Radical Epistemology: Let us see through substances, structures, hidden structures — and beyond

imagesIt used to be that we looked for an ultimate, primordial, indivisible substance to explain everything else, the indestructible bottom line, so to speak, upon which to build our understanding of the world. Remember “atoms”?

And we used to believe that once we got there, to that irreducible finality, we would be able to comprehend the universe, or some aspect of it.

Then “genes” came along. But then they too, proved malleable, via, for example, meditation.

Study reveals gene expression changes with meditation

In the news now, at the same moment in time, two memes that say the same thing about their respective subjects, namely that there is a just discovered, or just named, deeper structure that controls a surface structure.

1. POLITICS/POWER: That there is a DEEP STATE “which operates according to its own compass heading regardless of who is formally in power.” I appreciate the efficiency and visual punch of this phrase, “deep state.” It replaces our many attempts to focus in on what’s really going on behind the scenes via language such as “Military Industrial Complex,” “Corporatocracy,” “National Security State,” and so on.

Essay: Anatomy of the “Deep State”

2. BIOLOGY: That the genetic code contains not just one, but two languages, one written on top of the other and apparently controlling the way the other one works (?)

Scientists discover secret code hidden within human DNA

This idea, of two structures, one surface, the other deep, is something Noam Chomsky invented for his own academic field, linguistics, decades ago, theorizing that the human mind has an innate capacity for language, due to its hidden “transformational grammar” that generates the surface structures (grammars) of various spoken languages.

I’ve always been interested in what lies underneath, always gravitated towards finding out. Structures at any level, especially structures that explain others, fascinate. But then, as my favorite philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein is reputed to have said, “It’s hard to go back to the beginning — and not go further back.” In other words, whatever deep structure — or substance — we find might be, and probably is, rooted within something deeper.

After all, whenever you tell a story, where do you start? With what events or situation? Whatever we choose to focus on as the beginning of a story, determines its structure, and generates the meaning we assign to it.

And that, I think, is the real fear that most people have. Not so much the fear of dying, but of there being no beginning, nothing to count on, not even the “Big Bang.” I think of the nightmare of “falling through space,” as depicted in the movie Gravity.

In left brain logic, this nightmare gets translated into the taboo against the “infinite regress.”

Epistemologically, I invite us to go with the flow and leap out of logic.

Let’s “take off our conceptual helmets, and shake out our hair.”

Let’s open, wide, drink in the never-ending wholeness.

David Bohm Inner Explorer: Creativity Beyond Boundaries – Bohm, Einstein, Krishnamurti

January 24, 2014

by David Schrum


David Bohm was an explorer in fundamental physics who felt that it had lost its way. He saw that researchers at the forefront were no longer deeply interested in creative insight into fundamental processes and structures but were satisfied merely to produce algorithms, without much concern about why these mathematical forms produced results. Bohm looked to earlier greats in physics who had gone beyond the forms and norms of the science that had preceded them and who, through revolutionary insight, had created an understanding that was profoundly new. Bohm also studied creativity itself. He came to feel that true creativity must reach beyond the boundaries of our entire framework of thinking in order to discover something not bound by that.

I recall Bohm pointing out that society tends to have a sense that our universe is pretty much in principle known, in the sense that we have a well-defined concept of reality and a relatively fixed framework of thinking. For Bohm, deep creativity demands that we go beyond that definiteness and that we appreciate the universe as mysterious, as had Newton and Einstein, and as did he. As well, Krishnamurti, with whom he had for years explored the nature of mind, emphasized the necessity of “freedom from the known” in order to significantly explore and to come upon something fundamentally new.

Bohm noted of Einstein and Krishnamurti—it would seem the two most influential relationships in his life—that with these two men he had a communication in which there was an extraordinary openness and intensity. It is just this that deep creativity requires: freedom from the boundaries that constrain our consciousness and the energy that comes with that freedom.

All three—Bohm, Einstein, Krishnamurti—had an appreciation of life’s depths as unfathomable and for life’s undivided wholeness, so that they were not constrained by the boundaries that hold most of us, and were freed, each in his way, to act with profound creativity.

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