Philosophical dualism / pluralism
Primary and secondary qualities
Purpose of life
Word definition: Beyond Brahma.
Etymology: Para is a Sanskrit word that means “higher” in some contexts, and “highest or supreme” in others.
Brahman connotes the Highest Universal Principle in Hinduism, the Ultimate Reality in the universe. In major schools of Hindu philosophy it is the material, efficient, formal and final cause of all that exists. Brahman is a key concept found in Vedas, and extensively discussed in the early Upanishads.
Para Brahman means the “Highest Brahman”. It is found in early Advaita Vedanta literature. (Wikipedia)
Technical description: Para Brahman (Sanskrit: is the “Highest Brahman” that which is beyond all descriptions and conceptualisations. It is described in Hindu texts as the formless (in the sense that it is devoid of Maya) spirit (soul) that eternally pervades everything, everywhere in the universe and whatever is beyond.
Hindus conceptualize the Para Brahman in diverse ways. In the Advaita Vedanta tradition, Nirguna Brahman (Brahman without qualities) is Para Brahman. In other Vedanta traditions, it is Saguna Brahman (Brahman with qualities). In Vaishnavism and Shaivism, Vishnu and Shiva, respectively, are Para Brahman. (Wikipedia)
Phenomenological description: encountered within non-dual mysticism.
Synonyms: The Absolute, the supreme reality.
Word definition: a framework containing the basic assumptions, ways of thinking, and methodology that are commonly accepted by members of a scientific community.
Such a cognitive framework shared by members of any discipline or group.
Etymology: Word Origin & History: late 15c., from Late Latin paradigma “pattern, example,” especially in grammar, from Greek paradeigma “pattern, model; precedent, example,” from paradeiknynai “exhibit, represent,” literally “show side by side,” from para- “beside” (see para- (1)) + deiknynai “to show” (cognate with Latin dicere “to show;” from PIE root *deik- “to show,” also “pronounce solemnly”).
Technical description: Thomas Kuhn in his first book, The Copernican Revolution (1957), Kuhn studied the development of the heliocentric theory of the solar system during the Renaissance. In his landmark second book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, he argued that scientific research and thought are defined by “paradigms,” or conceptual world-views, that consist of formal theories, classic experiments, and trusted methods. Scientists typically accept a prevailing paradigm and try to extend its scope by refining theories, explaining puzzling data, and establishing more precise measures of standards and phenomena. Eventually, however, their efforts may generate insoluble theoretical problems or experimental anomalies that expose a paradigm’s inadequacies or contradict it altogether. This accumulation of difficulties triggers a crisis that can only be resolved by an intellectual revolution that replaces an old paradigm with a new one. The overthrow of Ptolemaic cosmology by Copernican heliocentrism, and the displacement of Newtonian mechanics by quantum physics and general relativity, are both examples of major paradigm shifts. (Encyclopaedia Britannica)
Phenomenological description: Worldview.
Literature: Books / Articles / Websites:
Thomas S. Kuhn, (born July 18, 1922, Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.—died June 17, 1996, Cambridge, Mass.), American historian of science noted for The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), one of the most influential works of history and philosophy written in the 20th century. (Encyclopaedia Britannica)
Etymology: Word Origin & History: late 15c., from Late Latin paradigma “pattern, example,” especially in grammar, from Greek paradeigma “pattern, model; precedent, example,” from paradeiknynai “exhibit, represent,” literally “show side by side,” from para- “beside” (see para- (1)) + deiknynai “to show” (cognate with Latin dicere “to show;” from PIE root *deik- “to show,” also “pronounce solemnly”).
Technical description: Thomas Kuhn questioned the traditional conception of scientific progress as a gradual, cumulative acquisition of knowledge based on rationally chosen experimental frameworks. Instead, he argued that the paradigm determines the kinds of experiments scientists perform, the types of questions they ask, and the problems they consider important. A shift in the paradigm alters the fundamental concepts underlying research and inspires new standards of evidence, new research techniques, and new pathways of theory and experiment that are radically incommensurate with the old ones.
Kuhn’s book revolutionized the history and philosophy of science, and his concept of paradigm shifts was extended to such disciplines as political science, economics, sociology, and even to business management. Kuhn’s later works were a collection of essays, The Essential Tension (1977), and the technical study Black-Body Theory and the Quantum Discontinuity (1978). (Encyclopaedia Britannica)
Phenomenological description: Shift in worldview.
Synonyms: Creativeness, ingenuity, innovation.
Relevance of the concept: Cultural transformation.
The concept in mythology: Exodus.
Supporting evidence: Cultural development.
Word definition: Complete Nirvana
Etymology: beyond nirvana.
Technical description: The second stage of Nirvana. The state of total cessation of all sufferings, disturbing emotions, and their psychological sources.
Phenomenological description: A state of consciousness which is free from the constant reminiscence (‘process of recollection of past events and experiences’) of the past and anticipation on the future. The absence of pressure from the subconscious that generates the constant thought processes. ( M.J.M.)
See further: https://marinusjanmarijs.com/mysticism/three-forms-of-nirvana/
Synonyms: Spiritual liberation.
Cross-cultural comparisons: Fana fi Rasoul – Parinirvana
Literature: Books / Articles / Websites:
Buddha: : “The mahaparinirvanasutra.”
Word definition: to take or have a part or share, as with others; partake; share (usually followed by in
Etymology: 1525–35; < Latin participātus (past participle of participāre “to share”), equivalent to particip- (stem of particeps) “taking part, partner” (see participle) + -ātus -ate1
Within theoretical physics: John Wheeler’s Participatory Anthropic Principle,
Wheeler speculated that reality is created by observers in the universe. “How does something arise from nothing?”, he asked about the existence of space and time.
In developing the Participatory Anthropic Principle (PAP), an interpretation of quantum mechanics, Wheeler used a variant on Twenty Questions, called Negative Twenty Questions, to show how the questions we choose to ask about the universe may dictate the answers we get. In this variant, the respondent does not choose or decide upon any particular or definite object beforehand, but only on a pattern of “Yes” or “No” answers. This variant requires the respondent to provide a consistent set of answers to successive questions, so that each answer can be viewed as logically compatible with all the previous answers. In this way, successive questions narrow the options until the questioner settles upon a definite object. Wheeler’s theory was that, in an analogous manner, consciousness may play some role in bringing the universe into existence.
From a transcript of a radio interview on “The Anthropic Universe”:
Wheeler: We are participators in bringing into being not only the near and here but the far away and long ago. We are in this sense, participators in bringing about something of the universe in the distant past and if we have one explanation for what’s happening in the distant past why should we need more?”
Martin Redfern: “Many don’t agree with John Wheeler, but if he’s right then we and presumably other conscious observers throughout the universe, are the creators — or at least the minds that make the universe manifest.” (Wikipedia)
Within philosophy: philosophical idealism:
In philosophy, idealism is the group of metaphysical philosophies that assert that reality, or reality as humans can know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial. Epistemologically, idealism manifests as a skepticism about the possibility of knowing any mind-independent thing. In contrast to materialism, idealism asserts the primacy of consciousness as the origin and prerequisite of material phenomena. According to this view consciousness exists before and is the pre-condition of material existence. Consciousness creates and determines the material and not vice versa. Idealism believes consciousness and mind to be the origin of the material world and aims to explain the existing world according to these principles.
Idealism theories are mainly divided into two groups. Subjective idealism takes as its starting point the given fact of human consciousness seeing the existing world as a combination of sensation. Objective idealism posits the existence of an objective beliefs and values—shape society. As an ontological doctrine, idealism goes further, asserting that all entities are composed of mind or spirit. Idealism thus rejects physicalist and dualist theories that fail to ascribe priority to the mind. (Wikipedia)
Cross-cultural comparisons: The earliest extant arguments that the world of experience is grounded in the mental derive from India and Greece. The Hindu idealists in India and the Greek Neoplatonists gave panentheistic arguments for an all-pervading consciousness as the ground or true nature of reality. In contrast, the Yogācāra school, which arose within Mahayana Buddhism in India in the 4th century CE, based its “mind-only” idealism to a greater extent on phenomenological analyses of personal experience. This turn toward the subjective anticipated empiricists such as George Berkeley, who revived idealism in 18th-century Europe by employing skeptical arguments against materialism. Beginning with Immanuel Kant, German idealists such as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, and Arthur Schopenhauer dominated 19th-century philosophy. This tradition, which emphasized the mental or “ideal” character of all phenomena, gave birth to idealistic and subjectivist schools ranging from British idealism to phenomenalism to existentialism. (Wikipedia)
Relevance of the concept: the relation between reality and consciousness.
Literature: Books / Articles / Websites:
Word definition: A temporarily functioning on a higher ontological level.
Etymology: A concept thatwas originally developed by Abraham Maslow in 1964,
Technical description: A peak experience is a moment accompanied by a euphoric mental state often achieved by self-actualizing individuals. The concept was originally developed by Abraham Maslow in 1964, who describes peak experiences as “rare, exciting, oceanic, deeply moving, exhilarating, elevating experiences that generate an advanced form of perceiving reality, and are even mystic and magical in their effect upon the experimenter There are several unique characteristics of a peak experience, but each element is perceived together in a holistic manner that creates the moment of reaching one’s full potential. Peak experiences can range from simple activities to intense events; however, it is not necessarily about what the activity is, but the ecstatic, blissful feeling that is being experienced during it. (Wikipedia)
Phenomenological description: Maslow described peak experiences as self-validating, self-justifying moments with their own intrinsic value; never negative, unpleasant or evil; disoriented in time and space; and accompanied by a loss of fear, anxiety, doubts, and inhibitions.
The two types of peak experiences are relative and absolute. Relative characterize those peak experiences in which there remains an awareness of subject and object, and which are extensions of the individual’s own experiences. They are not true mystical experiences, but rather inspirations, ecstasies, and raptures. It is thought that probably the majority of peak experiences fall into this category. Absolute peak experiences are characteristic of mystical experiences, and are comparable to experiences of great mystics in history. They are timeless, spaceless, and characterized by unity, in which the subject and object becomes one.
Synonyms: Higher level of consciousness.
Cross-cultural comparisons: Maslow has proposed that human motivation can be understood as resulting from a hierarchy of needs. These needs, starting with the most basic physiological demands, progress upward through safety needs, belonging needs, and esteem needs and culminate in self-actualization. Each level directs behaviour toward the need level that is not being adequately met. As lower-level needs are met, the motivation to meet the higher-level needs becomes active. Furthermore, as an individual progresses upward, it becomes progressively more difficult to successfully fulfill the needs of each higher level. For this reason Maslow believed that very few people actually reach the level of self-actualization, and it is a lifelong process for the few who do.
Based on his observations of individuals he believed to be self-actualized, including historical figures such as the U.S. presidents Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson, Maslow outlined a cluster of 14 characteristics that distinguish self-actualized individuals. Summarized, these characteristics define individuals who are accepting of themselves and others, are relatively independent of the culture or society in which they live, are somewhat detached but with very close personal ties to a few other people, and are deeply committed to solving problems that they deem important. Additionally, self-actualized individuals intensely appreciate simple or natural events, such as a sunrise, and they sometimes experience profound changes that Maslow termed peak experiences. Although difficult to describe, peak experiences often involve a momentary loss of self and feelings of transcendence. Reports of peak experiences also include the feeling of limitless horizons opening up and of being simultaneously very powerful, yet weak. Peak experiences are extremely positive in nature and often cause an individual to change the direction of his or her future behaviour. Maslow believed that everyone is capable of having peak experiences, but he believed that self-actualized persons have these experiences more often. (Encyclopaedia Britannica)
Relevance of the concept: positive life changing experience.
The concept in mythology: The mountain.
Supporting evidence: Abraham Maslow’s research.
Literature: Books / Articles / Websites:
Maslow, A.H. (1964). Religions, Values and Peak-experiences. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press.
Etymology: ancient Greek, pentekoste meant “fiftieth day”—that is, the fiftieth day after Easter (counting Easter itself). On that day, Christians celebrate an event described in the Bible that took place fifty days after Christ’s resurrection, when the apostles heard the rush of a mighty wind, saw tongues of fire descending on them, and heard the Holy Spirit speaking from their own mouths but in other tongues (languages).
Technical description: of, relating to, or constituting any of various Christian religious bodies that emphasize individual experiences of grace, spiritual gifts (such as glossolalia and faith healing), expressive worship, and evangelism
Phenomenological description: The activation of subtle energies on a high mystical level.
Synonyms: the Fire of Pentecost or the fire of the Holy Spirit, called Kundalini by the Hindus
Cross-cultural comparisons: Kundalini activation.
Relevance of the concept: Pentecost [from Greek pentekoste fiftieth day] The seven weeks, or fifty days counting inclusively, after the Hebrew Passover. First fruits of the harvest were offered, and later the day came to be regarded as commemorative of the reception of the law by the Children of Israel fifty days after the departure from Egypt. The Christian churches have taken it over and regard it as commemorative of the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the apostles in tongues of fire, as recorded in the New Testament; and they have made it the seventh Sunday after Easter.
Literature: Books / Articles / Websites:
The New Testament.
Word definition: Eternal.
Etymology: Aldous Huxley’s book: The Perennial Philosophy 
Technical description: Perennial philosophy, is a contemporary movement of thought that considers the various philosophical schools to be mere variants of an underlying, age-old vision or “Weltanschauung” that is common to all cultures and intuitively grasps what is essential about life.
Phenomenological description: Universalistic view.
Literature: Books / Articles / Websites:
Aldous Huxley: The Perennial Philosophy 
Word definition: study of subject and objects of a person’s experience.
Etymology: Word Origin & History: 1797, from German Phänomenologie, used as the title of the fourth part of the “Neues Organon” of German physicist Johann Heinrich Lambert (1728-1777), coined from Greek phainomenon (see phenomenon) + -logia (see -logy). Psychological sense, especially in Gestalt theory, is from 1930. Related: Phenomenological.
Technical description: Phenomenology (from Greek phainómenon “that which appears” and lógos “study”) is the philosophical study of the structures of experience and consciousness. As a philosophical movement it was founded in the early years of the 20th century by Edmund Husserl and was later expanded upon by a circle of his followers at the universities of Göttingen and Munich in Germany. It then spread to France, the United States, and elsewhere, often in contexts far removed from Husserl’s early work.
Phenomenological description: Phenomenology, in Husserl’s conception, is primarily concerned with the systematic reflection on and study of the structures of consciousness and the phenomena that appear in acts of consciousness. Phenomenology can be clearly differentiated from the Cartesian method of analysis which sees the world as objects, sets of objects, and objects acting and reacting upon one another.
u den Sachen selbst (“to the things themselves”), by which they meant the taking of a fresh approach to concretely experienced phenomena—an approach as free as possible from conceptual presuppositions—and the attempt to describe them as faithfully as possible. Moreover, most adherents to phenomenology hold that it is possible to obtain insights into the essential structures and the essential relationships of these phenomena on the basis of a careful study of concrete examples supplied by experience or imagination and by a systematic variation of these examples in the imagination. Some phenomenologists also stress the need for studying the ways in which the phenomena appear in object-directed, or “intentional,” consciousness. (Encyclopaedia Britannica)
Synonyms: First person orientated research.
Relevance of the concept: Phenomenology, a philosophical movement originating in the 20th century, the primary objective of which is the direct investigation and description of phenomena as consciously experienced, without theories about their causal explanation and as free as possible from unexamined preconceptions and presuppositions.
The concept in mythology: The mirror.
Supporting evidence: An example of the effectiveness of the phenomenological method is Max Scheler’s research into emotions. ( M.J.M.)
Philosophical dualism / pluralism
Word definition: Mind–body dualism, or mind–body duality, is a view in the philosophy of mind that mental phenomena are, in some respects, non-physical, or that the mind and body are distinct and separable. Thus, it encompasses a set of views about the relationship between mind and matter, and between subject and object, and is contrasted with other positions, such as physicalism and enactivism, in the mind–body problem. (Wikipedia)
Technical description: Aristotle shared Plato‘s view of multiple souls and further elaborated a hierarchical arrangement, corresponding to the distinctive functions of plants, animals, and people: a nutritive soul of growth and metabolism that all three share; a perceptive soul of pain, pleasure, and desire that only people and other animals share; and the faculty of reason that is unique to people only. In this view, a soul is the hylomorphic form of a viable organism, wherein each level of the hierarchy formally supervenes upon the substance of the preceding level. Thus, for Aristotle, all three souls perish when the living organism dies For Plato however, the soul was not dependent on the physical body; he believed in metempsychosis, the migration of the soul to a new physical body. (Wikipedia)
Dualists in the philosophy of mind emphasize the radical difference between mind and matter. They all deny that the mind is the same as the brain, and some deny that the mind is wholly a product of the brain. This article explores the various ways that dualists attempt to explain this radical difference between the mental and the physical world. A wide range of arguments for and against the various dualistic options are discussed.
Substance dualists typically argue that the mind and the body are composed of different substances and that the mind is a thinking thing that lacks the usual attributes of physical objects: size, shape, location, solidity, motion, adherence to the laws of physics, and so on. Substance dualists fall into several camps depending upon how they think mind and body are related. Interactionists believe that minds and bodies causally affect one another. Occasionalists and parallelists, generally motivated by a concern to preserve the integrity of physical science, deny this, ultimately attributing all apparent interaction to God. Epiphenomenalists offer a compromise theory, asserting that bodily events can have mental events as effects while denying that the reverse is true, avoiding any threat to the scientific law of conservation of energy at the expense of the common sense notion that we act for reasons.
Property dualists argue that mental states are irreducible attributes of brain states. For the property dualist, mental phenomena are non-physical properties of physical substances. Consciousness is perhaps the most widely recognized example of a non-physical property of physical substances. Still other dualists argue that mental states, dispositions and episodes are brain states, although the states cannot be conceptualized in exactly the same way without loss of meaning. (IEP)
Greece and the Hellenistic world
Analogous dualistic concepts may be found in the early Greek Theogony of Hesiod in his myths of the gods Uranus, Cronus, and Zeus and the conflict between primordial and later gods. It was in the later, Classical Greek world, however, that dualism was most evident. Many of the pre-Socratic philosophers (6th and 5th centuries bce) were dualistic in various ways. In the teachings of Parmenides, for example, noted for reducing the world to a static One—a classical instance of monism—there is still a radical opposition between the realms of Being and Opinion—between ultimate reality and the world of human sense experience. On the other hand, in the doctrines of Heracleitus, noted for reducing the world to fiery Change, the conflict of opposites (hot-cold, day-night, beginning-end, the-way-up–the-way-down), called by Heracleitus polemos (“war”), was exalted to become a metaphysical principle. Though these opposites are piecemeal dyads, their effect taken together is as a whole dualistic. The dualism of Empedocles, simultaneously a religious teacher and a natural philosopher, is especially striking, for he viewed the primordial sphere of the universe as undergoing cycles alternately under the dominance of the antithetical principles of Love and Discord, which periodically break and then reconstruct it. In this context there exist daimones (“souls”), divine beings that have fallen from a superior world into this world and exist clothed in the “foreign robe of the flesh.” These souls are therefore subject to transmigration through a series of vegetable, animal, and human bodies, owing to a primitive accident for which credit was given “to the furious Discord.”
The same antithetical principles are to be found in Orphism, a Greek mystical school, which constituted an independent development within Greek religion and philosophy; beginning in the 6th century bce, it was part of a “mysteriosophic” trend that sought to attain the wisdom of secret mystic and cultic doctrines. Orphism is characterized by its sōma–sēma, or body-tomb concept, which saw the body as a prison or tomb in which the soul—a divine element akin to the gods—is incarcerated. In addition to this psychophysical dualism of soul and body, the Orphic idea that “everything comes from the One and returns to the One” demonstrates a typical dialectical dualism, in which an implicit monism is involved. Developing on an analogous level, Pythagorean numerical and mystical speculation—arising from the 6th-century-bce Greek philosopher and religious teacher Pythagoras—also stressed the dualistic opposition of Monad-Dyad (One-Two) and of other dialectical pairs of opposites.
Many of these dualistic ideas, especially the Orphic and Pythagorean ones, are also found in writings of the Greek philosopher Plato, such as the Timaeus, Phaedo, Gorgias, and Cratylus. In these writings a divine part of the human soul that is directly infused by the divinity and a mortal part (passionate and vegetative) are defined and considered. The mortal part is assigned to humanity by inferior divinities, charged to do so by the supreme divinity; and the appetitive passions involved, if followed, are held to be responsible for the punishments that the soul will suffer during various periods of habitation in the other world and reincarnations in this one. Thus, God remains free of blame for human destiny. The mortal or spoiled part of humanity is further attributed, in Plato’s Laws, to the “titanic nature” within its makeup—an element of violence and impiety inherited from the primordial rebellious Titans, sons of the Earth.
Plato’s notions of humanity were rooted in both ontology and cosmology—i.e., in views on being and on the orderly structure of the universe. In the Timaeus he considers the cosmos as a single harmony, which for the sake of completeness requires the existence of inferior levels that are bound not only to matter but also to Necessity (the realm of things that could not have been otherwise and that are hence not amenable to divine activity). A different view is found in his Laws, which describes two “Souls” of the World, one of which causes good and one evil. The Politicus is concerned with two eternally recurring alternating cycles in the cosmos, with successive epochs guided either by the gods or by humans.
Plato’s central inspiration, which unifies his metaphysics, his cosmology, his anthropology, and his doctrine of the soul, was basically dualistic (in the sense of dialectical dualism) with two irreducible principles: the Idea, or form, and the chora (or material “receptacle”) in which the Idea impresses itself. All of this world is conditioned by materiality and necessity, and because of this, the descent of souls into bodies is said to be rendered necessary as well.
Neoplatonism, a 3rd-century-ce development from Plato’s thought, conceived the cosmos as a harmony with a succession of levels emanating from an ultimate unit. There was in the system, nevertheless, a rupture of the harmony of the cosmos called tolma (“the audacity”), which served as an explanation for the descent of Soul into the material world—and thus constituted a dualistic element.
In gnosticism, a Hellenistic religious movement that entered original Christianity from earlier pagan sources and that viewed matter as evil and spirit as good, dualism manifested itself in a more dramatic way. Gnostic dualism cannot be understood without reference to both Judaism and Christianity, and perhaps even to Zoroastrianism, since gnostic eschatological characteristics were derived from them. Gnosticism was also connected with certain principles of Orphism and Platonism; reflecting the Orphic body-tomb doctrine, for example, gnosticism adopted a firmly antisomatic stance (against the body) and similarly adopted the concept of the divine soul—the pneumatic, or spiritual, soul, as the gnostic would say, of the same substance as the divinity—that is destined to free itself from the tyranny of a material, cosmic demiurge (or subordinate deity). Certain gnostics, moreover, developed a radical anticosmism in which they registered their animosity against the material universe by cursing the stars—which brought them bitter reproach from Plotinus, the founder of Neoplatonism. As viewed by the gnostic Ophite sect, which venerated the ophis (“snake”) as a symbol of knowledge, the cosmos comprises three parts: the superior world, the inferior world (material and chaotic), and the intermediate world, or logos (“word” or “reason”)—the logos being depicted as a snake that impresses spiritual forms into the chaotic matter. These forms—life, soul, and vital masculine substance—are later freed again, a liberation that completely empties the material world.
Such gnostic views are of two types: Iranian and Syrian-Egyptian. Iranian gnosticism is characterized by an absolute, radical dualism: light and darkness, pneuma (“spirit”) and chaotic formless matter, oppose each other from eternity. Syrian-Egyptian gnosticism is characterized by a dualism that is mitigated (as earlier defined) but also drastic: the inferior world, the chaotic darkness, begins to exist only at a special moment owing to an accident in the divine world, and this accident is usually also identified with an “audacity,” a defect in one of the “aeons,” or divine entities.
In the Indo-Iranian period (2nd millennium bce) there were already tendencies toward dualistic thought, especially in myths relating to monstrous and demonic beings who still the movement of the waters and thus make cosmic life impossible. In later archaic Indian speculation there was also a tendency to oppose devas (“gods”) to asuras (“demons”). Iranian dualism, however, expressed itself most characteristically in Zoroastrianism. In the Zoroastrian religious texts, the Gāthās, there is an opposition between two spirits, the Beneficent Spirit (Spenta Mainyu) and the Destructive Spirit (Angra Mainyu, or Ahriman). These two spirits are different, irreducible principles; at the beginning they have chosen life and nonlife, respectively. Though the Beneficent Spirit is almost a hypostasis (the substance) of the divinity (Ahura Mazdā, or Ormazd), nothing is said in the Gāthās about the origin of the Destructive Spirit. In any case, the very fact that the Destructive Spirit is said to be the “twin brother” of the Beneficent One does not imply that he is a son of Ahura Mazdā but implies only that the two spirits are “symmetrical”—i.e., equal and contrary as to their respective efficacy and orientation.
Medieval Zoroastrian treatises present radical and eschatological dualisms in their extreme forms. According to the Bundahishn (“Primordial Creation”) text, Ormazd and Ahriman have always existed. Ormazd is represented as lofty, in the light, full of omniscience and goodness, while Ahriman is represented as debased, in darkness, full of aggressiveness and ignorance. Ormazd’s omniscience allows him to conceive and to actualize the Creation and Time, because only these can offer him an arena in which to accost Ahriman and eliminate him.
The medieval Zoroastrian treatises also describe another dual formulation, the two realms of creation and of reality: the mēnōk (“potential, embryonic, initial, heavenly, and invisible”) and the gētīk (“realized, final, worldly, concrete, and visible”). But this opposition does not imply a devaluation of the gētīk, of this world.
Zurvanism, a Zoroastrian heretical movement (c. 3rd/4th century bce–7th century ce), was also dualistic. The very names of Zurvān (Time-Destiny) and the partially synonymous zamān (“time”) already appear in the later Avesta and in medieval treatises, in which Time is the milieu in which Ormazd and Ahriman fight. Also, a myth attributed to Zoroastrian priests by later, non-Iranian sources speaks of Zurvān as the father of Ormazd and Ahriman. At times Zurvanite mythology tends toward formulations of a gnostic and Manichaean type (women paid allegiance, for example, to Ahriman, who has partial authority in the world). Zurvanism also developed theosophic characteristics (involving mystical insights), such as that which discerned the ambivalence of Zurvān—namely, that although an evil element (an evil thought or spiritual corruption) has always existed within him, he nonetheless, so it seems, eliminates the evil by expressing it and is thus worthy to be identified with the supreme divinity (Yazdān).
Among South and East Asian religions
Dualisms have also appeared in various forms in the religions of India and China.
Indian dualism has involved the opposition of the One and the many, of reality and appearance. In an ancient Hindu hymn (Rigveda, 10.90), Purusha, the ancient primordial Man and “the Immortal that is in heaven,” is opposed to this world. The three quarters of Purusha that comprise the transcendent world are opposed to the other quarter of him (his limbs) that is this world; i.e., the divine foundation, the divine substance of this world, is made out of his limbs. Early speculation on the identity of the atman (“self”) and brahman (the very core of reality), as opposed to the material and visible world that is subject to maya (“mundane illusion”), has been mentioned above.
The Samkhya school of Indian philosophy presents another, probably later, formulation of dualism based on two eternal and opposed cosmic principles: prakriti (“original matter”) and purusha (“spirit”). Matter is differentiated into three different gunyas (“qualities”) that articulate the three levels of the being and essential nature of humanity in hierarchical connection with each other. Spirit, in itself free, eternal, and infinite, becomes involved in matter by the development of the latter. Salvation coincides with the knowledge of the state of things: “I (spirit) am one thing and It (matter) is another.”
Classical Chinese thought—which began with the teaching of the philosopher Confucius (flourished early 5th century bce) and ended with the close of the Warring States period in 221 bce—upheld the notion of a dynamic universe and thus generally eschewed the radical dualism that emerged in India, Iran, and Europe. The notion of yinyang, the opposed polarities of cosmic flux, may at first seem dualistic: yin is associated with passivity and femininity, yang with activity and masculinity. Yet yin and yang are not radically separate; they complement and permeate each other, emerging as two extreme aspects of the constant transformation of the Dao (the “Way” of the universe). Likewise, all of the ten thousand things (a Chinese metaphor for the world) are seen as the cumulative product of the generative forces of heaven and earth (tiandi). Like yin and yang, however, heaven and earth are complementary aspects of a continuous process of creation and not radically separate entities.
A more extreme dualism appeared as Chinese thinkers encountered intellectual systems—most notably, Buddhism—that originated outside China. Even so, the emphasis in Chinese thought remained primarily on harmony, rather than tension, between opposites. Wang Bi (226–249), who developed much of the terminology and many of the concepts of Chinese ontology, distinguished being (you) from nonbeing (wu), the latter of which he equated with the Dao. Rather than nothingness, however, nonbeing is pure being. Wang referred to wu as the “Great Note” that harmonizes the other notes (beings) that constitute the symphony of the universe.
The philosophy of the neo-Confucian thinker Zhu Xi (1130–1200), which subsequently influenced greater East Asian culture, gave rise to controversies between dualistic interpretations of his system. Zhu stated that the universe and everything in it is a combination of li (principle, but also connoting a concept akin to natural law; literally “pattern”) and qi (life force or matter energy; literally “vital breath”). When principle combines with matter-energy, a thing exists. For Zhu, principle and matter-energy are obverse sides of the same coin: both are generated by the fluctuations of the Great Ultimate (taiji). Yet, while he insisted that principle and matter-energy are never separate, Zhu seemed to give ontological priority to principle, which provides order to dynamic, chaotic matter-energy. The question of the relationship between li and qi generated intense debate among neo-Confucian thinkers not only within China but also in Korea and Japan.
Among religions of the West
Dualisms have appeared in Western religions chiefly under the impact of gnostic influences.
No real dualism is found in Judaism, except in the gnostic and theosophic forms of Jewish mysticism known as Kabbala. The presence of a vigorous and universal monotheism implies not only faith in a single creative god but also faith in a god who is the uncontested master of history, and neither Satan nor Belial detracts from this absolute monotheism. Within these limitations, however, a tendency toward dualistic thought can be seen in such late noncanonical texts as the First Book of Enoch (c. 1st century bce), in which certain angels are said to have fallen as a consequence of their wedding with the daughters of human beings. These angels, it is held, taught humans the malevolent arts of magic, seduction, and violence, together with such elements of culture as writing and the use of metals. Though there is no dualism in the proper sense in the Manual of Discipline, one of the Qumrān texts of the Dead Sea Scrolls, a certain polarity is nonetheless displayed in a passage that asserts of God that
he created man to have dominion over the world and made for him two spirits, so that he may walk by them until the time of his visitation: they are the spirits of truth and error. In the dwelling of light are the origins of the truth, and from a spring of darkness are the origins of error. In the hand of the Prince of Lights is dominion over all the children of righteousness, in the ways of light they walk. And in the hand of the angel of darkness is all dominion over the children of error; and in the ways of darkness they walk.
The context of this passage, however, is completely monotheistic. It expresses a doctrine also found in the Didachē, a Jewish-Christian work of the early 2nd century ce (better known as the Teachings of the Twelve Apostles), that of the two roads on which an individual may walk, the good road and the bad, the road of life and that of death, with God leaving the choice of the road to one’s free will. It also expresses the later rabbinic doctrine of the struggle between the good and evil inclinations (yetzer) within each human. There is also no hint of dualism in the two “sources” mentioned in the Qumrān texts, the bright source and the dark. These are hardly dualistic principles (in the ontological sense of the term) but are simply radical (i.e., original) polarities in spiritual orientation. (Not even the “Angel of Darkness,” mentioned in the same context, is a principle, though he is a person and a power.)
There is thus no true parallelism with the two principles that appear in Iranian Zurvanism. Elements of dualistic thought (in a Platonic sense) are also found in the works of the Jewish Hellenistic philosopher Philo of Alexandria (1st century ce), whose philosophy was dualistic in its doctrines about the universe and humanity but without shaking his basic adherence to biblical monotheism.
In Christianity, dualistic concepts appeared principally in its gnostic developments. But even in the 2nd-century Judaizing sect of the Encratites, which was not really gnostic, there were dualistic aspects that had modified some tendencies of later Judaism. These teachings were also particularly prominent in the writings of the supporters of Docetism (the doctrine that Christ, being divine, did not suffer and die; 2nd century), who held that matter is essentially evil and that the soul is a preexistent substance. According to the Encratites, the preexistent soul, once it “gets effeminated by concupiscence,” drops into the carnal world. Since generation perpetuates the soul’s state of decay in this bodily world, the Encratites condemned all sexual relations.
The dualism of Marcion (a 2nd-century semi-gnostic Christian heretic) was really a ditheism (a system positing two gods), though common gnostic presuppositions—such as antisomatism and anticosmism, the condemnation of the body and the material universe—were also present in his thought. For Marcion, the God of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) is an inferior and harsh creator demiurge, author of the world and of humankind, who is nonetheless completely distinct from the supreme divinity, who manifested himself in Jesus and is a stranger to this world.
For Saturninus (or Satornil) of Antioch, the founder of a 2nd-century Syrian gnostic group that was commonly connected with the tradition of Simon Magus (reputed leader of an earlier gnostic sect), the God of the Hebrew Bible is only one of the angels, the martial angel of the Judaic nation, although (as with Marcion) he is distinct from the Devil, who is in fact his opponent. According to Saturninus, a primordial accident caused a wave of pneuma (“spirit”) to land in the inferior darkness, where it is said to have remained prisoner and now continues its existence in those who, characterized by the presence in them of this superior element, will later be conducted back to their heavenly origin by Jesus, a messenger coming from above.
Conceptions of a similar type are also found in the “Psalm [or Hymn] of the Naassenes” (Naassene is the Hebrew term for Ophite, mentioned above) and in the “Song of the Pearl” in the gnostic Acts of Thomas; here also occurs the concept of a “saviour to be saved,” who has been sent from above and was made a prisoner by darkness. This basic concept was developed fully only in Manichaeism.
The gnostic-dualist view survived in late antiquity and into the Middle Ages, both in the East, among the Mandaeans, Yazīdī, and some extreme sects within the Shīʿite branch of Islam, and in the West, among the Bogomils and Cathari. It is still present today in modern theosophy.
Among religions of modern indigenous peoples
Religious dualism also manifests itself among nonliterate peoples, especially in the concept of a “second” figure, an ambivalent demiurge-trickster who can be both a collaborator and a rival of the supreme being and independent of the latter in origin. Such tricksters include the Coyote (in North American Indian mythology), the Raven (among Paleo-Siberians), and the Crow (among the Southeast Australian tribes). To these animal figures are attributed the origin of such negative aspects of life as death and illness. But they are also credited as benefactors—e.g., in creating utilities in the cosmos and in the invention of fire. The demiurge-trickster is typically ambivalent, tremendously frightful and efficacious, but also frequently limited in power. For example, such tricksters are often incapable of animating the beings that they have molded and must therefore request the help of the supreme being in bringing them to life. They are said to be selfish, lonely, and unhappy, and because of these qualities they are moved, despite their arrogance, to attempt to relate themselves to or unite with the supreme being.
A typically dual composition (involving the coexistence and cooperation of two elements), or even a dualistic opposition (as two opposed elements that function as principles in respect to the actual creation), is found in the Dogon (western Sudanese) notions about Nommo and Yurugu, already mentioned. A series of words refers to both principles; i.e., a series of realities and categories can be named that constitute the world in its functional variety, which transcend the simple good-evil opposition, and according to which both Nommo and Yurugu are dualistic “principles” essential to the actual dynamics of the world.
Other dualistic concepts among indigenous peoples posit opposite the supreme being a violent and death-bearing second figure of a demiurgical type. The character of Erlik in the mythologies of the Central Asiatic Turks (e.g., among the Altaics) is typical.
Erlik is a king of the dead and master of death who assumes the role of a fraudulent and unfortunate collaborator with the supreme being. In stories about the origin of the universe, he appears as an aquatic bird in charge (under the supreme being) of fishing a little earth from the bottom of the primordial sea—a theme also well-known in eastern European folklore. In other myths, a similar being spits on human beings at the time they are created by God or breathes his bad spirit into man or woman. Elsewhere there is depicted an opposition of twin brothers, of whom one is the demiurge-creator of good things and the other of death; both, however, are the sons of a mother goddess of heavenly origin. This pattern is exemplified in the Iroquoian myth of Yoskeha and Tawiskaron—a myth curiously reminiscent of certain aspects of the Iranian Zurvanite mythology.
Other ethnological polarities, or pairs of opposites (eastern-western, celestial-terrestrial, solar-lunar divinities, right-left, full moon–dark moon, and so on) are dualistic in the sense of contrasting principles or creating agencies. (Encyclopaedia Britannica) Bewerken
Relevance of the concept: Another and perhaps more important distinction is that between dialectical and eschatological dualism. Dialectical dualism involves an eternal dialectic, or tension, of two opposed principles, such as, in Western culture, the One and the many, or Idea and matter (or space, called by Plato “the receptacle”), and, in Indian culture, maya (the illusory world of sense experience and multiplicity) and atman–brahman (the essential identity of self and ultimate reality). Dialectical dualism ordinarily implies a cyclical, or eternally repetitive, view of history. Eschatological dualism—i.e., a dualism concerned with the ultimate destiny of humanity and the world, how things will be in the “last” times—on the other hand, conceives of a final resolution of the present dualistic state of things, in which evil will be eliminated at the end of a linear history constituted of a series of unrepeatable events instead of a cyclical, repetitive one. The ancient Iranian religions, Zoroastrianism and Manichaeism, and gnosticism—a religio-philosophical movement influential in the Hellenistic world—provide examples of eschatological dualism. A type of thought, such as Platonism, that insists on a profound harmony in the cosmos, is thus more radically dualistic, because of its irreducibly dialectical character, than Zoroastrianism and Manichaeism, with their emphasis on the cosmic struggle between two antithetical principles (good and evil). Midway between these extremes is gnostic dualism, which has an ontology (or theory of being) of an Orphic-Platonic type (see below Among ancient civilizations and peoples) but which also affirms the final disappearance and annihilation of evil with the eventual destruction of the material world—and thus comprises both dialectical and eschatological dualism.
In philosophy, dualism is often identified with the doctrine of transcendence—that there is a separate realm or being above and beyond the world—as opposed to monism, which holds that the ultimate principle is inside the world (immanent). In the disciplines concerned with the study of religions, however, religious dualism refers not to the distinction or separation of God and the world but to the doctrine of two basic principles, a doctrine that, moreover, may easily be compatible with a form of monism (e.g., Orphism or the Advaita school of Vedanta) that makes the opposition between the One and the many absolute and sees in multiplicity merely a fragmentation (or illusory obliteration) of the One. (Encyclopaedia Britannica)
The concept in mythology: While there was generally no explicit dualism in ancient Egyptian religion, there was an implicit dualism in the contrast between the god Seth and the god Osiris. Seth, a violent, aggressive, “foreign,” sterile god, connected with disorder, the desert, and loneliness, was opposed to Osiris, the god of fertility and life, active in the waters of the Nile. Seth also possessed some typically dualistic marks of a mythological character: his action, as well as his personality itself, was ambivalent; and, as a typical trickster, he was also capable, at times, of constructive action in the cosmos. The myths of Osiris and Seth may be compared in various ways with those recently discovered among the Dogon people of the western Sudan, which contrast Nommo, a fertile and happily mated primordial being pictured in fish form, with Yurugu (“Pale Fox”), an unhappy, sterile character who lives in the wilderness without a mate. Yurugu is considered to be the element that makes the universe complete (the same role assigned to Seth in the Egyptian myth).
Dualism, broadly speaking, was also present in ancient Mesopotamian religion. In myths pertaining to the origin of the gods and of the cosmos, the opposition between the primordial deities (Apsu, the Abyss, and Tiamat, the Sea) and the new ones (particularly Marduk, the demiurge, or creator) displayed some dualistic aspects. Though the earlier deities had established the basic reality of the universe—its ontological core—because of their chaotic and selfish nature they resisted their own offspring, who were later to create the now existing definite order of the cosmos. A dualism of the ontological—basic reality or being—versus the cosmological—the form or order of the material universe—is thus implicitly affirmed. (Encyclopaedia Britannica)
Citations: Roger Penrose, professor of mathematics at Oxford:
“I think often people take the view that there is another kind of reality which is the mental reality. Certainly philosophers might have that view. Some might even regard the mental world as being in some sense primary and the physical world is somehow to be thought of as a construct from mentality. I don’t particularly like that view. In my view you have to think of a third one. I am sometimes accused of being not just a dualist but actually a trialist, which is even worse.
I think it is just a useful way of talking about things, in particular mathematics seems to have its own kind of existence. It is very important in understanding the physical world that our way of describing the physical world, certainly at its most precise, has to do with mathematics. There is no getting away from it.
mathematics seems to have its own kind of existence. It is very important in understanding the physical world that our way of describing the physical world, certainly at its most precise, has to do with mathematics. There is no getting away from it. That mathematics has to have been there since the beginning of time. It has eternal existence. Timelessness really. It doesn’t have any location in space. It doesn’t have any location in time. Some people would take it not having a location with not having any existence at all. But it is hard to talk about science really without giving mathematics some kind of reality because that is how you describe your theories in terms of mathematical structures.
It also has this relationship to mentality because we certainly have access to mathematical truths. I think it is useful to think of the world as not being a creation of our minds because if we do then how could it have been there before we were around? If the world is obeying mathematical laws with extraordinary precision since the beginning of time, well, there were no human beings and no conscious beings of any kind around then. So how can mathematics have been the creation of minds and still been there controlling the universe?
I think it is very valuable to think of this Platonic mathematical world as having its own existence. So let’s allow that and say that there are three different kinds of existence. There may be others, but three kinds of existence: the normal, physical existence; the mental existence (which seems to have, in some sense, an even greater reality – it is what we are directly aware of or directly perceive); and the mathematical world which seems to be out there in some sense conjuring itself into existence – it has to be there in some sense.
Then there is the relationship between these three worlds which I regard, all three of them, as somewhat mysterious or very mysterious. I sometimes refer to this as “three worlds and three mysteries.” Mystery number one is how is it that the physical world does in fact accord with mathematics, and not just any mathematics but very sophisticated, subtle mathematics to such a fantastic degree of precision. That’s mystery number one.
Mystery number two is it that when you have physical structures of the right kind and here I’m referring very specifically to human living human wakeful healthy brains, probably many other animals I would say also have this quality of mentality somehow it’s evoked when the structures have the right character whatever that is.
So there is mentality seems to have this deep relation to certain kinds of physical
Mystery number three which has to do with our access to the world of mathematics. And why it’s a mystery is perhaps not so clear but it’s something that you can’t describe in terms of purely computational activity, that’s something outside that’s involved in our appreciation of mathematics.
Even just knowing wat the natural numbers 0 1 2 3 4 I could say that you see and explain that to a child… and they get the idea, they know what they’re talking about, they know what numbers are, but you can’t characterize simply by axiomatic procedures what the natural numbers are thus of theorems and logic to say anything. So how do you know what they are if you can’t describe in a finite set of rules what these numbers are. So it’s a mystery there, that’s mystery number three.”
Supporting evidence: The existence of qualia, parapsychological data.
Word definition: One of the main nadi’s.
Etymology: Several of the ancient Upanishads use the concept of nadis (channels). Nadi system is mentioned in the Chandogya Upanishad (8~6 cc. BCE), verse 8.6.6. and in verses 3.6-3.7 of the Prasna Upanishad (second half of the 1 millennium BC).
Technical description: One of the main nadi’s in the spine.
Phenomenological description: The Pingala is situated in the spine, is 9.mm across and red in colour. ( M.J.M.)
Cross-cultural comparisons: Other cultures also work with concepts similar to nadis and prâna:
Chinese: Systems based on Traditional Chinese Medicine work with an energy concept called qi. Qi travels through meridians similar in description to the nadis. The microcosmic orbit practice has many similarities to certain Indian nadi shuddha (channel clearing) exercises and the practice of Kriya Yoga.
European: Sometimes the three main nadis (Ida, Pingala and Sushumna) are related to the Caduceus of Hermes: “the two snakes of which symbolize the kundalini or serpent-fire which is presently to be set in motion along those channels, while the wings typify the power of conscious flight through higher planes which the development of that fire confers”. (Wikipedia)
The concept in mythology: The snake staff.
Supporting evidence: Intercultural data.
Word definition: Maslow’s description of an experience between a peak experience and a permanent experience.
Etymology: 1796, “elevated tract of relatively level land,” from French plateau “table-land,” from Old French platel (12c.) “flat piece of metal, wood, etc.,” diminutive of plat “flat surface or thing,” noun use of adjective plat “flat, stretched out” (12c.), perhaps from Vulgar Latin *plattus, from Greek platys “flat, wide, broad” (from PIE root *plat- “to spread”). Meaning “stage at which no progress is apparent” is attested from 1897, originally in psychology of learning.
Technical description: Maslow defined the term “plateau experience” as a kind of continuing peak experience that is more voluntary, noetic, and cognitive. He described it as a witnessing or cognitive blissfulness. It achievement requires a lifetime of long and hard effort, he stated.
Phenomenological description: An increased access and stabilisation of a higher level of consciousness.
The concept in mythology: Birds eye view.
Etymology: 1530s, “of or pertaining to Greek philosopher Plato” (429 B.C.E.-c. 347 B.C.E.), from Latin Platonicus, from Greek Platonikos. The name is Greek Platon, properly “broad-shouldered” (from platys “broad;” from PIE root *plat- “to spread”).
Technical description: The theory of forms
Plato is famous for his theory of forms. Just what the theory is, and whether it was ever viable, are matters of extreme controversy. To readers who approach Plato in English, the relationship between forms and sensible particulars, called in translation “participation,” seems purposely mysterious. Moreover, the claim that the sensible realm is not fully real, and that it contrasts in this respect with the “pure being” of the forms, is perplexing. A satisfactory interpretation of the theory must rely on both historical knowledge and philosophical imagination.
Linguistic and philosophical background
The terms that Plato uses to refer to forms, idea and eidos, ultimately derive from the verb eidô, “to look.” Thus, an idea or eidos would be the look a thing presents, as when one speaks of a vase as having a lovely form. (Because the mentalistic connotation of idea in English is misleading—the Parmenides shows that forms cannot be ideas in a mind—this translation has fallen from favour.) Both terms can also be used in a more general sense to refer to any feature that two or more things have in common or to a kind of thing based on that feature. The English word form is similar. The sentence “The pottery comes in two forms” can be glossed as meaning either that the pottery is made in two shapes or that there are two kinds of pottery. When Plato wants to contrast genus with species, he tends to use the terms genos and eidos, translated as “genus” and “species,” respectively. Although it is appropriate in the context to translate these as “genus” and “species,” respectively, it is important not to lose sight of the continuity provided by the word eidos: even in these passages Plato is referring to the same kind of entities as always, the forms. (Encyclopaedia Britannica)
However: The renowned British philosopher A.N Whitehead once commented on Plato’s thought: “The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato. I do not mean the systematic scheme of thought which scholars have doubtfully extracted from his writings. I allude to the wealth of general ideas scattered through them”.
Source/Citation: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
See further: https://marinusjanmarijs.com/evidence-based-approach/14-research-areas/cosmological-planning/platonic-forms/
Relevance of the concept: Mathematical Platonism is any metaphysical account of mathematics that implies mathematical entities exist, that they are abstract, and that they are independent of all our rational activities. For example, a Platonist might assert that the number pi exists outside of space and time and has the characteristics it does regardless of any mental or physical activities of human beings. Mathematical Platonists are often called “realists,” although, strictly speaking, there can be realists who are not platonists because they do not accept the Platonist requirement that mathematical entities be abstract.
Mathematical Platonism enjoys widespread support and is frequently considered the default metaphysical position with respect to mathematics. This is unsurprising given its extremely natural interpretation of mathematical practice. In particular, mathematical Platonism takes at face-value such well known truths as that “there exist” an infinite number of prime numbers, and it provides straightforward explanations of mathematical objectivity and of the differences between mathematical and spatio-temporal entities. Thus arguments for mathematical Platonism typically assert that in order for mathematical theories to be true their logical structure must refer to some mathematical entities, that many mathematical theories are indeed objectively true, and that mathematical entities are not constituents of the spatio-temporal realm. IEP
The concept in mythology: Plato’s myth of the cave
Citations: Idea, as Plato pointed out, means primarily a prototype existing in the cosmic mind and manifested in forms by the action of cosmic energy, guided by ideation, working in matter.
Supporting evidence: most top-level mathematicians and theoretical physicists are Platonist.
Word definition: Beyond enlightenment
Technical description: A level of spiritual development that goes beyond and is distinct of enlightenment.
Phenomenological description: Mysticism of fullness.
Synonyms: States of Bhava samadhi.
Cross-cultural comparisons: The light body experience.
Relevance of the concept: Future development of humanity.
The concept in mythology: The rainbow body.
Word definition: Postmodernism, also spelled post-modernism, in Western philosophy, a late 20th-century movement characterized by broad skepticism, subjectivism, or relativism; a general suspicion of reason; and an acute sensitivity to the role of ideology in asserting and maintaining political and economic power.
Etymology: also post-modernism, by 1977, from post- + modernism. Defined by Terry Eagleton as “the contemporary movement of thought which rejects … the possibility of objective knowledge” and is therefore “skeptical of truth, unity, and progress” [“After Theory,” 2003]. Related: post-modernist (1965).
Technical description: post-modernism, by 1977, from post- + modernism. Defined by Terry Eagleton as “the contemporary movement of thought which rejects … the possibility of objective knowledge” and is therefore “skeptical of truth, unity, and progress”
Postmodernism and modern philosophy
Postmodernism as a philosophical movement is largely a reaction against the philosophical assumptions and values of the modern period of Western (specifically European) history—i.e., the period from about the time of the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries to the mid-20th century. Indeed, many of the doctrines characteristically associated with postmodernism can fairly be described as the straightforward denial of general philosophical viewpoints that were taken for granted during the 18th-century Enlightenment, though they were not unique to that period. The most important of these viewpoints are the following.
- There is an objective natural reality, a reality whose existence and properties are logically independent of human beings—of their minds, their societies, their social practices, or their investigative techniques. Postmodernists dismiss this idea as a kind of naive realism. Such reality as there is, according to postmodernists, is a conceptual construct, an artifact of scientific practice and language. This point also applies to the investigation of past events by historians and to the description of social institutions, structures, or practices by social scientists.
- The descriptive and explanatory statements of scientists and historians can, in principle, be objectively true or false. The postmodern denial of this viewpoint—which follows from the rejection of an objective natural reality—is sometimes expressed by saying that there is no such thing as Truth.
- Through the use of reason and logic, and with the more specialized tools provided by science and technology, human beings are likely to change themselves and their societies for the better. It is reasonable to expect that future societies will be more humane, more just, more enlightened, and more prosperous than they are now. Postmodernists deny this Enlightenment faith in science and technology as instruments of human progress. Indeed, many postmodernists hold that the misguided (or unguided) pursuit of scientific and technological knowledge led to the development of technologies for killing on a massive scale in World War II. Some go so far as to say that science and technology—and even reason and logic—are inherently destructive and oppressive, because they have been used by evil people, especially during the 20th century, to destroy and oppress others.
- Reason and logic are universally valid—i.e., their laws are the same for, or apply equally to, any thinker and any domain of knowledge. For postmodernists, reason and logic too are merely conceptual constructs and are therefore valid only within the established intellectual traditions in which they are used.
- There is such a thing as human nature; it consists of faculties, aptitudes, or dispositions that are in some sense present in human beings at birth rather than learned or instilled through social forces. Postmodernists insist that all, or nearly all, aspects of human psychology are completely socially determined.
- Language refers to and represents a reality outside itself. According to postmodernists, language is not such a “mirror of nature,” as the American pragmatist philosopher Richard Rorty characterized the Enlightenment view. Inspired by the work of the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, postmodernists claim that language is semantically self-contained, or self-referential: the meaning of a word is not a static thing in the world or even an idea in the mind but rather a range of contrasts and differences with the meanings of other words. Because meanings are in this sense functions of other meanings—which themselves are functions of other meanings, and so on—they are never fully “present” to the speaker or hearer but are endlessly “deferred.” Self-reference characterizes not only natural languages but also the more specialized “discourses” of particular communities or traditions; such discourses are embedded in social practices and reflect the conceptual schemes and moral and intellectual values of the community or tradition in which they are used. The postmodern view of language and discourse is due largely to the French philosopher and literary theorist Jacques Derrida (1930–2004), the originator and leading practitioner of deconstruction.
- Human beings can acquire knowledge about natural reality, and this knowledge can be justified ultimately on the basis of evidence or principles that are, or can be, known immediately, intuitively, or otherwise with certainty. Postmodernists reject philosophical foundationalism—the attempt, perhaps best exemplified by the 17th-century French philosopher René Descartes’s dictum cogito, ergo sum (“I think, therefore I am”), to identify a foundation of certainty on which to build the edifice of empirical (including scientific) knowledge.
- It is possible, at least in principle, to construct general theories that explain many aspects of the natural or social world within a given domain of knowledge—e.g., a general theory of human history, such as dialectical materialism. Furthermore, it should be a goal of scientific and historical research to construct such theories, even if they are never perfectly attainable in practice. Postmodernists dismiss this notion as a pipe dream and indeed as symptomatic of an unhealthy tendency within Enlightenment discourses to adopt “totalizing” systems of thought (as the French philosopher Emmanuel Lévinas called them) or grand “metanarratives” of human biological, historical, and social development (as the French philosopher Jean-François Lyotard claimed). These theories are pernicious not merely because they are false but because they effectively impose conformity on other perspectives or discourses, thereby oppressing, marginalizing, or silencing them. Derrida himself equated the theoretical tendency toward totality with totalitarianism.
Postmodernism and relativism
As indicated in the preceding section, many of the characteristic doctrines of postmodernism constitute or imply some form of metaphysical, epistemological, or ethical relativism. (It should be noted, however, that some postmodernists vehemently reject the relativist label.) Postmodernists deny that there are aspects of reality that are objective; that there are statements about reality that are objectively true or false; that it is possible to have knowledge of such statements (objective knowledge); that it is possible for human beings to know some things with certainty; and that there are objective, or absolute, moral values. Reality, knowledge, and value are constructed by discourses; hence they can vary with them. This means that the discourse of modern science, when considered apart from the evidential standards internal to it, has no greater purchase on the truth than do alternative perspectives, including (for example) astrology and witchcraft. Postmodernists sometimes characterize the evidential standards of science, including the use of reason and logic, as “Enlightenment rationality.”
The broad relativism apparently so characteristic of postmodernism invites a certain line of thinking regarding the nature and function of discourses of different kinds. If postmodernists are correct that reality, knowledge, and value are relative to discourse, then the established discourses of the Enlightenment are no more necessary or justified than alternative discourses. But this raises the question of how they came to be established in the first place. If it is never possible to evaluate a discourse according to whether it leads to objective Truth, how did the established discourses become part of the prevailing worldview of the modern era? Why were these discourses adopted or developed, whereas others were not?
Part of the postmodern answer is that the prevailing discourses in any society reflect the interests and values, broadly speaking, of dominant or elite groups. Postmodernists disagree about the nature of this connection; whereas some apparently endorse the dictum of the German philosopher and economist Karl Marx that “the ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of its ruling class,” others are more circumspect. Inspired by the historical research of the French philosopher Michel Foucault, some postmodernists defend the comparatively nuanced view that what counts as knowledge in a given era is always influenced, in complex and subtle ways, by considerations of power. There are others, however, who are willing to go even further than Marx. The French philosopher and literary theorist Luce Irigaray, for example, has argued that the science of solid mechanics is better developed than the science of fluid mechanics because the male-dominated institution of physics associates solidity and fluidity with the male and female sex organs, respectively.
Because the established discourses of the Enlightenment are more or less arbitrary and unjustified, they can be changed; and because they more or less reflect the interests and values of the powerful, they should be changed. Thus postmodernists regard their theoretical position as uniquely inclusive and democratic, because it allows them to recognize the unjust hegemony of Enlightenment discourses over the equally valid perspectives of nonelite groups. In the 1980s and ’90s, academic advocates on behalf of various ethnic, cultural, racial, and religious groups embraced postmodern critiques of contemporary Western society, and postmodernism became the unofficial philosophy of the new movement of “identity politics.” Brian Duignan Encyclopædia Britannica Bewerken
Phenomenological description: Nihilistic, Anti-philosophy
Relevance of the concept: It’s influence on modern culture, especially its strong regressive and ill structured tendencies.
The concept in mythology: The Trickster.
Word definition: rivers, streams.
Etymology: Ancient Greek potamós (ποταμός) meaning river or stream.
Technical description: Term used in the Greek bible to describe subtle energy streams.
Cross-cultural comparisons: Hindu: Nadis, Chinese: meridians.
The concept in mythology: The Potamoi were the sons of Oceanus, the god of the earth encircling waterway, and his wife Tethys. Nominally, there were 3000 Potamoi
Word definition: Prāṇa; this universal energy is considered responsible for bodily functions is one of the types of prana, collectively known as the vāyus.
Etymology: Prâna (inward moving energy), One of the earliest references to prâna is from the 3,000-year-old Chandogya Upanishad, but many other Upanishads also use the concept, including the Katha, Mundaka and Prasna Upanishads
Technical description: Refers traditionally to the exhaled breath (pra – “outward”, “forth”) which lives in the lungs. In the energy body, prana flows through energy channels known as nadis.
Phenomenological description: Prâna is situated in the heart area and in the head, and is yellow in colour. ( M.J.M.)
Cross-cultural comparisons: Indologist Georg Feuerstein explains, “The Chinese call it chi, the Polynesians mana, the Amerindians orenda, and the ancient Germans od. It is an all-pervasive ‘organic’ energy.
Relevance of the concept: Life-principle; the breath of life; energy. The vital breath, which sustains life in a physical body; the primal energy or force, of which other physical forces are manifestations. In the books of Yoga, prana is described as having five modifications, according to its five different functions. These are: prana (the vital energy that controls the breath), apana (the vital energy that carries downward unassimilated food and drink), samâna (the vital energy that carries nutrition all over the body), Vyana (the vital energy that pervades the entire body), and udana (the vital energy by which the contents of the stomach are ejected through the mouth).
The concept in mythology: The breath of life.
Word definition: knowledge of a future event or situation, especially through extrasensory means.
Etymology: 1400–50; late Middle English < Late Latin praecognitiōn-, s. of praecognitiō.
Technical description: Precognition, supernormal knowledge of future events, with emphasis not upon mentally causing events to occur but upon predicting those the occurrence of which the subject claims has already been determined. Like telepathy and clairvoyance, precognition is said to operate without recourse to the normal senses and thus to be a form of extrasensory perception (ESP).
Precognition has been tested with subjects required to predict the future order of cards in a deck about to be shuffled or to foretell results of dice throws, but the statistical support for it has generally been less convincing than that from experiments in telepathy and clairvoyance. (Encyclopaedia Britannica)
Phenomenological description: The ability to place ones focal point of consciousness in a location in the future and to have impressions, knowledge about or visual perceptions from that location. ( M.J.M.)
Synonyms: ESP, foresight, prophesy.
Cross-cultural comparisons: The concept of extra-sensory perception has been a part of many cultures throughout history. Precognition and prophesy have been an important part of many cultures, including the Celts of the Scottish Highlands, the Sami in Scandinavia, the Native Americans, the Zulus of Africa, and the Maori of New Zealand. ESP abilities have also been a part of spiritual development, such as in Hinduism, which lists clairvoyance as part of one of the siddhis, or skills that can be acquired through meditation and discipline.
(New World Encyclopedia)
Relevance of the concept: Trans-temporal perception.
The concept in mythology: The Seer.
Citations: In the category of explicit acceptance can be cited a casual mention by the Russian dissident writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in his book The Gulag Archipelago of psi abilities possessed by one of his former cellmates: ‘There is no doubt that he had the gift of precognition,’ Solzhenitsyn wrote. ‘More than once he went around in the cell in the morning and pointed: Today they are going to come for you and you. I saw it in my dream. And they came and got them.’26
Supporting evidence: Parapsychological research.
Word definition: A theory that describes a logical fallacy.
Etymology: Ken Wilber’s Integral theory.
Technical description: In any recognized developmental sequence, the confusion of a pre-X stage and a trans-X stage simply because both are non-X. This fallacy has two major forms: the reduction of trans-X to pre-X and the elevation of pre X to trans-X.
For example, the confusion of pre-rational and trans-rational, pre-personal and trans-personal, or pre-conventional and post-conventional.
Phenomenological description: A misinterpretation in which a developmental stage is mistakenly placed at the wrong developmental level.
Synonyms: pre-trans fallacy,
Relevance of the concept: To avoid the logical fallacy of not differentiating between pre-rational and trans-rational concepts.
Literature: Books / Articles / Websites:
Ken Wilber’s Pre-Trans theory
Primary and secondary qualities
Etymology: By John Locke English philosopher
Technical description: Primary and secondary qualities
John Locke raises some issues, many of which have since been the source of much debate. One of them is his illuminating distinction between the “primary” and “secondary” qualities of physical objects. Primary qualities include size, shape, weight, and solidity, among others, and secondary qualities include colour, taste, and smell. Ideas of primary qualities resemble the qualities as they are in the object—as one’s idea of the roundness of a snowball resembles the roundness of the snowball itself. However, ideas of secondary qualities do not resemble any property in the object; they are instead a product of the power that the object has to cause certain kinds of ideas in the mind of the perceiver. Thus, the whiteness of the snowball is merely an idea produced in the mind by the interaction between light, the primary qualities of the snowball, and the perceiver’s sense organs. (Encyclopaedia Britannica)
See further: https://marinusjanmarijs.com/evidence-based-approach/14-research-areas/non-physical-matter-subtle-energies/primary-and-secondary-qualities/
Cross-cultural comparisons: Historically this philosophical problem is mentioned by:
Democritus, Fragment 9 (Quoted by Sextus Empiricus, Adv. Math. vii 135):
“ By convention there are sweet and bitter, hot and cold, by convention there is color; but in truth there are atoms and the void.”
Galileo Galilei, ‘The assayer’; (published 1623):
“I think that tastes, odors, colors, and so on are no more than mere names so far as the object in which we locate them are concerned and that they reside in consciousness. Hence if the living creature were removed, all these qualities would be wiped away and annihilated.”
Literature: Books / Articles / Websites:
Gustav Strömberg “The Soul of the Universe” (1940).
Word definition: to foretell or predict.
Etymology: 1350–1400; Middle English; v. use of variant of prophecy (fully distinguished in form and meaning in the 18th century)
Technical description: Prophecy, in religion, a divinely inspired revelation or interpretation. Although prophecy is perhaps most commonly associated with Judaism and Christianity, it is found throughout the religions of the world, both ancient and modern. (Encyclopaedia Britannica)
Phenomenological description: The ability to place ones atman-point in a future point in time, and perceive from that point
Synonyms: Foretell, prediction.
Relevance of the concept: The nature of prophecy is twofold: either inspired (by visions or revelatory auditions) or acquired (by learning certain techniques). In many cases both aspects are present. The goal of learning certain prophetic techniques is to reach an ecstatic state in which revelations can be received. (Encyclopaedia Britannica)
The concept in mythology: The Fortune teller.
Supporting evidence: Parapsychological research.
Word definition: A person that predicts the future.
Etymology: Word Origin & History: late 12c., “person who speaks for God; one who foretells, inspired preacher,” from Old French prophete, profete “prophet, soothsayer” (11c., Modern French prophète) and directly from Latin propheta, from Greek prophetes (Doric prophatas) “an interpreter, spokesman,” especially of the gods, “inspired preacher or teacher,” from pro- “before” (see pro-) + root of phanai “to speak,” from PIE *bha- (2) “speak” (see fame (n.)).
The Greek word was used in Septuagint for Hebrew nabj “soothsayer.” Early Latin writers translated Greek prophetes with Latin vates, but the Latinized form propheta predominated in post-Classical times, chiefly due to Christian writers, probably because of pagan associations of vates. In English, meaning “prophetic writer of the Old Testament” is from late 14c. Non-religious sense is from 1848; used of Muhammad from 1610s (translating Arabic al-nabiy, and sometimes also al-rasul, properly “the messenger”). The Latin word is glossed in Old English by witga.
Technical description: the term prophet (Greek prophētēs, “forthteller”) refers to an inspired person who believes that he has been sent by his god with a message to tell. He is, in that sense, the mouthpiece of his god. In a broader sense, the word can refer to anybody who utters the will of a deity, often ascertained through visions, dreams, or the casting of lots; the will of the deity also may be spoken in a liturgical setting. The prophet, thus, is often associated with the priest, the shaman (a religious figure in tribal societies who functions as a healer, diviner, and possessor of psychic powers), the diviner (foreteller), and the mystic. (Encyclopaedia Britannica)
Phenomenological description: A prophet is a low- or high causal mystic.
Synonyms: The Seer.
Supporting evidence: Similar independent descriptions of this stage of mystical development from different cultures.
Etymology: late 15c., from Middle French prophétique (15c.) and directly from Late Latin propheticus, from Greek prophetikos “pertaining to a prophet, oracular,” from prophetes
Technical description: Types of prophecy can be classified on the basis of inspiration, behaviour, and office. Divinatory prophets include seers, oracle givers, soothsayers, and diviners, all of whom predict the future or tell the divine will in oracular statements by means of instruments, dreams, telepathy, clairvoyance, or visions received in the frenzied state of ecstasy. Predictions and foretellings, however, may also be the result of inspiration or of common sense by the intelligent observation of situations and events, albeit interpreted from a religious point of view. (Encyclopaedia Britannica)
Phenomenological description: by: Marinus Jan Marijs ¯
Visions: Visions and levels, the ability to perceive on succeeding ontological levels of existence:
(A vision is something seen in a dream, trance, or religious ecstasy, especially a supernatural appearance that conveys a revelation. Visions generally have more clarity than dreams, but traditionally fewer psychological connotations. Visions are known to emerge from spiritual traditions and could provide a lens into human nature and reality. Prophecy is often associated with visions.) (Wikipedia)
Level 1 Perception of etheric energies
Level 2 Premonition: impressions, not visual. Direct perception of feelings . and moods of others
Level 3 Mostly two-dimensional images, 25-35° field of vision, . symbolic/allegorical. Although pre-logical, it can express trans- . logical insights. But can be understood only by symbolic . interpretation
Level 4 Two or three-dimensional images, 25-35° field of vision, realistic, . the content of the image is not symbolic
Level 5 Three-dimensional image (including depth) 180° field of vision, . realistic. Image fills the entire field of vision.
Level 6 Three-dimensional image, panoramic field of vision,
.realistic. Image fills the entire field of vision.
Level 7 Three-dimensional image, shifting panoramic field of vision, . realistic. Image fills the entire field of vision. Deep and clear . perception of situations
Level 8 wavelike patterns, Spiral like patterns of subtle energies Level 9 Archetypes, Sphere-like structures of subtle energies
Level 10 Light experiences, Illuminations, visual perception of Deva’s, . Seraphim, wheel-like structures of subtle energies
Level 11 Visual perception this level, not form-aspect but energy-aspect
Level 12 Harmonic light-, colour- and sound-patterns
Illustrations: The paintings that are reproduced on this website (mainly 19th century paintings) are chosen for its visionary quality.
(One can click on the paintings to view a larger image)
Cross-cultural comparisons: Multiple description in the world literature.
Relevance of the concept: Relevance with respect to the nature of time.
Word definition: a systematic structure of theories concerning the relation of conscious and unconscious psychological processes.
A technical procedure for investigating unconscious mental processes and for treating psychoneuroses.
Etymology: Word Origin & History: 1906, from Psychoanalyse, coined 1896 in French by Freud from Latinized form of Greek psykhe- “mental” (see psyche) + German Analyse, from Greek analysis . Freud earlier used psychische analyse (1894).
Technical description: Psychoanalysis is a set of theories and therapeutic techniques related to the study of the unconscious mind, which together form a method of treatment for mental-health disorders. The discipline was established in the early 1890s by Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud and stemmed partly from the clinical work of Josef Breuer and others.
Freud first used the term psychoanalysis (in French) in 1896. Die Traumdeutung (The Interpretation of Dreams), which Freud saw as his “most significant work”, appeared in November 1899. Psychoanalysis was later developed in different directions, mostly by students of Freud such as Alfred Adler and Carl Gustav Jung, and by neo-Freudians such as Erich Fromm, Karen Horney and Harry Stack Sullivan. Freud retained the term psychoanalysis for his own school of thought. The basic tenets of psychoanalysis include:
- a person’s development is determined by often forgotten events in early childhood, rather than by inherited traits alone;
- human behaviour and cognition are largely determined by irrational drives that are rooted in the unconscious;
- attempts to bring those drives into awareness triggers resistance in the form of defense mechanisms, particularly repression;
- conflicts between conscious and unconscious material can result in mental disturbances such as neurosis, neurotic traits, anxiety and depression;
- unconscious material can be found in dreams and unintentional acts, including mannerisms and slips of the tongue;
- liberation from the effects of the unconscious is achieved by bringing this material into the conscious mind through therapeutic intervention;
- the “centerpiece of the psychoanalytic process” is the transference, whereby patients relive their infantile conflicts by projecting onto the analyst feelings of love, dependence and anger.
Supporting evidence: Psychoanalytic research.
Word definition: Psychotherapy is the use of psychological methods, particularly when based on regular personal interaction, to help a person change and overcome problems in desired ways. Psychotherapy aims to increase each individual’s well-being and mental health, to resolve or mitigate troublesome behaviors, beliefs, compulsions, thoughts, or emotions, and to improve relationships and social functioning. Certain psychotherapies are considered evidence-based for treating some diagnosed mental disorders. (Wikipedia)
Etymology: 1892 in modern sense, from psycho- + therapy, in model of French psychothérapie (1889). In early use also of hypnotism. Psychotherapeia was used in medical writing in 1853 as “remedial influence of the mind.”
Technical description: During psychoanalytic sessions, which typically last 50 minutes and ideally take place 4–5 times a week, the patient (the “analysand”) may lie on a couch, with the analyst often sitting just behind and out of sight. The patient expresses his or her thoughts, including free associations, fantasies and dreams, from which the analyst infers the unconscious conflicts causing the patient’s symptoms and character problems. Through the analysis of these conflicts, which includes interpreting the transference and countertransference (the analyst’s feelings for the patient), the analyst confronts the patient’s pathological defenses to help the patient gain insight. (Wikipedia)
Literature: Books / Articles / Websites:
Purpose of life
Etymology: c. 1300, “intention, aim, goal,” from Anglo-French purpos, Old French porpos “aim, intention” (12c.), from porposer “to put forth,” from por- “forth” (from Latin pro- “forth;” see pur-) + Old French poser “to put, place” (see pose (v.1)). On purpose “by design” is attested from 1580s; earlier of purpose (early 15c.).
Technical description: Views of religious experience:
Specifically religious experience has been variously identified in the following ways: the awareness of the holy, which evokes awe and reverence; the feeling of absolute dependence that reveals a human being’s status as a creature; the sense of being at one with the divine; the perception of an unseen order or of a quality of permanent rightness in the cosmic scheme; the direct perception of God; the encounter with a reality “wholly other”; the sense of a transforming power as a presence. Sometimes, as in the striking case of the prophets of the Hebrew Bible, the experience of God has been seen as a critical judgment on humanity and as the disclosure of its separation from the holy. Those who identify religion as a dimension or aspect of experience point to human attitudes toward an overarching ideal, to a total reaction to life, to an ultimate concern for the meaning of one’s being, or to a quest for a power that integrates human personality. In all these cases, the fact that the attitudes and concerns in question are directed to an ultimate object that transcends humanity’s existential limitations is what justifies their being called religious. All interpreters are agreed that religious experience involves what is final in value for human beings and concerns belief in what is ultimate in reality. (Encyclopaedia Britannica)
The ultimate meaning of life is to transform the involutionary power into an unfolding evolutionary upward process by which increasingly higher/deeper levels of subtle energies are activated. Finally, the subtle energies at the highest levels are activated and high-causal bhava samadhi and is permanently realized.
Synonyms: Meaning of life.
Word + definition:
Schemas / Maps:
Relevance of the concept:
The concept in mythology:
Serial patterns in time:
Parallel patterns in time:
Literature: Books / Articles / Websites: