MEETING of April 17, 1996:

There were eight in attendance. Glenn Johnston was the Prince of hosts, grandly hospitable and generous. He provided his own freshly baked chocolate chip cookies for the event. Don Farmer brought us white wine. What a combo!

Rachel Burgio gave us an informative and enthusiastic report on the Consciousness Conference in Tucson. It seeded an inspired discussion homing in, once again, on the limits of science in dealing with consciousness.

Is 'knowing' possible outside of science? Are there truths not accessible to science? I confess that I thought not - until last meeting.


Consider Craig Stainbrook's favorite Shaman. The one who perceives the very structure of the universe via direct experience. Via revelation. If one asks, as the scientist does, "How are we to know it to be true when the Shaman asserts it? It may just be an illusion."

Answer: You cannot 'know' this experience if you insist on verifiability. Since not everyone can have the experience, it cannot be verified by science. It is beyond science. One cannot explore something beyond science by the scientific method. If one could, it would not be beyond science.

Perhaps the Shaman's truth is not verbalizable. Perhaps there are truths that are not accessible by the dissemination apparatus of science: words and numbers.

So the experience of 'knowing' or 'understanding the universe' may be a 'true' statement about the universe but this statement - the experience - cannot be verified by science. Only the experiencer knows it to be true. The scientist, caged by his philosophy, denies himself knowledge! It is only available outside of science.

He denies himself this knowledge because he has no way of distinguishing it from lunacy. That he is not armed with the equipment to make the distinction doesn't mean no distinction exists. How distinguish revelation from lunacy? It's a remarkably practical question. Sainthood in the church confronts this problem. But so do commerce and business and engineering and politics: the innovator may be a lunatic or divinely inspired.

From Warren S. McCulloch, "Embodiments of Mind", 1988, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA , p. 367 and 368.

"I think it was about 1929 that Goedel arithmetized logic, proving that the deduction of a proposition from a finite number of premises was precisely equivalent to computing a number. Within ten years Turing had shown that a finite machine . . working on a tape as long as need be, could compute any number that a man could compute. . . . In 1942 Pitts and McCulloch . . . showed that . . .a net of . . neurons could compute any computable number and, hence, could reach any conclusion given by a finite set of premises . . ."

"To ask whether computers can think is ambiguous. In the naive realistic sense of the term, it is people who think, and not either brains or machines. If, however, we permit ourselves the ellipsis of referring to the operations of the human brain as 'thinking', then . . . computers think."

Objection to McCulloch expressed by Roger House and Jeff Love: That a neural net can embrace all logic is not sufficient to qualify it as a brain. Inspiration is outside of logic.

Are we sure? Can neural nets show inspiration?

Salient comment of Phil Sullivan: "Whatever truth is found outside science, it cannot contradict science and still be truth!" Since this cannot be said of any other pretender to truth does not science therefore occupy a privileged position with regard to truth?

Consider mapping the brain during revelation or inspiration! This does not provide the observer with the truth - with the experience. If one wants to know what is revealed he must find other ways than brain mapping - say meditation, the path laid down by the knower!

But suppose science advances so that along with brain-activity mapping comes brain-activity stimulation! Then science could stimulate the revealed experience. We could all line up to have a revelation!

I expect Roger House's presentation on Gurdjieff at our next meeting will bear on all these problems. It's scheduled for Wednesday, May 8, 1996, 6:30 pm. I know we all await it eagerly.

The place will be at Roger's house. Click here for a map.

Roger has kindly provided us with the following short bibliography of twenty-one works by and about Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. He assures us that if this is too short an assignment we may consult Speeth's book for an extensive bibliography.

1. Gurdjieff, G.I., "All and Everything", Routledge & Kegan Paul Limited, London, 1950 (first printing). [This is actually the First Series of All and Everything: An Objectively Impartial Criticism of the Life of Man, or, Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson.]

2. Gurdjieff, G.I., The Second Series of All and Everything: "Meetings With Remarkable Men", E.P. Dutton & Co., New York, 1969. [Copyright 1963.]

3. Gurdjieff, G.I., The Third Series of All and Everything: "Life is Real Only Then, When 'I Am'", privately printed by E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc., for Triangle Editions, Inc., New York, 1975. [For private distribution only.]

4. "Guide and Index to G.I. Gurdjieff's 'All and Everything -- Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson'", Traditional Studies Press, Toronto, Canada, 1973.

5. Ouspensky, P.D., "In Search of the Miraculous - Fragments of an Unknown Teaching", Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., New York, 1949.

6. Ouspensky, P.D., "Tertium Organum -- The Third Canon of Thought -- A Key to the Enigmas of the World", Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1964.

7. Bennett, J.G., "Gurdjieff -- A Very Great Enigma", Samuel Weiser, Inc., New York, 1973.

8. Bennett, J.G., "Gurdjieff -- Making a New World", Harper & Row, New York, 1973.

9. Bennett, J.G., "Is There 'Life" on Earth? -- An Introduction to Gurdjieff", Stonehill Publishing Company, New York, 1973.

10. Butkovsky-Hewitt, Anna, "With Gurdjieff in St. Petersburg and Paris", Samuel Weiser, Inc., New York, 1978.

11. Fuchs, John, "Forty Years After Gurdjieff -- A Guide to Practical Work", Gurdjieff Group of Denver, Denver, CO, 1994.

12. Lefort, Rafael, "The Teachers of Gurdjieff", Victor Gollancz Limited, London, 1966. [Although presented as fact, there are some who think this book is an allegory, and that none of the people mentioned (if they existed at all) were really teachers of Gurdjieff.]

13. Mairet, Philip, "A.R. Orage", University Books, New Hyde Park, New York, 1966.

14. Needleman, Jacob, "A Sense of the Cosmos -- The Encounter of Modern Science and Ancient Truth", E.P. Dutton & Co., New York, 1965.

15. Orage, A.R., "Consciousness - Animal, Human, and Superman", Samuel Weiser, Inc., New York, 1974.

16. Orage, A.R., "On Love -- with Some Aphorisms and Other Essays", Samuel Weiser, Inc., York Beach, Maine, 1974.

17. Orage, A.R., "Psychological Exercises and Essays", Samuel Weiser, Inc., New York, 1974. [First published 1930.]

18. Speeth, Kathleen Riordan, and Friedlander, Ira, "Gurdjieff -- Seeker of the Truth", Harper Colophon Books, Harper & Row, New York, 1980. [Contains a bibliography of over 500 entries on Gurdjieff's writings and music, and writings about Gurdjieff.]

19. Travers, P.L., "George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff", Traditional Studies Press, Toronto, Canada, 1973. [A pamphlet containing an amplified version of an article appearing in the encyclopedia "Man, Myth, and Magic".]

20. Webb, James, "The Harmonious Circle -- The Lives and Work of G.I. Gurdjieff, P.D. Ouspensky, and Their Followers", Shambhala, Boston, 1987. [Original hardcover edition, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1980.]

21. Wilson, Colin, "The War Against Sleep -- The Philosophy of Gurdjieff", The Aquarian Press Limited, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, 1980.

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April 1996
Marvin Chester