Enlightenment is a special kind of knowledge or insight that lifts the malaise of everyday life. But what exactly is it? This ground-breaking book offers a definitive logical account for the modern mind of the kind of knowledge that spiritual enlightenment provides, doing justice both to logic and to spirituality.
Zen and the Tao have expressed the mystical nature of enlightenment by contradictions and riddles; it is shown here that the reason enlightenment must be mystical in this way is that it is complementary to logic, expressing changes in the very nature of our understanding. It is this that makes our life magically switch from the existentially meaningless to one of profound meaning. For this switch to not be mystical, our desolation would have to already be solvable in terms of our current conceptions – which is precisely what often seems impossible for us.
This work should appeal both to the believer and the sceptic, by revealing the special relationship between spiritual enlightenment and Logic. Not only does it use logic to clarify what is meant by enlightenment, but it simultaneously shows how the mystical nature of enlightenment clarifies when and when not to use logical reasoning.
REVIEWS & ENDORSEMENTS
Subtitled ‘a cognitive theory of spirituality’, this searching and analytical book should, according to its own argument, have been subtitled ‘a non-conceptual theory of spirituality.’ It ranges over philosophical and spiritual themes from East and West involving our fundamental orientation in life, the nature of the self, paradox and meaning. Writers like Tolstoy have arrived at the limits of logic and rationality and suffer a loss of meaning that can only be transcended through a new form of perception and understanding as given in mystical experience, which the author explores. The self is recontextualised within the Self, the separation inherent in the mental and conceptual is transcended. This process highlights the limitations of Western philosophy, encapsulated in the Upanishads: ‘that which is not comprehended by the mind but by which the mind comprehends - know that to be Brahman.’ Meister Eckhart realised this, but not Descartes or David Hume. They did not arrive at a state of pure consciousness, which is the underlying feature of meditation. Henley explores the nature of paradox and contradiction, and it is here that there is a large gap in his reading, namely Iain McGilchrist’s work The Master and his Emissary, with its discussion of the different capacities of the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Paradoxes are generated by the very operating system of the left hemisphere, but can be understood intuitively by the right (the same applies to jokes). So part of the argument attributed solely to mystical experience can also be resolved by understanding the relative roles of the hemispheres. The rest has to do with the development of self-awareness through spiritual practice that transcends thought so as to allow a direct experience of pure consciousness or the Tao or Atman. This is not so much a conceptual change (p. 146) as a move beyond concepts and indeed the existential choices of continental philosophy (although, as he points out, it is related to the fall and redemption of man). So the level of enlightenment involves ‘not only knowing who you are, but also a higher form of intelligence’ (p. 205). Given that enlightenment is by definition inconceivable, it can only be represented by symbols, which is what religions have done. For Henley, the path involves surrendering the primacy of conceptual thought (of which this book is full!) and taking up a spiritual practice that puts one consciously on the path. This is a stimulating exploration for readers conditioned by Western rationality. ~ David Lorimer, Paradigm Explorer
5.0 out of 5 stars
The hidden link between Zen and Logic
This book is a superbly written piece of literature which has had a profound influence in changing my outlook on life as well as the way I approach life’s everyday challenges. This may be because of its highly unusual attempt to link the two arch-enemies: Logic and Zen. Nevertheless, it is I think a serious philosophical work, but one that appears to use logical reasoning for a novel purpose: identifying when and when not to go beyond the limits of logical reasoning! Though it sounds bizarre, I found that this paradoxical method has come to mean a lot to me personally and has made a big difference to my life.
It helps that it is beautifully written: every sentence is filled with meaning and the author has gone to great lengths to say a lot without wasting words. The text is deeply thought-provoking and wonderful examples of life’s conflicts are used in different scenarios to explain in each case a Zen-like Middle Way to one’s own enlightenment. The book thus teaches you to assess and reassess your thoughts through a disciplined way of analysing conflict situations.
Also, since all attempts to express our innermost being or soul result in contradictions the author reasons (logically) that our real nature, instead of being logical, is on the contrary revealed by our unacknowledged (illogical) ability to grasp contradictions and that ironically, it is this which leads to the most fulfilling path through life. In reading the book, one is encouraged to continually think and analyse; it is an intense read, not only for the general reader but probably for the specialist in philosophy or psychology also. But, introducing both Western and Eastern spirituality into each argument together with logic, leads one down a rather new pathway of thinking which is very refreshing. Initially, it took me conscious effort to apply what is taught in this book, but by persistently using the techniques and encouraging oneself to think 'out of the box' I found a new inner peace develop within myself.
As far as I can tell, this fusion of Eastern/Western thought is quite new but is largely unknown and, I would say, deserves a much wider audience. ~ Greg Kappers, amazon.co.uk
5.0 out of 5 stars ... which seems out of the ordinary and intriguing - like an involuntary exclamation or shout, 31 Dec. 2015
This review is from: The Logic of Enlightenment: A Cognitive Theory of Spirituality (Paperback)
having only read the preview and not yet having received the book and not usually being one to write reviews the reason for this comment is maybe just to draw attention to something which seems out of the ordinary and intriguing - like an involuntary exclamation or shout . the first words convinced me that this is a deeply insightful work which could only have been written by a person of great knowledge , unerstanding and yes even enlightenment - how do I know this ? - because it made me feel immediately unburdened and free as if transmitting the very qualities of the subject matter. the writing is beautifully simple and clear even in comparing different philosophical ideas . although I have yet to read the whole book the message seems to be that to see the world as it should be seen you must allow the world to be what it is and not to view it from limited perspective and logic ie to experience the joy of an enlightened being a new logic must sit on top of the old which is more receptive to an enlightened communication. anyone receptively interested in philosophy would find this book useful. ;) ~ Nicholas, amazon.co.uk
This book was a great pleasure to read as it is clear and well-argued throughout, and covers a wide range of interesting material. As regards mainstream Western philosophy, the author takes on Descartes and Hume (chapter 3, pp. 52-9) criticizing their views and presenting an alternative. However, there is much in the book which is not to be found in standard courses on the history of Western philosophy. Chapter 9 deals with the Eastern mystical philosophies of Nagarjuna and Zen Buddhism, while chapter 3 (pp. 50-52) gives an account of the Western mystical philosophy of Meister Eckhart. Moreover mysticism is explored not just in philosophical texts but in literary ones as well. There are very interesting discussions of Tolstoy, T.S.Eliot, a Shakespearean sonnet, Marlowe, and Kafka. Such a wide variety of material might, in some cases, lead to muddle and confusion, but, quite to the contrary, in the book the material is unified by a clear and definite thesis. The author thinks that mystical experience is cognitive in character, and leads to greater knowledge about the higher self and the nature of reality. ~ Professor D. Gillies, University College, London