Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Nature of Science

I love the feel of the nitrous oxide experience. Admired by psychologist William James as a useful vehicle for exploring the outer realms of consciousness, used by American folk mystic Benjamin Blood as a trigger for his Anesthetic Revelation, and by contemporary spiritual teacher Bhagavan Rajneesh as an inspirational tool for writing books, nitrous seems both to diminish the mind as well as to expand it. 

My tentative model for the NO2 state is that because the mind is reduced to (perhaps) a few quanta of sentience, any thought that the mind happens to dwell on fills this "little mind" completely and hence acquires a supreme significance. Even the most trivial event seems "so important" on nitrous but despite its temporary importance each thought is forgotten in an instant when the little mind moves on to its next big thought. Nitrous, in some moods, seems like a rehearsal for death, when the mind will be reduced to fewer and fewer quanta of awareness but each of supreme importance. And then finally none at all. In such nitrous-y states I often wonder what my last thought will be. Which of my many memories will end up being the fittest? Which event in my life was so memorable that it will be able to resist the corrosive effects of death until the very last second of my life?

Here's one candidate in my mind for most memorable memory.

Some years ago I was visiting the San Francisco apartment of maverick physicist Jack Sarfatti (pictured above). His father Hyman Sarfatti, a sheet metal worker turned mystic, was also living (visiting?) there and would regale all guests with his insights into the divine nature of reality. Hyman was out at the moment and Jack and I were reading the San Francisco Chronicle. Jack found an article about a talk that had been given by German rocket scientist Werner von Braun entitled "The Nature of Science". So Jack puts on his best fake German accent, picks up a piece of silverware and acts out what he imagined von Braun might have said on the subject.

"SCIENCE IS A KNIFE!" shouts Jack, rising from his chair and wielding a table knife.

"UND VE MUSST CUT, CUT, CUT!"  frantically slashing the air.

I laughed so hard at Jack that I almost gave myself a hernia. From the fact that this silly little experience ranks so high in my catalog of memorable events, one might reasonable conclude that when Nick goes out, it will be with a big smile on his face.


Jack sarfatti said...

It never happened
Hy never lived with me in sf

nick herbert said...

Your father did lecture me so incessantly about his god-realization in your SF apartment that I assumed (apparently incorrectly) that he lived there. Rest of the encounter is etched in my memory--vanished from yours. Not an uncommon phenomenon.

Zaek said...

Personally I can't stand the feel of being on nitrous oxide. It probably comes of being a control freak. I'd surely benefit from that pot legalization you were recommending to Obama.

Speaking of science and its cutting edge, I wonder what's your take on Richard Dawkins and his campaign to make the world safe for logical positivist reductionist scientific thinking and hard-core atheism? I rather fancy you might might take a dim view of it, but I hopefully know better than to blithely assume anything in particular.

Anonymous said...

If Science ever meets
SUPERMIND it would be

GEMATRIA suggests,
JACK = 25
25+94 = 119

They tally, and I am
satisfied with this!

Nilanjan Chatterjee said...

SUPERMIND(= 119;by Gematria) is
PASSIONATE(= 119;by Gematria) as
is Dr.Sarfatti towards his Physics!