Posts Tagged transpersonal perspective

The Consciousness of Stones: Transpersonal Perspective, Part One — Affirming Idealism, Debunking Materialism, and Rationalism as Egoistic Self-Abuse


The Map Is Not the Territory, Reality Is What Is Directly Experienced: In Support of Panpsychism and the Primacy-of-Consciousness Postulate


Some Assumptions

The perspective contained in this final argument on Experience Is Divinity: Matter As Metaphor and in the upcoming work, Falls from Grace, arises out of a set of assumptions that should be made clear at the outset. In addition, certain words are used with particular meanings that might not be clear to the reader initially. These terms are devolution, regression, the Divine, Experience , and metaphor; and I will deal with each of them in due course. In this part, “The Transpersonal Perspective,” I will discuss the definitional, epistemological, ontological, and methodological issues that pertain to the body of this work.

This book’s working set of assumptions is congruent with those of transpersonal psychology and the perennial philosophy as put forth by Ken Wilber (1977), and it is compatible with the metaphysical view constructed by Carl Jung. The basic assumption within that set is that Reality is

(1) something that is directly experienced and

(2) is not the interpretation of that experience.


That is, that as soon as one begins to interpret, one is already abstracting from What Really Is, one is removing oneself from that Reality and is beginning the process of increasing abstraction, degression, and devolution (meaning the reverse of evolution, the opposite of growth forward) from What Is.


(1) Reality Is Something Directly Experienced

Let us take each premise in turn. That Reality is something that is directly experienced is related to the position of Idealism, in philosophy, which is contrasted with the position of Common-Sense Realism or Materialism. Not only does Idealism have a strong historical legacy in philosophy, it has vital contemporary and empirical support from both the mainstream and cutting edges of our sciences.


Debunking Materialism

To establish Idealism more strongly we might want, first of all, to undercut the prevailing notion of Common-Sense Realism or Materialism.

On the contemporary side, biologist, natural scientist, and philosopher Rupert Sheldrake (1991a) lists nine “essential features of the mechanistic world view”:

1. Nature is inanimate

2. Inert atoms of matter

3. Determinate, predictable

4. Knowable

5. Universe a machine

6. Earth dead

7. No internal purposes

8. No creativity

9. Eternal laws (p. 17)


You will notice how many of these aspects of the mechanistic worldview overlap with what I have been calling Materialism. At any rate, Sheldrake (1991a) then states, and goes on to demonstrate, that “every one of those essential claims has been refuted by advances of science. In effect, science itself has now superseded the mechanistic world view” (p. 17).


Why this is not common knowledge is answered by Sheldrake (1991a) in pointing out: “Although science is now superseding the mechanistic world view, the mechanistic theory of nature has shaped the modern world, underlies the ideology of technological progress, and is still the official orthodoxy of science” (p. 17). And furthermore about this reluctance to change: “It has had many consequences, not the least of which is the environmental crisis” (p. 17).

Nevertheless, it is our duty to shed popular or convenient positions when they are contradicted by the evidence … or else we should give up our endeavor’s claim to be a truthful one. In so doing, Sheldrake’s (1991a) conclusion is that

[T]he modern changes in science have effectively transcended each of these features. These changes in science have not happened as part of a coordinated research programme designed to overthrow the mechanistic paradigm. They have happened in specialized areas, seemingly unconnected with each other, and often without any consciousness that this was leading to a change in the overall world view of science. What I am going to suggest is that we can now see that this has effectively refuted the mechanistic world view within the very heart of science itself. (p. 18)


And similarly, as concerns Materialism specifically:

Inert atoms have given way to the idea of atoms as structures of activity. Matter is not fundamental in modern physics. Energy and fields are fundamental. Energy is what gives things actuality or activity; it’s like the flow of change. Fields are what organize the flow of energy. As David Bohm says, “Matter is frozen light,” It’s the energy of light, or light-like energy trapped within a small space going round and round upon itself within fields. So matter is energy bound within fields. And as Sir Karl Popper has pointed out, “through modern physics, materialism has transcended itself,” because matter is no longer the fundamental explanatory entity, no longer the fundamental feature of things. Fields and energy are the most fundamental things. (p. 19)


Affirming Idealism

With Materialism in disrepute, it is logical to consider the alternative of Idealism. Idealism is the position, in philosophy, that states that matter’s existence is dependent upon our perception of it, that we cannot know that matter exists outside of our perception of it, and hence that what is most fundamental about Reality is the observer, not the observed . . . that the observed always presupposes an observer, prior to that.


This position fits in exactly with the idea of “biologically constituted realities” as I have described it elsewhere. This idea is that “worlds,” including “physical worlds,” are dependent upon the particular biological paradigm that constitutes the observer. Another way of saying that is that the “structure” of the observer … most notably, what is commonly called the “species” … determines the “world” that will be apprehended.


By “structure” I naturally mean a “psychic” structure (which we mistakenly label a physical structure such as the anatomy of a species, of course, because of our culturally constituted materialist bias) as opposed to a physical structure—for after all we are herein arguing for the more fundamental reality of psyche1 over matter.


At any rate, it follows that an infinite number of worlds are possible, corresponding to an infinite number of perceivers. That is to say that perceivers consist in an infinite number of conceivable “biological paradigms”; we call them species.


Furthermore, subjective worlds vary as well within the individual biological structures that comprise each species. For the worlds of species vary with the individual perceivers or members which are by definition of similar, but not identical, construction to each other.


At any rate, in our materialistic age, such an “Idealist” position that posits the essence of World as psychical or subjective is looked down upon. Indeed, it has been roundly dismissed as “logically impeccable but incredible.”2


Rationalism As Egoistic Self-Abuse

Similarly, we have an argument against Idealism—more specifically the version of it called panpsychism, which is, by the way, the position being asserted here—by Wittgenstein in his Philosophical Investigations. His conclusion is that the position of panpsychism is unintelligible. Stating “Could one imagine a stone’s having consciousness?” he concludes that if one could it would only amount to “image-mongery” (Sec. 390, p. 119e). The implication is that since we cannot do something adequately—that we cannot understand something completely—there is something wrong with it!


This kind of reasoning qualifies for the “All-Time Boners in Philosophy Award.” For the argument—while claiming not to be saying anything about the truth or falsity of a position, nor about its provenness or unprovenness—would want us to evaluate positions, and even possibly dismiss them as viable (i.e., as possibly true), based upon whether we (as a species) are capable of understanding them with our intelligence.


Whereas, not only does this limit our knowledge endeavor—removing it from any possibility of speaking of truth unless it somehow (miraculously, I suppose, or through some sort of chosen-by-God kind of privilege) happens to coincide with what is intelligible to us; not only does it eliminate the scientific and philosophical enterprises in their attempts at venturing, ever on, after what may actually be true (or at least “truer” than we had previously held); but it presupposes that what is unimaginable at one time, or to one person, will be unimaginable, or unintelligible, to all others in all other times.


This is one particular instance where Rationalism displays its egoistic self-abuse . . . hence its inherent fallacy. For we know by looking at the record that what is unimaginable at one time, or to one person, ends up being imaginable to another. For example, do we suppose that an early “animistic” hunter-gatherer could imagine a physical universe as we picture it today—with black holes, a heliocentric solar system, a Big Bang, quarks, and quasars?


Do we say that because this primal person could not imagine these that we must dismiss them as possible truths (i.e., as possible good models of our reality). Or must we say that our conceptualizations of these things amount to “image-mongery” and thereby dismiss them on those grounds.

This last point leads beyond it in compelling us to realize that all forms of what we call “intelligible” venturing after truth are already a matter of “image-mongery.” That is to say that all our attempts equate with imagining models of what is; none of which can be said to actually constitute the thing described inasmuch as the map cannot constitute the territory.


Hence we are led, again, to a realization of the inevitably anthropocentric nature of such arguments as Wittgenstein’s attack on panpsychism—and the equivalent degree of arrogance that corresponds with them. For the argument reduces itself to “if we can’t imagine something, it doesn’t exist!”

Leaving behind such a fatuous and uninspired rationale, let us return to the position of Idealism anew.


Continue with The World of “Matter” Is But the Appearance of Mind to Itself: The Footprints on the Shores of the Unknown Are Our Own


Return to How End Times Can Be Seen as Beginning Times: Science As Myth, Part Six — Emanationism and the Cyclical Nature of Time and Change

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“The Footprint We Have Discovered on the Shores of the Unknown Is Our Own”: On Science as Idolatry … A Physicist Reports on the Truth Behind Scientific Conjuring


Revolution in Science … Shunned: The Dire Import of Scientific Cowardice Regarding Their Own Findings as Relates to Humans’ Continued Existence on Earth … Science as Myth, Part One


The Implications of Matter As Metaphor

Consistently applying the new-paradigm perspective on matter and consciousness — as is attempted in this book … that is, of matter as an epiphenomenon of consciousness and the primacy-of-the-psychic-world postulate — requires a rethinking of theoretical constructions even in the fields of consciousness and psychology, which one would think at first hand to be amenable to this sort of view. However, our cultural context is such, our Western viewpoint so engrained, that even in these fields there seems a huge temptation to bow to the prevailing winds and a consequently understandable reluctance to go out on a limb against those.


Thus, we have many hybrids — theorists who it appears are trying to please too many people, too many former mentors, or whatever; and who find themselves, consequently, unable to go steadfastly forward, following through consistently on the implications of the transpersonal perspective. For example, from a consistent new-paradigm vantage point, Ken Wilber (1980, 1981, 1982, 1983) — the “consciousness” guru of the more intellectual, less experiential wing of the transpersonal movement — appears as inconsistent as pre-Copernican astronomers in devolving his theories.


Therefore, much of this next part will entail addressing the way the perspective presented in the previous part, “Matter As Metaphor,” affects, expands, changes, and reverses the tenets put forth in transpersonal psychology and philosophy — especially those aspects associated with Ken Wilber.


The Revolutionary Import, in Science, of the New-Paradigm Perspective

68375_464164440289506_211036429_nBut let us set aside transpersonal thinking for the moment to focus on the larger picture. It may also be argued that in the larger context of normal science, in general, the new-paradigm primacy of consciousness is simply irrelevant.

However, I take strong exception to that. It is not simply innocuous that scientists refuse to acknowledge the implications of their findings. For in fact the implications of them would require a revolution and an overturning, and in many cases, a throwing out as obsolete of much of what scientists have paid highly for and struggled long and hard to learn.


The Lengths To Which They Go

So it should not be too surprising to observe the lengths to which scientists will go in avoiding the implications of their findings. Their actions and behaviors have all the earmarks of what, in therapeutic circles, is called denial.

For example, Roger Jones (1982), a physicist, in his remarkable book titled Physics As Metaphor, points out how physicists in their day-to-day activities hardly consider the implications of twentieth-century findings in their field. He begins by noting that, “Quantum mechanics, then, may just possibly imply an essential role for consciousness in the scheme of things. . . .” (1982, pp. 6-7).


Nevertheless, he adds that

[T]he real issue is whether or not such ideas figure significantly in scientific research. It is, in fact, the rare scientist who is concerned with such matters. The Copenhagen interpretation may be the prevailing philosophy of quantum mechanics today . . . but it is hardly a hot topic over lunch at the research lab. Most scientists take a rather pragmatic and condescending view of philosophy, and its niceties have no direct bearing on their day-to-day research, thinking, and discussion. . . . Fifty years after the Copenhagen interpretation forced consciousness on an unwilling scientific community, there is precious little to be found in the research literature of physics to suggest any bridging of the mind-body gap.


In fact, in the last fifty years, the trend in mainstream physical science has been away from consciousness and holism and toward the mechanistic and divisible world of the nineteenth century. Fritjof Capra argues that despite the much touted promises of an ultimate unification in physics, modern elementary particle and quark theory is basically a throwback to the atomistic, thing-oriented notions of premodern physics and is contrary to the holistic, process-oriented currents in modern thought. (Jones, 1982, p. 7)


The Emperor’s New Clothes

footprints_in_the_sand_op pbucketIn fact, Jones (1982) goes so far as to say that in teaching physics and in publicly maintaining its precepts he often felt as if he were living a lie:

I found myself thinking hard about why and how to interest children in science, and this in turn awakened several philosophical issues that had troubled me over the years. As a practicing physicist, I had always been vaguely embarrassed by a kind of illusory quality in science and had often felt somehow part of a swindle on the human race. It was not a conspiracy but more like the hoax in The Emperor’s New Clothes. I had come to suspect, and now felt compelled to acknowledge, that science and the physical world were products of human imagining — that we were not the cool observers of the world, but its passionate creators. (p. 3)


The Footprint We Have Discovered Is Our Own

His implication is that physicists are aware of the subjective and arbitrary nature of the pronouncements and assertions they make about physical reality. It follows that they assert, with such authority and with the certitude of fact, things which they know to be only conjecture, or at the most, conjuring.


Jones (1982) concurs,

I . . . suggest that scientists (and indeed all who possess creative consciousness) conjure like the poet and the shaman, that their theories are metaphors which ultimately are inseparable from physical reality, and that consciousness is so integral to the cosmos that the creative idea and the thing are one and the same.


What else are we to think when the theory of relativity teaches us that space and time are the same as matter and energy, that geometry is gravity? Is this not an equating, an integration, of mind and matter? Is this not an act of poetic, perhaps of divine, creation? And what of the astronomer’s black hole, the perfect metaphor for a bottomless well in space from which not even light may escape? Which is the reality and which the metaphor? And what of quarks, the claimed ultimate constituents of matter, locked permanently within the elementary particles they compose, never able to appear in the literal, physical world? Are they not constructs, figments of the mind, symbols for a collection of unobservable properties?


How is the quark more real than figurative? . . . Indeed, as Sir Arthur Eddington said in 1920, the footprint we have discovered on the shores of the unknown is our own. (p. 5)


Science as Idolatry

Finally, Jones goes so far as to equate with idolatry the elevation of such man-made scientific constructs to objective status. And he suggests that such deceptiveness and failure to be completely candid is linked to some of our major modern crises:


For the full elaboration of the idea of science and the physical world as a construct of the mind or a collective representation, I owe a great debt to Owen Barfield and his writings, especially his book Saving the Appearances — A Study in Idolatry. It was Barfield who helped me most to fathom the deceptiveness of science by seeing that when metaphors become crystallized and abstract, cut off from their roots in consciousness, and forgotten by their creators, they become idols. For an idolator is not so much one who creates idols, but one who worships them.


This failure to recognize the central role of consciousness in reality and thus to treat the physical world as an independent, external, and alien object has been a chronic problem throughout the modern era of scientific discovery, since the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, and has reached a critical stage in the twentieth century with its unconscionable, and largely unconscious, ravaging of the environment. (Jones, 1982, p. 5)


Continue with When Tradition and Religion Break Down, All Truth Is Liable to Erupt: The Center of the Onion Is Nothing … The Last Secret to Be Told Is That There Is No Secret.

Return to Are Aliens Actually Angels Attempting to Midwife Us Into the Next Higher Stage of Our Ascension to hOMe? Matter as Metaphor, Part Ten

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