Abstract Details

The Mystic in the Machine: An Interpretation of Mystical Experience Through the Lens of Controls Engineering.  Jeffrey L. Beck (Paradigm Research LLC, Gunnison, UT )   C17

A common thread runs through all human societies, an experience in subjective consciousness, something hard to express in words, but when we try, it ends up under the heading of mysticism, or mystical experience. Sometimes it gets labeled "religious" because it is the first cause of all religions. These experiences get interpreted through the conditioned mind/body of the experiencer, so the interpretation depends heavily on the social and internal mental environment of the experiencer. Some look to words in sacred books by others who travelled the path before them. Others retreat into silence, recognizing that no words are adequate. And agnostic control engineers try to make up stories about the topology of consciousness within the complex structure of the brain, and how it could somehow change in an instant, a case of nonlinear harmonic instability in a complex system. For the engineer, these stories have boundary conditions that must be met in order to feel satisfactory; they must conform to evolutionary biology/psychology, to chaos theory, to the mathematics of the domains of Laplace and Fourier, to the realm of the undecidable, the incomputable, to quantum physics, to some acceptable cosmology, and, at the same time respect the subjective experience and historical religious interpretations. For the agnostic, the stories will always be a work-in-progress, but not a waste of time. As our technical understanding of our world and ourselves evolves, our stories evolve and become more useful bit by bit, and sometimes in a quantum jump, they change with the emergence of a sudden aha moment as something new enters our consciousness. Where will that lead us? Hopefully it will lead to a better understanding of ourselves in an acceptable modern context, a modern mythology that integrates our scientific and spiritual understanding of what it means to be human.