Suffering is Proportional to Resistance

Posted on 29 December 2010


An earlier post entitled Substantiality is Inversely Proportional to Ponderability discussed an insight of Franklin Merrell-Wolff which proposes a relationship between recognition of transcendent reality, or Substantiality, to cognition of objectivity, or Ponderability. Because of their inverse relationship, the more one experiences a world of ponderable objects, the less one recognizes transcendent Substantiality.

This relationship can be translated into more affective terminology as follows. First, we note that ponderability is equivalent to objectification: something is ponderable to the extent that it has been objectified as existing independent or outside of consciousness. Now such an objective world, Wolff explains, arises as the result of a blanking out of consciousness:

The apparently inert and lifeless matter comes to be viewed as merely a partially obscured Consciousness. Thus, if we regard a portion of an originally homogeneous Consciousness as partly blanked-out or neutralized by its own other, the result is some degree of relative unconsciousness. This relative unconsciousness is the objective world, or, in other words, the basis of the whole universe as experienced through the senses. …It may now be said that the universe is produced by a process which we may call a partial blinding, and that the reverse process, i.e., that of Awakening, destroys the universe to just the extent that the Awakening has proceeded. [Wolff, Pathways Through to Space, Ch. 61]

So, Awakening to Substantiality is inversely proportional to the extent to which this blinding or blanking out has taken place. Furthermore, this blanking out is a resistance or negation of the original Substantial Reality. As Wolff states in his Aphorism 36,

The Universe as experienced is the created negation that ever resists.

We can thus say that Awakening to Substantiality is inversely proportional to resistance. In other words, more resistance to the immediacy of Consciousness corresponds to more experience of the samsaric universe of delusion, i.e., suffering.

This formulation is strikingly similar to a principle formulated by Shinzen Young in Working with Physical Discomfort During Meditation:


This theorem, however, includes the coefficient of proportionality explicitly, namely, the intensity of the pain. Generalizing this to an intensity of any experience, we could translate back to modify Wolff’s aphorism to read Substantiality = 1 / Intensity x Ponderability. In other words, objectifying something intense is blanking out more consciousness than objectifying something not so intense, and there is more substance in objectifying something of low intensity than something of great intensity.