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Transcribing the oral tradition...
Kuladharini, Glasgow, UK
Viveka, San Francisco, USA
Padmavajri, East Sussex
Ratnachuda, South London, UK
Kamalashila, Catalunya, Spain
Kalyanavaca, London, UK
Sravaniya, Boston, USA
Eric, FBA Team
... Is that right?
No. It would say that even now it is not really anything new. But there is no such
thing as new. In fact if I wanted to press it to the point of absurdity, there is nothing new and
nothing old either. There is just one same thing. This was neither new nor old in differ- ent
aspects of transformation. (Laughter) It could be water or it could be fire as in Greek
philosophy or it could be something more sophisticated - it could be matter, whatever
'matter1 happened to be.
They would accept the fact that consciousness is a new p enomenon and they
would recognize that it does exist.
But then again, it depends on what one means by new. One could have a 'new'
combination and it1 st new as a combination but if one speaks in terms of combination one is
really using the language of reductionism.
In this view, they are trying to get away from reduct- ionism. They may say
that there's a certain Stort of evolution on the inorganic level. But then they say, something
happens. They don't know what, but suddenly there's a leap and you've got a new thing
HEM (M) 1/4 4 called life and then life evolves and Suddenly there's something new comes into being called
'consciousness'. But the acceptable is called 'punctuated equilibrium1 and this is how
Ah...the word 'equilibrium' to me is quite suspicious because it suggests stasis, you
see. No real overall change.
They say there's no real overall change on a certain... on an inorganic level.
That more complex molecular structures are really the same as lesser ones but at a certain
point, something new happens; something that can't be explained in terms i.e. it's
anti-reductionist because you can't explain 'consciousness' in terms of biological - you can't
explain biological in terms of the inorganic. They do say, there's something completely new
comes into being.
Well that's fair enough. (Laughter) So they seem to be coming closer to our position.
So how does that arise then? They're not using the word 'mechanistict'.
That would still come under a mechanist tic view, because the other one, it
seems to be saying would be called a reductionist view. So they're saying there is a real
distinction between a reduct- ionist view and a mechanistic view. They still haven't given up
their mechanistic view, but they're saying that - well, they're coming more into line with us, in
a way. And they will say that there could be a further evolution.
I'm not clear about tne point at which you felt a divergence from what I'd been saying
in the lecture?
Well you seem to be saying there's nothing new comes into being on the
S.: Ah I dealt with it by saying it depends on what you mean by 'new' because one can even
speak in terms of a new combination, so to use that language is reductionist. So it does seem
that even those who don't necessarily accept a spiritual philosophy of life are not nec- essarily
committed to a reductionist or mechanist veiw SoAthe extent that they're not committed or
not necessarily committed to that re- ductionist or mechanist view, they are beginning to
approach or approx- imate to the more spiritual, so to speak, position which is represented by
us. That is quite interesting and significant. So perhaps all that we're really saying is that in
talking about mechanistic beliefs in this way I'm perhaps flogging a dead horse. So perhaps
one should make it clear that well, this is a view that was popular once upon a time but which
is now not really accepted even by scientists. But clearly they don't go so far as to posit any
sort of 'vital force', which is fair enough because I'm not too happy with that concept myself.
In a way it is a sort of stop-gap type of explanation - just a sort of way of recognizing that
some non-material factor seems to be involved.
But your principle objection to the mechanistic view was that it didn't explain
the production of new qualities?
Not so much that it didn't explain the production of new qualities but in principle it
didn't even recognize the emergence of new qualities. It didn't recognize as 'new' qualities
HEM (M) 1/5 5'
that we would call. There were some very extreme statements of that point of view in the
last century and even at the beginning of this. 'The brain secretes thoughts like the livert
secretes bilet'-something like that. So clearly here, thought is not recognized -as anything
new, any more than bile is recognizetd as something new. It's just a transformation. So this
is sort of 'reductionism' with a vengeance.
But if there is such a qualified mechanism as Sagaramati suggested...
Qualified mechanism - would one call it the 'gualified mechanism'? Or use some other
term . non-vitalistic', t'non~re~uctionism~~~
Sagaramati Well it's a form of materialism...
It's not materialism but it's not idealism either.
But it's explaining the production of these qualities sd~y in terms
oftpre~existing conditions. It's non-vitalist, isn't it?
It's saying something magical happens but they don't now w at.
Wow! This seems like magic!! (Laughter) Fair enough.
Well, it's just non-vitalist, non-reductionist agnosticism...
No, it's not agnosticism because they seem to believe in magic. (Laughter) Well, they
say belief in magic is the first statge towards religious and Spiritual life. (Laughter) Here
again we come back to the question;;l~0 I think there's a contradiction in terms in saying that
something new emerges but it is still as it were, given by what has preceded?'
Shagarama~ti Well I thought this was interesting because it's a way t at may e we can
understand how you often say 'the mundane' and 'the transcendental'. When you say that you
can't reduce the arising of the transcendental to the fact that there's any condition, all you can
say is that something happens - what I thought is that 'maybe that principle exists on different
Well, one could say in dependence upon A, B arises. In dependence on the inorganic,
the organic arises. So in a way, the older tradit ional Buddhist formulat gets around that.
It is neither in terms of Indian philosophy - what do we call it? -
Satkaryavada or Asatkaryavada:t t It asserts neither the identity of cau~e 'and -effect nor their
difference. But of course, that'ts not completely satis- factory from a philosophical point of
view. But what it seems is that in explaining the content of this, one must be careful not to
assume the existence of a crude materialistic, mechanistic view such as probably hardly
anybody now actually holds. Otherwise a scientist might very well say, 'that misrepresents
It's probably that sort of view has probably now got only an historical interest.
Because even the Marxists do not believe in mechanistic materialism but what they call
I think one has to be very careful that if someone admits that
something new has emerged, they should sort of be pressed to follow up the full
consequences of that admission. New means new, in other words.
HEM (M) 1/6 But perhaps they don't immediately-try to posit some metaphysical explanation or
metaphysical source, but so long as they rec9gnize that something -new thas emerged and
don't retract that in any way, well that is the main point. I mean, explanations are another
I think those scientists, they would say how they personally see that happening
is their personal beliefs. But what they observe in their results - this is what they observe.
They keep the two separate.
Well, then one might say, it comes back to what I said about the two kinds of
knowledge. You can't really exclude your, as it were, 'religious' knowledge from your
consideration of your sciefl tific -knowledge.
You won't get an explanation
philosophically, by observing facts. A philosphical explanation comes from some - other
source. So at least they are not looking for explanations where explanations are not to be
Following up the theme of new qualities: Kulamitra.
I wondered if there is an alternative way of speaking of new qualities that
emerge from absolute reality and manifest through evolution which is the name that we are
using in the lecture. I mean, we thinking in terms maybe of a language of more of potential.
And I further wondered whether the languaqe you used in the lecture should be taken as a
literal explanation or a poetic metaphor?
Well, this raises the whole question as to how - what one might refer to as - higher
knowledge is communicated? I think probably, it would be safer to say that it is
communicated principly through metaphorical means and even language which we have
come to regard as literal, when analyzed, is in fact found to be metaphorical.
we say, 'it comes from' - well that Suggests it occupies space or that the process occupies
space whitch in fact, of course, it doesn't. So really all metaphysical language, I think - and
we did go into this a bit in Tuscany last year is really meta- phorical. ...