Archive for May, 2015

Understanding the The God Paradigm

by on May.08, 2015, under - Show All Posts, Abstract Philosophical Musings

From A Buddhist/Vedantic Reading of the Brothers Karamazov, an essay I wrote on The Brothers Karamazov for Harvard’s Slavic 155. The cited book Religiousness in Yoga by Desikachar is especially worth reading.

Goal:  Explain my understanding of how all computers and thinking/living things are channeling the vast computational power of the universe, how intention and motivation arise from this sunlike source of energy, and how finding a way of existence that flows with this source of energy is what is meant by being inspired by “the holy spirit.”          

The God Paradigm

How do we come to personally understand what is meant by the idea of Christian God short of having transcendent experiences? Below I propose a model of doing so that is fundamentally Buddhist or Vedic, though it was derived from modern scientific thinking (which is, in a way, Buddhist). To explain, I will trace you along the steps of my own realization.

This journey began when I was in high school, hiking during a thunderstorm. I was pondering, with some trepidation, how the path of lightning bolts are determined. Suddenly I was struck (by an idea) – if the lightning bolts somehow took some sort of shortest path, could you use them – a natural phenomenon — to solve the computational shortest path problem? As it turns out, this insight didn’t pan out, but the idea stuck with me: to what extent can nature itself actually solve computational problems? It turned out, this was the entrance this was the beginning of a complete revolution in thought for me. Soon, I came to realize that all computers do is follow the laws of physics, and that, as it seems, the universe itself — nature — is what is performing the “computing” that they do. Each instant of time, the universe computes its next state from the previous, in the process moving the processing elements of computers to their next states. All our computers do is channel a small portion of the greater universal computational capacity and use it to process some information we can perceive! This was profound.

But the profounder connection still came when I realized that brains themselves, which do things as fantastic as produce our personal feelings and motivations — our consciousness — if they follow the laws of physics too (as we believe they do), aren’t actually producing our motivations “themselves,” but instead, each tick of time are just having their the next state computed from their previous state by the physics engine of the universe. We, and computers, and all objects moving in the physical world, are animated by this incredible causal “force” that causes time to move forward. So that made me ask: what is this great computational force that gives rise to the movement of all things moment by moment — to inanimate objects, to computers, to brains? What is this great computational capacity that my mind, and your mind, and my computer, are merely channeling? And why does it compute anyway?

This suddenly gave me a glimmer of understanding of what God was for the first time, and I suddenly glimpsed what the religious mean when they say that we are figments in the imagination of the “mind of God.” In my model, I could construe the “mind of God” to mean the whole universe — all things, including us personally, even our minds and our bodies — are but small processing elements being shuttled around by the animus of physics in a much larger system. The notion that God transcends and includes me enabled me to see how even a deist (noninterventionist) God would be a truly conscious entity — in the same way you or I are, because it is the very thing from which our consciousness flows! We are just a piece of its consciousness. Suddenly I understood the God paradigm, its elegance, and its explanatory usefulness. (continue reading…)

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