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Enlightenment and Materialism
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3/21/17 2:58 PM
Split off from http://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/6066908#_19_message_6088064
Marty G:
J C:


Marty - delusional or not, there is definitely a spiritual and transcendent dimension to [my enlightenment].


Glad to hear it, you had me worried, for a moment emoticon  How does this gel with philosophical materialism ? I had a conversation on Twitter with someone claiming enlightenment could work with brain produced consciousness, ending in death. It does not seem a good argument to me, but convince me if you will ( assuming you hold this view).
The way I see spirituality is in terms of self-transcendence. At the heart of the spiritual journey is the idea of changing the perception of yourself as a separate being with free will and control, causally cut off from the rest of the universe, not subject to the law of causation. Enlightenment is the experience of living as one with the law of causation. (See the Zen story of Hyakujo's Fox: https://www.ibiblio.org/zen/gateless-gate/2.html )

There's nothing about this incompatible with materialism. Materialism says that your views of the self are produced by your brain. So we're talking about brain changes here, changes that alter the perception of self from "I'm a separate being" to "there is no thing called me here - all my thoughts, feelings, and perceptions are part of the law of causation, conditioned by the past, not in my control, part of the interdependent universe."

I think of the law of causation as happening by means of the laws of physics. Karma - causes and effects - is simply the way particles and waves move around and interact in this universe. There is no separate self, just one universe filled with particles that can be organized as biological organisms with the capacity to have thoughts and perceptions.

But I'm not the biological organism. I can imagine various parts of my body changing over time, so that I piece by piece transform into a different person. Same with my mind, memories, personality - it's all impermanent. The only thing that remains the same is the Unconditioned - pure awareness. That's what this confusing word "I" refers to - just awareness.

Awareness isn't a separate thing that's part of the material universe - it doesn't interact with or change or cause anything to happen in the material universe. So my perception of awareness, this view that "I" am not really a thing that exists, just pure awareness, doesn't conflict with materialism.

So where does awareness come from? When did it start and end? Is it always there or will it go away when all organisms die? Is it subject to time?

Those are deep questions without simple answers. I really like Max Tegmark's theories about this subject. He theorizes that the universe exists as a mathematical structure outside of time. (See http://discovermagazine.com/2008/jul/16-is-the-universe-actually-made-of-math ) Awareness is always there because it's a mathematical structure. From the point of view of awareness, it's always now. While if you look at one point in time there may be no biological organisms capable of awareness, if you step outside and look at the whole universe as a structure, awareness is there.

RE: Enlightenment and Materialism
Answer
3/21/17 5:41 PM as a reply to J C.
 Thanks JC for clarifying, just a thought your views expressed here, seem to suggest more of a https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panpsychism than true materialism ( which has several levels of hardcore). How do you view physical death (assuming you take it into account) in relation to your scheme of things ? 

RE: Enlightenment and Materialism
Answer
3/21/17 6:42 PM as a reply to Marty G.
Oddly, from your pespective, I tend more to 'realism' ( even though convinced of Spirit/Trancendental Reality) and have found much of the 'modern school enlightenment' to be trying to 'fuzzily' equate  scientific viewpoints-brain produced consciousness with traditional enlightenment. In your case I think you see conciousness ( awareness) prior to body/ brain (only). The zen (and similar) metaphors and poetic parables give us a lot of inspiring ground but (imo) lack credibility and utility in the 'real' world of daily grind (life and death). I will write more on self-dissolution which is pretty much where you guys all agree.