Thought is a lifelong process and an on going project for each thinker. I am not sure how other people think so I can only analyze my own thought.
I have noticed three distinct stages that seem to rotate endlessly: Idealism, Skepticism & Reformed Idealism. This could theoretically correspond to ‘thesis, antithesis and synthesis’ but these phrases seem cold, scientific and alien. I do not want to go to bed with these words — they would not warm my bed.
Not only does the individual thought go through the idealism, skeptic analysis and then reformation, but even in our life we have stages where all of our thoughts on a topic for a few days, or a few years, or a few decades are idealistic or they are skeptical before we reach our reformation. One can point towards the fact that there are many youth who are very idealistic on some topics — many extremist movements are defined by their youthfulness.
Our thought process is dualistic not necessarily because we believe in the scientific method so strongly and must test our ideals (though this is part of it), but also because of our basic human emotions.
We fall in love with an idea, and then we use logic to justify it; we fall out of love with an idea, and then we use logic to bash it. And finally, when we are done bashing it, we sometimes float back to this simple ideal once again and realize what our errors were and we proceed to tweak it into something better once again.
This is good. This is human. This warms the bed.
I would like to point out something about Taoism.
The Chinese character for Tao is 道; the character for Tao indicates a path; the character itself is of a dude holding his chin while walking a path. The guy is thinking about something pretty hard… And why does such a character have that meaning? Well, this is not an empty character. We know exactly where he is walking from, where he is walking currently, and we know where he wants to go.
He started walking away from a point that is referred to as Ahn (安); ahn means comfort. Ahn represents civilization, society, family. In order for him to gain enlightenment.
The man is now walking in a place we refer to as Yaman ( 野蠻 ); yaman is the state of barbarism. It is man living in tribe like communities, illiterate and separated from all of civilization. It is necessary for man to walk through this place and to understand it in order for him to understand himself.
When man has learned what civilization is, and then has learned what barbarism and the ‘natural state’ is, he reaches his goal and has become more or less ‘enlightened.’ But we should not use the word enlightenment — it has a Buddhist connotation. The highly technical and pretentious word that the Taoists use for this place can be translated as ‘goal’ or ‘objective.’
This is quite similar to our thought process: we start out with something fake, idealized, not fully understood; something that is fundamentally alien to man because we cannot attain it. This pathetic excuse for a thought, this dreamworld, this Lord Of The Rings is our civilization, our society.
When we reach the ultimate goal we are no longer in idealism, and we are no longer in skepticism; we have a better idea.
We are no longer civilized, but neither are we completely barbarian. We are much like the Manchus or the Won dynasty: sure, we rule China, we rule civilization, but we do not mix with the civilization in the same way.
Did you know that after the Ming dynasty, when the Manchus took over, they used the Great Wall [i]in reverse?[/i] The wall was no longer there to [i]keep barbarians out of China. It was there to keep the civilized Chinese out of their barbarian lands.[/i]
The Manchus actually wanted to keep out civilization — they saw how the Chinese lived, and they decided they would rather be the various bad names that the Chinese called them than become Chinese themselves.
This is where we can look at the concept of the Noble Savage that J.-J. Rousseau gave us: there is a certain enlightened nature to the more primitive aspects of humanity. They are not corrupted by civilization. Even Christ once told us that we must [i]believe like little children.[/i] A child and a noble savage are not entirely unlike one another: neither have yet been corrupted by the forces of society. We must leav civilization to achieve this purity.
It is also worth drawing the parallel in Buddhism of Ibsan (入山) which literally means ‘to enter the mountains.’ This is synonymous with becoming a Buddhist monk. The mountains are the only lands around civilized places that allow one to be isolated — to be freed from the influences of the world.
There are of course practical considerations that we have to make, but I think we do need to learn a lesson from our thought process:
We become better, stronger, superior people if we put everything through a skeptic phase of destruction; we have to make an antithesis on our whole society and civilization itself.
When we build a newer, better building we do not build it on top of an older building; we tear down the old building and we start from scratch.
So now, we have to burn our Rome; we have to get in our Drakar ships and raid the coasts of Normandy. We have to get on our horses and find the weak point in the wall, and then we must kill every living thing that stands in our way, steal everything that we can carry and set fire to everything that we cannot.
After we’ve done this to our ideals, we will have set a fine layer of soot on the ground in which much can grow our reformed ideals.
And then we are neither civilized nor are we purely barbarians; we are Rulers. We have our civilization, and we have our society, but we are not fully part of it, nor do we want to be part of it. This is the goal.
We conquer our ideals and then we live above our ideals — our ideals are newly grown and changed, and they are better, but we are still not a part of them; we are like the Manchus trying to keep the ideals from coming over the wall so that we can keep ourselves pure. Our ideals are there merely because we personally can gain some insight from them, but we rule them, and we keep them separate from us.
This is the point at which we know we have achieved a good conclusion.