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Multi-Dimensional Balance out of Ultimate Intangibility -- A Critique of Rationalism in Modern World Ideologies (III-2)
By Sherwin Lu
2019-04-16 07:42:35

This article was first posted on this website on 2016-06-01 and is being re-posted as a "source article" for a section of the author’s new book DAOIST-LEGALIST SOCIALISMOne with real Chinese characteristics, §I-1(5) Multi-dimensional dynamically-balanced whole: Ultimate sense of rationality in Daoist faith.

DAOIST-LEGALIST SOCIALISM: One with real Chinese characteristics 
(Table of contents)

Editor’s Note: This essay is based on the author’s original one in Chinese. It deals with the two contending ideologies of capitalism and communism from a metaphysical point of view. Western Christian advocates of capitalism usually label communism as “atheism”, which is synonymous with “evil” in their diction, while believers in the latter defend their ideology as “scientific socialism” and criticize all religions as “superstition” and “opium” serving to numb people’s mind. Confronted with the reality of today’s world plagued by wide-spread loss of faith, ideological confusion, and all sorts of crises, it is urgently necessary to examine and clarify such basic concepts as “faith”, “rationality”, and “ideology” and their relations with each other. The author hopes this essay can serve as abrick” cast here to attractjade”, as the Chinese saying goes, and initiate some meaningful discussion.

For the abstract and outline of the whole essay see:

    Faith vs. Reason: A Critique of Rationalism in Ideologies (0): Abstract & Outline

For preceding installments of the text:

    A Critique of Rationalism in Modern World Ideologies(I): Ultimate Rationality

         A Critique of Rationalism in Modern World Ideologies(II): Ultimate Faith (1-3)

         A Critique of Rationalism in Modern World Ideologies(II): Ultimate Faith (4-5)

         A Critique of Rationalism in Modern World Ideologies (III): Ultimate Faith & Ultimate Rationality (1)

Outline: III. Ultimate Faith & Ultimate Rationality

III-1. Ultimate faith: Its object must be an undivided “One”
III-2. Ultimate rationality: Seeing the human-perceived world as contingent emergence out of ultimate intangibility (
缘起性空) in multi-dimensional balance
III-3.  Egocentrism in immature faiths

The Text

III. Ultimate Faith & Ultimate Rationality (continued)

III-2. Human-perceived world as contingent emergence in multi-dimensional balance out of ultimate intangibility: Ultimate rationality based on MindMatter as One

III-2(1) Human-perceived world as contingent emergence: Core of Ultimate rationality

Of all descriptions about the ultimate reality of the world, in this author’s view, the Buddhist generalization of “contingent emergence out of ultimate intangibility” is the most concise, most accurate and most relevant to human existence. The ultimate origin of all existence is not anything substantial or tangible; it is only infinite potentialities, neither material nor spiritual, named “chaos” in Chinese thought, from which emerge humans as conscious beings only when certain conditions converge, and then emerges before us the human-perceived world (HPW) only when the original infinite potentialities converge with human consciousness as part of the infinite potential possibilities. Therefore, the HPW, the whole as well as all parts of it – human and non-human, physical and spiritual – is but the result of convergence of all sorts of conditions. Once the converged conditions diverge, all become null. In a word, all the things we perceive exist only contingently on our consciousness, not tangible at all in the final analysis, just like fleeting clouds.

Then, the converging between the very much limited human consciousness, limited in its structure and capability, and the ever-expanding HPW, i.e., the converging between what are commonly called “mind” and “matter” (which both are already contingent on other converging conditions and ever-changing), determines how the ever-changing scenes of the HPW look. Such scenes appear to be so real in the view of most people, who cannot, as only the enlightened minority can, see through their unreal tangibility to perceive the ultimate intangibility of all existence. To the not yet enlightened majority, their spiritual clinging to what they see as real is the very root cause of all sufferings. This root cause manifests itself in the following three ways:

a) The “clinging” state of mind leads to selfishness, which, especially that of those in more privileged positions in social life, further leads to imbalances in inter-human and man-nature relations, which in turn bring about all sorts of sufferings to the overwhelming majority of human beings. This is an objective cause for all sufferers’ miseries.

b) Even though there are social elites who are not so selfish and would like to change the society so as to reduce people’s sufferings, their possible lack of ultimate rationality, i.e., mistakenly viewing the ultimately intangible HPW as a real “objective world that is independent of human consciousness”, may prevent them from comprehending the human world truthfully and further from fostering an effective approach towards human emancipation, thus not only failing to free humanity from miseries but sometimes causing new and otherwise avoidable sufferings to people against their initial good will. This is another objective cause for some sufferers’ miseries.

c) The unprivileged people suffer from their own lack of awareness of the ultimate intangibility of all existence, including human life, and “clinging” too tightly to temporary and local gains and losses. This is the subjective cause for all individual sufferers’ pains.

In a word, the “clinging” mentality due to a lack of ultimate rationality, whether clinging to “my/our” gains or losses or to the seemingly tangible world conceived by “my/our” consciousness, is the ultimate source for all human sufferings.

As is shown by thousands of years’ human history, especially that of the recent hundreds of years, and by today’s reality as well, mankind’s spiritual state has not been universally uplifted but on the contrary has been going down hill ever faster. Therefore, to the enlightened minority, it is an arduous task to help the majority see through the truth of life, dispel their mental pains and achieve spiritual emancipation and ease.

To facilitate the above task, it is imperative to make efforts in the following two mutually complementary aspects:

a) To propagate a universal understanding of the ultimate intangibility of everything and the readiness to give up one’s own local and short-term benefits for the sake of overall and long-term public interests, that naturally incorporates the former.

b) To propagate a universal understanding of the proper limit in pursuing self-interests, the “limit” being set by the fundamental principle of ultimate rationality, i.e., multi-dimensional dynamic balance on all levels of human existence (see below).

 III-2(2) Multi-dimensional wholeness and dynamic balance of the human-perceived world: Basic principle of ultimate rationality

The two key points in this principle are actually determined by the causal conditions for the emergence of HPW. To put it more concretely, they are determined generally by the limitedness/finiteness of human consciousness, as compared with the ultimate reality of unlimited potential possibilities, from which human consciousness originates and specifically determined by the multi-stage structure and outcome of human cognition as a result of its general limitedness/finiteness.

Multi-dimensional Wholeness

Of all the multiple dimensions of the HPW, the primary one is the multi-stage structure and outcome of human cognition. First of all, on the direct observation level, the finiteness of human consciousness in its structure and ability already determines that HPW does not appear as undifferentiated wholeness like the ultimate infinity beyond human cognition but as a huge mosaic of a myriad of differentiated things, which means that the original transcendental reality of oneness has been fragmentized by human beings. Then, people try to go beyond the direct observation level in the two opposite directions leading respectively to the macro and micro levels, thus continuously expanding their cognitive domain. However, no matter how infinitely the limited human consciousness expands the HPW while at the same time infinitely splitting it into a myriad of universes, galaxies, stars, species, animate or inanimate things, organisms, molecules, atoms, photons, electrons, neutrinos, bosons, etc., etc., the HPW is at all times, in the final analysis, but one manifestation of an indivisible oneness (through human beings’ naked and mind’s eye, out of an infinity of possible manifestations). Wholeness is nothing but indivisibility. In other words, any kind of divisive distinction is anthropogenic, and is a distorted version of the original reality. And yet, this kind of ever-extending fragmentation is only the beginning phase of distortion, a fragmentizing distortion along the spatial dimension.

This author has pointed out in the preceding context the multi-stage progression of human cognition, as is determined by the limitedness and evolving nature of human consciousness, i.e., from the primary level of purely sensuous intuition to that of uplifted rational understanding and further to even higher levels of repeated synthesis of sensuous and rational thinking. The word “level” here refers to the progressive stages along the spatial dimension only. Besides this, the author also assumes that, what with the limitedness of human consciousness and unlimitedness of its object in multiple senses, there must be multi-stage progressiveness in more abstract senses. One of them relevant here, as was mentioned earlier, is that from sensuous intuition to rational speculation to integrative intuition, that is, the progression through a multiplicity of levels based on different cognitive approaches and on their integration. And such a kind of progression might also be integrally encompassed in human cognition on each macro and micro spatial level and other, more abstract levels. One other instance is the elevation from physical to metaphysical thinking. But a more detailed discussion does not belong here.

To sum up, the various structures and outcomes of human consciousness on different levels along different dimensions are intertwined while developing in stages in an integrative way. However, no matter how many dimensions and levels the infinitely expanding HPW is wittingly divided into by finite human consciousness, HPW as one of an infinite variety of possible manifestations of the ultimate reality is finally speaking an indivisible whole. Wholeness means indivisibility. Hence the “multi-dimensional wholeness” of HPW.

Dynamic Balance

The above-said anthropogenic cutting-apart and distortion of reality is unavoidable, as is determined by human beings’ finiteness by nature, but should be recognized and confronted squarely and be remedied as much as possible. First of all, we must recognize the anthropogenic nature of all the cutting-apart into dimensions, levels, entities, etc., etc. as well as the ultimate oneness of everything, before we can start doing something on the “cutting-wounds” as remedies. Here duly comes in Chinese Daoist theory on Yin-Yang balance.

Laozi says:All things carry the opposites Yin and Yang(“万物负阴而抱阳”). In this author’s understanding, each and every thing defined by anthropogenic differentiation (including distinction between dimensions and levels) has the dual nature of Yin and Yang: The latter representing their relative independence and autonomy in appearance and the former their inextricable connectedness and interdependence with each other under the “cutting-wounds”. Hence the saying from The Book of Changes: “The interacting and balancing between Yin and Yang constitutes what is called the Dao” (一阴一阳之谓道). According to this Dao, what human beings can do to remedy the negative impacts of anthropogenic differentiations between things is to try one’s best to maintain balances between the two aspects of Yin and Yang in everything, at least not to treat the differentiations as absolutely unbridgeable gaps, nor to do any unnecessary extra cutting-apart. And in turn, the only way to achieve Yin-Yang balance in everything in social life so as to lessen the negative impacts of necessary discriminations and avoid unnecessary differentiations, is to promote dynamic interaction and maintain relative balances in all social and man-vs.-nature relationships (no static and absolutely perfect balances being possible). The comprehensive result of such (relative) balances achieved and maintained between all social entities on all levels and in all dimensions would just signify (relative) balances between the two aspects of Yin and Yang in every such entity, that is, negative impact of anthropogenic discrimination between all social entities being reduced to minimum. All human individuals and social groups of all different scales should take the initiative to maintain balances between all related social entities and not do anything wittingly or unwittingly to upset existing balances; otherwise they would be compelled to take the possibly unfavorable consequences from natural tendencies toward balance in a society and in nature.

Due to people’s “clinging” mentality, however, the negative influence of anthropogenic differentiations, some of which may even be unnecessary, has been accumulating in real life. Laozi says: “It is the Way of Heaven /To remove where there is excess /And add where there is lack. /The way of people is different: /They take away where there is need /And add where there is surplus.(Laozi, Chap. 77, Trans. by Charles Muller.) While it may be interpreted in a narrower sense as referring to uneven distribution of social wealth, it can also be understood as general imbalance in social life and in man-nature relations. Therefore, all social administrators should on the one hand follow the examples of ancient sages and overcome selfishness and “clinging” mentality, as was commonly advocated by Eastern Daoists, Confucianists, Buddhists, and Legalists) so as to be sensitive to existing imbalances in social relationships and on the other hand use the authority granted by the people to take necessary measures to adjust those unbalanced relations on the macro-social level and bring them to near balances. This is the principle of dynamic balance as was upheld by Chinese Daoist-Legalists (but not generally concerned about by Confucianists and Buddhists).

Multidimensional wholeness and dynamic balance are the two inseparable facets of the HPW. Viewed together, they indicate that dynamic balance should be integrally embodied on and between all levels in all dimensions, i.e., in and between all entities of all different scales. This is the traditional Chinese view of the world as a “dynamically balanced multidimensional whole”, or “ultimate balance-oriented thinking” for short, or “ultimate rationality” as was enshrined in traditional Chinese “ultimate faith”.

The ultimate rationality sanctified by the faith in Dao is the very embodiment of Dao in the HPW, the actual practice of Daoist faith in social life. It should be the general guiding principle for all forms of instrumental rationality, the ultimate authority by which to guard against, resist and rectify all deviations of instrumental rationality in all sorts of ideologies. Instrumental rationality as a tool for dealing with specific social beings and affairs should be subjected to the guidance, constraint and regulation by the above-said general principle of ultimate rationality. It is here where lies the fundamental importance of ultimate faith/ultimate rationality to human social life.

(To be continued)

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