I agree that identification with the physical and personal self would be the primary source of existential suffering. As I explain in "Buddhism and the Venture of Limited Selves," discrediting that particularity was surely much easier before modern science, when nature and the emergence of complexity were poorly understood. The mystic means to discount not just egoistic craving but scientific understanding of how the universe creates and destroys bodies of all types, including us.

Holding and observing the paradox without worrying or trying to solve it sounds a lot like what I say about the aesthetic stance that may lead to pantheistic mysticism. But the fact that we can detach from our worries and our background knowledge doesn't mean particular things--or the associated pains, injustices, and absurdities--are unreal. That reality-illusion distinction amounts to a word game, I think. Science shows how they're as real as anything could be.

So there's some reason to identify with what science shows we are. Thus, there's reason to feel noble, honourable pain, as in that which arises from an existential perspective on natural reality.


Knowledge condemns. Art redeems. I learned that as an artistic writer who did a doctorate in philosophy. We should try to see the dark comedy in all things.

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