The Case for a Mind-Generated Existence

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Everything a human being ‘senses’ is the product of bio-chemical electricity traversing the neural network that connects the brain with the spine, and the spine with the body. The body, of course, serves as a mediation-point between the physical environment and the brain-spine nexus. A very real problem exists in the form of the gathering and interpretation of sensory data. Admittedly, this is not so much of a problem if the existence of an external, material world is taken for granted. However, the existence of an external, material world – as a distinct and separate entity to the mind-body that perceives it – is simply a philosophical interpretation of reality, entirely premised upon the agency of personal ‘choice’.  If a thought community accepts without question the existence of an independent, external world, then it follows that all scientific and philosophical speculation and development will unfold ‘a priori’ from that theoretical location. The issue here, is that this ‘theoretical location’, because it has been selected as the ‘preferred’ model of reality, is raised to the status of concretised ‘certainty’, and is taken to exist as a matter of common-sense. In this model of reality, the notion of ‘materialism’ becomes the ‘new’ orthodoxy, and all advances in scientific understanding are assumed to ‘hang’ from it, like clothing on a washing-line.

The ‘real’ world is assumed to be composed of observable and measurable matter, with the inner world relegated to the status of ‘immeasurable’ and ‘unreliable’ psychological processes and fleeting emotionally. All the mind creates is endless thought-patterns (of varying quality) that traverse its psychological fabric, interspersed with often ‘irrational’ islands of ‘feeling’. This is the status of the ‘modern’ mind, which is viewed very much as an extension of matter, or the accidental by-products of biological responses to physical conditions. Neuroscience, for instance, claims that the human-brain evolved merely as a means for early humans to effectively traverse their evolutionary (physical) environments, and that the ability to ‘think’ and to ‘feel’ are the left-over attributes associated with this successful function. However the edifice of this ‘certainty’ is punctured if the existence of a separate, material world is not taken for granted. In such a scenario, how can it be known that an ‘external’ environment independently exists, when its presence is apparently known only from the ‘inner’ biological processes associated with bodily ‘sensation’? The structure and texture of an apparently external, (material) world is in reality only the product of bio-electrical energy flowing through nerve-fibres throughout the human-body (and brain). Through a process that is still not fully understood, ‘consciousness’ is generated, and from this, the abilities to ‘sense’, ‘cognise’ and ‘interpret’.

In a sense, this model of a bio-chemical, bio-electrically generated world within the brain is an alternative ‘materialist’ interpretation that replaces a concrete ‘external’ world with an equally ‘concrete’ internally generated world. The materialistic goal-posts have been moved. Nothing for certain can be known about any theoretical ‘external’ world, because there is no way of gaining truly ‘independent’ or ‘objective’ information about such a world. As matters stand, humanity is perceiving the inner processes associated with its own biological functionality, and mistaking this ‘subjective’ data for a ‘true’ and ‘genuine’ reflection of an ‘external’ and ‘independently’ functioning world. The human-brain is a physical organ that has apparently ‘evolved’ due to environmental pressure, and yet this entire process cannot be known to reliably exist outside of the mind that perceives it. All of this interpretation exists firmly within the material realm, but relocates ‘reality’ within the human-brain, rather than being external to the human-body. If this is correct, then the human-brain ‘generates’ reality through the agency of ‘perception’, whereby nothing truly exists until it is internally ‘generated’ through the processing of sensory-data. An external world only appears to exist as a necessary means to fit-in to the trap of limited human perception. An independently functioning ‘external’ world cannot be known to reliably ‘exist’ outside of the sensory processes that assume its presence.

What of metaphysics? A brain can generate many different kinds of realities if the concrete (material) world is not a priori assumed to independently exist. These models do not necessarily have to be religious, but the idea of religion is obviously not excluded. A mind does not have to be associated with a god-concept, but neither is there any reason for it not to be. Deciding on a ‘mind’ or a ‘god’ is simply moving the metaphysical goal-posts, as in reality, existence is interpreted as being ‘non-material’ in essence. Of course, religious dogma can get in the way of interpreting reality, just as scientific dogma can hinder in exactly the same manner. Is ‘perception’ responsible for reality, or is material existence the product of a ‘divine will’? When the edifice of a separate (material) reality is rejected, then any and all ideas become of an equal validity in essence, and only differ in practical manifestation. Obviously, a religious or ideological fanaticism is problematic for the over-all survival humanity, but for those stuck in this dogmatic reality, the often violent and intolerant structures afford a certain ‘advantage’ over other fellow human-beings, despite the inherent injustices associated with such mindless violence and bigotry. It must be stressed, however, that just as much destruction has been wreaked upon the world by countries that pursue a strictly ‘scientific’ and ‘materialist’ agenda, as has been inflicted by any religiously minded regime. The point here, is the freedom to place one’s awareness exactly where it is needed to generated the maximum ‘meaningfulness’ for each individual (and communal) existence, free of anger and aggression, whilst being full of love and compassion for the entirety of existence. If a mind-generated existence is not motivated by the highest ideals envisioned by humanity, then what is the point of such a reality?

411 Missing People – Reconsidered

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People go missing all over the world. Anyone can go missing at anytime, and in the most unlikely of circumstances. David Paulides – a former police officer – starting with 411 examples, has spent a number of years researching the oddest and most disturbing of these disappearances, originally in North America’s vast national park network. He has subsequently extended his forensic research to include areas outside the US, including Canada, Europe and beyond. The evidence suggests that in this modern age of instant communication, there is a phenomenon of disturbing disappearances that appear to defy logic. Although David Paulides makes a living out of his research (one of his books on Amazon UK sells for just over £99!), he does share his research freely on radio in the US, and on Youtube across the world. Another point to this, is that a price of a book does not necessarily equate to a vast income, and David Paulides self-funds most, if not all of his investigations, which includes communicating with US National Parks Authorities that state that they do not keep any records of ‘missing persons’ – as bizarre as that sounds. The same US National Parks Authorities have stated that they could compile a public list for Paulides (suggesting that an internal list already exists), but that it would cost Paulides $1.4 million!

One point never mentioned during any 411 discussion is that the concept of the ‘national park’ in North America was created into law by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1872. What many do not realise, is that this act was just one of many designed to disempower Native American Indians, and in this case, ensure that large swathes of  ancestral land were taken off of the various tribes, and kept exclusively for European ‘leisure’ activities. A special ‘armed’ police force (i.e. ‘park rangers’) was created to ensure that Native American Tribes remained dispossessed, and nolonger entered or roamed on this now ‘stolen’ land. Europeans (and now other ethnicities) make use of these beautiful open spaces, and have no idea that the true Native American inhabitants are now forced to live on small ‘reservations’ of poor quality land – also patrolled by yet another ‘special’ police designed to limit their movement. This injustice is the basis to ALL ‘national parks’ in the US.

With regard to these apparently ‘odd’ disappearances of adults and children (both able-bodied and disabled), caution must be exercised. Many people who are experts in search and rescue are of the opinion that many incidences are the product of animal attack, whereby a victim is quickly killed and buried in a particular area – and only retrieved by the animal when the human activity dies down. This might explain why bodies are later found in areas already searched. If people disappear near bodies of water, the culprit seems obvious. There is also the possibility of sudden onset of psychological and physical medical issues that affect perception and generate all kinds of unusual behaviour. A simple reason for people getting lost is disorientation. Panic soon sets in, as does manic behaviour and activity inspired by fear. It could be that the manner in which the evidence is being viewed is faulty. We must always be careful with how evidenced is gathered, processed and interpreted. This is the scientific method in action. It is only when a tight control of information gathering is exercised, and that information objectively and logically assessed, that the truly anomalous details (if any) can be ascertained. The 411 phenomenon represents the tragedy of human disappearances, and on the surface, offers examples of some very odd situations and circumstances.

 

The Internal Model of Perception

Inner science is a non-religious investigation of the science of perception. It has to be ‘non-religious’ because it follows the ‘no hypothesis’ methodology associated with modern scientific enquiry. This approach is not in itself a judgement against religion, or the religious mind-set. On the contrary, it is the acknowledgement that religious methodology follows the ‘yes hypothesis’ and is the exact opposite of the scientific mind-set. Theology presents an already ‘complete’ vision of the universe, where it is assumed that theism is correct (and self-evident), and that all humanity has to do – from generation to generation – is simply to study this body of theological knowledge, conform to its strictures, and apply those strictures to everyday life. There is no questioning of the root validity of theistic thinking, and no comprehension that it has been a human mind that has ‘assumed’ theological thinking into being. This is because all theology is believed to have originated not from the human mind that first conceived it, but has rather ‘manifested’ from the divine-will of a primarily ‘unseen’ theistic entity. If people find comfort in this type of thinking, that is their right – just as it is an equal right (I would hope) not to find solace in such an approach to understanding reality. From a scientific position, it seems a matter of where one places their conscious awareness – whereas from a religious position, it is a matter of ‘belief’ or ‘non-belief’, ‘theism’ or ‘atheism’, etc.

The above programme is not religious, but entirely scientific in nature (exploring the ‘internal model’ narrative). It investigates the human brain, the human mind, perception and reality. It does this from the study of reality in the form of organic and inorganic matter. The brain is an isolated organ that exists in the skull, which is entirely cut-off from the outside world. It does not directly sense anything in and of itself, and possesses no ability to sense any stimulus in and of itself. The brain communicates with the outside world through bioelectrical impulses that are received from the senses which mediate with the external world. However, all the sensed data, regardless of its nature, be it sight, noise, smell or touch, etc, arrives at the different filtering parts of the brain in exactly the same format – namely that of bio-electrical impulses. In a process that is still not entirely understood, the brain converts these impulses into what might be called the recognisable and tangible senses. All this data serves to form an all-round image of the outer world – an outer world that the brain never directly perceives – but which is assumed to exist in the manner through which it is perceived. This situation is historical and directly related to the requirements of human survival as manifest in evolutionary development. Human beings perceive exactly as much of the physical environment that they need to survive, and nothing more. This would suggest that despite a working model of the external world that all human beings share, we cannot be exactly sure what the external world is really like in all its aspects. We may assume that the external world exists independent of the mind that perceives it, simply because the human brain from which the mind emerges, is itself composed of a material substance. Human perception constructs an image of the outer world that is functional for human survival, but which is probably incomplete in its ability to ‘sense’.

Although a working reality is generated in the human mind by the human brain, this does not mean that the outer world is an illusion that is generated from within the mind. Internal perception should not be conflated with the processes of ‘creating’ the world that is being ‘perceived’. The world exists independently of the brain and mind that perceives it, and remains unchanged in its deepest aspects by the act of general human perception. Here, a distinction must be drawn between general human ‘perception’ (which is instantaneous), and ‘observation’ (which is deliberate and in the case of science, governed by strict laws of conduct). This is despite the fact that a ‘vision’ of the outer world is generated within the brain and mind, and that it is difficult to ascertain the exact accuracy of this construction. This is probably the original meaning behind the Yogacara School of Buddhism which has been generally misconstrued as assuming that all that exists, is the inner world of ideas. The inner world of ideas definitely exists, but it is a product of a physical body that interfaces with an independently existing external environment. This is important research, but my personal opinion is that there must be a correlation between inner perception and the outer world that is sensed, and that the traps of ‘idealism’ ‘psychologism’ must be avoided to retain scientific objectivity. I suspect that human perception of the environment is ‘correct’ and ‘accurate’ – even though it might be incomplete. This is because it is unlikely humanity would have survived if its perception of the material universe was fatally flawed.

 

Buddhism: Pali Bhavana and Chinese Ch’an

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In 1996, I spent a short but fruitful period studying under the Theravada Buddhist monk named Mangala Thero – who was then the Head Monk of the Ganga Ramaya Temple in Beruwela (Sri Lanka). He was not particularly interested in the Mahayana Buddhism of China (or anywhere else, for that matter), but when I explained what Chinese Ch’an (禪) was, the venerable monk thought for a moment, and then explained that he would explain this approach as an exclusive focus upon the development of ‘bhavana’ (Pali: भावना). Broadly speaking, Mangala Thero stated that ‘bhavana’ begins and ends with ‘reigning in’ the mind, so that it is nolonger ill-disciplined. When a mind is disciplined (through concentration upon the breathing, or upon generating loving kindness, etc), the habitual thoughts calm-down and eventually ‘cease’. When the mind is ‘stilled’ in this manner, the ‘thought formations’ (i.e. the fourth aggregate) nolonger arise in their delusive form and ‘pure consciousness’ (i.e. fifth aggregate) can be clearly ‘perceived’ (third aggregate) as the body continues to ‘sense’ (second aggregate) the material environment (first aggregate), and the mind is ‘aware’ of the absence of thought. After this, it is a matter of deepening and enriching the experience through further meditation practice performed within a conducive environment. When I asked my main teacher Richard Hunn (1949-2006) about ‘bhavana’, as usual, he knew the Chinese translation for this Buddhist technical term – which is ‘修習’. Chinese transliterations and translations are useful as the early Chinese scholars had to understand the Indian Pali and Sanskrit terms before they could be rendered effectively into the Chinese language. Obviously, some of the early transliteration of Indian Buddhist terms are purely ‘phonetic’ in nature and in themselves do not convey much meaning as ideograms. This represents an initial process of a slow, careful and gradual building-up of knowledge in China about a thoroughly ‘foreign’ Indian philosophy that had to develop an ‘interface’ with existing Chinese culture. As understanding grew, literal transliterations often gave way to more ‘exact’ translations and I suspect this process happened to the Pali and Sanskrit term ‘bhavana’. Today, within Chinese Buddhism, ‘bhavana’ is not a commonly used term, but it is written as ‘修習’ (xiu2 xi2). The ideogram ‘修’ (xiu2) carries the meanings of ‘repair’, ‘to mend’, ‘construct’, ‘to cultivate’, and ‘to sharpen’ – whilst the ideogram ‘習’ (xi2) carries the meanings of ‘training’, ‘habit’, ‘custom’, ‘repeat’, ‘cultivation’, ‘to follow’ and to ‘learn’. When ‘修習” (bhavana) is taken together, it does appear to be a very good Pali definition of the Ch’an (禪) method. The ideogram ‘修’ (xiu2) contains the left-hand particle ‘攸’ (you1) which depicts a person ‘expertly’ fording a river with a pole (and ‘travelling far’) – whilst the right-hand particle ‘彡’ (shan1) signifies ‘writing’ as used in the act of of committed ‘developmental study’. The ideogram ‘習’ (xi2) carries the upper particle ‘羽’ (yu3) which refers to feathered ‘wings’ that ‘uplift’ (with flying associated with ‘progression’ and ‘advancement’), and the lower particle ‘习’ (xi2) which directly refers to the act of ‘disciplined study.’ Bhavana (修習), therefore, refers to a committed and uplifting Buddhist meditational practice that requires dedication, expert guidance, repetition, and a suggestion of ‘transcendence’ if practised correctly. In other words, ‘bhavana; is a means to get ‘from here’, to ‘there’ – but these two ideograms suggest that it is not an ordinary path of ‘mind culture’. Scholarship, study and expertise are extolled activities and characteristics within Chinese culture, and ‘bhavana’ is a prime example of this activity. A bow of thanks to Mangala Thero and Richard Hunn (Upasaka Wen Shu). Finally, ‘bhavana’ (भावना)) appears to be linked to ‘भ‍वन’ (again, pronounced ‘bhavana’) which is used in the sense of ‘constructing’ a material object such as a building or a shelter, etc. In this context ‘भ‍वन’ (bhavana) suggests a very firm grounding in the material world, with the training of the mind in Buddhist though being considered a part of, or extension of that material world. The ‘mind’ within Buddhism is not a spirit that stands in opposition to the physical world – but is an integral part of it. This means that ‘भ‍वन’ (bhavana) can also be used to denote ‘physical existence’ (or its ‘arising’), with the term ‘abhava’ (अभाव) referring to the ’empty’ nature or ‘insubstantiality’ of physical existence – which is void of any permanency.

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.

Other Dimensions (Out There)

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The main stumbling block with analysing the idea of witnessing another reality, is ensuring that what is experienced, is not a product of the malfunction of the human brain, and its ability to perceive, cognise or interpret. An individual could be suffering from any number of internally generated psychological and physiological conditions, that interfere with the usual process of sensing the material environment. Such divergence away from normal function in the brain (and body), obviously leads to an internally generated view of the physical world, that does not actually exist ‘out there’. If a group of people appear to share a ‘visionary’ experience, it cannot be rejected out of hand, that all concerned are suffering from a perceptual ailment, or that the group is engaging in a ‘cult-like’ activity involving peer pressure, mutual conditioning, and interpretive reinforcement (i.e. a group hallucination). From a scientific perspective, these issues cannot be ignored whilst attempting to establish the theoretical principle of the existence of different planes of reality. Of course, belief systems effect how the world is perceived simply because that is one of their primary functions, but ‘belief’ does not necessarily equate to correct perception or interpretation of reality. Although theoretical physics postulates that other dimensions may exist (i.e. ‘String Theory’ and ‘Quantum Theory’, etc), these realities are mathematical probabilities, and not the product of sensory observation in the usual or mundane sense. In other words, the only manner in which these realities have been understood to exist, is through the use of numbers as cognised by the human brain. This is very different to the structure of religious or spiritual visions of other realities, which always appear to be like this (mundane) reality – but ‘ideal’ in nature. This can be ‘ideally’ good or bad, depending upon belief ad circumstance, but there is no scientific reason why other dimensions should be in anyway ‘familiar’ to human beings and their cognitive sensory array (which has evolved within a particular environment), or even ‘perceptible’ to the human mind in the ordinary sense.

Ch’an Dialectics

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‘The illusion of form which includes the body and mind made of the five aggregates and the visible world is tackled first by returning each of its aspects to where it arises to prove its unreality.  Then the illusion of perception is wiped out by revealing its essence, or alaya, which like a second moon is also an illusionary creation.’

(Charles Luk: Preface – Surangama Sutra – Munshiram, (2001), Page xvii)

The Ch’an masters of ancient China are often judged as speaking nonsense, or even being ‘crazy’ in some Western-quarters, when the ‘enlightened’ dialogues with their disciples are analysed – supposedly in the cold light of day.  The problem with this type of analysis is that it is premised upon a major category error of interpretation that ignores or avoids the psychological and physical process the Ch’an masters are employing. This means that the ‘essence’ or ‘underlying’ aspect of the enlightened Ch’an dialogue is ‘missing’ from this limited interpretation.  It is like the presence of a wooden table being explained, without including the reality that it was once a living and growing ‘tree’ in the world, and that this tree was cut-down, and its trunk chopped into smaller pieces, which were then ‘processed’ into the applicable parts that are used to construct a standard table.  Everything in the world follows a logically discernible set of causes and effects, with a specific ‘cause’ eliciting a specific ‘effect’, and so on.  Far from being ‘illogical’, the Ch’an method is in fact highly logical, and a product of a sophisticated interpretation of depth psychology and behaviour.  The basis of the Ch’an dialogue is that of the interaction of ‘form’ and ‘void’ in the perception of the unenlightened disciple, as he or she is led to profound understanding by an already enlightened Ch’an master.  The Ch’an master either emphasises the ‘void’, or emphasises the ‘form’, depending upon the particular psychology (and understanding) of the disciple at hand.  This often rapid interchange of dialectical reality creates a ‘tension’ in the enquiring mind that assists in ‘loosening’ the bonds of ingrained attachment, and klesic obscuration.  This is the ancient Ch’an method at its root, which has nothing to do with being ‘crazy’, or ‘missing’ parts of one’s anatomy.  Dialectics, of course, can be traced not only back to the Buddha, but probably much earlier in ancient India, and of course in ancient and classical Greece, but the Buddha is unique in the ancient world in his use of ‘form’ and ‘void’ as a definite means to interpret and define reality.  It can be further stated that the early Confucian texts of ancient China utilised the dialectical method by juxtaposing ‘good’ and ‘bad’ behaviour, as did the various early Daoist or proto-Daoist texts (which defined reality as ‘correct’ or incorrect’ paths of endeavour).  If the Ch’an method is understood properly, then the casual observer is not ‘limited’ to the surface level of interpretation, (as this mistakes the ‘surface’ for the ‘essence’), but instead understands that profound system of stimulus – response is unfolding in real-time.  As the disciple mistakenly presents a surface obscuration in the mind (accompanied by a corresponding physical behaviour), the Ch’an master automatically ‘dismisses’ this ‘limited’ interpretation of reality, and immediately returns to its ‘empty’ essence – whether the disciple is instantly enlightened or not, depends entirely upon that disciple’s historical conditioning – and the Ch’an master’s direct perception of that history as it existentially manifests.  If the disciple mistakes a state of one-sided ‘nothingness’ as ‘emptiness’, the Ch’an master might well suddenly present ‘form’ as an antidote (as true emptiness contains all form, and vice versa).  In reality, the Ch’an method does not go beyond the Buddha’s realisation of ‘perception’ and ‘non-perception – the so-called ‘Tathagata Ch’an’ – but differs in that the realisation of the empty essence of ‘perception’ and ‘non-perception’ is directly emphasised from the moment Ch’an training commences – the so-called Patriarch’s Ch’an’.

Scientific Buddha

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The Buddha organised his mind in a manner that is common (or at least familiar) today, but which was unheard of and unknown thousands of years ago in ancient India.  This is why Carl Jung referred to him as the first ‘modern’ man.  This is not to suggest that everyone alive today is ‘enlightened’, or that modern minds are not infected with greed, hatred, and delusion, far from it, but is rather an acknowledgement that modern mainstream science looks to logic and reason for its justifying paradigm, and moves away from imagination and speculative theories. People’s minds are just as deluded today as they were in the Buddha’s time, but his way of logically organising the thought processes of his mind is inaccordance with the highest principles known in the West and manifested through advanced scientific thinking.  As the Buddha emphasised the ‘uprooting’ of all ignorance from the mind, he can be further referred to as the world’s first modern ‘scientist’.  However, the Buddha pushed the boundaries of knowing much further with regard to his ability to ‘perceive’ his own mind and fully comprehend its functioning – as if he was witnessing his mind ‘objectively’ whilst still inhabiting its interior.  What many modern scientists lack is this very insight into their own minds that the Buddha possessed, and as such, whilst modern scientists pursue otherwise ‘logical’ paradigms, their personal mind remains trapped in a state of habitual ‘inversion’.  Modern scientists observe and measure the physical universe accurately, but at no time do they understand or comprehend the deep-rooted interaction that exists between ‘conscious awareness’ and ‘physical matter’ – still preferring to see physical matter as ‘distinct’ from conscious awareness.  Even the quantum understanding that perception effects the physical phenomena it observes, is arrived at ‘objectively’ and is devoid of personal, inner realisation of the very truth it expresses.  The Buddha taught that ‘perception’ and the objects ‘perceived’, although separate and distinct as categories of description, nevertheless are not separate in essence.  The Buddha advises that all those who follow his path must ‘uproot’ ALL ignorance.   This instruction alone proves that the Buddha was a ‘scientist’ and not a religious teacher in the conventional sense.

Uncertainty Matters

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Monday 13 May 1963

‘This evening went to St Mary-le-Bow, Cheapside, for a meeting of the Christian Agnostics to hear the Bishop of Woolwich, John Robinson, talking about his book Honest to God, which we had gathered to discuss.  The Reverend Joseph McCulloch has organised this group, justifying its name by reference to the line (from “Oranges and Lemons”) which runs: “I do not know – says the great bells of Bow”.

At the gathering were Canon John Collins of St Paul’s Cathedral, Father Corbishley (a Jesuit writer), George Dickson (an Industrialist), Duncan Fairn (who took the chair), Gerald Gardiner, Dr Graham Howe (the humanist psychologist), the Earl of Longford, Canon and Mrs Milford, Mrs JB Priestly and a number of others.

The Bishop opened by saying that secularism was not basically anti-Christian and that Christians must understand and even welcome the revolt against dualistic supernaturalism, the mythological view o the world and the religiosity of the Church.  He said his book was designed to help those who were in revolt to see the basic validity of the Christian message.

Canon Collins asked whether Christ was perfect, for if he was, he was then God.  Woolwich replied that he wanted to write a book about Christ and that the Virgin birth made Christ seem unreal.  Woolwich’s interest in Christ lay in his normality, not his abnormality.  He felt he could not make sweeping statements about Christ’s moral life, for what was significant was his obedience.  Collins replied that if you simply say Christ was “the best man I know”, Christianity could never get started.

We broke for supper and resumed for another hour and a half.  Later we had a much deeper discussion about the supernatural, in which I had a long confrontation with Corbishley about whether the evidence for the supernatural came really from external manifestations or the discovery of hidden depths.  Corbishley was splendidly Jesuitical in saying that you had to have mythology “to get people to pray”.  Here is the real nub of the question.  Is prayer a duty or a need?’

(The Best of Tony Benn: Edited By R Winstone, Arrow Books, (2015), Pages 37-38)

I am of the considered opinion that there is a way of knowing that is free of the structural limitations associated with all the conventional systems designed to ‘gather’ facts, and to separate fact from fiction.  This type of knowledge gathering is dualistic and inefficient from a universalist position, but highly efficient from a localised (and limited) perspective.  Modern science falls into this category, as do many religions.  Each system is a programmed device to declare certain phenomenon to be ‘real’ and other ‘phenomenon’ to be false.  This has allowed humanity to develop a certain efficiency of thought and action, and to invent medicine, technology and all kinds of labour-saving devices.  No one in their right mind would call this advancement wrong or incorrect (as the progressive results speak for themselves), and it would be correct to describe modern science as an all-embracing exercise in the management of ‘certainty’ – but what of ‘uncertainty’?  As the remit of modern science is incredibly narrow, it follows that by far the vast majority of existence does not fall into the declared ‘fact’ of scientific understanding.  Therefore science, although vitally important, cannot and does not represent the entirety of human perceptual awareness.  This means that there must be a central position of awareness that fully embraces the entire periphery of ‘knowing’ without any contradiction, partiality, or contradiction.  This, in effect, is the realised integration of ‘existence’ and ‘non-existence’ in an instant.  This would imply that everything exists and does not exist simultaneously – and this includes all notions of ‘god’ and ‘non-god’.  Although I am not religious in anyway, I can truthfully state that god exists AND does not exist in equal measure, and that I am disinterested in either view.

Being ‘Aware’ of Awareness

Mind, Bead, Touch

Mind, Bead, Touch

Ch’an is essentially working with the psychology of perception and apperception. This is the process of ‘sensing’ data through the six senses (perception), and then through the habit of the conditioned mind – arranging that data into a certain and definite interpretation (apperception) of the world.  This implies that all viewpoints and opinions are the product of conditioning influence in the environment, that produce and sustain (through habit) a certain ‘frequency’ of inner, interpretive existence.  Within his teaching on the Four Noble Truths, the Buddha refers to this habit as ‘mental formations, or ‘thought constructs’.  Regardless of whether the world is viewed as independently existing or not, the human mind will only interpret its presence in a manner conducive to its own historical conditioning.  During this habit forming process, the mind remains ‘unaware’ of the process of conditioning it is experiencing, and cannot see beyond its own limited (and programmed) interpretive horizon.  This narrow perception of reality is taken as being ‘all there is to know’, when in fact the mind remains ignorant of its own predicament.  Ch’an is the method of seeing into and through this limited predicament.  A Ch’an master’s statements and actions seem weird and illogical to the one-sided mind – but make perfect sense to a mind that is functioning in an integrative and all-embracing fashion.  Anyone can be ‘aware’ because it is a natural state – but only a Buddha can be ‘aware’ of the inherent quality of ‘awareness’ itself.

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