|by David Eide||.|
"What is the motive for this sort of writing?"
"The imperatives are seeded in the style. There is a need to teach, that seems more important than to inform. Right teaching includes the best form through which information is organized and used."
"The form through which one best organizes or acquires information."
"What possible light can you shine on all these subjects?"
" Well one never knows until he opens his eyes and lets the light shine!"
"You don’t want to make the mistake of assigning everything existing in front of you to the dust bin, as if your own efforts will be suffocated unless this occurs. But, it’s necessary to cleanse out all the content that accumulates by the mere fact of sense perception and re-dedicate yourself to the prime categories."
"I’ve doubted quite a bit my ability to do this. Every category is going to have its predispositions, is going to lead to something. Besides, Kant already did that and the materialists corrected him. Well, they sought the categories through material rather than mind."
Mind, of course, is quite a bit. Not simply the conscious perception but all that “unconscious stuff”; dreams, uncanny perception, an incredible amount of stuff that is either 1) a priori, ie. exists whether one acknowledges it or not 2) is “resolved’, is of the same character as the “tail,” the large intestine and these kinds of useless appendages. 3) is a reflection of the environment 4) is projected into the environment.
These are all difficult questions. My own belief is that the ‘unconscious’ exists as a kind of hope that everything that exists in the world is not the final absolute ‘thing’. If you begin from this point you encounter many things, one of them not at all pleasant.
There has been a very concerted effort to bring together Marx and Freud. One thinks of W. Reich, the ‘Frankfort School’, esp Marcuse, NO Brown, the Feminists- a recognition that mind and material exist, perhaps they exist in separate realms of experience, perhaps they don’t but they have very traceable, common qualities.
The infusion of "Asian thought" has been very helpful here because this kind of thought shows that both categories do, in fact, exist call them what you will and while contradictory, complementary as well. I use Marx, Freud, etc as a general movement that assumes various things about mind and nature.
And you have to re-admit something that is fairly personal. The experience of most of this stuff is "European," it is not "American" in the sense that American thought is pretty much unconscious. It took off once in transcendental thought but beyond that, very little. Marxism doesn’t fare well in America. The existentialists exist in academies and a few novelists. It is the popular movements that have taken over the ideas of these various philosophies.
This is the great ‘thing’ missing from your thinking- the whole thing- America. But what can one say or think about America? What direction is it going? How is it different from the ‘mother"? What can one say about massive, contentious, indoctrinated, weird people called Americans? Thoroughly predictable, thoroughly rationalized, yet thoroughly lost as well. Immensely rich and yet moralistic to the core, as contradictory as any people, most evident in the vaporous regions of the political world. Conformist to the teeth, all determined by some ambiguous greed, fear, or self-loathing at the center of the beast.
Rarely have the intellect and imagination had to deal with the kind of immensity required of it today filling up the imagination and intellect with a great deal of useless information. What marks the American off from the European, whose breasts are all dried up? The history yes, beginning with the great migrations of the natives peoples, then the struggles between the English, Spanish, French peoples- massive slavery- the unrelenting drive to conquer nature- the West- enormous space where, as others have pointed out, the real American character is formed, good and ill; the disappearance of the western Space into urban cities, which is the process of conquering the human habitat, economy that emerges in mid-century to world power markets and massive armies, from ’45 onward its been very unsteady, its new experience is its agonal relation with the old Soviet Union and now the war on terrorism. Philosophy? Pragmatism- Liberalism.
Is it worth studying America? Well, it’s necessary to know the basic systems and documents and continue to be replenished by them. Most people feel it’s not necessary to study America because they are American and they fret their whole existence trying to figure out why no one agrees with them that they are America. Everyone is in contention with Power and the image of Power. Everyone.
There is no future in America because it’s already there so to speak. It’s already in place rolling its way, disguised perhaps, but there.
It’s an arbitrary nation, in a sense, though it has its mythology; its mythical figures and heroes. Who can really stand and say, "this is where America should be going?" Anyone who says so is going to state something mawkish, a certain stereotype. And what anyone says is going to be contradicted from a hundred different corners. All of this ambiguity is resolved by the American having a seething desire for violence or, at least, the decisive act. So, in one corner you have a seething population harboring violent dreams and in the other you have starry-eyed ambiguity reacting to the events around them, now this reaction, now that reaction.
The only philosophy that makes sense, if one wanted to tailor-make such a thing, would be one that overcomes the utter dependence Americans have on machines and technique. One might say "the passivity of the spirit in relation to the machine." It would be one that would satisfactorily explain the original intention behind the idea or ideas. Many have attempted this. It’s quite evident that Europe saw America as a vast opportunity, a kind of paradise that gave rise to the belief in a future. This future has conclusively played itself out and is the environment we walk around in. Only the backward and frightened cling to the physical evidence of the environment as a faith in the future. In other words, opportunity is institutionalized, the spirit of the people is grooved along this particular tract.
Progress is a chief component to this. Progress, too, was formed out of the interaction between men and the environment they found themselves in. This accelerated through the catalyst of technology. It always calls for a sober reassessment. It’s clear that progress implicates a change of quality as well as quantity. Nations built on the back of technology don’t need any more justification, they don’t need the support of philosophy. If anything, philosophy has to dive in and cauterize the wounds created by nation building and techology.
Philosophy has to come back to the individual, his attributes and the possible relations he has with a world that exists. That philosophy has nothing to do with “America”, “Europe”, “Asia” or any of this but has to do with the larger concerns existing world-wide which is mind-boggling and stretching to say the least.
America can then be found in the various categories out of these larger concerns. It goes under the effort of what men do, how they do it and what they should do and how they should do it. Which comes directly back to the original question of just what in the world is this strange creature?
How can you approach this question without letting all the various influences come into play? How can you express the creature man without bringing in your own experience as a man? As a man who exists in a family, in a community, in a country at a particular period of time with all the facticity of that? If you ignore these things then you end up with an abstract picture of the creature who becomes more and more problematic and who falls apart of his first breath, becomes the proverbial Frankenstein.
So, you don’t begin with the question, “what is a human being?” At the same time, you don’t assume that he is this, this and the other thing. Hypothetically you could put the creature ‘man’ anywhere, anytime. You could take him totally out of the environment of the earth into space. You could even distend his body until all that remains is mind. But where and when does the creature ‘man’ first begin to exist? Before, say, he can come to the place where he has abstracted himself out into space! He obviously exists at the very beginning, even at the time when he is in those centuries of slow development, even before he has established himself in communities, from the very beginning of his existence, whatever his physical state has been, the creature human being has had the potential to eventually throw himself out of the aggressive pull of great natural forces and into space. That potential was either seeded at the beginning or it is the result of slow painful development piled like blocks from generation to generation. One has to go further than that, to the creation of matter itself which, too, contains in itself the potential for the existence of life. It does not necessarily lead to the present development; it's not to say that the present world is the justification for the creation of matter! In that hibernating state that potential is undifferentiated. It is brought into actuality by 1- persons 2- events 3 inventions.
What one meditates on is the future or the shape of the future, the best attributes get into the future. Well, you have to define the ‘best attributes’ and the only way you can do that is to imaginatively project a ‘wanted future’. But, that is beyond the scope. You can abstract various things but to take the whole into account is very difficult. Not simply difficult but already under way. One could say that the present is very much a projection abstracted out of the past. “Institutionally" I believe that is true. What human attributes should survive into the future? Academic, sophomoric question that it is.
It amazes me when I think how much of my youth was spent in observing all the goings on in society. What people did for a living. Where they lived, what kind of associations they formed, what they expressed enthusiasm for, what they castigated; all of these very common items I observed very carefully. Like everything else it gets a bit overwhelming. The mind is never prepared for the assaults on it that it must suffer these days.
The first question you ask is, “is there a connection between the people, jobs, associations, etal. Enough connection to make a coherent organism that recognizes itself? What relation is there between the man who runs a large company, lives in the hills, plays tennis or jogs, enjoys the company of his peers, informs himself through publications written specifically for his business, his role, his income and the fellow scavenging bricks along the Carquinez Straits? A man whose recreation is smoking pot and watching TV or going to bars, who is conditioned by popular culture. Or, the young woman in a low level management position in a medium-sized company who lives by herself but “sees someone”, goes shopping when she can, plugs in and out of ‘popular culture’ or subscribes to the local repertory theater, has recently stopped smoking, etc. Or, the wealthy doctor who has retired and moved to Florida or California, has conservative, even reactionary views, tells his stories whenever he has the opportunity and spends a great deal of time in airports or at his large home decorated in various artifacts and high-tech. Or, the young man who is raised in a small lumber town in the mountains, drinks at the local bar that dates back to the 19th century, has the old values and carries them inflexibly so any violation of these values is met with violence or a strange laugh but who is ‘sophisticated’ through the media and so gets down to the city occasionally. Or, the man who drops out of the society and scrounges on a street in the large university town- who becomes a kind of conscience speaking out to the air with invective. Or, the lawyer who turns to politics, cultivates various association, learns the art of advocating the majority view, goes to Washington and lives in that precious atmosphere for four years.
What is the connection, if any, between all of these individuals?
I did not look at things that self-consciously but the society-world-seemed so huge and complex, so out of control, so meaningless and yet filled with every rationalization possible that I began to check this out.
I looked at individuals, as described. I looked at forms of organizations. The overwhelming majority of people in the society were attached to some form of organization. So the form of organization had an origin, a stated purpose, various degrees of success and failure; various levels of function. Then I looked at forms of organization within larger categories; Political, Economics, Academic, Entertainment etc.
Each individual was plugged into the organization which, in turn, was plugged into one of these larger categories which then created “something”- assumed its meaning as “something”
You can look at this as a benign thing or a malignant development. It simply is the way the world is at this particular point.
I look at this as well: this was a dynamic process, that individuals are always shifting their relation to organization. Now if you get this perspective, no matter how general it is, you’re left with a dilemma. What decision do you make as an individual in relation to this perspective? Simple revel in empty knowledge? Organize and combine? Or formulate an impression of the whole? Change it?
A greater dilemma: if you penetrate through the great haze of obstruction that hides the essential "emptiness" of organized society then what? What will you “stand on?”
First you have to list the forms of obstruction:
Most of this comes from individual experience, individual communication and reading of various thinkers and commentaries.
Your prejudice might not be against "organized society" per se but the outlines of social reductionism. The self-apparent life of the society that can never inspire and, after a while, begins to inform the same things. And that disguises the desire to control it or to change it. To ‘grasp history’ even.
I think this kind of knowledge is important to have since it can provide a background to all kinds of activities and claims. It's a way to deal with confusion.
This does not replace a more serious appreciation of society.
And when you get down to it, isn’t society really who, what, when, where, and how I act, perceive, think on and about the people and life around me? Doesn’t society form itself this way?
If I am a colonist in the early years of settlement I am in relation to an idea which ‘does something’ to my emotional life and intellect. And that forms attitudes as well as the daily, mundane relation to neighbors, enemies, family, strangers, etc. That the idea is subservient to experience. My idea of democracy is going to be different if I am a tenant farmer or whether I am a slave holding farmer.
Attitudes are changed by power, by the power of image that is able to dissemble the personality and re-create it in the form of power so that the will is engaged to power. Attitudes are changed by goals or visions that exist ‘in time’ however hard it is to describe exactly ‘the times.’
Attitudes are changed the most when we perceive that they have ‘evil natures’ when they see- in their own mind- that they are as susceptible to ‘evil’ as the men who actually commit the deed. The corruption by evil is the dread of human life. And that poses a problem to human societies that no longer have a conception of evil.
The innocence that is buried under evil!
Evil is that which corrupts the sense of good. What is the sense of good? That which leads to productive results, that which leads to fruition.
You perceive at some point the “perfect man or perfect woman.” What would they be doing? What would they be like?
Better to ask, what if a man or woman had every resource available to them and every restraint fell away what would they do? They would probably end up by contemplating the process that brought them the resource.
Would they have knowledge of the restraint that had fallen away from them?
You could even go a step further and say that everything that can be conceived is a restraint. Conception leads to manifestation which leads to organization which leads to restraint. Everything conceived is manifested and the successful manifestation is organized to further itself and becomes a restraint since, after a time, it can no longer lead to conception.
If society becomes nothing more than a series of restraints, then it creates aberration since all constraint begins as resentment and resentment begins on its own conceptions and imperatives. For every institutional restrain there are a hundred conceptions that rise up to overcome it.
Constraint is self-evident. It works daily, sometime personally.
Here’s another dilemma: there is always the contention that the restraint is necessary to produce freedom. The other contention is that the restraint is produced artificially to keep the status quo.
Experience teaches that the latter is true.
But there is something true about the first statement.
Obviously if you over-eat you are going to get fat and have health problems. So that the absence of restraint produces a kind of anti-freedom.
But, it depends on what kind of restraint you’re talking about. Is it psychological or institutional; custom or law?
You have to ask in this form: The institutional life per se is a restraint against the free development of an individual’s natural resource of intellect, imagination, emotion etc. Therefore, the institutional life determines aspects of these resources against which the individual protects himself.
Therefore, the institutional life requires that men and women collectively team together to add to an artificial resource created by the team.
Therefore, the artful resource is a result of both repression and adaptation.
But it is also "inhuman" in the sense that anything produced by more than a dozen people can be inhuman; i.e. the individual must adapt himself to the artificial resource, it does not bend to him.
Common sense enters the picture and is able to judge what is good, productive and what isn’t, what is meaningful and what isn’t.
In an abstract society such as this what does or can the individual buttress himself with against forces he can not see or know? Perhaps it's the natural categories of class, sex, race; perhaps it's the categories of the unconscious mind. In any case the individual often becomes the ornament of those emotional categories.
You have a society utterly rationalized so that every detail, feelings, function commands the whole attention of the person engaged in some specific task. This is obviously going to create aberrations- it’s going to create tremendous distress which people, self-consciously, attempt to articulate as best they can.
The variety of identities proffered up have little meaning unless you desire power. Power is unconscious and the categories of the unconscious are manipulated through gender, race, and class. If you want to be a manipulator or a manipulatee you adhere fastidiously to the unconscious power of these things. You can add religion, history, nation, utopia as other categories of the unconscious. These are not bad because they are unconscious. They are bad because one is not aware of them and the power that drives them.
If you ignore them they have greater power. They act in groups, in social relations; large political relations. But if you simply become reasonable toward them they bowl you over.
The shadow appears, it shocks you so you begin to look at yourself objectively and begin to form an idea of what you want and not want to be. There is something comical about it. And I’ve met and known enough people to realize that it is common enough.
I began to go back to the primary sources of culture and thought.
Not only should most history be despised but it can’t be read without reference to nuclear weapons and mass communication.
I began to read science. I’ll never understand why scientists are so defensive about the practice of it; as if the whole world has not been created and is sustained by science! Anything that has power is and should be subject to criticism. I have not seen science as an enemy of culture. Quite the opposite. Like anything else though, if it crosses a few thresholds it can become oppressive rather than liberating.
The cosmology is created by the substance through which the key members of society go and out of which are created the attitudes, values, goods, etc. Science, technology, capital, democratic, republic politics being the main ones.
So the members who 1) command resources 2) make decisions 3) create policy 4) support command, decision, and policy.
There are millions of people involved in all of it.
Those who command resource: Resource being anything that can be secured and transformed for exchange or anything that can be added to a process of security and transformation. In this sense everyone commands resources. Even the homeless guy can sell his blood. So I would define it as any resource that creates the sense of being absolute and mythological. I can, for instance, gather the resources available to IBM. It’d take a year or so but because the resources are finite they can be understood. But, if I only had a tenuous relation to IBM I would think that IBM was absolute and beyond comprehension i.e. mythological even. I would project my hopes into it in a unique way since it represents possibility for my own ambitions
IBM has access to what? Capital, labor, property among otherse.
What’s the difference between a man or woman who owns an office, borrows money for the work and hires six or seven people to make puppets and IBM?
What is the similarity between a rich man and a poor man? Both the rich man and poor man must surrender to necessity.
The Intellectual, The Spiritual, The Beautiful:
One assumes that the further one progresses from a beginning whether object, event, person, the better it gets. How else would all that past that made ourselves make sense? Often it is only a few steps on a muddy plain not expecting any success at all. Perhaps they know there are up to something but beyond that, very little. If an intellectual or scholar could actually fuse with the original point of beginning then one could imagine him stepping out of his own discipline to find a more appropriate expression for his discovery. He may even despair of what has happened and get some courage.
Many traditions are out the window and good riddance but the specific spirit of any act of discovery still remains hidden under the dust like old roads that have served well but now must be turned into parking lots.
Intellectuals want to get to the precision of science but who can say what the scientific is? Even after the atomic bomb, the computer, the voyage to the moon there is a moral quandary over what exactly it is. Why does the imagination of science finally come to rest in disaster? Why does it do so easily?
Here, Christ enters Jerusalem, makes his plea, falls silent and is executed. Remnants of his believers organize, a church is established, it gains momentum. But as time moves forward questions come over the faces of those who believe even as the belief gains tremendous power. We can say that it has gotten away from the original spirit as fear takes over and the fearful have all the arguments and embody what they believe is the living moment until the living moment is fearful and one has no choice, in the end, but to become afraid. This intuition is thrown on science and the scientific community by popular belief who see the mysteries of science and the arcana of scientific language as cult like. So, the popular mind believes science has taken one power, religion, and simply displaced it. It has evolved more rapidly. It’s all been done before, the form of it was always there. “Transform the superstition into facts.” It doesn’t improve living or it does with a price, certainly not simpler but it gives the sense that facts are moving around one rather than superstitious beliefs. The facts are relatable to the abstract parts of the human mind but then men and women are more than their abstracting powers so what about the rest? It’s almost blasphemous to ask the question. “How dare you question the wisdom of the reality that flies around your head! Don’t you understand the economic necessity of these facts! Gracious now, don’t doubt unless you want to be struck by the lightning speed of the car I’m driving!”
Science goes its merry way. Perhaps it will make life so abundantly easy and yet so hard to contend with eventually it will be shucked off and disappear as the next age picks a useful piece of it here and there. They will teach their children not to be so arrogant; courageous yes and intelligent and whatever other values will spring out of the detritus of collapsing systems. We hope not but the thought crosses the mind.
If science has replaced Christ as the central hero in the story of the West its final act will be an attempt at redemption. So far this is articulated as a heavenly sort of city in the future that await all the true believers. Yes, someday we will be able to push a button and have milk and honey flow into our mouths as we contemplate our daily videos telling us the things we want to hear.
And the poor will always be with us, multiplying under the awkward abstractions of social sciences.
Almost by accident we opened the Larousse Guide to Astronomy and read in the introduction, “…Today the constellations no longer represent ideological principles, mythological characters or valiant deeds of war. We no longer wonder at the celestial vaults surrounding Earth and place ourselves at the center of everything, nor do we regard comets as portents of disaster, the firebolts of the gods that rain upon the planet as retribution of bad deeds. We think we are perhaps wiser: too knowledgeable to allow ourselves the indulgence of mythological conjecture. However, the moons attraction for the Earth still impress us with awe and the same affiliation we feel for the universe that supports our existence reigns supreme.” In other words, we are not at the center of anything but the facts out of our minds which do not allow us “indulgence of mythological conjecture” are at the center. We humans are foolish pegs of skin pinned by our vaulted and vaunted facts. And our knowledge is awfully tiring. And there are the space probes and mobs so what can one do but look wistfully into the universe and feel it looks benignly on our doings. It would have wanted us to go the way we’ve gone perhaps. No other ways would have been possible. Of course, it isn’t an ideology, it hasn’t made war against other systems of thought as yet.
Science does introduce the idea of “re-making” the world. In the beginning this had a very liberating effect on people and nations because it introduced a great challenge. But now its success is an ideology with little challenge to it. It now depends on the measurement of how far we’ve changed from the past for its authenticity.
One likes the feeling of drama that they are participating in the “re-making” of the world by its sheer size and speed. Is it an illusion? No. But then who can stand as a full human being and say, for certain, what the world is “re-making” itself into? And without this knowledge how can one be certain that it is the best road to take? It’s success if the only thing that enforces the idea of “re-making” the world.
It becomes an “ideology” when it fuses with political and economic power and then determines the nature of imagination, creativity and other forms of human value. Under this pressure the imagination will become mean and destructive.
When I was younger I remember watching movies and how wonderfully precise the emotions and speech were exchanged between characters. That is one only embodied the character, the act and speech would spring fully armed out of one. Now, I would think this has always occurred in human fantasy. That people in their fantasies imagined themselves acting and speaking in a more precise manner and whatever conscience, social or otherwise, which held them back at least frame the functions outside of them with a specific form.
Now, however, the fantasy is generated totally outside of one, acted out completely outside of one, not “once in a while,” but all the time, constantly, constantly and this robs the authentic self of any act or speech generated from inside it of ever coming to the surface. It’s forced back into the unconscious. That is why there is so much will within the unconscious and in the dream state. It is the authentic self, the truly human self struggling to “get out” under the suffocation of the phantasmagorical it meets in reality.
Short Thoughts on a Long Subject:
Americans, especially, destroy what is most precious in themselves. That part of themselves that could redeem them from the prisons they erect, nearly in deep smiles.
This has occurred because the language the Americans have developed is strictly utilitarian. Thoughts and emotions are utilities and utility always tries to destroy what thinks and dreams in the soul. They turn away from poetry, fine thought and like clumsy oxen hitch themselves to burdens. It is conceivable to be a free man in the country. I don’t mean free physically but free of spirit. It becomes an advertisement finally.
It’s as if a man were walking down a long road and along this road stood a building and this building seemed a curious thing so the man enters and finds it is a series of iron cells with their doors swung open, unoccupied.
An American will walk into the cell, slam the door shut and even when he sees the key laying on the floor will do something clever with it to prove he is anything but a free man.
There is such a deficit of wisdom that people grow up and what do they face? Disillusioned hags who carry a whip.
Finally, then, after this great travail of living in America those who have survived into an age that should see them cultivating wisdom turn against the young with a bitterness uncanny with the ability to turn the young against everything the disillusioned hags hold sacred or value.
“Society” is unconscious. It is the amount of unconscious the conscious can bear at any particular time in history. For this reason, a society will establish patterns which it will repeat over and over again as though it is calling itself back to an original equilibrium. Out of these patterns are traditions that have to solidify at times, be overcome at other times.
© 2014 David Eide. All rights reserved.