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Reincarnation On Trial
Kant and Berkeley: does experience shape
the mind or does the mind shape experience?
The work of these great philosophers destroys
the foundational premise of reincarnation.
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In the 1700s, Dr. John Locke proposed a theory of mind - concerning the formation of ideas as derived from raw sensory data - which drew strength from the then-recently propounded Newtonian theory of gravity.
Locke's theories of mind would be superseded by subsequent thinkers, most notably, Professor Kant.
The "Clear Thinking" article addresses in some detail the overthrowing of Lockean concepts. I would encourage you to review some of the "Clear Thinking" sub-articles, the information from which will also serve as basis for this writing on reincarnation. Please review four titles beginning with "Bruce Lee" and moving down the list toward "Kant," the "half-empty glass," and "most important" concepts.
a summary of the issue
Essentially, the doctrine of reincarnation rests upon Lockean notions of how the mind works, but these theories of Locke were overthrown, a long time ago, by the work of Immanuel Kant and others.
Locke and the British Empiricists taught that experience, the incoming raw sensory data, shapes the mind. This proposition is largely untrue. Kant, as a forerunner of Einstein (in a particular area), was the first to understand that the mind itself imposes conceptual structure on experiential data.
Despite this more-accurate view, reincarnation continues to teach a discredited Lockean view of "if we just had enough experience, if only we had a surfeit of raw sensory data in the form of untold number of lives, we could advance ourselves mentally and spiritually."
This is absolutely not true. Kant was right. Locke was wrong - and reincarnation is wrong with Locke.
Experience is always good to have, and, in the coming ages of our eternal lives, we will thrill to all sorts of studies, adventures, and explorations of the universe. But this experience, of and by itself, cannot deliver the kind of evolutionary progress that we seek. Only an elevated consciousness can do that.
And it is this expanded awareness - which, in fact, makes what we call experience possible - that leads us forward. Greater consciousness has nothing to do with time as such; it requires no endless number of lives but only one timeless moment of cosmic clarity.
without apperception, experience avails nothing
Consider this comment by Dr. Daniel Robinson of Oxford on the work of Bishop Berkeley (paraphrased, from a lecture):
Without apperception, experience [Editor's note: or the experience of a thousand lives] avails nothing; the Self is different from the idea; content different from the knower. Apperception is paramount to the process: to be experienced at all, the successive experiential data must be combined or held together in a unity of consciousness, which implies a unity of self, and this inner integration is as much an object of experience as anything is. Therefore experience, both of the self and its objects, rests on acts of synthesis that, because they are the [pre]conditions of any experience, are not themselves experienced.
Editor's note: "Apperception" is not a common word. Consider these brief notes of definition: literally, "to - perception"; Descarte & Leibnitz coined the term; to apprehend as "not-self" and yet in relation to the self; a self-reflective activity, which cannot derive from experience, but is the necessary precondition to allow for experience; "conscious perception" the mental process by which a person makes sense of an idea by assimilating it to the body of ideas he or she already possesses. Dagobert Runes: In epistemology, "the introspective or reflective apprehension by the mind of its own inner states," one of which is the assimilation of data. Otto F. Kraushaar: for Kant, that which makes experience possible. It is where the self and the world come together; the uniting and building of coherent consciousness out of different elementary inner experiences (differing in both time and topic, but all belonging to self-consciousness). What is this "unity of self"? - a panscopic sense of self injected into all experiential data, lives apart from the data, therefore, this "unity of self" survives all experience with objects in the world. Kant distinguished transcendental apperception from empirical apperception. The first is the perception of an object as involving the consciousness of the pure self as subject--"the pure, original, unchangeable consciousness that is the necessary condition of experience and the ultimate foundation of the unity of experience."
Dr. Robinson, I feel, is incredibly insightful in his assertion: "this inner integration is as much an object of experience as anything is."
How profound! The "inner integration" is one's perception of self, which is an elevated level of consciousness - without which all the experience in the world will benefit nothing.
Reincarnation, based upon outdated and discredited notions of how the mind works, states that experience of the world is what we need most; that, uncounted numbers of lives, with mammoth injections of experience, will yet make us perfect. This is gross error.
there can be no perception without apperception
Reincarnation fails to acknowledge that the inner world of integrated Self, of elevated consciousness, is far more important and dispositive to the process of personal evolution than raw experience, mere infusion of sensory data, and without this apperception there will be no perception, but, at best, like a worm hardly perceiving light, only vague awareness of stimuli.
Editor's last word:
Kant and Berkeley’s insights are incredibly important regarding this issue of “we need more experience to perfect ourselves.” You will want to do a little reading concerning their propositions (see the above icons which will lead you to related matters).
But allow me to summarize and approach all of this from another angle:
Those who say that experience trumps all, that this is what we need most of all, are really saying that knowledge can perfect and evolve us. Experience is but a form of knowledge.
But we all know, or should know, that knowledge, per se, has never matured anyone. The most educated in the world are not necessarily the most balanced of mind or most psychologically put-together. It takes more than knowledge.
Knowledge is a form of experience, but knowledge is just a thought-form, something that exists in our head. Thought-forms of the head are mere “content” of the mind. Those who preach that experience rules the roost of personal evolvement are really saying that “content” of the mind is what matures us.
And now we’ve entered the realm of the Little Me Ego. In a great many of my articles I discuss how the Little Me, the dysfunctional ego, not only wants more time, but wants more thinking and content of the mind.
What’s wrong with knowledge, and thought-forms, and content of the mind? Nothing – unless you try to string this into a way to evolve yourself, and then you’re headed for a fall, the great existential crisis of the emptiness within. The Little Me believes that thinking is the highest order of intelligence. It is not.
structure vs. content
And now we come to the heart of this argument: it's “content” versus “structure.” There is a huge difference between the thought-forms in your head and one’s very capacity to think those thoughts.
This is what the professor (above) meant by, “There will be no perception without apperception.” We need “structure” first. We primarily need an elevated level of consciousness to house, to contain, if you will, the “content” of the mind before experience will do us much good.
And lack of understanding here becomes one of the great fallacies of traditional “R” theory. It’s based on outdated Lockean views of the mind, ones now discarded and rejected – except by reincarnationalists who desperately need to make sense of their desire for “10,000 lives." Good luck to them.