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Simplicity and Complexity

There is certainly an intellectualism that complicates what should be simple, but this is just the flip side of reductionism– making simple and homogeneous what is actually heterogeneous and complex. They usually go hand in hand. For instance, when answering the question, why does someone get ill?, the reductive response is always to answer this or any complex question with a simple causal explanation. Causal explanations work in limited contexts, but in the true open systems of nature they are very misleading.But it is not just that they are too simplistic to capture the complexity but also that they make things more complicated then they need to be.

Someone gets ill because of an infinite complex of events all “causing” or affecting each of the others in what we can call, to use the Buddhist term “dependent arising”. But this complexity can be grasped in an intuitive sense as a virtual structure. This “virtual” structure, as Bergson and Deleuze call it, is what is behind the myriad of apparent causes, ordering all the complex tangle of causes into a coherent “space” of possibilities. So there can be many reasons someone is falling ill, many triggers and conditions that go into making that event a reality, but they are all just manifestations of the virtual pattern, the general pattern and context of factors creating the situation.

Someone may be poor, for example, and that poverty determines that they have a bad diet, have a lot of stress and toxic exposure that creates the conditions where their body cannot adapt well and so falls ill. We could get lost questioning why they are poor, why there is poverty in the first place, and so on, but that “space” between the infinite plane of mutual causation and the immediate site of a problem, is where the important factors are located, factors like, how can we help them? By attacking their symptoms? By curing their poverty? Or by seeing how these things are related in ways that can lead us to intelligent intervention–say for instance by helping them work through the larger pattern into a better one with less stress and illness.

The reductive intellect not only reduces all these relevant factors down to the immediate body, but when it tries to get at the “root” of the illness, it gets horribly complicated, investing great portions of the energy and resources of our society trying to “figure out” the cause of, say, cancer, or more importantly right now, “covid”. The supposed root is always some scapegoat that obfuscates the problem with the details of the nearest causal chain (a virus triggered the symptoms, we found the cause!).This is not to say that problems don’t demand some detailed research, but most of the details of science are “rooted” in a “picture” of the world that is little more than a bunch of objects reacting to each other with various so-called forces.

This way of thinking is spatially bound in the sense that even when it conceives of time, it does so as a series of discrete moments arising from a spatialized grid, basically seeing the universe as a random collection or objects in a container of featureless space and time. In contrast, spiritual seeing/thinking cuts through mechanized thought that is bound to objects and our conditioned response to them, and it envisions the conditions that give rise to all of them. It is not intellectualism but the essence of our current evolution of consciousness.While it is true that basic teachings of wisdom traditions often emphasize something like “being here now”, a similar teaching of the structure of time is the necessary “tantric” correlate to the basic teaching–the secret and deeper teachings of the Buddha, according to the occult tradition. Sunyata, the realization of emptiness, being here now, etc. is important to learn to see between the conditions and forms of our thought, but those forms need to be critiqued from a spiritual or “virtual” understanding—that is, if we are to have any hope of changing the society which they structure.

There are different paths to sunyata and levels of realization of ultimate reality. In Tibetan Buddhism they call the route that just follows one line of thought into a realization of its emptiness, the path of the “foe destroyer”. The tantric path follows all lines of thought into the omniscience of full buddhahood. They do not converge on some point of transcendence, but on what is described in detail by Deleuze as a plane of immanence that has divergence and creativity as its power. Aurobindo calls this Supermind, as it is no longer the divisive mind of seperate objects but the creative truth force behind all manifestation.

Mahayana/Asian Buddhism and tantric/Tibetan Buddhism consider there to be levels of teachings to Buddhism, with the tantric being considered by Tibetans the diamond vehicle to full Buddhahood and rapid external transformation, as opposed to the simple inner and individual liberation and gradual collective liberation of the lesser vehicles.The complex structure of time is part of the “secret doctrine” of the secret teachings of the Buddhist tradition. There is a debate about how much of this is reflected in the theosophical tradition that claims to divulge some of this, but the simple point is just that sunyata is not devoid of structure. It is just not a structure that can be represented with the intellect. Various traditions deal with this problem in different ways, but Deleuze draws together a tradition of “immanence” that deals with these theological questions in interesting ways that integrate the Christian theology of Duns Scotus (from whom Deleuze gets the key concept of univocity) with the most cutting edge complexity theory and topology. The result is a more fleshed out and contemporary extension of what the tantric tradition and Sri Aurobindo were trying to do with Eastern philosophy: transform the vehicle of mind/body and society to better handle immanent divine, which destroys not just dualism, but also fills out and links the sides of the nondualistic synthesis of Buddhist/Eastern dialectics with a philosophy that can guide our creative evolution.