Hubert Benoit: Makes my head hurt, but might be good for you Click to rate this teacher! I credit Benoit for his honesty, for he was a lifelong seeker. Benoit does make some intriguing points: Man obtains satori, then, as a result of turning his back, as thoroughly as possible, on his centre, as a result of going right to the ultimate limits in this centrifugal direction, as a result of pushing to its ultimate degree of purity the functioning of the discursive intelligence which keeps him away from Wisdom. He ought to accomplish formal thought to the point of breaking up the form. In order to do that he ought to make his formal mind function in a persevering attempt to perceive, beyond it limits, the in-formal; an attempt that is absurd in itself but which brings about the release one day of the miracle of satori ….
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Its truths, like those of modern physics, are to be tested operationally. They are known to be true because, in a super-Jamesian way, they work, because there is something that can be done with them. But knowledge is in the knower according to the mode of the knower. The author of this book is a psychiatrist, and his thoughts about the Philosophia Perennis in general and about Zen in particular are those of a man professionally concerned with the treatment of troubled minds.
The difference between Eastern philosophy, in its therapeutic aspects, and most of the systems of psychotherapy current in the modern West may be summarised in a few sentences.
The aim of Western psychiatry is to help the troubled individual to adjust himself to the society of less troubled individuals—individuals who are observed to be well adjusted to one another and the local institutions, but about whose adjustment to the fundamental Order of Things no enquiry is made.
Counselling, analysis, and other methods of therapy are used to bring these troubled and maladjusted persons back to a normality, which is defined, for lack of any better criterion, in statistical terms. To be normal is to be a member of the majority party—or in totalitarian societies, such as Calvinist Geneva, Nazi Germany, Communist Russia, of the party which happens to be in power. For the exponents of the transcendental pragmatisms of the Orient, statistical normality is of little or no interest.
History and anthropology make it abundantly clear that societies composed of individuals who think, feel, believe and act according to the most preposterous conventions can survive for long periods of time. Statistical normality is perfectly compatible with a high degree of folly and wickedness.
But there is another kind of normality—a normality of perfect functioning, a normality of actualised potentialities, a normality of nature in fullest flower. This normality has nothing to do with the observed behaviour of the greatest number—for the greatest number live, and have always lived, with their potentialities unrealised, their nature denied its full development.
In so far as he is a psychotherapist, the Oriental philosopher tries to help statistically normal individuals to become normal in the other, more fundamental sense of the word. Even a man who is perfectly adjusted to a deranged society can prepare himself, if he so desires, to become adjusted to the Nature of Things, as it manifests itself in the universe at large and in his own mind-body. This preparation must be carried out on two levels simultaneously. This process of intellectual and psycho-physical adjustment to the Nature of Things is necessary; but it cannot, of itself, result in the normalisation in the non-statistical sense of the deranged individual.
It will, however, prepare the way for that revolutionary event. That, when it comes, is the work not of the personal self, but of that great Not-Self, of which our personality is a partial and distorted manifestation. In theological language, we are helpless without grace, but grace cannot help us unless we choose to cooperate with it. In the pages which follow, Dr. This is a book that should be read by everyone who aspires to know who he is and what he can do to acquire such self-knowledge.
I assume, therefore, that anyone will admit that he has still something to learn on this subject. This is not a jest. Man needs, in order to live his daily life, to be inwardly as if he had settled or eliminated the great questions that concern his state. Most men never reflect on their state because they are convinced explicitly or implicitly, that they understand it. In saying which he approaches the agnostic who will tell you that the wise man ought to resign himself always to remaining ignorant of ultimate reality, and that, after all, life is not so disagreeable despite this ignorance.
Every man, whether he admits it or not, lives by a personal system of metaphysics that he believes to be true; this practical system of metaphysics implies positive beliefs, which the man in question calls his principles, his scale of values, and a negative belief, belief in the impossibility for man to know the ultimate reality of anything.
Man in general has faith in his system of metaphysics, explicit or implicit; that is to say, he is sure that he has nothing to learn in this domain. It is where he is most ignorant that he has the greatest assurance, because it is therein that he has the greatest need of assurance. Since I write on the problems that concern the state of man I should expect some difficulty in encountering a man who will read my words with an open mind.
If I were writing on pre-Columbian civilisation or on some technical subject my reader would assuredly admit my right to instruct him. The reader to whom I address myself in writing this book must admit that his understanding of the state of man is capable of improvement; he should be good enough to assume also—while waiting for proof—that my understanding therein is greater than his and that, therefore, I am capable of teaching him; finally, and this is certainly the most difficult part, let him not adopt the attitude of resignation according to which the ultimate reality of things must always escape him, and let him accept, as a hypothesis, the possibility of that which Zen calls Satori, that is to say the possibility of a modification of the internal functioning of Man which will secure him at last the enjoyment of his absolute essence.
If then, these three ideas are admitted: the possibility of improving the understanding of the state of man, the possibility that I may be able to help to this end, the possibility for man to arrive at a radical alteration of his natural state; then perhaps the time spent reading this book will not be wasted. In order that the reading of my book may have a chance of being helpful it is certainly not necessary to admit with force and clarity the three ideas that I have mentioned—although it is necessary to admit them a little at least.
But above all it is necessary to avoid a hostile attitude a priori; if the attitude were hostile I could not convince, and anyhow I would not even make the attempt; metaphysical ideas do not belong to the domain of that which can be demonstrated; each one of us accepts them only to the degree in which we understand intuitively that they explain in us phenomena otherwise inexplicable.
All that I have just written deals with the fundamental misunderstanding that we have to avoid. There are a certain number of misunderstandings of less importance which we should now consider. And then, as a matter of fact, my book is written for those who have already thought much on Oriental and far-Eastern metaphysics, who have read the essential among what is available on the subject, and who seek to obtain an understanding adapted to their occidental outlook.
Suzuki, or, at least, the preceding works of the same author. The ideas that I put forth therein have come to me in espousing the Zen point of view as I have understood it through the medium of the books that set it forth; that is all. I can help myself from the Zen point of view, in my search for the truth, without dressing myself up in a Chinese or a Japanese robe, either in fact or in metaphor.
In the domain of pure thought labels disappear and there is no dilemma as between East and West. I am an Occidental in the sense that I have an occidental manner of thinking, but this does not hinder me from meeting the Orientals on the intellectual plane and participating in their understanding of the state of man in general.
I do not need to burn the Gospels in order to read Hui-neng. It is because I have an occidental manner of thinking that I have written this book in the way that I have written it. Zen, as Dr. It seems that, in order to enlighten an Occidental, dissertations are, within a certain measure that is strictly limited, necessary.
Doubtless the ultimate, the real point of view, cannot be expressed in words, and the master would injure the pupil if he allowed him to forget that the whole problem lies precisely in jumping the ditch which separates truth which can be expressed from real knowledge. But the Occidental needs a discursive explanation to lead him by the hand to the edge of the ditch. And I think that many of my brothers in the West are in the same case. Within each paragraph there is indeed a logical disposition; but it is by no means the same as regards the chapters as a whole, as regards the book as a whole.
Again and again breaks intervene, which interrupt the pleasant flow of logic; the chapters follow one another in a certain order, but it would make little difference if they were arranged in almost any other manner.
From one chapter to another, certain phrases, if one gave them their literal meaning, may seem to contradict one another. The Western reader should be warned of that; if he begins his reading expecting to find a convincing demonstration correctly carried through from alpha to omega he will try to make the book accord with this preconceived framework; in this he will fail rapidly and he will abandon the task.
This difficulty depends, I repeat, on the very nature of the Zen point of view. In the teaching of most other doctrines the point of view aimed at comprises a certain invariable angle of vision; if I regard a complex object from a single angle I perceive its projected image on the plane surface of my retina, and this projection is made up of lines and surfaces that are in regular relation.
But Zen attaches no importance to theory as such, to the angle from which it studies the volume of Reality. It is this Reality alone which interests it, and it experiences no embarrassment in moving round this complex object in order to obtain every sort of information from which an informal synthesis may result in our mind. Worshipping no formal conception, it is free to wander among all the formal ideas imaginable without worrying itself about their apparent contradictions; this utilisation, without attachment, of conceptions allows Zen to possess its ideas without being possessed by them.
Therefore the Zen point of view does not consist in a certain angle of vision, but comprises all possible angles. My reader should realise that no synthetic understanding is deemed to pass from my mind to his by means of this text which might attempt to embody it; this synthesis should occur in his mind, by a means proper to himself, as it occurs in my mind by a means proper to me; no one on Earth can do this work for us.
My special thanks go to my friend, Mr. Terence Gray, for his translation of my book; he has solved perfectly the very difficult task of giving a faithful rendering of my thoughts.
Supreme Doctrine: A recap of Benoit's main ideas
Benoit is explaining in "occidental" terms to "occidental thinkers" what is meant by Zen literature when it asserts that "From the beginning nothing was" or "Attention, that is the whole of the teaching. So like the Taliban think of time in decades and not minutes, hours, and days, and the American This book is absolutely amazing, but extremely hard to get through. Our Western minds need a Rosetta Stone in order to decode these elusive Eastern ideas, and to me, this book is it. Very dense, very rewarding. Or "Great doubt, great effort. All in all though, it embodies something different to me: it embodies the analytical way, a position outside of things, looking from a distance, but still trying to figure out how things work from the inside. This results in a language that is, to my mind, a disembodied language.
Hubert Benoit (psychotherapist)
Compensations often occur in combination with each other. A common combination, for example, is that of loving and being loved, which is the ego both nourishing and being nourished by the outside world. This compensation maintains the two necessary, and conflicting, pretenses see below : that of the animal self, being a separate creature cut off from the universe, and that of the abstract self, being the divine center of the universe. This may lead to either full inversion or partial inversion.
The Supreme Doctrine
Its truths, like those of modern physics, are to be tested operationally. They are known to be true because, in a super-Jamesian way, they work, because there is something that can be done with them. But knowledge is in the knower according to the mode of the knower. The author of this book is a psychiatrist, and his thoughts about the Philosophia Perennis in general and about Zen in particular are those of a man professionally concerned with the treatment of troubled minds. The difference between Eastern philosophy, in its therapeutic aspects, and most of the systems of psychotherapy current in the modern West may be summarised in a few sentences.
The Supreme Doctrine: Psychological Studies in Zen Thought (Second Edition)