How do you break the spell of materialism?

Forums New Age Ideologies How do you break the spell of materialism?

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    I am currently looking for ideas for a book. The goal is to break the dogma that is having western mind spell bound. The dogma goes under different names, materialism, scientism, logocentrism and others. Apart from the advice to write for my own benefit and the purpose of healing myself (thanks for the tip!) I also have the goal of benefitting the larger public in my country. Consequently, I am now in the process of trying to find ways of expressing this in literary form. I am also doing lectures, and I have found that these are an excellent place for trying out the ideas and the arguments. In a live confrontation, I get a feedback on what line of argumentation that is working.
    I have so far try the following arguments:

    • There is no external, fixed world outside of ourselves. No world consisting of descriptions, characteristics and concepts that have a life of itself. Mind and intellect are doing those things..
    • That mathematical space and physical space are not absolute, but rather contingent. I have been trying to use the semantic model instead of the usual ontological.
    • Using the new science that shows that the world does not consist exclusively of matter. Instead, matter and wave in a complementary fashion make up the world. This is an absolute downfall for reductionism, which of course cannot handle more than one “substance” to reduce the whole world to.
    • A new approach I got from mr Dalelas books and Samkhya is to undermine the epistemological basis for materialism. How do we get knowledge of the world? Why through the senses and that everything that we call perception and experience in some way have to take the way of the senses. Put differently; one could say that there no shortcut to gain knowledge, like by measuring or weighing things, you still have to sense the measuring or what other method is used.

    The first three arguments I have been using the last couple of years, the fourth I just tried out recently. It is in way more down to earth, since we all can sense and there is no need for proofs that need too much abstract thinking. Therefore, I had great hope for this approach, but still it does not work the way I want. Maybe because of myopia have great problem to understand the most obvious that is literary in front of us. Any suggestion on how to go about to make the fourth argument more understandable or maybe some modifications on the first three?


    IMHO, the first three arguments are incorrect. You may be trying to reconcile the first three to the fourth, and that maybe an unsolvable problem. Here are more detailed explanations:

    • There is a external real world. But it is not primary properties. The idea that there is no external world is called idealism in the West, and mayavada in India. I don’t subscribe to this view. I subscribe to realism however it is not the realism of primary properties. Sāńkhya philosophy clearly describes that there are five elements that embody the percepts which are different from the mind and intellect. The mind is beyond these five percepts. By the mind we can perceive object concepts such as ‘table’ and ‘chair’.
    • There is an absolute space and time, but there are also space and time created by our perception. The absolute space and time are semantic, and the relative space and time are phenomenal or experiential. One such phenomenal idea of space and time is that you live in Sweden, or that I live in India. These ideas are illusions. Everything you see is real, and it exists eternally as a possibility. But your proximity to those things is an illusion.
    • The ‘wave’ you are speaking about is not a substance. The terms ‘particle’ and ‘wave’ are used due to the legacy of classical physics, but everyone accepts that classical concepts don’t apply. It is in lieu of a new concept that wave-particle duality is given place. Quantum theory introduces a holism, without rejecting that this whole is comprised of parts. In the interpretation of quantum theory I have done, both whole and part are real. Western reductionism is that only the parts are real. Quantum theory refutes that. The new understanding lies in how both part and whole are separately real.
    • The epistemological critique of materialism is not my contribution; it was articulated by George Berkeley and David Hume, but never taken seriously in the West. The reason is that if you say that we just have sensations, and there is no external reality, then science collapses. Immanuel Kant tried to save philosophy from this conclusion. However, in Indian philosophy, this sort of problem has never emerged. It was always recognized that the world encodes the properties we perceive. The reason is that it is taken for granted that the world was created for perception, so it has everything we can perceive.

    To make further progress in this conversation, you might want to outline your ideology. Why do you want to critique materialism? What do you want to replace it with? Do share what your final picture of reality looks like. If you had your way, what would you have us believe?


    I will try and sketch my ideology that is in part inspired by the two philosophers L Wittgenstein and Paul Feyerabend, both Austrians for some reason. Their move, which shared by me, is twofold, first there is a critique of a specific trend in western philosophy that has malevolent influence of thinking. What this thinking trend is, is very hard to define in some few lines. The aphorisms Wittgenstein uses is a “hypnotic turn to look for essence” and the Feyerabendian way of putting it would be “the authority of scientific dogma”. One could also say that this trend is reductionism, whereby one reduces everything into smaller things and term that “knowledge” (I use the term “materialism” in my latest post allthoug it is in the sense of reductionism only).  What I think is whatever you call this trend, it tends to put a stop to rational thinking. A dead end for knowledge if you will.
    The second move is once you have liberated yourself from these shackles for your thinking, is that you can start to build a new base for epistemology. Here I go with the idea of Wittgenstein, that means an ordinary language that is liberated from superfluous and fettering misconceptions is the key to open a greater knowing. In ordinary language you will find a more natural relation to time, space and more abstract concepts. This concepts in reductionism are either rather skewed like when it comes to simple things like space, distance and time, and completely missing when comes to concepts that are more abstract and/or of the heart. By healing language from these impeding misconceptions, you will as person get your feet safely placed on the ground of reality.
    So, what I have against reductionism is that it creates a barrier between how we naturally perceive the world in ordinary language and the world itself, something that can almost be described as a “distance”.
    I stumble on samkhya philosophy by mistake when I found out that Schrödinger borrowed from the Vedas to solve ontological problems in quantum physics. The little I have understood so far seem very down to earth and well founded. So, I would like to ponder more into how it works, I do believe this could benefit my project of writing a book. There is also a hope that the interaction between western philosophy and what comes from the East can lead to fruitful new ways of making oneself understandable in these rather complicated matters. I have a lot of questions still, but I leave it at this for now.


    Thank you for clarifying your position, and I will use this response to clarify mine.

    The most fundamental idea in all of Vedic philosophy is that there are two realities — one called the Purusa and the other called Sakti. The Purusa is the male, and the Sakti is the female. The Purusa is like the person looking into a mirror, and the Sakti is like the mirror. Similarly, the Purusa is also a mirror, and the Sakti is the object being reflected in the mirror. But Purusa is primarily the object, and Sakti is primarily the mirror. This means that the first manifestation is because the Purusa sees in the mirror, finds His reflection, and then that reflection is reflected back in His self. This reflected part (within the Purusa) then becomes the new object to be reflected within the Sakti and the process of mutual reflection continues indefinitely.

    The world is an outcome of two mirrors reflecting each other, creating an image within the image, producing a tree-like fractal structure. The Sakti and Purusa are real — which means the ‘whole’ is real. And the reflections within each other are real — which means that ‘parts’ are real. Just like the mirror doesn’t disappear when the reflections disappear, similarly, even if the manifest world disappears, the two realities — Purusa and Sakti — remain, and can create the manifest world. They sometimes look at each other and create the world. Sometimes, they don’t look at each other, and the world disappears. So, the world is the love affair of Purusa and Sakti.

    Now you can ask: Why do the Purusa and Sakti look at each other? The answer — as I have described in Six Causes — is that they have a desire to know themselves. The preferred way of knowing is to see a reflection of the self in the other, although there is a way of knowing in which the knower is the known, and this state of existence in which the two mirrors are merged is called Brahman. When they are separated, it is because the knower wants to externalize their personality into some known and then internalize it back as their own experience. I have given the example of an artist who externalizes himself into a canvas, and then sees art on the canvas as a reflection of himself, and absorbs it back into the self, to create self-knowledge.

    In short, and this may be revealing to those in the West, world knowledge begins in the desire for self-knowledge. It also begins in the primordial idea of what we want to ourselves as. What you see is what you wanted to see. We want to know the world because it is a reflection of the self. This reflected self in the mirror can be called a ‘symbol’ of the self. This reflection is in one sense not as real as the self, which exists outside the mirror. But it is in another sense equally real. Therefore, you can say that the world is an illusion, and you can say it is real. Since it is real, we support the realism of the symbolic reflections. Since it is a reflection of the self, we support the primacy of the observer, or idealism from which this realism springs. The Purusa and Sakti are so deeply embedded in each other that you cannot separate them. This inseparability is called ‘oneness’, but it is not uniformity. It is called achintya bheda-abheda or inconceivable oneness and difference because they are different, and yet you cannot separate them.

    So, this is the mystical, spiritual, and religious basis from which we begin. And we construct the idea of science from here. Matter is originally the Sakti which reflects, and what you see is a reflection inside that mirror of nature, so it is the symbol of the Purusa. Therefore, even though we are transcendentalists, we do not reject the reality or usefulness of matter. Just as the artist can be known from his creation, similarly, phenomena are reflections of the Purusa. In one sense, we are materialists, because we emphasize this reflection in nature. In another sense, we are transcendentalists because we emphasize the object being reflected. In one sense we advocate ‘monism’ because Purusa and Sakti are inseparable. In another sense, we are ‘dualists’.

    You can find every kind of philosophical position in this understanding, and yet, it is part of the whole truth. Sankhya is a description of how matter is a symbol and encodes meanings, which originate in something more primordial. As an example, the mind is the object of reflection and the external world is the reflection. But this reflection of the mind enters the mind and creates a new reality called the ‘senses’. The senses then reflect in the reflection of the mind and create objects, which are then reflected back in the senses. So, in one sense, we are seeing something that is outside of the self. But in another sense, that outside was created from the inside.

    Once we begin to understand this philosophy, we lose interest in everything else. Philosophers keep arguing about one or the other position, and you cannot be a philosopher unless you say something new. But everything that has to be said has already been said in this philosophy. I, therefore, view Western philosophy and intellectualism as the attempt to take a part of this whole truth and universalize it. Every position has its opposite, and people keep arguing. This process of ‘epistemology’ is called jnana in the Vedic system. It goes on for millions of lifetimes, unless a person gets tired of philosophical speculation, and then asks: how are all these contradictory positions simultaneously true? I have been in this land of ideas for many lifetimes, and I have found truth in all of them, but none of them is the complete absolute truth. Once you get tired of jnana you turn to jnana-yoga which is the unified understanding of everything described above. By ‘everything’ I don’t just mean the external phenomena. It includes all the minds of philosophers speculating and arguing for different positions. They too have been created; these minds are also reflecting a part of the truth; so, we seek the origin of all minds or all the ideas. This or that idea is not important. What is the original idea from which all ideas have sprung forth?


    Very intriguing indeed, it is sort of a duality where one part is the observer and the other one the observed.
    One question here is that seem to be fit to put here, is purusa like consciousness, or is it just the sun that shines in consciousness and light up thoughts? Although all this is very hard to grasp, it seems very complementary (that opposite complement each other to make a whole) One sees something in the outside and it is still coming from the inside. One can begin to see what those physicists in the discovery of quantum physics saw in the Vedas. And on top of that made good use of to solve the contradictory nature of reality they found out while experimenting.
    Very well expressed that Western thinking only take one part of the whole and try to generalize that to be fit for all aspects of the world. A sort of forced reconciliation. Me, for my part, side more with the nominalist than the universalists. To be a nominalist is to see that it is not always possible to generalize from the smaller to the bigger, from the singular to a multitude and so forth.  I think this tendency of universalism has very old roots in the Greek civilization. Another problem that I have noted here is that as generalization has helped technology a lot and has thereby multiplied its force as practical tool and as tool for thinking. But it is a double-edged sword, because when it becomes paired with rationality it leads to a very simplified and superficial thought. Instead of honest and hard thinking, philosophy in the west stranded in word games and a hunt for some unreachable essence.


    Both Purusa and Sakti are persons, which means they have consciousness, form, and desire. The consciousness is how they are related to something else other than themselves. The form is their ‘body’, although there is no separation of soul and body here (it is the form of consciousness). The desire is that they want to know themselves, and through that, they know the other.

    Yes, they are complementary and inseparable. And yet they are distinct. All over Vedic texts, you will find mentions of a Divine Couple, called by names such as Radha-Krishna, Lakshmi-Narayana, Sita-Rama, Sakti-Shiva, etc. How they are one, and yet separate, is the focus of esoteric philosophy. Their separation and union are what the transcendentalist meditates upon. Absorbed in the pastimes of separation and union, one loses consciousness of this world.

    So, philosophy is the beginning — the stepping stone to meditation and experience. From this experience emerges bliss, and the consciousness is taken out of matter. The goal of philosophy is to describe what to meditate upon, find the bliss, and transcend ordinary experience. The interactions between the Divine Couple are many and varied, and accordingly, there are many forms and names by which this Couple is called. They have different pastimes. And based on these differences there are numerous divisions or schools of Vedic philosophy. Most Westerners don’t understand these divisions. They think that Vedas are polytheistic because they are still stuck at the preliminary step of philosophy. They cannot conceive how reality is two persons. So, naturally, how these two persons are understood in many ways is naturally harder.

    Now that you have a good understanding, where would you like to take this conversation?


    Why yes, although, I am afraid I do however still have some queries over things that are not clear to me.
    I am at this stage just beginning to get somewhat of a feel for where the Samkhya philosophy is going. And I am trying to crudely sketch it in, this is how I go about these things. I excuse myself for being a bit “messy” here, but this is still learning.
    Well, if I get this right, prakriti or sakti seem to be causation itself, action and what reflects, and it is the reason of evolution and the progress. This where the change stems from that we all see in creation. Then the male side of reality, purusha, would be witness and light up this progress. While at the same time reflecting itself. When thinking about this I get a sense of the “yin-yang” symbol. Where you have both opposition (like in reflecting) and complementarity; in the contradiction. These two facets to show the complementary characteristic of the cosmos.
    It could be that the evolution that develop from the undifferentiated prakriti to become the manifold that is the universe with all its differences and contradictions.  Could this be caused by purusha´s need to know itself? So that the mirroring (the whish to reflect itself) is the original reason, and that that need to know oneself could be “sat”, bliss or pleasure. So then consciousness and the willingness to understand more (more joy) is what turns the wheel in the universe, what is energy and possibly prana? The original energy that drives creation, action and change? The want for understanding is what is sat and working toward specification from chit to sat it drives prana as universe energy that powers the planets, evolution and the turn of day and night. The ultimate source of change. Prana could actually be a bit like elan vital , the life source. The more you feel joy for something, longing for blissful state, the stronger the current of elan vital gets.


    What you call messy, I call it reckless speculation. You don’t see a 10-second movie trailer and start writing your own script about what the movie should be. That’s not how it works.

    The problem with philosophers is that they have a deep desire to conquer the world with their minds. They believe that if they can capture the essence of things by their mind, then they will become superior to the thing they know. After all, this mystery that defied us for so long has finally been subdued and conquered by our minds. But this will never happen. You don’t grasp the reality. The reality reveals itself to you. You become the mirror in which the truth represents itself. You become the Sakti and let the Purusa reveal Himself in our understanding.

    The first step in this process is cleaning up the mirror. If the mirror is unclean, you can never see a clear picture. Cleaning means giving up all these preconceived notions, and becoming the tabula rasa or blank slate. We call this process the surrender of the soul.

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