The Devolution and Rebirth of Western Thought
Western thought has moved from Platonic texts to tectonic plates. We began with the unshakeable Absolute, and we are now on the very shaky ground of scientific beliefs that we once thought were solid bedrock, but that are now recognized as being subject to cataclysmic seismic shifts, as new paradigms of understanding emerge with a stunning suddenness that is overturning our conception of what we are.
Once we focused our minds on the unmoving eternal Ideas that transcend the physical dimension. But Plato's poetry soon paled as inquiring minds built their empires with empirical concepts designed to confer command and control. Aristotle shifted our gaze first to the unmoved Prime Mover, and then to the motions that Mover created. But his student, Alexander the Great, had other uses for philosophy. Military technology was first on his agenda. Mathematics developed as an instrument to map the heavens as well as the Earth, to gain control through knowledge. And gradually the scientific drive to understand the structures that appear in this world and the dynamic interactions of such structures enabled us to build extremely complex theories about the nature of reality. These theories led to ever more marvelous technologies, and the result was apparent mastery of Nature.
The growing body of scientific theories, to be credible, had to be testable whenever possible. The protocols of such tests led to the establishment of critical boundaries to the field of experimental science. The logical application of Occam's razor, the principle that a theory regarding an unknown phenomenon must make use of the smallest number of hypothetical entities, has led to the development of a generally accepted ethical/aesthetic sense of elegance as a prime theoretical criterion.
But many problems have appeared that cannot be solved through experiment. And as our understanding of the phenomenal world has become ever more complex, the capacity of reason to maintain its own standards of rigor, parsimony, and elegance has been stretched to the breaking point. Darwin's theory of natural selection as the driver of evolution is not verifiable. It may, in fact, have already been falsified in the field of microbiology by Behe's principle of irreducible complexity, but the desperate neo-Darwinists can always add hypotheses to account for their theoretical difficulties. The more hypotheses they add, however, the less elegant the theory becomes.
At some point, what keeps the theory alive is not scientific credibility but political power. The Darwinists may in their hearts actually realize that intelligent design is the only rational hypothesis to make sense of all the data. But they are terrified that to admit such blasphemy would destroy the church of science itself, and lead to a collapse of consciousness back into the dark ages of superstition and tyrannical popery. The problem is that maintaining a theory that no longer exhibits the indicia of adequacy on scientific grounds undermines the edifice of science far more effectively than could religion.
A similar conundrum has come to plague the hardest science of all: physics. For nearly a century, science has struggled with the observations of subatomic particles. They defy the logic we have come to expect from the behavior of physical objects. Electrons and photons and other such objects can apparently be in more than one place at a time, or be nowhere at all. They can jump from point A to point B without crossing the intervening space (the proverbial quantum leap). They can shift from being particles to being waves. They can be entangled with other particles that are in different parts of the universe. They can seemingly communicate with other particles that they are entangled with instantaneously, without even the limitation of the speed of light. One could go on to delineate other enigmas of these supposedly fundamental particles. Theories that have developed within the physics establishment itself to explain all this strange behavior, such as string theory, have resulted in ever more outrageous hypotheses (like that of an eleven-dimensioned cosmos or even parallel universes), none of which are testable.
The most insulting aspect of quantum mechanics is the emerging fact that consciousness is apparently as fundamental as matter. The old ghost of Cartesian dualism that scientists had considered exorcised forever has returned with a vengeance. An even more terrifying spirit, that of absolute idealism, the specter that consciousness is even more primary than matter, and beyond that, even the possibility that matter itself is a myth, and that there is only consciousness, has arisen again to threaten the entire modern paradigm of reality. The border between science and religion has now been obliterated. This is a frightening development to the rational mind. It opens the way to limitless, baseless conjecture. The field of philosophy of science, long dormant in the heyday of logical positivism and other forms of reductionistic materialism, has now come to life again and is struggling to maintain coherence in the face of these extraordinary developments in human intellectual evolution that threaten to overwhelm collective sanity itself.
The line between rational thought and psychotic delusion has always been tenuous. Nowadays it is a thoroughly permeable membrane. This problem has flared up exponentially as a result of the need for finally accounting for consciousness itself, the perennial black hole of scientific discourse. Is there a reasonable way to think through the current situation without falling prey to the Scylla of dogmatic phenomenalism or the Charybdis of delusional realms, entities, and paranoid conspiracy theories? And since it may well be possible that some conspiracy theories are correct, and that some incorporeal entities may be real, how can we establish rational criteria for their exploration?
This work is now being tentatively undertaken by such disciplines as psychoanalysis and parapsychology, but they themselves have little scientific credibility to the rigid hold-outs fighting to preserve the old paradigm. And since the scientific establishment as a whole is now in the grip of multinational military-industrial corporate forces -- forces that control the universities, tenure decisions, peer-reviewed journals, and funding for research -- those scientists with the courage to speak out regarding the social corruption of knowledge and to present politically incorrect theories can find their careers and reputations quickly terminated.
On the softer side of science, such as the disciplines of psychology and psychoanalysis, the situation is no healthier. Licensing requirements easily silence those who would challenge the hegemonic paradigm. Rebels can be rapidly marginalized and ridiculed. In any case, psychotherapeutic and psychoanalytic theories are not objectively testable. That is why so many competing schools of thought flourish. So long as the different theories remain within the allowable limits of political acceptability -- controlled by a governing diagnostic manual that encourages treatment with drugs and short-term intervention models that insurance companies will deign to cover --the ruling powers benefit from the chaos of competing voices. Divide and conquer has always been their modus operandi. They do not care if someone's existential difficulty be considered an artifact of a dysfunctional family system or a severe superego or an unresolved Oedipus complex or a cognitive glitch or a conditioned response or even an archetypal defense, or any other such hypothetical psychic entity. How could one prove that a patient's relief from a compulsive behavior pattern or recurrent emotional suffering was the result of a correct interpretation of unconscious phantasies, a catharsis, a subtle energy transfer, a consistent supportive environment, a new mythology compatible with an enhanced self-image, or simply a feeling of being loved?
Once we admit consciousness into consideration as a fundamental, if not the fundamental element of the Real, then how can we prevent the spread of the virus of relativism? Why is my reality less valid than your reality? Why is Lacan's psychic reality any better than Jung's? And who can say that Buddha did not trump them all?
To deal with this chaos that quantum consciousness has now dealt us, we must return to first principles. This is the enduring value of the ancient practice of Yoga, the original philosophy of science that was established at the very dawn of civilization to guard human culture from being destroyed by the un-castrated death drive of ego-consciousness itself.
We shall refer to this original Yoga as Sat Yoga, to distinguish it from the current use of the word yoga to refer to systems of physical exercise, Hatha Yoga, that are deviations from the true practice of ego transcendence. But every spiritual tradition is centered on the same resonant understanding of the need to center our consciousness in the stillness at the Heart of Being.
The same truth, propounded originally in the East, has been downloaded in our time by Walter Russell, Nikola Tesla, Viktor Schauberger, Alan Watts, and many other independent Western visionaries. The ethical self-disciplining of the ego-mind and its impure desires is the necessary first step in establishing both clarity and community. Only from the silent center of consciousness, the oneness of which all beings are manifestations, can emerge a universally valid discourse that can sustain the ongoing development of scientific thought within ethical and aesthetic parameters that safeguard life and the highest values that the human project can unfold in its quest for the transfinite Truth of Being.
This is why the threshold agreements that create the conditions for human community and those for scientific discourse are the same. The agreements necessary are not those regarding the ultimate nature of reality, since that is what is in question, but those regarding our conduct of relationship in the quest of the Real. The essential vows of a Sat Yogi are the ineluctable commitments to truthfulness, openness, non-violence, purity of intention, physical and psychic hygiene, not stealing, not treating others as objects, dedication to egoless service, and acceptance of all beings into the circle of care as manifestations of the Absolute.
These ethical vows of recognition and non-narcissistic action are imperative if we are to develop a science capable of integrating all aspects of the Real. We cannot attain an understanding of phenomenal reality without also understanding consciousness. This requires a transformation of our own consciousness that opens up the vertical dimension of self-transcendence.
We must eliminate the distortions of our thinking function that result from the egocentric perspective. That perspective perverts our capacity to apperceive our universality and our linkage in a unified field of cosmic consciousness. If we are to succeed in the development of a true science of the Absolute -- one that enables us to overcome the quandaries and aporias of current thought -- we must first overcome the ego itself. The shift in consciousness that comes about from the death of the ego alone is capable of revealing the ultimate horizon of the Real. It is this higher level of understanding, based on the transformational imperative, that is opening the portals to a vaster paradigm of transfinite reality. And only that attainment can get us beyond the impasse of futile egoic constructs and the concomitant oppressive social structures that are leading to collective madness and suicide.
Part of the problem scientific thought faces today is the lack of credibility brought about by the social structure of secrecy. There are shadowy forces that lie behind our apparent governments that keep untold numbers of secrets from the public. Whether it concerns the actual effects of oil spills on the ecosystem, or the reality of climate change, peak oil, the presence of mutant bacteria and viruses that have no antidote, the flawed nature of cancer treatment and the dangers of other medical procedures and pharmaceutical products, the safety of our food supply, the forces behind political assassinations and terror attacks, the fragility of the global economic system, the accurate vote count in elections, or the reality of extraterrestrial visitors, we all have the sense that information is being withheld. This burgeoning field of forbidden knowledge leads to the festering of conspiracy theories and the profusion of paranoid sub-cultures that create competing versions of reality that have no relation to one another.
The danger escalates from the fact that neither the mainstream culture nor most of the dissident sub-cultures are governed by the higher law of love and non-violence. That law is no longer part of our social contract. This has created spiritual anarchy and barbarism. The gates of hell are open. The lowest frequencies of consciousness -- murder, cannibalism, and torture -- are growing in strength. The signal of love, compassion, and intelligent mutuality, is being eclipsed by the noise of hate and destruction. We are entering a terminal phase of devolution. The ruling mindset is leading us inevitably to thermonuclear Armageddon and, beyond that, to a final lawless dystopia, a ruined world of war, a hellish desert of death, of all against all until none are left alive.
There is one way to stave off such a destiny: through return to unconditional love. But love can only be found in the trans-egoic Self. Attaining liberation from the ego and abidance in the Absolute is our one means to salvation. But we must earn it. Grace will be given only to those who remain in true awareness of the Self without ceasing, who silence the egoic mind, who surrender completely to the Absolute. Because the power-driven collective ego-mind of the West has brought us to the brink of global destruction, we have the responsibility to undo our mistake and integrate at last the mystic and the genius, of East and West. May we all have the will and wisdom to seek this goal and the perseverance to attain That. The life of our sacred planet depends on us.
Image by Thomas Quine, courtesy of Creative Commons license.Tweet