The Limits To Thought
Since the ancient Greeks, the West has given absolute pre-eminence to the intellect, which has produced science as its crowning glory. Through science the intellect has opened vast new vistas and produced an astounding range of technologies. On the downside, the intellect has attained cult-like status which often blinds us to the other non-logical, non-scientific, yet valid possibilities. This has produced a dismissive attitude toward our intuitive side, the potential of which may contain the keys to our very survival as a race. Science has not succeeded in liberating us from our relentless assault on the environment nor reduced our violent tendencies toward our fellow humans, let alone other life forms.
For the ordinary intellect, supra-mental Knowledge is a mystery and thus the intellect tends to dismiss it as either useless speculation or wishful thinking or simply, escapism. Those, however, who have encountered this Knowledge directly and personally, understand that it is not something that can be simply dismissed as groundless. Since it is known directly — not in the way a subject knows an object, but as an immediacy which embraces both the subject and the object within itself — and since those who claim to have discovered it are often individuals of great rationality and common sense, it warrants serious consideration from even the most skeptical of thinkers. Those philosophers given to precise definition of terms, empirical verifiability, rigorous logical analysis, etc, generally avoid even discussing these possibilities, since the syntax and methodologies they use are hopelessly inadequate to either validate or disprove the reality of what these transcendental realizations refer to.
Ramana Maharshi, a modern sage of very clear, pragmatic thinking underscores the problem when he states that ‘philosophy ends where spirituality begins’. He has commented extensively on the ephemeral nature of the ego-self, describing it as merely a thought or feeling. He emphasizes that the ‘I-thought’ is a fleeting shadow which seems to have substance when our attention is focussed on an external object or an internal emotion, sensation or idea. Whenever, however, we attempt to turn our attention upon the ‘I-thought’ itself, the thought simply disappears and we find ourselves, for a moment, in a state of pure being in which there is neither an ‘I’ nor an ‘other’. He likens this to turning the beam of a flashlight upon a shadow in order to get a better view of it.
According to the Vedic insight of non-duality, the personal self along with its world-view is a projection or superimposition on a screen of Consciousness. It is this transcendental Self which is our true Nature. Since this higher Self of Being-Consciousness is not an object, nor susceptible to objective verification, it can be known only immediately and intuitively. This of course conveniently puts the Self out of the range of scientific proof, which always involves empirical verification. Scientific materialism cannot disprove the Self, yet neither can an illumined Sage prove the Self — at least according to the rules of scientific method. As Ramana Maharshi comments, the only way ‘to know the Self, is to be the Self’.
This book establishes that even though we must relate to the world ‘as if’ it is real –i.e., as if there actually are real, discrete ‘objects’ such as rocks, trees and animals, in fact there is no discreteness anywhere accept in our limited, conceptual minds. The truth is, we don’t see the world and Reality as they are, but only our self-created descriptions of them. Understanding this is the first step to Freedom.