Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Empiricism uber alles

I've been really enjoying Ken Wilber's The Marriage of Sense and Soul, since he's trying to articulate a vision of spirituality that we've been working on for the last fifteen years in the Self Knowledge Symposium. It is essentially a philosophy of the ultimate empiricism: all knowledge -- physical, mental, and spiritual -- is validated by direct experience.

He makes his case well. He disproves classical empericism with a few deft strokes; since science itself depends on purely mental phenomena such as logic and mathematics, science cannot deny reality and validity to all interior states. I think any reasonable scientist would follow him quite willingly out of a narrow empericism of physical phenomena and into an empericism of mind, in which interior phenomena can be observed and understood as well as exterior phenomena.

Things get a little harder, though, when Wilber turns to the notion of an empiricism of spirit. It sounds good, to speak of spiritual injunctions (experiments) and validation, peceived "with the eye of contemplation." But it is, by its very nature and definition, ungraspable by the "eye of mind." The Tao that can be spoken is not the true Tao. I think I know what he's talking about. I have certain intuitions about the nature of God and reality that cannot be reduced observable phenomena or logical ideas, and yet which have a consistency and internal validity. But it's still hard to know for sure whether Ken isn't pulling a fast one on me. It was easy enough to imagine a unification of the physical with the mental in a single integral Science; since the mental is a "superior holon" to the physical, it can contain both the physical and mental together in a single mental system that we call "science." But I'm not sure you can talk about a "science of spirit," because science still seems to be a mental construct, and the lower mental sphere cannot completely contain the higher spiritual sphere.

The only way such a synthesis could continue is from just the opposite tack: rather that scientificizing the quest of the spiritual, he would have to demonstrate the Spirit that informs and underlies science. "Who is it that wants to know?" still seems to be the scientific question that points most directly back into Spirit. I know that Ken knows this, too, so either he is just trying to keep the rhetoric unmuddied for now, or there is something yet to come in the book that tie this up, too.


Post a Comment

<< Home