Butterfly Dream Buffalo Thunder

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Quote:“Butterfly Dream Buffalo Thunder” was inspired by the Chinese Taoist sage Chuang Tzu, who woke from a dream and asked himself: “Am I a man who just dreamed I was a butterfly? Or am I a butterfly now dreaming that I’m a man?” The video was also inspired by the Greek founders of Western philosophy and science. Among them was Parmenides, who wrote a philosophic prose-poem (based on a mystic vision). The video’s lyrics begin with the opening line of that poem: “Follow if you can my strife encompassed proof, to the unbroken heart of well-rounded truth.” We then quote – or paraphrase – the other nine Presocratic philosophers, showing a major idea for which each is famous. This review culminates with Protagoras and Socrates (Athenian contemporaries in the 5th century BCE). Protagoras was a humanist, declaring that “man is the measure.” Socrates is famous for asserting that “knowledge is virtue.” The video is thus a fusion of Greek and Taoist philosophy. It also has Buddhist overtones. The opening and closing mantra – Om Mani Padme Hum – invokes Lokeshvara, the celestial Bodhisattva of Compassion, and translates as: “May the jewel of wisdom blossom in the hearts of all, so that each may see that we are all each other.” We also mention Parsifal: the only Arthurian knight to achieve the quest for the Holy Grail. Throughout the video we reference Native American spirituality, climaxing in a Navajo prayer-chant: “Beauty before me, beauty behind me, beauty above, beauty below. Beauty all around. I walk in beauty.” Accordingly, the title of this video references Chuang Tzu’s “butterfly dream” and the “buffalo thunder” of Native American livelihood and respect for nature. In sum, this video is an ode to Western, Taoist, Buddhist, and Native American philosophies, with a bow to the legend of Parsifal – a legend which Joseph Campbell says we need to recollect in order to recover what Tibetan sage Chogyam Trungpa calls “the sanity we were born with.”

Western philosophy begins in the 6th century BCE in the eastern Mediterranean with the search for the arche. Arche is the Greek word for “root.” Philosophically, it means the root – the One – from which the Many come. It is also the linguistic root of the word “archetype,” a word made famous by Plato, Augustine, and Jung. (Note the word “archeology.” Also, in archaic Greece the king was called the Archon.) Cosmologically speaking, the earliest Western philosophers not only sought to articulate the One, they also sought to describe the relationship between the One and the Many, in much the same way as Einstein’s search for a “unified field theory.” The Presocratic philosophers gave different answers describing the nature of the One. They are also considered the first Western scientists (although this neglects the magi of ancient Egypt). In roughly chronological order, the Presocratic philosophers, up to and including Socrates and Protagoras, describe the One in the following sense:

1. Thales – Water (including ice & steam; also: “All things are full of gods.”)
2. Anaximander – the Boundless (apeiron: the infinite)
3. Anaximenes – Air (the pulse of condensation and rarefaction)
4. Xenophanes – God (not to be anthropomorphized)
5 .Pythagoras – Number (the interplay of limit and limitless)
6. Heraclitus – Becoming (flux; “All things change.”)
7. Parmenides – Unchanging Being
8. Empedocles – Love and Strife
9. Anaxagoras – Mind (in Greek: Nous)
10. Democritus – Atoms and Void (anticipating Newton)
11. Protagoras – All is relative; there is no arche, or no way of knowing.
12. Socrates – Virtue (immortalized by Plato as the Agathon: The Good)

The arche in Buddhism is called Dharma; in Taoism it is called the Tao. For a more detailed description of Presocratic philosophy, comparing it to Buddhism and Taoism, see Stefan Schindler’s short, student-friendly paperback: The Tao of Socrates: Eastern Wisdom and the Birth of Western Philosophy.

For a musical-poetic version of the Zen (Buddhist-Taoist) path to enlightenment, see our YouTube video entitled “Ox Herding Searching.”
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


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