Ch’an Buddhism as Scientific Socialism

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If Buddhism is viewed as a ‘religion’ – and the Buddha as a ‘theistic’ being – then Buddhism has nothing to do with modern science, and in that case, would represent one of many pre-modern theories devised by the human mind to explain reality. However, it is clear from a study of the Pali Canon that the Buddha’s system is a perceptual science premised upon the logical and rational observation of matter, and assessment of natural processes. Within the ‘five aggregates’ teaching, it is clear that the human mind is defined by the Buddha as a number of impermanent processes that ‘emerge’ from biological matter. This is why the Buddha places ‘rupa’ or ‘matter’ as first in the list of the five aggregates. The Buddha also seems to have been the first human in history to suggest that the tiniest specks of matter are ‘flashing’ in and out of existence during every moment, and that the idea that the world of matter forms a solid wall in-front of the senses is an illusion. This would suggest that the Buddha’s path is one of physical and psychological discipline that clears the mind of all ‘old’ and ‘out-dated’ modes of thought (such as an external or subjective belief in a god construct), and when coupled with the observation that compassion and wisdom manifest throughout society – serves as the foundation for the application of  Scientific Socialism. This is how Ch’an Buddhism is viewed in modern China.

Assessing Baryonic Matter, Dark Matter & Dark Energy – the Building Blocks of Existence

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The current state of human scientific knowledge suggests that the majority of the physical construction of the universe is actually comprised of a substance that cannot, as yet, be directly observed using the most advanced technology and methodology. The majority of ‘stuff’ in the universe (multi-verse) certainly cannot be detected with the naked human eye – but it can be predicted to exist through the correct and disciplined use of the human intellect and imagination. Imagination is an important part of advanced scientific thinking, but its function is often down-played or ignored when scientific processes develop into sound theories that nolonger require ‘speculation’ to fill-in the gaps in knowledge. Of course, this might be because the human capacity to ‘misuse’ the imagination can get in the way of the scientific method, and lead the entire process away from the desired objective. Whatever the case, the constitution of the universe (multi-verse) currently looks like this:

a) 4.9% ordinary (Baryonic) matter

b) 68.3 dark energy

c) 26.8 dark matter

Human beings have evolved around perceiving the 4.9% of material stuff that comprises their immediate environment, although it is speculated that dark matter and dark energy may well be everywhere. If this is correct, then it is curious that throughout human evolution, the ability to ‘see’ these material substances was not developed – probably because the perception of these substances had no direct impact upon human survival. Another way in which these ‘unseen’ substances are known to be present is through the effect they appear to have on objects moving through what was once thought to be ’empty’ space. There appears to be a ‘gravitational’ effect on objects moving through apparently ’empty’ space that should not be happening if space was in fact ’empty’. The human intellect has devised mathematical formula to demonstrate the ‘presence’ of these still ‘theoretical’ material substances. Although the Buddha and a number of ancient Greek philosophers used their minds to state that in all likelihood perceivable matter could be comprised of ‘atoms’, it has been the development of scientific technology (as an extension of the human mind), that has allowed for the perception of sub-atomic particles, and for the detection of different types of matter and energy. The following documentary presents a very good over-view of the current state of human knowledge in this area:

The Buddha’s Middle Way of Knowing

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In the West, the Buddha’s ‘middle way’ of knowing has become something of a meaningless tautology (often used to justify any and all conventional behaviour , many modes of which were obviously and clearly criticised by the Buddha as being ‘unprofitable’ from a psycho-physical developmental point of view). Much of this narcissistic and hedonistic behaviour stems from Buddhist schools that have historically ‘dis-associated’ their practice from the Vinaya Discipline (in both its ‘lay’ and ‘monastic’ interpretations). This distorted approach to Buddhist practice, seeks to justify the very ‘ordinary’ and ‘deluded’ behaviour that the Buddha defined as ‘unsatisfactory’ ad producing of ‘suffering’. This is the continuation of modes of existence in the material world that are forever ‘changing’ and lack any inherent ‘substantiality’. Attachment to this impermanence is defined by the Buddha as the essence of all human suffering experienced in mind and body. The Buddha does not deny the existence of a material world, but defines this physical world as ‘impermanent’ and ‘changeable’. Although recognising the reality of the material world, the Buddha certainly does not advocate that ‘attachment’ to this material world is conducive to personal happiness – on the contrary – he teaches the exact opposite. Although the material world exists (and is the basis of the human body and all its senses – including the mind), its impermanent and changeable nature (from its tiniest to its largest aspects), means that human freedom from suffering does not exist within its structures. Therefore, although the Buddha fully recognises the existence of a material world – and includes ‘rupa’ (or ‘matter’) as the first of the five aggregates (stated within the Four Noble Truths) – his philosophical method cannot be termed ‘materialistic’. This is why the Buddha rejected the notion of an ‘eternal’ and ‘non-changing’ material universe (whilst still acknowledging the existence of a material realm). On the other hand, the Buddha rejects any notion of a disembodied consciousness that pre-exists physical conception in the womb, and post-exists the death of the physical body (such as in a theistic soul-concept). This means that although the Buddha fully recognises (and explains with considerable sophistication) the existence and functioning of the mind and its various processes, he does not advocate attachment to thought as the basis of achieving human freedom from suffering. On the contrary, the Buddha clearly advocates non-identification with thought, and its eventual ‘stilling’ in the mind, before a new understanding of reality manifests for the individual practitioner. This explains why the Buddha’s system of self-development cannot be termed ‘idealistic’. The human mind – just like the physical matter it is a part of – is transitory and subject to dissolution at the point of physical death (as the five aggregates fall apart due to the dissipation of the karmic-habit energy that previously sustained their temporary combination). Therefore, the Buddha’s ‘middle way’ does not deny the existence of an outer physical world, or the existence of an inner psychological world. Neither does the Buddha deny that the psychological processes are dependent upon physical matter (as in a functioning human body and brain), or that physical matter and human perception are inherently entwined – but he does refuse to accept the idea of am ethereal ‘soul’ (or ‘mind’ concept) that exists ‘outside’ or ‘independent’ of the world of physical matter – and which (through an act of ‘will’ – creates or generates the material realm – as found in the ‘creationist’ mythology associated with theistic religions). This does not deny, however, that the human mind (through ‘will-power’) can create physical patterns of behaviour that mould, shape and transform the material environment, but simply that conscious awareness in and of itself, cannot affect physical matter without a physical body acting as an intermediary. Moreover, the Buddha clearly states that conscious awareness cannot exist without the conditions associated with a physical body and its functioning biological processes. Within the Buddha’s interpretation of reality, there does not exist any notion of a ‘dis-embodied’ conscious awareness. Although the mind is a product of a number of functioning biological processes (all of which have ‘matter’ as their base), once conscious awareness is established in the material realm, the mind itself is able to generate and perceive what the Buddha describes as ‘non-material’ (arupa) states of awareness. These ‘non-material’ states of psychological awareness are not separate from the material basis of existence, and are dependent upon a functioning physical body to be experienced. In this regard, the states of psychological  generated ‘arupa’ (immateriality) may be interpreted as an extension of ‘rupa’ (matter), with the proviso that ALL conditioned states are impermanent and not the final realisation of emancipation (nirvana). Nirvana, as according to the Buddha, is that realisation that is ‘non-conditioned’, or ‘beyond’ the realm of matter and non-matter. This is further defined in many ways as being beyond ‘perception’ and ‘non-perception’ to ever rarefied degrees of bare awareness (which manifests as ‘prajna’ or profound understanding in a post-enlightened mind). An individual existence in a dualistic world, is transformed into a non-personal collectivity. Within this context, nirvana (enlightenment) and samsara (ordinary, conditioned, cyclic existence), are said to be exactly the same state viewed from two different perspectives. When the ‘absolute’ (nirvana) is perceived through deluded thought forms – it is experienced as the ‘ordinary realm’ of conditioned existence (samsara), but when the deluded thought forms are nolonger present and functioning – the ordinary conditioned world is clearly perceived as the ‘absolute’. The Buddha’s method then, has been correctly described as a form of ‘radical pluralism’ which recognises (and does not deny) the existence of the material or psychological realms (with the latter being established on the existence of the former), but which is not one-sidedly dependent on either realm.

Buddha’s Material (Atomic) Theory

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‘It is quite evident from the descriptions given of the objects of sense as well as the general theory of matter that original Buddhism upheld the reality of the physical world. What we apprehend through the senses by way of colours or shapes, sounds, smells, and tastes, etc, are all by-products of the four primary material forces, which exist in the objective physical world independently of our perceiving them… 

While conscious mental activity had a physical basis, what we call a person’s mind is also conditioned by the physical environment, according to Buddhist conceptions. The physical objects of the external world among other factors stimulate the senses, generate mental activity, feed the mind and motivate one’s behaviour. The mind continues to be conditioned by these impacts, which form part and parcel of one’s accumulated mental experiences.’  

(The Message of the Buddha: By KN Jayatilleke, George Allen & Unwin, (1975) – Page 75)

The Buddha laid the philosophical foundation for an early atomic theory, as the essence of such a theory is evident in the manner in which he explained material existence. The Buddha categorically stated that the material world (rupa) is NOT a product of the human mind (acetasikam), and exists INDEPENDENT of the thought processes (citta-vippayuttam). However, when in discussion with various monks and disciples, it is evident that the Buddha obviously conceived of an atom, when he stated that the tiniest portion of matter (which cannot be seen with the naked-eye), is in a constant state of flux (echoing the ‘atomic swerve’ theory of Epicurus). From this theoretic basis, the Buddhist intellectuals that followed the Buddha, clarified and further refined his teaching, and  further developed his atomic theory (with Buddhism being only philosophical school in Asia to have conceived of an ‘atomic theory’). In the Commentary of the Vibhanga (an Abhidhamma text compiled by Buddhist monks over the centuries after the Buddha’s passing), an atom is described in Pali as ‘paramanu’, and is said to be so small that it occupies a minute portion of space (akasa-kotthasika). A secondary commentary to the Visuddhimagga (attributed to the 5th century CE Buddhist monk Buddhaghosa), states that an atom cannot be seen with the naked eye – but only perceived (theoretically) within the mind through the use of reason and imagination. The important point to remember is that the Buddha rejects the use of pure reason (i.e. idealism – or ‘takka’), just as he rejects a metaphysical definition of the material universe (whereby all that exists is an inert physical mass). The Buddha states that true knowledge and wisdom are the consequence of the mind (and body) operating together within the material world. Such such interaction generates ‘experience’, which is the basis for all Buddhist understanding. Of course, once experience and understanding is acquired, then theories can be formulated and developed by an extension of reason premised upon first-hand experience of concrete facts. This explains why in the Buddha’s schematic, there is no room for ‘faith’ as practised in the theistic traditions. (What is often mistranslated as ‘faith’ [saddha] within Western texts, should more properly be translated as ‘conviction’ premised upon ‘experience’ and ‘understanding’).

The Buddha’s teaching that matter – although existing – is not permanent in nature, appears to fore-shadow the philosophical implications implicit within quantum mechanics. Although the different Buddhist schools argued over the existence or nature of the atom, the Theravada thinkers conceived of an atom comprised of ‘space’ and ‘sub-particles’ (dravya-paramanu) which is physically complex (rupa-kalapa), whilst its constituent parts exist in a state on constant flux (kalapanga). This would suggest that an atom (and its sub-atomic particles) quite literally ‘flickers’ in and out of existence whilst appearing to occupy a (measurable) position within time and space. Within the realms of modern and cutting-edge Western science, this developed Buddhist position might well be considered as an early attempt at explaining dark matter, dark energy or anti-matter – all of which are considered (along with light energy) as being constituents of an ever fluctuating material universe – albeit rarefied elements of it. The Buddha’s idea of ‘flux’ at the atomic (and sub-atomic level) suggests that atoms (and their constituents) appear to change position (within time and space), whilst also appearing to come in and out of material existence. This ‘going out’ of existence is not suggestive of a non-material reality, but rather of an assumption of a different ‘frequency’ of material existence – one which an average (or ‘deluded’) human mind struggles to comprehend clearly.

The Material Basis of Buddhist ‘Consciousness’ (Vijnana)

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‘It should be clearly understood that consciousness does not recognise an object. It is a sort of awareness – awareness of the presence of an object. When the eye comes in contact with a colour, for instance blue, visual consciousness arises which simply is awareness of the presence of a colour; but it does not recognise that it is blue. There is no recognition at this stage. It is perception (the third Aggregate discussed above) that recognises that it is blue. The term “visual consciousness” is a philosophical expression denoting the same idea as is conveyed by the ordinary word “seeing”. Seeing does not mean recognising. So are the other forms of consciousness.

It must be repeated here that according to Buddhist philosophy there is no permanent, unchanging spirit which can be considered “self”, or “Soul”, or “Ego”, as opposed to matter, and that consciousness (Pali: ‘vinnana’) should not be taken as “spirit” in opposition to matter. This has to be particularly emphasised, because a wrong notion that consciousness is a sort of Self or Soul that continues as a permanent substance through life, has persisted from the earliest time to the present day.’

What the Buddha Taught: By Walpola Rahula, Gordon Fraser, (1972), Page 23

When the Buddha’s disciple Sati asked the Buddha whether it was the ‘consciousness’ that transmigrated around – from one rebirth to the next (like a permanent ‘soul’) –  the Buddha called him ‘stupid’, and stated that he had never agreed with, or taught this doctrine. Instead, the Buddha reiterated that different types consciousness arises out of specific material conditions, and that without the presence of these specific material conditions, the different types of consciousness do not arise. The concept of Buddhist consciousness does not constitute a theistic ‘atma’, or ‘soul’ that stands in opposition to the material world, but is in fact a product of conditions arising out of the material world. Consciousness is included in the Four Noble Truths as being the fifth of five aggregates:

  1. Matter – including living forms (rupa)
  2. Sensations – feelings about the external world received via the senses  (vedana)
  3. Perceptions (samjna)
  4. Thought formations (sankhara)
  5. Consciousness (vijnana)

In Sanskrit the term ‘consciousness’ is written as ‘vijnana’, whilst in Pali it is rendered ‘Vinnana’. This Buddhist term in translated into the Chinese language as ‘識’ (shi2), and within this context refers to ‘recognising’, ‘discerning’, or to ‘viewing’ an object. This ideogram is probably better understood through its simplified version ‘识’ which is comprised of the left-hand particle ‘讠’ (yan2) – a contracted version of ‘言’ – that refers to ‘speaking’, ‘words’ or ‘expressing’ with the mouth. The right-hand particle ‘只’ (zhi3) is a picture of a mouth breathing in air and preparing to speak. When taken in its entirety, the Chinese ideogram ‘識’ (shi2) refers not to the act of speaking itself – but rather to underlying ‘preparation’ required for the act of speaking. This is the Chinese language term used within Chinese Buddhism to explain the foundation of conscious awareness. Within the context of Buddhist philosophy, this denotes the awareness of the presence of an object through the six senses of Buddhism, (i.e. eye, ear, nose, mouth, body and mind), recognising what sense organ is being used, but not yet understanding the full nature of the external object being sensed.

Within the Yogacara School, the fifth aggregate of consciousness is further subdivided in two specific ways which require an explanation. Firstly, it is an error of interpretation to suggest that the Yogacara School is ‘idealistic’ (as is common in the West), or that it should be translated as ‘Mind Only’. The term ‘Yogacara’ actually refers to ‘yoga practice’ and nothing more – in the Buddhist context this means engaging in the sustained act of correct (and) seated meditation. Another name for this school is ‘Vijnanavada’ or ‘Consciousness School’. It is is also known as the ‘Citta Matra’, and this is often mistranslated as ‘Mind Only’, but it could be better rendered as ‘Thought Only’, ‘Idea Only’, or even ‘Conception Only’. The ‘Mind Only’ misconception creates the false impression that the Yogacara School is stating that ‘mind’ is ‘real’ (and ‘permanent’) but that the physical world is ‘unreal’ (and ‘impermanent’). This is despite the founders of the Yogacara School acknowledging that they agree with the Buddha that ‘mind’ is impermanent. Obviously a mind that is ‘impermanent’ cannot be simultaneously ‘permanent’ (like an eternal soul), when the Buddha rejects any such notion. In reality, the founders of the Yogacara School (Asaṅga and Vasubandhu), specified that the body and mind must be properly trained (together), but that once the body has been pacified through discipline, it is the ‘mind’ that is the epicentre of Buddhist training. Furthermore, what is known about the external world is cognised in the mind via the six bodily senses. In this distinct sense, what is known about the external world (regardless of that world’s apparent insubstantiality), is ‘mind generated’. This should not be taken to mean that thoughts in the mind generate (or ‘create’) the external material world, or the myriad physical objects it contains. This suggests that the act of ‘perception’ (third aggregate), of the material world (first aggregate) through the bodily senses (second aggregate), that initiates the response of ‘thought formation’ (fourth aggregate) – with all four aggregates underlaid by the fifth aggregate of consciousness – does not ‘create’ or ‘generate’ the physical world it perceives, and that the act of perception is not an act of creation (as found in theistic religions where an ‘unseen’ god manufactures physical existence through an act of ‘will’). The Buddhist concept of consciousness is a response to the presence of the material world that interfaces with the bodily senses – and is not its progenitor.

This is what Asanga has to say about the fifth aggregate of consciousness:

‘What is the definition of the Aggregate of Consciousness (vijnana-skandha)? It is mind (citta), mental organ (manas), and also consciousness (vijnana). And there what is mind (citta)? It is alaya-vijnana (Store-Consciousness) containing all seeds (sarvabijaka), impregnated with the traces (impressions) (vasanaparibhavita) of Aggregates (shandha), Elements (dhatu) and Spheres (ayatana). What is mental organ (manas)? It is the object of alaya-vijnana always having the nature of self-notion (self-conceit) (manyanatmaka) associated with four defilements, viz. the false idea of self (atmadrsti), self-love (atmasneha), the conceit of “I am” (asmimana) and ignorance (avidya… What is consciousness (vijnana)? It consists of the six groups of consciousness (sad vijhanakayah), viz. visual consciousness (caksur-vijhana), auditory (srotra), olfactory (ghrana), gustatory (jihva), tactile (kaya), and mental consciousness (manas-vijnana…’

(Zen & The Taming of the Bull – Towards the Definition of Buddhist Thought: Essays By Walpola Rahula, Gordon Fraser, (1978), Page 97. Quoted from the Sanskrit Buddhist text entitled ‘Abhidharmasamuccaya’)

Walpola Rahula states (correctly) that the terms ‘citta’, ‘manas’, ‘vijnana’ and alaya-vijnana can all be used interchangeably throughout both the Pali and Sanskrit Buddhist texts – with even the Mahayanic Lankavatara Sutra using these terms as if they are synonymous, whilst at the sametime also being used to refer to specific attributes of the mind and its functionality. Therefore, the Yogacara School adds the two extra terms ‘citta’ and ‘manas’ to the fifth aggregate of ‘vijnana’ (i.e. ‘consciousness’ proper). If ‘vijnana’ refers to the underlying ‘awareness’ of the presence of an object through a particular sense organ (as described above), then it logically follows that the other two terms ‘citta’ and ‘manas’ must have other meanings, for Asanga to have bothered with developing the process of redefining the fifth aggregate. This holds true even if ‘citta’ and ‘manas’ can also be used in the same context as ‘vijnana’. However, as ‘thought formations’ (i.e. ‘thinking’) is described in the fourth aggregate (sankhara), then both ‘citta’ and ‘manas’ – although included in the fifth aggregate – must also be related to the fourth aggregate.  Indeed, ‘manas’ appears to refer to the organ of the mind that functions through thought (perhaps by extension, even to the brain that generates the thinking ‘mind’), whilst ‘citta’ is indicative of the thought process as it occurs (as a stream of never-ending thoughts in the deluded mind). Asanga seems to be saying that the fourth aggregate of ‘thought formation’ has within it three distinct aspects of conscious awareness operating through it. This does not contradict the Buddha’s teaching, but rather adds to its clarity. It can be reasonably argued that what Asanga developed was simply that already implicit in the Buddha’s original teaching. Even the ‘store-consciousness’ (alaya-vijnana), is the product of the data received from the other four aggregates – plus the diverse (sensory) information processed through its own fifth aggregate of conscious ‘awareness’. All experience originates in the physical environment and is then processed through the human-mind. the ‘seeds’ or ‘innate memories’ are then ‘stored’ in the deepest recesses of the mind (and by extension the body), and are inwardly triggered in the mind and body of the individual concerned (as memories, assumptions, ideas, conceptions, modes of behaviour and emotions), when the external material conditions are conducive to their operation. This process of conditionality in no way suggests that the functioning human mind ‘creates’ the material world it senses and interprets (through the ‘seeds’ of previous experience). This means that Buddhist consciousness is an awareness of mind-body sensory data gathered from the external world, and is a psychological (i.e. inner) response to material conditions. Of course, once a baby grows into a child and then an adult, an entire raft of physical experiences and conditionality is imbued from the outside world and directed into the mind through the sense-organs. The mind then responds to his stimulus by generating an ‘internal’ world that ‘mirrors’ the conditioning history of the individual concerned, and the existential (material) environment that individual inhabits. When in the deluded or unenlightened state, this process of outer and inner conditionality is not understood, and ordinary humans tend to advocate various forms of hard materialism (i.e. only the external world exists), or hard ‘idealism’ (i.e. only the inner mind exists). The Buddha firmly rejects both these views, and suggests reality is ‘non-dual’ (i.e. an interaction of mind, body and environment), and that through meditative training (that breaks-up and dissolves all previous physical and psychological conditionality), this reality can be personally experienced. Consciousness (for the Buddha) is a temporary psychological construct that is designed (through the evolutionary process), to facilitate an inner basic ‘awareness’ connection between a sense-organ and its sense-object, This type of consciousness is impermanent and only lasts as long as the sense-organ is in contact with its sense-object. If this connection is broken, then the interceding consciousness ceases to function and to exist. During ordinary existence, whichever consciousness is prominent whilst sensing the material world all depends upon the focus of the mind and body of the individual concerned, with one sense-consciousness coming to the fore-ground before receding and another taking its place, as the mind directs its attention to different sensory-objects and environmental activities. Of course, should a sense-organ be impaired, all conscious activity can cease whilst the individual is still living, but all consciousness ceases at the point of physical death, as the sense-organs are permanently separated from their corresponding (material) sense-objects.

Email: Buddha, Nagarjuna, Plotinus and the World of Matter (6.9.2017)

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Dear N

Thank you for your very interesting Plotinus quotation and Nagarjuna-related question.

The tetralemma of the Indian Buddhist monk Nagarjuna states:

1) All exists.

2) All does not exist.

3) All exists and does not exist.

4) All neither exists or does not exist.

This is how Nagarjuna (the 14th Ch’an Patriarch) summarises the entirety of the Buddha’s teaching. Therefore, we may state that:

a) The mind exists.

b) The mind does not exist.

c) The mind both exists and does not exist.

d) The mind neither exists nor does not exist.

This may be viewed as a developmental schematic of ever deepening understanding or awareness of the mind-body nexus and its essence. Exactly the same analysis can be applied to ‘matter’ but not to ‘spirit’ – as the Buddha rejected the notion of a spirit or mind that exists in opposition (or ‘outside’ of) the material world. In the Theravada School the mind-body nexus is ‘empty’ of ‘atma’ (or ‘soul’), but appears to contain a personal self (i.e. perceiving ‘mind’ function) that is a temporary coming together of elements which dissipate at death. In this school the physical world ‘exists’, but is ‘empty’ of any permanent state. In the Mahayana and Vajrayana Schools – the idea of ‘emptiness’ is exactly the same – but is extended so as to imply (or suggest) that the world of physical matter is ‘empty’ of any and all substantiality. However, as the Buddha also rejected any notions of ‘eternalism’ and ‘nihilism’ – these schools must be careful in their analysis. Therefore, we can say:

i) The world of matter exists.

ii) The world of matter does not exist.

iii) The world of matter both exists and does not exist.

iv) The world of matter neither exists nor does not exist.

Perhaps the 4th statement is the enlightened position, and although the world of matter may not exist as we think it does – it is also true from a Buddhist perspective – that the world of matter does not exist as we may presume it not to. This is not merely a matter of semantics – but a matter of actual inner and outer realisation attained through self-cultivation, experience and assessment. In the Four Noble Truths the Buddha clearly states that material existence is the basis of physical life and all subsequent philosophical development. This suggests that existence and the world of physical matter are inherently linked, integrated and entwined. In other words, the Buddha appears to be stating that a non-embodied existence is impossible, as the basis for life. In this regard, he is in agreement with the Greek philosopher Epicurus (with life being a special arrangement of atoms that congeal at conception, and fall apart at physical death). This view would correlate with the Buddha’s five aggregates – although the Buddha does seem to entertain a ‘limited’ notion of rebirth (not evident in the five aggregates themselves) which is negated at the point of the realisation of enlightenment.

As for Plotinus, it is important to consider that his original Greek thought has been translated into Western languages usually involving an underlying Judeo-Christian influence that attempts to separate his teaching into a ‘rejected’ material world and an ‘accepted’ spiritual world (that stands in opposition to the material world). One prime example of this modern Eurocentric bias is the continuous rendering of the Greek ‘psyche’ (i.e. ‘breath of life’) as the Judeo-Christian ‘soul’ which implies a completely different meaning. The Greek ‘pyscho’ refers to the spark of life in the functioning conscious mind that defines human existence – whilst the Judeo-Christian ‘soul’ is a completely different entity that links a monotheistic entity to each individual person. A ‘soul’ may be related to an individual’s mind and body – but remains continuously ‘distinct’ from both the mind and body, so that at the point of physical death, the ‘soul’ survives and moves into another dimension of existence (leaving the mind and body behind). The confusion arises from the fact that the early Christian ideologues took the Greek term ‘psyche’ and changed its definition and usage (rejecting the original Greek meaning). Later, when Christianity spread into pagan Germany, the non-Christian Germans believed in a pagan entity called a ‘soul’ which the Christian missionaries could not prevent. Their answer was to usurp this non-Christian term and use it in a Christian manner, therefore, a distorted interpretation of the Christianised Greek ‘psyche’ became commonly known as ‘soul’ within Christian theology. As I said above, the Christianised ‘soul’ concept has no bearing whatsoever upon the philosophy developed by non-Christian Greeks! I think this is important because the term ‘matter’ is often viewed within non-Christianised Greek philosophy – a priori from a Christian position. Obviously, this is incorrect and constitutes a ‘category error’. Plotinus does use various words referring to ‘divine’ or ‘god-like’ states of mind – but despite seeking a realisation of ‘Oneness’ – the schematic of Plotinus has nothing to do with monotheism. From correctly translating from the Greek, it would appear that Plotinus is advocating an ever rarefied perception of the essential nature of material existence – with lesser understanding in the material world serving to ‘corrupt’ matter. This may be taken to imply that the deep insight that Plotinus found (and according to him – all people possess) is ‘hidden’ by an obscuring layer of ‘not understanding’ material existence in its highest frequency. Perhaps today, this might correspond to human awareness (or ‘consciousness’) at its highest degree of development, being associated with light energy, and ignorance as being trapped in congealed light energy, (i.e. light energy slowed down), which constitutes material existence.

Best Wishes

Adrian

PS: Curiously, as far as I am aware, the Pali term ‘atma’ also means ‘breath of life’ – like the Greek term ‘psyche’. For religionists, this ‘breath’ or ‘spark’ is divine, whilst for materialists, this term is natural in origin.

The Buddha’s Material Mind

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‘The Pali word “chitta” may be translated into the English word “mind”, subject to the proviso that the latter be not understood in the sense of something non-material which is it is usually taken to mean. For “chitta”, according to both the Hindu and Buddhist ways of thinking, is not non-material, but belongs to the side of matter, however rarefied it may be.’

Nikunja Vihari Banerjee, The Dhammapada (Page 95)

Within the Four Noble Truths, the Buddha defines reality as a combination, integration or entanglement of physical environment and mind in all its defined aspects. Notice that the Buddha defines reality as ‘matter’ prior to explaining the different aspects of the developed human mind that interacts (via the senses) with that environment. This ‘bundle’ of reality is usually translated as the ‘five aggregates’ and is always presented in the following manner:

  1. Matter – including living forms (rupa)
  2. Sensations – feelings about the external world received via the senses  (vedana)
  3. Perceptions (samjna)
  4. Thought formations (sankhara)
  5. Consciousness (vijnana)

An ‘aggregate’ is an English translation for the Pali term ‘kkhandha’, which literally means a ‘heap’, ‘gathering’, or ‘collection’ of something that is used in the Buddhist sense to define a distinct category. Matter (rupa), for instance, is used to explain the entire material realm – which includes the living body and its senses. The aggregate of matter is comprised of the four great elements (i.e. solidity, fluidity, heat and motion) and their derivatives, etc, and interestingly is said by the Buddha to include certain types of thoughts, ideas, or conceptions which exist as mind-objects (dharmayatana). This demonstrates straight away that the Buddha considered matter the basis of reality, and the mind to be an important aspect of this material realm. The aggregate of sensation includes all physical and psychological sensations – which may be defined as ‘pleasant’, ‘painful’, or ‘neutral’. The Buddha defined six senses which include the eye (visible sensations), ear (audible sensations), nose (smell sensations), tongue (taste sensations), body (sensing tangible objects), and mind (which senses thoughts, ideas and conceptions). The aggregate of perception distinguishes between physical and psychological stimulus, and identifies the differing material and psychological objects perceived through the six senses. The aggregate of thought formation represents the generation of volitional (or ‘willed’ thought – which is conditioned by the aggregates of matter, sensation and perception prior to its arising. However, as the Buddha does not posit a spirit, consciousness or mind that exists in opposition to the world of matter, the Pali term ‘sankhara’ also refers to anything in existence that is conditioned – including all psychological and physical events – as the five aggregates are used to define the entirety of conditioned existence. The aggregate of consciousness does not recognise an object, it represents only the presence of the awareness of an object. For instance, visual consciousness arises when the eye encounters an object which is blue in colour – but the visual consciousness (which underlies all ability to see with the eyes)  remains ‘unaware’ of the object of or its colour. It is only through the aggregate of perception that the object and its colour are recognised. Seeing does not mean ‘recognising’ and it is the same within Buddhist thinking for the other five senses.

The Buddha recognises ‘six’ senses because he views the mind as a ‘sense-organ’ which perceives ‘thought’ (and presumably emotion). In the contemporary West, however, although five senses are common, there are a number of extant theories advocating a higher number – including more than the Buddha’s six – with neurologists identifying as many as nine, and others as many as twenty-one!  I think the telling point is that the Buddha identifies the mind as being part of the physical body – what might today be termed the brain-mind nexus – and does not at any point state that the mind, as either consciousness or spirit, stands in opposition to a physical world. The Buddha quite clearly identifies the mind as materially derived, whilst also identifying its psychological (or ‘thought-producing’) aspect. In other words, the Buddha appears to be stating that in the natural state, a human mind cannot exist without a human body. All this is stated within the aggregate of matter – from which arise the other four aggregates. Even the Buddha’s use of ‘consciousness’ (vijnana) does not correlate in anyway with modern, Western notions of the term that are ‘idealistic’ in origination, and seem to take on a meaning that combines what the Buddha would refer to as ‘thought formations’ (fourth aggregates), with a notion of an eternal religious ‘soul’ (or ‘atma’) – an idea the Buddha thoroughly rejected. The Buddha perceived an impersonal and integrated world of mind and body that did not contain any notion of an assumed Brahmanic ‘atma’ – or ‘divine spark’. Therefore, for the Buddha, ‘consciousness’ only exists as long as a sense organ is in contact with a sense object – when this sensory contact is broken – the particular form of consciousness in question (i.e. eye or ear, etc) ceases to function. Of course, with a sensory impairment, such as blindness, eye consciousness has ceased to function altogether whilst the individual is alive, but when the physical body ceases to function at the time of death, all sensory consciousness also ceases function (along with the functioning of the other aggregates). This is an important observation, because it also suggests that for the Buddha, the concept of ‘mind’ (as thought formation) also ceases. The Buddha’s description of reality suggests that ‘mind’ only functions within a specific set of conditions, material circumstances, does not pre-exist physical birth, and does not post-exist physical death.

When all this is considered, why do many people assume that the Buddha’s thinking is ‘idealistic’? This is surely an incorrect assumption, premised upon a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the Buddha’s teaching. This category error probably stems from the false belief that the Buddha’s assessment of reality is ‘religious’ in nature, when it is obviously secular and premised upon a rational and empirical assessment of reality by a human mind freed from the historical conditioning of religious thinking. The Buddha rejected (as unsound) any theological notion that an unseen god created the physical universe (and all life in it), and then connected himself in a special manner to each human being through an individual ‘divine spark’. For the Brahmanic system, this  ‘divine spark’ is termed ‘atma’ or ‘breath of life’. Through introspective meditation, the Buddha looked into his psycho-physical interior and stated that no such ‘divine spark’ existed, and that when a person was fully enlightened to the nature of reality, all volitional karma ceased to function (i.e. there is no rebirth in the ultimate state of understanding), and that there were no such entities as ‘unseen’ gods, etc. The Buddha used a remarkably ‘modern’ rationale to ascertain the non-existence of the religiously inspired, immaterial realm. This has been the position of Buddhism ever since, and applies to Brahmanism just as it does to any other theistic religion – be it Islam or Christianity. The Buddha was not a god or a messenger of god – and there was no ‘hidden’ theistic meaning to existence. The Buddha achieved this insight through the meditative (i.e. psychological) exercise of non-identification with thought formation (in the mind to the point of cessation of all thought), and through the act of physical discipline (vinaya) with regards to how he ‘related’ to the material world around him. This led to the permanent state of ‘non-attachment’ to thoughts arising in the mind (and to the state of non-arising of thought), and the rejection (and complete cessation) of desire (in the mind and body) to otherwise attractive phenomena existing in the material environment. For the Buddha, this included a celibate lifestyle, and the exchanging of a ‘personal’ existence for a completely ‘impersonal’ existence. Through disciplining the mind and body, the Buddha discovered an indifferent collectivity to existence that contained no personal desire, and so saw the end of suffering caused by desire – this is the perfected, tranquil and harmonious state of ‘nibbana’ experienced by an individual that no longer exists in the dualistic, deluded or egotistically attached sense.

Given that the Buddha’s theory of mind is purely materialistic (with conscious awareness being a special arrangement of matter due to the evolutionary process as described by the Buddha in the Agganna Sutta), why is Buddhism still often misrepresented as a ‘religion’? Part of the problem is the Buddha’s insistence upon a disciplined ‘Sangha’, or ‘monastic’ community, with even the Buddhist lay-community expected to keep a certain number of moral rules or precepts. This set-up seems very similar to the Christian monastic orders that developed much later, but for the Buddha and his followers, there was no ‘grace of god’ at the end of their path.  Another reason lies in the modern Western habit of interpreting the Buddha’s path as a form of ‘idealism’ (despite all the Buddhist teachings to the contrary), and assuming the Buddha is advocating a type of ‘secular’ god-worship – with him as the physical manifestation of god on earth. Again, this is a grave error of interpretation, and bears no relation to the Buddha’s expressed teachings, even if the different schools of Buddhist interpretation are taken into account. Of course, certain politicised elements of modern Buddhism that ‘sell’ the Dharma to gullible Westerners, propagate the non-Buddhist myth of ‘reincarnation’, when it is clear from the Buddha’s description of the five aggregates that ‘nothing’ pre-exists birth, or post-exists death – certainly nothing pertaining to a ‘personality replete with memories’ that transmigrates from one life-time to another. This is true even if the Buddha’s rather vague explanation of an impersonal ‘rebirth’ is taken into account – a process that only exists in the deluded mind, and ceases with the realisation of complete enlightenment. The concept of reincarnation was probably integrated very late into certain types of Buddhist thought from theistic Brahmanism, and may relate to the ‘prophets’ that frequent the religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, etc. Whatever the case, the Buddha denies any divine origin and rejects the concept of theism being of any value to practitioners. Finally, misinterpretations of the ‘Yogacara’ School have had a substantial effect upon Buddhism being mistakenly viewed as ‘idealistic’. The name itself – ‘Yogacara’ – is probably non-Buddhist in origin and translates as ‘yoga practice’, or the ‘structured practice of spiritual discipline’. From a Buddhist perspective, this school is also known as ‘Citta-matra’, or ‘mind only’, and it is this translation that has caused a number of misconceptions to arise (particularly evident in DT Suzuki’s English translation of the Lankavatara Sutra – a sleight of hand used by Suzuki to justify the distorted version of Zen that he followed and propagated in Japan leading-up to WWII – and in the West following Japan’s defeat after WWII)). The point here is easy to clear-up. The founders of the Yogacara School did not disagree with the Buddha, and did not think that the ‘mind’ as defined by the Buddha was ‘permanent’. On the contrary, the founders Asaṅga and Vasubandhu fully agreed that the mind was impermanent and subject to change and dissipation upon physical death. The point they were making, (and which is often missed), is that it is within the mind (i.e. the ‘thought formations’) that the ‘will’ to become enlightened must be propagated and developed, so as to generate the appropriate level of psychological and physical discipline, or commitment to the Buddha’s path. As the Buddha defines the mind as being part of the physical world, and considering he advocates a physical and psychological transformation into a collectively existing and impersonal being, there is nowhere in his teachings any grounds for the Buddha suggesting that ‘only the mind exists’. Mind exists temporarily (as a special arrangement of matter) just as long as a physical body is alive, but as matter (according to the Buddha) is always changing, and its forms are impermanent, so is the capacity of the human mind as defined through the five aggregates. The human mind has the power and capacity to manipulate and develop the material world (i.e. modern science and medicine, etc), but also possesses the ability to navigate an individual Buddhist practitioner from a purely selfish existence and into a selfless collectivity,

Further Reading:

Banerjee, Nikunja, Vihari, The Dhammapada, (2000), Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers

Narada Thera, The Dhammapada – Pali Text and Translation with Brief Notes, (1993), Buddha Educational Foundation

Rahula, Walpola, What the Buddha Taught, (1972), Gordon Fraser

Rahula, Walpola, Zen & The Taming of the Bull – Towards the Definition of Buddhist Thought, (1978), Gordon Fraser

 

The Connection Between the Perception of Inner and Outer Space

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The Buddha’s ideas are very similar in nature to many of those generated by the philosophers of ancient Greece. Like those ancient Greek philosophers, the Buddha used his mind in a very ‘modern’ manner, and developed a logical and rational view of existence. Again, like the ancient Greeks his thinking reflected, the Buddha developed his mode of pristine thought out of the religiosity prevalent during his lifetime. The Buddha’s life dates are uncertain, but he is thought to have lived (by Western scholars) around 2,500 years ago in ancient India, and around 3,000 years ago according to the traditional scholarship preserved within Chinese Buddhism. I have speculated elsewhere, a tentative theory that Emperor Ashoka [304-232 BCE] (and his ministers) may have developed a peaceful and wisdom-loving (secular) philosophical path, that denied the relevancy and reality of an ‘Indian’ militant Brahmanism, an Indian religion that threatened to confront and over-throw Emperor Ashoka’s ‘foreign’ rule. A passive and meditating Buddhism could have been developed by merging certain Brahmanic elements (such as the yoga of meditation), with various aspects of Greek rational thought. A candidate for the Greek input for the Buddha’s mode of thinking could be the system of thought as developed by Epicurus (370-270 BCE). The similarities between the Buddha’s system and that of Epicurus are so obvious and staggering that I am surprised that this link has not been recognised in the past and studied with a greater depth. Of course, playing devil’s advocate, I have suggested that the ancient Greeks influenced ancient Indian thought, and that Emperor Ashoka ‘created’ Buddhism out of an admixture of Indian and Greek traditions. This is purely a speculation on my part, using the rational facility of my mind. It could also be that the Buddha’s mode of modern thinking was developed hundreds of years before a similar manifestation occurred in ancient Greek (spreading to Greece from ancient Indian through trade and cultural exchange). Another theory is that a ‘new’ way of using the human mind was an evolutionary development that spread ‘species-wide’ across many human cultures that had no direct (or indepth) contact with one another. The use of the rational mind (as advocated by the Buddha and ancient Greeks), is essentially a ‘free’ and ‘unhindered’ mode of thought that lies at the basis of modern science when channelled in a certain manner. This means that ‘free-thinking’ requires various modes of constraint to direct its energy into specific forms of creativity – with perhaps art for art’s sake being its most ‘free’ expression, and scientific endeavour being its most structured and disciplined.

Epicurus was taught by Nausiphanes, and their root-master was Democritus. Democritus was a genius who – without access to microscopes (or even advanced mathematics) – used his ‘rational’ mind to determine that existence is comprised of ‘atoms’ that move around through ’empty space’. Today, through the use of advanced technology and mathematics we know that this is scientifically correct. This would suggest that Democritus had an experience no less important than the enlightenment of the Buddha, as it radically redefined humanity’s perception of reality and existence, and yet generally speaking, there are no temples containing statues of Democritus, or people applying a meditative method to replicate his mode of thought. Democritus stated that atoms moved through space in a determinate manner – but Epicurus modified this idea by stating that atoms – although moving in a definite manner through space – also possessed the ability to suddenly ‘deviate’ or ‘swerve’ in a different direction for no apparent reason. This is how Epicurus explained how unusual events happened, whilst things seemed to unfold in similar patterns. Thousands of years later, Epicurus was proven right when Heisenberg produced his ‘Uncertainty Principle’ in 1927. My point here, is to explore how space and matter is perceive within (and by) the human mind. The Buddha and the Greeks said similar things about form and void. Epicurus – like the Buddha – rejected the relevancy of religion. Both seem to suggest that gods might exist in a deluded sense, but do not exist in an ultimate sense (as many people thought). Epicurus stated that even if gods existed, they had no interest in humanity, and after-all, as there are only atoms and space that define existence, the gods themselves must be comprised of atoms just like humans, and probably subject to some-type of ‘death’ or ‘demise’. For Epicurus – who understood that life was comprised of many sufferings and different kinds of pleasure – death is the absolute end of existence for the individual because the body has ceased to function and its atoms fall apart. There is no transmigration to a heaven or a hell, or rebirth into another living form. The Buddha agrees with this, but allows for a certain ‘delusional’ existence where rebirth occurs and physical death is not the end of existence. However, when full enlightenment is attained, then all rebirth (and karmic retribution) comes to an end – and yet the Buddha clearly states time and again the reality is comprised of empty space within which physical reality manifests. In other words, empty space is not ’empty’ in essence, and physical matter does not occur in a ‘dead’ vacuum.

The Buddha and ancient Greeks were able to use their minds to ‘see’ reality in such a way that modern science has confirmed their basic assumptions to be correct. Both Epicurus and the Buddha seem to suggest that this is not just an ‘objective’ understanding, but also the product of a profound subjective experience. It could be that the Buddha and Greek philosophers like Epicurus were able to manifest a rational mind premised upon subjective experiences that had been previously interpreted in a ‘religious’ manner – an approach rejected by ‘rationalists’. The following is a fascinating scientific documentary about empty space – which is not ’empty’:

 

Alan Watts: Consciousness and Matter Entwined

The following video is part of a lecture by Alan Watts. He is discussing and describing the interconnectedness between mind and matter. Of course, different people who hear this lecture, will comprehend its meaning through their current level of understanding, My view is that Alan Watts is acknowledging the existence of a material world standing in opposition to the mind that perceives it – but that this material world is unknown to humanity, if humanity does not possess a mind that can perceive it. Furthermore, mind is not ‘separate’ from the world of matter, but is an integral part of it. This is an evolutionary view of existence (despite its apparent ‘transcendent’ nature), which logically suggests that mind emerges from matter (as a function of the physical brain), although Alan Watts only implies this and does not openly state it. Listen carefully and you will see that this lecture is not only inaccordance with modern science, but is also the description of existence and perception described by the Buddha (particularly found within Early Buddhism), where the Buddha posits a physical world that stands in contrast to the human mind that perceives it – and defines human suffering as being the product of a ‘faulty’ internalised view of this material world. The Buddha rejects any and all attachment (formed in the mind) to this external world (experienced through the senses), and expands upon this position by stating that the idealism expressed as theistic religion is also non-existant (as in the Buddha’s time – as in today – theistic religion is often presented as an ‘answer’ to the suffering of the world). The Buddha states this with certainty because he says that he followed all the meditative paths to their complete end – and discovered that there was no ‘atma’ or Brahmanic ‘soul’ lurking somewhere in the deepest recesses of the mind. When abiding in an enlightened state of mind, karma nolonger exists, rebirth nolonger exists, and a divine (and ‘unseen’) world nolonger exists. The physical body and all social and cultural expressions are also changing, and nothing is impermanent. Assuming things are unchanging is one of the major roots of human suffering for the Buddha. Even the physical world – which the Buddha describes as developing through dependent origination – and which may appear stable for thousands of years, still changes over-time, sometimes tremendously in times of natural calamities. Religion – for the Buddha – is an imagination about something that does not exist in reality. What Alan Watts suggests is that we are left looking at the physical world and the mind that perceives it. The question then becomes not one of realising a divine entity that stands in opposition to matter – but is in fact the ability to ‘see through’ the apparent ‘subject-object’ dichotomy, and rediscover the unity of mind and matter. Alan Watts talks about ‘stilling’ the mind to give the perceiver a break from the mind’s continuous clutter of obscuring thought and feeling. When the mind is ‘still’ its ‘oneness’ with the material universe is clearly reflected. Alan Watts, I suspect, is mixing Western notions of Japanese Zen with modern, Western concepts of science, and he does this very well, but the point he is missing is that from the perspective of Chinese Ch’an, there is a stage of development he does not know about and therefore is missing in his analysis. This reflects two things; 1) the limitation of Japanese Zen, 2) the Western lack of knowledge of Chinese Ch’an. The stage Alan Watts is missing is that both ‘thought’ and ‘stillness’ has an origin in the mind which must be ‘penetrated’ [through hua tou enquiry) for the empty mind ground to be fully realised. It is not simply the case – as Alan Watts suggests – that the mind transitions from ‘movement’ to ‘stillness’. This very much has the ring about it of the distorted ‘Zen’ taught by such people as DT Suzuki both before and after WWII.

Mind Beyond Matter (PSI)?

The following documentary posits that consciousness exists outside the brain, and that conscious minds can communicate with one another irrespective of physical interaction. In other words, individual minds – through an act of will – can communicate with one another (over distance) without recourse to the use of physical actions, language or any-other form of mechanical communication. Evidence for this assumption stems from very small examples of statistical data that measure a little over the 50% expected from pure chance. Furthermore, outside of parapsychological (psi) experimentation, this statistical data (or its apparent implications), does not appear.

What is being suggested by these experimenters? 1) minds can communicate with one another – either singularly or in groups (over distance) – without the need for physical proximity or physical interaction. 2) Despite these experimenters attempting to remain within the discipline of materially based science, there is an implication that ‘consciousness’ pre-exists the brain that produces (or ‘experiences’) it. This position would logically suggest that consciousness is an independent continuum that exists outside the brain (but ‘somewhere’ within time and space), with each human brain ‘connecting’ with this ‘stream’ of consciousness either in the womb or shortly after birth. A further extrapolation would suggest that at physical death – the individual brain ‘disconnects’ from this continuum but leaves an imprint of the individual’s life experiences as part of the ‘collective’ nature of this model.

The problem with this model is that it is a modern replication of the medieval theology of the Judeo-Christian tradition, with ‘spirit’ and ‘god’ simply replaced with ‘mind’ and ‘consciousness’. Of course, people such as Rupert Sheldrake (who has admitted to me that he is using the strictures of modern science to ‘prove’ Judeo-Christian theology to be ‘literally’ correct). pursue parapsychological research as a means to re-assert a peculiarly ‘theistic’ view of existence. This is not science, but an application of theology using certain (and therefore ‘skewed’) scientific methods designed to prove ‘material’ science wrong. In reality, the danger of this disembodied consciousness model is that it lets the Christian Church back into mainstream thinking (by the usurpation of science), and the re-assertion of a theology that in over a thousand years of dominating Western thought, never produced any technical or scientific advancement (not even an egg timer), that could have made life easier for ordinary people. The brain-mind nexus does not require theistic religion as a means to explain its evolutionary existence, or its functionality within human society or the world. After-all, even the Buddha – in his earliest teachings – specified the ‘material’ basis of the mind, and stated that the mind (and ‘consciousness’) cease to exist at the point of physical death (when the inherent link between brain-mind, consciousness, sense organ and sense object is permanently ‘broken’ for the individual concerned). There are other ways of viewing existence that does not require ‘falling back’ into Judeo-Christian theology.

To be clear, I am not making a value judgement about Judeo-Christian theology, but I am stating that such a theistic-based methodology is not a material science. However, the ideas contained within this theology still permeate Western existence, even influencing the minds of those who might otherwise state that they are ‘secular’ in their approach to psi research. Of course, modern, Western secularism grew-out of the Christian theological tradition, and so a long-lasting and ongoing affect is to be expected. This might explain experimenter bias, for example, where the outer garb of the ‘scientific method’ is used to express a deep-rooted theological influence – i.e. the ‘idealism’ that spirit creates matter. This idealism strives to replace the premise of material science – i.e. that a special arrangement of physical matter generates consciousness. Spirit does not create matter – matter generates spirit (or ‘consciousness’). This being the observable case, I would say that psi should proceed from a strictly material scientific basis, with no psi a priori assumptions sullying the reading (or generating) of results. This means that I do not ‘reject’ in principle the notion of psi, but that I do insist upon a material basis for its study. Judeo-Christian theology, regardless of its nobility and short-comings, should be completely eradicated from the scientific method, simply because both methods are unique to their own particular fields of expertise. Science will not prove the existence of god – and theology will not disprove the efficacy of material science. If minds communicate with one another (over distance), it is important to work-out the material basis through which this is happening. Such a discovery would be a monumental advance in human understanding, and have all kinds of profound influences on medicine, education and space travel, for instance. Such an understanding could be used to inoculate humanity against its destructive habits of ‘warfare’ and oppressive modes of social, cultural and political existence.

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