Swans come to the lake, flying from Asia to America. They bring spores. New England transcendentalists begin like a laboratory examining the value of subjective intuition over objective empiricism. They search for a secular idea of enlightenment with a hunger to understand the meaning and the personal mental situation of our lives. The desire to understand.
You know, ancient Buddhist writings were acknowledged in Europe in the 19th century and Thoreau translated the Lotus Sutra into English from the French. Chinese and Japanese immigrants brought classical Buddhist texts to California in the 1840s. The first English biography of the Buddha was published in 1879 and sold over half a million copies. The 1893 World Parliament of Religions in Chicago featured Theravada and Mahayana teachers. Like an escaped gain-of-function meme, the cultural transmission of Buddhist dharma gets underway. Now, more than a century later, millions of secular occidental adherents of one kind or another are found. Buddhist philosophy and practices sort of resemble a beneficent pandemic of subtypes unfurling throughout the Western world, hopefully creating widespread immunization against madness.
In 2022 my novel “The Tetralemma” was published. The title is a mathematical logic term which describes a peculiar quadrangular Buddhist theorem of inconsistency. Expressed mathematically, the axiomatic formal shorthand says: “A and (not-B); (not-A) and B; (not-A) and (not-B); both A and B.” Or in plain language: “Affirmation; Negation; Neither; and Both.” This four-sided “paraconsistency” of a theoretically unified state existing at the same moment in time most likely denotes the difficult Buddhist concept of “emptiness”. This weird idea grabs the mind of the novel’s protagonist.
His chronological story describes a young scientific polymath who observes the invasion of philosophy by mathematics and neuroscience. After IBM and MIT, and sudden wealth from his patent on computer languages, he takes off, travels, enjoys sex, encounters various Buddhists, sails a sea, experiences the phenomenology of psychedelic chemicals, performs a passage through India, meditates, meets tutorial women, Tibetan lamas, realizes an enlightenment of a sort, acquires a Buddhist name, ends up in Zen Japan chanting the Heart Sutra, exchanges love with a potter, and returns to America wondering what to do with his revised secular and scientific self.
The tale describes his serio-comic tour through varieties of modern Buddhism, illustrating how life's ordinary random encounters causally produce chains-of-events which lead to the creation of personal meaning by the processing of a silent language in one’s mind. By means of meditation he gains a studied awareness of his own consciousness. On the unique occasions when both words and thoughts are lacking, he experiences the beneficial and creative awareness of tetralemmic emptiness. Cultivating this new metaphysical phenomenon promotes his understanding of the cool middle-way, between the absolute and the ordinary.
Matriculated in Buddhism, he returns to America contemplating a future scientific vocation. He cannot fail to discern America’s helpless colonization by the mindless Eschaton of autonomous artificial machine intelligence.
While It reveals the unfolding dharma ending age, he has learned, at least, a useful key to sanity.
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