About Stephanie

Stephanie is a philosopher, a Gnostic, a writer, an animal lover, a teacher, and most of all, a human being on the never ending Quest. Stephanie was born and grew up in Northeast, Ohio. She moved to New Orleans in 1997 after graduating from Youngstown State University to live with friends and experience life in the Big Easy. In 1999, she moved to Denver, Colorado to attend graduate school at the University of Denver (2005). She fell in love with the state and has lived there ever since. She currently lives in Aurora, Colorado with her partner of fourteen years, their two cats and two dogs.

The Mystery of Mind

Geometry of the Soul.

Where does consciousness come from? Why do we think the things we think? Why am I blogging and bothering with any of this stuff? Most of us would like to think we do the things we do because we will ourselves to do them. I want to blog because writing helps me to organize my thoughts. There! That’s why I do it! But why do I like to organize my thoughts? Well, it helps me to think more clearly and understand why I think what I think. But why do I want to do that? I can write a litany of reasons why I blog that will eventually take me back to some time long before I even knew that the internet and pens existed. I will never get to the first cause of why I do it. At some point the reality is that the necessary conditions arose for me to write this blog and post it on this WordPress website.

I came across an article today in The Conversation by David A. Oakley and Peter Halligan that examines the question, “What If Consciousness Is Not What Drives the Human Mind?” Fair question. No one knows were consciousness arises from, it just does. The thing that likes to take credit for everything I do in life is just ego. That’s the thing I, and most people who talk to me, call Stephanie.  She likes to think she wills stuff to occur. She doesn’t, she just thinks this. I promise this the extent of me talking of myself in third person.

Consciousness studies had advanced so little in the past century that in 2012, famed philosopher of mind, Thomas Nagel, called for a new paradigm in the scientific study in his book Mind and Cosmos. He found that reductive materialism was failing to come up with anything that could explain how consciousness emerged, so something new should take its place. This was not well met by the scientific community back then. And to be fair, this would open up the scientific pursuit of understanding mind and consciousness to all sorts of nonsense. But that didn’t mean that Nagel wasn’t correct about materialism being hopelessly stuck. While I wouldn’t say the mainstream scientific community has come around now, there are more and more scientists taking this call seriously.

Oakley and Halligan haven’t quite thrown their hats in the ring, but they are questioning previous assumptions about consciousness, even if seemingly still in the materialist complex. They are asking us to consider that consciousness springs up from non-conscious things. Our environment, experiences, our body chemistry, genetics, produce certain reactions in the non-conscious part of our brain which are then relayed to the conscious part of the brain through our personal narratives (ego). The thoughts arise in us and we act on them or don’t based on our wiring. So long, free will!

I gave up on free will about 15 years ago. This was difficult, I am a hardcore existentialist. Radical freedom was my thing in my early college years. I was rabid for Sartre, Camus, Nietzsche! I’m happy to say I still am. I don’t think one needs to give up their contradictions, so long as they can resolve the paradox at the end of the day. But free will seems a fool’s quest to me now. I’ve bought into a soft determinism. There are so many variables that make each person who they are, that there remains the illusion of free will. Have you ever noticed how many things in our world turn out to be illusions?

As I was reading this study, I realized that what Oakley and Halligan were describing wasn’t new at all. It was actually proposed about two-thousand years ago by the Gnostics. Carl Jung saw the Gnostics as proto-psychologists. They certainly understood the power of symbols and metaphor! But Gnostics such as Plotinus and Monoimos clearly state that our thoughts and ideas do not come from ourselves, we don’t will them into existence. Monoimos gives direct credit to the Divine found within each of us. Plotinus argues that we are merely passive observers in this life. Our actual thoughts arise from outside of us. We’re basically just along for the ride – the very conclusion of Oakley and Halligan.  

Sophia-Achamoth

In the book Jesus and the Lost Goddess, Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy note in Ptolemy’s Gnostic tale of the Demiurge, that neither the Demiurge nor his mother Achamoth (Sophia) are responsible for their actions, both good and evil, in the end. Both are set on a path by the Creator and only think they are their own agents. Their thoughts and subsequent actions arise from a greater consciousness, that of the Creator. Freke and Gandy argue that like Achamoth and the Demiurge, our egos carry the belief that we create our own reality and drive our own destiny, but what we put in motion to design our world are actually the universal archetypes that are already in existence (the Gnostics would call them the Aeons) in Universal Consciousness (pp. 167, 285).

When we realize that we’re just along for the ride, suddenly we have found radical freedom to just fall into who and what we are without the constraints of cultural conditioning. We can allow ourselves to be the sensory units of the Universe, here to experience the wonders of life in all of its forms without fear. It’s all going to be okay, the Universe has our backs! This doesn’t mean we are free of pain and sorry and life will only be sunshine and roses. Pain and sorrow are a part of life, but how we perceive it matters in how we move through the experience.

If we can learn to observe our thoughts and actions, we can have better experiences through our perception.

While I do not believe we have free will in this life, I do believe that we choose our lives in each incarnation to either learn lessons or to have a particular experience. Our freedom exists in where we choose to reside in a particular lifetime in the material realm. But once we get here? We watch. We learn. We come to certain realizations as we encounter different experiences. That’s the point of being here. To be truly free in this life, we must accept and submit to it whatever it is until we leave the material world again.

Wildfires & Illness

The Pine Gulch fire on the Western Slope in Colorado

I’ve not been able to write the past few days due to illness. With the fires raging in my state and many others, the air quality has gotten so bad that I’ve been sick with a migraine/sinus problems and asthma. Last night when I let the dogs out, I could smell the smoke, thick in the air. The migraine medication I took causes other complications, which among other things instigated a fibromyalgia flair up. So this weekend has been dedicated to self-care and not beating myself up for not meeting the challenge of writing every day this month. Despite this, I plan to write for the rest of the month as much as I can.

The sunsets are apocalyptic in their beauty

I know there are a lot of people out there right now in tougher situations with these fires. Many have had to evacuate, some of have lost their homes. I’m fortunate in that I can seek shelter in my home right now. My love and intentions tonight go out to everyone having to deal with the fires all over the United States, in whatever capacity you are impacted.

Who Wants to Live Forever?

I found this article today in Scientific American, “What if We Could Live for a Million Years?” by Avi Loeb. As you might expect it examines the idea of what life would be like for human if we could live for a million years. In such a span of time, some of the thoughts here are silly and intended to be so. We’re going to have to cap tenure, it states. Yeah, we’ll have to cap a few things, I’m thinking. And because we’re human we’d have to have stupid debates like what sort of health insurance would cover it and whether or not some people could save enough money to live a million years. I’m sure in the end we’ll iron out all the kinks and everyone will live happily ever after until our Sun goes critical or the entire universe collapses or some such.

Wouldn’t be so bad if we could download our consciousness into the bombshell, kickass, body of our choice!

It’s fun to think of these scenarios and I do wonder what it would be like if we humans managed to extend our life spans a significant amount. Perhaps with consciousness studies we could even learn how to cheat death and store our consciousness digitally. There are many fascinating philosophical questions we can ask. My question is, should it be something we even want?

It seems to me that our egos try awfully hard to draw out their lives, even way beyond their usefulness. The quest to live forever? That’s ego driven. There is so much more to me than my ego, and there’s so much more to everyone else. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. We learn through each incarnation. We take those lessons and we move on to something else. I would not want to be stuck in ego existence for centuries, let alone for millennial or eons! This is spiritual stagnation.

In Buddhism one’s essence is in a constant state of change and flux, so there is no-permanent self (anatta). Buddhism teaches to not get attached to ego, as who we are always changes whether we want this or not. We grow old, we get ill, we lose a limb, we change our views, people come into and out of our lives. Suffering occurs when there is an inability to let our own idea of self/ego go because it creates rigidity. Rather than bend as the winds of change come, we crack when we tightly hold to what once was.

A good friend of mine said a while back, “To believe in a permanent self…is to deny the possibility of spiritual self-change.” If there is a permanet, sustained self, is there any real possibility of change or growth?

Perhaps if someone is a reductive materialist, eternal life in the body or some other material form sounds appealing. To me it sounds like a prison sentence.

Some Queen to cure the ear worm…

Moon Meditation

Luna, Roman Goddess of the Moon

I have found that when working with the Moon or a moon goddess such as Luna or Selene, it helps to set aside 10-20 minutes to meditate on the intention you are working on with her. The moon is all about the subconscious and that which is often hidden from our normal waking thoughts. When I set an intention and then clear my mind – if I can, obtain an alpha brain wave state – I find ideas and answers bubble up from the subconscious and I gain more clarity. Sometimes she speaks directly to me, but her voice is softer and more subtle than Venus, with whom I can always have direct conversations and wine parties. Venus will always hand it to me straight and hang out with me, while Luna offers up wisps of thoughts on cotton clouds. Where she ambushes me is in my dreams, and then I spend the next week deconstructing them and trying to figure out what they meant. Her messages are always potent and never to be underestimated!

New Moon in Leo

My alter preparations this afternoon.

Tonight is the New Moon in Leo at 8:41 PM MDT. I will make this entry short as I am conducting a new moon ceremony. The purpose of my posting every day during the month of August is to show off my Leo spirit and welcome some showy change into my life! Leo is about taking a little spotlight for oneself and show casing one’s talents. Writing and posting everyday has spurred on some tremendous ideas of where to take things next. I have ideas for a book on the Goddess Sophia and environmental spirituality, ideas on a business venture for shadow work and fully embracing one’s sexual nature, I even have new ideas for some fiction that I was calling astropunk until I discovered it already existed. It’s completely different from my idea though, so I’ll just have to think up a new name. But that’s okay, because I’m a creative spirit and I’ll think up something better!

There have been days I didn’t want to write because I’m tired from work, I want to play a computer game, I want to watch TV, and so on and on, but I’m glad I’ve stuck with it. I’ve gotten into the practice of writing again and I remember now why I enjoy it. I used to write all the time in my twenties and thirties. Then one day about 12 year ago, I just stopped. The Lion has been good to me this month. So tonight, it’s time to give a little back to Leo and Luna for all their help and guidance.

I wish everyone a happy and safe New Moon tonight!