On the Paradox of Existence
out on the web. Interesting in that the author rests the presentation solely on the concept of infinity. Powerful in that all one need do is contemplate this concept (infinity) to recognize it as a shadowy pointer (as quoted by the author of that essay):
The mother of nature.
It has no name,
But I call it "the Way";
It has no limit,
but I call it "limitless".
-- Lao Tzu
What happens, as is actually demonstrated by several of the threads from the forum referenced in this post, is that if the mind is applied diligently and truly to the most basic of questions revolving around non-duality, it will eventually dead-end at one paradox or another. This is seen most directly by (perhaps naively) taking a direct line on the topic
"If you try to direct yourself toward it, you go away from it."
This limit is more than a limit, however, if we follow our physicist friend we find that it is a fundamental characteristic of existence. Combining that idea with what we know of true nature, it seems that WE ARE the paradox.
What I've since concluded (with a little help from my friends
), after having this view challenged, is that as we live, from within the paradox, it dissolves, and we know it -- not with our minds -- but we know
it to be Joy and Love with no opposite.
Irony is not Paradox
Consider the difference between irony and paradox. By way of example, one irony (doesn’t rise to the level of paradox) that I am particularly fond of is how skepticism applied over time eventually morphs into blind faith
. Stating the difference between irony and paradox well would be a major digression, so I will gloss and maintain simply that an irony is readily transcended intellectually. In the case of the skepticism/faith duality the transcendent concept is the process
by which one becomes the other: picture a spinning yin-yang, faith as the white, science as the dark.
It’s useful to keep that particular irony at the forefront in the exploration of paradox, as it is necessary to jettison all security blankets on such a journey, and it is worthwhile to resist picking up new ones that appear at the side of the road along the way. This includes recognizing the concepts of “Oneness” and “Unity” for the shadows that they are, albeit that they will provide us some welcomed shade when needed.
Paradox as a Limit and A Tool
That the mind has a limit and, that what we dance around here on the forum is beyond that limit is recognizable by one of several simple approaches
. To reiterate from that post, that the mind can conceive of the idea that there is something that is ever out of its reach is, in and of itself a paradox, and a recursive one at that. "Recursion", defined most simply as "self-reference", is another sub-topic worthy of major digression outside the scope of this post, as it can be used to understand the illusory experience of separation from the Whole
. In this, the concept of recursion is related to the point of paradox.
From what I’ve read over the past few years, it seems that paradox is used by at least one discipline rooted in non-duality, by way of Zen koans
, to snap people awake. Perhaps the mind, when confronted by this limit, suddenly forgets to maintain the continual self-referential cycle that is the egoic experience of "little-me". This seems similar to an experience of Satori, in which the mind can be stopped dead in it's tracks by natural beauty, but different in that when the bonds are slipped in the course of intellectual contemplation, there seems to be some evidence of the event/non-event that is reported back to the mind -- ie: the mind, when arrested by paradox, is somehow made aware of how it's false-awareness has been stripped away.
Tolle’s opening line to TPON, “You are not Your Mind”, which can have this *snap!* effect, is not, directly speaking, a koan, but is instead a sudden, subtle and somewhat disguised invitation to self-inquiry. Apply the mind to the concept of self-inquiry and the conclusion is inevitable
that the practice itself embodies a paradox
("who is there to be enlightened?"), and if viewed through the conceptual lens of Oneness or Unity, is seen to be all pervading … because if our true nature is existence itself, then what act of perception is not also an act of Self-inquiry?
Not everyone is aided by encountering the wall of contradiction. Not everyone yields and falls into a state of acceptance. Some get agitated, rebel, and turn on their would-be guru's
Paradox Can be Controversial
Paradox and confusion are the guards to the gateless gate
Seems to be echoed by an apparent practice
of naming the Foo dogs at the entrance to temples "paradox" and "confusion".
It seems that a common occurrence is for seekers to twist the non-dual pointers of those such as Tolle who write from a still place and present them back in paradox as a challenge. Ramana Maharishi said:
It is the ego which raises such difficulties, creating obstacles and then suffering from the perplexity of apparent paradoxes. Find out who makes the enquiries and the Self will be found.
I'm now going to engage in some unmitigated gall by way of putting words into Ramana's mouth ... second-guessing the great one so to speak. Perhaps what he was referring to with that quote was the misuse of paradox as a way to call into question and doubt what someone like Tolle would point toward. This is actually not hard to do, as the closer to the edge of the nameless one dances with words the more likely one will cut the heels of their shoes on the razors edge of contradiction.
Some, perhaps in perceiving such evidence of inner rebellion in expression of contradiction, will take pains to point out how a paradox goes away if it isn’t thought of, and conclude therefore that a paradox is a by-product of identification with the mind, a product of the ego. To that I offer two questions, the first by way of metaphor: if you turn off a light switch and bring on the darkness, does the bulb disappear? … and, of course, what exactly does the ego create? To the second I would answer “nothing”. The Paradox simply … IS!
The Middle Kingdom
This counterpoint to Ramana's admonition is summed-up in perhaps what is the most powerful statement of the Paradox:
I find that somehow, by shifting the focus of attention, I become the very
thing I look at, and experience the kind of consciousness it has; I become
the inner witness of the thing. I call this capacity of entering other
focal points of consciousness, love; you may give it any name you like.
Love says "I am everything". Wisdom says "I am nothing". Between the two,
my life flows. Since at any point of time and space I can be both the
subject and the object of experience, I express it by saying that I am
both, and neither, and beyond both
-- Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
What is he referring to? I take "Wisdom says 'I am nothing'" to mean the incredible sense of insignificance that one can feel when comparing the scale of our body, mind and lifespan with what we can see around us if we just take the trouble to look. That look, if taken openly
will put us in a state of quiet awe ... (and I highly recommend the work of Carl Sagan
if you want to feel that sense of awe, simply by becoming aware of what is around us and can be observed in form) but upon emerging from this, we might feel a draft with the cloak of the concept of a benevolent if sometimes jealous creator lying in tatters at our feet and replaced by the cold hard glare of the facts of evolution and our emergence from the random dust shaved off the box of pebbles that is our Universe.
Nisargadatta makes clear what he is referring to by the other half of the dichotomy in the first sentence of that quote. For those who haven't experienced that stateless state (I take it to be samadhi and welcome any correction if that is a misinterpretation) they have only to contemplate their individual experience of dualistic love, although Nisargadatta is obviously pointing toward something with no opposite in his quote.
In our life running between these two truths we live the Paradox. We are the Paradox.
How Many Paradoxes Are There?
I take from this is that there is one Paradox and all the others are expressions of it in one form or another.
put this a bit better than I did, carrying it further by interpreting “to BE!” as to “be Present” … ie: in a state of grace, submission to God, or enlightenment or awakening … to be … well, hopefully you get the idea!
Just as there is only one Paradox my guess
is that there is really only one delusion, one desire, one sin and that all path/non-path’s to redemption wind up at the same gateless gate
But Don’t Get Too Comfortable!
challenges us to “arouse the mind without resting it on anything”, and while contemplation of the Paradox perhaps amounts to the type of arousal he was referring to, simply accepting the Paradox would be a form of this rest.
This is probably what one insightful fellow-visitor
to the forum recently was warning about.
What I took Enigma’s point as, and not to be dismissed lightly, is that ultimately, if we rest our mind on this point of paradox by accepting that there is this “divine Contradiction”, if you will, then we’ve formed a sort of oxymoronic belief. Since, at core, what we sometimes refer to as “Truth”, for lack of a better word, is actually “False”
(because what we are pointing to is beyond the mind) ANY belief (which, of necessity is derivative of at least one “truth”) is seen to be fallacy
Even a belief, such as an acknowledgement of the Paradox at our root, which stands the notion of “Truth” on its head.
Subjective Truth (Kierkagaard) and the “Next Step”
The Paradox seems, in one way, the end of the road for the mind. Albert Low, (mentioned before
), premises his work on the question of “the next step” when one has run out of road, the step in the direction beyond a direct knowing of non-duality
. More on this in the section below about the practical implications of paradox.
While not directly related to Paradox, Subjective Truth is a concept that will serve us well as we venture on out further … after we take that next step, it is our lot that we will walk around in a circle back to what got us to that next step … albeit in circles that can get either wider or tighter in radius.
How can we be sure of this direct knowing of ours
? People who hold themselves out as having understood the work of Kierkagaard say that he used the story of Isaac and Abraham in the bible to make the argument that there is no outward difference between insanity and a state of spiritual surrender. At (or at least near) the root of this argument is the point that the imperfection of language dooms any thought that you would communicate to me about your direct experience, such as the “taste of honey”, to be forever relegated between your ears, with only a rough, abstract, fun-house cut-out of it rendered in voice or video or on paper.
This inescapable factor of existence should be kept in mind as we consider our lot and the lot of the apparent and illusory other. Gentleness is always called for while lack of conviction to apparently act or speak is perhaps just arrogance in disguise.
The Polarity of Truth That There is No “I” …
Tolle, in urging us to watch the thinker, brings into stark relief the fact that we are not the author of the content of the thought stream. Consider how inner-divinity makes us each complete and perfect as we are. Consider that not only are we not separate individuals, but we really even aren’t “parts of a whole”, we are
The particular form of the paradox embodied by the concept of the enlightened man or woman is inherent in such dialogues as this next one. Special attention is warranted to the exchange between Rick and Rob from the referenced post onward, great great stuff!: Rob and Rick discuss the watcher and the ego
This inherence is so obvious as to be easily missed: apparent individuals are speaking about ways to recapture something that they can never lose to begin with and with noone there to do the capturing and nothing to capture. If you read what Rob and Rick have posted in other threads it’s obvious that they aren’t confused seekers, but even if you account for the idea of a compassionate look back along the non-path the contradiction remains there for the mind to chew on.
If we take to heart what we learn by considering the paradox of the enlightened person we actually see that, since we all have Buddha nature, since there really is no separation, that this linguistic trick of “I” and “You” is a sham, and each and every conversation ever held or to be held, on ANY topic, is seen to be a paradox in and of itself.
“discovered” a very direct way to express this truth: remove the “I” from Descartes famous statement of mis-identification, “I think therefore I am”. But remember what we know about “truth”? It turns out, even as this is a truth, that it is only HALF the “Truth”! We can tell this from the Paradox.
The Polarity of Truth That There is No “I … Is Balanced in the Paradox by the Polarity of Truth that There is a “You”
The dance between form and emptiness doesn’t occur without a unique perspective, for without perspective, what is there to have perspective on
You see there is no resting the mind on this idea that we are all “part” of the Whole, because how can you divide the indivisible? For there to be a part, an appendage, if you will, there must be separation. There is no separation.
But there is unique perspective. Without life, there is no Quantum Observer. No Quantum Observer, no form. Without form, is there only potential? Does the Nameless Whatever-Is require the dance
? That we can even contemplate this question is somewhat of a miracle. Expecting an answer is perhaps expecting too much … I can point out the following though: Form is, similar to unique perspective, an attribute of the Whole, and if unique perspective is necessary for Form then perhaps we can conclude by induction that unique perspective is necessary for the Whole … necessary, at least, for that conceptual shadow of the Whole that “encompasses” Form.
That the perspective of the apparent individual is unique is self-evident. We can each look at the same cloud but we’ll do so from at least slightly different angles. Remember Kierkagaards “Subjective Truth”? The image formed by the perception of one pair of eyes on the cloud, while similar to that formed by a different pair, is forever locked into the perspective, regardless of how clear a snapshot or how eloquent a description can be offered in an attempt to share it.
This concept of unique perspective is a compatible balance to the concept of the inseparable Whole, as it is only an attribute
of that Whole, not some piece of it. Think of the term “unique perspective” as an adjective applying to the Whole rather than the use of the word “perspective” as a noun. There are inferred boundaries and an apparent separation but those are just assumptions that arise from our conditioning. Unique perspective does not imply or require separation. Like the Paradox, it simply IS.
For the proposition that the Whole is dependant on a unique perspective as posited above I do rely on a very rich and deep set of science by way of Quantum Mechanics
, and on this point we will lose many … but to deny what 80 years of experimentation, billions of dollars in resources and scores of our best minds have revealed to us is tantamount to sitting like children with our hands over our ears singing “la-la-la-la-la” to drown out the gentle calls from a parent to come inside and take a bath in the late afternoon at the end of a summers day frolicking in the muddy vacant lot next door … kind of the way the scientific establishment which has so convincingly confirmed that Consciousness creates (or is) reality has demurred from the question “what is Consciousness?”.
Choice with no Chooser
In this post
I state something that sounds quite a bit like“Pascals Wager”
and revisited the idea here
, in the what is the most intellectually violent thread I’ve ever participated in on this forum.
That the concept of Free Will should have sparked such a remarkable debate should come as no surprise -- it is one that has raged down through the ages from ancient Greece to Enlightenment Europe to Colonial America and well beyond. The debate thread contains a version of the Paradox specific to the concept of Free Will. In this I did not present an argument in favor of the existence of "Free Will", but instead I just refuted an argument as to the non-existence that was based on the first, unbalanced polarity of truth that "there is no person". To save you the time of reading the whole thing I’ll synopsize it here:
Start with the question of predetermination. Is everything that will happen to you already decided in advance? How can such a belief be reconciled with the one-out-of-many nature of existence? This nature manifests in the real world by the flip of a coin, the rust in your engine that finally causes your car to break down, the roll of a die, the seemingly arbitrary decisions made by the apparent person you want to hire you or decide some other aspect of your life situation in your favor.
This one-out-of many aspect of nature is actually quantified in Quantum Mechanics. Prior to observation, every Quantum System (and there is nothing in Form that is not a Quantum System) is in one of many states defined by some complicated math, and only upon observation does a single one of these emerge in the form of a physical reality. The time-honored thought-experiment that expresses this idea is “Schrodinger’s Cat”
. The important thing to take away from this is that exactly which
choice is made is unpredictable, random – governed by probability and suffused with the arithmetic of chance.
But we know that there is no person who makes a choice, denying the falsity of separation is futile. The compliment, by way of Paradox, of unique perspective comes into play as the agent that collapses the waveform, but remember that the perspective is only an attribute of the Whole, not some appendage to it.
Does it then make any sense to ascribe the choice to the Whole? This raises a different problem in that our conception of the Whole must, by necessity, include all time … so this solution not only is at odds with the second-by-second one-out-of-many fabric of experience but is a reversion to the dualistic, deistic view on the world. In positing a “Chooser” instead of a “chooser” what we really do is foreclose choice itself – but that is directly contradicted by our experience, by what we can perceive and measure.
More importantly, it is contradicted by our experience of being either in or out of a state of grace. There seems to be choice
associated with that.
What we are left with is the raw fact of choice, but without a chooser.
Practical implications of the Paradox
The Paradox is not simply an esoteric artifact, some intellectual curiosity. As the physicist-author of that essay linked at the start of this post points out, the concept of infinity underlies much of the math that in turn underlies much of the science that in turn underlies much of the technology that contributes to the fabric of our lives … and don’t forget, infinity and zero are related to one another by the simple operation of reciprocation ( 1/0 ) ... and zero certainly plays a role in day-to-day existence.
Low in speaking of “taking that next step” poses the question, what happens after
we know the fallacy of all duality and yet still draw breath? He doesn’t paint a pretty picture. There is this cycle that you can read about on this forum in the experiences of others on how alignment with what is can lead to an improvement in life situation which in turn can lure someone back to sleep. Low brings us to the top of a 100 foot pole where, among other things, all improvement in life situation has been abandoned, after the person is long long gone.
There are plenty of concrete, real-world, macroscopic examples of the limit of paradox, the easiest field in which to cite them is politics. Recently the U.S. intelligence complex managed to sabotage an installation of Iranian centrifuges that were being used to enrich uranium for use in their nuclear weapons program. They did this by hacking into the computers that controlled the units and then subtly altering the rate of spin and other parameters, eventually causing the units to break down. The damage was done on such a gradual basis that most of the centrifuges were destroyed long before the people running the installation realized they had been hacked.
What if the New York Times or CNN had gotten wind of this operation before most of that damage had been done? What if they had published an article about it? What of the laws that might punish reporters for such actions? Don’t they create the same conditions that the military is ostensibly there to shield us from? There are dozens of such examples in the field of human interaction, this is just one of the less controversial ones.
Other Examples of Paradox in Action Here in the Forum
These seemed applicable to the topic but I didn’t see a way to weave them into the text. If you search on the term "Paradox" in the subject thread you'll find many more.
Paradox in the practice of Tolle's pointers
The instinct for insulation in direct opposite to our true nature.
consider the paradox behind this admonition to look inward to solve the apparently outwardly-directly “problems” of the age
so simple, and yet so hard. Always-there, and yet it seems an urgent imperative that it be noticed.
The yin of rebellion and the yang of submission.
Stop talking. Hear every sound as background. Look straight ahead and focus. Take one deep breath. This is you. This is Now.