29 July 2005

Dreams and Bardos

Ken Wilber, following the buddhist teachings and the advaita vedanta tradition, says that there's a surprising relation between the 3 states (waking, dreaming and deep sleep) and the 3 after-death bardos. Here he talks about the subtle state (sambhogakaya):
"This is why, for example, if, during one's lifetime, one practices meditation and learns to enter the dream state with awareness (lucid dreaming), it is said that one can then control to some degree one's actual bardo course of rebirth, because to master one is to master the other: they are essentially the same realms."

22 July 2005

Alan Wallace on Science and Religion

Alan Wallace, in the excerpt below, resembles Ken Wilber's approach when he claims for the scientific legitimacy of spiritual phenomena. In order to fully understand Wallace's arguments, let us remember the most recent language theory presented by Wilber:
"It's all Greek to me"--that is the key to solidarity and hermeneutic validity. Unless you stand in some sort of solidarity with the person who is speaking to you, you will never understand a word said. Take language itself. If you are inside or within the horizons of the Greek language, you can see some of the worlds enacted by that linguistic intersubjectivity (i.e., the shared linguistic signifiers will have some sort of shared signifieds: the syntax will have a semantic [see Excerpt E, subheading "Integral Semiotics"]). Otherwise, all you can see is the syntax (or exterior signs), not the semantic (or interior meanings), and thus those enacted worlds, which cannot be seen empirically, will not be seen interpretively, either. I will not be able to see Blanche Dubois in the sensorimotor world, but I won't be able to see or understand her in my interior world, either. It's all Greek to me."


Wilber and Wallace have finally met here. Isn't Wallace "the Wilber of Buddhism"?
"The language of mathematicians is untranslatable into any other language, and the same is true of the language of contemplatives. Although one mathematical system may be translated into the equations of another system, none can be translated into the experiences or concepts of the general lay public. The same is true of contemplative writings. In some cases one contemplative system may translate well into the language of another, but a sophisticated contemplative theory can never be adequately translated into the language of common, everyday experiences and ideas. The only way one can truly understand mathematics is by practicing it, not just reading about it; and the same is true of contemplation. The chief difference between mathematical and contemplative discourse is that non-contemplatives can easily draw the conclusion that they are thoroughly fathoming contemplative writings, when in fact they are reducing such accounts to their own, more prosaic experiences and ideas. Here is one more case of an illusion of knowledge, for the contemplatives are using ordinary language in extraordinary ways, and only an experienced contemplative knows the referents of the words and phrases used in contemplative writings. Non-contemplatives reduce those ideas to experiences that are familiar to them, but in so doing, they give themselves the false impression that they have fathomed what the contemplatives were writing about.

Steven Katz, a contemporary scholar of comparative mysticism, for example, insists that experienced contemplatives are in no better a position to evaluate their experiences than are non-contemplatives (1983: 5). This notion is just as implausible as the idea that a non-mathematician could evaluate the relation between Heisenberg's matrix equations and Schrödinger's wave equation describing quantum mechanical phenomena. But the misconception that one can evaluate contemplative truth-claims solely on the basis on reading books about mysticism is widespread both among scholars and the lay public. Edward O. Wilson, for example, falls into this trap when he suggests that all mystical experiences are basically the same, and that they have all yielded no insights whatsoever into the nature of reality (1998: 260 & 46). Scientists and scholars who try to evaluate one or more contemplative system without acquiring any contemplative experience of their own are thus confined to the echo chambers of their own preconceptions."