Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Is it all in your head?

I'm reading a little book by Frank A Smitha called Your Philosophy and Mine: Choices for the Twenty-First Century. Smitha is a rationalist and makes his points in support of his position cogently.  But I'm going to play with his position a bit here.

In one chapter, Smitha discusses the religious scholar Huston Smith.  He states, "[Huston] Smith assumes that the spiritual oceanic sense within him is a real universal force existing outside his head."

My response to this is that Frank A Smitha assumes that the tables and chairs and people he sees really exist outside his head.

And you might say, implicitly agreeing with Smitha -- of course they do.  Because, you see, all of us are innately rationalists, although we may have some sort of intuition of something else which we begin, at some point, to pay attention to.  But our implicit and unconscious assumption is that the things we see are "out there."

And yet, we don't know that they are out there, do we?  We only know that things appear to be outside of us.  And "appear" is the operative word here.

My argument here is not a solipsistic one (solipsism being the position that nothing can be known outside one's own mind), although I know I found this point confusing for a long time.  My teacher kept saying, "It's not solipsism," but I couldn't understand why, if we can't know whether anything is really outside ourselves, it isn't.

And then the wall between "inside" and "outside" started to break down.  I felt myself to be the table, or whatever I was touching, and then other people, and finally everything.  So then, who or what is the "I" to which we usually refer when we say, "I see that table over there"?

In the nondual community where I hang out, "What am I?" is not meant to be answered but to be the beginning of an inquiry into one's true nature.  But just for fun, I'm going to answer it here -- because it is also the answer to the question of solipsism.

"I" is nothing other than the thought-wall that separates the physical body from the things outside the physical body.  It is not the body itself -- although this is the unconscious assumption -- but an assumption of thought. What happens during the awakening process is that the identity between the body and thought begins to break down, so that one can see the distinction.

(Please note:  I received a comment for approval which contained a link.  When I clicked on the link, my virus software told me malware had been detected.  I'm sorry but I can't expose readers to this risk, so I deleted the comment.  If the writer would like to resubmit without the link, it will probably work.)

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