Friday, May 9, 2014

Mystical vs Modern Enlightenment: Eckhart Tolle and the Undead God

In this YouTube video, I compare mystical and modern enlightenment and I criticize mostly Eckhart Tolle's kind of spirituality, but also the modern kind of wisdom (secular humanism).

Hopefully, one of these days I'll figure out how to fix the focus problem with my camcorder, although it's not so bad in this video. I think maybe I have to sit farther out from the background wall...

Anyway, cheers!


  1. Hi Benjamin,

    I see now clearly that you are coming at mysticism from the wrong perspective when you say its essential question is "Why is there something rather than nothing?" and dismiss its seeming ' inherent contradictions' as merely poetic.

    Buddhists don't say "there is something rather than nothing." They'll say things like, "there is something because there is nothing." Now of course this sounds weird to the Western Mind! However, this isn't just poetry, but actually has a formal logical structure that I will give you the resources to understand.

    In your analysis, you assume Aristotelian Logic and some law of excluded middle or law of non-contradiction. You need to revisit this assumption if you are to ever approach grasping mysticism. You must realize that you are dealing with a different logical modality. Yet this logical modality has all the necessary formalisms to be worked with in a rigorous way, you merely need to acquaint yourself with it. This also, is very much contradicts your notion that mystical philosophy lacks critical thinking. This logical modality is called Catuskoti. Here's a paper on it:

    This 'ancient, mystical pseudological poetry' also goes by the name of First Degree Entailment constructed in the 1960s by an American logician by the name of Nuel Belnap in the area of relevant logic.

    Now the assumption that mysticism has is that there are ineffable states of ultimate reality, accessible through deep meditation. These ineffable states are not describable through concepts or language. Thus, the best we can do to describe them is to use paraconsistent logic that may seem poetic. While you may think these states aren't real because we are "limited by our brain," you must remember that mysticism starts with idealism as I have explained to you before. In all due respect (for which I have a lot), it is also difficult to take someone seriously regarding what the mind can do, when they themselves admit to be afraid of their own mind as you do in your DMT post.

    It's fine if you reject the existence of ineffable states as false, but it would behoove you to not address a straw man. However, I hope you can at least recognize that if something is ineffable in even just a hypothetical sense, it becomes a little difficult to assign its qualities formal truth values.

    1. I was talking mainly about Eckhart Tolle's mysticism. I used his book as a summary of ancient mysticism, but I wouldn't say that refuting Tolle's book amounts to refuting all of Hinduism, Buddhism, and the rest. Frankly, regarding Tolle's equivocations, I was being charitable by calling them poetic. I think his definitions are kept slippery so he can avoid confronting obvious objections, and that's so even though his book is organized as a series of answers to critical questions.

      You're right that there's paraconsistent logic which deals with contradictions, but I doubt there's any logic to Tolle's equivocations. The contradictions seem accidental, because he's synthesizing so many ideas from other thinkers, including Spinoza, Heidegger, and so on.

      I'm aware that most mystics aren't naturalists (some Buddhists would be exceptions). In this video I mean to compare that kind of mystical enlightenment with the modern, naturalistic kind. I end up criticizing both kinds, that is, both cryptotheistic mysticism and secular humanism (modern enlightenment). I think Tolle would agree with some of the latter criticisms, which come out of postmodern recognition of the myths that support the modern way of life.

      I don't reject the existence of ineffable states of consciousness. On the contrary, I've had a few myself, including the one I describe in that DMT article. In this video I distinguish between the experience and the interpretation of it. As I say, there's a big leap in assuming that we can introspect a self that observers the compulsively thinking side of ourselves, and then in inferring that that deeper self is roughly equal to God, the life force that sustains the universe. Even if we can feel so powerful while meditating, critical thinking has a role in reining in such a wild intuition.

  2. Isn't it somewhat arrogant to even claim that our ineffable states of consciousness are somehow something "ultimate"? Despite the veneer of humility that covers such claims, that is my reaction.

    This really to really overvalue a very primitive primate on a very tiny mote in the suburbs of an unremarkable galaxy. :)

    1. Yes, and this is where equivocation proves useful as a rhetorical technique. If "transcendent consciousness" were defined as indeed a primitive part of ourselves, the arrogant anthropocentrism would be laid before. But this so-called consciousness is also thought of as Being or as the light of Being, which makes it impersonal, not unique to us, and not especially a self at all.

      This may also be the reason for the identification of Atman and Brahman in Hinduism. The fundamental subject is equal to the fundamental object. This both satisfies the instinct of anthropocentrism and allows for the dodge that we're really not central after all, because the deepest part of ourselves which is central is actually not a self but an objective substance.