The serious author wishes to reach and in some way benefit readers while simultaneously advancing his own discovery and development. Thus an author worthy of the name writes in order to further his being, and the craft of writing is properly placed as one among many ways to actualize the life to which he aspires.
A similar consideration obtains in the communication of a serious thinker, and no topic is more serious or weighty than the idea of thought itself. It is perhaps tempting to label a thinker a philosopher, but not all who think well are philosophers, though, of course, many are. Yet the assumption that we are already prepared for and well suited to serious thought is rarely questioned, and consequently many thinkers have not approached this question until a considerable amount of thought or reason has already been expended.
When a given thinker begins to question this assumption, what is often disclosed by further thought is that thought, or reason, is actually in service to something else in the human structure, and this “something else” is usually said to be passion, or desire. Having reached this conclusion, the thinker either casts about for some remedy to this unforeseen development, or resigns himself to it, thereby casting a shadow of doubt upon the objectivity of thought itself.
Those who seek for a remedy must begin to question, not the conclusion itself, but the state of being to which it points. If thought is indeed enslaved by passion, then just how much credence can we place upon any conclusions reached by such thought – including the conclusion that thought is enslaved. Or could it be that our inquiry would better be served by examining not thought, but passion? What is the nature of passion, or desire, and what is it about this feature of the human being that allows it to subvert the putative objectivity of thought, to call into question thought’s claim to be the ruling faculty of human nature?
In the history of thought, East and West, these two tributaries, remedy and resignation, tend to dominate the response to thought’s apparent servitude to passion. By and large, Eastern thought tends toward remedy, while Western thought tends toward resignation. To be sure, there is an exception here and there, both East and West, but such exceptions highlight the rule. In the East, remedies are approached by first inquiring into the fundamental existential quandary in which human beings begin to examine not only their separate faculties but also their overall identities. In the West, resignation usually issues in a series of reevaluations of the scope and limitations of what is commonly dubbed “reason.” In both East and West, thought or reason as conventionally conceived is severely chastened, either through a sought after remedy or through a resigned reformulation.
Both approaches, remedy and resignation, correctly critique thought as conventionally conceived, and thereby call for a revaluation of values, an inquiry into not only the nature of thought and passion but also of human identity. Both approaches seek to come to terms with what appears to be a universally recognized human condition: the enslavement of what at first blush presents itself as the only rational alternative to the utterly chaotic nature of human desires – thought or reason.
Another universal expression of human concern, East and West, is the question of being and becoming, often formulated as a concern for both certainty, as a quality of being, and development, as a quality of becoming. In Western modes of thought, particular individuals have either tried to reconcile certainty and development in their own thought, or have emphasized one to the detriment of the other. Yet the universal concern of both being and becoming, certainty and development, continues to bedevil thought, partly because it too touches upon the question of thought itself.
What part does being play in thought’s enslavement to desire, and what part does becoming play? Until these questions are investigated, how can we determine certainty at all? And how does development enter into both remedy and resignation? To seek a remedy is to search for a way to free thought from passion; in such a case, development must lead from uncertainty to certainty. Yet how can a process of becoming lead to a state of being? And how can a state of being like thought’s servitude issue in a developmental process from enslavement to liberation?
Because of the unhappy conclusion regarding thought’s servitude to passion, it is difficult to see how thinking itself can remedy the situation. Certainly thought enslaved by desire cannot do so. Is there another thought possible, another quality of thought not so enslaved? A higher thought, perhaps, that can critique ordinary thought in service to a higher, more refined desire? For it is, after all, passion or desire as a state of being that must be investigated, and without some access to a more elevated thought such inquiry must founder upon the inability of ordinary reason or ratio to liberate itself.
Liberated thought points beyond itself to the reality that informs it. The finest Eastern thought, for example, is characterized by an evocation of an intelligence beyond words or concepts; words are used to woo us from words. If concepts are to be used at all, they must serve to undermine the conceptual mind. Liberated thought must be sly.
Such is the inquiry that motivates the author of this book, and insofar as this question calls to the reader he, or she, is invited to join the author in his quest. For the universal concerns outlined in this preface also issue inevitably in the equally universal concern of identity, a concern that can only be engaged with a Thought free enough to be capable of the most sincere and difficult self-inquiry.
The most profound thinkers, East and West, have concluded that thought or reason cannot know what is real, cannot discover truth. The universal insight that led to this conclusion is that thought itself is not free but enslaved by desire or passion. Modern and postmodern Western thought has resigned itself to this inability to discover truth, while Eastern thought offers varied remedies intended to liberate thought. The Liberation of Thought will show how ancient Western thought also offered remedies, explaining how modern Western thought was unable to retain this remedial teaching. In so doing, The Liberation of Thought will present a universal teaching, born in the East and brought to the West, that restates ancient Eastern and Western remedies to thought's enslavement, pointing the way to a direct and certain discovery of truth.
About the Author
Gary Bryant is an ordained priest and a hospice chaplain. He has graduate level degrees in philosophy, theology, and psychology, having studied at Rice University, The University of Chicago, and Harvard University. Gary also has practiced a form of spirituality called the Gurdjieff Work for thirty years. He is past president and treasurer of the Prometheus Society, past membership officer of the Triple Nine Society, and a member of The Four Sigma Society. He enjoys participating in athletic activities with his wife, with whom he resides in the Houston metro area.