Going out of my comfort zone and reviewing a very strange book indeed.

I think it's entirely rational to speculate as to the nature of the mind. Certainly, it could be that the mind is nothing more than the actions of particles within the brain by some ferociously complicated process. But why is is considered so ridiculous to propose that our sense of self is actually just some shard of a much greater "cosmic mind", a "spark of the divine" with reality an "objective illusion" as Black calls it ?

Answer : it isn't. But it is unequivocally *un*scientific. Yes, everything could be an illusion or a simulation, but it isn't possible to test this scientifically. One could use this hypothesis to explain any otherwise tricky phenomena, thus getting us nowhere. In terms of analysing the world around us though, it's useless.

And the "we're all living in a simulation" idea, which seems to be an increasingly reoccurring theme on the internet these days, is just a modern manifestation of old mystical notions. It's simply been redrafted in a way that militant materialists are marginally more comfortable with. Even the very term consciousness has mystical overtones. But computers ? Mere machines. We know about computers, we understand computers, with think we can build artificial intelligence => someone else has probably built an AI => we're all living in a simulation. It's exactly the same idea as that of a cosmic mind, just with a crude and ineffective attempt to strip it of the supernatural elements. It lets the materialists off the hook of having to concede that minds are all-important while simultaneously but stealthily acknowledging that minds are all-important. It's just replacing one god with another.

This isn't anti-science at all, unless you think that Elon Musk is anti-science - at least, so long as you don't go resorting to using simulation/cosmic mind as your explanation for everything. But it is most definitely un-science.

While Black claims that sometimes visions of mystical beings and whatnot happen in a spiritual realm which is normally inaccessible, which I could accept as merely unscientific, he also claims that sometimes these events happen entirely in the physical world.

And lo and behold... just like every single other book on the paranormal I've ever read (and there have been many over the years), his descriptions of these are unconvincing and his citations are frankly appalling. If you want to say, "I'm being irrational but here's what I believe - I don't think these things can be analysed rationally" (which he does on many occasions), then fine. But if you want to say, "here's the rational, measurable evidence for what I believe", then you've got to do better than a bunch of anecdotes.

Yet I find it as preposterous to consider the Universe and conclude that it definitely has no absolute, intrinsic meaning - as scientisim assumes - as I do to conclude that it's all about a big beardy dude in the sky who is inordinately concerned with whether I eat bacon or what I do with my genitals. The assumption that there's no great cosmic mind is just that - an assumption. A leap of non-faith. Ordinary science doesn't concern itself with this in the least, it simply looks at the world and tries to explain the observations according to rational processes. Whether there's some higher power at work causing those processes and imbuing them with meaning is irrelevant. Only scientism explicitly believes against the existence of such a divinity - ordinary science doesn't give a crap about it. Science is apatheistic, scientism is antitheist.

For me neither materialism nor idealism provide satisfactory solutions. But while I'm happy to consider these radically unscientific ideas at a very abstract level, when it comes to specific details I find Black's concepts to be utterly lousy. He simply states, bluntly, that angels are doing this that and the other without the slightest bit of justification.

So, unsurprisingly, a book that looks at some of the deepest questions fails to provide any satisfactory answers. It managed to provoke some very interesting lines of thought... but the effort to find a harmony between idealism and materialism ultimately completely failed, leaving me in the unusual position of declaring that I rather liked this crappy book. I can't give it more than 3/10, but it was worth reading.
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