Some lessons for The Way of Being | A Journey
Anil Mitra, Copyright © December 24, 2019—March 27, 2020
This necessitates that the account be brief and technical material be minimized. Material that is secondary to the aim is placed in endnotes.
When an advance in understanding extends into a region requiring a new conceptual apparatus or paradigm, the meanings of terms is altered.
Some important terms are defined in the glossary, p. 1.
This does not imply that readers should discard received meanings. It does mean that the received should be set aside at least temporarily while absorbing the new meanings and shades of meaning.
It is important to think in of meaning as systematic. What this means is that the meaning of a system of ideas lies in how they relate to one another2 and not only in how the individual ideas relate to the world.
Though we live in a world of apparent limits, human beings have a gift3 of vision; we can see or imagine worlds beyond the immediate world.
In its better forms, that search does not deny or abandon this immediate world—the world of apparent limits.
When in our early (human) evolution, thought emerged as free of what was merely seen, we became able to think of reasons for things seen. This was a source of truth and superstition.
In early primal tradition, truth and superstition4 are interwoven.
Civilization on a large scale made it possible to enhance criteria for truth and to distinguish truth and superstition. But even today, we have not accomplished a complete separation5.
A consequence of this historical thread is—
If we think of the primal as a way or paradigm of seeing, thinking, and living then its sequelae in large scale civilization are the secular and transsecular paradigms.
The transsecular focus is on worlds beyond the experience—and to which it appeals for higher truth and goals.
It is therefore an error to claim, from science and its method, that its theories describe the entire universe. As an example, it has been claimed that some models of the universe8 do not have a time before the original singularity and therefore there is no such time. This conclusion may seem reasonable but its reasonableness presumes (i) that the entire universe is as in the model and (therefore) (ii) that general conclusions, even those that extend beyond the empirical, from the model must be true. Now, if you were to ask a physicist who favors such conclusions whether they are really true, they would most likely say something like ‘well I’m not sure, but I think we should not speculate beyond, and it is a good default position’.
However, we ‘should’ speculate9 beyond, for this is how we transitioned from the Newtonian to the modern view of the empirical universe10. Especially today11 when progress in physics seems blocked because of a paucity of critical experiments.
Critical conclusions regarding this discussion of scientific paradigm are (i) the limited view from science does not follow from science itself, (ii) science (physics) allows a greater universe than the limited view presents, and (iii) but an uncritical acceptance of pictures from science lead to common12 acceptance of the limited views.
We can summarize the discussion of science as follows—
That we do not observe all possibilities does not contradict this as possible, for what we see is one possibility—and not another.
The fundamental limit of the religions is that or when they posit cosmologies as truth15. The hold of the religions is multifold—promise of a higher life16; binding a people together; and, since religious ‘truth’ is not manifest, a range of powerful psychological devices to bind minds to dogma17. Where they adhere to dogma, religions abandon their symbolic value.
In summary of this section—
There is much in the secular and transsecular traditions that suggests that knowledge of the ultimate is the ideal, the end of search21. However, even ultimate knowledge22 falls short of ultimate being.
This is important because of the widespread view that a greater reality is impossible and the consequent shutting down of imagination and potential.
1. That something is possible means only that it may occur or be true, not that it will occur or that it is true. Can a greater reality be demonstrated?
2. If it can be demonstrated, what are its variety, extent, and duration? Is there an outer limit to such a reality? If so, what is that limit?
3. If such a reality is shown, what is its implication for human individuals and civilization? What can or shall we realize? How may we do so?
Let us now take up these issues.
From our freedom to form concepts, we make pictures26 (hypotheses) about the world.
Where the hypotheses are not in agreement with the empirical, we correct them they agree. The agreement is over the empirical and cannot be guaranteed to extend beyond27.
(But) within the current28 empirical realm, we regard science as true29. Given modern physics, what is in accord with it is physically possible and what is not is physically impossible30. More generally, the kind of possibility in question is scientific or ‘real’.
There is another kind of possibility. If the concepts of a theory are in conflict on account of their form and structure, they could not be realized31 in any world. An example is a square circle. We can form the concept32 but it is unrealizable. It is unrealizable in any possible world33. This is logical impossibility. On the other hand if there is no such conflict, the compound concept is realizable and we call it logically possible. Physical34 possibility presumes logical possibility35.
What is the greatest possibility36? If something37 is logically impossible it is absolutely impossible. Therefore logical possibility bounds the greatest possibility. However, if something is logically possible it is realizable in some world38. Therefore the greatest possibility is logical possibility39.
Why does the universe exist40? What is the cause of or reason for its existence? Was it created?
Here, definitions of the universe and of cause are critical41.
So let us ask why the universe exists? Did something cause its existence?
The cause of existence, if there is one, cannot be another existing or preexisting42 entity43 for the universe is all that there is over all duration and extension44.
Could it be ‘self cause’? No, for what that says is the universe causes itself which says effectively nothing45.
If the cause is not and cannot be another ‘thing’ what could it be? Perhaps it is possibility46? But that would say nothing47 for to say realization of an idea is just possible is to say that it may obtain but it also may not obtain. In other words to say that the universe is possible is to say that it is an accident.
Perhaps the cause is probability. However, probability is merely the assignment of a number to possibility. Probability, like possibility, is not a good cause, reason, or explanation—except in one case, the case of necessity in which the probability is that of certainty48.
However, to say that necessity would be a good reason is not to say that it is the reason for we have not yet demonstrated that it is. That will be the next task, but before turning to it, let us reflect on necessity49 as cause50 or reason for existence of the universe.
1. It is not a material reason or cause—i.e. it has neither form nor structure—but it is surely acceptable as a reason.
2. As necessity is void of manifest Being—it is formless—it has perfect symmetry, so necessity cannot explain the existence of just the empirical universe.
3. Therefore, the only ‘states’ not realized are the ones defined by logical impossibility.
4. That is, the universe is the greatest possible universe.
Let us now turn to showing that necessity is the cause of the universe’s existence and so to concluding that the universe is the greatest possible.
In this section we demonstrate the fundamental principle51—abbreviated FP: The existence of the manifest universe is necessary; it is the greatest possible universe; it is the realization of logical possibility.
In the (true) void there are no laws—constraints—of science, particularly of physics. But if there is a possible state that does not emerge from the void, that would be a constraint.
Therefore all possible states obtain.
It is now worth rereading the numbered observations at the end of the previous section.
The next section is a set of consequences essential to realization.
The universe has identity; the universe and its identity phase in and out of manifestation; the manifest is limitless in its variety, extension, duration, peaks, and dissolution; for example it has limitless arrays of cosmoses of limitless variety.
The individual realizes universal identity and in doing so the individual merges with the universal; this is given; there are however, effective paths of realization that enhance enjoyment; so far as enjoyment and minimization of pain are of value, there is an ethical imperative to discover and be on paths to the ultimate55.
This merging is given by the fundamental principle; mechanisms are suggested in essays at the website The Way of Being | A Journey (home—http://www.horizons-2000.org/2020/ and older—http://www.horizons-2000.org/); however it is essential to see that merging is given, regardless of efficient mechanism.
How may paths to the ultimate be determined?
A first answer is that in knowing there are paths to the ultimate and committing to a path, one is already on the way and some would claim that we are essentially already there56. However, while I agree that we may have a real57 image of the ultimate in our minds and hearts, I do not think that the image and the ultimate are identical.
A second answer is that while I know there is a path, I do not know any path all the way to the ultimate. I emphasize that it is I the author of this essay that is ignorant for I do think that, just as there are people who know less in these matters than I, there may also be persons who know vastly more than I do.
A third answer, implicit in the development so far, is that given that there are paths and given that to be committed in mind and heart is to already be on the way, we can only do—it is imperative to do—the best we can with the resources we have58.
We now turn to the attempt to do the best we can do.
The best available knowledge is tradition, which is here conceived in what is valid in the entire history of human culture and exploration. It includes modern science and reason. The best in the tradition understands its own limits. These limits remain locally important. However, they—the limits—are now revealed as not important relative to realization60. For the local criteria of science and ethics are not essential in realization. Rather what is revealed is (i) we can know the ultimate at least in abstract terms (ii) local knowledge—tradition—is instrumental in beginning to move toward the ultimate; and when ‘we’ have moved forward, there will be new local knowledge.
How might ‘we’ employ such perfect knowledge?
2. Second in identifying how to proceed to the ultimate (from and in the immediate), the paradigms of the East and the West may be combined as Reason. Reason is the best developed and developing means of knowing and realization.
The practices of the East, especially yoga in an expansive and experimental rather than just received sense, and the practices of the West, e.g. science, logic, and reason, may combine under one umbrella that may be labeled Reason, Logos, or Yoga. This is the generalized means of realization. Reason is not an end but a process of Being (and rendered in symbols).
Here is a summary from accounts at The Way of Being | A Journey (home—http://www.horizons-2000.org/2020/ and older—http://www.horizons-2000.org/). The standard view of our limited be-ing has validity over the empirical universe. But the entire universe is a field which is of one kind with two aspects—experiencer and experienced or ‘mind and body’. This provides two indistinct means of moving into the field, the inner (exploration and construction of and within experience) and instrumental (exploration and construction of and within the experienced).
In ‘this life’ we have images of and movement toward the ultimate. Do we realize the ultimate? Yes but in merging with it (with action and construction, not just with the human mental), we transcend this life. However, while realization is incomplete in this life, and the typical passage begins with death and its cycles, a direct link to the ultimate is possible and does occur, even if it is rare. That is, ‘Being’ does not always have to lose consciousness to gain Consciousness.
3. Third, as an example of how the ideal and pragmatic may be combined62, we may import the evolutionary paradigm from biology to understanding efficient sentient process in the universe. Mechanism explains process within a cosmos. But what is the origin of a cosmos? Insofar as from the void, it must be indeterministic. The process of indeterministic variation and selection for near symmetry of form suggests how higher sentient form may emerge and capture blind process on the way to Brahman.
In other writing this perfect knowledge is called the perfect metaphysics, generally referred to as the metaphysics.
The metaphysics above shows existence of this God provided its contradictions are removed—particularly (i) the idea of a creator of the universe for there can be no being that is such a creator and (ii) the superlative characterization of this God, it involves a number of logical and factual contradictions; what results is a God rather like human being, but perhaps more powerful, occasionally not so powerful, and capricious—like the Greek Gods. However, a caring and remote God of this kind is barely significant—just as an intelligent and caring king is barely significant as a god.
Why are such Gods not seen in our cosmos? Simply that it is almost certain that they are not here—except perhaps that there may be some intelligent alien species that might have care but not too much care about us but whom we might begin to revere. But regarding the reality of such Gods in our lives here and now, it is important that the sources of the beliefs are myth and awe (reverence) and not reason (observation and inference).
However, it is important that that the entire myth-as-real minimizes functions of God and religion as symbol and social binding.
There is yet another possibility that is minimized or ignored. It is the idea that life arises spontaneously and in so arising we—humans and other animals—are tentatively on the way to the potential of the universe. In this spontaneous arising humans are not a final but perhaps the first step in discrete conscious awareness of this process.
If one thinks of all Being having phases of perfection, and all life on earth perhaps approaching such a phase despite imperfection, then we are all a phase of such a God63. However, such a God is but a phase of the Vedantic notion of God.
There are paths to the ultimate; they are made effective by engagement; the means of engagement is reason which includes practice; ecstasy and pain are unavoidable; the problem of pain ought not to be neglected but its best resolution lies in scientific (medical) treatment – compassion and care – in being on the path; and the effective path rejects neither ecstasy nor the significance of pain, but cultivates calm enjoyment, vision of the ultimate, and focus on the aim of realization.
The traditions64 provide some tools. The main aspects of those tools for the present work are the inner (e.g. meditation and yoga as mental preparation and work toward the ultimate) and instrumental (e.g. use of science in exploration of space and the medical and information possibilities of bodies and matter); which are not taken as a priori or ultimate but as experimental and directed toward the goal.
Readers may refer to the website The Way of Being | A Journey (home—http://www.horizons-2000.org/2020/ and older—http://www.horizons-2000.org/), where I have suggested adaptable programs or templates for everyday and universal action.
The glossary collects together some concepts for The Way, focusing on (i) those directly important to the content of The Lessons and (ii) others from The Way that might present problems of understanding or reasons for use.
Bold font indicates the essential terms for the lessons.
1 From science, philosophy, and religion.
2 That is meaning is holistic but I do not use the term ‘holism’ because I am not referring to meaning holism—i.e. I am not asserting that meaning lies only in the system of meanings. Nor am I thinking to impose system on the world as in ‘systematic metaphysics’; any system that arises emerges from reasoning about the world. Finally, in the present sense, system does not connote method. However, it is tacit that effective systematic thought is careful and rigorous.
3 Given our capacity for delusion, is it a gift? I say that it is for we cannot just posit new understanding but must guess at it and then correct it. The formation of new understanding is inevitably bound to the possibility of error. Still, the gift is a two edged sword well recognized in many traditions.
4 Regarding primality, we ought not to think of superstition as irrational—for adequate means of rationality in our terms are not yet available. Yet, primality is empirical and, as anthropological studies show, beliefs may be strengthened when confirmed and weakened when disconfirmed.
5 But we ought not to assert that a complete separation is—or is not—meaningful, possible, or desirable.
6 That is, what has been experienced so far in human history together with investigation into what is capable of being experienced.
7 It does not deny the idea of spirituality but asserts that the meaning of the spiritual lies in this world, especially its ethics and aesthetics.
8 Based in the general theory of relativity and quantum theory.
“The conclusion of this lecture is that the universe has not existed forever. Rather, the universe, and time itself, had a beginning in the Big Bang, about 15 billion years ago.”—Stephen Hawking, The Beginning of Time.
9 It is important to distinguish between rational speculation and mere speculation. Mere speculation is having a random idea and thinking it is real. Rational speculation is invariably based in some aspects of experience and subject to rational critique. Rational speculation is in fact formation of hypotheses and subjecting them to logical and empirical criteria. In physics the empirical region is empirical knowledge of the physical universe.
Now what we will do in this essay is (i) formulate hypotheses over experience so general as to be necessarily true (e.g. there is experience, there is a universe) (ii) subject the formed system to rational critique—therefore the resulting system will be necessarily true (iii) adjoin this ideal system to pragmatic knowledge (iv) show that according to values emerging from the ideal system the combined system is perfect in being the best possible system.
10 Of course we should not conflate hypotheses with truth; nor ought we to think that by considering hypotheses not directly consequent from the empirical that we are doing physicists. On the other hand physicists who tell us that we ought not to speculate are, in so far is the issue is one of what is correct, speaking beyond the natural domain of their authority.
12 Normative reality is emergent at a critical threshold of acceptance among the population.
13 Though religions are more than their cosmologies, the interest here is cosmology.
14 The plural ‘religions’ emphasizes that the discussion is about the religions of the world and not an ideal concept of religion. Whereas an ideal conception of science is that it is the study of the world via conceptions designed to explain the empirical, ideal religion is understanding
15 This is the dogmatic aspect of the religions. Perhaps this is inevitable for the appeal of the religions is especially to those who do not have the time and resources for the leisure to be reflective. That in doing so and otherwise, the religions perform a function, does not alter the fact of dogma. Indeed, dogma may be central to the psychological and social functions of religion at the present developmental state of humankind and society.
16 And escape from this life.
17 A source of violence in the name of the religions.
18 It will be seen that this possibility is factual, indeed necessarily factual. But I use the world ‘possibility’ because the fact has not yet been shown.
19 But then why not appeal to secular ethics and aesthetics? This is reasonable. However, the secular thought tends to be infused with the normative (and common) limit to the merely and current empirical.
20 These are strong limits if not universal. Normativity is an essential part of their sometimes seeming universality.
21 This is especially true of western thought and the Abrahamic tradition. Eastern traditions emphasize transformation of the entire being and see knowledge with practice as the way to realization. However, Sufism, the tradition of Christian Mysticism, and modern western existential thought also emphasize the entire being.
22 In the sense of knowledge as concept. The sense of being as knowledge is not used here.
23 Focus on entire being is reasonable ‘common sense’. What will be shown is (i) its necessity and (ii) ways of transformation.
24 That is sufficiently many of us that it is seen as normative or consensual truth.
25 Severely limited.
26 Though this sounds as though it is taken from Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, it is actually due to Einstein—using words similar to Wittgenstein’s.
27 They often do and this is part of their usefulness. However, the history of science shows limits are to be expected; and scientific reason so far denies guarantee of ultimate extension.
28 That is—the current at any given time.
29 On the other hand if our ideal of science is universality, then all science is hypothetical (except where the empirical realm is itself known to be limited).
30 The range of the physically possible, even when limited to today’s physics, is not clearly well defined but that is not important to this discussion.
31 Have an object.
32 Some thinkers would question this. They might say that since it is contradictory, the concept cannot even be formed. The response is What is it that cannot be formed? What they ought to say, I think, is that since the concept cannot be realized, it is un-realistic rather than un-formable.
33 Provided, of course, that ‘square’ and ‘circle’ can have their usual meaning in the worlds.
34 Or, more generally, real possibility.
35 But is often tacitly built in and so need not be mentioned.
36 Greatest does not mean ‘best’. The greatest possible universe is one in which all possibility obtains.
37 That is, a concept.
38 For the collection of realistically possible worlds is one in which all constraints of realism are absent and the only ‘constraint’ is the logically possible.
39 This is not quite correct for if something never occurs over the entire duration and extension, limited or limitless, of the entire universe—i.e. not the empirical universe—can it be called possible? We ought therefore to talk of the greatest conceivable possibility. However, this will turn out to be unnecessary.
40 It is not assumed that the universe has an origin (or boundary). What we are asking is what, if anything, sustains its existence and whether such ‘sustenance’ is necessary to its existence or understanding its existence. If the universe had an origin then that would be part of what is to be explained.
41 To some extent there is and ought to be latitude in definitions. However, even among definitions that seem empirically and logically consistent, some definitions are more empowering of understanding than others. The definitions I choose here are ones that I have found by trial and error to be maximally effective—that is, I have found them to be generative of an ultimate system of understanding and have found no system of definitions that is more powerful.
42 Or even post-existing.
43 E.g. a creator. In any case, to posit a creator requires a different definition of ‘universe’ than the present one and whereas an alternate definition is not objectionable in itself, it is impotent as it leads to infinite regress rather than a reason for the existence of the universe.
44 If the universe were not defined as ‘all that there is’, its cause could be another existing thing or being. But then the cause or reason would be relative, not absolute. This is a reason behind the chosen definition.
45 It is possible to imagine a spark of existence that somehow creates more, then more, and so builds up into a universe but this is not self-creation since it assumes the original spark. It also ignores questions of mechanism but as we will see, the question of mechanism is moot.
46 To talk of possibility as cause is to abandon the dominant modern sense of cause. This is why the term ‘reason’ is preferred. Alternatively, we may begin to think in terms of non-classical cause.
47 And since we know that the universe is possible, it adds nothing to what is already known.
48 The numerical value of the probability is 1.
49 I can imagine someone now saying—so there is a God after all and it is necessity. The essential objection to that claim is that necessity has almost none of the characteristics of the notions of God from the religions.
50 Of course in a sense other than the dominant modern meaning.
51 Elsewhere I call it the he fundamental principle of metaphysics.
53 For any object, to be sometime and somewhere manifest is to be possible (at some other times and places). However, for any object to be always manifest is to be necessary—the distinction between be-ing and being necessary breaks down.
54 This incorporates both material and self identity. It is an important philosophical concept and not thought to be entirely understood. The present development does not eliminate need for local understanding but makes that understanding of diminished importance relative to realization what is possible.
55 Of course, from and in the immediate.
56 Buddhism and Christianity assert this possibility.
57 If incomplete.
58 “Be willing to be a beginner every single morning”—Meister Eckhart.
59 Understood as knowledge of the real; which, as is shown here, is constructed and so possible.
60 Of course it remains important to acknowledge them.
61 From Indian thought.
63 Nature is one place where one may experience this—when beautiful or when harsh (for there is no logical reason to think of ‘God’ as altogether perfect: that is but a religious projection). But whether in nature or ‘civilization’ the aim in this matter is to feel at one with the process of the world (even amid pain and chaos); and in so feeling, to have some transcendence of self. Yoga, meditation, and reason provide tools to this end.
64 Reason—with science, logic, philosophy—and in its most inclusive sense as incorporating the traditions of practice which include Yoga, Tantra, Buddhism, and Christian Mysticism.
65 That is, it is not a relative foundation or a pseudo-foundation by infinite regress. In other words, Being provides a perfect foundation. There is of course a limit in that the foundation that Being provides is for the dual of ideal metaphysics by ideal criteria joined to pragmatic knowledge by pragmatic criteria. That is it does not found pragmatic knowledge as perfect depiction. But Being also leads to the result that perfect depiction in the pragmatic case is of greatly diminished significance relative to its traditional importance.
66 Note that it is not an error to assign reality to this experience; the—common human projective—error is to think it has special status, which means not only higher or lower but other (to project, in this case, is to hold either explicitly or tacitly that “the world is like my experience in the world).
67 All possibility except impossibility (the latter may be seen as the cause of something not obtaining).