February 22nd, 2004

Books!

Book ...

Zen Physics I just got done reading a very interesting little book, Zen Physics: The Science of Death, the Logic of Reincarnation, by astrophysicist David J. Darling. Frankly, the title is a bit misleading, as the book is not really about "reincarnation" per se, and it isn't about a Zen approach to Physics either. Rather, the first half of the book takes a look at death from the standpoint of modern Western science (typified by Physics), and the second half of the book takes a look at consciousness from the standpoint of traditional Eastern metaphysics (typified by Zen).

What was, perhaps, most attractive about this book is that it doesn't come to any firm conclusions, but points at some very interesting possibilities ... the author leaves it up to the reader if they are going to look at the moon, or the finger pointing to the moon.

In terms of biological units operating in a complex niche, the human idea of "self" is perhaps necessary (after all, without a sense of "self" there would be no drive for "self preservation" and without sufficient levels of self-preservation there are no beings to be self-conscious!), but the book suggests that the idea of "self" is illusory (and illustrates how this could be so with many psychological and medical cases), and is likely to be something like the particle/wave duality of subatomic physics, one ground of being "localized" by the presence of the "observational equipment" of the human brain ... i.e., we feel "ourself" because there is a brain to "observe" the field of selfhood.

Although he does not specifically cite this in the book, this reminds me of the relation of Atman with Brahman, the individual self being only a temporary localization of the ultimate beingness (often described as being a drop of sea spray, which is not other than the sea, and which will subsume into the sea once its flight is over).

The second half of the book looks at Eastern thought, and how especially the Mahayana Buddhist thread has approximated the strange complexities of modern physics. He uses Zen as an example (and specifically Rinzai Zen, with its use of Koans to stop the mind and open up moments of pure awareness) of how to reach the reality behind the surface of the observed world.

Anyway, I thought I'd pass this along ... it certainly was well worth the reading!


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