Posts Tagged ‘Pantheism’

Left Out of the Debate

February 5, 2014

A little over two years ago I posted a three-part series which I called The Three Views of Existence. (This is a link to the first part of the series. To read the other two parts keep advancing to the right with the links at the top of the post.) My point was that there are three views of existence, but that only two of them are ever acknowledged in modern Western-style societies. One is the “Creator God” point of view, another is the “There is Only the Material Plane” point of view, and finally  the “Everything is God” or Pantheistic, point of view. As I wrote then, the last one is never discussed and seldom acknowledged, as if it were beyond the pale or too silly to be taken seriously. In any case, just a note to point out that Pantheism was once again left out of the recent “celebrity” debate between Bill Nye “The Science Guy” and the creationist, Ken Ham. This happens all the time and in many different ways. I constantly notice it. Funny thing, too, because they’re leaving out the truth.

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Science Meets Pantheism

February 5, 2012

As I wrote in my recent series on the Three Fundamental Views of Existence, the materialist/scientific view and the creator god view have very little awareness of the third view, which I’m provisionally calling the pantheistic view. Science deals with it most often in fields that deal with the mind. This is primarily because Buddhism has developed some very sophisticated ideas about the mind, and some scientists seem to feel obliged to respond to them.

I recently read an interview with Shimon Edelman, a professor of psychology who has a book out called The Happiness of Pursuit: What Neuroscience Can Teach Us About the Good Life. My attention was drawn to this particular exchange.

You talk about the default human mind as constantly wandering in order to avoid the present moment, what you call “the tyranny of the here and now.” What about practices like Buddhist meditation, which aim to quiet the mind into a state of contentment?

That’s a really good question. I set out to write the book because I wanted to find out why I was restless in situations where I supposedly should have been perfectly content. You know, literally sitting on a mountaintop, seeing the countryside, I would still feel restless. And I think I found a kind of answer. To put it very bluntly, if you are successful in following the Buddhist precepts, you cease to be human. In fact, I think one can find support for this view in the Buddhist sources themselves. If you succeed to cease desiring, you are no longer human. Of course, the Buddha himself supposedly remained enmeshed with humanity to teach others. But if you do succeed in obtaining the state that you’re supposed to obtain, then you’re no longer human. And that kind of invalidates the questions because a psychology would need to be developed for understanding those kinds of minds—they are not regular human minds.

I find his answer revealing. First of all, the guy’s understanding of Buddhism is poor. Buddhism would say that the reason he feels restless sitting on a mountain top is because he hasn’t disciplined his ego, which is inherently restless. Buddhism—all true religion actually—says that there are two levels to human nature, the higher and lower. (Suzuki Roshi called it big mind and small mind.) The lower nature is the one with all the restless biological drives. Unfortunately, that’s the only side to our nature that out-and-out materialists recognize: our lower nature. The higher nature, which we don’t see much of these days, is also our better nature, and it is very much a part of what makes us human. But science can’t measure it, so it doesn’t recognize its existence. This is where science consistently fails. It oversteps its bounds by insisting on being the explainer of everything. But science and scientists are reliable only when dealing with the limited confines of the material plane. Scientists are human beings, and as human beings they have an obligation to seek out their higher natures. To do that, they have to go beyond their field. Science cannot deal with this kind of issue.

You can find the entire interview by clicking here.

I intend to write something someday about a crazy idea I have about physics—a crazy idea that I happen to think is true.

One other thing, I’m leaving Tuesday for Santa Barbara Island and staying a week. I’ll have limited access to the Internet during that time. If anybody has a comment that demands a response, I may not be able to get to it for awhile.

The Three Views of Existence (Part 2)

December 4, 2011

Wherever you are, you are one with the clouds and one with the sun and the stars that you see. You are still one with everything. That is more true than I can say, and more true that you can hear.

Shunryu Suzuki

Of the three fundamental views of existence that I laid out in part 1—creator god, scientific/materialist, and pantheist—I subscribe to the third. (I should add that “pantheism” is short hand for me. It’s a Western term, that is, from the world of Western philosophical speculation, and it undoubtedly has a lot of baggage attached to it that is not real.) I don’t see myself as having sought out this view. At one point in my life I was reading a lot of Taoism and Buddhism to try and stay afloat. I was doing a lot meditation, too, but, again, just to survive. In the midst of this I kept coming across the idea that everything is god, or mind. For a long time I assumed that this was merely a metaphor. Eventually I saw that the people advocating this idea really meant it. The difficult aspect is seeing the material plane as “merely” mind. If you cut me, I will bleed. If I kick a boulder with all my might, it will hurt like hell. The turning point for me came when someone I was reading, someone whose opinion I trusted and valued, stated that the material plane is an illusion, albeit a very thick one. That one statement tied a bunch of others together. The material plane has its own laws, but those laws are one with the spiritual background from which the material plane arises.

I don’t read a lot of science. I try, but I can’t hack the attitude that a lot of scientists adopt. They want to be the go-to guys, the great explainers. But science can never explain existence. It can only probe one layer of it—the material plane. I’ve read enough science to know that as scientists delve deeper into matter, they find that essentially it disappears. It’s a big mystery! But scientists insist that there is a rational order to reality, that through experimentation and research we can eventually understand everything—soberly. But that’s not what the sages say, and I take their word—the word of the real ones—over that of the scientists. The sages say that when you take the journey that leads to an understanding of what existence really is, it astonishes you. It blows your mind. If what you saw didn’t blow your mind, then you didn’t see fundamental reality. And fundamental reality is ineffable, that is, it cannot be put into words. You have to see it for yourself.

I’m not asserting here that I’ve had this vision. I haven’t. Just bits and pieces. So, in a sense, this is a statement of faith. But my journey isn’t over. I think I’m going to continue writing on this subject for some time. There will be a lot more parts. Right now I’m just trying to open up the subject. (There is more on this in The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, in the chapter called “Consciousness Explained”.)

In part 3, I’ll write about the differences between the pantheistic and creator god schools of thought, and how scientific materialism, especially Western science is, in a sense, the outcome of those differences.

By the way, I welcome any comments on this particular subject. Even contentious ones.

The Three Views of Existence (Part 1)

November 20, 2011

During my recent bout with the flu, I spent a good deal of time lying in bed, thinking. At one point, my thoughts landed on the subject of the three fundamental views of existence, which are 1) the creator god view, 2) the scientific/materialist view, and 3) the pantheistic, or everything-is-god, view.

To elaborate a little, the creator god, or monotheistic, view is what most people in this culture think of when they hear the word “religion.” It’s the idea that there is a god who exists apart from his creation. There are many different schools of thought within the fundamental view, ranging from followers of intellectuals like Augustine to populist evangelicals. The scientific/materialist view maintains that there is no spiritual realm whatsoever. There is only the material plane, and consciousness arises out of the workings of chemistry and physics. These first two views are currently duking it out. They barely recognize the existence of the third view, the pantheistic view, which says that the entire universe is god. (I used to assume pantheism meant “nature religion,” that the “pan” referred to the Greek god Pan—or something. But “pan” means “all,” as in “Pan American.” So Pan-theism is “everything is god.”) We are god. The rocks are god. The trees are god. It says that the material realm arises from the spiritual, that everything is mind. It includes schools of thought and tribes that range from serious, committed Buddhists to frivolous New Agers. (While Jesus is seen as representing the creator god view, I believe he was actually teaching the pantheist view. But more on that later.)

Each of these views affect how we live and respond to events—even if we’re not very serious in them. For example, if you believe in the scientific/materialist view, which I think is currently the most popular and widespread view, then there is no such thing as “wisdom.” There is only knowledge. A people that sees knowledge as the be-all and end-all of life also sees material and scientific progress as essential to our growth as a species. We are currently entering an era where we are hitting the limits to material progress—the end of growth. I’m seeing constantly that whenever this idea is brought up in public, the materialists become angry or despairing. There will be no reason to live! But it’s not like that—not at all. We will never truly start living until we get past our present-day obsession with money, possessions, and scientific progress. We’ve committed ourselves to an enormous misunderstanding of what the material plane is. And I’ll get into that in part 2.