Archive for September, 2012

Quora answer: Why is “being present”, just breathing, good for the mind?

Sep 16 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Zen is not about being present. This is just Orientalism up to its old tricks of dressing up Western philosophy as if it were something foreign, and mysterious. Indo-Europeans are the only ones with Being in their languages. Being has four aspects Reality, Presence, Identity, and Presence. So Presence is an aspect of Being. So when people tell you that you should be present that means pay special attention to that aspect of Being. When they say that it comes from some other tradition then that is spiritual mumbo jumbo, the kind of new age nihilism that markets spiritual materialism that you get in the magazine “What is enlightenment?” So buyer beware. This is not to say that concentrating on the here and now is not good for you sometimes for a change. But being trapped in the present is hell on earth if that was for real, as in you don’t recognize your wife when she goes out of the room and comes back. There are actual neurological diseases that are like that, and they prove that Being present only is not a good thing. Also emptying the mind of all thought is not very good either. See Hui Neng and the Platform Sutra for better advice. He says just don’t hold on to thoughts, and do try to make them go away either. Both are nihilistic opposites and not good for you in the short of long run and nothing to do with Zen Enlightenment. By the way. Forget about Steve Jobs as well, he and most others who talk about Zen have no idea what it is about. That is because what we know about it here in the west for the most part came from people like Alan Watts who was just selling Western philosophy in a different bottle. Very few promoters of Zen in the USA know anything about it, except those who were actually trained overseas, or were trained by someone who was trained overseas. In other words if they don’t have a direct transmission from a known school and master I would not listen to anything they had to say. This has improved somewhat in that there are some very genuine practitioners these days in this country. But when it comes to talking about it, they also revert to Western concepts for the most part. Actual scholars who know both Western Philosophy and Eastern Philosophy are rare. But I was trained by one of them, named Alfonzo Verdu who was at the University of Kansas when I was doing East Asian Studies there. I had Seven or Eight courses on all aspects of Buddhist Philosophy, and I took over 60 hours of credits in Eastern Asian Studies besides my Sociology Major. He also taught me Phenomenology of Husserl and Heidegger. And I went on to study Western Philosophy very deeply. But I have been reading Buddhist text translations ever since. I have been reading translations of Sutras all my life. However, I have not been a Buddhist practitioner for many years, having followed other paths. However my favorite Sutra is one that he taught me called the Awakening of Faith. All anyone needs to know about Buddhism is in the Awakening of Faith. It is the distillation of a whole tradition. And there is a commentary by Fa Tsang that has recently been translated which is excellent. Another good book about Hua Yen Buddhism is called Hua Yen: The Jeweled Net of Indra by Francis Cook. Basically Hua Yen is the height of Buddhist thought. It is based on the Avatamsaka Sutra which was translated by Cleary ( I recommend Verdu’s books on Buddhism. But there are many good authors who have contributed a  lot to our understanding of Buddhist philosophy, and disentangled it from Western philosophy. Basically Buddhist Philosophy is about a million times more sophisticated than Western Philosophy. Western Philosophy is about the mundane world. Buddhist Philosophy is about trying to define meditative states that can actually be attained and which cause the world to appear differently than it does in mundane states of consciousness. Basically what Buddhist practitioners know is that our mundane consciousness is defiled by many types of subtle illusions. Buddhism has a history of cutting though those veils of illusion one at a time, and you can almost see the schools of Buddhism as a history of the various veils and how to cut through them into purer and purer states of consciousness that are not so defiled. It is like a reverse Phenomenology of Mind ala Hegel, because it is a stripping away of the illusions of consciousness rather than the building up of those illusions, as we see in Western Philosophy for the most part.

Western Philosophy is esoteric because it is really difficult to explain mundane experience. But the best explanations of it are phenomenological. And Buddhism itself is basically Phenomenological in its outlook. So though Phenomenology we can build a conceptual bridge between the two traditions without polluting either with the other.

Really when it comes down to it you cannot know what Zen is about unless you know what Western Philosophy is about, because Western Philosophy contains all we know about our own worldview, and if we don’t know about that then we will just like the Orientalists project it on everyone else. And in fact that is why I went on to study Western philosophy rather than going to Japan to study Zen Buddhism in Situ because I knew that if I did not understand my own tradition that mere practice was not going to get me where I wanted to be, which is actually understanding the difference between the Western worldview and the Worldview out of which Zen came out of which is basically the Chinese worldview. All you need to know about these two worldviews to know that they are polar opposites in so many ways is to understand that in Western art straight lines going toward the horizon converge, while in traditional Chinese art lines going toward the horizon diverge. How can that be? But it is true. And so what we can do is to leverage the fact that these two traditions are duals in so many ways. One is infinitely sophisticated, i.e., the Chinese tradition, but rather dull. The other is like fireworks going off all the time (which the Chinese invented by the way) but fairly mundane and particularly crude and barbaric (see the history of the Opium War). One wanted just to be left alone because it was better than everyone else and was thus destroyed yet again by barbarians this time from the West. The other is like a disease that destroys everything it comes into contact with, subsuming it into itself and exploiting it. The West believes that they own everything, even the things that others have on the other side of the world, and if you don’t believe it, they will just shoot you with their higher technology weapons based on cutting edge science, which is morally neutral, and thus gets used for many nefarious deeds. The best example of what the West is like is Winchester House in the middle of Silicon Valley. It was built by the crazy widow of Winchester who built a rapid fire rifle which was a great tool for killing Indians, and other foreigners in their own lands. When we look at the Winchester House we are seeing an embodiment of the Western worldview in miniature and embodied rather than as a collection of transcendentals, complete with a stairway to nowhere and windows looking out on blank walls, and parts of the house abandoned and just sealed up, like our unconscious that holds all the genocides and other evil deeds that we have ever perpetrated on the other side of the world from what we call “civilization”. If we take the Renaissance as a mark in our history, the Chinese had invented everything we knew about a thousand years earlier, sometimes several times and forgetting it, and then discovering it again. In other words our technological and scientific advantage is recent. And we used it to spread our corrupt civilization (child pornography, modern slavery, international drug trade to support our habits, corruption of the earth, corruption of the air, corruption of the seas, corruption and destruction of living things, etc.) Our great symbol as a civilization is the miles and miles of plastic junk floating out in the Pacific that we have thrown into the oceans.

Ok. Now that we know who we are, and who the Chinese used to be until we totally corrupted them by our worldview as well (under the name of communism), we can begin to see what I mean about our mundane consciousness being defiled. The Chinese had their own indigenous religion called Taoism which believed it was better to be in harmony with nature. Chinese culture produced landscapes where you can hardly see the people because the landscape itself is so overwhelming. In other words humans are just a very small part of nature, and it is better to flow with that ocean than to try to fight against it as we do. It is better not to corrupt nature, because we are just corrupting ourselves when we do so. It is better to be humble, and bow down to greater forces than oneself, rather than standing up with hubris and pride as we do when we claim to be rulers of the earth, or claim to have a global empire that will last forever. Seems like everyone who have claimed to have global empires that will last forever are now buried forgotten under the debris of history after their empire failed (nb. Rome). Now the basic idea behind Taoism is called Wu Ji, which means without the ridgepole, which is the pointer that indicates nondual Void, which is actually all of Spacetime as a singular in which atoms are no more than slight disturbances. This Void which is the Singular which overwhelms all matter within it is without end that we know. But it did have a beginning, which was called the Gateway of the Myriad Things. Today we call that the Big Bang. And there is something called the Tao, which is the way things flow, which we call entropy, but also we know it is fueled by dark energy, which is pushing all the dark matter so that it is accelerating in the expansion of the universe. This was always called in China the Great Dark, and it is the fundamental basis of the I Ching according to Wang Bi counter balancing the Yin and Yang complementarity of all things. Anyway the Chinese had this idea that by merging with the Singular of the Void one would become in harmony with the Way, and develop Te or Virtue though Non-Action (Wu Wei). Non-Action means going with the flow of the Way, and not creating interferences, and residences, and counter currents unnecessarily. For instance, we cannot do anything about the fact that the Universe is accelerating in its expansion and is a far from equilibrium (meta-)system (environment) as a whole. We will go with that flow, no matter what we do to destroy our planet which is the only livable place in the vicinity. That power of the universe expanding, or the power of a large asteroid hitting the earth like the one that just recently zoomed past, is not something we can resist. And if we were wise, which we are not, we would apply the same logic in our daily lives and the totality of our existence, and not destroy our planet, making it like Venus though releasing Greenhouse gasses. The Chinese despite all the despicable things about their society and culture knew that and were wiser than we. They pulled back from risky ventures on many occasions in their history, thinking that their actions might cause an unbalance in the cosmos. 

There was a basic complementarity between the Dualistic Confucianism (father-son, husband-wife, older brother-younger brother, etc.) and the Nondualistic viewpoint of Taoism. The Void was not one thing, nor was it many things, it was something else. It was not a thing, but a lack of things. It contained many things but without giving up its continuity. It defined the separation between things and filled the gaps without actually being anything itself. And as we know now it is both space and time together as spacetime, so it has a dynamic dimension, not just in the constant creation and destruction of virtual particles, but also in the fact that time is relativistically fused to space in relation to the speed of light. Photons themselves do not move, and so everything in space time is warped away from light. Light instantaneously traverses the whole of spacetime from its point of view, but from ours it takes billions of years to traverse spacetime. Something about that makes me think that the statements that the Taoists made about our experience being an illusion might be correct, especially if we take into account recent theories that what we see of three dimensional space is really two dimensional and we are living in a kind of flat land on a brane in higher dimensional space.

So, if we start from the premise that Chinese Society already had a balance between dualism and nonduals at the core of their society, which we Westerners destroyed by the way before we could understand what we were destroying, and we add to that Buddhism from India flowing into China and being adopted to such an extent that traditional ways were being abandoned for this new nondual way. Then we see that in China nondual ways were vying with each other. At first the Chinese thought this was another form of Taoism, and translated Buddhist texts with Taoist words. But eventually they became sophisticated enough to see that Void and Emptiness though both nondual are really very different. All the forms of Buddhism flowed into China at once and they thought that all the Sutras really did come from the Buddha directly. And so they had this horrendous job of trying to synthesize the whole thing into something comprehensible. But eventually they got a handle on it and could distinguish Emptiness from Void. Emptiness is the light of consciousness, and Buddhists basically do not believe that the physical world is there, unlike Taoists that believe that the physical world of nature is all that exists, and that consciousness, and social life is just the same as all other natural phenomena. So once the Chinese understood the difference between Emptiness and Void and had synthesized Buddhism into a whole that they could understand, and then they set about understanding the difference between these two nonduals and how they work together. And we get glimmers of that in Tien Tai and a full flowering in Hua Yen Buddhism with the idea that Emptiness is the interpenetration of things in the world which is called the Jeweled Net of Indra, because the various jewels reflect each other within the net.

Zen came to China in a very radical form of idealism, and the practice was as you said live in the moment and get rid of thoughts, and this is called the Northern School of Chan that believes in the slow progression of enlightenment. The Southern School of Chan was started by Hui Neng who rebalanced Zen and also combined in it an understanding of Taoism as inherently the same as the emptiness of the Buddhist Dharma. It was not as if they were being randomly synchronistic, but they actually cultivated like Stone house a separate understanding of each which they used together as a way to get at a deeper kind of enlightenment. And this tradition is Zen as we know it today. My favorite person in this tradition after Fa Tsang and Hui Neng, is Dogen Kigen, a brilliant Soto master whose philosophy rivals that of Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty for its sophistication. Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty are the high point in Continental Philosophy, and Dogen Kigen is I think the high point in Buddhist Philosophy after Fa Tsang. Soto Zen had some very sophisticated dialectical schemes and was more theoretical than Renzai which concentrated on Koans. In Soto Zen they stare at walls instead.

My formulation is that Emptiness and Void are two interpretations of Existence, which is what is left when you get rid of the illusions of Being. The aspects apply to both Being and Existence. Existence is when the state of affairs is neither present nor absent, identical or different, real nor illusory, true or fictitious. Being is when one or the other of the aspects are positively present, and dynamically linked with the appearance of its opposite. And there is a special state talked about in Alchemy which is both absent and present, different and identical, illusory and real, fictitious and true called the Quintessence. Sometimes it is called the Philosophers Stone. Other times it is called Glory. It has many names in our tradition but it is the exact opposite of existence. Taken together Being, Existence and Quintessence is the Tetralemma (A, ~A, both, neither). However, the nondual interpretation of Existence goes beyond existence itself into the nondual region beyond the logical possibilities supported by the logical operators (and, or, nand, nor). 

So unless someone tells you to be Present, Absent, Both, Neither at the same time they are not pointing toward emptiness inwardly, or void outwardly. They are in fact pointing at themselves, saying follow me but have nowhere to lead you because they do not know themselves. Same is true of the other aspects. First you have to get out of the illusions of Being, then you can try to deal with the illusions in existence which are healed by the nondual. But if you do not get outside of the intensified nihilistic illusions of Being, there is no way to get an understanding of oneself, either in relation to the Dharma or the Tao (Dao), (not to mention the Daorma [joke]).

So the program is as follows. Exit the Winchester house with its stairway to nowhere, its windows that look onto walls, secret spy holes into the kitchen, and abandoned boarded up parts of the house by the nearest exit. Once out of that labyrinth, maze, gordian knot, rabbit patch (er what up doc?) go directly toward a nondual interpretation of existence either as empty or void. Then once one understands one you can strive to understand the other. So for instance if you go for emptiness then the second exit is called DzogChen, if you go toward Void the second exit is called Chan. They are the same thing, yet radically different with a necessity based on your starting point. You are trying either to get out of nondual consciousness into an actual world, or you are trying to get out of a physical nature of the Void of spacetime, into the nature of consciousness or the social as emergent aspects of existence. The first guide in all this is Nagarjuna, and the second guide is Manjushrimitra. The first guide in all this is Lao Tzu and the second guide is Chang Tzu. Between them stand Fa Tsang, Chih I, Hui Neng, Stonehouse and other exalted masters of what it is to be enlightened humans.

Upon exit from the second gate there is one more gate which is the nondual which has no dual, i.e. manifestation that is being indicated by the great masters of the deepest enlightenment. Take that Gate as the great straight upward path that appears in the Book of the Dead in Tibet.

In the heart sutra it says:

Therefore the mantra of transcendent knowledge, the mantra of deep insight, the unsurpassed mantra, the incomparable mantra, the mantra which calms all suffering should be known as truth, for there is no deception. In transcendent knowledge the mantra is proclaimed:


Japanese rendering of the mantra:

English rendering of the mantra:

See also

This is the Gateless Gate.

the gateless gate is no gate.
[nb. gate = gone in sanscrit; gate = means of being gone in english]

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What is the best Zen poem?

Sep 16 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

I think the poems of William Bronk are the closest thing to Zen Poems I have encountered in the Western tradition.


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Who wrote Moby Dick? A stupid question on Quora.

Sep 16 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

This is the problem with questions here on Quora. There are many that are stupid. I hate to say it but it is very frustrating. What people do not understand is that you have to KNOW something to ask a good question, that takes research, thoughtfulness, and a bit of humility because you have reached a point where you do not know and are asking for help understanding. Questions, like this are in my opinion sickening, because they just waste our time even looking at them so we decide not to answer them. Or we spend our time complaining like I am doing now.

[Collapsed answer despite up votes, example of suppression of dissent on Quora]

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Quora answer: Is perception reality?

Sep 16 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

From the point of view of Husserlian Phenomenology the answer to that question is somewhat complex.

There is an assumption in Western Philosophy since Kant that there are Synthetic A Prioris that we Intuit in our perception that in fact we ourselves project prior to our perceptual experience. Kant mentions Space, Time, and the Categories which are then Schematized in Time. Since Kant we have learned that Space and Time are one thing from Einstein, so that means that schematizations and categories must be the same thing, and also Space and Time that are singularities that are separate in Kant must be the same singularity. So from a Kantian Point of view we are projecting A Priori syntheses based on our manufacture and elaboration of the spacetime singularity and the category/schemas. It must be also that the these two levels are also really one thing, but Kant suggests that although we project spacetime it is really the objective spacetime of physics that we are connecting to in that projection. The real manufactured projection is in the category-schemas that we project concerning the phenomena that occurs within the envelope of spacetime. Bernstein in his regressive reading of Kant in his lectures on the internet ( says that the mistake Kant makes is thinking that there is only one type of time, and thus only one type of space which is linear clock driven time and objective Newtonian space. It should be noted that Kant’s philosophy is based on the structure of Calculus and so it uses the math that Kant and Leibniz discovered to structure our approach to questions such as the one being answered now but also to give a basis for science and to support the idea of objectivity by rooting it in subjectivity, and thereby showing as Bernstein says there is no transcendental Reality without Transcendental Idealism. The whole thrust of Kant’s argument according to Bernstein is precisely this, that we can only know objective reality if there is a root in transcendental subjectivity. Perception of reality is therefore based on our own projections of Synthetic A prioris via Spacetime as a singularity and Category Schemas that govern the relation of form and content in experience that we perceive and then apperceive (conceptualize).

Hegel introduces dynamism and history into this picture, and goes beyond it to define another level of projection which he calls Absolute Spirit, which is basically the wholeness of the intersubjective cohort’s development of its projection capacity unfolding in history. In other words mind/ghost/spirit the projector evolves though the vicissitudes of history via dialectical cancellations and syntheses of different philosophical approaches to experience.

Husserl, goes back to Kant and attempts to build up a way of talking about pure phenomena, i.e. what we actually experience in our consciousness when we think about phenomena. He begins with the Intentional Morphe forming Hyle into objects of sense. Here the projection of the Intentional Morphe as an A Priori Synthesis of the Kantian type is presumed. But when we intuit back those perceptions of objects in experience we find that there are noema and noesis and that these are not pure. So Husserl says that perception and apperception is in fact also an interval or spectrum and at one end of that spectrum there is a lot of meaning with little hylic content and at the other end of the spectrum there is a lot of hylic content and little meaning.

Then Husserl talks about the noematic nucleus, which is what you see that is constant as you look at the same object from different perspectives. Now this is the external coherence of the object from a phenomenological perspective. But he goes on to talk about how we have an intuition of the essence of the object which is different from our perception of it. This essence intuition is an insight into the kind of the thing within its synthetic manifold. This insight into its kindness is different from perception and is an insight into the internal coherence of the thing. The essence is seen as a constraint on the attributes of the thing. If you violate the constraints on those attributes then you have something else but not the particular kind of thing that we intuit in terms of kindness. So we have insights into the kindness of things around us directly and that is different from either the perceptions of the noematic nucleus or the projections of noesis onto the thing by interpretation. Crucially these are not simple ideas; an abstraction is a completely different thing from essence (eidetic) intuition. And this insight of Husserl of this difference becomes in Heidegger the difference between the modes of Being of Dasein as being-in-the-world, called present-at-hand and ready-to-hand. Being itself has separate modalities that are related to Abstraction on the one hand and Essence intuition on the other hand. With Heidegger we can say that there are at least two equiprimordial modes of Being which I call Pure Being and Process Being. One conceptualizes theoretically and is related to Pure Reason and the other has circumspective concern and relates to practical reason governing the whole of technology as we create artificial designed entities to support our activities in the world.

Now Heidegger according to Walton is drawing on the later genetic phenomenology of Husserl in his crafting of Being and Time. Heidegger distanced himself from his teacher by relating his phenomenology in Being and Time in Hegel and Aristotle (read phenomenologically). But the fundamental idea of separating the modes came from Husserl’s late unpublished genetic phenomenology which was dynamic and unfolding in history rather than static like the earlier phenomenology. So we have here an example of Husserl going from Static to Dynamic conceptualization which is seen in the switch from Bracketing to seeing objects on the horizon of the world. Heidegger takes this idea of the fact that all things are seen on the horizon of the world and turns Husserl’s Phenomenology upside down, but evidently this idea was originally Husserls in his later genetic phenomenology. And so that means that the only originality of Heidegger was finding a way to talk about things before the subject/object split, i.e. in terms of Dasein which projects the world in which it finds itself. This is the same paradox as appears in the trinity in Christianity in which the Son as God finds itself in the world created by the Father as God, and the relation between these two aspects of God (Persons) is of course Spirit. Heidegger explicitly says that Dasein is Hegel’s Spirit at one point. In other words the spirit is the bridge between the Son in time and the Father in endless time and of course all three in Christian Theology are Personas of God which are united yet different. The Son in the world (in spacetime) confronts objects created by the Father who is in eternity. What is between the two is the spirit that bridges this gap which is neither the Son nor the Father, but something that the two share, seen concretely as an angel who comes to Mary to announce the virgin birth of Jesus. So in Being and Time Heidegger is confronting the central paradox of Being, i.e. that we project the world and we live in it at the same time according to transcendental idealism which is the dominant philosophy of the Western tradition because it is the only way to avoid the conundrums posed by the skeptic Hume.

But the key point that Husserl makes in his later genetic phenomenology is that we do not need to bracket experience to discover the phenomena, which produces the problem of intersubjectivty and the noumena which Kant confronted. Rather by realizing that there is a furthest schema, the world on the horizon of which all things appear, one may use that horizon as the means of situating the phenomena and thus we do not need the bracketing, and our phenomenology can become dynamic rather than being static dealing with things like the unfolding of history for subjectivity as part of an intersubjective cohort evolving a culture as a living society through time.

Now we come to the key point needed to be understood to answer this question. Once we realize that there is a furthest schema in experience, i.e. the world and all forms show up on the background of this furthest schema, then we can see that Reality means that for any object of perception of which we have an apperception (concept) and of which we have an eidetic intuition (essence intuition) there must be an infinite horizon of exploration associated with it. In other words real things are things that can be infinitely explored phenomenologically. Reality which is the limit of that infinite exploration of any phenomena can only be substantiated by continued exploration that pushes toward an infinite limit and does not find a stopping place on that journey. Most things we do not explore deeply but we gloss them in abstractions and are content with our essence intuition of them as we look at them in terms of our own purposes. But reality is there as an aspect of Being, along with Truth, Identity and Presence. What we explore must in some sense be Present to us as sensations that we turn into perceptions of an object. Phenomenology starts with what is Present, but Heidegger includes the traces of what is absent in his phenomenology. The combination of apperception (concept) which gets turned into Ideas which are abstract glosses and essence intuition allows us to identify phenomena. And when we describe the phenomena in language then we can make our statements about it True if there is a correspondence between what we say and what we experience.

So what Husserl discovered which was leveraged by Heidegger was that reality is merely the limit of infinite exploration of some phenomena in experience on the horizon of the furthest schema, i.e. the world horizon. And in this sense Kant was right about there being a tie between Transcendental Realism and Transcendental Idealism, and as we see this involves the use of the analogy with calculus and the idea of the limit. Reality from a phenomenological perspective is merely the limit of our exploration of a phenomena, and things that are not real cannot be explored infinitely but have limits in this exploratory process that they impose, rather than that we impose. Because we are finite beings the things we make that are artificial normally have these thresholds at which new information does not come from further exploration, but natural phenomena are not like that, they have truly infinite horizons of exploration in themselves. For us there may be limits on our wanting to pursue that exploration, rather we just explore enough to ground our activities, and then we leave it schematized. See Umberto Eco Kant and the Platypus for the history of schematization in our tradition.

My own contribution to this subject comes from the invention of General Schemas Theory, which to my surprise seems not to have occurred to anyone previously. It asks the question as to what is the next emergent level up from Systems Theory, and that must be something that talks about Monadic Content, Pattern, Form, System, EcoSystem (meta-system, openscape), Domain, World within experience. These are ontological emergent differentiations of our projections A Priori as opposed to ontic a posteriori emergent thresholds like quark, particle, atom, molecule, macro-molecule, virus,  cell, multicellular aggregation, organelle, organism, social group, ecosystem, Gaia. Bernstein said that Kant’s only mistake was thinking that there was only one kind of time or space. And General Schemas Theory suggests that we project a number of different mathematical and geometric schemas upon experience and that they have some interesting structural interactions which show up in Science and different approaches to phenomena. But the key is that you can project different schemas on a particular ontic level of phenomena and thus have different templates of understanding as the a priori synthetic projects are fundamentally different between the various schemas that nest with each other to cover the whole scope of experience.

This question you have raised has become central within our tradition, and what has been discovered is that only Transcendental Idealism can answer it fully without falling into the traps of skepticism such as those raised by Hume. But to answer Hume a very complex structure based on calculus had to be built by Kant, elaborated by Hegel, articulated more finely by Husserl, and transformed by Heidegger, in order to get to the understanding of the answer to that question that we have today, from the point of view of European philosophy (so called Continental Philosophy which is just European philosophy carrying on within its own tradition, rather than the schismatic pseudo tradition called Analytical Philosophy, which is really an anti-philosophy, or skepticism about metaphysics in general, originally).

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Quora answer: Isn’t it far more accurate to call the U.S.A. a Greco-Roman nation than a Judeo-Christian one?

Sep 16 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Rome was an extension of Greek culture. Our culture IS GrecoRoman without a doubt. Just go to Washington and look at the architecture. There are only a few native democracies: Athens, Roman Republic, Magna Carta, US Constitution with precursors in the Mayflower Compact and the Pennsylvania Frame of Government and the French revolution. See also

Our democracy is in a direct line of succession from those earlier direct or oligarchic democracies. The Magna Carta limited the power of kingship. But it seems to me that many of the American Founding Fathers were directly influenced by models in Plato, Aristotle, and Aristophanes as well, since many of them were classicists. Plato, Aristotle, and Aristophanes were part of the elite oligarchy and they feared direct democracy as much as sovereignty and so that fear caused the Founding Father to attempt to design in checks and balances. The French revolution showed how democratic revolution can go wrong with excessive terror being deployed which led directly back to sovereignty in the form of Napoleon. And Hegel recognized that this Terror was the result of Kant’s modernist program that emphasized rationality, too much rationality is irrational, as Blake showed though Urizen in the Four Zoas. Hegel saw Napoleon is the manifestation of the Spirit of his age. Greece, Rome, England, as well as the US Americans and French are all Indo-European, and democracy has a distinct Indo-European strain to it as we can see in the Swedish Thing and the Finnish AlThing. Thing means a social gathering in Old English as well. We see this kind of gathering to discuss strategy together in the Iliad as well. So both the rule of sovereignty and the exception to that rule in democracy are two sides of the same coin in Indo-European cultures. For instance the Dutch could not find a king, and so they settled for a republic, but they kept searching for a suitable King and they were only a democracy so long as they could not find a king to suit them. So believe it or not sovereignty is preferable, as for Plato and Aristotle and Aristophanes who was from the ruling class and for whom direct democracy was a grave danger to their social position, especially when anyone could be banished on the whim of the electorate. Our representative democracy tries to deal with this situation by placing representatives between the masses and the exercise of power. French revolution is a case in point when things can go very wrong and sovereignty looks better than democracy because the country is in Chaos. So our political system stems directly from previous anomalous direct democracies in Western history. But these were also fairly anomalous in world history as well. Seems Democracy as a counterweight to Sovereignty is an Indo-European idea. Sovereignty seems preferable, but if it breaks down there is the alternative of Democracy, normally after a bad spate of sovereigns, or in the case with the Dutch when no one is willing and able to take the office of sovereign.

Now add into this mix the intermixing of Semite and Indo-European roots in religion and we get a volatile mixture. It has been pointed out before by me and others that it just so happens that the myth of the “Crucified Son of God” which Paul came up with and which has little to do with the actual teaching of Jesus (cf. Bert Erhman), just happens to fit nicely with the Indo-European idea of Avatarism in Hinduism, and the idea of Odin hanging nine days and nights on a tree (Yadrassil) as a sacrifice from himself to himself in order to get the secret of the Runes. Thus the Paulistic mythology of the resurrection which fit Pauls his eschatology about the end of the world being very soon, just fits too well within previously prepared niches within the Indo-European psyche. It is not then surprising that Paul is from Tarsus, which was the center of Mithrism, which is the Greek Mystery religion that Christianity was founded on, besides the apocalyptic vision of Jesus amplified by Paul. Paul combined the attributes of the two universal religions of his time, Mithrism which was followed in the Roman Army, and Messianic Judaism. Thus the parts of the story of Jesus that fit into the Indo-European psychic landscape the best were adopted and others left behind in the development of Paulism. Paulism competed with other versions of Early Christianity, and what eventually won out was the Roman version. Already Rome was split between the religion of the Citizens which was basically a latinization of Greek Gods, and Mithrism which the Romans took from the Pirates from Turkey that took over the Mediterranean for a while. This volatile cocktail of the synthesis of Indo-European and Judaic elements went on to become the great dualistic religion which would stamp out any nondual suggested alternatives, and when Islam came along as precisely a heresy based on Western Indo-European prototypes but which took over and reinterpreted nondually the Semitic heritage and tried to strip it of its Indo-European elements that were foreign to the Semitic branch of the commingling steams of two nomadic cultures. The Jews stood between Sumeria/Mesopotamia and Egypt the great agricultural and settled empires. Both Semites and Indo-Europeans were nomadic raiders or the people of the Middle east between these two empires.

The Indo-European culture and traditional society has two modes, that of sovereignty (alpha male with harem staking out territory) and the mode of the outcast males and females that are not part of the territorial economy of any alpha male. So democracy, contract, and the idea of horizontal rather than vertical and hierarchical relations between sovereign and Knights and People. Semitic culture is based on the family, and they worship a family of gods and goddesses as we see in Ugarit. This takes its basis more from the Sumerian/Mesopotamian side rather than the Egyptian side of the cultural divide in the Middle East. But what Christianity takes from the Egyptian side is this fondness for Trinity (Amun, Ra, Aten/Atom/Atum]). So the Western worldview is really a combination of four worlds, two stable and agricultural, and two nomadic. We have learned more about the contributions of the Sumerians and the Egyptians since we brought them back from oblivion after learning to read their languages and thus their surviving records. But before that we had the Greco/Roman tradition of Sovereignty tempered by democracy, and to that was added the Semitic idea of Sovereignty tempered by prophecy. Because of the existence in the Indo-European tradition of the idea of Vedic Seers who shaped the Vedas as songs of praise to the gods and told stories like that of the Mahabharata it was possible to connect with the rather unique idea of the Semitic Prophecy. And of course the Indo-European culture also had its prophet Zoroaster who caused the split between the Hindu and Persian branches of the Indo-European tradition. Paul had the idea that Gentiles deserved to be Jews too, since the end was near and Jesus associated with disreputable characters. He expected Jews to carry on doing what they had always done, and he just condoned lower standards for the Gentiles because he had low expectations of their capabilities. Little did he know that this new splinter religion based solely on his idea of the meaning of Jesus supposed resurrection would take off, and Gentiles would outnumber the Jews in it, and eventually see the Jews as a race as responsible for the death of Jesus. Of course, this persecution of the Jews later was only the mirror image of the persecution of the Christians by the Romans who found the cult to be extremely dangerous. Mainly because it was like Mithrism had gotten out of the Army and there was a new God trouncing around that claimed to be the Avatar of the Jewish God who denied the existence of all gods other than the god of Israel. So Christianity started out as a mystery religion and cult of immediate apocalypse where Jesus was conflated with the Son of God. Son of God is distinguished from Son of Man. Son of Man was a figure who Jesus said was coming to establish God’s kingdom on earth, as Muhammad did. Son of God was an honorific for the kings and prophets of Judea. For Gentiles Son of God meant actually a Son of a god. And if you conflate Son of Man who Jesus bore witness to coming after him, with the Son Of God, then you get the ManGod, or GodMan, which is the Avatar. Gentiles understood avatars. And so the conflation that Paul made that saw Jesus as the Son of God and Man, fit perfectly into a niche in the Indo-European psyche called Avatar, the embodiment of God on earth in the form of a man like Krisna.

So when we come down to it, Paulism which is Messianic Judaism who saw Jesus as Messiah, who was resurrected being the first to be resurrected in the Kingdom of God established by the Son of God (prophet or king) that was also the Son of Man (representative of God on Earth in His earthly kingdom at the end of time when the dead were resurrected). This had almost nothing to do with the actual teaching of Jesus which was much like the teaching of John the Baptist, about an impending judgment, which attempted to get people to change their ways before the end of time which was neigh. And of course that end of time did come for the Jews but it was exercised by the Romans when they sacked Jerusalem after the rebellion in 66-73 AD ( 132-136 AD the Bar Kokhba revolt put a seal on the death of Israel as a political entity ( This led to an even greater diaspora of the Jews which started with the first destruction of the Temple by the Mesopotamians and the exile into Mesopotamia for many of the upper class Jews ( The upshot of all this is that the Jews who vacillated between the influence of Egypt and Mesopotamia became truly nomadic and had to learn to carry on their religion without a temple which was a major transformation in the Jewish religion, from a sacrificial religion to a religion of the Book and nostalgia. Later when the Romans called themselves Christians they continued to harass and use the Jews as pharmacons. The Jews began living in Ghettos, and were forced into dealing in Usury which was against their religion, because other work was banned for them, and because the Christians carrying on the ban against Usury needed that function to be performed by someone. The Jews basically became the untouchables of Europe. The Christians took their religion from the Jews but then blamed them for it. Christianity is nothing if not paradoxical or even absurd. According to Chesterton, Zizek’s favorite theologian, the lure of Christianity is precisely its absurdity. And Kierkegaard reaffirmed this in his own time in reaction to Hegelianism which said religion was rational. Nietzsche said that the only true Christian was Jesus himself, and everyone else had been diverted into Paulism to who Nietzsche attributes every ill of European society. He recognized that Paulism could not be the actual teaching of Jesus. How could the myth of his resurrection be the teaching of Jesus himself? His message was basically the same as that of John the Baptist which was apocalyptic but Jesus said that we are waiting for the Son of Man (who will establish Gods Kingdom on Earth Muhammad saw himself as that figure that Jesus, the prophet not the avatar, foretold of. Muslims originally prayed to Jerusalem not Mekkah. Muhammad went on his Mirage from Jerusalem.  Son of Man can also mean an orphan which Muhammad was, i.e. one who was a son of a man, but who is frail and helpless and living from the generosity of others who are meeting his needs, so that every man is his father. (

The key point in all this is that for the most part the things taken from Messianic and Apocalyptic Judaism were those things that fit in well with concepts from the Indo-European worldview, and those things that did not fit well, were twisted until they did fit, thus producing non-sequitors and confusion. The major pattern that was used as a template for this transformation and translation was Mithrism a Greek Mystery Cult with Oriental (Persian) elements and content. If we can have a mystery cult with Persian content why not Jewish content. Maybe we can substitute the Jewish content for the Persian content, so says the gentile recently become Christian who served in the Roman army and was a new Roman citizen due to his service. Constantine promoted both Christianity and Mithrism in his time, and seems to not have been able to tell them apart very well, both of them seemed as sun worshiping cults to him.

All this says that the Jewish content is weak in what was taken into Christianity, and Judeo-Christian is a way to rehabilitate the Jews from phamacons into co-dwellers in the same worldview. Now we see the same thing happening with Muslims, and so eventually we will talk about the Islamo-Judao-Christian worldview, i.e. all the Abrahamic religions are basically the same. This trend will continue as the percentage of Muslims in America grows due to their higher than average birth rates in relation to the other segments of the population. Eventually the Muslims will undergo the same rehabilitation. But since Islam is a Western heresy and the West has only killed off its heretics not taking any chances with the non-representable quality of nondual proto-concepts. So basically under Greek Philosophy’s auspices Jewish and then Christian and then Muslim Theology promulgated an extremely dualistic model of the nature of man and god and their relations. What is interesting is that the Jewish relation with god was though contracts and the contracts in each case between Abraham and God or Moses and God is different. But also in Indo-European society contracts were the very basis of social relations, and there were Gods who would attack anyone who stole property rather than bartering for it. Mithra is the God of Contracts in Persia, and Varuna was the one who would come out and be heavy to whoever does not uphold the contract. So the two cultures held contracts in high esteem but in one case it is a relation among men and in the other it is a relation between God and Man.

So Greco-Roman means Indo-European.

Christian and Jewish means that the Gentiles have overrun Judaism and reworked them into what is from the Jewish perspective a monstrosity as Zizek contends. Avatarism, Sons of gods, of the Indo-European traditions, like the Pandavas, have been used to reinterpret the phrase the “Son of God” producing Paulist Christeology. And the Son of Man mentioned by Jesus as one coming to establish the kingdom of God on earth, became Jesus himself after his supposed resurrection, who was expected to return quickly. We are still waiting. In the meantime the whole history of these dualistic religions have played themselves out in violence, most of it coming from the Christian side as befits the origins of this faith in the Roman army being different from the religion of the Citizens of Rome which were Sumerian and Ugritic and Greek family Gods with upstarts like Zeus and Baal. However, Judaism and its monotheism have had profound effects on our Western culture though the Old Testament and via the parts of Judaism that survived the translation between Jewish embodiments and Christian imitations.

So I think I do agree with the premise of this question, that we are Indo-European first and thus owe much to the Greek and Roman first democracies. What we have of Judaism in Christianity is only that which easily fit with Indo-European ideas already. Judaism has been filtered through an Indo-European  way of looking at things. The fact that the bible is such good literature, the fact that basing society and culture on a book is more stable than local ritual and myth recited at pagan ceremonies. Mithrism was lumped together with the other polytheistic religions. It was lost in oblivion before Cumont put the pieces together that were scattered in Museums all over the extent of the Roman Empire.

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What are some of the most enigmatic and famously difficult sections from texts?

Sep 16 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Suggest you look at the oracles of Delphi as an example of an enigmatic text.

There are the Old English Riddles.

You might want to look at Zen Koans such as those by Joshu.

Dogen Kigen of Soto Zen fame can be cryptic.

Some of the Vedas and Upanishads are difficult to understand.

I Ching hexagram descriptions take the cake. But the Classic of the Great Dark is even more extreme in its difficulty.

Alchemical Texts are known for their impenetrable qualities vis a vis the comprehension by the mind.

There are also the Continental Philosophers that many find extremely enigmatic, but there mostly it is a matter of knowing the context of the works within their tradition.

Especially Heideggers Contributions to Philosophy (from Ereignis).

The works of Lacan, despite Zizek’s valiant efforts are some of the most obscure texts I have read.

Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit/Ghost/Mind is thought to be the most difficult book of philosophy.

There is the poetry of William Bronk, which can be obscure to say the least.

I find Egyptian Funerary texts to be downright incomprehensible.


Blake’s Four Zoas is not easy to grasp.

But the most difficult text that I know is Finnegan’s Wake.

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Quora answer: What should a college graduate who’s interested in intellectual learning but doesn’t want to get a PhD do?

Sep 16 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

I was like that. I went to England after college to do a Masters, and found out that my educational preparation was not enough, so I switched from Masters to M.Phil and then Ph.D. but I never thought I would finish to I decided to make the best of my situation and to just read as much as I could of what fascinated me. Turned out that I did get the Ph.D. in the end after much struggle, and it took me a long time because I had to catch up to my Peers in England who were better educated than I was and then go on to the Ph.D. level of mastery. Since I was three years behind, the fact that it took me nine years, really probably translates in to 6 years if I had been at the same level as my peers graduating from English universities. At University the students study only one subject for three years, rather than the potpourri that we study in the US. A major is really only about a years’ worth of work. I think the AA degree here is similar to the O levels in England. Anyway, one thing is to get into a program and just study what you want to study, of course that is easer in UK, Australia or Canada because they all have the same system that does not demand any classes at the Ph.D. level, or at least that is what it used to be like. If you have a goal in mind it helps to give focus to one’s research. Without a goal one delves in just too many things becoming what is called a dilettante. So unless you have a problematic it is really impossible to make progress. So it is best to take as your problematic something fairly general but that you are fascinated with so you can have a horizon to explore that you cannot exhaust easily. However, in this society knowledge without a degree is not recognized as having worth. It does not matter how much you know, only what degrees you have when you look for work, because there is a lot of competition with people who got the degrees. So my suggestion is always to get the degree first and try to fit your interests into that as best you can. But they keep you so busy in school that you do not have time to pursue your own interests except a little bit now and again. It is easier when you get a job then you can study whatever you want in your free time. I recommend getting a degree, then a job then studying what you want to your heart’s desire. But because education is becoming so expensive that might not be an option. In that cause I suggest you find someone who has knowledge of some field you are interested in and try to talk to them about it, to give you pointers how to go about learning it on your own. It is so strange that scholarship in the university is nearly impossible and outside the university it is worse. So the only way to study what you want to find a job, doing something that is not too taxing, and then pursue your studies as an independent scholar, but that is a lonely way to go. In the end most people give up because it is too hard to maintain ones effort when there is no response of feedback from anyone but yourself. But there are those that are just fascinated with their subject and so they sustain their studies against the odds.

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Quora answer: What/who is Khidr/Khizr/Hizir? (Kither)

Sep 16 2012 Published by under Uncategorized


Quora answer: What/who is Khidr/Khizr/Hizir?
Kent Palmer Copyright 2011

Kithr is an extremely important character that appears in Quran who is the closest thing to a time lord as in Dr. Who as there is in early literature. He is extremely significant for Sufism. Rumi patterns his whole poetic corpus on explaining the nature of the sufic enlightened one like Shams al-Tabriz as being based on the image of Kithr. The Prophet Muhammad said that he wished that Moses was more patient with Kithr so we could have learned more from him. Sufis down through the ages like Shaykh al-Akbar relate stores where they meet Kithr. And these meetings are always turning points in the lives of the friends of Allah. He is the one who is not a prophet or messenger who knows more than they do. He is a unique being who is named for the color green because he is always alive and travels from time to time freely, without any hindrance. He appears to the various Sufic sages in the flesh and teaches them as he tried to teach Moses. Kither stands outside the prophetic tradition, because he broke the law of killing in the company of the prophet and messenger who was given the Law from god against killing and Moses could not bear that. Kither claims to have a knowledge directly from God which allows him to do that despite the fact that it is against the law of God, i.e., against killing without cause or right.

It is fascinating that Quran describes a being who is human but not bound by time nor the laws of prophecy and that this person claims to know directly from God which actions to perform and which to not perform. So in him we have an example of someone outside of Islam, or Judaism, who is more wise than even the greatest prophets within the prophetic tradition. I think this is unique for the religion of Islam to describe someone like that and to give them a reality. In Buddhism the wisest person is the Buddha, Śākyamuni. In Taoism the Wisest person is Lao Tzu. In every religion the founder is the wisest. But in Islam the wisest is not a messenger or a prophet. Rather the wisest is the one who puts the friends of Allah to a test. And in Islam there has been people who have shaped their practice after the way of Kithr like Shams al-Tabriz. Shams traveled as a merchant and thus did not travel though sufic circles. But he would make it his business to turn up and test those who claimed to be shaykhs or friends of Allah. When Rumi ran into him it was a test from Allah, and Rumi was overwhelmed by the depths of Shams al-Tabriz wisdom and enlightenment. It is said that Shams al-Tabriz also may have met Shaykh al-Akbar and tested him. These are the two great sages of the Sufic Tradition who expressed its essence in their voluminous works. They lived about the same time, and they are the two greatest exponents of sufism who took it to a whole new level. They represent the extremes of Super-rationality and Paradoxicality. The reason that Rumi is so loved in the West is that his ideal of the man of knowledge is the one who deal with absurdity, like Kithr. And since absurdity and paradox are the only recognized limit in the western tradition the praise for Shams al-Tabriz by Rumi where fusion with the master and fusion with God are contemplated, which is anathema to most Sufis. The general approach is supra-rational in sufism. But then there are all kinds of approaches in Sufism. Sufism is full of various groups who were considered heretics in Christianity, who found refuge in Islam. So Sufism in the East is just an amazing potpourri of practices from various sources. Sufism in the West is much more purely Islamic because there were fewer refugees from Christian persecution. It was like the difference between Soviet Russia and Western Europe. Myriads of people fled the inquisition into Islam for centuries. We only hear about the crusaders who kept up the good fight and lost badly. We do not hear about all the people who went on crusade and never came back because they found that Islam was civilized, and that there was relative freedom in Muslim countries that did not exist in Europe. We don’t hear about the great exodus from Europe into Muslim lands. Europe continued with the policies of the Christian Roman Empire, and then fell into Feudalism. Islam was cosmopolitan and had a very sophisticated culture relatively speaking. So the depopulation of Europe was between the 150 and the 1000s was in part an exodus from Europe. There were 1061 years when there was an active interface with Islam as a vibrant civilization from 622 to 1683. All during this period while Islam was expanding and beating the crusaders Sufism was having a golden age and Kithr was a central part of the mythology of Sufism with many Sufis claiming to meet him, and that continues up to the present day.

The first interesting thing about Kithr was the way Moses found him by the escape and tunneling away of a fish. They lost a fish and then went back for it to meet Kithr. This is so reminiscent of quantum tunneling that it is genuinely spooky. It is as if the fish finds a wormhole between universes and Moses takes that as a sign of where he will meet Kithr.

Kithr does three acts which Moses cannot continence.

  • Pokes hole in      boat of fisherman and sinks it
  • Kills a boy      without reason
  • Sets up Wall for      no pay in a town that did not give them hospitality

There are many interpretations of these acts which Kither explains to Moses when Kither refuses to go on further with Moses did not have patience with him but protested three times his actions.

Muhammad says that he wished Moses, who was not known for his patience, because he too killed a man so we could have learned more from Kither. Moses was also an orphan in the household of the Pharaoh who discovered his heritage (treasure) as a Jew. Moses began to worship Amun the hidden God and took his people on the Exodus in which an army came down to the sea. But they did not need boats but the army itself sunk after the Jews escaped by the parting of the waters closing in on them. These three actions in an odd way seem to mirror something of Moses back to himself. But they have been given myriad other meanings as well. If Muhammad had made up the Quran, and he wanted to hear more about Kither then he would just made up more about Kither. This is just one of many occasions Muhammad did not  to know anything about a event until it was revealed in Quran.

Dante wrote his Masterpiece the divine comedy where he claims to meet God modeled on the mirage of Muhammad. Dante puts Muhammad in Hell as one who creates schism, which recognizes that Islam is a heresy of the Western worldview. Dante has St Francis initiating conversation instead of war with the sultan of the Egypt. Characterizing St Francis as oriental and the Dominicans as Occidental. Both of these orders were heavily influenced by Islam one being like the faqirs of Sufism, and the other being like the masters of Sharia law.

Here is the interesting thing about Kithr. Kiekegaard in his book Fear and Trembling on the absurdity of religion talks about Abraham and how absurd it was for him to sacrifice his son, which is compounded by the absurdity of a ram appearing at the last moment as deus ex machina. Shaykh al-Akbar however says that Abraham made a mistake when he took his dream literally. If this is the case then Abraham’s sacrifice is no longer absurd. Shaykh al-Akbar connects the sacrifice of a ram by Abel, to the appearance of the Ram as substitute for the son of Abraham, to the disappearance of Jesus into the heavens from which he  must return as the ram did. Jesus and the Ram are both sacrifices that were taken up into the heavens and both have to return because of the purity of the heavens. Thus Shaykh al-Akbar offers rational explanations for both acts. Actually the story of Abraham as myth marks the end of Human Sacrifice just as the story of Adam marks the beginning of Patriarchy and the end of Matriarchy. But what is fascinating is that if you look in Islam for something absurd, then there is just enough information in the story of Kither killing the boy to make it absurd. And so there  is at least one absurdity in Islam which is mostly supra-rational, just as the Western worldview is mostly paradoxical, but with a drop of nonduality in its kernel. Islam and the Western worldview are duals of each other. The difference is that Absurdity is a unique element in Islam that breaks the rules established by prophecy called the sunnah. In the Western worldview paradox and absurdity is the only limit that is known to thought and glimmers of supra-rationality are extremely rare. Thus one of the keys that Kither gives us is how Islam is the dual of the Western worldview because he holds the key to absurdity which remains protected in the Barzak, rather than running wild in every aspect of society as it does in the Western worldview.

The key is that the Western worldview and its major unstoppable heresy which is also fundamentally nondual, its Other, are really the same thing at their core because they share the two limits of the Divided Line of Plato which is the core of the Western worldview. Kither is a key figure in our recognition of the duality of Islam and the Western worldview. Muslims for the most part however interpret Islam as just as dualisically as the West does due to borrowed Jewish and Christian theology. God becomes the supreme existent instead of the supreme being.

The status of Kither in the Barzak gives us some insight into the realm of manifestation as it goes beyond revelation and prophecy. Kither breaks the norms established by the Prophets. He thereby becomes the master of absurdity. Absurdity is a singularity in Islam. That singularity exists in the protected space of the Barzak. As Rumi rightly shows the knowledge of the Sufi can be a knowledge of absurdity, i.e. the other limit of the divided line, rather than supra-rationality. And the middle way must be the middle between these two extremes, i.e. manifestation (Tajalliat of the Sifat).

History of Turmoil in Europe 


For sources of timeline see

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Quora answer: Is the “Weeping Buddha” a legitimate Buddhist symbol?

Sep 15 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

First I suggest you read the book Laughing and Crying by H. Plessner It is a phenomenological study of these two states.

Laughing and Crying are extreme opposites and thus the Buddha, as Buddha would not indulge in them voluntarily. The Buddha is portrayed either with no expression or slightly smiling. This is trying to portray serenity. The Buddha is serene because he has been released from the wheel of samsara and no longer is under the sway of Dukkha which is dissatisfaction. It is the kind of dissatisfaction that Tantalus has when he reaches for the apple from the branch and due to the action of the wind and the waves he is standing in he can never quite reach the apple. Basically nirvana is non-attachment to the things of this world. If you are not attached to this world then things come to you, while if you are attached they flee from you. Serenity is not taking notice when they come to you, and not going after them when they run from you. Non-attachment in this sense is called Wu Wei non-action in China. It does not mean not eating, or sleeping, etc., but it means doing nothing to excess, not holding on to things, and going with the flow of happenings rather than against that flow. Non-Attachment is something that is very difficult for humans to attain because of our dependent nature. Non-attachment does not mean preventing oneself from getting things or it does not mean getting rid of things. If it is an act of will against oneself (Asceticism) then it is not non-action. Preventing or forcing oneself is not non-action. It is instead freedom from the necessity of preventing or forcing oneself. That is why it is serenity. In Islam it is called Zudh: doing without. Zudh entails indifference to ones conditions, if one is in the shade one does not need to move into the sun, and if one is in the sun one does not need to move to the shade. One may move but oneself is not forcing oneself to move. Zudh entails giving back more than one owes, and taking less than one is owed. It means giving each thing a little more than it is due, and demanding less than one is due. It is not indifference. It is spontaneous action that supports other things in their needs, while not taking everything one needs oneself. This slight imbalance engenders the gift and eschews the idea that things are independent and self-supporting. Buddhism is looking toward perfect balance of indifference. Zuhd wants to be slightly out of that balance of indifference, because it wants to facilitate the giving and receiving of gifts. But in both cases there is an approximation to Taoist non-action. Taoist Non-Action is a certain orientation to what is going on outside oneself, where oneself offers no resistance to what is happening naturally and spontaneously. Buddhist non-action has to do with ones will and its relation to things in the world. Islamic Zhud is nondual between these two approaches. It wants lack of attachment and flow with the flux of the world, but it wants in the interplay between the two to engender an economy of gift exchange.

In Buddhism as it was originally envisioned it was solipsistic, these are called the Ahrats, who just wanted to achieve nirvana for themselves. Mahayana wants to perfect the teaching of the dharma by giving priority to compassion for others over oneself, so one seeks liberation for all others before oneself. But the tradeoff is that one expects to be fed though begging in order for one to lead an exemplary life of compassion that shows other the way by example. In Taoism the orientation is toward not leaving traces in the flow of outward things. If one learns to do that then one becomes transparent to other things offering no resistance what so ever. Taoists become hermits who live alone and support themselves off nature, and have restricted iterations with others. Now notice that there is a slight imbalance here where Taoist hermits seek independence and solitary existence, usually in the wilderness. They avoid transactions with others, but try to limit their transaction to those with nature. Stonehouse criticizes the Buddhist monks for their begging. Buddhist monks on the other hand set up a fundamental transaction with others on which they depend. They take their sustenance from others with humility, as a way toward their ascetic lifestyle. In return they pray for others, meditate, and help others, as well as attempt to save others from illusion. This means that they are constantly in contact with others through the transactions by which they get their sustenance unlike the Taoist monks.

Sufism within Islam has a different ideal. First of all there are no monks. Everyone is expected to marry and have children. One’s worship is on one’s own time, say in the middle of the night, when everyone else is asleep. During the day one is supposed to earn ones living and to support others in one’s family, close kin, neighbors, distant kin, and strangers. In other words one supports those who are closest to oneself first and others later and less that are more distant. In that support one is continuously giving gifts as one can afford to do it. Giving better than one has oneself to the other for the sake of God is the idea. Depending on God not others for one’s sustenance is preferred. God gives oneself gifts of sustenance, and one gives gifts of sustenance to others less well off than oneself. This gift economy is meant to eliminate the extremes of poverty and wealth. One is supposed to be spiritual in the context of having a wife/or husband and children. In other words in the midst of the chaos of life, rather than leaving home as the Buddhist does, or going out into nature to live alone as is the Taoist ideal.

Stonehouse who was both a Taoist and Zen Buddhist monk at the same time equally partaking in the Void and Emptiness with one in each hand, continuously describes the hell of illusion that exists in the villages and towns that he left. The ideal of Sufism is to live in that hell of illusion but to cling to both emptiness and void at the same time. One is clinging to void to the extent one gives more than one is expected to give. One clings to emptiness to the extent one expects less than one is owed.  Zudh approximates non-action slightly imperfectly and for that is more perfect in as much as it engenders an economy of giving as part and parcel of the exercise of non-attachment in the midst of myriad possible attachments. It is expected that the Sufi will fail many times in this environment to live up to that ideal and for that he asks God for forgiveness.

Thus in Islam weeping is the preferred state for the one who aspires to the forgiveness of ones faults by God. So much is this the case that the Prophet advises pretending to weep if one cannot weep spontaneously. Because the nature of reality is one that should cause weeping. Existence is loss, no matter how much one gains temporarily. So the weeping Sufi is a more apt portrayal than the laughing or crying Buddha. In Islam one may laugh but not to the extent one shows ones teeth. One may cry and weep but not to the extent one tears ones clothes, and not interminably. In other words extremes of human emotion are limited but not as greatly as they are in Buddhism. In Taoism there is no idea of limiting extremes of human feeling so long as it is spontaneous and natural. Only fabricated emotions are to be avoided.

This is an example of how with respect to a central tenet of all three nondual ways that they have their own meaning for non-attachment. Ideally the Taoist takes his sustenance via direct transactions with nature, like Stonehouse does, except occasionally he sells firewood for money to buy supplies that he cannot produce himself. Ideally the Buddhist lives off of gifts of others that are not solicited, but given freely as others seek merit by supporting spiritual practice that they cannot do themselves. The Sufi within Islam is expected to hold down some sort of work and support others of ones immediate and distant family, and immediate neighbors and strangers. One is expected to engage in tall the transactions that could cause attachment in non-attachment, with the caveat that one is not expected to perfectly adhere to the correct behavior in every case, and that one is allowed lapses as long as one turns back to God as soon as one realizes one has gone astray. This imperfection of practice is supposed to underline the perfection of God and the fact that perfection is unobtainable by humans. This state when realized completely is called the perfection of perfection and imperfection. In other words, the asymmetry that underlines the perfection of god, in contrast to one’s own imperfection within the attempt to become more perfect, is a greater perfection than perfection itself at the lower level of abstraction. In other words dynamic perfection and imperfection is of a higher nature than static perfection and imperfection. Dynamic imperfection gives us the emptiness and void, as we expect less than we deserve, and we give more than is deserved by others. But this produces its complementary dynamic perfection which is more perfect though asymmetry in as much as it does not expect to arrive at complete perfection which is Gods possession alone. It assumes that whatever people do is going to be somehow or to some extent imperfect and as long as they ask for forgiveness from God for those faults then they will not have to bear the karmic consequences on the day of rising.

Buddhist search for Nirvana is a way of attempting to perfect human nature. Taoist following the Tao and attaining Te (Virtue) is again a vision of perfection of the human that offers no resistance to natural forces. Sufism does not attempt to attain perfection, but only to approximate it leaving perfection itself for God alone. But this assumed continuing imperfection generates an economy of gifts that circulates within society and thus stems the extremes of wealth and poverty in society.

Now it is hard to talk about this without considering the nature of the Indo-European worldview which is based on dynamic clinging and eschews static clinging. So notice that the emphasis is on clinging not on the lack of attachment as it is in the nondual ways. Baal was the god of covetousness, and Baal was essentially Zeus, the two faced god. Indo-Europeans have always spoken with forked tongue in order to get what they covet from others around the world, stripping them of their resources as thieves who engage in highway robbery around the world stealing what other societies and cultures have at gun point and justified by Manifest Destiny. The perfection of the Indo-European way is to attain dynamic clinging instead of static clinging. Dynamic clinging is when a parent lets their child leave home and do as they please when they are old enough, so that they will come back when they realize that home was not such a bad place after all, and their parents are only human. Static Clinging is when the parent does not allow the child to leave home, and so the child rebels and filial ties are broken. The perfection of this is seen in the best of rodeo riders who ride bucking broncos, and you can see that there is no stiffness in their bodies at all but that they flap with their body bowing as the horse bucks, and thus they cannot be dislodged. Static clinging is the cowboy who is stiff and tries to ride the bucking bronco as something separate from themselves, who try to dominate the horse even in its wildness. The nihilism is that the bucking bronco is bucking because it has been hurt within the confines of the stall before it is released. And so the nihilism is that the effect of the bucking of the bronco is artificially induced so that we can see if it is possible to ride it. Once horses were truly wild and had to be tamed to be used. But the practice of breaking horses has continued artificially as a sport that provides a spectacle due to its extremity of action and reaction between the horse and the human. So there is lust which is direct, but covetousness is indirect. And it is the indirect covetousness of Baal that is outlawed in the Ten Commandments.

The difference between dual and nondual ways are stark. We are surrounded by an addicted society, and the trick is to not become addicted so you can take advantage of others who fall into addiction. But everyone falls into different addictions, and thus goes to different extremes. Everyone does good in some respect, and evil in some other respect. As Dostoevsky says each person has a good and bad daemon who is another person. One person could be the bad daemon to one person and a good daemon to another person. The good daemon for anyone is trying to get them to do extreme actions in a negative direction, and the bad daemon is trying to get them to do extreme actions in a positive directions. But the daemons that we are to each other are all trying to elicit extreme actions that depart from the middle way. All nondual ways attempt to return to temperance. Sufis weep and laugh, but avoid uncontrolled crying and laughter. The Sufi does not attempt to become indifferent such that they face whatever occurs with perfect equanimity. Nor does the Sufi accept whatever overcomes them as just natural spontaneity. For instance, when one is angry one must sit down, and if that does not work, one must lay down. In other words one must avoid actions that follow from anger directly, that are likely to be irrational and regretted later. The relation of the nondual ways to each other, and to the Western worldview is subtle and interesting, full of wisdom. But this analysis of Zudh, just one Sufic ideal, shows the inherent relationship with emptiness and void subsumed within an overarching synopsis that is more difficult to realize because it is supposed to occur in the midst of everyday life in which monasticism is discouraged. However, if the Sufi comes upon a monastery he is required to leave it alone and not touch it nor bother its inhabitants. Thus the relation between Sufism and Buddhism or Taoism is one of being hands off leaving them to their Lord who knows what they strive for and what they attain better than any humans do.

The Buddha smiles, the Sufi weeps, the Taoist Laughs.

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