We Are One at Our Source … Explaining Shared Experience and Overlapping Identities: Transpersonal Perspective, Part Four — How “Within” Can Also Be “Outside”

11/07/2013 01:45

By Michael Adzema


“Within” Is Direct Experience, “Without” Is Indirect Experience: Ultimate Reality—World Soul, Atman, the Void—Is the Same for All and Is Discovered “Within”

How “Within” Can Also Be “Outside”

Despite the time-honored traditions and the revered societies and cultures that have maintained the preceding worldview, Westerner’s find it hard to consider such perspectives without getting trapped in the boxes of solipsism, narcissism, “navel-gazing.” This last—”navel-gazing”points to the problem Westerners have in that, with their materialistic bias causing them to equate the self with the body, they cannot imagine a Divine Within or a God as Self or Experience without picturing it actually inside that body, and hence separated from the world outside! Then to take the further step of calling the physical world “illusory” has them imagining that world disappearing, leaving only one’s body, suspended in a vast and empty space. Not very appealing. Not very logical or intelligent either, but entire paradigms and philosophies are based on such cognitive prejudices and cultural constructions of thought.


Nevertheless, living in the Western world as we do, the question must be addressed: Is this Experience solipsistic? What is its ontological status? By way of answering and to reiterate, the Common-Sense Realism that is taken as the basis for scientific claims about the material basis of reality is itself overturned by science. Hence on what basis is such a transpersonal reality to be founded as I’ve described? What is the ontological status of this model of radical subjectivity and how can it fit with and make sense of the elements of our experiential worlds? Jung attempted to answer these questions with his metaphysic, yet he has been criticized on both flanks, by scientists and religionists.

Scientists have called him too mystical in his implications of a higher ontological status to psyche than to matter. But we have discussed how scientists themselves have overturned the notion of any ontological status to matter—letting us know that the status of our material world is dependent on the perceiving organism.


Hence that leaves the psyche or subjectivity of the perceiver with a higher ontological status.


Yet from religious circles Jung’s metaphysic has been criticized as being “merely psychological.” It is said he has destroyed the old gods. Yet one could only think of psychological as in any sense “merely” only if one attributes a higher ontological status to matter than to psyche. Thus, that so-called religious people would criticize in this manner displays in them an inherent materialistic, not spiritual, worldview.


At any rate, Jung has not destroyed the old gods, science did that, physics and astronomy did that. What Jung has done is to give such gods and spiritual realities back to us, although on a more enlightened level.


The old gods were always “merely psychological,” but the “merely” part of it can only exist if one underestimates the psyche. And this usually happens when one overestimates the outside world. And here I think Jung sees remarkably well.


Matter Matters. It Just Ain’t Material

He warns against the mistake of forgetting that the outside world is experienced as a function of the psyche, that one’s perceptions are dependent upon the psyche. So what could be more fundamental than the psyche? It is the only thing that one can ever really know to exist!


The outside world is an inference as Jung said, and it is well not to forget that whenever one goes about discussing reality. This is not to say that the outside world does not exist, but merely that if one may legitimately assume anything then it is that the psyche exists for it is directly perceivable and not that the outside world exists as it is perceived because it is only indirectly perceived.


If the external world were to exist as it is perceived (the theory of Common-Sense Realism), then one would need to assume that the psyche, or the brain, or the perceptions, whichever you wish, is perfect, is capable of sensing exactly what is out there. But then this is ridiculous, and even the relatively limited means of modern “scientific” psychology has shown that different individuals perceive different things according to their mental set, attitude, and so on.


And as to whether or not one individual’s experience of external stimuli is exactly equal to another individual’s of the same stimuli, there is no evidence nor any means of obtaining evidence that it is, and there is some evidence that it varies at least a little (for example, the same stimulus may be said to have different intensity, etc.).


The point is that all is ultimately dependent upon the psyche. So what kind of facts could possibly be ultimately more valuable than psychic facts? We perceive and experience the world within and the world without, the one directly and the other indirectly. We interpret these experiences and call it reason; there is no rational mind if there has been no experience. Therefore, experience is fundamental and what is experience but that which is the psyche, or, in a sense, produced by the psyche. No psyche, no experience, no perception, no outside world. In this light it seems that in relating religious life to the psyche, Jung is closer to building a foundation for it than reducing it to nonsense.

To me, it seems that the reason people shy away from the idea that ultimate reality is within is that it seems then so limited. It seems that when a person encounters the concept of a reality within there is a tendency to picture in some way a small world within one’s physical body, or at least to imagine that it would be limited to within one’s ego. And since one externally views one’s body as being a certain size and shape, and, most importantly, separated from everything in the whole world that is not oneself, one gets the feeling that if there is something, some kind of reality within, that it is likewise separated from all else and hence becomes of little value; thus the term “merely psychological.” Yet, to me, this concept is not necessary and may be replaced by a new one.

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