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September 09, 2013


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Good post, I agree. In relation to this post I wanted to share a great snippet from a book by Julius Evola that touches on the subject, certainly worth a read. Though Evola is writing in this book about Hindu tantra, the same can be applied to Buddhism. I hope you find it as succinct and enlightening as I did:

As far as the sciences of nature are concerned, we would have to go to great lengths to explain the opposition between "traditional" knowledge and knowledge of the so-called scientific, modern type.

Briefly stated, here is the situation: According to the modern point of view (which in a Hindu perspective would be considered to be typical of the most advanced phase of the "dark age"), we can directly apprehend reality only through those aspects revealed to us by physical senses and by their extension, namely scientific instruments, or, according to the terminology proper to some philosophies, through its "phenomenic aspects." Positive sciences gather and organize data provided by sensory experiences, and only after having made a certain choice between them (excluding those with a qualitative character and essentially relying on those that are susceptible to measurement and "computation") does it inductively arrive at some knowledge and laws of an abstract and conceptual nature. To them, however, there no longer corresponds an intuition, an unmediated perception, or an intrinsic evidence. Their truth is indirect and conditioned, and it depends on experimental examination, which may eventually lead to a reshaping of the previous system.

In the modern world, in addition to science one encounters "philosophy," but only to find in it abstractions and a mere conceptual speculation, which is broken down into a discordant multiplicity of systems espoused by individual thinkers. This world of philosophy may be said to be eminently "unrealistic." The choice seems to be between these two alternatives: either a direct and concrete knowledge depending on the senses, or a knowledge that is presumed to be able to go beyond this "phenomenic" world of appearances, but that is still abstract, cerebral, merely conceptual, or hypothetical (scientific philosophies and theories).

This means that the ideal of "seeing," namely, of a direct form of knowledge verging on the heart of reality, despite having a noetic, objective character (an ideal that was still preserved in the medieval notion of intuitio intellectualis), has been set aside. It is interesting to notice that in the so-called European critical philosophy of Kant, intellectual intuition is still thought of as a faculty capable of apprehending not just the phenomena but the essences as well (the "thing in itself," the noumenon), and yet this capability is assumed to be precluded to man (just as scholastic philosophy had taught). That assumption was made in order to clarify, through antithesis, what according to Kant was the only knowledge available to man: mere sensory knowledge, scientific knowledge, whose abstract, nonintuitive character we have so far discussed, and which may show with a high degree of precision how forces of nature act, but not what they are.

In esoteric teachings, including the Hindu ones, such a limitation is considered to be surmountable. As we shall see, classical yoga in its various articulations (yoganga) may be said to offer the methods of a systematic overcoming of such a limitation. The bottom line is this: there is no such thing as a world of "phenomena," of perceptible forms, and behind it, an impenetrable, true reality: the essence. There is only one given reality, which is multidimensional; there is also a hierarchy of possible forms of human and superhuman experiences, in relation to which these various dimensions are progressively disclosed, until one is able to perceive directly the essential reality. The type or ideal of knowing, which is that of a direct knowledge (sakshastra, aparokshajnana) of a real experience and of an immediate evidence (anubhava), is always preserved in all these levels. As we previously stated, the common person, especially the one living in the end times, in the Kali Yuga, can enjoy such a knowledge only when it comes to physical and sensory reality. The rishi, the yogi, or the Tantric Siddha can go beyond that reality, in the context of what may be called an integral and transcendental experimentalism. According to this point of view there is no such thing as a relative reality and, beyond it, an absolute, impervious reality, but rather a relative, conditioned method of perceiving the only reality, and an absolute method.

The immediate connection between this traditional epistemology and the main concerns of Tantrism is rather obvious. In fact, in this order of ideas, the way to any superior knowledge seems to be contingent upon one's self-transformation, an existential and ontological change of level, and therefore, upon action, sadhana. This conception contrasts with the general view offered by the modern world. Modern scientific knowledge, in its technical applications, confers to modern man multiple possibilities with impressive consequences on the practical and material plane, while leaving him, on a concrete plane, at the same level. For instance, if through modern science we happen to learn the approximate processes and constant laws of physical phenomena, our existential situation has still not changed a bit. In the first place, the fundamental elements of physics are nothing but differential functions and integrals, namely, abstract algebraic entities, of which, in a strict sense, we cannot claim to have either an intuitive image or a concept, since they are mere instruments of calculation ("energy," "mass," "cosmic constant," "curved space," are nothing but verbal symbols). Second, after we have "known" all this, our real relationship with phenomena still has not changed. The same applies to the scientist who elaborates knowledge of such a kind and even to one who develops innovative technology: fire will still burn him, organic modifications and passions will still trouble his soul, time will still dominate him with its laws, the sight of nature will still not speak to him, but it will mean to him less than it did to primitive man. This is because the scientific formation of modern civilized man entirely desacralizes the world and petrifies it in the ghost of sheer, mute appearances.

The prevalent alibi of modern science is the claim to power; and that argument, in this context, deserves to be considered, since shakti as power, as well as siddhis (namely, powers), plays an important role in Tantrism and related currents. Modern science offers the proof of its validity through the positive results achieved, particularly by putting at man's disposal such a power that has, so it is claimed, no precedents in previous civilizations.

We are dealing here with a misconception of the term power, since no distinction is made between a relative, external, inorganic, conditioned power and true power. Obviously, all the opportunities offered by science and technology to people of the Kali Yuga are exclusively of the first type. Action produces results only because it conforms itself to given laws, which scientific research has pointed out, laws that action presupposes and obeys to the letter. The effect, therefore, is not directly connected to man, to the Self, or to his free will, as to its cause; between action and result there is a series of intermediaries that do not depend on the Self, and that are necessary in order to achieve what one wants. It is not just a matter of devices and machines, but of laws, of natural determinism that could go this way or that way, unintelligible in its essence; such mechanical power, is, after all, precarious.

In no way does it represent a possession of the Self, nor is it one of the Self's powers. What has been said about scientific knowledge applies as well: it does not change the human condition, the existential situation of an individual, nor does it presuppose or require any transformation of that kind. It is rather something added on, superimposed, which does not imply any self-transformation. No one claims that we show any real superiority when we are capable of doing this or that by availing ourselves of any technical means: we do not cease to be mere humans, not even as lords of atomic weapons who can disintegrate a planet by pushing a button. And worse yet, if as a consequence of any given cataclysm people living in the Kali Yuga were deprived of all their machines, in the greatest majority of cases they would probably find themselves in a worse predicament than uncivilized primitives do when facing the forces of nature and the elements. That is because machines and technology have atrophied their true strength. We may well say that modern man, by virtue of a diabolical mirage, has been seduced by the "power" he has at his disposal, and of which he is so very proud.

That which does not depend on the laws of nature, but which rather bends, changes, and suspends them, is a different kind of power. It is a direct acquisition of a few superior beings. The condition for such power and for the real knowledge I previously mentioned lies in the removal of the human condition, that is, of the limit represented by what the Hindus call "physical Self" (bhutatman, the elemental Self). The axiom of all yoga, of Tantric sadhana and analogous disciplines, corresponds to Nietzsche's saying "man is something that must be overcome," only taken more seriously. As is the case with initiation in a general sense, the human condition is not accepted as one's final destiny; it is intolerable to be merely mortal. Overcoming the human condition, in the framework of such disciplines, is in various degrees the condition for authentic power, for the acquisition of siddhis. To be precise, these siddhis do not represent the goal (to consider them as such is often reputed to be a deflection), but rather they are the natural consequence of an achieved superior existential and ontological status. Far from being something added on or extrinsic, they are a characteristic of a spiritual superiority (it is interesting to notice that the term siddhis, besides "extraordinary powers," means "perfections"). Therefore, they are always a personal achievement, and as such they cannot be transferred, nor are they "democratizable."

There is a deep hiatus separating the traditional and the modern world. The knowledge and powers pursued by the modern world are democratic, that is, available to anyone endowed with enough intelligence to achieve, through educational institutions, a knowledge of modern natural sciences. It is enough to gain through training a certain level of knowledge that does not involve the deepest nucleus of one's being in order to be able to correctly deploy technological means. A handgun will produce the same results in the hands of a lunatic, a soldier, or a great statesman; in the same sense, anyone can be transported in a few hours from one continent to another. We may well say that this "democracy" has been the leading principle in the systematic organization of modern science and technology. As we have seen, the real differentiation of beings is the condition for an inalienable knowledge and power, which cannot be transferred to others; they are exclusive and "esoteric," not artificially, but by virtue of their very nature. They represent exceptional peaks of achievement of which the whole of society cannot partake. What is open to society are only opportunities of an inferior kind, precisely those that have been developed in the late Kali Yuga, in a civilization that has no correspondence with previous ones. In the context of traditional civilizations, besides these material opportunities (the paucity of which was due to the lack of interest people had in them), artistic activities could be pursued by anyone who had any interest in them. Generally speaking, they were characterized by various ways of life essentially oriented toward higher planes of being. This spiritual climate has been maintained in more than one area until relatively recent times.

Right now, humans are deeply involved into the cult of personality. They tend to make eidolon´s of anything  between a composed self and other.

Whether it is one of  form, sensation, thought or a seemingly continuous field of sensor based experience, they fail to see it lacks the substance of true reality.
 It is essentially raw image-worshipping, where the suffering victims of this grand illusion, are  asking the empty reflection in the perfect mirror of their own Unborn Mind,  to grant them meaning and happiness where none is to be found because the self-empty is 'light-less' or devoid of the Unborn Mind´s pure 'light', that is all creative, yet not one and same with its creations.
This abject failure to stand face to face with their own true nature, is daily reflected in countless forms of suffering. Even things that tend to 'feel nice' and a source to temporary joy,  are essentially unwholesome because they serve to perpetuate the desire to deepen the dependence on all things samsara, much like a Pavlovic conditioning.

It is a vicious circle,  close to impossible for most sentient beings to escape due to this inner will to stand alienated from the wholesome and healing light of the  true dharma. 

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