The Challenge to Know More: The New Evidence, Pouring Forth from Our Sciences, Has Made Our Common Sense Materialistic Assumptions About Our Reality as Obsolete as Our Flat Earth Ones
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A New Paradigm Emerging—Bridging the Barriers Between Species, Biological Transcendence: This Is the Place Where Even Hard Core “Realists” Learn How Little They Know
Biologically Constituted Realities, Part Six
Wonder of wonders, finally in our evolution—in this very time of ours—there may be more people who are focusing on those keys to possible biological transcendence than ever before…. All of this despite the fact that within the “real rules” of the Newtonian-Cartesian paradigm those anomalies have absolutely no possibility of existing or being able to happen . . . . Yet they do. Similarly, within the “real world” of “brute facts” related to biological survivability they seemingly find no place . . . . Yet we stumble over them.
Preface and Summary: It is the so called “anomalies” of science that hold the keys to the reality that lies beyond science. Looking at them we see a pattern upon which to stand in bringing together the different viewpoints or paradigms that are not reconcilable otherwise. These different viewpoints are the different scientific ones and the different cultural ones as well as the different biological ones—that is, the perspectives or views of different species… the different planetmate views.
The anomalies that we have found to have the most potential for aiding us in this venture to a greater paradigm or framework within which to comprehend all these smaller views are those that have come out of consciousness research. This comes from scientific as well as spiritual sources. It is often experientially based, though it is hardly just anecdotal since these reports are replicatable and verifiable and they are often and can easily be collected and collated scientifically.
These scientific approaches to what were once in the realm of just the spiritual or religious are going on more now than ever before in the history of the world. Whether from fields of the new physics, the new biology, or the consciousness branches of psychology and anthropology, they are uncovering more new formerly inexplicable data of events that have heretofore been beyond the views of our sciences and beyond our common sense materialism—our world of “brute facts,” which we have found are not incontestable at all but are only solidly true in relation to the fact that we are of the species of humans.
We have found that these new facts are not as biologically irrelevant as was assumed by us, however. In fact, the survival of our species and indeed of the life on our planet probably depend upon us incorporating this information into a newer and more comprehensive understanding of reality. Fortunately the construction of this new framework is being carried out. And it and its implications are astounding, revelatory, and revolutionary in all respects imaginable. This new revolutionary model is unveiled in more detail in this article.
A New Paradigm Emerging
For unless we do this, unless we keep in mind the limitations of our reality constructions—including our “scientific” ones—we have absolutely no way of understanding certain incorrigible and “biologically useless” facts that intrude upon our “real world” and that are scared into the light of our biological parameters by our scientific rummaging through the bushes. These “useless” side effects of our scientific enterprise may indeed contain the keys to our venturing forth, to at least some small degree, beyond the biological real-world confines of our predecessors. For just as we have seen that standing on a deeper, more encompassing paradigm than the cultural makes transcultural discourse and understanding possible, so also standing on one deeper than the biological may bring trans-biological understanding closer.
Following the reasoning I have been presenting, one can speculate that the prospects for bridging the boundaries between species (of both the known and “unknown” variety) as well as between our physical reality and other possible “non-physical” ones are good if we can find a way to look at that physical/biological (Newtonian-Cartesian) level from a deeper grounding in spiritual (or transpersonal) reality. In fact, the evidence from LSD research, some spiritual literature, and various aspects of “new age” phenomena that are washing up on the shore of a variety of disciplines is exactly to that effect.
Indeed, wonder of wonders, finally in our evolution—in this very time of ours—there may be more people who are focusing on those keys to possible biological transcendence than ever before. Additionally, these researchers and seekers are scientifically, empirically, and experientially researching, eliciting, and perceiving many such incorrigible and “useless” phenomena and events. Most importantly of all, they are finding that these events can be intersubjectively validated—can be intertemporally and, indeed, empirically confirmed, demonstrated, and/or significantly correlated so that they can be proven to have intersubjective and/or replicatable validity. All of this despite the fact that within the “real rules” of the Newtonian-Cartesian paradigm they have absolutely no possibility of existing or being able to happen . . . . Yet they do. Similarly, within the “real world” of “brute facts” related to biological survivability they seemingly find no place . . . . Yet we stumble over them.
If all of this were not enough, we find that these incorrigible facts provide more than a pathway to a glimpse outside our biological blinders, more than a puncture in our epistemological seal, and more than a transcendence of our biological paradigm. We find that this information from “outside” the table of our biological board game is less biologically useless than was thought from within the borders of that board game. We find, indeed, that our species’s assessment through natural selection of that which exists beyond it was less than perfect. We find that we are on the verge of re-evaluating that assessment and—to the extent it is possible and driven (once again) by biological survivability—of expanding our biological-cultural constructions to admit and give meaning to some of them.
Stanislav Grof (1970, 1975, 1980, 1984, 1985, 1988a, 1988b; Grof and Grof 1980, 1989, 1990; Grof and Halifax 1977) is one such pioneer in this sort of “useless” research. Though he is by no means alone, I mention him in that he has achieved far more than simply demonstrating the validity of particular incorrigible facts that turn our familiar, comfy, Newtonian-Cartesian paradigm on its ear. Additionally, Grof (1985) puts forth a model, a framework for a new paradigm. Bringing together the physicist Bohm’s (1980) model of the universe and the neurosurgeon Pribram’s (1971, 1976) model of the brain, he presents a holonomic “perspective” or “theory” based upon the idea of a hologram. The important aspect of this perspective is that it allows the inclusion and understanding of these new existential facts, yet does not contradict the Newtonian-Cartesian view of the world. The model includes the older paradigm, interpenetrating it thoroughly with something approaching a “field model” (my terms) of the universe.
The combined model explains the phenomena of everyday life, of “normal” science, and of a huge and increasingly accumulating body of unexplainable data and evidence that is continually erupting out of the “new” natural sciences (in physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, anthropology, and psychology, especially transpersonal psychology); out of the human potential phenomenon and new, experiential psychotherapeutic and growth techniques, such as Primal; out of psychedelic, consciousness, and brain (especially brain waves) research; out of a decades-long now Western fascination with and intense engagement with Eastern world-view, philosophy, and spiritual practice; and out of an equally long and parallel interest in the paranormal and the occult.
The holonomic (combined) model is explanatory and predictive. Yet it does so without having to exclude known, observable, empirically validated facts and evidence—without undeservedly casting upon them the light of nonexistence or, worse still, ignoring them, simply because their validity gives rise to a very human “uncomfortableness.” Such data trigger a certain insecurity in that they undermine a familiar, habitual, and thoroughly ego-invested commitment to a view of reality.5 The purposes of this article do not here allow an elaboration of either the new evidence or the new paradigm that I have discussed.6 Suffice it to say that the recent and rapid emergence of the field of transpersonal psychology itself is pushed by an inability to continually disregard the evidence of our own senses that does not fit with the mechanical paradigms we were taught.
This new evidence, which is pouring forth on the cutting edges of our modern sciences, has made the Newtonian-Cartesian paradigm as obsolete as the flat earth one.
Continue with Why We Know Not and A Call to Know Instead: Beyond “Flat Earth” Materialism—Scientific Awakening Is as Crucial for Paradigm Shift as is the Social and Political Awakenings
Return to How We Might Come to Know: In Tossing Away Our Species Blinders, We Relearn That Consciousness Is Infinite, Yes … but Fantastic as Well.
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We Can’t Know What We Can’t Know but We Cannot Unknow What We Are: Our Reality Is Species Determined and the Relativity of Science
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Biologically Constituted Realities, Part Two: Our Reality Is Species Determined: Relativity of Science
Summary: What I’m saying in this part is that basically our sciences have shown they can not determine what is real, let alone measure it, because they are extensions of our senses which are themselves imperfect. So we cannot really know what is real. Further, we find that just as culture creates our reality for us, that prior to that our biology creates the reality upon which culture can build. This means that we are able to understand what is human reality at least, though not ultimate reality, by looking at the only reality that all humans share—our biological one.
We will see shortly that means that the way we come into the world—our conception, womb life, and birth—create the foundations upon which all are other perceptions are built, and these being unique to humans mean that humans will be the only species seeing the world exactly the way we do.
Further, while focusing on our biology as a basis for understanding what is fundamental about humanness, we are able to compare cultures in relation to that biology, though not in any other way. What we will see this means is that while we cannot compare cultures for the most part—this is called cultural relativity—we can compare them in terms of certain things all cultures share which have to do with the fact that all humans have the same kind of body and biological history: an example of that would be the way cultures deal with birth, specifically the pain of it.
“Ultimately our physics . . . is going to demonstrate that essentially there is no such thing as matter. All there is is mind and motion.” – Armand Labbe
Relativity of Science
But what of our science, one might ask, which can reputedly extend the range of our senses? Does it not provide accurate-enough “feedback” or “alternative”-enough perspectives to allow us a glimpse of what is , for truth, really real? Let us just look at what modern science tells us about the observations it makes on the world.
According to Zukav (1979), author of a widely read overview of the new physics, a major underpinning of modern physics is the realization and discovery that science cannot predict anything, as had been taken for granted, with absolute certainty. Relatedly, it informs us that there is simply no way to separate the observed event from the observer. That is to say that the observer is, her- or himself, an inexcludable variable and always affects the results of an experiment. In a very fundamental way, the perceiver influences what is seen in even the most “scientifically” pure observations and experiments: “The new physics . . . tells us clearly that it is not possible to observe reality without changing it” (Zukav, 1979, p. 30).
Zukav (1979) takes, as an example, that a condition is set up to perceive an event: If it is designed to find waves in light, it discovers waves; if it is designed to find particles, we get particles—in supposedly the same “outside world” . . . and regardless of the fact that logically light cannot be both a particle and a wave (pp. 30-31). That is the classic example, of course. The structure of the experiment, designed by the observer, determines what will be found.
What is this saying if not just what I have stated above: that we determine ultimately, because of our specific biology, what we sense; that we therein determine the “world” we experience.
In line with Anscombe’s (1958) terminology of “brute facts,” Searle (1969) claims a distinction between “brute facts” and “institutional facts.” D’Andrade (1984) explains,
Not all social-science variables refer to culturally created things; some variables refer to objects and events that exist prior to, and independent of, their definition: for example, a person’s age, the number of calories consumed during a meal, the number of chairs in a room, or the pain someone felt. (p. 92).
From what I have been saying, we can admit that these “brute facts” may not be culturally constituted as D’Andrade asserts, but they certainly are biologically constituted. They are species-specific facts—”brute” only in relation to our particular species.
Thus, the new-paradigm answer to the age-old philosophical question is clear: If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound? Absolutely not. Sound is as much species-relative as the practice of polygamy is culturally relative. In other words, there are species for which sound does not exist. Similarly, the event that we perceive as sound-tree-and-forest-interacting may be “perceived” as something quite different with different and/or more kinds of “senses” or, one might say, from a different vantage point.
Removing our anthropocentric blinders in this way we must conclude that the world, as experienced, is created of realities that are not only culturally constituted; there are also biologically constituted realities. The “brute facts” to which D’Andrade refers are—nothing brute about them—biologically determined facts. Indeed, there are biologically determined facts, bioculturally determined facts, and culturally determined facts—all existing on a continuum.
So do we then, indeed, create our own reality culturally, of which Sahlins (1976) writes. Yes, I believe we do. But I believe we do much more than that. I believe we create it biologically too—that our reality is species determined.
Relativity: Cultural and Biological
So what does this say about cultural relativity, of which so much is made in anthropological circles? I agree with Sahlins’s position on the total and symbolic nature of culture and the resulting extreme cultural relativism. As D’Andrade (1987) put it, Sahlins’s view is extreme enough that it undermines even science’s claim to validity (p. 5). But I do not imply by my agreement that I believe reality is only culturally determined by any definitional stretch of the term cultural that Sahlins, even from his “total heritage” perspective, could have had in mind. I intend to go further.
How so, then, could I claim, at the outset, that I believe both positions can be true? How can reality be so thoroughly “created” (not only culturally but biologically as well) and yet there be universal commonalities on which to base analyses and cross-cultural understanding? Where I disagree with Sahlins and emphatically agree with D’Andrade is where D’Andrade (1987), in referring to a quote from Sahlins, writes
I think I agree if . . . [he] . . . means that people respond to their interpretations of events, not the raw events themselves. However, if this means that culture can interpret any event any way, and that therefore there is no possibility of establishing universal generalizations, I disagree. I believe that there are strong constraints on how much interpretative latitude can be given to biological and social events. While the letters “D,” “O,” “G,” can be given any interpretation, pain, death , and hunger have such powerful intrinsic negative properties that they can be interpreted as “good” things only with great effort and for short historical periods with many failed converts. ( emphases mine, p. 6)
With this statement of D’Andrade, I enthusiastically agree also. I believe that there are “intrinsic” (biological) determiners of cultures, which create a basic underlying structure. Where I feel I take issue with D’Andrade is in contending that these “intrinsic” determiners are intrinsic to the species, not to the events themselves. This is as important to point out as it is important in physics to keep in mind that particles and waves only exist in relation to an observer. In this regard, as Armand Labbe (1991) put it at a Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness conference, “Ultimately our physics . . . is going to demonstrate that essentially there is no such thing as matter. All there is is mind and motion.” At any rate, I contend that this biological “infrastructure” results in biocultural, species-specific, and hence transcultural patterns of thought and behavior. Further, these transcultural patterns create transcultural patterns of social structure, “external culture,” sociocultural behavior, and so on.
Continue with We Are What We’ve Experienced and The Perinatal Paradigm: Our Conception, Gestation, and Birth Create Our Windows to the World
Return to Biologically Constituted Realities, Part One — Creating Worlds: Our Science, Too, Is Built on a Judeo-Christian Assumption of Humans Being “God’s Chosen Species.”
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