Eyeing the I in the Eidola

Venus at a mirror. Titian c.1555

Venus at a mirror. Titian c.1555

Eidola, the pluralised rendering of ‘eidolon’, are represented in ancient Greek mythological literature as what we commonly regard as phantoms, or apparitions – the spiritualised human form in other words.  These terms derive from ‘eîdos’, a Greek noun loosely translating as ‘a form seen’, yet broaden the meaning to embrace a supernatural element. Ever ubiquitous, humankind’s tales of ghosts, spectres and the like, extend to the animistic beliefs of indigenous tribal peoples, pervade the anthropology of religion, reach back to pre-literate cultures of ancestor worship, and are vividly alive in contemporary media too. In Christian theology, the fundamental reality, or hypostasis, of God, posits the same as existent consubstantially in three forms, one of which is the Holy Ghost. It would appear that eidola persist as a cultural universal, gripping the human mind in faith, awe and fascination.

Personally, I am not keen on being spooked, and the idea of one seeking out such dubious a privilege in film, books or theme parks is as much puzzling as it is anathema to me. This is not merely an inevitable by-product of my advanced years, for I have always eschewed the dubious delights of having my vampire juice flooded with neutrophilic leukocytes, or my sympathetic nervous system haunted by cloaked and shadowy adrenergic receptors – whatever those may be. Such beleaguering goings-on occur irrespective of my clammy-handed protestations, and much as I may bid to reassure the conscious self of the actuality of the situation, show me Regan’s swiveling head and the shivers start up unfailingly. Something odd is going on, as if there were a doppelgänger here; the one being self-possessed, reasoned and conscious, the other irrational, perturbable and asleep at the wheel.

Which is the essential me, the conscious rationalist, or the closeted and timorous absurdist? Still, in presupposing some enduring quintessence of selfhood within or about me, I unwittingly invoke an eidolon, a form seen in mind’s eye yet vaporously at best instantiated; a mind-blown ectoplasmic doppelgänger whose existence pervades my substance and reflectively conscious psyche, which itself is but partial, fleetingly present, a mere fluxing bundle of perceptual imagery alone – a Humean human, inhabited and haunted by a spectral homunculus.  In short, I too am a myth of sorts, a narrative of my own insignificant little odyssey. And yet I exist, so whilst excusing, if you will, the peccadillo of the double negative, I am not nothing. Selfless in the strictest sense, am I more than embodied characterisation, a spectre idling along in its dramaturgical existence, an empty ghost actor?

Self Portrait. Johannes Gumpp. 1646

Self Portrait. Johannes Gumpp. 1646

Surely the eidolic invocation of self cannot be the primary evidence of my truest being; nor is my social construct consistently self-like, as it morphs from one encounter to the next. My physical presence fails the criteria too, for it changes and is subject to programmed cell death, or apoptosis, and the body is a cellular formation. As an adult, up to seventy billion cells die within me each day, so I am separated from my own cells at an astonishing rate. One minute they constitute what I am as an alive being, and the next they are dead, decaying within me and awaiting scavenging by white blood cells which smell their death. Am I somehow separate from the dead cells yet identical with any alive ones? No, they both are part of what I am, which is neither entirely alive nor dead, not inside or outside any self, part eidolon and part matter, not nothing, and yet for a while, an indefinite something.

Glib theories abound, yet which of them withstands scrutiny; which do not devolve to fanciful thinking at base? It seems implausibly dismissive to hold that consciousness does not exist so requires little accounting for – the view of Eliminative Materialism. And similarly so to assert that consciousness and transcendental idea alone are what I am; or otherwise to call forth the ineffable and regard myself as some play of Lila or Godhead. No, undeniably there is awareness illuminating all consciously apprehended phenomena, and there is this heaving heap of cells coming and going too, albeit only in loose aggregation. In all, some tight-woven interplay of mind and matter, a body subjected to endless sense impressions, a mind-created eidolon which spooks whilst affirming itself. And at times, a unified multiplicity prevails, a seamless non-localisation in which I as subject recede, give way, dissolve.

Phenomenologists, most notably Edmund Husserl, have in the past century proposed rigorous mind-analyses for disposing of eidola in contemplatively reductionist ways, echoing the ‘via negativa’ of Vipassana Buddhism and later Indian Advaita/ Natha doctrines, Greek Pyrrhonism, Epistemological Fallibilism, Maimonides’ negative Judaism, with correlates to the apophatic mysticism of Islam and Christianity. So too are there dubious quick-fix, pick ‘n mix bags admissible to the jaded, post-modernist mindset, they being largely corruptions of classical doctrines. All are attempts at debunking the mythological self and god by rejecting falsity; though curiously none state what persists thereafter. Elusive yet obvious when seen, eyeing the I in the eidola is unsusceptible to perceptual capture. Known by and as itself alone, it remains present to all awareness, ever thus, subtle, profound, not a myth.


171 thoughts on “Eyeing the I in the Eidola

  1. Here is a short video on the sense of self featuring Vilayanur Subramanian Ramachandran (b. 1951) – a neuroscientist known primarily for his work in the fields of behavioral neurology and visual psychophysics. He is currently a Professor in the Department of Psychology and the Graduate Program in Neurosciences at the University of California, San Diego. He is also the Director of the Center for Brain and Cognition affiliated with the U.C. San Diego Department of Psychology.

  2. Such eloquence dancing mind & nature
    Apart & together
    Dangling from strings hung
    From a clouded shadow play box
    Of perceptions & mental formations, Hariod!
    l enjoyed this expression of mind,
    While also feeling a bit melancholy,
    Missing the days our ancestors
    Experienced mindless wonder
    From their single-celled selves. 🙂

    • Thank you David; your creative responses are always nothing less than a delight to receive, and as I believe I may have said to you previously, I only wish I were able to respond in kind, but alas must stick to my innately arid prosaicness, which is nonetheless capable of reflecting gratitude and best wishes your way. With metta, Hariod.

  3.  “Something odd is going on, as if there were a doppelgänger here; the one being self-possessed, reasoned and conscious, the other irrational, perturbable and asleep at the wheel.” – you love it, but secretly! A secret you keep even from your conscious self. Or, it is an instinctual reaction built in for safety purposes – a spare ‘you’, the warrior within, who reacts to the adrenalin kick should a giant mutant zombie bear attack you; and of course the adrenalin is a high, ideally followed by the even higher kick of survival joy as you stand on the chest of said mutant zombie bear holding its head in your aged fist. How horrible of you Hariod. Leave the bears alone for goodness sake!

    “Which is the essential me, the conscious rationalist, or the closeted and timorous absurdist?” – don’t forget the crazy bewigged you in the attic who is friends only to bluebottles and woodlice, and believes they will one day make you their king. Or should I not have mentioned that?

    “In short, I too am a myth of sorts” – are you a very tiny person with horns or something then? Like Napoleon, only with the head of a sausage dog?

    ‘Homunculus’ – one of my favourite words. Thank you for reminding me. *tucks said homunculus into her pocket wrapped in a small bobble hat and some Jacob’s Crackers for later on.*

    A truly enjoyable post Hariod. Please don’t think I am not taking the piece seriously, because despite my jesting, it is just that – seriously good. Your skill with the written word shines out to one and all, and I like the shapes made by them. I for one love my vampires, and ghoulish books, and yet cannot fathom why anyone would wish to scare themselves to death on a roller coaster. Surely only a simpleton would do so? One secret to themselves perhaps?

    – Sonmi spinning her head at twenty miles an hour and doing stand-up in tongues upon the Cloud

    • For goodness sake you scared the life out of one of me with all that bear talk. The fundamental me is not at all warrior-like I can tell you. I once went on Space Mountain in Disneyworld and had to spend the rest of the afternoon going ’round and ’round on “It’s a Small World” with a bottle of Jose Cuervo and singing* along to calm me down. They eventually took me away – Donald and Minnie that is – but it probably wasn’t until after they recovered my false teeth from the bottom of the mountain ride that I was able to relax and get into my other, more self-assured persona.

      And you’re right, there could be yet another side to me, but methinks not a wee little Bony or anything bewigged or Dachshund-shaped; I’m almost certain of that. I can’t quite discern this other me fully, and all I know is that there’s a three inch tall laconic sesquipedalian with a penchant for Mars Bars and squeaky Xenas lurking somewhere in the cranial depths – possibly lower too. The Three Mucky Faces of Hariod – eh? Joanne Woodward’s got nothing on me I can tell you Sonmi. Anyway, one of them might be real I suppose, cuz one fing’s fer sure – I ain’t not nuffink.

      * Here is the comforting tune that so helped me through the trauma I spoke of:

      • I remember that ‘It’s a Small World’ song and the exhibit well. No Space Mountain for me, though I did enjoy the Haunted House again and again. I miss those days and wonder if I will ever go back.

        • How extraordinary, that the two of us should simultaneously be mentioning this obscure and aged little ditty respectively on our two blogsites, or rather that you should subscribe to two blogs that had done so. Very well spotted Karin, and I appreciate you coming back to let me know.

          With very best wishes,


  4. The two pictures are very interesting. It seems to me that Titian has Venus looking at the artists reflection in the mirror. The self portrait has the subject looking at the artist in the picture, but something is awry. Look at the eyes in the reflection and the eyes in what is a picture of the reflection. One of these is intentional!

    I loved the video – nice to see neuroscientists helped down from their pedestal.

    • Thankyou for your interest, and yes, the so-called Venus Effect* is widely acknowledged, wherein the artist seeks to convey a meaningful subjective experience to the viewer rather than depict a facsimile of what appears in the studio as s/he works. I am pleased that you enjoyed the video; Ramachandran is very well worth reading for anyone having an interest in consciousness and the self; he seems one of the few neurophysicists that is prepared to think outside of a Hard Materialist perspective, and yet his physicalist perspectives are exhilarating in their novelty. And if all else fails, then the way he rolls his ‘R’s is something to behold. Thankyou once again for your interest Howard.

      * http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4073306/

  5. As an adult, up to seventy billion cells die within me each day, so I am separated from my own cells at an astonishing rate. One minute they constitute what I am as an alive being, and the next they are dead, decaying within me and awaiting scavenging by white blood cells which smell their death. Am I somehow separate from the dead cells yet identical with any alive ones? No, they both are part of what I am, which is neither entirely alive nor dead, not inside or outside any self, part eidolon and part matter, not nothing, and yet for a while, an indefinite something.

    It gets even crazier when we get down to the atomic level. Surely we’re missing something – something perhaps quite large, but infinitely small, but as to what it is…

    • I think you could well be right John. I am an admirer of Roger Penrose, who has been working on a theory of consciousness with Stuart Hameroff and which is known as Orch-OR (see below). Did you ever read Penrose’s work The Emperor’s New Mind? It is quite exhilarating in the uniqueness of the approach, although more conventional theorists have criticised him for not producing any evidence for his theory aside from equations. Nonetheless, Penrose is a pretty smart cookie, having been Stephen Hawking’s mentor years ago. No one is going anywhere with tracing consciousness down to neural networks, merely discovering more and more about brain functionality – not what consciousness actually is, and how subjectivity arises out of matter (if indeed that is the whole story).


        • Yes, as Penrose makes clear in the Prologue and Epilogue – the little sketches around President Pollo’s ‘Ultronic’ computer – theories which take no account of feeling as part of the experience of consciousness are surely barking up the wrong tree, and perhaps deserve to be mocked, just as the audience in the room do when the Chief Designer of ‘Ultronic’ says that his machine cannot compute the meaning of the question, and the audience then break out into ripples of laughter. Feeling is always there in consciousness/subjectivity – call it what we will – and to regard qualia as purely computational resultants seems to ignore the very fact of felt consciousness it seems.

              • Not exactly, though I was reminded, since you’ve intertwined physics and studying consciousness itself, of something. In the mid-1970’s, I was an undergraduate physics major, and a friend of mine, Charlie Jackson (from Delta, CO.) started an unofficial class – more like a series of seminars, symposiums, or whatever – to discuss and study the physics of consciousness. [We were at C.S.U. (Colorado State University) – not exactly a hot-bed of esoteric studies]. I didn’t participate in the course, and the symposiums/whatever ended a bit pre-maturely due to Charlie’s demise. He was meditating on a mountain-top and was struck by lightning.

                • What a perfect way to go; I can hardly imagine any more desirable way of exiting the world. I was once at a performance of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion at Bath Abbey here in England, and a lady across the aisle dropped dead halfway through. Until reading your anecdote, I thought that was how I would ideally like to die, though I now think Charlie had by far the better idea. Was he wearing a tin-foil hat or similar contraption?

  6. Catchy title, Hariod. And I do appreciate the posting of the bared firm breast of whatshername in the image above. But more to the point, are you saying you’ve actually seen your eidolon in the mind’s eye, or only imagined seeing it there? I think there is an important difference, yes? Not that I know if it’s possible or not, to see one’s own eidolon. Or even if such thing exists. But it seems noteworthy, for I don’t think our consciousness to be a product of our brain, our physical being. But rather something else – the brain being matter, and all things being made of matter might indicate all matter had consciousness. And of course there is this seventy billion cell matter (pun intended) that we’ve discussed some version of before.

    All that aside Hariod, I truly love reading your most singular work. Though I lack any serious intelligence to contribute any meaningful discourse, they inspire, both by content and style.

    • Thankyou so much Peter, for casting your eyes over this month’s offering and also for your kind words of encouragement. I fear I may have caused some confusion as to what was meant by ‘eidolon’ within the article. I am using the term as a synonym for the supposed self-entity which we all presume ourselves to be, or which we suppose inhabits our mind/body in some personally characteristic manner. So, this idea goes back to ontological theories, or some would say ‘spiritual’ doctrines, of ancient India, such as Hindu Advaita Vedanta, or the slightly earlier Buddhist Anatta or Non-Self doctrine. In the intervening 2,500 or so years, we have reached a point at which neuroscience is saying the same thing: that the self is an illusory mind construct, a form of delusory spell under which we necessarily fall – do please see the video above featuring V.S. Ramachandran, a world renowned neurophysicist.

      Whilst not akin to Gilbert Ryle’s ‘Ghost in the Machine’ – a rejection of mind/body dualism – the eidolon here is the presumed experiencer of experience, thinker of thoughts, the object-perceiving subject, chooser of choice, and so forth, all of which are but spectral invocations, like ghosts in the mechanism of the body machine. All these notions presuppose an enduring entity of selfhood which simply has no instantiation other than as an idea, a belief, a put-up job. Nonetheless, these self-entities, or eidolons, can be disposed of in contemplatively reductionist ways, and as I enumerate in the piece. It would seem you are taking the expression as something quite different, as if some spiritualised essence – or do I misunderstand you? We can go down that track if you wish to, but I have limited experience of worth in that regard myself.

      Thankyou once again for your interest and most generous response Peter; I truly appreciate your presence, and if I can clarify my thoughts in any way, then I would be more than happy to do so, for what it may be worth – just let me know.

      • I watched the video, Hariod. You see, although free time is too often a stranger, I do get around to most things eventually.

        Now, if I’m to understand correctly, and correct me if I’m wrong, Dr. Ramachandran suggests that we’ve a consciousness unique to humans, perhaps slightly evident in some apes. And I think he identifies this dual property, developed through the stages of evolution, of Qualia and Self, as unique to humans. Or to simplify it, I think I think, therefore I think I am. Or, some version thereof. And this he links to a physical aspect of the human brain. And I suppose Hariod, if anyone should know, it would be Dr. Ramachandran.

        By the way, I love the accent and body language, he strikes me, and not unlike yourself, as a super-intelligent person. I have a unique appreciation for the Indian people. I had worked for a family of Indians for eleven years and had grown quite admiring of them, their culture, their ancient wisdoms, the people they are; we had a mutually beneficial relationship. They with my skills; I with their knowledge. But, I’ve digressed.

        And so you must keep in mind what you’re dealing with in me when I take certain exceptions to what the wise doctor says. Despite the flattery heaped upon me from time to time by kind readers, I am not a smart man. But I am a suspicious one: of science, of religion, of authority, and pretty much everything else, except nature. And the one thing I’ve come to learn is that humans have an agenda. Some are minute, some grandiose. Some agendas are benevolent while others are malevolent, and sometimes they’re a mix. But no matter how benevolent one might be, they are all able to skew the perception of the holder.

        And so here’s my point, however pointless and based in ignorance it may be. Dr. Ramachandran attributes this unique quality of consciousness to a physical attribute of the human brain, something-something neurons. Let’s take his word that these neurons are unique to the human brain, and perhaps it is those that make us defective, but I’ll not digress again.

        Nonetheless, there exists something that sets us apart from all the other creatures, and which only a fool could deny. However, I don’t believe this difference lies in consciousness. I’ve good reason to believe this ‘higher’ state of consciousness exists in animals too. They are fully aware, more aware than most people. I wouldn’t do what I do if I didn’t know that to be true. Animals can’t design and build a bridge, or anything close. For one thing they’ve no need; although beavers erect dams. But they are aware of themselves, and are aware of themselves being aware. They can communicate, and not just among themselves, but to us too, if only we learn to listen.

        And I think the biggest obstacle in all that is the human conceit that we are special. That’s funny though, isn’t it Hariod, that we are special? When the earth, as a living organism, has no need for us. When in fact, we’ve swarmed and destroyed and killed like a plague; though I admit, it doesn’t have to be that way and wish it weren’t. But something drives it, and that is another quest of mine to discover.

        Science has made, and continues to make, many discoveries and advancements to knowledge. But in many respects it has boxed itself in, not unlike religion; although not nearly to the same degree. Religion has usurped and suppressed, to a near nulling degree, true spirituality, and with purpose and vicious intent. Recognizing a small part of this, some religious people claim to be spiritual, yet not religious, but most really aren’t. They’re still well-contained within their religious parameters, and it is this ridiculousness of religion that pits it against science and its adherents.

        And so science dismisses religion, as it well should; but it should not dismiss spirituality. Unfortunately, it can’t differentiate – not yet. I’ve often asked the question of what becomes of us when science discovers the gods, the spiritual realm? We will then pretty much have to rewrite the whole script, won’t we?

        I don’t believe this ‘higher’ consciousness exists within the brain. The brain is made of mere matter, yet it is the physical instrument of our expression, a necessary receptor and transmitter. Without it, we can’t formulate our own consciousness, nor our own spirituality, which is a very powerful thing, Hariod. For lack of a better term, spirituality can produce magic, though the term may be misleading, it is nothing short of that, and it can take one onto another level. But what I’ve discovered in that regard is that it can be frightening. It’s as though stepping into an abyss, then withdrawing for fear of being pulled into the unknown and never being able to return, when in fact, it is stepping out of the abyss!

        When I asked you if you saw your eidolon in mind’s eye, or only imagined seeing it, it was more a question of seeing yourself as spirit, your essence. Not the scientific ‘I think I am, therefore I am’, sort of thing.

        Surely this all must seem the ramblings of a madman, and it may well be. For it could simply be the electrical impulses of my material brain gone awry that presents me with such illusions. But you must know, I take no drugs or drink, nor prescribed or over-the-counter medications; not so much as an aspirin, cough drop, or vitamin. My entire consumption is plant based, and maybe that’s the problem?

        Forgive me if I’ve wasted your time, Hariod. Or once again misinterpreted any intended meaning.


        • Thankyou Peter, for such a marvellously detailed follow-on comment, and you have far from wasted my time, rest assured. As to having ‘misinterpreted any intended meaning’ of what I have stated, then I cannot be sure, and I feel as though you are perhaps in part opposing something that I have not in fact said. You may be, though I cannot see what it is. The only sensible thing to do is to go through your various points each in turn:

          Yes, Ramachandran is suggesting there is something unique about human consciousness, which of course is true for all animal species in any case. [Daniel Dennett wrote a fine book on this called ‘Kinds of Minds’ by the way.] In his discussion of Qualia and Self, Ramachandran is taking on a problem which exists only in the mind of those humans. I think it fair to say that the otter and zebra are likely unconcerned about the validity of their own frames of reference – the correspondence to actuality of their subjective experience. They just get on with it, whereas we, or some of us foolish humans, agonise over it. He does indeed ‘link this [unique property] to a physical aspect of the brain’, although he is not saying it is synonymous or identical to it – he is merely pointing to correlations and causal links. We know these correlations exist from the work of Roger Sperry and later Michael Gazaniga in their ‘split-brain’ experiments. Be careful to note though Peter, that we are not there talking about the Eliminative Materialism I wrote of dismissively in my article, and which denies conscious phenomena as a distinct category, but purely correlations between whatever consciousness is, and the brain.

          I confess I do not readily grasp what you mean when you say that ‘humans have an agenda’; neither do I understand what you mean when you say you are ‘suspicious of pretty much everything . . . except nature’. For me, the human animal is as much a part of nature as the otter or zebra – no less, no more. To assert otherwise is of course to say that we humans are supernatural, somehow outside of, or beyond, natural existence. Even if we were to be somehow alien life forms in respect to this planet, we would still be part of nature, albeit a nature as exists within the universe more widely than solely here on earth. What is it then, which you are suspicious of and which is outside of nature? Put another way, what is it that exists outside of nature?

          I agree, of course animals are aware. I am also very open to the possibility that awareness, or some unknown-to-us form of subjectivity, may prevail in all matter, even inanimate matter – see: Giulio Tononi ‘Integrated Information Theory’ and others on Panpsychism. I agree also, that it is perfectly evident that (all) animals communicate with one another, and some have intra-specie faculties of communication. Any dog keeper knows that. When you say that other animals ‘are aware of themselves being aware’, then I personally think that is too general a supposition with respect. You are talking about egoic awareness there Peter, the capacity to form a model of the self and for the mind to cognise the same reflectively. That requires particular neural circuitry including off-line (intra-cortical) feedback loops, which we know are not present in some kinds of nervous systems.

          I also agree completely that it is merely human conceit that insists our species is in some way ‘special’ (your term), meaning uniquely superior. And again, yes, the earth has no need for us; we are likely just a biological blip in unending time, fussing over our importance and purpose, our meaning and place in the hierarchy of nature. As to your quest to discover what drives our destructive nature, then I found Buddhism builds a strong and simple case that it is aversion and desire, that all ills devolve to a falsely constructed sense of self which is impelled to live its life in accord with these two primary motivations. One can elaborate endlessly, but these truths remain self-evident within any honest and sensitive appraisal.

          As regards religion and spirituality, then I tend to avoid discussion on this here Peter, not least of all because we soon enough find ourselves talking about religious or quasi-religious cosmologies of one kind or another, and I have no desire to argue the case for or against. I like to discuss consciousness in respect to phenomenology and ontology – to use fancy terms for really what is just human nature and felt experience – but once we set forth into cosmological beliefs then all hell breaks loose, and heaven knows the pun is intended. I never dismiss either religion or spirituality, because all I have is my own little bubble of experience, and for all I know others may have visited their divine or hellish realms. An abbot of a monastery once advised me not to explore such things as they are merely endless distractions, and it turned out to be very good advice. Having said all this, then as you may have read in my book, I too feel the same way as regards fear and ‘stepping into an abyss’, although I do not couch this within an overtly spiritual paradigm. I respect the fact that many would, yourself included.

          So Peter, we have a huge degree of consensus in our respective positions as you can see, and I cannot grasp quite what you are in part opposing – if indeed you are. It may be that if you expanded upon these suspicions of yours then yawning differences may appear; not that it would matter in the least, and I feel sure we can both happily accept differences between our little, but not altogether ape-like, selves. This is an open forum though, so if you wish to relate further your position then do fire away my noble friend; you are more than welcome here as always.

          • It will take me some time to digest your response, but in the meantime, I’d like you to know I’m not opposing a thing here. Hariod, I’ve learned a fair amount from you; few have had me thinking as hard as you have.

            I am searching, and as such I may well be perceived as arrogant and assertive, but this is merely my handicap of both expression and comprehension. Combined with an inability to correlate and adequately express my scattered thoughts, I confuse not only myself sometimes, but others as well, as you know.

            I did read an interesting article after posting the comment above, and which I found quite relevant to the discussion, that you may enjoy:


            • Thanks Peter, I thought that was a very good article apart from one glaring error:

              “Buddhism posits an immaterial thing that survives the brain’s death and is reincarnated.”

              In fact, it does not, the doctrine of Anatta specifically precluding any Pythagorean transmigration of any kind. The Buddhist conception of rebirth needs to be understood within the framework of its theory of Condition Dependent Origination, and how consciousness always conforms to that, even from its first arising within a new-born being. It is a common error all the same, and even though the doctrine of Anatta (no-self/no-soul) is central to Buddhist psychology, still it is presumed that some ‘immaterial thing’ (such as can only be described as a ‘self’ or ‘soul’) transmigrates to another being upon the death of an individual.

              And you never come across as being ‘arrogant and assertive’ in the least Peter. You are a man of conviction – a rare thing these days – and you express yourself accordingly, intelligently allowing for the possibility of those convictions proving to be only provisional. None of us has all the answers, and those we do hold ought best be considered provisional I feel. I know I have changed my mind on a whole range of things down through the years, and why should I believe that to be about to change? Thoughtful dialogue is often a way of clarifying what we think it seems, and also of unearthing the flaws in our pet assumptions and inclinations. One of the great curses we fall prey to as a species, it appears to me, is our insistence upon holding to certainties. It can be instructive to present such certainties publicly though, because we invite others to come and dismantle them, so learning from the process as a whole. For that reason, I will often play Devil’s Advocate, for that too I find an excellent way of testing a counter-argument.

              So, thankyou for the engagement here dear Peter, and as I said, do come back if you wish to express anything further, or refute anything within my own provisional position.

  7. What a stimulating and engaging post Hariod! It did make me smile, and I shall come back to it to see if I understand it in the same way tomorrow. 😉

    As always, your choice of video is a great addition. Ramachandran has great ‘R’ rolling, and plenty of examples of it to keep the audience fully engaged!

    • Thankyou very much for taking a look at this article Val, and also for your kind expressions of encouragement. Do please let me know if you glean anything further upon second reading, for which effort I also must express my gratitude in advance. Your winking eye is something of a leg-pull I know, and I must confess to getting carried away in parts of this, yet it added to the pleasure of the writing so on balance I can forgive myself.

      I mentioned to Howard just above how much Ramachandran rolls his ‘R’s, and it is very pleasing I find – I may adopt it myself from now on. He is one of the very few neurophysicists that I have read who grasps the whole Advaita/Nondualism thing, and who can relate it to the nuts and bolts of brain physiology. It was through him that I was led to Zoltan Torey, who again has that same multi-disciplinary vision, he being a psychologist on the mundane side of things. Sadly, he died in recent times, and I am privileged to have his personal copy of his great work “The Crucible of Consciousness”, which he sent to me here in England all the way from Australia. That is a fabulous work if you ever have the good fortune to come across it Val; although it does take a lot of effort to read. Let me know about the second reading, and thanks once again.

      • I looked at a summary of Zoltan Torey’s work The Crucible of Consciousness and it helped in my understanding of this perspective, and also in previous posts.

        “In The Crucible of Consciousness, Zoltan Torey offers a theory of the mind and its central role in evolution. He traces the evolutionary breakthrough that rendered the brain accessible to itself and shows how the mind-boosted brain works. He identifies what it is that separates the human’s self-reflective consciousness from mere animal awareness, and he maps its neural and linguistic underpinnings. And he argues, controversially, that the neural technicalities of reflective awareness can be neither algorithmic nor spiritual – neither a computer nor a ghost in the machine.”

        Thank you H for your gentle guidance. 💛

  8. I am particularly intrigued with these thoughts: “Am I somehow separate from the dead cells yet identical with any alive ones? No, they both are part of what I am, which is neither entirely alive nor dead, not inside or outside any self, part eidolon and part matter, not nothing, and yet for a while, an indefinite something.”

    • Yes Karuna, it is quite a sobering thought to consider that much of what we take to be our alive body is in fact either other organisms or great mounds of dead cells. And yet we would not be alive to the extent that we are without either.

  9. Hi Hariod,

    I am confused by this profoundly intellectual piece. After having read twice, with great attention and alacrity to comprehend the content, many parts remain obscure. Are you talking about apparitions within the mind and thoughts, which haunt us, or the cells which die a natural death because they remain unused? While I don’t believe in the fantastic spooky creations of mankind, I have experienced and grappled with ghostly shadows of words and emotions many a time. Our mind possesses an enormous power to exorcise such ‘Eidolas’ if we give it the time to analyse.

    Do you think I could understand the terrain of your thoughts? As usual your post is very thought provoking. Thanks for activating some of the dead cells with your words. 🙂

    With regards, Balroop.

    • Hi Balroop,

      Thankyou so much for your interest, and more than that, for having taken the trouble to read the piece twice. You are not alone in being a little puzzled as to exactly what was meant by the term ‘eidolon’ in this piece, and I have explained the matter more fully in my response to Peter Schreiner above if you would care to take a look. As I make clear in my ‘about’ page Balroop, there is quite often discussion here on classical Indian philosophy of mind, most notably the Buddhist conception of Anatta (Non-Self) and Advaita Vedanta (Nondualism). So, as I say in my response to Peter, the eidolon here is the internalised self-conception, or self-entity, which we all take as a given that somehow instantiates in or as us.

      This is not to be confused with the self as social construct, or the self as our bodily aggregation, both of which have objective referents in reality. In contradistinction, the internalised self-entity – the ‘self of me’ – has no referents other than its own existence as a belief forged in memory and the on-going stream of mentation. It all sounds rather absurd and preposterous an idea at first, but in fact is borne out in neurophysics, as you can see from the video at the top of the comments section here featuring V.S. Ramachandran. It has also been borne out in a number of the practitioners of those philosophies previously mentioned, and has been across differing cultures for over 2,500 years.

      My deep gratitude and respect to you dear Balroop,


      • Thanks you so much for taking the concept further to enlighten us. It can only be understood as a philosophical platform, which is not the domain of common (wo)man! It sounds confusing, as ‘self’ cannot be seen as a separate entity till it is trained and made to detach from the ‘social construct’, as seen by the philosophers and the spiritual gurus. It is always a pleasure to engage in such a meaningful discourse with you my friend. Many thanks for that.

        • Well, the philosophical pinnacles of Buddhism, and Advaita Vedanta too, are intended very much for them not to remain as what you are calling ‘philosophical platforms’ Balroop; they are instead meant to be actualised in lived experience by ‘the common (wo)man’, and they are. It is not a case of becoming something other than that which we already are, and certainly does not require any intellectual capacity, but rather is it a shift in our apprehending of ourselves and the world which, whilst subtle, is revolutionary in its effect. It is as if life and awareness are brought into focus, and in the process, the blurry misconceptions that we carry around as presumed givens disappear – chief amongst these being the mind-created self-construct as an autonomous agent of will and object-apprehending subject. These are artefacts of our evolutionary development which we have carried around with us for at least 40,000 years i.e. since the acquisition of language and the ability to manipulate conceptual symbols within our minds.

          Thankyou once again for your interest and engagement Balroop. With all best wishes, Hariod.

          • Wow! That is so interesting, but who has the time and the inclination to immerse oneself in those blissful experiences in a world separated by strife and so many kinds of selfish pursuits to achieve – God knows what! Thanks for the prompt replies; much appreciated – I just happened to be online to see them.

            • It is true Balroop, self-knowledge, or perhaps I should say non-self-knowledge, does take an awful lot of contemplatively analytical work, very little of which entails ‘blissful experiences’.

  10. Beautiful post, and entertaining; yet you don’t say this nor that, neither both, and not nothing. 🙂 Perhaps some energies of the self, when driven into subconsciousness, have no choice but to haunt the conscious self, in order to inform the suppressor about his/her denial of those suppressed parts of self. 😉

    • Ha-ha! Yes, there’s not nothing wrong with a double negative, or a triple one in your case. 😉 This is just a little food for thought more than anything too definitive – what else can be achieved in a three-minute blog read? I know you don’t think much of Advaita/Anatta Bert, but would you argue with Ramachandran (the video above) and neurophysics too? And yes, an intellectual understanding of non-self is not much help on its own, nor is the kidology so commonplace in spiritual circles, but I think you’re talking about ghosts haunting ghosts. There is a self as a social construct, and a self as a bodily aggregation, but no enduring self as an internalised, autonomous agent of will/volition etc. If there is, then tell me about it; I’m all ears.

      • “I know you don’t think much of Advaita/Anatta.” 🙂 This is not exactly true. I don’t know much of it, hence it would be preposterous to have any (negative or positive) opinion about it. However, now and then I find inspiration at:


        Neurophysics has little to do with the megastructures of my brain. A resistor has little meaning in a computer; unless of course, when it defectively short-circuits. 🙂

        Heart of the matter: I haven’t seen ghosts or haunting dreams since I discovered the fleeting nature of self. Many things stopped – [though I am] still evolving. Ten days ago I was aware of how my brain (or ‘self’ in this case) was just feeding nonsense data into a dream just to keep it running and give it a reasonable ‘outcome’. 🙂 In the same way I interpret those ‘haunting energies’ from a time before I asked the question ‘who is Bert?’

        • Yes, the ghost comes and goes, yet with increasingly less force or impact – a bit like an idiot that follows you around whispering unhelpful things over your shoulder perhaps? o_O I may be wrong, but I think it all but impossible to shed 40,000 years of evolved error-making within periodic insightful understandings. Some claim that is so, and whilst the insights come about instantaneously, and their effects endure, it seems that for most the eidolon reappears as the thinking mind sets itself to work. Thanks for the link Bert; I will take a look.

          All best wishes my friend, Hariod.

  11. You never fail to disappoint (although I did miss you in October). The article was thought-provoking and the visual accompaniment was perfectly chosen as usual. I enjoyed the “rolling R’s” video and some of the comments are deliciously amusing. It will take a while for my smile to fade. You have collected a fine audience.

    Being wedded to an Oxbridge philosopher, I am no longer able to get away with my pre-marital, materialistic view that the self is a product purely of neuronal activity, or that studying neural networks or even quantum mechanics will bring one closer to understanding consciousness. Having had my ideas demolished I find that, rather than requiring a new theory, I am content to leave the question unanswered for now.

    • Thankyou so much Sarah, for your presence and appreciative contribution here, and not least of all for even noticing my absence last month – that is a first for me; it is rather nice to missed! As regards the commenters and readers that gather here, then it seems that no matter how oblique my offerings may be, still they remain undeterred, which is both a great surprise and something I cherish very much – it is so lovely to know that one’s words are not simply disappearing into the aether, even if their meaning is not met with universal approval, which mine are not on occasion.

      I think you are very wise to leave such questions unanswered by the intellect, for enquiring of it can often be a process of circular regression I find, at least, in respect to matters of ontological enquiry it can. We may ask ‘what is it like to be a bat?’ [Thomas Nagel] yet can only ever arrive at a loose conceptual about-ness within the intellect – it is the felt experience of being the bat that provides the only true answer of course. The same is true when the intellect asks of our own being-ness ‘what is it that I am?’, which achieves little but removing us from our ‘I am-ness’.

      May I ask, is your husband a philosopher of mind, or of other matters, and if the former, then where do his inclinations lie?

      • Oh my gosh, Hariod, I’m sorry, I can’t believe my mistake. 😮 I meant to give you a big compliment and instead I accused you of always disappointing me! I am so, so glad that you responded to the intended meaning and not the actual one. I’m not sleeping well at the moment so I will blame my tired brain for the mistake. May I respond to your closing question in an email?

        • And there I was thinking how much you enjoyed being disappointed by me Sarah! XD It hardly seems appropriate to ask of a reader whether they truly mean what they say, although yours was something of a mixed message due to, what I am pleased to now learn was, that simple error, and one so easily made my friend. I may in future ask if I can use your words on my home page to draw readers in: “Having subscribed to this blog a year ago, I can say that Hariod Brawn never fails to disappoint.” XD It would be lovely to hear from you off-blog Sarah, though please feel no obligation to respond to my somewhat intrusive question.

          Yours insincerely, 😉


  12. Thanks for this well-written post on a fascinating topic. The eidolon is just a false identity, but so hard to get rid of. The unchanging sense of ‘I am’ is much more the truth of what we are.

    I am impressed with your knowledge of all the philosophical schools of thought. I cannot contribute any ‘-ism’, but I have read accounts of people whose self fell away, e.g. Bernadette Roberts or Suzanne Segal. I found it intriguing that Suzanne Segal wrote that she had the feeling of driving her car through herself. She was not identified with the body anymore.

    When the spiritual path is traveled far enough, I think this is what it comes down to. Realizing that we are All of It. I’ve had glimpses of this, but it is not my everday experiential reality, even though the universe does its best to convince me that we are all one.

    Warm regards,


    • Thankyou so much for your interest and most insightful contribution to the discussion Karin; your presence is greatly appreciated. And you are of course correct, the sense of I am-ness persists even as the eidoloclast completes the work – please see my response to Bela below for more on that if you wish to.

      Thankyou also for recounting Suzanne Segal’s intriguing Satori experience; it reminded me of U.G. Krishnamurti’s own. He was on his way to hear his namesake Jiddu Krishnamurti give a talk, when he suddenly changed his mind and decided to go to a striptease joint instead. Whilst he watched the ecdysiast perform, he began to realise that he had no idea if he was her or himself; there seemed no clear distinction. That is because the internalised subject – the eidolon of U.G.K. – had dissolved, as had the externalised object (or eidolon) of the ecdysiast. And yet of course, both body’s persisted as distinct spatial entities. It does sound redolent of Segal’s strange driving experience in some ways; both had been eyeing the I in the eidola.

      As regards what you refer to as your ‘glimpses’, then I gather that for most they come and go Karin. The eidolon of the self-entity is a product of 40,000 years of evolution – it may be longer, but I tend to think it came about with humankind’s capacity to manipulate conceptual symbols in the mind, with language and symbolic visual imagery. There are many cases of those who thought they’d seen through it all permanently, only to come back down to earth with a big psychological bump as the eidolon returned to haunt. Some will have written books, set up ashrams and built circles of disciples in the meantime, so find it impossible to climb down from the pedestal they erected in so doing. Time usually finds them out though, and the brittleness of charlatanism always wins out.

      With great respect and appreciation for your understanding and presence Karin,


  13. So, the first thing I did after reading was to look up the word:

    eidolon |īˈdōlən|
    noun (pl. eidolons or eidola |-lə| )
    1. an idealized person or thing.
    2. a specter or phantom.

    And didn’t I find it interesting, that first interpretation?! Perhaps therein lies the meaning, for any idealized version of what might be termed ‘Reality’ is in fact made up of specters and phantoms of the collective imagination. Or not. And yet.

    Growing up in religious fundamentalism, fear was my companion. I was conditioned to it, discovering only later that this quaking emotion was not truly part of Who I Am. In my 20’s, I saw many frightening things, as my eyes opened wider to the unseen-to-most worlds all around me. After all, I was conditioned to believe these were abominations, or at the very least products of a kind of insane mind. When I began stepping into these holograms, however, the reverse happened. I was granted access, comfort, knowledge of sorts, and a great deal of freedom. It was okay to live inside my own skin.

    But I digress. Because the other point I wanted to make was that, once our bodies no longer hold enough energy to remain houses to our All-ness, what is left but The Mind, that energy that never dies but only transforms? What then? If I fear what I do not know, I am almost certain to end up trapped in illusions (of my own making?). So I kind of understand my own process, always wishing to ‘be closer to Creation’ as I grew up and into the person I am. I wanted it, all of it, all along. I welcome it still.

    • Precisely so Bela – pointing to your ‘and yet’ – however successful the eidoloclast within is in breaking the spell of selfhood, still the ‘I am-ness” persists. As I wrote in the article, we remain: “neither entirely alive nor dead, not inside or outside any self . . . not nothing, and yet for a while, an indefinite something.” No wonder we invent our beloved religions, for it does all seem like a vast puzzle to work out, one with the suggestion of a prize for all those who complete it; and of course, there must be some master puzzle-maker behind it all, or so many believe.

      Going on to your wider notion of ‘Reality’, then there is this idea floated in certain spiritual circles, and which seems fair to term Transcendental Idealism, in which the objective is to realise that all we are is consciousness, that arrangements of matter (bodies and things) are but thought-forms. In other words, not only is our knowledge of the world dependent upon the mind ( which is true), but that only the mind exists. It’s worth asking the Transcendental Idealist whether, when s/he draws the curtains at night, the moon disappears altogether. Blank stares usually ensue.

      So yes, we have this ‘heaving heap of cells’, one which partakes in this, and by the sounds of your own esoteric early-life experiences, other worlds too. And then we create micro-worlds of selfhood, looking out to these worlds with fear, defensiveness and acquisitiveness of various kinds, or not as in your own case. These experiences of yours sound very powerful and transformative Bela, and how could they not be? My own have been far less sustained and dramatic in comparison, and I think my character shaped a drier, quieter, less exotic a life for me to work with.

      As to what happens upon the death of the body, then I see no point in speculating, for the shared and non-local lucidity, or awareness, and which we all participate in now – unwittingly or not – will inevitably continue to play-out myriad themes from myriad spectral perspectives, and even when the spectre dissolves and stands just as a heaving heap on the wooded shores of Maine or by the waterlands of The Somerset Levels, the play goes on, not as a dream, but as awareness awake inside and as itself – “Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”

      With gratitude for your insight and rare understanding, and with great respect,


  14. First and foremost, upon my swift scrolling at intense speeds, the above Bert read as Beetroot. Sorry Burt, for the mishap. In terms of something odd going on – er, life? Thinking is the curse; the doppelganger. Do too much of that stuff and it will kill ya – literally! Horror and the likes scare the bejebus out of me. And you are, as stated, a most timorous absurdist, Hari-odd.

    All hail life.

    • Surely it should be Bertroot, should it not Jessie? No need for any red vegetable faces though, my normally colour-minded friend. 🙂 As for odd somethings, then I suppose those and their mundane counterparts are all undeniably ‘life’ in one form or another, yet the mind sits upon some scratching its homely head with intrigue, and others are let to fall away as if dandruff or the effects of its own alopecia. To life itself, nothing is really odd I suspect, just bald reality.[See what I did there?]

      “Thinking is the curse; the doppelganger” – that reminds me of U.G. Krishnamurti, who I was just mentioning to Karin above, and who wrote a book called Thought is your Enemy. Perhaps that is a bit harsh, although useful a maxim at some point in our development. Anyway, this is what happened when his eidolon dissolved, and verbatim as relayed to Karin: He was on his way to hear his namesake Jiddu Krishnamurti give a talk, when he suddenly changed his mind and decided to go to a striptease joint instead. Whilst he watched the ecdysiast perform, he began to realise that he had no idea if he was her or himself; there seemed no clear distinction. That is because the internalised subject – the eidolon of U.G.K. – had dissolved, as had the externalised object (or eidolon) of the ecdysiast. And yet of course, both body’s persisted as distinct spatial entities.

      I like Hari-odd, and have always thought of myself in that way Jessie, as has my sister, ever since we were kids back in the dark recesses of the last century. 🙂 Why I was never given an extra ‘d’ – is it so much to ask, I ask? – remains one of life’s great enigmas for my eidolon, as I stir my borscht and wonder if I am the beetroot, or simply still an odd Hari.

      Thankyou very much for the colourful soup-making dear Jessie, and I remain yours, horrified as ever,

      Hari-odd. ❤

      • ‘Bertroot’. I am officially in stitches.

        I do see what you did there, with the head, the alopecia, the sits upon some; seemingly more borscht than beetroot, but mostly odd Hari. Semi-bald, needing a wide brim. Visors are clearly outdated, anyway.

        I really enjoy ‘a useful maximum’ and it stood out both times I read your comment. Having always thought I was a complete extremist in everything, after a while, everything eventually mellowed out. Experiencing extremes of things gave (me personally) contrast, a comparison, a better understanding of the dual nature. And then in turn the non-dualness of, I guess?

        The ‘wisdom’ talk sacrificed strip joint is a sensational example. How idiosyncratic or just something other, than.

        What is your sisters name?

        Thank you for your share of ramen, Hari-odd, it was consumed in delight

        Just Jessie. ❤

        • I forgot to say, Bertroot is from Belgium – although you may know the place as Asparagus. You might find his blog intriguing; he serves up a lot of silent soup: https://whoisbert.wordpress.com/ You read my comment twice? That’s no way for a non-dualist to behave Jessie – tsk!

          I get what you say about taking things to extremes, and did the same myself for very many years, but only in regard to meditation and related stuff. It was obsessive behaviour really, but ‘extreme’ fits the bill, as a talking parrot might say. Eventually, I beat a route to borscht sanity.

          My sister was given the name Deirdre at birth, but she changed it to Weirdre.

          Lots of love,


  15. I love “the myth of sorts” that you are dear Hariod. Your odyssey is so fascinating, and to use one of your words that I don’t need a dictionary for, is gripping to read. “Elusive, yet obvious when seen” and “not inside or outside any self, part eidolon and part matter, not nothing, and yet for a while, an indefinite something” explains all of this mysterious, supernal, glorious life – so holy, like the Holy Spirit. Love, Meg. xxx

    • Thankyou Meg, for your kind and complimentary words; I appreciate your interest and presence as always, and as you know well by now. To be honest, I feel I may have been rather too oblique with this post – not so much in the content, but in the way I expressed myself. Sometimes I can get a little carried away with the words, as you are quite correct to point out – and you would not be the first to do so my friend! I have a love of English, and like to bring as much as of its colour as I am able to summon, to the table, even whilst knowing I may risk asking too much of my cherished readers here.

      With love,

      Hariod. ❤

  16. I just love what you have said here Hariod. I so enjoy the way you express yourself and the sheer art of challenge in what you write. I must say I am not a materialist but nor am I a disembodied kind of “spook.” 🙂 I find it immensely difficult to separate consciousness from physicality, it’s far too dualistic for me. I think both exist in one another and are going through various transformations as they act on one another.

    “Which is the essential me, the conscious rationalist, or the closeted and timorous absurdist?” I love this Hariod. I think I am both. 🙂

    • This is such a generous, understanding and insightful comment all at once dear Don, and I value it and your presence greatly. You seem to have grasped perfectly well the meaning behind my rather convoluted and oblique wordings, and put so concisely that which I struggled to. More than that, in closing your main paragraph, you express a very profound philosophical observation, and one which represents well the pinnacle of Buddhist psychology and theory of mind. There is a very dense academic work written by Theodor Ippolitovich Stcherbatsky (Professor Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences) entitled Buddhist Logic, which turned out to be a milestone in the history of Buddhology and which was published in 1930. In closing Volume One, Stcherbatsky writes:

      “And at last, ascending to the ultimate plane of every philosophy, we discover that the difference between Sensibility and Understanding is again dialectical. They are essentially the negation of each the other; they mutually sublate one another and become merged in a Final Monism.”

      Or, expressing the same in your own words: “both exist in one another and are going through various transformations as they act on one another.”

      With gratitude and great respect to you dear Don,


  17. “Which is the essential me, the conscious rationalist, or the closeted and timorous absurdist?” Easy question! The latter, minus “closeted and timorous” – who else would like the Rubber Bandits (in public)? 😉

  18. Always your posts hold within them such gems dear Hariod. I find it always amazing how our body regenerates, although I no longer think of myself as being changed. One only has to look back at one’s school photo, to note how every cell has altered and I am now no longer the outer me that I was.

    Yet despite my outward changes, also that Inner Me – the thoughts, aspirations, hopes and dreams, all I am sure is still mingling within my energy rhythms, albeit perhaps that they too have changed along our journey.

    I watched in full the top video you posted about consciousness, and although I will readily admit he lost me half way through I got the essence of what he was trying to say. I guess none of us will ever truly define our consciousness, and so we keep reaching out to explore the confines which our mind’s limit us by.

    I smiled when you wrote “I unwittingly invoke an eidolon, a form seen in mind’s eye yet vaporously at best instantiated; a mind-blown ectoplasmic doppelgänger whose existence pervades my substance and reflectively conscious psyche” – who hasn’t half scared himself witless with his imaginings of shadows? And I so agree with you when you say “Personally, I am not keen on being spooked”. Neither am I. And yet I have had the pleasure of being in the room of “a mind-blown ectoplasmic” being, whose gentle voice spoke from direct voice. He was neither scary nor spooky. 🙂 Such was the love that emanated from his presence.

    And I am afraid your secret is out Hariod, as I smiled ever-wider at the Rubber Bandits. 🙂

    Wishing you a wonderful Sunday, one filled with peace and maybe some dancing, Bandits style. 🙂

    • Thankyou dear Sue, for your generous addition to the matter; and I agree, mention of the ‘self’ can be intended to indicate a variety of things, some of which have referents in the physical world, some of which do not. The self as eidolon which I write about here is the illusory or mythical self which the various religious and secular practices I mention in the article are meant to expose as such. It is one of those words – perhaps a little like ‘god’ – which can mean very different things from one individual to the next, the ‘energy rhythms’ you allude to being but one of them.

      I am curious about your experience Sue; are you a spirit medium or some such? And may I ask, what do you point to when you talk of a ‘direct voice’ – you mean a disembodied voice I presume, yet was it one that was audible in the physical sense, such that it would be recordable, or was it purely subjective? It may be too personal a question, and if so then please do ignore it, but were you familiar with this voice, meaning it belonged to someone you had known when they were alive in this world? Do feel free to communicate off-blog if you feel it more appropriate.

      With all best wishes and love,

      Hariod. ❤

            • Thankyou very much dear Sue, for taking the trouble to detail so thoroughly your extensive experience in the matter, which I myself have very little knowledge of. My former partner had a lifelong friend who became a professional medium in London, and whilst I listened with interest to her anecdotes when we met, was never sure quite what to make of it all. All I was certain of was that she appeared perfectly sincere in her convictions, and that she seemed an unusually confident and happy soul – and as we all well know, it’s hard to find a happy medium! Joking aside, you clearly are one yourself, and the comfort you at times drew from your experiences must feel as akin to a sanctuary I would imagine, as it would too for anyone of course. Thankyou once again dearest Sue, for your patience, generosity and receptivity to my somewhat impertinent enquiry. Hariod ❤

  19. Dear Hariod,

    I enjoyed your post here as always – brilliantly written, and I greatly enjoyed the video as well. I am inclined, as per my usual, to embark on a tangent, which is likely to result in your acknowledging you know nothing of the sort and cannot rationally respond, and me feeling ever warmer in this ongoing game of blind-folded reaching into the darkness for a clue. Thankfully, following my awkward reaches into the unknown – and bolstered by our exchanges – when my mind comes to rest and the guard falls, I often spontaneously discover in fits of insight that the darkness itself appears to be giving rise to and care-taking a great many and diverse eidola.

    I liked the realization expressed in the video that the self-construct required the development of particular biological hardware to obtain – and the rolled R’s were superb. My interest, however, extends beyond the realization that the self is software, to the notion that if the darkness were indeed ever to give rise to eidola such as ourselves, then it would by necessity need to evolve the means of giving that simulation life. Thus, I would posit that the evolution of a self-construct sustaining biological hardware was a very interesting step, and that we are still recovering from the moment in which the darkness put on the strange glasses, only to suddenly develop a tremendous headache and lose itself in the overwhelm of perceiving such a wanton circus of swirling, ephemeral phenomena rushing past.

    The temporarily unstable recent history – in evolutionary time – is I think a result of the self-construct’s thinking they are “it”, and wandering around unreconciled with the I in their eidola – which as you say is not mythical, however ineffable it may be. I think my feeling is similar to Don’s concise offering – at least in the sense that two seemingly discrete realms are interwoven and mutually influential, and also in the sense that the non-localized awareness and the localized awareness occupying the self-construct are somehow “up to something together”. Thus, I wouldn’t throw out the self-construct as altogether meaningless – as an artifact of evolution if you will – but rather would view it as a vehicle by which particular and unique marriages of localized and non-localized awareness might mutually abide in creative union.

    Thank you for another insightful and delicious bit of prose, Hari-odd!


    • Thankyou so much for taking time from what I know is your current hectic schedule to cast your eyes over this month’s offering Michael, and also for your most generous words of encouragement. As to tangents and all that, then I can hardly be surprised if readers might disappear along them whilst I continue in my obliqueness here. I did get a little carried away in parts admittedly, although in fact the central point is fairly straightforward, as you well know.

      And as to the body being a preordained vehicle for the eidola, then I cannot help but sense some parallel with a certain French philosopher, the one who put Descartes before de horse. My own pet theory – not that I am in any way qualified to hold such a thing – is that the eidolon appeared along with our evolved capacity to manipulate symbols in the mind, which same stemmed from the time when language came into play, perhaps some 40,000 years ago.

      Your own position is altogether more teleological, and once again I have no idea if that might apply. Perhaps there is some grand design behind all of this, though why create actual physical life so as to give rise to some virtual existence in eidola? It seems a rather circumlocutory method, although if the foreknown knowledge was that these eidola would be the sole means by which the universe could become aware of itself, then it is indeed a work of great genius.

      What I can be fairly sure of is that you are correct in saying we should not dismiss the evolution of the self-entity as some aberration. There is every likelihood that without its creation, we may not have come to the preeminence we currently enjoy, and sadly, abuse too. It seems instinctual to sense that we are at some critical staging post, neither here nor there, unfulfilled, yet capable of fulfilment. The end may not be in sight, though the escape from this is.

      With gratitude, love and respect,

      Odd Hari.

  20. I’ve been ruminating on this since I first read it, Hariod. Then, last night I listened to a podcast that made it click into place in a new way for me.

    The podcast was about about a woman who wanted to be a storyteller and her journey to actually doing that. The host was very open and she talked about a realization she had not so long ago.

    She said that she had been living her life as if it were a story or a movie, as if she were the director in control of everything. She explained how that mindset can lead to an interesting but inauthentic life. I’ve definitely done that myself.

    I don’t know if you can relate to this, but I think it comes from the same things you are talking about here; we are holding up a mirror that doesn’t exist, or does, but not how we imagine it to.

    • How lovely to hear from you once again Madalyn; you seem to have been very quiet just of late, and I do hope all is well with you. We oldies have far more time for all this blogging malarkey of course, so it was probably just your busy family schedule.

      That is exactly it, in that selfhood (in the sense that I use it here) is a narrative formation, and instantiates as such within memory. It is sustained, perpetuated and modified by the ongoing stream of mentation and sensory feedback. It has no enduring independent existence beyond this construct. Because the whole feeds recursively into itself – it cognises its own construct egoically (i.e. your ‘mirror’) – then it is taken to be an enduring agent of autonomy: the experiencer of experience, the subject of the narrative, the thinker of thoughts, chooser of choice, and so forth.

      It is very challenging to see through this clever circuitry because our cognitive abilities are forever caught up in the gearbox of their own comprehension, so to speak. Husserl’s Phenomenological Reduction is one such way of doing so, and there are others too, the most widely used in The West being the reduction and negation of the Buddhist Vipassana system.

      It is a tricky thing to write about, because the term ‘self’ can mean a variety of things of course, amongst which are the self as social construct and the self as our own discrete physicality – both of which have existent referents to the concept of ‘self’ of course. The self I write of here is the presumed ‘self of me’, the quasi-homunculus that we take to be the agent for all we do and experience. I imagine this construct came about as a result of humankind’s capacity to manipulate symbols in the mind, as language was garnered some 40,000 years ago – though that is merely my own speculation.

      It is, just as you say, a mirror that we hold up to our own being, thereby mistaking the image for ourselves. In other words, we take the meta-level representations of the world (including our own being with its thoughts), and presume them to be actuality itself. Of course, the mind must work representatively, so when the eidolon is seen through, the representations continue within the mind, yet no longer with the belief that they are apprehended by any enduring experiencing subject of selfhood.

      Thankyou so much for your interest and for providing such an insightful contrition dear Madalyn.

      Hariod ❤

        • In a surprisingly real way, that is true Madalyn. It may sound a little trite and akin to a New-Age nostrum, yet unless we do indeed possess an enduring soul-essence, then that is undeniably so. I do hope you are well and enjoying both your writing and family life. With all best wishes, Hariod.

          • I hope that didn’t come off as sarcastic, I meant it sincerely. Home life has been good, busy. Writing life is lacking, but I have been talking to the partner about that and think it will improve soon. Thanks for caring. 🙂 How have you been?

            • Oh, not at all dear Madalyn, and I had not meant to sound pointed in referring to your remark, merely to affirm it as a surprising yet inarguable truth. All is well with me on this side of the pond, yet although I live in a very rural part of England, there is a rather foreboding sense in the air following the Paris attacks. We are going to war; I am convinced of it, and find it inconceivable that our right-wing government has planned the final objective and outcomes any more than they did in Libya, or Afghanistan, or Iraq. So, on a personal level, then thank you, I am fine; but on a collective level then we are living, as I gather the Chinese say, in ‘interesting times’. I hope to see you at your place soon dear Madalyn, and in the meantime leave you with my best wishes.

  21. A superb analysis on the word ‘eidolon’, which is of Greek origin – a most expansive view of its concept and connection with the Delphic maxim and our self-awareness. You examine its dual nature, which has to do with our mental state and our spiritual aspects, through postulated scientific theories and philosophical attitudes.

    Presumably, any epiphenomena involved would direct us to a fallacy or to a false image. Eιδωλον has also the meaning of ‘an ideal image’, of an idealised person or thing, which oftentimes is beyond what we perceive directly, or of what our minds comprehend.

    So, what happens if we get only part of the ‘picture’? Will our representations of true reality be atomic, incomplete and imperfect eidola?

    I am not here to up-end any thoughts or theories, I simply try to dispose of all concepts and related aspects, and to express my opinion on such a complex function of mind, which is permanently evolving as we grow up. Think of Tabula Rasa, when our mind was not affected by any experiences or impressions – even minutes ago before reading your article, dear Hariod.

    I am not an expert; I cannot go deeper than that, but I would like to stress that by trying to “eye the I”, then this would make us happier and more balanced humans. We should see the everyday practicalities behind it when we examine this sort of topic. And if we do, then ask if our own introspection has any good repercussions upon our fellow beings and the infrastructure of our societies? Does it really help our interaction?

    Thank you dear Hariod for tackling the subject, and for motivating the following discussions and ontological speculations.

    Best wishes & kind thoughts your way,


    • Thankyou so much Doda, for bringing here such knowledge of your own native philosophy, and upon which we all in The West owe such a debt of gratitude. Slowly, but I think surely, we are coming to adopt the maxim you alluded to – gnōthi seauton – and it would seem by and large via the methods I wrote of within the article.

      “Presumably, any epiphenomena involved would direct us to a fallacy or to a false image.” – I tend to be cautious when speaking of epiphenomena Doda, as it can easily connote a form of dualism I do not personally subscribe to. The ‘I in the eidolon’ – a concept you appear to grasp well – is not, I would maintain, ontologically distinct from such hallucinations of perception; it simply sees them as such, and remains unconfused by their appearance. The ‘I in the eidolon’ knows the illusory self, or eidolon, as a mind-construct alone, yet as the mind is also the ‘I’, then there is no rejection of its own constructs. So, just as when we notice some visual or aural hallucination, it remains still a ‘real’ perception, and our subsequent recognition that it was indeed a hallucination of perception, does not prevent such further hallucinations occurring in future. The ‘I’ is interwoven with the eidolon, yet it is possible to see it – or rather for it to see itself – and for the mind which it is, not to remain entranced or haunted by the eidolon.

      Yes, I like the idea of the Tabula Rasa, Doda, and have used the expression extensively in my book to denote the pre-conceptual mind, or the state of pure potential that is the objectless lucidity of mind – what exists prior to the overlay of sensory representations and concepts.

      Best wishes and kind thoughts your way too dear Doda,


      • I like to ponder on your articles and your generous replies, dear Hariod. I wish I had more spare time to do so though. You have a profound mind, my friend! Thank you for shedding more light through your analytical reply, and please feel free to rearrange or correct anything in my comments. You know that I am not a native speaker don’t you?

        All the very best to you,


        • Thankyou once again dear Doda; and yes, I of course do realise that English is not your native tongue. In fact, all comments here go through moderation as I like to tidy up the inevitable typos that appear within so as to render them more easily readable for others. Few of us compose our comments as carefully as we might do our own articles, and yet very often I find real nuggets in what readers such as your good self contribute here, and I want them to be clear to all.

          As the site administrator, I go carefully through each response, knowing that others may be less inclined to do so if they see a comment littered with typos or errors of syntax – not that yours were at all my friend! I am always very careful to retain the precise meaning of what any contributor says though, and rarely is much necessary beyond a simple editing, and perhaps added punctuation. There is no censorship of any contrary opinions offered, naturally enough.

          Best wishes once again dear Doda,


          • Absolutely, dear Hariod! I am with you, and I have to thank you for that! A couple of times I politely asked other WP friends to edit my comments, as when I reread, I spotted some slips and typos. Besides, you are so kind and tactful, and that’s the wisest thing to do my good friend! Once more, grateful thanks.

            With respect to you, dear Hariod,


  22. You certainly have a sound knowledge of the different schools of philosophies. The eidolon is not something real, but is difficult to separate from our sense of being [H.B.: distinguishing an illusory selfhood as a sense of agency from that actual beingness]. Hindu philosophy says that the sense of ‘aham’ – ‘I am’ [H.B.:the egoical self-entity] – is the most difficult sense to get rid of. Once we can conquer this, we take ourselves several steps forward towards ‘nirvana’ or enlightenment. You’ve presented a superb analysis here. Hats off! I’ve learnt from your post. 🙂

  23. Dear Hariod,

    This post is a wide open window. I am enjoying the responses which alight like bright birds on its window pane as I’m fascinated by the various ways others approach the question of ‘self’ and all this implies.

    What struck me personally in your post – the idea that has been the background music in my own thoughts for days, Hariod – is what you wrote about the dying cells:

    “My physical presence fails the criteria too, for it changes and is subject to programmed cell death, or apoptosis, and the body is a cellular formation. As an adult, up to seventy billion cells die within me each day, so I am separated from my own cells at an astonishing rate.”

    Adding this cellular sloughing to the acknowledgement of the huge proportion of symbiotic microbial life that shares and sustains my physical and spiritual being (how can they be separate?) gives new dimensions to my own realization of ‘self’. At any given moment there is the fluid possibility of pivoting with the ineffable. It dissuades the linear conclusions of cause and effect that are easy to lock into. But are these linear conclusions necessarily reality? Or do they simply follow in the tail wind of consensus agreement?

    Perhaps ‘I’ truly only exist in each moment and that’s simply it. The possibilities of being a verb instead of a noun are full to bursting! I just need to maintain an equilibrium with my own personal adjectives!

    Thank you Hariod! I feel like I could sprint around the park but will settle for a few stretches. xxxooo

    • Dear Jana,

      You are back, replete with your six fingers and four thumbs – all fully opposable I trust? And I ought not forget your symbiotic microbial friends, who have been greatly missed, whether constituting the ineffable you or not. I hope to be reading more on them ere too long at your place, and shall be sure to bring along the residues of my apoptosis.

      “At any given moment there is the fluid possibility of pivoting with the ineffable.” – quite delicious, and I only wish I had a quarter of your mastery with words, instead being stuck in an altogether arid prosaicness which makes me all the more appreciative of your forbearance.

      The cause and effect thing is a tricky one methinks, and I believe the only way around it is to conceive of this whole thing called life on two levels – the consensus reality and then the thing in itself, the ineffable. Our minds are not well disposed to paradox it seems, and until awareness escapes the conceptual mind’s confines, then two levels it is – unless we want to mistake appearances for reality. You understand all this; it is obvious – I blather needlessly. That said, I baulk slightly at the mention of ‘reality’, my own same mention included, as it seems to me that no phenomena can be outside of it. What say you Jana – can you name the supposed unreal?

      You are quite obviously a verb dear Jana, masquerading as a noun, yet doing so with charm, great beauty and elegance – a most seductive apparition, such that one would hardly wish ever to dispose of it in the recycling centre of phenomenological reductionism. And those adjectives of yours; oh, those delicious adjectives!

      I have no idea what all the xo’s mean, being died-in-the-wool English, but hope it safe to offer as many back to you, along with a full expression of gratitude for your perceptive and unusually acute presence.


      • Perhaps we tend to use the word ‘reality’, Hariod, simply because we lack adequate vocabulary for all sorts of experiences we’ve been unable to categorize or name? What can be ‘named’ falls under a handy ‘reality’ umbrella. It’s for the sake of convenience, of expediently motivating from point A to point B when projecting our needs, but also likely for the safety this provides. In any event, it seems a dedicated cultural persuasion.

        “What say you Jana – can you name the supposed unreal?”

        A more experienced person once advised me not to get caught up in phenomena. The advice was given at a pivotal moment when language and I parted ways. With no way to explain the terrain I was navigating, even to myself, it proved to be good advice. Knowing and Not Knowing then walk hand in hand. The point was to keep walking.

        And the xo’s? They are pre-emoticon expressions of affection. From the Tortoise to the Hariod.

        • Yes, I take your point – we somehow sense something is going on yet which remains out of reach to intellect and reason, so we define whatever is within reach as being real. Then again, it seems the religiously inclined are disposed to using the term as if it meant all that is beyond reach – their gods or whatever. So yes, ‘cultural persuasions’.

          Not getting “caught up in phenomena”, if I interpret you correctly, is what the modes of Phenomenological Reductionism cited here are all about of course; they being what quietens, placates, and perhaps even silences the eidolon. The phenomena remain, yet no longer are haunted; no one is concerned about your ‘Knowing and Not Knowing’.

          It feels grossly impertinent to ask, but I am terrible like this, so what did you mean when you said “when language and I parted ways”. I know you may be pointing to something very personal, so please feel no obligation to respond if that is so. My curiosity so often gets the better of me; I should do something about it.

          • When I mentioned not getting “caught up in phenomena” I meant this quite literally since I was experiencing much I found no explanation for in any references I was personally familiar with. At a total loss, I sought counsel from someone I thought was perhaps more culturally (?) or spiritually (?) familiar with things that might be considered phenomena.

            I learned that it is essential in navigating out-of-the-ordinary experiences, which tend to be uniquely personal anyways, to refrain from the need to name everything. That’s where the “not-knowing” comes in, which relates directly to sometimes simply accepting phenomena instead of courting its fascination.

            My frustration with language itself though, initially deepened to such a degree that I became angry with words. Even with a broad range of available vocabulary I was unable to find expression until stumbling upon poetry! Poetry for me poses its own riddles, often offering a multitude of routes, or successive waves, to pursue further understanding.

            Another piece of advice, or is it another riddle(?), that I am grateful for:
            “Imponderables measured falsely are delusions. Each moment has no measure”. I’ve had some good teachers!

            • Thanks Jana; I may have had a similar experience, or one with parallels anyhow. I was walking in a park one day and all of a sudden my perspective turned 180 degrees, so to speak. There was a perfect clarity in what it was – a clarity within itself – yet to the rational mind it made no sense whatsoever. Pretty soon I found myself laughing at the thinking mind and its attempts at rationalising whatever it was that was occurring, and yet which in and of itself was perfectly and very starkly obvious. I allowed the rational mind to carry on though, and it came up with a nonsensical, paradoxical formulation that was as close as it could come to in providing an explanation to itself: “the world and consciousness both exist and are identical”. It has something to do with realising that subjectivity and objectivity are mind-constructs alone, and awareness seeing this both for, and as, itself. Although as you say, naming or describing such an experience is not terribly helpful, least of all to others who may hear such abstract descriptions. I would love to be a poet myself, yet have no desire to add to the world’s miseries with such mediocrities as I could muster.

  24. Ah, if I was confused before then I am not sure what I am now! I waited, purposefully, to be alone in a beautiful natural setting to read your post, Hariod. You always make me think. Sometimes I think that I don’t know anything; sometimes I am right there with you saying, “Yes! I agree!”

    Today, I have vacillated between the two as I felt in one moment that I could identify completely, and the next I was swirling in a mass of words that looked like foreign symbols. Please don’t take offense, as I am certain that it is me, and I just want to say thank you because I believe your post and my subsequent floundering has made me realize that I am not completely in touch with my ‘self’.

    I know I am not responding directly to your incredibly well thought out post, but I am responding on a very deep level to the art you created which has given me, not only a visceral response but, a realization about real life matters.

    Much love to you – I am so grateful that you are in my world! ♡♡

    • The unfathomability is entirely down to me Lorrie; really, it is. Sometimes I get a little carried away and forget that many readers will be entirely unfamiliar with certain aspects of that which I cover here on this site. On top of that, then I find it hard to resist the temptation to go overboard with the prose at times, and although it makes perfect sense to me, the indulgent flourishes can get in the way of the message quite easily. It probably would be better to write longer articles, so as to be able to put more flesh on the bones, though I am aware that people have little appetite for lengthy pieces.

      Actually, this is quite a straightforward article in essence, and really not much more than an attempt to say that there are many ways and means of exploring and overcoming our unknowing. Perhaps it would be better to say “overcoming our knowing”, because it is really the erroneous assumptions (our supposed ‘knowing’) that we carry around and which block our way to any greater understanding. I wanted to highlight that there was something of great value behind these seemingly distinct cultural methodologies, and that this was essentially of the same nature, however we may choose to word it.

      So, you have not missed anything significant or novel at all dear Lorrie, and I do so appreciate the time and effort given to unpacking my indulgent over-elaborations. I said to someone earlier that I think I try to satiate my desire to be poetic with overly flowery prose, and in the process risk achieving neither the poetic nor clarity in prose. Still, I maintain that it makes sense to me at least, and I find a certain gratification in the writing process. The good news is that I only inflict all this upon my subscribers once a month, so when the next one rolls around, do grab some headache pills and see if that eases the pain; I would so miss your presence dear friend!

      With love and gratitude,


      • Oh! My dear, dear Hariod – please do not think that I attributed my inability to understand your writing to you. Honestly, it is all me. I have been going through a bit of a struggle with duality, which is what caused me the difficulty!

        I love that you play with your prose, and though I admit I may need to read your posts twice (or more 😉 ), that is what makes your writing unique to you. And that is what makes your readers come back for more – just look at all your comments!

        I like to devote a nice chunk of time to reading your posts, because I really want to understand. That is why it sometimes takes me a while to get to them – the whole time thing. But once I am there I like to digest what you have written, and gleen more understanding from the comments that follow.

        Please don’t ever change or think you have to apologize for being yourself. I send you much love and many blessings for a wonderful weekend! ♡♡

  25. A nice woman above said something about being content with not knowing. Wanting to have tea with her. Enjoyed both videos.

    Finally, get, I think, your objections to materialism. Moons ago you asked if I was a materialist. How about this for an answer: I am a fan of theorists who try to prove or disprove what the self is. I am open to the possibility that someday we might be able to comprehend what self is – not in my lifetime, though.

    I agree with someone above who wrote about the melting away of self during meditation, and the resulting sense of our connectedness to everything – this is definitely a materialist experience though; well-documented parts of the brain becoming quiescent, allowing us to lose our orientation. I believe that we have gone too far down the path of thinking of ourselves as more than animal, and this is destructive. Maybe this is an extension of the hubris of believing that the self-sense is real? I don’t know.

    You do poetic justice, shifting the eidola to the I. Made me want to ask – why do we care? Maybe, because if we understand our selves, perhaps we might be more content to accept the pain we inflict on each other, or maybe even learn to reduce bloodlust, genocide and other horrors. Who needs eidola?

    • That ‘nice woman’ would be Sarah the artist from Eire, and she is indeed very lovely – certainly a very fine choice for sharing afternoon tea with. And she is sagacious too, in not demanding of the rational mind that all be known to it – our ape brains have their limits I strongly suspect! Thanks for watching the videos, and I assume you meant those of Ramachandran and Penrose, rather than Disneyland and The Rubber Bandits – hopefully anyway.

      As regards quieting minds and all that, then obviously there are correlates within the brain. Which comes first? The split-brain experiments of Sperry and Gazaniga demonstrate the latter as causal to the former – in respect to behaviours we would expect to be brain-initiated. Still, maybe we should not close the door on causality working the other way around with some phenomena, or perhaps the two arising conascently as reflections of each the other?

      I think we have to be open to the possibility of some craziness as regards what awareness (the illumination of conscious knowing) actually is, as distinct from the physical correlates of that same conscious knowing, which is where most of the study has been. Giulio Tononi’s Integrated Information Theory is receiving a lot of attention for example, although the whole is rooted in a foundation of physicality, albeit leaning towards Panpsychism.

      I obviously have no idea Julie, so stick to felt experience, and mainly forging understanding through negation of what, on close inspection, is evidently false – hence the stress on Phenomenological Reductionism in the article. It seems to me that what makes my subjective life less fallible to falsification in turn leads to a gentler and kinder approach in my outward actions, my worldly interventions. Quieting the eidolon is the most effective of all available measures.

  26. Dear Hariod,

    That was one helluva intriguing post.

    My own experience of ghosts, ghouls and spirits have essentially been the product of my wild imagination and visualisation thereof during my childhood, after I had read a supernatural story – and there used to be plenty then, believe me! – from one of many story books ( kindle hadn’t been invented then). So, there were ‘encounters’ aplenty in the darkness and in the dead of night, fueled no doubt by some scraping sound or an apparition seen through the corner of the eye.

    Interestingly, as I have grown older, somehow my nervous system has also given up its fight with all those sounds and apparitions of yesteryear. This, over time, has left me in a situation where I periodically ‘jump out of my skin’ when watching a horror movie with my daughters; so much so that I am now a persona non-grata for such entertainments!



    • Thankyou very much for your interest in the article Shakti, and for recounting your childhood reminiscence. You know, I think I agree, and that for myself, as I have matured (supposedly), then there is far less of an attempt at controlling the nervous and emotional systems, and so I feel much more fluidly and with greater spontaneity in regard to things like fear, or whatever the incipient emotion happens to be.

      With all best wishes and gratitude,


  27. Quieting our eidola worth the effort. Mine doesn’t like jokes, and so must be gagged. Will you rephrase your second paragraph? Not sure I’m following you. I thought split-brain experiments showed what happened when the two hemispheres weren’t communicating. So — not sure what you mean by former and latter? Sorry to be slow.

    How did I miss the Phenomenological Reductionism in your essay?!

    Just went back to enjoy the Rubber Bandit gaelic twerking video. Do we want a translation? After that had to check YouTube to see if they ever perform without their masks (no). Did not intend to spend forty-five minutes at Haitch’s. Oops.

    Wide open to craziness that surfaces in pursuit of the illumination of conscious knowing. Might be a tad more on the Aristotelian side of the scale, and you a bit more Platonic, but neither of us iconoclasts or dogmatists, and all could change tomorrow.

    • Second paragraph rephrased: We know for certain that the brain is causal in respect to certain functions – motor actions, verbalisation (thinking), all sensory representations, etc. What we do not know is what the illumination of our knowledge of these things is – the so-called Hard Problem first posited by David Chalmers. What are qualia? I know redness as redness, and the scent of a rose. I know light and olfactory receptors are involved in this. But what actually is the redness and the scent as a subjective experience? If it is not identical to the physical correlates [Eliminative Materialism] then what is it? No one knows. Given that no one knows, how can we with certainty assert that causation works only one-way from the physical to this unknown? Similarly, could certain qualia (we cannot name all felt experience) arise conascently with functions in the brain, neither being causal in respect to the other? No one knows, because we do not know what qualia are beyond what they appear as to themselves – i.e. redness, the scent of a rose.

      “Might be a tad more on the Aristotelian side of the scale” – you mean you have a teleological perspective perhaps? I must say I do not, and rather think it comes down to chance and necessity. That said, I have a flight of fancy that the universe is working towards become self-aware, that we and our machines are linking up in something akin to a neural network. Maybe the same has occurred beyond this planet already, or will do? Fanciful perhaps.

      P.S. Sorry about The Rubber Bandits Julie. The translation is simply that the boy wants to fight Roisin’s (a local girl’s) father: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qzo4rZxF3x4

  28. I really enjoyed reading this, particularly when you delved into the philosophy of the Self regarding the death of cells. Consider the possibility of the disintegration and recomposition of your entire body at the molecular level – like when Scotty beams people up in Star Trek. Are you still you at that point, or simply a molecular copy? Is there a difference? Quite a break from your musings on Renaissance art, but I’m a sci-fi junkie lol.

    • Thankyou Darcy, for your interest and generous words of approval; your kindness is a great encouragement in my efforts here. I have heard of the Star Trek episode you refer to, though am not an aficionado of the sci-fi genre myself. Nonetheless, it is an interesting thought experiment, and responses will vary, much as they do with David Chalmers philosophical zombies, in line with one’s own leanings. For myself, then when you ask, as you do “are you still you at that point”, it presupposes a ‘you’ as a ‘self’ – something which is only an eidolon by another term, a bundle of perceptions forged to create the spectral illusion of a permanently instantiating entity of selfhood. It is the logical conflict of putting des cartes before de horse: ‘I think therefore I am’. Anyway, thanks once again for taking an interest in my musings Darcy, and I hope to see you again in the future – I post articles here just once a month by the way.

      All best wishes,


      • I actually haven’t seen that Star Trek episode either, I was more referring to the as of yet non-existent technology that causes such considerations to arise. In my mind, even if we were simply a series of replicable processes, it wouldn’t necessary exclude an existence of Self so long as we project a distinct identity that grew from a combination of our experiences and biology.

        • Agreed Darcy, although the self you are positing is more akin to a social construct, if I understand you correctly, rather than the eidolic self I am arguing against here. There is obviously such a thing as personal social identity and which we might call a ‘self’, as well also there being a selfhood in the sense of an aggregation of physicalities. The ‘self’ I refute is the presumed autonomous agent within, almost as if it were a homunculus in our heads, a little creature that thinks it experiences experience, chooses choices, thinks thoughts, sees sights, initiates volition, and is the subject which perceives the object. When we are asked to describe this intimate sense of ‘self’, we cannot, because we never have questioned quite what it is, always accepting it as a given, as the enduring and autonomous essence of what we are. Contrastingly, we can readily describe our ‘self’ both as a social construct and as a physical aggregation, yet neither have the same meaning for us as the presumed internal sense of agency that I compare in my article to an eidolon. So, it is a matter of definitions, and as always, we need to be clear on them before successfully unpacking the terms they stand in stead of. May I ask of you Darcy, have you written on this subject at all yourself? You appear very knowledgeable in respect to it.

          • From what I understand by your description, then by eidolon – a word you’re the first to introduce to me – is somewhat analogous to the concept of the soul. If so, I am on board with your argument against it. I haven’t written anything on the subject, I just enjoy reading about it.

            • Yes, it could be analogous to the religious concept of a soul, although the non-religious also believe they have this autonomous sense of agency which they presume to be their intimate and enduring ‘self’, this phenomenon I am calling an eidolon.

  29. “It comes down to chance and necessity” – what comes down to chance and necessity? Sorry.

    Thanks for the rest which more or less gets through my skull.

    Teleological? Not exactly. Physical feels too narrow a term, now that we have relativity, quantum mechanics, string and chaos theories – none of which I understand. Maybe Plato and Aristotle are too far behind us to work as guides, but here was my thought:

    Plato believed in a divine spark, carried by our moldering, imperfect bodies, and me, I am stunned and in wonderment learning how complex, beyond imagining are these moldering physiology/neurologies. Bodies, I can imagine understanding, although I don’t really.

    Aristotle believed that behavior and experience was not caused by a divinity, but are part of the universe. What we’ve learned since Aristotle, has enabled us to imagine reality as beyond god, if you will, and beyond physical as well.

    I’m leery of thinking that puts humanity in a special place, above physicality, because I think that leads us to take for granted the rich physical world that allowed us to evolve. That said, I’m wide open to the possibility that something more than physicality allowed us to evolve, and that our destruction of our environment is part of a bigger process- akin to us eating our yolk sac – but again, am leery of that way of thinking. As far as I know, it is equally possible that we are the environment’s yolk sac. And equally possible that it is our purpose to figure out how to fit within the ecosystem we’re in.

    I agree with your idea that we’re connecting up a worldwide neural network, and that it might be a path to Self, capital ‘S’ awareness, but I’m equally open to the idea that Self-Awareness is not something we humans in our current form can understand. A deep understanding of our own workings might be as close as we get. Our history is peppered with paradisiacal notions, all of which have eventually been superseded. Our history has also been peppered with mass human extinctions, and several versions of homo-whatevers. We’re just one of many versions of human, I think.

    I love the Rubber Bandits.

    • The ‘chance and necessity’ remark was a reference to Jacques Monod’s book on Natural Philosophy, and also to Democritus: “Everything existing in the universe is the fruit of chance and necessity.” In other words, I was suggesting my position did not embrace any final cause as would a strictly teleological perspective, which I note you are rejecting yourself in any case Julie.

      Oh yes, Human Exceptionalism seems arrant nonsense to me – an arrogance breathtaking in its ignorance of vision. I hope I did not appear to be suggesting anything like it in my blather about the seemingly mysterious nature of qualia and the illumination of consciousness. My constant arguments here in refutation of the idea of we humans as soul-possessors would be completely contrary to any Exceptionalist or Anthropocentric perspective.

      You said: “I’m equally open to the idea that Self-Awareness is not something we humans in our current form can understand. A deep understanding of our own workings might be as close as we get.” Your use of the term ‘understand’ suggests the idea of being able conceptualise what you are calling ‘Self-Awareness’, and of course, we cannot even conceptualise the little ‘s’ form – the ‘thisness’ or haecceity of our everyday awareness.

      Then again, all attempts at understanding conceptually at once remove us from the ‘thisness’ of awareness by going into the ‘whatness’, or quiddity, of the grasped-at conceptualisation. Awareness is just this, now, not an idea about ‘this’ or ‘now’. At the same time, any idea is still this, now – still its, and accordingly that of awareness too, own haecceity. Complicated – we need to ask The Rubber Bandits for a sane view I think.

  30. Hariod, this is exquisitely written as always. I am not a fan of being spooked either. I went to one haunted house as a kid with my dad. He got hit on the head with a cast iron skillet by one of the high school volunteer zombies and that was enough scariness for a whole life time – lol.

    • Thankyou V.A. – for your kind words of encouragement, I greatly appreciate them, as well as your presence here. Being scared is a funny old business it seems to me. I can cope with blood and gore and death in real life, but the silliest, actually safest, of things, can get me all a shiver in a finger snap. I was telling a commenter somewhere above how Space Mountain at Disneyworld almost killed me – totally ridiculous I know, but there you have it. Good to see you around my friend; it’s been a while, and I trust you have been keeping well.

      Very best wishes, Hariod.

      • Space Mountain was daunting for me as well – lol. Yes, I took a step back from the blogging community to meditate, do some yoga, and pursue some personal growth without succumbing to the temptation of framing my experiences for the benefit of my readers. I had the awful tendency of falling out of the timeless now in this way. Anyway, yup, here I am and am enjoying the awesome perspectives that you have. I’m looking forward to more of your posts! Much love brotha. 🙂

        • Great to see you active in the public arena once again Quentin – it seems I can refer to you by your real name now, so please forgive the above reference to you as ‘V.A.’. People seem to come and go from blogging, and I can well understand that. I took the decision a few months ago just to post articles once a month, and that gives me the space I need to do my personal stuff, as well as the time to engage on the blogs of readers here. I think it also is a welcome relief to those same dear readers to be honest, as my pieces can be a little abstruse given the very nature of consciousness, the mind and so on. Anyway, much love to you too brother. 🙂

  31. Once again, Hariod, you’ve got folks thinking. Of course, if we are thinking, we have stepped out of pure awareness. Instead of experiencing ‘green’, we are thinking about what ‘green’ might mean. Our qualia, the quality of consciousness, shifts as we sift through sensations, images, feelings, and thoughts. Instead of experiencing ‘I’ directly, by letting go of thought, we engage in amusing musing about what ‘I’ might mean. But if we can’t think about what something as simple as ‘green’ might mean without first experiencing it, how can we hope to think about what ‘I’ might mean without first experiencing it?

    To shift back to pure awareness, we might follow Lao Tzu’s thread instead:

    Just remain in the center, watching.
    And then forget that you are there.

    ~ Lao Tzu (c.604 – 531 B.C.)

    Aah . . . that’s better!

    • Thankyou Nancy, for your interest and sagacious reflections. You hit on one of the problems I allude to in the article, which is how to apprehend whatever it is that we are, not as ‘something’, but also not as ‘nothing’? We are neither in essence, being not something fixed and enduring, and also not nothing – my dreadful double negatives again!

      On your point of thinking, then I rather view this as the mind collapsing and coalescing around an object of mentation – usually internally-heard verbalisations, but equally they can be visual imagery, non-verbal aural images, and even ‘echoes’ of bodily sensations. In all, there is a contraction of awareness around a psychical object in thinking.

      I believe it to be true that for must of us, study and intellectual reflection is a useful adjunct to contemplative awareness – or ‘non-thinking’ if you like – and your inclusion of the quote from Lao Tzu indicates you feel the same. Finding the light switch in a darkened room with a guiding voice is more efficient than a random feeling of our way.

      You rhetorically ask “how can we hope to think about what ‘I’ might mean without first experiencing it?” This is it. We experience ‘I’ much of the time, but because ‘I’ is not a percept, and cannot be recalled in memory, we do not recognise (‘re-cognise’) it. It is unmediated by psychical imagery, not susceptible to representation in any way.

      When Lao Tzu suggests that we forget that we are here, he is talking about dropping the narrative stream of selfhood that runs as a given in everyday awareness. That is the illusory point of centrality in awareness where the imagined autonomous agent of self resides – the doer of deeds, experiencer of experience, thinker of thoughts, and so on.

      I trust I have taken up the meaning of your observations correctly Nancy, though do please come back if you had intended some other interpretation, or if you feel I am incorrect in what I have said. In the meantime, let me offer my thanks once again for your insightful contribution in the matter; it is greatly appreciated by myself and others too.

  32. I read and then reread your posting, desperately hoping to grasp the key points, but I fear I’m far too out of my depth. I did like the line, “I too am a myth of sorts, a narrative of my own insignificant little odyssey.” That much I can grasp and understand quite well. The rest, alas, is far too above me. To make it worse, I’m one who enjoyed Space Mountain when I rode it years ago (when my adult son was a just a little guy).

    But, to return to your posting, I like the myth of you that is you. I never leave your blog without being amazed at your mind and your wonderful ability to communicate with so many readers. You have a very large following for a reason – I think we all love the rich myth that is you. I hope you are doing well Hariod; it’s always a treat to wander around your blog.

    • You are far from being alone, dear Mary, in feeling a little flummoxed at this particular offering, as others here have attested. The overall point being conveyed was that there are a variety of disciplines, spanning different cultures and times, that have set out ways of debunking the internalised myth of selfhood which we all carry around as a given.

      We all presume there to be some autonomous agent within – the ‘self of me’ – that somehow instantiates in, or as, our mind/body and which presents as an imaginary experiencer of experience, thinker of thoughts, doer of deeds, and so forth. In actuality, there are just experiences, thoughts, deeds, and so on – no homunculus of ‘me’ behind them all.

      It is a notoriously difficult thing to grasp, even merely in words, and indeed it seems a quite absurd proposition. Our brains evolved – since acquiring language and the ability to manipulate symbols – only to accept the introduction of this eidolic self, and cannot think their way out of it. Nonetheless, it is possible to step outside the myth by various means.

      Thankyou so much for your persistence with the piece Mary, for reading and for re-reading, and also for your candid and generous response; I appreciate both greatly. Your kind words are a great encouragement as I stumble along here, trying to find the right balance between providing food for thought, and with luck, a little comprehensibility.

      With all best wishes,


  33. I felt I almost understood it, which reminded me:

    Just today (and this is not infrequent) I pondered, for a while, have I (and like any and everybody) just imagined my whole life? Like, driving thru’ the last intersection, could I have been ‘t-boned’ by some 90 mph driver, and, now dead, my consciousness continues to drive down the road as tho’ that didn’t happen? What is there not to say all my life, and everyone’s, is not that way? Well, I don’t dwell long; I go thru’ the motions; I more than follow the track of rote; I continue to act as if I am ‘there’.

    And my earlier comment: I suspect you’ll getta kick outttuvvitt – consciousness fyzzyx.

    • You did well if you felt you ‘almost understood it’, judging by many responses here anyway. I need to work out how to present my crazy ideas in more comprehensible ways yet still within the necessary short-form writing for this blog. I only post once a month, so hope this has not discouraged you from visiting again, and in any case, I like it when readers come back and challenge me. Which leads us to your own particular challenge, that being:

      The question of whether you are dead, and if so, in what sense. Well, one of the theories gaining credibility in scientific circles, and one which attempts to reconcile Quantum Theory with General Relativity and Newtonian Physics, is that of there being an infinite number of infinite universes which are both parallel and interactive. That means that in one of them, you were ‘T-boned’ and are now dead on the particular road your were then driving on. The road you are now driving on – so to speak – appears very similar, as do all your memories, and your expectations are largely, but not wholly, met. That is because the parallel universe you now inhabit was modified slightly as a result of the collapsing quantum states issuing during the prang. Nothing transmigrated in a Pythagorean sense from this universe to that, so wherever you are now, you are now – Colorado it would appear to be.


      Of course, there are an infinite number of Colorado’s, and also it is possible that the whole theory could well be complete bunkum.

  34. Much like an exercise video always has an instructor on the side doing less complicated versions of the moves, I feel like I need a simpler version of your posts to accompany the original masterpieces – for the benefit of those of us with vocabulary challenges. Armed with a thesaurus and intuition, I venture into the post with high hopes of comprehension.

    I do notice many familiar concepts and ideas from the spiritual realm of thought to which I most frequently agree. The fact that we change at such a rapid pace from a biological perspective should give pause to anyone who thinks they know who they are from a strictly physical perspective. Deepak Chopra often says in his talks that the person who sat down to hear me is much different than the one who gets up and leaves at the end.

    In your last comment you are discussing infinity, which brings up a specific, if not related, quandary of mine. If an apple could be divided into an infinite number of increasingly small pieces, and infinity can also describe the size of the universe, how can one reconcile the two? Both are infinite, but both are very different in size. Regardless I digress. Nice to talk again after a long hiatus!

    • Oh, hi there Graham; it’s good to see you back on the scene my friend; I’ve missed your regular contributions, which never failed to provoke thought in me. And yes, you’re quite correct to pull me up on my oblique terminology, which so often gets the better of me – born a sesquipedalian, always a sesquipedalian; albeit a more wrinkly, periphrastic one.

      You appear to be invoking Zeno’s paradoxes here, or similar ones in any case. As Aristotle helpfully pointed out, one needs to make a distinction between things being infinite in respect to their divisibility (your ‘apple’), and things being infinite in respect to their spatial extension (your ‘universe’). The two categories are of course entirely different.

      Anyway, are you going to be writing again, even if perhaps with less frequency?

      • I do feel an urge to write a little more – hopefully less about dwelling in the frustration that is the spiritual journey and more about the positive and uplifting parts of my experience. However, one has little control over their experience so it will be what it will be. 🙂

        • You know it makes waves Graham, and can even change lives. Let me give you an example: You posted a video of Mooji, one in which he was laughing all the time hysterically (remember it?). Well, I loved that video and so in turn posted it on a friend’s site in the States (Michael Mark, see above). Then, a woman called Ellen from New York saw that video, decided to contact Mooji, and her life has completely changed as a result. So you see, that was a wave sent out by you which changed someone’s life forever, and for good. 🙂

            • ‘The Butterfly Effect’ they call it I think, and you were the butterfly Graham. Seriously, hooking up with Mooji has been utterly transformative for Ellen in her life, and she’s forever expressing gratitude to me for the introduction – whereas in fact it was you all along.

  35. Dear Hariod,

    I just called by to see if there was anything new, and would like to wish you a wonderful celebration within this holiday season. I wish you joy and happiness, love and blessings, to you and yours for a happy christmas. Wishing you all the very best for the coming New Year, and many thanks for all of your kind support over at Dreamwalker’s.

    Love and blessings,

    Sue. ❤

    • Thankyou so much dearest Sue; I hugely appreciate you making a special visit at what must surely be this very busy time for you, all to bring me your best wishes – how exceptionally kind and thoughtful of you my friend, and I receive the same gratefully and in all humility. May I also take this opportunity to extend the very same to you, and to wish you, your family and beautiful grandchildren peace, health and contentedness now and throughout the coming year.

      Hariod ❤

  36. I must thank you many times for such an erudite treatise on eidolon, and also Titian’s portrait of Venus. The portrait is so life-like as to frustrate both the artist and his legions of admirers on the helplessness to breathe life – the only missing element into an otherwise perfect work of art. Even a Titian can at best only create an eidolon, not the real thing.

    In Indian folklore, the eidolon is known as ‘Yakshi’ – female counterpart of ‘Yaksha’ – and are about thirty six in number, each an epitome of a virtue and benevolent fairy attendee of Kubera, the god of wealth who rules the mythical Himalayan kingdom of Alakapuri. Yakshis are as beautiful and voluptuous as Titian’s Venus.

    The cosmic power is expressed in apophatic and cataphatic terms by all major religions and belief systems. The Vedas cataphatically posit that god is ‘Sat Chit Ananda’, meaning ‘Truth, Consciousness and Bliss’, and apophatically state ‘Neti, neti’, meaning ‘Not this, not that’, so as to underline divinity as a grand infinity permeating everything in the universe, beyond the realm of ordinary perception – the essence of perfect good that eludes definition.

    The eidolon is a comprehensible image of a reality that is beyond comprehension, a Venus representing Sundaram or a beauty that is ineffable. In the ultimate analysis, there is nothing like god as an entity, no beliefs or believers, only seekers of truth, as enunciated by Buddha and Shankaracharya.

    We are all spiritual beings undergoing finite experiences, headed towards liberation. The greater the attachments, the more numerous the rebirths; the greater the detachment, the faster the liberation.

    Greetings of the season, Hariod; conferring with you is an ongoing privilege.

    Best regards,


    • Thankyou so much Raj, for your marvellously erudite and so very generous response to my offering. I must apologise to you for the tardiness of my response, though commitments at this time of the year are many in number, as you doubtless will appreciate. I must confess, religious cosmology is not a subject that interests me greatly, even though I have deep affinities with Indian philosophy and psychological frameworks, most notably those of orthodox, or Theravadin Buddhism, in the latter case.

      I like your brief synopsis of Advaitism, and you hit upon a fascinating point when you say the apotheosis remains “beyond the realm of ordinary perception”. It is obvious in a sense, as how can my true nature be a mere percept? A great conundrum for spiritual seekers, no doubt. If I cannot approach this apotheosis with my mind, then by what mechanism may it be apprehended? You go on to speak of “a reality that is beyond comprehension”. What say you Raj, may I ask how this reality may be known?

      Looking forward to an engaged discussion with you on the matter my learned friend.


  37. Hariod, I thought this was a great thought-provoking piece. I really loved the section where you talked about the human cells. All the way down to our most simplistic form, there is the paradox of existence. I thought the way you ended the last paragraph was brilliant in its perfection. It tied everything together seamlessly. Thank you.

    • I greatly appreciate you taking the time to cast your monochromatic eye over this one TSP, and also for your warmly received words of encouragement. I rather think my piece appeared a little incomprehensible to some, though clearly your own understandings on matters ontological saw you through with flying colours. You are an esteemed guest here most certainly, and once again I thank you for your presence.

      With all best wishes,


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