Saturday, February 7, 2015

The analytical world-view of the West is not the sole and ultimate way to look at life and consciousness !

In our blog titled the ‘ The ‘hard-problem’ of thought, ( link: we alleged that the Western concept of 'consciousness' is grossly inadequate to include and explain all that the contra-matter realm ( mind) of man routinely does in the usual course of life. The intention of this post is to see, in what sense a mere passive 'consciousness' is acclaimed as the right-path of leading life in many non-western cultures and traditions. 

The intention of this short-post is to further proclaim that the sense in which the term ‘consciousness’ used by the West is totally inadequate, and even misleading to depict the multiple modes and roles in which the non-physical realm( of mind and thought) function. Let us examine how the orient traditions, especially their religious traditions look at ‘consciousness’ in a passive way, though very un-similar to the way the West mean by the term. The difference is more about the way both traditions look at life and existence, than a difference in the understanding of a particular psychology term.

This post is about the open nature of consciousness, like life itself, that could be lead, and the life-course defined and directed, the way one likes it.  

The way one looks at 'consciousness' often reflects the very way one looks at one's culture, and it is the way one looks at one's self, the world and the very phenomenon of life and existence ! Our age is dominated by the ways of the West in every aspects of life, as if to feel that it the ultimate way of nature. This paper intents to open-up minds for a more wider outlook on life and existence, exploring many futuristic options.

Many open minded writers and thinkers of the world now agree that, it was only a matter of sheer 'chance' that the Greek-bundle of knowledge and philosophic systems reached European world through the Muslim invaders, and then the modern world and its current institutions got built-up predominantly on Western thought lines.

Mr. Marc Edmund Jones (in his Book ‘Occult philosophy’– ‘SAMBHALA’ USA), wrote in favour of the greatness of Eastern traditions by equaling it with the classic Greek tradition in every sense:
He writes: “Any effort to determine causal connections more than two millennia afterwards would be futile, but it must be remembered that developments in philosophy east of Indus, paralleled very completely to those among the Hellenic thinkers. It may as well have been pure historical accident as the circumstances of any particular genius, that led to the building of modern western idea upon the Grecian rather the Hindu Contribution”  

We better take-up the Hindu and Chinese traditions, and see what they have got to say on the silent-consciousness, ( without active thoughts)to lead an ideal way of life. 
In Hindu thought, the centrally advocated attitude towards life is 'nishkam karma', ie, doing one's duties (work) with the least expectation about its result. It is submitting to the truth of life and nature, and go on doing whatever duty comes one's way, with total detachment. One's ego is not at all a ‘participant’ while undergoing life this way. It is the way of passive 'consciousness', or leading one's life as if it is, in an act of blind-participation in the nature's ( of the Almighty's) intended ways. This view on life presupposes a ‘self’ other than the ‘ego’, or at least a transcended ego,( or a nullified ego) that undergoes the ‘experience’ of life.

A renowned Hindu spiritual Guru, Acharya Rajneesh ( popularly known as OSHO) preferred to call this way of leading life  'witnessing', ie. encountering life without any emotional participation or judgment.  In other words, leading life as if he is only a passive 'witness' to it ! He also liked to call it 'living without mind'. Here, mind for him is the instrument that create, and run on thoughts. 'Consciousness' is meant to be the mode of passively being  ‘conscious’ of  life that goes around one…

This central Hindu view of  life was not much different from the early Chinese thought. The ‘plane of the sage’, as per ancient Chinese thought was, that of an enlightened man who has achieved mystical union with the universe. The later developed 'Taoism' was the way of looking at nature, and learning its WAY, the TAO. The thrust was on acting 'spontaneously’, trusting the intuitive knowledge of every person. Taoism is interested in intuitive wisdom than rational thinking, rational thinking here means, the activity of the mind, or the tool of ego- the worldly self of man.  

In the Zen tradition of Japan, a mix of the vital essences of Taoism, Buddhism and Hinduism, again the thrust is on experiencing life as it comes, without any ‘abstraction or conceptualization’. Zen asserts freedom from all fixed beliefs. This is true spirituality as far as the Zen-way  is concerned. 

If one look deep into the essence of Christianity, he will find that, Christ also had advocated a similar outlook on life, without any worry about 'what one eats or drink'. It is the God in heaven that looks after such needs of man. Look at the birds in the sky. They are not sowing, harvesting, or accumulating anything for future. It is the God in heaven that looks after them. Indirectly, the way of life advocated by Jesus Christ also is very similar to the spiritual ways advocated by the eastern traditions; that of leading life as it comes, with a certain oneness with existence and God.
Man’s provisions comes not exclusively out of his labour and effort, but it happens with the care and Grace of the divine.  

Leading life the above way calls for only a passive 'consciousness', without involvement of a rational mind. Life has a certain inherent sense, meaning and unity with whatever is the ultimate
Truth and reality. Having a ‘sense of time’ akin to one’s irrefutable relation and unity with one’s said origin and substance is what gets translated into this special, ‘live’ consciousness. It is rather about keeping a ticking consciousness about this sub-realm of eternal time, than having it around the nitty-gritties of ego’s synthetic( or the relative) sense of time.

This difference of the Western-world about the way they look at life and world is very evident from certain uttering of Francis Bacon, an early days champion of modern science: He called-on science to:  
Ø       ‘Haunt’ nature in her wanderings
Ø       She should be bound into service    
Ø       Made her a slave
Ø       Put her in constraint
Ø        Torture-out the secrets of from her
( words ‘haunt’ and ‘torture-out’ refer to old Europe’s witch hunting tradition )

The stark difference in the approach towards life and nature of the Orient and the West has come out clearly here.

The silent ‘consciousness’ that the Orient traditions appear to advocate is not to exploit nature with the intention of creating a culture and tradition of rational utilization of her resources. It is a Way, or Journey with nature, NOT seeing her as a commodity to consume.

The  way of the Orient appears to advocate that, it is possible to lead life with a ‘live’ relation with nature, or the subtle energies of existence. Man can be ‘conscious’ ( intuitively) about such WAY of nature, or existence, without any need of utilizing the rational ( or analytic) faculties of mind.

So, better we understand the way of the West and that of the Orient as TWO distinct modes of utilizing consciousness, or, two distinct cultures of letting the faculty of thought, defining life. Once let it ( thought) out to move, like a wild-storm, it takes many courses, sometime even beyond the control of the one who had let it go ! What lets one know the ultimate truth and reality may not always be the inquiry mode of thought, but a way of its ‘absence’ ! Eyes and ears do not toil to see or hear. They are un-close-able widows towards the external world and its reality. Man is a passive receiver of various ‘categories’ ( or qualities ) of existence these sense –organs  provide. Similarly, man seems to have an intuitive faculty (or a hidden, internal sense organ, as once referred in a previous section of this paper ) that goes on  providing man with ‘sense’ and knowledge that is adequate for leading life.

In the Way of nature, and in the way of passive consciousness, while the subject- man- is actively engaged in the routine course of life, a silent awareness of the timelessness of the act is actively ALIVE in the background ! The conscious-mind takes-on life, in a reflective way, as if he is NOT separated from existence in any sense. The active mind is never felt required in the act, as it is the tool of another kind of entity, the ego. Ego is a social product, and it tend to consider each person, and each object in the surrounding as a potent threat to his life. In this mode, the mind is a tool exclusively of the ego, connected only with whatever the sense organs and the world have constituted as life. It has nothing prior, or nothing beyond the empirical, or the overt life. In the former model, the subject never open, or operate the ego mode. His belonging-ness is to a wider whole, that needs no definition for language-interpretation, like the newborn child does not ever need any defining act before seeking out its mother, or her nipples !

 It poses a very serious philosophical question, as to what model from the above two examples fits in leading a more contented way of life; whether the analytic and inquiring WAY of the West, or the not yet fully explored way of the Orient. 

What need to be firmly realized is that, though the act of analyzing may not require any mother-premise to base it upon, for arriving at conclusions or inferences based on such analyzed phenomenon always necessarily ( by all known logic) need  a mother 'premise', or a bottom-world view premise. Analyzing could be just looking at the immediate cause of the occurrence. It is an excellent tradition that all the credit for introducing to world as a value must go to the West !

But as reasoning,and arriving at conclusions are acts of  seeking and establishing logical consistency with a first-premise, or an already known and well established universal, the quality of such universals will always affect the degree of truthfulness of the conclusions. When the act of final inference is based on the 'zero-sum game', the present bottom universal of science, the revealed facts and theories will also tend to be in-line with, or consistent with such base-premise, ultimately not bringing any fundamental change to the existing course or meaning of life.   

Suggested further readings on the above theme: 

Authored by: Abraham J. Palakudy, 
He is a seeker of knowledge. His areas of special interest are Mind and Reason, Metaphysics, Spirituality, and polity
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Twitter: Voice of Philosophy@jopan1

Acknowledgement: The image above was taken from Google image pages, with due acknowledgement to whosoever it belong to.