Sunday, June 17, 2007

Enlightenment- a study in many path........

I am always very curious.
So,from one word I travel to another one until I find myself in
search of more mysteries.
After receiving a word in a message sent to me from Shanghai, I thought to be in the Chinese language,I kept looking for explanations,translations landing on the word enlightenment,
which reminds me of LIGHT and my walkabouts in bookstores, and finding books by Derrida, and philosophers and back to my Chinese philosophy.
The word turned out to be in Japanese.

Next in swahili:
Matokeo kwa 'cheshi' yaonyeshwa kwa taratibu ya alfabeti. Kwa hivyo, usidhani kwamba mwingilio wa kwanza ni tokeo linalozidi yote. Wewe ukielewa Kiswahili na Kiingereza, twaomba utumie Zana Jumuishi yetu ili kuboresha orodha ya matokeo haya. Ni rahisi, na utasaidia wasomaji wote wanaokufuata!

from Everything2

The origin of our concepts of science, politics, and reason.

The Enlightenment, a period of 18th and 19th century European history, was by some accounts sparked by the invention of the printing press.
Francis Bacon is the quintessential enlightenment scientist, with Rousseau and Kant being the early players on the political/philosophical side of things. The American Revolution was essentially an experiment by a bunch of radical enlightenment philosophers.

Life itself is enlightenment itself and has many aspects but you can only see what your understanding of practice allows.

To appreciate the vast expanse of experiences, understand that oceans and mountains may seem round or square but there are details to still be seen and that there are whole world-systems in all directions. Your immediate circles of concern are of no account. What is demonstrates itself right here beneath your feet and in a single drop of water.

from "Genjokoan: The Question of Our Lives"
by Dogen zenji
translated by
Yasuda Joshu Dainen roshi and Anzan Hoshin sensei

Immanuel Kant called enlightenment an Ausgang, or an exit. He felt that it was a release from immaturity; immaturity being when one discards use of one's faculty of reason in favor of the reason of an authority, such as when one chooses to rely on a spiritual middleman. Therefore, enlightenment is reasoning for the sake of reason.. But Kant also felt that enlightenment will be reached when men can reason freely, but still must obey authority -- when we have the freedom to gripe about taxes, but not the freedom to withhold payment. And so what Kant basically proposes is freedom of thought in despotic Prussia, under the condition that the individual must act in accordance with universal reason; that is, obey the state, adapting use of one's reason to present circumstances. (This, being public freedom of reason, but private submission, is different from freedom of conscience.)

This information was culled (and paraphrased) from Michel Foucault's excellent essay, "What Is Enlightenment?". As I've demonstrated, I lack the ability to adequately explain such philosophical concepts; you may want to read the essay yourself. ;-)

Kant's concept is interesting, although I certainly disagree with the requirement of obedience. Yet I wonder if merely the freedom to throw off the conformist straitjacket is maturity, or if the act of doing so is. Perhaps I should re-read Foucault's essay, or check out the work of Kant. For it seems we all have the freedom to exercise reason, but relatively few choose to do so.

Or perhaps the subtle and sophisticated tools of coercion in use in Western society deprive one of one's freedom of reason.

That is, will everyone exercise their faculty of reason if indoctrination is removed? Yet, IIRC, Kant was no determinist, arguing that cognitive ability is too advanced to be totally shaped by human nature, life experiences, etc. Plus, I believe he was a Christian, and free will is Christian doctrine. Does the abstract concept of reason imply exercise of free will? (I never wish to stray into the free will vs. determinism debate, but I inevitably do so. It is perhaps the most important question facing us. A question that is, in all probability, never to be answered.)
Sometimes I wish I could articulate myself more clearly.. *my brain exploding*

I realise that 'enlightenment' is one of the most overused words in the entire subject of spirituality. That said, here's my take on the subject:

The state of enlightenment, to me, seems to be when my mind stops trying to break down the universe into little bits...

In a normal state of mind, you see many "objects" in front of you... the mind automatically breaks the visual field up into different objects by looking for shapes and edges. Then it tries to fit a label to each shape or cluster of shapes... this is a pencil, this is my hand.

In a state of 'enlightenment', one diverts the mind from this activity, and focuses on the whole view... the input from all five senses. All recognition disappears, and information seems to come rushing in. The visual field seems to widen, your hearing becomes more acute, you may feel or smell things strongly. I always experience a sort of mental "buzz" at this stage...

That's the first step. Here's the second: After all other objects disappear, all that is left is the universe and you... but even this can be broken down. You let yourself simply experience, without the sub-thought of "I am experiencing"... the "me" then disappears, and only the feeling of consciousness is left. (And the mental buzz disappears with a 'pop', leaving just thought spinning in the void...)

After that, it's just a case of not trying to analyse what's happening...

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