Deep wounds have been inflicted on many of us, our society, and our planet. To heal these wounds, we need to heal our body, emotions, thinking, and our whole being. The importance of healing our body and emotions is generally recognized. But why do we have to heal our thinking and what does healing thinking entail? To answer this question, we have to examine the role of thinking in our society, demonstrate how common ways of thinking inflict deep wounds, and then show how more holistic ways of thinking can contribute to the healing of these wounds.
The Prevalence of Thinking in our Culture
In our culture thinking is considered highly important. Consequently, we think almost all the time. Even when we don’t want to think, thinking often continues. And our thinking determines or influences our actions.
To understand the role of the mind and thinking let us have a brief look at Jean Gebser’s scheme (Gebser, J. 1984. The Ever-Present Origin. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press). He distinguished the following five structures of consciousness that followed each other during human evolution: the archaic, magic, mythic, mental, and integral structures. We are at the verge of entering the integral structure. However, the vast majority of the world’s population remains still in the mental or even mythic structure. The mental structure began to establish itself about 2500 years ago. This structure emphasizes the importance of the mind, thought, and thinking to such an extent that Aristotle, the influential Greek philosopher, characterized the human species as the thinking animal. Aristotle has had a lasting influence on Western society, which has infected the whole world. In the middle ages, Saint Thomas Aquinas referred to Aristotle as the philosopher and incorporated his views into church doctrine. As a result even the church emphasized thought and thinking. Later on, during the so-called Enlightenment, more appropriately called the age of reason, thinking reached its ultimate supremacy, and to a great extent this supremacy of reason and thinking has lasted to the present time. There has been, however, some reaction: in the 19th century, romanticism embraced feeling, emotion, and intuition; in the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, existentialism reminded us that the experience of existence goes deeper than mere thinking about it; and in the second half of the 20th century and in the 21st century, the New Age Movement also underlines the importance of our non-rational faculties and to some extent has become even anti-rational. Thus, today in Western and Westernized countries, the alternative culture such as the New Age Movement emphasizes feeling, emotion, intuition and other non-rational faculties and to some extent devalues or even rejects thinking, whereas mainstream society continues to embrace the supremacy of the thinking mind.
To some extent the alternative culture has been a healthy reminder of our non-rational faculties and thus has allowed us to value the heart besides the brain, and with regard to the brain its right side besides the left one. However, the extreme devaluation of the thinking mind has been not only exaggerated but also illusory - illusory because emotions combine body sensations (feelings) and thoughts; hence, emotions include thought (see, e.g., Shinzen Young. 1997.The Science of Enlightenment. Boulder, CO: Sounds True). Unfortunately, the implication of thought in emotions often has not been recognized.
This book focusses mainly on thought and thinking. However, since emotions imply thought, the investigation of thought and thinking relates also to emotions. And since thinking also influences the body, thinking relates even to the body. Thus, contrary to the devaluation of thinking within certain circles of the New Age Movement, thinking retains relevance for emotions and the body. Hence, harmful thinking does not only harm the mind, but also emotions and the body. And healing thinking does not only heal the mind, but also emotions and the body.
Harmful Thinking, Healing Thinking, and Healthy Thinking
Harmful thinking inflicts wounds and sickness. Healing thinking contributes to the healing of wounds and sickness; healthy thinking prevents their occurrence. Healthy thinking and healing thinking function as more holistic ways of thinking that fragment less then Aristotelian logic.
Thinking in terms of Aristotelian logic that seems still widespread not only in mainstream society but also to a great extent in science, can be harmful, if it is not balanced by healing ways of thinking. One important feature of Aristotelian logic is thinking in terms of either/or: either this or that, either black or white, either true or false, either good or bad, etc. Although this kind of thinking can be useful, it may inflict wounds because it cuts the whole into mutually exclusive opposites that can become antagonistic and destructive. Thinking in terms of Yin-Yang can heal these wounds. Since Yin contains also Yang and vice versa, the opposites are connected and fused. The world is no longer split apart. In any situation we can see both black and white, truth and falsity, goodness and evil, etc. One of the opposites may predominate so much that the other seems barely noticeable. But even then a connection is maintained and this connection restores wholeness that creates holiness and health. Holism (wholeness), holiness, and health appear intimately interconnected and also have the same etymological root.
In addition to Yin-Yang thinking, other healing ways of non-Aristotelian thinking such as fuzzy logic, both/and logic, non-identity, Buddhist logic and Jain logic will be explored in this book and their relevance to many aspects our lives, society and the planet will be demonstrated. However, since thinking - healthy thinking, healing thinking, and harmful thinking - constitutes only one aspect of human existence, of Being, it has to be related to other aspects of life such as feelings (body sensations), emotions, intuition, meditation and other ways of religious or spiritual experience.
After an interlude on poetic and playful language that can more or less transcend the strictures of Aristotelian logic, I begin the second part of this book by pointing to what can be experienced beyond thinking, the thinking mind and language - the unnamable. Then I present the AQAL map by Ken Wilber, an integral vision of the unnamable and the namable. Finally, I conclude with the dynamic mandala that I devised to emphasize the multiplicity of different complementary perspectives on human and kosmic existence.
Both Wilber’s AQAL map and the dynamic mandala emphasize the unmanifest source beyond manifest reality, silence beyond words, and the unnamable mystery beyond reason. In our culture that has been so much shaped by the mental structure of consciousness, mystery is often not appreciated or even denounced as unworthy of thinking human beings. However, sages and seers, and even some philosophers and scientists, have always been aware of realms beyond the thinking mind. For example, Albert Einstein, the great physicist and philosopher, wrote: “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science... To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms - this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religiousness” (Albert Einstein, quoted by Ravindra, R. 2000. Science and the Sacred. Wheaton, IL: The Theosophical Publishing House).
The unnamable mystery of Being unites us all, and through awareness of this unity, healing can occur, conflict can be transcended, and peace can be attained.