Foreword to Supreme Doctrine (Benoit) written by Aldus Huxley
Philosophy in the Orient is never pure speculation, but always some form of transcendental pragmatism. Its truths, like those of modern physics, are to be tested operationally. Consider, for example, the basic doctrine of Vedanta, of Mahayana Buddhism, of Taoism, of Zen. “Tat twam asi – thou art That.” Tao is the root to which we may return, and so become again That which, in fact, we have always been. ‘Samsara and Nirvana, Mind and individual minds, sentient beings and the Buddha, are one.’
Nothing could be more enormously metaphysical than such affirmations; but at the same time nothing could be less theoretical, idealistic and Pickwickian. They are known to be true because, in a super-Jamesian way, they work, because there is something that can be done with them. The doing of this something modifies the doer’s relations with reality as a whole. But knowledge is in the knower according to the mode of the knower. When transcendental pragmatists apply the operational test to their metaphysical hypotheses, the mode of their existence changes, and they know everything, including the proposition, ‘thou art That’, in an entirely new and illuminating way.
The author of this book is a psychiatrist and his thoughts about the Philosophia Perennis in general and about Zen in particular are those of a man professionally concerned with the treatment of troubled minds. The difference between Eastern philosophy, in its therapeutic aspects, and most of the systems of psychotherapy current in the modern West may be summarized in a few sentences.
The aim of Western psychiatry is to help the troubled individual to adjust himself to the society of less troubled individuals – individuals who are observed to be well adjusted to one another and the local institutions, but about whose adjustment to the fundamental Order of Things no enquiry is made. Counselling, analysis, and other methods of therapy are used to bring these troubled and maladjusted persons back to a normality, which is defined, for lack of any better criterion, in statistical terms. To be normal is to be a member of the majority party --- or in totalitarian societies, such as Calvinist Geneva, Nazi Germany, Communist Russia, of the party which happens to be in power. For the exponents of the transcendental pragmatists of the Orient, statistical normality is of little or no interest. History and anthropology make it abundantly clear that societies composed of individuals who think, feel, believe and act according to the most preposterous conventions can survive for long periods of time. Statistical normality is perfectly compatible with a high degree of folly and wickedness.
But there is another kind of normality --- a normality of perfect functioning, a normality of actualized potentialities, a normality of nature in fullest flower. This normality has nothing to do with the observed behavior of the greatest number --- for the greatest number live, and have always lived, with their potentialities unrealized, their nature denied its full development. In so far as he is a psychotherapist, the Oriental philosopher tries to help statistically normal individuals to become normal in the other, more fundamental sense of the word. He begins by pointing to those who think they are sane that, in fact, they are mad, but that they do not have to remain so if they don’t want to. Even a man who is perfectly adjusted to a deranged society can prepare himself, if he so desires, to become adjusted to the Nature of Things, as it manifests in the universe at large and in his own mind-body. This preparation must be carried out on two levels simultaneously. On the psycho-physical level, there must be a letting go of the ego’s frantic clutch on the mind-body, a breaking of its bad habits of interfering with the otherwise infallible workings of the entelechy, of the obstructing the flow of life and grace and inspiration. At the same time, on the intellectual level, there must be a constant self-reminder that our all too human likes and dislikes are not absolutes, that yin and yang, negative and positive, are reconciled in the Tao, that ‘One is the denial of all denials’, that ‘the eye with which we see God (if and when we see Him) is the same as the eye with which God sees us’, and that it is the eye to which, in Matthew Arnold’s words
Each moment in its race,
Crowd as we will its neutral space,
Is but a quiet watershed,
Whence, equally, the seas of life and death are fed.
This process of intellectual and psycho-physical adjustment to the Nature of Things is necessary; but it cannot, of itself, result in the normalization (in the non-statistical sense) of the deranged individual. It will, however, prepare the way for that revolutionary event. That, when it comes, is the work not of the personal self, but of the great Not-Self, of which our personality is a partial and distorted manifestation. “God and God’s will,’ says Eckhart, ‘are one; I and my will are two.’ However, I can always use my will to will myself out of my own light, to prevent my ego from interfering with God’s will and eclipsing the Godhead manifested by that will. In theological language, we are helpless without grace, but grace cannot help us unless we choose to co-operate with it.
In the pages which follow, Dr. Benoit has discussed the ‘supreme doctrine’ of Zen Buddhism in the light of Western psychological theory and Western psychiatric practice – and in the process he offered a searching criticism of Western psychology and Western psychotherapy as they appear in the light of Zen. This is a book that should be read by everyone who aspires to know who he is and what he can do to acquire such self-knowledge.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
"Freedom from your trial does not consist in destroying what appears to you as an evil condition (or even an evil belief). Your freedom consists in the exercise of your realization of the totality of Love and your acceptance of that is your resurrection and ascension. In the effort to overcome evil, as if there could be a false substance, the mind is kept in constant confusion and turmoil. Our problems and their solutions rest in ourselves. Certain it is that evil will remain with us just as long as we entertain the belief that there is evil." -- Bicknell Young