Archive for February 2012

Quora answer: Why are there so many sex scandals among American Zen communities (cults)?

I would like to say that nonduality supports and is a resource for morality. Immoral behavior always sets up a duality perpetuator/victim for example. Therefore, the scandals in the Zen community, like all other communities in pursuit of nonduality merely shows us who is and who is not a genuine teacher in terms of the most basic level were we are dealing with human desires. Immoral  behavior is all to human, and should be expected, but not accepted. The idea that we have here in the US that Zen is anti-institutional (which is of course an illusion if we look at its history in the East) should not blind us to abuses within (zen, or any other) cults which are all to prevalent in our society, and should not be tolerated as it casts doubt on the nondual way and causes disparagement of the Dharma.

Quora answer: How does one practice Dzogchen meditation?

Technically speaking DzogChen does not believe that there is any difference between meditation and non-meditation, in this way it is like Zen. It does not believe that there is any difference between the two truths, i.e. mundane reality and emptiness as ultimate reality of existence. DzogChen says that there is a deeper ground, called the basis, or primordial awareness which in which the nonduals emptiness and void are the same. Just like in Zen it is said that this state can be transmitted from practitioner to student directly.

Now of course in Tibetan Buddhism there is a lot of meditation that goes on prior to this, and tantric practices of the imagination as well. And this type of Buddhism is considered the highest type, after you have mastered and learned all the other practices and theories. It is the highest because in DzogChen you step beyond Buddhism, because it is an approach to things that can be practiced either by Bon adherents or Buddhists. But there is not that much difference between these two religions, at this pont. Bon has been assimilated into Bon. The difference is not like that between Buddhism and Taoism in China.

In Dzogchen there is a key saying that Mind is like Space, which is to say that the emptiness of mind is like the Void of Space. This is the formula that captures the idea that emptiness and void are ultimately the same. When you realize two duals are ultimately the same that is nihilism. But when you recognize nonduals as the alternative to the extreme artificial opposites of Buddhism and Taoism for instance which pursue different nondual goals, then instead of alienation, anomie, you get unfolding of meaning instead. Nihilism saps meaning from the world, but Nonduals when recognize become the fount of meanings flowing into the lifeworld.

In DzogChen they speak of non-fabrication, non-elaboration, self-removal of impediments to the recognition of the primordial awareness beyond the difference between emptiness and void. I call that Manifestation, following M. Henry in The Essence of Manifestation who is in turn following Meister Eckhart.

Meister Eckhart talks about the Godhead. We can think of this as the fourth point of a tetrahedron that has the trinity as its base. In Hinduism it is called the Nirguna Brahman. Nirguna means without characteristics. Where the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost have characteristics, the Godhead does not. This is more in line with the ideas of pseudo-Dionysus than with the Western Catholic church. So the Inquisition, you know the one who the current Pope was head of before he was elected Pope, almost got Meister Eckhart, and he is still an outcast from the Catholic Church. ( Like so many Christian Heretics, he was so much more wise than his persecutors who were in fact evil. To my mind he is the wisest of those who called for the recognition of nonduality in the Western tradition. He drew quite a bit on the Sufis of his day, as did the Franciscans, but he was a Dominican. Now if the Trinity is really a tetrahedron, i.e. the minimal solid at the next higher dimension, i.e. in three dimensions, and the godhead is the fourth point, then precisely like the argument concerning logic by Nagarjuna, what is at the center of that triangle or tetrahedron is emptiness. In Logic it is and, or, nor, and nand that are the logical operators that form a tetrahedron, the discontinuities between which shows that emptiness is at the center of what ever is differentiated. Being is differentiated and thus is empty at its core, thus nondual in its kernel. Same is true for the trinity with or without the Godhead. The Godhead is not unity, not completeness, but the undifferentiated ground that the three persons of the trinity arise from. Eckhart characterizes that manifestation as a boiling of the desert of non-characterized non-attributed Thatness of Existence. The emptiness is in the center of the triangle, or the tetrahedron and is there because of the discontinuities between the elements of the trinity, or the quadrinity, or what ever we imagine about God in our theological fantasies. The Godhead is like Badiou’s idea of the Multiple. It is what is there before there is a ONE arises to claim unites the three persons of the trinity. But emptiness is not in any of these elements, but rather appears as the interstice between the elements as they are differentiated from each other. So Being is fragmented and thus empty and thus nondual at its kernel, and the same goes for the Supreme Being and his avatar, the Christ worshiped by the Paulists. This is an Indo-European notion, as we can see with Odin who hung on his horse the WorldTree Yaddrasil for nine days and nights as a sacrifice from himself to himself in order to gain the secret of the Runes. It just so happened that the Paulist legend concerning Christ which combined Messianic Judaism and Mithrism struck a chord in the Indo-European psyche.

So recognition of the Godhead, Nirguna Brahman, implies emptiness as Eckhart saw and discussed in his works. If you are having a mystical experience or some ideas about God that get fulfilled somehow, that is in fact illusion, because emptiness stands between us and the Godhead, and that is aconceptual and aexperiential. So no experience or concept can reach him including trinity, oneness, goodness, and transcendental characteristics we assume that God has as the Supreme Being of our Ontotheological Metaphysics (as Heidegger calls it).

So what does this have to do with DzogChen? All this is fabrications, elaborations of primordial awareness of manifestation. As M. Henry says following Eckhart, there is a part of manifestation, it’s essence that never manifests. And that is what is called the Nirguna Brahman, or the Godhead. It never manifests and there is an uncrossable sea of emptiness between the Persons of the Trinity and the unconscious of the trinity prior to its personhood and differentiation. Affirming the unity and oneness of God is just a way of trying to reclaim that prior undifferentiatedness. But this whole structure, is an elaboration or a fabrication about something we by definition cannot know anything about if God is the Absolute. All we can know is what is the opposite of the absolute which is contingency and limitation exists for everything else besides the Absolute. DzogChen says that such contraptions of the mind naturally are set free, and obliterate themselves. Of course, not without a struggle. It is equivalent to saying that there is entropy and all structures of experience and concept will fall prey to entropy eventually, because that is the lowest energy state and things tend toward that optima. It is just like the surface of a Bubble. It naturally goes to the optimal surface area which is the lowest energy state. In a similar fashion all delusions, illusions, projections, all naturally unfold themselves and unknot themselves and evaporate. DzogChen embodies that free and natural flow of unbinding, relaxation of distortions and un-knotting. All this is natural to the fourth dimension for instance, and so DzogChen is like a viewpoint on things seeing them unbinding and turning inside out in the fourth dimension. In fact, I realized the other day that turning inside out to reveal all that is hidden is the rotation of time in the fourth dimension, which can be seen as orthogonal to time as a line or circle in Metaphysics. Of course this is what Jesus is talking about in the Gospel of Thomas which is pre-Q. And it is what Nietzsche has Zarathustra see when he descends to the Sea, and looks at its Oblivion, and what is hidden there which will be revealed.

Hopefully bringing in these other religious motifs help clarify rather than rendering the subject more obscure. But the whole thing is pretty obscure to begin with especially if you read Buddhist DzogChen texts, that seem to me completely impossible to understand. I base my understanding on the first book of DzogChen by Manjushrimitra, and Mipham, and a modern Bon practitioner, Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche.

I have only read his book, and it made sense to me, more than the Buddhist DzogChen books. So this is no endorsement, since I have no idea what he is like in person.

Quora answer: How important is meditation to Buddhism?

There has been a basic misunderstanding of the relation of theory to practice in Buddhism, due to how it was introduced into the USA from the 1960s on, and due to cultural proclivities that lured us toward it.

If we look back on the history of Buddhism we can see that theory and practice always went together hand in hand, as we might expect from something that claims to follow the middle way. In other words nothing is to be rejected, not even thought, reasoning, conceptualization. And these are only satisfied if the mediator and the philosopher work together to define the new states of consciousness that are discovered in the meditation laboratory. And that is precisely what has happened in the history of Buddhism, the Buddha has been saying more and more interesting things throughout the ages. But of course we know that it was different schools defining each other against the others and competing for adherents. It is in this way that Buddhist Philosophy became so subtle. It started off pointing at nonduality from the illusory structure of the Indo-European worldview. But as time went on it refined this idea of nonduality a lot, so later versions of Buddhism were extremely sophisticated. The pinnacle of this development in my opinion is Hua Yen of Fa Tsang. This becomes one of the main theoretical foundations of Chan/Zen. And so when Chan/Zen was introduced it was based on this very developed form, which was said to reject all the sutras, which appealed to us, but was in fact wrong. One was not just one in one school of Buddhism but one could at the same time draw from several. For instance Zen and Pure Land seem so different but they were practiced together. And one of the sutra schools would be chosen as the theoretical background for that practice. It was not that Reason,and Theory was left out of account, but rather that these had developed to such a subtle and sophisticated level that no one saw how they could be improved. So they just became the assumed background. In Soto tradition there was more of this theorizing, than in Renzai, but still both drew their inspiration from these sutras, for instance the Platform Sutra of Hui Neng is very sophisticated even though it appears to be rustic.

Let us just think for a moment. If you don’t have a any concept of what you are doing, how are you going to do it? From a Phenomenological point of view, noesis and noema always combine meaning and sensory content. There is no such thing as stopping the mind from operating. It is as Dzong Ka Pa said, reason plays a specific role in enlightenment process. The Lankavatra suttra pushed by Bodhi Dharma which talks about Mind Only but which has the practice of stopping cognition is a Buddhist heresy because it departs from the middle way. The Buddha describes his own enlightenment journey in terms of words, and that meant it was intelligible to him, and could be expressed in words that indicated concepts.

Meditation in Hinayana entailed things like sitting around and watching corpses decompose in order to understand ones own mortality. Mahayana transformed the meaning of meditation though various more sophisticated theories that sought consistency in the doctrine of Buddhism. One of the things that assures us that we know what the Buddha really said is the inconsistency in it.
Abidharma  analyzes all the sutras and attempts to work out the consistency of the Buddhas teaching at a superficial level.

But it was the philosophers who worked to give it deeper consistency, and to do that they had to go more deeply into the phenomena, there they discovered deeper states of consciousness, which in turn led to more sophisticated theories, and so on until we get to probably the most subtle way of looking at existence in the world, because of its refinement from the time of the Buddha right up until the present, since it was kept alive by the Tibetans, who developed a kind of Anti-zen, in which meditation is given up all together. Saying that you are to be mindful all the time is a step in that direction. In DzogChen there is no difference between Meditation and Non-Meditation, no difference between emptiness and form, no difference between the two truths.

But we have come to a turning point where we need to go beyond the fourth turning of the Wheel to a fifth turning, that is in consonance with the return of Buddhism to the other Indo-European branch which as rejected Non-Duality so vehemently. That new turning needs to take the Homeward path back to the nondual core of the Western worldview that appears when we realize that Zen/Chan and DzogChen as duals point to a deeper nondual beyond Emptiness and Void. There is no meditation at that more profound level, both Zen/Chan and DzogChen have gotten beyond that each in their own way, when they accomodated themselves to Taoism/Bon/Shintoism.

Quora answer: If Godel, Escher, Bach could be updated to explain modern ideas of creativity, what names should be substituted and why?

Godel Escher and Bach (GEB) are perfect names for what Hofstadter wants to say, that has not changed, and is not likely to change any time soon, because he picked the three people in math/logic, art, and music that exemplified the same point, and the whole point of the book is to show that in different media they were doing the same thing, which was producing paradoxical images of the limits of human experience and reason. For me the most interesting part was the connection to music because I had not appreciated that about Bach previously.





It was the playfulness of the book, and the way he blends many examples together to show that these structures are intrinsic to our ways of cognition. But this is a perfect example of what I call the limit of the divided line of Plato which is the paradoxical limit.

The divided line is the center of the Western worldview in the metaphysical era.

The line A is the the limit on the side of DOXA (opinion, appearance). That limit is Contradiction, Paradox and even Absurdity. GEB is about the fact that this limit has structure, it is not just a blank wall but has depth given by the problems of self-reference in logic, and these very problems can be seen in the art work of Escher and the fugues of Bach. The other end of the Divided Line where the RATIO ends is the Supra-rational which we normally do not talk about in our culture but we can see operative in Zen Koans for instance.

The key image of hands drawing each other from Escher describes the essence of this limit of paradox via mutual self reference very well. The paper is two dimensional. But the illusion of  each hand becoming three dimensional, suggests each is drawing the other. thus it is a kind of Chicken and Egg paradox because one hand could not draw the other unless it had already been drawn. If there is not enough hand to draw then the other hand cannot be drawn, and so we find a moment in flight, so to speak, as in Zeno’s Paradoxes which can have no reasonable origin. Also this is the right hand drawing the left hand and vice versa: Dexterous and Sinister. The right hand is drawing right and the left hand is drawing left. The left hand looks more awkward which we would expect. But this should not be a problem in drawing because there is no right handed bias. However, if a right handed drawer were to draw with his left hand he would be awkward. So we can expect that these are in fact the hands  of Escher himself. If this is the case then the two hands are those of the creator of the work, and thus he is drawing a part of himself, and this is self-reference giving rise to mutual reference that prevents an origin.

It is quite clear when we look at Escher’s two hands drawing each other that there are two different elements in this paradox of mutual self-reference. In effect a paradox is two contradictions mixed, and an absurdity is two paradoxes mixed. We see this in N. Hellerstein’s Diamond and Delta logics where there are two paradoxes not one, and when we combine these into a mixture then we get the absurdity which is a singularity.

You notice that in the logical square there are two contradictories that are structurally held apart by the contraries and the entailment. But if these mix then there is paradox. But Paradox as Hellerstein shows also come in pairs, if we accept his interpretation of the Laws of Form’s logic from G. Spencer-Brown. and similarly if we mix the paradoxes we get absurdity. This mixture can occur through self-reference as Godel’s Diagonalization shows.


And this mixture can occur by recursion …

… or mirroring as in Citizen Kane.

Or a spiral in time . . .

There is a difference between reflexivity and reflectivity. Reflexivity involves an action, where as reflectivity merely involves the manipulation of light that may not involve an action, as in the scene above. This is like the difference between illusion and delusion. Illusion does not require action, but if you act on illusions then you become deluded.

An example of reflexive theory is the works of B. Sandywell.

For other examples of Reflexive Theories see


List of . . .


Of course the real master of this Genre is Joseph Heller.

See other references on self-reference. Each of their covers indicate the book itself which is about self-reference. And each book has a title printed on it that indicates what book it is. Thus the title on a book is a self-reference, and it only becomes an other reference in a citation, or catalogue, in some media outside the book itself. Many novels include their own titles within themselves as part of the text not just the title of the book. An example of this is the The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón,

================ Other works on Self-Reference ==================


Thomas Bolander, Vincent F. Hendricks, Stig Andur Pedersen

Self-reference: reflections on reflexivitySteven J. Bartlett, Peter Suber

The Death of Philosophy: Reference and Self-Reference in Contemporary Thought Isabelle Thomas-Fogiel

Reflexivity: the post-modern predicament Hilary Lawson
Raymond M. Smullyan

Diagonalization and self-reference

Raymond M. Smullyan

Posted February 26, 2012 by kentpalmer in Uncategorized

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Quora answer: What are some socially acceptable addictions?

I up voted those who said reading. I have always been addicted to reading. But there is no 12 step program for readers. It is considered laudable, and and there is no help for those for whom it has gotten out of hand. What goes with that is the addiction to buying books. And what also goes with that is writing copiously thinking you have something unique to contribute but the results of which no one is interested in but oneself. And what goes with that is intellectual loneliness, if one happens to live in an anti-intellectual society, and are not part of academia. And what goes with that is a consequent addiction to social media. And what goes with that is neglect of other things that one should be doing in life.

There is a viscous cycle with regard to this addiction. First, one reads a good book, concerning a subject one is fascinated with. Then you get all excited, and you read another book referenced in the first book that looked interesting. One thing leads to another and you have read all the available books about that subject. So now you know a whole lot about something no one cares about but yourself. But while you were reading about that subject you managed to get side tracked in other subjects, and so having exhausted everything written about the first subject you then get lost in the second subject, and so it goes from subject to subject in this never ending cycle, because no more is it possible to read everything about everything.

But there is a problem which is that most of the books or articles on a given subject are not worth reading. So finding something that is actually worth spending your time reading is difficult. This leads to endless searching for the right book, on a given subject, or the best article. And so before you know it you are spending more time searching than actually reading.

But then a strange phenomena occurs that was noted by Gregory Bateson in Mind and Nature which is that one starts to actually pursue two subjects simultaneously, because the subjects worth reading about are piling up faster than they can be absorbed, and you notice the phenomena that Bateson noticed which is you get better information about two subjects by studying them simultaneously. And so you start to have ideas about interesting connections between subjects that no one noticed before. And this is very problematic because one starts to think that one should capture these insights. So one gets a notebook and writes them down, and then another notebook, and so on until you have stacks of notebooks full of little known ideas, that no one cares about but you. And that is because the others are not reading significant works.

So you get an idea that you would like to write down these ideas that are stacking up, and starting to reinforce each other, and taking on a life of their own. So one day you put pen to paper and the flood gates open, and you write and write and you realize you are not just addicted to reading but also writing, but you have no audience, because no one knows what you are talking about. But what you learn is that writing itself is a source of even more ideas. In fact, the flood gates of writing causes a deluge of new ideas that you would never have had if you had not started writing, and so you realize that when ever you have an idea you need to try to write a short working paper on it. But those papers get longer and longer until you have a few thousand page books that you don’t know anyone who is interested in reading. So you put them on the internet, people download them, but very few comment about what they have read, so you don’t get any feedback.

But then the worst thing happens, you actually discover something significant. This is where a run of the mill out of control addiction becomes a real horror story. Since you think you have something to say of significance, after years of ideas that were interesting but not “significant” then you start going to conferences and publishing papers and giving talks. Of course, everyone at those conferences has their own ideas, and so they are not really interested in your significant idea, so you continue to publish and go to conferences, but really all you can do is to continue to research your significant idea, and it becomes more and more significant, and connects to more and more things, until you believe that it is the best thing since sliced bread. Once you think that your “significant”idea has become the center of the universe and the key to understanding everything, then one starts to be seen as a crackpot. Because like the rhyme of the ancient mariner one is going around and grabbing wedding guests and sitting them down and letting them know about this idea that you have that is going to change the world. Of course, wedding guests that will sit transfixed while you tell your story are rare, and people start avoiding you so they do not get harangued, and slowly but surely one enters ones own world, which is different from everyone else’s world, because it is a world in which things make sense to oneself, which do not make sense to anyone else. It is at this point that one starts to see scenes in movies where there is a wall with bits of paper glued to it of every sort that makes a mess, but which to you makes perfect sense. And you realize that you have entered the twilight zone of the Perfect Mind like John Nash and others before you have entered, and found it difficult to leave.

And there are others in this world whom you can talk to and who become your friends. People who also had “significant” even “crucial” ideas but who were socially accepted, at least after their deaths, and a few during their lifetimes, and who were rehabilitated by the tradition and become part of the Canon. These others have names like Plato, or Kant, or Hegel, or Heidegger, or Husserl, or Merleau-Ponty, or Sartre, or Bataille, or Badiou, or Zizek and others too numerous to recount. They become more real than the people around you because they actually had something significant to say too, but everyone thinks they were significant, but no one things that what ever you have to say is significant. But secretly you know that what ever idea you have had is just as significant as theirs, in fact it explains what their ideas really mean.

If one had only listend to all those skeptical souls who said it was better to go to the beach, one might have avoided this state of affairs. One could have avoided walking down the street and seing Kant, or Descartes in the coffeeshop. Or Heidegger cleaning windows outside the bookstore one has taken refuge in. One looks around at the customers that are there with you in the last bookstore on earth, all seeming to have a similar desperation, as they search though the bookshelves looking for something to read. But you don’t find any self-help books on reading addictions, or the horror of becoming a crackpot, or how to market your idea within the market place of attention, because all the books are about how to crate a business that sells something tangible, like sliced bread.

But then one day one realizes that the fact that everyone is walking around like zombies in a perpetual daze, not seeing the world that is right before their eyes, is not ones own problem. One did not make them blind and ignorant of their own worldview, one was just as ignorant as they are at some point. And one realizes that the world is unlikely to change, not matter how good one’s “significant” idea is, and one stops caring whether anyone gets it or not. It has been published on the web, it is there written down for those who are interested to pursue if they desires, and so one can return to one’s quest for more knowledge, and deeper understanding of the nature of the worldview. And so the cycle begins again. One returns to ones friends, the ones who understood, their worldview, the ones that have said something significant and others realized it mostly after their deaths. And that makes one wonder about ones own death, and this causes a bad case of authenticity which is hard to shake, but eventually that too passes.

What are some of the most famous uses of maps?

Map of Middle Earth

This map probably modeled on the West coast of Britain was where the Lord of the Rings saga took place. That Saga took place in a world already invented in the Silmarillion. ( Tolkein was however not just an explorer of space but also time, as he was experimenting with Dunne’s ideas of multi-dimensional time, and each character has a slightly different understanding of time in Lord of the Rings.

For more on that see

Time in the Stone of Suleiman
by Verlyn Flieger

The rhetoric of vision: essays on Charles Williams
By Charles Adolph Huttar, Peter J. Schakel p.75

So Lord of the Rings is also a map of time.

See also . . .

Quora answer: Who is the most interesting literary critic?

Harold Bloom

Especially for . . .

A Map of Misreading. New York: Oxford University Press, 1975.

The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry. New York: Oxford University