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  1. #1 Memes 
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    So, just been reading a bit on memes, the view that cultural ideas evolve via natural selection.

    Gotta say the idea has an appeal and some interesting possible applications. But the intangibilty of the concept just doesn't sit well with me.

    Just wondering what other's opinions are of memes - a real phenemenon, just a useful metaphor, or an empty metaphor? Also does anyone know if any research in the field supports or opposes the idea.


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  3. #2  
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    Memes make perfect sense to me. The largest part of our success IMO is our adaptability and a system where our behaviour can readily be modified to fit our environment is a very big advantage indeed and perhaps one of the greatest benefits of having a big brain that learns easily, especially in our early years. This does not mean that behaviour has to be rational though, only that the produced behaviour is not too detrimental over the larger population. Memes, as something that is taught/learned, rather than complexly innate, has the ability to adapt at a much faster rate as well, further enhancing its power.


    Disclaimer: I do not declare myself to be an expert on ANY subject. If I state something as fact that is obviously wrong, please don't hesitate to correct me. I welcome such corrections in an attempt to be as truthful and accurate as possible.

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    "All people know the same truth. Our lives consist of how we chose to distort it." - Harry Block
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  4. #3  
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    I keep thinking that everything in life is driven by memes (mental world) and genes (physical world). Memes sculpt the brain according to their own blind destinies. Genes contain the recipes for building bodies.
    Except that arguably not everything inside your head is a meme. Maybe we need a new theory of the quantum. There has been a lot of debate about this since Richard Dawkins first proposed the idea in 'The Selfish Meme':
    Daniel Dennett: 'Consciousness Expained'.
    Richard Brodie: 'Virus of the Mind'.
    Susan Blackmore: 'The Meme Machine'.
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  5. #4 memes... what's a meme? 
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    what does meme mean? Memo? funny picture of something? comedic parody picture sent via cc email?

    what do you mean by meme? :?
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  6. #5 Re: memes... what's a meme? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by FuturePasTimeCE
    what does meme mean? Memo? funny picture of something? comedic parody picture sent via cc email?

    what do you mean by meme? :?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meme
    Disclaimer: I do not declare myself to be an expert on ANY subject. If I state something as fact that is obviously wrong, please don't hesitate to correct me. I welcome such corrections in an attempt to be as truthful and accurate as possible.

    "Gullibility kills" - Carl Sagan
    "All people know the same truth. Our lives consist of how we chose to distort it." - Harry Block
    "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." - Aristotle
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  7. #6 Posted the other day on James Gleick's blog entry on "m 
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    (the following is a copy of something which I posted a couple of days ago on James Gleick's website/blog [around.com], which was probably tangenitally related to the subject at hand, and perhaps even less so here, but hey- it was fun. Isn't that the bottom line?)

    I heard a song the other day on the radio. “Suzy Snowflake”. It was laughably derivative: the metrical scheme was right from “Frosty the Snowman”, and even half the melody was cribbed from “Frosty”. I thought, “Who was responsible for this godawful mess?” I looked it up and it was sung by Rosemary Clooney in 1951.

    It turns out that Gene Autry had had a hit with ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” in 1949, and he had followed it with “Frosty the Snowman” in 1950. So I imagine everybody was falling over themselves in 1951 to produce the next holiday classic. “Suzy” was Rosemary Clooney’s entry. Other than a few Youtube posters who write that they listened to it thousands of times and it changed their lives, I think it’s safe to say it didn’t leave a big dent in the popular culture (contrary to the old saw that ‘There’s no accounting for taste’, actually you can account for popular taste merely by tallying up the sales).

    So it got me thinking — maybe memes are units of culture (i.e. messages) which add to the informational content of that culture. Messages which are cheap knock-offs and have low informational (i.e. novelty-producing) value are quickly discarded like yesterday’s newspaper.

    So "Rudolph" endures, with movies and albums and Broadway plays, as does "Frosty", but "Suzy" disappears back into the void.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KL3F2Zh4s10

    I wish I could throw in a quip here. Maybe “Novelty is culture’s way of looking at itself every day without getting bored”.
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    What an interesting line of thought - or has someone now introduced another meme that we are busily interpreting and incorporating into our own lives?
    I am studying anthropology but haven't yet come across the term , however maybe I don't know enough about the subject at this point to ask the right questions.

    Reading on the net on a rainy Sunday afternoon brought me to Richard Dawkins, Susan Blackmore et al, and a website devoted to memes (memecentral.com) and the guy verifies what OX says below re. a definition.

    My thought was that if a meme hits you it's surely your choice whether to pursue it or not. I like the quote that says that humanity is given the truth but our own lives then distort it to something palatable in our own minds (sorry that's a bit mucky - I can't see the signatures on the posts from this view....). So where does perception come in? This must be a starting point and also a path of signposts to direct the building of the memes in a certain way to fit in with your personality and cultural understanding. The final outcome may not necessarily be unique but the way you got there might be.
    Well, thanks for this - I'm going to investigate a bit further and continue to read everyone else's posts. Cheers.
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  9. #8  
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    What exactly is a meme, what is its purpose, and what is the unit of a meme? Probably nobody really knows the answer to these questions, so what follows is as at least partly speculation:
    Apparently harmless memes such as tunes in your head still have the power of creating a cultural divide.
    Potentially destructive memes are religious and political.
    Genes survive all over the world in bodies, which are used for their transmission.
    Memes survive in human brains, and use language and the written word for their transmission, although it could be argued that any tool-building animal harbours some memes. Imagine a human brain without memes. The human would have to rely on base animal instincts to move and reproduce.
    Some important memes:
    The God Meme: Infects everyone whether they believe in God or not. Atheists use the power of logic to resist it.
    Extreme Political memes: Examples are Facism and Communism. How powerful was Germany before Hitler and the Third Reich? It was home to scholars, scientists, engineers, philosophers, writers. The world had never seen anything like it before, but all was destroyed by the Facist meme.
    How many people died by way of religious and political wars in the 20th Century. I have seen the figure put at in excess of 100 million.
    Conclusion: Man is the only life form to have no natural enemy to limit his potential population growth. Therefore, man is the only life form to have evolved the power of memes and memeplexes (several memes acting together for their replication). Memes create cultural divides to limit population growth. At the moment we can observe the conflict between Western Liberalism and Islamic Authoritarianism. It might even follow that man-made interference with the climate is the result of a complicated memeplex to help destroy populations. By the middle of the 21st Century the global population could be 9 billion, but this could be scaled down to 1 billion by the middle of the 22nd.
    What really survives on this planet are replicators in the form of memes, genes and computer viruses. Individuals as life forms do not survive. Replicators thus need to develop their own power of containment, otherwise they themselves will become extinct.
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  10. #9  
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    Quote Originally Posted by ox
    Some important memes:
    The God Meme: Infects everyone whether they believe in God or not. Atheists use the power of logic to resist it.
    On the God Meme. It seems that every culture arose from it's precursors with a God meme. Only they don't call it God, always. They might call it Jah, Jehovah, the Spirit, Allah... or we might today rephrase it as "The Force", either Hollywood style or according to particle physics (the strong-weak force, string theory, the Big Bang, etc.

    My point is that there is always some kind of beyond-our-ken, unknowable-but-unifying theme just out of our grasp. It is a common meme to separate all the daily knowns, the spoons and forks and trees and tennis sneakers of our lives. So its ubiquity, I argue, is for a reason. It is only when we fight over the memes, just like fighting over gold or land or anything else, that it becomes destructive.
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  11. #10 Re: Posted the other day on James Gleick's blog entry on &qu 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Clyde
    maybe memes are units of culture
    This is my problem with them, no-one quite knows what constitutes a meme. All memes are ideas but are all ideas memes? Depends on their replicator power i guess. I have no problem with the premise that there could be more replicators other than genes, but we need to able to identify them to test the hypothesis.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ox
    Potentially destructive memes are religious and political
    That's a bit of a value judgement. Religious and political memes are memes just like any others - they will serve their own ends to get replicated, and they will fight other memes to occupy minds. The theory leaves no space for free will, and it only makes sense to talk about desructive memes if they are destructive to themselves not their vehicle.
    The mark of a moderate man is freedom from his own ideas - Tao Te Ching

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  12. #11 Re: Posted the other day on James Gleick's blog entry on &am 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prometheus
    Quote Originally Posted by Clyde
    maybe memes are units of culture
    This is my problem with them, no-one quite knows what constitutes a meme. All memes are ideas but are all ideas memes? Depends on their replicator power i guess. I have no problem with the premise that there could be more replicators other than genes, but we need to able to identify them to test the hypothesis.
    One possible way to sort it out is to look sequentially. If we want to know whether the egg is the chicken's way of reproducing itself, or if the chicken is the egg's way of reproducing itself, figure out which came first.

    If the Big Bang first manifested itself initially in energy, and matter (energy 'clumps') formed after some subsequent cooling, then signals (low-power energy, i.e. information) emanating from various matter clumps (i.e. you and I and Joe the plumber) are perhaps energy's way of dissipating itself more efficiently through the media that present itself (people and the memetic-filled culture they create).

    Yesterday I was at work wheeling carts around and I went around the corner and there were two other carts trying to navigate the same area, from different directions. "It's Grand Central Station in here", one of the drivers quipped. In this case, Grand Central Station, a train station in NYC, becomes a unit of information, a cultural shorthand way of saying it's surprisingly crowded in here all of a sudden. The speaker wants to convey information without expending excessive energy thinking and giving speeches, so he merely evokes a cultural touchstone, a meme.


    Quote Originally Posted by Prometheus
    Quote Originally Posted by Ox
    Potentially destructive memes are religious and political
    That's a bit of a value judgement. Religious and political memes are memes just like any others - they will serve their own ends to get replicated, and they will fight other memes to occupy minds. The theory leaves no space for free will, and it only makes sense to talk about desructive memes if they are destructive to themselves not their vehicle.
    I think we can, and should, make value judgments on various memes based on their utility. Any meme is potentially helpful (why else would it be around?), but also has possibly hurtful ends as well, and should be recognized as such and discarded.

    If I may be permitted an analogy: hammers may be used for violent and destructive ends, but if you survey the field widely they are not typically used for that. Baseball bats may convey violence, but usually they are involved with play. Machine guns may be used for ad hoc table legs and other propping functions, but typically are used otherwise.

    So if you desire a certain cultural state, say peace, harmony, and tranquility, you may prefer the environment to be populated with cultural units which you find more conducive to those ends. In this manner, memes may indeed be sorted for utility. Some have had usefulness in bygone days (again, how else could they have survived) but current cost-benefit analysis doesn't seem to be favoring them as much.

    We all, as individuals, are consciously and subconsciously sorting and selecting and conveying and propagating these cultural units constantly (see my "Grand Central Station story above). I don't think society selects memes, but individuals do. Society's "culture" is the aggregate of individual selections.
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  13. #12 um... 
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    Excuse me... just butting in, kind of

    I would say that religious-meaning memes are certainly a tangle, but considering that the great benefit of belonging to a religious group/church is now proven to be more the social aspect, and not a search for higher truths or etc. as one may imagine, at least the memes get one in the door.... because those religious ideas are something the human persues out of curiousity and.... fear of the great unknowns and death. There must be some element of: we are all in this together, and perhaps that provides some comfort as well.

    The mind, primarily, wants to know... and having witnessed the super-power of knowing in other areas of daily life, the assumption is made that the time after death, god, heaven and all these questions can similarily be known.

    Body has little idea, but mind knows about death, and I'm sure it is set to clandestine machinations, working and kneading the many available concepts and beliefs, like it or not... trying to make reason of it all. Perhaps giving up trying to sort and order the conflicting tangle of religious memes is the "saving" thing we hear about common religion. I don't know. I just know what I know. lol

    Naturally we/individual ego and centered on self, want to grasp at anything, knowing the end in store for us, and the grandmothers primed us with religious memes when we are very young...

    Understanding more, the tangle diminishes. Understanding less, the tangle intensifies and reinforces itself and conflicts with other meme systems can easily arise. Babbling away to no resolution... Pundits endlessly punditing... etc. Factions, denominations, offshoots, etc. etc. etc. going at it with the authority they imagine they possess.

    Breath carries mucho meaning, just as it is, in it's most basic simplicity. Mental reasoning can be put aside. Just bask in one's true experience. This would be ultimate meaning, without the mental stuff. One grows into realizing real meaning.

    The imaginary reality as envisioned and encoded by religious memes can be and is every day... fed to the believers. It is like sustinance. One has to maintain their faith.

    Someone into truth, for real, doesn't pursue even more deeply into the vast, ancient religious meme tangle searching for the ultimate answer-meme or whatever, but instead find their way out of the dark forest with a little help from someone who knows and sees the tangle for what it is and that it leads nowhere.

    The streets are dark. Time to call for the lamplighter. It's quite the unexpected thing. One must maintain their vision and clarity...

    Tangle if you really, really must... but leave your machetes at home.
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  14. #13 Re: um... 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wallbrick
    The imaginary reality as envisioned and encoded by religious memes can be and is every day... fed to the believers. It is like sustinance. One has to maintain their faith.
    The problem remains, that memes create divisions which lead to 'holy' wars. I think it's interesting to discover just how religious memes develop.
    Basically, all religion is founded along the Silk Road, out of paganism and shamanism. The great 'hotbed' of religion is India, and its gods. The notion of Brahma, as the head of the polytheistic Hinduism, eventually finds its way into the notion of the monotheistic Jewish faith, whose head is Abraham. As I'm sure you know, if you remove the 'a' from the end of Brahma, and place it at the beginning, you have 'Abrahm', or 'Abraham' (an old literary trick). What ensues is a brutal and bloodthirsty uprising. The Abrahamic 'god' singles out his own people and controls them by fear. He leads them in tribal wars and shows no mercy, demanding that even women and children should be put to the sword. This is a classic case of a bad meme.
    Now, what happens if you really mix up the memes to create a memeplex?
    Take several gods: One whose birth is virgin (Krishna, Tammuz etc.), and accompanied by shepherds (Mithras). One who dies with a sidewound, but rose after 3 days but left his tomb open with a displaced rock (Tammuz). Base this new character's life story on an eclectic mix of miracle workers (Apollonius of Tyana, Elisha etc.) and what do you have? A brand new character which you call 'Jesus Christ'. And why do you do it? Because you fear that you are living in dark and final days. In the original case it was the Roman Empire that enflamed the eschatology. Today it could be for any reason.
    Then what happens is over the centuries there are created divisions, and divisions of divisions, not to mention disastrous conflicts with other memeplexes (Crusades, terrorism).
    Whatever comfort religion provides, it is pseudo-comfort. Ask yourself why the whole world isn't united under Jesus Christ. It never has been and it never can be. Atheists, be they active or passive, are the silent majority.
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  15. #14 Re: Posted the other day on James Gleick's blog entry on &am 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Clyde
    I think we can, and should, make value judgments on various memes based on their utility. Any meme is potentially helpful (why else would it be around?), but also has possibly hurtful ends as well, and should be recognized as such and discarded.
    I would suggest it's around because it successfully replicated itself. Generally if a meme or gene confers a survival benefit to it's host/vehicle (i.e. us) it stands a greater chance of being replicated. The important thing to note is that memes and genes drive our behaviour toward the end of replicating themselves, we are just the means of doing so - and are expendable in the process.

    The value judgement comes from us believing we are choosing peaceful, wholesome memes (or whatever meme you might like - antireligious maybe), where really it is the meme that is driving us. Possibly hurtful memes? Only according to another meme trying to replicate itself at the expense of the 'hurtful' meme.

    Wallbrick and Ox, you seem to be explaining the pros and cons of the religious memeplex.

    I can understand your distrust of religion Ox, and you're not wrong in what you say, but try taking the memes perspective on this. Although under the umbrella 'religious memeplex', Islam and Christianity (for example) are competing memeplexes. They compete for vehicles (us) through which to further propogate. Therefore violence can be seen to be a natural evolutionary weapon to defend oneself from foreign memes and spread itself. Whether it is right or wrong depends on the memeplex that has infected your mindset - an atheist memeplex will often see these religious wars as wrong - not so of some religious memeplexes.

    Hi Wallbrick. Your post has Buddhist undertones. If so i would suggest that this is a memeplex through which you are interpreting this discussion. Nothing wrong with that - it is necessarily how we make sense of our world, by adopting memes and memeplexes.

    Having said all that, I would still like to know if and how the meme hypothesis has been tested.
    The mark of a moderate man is freedom from his own ideas - Tao Te Ching

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  16. #15 Re: Posted the other day on James Gleick's blog entry on &am 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prometheus
    Having said all that, I would still like to know if and how the meme hypothesis has been tested.
    You can't really test the validity of religion either, other than to say some power is working to control your mind. If you say faith, then what is it, other than irrational belief? Consider what religion is. It means either 'to bind' (Latin religare) or 'to contemplate' (Latin relegare). If only it just meant this! Instead it is an illusory attempt to find security and happiness in an inherently insecure and unhappy world. It is easier to believe in miracles and pseudo-science than to acquire facts and engage in incisive and rational thought. It owes everything to archaic belief systems and the supernatural. This is of course the dominion of primitive and prehistoric man. But handed down to us it has become. That surely is the implied proof of the meme.
    Religion had survival benefits during its early evolution at a time when man lacked objective reality, but that is not necessary now. Religion predates politics, science and diplomacy, and yet it still flourishes today. If I could focus on one practice which truly belongs to ancient history it would be Catholic Eucharist and the notion that you can bring your god down to earth in a morsal of bread and a few drops of wine. I must confess that I have been taken in by this in the past, and I would certainly say that it is a very powerful concept. You can't help but to feel spiritual when the body and blood of your god is inside you. Again that's the power of the meme in action.
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  17. #16 well... 
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    Yes, hello to everyone.

    Forget the meme business, for just a moment. No, don't forget it...

    I mean... didn't you read/hear this meme? "The kingdom of heaven is within."
    Or, from the same tradition and teaching, "I tell you, you are all gods." Just an example of two....

    Now, here are a couple little meme-units. Do they carry and transmit meaning?
    What was the intention? What meaning was that past teacher trying to convey?
    Was it just a really catchy saying? Was it an expression of a mad-man? Was that master speaking what he knew to be fact? If a fact and true at that time, would it still be true today?

    Couldn't your churches deal with those concepts, and like tree, river, sun, moon god and etc. etc.
    placed the signifigance outside and away, and most certainly, somewhere else than within us? Would it be inconvenient were the greatest, most supreme thing, the living and vital signifigance, as it were, was found to be somehow, "within" the human being? Inconvenient, perhaps...

    Memes are flying all over the place now, eh? And as far as analyzing where I'm coming from, and in what literary manner/sounding Buddhist-like... please!

    Would there be some problem if that and other memes carrying tenets of a philosophy or teaching, indicating other than those handed down through the churches/religions.... were to surface? Would the situation become uh, vitriolic?

    Even the word spirit... the meaning/meme-ing of it! We inspire, aspire, perspire, and one day we will expire. In ancient times, people thought that some outside agent (god) breathed life (his own spirit!), into a newborn. OK. No problem. But that was the state-of-the-art-understanding then, and this is now, but without the whole mentality rushing in to interpret and explain, at that moment one's child takes that first breath, doesn't that just about knock one off their feet!? The impossible has just taken place! Dirt and stellar material and sunshine and who-knows-what have come together in a fantastic way.

    And if you aren't automatically "spiring", at this very moment, you are physically totally 100% dead and shouldn't be reading this! That's all there is to it. There is the practical science of it! No need to try it at home...

    Faulty memes don't do a lot for the living and their needs of the moment.

    You begin to see the problem with memes, which carry and preserve meaning...
    Meanings can get lost but the reality hasn't yet.

    Aha! Ever hear of, New Edition of the Webster Dictionary? Full of transmitters of meaning, but it sometimes has to be revised and brought up to date and new words carrying revised or evolved meaning, description or understandings have to be put in and old words clarified as understanding progresses.

    Meaning Lost! There is a party game where a word or saying is sent around a group, and the last one in line to repeat what they have heard of the original saying, as well as everyone else in the room, is pleasantly surprised and amazed that the original meaning or phrase has been totally skewed and may be totally unrecognizable!

    Too toasted to do more...

    I know it's not properly scientific. No triple-blind studies, no placebos, no transmission microscope work, no gram scales or Heidenhain mechanisms or
    Schwartzchild objectives. I'd much rather keep it so simple, even a child might understand something...
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  18. #17 cool... 
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    Try this one...

    Meme. Hope I'm still somewhat on subject... memeplexing or whatever...

    Baseball pitch.

    One probably could write (many books!), instructing exactly how one should grip the baseball to throw such-and-such a pitch. You know, place the thumb thusly and wrap the middle finger around the greatest circumference allowing the first and third fingers...blah, blah, the strings should align in some-such way, blah, blah...

    Wouldn't that be a transmission of meaning? Alter, change a few words or vital instructions here and there, leave something out or add something in, and what have we left? Screwball! Spitball! Not allowed!

    What would you call it if, without books or many words, an individual came along and took that ball and your hand and demonstrated physically, exactly, just how to place the fingers and whatever. Would that not also be considered as a transmission of meaning/doing? There would be no room for error unless the student was daydreaming or something... A meme could be faithfully transmitted with original, powerful meaning and purpose.

    The instruction, which was originally a hands-on proposition only, was partially written down because we tend to do that. Those aspects which could be written were, other aspects couldn't. Over time, even the reality of the baseball was forgotten! In the literature, hints remain and intrigue us...

    So, this is the reason and need for the living teacher strictly teaching, here and now, by direct word and example. Nothing new. Nothing new can be added to that baseball grip so it will work as it's supposed to. Similarly, nothing can be left out.
    This is a science of it. Only the right totality of all information and instruction will work and produce what is promised. Meaning and clarity re-established.

    Thats about it. I think Prem Rawat (wopg.org), explains it far better than I....
    If one is interested in transmission and preservation of something with real meaning, that is.
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