|2008-07-10, by John Ringland|
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Clarifying Contexts to Avoid
and Develop Mutual Understanding
This article is intended to hopefully help minimise the likelihood
of unnecessary confusion and conflict. When we communicate we use
words and therefore ideas. This leads to many misunderstandings even
amongst people who fundamentally agree, let alone between people who
are coming from entirely different perspectives.
The aim of my work isn't to just bring together people with a
particular perspective, but to bring together many different
perspectives and to work together towards mutual understanding. In
light of this please contemplate these issues...
Within the cosmic context there are two main sub-contexts, let me
loosely refer to these as empirical (world of the senses) and
transcendent (that which underlies the sensory world) – they are
not fundamentally separate but when we speak we either speak in one
or the other context so in order to work towards mutual understanding
we need to understand which contexts we are speaking in and the
differences between them.
Ultimately there is only one reality, but there are two
fundamentally different ways of looking at it. To simply state one
side and deny the other widens the factional divide between
empiricists and transcendentalists. To help bridge the divide and
resolve these unnecessary conflicts I will attempt to explain how
these two contexts fit together in the wider context, using virtual
reality as an analogy.
that the world that we are talking about is a virtual reality world,
not like the simplistic ones that humans create at present, which
only create simplistic illusions of surface appearances, but rather
one that simulates both inner dynamics and outer form. (see Virtual
Reality Analogy Alongside Science and Mysticism for a little more
on this analogy)
The computational process is without flaw and the virtual world is
exactly as it must be so it is true that on a transcendent level
everything is perfect just the way it is. And if a being within the
virtual world overcame the illusion of its senses and realised that
they were the computational process itself then they would rightly
say that everything is perfect and that they are God.
For example, “That which permeates all, which nothing transcends
and which, like the universal space around us, fills everything
completely from within and without, that Supreme non-dual Brahman –
that thou art.” (Sankaracharya)
However at the same time, within the virtual world there might be
a huge war being fought with massive destruction and needless
casualties. To anyone who is operating within the virtual world
something IS seriously wrong and the virtual beings can clearly feel
its wrongness. That feeling is a part of the logic of the virtual
world, just as every perception, experience and action is a part of
that logic. Hence the perception of something being wrong and the
actions to redress it are ultimately a part of the perfection.
Mixing these contexts and making transcendent statements in the
empirical context or empirical statements in the transcendent context
leads to endless confusion and only serves to widen the factional
divide and this divide is a major cause of unnecessary confusion and
conflict. By leaving the context unstated then people interpret
statements in their favourite context and most likely get confused
because anything taken out of context loses its meaning.
When transcendentalists say that “everything is just as it
should be” and just leave it at that, then many empiricists simply
reject it because it seems to be naïve wishful thinking or just the
parroting of some spiritualist propaganda.
Similarly when empiricists say that “there is a problem and we
must work towards resolving it” and just leave it at that, then
many transcendentalists simply reject it because it seems to be a
judgement based on dualism and fear or just the parroting of some
egoic, materialist propaganda.
From a systemic perspective both statements are clear and both
make sense in their own context. For instance, I agree with the idea
that there is no fundamental crisis but I also agree that there is a
crisis, which we ignore at our peril. This is not a contradiction, it
only seems that way when we confuse the contexts. And I know that all
is One, but I also know that there are a multiplicity of perspectives
and world experiences. Each is true in its own context.
Hence a part of my work is to build a bridge between these
contexts so that people on both sides of the divide can understand
each other and not merely ignore each other or engage in futile
debates that use the same words but with different meanings, which
only widens the factional divide and leads to confusion and conflict.
So on an empirical level there can be things that are wrong and
that need to be redressed even though on a transcendent level
everything is perfect and just as it needs to be. The urge to redress
a wrong is part of the perfection.
That is why all the great mystics from Buddha to Christ to Dalai
Lama and so on all follow the urge to redress the wrongs and untangle
confusions because by doing so they are participating in the
To obsess and worry about the problems in the world is a form of
delusion, but so is sitting
back and doing nothing whilst saying that everything is perfect
whilst still dwelling in the world. The path of wisdom is to do what
is required without attachment to the outcome, i.e. to let spirit
flow through you and let the cosmic will be done.
In Daoism this is called wu-wei, literally meaning non-action, but
it is a paradoxical concept to many. It implies that actions happen
but there is no 'doer' behind them. “... the sage keeps to the deed
that consists in taking no action” (Tao te Ching)
Also from the Bhagavad Gita: “He who perceives that all aspects
of actions are performed only through prakriti [cosmic nature] and
also that the self [individual person] is a non-doer, he may be said
to have truly perceived.”
Also the Buddha said: “Events happen, deeds are done, but there
is no individual doer of any deed.”
Most discussions leave the context unstated and implicitly speak
from an empirical context, believing that context to be all there is.
Many other discussions leave the context unstated and implicitly
speak from a transcendent context, believing that it is the only one
that is real, whilst implying that the empirical context is just an
arbitrary, meaningless delusion. Both of these types of discussions
widen the factional divide and add to the growing confusion. It is
not just a matter of expressing one view or the other and building a
following that will overwhelm the other, that only leads to a
Whilst most transcendentalists are still able to recognise the
empirical context and understand what is being said, most empiricists
simply cannot understand anything expressed from a transcendent
context. And generally there simply isn't enough time or space to
explain to the empiricists what the transcendent context is. Hence,
like virtually all mystics, sages and saints throughout history, it
is up to the transcendentalists to express things in empirical
language wherever possible. Otherwise we just end up with a growing
factional divide that will work against the interests of growing
wisdom within the world.
Perhaps there is a way to be inclusive to both transcendentalists
and empiricists. It would be a very worthwhile endeavour to develop
such a discourse. Until that happens I personally speak mainly to
empiricists using rationalist terms that they can understand, but I
speak about the relationship between the empirical and transcendent
contexts. By building a conceptual bridge of this kind we may be able
to come together in mutual understanding.
I feel that empiricists need to develop an understanding that
there is something beyond empiricism, but they need to be included in
the discussion and not put off by unqualified transcendent
statements. Only then can they see through the cracks in the
empiricist paradigm and thereby get beyond it. That is why I use a
rationalist approach to help them come to an understanding of the
meaning of spirituality and the value of inner work. Then the words
of transcendentalists may make more sense to them.
Such a bridge may also help transcendentalists develop an
understanding of the empiricist perspective so that they can speak
more clearly to the empiricists and not merely arouse confusion and
division. But also remaining true to their transcendent
We should all speak our truth but when speaking in a world with
such divisive confusion we need to work towards approaches that help
reduce the divide rather than widen it. Then once we all come
together in mutual understanding we can find a way of speaking that
is inclusive to both because for the foreseeable future we will all
be operating in a world in which there are both. What do you think?
How do you think we can achieve this?
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