Robert C. Priddy

Writings on diverse themes from philosophy, psychology to literature and criticism

  • Robert Priddy

    In this blog I post information and critical views concerning ideologies, belief systems and related scientific materials etc. I am a retired philosophy lecturer and researcher, born 1936.

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Archive for September, 2009

Links to pages on philosophy of science and psychology

Posted by robertpriddy on September 30, 2009

Understanding concepts of truth, their meaning and essence

Understanding and Truth. The multiple problem of what truth is seems so confusingly fathomless that there is quite simply no general consensus about it.

Language, communication and interpreted meaning

It is widely thought in contemporary philosophy that the limits of what is known are, at any time, determined by language.

The person as a whole – self-integration

I told him about scientists who had begged to come with me, some because they wanted to measure Bushman heads and behinds… others to study his family relationships, and one to analyse his spit; but when I asked them etc…

Holistic psychology’ outlined

With what kind of questions does a philosophical psychology try to deal? The answer is whatever concerns the problems of human life as seen and experienced from the viewpoint of a person who seeks to understand it.

Human values in psychology

Much controversy arises or is made out of the question of values; what is meant by ‘values’? Which values are good and which bad, if any? Which values are to be tolerated even if their rightness is controversial?

Intelligence in psychology

Few people are not at all concerned to improve their own level of intelligence where possible. One key to doing this is to have a balanced appreciation of what human intelligence is, what are its best qualities.

Self-awareness in psychological understanding

The understanding of what it is to be a person oneself is the natural and unavoidable basis on which any intelligible psychology necessarily builds.

The human faculty of understanding (intelligence)

The psychology of understanding has not been developed to any appreciable extent in Western psychology, neither as regards inter-personal understanding nor understanding as a basic human need.

Past-oriented therapies critically reviewed

The crucial role of self-inquiry and self-reliance in all forms of psychic improvement does not mean that therapy cannot be of assistance.

Understanding and the concept of human unity

Understanding and Unity. The need for holistic understanding is emerging with increasing persistence in subject after subject as the process of globalization…

‘Science Limited’ by Robert Priddy

(a 13-chapter book critical of the role of the sciences today) Intellectual/social problems due to scientistic beliefs on solving it by Robert C. Priddy Formerly University of Oslo (ret’d)

Critics of populistic propaganda in science presentation

Science as an institutionalised social activity and scientific theory are in a constant process of change.

The scientific problem of human subjects.

The above quote illustrates the dilemma of much contemporary social science: it studies humans physically, as psycho-physical entities.

Scientific explanation and metascience

It is evident that the vast majority of major decisions made by human beings are not based on science.

Science questioned – a metascientific challenge

On the chief causes of a serious decline in intellectual culture on a reformed model

Multiple cause effect in science

The keystone of science is that everything has a cause, yet how can an act of genuinely free will be caused…

Intellectual crisis under the ideology of scientism

The prevailing attitude of intellectuals in the last decade of the 20th century still appears to exhibit an almost unquestioning belief in science and the secular

Fallacies about research freedom in science

The necessity for the science to have freedom to research whatever scientists see as worthwhile has long been as much part of academic ideology.

Sathya Sai Baba

Information by Robert Priddy (Author of the book “Source of the Dream – My Way to Sathya Sai Baba” Born 1936. British. Researched and taught philosophy and sociology at the University of Oslo 1968-85.

Posted in causality, Free will, Holistic psychology, Intelligence, metascience, Past-oriented therapies, Science, scientism, Self-awareness, Understanding | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

The ultimate fallacy: God is inside, God is all and everything

Posted by robertpriddy on September 27, 2009

The weaknesses and redundancy of the conception and belief in God – mainly considered as an outside (creative) cause or force acting upon the universe and mankind has been demonstrated convincingly by Professor Richard Dawkins in his accessible book ‘The God Delusion’. However, there is a yet more numinous and mind-twisting conception of God as the Omnipresent Creator as Inner Motivator of the cosmos/universe and mankind.  In short, that everyone is God, the belief which underpins the teachings of most gurus and even most Hindus. This difference is not simply between theism and pantheism. It is a complex form of pan-theism. The excellent Dawkins has not ventured into this philosophically tortuous territory, not yet.

The predominant idea of God in societies and cultures known to us in historical times has formerly been that of theism or deism… one God who created or creates – and maintains – the universe and who is ‘outside’ of the visible or physical universe and also beyond the human mind. (The “invisible old man in the sky” is the vulgar Western version). It seems to me there the demise of such unsustainable ideas and beliefs is inevitable – particularly in the doctrines and dogmas of traditional organized religions and sects. However long that may take (and if our species survives), the ever-growing and all-pervading importance of science as both an explanatory and a practical instrument of mankind promises a major sidelining of religion.

However, the resurgence of mystical ideas of an inherent ‘inner divinity’ has already gained huge territory, both in so-called New Age religions and forms of ‘spirituality’, not least in India, from where it has evidently originated long ago. It is promoted by the very popular but fraudulent guru-god, Sathya Sai Baba. A simple pantheism arose from animism in the shape of ensouled nature, one great Spirit ruling over all others which lurks in all objects and beings. This was found in many variants among many so-called ‘primitive tribes’ and societies, and is still found in some today. In its modern clothes, it is far more sophisticated and unitary. Meanwhile, millions of devotees of Indian priests and gurus need no sophisticated explanations. Yet their modern descendants are still often easily taken in by the subtle convolutions of a highly-developed system of ‘non-dual’ (i.e. advaitic) arguments, – fallacious though most of them are – even many highly educated people in the East and increasingly so in the West. Its highest expression is perhaps in various presentations of Advaita (one good example is the ingenious but ultimately failed ‘anti-theory’ in Sri Nisagardatta’s book ‘I Am That’). Witness also the Sathya Sai Baba movement – consisting reportedly in some millions of believers with organisations in over 170 countries of the world, a striking example of the popularity of this ‘I Am God, You are God, Everything is God’ conception. The appeal of this tortuous and almost unfathomable philosophical tautology is immense on so-called ‘seekers of truth’ with a mystical bent.

These variants of pan-theism regarding many deep issues about our true nature, philosophical teasers and unusual phenomena which remain otherwise unexplained. Despite the verbal and ideological sophistication and seeming explanatory power, all forms of pantheism are seen to be self-defeating as soon as one rounds up the whole labyrinthine conception. (The apex in philosophical pantheism being the system of Spinoza, and the teachings of Indian advaitists from Adi Sankara onwards – while the New Age variants are all merely derivative and rationally weaker than the originals)) One might call it the ultimate exercise in empty circular reasoning with its various supporting ideologies – but the circle is extremely wide and has many deep involutions. Its winding theoretical dead-ends can, however, have most serious consequences for persons’ lives, and also for the life and prosperity of entire nations (India having for ages been strongly affected towards religious fatalism and social injustices in this way).

Professor Dawkins is seen as a threat by the ‘Church empires’ [Roman Catholic, Anglican, and diverse Christian-oriented sects], which have been vastly weakened in the modern age. Their insuperable inconsistencies and increasing ‘spiritual hollowness’ has been – in many people’s minds – replaced in much of the world by a much more personal (hence plastic) ideas of God. These allow independence of worship and personalised versions of a supposed ‘universal omnipresent God’ and ‘universal divine values’. On the one hand, by the influx of superstitious religious peoples due to globalisation and not least the Internet, we are – on the one hand – witnessing a somewhat similar reaction as that which occurred when Roman civilisation and learning crumbled before the huge wave of fanatical Christian ascetics, anchorites and their supporters, as described so poignantly by Gibbon. On the other hand, a vague kind of mystical-spiritual universalism which is not anti-scientific or anti-secular is seen in many movements, for example in the belief of many in the “Jedi religion” and a plethora of New Age and spiritualistic beliefs.

The next phase in the struggle of religious faiths to survive may well be the rise of pseudo-religious spirituality in which God will increasingly be taken as an ‘inner reality’, as the inner reality – as the creator and motivator of both ‘the mind’ (i.e. minds) and its product. At the same time, that God can also be considered to be ‘behind’ what we experience as external causes – which are viewed as mental forces created ‘within’ God and through matter (which is conceived as ultimately some kind of mental-spiritual product), through biological evolution and even through an evolution of ‘souls’ entering a series of separate (biologically evolving) bodily incarnations.

Further, according to mentalistic (as opposed to physialistic) theories, the universe is conceived as the self-creation of mind, not of matter. This implies a philosophy of ‘mentalism’ as opposed to ‘physicalism’, which is the basis of many Eastern religious streams and Christian ‘mystical’ thought and – though in considerably weaker versions – in its peripheralized forms Western philosophy. The substitution of this kind of ‘spirituality’ for traditional forms of theism is likely and has already begun (if one considers the influence of Eastern thought in the West especially since the 1960s). A swing towards belief in the ‘inner God’ would not be the logical consequence of science, of course, but of the same psychological, social and emotional needs that created dependence on an external God. In fact, with mentalism, one can have one’s cake and eat it – for many now believe that ‘God is everything and everyone’. Of course, this is logically wholly untenable, but taking into account the many-sided ‘teachings’ of advaita and similar systems, demonstrating this in detail becomes very tricky.

The complexity of the ‘theory’ of such a God is not to be underestimated for it has very considerable resources (though they remain chiefly mental and not demonstrable experimentally or otherwise than by argument). This is already the basis of a widespread ‘spiritual-religious’ resurgence, represented by various so-called New Age ‘religions’ and relying largely on Eastern conceptions found in Buddhism, Hinduism’s advaitic philosophy/belief system and other kinds of ‘mysticism’ with historical roots in virtually all mainstream religious cultures.

A second feature of this kind of  ‘monistic-pantheism’ is that it is highly oriented towards esoteric practices and less concerned with theorising. To exercise ‘spiritual practices’ is the be-all-and-end-all of this resurgent religiosity. Such practices include the simplest forms like prayer (the more ‘automatic’ recitation usually), constant repetition of the supposed ‘names of God’, of mantras and other verbal or oral sounds (devotional singing included). At a more evolved level we find the concentration on self-analysis and social action as an expression of one’s inherent divine nature – offering up all one does to God and ensuring that one acts according to supposed ‘divine commandments’ of one tradition or another. The most sublimated form of these ‘spiritual practices’ are those of service to mankind (regarded as service to God) – that is, doing good work selflessly. The red thread in all of this is to enforce and reinforce the idea of an invisible deity, one who it is assumed can be influenced and moved or reached somehow (as in self-induced trances or temporary ecstasy).

The inherent purpose of all these forms of ‘spiritual practice’ (Hindu sadhana) is claimed to be the attainment of identity with the Divine – or, worded differently, realisation of one’s own inherent and true nature as God. (There are many difficulties with this concept, of course – such as whether it should be a part of God or God per se!). This mysticism and its impracticality is extremely difficult to penetrate, not least because the claim is that one must commit totally to it for a very long time to achieve its fruits.

One variant of this kind of spiritual belief system is the ‘All is God, God is everyone and everything’. This makes God equivalent to all being – so one cannot distinguish anything or anyone from God, not can one distinguish God any more than one can distinguish energy per se. In fact, one could substitute the word ‘energy’ with ‘God’ and vice-versa… as some do. The obvious difference that springs to mind, however, is that the concept of ‘energy’ is so very thoroughly and precisely defined and demonstrated – not least through the Einstein’s relativite and modern quantum theory… whereas the idea ‘God’ is totally non-pragmatic and non-utilitarian. This amorphous thinking has no distinguishable referents and ultimately amounts to nothing but an all-encompassing terminology of terminal vagueness.

Schelling’s conception of the Absolute was reduced to a mere featureless identity, ridiculed by Hegel as “the night in which all cows are black.” Indeed, the conception of eternal cosmic Divine unity as a transcendent reality also suggests a light so bright that no white cows could be visible, nor anything else! This reminds of an amusing but undeniable tautology ‘Everything is Everything’, empty of all but a vestige of meaning (Note: Advaita – a variant of philosophical ‘mentalism’ – holds that matter is a mind-created ‘illusion’ (Maya) which is actually emptiness. Hence we get the crown of absurdity in  “Everything is Nothing and Nothing is Everything” – Sathya Sai Baba). This surely represents the most inclusive tautology conceivable? Indeed, meaningless verbiage which says nothing of anything (and anything of nothing?).

See also on atheism, agnosticism, non-theism and secularism – distinctions drawn

Posted in Creationism, Disinformation, Internet, Philosophy, Spiritual propaganda, Uncategorized, Understanding | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Evolving intelligence – starting point for human understanding

Posted by robertpriddy on September 21, 2009

The “crib” of life conditions
Every living being grows up within a particular set of environmental influences. This is so even from before birth. In the womb, the egg, the seed and so on, the conditions for life and growth vary for each individual and species. After millions of years of evolution, humans are no doubt subject to the same principles, and this extends beyond our physical natures to the experienced product of our brains… our consciousness and intelligence. Even so, each person develops uniquely according to circumstances, which understanding of any person must therefore always take into account. Because of the ingrained traditions and sheer inertia of primitive superstitions and pre-scientific thinking where one could understand nothing about all but relatively very few natural causes, one believed that the human differed from all natural beings in being endowed with a God-created spirit or soul. This is called ‘creationism’, which is disproved as thoroughly as any idea can be though the massive evidence and explanatory power of evolutionary evidence. We were not born in the lap of the gods, but in the crib of the earth.

Speaking figuratively, the “crib” from which every person begins to experience the world represents the entire yet specific influences which form his or her individuality. Even when the baby leaves the actual crib and walks into the world, the figurative crib of the home and its family (if any) continues its influence for a majority of youth until physical maturity is reached. Though the nurture which develops us physically can be determining for those whose lives become physically oriented – such as in bodily labour, sports, and other careers where bodily features are paramount – the most important life influences for the majority are of a mental nature. This includes the handed-down skills, knowledge, and beliefs imbibed in “the crib”, and these extend to education and personal adjustment to the society in which one finds oneself (often called ‘socialization’).

Each “crib” is obviously limited. The outlook of even the most brilliant child of the most well-informed and broadly-experienced parents is still limited when maturity is reached, compared to the outlook of the greatest men and women of history. Though age is not a guarantee of maturity of mind, it is a necessary condition of it. Despite that, age is not correlated with mental maturity. Intelligence as a potential, rather than an actuality, may be measured to some extent – if not in all respects, of course. Actual intelligence, however, is quite another quality to any IQ measurement, however sophisticated, because it embraces all aspects of human life and understanding. Understanding relies on experience, breadth and depth of experience, accuracy of information and scope of knowledge… little of which can be measured other than by limited sampling of a person’s awareness, memory and mental agility. In short, intelligent understanding of the whole of existence – as far as this is possible – is not attainable before a considerable level of experience – and thus also age – is reached, all other pre-conditions which limit scope of knowledge being present.

The individual’s personal, social and overall intellectual evolution is doubtless no straightforward or ‘linear’ development. Though knowledge can cumulate progressively (even when much information is necessarily forgotten or discarded) the underlying assumptions and conclusions which are inevitable in all understanding can change most radically throughout life. That is invariably more a sign of development than of changeability, more an indicator of learning through trial and error than simply a catalogue of mistakes. Those who pursue many different viewpoints, languages, theories, faiths in the course of a lifetime- and whose horizons are not bounded by one nation – are far more likely to reach a higher level of mental evolution and moral sophistication than those who remain strictly within a single profession, one language, one part of the world, within a single faith and so forth. It is not possible for those professional intellectuals who never plunge into life beyond their libraries, laboratories or universities to attain to the kind of evolution of the spirit open to others who do not. By ‘spirituality’ one should not understand any other worldliness such as in religious beliefs and practices, but the unfolding of the human spirit of investigation and enterprise in the world of the present. How fully this ‘unfolding’ can extend is dependent naturally on many circumstances and there are no limits in any direction of interest, making complete mastery of possible knowledge or understanding impossible to anyone.

Though the above views are not supported here by empirical evidence, the likelihood of their truth is probably quite evident to most mature persons who – to one or another extent – fit the requirements they describe.

What conditions make up the “crib”? Evolutionary science has already shown in amazing breadth of detail, considering the relative brevity of its existence since Darwin, how conditions right back to the emergence of life forms on earth have successively formed the basis for the succeeding steps. There are relatively few important gaps in the overall chain and none which any longer could challenge its overall validity. It is a leap in human intelligence compared with the total ignorance of this entire realm of scientific discovery only two hundred years ago and its denial by so-called ‘creationists’ (i.e. religious believers) since then. Other sciences received great impetus from evolutionary science, not least paleontology, anthropology, psychology, sociology and other human sciences in which the consequences of evolution have stimulated to both new basic assumptions and increased inter-disciplinary research. So much for the physical “crib” and natural selection regarding life apart from humans. The more intricate and wide-reaching questions of human evolution now relate to the nature of the human “crib” as sets of both a physical, social, cultural and intellectual conditioners and influences.

The evolution of human knowledge – as a product of human intelligence – is much illumined both by social anthropology and history. The history of cultures, especially those which have predominated in the impetus to civilised world order, is of great significance in evaluating knowledge, its roots, consequences, and not least its limitations and possibilities. Which forms of knowledge represent objective progress as determined by their consequences are contested on political, social and not least religious grounds. Certain advances in science and – to a lesser extent in social thought – are firmly established on a very wide basis and proven empirically through the efficacy of their consequences, whether or not these effects are desirable to all. Such advances represent a standard by which the historical progress of understanding in a culture, nation, population or other grouping of people can be estimated. There are no accurate overall measures of progress of understanding, though there are many reasonable measures of a wide variety of types of personal development of understanding and knowledge. Nonetheless, it is safe to say that sub-cultures where there is understanding and general acceptance of relativity and quantum physics, of evolutionary science and genetics are more advanced than those where this is not the case, or where these are contested on religious or similar grounds. The same applies, with lesser exactness and reduced reliability to many aspects of knowledge about ourselves as social and psychological beings.

The consciousness that prevails most in any social group or sub-culture – even sometimes in a whole population – can characterise it as belonging to a former era in human intellectual and social development as distinct from the prevailing consciousness among those who have surpassed that level in general or as a significant number of the issues which concern a society. An image may help here, it is as if different individuals, – and often also groups of people – exist within a “time-space capsule” which can be roughly dated in terms of the history of human thought and action.

See also The Nature of Human Understanding  and  Unique diversity in human brains (minds) and their cognitive modifiability

also On the validity of personal (i.e. ‘subjective’) experience

Posted in Creationism, Environment, Evolution, Psychology, Uncategorized, Understanding | Leave a Comment »

Bhagwan Satya Sai Baba sexual abuse scandals

Posted by robertpriddy on September 21, 2009

‘The Findings’ by David Bailey – Formerly the top favourite foreign devotee of Sathya Sai Baba released the floodgate of sexual abuse testimonies through his publication in 1999 of ‘The Findings’. One of Sathya Sai Baba’s closest ever devotees (over 100 interviews within a few years only), he lectured about Sathya Sai Baba around the globe, but was eventually so inundated with reports from parents of abused sons and of sexual molestations from students who he taught music at Sathya Sai Baba’s colleges that he began to investigate with an open mind. He began to discover various kinds of fraud by Sai Baba (valueless synthetic stones given as ‘diamonds’ in rings etc.) and in various of his projects (especially the much-trumpeted Rayalaseema Water Project). He has since withdrawn from actively exposing further, for not only had he made his decisive contribution, but he understandably must have wanted to rest from the abusive and defamatory reactions and threats that poured in on him from Sai devotees.

David Bailey’s discoveries set off a chain-reaction among those who describe how they have been abused, defrauded and otherwise seriously maltreated by Sathya Sai Baba in numerous other respects. See David Bailey’s account here. Many prominent and long-term followers left his organization.  Read the transcript/listen to his account by phone.

The Daily Telegraph published the damning report on the sexual assaults in ‘Divine Downfall’ by Mick Brown. The `BBC showed a 1-hr film ‘The Secret Swami’ worldwide which received wide acclaim [see … ]. UNESCO warned of the situation and withdrew from a planned educational conference at the guru’s ashram in India [see], while the US State Department issued an official warning about Sathya Sai Baba.

At least 30 testimonies have been published and a full summary of the history of allegations of sexual abuse against young men and children can be viewed here.

Disinformation has been spread on a large scale and the organised cover-up, rationalising and defense of pedophile activities has taken place by indoctrinated defenders of Sathya Sai Baba. The extent of this is still being uncovered, but much has been done – and my website presents a very full overview of all such matters here.

One of the chief defenders on a huge scale on the Internet of Sathya Sai Baba – even while himself believing for years that he is in fact a sexual abuser! – is Gerald Joe Moreno of New Mexico, who has attacked scores of dissidents and critics of the self-proclaimed God Incarnate, Sathya Sai Baba – not least stalking the families and contacts of the more prominent of them and also has posted a press release here full of misinformation and untruth.

Current information about the exposure of this guru, who is worshipped even by the Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh, is found on two major blogsites and and a thorough analysis of Sai Baba’s writings and claims is available at Brian Steel’s website here.

The Sathya Sai Baba sexual abuse scandals broke on the Internet as from 1999. Later two national broadcasters (BBC and Danish TV) showed damning documentaries, interviewing ‘victims’. Both UNESCO and US State Department issued warnings on this guru.

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