When I was 17 I split up with my first love, turned my back on the mysticism and embarked with masochistic zeal on a quest to find certainty in the domains of science and ethics (the philosophy of goodness/ value). I was a voracious reader with several hours of travel time each day with nothing else to do so I soon demolished my sixth-form library and started ordering-in books from Cambridge University. All roads of enquiry pretty soon led to two end points – The Aspect experiment and Nietzsche. The Aspect experiment is an elegant and diabolical piece of quantum physics research that fatally undermines the notion of a deterministic universe. Essentially what this means is that one thing doesn’t necessarily cause another so we don’t ever really know diddley-squat. Freddie-boy, to make matters worse, eradicates the notion that we can work out what is good in any way shape or form – stating that “God (or any other determinant of moral truth) is dead”. So again we can’t know jack.
This destruction of two of the “big three” of morals, science and art as sources of certainty was something of a shock to me. I was sensitive and took this foundation removal very personally. In fact, I spent much of the next ten years as a drunk, womanising, amoral and aimless drifter as a result. This was a lot of fun in many ways…most of which are in no way printable…but ultimately unsatisfying. So what happened? How did I get to become the shiny shoe, shiny smiling pillar of the business training community I am today? I guess I just made a choice, that I would just go with my values and beliefs and live them full throttle, EVEN if I know they are built on foundations of fog. It’s like saying, “Yes it’s a game, but I’m going to play it to the best of my ability anyway, and by the rules that make sense to me.”
Too much certainty after all is a dangerous thing. I never want to be as certain as the people who built Auschwitz for example (to steal a phrase), and lame relativist self-contradictory postmodernism doesn’t appeal to me either. So what then to do…The other aspect (sic) of knowing that has become increasingly important to me is that which I rejected in despair of teenage love – mysticism. Science deals with evidence, rationality and knowing but mysticism deals with experienced truth and not-knowing. Anyone who has been the “oceanic” experience of knowing that we are all one (I first felt this taking mushrooms at 14, in the Holy Lands at 15 and through loving-sex at 16) has no doubt. It is simply self-evident and in no need of experimental validation, and yet is a gentle and in no way fundamentalist holding of truth. Mysticism is more about asking good questions and hanging out with the absolute than clinging onto absolutes themselves.
Mysticism can seem like a high and mighty notion from the outside and in the business world I work in now people are more comfortable discussing intuition, depth leadership or core values – it’s much the same. It may come as somewhat of a surprise that anyone running a business training company should base their activities on mysticism, but this does not counter-indicate the use of logic and rigour as tools. It also means that I hold my opinions as a consultant lightly, but my values very strongly, which I find an effective and ethical combination at work.
Of course, clever readers may have noticed the paradox here – I am not certain of any of this and I am. Yes and know is the answer to any good mystical question such as is God love? Why are we here? And can we increase next quarter’s profits by 20%?
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