Why the Restoration of the Prism Is Not a Matter of Will

Writing this triggered a collapse of idiocy within this structure I call myself.

So it’s more or less arbitrary if this is part VI or just the usual narrative flow of this negative inquiry. But I feel that this is the next natural question in the whole narrative I’m pursing: How do we restore the prismatic flow to human culture without forcing it, without imposing our will from the top down?

Here’s where the personal and the communal and the cosmic lenses merge into one seamless whole. If we can learn to cease imposing a shift in consciousness on ourselves personally, then there is no bug in the system, so to speak. That’s because it’s the personal lens that has mainly become psychotic in this culture, blocking access to wider views. And if we learn to change without force on a narrow or personal level – without introducing this divisive top-down mentality when we’re alone — then there is no other obstacle to a communal and cosmic clarity.

So what I write about are the aspects of a new vision that are wavering for me personally. I’m inconsistently accessing a clear personal lens. But I’m learning things from these wavering encounters with (specifically from these failures to retain) a new mind. Every failure reveals the nature of the confusion. (One thing I learn is it’s not “my mind”. The system of thought is a shared system of tracks for trains of thought. So whatever I learn about this situation on a personal level is applicable to everyone else (and vice versa, what you learn)). And writing is one way for a span of attention to widen enough to discover the underlying system of switches (so to speak), which keep the personal trains of thought circling on a narrow gauge, falling for the delusion that they’re running on an isolated system of tracks. And this attention repairs or alters those switches, releasing this human energy from that self-centric circularity and allowing the human (shared) mind to rediscover a wider fluidity of movement between the narrow, the mid-range and the long views.

This is important: the personal point of view is not a truly independent being. It’s a story from the microscopic point of view. The communal lens is a story from the shared, communal point of view. And the cosmic lens is a little different (as I tried to show in Part IV, “What Is Radically New”).  We need cosmic stories (myths and theories), but not as a primary point of access to the cosmic. The cosmic is mainly contacted by negation (by the realization that all of our myths and theories are cartoons of “something more” that can never be known in any conclusive sense). The cosmic lens can only be accessed when we’re in a non-Literal or metaphoric state of mind, whereby the Self is also felt as a cartoon depiction of something beyond the reach of knowledge. In other words, the Self here is not seen as an actual source of this life, but only as a cartoon representation of the whole from a microscopic perspective.


We Don’t Change by Trying to Change

We don’t change by trying to change. (The moment we have the urge to change ourselves, something already changed. And this urge arose in us spontaneously, without knowing how, without making a decision – the decision is the result of change, not the cause). The reason a “decision to change” sometimes seems to help arouse energy is because the “decision to change” is a kind of microscopic myth or creed that gives us an illusion of something we can trust as a crutch.

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Why Honesty Is Not a Moral Value: Conclusion (let’s call it) to a Series of Essays Inspired by the Book, “The Dawn of Everything”

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

But the cosmic vision can’t replace the narrow vision or the mid-range vision. We need to move freely between all three vantage points in order to scan the world as honestly as possible. So it’s a nested hierarchy of perception, where the cosmic puts the narrower communal and personal vantage points in their proper place. Without this fluidity of perception, our limited stories lose that tether to reality and become deceitful to the point of self-destruction.

Refusing to see the world honestly is the quickest way to be killed.

For instance, we could call this a dangerous world or we could call this an evil world. Both would be fictions. But the first one is more consistent with life in a wilderness, and we’re always living at the edge of a wilderness, because life always exceeds the idea, because they are two different substances, and never the twain shall meet

As in any earthly wilderness, it’s best to approach the unknown as a danger, but not as an evil. If we were to live by the fiction that the woods are evil, then the animals we encounter would increasingly live up to that billing. This is how schizophrenia becomes so convincing. The world responds to our stories, whether they’re honest or deceptive stories. Even positive thinking is deceptive. What it produces is a false front, a positive deception. Even if we’re not technically schizophrenic, the same principle exists. An “evil” interpretation would corner the beings we encounter into living up to that billing – they’d sense our fear aggression and respond in kind, seeing us as a threat — or they’d simply refrain from helping the flailing and drowning world (Chomsky’s Martians, for instance) and let it drown.

But if we approach the wilderness as dangerous, but not evil, then we’ll be able to notice other non-aggressive qualities in our fellow animals, and learn to avoid provoking them. We might learn to become friends with some of them, as we did in befriending wolves and wild cats.

The world responds to our stories. The deceptive stories can be too rose-colored as well. If we approached the wilderness as a paradise of love, we’d blind ourselves to the dangerous potentials that are also there and not live long either.

The problem with the bullshit of “positive thinking” is that the naively rose-tinted glass-wearers end up eaten.

But – and this we don’t acknowledge enough — the same is true for the cynics, for the ash-tinted glass-wearers (who think positively still, but only in dark directions). We give the cynics far too much credit for a “worldly intelligence” they Do Not Possess. They also end up provoking a world that eats them. It’s the naïve Literalism, the ignorant certainties, the stupid belief in something called “non-fiction”, which is the deeper problem. The problem is a lost perceptual fluidity. 

Somehow the breath-taking significance of this is lost on most of us most of the time. We don’t see the implications of what we’ve discovered here. This discovery of a prismatic capacity to see everything as honest fictions erases the need for conflict. And this relationship to fiction shows us how it’s possible to move through the world as blindly as Helen Keller, knowing nothing in a positive sense, tapping the canes of our metaphors and stories to obtain negative information (tap, there’s an obstruction, tap, there’s a limit to our metaphor, tap, change direction), and from that negative flow of information, we re-design our theories, stories, myths and metaphors, with no intention of finding conclusion, except perhaps in limited fields of inquiry, and even these may alter radically as more dots of data emerge, and this underlying uncertainty allows us to “keep going” deeper and deeper into this weird, miraculous and unfathomable world.

What Is Radically New: Part IV of a Series of Essays Inspired by the Book, “The Dawn of Everything”

first there is a mountain

“…theory is largely a game of make-believe in which we pretend, just for the sake of argument, that there’s just one thing going on: essentially we reduce everything to a cartoon so as to be able to detect patterns that would be otherwise invisible… One must simplify the world to discover something new about it. The problem comes when, long after the discovery has been made, people continue to simplify” (The Dawn of Everything).

Part I

Part II

Part III

Re-Discovering a Non-Dogmatic Cosmic Vision

Is it possible to think outside these national and supra-national controlling bodies on a communal level, while also relating to the cosmos outside the boundaries of any religious doctrines and beliefs (which are reductive surrogates of a cosmic perspective)?

A non-dogmatic approach to the cosmic perspective is one of the main themes of the Negative Geography inquiry. But I’ll try to approach it somewhat differently here.

If we were asked to imagine a cosmic perspective many of us would probably feel cornered into selecting one or another Ism or scientific theory or any conclusive opinion, whether rose-colored or ash-tinted. Or we might use vague terms like I used — “the whole” or “the cosmos”. Anything we conceive would amount to a cartoonish summary of something that can’t be pictured as a whole, because in picturing the whole we pretend to stand outside this conception in order to grasp it. In its place we relate to a singular projection of our imagination, which is separate from the observer, therefore a fragmented vision, not a real experience of wholeness.

We can’t picture, grasp or describe a cosmic perspective. It becomes a matter of faith. But there is blind faith in ideas, constructs, conclusions, dogmas. And there is a kind of “activated” faith that is creedless, that is “proven” by default, by running into our own limits and realizing that there is always something larger and more profound in the world. We don’t know what it is, but there is a kind of clear-minded faith that develops in what exceeds us.

I mean, even a cynic who doesn’t believe in “the whole of life” is summarizing the whole of life as non-existent. That is, we’re all forced to account for the cosmic lens one way or another, whether we want to admit it or not. Some fill it in with wishful thinking or cynicism, and some with scientific theories.

But is the cosmic perspective activated by filling it with words and ideas? Doesn’t this reduce the cosmic vision to a narrower and more static form?

Or is the cosmic dimension precisely that area of life that can’t be filled, that is constantly overflowing every container we try to build. If so, then the cosmic lens is precisely that state of mind which remains open-ended and uncertain.

The cosmic view, in other words, can be felt as a relationship to this solid limit in our understanding. It’s a vision wider than the widest view, because it detects the limits of every positive attempt to frame it. So there’s no need for a positive cosmic creed, only this direct experience of “something more”, something constantly escaping our grids of understanding (which I’m calling Negative Knowledge).Read More »

What We Retain: Part III of a Series of Essays Inspired by the Book, “The Dawn of Everything”

earth

Part I

Part II

Retaining Technology, Politics and Economy

Technology isn’t the problem by itself. Technological solutions are often necessary. But not as a primary focus. I can almost picture a sane (by no means Utopian) world, which steals an element from Amish culture – not a wholly luddite element, but the element in their culture that is considerate in its rate of adopting new technologies. Otherwise, technological development becomes an accelerating end in itself, which has a hypnotic and reductive effect on human consciousness (as noted in several essays).

But how could such a carefully considered approach to technology be organized?

It wouldn’t work as a top-down imposition, as it would for the Amish, who are pretty much stuck within a narrow system. Any top-down imposition of rules is a reductive strategy in itself, which bends eventually towards dictatorship. But profound shifts in social realities (such as our relationship to technology) would begin on a grassroots level, preceding the imposition of new laws. The Civil Rights era, for example, represented an alteration in the balance of attitudes towards white privilege, and this started to happen prior to any changes in law.

Let me ramble a while in this direction and see if we can return to this question.

Most grassroots social movements still feel compelled to beseech “authorities” for changes in top-down rules, still end up trying to persuade the kings and queens of commerce and government to give their permission for any grassroots shift that is already happening. Governments and titans of commerce yielded to the Civil Rights movement, for instance, because they felt the implicit threat to the whole system of power if they didn’t yield. Or they yielded to the grassroots movement of smoking grass, for instance, because they were lured there by the promise of controlling the revenue stream.

But beseeching these authoritative bodies also keeps us narrowly tied to the harness of commerce, and government, so that nothing significant in that sense ever changes. We earn a certain freedom of movement, yes, but still within the old reins (or reigns) – still trapped in systems of control (and machine intelligence is that system). Trying to live without a cell phone, for instance, is becoming almost impossible. Everything is being streamlined to assist the management of people on a grand scale, primarily it seems via apps on phones. (Not because the Bilderbergs have a broad vision they’re trying to enact, but precisely because they don’t have one, or have only a desacralized vision of manipulated self-interest, where a cosmic lens might once have been). At any rate, we’re still reined to the system, but hats off to those who are trying to build a community off-grid.Read More »

What We Lost (or How We Got Stuck): Part II of a Series of Essays Inspired by the Book, “The Dawn of Everything”

evolution cartoon

[Link to Part I, but you don’t need to read part I to understand this]

If I can look at my own history as a narrative with highs and lows, with periods of clarity and periods of confusion and frustration, then this also probably describes human history as well. Of course, this would contradict the typical historical narrative, which envisions nothing much happening in human development for almost all of our 200 or 300 thousand years, until the last few thousand years, when everything began to improve and become suddenly creative and “advanced”, thanks mostly to technology. This narrative ends up forcing us to look at earlier or less-technologically obsessed cultures as more primitive, and sometimes less intelligent or creative than we are now, as if our history was an escalator climb, and we’re standing quite a few floors above them now.

This picture of the past is a little too pat and conceited. It reminds me of the stages of human development envisioned by Ken Wilber and others (see “The Limits of Ken Wilber”). There’s insight in these stage development models, but the details seem to reflect patterns of development within a regressive culture. And this regression may tend to stretch individual development along lines of partial maturation. Slicing and dicing these stages of delay in our maturation is insightful, but when we begin to project these developmental patterns onto older cultures, I think we’re only repeating patterns of colonial conceit.

My inclination is to assume three fundamental stages of development, depicted in that old Zen saying – “first there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is.” I understand this to mean, first we see the world without the lens of language, a pre-linguistic directness. Then language begins to form an interpretive gauze over the mental eye, which is insightful, practical, and necessary for functioning in the world. But the gauze also begins to obscure the “mountain”. It’s the elongation of this second stage that most of these stage development models are elaborating upon (insightfully, this is not a criticism, but a different angle to consider). Near the conclusion of this stage, post-modern insights such as “everything is language” or “there is no ‘thing’, only ‘thought’” erupt. Here, reality itself begins to seem doubtful. A kind of derealization crisis takes place. They can see that there is no mountain without the idea of a “mountain”. But the eruption of a third stage, which is actually not so much a stage, as a gateway into a larger form of life, erupts when the post-modern insight is completed, and the insight that “everything is a story” no longer stops us from seeing the mountain again. Now we’re no longer blinkered by our necessary interpretations. We can cease interpreting the world from the outside (when interpretations are not needed), and no longer relate to the mountain like an alien visitor. Now we “know” the mountain, not merely as a practical idea (all the time), but as an unnamable portion of eternity, a portion of our own fathomless Being.Read More »

Life, Death and Extinction: Part I of a Series of Essays Inspired by the Book, “The Dawn of Everything”

butterfly

I can’t understand the relationship (if any) between progress, growth and evolution. They’re entangled, but not equivalent.

The importance of this question will become clear – it’s not an academic issue, but a matter of life, death and extinction.

Let’s just play with this a moment.

(By the way, I refuse to “get to the point”. That’s because everything we “know” only describes a particular spectrum or color or frequency of the issue. We discover as many meaningful angles as possible by spinning the prism of perception around the issue (and around and around). This form of learning doesn’t tend towards conclusion (or points), but is constantly shifting its orientation as we learn, without end).

If pressed, most historians would probably agree that evolution is not equivalent to progress, improvement, advancement or any other comparative terms in any conclusive sense. We might say that a new species is better adapted to a particular niche, but outside that niche the species would no longer qualify as more advanced.

As the environmental situation shifts, the skills and intelligence we need also shift, forcing us to lose capacities in one direction while developing them in another. So every new skill reaches a point of diminishing returns. Every medicine becomes a poison.

This balanced lateral movement of development and decline is part of evolution. So evolution can’t be conflated with improvement or progress alone. Something needs to die in order for something new to emerge (See “Giving Up and Going On”). This is why we resist change, the half-felt realization that one way or another, if we change, we’ll stop being who we thought we were. Of course, we could also project our identity into the new form of humanity that might emerge and come away feeling optimistic. But the projection of personal identity may be the very quality that the new species drops in order to enter into a wider relationship with the world. So who we think we are ends here one way or another.

When notions of evolution tie themselves too closely to notions of continual advancement we forget to watch for signs of death and decline. Evolution isn’t impressed by big brains, if those brains aren’t capable of changing direction (which requires death). So let’s distinguish extinction from death. There is no evolution without death. For those who change, the old form dies. But extinction is when the old form is entirely eliminated, and no new form crawls out of the tarpit in its place. Extinction is the absence of life and death.Read More »