Tuesday, September 28, 2010

More on RAW and Buddhism

As I mentioned recently, Robert Anton Wilson's essay "Left and Right: A Non-Euclidean Perspective" (reprinted in Email to the Universe) is a particularly interesting guide to Wilson's thought.

Wilson writes that after experimenting with psychedelics during the 1960s, "I began serious study of other conciousness-altering systems, including techniques of yoga, Zen, Sufism and Cabala. I, alas, became a 'mystic' of some sort, although still within the framework of existentialism-phenomology-operationalism. But, then, Buddhism -- the organized mystic movement I find least objectionable -- is also existentialist, phenomenologist and operationalist ... "

Earlier in the essay, Wilson cites existentialsm, phenomelogy and operational logic as important influences upon him, along with Nietzsche and General Semantics.

I could not find a Wikipedia article that explains operational logic, but in his essay, Wilson explains that "Operational logic (as formulated by the American physicist Percy Bridgman and recreated by the Danish physicist Niels Bohr as the Copenhagen interpretation of science) seemed the approach to modern science that appealed to me ... The Bridgman-Bohr meta-modern rejects as 'meaningless' any statements that do not refer to concrete experiences of human beings. (Bridgman was influenced by Pragmatism, Bohr by Existentialism). Operationalism also regards all proposed 'laws' only as maps or models that are useful for a certain time. Thus, Operationalism seems the one 'philosophy of science' that warns us, like Nietzsche and Husserl, only to use models where they're useful and never to elevate them into Idols or dogmas."

Compare Wilson's warning to "only use models where they're useful" to the Buddhist parable, which I referenced here, that a raft is for "getting across," not for carrying on one's back.

Here is the Buddhist Parable of the Raft:

13. “I shall show you, monks, the Teaching’s similitude to a raft: as having the purpose ofcrossing over, not the purpose of being clung to. Listen, monks, and heed well what I shallsay”—“Yes, Lord,” replied the monks. And the Blessed One spoke thus:

“Suppose, monks, there is a man journeying on a road and he sees a vast expanse of water, ofwhich this shore is perilous and fearful, while the other shore is safe and free from danger. Butthere is no boat for crossing nor is there a bridge for going over from this side to the other. Sothe man thinks: ‘This is a vast expanse of water; and this shore is perilous and fearful, but theother shore is safe and free from danger. There is, however, no boat here for crossing, nor abridge for going over from this side to the other. Suppose I gather reeds, sticks, branches andfoliage, and bind them into a raft.’ Now, that man collects reeds, sticks, branches and foliage,and binds them into a raft. Carried by that raft, laboring with hands and feet, he safely crossesover to the other shore. Having crossed and arrived at the other shore, he thinks: ‘This raft,indeed, has been very helpful to me. Carried by it, laboring with hands and feet, I got safelyacross to the other shore. Should I not lift this raft on my head or put it on my shoulders, and gowhere I like?’

“What do you think about it, O monks? Will this man by acting thus, do what should be donewith a raft?”—“No, Lord”—“How then, monks, would he be doing what should be done with araft? Here, monks, having got across and arrived at the other shore, the man thinks: ‘This raft,indeed, has been very helpful to me. Carried by it, and laboring with hands and feet, I got safelyacross to the other shore. Should I not pull it up now to the dry land or let it float in the water,and then go as I please?’ By acting thus, monks, would that man do what should be done with a raft?

“In the same way, monks, have I shown to you the Teaching’s similitude to a raft: as havingthe purpose of crossing over, not the purpose of being clung to."

Citation: Nyanaponika Thera's translation of the Alagaddūpama Sutta.




1 comment:

Tony said...

FWIW bad link in "which I referenced here (excess http//)