The field of science could be defined as the study of cause and effect, so that for a known cause the effect becomes predictable. Alternatively a given effect might be traced back to its cause.
So then, what exactly is cause and effect?
On one hand, cause and effect might be considered as isolated events; For example, if I put my hand in a flame then I will suffer pain. It is the same effect each time I try this. Conventional science follows such a template.
However, cause and effect can also be considered as the transition from the invisible to the visible, given that each cause is the effect of a previous cause stretching back in time in an infinite regression.
The unfolding of the invisible into the visible also becomes evident when we identify with particular belief systems (on a mental level), since they tend to then manifest into reality (on a physical level) – and often unpredictably so. The curse of doctrine is most evident in religion, where belief in one thing usually results in something else. In communism the altruistic belief in equal distribution usually ends up as tyranny and starvation. And in nature we see seeds develop into plants, and eggs into animals. The essence contained within the seed or egg is invisible until it develops into a mature life form. This was previously covered in the chapter Proof in The Pudding.
In the first case where the cause is visible, there is the premeditated action such as placing one’s hand in a flame. There is nothing concealed in this action. In the second case where the cause is not visible, the effect is the means by which the cause becomes known; the flower reveals the secrets contained within the seed. In this case cause and effect are essentially the same thing, just that one is the revelation of the other.
The key difference between these two examples is the first case involves an act of will. The subject is acting according to his intention, since putting one’s hand in a flame is an intentional act. Even if it is an accident, the cause is still affected by will. If a carpenter hammers his thumb, it is the effect of his intention to use the hammer, as well as his negligence to pay due attention.
In the second case there is apparently no act of will involved. The transition of an egg into an embryo, then embryo to fetus, is the mysterious work of nature. If there is will then it is not individuated human will but a universal Will – with capital W. One could argue that individual will was involved in the initial sexual act and that could make for a fair point. And a fair answer might be that the human organism has been endowed with the necessary natural instincts to reproduce sexually according to Will. What then is the actual cause?
Next we might consider the case of a stone rolling down a hill that knocks a boulder that in turn starts to roll and finally crashes into the valley. The movement of the stone as the visible cause is has not been instigated by will. What has been instigated by will however is the separation of cause from effect. In reality there are multiple causes all linked as a steady stream of micro-events, too numerous to list – the specific slope of the hill, a local obstruction deflecting the stone in the direction of the boulder, etc. It is the will of the observer that separates the entire movement of stone and boulder into a conceptualized cause and effect. But in reality it is not so, for every visible cause is an effect of a previous cause and every effect becomes a new cause.
A careful examination will show that what we call “Chance” is merely an expression relating to obscure causes; causes that we cannot perceive; causes that we cannot understand.
~ The Kybalion
It is a misconception that cause and effect is merely a mechanical process. Of course it was a stroke of genius that Newton discovered (or perhaps invented) his laws of motion. If a force is applied to an object then it will move in a predictable way.
However is the force actually the cause of a moving object? Or is another object the cause; in which case force is an invisible agency that connects the two objects? The falling stone hits the boulder and causes/forces it to move. It is widely considered that the laws of physics are causal to physical events, in which case it is a force that is causing the boulder to move. But if we accept that the stone is the cause then what is force? It must be an invisible agency connecting the stone to the boulder. This then begs the question, is force a real phenomenon or merely conceptual?
If cause and effect are separate events then we need a third party or agency to connect them. The paradigm that we exist in, in order to reason and communicate the way we do, is that of subject-verb-object. The verb is the connector between the two nouns or ‘things’, namely subject and object. The verb or action is invisible. If a hammer hits a nail what we actually see is a hammer and a nail. Of course the brain recognizes this as an act of hitting, because it has been trained to infer the invisible connector between subject and object; it is convenient to interpret what is seen as hitting.
What if we invert this and consider that the reality we are seeing is hitting, and that subject and object are the ‘props’ of convenience that the brain uses to interact with the world. In this sense action (the verb) is the base reality, with objects being fictional concepts that exist as a function of will of the observer – who also identifies himself a separate object, ie. someone who can observe ‘objectively’.
Interestingly there are times during certain activities, such as dance, sport and even battle, where the individual steps into ‘the zone’ and excels in a wonderful display of intelligence and instinct. His actions become fluid and his mind quiet. The same thing can happen for a musician who may find the separation between him and his music to be absent; the music plays itself and it is he who is invisible. The audience may also become aware of this. Perhaps this is what Maslow has referred to as ‘peak experience’.
When will is applied, it separates the observer from the world, and simultaneously it separates subject from object in his field of perception. This subject-object paradigm is in fact a belief system that, like all belief systems, reveals itself only through its effects. And these effects are what we see in the world today. An expansion of technological progress marred by a propensity to wage war. A cult of science and reason that is unable, or perhaps unwilling, to turn its sensors inwards to study itself.
If we consider that peak experience, or meditative state, is the absence of will, it follows that such a situation cannot be intended. You cannot exert your will in order to stop will; that’s a contradictory statement. There is no method one can follow to achieve the absence of will; the state when there is no individuated self, and therefore no subject-object. Absence of will is not an effect.
Observe, and in that observation there is neither the “observer” nor the “observed” – there is only observation taking place.
~ J Krishnamurti
It is fitting that, given subject and object have limited permanence since they are an outcome of will, it is through activity (the verb) that will becomes absent. And we have seen in previous chapters that it is specifically through the activity of ritual – be it sport or storytelling – that one transcends the subject-object paradigm. This is also the basis of Zen. The mind is extraordinarily quiet because there is no will applying any force.