Literature Philosophy

The Essence of Zen

I just got through reading Alan Watts’ “The Way of Zen” which is just awesome, by the way. I didn’t really know who he was, other than, I heard Joseph Campbell mention him a couple times, and in the back of my mind I thought, “Oh, he was just some sort of 60’s new age guy who was sort of in Joseph’s ‘Entourage’.”

Wrong! This guy was the real deal. He was so “in it” so “grounded” that hearing him speak, which may be even better than his great books, you know you are listening to someone who was “transparent to transcendence.”

That’s what draws you to someone who is or has really followed their bliss, is that the ground is so speaking through them, that you can just feel there’s no Ego agenda that’s going to try to fool you, no editing out of anything, even competitive forces, because it’s like the ground of being speaking ‘through’ this person. That’s a paradox in itself, and as you get more into this world, you know you’re headed in the right direction as more of these paradoxes, oxymorons, anamorphuses, start popping up, and not only do you not mind, but they have a delicious quality to them.

Anyway, back to my main point. One thing that strikes me that may be the essence of Zen, especially when it comes to some sort of skill is that the practice isn’t what is making you better. The practice, which is of course required, is rather putting you in tune to receive the genius. The practice, the honest practice, sort of makes you worthy, like an initiation, to receive the message from the Gods. And then it becomes almost effortless, like the craft is working through you. You become a conduit for this genius. So the practice puts you “in tune” to be a conduit for manifesting the eternal.


The Key Insight of Mysticism and Meta-Physics

After having listened, watched, read hundreds, perhaps thousands of hours of material from and about mysticism, over the course of more than a decade, the primary message that keeps coming through these experiences, if I could boil it down to one sentence is this:

Consciousness creates reality. Consciousness creates matter and not the other way around.

It’s tough when 99.999999% of the time your mind, all of your senses (And I would say those false messages are directed by the ‘Ego’) are telling you just the exact opposite. But then, looked at one way, that’s part of the game. That’s the challenge of the game.
And that consciousness is not just our personal consciousness, or even our deep, archetypal consciousness (‘atman,’ ‘soul’), but a pure consciousness that is deeper and “a priori” to the Universe (or even ‘Multiverse’) itself. This could be called “The Ground of Being” which in the language of mysticism “neither is, nor is not.” The fundamental error of our experience is the belief of just the opposite: That “reality” or matter “out there” creates our consciousness “in here.” This is the fundamental source of all of our frustration. Because this latter belief leads to the feeling that life is a prison, that our consciousness, our experience. is determined by an outside force that we have no power to change.

Let’s look at an analogy in nature: An apple grows out of the tree. The apple isn’t made somewhere else and then placed on the tree. It grows out of the tree.

Well, wait, you might say, you are contradicting yourself. If the apple grows out of the tree, isn’t that analogous to consciousness grown out of, coming from matter?

Only if you mix up the metaphor. In this analogy, the tree, the “Axis Mundi”, is a metaphor for consciousness, and the Apple (The “Knowledge of Good and Evil”) is a metaphor for the duality of the “objective” world.

So the question would be, if one believes this theory, or perhaps has even had a mystical experience themselves, is what do you do? How does one expand on that, how does one change? When does the adventure begin?

My answer is that I’m not sure. It may take me another decade to even come up with a hunch. But my gut tells me a practice of meditation is one if not “the” answer, or at the very least a way to get to “first base.” Because when you can step back from your thoughts, it starts to take the energy out of them, to quiet them, and then the mind starts to become “transparent to transcendence” which feels like taking a psychological shower, cleansing the mind, cleansing the personal consciousness, so that the connection between it (Your everyday living body and wakefulness) and your archetypal consciousness (Your ‘Atman’ ‘Soul’ or  ‘Wisdom Body’) becomes reopened. Then the billions (if not infinite) of years of wisdom consciousness becomes immediately available to your present, your ‘right now’,  experiential consciousness.

If that’s not the “It” itself, it would seem, at least at the gut level, to be a great jumping off point. A place where many more options or ‘doors’ become available. A place where an adventure may begin. Like the earlier analogy I used, if the “Ultimate” is like a home run in baseball, then it seems like meditation, or some form of it, is at least a way to get to first base, from where you’ll automatically know, from the wisdom level, of what to do, or not to do, to continue your progress.

Films Philosophy Science

Ebert, Dawkins, Maher, & Hitchens’ Neo-Determinism

Painting from "The Red Book" by C.G. Jung

Determinism, the idea that everything can be explained, has a “reason”,  died in 1906, the “Miracle” Year when Einstein came up with Special Relativity. Turned out Light didn’t care what the Victorians thought and didn’t obey “reason.” By 1925, with the Quantum Theory, whatever vestige of this mechanized view of the World was laid to rest once and for all.

Or so one would “think.”

But it seems lately in the voices and writings of Roger Ebert, Richard Dawkins, Bill Maher, and Christopher Hitchens, among others (those are the ones who spring to mind), it seems to be the “Pragmatist’s Badge of Honor” to drag this dusty, worn out, good for nothing idea, back up from the basement.

For what “reason,” I have no idea, and the irony is that they seem to be invoking “Science,” the very craft of which is the idea’s undoing, as their main witness. Even though “Science” has testified time and time again, that what it saw and is seeing under that microscope and telescope is totally irrational and makes no “sense” at all.

There’s always been this sense that Science and Mythology are at odds with each other, but in this century and with every day that passes, Science seems to be only confirming what the roots of mythology has always been symbolizing.

This “Neo Determinist” Zeitgeist has been on my “mind” a lot over the last few years, mainly because of the above mentioned and other “influencers” of the day, it has become a Zeitgeist, even a hundred years after it was Scientifically swept away. But reading Roger Ebert’s “meta” review the Clint Eastwood movie, “Hereafter,” today motivated me to write comment on his blog, and then hence this blog post.

I say “meta” because it was mostly, not a review, but his take on the whole “new age” movement, so to speak, spirituality specifically, and of course his cynical view of it, but through the course of the blog it seemed like he was trying to rationalize or “bail” Clint Eastwood out, saying the subject matter of the movie could be “explained” without the need of the “supernatural.”  One of the first lines of his “review” jumped out at me:

“All the events we can perceive take place in a rational universe governed by physical laws.”

And lead me to leave this comment:

“Actually there’s nothing rational about the Universe at all. From what we can tell from the IMAP satellite images it began about 13 billion years ago from something weighing less than an ounce, and then for reasons unknown expanded at faster than light (Inflation Theory), symmetries fell apart under these extreme conditions forming “forces” that condensed matter into what we know and see today. But even today the very fabric of the Universe is un-rational. The very fact that electrons, for instance, are in multiple places at once around the nucleus is the only reason our bodies hold together. We can describe this but we don’t know how it works.

Even if we knew how they worked, who’s making them work? We describe the physical laws but who or what is executing them? In this sense then “God” as Joseph Campbell said, is a symbol of that which is beyond thought, beyond what is even possible to be thought.

“Reason,” as Blake said, is simply “the bound or outward circumference of energy”

So, we may can come to “know” this mystery, but not through reason or thinking. We can study for years, for instance, a chemistry book on “how” a baby is born, but a woman’s body actually executes the act without thinking.”

Philosophy Politics

In Defense of Rand Paul

“He who is forced against his will, is of the same opinion still.” – Deepak Chopra

I’m sure you know the back story: Last week, Rand Paul, son of Congressman Ron Paul (R) Texas, won the Republican nomination for Senate in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The day after his victory, his Democratic opponent, Jack Conway, announced on “Hardball” that one of the reasons voters should consider him “out there” or “extreme”, I can’t remember Chris Matthews’ exact words, but you know the typical descriptions of Libertarians: “Wacky, Looney, Tea-baggers, etc.” designed not to intelligently debate them, but to label them in order not to have to have the debate itself.  Conway stated, for one reason, is that Paul wanted to repeal the 1964 Civil Rights Act, implying in its entirety. You can imagine all the hairs on the back of Matthews’ standing up. Later that night, on the “Rachel Maddow Show” is when the real firestorm or controversy began. Paul was on the show being interviewed and pressed on this exact question. He explained that his position was that 9 of the 10 sections of the law he agreed with, but the aspect that delt with private businesses, he was against. The red boiled to Maddow’s face.

“Are you saying that businesses should be allowed to not serve black people if they so chose?”

Mr. Paul tried to explain his position in a philosophical context, demonstrating for instance the idea that if we think of private businesses as “public” spaces that the proprietor of said establishment would not have the right to ban guns.

Ms. Maddow would have none of it. She was out for blood.

“Just answer the question, yes or no.”

Mr. Paul was flustered. He knew that by giving a simple answer of “Yes” that a piece of video tape a few seconds long would be produced in order to smear him and possibly destroy his campaign completely. Why? Because answering that question “Yes” without explaining the philosophical context for your reasoning would automatically label him as a racist. Loaded sound bites like these, whether text or video, are like reflexes in the brain. They automatically fire. They are like branding a cattle. They stick for life.

Blood Ms. Maddow did draw. She definitely left him mumbling and stumbling. To say he didn’t handle it well is an understatement, but by know means a death blow, because he did emphasize his reasoning, that he was definitely not a racist, nor would support such a business personally. While she won the debate and definitely drew blood, he definitely didn’t come off as the typical politician, seeming like a puppet. He definitely came off, if stumbling on PR Grades, as someone who was authentic and thoughtful. I don’t think anyone watching it, even an African American, would truly think Paul is a racist, though it was clear it was Ms Maddow’s intent to brand him this way.

I would like to argue that Mr. Paul is right and that Ms. Maddow and her ilke are wrong with two main points.

  1. That the point is moot.

While Mr. Paul did say he “philosophically” disagreed with the commerce section of the Civil Right’s Act, he did say he clearly had no intention of repealing and that was not part of his platform. His thoughts and point of view were simply to display his overall philosophy. Opponents argue that it is impossible to separate his position on this topic as a demonstration of his philosophy from the danger that he would actually repeal the law, assuming he had such power, and bring back segregation to the country. But this is simply not true. For one, no one could ever have the power to over turn the Civil Rights Act. It would entail overturning the whole law, which no one is for, or could ever have the political will to do so. Overhauling such a law would be a mammoth undertaking: the commerce clause has already been decided in the courts, and no one want to change it because the facts of America today are that no one’s interested in going back to the way it was. We don’t want discrimination based on race even in private business, and the facts of America today is that by and large we don’t have that. Now whether that fact is because of the law itself, or that time and the country have simply moved past it naturally might be up to debate. But no one’s really interested in it. We’ve arrived at the place we wanted. Does it matter now whether it was by boat, train, or plane? No matter how you slice, dice, or cut it, the point of the specific law is history and moot. Mr. Paul clearly demonstrated that he and any reasonable person understood it to be that way. Ms. Maddow, if anything, demonstrated she did not. And I would argue that anyone who thought the point of the specific legislation itself wasn’t moot at this point in time would be the one who is “looney” or “extreme.”

2.  One can use a moot point to make a broader philosophical argument

Just because a specific action in the past today is moot, doesn’t mean the action itself can’t be used to make a broader philosophical point, and that philosophical point of view from Mr. Paul’s perspective is this: Freedom is the highest value in our country. Why? Well, I won’t pretend to get in the founder’s head or hearts, but if I were guessing I would say this: In psychology there is the tenant that every brain has a light and dark or “shadow” side. But in order to quell or not let the “dark” side display itself in public, one must somehow find a way, not to exorcise the dark side (that only makes it grow) but somehow ritualistically acknowledge and honor the “shadow” in a private way. It is found that if the shadow side of our nature is honored in a private way, it will tend not to display itself in a public way. For the subconscious knows no difference in “private” or “public” and it’s energy is released with any kind of sincere acknowledgement. Freedom is chosen as the highest value of society for precisely this same reason: a population that is forced in behaving in a way that is deemed socially acceptable, (instead of “choosing” to behave in that way), is a population whose dark side, shadow, and resentment grows, along with its corruption. Instead, a population that has private freedom, has a sacred space in order to deal effectively with their shadow energies, and in turn gives birth to more energy for good in the public arena. A society that chooses to do good, instead of being forced to do good, is the kind of transcendent society that the founders, I believe, had set as a goal, and freedom is its sole and primary driving force. The Founders in their day had seen bad and mediocre societies come and go, but they wanted to build the platform which would foster not just good, but a great society, and the solution they found was a very illuminated one, and as all such solutions are, a very ironic and paradoxical one: the secret to harnessing the greatest amount and best energies of an individual in the service of his society, was not to control him, but instead to free him.

Related Outside of this Blog:

New York Sun – “Rand Paul & the Constitution” May 21, 2010

Philosophy Science

Want to Travel Through Space and Time? Don’t Collapse Your Wave Function!

Technology is like stealing fire from the Gods, that’s one interpretation of the fire theft metaphor you see in mythology, most notably the Prometheus story, but it never satisfies because it is piecemeal, and the second we observe it, it freezes, its wave function collapses. So the more we get, the more we want, and the void is never filled. Part of the symbolism of the Cross is that the horizontal bar represents the divide between the conscious and unconscious, logic and emotion, and they have inversely proportional relationships. The more “Leviathans” that Logic destroys, the Dragon of the Ego grows and further suppresses the unconscious energies, spontaneity.

But an important step in the “Marriage of Heaven and Hell” developed at the turn of the 20th century with the discovery of Relativity, Hubble’s observations of an expanding Universe, and Quantum Mechanics. Overthrowing “determinism,” the prevailing theory at the turn of the century, these discoveries and their validation gave birth to most of the “magical” things in our lives today: radio, TV, computers, the internet, and on and on, all wonders of the mysterious Planck Length world making themselves known, felt, and realized in our “macro” conscious world of everyday living. This is one way that the horizontal cross and its barrier starts to be dissolved.

But also, ironically, the sense of Science being the great Antithesis of Religion, also was cut through like a lightening bolt from Zeus or Indra. In fact, beginning with Special Relativity and up to this day, the more Science digs and discovers, the more Mystery it finds. We find that Science is actually coming to the aide of Religion, at least religion in the since of Metaphysics and Mysticism, although even to this day this sense doesn’t not have much mindshare. Mostly because of the institutionalizing of the arts and sciences and their systems which produce “walled gardens” that can’t nourish each other. I talked about this a little bit in another article, “No Possum, No Sop, No Taters.”

It’s important to realize that without a wave function you couldn’t be reading this message, PC’s couldn’t exist, the internet couldn’t exist, because its all based on the ability of the electron to exist simultaneaously at every point in space. Fortunately we can’t “observe” an electron, so its wave function doesn’t collapse, and our Micro Processors still compute, and our emails go through. Even more fortunate still for our bodies’ sake, or it would collapse. The electron cloud keeps all of our bodies’ trillions of molecules that are constantly colliding, stable. The electron cloud is based on the electron’s ablity to be in an infinite number of points around the nucleus, simultaneously. Fortunately, someone wishing to do us harm has not the sensory organs to observe our electrons and collapse their wave function!

Every object, including your body has a wave function. In fact the probability of the wave function’s statistic looks exactly like you, your actual wave function, which is real, seeps into space and actually occupies the entire Universe. That is until you or someone else observes you. Then your wave function collapses, and you become frozen in space in time at the point they or you observe you. Want to travel or be in an infinite number of places simultaneouly like a God? Don’t collapse your wave function! How do we do that? I don’t know!!!!!

But I have a few ideas. (Of course having an idea, itself, especially attached to the idea of myself having it, is automatically collapsing my wave function!) Until we get the engineering prowess, which will be at least thousands if not millions of years, to build Star Trek like devices, we are going to have to look at the Mystical route.

I can’t stop my neighbor from observing me. I can’t stop even my dogs or cat from observing me, but if I were alone in a room, could I stop ME from observing ME? It seems to me (even saying “me” collapses my wave function) that observing myself, either in a mirror, or looking at parts of my body is very analogous, if not the same thing, to Ego. I. Look at your hand. The whole Universe is behind it, and when you look at it, it “freezes” it as separate from that Universe. MY HAND. Not the Universe’s.

It seems there would be one easy solution for not observing yourself: Close your eyes. But even when your eyes are closed, your other senses are involved with observing YOU, your sense of touch, smell, sound and even without those, your mind has only images of yourself as you have seen yourself for years, since you were born. That’s a very ingrained image, one that perhaps gives birth to the Ego itself, and then once born, the Ego’s needs, desires, and fears, propels one’s body towards actions that keep it (the Ego) fed.

This lock is not easily broken. Years upon years of habit are like mounds of soil and a rusty padlock in an indistinguishable field, on top of the treasure chest that is your Authentic Self (Self in the Eastern tradition as distinguished from Ego). The practice of Meditation and Yoga (re-linking, ie ‘re-ligio’ to source or unseparation consciouness) are the only two practices I’ve encountered that show, perhaps, a way or solution to stop observing yourself and collapsing your wave function. Actually its been a long time since I’ve engaged these practices, so maybe I am writing this post to remind myself of their value and not the World. But the successful moments, even if fleeting, that I have had with these practices were very freeing in the sense that the gap between thought was achieved and these frozen architectures of the mind, these complexes as Jung would say, that have been years of memories in the making, seem to collapse in an instant.

Can the simple act of meditation and yoga keep my Wave function alive and have me or you traveling to any point in the Universe (and perhaps time) instaneously, while at the same time keep one part of you, grounded, here on Earth, keeping your day job, keeping the bills paid? I don’t know, but the feeling just occurred to me now, reading Parallel Worlds: A Journey Through Creation, Higher Dimensions, and the Future of the Cosmos and coming across a passage about Quantum Mechanics:

“To resolve the discrepency between waves of probability and our commonsense notion of existence, Bohr and Heisenberg assumed that after a measurement is made by an outside observer, the wave function magically “collapses,” and the electron falls into a definite state-that is, after looking at the tree, we see that it is truly standing. In other words, the process of observation determines the final state of the electron. Observation is vital to existence. After we look at the electron, its wave function collapses, so the electron is now in a definite state and there is no more need for wave functions.” – page 152

“Before an observation is made, an object exists in all possible states simultaneously. To determine which state the object is in, we have to make an observation, which “collapses” the wave function, and the object goes into a definite state. The act of observation destroys the wave function, and the object now assumes a definite reality. The wave function has served its purpose: it has given us the precise probability of finding the object in that particular state.” – page 153

If I’m thinking of Eastern philosophy, the “Third Eye” represented as the red dot on the forehead of many Indians, is a symbol of observing without collapsing the wave function. “Seeing the infinite” as Blake would say.

So before I walked into my bathroom and see my cat reclining on the chair, was he really on Mars and every other place in the Universe for that matter? Yes, according to Quantum Mechanics, which though is still just a theory, is the most successful scientific theory of all time and is responsible for the microchip and this Mac I’m writing on. So one must take pause.

So if you want to travel through space and time, don’t collapse your wave function! And one of the ironies is in order not to collapse it, you have to stop wanting not to collapse it! How else do you do it? I don’t exactly know. My path might be different from yours and everyone else’s. The Authurian Romances tell us “Each adventurer entered the forest in a different place and made his own path which had never been made before. To follow another’s would have been a disgrace.”

So no one knows exactly, but mythologies give us hidden clues. The rest we have to find for ourself, and in our own way.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Am I on to something, am I completely wrong, or somewhere in between? Love to have a conversation with you about it.

Related Posts: 

Philosophy Poems

No Possum, No Sop, No Taters

The trouble with authentic artists is that they’re in a silo both psychologically and culturally, so its not feeding the culture, and we have a Wasteland situation. Science, Art, Philosophy, Psychology, Media, Business, Politics, Technology, Religion are all walled off into separate silos. There’s no integration because they are controlled by protocols and systems, institutions. They are not feeding or being nourished by each other. The instutition becomes a complex both physically and psychologically that snuffs out the exuberance and spontaneity that gave birth to an organizing factor to begin with. This is what Nietszche calls “Groveling before sheer fact.” Nature, which unites and integrates, gives birth to all consciousness, becomes repressed by systems and institutions, which ironically enough were initially created to make life happy and instead have had the opposite effect.

Whenever a spring pops up out of the ground, people figure out they can make money from it, and build a wall around it and charge for admission. Then the spring gets angry, dissappears and pops up in a new, unexpected place.

“Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto the measure of his life? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?”

No Possum, No Sop, No Taters

by Wallace Stevens

He is not here, the old sun,
As absent as if we were asleep.

The field is frozen. The leaves are dry.
Bad is final in this light.

In this bleak air the broken stalks
Have arms without hands. They have trunks

Without legs or, for that, without heads.
They have heads in which a captive cry

Is merely the moving of a tongue.
Snow sparkles like eyesight falling to earth,

Like seeing fallen brightly away.
The leaves hop, scraping on the ground.

It is deep January. The sky is hard.
The stalks are firmly rooted in ice.

It is in this solitude, a syllable,
Out of these gawky flitterings,

Intones its single emptiness,
The savagest hollow of winter-sound.

It is here, in this bad, that we reach
The last purity of the knowledge of good.

The crow looks rusty as he rises up.
Bright is the malice in his eye…

One joins him there for company,
But at a distance, in another tree.