version of:   September 26, 2004

Chapter 23: Historical Pointers

The world is made of rings.
The hooks are all yours.
Make straight your hooks and nothing can hold you.
Give up your addictions and the freedom of the universe is yours.
Be effortless.

These are the words of Nisargadatta, who lived in India in the twentieth century, someone without academic or any other formal training. They are words that spring directly from his own insights, gained during his own explorations.


An airport is a marvelous generalization of a seaport, the only types of port we had until a hundred years ago. While seaports can only exist in special places, at the coast, airports can be built almost anywhere. Wherever we are, we are already at the edge, at the place where land and sky meet.

In a far more profound way, we are already at the edge of the limited world of concepts we have been tramping around in for so long. As long as we look ahead and around us, we can only see more concepts, more structures and fabrications. But we can take a break, right here and now.

We can stop, relax, and rest on our back, looking out at right angles to the horizon of concepts, opening up into a new direction. In order to talk about it, we'll have to give it a provisional name, while remembering not to treat that name as yet another concept.

Let us call this new direction freedom. It is a simple name, but the simpler the name, the less likely it is we will get trapped in its conceptual associations. The implication is: wherever we are, we find ourselves in a port city. Any place is a freeport.


Life at a freeport is fun, and never dull. There are infinitely many new directions and possibilities for embarking on new adventures. And it is easy too: we don't even have to do the embarking ourselves. We can let it happen.

In fact, the more we learn to rest and refrain from attempts to manipulate and fabricate, the more we recognize that we are already embarked, and that we are already fully free, that any type of preparation is both unnecessary and counterproductive.

All this may sound incredible, and indeed it is totally incredible when considered from without any conventional framework. The only way to test the truth and efficacy of all these statements, above and in previous chapters, is to relax those frameworks, by hook or by crook, gradually or in spurts.

This does not mean that we have to trust such statements blindly until we can fully verify them. Fortunately, we have plenty of historical pointers, different ways in which this message has been repeated by different individuals, we reported back about their own adventures and explorations of the type of freedom indicated above.

Science and Freedom

Let us start with science. Much of what we know now about the world would have been considered completely incredible just a few hundred years ago.

Take the fact that there are electromagnetic waves that allow us to communicate almost instantly across the globe and beyond. Or the possibility to hop on an airplane and to visit the other side of our planet within 24 hours. Or the existence of computers that perform many quadrillions of operations per second.

Who knows what a future science will discover about the structure of reality, and how such discoveries may benefit us? If we think we can put any type of limit on the nature of future discoveries, we are likely to be as wrong as those scientists of the past who used their expert knowledge of their days to put firm limits on what they thought was possible.

And whatever will be discovered in the future may not have to be channeled through the types of technology mentioned above. When science will start to explore the world of subject and object, rather than limiting itself only to the world of objects, applications may take very different forms. The freedom that such a future science can give us is probably unimaginable for us now.

Technology and Freedom

All of our current technology is built in the form of gadgets, things that do things. Even computers, gadgets that deal with information as their main content and purpose, can function only by pushing physical bits around, in terms of voltage differences and electrical impulses.

Even so, different areas in science produce different types of technology. Physics-inspired technology has to be manufactured by humans, or at least by other machines in large factories. But future biology-inspired technology is likely to feature products that produce themselves, just like any living organism.

When science penetrates as deeply in the world of the subject as it has done in the world of the object, who can possibly predict what type of technology that will spawn? And when, subsequently, science will become at home in the world of a unification before the subject-object split, isn't it likely that that will generate a yet very different type of technology?

The term `technology' may or may not be appropriate at that point. But whatever we would want to call the effective freedom that a deeper science is likely to bring, it will be far, far different from any current physics-type technology as well as any near-future biology-type technology.

A Search for Freedom

Of course, such hypothetical future freedom applications don't do us much good, since we don't have access to them, no matter how convinced we may be that they will eventually arise. However, barring direct access, we may try to gain indirect access.

Making the type of move we have made before, we can first look at the past, locate the main trends, and then try to extend the dotted lines of those trends into the future. We can use historical pointers.

Astrology gave rise to astronomy, alchemy gave rise to chemistry. What body of knowledge that is already in existence might give rise to future forms of science that include the subject on its own terms?

The most effective place to look is in the accounts given by those who have spent their lives at exploring the world of unification beyond, and in an atemporal sense before, the subject-object split. In other words, we should consider the writings of the most serious and the most accomplished and realized contemplatives.

Contemplation and Freedom

Within the scope of this book, it is not possible to give even a partial treatment of what can be found in the accounts of the leading contemplatives of the past. There are so many strands of serious and inspiring investigations that have been reported in so many different frameworks, that even an attempt at a tally would be a daunting enterprise.

What is more, within many of these strands, there have appeared individuals who have reported penetrating kinds of insights that seemed to bubble up within their own practice, without any clear relationship with the belief system in which they set out their explorations.

In fact, any type of deep realization of necessity has to go beyond whatever system had been the starting point. This automatically leads to a proliferation of different utterances by different individuals, even within the same culture, and within the same strand of the same belief system.

This is not to say that these utterances point to different truths, or even to different aspects of the same reality. On the contrary, there is a distinct spirit or atmosphere or flavor to their messages, and once you develop a taste for that flavor, it becomes possible to see the forest for the trees.

The Flavor of Freedom

Given this flavor of realization that pervades different accounts, I have opted for trying to convey some of this flavor directly, rather than relying on numerous quotations from different individuals. This has been my aim especially in the last few chapters.

I realize full well that my descriptions so far cannot stand on their own. There is no logical way to defend them. I cannot deduce them from any form of current science, nor can I base them on any system of axioms or assumptions, whether scientific or otherwise. Instead, they have to be considered as experiential reports.

In a small sense, they convey my own, rather limited, experiential acquaintance with the world of freedom. But in a larger sense, they are intended to convey the experiential explorations of those who have gone before me, especially those who have found ways to look into the face of reality far wider and deeper than I have been able to do, so far.

The idea behind the methodology of my approach is my own, the idea to turn to the past in order to extrapolate to the future in order to find a way in the present to use science beyond what it can currently give us. But the engine that can apply this methodology runs on fuel that is not my own.

The Engine of Freedom

The fuel for the engine of ultimate or asymptotic scientific exploration is a mixture of three ingredients. One ingredient is the inspiration that can be gained by familiarizing oneself with the great explorations by individual contemplatives in the past. No amount of abstract theory or rules can replace an alive form of such familiarization.

Another ingredient is a vision, or a view, of reality, a way in which one tries, provisionally, to gain trust and familiarity with the notion of going utterly beyond notions of any type, including that view itself.

And the final ingredient is an open engagement with anything that appears, here and now, and anywhere and anyway anywhen.

The view tells us that any place is a freeport. A familiarity of the one taste of contemplative investigation tells is what to look for. From that point on, our engine runs on anything that appears -- since anything is of the one taste, a direct expression of openness, and of insight.

Freedom and Openness

The implementation is simple. In fact, it is so simple that it is hard to believe. In the previous chapters, it has been pointed out as stopped, or resting. That's it!

In practice, though, we seem to need far more encouragement and information, to help us spiral into what those simple words already point to.

Here are a few more words that I have found especially inspiring, from a Tibetan text on ati yoga.

Naked Freedom

Since all things are naked, clear
and free from obscurations, there
is nothing to attain or realize.

The everyday practice is simply to
develop a complete acceptance and
openness to all situations and emotions.

And to all people -- experiencing
everything totally without reservations
and blockages, so that one never
withdraws or centralizes onto oneself.

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