The Myth of the Witnessing Mind, or: It’s Thinking all the Way Down

EndlicheI want to present a comment that Tom Pepper made in response to questions posed by Matthias Steingass. I think that both the questions and the response constitute a brilliant crystallization of recurring, and quite stubborn, issues in contemporary x-buddhism. The issues hover around the interplay of self, no-self, person-formation, ideology, and meditation. But first, some background.

Perhaps the gravest criticism of contemporary x-buddhism we make on this blog is that its proponents refuse to adequately think through the very postulates that comprise their x-buddhism. Sometimes this refusal manifests as blatant hypocrisy. Patricia Ivan’s previous post on the shunning practices of x-buddhist figures is a good example of this. The people she mentions there are typical x-buddhist examples in that they preach values such as compassionate engagement, the wisdom of doubting, and having the courage to be proven wrong, yet routinely shut down dialogue that genuinely and robustly tests their commitment to those values.

While such hypocrisy is unconscionable, it is at least correctable. Even darker consequences follow from the x-buddhists’ refusal to think through their premises. I am speaking of the x-buddhist penchant for reacting against and obscuring the very teachings they aim to disseminate.

One such teaching is the sine qua non Buddhist principle of anatman. This principle holds that there exist no self-entity over and above the socially-linguistically-constructed networks of discourse within which we are embedded. This principle has extraordinary and far-reaching implications for the ways “Buddhism” might contribute to a clear-eyed assessment of what it is to be human. And yet, as many essays on this blog and at non + x have shown, x-buddhists refuse to dispense with atman, positing at every turn some version of a transcendent self.* These essays have typically been met with (i) confused, convoluted, and desperate “arguments” to the contrary, (ii) hostility, or (iii) silence (see above). You can see for yourself that the beating heart of atman is being well-preserved by x-buddhist figures. It’s all over the place–as mindfulness, non-judgemental awareness, the silent observer, the witnessing mind, pure awareness, Buddha mind, not to mention the traditional formulations of rig pa, tathagathagarba, mahamudra, and so on ad nauseum. It’s one of the places where the conservative-traditional forms of x-buddhism join at the hip of the liberal-secular varieties. Consider this statement, for instance, from the Buddhist Geeks website:

Somewhere in the absolute, unfathomable, timeless, un-originated quintessence of eternally divine consciousness, is Samantabhadra, the primordial empty form of Buddha. Blue-black as the night sky, Samantrabhadra and his pure white Wisdom consort Samantrabhadri effortlessly project the Dharmakaya, the truth body, of all the Buddhas.

The Ati-Buddha Samantabhadra is in reality a metaphor for our own original pure state that always has been and always will remain pure, with diamond-like indestructibility never conditioned by dualism.**

Given the pervasiveness of such ideas, can you avoid the conclusion that belief in a transcendent self is a dogma of contemporary x-buddhism?

So, now to Matthias’s questions and Tom’s response. To see them in the original context visit here (Matthias’s comment was itself in response to David Chapman’s #57.)

Matthias Steingass: It is my experience that one can literally watch how a thought establishes itself out of nothing (from a phenomenal point of view not from an ideological) in consciousness and that one can literally watch the vanishing of a thought (the latter is the the quality [that] capitalist exploitation begins to use to pacify its slaves). Do we still have here a subject object-dichotomy?

That is one question. The next is: What is the ineffable and possibly non-propositional watcher? In other words, what is the referent of the first “I” in the the sentence “I know that I think” with the second being the actual thought? Is the first “I” of the same quality as the second? I think there are clearly different qualities here. For example when I am day dreaming I am thinking without knowing it. Only if I pay attention I become conscious of the content of my day dream. What is paying attention?

A further point. There is a famous point in mahamudra literature about the breaking down of the differentiation between movement and stillness, which is possibly referring to the experience that paying attention and that what one attends to becomes integrated. That is, the at first forced differentiation of watcher and watched becomes seamless.

Now, what in all this is a self or the absence of it?

Another question: Is the very act of paying attention an intentional act? I mean does it has an object? Paying attention is obviously something which is done, but could it be done without an object?

It is easy to deconstruct a self from the third person perspective. Is it really possible to do it from within, in first person perspective? We still have [an unnameable’s] question #12 looming…

Tom Pepper. Matthias: I’ll offer my thoughts on this problem. When you say “I know that I think,” you are reproducing the error that produces belief in the atman. If you think you are attending to the content of your thoughts, you are, of course, attending to some of them, but not to the thoughts about that content. These thoughts–the belief that I can passively “watch” my thoughts arise and dissolve–is just another set of thoughts produced in a discourse, socially produced, but which we are taught to mistake for an unproduced “true self.” In the “mindfulness” practice of watching your thoughts with detachment, you are actually participating in a socially produced discourse of “mindfulness” and not realizing it. The mind always and only thinks, and consciousness is always and only in socially produced symbolic systems produced between multiple individuals. Can the body act without thought? Sure it can–have you ever seen a chicken with its head cut off? Sometimes they can walk about and respond to stimuli for hours. But there is no mind there. Even a brain-dead body can be stimulated to orgasm, but there is not mind that “has” the orgasm, except in a symbolic system which gives the bodily response meaning.

There are multiple discourses, and we can examine one discourse with another; we can do this because there is no “first person” at all, the mind is always collective. The fact that you can’t deconstruct the subtle atman from a “first person” perspective isn’t important, because you never really have such a perspective anyway–if you think you do, you are in delusion.

My original understanding of Vipassana meditation, years ago, was that it was an attempt to recognize exactly this–the real causes and conditions of all the thoughts we believe “we” are having. We then realize, like Hume when he “looks within,” that there is no self, only another discourse (not the term Hume would use, but..) which is always produced socially. Even the “looking within” is just a socially produced discourse. Then we lose the need to find the directing “will” deep within. Instead, we see that the “self” is socially constructed, and we can begin, also in “sati” meditation, to examine the causes and the effects of this particular construction of conventional self, and determine (again, in a collectively produced discourse) what actions might produce a better “self.”

Of course, Vipassana as I’ve encountered it over the last couple of years has become the opposite of this–it is now an attempt to produce a discourse in which we are fooled into believing we DO have a core transcendent mind that is undetermined by discourse and social formations, and this is what they now call “anatman”: the mistaken belief that this “witnessing mind” is NOT created by the discourse/practice of retreat buddhism.

________

* Enter “atman” in the search field in the upper right corner of this blog. See also “Taking Anatman Full Strength and Śāntideva’s Ethics of Truth,” by Tom Pepper, at non + x.

** At Buddhist Geeks, “Maha Ati: Natural Liberation Through Primordial Awareness,” John Eberly.

Image: Michael Endlicher (contemporary German artist). Translates as: “I decide/I do not decide.”

197 thoughts on “The Myth of the Witnessing Mind, or: It’s Thinking all the Way Down

  1. Glenn,

    I agree with you regarding the persistent slipping in of atman by contemporary buddhist teachers as well as in the more traditional formulations you enumerate. I am amazed at how whenever I bring this up to other teachers, they give me a blank stare and/or deny it. I’ve head so many times that I am “getting caught up in semantics!” and that the words don’t mean what they seem to be saying! Spirit Rock teachers often talk about “pure consciousness” and/or “pure awareness” like good Vedantins (and often proudly name-drop Vedantin Masters they’ve studied with) without seeming to see any dissonance between the “not-self” teachings they give and their talk of “pure awareness behind all the mental activity…” etc.

    However, unless you could contextualize how you mean “mindfulness” (or how you hear teachers contextualizing it) I do not understand how sati is anything other than a mental formation — in the same way that anger, concentration, joy etc. are all mental formations.

  2. I like Tom Pepper’s reply to Matthias, but I encountered a few linguistic obstacles.

    Tom, you say, “Can the body act without thought? Sure it can–have you ever seen a chicken with its head cut off? Sometimes they can walk about and respond to stimuli for hours. But there is no mind there.”
    But is there really no “mind” there, or is there just an absence of, as you say, thoughts? Is the mind the thoughts? I don’t think so.

    Tom, you also say, “Even a brain-dead body can be stimulated to orgasm” but Is that really an “orgasm”? Who decides whether there has been an orgasm or not?

  3. Patricia, good luck with your questions to Tom. Pepperian deep negative priming (images sentiments that establish a setting for a conversation i.e. the headless chicken and headless body) is really difficult to deal with, not to mention to make some useful out of it.

    I also pass the dull comments about hipocrisy – not at all a buddhist-only problem.

    About Mathias question:

    “Now, what in all this is a self or the absence of it?”

    I think this question is very important because it poses an artificial problem.

    If there is no self, why do we need to trascend it or even define it ?

    The first “sine qua non” great mistake of all Budhism, non-x-buddhism included, is to play with that false dichotomy.

    Language use is what Pepper (and most people) call thinking, but language is completely contingent, the most we can define ourselves is as language users animals which make descripctions that pretend to be useful, and indeed are. Any sense of Selfhood is also contingent, non-essencial. There is no atma nor anatma. The has never been, except for those trapped it that artificial problem. A rpobleam in which traditional philosophy has also been trapped since the Greeks.

    So, since the definition of the problem is flawed, the prentended buddhist and non-x buddist solution also is.

    Now the acid test. When you face someone attached to a fixated belief and confont him or her, the conversation stops, or is not event started.

    Let us see if these non-x buddhist trinity – Wallis, Pepper or Steingrass – can really step out of this artificial problem.

  4. “One such teaching is the sine qua non Buddhist principle of anatman. This principle holds that there exist no self-entity over and above the socially-linguistically-constructed networks of discourse within which we are embedded.”

    That is revisionist nonsense.

    In fact that is probably the most misleading gloss on anatman I have ever seen.

    You can’t explode the misconception if you can’t even get within cooee of explaining the concept you think others are abusing.

    The Buddha says that no matter how we examine our phenomenal experience of physicality, thoughts, sensations, feelings, perceptions and so on, we never find any enduring substantive entity that might function as a permanent and stable ground for the ephemeral and changing experiences that constitute our lives. The Buddha does not say “it is true that there is no self”, that is he does not assert as true the negation of the proposition that there is a (eternal) self and he does not say “it is true there is a (eternal) self”. He does say that if you lean too far towards one answer you end up with a kind of nihilism and if you lean too far the other way you end up with a kind of absolutism. The positive doctrine that the Buddha advocates should be taken up after the self not self question is abandoned as unhealthy and fruitless is the philosophy of inter-dependence. All those luminous minds and so on the Buddha would probably say are dependant on a purified morality, carful learning (about Buddhism no doubt) and the practice of meditation. All of those things would be dependant on being a human, alive post Gotama, and presumably when you up and corpse it, that luminous mind goes the way of all flesh, being dependant on your fleshy brain.

    Anyway, I like the article more or less, but it is simply disingenuous to speak as if Gotama, or any of the early buddhist schools would have talked in terms of “linguistically constructed networks”.

  5. Shit, I just lost a longer text. Mostly about Eberly’s Maha Ati bullshit. I leave it at that and go into it again only shortly about some other topics.

    I did intentionally not write about “passively” watching something. And I didn’t intend to say something about “mindfulness” and “detachment”. Also I didn’t intend to go once again into the constructedness of consciousness. I take great care not to stray into the polluted language of mindfulness because I want to say something different. I take it as obvious that observing consciousness never is passive in the sense that it does not effect consciousness. That btw is a lecture I already learned while trading futures: the market observing itself is influencing itself by this very act. That in a nutshell is the main argument contra the stronger forms of “the efficient market theory”. In this way capitalism itself teaches that it is not a natural event like molecular movements or weather.

    My main point for the comment was a simple question to David: Would you mind to explain what you mean with one doesn’t find a self in vipassana praxis? I wanted to hear his explanation but although he obviously reads here he does not intend to answer anymore.

    I also wanted to point to different forms of thinking. Reading prose and experiencing the unfolding of a scenery in ones imagination, being focused on the actual text, the words, the book in my hand, and an imaginary landscape are different forms of thinking, isn’t it? The being aware that an image is developing in consciousness is yet another functional ability.

    Regardless how consciousness is constructed I want to point to the possibility that the observation of consciousness could help to identify better how it works. A more fine grained observation is possible – apart from ontological speculation about it. A more fine grained observation could help identify the points where the enemy intrudes. Where desire is exploited to steer consciousness. Of course this needs knowledge which does not come from “within”.

  6. TOM:
    “there is no “first person” at all, the mind is always collective.”

    Consciousness appears to exist, and is produced by activity in the brains of individuals. Consciousness appears to be private and inaccessible.

    So the statement that there is no first person because verbalisation of experience and conceptual thought about experience is socially conditioned seems wrong. Whether some want to call individual consciousness transcendent, or eternally divine, or belonging to an “I”, it seems undeniable that consciousness has a unique and individual characterstic which is tied to the particular brain that produced it.

  7. Hello Luis,
    Re 5

    Good set of questions. Here’s some more.

    Any sense of Selfhood is also contingent, non-essencial. There is no atma nor anatma. There has never been, except for those trapped it that artificial problem. A rpobleam in which traditional philosophy has also been trapped since the Greeks.

    How did you come to the (provisional) truth you explicate here? Was it something you have always had access to; some sort of apriori category of truth. Since you say quite rightly that ignorance about this truth was the norm in both Buddhist and western culture, how come you have access to it? Well, maybe by means of philosophical or scientific enquiry? But isn’t that a practice; a sustained attempt to move from a state of ignorance to the acquisition of a particular truth? If your knowledge is not apriori; not simply given, don’t you have to engage in some sort of practice to arrive at the point you yourself claim to have arrived at. Maybe truth, provisional or otherwise, is simply lying about at my feet? Maybe you simply ‘have eyes to see, and see it’ I doubt it.
    And how exactly can one ‘step out ‘ of ignorance?

  8. Tom

    Instead, we see that the “self” is socially constructed

    How does a collective subject come to see that very truth? How does a collective subject come to new knowledge about itself and about its true situation? How is ignorance about the collective subjects own perspective on itself changed to knowledge of its true situation? Doesn’t there have to be, for any knowing, a knower and the known? And if the object of knowledge is the collective subjects own view of itself, doesn’t that imply a self-transcending? Isn’t that the very pre-requisite of knowing? Or are we talking about an apriori
    Knowing?
    How in other words did tom come out of a state of ignorance to such a truth?

    For me the answer has to be what you could call a weak version of transcendence; the capacity of the subject to formulate a new view of itself from within its situation of embedded -ness by way of a sort collision with reality that occurs when reality suddenly intrudes in one way or another.
    This is not a once- off thing and not a situation of black and white, that is to say it is not a question of the reification of either ignorance or knowledge as opposing states that must somehow be transformed into each other. It is more like a collective groping towards the truth.

    Matthias;

    Regardless how consciousness is constructed I want to point to the possibility that the observation of consciousness could help to identify better how it works. A more fine grained observation is possible – apart from ontological speculation about it. A more fine-grained observation could help identify the points where the enemy intrudes. Where desire is exploited to steer consciousness. Of course this needs knowledge, which does not come from “within”.

    For me this moment ‘the point where the enemy intrudes’ is exactly where, in meditation, one observes the coming to be of thought and its fading away.
    Here the language inherited from the tradition of mahamudra or vipassanna is dangerous. Such language is not simply the container for various stances but constitutes ‘the substance of a stance’, its collectively constructed architecture. In that sense a process of analyitical deconstruction is always necessary, and xbuddhism’s resistance here is another sign of xbuddhist ‘decision’
    But is the language of Husserl, for instance, any less ‘loaded’? Which is why the conversation about terminology needs to be perused.

    Anyway this point of the fading away of thought is explicated in very different ways in the Mahamudra literature. Each and every word of the discourse is contested in the service of two opposing interpretations

    This debate is not some obscure philosophical disagreement between irrelevant esoteric lineages of Tibetan Buddhism. It involves a key concept central both to xBuddhist decision and western ideological subscription.

    The ‘mind-only’ advocates see the arising and fading away in terms of an overall mind-space, a ground consciousness or store consciousness where the karmic seeds of future thoughts are placed. This in turn rests on the primordial ground of the all –a non-dual space of emptiness conceived as a space-like essence.

    The opposing other interpretation resists this emphasis on mind and insists that what is negated in clear seeing is a deluded mind –mind as a substantial and permanent entity, a container of thought not itself stained by thought. When this deluded mind is seen through one becomes aware of ones true state, one is seen to possess a dependently originated self whose emptiness consists in the very fact of being so originated, one sees with the arising and fading of thought, the directedness of thought itself; its oneness with and inseparability from its object, its ‘out-there -ness’.

    In this sense the ‘journey in’ does not arrive at a space like essence but at an outward fullness or abundance.

    Xbuddhism will neither admit this division at the heart of Tibetan Buddhism. The Tibetan Lamas here in the west play a game of ‘have your cake and eat it’. They cover over the cracks in the service of a spurious inter-linage ecumenicalism, while remaining at the head of lineages whose existence depends on that division. And this, of course, is embedded within a struggle between feudalistic power hierarchies originating in an outmoded economic system that has all but disappeared.

    Nor will xbuddhism resolve the difference for itself through rigorous argument and open debate. It cannot do so because of the decisional nature of xbuddhism.

  9. I think Patrick‘s observation is valuable, that there are fierce disagreements with Tibetan Buddhism about these issues. I would add that there are many more than two camps, although the Madhyamaka vs. Yogacara division he alludes to is the first and deepest. Actually, one can understand all of Tibetan Buddhist philosophy as a diverse collection of attempts to synthesize and reconcile those two.

    Matthias, I’m afraid I don’t understand your question. Generally, I find that “self” and “atman” are both inadequately defined as technical terms. This makes questions about whether or not they exist inherently confusing. Informally, I characterized “self” as “a unified, separate, durable, well-defined ‘executive’ part of the mind.” I wouldn’t want to defend that as a rigorous definition.

    In formless meditation practices, things like that are not found. Or, that’s the dogma, and my experience seems to agree.

  10. Joseph (#6). A new reader. Welcome!

    A couple of points about your comment:

    That is revisionist nonsense.

    In fact that is probably the most misleading gloss on anatman I have ever seen.

    You can’t explode the misconception if you can’t even get within cooee of explaining the concept you think others are abusing.

    I don’t see any significant difference between my gloss and your exemplification. I do see significant differences in the respective attitudes therein. I’ll explain.

    Both of our takes on anatman can be seen as general interpretations of the khanda theory and paticcasamuppada. You use terms like, “physicality, thoughts, sensations, feelings, perceptions and so on,” and inter-dependence.” I use the terms “socially-linguistically-constructed networks of discourse within which we are embedded.” Based on your final sentence, it is my particular terms that you take exception to. You write, “it is simply disingenuous to speak as if Gotama, or any of the early buddhist schools would have talked in terms of ‘linguistically constructed networks.’” Here’s where the difference of attitude comes in.

    To speak in the terms you do, such that they express what “the Buddha said” or Gotama taught, is to commit an error so naive and shrouded in ignorance that the direction of the dialogue is radically altered. To me, such (ventriloquized) locutions signal symptoms of a particular kind of commitment. I call this commitment “decision.” Read around a bit if you’re interested. I’ll just say here that display of decision renders the details moot and the attitude central.

    You may ask, what is the problem with trying to figure out “what Gotama taught”? Maybe have a look at the post “Ghost Buddha,” just to get you going. In any case, once you cure yourself of your buddhasaiditis, you will have no choice but to approach the x-buddhist materials as a revisionist–as a person, that is, who sees the material afresh. Doing so, of course, requires you to free yourself of the kinds of oppressive religious commitments revealed in your comment.

    Thanks! Hope you’ll find your way back.

  11. Luis Daniel re:5

    If there is no self, why do we need to trascend it or even define it ?

    For a new-comer to this blog to ask this question, okay…but for you, someone who has been reading and arguing here for many many months, often on this very subject–to ask something so ridiculous and stupid just boggles the mind.

  12. RE #4: Does a headless chicken have mind? That sounds like some kind of American Folk Koan. Why did the headless chicken cross the road? Because it had no self!

    No, a headless chicken has no mind. And yes, the mind consists completely of thoughts. I can’t conceive of why anyone would question this, unless what you mean is “soul” instead of mind—in which case, I can’t help you. Souls don’t exist.

    RE #7: Matthias: I understood that you want to avoid addressing “once again the collectiveness of consciousness.” That is my point—as long as you try to avoid this, you will never understand the concept of anatman, and will always misunderstand what I am trying to say. What I am saying is not the same as the “hawthorne effect” you mention. I am not talking about the effect on the observed actors. Your example just highlight why you continue to miss my point: you assume that the market is “influenced” by those observing it, as if it could exist without such observation; what you miss is that your “trading in futures” is not external to the market, impacting it as an outside observer, but is in fact a part of the market, one of the methods used to extract surplus values from the majority for the benefit of the minority. Such trading is, ethically, a notch below muggers or carjackers, reproducing delusion and helping to prevent people from living as real human being—at least the mugger’s gun is honest. Similarly, the social practice which produces the “fine grained awareness” of our thoughts is actually producing the thoughts, and the fine grains, not simply observing them—and then convincing us that we have a transcendent mind/soul that remains untouched by those thoughts.

    RE #8: Of course this “seems undeniable.” That’s what delusion means. So long as you remain deluded, your delusion appears true. If you want to understand and escape this delusion, I can help. If you want to cling to it, you’re addressing the wrong person, I won’t help you with that.

    RE #10: Patrick, you continue to assume a complete dualism, a subject-object binary, and so to assume that there must be either a priori truth or a “self-transcendent” position. This is the same error Kant makes, and Hegel points it out very powerfully in The Phenomenology of Mind. As a result, you ask “how does Tom come into the truth,” but this is the wrong question. The question should be what discourses and social practices produced a Tom Pepper that is not deluded by the belief in an atman? What collective mind does Tom participate in? Then there doesn’t need to be any transcendence, not even “weak” transcendence, but only absolute immanence. And the goal is not, pace Hegel, to achieve absolute knowledge, but to achieve, as Spinoza would have it, increased capacity to interact with the world. Knowledge is not a mirror, but a tool, and it must be constantly reinvented for every new situation. (probably another dangerous metaphor, bound to be turned against me, but then my point is that all knowledge consists of dangerous metaphors, so…)

  13. Tom (#14), are you saying that a chicken with a head can think? Also, what does it think during an orgasm? If you say a chicken thinks during orgasm, then your understanding of “thinking” is apparently different form mine

  14. Matthias (#7), saying that “more fine grained observation is possible”, you mean something like that in general there exist different levels of phenomenal granularity, right? Metzinger writes in BNO that large majority of simple sensory contents (e.g., of phenomenal color nuances) are not available for cognitive reference because perceptual memory cannot grasp contents that are individuated in such a fine-grained manner. Subtle shades are ineffable, because their causal properties make them available for attentional processing and discriminative motor control, but not for mental concept formation. What Diana Raffman has shown is the existence of a shallow level in subjective experience that is so subtle and fine-grained that—although we can attend to informational content presented on this level—it is neither available for memory nor for cognitive access in general. Outside of the phenomenal “Now” there is no type of subjective access to this level of content. In the conscious perception of subtle shades of color, information may be internally represented in a way that makes it available for attention and fine-grained discriminative actions, but not for concept formation and cognitive processing.

    And he eventually sums it all up saying that: For the most subtle and fine-grained level in sensory consciousness, we have to accept the following insight: Conceptual progress by a combination of philosophy and empirical research programs is possible; conceptual progress by introspection alone is impossible in principle.

  15. Patrick (9),

    Your questions:

    “How did you come to the (provisional) truth you explicate here? Was it something you have always had access to; some sort of apriori category of truth. Since you say quite rightly that ignorance about this truth was the norm in both Buddhist and western culture, how come you have access to it? Well, maybe by means of philosophical or scientific enquiry? But isn’t that a practice; a sustained attempt to move from a state of ignorance to the acquisition of a particular truth? If your knowledge is not apriori; not simply given, don’t you have to engage in some sort of practice to arrive at the point you yourself claim to have arrived at. Maybe truth, provisional or otherwise, is simply lying about at my feet? Maybe you simply ‘have eyes to see, and see it’ I doubt it.
    And how exactly can one ‘step out ‘ of ignorance?”

    I never suggested to step out of ignorance but of an artificial problem – atma or not atma -. The question made by Mathias, as edited by Glenn, could as easily and as well have been “what is God and what is not God ?”. God is simply a word to which I find no use. The very same applies to the concept of atma and anatma.

    I also find Tom´s answer to you curiously pertinent and useful:

    “Patrick, you continue to assume a complete dualism, a subject-object binary, and so to assume that there must be either a priori truth or a “self-transcendent” position. This is the same error Kant makes, and Hegel points it out very powerfully in The Phenomenology of Mind. As a result, you ask “how does Tom come into the truth,” but this is the wrong question. The question should be what discourses and social practices produced a Tom Pepper that is not deluded by the belief in an atman? What collective mind does Tom participate in? Then there doesn’t need to be any transcendence, not even “weak” transcendence, but only absolute immanence. And the goal is not, pace Hegel, to achieve absolute knowledge, but to achieve, as Spinoza would have it, increased capacity to interact with the world. Knowledge is not a mirror, but a tool, and it must be constantly reinvented for every new situation.”

    I dont think there is ANYTHING relevant outside of the realm of what is humanly socially agreed. No human/mind independent world that can tell us humans what is the way. It is only through freely achieved social agreement that we can cooperate and do projects together. We language using animals need to be socialized in order to be able to revolt against the established social order afterwards. Some dont manage to revolt against the established order. Some of us firmly believe in change, in building a concrete better future for all. And we think that artificial dualistic problems of apperance/substance, essence/no essence, good/bad help sustain power structures that stand in the middle of the way against that possibility. Philosophy and Science are clowns of the Court which serve and entertain the powerful status quo. Real solidarity is simple.

    Hence the really important question:

    What is possible and important ?

  16. Thanks for your response Glenn! (#12)

    You are right of course to upbraid me for my appeal to authority, but I must say that you read too much into my commitments. I have a broadly naturalist commitment to the idea that the balance of evidence tends to the position that there was in fact a person by the name of gotama who spoke to groups around the north of the subcontinent around 2500 years ago, give or take. I arrive at the conclusion more from the mainline of european philological and historical exegisis via max muller etc.

    I suppose for me the issue is that by appeal to a kind of language that is deeply steeped in the commitments of the continental tradition of Derrida, Deleuze, Foucalt, Bordieu and so on, commitments are made that are not explicitly stated, and that require an embrace of a whole vague shifting canon of continental thought.

    I have the same problem with the analytic types who are at last taking buddhism (somewhat) seriously; Westerhoff, Siderits, Flanagan etc are all also deeply committed to a whole other school of thought.

    that the school of thought that is found in the buddhist tradition would have a different flavour to the school of thought of analytic philosophy and the school of thought of continental philosophy is hardly surprising, and I am sure fruitful contact is possible, but I think it is perhpas a mistake to assume that those people not willing to commit to the religion of Delueze and Foucault are therefore blindly committed to the religion of traditional (or new age) buddhism. I am also not deeply committed to the religion of Russell and Quine, but I think there is enough scholarship pre and post dating the schizophrenic split in european thought to suggest that there was a gotama in much the same way that there was a Descates, and we can in fact talk about, within certain boundaries, what he taught and thought.

    as for my religious commitments, its Audre Lorde, Shula Firestone and Valarie Solanas all the way for me. 🙂

    (I apologize for my spelling, grammar and diction btw, I just enjoy talking buddhism so much that I tend to type in a “conversational” manner, and I am a somewhat sloppy guy in conversation.)

  17. Joseph (#16). No need to apologize for anything.

    I must say that you read too much into my commitments. I have a broadly naturalist commitment to the idea that the balance of evidence tends to the position that there was in fact a person by the name of gotama who spoke to groups around the north of the subcontinent around 2500 years ago, give or take. I arrive at the conclusion more from the mainline of european philological and historical exegisis via max muller etc.

    What, for instance, do you think I “read into” it? Sure, there is no reason to doubt that such a Gotama lived and taught as you say. I am not disputing that. I am disputing that we can determine anything of significance about this man and his teachings. The reason is that our sources for determining X are the same sources for determining NOT X. Really, we need to multiply beyond 2. There are many Gotamas and many versions of his teachings in the source texts. Why? Because the texts have been redacted over centuries, and not by some homogenous, Vatican-like authority. That’s why Thanissaro Bhikkhu discovers a semi-magical, re-birthing, cosmic traveler where Owen Flanagen finds a modern “naturalist” or pragmatist or whatever.

    By the way, for what it’s worth, I arrived at my views after nearly six year of studying Sanskrit and Pali philology in Berlin and Goettingen–so, in the same milieu as Max Mueller.

    More later . . .

  18. Tom, to put it another way:

    Glenn says in his introduction that “x-buddhists refuse to dispense with atman, positing at every turn some version of a transcendent self” and you cogently argue that there is no transcendent self, only “multiple discourses”. I do not dispute this. Nor, when I point to what I think you are missing about “mind”, am I referring to a “soul” (whatever that might mean).

    My question to you (and to anyone who wishes to answer it) is: are you equating “mind” with thinking, or with only “symbolic systems”? Does sentience mean anything at all? If so, what is sentience? Just a bundle of reflexes and/or mindless synaptic reactions? What is a plant to you? How about an insect? How about a fetus? How about a newborn baby (only the brain stem and midbrain of a baby are functional, i.e., the capacity for symbolic function is undeveloped). At one point does a sentient being acquire a “mind” in your opinion?

    It seems to me, Tom, that you are extrapolating from your own third person perspective the absence of a mind where you see none. You may not be positing God or other transcendent self, but… you have just become God. Moreover, it matters not at what point on the continuum you declare that “mind exists”, for it amounts to saying the same thing: beneath that threshold one needn’t worry about the consequences of one’s actions on others.

    Can you really say there is no mind without a thinker or thoughts? If so, how do you know?

  19. Patrick, in the passage you cite in #10 I did not intend to say anything with regard to mahamudra or any discourse in Tibetan Buddhism. Basically it is about four points.

    Observation, Marketing, Desire and Learning. Marketing (the enemy) is making observation impossible by hooking instant fulfillment of desire to its products. Learning is about how desire is used in this way to make observation impossible.

    Marketing is about how impulses are set and used to short circuit and thereby control desire. Instant fulfillment of desire is set contra learning, the later being about enabling observation how consciousness arises.

    Observation, for example, identifies impulses hooking desire. Observation in itself enables fading, disabling the hook. “More fine grained” is meant to be a specialization. It is a work to be done.

    The question is where the work can be initiated? Hooking desire disables learning. Disabled learning disables observation. Without observation there is no learning.

    I mean this to be understood in everyday terms and not in the context of any ‘meditation’.

    My original post which then initiated this thread was in part meant as a question to David (thanks for coming back to the question). I wanted to know what he meant by saying that vipassana shows that there is no self? What he means with “vipassana” in this case and what “self” is for him? I think his claim is very specific and therefore needs clarification.

    Tom. Try to read what I asked in my original post about the sentence “I know that I think” instead of imposing one more time what you think is important. Conversation with you might be interesting from time to time but all in all it is like talking with one who can only think, talk and interact in terms of what interests him. And the more you practice your insolences the more your original project gets lost. Already you repeat in a stereotyped manner certain terms like “forcing a truth” with the effect that the actual meaning gets lost (or is never understood). You begin to look like an idealist.

    Tomek you ask “saying that “more fine grained observation is possible”, you mean something like that in general there exist different levels of phenomenal granularity, right?” Yes, and I also mean the differentiation of different kinds of thought. I tried to make this clear a bit in the original post. For example we don’t always think in writeable sentences. Therefore my question if there are forms of thinking which are not propositional? Is the declaration “this is red” the same as the qualia red?

  20. Mathias,

    Can you ellaborate on what you mean by desire ?

    What do you think about anguish, anxiety, discomfort, frustration and suffering in relation with what you are saying ?

  21. RE 21: I understand what you were asking, Matthias. My point is, it is the wrong question, and is pointless. I know this is frustrating and exasperating for you–you don’t want your errors pointed out, you want me to accept your premises and continue with the discussion as if they were true. I will never do this if you premises are incorrect, and this exasperates you because you cannot respond to my refutation of the premises. Listen to your own frustration; in this case, it is a sign that your thinking is profoundly mistaken, and you need to begin again. From my point of view, it is much like listening to a debate about how Superman is able to fly–when I point out that the answer doesn’t matter, since his ability to fly is a fiction, I am not “playing by the rules” and I am being a obnoxious jerk. But it isn’t a game I want to play, because it is a waste of mental energy and a retreat from very real problems right if front of us. I do understand how angry it makes people when their errors are pointed out–you want me to shut up, and let you go on in your delusions. On most blogs, I would have been censored already. If you want to persist in your errors, you’ll have to do your own censoring, and learn to ignore the truth.

    Deleuze forcefully maintained—against, it must be said, all the joyous ‘anarcho-desiring’ and spontaneist interpretations of his philosophy—that thinking is never a matter of voluntary decision or natural inclination. We are always, he declared, forced to think. Thought pushes us, as it were, from behind. It is neither lovable nor desired. Thought is a violence done unto us. I utterly agree with this view. It seems to me, moreover, to be altogether a Platonic one. Who is not aware of the violence—certainly charming and subtle but no less implacable—that Socrates brings to bear upon interlocutors?

    The event exposes us to a choice that we have not desired: incorporation, indifference, or hostility?

    Alain Badiou

  22. 17:

    Luis-

    This is where I struggle. I could say I have no use for self/noself ideas and focus on change. However, what if this is a grave mistake. The delusion of apathy. The idea of anatman seems to have huge implications for any change and I ignore it at my/our peril.

  23. On most blogs, I would have been censored already.

    Yes, but on this blog Tom (#23), you haven’t been censored just because as far as it exits it needs constant fuel to keep it burning and that fuel is simply your x-buddhistic commitment. Without that fuel, that x-buddhistic hopefulness of yours and many others it would have already been dead. So there is nothing extraordinary in the fact that you still keep writing here. The whole think works perfectly well. As does every flypaper.

  24. Tom #23, in my original post I asked:

    what is the referent of the first “I” in the the sentence “I know that I think” with the second being the actual thought?

    The Deleuzian citation by Badiou

    we are always forced to think

    is (in part) an answer to this question. How then is my question wrong?

    My other question is:

    Is the declaration “this is red” the same as the qualia red?

    In the context of my post it is not the question what makes us think. I wouldn’t even contest your claim about this. It is the question if we can differentiate cognition better on a phenomenological level. I think this is a legitimate question but you seem to neglect this level altogether. For example, impuls control on an individual level is only possible through better observation of consciousness. But of course this has to do with knowledge/learning happening in dispersed consciousness. The ability to know on which project to focus desire depends on knowledge which is not available from some magical source “deep within”.

    I think you simply want to ignore the materiality of the human body and the consequences it has on cognition. I can not follow your claim that the question about this materiality leads to secondary claims like the one about the naturalness of capitalist economy. Ignoring the fact that thought happens in flesh and blood and evading the question what consequences this has (apart or in concert with thought as forced or determinated on the subject) is ignoring a good part of reality.

    —————

    Luis #22. I mean by desire cognition leading to action. “Frustration”, for example, is not doing what one wants. What we want is forced upon us (to stay in the language just used) by the marketing industries as the armed forces of capitalism. Especially young people today are forced into a lifestyle in which no frustration at all is acceptable. This leads to ever shorter cycles of desire and fulfillment. We loose thereby all culturally acquired forms of long term care. We see the effects everywhere.

    It is a technological question. Heidegger asks this question in “Identität und Differenz”. People think he was a skeptic about technology but the real question he put forward was and still is if we know at all what question technology is forcing upon us. And this again leads back to the thought Tom was alluding to in the citation. But mostly we don’t know that there is a question. We are asleep in the driver seat and personally I must say, the outlook for the next generations haven’t been more bad any time in history.

  25. Poepsa (#3).

    unless you could contextualize how you mean “mindfulness” (or how you hear teachers contextualizing it) I do not understand how sati is anything other than a mental formation — in the same way that anger, concentration, joy etc. are all mental formations.

    I agree that “sati” is a mental formation, in just the way that Tom Pepper speaks of. The problem with saying that, of course, is that it directly contradicts both the traditional Pali account and the contemporary mindfulness account. Although both are themselves somewhat inconsistent, and Papa Jon Kabat-Zinn has further muddled the waters by confusing sampajañña, sati is used today to mean something like pre-conceptual, non-reflexive awareness. For those of us who see in such awareness yet another register of ideologically-formed thinking, that claim is just not possible.

    So, aren’t you and I in agreement here?

  26. RE 26: Yes, Matthias, and that is the question I answered. The first “I” in the sentence is the socially constructed discourse in which you produce the content of thought and believe you are objectively monitoring it–it is, for instance, the mindfulness retreat at which you hear the mindfulness instructions and practice the mindfulness meditation. That is what that first “I” refers to–that social practice. If you could understand this, then the question about “qualia” of the color red becomes mere ideological nonsense. And your inability to understand how certain kinds of practices that produce an illusory understanding of the mind function to reproduce capitalist social relations would be easier to overcome. And you wouldn’t be so naive as to think that empiricism is “real” materialism, and to dismiss examination of the actual material practice in which thought is produced as “avoiding” the problem and “ignoring reality”: you would see that it is the only approach that is NOT ignoring reality, and the only one capable of explaining the materiality of thought. The body doesn’t think! Only socially produced collective subjects think! Sensation is not thought, there is no “qualia” of red, and this insistence on naive empiricism has always been the most powerful ideological tool of capitalism in preventing real thought that can effect real change. I’m glad to know that I’m making you so angry–at least that is an indication you haven’t chose the “indifference” response!

  27. Tom, the point is: you have to dominate. Your rhetoric strategies like twisting words, lying, evading questions, changing topics, denouncing, defamation, insinuation etc. pp. are all lead by this desire. Apart from all you talking about “socially constructed discours” you are one of the least capable here to interact with people who aren’t underwriting your text 100%. And for one time I allow myself to speculate about your real motivation of your behavior: your compulsive need to dominate is not grounded in your conviction.

  28. The first “I” in the sentence is the socially constructed discourse in which you produce the content of thought and believe you are objectively monitoring it …

    Tom (#28), would you say a little bit about how this “socially constructed ‘I’ discourse” is being connected with the flesh and blood of the biological organism?

  29. Tom #28: Let me check my understanding. Perhaps the non-communication here is due to the word “think” being ambiguous.

    At the moment, the hook lyric to Madonna’s “Candy Perfume Girl” is recurring “in my awareness,” rather compulsively. In one sense, “I am thinking” those words. Presumably, there is some sort of brain process that is repeating them.

    However, in another sense of “think,” that repetition is not a thought (or thoughts). They are mindless. They are a biological reflex, like a corpse stimulated to orgasm. There is no thought or mind involved.

    In the latter sense, “thought” is inherently difficult and novel and social. (Maybe this sense is related to Heidegger’s essay “What is called thinking?” ?)

    So part of the point here is that most of what might ordinarily be called “thinking” is more like having a song on infinite replay than actually working something out?

  30. Yes Matthias, it always seems like this. When somebody tells you the truth, and your errors are defeated, it feels like violence, and makes you angry. Despite the majority of commenters, by far, agreeing with you and disagreeing with me, because you cannot defeat my explanation of your errors, I seem to you to be “dominating” the discussion. You declare those troubling rational argument and annoying facts to be “mere rhetoric” and proclaim the sophistry of the reactionary to be “free and open discourse.” Keep struggling, and maybe you’ll get is.

    Unfortunately, my compulsive need to keep trying, to come back to make one more effort, despite absolutely no hope of “dominating” or even persuading a single reader (I don’t seem to have done so in almost two years!), is the effect of conviction. The classic ad hominem attack (since you tell the truth for pathological reasons, we don’t have to listen to it) is quite sad, Matthias. Perhaps this pathetic attempt at personal attack is a sign you are loosing the grip on your delusions?

  31. RE 30: Tomek, no not in a comment I can’t. But if you are actually interested, read Badiou’s Logics of Worlds. He does it in only 500 pages or so–I don’t think I could be that concise.

    RE 31: Certainly there is no “biological” impulse to have a Madonna song stuck in your head. If you mistake this for a “mere reflex,” you will not be able to understand why this particular song is running through your head instead of some other–it is an indication of the social symbolic system(s) which are doing your thinking. As Badiou puts it “the individual is not the author of this thought, but merely that through which it passes.” There are certainly different kinds of thought–but anybody would have to admit that, right? Recalling what you did yesterday is a different kind of thought from “feeling” sad (emotions, as Spinoza tells us, are just unclear or imprecise thoughts) or calculating the second derivative of a function. They are all thoughts. You’d get a better idea of what I mean by thinking from Hegel and Spinoza than Heidegger–Heidegger was, after all, a Christian, and believed in the existence of a soul, so he is less troubled by the idealist implications of his concept of “thought.” Thought is what the symbolic/imaginary system does, and it always requires a collective of multiple individuals to do it!

  32. Ah, splendid. This is making sense… So, presumably there is a biological reflex to pick up hook lines (and other thoughts) and to repeat them. (Silently and in conversation.) But which thoughts is a matter of culture.

    I wrote about that here: http://approachingaro.org/thought-soup

    It begins:

    In Buddhist meditation, we discover that we do not originate our own thoughts… There is nothing personal about thoughts…

    I find this discovery compatible with a pretty recent Western perspective: that almost all of our thoughts are taken over from our culture. Our wording may be a bit different, but almost everything we think simply repeats ideas we have heard or read or heard on TV. It is unusual and difficult to think an original thought.

    We swim in a sea, or soup, of talk. These are the messages we receive from the media, and also the ways our friends explain themselves and their lives. Our thoughts mainly recycle this talk, and we propagate it when we talk ourselves.

  33. Re: 27..

    Glenn, yes we are in agreement. I am continually having to correct people’s notions of mindfulness as Kabat-Zinn has popularized it! And in that sense, yes I see why you included mindfulness in your list of atman stand-ins.

    Now, I know your reading of the Pali tradition is way more extensive than mine, but I thought it (particularly in the abhidhamma portion) DOES speak of mindfulness and concentration as mental formations. Am I wrong? I seem to remember sati listed with the mental formations somewhere in the Pali…

    In any event, I now understand your original inclusion and agree. It’s amazing how ‘mindfulness’ has been reduced to ‘bare attention’ like it has no relationship to remembering and discrimination!

  34. David # 34

    In Buddhist meditation, we discover that we do not originate our own thoughts… There is nothing personal about thoughts…

    That was that what I was asking. That is your claim. Can you actually describe the process which leads to the discovery that there is nothing personal? And can ‘you’ describe how it is having no personal thought?

  35. Matthias #36:

    Let me first try to explain my understanding of how this conversation is causing misunderstanding. Let’s say “think1” means “a process occurs in the brain that reproduces a linguistic utterance.” This is what you are taking to be the meaning of “think.” Then there is “think2,” which is “articulate something about the nature of being that was previously obscure.” Tom is talking about think2.

    So, I’m think1ing all the time: there’s quasi-linguistic stuff going on in my brain. That is personal in the sense that it’s my brain. It’s impersonal in the sense that mostly there’s nothing original or distinctive about it. It’s the same junk that passes for thought in the brain of everyone else in my culture.

    It’s unusual to think2, and moreover it’s inherently collaborative, so even then it’s not altogether personal.

    Does that answer the question “And can ‘you’ describe how it is having no personal thought” usefully?

    Now to your first question: “Can you actually describe the process which leads to the discovery that there is nothing personal?”

    The first paragraph of “Thought Soup” was, in full:

    In Buddhist meditation, we discover that we do not originate our own thoughts. In meditation, we allow thoughts to come and go under their own power. They do that without our making them happen. We find that they come from empty space and return to emptiness. There is nothing personal about thoughts, when we experience them without involvement.

    I elided some bits of that, earlier, partly because I’m not altogether comfortable with them now. (I wrote that paragraph several years ago.) They are a bit more dogmatically Buddhist than I’d like to be. But, do they seem to address the question?

  36. Yes, David, that is what I mean. Of course, we are our culture, so we collectively (never individually) produce the thought. This is why neuroscience is really quite important. We may, as you say, have a “reflex” that causes us to pick up certain kinds of melodies or rhythms repeated often. We may have many other biological tendencies and limitations (we surely do); to use the dangerous computer metaphor, you need to know how the computer works to know what kind of program it can run, and we need to know how the brain works to know what kind of symbolic/imaginary system it can be a participant in. The “dismissal” of neuroscience is usually directed at those (the ones who say absurd unsupportable things and so get popular press) who want to say that we can explain neurologically why you like Madonna. Of course, that is absurd–there are infinite kinds of “hooks” we could attach to, and the tendency to recall hook lines is not all we need to say about it–it is, in fact, hardly worth saying, and explains nothing about the cultural meaning of Madonna and leaves us with no ability or reason to change the kinds of songs we listen to. It is unusual and difficult to think an “original” thought, but it is completely impossible if we think we do it on our own power, and not as part of a thinking collective. To think, it is absolutely essential to spend time interacting with others trying to understand the truth–to spend all your time with the reactionaries, trying to “win them over” will eventually “detach” you from the collective mind of the faithful subject.

  37. Tom (#33), you know that this answer is simply ridiculous, and not just because I asked you not what Badieu wrote about it, but because it is a living proof that you’re capable of saying any stupid thing just to dominate the discussion. And you’re blowing that smoke simply because you’re perfectly aware that this is actually you weakest point – you’ve never even approached to address the mind-body problem in all of your writings on this blog. But how could you if all that you care about is only continental jazz. Only that “music” is your “radio” capable of tuning into. Empiricism, cognitive sciences, neurology – that’s all just a bluff for you.

  38. What is the nature of the thing in a person that recognizes that he or she is not attending to the thoughts about the content of his or her thoughts?

  39. David, he doesn’t think that. If I did answer his question, he would, as he always does, refuse to read my answer and complain that I can’t answer him in one sentence–no argument is acceptable to Tomek unless it is twenty words or less, and is capitalist ideology to boot. He is just flailing and tossing up stupid arguments because he sees that the grownups are talking and he wants to disrupt the conversation.

    On your last, comment–I think what bothers me in your presentation is that there always seems to be an underlying assumption along the lines of what you say in that quoted paragraph: the thoughts arrise “from empty space and return to emptiness.” I would say that this simply ignores the most important point–that the thoughts arise from a structured social discourse, and we can only change them by changing the discourse. They don’t come out of nowhere, and letting them “disappear” shirks the responsibility to understand how we, in social interaction, produce and reproduce these thoughts and how we, collectively, might change them, not just “accept” and then learn to ignore them. When you say that the socially produced thought is just “junk” you imply that real thought is personal and original, made by an individual outside the (oppressive) collective, you are sliding back into the Romantic ideology of the genius.

  40. JRC (#40). Would not such recognition be just another register of thought? It’s a real question. I think that one of the reasons quiet sitting practice struck me as valuable when I first did it was precisely this issue of recursive thinking. That is, I could discern that I was thinking. “Seeing” in that manner altered the grammar to the passive: thinking was occurring. But then I immediately recognized that the “seeing/occurring” had merely constituted a shift in perspective in relation to thought. It was like a splintering of thought into various “voices,” like a choir. I felt that I had discovered a useful tool for getting clear about thinking. I was told, of course, that I could eventually go beyond “mere” thinking, to some sort of pristine consciousness. But that just struck me as patent bullshit. (How could it not after what I just described?) And I began to view my teachers as pathetic, fearful spiritualists.

    All of this sound hopelessly abstract. But it’s the most concrete matter imaginable.

    Patricia (#20). Although no one has directly addressed your great question, I think much of the discussion following it has. Or not?

  41. David (#41) – all that Tom has been writing here about was that “I” or “self” is a result of some unspecified “collective mind” activity – for example, see above (#28) “’I’ as socially constructed discourse”. While I understand that we’re are actually persons functioning in our respective social milieus, but at the same time we’re are always embodied beings. The problem with Tom is that he never even tried to explain how this human biological system – the “vehicle”, is capable of “tuning” – to use his ingenious metaphor – into this “collective mind”. Or I missed something?

  42. I would say that this simply ignores the most important point–that the thoughts arise from a structured social discourse, and we can only change them by changing the discourse. They don’t come out of nowhere, and letting them “disappear” shirks the responsibility to understand how we, in social interaction, produce and reproduce these thoughts and how we, collectively, might change them, not just “accept” and then learn to ignore them.

    Yes, agreed. One of several reasons I’m uncomfortable with what I wrote then.

    When you say that the socially produced thought is just “junk” you imply that real thought is personal and original, made by an individual outside the (oppressive) collective, you are sliding back into the Romantic ideology of the genius.

    Agreed there too.

    In my partial defense, in “Thought Soup” I continued:

    This is not a bad thing. It is inevitable. Human beings are just not smart enough to figure everything out for ourselves. We get the benefit of centuries of millions of people figuring things out for us, each adding tiny portions to the thought-soup we live in.

    Of course, some of the thoughts we take on are wrong; that is the downside of belonging to a culture. Although we can’t entirely avoid that, meditation—and other aspects of Buddhism—can help us recognize that we don’t have to believe all the thoughts that pass through our heads. We can take our thought soup with a dash of salt.

    What is missing in that essay is a sense of responsibility to collectively change the conversation. That’s implicit (and sometimes explicit) in the larger work it was part of. I would be more inclined to draw that out now.

  43. Tomek #44: I take it that the “unspecified “collective mind” activity” is basically discourse. Talk.

    Could it be that you are imagining that Tom must be referring to some sort of spook? Like a “world-soul” or “collective unconscious” of the Jungian sort or something?

    In that case, I suspect you think this because implicitly you imagine that there’s a spook in your head doing your thinking. And if there’s some thinking that’s happening outside your head, it must be done by some other spook. And then your objection is there aren’t any spooks, except maybe ones that are confined to particular skulls.

    But probably there aren’t any spooks at all. Just talk.

  44. Or, to answer in a different way:

    how this human biological system – the “vehicle”, is capable of “tuning” – to use his ingenious metaphor – into this “collective mind”.

    To be extremely simplistic: people hear things other people say, and repeat them (with small variations) at times when it seems useful to do so.

    The details of how this works are complex and mainly unknown. But there’s no in principle problem here, right? This is entirely compatible with mind-body materialism, if you are committed to that.

    (Answering here for myself, not Tom, obviously.)

  45. David, you don’t answer the questions. The differentiation you give is ok. That is not the point. I ask about your experience, not just another version of what we repeat here ad nauseam. You give another third person account (what is perfectly ok). But how is it having the experience that “there is nothing personal about thoughts…”? Is it possible at all? I am asking for your words, your personal account? Not another rephrasing of what we can know when we are educated a bit or just another Buddhist mantra? What Tom forgets is that individuals in flesh and blood invent the new. Not detached atomistic individuals, but those in an intense dialogue in their world. An dialogue which transcends the border of think1 and think2. What is the process like when Schönberg ‘inventent’ twelve tone music or when Bill Burroughs began using cut up? Read the bios. These people can give accounts. There is creativity.

    But I leave it here. This is becoming absurd. There is nothing creative about the whole ‘dialogue’ here anymore. It is ridiculous. In #38 suddenly “neuroscience is really quite important” again and the spectre of the computer metaphor creeps out of its grave again. Thanks a lot. One time I say it this way, the next time the other way around…

  46. Glenn (#43): Would a person’s intention and coinciding attention be attributed to one of the registers in the refractive choir? And might a person’s capacity for self-refraction be likened to the successful pulling up of oneself by one’s own bootstraps?

  47. David (#46), I assure you that I’m not thinking in terms of any Jungian spiritual nonsense, but eventually Tom’s rhetoric, where individual bodies are simply erased, creates that sort of impression – collectivist fatamorgana. Anyway, it’s interesting that you steer this conversation towards some “spook in my mind” and eventually evade my main point, namely, that what’s completely neglected in Tom’s writings and arguments is that in the first place we are embodied systems that are capable of connecting to our social environments. He does not say one word how this miracle is happening. But let’s talk.

  48. in the first place we are embodied systems that are capable of connecting to our social environments.

    Well, that’s been a central point for me… (Cf. the thread that this is a continuation of.)

    how this miracle is happening

    Are you suggesting that this seems impossible (or highly mysterious) in principle? Or just that the details are interesting and important?

    It doesn’t seem mysterious in principle to me. People hear stuff and repeat it. What is problematic about that?

    I agree that the details are interesting and important. Empirical investigation is worthwhile.

  49. Are you suggesting that this seems impossible (or highly mysterious) in principle? Or just that the details are interesting and important?

    David (#51), the “miracle” thing was just a plain figure of speech and I certainly meant the latter of the above. So you’re interested in empirical investigation and think its worthwhile when Tom is questioning it in principle and at the same time he sarcastically points (#33) to Badiou where I supposedly should look for an alternative answer to the questions of how “socially constructed ‘I’ discourse” connects with the flesh and blood of the biological organism? I’m of course very interested to know what Badiou is to say about the whole issue and I hope that Tom will come back here and at least cursory explain it what’s all that about. Will you Tom?

  50. Glenn (#43), in terms of my question (#20), there seems to be little room in this discussion for an idea of “mind” as more than just a cognitive process equated with “thinking” (with or without words and/or self-reference). This surprises me because it seems to me at other times there is some appreciation of that there can be action without agency, so why not mind without a thinker?

    For example, Tom in his answer to Patrick (#15) cites Spinoza in praise of an “increased capacity to interact with the world”. Why limit this capacity to interact with the world to thinking alone? Spinoza himself does not reduce “the intellectual love of God” to cognition; desire (conatus) is, according to him, the very essence of man! On my own reading of Spinoza, the “highest” realization” of this essence is in LOVING, not thinking; and it is a joy.

  51. RE 53: Patricia, you have a very limited idea of what “thought” is. I don’t know why you are so afraid of thinking–everyone does it all the time, it is the only thing the mind consists of. As for Spinoza: “I say, first, that an affect, or passion of the mind, is a confused idea” (emphasis in the original) and “Man’s lack of power to moderate and restrain the affects I call bondage.” If your goal is to avoid clarity of thought, stay in confused ideas, and remain in bondage, then I really can’t help you with that. Some people have a very comfortable kind of “bondage,” and enjoy their delusions. If you are content with yours, I don’t expect to be able to persuade you to overcome them. As Hegel puts is, one must reach “a state of despair about the so-called natural ideas thoughts and opinions” before one can hope to make a beginning at liberating the mind.

  52. Tom (#54) would you at least elaborate what do you mean by “thought” above? It would definitely be instructive to me.

  53. Tom doesn’t have the power to dominate discussion. We could allow that, I guess, but he’s not that domineering. Although it’s kind of getting better, why can’t y’all not get so damn caught up in delivery and ask questions and make cogent points. Several months ago I got on this board and told Tom that Marxism was a pipe dream. He ripped me a new one, but damn if his arguments weren’t compelling. I chilled out, decided I wanted to learn something, accepted the fact that I was saying stupid things and started asking questions. I learned a bit, but remain confused on many things. I really wish these comment sections were more of a clarification of arguments than constant pissing and moaning, ‘Tom is meanie!’ I know this is the internet, but man, grow up or go away. Find some other outlet for your drama addiction. Hell, go to some public meanings and piss and moan about how the councilmen are being mean and not talking the way you want them too.

    Honestly, I’ve got nothing to lose here and much to learn. I really don’t know how much clearer Pepper could be. None of this is personal, god dammit! 🙂

  54. Tom, thanks for responding.

    I am not afraid of “thinking” but of reductionist ideas of life and eros. Conatus, according to Spinoza, is not the same as an affect or passion, which is a decrease in power. Conatus, on the contrary, is the will to live, striving, the very bodily basis of that increase in capacity to interact with the world that you cited above (#14). When conatus is negatively affected, it creates a sense of powerlessness. This can breed ressentiment.

    More power to you, Tom!

  55. Tomek #44: Why is the ‘collective mind’ any more difficult to accept as a system than the ’embodied systems’ (presumably networks of connected cells, bacteria, etc.) out of which it’s made?

    Patricia #53 sound like she is on to a better formulation of the “where’d the bodies go?” question.

  56. David, your summarization of Tom’s basic points have been vey helpful. As I read through the conversations, I think I’m getting this. What’s funny is that I’ve always had an inkling that most of my thoughts were socially created. Ideas about relationships from movies, for example. It’s interesting what hooks us and where preferences come in. Although causal, we live in one insidious, recreated myth!

  57. When I get to know this blog in Summer 2011 it never occurred to me that the term “anātman” was of any significance. In the dzogchen I knew the term “I” simply doesn’t occur. There were some central concepts which could be translated “resonance” or “actuality” or there is a term like tong-pa which is left untranslated intentionally, but I never came about a dichotomy like ātman/anātman. I also had quite some experience with the work of Eugene Gendlin which gave me very useful insight into the unfolding of meaning in interaction.

    In 2011 I was at the point, after 7 years, to finally turn my back onto anything buddhist. Beyond Herbert Guenther and a handful of very nice and interesting people there was nothing to fulfill the promise of openness I saw in Buddhism. Probably it was my own wishful thinking and what I found in Buddhism was just that: wishful thinking. Plus the fear to speak out, group think, conformism or even “Gleichschaltung”, parroting the right words, silence about meditation because there was none and generally the fear to think other than in stale and frozen concepts which were presented by silly and stupid lamas who often had not the least clue that there was indeed something new in the West.

    Then came Glenn Wallis and François Laruelle. I remember sitting in a Stockhausen piano concerto literally having some kind of vision about a conscious entity with no “I”. This entity had nodal points which would vanish and reappear without any regret or welcome. It was a minor event but the important point was to think without an I. There would be a language without I. Another language. The blog Glenn opened seemed to be a experimental place where such thoughts and others could be tested.

    What I see today is the opposite. I see a place where a decision has been made that one language and only one language is acceptable. The individual coining this language is named Tom and it happens to have a huge I. Any kind of language which does not underwrite the philosophy of ātman/anātman is discarded, regardless of its possible meaning or potential. The phrasing of this language is repetitive and formalistic and it keeps replaying its mantras in an endless loop. It is the very opposition to creativity.

    The main characteristic, its lifeless cold kernel, could be seen in Davids response to my question how Buddhist meditation shows that there is nothing personal in thought: he rephrases something about thinking which everybody who is reading here at least superficially already knows. He is unable to find an expression for it beyond the forced thought Tom allows. Basically that is what every x-buddhist does: he says “I know it” but he doesn’t show it.

    It’s the same with Tom’s ‘collective’. There should be one theoretically, but he is unable to think it without the I, beyond the individual or other than as a mass of atomistic selves who sing in unison. He says “I know it” but he doesn’t show it. Behind the smoke screens of erudition there is a thought about a collective, a wishful thinking how it should be, which is unable to think itself without its opposition – the atomistic I.

    Therefore whoever doesn’t underwrite the right speech of ātman/anātman and who therefor forces thought into its ‘philosophy’ has nothing to say here. The struggle is over and a decision named Tom has been made.

  58. Matthias #60:

    When I said that a self is not found in vipassana, I was only repeating the commonplace Buddhist cliche, not trying to make any fancy point. Although it’s a cliche, it seems to be roughly right. You don’t seem to think it’s wrong, so I’m not sure what you are asking for here.

    There isn’t much phenomenology of not finding something you don’t expect to find. You walk into your bedroom, not expecting to find a hippopotamus, and there isn’t one there. If you don’t expect to find a self, and don’t find it, that’s unremarkable.

    Of course, there are also sometimes dramatic non-ordinary experiences of non-self. You walk through your bedroom door, expecting to find your bedroom, and it’s not there. In fact, there is no space or time. Ooops! What happened?

    Maybe your piano concerto experience was a dramatic non-ordinary experience of non-self. Is the problem that discussion of such experiences is verboten here?

    You know that “tong-pa” just means “empty,” right? Mostly in Mahayana and Vajrayana, anatman is replaced with shunyata (tong-pa-nyid, emptiness). Not quite the same thing, but pretty close.

    Dzogchen has other concepts that are closely related but not the same: sems nyid (“nature of mind”) and klongs (“vastness”) for example.

  59. Why is the ‘collective mind’ any more difficult to accept as a system than the ‘embodied systems’ (presumably networks of connected cells, bacteria, etc.) out of which it’s made?

    Jonah (#58), first, I personally refuse to use such a suspicious and overblown metaphors as “collective/symbolic mind”, which is so prone to be deified in all kinds of ways. As I wrote above I am aware that we are constructed personas that function within all kinds of social worlds where each of them work according to their respective set of rules or discourses that have been negotiated throughout history. But I do not agree that this fact obliterates the need to explain how every single human bio-system fits into those social worlds, and along with that, I categorically refuse to define human beings as a mere products of cultural or ideological discourses. I believe that this kind of ideological stance is a perfect example what in philosophy has been called correlationism, the unquenchable human need to define every aspect of reality, human bio-physical systems included, solely in anthropocentric terms. This tendency to correlate non-human world with human world is deeply motivated by our narcissistic need to enchant indifferent reality that we’re part of and by the hopefulness of avoiding our finitiude, which is a result of this uniquely human type of consciousness. So I think that we should not be deceived by those atavistic impulses that in the name of abstract and grandiose ideas as “ending of suffering” try to dictate us to marginalize the fact that every one of us is first unique bio-system molded by blind evolutionary forces, and only than, during socialization it becomes a person of flesh and blood, an actor on the social scene. So, you see, I have no difficulty with accepting the existence of culturally produced social worlds, but at the same time I refuse to yield to any ideological promptings, no matter how tempting and soothing, to forget about our real human situation – about being embodied and at the same time in the midst of chaotic reality which will eventually swallow us – just to keep the appearance that we can somehow delete those facts within the molds of our “collective/symbolic minds”.

  60. Matthias (#60), I appreciate your voice in this discussion and find that I do not disagree with you much which is why I do not respond much to your comments. Isn’t that always the way? I say it now so that you are not under the impression that “one language and only one language is acceptable” on this blog.

    As I said above in other words (#57), I too am wary of disembodied intellectualization because it usually betrays, as you say, a “lifeless cold kernel”.

    Tomek (#62), this was beautifully said, except perhaps for the label “human bio-physical system” and your reference to “blind evolutionary forces” which projects a scientific bias onto mysterious life forces and is another form of anthropocentrism. For me, the key is to hang out between the cloud of knowing and the cloud of unknowing, between the two great obscuring clouds of the languages of religion and science.

  61. Patricia: We have very different readings of Spinoza! When he says that the conatus is the tendency to persevere in being, I do not take “tendency” to mean will (the idea of “will” is hopelessly dualistic), and do not take “persevere in being” to mean live (even a rock has a conatus). I didn’t suggest that the conatus was an affect–I was just trying to explain that for Spinoza affects are all thoughts, just unclear thought. The conatus is also not the same as desire. Spinoza says that what we (mistakenly) call “will” is a confused idea of the conatus of the mind, while “desire” is the conatus of the body–its tendency to strive to continue existing.

    Of course, Spinoza is notoriously elusive, and we could go on about it indefinitely. What is more interesting for me is that the difference in how we read Spinoza might indicate the difference in our positions. I tend to privilege the conatic striving of the mind to increase its interaction with the world–and particularly Spinoza’s assumption, more evident in the Theologico-Political Treatise, that the mind is always a collective entity. The persistence of the body is secondary, for me. Even a stone persists bodily; what is unique to us as human is the mind. We are the only “symbolic species,” to borrow Terrence Deacon’s term, and to reject thought and focus on the body is to suffocate the conatus of the mind, and cause suffering.

    Certainly, many people don’t have the capacity to increase the powers of “their” minds, but that is because the collective subject to which they belong does not provide the social conditions to make that possible. The “intellectual love of God,” Spinoza’s term for this striving to increase mental interaction with the world, is denied to most people for socially produced, not biological, reasons. Others want to prevent this “intellectual love” because it might interfere with their bodily desires–the conatus of the body. They think they can get enough satisfaction out of persisting as bodily entities, so long as the more unpleasant bodily interactions with the world are done by someone else. This denial of our humanity is, for me, a terribly sad thing. Humanity, as you say, becomes a “lifeless cold kernel,” while confused ideas and bodily pleasures is “real life.” This is the way Buddhism has gone in the US, and it is, in my opinion, why most people only last about a year in Buddhism–ultimately, the reveling in pure bodily pleasure and confused ideas doesn’t relieve suffering. Instead, it constrains the conatic striving of the mind, and so perpetuates suffering.

  62. Matthias: What you are saying here is illogical, self-contradictory, incoherent gibberish. When you are reduced to such absurdities, such pointless and idiotic hurling of lame personal insults, why will you still cling to your refusal to understand? You complain that David only offers “thinking which everybody already knows,” when his entire point it that thinking is collective and we all “know” it together. You want some personal expression of emotional experience, some Romantic poem from Wordsworth or Holderlin, but this would be exactly to reproduce the ideology of the deep, emotional self that is being rejected. So you will only accept thought if it can be offered to you in the form of anti-intellectual Romantic expressionism? That is absurd.

    You say that I can only think in terms of the atomistic “I”, and this would be an interesting criticism if you could show it to be true instead of simply asserting it. If you could explain how my persistent denial of this atomistic “I” in fact reproduces and reinforces it, and denies or ignores the collective, social construction of our “selves,” then it would be helpful to do so. Please, show me the error. Tomek says that my persistent rejection of correlationism, and my insistence that the universe is indifferent to our existence, is just a new form of correlationism and an attempt to “enchant” the universe; again, if you can do more than simply assert that I must mean the opposite of what I say, please point out the error.

    I can offer an explanation of how “Tom Pepper” is constructed by social practices, how a peculiar combination of socially produced discourses creates the “self” that writes this. Beginning with being a working class teenager in the 70s recession, spending school vacations and weekends from the time I was 13 doing construction work, going to a working-class school that considered memorization the only form of thinking. Then the discourses of Literary studies and American psychology in college, as well as the marxist philosophy and psychoanalytic theory I read on alongside my college experience (written discourses in part, but also psychoanalysis as an analysand). Then, of course, the discourse and practice of Buddhism. This strange combinations of discourses and practices, or discourses in practice, is what created this conventional self that thinks in unusual ways, perhaps, because of the unusual combination of collective subjects it is incorporated into. I can offer this kind of explanation, but if you want a deeply-felt Romantic expression of my personal experience of “knowing” this constructedness of the self, you are missing the whole point—any such expressive account would have to assume a transcendent self who feels it deeply. Incidentally, I would love to see some of those x-buddhists who sing the praises of pure sensation without thought spend just one summer working ten hour days tarring flat roofs in the city in 100 degree heat. Nothing squashes the conatus of the mind like that kind of life—it is pure suffering, and most of us escaped it with beer, drugs, and sex, which didn’t really help at all. There is quite a class bias in this glorification of bodily pleasures; one can only see thought as a “cold and lifeless kernel” if one has never been denied access to it, but has rejected it freely in favor of confused ideas and bodily comfort.

  63. Patricia (#63), first, I try as much as I can to avoid using such language as “mysterious life forces”. Sometimes it happens, as with the “miracle” above, but than I mostly regret it. To be honest such language says nothing to me. I don’t simply understand it. To me it just opens the doors for all kinds of religious mystifications. I’d rather prefer to be disappointed by the stark data that sciences bring to me, than warm up by the fire of “mysteries”. Second, I deeply disagree with the thesis that the scientific-sounding “labels” I used in my comment signal “another form of anthropocentrism”. I don’t think that there is any other more damaging human activity for anthropocentrism than science. Just start with Mikołaj Kopernik…

  64. Tom (#65), I’m not that stupid to not see how you manipulate the idea of correlationism according to you own needs. Yes, you’ve mentioned couple of times that “universe is indifferent to our existence”, but at the same time you’ve been frantically hawking your bubble of “collective/symbolic mind.” Why bubble? Because in your rhetoric you evidently refuse to acknowledge one unpleasant fact – that any form of social collectivity you can think of, is ultimately embedded in the flesh and blood, that is, in a chaos of that very mind-independent reality that has produced the evolutionary forces that brought us here, those bio-physical interfaces, in front of these artificial interfaces of our computers, so we could communicate with each other. This fact is so unpleasant for you that it prompt you to feverishly reject any form of empiricism, cognitive sciences, neurology just because you know that if you’d accept their findings that could threaten your deep belief in the soothing bubble of your collectivity, itself an idea that is thoroughly determined by the blind forces of the indifferent universe.

  65. Matthias, is Tom correct that what you wanted from me was a first-person account of a non-ordinary non-self experience?

    If so, I wasn’t evading that, or refusing to answer—I just didn’t understand that it was what you wanted.

    If that is what you want—why? I can’t think of a reason it would be of any use. But maybe you have a good reason.

    If you do want that, I will probably explicitly refuse to answer. But, we might both learn something by comparing your reasons for wanting it and my reasons for not giving it.

  66. Tomek #68:

    any form of social collectivity you can think of, is ultimately embedded in the flesh and blood

    Not “embedded” but “involved with.” It’s not “embedded” because it also, and just as critically, involves non-human physical stuff. Among other things, the whole of what anthropologists call “material culture”—all the stuff we make and use.

    This is important for several reasons I can elaborate on if you want.

  67. Yes, Patricia (#67), you can play in that game on and on – Mikołaj Kopernik was just another anthropos – this is precisely how we keep ourselves sane when confronted with what science – these days especially cognitive science – shows us. Which is, of course, nothing to be ashamed of.

  68. Well, I explained why “involved with” rather than “embedded in” already. A society is not just people, it’s other stuff as well. They are just as much a part of it.

    If you want to give a materialist account, you can’t ignore that stuff, for tons of reasons.

    A random example from my current work: I hope to argue, in a follow up to

    http://meaningness.wordpress.com/2013/03/06/meanwhile-back-at-the-charnel-ground/#thissite

    that what “self” means has been profoundly changed by the internet in the past decade; and that if Buddhism doesn’t respond to that change, it’s going to be hopelessly obsolete.

    (The internet is, among other things, material culture. I hope that’s obvious!)

  69. A society is not just people, it’s other stuff as well. They are just as much a part of it. If you want to give a materialist account, you can’t ignore that stuff, for tons of reasons.

    David (#73), I’m not ignoring it, that’s why in #68, as you probably noticed, I said that we interact with each other via our biologically based phenomenal interfaces that are involved with the “artificial” interfaces of our computers.

    BTW, don’t you think that Buddhism is already hopelessly obsolete?

  70. “Already hopelessly obsolete”: Well, yes. Touché. I guess I meant something like “if Buddhism doesn’t catch up with the 21st century, its chance of survival will be zero rather than tiny”!

  71. Hello Tom,

    I was without Internet access for most of yesterday and have only just read yesterdays tread. Reading it in retrospect has only a strengthened an impression concerning your contribution that has been with me from day one. For some reason you seem to believe that you need to police the blog from an ideological perspective.
    I mean that you more often than not concentrate on the ideological implications of any particular comment or post and that the actual content, on its own terms, merits only a secondary consideration.

    I can understand how you might justify such activity but I think you are wrong to do it for the following reason.

    Let me try and be specific;
    There are papers, posts and comments. Together they comprise an enquiry. The enquiry has broad parameters, set down by glen and supplemented by papers and posts by other individuals.,including yourself. The object in glens words is as follows,

    this blog is meant to serve as a forum for speculation on Buddhism (more properly, on what I call “non-buddhism“). Perhaps you will use it for discussions and as a source of new ideas regarding the issue of Buddhism’s maturation, rupture, and disruption on the current North American scene. The blog neither takes for granted the salubrity of Buddhist teachings for the contemporary world nor forecloses on the possibility of adaptation, renovation, and application. It sees, rather, in the very questioning of tradition a speculative opportunity. The approach taken here risks destruction. Why? Because we still believe in the possibility of human liberation.

    Maybe things have evolved a little since that was written but I think everyone would agree that it is a fair description of the activity here. It doesn’t mention a Marxist critique of the way xBuddhism is, by default, ideologically subscribed and that a critique of that subscription is included in the overall thrust of the project, but it has been made clear in various post and papers and would be an element that regulars would accept (in differing measures) One can easily see that all of the regular contributors do accept that xbuddhism’s ideological subscription needs to be addressed..

    But there are now questions that need to be answered. I think it is it is inevitable that they have arisen.

    Does the ideological subscription of the contributions to the blog need to be addressed ( and by implication the ideological subscription of the contributors.) ?

    If they do are need to be addressed is it a primary function of the blog or a secondary one?

    If secondary will the actual content (in its own terms) be allowed to proceed without the discussion and enquiry being forced at each instance to confront the ideological implications of every statement made by a contributor.

    These questions arise within certain parameters,

    There is a difference between comment, a post, or paper.
    I think we can agree that a post or a paper is, if not a fully evolved positions, at least on the way to becoming one. As such they are presented for criticism, and moreover criticism that might include, in a balanced way, references to the ideological stance the position represents visa vie the social structures/relations etc. Even more so in relation to a paper.

    Comment on the other hand is something different.
    On the one hand it is more spontaneous in nature…it is often off the cuff and this is one of its strengths. The comment tread is something unique; not only a site for the presentation of set views but for the evolution of ideas; for their development/evolution through the very process of articulation. More importantly the comment tread is a site for a process of collective enquiry within an agreed framework that has the potential to create new ideas and new parameters for future debate.

    This, of course, presents a problem for anyone who approaches the blog from a Marxist perspective, since a Marxist stance presupposes that a statement is at the same time addressing its stated content and expressing an implicit ideological view, often unknowingly. And that one must, on principle, subject its overt and covert content to critique.

    The problem here is that there would have to be agreement as to the veracity of that approach I have only ever seen or experienced agreement on that level as a member of a communist party. Where else would you find people who ere willing to put their every statement to the ‘ideological test ? Why would any adult, outside of that agreed framework, agree to such a thing?

    Since that is the case the only alternative is that those with a Marxist position exercise self-restraint; which would mean bracketing objections to what they see as ideological subscription as it emerges within any particular tread on the principle that spontaneous expression of ideas, creativity and imagination are more valuable at that stage than any perceived ideological ‘error’.
    Possibly critique could by made by other means, as a post maybe and preferably abstracted from any personal context.

    The alternative –continual pointing out of ideological error, will achieve only the alienation of regular contribitors
    The logic seems to be that such a policy will create a situation in which only those who agree with the Marxist critique will remain.
    Perhaps you would be happy with such an outcome? I certainly would not be happy with that situation.

    In the first place where would it end? Wouldn’t there always be what you would call ‘error’ to be pointed out; wouldn’t the criterion for deciding error itself always be in contention. wouldn’t it be a version of the ‘committee for pubic safety’ and do we really, as adults, need such a thing, on a blog of all places?

    This is a plea for balance. A site of struggle yes, but struggle in the context of a shared agenda and a set of priorities.
    The alternative is factionalism and splintering.

  72. Patrick: This comment is pathetic. Once again, you don’t respond to what I say, but like everyone else just point out that I am mean to say it. You insist that the “ideological” component of any statement can be separated from its “content”: this is stupid beyond belief. This isn’t a matter of “policing”: nobody is preventing any comment or censoring anything. And pointing out the ideological implications of a statement is part of open dialogue. You want to “bracket off” the ideological implications–well, this is how capitalist ideology works: forget that what we are saying has not basis in reality, forget that it serves to oppress the majority of the population, we’ll set that aside an discuss it “openly” and “freely” as civilized adults, ignoring all that political stuff.

    If what I say feels like “policing,” maybe it is because it is true, and you don’t want to hear the truth? If my comments stop people from commenting before considering the ideological implications of their own thought, then that would be wonderful–then they are on their way to awakening! If only it worked all the time, and with everyone!

    Sorry to annoy you with the truth, Patrick. If you want to discuss the wonders of capitalist ideology and pretend it is free of all ideological implications, there are plenty of blogs where I have been banned from contributing who do exactly this–try the secular Buddhism folks, for instance.

    I will continue to point out error. I cannot imagine how NOT pointing out error could possibly be useful to anyone–well, except those who want to perpetuate the existing situation by producing delusion.

  73. David, if you write things like “In Buddhist meditation, we discover that we do not originate our own thoughts… There is nothing personal about thoughts…” (#34) then I take you by your word. Obviously no good idea. You obviously have no clue what I want when I ask for your experience. I have written about it at several places here, if you didn’t read, no matter. Generally one can say literature is full of it. Look at the paragraph preceding the one Adam Miller cites in his Sitting, Full of Shit from Wallace’s Infinite Jest (the first of the two citations).

    Second: I think for an equation like “anatman = shunyata = tong-pa-nyid = emptiness” (#61) even your lama will cut you your head off (some original “grol-ba” so to say). Such simplifications are a defining moment of x-buddhism (and of postmodernism of course).

    Third: My “kind of vision about a conscious entity with no “I” (#61). Well I should have avoided the word “vision”. I should have known that for a Buddhist this must be in every case something “non-ordinary”. It just was an idea – one which came to mind in a visual way, which had to do with what I read and which was also probably triggered by the music (do you see what I mean? It is what we are talking about the whole time).

    Leave it as it is. No use to go on in this discussion.

  74. Hello Tom,
    Re 77

    Didn’t use the word ‘mean’ (left if behind in kindergarden)!

    Didn’t anywhere insist on anything, (try not to use that word even to my kids)

    That I didn’t address what you said . Agreed (in defence the questions are highly complex and I seem to just not be able to keep up but I will try to do so )

    On the other hand you have ignored the main thrust of my comment, which was a plea for restraint on your part (as far as the ideological aspect of comments are concerned) in order to facilitate the emergence of more imaginative and creative ideas. Followed by later analysis and critique. Is that too big a concession for you?

    Went out of my way to emphasise that from the Marxist perspective these two facets of a statement (ideology and content) are inseparable. I quote myself

    This, of course, presents a problem for anyone who approaches the blog from a Marxist perspective, since a Marxist stance presupposes that a statement is at the same time addressing its stated content and expressing an implicit ideological view, often unknowingly. And that one must, on principle, subject its overt and covert content to critique.

    forget that what we are saying has not basis in reality, forget that it serves to oppress the majority of the population, we’ll set that aside an discuss it “openly” and “freely” as civilized adults, ignoring all that political stuff.

    Didn’t ask you to forget any of that. Emphasised and asked for restraint, not forgetfulness.

    If what I say feels like “policing,” maybe it is because it is true, and you don’t want to hear the truth?

    If what I say feels like we are now all ‘against’ you maybe its true and you just don’t want to hear the truth (bit of your own medicine! Nice? .)

    If you want to discuss the wonders of capitalist ideology and pretend it is free of all ideological implications

    Very silly exaggeration!

    .

    pointing out error

    Sounds suspiciously like ‘pointing out instructions’

    Maybe we are all on the way to becoming ‘awakened’. Somehow I don’t think so . Quess you’ll have to make do with the ‘unawakened’ version of Patrick. But you can try and work on me .

  75. Re #77. This has nothing to do with Marxism – except one says diffamation, twisting of words, intentionally misrepresenting the statements of others etc. is Marxism.

  76. Everyone, a reminder:

    This is the face of anti-right-speechism.
    This is the face risking destruction.
    This is the face of rupture and disruption.
    This is the face of disinterest.
    This is the face of kicking out the jams.
    This is the face of ruin.
    This is the face of compassion.
    This is the face spewing word blood.
    This is that face of non-decision.
    This is the face in coruscating dialogue.
    This the face of ideological struggle.
    This is the face gazing at ideological shambles.
    This is the face that has abandoned the raft.
    This is the face hurling bricks at the thaumaturgical vallation.
    This is the face armed against the violence of transcendence.

    Did you think it would be pretty?

    You can always go spin around on a pretty little opinion-horsy at one of the many x-buddhist sites.

  77. No, it’s just boring.

    So it’s ugly? No biggie.

    The point is, you can read reams of stuff just like that on 4chan, or in YouTube comments. There’s nothing remotely interesting or useful about it. Romanticizing it is silly.

    (Speaking only for myself—as always.)

  78. David, to what do “that” and “it” refer in your comment? Insisting on clarity like Tom Pepper and others do can indeed be boring–for the cozily unclear.

    But I have to add, it’s really nice to finally get a sense of you as a human, and not just some nice-guy Buddhist automaton–although you ruined it at the very end. Nice-guy Buddhist is a hard habit to break, I guess.

  79. “It” and “that” were meant to refer to the rancorous, non-substantive, personalized meta-disagreements here. Eventually it boils down to “you suck!” “no, YOU suck!”

    I don’t care enough about any of you to find out whether or not you suck to be interesting 🙂

    Seeking clarity is good, of course.

  80. RE 30: Tomek, no not in a comment I can’t. But if you are actually interested, read Badiou’s Logics of Worlds. He does it in only 500 pages or so–I don’t think I could be that concise.
    —-
    Several commenters (myself included) seemed to struggle with understanding Tom’s position, as I think his notion of mind, thought, and other concepts differ from most. If you are interested in Tom’s view and want to save yourself reading 500 pages of Lacanian style philosophy, then this article here summarises his position nicely:

    http://www.nonplusx.com/issue-8/
    Taking Anatman Full Strength.pdf

    Tom’s solution to the mind-body problem:

    My suggestion in this section is that we cannot begin to understand Buddhist thought,
    to really grasp the insight necessary to liberation, until we understand that the mind is
    not in the brain. Thought, and therefore the mind, is not correspondent to, an
    epiphenomenon of, or in any way limited to the anatomy, activity, or capacity of the
    brain. Further, I want to assert that this can be understood in a completely naturalist
    manner, with no recourse whatsoever to any kind of dualism, or any idea of a spirit or
    soul.

    Tom’s notion of mind:

    The mind, while dependent on the brain, is not in any way reducible to the brain.
    This is true because the mind, and so thought, does not completely (and possibly not
    mostly) take place within single brains, but takes place in a symbolic/imaginary
    structure which incorporates or makes use of multiple brains for its existence.

    Tom’s notion of thought:

    There is, then, no thought at all, for a human subject, outside
    of language. We do not “think” and then try to “find the words to say” what we have
    in mind; instead, we can only think in language, and when we are “speechless” it is
    not because of a thought we cannot express, but because of some experience we
    cannot think symbolically.

    Tom’s notion of perception:

    It is important here to keep in mind that our
    non-verbal sensations and perceptions are always just as thoroughly socially
    constructed as our language and concepts. There is never any such thing as a “pure
    perception of reality as it is,” because all perceptions are in the imaginary order, and
    are thoroughly socially constructed. To attempt to escape thought and access the
    purely perceptual then, as many Buddhist teachers suggest, is not to escape our
    cultural construction and to see the ultimate, but is to drop the one chance we do
    have of seeing how culturally constructed our perceptions are.

    As an aside, Tom appears to make the assumption that believing in “buddha-mind”/”true self”/non-dual awareness/bare awareness or whatever you want to call it precommits yourself to the idea that this type of self is eternal or transcedental, and will survive death – a conclusion that doesn’t necessarily follow.

  81. RE 85:

    Tom appears to make the assumption that believing in “buddha-mind”/”true self”/non-dual awareness/bare awareness or whatever you want to call it precommits yourself to the idea that this type of self is eternal or transcedental, and will survive death – a conclusion that doesn’t necessarily follow.

    Yes, it really does follow necessarily that these concepts require the existence of an atman. Whether this atman survives bodily death is irrelevant, since it doesn’t actually exist but is a delusion. My point is that any of these concepts are attempts to avoid coming to terms with the constructed, but very real, nature of the conventional self, and they do that by creating the delusion that there is a core self which is unaffected by dependent arising, unchanging and not socially constructed–the myth of the atman. I have explained how this necessarily follows, and so have literally hundreds of others–if you can’t understand how it follows, that is not the same as saying that it doesn’t. Your inability to think clearly is not an argument.

  82. Sawfoot (#85): Would the unnamable-observing-thing, or ambiguous self, be an example of an experience that one cannot think symbolically (and therefore leave one speechless)? And would such an experience be at the same time radically immanent (resistant to decision, in the spirit of non-x) and essential? Here is something from François Laruelle:

    Ultimately, I see non-philosophers in several different ways. I see them, inevitably, as subjects of the university, as is required by worldly life, but above all as related to three fundamental human types. They are related to the analyst and the political militant, obviously, since non-philosophy is close to psychoanalysis and Marxism – it transforms the subject by transforming instances of philosophy. But they are also related to what I would call the “spiritual” type – which it is imperative not to confuse with “spiritualist”. The spiritual are not spiritualists. They are the great destroyers of the forces of philosophy and the state, which band together in the name of order and conformity. The spiritual haunt the margins of philosophy, gnosticism, mysticism, and even of institutional religion and politics. The spiritual are not just abstract, quietist mystics; they are for the world. This is why a quiet discipline is not sufficient, because man is implicated in the world as the presupposed that determines it. Thus, non-philosophy is also related to gnosticism and science-fiction; it answers their fundamental question – which is not at all philosophy’s primary concern – : “Should humanity be saved? And how?” And it is also close to spiritual revolutionaries … and certain mystics who skirted heresy. When all is said and done, is non-philosophy anything other than the chance for an effective utopia?

  83. JRC: I can’t guess how Sawfoot would undertand this problem, but my position would be that you’ve got it completely wrong. The “unnamable-observing-thing” or “ambiguous self” can clearly be thought symbolically, since you just named it. In some discourse which refused to name (or see) this subtle atman, however, it would exactly be that which the particular subject of that discourse cannot think symbolically and so is speechless about–but then it would be exactly the absolute definition of the “decision”: it would be the ideological commitment made without awareness, blindly, while assuming that one is not being made. It is, then, the attempt to avoid the consequences of radical immanence which leads to these aporias or moments of the ineffable. As Laruelle says, the analyst, the marxist and spiritual radical all want to destroy conformity to language that leaves these aporia in place–and so they want to speak about what presently leaves us speechless.

  84. JRC (#87). Thanks for the jolt of Laruelle. Sometimes I get lost in the contours of the discussion, and forget this major impetus to my non-buddhism thought.

    I have to go back tomorrow and see what Sawfoot said at #85 and the other recent comments. Is “unnamable-observing-thing” his term? I ask because along with my renewed commitment to Laruelle’s thought, I want to renew my commitment to fighting de-humanizing transcendence wherever I meet it. Of course, the only place I can ever meet it is in language, since there are no transcendent entities. So, I would want to query you further on what you understand “an experience that one cannot think” to mean. Do you mean something like being caught up in some sort of “flow”? What might an example be? I would bet that on further questioning, we would, before not to long, start bumping up against the kinds of social-linguistic formative/structuring powers that some of us are arguing are inevitable. As soon as that is the case, as soon as we start discovering the specific workings of the symbolic, the notion of a thought-free experience becomes synonymous with a claim of a subtle atman. And the person who insists on such a possibility would be shown to be a believer in a transcendent self.

    I think one reason people get so miffed at what goes on here is our insistence on not giving an inch on, and not flinching before, the transcendence/immanence divide. It would not be difficult to go through the recent comments and show the various commitments to some version of an unformed transcendent self. If someone wants to hold such a commitment, that’s fine with me. But say so here and, if they are fortunate, they’ll get serious blow back. I suspect that, ultimately, the current x-buddhist movers and shakers avoid us not because of “rancor,” as David Chapman said, but because they don’t want to do the work required to (1) defend buddhistically indefensible views or (2) change their views. The fact is pristine self, permanence, and the painless are the products on sale by contemporary x-buddhism.

    Thanks for your comment. You won’t abandon the struggle, I hope.

  85. David(#84). I have asked you very specific, concrete questions here and there, on this blog and on yours. You have never answered me. You must know what I am referring to. Recently, I asked you to offer your take on the emerging culture of controlled dialogue on x-buddhist sites. Here’s an oldie, but still active question. I left it on your blog:

    I am curious about how you–or anybody, for that matter–continue to practice in a tradition such as the Nyingma Aro gTér,lineage, with its nagas, ter-ma, quasi-wizards, ahistoricism, absolutization of formlessness, romantization of emptiness, and so on. It is an abiding curiosity of mine how certain people can, with coruscating reason, see the exit to tradition’s walled vallation, only to turn back, stretch their legs, and re-light their warm pipe of curative dreams. As someone whose critical abilities, and historical and philological knowledge, automatically voids his subscription to all programs, I am genuinely curious about this matter. Does it involve a strategy to counter cognitive dissonance?

  86. Thank you for the clarifications, Tom (#64).

    You say you tend to privilege “the conatic striving of the mind” and believe that “to reject thought and focus on the body is to suffocate the conatus of the mind, and cause suffering.” I understand and appreciate your position. I agree that to suffocate thinking leads to suffering. But thinking is an embodied activity, and to dissociate that aspect of conatus from mind can also lead to a form of repression and suffocation. You seem to believe that liberation from human suffering lies exclusively in our ability as a “symbolic species” to think clearly. These ideas combined- the dissociation of body from mind and the belief in what sounds to me like “right thinking” as a cure for human suffering- are rather scary to me. Not because I fear thinking or science, but because your faith in them strikes me as extremist.

    You may be aware of the fascinating research on mother-infant communication and the effects of this on attachment and affect regulation. Do you know about the work of Alan Schore? Schore’s observations of the mother-infant dyad and affect co-regulation demonstrate the centrality of what he calls “interactive repair”. This repair is a dyadic process which, as opposed to, say, a genetic interpretation, cures through what he calls “the right hemisphere prosodic (emotion communicating) form as well as the left hemispheric linguistic content of interpretation”. He is referring to, in the more succinct expression of Alicia Lieberman, “the cure by empathy as opposed to interpretation”. This process does not exclude words, but conjoins them with their indispensable counterpart, emotions.

    I bring this up because it underscores how the human mind cannot cut through emotional suffering using language alone; liberation from suffering has to speak to affect as well, and must transmit at the level of emotions. If the mind consists exclusively of thoughts, how is this possible?

  87. Tom (#88): Thank you.

    Glenn (#89): I prefer to be completely wrong than to be partially wrong. When attempting to speak about what leaves us speechless (or for lack of no words [or the necessity for some words], that consummate place of non-escape), language inevitably falls short (e.g., unnamable-observing-thing) and what at the very least seems like transcendence, division, or separation can be teased out. Oh, how worlds may rise and fall on the backs of prepositions (e.g., Vision-in-One versus Vision-of-One). I make no search after a thought-free experience but instead make a vigil before radical immanence and identity-without-transcendence.

    Do not worry, Glenn. Our cause can only be common, as there is no struggle to abandon: “We leave [here] none the wiser … having added nothing to what [we] knew already … [we’ve] picked up that wrinkle in the band of hope … how end?”

  88. sawfoot, #85

    Thanks for bringing this up. You say:

    Several commenters (myself included) seemed to struggle with understanding Tom’s position, as I think his notion of mind, thought, and other concepts differ from most.

    I think Tom’s notion of mind etc. isn’t so debatable or difficult to understand. In fact for a lot of educated people what he is saying is carrying coals to newcastle. But that is for “educated people” not for x-buddhists. I think Tom’s intention to educate Buddhists is a noble one and therefore shouldn’t be criticised further. It’s his decision.

    I for my part think x-buddhism, Buddhism as it develops in the West, attracts a certain kind of stupidity and people entertaining themselves in this area do not want to be educated at all by definition. Therefore, in my opinion, it is a useless undertaking to teach them.

    In the text Tom in fact gives a good and very useful explanation of the symbolic and the imaginary as formulated by Lacan. I think a lot of educated people today would adhere in one way or another to this thinking. My critique has to do with a point Tom himself states in the passage about the symbolic order:

    The meaning of a word is always, must always be, socially negotiated.

    Tom makes it clear that he does not negotiate. He makes it clear beyond doubt in #77 that “the truth” is his. The background probably is dialectical materialism and the Lenin-Stalin idea that there has to be a party at the forefront of the revolution to educate the proletariat. As they sang in former East Germany: “Die Partei, die Partei, die hat immer recht.

    A further problem I see is that this goes hand in hand with Tom’s understanding of the bodhisattva path:

    [Shantideva] tells us that the path to liberation [the bodhisattav path] is necessarily a collective one, because the mind is always in a symbolic/imaginary system that can only ever exist as a practice involving multiple individuals.

    This in itself is not problematic. To the contrary, it is something I would underwrite. But together with Tom’s brand of Marxism (as I see it right now) this becomes strange and dangerous because he is the only one who knows the truth.

    This truth is one I don’t buy. That is because on the first page of his essay I see a fatal tendency to believe in some real early Buddhism. It is true, Tom says,

    my interest is not in what I can prove it likely that some Buddhist concept meant to any particular school of Buddhism in any particular time,

    but at the same time there is the possibility that “early Buddhists” could have “really” meant that there is no atman, that in fact there is a “historical Buddha” and “full-strength anatman can make sense of the concepts of karma and rebirth”. Together with the (re)interpretation of Shantideva in Lacanian terms I have to ask (once again) why all this? If we can explain perfectly well with Lacan (or whomever) how mind works, why fall back on “early Buddhists”, a “historical Buddha” and “the concepts of karma and rebirth”? And why mingle this with a particular brand of Marxism?

    Furthermore, there has already been discussions on this blog about the impossibility to reconstruct the thinking of an “early Buddhism”. I think even from a marxist point of view one can argue that such a reconstruction in the sens that we understand as ‘they’ understood is impossible. That is because we would have to really live the material base then. One can argue with Nietzsche, Benjamin, Gadamer, Heidegger and historians today who take into account the problems with individual remembrance and interpretation that any reconstruction of a real picture how they thought is impossible. In fact this attempt means to presume an underlying constant which is formatting history – a transcendental.

    Equally the “historical Buddha” as such is a construction in this sense. (And btw, didn’t we name him “the protagonist”?)

    So apart from Tom’s useful and clear explanations about the symbolic/imaginary order I see here the residuals of a believe, a “decision” – residuals we all might have more or less. At least I can say this in my case, I couldn’t explain otherwise why I still take part in any discussion about Buddhism or with Buddhists.

    There is another problem I find in the passage about the symbolic order:

    [A] brain must, in a sense, “tune in” to the mind that already exists in order to become part of human consciousness.

    That is part of the radio-metaphor Tomek repeatedly criticized without getting any answer from Tom. Sure, it is a metaphor. But it is the same attempt to describe an anatman with a language in which atman is inscribed as done by Metzinger. So we could ask Tom too: Who is doing the tuning?

    Obviously there is a homunculus haunting us.

  89. Glenn.

    Re 89.

    I think one reason people get so miffed at what goes on here is our insistence on not giving an inch on, and not flinching before, the transcendence/immanence divide.

    Who exactly are you referring to with this insidious little word ‘our’ I can’t believe you could be using it to cover the generality of people commenting here, since you have already decided that

    It would not be difficult to go through the recent comments and show the various commitments to some version of an unformed transcendent self.

    Surly that excludes the transgressors referred to from entry to the ‘our’

    ‘Our’ ah nice cosy word !

    ‘Our this and our that….

    Gives you a nice feeling of being ‘backed up’, even a little arrogant about 0ur (my) grasp on ‘truth’.

    So that you can, without embarrassment, make a statement about ‘our insistence on not giving an inch’ (now lets add a little heroics and unflinching stoicism to the brew)

    ‘and not flinching before’

    My god ! Really not flinching? (oh maybe you mean this metaphorically…of course)

    ‘before’

    Another little word. But doesn’t it here rise in stature… almost biblical in its implications.

    Before what? Torture?, exile?, death?, damnation?

    No, no…just

    The trancendence/immanent divide….you know… the thing you other guys flinch before!

    Come back Woody Allen….all is forgiven

    By the way. If my comments are among those which ‘It would not be difficult …to show the various commitments to some version of an unformed transcendent self.’ please let me know. I would be so relieved. I’d hate to be included in the above ‘our’
    Thanks

  90. Glenn #90:

    Since you repeated your question verbatim, I can repeat my answer verbatim:

    About Aro. Ngak’chang Rinpoche, its head lama, begins most public retreats by saying that he teaches methods, not Truth. (This is a Dzogchen perspective. It relativizes the Absolute Truths of the other yanas as pragmatic tools.)

    So that leaves you free to take whatever ontological stance you find useful. Some Aro students, including close friends of mine, take the nagas, sorcerers, and so forth as concretely-existing truths. I can’t imagine how, but it seems to work well for them. I take the magical stuff as inspiring entertainment.

    And I love that stuff. I like it so much that I’m writing a historical novel that’s packed full of it, as a serial on the web. In the most recent episode, the hero learns the hard way that he is a sorcerer. Nagas will make their first appearance about four episodes from now.

    I hope it is entertaining, and perhaps inspiring. And it has my somewhat subversive take on Buddhism woven all through it. That most recent episode contains a thinly-veiled attack on karmic justice.

    Anyway, as for why I practice Aro rather than another leading brand: mostly because I’m still learning things from my lamas that I couldn’t figure out myself. I might find other teachers who could do that for me, but I haven’t encountered any, and I’ve exposed myself to many versions of Buddhism.

    Actually, virtually everything I write is an answer to your question. In short: I believe that Vajrayana would be, for most people, a much better starting point for 21st century practice than the Pali Canon.

    Theravada and Zen have had 150 years of reinterpretation to modernize them, in part by removing the monsters, miracles, gods and demons that thoroughly infested both. Due to historical accident, Vajrayana mostly has not gone through the same process. There is no inherent obstacle to doing that, as far as I can see. If you are allergic to wizards, you could create a “modern, naturalist, secular tantra.” (I’m not doing that, and it’s not quite what I want, but I think someone should do it, because it would be the right thing for many people.)

    Because Vajrayana hasn’t gone through that process, its salient distinguishing feature for Westerners is retention of the same magical world-view all Buddhisms had 150 years ago. That difference is trivial, irrelevant, and easily remedied. Unfortunately, it obscures the far greater differences, and therefore the value Vajrayana could have for us now.

    I’ve gotten bored with this thread and am unsubscribing to its email notifications. I can be contacted in any of the usual ways if wanted…

  91. RE 91: I can understand why thinking clearly would be “scary” to you. You can only understand correct thought as an absolute denial of the body (which is absurd, to me—I can’t even imagine what a “dissociation of body from mind” could possibly mean, or how it could be possible, except in some illusion of a transcendent soul). Schore’s nonsense about right and left hemispheres and “affect co-regulation”, as well as the “cure by empathy” crap, is all just terror of seeing through the ideological formations which construct us. In this silly pseudo-scientific language, psychology attempts to naturalize our ideologies, to make us think there is some inherently ineffable and biological, emotional, “true self” outside of all thought. This is why there is so often an emphasis on the mother-infant bond, taken, in our culture, to be beyond question. We cannot imagine that even the way a mother relates to her infant is culturally constructed.

    You want to hold onto the idea that there are emotions which are not thoughts. I have explained how it is possible that the mind is only thought—emotions are simply unclear thoughts, and usually thoughts we need to remain unclear about to avoid seeing our own delusions. To “transmit at the level of emotion” is to interpellate someone into an ideology they remain unaware of as an ideology. To believe that there is something more in the mind besides thought is to hold onto the belief in the soul, now just renaming it as the ineffable part of the mind that is beyond all language.

    Once again, sorry to have to tell you there is no Santa Clause, but you are completely deluded. If you want to remain in your ideology, and avoid the truth, I’m not sure why you are bothering with this blog. I suspect your ideology isn’t working for you all that well, and perhaps, like most Western Buddhists, you came to Buddhism hoping for more illusions to shore up your protection against truth and thought. I think I may have said this before, but if you want help holding onto your illusions a bit longer, I’m the last person you should be talking to. It may be that your persistence here is a sign that you are beginning to see through this reification of emotion, this illusion of the “true self” of pure feeling; if so, I can certainly help with that. Your attachment to emotion, and fear of thought, is not something I am able to help you support. If you can, to borrow Zizek’s phrase, “enjoy your symptom,” then perhaps you just need to wait until the enjoyment runs out and you have not choice but to think.

  92. Matthias: really the “you’re a Stalinist” bullshit, again?

    You clearly don’t get what I mean by “truth” at all. I don’t “have” the truth. As I say over and over, there is not “final truth” to possess. The truth is the point of contradiction, the aporia, of our existing knowledge systems. What I have is an orientation toward that lack. You can’t grasp this, so you return immediately to the tired cold war rhetoric: he thinks, he must be a Stalinist!

    I know you weren’t addressing me, but you said you “could ask” who does the “tuning.” You can only imagine a homunculus deep inside. Once you can see that this incorporation of the bodily individual is performed by social practices, you will be a long way toward understanding what I am saying, and escaping the atman trap of people like Metzinger.

    Oh, and I loved David’s last comment. It’s just too funny. Bored indifference is the standard response to the truth of the obscurantist subject. Wouldn’t it then be the obvious response of someone suggesting Tibetan Tantra as the solution to our modern problems?

  93. I want to renew my commitment to fighting de-humanizing transcendence wherever I meet it. Of course, the only place I can ever meet it is in language, since there are no transcendent entities. (…) the notion of a thought-free experience becomes synonymous with a claim of a subtle atman. And the person who insists on such a possibility would be shown to be a believer in a transcendent self.

    Glenn (#89), since I’ve already mentioned the issue of Raffman qualia in comment #16 which passed unnoticed, I’d like to continue and ask you what is your stance toward what in philosophy has been termed as ineffability problem, namely that there exist whole range of experiences (contents of phenomenal consciousness) that we’re able to consciously attend to, but at the same time, we are unable to categorize or define symbolically or linguistically? I mean all those subtle, ultrafine color, sonic, olfactory, gustatory, tactile or emotional nuances that are available attentionally to us but we can not form a memory trace of them, which results in our inability to form direct concepts of them. (Technical term in psychophysics for that is JND – “just noticeable differences”). As perceptual psychology experiments shows us, all of this does not mean that those phenomena are delusional. They’re real but too subtle and fleeting to be captured by our memory systems and than in turn by our language/symbolic abilities. So, from subjective perspective we deal here with appearances only, not with knowledge, which we can not communicate to others. Of course there are all sorts of experts/connoisseurs such as vintners, musicians, perfume designers or dance critics that create technical terms to talk to each other about those nuances but even them will never be able to introspectively exhaust the vast space of that range of ineffable differences of phenomenal experience. All this means that there are innumerable things in life you can fathom only by experiencing them, that there is a depth in pure perception that cannot be grasped or invaded by thought or language.

    So please tell me now, do you really think that all those experiences can be “synonymous with a claim of a subtle atman”, and that “person who insist on such a possibility would be shown to be a believer in a transcendent self”? And finally, if those appearances or call them “entities” apparently transcend language, will you then commit yourself to fight with all those who think that they constitute irremovable building blocs of reality?

  94. Hi Matthias,
    In reference to an earlier comment you made:

    I have just done a little research on Gendlen. …Never read anything by him before. I found Process generates structures: Structures alone don’t generate process. It looks interesting, especially his implicate/explicate idea… one of those very general ideas that none-the-less promises something new, unexpected…It bears very much on the issue of a subscription to a process of truth and to just plain old fashioned left-dogmatism.

    I like the following very much:

    Here is an example from a familiar human process: Consider how you ordinarily speak. When you are ready to say something, you say it in a few sentences. But if others invite you further, or you think further alone, “it” can expand on and on. Then it (what you were ready to say) turns out to have had a great many strands and parts. Some of what comessurprises you. Did that all already exist in your readiness to speak? Surely not, and yet in some way it was there. The incomplete way it was there I call “implicit

    This seems to me to be similar on first reading to ideas I have already come across such as Badious idea of the difference between knowledge and truth
    Knowledge refers to all that is known about the existing situation…that is to what is calculable in thought. Truth, on the other hand, has a sort of future tense orientation. Truth maybe refers to a possibility.. .I mean what the world would look like if a certain intuition of a truth were to be ‘explicated’ as a world and in that way known to thought.
    So a truth would be an unknown in the process of being explicated. What I think that means is hat a truth can never be realised in the sense of being grasped as a thought, rather a truth has to be made manifest by human action; it has to be weaved into the fabric of a world’ and then it becomes knowable to thought; it becomes knowledge.
    Badiou succeeds in rescuing truth from the relativists but in such a way that it can never become a weapon in the hands of the dogmatists.

    This from Gendlen maybe points to something similar

    What do you do to make the words come? You keep sensing what you had ready tosay and you open your mouth. The words come out. You did not already have words for what you wanted to say. You had it in a bodily way. The readiness to speak is an implying. It Implies something that comes next. If you give it permission, it will make actual sentences. Speaking is one way of “explicating”. Actual events can explicate the implicit.

    There is something here too that might be compared to Heidegger’s idea of ‘ready to hand’

    Any way such correspondence is probably an indication of something wrong in what I say… but who cares. I think exploration is far preferable to an attitude that fortresses thought behind a barricade of half-truths! A said JRC said above -I’d rather be completely wrong than half wrong?

    Gosh, though, I’m a bit worried about the lack of ‘clarity’ in what I say. No doubt I’m about to be put right.

  95. RE #98: Do you really want to know how the concepts of qualia and barely perceptible differences require an atman? I could tell you. It is so obvious, it’s hard to imagine anyone cannot see it—in fact, many defenders of the concept of qualia use it precisely to try to prove the necessary existence of a “soul” like entity. Fully expecting to be called a Stalinist once again for rudely pointing out the obvious truth, I’ll offer a brief sketch of the problem here.

    It is a fundamental mistake to assume that these differences are “too subtle to be captured” by the symbolic order and therefore memory. Instead, we should understand that it is the existing symbolic system which excludes them; to assume they are permanently outside the symbolic system is to mistakenly assume that the symbolic system is a fixed entity that can never be changed. A “qualia” may be just that which we don’t have a term for presently, and to insist that it must remain that way is to insist that the current symbolic system be unchanged. This requires the assumption of a transcendent, unconstructed experiencing mind, whose experiences exceed any social determinations and cannot be altered by any such social practices—exactly a subtle atman untouched by dependent arising, in Buddhist idiom.

    You own example illustrates how illusory this is. Professional connoisseurs, take coffee tasters for example, can detect differences between two cups of coffee that I cannot possibly detect. They can learn these “barely perceptible differences” (that is, they are not biologically inherited, but trained) and can also discuss them symbolically, in languages they invent for the purpose, and can therefore commit the differences to memory. There may always be some experiences we don’t have language for, but that doesn’t mean there could not be a language, used by someone else, that does name those experiences.

    Sorry to once again “dominate the discussion” and oppress your free opinion/error with the inconvenience of reasoned argument. Will you now abandon your attachment to your naïve and outmoded empiricism, and fight all those who produce ideology in the guise of science?

  96. RE Matthias Steingass 93

    > I think Tom’s notion of mind etc. isn’t so debatable or difficult to understand. In fact for a lot of educated people what he is saying is carrying coals to newcastle. But that is for “educated people” not for x-buddhists. I think Tom’s intention to educate Buddhists is a noble one and therefore shouldn’t be criticised further. It’s his decision.

    I think I am mixing with the wrong crowd here, but my notion of these terms (as someone who doesn’t think continental philosophy is a useful way to understand such terms) is very different from Tom’s and I would argue that many of the (extreme) claims are demonstrably false. For example, if you look at the scientific literature on how language influences “thought” and “perception” (as measured behaviourally), there is some evidence that language can affect thought and perception, but it is quite limited.

    RE Tom 86

    The point was based on my reading of that article, where it seemed like you were trying to tie belief in atman to belief in eternal self to make your argument against atman stronger. But yes, it is somewhat irrelevant. As I see it, the crux of the issue is something like this:

    Let’s assume that animals are conscious (we don’t know for sure, but the evidence suggests that they probably are), and do not have language. Their kind of consciousness and experience of the world might fit the category of “unnamable-observing-thing”. In humans, because of the symbolic ability provided by language and culture, this basic mode of awareness is lost. Some buddhists believe that you can get back into this special state through insight and meditation, whereas someone like Tom would argue that is impossible as your experience will always be tainted by the symbolic self.

  97. RE 101: Well, perhaps you could get back to this animal state, if you want to live as an animal. I don’t really think it can be done, short of certain kinds of traumatic brain injury or psychosurgery. What people produce instead is the illusion that they have achieved it, an illusion produced in a social practice they forget is a social practice. Even if you could really do it, I cannot see why it would be desirable to live as an animal.

    As for the evidence concerning language affecting perception, I’m frankly surprised that there is any at all. Since such evidence would have to be empiricist, I can’t imagine how one could produce empirical evidence that empiricism is a flawed epistemology–although I’d like to see the evidence you refer to. It could be very useful in persuading people to let go of the absurd attachment to empiricist methodolatry. It is interesting, though, that you assert that “many” of my claims are “demonstrably false” (I’m guessing by demonstrably you mean they appear false from within an empiricism epistemology?) but the only example you offer is one where there is, in fact, surprising evidence (surprising to me) that my position is correct, and empiricism itself is mistaken.

  98. There may always be some experiences we don’t have language for, but that doesn’t mean there could not be a language, used by someone else, that does name those experiences.

    Tom (#100), how could you be so careless and set this trap on yourself!? There really are “some experiences we don’t have language for”? Thus, what are they exactly? And most importantly who is perceiving them? I’m certainly with you when you claim that teoretically there always could be a language – as those various connoisseurs prove – “that does name those experiences”, but that they do not appear in our perceptual field – as you clearly suggest in all of your rhetoric – because we don’t posses language for them – that is simply a nonsense. If I set two swatches of nearly identical red in front of you – you know this simple experiment, don’t you? – let’s say red 21 and red 22, I assume that you will be able to recognize the subtle difference of hue between them. Now if I show you them separately – will you, using your memory, recognize which one is which? Unless you’re some kind of magician you will certainly fail to recognize them separately. Now tell, those two different colors definitely “transcend” your abilities to memorize and symbolize them, but at the same time they are attentionally available to you, right? Or they aren’t? – because you simply do not see them unless you “borrow” some special language from someone else and only then you’ll perceive those colors and subtleties associated with them through this newly acquired symbolic matrix?

  99. Exactly my point, Tomek. There is an imaginary as well as a symbolic register. There are many limits to the symbolic. For instance, this is the definition of the unconscious (clearly, a location where thought occurs, for a psychoanalyst, but one we cannot “speak” about). There are definitely differences in our abilities to perceive these fine differences in color, taste or sound. And we can acquire better ability, in the imaginary register, to do this, as well as in the symbolic register. I don’t see how exactly arguing my point has sprung a “trap” for me. The imaginary and the symbolic are both socially produced, and impact or interact with one another–they cannot be completely separate. If I have names, labels, a language for red 21 and red 22, and learn to spot them separately, there could still then be a new, red 21.5, which I could not tell apart from red 21 before but now can–a new “barely perceptible” threshold. As for who is “perceiving” them, well, it is always the subject constructed in an imaginary/symbolic system that “perceives.” What’s the mystery there? Are you just confused because there is no unconstructed core mind doing the perceiving?

    I understand, Tomek, that you have limited intellectual ability. But let me assure you that any human being capable of speaking even one language is capable of understanding this. I guarantee you, your inability to grasp what everyone can understand is not a biological limit. It is an ideological block, a refusal to let go of a clear error that means too much to you for some psychological reason. Your arguments against me are so stupid and illogical it is rather embarrassing to keep pointing out the glaring errors–I feel like I’m writing to a ten year old with asperger’s syndrome or something. Try understanding what I’m saying, without need to believe it. Nobody could be as stupid as you appear to be, so I’m sure you can do this. Even assuming I’m wrong, try to understand what I mean to say. You continue to assume that my position is wrong because there really is an atman which my way of explaining things is ignoring. Try imagining, just temporarily that there is no such atman, no core unconstructed mind, and understand these ideas from that perspective, even if you continue to believe there is an atman in reality.

  100. JRC (#92). How refreshing to read a “thank you” in response to a critical evaluation of one’s thesis. Now you–or the person receiving the evaluation–can sit down and think about whether (1) you were wrong about something, and need to adjust your thinking(2) you didn’t express yourself clearly, and need to adjust your language, or (3) were misunderstood, and need to stay in the game (struggle). That’s how I view critical responses to my views.

    Can you consider that being partially wrong is a real possibility? I see this part + part – unfolding all over this blog. And it–the partiality–is an important aspect to the work we are doing here. In fact, this most recent post addresses this issue directly. It has to do with what Avital Ronell calls “the rhetorical unconscious” of a text. Tracking the rhetorical unconscious of a given text or statment involves honing in on the aporia, fissures, evasions, i.e., whatever “withdraws from immediate promises of transparency or meaning.” Anyone coming to this blog with x-buddhist postulates is committed to the terms of a particular discourse. I prefer to think of this discourse in terms of a calculus. X-buddhist talk, by it’s very nature, has the terms of a particular calculus swirling around it, terms such as emptiness, conditionality/contingency, impermanence, no-self/insubstantiality, and so on. Yet, when many people write, they come up to the full force of these terms, and then…what? If they turn back, that’s part + part -. If they continue through the rupture, that’s something else, and so on. So, in my reading, the first part of your statement in #87 was – (the notion of an ambiguous self as an example of an experience that can not be thought symbolically) while the second was + (radical immanence, in-One).

    Patrick (#94).

    Who exactly are you referring to with this insidious little word ‘our’ I can’t believe you could be using it to cover the generality of people commenting here

    Yes, I am. Plural pronouns refer to the collective of subjects on this blog who contribute texts forcing and then examining ruptures to x-buddhism’s whole. As a participant here, you are answering the call to this examination, and are thereby implicated in “our/us/we.” But once thus called, a subject can take on various forms and attitudes–various positions regarding the call. Sometimes “Patrick” produces a text faithful to the call of destruction–of hovering around or, yes, standing before the ruptured ground. Sometimes, kicking and screaming, “Patrick” avoids the aporia altogether. But often, “Patrick” plots a clear pathway to the point of rupture, and then retreats. So, yes, as you mockingly put it, “our insistence [is] on not giving an inch,” on not flinching before, retreating from, the chaotic energy of the disruption “we” instigate in “our” destructive explorations.

    David (#95). That’s not an answer to my question. I asked something that required a very personal response. It is disingenuous of you to just pass off your obviously deep commitment to your bizarre brand of x-buddhism in the way you do. Really, you study with teachers steeped in fantastic medieval magical traditions just because you “learn things from them”? Like what? Like all of the “magical stuff” that you just take as “inspiring entertainment”? My question, which you evaded, was how you are able to operate like this in good faith. I suspected at the time, and now am all but certain of, that you are deluding yourself in to thinking that you are “free to take whatever ontological stance you find useful.” No, you seem more likely to be participating in a very specific social-doctrinal matrix, one that determines to a great extent which “stances” are permitted. Since I assume David is not reading this, I’ll leave it at that.

  101. Tom #97, oh, did I really call you a Stalinist in #93?

    Patrick #99. How strange to see these Gendlin citations in the context of this thread. I realize how far we have come to control language on this blog. I once tried to convey a concept I call “open conversation”. It has a lot to do with what I learned from Gendlin’s work. I found a statement about it here

    How naïve this sounds now. How fucked up this here is now.

    But I come back to Gendlin later…

  102. RE 106: Did you really call me a Stalinist (yet again). Hmm, let’s see:

    “Tom makes it clear that he does not negotiate. He makes it clear beyond doubt in #77 that “the truth” is his. The background probably is dialectical materialism and the Lenin-Stalin idea that there has to be a party at the forefront of the revolution”

    Yep, I guess you did. (Or was that a different “Tom” you meant? Or a different Stalin?)

    And, of course, you refuse to comprehend my explanation of what I mean by “truth,” yet again–clinging to your sad dream of an “open conversation” unencumbered by annoying things like truth, facts, or reason.

  103. Tom, I am referring to the fact that Lenin and Stalin where forced or felt forced to educate the proletariat (whatever Stalin then thought this should look like) because In Russia there was no industrialisation with a proletariat like in western Europe. Marx thought the European proletariat would educate itself. You are clearly not a believer in the latter theory. …or perhaps you simply don’t know it.

    Re your “truth”. Your problem is that you don’t see your own aporia.

  104. Thanks for the lesson on the bourgeois version of Marxism theory.

    Of course, by definition, I don’t seem my own aporia. If you think you do, you don’t know what aporia means. Care to try to point it out to me? I know that in the past you’ve mentioned several stupid philosophical errors that you say I am not making, and claimed that not making these foolish errors was my aporia. Which idiotic error do you think I am failing to make today?

    No doubt there are aporias and errors in my thought, but I have not hope that someone as philosophically naive and devoted to capitalist ideology as you could possibly help me see what they are. I’d very much like to find someone who could, but all I get on these boards is the same tired crap about my rejection of some or other version of the soul being a horrible mistake.

  105. Tom, this is not about politics or philosophy. This is about personality. There are characters who begin to scream and shout when confronted with their own aporias. You are one of those.

  106. Tomek (98). If I had the power to do so, I would eliminate words like “ineffable” from usage. To my thinking, that word is a power demon, a con-artist, a swindler with greasy hair. I would do the same to “qualia.” I would do so because such words are like black holes to thought. They are, at best, lazy, spirtualized words. IF we do the work that they refuse to do we can begin to discern the social-material realities at work behind them.

    Re #16:

    What Diana Raffman has shown is the existence of a shallow level in subjective experience that is so subtle and fine-grained that—although we can attend to informational content presented on this level—it is neither available for memory nor for cognitive access in general.

    Was this perceptually unavailable “level” perceptually available to her? If not, did she infer it, like physicists do certain subatomic particles? Or, like a faster-than-light tachyon, is this “level” merely predicted, based on some theoretical model? I think that it is uncontroversial that a whole host of things, events, and processes that influence our perceptual field remain unavailable to immediate subjective experience. Hannah Arendt talks about this idea in terms of “the hidden insides” of things–trees, animals, machines, human bodies. But if they are indeed influencing factors they are phenomena, and not “ineffable,” perceptually unavailable “qualia.” I would think that your quote from Metzinger summing up his position would disabuse you of, at the very least, the value of invoking ineffability:

    And [Metzinger] eventually sums it all up saying that: For the most subtle and fine-grained level in sensory consciousness, we have to accept the following insight: Conceptual progress by a combination of philosophy and empirical research programs is possible; conceptual progress by introspection alone is impossible in principle.

    Isn’t that saying that the more we learn about perception and conscious experience and the more we adjust our language to what we learned, the less need we have for invoking the old “instinct”-like words such as ineffability? Isn’t your example of the various connoisseurs also pointing you in another direction–away from ineffability and towards either (1) refined knowledge-language or (2) subject formation? That is, it is not the case that such-and-such an aroma lies outside of the perceptual field of the budding vintner. It is either the case that he has not developed his sense of smell to the required degree, or there is no such scientifically verifiable scent “there,” and he has yet to be nonetheless subjugated to “smell” it and speak of it anyway.

    So I don’t see the “ineffability problem” as a real one at all. If “there exists a whole range of experiences (contents of phenomenal consciousness) that we’re able to consciously attend to, but at the same time, we are unable to categorize or define symbolically or linguistically,” then they are ultimately immanent, categorizable, and symbolically/linguistically definable.

    So please tell me now, do you really think that all those experiences can be “synonymous with a claim of a subtle atman”, and that “person who insist on such a possibility would be shown to be a believer in a transcendent self”?

    We can no longer speak of “those [ineffable] experiences.” What we “experience” is wholly articulable. That’s what language is for. If we can’t articulate it, we are not really experiencing it. Or, we are experiencing it as a thought or concept but mistakingly–given the force of the concept itself–think it’s something otherwise, and go looking for it “outside” of the sensorium. To persist in believing that there are such experiencing-determining operators is to believe in a subtle atman.

    And finally, if those appearances or call them “entities” apparently transcend language, will you then commit yourself to fight with all those who think that they constitute irremovable building blocs of reality?

    If they are phenomena, they do not transcend language. We just haven’t named them yet. If something turns out to exist only in thought than that too is a specific type of phenomenon, namely, one called a thought. Isn’t the idea of “irremovable building blocs of reality” one of the very building blocks of an atman?

    I am writing this hastily because I have class in an hour, and instead of preparing for it I’ve been commenting on this damn blog. So, I might say more later. Thanks for the discussion, Tomek.

  107. RE 111: So what you meant is that I don’t see my annoying personality flaws? Because nobody has pointed out my aporias here–I would appreciate it if someone could, but nobody ever has done more than point out mistakes they think I should be making and call my failure to make these errors an aporia. But if what you meant was not that I don’t see my “aporia,” but that I don’t know what an obnoxious jerk I am, well that’s different. I’m pretty sure I do know that, but I could be even more annoying than I think I am.

  108. Glen,

    Re 105
    Now that I have your attention (mockery works it seems)

    Taking a cue from your statement about David;

    What specific social-doctrinal matrix are you participating in?

    Are you just being sarcastic in putting my name between exclamations marks or are you trying to point out a special way of looking at the individual in relation to the collective?
    I am trying myself to find a clear way of speaking of just that and without collapsing one into the other…the more I research it the more slippery it becomes.

    What do you think of my suggestion to Tom that he restrain (not eliminate) his critique of the ideological implications/underpinnings of comments?

    Do you think my explication of the way he twisted the meaning of my comment is fabrication. Or do you agree with his reply or is it a bit of both.?

    Why do you never contest what he says? Does it mean that you agree, or that you are indifferent, or that you find his exaggerations useful? Or maybe you don’t think he exaggerates. I am thinking of this especially in the light of what you say about partial+ partial-

    Finally, the use of the word flinching…its just that even the most fortunate life has enough suffering in it to put a question mark over the worth of the whole business… I’ve seen ‘flinch’ in the flesh and felt it too (of course everyone has)…some words seem perfectly suited to expressing a particular truth. One should try to save their what?.. purity maybe …for …well..whatever .

  109. So, Tom (#104), you’ve decided to invite Lacan and his jargon to this discussion, well that’s you choice as my choice is to use of Metzinger’s jargon, which you obviously thoroughly reject. Does that say anything about the predictable outcome of this discussion? Most likely. But to one of your points.

    If I have names, labels, a language for red 21 and red 22, and learn to spot them separately, there could still then be a new, red 21.5, which I could not tell apart from red 21 before but now can–a new “barely perceptible” threshold.

    Supposedly you acquire this language and learn to name those swatches of 21, 22 red accordingly – and this results that you begin to see those colors – that’s your understanding, right?

    But tell me – and you entirely bypassed this most important issue of this experiment – what’s that hypothetical language acquisition got to do with the fact that even without that language you would most likely (unless you’re color-blind person) be able to perceive the subtle differences when seeing the swatches shown together? Of course if you claim that during such a hypothetical experiment you couldn’t see the differences in hue of swatches shown together or even couldn’t see the very swatches without that special language, I see rather feeble or no chances at all for any further agreement between us. So how is it eventually?

  110. My goodness Tomek, aren’t you at all embarrassed to call attention to your stupidity like this? I guess I should applaud it–if you were a third grader, I would think these were good questions.

    I “bypassed” what to you seems the “most important issue” because to me, assuming there is no atman or unconstructed mind, it isn’t an issue at all. The perception of differences is always done by a subject constructed in a symbolic/imaginary system (a “jargon” I “invited’ to the discussion well over year ago). The experiment is itself a social practice, which can construct a subject capable of certain kinds of imaginary interactions with the world. If you don’t understand how experiments are social practices pretending to measure things objectively, I recommend Danziger’s Constructing the Subject as a good place to start. It is dated, but then this has been taken for a given for so long now not many people have written about it in the last fifteen years or so. Of course, when such experiments are done, the majority of the participants actually cannot see the difference, and they are excluded from the study–so there is some degree to which the participants have already been taught to perceive this particular difference in other social practices. I don’t see much chance for agreement between us. You see all discussion as an attempt to prevent any appearance of truth, and defend your foolish eighteenth-century ideology/epistemology. I am not interested in encouraging your deluded thinking. I’m kind of tired of your stupid and childish questions now. If you still have trouble with this, maybe you can ask somebody else? Seriously, your errors are very basic and simple to correct, just about anybody should be able to do it for you. Even an introductory level philosophy of science textbook could help, if you can understand it–if not, try taking a class. I have faith that even you could learn to think. Unless, of course, you are afraid that thinking might interfere with your ideological commitments.

  111. The perception of differences is always done by a subject constructed in a symbolic/imaginary system …

    Tom (#116), this is of course our main point of contention. You say that subject is entirely constructed in a symbolic/imaginary system, I in turn claim that our perceptions (contents of phenomenal state space) are for the most part conditioned by the parameters of the vehicle, that is our bio-physical system, hence mainly the subtle differences between red 21 and 22. So eventually what you really try to bypass is nothing else but a flesh and blood of the biological body.

  112. Tomek, really, nobody can be as stupid as your pretending to be. I can only assume you are acting like the annoying kid in class who tries to cover up his low intelligence by acting the complete idiot and endlessly asking the stupidest of questions to entertain his classmates. If you think my absolute materialism is an attempt to “bypass” the material, while Metzinger’s idealism is an attempt to accept the body…well… really be this stupid, you wouldn’t be able to use a computer. So, I can only conclude you must be putting me on, you must be trying to “get my goat” by acting like an idiot without any let up for days on end. So, I’ll ask you again, to go have somebody else explain this to you, if you really can’t get it.

    Of course, there’s the possibility, as lurker suggested to me, that this is a pathological inability. The terrified denial of the symbolic order (true of most anti-intellectuals) and the wish for the fullness of perceptual presence is classic castration anxiety. Those who cannot resolve the Oedipal complex often become very literal minded, obsessed with seeking guarantees that their perceptions are correct and that language is meaningless and thought unimportant. If this is the case, I still can’t help you, but a good analyst might be able to.

  113. Tom/Glenn. In following this discussion it dawned on me that it would be really useful if you guys could provide a book list for the less educated amongst us. Tom you appear to get fed up with repeating many of the points that you take for granted as obvious, but as should be clear by now, they are not for many of us. A well-organised book list could help those who wish to learn more get to grips, if he or she should so choose, with some of the core conclusions you and Glenn have reached. I’d request that concessions be made for those of us with no background in Western philosophy, like myself, with clear indications of those texts which are accessible to a general readership. Just a thought.

    #112. Glenn. Appreciate the clarity in this explanation. Helps me get a handle on your position. It’s an important point you raise and will require some consideration on my part.

  114. If you think my absolute materialism is an attempt to “bypass” the material, while Metzinger’s idealism is an attempt to accept the body…well… really be this stupid

    Tom (#118), the problem is that I really see no traces of “the material” in your sterile, caustic rhetoric, not to mention the flesh and blood. Metzinger even in his formal, analytical style of BNO constantly reminds the reader that his phenomenal selfhood is inextricable from its biological, mammal body, and your poor subject seems to be entirely made of the “symbolic and imaginary” stuff.

    You see, Matthias in #93 reminded you of that shady metaphor of the radio, and how did you responded?

    Once you can see that this incorporation of the bodily individual is performed by social practices, you will be a long way toward understanding what I am saying, and escaping the atman trap of people like Metzinger. (#97)

    Look this is all that you can offer in terms of explaining of how the bodily individual is “incorporated by the social practices” – which means nothing. Null. I assume that you’re not capable of explaining the tuning process at all. The body is beyond your reach. You’re simply a bot.

    By the way, every time I post a new comment in this conversation with you I don’t really expect that you respond – taught by the past experiences no one knows when you’ll retreat again. Will you Tom this time?

  115. In the spirit of struggle, the following is a postmodern exercise whose performance borrows language in an effort to shake up thinking:

    A Summary of Non-Buddhism

    The Two Problems of Non-Buddhism

    Non-Buddhism is a discipline born from reflection upon two problems whose solutions finally coincided: on the one hand, that of the Self’s ontological status within Buddhism, which associates it, whether explicitly or not, to Being and to the Other whilst forbidding it any measure of radical autonomy; on the other, that of Buddhism’s theoretical status, insofar as Buddhism is practice, affect, existence, but lacking in a rigorous knowledge of itself, a field of objective phenomena not yet subject to theoretical overview.

    Concerning the first point, there follows an observation and a proposal. First the observation: the Self is an object at the margins of Buddhism, an object of that transcendence which is stated in terms of the epekeina rather than in terms of the meta. Accordingly, it is as much Other as Self, as divisible as it is indivisible; an object of desire rather than of ‘science’. It occurs to the thinking that is associated or convertible with Being, without being thought in its essence and origin (‘How does the Self necessarily occur to man-the-Buddhist?’). Buddhism establishes itself within Being and within a certain ‘forgetting of the Self’ which it ceaselessly uses in favour of Being and which it supposes as given without further ado.

    Now the proposal: to finally think the Self ‘itself’, as independent of Being and the Other, as un-convertible with them, as non-determinable by thought and language (‘foreclosed’ to thought); to think according to the Self rather than trying to think the Self. But to think this non-relation to thought using the traditional means of thought; this displacement vis à vis Buddhism with the help of Buddhism; to think by means of Buddhism that which is no longer commensurate with the compass of Buddhism, that which escapes its authority and its sufficiency. These are the terms of the new problem.

    Concerning the second point, there follows an observation and a proposal. First the observation: Buddhism is regulated in accordance with a principle higher than that of Reason: the Principle of sufficient Buddhism. The latter expresses Buddhism’s absolute autonomy, its essence as self-positing/donating/naming/deciding/grounding, etc. It guarantees Buddhism’s command of the regional disciplines and sciences. Ultimately, it articulates the idealist pretension of Buddhism as that which is able to at least co-determine that Real which is most radical. The counterpoise for this pretension, the price of this sufficiency, is the impossibility for Buddhism to constitute a rigorous, non-circular thinking of itself, one which would not beg the question, that is to say, a theory. Buddhism is self-reflection, self-consciousness; it thinks, or in the best of cases, feels that it thinks when it thinks; this is its cogito. Buddhism never goes beyond a widened cogito, an immanence limited to self-reflection or to self-affection. It is a practice of thought, or a feeling and an affect. Buddhism thereby manifests through this nothing more than its own existence and does not demonstrate that it is the Real to which it lays claim, nor that it knows itself as this pretension. Implicit in its existence is a transcendental hallucination of the Real, and in Buddhist ‘self-knowledge’, a transcendental illusion.

    Now the proposal: how to go about elaborating, with the help of Buddhism and science but independently of the authority of the Principle of sufficient Buddhism, a rigorous theoretical knowledge, but one that would prove adequate or attuned to Buddhist existence, to the Buddhist manner of thinking? These are the terms of the new problem.

    The above is the first portion of François Laruelle’s A Summary of Non-Philosophy (translated by Ray Brassier) with each instance of the word “philosophy” replaced with the word “Buddhism” and each instance of the word “One” replaced with the word “Self”.

  116. Really Tomek, I’m sorry you’re so stupid, I’m sure it’s hard for you, I do understand that the reason you post your idiotic nonsense over and over is because you hope it will silence all intelligent conversation; you really are like the stupid class clown trying to stop the rest of the class from learning anything, aren’t you? Well, you will get your wish only in part. I will return to ignoring you. I will only respond to those who have an interest in actual discussion.

  117. RE 119: Matthew, I don’t know about a “reading list.” That sounds awfully prescriptive. If there’s something particular someone is interested in, its always easy enough to ask–I’d be willing to say what helped me understand something, or where I think is the best place to start, but all I can offer is suggestions. It’s hard to tell what will be “clear” to someone else. I don’t so much get exasperated with people who don’t know something, as with certain people who keep making the same absurd statements over and over, for years, whenever I post a new essay or make a comment.

  118. Let my be apodictic myself for once:

    This is a crucial phase of the whole non-buddhism project.

    That is, how it will go on here? It will go on elsewhere for sure. Glenn has written the text and that’s all we need. We can go on anywhere and without being noticed.

    Glenn made a good point in #105:

    Now you–or the person receiving the evaluation–can sit down and think about whether (1) you were wrong about something, and need to adjust your thinking(2) you didn’t express yourself clearly, and need to adjust your language, or (3) were misunderstood, and need to stay in the game (struggle). That’s how I view critical responses to my views.

    That applies for everybody here but for Tom.

    Tom: Your apoira is that you talk about truth having none (and seeing this of course would force your own truth upon you… then becoming one). That you are a sociopath is not the real problem. Everybody who has a bit of an experience in internet bulletin boards, forums and blogs knows that there is a typ like you. The terminus technicus is “Troll”. There is already sociological literature about you. Read it and learn a bit about yourself.

    The real problem is that you won’t jump. Anatman full strength? One has to look at the questions put to you which you don’t answer to know the answer. You still want to have your “historical Buddha”! You still want to be a “practicing Buddhist”! You want to keep the whole terminology! You won’t leave your sangha to practice with real people instead with true believers! Why? The answer lies in your affection – what a nice polyvalent term…

    You know that Badiou says something very important. But you yourself haven’t to say so much. Your Anatman full strength doesn’t put the throttle at full power. The text is quite well but you don’t jump. Others might.

    Another point is that you are not faithful to what others write or say. You twist and fabricate meaning which isn’t there. Whatever one might think about Metzinger’s theory, your text about his Précis is a glaring example of this strategy. Why do you use this strategy? In one way or another you are not able to communicate with real interlocutors (that is in this case to Tomek and me through your reading of Metzinger). Neither emotionally nor intellectually. I don’t know why the former is so but it prevents you from doing the very thing you need to do to implement the forcing of a truth – to communicate. The latter is so because of the former. Your compulsive affect hinders anything useful you might have to say.

    And it is so because you simply have no truth to force. What is no problem, most of us don’t have one. (Except in our own little lives that is, but than that is nothing we would have to write novels about.)

    The best thing for you (and for us) you could do is to just shut up. Try to write better texts. Perhaps you come to the point to jump and that than would be a truth you should force. There would be something new. But stop reacting compulsively to what others say.

    Matthew #119. To understand what Tom could say read for example Badiou’s Second Manifesto for Philosophy and his Ethics. Further you could read The Non Philosophy Project with texts by Laruelle and Laruelle and Non-Philosophy with texts about his thought. Read Glenn’s Nascent Speculative Non-Buddhism (which hopefully will be out soon in an extended version) that is the one use- and truthful text here.

    And go wherever your inspiration takes you.

  119. Tom,
    Is it really so difficult to see that there is a problem with your contribution? As you say

    but that I don’t know what an obnoxious jerk I am, well that’s different. I’m pretty sure I do know that, but I could be even more annoying than I think I am.

    So tone down your remarks; moderate your behaviour; for instance in relation to Tomek call him stupid only once (or not at all).
    Why do you assume that any adult would put up with such behaviour? The only reason many people stick around and try to ignore your ‘obnoxiousness’ (quoting your own description of your own behaviour) is that they see an opportunity to participate in what might just be a groundbreaking attempt at rethinking xbuddhism via Laruelle, Badiou Marx etc. Where else is that happening?
    There is no doubt that in undertaking this project the collective subject so engaged will be composed of unequally developed individuals—-I mean that there will be no black and white division between right and wrong, fact and fiction, truth and error, useful and useless, articulate and confused. So it always will be in regard to the multiplicity of the singular and the singular multiplicity. Truth is by way of process and embedded within process…… to para-phase Badiou communism is in its becoming only.
    Its not a big issue. Shut the fuck up when you feel like spewing out insults or being overly strident in your criticism, in favour of a commitment to the project. There is no one else here who can articulate the Marxist perspective (classical or Badiou (ist?). as coherently or with as much force as you can. So in my view you are an essential. So please just moderate your overly personal attacks. Otherwise confine yourself, via posts and papers, to the undeniably clear, concise and insightful explication that is your real talent!
    Then we can get on with chewing the meat on this bone! Is this too much to ask?

  120. Well, thanks for trying Matthias, but your inability to think is not my aporia. Once again, you can only offer an assertion that you won’t understand what I say, and complain that I won’t make the same philosophical errors you make.

    You should try to understand the difference between drawing out the ideological implications of what someone says, and “twisting” their meaning. I know full well that what I “reflect back” to someone is never mere paraphrase; what I try to do is a deconstructive reading, showing the (metaphysical) meaning they are producing without acknowledging it. Accusations like yours are common enough, and the most pathetic kind of defense. They are, to use Zizek’s terms, the defense of the moron; the moron, Zizek says, is someone who is thoroughly immersed in “common sense” and received opinion, unable to see that it is simply convention, not thought; he is the thorough anti-intellectual, making the same complaint as you make when someone points out to him that his “truth” is mere illusion. Of course, in Zizek’s terms, that makes be an imbecile, seeing the illusion but stupidly going about pointing it out to everyone. I’ll keep being an imbecile. Maybe some day, you can try being one to.

    Really, simply asserting that I have said nothing ever, that I have never said anything true, is not much of an argument. I could assert the same about anybody. Instead, I try to demonstrate, as I did with Metzinger, the error of what they do say. You can assert all you want that I say nothing, that when I answer your questions over and over for hundreds of pages that is “refusing to answer them” because you “have better things to do” than read the answer you asked for. That approach, that angry insistence on your right to stay a moron, won’t get anyone anywhere.

    If you want this project to be something else, stop spending all your time complaining about how mean I am to point out your errors, and stop insisting on your right to make errors without anybody correcting them, and say something different. Go read a book, take a class, try really thinking.

    But really, the most important thing, the crucial thing, is to make this distinction between “twisting” and “drawing out implications.” This is Laruelle’s project, as well–and he has begun to get the same criticism. When he points to the “decision,” what I would call the unexamined ideological commitment, in philosophy, he is “distorting” or “misunderstanding” what others say. If “non-buddhism” is modeled on “non-philosophy”, then I cannot see any reason to abandon Buddhism to engage in it. In fact, that would make it completely impossible and pointless, just as non-philosophy is not the same as anti-philosophy. Deluded people who are “true believers” are “real people,” and the goal is to strip away their delusions.

    It does strike me, though, that the goal here is increasingly becoming to avoid stripping away delusions, and to guard against the annoying interference of truth. Tomek, Matthias, Patricia, Patrick, Sawfoot, Jayarava, and others, have decided the goal is to stop pointing out ideological implications (which is exactly the Laruellean project) and to begin just engaging in a new set of shared delusions. If that is the new direction of the blog, then I may have to go where I can actually do what I originally thought this blog was going to do. If, however, it is merely a matter of “resistance” in the psychoanalytic sense, then these tedious assaults on me, in the classic form of anger at the analyst making a correct interpretation, are just part of the process, and need to be worked through–I’m perfectly happy to be the object on which you vent your frustration. I’m just not sure which is going on here, the formation of a reactionary subject, or the process of resistance.

    One way to tell which: Matthias, what “question put to me to which I don’t know the answer”? Instead of asserting this, perhaps look at the answers I gave, and try to understand them or ask for further explication. Do you mean that when someone asks a question for the tenth time, ignoring all previous answers, I refer them to the answer I’ve already given? Or to a longer answer somewhere else? Is this what you take to be “not knowing the answer”? Giving an answer you won’t take the time to read? What is one of these questions? Name one, instead of giving this lame assertion that you have stumped me with imaginary questions at some imaginary point in the past, that I have been unable to answer a question you will not ask. Some questions are simply beyond answering–the kind that ask, “well, but if there is an atman, how would it pass from one body to the next” is not a question that can be answered, because it assumes a non-existent. Pointing out the assumption of a non-existent however IS an answer. So, what question have I been unable to answer?

  121. JCR
    Re 121

    Interesting,

    I did exactly the same thing myself with Marxist terminology to see how it would look…am still trying to articulate the result. It will take who knows how long , but then how long can a subject live? How long has the Buddhist Subject (or the Christian one ) been around. And how old is the Non-buddhist Subject? We should think long-term

  122. Patrick: I’ll try, seriously, to be less obnoxious. If you go and count the number of personal insults and hostile comments directed at me, I think my response is hardly over the top, but perhaps it is better to just let them pass, and refuse to respond to any comment that makes a remark about what a rude, obnoxious, over-intellectual, cruel, etc. jerk I am. Just that would severely limit my responses.

    But let me refer back to an earlier comment you made:

    T

    he alternative –continual pointing out of ideological error, will achieve only the alienation of regular contribitors
    The logic seems to be that such a policy will create a situation in which only those who agree with the Marxist critique will remain.
    Perhaps you would be happy with such an outcome? I certainly would not be happy with that situation.

    In the first place where would it end? Wouldn’t there always be what you would call ‘error’ to be pointed out; wouldn’t the criterion for deciding error itself always be in contention.

    This is the kind of backhanded insult that is exasperating. Why would it ever be good to stop pointing out error? Why would it be bad to have everyone see these errors? You suggest that this is bad because it would mean everyone would become a marxist, and this would make you unhappy. Why? Clearly (no doubt you will deny it) this is a subtle way to once again call me a Stalinist, to claim that there is some “commitee for public safety” that polices thought. This kind of sophistry is the problem. You are suggesting that pointing out error and demanding the truth is being a kind of Stalinist “thought police.” Do you realize the error here? Of course there is no end to pointing out error. And the criterion is not at all in contention–the criteria is immanent to whatever is being said, to the given discourse, the error is always revealed in aporia and contradiction, and the insistence that we stop pointing out error or ideological implications is it most powerful indication. So, I could stop doing it, but then what do we have? Exactly the kind of blind participation in “decision” that Laruelle tries to point out. It is endless work and not easy or always fun to keep doing this, but if you want to participate in a project to rethink buddhism without any of that annoying truth and thought, that’s just not possible. If I shut the fuck up when there is strident criticism to be made, then what we have is just shared error and delusion.

  123. Tomek (#117). Is the following a fair and sufficient summary of what you see as your and Tom’s positions?

    Tom (#116), this is of course our main point of contention. You say that subject is entirely constructed in a symbolic/imaginary system, I in turn claim that our perceptions (contents of phenomenal state space) are for the most part conditioned by the parameters of the vehicle, that is our bio-physical system, hence mainly the subtle differences between red 21 and 22. So eventually what you really try to bypass is nothing else but a flesh and blood of the biological body.

    If so, do you think it sounds like a version of the age-old nature-nuture debates? Is it a question, in your view, of what is determinate in the first (and final?) instance? Tom’s position does have a place for the body. But let’s leave that for now. Can you see any value in the view that while physiology plays some role (how could it not?) in the perception of red 21 and red 22, all the rest is a matter of the symbolic/imaginary? By all the rest I mean the structuring, patterning, conceptualization, interpretation, and then, to speech, articulation, naming, and so on. In using these examples, are you intentionally making reference to Wittgenstein in those early paras of Philosophical Investigations? Doesn’t he come to the opposite conclusion from you? Not that that would be decisive in any way, but it is an interesting parallel, don’t you think?

  124. Tom,

    Well of course as far as obnoxious is concerned I take you at you word. (on the principal that it is reciprocal and that personal attack on you is equally obnoxious)

    Here again, as an indication of how things have been going here, on reading you critique of my earlier point and seeing that you are engaging with the substance and not making a connection between substance and my level of intelligence, I immediately want to reciprocate with an equally genuine engagement. Human nature?
    Where did you learn the Art of polemics—at a gentleman’s club? If what I’ve read so far is an indication of your flesh and blood style, how come you’ve lived so long with your kneecaps intact (maybe they’re not!)

    As always there is an philosophical question hovering not far off—in this case the question of the relationship of truth to opinion or fact to personal gloss (and below that again the question of ideological subscription (our own as well as the subscriptions of others) and how we should deal with that

    All of which has to be teased out. And you’ve made a good start with my earlier comment and your quote from it.
    The following will probably turn out to be an equally bad attempt at articulating what exactly I am trying to express.

    First what is the real situation…what is the project we are engaged in.
    This is as good as it gets;

    To both traditionalists and post-traditionalists, non-buddhism must appear as ill-behaved to an extreme. For, it is not interested in preservation of any kind. In casting a coruscating gaze on the very postulates that loyally uphold “Buddhism’s” vallation, it debilitates their potency and cancels their warrant. Again: this gaze, however, is not an act of hostile destruction. It is an act of vivification, or vivifying destruction: in clarifying it gives new life.

    One question concerning this project is problematic for a Marxist ( it is the substance of the disagreement that seems to have led to an impasse here between you and Tomek, Matthias and others, myself included.)

    The question is; what attitude to take to a stance that is judged to be, by word and deed, committed to the project in hand but is explicating an ideological subscription indifferent or hostile to Marxism. ( and therefore as Marxists would see it indifferent to a truth of the situation or a truth of immanence)

    Well you probably know the answer, and, as I said before, far better than I do…although, for some reason you won’t implement it in practice.

    Maybe for my generation the best example is Mao’s ‘ On the correct handling of contradictions among the people’ For me the language here is so fossilized that on a cursory reading it might strike one as totally irrelevant. But it has a lesson about the relationship between long and short-term aims, the difference between a broad front and the party and the relationship between truth and practice. Mao was confronted with the problem of what he called the stage of the democratic revolution, when the proletariat, although in the ascendancy, had to tolerate the bourgeois presence and the free expression of its ideological viewpoint. His answer was a broad democratic front including bourgeois party’s not overtly hostile to modernization but overtly anti-marxist. ( almost the exact opposite to the choice made by the Bolsheviks during the Kerensky period.)

    Applicable here? yes. (in a far-fetched way but one familiar to anyone on the left who decides to engage in a broad movement for change . Badiou’s description of his experiences during the may uprising in Paris is a classic example; and Mao’s essay was for much of the French left a turning point)

    We are not engaged in a revolutionary enterprise but in the practice of a form of non-philosophy. In this we are a collective Subject comprising individuals co-opted from a broad range of ideological and philosophical positions, all of whom will inevitably contend with one another in the course of realizing the project.

    Furthermore all are agreed that broadly speaking, xbuddhist subscription to capitalist ideology is a factor that needs to be addressed.

    We want to preserve the unity in struggle we have established in order to fulfil the promise of the undertaking on which we have all freely embarked.

    As you can see I am placing the question not at the level of what might or might not constitute a Marxist truth but at the level of what is the nature of the non-buddhist Subject who will explicate this project as a truth in process.

    That Subject is not the Marxist subject but a Non-buddhist Subject who decides on the necessity of adopting the Marxist methodology put to the service of the non-buddhist project. The truth explicated in process is not an overtly Marxist truth (although a Marxist might say that Non-buddhist truth, once realised and become mere knowledge will be seen to fall short of the Human.)

    This is certainly full of holes but its the best i can muster at the moment.

  125. Matthias, Patrick, Tomek, (Tom)-
    Resistance? Maybe, but definitely Protest and classic Projection. It’s fascinating. I’ve been through both sides of it with a good corrective at hand. Working through this was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The work continues daily, but over time it gets a lot less dramatic. Most will take defenses to the grave. Luckily, I’m not compelled to be as reactive lately.

    So, Mathiass, Tomek, Patrick: you don’t have to hand any power to Tom. You can ignore and not respond. Aware of that choice. At my peril I mostly ignore your posts if they are just rants against mythological character called Tom. My hunch is that you think Tom is on to something. However, your oblivious to the fact that what you say Tom is doing is precisely what you are doing. Patrick, you question why an adult would put up wit Tom’s communication style. But you’re doing just that! 🙂

    Anyway, I read with great interest all of your posts when you’re not focused being the tone police. This is the pushing forth of truth AND we still have the shit to sort out. Thank the protagonist that no one has agreed to disagree!

  126. Patrick (#104).

    What specific social-doctrinal matrix are you participating in?

    I see this blog as a living, breathing answer to that question. I have never pulled it all together, but the blog–my posts, essays, comments, and responses to comments–is full of data for answering your question. I’ve even gotten personal about it, talking about my parents’ politics, my school, my music, and tons more. Go through the site, and pull out keywords, and, if you like, start reconstructing the social-doctrinal matrix that I am participating in. I mean key terms like: chaos, destruction, education, practice, meditation, anarchism, punk rock, dialogue, creation, utopia, non-philosophy, Laruelle, Brassier, Nietzsche, Badiou, ethics, nihilism, and ruin. I am working in a matrix that refuses all forms of exchange. Just this is ever and always on offer. No form of payment is required, such that you change or agree. Hence, the inseparability of my anti-capitalism–the very Master of Exchange–and my critique of x-buddhism, which mimics the exchange logic of its capitalist master yet masks that logic with the cloak of The Universal Dharma. See, I am an open-fisted interlocutor.

    Are you just being sarcastic in putting my name between exclamations marks or are you trying to point out a special way of looking at the individual in relation to the collective?

    No, not at all sarcastic. The latter part of your sentence is it. No one here knows you, Patrick, as a person. All we have are your texts. Each of us derives a sense of you from those texts, a sense that may or may not match your intentions or your own view of yourself. Additionally, your texts are, whether you intend it or not, striving to form a particular subject, one that sees things as you–or, now we need the “”–as “Patrick” does. You likely do not even see a good deal about the various effects, readings, outcomes, responses, etc., that “your” (see the work they’re doing, those “” and why they’re useful?) texts are catalyzing in your readers.

    What do you think of my suggestion to Tom that he restrain (not eliminate) his critique of the ideological implications/underpinnings of comments? Do you think my explication of the way he twisted the meaning of my comment is fabrication. Or do you agree with his reply or is it a bit of both.?

    Since such a critique is important to him, I wouldn’t expect your suggestion to get very far. In fact, I would subject your very suggestion to the same critique. For instance, contrary to the implication of the suggestion, it is not at all universally obvious that Tom needs to restrain his critique. So, to suggest that he does is, to my thinking, a curious and interesting piece of evidence regarding your particular ideology, psychological make up, social environment, and so forth. The struggle referred to throughout this blog is not only against other positions but against our own hidden machinations. This goes for the idea of “twisting” a comment. All sorts of weird things happen once we put our thoughts to writing and subject them to the gaze of others. I rarely get the response I expect, and nearly always get one I didn’t. I prefer to see “twist” as evidence of either misunderstanding or a re-interpretation, and continue to struggle.

    Why do you never contest what he says? Does it mean that you agree, or that you are indifferent, or that you find his exaggerations useful? Or maybe you don’t think he exaggerates. I am thinking of this especially in the light of what you say about partial+ partial-

    I find the obsession with Tom Pepper’s tone and mode of argumentation by turns amusing and annoying. Is he some sort of daddy figure for some of you? What’s with the fixation? Why does anyone give a shit whether he agrees with them? Why all this whining and fretting that he’s obnoxious? Fucking Rinzai was an obnoxious prick and he’s adulated! Why not see Tom’s texts in the light of Rinzai? All of you are so fortunate to be the object of his deep compassion and unfettered response. The patience he shows each of you is far beyond the scope of ordinary mortals. Where in the triple world would you find such heartfelt intelligent response if not in the texts of Tom Linji Pepper? Consider yourselves fortunate to have encountered in this lifetime Pepper-spray Bodhisattva. Sure, watch that fly whisk, but keep on going. . .

  127. RE 130: I have to admit, Patrick, that having read this comment three times, I cannot see what your point is. I don’t get what the cultural revolution or Maoism has to do with this; I could discuss the errors of the cultural revolution with you if it were somehow significant, but I can’t see why it is important here. You do see that China is now the worst of all possible social formations, state run capitalism, right? Or maybe it is better than the US, where we have a capitalism-run state. So how would repeating Mao’s errors be of use to us, exactly? I don’t see what you’re driving at. Unless it’s just a more subtle form of the “communism must always and everywhere lead to state-run capitalism and oppression” argument?

    Partly, I cannot understand your assumptions. You ask about ” a stance that is judged to be, by word and deed, committed to the project in hand but is explicating an ideological subscription indifferent or hostile to Marxism” but I would say there could be no such stance–unless you are attempting a subtle rhetorical sleight-of-hand and mean “marxism” in this sentence to stand for a particular ideological formation, i.e., Stalinism. Marxism is the critique of the existing situation to reveal how its contradictions are produced by social formations, not inevitable. Nobody could be “indifferent or hostile” to this, and at the same time attempting to do exactly this.

    You say that this is “not a Marxist subject” but a subject that “adopts the Marxist methodology,” but this is exactly what would make it a marxist subject–the subject is nothing but the practices it participates in. Unless, again, you mean the first instance of the term “Marxism” to mean something different from the second instance of the term, so that you are suggesting, perhaps, that you want to use the marxist analysis of ideology and the economy to become more efficient at exploiting the deluded majority, so using the marxist method for “not marxist” ends–this is not uncommon among the more sophisticated Wall Street investors. In which case, you aren’t really using marxist methodology, because an important part of the marxist methodology is the attempt to transform the world. So, if you want to use non-buddhism to become more aware of why the x-buddhists are so easily duped, and use this knowledge to set up a retreat center and publish some books to bilk them of some cash and delude them some more, I don’t think that would be a non-buddhist subject.

    Communism is for us not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things. The conditions of this movement result from the premises now in existence.

    Marx, German Ideology (emphasis added)

    When you say that “a Marxist might say that Non-buddhist truth, once realised and become mere knowledge will be seen to fall short of the Human,” I cant figure out what that could possibly mean.

  128. As for the “impasse” between Tomek and Matthias and myself, it isn’t really a matter of “tone” at all. They take the position that the body is determinate of the mind, that the mind and so all of culture is a product of evolution and the brain. I reject this position, and insist that simple reductionism cannot explain most human phenomenon without recourse to a “ghost in the machine,” as Hume so powerfully demonstrated almost three hundred years ago—and we have been stuck with the “Humean” problem ever since, in every new form of reductionism. I suggest that there are other modalities of materiality, and that culture, social structures, are materially real and produce the mind. The brain is a limiting factor in what kinds of culture we can produce, as well as an establishing factor (only human brains have the capacity for symbolic communication)—but so is the liver, the opposable thumb, etc. The human mind is a product of social formations, not of brains. To try to explain the mind with the brain is like trying to derive the rules of baseball from the laws of physics: you certainly couldn’t play baseball if the laws of physics didn’t operate, but that doesn’t explain the rules of the game.

    So the “impasse” is not a mere matter of opinion or difference in emphasis. The reductivist/empiricist model is wrong, because it cannot explain most of the important things about human thought and behavior that we want to explain. It works no better than the “four humors” theory, or the idea of a soul fallen from grace. It explains nothing, and simply asserts that there must be some core “mind” that remains undetermined from the brain and that in some way works by its own set of rules (either rational rules or rules of “good and evil”) which are not humanly constructed or changeable in any way (they are “human nature” or the nature of the soul). The approach I accept can explain everything with no recourse to any transcendental entity, but has the inconvenient consequence that we can, and should, change our social formations to reduce human suffering. The reductionist approach, although demonstrably untrue (unless you grant supernatural occurences), conveniently absolves us of the need to make real change in the world; instead, we need only adjust our minds to the unavoidable suffering of the social formation that is “naturally” a result of “human nature” and cannot be avoided—resigned acceptance through meditation and medication is the new opium of the masses. One can see why Tomek, hoping that the rise of capitalism in his country will make them all rich, and Matthias, who lives off money appropriated from the laboring masses through the stock market, would prefer this approach, right? It is not separate from the question of why x-buddhists like their delusions; it is exactly an explanation of why the “worried well” in America’s suburban paradise would want, and cling to, these delusions.

    So, yes, it is an impasse, but probably not the one you think. The impasse is a question of whether we want to accept a clearly wrong idea in order to comfort ourselves and justify our wealth, or face the truth. You cannot reduce the difference between truth and error to a question of different ideologies. Whatever the ideological formation it appears in, whatever social formation it is used to support, the position Tomek supports is factually incorrect—it depends on a magic ghost in the machine that we are just all supposed to pretend not to notice. Whatever ideological position we may choose to produce from it, the knowledge that the mind is socially produced is always true in any social formation.

    If Tomek were to say “I know that Metzinger’s position is false, that it is factually incorrect and cannot account for anything that actually occurs in the human world, but still I want to convince people of its truth so that I can better exploit them while they are deluded and powerless,” at least I could have some respect for his honesty. If he wants to pretend to believe it really is true, and doesn’t depend on the phantom-mind, then we will remain at an impasse, and I can have no respect for him at all, just as I would remain at an impasse and have no respect for someone who believes in witchcraft or astrology.

  129. Tom and Glenn:

    Re: 119/123

    Primarily, I am responding to this statement made by Tom in response to a request for a ‘reading list’:

    “If there’s something particular someone is interested in, its always easy enough to ask–I’d be willing to say what helped me understand something, or where I think is the best place to start, but all I can offer is suggestions.”

    If it’s helpful, I offer the following context for my request for some reading suggestions:

    I don’t know if this will be seen as merely tangential – or perhaps an attempt to get back to the point of the original post – but please bear with me; I wish to understand.

    As a child – from the age of about 6 or 7 to the age of 15 or 16, I had “experiences” to which I struggled to give voice, but I for which I really didn’t have the language. FIRST QUESTION: I’ve a vague sense of how you, Tom, might explain this situation of having some experience and not having words for it. I am not claiming to have had some kind of experience of “the ineffable,” as I DO believe there are words to describe what I was “sensing.” Would you say that it was just an example of ‘fuzzy thinking?’ What is the relationship between having such an experience and thinking or speaking it?

    Then I stumbled upon some buddhist texts that seemed to ‘explain’ or at least make sense of these unfocused ideas and experiences I had been having for so many years. Primarily, it was texts about “not-self” and “emptiness” that seemed to finally give me some verbal way into what I had been trying to describe (to myself and others). I found that having these words and concepts certainly helped me to come to a deeper understanding of my experience.

    But then I kept coming across buddhist teachings that seemed to deny the radical implications of ‘not-self’ and even to back-pedal from “emptiness”: talk of “buddha-nature,” “tathatagarbha,” “the Absolute Body” of “dharmakaya” and “original mind” etc. all seemed to my mind to clearly hypothesize a transcendent self. When I questioned others (including buddhist teachers) they all said I was misunderstanding; that none of these were ‘things’ or atman. I kept trying to show them how to my mind they seemed willfully blind to the obvious!

    Though I had benefited from the practices I learned from my zen teachers, the famous four-lined stanza that the zen traditions use to grant themselves special status:

    “A special transmission outside the scriptures,
    Not depending on words and letters;
    Directly pointing to the mind,
    Seeing into one’s true nature and attaining Buddhahood”

    from the first, seemed to my mind to be incoherent, and directly contradictory of the allegedly ‘core’ teaching of ‘the buddha.’

    I have argued with other buddhists about this, but I feel once again that I do not have the language to articulate what I mean and why I think it important to critically evaluate such atman-impositions. I sense that texts by folk like Laurelle, Badiou and others repeatedly mentioned in this blog could help me articulate why I reject this notion of “a special transmission…not depending on words and letters.”

    I go to Amazon and am overwhelmed by now many books these guys have written. SO, once again, could someone suggest a few books to start with? Even perhaps a good ‘sequence’ of reading?

    Thanks.

  130. Everyone Re: #116:

    It does strike me, though, that the goal here is increasingly becoming to avoid stripping away delusions, and to guard against the annoying interference of truth. Tomek, Matthias, Patricia, Patrick, Sawfoot, Jayarava, and others, have decided the goal is to stop pointing out ideological implications (which is exactly the Laruellean project) and to begin just engaging in a new set of shared delusions. If that is the new direction of the blog, then I may have to go where I can actually do what I originally thought this blog was going to do. If, however, it is merely a matter of “resistance” in the psychoanalytic sense, then these tedious assaults on me, in the classic form of anger at the analyst making a correct interpretation, are just part of the process, and need to be worked through–I’m perfectly happy to be the object on which you vent your frustration. I’m just not sure which is going on here, the formation of a reactionary subject, or the process of resistance.

    For us (that’s “us,” for the literal-minded; see #105) to do our job here, this blog must remain dangerous. That means, among other, more obvious things, dangerous to each of our sense of/construction of self. I think Tom’s post on Badiou’s distinction between faithful, reactionary, and obscurantist subjects should be required reading for a participant here. If every single existing x-buddhist on-line forum is any indication, persisting in resistance is extraordinarily difficult, if not virtually impossible. The violence of x-buddhist rhetoric is such that it–and its upstanding acolytes–eventually get around to forming a reactionary or obscurantist subject from its comers. I could go through the bodhiblogosphere and provide dozens, maybe hundreds, of current examples. The question of this blog revolves around, again, in Badiou’s terms, the faithful subject. For those of us still (dis-)interested in Buddhist material, that is a difficult matter. I can confidently say, for instance, that I have never in my life met an x-buddhist teacher who does not subscribe to a transcendent self (atman), permanence (nicca), and the painless (sukha). Why be at all attentive to Buddhist materials, then? Why not just be honest with yourself and join your local branch of The Secret? I have not given up on the prospect of extracting revelations of human truth from the Buddhist material. But God knows, with such a long lineage tree of x-buddhist reactionaries and obscurantists, it’s not easy. Hence, the struggle.

    Now, with Tom’s comment #134, let the struggle continue.

  131. RE 135: I can offer some suggestions to how to approach Badiou for someone who isn’t familiar with him at all, if that would help. Ed Pluth’s book Badiou: A Philosophy of the New seems to me to be a very well done introduction, clear and thorough, from someone who really knows Badiiou (and Lacan) far better than I do. To be honest, when I read his book I had already read a great deal of Badiou, so I may be wrong about how clear and helpful it would be for the newcomer, but I don’t think I am too far off. I think that reading some of the shorter more “accessible” works first may also help–if you’ve read Pluth’s book, I believe that reading Badiou’s Ethics would be easy, and great fun. Also, Second Manifesto for Philosophy is a great way to get oriented to his newer thought before trying to tackle Logics of Worlds. And right now, I’m reading Badiou’s “hypertranslation” (his term) of Plato’s Republic; it really clarifies how Badiou understands Plato, and, perhaps an indication of what a hopeless geek I am, is probably the most enjoyable book I’ve read in years. I have to force myself to put it down to go and read the Dos Passos novel I’m going to be teaching–and I really like Dos Passos.

  132. Poepsa (#135). For Laruelle, I recommend you begin with the text that JRC jams on in comment #121, “A Summary of Non-Philosophy.” But don’t expect the typical “summary.” You may have to read this very short text fifty times.

    Also, Tom, Matthias, and I are coming out with a book soon that might help, though it might also hurt. We each have a bibliography there.

  133. Glenn, Poepsa, Tom-

    Teachers believing in self, permanence, and painless is so surprising to me. My experience has been that a teacher will talk about emptiness, no-self and dependent origination. Then, in the same breath he talks about the ‘deathless’. I would always ask what the ‘deathless’ was. Never really got an answer. Same with Buddha Nature. The way I dealt with this dissonance was to define deathless, nirvana, buddha nature as just names for nothing…literally nothing there. Empty yet appearing solid. Now, is this still the subtle atman?

    Even with the most ‘practical’ teachers I was taught that there was this space between thoughts that I could rest in. Now that sounds like atman. Of course, the trouble is that I couldn’t stop thinking. It’s all very subtle and confusing. My gut always question all these things, but I kept practicing. It was literally like pulling teeth, trying to find the right teacher etc. So all these guys when their saying one thing they are really saying the opposite? Are they aware of this? I wonder. Shinran is lately becoming my hero…we’re all fools!

  134. Tom: When one becomes liberated by accepting his or her position in a collective mind, what is the locus of his or her intentional agency? And could you explain in a bit more detail Badiou’s idea of living as immortals?

  135. RE 140:

    This is an essential question, probably the most important question to really understanding Badiou, but also, for me, to grasping the concept of shinjin in Shin Buddhism. (I think these are really different ways of putting the same question).

    The problem is that the only way to answer it is by a kind of Socratic dialectic—there is no “positive” answer to the question, and a deconstruction of the assumptions of the question is the only response.

    If I say “I become liberated,” this is only metaphorical. One doesn’t “accept one’s position in” the collective mind, because there is only a collective mind, there are no “individual minds.” Rather, what occurs is something different, because the bodily individual that was part of a collective mind that worked by denying or obscuring its collective nature has now become a bodily individual that is part of, incorporated into, a different collective mind, one that is aware of its collective nature. So “I” do not change “my” mind, except in the metaphoric language of conventional everyday speech. Instead, the discourse/practice which incorporates my body becomes engaged with a different discourse in a way that transforms it—that produces a new discourse/practice, and so a “new mind,” that is not the same as the old mind. Then what happens is not “accepting” that one is part of a collective mind (which is always the case), but becoming part of a different collective mind.

    To put it slightly differently, the symbolic/imaginary system in which the deluded mind exists comes up against a limit, a failure, or a contradiction, and is forced to make a change. If there is another symbolic/imaginary system with which it can interact, one which does not require mystification or delusion about the nature of the social construction of the subject, an individual might become interpellated into this new symbolic/imaginary system, producing a new, combined system—a discourse/practice which includes a knowledge of the deluded or mystifying nature of the original subject position.

    To give a brief example: if I am working as a wage laborer, I believe that I am “freely choosing” to engage in work in return for money, that I am getting, for my eight-hour day, enough money to live 24-hours a day, so I am getting back more than I put in. If this fails, if I can no longer pay my rent or buy food with the wages I make, I begin to explore other, less “common-sense” discourses—that is, the discourse/practice of being a free “agent” in the world (which incorporates me) fails to function and seeks some way to continue functioning. Should it encounter a new discourse explaining that “I” am a “living tool” of capital, existing only to perpetuate the accumulation of capital, in a system in which the reified social network has come to determine all human possibilities (economic necessity works “by itself”: interest must be paid so that the “system” doesn’t collapse, and we all only work to keep the system from collapsing), then my discourse/practice has been transformed, and I am not incorporated into a new discourse/practice, a new collective mind. It is always a collective mind that is a transformation of an existing on—that is, every new discourse/practice transforms and existing discourse/practice into an different one, but everything is in a material practice.

    So, this is already too long, and perhaps trying to go to far at once, but until this is clear, there’s no way to address the problem of “locus of intentional agency” at all. That is, until we can agree that there is never any individual mind at all, always only a collective mind, that the discourse proceeds (thinks) but no individual “decides” or “chooses” anything, then the question of agency remains unanswerable. If we get this clear, then we can proceed to address (dissolve?) the concept of agency. This kind of dialectic is better done in person, because now I need to know where this response remains obscure or overly abstract.

  136. #140.

    I find it difficult to reconcile your description above, which is very clear, with the fact that I experience myself as an individual with a mind that operates, has opinions, a body that experiences discreet feelings etc. It seems that what you say goes too far, but perhaps this is resistance to the implications of a fully considered absence of a self. Perhaps the issue concerns my own self-reflection as a thinking, feeling human animal and the difficulty in accepting that I am not ultimately unique? I exist and yet not as I hold myself to exist.
    Part of all this is coming to terms with truths, and then returning to everyday existence in which such contemplation and consideration of such truths is suspended and there the person remains. Then the results of its impact are left to resonate and act, or raise further questions. I am still curious about the phenomenological implication for such an acceptance. Forgive my crudeness, of the pragmatic implications on the self-conscious self as it proceeds.
    I am still emerging from the narrative of self and that has resulted in awareness of the collective nature of the self, but to abandon the idea that I have independence is not so attractive, perhaps because I do not know how to recognise myself afterwards and because a sense of defining one’s self is so central to one’s existence.

  137. An older exchange that might be relevant here:

    I asked (of Tom P.):

    Would you say that said perceptions/sensations are at some level biologically determined? Or is it social construct all the way down, so to speak?

    And he replied:

    First, be careful of the “all the way down” metaphors, which suggests something like layers. Certainly, we have biological predispositions to perceive certain kinds of things, and even biological limitations on what we can perceive. But those perceptions are going to be completely culturally shaped. For instance, we no doubt have a biological predispositions to notice and be attracted to flowers, because they would indicate sources of food and water. But we cannot say that this is somehow “deeper” than the cultural preference for flowers because they are a sign of affluence, an indication that we can invest resources in growing purely ornamental plants. The biological dispositions is there—we like sweet foods, for instance—but this disposition is always completely occurring within some cultural context as well. We cannot “strip away” the cultural and live as pure animals in our instinctive tendencies, because as humans who use symbolic systems of communication, we always have a culture as well. Even our most biologically determined perceptual tendencies will have a cultural significance.

  138. Well, Glenn reminds us all in #132 of something very profound: the daddy figure. When I read this my eyes where opened. I saw a glimpse of my real reality: Of course, Tom is the daddy figure! How could I not see this for so long? He is daddy. He is daddy bodhisattva and all he wants is that I get enlightened like him.

    Yes, we should all look up to him and realize how we confuse His Holiness with our own creepy little shitty projections, our hatred against our fathers, against those who imposed upon us their ugly little super egos. We all have it in us and, oh!, let’s fuck Œdipus!

    Let’s do some psychology, some thinking, some sinking in of what reality is. Let’s all remember our fathers. It’s so easy. Everybody can do it. Look into the eyes of the spectre and see your true face.

    Take me. I am a german. Of course I am a Nazi like everybody believing in cognitive sciences, and of course I believe everything – all language, all culture, all sociality – to be programmed since inestimable times into our genome by aliens from outer space. Of course thinking is impossible for me – like His Holiness points out again and again – because I am deeply traumatized by the cruel deeds of my forefathers. Grandpa left earth as one of the last of Hitler’s entourage fleeing for exile on moon with the Nazi’s UFO-fleet. His son, my father, wandered for years alone and forsaken in the ruins of his hometown living on beechnuts and nettles until capitalism from overseas saved him with chocolates and cigarettes. He taught me: never trust the Führer – and so I do. Confusing the Savior with the Führer I am immune to every insight offered to me by oh so many bodhisattvas who want nothing but to save my soul.

    Take Glenn. Meditating punk rocker, kicking the jams out. He gets you by your throat: You decide in each and every moment wether you want to be the problem or you want to be the solution. You must choose brothers and sister! You must choose! It takes you five seconds! It’s time to testify! Are you ready to testify!! I wanna hear some revolution out there!!! – Where does this come from? A ramblin’ rose giving us his machine gun like testimonial… and finally enthroning His Holiness? You decide.

    Or take Patrick. Who named the poor guy Patrick? Of course his father. A man, like all Irish men, constantly drinking Guinness and Whiskey, cursing the British, wishing whole heartedly that little St. Patrick would finally banishe all snakes from the Isle. The venomous beasts of course the poor father’s own demons the son never could heal him from. The deep frustration which lasts since then upon him, the non-fulfillment of his desire to redeem his father, left little Patrick as a deeply frustrated psychic wreck snapping at each and every one who wants to sprinkle him with the warm spring rain of salvation.

    And last not least, Tomek. Well, probably Väterchen Stalin cast his long shadow over him too. I guess, with my well trained clear-sighted pseudo-psychological looking glass, that his was a father like mine – just another fucked up human and His Holiness standing by to replace him. But it is clear, his desire of being no one is just a reflex of the trauma again. The annihilation his forefathers saw, names of nameless places written with black smoke in a pale grey sky. Ein Grab in den Woken und ein Meister aus Deutschland (and one from Moscow that is) – all this keeping him for ever from pure land.

    Such is the fate of the good and the bad, the chosen ones and the damned. Their daddies did it, and then their daddies did it before them. On and on backwards in time we sink into oblivion and enlightenment. The only hope is some good old kitchen sink psychology.

  139. A question or two for Tom/Glenn:

    Firstly, thanks for the elucidation in #134, Tom. Super clear.

    1. Having a tough time articulating this, but I’m wondering something like: is the self/mind any more constructed/illusory than any big thing made out of smaller things? I.e., if the ‘collective mind’ exists in the same way, say, a body made of organs does, or an organ made of cells–which I have no trouble believing–then the conventional self is just as much a fact as the body, or any other ‘object’ or ‘assemblage’. Then the insight of anatman is that this self is impermanent, changing, essence-less, whatever, all of which seems totally right but not particularly shocking. Maybe it’s natural, then, that the reification of the ‘no-self’ idea actually leads to lots of true self garbage? ‘No-self’ seems too grandiose–maybe something more like ‘de-transcenditized-self’ or ‘lamer-than-you’d-like-self’ would be more on target.

    I guess my question here is kind of “what’s all the fuss about? Am I missing something exciting?”

    2. In relation to the preceding:

    Glenn, you’ve been asked many times before–and have answered thoroughly, I’m just trying to get an answer in a slightly different context here–but what is it exactly that you are trying to accomplish (with regard to the ‘self’) via silent seated meditation? Is it some experiential observance of the fact that said self is completely socially constructed? How is this different than the intellectual acknowledgement of this fact? That is, if there’s no substrata “buddha nature” or “pure awareness” or whatever that you’re trying to get to, what’s the point?

    3. Tom, I also want to ask questions–continue the, er, dialectic–about agency (and the dissolving thereof), but I’m not sure how. Hoping someone else gets it right. Cool.

    Not certain I ended up asking anything at all, but, well, here’s to trying.

    Thanks all,
    Jonah

  140. Tom (#142): Would it be fair to say then that each and every bodily individual that is part of (incorporated into) a collective mind that has dissolved the concept of agency and is aware of its collective nature was once a bodily individual that was part of a collective mind that worked by denying or obscuring its collective nature through the delusion of an individual mind? And would such a limit/failure/contradiction that the delusional mind came up against be the infinite regress of homunculi?

  141. Re # 142 (collective mind)

    A thought experiment. Assume for a moment that there was a historical personage who had some sort of awakening experience 2,500 years ago and then taught about that experience for 40 years or so. How would the example of the wage earner’s awakening map on to Shakyumani’s awakening?

  142. Matthias you took the words from my mouth (or my dad’s looking on from the grave) I abandonded Marxist circularity and arrogance for buddhism . I abandonded buddhist circularity for non buddhism.. parodox of parodox… I come full circle… Marxist circularity and arrogance once again. How ‘samsaric’.

  143. RE 146: What’s all the fuss? The “fuss” is because for most of us, as Matthew says in #143, “the fact that I experience myself as an individual with a mind that operates, has opinions, a body that experiences discreet feelings etc. It seems that what you say goes too far.” It really does seem that way to most of us, until we come up against some impossible contradiction and the illusion of self-directedness becomes impossible to maintain. Lacan said “I do not speak, language speaks me,” and the great impasse to resolving our “symptoms” in psychoanalysis is that our ideological formations, our symbolic/imaginary systems, are designed to prevent us realizing this. This whole “collective mind” thing isn’t “my” idea. It comes from a number of different discourses/practices which construct my “self”—Nagarjuna, Santideva, Spinoza, Hegel, Lacan, Badiou, all assume the collective nature of the mind. They are all perceived as impossibly difficult thinkers, but this is largely because this one assumption violates the assumptions of most readers and so what they say doesn’t “make sense” within our ordinary framework.

    The organ metaphor might work to make sense of this, so long as we don’t’ forget that an organ grows out of the same “stuff” (stem cells) and become what the individually are only in relation to other cells become something else—and all organs can only survive and function as part of a collective whole. I like to use the metaphor of a net: each individual self is like a knot in the net, completely a part of the entire net, influenced and moved by every movement of the net as a whole. If we try to separate out of the collective and “perfect” ourselves in isolation, we are trying to become nothing but a useless little knot of string with no power at all to interact with others or the world.

    RE 147: Probably most of us start out in such a deluded symbolic/imaginary system. We are born “always already interpellated,” as infants we have names and social class and family roles before we are even born. Most “collective minds” in the world today share this delusion, and the inability to break out of it is less a matter of individual biological intellectual capacity than the power of the collective mind—a rich, good-looking, heterosexual, white, male in the U.S. is going to find very little to force him to see the contradictions in his symbolic/imaginary system, and will have enormous resistance to breaking out of his delusion. My position is that many Buddhist practice throughout history have been attempts to “force” the limit/failure contradiction, to exaggerate and reveal it. Badiou give an amusing list of the possible sources of this limit/failure/contradiction in his hypertranslaton of Plato: he says there are “eccentric oddballs” such as “ordinary people, born in some small country, who, because they were free from the temptations of power, have been able to combine their independent political experience with a first-rate education…workers who have become philosophers in order to understand for themselves their own painful experience… others who’ve become disgusted by occupations that relied too much on conventional opinion and have rebelled…in some countries girls have very successfully rushed to embrace philosophy and politics owing to the rage they felt about being regarded for so long a incapable of excelling in them.”

    So take the “thougth experiment” Steve Lee suggests. Imagine a young man born into a social/symbolic system in which the hegemonic ideology works not, as ours does, by constant “modification” and novelty, but by absolutely rigid reproduction, attempting through strict control of discourse and ritual to reproduce the existing relations of production, based on slave production in agriculture, distribution of wealth through ritual “sacrifice,” and leadership by a dominant warring class in combination with an ideological-religious class (on much like the ancient Greeks for a short period of time). Then, a young man born into a merchant family begins to realize the contradictions in this society: the ideological system is attempting to reproduce social relations of production that are at odds with the actual economic system, which has become mercantile and not increasingly dependent on money instead of ritual sacrifice to manage distribution of wealth, as well as increasingly dependent on change and interaction with different culture. The young man then attempt to break free of the ideological stagnation, and explores various discourses/practices, and comes to the realization that his mind is part of a collective mind, and this collective mind is produced in dependent origination on social practices. His solution is to create a new set of social practices, a new discourse/practice which can produce a new kind of mind capable of breaking through the delusions of his original ideological formation. Because, of course, he must have others participating with him in this new discourse/practice for it to produce a new collective mind.

    So now, can we move on to the question of “intentional agency”? What does that phrase mean? What would be an example of such a thing? What might be an act an “intentional agent” might take?

  144. #150

    So funny, I did my own thought experiment after posting #148, and your exact story unfolded. Furthermore, his realization itself was dependently originated; his creative act could only arise from “seeing” a previously “unknown” connection between ideas already alive in the collective mind of his day. I think maybe all creativity works like this.

    I get it.

    Not to duck the problem of agency, but a quick backtrack for a moment. The experience od being human does have the flavor of a knower and a known. Sue Hamilton-Blyth posits that this feeling arises from the cognizing (naming) process itself. (As Tom Pepper says above, it begins birth; I “know” who I am because the programmatic tools for knowing it were mapped on me from the beginning, layered over the dependently originating cognizing tools of khandhas, etc. Knower, known, and knowing are all dependently arisen. Being dependently arisen, they are empty of a fixed identity, inherent nature. They are all anatta.

    It was helpful (for me) to see myself (anyone) as a dependently originated read-write node in a network of similar entities. Language is the carrier, and culture is the code. Culture writes me, and I write it.

    If the “purpose of the programming is self-replication, some programming code is good, some is bad.

    This is a provisional seeing for this morning!

  145. 126 Tom

    >> It does strike me, though, that the goal here is increasingly becoming to avoid stripping away delusions, and to guard against the annoying interference of truth. Tomek, Matthias, Patricia, Patrick, Sawfoot, Jayarava, and others, have decided the goal is to stop pointing out ideological implications (which is exactly the Laruellean project) and to begin just engaging in a new set of shared delusions. If that is the new direction of the blog, then I may have to go where I can actually do what I originally thought this blog was going to do.

    It isn’t my blog, and I know nothing about non-philosophy and Laruellean projects, but it felt like the point being made regarding atman might be an important one for western buddhists. My goal, at least, was to try understand what the claim was, what the assumptions underlying it were, and how the validity of those assumptions could undermine the claim or not. But if the likes of me are ruining the party then I will leave you guys to it, and the likes of Tom won’t be forced into doing all the trolling and intellectual posturing in responding to people who don’t assume the same truths as he does.

  146. re:150
    Thanks for these clear explanations. Some of this may finally be making it through my thick skull!

    What might be an act an “intentional agent” might take?

    So since any agency we have is only through the production of social practices, he/she might become part of a collective mind that works to expose a truth; ie, a faithful subject?

  147. Tom (#150): “I” am merely playing the devil’s advocate in this conversation, as “I” do not subscribe to the concept of intentional agency. “I” am curious to know, however, whether “you” consider the concepts of a bodily individual’s attention, intention, and agency as examples of delusional thinking that function only as metaphors for the greater metaphor, an individual mind. If so, once “we” have dissolved these concepts from being considered as literal members of “our” identity-without-transcendence, how do “we” account for “our” immortal character?

    Below, “I” continue to play games with the words of Laruelle:

    The proposal: to finally think the Axiomatic ‘itself’, as independent of Being and the Other, as un-convertible with them, as non-determinable by thought and language (‘foreclosed’ to thought); to think according to the Axiomatic rather than trying to think the Axiomatic. But to think this non-relation to thought using the traditional means of thought; this displacement vis à vis reason with the help of reason; to think by means of reason that which is no longer commensurate with the compass of reason, that which escapes its authority and its sufficiency.

    The crux of our thing here seems to be the impetus to “think according to” rather than to “think [of]”. Now, would thinking according to the Axiomatic be likened to living as an immortal? And how does one think according to without thinking of what it means to do so?

  148. wow, cultural inmortals approaching our way …. redescripting The Republik is really reaching inmortality through another footnote of the inmortal Plato, and … a book, a new book is forthcoming, redescribing all-new, recently estracted “revelations from Buddhist material” “: ursprunglich !!!!!!

    Language and redescription, not just what we call thinking but what we call mind, is language and its use. But that is simply not convenient to Wallis the Theorist and Pepper the Truth Enforcer.

    The problem of theory -finding something common from above – and authority – enforcing its application-, conveniently obscured here by Wallis and Pepper – sustains -wonders of wanders ! – their clumsy self-referencial non-x-buddism baby (“dont kill my nostalgia bro”) in its really very unoriginal effort of escaping from chance and time.

    As for anti-capitalism in this blog beware that the story goes like this: “awake, awaken, you are all asleep in the invisible matrix of capitalism, you are the product of culture and we have come here to save you from a place outside of history and time. All you have to do is face me, I will tell you if you have understood” – Tom Pepper as backed by brave Glenn Waliis.

    And yet serious questions by Matthias linger – What is the ineffable and possibly non-propositional watcher? In other words, what is the referent of the first “I” in the the sentence “I know that I think” with the second being the actual thought? Is the first “I” of the same quality as the second?

    Matthias I am sure you have seen the book but there are some useful sections about attention in the book Zen Brain Reflections.

    —————

    If time was water, what would you do ?

  149. Steve Lee: I’m curious, have you ever suggested, to other Buddhists, that the Buddha’s realization was itself dependently arisen? It seems obvious enough that it was, right? But when I have suggested this in the past, the reaction is startlingly angry and intense: Buddha and Nirvana are completely “unconditioned” and if I don’t see this I don’t know anything about Buddhism and should spend more time “on the cushion” and stop thinking! The extreme hostility this suggestion called forth (one fairly well-known “bookstore” teacher immediately started calling me names and refused further communication with me as soon as I suggested this) is quite revealing, I think. What kind of response have you gotten to this suggestion? Are there many Buddhists who accept this idea?

    Danny: The question is, would this “being part of a collective mind” be something we would ordinarily call “agency”? Wouldn’t it be exactly the rejection of the idea of agency, which requires an assumption of some transcendent (undetermined) entity? This, I think, is the key to what Laruelle is saying in the passage JRC quotes—to “live as an immortal” would be to live as part of a collective mind that is faithful to a truth, but we have to give up the idea that agency is anything more than a sort of place-holder term, a sort of “floating signifier” for what is excluded from our discourses.

    JRC: Laruelle gives me a headache. Nevertheless, I think he has an important point to make, so it is, I suppose, worth the headache to struggle with him. What I take him to be saying is something similar to what Badious means when he says “the Idea is not itself presentable, because it is the presentation-to-the-true…there is no Idea of the Idea. This absence, moreover, can be named ‘Truth.’” Much clearer, right? But what I take this to mean is that, ultimately, we must reject correlationism, we must realize that our thought is not a “reflection” of the mind-independent world, but a part of it, enabling us to act in it. We produce some thought enabling us to act, and think it is “sufficient,” that it is all-inclusive and has no limit (a mistake, by the way, that Badiou absolutely never makes—philosophy, for Badiou, is never sufficient but always in the service of multiple “truth procedures” which must remain external to it and go beyond philosophical thought). Laruelle goes on to say, in the piece you’re citing here, “The ‘according to’ or clone appears to exceed the One, just as the transcendental appears to exceed the Real.” That is the role of agency the apparent “excess” produced by our structuring “clone” or transcendental concept (our “ideology” in my terms, the “count-as-one” in Badiou’s terms). We have a system of knowledge that is our way of interacting with the world, then we mistake this system for an all-sufficient knowledge “of” the world, and this requires some “excess,” something we take as the transcendent (the soul, agency, the ineffable, the subtle atman, the homunculus, the part of consciousness that must remain incomprehensible for empiricists like Metzinger). We think this is an actual transcendent excess, but it is only a product of our clone/ count-as-one/ideological reification, etc. To think according to the axiomatic instead of to think the axiomatic, is to understand that ultimately our relation to the real has not necessity or reason.

    To put this in my own peculiar idiom, I would say that the point here is that to realize that we must have an ideology, that this ideology does not “reflect or represent” the existing relations of production but is a “relation to it,” is to be liberated from the tyranny of delusion (including the delusion of the “principle of sufficient philosophy”). To act in the world we have an ideology, what Badiou calls an “orientation to the Truth,” but this ideology is not falsifiable, it exists only so long as we participate in it, and it can be known only in its effects (the actual practices it enables/prevents). Terms like “intention, attention, agency” (I would include “will”) come up when we forget that our “axiom” has a “non-relation to thought”: ie, when we forget our ideology is an ideology, and take it for either “human nature” or for a depiction of the world (correlationism). When we realize our ideology is a relation to the real conditions of our existence, not a mirror of them, we can produce an Idea that orients us to Truth, with no illusion that the Idea is itself truth, and that is to “live as an immortal.”

    I’m not sure if any of this is at all clear. To put it another way: “Agency? We don’t need no stinkin’ agency!” The symbolic/imaginary system of the mind has the capacity to produce more knowledge of the mind-independent world and, just as importantly, the capacity to produce new and better ideologies with which to engage in the world. There is not need to introduce “will” or “intention” at all—any more than we would introduce the idea of “will” in explaining a child’s physical growth and increased capacity to move about and interact with its physical environment. We don’t say the child “intends” to grow or “wills” an increase in fine motor skills.

    We don’t “choose” to awaken to the truth—we are forced to by a collision of our discourses/practices with other discourses/practice or with mind-independent reality. Those who are, then, incorporated into this truth don’t “choose” to try to incorporate others: they have not choice but to do it, and can do nothing else—they are part of a collective mind that just is incapable of relenting in this matter.

  150. Tom Pepper: I live in a small town: no centers, no temples, no teachers. If you want to hear a “real” teacher, you have to leave town for elsewhere. Thus, we muddle along with our local sitting groups. Two are lineage-based, two are eclectic, though individual participants may be following a particular lineage. For many, these groups serve as introductory portals to consensus Buddhism. In depth discussion of topics such as dependent origination only occur in the Dzogen sitting group. Most of those people are locked in to lineage-based thinking such that to question the party line of independently-arisen Dharma or nirvana just would not compute; I would immediately marginalize myself.

    I find that if I raise such issues, I just create a tension that drives people away. Example… A sitting group in which I participate has been reading Pico Iyer’s book-length essay on the Dalai Lama, The Open Road. At the last sitting, we were discussing Iyer’s take on the odd political position in which the Dalai Lama finds himself: the political leader of a people with no land and the spiritual leader of a tradition that increasingly is under pressure to change, given that is divorced from the grounds of its origination. I suggested that the various schools of Tibetan Buddhism arose in the conditions of a certain time and a certain place, and as that place, time, and circumstance changed, then so, too, would the teachings.

    The consensus response seemed to be that the teachings were eternal. I was asked if I believed in “multiple dimensions.” This phrase was code for Dharmakāya. My answer was no, and I tried to elaborate vociferously on why I thought the teachings were of dependent origin. (Keep in mind that many times before I was politely marginalized for not believing in Buddha-nature…) Of course, I had had a couple of glasses of wine before coming; whiskey courage, I think. And I was probably somewhat of a shit… But, the next gathering saw not 10 participants but 3.

    I wrestled with the question of the independent origination of Dharma and nirvana for many years; from the time I first understood dependent origination, I could never figure out why the teachings and “awakening” were excluded. I thought it was me, that I just didn’t understand, that there was something I was missing. But as I read and studied over a thirteen year period—and especially as I read scholarly deconstructions of received dogma—I began to think that it wasn’t my shortcoming. The received dogma is at odd with the essence of the teaching. This attitude, of course, does not sit well with those who are engaged in the process of buying into received dogma.

    I have never challenged a “teacher” on this issue, mainly because I am around so few teachers. (And I was so uncertain of my views until recently.) Our little “Buddhist” community is so small, and many of the participants in the sitting groups are close personal friends that it seems unnecessary to make a big deal of my views. I also find that if I get confrontational about it. I usually regret the confrontation, even if I don’t regret the views. Perhaps that is because I hold my present views to be provisional, even contingent upon where I am right now.

  151. Steve, if you read throughout this blog you will find mr. Pepper defending the so called enlightment if the buddha as a “Truth Event”. This meaning something inmutable, inmortal, non-relational.

    Now for the first time – he has been allowed a usung a different language – he says that for years he has claimed that the buddhas enlightment was contingent.

    In the kingdom a the blind a one-eyed is king.

    This whole blog is becoming a joke of itself

  152. Jonah (#146).

    what is it exactly that you are trying to accomplish (with regard to the ‘self’) via silent seated meditation? Is it some experiential observance of the fact that said self is completely socially constructed? How is this different than the intellectual acknowledgement of this fact? That is, if there’s no substrata “buddha nature” or “pure awareness” or whatever that you’re trying to get to, what’s the point?

    Just a slowing down, minimalization, deflation of experience. Like going to the gym, it enhances a certain kind of mind-body-environment synchronization. Like sleep, it enhances refreshment. Like thinking, it brings with it a certain kind of observation. It is, of course, not a sinking into a special mind. In fact, it seems to exacerbate the sense that there is only this socially-environmentally implicated mind. To me, it’s just a mode of being somewhere on the everyday continuum from REM sleep to hyper-awareness. I do think it’s a useful practice, but useful like napping and exercise. It differs from mere intellectual acknowledgement of the things I’ve mentioned in the same way that intellectual acknowledgement of the physiological effects of exercise differs from exercise. Again, it’s a mode of, attitude toward, and relation to normal being. It’s unfortunate that such a useful human practice has become so burdened by spiritualized claims and beliefs. Watch Marina Abramovich’s “The Artist is Present” to get another perspective on still, silent sitting. Maybe we can salvage it for the mere human. But, like Charleton Heston’s gun, we might have to pry it from x-buddhism’s cold, dead hands.

    Steve Lee (#151).

    Regarding what Tom says at #155, you may find this post by a devout Buddha-believer relevant.

    Luis Daniel (#155).

    And yet serious questions by Matthias linger – What is the ineffable and possibly non-propositional watcher? In other words, what is the referent of the first “I” in the the sentence “I know that I think” with the second being the actual thought? Is the first “I” of the same quality as the second?

    Maybe you overlooked it, but that question has been answered numerous times in the present thread alone, both directly and indirectly. Of course, the answers are inconsistent, so brace your conservative mind for some topsy-turvy.

  153. Glenn,

    …. really … but perhaps not yet from that other angle …. no final vocaboularies here, remember ?

    what is your thinking of the concept of the existence of a “non-proposiotional watcher”?

  154. Luis Daniel (#160).

    what is your thinking of the concept of the existence of a “non-proposiotional watcher”?

    My thinking is that the idea of a non-propositional watcher is just another thought, another proposition. It is one, moreover, that neither you nor anyone else has pulled out of the void–and certainly not out of “the thing itself.” “Non-propositional watcher” is just another ornament in our shared attempt to understand experience.

  155. #158

    Steve, if you read throughout this blog you will find mr. Pepper defending the so called enlightment if the buddha as a “Truth Event”. This meaning something inmutable, inmortal, non-relational.

    Luis Daniel, I look at the arising of the key insight of the “Buddha Event”–what has been labelled here as “two registers of reality”–as an insight akin to noticing the heliocentric nature of our solar system. The two registers were already “there” so to speak, in the same way that the earth seems to have orbited the sun, well, pretty much forever. Copernicus and Buddha were both model makers that “discovered” the “human truth” of a different model. The then described it. Those discoveries were dependently arisen, making connections among concepts already existent. I don’t share your understanding of truth events (in the sense used on this blog) as meaning, immutable, immortal, etc. Heliocentrism is not immortal; it just is. I find that I can see the “truth” of the two registers in just that same way.

    I think one of the ideas that seems to drive this blog is that the discoveries of the Buddha Event got reified into dogma and associated practices, and that as the reifications turned into religion(s), the ability to grow the insight has been stymied. I don’t think you you can actually prevent reification; after all, naming itself is reification. I think what you can do is limit the extent of the reification and be aware of the harmful consequences of doing that. In a way, maybe the real teaching of the Buddha (arising from his “truth event”) is really this: don’t get caught up in your reifications.

  156. #158

    All: BTW, much of the comment discussion (but not usually the postings) on this site is argument about the reifications of the Buddha’s “truth event” and not over the implications of what it means to live out the “truth” of that event in 2013. Questions about those implications get continually asked, but the comment discussion (usually) degenerates into reification arguments.

  157. Tom Re: 156

    You write:

    “I’m curious, have you ever suggested, to other Buddhists, that the Buddha’s realization was itself dependently arisen? It seems obvious enough that it was, right? But when I have suggested this in the past, the reaction is startlingly angry and intense: Buddha and Nirvana are completely “unconditioned” and if I don’t see this I don’t know anything about Buddhism and should spend more time “on the cushion” and stop thinking! The extreme hostility this suggestion called forth (one fairly well-known “bookstore” teacher immediately started calling me names and refused further communication with me as soon as I suggested this) is quite revealing, I think. What kind of response have you gotten to this suggestion? Are there many Buddhists who accept this idea?”

    I note you are talking about the buddha’s ‘realization’ and not his teachings, but I wonder how anyone can separate them? And — of all people — Thich Nhat Hanh often talks about the ‘interbeing’ of buddhism with other teachings and practices (‘interbeing’ is his take on ‘dependent arising’).

    Also, Gombrich’s book, “How Buddhism Began” has as it’s sub-title, “The Conditioned Genesis of The Early Teachings”

    From a review from “Western Buddhist Review”

    “Gombrich believes that Buddhaghosa, along with the commentarial tradition which he epitomises, failed to recognise the historical context in which the Buddha taught – that is to say, the context of Brahmanical thought, preserved for us in the Vedas, and especially in the Upanisads. This is understandable, Gombrich adds, considering that the Buddhists were not interested in the Brahmanical thinking that the Buddha had very severely criticised. The result, however, is that the Buddhists took literally many teachings which should rather be understood as responses to specific contemporary Brahmanical doctrines. The Buddha’s use of metaphor, as well as his irony and satire, were all taken quite literally and seriously – to the detriment, Gombrich believes, of an appreciation of the true greatness and originality of the Buddha’s ideas.
    Gombrich therefore takes a historical approach to the interpretation of the Buddha’s teachings, seeking to understand them in relation to their time and context. This approach can be contrasted to what one might call a transcendental approach, which treats the teachings of the Buddha as timeless truths, formulated by the enlightened mind independent of any cultural context. In exploring the historical context for the Buddha’s teachings, Gombrich opens up ways of understanding their greatness that is relative to their context.”

    Of course, as this review goes on to note,

    “…he is not at all sceptical about the Buddha’s claim to have attained enlightenment, nor about the ineffability of the enlightenment experience. The distinction between the historical and transcendental approaches concerns only the nature of the teachings resulting from the awakening; from the historical point of view, the teachings are culturally relative attempts to communicate an ineffable experience…

    The picture that emerges from Gombrich’s book is of a kind of transcendental humanist, someone whose thinking is practically oriented towards the universal human possibility of awakening, but whose ideas emerge from an ineffable private experience that was very difficult to articulate. The Buddha’s thought was very largely formulated in relation to Brahmanical thinking, and hence everywhere is shaped by the assumptions of that tradition even while it satirises, provokes, and modifies it.”

    I still cannot understand how it would make any sense to say that the experience of awakening wasn’t also conditioned by the same conditions that affected his thinking! And the idea of an “ineffable private experience” seems at odds with anatman. But perhaps drawing attention to Gombrich’s work could help soften the resistance of those you’ve run across?

  158. Steve Re: 157

    I read your comment after responding to Tom’s question to you! Maybe you can suggest Gombrich’s book to your sitting group? At least that may help them see that the teachings are dependently arisen. It may be a first step to considering awakening to be as well!

  159. Glenn,

    Agreed. I hope you can eventually see ALL of your extractions and elaborations as a process of self-creation and personal understanding rather than as a theory, for as theory it should be also propositional, contingent, relational and in-time. If you can write against the existence of theories themselves, that could be more useful -such as Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Derrida and Rorty did about each other´s predecessor.

    For example a critique of Marx, Laruelle and Badiou could be interesting though I doubt it that you could get out of the metaphysical tradition entirely – as anyone else can do by extracting the right concepts from Buddhist material !

    Steve,

    Here is the original note from Pepper:

    “What I call the Buddha Event, then, is the appearance in India of one of the most important but elusive truths for the human species: the truth that there are two realms or levels or registers of reality, the mind-independent reality of the universe which is intransitive and exists completely indifferent to us, and the humanly produced reality which is transitive, open to change, and coterminous with humanity, but still possesses real causal powers—we can change our World, but we cannot change it on a whim, or in any way we might please, because it has a certain structural and causal influence over our actions.”

    This is ideological ventriloquizing to the core. We have a writer which considers himself a lecturer of Truth, with a final vocabulary for everybody, the last word erga homnes.

    Others like me think that that paragraph is reproducing an error, an artificial setting of the worst kind. In it Pepper managed to sneak his pervasive metaphysical marxist ideology in the very grain of his rebranded communist buddhism.

    If there is an important contribution in Buddhist texts is contingency.

    This is so ridiculous, that it cannot withstand the obvious question of who is registering the “first register”. Really, pardon my french, stupid. Blind. Idiotic, and manipulative to say the least. Defendable only through self-reference which is what Pepper´s tautological litany is all about: dogmatic repetition ad nauseam.

    If ONLY we humans can make descriptions, wouldn’t that include the description of “what is” ???????

    And if ALL human descriptions are “transitive, open to change, and coterminous with humanity” or simply contingent, as is language, and as you yourself claim to be through and through, then, with all due respect, where does your affirmation about “what is” stands????

  160. Steve Lee: at the end of # 157, you say you “hold your present views to be provisional,” and so are reluctant to be confrontational about them. Does this mean that you hold open the possibility that at some point you may come to believe that there is something like a transcendental soul or atman? If not, then why would you be reluctant to be “confrontational”? Is it a matter of concern that your friends and fellow practitioners will just be unable to grasp the truth? Unable to “handle” it? There is a difference between the Worlds, which are always humanly constructed, and Truths, which will appear differently in every World but are still always Truths. The Earth will one day cease to exist, but it will always be “true” that when it did exist it was not the center of the universe, right? Don’t your fellow practitioners deserve the respect of being confronted, of being given the chance to live as awakened human beings instead of deluded naked apes?

    This blog does always drop into the discussion of reification issues, instead of the matter of how to live for the truth of the Buddha Event; but until someone accepts and understands this truth, so long as they continue reifying their ideology and avoiding the truth, how could they possibly live for it? Doesn’t that suggest that the way to live for the truth, or one way, is to try to break through the resistance and reification of the vast majority of human beings?

    Poepsa: I have mentioned Gombrich, but the response is usually eye-rolling dismissal. I also don’t agree with the idea that there is anything “ineffable” about the enlightenment experience. Thich Nhat Hanh talks about “interbeing” all the time, but he is becoming increasingly open about the fact that what he means by this is that we are all part of one eternal and world-transcendent essence, that will continue when our imprisonment in this world ends. This is not at all what I mean by dependent origination. It always seems to me that the only way to reconcile the “ineffable experience” with conditioned arising is to resort to a subtle atman–or, to put it the other way, the purpose of the insistence on ineffability is to guarantee the continued faith in an atman.

  161. #166

    Luis: At some point, language fails. Actually at many points. Marry these two old-school passage fragments, one old and one newer: 1) The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep, and 2) In the beginning was the Word. Pre-language, no truth; after language, truth. (Well, the two taken together don’t actually say that, of course, but they point towards what I’m trying to say.)

    Was our solar-system heliocentric pre-language? I don’t know, but I think so. The only tool we have for speculating and talking about this, however, is language. Language and thought are the tools we have for modeling the nature of our experience.

    So, yes, it is troublesome to say that either the heliocentric nature of the universe or “two registers of experience” just is. Unless one remembers in saying it that it is a model. And so what? What is the practical objection to using language as a model in this way? Truth is a human construct embedded in language, so it makes no sense to use language to argue about whether something “existed” prior to language. It did and it didn’t. Or not.

    But thinking in this way seems–for me–to be helpful in navigating the world.

  162. #167

    Tom Pepper, good questions. Definitely “no” to the atman questions; how you gonna keep them down on the farm, once they’ve see Paree? But for the others re: my reluctance to confront, I’ll have to think about it. For now I’ll just say that does get tiresome, from time to time, being the gadfly, the prick, the provocateur, the pointer-out-of-the-obvious-that-is-not-so-obvious. The pay is poor, and the gigs are short.

    My strength to do that waxes and wains. I had to leave one “system of discourse” (public education) because of the dangerous toll on my health and well-being because of being the gadfly. Plus, I wasn’t particularly good at it. A critic without means of implementing an alternative approach often winds up implementing the philosophy in their own small sphere of influence. I did that in my own classroom, and I tried to “share” my views with colleagues willing to listen. I essentially do the same thing in the sitting/book study group. I have two friends who are open to discussion about some of the ideas raised on this blog, and we are just beginning to talk. That’s is not the same thing as “confronting” group members in session, I know. I think there is a very real danger, however, of turning people completely off new ideas. It’s tricky.

    For most people, tone does matter. I thoroughly understand the use of rhetoric to shock folks out of entrenched ways of thinking. I get that. The problem is, the percentage that will look past the rhetorical shock to the content is pretty small. I’ve gotta admit that I had to stick with it for awhile here before I let the rhetorical shock go. (I’m glad I stayed around.)

    I admire people like Chris Hedges and Michael Hudson who can fully live out this “truth”-telling in their critique, daring to challenge the dominant discourse in politics and the economy. The things that Glenn Wallis said about you upthread…

    All of you are so fortunate to be the object of his deep compassion and unfettered response. The patience he shows each of you is far beyond the scope of ordinary mortals. Where in the triple world would you find such heartfelt intelligent response if not in the texts of Tom Linji Pepper? Consider yourselves fortunate to have encountered in this lifetime Pepper-spray Bodhisattva. Sure, watch that fly whisk, but keep on going. . .

    could be said of them as well.

    #165
    Poepsa: I have read Gombrich’s book. Your suggesting is good, and I’m going to recommend it. We have several consensus Buddhism books ahead of us to plow through, however!

  163. Tom and Glenn: Assuming that a bodily individual’s attention should be attributed to one of the registers in the aforementioned refractive choir (#43, “a splintering of thought into various ‘voices,’ like a choir”); how might one interpret the seeming permanence in one’s capacity for maintaining an uninterrupted attention that can differentiate between the actual thoughts, feelings, and sensations that are taking place at the moment, without judging or analyzing what is observed?

  164. Steve 168,

    Practical objections? I would say practical consequences, for example of not living with essentialism and foundationalism, or atman for that matter, in your life and the life of others. I think it is the other way around, what is useful about assuming that things exist in themselves, unrelational, as they are? In practice these beliefs sustain and justify abuse of power and imposition of Truth (always the agenda of a few) in the name of Reason, History, Truth, Science, Class struggle, Terrorism, God or the Buddha Event. Once you can question who is in a position to tell YOU to obey their propositions they call Truth, well, you open the door to not thinking, not questioning, because is even seems helpful to navigate in the world.

    What we need is to take care of freedom, for truth will take of itself in the sense that with freedom to speak, each person can have her say, counterbalance others say, get to agree with others or not on what proceeds, what is good or not for them.

    Autocracy is present whenever we close our eyes and obey the low creature whose task is treaking you into his Truth enforcing game.

    Someone with a strong need to inflict his pain upon others, a coward by any other name, by the way.

  165. #171

    Luis: I’m not sure what you mean by “Truth enforcing game.” I mean, I understand the words, but I don’t get how they apply to heliocentricism, Buddha’s insight, or, say gravity. If I say “Gravity exists,” then do you find objection to that? Objection, that is, other than to say that the concept of gravity–like any human concept–is dependently originated and the experience is mediated, nay “known,” only through language?

    I can “know” gravity and “verify” that concept using the senses. In the same way, I can “verify” the concept of heliocentrism. I am of the opinion that I can–and have–verified the “two registers” concept. But not just me; many, many others have “known” and “verified” these concepts as well. I suggest that the “truth” of these concepts is the kind of truth that is being referred to on this site, not some whacked-out fundamentalist version of ever-lasting life, heaven, master race, or whatever. There is just no comparison; besides, no one is enforcing the “truth” of these concepts. Not even Tom Pepper.

    Want to read a story that perfectly illustrates the concept of two registers without any hint of reference towards the concept? Read “The Interlopers,” by Saki. It’s a simple story: http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/Inte.shtml

  166. Steve,

    Thanks for your concern. I will try to explain it. All we have are descriptions, Language is a tool and is used as such. It follows we dont “know” gravity, we use words to describe things, what happens. We use words to coordinate action among us. We dont verify, we use, we see how useful a description is. And who is we ? Well, each user, each person, is in a position, from this point of view, of saying how useful such descriptions are. When descriptions are about one self and made by one self they become part of the processs of self-creation. The vocabulary we use allows for doing different things. In the pursue of a better future, of solving real concrete problems for each individual, repetition in favor of the status quo, not just in economics, means a lot of suffering for a lot of people. This lack of creativity, of originality, this very weak or absent process of self-creation, stands in the middle of the way of a better future for all. Why do we need description such as heliocentric systems, who needs it, well that is fine, but those are just some types of descriptions, why not describing the happenings of two old enemies suddenly found before a common danger, why not describe a pic nic day, who decides what is more useful?

    Eugenics in science seem to be a whacked-out thing. So is the caste system in India. But 52 states in you country approved not just eugenics less than a centuy ago, but passed legislation that allowed to castrate anyone in the street who was considered to be a genetic menace. The tobacco industry had the tobacco institute dismantled less than 20 years ago. The big pharma tells you what is good for your ancient mother and what is good for the social security system.

    But democracy is more important than science. And Truth as a rigid axiom is at the core of morality as we see it. And morality as we see it is at the core of – you choose the subject: anti-abortion, anti-same sex union, anti-euthanasia, or if you prefer we move to economics. Take enviromental sustainability. Take the kyoto protocol negotiations in copenhagen. We now know of the heavy arm twisting the netherlands got into against fiji, using their aid power. Why is the official discourse on environmental sustainability leaned in favor of not charging overconsumption with its responsability to the rest of humanity ? What happens when we cross this subjhect with real democracy ? What about overpopulation ? Whence is the voice of the poor ? Do you have any idea of why the vast majority of the world is poor ? Do you have any idea why that same vast majority believes in the afterlife – I will tell just in case you cant imagine it. Meet Alejandro, a 9 year old dropout son to a single mother who works in the streets. He doesnt have aything to eat at home. He dropped out of school because his mother didnt care to take him there. Maria, his mother works really hard just to raise her two kids. She doesnt give a shit about religion. But she thinks her two children are angels who are always protected by God. And that somehow, in a very magical way, she will get out of that hole thanks to a supernatural power. All she needs to do is pray. However she also has doubts. She doubts she is entitled to better life because she is a sinner. She feels guilty of being a prostitute single mother of two. When his son is ill, and all three are very hungry, she sincerely repents from her wrondoings, stares above and asks for forgiveness, for merci, for she firmly believes she has done wrong. But Maria has a neighbor, Consuelo. She is a church goer. And she reinforces Maria´s feeling´s of guilt and unworthiness. Consuelo tells Maria what she should do. She should have more presence of God in her life. That is what she needs. She should go a be with the Priest more often. And you know what the Priest told Maria when she began a new realtionship with another neighbor who is an evangelist – that she should abandon that, that that is the road to hell. And that she must obey in the name of the Lord. And pray for her salvation.

    So, when we pragmatists talk about non-essentialism and say that everything is relational through and through we see the possibility of deeply questioning the very existence of Truth and Authority of any kind. We think truth is made, not found. There is no true-self or true nature or know thyself direction or enlightened one. There are only situations we need to understand in order to improve them.

    And when we liberals talk about democracy and social justice we want to make sure that we can keep talking and do something concrete about those things for the benefit and with the agreement of most people possible.

    There is no non-human description of anything, and all descriptions are contingent. The is no register, not one or two. There is memory, imagination, language, past, present and future.

    I sincerely hope you can see my point.

  167. RE 169: Steve, I know how exhausting and isolating it is being the constant contrarian. Sometimes, it isn’t worth the effort to confront people, right? I mean, it’s important to know when someone is just too resistant, too attached to delusion, for any kind of argument or evidence to be of any use. Most of those who are “true believers” in things like psychics, astrology, and ufo abductions cannot be persuaded with anything as trivial as facts and evidence, and logic certainly won’t help. It’s important to know when your energy would be better spent elsewhere. In part, that’s my reason for the “Rinzai-rhetoric.” I don’t want to waste my energy trying to debate with a “true believer,” and anybody who would be put off by a strident tone probably won’t listen to truth in any form. You say that tone can “turn people off” to “new ideas,” but I think anyone that is “turned off” by tone is already completely closed off to any really new ideas.

    I would suggest one consideration. You say that it “makes no sense to use language to argue about whether something existed prior to language.” This is a dangerously postmodern argument, the “epistemic fallacy.” Just because something can only be known to us in language doesn’t mean it only exists in language. If this were the case, we would never be able to improve our knowledge of the world–fortunately, symbolic systems collide with their limitations all the time, in the form of internal contradictions as well as failure to enable interactions with the external world. As long as we don’t accept the failures as moments of “ineffable transcendence” (as the x-buddhist orthodoxy would), we can certainly use language to discuss what is in the mind-independent world. We just need to remember, as you point out, that all language is metaphorical and infinitely corrigible, that we never get to the final model, the “perfect map” of the world.

    JRC: RE 170, what would your answer to your question be? If I am understanding you correctly, is this “seeming permanence in one’s capacity for maintaining an uninterrupted attention” anything other than the discourse/practice of some particular form of mediation? Instead of assuming that it “can differentiate between the actual thoughts, feelings, and sensations that are taking place at the moment,” wouldn’t we have to say that the discourse is producing mental activities that it differentiates into these categories? That far from refraining from “judging or analyzing what is observed” it (the discourse) is functioning to judge and analyze the world “behind our backs,” as it were, and to deceive us that the mental activities it produces are natural, unavoidable, eternal, and must simply be passively “accepted”?

  168. RE 174: Tom Pepper, I doubt really know very much about competing theories of epistemology and ontology or the associated fallacies. For clarification, let me tell you how I live…

    I’m pretty sure that there is something “out there” beyond words, beyond concepts, such that if I jump off a cliff on earth–never having heard of “gravity”–I will fall. Now, I’m using language, of course, to “talk” about this “out there” because that’s all I seem to have, other than the wordless experience of what I now name as “jumping and falling.” Are there any other ways of knowing? I’m not real sure about that, but I can’t “name” them after the fact of having experienced them if they are “so.” (I think this is an aspect of the link that Glenn Wallis pointed me to above in # 159, but I may be wrong…)

    Is it “real,” or is it the “truth”? Well, it’s real enough for me that I choose not to test its out-there-ness “reality.” That is what I mean when I say it is pointless to argue about phenomenal items such as gravity and Earth’s path around the sun once their rough correspondence with the world of experience has been verified . The “truth” of “The Two Registers” is slightly different, I suppose. But it is not so different from gravity and the heliocentric nature of Earth’s orbit as to be like “democracy” or “freedom” or “capitalism.” Or any version of Marxism.

    As I understand it, the Buddha Dude actually refused to discuss this “is-ness” question, focusing rather on the practical questions of what happens when you misconstrue dependently-arisen cognitive notions for the “out there” reality, and what to do about it. But, perhaps I misunderstand…

    Regardless, that’s how I’m trying to live it.

  169. Glenn (#132), “All of you are so fortunate to be the object of his deep compassion and unfettered response. The patience he shows each of you is far beyond the scope of ordinary mortals. Where in the triple world would you find such heartfelt intelligent response if not in the texts of Tom Linji Pepper? Consider yourselves fortunate to have encountered in this lifetime Pepper-spray Bodhisattva. Sure, watch that fly whisk, but keep on going. . .”

    This sounds like something out of Kumare… you can’t be serious…

  170. Patricia (#176). It’s like that swirly choco-vanilla ice cream, part serious, part joke. Kumare is a good parallel. I can’t imagine that it is not obvious which is which, so I’ll leave it at that.

  171. Tom (#174): So, a new discourse/practice (a collective mind that is aware of its collective nature) disabuses one of the deceptions offered by an old discourse/practice (a collective mind that works by denying its collective nature). And as you said in #14, one does not “come into the truth”. But how then can one be certain of the truth or lack thereof of the discourse/practice in which one participates (finds oneself)?

  172. JRC: The important thing is to stop looking for truth in a discourse. We need to abandon correlationism. Truth is something we “orient toward,” not something we have. We know our discourse is oriented toward a truth if we are focused on the contradictions and aporia of our existing knowledge, and not asserting them as ineffable truths or covering them with illusions of souls or gods.

    RE 179: Ingram’s critique of Badiou is interesting, in my opinion, only to the extent that it demonstrates the standard reactionary refusal to understand Badiou at all. Ingram assumes that there is an undetermined and autonomous consciousness (all that silly “old fashioned” talk about social formations constructing our thoughts and actions is just oppressive left-wing ideology, he assures us), and assumes that by “truth” Badiou must mean absolute correlationism–and so he can dismiss his absurd misreading of Badiou as clearly wrong, and go about his reactionary postmodern project: if we just accept that only capitalism is not a system (anything else is) and that our minds are completely unconstructed, we can proceed with the project of universalizing global capitalism and the the “rights” of those who own private property and money, and then all we need to do is to change our minds, which we can freely choose to do since they are completely unconstructed by any social formation. Ingram is about as stupid as Kwame Anthony Appiah, and both are examples of what is wrong with philosophy in the West: anybody with any capacity for real thought is carefully excluded from academic philosophy in American universities, and so the discipline declines with every new generation. (The same is true for English, by the way, and both will probably be gone completely from most universities in the US within twenty years).

    There are some more interesting critiques of Badiou, by philosophers who are not simply reactionary ideologues. Zizek’s critique in The Ticklish Subject or Brassier’s in Nihil Unbound, for instance. They at least raise some meaningful objections. Ingram simply can’t grasp Baidou at all, and objects to his own complete misunderstanding of Badiou only in order to support his own illusions of the universal capitalist subject. This is not an uncommon strategy in the attempt to contain radical thought: don’t ignore it, mis-interpret it!

  173. Steve,

    For an interesting and clear explanation of contingency and truth please take a peak at Richard Rorty’s Contingency, Irony and Solidarity.

    It may be very important to be able to see the limits of metaphysics in Badiou’s and Buddhist writings. A new buddhist pragma can surely come out of it.

  174. To continue the string of tangentially related quotations, here’s Nietchze:

    “Henceforth, my dear philosophers, let us be on guard against the dangerous old conceptual fiction that posited a “pure, will-less, painless, timeless knowing subject”; let us guard against the snares of such contradictory concepts as “pure reason,” “absolute spirituality,” “knowledge-in-itself”: these always demand that we should think of an eye that is completely unthinkable, an eye turned in no particular direction, in which the active and interpreting forces, through which alone seeing becomes seeing something, are supposed to be lacking; these always demand of the eye an absurdity and a nonsense. There is only a perspective seeing, only a perspective “knowing”; and the more affects we allow to speak about one thing, the more eyes, different eyes, we can use to observe one thing, the more complete will our “concept” of this thing, our “objectivity,” be. But to eliminate the will altogether, to suspend each and every affect, supposinng we were capable of this—what would that mean but to castrate the intellect?”

  175. Fundamentalist Christians love to critique pure reason. Their premise of course is that all knowledge comes from god reason is suspect. Ironically, they’re using reason to make this claim.

    Anyway, am I correct in thinking that we need to think thing to the bitter end and then some? We never land, but may orbit a truth, right? Isn’t claiming a certain ‘ism’ the end of thinking? Semantics? From experience, reading, discussion I see Marx critique of labor orbiting truth. For some reason it seems quite clear to me that labor is alienating and exploitive. However, how do I know This is not delusion? The majority of people in my life become livid at mention of Marx and are firmly entrenched in the myth of the Protestant work ethic and empty promises of the market. I would say that every aspect of my life has been fucked with as a result of capitalism and that any real conversation must at least acknowledge it.

  176. Jonah,

    Could you provide the reference for this quote of Nietzsche. No registry of what is for him. Good !!!!

    I really dont understand how this talk of anatma these gentlemen here cant put together that the description of a “mind independent world” Truth is a form of atma and metaphysical essentialism.

    Excellent !!!

  177. Nietzsche almost has, but then he slips in the atman at the end using the word ‘will’.

    I used to think that everyone had their own perspective and we’d never agree on anything. This would lead to our demise. Drop the myth of self and things seem a lot less bleak to me. Change may be possible if we’d see anatman like animals seem to do. They don’t give a shit about individuality. ?

  178. Craig,

    I think you are rigth. If animal didnt give a shit about individuality, it would then as easy as to behave like them (which by all means we already do anyway).

    Language helps understand, organize and act together, duty to others (i.e. solidarity) matters.

  179. Can I not realize the true self as a collective subject constructed entirely from the outside in symbolic systems, while at the same time recognizing I have a very real individual conventional self–with no need at all to eliminate the “will” or castrate the intellect?

  180. Danny (#189): see Tom (#156): “We have to give up the idea that agency is anything more than a sort of place-holder term, a sort of ‘floating signifier’ for what is excluded from our discourses.”

  181. Tom and others,

    How would buddhist metaphors fit into all of this? Seems that there would be a danger of a metaphor like Amida or the Lotus Sutra to be used to obscure ‘truth’. Or, it could be used as a sign or something to keep us ‘truth oriented’. Or maybe the are just objects of concentration as an aid in meditation (building attention) and as Glenn mentioned above, refreshing.

  182. RE 189: We certainly do have a conventional self that is real and has real causal powers–and one of the worst errors of Western Buddhism and of postmodern ideology is the assumption that anything “conventional” is therefore mere illusion, not “real,” and without any causal power–and therefore the assumption that we must have some “true self” that is unconstructed. The only self we have is a conventional self, and being socially constructed does not preclude being “real” or having causal power–in fact, that is the only way anyone has causal power. The problem with terms like “will” or “agency” is that they are usually (perhaps always) used to obscure the connection between the social formation and the conventional self–to suggest that the self can act without regard to a social formation, and therefore has no need to change the social formation. The only real “act” we can undertake is to change the social formation, and any perception of our desires and thoughts as “our own” simply abandons real action and leaves us as automatons, tools of the system, endlessly reciting the work chant of capital: I am freely choosing to live out my free desire. Desire and thought are social, conventional selves are social, and we can only act socially by changing social formations–or, we can be part of a reactionary subject which abandons the ability to live as human beings.

  183. Tom re 190: A collective subject snared in the delusion of a separate self; with an eye turned tword the transcendent we’re neutered and unable to act in the only world we have, this conventional reality where we can actually make a difference in our lived experience…what a dismal position to be in!
    As always, thanks.

  184. Jonah 191,

    Perspectivism is interesting, but I think relationanilism is more useful. Nothing unrelational, nothing unconditioned, nothing atemporal, nothing acausal, nothing aperspectival.

    Buddhism proposes a way out of suffering focussed on the individual, on finding his true unconditioned self. Accordingly it degenerated into a social formation which imposes its avoidance mechanisms upon others.

    Buddhism as a practice about contingency, and an empahasis on pragmatism, on ironism, may have more hope since it would always be a practice of doubts which could focus on what is useful for all.

    As with regard to social formations and the self, since nothing is unconditioned, it follows that the descriptions made by others about one do have effects on one. There are strategies, effective ways, one of which is psichoanalysis, for redescribing one in one´s own terms, neutralizing or at least displacing the other´s ugly hold on what one should think, feel, and do (in the name of your own salvation of course, as is the case of at least one other writer in this blog).

    But from a pragmatic point of view, we need to change social ORGANIZATIONS of solidarity, improve them, strengthen them. These institutions are generally a part of government, of the State, funded with everyone´s money through taxation. Wherever every citizen has a right to express and organize herself she can participate actively in deciding how that money should be spent, how these government services to the ones suffering the cruelties of inequality should perform better, ever better.

    In turn those modern institutions of solidarity may help shape in a better way the descriptions and choices we as individuals make.

  185. One of the things happening in populary Tibetan Buddhist/Lamaist organizations , is the open conflating of Hinduism and Buddhism. Hinduism , of course, believes in a ‘soul” or atman, that is why you are seeing the newly programmed buddhists , coming out with training in a smorgasbord of hinduism/ buddhism and new age, because that is what they are being taught.

    For example, Tosknyi R. , one of the Nepalese young turk ‘celebrity lamas” of the Tulku Urgyen brotherhood,the enabling and promoting brotherhood of the predator and turd in robes Sogyal L, , has incorporated ‘hare krishna chanting into his retreats ( hare krishna is of course still on the dangerous cult list even in this country, land of cults) and is co-teaching seminars with Krishna Das, and his mind numbing, while at the same time emotional heightening Kirtan chanting. This is to attract young people that don’t know the difference between buddhism and hinduism and think they are all “just cool”. These celebrity psychologists don’t care that their own lineage would be appalled, they are in it for just the money, and they do what works, so that New Age, Psychotherapy Lite, and Buddhism is presented in a mixed up package now by these celebrity lamas..

    Tsoknyi R, (a favorite of the Spiritual Rock psychology/buddhist gang) has been seen on his website ‘dancing with the Hare Krishnas at airports, saying we should all ‘pray together”, again, this is Corporate Spirituality that is being promoted by all these buddhist teachers now, they are the arms of the new corporate fascism with a smile. The ‘peaceful’ , passive nihilism buddhism , that helps people conform without a whimper. That is also why you are complete censured on any and all buddhist blogs run by these new, buddhist new age light teachers and administrators of their corporate tax exempts. There will be no heresy allowed to disrupt the peace and love and ‘envisioning” of our brave new world of the happy and the contented, and believing in the atman and focusing exclusively on being ‘good” and peaceful and never saying anything outside the ‘groupthink” that these buddhist sanghas have bought into, is why we experience such censoring from them. They are all brainwashed and or coopted into the new spirituality. This is fascism with a peaceful, benign smile.

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