The only problem I see in the world we live in is human evil—or if you like, human egotism. That’s what creates the evil we perpetrate. If it weren’t for our egotism, our selfishness, the world would be in a natural balance where all life flourishes. The aim of the Western Enlightenment was to solve the problem of human evil. The West has always seen reason—rational thought—as the greatest tool in the struggle. Before the Enlightenment there were the Greek philosophers who developed elaborate logical systems. Not all of the philosophers agreed with one another, which is to be expected from speculative systems. In the end, they only mirror the personalities of the individual philosophers. But reason, while a necessary element, is insufficient to overcome egotism. I’ve seen that in my occasional debates with Trump supporters. Nothing you tell them, no matter how true, has any impact on them. There is nothing in the system we live within—science and reason—that takes us beyond.
There is a saying, which I believe is Buddhist, “When you’ve reached the top of the 100-foot pole, keep climbing.” I’ve always understand the 100-foot pole to be reason. But we have to go beyond reason—to something spiritual. We have such a poor understanding of the word “spiritual.” Monks in brown robes intoning dead platitudes. But that’s not what spiritual means. The genuinely spiritual is to be understood only by making a journey into the deep background. It doesn’t happen on the surface. What we see on the surface is tired, disconnected images of the deep background. Only when we have an experience of that, which is ineffable, do we have the weight to influence the egotists, who are utterly cynical and disbelieving in anything other than their own self-interest. The Western Enlightenment knows nothing about it. But we’ve arrived at a turning point. We’ve hit the top of the 100-foot pole, and life is still brutal. If we don’t take the leap, we fail.