Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Awareness of Unity

"For the Eastern mystic, all things and events perceived by the senses are interrelated, connected and are but different aspects or manifestations of the same ultimate reality.  Our tendency to divide the perceived world into individual and separate things and to experience ourselves as isolated egos in this world is seen as an illusion which comes from our measuring and categorizing mentally.  It is called avidya, or ignorance, in Buddhist philosophy and is seen as the sate of a disturbed mind which has to be overcome.

'When the mind is disturbed, the multiplicity of things is produced, but when the mind is quieted, the multiplicity of things disappears.'

Although the various schools of Eastern mysticism differ in many details, they all emphasize the basic unity of the universe which is the central feature of their teachings.  The highest aim for their followers - whether they are Hindus, Buddhists or Taoists - is to become aware of the unity and mutual interdependence of all things, to transcend the notion of an isolated individual self and to identify themselves with the ultimate reality.  The emergence of this awareness - known as 'enlightenment'- is not only an intellectual act but is an experience which involves the whole person and is religious in its ultimate nature.  For this reason, most Eastern philosophies are essentially religious philosophies."
-  Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics, 25th Anniversary Edition, p. 24  

   In my experience, life is rightly characterized as diverse, complicated, varied, rich in multiplicity, saturated with the 'ten thousand things.'  Personally, I find little need to seek or to find or to have the "experience of unity."  This state of "unification," when actualized, is in most cases rather fleeting.  It may be profound, but no more so that the beauty of complexity and the fascinating reality of diversity.  I do not find the experience of the multiplicity of things distressing, disturbing, or disheartening.  

Just because all of the eggs today are in one basket does not make the colored basket more real or more interesting or more valuable than the eggs.  

Ignoring the facticity of the complexity of the natural and mental realms seems to me a more serious ignorance, not very sensible, and ultimately unwise.  I long ago gave up on any quest for "enlightenment" (in Hindu or Buddhist terms) and prefer the ordinary state of mind grounded in a world that is not simple, not one, not unified, complex, and rich in details.  To claim that our normal experience of complexity and variety is an "illusion" or "ignorance (avidya) seems to me a form of incorrect judgment.  

No doubt, trying to simplify one's life has its benefits, reducing sensory overload can reduce stress, and not becoming overly infatuated with novelty can be helpful; but, pushing on this strange path towards the "enlightenment" or "realization" of a pure and uncluttered "Unity" can produce its own distressing and disturbing predicaments for a person.  

Many philosophers, ancient and modern, have made a sharp distinction between appearances and Reality, the many and the One, the phenomena and the Noumena, and multiplicity and Unity.  For me, it is muddled thinking to call all of our experiences "just fleeting illusions" and fabricate a true realm of being outside of our personal and social and practical experiences.  Indeed, we can't "see" in any ordinary sense of "see," the cells, molecules, atoms, and the subatomic particles that constitute the objects of our macro-cosmic world; but, this in no way means the multiplicity of objects in our ordinary environment are in any way "illusions."  The meaning of "objects" is much more complicated, varied in linguistic usage, and functional in many practical contexts.  Again, complexity is closer to the truth.  

"I, who make no other profession, find in myself such infinite depth and variety, that what I have learned bears no other fruit than to make me realize how much I still have to learn.  To my weakness, so often perceived, I owe my inclination to coolness in my opinions and any hatred for that aggressiveness and quarrelsome arrogance that believes and trust wholly in itself, a mortal enemy of discipline and truth."
- Michel de Montaigne, "Of Experience," 1588

Our selves are, to Montaigne, "wavelike and varying" - ondoyant et divers

Complexity and Diversity 

Nature Mysticism:  Resources, Quotes, Notes

Gardening and Mysticism

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