Dr. Donald DeGracia, NIH Medical Scientist Talks Yoga and Consciousness |388|

Discussion in 'Skeptiko Shows' started by Alex, Sep 4, 2018.

  1. Alex

    Alex New

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    Dr. Donald DeGracia, NIH Medical Scientist Talks Yoga and Consciousness |388|
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    Dr. Donald DeGracia, breakthroughs in cell research and a deep understand of the yoga/consciousness link.
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    photo by: Skeptiko
    I have an interview coming up in just a minute with Dr. Donald DeGracia from Wayne State University School of Medicine. Don is a brilliant guy. His details of his day job are way over my head as he’s doing some very advanced research on stroke victims, and cell death, and he’s received grants from the National Institute of Health grants and all of that good stuff. And he has a totally different approach to it, a non-linear approach, partly because he sees the current scientific model as being kind of ridiculous.

    But, what you’ll hear in this interview is that none of that stuff really matters much because what Don’s about is something much deeper… it has to do with spirituality, the nature of consciousness and the connection to yoga.

    Of the hundreds of people that I’ve interviewed, Don is one of my absolute favorites, particularly because you won’t hear about him in a lot of other places. You won’t see a lot of interviews with him, he’s not out there pumping books, he gives his books away for free, and his thinking is just imaginative, unique and he’s not afraid to tell it like it is.

    So, it’s an interview I really enjoyed doing, I hope you enjoy listening to it.

    Alex Tsakiris: So, we already told folks you’re there at Wayne State University, in the department of physiology, you’re a professor, but you have this secret life, you have a couple of secret lives, but one of your secret lives is you’re really into comics and you’re wearing your Comic-Con… What t-shirt are you wearing there?

    Dr. Donald DeGracia: Black Panther.

    Alex Tsakiris: There we go.

    Dr. Donald DeGracia: That’s the original Black Panther for all the Black Panther fans out there.

    Alex Tsakiris: You have comic street cred, you don’t shy away from it, but you also have this other secret life of a yogi, and I think that is so cool and we relate to each other because I’m a yogi, and anyone’s a yogi who says they’re a yogi, you know? I had a guy…

    Dr. Donald DeGracia: Effectively, yeah.

    Alex Tsakiris: Yeah, well it’s true. I had a guy on the show recently, and the guy was a total, in my opinion, a total pretender in terms of this, kind of, deeply spiritual, kind of, wise kind of guy. So, we kind of got into it a little bit and I said, “Yeah, I’m a yogi,” and he goes, “What kind of yogi? What’s your heritage, what weekend retreat did you go to?” kind of thing, and it’s like, “No man, yogi is a state of mind. It’s a philosophical shift, anyone can be a yogi,” right? Once you’re a yogi, you’re not a yogi anymore, because it transcends that, but I kind of don’t want to get too…

    Dr. Donald DeGracia: No, I agree with that completely, yeah, it’s totally a state of mind. Yeah, that’s one of the awkward things about when I talk about yoga, because people ask me what I do, do I practice meditation and things like that. I do Yama and Niyama, that’s what I do, because I’m not advanced enough to do meditation.

    Alex Tsakiris: Yeah, explain that.

    Dr. Donald DeGracia: It’s the truth.

    Alex Tsakiris: That’s awesome.

    Dr. Donald DeGracia: It’s the truth.

    Alex Tsakiris: Explain that.

    Dr. Donald DeGracia: Well, you know, in both, What is Science? and in The Yogic View of Consciousness, I define Yama and Niyama as the reading, writing and arithmetic of yoga. Right? So, if you can’t do reading, writing and arithmetic, you can’t do anything in the real world and if you don’t have Yama and Niyama you can’t do yoga. Like for example in Yama, you have like celibacy is one of them, which is one of the more drastic ones, but being unselfish, being non-harmful, things like that, make up the list of the Yama’s.

    And then the Niyama’s is like, studying the spiritual scriptures, meditation, things like that, and what they really amount to, is that Yama is, when the world itself loosens its grip on you, right? It’s all designed to help you loosen your grip on the world because… I mean there’s background to this, it’s kind of hard to throw it in out of the blue, you have to… And this is what, I think, when you say you’re just a yogi, anybody can be a yogi with a state of mind, well, it starts at realizing that the world isn’t what it seems to be, and you start to question it, and you start to wonder, “What the hell is going on? What is this all about?” And once you get to a certain level of sophistication, you realize the world is not really something you can grab on to, right? Doubt, you just start to feel doubt, you really do become skeptical. Right? So, your title of Skeptiko is really quite apt to the whole enterprise.
     
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  2. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    Alex,

    I downloaded the podcast, and the sound isn't great when Donald is speaking. I don't know if you can do anything about it, because it is a very interesting discussion.

    Also, You have a link to Mike Clelland where you should be linking to Donald's site!

    David
     
  3. Alex

    Alex New

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    thx for the heads-up re the link. fixed. can't do much about the audio.
     
  4. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    Alex's questions at the end of the podcast:

    What do you make of Don's yogic model of consciousness? Do you think it makes sense? Is it superior to other models of consciousness that you might favour?
     
  5. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    I'm not sure after listening to the podcast that Don actually presented in totality his model of consciousness. I just got an impression of it -- was it embodied in the diagram shown quite early on in the podcast? As an Idealist myself, I appreciated that he seemed to be favourably inclined towards Idealism. I think I'll have to read more from him before I could comment on whether or not his model is superior to others.

    I found a lot of what he said interesting, if somewhat elliptically addressed in the podcast: it was in places a case of inside baseball that I wasn't quite able to bring together into a coherent whole. That said, I was impressed by Don and do actually feel inclined to visit his site to learn more, and will also say that it's good that in this interview, Alex has returned to interviewing the kind of person that I like to hear from (as opposed to conspiracy theorists and various weird and wonderful types). I see he's interviewed Don before in podcast #256:



    When I've re-listened to the earlier interview (which to be frank I can't recall too clearly) and Don's site, I may post more. But for now let me just thank Alex for a refreshingly "old school" Skeptiko podcast that I wish we could have more of these days.
     
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  6. Dan_LastName

    Dan_LastName Member

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    I like the idea of levels of consciousness. I like the idea that the "astral plane" isn't out there, it's deeper inside. I like that he says it all depends on an individual's experience.

    I liked the discussion of Kant and the transcendental.

    I like Van Der Leeuw's ideas.

    Source: http://www.dondeg.com/metaphysics/Conquest_Of_Illusion.pdf

    The trouble is that to be truly childlike would leave one open to being hoodwinked and scammed by charlatans and hoaxers. So some degree of critical analysis is necessary. Also, critical analysis, in the form of material science/engineering, has been wildly successful in many respects. For me, it's difficult to know when to leave off the analysis and when to start the wonder.

    DeGracia and Van Der Leeuw are interesting and there's a lot of food for thought. I want to disagree with them on a point or two, but I think they've covered themselves pretty well.

    In my model, people can only experience that which is in experience. In a logical sense, there seems to be that which is outside of experience--for example, a dead language that nobody speaks anymore. Or some future scientific discovery that hasn't been made yet. Or some other realm or plane. A lot of folks, when thinking about mystical experience or psi experience or ufo experience, etc, consider those to be times where the experiencer crosses over into some other plane or some other reality. In my model, mystical experience or psi experience is still in the realm of experience, just a less familiar territory of experience. And that which is outside of experience, whatever the hell that means, is truly beyond. Like Kant's transcendental.

    We always loop back into experience no matter what, there's some misty barrier that we can't get beyond. Paradoxes at the ends of logic and math are part of the barrier. I want to criticize DeGracia and Van Der Leeuw for suggesting that mystical experience is somehow breeching experience and going into some other realm, but I don't think that's what he's saying. He's got a more nuanced explanation, but I can't find it now and there's a lot to sort through.

    I think they make a turn in their ideas where, instead of intellectualizing the mystical experience or creating a logical taxonomy of the experience, it is instead just experienced, as in the first sentence of the Van Der Leeuw quote above.
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2018
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  7. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    Agreed, though I would put it slightly differently. I wish we could have more podcasts of this quality (particularly if the sound was better) and fewer interviews with lightweights.

    Alex, sound quality is really important, and I wonder if something could be done about this in future. For example, I guess many of these interviews are performed over Skype, and maybe there are better technologies available if you pay a little. Alternatively, I wonder if interviewees could simultaneously record themselves directly, and this recording could be used in places if the recording of over Skype was inadequate - or even used in its entirety - after all, it is more important that the guest be heard clearly - we mostly know your views already!

    I am a bit busy today, so when I have listened to the whole podcast and visited his website I will comment in detail.

    David
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2018
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  8. Michael Patterson

    Michael Patterson New

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    I liked Don's model as much as I like his notion of what yoga is. For me its a model that is consistent with the essential model that I am used to, but using different language. Over all I was impressed by Don's approach, and I will check out his book.

    I think an important takeaway from this conversation is that there actually is a coherent model of human consciousness and Don's articulation of it is as good as any I have encountered - at least as an introductory set of ideas. I am hoping his book does the job and I am keen to look at it before saying too much more.

    This is the next step on, once extended consciousness is accepted as a proposition. We operate in at least 2 dimensions - the physical and what I call the metaphysical. It is useful to work with a theoretical model that gives that awareness a framework to operate in. I want to check the book out and listen to the show again.
     
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  9. Steve

    Steve Member

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    I listened with interest to the podcast, Don seems to favour the type of ideas that I do. I just wanted to say that the last time he was on Skeptiko, he was more than willing to come on the forum and trade ideas. His conversations with Michael, David and particularly Lone Shaman are very notable. Way over my head for the most part. :eek:

    As Don has a professional interest in strokes, I pmd him, asking him advice about consciousness things that most people/scientists would have little idea about. He had the kindness in his heart to reply and we had a thoughtful tete-a-tete. Such guests are rather rare, I hope he appears here (the forum) once again. ;;/?
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2018
  10. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    Lone Shaman, if you are reading this, please come back!

    David
     
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  11. soulatman

    soulatman Member

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    I absolutely love Don and totally agree with Alex, he is one of the best guests ever.

    What's so nice is that he is in the midst of academia, and in a field (neuroscience) which has become dominated by a materialistic priesthood that is unwilling to explore the many mysteries, contradictions and enigmas thrown up by our investigations into the brain. It will only explore those mysteries if the results of those explorations have the potential to reinforce the unwieldy prevailing materialistic paradigm.

    So nice Don is able ,with considerable authority, to talk about and give insight into how it might be the case that the ancient traditions of India and the East may have a lot to say that is valid about the nature of consciousness. Ancient models arguably are not disproved or debunked by modern neuro-scientific findings as academia might have us believe, quite the contrary. It is just that academia is unwilling to risk having to relax its faith and allegiance to the materialistic paradigm, and hence will not risk seriously considering or investigating the assertions and gnosis of the ancients. Too risky.

    Don's world view and assertions about life and consciousness resonate very strongly with my own views, which have taken many years of passionate and honest seeking on my part to begin to take on a focused, coherent and satisfactory form which has explanatory power, allows for meaning and purpose in life, and is not simply a case of a more palatable fantasy about the world, but is informed by my experience in the world.

    Loved the notion or suggestion that the Astral is not outside or beyond or physical realm, but may be deeper within. A subtle, but potentially fertile notion which I am going to seriously ponder and meditate upon its ramifications.

    Thanks for a wonderful show.

    Alex, please don't wait so long next time to have Don back.
     
  12. Alex

    Alex New

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    thx for highlighting this. totally agree... requires deep consideration.
     
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  13. Dan_LastName

    Dan_LastName Member

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    I'm glad Donald DeGracia was on the show. I have been enjoying digging through the material on his website. I wanted to post something, but as I tried to gather my thoughts, it seems a first step is to paste some quotes from his (and Van Der Leeuw's) books, and just raise a few points of confusion.

    A few months back, I posted about a model I was working on that included "that which is in experience" and "that which is outside of experience" and so this episode and DeGracia's material is a welcome resource for me.

    So here's some excerpts that I feel capture some of the key points from The Yoga View of Consciousness. For the full effect, you would probably need to click the link and look at the illustrations because they are very helpful (if you haven't done that already).

    Source: DeGracia's The Yoga View of Consciousness

    Source: Van Der Leeuw's The Conquest of Illusion

    One point I'm stuck on is that Taimni claims there are atoms and molecules outside of our bodies--but elsewhere he and DeGracia/Van Der Leeuw say that there's nothing outside of consciousness. I think Van Der Leeuw tries to resolve this in the move from Figure 3 to Figure 4, but I'm not sure if that solves the problem.

    Another point I'm stuck on is that on Page 27, it sounds like DeGracia is saying that the real world / Kant's Transcendental Noumena / Brahman is outside of the mind. How else could it project "into the mind?" But then in all the preceding quotes and in other places, he's saying that there is nothing outside of the mind in this model.

    One other point I'm stuck on: DeGracia says that the model he's describing in The Yoga View of Consciousness is not the same as idealism, but it does seem the same as idealism. It seems pretty much the same as Kant's transcendental with the main difference being that Kant thought you couldn't access the transcendental/noumena while DeGracia/Van Der Leeuw/etc seem to feel that you can access the transcendental. They seem to be saying that when you access the transcendental, you don't experience it like you experience normal day to day life. Instead, you become the transcendental. And also, it's inside of you, not outside of you. Which leads to another point of confusion, which is, does everybody have the same transcendental within them? Or does everybody have their own unique version?

    I do believe in the rest of the book, DeGracia attempts to resolve these issues, so I will keep reading.

    One other thing: the quote from Van Der Leeuw above reminds me a bit of Raymond Moody saying we need a new kind of logic to move forward with studies of NDEs.
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2018
  14. Wormwood

    Wormwood Member

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    What would this look like?
     
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  15. dpdownsouth

    dpdownsouth Member

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    Great show!
    Yes, I suppose it's also good to remember that we're probably abstracting-out constituent parts from a single reality. Perhaps the internal consciousness experience (everything from thought to dreams to astral travel) is our way of interacting with an informational substrate (or component) that underlies existence.
    I think philosopher Eric Weiss might be a fruitful guest. He mixes Whitehead's physical/mental poles with Sri Aurobindo and astral-style metaphysics.

    http://ericweiss.com/
    I can't remember if he actually articulates what it would look like, but:

    https://skeptiko.com/raymond-moody-understanding-near-death-experiences-as-nonsense/
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2018
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  16. Michael Patterson

    Michael Patterson New

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    I had a quick look at Don's book, but at 600+ pages on my ereader its going to be some time before I am done. However I had a good read over coffee this morning and I liked the approach very much. A lot of the things Dan_LastName got stuck on are understandable. Yoga metaphysics hurts my brain. I find I have to reread it, and even then struggle to make it fit into familiar thought models. For me its meant to hurt if you are going to get something worthwhile out of it.

    My sense is that the screen is the bedrock of our reality, and that all we can do is encounter our particular take on it - which we see as being the expression of reality - hence the idea that it is illusory. It is our perception/experience as a representation of the universal that is illusory. You and I can encounter the same bicycle and we can agree on many things about it - but its reality is always more than we can know. It is what we say it is and more. Our illusion is that we edit off the 'and more'.

    Kevin Kelly's Out of Contol was my great educator here. Kelly wrote of 'slide rule mechanics' that gave us clunky technology. The difference between a slide rule and an electronic calculator is that you have to truncate numbers on the right side of the decimal point. The invention of Chaos theory was credited to the realisation that such truncation leads to gross manifestations that are not representations of reality - and uncircumcised numbers knit themselves into deep order that looks like chaos. Okay I have taken certain liberties here to make a legitimate point. We think using the intellectual equivalent of a slide rule. We shave off the subtle extensions of an idea to fit it into a particular intellectual frame. We think this is reasoning and science. It is not, so we build clunky intellectual constructs (science as well know it).

    When we encounter the likes of a yogic interpretation of consciousness we are meeting the equivalent of an electronic calculator. It not only does not have to shave off the extensions of thought on the right hand side of the intellectual decimal point (see this as boundary between the physical and the metaphysical if you like), it absolutely relies on that extension into the infinite to establish meaning and value.

    Moody's 'new kind of logic' is very pertinent. I found White's The Unobstructed Universe and DeMarco's latest Awakening from the 3D World to be instances of a new way of thinking. I just discovered DeMarco has a 15 min video on this theme . (I haven't watched it yet. I needed a reminder of the correct title of the book and came across it)

    When I was 16 I encountered Paul Brunton's Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga. There are better texts now. But back then I struggled over 18 months to read the book - because I was 'falling asleep' after reading a paragraph so routinely it drove me nuts. Sometimes I would spend a week just getting through one page. That act of 'falling asleep' I later found was about being kicked into deeper consciousness to engage with ideas that could not be made sense of with my intellectual content at the time.

    Don made the point, more or less, that somethings are inherently non-linear and we tend to think in linear pathways. Linear thought is traumatised when confronted with a non-linear proposition. While I don't think we can do pure non-linear thought, we can at least do way more complex linear thinking that at least dislodges our 'normal'. We can intellectually gesture towards non-linearity as a habit of thought - eventually. But that may mean we end up being more poet than rationalist. We presently are so seduced by rationalism that the idea that our deepest thinkers might be poets can seem shockingly outrageous. But Don reminded us that scientists were once 'Natural Philosophers'. The narrow technical specialism is more a function of economics that any essential intellectual necessity.

    My brother transferred from humanities to science. He is a natural philosopher and has a great love of literature (a decent poet and playwright for a short period). He also spent his early years steeped in the family passion for the Pentecostal faith (something I was lucky to escape). He nearly got a PhD in beer, but became repelled by the idea. In short, had he completed a research project funded by a brewery he would have been awarded a PhD. Really? A Doctor of Philosophy for solving a technical beer brewing problem? Yes. He thought his science department superiors were woefully ignorant and almost illiterate. A growing sense of moral repugnance overcame him and he quit.

    Thinking in terms of a metaphysical dimension that has neither space nor time is hard when the essential referents of our familiar reality are spatial and temporal. So how do we accommodate that kind of thinking? This is Don's more universal state beyond the illusion of the physical - only yogic and others teaching suggest there are deeper and deeper states - and that we can only approach the absolute. While I get the intent of absolutist language I think the intent is more modest. White argues that time and space in our physical reality become attributes of a metaphysical reality - part of the same continuity of being. Other informants suggest that in the metaphysical dimensions there are also limitations that deliver the same kind of thing physical reality does for us.

    We can only talk in metaphors perhaps. Moody's new logic maybe metaphoric thought. It is certain, I think (from my own experience) that we have to stop imagining that 'facts' fit together like some neat linear jigsaw puzzle. Tom Peters, my favourite management guru of all time, insisted that 'its a sloppy messy world'. Truths mash and mush together way more often than they fit together like a rational Lego.

    This why we "get stuck" on ideas. We try to follow a logic sequence and fail and we think we are the problem - not smart enough etc. In fact the truth is often that what we are are following is not a logic path but just a sign post (or series of sign posts) -and we have told ourselves a story about our conscious journey - and come to believe that more than the experience. We have come to the end of the path, and now we must abandon it and jump of the rational cliff. We have to abandon our story -and that is so very hard.

    Spirit it without mercy here. It leads you to the edge of an abyss by pointing to what is on the other side. You gotta jump if you want to learn.

    I share the other expressions of enthusiasm for Don. I listened to the show twice and will go back for a 3rd helping soon. He is a refreshing thinker. Alex will have to have him back (won't you Alex?)
     
  17. Dan_LastName

    Dan_LastName Member

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    Hell if I know.
    I don't have much of a handle on the old logic. ;)

    I think you're right. Seems like he wants to move forward with the unpublished manuscript of his, but I believe it's been quite a few years now and it's not getting published. I wish he would just self-publish the damn thing. I don't think he articulates a new logic in the manuscript, but at least it might be a baby step in that direction.

    Will check out Weiss.

    I like your comments about linearity and non-linearity. I wish I understood complexity theory better. For a number of years, on and off, I have practiced an experimental art form, and it seems to me to be a gesture toward non-linearity. The trouble is I sometimes get budged out of the practice for years at a time, and so back to linearity.

    I will check out the references to White and DeMarco.
     
  18. Wormwood

    Wormwood Member

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    Lol

    It seems a tricky proposition, philosophically, to arrive at a new form of logic, which we would arrive at by using our old logic. Seems impossible.

    Here I go not making sense again, or making too much sense. One of the two.
     
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  19. Alex

    Alex New

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    thx for this inspiring post.


    feels right to me also

    love it... fits perfectly with shut up and calcualte


    funny... have had similar experience, but never had an explanation.

    great story... but there lies the dilemma... as Don points out, and as you'll see in upcoming interview, lightweight philosophy that sidesteps the slide rule altogether is a complete non-starter. meanwhile, the intellectual sophistication needed to work the slide rule creates Steven-Hawking-like masters-of-the-universe who are happy to believe their own bullshit while everyone cheers them on.
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2018
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  20. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    Let me raise one point from the interview (more to follow later).

    Don said several times that everything that you experience is inside your mind.

    From an Idealist POV that makes sense in that the whole of reality is mental and so roughly speaking, everything that we experience happening is inside our mind. Indeed, even from a materialist POV, this statement make a sort of sense, because the brain is supposed to make a representation of external reality inside itself (OK we know the shortcomings of that idea ).

    The problem is that does this mean that my reality, including all the people I interact with, is inside my mind, in which case we seem to be back with solipsism?

    Sometimes I wonder if we are all on a different trajectory through reality, and at any particular point, I pick up a version of Alex (say) derived from my trajectory, and Alex picks up the version of me derived from his trajectory!

    David
     
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