It seems to me that if we are beginning an exploration of Comparative Religion, that it is fair to first answer the obvious Question, what do I believe my self. I dont intend here to repeat journey described elsewhere in the essay entitled, Full Circle but a certain amount of overlap is simply inevitable. Its also simply true that this section will overlap, and link too my Tarot, and Mura (Fiction) sections more than any other because both are deeply tied to my vision of the world. Before however we cover any of those more interesting subjects, let us first consider our Epistemology, after all our vision of what it is we can know, and how we can know it, will profoundly shape all else that follows.
"I think there-fore I am!" is one of the most famous quotes in western Philosophy, it begins a speculation by which Descartes demonstrates the only thing I can absolutely know is that I am. How unlike the Buddhist vision, where the Buddha challenges us to prove the reality of even the self, and comes to a Vision of Anatta - No Self at the end of the day.
Both the Buddha and Descartes demonstrated that we have reason to be very suspicious of our senses, and the apparent reality of the Phenomenal world. Yet I find the arguments of a much less known Philosopher Henri Bergson, more compelling. I believe today Henry is best known for providing an obscure reference in a Monty Python routine, and if you dont have a MA in Philosophy you likely have not heard of him, his work is not normally included in the standard histories of Idea's. The important thing, to me, is that Henri would ask you to consider how it is that you know what you know?
Take a small child who is watching seaseme street, counting along with Big Bird up to 5. From time to time, you are privileged to see her eyes open in wonder, that goofy grin, and share with her that moment when she just "gets it", and is this so very different from the Eureka Moment that came to James Watson, when it is said the realization that structure of DNA as a double helix came to him in a dream. It must be said after months (years?) of painstaking research and x-ray Analyses. But this is the very heart of the Matter, the Gold in it, the point is you can stare at, and wrestle with a given Vision, Idea, Concept for months or years, and feel like you are staring at a brick wall, and then in a flash you comprehend that which has evaded you and suddenly you know something.
At the end of the day, is this not the ultimate definition of knowledge. Logic, and Electron Microscopes, Mediation, Intuition, Mathematics, are all tools, but the bottom line is that it always comes down to a human mind just "getting it." As Kathleen Higgins points out in her discussion of the Samkhya Tradition that resting ones knowledge on Qualifiers, leads to an infinite regression of Qualifiers.
If tomorrow some super computer at the Cern Laboratory in Zurich where to spit out the equation for the unified field theory, it would remain a collection of meaningless squiggles, until a human being looked at the print out, and understood what he was looking at! If my computer where to spit out the same Squiggles, it would simply remain meaningless.
So this is my first proposition: That all Knowledge comes from Knowing, and Knowing ultimately is about a kinestic sense with-in the human being, and not about the Logic or Tools that lead the human mind to that knowing, they are only tools.
Nuff said about that, from here out, I hope we can at least agree to this proposition as a working position.
I'm not particularly good at mediation, but I would like to share a few things with you, it will be important later.
I was pretty deep in trance of say 2 maybe 3 years ago now. I started to visualize. My field of vision is jet black, then I see movement, like flashes of gold against the black. All together they describe a Wolf/Woman (Head of the wolf, body of a woman.) This only lasts a moment or so, her jaws snap open, and I am racing down her gullet. I can see golden arcs against the blackness of a deep black tunnel. ... I snap out of the trance. If I had not pulled back would I have been gifted with some insight, or been found dead in the morning, my soul warming the belly of Tsulsala. I honestly dont know, I dont know that I really want to know.
Quite some time later, another mediation,
I am the Cup that Holds Eternity,
All other Cups,
Have their source in me.
Then, and now, I was quite sure the words that came to me where a gift from my guide, Innana
One last story: I was facing a difficult decision, and a good friend and experienced Tarot reader had drawn a reading for me. I was rather confused it seemed to me that while I had made a decision to go down one path, the events in my life at the moment where realizing the cards of the other path. Then standing on a street corner, waiting for the light to change I saw the spread quite clearly in my minds eye, and I KNEW, what the spread meant. I understood that the cards where like a road. Say I70 and Route 15 in my neighborhood, that although they are separate paths, just near my home they share the same stretch of tarmac. I was still on that common road, and so still seeing both paths play themselves out.
And I knew this was a gift from Innana, that she wanted me to hold to the course she had shown me, wanted it badly. At the end of the day, I did take another course, but I know the course she meant me to take even today.
My point is that even in a decidedly altered state what do I do, I see Tsulsala, I hear Innana, I visualize the cards.
We are as human beings simply creatures of the senses, and it is inescapable, nothing we know has introduced itself to our consciousness, but through our senses. Our all to easily fooled, misinterpreted, utterly fallible senses.
So I will tell you I am an Empiricist, that what I know, comes from my senses. I may believe that such things as black holes are real, because I have been advised of their reality by scientists whose credentials I respect, and I have had the theory of their formation and behavior explained to me patiently by Nova or the Discovery Channel. But I do not KNOW black holes are real they way I know Innana is real, because I do not have the personal experience of one, while I do the other.
So Proposition 2: Knowledge is limited to and by, the report of my senses. I cannot know something, that has not has not through some doorway been introduced to me by my senses. Returning to black holes. Think about how they are described to you. Envision if you will a cloth with a basketball at its center. We have all seen this demonstration. You are familiar with Balls and Clothes, and the image of the Black hole itself as a "Well" formed by pulling the bottom of the cloth down into infinity. So we are dealing again with Images that have been reported to our senses. Well accept infinity, but again when you see this graphic, as we pull back the well reaches to the bottom of the screen. Infinity is implied, but can never be whole demonstrated. Is this just the limits of the medium, or is it more truly a limit of our minds, can we as humans truly comprehend an infinity? I tend to think not, but that by itself is worthy of its own essay, no? As a working proposition I will say no for now.
It is of course true that in dreams, we see hear, and if you are really gifted touch, taste, and smell things. (Mostly I just remember sight and sound, the other senses are quite muted.) So how can I tell dream from reality. How is it that Chuang Tzu (Jon Jo) can tell he is Chuang Tzu the man, and not Chuang Tzu the Buttery fly dreaming he is Chuang Tzu?
I think the truest and most obvious answer is that Question is that we as humans trust in the consistent report of our senses. I may just once wake up to being a butterfly, while I will certainly morning after morning wake up to the same woman, the same funky Beagle, in the same apartment, alongside the same park, the same foot path, in the same neighborhood. The consistent report of our senses normally outwieghs a given single image by a considerable margin, but not always.
Still I think we can say that what we know is grounded in the report of our senses, and reinforced by the consistant report of our senses.
Now you may well ask why I have spilled so much ink on something so seemingly obvious. I have because it is precisely because we have accepted the vision of Science as an institution: That "Repeatability" and Mathematical Modeling are, the ultimate arbitrators of what is real, that we have find ourselves living in a world dominated by the spiritually barren Materialist Paradigm. We have accepted, as a society, if not as individuals, that anything that is not repeatable in a laboratory, that cannot be mathematically modeled is somehow not real. Experiences, from encounters with Ghosts, or deceased family members, Divination no matter how accurate the results, or any other "occult" or religious experience are simply written off as, anomalies, or subjective personal experiences, but as I pointed out at the very beginning, ultimately knowing anything is always a subjective and personal experience. With the right tools and methodology a scientist, or a Guru, might lead an individual to a state of knowing a given thing, but in the end, that individual must grasp that knowing. In my mind it is not really a significantly different thing that one is grasping the vision of just how a black hole works, or the interconnectedness of all things through the guidance of a Brahma.
Nuff Said by me for now,
Ama tu ANKI, BB.