Existentialism

The disease of the Western mind

“It is characteristic of the Western mind that it has no concept for Tao.”

– Carl Jung

We used to live in an age where no one dared to question religion – of the belief in a subjective God. We now live in an age where no one dares to question the scientific method – of the belief in objective truth.

Belief and our interpretations of our shared existence dominant the Western way of life. However, a somewhat stronghold has taken place in that we have come to view life as something that resides purely in our mind; in our ability to think. 

The disease of the West is our attachment to our mind as the ultimate source of both reality and of truth. But answer me this: where does your mind supposedly reside, and what is a mind without its context? Most people raised in Western contexts are brought up to believe in the false dichotomy between thinker and thought – as though there is a separate you that stands separate or even aside to the thoughts that occupy your ‘mind’. In reality, there is no difference between thinker and thought, just as there is no difference between experience and the one who experiences it.

In today’s age, we live in societies that are dependent on science and technology which, by their very essence, require so much more than merely the manifestations of the mind. Technology comes from our direct relationship with nature via our use of applied mathematics, and all science – that is to say, all discoveries and inquiries into nature and the nature of man – are predicated on researcher identity; of how an individual views themselves in relation to the worlds they study. In the reality that both visible and invisible forces are at play in our worldly experience and interpretations of said experience, why do we still look at the mind as only the ultimate source of truth?

Although we might see the mind as being the place where our perceptions of reality lie, the mind is nothing without its context and our bodily senses. We need light to go through our eyes. We need scent to go into our nostrils. We need to feel hot and cold on our skin. We need to hear the world around us. We need to taste the fruits of nature’s labor.

The mind is based on our subjective, individual experiences which combine to give us a shared totality with one another and everything else in existence. The sources needed for the mind to operate in this way never themselves originate in the mind, so why do we in the West keep pushing the agenda of cognition, objectivity and rationality?

The Carl Jung quote at the start of this piece draws attention to this mental-model plague that has taken hold of the Western human. The Tao in which Jung speaks of is in relation to Taoist philosophy. In this philosophy, reality is a holistic thing that appears to us via a transcendence of duality, such as realizing there is no difference between mind and body, or self and other, or being and non-being. To the western mind, however, reality is seen as being constructed by keeping things in their separate dualistic states.

So given that Western education, television programs, and even our news reports all promote the human as the mind, what can we do to unlearn this false rhetoric and re-learn, ironically, different modes of thinking? A good place to start is challenging your own assumptions whenever a thought, or an opinion, ‘comes to mind’. A second good place is to strip yourself of all your societal labels. Without a name, without a job, without a family, without friends, even without a memory of your past, what or who are you?

You are nothing more than a totality of temporal experiences. Attachment to the mind blinds you to such truths.

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