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  1. #1
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    Default Humans seek to transcend nature via culture

    Humans seek to transcend nature via culture

    But Love has pitched his mansion in
    The place of excrement.--Yates

    “What will come of my whole life…Is there any meaning in my life that the inevitable death awaiting me does not destroy?”—Tolstoy

    In his Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Denial of Death, Ernest Becker suggests that we all create an artificial world to avoid confronting the hopelessness of the human condition.

    The basic premise of The Denial of Death is that human civilization is ultimately an elaborate, symbolic defense mechanism against the knowledge of our mortality, which in turn acts as the emotional and intellectual response to our basic survival mechanism.

    Meaning is number ONE. What wo/man fears most is extinction, which includes insignificance.

    Wo/man wants assurance that their life has somehow counted; if not for her or his self then at least within the overall scheme of things. If there is some kind of “judgment day” then I want to be in ‘that number’ that matter. While alive I want to know that “I am somebody”.

    Religion is our primary means for responding to that basic need to be somebody. Otto Rand says that all religions spring up “not so much from…fear of natural death as of final destruction.”

    “It is culture itself that embodies the transcendence of death in some form or other, whether it appears as purely religious or not…culture itself is sacred, since it is the “religion” that assures in some way the perpetuation of its members.”

    Our dichotomy of sacred and secular aspects of social life is an egregious error. There is no such thing as a distinction between sacred and secular in the symbolic affairs of sapiens. Sacred is that which transcends the natural world while secular is that which is of the natural world. In the world of symbolic affairs such distinctions do not hold.

    “As soon as you have symbols you have artificial self-transcendence via culture. Everything cultural is fabricated and given meaning by the mind, a meaning that is not given by physical nature. Culture is in this sense “supernatural” and all systemizations of culture have in the end the same goal: to raise men above nature, to assure him that in some ways their lives count in the universe more than merely physical things count.”

    Self-transcendence, i.e. transcending nature via culture, does not provide a simple means to deny the primacy of death; the terror of death still lurks beneath the veneer. We have shifted the fear of death onto a new level of anxiety; we must “now hold for dear life onto the self-transcending meanings of the society in which we live…a new kind of instability and anxiety are created.”

    In our attempt to deny evil, i.e. death, we bring a new and grotesque form of evil. “It is man’s ingenuity, rather than his animal nature, that has given his fellow creatures such a bitter fate.” Wo/man has, through ingenuity, heaped great evil on the world; far greater than could ever be created by our animal nature.

    Quotes from Escape from Evil—Becker

  2. #2
    Senior Member proximo's Avatar
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    You could argue that all of these tendencies stem from our innate nature as animals ourselves... whilst thinking we're transcending it, we're simply proving over and again what slaves we are to it.

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    Only the power of the individual can transcend human nature to become more than human. It is the power of the single mind, separated from the consciousness of other humans who seek to suppress his ascent to maintain the collective form, that shall uplift the man to greater heights of sentience. The collective mind will never rise above anything, it is only strong, intelligent, independent individuals who can walk the lonely path towards using free will and meta cognitive understanding to shape his ego to the form he sees fit, and grab on to the reigns of evolution. We have the power to be gods of our own mind and body, but few ever climb the ascent.

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    Interesting thread.

    Perhaps fear of death stems from ego formation? Most animals do not have real ego.
    "Create like a god, command like a king, work like a slave."

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    Senior Member proximo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Risen View Post
    Only the power of the individual can transcend human nature to become more than human. It is the power of the single mind, separated from the consciousness of other humans who seek to suppress his ascent to maintain the collective form, that shall uplift the man to greater heights of sentience. The collective mind will never rise above anything, it is only strong, intelligent, independent individuals who can walk the lonely path towards using free will and meta cognitive understanding to shape his ego to the form he sees fit, and grab on to the reigns of evolution. We have the power to be gods of our own mind and body, but few ever climb the ascent.
    Nah, I think that's all just completely normal, natural, human conceit

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    Quote Originally Posted by proximo View Post
    Nah, I think that's all just completely normal, natural, human conceit
    You have to be arrogant/conceited to grab hold of such freedom. You have to be selfish. As such, I should correct myself and say there isn't any way to transcend human nature, you can only act out of accordance with your nature for a limited time. The greatest power/potential we have is to act as we see fit independent of all the group social dynamics that come to play in the psychology on the individual. The more separated you are from that influence, the more opportunity you have to take control of your own nature, thinking, and actions. After that, with the proper knowledge and will, you can achieve great things that you never could before on an individual level that becomes completely uncharacteristic of the usual behavior of humans. You can become your own creation.

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    Senior Member proximo's Avatar
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    Yeah, but it's so easy for a person to think that's what they're doing, yet each time they're a prisoner of their own biology. We can't really control that in the same way, can we?

    Look at the experiences of transsexuals when they begin taking hormones opposite to the ones they've run on all their lives up to that point. They learn from first hand, just how much of what we think is ourselves, our deliberate consciousness, is actually nothing but estrogen and testosterone making punks of us all. You should look at the studies, they're quite fascinating. I don't think it's wise to theorise on what the human mind is capable of until you've a good understanding of the biological aspects of it. Which even the top scientists in the field don't feel they have enough of yet, so...

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    Quote Originally Posted by proximo View Post
    Yeah, but it's so easy for a person to think that's what they're doing, yet each time they're a prisoner of their own biology. We can't really control that in the same way, can we?

    Look at the experiences of transsexuals when they begin taking hormones opposite to the ones they've run on all their lives up to that point. They learn from first hand, just how much of what we think is ourselves, our deliberate consciousness, is actually nothing but estrogen and testosterone making punks of us all.
    Biological factors effect our consciousness, and our consciousness can effect those same biological factors. Mind and body are a tightly interconnected system. There are a great many things one can control within themselves if they know how. Knowing how is the hard part. Harder still is exercising the will to actually take control. In your example, sexuality can also be brought under conscious control. You can change your own predispositions and sexual tendencies through concentrated effort. Even without changing the basic neurological wiring the dictates your sexual nature through focused thought and feedback driven processes, you can still increase the strength of your cerebral control over the lower brain areas that generate basic urges, desires, and emotions (since those areas often have stronger connections allowing them to usurp the conscious will generated in the cerebral cortex, particularly the frontal cortex). Part of maturing neurologically and psychologically is the further development of your frontal cortex which gives you conscious control over those things. Some people NEVER develop strong connection, others (like say Buddhist monks) develop massive control.

  9. #9
    Senior Member proximo's Avatar
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    So, you're of the school of thought then, that homosexuality can be "cured"?

    Transsexualism isn't to do with sexuality anyway, though it's linked, as both have to do with gender identity, which is a physical property that stems from the BST, the part of the brain which decides what gender we perceive ourselves to be. You can no more change the shape of that by willpower and discipline than you can change the shape of your leg bones.

    You seem to argue that one should fight one's actual nature... if it's within our nature to be able to transcend our nature and become greater than we'd otherwise be, then anything that takes one away from that nature and its abilities would be a step backwards.

    Don't get me wrong - I'm a Renaissance humanist and I believe in the heroism inherent in the human being. But I'm also a Taoist; I don't believe in adding "unwanted food and extraneous growths" to myself

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    Quote Originally Posted by proximo View Post
    So, you're of the school of thought then, that homosexuality can be "cured"?

    Transsexualism isn't to do with sexuality anyway, though it's linked, as both have to do with gender identity, which is a physical property that stems from the BST, the part of the brain which decides what gender we perceive ourselves to be. You can no more change the shape of that by willpower and discipline than you can change the shape of your leg bones.
    No, you cannot change that basic structure. Once a man, always a man. But you can always choose how you act with enough focused effort, which eventually becomes habituated and effortless. I don't care about the gay issue, you brought it up with the transexual/transgender topic.

    You seem to argue that one should fight one's actual nature... if it's within our nature to be able to transcend our nature and become greater than we'd otherwise be, then anything that takes one away from that nature and its abilities would be a step backwards.

    Don't get me wrong - I'm a Renaissance humanist and I believe in the heroism inherent in the human being. But I'm also a Taoist; I don't believe in adding "unwanted food and extraneous growths" to myself
    If you nature becomes a limitation or a hindrance, then you go around it to reach your goals. Nature is never changed, but the expression of it is, and can be changed in such a way as to not resemble the basic driving force at all. Emotions and desires that arise out of the midbrain cannot be controlled or stopped in their functioning nearly as much as they can be consciously ignored and made to be irrelevant save for when they produce physiological phenomena below the surface of consciousness (hormones), in which case the conscious mind has to recognize the change and take whatever steps necessary to mitigate the response through indirect means of controlling the parts of the system responsible.

    For instance, If I start to speak out loud in class and I suddenly find that my sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system has been activated and my heart is racing. The problem is that makes it difficult to speak because your body is going into a nervous reaction. You can ignore your limbic system's messages in your brain, but you can't ignore the physical cascade of events it creates. Now your options change and you must exercise control over the symptoms. You must focus on controlling the organs (lungs and heart) to suppress the response that was produced subconsciously. You have conscious control over your breathing, so you use that power a s a tool to indirectly control heart rate and blood pressure. A buddhist monk has greater control at higher levels of the system, closer to the brain, so they wouldn't get into the automatic nervous response issue in the first place (and when I was in the practice of meditation for conscious executive control, there was never a time when I didn't have greater control over those sorts of automatic responses).

    In summation, the brain is a computer that produces its own programming and can do all sorts of things with its abilities. However, it is very much limited by its own hardware. The computer/brain can create programs that, to some extent, change how the hardware is used. The mind can generate actual hardware/neurological changes, to a degree. It can't change every aspect of the hardware or its organization/function. We have most control over those neurological factors that are more environmentally driven than genetically controlled. For those things we can't exercise control over we simply have to develop a workaround in the programming to reach the same goal. Thus, with the unlimited creative capacity we have within and external to ourselves, there really isn't much that cannot be achieved with the proper knowledge, understanding, and will.

    When it comes to controlling our nature, one must know how that nature arises and why. Then one can truly understand the issue and work out practical, functional solutions to either change it or work around it and reach toward loftier goals. What are the neurological factors, what are the psychological factors, and what do I have the power to change? Answering those questions is what gives man the potential ability to to have supreme dominion over the nature of his own existence.

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