Not Marvelous Enough

A philosophical musing, "What If Our Brains Aren't Good Enough?" from almost two years ago by Buddhist physician Alex Lickerman examines the nature of mind and consciousness. Lickerman asks some key questions about limitations, and in particular wonders whether enlightenment might be a happy illusion, instead of a deep insight into reality:

As far as I can tell, the form of this ultimate knowledge—enlightenment—is principally an emotional state, a sense or a feeling about what the truth is, accompanied by ideas expressible in language that can only ever capture the experience of it incompletely. The sense I have is that to become enlightened is to tap into a completely different way of knowing.

Or maybe not. Enlightenment could be nothing more (though this would be far from nothing!) than a supremely joyful state in which we feel all matter and life contained within the universe are one. Though Buddhism presumes the knowledge and wisdom one can gain from enlightenment actually reflects the truths about the cosmos, the skeptic in me recognizes this to be a first principle—meaning it's unprovable. And the scientist in me recognizes that our brains—again, marvelous as they may be—may actually not be marvelous enough, and that the experience of enlightenment (a life-state that's entirely reasonable to believe is possible given that many have reported experiencing it) doesn't actually describe the way things are, but simply represents the most enviable life-state we can experience.

And in fact, if that's "all" enlightenment is — a pleasing fancy, a cheery delusion of understanding caused by an unusual brain-state — well, that's nothing to scorn, eh? Particularly if it leads one to lead a better life in countless other ways. And even if it's not accompanied by testable predictions about the motions of electrons or galaxies. Maybe being a happier, wiser person is good enough!

(cf. Atheist Spirituality (2009-01-29), Don't Panic (2010-11-17), When Someone You Love Is Unhappy (2011-05-29), Smile at Everyone (2013-02-15), Bodhisattva's Brain (2013-04-20), ...) - ^z - 2013-12-31