IN THE LIGHT OF KNOWLEDGE
Preface - Forty Years On - 2014
This is a draft manuscript of a book 'In the Light of Knowledge' that I wrote forty years ago, in 1974, under the instruction of Satpal (Bal Bhagwanji), the eldest brother of Maharaji, Prem Rawat.
If you do not know who Maharaji/Rawat is, there are some informational sites here, here, and here. I was a dedicated follower of his for thirty years, from 1970 to 2000, which I write about on my website and in my book Without The Guru.
In the early 1970's, any intellectual underpinning for Prem's message was weak, and in fact was actively discouraged. Satpal did not agree with this, and commissioned me to put his younger brother's message on a scholarly and rational footing. This manuscript is the result.
However, by the time it was completed, the 'holy family' had split, with Satpal setting up as guru himself in India, and Prem remaining in the West disowning him. As a consequence, since my book was written under Satpal's direction, it was considered the work of the devil and most copies of my manuscript were burned.
I did not see my manuscript again until 2008, when my friend Anth Ginn (who was one of the original burners) found a copy in Germany and graciously mailed it to me.
In reading it again, and preparing it for the web with Tom Gubler's help, I want to make these points with the benefit of forty years' hindsight:
First and foremost, I do not agree now with what I wrote then. The purpose of the book was to 'prove' that we need Prem's message. I now hold strongly that we do not 'need' that message. In fact, I am deeply embarrassed by much of what I wrote, and in editing it for this site I have cringed many times.
Apart from my thoughts on Prem's message being opposite to what I thought then, the work now seems to me immature in parts (well, it was forty years ago). Some of the philosophical sections are weak, and of course all my cutting-edge scientific arguments of the day are now very dated.
I wrote recently to Tom that as a rule of thumb you can take anything I say in the book and assume that I now think the opposite. That is over-generalised, but even so it is not quite correct. I think now that the endeavour to find meaning and value in everyday life is a good thing, if done right. I am currently writing a book to explain what I mean by 'right' in this context, but certainly following Prem Rawat is not doing it 'right'.
Being written in 1974, I use 'man', 'mankind', and he/his/him for both genders, which I would never do now.
The book was thoroughly researched, with all quotes sourced and referenced. Unfortunately, my notes are now lost. They were very detailed, and included a lot of material not in the main body of the book. I have decided to keep the note numbers in the text, in square brackets [like this], (* I [Tom] have kept the superscripts as the sight of square brackets for references offends me though very slightly. If you love square brackets then this link to Mike's page is for you) even though you cannot follow them anywhere. They at least give an idea of how meticulous I was.
I wrote the book in England, and it is written with British English spelling and grammar.
I thank the following:
Glen Whittaker, then the General Secretary of Divine Light Mission UK, who provided all the support services for the book. In particular, he placed me in the Luton Ashram to write it, and found secretarial staff. In a recent (2014) email, he tells me he does not remember doing so.
Malcolm, the secretary of the Luton Ashram, who made me welcome, giving me the best rooms in which to work, and discussing the book with me. I thank also the Luton ashram residents of the time for providing me space in an already overcrowded house (typical of ashrams at the time), and the housemother Myra for holding it all together.
Penny, my main typist, who worked very hard on the manuscript.
Dr Jerry Ravetz and his wife, the first premies and academics to review the book.
Anth Ginn for finding the one and only remaining copy of the manuscript and returning it to me.
Tom Gubler, who scanned in the manuscript, and turned it into text (244 pages in the original). He also proof-read, and provided helpful comments. This digital copy would not have been created were it not for him, and the typewritten pages would have remained moulding in my bottom drawer.
Preface - Original 1974
Two points need to be made if this book is to escape more condemnation than it no doubt merits.
Firstly, it is not a book about Guru Maharaj Ji and his message; rather it is a book about how we need Guru Maharaj Ji and his message. Thus it is not primarily a biography of Guru Maharaj Ji, nor a description of his activities and those of his followers, nor is it an investigation of what in fact his message really is. Although all these are dealt with, they are done so only to the extent that they support and are relevant to the central thesis of this book - that we need that which Guru Maharaj Ji is giving.
Secondly, this theme is pursued in a hopefully easy-to-read style, but it is nevertheless based on a reasoned and fairly rigorous argument. Thus the book is an ambitious attempt to cater for two types of reader at the same time the 'general' (but intelligent) reader, and the 'intellectual' reader.
The existence of this connecting single thread of argument running through the book also means that one cannot select parts from it and read them in isolation from the rest of the book. This is particularly important to note with respect to Part Four, in which Guru Maharaj Ji and his message are briefly discussed, but only in connection with what has gone before.
- Part One - The Problem: A World Of Difference
- Chapter 1 - The Starting Point - "Unpeace" - Page 4
- Summary - Page 8
- Chapter 2 - Separateness - Page 10
- Chapter 3: Change - Page 19
- Summary - Page 25
- Chapter 4 - Duality - Page 26
- Chapter 1 - The Starting Point - "Unpeace" - Page 4
- Part Two - The Wrong Approach: Looking To The Di-Verse
- Chapter 5 - Where to Look? - Page 36
- Chapter 6 - Externalism - Page 44
- Chapter 7 - Discursive Thought - Page 52
- Chapter 8 - Intellectual Unity - Page 72
- Scientific Unity - Page 72
- Superspace - Page 75
- i) Dimensions
- ii) Curved Space
- iii) Black Holes
- iv) Geometrodynamics
- v) Bootstrap
- vi) Conclusion
- Arguments for the Existence of God - Page 86
- i) The Ontological Argument
- ii) The Cosmological Argument
- iii) The Argument from Eternal Truths
- iv) The Argument from Design
- v) The Argument from Morality
- Summary - Page 89
- Chapter 9 - The Third Monk - Page 90
- Part Three The Right Approach: Looking To The Uni-Verse
- Chapter 10 An Act of Faith Page 110
- Summary - Page 113
- Chapter 11 - The Knowers - Page 115
- Chapter 12 - The Knowing - Page 126
- Chapter 13 - One Into Two - Page 134
- Chapter 14 - Two into One - Page 156
- Summary - Page 163
- Chapter 15 - Perfect Masters - Page 164
- Chapter 16 - Alive or Dead - Page 182
- Chapter 10 An Act of Faith Page 110
- Part Four - The Solution: Guru Maharaj Ji
- Chapter 17 - The Present Perfect Master - Page 205
- Summary - Page 208
- Chapter 18 - The Knowledge - Page 209
- Chapter 19 - The Three Activities - Page 221
- Chapter 20 - The End Point - PEACE - Page 239
- Chapter 17 - The Present Perfect Master - Page 205
- Partial Bibliography
Part One - The Problem: A World Of Difference.
1 - The Starting Point - "Unpeace"
Most people die before they are born. Our physical birth, in the conventional sense of the term, is but the start of a continuous process of being born, which is seldom completed before we die.
The change from the womb to the outside world at the age of 9 months is certainly important, and often dramatic; but nevertheless it leaves the infant unchanged in many respects. The baby is as completely dependent as it was in the womb for outside assistance, requiring to be fed, protected and looked after completely. But the process of birth has not stopped; as the months and years go by, the baby becomes aware of his surroundings, learns to react to them and to co-ordinate his movements. In doing this the baby dies, and the child is born. He learns to talk, and begins to understand relationships between human beings, and the relationships between himself and his environment; and in so doing his childhood gives birth to youth. Then is learnt love and the power of reasoning; and youth gives birth to adulthood. But the process of birth does not stop there; for every situation we find ourselves in forces us at some point to change and evolve.
We are unable to live static and immobile lives, but are impelled to continually grow and develop, always being born to new forms of consciousness, fresh understandings and different states of being.
We live constantly in a condition of unrest, which is sometimes very violent and yet at other times remarkably gentle. Every action we make, from the flicker of an eyelid to writing a lengthy philosophical thesis, is born out of the conflicts of a changing situation, either biological, psychological, or social. Nothing ever remains totally satisfactory for us for very long; whenever we think we are completely content, it is the very nature of our human condition that discontent creeps in, and we find ourselves forced to take action, to do something, to become a little bit more born.
This is particularly true in our own time. Boredom, monotony and loneliness all take their toll; philosophers are beginning to call this age, the age of meaninglessness.1 Our culture seems to have been running at a heavy loss for at least a hundred years, and we see ourselves depersonalised, living in the inhuman world of concrete jungles. There is in our society a great urge to escape - we try to lose ourselves in drink, drugs, television, hooliganism and any one of thousands of diversions and pastimes manufactured for us and enticingly dangled in front of our noses.
For man can be said to have two natures, animal and human, which are like two opposite ends of a continuous spectrum of his behaviour.2 In respect to his body, man belongs to the animal kingdom; and like the animals, he is compelled to act by powers beyond his control - hunger, thirst, self-preservation, sex etc Animal existence is in itself one of complete harmony with the environment; for although the animal is often threatened and forced to fight for its survival, it lives in full accord with its animal nature. Thus in not interfering with its animal intelligence by conscious craving or aversion, it allows free play to the deep-rooted laws of its own being which equip it perfectly for the conditions it meets.
But man has a whole new dimension of existence from the animals, in the sense that he is aware of himself. This self-awareness, coupled with the powers of reasoning and imagination, goes to constitute his human nature, which makes man act in that conscious, determined and controlled fashion which is totally un-animal-like. This is not to say that the higher animals cannot sometimes be free from their instinctive nature; for instance, in the face of pain or death, an animal seems to choose of its own free-will whether to put up a frenzied resistance, or accept serenely its fate. But even if some of the higher animals do on occasions appear to take a few hesitating steps from the extreme pole of animal nature towards the pole of human nature, the demarcation between the animal and the human is clear.
The possession of a human nature has turned man into a freak of the universe; for while his animal nature fixes him in this physical world and keeps him subject to its laws, his human nature forces him to realise the limitations of his existence and drives him out of that harmony with life which blesses the animal's behaviour. We cannot live static and immobile lives because of this inner contradiction between the animal and the human nature, which is forever causing us to seek a new equilibrium - a new harmony to replace the lost animal harmony.
Emerson once said that every man is as lazy as he dares to be;3 but it is not that we do not dare, it is that we do not care to be lazy. We could all be a lot lazier than we actually are. The ultimate limits on laziness are set by our animal nature; we must find food, escape injury, obtain clothing and shelter etc The chair I am sitting in, while comfortable an hour ago, is now beginning to become uncomfortable, and soon physical discontent will force me to move. All of us are continually being goaded, like the animals, into motion and activity by the relentless working of our biological laws.
But even when our animal needs are satisfied, we remain (unlike the animals) dissatisfied and restless due to our human nature, which still prevents us from being lazy. Having been ejected from the animal paradise, we have to live this self-conscious human life step by step and not live a "blissful sub-rational eternity on the hither side of good and evil," as Aldous Huxley put it.4 Indeed, life has been defined as a continual exercise in problem-solving, but unfortunately the solutions we find always turn out to become problems in themselves.
How man sets about solving these problems, how he contends with the discord of his two natures, and how he faces up to the necessity of continual evolving and birth from conflict to conflict is really one question. All passions and strivings, philosophies and religions, insanity and strife, culture and life-styles are attempts to find an answer. The basic choice we have is whether to go backwards or forwards; to reject the human nature and try to live in our animal nature, or vice versa.
But unfortunately (or fortunately) we can never regain that animal harmony, that equilibrium and unity with the environment which can only be attained by non-reasoning and non-self-conscious creatures. As soon as Adam and Eve obtained their human nature by eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, then animal paradise became an impossibility, and the flaming sword has kept all at bay since. Trying to return to the animal harmony is an answer that does not work, though many have tried it. One example is Ernest Hemingway, whose answer was "live like a caveman; think as little as possible; make the best of food, sex and the primitive sports. Above all, avoid thinking." 5 His chronic alcoholism, leading to suicide, shows at least that his answer was sincere; but few people would say he was a happy and contented man, who had solved life's problems adequately. For although a philosophy of complete despair (eg pessimism or nihilism) leading ultimately to drug or drunken unconsciousness or suicide, is a logical way of solving the problem of the animal/human dichotomy, few people would regard it as being acceptable.
The early psychologists, from Darwin to Freud, looked to the animal end of the spectrum of man's nature as well, in an attempt to find the mechanism which prods us to action. Everything was explained in terms of 'instinct', which was a conveniently vague notion that we act as we do because we cannot help it, ie we act from our animal nature (as we have defined the term). McDougall's list of seven basic instincts was one of the most influential, but the craze for discovering (or inventing) instincts was such that by 1924 at least 849 separate instincts had been proposed. Freud resolutely cut this number down to two - the destructive instinct and sex ('Eros'). Then the instincts were explained on purely physiological principles (a process called 'homeostasis'), but it has now been shown that the theory of instincts is only a partially successful interpretation. In other words, we must not forget the human nature.6
In the position of fluctuating insecurity we are in, the other alternative is to consciously look to the human nature as opposed to the animal nature. This has resulted in religion, philosophy, art, science, literature and culture in general. Culture can be defined as that which is handed down from generation to generation by means other than hereditary, and thus includes speech, writing and building amongst other things. So 'culture' is a convenient concept to associate with the uniqueness of man's position and his non-animal human nature.7
However, the position is not really as simple as this. In practice, the animal and human natures are mixed up to an inextricable degree, and it is very difficult to ignore one totally. The gourmet attempts to achieve a subtle synthesis between the bodily hunger of his animal nature and the self-conscious 'style' of his human nature; the soldier on the battlefield is faced with the animal nature screaming for self-preservation and the insistence of the human nature on self-sacrificing courage and patriotism. Even the person who turns his face wholly to his human nature finds his animal nature tugging at his heels, and likewise the most dedicated advocate of the animal nature must use some gifts of the human nature (such as reasoning) to achieve his end.
The struggle of man to extricate himself from an inextricable position leads to much suffering. In the world today pain and misery, confusion and fear, and lack of peace and harmony in man's mind and in his environment are widespread and obvious. The news media churn out an avalanche of horrific statistics on violence, drug abuse, pollution, poverty and mental illness; harrowing photographs of starving children with bloated stomachs, or of a nameless individual being shot or bayonetted in any one of the innumerable little wars in the world, are commonplace.
Thus we see that man is really the victim of quite a predicament; his animal nature acts through discomfort and physical pain to prompt him to action, his human nature acts through mental pain and his intellect to force him to action, and the two natures combine to produce a situation of endless conflict and tension, which compel him to search unceasingly for harmony and peace.
This can be regarded as the most general formulation of the central question which mankind has to answer, collectively and individually; that is - how to find Peace? We spell it with a capital 'P' to show that we mean peace at all levels, at all times and in all situations; a Peace which includes tranquillity for the individual, and harmony in society and between societies.
For peace (small 'p') is only one aspect of Peace (big 'P'), and establishing peace is only a small task compared to finding Peace. In fact we have not done too well in even obtaining peace; it has been shown that from 1500 BC till 1360 AD there were 8,000 peace treaties signed, each one designed to secure permanent peace, and each one lasting on average two years.8
The great English philosopher Thomas Hobbes wrote that, "The first and fundamental law of Nature is to seek peace and follow it," 9 which, provided 'peace' becomes 'Peace', is the starting, point of our investigation.
The question can be alternatively rephrased as "how to escape Un-peace?". We use the word 'Unpeace' to include all discord, strife, tension, conflict and suffering at all levels and at all times; it describes in the most general way man's position as outlined in this chapter. Building a nuclear submarine or licking one's lips, falling deeply in love or eating toast-and-marmalade, governing a country or putting on a coat, strangling someone or helping an old lady across the road - they are all actions born from the interaction of the animal and human nature, and are thus attempts to find 'Peace', and escape 'Unpeace'.
Man, as a society and as an individual, is in constant conflict, tension and suffering, giving rise to a continuous process of adjustment, evolution and 'being born'. This can be thought of as due to man having an animal nature and a human nature, which together place him in a state of unfulfilment and strife. Consciously or unconsciously, we are at all times trying to lessen this 'Unpeace', and trying to find perfect harmony, or Peace.
2 - Seperateness
Man's state of Unpeace is not so much caused by his two natures alone; but rather by their interaction with the world in which he lives. In the last chapter we looked in a very general way at man himself, and before we go on to look at his relationship with the world in Part Two, we will spend the rest of Part One examining the world itself of which we are part.
Now the world as we see it can best be summarised as a world of difference; for all around us at all levels we see difference. Of course in one sense this is very obvious. If we saw no difference between, say, a door and a wall, we could never enter a house or leave a room except by luck. We see objects in this physical world as different from one another; on my desk, the telephone, the typewriter, the pen, the calendar and the lamp are all different, and it is only by recognising this difference that I can telephone someone or write this book. If I saw no difference, then there would be nothing to stop me trying to ring someone up with the pen or trying to write this book with the calendar. But the difference in this world can be pursued on a much deeper level than that, and in this chapter we begin by considering spatial difference, or differentiation in space - ie separateness. Again, the physical separateness of everyday objects is obvious; if they were not separate, or able to be separate, then nothing could be done. I could not open the drawer of my desk, turn on the light, cut the piece of bread or even get out of my chair if the objects mentioned were not separable from one another. In fact, all movement depends on separateness, since motion implies that one object is moving relative to the other, and thus that the two objects are separate.
One of the triumphs of modern science, especially physics, is that it has highlighted the separateness inherent in this universe. Take, for instance, this piece of paper I am writing on. It appears to my naked eyes to be one object - a unity. But if I look at the paper under a magnifying glass, then it no longer appears uniform; I see fibres in the paper, running this way and that, all separate from each other. If I discard my magnifying glass for a powerful microscope I see more separateness and multiplicity in the form of cells etc Eventually, through much theory and indirect observation, the scientist tells me that really this page is composed of atoms; and these atoms are separate identities one from the other. Of course, they are connected to each other to form molecules, and the molecules are connected to one another to form cells and so on, but the atoms are separate identities in the sense that they are separable. The cells can be broken down into their constituent molecules, and the molecules can in turn be broken down into their constituent atoms.
The atomic structure of matter is one of the greatest discoveries of science. Matter, that is any material object in this universe, is thought by science to be composed of atoms. These atoms are incredibly small (there are about one thousand trillion trillion atoms in a pinhead, ie more than the number of grains of sand in the world)1 and they can be thought of as minute particles which group together to form an object. Thus according to physics, all matter in this universe is composed of these minute and separate (or separable) particles.
In fact, even atoms are not units or particles themselves but are composed of even smaller particles, electrons and nuclei. And even the nucleus of an atom is not a unity, but consists of a whole collection of separate particles (protons, neutrons, mesons and all kinds of sub-nuclear particles discovered in high energy particle accelerators).
This technique of science of breaking down the world into smaller and smaller bits can be summarised by the term 'analysis'. Analysis is study through separateness; it is the dividing of the 'whole' into separate parts, and examining those parts and the relationships between them. Analysis thus requires the assumption that the parts have an individual existence one from the other, and can be investigated in isolation - ie that they belong to the world of difference and separateness.
The word 'analysis' comes from the Greek 'luo' meaning loose, suggesting the loosening of the whole into its constituent parts, and thus sums up very neatly the activities of the scientist. If science has a motto, it should be "divide and conquer," for it is through the separation of the physical world into smaller and smaller bits that science attains its success.
But not only do we find separateness on the microscopic level, but also when we turn to the very big. Our planet is separate from the other eight planets which whirl round the Sun. The Sun is separate from all the other hundred billion stars which comprise our galaxy,2 and our galaxy is separate from the other galaxies and nebulae our telescopes see speeding through space.
So as we look at Nature in her minuteness we see separateness, if we view Nature in her vastness we see separateness; and, of course, if we go to the middle and look at the human level, we see separateness. Human bodies are separate from each other just as all other objects are, from atoms to galaxies. And surely it is not too fanciful to suggest that it is with this spatial separateness that other forms of separateness are connected.
For man's animal nature makes him identify himself with his body, so that he 'himself', his 'mind' or seat of consciousness is, he thinks, somehow inside his body. We have seen that we act and think so as to escape Unpeace and find harmony with ourselves and the world; and in practice we do so via actions or thoughts, which are obviously both dependent upon our having a body.
So our body is that physical body with which we are most acquainted and with which we are most attached. The loss of the body, physical death, is the final and ultimate catastrophe for most of us. A man will surrender all his possessions, all his wealth, even the clothes he stands up in, if by so doing he can avoid death. For he enjoys his possessions, his wealth, through his body, and if his body is going to be stripped from him then he will count his possessions as of no value.
So if I see this most precious and intimate physical object, 'my' body, as being separate from other bodies, surely this will influence greatly my behaviour, towards other bodies and their 'inhabitants'. For from viewing other people and the environment as separate from oneself in physical and spatial terms, it is an easy step to view them as separate from oneself in non-physical terms.
Separateness From The Environment
Let us consider first man's separateness from his environment.
Amongst rural and peasant communities, man feels very close to the soil and to the wild life which surrounds him; but the vast majority of us nowadays have become totally alienated from a natural environment. We live in 'concrete jungles' with our food coming in plastic wrappings. We are not only separate from a natural environment in spatial terms, but also in our way of thinking; we are no longer in sympathy with the 'flow' of Nature.
And of course once a feeling of separateness is allowed to form, we no longer feel a regard or love for the environment. This is most obvious in the problems of pollution which have plagued man ever since he left the land for the industrial cities, and became separated from his natural surroundings.
What else other than a deep feeling of separateness from our planet can make it man's "apparent intention to damage beyond repair the ecosystems which sustain him," 3 as one eminent professor said. Another ecologist has said, "continual pollution of the earth, will eventually destroy the fitness of this planet as a place for human life." 4
Such is the disregard we hold for the environment as a whole, that global suicide seems a real possibility, and we have realised (hopefully not too late) that in fact it is a dangerous business to think ourselves separate from the earth. If we manage to escape enveloping ourselves in a nuclear holocaust, prophets of doom inform us that we may freeze to death5, or possibly even be heated to death.6 We may suffocate through lack of oxygen, or be poisoned by an excess of DDT; we can suffer a disaster through a nuclear power station accident, or crowd ourselves off this planet in a population explosion! 7
Separateness From Others
From seeing what separateness from the environment leads to, let us now look at our separateness from other human beings. This undoubtedly causes the most suffering and Unpeace in this world, for if we feel separate from others in a non-physical sense, then we have no alternative but to act selfishly. However much I realise that it is my duty to feel brotherly love and compassion for my neighbour, if I always look at him in terms of separateness then my love will be very shallow.
Separateness of man from man is surely the basis of aggression, competitiveness, war, and much violence and delinquency in this world, leading to all the suffering of man caused by man. An obvious example is that of racial conflict, where one man distrusts and even hates another due to the most superficial differences, such as the pigmentation of the skin. It surely is no coincidence that in many languages the word for 'stranger' and the word for 'enemy' are identical.
Indeed, it is a common observation that while man's human nature can take him far, far above the animals in terms of justice, compassion, gentleness etc, it can also (and often does) drag man far, far below the animals in terms of hatred, ferocity and cruelty. For human nature includes in itself free-will, that power of choice which we use to decide how to answer the question of Unpeace.
If we want to paint a black picture of what man's separateness from his fellow creatures can achieve, it is not difficult.
It has been calculated on a computer that in the last five and a half thousand years, 14,531 wars have been fought, and they have killed 3,640 million people, and that in that time the world has only known 362 peaceful years.8
Atrocities are plentiful, especially in our own century, with Hitler killing six million Jews and Stalin's purge of the late 1930's, where over five million were kept in barbaric prison camps.9 Less well known, but no less barbaric, are such atrocities as over three hundred thousand men, women and children murdered over the last few years in Burundi;10 over two hundred and fifty thousand in Bangladesh;10 and of course the horrors of Vietnam where, amongst other things, political prisoners have nails driven into their leg joints so they can never walk again.11
Mankind shows up no better in his relationship with animals. One hundred and fifty species are known to have vanished in the past three centuries, and two hundred and forty are very near extinction, all due (directly or indirectly) to man.12 For instance, in one year (1971), 245,000 snow white seal pups were clubbed to death in one country (Canada).13
Our resources are geared to destruction. The United States spends 55 percent of its income on military research and development, and in 1973 was producing three hydrogen warheads a day.14 Between them, Russia and the United States will have in 1975 nuclear stock-piles equivalent to seventy tons of TNT for every man, woman and child on this planet,14 let alone the potential for destruction from 'conventional' explosives, and from chemical and biological weapons.
Famine and poverty are rife. There are 500 million people in the world suffering from acute hunger and malnutrition, and food is scarce generally in the Far East. World stocks of grain are so low that there is no security against crop failure.15 Yet the world's wealth is grossly unevenly spread; a western business man earns more in one month than a Cambodian peasant does in his life time.16
It is as if human nature can either choose to lessen separateness, or else to increase it. The urge to increase separateness, the craving for an independent an individualised existence, can exist on many levels of life, and leads to all manifestations of non-love, from gossip and petty selfishness to barbaric atrocities.
Of course, the urge to decrease separateness is also present, and little has been said in this chapter about the connection and affinity that invariably exist between the various objects (atoms, stars, human beings) that we have considered as being separate. For instance, it is the affinity of various atoms for one another that enables them to combine and form molecules, and so causes the wonderful array of substances in the world; and while man's feeling of separateness is the root cause of much suffering, his affinity with other human beings leads to much that is loving and noble, and to his exhibiting qualities which tend to reduce suffering, such as mercy, compassion, gentleness and tolerance. But nevertheless, differentiation and separateness are more basic, since any unity we perceive is in terms of difference or separateness.
For instance, although the physicist can regard the lump of metal he is looking at as a unit, he does so in terms of separation and difference; for he must see it as a collection of atoms, the essentially distinct building blocks with which he is concerned. Likewise, although the social scientist can regard the society he is viewing as a unit, he does so in terms of its being a collection of individuals, the distinct building blocks with which he is concerned. And a collection is an assembly or group of essentially separate or distinct entities, in the sense that although the entities might not be regarded as separate, they are certainly separable, or able to be separated.
This argument can also be applied to those who maintain that the activity of science is not only analysis (as was maintained earlier in this chapter) but also synthesis. After all, while no-one would deny that science divides, breaks down, classifies and separates (ie analyses) it also builds up and unites (synthesises). But any synthesis can only be achieved in terms of the essentially distinct 'parts' which prior analysis have separated so that in fact analysis is more basic, and the concept of separateness must precede and underlie any concept of unity held in science. (This is dealt with in more detail in Chapter 8).
As the Roman statesman and philosopher Seneca says, "The whole concord of the world consists in discord" 17 which is echoed by the social psychologist Erich Fromm, who holds that separateness amongst mankind is so basic that it can even account for social cohesion. "Human relations," he says, "Are essentially those of alienated automatons, each basing his security on staying close to the herd, and not being different in thought, feeling or action. While everybody tries to be as close as possible to the rest, everybody remains utterly alone, pervaded by the deep sense of insecurity, anxiety and guilt which always results when human separateness cannot be overcome." 18
Today, many people hope that mankind's problems can be overcome by some political system. But surely no political system can eradicate suffering and oppression as long as we still view each other in terms of separateness. As an old Polish joke goes: "Comrade pupil, what is the difference between Capitalism and Socialism?" "Comrade teacher, Capitalism is the exploitation of man by man. Under Socialism this relationship is completely reversed!"
Separateness From Ourselves
The scientist dealing with the nature of matter considers the atom to be the fundamental building-block of the universe. This is in some ways analogous to the position of the social scientist, who regards society as also id being constructed of building-blocks, called individuals. Both 'a-tomic' and 'in-dividual' mean 'unsplittable', the one from Greek and the other from Latin; and both types of scientist have to reckon with the fact that their 'unsplittable' building-blocks are in fact very splittable. The atom has long since dissolved into a complex arrangement of esoteric sub-nuclear particles; and of course the individual (ie you and me) can be divided up into categories in a number of ways.
One is the way in which we instinctively separate conceptually the various faculties of man, just as we separate the sciences and the professions. A man is a singer or an engineer; physics is a science in its own right; this peace of verse is a lyric. We tend to classify all phenomena we meet, so creating the separateness born of different categories. Often 'knowledge' is merely our capacity to read the labels efficiently. For instance, if I say of some one, "He is a Communist," I have put that person in a separate category which implies a naive simplicity about him, and which can cause much misunderstanding, as we see all too often. It implies that there is a neat, sharp definition of 'Communist' which can be equally implied to all; it implies that he will act the way we think communists act, in all situations and at all times.
Apart from classifying the various faculties in an individual, and seeing him composed as a collection of several separate bits, we can also see that physical illness is involved with separateness. For any functional or organic disorder in the body can be regarded as a result of a part of the body, from cell to organ, intensifying its separateness from the body as a whole. For when part of the organism acts as if it wishes to accentuate its partial life as distinct and separate from the life of the organism as a whole, then it does so at the expense of the animal harmony the organism is in. (It is in this sense that political philosophers have often likened society or the state to a human body, eg Hobbes' Leviathan).
A third context in which we can talk of someone being separate from himself is that of mental illness, By far the most common complaint is schizophrenia, which literally means 'separate mind'; but there is much talk now amongst psychologists (especially existential psychologists19) of the need to understand the 'whole man' and to 'integrate' the intellectual, emotional, physical and psychic energies, which it is felt are separated from one another.20 Thus all forms of mental suffering, in as much as they are due to a disintegration of the personality or, in our terms, an intensified conflict in the animal or human natures or both, can be regarded as separateness from oneself.
The statistics on mental illness are staggering. One in six females and one in nine males are at some points in their lives in-patients in a psychiatric ward. In Britain in 1972, one third of N.H.S. hospital beds (that is over 100,000) were occupied by the mentally ill, and one quarter were occupied by related cases (ie alcoholics, drug addicts and those in emotional distress). There are also over one million attendances at psychiatric day hospitals in Britain each year.21
The final admission that mental suffering is as real and harsh as physical suffering can be found in the statistics and parting notes of suicides the world over. What hell must people be suffering to find death a better alternative to life? Over a thousand people take their own lives every day.22 In England alone, 10,000 people are reckoned to have committed suicide in 197223 and 50,000 made a serious attempt.21
This, incidentally, is further justification of our putting mankind's central question in the form, "How can we find Peace and/or escape Unpeace?" For while it is often held that man's primary instinct is that of survival or self-preservation, the fact of suicide shows that if Unpeace gets beyond a certain point, a person will kill himself. In other words, Peace is more precious than life. Apart from straight suicide, millions of people live in a state of so-called 'chronic suicide', where a person takes two sleeping pills twice a day for years rather than two hundred at once. People will take any available steps to deaden their consciousness to the pressures of our 'civilised' life,22 to escape from the overwhelming sense of separateness which seems to manifest at all levels.
The predominant quality we see in this world is that of difference. This chapter has dealt with difference in space and feeling, ie separateness. Not only do we see physical objects as commonly separate or separable from each other (which often results from analyses and scientific activity), but also man sees himself as separate from his environment, other people and himself. This leads to much selfishness, misery and suffering of all kinds, ie Unpeace. Any affinity or unity we see lessens the effect of separateness, but is nevertheless less fundamental than the essential separateness, since we can only perceive unity as a collection of basically separate entities.
3 - Change
"There is nothing that stands fast, nothing fixed, nothing free from change among the things which come into being …" 1 These words were written many thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt, and though they say that everything is changing, there is one thing that has not changed in all that time - the fact of change itself. This leads us on to consider another basic aspect of difference - difference in time, ie change.
Change is, like separateness, inseparable from the world; nothing stays the same for ever. This book, for instance, appeared in the form you now see it at a particular time in the past. It is now slowly undergoing change, getting dirtier and more used, and there will come a time when it will no longer exist as a book. Either it will be burnt, torn up or maybe it will just decompose; you cannot say how it will be destroyed, but it is nevertheless certain that it will be destroyed at some point in the future.
This is true of everything. The Alps are transient. They came into existence at a certain point in time, and they will vanish at a certain point in time. There is one physical object the transience and changing of which we are only too well aware - our body. Our body is born, grows, matures, decays and finally dies. Whose body is not subject to this cycle? The best we can hope for is that this chain proceeds smoothly and evenly, but such is the impermanence and transience of the body that very often it does not. Most people experience at least one major illness or injury to their body in their life, and the vast majority of us have intermittent minor ailments and bodily upsets. In fact, it is only through recognition that the body is perishable do we survive at all. If we did not recognise our transience, and thought the body to be indestructible, then we would have no survival instincts and we would walk cheerfully over cliffs and under buses.
Not only is the body as an entity changeable, but of course also the constituents of the body. As Walter De La Mere says:
"It's a very odd thing -
As odd as can be -
That whatever Miss T eats
Turns into Miss T." 2
Whether or not we accept the doctrine of reincarnation, the fact is that we have been literally 'reincarnated' many times in our present lifetime. The body converts our intake of raw materials (food, air and water) into complex molecules which continually renew our bodies. "Whatever Miss T eats" turns not only into Miss T, but into a rebuilt and changed Miss T. Every day, 500 billion cells in the body die and are replaced.3 Skin, blood, muscle, flesh and even bone are continually renewed.4 After about six months we will have had a complete turnover of material.5
When this continuous change in the body goes wrong, then we get physical illness and also ageing. (The most favourite scientific theory of ageing - the 'Error Catastrophe Theory' - holds that cellular ageing occurs because the protein production in the body goes wrong. These errors are self-magnifying, and in the end there are so any defective molecules that the cellular metabolism breaks down.6) But there is no need to look to modern science to see that growing old is a process of change. After the child-bearing age, the human body degenerates in a very obvious fashion: the hair turns grey and thins out; the skin begins to dry, crease and blotch; the muscles become flabby; teeth and bones become brittle; the heart pumps less blood; the arteries harden; the senses become less keen. Brain cells die at a rate of 100,000 per day after the age of thirty five and are never replaced.7 In other words the body changes, causing Unpeace in terms of illness, disease, old-age and death.
Modern science shows that this constant flow of change is operating at every level of the universe. Nothing is stationary; everything is in motion and changing from one form to another. This is true of atoms and stars, amoeba and man, electrons and galaxies.
Consider the glass of water that is on my desk. The water looks very still and placid, with no evidence of motion or change. But if I look at it through a microscope, then I will see the small particles of dust and any bacteria present moving in a haphazard and quite violent fashion. In other words, there is motion, and wherever there is motion there must be change; after all, motion just means a change in position. This particular motion is called Brownian motion, and it is in fact due to the motion of the molecules of water. We have seen earlier how all matter is composed of molecules, which are just little groups of atoms. No matter what the temperature, these molecules are in motion. They vibrate and rush around, and the hotter the substance is, the faster its molecules move. And sometimes they move very fast; for instance, at normal everyday temperatures a molecule of oxygen in the air moves at about one quarter of a mile per second! 8 The molecules in my glass of water are not moving quite that fast (though they would if the water were boiling), but they are still going very rapidly; and of course they bump into each other very often (many millions of times a second).8 And it is this violent motion of the molecules which causes the little specks of dust etc in the water to jiggle around in the Brownian motion.
But we can go further than this. The atoms comprising any molecule are vibrating and spinning around, so that a molecule itself is continually changing its form and shape as well rushing about at high speed. And going to even smaller dimensions, as we have seen, an atom is composed of particles which are also moving. The electrons which orbit the nucleus do so at a speed of about 500 miles per second, and remembering that their orbit is only about 4 billionths of an inch in radius, then the electron orbits the nucleus about a million billion times a second. If we go even deeper into an atom and look at the nucleus, we find that the particles there, such as protons and neutrons, are moving at the fantastic speeds of about 60,000 miles per second, that is one third of the speed of light. Such speeds are incredible, and when we think that such particles are confined to the nucleus, which is on average about one tenth of a trillionth of an inch in diameter, the resulting motion is beyond our imagination.
So our still and limpid glass of water disappears on closer instruction, and we find that it is undergoing internal motion and change with immense violence and vehemence. And, according to quantum mechanics, this is true of all matter, however quiet and still it appears to be. "The stillness in stillness is not the real stillness," as an old Chinese scripture says, very accurately.9 (Note that the foundation of Chinese thought is a work entitled 'I Ching,' meaning Book of Changes.) Of course, if the water was old and stagnant, or from a pond, it would be teeming with life and there would be continual change and movement of amoeba and bacteria etc in it.
And not only do we see internal change in the water, but of course the water itself is changeable - it is transient just like this book or the Alps mentioned above. Some time in the past it was undoubtedly in the form of vapour in the clouds; if I put it out of doors tonight then it will become ice. And not only does the water have a transient existence in this world, but also the glass it is in, the desk it is now on, and in fact everything we can conceive of.
We have seen that when we look to the very minute we see violent change and rapid motion; in the same way, when we look to the very vast we see the same. The stars are in a process of change, undergoing birth, growth, decay and death. It is thought that they originate when clouds of interstellar 'dust' condense due to gravity, and thereafter they go through many changes. 'Our' star, the Sun, is very normal and average, and is about in the middle of its career. A star sometimes dies very dramatically, exploding and becoming many millions of times more luminous than the Sun, whence it is known as a supernova. Usually a star dies when its nuclear field has all been burnt up, and it then collapses under its own gravity, to form a 'white dwarf', a neutron star or even to vanish altogether to leave a black hole in space. (This is discussed further in Chapter 6.)
Stars group together to form galaxies (an average galaxy like our own containing a hundred billion stars) and these galaxies are also moving and changing. In fact, in the centre of our own comparatively peaceful galaxy, it has been recently shown10 that such violence and change is going on as is equivalent in energy to the mass of a thousand suns being annihilated each year. Furthermore, galaxies tend to group together to form galactic clusters, which are usually about a hundred million trillion miles in diameter. These clusters are also continually changing form, and are also in motion relative to each other, so that even on the largest scale imaginable we still see that our universe is in a continual process of change.
So there is change everywhere, from the smallest to the largest. Of course the time scale varies greatly, from the millionth of a billionth of a second it takes an electron to circle a nucleus to the twenty billion years this universe has existed with the life of a human body in between lasting on average a few decades. But the message is still the same: nothing is permanent, everything from the smallest to the biggest is changing.
In considering the change in human society, it is interesting to note that in the present time this appears to be accelerating vastly. "Until this century" C. P. Snow writes, social change was "so slow that it would pass unnoticed in one person's lifetime. That is no longer so. The rate of change has increased so much that our imagination can't keep up."11 This was taken as a thesis for Alvin Toffler's book 'Future Shock',12 where he shows that social change is so dramatic that we can suffer disorientation and culture shock due to the rapid change of society and the environment. He defines 'future shock' as the 'disease of change', and shows that its victims can suffer not only psychologically, but also physically.
Just one example of the increase of social change is that of the growth of cities. In 1850, there were only 4 cities in the world with a population in excess of one million. By 1900 there were 19, and in 1960 there were 141.13 Today world urban population is increasing at a rate of 6.5 per cent per year,14 which means a doubling of the earth's urban population every eleven years. One very striking way of expressing the recent rapid change in society is to note that "if the last 50,000 years of man's existence were divided into lifetimes of about 62 years, then there have been 800 such lifetimes. Of these 800, fully 650 were spent in caves.
"Only during the last 70 lifetimes has it been possible to communicate effectively from one lifetime to another - as writing made it possible to do so. Only during the last 6 lifetimes did masses of men ever see a printed word. Only during the last 4 has it been possible to measure time with any precision. Only in the last 2 has anyone anywhere used an electric motor. And the overwhelming majority of all the material goods we use in daily life today have been developed within the present, the 800th lifetime." 15 Thus it is that a middle-aged man can write, "The world of today … is as different from the world in which I was born as that world was from Julius Caesar's. I was born in the middle of human history … Almost as much has happened since I was born as happened before." 16 Such a changing situation can obviously lead to severe forms of Unpeace.
Aldous Huxley has pointed out that by living entirely in thoughts of change, whereby we are always hankering after something in the future or reminiscing about something in the past, we are forced to treat time with excessive seriousness. The danger of this is that if we think the answer to the fundamental question of Peace and Unpeace lies in the temporal world (ie in some Utopia in the future), then we tend to feel justified in making use of any temporal means to achieve it. "From the records of history it seems to be abundantly clear that most of the religions and philosophies which take time too seriously are correlated with political theories that inculcate and justify the use of large-scale violence." Such examples are the Inquisition, the Crusades and the 'religious' wars of all times, the Jacobins, the Bolsheviks and of course Hitler.17 Not only are all material things and human relations continually changing, but also our states of consciousness. In 24 hours we pass through the waking, dreaming and deep sleep (unconscious) states, and of course in the waking and dreaming states our moods, thoughts and feelings are always changing. This, coupled with the transience of all situations and objects, was the setting which in Chapter 1 we saw lead to the necessity for continual adjustment and change in mind (thinking) and body (action), and which we can envisage as continuous becoming or birth. In this chapter, however, we have been dealing with change as a quality of the world, rather than as a feature of our own being.
The first western philosopher to announce categorically that everything is always changing was Heraclitus, who lived at Ephesus in Greece in about 500 BC. He held that the only permanent thing is the law of change itself; two of his best known sayings being, "The Sun is new every day," and "You cannot step twice into the same river; for fresh waters a are ever flowing in upon you." 18 A later disciple of this philosophy, Cratylus, took it to its limit. He held that nothing then can have any meaning, and that in fact one cannot even step into the same river once, because by the time one has stepped into it, it has changed. It is said that when Cratylus was spoken to, he merely wiggled his finger to indicate he had heard; he held it was futile to reply since the words, the meanings, the listener and the whole situation would all change before his response was finished. 19 Whether Cratylus took this extreme position seriously, I do not know.
The point is that although everything is changing, much of the change is at a slow enough rate for us to disregard it in practice. Although the Sun is new (ie has changed) every day, nevertheless it is constant enough for our needs, and will be for the next few billion years. Although my car is transient, for instance, and I know it to be slowly rusting and deteriorating, I can still use it even though it is changing and will one day end up in the scrap-yard. However, the knowledge that one day my precious car will end its existence as a car, can lead to considerable Unpeace. For change and transience generate insecurity; although my car may last five years, it might break down or be in a crash tomorrow, and so I will always worry about it to the same extent that I look to it for happiness.
Insecurity and worry are, of course, common forms of Unpeace. The observation that all is changing is painful, and the search for something permanent and constant is one of the deepest instincts of mankind, and is one form of the general search for Peace we are all engaged in. Science indeed holds that some entities are permanent, (called 'fundamental constants'), such as the speed of light in a vacuum, but even they are changing in the view of many eminent physicists.20 Change seems to be inescapable.
This chapter has dealt with that aspect of the world called change - difference in time. All material objects, including atoms, bodies, stars and the entire universe are always changing; as are also our states of consciousness and society, the latter changing in this generation faster than ever before. Apart from the Unpeace arising out of change which was mentioned in Chapter 1, there are two other broad causes of Unpeace found in this chapter:
1) By looking forward to a state of Peace arising from change, temporal means are used to attempt to achieve it, and violence often ensues.
2) By looking to changing objects and situations for Peace, we feel insecure on account of their transience.
4 - Duality
The final aspect of this world of difference we will consider is difference of quality - what we can term 'duality'.
A little reflection will probably convince most people that however much satisfaction or pleasure they obtain from any particular experience, that satisfaction was not total. There was room for more still. For instance, however peaceful you were at some past time, you will probably admit that there was, in theory at least, the possibility of more peace. When we are experiencing great peace or satisfaction, we often speak as if it were total or complete ("I couldn't wish for anything better."), but this is surely just 'hyperbole', a natural tendency to exaggerate or overstate. The same is true of dissatisfaction: although we often say of something unpleasant or dissatisfying, "it couldn't be worse," if we examine the situation dispassionately then we will always find that it could, in some manner, be worse.
Every experience we have in this world gives us a mixture of content and discontent. This is an example of what philosophers call the duality of the world, or the difference of quality; the fact that everything we experience has an opposite. Sometimes we feel hot, sometimes we feel cold. Every quality seems to come in pairs. Black and white, big and small, love and hate, up and down, night and day, male and female, light and darkness, in and out, life and death; these are just a few examples of the duality we find in this world.
"All things go in pairs, one the opposite of the other," as it says in Ecclesiasticus.1 For nothing can be experienced except in relation to its opposite; we could have no conception of light if it were not for darkness, no notion of 'up' if it were not for 'down', etc Nothing is completely one thing; to belong to the world of difference, anything we are aware of must be mixed and inextricably entwined with its counterpart, otherwise it would be impossible for us to experience it. (This view has its origins with Plato.)
Given this duality of the world as we see it, then we will obviously find it impossible to obtain Peace from it. Maybe we will, get some peace (small 'p'), but because of duality that peace will be mixed with unrest
and anxiety, so the result will be, by our definition, Unpeace. For a mixture of satisfaction and dissatisfaction is itself dissatisfying. To find total satisfaction, or Peace, we have to go somewhere where there is no duality and no difference. Considering the basic duality of the animal and human natures in man, this is somewhat of a problem. In fact, this problem of how to go beyond the duality and difference in the world and so find Peace is the main concern of this book.
It is interesting to note that our language seems to recognise the inherent unsatisfactoriness of duality, as Aldous Huxley has pointed out. Very often it is the case that a word employing the root meaning 'two' (such as 'dual'-ity') connotes badness. For instance, the Latin prefix 'dis-' (as in 'disaster', 'disagreeable', 'discord', 'discontent', 'disability', 'distaste', etc) comes from 'duo', the Latin for two. The French cognate 'bis' gives pejorative sense to such French words as 'bevue' (meaning 'blunder', literally 'two-sight' as in 'di-vision'). Traces of the unsatisfactoriness of duality (literally 'two-ness') can be found in 'dubious' and 'doubt', for to doubt is to be double minded. Indeed, the key word of this first part of the book, 'dif-ference', means literally 'making two'.2
Just for the record, it is worthwhile just to mention briefly a few of the more noteworthy dualities. One is that of cause-and-effect. This is the common-sense notion that anything that happens in our world of difference has both a cause and an effect. Usually there are many causes for something, and that something itself causing many effects. The intricate web of cause-and-effect relationships between all the separate 'things' of this universe is so unimaginably complex that it is obviously utterly impossible to reason it all out, but nevertheless we cannot conceive of something happening which has no cause (nor produces any effect).
There are some basic dualities in physics, such as space-and-time and matter-and-radiation, which will be dealt with in Chapter 8. In logic there the fundamental duality of 'is' or 'is not'; ie either something is, or it is not - there is no alternative. For instance, either it is true that I am six foot tall, or it is not. There is no compromise. I cannot be six foot tall and five foot at the same time.
This fundamental axiom of our logic seems obvious from a common-sense standpoint, for in most cases where it appears to break down, it can be shown that it is in fact language which is at fault. For instance, if I make the
statement, "Either it is raining, or it is not", someone may reply that in fact it neither is raining, nor is it not raining; it is drizzling. This merely shows that it is unclear whether to define drizzle as 'rain' or 'not rain', but once a precise definition has been made, then my original statement still holds, that it is either raining or it is not. Nothing else.
In logician's language, this seemingly obvious duality is called 'the law of the excluded middle', and was first formulated by the great Greek logician and philosopher of the 4th century BC, Aristotle. He wrote, "It is impossible for the same thing at the same time to belong and not to belong to the same thing and in the same respect … This, then, is the most certain of all principles."3 Although most of Aristotle's work has since been shown to be invalid, the law of the excluded middle has always been accepted; it is still "the most certain of all principles," as we should expect it to be if the world is fundamentally one of difference.
Mind Or Matter?
To end this chapter and Part One, we will consider in some detail a very fundamental duality - the so-called 'mind/matter' or 'mind/body' problem. Whereas the duality of our animal/human nature is rather a hypothetical model, the mind/matter duality is very real and has led to many bitter battles in philosophical and psychological fields.
Basically the situation is this: in normal waking consciousness we are aware of two worlds - one is a 'public' or outer world which we share with our fellow beings, and the other is a 'private' or inner world which is different for each person and can only be experienced by the person concerned.
The public world consists of material objects, physical events and anything which is objective and can be experienced by more than one person; it is the 'matter' part of the duality. The private world consists of mental objects and events, eg thinking, feeling or imagining, and anything which is subjective and can only be experienced at most by one person; it is commonly called 'mind'.
The mind/matter duality was given its modern formulation, and raised to the status of a 'problem', by the 17th century French mathematician and philosopher, Rene Descartes; but the essential duality of the public and private worlds must have been obvious from the time of the first thinking human being onwards. Descartes held that both mind and matter (or body) exist, but was at a loss to explain how they interact; for how can an utterly non-physical and non-material mind affect a material and gross body? In the end he was obliged to say that, "the union of mind and body is best understood by not thinking about it," as he once wrote in a letter to a princess.4
However, many people since Descartes have thought about it, and the difficulties involved in explaining such an interaction have usually led to deny either the public world of matter and the body, or the private world of the mind. As some wit once remarked, "What is matter? Never mind: What is mind? No matter!" 5 Here we will briefly consider these two possibilities, and also a compromise between them.
First we will look at the view that everything can be explained in terms of matter or the public world only - generally called 'materialism'. (Note that we are using 'materialism' in its philosophical sense, and not in its everyday meaning of someone greedy after material objects, though obviously the two meanings are connected.) Now common sense obviously supports the materialist view that matter exists; if you think a block of concrete Is an illusion then bang your head on it and see if you still think so. But the materialist usually goes further and holds that mind does not exist as distinct from matter, or rather that the private world (mind) can be explained totally in terms of matter, a view known as 'epiphenomenalism'.
The first thorough-going materialist philosophy in the West was put forward in about 430 BC by two Greeks, Leucippus and Democritus, in a theory called 'Atomism'. They held a totally mechanistic and materialist view of the world, thinking everything was composed of passive and intrinsically lifeless 'atoms' (though their atoms were very different from the atoms of modern science). The next important era of materialism (note that we are still using the term in its philosophical sense) was not until 2,000 years later, in the 17th century; for in that century was the rise of science, when events in the physical world could be explained by materialist laws, largely due to the work of Newton. This initiated a steadily increasing flow of materialist philosophy, through Hobbes, Marx and into modern times; for the stunning successes of the materialist sciences seemed to place matter on top once and for all.
The tone of modern science was set in 1865, when the great French physiologist Claude Bernard wrote: "I propose to prove that the science of vital (ie living) phenomena must have the same foundation as the science of the phenomena of inorganic bodies, and that there is no difference in this respect between the principles of biological science and those of physicochemical science."6 The Berlin club of German physiologists at the end of the 19th century stated its manifesto boldly as: "No other forces than the common physical-chemical ones are active within the organism."7 It would be hard to find a more dogmatic assertion of the materialist viewpoint. Since then, the mark of science has found nothing to contradict this. On the contrary, it has found much to support it. Not only are thinking, emotions and memory explainable (at least in theory) in terms of electrochemical impulses in nerves end synapses, but even life itself is so explainable.
After all, if a suitable mixture of the gases comprising the earth's early atmosphere is electrified by lightning, then some large molecules will be formed. Some of the molecules could easily be amino-acids (the raw material of proteins) and given more suitable conditions it is believed that living cells could have been formed.8
A powerful experiment to show how life can be explained chemically was performed twenty years ago in 1955, when the two chemicals comprising a virus (protein and deoxyribonucleic acid, called DNA) were separated, thus 'killing' the virus. On remixing the chemicals, living virus was reformed.9 In fact recently (1970) a living cell was synthesised completely from scratch by combining RNA (ribo-nucleic acid), DNA, proteins and nucleotides.10
Of course, DNA is famous as the chemical responsible for passing on hereditary information. A DNA molecule is large as molecules go - it can sometimes contain up to ten million atoms, whereas a water molecule for instance contains only three atoms. With the discovery in 1953 of the structure of the DNA molecule,11 it became possible later to account (in theory) for all inherent characteristics in an individual by the genetic code of the DNA molecules in the chromosomes of his parents.12 Not only that, but since all the cells in a body have the same genetic code as is in the chromosomes, it will be possible to use this fact to produce an identical replica of any human body, thus bypassing sex. This has already been done in carrots and in frogs, and reputable scientists suggest that it could be done for humans in twenty five years time.13 So where do mind, life and non-physical phenomena in general fit in? Answer - they don't.
One way of getting rid of the 'mind' part of the minds-matter duality is not to say that 'mind' as an entity does not exist in its own right, but that the whole concept of mind has arisen through faulty thinking. This is the belief of Ryle and other present-day philosophers, who hold that the mind is like a "ghost in the machine" (the machine being our body). If we look for the mind we are like a foreigner watching a game of cricket, who complains that although he can see the ball, bats, wickets and players, he cannot see the team spirit about which he has heard so much. 14 The contemporary philosopher Chomsky does away with 'mind' by saying that whatever we do not understand we simply label 'mind' and whatever we do understand we call 'physical'. This attitude is similar to the Behaviourist schools of psychology, where only public facts (such as objective behaviour or the readings of scientific instruments) are taken into account. 'Mind' is either rejected altogether or ignored as being unsatisfactory to construct a science of psychology with.
The opposite to the materialist philosophies is idealism, which basically holds, in some form, that the basic element in the nature of reality is mind or consciousness. Common sense obviously supports this to some extent also; after all, in spite of what the materialist tells me, I am aware of many private 'objects' such as thoughts or feelings, and I give them considerably more importance than if they were merely a series of physical occurrences in the brain. If there is really no such thing as mind, then why does a materialist want an anaesthetic before an operation?
It is also a fact of experience that we have free will. This of course goes against materialism, since if everything is a product of physical causes, then there is no room for free-will. For the brain as a physical system may be described, in principle at least, by the laws of classical mechanics, and these laws admit rigorous prediction (unlike quantum mechanics, which is however irrelevant to a system such as the brain).15 So according to materialism, the state of my brain now predetermines all my future actions. But nevertheless, I am convinced I have free-will. I can freely choose, for instance, between finishing this sentence and not finishing it.
Many philosophers have propounded theories of idealism, often leading to the conclusion that in fact matter does not exist at all; everything we are aware of has its root in mind. For it is commonly argued that experience itself is private; ie although I see a pen, which is a public object, the seeing itself is private. Your seeing the pen is private (for you), and there is no way of being certain that you and I are having the same experience. So how can we call the pen a public object? This type of reasoning has led to the idealism of Bishop Berkeley, 'solipsism', the 'subjective idealism' of Fichet and the 'absolute idealism' of Hegel and in more recent times the 'philosophical idealism' of Meinong. Even Plato and Kant are idealists if our definition is stretched far enough.
Nowadays quite a few scientists, if not idealists, are at least holding that the mind is an identity in its own right and cannot be explained away by materialism. For instance, one internationally renowned brain researcher has stated, "If we are good scientists, we cannot claim that science has already explained the mind …" 16 and the world famous biologist C.H. Waddington has said, "… however much we may understand certain aspects of the world, the very fact of existence as we know it in our experience is essentially a mystery." 17
The fact that it is intrinsically obvious that we are aware of a public world (matter) and of a private world (mind), leads to an attempt to reconcile materialism and idealism. After all, why can we not have a mind and a body? As the 'father of neurophysiology' Sir Charles Sherrington says, "That our being should consist of two fundamental elements offers, I suppose, no greater inherent improbability than that it should rest on one only." 18 As mentioned previously, the problem arises when we consider how they interact; for interact they do - it is everybody's experience that mind acts on body and body acts on mind. But how? If I shoot someone, then the cause of death will be the bullet, which will in turn be caused by the firing of the gun, which will be caused by my trigger-finger moving, which will in turned be caused by neural activity making my muscles contract. Each link in the chain of cause-and-effect is materially explainable; but how does my non-material act of will set in motion the original material cause, such as neural impulses? The inability of Descartes to solve this problem satisfactorily led him in practice to disregard the mind and develop an essentially materialist philosophy (he even thought animals to be near machines.)
Some philosophers (eg Malebranche and Leibniz) held that there is in fact no interaction at all between mind and body - there only appears to be. One of the most successful resolutions of the mind-body duality was put forward by the 17th century philosopher Spinoza, who held that in fact both mind and body are but different aspects of one and same identity; a theory often called the 'dual-aspect' theory, but nowadays called the theory of psychoneural identity.'19 One of its triumphs is that it shows that free-will is not incompatible with the mechanistically physical brain and nervous system that we possess. Briefly, the argument is as follows: the determinists hold that if I know my brain state now, then I can (in principle) calculate my brain states for all future time, so my actions are all predetermined. However, my knowledge of a future brain state will affect my present mental state, and thus also my present brain state, since by the psychoneural identity theory they are the same thing from different viewpoints. Thus my present brain state is altered to some other brain state which it would not have achieved had the knowledge of the future brain state not been available. Hence the predicted future brain state will not occur, and we have a victory for free will.20
Another theory held by some neurophysiologists21 is the 'reflector' theory, where it is thought that consciousness exists independently of matter and the nervous system, and is 'reflected' off it; the 'reflected image' of the pure consciousness is our mental state, which is constantly changing and 'impure' due to the changing states of the mirror (ie the nervous system). A similar analogy is to think of the nervous system as a radio which picks up the 'waves' of pure consciousness, amplifying and changing them, and then broadcasts them as our mental states. Of course, any tinkering with the physical brain (ie the mirror or radio) is bound to affect the mental state (ie the reflector or sound) according to this theory. In this respect, all the known phenomena of neurology, whilst seeming to build up evidence for materialism or epiphenomenalism, can be perfectly well explained by the reflector theory.
The reflector theory also claims to solve the determinist/free-will dichotomy, since the pure consciousness which is responsible for my having free-will also controls the material cause-and-effect chain which is supposed to lead to predetermination. This can be done because in being reflected off the nervous system the pure consciousness presumably affects it somewhat. Erwin Schrodinger, the brilliant modern physicist and discoverer of wave mechanics, holds this view, though he expresses it in a different way. He writes, "… I - I in the widest meaning of the word, that is to say, every conscious mind that has ever said or felt 'I' - am the person, if any, who controls the 'motion of the atoms' according to the Laws of Nature." 22
Having dealt with difference in space, of feeling and in time in the last two chapters, this chapter looks at difference of quality - ie duality. Duality ensures that every quality is to some degree mixed up with its opposite, and is one way of expressing the principle that we are continually in a state of Unpeace. Two important examples of duality are i) the duality of 'is' or 'is not' and ii) the duality of mind and matter. We outlined how we can look at this last duality from three viewpoints of the materialists, the idealists and a compromise of the two.