INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Publication dates of essays (month/year) can be found under "Essays".
Peter Rama Ph.D (1953) is a philosopher, mystic, counsellor and consultant, and the author of dozens of published scientific and technical papers in the fields of technology, materials engineering and industrial innovation. He has a background in chemistry and physics.
Recently he published a chapter on “Chaos, complexity and decision making” in a book on complexity theory (edited in the Netherlands), and in 2010 he wrote a self-published book titled “Unconditioned Awareness – Truth is a pathless land” (see http://awareness.hopto.org).
Peter can be contacted at email@example.com.
A transcending view from the philosophy of non-dualism
A response to the Lanes
While reading the very interesting article "Mysterium Tremendum" by David Lane and Andrea Diem Lane it occurred to me that the 'linguistic confusion' they are referring to is firmly rooted in dualistic thinking, which often tries to separate concepts which cannot be separated at all, since principally they are united in a continuum.
Personally, I have been raised in an environment with Zen adepts, where non-dualism was the thinking mode, and where one was constantly challenged, when talking about observations and trying to describe reality, to transcend concepts rooted in knowledge.
Transcending dualism: the logic of the superlogical
To my experience, subject and object cannot be separated. The observer is the observed. For me personally there is no built-in dualism.
It is clear to me that logical consistency is not final and that there are transcendental statements that cannot be attained by mere intellectual cleverness. Let's introduce the 'logic of the superlogical', which is an intrinsic part of Zen tradition.
'The logic of the superlogical'
First we defy all concept-making. I teach you that I teach nothing. That is my philosophy. The situation is comparable to Socrates' notion “I know that I know nothing”. This is the logic of the superlogical! It transcends the logical bifurcation of subject and object, mind and matter, being and non-being, which always falls into the realm of relational knowledge. See the world in its absolute wholeness. Logical consistency is not final and there is a certain transcendental statement that cannot be attained by mere intellectual cleverness. The attitude is achieved only when one looks upon all things as beyond every form of expression and demonstration, and as transcending knowledge and argument. Therefore, absolute purity must be intuited by transcending both purity and non-purity. The absolute viewpoint can be attained only by transcending the dichotomy of being and non-being. Zen masters are concerned, not with reliance upon a void as such, but with the attainment of a state in which all distinctions are superseded. Zen is, therefore, not without knowledge; rather, it is the knowledge that is not knowledge. This is why Zen method can be regarded as the logic of the superlogical. This is paradoxical, it is true, but to obtain the absolute standpoint Zen discards all of the ordinary logical laws. (from: The Logic of the Illogical: Zen and Hegel, By Ha Tai Kim, Philosophy East and West V. 5, No. 1 (January, 1955), pp. 19-29)
Suzuki points out succinctly in the following statement: "Zen naturally finds its readiest expression in poetry rather than in philosophy, because it has more affinity with feeling than with intellect; its poetic predilection is inevitable." (D.T. Suzuki: Introduction to Zen Buddhism (New York: Philosophical Library, 1949), p. 117).
Using the philosophy of the superlogical can be really fun.
I was taught the following way of reasoning: "Do not call this a stone; if you do, it is an affirmation; if you do not, it is a negation. What do you observe, say a word, quick, quick." No affirmation, no negation.
This way of observing and being aware of things which you observe aims at acquiring the pure experience in which subject and object are not separated. An awareness experience which transcends associative, rational thinking and separating observations by attaching concepts to them. The logical dissection of reality will never bring about a unitive, transcending point of view, the only method by which reality can be presented as it is (Reality). The unitive point of view can only be achieved by intuitive method and transcends not only subject and object but also all logical categories, including affirmation and negation.
If one extends this to spirituality: the thinking self (or the acting self) cannot think about itself, just as the eye cannot see itself. We need something other than logic to apprehend the self: it is intuition in the present moment that enables the self to see itself.
Self is really just a concept, so it's empty, as is non-self. We're always invited to perceive this moment just as it is, free of conceptual interpretation. We say sky is blue, trees are green, sugar is sweet, etc., everything is just the way it is. But this is just a convention. We also say the sky never said it was blue, the dog never said it was a dog. So what color is the sky if you don't allow thought, word or speech to provide the answer? That means to just perceive, to just be open to the experience without interpreting it. So the question is important, not the answer.
Or: you can say: the question is the answer.
The mind that sincerely holds a question, such as “who am I?”, is not knowing, is an open mind.
In the human body the contradiction of self and the world is fully met: the acting subject unites with the seen object. Our act is always both subjective and objective. It is subjective because our body is intuited in time, and it is objective because our body can be seen as a thing in space. In our act, things become our body, and at the same time our body becomes things. The fact that we become things indicates that we are losing our selves. The compatibility of the contradictory natures in our physical body is the essence of life. Thus life is the self-identity of contradiction (ref.: "Nishida and Royce," Philosophy East and West, II, No. 4 (January, 1952), 18-29).
To free ourselves from the slavery of dualistic logic means transcending subjective and objective, and transcending conflict. Because all separation comes down to an illusion.
Scientific endeavour: a closed domain?
The Lanes state: “Science cannot diminish the spiritual quest if that quest is concerned with truth and not merely dogmatic assertions taken at face value. However, spiritual paths must be open to varying interpretations and must (and this is the kicker that most paths tend to resist) be open to falsification. In other words, for any endeavor to be justifiably regarded as "scientific" it must be willing to be corrected, to be changed, to be wrong”.
And this is exactly what you should not want for a similar reason as was given before in their publication for the term 'matter'. The current definition of science prevents explanations for a transcending realm, doesn't it?
As soon as words such as objective, facts, falsification, repeatable etc. come into it, the personal dimension disappears. Could there be a 'spiritual science? Is quantum physics science?
Have a look at this figure; this is how “I see it”:
I give the science realm a dotted, open line – indicating that there is a continuum with the personal or spiritual realm (or 'extended science' realm as some call it). In fact there is no separation but continuity between the two realms. The relation is a 'holarchic' one. As a consequence, one cannot explain observations and events in the whole with concepts coming from a realm which is only part of the whole. Which does not mean that we cannot extend the inner circle 'knowledge': it is not a drawn but a dotted line. But to move the dotted line to the outside is getting the more difficult the more you move outwards.
This view also implies the existence of 'science domains' which are not (fully) responding to the claim of falsification, to the burden of repeatability. Of course we know the case of quantum physics. And recently we have seen that other 'border regions' of science exist, for instance the science of complex systems (or more popularly “chaotic systems”).
Falsification: “Any spiritual endeavor desiring to be taken seriously as a science must do the same”.
The holarchic relation between the science realm and the personal/spiritual ream implies what is stated in the famous citation “as above so below!”
Conceptual thinking and logical reasoning are not the answer if you try to explain events, experiences and observations in the personal/spiritual realm. We would not want to be trapped in words, in conceptual reasoning, therefore only some citations:
“That [which is beyond every name and form] is comprehended only
by the one with no comprehension of it:
anyone comprehending knows it not.
Unknown to the knowing, it is the unknowing known”
"The Unattainable is attained
through its Unattainment”
(Nicholas of Cusa)
Lane: “How else can one determine that which is truly trans-rational?”
My answer is simple: well, you cannot! It is a continuum. Any separation between rational and trans-rational is an illusion.
What are the limits of current science practice (open to falsification, i.e. based on testable explanations and predictions, and repeatable experiments … etcetera)?
This is worth a separate publication, or even a book.
Let us just mention - as part of a critique of science - the popular historian and commentator on science and technology, James Burke, in his various television series, like The Day the Universe Changed.
Since there is no "reality" independent of interpretation, "The Universe is, at any time, what you say it is," as Burke says. Hence, The Day the Universe Changed ends with the idea that Buddhism is just as good an interpretation of the world as modern science, since there are plenty of people who say the universe is that way.
Why Buddhism has not then built, or even understood, electronic equipment or any other technology is a good question, of the same order as the question why quantum mechanics does not deliver one from the cycle of birth and death. The answer to this question can be derived from the holarchic relationships as presented in the figure above.
The spiritual arena?
Lane: “Do we acknowledge our immaturity in the spiritual arena?”
This is not the question to ask. There is no arena. There is no real separation between the scientific and the spiritual domains. There is no question to ask about maturity or not. It is only a matter of going through 'the gateless gate'.
“Go through the gateless gate”
This famous Zen expression deals with the fundamental non-dualistic nature of Reality:
Heaven and hell are always there, wherever you are. Do not try to reach heaven; you are there already if you want. Your life can be heaven or hell. You choose. Why are we living here? To realize that we are already in heaven? Duality perception can be and will be an obstacle. Fundamentally, our experience is not different from the Zen experience. Where we differ is that we place a filter, a particular kind of conceptual overlay, onto that experience and then make an emotional investment in that overlay, taking it to be "real" in and of itself. Reality is perfect as it is. There is no need to talk about it.
(from: Unconditioned Awareness: “Truth is a pathless Land”, by Peter Rama, ed. 2010, ISBN 978-90-816142-1-4)
You are already there in what you call the spiritual arena. Do not mix up epistemology with awareness. The limitations of (dualistic) logic again!
Lane: “I don't think a union between science and religion is possible for a logical reason, but by this same logic I conclude that science cannot contradict religion. Here's why: A is A. Reality is real. To attempt to use nature to prove the supernatural is a violation of A is A. It is an attempt to make reality unreal. A cannot also be non-A. Nature cannot also be non-Nature. Naturalism cannot also be supernaturalism”.
As we have seen in the first section of this contribution, another logic can be used. The logical proposition of superlogical Zen is: "A is not-A; therefore, A is A." Zen believes that the true meaning of the proposition "A is A" will be realized only when "A is not-A." The Zen way of thinking is to assert that to be itself is not to be itself, and also that I am really I only by negating myself. This transcends all duality.
“To be or not to be. That is the question” changes into: “To be and not to be. That is all”
Linguistic confusion – is there a universal 'language'?
What 'language' to use when describing what we observe?
Most of us have been taught to think in an analytic, linear manner, using words to explain ourselves. However, not too long ago it was customary to use 'symbolic' language. Symbols connect us to the interior world of the soul, and symbolic consciousness enables us to realize the meaning that underlies our physical existence. In symbolic consciousness everything is part of a pattern of interrelationship connecting the visible and invisible worlds; and, as anyone knows who has worked with dreams and their symbols, this is a very fluid, amorphous language, in which images change and evolve, giving us possibilities of meaning rather than definable facts.
We live in both the inner as the outer world (the inscape and the landscape). There is no division, no separation between them. For those of us who are awake to the symbolic world, our work is simple: to listen and watch with a consciousness attuned to the depths. There are signs all around us, and in our dreams there are messages of meaning. We do not yet need to “interpret” what they say, because what is more important is that we listen to this symbolic language, be receptive to its images. The symbols themselves will reconnect us, because this is a part of their function. And through this reconnection we will come to know what is happening in the core of existence, in the sacred depths of our being.
All energy, all real change, comes from within, from the spiritual life of which outer life is a manifestation.
Lane: “Thus, there can be no conflict between science and religion, unless one attempts to bring God into our time and space, which is a violation of the principle of A is A.”
Again. There is no separation. We are God. This is the implication of superlogic.
“When the drop falls into the ocean, the ocean merges into the drop”
(Sri Ramana Maharshi)