Reading A Book By Alan Watts

TheSeer (@drallarnnat) 8 years, 2 months ago

So I’m reading the book Wisdom Of Insecurity By Alan Watts at the moment and in it one… Concept, or rather, truth, struck me as especially mind-blowing to contemplate so I thought I’d share it here.

Many Spiritual people talk about “All is One” which I completely feel. However, it’s interesting to take that all the way to the physical level. Turns out division of this world is simply an illusion created by language for the sake of convenience. You see we look out and call the computer the computer resting atop a second object called a desk, table, or even a bed. However, it is all one universe. How do you separate that object from the rest of the universe? Where does that object end and the other begin? Because as far as I see it, it is all an arrangement of particles. The patters may differ, but it is still particles. So one object can be likened to a cell of the universe rather than an object somehow separated and outside the universe.

Alan also talks about convention getting in the way of understanding. We mistake definitions for understandings. For example, we point to a tree and call it tree, claiming to know what it is. No, it is not a tree. We do not know what it is, though words trick us into thinking we know. The correct way to say it would be that thing is symbolized by the noise “tree.”

Just some food for thought from arguably one of the best interpreters of Eastern Philosophy… :)

July 9, 2014 at 9:59 am
MonkeyZazu (1,865)M (@monkeyzazu) 8 years, 2 months ago ago

I follow all the way until, “So one object can be likened to a cell of the universe rather than an object somehow separated and outside the universe.” Could you go more into that point? I take it as since everything is of the same substance, it’s easier to accept or view things from that bases, rather than to try to separate and understand it separately from everything, I think? I’m a little fuzzy.

This reminded me of that one quote from your book – ”You can’t use concepts to understand reality, you can only use concepts to understand the concept of reality. To truly know, you must directly experience. It requires no thought, only feeling.”

Conceptually we understand that all is one, but experientially, for the most part, the objects we encounter in our realities are perceived separately from one another and given their own identities in a sense. As you said, taking it all the way to the physical level, if we perceived everything as one from this material standpoint, how do you think our interactions with people, things, basically everything at this level, would change? I can vaguely visualize it, but it’s hard to put into words…. yea.

The same thing with the topic of the tree, yes? The concept of the tree is not the same as what’s being symbolized as the tree, for what was experienced as the “tree”, once it’s translated into concepts, is not the tree….. I think :) I’m starting to confuse myself now :D

Regarding eastern philosophy, I’ve started studying taoism and I’d like to share this excerpt from Opening the Dragon Gates: The Making of a Modern Taoist Wizard book I’ve been reading. There’s this concept, or “philosophical framework” as they described it, called the Triple World that I find interesting and is of some relation to what you go into. Excerpt:

“The first level of the triple world consists of three realms; people, events, and things. This is the level of experience that has both form and substance, that which is accessible to ordinary human senses and the scientific instruments that have been invented to extend and augment the range of these senses.

The middle level of the triple world consists of the three realms of heaven, earth, and humanity. This level of experience includes that which has form but no substance, and that which has substance but no form. This is already beyond the domain of ordinary understanding. That which has form but no substance is like dreams; that which has substance but no form is called vitality, energy, and spirit.

The highest level of the triple world consists of the three realms of the universe, time, and space. These terms, as used here in the Taoist context, do not have exactly the same meanings as ordinarily understood. Said to be the domain of that which has neither form nor substance, the upper three realms, as experienced through Taoist practice, are found to be even vaster and richer than what are ordinarily experienced by the senses as the universe, time, and space. This is the realm of the Tao.

As is the case with all working Taoist frameworks, this philosophical system is not for the
purpose of doctrinaire conditioning or abstract conceptualization, but rather is designed as an
expedient means of structuring knowledge, practice, and experience. Special cultivation of the
faculties is necessary even to perceive what is beyond ordinary conception; so orientation requires
some way of hinting at what cannot be exactly described.”

I wonder if there’s a “language” that can accurately take what we experience, and not turn it into mental concepts, but preserve it as the experience it is and then pass it on to someone else? I wonder if that’s even possible. What are our experiences except mental concepts per say….

TheSeer (168)C (@drallarnnat) 8 years, 2 months ago ago

You are right on point as far as what I meant by the “cell” statement. I tend to disagree that conceptually we understand all is one but experientially we are separated. Quite the opposite. Conceptually we divide things. We know there is the tree and the cloud and the bicycle and they are all different things. This conceptual framework is then overlays our experience, or rather we take experience and then translate through this conceptual framework. You find that simply being open to what is and stopping then analytic mind, you get a much more clear experience, and in this experience you feel deep down, you experience, all-is-oneness.

To elaborate on the “Tree” statement: We call it a tree, though the noise tree is simply a noise – an auditory symbol – to represent that thing. Tree is a static statement; the word tree never changes. However, the thing itself, the thing we call Tree, is constantly changing. And no two of these things are alike. But to us, they have all become “tree.”

I do not believe there could ever be a “language ” that would preserve the experience because for that to happen, it would require one to go into the experience itself. If one day we could somehow transfer whole experiences – not memories, but experiences – then sure. Otherwise, by definition, language would fail because language is a compilation of symbolic representations of actual things.

The book excerpt seemed a concept to me, a system of organization. I see the last part where it states it is a means of structuring knowledge in order to progress, however I still believe that any sort of system like that will distract one from what’s actually happening, and will by default be an impediment because the student will begin to interpret the experience itself through the rules and organization of the framework. For example an experience in which you find yourself in an unknown reality. Through the framework it would be easy to say ” Oh I know where I was! I was in the second realm!” However all you have done is defined the experience. What is the second realm? Where is it? You don’t know, but still you feel you know where you were. See the dilemma?

However, as far as communication as well as recording, those types of systems – just like language – seem useful and practical. Systems themselves are not an impediment, it is our way of using them that creates such a distorted perception of experience.

MonkeyZazu (1,865)M (@monkeyzazu) 8 years, 2 months ago ago

That’s a good point. I understand your thinking behind that. When I meditate, and my thoughts don’t flow anymore, I feel indifferent from everything around me. Self, I guess, dissolve into my environment and I feel no separation from it. Everything is just being… per say.

I wonder if feeling oneness, is the same thing as experiencing oneness – or if that’s just a play of words. If someone were to experience oneness through their sense of sight, what do you think they would perceive? Would it be similar to the matrix where Neo saw nothing but light when he became blind, seeing everything as pure energy in a sense? Then again, if his eyes were burned in, how could he use them to see… Maybe he was perceiving reality through the minds eye.

About the tree, how you described it, I think how Watts phrased it “the happening”? Giving the tree a definite symbol or phrase to describe it is an illusion in a sense because, as you said it’s always changing. Man, I understand your original post a lot better now. But, there’s a lot more thoughts going through my head now :) Using this logic, I guess, reality is to some extent an illusion too because could what is perceived also be considered a “noise” in a sense? Just a, I guess how it’s been described many times before, an electrical symbol so to say that our brain gives to that instance of the experience, as it’s happening? But sense reality is always happening… I don’t know. It feels like I fudged something up in all that, so please correct me if somethings wrong with this thinking.

And that excerpt, I don’t think the words, specifically “realm”, is to be taken literally. They go a lot deeper into their explanations of each realm and associated experiences. It’s more along the lines of “stage” per say. You have an experience and it falls under a certain stage or level of the framework. The experience is not of the realm itself, but I guess falls into a category. I still get what your saying though, and I agree with your last point.

Ray (4) (@brainofmorbius) 8 years, 2 months ago ago

This is the scientific concept of nonlocality or the principle of quantum entanglement.

One of the things they don’t really teach you in primary school is that space and time are not fundamental aspects of physics, of the universe itself. That is, they are relative aspects that change based on your velocity and mass. In fact, mass, energy, space and time are all relative to one another and are byproducts of and generators of the gravitational field that makes everything we see and experience possible. (Gravity is not actually a “thing” perse, its an effect).

So in order for human beings to process reality through our senses, we need to distinguish objects in space, and to do this, we need to label them.

Its just who we are. There’s no real evidence that this view of reality is fundamental to reality, or not…

TheSeer (168)C (@drallarnnat) 8 years, 2 months ago ago

Am also reading The Book by Alan Watts and Cloud Hidden Whereabouts, Unknown by Alan Watts. The essay ” The Art of Contemplation” in the latter book is one of the most profound and eye opening things I have ever read, condensed into a short amount of pages. Absolutely invaluable, worth the money of five books, all in a seven or eight pages ( I think that’s how long that particular essay in the book was.)

Ray (4) (@brainofmorbius) 8 years, 2 months ago ago

You mentioned in your original post: “How do you separate that object from the rest of the universe?”

One of the interesting things in this regard is that Einstein was actually working on a theory up until the time he died that would have proven that matter (and energy) don’t really exist at all. Most people know from physics in school that gravity is an effect of mass warping space. But space, time and gravity are so interchangeable, that Einstein had the concept that mass itself IS the gravitational effect of warped space.

What this means is that matter and energy don’t really exist at all. They are just side effects of warped space.

Space and time are interchangeable according to relativity theory, but it doesn’t go so far as to say that mass is just an effect. We assume that mass is “It” the fundamental “thing” of nature.

If Einstein had lived long enough he very well may have proved that there is no mass, there is no energy… (along with the fact that physics already acknowledges that our concept of “space-time” may merely be an illusion of our brains in order to make sense of reality).

So what does this all come down to if Einstein was right? It means that Space-Time-Mass-Energy are all bound up in gravity – and gravity itself is not a thing, not a force, its an effect.

So fundamentally, nothing that we experience as the “universe” is real. Its all based on some underlying matrix beyond space-time and beyond mass and energy. Something we can never perceive as physical beings or prove the existence of scientifically…

Ray (4) (@brainofmorbius) 8 years, 2 months ago ago

To put this in a more simpler form, if mass is just an effect of warped space, then it becomes possible to create mass by warping space.

In other words, if you could warp space properly, you could pop whole planets into existence…etc. Whole star systems…

In essence, this is the story of Genesis in the Bible.

With the proper knowledge, you simply speak the word, and space is warped appropriately, and you have created a world…

So imagine a future where we have perfected this level of physics. Life becomes magic. By applying the proper gravitational effect in space, you would be able to create anything you wanted in matter/energy form.

Eric (1,819)M (@blankey) 8 years, 2 months ago ago

To me, it is a lot more simple…

I wrote a few articles in my blog about this. Here is my first one:

If you’re into this sort of stuff, you may like my other posts :)

Ben (231)M (@benjamin) 8 years, 2 months ago ago

Loved that book. I read it last year while on a vacation at the beach with my family. We’re going back to the same place in two weeks, and now I’m considering re-reading that book for vacation. Thanks :)

Wow you guys have had an impressive conversation so far. @monkeyzazu – when you say:
“Using this logic, I guess, reality is to some extent an illusion too because could what is perceived also be considered a “noise” in a sense? Just a, I guess how it’s been described many times before, an electrical symbol so to say that our brain gives to that instance of the experience, as it’s happening? But sense reality is always happening… I don’t know. It feels like I fudged something up in all that, so please correct me if somethings wrong with this thinking.”

I think I know what you’re getting at, and if so I agree. Tell me if I’m wrong though. At first we were talking about direct apprehension of reality as opposed to language or a conceptual apprehension. But, now you’re kind of talking about how direct apprehension of reality is different from direct apprehension of our experience of reality. Because all of our sensory experiences – sight, sounds, smells, etcetc – are being interpreted by our mind/bodies. All the vibrations of sight/sound/matter/energy/etc have to be put through the filtration systems we have to experience them the way we do. So we are not actually directly experiencing reality itself but are experiencing the way in which our physical/mental being filters/processes those experiences. If this is the case, you could ask whether or not getting beyond conceptual understanding is the end of the journey – and as close to experiencing “reality” as we can get – or if we can go beyond that. Or you could argue that subjective reality isn’t seperable from any “objective reality”, or that “objective reality” doesn’t exist – and in both of these cases getting in touch with your experience of reality IS directly apprehending reality.

Wow, crazy stuff… But is that what you were talking about or am I off the mark?

MonkeyZazu (1,865)M (@monkeyzazu) 8 years, 2 months ago ago

Spot on, and well put :)

The point TheSeer was making about the tree – it being a symbol for the tree, but can never encompass the real thing do to the fact that the “tree” is always happening – well, reality is always happening. Our minds or brains process things very, very fast, but still… since what we’re experiencing, or what we call experiences, could be seen as electrical symbols describing the happening of reality, they themselves could never encompass “reality”, do to the fact its always happening…. So is what we call reality just an illusory concept per say, separate from “true” reality? I’m still fuzzy on this and am having a hard time grasping it. Something feels off.

Crazy stuff indeed.

TheSeer (168)C (@drallarnnat) 8 years, 2 months ago ago

Sorry for replying so late. I do not mean to say that the electrical impulses in the brain interpreting external stimuli represents an illusory reality. Rather, phenomenally, that reality is all that we know. It is not an illusion, simply one interpretation of underlying information that is inherently non-physical. Reality itself is always happening, though the content of reality seems to always be changing. The mistake people make is in identifying with the content. Through beliefs and concepts, we create something that can be likened to a thick screen before our eyes; everything we perceive is first thought of in relation to the belief system and current ideologies that the person regards as true, and the final product is what we end up reacting to, what our experience ends up being. In this way, beliefs are inherently limiting because even the most accurate beliefs are simply representations of a greater reality. I’d like to discuss this topic at length with you, because there is a lot to it that I can’t adequately communicate in a post. Send me a PM if you’re interested, when you get a chance.

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