I am sure that most of you, weather you be Atheists of Theists have heard a whole lot about God's Will. This is thrown out like verbal diarrhea every time that someone dies or a natural disaster occurs. I have often questioned why people are so quick to say that a kid that gets caught in the crossfire of a gang shooting received a "gift" and that it was God's Will that she get shot and killed in a park. How is that a gift? What proof is there that she is in a better place? Who are you to make such claims? It may sound nice and comforting at the time, but it is not all that it is cracked up to be. As the title of this post implies, I am going to be talking about God's will and our own freedom. Does God's Will take away our freedom?
To start let us look at the Frankfurt Cases. This is a thought experiment that involves two cases that are identical, except for one part.

Case 1
There are two men: Smith and Jones. Smith is pointing a gun at Jones and is deciding whether or not to shoot him. There is also an evil demon that COULD control the outcome. In this case Jones decides not to shoot Jones, however the evil demon forces Smith to pull the trigger and kill Jones.

Case 2
There are two men: Smith and Jones. Smith is pointing a gun at Jones and is deciding whether or not to shoot him. There is also an evil demon that COULD control the outcome. In this case Smith decides to shoot Jones with his own free will, and the evil demon does nothing.

Take a good look at these cases. What do you notice? First off, they are identical except for one part, which is where the evil demon comes in. The other thing is that the outcome was the same, but the method of getting to that outcome was different. If it was Smith's choice to shoot Jones or if the evil demon commanded him to, the result was the exact same. So, my question is, if "God's Will be done" then the end result will always be the same. So are we really free to make our own decision? If we are, what is the point of making them if it is just going to achieve God's Will in the end?

Another thing that I question is how a person would know what God's Will is. I really don't have a concrete answer for how one would definitively know what God's Will is, but I can speculate as to why it would be appealing to chalk up the bad things in life it "it was God's Will".
The same sort of thing happens (in someone's mind) when there is a conspiracy about something like 9/11. Sometimes when something horrible happens it scares people, which is normal. However, being humans it is in our nature to want an explanation of why something happened. In the case of conspiracy theories Jodi Dean says,

People hate thinking about, in the flash on an eye terrorist bomber...

I think that the same thing happens in the minds of Theists when a natural disaster, like Hurricane Katrina, occurs. It is much more comforting to think that there is a plan in place. People don't like to think that bad things can just happen, they would rather be optimistic about some plan that would take them to a better place (heaven supposedly, but I'll save that for another post). Michael Martin said it best in his book Atheism: A Philosophical Justification -

If pessimism is justified by the evidence, then we must be pessimistic. If we are optimistic when pessimism is justified, we are irrational.

If you are a Theist or an Atheist, please leave your comments and opinions, I would love to know more about the topic from all perspectives. Bear in mind, however, I will research what you say if I think that you haven't done your research.

Views: 1394

Comment by Jimmy on March 23, 2013 at 3:25pm

@Unseen Terence McKenna would often say "lack of brevity is proof of psychosis" as a kind of way to make fun of himself, because if you've ever heard any of his talks, they were anything but brief. In fact, they're some of the longest on-going talks on YouTube, just take a look at "Plants, Consciousness, and Transformation" to give an example. But you're definitely right, succinctness is key. I do try my best to keep it short as I can, but if I hadn't stopped myself, I would've definitely typed out a few more paragraphs on some of the points I wanted to make. The "if I could have written shorter, I would" apology is never more true here. If you could thoroughly assimilate some of the concepts I've laid out there and summarize 'em in a more concise form, I'd praise you. I think the reason I have so much to say is because a lot of the words surrounding these topics are fraught with the specious and morbidly tainted, so I feel a kind of obligation to take the time to define all these things in order to avoid ambiguity as much as possible. By the way, if you ever encountered me in the chatroom here, you'd realize I am sort of a semi-OCD nut.

@archaeopteryx Well, to be clear, I said the "and what's with this," then continued to quote something you posted earlier in the thread. It's the 6th post from the bottom of page 10 on this thread, you said that you agreed with Dawkins regarding these "altered states."

Your point about pink elephants may be true relative to delirium tremens, but definitely not towards the experience involving tryptamine-based psychedelics. I only quoted Sam Harris to give a kind of neuroscientific explanation of why some of these occurrences may be so. I think if I hadn't quoted Sam and left some of my interpretations, I would be left sounding like a madman! So, as exotic or as absurd as some of these ideas may sound, I at least want you guys to know that I haven't escaped the bounds of rationality completely. ;)

So, if I had to summarize what I laid out there is that, basically, there exist a phenomenon in consciousness that most people don't know about. There are many routes to it, only psychedelics seem to be the least risky and most effective route to having this experience. And that religion may have been a kind of by-product of it, because it's my speculation that those men that lived so long ago who had this experience had to tell everybody about it, and alas, they each became a founder of a religion. A friend of mine on another atheist forum put it this way, "Okay, I think I can agree. There are things going on in the brain that have been hijacked and associated with religion even though they are simply natural processes." Sure, that's one way to put it, but...

I think the real point here is... You see, you mentioned "secret knowledge." The psychedelic experience is a kind of "esoteric" thing that exists in the peripherals of our society, it sort of lurks in the background and behind the scenes. Of course, if you live in the U.S. or the U.K., you have to jump the fence of legality to even begin to experiment. Despite the fact that DMT is present in the brain, it's highly illegal in both the U.S. and the U.K., even for scientific study! The point is that this is something that is grossly overlooked. As I mentioned, it's never been discussed in "The Atheist Experience" or any atheist podcast that I'm aware of. I seem to be the only raving bastard on atheist forums attempting to shed light on it. I just think it needs to be more carefully looked at. I want to leave some quotes relative to what I'm trying to get out here. You guys don't have to read 'em, but they're there for your indulgence.

“One toke [of DMT] away is this absolutely reality-dissolving, catagory-reconstructing, mind-boggling possibility. And I feel like this is a truth that has to be told.”- Terence McKenna

"Our society has created a gigantic prejudice against altered states of consciousness. You know, we're very happy for people to blitz ourselves into oblivion with alcohol every night. We're very happy for people to close down their mental processes by watching endless hours of the most awful television, but if a free and independent adult chooses to experiment with his own consciousness, to explore his own consciousness through sacred plants, that grow naturally along side us on this planet, if an individual does that, he can be sent to prison in our society. We so value the alert, problem-solving state of consciousness needed to deal with the everyday world, that we have simply neglected, cut-off, ignored, missed the other 90% of our consciousness, and it was that 90% of our consciousness, I believe, that made us human." -Graham Hancock

"This is what psychedelics were and are about in terms of their social position, and their legal position in society. Psychedelics are illegal not because a loving government is concerned you may jump out of a third story window; psychedelics are illegal because they dissolve structured opinions, and culturally laid down models of behavior and information processing. They open you to the possibility that everything you know is wrong." -Terence McKenna

"I didn’t get into this business by being an airhead or a screwball. My attitude was always if it’s real it can take the pressure. You don’t have to pussy foot around the real thing. If they’re telling you, oh you must lower your voice, and avert your gaze, then you’re probably in the presence of crap, because the real thing is real. It doesn’t demand that you adjust your opinion to suit it. It’s real! That means that it’s pre-eminent. That means it sets the agenda. And, I studied yoga, I wandered around in the East, I was fast shuffled by beady-eyed little men in dotes. I know the whole spiritual supermarket and rigmarole, and I find nothing there to interest me on the level of, you know, five grams of psilocybin mushrooms in silent darkness. That’s where the pedal meets the metal. That’s where the rubber meets the road. And the inspiration for me to get up and talk to an audience like this simply comes from the fact that I cannot believe that this could be kept under wraps, the way it has. I mean, I kidded with you earlier that they would make sex illegal, if they could. Well they can't, so it isn’t. But the psychedelic experience is as central to understanding your humanness; as having sex, or having a child, or having responsibilities, or having hopes and dreams, and yet it is illegal. We are somehow told, we are infantilized. We are told you know you can wander around with in the sanctioned playpen of ordinary consciousness, and we have some intoxicants over here if you wanna mess your self up we’ve got some scotch here and some tobacco and red meat and some sugar and a little T.V. and so forth and so on. But, these boundary dissolving hallucinogens that give you a sense of unity with your fellow man and nature are somehow forbidden. This is an outrage! It’s a sign of cultural immaturity and the fact that we tolerate it is a sign that we are living in a society as oppressed as any society in the past." - Terence McKenna from the talk "Eros & The Eschaton"

Comment by Jimmy on March 23, 2013 at 5:00pm

@archaeopteryx - That's fine with me. I mean, I don't know how honest your profile is, but if you truly are in the 47-52 age range, I suppose the psychedelic endeavor sort of loses its "joie de vivre"? I don't know. Terence McKenna was 53 when he died, and claimed to have a psychedelic experience at least once or twice a year, even in his 50s. I've been trying to get my mother to try psychedelics, she's 52.

But I mean, as I said, it's definitely not for everyone and the only people who psychedelics seem to draw in are people who have the courage and will to travel to the very depths of consciousness, and it's not easy. I mean, all the things you've been hiding under the floorboards of your psyche and brushing underneath the carpet will jump at you all at once during this experience, and that's just within the first couple of hours! I mean, once you get past all that, then you get down to the nitty-gritty, you know... meaning of life, am I dead? Is this God? That sort of thing.

And to be honest, I had a very childish curiosity prior to trying psychedelics... I simply wanted to experience hallucination, so when I heard Terence McKenna's recommendation of "five dried grams of psilocybin mushrooms" as the amount to take to have the full-spectrum experience, I immediately sought that. It took me about two years until I finally found someone that had the "stuff." And I bought five dried grams, it cost me $75... but I didn't think I'd get into all this other religio-philosophical stuff. That came after the experience. I thought, you know, that I'd gleefully sit back on a couch, watch pink elephants dance, leprechauns prance, and ride a unicorn trance. Instead... I thought when McKenna said, "You will be nailed to the ground, etc." he was just using metaphors to describe the profound hallucinations. I didn't think he meant that literally until I found myself on the ground hanging on to my sanity for dear life.

It's an experience that when you have it, you'll spend the rest of your days pondering it, and who knows? Perhaps we all see it at death, but thanks for your time and reading these posts. I stopped arguing with people about this stuff, 'cause I  eventually realized for it to be truly dealt with, one has to experience it, so I only offer these as concepts to ricochet in your mind. I'm not trying to convince you that this is so, I only want you to consider its possibilities. I offer 'em simply as ideas to play with.

Comment by Strega on March 23, 2013 at 8:57pm


There have been studies published last year on the effects of psilocybin on brain activity.  I will quote from one here

Why psilocybin might induce reductions in brain activity is not known, but it is natural to speculate. The authors argued that the findings are consistent with Aldous Huxley’s idea that normal consciousness acts like a “reducing valve” that actually constrains how much information a person normally takes in, so that one is not overwhelmed by chaotic stimuli. Therefore, the apparent “mind-expanding” effect of psychedelic drugs is due to a relaxation of this constraining effect. The reduced activity of the brains connector hubs might permit an “unconstrained style of cognition” producing psychedelic effects (Carhart-Harris, et al., 2012).

Now whilst I am completely with you on the sensation of expansion and the rest, when you consider that sensation with the chemical activity that goes on in your head, you have to allow that the minds ability to recognise such a massive input surge may be inadequate, and instead a mental fusion would be perceived.  This could quite easily be conceived to be a religious experience.  But physically, it is a chemical one.

Comment by Strega on March 23, 2013 at 9:18pm

@Angela - You inadvertently linked to the Somatic Nervous System.  Here is the link I think you meant to use :)

Comment by Jimmy on March 24, 2013 at 5:02pm

Well, I've gotten more feedback here than at the Atheist-Nexus or the SA-atheist forums which is where I usually post at. I don't have the time now to review all the posts, but I skimmed through some of them. I'll definitely have a response later, but again, I have to go to work. -_-

@Angela I have plenty of bookmarks related to the material you've responded to me with. I'll share as soon as I can get a chance to get back online.

@ archaeopteryx Yes, "hallucination" is a very ambiguous word, I think. I wouldn't equate the hallucinations of the psychedelic experience to DTs or dreams or anything like that. They're quite different, and as soon as I get a chance, I'll try and elaborate. Again, this goes to the fact why I think hallucinations should be dealt with by direct experience, otherwise, you're right, it's simply a word... and this word can lead you astray, because fact of the matter is most people have never experienced hallucination (with the exception of dreams) and so their only thing to go by is what they read in a medical book or something like that.

@Strega Well, on my last post, one of the reasons I mentioned David Bohm's "Quantum Mind" is because I feel that this phenomenon isn't restricted to what we call "the physical," but I'm not talking about the soul or a supernatural plain or something a theist might peddle, but rather consciousness may be intertwined with what M-Theorists rave about. I'd recommend the YouTube channel "10thdim" as it covers some of this stuff, but I believe consciousness may rest on a chemical foundation, but isn't necessarily a product of it.

Comment by Jimmy on March 26, 2013 at 7:25am

@Angela, here's one link I came across. If you would search "how can" on that page, you'll get to a question that I think is relative to some of the responses you've had. Here's another that I just found right now searching for something else I want to post that goes over the similarities between meditation and the altered states induced by psilocybin. There's a few more, but I'll just post one more, and you can find many of these on YouTube... This one particularly annoys me, because it's really sad and disappointing that we're just now discovering the benefits of psychedelics after decades of ignoring it. Well, here it is... maybe you've seen it.

@archaeopteryx  I'm not sure if your last comment was meant to be... satirical. Concerning mental degradation, I'm really not sure. I mean, the way Terence McKenna would do it is he would do it rarely, but at high doses. He'd literally only take it about twice or thrice a year, and he considered that often. Later in his life, he would start taking it less and less. I know that there have been tests of shamans living in Brazil who take ayahuasca very often have been found to be quite healthy, even more healthy than most Americans, I might add. I suppose if you take low doses of psilocybin, you can probably take it often, because you sort of just keep the "demon at bay." That's the only way someone could take it often, by taking low doses and keeping the onslaught of the full-spectrum vision far away from what you're experiencing, and I'm really not sure what the long-term effects of that are, but... I really believe, if you take the full-spectrum dose, all you need is one experience.  As Jung once said, if you want to understand the jungle, you can't be content just to sail back and forth near the shore. You've got to get into it, no matter how strange and frightening it might seem.

However, concerning tryptamine-based "hallucination," I will say that whoever does this, doesn't matter who they are, seem to have a type of experience that is, as I've described, not a personal projection of the subconscious, but rather a kind of impersonal or transpersonal. Although, it may be filtered through a person's personality, by and large, people tend to have an experience that isn't necessarily related to the individual. The hallucinatory motifs within this experience aren't reducible to the individual. Now, I know I've mentioned the work of the artist Alex Grey who actually takes these "heroic doses" of psychedelics, and then paints from those visions.

The hallucinations that occur with tryptamine-based hallucinogens seem to be universal amongst individuals. In other words, if you were to take the "full-spectrum" dose, what you'd see behind closed eyelids are fractal patterns. Terence McKenna once poetically used the line, "Iridescent mandalic patterns." Everything around you condenses into not pink elephants or unicorns, but fractals. Now, on a low dose, you may get a kind of "pulling" or "attraction" which appears as visual distortion, but if you go higher, you realize what this distortion actually was, was a kind of on-set of a complete underlying pattern that, because you took a low dose, doesn't take its complete form. So, what happens on the low dose, is you get this on-set, but then it retracts before it goes any further, and you come back to the baseline of consciousness. However, if you've taken the "full-spectrum" dose, then you have this iridescent mandalic vision that can present itself in complete darkness behind closed eyelids.

Now, isn't interesting that the surface of the looms of the brain itself are fractal? Here's an example, you may have to scroll down on that page to find the example of the human brain. I'm not sure if you clicked on that last link above that I directed towards Angela, but a woman gives her account after coming down from a psilocybin experience where she says she saw a "kaleidoscope of colours."

I do realize that this description may sound as though it's trivializing this experience. I do wanna say about this vision, that once you encounter it, it's something that while you're looking at it, you find it to be utterly alien, totally incomprehensible, completely terrifying, yet fascinating —you can't take your eyes off it. I don't want to simplify it to a cheerful kaleidoscopic display, because it doesn't just encompass what can be seen, but the entire gamut of experience.

Shamanic art, Egyptian art, etc. all possess the mandala archetype in their art. I don't really find that a coincidence. The significance of this vision, I want to relate it to the woman's comment in the last link I left for Angela where she said, "There was a tearing open of my heart, then the feeling that we were all one." But I'm again, short on time... I'm going to have to continue this another time, but I'll leave you a couple of links that I'd like for you to take a look at, archaeopteryx…

The link below leads to a podcast that is quite long in duration, but I ask if you would only listen about two or three minutes into it.

Dennis McKenna and Joe Rogan on the "Cynical view of Psychedelics."

As an aside, my truck broke down, and so I haven't much time to get online. I'm trying to get it repaired and have been working a lot lately, but here's a hint at what my next post will involve concerning the hallucinations of psilocybin and the significance of "fractals."

Rob Bryanton on "fractals."

@Strega, I'm sorry. I will find the time to respond. In the meantime, I suppose I will ask, did you happen to take a look at Rob Bryanton's "10thdim" channel on YouTube?

Comment by Strega on March 26, 2013 at 10:41am

Of course, Jimmy.  I always cross-reference with other posters links, it enables me to better understand their argument. It appears that we both believe a transformation of thought processes is a consequence of taking a dose of a chemical.  Our paths separate where I believe it is an event taking place solely within the users head, whereas you are indicating that you believe it takes place more broadly, outside the users head.

There is no rush to respond, get that truck fixed, it's far more of an immediate issue.

On a side note, thanks for including some line breaks in your post, albeit sparsely.  I understand you are pouring out a flow in your head, but you could go back and break up hefty paragraphs after you've got your thoughts out.  It helps to make your points readable.

Comment by Unseen on March 26, 2013 at 3:44pm

I want to link you to someone who has accepted "hard determinism" as truth, and he has an interesting take on it. It's not my position, but I can see how someone could rationalize this position. I'll leave the link below. "Hard determinism", as you may know, the idea of "no free will" is quite akin, by metaphor, as the universe being like a movie burnt to a DVD. While people believe they're making choices and doing things, the fact of the matter is, if you accept this point-of-view... then that means choice is an illusion, and that everything; your thought, the sway of every grass blade, the motion of every cloud, the fall of every rain drop, has been predetermined throughout all eternity.

No, if you accept hard determinism, it's not true that choice is an illusion. Rather, whatever choice you make is the one dictated by your brain state and your perceptions at the time. What would you feel would be better, some randomizing factor?

I always wonder how people who feel there's free will (1) define it and (2) think it could be possible. If free will is simply having options, then an amoeba confronted with two morsels of nutrient has free will. The real question is, what sense does it make to suppose that your brain, a chemical machine, isn't operating by the deterministic laws that govern everything from the patterns of cream poured into coffee to a supernova? How is it that simply because you're a human being, you're somehow a miracle that doesn't have to obey those laws?

Comment by Jimmy on March 26, 2013 at 4:11pm

@Unseen, that is the definition of "hard determinism." It is the Newtonian physics where everything succumbs to a fatalism, where the laws of physics are governed by predeterminism.

While I'd like to get thoroughly into this topic, because I feel the original poster only briefly brushed it, I'll leave you with one link.... to an audio clip where "compatibilism" is sort of put into perspective. Assimilate it as much as you can, and then we'll get into this, because I've always thought that the idea of "predeterminism" is an interesting one, because if it's that what is truly going on right now…

Then, we have an answer, in a certain sense… Here's the link: 

Non Dual Mystery

Comment by Jimmy on March 27, 2013 at 6:43am

@Strega Do you recall the example I gave about the tree on page 14? I suppose what I'm getting at is that consciousness isn't fully explained unless you have something like "quantum biology" in the picture. If you reduced it solely to a chemical process, then what do you think about something like "hard determinism" being true?

In other words, if you reduced it to the "physical," that means brain processes, including thought, must succumb to the same principles of physics that so-called "unconscious" objects do. For an example, think of dice thrown on a table; depending at the momentum thrown, trajectory of the fall, etc. the dice will have a "specific" place to land, i.e. due to the laws of physics. Well, it would also go that thought would have to the succumb to the same thing, which would hint at "no free will," the original topic of this thread.

I want to link you to someone who has accepted "hard determinism" as truth, and he has an interesting take on it. It's not my position, but I can see how someone could rationalize this position. I'll leave the link below. "Hard determinism", as you may know, the idea of "no free will" is quite akin, by metaphor, as the universe being like a movie burnt to a DVD. While people believe they're making choices and doing things, the fact of the matter is, if you accept this point-of-view... then that means choice is an illusion, and that everything; your thought, the sway of every grass blade, the motion of every cloud, the fall of every rain drop, has been predetermined throughout all eternity.

Ramesh Balsekar - Uniquely Programmed Individual

I do realize I've been quite brief here, but if you respond, I will be more elaborate on my next post. I think I could respond more efficiently if I knew your position on this. Do you believe we have free will? Are you a hard determinist? Perhaps you've accepted "compatibilism"? Hmm..?

@archaeopteryx As you may have noticed, I deleted my original post. However, that was quite funny. You may be interested in a parody on YouTube of Terence McKenna entitled "Most Intense DMT Experience." You know, you could deliver that line, and people may laugh or find a way to parody it, but I really doubt you'd be so inclined to indulge in humor if you had five dried grams of psilocybin-containing mushrooms. Until then, you're right, it's moot point.


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