The ‘Now’ is the point of contact with Truth and Actuality

In a recent discussion - between @Dev, @Inquiry, and @rickScott - the topic of truth arose.

Krishnamurti sometimes spoke about seeing the truth as truth, the false as false, and seeing the truth in the false.

So we might say that while truth is unknown - unknown to thought - it is constantly revealing itself through the actuality of the world (of nature), as well as through the actuality of the psychological present in our lives (which contains much that is false).

Krishnamurti and Bohm sometimes made a distinction between truth, actuality and reality:

  • truth being a perception beyond time and thought
  • actuality being nature, as well as the facts, the lived psychological ‘what is’, of each moment
  • reality being the beliefs, the illusions, the subjective mental constructs that thought has created.

There’s no need for us to hold to this particular usage of the word “reality”, as it becomes confusing to do so the way we often use this word. We also use the word “truth” in a more general way to refer to facts, actualities. Nevertheless, the distinctions between these three different aspects of experience are worth considering and bearing in mind:

  • a timeless, unknowable (through thought), non-manifest perception of reality (truth)
  • the actual facts of immediate, present moment experience, immediate perception, including nature
  • the thought-created world of our own ideas, beliefs, projections, imagination, memory, etc.

So truth and actuality involve present moment perception, present moment awareness (of what is) - whereas thought is always involved in the flow of time.

So what is the present moment?

The present moment - as Krishnamurti often said - consists of the modification of past experience (memory), which continues in its modified form to become tomorrow or the next moment, the future. So the 'now’ contains this whole movement, and whatever is perceived in the present moment: nature, the sunrise and sunset, the actuality of pleasure or suffering, our relationship with other people, etc.

So in the now there is a possibility of contact with ‘what is’ - with what is actually happening (both in the world and in ourselves). Truth and actuality are incapable of being perceived outside the now moment.

So when we discuss notions of truth - of whether there can be an objective truth, or if the truth that you see is different from the truth that I see, etc - all of the above must be taken into consideration. Because when we talk about a truth that you and I see we may be talking about a perception of actuality, or we may be caught in an illusion of our own thinking. (While truth as it is in itself may involve a totally different order of perception in which any notion of ‘you’ as separate from ‘I’ is redundant).

So in all these cases the contact point is what is happening in the actuality of the ‘now’.

As @crina has mentioned on another thread, the senses live in the present, in the now. So when we ask ourselves whether there can be an awareness or perception with all our senses, we are in essence asking ourselves what it mean to live in the ‘now’ moment.

Can we live for a few seconds, for a minute, on the ‘razor’s edge’ of the now moment, with our senses operating without the interference of thought? - This is part of what the question of truth and actuality involves.

What do people think or feel about this?

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I should clarify (for @rickScott and others who may have the same question) that we are talking about the psychological present, the psychological now, not about different scientific theories of the now. There are different scientific theories about time and the present moment - involving relativity according to Einstein, or the implicate order according to Bohm, etc.

But the psychological now is the now that contains the whole movement of psychological time (the past, modified in the present and continuing), as well as the perceptions we have through the senses, as well as - perhaps - a perception outside of time, beyond the movement of thought and time (i.e. truth).

What is the present moment?

We humans tend to experience what-is in moments that are both discrete (i.e. that seem to begin and end) and connected (that seem to flow as one stream). The moment we are experiencing we call the present moment. It had (for us) a perceived beginning and it will have a perceived end. We can recall past moments that we experienced previously, and can imagine future moments that we may experience subsequently. The perceived present moment (‘specious present’) is not razor-thin, it has a duration (seconds usually).

Are we talking about the present moment at the level of philosophical and scientific theory, or at the level of psychological experience?

The ‘specious present’ is a philosophical concept related to “the short duration of which we are immediately sensible” (William James).

For instance, according to neuroscientists there is a time-lag involved in our sense-perceptions of the world: the time it takes for sensory information to be assimilated by the brain and become a perception. I have no objection to this.

However, the brain (and therefore all current neuroscience) may not be the final arbiter of what constitutes the truth of the present moment. This is because it is a philosophical theory to say that all perception is limited to the brain. One could have a philosophical theory that awareness or ‘mind’ go beyond the brain. How does one adjudicate on such matters?

And, as already mentioned, the nature of the present moment can be analysed at the level of physical theory, in which case one’s scientific theory must be made explicit. For example, if one takes quantum non-locality and David Bohm’s implicate order theory, one may find grounds for the possibility of a true now. But this theory will not be accepted by others who are invested in different or competing theories of physics. Again, how does one adjudicate on such matters?

So I’m not sure we can resolve the issue of the present moment (or the now) from the point of view of neuroscience, physics, or philosophical theory.

As you may know, Buddhist philosophy has discussed the present moment in a number of different ways - and there are competing theories about it, depending on which school of Buddhism one is attached to, etc.

So for me the simplest approach is to take the lived reality of present moment experience (however ‘specious’ it may be in terms of duration), and find out what is involved in it. Not scientifically, not in terms of philosophy. Not in terms of a specific theory of the present moment.

For instance, on the ‘Flowering of desire’ thread we have been discussing whether it is possible to have a natural sensory response to something beautiful or attractive, without the response being taken over by the imagination, by one’s thinking process. To do this - to find out if it is possible - we have to be able to pay attention in the present moment to our actual lived experience (our sensations, and the thoughts that come in to interfere with and shape these sensations). It means living on the razor’s edge of the present.

Do you see the distinction I am wanting to make?

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At one level the present moment might be described as the meeting place of the non-existence of the future and the non-existence of the past. All that exists is immediate perception. But this is not what we generally experience in our present moment awareness.

Psychologically speaking the lived experience of the present moment is that it is the moment in which the psychological past meets the present - continually - and is subtly modified in the present moment (and thereby becomes the psychological future).

Perhaps there is a possibility of being in the present moment without any psychological past at all - this would then be the true now.

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Can we say, then, that “the true now” is always new because it is between the psychological past and the psychological future?

That’s what I meant by surfing the crest of the wave.

When we talk about the flow of experience, of surfing the wave, what does this flow consist of, what is the content of wave we are riding?

Are we talking about the flow, moment by moment, of fresh sensory perceptions? - the continual wave of (always present moment) perceptual awareness?

Or are we talking about the flow of our thoughts: of the psychological past (memory) flowing into the present experience, being modified there, and carrying on into the the next psychological moment (the future)?

In this flow of thought are created psychological knots of pleasure, fear, desire and suffering, etc, which we meet incompletely - and so these psychological knots are continued on (in modified form) into the next moment.

So to meet these psychological knots adequately (i.e. completely) we have to meet them in the present moment. Would you disagree with this?

So the present moment seems to be integral not only to having sharpened sensory-perceptions, but also to psychological authenticity and healing: of being able to adequately meet the psychological actualities of daily experience.

The “true now” as I understand it, implies the ending of time (time being the psychological past, being modified in the present, and carrying on into the future). So before discussing the true now, oughtn’t we first look at, be aware of, comprehensively examine the present moment as we generally experience it? - i.e. as a mixture of

  1. present moment sensations (sense-perceptions), and
  2. the flow of mental time (memory and anticipation)?

Yes, we ought…

The Buddhist model works for me, the flow of experience is the rising/falling of the skandhas:

rupa (form): physical or material form
vedana (feeling): sensation or feeling, which can be pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral
sanna (perception): recognition or perception of objects
sankhara (volitional formations): mental formations, thoughts, intentions, and mental activities
viññana (consciousness): subjective experience of sensory input and mental activity

In this flow of thought are created psychological knots of pleasure, fear, desire and suffering, etc, which we meet incompletely - and so these psychological knots are continued on (in modified form) into the next moment

So to meet these psychological knots adequately (i.e. completely) we have to meet them in the present moment. Would you disagree with this?

Please explain what you mean by: meeting a thought-feeling completely.

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I thought we weren’t going to talk about theories and models? I’m not personally interested in the skandhas.

As I understand it, in the present moment there are essentially two distinct processes at work:

  1. Sensations, sense-perceptions, or sensory/perceptual awareness

  2. The movement or flow of thought, from the past (as memory), modifying in the present, and continuing on

We can ask ourselves what it means to observe, see, feel, be aware, attentive, with all our senses fully alert, heightened. That is one question.

The other question is whether there can be an awareness of this movement of mental time, as memory and anticipation: the past meeting the present, and continuing on. And whether this movement can end.

What does it mean to meet anything completely? In relationship it means to meet at the same time, at the same level, with the same intensity. Similarly with any thought-feeling complex. It is a question, a challenge to meet something so completely. As far as I understand it, this can only take place if we are able to be totally present, absolutely ‘one’ with the thought-feeling complex. Fully in the now with ‘what is’.

What does it mean for you?

That surprises me, given your Buddhist background. The skandhas and their relationship with the self is among my favorite teachings from the Buddha!

Good, but: Does your model address ‘purely’ subjective processes: emotions, feelings, affect?

What does it mean to meet anything completely? In relationship it means to meet at the same time, at the same level, with the same intensity.

Okay, that’s helpful, gives me a fairly clear sense of what meeting completely means for you.

Honestly I have never really thought about what it means for me. Off the cuff: Meeting completely would be like being in full flow. If I were to meet you completely, I would be totally absorbed in the meeting, there would be no room left for image-making, ego-stroking, daydreaming. Similar to, perhaps, what Bohm and Krishnamurti were talking about regarding listening.

The skandhas are a staple of traditional Theravada Buddhism, but I was more drawn to Mahayana philosophy where the skandhas do not play a significant part. One can split up the body-mind in a number of different ways, and - not being a Pali or Sanskrit scholar myself - probably neuroscience is the most adequate way to understand this coherently. Krishnamurti sometimes talked about the mind as being the body, the senses, sensation, feeling, thought, consciousness, the brain: the whole of this is the mind (he used the word ‘mind’ in a number of different ways, so one has to go by context).

However, as I wrote about extensively on the ‘Krishnamurti among the neuroscientists’ thread, there are, broadly speaking, two distinct movements of the body-mind:

  1. the physical organism - this being the senses, perception, sentience, ordinary awareness, the capacity to see, hear, touch, taste, smell, be proprioceptive, etc.

  2. thought, memory, imagination, ideation, thought-created emotion, and all the thought-created contents of consciousness (in Krishnamurti’s meaning of that word consciousness)

Apart from these two arenas of activity of the body-mind, there may be a further activity that goes beyond the brain, or is not limited to the body-mind. This would be the area of insight, intelligence (in Krishnamurti’s sense), etc. But it is not necessary to have a belief in such a movement beyond the body-mind to explore the nature of the present moment.

Feelings can either be natural, spontaneous, healthy responses that go with perception, sensitivity. Or they can be thought-created. As we were discussing on the ‘Flowering of desire’ thread, the imagination can stir up the neurochemistry of the brain to create vivid feelings of fear and pleasure, joy and sadness. But these are artificial, thought-created states.

In the OP the distinction between truth, actuality and reality was mentioned: reality being (if you’ve read the OP) subjectively created states of illusion, image, imagination, thought-created feelings and emotions, etc. One can live a lie believing it to be the truth. One can think one loves when one doesn’t love.

You can put it that way, yes. So you’ve answered your own question.

Feelings may be thought-created and/or so deeply intertwined with thought that there is no real solid boundary, they co-arise. Agreed.

Feelings can … be natural, spontaneous, healthy responses that go with perception, sensitivity.

What do you mean by ‘go with’? Do feelings emerge from perception/sensitivity, are they epiphenomena, do they co-arise as with thoughts and feelings? I get the sense that you are granting second-hand status to feelings, making them subordinate to perception and thought?

Don’t they?

Am I? I don’t feel I am. I am merely drawing a distinction between thought-created feelings and feeling-responses that are not thought-created.

Thought-created feelings are feelings that only exist because of memory and thought. This is clear, isn’t it?

The content of thought and memory is not actual: the memory of an apple is not the actual apple :apple: I am holding in my hand.

So in the present moment (remember, this is the topic we are exploring) there is the actual apple :apple: I am holding in my hand - the sense of it, the smell and taste and colour of it. And there is the memory of yesterday’s apple (“Yesterday’s apple was more colourful, was more tasty, etc”).

The thought-created apple is second-hand.

So, similarly, with a feeling-response. It can be natural, a response of one’s sensitivity. Or it can be a second-hand thought created thing.

These are really fascinating questions for me. They deserve their own thread (some day). But I wouldn’t want them to derail the theme of this thread: now, truth, actuality. So please have at it!

I feel the example I have given of the apple :apple: is a reasonable one, which is of relevance to the topic of the present moment. If the question is of real interest to you why not explore it here?

Reading between the lines, you seem to be giving value to thought-created feelings, thought-created memories, thought-created images, and I’m not sure why you do not see the problem involved in doing this?

As I said, I think the example of the apple :apple: is adequate, because it is simple and clear:

The apple :apple: that exists in the present moment, that I hold in my hand, is actual; while the apple I hold in my memory is not actual. The memory itself (i.e. the fact that one has a memory of an apple) is an actuality, but the content of the memory is not actual. It is a fiction, a semblance, an image.

If you still feel like responding, we can talk about it.

Does this mean that memory is the actual means by which not-actual content is retained?

I saw the danger of this sentence, and so I edited my reply before the 5 minutes were up!

The sentence now reads:

The fact of having a memory of an apple is the actuality, not the content of the memory (which is obviously not a real apple :apple:). Is this clear?

If you want to put it that way, yes. Memory is the means of recording experiences so that they can be used as knowledge. An experience of an actual apple :apple: is recorded as memory, which means I can remember that the object I see before me is an apple.