Thinking and Not Thinking

true-wisdom mojo 1000
[Image above by mojo. Some aphorisms I thought up today when I should have been out working on the farm.]

Thinking and Not Thinking

Thinking is talking to yourself. Thought is self-speech.

Talking to yourself is the way you maintain ‘you’ and your world. What that first ‘you’ is, is a mystery.

The deep truth of both indigenous notions of The Dreaming and of Descartes: speaking/singing maintains the world, ‘cogito ergo sum’.

When you stop talking to yourself, both ‘you’ and the world stop.

What is there when they stop can, by definition, no longer be thought or said. A possible term pointing towards that which is beyond thought, language, world and self is the necessarily negative one of the ‘non-dual’, or ‘nirvana’.

‘We’ and our worlds thus emerge from, or are, the ‘non-dual’ or nirvana that talks to itself. The dual and its sufferings (‘samsara’) arise from nirvana and the non-dual.

99.9% of our time is spent thinking-doing, maintaining our sense of ourselves and world, keeping it stable. Perhaps we could stretch the 0.1% of the time in which we are mindful of doing so.

This lifetime of thinking-doing would seem to imply a deep, seldom conscious fear as our main driver in life, a fear of instability, insecurity, dissolution, death. Perhaps this is the mental equivalent of our physical drive for survival.

Talking to ourselves, expressing ideas and opinions happens especially strongly when people come together.

Talking with others, different people bring out different aspects of our thinking and thus ourselves, even as they tend to reinforce our mutual or separate mind cages, our personal versions of collective ‘word magic’ that define ourselves and our worlds and act as invisible membranes blocking them from direct perception.

Not-thinking is thus easier when alone, in solitude but not loneliness, but still difficult.

Not-thinking is not supressing thought, which is just another process of thinking. As ‘mindfulness’ or ‘awareness’, it seems to be a synthesis of doing and not-doing, of practice and grace.

The brain or mind can be seen as a filter, a collectively evolved organ inside all of us, that keeps us from being seemingly overwhelmed by Reality, the non-dual or nirvana beyond thinking. It does this by constant chattering.

With our evolved brain acting as a filter, we are thus saved from overwhelm at the price of being shut out from Reality, from realising No-Separation, from seeing directly instead of ‘as through a glass darkly’.

Rationality is rationalisation. Although we are seldom aware of it, thoughts arise from deeper layers than the rational neo-cortex.

With practice we can become aware that conscious thoughts come AFTER impulses, desires, wishes, intuitions, judgements, decisions which have occurred in the deep body-brain, traditionally often located in the guts, heart or ‘hara’ centre.

Thus even extended and differentiated processes of thought, as in philosophy or political theory, are merely extended rationalisations of deeper, pre-rational feelings and intentions. I almost instantly know what I really like/dislike, and I’m now going to rationally ‘prove’ and persuade you of it.

All thinking, all philosophy, tends to dualism because its medium – language, talking to yourself – is itself dual: it expresses and maintains a seminal split between self and other, subject and predicate, observer and observed, conscious and unconscious.

Philosophy is the history of pursuing a plethora of unsolvable conundrums, polar opposites, puzzles and contradictions (aporia) that are not in Reality but the result of its own thinking.

Dialectical thinking is a vain but valiant attempt to transcend philosophy while remaining within it.

Dialectical thinking attempts to overcome dualism by not resting on any side of the polarity, by running fast and light-footedly like Hermes, by sudden twists and reversals like the Trickster. Yet in the end it’s more like that cartoon moment when the road runner is madly whizzing his legs in the air just after he’s run over the edge of the cliff and just before he drops like a stone to the bottom of the canyon.

Even as philosophy differentiates more and more, it remains the cat chasing its own tail, the drum beating itself in search of a (non-existent) fugitive. Its greatest use is in using words to at least point out the cat, the tail, the drum, the fugitive.


~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on July 17, 2013.

4 Responses to “Thinking and Not Thinking”

  1. Lots to think over like HDT did @ Concord.

    Alone not lonely Peering into A placid pool

  2. Interesting thoughts Peter (or should that be non-thoughts?!) I was reminded of a couple of things…

    “The Way that can be told of is not an unvarying way;
    The names that can be named are not unvarying names.
    It was from the Nameless that Heaven and Earth sprang;
    The named is but the mother that rears the ten thousand creatures, each after its kind.” — Tao De Ching

    Giving names to things can be useful; but don’t confuse the names given with the things themselves (forming an undifferentiated whole – the Dao). Mentally taking things apart to explore them, by separating into pairs of mutually corroborating opposites (yin-yang), can be interesting; but don’t forget to mentally put them back together again at the end! The word ‘dialectical’ has a lot of syllables. I’m not really sure I know what it means, but perhaps something like that?

    “Most of the propositions and questions to be found in philosophical works are not false but nonsensical. Consequently we cannot give any answers to questions of this kind, but can only point out that they are nonsensical. Most of the propositions and questions of our philosophers arise from the failure to understand the logic of our language.”
    “Philosophy aims at the logical clarification of thoughts. Philosophy is not a body of doctrine but an activity. A philosophical work consists essentially of elucidations. Philosophy does not result in ‘philosophical propositions’, but rather in the clarification of propositions. Without philosophy thoughts are, as it were, cloudy and indistinct: its task is to make them clear and to give them sharp boundaries.”
    “The correct method in philosophy would really be the following: to say nothing except what can be said, i.e. propositions of natural sciences – i.e. something that has nothing to do with philosophy – and then, whenever someone wanted to say something metaphysical, to demonstrate to him that he had failed to give a meaning to certain signs in his propositions. Although it would not be satisfying to the other person – he would not have the feeling that we were teaching him philosophy – this method would be the only strictly correct one.”
    Ludwig Wittgenstein, in the Tractatus

    A proposition suggests itself – as a reflection upon, a model of, a name to put to, some aspect of the world of things; the undifferentiated whole. One can clarify the proposition within the world of names, then take it back out into the world of things, to see if it is useful or not. Maybe Wittgenstein’s philosophy was dialectical? Or Daoist?! I enjoyed the Tractatus, anyway; like hearing some of my own confused thoughts on the uses and limitations of ‘philosophy’ articulated back to me crystal clear.

    • Many thanks for the kind comment David. Yep, the ole Lao Tzu remains a personal favourite of course. Unsurpassed. Always found Wittgenstein a bit dry, but yes the Tractatus issues logically into so-called mysticism, doesn’t it? And then he kept on philosophising, as you do… Think he may also have built on another Austrian, Fritz Mauthner’s 1890s ‘Kritik der Sprache’, criticism of language (per se), and not sure he acknowledged that influence either? Hope you’re well.

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