- Hardcover: 232 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1st edition (November 9, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195132076
- ISBN-13: 978-0195132076
- Product Dimensions: 9 x 1 x 6.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,417,309 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Taboo of Subjectivity: Toward a New Science of Consciousness Hardcover – November 9, 2000
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"The Taboo of Subjectivity provides a commendable introduction to issues in the relation of science and religion that humanists with an interest in science will find accessible and reasonably persuasive, and its cross-cultural framework offers students of religion a rewarding illustration of comparative work."--The Journalof Religion
About the Author
B. Alan Wallace teaches in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
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The author argues that the scientific study of mental phenomena will require introspective as well as extraspective techniques. In order to accomplish this, Wallace suggests employing the methods and techniques used by the various contemplative traditions throughout the world. The author champions the idea of "religious empiricism." Wallace believes the establishment of empirical religious methods will help to alleviate the tension that exists between science and religion by complementing the discipline of cognitive science with a new "contemplative science."
I highly recommend this book for those who are interested in the science and religion dialogue. This book outshines similar works because it discusses the religious methodologies of meditation and contemplation which are critical in establishing a "science of religion."
On its altar, scientific materialism urges it followers to plead allegiance to its principles that include, objectivism, the closure principle, reductionism, monism and universalism. Its edifice seems a very imposing and unquestionable structure indeed, in which anything not governed by its rigorous and circumventing principles is neither seen nor explored. Objectivism and its suckling babies of phenomenalism, form and function becomes the sacred cows while consciousness and subjectivity have become the profane and the non-spoken off. Objectivism and its divide and conquer approach to understanding, its endless dissections and formulae has made us blind to unity.
Causality has become limited now only refer to those events arising and governed by this closed system of the physical universe. So one effect is employed as causal agent to explain another, in an endless closed system regression that bars visibility and hope of ever seeing the damning finger that points to the light of the real moon outside it. So the world of real cause shining brightly as ever remains unseen. It is obfuscated by the veil of a suffocating, tired and limiting context. We remain there now playing our game of shadow watching, desperately seeking for some hope where no hope is to be found. As a Course In Miracles teaches, the world you see is a place of despair because it has never been. Meanwhile the door is closed to alternative constructs, and modalities that may have ushered in some sanity into our thought system along the way. Scientific materialism only allows those in that firmly obey its rules and can speak its gibberish nonsense through forked tongues. And yet it wants everyone to proselytize at it's gate.
So we take the physical universe as an actuality rather than seeing it as mere appearance. And forget the decision that we made. Once down the rabbit hole we are hopelessly stuck until we come out of denial of entering it. We fail to see the relationship between consciousness and the world of our appearances. We callously ignore the fact that the world of appearances only has existence because of consciousness. Without the "I Am", there is no world to which appearances could cling too. The "I" is the fulcrum of all experience, psychological, physical, mystical and otherwise - without which there is experience and no world. To ignore this is politely not talk about the elephant in the room and do a great disservice to truth. But merchants of illusion like to profiteer by selling us their wares. They will stop at nothing to ensnare us into their hall of ignorances. Wallace's advice is not go into that dog and pony show called scientific materialism but to remain outside and look instead at the cracks in its foundations. He reinforces his position through the teachings of William James.
James also recognized that the contents of both the objective and subjective universe were merely appearances and were not to be taken as actualities in themselves. That pure experience only arises in one that gains direct penetrative awareness of the mutually interdependent relation and co-conditioning influence of the subjective and objective worlds. By such one gains transcendence over subject/object and mind/matter dualities. They experience reality directly without conceptual overlays. They do not first split the mind into the subjective and objective counterparts and then take these to be self-evident realities in-and-of themselves. We get a glimpse of consciousness itself, being the holder, and power that subtends entirely the world of appearances. Yet even consciousness cannot be taken as real and whole unto itself. It may be prime to our experiencing of the world but is not prime to reality itself. Rather consciousness and the subjective self is an artifact of the split mind we made through false belief and it retains and reinforces the split and the belief in separation. "A Course in Miracles" also teaches this, when it reminds. "Consciousness, the level of perception, was the first split introduced into the mind after the separation, making the mind a perceiver rather than a creator. Consciousness is correctly identified as the domain of the ego." [T3.IV.2.1-2]
The findings of quantum mechanics reinforce this understanding to those who would "look-and-see". Because consciousness is the vehicle of quantum collapse, we experience the world as a classical one, but we must remember this is not how it is in its essence. We are always only seeing tiny slices of a Oneness, which seems to remain ineffable. We see and experience, each moment, as a single potentiality out of many and never the whole Enchilada, arising the limitless sea of potentialities. For the real world exists as infinite potentialities that we will never get to know through the restricting frame of consciousness.
Wallace is aware of the quantum principles of entanglement and non-locality. And so when a classical world experience is collapsed out of the quantum sea of potentiality, it has not just happened only for that precise moment but for all time and space. This is because the quantum is a memoryless system of instantaneous connectivity independent of time and space. This changes the direction of time to being omnidirectional and so fundamentally time is no longer needed. It can be seen and known now as but an artifact of a more imprecise system in which ignorance prevailed. A witch of old. "A tale told by a madman, full of anger and fury signifying nothing". Truth remains an endless mystery that we are not seeing because we have not yet gained the eyes to see. Our viewing is too dominated by the poisons of the scientific materialistic worldview. The mysteries of the Quantum tells us that that classical world experiences that seem to be in our future are causal to and affecting our present.
In terms of strengthening our subjective awareness, so that we can ultimately transcend it, Wallace introduces the yogic teachings of Padmasambhava - the 10th century Enlightened Tibetan mystic. He taught the development of mental stabilization through introspection and mindfulness. Engaging in contemplative awareness exercises that focus the mind on a single object to the exclusion of all else. Such visualizations help to develop the inner eye, increase the mind's concentrative and resolving powers and enable us to disengage from distracting thoughts. By so doing one brings an end to the restlessness, capriciousness and excitations that are characteristic of the ego mind and instead strengthen their spiritual vision. Developing such skills one internalizes their senses, and gains independence and mastery over the outer universe. The focus can now be brought to various insight meditations, insights into formlessness, the nature of mind, of relations between thoughts and appearances etc. Consciousness is made to focus on itself. This is self-remembering. By aiming the arrow of awareness at both the subjective and objective objects of experiencing simultaneously, one sees their intricate interrelation and transcends subject/object duality. This is a totally new quality to experiening the world, in which the experiencer and the experienced objects disappear and experiencing alone remains. This is a necessary precursor to experiencing Yogic Samadhi. A highly esteemed yogic state beyond dualities, where there is no longer any notion of self and other. The yogi exists in the clear light of formlessness and is perfectly acquiesced with the ocean of being and infinite potentiality. The yogi experiences a perfect and blissful state of unruffled awareness with no thoughts arising in the ocean. The universe of a thousand, thousand meaningless and useless things is gone and the mind abides in its natural state of perfect peace and rest.
But in the meantime the preachers of scientific materialism want to keep us captive, as spiritual infants - as Pavlovian dogs slavishly bound to its pleasure seeking stimulus-response system of materialism. We no longer see the mind as causative at all, nor responsible for its own healing. We treat mental adjustment problems and diseases such as depression, anxiety, ADD etc. as the product of neurochemical imbalances rather than simply effects and symptoms of that far greater disease, which is society and the isolation, false identity and ignorance that it perpetrates. Depression and despair arises from our hopeless attempts at adjusting to an empty world that is clearly insane. Real cause and cure are in the mind, but this is ignored. We are bombarded instead by a sea of drugs that temporarily may suppress symptoms but does not cure.
The chemical suppression is but a compensation device, a magician's trick, in which we rob Peter to pay Paul. The cost of "cure", in these terms is often a loss of creativity, energy, overall mental sanity and clarity along with a host of other physical symptoms and diseases propping up their faces at the most unexpected places. The cures of the drug industry are nothing but mirages. One looks temporarily more beautiful for a while viewing oneself in one mirror. One assesses progress and health through the lens of one psychological metric but at the expense of looking like a very ugly jaw-dropping cow indeed in the other mirrors. But do not look there now. The power of denial is the seduction that keeps entrapped.
Wallace cautions us to beware of slick pandits selling the beliefs in animism and pan-psychism. Do not be fooled by their flower-power and bellbottoms attire. They are still selling holy communion from the church of scientific materialism. For pan-psychism is the belief that everything is conscious at different evolutionary levels. Scientific materialists then uses this as evidence that consciousness is an artifact of matter and the world is one giant organic neurocomputer. One which one day, we will understand the workings of and be able to exploit. But behind its dazzling array of complexity, forms, equations and names it does not let us see what is hidden behind its litany of bombastic defenses - that matter remains forever a reflexive byproduct of consciousness. It remains forever as images from the projectionist in the mirror of the void telling him who, he thinks himself to be until he chooses to look on what he has made and think otherwise.
There is no such thing as matter at all - it is all but mind stuff, nothing more than the substance of dreams, dull and conditioned artifacts of the sleeping mind. When you wake up, you will see there is no such thing as form. Reality is formless and is ultimately known without form of any kind. Even quantum physicists tells us this. They understands matter as nothing more than a set of relations. Its manifested appearance is perceived out of information rather than substance and actuality. But out of routine, we remain hopefully clinging to the world of appearances that are our personal hallucinations. The stated aim and direction of the scientific materialists camp is to embed consciousness completely in the physical universe, and to explain its workings using phenomenalistic mechanisms. This is nothing but a complex deception to have it explained away altogether and never be seen and known in its essence. They will not let us see what is under the magician's cloak - that the material universe is nothing but the conditioned effects of the moving mind experiencing itself through the lens of distortion. Do not underestimate the will to greed and power that motivates this investment. This blind sighted direction is orchestrated by all those who stand to profit or be empowered that want to make their dream into your reality.
So science goes on preaching from its altar, that consciousness arose as a necessary evolution in the material universe. That lower single celled forms arose first and then progressed, eventually becoming complex enough to release the emergent phenomenon of consciousness. But let us remind ourselves that this is not the view seen from the inside, and from the guided perspective of the subjective self. Those familiar and practiced in contemplation and insight meditations apprehend directly that it is only by experiencing oneself firstly as conscious that perceptions can stabilize and the notions of matter, space, time and everything else can seem to come into being. No projectionist - no images in the looking glass. Names and histories were added later as a fictional overlay accounting for these perceptions. But now sadly it is only the fictions that we made up that we believe and we have forgot the Source. We have forgot these raw and fluid perceptions arose first from the notion of an "I" illuminating all. It is only by remembering, that the "I" of the subjective self came first by which true cause-and-effect relations can be restored to awareness.
Wallace's work isn't an easy read. There are no passing vignettes from his own fourteen years in Dharmasala - no merry-go-rounds or candy floss for the kids. He is not a bells and whistles type of writer. He does not drop in sudden unexpected phrases to stun-gun us into wakefulness. What he writes evolves within a powerful framework arising out of his experiences and extensive learning. Definitely a worthwhile read.
Since the book is aimed at people familiar with the common view of scientific materialism, it focuses upon the weaknesses in the scientific materialist view, and how taking contemplative practice and experience seriously can allow us to see that this scientific view is lacking an awareness and understanding of subjectivity. This exclusion is related to assumptions which may have been necessary to get science off the ground (objectivism, monism, universalism, reductionism, the closure principle, and physicalism). However, these assumptions have become ensconced, and now play a role often attributed to religious doctrines: they go unquestioned, lead us to believe stories regarding our origins and nature which are not empirically grounded, and blind us to aspects of common, everyday experience. He traces the roots of these metaphysical beliefs to ancient Greek philosophy and to early and Medieval Christian theology to point out that these are beliefs, and are not empirically proven. The scientific materialist view has many weaknesses, among them: it gives a highly problematic account of the origin and nature of consciousness, and of the relation of mind and body, based more on faith and dogma than on scientific findings; it has no method for systematically exploring consciousness firsthand; scientific knowledge is inadequate for dealing with either global problems, such as environmental pollution (which it has helped to create), or personal problems, such as mental well-being. He points out that "from a contemplative perspective, scientific materialism arrests human development in a state of spiritual infancy; and when a society of such spiritual infants is put in control of the awesome powers of science and technology, global catastrophe seems virtually inevitable." Since "a thoroughly materialistic view of the universe based on science suggests a [certain] set of values and ideals, with profound implications for dealing with the personal, societal, and environmental problems that beset us today," it is imperative to examine this view in depth, and compare it with other world views, in the light of our current situation.
The two main arguments that have been leveled against the subjective from the scientific side are that: 1. subjective influences taint experiments (of implicitly objective phenomena), 2. subjective phenomena aren't scientifically analyzable, which has developed into the extreme position that such phenomena aren't real, but are merely epiphenonema.
Introspection has traditionally been used to investigate consciousness, but many scientists ignore introspection, claim that it cannot tell us anything important, or argue against the possibility of there even being such an activity. Wallace reviews these claims, showing that many of the objections to the use or possibility of introspection could be equally applied to scientific knowledge and techniques; and yet, science works. Therefore it seems that it is primarily the metaphysical beliefs of scientists which prevent them from admitting, and engaging in, ways of knowing such as those based on introspective, contemplative practice. Wallace supports a pragmatic approach to knowledge: "the only guide for methodology is the universal one, namely, to use anything that works."
But we cannot just tack another viewpoint, such as "the spiritual worldview", onto our accounts from science; there are real conflicts here, especially with respect to consciousness, and its origins and nature. For example, as he points out in another article, "Buddhist inquiry into the natural world proceeds from a radically different point of departure than western science, and its methods differ correspondingly.... Buddhism begins with the premise that the mind is the primary source of human joy and misery and is central to understanding the natural world as a whole." He reviews several kinds of divisions commonly made (subjective/objective, private/public, sacred/profane, fact/value) which might permit some kind of clean compartmentalization, and rejects them all. Instead, he calls for a dialogue between different ways of knowing. In order to open the way for a new science of consciousness, we must radically reevaluate the metaphysical stances of the scientific worldview, and of the relations between science and religion. For example, he argues that contemplative practice is in many ways in the spirit of science: it involves rigorous training to prepare the contemplative to inquire, through experience and reasoning, into the nature of things.
However, for people who are reluctant to admit that there can be nondelusional spiritual experiences, this contemplative perspective is going to seem like a belief, and probably won't shake whatever faith they have in the scientific worldview. This is one reason why Wallace constantly emphasizes that the claims of contemplatives are claims to be evaluated (both experientially and through reason), rather than established facts (which usually assumes some kind of general agreement within a community of which the reader and author are part). It is also probably why he emphasizes how contemplative practice could inform a new science of consciousness, rather than simply claiming that these practices have value on their own, as he does in some of his other books, aimed at different audiences.
Perhaps realizing the limitations of our current sciences of the mind will open us to new methods and new views, to explore the knowledge of other societies, and recover ways of knowing that may have been lost within our own traditions. It is hard to know where a truly open-minded, open-hearted dialogue between science and religion could lead, but it is exciting that this seems to be a genuine possibility today, probably more so than any time in the past. Thus, the central question of book is: "does a way exist to integrate the power of religion and of science for the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of humanity?"