Buddhism 202: Does Mind = Self = Soul ?

IMG_2747Yes, I’m talking about that theoretical ghost in each of our machines. So the first time a human being saw his reflection in still water must have been incredible, our hero unbelieving, disbelieving, unsure if what’s he’s seeing is really him, himself, and so now aware of self, for maybe the first time, previously only aware of everything other…

Now whether our hero had language at this point is unknown, but whatever it was, it probably wasn’t much, bunch o’ nouns and maybe a few verbs, an adjective or two like special sauce, maybe even an adverb for a side garnish. But our hero must’ve looked like Groucho Marx, sans cigar, or maybe even Marcel Marceau, bluffing and feinting and miming himself in the mirror, trying to test whether it’s really real or not…

And this is something a child will still do today, the first time he looks in a mirror, and something that many animals cannot do, though some can, like watching TV, abstracting enough from common-sense experience to realize that the two-dimensional representation in the reflection symbolizes the three-dimensional figure now posing for a picture…

And thus was consciousness likely born, self-consciousness, that is, as distinguished from a primal consciousness that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. But now there is a new player in every scene, or two, self and language, too, which likely took a long leap right around that time. But the memories were always there; they just had no way of expressing themselves, except in pictures…

And so we made the transformation, little by little, from primal consciousness, visual basic, to a literary narrative consciousness that we maintain to this day, or most of us, anyway. Thus a human consciousness is probably the most bizarre thing that could have occurred in this world in this dimension. It’s beautiful. It’s transcendent. It’s surreal. But there’s no guarantee that it’s accurate, true, or even valid…

We assume that our modest little lives are the standard for life in the universe, despite any proof of that, hence the hedging of bets when speaking of life ‘as we know it’. If physics runs the gamut from light to gravity to quantum effects, most of our lives fall somewhere in between. But imagine if we existed in the dimension of light, electricity and magnetism—same thing. Is that so far-fetched? We certainly have ample evidence of them and our very bodies are electro-chemical, at least…

In that dimension the speed of light would be normal, not an upper limit, and gravity would likely not exist at all, the lower limit of that dimension maybe bottoming out at the speed of sound, percussion, repercussions, and shock waves defining those lower limits as a ‘force’, apparent solidity something of a black hole to be avoided, lest one’s ‘soul’ slip back into the nether human worlds…

The world of the senses says as much about our senses as it does about the world…

So to define our human world as normal is just the arrogance of consciousness, self-consciousness, aware of itself and little else, and limited to the only tools of perception with which we are equipped. Thus we live in a narrow range of frequencies, both light and sound, and to step outside those self-imposed limits is difficult…

Mathematics may be the best ‘language’ for out-of-body explorations, but that does not mean that it is the best tool, nor that the description of reality that it offers is necessarily the most accurate, though it may very well be. But like any ‘language’ it is limited, a self-enclosed system that agrees with itself by definition, but not necessarily everything else, though it would most likely come closer than a language of words and narrative…

I find it simply astounding that the Buddha 2500 years ago by simple intuition and deep meditation came up with a vision and version of reality that is largely in agreement with quantum physics, at least for our own practical purposes, i.e. that the common-sense world is an illusion, and that ultimate reality is something vastly different…

And you can fill in the blanks at that point, because I doubt that anyone will ever likely know to the final degree. We are simply incapable of that, because of the limits of our perception, whether human or scientific. The two questions that are essentially unanswerable to both scientists and philosophers are: 1) to what extent can the smallest unit of reality be divided, i.e. the atom, and 2) to what extent does the largest unit of reality extend, i.e. the universe?

These questions have befuddled us for thousands of years and will likely befuddle us forever, because they are simply unanswerable, from the human standpoint. Thus they are metaphysical questions, not physical ones, as long as we consider ourselves and our reality as normal, and the standard to which everything else must be explained. How small does it get? How big does it get? How low can you go? How high can you go?

It’s all the same question really: what lies just outside our field(s) of perception? And what tools can we use to perceive that with the least amount of statistical error? It’s more than just a question of frequencies, really, i.e. comparing human vs. dog reality. It goes to the whole basis of reality, and what is to be used as the standard to which everything else is compared and measured. It goes to what it means to be human, and what it means to be alone in the universe…

And thus are born the concepts of Heaven and Hell, I suspect, to explain the unexplainable, the realms smaller than us and larger than us, lower than us and higher than us, the forces of God and Satan, Light and Gravity, and everything else in between, by extension. So that’s all well and good, but trying to put it into a convenient narrative to read with the Sunday funnies is another challenge…