Primordial Consciousness: Dzogchen Panpsychism
Subject and object are only one. The barrier between them does not exist.
Panpsychism. There is now abroad in the world cognosphere a paradigmatic primordial stream of ancient, Premodern wisdom—both West and East—that continues uninterrupted into Modern and Postmodern Western metaphysics. That Primordial Wisdom Tradition is known in the West as panpsychism.
Panpsychism literally means that the ultimate nature of appearing reality is mental, or mind. It is a proto-Idealism ontology, historically aligned with philosophical Idealism, that the mental dimension of reality—basal primordial consciousness/awareness itself—is the formless fundamental ground, the vast boundless whole in which or in whom physical and mental form arises and participates. Panpsychism offers a viable and venerable ontological alternative to Metaphysical Materialism/Physicalism and to Metaphysical Dualism.
In the East panpsychism begins with the earliest Vedas. In the West we see it first in Thales, Parmenides and the 5th and 6th century BCE Presocratics. It may be seen as the esoteric wisdom orientation of the primary wisdom traditions of our species—Hindu Veda-Vedanta, Buddhism, Taoism, and in the esoteric voice of Abrahamic Monotheism (Kabbalah, Gnostic and Hermetic mystical Christianity, Sufism).
This luminous body of basal primordial wisdom includes the greatest minds and spirits in the history of our species, to wit: Gautama the Buddha, Nagarjuna, Lao Tzu, Jesus the Christ and the Holy Saints, Adi Shankara, Parmenides, Plato, Plotinus, Spinoza, Leibnitz, Hegel, William James, A.N. Whitehead, the Stoics, Theravada and Mahayana Buddhists, and many more. Good company indeed.
Metaphysics, on F. H. Bradley’s account, is the “discovery of bad reasons for what we instinctually know to be true”. For Scots polymath David Hume, any text pretending to address metaphysical questions should be “committed to the flames, for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion”. The British empiricists—Lock, Berkeley, Hume—began the anti-metaphysical Western Tradition. Immanuel Kant briefly restored a bit of respect for metaphysics, but the 19th and 20th century advent of Scientific Materialism/Physicalism soon buried it.
Metaphysical questions include the relation of mind to body, physical substance and the mental dimension, causation, ontology/being and God; all inherently metaphysical (beyond physical/physics) issues. That Quantum and Gravitational Cosmology presume to construct propositions as to the ultimate nature of any purely physical cosmos/universe, it too is metaphysics at the macro level—a monistic, physicalist metaphysic that admits of no logical, mathematical, or empirical verification or proof.
At the micro level of physical reality quantum physics provides ontological (metaphysical) opinions and belief systems as to the ultimate nature of the physical reality ostensibly described by their mathematical equations. For example, is Schrödinger’s prodigious wave function Ψ reducible to an objectively “real” physical phenomenon; or is it a subjective trans-physical metaphysical process? Are numbers physically real objects, or Platonic archetypes? Is all this arising physical and mental reality stuff ultimately objectively physical; or some spooky subjective panpsychic process; or as the Buddhist Mahayana Two Truths—Relative and Ultimate—view indicates, a bit of both (Ch. II).
All such views express ontological, not “scientific” empirical opinions. Such debates are inherently metaphysical, not scientific debates. Again, the prevailing Western metaphysic is monistic Metaphysical Materialism/Physicalism—in short, the ultimate nature of all this arising reality is purely physical. But surely the world is ultimately physical, after we scientifically reduce the mental and spiritual dimensions down to it. Is such a radical reduction possible? Probable? Isn’t Physicalism just a “brute fact” of nature? Or is it?
In the spirit of Hume and the British Empiricists twentieth century ideological hostility to metaphysics (literally beyond physics) has continued through the scientific vogues of Logical Positivism/Logical Empiricism, Quine’s Naturalism, Wittgenstein’s “ordinary language” philosophy, and the Physicalism of the Modern and Postmodern Scientific Materialism “global web of belief” (W.V. Quine). Again, this materialist/physicalist metaphysic is the prevailing ontic and epistemic ideology, pervading of all of the sciences, even psychology and neuroscience; and it cognitively trickles down to become the metaphysic of mass mind “common sense Realism”—Reality is all just physical.
Moreover, this epistemic Scientific Realism and ontic Materialism of proto-religious triumphal Scientific Materialism (“Scientism” in its religious fundamentalist raiment) has colonized the “common mind” of recent mass culture (Bertrand Russell’s “metaphysics of the Stone Age”). And mass materialist culture has embraced modern science’s hostility toward metaphysics through its valorization and idealization of Scientific Materialism and the so called “scientific method”, largely unaware that such a view is itself a purely metaphysical cognitive assumption.
Metaphysical views are ipso facto beyond physics and so, in spite of our deep cognitive background Greek materialist web of belief, admit of no “scientific” empirical or logical proof. Ontology—the science of the “what” and the “how” of ultimate existence is metaphysics—metaphysical statements of belief. Socratic irony?
So, ontology, what ultimately exists, and how it exists is, by definition, metaphysical, beyond the colossal conceptual reach of empirical physics. To obsessively reduce the boundless whole of ultimate great reality itself to the subject matter of mere physics is an important brand of “category mistake” that has tragically diminished our human being to Lewis Carroll and Alice’s “bag of neurons” relegated to the deterministic darkness of a godless entirely physical universe. We have adopted a metaphysical ontology that leaves us out in the cosmic cold. Dreadful metaphysic indeed.
Now the good news! We have upon us in the post-postmodern human cognosphere the advent of a new post-quantum, post-empirical Kuhnian scientific revolution! The secular post-European Modern Enlightenment Zeitgeist that resulted in reductionist objectivist materialist physics and cosmology has utterly failed to explain, or explain away its many logical paradoxes and empirical anomalies—not the least of which is spooky quantum entanglement/nonlocality (Ch. VIII).
Here is Thomas Kuhn’s process. Progress in “normal science” has resulted through such unanswerable anomalies in a “scientific crisis” and a “paradigm shift” that yields a new “scientific revolution”—a new scientific knowledge paradigm. As the old Modernist Materialist empirical physics paradigm has failed us, hitherto prodigal flaky metaphysics has recently returned as respectable cognition into the domain of academic philosophy, and so of philosophy of physics and cosmology.
Physicists hate philosophy. But the quantum collapse of old paradigm positivist scientific objective certainty (Ch.VIII) has forced dialogue with philosophers of physics and cosmology, and even Buddhist metaphysics, that we may at last discover just what it is that Quantum Electrodynamics (QED) and quantum cosmology actually tells us about the quantum nature of reality, and how to interpret its several competing theories. The consummation to be wished is resolution of critical physics anomalies arising through the logical and empirical incommensurability of QED and GRT—General Relativity Theory.
A refreshing renascent proto-spiritual sub specie aeternitatis metaphysical vehicle has now entered the ontic fray to contend with proto-religious Metaphysical Scientific Materialism/Physicalism for metaphysical hegemony of the Western mind. That syncretic wisdom vehicle is the union of Western monistic Panpsychism with Eastern monistic Buddhist Panpsychic Dzogchen, the Great Completion. Praise be!
So first, let us briefly consider what metaphysical Panpsychism is not. Panpsychism is not panthestic and should not be conflated with pantheism (everything is God), nor with panenthism (God is in everything). Panpsychism is a viable alternative to what is now considered by philosophers of mind and philosophers of physics and cosmology to be the failure of pan-materialism—reductionist monistic Physicalism of 20th century science and philosophy—the view that everything is just physical, or is reducible to the functionalist gambit, that is to say, physical brain function (scientific reductionism).
Panpsychism is also a viable alternative to Metaphysical Dualism—Descartes’ two separate, somehow coexisting substances/essences, namely, the physical and the mental dimensions of basal arising reality itself. Panpsychism has also contributed to viable neodualism theories.
Panpsychism is not a brand of theism, and so it entails none of the inherently vexed, age old philosophical theistic conundrums (e.g. the three “proofs” for the existence of God; the Problem of Evil/Suffering, and the rest) that plague theistic belief in an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient and perfectly benevolent anthropomorphic Creator God somehow co-existing beside His separate creations in a brutal world of adventitious unnecessary suffering—evil, both natural and human. Problematic indeed for any self-respecting Creator God.
The perennial concern and relentless debate about the existence of God must first distinguish between such a theistic concept-belief objective, even physical anthropomorphic Creator God, and a trans-conceptual, more inclusive, even all embracing ontic “supreme source” condition, for example, a panpsychic/cosmopsychic, even nondual (subject-object unity), noetic (body/mind/spirit) all pervading Ultimate (paramartha satya) primordial kosmic ground state, vast unbounded whole itself in which, or if you prefer, in whom all of our spacetime Relative (samvriti satya) conditional physical and mental realities arise and participate. No problematic theism here.
In the absence of such a foundational understanding of metaphysical distinctions between our concepts and beliefs about theistic Creator God and nondual all inclusive godhead or basal ground, metaphysical interlocutors face an endless cognitive and emotional disconnect. Our primary Primordial Wisdom traditions have names and concepts (namarupa) for such a nondual primordial ground, to wit, Nirguna Brahman/Parabrahman, dharmakaya/shunyata, Mahabindu, Tao, Ein Sof, and many more.
Panpsychism may be broadly construed as the psychophysical ultimate nature of all the arising and appearing stuff of reality itself, sub specie aeternitatis, by exploring and unifying the ancient Premodern psychophysical spiritual basic principles of our great primordial wisdom traditions.
Panpsychism is at root trans-physical and includes both objective and subjective perspectival, ontologically relative phenomena—that is to say, we create then reify our phenomenal and mental realities via our deep background sociocultural “global web of belief”.
Panpsychism, in its most cogent non-atomistic, non-micropsychic garments is the proto-idealist view that an all-inclusive, all-pervading grounding consciousness—a “primary monism” of the vast mental dimension, not just the spacetime physical stuff of Scientific Materialism—is the fundamental and omnipresent reflexive ultimate nature of all arising phenomenal physical and mental reality—the mind as it were, of trans-rational, trans-theistic godhead, primordial ground that is the unbounded whole of reality itself. In short, all relative spacetime physical, mental and spiritual reality arises from and participates in this all-pervading formless nondual ultimate primordial awareness-consciousness ground.
That which we seek in this connection is a syncretic, Primordial Panpsychism—Dzogchen, Mahamudra, Saijojo Zen, Advaita (nondual) Vedanta, Kabbalah, Christian Hermetic wisdom—that includes the holistic wisdom of both East and West. Panpsychism has facilitated something of a reformation in hitherto materialist/physicalist Western analytic philosophy.
As the many theoretical and later empirical proofs of the “spooky” metaphysics of subjective quantum nonlocality entered academic analytic and continental philosophy, and then philosophy of science—beginning with Niels Bohr’s Principle of Complementarity, and later John Stewart Bell’s ” Bell’s Proof” in 1964—metaphysics emerged from its cognitive closet after a half century of extremist anti-metaphysical Logical Positivist physicalist “hidden metaphysics” (Ken Wilber), with its odious “taboo of subjectivity” (Alan Wallace).
This ontic nonlinear metaphysic—concealed in its linear objectivist empirical cloak—that is proto-religious fundamentalist materialist Scientism, thoroughly controlled the suggestible 20th century scientific and philosophical mind, along with the mass mind of “common sense” Realism and Materialism, grasping at their purely objectivist/physicalist ideological web of belief. To question the idols of orthodox Scientific Materialism was, and indeed, still is scientific heresy.
Here, we must again recall that the prevailing scientific ideology that is monistic Scientific Materialism/Physicalism is a metaphysical view, just as is monistic Idealism, that everything is mental and the physical reality dimension is illusory. We’ve seen that ontology—what exists, Being Itself—is a synonym for metaphysics and, rather counter intuitively, admits of no logical, mathematical or even empirical proof! Cosmic irony indeed. Hegel called this discomfiting situation “the irony of the world”.
Sadly, for ontological, theistic and even cosmological ideologists—and you know who you are—any hope for logical, deductive absolute certainty for your favorite metaphysical ontology is now logically kaput. Ah, “The irony of the world” (Hegel).
Well then, is this all too real world of arising matter and energy—E=mc²—ultimately merely physical? Or is it ultimately avidya maya—just a metaphysical idealist mental illusion? Or perhaps an idea in the mind of God? Or a nice amalgam of Metaphysical Cartesian dualism, or recent neo-dualism of physical and mental entities or dimensions? Or none of the above?
Once again, these are not scientific questions. These are metaphysical questions. Important ones. Some middle way resolution of these ontic conditions obtains. But alas, we can’t prove any of it via linear two-valued deductive logic; nor can we consistently argue it on empirical grounds. So the indispensible ontic metaphysical conjecture of the philosophy, theology, even the physics and quantum cosmology trades shall go on, and on.
Hence, what we seek through our engagement with Panpsychism is an ontology that does not nihilistically deny the physical dimension, or the mental dimension; one that opens an ontological middle way that includes both.
In short, we need a “top down” holistic “primary monism” (Schaffer 2010) that understands our physical and trans-physical cosmic duality as participating parts or aspects of a mereologically non-essentialist but inclusive, metaphysically ontic ultimate, all embracing, nondual primordial boundless kosmic whole (mahabindu). Do not our nonlinear wisdom seeking strategies finally require a subject-object collapse or surrender (Wu Wei: Tao Te Ching, Ch. 48) into the basic space of our primal wakefulness that is ultimately timeless formless awareness-consciousness itself, primordial ground of human consciousness, and of all of this appearing stuff? Such is our nondual (ontic prior subject-object unity), panpsychic knowledge imperative.
Objects altogether are a whole, yet separate;
Being Itself altogether, yet apart;
In harmony, yet dissonant.
Of objectivity, there is a great whole;
And through this, all things arise and pass away.
—Heraclitus (author’s translation)
That all said, it seems to me that the many extant variations on this theme (e.g. “bottom up”, atomistic micropsychism views) that is the new Western analytic panpsychic adventure into the vexing metaphysics of consciousness (Goff 2017; Goff “Panpsychism” entry in Stanford Encylopedia of Philosophy, 2017) are missing the mark that is this propitious and providential trans-objective, unitary, monistic/holistic—in a word kosmic—nondual view. Twentieth century Western analytic ontic ideological habits of mind—objectivism, physicalism/substance monism, atomism/micropsychism, local causal determinism, and the invidious closure principle (Appendix B: “Idols of the Tribe”) now haunt this brave new world of West-East panpsychic exploration. What to do?
Let us begin with an all too brief introduction to a holistic Western panpsychic variant known to the initiates of the panpsychic clan by the cloddish epithet “cosmopsychism”, or worse, “priority monistic cosmopsychism”.
We shall then herein attempt to integrate this promising view with the parallel holistic panpsychic wisdom of the East as it has arisen in the Vedic-Hindu Sanatanadharma through the Advaita (nondual) Vedanta of Adi Shankara (8th century), in nondual monistic cosmopsychic Kashmir Shaivism (9th century), and in the 2nd century Two Truths trope of Nagarjuna’s Buddhist Middle Way Madhyamaka Prasangika (Garfield 1995), the foundation, on the accord of H.H. The Dalai Lama (2000), of the quintessential nondual teaching that is Vajrayana’s (Nyingma) Dzogchen, the Great Completion of the duality of the Mahayana Causal Vehicle’s Two Truths view and praxis.
Dzogchen Panpsychism, as I have come to call it, is a noetic (body-mind-spirit), nondual (not two, not one but trans-rational nondual), ontologically relative and perspectival (phenomenal reality is reified, imputed, and designated via our deep cultural background “global web of belief”), therefore non-essentialist (phenomena are absent any essential intrinsic or inherent nature), prior and present subject/object unity. Maha Ati Dzogchen View, Practice, Conduct and Fruition/Result is holistic, primary monistic, trans-conceptual and nondual. It embraces our primordial wisdom Two Truths (relative and ultimate) trope.
Just so, this “perfect sphere of Dzogchen” is all pervading, all subsuming, ultimate, fundamental, vast primordial kosmic consciousness ground or base (gzhi rigpa)—the luminous, trans-conceptual unbounded whole itself (mahabindu), nondual Spirit Itself, the emptiness/openness base (gzhi) in whom all relative, conditional, utterly selfless (self,ego,I) spacetime physical and mental cosmic phenomenal forms arise, abide and pass away.
Chögyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche on Dzogchen, the supreme source view and practice (1999):
The essence of all the Buddhas exists prior to samsara and nirvana…
It transcends the four conceptual limits and is intrinsically pure;
this original condition is the uncreated nature of existence that always
existed, the ultimate nature of all phenomena…It is utterly free of the
defects of dualistic thought which is only capable of referring to an
object other than itself…It is the base of primordial purity…Similar to
to space it pervades all beings…The inseparability of the two truths,
absolute and relative is called ‘primordial Buddha’…If at the moment
the energy of the base manifests, one does not consider it something
other than oneself, it self-liberates…Understanding the essence one
finds oneself always in this state…dwelling in the fourth time, beyond
past present and future, the infinite space of self-perfection…pure
dharmakaya, the essence of the vajra of clear light.
Therefore, this Ultimate Truth of reality itself is generally considered in the Buddhist Mahayana/Vajrayana wisdom vehicle as Dzogchen (dzog means complete or perfect; chen means great). Its nondual contemplative practice is Ati Yoga. Dzogchen arises as the trans-conceptual, non-atomistic, non-reductionist supreme teaching whose View is shared with what contemporary students of panpsychism term holistic primary monistic cosmopsychism, a long epithet for a longer luminous history of nondual primordial wisdom that arises at the pinnacle of each of our primary wisdom traditions—the Hindu Sanatanadharma, the Buddha dharma, Taoism (Tao chia), Kabbalah and Abrahamic Monotheism, and Hermetic mystical Christianity.
However, none of the holistic panpsychic Cosmopsychism variants are equivalent to this subtlest nondual Dzogchen View and Practice. Western philosophical Cosmopsychism—ancient or recent—is not inherently nondual: 1) it retains tenuous conceptual artifacts and subtle proto-physicalist cognitive biases; 2) the requisite nondual contemplative grounding practice or yoga (union, religio), under the guidance of a qualified master is absent. Such a “grounding relation” via trans-conceptual meditative contemplative practice is required in order to transcend these heady conceptual trappings and actually ground a relative conventional pragmatic, selfless, kind, compassionate praxis into the lifeworld moral and political conduct of human beings. A conceptual, intellectual metaphysical grounding relation without its concomitant grounding in moral theory and praxis is woefully incomplete. More on the conceptual metaphysical “grounding relation” below.
Thus is the conceptually inscrutable nondual “Wisdom Mind” of our primordial formless “groundless ground”—all pervading consciousness itself—grounded in psychophysical spacetime form (E = mc²) as beneficent wisdom conduct. With no such grounding in conscious altruistic conduct—thought, intention and action for the benefit of beings—this Wisdom Mind poetry of the selfless nondual primordial wisdom ground, while very beautiful to the ear, is little more than prosaic hyper-rational philosophical self-stimulation.
In other words, the relative conventional practice of the nondual Primordial Wisdom Mind Path grounds and motivates a more profound ultimate understanding of the all subsuming primordial ground itself. We utilize the dualistic Relative Truth of the Dzogchen path to awaken to nondual Ultimate Truth that is our always already present Wisdom Mind. This originary ground then arises and expresses in the human lifeworld as kind, compassionate Conduct—thought, intention and action for the benefit of other beings. In the East this process is known as bodhicitta.
The Result/Fruition of such a Path is the relative happiness of human flourishing (felicitas), and full bodhi liberation/enlightenment that is ultimate happiness itself (mahasuka, paramanda, beatitudo), the happiness that cannot be lost.
Profound Ati Yoga, the highest or subtlest ninth stage of the nine yanas of Nyingma School’s nondual Dzogchen View provides such a View, Path and Fruition or Realization.
Hence, our intention herein is to complete the best of historical and recent panpsychism, namely holistic primary monistic Cosmopsychism, in the Great Completion that is Dzogchen View and Practice. Let philosophers of mind, and the rest of us, come to understand this great teaching. The benefit is immeasurable.
Again, our monistic panpsychic heirs include such illustrious Wisdom Mind adepts as Gautama Buddha, Adi Shankara, Moses, Parmenides, Plato, Plotinus, Proclus, Spinoza, Leibnitz, Hegel, Royce, Bradley, Fichte, F.C.S. Schiller, William James (dual aspect “neutral monism”), and Albert North Whitehead via his “extensive abstraction” Process Philosophy, and his view that the process order of spacetime reality is the very “concretion” or instantiation of the primordial nature of nondual godhead, for lack of a better name. Heady wine indeed. Ah, the abstruse genius of Whitehead. Not for the metaphysically timorous.
OK, let’s unpack this spooky nonlocal (Chapter VII) cosmopsychism a bit.
Cosmopsychism is known to the Western analytic philosophy trade as a viable “top down” holistic, “primary monistic” (the whole is ontologically prior to its parts) alternative to “bottom up”, quasi-physicalist/materialist, atomistic and micropsychic incarnations of panpsychism.
In top down “holistic monistic Cosmopsychism” the cosmic spacetime located atomistic baryonic parts are grounded in the vast nondual unbounded whole itself. On micropsychic panpsychic accounts the microscopic subatomic parts (quarks and leptons) are ontologically prior to the cosmopsychic kosmic unbounded whole itself. But the truth of the matter is that mereologically, the nonlinear nondual boundless whole is not grounded in its participating parts. The whole is greater than the sum of its participating parts. The linear atomistic explanation is ultimately pluralistic and so views subatomic particle parts as fundamental. This view is a cognitive relic of, and derived from Western Greek Scientific Materialism/Physicalism.
Primary monist Jon Schaffer (2010) has pointed out that: “Just as the materialists and idealists debate which properties are fundamental, so the monists and pluralists debate which objects are fundamental.” Just so, Dzogchen Cosmopsychic Panpsychism is a holistic primary monist, proto-idealist perspective that transcends yet embraces dualistic, derivative and reductionistic micropsychic views—whether panpsychic or orthodox scientific reductionist.
We have seen in Chapter VIII that the entanglement/nonlocality of quantum physics and cosmology, with its requisite “observer consciousness” exoterically parallels such a nondual holistic monistic metaphysical view. David Bohm’s implicate order of the vast primordial entangled/interconnected interdependent “unbroken whole” is, as Niels Bohr told, an ultimate “unitarity” whose complementary nonlocal entangled parts participate as the interconnected boundless awareness-consciousness whole.
Buddha called such a holistic, monistic ontology “dependent arising” (causally interdependent “interbeing”, pratitya samutpada), the open empty formless unbounded ultimate primordial consciousness whole itself in which, or in whom this multiplicity of relative spacetime form—including all of us—are conscious psychophysical instantiation. Who am I? Tat Tvam Asi, That I Am! Without a single exception. We should feel better already.
Panpsychic Dzogchen Summary. There is much more to be explored in the dualistic analytics and nondual, contemplative direct experience of the metaphysics of consciousness. I have herein very briefly argued that what I have rather obliquely termed Dzogchen Holistic Primary Cosmopsychism is a promising and inclusive view as to such a monistic ontic metaphysic. It attempts to address the lingering paradox of materialism in micropsychic panpsychic views through the unification of Western monistic panpsychism with Eastern Buddhist Dzogchen. I hope to further develop this syncretic metaphysic in a forthcoming book (Boaz 2020).
The Panpsychic Monistic Cosmopsychism of recent Western panpsychic philosophy of mind (Schaffer 2010), while avoiding some of the realist and materialist scientific reductionism of atomistic micropsychism, still retains subtle dualistic conceptual traces or cognitive biases of the failed ontology of reductionistic Scientific Materialism/Physicalism. The metaphysical materialist-physicalist bias that matter must be intrinsically only physical substance remains essentially unchanged.
Here, perceiving subjects and their objects of perception are pre-consciously presumed to reduce to relative physical substance, observer-independently essentially real stuff with its own intrinsic nature in an observer/theory-independent, absolutely objectively “real world out there (RWOT). If this be so, even panpsychic cosmopsychism retains a proto-realist, physicalist, materialist ontological bias.
Thus have I dared to attempt to integrate Western and Eastern metaphysical ontology by introducing Mahayana Madhyamaka’s foundational Dzogchen, the Great Completion in a contemporary panpsychic context. Admittedly, this does some cognitive damage to the nondual primordial purity of the Dzogchen View.
Mahayana and its causal Middle Way Madhyamaka Prasangika are at root non-essentialist ontologies, denying that the spacetime stuff of relative physical and mental reality has any inherently existing intrinsic nature, let alone a purely physicalist intrinsic nature. Rather, the furniture of reality is, for the great nondual Buddhist mind of 2nd century Nagarjuna, utterly selfless, empty and absent “any shred of intrinsic existence”. Empty of what? Relatively existing spacetime stuff is empty of any permanent ultimate absolute existence (Garfield 1995).
However, mental and physical phenomena are relatively, conventionally real by virtue of their appearance in spacetime to a perceiving, designating, reifying consciousness, an often all too real self-ego-I. But all this appearing stuff is not essentially intrinsically real.
Ultimately, this view of the great whole that is nondual reality itself describes the reality limit of all appearing spacetime physical and mental phenomena—instantiations of the primordial ground itself. This stuff is then relatively, observer-dependently real; but not ultimately, observer-independently real.
Indeed, on the nondual Dzogchen view, the spacetime dimension of relative form, E = mc², has never departed its formless dimensional ground that is all embracing Ultimate Truth. Recall that these two truth dimensions are an inseparable ontologically prior and epistemologically always present unity. Nagarjuna told it well: “There is no ultimate difference between (relative) samsara, and (ultimate) nirvana”. This is of course is the poetic cosmic irony of the duality of the Mahayana Buddhist Two Truths ontic trope that is completed in nondual Dzogchen, the Great Completion.
Thus does Dzogchen, through its nondual ultimate view, praxis and fruition transcend and complete not only the Two Truths duality of the Mahayana, but as well the implicit, implied or assumed Metaphysical Physicalism and Cartesian Dualism of recent Western panpsychic and cosmopsychic reality accounts of the all embracing unbounded whole (mahabindu)—noetic (body/mind spirit unity), nondual ultimate reality itself.
Well, what is all that to me? Once again arises the ultimate ontological question: Who am I? “That I Am”: Innermost Wisdom Mind Presence of That. This supreme relationship is one of nondual identity—our “supreme identity”.
In Madhyamaka Prasangika Buddhist philosophy of mind, this Two Truths View (Relative and Ultimate) represents a Middle Way between the permanent substantival material existence of Metaphysical Materialism/Physicalism so beloved of Western physics and philosophy, and the nihilism of both Eastern and Western Metaphysical Idealism which sees material existence as no more than illusory avidya maya.
In other words, the great Buddhist Prasangika Middle Way acknowledges the reality of the relative spacetime dimension of mental and physical Form or Relative Truth (samvriti satya) as it continuously arises from its all-embracing ultimate consciousness Emptiness/shunyata ground (paramartha satya), the great all inclusive unbounded whole itself (mahabindu, cittadhatu, dharmakaya, kadag), the very nature of mind, and of everything arising therein. It is the primordial presence (gzhi rigpa) of our always present Wisdom Mind, our indwelling Buddha Mind (samatajnana) that already knows this.
Again, Prasangika denies arising reality any permanent inherent, intrinsic, absolute or ultimate existence. This dualistic Prasangika Two Truths View is the foundational Mahayana Buddhist philosophy of mind. Its Two Truths ontic and epistemic duality is then completed in panpsychic nondual Dzogchen, the Great Completion (and as well in Mahamudra, and in Saijojo Zen, and in Advaita Vedanta (Boaz 2020).
Engaging Our Panpsychic Wisdom Mind. While the metaphysics of consciousness has been valiantly and relentlessly reexamined through recent explorations of Western panpschism—still, our noble analytic philosophers of mind need not reinvent the proverbial perennial panpsychic mindwheel. Consciousness studies and philosophy of mind have been alive and well in our primordial Eastern Wisdom Traditions for 35 centuries.
One wonders how Western philosophy and science has managed to avoid this great trans-conceptual, nondual wisdom for so long. I say, there are more things in primordial consciousness itself than are dreamt of in canonical Western Philosophy and Modern Science. What are we afraid of?
Our pernicious taboo of subjectivity has, for the modern scientific mind, veiled and defended Western dualist and materialist analytic philosophy—and its philosophy of physics and cosmology—from a holistic, even nondual metaphysic of consciousness. This is now beginning to lift, due in part to our recent revealing cognitive adventures in the proto-Idealism of Western Panpsycism. Perhaps then it’s OK to integrate, at long last, the holistic panpsychic wisdom of the East with the prodigious science and philosophy of the West.
Let Western philosophy of mind and philosophy of science—physics, cosmology, biology and an inchoate neuroscience—now engage nondual Buddhist, Taoist, Vedanta wisdom of the East. “East is East and West is West; and ever the twain shall meet”. (Apologies to Kipling.)
Now that quantum entanglement/nonlocality, along with Buddhist Madhyamaka shunyata/emptiness/boundlessness has utterly collapsed our uncomfortable comfort zone of a purely objective, physical, observer/theory/model-independent “real world out there” (RWOT); and now that the despotic culture of science and philosophy has granted us its permission to do the trans-empirical metaphysics of the Quantum, and of Panpsychism, let’s try something completely different already!
Let us now begin the exoteric/analytic and esoteric/contemplative exploration of Buddhist metaphysics of consciousness. Caveat: this shall require—Yikes!—a bit of Buddhist contemplative practice; that is to say mindfulness meditation, mindful breathing upon our psychophysical spiritual belly buttons.
Or, because meditative-contemplative Presence of the nondual primordial awareness-consciousness whole shebang is “always already” present at the heart (hridyam) and renewed upon the prana wind (life-energy, ch’i, lung, pneuma/Holy Spirit) with every breath and so cannot be a legitimate future goal—mindful spontaneous “undistracted non-meditation” may be the more correct understanding.
For you see dear reader, our inherently indwelling, always already present Wisdom Mind, Presence of That—by whatever name or concept—if it is to be more than mere intellectual, conceptual self-stimulation requires the compassionate active engagement of both facets of our precious noetic cognitive doublet—both objective knowledge and subjective knowing—a coming to meet as it were of the nondual noetic body/mind/spirit dimensions of our being here as guests of this spacetime reality. Luminous indwelling Presence of That.
Wow! What hath God wrought upon the hitherto psychic safety of comfortable academic philosophy, physics and safe and sane intellectual theistic conjecture and exoteric but powerful petitionary prayer?
Mindful No-Self Help. In any case there’s plenty of scientific evidence based medical and psychological metadata to demonstrate that trans-conceptual contemplative mindful breathing practice, by whatever name, expedites human health and well being. And it furthers human evolution toward the conscious discovery and then supraconscious recognition, then “greater esoteric”, even nondual liberation/realization of our otherwise spooky human ultimate identity. This selfless “supreme identity” is our always already present Wisdom Mind Presence of That. Is such deep knowing awareness not after all, the ostensible function of the wisdom traditions of our species?
Alas, a mind is a terrible thing to mind. Mindfulness practice is blatantly simple; but it’s not so easy. Sadly, it requires a bit of courage, and self-discipline. Yet, there is a veritable “mindfulness revolution” now upon us. Check it out for yourself (Appendix D).
We should recall here that both human happiness and unhappiness arise from our present mindstate. Minding the “wild horse of the mind”—freeing the narcissistic conscious mind—self-ego-I—from the adventitious afflictive negative emotions (fear/anger/hostility, greed, and pride) seems a very sane approach to human awareness management; does it not? One might even speculate that the real meaning of outer, inner, and “innermost secret” human body-mind-spirit evolution to be precisely That (Chapter IV).
Grounding Mindful Dzogchen Panpsychism. Be that as it may, the Dzogchen holistic “primary monistic cosmopsychic” panpsychism account seems to me to be one that clearly dodges not only problematic physicalist, emergentist and dualist rejoinders, but as well, the presumed “combination problem”—how is it that panpsychically conscious particle/field micro-subjects combine to constitute the complex consciousness of conscious human macro-subjects—is avoided because human macro-subjects are grounded not in microcosmic particle/field brain micro-subjects—Suzuki Roshi’s Small Mind, but in the boundless awareness-consciousness that is the vast primordial whole itself—Big Mind.
As to the mysterious “grounding relation”, the relative spacetime microcosm is always already grounded, arises and participates in the ultimate holistic primary monistic vast cosmopsychic whole itself—by whatever name or concept. In contradistinction to “constitutive micropsychism”, derived as it is from the materialist metaphysic that everything is grounded in microcosmic particles and fields, primary monistic cosmopsychism holds that the stuff of reality exists ultimately because it all is grounded in the macrocosmos, the whole of the universe itself (Schaffer 2010).
This then is the essential holistic perennial truth of the subtlest nondual teachings of our Primordial Wisdom Tradition, not the least of which is the all embracing “perfect sphere of Dzogchen, the Great Completion.
“Mindfulness of breathing” meditation is the unsurprising, trans-conceptual contemplative method for knowing this mereological grounding relationship of separate microcosmic parts to their vast monistic macrocosmic whole. Contemplatively merging the wild horse of “conscious mind” with that great quiescent noetic kosmic (body-mind-spirit) consciousness whole is the method of practice that reveals not only the metaphysical understanding of this cosmic process, but the urgent moral depth. This grounding process is not essentially a physical merging or combining of micro phenomena with macro subjects. Rather, the grounding process is trans-physical and trans-conceptual, albeit with analogous physical “neural correlates” in brain, and hopefully a connecting morality that is grounded in the epistemic prior monistic cosmopsychic metaphysic.
The presumption that the grounding relation must be somehow a purely physical process of combining purely physical entities is a discomfiting unconscious ideological relic of Metaphysical Materialism/Physicalism. Panpsychism is inherently metaphysics, but as Ken Wilber has pointed out, unconscious physicalist metaphysics is “bad metaphysics”.
Therefore, in contemplative studies, of which panpsychism is properly a participant, the mindfulness meditative grounding connection to the trans-conceptual primordial “supreme source”, the very ground of being is the great process, the Way of our inherent perfectly subjective Wisdom Mind. It changes everything. It’s like coming home.
Much has been said by philosophers of mind about the nature of this “grounding relation”. Again, Monistic Cosmopsychic Dzogchen as I have broadly construed it, employs an acausal/non-causal grounding connection of relative arising phenomenal reality to/in our ultimate basal ontic primordial ground itself. And this gnostic wisdom process arises in the inherently trans-conceptual, post-rational, post-empirical and post-metaphysical nondual boundless whole in whom all of our arising and appearing spacetime realities are luminous energetic instantiations.
Our nondual, noetic trans-conceptual direct experience of That, upon the breath, may then be conceptually, causally scientifically unpacked. Our noetic doublet is the subjective and objective; inner and outer; physical and mental/spiritual whole. Human cognition includes both at once. These two voices of our human cognition are already a prior and present ontic and epistemic unity. As good a definition of the human condition and its epistemic human predicament as any.
Knowing this—objectively and subjectively (contemplatively) is accomplished through engaging intrinsic Presence of our indwelling Wisdom Mind. Sounds a bit spooky? So how shall we do this? As Buddha told, “mindfulness of breathing”. It bears repeating. Paradoxically, we use relative dualistic objective and subjective practice to fully awaken to our ultimate intrinsic Wisdom Mind Presence of the whole. This then is the prodigious grounding relation of the microcosmic with the macrocosmic dimensions of the whole of reality itself.
The Dzogchen view and practice that is the nondual completion of Mahayana Buddhist Two Truths philosophy bespeaks this dualistic relation as one of nondual identity—the monistic one truth that is invariant through all of our consciousness states—objective exoteric physical, and subjective esoteric mental and spiritual. These two reality dimensions—objective relative and subjective ultimate—are not reducible one to the other, as is the case in monistic Physicalism and in monistic Idealism, but represent a complementary ontologically prior nondual unity. Bold holistic cosmopsychic metaphysics indeed.
David Bohm’s “implicate unbroken whole” of physical cosmos is subsumed by the even more fundamental, trans-physical, nondual “perfect sphere of Dzogchen“. This all embracing, all pervading immediate awareness Presence (vidya, rigpa, I AM) of formless awareness-consciousness itself abides throughout and all about arising material stuff, these myriad forms that are the contents of the physical, mental, spiritual kosmic consciousness whole shebang.
Thus does this relative dimension of spacetime form continuously arise in our human consciousness mindstream from the ultimate formless awareness emptiness “groundless ground” that is the great unbounded whole (mahabindu), consciousness itself, nondual Spirit in whom body and mind are necessarily, luminously already instantiated.
Once again, Hindus and Buddhists speak: Tat Tvam Asi. That I Am. Speaking of this primordial “I AM Presence” of Moses and the Prophets (Isaiah 41:10), Jesus told: “That which you seek is already present within you; and it is spread upon the face of the earth, but you do not see it”. And from Dzogchen founder Garab Dorje, “It is already accomplished from the very beginning”. And Buddha told, “Wonder of wonders, all beings are Buddha”. Yet, under sway of Metaphysical Scientific Materialism/Physicalism we miss the mark (sin, avidya, ignorance) almost entirely. The cognitive antidote? Objective philosophical and subjective contemplative practice.
As to the “innermost esoteric” nondual view and practice of our great Primordial Wisdom Tradition—Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, Hebrew, Islam—we are taught by these premodern masters and mahasiddhas that the numinous I AM Presence of the great all pervading unbounded whole that we are, is always already immediately present in this very moment now. Ultimate happiness, enlightenment, liberation is only ever here now. This present moment now. It cannot be elsewhere. So there is nothing to seek elsewhere. We cannot become happy later. The future has not yet arisen. The past is utterly gone. It’s always only just this present now. So we can be happy now. By grace “It is already accomplished”. This then is Dzogchen Panpsychic view, practice, conduct and fruition.
Well then, to what purpose our dualistic training and practice of this difficult primordial wisdom Path?
Facing up to the seemingly bad news: with the exception of a few avatars and mahasiddhas, sages and saints, we are scarcely awake to our inherent, indwelling always present wakefulness—nondual ultimate consciousness-being itself. Now that’s a duality! I have argued here we might well consider the relation of complementarity (Niels Bohr) in our metaphysical spiritual quest for a panpsychic “grounding relation” between ultimate consciousness whole, and multiplicity of its participating, instantiating parts—which, by the bye, embraces all of us sentient beings.
Father of the quantum theory Niels Bohr (our quantum grandfather is of course, Max Planck; Heisenberg is the Godson; which makes Einstein is our cantankerous quantum uncle) himself a student of Taoism, would have advised that such a relative-conventional “conjugate pair” of opposites (subjective yin and objective yang) must be ultimately a complementary all inclusive whole—nameless Tao itself. “The Tao that can be named in not the eternal Tao” (Lao Tzu, Tao de Ching).
Just so, Tibetan Buddhist luminary and historically identifiable Vajrayana founding father Padmasambhava (8th century) advised: “The only way to realize the (nondual) wisdom of Ultimate Truth is through (Relative Truth) dualistic practice of the Wisdom Path.” Therefore, if you want this result, you must practice that cause. Relative cause and effect. As Zen Master Suzuki Roshi told: “To know ultimate Big Mind, work with relative Small Mind.”
This great nondual Dzogchen panpsychic cosmopsychic monistic view and praxis of ultimate reality itself is a quasi-Schafferian (2010) panpsychic Primary Monism in that it holds not that the whole has no parts, but that the single ontic ultimate boundless whole transcends, includes and grounds the relative participating parts—indeed, an exemplar of our perennial Two Truths trope.
Again. the primordial boundless whole itself is fundamental and ontologically prior to, always embraces and is the ontologically ultimate trans-conceptual nondual “groundless ground” for all of the relative spacetime participating parts. Conversely, for pluralistic, dualistic atomistic micropsychic panpsychic views the parts are fundamental and are ontologically prior to and ground the whole. The relative epistemic atomistic cart before the ultimate ontic horse of nondual truth?
May I say it again? This noetic, nondual, nonlocal kosmic whole is ontologically prior to, and transcends yet includes the cosmic spacetime located physical atomic baryonic parts. In this holistic view of ultimate reality the relative, local physical parts supervene (depend) upon and are grounded in the vast primordial nonlocal unbroken whole itself. Just so, the whole supervenes upon the parts. How so? Mereologically, where there are relative parts, there is a subsuming, embracing whole. Where there is an ultimate whole, there are arising and participating parts. The relative, complementary duality of part-whole are ultimately unitary, as Bohr, the Buddhists, and indeed our entire premodern nondual Primordial Wisdom Tradition have told for many centuries.
Again, in such an ultimate nondual (subject-object identity) view the primary relation of objective parts to the all inclusive perfectly subjective consciousness whole is one of numerical identity—the two relata are one selfsame identity. Relative spacetime human consciousness arises from That (tat, sat) ultimate or absolute whole.
From the dualistic relative-conventional view, a whole and its parts are separate. Thus, this conceptual relative/ultimate duality that pervades and permeates all binary discursive linguistic discourse is reflexively resolved and completed in the kosmic nondual all-embracing perfect sphere of Dzogchen Panpsychism, the Great Completion of Buddhist Mahayana/Vajrayana Path (H.H. The Dalai Lama 2000, 2007; Norbu 1999).
Once more, the peaceful realization of that great truth must not be a future mindstate goal. Our past is gone. Our future has not yet arisen. Our happiness and our unhappiness are the result of our present mind state. Human happiness is only now. Presence of Wisdom Mind, by whatever concept or belief, is always already present this very moment now. Wondrous paradox to conceptual mind.
How do we recognize, then realize this truth of human happiness beyond mere concept and belief? We make our goal, not happiness, nor liberation, but the practice of the Path, upon each mindful conscious breath, again and again. “To know Big Mind; work with Small Mind.” To personally realize the luminous nondual unbounded whole, ultimate trans-conceptual “groundless ground”, mindfully engage its primordial consciousness particulars. No problem at all. As Buddha told so long ago, “Rest your weary mind and let it be as it is; all things are perfect exactly as they are”.
This then is the body-mind-spirit noetic imperative now present in our emerging Noetic Revolution in science, spirituality and culture.
Excerpt from “The Collapse of Objective Reality: Quantum Nonlocality and Buddhist Emptiness”,
by David Paul Boaz, 2019