Reason and Religion: Irremediably Incompatible Bedfellows?

Page 9 of 9 pages « First < 7 8 9 - Full Article

Between the either and the or
However, please allow me one more example for the purpose of illustration. Many non-Western cultures make no categorical distinction between life and death, but rather, see them as two complementary forms making up one form. Instead of life/death, we might say there is ‘Leath’, or perhaps ‘Dife’. ‘Leath’ is a hybrid form of the life/death composite, and ‘dife’ is a hybrid form of the death/life composite.

Now I realize this probably grates on the eyes and ears. But in order to illustrate life with a tinge of death and vice versa within the English language that is ill equipped for complementary expression, perhaps that’s the best way to do it. At the deepermost level, life and death are like Yin and Yang, or ‘Ying’ and ‘Yan’, if you will. They are separate, and yet they are inseparable, and they are neither separate nor are they separable. In their swirling, undulating embrace, they are two and they are one.

Yin, dark, deep, mysterious Yin. Once it was in complementation with Yang to compose the whole form that mediated between the two, sympathetic, undulating, resonant, movement emerged. Unfortunately, the West pushed Yin aside to prioritize Yang. Proud analytical Yang, the enlightened one. Its uncountable Boolean bits pile up to form a heap so large that no matter how many bits are removed, it’s still a heap many of whose parts are known digitally but whose whole is unfathomable.

So, we have ‘Leath’, or life that has not really taken its leave of death in the dualist sense but life as another form of existence that usually goes by the name, death. Or we have ‘Dife’, death that is tinged with life principles, since it contains some aspects of life, just as life contains some aspects of death. There is no absolute distinction between life and death. Rather, bodymind becoming is either ‘Leath’ or ‘Dife’, according to the vantage point. It can also be considered both ‘Leath’ and ‘Dife’ as well. Or it can be considered neither ‘Leath’ nor ‘Dife’, but something else, if we wish. All things considered, bodymind becoming is all of the above, and it is none of the above. The West has life that terminates at time tn and death that commences at that same time. Other cultures have ‘Leath’, or they have ‘Dife’, two words for the same process. The one word qualifies bodymind becoming during thisworldly time and the other word qualifies bodymind becoming during otherworldly time, both times merging into one another to create a whole cosmic process. These cultures have no all-or-nothing split between life and death. In contrast, what for us is death and a time of mourning could be for them a time of jubilation, and what for us is birth and the beginning of a new life and cause for celebration is for them also jubilation over a newly emerging process of becoming.

The West took its leave of most other cultures when Cartesian-Newtonian linear, corpuscular-kinetic, classical mechanics took a leap of faith in logic, reason, objectivity, and analysis. On so doing, the West went whole-hog Yang. Yin, virtually unfathomable Yin, was consequently pushed under the carpet in hopes she would soon be forgotten. There is no complementarity here in Niels Bohr’s conception in this classical picture. When complementarity is genuinely in play, just as our photon shows no preference for either its wave nature or its particle nature, so also neither should we play favorites. And just as Yang holds no power over Yin, so the interdependent, interrelative, interactive, incongruous complementarity between them holds. Incongruous complementarity forces us to the conclusion that nature is neither independent of us nor we of her. Everything is interconnected with everything else.

Now what do I mean by that? That life is connected to death. That in a certain way of putting it, to say life is also to say death. You simply cannot separate the two. Yet they are separate. Life is death (‘Leath’) and death is life (‘Dife’), and at the same time neither is it the case that the one is the other nor that the one is not the other——they are ‘hybridized’. There is neither absolute life nor absolute death, in the same way that there is neither absolute goodness nor absolute badness. If absolute distinctions are made between life and death and good and bad, the distinctions are in the head; they are mind acts. If there are no absolute distinctions but only matters of difference, then the differences are not in the mind but in the heart and the gut, in feelings and sentiments and emotions and intuition. All this has to do with bodymind rather than merely mind. It is not a matter of either body or mind, for they are interdependent, interrelative, interactive, and incongruously complementary: they are bodymind. In this respect, somewhat like Yin and Yang, there is no body without a bit of mind and mind can never divorce itself entirely from body. In concert they make up bodymind, in its process of bodyminding bodymindingly.

If mind still insists on having its way, then dire consequences might be in store——and at times they have been in the West. If the citizens of a given society were suddenly to behave like mindless bodies, then personal desires, wishes, and whims would predominate, and anarchy would raise its ugly head. Some mind and some body is good, but too much of either can be bad. As we saw above in passing, many things can be qualified in this manner. Fire is good for cooking but bad when devastating a national park. Water is necessary to sustain life; it also causes floods. Bacteria are good for fermentation and decomposition; they also bring diseases. Cars and guns provide transportation of sport and hunting; they can also kill. The mouth allows us to communicate; it can also get us in trouble when a foot is firmly placed in it. If mind and mind alone, satisfied with nothing less than absolutes regarding eithers and ors, decided when cars could be used with absolute safety and guns could be carried without danger to anybody, then we would undoubtedly remain carless and gunless. If body were completely in control, havoc might threaten to reap a rich harvest. There must be a happy balance between body and mind such that bodymind is the yield.

In fact, bodymind, rather than body and mind in presumed separation, is the only way to establish and keep the balance. However, giving lip service to bodymind’s health is easy; actually practicing it is difficult. Mind might take its leave of bodymind and try to keep body on the straight and narrow, but temptations keep popping up, and it succumbs, with mind trailing along behind. The difficulty is getting bodymind in tune with itself to the extent that no mind is paid to the temptations, and bodily desires are not the controlling factor.

Mind can rationalize bad into good ad infinitum, but under ordinary circumstances body can’t simply ‘Just say no’ to drugs and alcohol. The alcoholic knows full well that after each binge the mind can with authority declare ‘Enough!’, but the body wins out in the end. Or the body is aching and the mind says ‘Just a little hair of the dog that bit me isn’t going to hurt’, and it’s on the merry-go-round one more time. Mind can convince itself it’s doing the right thing; then it discovers that something has gone terribly wrong. Body does what it does without input from mind, and gets itself in a heap of trouble. In contrast, when bodymind maintains a healthy balance, the bad side of things pretty much stays in the dark, and the good side emerges. But first, bodymind must find the most genuine balance.
Balance. I apparently use the term with the greatest of ease. But the Eastern tradition requires subtle years of apprenticeship and atunement to bodymind before it can emerge into consciousness as if spontaneously, and the Western tradition requires painful years of learning and analyzing and focused attention to what is learned and analyzed before bodymind can purportedly become the product of consciousness. Two roads to the same destination, one through reason and logic and the other through religion and faith? Perhaps. Perhaps mind, master of serene reason and logic, and body, storehouse of intuition, faith and fervor, should not, cannot, proceed as if they were proud, self-contained, autonomous fragments rebounding within the whole. Perhaps mind and body have been, are, and will have been, bodymind all along, whether we knew it or not and whether we liked it or not. Perhaps.

1. I have used the terms ‘interdependency’, ‘interrelatedness’, and ‘interactivity’ extensively in past studies (for example merrell 2000a, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007). They have been inspired by Charles S. Peirce’s concept of the sign and his categories of thought, of signs, and of the world’s phenomena (Firstness, Secondness and Thirdness), by pragmatic philosophy in general, by Buddhist philosophy, and by recent developments in quantum physics and the science of complexity—insofar as have been able to grasp them.

2. From a variety of sources we have the suggestion that the world is not as obedient to logical principles as has been traditionally assumed (for example Goswami 1993, Lupasco 1947, Melhuish 1967, Merrell 1991, Rescher and Brandom 1979, Schlegel 1967, Smith 1995).

3. For an early study see LeShan 1974; for a survey of this topic from diverse points of view, including pro- and anti-science, and pro- and anti-New Age and paranormal science, see Cartwright 1999, Cole 1984, Davis 1997, Gregory 1988, Hagen 1995, Harding 1998, Horgan 1996, Pickering 1995, Romanyshyn 1989.

4. I will term Buddhism a ‘doctrine’ rather than a ‘religion’ or ‘philosophy’, since it is neither a ‘religion’ nor a ‘philosophy’ in the Western sense, but rather, a way of co-participating with the world, of interdependently, interrelatedly, interacting with the world.

5. The notion of something undergoing alteration from one color to another, or from some sensation received from any of the sensory organ to another, bears on the problem of induction, especially in light of the assumptions in this essay of Nelson Goodman’s (1965) ‘New Riddle of Induction’ that has been the focus of heated debates and has driven many a philosopher up the wall (see Stalker 1994).

6. For a discussion of the nature of the terms focal and subsidiary, see Polanyi (1958, 1966), and for application of the terms to communication along the lines of Peirce’s concept of the sign, see merrell (1995a, 2000).

7. Briefly, Firstness is unary: what is what it is, as a self-contained whole; Secondness is what it is, in terms of its interrelations with something else; Thirdness is what it is, insofar as it mediatingly brings Firstness and Secondness into interrelationship with each other in the same way that it brings itself into mediated interrelationships with them (for more on Peirce’s categories of thought, see Peirce 1931-35, passim; for a discussion of the categories, Almeder 1980, Hookway 1985, Merrell 1995b, 1997.

8. Along these lines, from within Western thought, I would suggest a reading of Barnes and Bloor (1992), Bloor (1983), Feyerabend (1987, 1999), Geertz (1989), and Margolis (1991).

9. With respect to Western culture in general, this theme is argued forthrightly in Capek (1961), Heelan (1983), Shlain (1991), and others on art and science, and Barfield (1965), and Berman (1981).

10. Also, Varela (1979); regarding paradox at the quantum level, Bohr (1961), Wheeler (1994), Melhuish (1967).

11. In ‘Leath-Dife’ I have taken to the liberty of extending Goodman’s (1965) ‘New Riddle of Induction’ that has ‘Emeralds are green’ for us but they are ‘Grue’ for some strangers from a strange land, which is to say that from our perspective they think ‘Emeralds are green’ up to a certain time and thereafter they think ‘Emeralds are blue’ (for further, Merrell 1997).


Almeder, Robert (1980). The Philosophy of Charles S. Peirce: A Critical Introduction. Totowa: Rowman and Littlefield.
Baker, G. P. and P. M. S. Hacker (1984). Scepticism, Rules and Language. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
Barfield, Owen (1965). Saving the Appearances. New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World.
Barnes, Barry and David Bloor (1982). ‘Relativism, Rationalism and the Sociology of Knowledge’. In Rationality and Relativism, eds. M. Hollis and S. Lukes. Cambridge: MIT.
Berman, Morris (1981). The Reenchantment of the World. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Bloor, David (1983). Wittgenstein: A Social Theory of Knowledge. London: Macmillan.
Bohr, Niels (1961). Atomic Theory and the Description of Nature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Capek, Milic (1961). The Philosophical Impact of Contemporary Physics. New York: Van Nostrand.
Cartwright, Nancy (1999). The Dappled World: A Study of the Boundaries of Science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Chomsky, Noam (1988). The Culture of Terrorism. Boston: South End Press.
Chomsky, Noam (2002). Media Control: The Spectacula Achievements of Propaganda. New York: Seven Stories Press.
Chomsky, Noam (2006). Failed States: The Abuse os Power and the Assault on Democracy. New York: Metropolitan Books.
Cole, K. C. (1984). Sympathetic Vibrations: Reflections on Physics as a Way of Life. New York: William Morrow.
Conze, Edward (1970). Buddhist Thought in India. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Davis, Joel (1997). Alternate Realities: How Science Shapes our Vision of the World. New York: Plenum.
DeLong, Howard (1970). A Profile of Mathematical Logic. New York: Addison-Wesley.
Feyerabend, Paul K. (1987). Farewell to Reason. London: Verso.
Feyerabend, Paul K. (1999). Conquest of Abundance. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Geertz, Clifford (1989). ‘Anti Anti-Relativism’. In Relativism: Interpretation and Confrontation, ed. M. Krausz. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.
Goldstein, Rebecca (2005). Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel. New York: W. W. Norton.
Goodman, Nelson (1965). Fact, Fiction and Forecast, 2nd ed. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill.
Goswami, Amit (1993). The Self-Aware Universe. New York: J. P. Tarcher.
Gregory, Bruce (1988). Inventing Reality: Physics as Language. New York: John Wiley.
Hagen, Steve (1995). How the World Can Be the Way It Is. Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House.
Harding, Sandra G. (1998). Is Science Multicultural?: Postcolonialisms, Feminisms, and Epistemologies. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Heelan, Patrick (1970). ‘Complementarity, Context-Dependence, and Quantum Logic.’ Foundations of Physics 1 (2), 95-100.
Heelan, Patrick (1971). ‘Logic of Framework Transpositions’. International Philosophical Quarterly 11, 313-34.
Heelan, Patrick (1983). Space-Perception and the Philosophy of Science. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Hookway, Christopher (1985). Peirce. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
Horgan, John (1996). The End of Science. New York: Addison-Wesley.
Lakoff, George (1987). Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal About the Mind. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Lakoff, George (2004). Don’t Think of an Elephant! White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishers.
Lakoff, George and Mark Johnson (1980). Metaphors We Live By. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
LeShan, Lawrence (1974). The Medium, the Mystic, and the Physicist. New York: Viking.
Lupasco, Stéphane (1947). Logique et contradiction. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.
Mansfield, Victor (1995). Synchronicity, Science, and Soul-Making. LaSalle, IL: Open Court.
Margolis, Joseph )1991). The Truth about Relativism. London: Basil Blackwell.
Matilal, B. K. (1971). Epistemology, Logic, and Grammar in Indian Philosophical Analysis. The Hague: Mouton.
Melhuish, George (1967). The Paradoxical Nature of Reality. Bristol: St. Vincent’s Press.
merrell, floyd (1991). Signs becoming Signs: Our Perfusive, Pervasive Universe. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
merrell, floyd (1995a). Semiosis in the Postmodern Age. West Lafayette: Purdue University Press.
merrell, floyd (1995b). Peirce’s Semiotics Now: A Primer. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press.
merrell, floyd (1997). Peirce, Signs, and Meaning. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
merrell, floyd (2000a). Signs, Science, Self-Subsuming Art(ifacts). Dresden: University of Dresden Press.
merrell, floyd (2000b). Signs for Everybody: Or, Chaos, Quandaries, and Communication. Ottawa: Legas.
merrell, floyd (2002). Learning Living, Living Learning: Signs, between East and West. Ottawa: Legas.
merrell, floyd (2003). Sensing Corporeally: Toward a Posthuman Understanding. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
merrell, floyd (2005). Capoeira and Candomblé: Conformity and Resistance through Afro-Brazilian Experience. Princeton: Markus Wiener.
merrell, floyd (2007). Processing Cultural Meaning. Ottawa: Legas.
Murti, T. R. V. (1955). The Central Philosophy of Buddhism: A Study of the Madhyamika System. London:
Nagel, Ernst, and James R. Newman (1964). Gödel’s Proof. New York: New York University Press.
Nakamura, H. (1973). ‘Faith and Reason in Early Buddhism and Christianity’. Journal of Ecumenical Studies 1, 30-50.
Needham, Joseph (1954). Science and Civilization in China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Nishitani, Keiji (1990). The Self-Overcoming of Nihilism, trans. G. Parkes. Albany: State University of New York Press.
Pattee, Howard H. (1969). ‘How Does a Molecule Become a Message?’ Developmental Biology, supplement 3, 227-33.
Pattee, Howard H. (1972). ‘Laws and Constraints, Symbols and Languages’. In Towards a Theoretical Biology, ed. C. H. Waddington. Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh Press.
Pattee, Howard H. (1979). ‘Robert Rosen, Howard Hunt Pattee, and Raymond L. Somorja: A Symposium in Theoretical Biology’. In A Question of Physics: Conversations in Physics and Biology, eds. P. Buckley and F. D. Peat. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Pattee, Howard H. (1986). ‘Universal Principles of Measurement and Language Functions in Evolving Systems’. In Complexity, Language, and Life: Mathematical Approaches, eds. J. L. Casti and A. Karlqvist. New York: Springer-Verlag.
Peirce, Charles S. (1931-35). Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, eds. C. Hartshorne and P. Weiss, vols. 1-6. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Phillips, Kevin (2006). American Theocracy. London: Penguin.
Pickering, Andrew (1995). The Mangle of Practice: Time, Agency, and Science. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Polanyi, Michael (1958). Personal Knowledge. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Polanyi, Michael (1966). The Tacit Dimension. New York: Doubleday.
Putnam, Hilary (1969). ‘Is Logic Empirical?’ In Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science: Proceedings of the Boston Colloquium for Philosophy of Science, 1966/1968, eds. R. S. Cohen & M. W. Wartofsky. Dordrecht: D. Reidel.
Putnam, Hilary (1971). ‘How to Think Quantum Logically’. In Logic and Probability in Quantum Mechanics, ed. P. Suppes. Dordrecht: D. Reidel.
Putnam, Hilary (1981). Reason, Truth and History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Putnam, Hilary (1983). ‘Vagueness and Alternative Logic’. Erkenntnis 19, 297-314.
Quine, Williard van Orman (1953). From a Logical Point of View. New York: Harper and Row.
Quine, Willard van Orman (1969). Ontological Relativity and Other Essays. New York: Columbia University Press.
Rescher, Nicholas and Robert Brandom (1979). The Logic of Inconsistency: A Study of the Non-Standard Possible-World Semantics and Ontology. Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Littlefield.
Robinson, R. H. (1967). Early Madhyamika in India and China. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
Romanyshyn, Robert D. (1989). Technology as Symptom and Dream. New York: Routledge.
Schlegel, Richard (1967). Completeness in Science. New York: Appleton-Century-Croft.
Schurmann, F. (1968). Ideology and Organization in Communist China. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Shanker, S. G. (1987). Wittgenstein and the Turning-Point in the Philosophy of Mathematics. Albany: State University of New York Press.
Shlain, Leonard (1991). Art and Physics: Parallel Visions in Space, Time, and Light. New York: William Morrow.
Smith, Wolfgang (1995). The Quantum Enigma: Finding the Hidden Key. Peru, IL: Sherwood Sugden.
Spencer-Brown, George (1979). Laws of Form. New York: E. P. Dutton.
Staal, Frits (1975). Exploring Mysticism: A Methodological Essay. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Stalker, Douglas (ed.) (1994). Grue! Chicago: Open Court.
Varela, Francisco (1984). ‘The Creative Circle: Sketches on the Natural History of Circularity’. In The Invented Reality, ed. P. Watzlawick. New York: W. W. Norton.
Wheeler, John Archibald (1994). At Home in the Universe. New York: American Institute of Physics.
Wilber, Ken (1983). Up from Eden: A Transpersonal View of Human Evolution. New York: Random House.
Wilber, Ken (ed.) (1982). The Holographic Paradigm and Other Paradoxes. Boulder: Shambhala.



Page 9 of 9 pages « First < 7 8 9 - Full Article





Remember my personal information

Notify me of follow-up comments?

Submit the word you see below:

© Dharma Cafe'   |  RSS Site   |   Top of page