Review by: KEN KORCZAK
Russell Targ wants to offer you a “Get Out of Hell Free Card.”
A famed laser physicist, Targ later was a seminal researcher for the U.S. Military and CIA’s psychic spying program that developed a human capability known today as remote viewing.
The “Hell” he is referring to is the routine suffering of everyday life. The Buddhists have long pointed out that “everyone suffers” and that “suffering is inevitable.” That includes everyone from the fabulously wealthy and to the grindingly poor.
Getting out of this hell requires achieving enlightenment. That entails the dissolving of the ego-self so that one can embody pure awareness and manifest the universal love that is the very fabric of “All That Is.”
For this book, The End of Suffering, Targ teams up with the American linguist and social scientist J.J. Hurtak Ph.D. Ph.D. (He has two doctoral degrees, one in anthropological linguistics and another in history).
My sense in reading this book is that it is mostly Targ’s because of the heavy emphasis on the philosophy of Nāgārjuna, the second-century Buddhist philosopher and founder of Mahāyāna Buddhism. Mahāyāna refers to “the Middle Way.”
Targ is known to be enamored with the teachings of Nāgārjuna. He discusses the work of the philosopher extensively in his book Limitless Mind which I reviewed HERE.
For those of us who have followed the career of Russel Targ, it’s easy to see why a science-math-engineering kind of guy found the keys he needed to escape his own delusional suffering in the ideas of Nāgārjuna. The Indian philosopher developed a pathway to enlightenment based on logic which can be represented mathematically. The latter is the famous Nāgārjuna Tetralemma.
Some Buddhist philosophers maintain that people cannot “think their way out of their delusions” to achieve enlightenment. Nāgārjuna seems to have done just that, however.
So, before I get too far into the weeds, let me lay out the crux of Targ’s thesis here and then I’ll comment afterward.
Aristotle Ruined Our Lives
Targ explains that our most significant source of suffering can be sourced to the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle who developed his system of logic and philosophy and unleashed it (or inflicted it) upon humanity in the 3rd Century B.C. It especially infected Western culture.
At the heart of the Aristotelian system is the concept that A = A. An object can be identified because an object “is what it is.” An apple is an apple. A cup is a cup. A tree is a tree. That’s how we grasp what something is and so that is what anchors our reality. It seems like just basic common sense. After all, how can an object not be what it is?
Well … stay tuned.
Furthermore, this basic concept caused human beings to see everything in terms of a simple subject-object relationship. A person looks at a tree and thinks in a deeply internalized way:
“That tree is over there, and I am over here. We are separated. We each have our own physical properties ….” and so on.
The keyword here is “separated.” The Aristotelian system rests on the notion that all objects are distinct from one another in nature. We exist in the universe as categorical objects cleanly distinguished from all of the other “things” around us.
This leads to suffering because it is a massive delusion, Targ writes. It’s easy to see why the acceptance of a fundamental subject-object separation model leads to numerous problems that make us suffer in big ways and small. (I’ll give examples in a bit. Read on).
So anyway …
Targ said Aristotle’s A = A universe is a misconception at best. At the very least, it is a highly incomplete way to model our reality. He said Nāgārjuna offers a better way to understand what we experience around us. It’s ferreted out by his tetralemma. It is expressed like this:
All things (dharma) exist: affirmation of being, negation of non-being
All things (dharma) do not exist: affirmation of non-being, negation of being
All things (dharma) both exist and do not exist: both affirmation and negation
All things (dharma) neither exist nor do not exist: neither affirmation nor negation
It can be represented mathematically like this:
x = x (An object exists)
x – x (An object does not exist)
(x =x) + (x – x) (An object exists and does not exist at the same time)
-(X = X) <—> -(X – X) = Ø (An object neither exists nor does it not exist)
So, you might be wondering, if an object does not exist and it also, at the same, is in a state of not-not existing – then what is really going on? How can this explain what we clearly seem to experience every day?
Well, when we see a cup, a tree or a star, we have to think of it as a mutual “co-arising” of experience. That which is “co-arising” together is:
A: Your Consciousness
B: That which you perceive
In other words, nothing can truly exist without the interplay and participation of a conscious observer. I know what some of you are thinking: Isn’t this just simple solipsism? No! In solipsism, only you can be said to exist. Targ is saying that you exist but that what you perceive also exists as long as both of you are working in cooperation to create reality, so to speak.
Consider also that this notion now seems to have been born out by quantum mechanics as most famously demonstrated by the double-slit experiment. I won’t go into that here but I recommend you read up on it.
But wait a minute again! How will knowing this end your suffering?
If you want to know that, I suggest you read the book. Targ and Hurtak roll out their thesis page after page in a layered way in which – if you have the moxie to power through it – you’ll come to intellectually understand what they are talking about.
Be warned, however, that a mere intellectual understanding is not nearly sufficient to end your suffering. The tetralemma must be internalized and then become your default mode of perceiving your existence. If you can get to that stage, you’ll find that, indeed, your suffering will melt away because you are no longer struggling against the universe as an “object” that is separated from all other “objects” and that includes other people.
For example, if you come to understand that another person is not so much an “individual who is separated from you” but that you are both a “co-arising manifestation of the One Being” then you will no longer have any reason to fear, harm, disagree with or in any other way be in conflict with other people. You will be automatically loving and supportive of everyone else because that’s the same as being loving and supportive of yourself.
This is really only one aspect of the benefits of modeling your reality as a mutual co-arising of all experience. For example, the major problems we grapple in the world with today might have never arisen if humanity had not adopted an outlook of reality based on Aristotelian separation. An obvious example is environmental degradation generated by the Industrial Revolution.
In the past, it was common for some developer to build a factory that produced toxic waste as an outcome of its process. It was routine practice to get rid of that toxic waste by building a long pipe that led to a local river or lake. Some of us are old enough to remember June 22, 1969. That was the year the Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught on fire and burned. It was the result of factories along the river that were willy-nilly dumping whatever chemical, petroleum product, animal waste or whatever directly into the water with a naive attitude of: “Out of sight, out of mind!”
Igniting the water of the Cuyahoga was a wake-up call for humanity. It gave birth to the modern environmental movement and the first Earth Day. In January of 1970 Congress established the Environmental Protection Agency. And yet, enormous conflict has fallen out from these positive developments, especially the powerful pushback from industrialist and money-hungry corporations who now endlessly moan about “regulatory overreach” and “lefty tree-hugging hippy environmentalists” who want to kill jobs and stifle the glories of capitalism. This conflict adds suffering on top of suffering.
The point is, the pollution of the Cuyahoga would not have happened in the first place if those who did it would have understood the truth that when they poison the water they poison themselves. The reality is that there is no true separation between man, woman and river. The widespread suffering of man, woman and animal would never have happened if this was the internalized mode of modeling reality. The key phrase here is: “The suffering would never have happened.”
See what I mean?
While Targ hammers out his thesis in these pages with his characteristic logical approach, Hurtak takes over in later chapters and brings forth a perspective that is more lyrical and prosy but equally effective.
Together, Targ and Hurtak have given a balanced and comprehensive roadmap for the reader – if she or he can comprehend and internalize what these two intellectuals are trying to convey – that will lead to an “end of suffering.”
Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS
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See Ken’s Reviews of More Philosophy or Philosophy-Influenced Books:
THE THOUGHT DIAL by Paul Vitols
SAURUS by Eden Phillpotts
ENLIGHTENMENT By Martyn Wilson