And the operative words in the first part of that quote are “in a certain sense”. Yes, in a certain sense matter is something non-existent, but not in the sense of our everyday experience, which is what – and I’m going to go out on a limb here – the vast majority of humans being take as their starting point for figuring out “reality”. I would personally argue that it would do us all well to refine the understanding of what we believe “reality” to be, but I’m still curmudgeony enough to believe that this isn’t going to happen today, or tomorrow, or even the day after, for that matter.
Now, having said that, I would agree that the chapters on matter provide what may be needed to revive the cat, but those same chapters are the ones that I can well imagine S.A.'s critics could use to argue against his “arguments”. These are coherent and consistent if you accept his initial presupposition (which he, unlike too many of his critics, is more than open about and willing to clearly state). One such statement, for example, is on p. 278 when he is talking about the sevenfold chord of being. If you, however, start with matter, and as good materialists most often do also end with matter, well, he is simply isn’t making sense. To them, only matter matters. It’s an exceedingly short chain of reasoning.
This is, to my mind, the materialists’ problem. If you start at point A with assumptions X, Y, and Z, you can only get so far in your search for knowledge or truth, even on the materialists’ own terms. This does not mean this is how reality is or functions, but it’s what they end up with and there’s not a lot one can do except let them go and move on. A slightly different case obtains with “agnostic materialists” or especially “true-believer non-materialists”, groupings to whom an increasing number of people are counting themselves. As our own reading group shows there are serious-minded individuals who want to know more about “how all of this” might really work.
The life and death of the cat are in certain regards much easier to deal with than, say, the torturing of the cat. Torture works (as the unnecessary inflicting of pain) because of how matter exists in our everyday experience. There is the real phenomenon of pain, and that’s what the cat would be experiencing when it is being tortured. I doubt the cat has the ability to do with its pain what you did with your toothache, and it really shouldn’t have to. The cat, unfortunately, is the victim of an even more unfortunate human being who is deriving his bliss at the expense of another living creature. You don’t have to be wrestling with the notion of an ever-present-ultimate-bliss-behind-all-phenomena to acknowledge that torture is morally repugnant, which is why the vast majority of us avoid torturing other creatures (though we get a lot less sensitive, I sometimes think, when we start getting near other human beings … oddly enough).
Many scientologists pride themselves in refusing anesthetics when operative procedures are being performed on them. There are innumerable stories of yogis who can “transcend” pain, and there are plenty of accounts of Buddhist devotees who are able to do the same. These are phenomena that are, I believe, not well understood and should be explored and investigated more seriously and more deeply, and with a much broader research agenda than “just” a materialistic one, but that will most likely be a long time coming as well. In the meantime, any “mental” coming-to-terms with phenomena that are generally not come to terms with by “mental” means (like your toothache) provide further anecdotal evidence for rethinking the relationship between mind and body (to put it in its simplest terms). Merely recognizing that there is something here worth considering more deeply is a sound step in an ultimately beneficial direction.