The Self and The Mirror of Nature – Part 1

Chapter I | Introduction

What you will proceed to read is my first attempt at synthesizing the fundamental nature of reality. The beyond writing represents the foundation of all my future thought as it structures the most fundamental element, the self – without whose structured understanding one should have no right to proceed in any further thinking, for, how dare anybody ponder another thought before one has clarified to the full extent of their capabilities who it is that questions and who it is that states – and the relationship between the self and the world. Without a clear analysis of the self and its standing in reality our statements are but means of escape in our perpetual striving towards the banishment of all responsibility and the deliverance of it to another, to the object, to the observation, to the formula, to logic, to god or to however you wish to call that imagined entity upon which we bestow the weight of our thoughts.

When we state that we are engaging in what is known as objective analysis, we seem to be elude by the fact that we are still the one that is tasting, smelling, touching, hearing, seeing, the one that is perceiving, the one that is observing through whatever means we have at hand and thus the one stating and questioning that which is perceived. The more we try to detach from this fact the more we lose sight of what truly transpires within reality. While I understand humanity’s desire for undoubtable and easy answers, I think that this one-sided method of scientific inquiry, while very useful for the day to day, leaves a lot to be desired when posing fundamental questions with regards to reality.

Being a Darwinian through and through everything I shall present will be looked at through a narrative-evolutionary lens. I will show how the thoughts of the great thinkers build upon one another, because what they have in common is more vital than the points upon which they disagree; for, the only way we can move forward is by creating bridges. The unification process will be realized by looking at the thoughts of the great minds of the past and interpreting their thoughts in such a way that the latter add to the former, creating an aggregate that is greater than the sum of its parts.

While doing this, I will try to avoid, to the best of my ability, stating the hermeneutics of any of the writers that I’m presenting. I will either quote them (if I consider that they can express what I’m thinking better than I’m able to) or present the ground of their argument. I will avoid discussions over the interpretations of the great writers and over the debates that they have been engaging in through the timeless platform of the written word because my hope is to move the domain of philosophy away from the practice of debating the validity of someone’s interpretation of someone’s writing, as it bears little to no additional value to the evolutionary propulsion of knowledge and reality. The field needs to become revolutionized so that it can be true to the meaning inherent in its name: ‘love of knowledge’.

My methodology will be simple: I shall synthesize the fundamental ideas with regards to the self of the various authors, then I will interpret them based on present day knowledge and a non-dual mindset, following which I will look at how one idea connects with another and at how one author connects with another. I will not be looking for differences but for unity. In the process, I will transition through multiple disciplines for nothing can be looked at from a single, limited perspective. Some arguments will be very abrupt and will require the reader to dive into himself and connect the dots on the basis of their own experience. I would rather lose some explanatory depth and trust in the readers ability to connect the dots, given the limited format that I chose to confine myself to, than not be able to express my vision (indifferent of level of depth) as I consider that it is far more valuable to see a full but blurry picture of reality than to see a perfectly painted door that leads nowhere. As such, the below writing will pose difficulties to people that are not versed in trans-disciplinary understanding and that are not high in openness (as per the OCEAN[1] model).

The way in which I will unite the thoughts is by synthesizing them into high level conceptual maps that I will present in as narrow a context as possible, later I will add together all of the separate representations to create a unified model of the self, which will be a functional end-to-end[2] dynamic process.

Let us glance over the structure of the paper. In chapter 2, I will present the mindset with which the text has to be read. I do that by presenting two different mindsets, the dualistic one and the non-dual one, and explaining why the latter is better than the former and why we must thus use it. In the process, I present a brief, fast paced history of the evolution of the dualistic mindset followed by the scientific discoveries which destroyed the illusion of separation that permeated or view of the world up until the 20th century (with small exceptions). After having clarified the correct way of looking at reality[3], I will move, in chapter 3, into exposing my meta-theoretical considerations with regards to the elements of the history of philosophy that are pertinent to the subject of the self. Instead of concentrating on specific writers, as per the standard model, I will concentrate on the subject. I will look throughout the history of thought with regard to the subject and from a narrative-evolutionary point of view and I will bring forth the elements which were salient for every period, together with the author that saw those elements as core to their philosophy. Chapter 3, should present the broad spectrum of elements, and views that need to be united in the chapter that will follow it. It will also provide a clear understanding of the difficulty of the current project, namely of creating a united transdisciplinary end-to-end dynamic process of the self. In Chapter 4, we will be addressing the creation of this model in multiple steps. Step one will have us go through my ontological considerations. I will be presenting my personal view[4] of ontology which you shall see leads me to arrive to the same conclusion as many other great thinkers, such as Hegel and Alan Watts, who considered, as do I, that reality exists in order to know itself. With this realization in mind, I will continue in chapter 4.2 to present the Hypothalamic model of the self, which in short can be described as the driver of the self and the main element that manipulates our perception of reality, then, in chapter 4.3, I will look into the Epistemological model of the self, which looks at how our knowledge filters create our relational standing to the world, and I will unite the Epistemological model with the Hypothalamic one, while in chapter 4.4, I will look at the Narrative-Meaning model of the self which describes, from a narrative standpoint, the relationship between self, nature and culture, and also presents a narrative model of self-development. In Chapter 4.5, I will unite all three models, the Hypothalamic, the Epistemological and the Narrative-Meaning Model, into the final product of this paper, a model of the self which is identical to a united transdisciplinary end-to-end dynamic process.

While my way of going about this project may be very peculiar, I want you to note that I go about it in such a fashion because I see myself as more than a waiter at a restaurant from whom you expect to receive exactly what you ordered and preferably the way you expect it to be prepared. I do this because you have not accessed a computer that runs an algorithm that is dispensing outputs based on the variables others put in out of lack of personal thoughts, and because no endeavor into knowledge can be detached from the one that is exposing said knowledge. Some may think that I have no right to go against the pre-established and by many revered order and processes of academia in the field that I work in. I am here to say that this argument if fallible, as all rules (except for the laws of nature) were created by fallible humans, as myself. They, all the rules, were created by a unity of organisms that considered itself the center of the world, by a subject, something which I also consider myself to be.

As every free thinker that has come before me, I too shall endeavor not to follow a given path but to create my own path. If you wander what allows me to call myself a free thinker and claim that any of the statements that I shall make below should hold any truth whatsoever, the answer is: I’m a philosopher, a man who loves knowledge beyond all else and whose main aim in life is to help knowledge evolve, to drive it forward, to help it transcend itself. And, evolution, in Schumpeterian terms[5], can only be achieved through “the gale of creative destruction”.

In the process of disrupting the standard academic model, I aim to reinterpret the history of thought and present it in a new light, to show another side of it. Reinterpretations are vital within any cultures as they bring back to life the codification of the absolute, noumenal, non-dual, ultimate reality that our ancestors have tried to convey into posteriority. Thus, I will at no point aim to do justice to the writing of the person I am quoting, I will only aim to do justice to the subject itself, to knowledge and to the fundamental nature of reality.

As the way I phrased this till now might sound a bit harsh let me barrow the words of Ken Wilber who has elegantly articulate the attitude with which I shall address this work:

“The integral claim is simply this: we accept ALL of [Ferrer’s] type of pluralistic approach, as far as it goes. Of course, you start with a caring hermeneutic within the horizons of that which is acceptable to the Other. Of course, you do not attempt to impose meta-narratives on the Other that the Other would not impose on itself. Of course, caring dialogue is the beginning of any sort of dialogical understanding. Of course, there are a series of multifocal, heterogeneous discourses that cannot be meta-narrated. Of course, hermeneutic enactments are grounded in participatory intersubjectivity and not intra-personal empiricism. In this academic day and age, all that truly, goes without saying.”[6]

The above is a lightly more distilled explanation of the as of yet unstated meta-method, namely:

“The research drive and methodology are inspired by Integral Theory and Research and will be based on – a post-metaphysical and transdisciplinary perspective that is dedicated to articulating the ways ontology, epistemology, and methodology interact and co-arise across various scales of time and space.”[7]

This work represents the beginning of the quest towards the complete extinguishment of all detachment from responsibility in the pursuit of knowledge which beforehand was achieved by excluding the subject form the process of knowledge seeking. To complete this all knowledge will need to be restructured from the vantage point of the structured and acknowledged self, with open recognition of its implication in all knowledge statements. Thus, what we have set out to achieve in this paper – the structuring of the self to the extent of what we perceive to be our current limits – is imperative.

Chapter II | Setting the mindset: Non-duality and its importance in understanding the nature of reality

Permeating the full catalogue of our species’ endeavors is one truth which can be acknowledged without need for any further justification: all human effort is directed towards the attainment of knowledge and mastery over reality. We seek to understand reality as a whole, yet we seem to be attempting this in a very counterintuitive way. We take our stance, our place in reality, within the immediate references that get transferred to us through our sensors; and, processed and stored through our thought and memory. From here we start to cut. We look for patterns that allow us to split the world into as many different entities as possible. Like a mad doctor we are chopping reality, tearing it apart piece by piece, mutilating it until it is unrecognizable to us. We have sunk so low that we believe we can unify reality by proceeding further with this misguided methodology. A truly tragic belief! For, how can any being that considers itself to be sentient, rational and aware, proclaim that one can sew the pieces together with the knife that was used to cut them. An instrument that is made for cutting will never allow us to bind all the experience and knowledge we have gained of the particulars (the cut pieces of reality) and, hence, it will never allow us to see the unity and to discover reality in its fullest.[8]

This attitude towards reality comes from the misunderstanding of dualistic segmentation. We can trace the roots of this segmentation back to Ancient Greece, with the foundations of the Eleatic School that tried to reconcile the conflicting ideas of Parmenides and Heraclitus. Heraclitus believed that the world is in constant flux, that it is ever changing, with the changes arising from the dynamic and cyclical interplay of opposites as unity. He called this unity that transcends and contain all opposites, the Logos. Parmenides, on the other hand, considered change to be impossible, to be an illusion, and that the only reason we are perceiving change is due to the limited capabilities of our senses. He saw reality as an indestructible substance, as a subject of varying properties. Heraclitus’ view was named by the Eleatic School matter and Parmenides’ view was named spirit.[9] Two millennials after being proclaimed by the Eleatic School, spirit-matter dualism was formulated to its extreme by Descartes. Proceeding from a skeptical position in which he eliminated (to the best of his capacity) all uncertainties, Descartes concluded that he for sure existed as a res cogitas (a thinking thing) that experiences res extensa (material things). He set the mind in control of the body and defined the latter as a tool for interaction with the rest of the material world.[10] Thus, spirit-matter dualism, which for the Greeks represented the two halves of a ball (where one is still dependent upon the other), was transformed, to its extreme, into the mind-body dualism, or the subject-object dualism, where the mind is the subject that governs and interacts with the bodies that are its objects.

The Eleatic worldview, which was further developed by Descartes, whose thoughts gave way to the possibility of an objectively definable reality, found its zenith with Newton, who wrote the most astonishing description of the dualistic world through his mechanical model of reality. For Newton, as it has been for more than two millennia, reality was a solid framework, like a rock, a stable unmovable foundation. It played itself out in a three-dimensional stage, an absolute space, always at rest and unchangeable, where all phenomenal activity took place. Any change one observed was prescribed to a separate dimension, which again was absolute and disconnected from the material world. This dimension flowed from the past, through the present and to the future, and it was called time. The elements that produced the phenomenal activity and that were moving through absolute space and time were small, solid and indestructible as per the vision of the Greek atomists. The single deviation from that vision was gravity, a force acting between these fundamental elements.[11][12]

The eleatic-dualistic-mechanical model of reality would soon be proven to have been a failure. Two centuries after the death of Newton a whole new reality stood before us, one that demolished all the foundations of the old model. As the old model was developed through the use of the intellect, the possessor of the knife that mutilates reality, it becomes a very difficult task to uproot, especially if we are trying to achieve this uprooting with the same instrument that put it in place (dualism). To succeed in this endeavor, we need to go beyond the categorizing intellect into a deeper and more profound form of understanding, we need to go to the pure intellect, to the citta, that operates on the basis of the ontological process with which we will become acquainted with in the 4th chapter. For now, all that needs to be known about the pure intellect, in order to be able to proceed, is that unlike the intellect, the pure intellect does not require memory, a.k.a. it does not require any pre-processed and stored patterns, nor is it influenced by any categorical relationships that emerge together with understanding. By lacking these foundations that are required for the functioning of the intellect, the pure intellect observes reality unobstructed, unseparated, unified, making it the perfect perspective from which to view and understand reality in its whole and thus, to understand the new empirical evidences that demolished the eleatic-dualistic-mechanical model.[13]

The concept of unity between subject and object, knower and known, observer and observed, self and other, from the vantage point of the old models, seems difficult to accept, especially as this segmentation has helped us overcome multiple hurdles throughout history and it represents the fundamental colloquial perspective of reality. Though, what must be known is that the evidence we have discovered in the last century points to the incompatibility between the old perspective and reality, requiring us to engage in a new paradigm of thinking.

While analyzing the most fundamental elements known to man, Heisenberg, a theoretical physicist and one of the pioneers of quantum mechanics, noted the impossibility of the dualistic separation between subject and object, in the symbolic encryption which we, humanity, perceive as most objective, mathematics. Through what is now known as the Uncertainty Principle, Heisenberg stated that the more precise our measurement of either the electron’s position or its speed, the more uncertain our knowledge becomes of the remaining property. In choosing to learn one we inadvertently exclude the other. This is since, at the quantum scale each element of reality is so little, that even a photon would impact the act of measuring. This proves empirically that the observer becomes a participant in the observed reality and that there is no way of interacting with reality, even if it is pure observation, through the act of measurement that will not move it from the beaten path. At its most fundamental level, reality cannot be divided from the system of measurement used by the observer, therefore it cannot be said to be objective. We see here an empirical unification between subject and object, leading to the realization that there is no objectively verifiable reality beyond consensual pretense.

“It had not been possible to see what could be wrong with the fundamental concept like matter space, time and causality that had been so extremely successful in the history of science. Only experimental research itself, carried out with all the refined equipment that technical science could offer… provided the basis for a critical analysis – or, one may say enforced the critical analysis of the concepts, and finally resulted in the dissolution of the rigid frame”[14]

Here, Heisenberg is referring to the dissolution of our most fundamental illusion, that of separation, he is referring to the illusion of the eleatic-dualistic-mechanical worldview. And, he’s not the only renowned scientist of the 20th century to point out this fact, many more have come to the same conclusion. Schrödinger, a Nobel prize winning physicist and pioneer in the field of quantum theory, stated the following:

“Subject and object are only one. The barrier between them cannot be said to have been broken downs as a result of the recent experience in the physical sciences, for this barrier does not exist”[15]

Even though the classical edifice of the old worldview fitted so well with common sense and provided a seemingly magnificent, all encompassing, stable descriptions of reality; it was, actually, just minimizing the complexities that were actually intrinsic to reality. The discovery of quantum mechanics and relativity brought to the forefront the strange behavior of the fundamental structure of reality. With these realizations we must now abolish the principles of duality, for they are not coherent with nature and not doing so would mean reverting to the dark ages where blind faith in tradition undermined empirical data. Thus, it is our obligation as seekers of knowledge to root this idea as the new foundation of reality until it in turn will be replaced by a more encompassing perspective. As hard as it is, we need to go back and reevaluate all the statements made in the last two and a half millennia for most of them have been made under the mistaken guise of the dualistic assumption and thus they were not dealing with the world itself, but just with a symbolic manifestation of it.[16]

In 1931, it was time to hear the conclusions of physics from what had till then been the cornerstone of dualistic thinking, mathematics. The then 25-year-old Gödel, a renowned logician, mathematician and philosopher, proved during the same period as the development of quantum mechanics and quantum theory that:

“it is impossible to establish the logical consistency of any complex deductive system except by assuming principles of reasoning whose own internal consistency is as open to question as that of the system itself”.[17]

His incompleteness theorem is a rigorous mathematical demonstration that states: any dualistic system, which aims to prove or disprove something within a given frame of reference, must have at least on premise that cannot be verified without contradicting itself. Before this, we held the belief that the language of mathematics was consistent, that it could not give rise to contradictions, and that any true statement could be proven within a mathematical system. With Gödel’s testimony and his proof, we have to acknowledge that even mathematics – the science that excels in proving and defining what is false and what is true – has no infallible method upon which it abides when it generates its results. We are, thus, forced to accept the fact that, there will always be something that is outside dualistic understanding.

Two centuries before the era of the modern worldview in science, a German idealist managed to come to the same conclusion as these modern scientists. The only difference was the name and the very complicated linguistic manner in which he presented his thesis. Hegel’s dialectic presented the instability of any true statement if it would be left to fully manifest itself. He argued, that once any truth reaches its absolute it would ultimately turn into its opposite. Given this, we are forced to stop differentiating between dualistic, polarized positions; for, when fully expressed, plus turns into minus and minus into plus, the observer becomes the observed and the observed transforms in the observer. Subject is object.[18] Wittgenstein shows us the same realization and, also, presents us with the process of said transformation in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus by the use of his truth-function table which contains all elementary propositions for a set of 4 bivalent variables. He states that Tautology, or absolute truth, and contradiction, or absolute false, carry within them the same value. Beyond this, both tautology and contradiction are nonsensical for taken individually they do not have the ability to express reality, for all actionable reality, in accordance with his table, is manifested in varied degrees of intertwining of the two extreme positions. Thus, while dualistic expressions are symbolically possible they make no sense at all when we try to utilize them. Beyond this, they are a hindrance in the process of obtaining knowledge and mastery of reality.[19]

As long as we see reality at the extremes we are symbolically supporting an unsustainable system, for we presume that it is possible to have an act without an actor, a known without a knower, a subject without an object, an us without another. For this to be so, reality would have to be composed of independent, self-enclosed, discrete, enduring, and immutable things and events. Thus, these phenomena must be complete in themselves, they must be entirely self-contained. This would ultimately lead to the incapability of inter-phenomena interaction, making intrinsic independent existence incompatible with causation

This false concept of reality also gets enforced by our language, for we take structures of reality that are composed of various patterns, identified by the intellect, and attribute to these entities inherent properties through an Aristotelian subject and predicate approach. This means that everything is constituted of discrete, immutable and self-contained parts that are identified through names, functions and concepts that are then attached to said entities. These entities can be grouped as being part of larger categories where the enveloping category is the subject and the elements contained in it are the predicates, or the descriptors that are dependent upon the existence of the larger category. This leads to the realization that language is a symbolic, inferential, and a dualistic map of the world. As we explore the world at the quantum level this symbolic map becomes harder and harder to use as a means of defining reality, as the seaming separation dissolves and we are required to describe a level of reality that is everywhere and everywhen identical. We need to use a new way of seeing and identifying said reality with language. Thus, we need to develop a new way of expressing ourselves and a new structure, we need to develop a new set of glasses through which to look at reality.[20]

 


[1] The OCEAN model, also known as the Big Five personality traits or five factor model, is a taxonomy for personality traits that was discovered through a statistical technique known as factor analysis which determined the essential dimensions of human personality by looking at patterns of covariation. Each letter represents one of the five factors that define a broad dimension of the human personality and psyche: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism.

[2] An end-to-end process is a process that comprises all of the work that needs to be done to achieve a certain outcome, in our case the manifestation of the self

[3] I am well aware that statements such as ‘a correct way of looking’ or ‘a right point of view’ are seen with strong disdain in this day and age. However, the post-truth world that was created through this disdain for fundamental truths cannot be allowed to go on. Thus, I will insist, especially in chapter 2, that there are indeed ways that are better than others of seeing and understanding reality and while, for sure, everyone is right from their perspective, some perspectives are more encompassing and must thus be looked to as references.

[4] Another element that differs from the standard model of a dissertation is the pronounced personal character. While I am aware of the risk that I am exposing myself to, I consider it imperative for a thinker to write his own thoughts and about his own thoughts. I also think that the commission is wise and that they will thus be happy to see a paper of intrinsic value, one which is not just a standard exercise in research but which also pushes the field forward.

[5] Joseph Schumpeter was an Austrian political economist that thought at Harvard University. He is most known for the popularization of the term of creative destruction, which is also known as Schumpeter’s gale. The gale of creative destruction describes the “process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one.” (Schumpeter, Joseph A. (1994) Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. London: Routledge. pp. 82–83)

[6] Wilbe, Ken; sidebar F response to Ferrer, Revisioning Transpersonal Theory p. 162

[7]Nutas, Andrei & Jivanescu, Victor & Todor, Ramona; A Sincere Call to Action; May, 2018; https://quantumcivilization.com/a_sincere_call_to_action/

[8] Esoteric Audio; “The Cosmic Network – Alan Watts”; Youtube video, 3:32:30; Published [November 2016]; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fbV43-IyNz8

[9] Kirk, G.S; Heraclitus: The Cosmic Fragments; 2010; Cambridge University Press

[10]Descartes, Rene; Meditations of First Philosophy; 1911; Cambridge University Press

[11]Newton, Isaac; Principia: Vol. 1 The Motion of Bodies; 1966; University of California Press

[12]Newton, Isaac; Principia: Vol. 2 The System of the World; 1966; University of California Press

[13]Ken Wilber; The Spectrum of Consciousness; 1993; Theosophical Publishing House

[14] Werner Heisenberg, Physics and Philosophy: the Revolution in Modern Science; 1958; Harper; p. 198.

[15] Erwin Schroedinger; What is Life? and Mind and Matter; 1969; London: Cambridge University Press, 1969, p. 137.

[16] Ken Wilber; The Spectrum of Consciousness; 1993; Theosophical Publishing House

[17]“Gödel’s Proof”; June, 1965; Scientific American, CXCVI.6; p. 71-86

[18]Hegel, G. W. F.; Phenomenology of Spirit; 1977; Oxford University Press

[19]Wittgenstein, Ludwig; 1922; New York; Harcourt, Brace & Company, Inc.

[20] Capra, F.; The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels Between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism; 2010; Shambhala

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