Sunday, April 09, 2006

Monistic Christianity?

Ken Wilber - No Boundary

Wilber begins by asking the question, Who am I?  He answers this question using Eastern Religion and Western Physics.  

He begins with uses boundaries to show that I am what I am not.  I have brown hair, so I don’t have white hair.  Our identities and so many other things are defined by the boundaries that define them.  Inside v. outside is an example that he used a lot, he circled the word inside and just wrote outside.  He used this as an example to show that in reality there is no boundary, it is just something that we used to describe it.  Much like a map, there is no actual border between countries; it is just a line or an idea to help us describe where we are.  

The whole goal is to understand that the boundary of what we don’t like in our mind and what we do like in our mind is a construct, and that the mind and body divide is false, and the divide between our skin and the rest of the world is false.  It is just an idea we have to help us communicate.  The truth is that pleasure doesn’t exist without pain even though we can talk about pleasure without pain.  They are interdependent.  Ever wonder why a meal tastes so much better when you are hungry?  

Here is what made it come together for me, “Look at it this way your hand is surely different from your head, and your head is different from your feet, and your feet are different from your ears.  But we have no difficulty at all recognizing that they are all members of one body, and likewise, your one body expresses itself in all its various parts.” (256)  So we can look at the universe as one body.  But can’t you divide from there for the sake of classification and communication?  You can, but using the uncertainty principle shows that the stuff that makes up the foot is the same as the stuff that makes up the brain which is the same stuff that makes up a walnut.  There isn’t a boundary to the particles that make up matter.  And those particles can move between energy and matter and they just don’t have boundaries.  

The social argument is that as soon as we realize that we can’t escape pain because it is not a dualism, but a monism then we can be content to be where we are and we won’t kill ourselves trying to progress and seek this ideal state of pleasure that doesn’t exist.  

Wilber’s arguments carry a lot of intuitive weight.  Also, I quite enjoy the social implications.  Further, the resemblance to Indigenous Knowledge is striking: finding the universal in the particular, monistic ontology that isn’t separated from the environment.  

Here are my thoughts: I can feel everything inside my skin.  I don’t have a nervous system connection to the rest of the world, or other people.  But when I fell in love with my wife I begin to feel her pain.  It is painful for me to see her sick, especially because there is nothing I can do to help.  So, maybe it is about falling in love with your environment.  

On the other hand, maybe it is just understanding that everything is made out of the same stuff and the difference between me and the bookshelf I am looking it is just on the surface.  If I could see the particles that make us both up I could see the same thing, a nebulous cloud.  So how am I different than a bookshelf, or am I different than a bookshelf?  If there isn’t a difference does that degrade my existence as supreme over nature?  I hope so.

Just a short digression about the supremacy of man over nature.  It makes sense if we are made out of the same stuff.  I think our God given right to rule nature has gone to our heads.  I envision it more like a democratic government, we have arisen out of the people for the people.  There is no manifest destiny over nature, our position has been confused with our properties.  Just because we are to care for nature has turned into humanity being made of something better than nature.  

I guess an important difference is that I can create.  But creating is just reorganizing the parts in different ways.  That is what God did to create me and trees.  He just organized the parts in different ways.  

Then there is the mind body split.  I have been struggling with this for the whole year.  Especially since I am committed to saying I have a soul.  What I have come up with is that my thoughts are chemically based, they can’t exist without the brain.  This doesn’t negate the idea of a soul because I think it makes sense that my soul is different from my thoughts/mind/consciousness.  

I think the above arguments show that a person can be a monist Christian.  But I am always open for a good debate if you think otherwise.  

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