29
August
2012

Six Blind Men and an Elephant

This entry is Part 1 of the Mind series.

There exists somewhat of an ideological divide when it comes to our understanding of the universe, known as the Cartesian Split.

The Western reductionist mindset believes that the universe is fundamentally composed of matter, and that like a machine, it can be understood by examining its individual pieces. Science suggests that consciousness is a purely physical phenomenon that occurs within the brain.

The Eastern mindset believes that the universe is fundamentally alive, and that consciousness cannot be explained through physical phenomena alone. This mindset suggests that all life is connected by a form of energy.

Divisions exist not only between, but also within these two groups — and neither can offer a complete explanation.

Different Interpretations of the Same Truth

There is an ancient Indian proverb that describes six blind men gathered around an elephant. Based on their limited senses, they each form a completely different understanding of the animal. The blind man at the elephant’s leg describes a stone pillar; the man at its tail describes a rope; the man at its tusk describes a pipe; the man at its trunk describes a snake; and so on. Clearly the men are not gathered around something that is a pillar, a rope, a pipe, and a snake at the same time, so they argue and dispute each other’s claims, without ever actually discovering the true nature of the elephant.

Given their limited perspectives, their descriptions were all correct. Their extrapolations and assumptions, however, were not. By failing to consider the limitations of their individual perspectives, they dismissed the possibility of a shared truth. The moral here is that individual observations, even if they appear contradictory, can speak to a common truth.

More on the concept of truth through comparison

All truth is derived by comparison. That’s basically the point of this article. For example, we as humans experience depth through comparison: Human eyes are slightly offset. To generate depth, the brain must subconsciously compare the image in one eye with the image in the other. It then merges those distinct streams of information to form an integrated 3D image. This effectively lets us see in an extra dimension.

This is a generalizable trend: A greater number of perspectives, upon integration, means a higher degree of perception.

Let’s imagine Truth as a perfect circle. Theoretically, such an object exists, but not in any physical (“real”) space. It is conceptual. But let’s try building one anyway. Three sides (“perspectives”) and you have a triangle. Eight sides, and you have an octagon. 100 sides, and you have something that resembles a circle. N sides, where N is the limit approaching infinity, and you have a perfect circle.

The point is, the more perspectives, the better. If they’re all referring to the same thing, and if you have a lot of them, then you have an accurate description. This is the founding idea behind MetaTracker and Spectrum — discovering truth through comparison.

“Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” — Albert Einstein

Today, it seems like every scientific theory, religion, or ideology offers an entirely different explanation of the universe. Rarely are these independent views seen as being complimentary to one another, but it is my belief that they are. Any ideology can work as long as it doesn’t attack other ideologies or close itself off to the acquisition of new knowledge.

“Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality.” — Carl Sagan

About this Series

All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree,” and the time for their ideological convergence is now. In this discussion, I wish to share my thoughts on a few topics I have been following, and perhaps inspire others to build upon them.

I use footnotes to expand on ideas and cite references, which you can mouse over to expand: [1]

This series is best read in order. Let’s begin with The Physics of Consciousness »

Table of Contents

  1. Six Blind Men and an Elephant – “All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree.”
  2. The Physics of Consciousness – Consciousness explained in terms of electromagnetism and information.
  3. The Holographic Universe – The behavior of photons may indicate that we live in a holographic universe.
  4. Simulation Theory – How to emulate consciousness on a computer by allowing it to evolve from scratch.
  5. Artificial Intelligence – How to create self-aware, free-willing artificial intelligence.
  6. Awareness and Free Will – How free will can arise from binary decision-making (i.e. pure logic).
  7. Universal Duality – The interaction between structure and randomness is fundamental to the universe.
Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. It’s a citation!


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