Reflections upon Science, Nondual Spirituality and the role of Philosophers.

For aeons humans have sought knowledge of the universe. The great spiritual traditions, the mystics, sages and saints of all times, have taken the path of direct familiarisation with the source of all that is leading them to embodied realisation and profound insight.

Curious and intelligent people in humanity's emerging civilisations came to seek their own understandings through permutations of the mind and observational capacities, from which developed the field of philosophy.

In answer to the deep and powerful questions raised by philosophers over the centuries, the fields of science arose. Leaving aside for now all the political reasons why science has taken the stand it has in regard to matters spiritual - we can understand it as a natural part of the evolution of human consciousness, and as an exacting and thorough attempt to answer some of the most perplexing problems which arise on account of the human capacity to think.

There are 'shortcomings' with all of these paths to knowledge of the universe;

 - the direct approach leaves us short on adequately accurate, and satisfactorily applicable descriptive terminology,

 - the philosophical path also has this problem, at a higher level of abstraction,

 - the scientific path, whilst it renders accurate and verifiable descriptive, analytic and representational models, is difficult for the human mind to grasp without special training in the methods of abstraction used. As well science generally fails to connect at the level of direct appreciation available to practitioners on the spiritual path, and to a lesser degree possible to attain with the inspiration available to philosophers.

At the current stage of conscious evolution we have all three streams emerging simultaneously, rendering various interpretations of the information available to them via their respective methodologies. Some of these interpretive frames are very complex indeed. However, the fact that an individual has the opportunity to engage with all three streams concurrently is a recent development (as least as far as the current civilisation is concerned).

Endeavoring to simultaneously inhabit these potentially complimentary yet apparently disparate vantage points, seems to be the next major task of the units of consciousness which are adequately prepared to do so. To these fortunate folk will fall the task of rendering the various discourses comprehensible to each other. No minor challenge! Just developing the capacity to comprehend each of these approaches at the depth of profundity they provide, is in itself an admirable aspiration. We have a situation arising, however, which dictates the imperative for this work to be done, both efficiently and effectively as well as relatively expediently.

For this, we are required to inhabit an enhanced, evolved structure of consciousness - one which is being built from out efforts to do so as much as it is drawing us toward itself by the imperative which drives us. So, the philosopher can be the bridge builder and unifier in the situational context, by disciplining them self to the task described, and thus serve the evolution of consciousness, and the best interests of all beings.

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Hi, Glistening, thank you for this very nice start to what could be an interesting and worthwhile discussion.  Recently, I spent some time thinking and writing about the task of occupying several different religious perspectives simultaneously -- an increasingly common option in the postmodern world, and a challenging praxis in itself, given the apparent incommensurability between certain non-negligible aspects and commitments of various religious paths.  I see the task of cultivating and developing contemplative, scientific, and philosophic thought concurrently, and in depth, as a similar exercise, both in its challenges and its potential rewards.  But it also appears to me to be an even more necessary or important one.

Especially in the encounter between science and religion, philosophy would appear to be an indispensable midwife.  Are you familiar with the Integral writer, Steve McIntosh?  This is his argument for the role of Integral thought in general:  that it will serve best when it serves as a philosophical bridgebuilder between spiritual and scientific perspectives, rather than trying to serve as a spiritual path in itself or as an apologist for any particular spiritual or scientific worldviews or orientations.  (I agree that this is a valuable role Integral thought can play, but don't have any objections to individuals also attempting to create "Integral" spiritualities or even forms of science).

Roy Bhaskar might be an interesting philosophical bridgebuilder to consider in this context.  I am not very familiar with his work (yet), but have been dipping into it recently, particularly in relation to my recent engagement with Object Oriented Ontology (a topic we've been discussing and debating here for the last few months).  As a philosopher of science who has recently taken a "spiritual turn" and begun articulating, and philosophically justifying, a nondual spiritual orientation, Bhaskar definitely seems like a good exemplar of the type of work you are describing.   

I am a bit wary of a number of recent attempts to use science to "prove" particular spiritual beliefs or commitments, but from an enactive orientation, I do not see any problem at all with exploring the territory or the vistas that (creatively) open when enters deeply into these enactive streams concurrently.  I don't think there's any particular shape such an encounter needs to take, and already find it to be manifesting multiply, which itself is quite interesting and exciting to me.

Do you have any inklings for how these disciplines might intertwine or at least begin to communicate more fruitfully with each other?  Are there any fruits of such cross-pollination that seem especially promising (and delicious) to you?

Thank you Bruce,

I have Steve McIntosh's book "Integral Consciousness" on my self although I am not finished reading it yet. I do find the IMP approach useful for assessing the similarities and differences between specialties in multiple fields of human endeavor. Exploration of the view that opens up when multiple streams of information are run concurrently is looking promising from the perspective of the praxis as I am engaging it. What I am doing is taking note of the fundamentals presented in the lines of discourse I am observing and creating cognitive maps of their aspects and relations, see http://allisasis.info for more details about that.

I will also be dipping into Bhaskar shortly, with The Magellan Courses :) I will need to take a look at object oriented ontology, my interest has been primarily leaning toward process ontology and methods for creating the necessary analogies via which many processes can be related...work in progress!

Although it seems to me like hyperbole to assert that the saints, sages and mystic of all times were engaged in a common attempt to attain "direct familiarisation with the source of all that is" -- I nevertheless join you in following the Nietzschean path of evolving our understanding through entering and holding various species of perspectives.  In particular it is the attempt to not only alternative and render simultaneous these viewpoints (which is not really that difficult) but to establish workable trans-perspectival links and evaluations between and around these variant perspectives.

But all the same we should be cautious in our claim that this is a new move in the understanding of the species since science (guessing and testing objectively), philosophy (pondering what is reasonable and necessary about life) and mysticism (having expanded and elevated personal experiences) were not mutually exclusive endeavors for our ancestors.  In fact we could presume that outside the popular discourse about different "fields of study" almost every human being already engages all three of three zones of inquiry without much difficulty.  So our "new phase" is only a slightly exaggerated version of something which is ancient and ordinary.

Thank you for your insights Layman Pascal. I wonder, which schools/lineages have left us records of the trans-perspectival methods that can serve us best as "ancestors" to our endeavours? any suggested texts?

Layman Pascal said:

Although it seems to me like hyperbole to assert that the saints, sages and mystic of all times were engaged in a common attempt to attain "direct familiarisation with the source of all that is" -- I nevertheless join you in following the Nietzschean path of evolving our understanding through entering and holding various species of perspectives.  In particular it is the attempt to not only alternative and render simultaneous these viewpoints (which is not really that difficult) but to establish workable trans-perspectival links and evaluations between and around these variant perspectives.

But all the same we should be cautious in our claim that this is a new move in the understanding of the species since science (guessing and testing objectively), philosophy (pondering what is reasonable and necessary about life) and mysticism (having expanded and elevated personal experiences) were not mutually exclusive endeavors for our ancestors.  In fact we could presume that outside the popular discourse about different "fields of study" almost every human being already engages all three of three zones of inquiry without much difficulty.  So our "new phase" is only a slightly exaggerated version of something which is ancient and ordinary.

I might suggest that almost any pre-modern tradition probably contains a blended fusion of these perspectives.  In the conversations of Socrates or the Upanishads one finds a sort of indiscriminate appearance of philosophic, mystic & scientific observations much in the same way that the Jewish Testament treats history, spirituality, science-fiction, science, genealogy, moral philosophy, as indifferent facets of knowledge.  Somehow we need to be able to go beyond the modern differentiation of these perspectival information domains in a way that both distinguishes itself from ancient non-differentiated knowledge and also carefully makes this difference.

On top of that we may find a few ancient sources whose development paralleled our own and offer reflections about what we are attempting.  

I expect Aristotle is a powerful archaic source of all three knowledge domains you mentioned.  

Two months have passed since the last volley was launched in this interesting discussion, so perhaps the scent has grown cold by now.  Reading with interest (and I'm always interested when I encounter three elements offered as complimentary in the mind's journey), I found myself wondering what particular element of the human adventure science, philosophy, and mystysism are sharing.  It doesn't feel as broad as "Body, Mind, and Speech", or "Vision, Action, and Integration" to invoke Buddhist language, nor as the "active, passive, and reconciling factors", to use George Gurdjieff's terminoloy.  Science, Mystisism, and Philosophy all seem like alternative tools for attempting to make sense of experience (the phenomena perceived as both inner and outer to the observing self).  What I am not sure I find in these three approaches, although mystism comes closest, is the story of life on the planet told with embodied life as a central character in the drama.  Consider, for contrast, the adventures of Tigger, Pooh, and Eeore.  They somehow remain mutually respectful friends even through one can't stop jumping, one travels around guided by a craving for honey while sharing that sweet disposition with everyone he meets, and one is a wet blanket, discouraged before taking a step in any direction.  The attempt to reconsile science, mysticism and philosphy may also have to be an act of mutual respect, rather than a search for an integrated field of knowledge.  It is the lives we live that must be the cradle for any vital knowledge and fresh understanding.  The mind that seeks to grasp meaning will always come up empty-handed unless guided by the effort to become the person we were born to be.  --Michael

Hi, Michael,

As you are quite familiar, I am sure, Tarthang Tulku proposed "time, space, and knowledge" as themes of inquiry common to science, philosophy, and mysticism, and proposed his TSK vision as a new language and facilitative means of co-inquiry among practitioners in each of these fields.  From what I know of TSK, which tends to avoid static, systematic "big pictures," Tarthang Tulku likely had in mind something more like what you are suggesting here: not a "union" of these disciplines in one integrated field, but the facilitation of a fruitful and respectful relation and interface.

Concerning "the story of life on the planet told with embodied life as a central character in the drama," if I understand what you're getting at here, there are some movements in science and philosophy (or hybrids of such) that take such an approach.  I just picked up a book the other day, for instance, called Onto-Ethologies, which explores life (and world) from the living perspectives of multiple life forms.  Also, Theurj (one of the members of this forum), introduced the Object Oriented Ontology philosophical movement to this forum, and that has become a significant topic of focus here over the past year.  This latter movement doesn't sound like it would be focused on "embodied life as a central character in the drama" of the planet, with its focus on "objects," but it actually is -- seeing all forms, essentially, as embodied "actors" and "translators" in the universe.  Both of these approaches -- Onto-Ethology and OOO -- remind me, actually, of insights that have come to me through my TSK practice, particularly as I've done some of the exercises which invite us to reverse perspectives, or to inquire into various types of overlapping, interacting "spaces" and "knowledges," or different rhythms of "time" found at different levels or in different orders of the world.

Best wishes,

B.

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