Buddhism and the unconscious

Buddhism and the unconscious

Posted in General at 12:02 pm by nemo/darwiniana


The study of the unconscious is not the same as that of neuroscience, as the Freudian legacy shows. Freud’s legacy is mostly worthless, but his borrowed idea of the unconscious is one of the seminal ideas of modern thought, reaching manifest form in the philosopher Shopenhauer. (The book by Lancleot Law Whyte from a generation ago has ome history on this). Freud’s generation was fixated on Schopenhauer, and the repackaging in Freud, nearly spoiling the idea, is a part of that culture. Then, of course, the confusions of Nietzsche recycled Schopenhauer downscale into a pernicious version of the ‘will to power’, a gross parody of the idea of Schopenhauer.

The problem with thinking on the ‘unconscious’ (which a dose of buddhism might correct) is that it is isolated as the antithesis of ‘conscious’ in the incoherence of the whole idea of consciousness, never distinguished from self-consciousness, what to say of turiya, ‘final consciousness’ or ‘enlightenment. The point is clear enough that motivations and processes can be ‘unconscious’, but the fact remains that the distinction of consciousness and the unconscious is relative, a matter of degree, like shadows in a lighted context or field. Relative to the ‘self-consciousness’ consciousness is itself ‘unconscious’ (??), a reminder that all these terms, in isolation, are a muddle of near slang. Freud’s confusion went on for a long time, so we should be careful here. A dose of Schopenhauer might be of interest. The relativity of the distinction can be seen in Mad Avenue advertising, where the conscious/unconsious suggestions are packaged right out front, in mesmerizing/confusing ways.

Advanced buddhists who fall from the path into evil ( a frequent and sad fate of trashy boddhissattwas denied enlightenment and Tibetan monkish riffraff) enjoy programming the unconscious of others less ‘advanced’ and much of the legacy of Nazism is that of people acting from their unconscious in outrageous out front fashion.
Next time you see the Dalai Lama ask him if Tibetan villains still do this kind of thing on politicians.

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