Metaphysics from Beginning to End - The Perennial View

By Peter Jones

[This is a guest essay submitted to the Metaphysical Speculations Discussion Forum, reviewed, commented on and approved for publication by Forum members. The opinions expressed in the essay are those of its author.]

Photo by Bernardo Kastrup, hereby released into the public domain.
Introduction
This metaphysical essay is a summary of the issues it addresses and not an attempt to properly explain or even attract the reader to the philosophy it endorses. Metaphysics is condensed into four short propositions and if the general discussion were omitted to leave just these propositions and their definitions the substance of it would be unchanged. The discussion is explanatory and hopefully lends the propositions plausibility but is not structural.  The idea is to condense and simplify and has more to do with setting the agenda for a discussion than holding one.
The reason for this approach is simply that few people adopt it. A sceptical philosopher approaching these issues from the outside looking for an easy and quick way to grasp what mysticism or ‘Perennialism’ says about the world that might be relevant to them has little chance of success without years of work. The chances of stumbling across a comprehensible summary of the issues is negligible. The summaries are there if we know what to look for but if we know what to look for we probably have no need of them.    
The four propositions presented could hardly be made simpler yet each can stand considerable study, while the fourth takes us beyond study entirely.  The difficulty of the claims they make may seem to be intellectual and to some extent it is, but the real difficulty would be their profundity and the problem of having to work so close to edge of reason.  We do not stray beyond the edge here but stop just short in order that the issues may be judged by logic and reason and any discussion remains within bounds of what these days is commonly called, for reasons that are not clear to me, ‘rational’ philosophy. The best way to read it might be to leave aside any attempt to reach an understanding of the implications and ramifications of what is being said and to address the issues as they are here, briefly and in isolation, not extending the analysis beyond that undertaken in the essay, since the only important issue would be the truth or falsity of the propositions. If they are true then metaphysics is easy to solve and we can make sense of the Buddha’s dismissal of metaphysics as a waste of our time. If we are a monk seeking enlightenment confident of the possibility of ‘salvation’ and knowledge then this would be an efficient approach. If we are a rational philosopher who has no intention whatsoever of believing any such nonsense then a study of metaphysics would be utterly vital. There would be no other way to clarify the philosophical and scientific implications of the teachings of the enlightened masters.   
I believe that any attempt to properly connect Science and Religion and make them relevant to one another must depend on Metaphysics. When Whitehead characterises commonplace Christianity as ‘a religion in search of a metaphysic’ he states a vast problem that renders Religion incomprehensible and irrelevant to Science. It need not be a vast problem but it will remain one for as long as Science goes on believing that Religion means commonplace Christianity and is thus still in search of a metaphysical basis. For this reason I would lay the blame for the war between Science and Religion on Philosophy as practiced in the Academy, which has not done its sums, leaving the combatants with no means of settling their differences but also unable to do each other much damage.  Religion is not in search of a metaphysic even if some forms of it are, but its logical scheme is not often explained in a way that a strictly discursive or ‘scholastic’ philosopher visiting the Land of Woo would be likely to comprehend. There may be a good reason for this and such an explanation may be impossible, but here is another attempt.   
More than anything the essay is intended to counter the astonishing view expressed in the short preface to the Blackwell Guide to Metaphysics, (2002 edition, Ed. Richard M Gale), which includes this remark. 
It is not an accident that none of the included essays attempt to say what metaphysics is, to describe the methods for doing it and the rules or criteria for assessing the success of a metaphysical theory. For all such metaphilosophical attempts have failed miserably.
Poor workmen blame their tools. This essay would not fit into any such guide and rejects point-blank this undemonstrable and pessimistic characterisation of metaphysics.  The guide describes the metaphysics of the Academy and does us a service by making clear just what a mess it is in but it makes no criticism of metaphysics as practiced beyond the Academy. Like commonplace Christianity the Academy is in search of a metaphysic. The Perennial Philosophy is not in search of a metaphysic. It sorted out metaphysics long ago.

Metaphysics 
Metaphysics is usually considered to be an immensely complex area of study as well as being dull and pointless. Yet it is the study of first principles and these cannot be complicated. It is not even clear that there can be more than one of them. Metaphysics is the study of the world by ‘reduction’ or at the most general level where ‘reduction’ clearly implies a progressive shedding of complexity. Accordingly, we would not expect metaphysics to be complicated, just conceptually and psychologically difficult. Metaphysical questions are usually capable of being understood by anyone over the age of twelve and if the professionals make the subject impossibly complex then this cannot be because they are on the right track.      
The proposal here would be that metaphysics is profoundly simple when examined at the level of first principles, the level at which it must be examined, just as we would expect, and, further, that at this level it can be solved with a single sword-stroke. The problem is only that making sense of the solution would be a very different matter and could take a lifetime or more.  Worse, if it is correct then to understand it fully would be to understand Reality and Existence fully, and this could never be done by studying theories and logical schematics. This difficulty need not be an obstacle to us in formal metaphysics, however, since once we have defined our terms we are concerned only with analysis. Few people understand E=Mcand fewer still the phenomena to which these letters refer but we do not doubt that it is a correct theory and safe prediction. Comprehension and plausibility could ever only follow from an unpacking of the simple global view presented here into a more complex and developed theory capable of addressing the details and of showing itself to be capable of dealing with them.  The details, however, are not where any solution to metaphysics will lie.  A solution must be general, global, resting on principles that can be applied wherever and whenever we meet a metaphysical problem, and it must be very simple.
The approach we are taking here avoids the chaos into which metaphysics usually descends when it begins by examining particular philosophical problems prior to gaining a clear overview of the field.  The biggest mistake that can be made in metaphysics, it seems to me, would be to attempt to solve its problems one at a time.  This would be to miss the whole point of the game. Metaphysics is the board-room of knowledge where total breadth of vision is not optional. To deal with the details of the puzzle we must be able to see the picture on the box and cutting it up into fragments before studying it as a whole would be an odd thing to do. Metaphysics is the search for a general theory or ‘theory of everything’ and for this we must fly high above the landscape of knowledge looking down at the grand picture, always remembering that we are still in it. 
Anyone who has spent half an hour wrestling with a few metaphysical dilemmas will have gone some way towards verifying the situation in which metaphysicians invariably find themselves.  The situation is this. If we were to make a list of metaphysical problems it could be arranged in a binary form as two columns where every theory in the left-hand column would be paired with a counter-theory in the right-hand column.  Note that none of these would be ‘theories’ in the scientific sense of this word, just isolated conjectures on local problems. These contradictory and complementary pairs would include all the famous ‘isms’ such as Materialism-Idealism, Internalism-Externalism, Theism-Atheism, Freewill-Determinism, Dualism-Monism and so forth,  and then One-Many, Mind-Matter and so on, and any other contrasted pairs of metaphysical views such as the view by which space-time must be either a continuum or a series of points, the view by which the space-time world must be real or unreal, the view by which the ‘self’ is either real or unreal, the view by which ethics are either subjective or objective and so forth. These would be the well-known horns of the many ancient and venerable dilemmas that it is the task of metaphysics to resolve.   
This list of paired metaphysical conjectures would be a long one but we would not need to examine it closely for a global solution. It is well-known that that none of these pairs of counterposed conjectures work. This would be the motive for logical positivism, mysterianism, dialethism and various other arguments for abandoning metaphysics as hopeless. It would be the reason why our dogmatically anti-esoteric academic philosophy makes no progress from century to century and why nobody expects it to do so, for the undecidability of all these pairs of selective conclusions is the entire excuse.  Anyone who pursues a metaphysical question with a little perseverance is certain to end up facing an impossible choice between two demonstrably absurd theories.  For many questions this problem arises as soon as we ask it. 
Let us not ignore this well-known fact as is the inexplicable practice in professional philosophy but take it on board.  By doing so we can massively simplify the issues.  Presented here are four propositions which are global, truly metaphysical, and that condense a great many issues and claims into very few words. They take us from the beginning to the end of metaphysics. The end of metaphysics would be mysticism, where analysis and theory must turn to empiricism, experiment and practice, but we need not go beyond formal or speculative metaphysics in order to judge the plausibility and significance of these statements or judge whether they would work as a solution for metaphysics, subject to an investigation of their wider implications.

Proposition 1:  The Universe is reasonable
Definitions: As this is a metaphysical discussion the term ‘Universe’ would mean ‘Reality’, ‘Cosmos’ or ‘Everything’ such that there would be no plural.  The term ‘reasonable’ here would mean that a true explanation of the universe would be consistent with Aristotle’s ‘laws of thought’ and rules for the dialectic, thus with the way human beings usually think.       
Discussion:  This proposition states that a true description of the universe would not require a modification to the laws of the dialectical logic described by Aristotle nor ask us to abandon our usual way of thinking. There would be no true contradictions. The universe would not be paradoxical, logically absurd or terminally incomprehensible. Omniscience, were we ever to achieve it, would not cause us cognitive dissonance. The universe would make sense in principle even if it might be extremely difficult to make sense of it.    
We can read P1 as an axiom or a factual claim. Usually philosophers adopt this ‘reasonableness’ proposition as a necessary starting assumption for analysis and then go on to assume, in addition, that it must forever remain no more than an assumption.  We must start in the same way but we need not go on to make the second assumption.  We can interpret P1 as a theoretical axiom, a basis for a methodology or as a statement of intent, but it is on our list of factual propositions because it can be withdrawn as an axiom and established as an analytical result from a study of the other three propositions. 
One reason for beginning with P1 would be to make it clear that the approach we are taking to metaphysics here is essentially rational and grounded in reason. It leads us to the view of the Upanishads, the Buddha and Lao Tsu, admittedly, this cannot be helped, but it makes no ‘appeal to mysticism’, miracles or necessary ignorance along the way, or to any privileged knowledge. Our four propositions are strictly metaphysical. The common idea that there is some fatal inconsistency between logic and mysticism such that any ‘rational’ philosophy must exclude the possibility that the Perennial Philosophy is true is a hang-over from the past and cannot be justified by any evidence or sound argument. In this internet age, with so many fabulous explanatory texts available on demand, it can reasonably be called a beginner’s mistake.  The correct approach would be to logically prove that a rational thinker must reject this philosophy, and to succeed in this project we would have to falsify one or more of the propositions listed here. There would be no other way to do it. The idea that the Perennial Philosophy, which here would be synonymous with ‘mysticism’ and ‘nondualism’, presents a woolly doctrine that is not a clear target for analysis is sustainable only if we do not do the analysis.      
Proving that Buddhism, Taoism and so forth are a lot of nonsense is just the sort of thing most of us would assume that professional philosophers get paid for doing. After all, they usually express strong views on these matters.  This is na├»ve. On average it appears that they very rarely think about these issues, preferring to endorse a communal fantasy as to what lies beyond the walls of the Academy. Colin McGinn’s book The Making of a Philosopher, in which he charts his intellectual development from teenager to tenured professor, offers us a useful and entertaining introduction to philosophy and I often recommend it, especially to young people. I do so sincerely here. I envy his communication skills and organised mind. It is also a very good illustration of what happens when we buy into the modern philosophy department’s idea of what constitutes intellectual development.  The tenured professor can no more solve a problem than the teenager, lost in a world where everybody believes that metaphysics is incomprehensible and that mysticism is nonsense. There is no proof of this or any discussion. It is simply assumed, as is the common practice, that the wise men and sages who created the vast literature of mysticism were liars and fools not worth studying or even mentioning.  It does not seem to occur to the inhabitants of the ivory towers that these two beliefs might be causally connected. For the sake of human society and what remains of life on Earth, and hopefully before it is too late, I would challenge professional philosophy to stop relying on entrenched opinions and hearsay and do the sums.  This alone could change the world for the better.  
We come to our second proposition. This would be the big one. It encapsulates the whole of metaphysics. For me it would be the most important statement that can be made in formal metaphysics and the most helpful for any understanding of it.

Proposition 2 - All positive metaphysical positions are logically indefensible
Definitions: The word ‘All’ here makes this a global proposition. It is an unequivocal statement about one entire class of metaphysical positions and takes no prisoners. A ‘positive’ position would be any one of the two extreme position we might take up on any metaphysical question, thus all of the ‘theories’ in the two columns we spoke of earlier. Synonyms would be ‘partial’, ‘extreme’ or ‘selective’.  A metaphysical ‘position’ would be our position on any metaphysical question. ‘Logically indefensible’ would mean capable of being reduced to absurdity in the Aristotelian dialectic by a demonstration that it gives rise to a self-contradiction.  Synonyms would be ‘unreasonable’ and ‘logically absurd’.  In ordinary conversation just ‘absurd’.      
Discussion: Kant states equivalently, with no proviso, ‘All selective conclusions about the world as a whole are undecidable’.  Why is this? It could only be because P2 stands up to analysis and must be true, unfalsifiable or both. There could be no other reason. Kant considers it demonstrably true. It follows that metaphysical dilemmas must always take the form of the question, ‘Would two plus two equal three or five’.  All we can say is ‘no’ and this solves the problem. Francis Bradley states, ‘Metaphysics does not endorse a positive result’ and feels no need to equivocate.  As an Absolute Idealist this would be his solution and explanation for philosophy and not in any sense a problem.  If he is correct then as formulated by the philosophy department metaphysical problems are intractable and will remain so forever.  The only approach it never adopts is that of taking the Buddha and Lao Tsu seriously and so it condemns itself for all eternity to the Sisyphusian task of trying to decide whether 3 or 5 would be the best solution for 2+2.  After two millennia of trying and failing it ought to be obvious that there must be another option and that our questions must embody a category-error. 
P2 was logically proved by the Buddhist philosopher-monk Nagarjuna in the second century CE for his exegesis of the Buddha’s cosmological scheme, placing Buddhist metaphysics on an explicable and unshakeable logical foundation. It is proved less formally by Bradley in his 1897 essay Appearance and Reality The stagnation of philosophy within the Academy would be incontrovertible evidence that whatever the success of their proofs their common conclusion is correct.  
With P2 we have identified the problem of metaphysics and can now solve it. 

Proposition 3 - A neutral metaphysical position is logically defensible
Definitions: A ‘neutral’ metaphysical position would be a rejection of all positive positions. It represents a ‘Middle Way’ solution for the countless undecidable questions that arise when we do not reject all such positions. ‘Logically defensible’ would mean irrefutable in the dialectic and in accordance with the ‘laws of thought’. ‘Reasonable’ would be a synonym. It would be important to note that a neutral metaphysical position is defined here as a logical phenomenon and that as such it would belong fully in metaphysics as a testable theory, for this would be the whole point of it.  Although directly associated with the terms ‘Middle Way’, ‘Nondualism’, ‘Mysticism’ and ‘Perennial Philosophy’ these would refer to a doctrine that encompasses a great deal more than formal metaphysics lying largely outside the scope of a metaphysical essay.
Discussion: The idea of calling the metaphysical scheme of nondualism ‘neutral’ may be the only novelty in this discussion. The only other philosophical use of it I have noticed is by Charles Peirce and he uses it to mean something quite different.  Here it indicates that wherever a metaphysical theory or conjecture has a contradictory and complementary counter-theory we would reject both for a neutral position.  It would be a global application of compatibilism, a reconciliation of opposites and an un-breaking of symmetries. We would follow Lao Tsu, for whom the universe cannot be described as this or that in any respect.  
A neutral position has an explanatory reach that extends beyond properties and attributes, divisions and distinctions, describing a world that would extend not just beyond our physical senses but beyond the reach of our intellect.  Kant, exploring this idea in respect of psychology, concludes that that basis for our intellect must be a phenomenon that is ‘not an instance of a category’, thus a unity free of division and distinction. Plotinus calls this a ‘Simplex’. Peirce calls it the ‘First’.  Kant proposes that this phenomena would be the ‘proper subject for a rational psychology’.  Mysticism claims that it would be the proper subject for a rational psychology, ontology, epistemology and theoretical physics.  
P3 is perhaps the most complex on the list because establishing its truth would require a study of Aristotle’s logic, about which there is much confusion in philosophy.  There is insufficient space here to discuss this. The crucial point for now would be that a neutral metaphysical position would state there is no such thing as a true contradiction and no formal contradiction would arise for a true description of the world.  Contradictions would certainly seem to arise, and this would be why metaphysics must look beyond appearances in order to see past them.     
Metaphysics is the attempt to construct a systematic fundamental theory and anyone who examines the foundations of mathematics, psychology, physics, consciousness or indeed anything at all will sooner or later end up facing the same set of metaphysical problems. In the professional academic world, where the solution we are exploring here would normally be off-limits, there is as yet no fundamental theory of anything at all. There never can be one unless it is the one presented here since problems of self-reference will prevent the success of any competing theory.  It would be these ancient and perennial problems of self-reference that a neutral metaphysical position uniquely allows us to overcome.   
A systematic theory requires an initial axiom on which the structure can rest and from which the truth and falsity of the theorems in the system can be derived. The axiom I would choose is Proposition 4.  

Proposition 4: The Universe is a Unity  
Definitions:  It would not be possible to define the term ‘unity’ in a positive way since any such definition would have to be a denial of unity.  Such a definition would have to identify attributes and properties that this unity either has or does not have in order to speak of it, while a unity must be defined as having all properties and no properties, a perfect balance of opposites. It would be for this reason that for Lao Tsu the Tao ‘that is eternal’ cannot be spoken.  This would be a definition and not an appeal to ignorance. There would be two ways of conceiving or speaking of this phenomenon in respect of each potential attribute and also globally in respect having or not-having attributes, neither of which would ever be strictly correct.  A ‘Necker cube’ may be a rough sort of analogy, or perhaps an electron, albeit there can be no accurate analogy.  This would be an implication of the Yin-Yang symbol -- the two faces of a mountain, one in light and one in shadow, neither of which is the mountain -- and this implication would extend to all  attributes we might try to assign this unity such as temporality, freewill, extension, personality, existence or being.  This problem emerges in western philosophy as the ‘problem of attributes’, since a phenomenon that ‘has’ attributes obviously does not have them.  This paradox is clearly explained by McGinn, who struggled with it as teenager, in his aforementioned book.  A unity would be a fabulously subtle phenomenon in discursive philosophy, inconceivable and unspeakable. It would not even be correct to call it an undefined term since negatively it can be defined with great precision. It would not be this as opposed to that in any case. It would be the phenomenon that Kant believed to be the proper subject for rational psychology, a phenomenon that is not and cannot be an instance of a category of thought. Here we see that while metaphysics may be simplified beyond a certain point its simplicity becomes its principle difficulty. We are asked to look beyond intellect and analysis to being and identity.  
Discussion: A unity would not be a numerical ‘one’ although it would in a sense be ‘One’. The term advaita (not-two) as used for nondual interpretation of the Upanishads can be seen to deliberately avoid endorsing a numerical property. A unity may be defined negatively by denying it partial properties or divisions but even this approach can lead to misunderstandings. When we are told that a phenomenon is not ‘A’ we might assume that in this case it must be ‘not-A’ instead. This is how our minds work. Yet the assumption that the two horns of a metaphysical dilemma would exhaust the possibilities is a  demonstrable misuse of logic leading to the stagnation of academic philosophy and to the amazing sight of otherwise reasonable and intelligent scientists arguing at length for ex nihilo creation on the grounds that if there was not originally ‘Something’ then…. We have nowhere else to go but chaos and confusion once we reject the unity of the universe and take up extreme positions on this kind of question. Unless we assume that the universe is a unity the problems of metaphysics cannot make sense and must remain intractable. The evidence is there in the writings of every published philosopher. If there is only one truth then there is only way to solve metaphysics.   
A neutral metaphysical position, which denies the ultimate or metaphysical reality of all division, distinction and differentiation at a final level of reduction, would depend on an axiom of unity.  From this axiom we can derive the principle of nonduality, the principle on which rests the philosophical structure of Middle Way Buddhism and the entire philosophical plausibility of the phenomenon we call ‘mysticism’. If the universe is not a unity then the knowledge claimed by the mystics would be demonstrably impossible. How could Lao Tsu learn of the origin of the universe from looking inside himself otherwise? If metaphysics is the study of first principles then it must surely be the study of this one. If, as philosophers, we are not able to falsify this axiom and accompanying principle then we are not able to make a serious objection to the Perennial Philosophy and can have little reason to suppose it is false, for this axiom encapsulates the entire doctrine by implication insofar as it pertains to formal metaphysics.      
We arrived at P4 by a process of inference but we could have started with it.  Such is the coherence and logical integration of a neutral metaphysical theory - the close and ineluctable inter-connectedness of its theorems by logical implication - that many and possibly all of its true theorems can do duty as axioms.  When Heraclitus states, ‘We are and are not’ he unambiguously denies the truth of either of these extreme views and proposes the unity of the universe. When Lao Tsu states, ‘True words seem paradoxical’ he denies the ultimate truth of any positive or partial statement about the world as a whole and endorses its unity. When Nicolas de Cusa writes, ‘He lies beyond the coincidence of contradictories’ he is explaining the Unity of All that he has realised in his vision.  When the Sufi sage Al Halaj tells us that it would not be rigorous to state ‘God is One’ he is endorsing a doctrine of unity for which there can be no testifier set apart from God.  And so on. The authentic literature of mysticism never varies on this point.  It appears that people who follow the Oracles’ advice to know themselves and who persevere consistently discover the same thing, just as we all discover the same thing when we study metaphysics.       
There can be no possibility of making much sense of the term ‘unity’ here but it can be treated as a theoretical term yet to be fleshed out. It can be defined negatively by listing all the things that it is not and so it would work as a logical term for an investigation of its usefulness. G. S. Brown, whose book Laws of Form explains this nondual solution for metaphysics by way of a formal calculus, thus solving Russell’s famous and here immediately relevant set-theoretic ‘paradox’ or problem of self-reference, elsewhere likens this phenomenon to a blank piece of paper before the first ‘mark’ or conceptual distinction is made on it. This is where the world of opposites in which we live would originate, an emanation from, encompassed within or whatever the correct description would be, a phenomenon prior to number and form.

Overview
We could add to the list but just these four propositions carry us from scholastic philosophy, which would normally assume P1 and have P2 as a result, to mysticism, which depends on P3 for its external intellectual plausibility and for which P4 would be both an ‘empirical’ or experimental finding as well as a result of logical analysis. These propositions therefore transcend the philosophy of our western universities and enable us to solve problems that baffle professors. Logic and experience would coincide.  
A neutral metaphysical position can be defined so closely, like the state of a pencil balanced on its tip, that there can be no prevarication on metaphysical problems.  The danger of adopting this position, therefore, or the price, would be that one tends to becomes rather dogmatic about what is right and wrong when speaking about fundamental issues. One pulls out the principle of nonduality and this enchanted sword just chops through the problems.  Nobody else will have a competing solution that works since there would not be one.  Yet there would always be two ways to look at this. Neutrality means that no view would be entirely wrong, and so it would usually be possible to half-agree with any opposing view as capturing something of the truth.     
Hang on, I hear you say, this is all much too simple. Not long ago I would have agreed. When I came across this simple solution, at which time I knew approximately nothing about philosophy and truly nothing whatsoever about mysticism and thus thought I had invented my idea, I was immediately amazed that it had not become the orthodox solution for many problems in academia over time and that it is, rather, derided for being nonsense. It seemed so obviously correct. A decade and a half later and I am still amazed. Kant calls Scepticism the ‘scandal of philosophy’ but it is surely just a symptom of a much wider scandal. The problem seems to be a lack of interest. It appears that professional philosophy has given up on metaphysics and thus on the whole of philosophy.  The Blackwell Guide suggests that this is the case. 
A million books have been published yet it is rare to meet a paid-up member of the profession who has properly examined the claims made by the Perennial Philosophy.  How is this possible? It cannot be because it is somehow not part of philosophy.  It is called ‘philosophy’ because it gives an explanation of philosophy. It cannot be because this philosophy has been tested as a formal metaphysical theory and found wanting. It is called ‘perennial’ because it cannot be improved upon or falsified.  It is, after all, supposed to be true. It may be explained in ever renewed ways, as here, and must be, and as an explanatory theory it must be extended in all sorts of directions by examining its ramifications beyond metaphysics, but the metaphysical underpinning never changes. Surely it is about time that the academic community explained to the rest of us what exactly is wrong with this description of the world.  A summary such as this ought to provide a clear enough target for a refutation. 
Can we be sure that a neutral position is, in fact, the correct position to associate with the Perennial Philosophy? It seems to me that this is a question that each person must decide for themselves. Can we be sure it would work? This can be demonstrated so is not be a matter of opinion and need not be doubted. It is unfalsifiable and gives rise to no problems of logic.  Can it shed light on the relationship between Science and Religion? To me it would represent a complete solution for their mutual antipathy, a common position on which they could, if they chose, happily agree to stand, side by side, as two proven and practical methods for understanding the world around us and our place within it, and for realising the world within us and our place outside of it.
Copyright © 2016 by Peter Jones. Published with permission.

Comments

  1. My only critique is that, in my view, the so-called "mind-matter" dichotomy (wherein I use the word "mind" broadly, encompassing consciousness itself) is a fabrication; it isn't a true dichotomy or duality or contradiction or etc. It depends on the intellectual, conceptual invention of "matter," which then fallaciously re-frames that which created that concept (i.e. mind) as the opposite of matter. This is absurd. See: http://www.bernardokastrup.com/2015/05/the-linguistic-con-game-of-mindmatter.html. I think you at least implicitly, and likely explicitly, adopt the notion that this dichotomy is real. If it's seen as not-real but simply a conceptual error, then the implication is that the dichotomy materialism/idealism also falls apart. Nondualism and (at least certain formulations of) idealism are the same thing.

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    1. Doc has one, well, I have a few.

      Peter, how can anyone think that the universe is unity? It is a complete chaos realm of division/destruction and disorder. Everything in it dies of decay through division, not unity. Unity is a temporary state to disorder.

      The ratio of Earth like planets that can produce life are a mild unity compared to the volumes of destructive recycling that is taking place. There are far more black holes, gamma ray bursts, spinning neutron stars, supernovae, and other divisional disorders than life sustaining planets.

      Reasonable? A black hole is not reasonable to any atom. "The universe would not be paradoxical, logically absurd or terminally incomprehensible." Life and death is a paradox. A black hole, if one where to stand on the edge of one, the only conclusion is absurdness. Your ideas come from a blue sky and nice air, and they do not stretch to the light years beyond your blue sky. The universe appears reasonable to you because you can walk, talk, eat and pee. But how reasonable can it be when Earth will suffer a sixth extinction because all of life on Earth has been temporary.

      Peter, you present scary ideas that are far from reality. Such is thought inside the disorder of division. That is what a mind does when born in the disorder of the universe. It divides out its own section of ideas that it wants to believe, so that it may feel smart and worthy. The process is how a God was created. The mind loves to create things that are not real. It is why man believes in money, and other nonessential things. The human thought system has always been and will remain a delusional structure because it operates in a disordered membrane.

      Turn the mind completely off and listen. There is another voice that says all you think you know is not true or real. That is a voice of unity that urges one to drop the practice of creating ideas and concentrate on compassion. The energy that brings fulfillment to life. It would be a voice that is not mental, but felt through heart. And it wouldn't write such silly nonsense.

      We have all lost our monk hood, and that includes me too, just by writing this piece. Let's push each other to think clear. Maybe we can find an agreed monk hood that fixes the world. The outside disorder inherent in the universe has been winning by slowly breaking the unity of human civilization. Not that nationalisms were a true form of unity to begin with. More like a disordered unity, which allowed for some growth as a species.

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  2. "It is called ‘perennial’ because it cannot be improved upon or falsified. It is, after all, supposed to be true."

    I like the way you put this.


    "If the universe is not a unity then the knowledge claimed by the mystics would be demonstrably impossible. How could Lao Tsu learn of the origin of the universe from looking inside himself otherwise?"

    And this!

    My thought after reading your very erudite essay is this: if a Perceiving Mind is seen as the original unborn First Principle, and everything else we know is allowed to flow out of that Mind, then contradictions and dualisms arise only after that Mind starts working. Unity (nondualism) is the Mind at rest.

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  3. These are difficult issues to pin down because the language difficulties are considerable.

    Ben - My view would be that 'Perceiving Mind' is not the 'original unborn'. For me your 'Mind at Rest' would be nearer to the Ultimate with 'at rest' meaning that mind is not there at all. For me mentality implies process and thus would be absent when temporality is absent.

    This leaves me slightly at odds with Bernardo as to the ontological status of mind but perhaps not in quite the way he describes here. I would agree that Mind-Matter is a false dichotomy but this would be because there would be another option, not because mind goes all the way down. I would want to reduce all psycho-physical phenomena for a fundamental view in the style of the Abhidhamma pitaka.

    Even after all this time, Bernardo, I'm still unsure as to whether we have a real disagreement or whether it's all just a matter of how we're using the words. I'm going to go on assuming it's the latter for now. I'm fine with 'Absolute Idealism' as an alternative term for 'non-dualism' since it distinguishes itself from subjective idealism.


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    1. I am sure it's just a matter of words, Peter. I use the term 'mind' in a very broad sense, not necessarily implying cognition, but just raw (potential for) experience. I believe this is the original root meaning of the word in Western philosophy, but most people today use the word to mean 'intellect,' or 'thought,' or 'cognition,' etc.

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    2. Right! That makes things more clear.

      It's a tricky issue since although we seem to agree about all this if I used your language it would massively complicate my argument. I need something to use as an opposite for Matter, and Mind is the obvious one, and for Materialism the obvious one is Idealism.

      I don't think it is our fault that these problems come up. :)

      I must go and re-read the definition for 'Nous'.

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    3. Let us simply then. There is a dark membrane called our universe = disorder/unreal/space-time. And there is a Light universe that we do not see = unity/real/timelessness. The Light universe is of Intelligent Design that influences the dark universe/membrane at the quantum level. The Higgs field sound familiar?

      Now here is the catch if you believe in the human soul concept. The mind is born in disorder/unreal/vacuum/space-time/illusion/ - and will suffer death. The Light universe which created and contains the Soul, will retain that life and make it more real.

      Unfortunately, the PhD is erased because it was an education from a disordered universe that was never real. And the real learning begins after death, where Light is infinite with science that controls both universes.

      It's like the biblical version of life that has always been right (though distorted by the terms of God and Satan, of which both do not exist) - there is Dark and there is Light. Dark is dumb and Light is highly intelligent and in no way singular.

      All this pseudo intellectual talk is meaningless in the empty space of time. Especially if it offers no concrete ideas to bring unity to Earth.

      We could approach the most important concrete idea for Earth like this. We believe in a Heaven as the place we move to. Do you think we use money in Heaven? If humans desire to be an enlightened species as we view our souls to be, then is seems we should dismantle all the things that are not real. Money the most important one. Pseudo PhDs on the consciousness of empty space, another.

      Goggle the Venus Project and you see a lifestyle of no war, no politics, and no money. The improvement of human consciousness is not wholly tied to thought as Deepak and others teach, the majority of improvement to human consciousness is linked to technology.

      Did Galileo's telescope change human consciousness over time, and we finally embraced that Earth is not the center of the twirl? Technology and automation will completely change human consciousness because it will release our minds of competition and survival. Even the books that dissect minor differences of thought will come to an end.

      There is a grand thought in the future - let's be happy - and to do that we must build a perfect environment that makes us happy. That is what all the PhDs are searching for, they just haven't found the real answers yet, due to horrible education that brainwashes everyone to the man-made principle of money. Which lead to this:

      Most PhDs refuse to accept that the environment dictates human behavior. Example: Technology and automation will lift human consciousness out of robbing a bank, because banks do not exist in the future. Neither does writing meaningless books that supply no real answers, all for the sake of money.

      Pseudo intellect is wasting time because they believe money is real, so they write books to make that money.

      The year 2100 at 650 ppm of CO2 in the air, will prove what a waste time it was.

      Yes, I was all over the place with this reply, but I wanted to drench you intellectuals with many concepts.

      Dr. Kastrup, research the Venus Project. If you can apply some intellectual honesty and leave your competitive spirit of selling a book, you will have to agree that the Venus Project solves every human consciousness problem, something your books fail to do. And then put your computing skills to use and help build it.

      Can you stretch your education beyond the box of normal, and boring thinking of which you write about? That is the real question. Or will you continue to hide behind your PhD thinking you are intelligent from a disordered education of empty space, and ignore the value of the Venus Project? And thus, the stupid world continues.

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  4. Peter said: " 'Perceiving Mind' is not the 'original unborn'. For me your 'Mind at Rest' would be nearer to the Ultimate with 'at rest' meaning that mind is not there at all. For me mentality implies process and thus would be absent when temporality is absent."

    I see your point. In support of what I said, however, your First proposition suggests that we need not "abandon our usual way of thinking". Since we can normally envisage a mind at rest - for instance when in deep sleep, occasionally during meditation when no thoughts arise, absence seizures (petit mal), etc - then it seems possible that such a Mind might always have existed.

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    1. Good point, I concur. Nonetheless, as Peter said, it is a terminology issue, purely.

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  5. Seeming relevant here, just re-posting Scott Roberts' comment in the original forum discussion of Peter's essay, as follows ...

    [Quote]: Another way of saying this: with what you have presented here, one can only say "not this", and "not that". With polarity one can say "not this (on its own) and not that (on its own), but this and that in a polar (mutually constitutive while mutually contrafactory) relation". ['contrafactory' here means 'working against'] ... I would not include 'mind/matter' as a perennial undecidable problem. If matter is understood (as it generally is in modern times) as that which exists in itself and is void of all mentality, then it is not logically absurd to deny the existence of matter, while it is logically absurd to deny the existence of mind. Hence a 'mind-only' metaphysics is viable, as long as the word 'mind' is not restricted to the subject of intentional consciousness. Thus Bernardo calls his metaphysics an idealist monism but I would not consider it to be logically absurd. [Unquote]

    In pondering Scott's addendum to the forum thread, and the brief exchange that followed, I can relate to what he's is getting at here, and see it as a cogent transliteration of the symbolic language of the yin-yang symbol into words, wherein it depicts circumscribed interfacing black and white polarities, each containing the 'seed' of the other, each inherently implying the other, and inextricably fused. Pondering the reference to them being 'mutually constitutive while mutually contrafactory', I pictured two canoeists, sitting at opposite ends of the vessel, paddling on opposite sides, in opposite directions, generating spin, like one of Bernardo's whirlpools in the stream, as perhaps a visualization of Mind-at-large at work 'conceiving' the cosmos, and even its disassociated alters, as an infinitude of fractal-like vortices within Consciousness. Am I even remotely making sense here? In any case, just wanted to say that I found the exchange interesting and would welcome and enjoy more between Scott and Peter, or anyone else, if so inclined, as possible clarification of this theme -- though perhaps the forum would be a better venue.

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    1. Hi Dana

      I have to admit that these ideas are currently over my head. As far as I can tell if Scott is correct then this would make no difference to the essay.

      I see it like this. I am speaking of metaphysics, going straight for the jugular in a simple way by disposing of absurd theories to leave just one theory standing, one for which Scott's ideas may or may not be correct.

      I do not like these ideas because they seem to me to be unnecessary and to miss out on the value of the idea of 'contradictory complementarity' and its relationship with the laws of dialectic logic. But this is not to say they are incorrect. I don't properly understand them yet.



      There is a misunderstanding in any case. I have not suggested that Bernardo's 'idealist monism' is absurd. It's a language issue. I have suggested that Idealism and Monism are absurd when they are merely the mirror-image of Materialism and Dualism.


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    2. To be sure, my specific intrigue is quite peripheral to your essay, which, as mentioned in the forum, is well beyond the reach of my analytical capabilities, or academic background. I do tend to go off on these tangents -- could be attention deficit disorder ;-)

      So I won't carry on about it here, but will follow up with Scott in the original forum thread.

      Kind regards

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    3. Dana- It worries me that you think like this. There's a great simplicity underneath all the fancy words. I bet if we talked for a while you'd start to question whether these ideas are beyond anybody's reach.

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    4. Well, after reading it through a couple more times in its current version, I am able to grasp better its more subtle points -- and enjoyed your eloquent style no less for it. So it may be more accurate to say it was beyond my initial analytical inclination. I can be lax that way sometimes, when something doesn't immediately capture my imagination. However, sometimes one is rewarded only through making an effort, and this would be one such case.

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    5. "A neutral metaphysical position can be defined so closely, like the state of a pencil balanced on its tip, that there can be no prevarication on metaphysical problems. The danger of adopting this position, therefore, or the price, would be that one tends to becomes rather dogmatic about what is right and wrong when speaking about fundamental issues. One pulls out the principle of nonduality and this enchanted sword just chops through the problems. Nobody else will have a competing solution that works since there would not be one. Yet there would always be two ways to look at this. Neutrality means that no view would be entirely wrong, and so it would usually be possible to half-agree with any opposing view as capturing something of the truth."

      This quote covers the conversation here, however:

      There is better concept than remaining neutral. Right and wrong is not the solid answer that improves human consciousness, as Peter points out. The real question is, is it real or is it unreal? Using that question we can dismantle the illusions of the mind.

      Example: Is money real? No it is not; it is a man-made tool of manipulation to human consciousness. How can our species advance in thought when we believe and use unreal things (lies) that do not exist in Mother Earth's nature? We cannot. Hence, money is the tool that limits technology to spread worldwide. Some have technology and others do not, simply because humans must make a buck versus a sharing plan. Earth's natural reality is one of sharing and why food grows all over the planet. But humans have built a delusion of not sharing, through money.

      Here's the thing about delusions, eventually they self-destruct because they are not real. And it is better to dismantle an illusion before they self-destruct. As money will do once again, just like 2008.

      Humans must stop living things that are not real. That includes esoteric thought that does not end with the question, is it real? Something death does to humans when they die. Example: Does one really think that a PhD in economics survives death in a reality where money does not exist? No, the PhD delusion is dismantled to where that part of the personality no longer exists. See the benefit of asking the question what is real versus what is not real? It saves a lot work when a human energy system passes to the next energy system. It's the only question to ask, something death performs as an automatic extraction because duality is no longer. There are many children in Heaven when most of the adult life has been erased, due to beliefs that were never real.

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  6. Dana -- I've posted a reply to this in the original "Essay Submission" thread you took this from -- I think it's easier to track things in the forum.

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  7. Sorry, Peter, but this post went completely over my head. I wish you could simplify it.

    Michael Larkin

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    1. Ha!!

      I wish the same thing, Mickjo. This is as simple as I could make it. The basic message would be that all metaphysical theories except one are logically absurd. Once we have grasped this fact then the essay's job is pretty much done.

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    2. Lately it can seem that whenever I venture beyond the simple realization that I am That which is experiencing none other than itself, whatever form that experience may take, them I'm going, or seeking, or thinking, or elaborating, further than I really need to. But curiosity keeps getting the better of me, despite what is said about the fate of the cat, or the ineffability of the Tao. But then again, why should that, or any experience be precluded? :)

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    3. Dana - To me none of this complicated stuff would be an issue for practitioners, who can choose their own focus and interests. It becomes important where people believe that the perennial philosophy can be ignored for having no evidence or logical argument to support it. Then it helps to show that by logical analysis it can demolish every other view. This seems a barely understood or recognised fact even among its supporters.

      For the practitioner it might seem that logical analysis would be redundant or a distraction, but let's not forget that Nagarjuna logically proves his and the Buddha's philosophy for the sake of practitioners, not just as an intellectual exercise.

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  8. What about the Pilot Wave theory which is actually gaining a lot of credibility due to recent results? Quantum mechanics without all the weirdness. Needless to say that the determinists and the materislaists would rejoice...

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  9. https://www.quantamagazine.org/20160517-pilot-wave-theory-gains-experimental-support/

    http://resonance.is/news/quantum-weirdness-replaced-by-classical-fluid-dynamics/

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  10. Hi Pu Songling - I'm not sure why pilot waves would be relevant here.

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  11. Probably because if true, it would tend very much to support determinism and ... materialism, right? However from the very start i must admit that i am new in all that and in no way of the same caliber than you people who are posting here. And so, being a "newbie," i certainly dont affirm anything; i simply question myself (and others moe informed than me...)

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  12. I see your point, PS, but materialism and determinism have problems whatever the truth about pilot waves. Still, I'd agree that if we could get rid of the weirdness of QM then the need for a nondual theory would be less obvious.

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