Return to Review

If you're stuck in a browser frame - click here to view this same page in Quantonics!

A Review
Chapter 1
Daniel C. Dennett's

Breaking the Spell
by Doug Renselle

Doug's Pre-review Commentary

Start of Review


2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Notes Appendices

Move to any Chapter of Doug's Critical Review of Daniel C. Dennett's Breaking the Spell,
or to beginning of its review via this set of links
says, "You are here!")


Chapter 1...............Breaking Which Spell?


By that he intends "Which religious spell." There are many religions. By 'religion' Dennett intends "group devotion to a social master."

But that applies to Doug's Pre Review list above does it n¤t?

So Dennett chooses to 'define' religion.

His first tentative is "I propose to define religions as social systems whose participants avow belief in a supernatural agent or agents whose approval is to be sought." Page 9. He goes on to exemplify his semantic of 'agent.' Religious people pray to agents and the real phonies claim to know what those agents want and expect from humans. We agree.

To Dennett, his use of 'supernatural' 'di' stinguishes religion from our list above, though some Brits appear to view their kings and queens as quasi supernatural.

Be careful though since to a 'scientific atheist' supernatural creates a stealthy, perhaps intentionally covert, dialectical dichotomy twixt what start-of-Millennium-III 'science' views as real and reasonable and what it believes is unreal and unreasonable. However — not so stealthy 'tis — whilst thou art a student of quantum philosophy: Quantonics flavored.

Dennett tells us on page 9 that "God (Jehovah) is a man, not a woman." Actually, and more correctly, ancient religious history shows God as genderless and many, especially Jesus' Essene Tribe of Judah, felt that God was a true hermaphrodite. Of course that is relevant why we are doing this review anyway: What is Holy Blood? And, what is Holy Grail?

Dennett says such questions are wasted energy. Why? His view is, as an atheist, and allowing us to put words in his mouth, "There is 'no' holy blood and there certainly is 'no' holy grail." Our actions show our relevant position, which Dennett may wish to call 'foolish.' It won't be our first, n¤r our last experience of such.

Bottom of page 9 and top of page 10 Dennett writes, "According to a long-standing tradition, this tension between God as agent and God as eternal and immutable Being is one of those things that are simply beyond human comprehension, and it would be foolish and arrogant to try to understand it. That is as it may be, and this topic will be carefully treated later in the book, but we cannot proceed with my definition of religion (or any other definition, really) until we (tentatively, pending further illumination) get a little clearer about the spectrum of views that are discernible through this pious fog of modest incomprehension. We need to seek further interpretation before we can decide how to classify the doctrines these people espouse." Our bold.

Can you fathom 'the church's' classical 'religious' conspective here? That which does not 'exist' (because 'the church' doesn't already know about it and does not want you to know about it) is unfathomable. Worse, he writes, "it would be foolish and arrogant to try to understand it." That's what 'catholics' teach their flock! But isn't that, as Dennett has just shown us, what 'science' teaches its flock too?

In our view understanding is expending effort to understand what one does not understand whether it classically 'exists' or not. Exists or not_exists is a classical dichotomy: scientific two-valuedness. Dennett appears to, at this juncture, not grasp how that 'scientific' 'fact' is just and simply bogus. Reality is many-valued! Reality is absolutely real-timings mutating and evolving (indefinable, quantum~uncertain). Reality is not 'classically objective,' and 'objects' in reality are not 'independent' from one another! William James understood this (and Henri Louis Bergson made it philosophically explicit for us and for James), as he makes clear in his Varieties of Religious Experience which Dennett proceeds to quote and disagree, and in that specific case, we agree with James. See below.

Our biggest question about that quote though, is how does Dennett propose that we illuminate said "pious fog of modest incomprehension?" Does Dennett have a method of reason which is above religion? What is that method? We'll see...

Dennett uses 'tentative.' We like that! Why?

Science, when it is honest about 'science' as a method, declares all scientific results provisional. Tentative! But what does 'scientific provisionality' mean? It means that formal experimental results which 'fit' hypotheses are 'true' until 'di' sproved by contradicting results. In other words, ethical science admits to its Popperian ultimate hammer of judgment as formal logical falsifiability. That is what ethical 'science' means when it says of itself, "All science is provisional." Another way of saying this is Bergson's invocation, paraphrased, "N¤ formal science is final!"

For example "Global Warming," n¤t as envirnomental 'scientists' and 'senilenator' John McCain would have it, "Is final scientific fact," rather is scientifically provisional. However, renaming it "Climate Change" cannot be incorrect since that is what Nature does: i.e., Nature always changes all climates everywhere. Social liberalism, n¤t unlike 'science' and 'religion' will take any tack to impose fear on tiny minds and "helpless innocents." Same purpose too: to extract money for social liberal 'causes.' Fixing 'climate change,' is an inept declaration of intent to "Fix Nature." How thoughtful and caring of envirnomental 'scientists.' Ask them whether their views are 'scientifically' provisional! But McCain says, global warming is "Scientific fact?"

As we have been showing you all along...reality is quantum uncertain. It is intelligent to understand that and practice that.

Paul Pietsch in his Shufflebrain says it like this, "Indeterminacy is the principal feature of intelligence."

Caveat: N¤ scientist, n¤ religionist should ever declare as 'final fact' determinacy and absolute certainty about any meme! There! We offer some quantum real illumination. Ihn Quantum Lightings! Doug - 10Feb2006.

See Henri Louis Bergson on Radical Mechanism and Radical Finalism.

Mayhaps Dennett might find ultimate 'reasonable' happiness were ethical religions to say, "All religion is provisional?" Can't you just hear the Pope saying "Catholicism is provisional." His refusal to do so, as we may agree with Dennett, belies his 'catholic' ethics. Doug - 10Feb2006.

Here is that text where Dennett sort of disagrees with James, bottom of page 10, top of page 11, "For others, prayer really is talking to God, who (not which) really does listen, and forgive. Their creed is a religion, according to my definition, provided that they are part of a larger social system or community, not a congregation of one. In this regard, my definition is Profoundly at odds with that of William James, who defined religion as 'the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they may consider the divine' (1902, p. 31). He would have no difficulty identifying a lone believer as a person with a religion; he himself was apparently such a one. This concentration on individual, private religious experience was a tactical choice for James; he thought that the creeds, rituals, trappings, and political hierarchies of 'organized' religion were a distraction from the root phenomenon, and his tactical path bore wonderful fruit, but he could hardly deny that those social and cultural factors hugely affect the content and structure of the individual's experience. Today, there are reasons for trading in James's psychological microscope for a wide-angle biological and social telescope, looking at the factors, over large expanses of both space and time, that shape the experiences and actions of individual religious people.

"But just as James could hardly deny the social and cultural factors, I could hardly deny the existence of individuals who very sincerely and devoutly take themselves to be the lone communicants of what we might call private religions."

Just as James tried to avoid social, et al., distractions from his root phenomenon of describing what he felt religion is, we feel that religion, as Dennett's Breaking the Spell target, is problematic as the chosen vector of all those terrible human behaviours we see on Earth today in a real sense that focusing on religion as problematic is a distraction from an even route-ier phenomenon. In our confident view, all those other social patterns of value we listed above are just as culpable as religion. In some cases, like GW Bush's administration, more so. Why? For example, and normatively, war is a social pattern of value. And both Republicans and Democrats voted for it, irrespective of religion, latter demanded by our USA Constitution.

Personally Doug despises our USA societal 'War on Iraq, and War on Terror.' Why? It kills and maims our most precious resource: our young people. It wastes valuable resources. Doug advocates attempted long term destruction of ALL terrorists, but social war is an inappropriate and antique anachronistic 'tool.' And, as it turns out, Iraq is innocent! We must use individual patterns of value to terrorize 'the terrorists.' That requirement calls for radical departures in classic 'social' military operations, tactics, and strategies. Terrorists are n¤t nations: terrorists are individuals. Doug wishes he could see an alternative, but just now, none is apparent to him. To put it simply though, we believe, if we adhere Pirsig's MoQ and quantum Nature, we have to grasp how individual intellect is quintessence of our problem and our solution. Comparatively, society and societies are active agents of objectively perpetuating our problem while perjuring individuals as 'subjects.' We have over 2500 years of evidence! Roman inane catholicism and "Strike their necks!" Islam are two of our greatest exemplars.

Jesus' real n¤n-catholic, n¤n-Irenaeun, n¤n-Constantinian quantum~Gnosticism agrees with Pirsig and with Quantonics' own hermeneutics of quantum~Nature. Listen to Elaine Pagels, in her The Origin of Satan, p. 176.:

In some apostle's queries to Jesus about what they should do in dealing with some problems, Pagels shows us that in Roman approved gospels Matthew and Luke "...Jesus offers specific [socially approved] answers to such questions. But according to the Gospel of' Thomas, he says only, "Do not tell lies, and do not do what you hate. An ironic answer, for it turns one [away from social affinity and] back upon one's own [individual responsibility and] resources. Who but oneself can know when one is lying, or what one hates [it is notable here that society really cann¤t 'know' even though it believes and claims that it can]? The Gospel of Philip, too, while apparently expressing a preference for asceticism...refrains from offering specific instructions... What matters, apparently, is not so much what one does but the quality of one's intention. Hence the Gospel of Philip remains nonprescriptive [thus avoiding social hegemony], but with two important provisos: first, the gnostic Christian must temper with love the freedom gnosis conveys; second, the believer must remain continually aware of his or her potential for doing evil,..." Roman catholicism hates this and that is why they tried for centuries to kill every gnostic they could and they tried to destroy all gnostic texts. To any 'good' Roman catholic, gnosticism is Irenaeun 'heresy.' [To our perspective Irenaeus represents the beast: Satan incarnate. Romaninanity was borne of Irenaeun thought. Read early, 200-300 a.d. history. Doug.]

What are social catholics saying? "Social catholicism hates individual knowledge (gnosis) and individual choice (heresy)." Catholic social, "...rules is tules for fules."

What that shows Doug is that Dennett is on a wobbly pro-society course. Why? His course is classico-socially status quo. More of social same. To put this in Pirsig's MoQ quantum lightings, quantum~G¤d is ineffable and only minutely, partially describable DQ, quantum actuality is SQ, and social religion is ESQ. Only individuals, as Gn¤stic~Jesus showed us, can put DQ (religious dynamic Value) back ihnt¤ quantum~c¤herænt ihndihvihdual ræligi¤n. Societal quantum~c¤herænt affectings benefit from that, n¤t other way around. Individuals quantum~evolutionarily invent society, society does n¤t classico-architecturally invent individuals! And society will still try to turn quantum~DQ~Value into state-ic laws, rules, principles, know ledges, etc. All ESQ! Society turns dynamic religious harmony into static religious, "...status quo is the 'rools is tools for fools' way to go," "Let's fight over dialectical ideals," gosh spells. Roman inane catholicism does exactly that! How is a long story.

A Doug's Quantonics bottom line: Classical-society is immoral. Quantum-individuals are moral. And Gn¤stic Jesus tells us so. See our 2003-2004 Feuilleton Chautauqua. Doug.

Our point here, though, is that quantum gnostic Jesus agrees with James, Pirsig and Quantonics' quantum~philosophy while finding egregious fault in Dennett's desire to put ESQ-society above DQ~individual. In this light, classical society is at root of our problems.

 (Have you noticed any classical social bravery lately? Is society brave? Can society be brave? Actually, don't you smell fear in classical society today? It's palpable! Society is afraid! Social representatives are afraid! Bush is afraid. Cheney is afraid! Rummy is afraid! Cowards all, standing behind our brave individual kids shielding these wilting ignoble Bushters from terrorist flack. Would that those Bushters each had lost three limbs and commenced understanding and grasping their own social ESQ-borne cowardice... The stench of classical social fear is overwhelming! Classical society is dying, and its fear smells...and Muslim terrorists understand that: they can smell it. It feeds terrorism and nurtures it. And very, very simply, individualism shall win! Social inepts, social idiots do not grasp this most basic of DQ entendres.)

We agree! Individuals, as Jesus taught by example (Modern exhibits? Josephine Baker, Rosa Parks,..., quantum~Christians!), are fearless, clear and present essence of novel solutions and society is a wall, society is in our way. Tear down that social wall! Wave all those bricks from society's walls. Ihn Quantum Lightings, leave us individuals alone... One size does n¤t 'fit' all. Tragically common social sense is tautologous troglodycity. Quantum~society emerges, it is n¤t state-ically designed. Read Mae-wan Ho's the Rainbow and the Worm.

If a Muslim or Christian terrorist attacks your family, do n¤t wait for society to decide, tragically and commonly what? to do, kill it then and there. 2005 exemplar: Katrina and New Orleans. Bush was on vacation, socially out of touch! 2001 exemplars: twin towers, pentagon, almost white house,..., Bush's classical, inept, "state-ic rools is tools for fools," immoral, social, 'administration' was out of touch. And classical socialists re elected this pile of Texas 'evangelical?' snake scat. GW Gortner... Duh?

If Cathars had individually defended themselves against the terrorist catholics, said catholics would 'not' have maintained their hegemony for so long. If Jews had individually defended themselves against social fascist scum Nazis, Hitler's demise would have happened sooner. Doug's opinions.

Again, classical society is inept. We see it every day in every way. Terrorism succeeds. We see it every day in every way. Individuals will always win over society: they invented it, they can and shall authorize only versions they want, assuming they both know (gnosis) and understand thus choose (heresy) what they want. Ask any classroom teacher. Ask any manager. Ask USSR's totalitarian used-to-be. Ask gnostic Jesus! (catholic Jesus is a socially contrived phony; see our Classical vis-à-vis Quantum Recommended Reading)

Saving grace is that terrorists are an extreme minority among all individuals. Doug is assuming here that nearly all of us want co-belief-cooperative and respectful dynamic good and better (and Doug assumes latter needs quantum reality's change agency). So all we individuals need do is make it clear to all individuals around us, everywhere, that terrorism is worse and respect for others' rights is better. Freedom loving individual Muslims need to stand up against their hate-filled individual brethren who commit terrorism and say "regardless what classical society says, we shall kill you if you commit terrorism against humanity." Muslims, in our view, are striking "helpless innocents'" necks. Individual human life is sacred, unless it terrorizes and kills "helpless innocents." (Doubtful that is what Dennett has in mind.) Classical society cann¤t do that! Societies always leave collateral damage in ways which are pathological and Hatfields and McCoys extensive beyond imagination. Classical society is n¤t a fit tool for use against terrorism. Only individual hearts and minds can fix this one, folks.

Recall those brave individual souls which fought, individually, those terrorists on that plane which went down over Pennsylvania...its intended destination...our USA White House. A clear exemplar of individual success back dropped by Bushter's social ineptitude.

Apparently, Dennett says all we have to do is "Break the [religious social pattern] Spell."

In our view we need to break something baser: hatred.

Dennett makes some incredibly powerful points with which we agree.

He shows us that religion doesn't believe, rather it invokes. See p. 12.

Notice how similar that is to Doug's society cann¤t think. Only individuals can think. But when they're needed, they're often on vacation, more typically: running on classico-social automatic.

Also notice how running on automatic classical social invocation is a social 'pattern of value,' which socialists call "relying on first principles, relying on 'law of the land.'" Rools is tools for fools.

Allow us to paraphrase Dennett:

Social religion cannot believe, only individuals can believe.

We agree! And further, only individuals can believe individually, while quantum real coherence superposes their beliefs. To a classical, social mind all that is "absurd oxymora." Our response: "Tear down that wall."

Dennett describes an experience at a concert where he is deliciously enjoying some music when another attender's cell phone goes off and totally destroys Dennett's experience. He likens this to his book's title, Breaking the Spell.

His self analysis is awesome as an exemplar:

"This inconsiderate jerk has ruined the concert for you, stolen a precious moment that can never be recovered. How evil it is to break somebody's spell! I don't want to be that person with the cell phone, and I am well aware that I will seem to many people to be courting just that fate by embarking on this book." Pp. 12-13.

Breaking the Spell? Terrorism? Social terrorism? Individual terrorism? Interesting, eh?

Don't Muslim's want to Break Christians' Jews' and Buddhists' Spells? Even more interesting, eh?


Dennett: Reasoning as a group is the way to go-go...

"Eventually, we must arrive at questions about ultimate [classical social] values, and no factual investigation could answer them. Instead, we can do no better than to sit down and reason together, a political process of mutual persuasion and education that we can try to conduct in good faith. But in order to do that we have to know what we are choosing between, and we need to have a clear account of the reasons that can be offered for and against the different visions of the participants. Those who refuse to participate (because they already know the answers in their hearts) are, from the point of view of the rest of us, part of the problem. Instead of being participants in our democratic effort to find [social, dialectical] agreement among our fellow human beings, they place themselves in the inventory of obstacles to be dealt with, one way or another." Our brackets and bold. See our Quantonics SOM's Bases of Judgment. Read yellow cells, bottom up.

OK Dennett! What do you mean by reason? What do we use as bases for our "reasoning together?"

And we can see in our own US government now that politics is religious! Ugh! So shall we require irreligious politics? You're more likely to get killed for that than if you 'reasonably' required, catholically, one religion fits all.

Ditto faith. Whose faith? Social faith? Does n¤t and cann¤t 'exist,' right, except perhaps as indifference and empty neutrality? Can society have faith? Would n¤t society be capable of thinking in order for it to "have faith?" Can any organization, union, institution "have faith?" For classical versions our answer has to be n¤! In our view only individuals can have faith and every individual's faith is omniffering every other individual's faith. N¤ two individual's faiths can be n¤r are 'identical.'

If that is what spawns hatred, then that is what needs fixing. If that is the 'spell' then that, we can agree, needs breaking. But notice how it is n¤t a social problem. Rather, as James shows us, it is an individual problem.

To break the spell, as Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote, "We have to change the hearts of [wo]men." He did n¤t say, "Change the hearts of societies." Our sic which intends both women and men and all their genetic sexual and other QLO variations as humankind.

Let's see now, hmm...., do societies have hearts? Souls? Feelings? Sensibilities? Creativity? Faith? Belief? Trust? Anger? Hate? Hmmm... Bush is full of hatred. But Bush isn't a society, is he!? Nor his administration.

Dennett, why do you want to use society to be Breaking the Spell? Society has demonstrated itself inept in nearly all matters regarding social engineering, and eidetically inept in all matters re: local individual contexts.

"Doug, so you say you sincerely agree with some of Dennett's points. Give us an example!"

Two thirds through Chapter 1, Dennett introduces his notion of an (pot vis-á-vis kettle) asymmetry twixt science and religion. He shows us how scientists, especially atheists practice self-examination routinely while religionists fob off any outside call for religion to examine itself as "traditionally disrespectful."

In spirit we agree wholeheartedly! In practice, though, we observe science acting a hell of a lot like what Dennett decries about religion.

Any system of thought, to Doug's way of thinking, which does not routinely practice self-other examination, genuine examination, is simply a fraud. Clearly using that kind of approach most religions at Millennium III's commencement are fraudulent. But so is science, especially 'science' which claims it can assess and know what is true. That claim is fraudulent, and in our view people like Dennett make that fraudulent claim, routinely, just as mathematicians fraudulently claim they can assess 'proof' and validity of propositions.

If only science and religion would adhere what Dennett believes, in this case, while declining to do as Dennett does, in this case.

Our best example is simple: Dialectic is a fraud, but nearly all scientists, without self examination, use it, religiously! Ditto radically objective mechanics!

We agree with what Dennett appears to be saying that it is time to take religion on full face frontally and quantum~intellectually (n¤t socially) challenge its real fraudulence, bogosity and arrogance. Potent folk like Frances Yates and Elaine Pagels provide us with individual intellectual tools to do that. In Quantonics, we shall! We are!

But science needs that full face frontal individual intellectual challenge too.

To good, we agree that ethical science claims its own provisionality, but that provisionality finds its bases in fraudulent dialectic.

We agree that religion is simply and blatantly unethical in its refusal to declare its own provisionality. Can you even imagine a Muslim saying Islam is "provisional?" Duh Pope? A Rabbi?

To Doug's way of thinking that puts science (despite its nearly unlimited analytical flaws) ethically above religion. Better! But n¤t best!

Notice though, that Essene, Gnostic, pre catholic Jesus did nurture individual provisionality as ethical individual religious behavior. Bravo! That Jesus would be rooting for Dennett's call for "self examination." We concur with as much joy as we can muster. That is the Jesus whom we love. That is a Jesus whom we can abide. But that Jesus is n¤t the contrived catholic inane 'jesuit,' Pauline 'christ,' satanic abomination. As a reference, for example, see our continuing review of Gaffney's Gnostic Secrets of the Naassenes. Doug. Red text added 19Jul2008.

Again, to Doug's way of thinking, what we just wrote puts Gnostic Jesus above dialectical science.

It isn't easy, is it? We're only human...

An interim bottom line: at this juncture, classic social religion is in no position to claim any moral high ground, period. Accomplishing Shelley's "change in the hearts of humankind," though, appears formidable. Let's hope Neo sapiens are more Gnostic, quantum~Gn¤stic. Rapidly evolving N-somias on nearly all chromosomes show us (are just one tell) we shouldn't have to wait long...Indigos are here already...

See page 17 of BtS.

Return to Chapter Index
To contact Quantonics write to or call:

Doug Renselle
Quantonics, Inc.
Suite 18 # 368 1950 East Greyhound Pass
Carmel, INdiana 46033-7730

©Quantonics, Inc., 2006-2011 Rev. 18-19Jul2008  PDR Created: 25Feb2006  PDR
(2,13Apr2006 rev - Princip[le] to principal. Respell Irenaeus.)
(14Jun2006 rev - Minor punctuation typo.)
(15Aug2006 rev - Repair minor punctuation typo.)
(2Nov2007 rev - Change contact information and hidden HTML header info.)
(18-19Jul2008 rev - Add 'Classical vis-à-vis Quantum Recommended Reading' link. Remove legacy red text. Add new red text. Repair some punctuation.)
(18Feb2009 rev - Reset legacy markups. Replace some fonts with gifs. Add 'What is Gnosis?' link.)

Return to Review