.  But even as I work toward the modernization of Ethiopia and the spread of advanced science and technology and associated culture throughout the country, I also feel some regret for the fading of these traditional cultures.  Just as every animal or plant species has unique information and beauty in it, so does every human culture.   The beauty of a traditional culture is not obsoleted by scientific or technological advances.    But yet I am even more attracted to the potential for creating new cultures combining the symbolic potency of traditional belief systems and the empirical honesty of modern science!)

The Ethiopian National Museum in Addis contains the remains of Lucy, a proto-human from 3.9 million years ago, unearthed in Ethiopia.   However, to most Ethiopians, Lucy is just a funny animal.  They are proud this animal was unearthed in their country, but since they don’t believe in evolutionary theory, they don’t believe Lucy was humanity’s predecessor in any fundamental sense.   The vast majority of Ethiopians are quite confident that the Earth was created around 6000 years ago, as the Bible says.

From Rodin to Morphic Resonance

A month after returning to Hong Kong from Ethiopia I went to Paris, mostly for some urgent business meetings with a potential AI-consulting customer there; but since Ruiting was there with me and she had not seen Paris before, we spent some time in the city’s numerous art museums also.   I hadn’t seen the standard Paris museums since my first visit to Paris about 30 years previously; long enough ago that I figured they would be new to me all over again.

There was a Rodin centennial exhibit at the Grand Palais and among the many amazing sculptures there was a terra cotta sculpture of Jesus on the cross.   For some reason this one impacted me emotionally, whereas the hundreds to thousands of other pictures or sculptures of the crucifixion I’d seen in Paris museums on that trip had made no emotional impact whatsoever (to be honest, going through the Louvre and so many old churches in Paris, I had gotten enormously sick of looking at pictures of Jesus and Mary and saints and so forth). 

The messy nature of the terra cotta medium Rodin had used, combined with the elegance of the form and the sheer human emotion on the figure’s face, somehow made me feel that: Here is a human actually suffering.  Here is all human suffering.  Here is the suffering of human beings, trapped as we are between our human bodies and minds and some sort of more perfect form, some more perfect universe.  

I remembered Jack Kerouac describing himself as “just another soul trapped in a body.”   And Rimbaud viewing himself as a Thief of Fire, plunging into the realm beyond our world to grab new forms and ideas, and then back into this world, arranging the patterns and feelings from the cosmic other-world into poetic artworks to be read by plain old everyday humans, and to be apprehended by the transcendent as well as the corporeal aspects of its readers.  

I saw Jesus, in that moment, as – among so many other things – a symbol for the way we humans all straddle the material and the transcendent.   We all have one leg in the material world and one leg sticking out further into the eurycosm, and our lot is to learn to dance as elegantly as we can given this constraint.   But the transcendent in each of us is often too much for society to handle, and so society tortures our material portion, out of intolerance for our transcendent portion.     The image and story of Jesus, among other things, is a metaphor for the torture all of us suffer when our minds and souls stretch too far out of the constraints of our routine material and social lives, and society and psychology squash us.   This is course is how many of the hippies saw Jesus back in the 1960s and 70s in the US – Jesus Christ Superstar, and so forth.   But I’d never really felt it before, though – like Philip K. Dick -- I had been attracted to some of the Gnostic aspects of early Christianity.

The reason this sort of tragedy recurrently happens, in my scientific-philosophical world view, fundamentally has to do not with apples and the Garden of Eden but rather with the nature of individual and group selection in evolution, and with the challenges of creating and maintaining complex dynamics given severely limited computational resources.   

Christianity teaches that the origin of suffering lies in temptation, in the individual choosing pleasures of the flesh over pleasures of the spirit.    Basically in the balance between the material aspect of humanity and the transcendent aspect of humanity, getting broken by the material aspect getting too big for its britches (and thus Eve eats the apple).   On the other hand, for instance, the Popol Vuh (the Mayan holy book) has a different twist: In its take, the perfection of early humans was destroyed because the gods/creators became jealous of their creations and thought humans would not be obedient unless they were made more blind and ignorant.
As pure poetry, I tend to prefer the gnostic myths that say we were gods who become bored with our godhood and blotted out some of our knowledge and abilities so as to give ourselves the challenge of reachieving our godlike abilities and knowledge (actually I first encountered this theory when I was 12 or 13 in the SF novel “A Darkness in My Soul” by Dean R. Koontz, who later became famous as a horror novelist).   Whatever.  The key point is that the suffering comes from the back-and-forth between the transcendent and the material aspects of our beings.   Between the part that is stuck in a very finite, constrained plane, and the part that reaches out into far less constrained regions that appear to our material selves as the Great Unknown…

Musing on the nature of the symbolic power of Christ-on-the-cross and other powerful artistic-philosophical-conceptual-emotional-transcendent concoctions, my mind drifted to my research on psi phenomena and my attempt to create a model of the universe that could explain ESP, precognition, psychokinesis and so forth.   It is these phenomena, among other factors, that moved me to posit a “eurycosm”, a wider universe in which our physical world is embedded.  The eurycosm, as I hypothetically model it, operates according to different principles than our physical world, including principles reminiscent of Sheldrake’s “morphic resonance” principle  — which posits that energy and pattern flow between forms and other similar forms.   Morphic resonance is one way of conceptualizing the power of symbolism.   In a domain where morphic resonance happens, a symbol with certain forms and patterns to it, has a direct impact on anything else that shares some of those same forms and patterns.   In this sort of domain, symbols have their own kind of truth, different from the empirical truth of modern science, yet not totally unrelated to or nonintersecting with scientific truth (e.g. some psi phenomena appear to lie at the intersection).

From a modern scientific view, the idea that King Lalibela built all those stone churches by hand, with help from angels, seems ridiculous.   As my AI-geek colleagues and I walked around those churches, we kept thinking about how they could have been built by one person or a handful of people using clever mechanical contrivances.   Linas Vepstas, in particular – an OpenCog programmer with a physics background, who was in Africa for the first time -- came up with a fair number of specific and reasonably convincing stories in this regard.

On the other hand, as a piece of symbolism, the vision of one king building all the churches with the assistance of angels obviously has a powerful oomph to believers in the Ethiopian Orthodox religion.  And to the extent that morphic resonance is a reality, this sort of belief — packed with powerful symbolism — may have a direct and real impact on the lives of the believers.  By embracing the literalist, empiricist point of view, the morphic resonance power of the symbolic, faith-based point of view gets sacrificed.

On an earlier trip to Ethiopia, I was amazed and dismayed to see a large number of women, many sick with various diseases praying outdoors near a monastery for God to heal their ailments.  I was told many of them had problems that could be cured by antibiotics, and that there were routes for them to get antibiotics for free — but that they preferred to leave it in the hands of God.  If God wants cure me, He’ll cure me — otherwise that means He wants me to come back home.  I saw these suffering women and wanted to somehow convince or compel them to seek modern medical care!

But I also thought about the flip side.  Reading about near-death experiences and reincarnation-type experiences of various sorts, it seems clear that the experience of dying doesn’t have to be one of pain and regret, it can be one of joy and a feeling of coming-home.  It seems that in cultures focused on mystical symbolism and spiritual experiences, it is much more likely that when a person dies, they literally feel themselves moving on to a different realm, through a joyful, warm and illuminated process.   Or perhaps if they themselves feel they have lived a terrible and evil life, they feel themselves moving into a different realm in a much more unpleasant way.

Modern science provides antibiotics and many other wonderful ways to extend life in this realm and make it happier and healthier.  But it also, in its present form, tends to cut off powerful forms of connection between this realm and others.

Walking through the various art museums of Paris on this trip, I found I looked at the various artworks on the walls very differently than the previous version of Ben Goertzel had, when he had been to those same museums 30 years previously.   Back then I had seen amazing works of visual art, created by geniuses under the spell of delusional systems (principally Christianity).   As I saw it then, these artists had fished into the cosmic realm of inspiration a la Rimbaud, but in the process of extracting forms and feelings from this realm, they had distorted these forms tremendously in accordance with their cultural delusional systems.

Now I saw all this still — but I also saw, much more vividly, how these “cultural delusional systems” (e.g. Christianity) had been powerful engines for allowing these brilliant artists to reach into the Cosmic Beyond and fish out beautiful patterns.   The Christian religion provides a system of symbols that — in the form it takes within the mind of the appropriately-minded believer — causes a powerful morphic resonance with various patterns in the Eurycosm, making it much easier for the believer to fish fantastic patterns out of the Eurycosm, than it would generally be without such a system at hand.

So this is one thing religion and traditional culture provide, that science does not (or does only much more weakly, so far).   It’s not just that religion provides psychological comfort, and a framework for social support.  It’s also that religion provides a rich network of symbols, which resonates with the realm of patterns and symbols existing beyond this material world, and helps the believer to resonate with aspects of themselves that exist beyond this material world. 

Somehow all this hit me with a wallop as I stared at Rodin’s gorgeous, heartbreaking terra cotta Christ in the Grand Palais in Paris.  A lot of psychedelic and meditative experiences had intervened for me in the 30 years since I had last visited the Paris museums; plus a lot of confusing and revealing life experiences, and a lot of wide reading on the evidence for psi, reincarnation, survival and other phenomena pointing beyond the materialist perspective.    

The Turing Church, Morphically Resonant Mathematics, and So Forth

But then I ask myself: Is it necessarily the case that, to provide a system of symbols that enables powerful morphic resonance with patterns in the near eurycosm, one must go against empirical observations about our everyday world?

I don’t see any reason why it should be.  Rather, it seems to me that it’s EASIER to construct powerful symbolic systems, with resonant reach beyond this material reality, if one ignores the empirical particulars of this material reality.   But it seems perfectly viable – just a bit more challenging in some ways -- to construct powerful symbolic systems that do not contradict science but rather complement it.

I can see how the fact of violating empirical reality may give some psychological oomph to some religious symbol systems.   This is similar to how believing plainly empirically false things about one’s lover, can give some oomph to romantic love.  On the other hand, intense and devoted and passionate romantic love can also exist without false beliefs.  The value of false beliefs for propping up romantic love is tied up with their ability to work around psychological screwiness on the part of the lover holding the false beliefs.  A healthy, rational, mature, coherent mind can partake of intense romantic love while seeing their lover genuinely for what they are, not needing to build up false idealizations of their lover to “justify” their love.  And similarly, the oomph of embracing symbol systems that go against empirical reality may give satisfaction to some human minds; but a healthy, rational, mature coherent mind should be able to embrace the morphically-resonant coherent and beauty of symbol systems even if these do not contradict observed empirical everyday reality.

Creating powerfully resonant symbol systems that cohere with empirical scientific understanding is a different sort of challenge.   This is what Richard Feynman had in mind when he made beautiful, radiant paintings of the flames at the edge of the sun.  It’s what people have in mind when they make psychedelic pictures from fractal structures in human brains or lungs or leaves.   It’s why we love colorful spiraling images of the DNA double helix.   Not to mention psychedelic electronic music….

On the other hand, shallow moves like the substitution of Newtonmas for Christmas don’t quite do it in my view — Isaac Newton was a great scientist and mathematician but celebrating his birthday simply doesn’t have the oomph for the physicist that celebrating Jesus’s birthday has for the Christian.  If one wants to celebrate some physics-related event, the date of the discovery of the quantum, or of the first empirical validation of General Relativity Theory or of the cosmic background radiation (validating the Big Bang theory) would be more appropriate.  Or what about the date of discovery of the structure of DNA? or of the germ theory of disease?  After all, in science, it is not really the individual scientist that is key, but rather the progress of knowledge and understanding.

To me, as a mathematician, the abstract structures of category theory and algebraic topology and complex analysis so forth, have an incredible beauty and an obvious morphic-resonance power, far beyond Christ on the cross and Tibetan mandalas and so forth.  However, to someone who’s not a mathematician, these things are just a bunch of babble and a bunch of random-looking marks on a page.  

I do wonder, though, if future AGI or cyborg mathematicians may explicitly create mathematical theories with a view toward their morphic-resonance oomph, as well as their practical applications and their formal properties.   Or actually, though, how different would that be from what we’re already doing?  What is the crux of the mysterious notion of “elegance” that guides most mathematical invention?   Like the beauty of a sculpture or painting or poem, the elegance of a mathematical theorem, proof or definition combines aspects that are clearly relative to particulars of human psychology and culture; and also aspects that appear more “cosmic” and universal, more broadly resonant – perhaps more powerfully and extensively reaching beyond our world into the eurycosm.

Giulio Prisco has proposed the idea of a “Turing Church”, a religion focused on the power of advanced technology to provide joy and salvation.   Once one gets beyond the comical image of a bunch of geeks bowing down in prayer to a robot in priestly robes, there is some depth and beauty to this vision.  Above all it feels to me like a challenge: to create symbol systems that are coherent with modern science, but that equal or exceed the morphic-resonating aesthetic oomph of the good old religious symbol-systems.  

I do think this challenge is going to be met, but (just as Giulio himself has suggested to me in conversation) it may not be met by folks like Giulio and myself who are intellectually musing about these ideas.   Such symbol systems may emerge organically as human and posthuman culture evolve, just as prior art and literary and religious movements have evolved via the collective activity of multiple communities of creative minds.   Perhaps they will take the form of new kind of visual art or music or literature.  Perhaps they will take the form of new types of mathematic, or new dynamics of mathematical theorem-proving that can only be appreciated by AGIs or people with special uber-Mathematica brain chips.  Most probably, after a bit of evolution they will take some form utterly unimaginable by our limited and ignorant 2017 human minds.

In the meantime, while I cannot accept the belief systems going along with the stone churches of Lalibela or Rodin’s sculpture of Christ on the cross, I can now -- more richly than my earlier versions -- appreciate the resonant power of the symbol-systems they embody … and I can now realize, far more fully than I did 30 years ago, that neither I nor the modern scientific paradigm as a whole have yet come to grips with the various dimensions of this sort of power and its ability to connect human minds with aspects of reality beyond the everyday material realm.

And So It Goes…


  1. That was beautiful Ben. Do you see OpenCog evolving in to this symbolic system, being a medium for this symbolic system or an old-testament like foundation? It seems we have a biological need for structures and dogma and a technological based religion like the Turing Church seems inevitable. Thanks for the great imagery in your writing and mental stimulus.

  2. Exceedingly interesting. Although morphic resonance seems irrational... But I wonder what you'd think about my post Nights Before the Singularity.
    I'm just a college kid, but lately my mind can't help but escape from tedious assignments to create Singularitarian-worship the multiverse-type content. I did some Avant Garde-ish, experimental writing that 'resonates' with this post too much:
    And when I was sixteen, I wrote a business plan about how this Turing church might look: A cross between secular buddhism and Cosmos episodes. I also recently found a band called The Ocean that made a beautiful song about evolution called The Origin of Species and a song called Ptolemy Was Wrong. Also, did you know that there's a legit Buddhist metal band?
    "Why would anyone with wisdom be content in this place? This body is a collection of sorrows... and affliction. AND I, BEFORE THE LIONS AMONG MEN!!!" There's also a good Evangelical Christian band called Thrice, but I wish there was more science with this kind of passion and heartfelt lyrics.
    Okay, back to the Ibn Battuta paper.