Stirrings of Stage Four
It was Saturday, September 27, 2008, and I was in my new room where I study, pray, and meditate. I was reflecting on the possiblities of pursuing Stage 4 "prematurely" by fasting. I also had an ear-ache that felt like another resurgence of an ear infection. I had been struggling with that for months, and my doctor was going through a sequence of increasingly stronger antibiotics to treat it. What was possibly complicating it was a severe soreness in my right jaw due to knuckle biting and "clenching" of my teeth. While I considered a re-visit, I asked the Holy Spirit, in a sudden uncharacteristic lark, how I would handle it in Stage 4. There was a virtual shrug and the comment "Apply variance management to 3D solids."
I WAS going to start on Stage 2, the Spirit leading us unto all Truth, but what happened in the next few hours after getting that comment led me to write this essay. I originally conceived it as as another essay in Stage 1, but as I worked on it, I came to realize that putting it there would blunt the import of what this essay is about.
Charity requires that I insert a warning. As I was modifying the main page to include the link to this essay, it struck me that, although I had taken great pains to emphasize the miraculous aspects of what this essay is reporting to refute the objections of atheists, it is those who heed what is written here and follow it to the point of experiencing some of the benefits that I have experienced who are under greater obligation and potential condemnation. The writer of Hebrews notes, in chapter 6, verses 1 through 3, that getting one's doctrines right is required during one's spiritual immaturity. They are the lessons one must learn to move on to spiritual maturity, and in that moving on, they are left behind. When one is mature, one moves from learning to doing. One moves from knowing to experiencing. One moves from reading to "tasting the powers of the age to come".
With Spiritual Maturity comes accountability.
If you read on, there is no turning back.
Method of Influence
I have pointed out in earlier essays that the only way that the Holy Spirit can influence the thoughts coming out of the heart was to affect discharges across neural synapses, the generation or suppression of neurotransmitters, and the tendency of neurons to fire or not fire. However, it is almost always the case that a general description of how a process happens is far less fruitful than one that is extremely detailed and precise: This difference in the quality of details can be best illustrated by pointing out the very real difference between the general description of how a nuclear weapon is constructed and a detailed one. Engineers appreciate, and exploit, the differences between the two, and it is from this passion for details that the majority rarely appreciate that springs the stereotype of the "nerd" and the "geek". One can probably point to these essays on how an "engineering/scientist geek" can "complicate" some aspect of the Christian religion.
Then, when their computer goes on the fritz, or something really complicated breaks that could really hurt someone if not repaired properly, guess who they call to fix it.
There are actually two different methods available to the Holy Spirit: creation or manipulation. Examples exist in scriptures of each being used.
By creation I mean that the Holy Spirit creates the electrons that discharge across neural synapes as needed, fabricates the required neurotransmitters on the fly, and creates proteins within the neurons to influence whether and when it fires. This relies on precise timing, configuration, and location so that the desired side-effect occurs as a natural result of 'nature taking its course'. The best example of this is the creation of the spermazoon by the Holy Spirit that resulted in Mary's ensuing pregnancy, which created the body of our Lord Jesus Christ. Another example is the creation of the world outlined in Genesis, where it is stated that the Holy Spirit "moved over the face of the waters".
By manipulation I mean that the Holy Spirit expends energy to manipulate pre-existing physical matter to initiate the desired effects. Electron flow can be initiated by inducing chemical reactions that create the necessary electron excess that generates the electrical field across a synapse, leading to current flow. DNA and proteins within neurons can be stimulated or activated to induce production of desired neurotransmitters. Ion pumps can be stimulated to create electrical potentials that cause the neuron to fire. Two examples of manipulation are the late pregnancies of Elizabeth and Sarah, in which the Holy Spirit can be presumed to have interacted with the DNA within pre-existing cells or eggs so that the resulting eggs were able to be fertilized by the sperm of Zecharias and Abraham, eventually giving birth to John the Baptist and Isaac. Of the two, it appears that manipulation is the normal method of interaction, it being much more efficient in its deployment of energy. It is closer to the historical "style" of interaction where God uses intermediaries to convey His blessings and aid. The scriptures contain the histories of men and women through whom God chose to work when He wanted to intervene in worldly and spiritual affairs. And let us not forget the cooperation between Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, combined with the cooperation of the believer with the Holy Spirit, so that Jesus Christ is revealed to the believer. In fact, the writer of Hebrews appears to discount direct creation as the cause of all matter in the universe, stating that that which is seen is the result of manipulation of that which already existed but was not visible. That seems to be an appropriate first century description of the conversion of energy to matter.
Proof of Manipulation
The best personal evidence for this divine preference toward manipulation rather than creation comes from the fact that there is a "loss" of capability of the Holy Spirit to influence thoughts when one is tired or ill. This, of course, has nothing to do with any lack of power of the Holy Spirit, but is a natural result of the burn-up of neuro-transmitters and other essential materials within neurons during the day that are replenished during rest periods. It is not that neurons cease production of the necessary complex molecules during the day. Rather, the burn-up rate of what they produce exceeds the rate of production while one is awake and less than the rate of production while one is asleep or resting.
It is quite often the case that engineers learn more from failure than from success. A firm understanding of what is happening in our brains when we sin or fail late at night, while sick, or during times of prolonged distress, is required to appreciate that the root cause of this particular problem lies, not with the Holy Spirit, but with ourselves and the way our bodies are constructed.
I will use several illustrations to get the core idea across.
As a first illustration, picture a hydroelectric dam powering a nearby town. It is operated in such a way as to "load follow". That is, it produces more power when the electrical demand goes up, and less power when demand goes down. Power production comes from releasing water that is replenished by the rivers that feed into the resevoir at a constant rate. If we mapped water level versus time, we would see it rise during the night and go down during the day, reflecting the fact that power demand is less when everyone in the town is sleeping than when they are awake and busy at their jobs. In the long run, the amount of power that the town can use over the period of a day is limited by the power that can be generated by the amount of water flowing into the resevoir during a day: the resevoir exists to allow temporary power generation higher than river inflow. However, if the residents are not careful with their electricity usage, they will slightly overdraw on the resevoir on a daily basis, resulting in a steady lowering of the average daily water level until, at some time and day, they will lose the storage in the resevoir by draining it dry, forcing them to reduce power usage to a level equal to the inflow of water from the rivers.
Another illustration is that of the battery/generator system in all cars: car batteries are used to provide start-up power, and are slightly drained as a result. To recharge the battery so that it will last longer, it is being constantly recharged by a generator turned by the gasoline engine whose start-up was initiated by the electrical starter motor powered by the battery. Car batteries initially have a power margin greater than the margin needed to power the starter motor and ignition electronics, but as batteries are discharged and re-charged, they slowly lose the ability to recharge as quickly or retain their charge once charged. Eventually, the battery wears out to the point where driving the car around does not charge it fully to replace the power drain needed to start the car. Eventually, we get a "dead battery". (A similar effect occurs more quickly when the generator burns out: the car runs solely on battery power which is not replaced, and it eventually is drained.)
My next illustration is one's checking account balance. While all people know the consequences of writing a check larger than the balance, many do not appreciate the need of keeping a minimum fixed amount of money in the checking account to act as a buffer. Because bills tend to arrive during the second half of the month that have to be paid by funds that have to be present in the account during the first half of the next month, it pays to mantain a minimum balance much higher than the one required by the bank to avoid extra fees in order to ensure that no check 'bounces'. In other words, because checks arrive at the bank at unpredictable times, one cannot just look at one's current checking account balance and write a check that is less than that amount and still be safe since the sum of the amounts of checks that are outstanding, after adding in the amount of the new check, could exceed the balance of the account at the time all those checks arrive simultaneously at the bank. This is known as maintaining 'cash flow', which for a business means having enough cash on hand to pay immediate expenses: the books may show that the business is sound, but the business can still fail if too much of its value is in in inventory instead of in cash. Many businesses do not see the need for maintaining a large cash account, preferring to do spot borrowing to tide them over such potholes lurking in their accounts payable. This is why the current (October, 2008) financial crisis affecting banks has wider ramifications: if banks are unwilling to do spot lending, otherwise viable businesses can fail due to a temporary lack of cash.
My next illustration points out the more insidious problem that can strike one's checking account: when one spends only slightly more than what one earns. It doesn't matter if the over-spending is large or small: the smaller the over-spending, the longer it takes to run through the buffer to get to an account balance of zero. Not getting to zero is the whole point of ensuring one doesn't spend more than one gets, either by a large or small margin. The smart checkbook user updates their running account total, balances their checkbooks promptly, and keeps an eye on the trend of their minimum balance to catch downward spirals early.
For my final illustration, I will present my current working model of how the Holy Spirit interacts with the human brain. I picture the human brain as being similar to a pipe organ with billions of "keys" (cells) upon which the Holy Spirit "plays". In this model, the neurotransmitter buffer acts like the bellows that blows air through the pipes to make the organ operate. Before organ wind systems were driven mechanically, it took a human being to operate a pump to supply the "wind" necessary to make the organ work. In this "organ model", the neurotransmitter budget is similar to air pre-stored in a tank that supplies the "organ". As the Holy Spirit "plays" on the "keys" (brain cells), each "touch" causes neurotransmitters to be secreted. The "score" then generates a mental "climate" in the person's brain. The usage of neurotransmitters is therefore dependent on the "score" the Holy Spirit is "reading". Some "scores" burn off more neurotransmitters than others. Depending on the situation, the "organ" may have enough "air" to finish the day, or may come up short. (The model is extremely simplified, since the "brain" doesn't use just one kind of neurotransmitter, but many, each with its own buffer storage, "tonal quality", and overall effect.)
These are examples of the "runout" of a resource, or resources, that are used up (manipulated), but are replenished at a fixed rate or in fixed amounts at a fixed frequency. Manipulation means that these resources are intelligently managed and used so that "there is enough to make it" or "there is a reserve for emergencies". If Creation was the way these resources were "manipulated", then there would never be a "runout" at any time since the resources would seem to appear out of nowhere as they were required. Imagine that city being powered by a nuclear reactor instead of a hydroelectric dam: the equivalent amount of water would seem endless.
These examples may suggest, by analogy, that neurotransmitter usage within the Host needs to be "managed" in accordance to some "strategy" or "plan". This is indeed the case, but there are subtleties that can trip up the unwary if a "naive" or "obvious" strategy is followed.
The Importance of Knowing What Happened
I confess that, having suffered and been delivered of a compulsion, I have oriented the Stage 1 essays around the suppression of them. I wanted to share the capability of being a victor so that others who have agonized over their inability to control their thought life could enjoy the benefits that I have experienced. However, in doing so, I was aware that the discussion would not benefit those fortunate enough to have been in a blessed home environment and who had the spiritual strength to avoid falling into situations conducive to forming a compulsion. This posed a bit of a dilemma: Stage 1 is Stage >>1<< because suppression of core feelings and desires is, technically, the easiest thing to do.
Still, despite being the easiest thing to do, I continue to have the occasional stumble into the old sins. For sure, the magnitude of the temptations have been greatly reduced, as well as the number of stumbles, as well as the "seriousness" of those stumbles. However, zero tolerance requires 100% success, not 99% or 98%. I have done failure analyses and came up with specific solutions that, again, reduced the failure rates, but 100% effectiveness still eluded me.
Finally, in the process of writing this essay, the Spirit eventually got me to realize that applying specific solutions with partial success was a symptom of not really understanding the underlying process. In a sense, I needed a better "natural history" of temptation so that I could leverage that knowledge into better prevention, in the same way that Major Walter Reed leveraged knowledge of the life cycle of the mosquito to come up with preventative measures against Yellow Fever during the building of the Panama Canal. And Pakistan didn't develop their Atomic Weapons solely from the Encylopedia Britannica description of how they are put together.
In short, this initial view of the work of the Holy Spirit was mistaken, not because I was wrong about the role or location of the Holy Spirit who does the suppresson, but because I was mistaken about how the Holy Spirit does the suppression. Some would say that "the devil is in the details", but in this case, "the divine is in the details".
Perform the following thought experiment: Recall the experience of recalling an unpleasant experience, or recall how you reacted when, in the past, you started thinking about an upcoming unpleasant happening. Do you remember how your abdomen twisted almost the moment that memory came to mind? Perhaps while reading this sentence your mind and body began reacting. How does that happen?
It happens because of the structure of the Human Heart. Recall that the heart of man generates thoughts and presents them to the eye of the Inner Man. This is the working of the natural man, which means that some neurons fired, emitting neurotransmitters. If you remember your biology, recall that the neuron has many branches coming in from other neurons and one main branch going out that, at the end, branches itself to touch the inputs to other neurons. The "idea" represented by the thought is manifested as a sequence of firings of neurons. However, only a small fraction of those neuronal firings are interpreted as the actual thought being presented to the eye of the Inner Man. The remainder of the neuronal firings prepares the rest of the brain to begin acting upon the thought in case the Inner Man approves.
What this means is that "suppressing" the thought not only requires that the Holy Spirit "suppress" the neuronal firings that produce the imaged thought, but He also must "suppress" the auxiliary preparatory side-firings as well. In a sense, the word "suppression" is the wrong word to use for this initial thought that constitutes a temptation: the temptation was already thought, so no thought was really suppressed at that time. What the Holy Spirit has to do initially is counteraction, with suppression later taking place to prevent re-presentation.
It is this pre-anticipatory preparation happening elsewhere in the brain in parallel to the thought-temptation being presented that makes a habit or compulsion so hard to break: the more often you say "yes" to a specific temptation, the more likely the Heart is (reasonably) going to presume that you would say "yes" the next time it is presented, so it will take the liberty of generating the preparatory side-thoughts to "get a jump on things". People talk about "giving in to temptation" before they even realize that a temptation was presented. They are not being self-deceptive or lying, but are merely reporting that their Hearts have been deeply trained and programmed through many sessions of "stimulus and response". Their Heart has become Pavlov's Dog.
In doing that preparatory side-thought generation, the heart is not being deliberately perverse, as if it was "loading the deck". Rather, there are processing time lags that can affect the success of any responses we make to stimuli, so the heart attempts to "predict the future" to compensate for neuronal processing times. The phenomenon of "reflexes", in which brain cells within the spinal column make decisions to move arms or legs in response to pain stimuli, reflects a design decision of "local delegation" to overcome the time lag that would occur if the brain was required to make a decision about what to do about minimizing damage from whatever is causing the pain. I vividly recall, while soldering an S-100 connector to an Altair 8800 motherboard (I date myself), that I accidentally laid hold upon the "business end" of the soldiering iron I was using, and heard the sizzle of my fingers even before my reflexes took over and jerked my hand off of it. It is conjectured that optical illusions are side-effects of the heart attempting to "predict the future".
Here's another thought experiment: Obey the sentence in the next page, then go to the page afterwards.
DO NOT THINK OF A GREEN-FACED MONKEY!
I would wager that you did, if only for an instant. How did that happen? In order to process the command, you have to know what a Green-faced monkey looks like before you can obey the thought that you shouldn't think about it. Like any command, the heart threw the thought up to the Eye of your Inner Man to see if you were going to obey it or not. At the same time, it initiated some side-thoughts that began the process of digging up the picture of a monkey's face and painting it green. That processing happens in parallel and mostly unconsciously: the brain is incredibly well wired to support parallel processing, by which it overcomes the slowness of neuronic circuitry based on chemical and ion flows. By the time your Inner Man decided to obey it, the parallel thoughts bore fruit, and your heart threw them up to the eye of the Inner Man for consideration. However, obeying the command requires that those thoughts NOT be thrown up. By the time the Inner man decides to obey, and selects the menu option to obey the command, the selection is going down to the Heart while the image of a green-faced monkey is coming up the bitstream.
It is this parallel processing of temptation that makes it have two aspects, not one as I had formerly thought, and what I had labelled as "temptation suppression". The first requires counteraction of the actual thought and the anticipatory side thoughts already generated. The second aspect is the process of suppression that I thought was all that was happening.
This should not surprise us, and I trace my confusion to continued mental adherence to obsolete ideas of the mind that were not subjected to a re-analysis when the new model of the human heart was developed. This has to do with the modern, but incorrect, assumption that the conscious mind thinks independently of the unconscious mind. In retrospect, the new model denies this: there is a lot of parallelism going on, with thoughts being thought at many levels. However, "consciousness" is merely awareness of the thoughts presented to the Inner Man. Awareness does not imply control, and one's choices are not always strictly obeyed. This is the moral foundation of the belief that temptation is not a sin in itself. Rather, temptation becomes sin when temptation is consciously selected by the Inner Man. (I point this out because I anticpate a "moving of the goal posts" by those who will oppose the ideas behind Stage 1 when people start reporting success: they will change their expression of doubt from "If this is true, then you shouldn't give in to temptation" to "if this were true, you shouldn't even experience temptation!" The first is reasonable, but the second is being perverse, deceptive, and manipulative. Remember that you heard it here first.)
These two aspects of the temptation life-cycle requires two different counter responses. Counteraction requires the emission of appropriate neurotransmitters that are the behavioral opposite of the transmitters being used to propagate the side-thoughts and the thought itself. This reflects the way the brain works, where for every neurotransmitter that has a specific effect, there exists a counter-neurotransmitter that has the opposite effect, with the net effect arising from the partial, or complete, cancellation of the initial effect. The subsequent act of suppression prevents the heart from secreting the neurotransmitters necessary to re-create the thought. In the first, the Holy Spirit touches appropriate neuronal vesicles to release the necessary counter-neurotransmitters, while in the second, He suppresses the rupture of the neuronal vesicles themselves in the first place. The first expends certain neurotransmitters, the second prevents expenditure of the opposing neurotransmitters.
In my mind, I thought that the Holy Spirit was keeping thoughts under control by keeping things from happening, when in actuality, He has to both actively counteract as well as subsequently keep things from happening. This misunderstanding accorded to my internal belief that, for the Holy Spirit, "keeping things from happening" was easier than "acting constructively to counteract".
But now that we have a right understanding of what is happening, we can have a true appreciation of the implications of what is really happening.
Sizing Faith, Limiting God
It may seem silly to talk about the "difficulty" or "ease" of the Holy Spirit doing something in a human brain when He is capable of creating mountain ranges, forests, ants, and whales. However, what is truly silly is what it takes for us to believe that He will act in a specific context! I include myself in that indictment, for there is no real difference in difficulty on the part of the Holy Spirit between Him "popping" a vesicle within a neuron to create a specific counter-thought and Him flinging Jupiter into a stable orbit around the sun. However, I confess that my faith too often self-sizes according to the magnitude of the problem God is faced with, rather than according to His proven capability. If you are like me, you more readily believe God can affect a neuron on your behalf than He'll move Mount Saint Helens because the former is way smaller than the latter, not because the latter is way beyond His actual capability. If you are like me, you believe that He can stop stuff from happening more easily in our brains than start anything. Oh we of little faith, not realizing how great a crisis of belief would overwhelm an honest secular materialist encountering solid evidence of God affecting a neuron! We're more inclined to cash a check for 10 dollars than 10 billion, not realizing that an honest Modernist Christian would be stunned to discover that God DOES "write checks"! (Not that I believe that your average secular materialist would actually change their thinking when presented with such evidence. They suffer from a similar affliction when they size their estimation of the significance of evidence according to the size of the claim being proven: Bertrand Russel insisted that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, but in actual practice "extraordinary" seems to mean "big enough to be impossible to ignore" or "not what I expect to see" or "what I cannot explain away by spinning a just-so story". Physicists claim that the quantum nature of subatomic events have macroatomic implications that are "impossible to ignore", so one has to wonder what these "geniuses" will say to God on Judgement Day when He confronts them with this contradiction that clouded what they believed to be clear thinking.)
Traditionally, the Church has viewed this problem regarding faith by urging believers to "get more faith" or "get rid of your doubts". Although correct, charity requires that I not voice my opinions regarding the pathological reaction of the Church when individuals attempt to "operationalize" these exhortations.
A theo-engineering approach suggests that we take two different tacks to solving the problem:
- We accept the fact that we have a limited faith and initiate a search for problems that can be solved with the faith that we already possess.
- We work toward increasing our faith so that it can be applied to solve bigger problems.
There is nothing preventing us from pursuing both paths. We will pursue tack #1 in this essay, leaving tack #2 for later ones. [July 3, 2010 Edit: see here for clarification.]
Sizing the Problem, Empowering God
Anyone who has worked with consumer electronics is aware of the bewildering variety of batteries that can be put into products. Some take AAs, some take AAAs, some take Cs, some Ds, and some take the 9 volt dual post types. Some take single batteries, and some require multiple batteries. Some products require one type in one piece and a different one in another piece that work together.
I won't go into the design details or the origin or content of the experience that motivates design engineers to choose one battery type over another. Rather, I want to focus on the idea of classifying, not batteries, but the devices that those batteries can power. That is, instead of talking about AA alkaline batteries as a type of battery, we talk about AA alkaline battery devices as a class of device.
When we look at members of a battery device class, we see a high degree of variety. We see flashlights, toys of various kinds, fans, sound devices, MP3 players, my beeper for work, cordless microphones, and radios that form the AA alkaline battery device class. I have a pen that has a light powered by a AA battery, as well as a spoon from a box of Frosted Flakes that lights up from a AA battery. There are definitely devices powered by AA alkaline batteries that I don't know about. What you won't find are digital cameras in this class: I've tried using AA alkaline batteries in a digital camera, and found them inadequate for the task. Or rather, one could say that the digital camera demands more power than two AA alkaline batteries can deliver. That digital camera belongs in the class of AA lithium battery devices. Obviously, that class also includes all the members of the AA alkaline battery device class thanks to the "form factor" of AA batteries having the same voltage and physical configuration. What differs is the amount of amperage each battery is capable of generating.
The same is true of faith. Some people's faith are like AA alkaline batteries, while some have a faith like AA lithium batteries. The latter can do, by faith, bigger things than the former. This should not be a surprise, for Jesus talked about people having great and small faith. This should not be a cause for offense or jealousy for those with small faith, nor a cause for pride for those with great faith, since all Christians are part of the Church, the Body of Christ, where the latter are required to help the former, both in praying for the big things that others cannot believe for, as well as helping those with lesser faith grow that faith.
We will discuss methodologies and strategies in another essay for growing faith (tack #2).
To make it easer to talk about this concept, I must introduce a new term: isopistic. It is a composed word of greek origin. The prefix "iso-" means "the same", and we use it when talking in chemistry about "isomers": chemicals with almost similar structures. "Isometric" drawings are drawing where the lines on the drawing have the same proportional lengths, angles, and areas as that which is being depicted, except that it is magnified or minimized in scale: almost all of your scientific drawings in books are not isometric, but drawings in "Gray's Anatomy" almost always are (with the exception of coloring and removed irrelevant details). "Pistic" comes from "pistis", the greek word used in the New Testament for "faith".
"Isopistic" essentially means "same faith". Thus, if there are two problems that can be solved by the same amount of faith, I will call them "isopistic in relation to each other". For instance, we have miracles where Elisha causes an axehead to float on the water, Jesus walks on the sea, and Peter walks on the sea. These are isopistic in relation to each other because they involve the same phenomenon: Gravity was cancelled, just on different objects. I believe it is safe to say that the same amount of faith was required to make all three phenomena happen.
Why talk about "isopistic" faith? Well, if we know that our faith can handle problem A, and we can determine that another problem B is isopistic to problem A, then our faith should be able to handle problem B. We may not think so, believing we may need more faith if B is to be solved, but the reality is that we can solve it with the faith we already have. We don't need an increase in our faith, but we do need more confidence in the faith we already have. All that is required is to wield it with a bit of imagination, innovation, good timing, and some measure of courage and daring. To illustrate I will recount an experience that was foundational to a key ministry of Grace United Methodist Church of Vidalia, Georgia: my pastor Larry Rollins was invited to join a mission team to Africa being led by a seminary friend of his. He expressed doubt about the ability to raise the funds at a bible study class. I pulled him aside after the class and asked him how much was required, expecting a number between $10,000 and $15,000 dollars. He said it would require $2,500. I confess, I must have looked quite stupid in the way I reacted, having had no problem raising more money than that yearly by prayer and claiming the promises my first time through Graduate School 20 years earlier. I told him I'd pray for that money, and to not worry about it. By various means and ways, the money was raised, he went to Africa, and connected with the pastor of Wanyanga United Methodist Church. Thus began an alliance between the two churches that is serving as the template for grass-roots cooperation between United Methodist Churches in the State of Georgia and Uganda. Those of us who believe that the solution for problems in Africa require the transformation of individuals, not governments, see this as a real revolution. This is what a currently sized faith can do, when applied with courage, daring, and good timing.
Another personal example that illustrates applying a currently-sized faith with some imagination and innovation: My church is undertaking a building program, and is getting the money through a three year fund-raising campaign. I sized my pledge by calculating how much we knew we were getting from bonuses from work each year, added in that amount of money that I knew, by previous experience, that I could get by prayer, times three years. Based on that, and what I could put in this year, I made my pledge. Of course I have no clear or obvious idea of where the money will come from over the next three years than I did when I prayed for help for my tuition 25 years ago, but personal experience tells me it will come. (This is where Stage 2 techniques come into play.)
How do we know these very different problems are isopistic? After all, getting through graduate school, getting a pastor to Africa, and expanding a church building complex are all different problems. However, I know they are isopistic because a bit of engineering insight, reasoning, and imagination allowed me to restate each problem as being solvable by using prayer to roust up a fixed and known amount of money by faith per year. Engineers thrive on working within challenging boundaries. If anyone else thinks that the circumstances are impossible, then it only enhances one's image of being a miracle worker in their eyes when one pulls it off successfully.
Although not labelled as such, this passage in Mark 16:14-18 appears to be a list of capabilities that are isopistic in relation to having sufficient faith (belief) to be baptized and saved:
14 Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen. 15 He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well."
Different denominations view this list differently. Some have problems with speaking in tongues while others hold it as positive evidence of the Holy Spirit's presence in the believer. Some use this passage to justify snake handling during church services, while everyone else thinks doing so justifies committment to an insane asylum. Some believe in divine healing by laying on of hands, while others doubt it happens in our day and age. It seems that all churches that believe in the existence of demons and the Devil also hold that casting them out is a capability common to all Christians, although some reserve exorcism for the "specially trained". A full discussion of these positions, and a defense of the nature of these capabilities as being isopistic with respect to having a saving faith will have to be deferred to another essay.
Is the search for isopistic solutions within the capabilities of one's faith supported by scripture? Based on the reaction of the master in Jesus' Parable of the Talents to the servant that did nothing with his single talent, I would believe it is mandatory! The servants who got five and two talents respectively certainly could engage in bigger business transactions than the servant who got one, in the same way that businesses with better initial funding tend to grow faster than under-capitalized ones in a given business niche. The master's problem with this servant was that the latter failed to employ imagination and effort in seeking one-talent-sized business opportunities. Besides, if the servant was sure that he was a two-talent servant, worthy of being a player in a certain business niche that required two talents to enter, he could have worked to grow his single talent into two in a business not of his liking to get the two talents necessary to break into the field where he felt his strengths truly lay. Of course, I speculate in sympathy of the lazy servant. His little speech to his master reveals that his objection had nothing to do with the master badly perceiving his true talents, but was a veiled objection to working for the master's profit in any way.
But there is a more subtle lesson in the Parable that is at the foundation of this website's purpose. The bank that the master referred to was only one of the many options open to the lazy servant. Another option that would have been far more profitable was to take his one talent to his fellow servant who got five and say "I have no idea what to do, but I see that the master thinks you're the best of us. Let's pool our money. I'll be your go-fer and you tell me what to do. We'll split the profits in proportion to the initial investment. After all, we work for the same master, don't we?" At the master's return, the one talent servant would have brought his two and said, "I had no idea what to do, but I knew you were a smart man who knows where talent lies. Fred over there actually made 12 talents from 6 because he and I pooled our resources and worked together for you. Beats the stinky 3% I'd have made putting it into the bank, no?" Many expositors read Jesus into the role of master, so I would think that Jesus would be pleased with this sort of thinking and acting. I refer those who object to this interpretation to Jesus' Parable of the Unfaithful, but Shrewd, Steward. At the core of this proposal of what the lazy servant could have done is the belief that by pooling our talents and intelligence together, as we seek to do at this website as well as in church, those who are two and five talent people can help develop the abilities of one talent people in the course of developing our own. I cannot imagine Jesus or the Holy Spirit possibly objecting to this, for is this not the very purpose of the Church? The whole point behind Stage Three capabilities is to facilitate this process of mutual aid to mutual benefit for everyone and the Kingdom of God.
Let's review what I've covered so far. Thanks to success in actually suppressing compulsive thoughts, we know we have the faith that the Holy Spirit requires to implement that suppression by cooperating with us. The earlier analysis of what was really involved helps us realize that the Holy Spirit actually initiates neurotransmitter secretions (though not neurotransmitters themselves) to create counter-thoughts to effect the initial suppression of temptations. Since virtually all thoughts arise from neurotransmitter secretations, we can conclude that, if we exercise the same faith and cooperation, the Holy Spirit can generate independent thoughts by unilaterally initiating such secretions, even if there is no temptation needing suppression: THAT is the entire basis for Stage 2, the essays for which were unwritten at the time this essay was being written. Thus, the ability of the Holy Spirit to generate counter-neurotransmitters to cancel thoughts (Stage 1) is isopistically equal to the capability to generate thoughts (Stage 2). Isopistic capabilities are symmetric, which means that someone like me, who exercised Stage 2-class cooperation with the Spirit (although I didn't know it) should be able to exercise the same faith, and level of cooperation, to suppress compulsions and temptations (stage 1).
So what else can the Holy Spirit do with that level and kind of capability? That is, what other things can the Holy Spirit, with cooperation from us, do with the same amount of faith?
You would be surprised.
The Fruit of the Spirit
Galatians 5:22-25 describe the fruit of the Spirit thusly:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24 And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
It is acknowledged that, while the Gifts of the Spirit are selectively awarded as the Holy Spirit wills, theologians, pastors, and bible commentators all agree that the Fruit of the Spirit are universal and mandatory. In almost all translations, the word "fruit" is singular rather than plural, further implying that there is a difference between the Gifts and the Fruit: no one is expected to manifest all the gifts of the Spirit, but all are expected to manifest all of these virtues.
The usage of a singular noun to label a specific set of named items complicates communication when it is necessary to focus on specific virtues. Thus, I will use the phrase "Fruit virtue" or "Fruit virtues" when talking about faith, peace, or joy, while using the capitalized singular noun "Fruit" when referring to the entire set.
It is regrettable, although inevitable in hindsight, that many Christians have come to view the above passage as the New Testament equivalent of an expansion of the Ten Commandments, with "goodness" embracing and encompassing the keeping of those Commandments. This view essentially says "You thought keeping the Ten Commandments was hard, just realize that keeping them is only a part of ONE of the NINE virtues that make up the Fruit of the Spirit that the Christian has to produce!" If these Fruit virtues are to be viewed as commandments to be kept that are at least nine times harder than the Ten Commandments, then one would be better off staying, or becoming, Jewish rather than Christian!
However, my experience says otherwise: these are not "sanctified" works of the flesh, but make up the Fruit of the Spirit which is produced by the Spirit. The eradication of sinful compulsions through cooperation with the Spirit using the Variance Management Protocol is merely ONE aspect of ONE of these Fruit virtues of the Spirit (temperance), and thus proof that protocol development to encourage cooperation between Host and Symbiote can help grow the other fruit virtues. After all, I remind you, every religious teacher says that ALL are required. If one can be generated by a methodology, then all of them can! Put in another way, the individual fruit virtues are isopistic: If we have faith that allows the Holy Spirit to grow any one of them in our life, then that faith is sufficient to enable Him to grow all of them in our life. We may not believe so based on the relative difficulty of producing a particular fruit, but such a belief is illusory and deceptive, as I can personally attest.
A look at the Works of the Flesh may be of help to see how the Fruit of the Spirit factors into the subject at hand:
19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
The Works of the Flesh are a mix of actions and mental attitudes. I've identified the mental attitudes by italicizing them. In contrast, six of the nine Fruit virtues of the Spirit are totally mental in origin, with "temperance" and "goodness" implemented by physical action (or inaction). Those who have tried to control their passions or their appetites have realized that success in "action" in those areas requires having a right "mind" to start with, and a lot of mental fortitude to follow through to completion. Thus, we see that the Fruit of the Spirit is both the spiritual and mental foundations of all Christian action.
And at the foundation of working the mental aspect of Christian Living is the control of neurotransmitters. Maybe deciding to specialize in affecting those brain chemicals to implement a list of mental virtues in the new believer isn't as bad or lame a move on the part of the Holy Spirit as one would be tempted to think!
I think that it is in the Fruit of the Spirit that Stage 1 methodologies will make sense to those who do not have compulsions. Despite the best of home environments, who has not had problems with any of the Fruit virtues of the Spirit? Who has not felt unloving or unloved? Who has not experienced the blues that seem causeless and baseless, yet seem unending and nearly immortal? Who has not needed patience in some situations? Who has not needed to be more gentle with those who irritate us? We are honest Christians trying to do the right thing, so we don't deliberately plan to do any of these actions. Often, inability to display the Fruit of the Spirit is due to unplanned reactions, not planned ones. More specifically, these are reactions that are the consequence of us blindly selecting thoughts that are quickly (and helpfully!) generated by the human heart. When it comes to the Fruit virtue that is most often the victim of sudden events, we don't as much choose the patience menu option when we get unexpectedly exasperated as that we reflexively choose the exasperation menu option rather than turn it down and wait for the patience menu option to become available via the Spirit's imposition.
What else can the Spirit, with our cooperation, do with this same amount of faith?
Mental Climate Control
By mental climate, I mean one's general feeling about oneself and life in general. For most of the day, do you feel happy, engaged, joyful, peacful, anxious, depressed, blue, angry, or moody? Apart from the Holy Spirit, "mental climate" is subject to all kinds of influences, internal and external. Christians are familiar with the feeling of "being on the mountaintop" while attending inspiring meetings and retreats, as well as the "letdown" that is expressed as "coming down from the mountain into the valley". Even Jesus acknowledged the power of externals over one's sense of life, noting how answered prayer causes one to be joyful.
Is it possible, however, to adjust and control one's mental climate apart from external circumstances? If one realizes that mental climate is a side-effect of the secretion (or non-secretion) of specific neurotransmitters, and that the indwelling Holy Spirit can control the release and retention of those neurotransmitters, then the answer is a definite yes! If our faith is strong enough to permit the Spirit to rupture neuronal vesicles to counteract temptations, then it is strong enough to ask the Spirit to rupture appropriate neuronal vesicles to proactively generate mental states consistent with the Fruit of the Spirit (isopistic). Indeed, if all the Fruit virtues are mental, then at some level they manifest themselves as electrical patterns affecting the secretion of specific neuro-transmitters.
Let's take the first three fruit virtues of the spirit. At initial conversion and during special occasions, one has the sense that one is intensely loved by God, as well as becoming able to be loving toward others (as outlined in 1 Corinthians 13). However, for the longest time, I have not personally felt such a love. In fact, I generally felt that God was apathetic, if not sullenly hostile, toward me. After the realization and internalization of the concept of symbiosis, I have rarely felt like this again. Indeed, there are times when I feel overwhelmed with the rush of love from the Holy Spirit toward me. It is only within the context of such intense and unconditional love that one is freed from one's fears and uncertainties to extend love to others, including one's enemies. (Those who object to this interpretation by insisting this is love is only directed externally should read their bibles more. My thanks to Ken Fuqua for directing my attention to that passage.)
However, almost always after such bouts of being passionately loved, I would feel mentally drained and exhaused, sometimes to the point of being intensely tempted along my usual compulsions. It is disconcerting to feel almost insanely loved by God in the morning, only to be strongly tempted to cruse the internet for porn in the evening! What was happening?
Recall my discussion about neurotransmitter buffers. Creating a sense of being intensely loved appears to be a very draining "score" that the Holy Spirit within plays on the "brain organ". Draining, not on the Holy Spirit Himself, but on my neurotransmitter levels. Like a teenager with a credit card, the experience of over-extension can be exhilarating, but sanity and prudence must necessarily prevail.
Love is good, but what about joy, which also is a fruit virtue of the spirit? It is indeed possible to set one's mental climate to joy, and it is a less intense level of feeling the divine approval. My experience shows, however, that having a sense of joy in the faith and the Spirit, while not as intense as love, nevertheless is a high drain "score" as well. "Making it through the day", in my case, is being able to go to bed without engaging in any struggles with porn compulsions, and it appears that it is "touch and go" when the mental thermostat is set to "joy": I sometimes make it through the day and sometimes I don't, depending on what else came up during the day. As I pointed out before, even Jesus acknowledged that joy was dependent on external circumstances, such as answered prayer.
The next step down in intensity is peace. From my experience, I believe that this fruit virtue is the one to strive for that is resource optimal. With one exception, I have not yet failed to successfully get through the day if I strove to maintain a mental climate of peace. Indeed, I suspect that it may be the setting that is supported by divine intervention above and beyond the level of control that the Holy Spirit already employs. Jesus said the following in John 14:25-27:
25 These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. 26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. 27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
Paul was not silent about the relationship between the work of the Holy Spirit and peace. In Romans 8:6 he said "For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace." In Romans 15:13 he said "Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost." And then there is this classic passage from Philippians 4:7: "And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
Of course, it may be the case that the neurotransmitter burn-up rate required to sustain a mental climate of peace is close to its replenishment/replacement rate within the brain cells. However, these promises seem to indicate that, even if one's "natural" replenishment rate is not enough to sustain a sense of peace throughout the day, divine intervention is definitely promised to ensure that the supply will be sufficient for that day and its burdens and needs. I am not sure if this takes the form of creation of the necessary neurotransmitters on the fly, or divine healing of the existing brain cells so that production is normalized, but the end result is that the promise of sufficent supplies is kept and that there will be "enough peace" to last through the day.
It may seem that symbiotically maintaining a mental climate of peace is a sort of "let down". Would not life be sweeter if we could enjoy the sense of being intensely loved by God or insanely joyful? Compared to what is possible, peace seems rather, ahh, dull. Pedestrian. Mundane. Plodding. Barely making it. Just getting by. Why follow a policy of walking down in the plains (albeit on a highway) when the circumstances of life call us to "be thou like to a roe or to a young hart upon the mountains of spices"?
Well, to me it is a matter of walking by faith and not by sight. Yes, being able to "walk on the mountaintop" at will and for hours at a time is indeed possible. Paul alluded to this when he told Timothy "Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands." This implies that there was some previous instruction he had given to Timothy regarding his spiritual gift and how to trigger it, and in this passage Paul reminds him of that instruction and his capability of calling upon it voluntarily. What keeps us from doing the same thing with regard to our moods?
Nothing at all, except the uncomfortably real fact that we are still finite, having limits that we mature Christians should know and respect. Merely possessing the capability is not an excuse to exercise it apart from sound wisdom and prudence. It may be strange to say that "If it feels good, do it" is still bad advice when "it" is something that is divinely possible, but wisdom and prudence are probably the only virtues that we should exercise vigorously, continuously, and without "discrimination"!
Of course, this would not be a real theo-engineering website if we did not consider the possibility of raising the limits. While granting that our brains may have neurotransmitter production limits, just as muscles have limits, is it possible to "build" one's brain capacity to produce more neurotransmitters, in the same way that we can build muscles that have higher limits? After all, if "the joy of the Lord is your strength", does it not make sense for the Christian to work to increase their ability to live in joy?
Prior to November of 2008, I would have said that that was not possible. However, recent information has come to my attention that has radically changed my views. Space requires that the discussion of that information, and its implications, will have to be deferred to the essay regarding increasing our faith.
I had mentioned on the previous page that, with one exception, I have no problem maintaining a sense of peace throughout the day. From that, one could conclude that an operating philosophy of always maintaining a mental climate of peace would be optimal. However, the circumstances of the single failure belies the appearance of optimality and reveals more subtleties than meets the eye.
I had successfully lived several days of maintaining an attitude of peace prior to that day, but on that day, I foolishly rebuffed several attempts of the Holy Spirit to indulge in a thankful state of joy and love, believing the urge to be somewhat carnal and wasteful of resources. A few hours later, I found myself heavily buffeted by temptations along my usual compulsions. I fought for a long while, and ended the day completely exhausted mentally, finally going to bed early as a preventative precaution that I have mentioned elsewhere.
During my analysis of this incident the following morning, I began to feel the compulsions rise again. On a sudden thought, I rebuked the demon that I suspected was behind the temptation and it dissolved almost immediately. The moment that happened, I realized that he was the true reason behind my mental exhaustion. What had happened was that, as I strove to maintain a sense of peace, I was being "blown off-station" by the demon, requiring the Holy Spirit to expend neurotransmitters to regain that mental state, much as a satellite in Geo-synchronous orbit has to expend propellant to "keep station" in the face of ion storms from the sun that "blow it off-station". This drove up my neurotransmitter burn-up rate to a point where I could not finish the day with an ample supply.
I was rather troubled, and irked, by the fact that, despite my striving to stay in a state of peace, I got no warning or indication from the Spirit of the impending situation: being God, couldn't he give me a heads up about what was coming up? I went to work, and about half-way through the morning again felt the Spirit trying to move me to a state of thankful joy. I was about to suppress that, thinking that the Spirit was trying to blow me off and my sense of irritation at not being warned earlier when the Spirit, in His own way, pointed out that His call to move from peace to joy was indeed from Him. So what was my basis for believing that moving from peace to joy really was a waste of the neurotransmitter budget that merited an Inner Man veto?
Well, uhh, no. I wasn't sure.
It was at that point and on that day that I realized that I didn't know the real natural history (or pre-history if you will) of temptation. The resulting research lead me to the realization documented earlier in this essay of the implications of brain parallelism, and the real reason for the calls of the Spirit to move from peace to joy or love: going to those mental fruit virtues of the Spirit generate the necessary neurotransmitters that the Spirit would have used to counteract the incipient tempation coming from the demonic tempter at the preconscious level. If one likens temptation to a weed, I was just clipping off the above-ground, evident aspects of sin in a misguided effort to "save neurotransmitters". The more optimal strategy of the Spirit was to expend a little bit extra "up front" and eradicate the temptation at the incipient root level.
In short, probably all of the temptations that seem to pop up on their own rather than being triggered by external sources actually are already being thought by the Heart. We are not made aware of those thoughts because we don't actually know that we are thinking them until the Human Heart sees fit to throw them up the bitstream to the Inner Man. Since the Spirit is resident in our Heart, He is fully aware of what is happening. In my case, he tried to issue the call to move from peace to joy and love as a preventative measure (the sort of thing one prudently does if one possesses that unique ability to, you know, see the future). By not selecting that menu option, I let my "non-conscious" mental state deteriorate until I was made aware of it when the heart finally threw up a little of the trash that had been accumulating there.
Operating Strategy for Symbiotic Christians
In response to that single failure, my current operating strategy is as follows: pursue a mental attitude of peace unless the Holy Spirit throws up a thought to move to joy or love. If my mental attitude is poor and way below that of peace, I strive to that mental state of peace, but not beyond or above that. While I am in a state of peace, I stay in a state consistent with the will of God. Thus, if I spontaneously get a thought to move from peace to joy or love, and have not been thinking about doing so, I do not suppress the thought but regard it as a menu option being thrown up by the Spirit that would be prudent to select. Think of this as a form of sensing that the Spirit is "stomping on the accelerator" to move me around some obstacle on the spiritual (and thus mentally unseen) lane on the highway of life. In doing so, I acknowledge that the Holy Spirit, being God, forsees all things and moves to work on my behalf, as my advocate, to help me avoid any problems.
Optimising the Search
Wow! We started with suppressing mental compulsions, and wound up finding the source of the Fruit of the Spirit! As a result, we learned how to use it to maintain an optimal mental climate of peace "that passes all understanding". All of the credit for this is due to the precious Holy Spirit Symbiote residing in us and doing nothing more than popping neuronal vesicles and releasing neurotransmitters! Keep in mind that manipulating one's mental state via chemistry is a multi-billion dollar industry with profit margins so fat and the demand so high that competitors literally kill each other to maintain supply lines and extend market share. What else is possible? More importantly, where can we look to find what is possible? Can we optimise our search for other capabilities that are isopistically consistent with demonstrated Stage 1 capability?
Well, a good source is existing research, which has shown that compulsions and thoughts are not the only things influenced by neurotransmitters.
The linked list is a good start, and I will touch on two of the aspects on that list. I will be brief because my interest in getting this essay written and out the door has not given me enough time to fully and deeply explore the two issues I will discuss, much less any of the other tantalizing potentialities that current brain research has uncovered. However, consistent with the operating principles of this website, the capabilities I document are ones that I either am currently exercising, or have a strong belief and suspicion are possible. This standard assures you, and others, that they can be lived out in our lives. As usual, I retain the right to extend and expand on this essay to document new findings as I discover them and work them out in my life, or witness them being worked out in other people's lives.
Weight Loss and Weight Control
Prior to doing deeper research in the true natural history of temptation, I had previously joked to Ken Fuqua, my spiritual dive buddy, that if I could come up with a Symbiotic Weight Control Diet that worked as effectively as the Spirit squashed my compulsive thoughts, then the masssive PR problems that bedevil Symbiotic Christianity would miraculously disappear.
Imagine my surprise when, after noting from lists of neurotransmitter capabilites that they affect the gastrointestinal system, I broke 200 pounds while indifferently following the Weight Watchers diet. This was despite trying since December of 2007 to do so with such effort, and little success, that I had kind of slacked off. And, as what normally happens, I ballooned during my vacation and was having problems bringing the weight down. Even while I fasted for the election, I would bounce above 200 pounds three days after ending the fast. Now, I'm consistently staying below 200 pounds easily. What happened?
Well, it seems that I overeat by indulging in excessive snacks because I am either hungry or nervous, so any progress in my diet had to spring from handling those aspects of my life.
The "being nervous" part was indirectly handled when I finally figured out and implemented the operating strategy mentioned above to consistenly live in a state of peace: whenever I became nervous I didn't say "don't eat!" but "stay in peace!" Cutting out snacking due to nervousness was not the goal, but a beneficial side effect of pursuing the promise of living in the peace given by Jesus Christ to his disciples.
And what about feeling hungry? Well, if neurotransmitters affect the gastrointestinal system, why not affect that system to not feel hunger until the next scheduled meal, and to feel satisfied afterwards? I was having trouble lasting to lunch time (11:00 AM) after the time change to Standard Time this year, so after being made aware of this capability, I usually call on the Spirit at about 9:30 AM to start taking care of my hunger until then. Most of the time, He does just that. At other times, He reminds me to make up a healthy "snack" to bring along, as well as reminding me to eat it.
This methodology certainly helps when maintaining one's weight and maybe dropping a few pounds after the holidays, but what about the phenomoenon of "plateauing"? This is when, after losing some weight easily, the rate of weight loss slows down and often stops. There can be long periods of time where no progress is made, discouraging many dieters, among whom I count myself.
Although I am not a nutritionist nor a biologist, my experience leads me to believe that "plateauing" is due to differences between "old fat" and "new fat". "New fat" is fat that has been added within the last two months, and includes blood borne fat, such as triglicerides. In contrast, "old fat" is fat that has been in the body longer than two months. My conjecture is that the fat in the cells has changed chemical structure so that it is more resistant to being released by the fat cells into the blood stream for elimination. I have noted that, if I move quickly to reduce weight gained after holidays and vacations, I can return to my previous weight level, but if I let the weight "sit" for longer than a couple of months, the weight loss becomes harder to achieve.
Many people resort to liposuction to remove what has become "old fat". However, I propose a less drastic and more controlled method for eliminating "old fat": selective intiation by the Holy Spirit Symbiote of lipolysis, the process by which the body converts fat to compounds burnable by the body (such as glycerol and fatty acids). This is initiated by hormones released in the blood stream. The hormones of interest to us are epinephrine, norepinephrin, and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). The first two are known neurotransmitters, so getting the Symbiote to intiate secretion of them is already a solved problem. The third is secreted by the pituitary gland. While it may appear that the pituitary gland is outside the span of control of the nervious system, this is actually not the case. It is part of what is called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. The hypothalmic part of the system is the brain/hormone system interface, and the neurons are called neurosecretory neurons. These are specialized neurons that produce hormone-like neurotransmitters that exert control over the hormone/immune/digestive system by the brain, including that part of the digestive process that governs whether we feel hungry or not.
It is my speculation, not yet supported by personal experience, that plateauing can be overcome by cooperating with the Holy Spirit to initiate secretion of the aforementioned hormones involved with lipolysis.
The key word, of course, is cooperation, which implies the implementation on a pre-agreed strategy or plan of action that governs the active and reactive behavior of both Symbiote and Host. While permission of the Host is required, it is not sufficent to ensure success, mainly because of the "logistics" of burning fat. What I mean is that it is not enough for the Holy Spirit to order some fat cells to convert their fat to burnable compounds if those compounds will not be eventually burned! If the host does not exercise, the stuff will just circulate within the body, then get re-converted back into fat. The goal is to get rid of fat, not rearrange where it is in the body.
Thus, I conjecture that the following protocol can be be used to handle weight plateauing. First, the host adopts a reasonable diet that already limits fat and carbohydrate intake, as well as enagages in a viable and doable exercise program. When a weight plateau is reached, the Host requests that the Symbiote initiate lipolysis while continuing the diet and exercising. The continued dieting and exercise is the necessary cooperative actions that the Symbiote requires as "real permission" to initiate lipolysis. I do not believe that there will be no plateaus. Rather, I conjecture that the plateaus will be short and brief, punctuating periods of weight loss. The plateauing serves as a gentle (but needed) reminder that follow-on weight loss is due to the Holy Spirit's work and not entirely of our own doing. The Symbiote will always be a source of gratitude, but never for pride.
Now, this is not to say that I have come up with an actual Symbiotic Weight Control Diet, for I am not a nutritionist! Rather, I am now experiencing the isopistic ability of the Spirit Symbiote within me to help me make progress with and stay on a diet that I already know works for me. I would not have recommended the old version of the Weight Watcher's diet that my mom followed decades ago, but I enthusiastically recommend the latest version as being much more realistic, easier to follow, factors in the fat-absorbing properties of fiber, is nutritionally sound, and throws in some practical incentives to exercise. Given that suppression of the temptations to overeat are isopistic to that of suppressing mortal tempations and compulsions, combined with the lipolysis capabilities of the Holy Spirit, I would say that there is no longer any excuse to not lose weight.
Well, *I* certainly have no excuse!
The following discussion will be about handling sex drive abnormalities arising from pornography. If you are sensitive to this subject, as I was previously, or are fortunate enough to not be plagued by the side effects of pornography, then you may want skip to the next page.
If you wish to continue reading because you have this problem, or want to be prepared for the event that someone with a similar problem comes to you, then you will need to scroll down quite a ways on this page.
Okay, I'll have to be delicate about this subject, so I ask the reader's indulgence if I sound rather vague about some details that are private. Nevertheless, I have solid proof (of a very personal nature) that the Holy Spirit Symbiote is more than capable of increasing, as well as decreasing, sexual urges and desires.
This may seem contradictory, based on the fact that my original problem was sexual compulsions that were initially fed by pornography. However, this contradiction is an apparent one because our society consistently downplays the truly dreadful effects of pornography in its misguided homage to the right of Free Speech and Free Press. However, every Christian counselor and Christian researcher on the effects of pornography agree that it is a marriage killer: while it stimulates desire on the one hand, the object of the desire is consistently depicted as "perfect" or "impossible" for real, actual women to emulate, leading to a drop in sexual desire for one's own mate on the part of the person indulging in pornography.
Pornography thrives by creating a downward spiral that those trapped in it find difficult to escape. It goes something like this: A healthy male, Christian or not, has natural and legitimate sexual desires that are ordained by God to be fulfilled within the insitution of marriage and with the loving cooperation of his wife. This would normally act as a preventative and a hedge against temptation, and even the Apostle Paul warns against couples indulging too much in religiously based abstinence lest the lack of legitimate fulfillment lead to temptations to fulfill them illegitimately (I Corinthians 7). He even regards a refusal to do so as "defrauding" the needy mate! Pornography interferes with this because it destroys the husband's desire for his wife, who cannot compete against air-brushed, surgically enhanced, "talented", and highly paid professional actresses. Lacking the intimacy and release that a healthy and approved sex life with his wife that a Christian husband should enjoy, but is deprived of by his being trapped in pornograpy, he feels forced to further indulge in the vice to satisfy urges he cannot satisfy. This solidifies the hold that pornography has upon him, driving him further away from the one person who has the legitimate right and natural desire to help him out of this trap.
Pornography works by perverting the "sexual appetite" away from preferring his wife in the marriage bed in the same way that the appetites of young children can be perverted by candy and junk food to distain healthy and nutritious food on the dinner table. Pornography robs a Christian Husband of the ability to be satisfied with that which God had blessed and ordained to happen between himself and his wife.
If I said that I was unaffected by this aspect of pornography, then I would be lying through my teeth. Thus, I am happy to report that the Holy Spirit Symbiote is more than willing to patch up and overcome the damage that pornography inflicted on my mental life. Note that I said willing, not able: while there was no question that the cure boiled down to Him popping the right neuronal vesicles, the real question in my mind was if He would actually do it for that reason. I knew He was able based on isopistic principles. What I didn't know was whether He was willing to repair that ruined aspect of my married life that I had inflicted on myself.
Well, YES. He definitely is. I have the time and date to "prove" it. (I extend my apologies for not being more explicit, but I want to keep this website PG.)
I now want to discuss a long-known phenomenon, that of some instances of Christian Martyrs apparently not sensing the pain of their tortures prior to their deaths. Sceptical researchers actually verified that Believers can suppress pain better than non-believers. How does this happen?
It is known that neurotransmitters called endorphins are responsible for relieving pain and producing euphoria. Thus, it can be conjectured that the Holy Spirit stimulated brain structures to release endorphins to ease the pain of the martyrs when death was near. The above cited researchers used pictures of the Virgin Mary that Roman Catholic volunteers focussed upon while being subjected to electric shocks. Brain scans during the sessions confirmed that pain suppression centers in their brains were being activated that were not being activated in the non-believers, so there is no possibly of biased reporting.
I mention this because of an interesting incident that occurred to a co-worker, Ken Fuqua, who has been instrumental in several aspects of this research. While cooking, he accidentally spilled boiling water on the back of his hand. Although it was a quick splash, it proved to be a severe second degree burn that developed scarring along with some peripheral first degree burns. Rather than taking pain relievers, and having been told of my early conjectures about the relationship between the Holy Spirit and neurotransmitters, he called upon his Symbiote to relieve the pain. The pain was gone within an hour and did not return. It was his report that made me remember the experience of the Martyrs, and to the realization that they were able to endure the pain due to Spirit initiated endorphin release. Mr. Fuqua's experience indicates that this capability can be called upon at will.
In view of the current persecutions of Christians in the Third World, active suppression of benign Christian cultural expressions in the name of "freedom from religion", and calls from increasingly belligerent athiests for a systematic program to inculate atheistic belief into all elementary school students, I believe I have good cause to be uneasy about the future. In the course of researching this capability, I re-read the accounts of the Christian martyrs in the second chapter of Foxe's Book of Martyrs. While doing so, I both marvelled at their courage and doubted my readiness to imitate their worthy conduct. I was then delicately reminded by my Symbiote that I was writing an essay and had to get back to this section.
I then re-read this section, and realized that their courage sprang from an inner conviction of the truth and reality of the Presence of Jesus Christ within them. Did I, in some way, doubt the reality of what I am presently experiencing, so that it appears less real to me than their experience appeared to them? I am loath to put myself in any way equal to those worthies, but certainly I should have more reason than they to expect that, if I am to pay the ultimate price for my faith, my Symbiote would come through by enabling me to endure it bravely: after all, I know "how the sausage is made" to a degree they did not. What they had over me was that they lived much closer to the Saltation than I, and were unencumbered by a world view calculated to destroy belief in the supernatural and miraculous.
It is my hope that these researches will enable us Christians, not to endure persecution, but to stand up against it and to throw back the night until we are taken out of the way via death or the Rapture. But if we are overtaken by events that prevent the completion of this work, the very existence of this page assures us that, whatever end God appoints us, we will be able to endure any violence directed at us, proving by our personal reactions the existence of an eternal reality that is superior to that which is seen.
Controlling the Immune System
At the beginning of this essay, I discussed having an ear infection and asking the Holy Spirit how to take care of it. By "coincidence" I had come across a book on Intelligent Design a few days earlier that had discussed inefficiencies of the immune system, more specifically the B Lymphocyte/antibody subsystem. While working through the comment about "variance managing 3-D solids", that inefficiency came to mind, and I thought to myself "You know, the antibody immune system could do with some Intelligent guidance to be really effective.... HEY! Holy Spirit, could you make my immune system produce antibodies specific to my ear infection?"
Within three hours, the pain in my right ear had subsided, and by the next day, the only pain in it was due to TMJ of the joint under it. Even as I write, the pain from the joint has gone down considerably since then. [Note 01/26/09: The persistent jaw pain from TMJ is almost gone. Some pain is still there when the muscles are exercised. My impression is that, after having taken care of the root cause of the TMJ, the Spirit is leaving the job of finishing the cure to my natural body repair mechanisms. As I continue living the Christian life symbiotically, I find that this interplay between the work of the Symbiote and the work of the Host is repeated and reflected at all levels.]
To say that I was astounded is an understatement. This happened shortly before the start of the cold season, and there were at least four separate times when I felt that I was coming down with the flu or a cold, called upon the Holy Spirit to tweak the immune system to suppress it, and "shook it off". I say "shook it off" in quotes, because I know I should have failed at least two of those four times based on experience gained over the last several years. The feeling of being in control of a subsystem normally viewed as autonomous is frustratingly indescribable.
A quick description of how the B Lymphocyte/antibody immune subsystem works is in order: every antibody is a combined protein complex shaped like a "Y". The base stem of the "Y" is constant, while the two "tines" of the fork of the "Y" are variable. The variableness of the tines is completely random, and there are up to a billion possible amino acid combinations of the variable portions of the antibody. Each antibody, by virtue of the uniqueness of the variable portions of the tines, is coded to attach itself to the specific and unique protein "coat" that is "worn" as the surface of an invading bacterium or virus (pathogen). Quite literally, the vast proportion of antibodies in your body are designed to detect and attach to pathogens that do not exist and which you may never encounter. In other words, it is entirely by chance that a B-cell with the right antibody attaches to the coat of an invading pathogen. Once the attachment is made, however, the immune system is very good at replicating the B-cell that produces the antibody, effectively creating a huge army of B-cells tuned to that pathogen ("acquired immunity").
Unfortunately, it appears that there are protein coats worn by existing pathogens for which there are few, or no, amino acid combinations that the antibody can create to detect those pathogens, requiring the use of antibiotics to kill the bacteria. The AIDS virus is an example of a virus whose coat is not only un-detectable by antibodies, but which attacks essential T-cells that make up the immune system. The technology of monoclonal antibodies involves the systematic development and reproduction of specific antibodies, but because there are no B-cells that can mass-produce those "man-made" antibodies, the infected person is dependent on regular injections of the specific monoclonal antibodies tuned to his disease. Finally, there are auto-immune disorders, such as Multiple Sclerosis, where the immune system has produced an antibody that matches the protein coat of the mylin sheath of nerve cells, leading the immune system to attack a vital body part.
The Symbiotic Refinery
Once we see how the B Lymphocyte/antibody immune subsystem works, it immediately becomes obvious that adding some "intelligence" would make the whole system work more efficiently: that's the premise behind monoclonal antibodies ("designer antibodies"). My experience indicates that the Holy Spirit, working in cooperation with the Host, can provide that intelligence, implying that affecting the Immune system is isopistic with respect to affecting neurotransmitter secretion.
The actual mechanism, once we think about it, is quite obvious: if the Holy Spirit can pop, or inhibit the popping of, vesicles in neurons, what keeps it from affecting the vesicles of other cells? Neurons are not the only cells in the body, but they happen to be the most imporant cells in the body: if the Holy Spirit is given permission to affect neurons, which He proceeds to do, what prevents us from giving Him permission to affect B-cell production within bone marrow? If the Holy Spirit can affect cellular vesicles, then He can certainly affect the (much smaller!) portions of the B-cell's DNA that determine the variable proteins that the affected B-cell will produce. Those customized B-cells subsequently interact with the pathogen in the manner that nature normally dictates. Further, this restriction of His manipulation of the immune system to the DNA of developing B-cells accounts for the three to four hour period between my request of the Holy Spirit and the beginning of the abatement of the discomfort caused by the pathogen, since one would expect that it would take that much time time for the retargeted bone marrow to produce sufficient quantities of the spiritually modified B-cells and put them into the blood stream for transport to the site of infection for relief to appear. Antibiotics have a similar delay between initial administration and the appearance of the first signs of relief.
We shall see this pattern of the Spirit affecting the human by intervening at the early stages of cell birth appearing again in the essay concerning increasing one's faith.
In this part, as the section title suggests, I make several conjectures for which I have no proof other than good engineering sense guiding a creative application of the known capability of the Holy Spirit to affect sub-cellular structures. Think of this section as a transcript of a brainstorming session to come up with potentially fruitful research directions, not reports of discovered and verified capabilities.
I have discussed how the Holy Spirit can interact with the bone marrow to produce "designer" B-cells that produce "designer" (monoclonal) antibodies that would act against a pathogen that "naturally produced" B-cell antibodies cannot affect. It is possible that AIDS is a virus with a protein coat that is not handled by normal B-cell randomization processes, requiring the development of specific B-cells to handle the pathogen. I conjecture that the Holy Spirit can design and deploy a "designer" B-cell that can target and destroy AIDS
Autoimmune diseases are on the rise, including some of very strange origin and very difficult to cure. All of these involve the immune system developing antibodies against the other cells of the host body. Many treatment regimes include chemotherapy. Originally developed to combat cancer, chemotherapy has the bad side-effect of destroying the immune system. When it comes to autoimmune diseases, this "side-effect" is the desired outcome: It is hoped that by destroying the immune system, the B-cells that are producing the antibody that is the causative agent of the Autoimmune disease are also killed. This can be likened to "rebooting" the immune system with the hope that the new incarnation doesn't haphazardly re-create the culprit B-cells. It IS a rather drastic form of treatment: if an autoimmune disease is likened to the immune system "cowboys" having a brawl in the "body saloon", chemotherapy would be likened to machine-gunning the entire clientele, hoping that later customers will be more civil. My conjecture is that the Holy Spirit should be able to cure autoimmune diseases caused by errant B-cells by selectively destroying them. To use our saloon analogy, this would be similar to the Holy Spirit yelling "KNOCK IT OFF!", then using a sniper rifle to pick off the ones refusing to obey.
It should not surprise us if there is a good side to an autoimmune disorder. Many cancer cells develop within protective sacs while becoming tumors that shield them from the immune system whose protein coats are not within the randomization space of B-cell produced antibodies. I conjecture that the Holy Spirit can initiate an autoimmune response by causing certain B-cells to be produced that targets the protein structure of the protective outer layers of cancer tumors. I also conjecture that, of all the cancers, lukemia would be the most easily curable. Finally, there is the option of the Holy Spirit destroying the cancer cells directly.
The previous paragraph page implied that the Holy Spirit has the capability of destroying cells within the body. This capability is isopistic to neurotransmitter secretion because both require the "controlled rupturing" of cellular organelles to cause the release of their contents. When it comes to neurotransmitters, the organelles are vesicles that are constructed to store the neurotransmitters that the cell produces. When it comes to destroying cells, the organelles affected are called lysosomes, which are responsible for destroying, via digestion, old and broken cellular proteins and structures. These vesicles are unique in that they have a different membrane structure that is capable of withstanding the powerful digestive enzymes attacking it from within. Cell death can occur if enough lysosomes within it rupture, causing the cell to digest itself in the same way that a stomach ulcer is the stomach digesting itself. This is not conjecture, but a logical capability if the ability to destroy vesicles is extended to lysosomes.
There is this interesting passage in Zechariah 14:12 that may be pertinent to this aspect of the Holy Spirit's capability in the area of lysosome rupture:
And this shall be the plague wherewith the LORD will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; Their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth.
This is exactly the effect that mass lysosome ruptures in these body parts would exhibit. The shape and integrity of these body organs is dependent on intact cell membranes and internal cell structures, which the powerful digestive enzymes within lysosomes can dissolve. The hebrew phrase "consume away" has "to rot" or "to rot away" as possible sub-definitions. Rotting is the natural process of cell membranes and cell structures losing integrity and falling apart. Thus, it is possible for the Holy Spirit to selectively kill cancer cells by rupturing their lysosomes in the same way that He generates and suppresses thoughts by rupturing selected neuronal vescicles. Those who think that the Holy Spirit would never kill anything, and certainly not the wicked, should really study their bibles more.
Rather chillingly, there are indications that this capability may prove useful with regard to increasing one's faith. However, my belief is that more research and thinking about the implications is required, so discussion of this isopistic capability will be deferred to the essay regarding increasing one's faith. [July 3, 2010 Edit: The hypothesis I was conjecturing here was that "doubt neurons" could be destroyed using Spirit-initiated lysolysis. This conjecture proved a dry hole after repeated attempts by a co-researcher, Glenn Davies, to implement it. In reviewing the circumstances, I was lead to realize that "doubt neurons" obviously have their proper place in the neurological environment since they obviously existed in Adam and Eve. The problem is not that doubt cells exist, for without them, we would be quite gullible creatures too wiling to believe everything, including falsehoods! Rather, the problem is that they have been trained to doubt the wrong things, just as Adam and Eve were tricked into doubting God rather than (properly) doubting the serpent. The re-education of doubt cells thus falls under Stage 2 (Illumination) capabilities. Thus, I direct my readers to the essay on tests and trials, whose writing lead to this deeper understanding, and apolgize for this misapprehension, asking for indulgence due to the necessarily contingent nature of early research when it is corrected and expanded by later findings.]
I write this on March 25, 2009 when Spring, and the allergy season, are in full swing. Pine tree pollen is everywhere, at times thick enough to show up as drifts of yellow "snow". The stuff is so thick in the air, I am having problems with clumps getting into my eyes, where my hard contact lenses amplifies the pain.
Yet, quite surprisingly, I do not have any allergies serious enough to warrant taking any medication, while there are people around me suffering from runny noses. I am very slightly aware that an allergic state of affairs is in the air, and that awareness sits so lightly that it is very easy to ignore. Even more surprisingly, I DO sometimes get into sneezing fits, but almost always when I mentally note to myself that I am NOT suffering from allergies! What's happening?
I should really have anticipated this: allergies are caused by an overreacting immune system that mistakes generally innocuous substances as dangerous intruders. I had concentrated so much in the above discussion about the positive manipulation of the immune system that I had not considered how to test the conjecture of a negative manipulation of the immune system. Such a negative manipulation would be necessary to combat the auto-immune disorders mentioned earlier on this page, as well as multiple sclerosis. I had not done so, hoping that sufferers of those disorders reading this page would undertake a suppressive campaign themselves. It had not occurred to me that allergies were caused by a similar mechanism, distinguished only by magnitude. Allergy control would be accomplished by a selective "turning down" (negatively manipulating) immune system production of the antigens sensitive to the allergens. This seems to have been the case with me.
The anomalous behavior, where I get symptoms when I think about it or see others having it, is not proof that I am merely imagining suppression, for to imagine suppression is to think about not having the allergy. It is to think "I do not have an allergy." The behavior's timing is all wrong, for I do not have the allergy symptoms while I am not thinking about it at all, positively or negatively. Also, the way hypochondria works is to imagine that one has a disease when one actually does not have it. It is a different matter to have a disease or condition that has symptoms, and one imagines that one doesn't have it: that is not hypochondria!
I believe the anomalous behavior is deliberate on the part of the Holy Spirit symbiote, for I would have blissfully cruised through the allergy season totally oblivious to this remarkably important work of His within me. Indeed, it appears that He is quite insistent on this being such a work of grace (totally unmerited favor) that any attempt on my part to "cooperate" is being met with deliberate cessation of said work.
Even the low level of "awareness of having an allergy" is easily explainable: I recently overheated myself and took off the long-sleeve gym shirt I normally wear in the house. I cooled off, then began to get cold, at which point I started violently sneezing from my allergy. I got the "thought" to put the shirt back on, and within a minute of doing so the sneezing fit ceased. I conjecure that the antibody that is initiating the reaction by attaching itself to the allergen I am sensitive is also responsible for attaching to a specific bacterium. The Spirit seems to be doing an exquisite balancing act of managing the antibody levels so that they are not so high that they would cause an allergic reaction in the presence of the allergen, but not too low to leave the body defenseless against the bacterium against whom the antibody is supposed to activate the immune system. I would doubtless have "cooperated" the antibody into total non-production, leaving me with a perfectly clear nose with no sense of any allergy at all, but defenseless against a specific infection. My allergy is not gone, merely greatly suppressed to a point where it is no longer a distraction.
This is a result of considerable importance: the current treatment for Muscular Distrophy is the administration of a compound that essentially ties up the antibody that treats the sufferer's nerve sheath as an allergen, and the treatment's side effects indicate that the antibody doesn't have a dual role like mine seems to have. Symbiotic suppression of production of the antibody seems quite feasable. However, I counsel those who want to pursue this avenue further for personal reasons to keep in mind that ceasing production doesn't suppress the existing inventory. That is, an immediate cessation of symptoms should not be expected. Rather, I conjecture that the magnitude and frequency of attacks, and the intensity of symptoms, will exponentially decrease as the existing inventory is burned out in a pattern similar to the decay of radioactive material.
Prospects for Future Progress
It is my belief that we have not finished this discussion of the Tack #1 strategy of discovering body functions that can be seen as isopistic to the Holy Spirit regulating neurotransmitter secretion. Medical research will continue to discover more neurotransmitters and their effects on the brain. It will discover that existing (or new) diseases will require an intelligent and customized immune system response as a cure. We can be confident that the Holy Spirit Symbiote within us will handle any neurotransmitter properly and competently manage the Immune system to handle almost any pathogen because doing so is isopistic to His ability to control neurotransmitters. That is, curing them requires no more faith than the little faith we already have that believes that He successfully suppresses compulsions.
We will discuss tack #2, growing our faith, in the next essay of Stage 4. [July 3, 2010 Edit: As noted here, this growing of our faith is a Stage 2 (Illumination), not Stage 4 (Manipulation), process. Thus, I direct my readers to the essay on tests and trials, whose writing lead to this deeper understanding, and apolgize for this misapprehension, asking for indulgence due to the necessarily contingent nature of early research when it is corrected and expanded by later findings.]
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