Realities of academic publishing

Source: Wikipedia.

As some of you know, I have been busy for a few months now writing and revising nine academic papers, which together provide what I believe to be an unprecedentedly complete and rigorous formulation of ontological Idealism. The idea is to sharpen my arguments by exposing them to thorough peer-review. Of the nine papers, three have already been accepted for publication (one of which is already published), one is going through a major revision, and other five are still in initial peer review.

I have had mixed experiences with reviewers so far. On the positive side, one of the three accepted papers has been much improved by critical and extremely thoughtful reviews at SAGE Open, a journal I now consider a prime example of high professionalism in publishing. I also had a rejection by Neuroscience of Consciousness that was worth more than an acceptance: although my submission was considered not to match the journal's focus, its editor nonetheless provided me with extraordinarily detailed and insightful feedback, which has been extremely helpful (thank you Anil Seth!).

There have been less fortunate examples, though. Another paper of mine was rejected by AIMS Neuroscience on the basis of a single reviewer report, whose opening paragraph I quote below (Context: the reviewer is answering the editor's invitation for him to review my submission):


"Thank you for your invitation. However, I must decline it due to the lack of time. I am currently much occupied with writing my thesis and conducting research in a rural area. Nevertheless, I would like have some comments only for the abstract itself, although it is definitely not suitable to write as such."


Yes, this is a direct quote from the reviewer report on the basis of which my submission was rejected: it was a comment on my paper's abstract alone. The actual paper wasn't even read after two months of review, which the reviewer openly admitted to. So I guess the whole thing speaks for itself. (Note: a revised form of this very paper has now been accepted by another journal.)

There is one journal, however, whose treatment of my submission has made me feel so disrespected that I want to share details with you. The journal is Metaphysica. Before submitting, I contacted the editors with some questions, in order to decide whether I wanted to submit to them at all. Here are the main parts of the exchange that ensued.

On the 15th of August 2016, I wrote:


"Dear editors,
This is just a brief question: I have a manuscript that I hope to publish at the latest by January 2017 under a Gold open access license, so to also include it in a book project scheduled for 2017. ... Therefore, my question: how long do you think it would take you to come to a decision, taking into consideration that we are now in the middle of the summer holidays?
Kind regards, Bernardo."



I got the following reply rather promptly, which was encouraging:


"The review process starts immediately but during this holiday time it may need 4-6 weeks (usually 3-4 weeks)."


I then proceeded to make my submission in the very same day, i.e. still the 15th of August:


"This is excellent! Please find attached my submission, in both .docx and .pdf formats, as per the instructions on the website. Please consider this email a formal submission to Metaphysica."


After more than 7 weeks, I had heard nothing back from them, and sent the following email on 5 October 2016:


"This is just a quick message to inquire if the review process is going according to plan. It's been over 6 weeks since my original submission, so I thought I'd ping you."


Finally, today (22 October 2016) I got the following message from another editor of the journal (some young postdoc based out of Miami):


"Thank you very much for your submission to Metaphysica. I just forwarded your paper to our referees for review. Please note that this may take up to three weeks."


Surprised and disappointed that my submission had apparently been ignored for 9 weeks, despite my upfront emphasis on timing and their promise to complete the entire process in maximum 6 weeks, I replied as follows:


"My initial reaction to your email below was one of disbelief. Allow me to explain. I made my original submission to Metaphysica on Monday, Aug 15, 2016 at 8:09 PM. That is over 9 weeks ago. In my interaction with Editor-in-Chief ..., I had been promised review time of 4 to 6 weeks, which largely motivated my submission to the journal. ... To receive an email from Metaphysica now, after 9 weeks since submission, as if I had just submitted my manuscript ... is, to say the least, disorientating and disappointing to me. As a matter of fact, I consider this outright unacceptable editorial practice that comes at a high price to me in the currency I consider most valuable (time). What on Earth has happened here? I look forward to clarifications."


The reply followed quickly:


"Some times things are not that fast, I am afraid. It is so specially when reviewers are on holidays. I hope you understand."


And I do, but the problem is that I submitted the paper to this journal largely because they told me, upfront, something very different. You see, when an author submits a manuscript to a journal, he is required to refrain from submitting to any other journal while the manuscript is under review, without any guarantees that it will ultimately be accepted. So making a submission is a major investment of time. Given Metaphysica's initial encouragement of my submission and promise to review in maximum 6 weeks, I felt either neglected or cheated. So I answered:


"Normally I'd certainly understand. I just regret having been told something very different in the beginning. At this sta[g]e, however, sticking to Metaphysica is the fastest option for me ..., so let's proceed. I do count though on the 3-week timeframe for a decision."


The email above was sent at 1:12pm CET today, which works out to 7:12am Miami time. Just 13 minutes later, and about 9 hours (over night, Miami time) after I was told the review process would take 3 weeks, I received this from the young postdoc who co-edits this journal:


"With regret, I must inform you that your submission cannot be accepted for publication in METAPHYSICA: International Journal for Ontology and Metaphysics. Please find below the referee’s report.

Reviewer 1
I recommend rejection because the paper does not present sufficient quality for the journal."



The above is the complete reviewer report. I did not edit or shorten it; this is all there was to it.

Apparently, a complete review of a 9000+ word manuscript had somehow been started and completed overnight! What a sudden jump in efficiency for a journal that sat on my manuscript for 9 weeks. I invite you to ask yourself—on the basis of the factual story I just related above—what has actually happened here and to consider the level of professionalism displayed. Whatever the case, the end result is that submitting to Metaphysica has been a costly waste of time and energy for me. It will delay an entire book project.

Having returned to academic publishing after a several-year absence has been a very mixed experience for me. Those nine papers have been ready for a couple of months now, and could already be publicly available in book format had I chosen not to publish them in academic journals first. Yet, experiences like those I had with Neuroscience of Consciousness (which rejected my paper but added so much value to it!) and SAGE Open motivate me to continue. Others, like those with AIMS Neuroscience and Metaphysica, are profoundly discouraging and make me feel highly cynical about the professionalism of today's academic publishing.

My original intent has been to publish all nine papers in academic journals before collecting them in book format, with an added, overarching storyline to tie them all together. I am uncertain whether I will persist with this plan or simply give up on academic publishing. I guess my decision will ultimately depend on my experience with other journals in the coming few weeks.

Comments

  1. The treatment you've received from Metaphysica is simply outrageous. But please don't let that put you off. I think you're absolutely right to see how things play out with the other journals. As you've noted it's invariably a mixed experience, but even rejection can be very positive. I note Metaphysica's focus is on the 'ontological turn'. Perhaps they should focus on professionalism and good manners first! Besides, in my view they've missed an opportunity to provide their readers with a paper from one of the key thinkers in the contemporary field (which I've no doubt was up to standard - I rather suspect they've been vindictive since you had the temerity to challenge them). Whilst I'm here can you focus me on which book(s) I should read for your thoughts on the problem of evil? Kind regards, Steve

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    1. Thanks Steve!
      I haven't really written on the problem of evil, beyond a few sparse comments here and there...
      I may write an essay on it at some point. Will let you know if I do.
      Cheers, B.

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    2. Thanks. Personally it's the key problem I have with belief in God (however that's conceptualised). I simply can not reconcile the awful human and animal suffering with the notion of a benevolent creator and, as much as I respect them, am not persuaded by deist or pantheist views. Hence my agnosticism. I appreciate this is not your focus though. Going back to your issues with academia, I actually found it refreshing to discover you're something of a maverick. However (assuming I'm right) I can understand your motivations in wanting to engage more with academia/develop a more academic profile in your field of interest. When I taught philosophy I used Nigel Warburton's excellent books as an introduction - interesting to see he's now gone in the opposite direction! Freed from academic bonding as a university lecturer and using his website, Philosophy Bites http://philosophybites.com/social media as a platform, he frequently rants about the failings of academia, not least its bureaucracy, parochialism and poor English! Further to that you might enjoy this - The Seven Deadly Sins of The Academy https://www.timeshighereducation.com/features/the-seven-deadly-sins-of-the-academy/408135.article. To be honest I wasn't entirely surprised you got a rejection from The Neuroscience of Consciousness though - an idealist friend of Deepak Chopra - surely not good for their (mainstream/scientific materialist) reputation?! But I'm very intrigued to hear more about this :)

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    3. I am going the academic route to get good quality feedback, which is working at least some of the time; maybe enough to keep me going. We will see. As for Neuroscience of Consciousness, I actually agree with their rejection rationale, since my paper was too oriented towards philosophy and psychology. Yet, Anil Seth, the editor, helped me a lot with constructive feedback, and the paper is now under review at a journal more oriented towards neuropsychology. So I only have positive things to say about Neuroscience of Consciousness at this stage; much more than I'd have to say about, for instance, the Journal of Consciousness Studies (I may say more about this at some point, but not now).
      As for the problem of evil, I think it is artificial. It arises from the notion that a divinity must be only "good" and not "evil." Well, good and evil are pedestrian human notions. When an elephant remains alive for 6 hours while being eaten by a pack of lions, the horror of the situation is obvious from the point of view of the elephant. Yet, from a broader perspective, one that takes into account the evolution of life, ecosystem balance, etc., the "evil" of the situation is immediately seen in perspective and becomes relative. I don't acknowledge a "problem of evil" because I would either deny the existence of absolute evil at a broader perspective, or I would acknowledge the existence of relative evil from our human perspective but then deny that a divinity cannot entail the potential for such relative evil. "Evil," defined in this human way, is obviously an undeniable part of nature.

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    4. Sounds like on balance the experience of submitting to journals has been positive :) Re problem of evil the natural balance argument is valid. But when you take into account the sheer scale on which suffering happens it's not so easy to rationalise. And what of human beings - child bone cancer and sexual abuse, women horribly disfigured by acid attacks, the appalling suffering caused by alzheimers, the unspeakable atrocities in Syria? Whichever perspective I look at the problem - free will, natural balance, reincarnation, the opportunity suffering gives for other to show love and compassion, the relativity of the human experience/projection of human values onto 'God' - I cannot come to terms with it and doubt I ever will.

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    5. Maybe suffering is simply part of nature; an inherent part of the divinity that needs to be experienced because it is an intrinsic aspect of what is. I have no problems reconciling that with an omniscient universal mind. I don't see a "problem" to be solved regarding the existence of evil, though I don't like evil. I see evil the same way as I see any empirically undeniable aspect of existence: it's simply part of what is.

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    6. What does it take for one to simply start their own such journal?

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    7. Knujon, the most important and difficult thing is to have a credible editorial board and a set of credible reviewers willing to donate their time for reviews.

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    8. Maybe it is. Maybe it isn't. For me that leaves a big problem: I simply don't know. It isn't a problem for you because logic has led you to the certainty of 'God'/the mind at large. Hence suffering is simply part of the picture, even if you're not exactly sure why. For me logic (the design inference) points only to the probability of a super-intelligent designer. Hence I still struggle with suffering. I also think there's another dimension to the issue: empathy. The great character Mr Spock in Star Trek was 'highly logical' but unable to feel, to empathise. He simply couldn't understand suffering beyond viewing it as a consequence of human stupidity/lack of logic. I have the opposite problem: I feel too much. Human and animal suffering (I'm a vegetarian) cause me great distress. I'm not saying others don't feel the same. Clearly many do. My point is a deep sense of empathy inevitably makes it harder to rationalise suffering. Of course in thinking all this through we need to distinguish the kind of suffering that makes us stronger and wiser (I'm perfectly comfortable with that - A Christmas Carol is my all-time favourite story) from the suffering that occurs randomly and on a huge scale every single day; that's my main concern. We also need to consider the physiology of pain. Why for instance (assuming an intelligent designer) isn't there some kind of mechanism that enables pain to be uniformly switched off when it reaches a certain threshold? Why do humans and animals often die in absolute agony? Richard Dawkins says it's a pointless task - there is no 'rhyme or reason' in nature other than the primal struggle for survival. But I find that analysis unsatisfactory too. What about altruism? We might suffer too much but at least we can mitigate that. And evolutionists have yet to provide a convincing answer on how natural selection enabled this trait to appear (amongst much else). So I guess I'm stuck between two opposing world views - the materialist and the spiritual.. I don't wish to pursue the 'problem' further here as we're clearly going off topic. But I look forward to hearing more from you on it at some point :)

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    9. I'm no philosopher, but I think I should give you my thoughts on the topic of evil.

      I suspect that in order to grasp the true nature of something, we need to contrast it with something else. In order to really understand white, we need to compare it to other colors. In order to understand joy, we might have to go through pain. In order to understand unity, we need to experience separation.
      Right now, you can feel the pressure of the atmosphere all over your body, but you don't think about it because you've never experienced a vacuum.
      Maybe this is the point of pain. Maybe we need it to think about joy.

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    10. It's a compelling argument (I allude to this when I refer to 'the relativity of the human experience'). And it's been made in one form or another by many philosophers/spiritual thinkers (Jung wrote extensively on this in his Answer to Job). It's interesting to imagine, as a kind of thought experiment, what life would be like without any suffering (in fact I've been writing a book that includes this). Blissful? I don't think so. As you say, how would bliss/joy have any meaning? Perhaps that's what the myth of the Fall from Eden is really all about (as opposed to the traditional Christian interpretation of sin and redemption) - the immersion of spirit into matter (involution?), into the relative world. Who knows?

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    11. Hi Steve, I highly recommend Stanislav Grof's book 'The Cosmic Game'. He tackles good & evil from both the transcendent perspective and the human perspective, and ties the two together from insights gleaned from his extensive study and work with patients undergoing psychedelic experiences (particularly LSD in the 60's). I rate The Cosmic Game among my most cherished books, including Dreamed up Reality & More than Allegory by Bernardo :)

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    12. Hi Damien, many thanks! I've dabbled with Grof on my travels but, having checked the book out, will certainly take up your recommendation to read it. I do suspect that if there is an answer to the problem of evil it lies in the 'big picture' relationship between consciousness and relativity. And perhaps the 'game' that must be played in order to make this real/meaningful. I've yet to read Dreamed up Reality and More than Allegory. But I certainly will - once I've got my head round Materialism is Baloney! It's not Bernardo's critique of materialism that I have difficulty with, more his idealist position with its whirlpool metaphor and 'consciousness is all/all is in consciousness' ontology/metaphysics.

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    13. To get an overview of "The Cosmic Game", listen to Grof's talk here:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNT6CTW0G78

      He covers the issue of good and evil starting around 59 minutes.

      Michael Larkin

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    14. I've just listened thanks :) Challenging stuff. Mystical and abstract. But grounded in eastern philosophy and western psychiatry. If that's grounded.. ;)

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    15. Thanks for posting the link for Steve, Michael. Grof summarizes a few key concepts from The Cosmic Game really well in it.

      Good luck with the book though Steve, hope it helps clear up some of the dilemma's you are facing! :-)

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    16. Thanks Damien. The book is an on/off project. I guess more of an attempt to get thoughts out on the page than a serious publishing venture. But it has been useful in that respect. Nice to chat y'all! :)

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    17. Your empathy comes from the deep understanding that there are no individuals actually suffering but that the One Consciousness we all are is suffering in what seem to be individualized life forms. So in fact you are the one that is suffering just as you are feeling all joy.

      As to your comment on pain if you read near death experiences you'll find that in many cases as the pain increases consciousness disassociates from the life form and is no longer subject to the pain and in fact is feeling good no matter how much the body is writhing, crying out etc. You can't tell what consciousness is experiencing just by looking at what bodies are going through. Drowning is a good example. If you read the NDEs you'll find that many times just after even the first gulp of water consciousness finds itself elsewhere and unconcerned about what's happening to the body. I personally find that quite comforting.

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    18. Interesting, TJS! I agree with Steve (hi, Steve!) that the problem of evil cannot easily be explained away. NDEs overall suggest that the Cosmic Mind is essentially "Light and Love". To a mere human alter suffering from logicitis, NDE accounts are therefore implying that the Cosmic Mind is not darkness and death, nor indeed "All-that-Is". Trying to understand from the human perspective is pretty impossible really. But as far as I understand Bernardo's philosophy, he does not try to limit the Cosmic Mind to Light and Love.

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    19. In a movie an actor may play the role of evil while obviously not being evil. Nobody actually gets hurt. So it is with M@L playing all roles in this dream, good, bad, beautiful and ugly simply because it can.

      In the end nobody gets hurt.

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    20. Hi TJS (and Ben!) - sorry, I don't follow this? Human and animal suffering is real. And often enduring (we're not just talking about the moment of death). Even if it's all some kind of illusion/simulation and the other people I observe are part of this i.e. they're not really suffering I just think they are, I still know my pain is real. Indeed (if we assume a spiritual goal/teleology) it has to be if I'm to fully experience the relative human world. I'm certainly open to the idea that NDE accounts like Dr Eben Alexander's (Proof of Heaven) point to a release from suffering into cosmic love and light and the unity of consciousness. But he still came back to the world of 'suffering'.. This must all sound (Job-style) like I'm angry with God. But I can't be angry with an entity I don't know for sure exists! I'm just an agnostic who doesn't settle for scientific materialist/naturalist explanations of life nor religious/new age. Just what makes sense. Re New Age (I use the term advisedly) literature I came across a book recently called 'The Universe has your Back'. Apparently we just have to tune in to cosmic consciousness/the Law of Attraction and the universe will support us in all our endeavours. Especially making lots of money (oops, strike that cynical comment ;) As I read more about the book I immediately thought of a photo of a guy I'd seen somewhere in the Middle East. He was stretched out and held down by some judicial thugs and his back had been lashed many times leaving horrible wounds. His crime? Proclaiming his atheism. Meanwhile lots of thirty to forty something women in the US with perfect teeth, ethnic jewelry, and wide-eyed smiles are lapping up the message of their New Age guru. Of course when they're confronted about human suffering they have a neat answer: It's just what is, our responsibility is to work with the universe to make things better. In principle that makes perfect sense. But it makes some pretty big assumptions, not least that the universe 'has our back'. So to be honest I see these people as part of the problem not the solution. Their heart is in the right place but they float around in spiritual bubbles. The problem of evil persists. And it can't be explained away so easily.

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    21. Love your cynical comment, Steve!
      One attempt to explain evil away is via free will -the choice to move into the darkness, like Satan and the fallen angels. But, as I understand it, Bernardo is not a particular advocate of free will. True, we can feel free, even though we are chained, but my problem there would be to see 'feeling free anyway' as a species of denial.

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    22. I hate to sound cynical Ben. And really I'm not. I just find the whole spiritual shebang a bit irritating at times. C'est la vie. As far as free will goes I suspect that's another paradox, like time and space, that eludes our capacity to comprehend. But there's no doubt that, informed by advances in neuroscience, we have a much better understanding of why the notion is problematic. And I certainly think any debate about the problem of evil has to address this. I'm not quite sure what you mean with your last sentence (denial etc) though?

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    23. Consciousness is the only thing that can suffer. Sure pain is real when consciousness is playing this game but the game ends as it does for all life forms and then consciousness which is what we truly are is fine. This also acts as motivation to alleviate pain and suffering since we're alleviating our own. The NDERs tell us that we will feel all the pain and suffering we put out because we aren't individuals. So rest assured the pain met out by the "judicial thugs" will be felt by those thugs as they transition to another state of being. The NDErs also tell us that any amount of kindness and love we put out into the world no matter how small is important. If you want to get a good handle on pain, suffering, and the nature of consciousness I suggest you read "I Knew Their Hearts" by Jeff Olsen.

      You may find the "whole spiritual shebang a bit irritating" but it's the only place you will find any real answers. I find the whole neuroscience thing to be extremely irritating. You can stare at chemistry and electrical impulses all you want and never understand anything about consciousness. Neuroscience makes a lot of unsubstantiated assertions and many people just dumbly nod their heads and say "sure makes sense".
      Electromagnetic theory makes no predictions about consciousness, neither does chemistry. No brain cell has ever been measured to create consciousness or any other mental activity including thinking, feeling, etc. No memory has ever been found stored in the brain. If you think they are then stare at my brain cells and find the neurons that hold the memory of my first motorcycle ride and tell me all about it without asking me anything. There are perfectly normal people who exist without guess what, hardly any physical brain at all. There are no engineering details on how neurons could create the experience of an OBE, NDE or any other normal or paranormal phenomenon. Neuroscience is a dead end as far as understanding ultimate reality.

      Having gone through my own painful existential crises and realizations I find Idealism has the most explanatory power as far as understanding what's going on and our own existence. I can understand that the universe is not unfair despite appearances and that we are not little things subject to the whim of an external "God" but "God" itself temporarily experiencing every possible thing including it's own judgements about those things. It's certainly more coherent then anything else out there and as far as I'm concerned backed up by the data of conscious experience.

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    24. I've literally just written this on a Google+ community (in response to someone claiming science has found where memory is stored and quoting a paper): 'Let's focus on storage shall we? This is from the abstract: 'This suggests synaptic information is encoded at a deeper, finer-grained scale of molecular information'. Are you ready? Let's miniaturise and climb aboard our molecular spaceship .. Do you see that molecule over there? That's where the memory of your first birthday party is stored. 'Really', you say? 'All I can see is particles and empty space'. Okay, let's miniaturise again.. Etc etc. There's a word for all this: reductionism. It's the flawed notion that if we keep breaking things down into smaller and smaller units we'll be able to figure out how the whole works. As if somehow there's a piece of memory waiting to be discovered in a tiny, tiny box.. Nonsense. This is what's known as the hard problem of consciousness. And however much science says consciousness is an 'emergent' property of the brain that tiny, tiny box is waiting - empty.' I know Bernardo doesn't accept the hard problem. For the same reasons as you. So I'm not a materialist. That model/world view makes no sense. And I certainly understand the appeal of idealism - you make a very good case. But I have yet to be persuaded on the problem of evil. Like you and countless others I have suffered a lot in life. My parents divorced. My brother committed suicide. My marriage broke up (happily I'm with a new partner). And lots more besides. So there's certainly more than enough there not to believe in God ;) But there's also more than enough in nature/the universe to keep me searching for answers. And I'm open to any avenue that might provide them - both scientific and spiritual/religious. Let me ask you then - how do you know the 'judicial thugs' will transition to another state of being and suffer the consequences of their actions?

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    25. Millions of people have returned from death. This is based on the testimony of many of these. It also follows logically from the fact that all consciousness is One. It is a common experience to have a life review where they feel everything they have ever done to others, both the good and the bad, from the viewpoint of the other person. It should be noted that this is not punishment but part of the awakening to the realization that THEY NEVER WERE THE INDIVIDUALS THEY THOUGHT THEY WERE.

      So understanding this we know that justice is perfect and can't be avoided. Imagine how the world would change if everyone knew this deep down inside.

      Check out NDERF.org and the books "What Tom Sawyer Learned From Dying" and "Saved by the Light" as examples where this theme figures prominently.

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    26. I fully understand your reasoning - the illusion of separation etc. I'm just not convinced the evidence backs it up. Yet ;)

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    27. Just look into the eyeballs of your youngest relative or any other youngster and realize that the consciousness that's looking back at you is ...you. How could it be otherwise?

      As Allen Watts said ""I" return with every baby born."

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    28. If anyone has time to watch the following Buddha at the Gas Pump interview with James Eaton I think it would enlighten this entire discussion. I stumbled on it last night & found James' way of talking about how he discovered the self (and realized he is not the one suffering, that he is the one 'knowing it') to be profound. He actually guides us through at one point in the interview & is probably the closest I've come to 'getting' non-dual teachings.

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    29. Oops, forgot to paste the link:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9vwVs100mA&feature=youtube_gdata_player

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    30. Thanks Damien. I've dipped into it (looks very interesting) and will have a good look later. Just a quick response before I do.. It's perfectly clear to me that reality is not the common sense/materialist phenomenon that most people believe it to be. And that central to the 'awakening' process is the illusion of the self/material reality. Which points in the direction of thinkers like Bernardo. And Alan Watts. And James Eaton. It also puts the problem of evil into a broader framework - beyond the traditional religious conception of sin/redemption/free will. But my concern is that as elegant and simple as this framework might appear, I'm reminded daily of just how real human (and animal) suffering is. And that by contrast philosophy and spirituality can seem very highbrow and abstract. Even self-centred and elitist. So that's the essence of the dilemma. I'm pulled in what appear to be opposite directions. To be clear (before I get too cynical again!) I'm also aware that many spiritual people are strongly motivated to integrate their spirituality within daily life, to join with others and make real change so that suffering is lessened and collectively we find a path to a better world. Great. I feel the same. But for me personally - even though logically/intellectually the evidence points to the probability of divinity/an intelligent designer - there are significant blocks to belief, not least being the problem of evil. Perhaps, as I'm sure most spiritual folk would agree, the answer to the dilemma is simply to let it be. To meditate and let the answers come. And to be honest I've yet to really try that (many false starts!). So perhaps it's time I did :)

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    32. There is an NDEr named Amy Call who had the dilemma you have in spades. She was so empathetic with the people who were suffering in the world that she could barely function and was subject to from all kinds of physical conditions because of it for many years. She had an NDE and during that experience saw how everything is interconnected and despite appearances is as it should be. All we can do is try to mitigate suffering and increase love and good feelings as we go about our daily lives.

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    33. I hear you Steve, and can appreciate where you are coming from. But where does the idea of suffering or evil come from? From us. It's a human concept, and one that I don't believe was necessarily there from the get-go. Ie, I think it may have come about once we began using language and developed an inner monologue with ourselves. We see animals mauled by other animals as part of nature and WE feel sympathy for the victim. By our thoughts alone, we suffer. The animal itself isn't going through thoughts in his head thinking he's been hard done by and why is it happening to him and life is cruel etc. I'm sure the animal will be feeling pain/fear in that moment, but once the altercation subsided the animal (if not killed) would move on and continue its life. And I think that in the moment of some catastrophy, that we also will not be suffering - we will be in the moment. It is only thoughts of impending doom or thoughts after something has happened (ie thinking of the past or future, that we suffer). Likewise, hunter gatherers I'm guessing would not have suffered, for they wouldn't have been caught up in obsessive thoughts and analyzed their plight and had a why me or us attitude.

      No doubt people can get caught up in a false sense of 'Spirituality' or a holier than thou attitude just like any other endeavour, but at its core it is essentially a realization of what we truly are and what reality truly is. And thoughts and thinking and ruminating in our minds is a hindrance to discovering what is. I am not claiming to have realized any of this myself, but I can see that being controlled by thoughts and trying to wrap up what is into some idea of what we think it is, only strengthens the ego, the sense of separateness and hinders our opportunity to realize what is (and hence making it impossible to live in the present moment where there is no suffering).

      And I realize that even by me having this discussion I am strengthening my ego and am in my head and experiencing separateness. So we all have work to do! :D

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    34. TJS - Amy Call seems typical of NDErs. Don't get me wrong I think the NDE phenomenon is fascinating. And it's clear that not only have many people experience it but that there are common themes/patterns. That's why science should keep an open mind. It's not just personal testimony. On the other hand its essentially personal/subjective nature (anecdotal evidence) presents a significant barrier to scientific understanding. That summarises my position.

      Damien - I respect your views too. But in my view saying suffering is essentially a human construct not only diminishes the empirical reality of the experience but overlooks the fact that it's been a real 'problem' ever since the dawn of philosophy/theology. As indicated, I am inclined to agree about restless thoughts being a hindrance to deeper understanding though :)

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    35. Well considering that you can't even prove to "science" that you exist means that science is really fairly useless as far as trying to understand anything of any real importance.

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    36. Don't mention that to Bernardo (neuroscience) ;)

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    37. Don't get me wrong Steve, I'm not a cold heartless person denying completely that there is suffering/pain etc. in the world, I was just demonstrating that we can decide how we relate or identify to such things. Everything is relative, and one may not suffer who has been dealt with exactly the same disease or hardship as another.

      Also, there are many people who have discovered the truth and experience the world in a totally different way to ourselves, and who have eradicated their own suffering. These people make it their priority to do what they can to wake the rest of us up to this reality that is ever present, so we too can experience this truth for ourselves and thereby eliminate our suffering.

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    38. Hi Damien, I respect your views :) My last word on this here (conscious that we've gone off track somewhat ;) is this excellent discussion http://www.bethinking.org/suffering/the-problem-of-evil It's from a Christian perspective but I think it examines the problem pretty thoroughly - philosophically and theologically - and is very accessible.

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    39. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    40. Damien,

      I agree with you that the concept of evil comes from humans.

      On this one site I go on, someone made a good point (in dealing with atheists about POE):

      There is no problem of Evil -- as you guys have rightly said here.
      Atheists cannot define evil -- as my discussion with them about
      the justification of lies on CARM exposed. If they do define evil
      (as HRG did), they rely of theist definitions, which is its own
      self-contradictory thing.

      Atheism has the root problem of being based on things placed
      in the wrong ontological position. Placing Man at the center of
      the universe is as equally-indefensible as geocentric
      cosmology.

      So anyway . . . 2¢ from me.


      Also, there is this:

      Religious A Priori: Answer to Theodicy-Soteriological Drama

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    41. Thanks JBsptn, the article does make some good points, however I get the feeling that it is talking of 'God' being something entirely separate. I differ from that view, and hold that there is no separation. I would also add to it that if WE, at some very deep level, are actually the creator and are merely fulfilling some unimaginable need for infinite creative expression (hence undergoing the illusory game of splitting into seemingly separate entities - dissociating in Bernardo's terms), then 'evil' as we see it would appear in all its manifestions/permutations AND any "logical/rational/ethical/moral" thoughts or ideas we may entertain on what is evil, just etc (including even thoughts about how we are the creator at our deepest core) are simply misguided - for the mere fact that they are coming from a place of complete ignorance in the first place. Maybe that is why being silent or meditating is helpful - it cuts through all obsessive thought and can lead us to the place where this entire game arises - from awareness itself.

      At the end of the day though, all I was wanted to do was offer some alternatives to Steve, since he was having troubles reconciling the so-called 'problem of evil' with Bernardo's Idealist views (which resonate with me). Each to their own, though :)

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    42. Steve, I am curious as to whether you have tried psychedelics? They can be extremely revealing, and can certainly offer some insight into the abovementioned dilemma's you are facing and questions you may have. (Although I am aware that without careful discrimination they can also be wish-fulfilling and further consolidate ones prior beliefs too). Again, The Cosmic Game by Stan Grof contains many case studies of their therapeutic potential AND as a means of directly experiencing/understanding the true nature of reality.

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    43. Hi JB - with respect I think there is a problem of evil. For all the reasons I've outlined here.

      Damien - no, I've never tried psychedelics. I'm open to the possibility though and understand their 'enlightening' appeal. I'm sceptical of how far they'd resolve the problem of evil for me personally though. I view it as a mystery that probably lies beyond human comprehension. Like how the 'mind at large' created itself. Or didn't and has somehow always been around.. ;)

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    44. Very true Steve, it's a mystery all right and definitely beyond human comprehension. Or, atleast beyond our everyday logical, rational comprehension. As strange as this may sound, it's possible under the right circumstances to have glimpses or 'intuitive knowings' as I like to call them, where all paradoxes are resolved, everything makes perfect sense, the meaning and purpose of existence is remembered/intimately familiar and yet is impossible to describe when one returns to normal awareness. Gratuitous graces, I think Aldous Huxley referred to them as, and rightly so. To experience such a thing atleast once in one's life is a true blessing, and something I am infinitely grateful for.

      Namaste :-)

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  2. I would love to read a "preprint" of your 9,000 word paper, if possible.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's the problem: many journals do not accept that your manuscript be published as a preprint before they themselves publish it... This is common in physics but not in philosophy. But I will inquire.

      Delete
  3. Thank you sir. I totally understand if it is not possible.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wait a little longer and it will become available. I am only submitting to open access journals that do not charge fees for downloading the papers.

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    2. Thank you for responding Bernardo. Please make some sort of announcement when it is published, and I will eagerly await the publication.

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  4. Just commenting to say I'm really looking forward to getting to read these papers!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Just entered this blog as only this morning I discovered Bernado K and ordered "Why Materialism Is Baloney". Interested in this area for about 60 years since college days (Sheffield - Chemistry). It has always seemed to me that pain and suffering are inevitable in a material world with a physical body for obvious reasons. The whole subject is explored in great detail in "Evil and the God of Love" by that great Christian theologian and Pluralist the late John Hick.
    All the best
    Max Potter

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  6. I've read this entire thread re Steve Turnbull and, apart from religious dogma, I haven't the slightest idea what is meant by the "problem of evil". What is evil? Why is it a problem? It sounds like refusal to accept that the human mind picks and chooses what it likes and doesn't. It's a big universe. Why are you judging what's evil?

    Consciousness attached to a material manifestation is bound to find both pleasure and pain. It's a messy proposition, being enclosed in inert matter and identifying with a nervous system and conceptual framework. There is no "evil" or "problem" outside that framework - not for me at least.

    And how does this so-called evil correspond to scale? If a person suffers unjustly for a second, is that as evil as if he suffered for 50 years? Is it as evil for one person to suffer unjustly his entire life as it is for billions upon billions of individuals of billions of species throughout the universe to suffer injustice for billions of years continuously without end? If you suffered horribly your entire life at the hands of "evil", it wouldn't count as a fraction of a fraction of an instant in the grand scheme. An entity that lives a few thousand years might conclude that human beings simply don't live long enough to suffer, or experience evil, unless the evil is just dying so soon.

    Transcend words, concepts and limited points of view to see - things are the way they are - whether you like it or not, whether you understand it or not.

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  7. Bernardo - I notice you kept quiet about JCS. I'll be interested in your comments when you make them.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Go ahead with the book Bernado and forget the journals. My mind is constantly being corrupted by physicalism and I need the doses of reality I get from your work.
    Although,publishing in journals does reach a wider audience in need of renewed perspective so maybe the headache is just a necessary arrangement of consciousness that you have to endure.

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