If you would be a real seeker of truth,
You must at least once in your life doubt,
As far as possible, all things.
“Discours de la Méthode”; Descartes. 1637.
Khalid Gibran, the well known Lebanese poet and artist of the early twentieth century, says in prose poetry named ‘The Sleepwalkers':
“ In the town where I was born lived a woman and her daughter, who walked in their sleep.
One night, while silence enfolded the world, the woman and her daughter, walking, yet asleep, met in their mist-veiled garden. And the mother spoke, and she said: "At last, at last, my enemy! You by whom my youth was destroyed -- who have built up your life upon the ruins of mine! Would I could kill you!"
And the daughter spoke, and she said: "O hateful woman, selfish and old! Who stand between my freer self and me! Who would have my life an echo of your own faded life! Would you were dead!" At that moment a cock crew, and both women awoke. The mother said gently, "Is that you, darling?" And the daughter answered gently, "Yes, dear.”!
How can we really prove we are not sleepwalkers in our so-called life?
Let me share a personal experience with you. Some years ago, I left my hometown to live in Sydney where I still live today. As I had been missing my parents and relatives, I would often dream of being with them. However, I would wake up realizing that it was all just a dream.
During one particular dream, I said to myself “I know it's a dream again”; but in an attempt to dispute this, I decided to wash my face, thoroughly. “It is real this time,” I said to myself.
Guess what? When I suddenly woke up, I realized, yes, this was also just a dream!
My purpose in this chapter is to make you aware of how important the question of existence is. Let me therefore share with you the brief historical background of this ultimate question.
As far as western philosophy is concerned, Sophism is perhaps the most ancient Greek belief, being born there over 2400 years ago. Sophists believe that nothing actually exists and if it does, it is incomprehensible to man. As such, man has no ability to access it and even if it were comprehensible to him, he would be unable to communicate it and explain it to others.
Amongst the ancient Greek philosophers, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle's crushing criticism seriously wounded these roving teachers of rhetoric. In fact, philosophy and logic were founded as a response to sophism.
After the demise of Aristotle, Skepticism was founded by a Greek philosopher called Pyrrho. His philosophy was that every object of human knowledge involves uncertainty; therefore, he argued, it is impossible ever to arrive at the knowledge of truth. According to Skepticism we only know how things appear to us, but are ignorant of their inner substance.
The diversity of opinion amongst the wise, as well as the ignorant proves this. Therefore, we ought never to make any positive statements on any subject.
It is related that Pyrrho acted on his own principles to such an extreme, that his friends were obliged to accompany him wherever he went, in case he might be run over by a carriage or fall down from a cliff.
Pyrrhonists suggest that we should never say, “it is so”. Rather we should say, “ it seems so”, or “ it appears so”.
Pyrrhonists sometimes supported their argument with numerous examples of various optical illusions such as: mirage, looming, seeing sparkling stars around when you all of the sudden stand up from a sitting position, as well as other types of illusions of length, shape, touch, temperature, etc. on the one hand, and numbers of false reasoning and arguments on the other.
The only conclusion we can arrive at from this is that all so-called human opinions are delusions caused by illusions. The followings are just some examples of many false reasoning:
Statement One: Water is fluid (flowing).
Statement Two: Ice is from water
Summation: Ice is fluid!
The conclusion is invalid, though the premises are valid.
Statement One: That dog is a father.
Statement Two: That dog is his.
Summation: That dog is his father!
Again, the conclusion is obviously invalid, in spite of the validity of the premises.
Statement One: All dogs are mammals.
Statement Two: All cats are mammals.
Summation: All dogs are cats!
Throughout the history of mankind we have learned about many people who faced these questions and failed to find a satisfactory answer. As a result, they were drawn into the whirlpool of uncertainty and doubt.
Schopenhauer, Sadegh Hedayat and Abul-Ala Ma'ari are just a few examples of many such people. Unfortunately committing suicide appeared to them as the only solution to end all uncertainty.
I would like to end this chapter with the first part of “The Simile of the Cave” presented by Plato. It is a very good example of those involved in the divided line of this world and the hereafter. In his simile we are asked to picture a group of people sitting inside a dark cave, their hands and feet are bound in such a way that they can only look at the back walk of the cave.
Behind them is a wall, and beyond that wall pass human-line creatures carrying equipment and the like. Due to the fact that there is a fire behind them they cause flickering shadows on he back wall of the cave.
The only thing that these cave dwellers can perceive is this shadow-play. Their knowledge is based solely on the shadows, which form their world. They have been sitting in this position since they were bon so they believe that all they can see is all that there is.
Please read this simile carefully and, if necessary, more than once, trying to imagine yourself as one of the prisoners. Then, see how you could assure yourself that the world you are living in is not a mere illusion. Make sure you have thought enough about the issues raised in this chapter before you proceed to the next.
‘I want you to go on to picture the enlightenment or ignorance of our human conditions somewhat as follows. Imagine an underground chamber, like a cave with an entrance open to the daylight and running a long way underground.
In this chamber are men who have been prisoners there since they were children, their legs and necks being so fastened that they can only look straight ahead of them and cannot turn their heads.
Behind them and above them a fire is burning, and between the fire and the prisoners runs a road, in front of which a curtain-wall has been built, like the screen on puppet shows between the operators and their audience, above which they show the puppets'.
‘Imagine further that there are men carrying all sorts of gear along behind the curtain-wall, including figures of men and animals made of wood and stone and other materials, and that some of these men, as is natural, are talking and some not.'
‘An odd picture and an odd sort of prisoner.'
‘They are drawn from life,' I replied. ‘For, tell me, do you think our prisoners could see anything of themselves or their fellows except the shadows thrown by the fire on the wall of the cave opposite them?'
‘How could they see anything else if they were prevented from moving their heads all their lives?'
‘And would they see anything more of the objects carried along the road?'
‘Of course not.'
‘Then if they were able to talk to each other, would they not assume that the shadows they saw were real things?'
‘And if the wall of their prison opposite them reflected sound, don't you think that they would suppose, whenever one of the passers-by on the road spoke, that the voice belonged to the shadow passing before them?'
‘They would be bound to think so.'
‘And so they would believe that the shadows of the objects we mentioned were in all respects real?'
Further reading: http://www.secretbeyondmatter.com
Are you inside the universe? Or is the universe inside you? Browse on the above website.