Eye to Eye
Ken Wilber, 1983

The Three Kinds of Reality
Wilber has, in my opinion, a great number of profound insights about the way we use the three eyes of St. Bonaventure, sometimes using them well and sometimes using them badly. He makes a good case that their use and misuse during the last 10,000 years has had a profound impact on human culture.

It is quite true that the revelations of spirituality cannot be obtained by scientific measurement, nor by exercises in mental logic. The only way to achieve these insights is by following the path of the zen masters, that is, by comtemplation. However, this does not mean that the resulting wisdom is not of the material mind. Nor that material mind is not of the material body.

And just what is Bonaventure's contemplatio if not thought? All the teachings of meditation are quite clear on this; meditation is not-thought. As stated in approximately the words of a popular teacher from Los Angeles in the 1960s:

If you find some nagging thoughts of the day's activities intruding upon your meditation, do not fight these thoughts. Acknowledge them, but do not dwell on them. Do not ignore them, do not pretend they are not your thoughts, but rather, accept them, then calmly and gently let them fade and return once again to the peacefulness of non-thought.

But how can this be? How can there be a component of the mind which is unobtainable by thinking? My best analogy here, at this time, is the relation between different kinds of numbers. It is clear that number sets can be, and have been, defined in such a way that the rational numbers and the transcendental numbers form different sets (the names are not accidental). You can visit any rational number you like and there will always be transcendental numbers that cannot be visited in that same way. In order to visit the transcendental numbers, you must follow a different set of rules.

My current best guess about what happens is based on the current ideas about how conceptualization works. If we take as an example a type of semantic net structure such as described by Langacker or in Anderson's ACT system and build upon that network a large set of facts such as Doug Lenat has defined, we could (with perhaps some enhancements not yet available in any of these present-day models) build up a conceptual representation of what the spiritual realm must be like. Most current thinking is that these conceptual structures (or the process of their formation) are somehow reflected in the contents of our consciousness.

However, if instead, we pursue a program of contemplation (and here is where we really need some more enhancements to the models), it will turn out that it is possible to cause conscious experiences to occur with this contemplative mode which cannot be built up in the network structure using the rational mode. So perhaps Pinker was correct all along.

Of course, at this time, I do not know what these rationally unobtainable experience structures might be like. That remains to be discovered as we learn more about the brain processes which give rise to consciousness and how those consciousness-inducing mechanisms are generated. I am confident that we will learn these things about the brain within the next few decades.

So what if there are mind states which cannot be reached by thinking? What does this have to do with enlightenment? We would do well to keep the message of Wilber's final chapter in mind.

What About Borrowing Somebody Else's Efforts?
Wilber
does not discuss the obvious short cuts which are available to most of us, such as opening a book and looking at the pictures somebody else has taken of a cell's nucleus. It seems clear enough that the memories of the experience are more concrete and more complete if you go through the actions yourself and learn how to do the staining, the histology, etc. And in the final act of apprehension, you will surely get a better grasp of the meaning of what you are seeing if you have done the section yourself.

Still, the availability of "second hand" knowledge is obviously a major factor in the education we have all received. Does the injunction "Go read a book" count for anything?


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