Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Conquest of Illusion - J.J. van der Leeu

The Conquest of Illusion - J.J. van der Leeu

The Conquest of Illusion
 J.J. van der Leeu

In 1710, George Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne, argued that there is no such thing as matter. What we take as matter, what we take to be "the world" are but our perceptions of some unknown reality. This line of thought became known as "idea-lism" and has been a thread in the history of Western philosophy since then. But this line of thought is very ancient. Plato expressed it in his well-known allegory of the cave, in which the world we perceive is but a shadow of something else, something of which we are generally completely unaware. Such a line of thought is extremely well developed in Eastern thought in such philosophies as Sankhya, Vedanta, and in the practical works of Raja yoga.

This general line of thought has fallen out of favor over the past several centuries in the West, due in large part to the rise of science, and the underlying philosophy of materialism, that has since morphed into the philosophy of physicalism, the dominant, if generally implicit paradigm of the modern world.

In spite of being eclipsed by the dazzling successes of the physical sciences in the West, it is a completely undeniable fact that our conscious awareness forever serves as an intermediary to what ever it is that is being represented as "the world" in our awareness. However, particularly in modern times, this general fact of our experience is neglected in our considerations of the world.

In Conquest of Illusion, van der Leeuw begins from this premise. But he does not construct philosophical arguments. No. This book is about his first-hand experiences from his advanced practice of yoga, exploring both the nature of consciousness and the nature of this thing we call "the world" that appears in our consciousness. van der Leeuw describes the >>result<< of successfully achieving the main goal of yoga, which is direct awareness of the eternal that underlies this "thing" we call existence.

The book is profound in every conceivable respect. In spite of the exponential growth of our current understanding of the material world, including the brain and the cosmos, this book is still apropos. It describes the eternal veritas underlying time, space, the mind, and our relative existence.

Perhaps the single most important quote of this book is:

"The mystery of life in not a problem to be solved, it is a reality to be experienced."

It is clear to one informed in such matters that van der Leeuw is describing in a lucid and (relatively) easy to understand fashion what has been described for centuries in Eastern, and specifically Indian philosophy, and in particular in the Kashmiri Shavism school of Indian thought.

The relevance of this book will only continue to grow over time as thinkers again begin to recognize in ever greater measure the implications that the "world" that exists, and this "world" as it appears in our conscious awareness are by no means identical.

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