Tuesday 2 October 2018

Is mystical experience *distinctively* 'ineffable' - No, because All experience, All possible knowledge, is strictly inexpressible

 By Caspar David Friederich (1774-1840)

It is often said that mystical experience is ineffable, that is it cannot be expressed or comprehended... but this restriction applies to all possible communications.

Communication is, in the first place, always a partial, hence distorted or biased, summary of reality (because, in reality, everything is linked and there are an open-ended number of possible relevant factors) - and following that, the transmission and reception and comprehension of any communication is liable to limitations and errors.

So ineffability is a false and misleading definition. What is trying to be said is simply that the only truth about reality must be known directly, without any communication. Thus, all communication can do is point in the direction of truth - and to share a truth is for two or more persons directly to experience the same truth.

All true knowledge of reality is therefore a 'mysical' experience.

And any communication that claims to be true - whether it be in the form of mathematics, logic, science or anything else - is making a necessarily false claim. 

I suspect that this is the general-language pointer at the truth which underpins the specifically mathematical/ logical assertion of Godel's incompleteness theorem. All Mathematics. Logic, Science is always incomplete - hence always wrong; and wrong in ways that that discipline can never know (because all disciplines are based on communications, hence are incomplete).

Direct or 'mystical' knowledge is therefore the only real knowledge; and each must know it for himself, from personal experience - else it is not known.


Chiu ChunLing said...

Incompleteness isn't wrong, otherwise mystical experience, being necessarily incomplete as well, would also be wrong.

The error lies in claiming that some particular and partial aspect of truth is the absolute, universal, and complete truth. Whether is it a concrete experience (which can be 'shared' in the sense of 'reasonably verifying' that others have encountered the same external object to form their separate and personally subjective impressions of the experience it provokes) or a mystical one (which cannot be 'shared' by a similar application of reasonable verification, the cognizance of others having had the same experience being a matter of intuition as mystical as the original experience).

The characteristic mode of physical sensory experience, while still subjective and personal, really is distinctive compared to mystical experience. Our certainty of the reliability of physical sense data, especially pain and other sensations of bodily injury and privation, is a matter of profound instinct or even reflex. While it is possible for the experienced mystic to stand aside from physical suffering and weigh it dispassionately as to validity compared with mystic intuitions about more profound truths, this does not come naturally to humans.

More bluntly, physical pain and fear of physical death may not be particularly important aspects of truth, but they are still aspects of truth. And they are distinctive in human experience. Not in a philosophical sense, but at an instinctive level. To deny this instinct is to deny our essential humanity, but we must not succumb to the error of believing it to be the best (let alone only) guide to truth.

I say this as someone who has spent much of my life trying (with very limited success) to 'pass' for human. Often times I reflect that I should have spent less of my time 'trying' and more effort on succeeding. But I have no certain evidence that this was even possible, nor real confidence that I should simply not have tried at all.

Bruce Charlton said...

@CCL - "Incompleteness isn't wrong, otherwise mystical experience, being necessarily incomplete as well, would also be wrong."

An important point, and one I have not yet sorted-out to my own satisfaction. What I have said holds - but more needs to be said.