Cognitive Justice: Science and the Sacred

Let's take a step back and forget about climate change and the planetary catastrophe called global industrial civilization for a moment. Some of the deeper roots of our predicament have been discussed here repeatedly. (see some of the articles under the label 'collapse of civilization') I have also touched into the epistemological dimension of it, what I'd call 'nature of truth and reality'.

Today, I'd like to have my - much more learned - colleagues elaborate on how the dominant worldview, i.e. our most basic assumptions on the nature of truth and reality, not only started the cycle of destruction but perpetuate and aggravate it through a self-reinforcing mechanism called scientific discourse.

This is in no way meant to diminish the epistemological achievements of science (see below, Nagler), or to strike a blow for the deliberate distortion of facts that runs by the name of 'alt-truth'. Yet for us to get a more accurate picture of what is going on we need to be aware that there are actually truths alternate to our own understanding and that those truths are just as valid as what is scientifically believed to be real (see below, Wilber).

Drone magic, by Mike Licht (CC)
Alternatives exist abundantly, yet they initially are - very - hard to discover. The dominant culture is fighting an epistemicidal war against 'the other', a war that is unseen by most because the enemy is not supposed to even exist. Why?

Empire is not merely territory covered, not just populations made into subjects. Empire rules not only through political, economic, and military force but through the very culture that gave birth to Empire. In other words, Empire rules the minds of its subjects, and it does so by defining what they can know -- what is real. This may sound overstated to some, likely most, but the cognitive injustice created by scientific discourse is actually key to the question why social injustice does not spawn the kind of movements that would overthrow Empire. Marx had it wrong because we are not simply victims, we are co-creators of oppression. Awareness has never been enough; it takes an awakening.
The totalitarian exclusion of 'the other' from our view has turned it from a simple alternative into the deadliest enemy of the dominant culture, because once you start seeing it, awakening to it, you can no longer buy into the common dogmas around separateness, competition, materialism, utilitarianism, or scientism.

If you are still with me let's foster cognitive justice now, by exploring an example where it becomes obvious: the relationship between science and the Sacred.

A discourse provides a set of possible statements about a given area, and organizes and gives structure to the manner in which a particular topic, object, process is to be talked about. In that it provides descriptions, rules, permissions and prohibitions of social and individual actions.”
– Günther Kress – Linguistic Processes in Sociocultural Practice, 1988

Epistemology (literally, the logical discourse on knowledge) is the branch of philosophy concerned with the theory of knowledge. Epistemology studies the nature of knowledge, justification, and the rationality of belief. Much of the debate in epistemology centers on four areas: (1) the philosophical analysis of the nature of knowledge and how it relates to such concepts as truth, belief, and justification, (2) various problems of skepticism, (3) the sources and scope of knowledge and justified belief, and (4) the criteria for knowledge and justification.”
– Wikipedia

“The whole notion of 'discourse' and 'discourse community' is a circular one - the community is defined as those that share certain discourse habits and functions, while skill in the prescribed discourse is a prerequisite for being taken seriously by the discourse community. Hence, academic discourse is thus revealed, from the outset, to be a self-referential self-justificatory practice that determines what may legitimately beconsidered as knowledge.”
– Karen Bennett – Epistemicide! The Tale of a Predatory Discourse. 2007

In this era of increased knowledge the essence of religious phenomena eludes the psychologists, sociologists, linguists, and other specialists because they do not study it as religious. According to Mircea Eliade, they miss the one irreducible element in religious phenomena—the element of the sacred.“
– 1996 introduction to Mircea Eliade's book „Patterns in comparative Religion“ (1958)

The dark side of modern science, and unfortunately it has one, does not arise from science itself, still less from any of the facts of nature. It arises from the impression we allow science to give us: the impression that we are merely biological machines in a meaningless material universe.
Science has every right to confine its attention to the physical, i.e. the outside world. It has no right to say, when it has done so, that it has given us the whole story.”
– Michael N. Nagler – Is there no other way?, 2001

Cognitive injustice, the failure to recognize the different ways of knowing by which people across the globe run their lives and provide meaning to their existence.”
– Boaventura de Sousa Santos – Epistemologies of the South: justice against epistemicide. 2014

Epistemicide: the war on, and the destruction of existing knowledge and the subsequent abortion of the possibility of acquiring new knowledge within a certain system of thought.

The way that a particular culture formulates its knowledge is intricately bound up with the very identity of its people, their way of making sense of the world and the value system that holds that worldview in place. Epistemicide, as the systematic destruction of rival forms of knowledge, is at its worst nothing less than symbolic genocide [...]
There are others […] that view the encroachment of the scientific paradigm as a form of cultural imperialism […] They often experience the rationalization and objectivization of reality as a kind of reductionism that is inadequate to explain the complexities of human experience.”
– Karen Bennett – Epistemicide! The Tale of a Predatory Discourse. 2007

The modern age has forgotten that facts and information, for all their usefulness, are not the same as wisdom—and certainly not the same as the direct experience of Reality. We have lost touch with the intuitive wisdom born of silence and stillness, and we are left stranded in a sea of information that cannot deliver on its promise of ever-increasing happiness and fulfillment.”
– Adyashanti – The way of liberation: a practical guide to spiritual enlightenment, 2012

The Way of Liberation is not a belief system; it is something to be put into practice. In this sense it is entirely practical.”
– Adyashanti – The way of Liberation: a practical guide to spiritual enlightenment, 2012

"When we find those types of statements in Plotinus or Asanga or Garab Dorje or Abhinavigupta or Shankara, rest assured that they are not simply theoretical hunches or metaphysical postulates. Those are direct experimental disclosures issuing directly from te subtle dimension of reality, interpreted according to the backgrounds of those individuals, but issuing from this profound ontological reality, this subtle worldspace.
And if you want to know what these men and women are actually talking about, then you must take up the contemplative practice or injunction or paradigm, and perform the experiment yourself […]
So this experiment will disclose the archetypal data, and then you can help interpret what they mean. And by far the most commonly accepted interpretation is, you are looking at the basic forms and foundations of the entire manifest world. You are looking directly into the face of the Divine."
– Ken Wilber – A brief history of everything, 1996

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