Towards an Inclusive Interpretation of Conflict

Linked to our presentation of George Khutsishvili – Georgia.

FROM KOAN TO METAOBJECT – by George Khutsishvili, 18th of May 2004

One of the twentieth century’s most brilliant minds, a Nobel Prize winner in physics Dr. Niels Bohr has solved the wave/particle dilemma in the physics of micro-world by introducing his mind-illuminating complementarity principle, a universal methodological tool for reconciling seemingly incompatible pictures of reality. Suddenly, it was clear that what looked like mutually exclusive and/or incompatible pictures of an object, could be more adequately seen as the complementary pictures of a metaobject. This breakthrough became possible thanks to Dr. Bohr’s ability to transcend the conventional limits of a scientific world outlook. Similar processes earlier in the century helped overcome crises in foundations of mathematics and logic (cf. the Goedel’s Theorem and metamathematics ). They have revealed important aspects of regularities in overcoming major crises of human thinking and understanding, indispensable also while dealing with violent social conflicts, especially those with the issue of ethnicity involved. It turns out we cannot solve any major ethnic, social, or religious conflict without altogether changing, transforming our world outlook, seeing the world from a new perspective, where the problem is rather transcended than decided.

Zen has been one classical way to prevent and totally eliminate conflict mentality by fostering an inclusive, flexible, open and nonviolent worldview. An adept unwittingly transformed his mind while trying to solve a koan, a seemingly meaningless or self-contradictory statement (yet sponsored as significant by the master), and could be even corporally punished for “wrong solutions”. The “right solution”, however, never came, as solving koan had never been a goal in itself, but represented a problem no more for an enlightened and transformed mind. In this whole process one thing had to be a priori given, and could not be imposed from the outside: it was the commitment of an adept to the process of opening his own mind. A modern conflicting man is rather committed to close his mind from any revelations, and the European-styled rationality, in its turn, often fosters and breeds mind-closures, the same ones which it later tries to unclose .

How do we learn about a social conflict? We read in a newspaper or a magazine, or watch TV, or just hear someone say that something is happening somewhere. From the very start we learn a biased picture which we tend to believe or not, depending on our own sentiment and credibility of the source. Later we learn about the existence of other pictures of the same conflict, and its perceived complexity grows. The worst, of course, comes if we are (discover ourselves or become) part of the conflict, especially if painful issues of ethnic or religious identity are involved. A methodological model can be offered to rationalize a koan-styled interpretation of conflict – a painful and incomprehensible obstacle you have to transcend on your way to development, even without really understanding how it works, to conflict as metaobject: a kind of reality characterized by higher degree of organization that enables to comprehend an intrinsic moment of incompatibility through a not-fully-rationalized yet adequate tool integrating all its visions and perspectives into one.

You Better Free Your Mind Instead…

Two thousand years ago Patanjali wrote in his Yoga Aphorisms, “Yoga is restraining the mind-staff (Chitta) from taking various forms (Vrittis)” (According to Swami Vivekananda, Raja-Yoga, or Conquering the Internal Nature, Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1982, p. 115). Something blasphemous to a European thought, until Ludwig Wittgenstein in mid-twentieth century came to the same paradoxical conclusion: you need to stop thinking in order to understand. Apparently, there is something in intrinsic mechanisms of our mind that prevents us from getting to truth, kind of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle in action. The classic way to avoid/overcome this obstacle was to achieve completeness of a picture: wholeness seemed a guarantee against misunderstanding.

‘Holy’, ‘whole’ and ‘healthy’ are three words of the same origin. Soul is immortal as it is whole, and “none has the power to destroy the unchangeable” (Srimad Bhagavad Gita, 2.17). Much later, in the 18th century Immanuel Kant’s agnosticism will prove that the thought/perceived/ imagined picture of the world never comes close to the supposed destination of gnosis. Cumulative knowledge seems all that can be expected from the evolution of scientific thought. “Dissolution pertains to all that is of compound nature. Elaborate thoroughly your own liberation”, said reportedly Gautama Buddha to his disciples gathered at his deathbed. Global vision of the essence of things in their perennial and universal oneness should not need mediation of a rational mind. Can pragmatism of social healing tolerate questions that found no rational answers in millennia? Human mind, its nature and basic laws of functioning are still among greatest mysteries: we actually perceive Nature by means of something whose nature remains obscure to us. This paradoxical situation has historically created variety of approaches and chains of misconceptions including the opposition of mysticism and naturalism in understanding our own selves.

It can clearly be shown that thinking is an un-isotropic process: we are conditioned by some forces to think along enigmatic structural guidelines, so that our scope is inevitably restricted, and we finally are within unending yet closed universe (Einstein’s cosmological model of the universe may serve as a good illustration here). Rational thought just cannot be unstructured, and a ‘closed-circuit’ mindset is a natural outcome. (Our minds should feel like Leibnitz’s monads, the elementary substances which ‘have no windows but reflect the whole universe’). Strange though it may sound, mind-closures are re-enforced in refined forms of intellect: educated modernity is even more prone to eventually block out in domineering, self-sufficient and all-explaining world outlook than primitive types of intellect have been. This vicious circle can be shattered by unexplained phenomena, undecidable questions and intercultural conflicts, and can only be transcended and overcome in the course of global-structural transformation of mind.

The evolutionary approach shows that no reflections on human thought can result in revealing an underlying rigid and unchangeable structural basis, but that the object of reflection is rather determined by a certain system of predispositions, consolidated by a regularized practice of generations. It is not only a set of schemata to which we tend to relate and adjust the empirical data, but which also make us prefer to perceive only the data that fits into them. Ontogenetically we see that a child’s flexible and receptive mind is capable of miraculous transformations, which become less and less feasible as (s)he gets aged and educated. We accumulate knowledge, but truly, the farther one travels, the less one knows: otherwise, pre-technological Oriental wisdom would be useless in the 21st century, which is obviously not the case.

To Think or to Understand? The Dilemma of a Rational Mind:

“Is there anything in common between the Bosnian crisis and metamathematics? The common point is that you cannot overcome a major crisis without transforming your mind.”(G.K.)

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