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[Taken from the Beginning Papers by Walter R. Dolen
Copyright © 1977-2003 by Walter R. Dolen and/or BeComingOne Church]

BP2: Mindset Paper

Ptolemy's Theory
Brain Cell Problem
My Search

bp41» We are born into a world of traditions. The traditions that we are born into have sets of rules, written and non-written. We are taught or influenced by our parents, teachers, environment, mind(s), the language(s) we speak, and our biology to believe in certain things and act in certain ways. From this we form a belief system, or mindset. A "mindset" is a perceptual set and through this set we perceive the world. A mindset acts like a filter. It filters out any mental conceptions or realities that do not fit our mindset.

bp42» A person who strongly believes that victimizers are victims themselves, does not see the crime a victimizer commits in the same way as one who believes that everyone is totally at fault for their crimes, or the way the victim sees the crime, or in the way that I do. (see "Freedom and Law" paper [NM17])

A person who does not know anything about the game of baseball who overhears someone talking about Smith stealing second base, may think that Smith committed a crime.

bp43» As our knowledge and background filters our perception of the words, "Smith stole second base," so too with almost everything else. Words have different meaning to different people. The word "liberal" means something different to a liberal than to a conservative. The word "communist" means something different to a communist than to a capitalist. The word "Catholic" means something different to a Catholic than to a Protestant. The word "evolution" means something different to an evolutionist than to a creationist. A peaceful countryside, where a nuclear plant is planned, means something different to environmentalists than to the owner or builder of the nuclear plant.

Ptolemy’s Mathematical-Geocentric Theory

bp44>> One of the biggest examples of a mindset was the geocentric theory in which the earth was the center of the universe. The geocentric theory is the idea that the earth is the center of the universe while the sun, moon, planets, and stars made a complete revolution around the earth each day. This theory was represented well by Claudius Ptolemy. Claudius Ptolemy’s work commonly known as the Almagest was actually called "Mathematical Systematic Treatise" in the Greek version because it was a mathematical system. Ptolemy believed that mathematics was the highest form of science:

"that only mathematics can provide sure and unshakeable knowledge to its devotees, provided one approaches it rigorously. For its kind of proof proceeds by indisputable methods, namely arithmetic and geometry." (G.J. Toomer, Ptolemy’s Almagest, p 36)

bp46>> Today the public makes light of the Almagest by thinking of it as some naive theological or church backed doctrine. But instead it was the most scientific work of its day containing abundant mathematical proof with tables and charts, with premises from Greek philosophy, not church doctrine. "One of the most influential scientific works in history, and a masterpiece of technical exposition in its own right." (G.J. Toomer, p. vii) Yes, today the geocentric theory seems preposterous, since after all, we know that the earth is not the center of the universe, and in fact that the earth makes one revolution around the sun each year. We believe this even though it appears (empirical evidence) from our eyesight that the sun, planets, and stars revolve around the earth each day.

bp46>> "His name was Claudius Ptolemaeus ... he lived from approximately A.D. 100 to approximately A.D. 175, and that he worked in Alexandria, the principal city of Greco-Roman Egypt, which possessed, among other advantages, what was probably still the best library in the ancient world. . . . As is implied by its Greek name, . . . , ‘mathematical systematic treatise,’ the Almagest is a complete exposition of mathematical astronomy as the Greeks understood the term." (Toomer, p. 1) By the "fourth century (and probably much earlier), when Pappus wrote a commentary on it, the Almagest had become the standard textbook on astronomy which it was to remain for more than a thousand years.... It was dominant to an extent and for a length of time which is unsurpassed by any scientific work except Euclid’s Elements.... " (Toomer p. 2-3)

bp47>> "Then, in the second century A.D., came Claudius Ptolemaeus, an Egyptian -- The great Ptolemy who was to be the uncontested monarch of astronomy for a millennium and a half. He restored the harmonious cosmos Hipparchus had shattered. Ptolemy was a theoretician of such superior qualities that only Newton can be considered his peer. A universal mind, he perfected Greek mathematics and Greek natural science in general. His achievement appears all the more impressive when we compare it with the ordinary science of his time, which was hopelessly bogged down in speculation.

bp48>> "Ptolemy called his principal work on astronomy the Great System (Megale Syntaxis tes Astronomias, later known as Almagest from the Arabic translation). This somewhat arrogant title was fully justified, for he had examined every problem in astronomy, and solved every one with Euclidean precision. Ptolemy created the first complete scientific system — a structure so vast and coherent that not even the comprehensive mind of an Aristotle could have conceived it, let alone worked it out.

bp49>> "Toward the solution of the chief problem, the apparently irregular velocities of the planets, he made a crucial discovery. Ptolemy drew an overlapping circle near Apollonius’ circle.... The second circles came to be known as Ptolemy’s epicycles. From the center of the epicycle the motion around Apollonius’ eccentric circle appeared to be uniform. The system was extremely complicated, but it worked; Ptolemy could use it to calculate any future position of Mars... Ptolemy could justly boast that he had laid the keystone of Greek astronomy.... Mathematically speaking, this was true; henceforth, everything was calculable.... The planets now traveled in loops, that is to say, around an imaginary point that for unknown reasons itself revolved around the Earth....

bp50»  "A man named Kepler, fifteen hundred years after Ptolemy, at last was able to refute the last word of Greek astronomy, and overcome the mathematical sovereignty of nonsense by even more exact mathematics, which once more made everything meaningful." (Rudolf Thiel, And There was Light, trans. by Richard and Clara Winston, pp. 49-51)

bp51» Ptolemy's system had the earth as the center with the stars, moon, planets, and even the sun circling the earth each day. Ptolemy used the wrong and illusionary concept of epicycles to explain the apparent movement of the planets in the night. He further used mathematics to predict the future movement of planets. His system worked to a remarkable degree. It had a mathematical system to back it up. His book was well written and seemed quite logical. After all even today the planet, sun, moon, and stars do apparently circle the earth. Ptolemy system made sense out of wandering stars (planets). It predicted future positions of planets. It was the great system. It lasted for almost 1500 years. Apparently it was the perfect system. It was backed by mathematics. It was apparently backed by observation. But it was wrong. How wrong can you be to think that the massive sun circles the earth each day? But because of the prevailing mindset Ptolemy remained king. A mindset can be very compelling. It rules all. Since 1984 English readers have been able to read Ptolemy's work, as translated by G.J. Toomer, Ptolemy's Almagest. In this translation you can see the apparent logic to the whole work. You can see the massive amount of tables, observations, and mathematics to back Ptolemy's theory.

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bp52» How can a work so logical, based on so many observations, and backed up by mathematics be wrong? It was wrong because it was based on some faulty thinking (the enormous sun going around the smaller earth would have to move at an unbelievable rate), because Ptolemy was a charlatan that cheated on his mathematical figures and cheated on his observations (Newton, The Crime of Claudius Ptolemy), and because he had a mindset that told him that all heavenly objects were perfect and god-like, they moved in perfect circles, he thus placed epicycles into his system:

"The heaven is spherical in shape, and moves as a sphere; the earth too is sensibly spherical in shape ... in position it lies in the middle of the heavens very much like its center.... [Toomer, p.38] The following considerations also lead us to the concept of the sphericity of the heavens....[ p. 39] We think that the mathematician’s task and goal ought to be to show all the heavenly phenomena being reproduced by uniform circular motions..." (Toomer, p. 140)

Ptolemy got his mindset about the orbits having to be perfect circular orbits from the Greeks such as Aristotle:

"There must be some substance which is eternal and immutable.... But motion cannot be either generated or destroyed, for it always existed.... But there is no continuous motion except that which is spatial, and of spatial motion only that which is circular... There are other spatial motions – those of the planets – which are eternal (because a body which moves in a circle is eternal...).... for the nature of the heavenly bodies is eternal . (Aristotle, Metaphysics Book XII [Loeb Classical Lib. No. 287], pp. 141 & 155)

Ptolemy was so overly influenced by the Grecian philosophy that he fabricated a mathematical system to help prove his preposterous belief: "We think that the mathematician’s task and goal ought to be to show all the heavenly phenomena being reproduced by uniform circular motions..." (Toomer, p. 140)

bp53» Today math is used extensively to prove likewise absurd theories. They do not appear preposterous to most today only because of today's mindsets which filter reality. In the Science Papers you will see how mathematics are wrongly used today in this so-called scientific age. Today mathematics are blinding otherwise intelligent people into believing in absolutely paradoxical and nonsensical theories on the cosmos, physics, and biology. Today much of what is called science exists inside of a mindset that shuts out the truth.

bp54» Because of the phenomenon of mindsets, we must be very careful how we judge other peoples' actions and words. If we make fast judgments, without all the facts, we will make lots of mistakes. This also means that you must be careful how you judge my work before you study it. Because of the phenomenon of mindset(s) even if you study my work you may still misunderstand it. But may this not occur.

Mindsets Continued

bp55» Fundamental Christians think college professors are fools, while college professors think fundamental Christians are fools. Both do not perceive each other correctly and read more into each other's beliefs than may be fair.

bp56» Catholics think Protestants are wrong; Protestants think Catholics are wrong. Jews think the Arabs are wrong; Arabs think the Jews are wrong. They look at each other through filters and project wrong motives on each other's every move.

bp57» Mindsets are a fact of life. In order to judge others we must become aware of our own mindset. In order for others to judge us they must become aware of their own mindset.

bp58» A person with one mindset judging a person with another mindset is somewhat like two people from different cultures and languages trying to understand each other's speech. A Russian trying to understand an American must not only learn English, but the history of Americans and the culture of Americans. Words spoken in English not only have a literal meaning, but a cultural meaning. The words from an English Bible, "the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak," could be interpreted by a non-Bible reading Russian as "the wine is good, but the meat is awful."

Mindset, A Brain Cell Problem

bp59» The main problem with a mindset occurs when you try to communicate with someone with a different mindset. Sometimes it is almost impossible. A Catholic trying to convert a Protestant has a terrible time trying to communicate his point of view, and vice versa. Many times even trying to communicate your different point of view will be met with a harsh reaction and sometimes even a violent reaction. Why?

bp60» One book tried to explain this. Daniel Cohen, in a 1982 book, called Re:Thinking, put it this way:

"Once a pattern -- an idea or belief -- becomes fixed in our neurological pathways, it is extremely hard to alter it. The more basic the belief, the more we refer to it in our thoughts, the more well worn is that particular neural pathway -- and thus the harder it is to change the idea, even when it is wrong." (p. 70)

"Our memories and beliefs are stored in our brains in the form of nerve cell patterns. When you argue with someone you are pitting your nerve cell patterns against his. The beliefs and opinions you hold are not the result of some abstract intellectual process. They are the result of your total life experience. But your opponent's beliefs and opinions are the same. For both of you, changing these deeply held beliefs is hard and painful.

Since we all want to avoid pain, we all want to avoid changing these beliefs and opinions. The mind will work very hard to defend them.

If an argument isn't a means of persuading people, what is it? It's a fight, an attack, and you react to it as such." (p. 118)

bp61» With our mindset we see only what our mindset allows us to see. It acts like a filter and filters out any pattern not belonging to the sets of rules we have etched in our brain cells. If our language has a verbal system with future and past tense verbs, it is difficult for us to understand another language that only has verbs of complete or incomplete actions. This last fact is one of the main reasons people haven't been able to understand the nature of the Biblical Power (God) as described in the Old Testament. (see God Papers) The mind-set problem is also a reason why people have difficulty in understanding the people of foreign languages and cultures.

My Search

bp62» I myself have had many mindsets: radical, liberal, conservative, religious, non-religious, simplistic (mankind can fix any problem), agnostic (there are no real answers), etc. I'm a reader. I've spend years in libraries, sitting in the aisles, reading and reading, from one book to another, from one subject to another. Each subject, I've found, is in someway related to another whether at first it is obvious or not. I have sent away for books that I could not locate in my living area. I wrote letters to authors for more details on their thoughts. A few of their answers helped me in my search. I went down blind roads. But even blind roads added to the data base in my memory. Some of the blind roads, the ones I thought were blind roads, led eventually to answers. A footnote in an otherwise worthless book can lead to a worthwhile book or a worthwhile thought or fact.

bp63» Near the beginning of my study was philosophy. I studied the classical philosophers, the contemporary philosophers, and the ones in-between. I kept searching and reading. To me it was interesting to explore difficult problems, or to look at something apparently simple and understand the complexity of it. But too many of the philosophers seem to reduce their subjects to atoms, and thus to futility. We don't live and perceive things in the micro world of atoms, we live in the macro world of human beings and the planet earth. Although the micro world affects us, we live and die in the macro world. One of the biggest mistakes of philosophers, besides reducing things to atoms, is their knack of changing the meaning of words in order to further their point of view. The philosophers didn't seem to have the answers, although certainly they do have answers to problems and new insight to complex and simple problems.

bp64» I also read everything I could get my hands on in the field of psychology. But they too were like preachers. Each had his own answer, some radically different from others. This is not to say they are all wrong or mostly wrong in their views.

bp65» Along with philosophy and psychology was a deep interest in Political Science as well as other subjects. I studied different forms of government. I read radical works first. I later read conservative works. I was looking for a system to bring the common good to all without harming the individual. Along the way I studied John Stuart Mill:

bp66» All silencing of discussion is an assumption of infallibility ... But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of opinion is, that it is robbing the human race... If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth; if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error." (On Liberty, chap 2)

bp67» What John Stuart Mill did for me is instill a great respect for free speech, free thought, and free inquiry. Because today's world is imperfect, in order to find the truth we must be able to freely inquire and search in open libraries and other forums of open communications, and argue our points of view against other points of view so we may learn and grow in knowledge and in so doing perhaps reach the truth, or at least an understanding.

bp68» From here I went to religion and about the same time to science. Yes, religion and science are related. (see Science Papers) If you have read a lot of reflective books, you have seen the complexity of life and the complexity of the problems in life. There isn't a perfect or near perfect government today, or for that matter has there ever been one. There is no one way to motivate people: some need more of the carrot, some more of the stick. And who is to say, or know, if what you are trying to motivate people to do is right. What is "right"? (There is an answer.) If you also have read a lot of books on science, you will also understand the complexity of nature, its inter-connectivity, yet it has its patterns and simplicity. Life is unique, interesting, and mysterious.

Life By Chance?

bp69» How did life come to be? Was it through billions of years of mixing cosmic soup together that somehow in some mysterious way produced life? Or was it some kind of god(s) with lots of power that produced life? But if so where did this god or God come from? Why should there even be a God? Why life? Why death? Why is there anything? It is probably as possible that there should be nothing and nobody to see the nothingness. We are in reality lucky that there is life.

bp70» Back to religion and science, or that is, the study of matter pertaining to God, or the First Cause(s). I was raised a Roman Catholic. But I was also raised an evolutionist because of my teachers in school. I drifted away from Catholicism and evolution as I read more of others' thoughts on life and first causes. I could see that life had to come from something or someone's intelligence. Life was/is too wonderful, too complex, yet filled with too many similar patters not to be somehow and in someway created or made by some powerful and very intelligent being or power. This Power must have a mind that can think on billions of things that interconnect, instead of having our ability to only concentrate on a few interconnecting things.

bp71» If life was made by chance, through the mixing of elements in a cosmic soup, then where are the vast amounts of debris (incomplete and defective life systems) from such a precarious operation? Questions as to where this super being and/or power came from are irrelevant since it is even more inconceivable for a mindless soup to somehow or someway create life. If you have read such books as Jeremy Rifkin's Algeny, you will see how "mind" or intellectual order is everywhere in the universe. The universe can even be looked upon as a mind or at least a manifestation of a great mind. That great mind is the Power, the God. Life itself proves there is a great mind in the universe. Yet if there is a great mind, the Power, why death, why pain, why evil? The paradox of evil is one of the great problems with some believing in the Power, or in God. But as I found out there is a transcendent reason for pain, evil, and death. I don't like the reason; you won't like it either. But nevertheless there is a reason for evil:  there must be a time with evil, or we would never become aware of good, or for that matter, we would never be capable of knowing happiness. More on this later. ("NM20" in New Mind Papers)

Questions

bp72» Are you interested in why? When you suffer and when you see others suffer, especially children, do you wonder why? Do you wonder why the preachers of religion, politics, science, and other aspects of life seem to contradict each other? Is the universe billions and billions of years old? Or could it be that our measurement of time is based on a false foundation? Is evolution a fact, or are there thousands of holes in this theory that you are not aware of? Are there really three gods in One? Can God be all powerful and yet all good? Is there life after death? Is there a hell? Is there a heaven? Is our pain from life futile and will it only end in a permanent death? The questions are too important not to spend time and money searching for the answers. The BeComingOne Papers are the written results of my search.

bp73» The answers I found may be helpful to you. But how am I going to communicate my ideas through the filters and barriers that have been placed in front of each of us?   Only the New Mind can help us..

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