There was a time, long ago, when there was only one science, and it was called philosophy. It was a seeking of knowledge with basic principles of clarity and sharability. The knowledge sought was of two kinds: one, it claimed all that could be studied or ever understood to be within its domain, and two, the desire to know, in the light of all that could be known, how man should best live. Its language was poetry and logic, for either could be brought to bear to explain a point of view, and each could be refuted by better works in the eyes of men.
The successes of this infant form of science are well known. By the careful consideration and debate of the rules by which knowledge might be obtained, the development of mathematics (the abstract science) and the scientific method came about. Over a very long period of time the application of these two tools in tandem began to sift out certain kinds of truth form the evidences and experiences before us in the world. If mathematics was the holy pope of science, physics soon became its high priest, studying that which yielded most readily to purely mathematical analysis and explanation - the laws of motion of objects, both small and large. The success of the physics (and its sister, astronomy) came to be the model for all sciences, each struggling to reduce to mathematical certainties the natural laws which could be considered to be their subject.
Science begat science, thereafter, each clamoring for the attention of learned men and women, each asserting its validity by appropriating whavever mathematical foundations it could lay its feet to. Chemistry, one step removed from the simple beauty of the almost abstract particles of physics and astronomy, came to be better understood and began to yield huge amounts of information about how our world works. The biological sciences, from humble beginnings as mere catalogues of the living world around us, have used their roots in chemistry to deepen and richen our understanding of the processes of life itself, and continue to do so today. The social sciences carefully applied probability and statistics to sift through their evidence and the experiments suggested by their theories. Some fields of inquiry such as economics hide behind a wall of illusion, a vast arcane set of mathematical analyses which hide the fact that they know nothing and cannot predict for us or serve us with any degree of certainty events that lie within their claimed purview. Others, such as psychology, with as diverse a raw data set as every mind that ever lived, would be better off telling wise stories and spinning poetry.
Whatever nasty things I may have to say about the alleged sciences of economics or psychology, the problem that the rapid successes of the mathematicized sciences have created is a lopsided way of looking at our understanding. At one pole of what was once philosophy there is the language of mathematics: pure and sacred, well defined and clear, but remote and incapable of describing certain kinds of human complexity in a useful manner. At the other lonely pole, we still have poetry. I hope. By poetry I mean real language discussions, debates, exaplanations, analogies, and metaphors for the things that matter to us about the world. Poetry leads to a different kind of reasoning in the pursuit of knowledge and truth.
Poetry, the natural language of reason and rhetoric, must be understood to be useful. The language must say something clearly. An analogy or metaphor is as perfectly useful in understanding our world as a differential equation. To determine its validity, the same sorts of thing that are done with equations are done with the poetry. First we must ask, "what does this mean?" When we think we understand it clearly (for otherwise what is the point of any knowledge?), we look beyond it, and say, "what does this meaning imply?" "What truths that are not spoken here must also be the case?" Then we examine those resultant truths, exactly as the physicists do the results of their carefully duplicated experiments. If the projected truths bear fruit and shine light on previously unknown things, then they bear witness to the usefulness, the validity and the beauty of the poetry which spawned them. If they should prove wanting, or misleading, or poverty stricken in their ability to richen the dialogue, they will likewise be downgraded, just as a discarded theory must be that failed in its mathematical projections.
I seek here to consider the foundations of a new kind of science, on the opposite pole of those which have gained such prominence. By its very definition, a science of the transcendant will not yield to mathematical analysis of any conventional sort - for it deals in the nature of the universe which is not ordered; the "stuff" that is "not-stuff," a "time" that is "no-time." Whereas the power of modern physics was capable of pinpointing celestial and atomic motions before ever beginning to define its own limits of definition, the power of modern transcendant theory is that it starts by defining what cannot be known. From this point, however, surely some inroads can be made and increases to our knowledge be gained.
I think that while by "transcendental" I mean the sort of "experiences we have that are not things that happen," in a very parallel way this sort of exploration can be used to study such difficult topics as consciousness and how it is that what we call "mind" arises from what we know as "body."
It is my hope that this science will not be capable of yielding in its results the formulae for bombs, poisons and other ways for men to assert power over one another; this is due to the utter lack of predictability of its subject matter. The nature of the predictability of this subject - that certain things about the way we are will produce certain enriching kinds of results if they are understood and respected - I hope will become at least paritally clear. I hope that a means of bettering the content of the lives of all those who desire it should be brought closer to their reach, for that is what philosophy, and its children, the sciences, are truly for.
1/5/02 - 3 AM
© Huw Powell