Epistemology of Paradox

Epistemology of Paradox

At some point in the progress of thinking, we must move beyond reason to a form of thought that is able to deal with truths that do not conform to the rules of logic. We must formulate a way of knowing that has the ability to deal with paradox. I am not referring to artificial paradoxes, such as the so-called mind-body problem. When we have exhausted our reasoning powers upon a particular paradoxical problem, there is a leap that must be made to a form of thought that includes our powers of intuition, emotion, and feelings. Certainly, we must follow reason as far as it can take us, but, in the end, other ways of knowing must come into play.

Let us take, for example, the seeming paradox that states:

The Divine is immanent in the world
The Divine transcends the world

This is clearly a mystery to the rational mind, but is a powerful reality to those who have experienced altered states of consciousness. Our materialistic state of consciousness, ruled by logic, would reject this as meaningless. But there are other dimensions of consciousness where reason and logic are exhausted and are no longer applicable.

Other dimensions of consciousness have no problem embracing the above assertions as one Reality. The statement, “Everything is contained within the Divine,” is the product of such a state of consciousness. Instead of a confused irrationality, the two assertions are synthesized into a meaningful statement. If everything is contained within the Divine, then both ideas become one. If one were to say, The Divine is in everything, this would only agree with one of the assertions, i.e. The Divine is immanent in the world. The former statement contains both ideas. By the way, we are here speaking of what is known as panentheism.

This “epistemology of paradox” is a way to gain knowledge of the world in addition to the mundane scientific method, which can only help us know empirical phenomena. It’s nothing new. This mode of thought goes back thousands of years and was crucial to the development of Taoism, Hinduism, and Buddhism.

Nathaniel Moya writes,

The use of paradox and linguistic ambiguity in Taoism is meant to convey one simple fact: words are of the human mind, and to believe that what is communicated in a sentence, a book, a poem, or whatever, communicates exactly and concretely every nuance and subtly of someone’s thought is missing the point. Language is a tool to differentiate, not necessarily unify. So, rather than thinking of paradox as an impassable abyss, think of it as metaphor pointing to that which is entirely ineffable.

The great Taoist philosopher, Chuan Tzu, once said: “Destruction is construction, construction is destruction. There is no destruction or construction. They fuse into one.” They fuse into one experience, or episode, that is part of a larger unity (Taoism’s Use of Paradox).

Language so limits what we can express about the ineffable! That is why we must use metaphor and symbol so much. That is why Jesus taught in parables. That is why Jung was so enamored with mandalas. These images touch a much deeper part of the Soul, where words cannot tread.

Paradoxes can be resolved in the Soul, for it is the middle-ground between opposites, the point of connection, par excellence, the Metaxy. Soul is the nexus between Matter and Spirit.

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