My Earnest Suggestion Is That This State Of Affairs Is Wholly Caused By Our Limiting Modern Paradigm Of Mechanical Materialism


That we don’t know what consciousness is, nor how it arises, is now a trite, often repeated, banality. The fatigue that has set in has even led some who try to deal with the subject to suggest that there is actually no such thing as consciousness — which begs the question of how they can come to that conclusion, since it requires an awareness of the problem.

My earnest suggestion is that this state of affairs is wholly caused by our limiting modern paradigm of mechanical materialism, and is not a cognitive limitation of the human being.

I base this assertion on the fact that over millennia, profound meditators and contemplatives have been discovering and describing ‘what’ consciousness is and how to train one’s attention. It is only the modern scientists today, with their greatly limited view of what matters, who ignore the accumulated wisdom of our forebears.

These explorers of the sublime, who discovered the truth once their own naive understanding was pushed aside, were then successful in bringing others to the same state of realization — and perhaps those individuals were able to continue to do the same, thus becoming a lineage of successful teachers — but at some point, their teachings, which were always originally given to specific individuals for whom they had been responsively manifested by a realized teacher, like the Buddha, were written down in a generalized fashion, codified, and then communicated as doctrines to be studied, and only perhaps put into practice.

Unfortunately, with the passage of time, and as these doctrines were brought to other cultures, and translated into other languages, their meaning drifted, and their efficacy diluted, as their words became increasingly ineffective to move anyone beyond their naive understanding of themselves and the world. This is what we have today in the modern world: a flattened and dried remnant of what was once a great benefit to humanity.

It is true that these understandings continue to exist in more ancient cultures who still follow and prize the many paths to discovering our veridical nature; and certain individuals — even some living in modern cultures — happen, from time to time, upon one of these authentic paths. But for the most part, such individuals are ignored because what they then say is unintelligible to those steeped in the modern view, and in any case, the paths they try to share are laborious and there are so many other types of ‘meditation’ on offer today to choose from…

Knowledge, in the form of conceptual ideas, is impotent to drastically change anyone’s understanding, beyond possibly making them boring know-it-alls to be around. I characterize them that way simply because, after investing much time in studying a path — rather than taking the path — individuals frequently attempt to change the understanding of others to match their own still naive understanding, now decorated with shiny bright concepts and names from ancient traditions, because their holder doesn’t achieve anything with them, and seeks validation from others that what has been studied is valuable. It is boring to listen to, in its insistent repetitiveness, so most people today don’t see the need for any of it. “Science will save us!” they say.

How sad for humanity, who, now, more than ever before, need a real paradigm-shift that fundamentally changes how people operate in their lives and in the social and physical worlds. You can’t get there by imbibing words. You can only accomplish such a shift by actually discovering the new paradigm for yourself, and inner meditation is the technological tool to bring that about.

Unfortunately, we have banalized meditation, secularized it, and packaged it for consumption by the masses, promising them the liberation that they seek, and blaming them for their failure — rather than blaming the ersatz meditation technique they were sold. The ways of modern commerce and Science eviscerates traditional meditation’s power to unseat us from our self-assured insistence that we actually have a grasp on the truth.

But there is another way to create an opening for such a shift in understanding to occur, beyond that of the meditative path. That is to adopt a new paradigm universally by first bringing each individual to a state of what the Greeks called “aporia,” by showing them an irresolvable internal contradiction or logical disjunction within each aspect of their current paradigmatic understanding, so that they are left in a state of befuddlement, and only then presenting the new paradigm which brings the understanding back into coherency. It is coherency that is the universal impulse that is the engine of cognition. So it is better to unsay what is believed, than to try to build anew on top of what is already being held onto tightly. This is the reason why mystics used the technique called unsaying — in order to have someone see the truth, their foundational beliefs have to be weeded out.

In a very real sense, this is what a dedicated, profound meditation practice does, and it is why enlightened teachers only teach individuals — because you must respond to the person, not the universally accepted ideas they espouse. That is, responding to their accumulation of ideas founded within the old paradigm is entertaining them at best. Responding to the individuals themselves — to their inner, profound being that was once referred to as their ‘soul’ — bypasses the inculcated accretions of learning. Profound, inner meditation techniques are destructive by intent, because they are designed to bring out those contradictions and disjunctions by bringing them into the light — viscerally, how ‘it’ actually is. Bringing about a state of aporia can make room for an approach towards the desired accomplishment.

These thoughts that I write down here explain why Tranquillity’s Secret is structured as it is: first the Way of Unsaying, then this section — the Way of Contemplation, then the Way of Tradition, and then the Way of Inner Meditation. Each of these are useful approaches, and taken in combination, or even in sequence, can be very powerful.

So Now, after having laid out a new paradigmatic understanding in the foregoing chapters of this work, and having introduced certain key terms, I wish to simply show why our confusion about Consciousness arises and explain what Attention is, for those two can overcome doubts about the need for a new paradigm. The simple fact is we have run out of time today. I have meditated for 60+ years. If you take what “the Science” is saying today, it seems unlikely that there will be sufficient time for us to ‘get around to doing it’ ourselves. So a combination of these paths will be necessary, if we are to escape our lemming lunge to obscurity.

ཨེ་མ་ཧོ། ཕན་ནོ་ཕན་ནོ་སྭཱཧཱ།

In order to make an opening for this novel paradigm, I need to explain exactly why you still feel that you are an observer of things happening outside of your body and its interactions with others and other things. How exactly the visceral feeling of this arises. This is necessary to do, or you will never accept what I have said about ‘awareness’ being durational, so that ‘time’ is just an abstraction from our being aware, for example.

The key insight that grounds this entire paradigm is that there is no entity anywhere. This means you and I are not separate and apart from everything else, but are inseparable, not even apodictically distinguishable, from the whole of reality. It’s not correct to say that you are a part of the whole either — the whole is not a collection of parts, nor participants, and you are not a separate entity.

This insight which I have already described in detail in the Way of Unsaying, and in this section, is found to be true when one discovers that there is nothing permanent that could be an entity, nor even identify a permanent entity — and there is no independent self-nature to be found that can support such an individual entity.

Right. But you still viscerally feel that you are separate from everything else, and that you are observing things around you. You even know viscerally that you have a ‘soul’ — an inner part of your being that is not only permanent, it is eternal. So allow me to start from the assertion that there is no such entity as you, or anything else.

You can reach this insight yourself through a profound meditation practice, or you can come to see that if we accept this one insight, we will be able to explain how these visceral feelings you have occur, and thus, what consciousness is. It will then be up to you to accept the truth of these matters I am recounting, or to continue on your way as you are.

So, to begin:

Since there is no entity, there can be no ‘personal knowledge’.

This means that there is no separate observer, nor a separate knower — whether via perception or cognition of phenomena occurring apart from an observer. Thus, all ‘conscious’ activity, which is undeniable, is not known by ‘receiving within’ that knowledge, but by the recognition of one’s autogenous naturing. This means that what you are actually aware of — that which creates the conditions for the arising of thoughts, perceptions, feelings, etc. are, for the most part, the biological and corporal operations of your own body.

“Mind” is a designation that encompasses all mental phenomena, which are that which we perceive, feel, think, imagine, misconstrue, and even hallucinate, as well as that which is creatively constructed for us, like the well known visual illusions that imply what should be there in our visual field, but are not.

Mental phenomena arise in response to extant conditions, but those conditions may or may not be mental phenomena. A feeling of positive regard for a thought arises in response to the mental phenomenon of that thought. A feeling of pain arises primarily in response to manifest conditions extant in the body, but can also be the pain that accompanies strong negative emotion. A negative regard for that pain arises in response to the mental phenomenon of the pain. The mental phenomena of the negative regard for the pain can augment the mental phenomenon of the pain, though the physical conditions extant in the body do not change. And so, as well, with the obverse: mental phenomenon of pleasure in regard to pleasurable feelings in the body. In both cases the positive or negative feeling can augment the mental phenomenon of pleasure and pain respectively, and the reverse — negative and positive feeling — can decrease the pleasure and pain respectively. This is the foundation for both the “placebo” and “nocebo” effects of affective feelings.

And, of course, the majority of the extant conditions are the ontogenetic formal potential, and current actual, possibilities that are present at each moment of our life.

But what is it that the body senses? Chemicals for taste, gases for smell, light for vision, vibration for sound, and pressure and temperature gradients for touch?

Not exactly, since that ‘external world’ is an understanding developed from mental phenomena. What is there beside our body are not separate and distinct from our body, and yet, we cannot know them directly without the involvement of our senses, nerve networks, and brain, which create, transfer, and process electrical and chemical signals in conjunction with what is beside our body, and, as well, within our body. But the mind does not directly encompass that ‘outside’. How could it? It is other than this ‘body’. And yet, we cannot even be aware of our body without the same senses, nerve networks, and brain to provide the conditions for mental phenomena to arise. So where is our actual apodictic evidence of our own life and body? Solely in the mental phenomena that arises in conjunction with them.

As well, we believe that our senses give us a clear representation of what exists outside of ourselves, but where is this representation? It arises as mental phenomena. Thus, the representation cannot be in the brain because it is a recognition of our perceptual activity, not a recognition of something existing beside us. That is, our senses cause actual changes in the activity of the brain and nervous system, but this activity is not the representation, but only the presentation which is the necessary condition that leads to a recognition of the activity as something particular (apperception).

Another way to put this is: activity in the brain is not ‘consciousness’ it is conscious activity.

So what is this understanding that is built upon these mental phenomena that mind encompasses?

The understanding is the recognition of things done, and, as well, the performative ability to manifest coherent activity — for these two are not separate, as I have shown in an earlier chapter. They are inseparable, and thus, are the necessary truth that ‘consciousness’ is not something added to, arising from, or the result of, some development that happens along the way. Put simply: coherent activity necessitates the recognition of what is, what is possible, etc., for there to be coherency.

Knowledge then is the understanding in action. ‘Having knowledge’ is oxymoronic, since knowledge is doing, not something one can have. The rote memorization of facts and data, and even dance steps, is a skill which is performed, not something held ‘in memory’. We are not the machines that are carefully constructed by technologists to mimic our natural fluidity in doing things — like dancing, back-flipping, robots are

Instead, the correct characterization is that of performing knowledge — which is the basis for the validity of the “show me” principal of testing for someone’s knowledge. We can’t open up the skull and stick a dipstick into the brain to measure how much knowledge it contains.

But the understanding itself is potential, not actual. One could call the understanding wisdom, so long as that word carries with it no value judgement. The understanding has an analog of ‘use cases’ — which can be seen as both good and bad — that are patterns of contextual applicability. In other words, understanding is not solely knowledge — in fact, that might be the most uninteresting aspect of it — rather, it is the learned ability of when and where knowledge is applicable.

And like mind, understanding is neither an entity, nor something that “I” have. The mind, being the collection of all the mental phenomena that I am aware of, is not the source of those phenomena. And so, the understanding is something that is beyond the specifics of manifested ontogenetic forms, so is not ‘itself’ such a form. This is beyond our ability to define, characterize, delineate, describe, or comprehend, since the understanding is beyond the intelligible realm. And yet, we can manipulate how it plays out in our own life, by following different paths ‘through’ it — for this is what a ‘path’ refers to. And, I believe, that it is possible to ‘create’ new paths by how we navigate, or rather steer, our ontogenetic unfolding.

This is the context within which the insight of responsive naturing — which is cognitive activity — is asserted to recognize what is being manifested. There is no entity, so it cannot be the case that the activity is perceived as a sensing — but can only be recognized as an integral character of the activity as it is done. And since this recognition has a cognitive character, it falls into the category of mental phenomena.

This recognition is the imperience of the activity. Note that I am not only speaking of mental phenomena here, because I want to do away with the confusion about consciousness. The biological and corporal activity of ‘my body’ arises in a similar fashion and are similarly recognized as they arise — although those imperiences are not contained within ‘my’ default mental phenomena. Training the mind, which actually means training one’s attention, affectivity, and body, can have the result of widening the field of phenomena that one can become entangled with. This is where the so-called super-mundane perceptual abilities come into play, which all involve a widening of the field of phenomena that we can directly imperience.

Since this naturing is durational, the recognition is ‘as it is done’, like when a Piezoelectric crystal generates a current as it is deformed. The clicking ignitor on a gas stove is one example of this effect. The click is the crystal being struck. The spark that ignites the gas is the electric current that striking the crystal gives immediate rise to.

The point here being that non-personal recognition of ‘local’ activity — thus, a delimited field of activity — which occurs in the timeless Now, is a perfect storm of misleading clues that are the necessary conditions for an interpretation that adumbrates the recognition as an ongoing stream of personally observed activity.

Since there is no entity, there cannot be universal activity, which would involve a ‘knowing of all things’ (although, as I just mentioned above there can be a widening of the field of phenomena that can be noticed).

This lack of ‘knowing all things’ is what I was referring to when I said that there can be no ‘personal knowledge’ since there is no entity. And since the delimitation of the activity is the sæculum, which is the ‘locality’ — that is, the ‘here’ — the ‘personal’ quality of the activity that we all viscerally experience is the conflation of that locality with the perspective of the presencing of the activity Now, thus the ‘here-now’ quality of the recognition.

But note that the recognition is not within the locality, that is, the sæculum that ‘I’ identify with, but is rather an inseparable aspect of the responsive naturing, which manifests the sæculum’s ontogenetic potential, recognizing the activity as the naturing informs that potential into actuality, based upon the context, which includes the mental phenomena that we habitually associated our ‘mind’ with as these phenomena are contextual conditions which open, close, reinforce, and lessen possibilities..

Each sæculum, which is an intelligible kind of potential activity, is like a wave, vibration, or tremoring — rather than an ocean, an instrument, or a ground — that is intelligible ontogenetic informing, and is therefore limited to recognizing just ‘that’.

Note that my use of “that” in the last few paragraphs is an artifact of the dualistic paradigm’s structuring of our language. There is only This — the viscerally felt presence of the activity — and This is, again, the ‘here-now’ quality of the recognition of the ontogenetic unfolding of This, i.e., this sæculum.

The ‘observational’ characterization then is the conflation of the ‘personal’ with the recognition of the activity. Bam!

These erroneous feelings arise because of the understanding that we are inculcated with, that we are all separate individual entities. That is not what ‘we’ are. ‘We’ are not other than this responsive naturing. Thus, we have it backwards, as if we walked into a movie theatre, sat down and began identifying with the characters on the screen. Rather, we are on the side of the ‘projector’. Still not an entity, just the ongoing projection (naturing) of the movie.

Furthermore, since sæcula are formal, each can be a gathering and organizing of other sæcula of various forms, thus order is the primary characteristic of this activity, not chaotic random chance as Modern Science has it. Complex forms of being are not arranged by random collisions of dead matter, but by ordered naturing, like that of ‘natural laws’ and ‘fields’ of our current understanding of physics.

And sæcula respond to ‘their’ contextual conditions, as ocean waves do, and therefore these responses are intelligible as well as a by-product of these sæcula’s ontogenetic potential. Thus, the observations of scientists, that have been formulated into mathematical descriptions of a statistical kind, are valid — to the extent of their completeness, or lack thereof.

An ontogenetic form is alive in the sense that those words describe ontogenetic potential activity that unfolds in response to contextual conditions. Sæcula that are peers, rather than comprised by a higher level sæculum, are not ordered ontogenetically, but are ‘matter’ to each other. Thus, when a sæculum expires, what remains is ‘matter’, that is, unorganized sæcula.

This is the case even under the old paradigm: when a human body dies, the matter that the body comprised, that is made up of molecules and particles, continue to be, since they are sæcula. But remember, these sæcula are like waves on an ocean, they are not independent, but they can interact.

ཨེ་མ་ཧོ། ཕན་ནོ་ཕན་ནོ་སྭཱཧཱ།

There is one last piece of the puzzle that I would like to share with you. This is about the understanding, which as I said above, is not personal, but that we can ‘create’ new paths through the understanding by how we navigate, or steer, our ontogenetic unfolding. Simply put, the path we take is not other than the understanding.

But here is what I want to share: By developing a new path through the understanding we make it possible for others to accomplish that path more easily. Doing the hard work of enlightening oneself along a certain path through the understanding creates, or reinforces that path, and this then is available to others with whom we are entangled — thus ‘within themselves’ — to more easily attain. A good teacher is one who knows (does) what they teach; a bad teacher is one who merely talks about ‘what’ they ‘know’, because there is no understanding of the actual path present in their life. In this case, those who can enlighten themselves — in the absence of a teacher’s ‘transmitted’ path — aids everyone who notices the new path, or is introduced to it, by making it easier for them to understand (it). So one who attains enlightenment for the benefit of others, truly helps everyone. These are not empty words, or rather these words point to a true understanding that is not my own — and this has been the explanation why.

ཨེ་མ་ཧོ། ཕན་ནོ་ཕན་ནོ་སྭཱཧཱ།
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