Buddhism, justice, philosophy, politics, time, transcendence
The Buddhist tradition seems to share the conclusion presented as Proposition Seven in Seven Propositions On Transcendence, (posting 65, September 10, 2013) that the strategic response to political injustice is for each individual to search inward and thereby to overcome the primordial philosophical problem. Political consequences would inevitably follow from widespread discovery of the original transcendence of individual intelligences. Such an interpretation could account for the lack of overt political commentary in traditional Buddhism, which otherwise seems close to teaching resignation to political injustices of the status quo. Resignation to political injustice is definitely supported by the idea of karma, which serves to support and align with the politics of parasitic power. The myth of the karmic hierarchy of lives, social mobility upward or downward from one incarnation to the next in a long course of reincarnation, legitimizes the structure of parasitism institutionalized in hierarchical class structured societies. Although Buddhism is sometimes presented as a religion without a deity, the intelligent design of a cosmic moral hierarchy of lives points to the agency of a discretionary “great spirit” behind the structuring of society and politics, as behind everything, and such an agency is another instance of the political appropriation of false projections of intelligence as a means of sanctifying human-on-human parasitism. The actual source of the intelligent design in this sort of case is the person who projects the idea of a moral hierarchy onto the social hierarchy. These political considerations indicate that Buddhist explorations of the foundations of experience missed the reality of primordial transcendence in individual intelligence as such. The explorers did not comment on the political problem because they accepted it as the design of the great spirit, just as most advocates of the Abrahamic religions did and do.
Since there is an implication of “the Great Spirit” in the Buddhist myth of a moral hierarchy of lives over the long process of karmic re-incarnation, there is also the implication that, when an individual turns inward to sense transcendent intelligence, it is really the cosmic intelligence of “the Great Spirit” which is sensed as the source and giver of transcendence and of the world in which all experience occurs. That, again, is the great error of misidentifying transcendence.
Any assertion of cosmic spiritual unity implies a conservative admiration of hierarchy. It brings to mind the romantic adulation of the hero, the prince, the champion, the celebrity genius, the saint, the prodigy, and is a complete denial of the fact of universal individual transcendence, and an aggressive denigration of ordinary lives and ordinary people. Contrary to that view, any intelligence, engaged as we all are in building a sustainable and gratifying life in particular personal circumstances, is as transcendent as anything ever gets. Every time someone receives the revelation of a higher good, a higher beauty, a higher truth, some version of an übermensch, then lots of ordinary (transcendent) intelligences are in mortal danger of being brutalized, enslaved, tortured, and murdered in the name of the false transcendence. Hero (celebrity) fixation is another manifestation of the culture of cowboy masculinity, which identifies the majority of humans as livestock as a fundamental worldview.
Intelligence, Nature, Time, and Illusion
It was quite common among ancient philosophers to claim that the realm of time, the world of change and becoming, is an illusion (the Buddhist maya). There was also an old idea that the human essence was exiled into the world of time, is temporarily confined here, but belongs at home in eternity. There wouldn’t be much point in trying to improve social justice within a fleeting illusion, so that kind of view is politically conservative. What was right about those old ideas is that intelligences are not part of nature, even though profoundly embedded in nature, certainly arising within nature in some crucial sense. In every instance, intelligence transcends nature and escapes partly from the determinism of nature by inventing and constructing time, and time is not part of nature. Time is an intelligence’s construct from encountering a feature of nature, specifically an instantaneous dislocation in nature, but that feature of nature in itself is not time as intelligences have time. Nature is no more than the entirety of what is actual in the strictest sense, brute actuality, and that actuality has no mutually negating possibilities. There are no possibilities in nature (only actualities), but possibilities are inseparable from the time of intelligences.
The observation that time is not part of nature (because it is full of the freedom of possibilities) is pretty close to the ancient claim that the world of time is an illusion. However, time is only an illusion if intelligence is an illusion, but the claim that intelligence is an illusion goes nowhere. Only an intelligence could have such a thought. Cogito ergo sum. Time is intelligence overcoming the instantaneous (timeless) actuality of nature. Time is the freedom of intelligence, overcoming the vanishing imposed by the determinism of nature without vanishing by merging with a universal, category, form, ideal, or type. When an individual’s time comes to an end there is a return to the instantaneous eternity of nature. As intelligences, time is our transcendence and freedom from nature.
The illusion or appearance of banality or mediocrity in ordinary life (so despised by a romantic such as Nietzsche, for example) results from a general acceptance of the culture of the externality of transcendence, which fixes the orientation of everybody outward in search of (parental-type) command, guidance, and reward, and so it grounds the legitimacy and sanctity of top-down human-on-human parasitism. Overcome that cultural malaise and all the old gods and demons are gone, nobody is coming, great Pan is dead, original sin is gone, the fictitious collective personality-entities are gone (except as functioning clusters of interconnected intelligences), there is no social mobility between lives from moral action, and the social hierarchy is not a moral hierarchy in any way. All the old celebrity systems disappear, since no one needs vicarious transcendence when there is an interior supply.
Copyright © 2013 Sandy MacDonald.