The Rise and Fall of Reality:
Deliberations on the Mind-Body Problem
By Dan J. Bruiger
Born 1945 in San Francisco, California, I attended University of California, Los Angeles and Berkeley, majoring first in astronomy then art. Immigrating to Canada, I taught ceramic sculpture in Quebec City in 1969. Since then I have worked variously as model maker, sawmill hand, carpenter, woodshop instructor, cabinet maker, designer, custom furniture maker, house builder, counsellor, workshop leader, and sculptor.
Interest in philosophy of mind began around age seventeen when I became acquainted with works of Gilbert Ryle, Herbert Feigl, and the new science of Artificial Intelligence then emerging. A key intuition came to me around this time concerning the Mind-Body Problem: that the qualitative nature of an experience, such as pain, refers to a meaning that is revealed in the associated behavior. Soon after, I also began reading the Upanishads, Ouspensky, and various writings on psychoanalysis. I took six months off from university to travel in Europe where I discovered art and conceived the passion to make sculpture.
At age twenty-five I spent a year at the Gestalt Institute of Canada, rediscovering emotion. The following year I met my first spiritual teacher, E.J. Gold. Eventually I settled in Vancouver, B.C., where I taught myself cabinet-making as a profession.
Though I loved woodworking, and furniture provided a format for sculptural expression, after several years of self-employment I grew intellectually restless. In 1980 I purchased an extra-mural library card at the University of British Columbia, and began reading voraciously on the question of consciousness. Eventually a manuscript emerged dealing with what I had come to call the "realizing faculty of mind". If it was the uncritical willingness to believe the dictates of our minds that got people into trouble, the awareness of being subjectively aware was a natural antidote of skepticism for the mind’s natural gullibility.
Apart from intellectual hunger, I wanted to make a positive contribution beyond commercial exchange and personal satisfaction, which would not reduplicate others’ efforts even if it leaned heavily upon them. I wanted (no doubt presumptuously) to do something both original and suited to my generalist leanings. Of course, originality has proven more challenging than I had suspected! I never really returned to woodworking except as a sculptor. Please visit my sculpture webpage for images of my figurative works.
After producing a first draft of the present manuscript, my interests shifted again toward the emotional. I felt I had to confront my mind-body problems, the interplay of subjective and objective on a personal level. Resolving to explore some of this territory, I entered therapy and trained as a therapist. This in turn led to further spiritual study (A Course in Miracles; also, teachings of the non-dualist lineage of Advaita Vedanta). In part as a natural consequence of the watershed of turning fifty, there began a swing away from personal growth toward concern for the human condition, community, and political awareness.
Since 1985 I have lived on a small island in the Pacific Northwest. I also write poetry and dance Argentine Tango, rich with metaphor in its confronting physicality, and have recently returned to my childhood passion of astronomy. I contribute regular short pieces for the community newsletter and participate in local political life. My latest book is Second Nature: the Man-made World of Idealism, Technology and Power, which builds upon the themes of The Rise and Fall of Reality. Please view some short essays derived from this new work.
My current research interest involves limits to knowledge and attitudes toward certainty. One focus is textualism, not in the postmodernist sense but rather as a strain of idealism within science that does not distinguish between its own literal texts and “the book of nature.”
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