Le visage en feu
On the issue of holding two contradictory beliefs in mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them (doublethink): well, I would suggest you study a bit Zen Buddhism. You know, Zen is a complete difference in perception to the dominant Western worldview. The Western world, dominated by science, has a logical and rational view of life. Contradiction and paradox are frowned upon in this worldview.
1 + 1 = 2 and cannot be 3.
The rational perspective is only one view of life, and not necessarily the most valid. This is not to say that rationality is wrong, but rather that is limited and only one perception that has been historically and geographically prescribed.
Enlightenment as the goal of Zen Buddhism. This again is a very difficult term to describe in a sentence or two. We can understand enlightenment as knowledge of the truth; but this knowledge is not the accumulative and rational knowledge of the West. The word enlightenment is understandable and frequently used in the religions of the West. A monk went to the Zen master wanting to know more about the truth of enlightenment. When he asked this question of the Zen master, the master replied, "Do you hear the sound of that running brook." "Yes, I hear it," answered the monk. "That is the entrance to the truth" the Master replied to him. From this example a number of things should be obvious. Enlightenment is not a form of perception that is mediated by logic or even cause and effect reasoning. It is an immediate and complete clear view and understanding of the nature of reality.
The misconception of self.
One of the obstacles that stand in the way of the initiate trying to enter into Zen understanding is the concept of the self. This is one of the central reasons why Zen is so difficult for the Westerner. Western perceptions of reality are built on the foundation of the Self and the idea of the centrality of the Ego. In terms of understanding Zen, the greatest obstacle to Enlightenment is the Self. The reason for this situation is that the Self is an illusion created by the society, and by the desires and needs of the individual Ego. It is only in moving beyond the Ego that an understanding of the enlightenment can begin. There is an important difference between the terms "Self" and "ego" that must be understood in this regard. For the Eastern Mind the Self is the true self that has been released from the false self of the ego. In other words, the ego is the illusionary element that traps man into a false perception of reality. The Enlightenment is the break-through from the region of the false self into a new consciousness and awareness that is not limited by the ego.
This distinction between the Self and the false ego is not too difficult to understand in ordinary terms. The self, it is widely acknowledged by psychologists and sociologists, is a construction. In other words, the human self is built from social conventions, personal feelings and history and is, in this temporal sense, an illusion. This illusion of the self stands as a barrier between the true Self and a perception of reality. One only has to think of the false ideals like materialism and envy etc, which absorb us in our daily lives, to understand the validity of the Zen perception of no-self. This is a realization that is skirted over by many Western practitioners of Zen, mainly because of its essential difficulty. But, this is also one of the most significant areas of investigation for the Western person wanting to understand Zen. After fully understanding the illusion of the self, the journey into Zen begins. From this point onwards, we enter into the knowledge of Zen without the encumbrance of the baggage of our daily lives or the illusions of our social selves, but rather concentrating on truth as it emerges beyond both objectivity and subjectivity.
Once the journey into Zen begins the dualistic concepts that once imprisoned the mind, fall away. The ideas of birth and death, pain and joy, no longer have any relevance. For the Westerner this is almost a non-sensical world where there seems to be nothing at all. It is precisely this concept of nothingness that is the source, for the Zen Buddhist, of all reality. It is interesting to note that modern science tends to confirm these strange notions. For example, the "Big Bang Theory" of how the universe began is currently one of the contenders for the most legitimate explanation of the start of our Universe. But this theory proposes a moment before the Big Bang where, theoretically, there was nothing. One of the greatest problems in trying to understand Zen from a Western perspective is that Zen is an intensely personal experience. Enlightenment is achieved and recognized as a personal and individual knowledge that cannot be shared in an outward logical sense. In the West, religion is formal and concentrated in the institution of churches. There is a procedure and knowledge in these institutions that must be followed in a public sense. While individual enlightenment is obviously part of institutionalized religion, it must occur within the framework of the Church and its formal arrangements. This is not the case in Zen, where there are no formal elements and the individual initiate and the master find the path to enlightenment without these restrictions and without any external validation process.
In order for us to come to grips with Zen, we often have to use metaphors and seemingly strange examples to help us to understand this attitude towards life. It is a mode of thought that is essentially non-dualistic. This means that it tends to initiate a mode of thinking that collapses distinctions between opposites. This is very difficult for the Western world that has held opposites, in language and in logic, as the central pillars of civilized thought. In order to understand Zen one must be prepared to question the very foundations of one's life and of the societal influences that affect one. The purpose of Zen is nothing less than total freedom from these dualities of life. In this way, it suggests, we are able to move into a state of mind and reality that is not troubled by anger or fear or by envy and ambition.
At least part of the post quoted here is plagiarized from an article by D.T. Suzuki called "Introduction to Zen Buddhism in America."
Here's the site link. See for yourself:
J'arrive à un carrefour,
le feu était au rouge.
Il n'y avait pas de voitures,
Seulement, il y avait
un agent qui faisait le guet
Il me siffle.
Il me dit
- Vous êtes passé au rouge!
- Oui ! Il n'y avait pas de voitures!
- Ce n'est pas une raison!
- Ah si! Quelquefois, le feu est au vert . . .
Il y a des voitures et . .
je ne peux pas passer!
Stupeur de l'agent!
Il est devenu tout rouge.
Je lui dis:
- Vous avez le visage en feu!
Il est devenu tout vert!
Alors, je suis passé!