Sunday, 6 May 2012

Meditating Matter

There is no one else here. I am alone facing a wall. Does anyone watch while we meditate? Potential watchers:

named gods like Indra and Krishna are myths;
unknown gods are hypothetical and must be presumed non-existent until proved existent;
the historical Buddha was a man and died a long time ago (we know him through his teaching; he does not know us; according to the teaching, he has not been reborn);
the cosmic Buddha is a principle;
the Buddha within is a potential;
neither is a person or conscious subject;
Jesus was another man who died a long time ago;
omniscience is arguably impossible (see below).

Jesus' disciples believed that he had been resurrected but their proclamation is insufficient reason for us to believe this. Like Krishna, he is sometimes vividly imagined. Thus, he has passed not from death to immortality but from history to myth. Therefore, we are not watched by gods, Buddhas, Jesus or any omniscient deity. 

No one is omniscient. Self is known only by contrast with other. Other is recognised as such only when it has been perceived and re-perceived, then recognised as having continued to exist independently of self between perception and re-perception. The consequent distinction between present and remembered perceptions entails an unknown future. Subjects of consciousness necessarily perceive an objective realm which is mostly unknown. No omniscient deity watches us meditate. 

Did gods give humanity reason and morality? Mythically, yes. Biologically, both the ability to reason and concern for others were naturally selected. Reasoning about the environment has obvious survival value. Our earliest ancestors were social, therefore motivated by collective, not just individual, self-interest. Also, we help others either because they bear the same genes or because they might help us in return. Psychologically, we experience that motivation as moral obligation. 

Society imposes on individuals both acceptable behaviour and linguistic usage. Sexual taboos prevented in-breeding, then patriarchal monogamy preserved property. Individuals internalise shame as guilt and speech as thought. Thus, we are variously motivated by reason, collective and individual self-interest, social pressure, shame, guilt and moral obligation. Morality is conceptualised and even experienced as divine commands. However, biological motivation preceded religious imagination. Socialised language-users personified and addressed their environment. Because human beings become self-conscious persons only in interpersonal interactions, they projected personal relationships onto the heavens.
Socially, we are both subjects and objects of consciousness. Immature subjects are conscious of being objects. Immature behaviour is for an audience or a camera. Mature subjects are simply conscious. Meditation is pure subjectivity or spirituality, without shame or deliberate thought. We neither perform for an audience nor address a deity. Thus, we begin to observe self dispassionately. I am accountable for my actions but not to anyone watching me meditate. I must address my states of consciousness. Painful memories are consequences of past actions, karma. The consequences are present but the bad karma can remain past. There is guilt only as consciousness of consequences. The Western Paradise may be Earth seen differently. Samsara is Nirvana. To use theistic language metaphorically, the Kingdom is within. We are not going anywhere. We are here. 

In purely secular terms, we are not there yet but have a long way to go. However, the potential for socialised production and distribution of abundant wealth is present. Rosa Luxemburg wrote:

"Being human means throwing your whole life on the scales of destiny when need be, all the while rejoicing in every sunny day and every beautiful cloud."

Trotsky, contemplating green grass and blue sky, wrote:

"Life is beautiful. Let the future generations cleanse it of all evil, violence and oppression and enjoy it to the full." 

The present is the now of individual awareness and the time for collective action, a cross-roads and meeting place between meditation and revolution. (The Christian cross symbolises an eternal-temporal intersection but also a barbaric blood sacrifice. We can incorporate some though not all aspects of Christian mythology into a coherent world view with more effective symbols: 

(the seated Buddha;
Thor's hammer;
the fish;
the clenched fist...)      


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