The next and most important question is: which ultimate is the true ultimate?
We ask this question because almost all teachings take the view that they have the correct ultimate truth of reality. Each believes they found the right ultimate or absolute truth, and other teachings are either wrong or second best.
One does not, of course, have to take the view of ultimate this way. This view of ultimate truth, which almost all teachings adhere to, is in some sense Aristotelian. It is a way of looking at reality to find the irreducible ground, the simplest or most primordial truth, the final cause or the prime mover. In other words, if we are totally free and can see and know absolutely freely, what do we see as the final essence or true nature of reality or all experience?
This is true, but it’s not all that is true
One can look at reality as having other kinds of truth that are more significant for the spiritual journey.
That we can find truth that is not simply a matter of reducing experience to the simplest or most basic. It is like the difference between physics and biology. The truth of the physicist is the ultimate particle or element that constitutes all others. For the biologist, what matters is the organization of the aggregate particulars into a living organism, and then determining what is the most evolved or most advanced. Are there spiritualities that look at truth in this manner? In other ways?
The discussion I have given about the views and ultimates of the various teachings are my own understanding of them, and I am not claiming these traditions will agree with me. But I think I made the point about the different views of what is ultimate or absolute truth. I have known many of these ultimates in my journey of realization, and also views of spirituality and realization that are not about ultimates. In my immediate experience, each appeared as real and final, and implying liberation and freedom. I had to solve the situation for myself; not just for my mind but also for my liberation. And, also for the teaching I teach, the Diamond Approach. So for me, this contemplation is not an intellectual or even philosophical exercise. It goes to the very heart of soteriology, and hence significant for liberation.
I leave it to you to find your answers. But it is also of value for anyone anywhere on the path.
What we hold to be true will determine not only our attitude, but also our openness to the potentials of reality and ways of experiencing it.
Such insight might shake us to the roots, or might open us up in ways we have not expected or envisioned. Or both.
The question of ultimates exceeds self-validating looping
This contemplation has been informed, in part, by Godel’s famous proof, sometimes referred to as his two theorems. Kurt Godel was the greatest mathematician of the twentieth century, just as Einstein was the greatest physicist of the same century. They were close friends. Godel belonged to the Vienna circle that included many philosophers –like Wittgenstein- logicians, mathematicians and scientists. They were involved in discovering or outlining the philosophy of science as it was developing then. Godel proved, using mathematical logic, that any system that is self consistent cannot be complete. In other words, for the system to be self consistent it will have to exclude some truths. It cannot include all truths. It is true that he proved this for some mathematical or algebraic systems. But since I had learned about it, I saw its applicability to all systems whether mathematical, mechanical, intellectual, philosophical, scientific, or spiritual.
It seems to me it expresses some mysterious truth inherent to reality.
Of course, I have not proved it to be applicable so universally, and nobody has attempted that. Godel’s proof, even though it was about simple arithmetic systems, is still quite difficult to comprehend and only the rare mathematician fully understands it.
The important thing about Godel’s proof for our contemplation is that I have seen it to be applicable to all teachings, or traditional systems of spirituality. Any teaching is inherently a system, regardless of whether we believe it so or not. Even when we think it is nonconceptual direct experience the fact that it happened, it expresses itself as a system, even though of direct truths about reality. So we begin here to continue this contemplation, and to add my contribution to it.
We can each stick to our tradition, teaching or practice, and simply complete the path according to it.
This is usually sufficient for liberation and completeness. And this is what people have done throughout the ages. There are also the situations when certain individuals have spontaneous awakening and experience liberation independent from any path. This is rare and the serious individuals must not rely on it, but it should be acknowledged anyway.
It has happened in human history, however, that several paths or traditions lived side by side and cross pollinated each other. An example is what happened in Spain at the time of the Moors, where Islamic, Christian and Jewish spiritualities coexisted and interacted. Many things have developed from that and it was a golden age for all three traditions. There are other instances in history when such situation occurred, as in the Alexandria of Hellenic times, but the important thing for our contemplation is that we are living in such a situation in our own time. Furthermore, it is not simply regional; all the spiritual traditions are now available around the whole globe, pretty much.
They are interacting, but in the sidelines, and indirectly. Some dialogues and conferences occur, but not to the extent possible. There are teachings arising by integrating various traditions, or impacted by the various traditions. One example of the second category is that of the Diamond Approach, the spiritual path I have spearheaded. It is a teaching that has emerged within the post modern context, in close contact with many of the spiritual currents of most traditions. It was bound to be impacted, at least informed, by exposure to these ancient and well-established teachings.
In the birthing of this path, many kinds of realizations emerged, as quantum leaps of awakening. The leaps punctuated a steady unfoldment and revelations of the secrets of reality. I recognized that each leap corresponded to the realization of one particular tradition or another. There was the realization and the living of all is love; there was the realization and living of all is consciousness, being and knowing; there was the realization and the living of all is awareness – an awareness characterized by emptiness of existence; and there was the realization and the living of emptiness as the groundless ground of all phenomena. At each leap there was the certainty that it was the ultimate and absolute ground of all of reality. But each one simply displaced the one before it, while containing it as a subset.
The question became obvious: what is happening here; is any of these really ultimate, or will ultimates continue to arise?