the trial…

12-ness and 10-ness (and all number-nesses) are not in space-time. The humans however, are. At least they are normally considered to be so…

If one decides to ‘reduce’ 12-ness and 10-ness to objects in the world perceived as ‘normal’ by these humans, and further, if one desires them to be yet even more reduced into identical objects in what is known as ‘reality’, then let us then ascribe to them the property generally known amongst them as ‘cubic’ and let us then use these ‘cubes’, sometimes known as dice, in the following court case:

These are the statements to be put to the people:

Prosecution:  “These 10 cubes are henceforce to be considered superior to these 12 cubes.”

Defence: “These 12 cubes are henceforth to be considered superior to these 10 cubes.”

Challenge: Set up a situation in which the pros and cons of this matter are considered and then judged by a jury of impartial citizens…

huatou: is 12 in the ‘real’ world ‘better’ than 10 ?

a few guests, star-scattered on the grass

Thales of Miletus, Sappho, Anaximander, Pythagoras, Xenophanes, Heraclitus………Aristotle, Zeno, Hipparchus, Jesus of Nazareth, Ptolemy, Plotinus, Augustine, Mohammed, Thomas Aquinus, Boccaccio, Chaucer, Leonardo da Vinci, Copernicus, Luther, Michelangelo, Erasmus, Durer, Paracelcus, Palestrina, Galileo, Shakespeare, Montaigne, Descartes, Bacon, Kepler, Sir Isaac Newton, Milton, Hobbes, Moliere, Pascal, Spinoza, Locke, Leibnitz, Bach, Goethe, Handel, Voltaire, Rousseau, Beethoven, Napoleon, Hume, Lessing, Kant, Herschell, Blake, Lavoisier, Mozart, Schiller, Schleiermacher, Dalton, Lamarck, Keats, Coleridge,  Hegel, Schopenhauer, Stendhal, Fourier, Gauss, Balzac, Faraday, Darwin, Lyell, Emerson, Dickens, Kierkegard, Strauss, Babbage, Feuerbach, Mill, Ruskin, Nietsche, Marx, Engels, Clausius, Thoreau, Whitman, Flaubert, Wallace, Hugo, Mendel, Tolstoy, Arnold, Monet, Maxwell, Blavatsky, Wundt, Edison, Dilthey, Rimbaud, Michelson, Morley, Van Gogh, James, Steiner, Durkheim, Becquerel, Freud, Planck, Husserl, Moore, Einstein, the Wright brothers, Gandhi, Picasso, Suzuki, Schoenberg, Russell, Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, Whitehead, Jung, Wegener, Stravinsky, Proust, Ford, Kafka, Saussure, Spengler, Watson, Barth, Russell,Wittgenstein, Santayana, Pavlov, Piaget, Dewey, Scrodinger, Heisenberg, Bohr, Heidegger, Carnap, Godel, Cassirer, Klein, Bennett, Toynbee, Popper, Keynes, Turing, Brecht, Borges, Camus, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Pollack, Wiener, Orwell, Tillich, Bonhoeffer, De Beauvoir, Beckett, Skinner, Watson, Crick, Huxley, Teilhard de Chardin, Marcuse, Bateson, Chomsky, Levi-Strauss, Polanyi, Snow, Gadamer, Quine, Krishnamurti, Foucault, Fanon, Kuhn, Hess, Lennon, Dylan, Lorentz, Gell-Mann, Zweig, Barthes, Lacan, Bell, Derrida, White, Habermas, Lakatos, Von Bertalanffy, Lovelock, Rozsak, Ricouers, Bellah, Pribram, Meadows, Schumacher, Naess, Grof, Capra, Feyerabend, Rorty, Bohm, Peat, Kauffman, Prigogine, Merchant, Sheldrake, Schell, Lyotard, Keller, Gorbachov… 

the huatou, ‘dust beats tables’

dust beats tables

A huatou is a short phrase which embodies an insight into the Dharma. The Dharma is ‘The way of the Buddha’, but here we are obviously not using it in that sense. It is used in the whimsical sense of ‘The way of the Rod’. However it is not entirely whimsical.

Longer versions are called koan (from the japanese) or gongan (from the chinese).

In the correct use of gongan or huatou one should not seek an intellectual understanding, philosophical ideas or verbal insight but rather an intuitive apprehension of heart-felt meaning. It is similar to the appreciation of a poem. The result is felt more than thought.

‘zen’ is the japanese transliteration of the chinese ‘chan’, which is in turn derived from the sanskrit ‘dyana’…

Here is a traditional chan huatou:

‘In this red hunk of meat, there is a person of no rank who goes in and out the gates of the face. Who is that person?’

there are no ‘objective’ events…

If you agree with the above then the consequences are the acceptance of diversity and complexity as grounding assumptions of any learning space you can devise or operate within…

There are no ‘objective events’. (See Poppy Pilgrim below). This is an illusion just as absolute space, absolute time are illusions of common sense and Newtonian physics. The illusions ‘work’ as a general rule and in the normal course of life up to a point, but the concepts are non subtle and simplistic. Listen to Einstein:

‘Considered logically, they (space, time and event) are free creations of the human intelligence, tools of thought, which are to serve the purpose of bringing experiences into relation with each other, so that in this way they can be better surveyed. The attempt to become conscious of the empirical sources of these fundamental concepts should show to what extent we are actually bound to these concepts. In this way we become aware of our freedom, of which, in case of necessity, it is always a difficult matter to make sensible use.’

Appendix V, Relativity and the Problem of Space, Relativity, the Special and General Theory, 1920. Appendix added 1952 My parentheses.

Bringing this through into the domain of teaching events, which are more complex than the domain of inanimate matter we could postulate that though it appears ‘obvious’ that for example a ‘teaching session’ (event) is taking place, the event as an absolute object is located nowhere but in the minds of the participants. Furthermore, all will perceive ‘it’ differently, according to their perspectives, capabilities and state. Hence it is clear that:

we must give up the idea that unique events exist

i.e. in our case, we must give up the idea that it is even possible to design and construct a teaching space that objectively exists separate from all participants and their perceptions, and that by following certain procedures, definite outcomes predicted beforehand will occur. The real situation is far more subtle and complex.

Hence a more subtle and illuminating relativistic concept, similar to the new conceptualisation of space, time, matter and event in Einstein’s general relativity is that:

there exists an event field which is potentially infinite, out of which diverse, multiple and unpredictable consequences will inevitably ensue

Events are located nowhere but the minds of the participants and, far from assuming uniformity and homogeneity (and striving pointlessly to achieve them by partitioning of various kinds).

we should assume diversity and complexity

This should be the grounding basis for proceeding with the enhancement of teaching, learning, planning, assessment and reflective and reflexive practices. All problems which then may proceed as consequences should be taken as food for thought for the analysis and transformation of current practices so that labelling, specialisation and marginalisation are inhibited and so that diversity and richness may flourish in their place in holonomic classroom worlds.

We must give up the generality still quite common in teaching and amongst the general population including politicians of all parties that the teacher teaches and the children learn unique objects, and that further more, if they do not learn these unique objects it is somehow the fault of the child.

By giving up the generality this does not preclude us from saying that in clearly obvious and simplistic learning situations, the ancient and limited view expounded above pertaining to the ‘objective’ illusory world of common sense, may in fact ‘work’, just as Newtonian mechanics is quite adequate to describe the motion of planets in their orbits of our central star, the regular predictable appearance of comets, the precession of the equinoxes and the ebb and flow of tides. Planets and comets are simple objects in comparison to the interpretive nets of human consciousness. Sir Isaac Newton was, as Descartes remarked, probably the smartest guy who ever walked the surface of this planet. His achievements marked the beginning of the last three and a half centuries of human scientific endeavor. However to quote Albert Einstein again:

‘Newton himself and his most critical contemporaries felt it to be disturbing that one had to ascribe physical reality both to space itself as well as to its state of motion; but there was at that time no other alternative, if one wished to ascribe to mechanics a clear meaning.’

Same source, p135

what exists?





Peter, I heard you once say that places don’t really exist. What did you mean by that?

Well, they do and they don’t. I mean, take Moulay Brahim. You’ll find it marked on a decent map just to the south of Marrakesh, just off the S501, and there’s no doubt that if you told a friend that that’s where it is you’d get no weird responses. Everyone would agree. It’s one of Searle’s ‘brute facts’. However, once you start to ask questions, such as “what’s it like in Moulay Brahim?”, or go there and experience it for yourself, you’ll have to agree that because of the particular things that you are bound to experience, including any preliminary information or stories or expectations that you might seek out, the Moulay Brahim that becomes represented in your mind will be unique and different from everybody elses’ representation of the place. Because the representation is not a ‘place’ is it? We can’t BE Moulay Brahim, we can only create images and feelings and memories. Where are these memories and why they are different for us all is indeed very interesting. In fact don’t you think it’s a wonderful idea that whatever you personally construct Moulay Brahim to be is a unique gift entirely and totally yours?

Yeah, I see what you’re saying but it sounds a bit scary too. If you look in a guide book you’ll see things like the shrine and it’ll probably mention places to eat and so on……..

Certainly. Searle called those kinds of facts, non-mental brute physical facts, and really guide books should be considered to be just that. Lists of brute facts. You see once you are introduced into the equation, interpretation begins and this will be unique to you. How can it be any other way? You will also experience things that will be different to the person who wrote the ‘guide’ book. Maybe you’ll meet an interesting helpful person or maybe you’ll be mugged. You might get food poisoning or you might have the most wonderful meal of your trip. The sun might be out or the weather might be uncharacterically cold for the time of year and so on. You might be feeling a bit down or not too lively etc etc. All these factors will colour the ‘representaion’ you will construct about Moulay Brahim. There are as many Moulay Brahim’s as there are people who’ve been there. There’s no escape. In fact everything is always like this. It’s great.

OK, but what was it like for you though when you actually went, if you can put it like that?

Of course you can, but the point is that you mustn’t ‘believe’ my version, go and see for your self. It was OK. My partner and I were travelling with two friends who lived in Marakesh and they knew a few tricks such as eating a ‘safe’ meal straight from a steaming hot tagine with some freshly baked bread. That was very tasty and a welcome interlude. We wandered round for a while looking at horribly nasty bits of dried creatures hanging in stalls. I mean we didn’t talk to people much as we don’t speak hardly any arabic, and I know I felt uncomfortable about taking photos of poverty stricken people, so I hardly did. Some people looked happy, some appeared to tolerate our presence, no more. I really had little idea of what was going off in their heads, what they thought of us, what they did. We were basically aliens, wandering round on an alien planet. We bought a few things, had a coffee. Whilst walking round a few back streets the girl in the picture and a few of her little friends threw stones at us and tried to hit me with a stick. It was a priveledge to be there but we were tired and in a way it was a relief to get back in the car and head off back to Marakesh. It sounds a bit pathetic really.


Well, its different..


the disk of Odin


(One of my super duper extremely high res images from ‘The Book of Enlightenment’)

‘“Is it gold?” I said. “I know not. It is the disk of Odin and it has but one side.” It was then I felt a gnawing to own the disk myself. If it were mine, I could sell it for a bar of gold and then I would be a king. “In my hut I’ve got a chest full of money hidden away. Gold coins, and they shine like my ax,” I told the wanderer, whom I hate to this day. “If you give the disk of Odin to me, I will give you the chest.” “I will not,” he said gruffly. “Then you can continue on your way,” I said. He turned away. One ax blow to the back of his head was all it took; he wavered and fell, but as he fell he opened his hand, and I saw the gleam of the disk in the air. I marked the place with my ax and I dragged the body down to the creek bed, where I knew the creek was swollen. There I dumped his body. When I got back to my house I looked for the disk. But I couldn’t find it. I have been looking for it for years.’

Jorge Luis Borges ….‘The Book of Sand’

joshu asked nansen

Joshu asked Nansen, ‘What is the Way?’

‘Ordinary Mind is the Way’, Nansen replied.

‘Shall I try to seek after it?’ Joshu asked.

‘If you try for it, you will become separated from it’, responded Nansen.

‘How can I know the Way unless I try for it?’ persisted Joshu

Nansen said, ‘The Way is not a matter of knowing or not knowing. Knowing is delusion, not knowing is confusion. When you have really reached the true Way beyond doubt, you will find it vast and boundless as the cosmic heavens above. How can it be talked about on the level of right or wrong?’

With those words, Joshu came to a sudden realisation.