The Yogic View of Consciousness 3: Some Implications

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schitzo-2Here I discuss some obvious implications of the yogic view of consciousness.

Contents for The Yogic View of Consciousness:

Intro Ch 1 Ch 2 Ch 3 Ch 4 Ch 5 Ch 6 Ch7 Ch 8
Ch 9 Ch 10 Ch 11 Ch 12 Ch 13 Ch 14 Ch 15 Ch 16 Ch 17
Ch 18 Ch 19 Ch 20 Ch 21 Ch 22 Ch 23 Ch 24 Ch 25 Ch 26
Ch 27 Ch 28 Ch 29 Ch 30 Ch 31 Ch 32 Ch 33

 

Precedent
Feyerabend’s book Against Method used Galileo as a focal point to study the era when Europeans began to understand that the Earth revolves around the Sun. Today, the Earth revolving around the Sun is so taken for granted that we can barely imagine how people could have believed otherwise. We are prone to think “ha-ha, how stupid those people were to think the Earth was the center of the universe…what a bunch of dummies”.

But they weren’t dummies. They were a product of their times. ­It takes knowledge of history and imagination to envision life in the 1600s. It takes insight to understand the radical shift in viewpoint that Galileo and his followers enacted. Feyerabend transports the Reader back to Galileo’s time, and illustrates why people believed other than what we believe today. He demonstrates the amazing uphill battle Galileo and his contemporaries (Kepler, Bruno, et al) fought against the mainstream conventional wisdom of that time.

There are parallels with the shift in world view in Galileo’s era and the shift in world view implied by the yogic view of consciousness. History repeats itself…again.

Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 summarized the yogic view of consciousness. The yogic view of consciousness claims that the external world is not external at all. It is internal. What we call the “world”, “external reality”, “objectivity” exists at the very center of the mind—of my mind, of your mind, and at the center of each thing’s mind.

Galileo undertook an uphill battle to convince a bunch of 17th century know-it-alls that the Earth revolves around the Sun. Imagine the uphill battle of trying to convince a bunch of 21st century know-it-alls that the world that seems to be external to our minds and awareness is in fact at the very center of our minds and awareness.

This then is the first great implication of the yogic view of consciousness: from the Western point of view, it is the biggest possible intellectual revolution one can imagine. It flies in the face of the seemingly overwhelmingly obvious fact that the world is outside of us.

Bad Evidence
The conventional hagiography of Galileo is that he convinced the world of his view by hard evidence: his telescope observations, his mathematical theory of acceleration, and so on. Feyerabend shows this conventional view is an oversimplified caricature that serves more as propaganda for modern science than as an accurate portrayal of historical facts.

For example, Feyerabend quotes descriptions where Galileo had telescope viewing parties to convince respected contemporaries of his observations. However, those events never went as desired. The guests did not see the heavens that Galileo claimed to see in his telescope. Further, there were contradictions in his story, and holes (“lacunae”, remember?). There were a number of what we would today call “technical issues” that were not at all in place, such as how ground glass lenses work.

If Galileo’s evidence was so bad, how did it stick and persist? A major factor at work was the “zeitgeist”; the spirit of the Age. There was an overall dissatisfaction with conventional wisdom, with the ruling powers, with the authority of the Catholic Church. There was the rise of secular city states. The fallout of the Renaissance was having wide-spread effects throughout European culture, and Galileo was but one example of that effect. His new science was part of a bundle of cultural change. This is one reason why all his “bad” evidence survived in the face of the intelligent rebuttals from the know-it-alls of the time: people were just sick of the know-it-alls and were ready for something different.

But it was not just cultural construction. There was truth underlying what Galileo and others like him described. These truths slowly emerged over the next centuries and here we are today. It is true that the Earth revolves around the Sun. It is true that the Heavens are made of the same stuff as the Earth. It is true that things fall with equal accelerations. It is true that math can describe the dynamics of nature, and so on.

Again, we can parallel the circumstances in Galileo’s era to today when we attempt to understand the evidence of the yogic view of consciousness.

Bad Evidence for Yoga
Just as Galileo could hand someone a telescope and say “look and see for yourself”, today I can hand you the methods of yoga and say “learn it and see for yourself”. This book culminates in a discussion of the yoga methods. The situation is similar to Galileo’s telescope, but the details differ in important ways.

First, the know-it-alls in Galileo’s day had it all figured out already, and had ready-made explanations as to why his new view was wrong and why the conventional view was correct. It is quite the same with yoga and the know-it-alls today. “Oh”, says the neuroscientist or psychiatrist, “it is not a perception of an ‘inner realm’ it is but a hallucination generated by your brain” (and the psychiatrist sells you some pills). Never mind the fact that there is no explanation at all of how the brain actually makes our subjective experience.

Or the physicists will say: “the external world exists: look how I can study and manipulate it”. Never mind the inherent limits of control set by quantum mechanics, relativity, chaotic dynamical systems, and even classical thermodynamics. Who really controls who? Never mind that these are all just perceptions and thoughts in the physicist’s mind and, like the neuroscientist, there is not even a germ of an idea, let alone a functional working definition, of how mind and perception link to the external world.

Never mind that you have post-modernists pointing out the social power relationships of science, of which these are examples.

We are told again and again: “Don’t look at the little man behind the curtain”. Just let yourself be hypnotized and engulfed by the obfuscation: the mathematics, the complex technology, and the overwhelming vocabularies belonging to the initiates. Just relax, do what you’re told, and everything will be alright. And If not…here, take this pill.

Let the people who know only of the shadows tell us how it really is. Yeah, right, and I have a bridge to sell you too.

There is indeed evidence today for the yogic view of consciousness just as there was evidence for the heliocentric world view in Galileo’s era. However, this evidence is hard to come by because people have to do more than just learn a couple ideas out of a book and study some pattern of phenomena in their sensory experience in a lab class.

Secondly, in Galileo’s time, people were struggling to invent the new world view, the new vocabulary, and the new “supplemental disciplines” (as Feyerabend called them, such as optics to explain how telescopes work). Everything was rough around the edges, incomplete, tentative.

Unlike science in Galileo’s day, things are not rough around the edges with yoga. It is a full, complete, and well-described discipline, with thousands of years to back it up. A Western person today has to study completely alien ideas (samadhi, avidya, maya, vicara, sabda, artha, jnana, and so on: Hinduism in general) that are abstract beyond today’s literal-minded barbarism, and fly in the face of many preconceived notions. Many will not even try to climb this learning curve.

Third, there are the methods. To actually execute the methods, a person has to practice forms of mental discipline that make learning Gödel’s theorem, or being a worker bee at the Large Hadron Collider, or sequencing a genome, or playing a Chopin sonata, seem easy in comparison.

Today’s uphill battle is correspondingly steeper compared to Galileo’s because the accessibility to the evidence is correspondingly more difficult… but not impossible. And that is the key.

You can read DO_OBE and learn basic pratyahara, or go study asana and pranayama techniques. Nothing is stopping anybody from learning the basics of yoga except the biases in their mind, and the attitude that one already has it all figured out. Or because they are so stupid and ill-informed that they think yoga is just doing stretching exercises on a blue mat.

The Current Zeitgeist
Similar to Galileo’s time, the zeitgeist is becoming ripe for the transformation implied in the yogic view of consciousness.

Over the past centuries in Western Civilization, science replaced the Medieval Catholic Church as the self-appointed authority on the absolute truth of reality. And people are getting sick of it. At least the Church had an outward veneer of glory, self-respect, and the mystique and austere glory of God to back it up. At least, on the surface, they preached morals and good will (even though they didn’t practice what they preached, which was part of why people got sick of them).

Today, we have a bunch of cutesy weirdoes representing scientism: kids in tee shirts with half naked women on them; undersexed pop-culture, comic book geeks that got PhDs and treat Stan Lee as if he was Plato; nasty hate-filled old men like Dawkins who spew forth repressed fears from the depths of his rank mind.

Good going, you geniuses. That’s the way to convince people of your greatness and glory.

People know and sense bullshit when they see it. The word “scientism” expresses this bullshit so that one does not need to swear. How do they say it? The gig is up. People see through the BS. The emperor is not wearing any clothes.

This is Not Your Grandmother’s Solipsism
Where did the Emperor get such a beautiful suit? I would submit that the intellectual world in the West, for all practical purposes, went schizophrenic after Kant. The schism was between science and philosophy.

Everything seemed so simple up till then: The Church was stupid and hypocritical. The Greeks were cool, they got the ball rolling, but they made some mistakes; nothing that couldn’t be corrected. The mind of man perceived the world and could use reason to understand the truths of Nature’s laws (or the truth of God’s laws, because Nature and God were pretty much the same thing back then).

Then Hume comes along, kicking up a storm of doubt about reason and perception. Later he was topped off by Kant, who isolated about as precisely as can be done (without the insights of yoga) the ambiguities between the mind, perception, and the objects of perception.

To briefly summarize what I discussed elsewhere: Kant marked the formal split between science and philosophy. Science was all like: “Screw you guys, your dumb ideas aren’t helping us.” Philosophy cried itself to sleep in its pillow and never got over the divorce, and has been mad as a hatter ever since.

In spite of my flippant tone, the main point is deadly serious. Science adopted a naive realism about the link between the mind and perception and has maintained that stance ever since. There is nothing special about quantum mechanics or relativity in this regard. People still believe the double slit results or gravitational lensing are real things happening outside of their minds. And because they are philosophical pygmies, they love the feeling of confusion generated by the modern theories; it is their equivalent of marijuana.

Kant rediscovered Plato’s shadow-world of phenomena, and the outside of the cave, the noumena. But it was all just ideas—and difficult and imponderable ones at that. Even though other philosophers decoded Kant, it was too late. Science had already gone its merry way and was busy making railroads, steam engines, photography, telegraphs, and electric lights…and even figuring out that physicians should wash their hands between treating patients…geniuses.

Anti-Psychotic Medication
As strange and abstract and alien as the yogic view of consciousness sounds on first hearing, it solves all of these problems in one fell swoop.

The realists (e.g. scientists) are not wrong in a fundamental sense. There is a true objective world. We can understand it, at least to some extent. It’s just that materialists have been extraordinarily confused on this front, seeing as they have had their face in the shadows for the past several centuries. But even the shadows reflect truth, no matter how distorted and imperfectly. Science has tapped into methods to extract little bits of truth from the shadows. But they are always only little bits, here and there, disconnected. Scientism is just wrong because all the little bits don’t fit together. Those who force-fit the disconnected bits together into silly pseudo-religious conglomerations are not really the brightest light bulbs on the Christmas tree.

Kant and the idealists were not wrong either. We are trapped in our mind, trapped in the cave of consciousness. But the light that fills that cave is itself the living truth. And there is an escape hatch, an opening to the cave (the bindu) that allows the light of living truth to fill the mind and cast the shadows on the cave wall, the screen of our awareness.

I repeat: materialism and idealism are not opposites. They are one and the same. They are each preoccupations with different variations and subsets of the shadows. Both are right in their main intuitions, but both are fundamentally wrong for justifying their beliefs based on the shadows. Both sides have built their houses on quicksand. Again, when all is said and done, the existentialists were the smart ones of the bunch for recusing themselves from the whole matter.

The yogic view of consciousness brings all this together in a coherent framework. The existentialists are right for not trying to find ultimate meaning in the shadows, because ultimate meaning is only found on the other side of the bindu, outside of the individual mind.

The materialists are right: there is an objective world. However, it is buried in the innermost recesses and depths of each person’s mind, on the other side of the bindu. The Absolute is the objective world. It is not the shadows, not the immediate consciousness of phenomena which have numbed the judgement of the naïve materialists and realists for the past several centuries.

The idealists are correct: all phenomena is only our mind. They see the screen for what it is: our perceptions, our thoughts, our minds: the shifting tides of phenomena etching shadows in consciousness. The real world is inaccessible when one stares only at the shadows; when one is completely ignorant of the vast depths of the mind, of the bindu hidden therein, and the real world hidden in the bindu. The Western idealists simply did not mine deep enough into the mind to unlock its secrets.

Even at just an intellectual level, the yogic view of consciousness provides a type of anti-psychotic medication for the schizophrenia of the modern Western intellect. The question is: will it take this medicine? Will it try to get better?

The comparison with schizophrenia is apt. The schizophrenic does not even know she is sick. What need has she to take medicine? The voices in her head reassure her that everything is fine, while at the same time, the other voices in her head warn her of how the world seeks to violently rip her soul from her body.

Go to Part 4

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