As we enter the world we are infinite. We have no boundary. We are also zero. At three months, or so, we begin to distinguish that there is an “other” – the breast as part object. By 6 months old the boundary between us and the other (usually mother) is clear; and often frightening. Warmth, food, security and affection can be withdrawn as well as present. Our world is strait, though we do not know it. As we age and explore we push the boundary back; and back. If we are fortunate, and conquer our fear, we realise once more that there is no boundary. We are existence and all of existence is us. Death is an illusion. When we leave the world we can then fade to white and lose the loneliness and fear that haunts life, to experience all that is directly once more.
We think in terms of opposing forces, opposites. Duality flows from the fact of boundary created as we separate from the whole of existence – initially physically at birth, and then psychically in infancy. This schism has been expressed in many ways, often as opposing forces.For instance – good / evil ;life / death; aggressive / erotic ; Me / Not Me ; extrovert / introvert. I believe that the point of duality is in our response to it. There is a fundamental difference in outcome between choice between, and integration of – opposites.
Sigmund Freud and Melanie Klein conceived of opposing Life and Death instincts. However surely a “Death” instinct is incompatible with evolution, what purpose is served by a “Death” instinct? More natural is Donald Winnicott’s expression of an Aggressive component, born of opposition and an Erotic component, born of complementarity – the birth of these components arising as an infant realises that there is a Me and a Not-Me. Carl Jung conceived of the struggle to integrate opposing forces. Many of us are familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality typing that arises from Jung with its 4 dimensions – Extrovert-Introvert; Thinking-Feeling; Sensing-Intuition; and Judging-Perceiving. From the dawn of our species we have observed the difference between Light and Dark and described our nature as Good or Evil. Martin Buber gives us the double-dual-whammy of I-Thou way of being “over against” I-It.
“There is, Buber shows, a radical difference between man’s attitude to other men and his attitude to things. The attitude to other men is a relation between persons, to things it is a connexion with objects. ..These two attitudes represent the basic twofold situation of human life, the former constitutes the world of THOU and the latter the world of IT” Ronald Gregor Smith, translator of Ich Und Du
It appears then that fundamental to our reaction to the fact of our existence; woven into the fabric of our way of thinking and being, is duality – expressed as an opposition of forces.
What then is our response? Is it passive as in choice or balance or active – as in process or integration? Admitting polarity in all things – what should be our reaction. Do we choose – for instance between Good or Evil? Should we seek balance between different drives into a kind of dynamic equilibrium – for instance striving to be at the centre point of extroversion and introversion? Is reality in fact a process budding eternally at the very boundary that arises out of duality – life within Winnicott’s Transitional Space or Whitehead’s point of prehension? Or is it there a further truth behind this duality – the point being what arises out of unification of opposites ? After all paraphrasing Beethoven – there cannot be loud without soft, it is in contrast that music arises.
Perhaps its personal taste. If so then, at least for me, integration of duality is our purpose, and one which is unceasing because there is a counterveiling force of differentiation. There is a flow of existence which is driven by splitting and unification, birth and death. Duality is dynamic not static and the fundamental creative contrast is actually that of differentiation and integration. Freud’s Life/Death instincts replaced by Integration/Differentiation forces. This isn’t an original thought, and it’s not mine. It is inherent in the world-view of eastern tradition (Yin-Yang etc) and possibly our western ancestors (see Wisdom of the Wyrd, Brian Bates). It was one of Carl Jung’s fundamental insights – “Much of Carl Jung’s writings are linked by the theme that mental illness is characterized by disunity of the personality, whilst mental health is manifested by unity” (Jung: Selected Writings, Anthony Storr).
If then we conceive of a schism-powered flow, what is the destination and what is the fundamental motive impulse? Well there you have Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s concept of the fundamental duality being spirit and material – an inner and outer. For him underlying existence is the force of Love, which powers evolution. An evolution conceived as complexification through spheres of the physical, chemical, biological to that of ideas – until we become conscious of God that is Love that is all. “There is a duality of material and spiritual, which he calls the “without” and “within”. He traces the development of the “within”, an evolution of consciousness. He names man as a stage in that process associated with the phase-shift from the evolution of biology to the evolution of ideas”.
In Teilhard de Chardin’s words:
“If there were no internal propensity to unite, even at a prodigiously rudimentary level — indeed in the molecule itself — it would be physically impossible for love to appear higher up, with us, in hominized form. . . . Driven by the forces of love, the fragments of the world seek each other so that the world may come into being.”
Let us, as a postulate, embrace the “illusion of self” that is central to Buddhism. There are powerful intellectual supporters for that statement. David Hume and neuroscientists for example.
Why then, and on what basis, do Buddhists need to claim re-incarnation. What is being re-incarnated? No soul, no self – what then keeps coming back? This seems to me to be a fundamental inconsistency.
Surely, if our self is an illusion – then this is a release from self. Indeed a release from death. What is not there in the first place cannot presumably cease thereafter?
Teilhard de Chardin would have it that all of matter is evolving toward consciousness. Separately he has it that there will be an “Omega Point” where each realises that we are all-in-all to each other – and that all energy is Love and God.
In that case surely our “self” is an illusion. We are already part of what Martin Buber would call the “eternal Thou”. We only have to realise it. Put another way, for Buber our “I” does not exist except in relation to “Thou” – with a reality of “I-Thou” that opens us to our relationship with the “eternal Thou” (I think I have that right?). In that case our “self” doesn’t exist. Indeed ignoring the “Thou” only gets you to a kind of Freudian thinking – “I-It” materialism – the self-reflective dead end of narcissism.
So. I am attracted to Buddhism, but don’t buy their take on reincarnation. Anatta yes, but only because we’re already all-in-all.
(This by the way is I believe a fundamentally Christian viewpoint).
Loneliness. The first and fundamental pain, which stems from the loss of birth. We arise from a state of Being ” a pulse in the eternal mind, no less”; and being born we are bounded. The edge that defines each as individual also encloses and imprisons. The pain of our loss is the absence of connection to all that is. The struggle toward consciousness – the vital urge that drives evolution – is surely the need to re-connect. It is a mistake to equate consciousness with thought or the ego. Consciousness observes the mind and emotion. Consciousness springs from the space between Ich und Du. It is the force (be with us!) that de Chardin names as Love. It is Jung’s insight – the drive toward integration (of opposites).
Without separation and boundary there is no form; no possibility of self-awareness, of perspective. Indeed there is no internal and no external. “Let there be light” – does not abolish dark, but separates from dark and becomes it’s opposite. Understanding can only spring from boundary, edge, individuality and separation.
But separation without re-integration is imprisonment, loss and loneliness. It is the narcissism of Ich und Es – the connection with the material rather than Being. Self-reflection instead of integration.
Boundaries are simply discontinuities. Lines in two dimensions, surfaces in three. On the other side, through the looking glass and in the land of the other – lies the answer to loneliness. My Nation, My Religion and My Life have borders beyond which are the Enemy, the Damned and Death. (Oh yes, and Loneliness). However Our universe has none of these – only Love.
Don’t believe me? Try smiling at a stranger and see how you feel when they smile back.
Michelangelo’s unfinished statues “the prisoners” show human form partly finished and emerging from the original blocks of stone. Apparantly they are unfinished, though what a metaphor… the human form was always there within the raw block of stone. Materialists would see the rock and tell us there was nothing more. But in the imagination of a Michelangelo the form was within. Does that make his David any less real than the stone from which it was carved and from which it emerged?
The philosophic tradition from Descartes through Spinoza and Leibniz to Alfred North Whitehead describes the duality of all – material and spirit as different aspects of reality. (To be honest I’m wrestling to understand Whitehead so any help here – a synopsis maybe – would be very welcome).
This is as described by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in his “Phenomenon of Man”. The evolution of material and consciousness hand in hand from the big bang, physical evolution, chemical evolution, biological evolution through to ideas evolution (the noosphere, and yes Dawkins he was first and you simply clothe his ideas in the poverty of the “meme”).
And scientific discovery is pointing increasingly to this understanding of existence. Of course materialists have possession of the current paradigm and are managing to suppress these discoveries from the popular media. But paradigms shift, and they do so to reveal a new truth. When that happens will we truly emerge into a common consciousness? Is the emergence of Jung’s collective unconscious to the light of shared understanding what de Chardin means by the “Omega Point”?
Carl Jung gave us spirit as balance to material, the collective unconscious and synchronicity.
Niels Bohr gave us quantum uncertainty – with observation (call that knowledge) crystallising out our reality from the infinity of potential.
Manuel de Landa gave us nonlinear history. Complex systems combining to form new emergeant realities.
Martin Buber gave us spiritual existentialism. I-thou forming a connection between our spirit and other, as opposed to I-It of materialism which is essentially connecting only with ourselves via our projection on to the material world.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin gave evolution awakening consciousness – from the big bang (physical evolution) formation of atoms (chemical evolution), complexification into life (biological evolution) and now arrival of the noosphere (evolution of ideas). He believed that the culmination of conscious awakening will be the ultimate connection between us all with shared ideas – the Omega Point.
Wilfred Bion gave ideas existing before the structures to think them.
Albert Einstein gave us the integration of space and time into four dimensional space-time. There have been experiments that show backward causality, with current observation crystallising out past reality from quantum possibility – to make the current observation true.
Whence, Whither and Why?
Could it not be that God is an emergeant property of the evolving complex system of ideas. The evolution of the material world now supports consciousness that can witness these ideas. If we awoke from Jung’s universal (un)conscious to a shared universal consciousness then we would be at de Chardin’s Omega Point. Consciousness arising from intense connection (the I-thou of Buber’s existentialism). Consciousness, the thinking of pre-existing ideas. Knowledge, witness – observation – which crystalises out reality from the realm of quantum potential. If God were ultimate truth (the word existing beyond time), then end-point of the evolution of ideas and their combination into an emergent property then that observation could perhaps be potent enough to have caused the evolution of the universe to lead to God itself. From our individual standpoint – we would see God as an emergent property of the complex sytems that evolution has thrown up. Cosmology, quantum mechanics and particle physics are discovering the mechanisms through which all this happens. The question – how? is being answered in increasing detail. How?, however, bears no relation to the questions whence? whither? or when?
If God, our ultimate shared connection through knowledge, has the power to create itself – perhaps whence? whither? have the same answer or solution.
Of course, that would still leaves the question – why? The answer will not come from the material side of existence, but from the spiritual. de Chardin’s answer is – love – the primal force, and it’s expression through a physical world. We can experience this, and our most intense connection (I-thou) individually and every day – even though that is still experienced “through a glass darkly”.