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August 4, 2010


 

9.  The Fool’s Enigmas
On the Assumptive Basis of  Modern Psychology
 (and Science)

 "If in reality we were to collect these system-destroying facts 
they would be so numerous in every department of knowledge 
as to exceed those upon which existing systems are founded.  
The systematization of that which we do not know
may yield us more for the true understanding of the world and the self 
than the systematization of that which in the opinion of “exact science” we do know."
(Ouspensky, 1922, pp. 16-17)

(Section III - Chapter 2, The Heart Doctrine)


   To a  fool, who knows nothing, the materialist paradigm which dominates modern psychology and science is in fact a highly questionable framework of assumptions and speculations.  The biases of theorists and researchers, the multitude of things unknown and enigmatic, and the incompleteness of our  understanding of life, all point to fundamental mistakes in modern psychology, philosophy and science.  Unconscious self-elements colour and determine much of contemporary science philosophy and psychology, and the puzzles of consciousness are only beginning to be addressed more earnestly.
    In The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions (1962), Thomas Kuhn popularized the concept of a scientific paradigm and explained the means by which scientific revolutions come about.  A paradigm is a way of approaching and thinking about some area of scientific inquiry.  It involves a “tacit infrastructure of ideas,” or assumptions, which guide scientific inquiry.  These assumptions are hidden or implicit, rather than obvious and explicit, unconscious rather than conscious.  A paradigm determines the types of questions asked, the methods used, and the manner in which data are interpreted within a theoretical framework.  A paradigm acts like a set of lenses or spectacles which bring into focus certain types of empirical and theoretical issues and determines what questions and issues are given priority.  However, at the same time, a paradigm can blind us to other issues.
    Kuhn explains that, during periods of regular science, research is conducted and knowledge accumulated within the context of the dominant paradigm.  In this way, modern psychology has made significant strides in understanding such complex matters as the anatomy and physiology of the brain, the functions and capacities of the mind, and the complex of personality and social variables that determine human behavior.  There are extensive psychological and scientific literatures on these subjects that are derived from a particular framework of ideas and assumptions regarding human nature and material reality. Further, these ideas have positive but limited applications to understanding how the mind functions, the nature of personality and interpersonal dynamics, and the application of psychology in clinical and counselling work, forensics, organizational psychology,  and the like.
    Within this framework of assumptions, scientists follow Dr. Sagan’s advice and do not consider one iota of evidence for the existence of some kind of immaterial mind, soul or substantive consciousness.  The issues concerning the ultimate nature of consciousness, mind, spirit and soul, do not seem relevant for such applied purposes.  However, scientists forget that they are wearing only one set of glasses, and think that they are wearing the only possible glasses, or at least the only important glasses.  In reality, psychologists ignore the most essential questions of the science of psychology and opt instead for a reductionist, little bit science.  While this approach may be applied to the study of the various quirks and quarks of human behaviour, it ignores the deepest issues as to the spiritual dimensions of life, and the ultimate nature of self.    Materialist assumptions are unthinkingly regarded as truths, and there is a widespread belief that psychology is progressing when, in fact, fundamental errors colour everything which is regarded as being factually established.  If the science of psychology is based upon a faulty set of assumptions, then we are constructing an imaginary bridge to nowhere with no solid foundation.
    A scientific revolution involves a paradigm shift and the emergence of a new understanding, which leads to new applications and poses new theories and hypotheses.  Kuhn argues that such revolutions are foreshadowed by an accumulation of unsolved problems, enigmas, paradoxes and unexplained observations that are inconsistent with the assumptions of the predominant paradigm.  Eventually, scientists or philosophers propose radically different ideas that challenge the foundation of the existing paradigm and result in a revolutionary change of understanding.  Consequently, a quantum leap–a discontinuous jump or transformation–occurs in theorists’ understanding.  In such cases, innovative ideas, theories or assumptions allow a reinterpretation of earlier theories and data, raising new questions and leading to new approaches and methods.  According to Kuhn, the progress of science is marked by such discontinuous quantum leaps in thought and the emergence of a new paradigm, which, in turn, results in a period of normal science based on these new assumptions.

    In psychology, many researchers regard the so-called “consciousness” or “cognitive revolution”  as having overturned behaviorism, and as such, constituting a paradigm shift.  Whereas the behaviorist focussed exclusively on observable behaviour and ignored the study of subjective experience, thought, cognition and consciousness, the cognitive theorists now consider mental processes as legitimate areas of psychological inquiry!  However, the more essential and difficult questions concerning consciousness, mind and self still remain.  How does consciousness originate within us? This is the intergalactic, super-bowl mystery of consciousness, which psychologists, scientists and philosophers have been unable to decipher or penetrate.
    To modern psychologists, the “cognitive revolution” may seem to constitute a great scientific advance, but it seems like little more than a change in direction created by one group of sleepwalkers overtaking another.  What is so startling or revolutionary in Richard Sperry’s work?  He uses the word consciousness, which is ostensibly a step up from the behaviorists, but he is not referring to a substantive consciousness capable of functioning apart from the material brain.  Dr. Sperry regards consciousness as an “emergent property,” but he gives no account of what it is, or how it emerges and where.  He assumes that it is produced within the brain in the head.  In fact, his supposed revolutionary advance in the psychology of consciousness consists of little more than putting forward a term which is significant, but which on closer examination, explains nothing as it is currently articulated.  Psychologists and scientists are good at glossing over such gaps in contemporary understanding:
The  mental qualities used to be conceived in nonphysical or supernatural terms, but we now view them as emergent properties of brain processes. ... We wholly reject anything supernatural, mystical, or occult in favor of the kind of reality validated by science ....  I don’t see any way for consciousness to emerge or be generated apart from a functioning brain.  (1984, pp.195 & 199)
The problem is that Dr. Sperry imagines that some “kind of reality” has been “validated by science.” This simply is not so, as science has not validated the reality of what consciousness is or is not. Further, it is presumptuous to “wholly reject anything supernatural, mystical and occult,” when science itself is at an impasse in understanding the ultimate issues of consciousness and self.  Furthermore, Dr. Sperry is ill-informed regarding the substance of mystical, occult and spiritual teachings, as is evident in his glib dismissal of these traditions.
    Most of modern consciousness and cognitive theory is based on the same tacit infrastructure of ideas as behaviorism and the natural sciences, assuming that human beings are the mere byproduct of material bio-physical evolution, and that they have no immaterial nature–spirit, soul or substantive consciousness.  Of course, Sperry and Sagan do not know what consciousness is, but they do assume what it must be, and they present their beliefs as scientific findings.  This is modern science’s great lie, and it is how science obscures the gaps in contemporary understanding.  Commenting on this issue,  Moffatt (2002) argues that the ascendancy of scientific materialism, rather than being the triumph of evidence and fact over superstition and dogma, simply replaces one set of arbitrary assumptions with another.  Thus, he notes: “Science did not disprove mystical, religious and animistic views of the universe; it banished them.”  (p.316)

    P. D. Ouspensky (1922) explained the value of seeking out the mysteries and enigmas, or “system destroying fact” as a route to understanding the limitations of contemporary knowledge:
In general, to a disinterested observer, the state of our contemporary science should be of great psychological interest.  In all branches of scientific knowledge we are absorbing an enormous number of facts destructive of the harmony of existing systems.  And these systems can maintain themselves only by reason of the heroic attempts of scientific men who are trying to close their eyes to a long series of new facts which threatens to submerge everything in an irresistible stream.  If in reality we were to collect these system-destroying facts they would be so numerous in every department of knowledge as to exceed those upon which existing systems are founded.  The systematization of that which we do not know may yield us more for the true understanding of the world and the self than the systematization of that which in the opinion of “exact science” we do know.  (pp. 16-17)
System destroying facts are the enigmas, paradoxes and unknown elements which haunt psychologists and material scientists, and which suggest the need for a new scientific understanding.   Modern science is riddled with these enigmas, mysteries and paradoxes. In fact, there are fundamental issues yet to be resolved in every department of modern scientific study–within both the social and natural sciences.  Taken together, these enigmas suggest that there is something fundamentally lacking in the predominant materialist paradigm of twentieth century science.  Although modern science has made great strides in understanding the material nature of life and brought us powerful technologies, there remain profound mysteries, enigmas and “gaps” which reveal the limits of the materialist approach, especially when it comes to the ultimate issues of self, and the nature of creation.

    In psychology, there are unresolved issues surrounding virtually every essential topic which confronts the discipline:  We do not know what consciousness is, whether or not it is substantive, or where it originates.  Similarly, we do not understand the nature of the mind or the self; nor even if these things are any thing at all.  We do not know how thoughts occur and influence the material body or brain; nor what emotions entail; nor where memories are stored; nor how the integration and coordination of information takes place within the nervous system that enables conscious experience, and the sense of personal and individual identity.

    Next, there are innumerable enigmas raised by the vast literature, anecdotal and scientific, attesting to the psychic and para-normal nature of life.  This includes anecdotal, experimental and scientific evidence for extra-sensory perception, psychokinesis, clairvoyance,  meaningful patterns of coincidence, out-of-body-experiences, after-life states, ghosts and poltergeists, psychic and spiritual healing,  reincarnation, remote viewing, and much more.  Although Carl Sagan and Roger Sperry argue that there is not one iota of evidence for such inexplicable phenomena, their views reflect their prejudices and assumptions, rather than being based on a careful assessment of the evidences or the process of self study.  In fact, there is overwhelming evidence for the legitimacy of paranormal phenomena, and these are all topics which should be approached with an open-mind and a sense of humility about the limits of what we know and do not know.   #  1

     The unknown origin and history of humankind poses a multitude of other issues for our study.  There are questions about the origins of life, the evolution of human beings, human history, the cycles of civilizations and lost civilizations, mystery schools, UFO’s and alien beings, and the future prospects of human beings.  There are innumerable unknowns within these areas, which cannot be simply dismissed by an impartial investigator.

    The existence of mystical and spiritual teachers and teachings pose another set of enigmas.  The most influential figures in modern religions have been mystics, saints and seers–those who have supposedly realized the deepest origins of self, the existence of spiritual and divine principles and forces in life, and who have realized God.  There are known and unknown histories of the lives of various enlightened and self-realized individuals, who are the source of different mystical traditions and teachings.  Masters are said to manifest in various supernatural ways–knowing God, or the Father, or the Mother, knowing Self, or experiencing nature and the universe in more objective states of expanded consciousness.
    Instead of being irrational and misty ideas, idle speculations or fancy, mystical and spiritual teachings are extraordinarily rational, intelligible and lucid.  Taken as a whole, they provide the basis for an entirely novel paradigm in psychology and science, and speak to the most essential questions raised by the gaps within modern science.  The gaps concern the ultimate issues of consciousness and mind, the nature of the heart, the origin of the universe, the nature of matter/energy, space/time, and the mysteries of evolution. The physics, metaphysics, cosmologies and evolutionary views of the mystics and occultists are unquestionably relevant to the enigmas faced within the material sciences–just as mystical psychologies are relevant to the deepest enigmas in modern psychology.
    Of course, psychology’s assumptive framework is but one part of the materialist perspective which dominates modern science.  Scientists are not only opposed to considering the possibility that human beings might possess a soul or embody a spirit, but also to the idea that the universe embodies divine or spiritual laws and intelligence.  We do not know how to consider such ideas, and scientists fear and loathe such questions. Thus, biologists shudder at the thought of vital principles, just as psychologists cringe at talk of the soul, and physicists scoff at the mention of metaphysics in relation to physics.  When scientists put on their philosophical hats, they simply do not realize how their attitudes express their presumptions and prejudices.
 Just as there are major enigmas in psychology, so also, they exist in every area of the natural sciences.  These enigmas can be briefly listed at this point, and will be elaborated in detail throughout the Within-Without from Zero-Points series.


   In physics, fundamental enigmas include the paradoxes of the uncertainty principle, the wave/particle nature of matter/energy, the probabilistic nature of quantum processes, the mysteries of quantum interconnectedness (as suggested by the E.P.R. paradox, Bell’s inequality and the evidence for non-local effects),  the difficulties faced in unifying the laws of physics in higher space dimensions, and the nature of gravity and light, and the most recent views of the universe as a hologram.  Physicists also face enigmas in the description of elementary particles/quanta, the mysterious nature of the quantum vacuum–the primordial nothingness which is the root principle of creation, problems with infinities and the renormalization of quantum field equations, the emerging idea of “Phase III science” (which regards information/mind as a third force in relationship to matter/energy), the role of consciousness and the observer in determining physical reality,  models of higher and hidden dimensions of space/time and superstrings, and, David Bohm’s model of wholeness and the implicate orders. As science has advanced, it has yielded more mysteries as to the ultimate nature of things, not fewer.
    In cosmology, basic enigmas are raised by the most recent vacuum genesis scenario, problems with singularities at the beginning and end of time, notions about hyperspace or superspace dimensions, issues concerning the origins of galaxies and other large scale structures of the universe, questions raised by the formation of the solar system, the origins of the sun, the planets and moon, enigmas concerning the permanence/impermanence of matter, questions about the fate of the universe, and the paradoxes raised by the  anthropic principle, dealing with the relationships of mind to matter and the cosmos.  Why would scientists assume that there is nothing mysterious about the origin of the universe from a zero point source out of the nothingness of the quantum vacuum and higher space dimensions?   While such ideas and theories may solve some mysteries, they certainly pose new ones, and can be interpreted in various ways as support for mystical doctrines.
    In biology and medicine, there are fundamental enigmas concerning the origins of biological life, how order arises out of disorder or chaos, morphogenesis (how life forms are created and maintained), by evidence for the discontinuous nature of evolutionary change, and for subtle body fields and life fields.  Sheldrake’s “new science of life” suggest unknown fields and forces effecting and interconnecting all species, and the “Gaia hypothesis” views the earth as a living entity.  Holistic medicine and science further suggest all kinds of enigmas about subtle energies in the life of humans,  hidden factors in health and disease, and the role of the psyche and spirit in matters of life and death.

    The existence of enigmas and anomalies in all areas of science and human inquiry reveal the limits of the materialist/reductionist paradigm and suggest the need for a more comprehensive alternative.  A new model of life and creation must address all the “system-destroying facts,” the gaps within science itself.   Instead of thinking that the “end of science” is near, as suggested by various popular writers such as Sagan, Hawking and Horgan, the signs of the times point to an emerging paradigm shift.  Various facets of such a new paradigm have been accumulating over the past twenty years within alternate psychologies, holistic medicine, recognition of eastern practices and sciences, holographic theories, the emerging understanding of higher space dimensions, investigations of quantum vacuum and aethers, and emerging views of a substantive consciousness.
 Thus, in contrast to Carl Sagan’s contention, that as scientific advances there is “less and less for God to do,” we can stand this proposition on its head.  In fact, the opposite is true: as we learn more and more about life and the universe, we discover ever more mysteries, enigmas, paradoxes and uncertainties as we come to address the ultimate issues.  The accumulation of system-destroying facts suggests that the materialist and reductionist perspective embodies very basic misunderstandings about the nature of ourselves and reality.  When confronted by the most essential issues, we know nothing and are like fools before the mysteries.

    The Within-Without from Zero Points series explores all of these enigmas while elaborating an alternate mystical-spiritual model of consciousness and creation.  Such teachings actually provide a most profound challenge to modern science, although this is unrecognized because scientists are typically  ignorant of the substance of esoteric and mystical teachings.  As Madame Blavatsky remarked: “... the occult side of Nature has never been approached by the Science of modern civilization.”  (1888, p. viii)  In the ensuing century, little has changed.  In fact, the materialists’ dominance of modern thought has exacerbated the failings that Blavatsky described.  Thus, we have formatory psychology and science, dominated by the spells of dualistic thinking, materialist dogma, accident theory and the head doctrine.
  The issues of human consciousness pose the most profound mysteries and enigmas for those who seek to understand the nature of self and the deep roots and origins of their being.   The God hypothesis is certainly tied to the soul hypothesis and to many other “gaps” in scientific and modern understanding.  The essence of what it is to be human is far more mysterious than what materialists and reductionists imagine.
________________________

Footnote: 1. Dean Radin, in his recent work (1997), The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth Of Psychic Phenomena debunks the skeptics’ claim that there is no scientific evidence for so-called paranormal phenomena.  In a comprehensive review of scientific studies, Radin argues that a proper statistical analysis reveals that evidence for the reality of psychic phenomena is overwhelming!  Moreover, the preponderance of anecdotal evidence for various classes of paranormal phenomena should also give any open-minded investigator reason to wonder about what these phenomena involve, rather than whether or not they are real.  Of course, many people already accept the existence of such supernormal possibilities because of personal experiences which suggest the existence of deeper realities.  However, there is certainly a massive anecdotal and scientific literature which documents such phenomena.

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