Indian civilization had a tradition of verbal transfer of knowledge (called ‘shruti’) as common or in certain periods more common that in form of written records (smriti) owing to:
A) Primality of experience over objective knowledge.
B) Preservation of the caste system in India, because verbal transfer of knowledge enabled selective knowledge transfer. Tutors were an elite guild, which defended its turf by limiting knowledge dissemination to its own, verbally. Restricting a written word is difficult. A very methodical language of mankind, Sanskrit was not vernacular.
What were A) & B) doing to India, while James Watt was building his steam engine?
The outcome of focus on self, individualism, experiential sciences, casteism & propagation of education only among elite upper castes (more through verbal tradition) & lack of theoretically objective and written dissemination of knowledge in India was that the industrial revolution skirted us - both intellectually & culturally.
Thinking from first principles was common in India & India traditionally advanced in experiential sciences like healthcare. It may lack in novel healthcare gadgets, but in clinical practise, which requires subjective & experiential understanding of what a patient undergoes, Indians are amongst the best in the world, whether in India or in U.K., the USA, Canada, South Africa or Australia.
Psychology is an interesting case study in the west. It suffered from a lack of its recognition as a science in western academic tradition of objective & exact sciences. The lack of comprehension of ‘experiential’ as science led to forced metamorphosis of many psychologists into ‘Cognitive Scientists’ at first. Thereafter cognitive science was mated with neurology to become ‘neurocognitive sciences’. To do aforementioned, the experiential was reduced to the minimum & objective gadgets (fMRIs and Electroencephalography) were introduced for objectivity.
There is a fallacious perception in the western scientific community that experiential is faith-based. Experiential is as scientific as objectivized knowledge. As such there is nothing perfectly objective in the world. All that is termed objective is marginally subjective.
Reasons: Two of the important postulates of ALCCO Approach (proposed by this author) are - (i) absence of perfect objectivity in a world with observer as the universe changes irrevocably owing to entropy increase by the time a measurement by the same or two separate observers is repeated & (ii) Fruitlessness of causality in a world without observer. Latter (lack of causality) makes measurement useless altogether.
Objective scientific knowledge is: “Anyone, using the described technique or art will produce foretold results. It is a state of chronospatially segregated observers & observed”; and
experiential scientific knowledge is: “Only those using the described art ‘will’ experience the foretold, heuristic results. It is a state of merger of the observer with the observed, which is self-observation”.
Please note that in the definition of ‘experiential scientific knowledge’ the word ‘will’ is crucial because of its critical import. If ‘will’ is replaced by ‘may’, experiential scientific knowledge is reduced to experience & it loses its ‘scientific knowledge' tag immediately.
Heuristics & Experiential Sciences
Heuristic solution is one which is known to lie in a region but cannot be pinpointed. Example is recooking a food recipe, it is never exactly the same in inputs & process, but the output is closely similar, not same).
Heuristics don’t make anything unscientific, conversely, the most advanced sciences of machine learning and deep learning (AI) & quantum mechanics are based on heuristic outputs, instead of rule/law based (with zero deviation on every repetition).
Discomfort with heuristic is the reason that the west finds quantum mechanics ‘counter-intuitive’. India, conversely, treats the heuristical as it’s comfort zone, owing to primacy of experiential sciences in previous ages, preceding the advent of objective science through British. And experiential as deduced previously is essentially heuristic.
Learning music (experiential) is not less scientific than reading the notes. Western scientific development is in some sense faith-based knowledge dispersion (please note: I specified ‘dispersion’, not ‘generation’), while eastern is strictly experimental. I call western knowledge-dispensing faith-based because objectivized knowledge is taken for granted - on faith. All facts of science are discovered and documented by a few people whether discovery of Higgs boson or precession of mercury; a commoner has no access to tools & knowledge to undertake any of these experiments himself. But since these discoveries and inventions are repeated a few times to check for standard deviations & the papers, patents are peer-reviewed [which just means overwhelmingly voted ‘in favour of’ by the community], it is ‘considered’ objective. How large is the voting community? A few, maximum tens of people, at best; among billions, who just ‘believe’. The situation with objective knowledge becomes more grim as fake or substandard peer reviews start authenticating critical information (ironically in India referred to as ‘whatsapp university’). Journalism has lost public trust, I am afraid, the rot is spreading to academia. The higher the sources of information, the lower is the capability to review and extract worthwhile knowledge from it. I hope that technology can at least partially resolve this issue of peer reviews, making it more rigorous & democratic. Undersigned with a small team of peers is working on this problem.
Experiential knowledge on the contrary, cannot be accessed without self-experimentation & indulgence of the learner.
My aim is not to celebrate experiential by disparaging objective, but to state that both experiential and objective are scientific and have their own areas of excellence. Every such area, where rapid development is required through use, experiential is ideal, while all that needs to be disseminated as tangible or intangible is good to be objectivized. Experiential is by definition heuristic, slight deviations are expected & valued, till the overall experience is close enough. This allows & encourages easy & quick mutation.
Experiential & Transcendental
Transcendental is experientially complex and there is no way to match what one feels in a specific state to how another feels in purportedly similar state. My understanding of transcendental is
“an unanticipated (previously never experienced) mutation in perception (a new experience).”
It is a deviation in one’s sensory-nervous system in response to an internal (lower systemic complexity) or external (higher systemic complexity) stimuli, where newer types of signals are processed. We are in an ocean of signals, and laws of evolution determine, which of these signals are processed and interpreted and which are left unreacted to. The world one sees, emits light in practically all wavelengths but our response system is capable of interpreting only violate to red (VIBGYOR), but sometimes in a deviated (mutant) state our response system processes more signals in range or amplitude then usual, former leads to transcendental experiences, which happen in sleep, dreams, deep sleep, yoga, meditation; while the latter (recognition of substantially deviated stimuli & production of similarly, substantially deviated amplitude) leads to untethering of amplitude of response from the constraints a state common on use of psychedelics (there are tons of papers being written on psychedelics in all major science conferences). It is important to distinguish distorted experiences (deviation in amplitude) from new experiences (new range) and only the latter one is transcendental.
Can transcendental & experiential be miraculous or supranatural?
Not at all. I reject any supranatural constitution of either transcendental or experiential. I treat it as phenomena, yet not within the reach of easy human comprehension. Probably as experiential sciences start developing, transcendental experiences will be controlled and accessed as laughter shows on television.
The resolution of the hard problem of Consciousness lies not in objectivizing the subjective, but in understanding the constituency of the subjective, it’s evolution & ways to measure it heuristically.
DR. GREGG HENRIQUE:
I have, indeed, been tilting Eastward. I humbly confess woeful ignorance of Indian tradition. My limited experience of Indian culture suggests to me that it is a beautiful tapestry of many diverse strands of being and thought that have deep roots in honorable wisdom traditions stretching back to the very beginnings of human civilization.
I am socialized and trained as an American psychologist. I say this with a mixture of feelings, as I have a “love/hate” relationship with my professional home. My ambivalent attitude stems from the fact that the field both has done some brilliant things and at the same time is a bit schizophrenic. I believe it is misguided in its current fragmented, empirical identity. That is, American psychology is fractured and confused and has a multitude of voices that will never be reconciled into a coherent frame of understanding simply via applying the methods of empirical science. In 2011, I wrote A New Unified Theory of Psychology, where I argued a new set of foundational concepts is needed to bring out its full potential and effectively define the science of psychology and generate a more unified approach to psychotherapy.
Deepak Loomba’s analysis of experience & the difference between the subjective & objective, are rightly the conundrums that have always haunted the field. Modern scientific tradition that emerges in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries was anchored to a fundamental shift in how knowledge is justified. Specifically, scientists like Galileo hated metaphysics and believed that the best map of the world was to be achieved via logic, mathematics & the measurement & experimentation of matter in motion. Aristotle believed that knowledge was justified if perception and logic effectively gripped and cohered with reality to create a shared understanding. However, the presupposition that this formula is sufficient was blown up by the revelation by Copernicus and Galileo’s heliocentric model of the solar system. Subjective perception, even if agreed upon by the group to be reasonable and consistently coherent, was shown to be potentially flawed. Empirical observation from the third person exterior vantage point and grounded in measurement, mathematical analysis, and experimentation was then seen to be the way objective knowledge was justified. (See here for a wonderful transcript of a lecture summarizing these issues).
Of course, if one’s subject matter is the experiencing self, this requirement of data being anchored to the exterior point of view is a bit of a problem. Psychology faced what I call an “epistemological gap”. As Deepak notes, because of the way experience has been treated in India, this was not the case in that tradition. To deal with this gap and scientifically study the mind (which, BTW, might mean cognition or consciousness, depending on the paradigm), psychologists invented the concept “behavior”; which refers to observing how an animal exhibits awareness and functional response from the exterior. It turns out to be a very interesting concept. As this recent academic paper argues, I think psychologists are confused about how to think about it. I shift the traditional focus and differentiate “mental behavior” from behavior in general. I argue that the latter can serve as a unifying construct for “objective” science writ large. That is, I have come to see modern empirical natural science as being the systematic analysis of the structure and the processes (i.e., behaviors) of the universe across the scales, levels, and dimensions of existence. The Tree of Knowledge System provides a map of this view, depicting cosmic evolution as an unfolding wave of behavior across four different dimensions (Matter, Life, Mind, and Culture), mapped by four different domains of science (Physical, Biological, Psychological, and Social). My theoretical work has been on showing how this frame of matching these dimensions of reality to these domains of science can resolve psychology’s problems with being fragmented and poorly defined and we can generate a much more coherent identity.
Appreciation for major therapy approaches drove me to wonder about why these insights were not tied to the science of human psychology. It was through asking this question and diving into the literature that it dawned on me just how fragmented psychology was at the basic theoretical level. This fascinated me. Why did physicists and chemists and biologists have such strong, consensual agreement about their subject matter, but psychologists had nothing of the sort?
This awareness of what I came to call “the problem of psychology” led me down several rabbit holes and, I believe, some new insights. First, I believe that psychology’s problems stem from what I call the “Enlightenment Gap”. This refers to the fact that the Enlightenment (perhaps, unlike India) failed to generate a proper understanding of the relationship between matter and mind and between social and scientific understanding. Lacking such a frame, the science of psychology was doomed to be inadequately or incompletely framed at their foundation.
It also resulted in my generating the “Unified Theory of Knowledge” (UTOK). I believe the UTOK carries the needed insights for bridging and resolving the Enlightenment Gap and solving the problem of psychology. It is named in reference to the influential book by E. O. Wilson. In Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, he called for a vision of knowledge that could bridge the natural and social sciences with the humanities. I argue the problem of psychology is at the very center of the fractured divisions between the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities. By developing a system that offers the proper relations between matter and mind and social and scientific knowledge, the UTOK solves the problem of psychology, fills the Enlightenment Gap, and affords us a new, more holistic vision of both reality and scientific knowledge.
It has also allowed me to break out of some of the confines in the traditions that I grew up with. This, in turn, has opened me to explore other traditions and drawn me in new directions. For example, Deepak’s ALCCO Approach (in Book titled “Awareness & Consciousness, Distinction, Discovery & Evolution. The New Upanishad”) seems powerful and comprehensive, and I look forward to learning more. Indeed, there is much in the East I find to be enticing and transformative. I am tilting Eastward. It most definitely is the case.