Gregory Desilet in red. Adam Pogioli in white:
I think you are right to suggest we are talking past each other. Nevertheless, I find what you say stimulating. So, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.
There are so many ways to enter into all you say below that I feel I can’t do it justice. But let me address a particular theme.
There was a time a few years back when the ongoing assessments of the work of Ken Wilber came to a head on Integral World after his famous “Wyatt Earp” response to various critics of his work. This then led to a broader discussion of a host of other so-called “gurus” who had managed to attract a considerable following—much to the financial (and often sexual) benefit of the guru. These gurus had repeatedly robbed, used, manipulated, and otherwise taken advantage of initiates. Long story short, there was much evidence to indicate massive abuse taking place through various sects and cults.
This, of course, raised the broader question: how may it be known whether a “guru” is the genuine article or not? Consider Jesus as a “guru.” The only reason he is known to all today is because he demonstrated his claim to be the son of God by performing what are now called miracles. Without the demonstration, his preachings (call it his occult beliefs) likely would have dropped unnoticed like stones in a well.
One thing can be said for science: while its methods are not perfect, these methods have succeeded in generating a means of “persuasion” that is broadly appealing and yet does not count as mere brute force (i.e., you will believe this or I will burn you at the stake). Postmoderns critique the arrogance of science but do not dismiss it or think it outmoded. Science (done well) provides a demonstration just as miracles do—a way to “show” another person you know what you are talking about.
Along these lines I also place great value in the much abused term “reason,” if by that we mean using words in discourse and inquiry to produce effects beyond proclaiming one’s tastes (such as, “I prefer chocolate instead of vanilla”). Are reasons to be regarded as the same as preferences?
Thus far in our current exchange I’m not sure you have offered an answer other than: “Well, Greg, I just know (gnosis) this to be true and I sure wish others knew it to be true as well, because I cannot offer you anything like a reason for what I believe carrying enough weight to prompt you to change anything you believe.” This is certainly one form of “talking past each other.” And if you were to say that your “experience” has led to your beliefs, that does not help me or others very much. This is a version of Wilber’s approach where he says if you do X and Y you will come to see Z. And if this fails, what is Wilber’s response? It is this: “Well, you didn’t do X and Y properly.” Of course. But not very helpful.
This sort of stance may be fine for the individual but I don’t think it’s sufficient for human community and culture. What do we all do when as a community we have to decide what to teach in our schools? Doesn’t your occult stance ultimately lead to home schooling for every child? Doesn’t it then lead to every family or tribe creating its own language? Will there even be any need for a common language? If so, why? Do we need agreement between people at all? Do we need community at all? If so, how are agreement and community achieved, how are differences and conflicts overcome, if all questions are reduced to a matter of taste because one person’s belief cannot be separated from another person’s belief for lack of a demonstration (call it a test, if you like).
Bottom line: Do you have a way of distinguishing between tastes and reasons? If so, do tell because I’m still looking for better ways to do that. You say: “You seem to be suggesting that culture be reduced to what can be verified as true.” Not at all. What I am wondering is whether the culture of reasons is just another version of the culture of tastes. It seems I cannot demonstrate to you that chocolate tastes better than vanilla. But can I demonstrate to you that mutually inclined love-making is better for you than rape? For someone like Cosby it appears the difference here is similar to the difference between chocolate and vanilla. But is that a case you would want to make?
The concrete and the literal (to use your words) are just metaphors for what can be agreed on. People agree on many things (it would seem) but, as one of my mentors (Macksoud) once said, “I cannot tell you by what means persuasion is achieved.” It certainly remains a profound mystery to me. Perhaps no one ever persuades anyone of anything unless they are each already in the same place and then discover that to be the case (as when two people discover they both like vanilla). And it could be argued that language is incidental to that process. I can’t yet bring myself to believe that, however. 🙂 Even Macksoud (the man you cited—the one claiming language is less a means of communication that it is a means of stimulation) strongly believed in a difference between tastes and reasons. Without this distinction we have no basis for community other than things given, things analogous to skin color. That basis for community leads to tribalism. Can occult groups be distinguished from such tribalism?
By what means are you persuaded of anything? And how is that different from being persuaded of everything anyone presents to you, in language or otherwise? Does any form of demonstration play a role? If so, what is it? If not, how do you avoid being fooled by others? Better yet, how do you avoid fooling yourself? (Does Russian or Chinese science regarding the paranormal persuade you because of a different world view? Does that amount to a different mode of demonstration? Why is their mode of demonstration better or worse than mainstream science?)
At the end of the day, are we all just fools of one sort or another living (and perhaps killing) on the basis of our tastes without anything like reasons (keeping in mind that a “reason” is something that persuades others as much as it persuades you). It would seem you want to make the occult into something that requires no reasons for what you believe, or at best “reasons” that only persuade those who are already persuaded (these “reasons” being indistinguishable from the tastes and inclinations of tribes).
“This, of course, raised the broader question: how may it be known whether a “guru” is the genuine article or not?”
Genuinely what? Enlightened? Faultless? Worthy of giving away my will and money? Certainly these guys were genuinely good at influencing people. But seriously, enlightenment may seem like a mysterious supernatural thing to be scoffed at or worshipped, but it is like anything else, something that can be very different depending on context. If you want a definition that covers most contexts, the simplest definition I have is simply someone for whom no situation evokes an emotional tension or charge. Such a simple explanation may seem mundane, which is one reason I do like it, but obviously the consequences of this achievement can have deep and diverse significance.
My take would be something like this: enlightenment is a word for the physiological transformation that happens in an organism when the level of phase alignment in biological oscillators reaches a critical threshold in phase space. This threshold marks a shift from an attractor field characterized by multiple contingent determinations by the localized force environment in the physical and social ecosystem, to a locally differentiated field characterized by an activity based in topological layers where attractor sets are more coherent, symmetrical and not confined to the striating influence of localized force fluctuations and arbitrary sign regimes.
That is my science jargon definition. Deleuze of course has the fancy terms from French literature (the misleading term “body without organs” is the most specific to the psychophysiological register, which interpreters have noted would have been better called “bodies without organism”—still a misleading term). Of course he doesn’t use the word enlightenment here. It’s an abused term for sure. But it has a relatively broad but coherent meaning in the East. The problem is that people unschooled in the occult think it makes someone a good person or all knowing, incapable of error, etc. It really is just the onset of various types of coherent organization in human psychophysiological functioning, and even then, there are forms of enlightenment that are much less deep and less physiologically (and certainly psychosocially) coherent. In my book I will go into the different traditions and why I advocate the modern reformulations. Here is my brief introduction to the question of practice I put on my website: http://www.creativecoherence.org/on-meditation-and-choosing-a-practice/
The principle emphasized in all sufficiently developed esoteric philosophy is consistent with the name of my website and roughly the aim of all life. Rather than aiming for coherence through complete deterritorialization (to use Deleuze’s terms now), which then leaves open or vague the question of the type of reterritorialization, the goal is to evolve the embedding structures into more ideal patterns of reterritorialization. In Delanda’s “Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy”, his excellent book on Deleuze’s ontology, he is giving an account of Deleuze’s vision using terms from complexity theory and mathematics, eschewing all the French obscurantism. He doesn’t just cast Deleuze into science jargon but shows how one can get to the same kinds of ideas through applying a post essentialist lens to science and mathematics. By doing this he makes the case that the these ideas are robust to changes in their starting assumptions—an idea which itself gels with the general group theoretic approach to systems, namely that everything can be organized into a meshwork of transformation groups that converge at more symmetrical levels of organization.
The point being that all thought can be made to converge, just as being converges, as all variation is organized against the backdrop of variations in ways of measuring variation itself. But unlike the traditional Platonic and Aristotelian schemes of hierarchy that dominated Philosophy’s first two millennia, (until Occam brought the structure of thought crashing down), that convergence is not oriented towards a transcendent source, prime mover, or singular Being but is instead fully immanentized; that is, convergence is towards a plane of immanence whose nature is creative and divergent (the rhizome rather than the tree but still a connected network).
In Deleuze’s terms, we don’t get “the one” but a univocal “plane of consistency” as a transverse cut through all phenomenon, or a “Thousand Plateaus” which is an explicit reference to the Balinese “tantra” that Bateson studied. Tantric philosophy, in its time, scrambled the aborescant structure of traditional Eastern thought to affirm the rhizomatic structure of becoming and the immanent Divine. The consequence is not a perennial philosophy rooted in a universal experience of enlightenment or dogmatic adherence to a single language or theory but it is indeed still a consistent metaphysics grounded in making an reforming connections, bridges and alliances without subjecting difference to identity.
In Delanda’s book “Philosophy and Simulation” he is able to account for the ways mathematics and computer modelling can so accurately model systems not because they are ideal representations of a separate objective reality but because both the models and the physical system are isomorphic divergences from the same virtual multiplicity. They diverge in their actualizations and form but there is a convergence in the structure of their relations.
Because of that, truth is not found simply in the convergent abstraction towards the abstract general term because actualized systems are always a mix of differentiating attractor sets in the process of forming new models and altering their basic ideas. Following them up one line of reasoning into an ideal type, as traditional discrete set thinking does, may lead to a useful abstraction, but ultimately those abstractions are empty (sunyata). Making them more concrete through dialectic may illuminate certain hybrid categories of a phenomenon, but those categories are always going to be generic and falsely transcendent of reality which is immanent. Knowledge of Immanent reality necessitates reflexive participation and covariation; in quantum physics this problem was discovered when dealing with the mystery of uncertainty, but it wasn’t well understood until the discovery of quantum coherence (and decoherence).
So Wilber wanted a typology of development that could place people within a hierarchy and decide who is more worthy of leadership (the enlightened) and who gets to be eaten (only the lowly plants). This is puritanical Brahminism all over again. The tantric tradition critiqued amd inverted these entrenched value pyramids and embraced a more anarchistic occultism. Though whatever we want to call it, there is very little way of escaping Platonism and epistemological hierarchies. The empiricist tradition tried, got pulled back into rationalism with Kant for a time and is converging with Platonism again in contemporary mathematical science—just as Deleuze attempted to do in his own terms, and Delanda shows is happening anyway as science increasingly relies on the same modelling tools across all disciplines(the empirical and ideational converge in the topological). Deleuze’s Platonism however makes the necessary move in our time, to honor the empiricist impulse and subvert the naturalized hierarchies of tradition not by simply reversing them as Nietzsche or Tantra tried to do, or simply grounding them in existence like existentialists, or making them undecidable, which leads to a problem of standards reduced to taste, but making essences fully differential and sufficiently abstract as to make any criteria of judgment based on identity and resemblance unlikely.
For Deleuze it is no longer a question of distinguishing the “real deal” from the simulacra, but in the experiment of finding and producing more favorable relations. There is no need to see the world in terms of judgment; when I meet a person, enlightened or not, I am not trying to find out and judge against a certain ideal so much as map their capacities, the topology of their singularities—those inflection points that tell me where I can connect with them and what they are capable of. The clusters of singularities that make up the main attractors of any person or thing are always seen from the perspective of my own capacities and coherences. Typological thinking is necessary and useful as a heuristic but it must be seen as emergent from the continuous meshwork of ideas Deleuze calls the plane of immanence. Rocco Gangle puts it thus:
“The model of Ideas that Deleuze differentiates from the regulative one of Kant through a kind of quasi-inversion of Platonic-Husserlian eidei neither serves a limiting function nor plays the role of original or type with respect to possible copies or tokens. Instead, Ideas are the higher-order thresholds that mark qualitative shifts in the real transformations of actualities themselves. As Bryant puts it, ‘Deleuze conceives Ideas topologically as sets of variations or deformations in which one form can pass into another while maintaining a structural identity, rather than as fixed forms to which individuals more or less correspond.’ More exactly, Ideas are not mere collections of variations but are rather determinations of the relative cohesiveness of such collections. The Ideas are immanent, ideal, structural conditions determining relations among the variables (the real variations) of some domain: ‘what Ideas define is an ideal topological or differential essence characterizing a field of variations or permutations’. The Ideas define the field itself, and are at a second remove from the objects or entities the field’s transformations map.”
Or to put it more simply and possibly more profoundly, as Jeffrey A. Bell does: “[Deleuze and Guattari] seek to challenge those who take the transcendent and determinate to be the condition when it is precisely that which is conditioned. “
An enlightened person is not a transcendent type or condition of being but actually someone, along certain lines, that is simply less conditioned. But, being less conditioned, enlightened people are dangerous. They don’t give a fuck. They no longer need anyone or anything to make them feel good. But they can, because of that, act relatively selflessly; or they can use people to make themselves feel even better. But that gets into some occult stuff that I will leave for now. Suffice it to say people like Sai Baba were not complete frauds; a case could be made that he was a unscrupulous sorcerer of some skill who liked little boys for magical reasons. But I don’t want to overestimate enlightened people. They aren’t superhumanly good or evil. They just have a level of detachment that allows for coherence in isolation but which has varying levels of ability to maintain coherence in relation. The more basic condition doesn’t take all that much skill. It just takes a butt load of time and a lot of will. Though different paths draw on different strengths that can vastly reduce the time depending on the type of enlightenment.
“Consider Jesus as a “guru.” The only reason he is known to all today is because he demonstrated his claim to be the son of God by performing what are now called miracles. Without the demonstration, his preachings (call it his occult beliefs) likely would have dropped unnoticed like stones in a well.”
It is debatable, but I think the picture you are giving of Jesus is mostly a product of later times. Given your skepticism on such matters, I think you can probably sympathize with the stance that no supernatural miracles happened in real history. Of course that isn’t to say advanced adepts don’t have capacities that others do not. But in that time period, such a thing wasn’t all that unusual, and certainly not capable of bearing the responsibility for the gigantic impact those events had on history. Many real occultists would actually agree with the skeptics. Laurence Gardner’ many books on the subject are a rich analysis of the time period and the meaning of the language of the Gospels. Most historians don’t have enough perspective on Essene culture to understand what is being said. Gardner was steeped in Masonic culture and had access to Vatican texts that illuminate a tradition that was very different by the time of the Roman church.
Jesus was an advanced mystic, but I think he was more important as a political figure. The Nazarene sect was obsessed with uniting the priestly and royal lines and taking back the holy land. Jesus wanted to include the gentiles in the revolution. The political project failed but Jesus’s “liberal” hellenized take on their eschatological vision was very influential in forming a multiethnic progressive vision of history. Zizek’s Christianity as early communism. Even if he did perform some stunts and even if that is what made him famous, that doesn’t justify deifying someone, turning a good mystic communist into an idol courting worship. There are those like Rudolf Steiner that believe some rather far out things about the occult process involved in Jesus’s last few years and his death. But even then I think we are talking about some rather esoteric imagery for what really isn’t that far from Hegel’s Protestant or Zizek’s atheist interpretation, in seeing the importance for world history enacted in that drama. In my favorite popular book, “Seth Speaks”, Seth describes how the drama was playing out partially in other people around that time but was more fully embodied in the drama that took place as part of a cluster of relations between John the Baptist, Jesus, and Paul who were all part of a single entity at the hub of structural changes that were happening at the time, with implications for the larger drama of our evolving consciousness.
You ask questions about authenticity and deciding truth, but once again I bring us back to interpretation. I think Zizek, Gardner, Hegel, and Steiner couldn’t be more different in their basic Religious commitments, but that doesn’t stop Zizek from being a Hegelian. It doesn’t stop me from seeing there was a definite change in the virtual structure of Near East culture at that time that had profound effects on the world. I think it had much more to do with the material factors that created a melting pot of political and religious fervor than any supposed miracles.
“One thing can be said for science: while its methods are not perfect, these methods have succeeded in generating a means of “persuasion” that is broadly appealing and yet does not count as mere brute force (i.e., you will believe this or I will burn you at the stake). Postmoderns critique the arrogance of science but do not dismiss it or think it outmoded. Science (done well) provides a demonstration just as miracles do—a way to “show” another person you know what you are talking about. Along these lines I also place great value in the much abused term “reason,” if by that we mean using words in discourse and inquiry to produce effects beyond proclaiming one’s tastes (such as, “I prefer chocolate instead of vanilla”). Are reasons to be regarded as the same as preferences?”
Both the connections between any demonstration and any given idea and the connections between ideas depend on contextual mediation that structures those relations, and that mediation can be done in more or less productive and, indeed, reasonable ways. Though anything may go in theory, not every choice of framing gives the same results. Some theory may lead to a demonstration but make very little sense. Making sense out of, or producing empirical data or phenomenon is valuable, but so is making sense out of other theories and their demonstrations. Whether the connection is between sense data and sense meaning or between meanings, the issues are the same: different frames make different kinds of sense out of phenomenon. You may convince someone of anything but the power and potential of scientific modeling is not just its demonstrations but the robustness of its arguments, their ability to coordinate so many different perspectives and detail the limits of each starting value or proposition.
A theory may be a construct with a certain level of arbitrariness, but in the process of testing against new information and other kinds of sense, reality has a “voice”, as they say in critical realism. This isn’t just about demonstration but the logic by which all systems, whether they be equations, computer models, physical systems or discursive ideas, all show us their limitations when their thresholds are tested by difference. So for me the value in science and reason is not specifically in the demonstration, since one can support any theory with evidence or make lucky predictions, given some crude logic. The value is in the coherence of context which comes from the testing of ideas against each other and seeing what makes more sense across different contexts and semiotic registers.
Reason is still a good word for the process of ordering and understanding relations in ways that make sense, not just to our preferences for framing but for the consequences of that framing as it is exported to other contexts. I may want the truth to be one way, but my ability to make that truth more than an astral phantom is contingent on factors I must properly map and engage. Persuasion and will(occult or otherwise) are certainly a common part of actualizing the virtual in the human social register, but there are more recalcitrant physical systems that don’t care about our good theories and reasons or even a strong magical will.
In occultism, everything is considered a system of consciousness and though tradition speaks of laws, I think modern spiritualists and process thinkers like Aurobindo, Whitehead and Deleuze all suggest laws are mere habits that are rather well entrenched but not necessarily impossible to change. They force us to develop better reasons and understanding why things are the way they are, and by doing so we achieve better control over the consequences of our ideas.
There are higher modes of cognition than reason, but they are just reason developed into modes of ideational seeing. As consciousness creates more coherence it becomes increasingly saturated with logical inferences that ramify into every conceivable context until the serial order of processual necessity and the spatial order of simultaneous context fuse into the more continuous topology of higher symmetry spaces. Reason is transcended only at the point of knowledge by identity, the principle that finally supersedes the mechanism of reason to such an extent that Aurobindo labels it “Supermind”. Which sounds silly nowadays but he just meant to give it a generic characterization as a principle beyond mind.
“Thus far in our current exchange I’m not sure you have offered an answer other than: “Well, Greg, I just know (gnosis) this to be true and I sure wish others knew it to be true as well, because I cannot offer you anything like a reason for what I believe carrying enough weight to prompt you to change anything you believe.” This is certainly one form of “talking past each other.” And if you were to say that your “experience” has led to your beliefs, that does not help me or others very much. This is a version of Wilber’s approach where he says if you do X and Y you will come to see Z. And if this fails, what is Wilber’s response? It is this: “Well, you didn’t do X and Y properly.” Of course. But not very helpful. “
I am not claiming any privileged experience or if I were to reference experience, I certainly would not want anyone to just take my word for it. Experience is always contaminated by perspective. I come to my philosophy from every angle I have explored. This actually is the crux of tantric philosophy. The “tantric distinction” is between the narrow isolated enlightenment I mentioned earlier and the more advanced and developmental forms. In the first, they say, one line of reasoning is followed until it is seen to be empty, and all reality a construct. In Tibet they call a person who has achieved this, a foe destroyer. He sees through illusion and so doesn’t get bothered by shit anymore, but he isn’t much use to anyone. Both Mahayana and Tantra call this the lower vehicle.
In Tibetan tantra, they claim the highest path is to follow all lines of reasoning. If one can follow them all they converge more and more and more in a never ending growth of knowledge.
This may sound fanciful but again, it is just the same process we are all doing extrapolated to more advanced levels. Yoga is just a concentration of the normal process of learning, not in the artificial sense of acquiring information, of being persuaded by this or that fact or argument, but the deeper process of learning to pay attention to the connections between thought and experience.
If someone has come to a conclusion or a belief and they are fine with that, that is fine with me. I never stop long enough to believe in anything. Every idea leads to other ideas. If they lead to a dead end, some people call it a day and are relieved. Some people keep asking questions but never watch what that question is doing. I have no wish to convince anyone of anything; I just like to spur thought and development in myself and others. Tantra literally means to weave; it is all about weaving it together—not in fanciful dreamlike associations, not simply following any thought in any direction, but in disciplined scrutiny of where each thought comes from and where it goes.
One can think of meditative space as a counter spatial domain (the projective dual of euclidean space) where every thought that hits the line at infinity comes back around. All thought is related and every experience is of ideas and their relations. Every idea has its inferences and thresholds. Reason is key to understanding. Understanding is experience of the necessity of a relation, no matter how arbitrary the terms of the relation. Anything less than understanding through experience is mere persuasion, which is black magic and manipulation. Steiner puts it thus: “Every idea that does not become an ideal for you kills a force in your soul, but every idea that becomes an ideal for you creates forces of life within you”.
Belief and persuasion connote a semiotic gap between the knower and known. Ideology. Superstition. Call it what you want. “Believing in things you don’t understand” as the song goes. Understanding and experience are not just idealizations of the concrete like “demonstration” or “physical proof”. They signify coherent, even fractal connectivity.
One knows something always through one’s self knowledge. One may know very little like the foe destroyer, the simple minded enlightened monk, but one knows viscerally one’s own constructed nature and can see that in everything. Or one can know more, know something of the way things are constructed and see that in everything, thereby learning about one’s self in every act or learning about the world through one’s self. But one knows that picture is limited and always evolving and in essence nothing; that is, nothing in particular because each thing is an “expression” of the one infinite substance, or, as Deleuze frames his expressionist version of Spinoza: each thing is an expression of a problematic and differential metaphysical structure.
Contrast both these spiritual epistemologies with the semiotic gap between subject and object. There one has little choice but to be more or less persuaded into adopting beliefs about seperate objects with essences, into adopting a “position” on something instead of understanding a cluster of relations immanently.
Of course according to this fractal vision, not only the poetic thoughts but the paranoid ones could both be considered superior to the abstract information of science that one has no inner connection to. For one may point out how certain thoughts may be internally coherent, personally meaningful and useful, but not be actually true. I would argue that personal meaning becomes more true as it tests itself against the world and becomes more creatively coherent. It is true that there are fantastical aspects of my own thought that, though I can argue for them being consistent and useful, are not capable of much testing. Should we not adopt skepticism about crazy things even if they are useful?
The imaginative expansion of thought is actually part of the process that makes it work and in the esoteric tradition, it is admitted, the gods are constructs, but then again, so is everything. Physical reality is just the most complex construct (or composite as Averroes called it in contrast to the angels which were non composite beings in “typal” worlds as Aurobindo calls the inner realms).
So I try to stay logically consistent and in fact I do believe that everything that can be thought has reality, everything we can imagine is possible and exists in some form because thought is the base of all reality. The physical is just one of the toughest testing grounds where all ideas come to compete and be tried out against each other, and worked out in detail. In fact Theosophy claims the physical body is the oldest and most complex of our bodies. That doesn’t make it the ground of truth but merely its frontier.
“This sort of stance may be fine for the individual but I don’t think it’s sufficient for human community and culture. What do we all do when as a community we have to decide what to teach in our schools? Doesn’t your occult stance ultimately lead to home schooling for every child? Doesn’t it then lead to every family or tribe creating its own language? Will there even be any need for a common language? If so, why? Do we need agreement between people at all? Do we need community at all? If so, how are agreement and community achieved, how are differences and conflicts overcome, if all questions are reduced to a matter of taste because one person’s belief cannot be separated from another person’s belief for lack of a demonstration (call it a test, if you like).”
I am not sure what occult stance I have that leads to home schools or tribalism; I don’t think anything I have written suggests this. Schools tend to suck these days and homeschooling and unschooling have their merits but I am all about community and education. Waldorf schools can have problems but I think Steiner, the crazy occultist, did more to seed healthy patterns in so many cultural fields that I have a hard time believing he was one man. The sheer volume of his collected works on every subject is unbelievable. The guy lectured on a different subject every night for decades and they are endlessly full of new and interesting ideas on all subjects that have gone on to seed several communities and community practices used all over the world. Waldorf, Camphill., biodynamics, new art forms and mathematics—his stuff on projective geometry some people in the physics underground are still finding new applications for. But my biggest spiritual influence is Sri Aurobindo whose ideas have been less broadly influential on communities, but which have founded one of the most interesting communities on the planet. Here is Jeffrey and Debashish discussing Auroville:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Ht71znSS5I&feature=share
As for these questions about taste and common language, these may be questions that you are struggling with but I am not. I am an unapologetic metaphysician. I may value difference and I may question the normal objective standards of deciding truth by negation, but that doesn’t mean I have no standards. Here is Deleuze:“History progresses not by negation and the negation of negation, but by deciding problems and affirming differences. It is no less bloody and cruel as a result. Only the shadows of history live by negation” . My whole schtick is coherence man. Have you read the opening statement of my website homepage? It’s been there for many years and is probably a little dated now, but I state right off the bat, probably coming out of reading your Wilber/Derrida nexus at the time, that I do not wish to reduce things to a single theory and language, but that I am deeply motivated to build connections and bridges between cultures and theories and that inevitably involves critique. In any case differences don’t need to be overcome to have community they just have to be coordinated. Claims of proof tend to only stoke the cycles of negation when ideas are in conflict, and this cycle is exploited politically by those that know how to coordinate their differences to maintain their power without declaring their authority through proof claims. They leave that to the politicians and the endless dialectic of distraction. In any case, whether there is evidence involved or not, it is reason that makes the case. Again, there are kinds of connection and communication that go beyond linear sequencing and reason, but reason still plays a strong role even in the most creatively coherent human society, especially when there are barriers to communication and reasons have to be parsed out.
“Bottom line: Do you have a way of distinguishing between tastes and reasons? If so, do tell because I’m still looking for better ways to do that. You say: “You seem to be suggesting that culture be reduced to what can be verified as true.” Not at all. What I am wondering is whether the culture of reasons is just another version of the culture of tastes. It seems I cannot demonstrate to you that chocolate tastes better than vanilla. But can I demonstrate to you that mutually inclined love-making is better for you than rape? For someone like Cosby it appears the difference here is similar to the difference between chocolate and vanilla. But is that a case you would want to make?”
Vanilla tastes better to me because I am more subtle than chocolate lovers, who are fools for extravagance; they need intense stimulation to taste what they know. Vanilla lovers are fine grounding their reasons in their good taste. ha!
But seriously, values have their reasons. Some values lead to more suffering than others; some paths take long detours through confusion and isolation; some black magic paths even thrive off of the suffering of others. But they all end up connecting back with everything else. There are values I would like to see realized in the world, and reason distinguishes logical sequences so that we may get from one thing to another. Reason can find the preferred path, and often many value differences are just different contextual distortions of what could be a clear path.
But even given a clear logical path, not everyone has the same goals. Even people that want the same things in the end may want to take different paths, even if just for the scenery. Because every difference on the path makes all the difference, since it’s all the same in the very end. As Castaneda said, “all paths are the same; they all lead nowhere; therefore chose a path with heart”.
Making that distinction between truth and value is key , especially when counseling someone. I am always careful not to impose my values on others. But if I see a flaw in their reasoning, or a half conscious rationalization, or conflation between a choice in value and its supposed objective reasons, I try to tease out their awareness of this fact. Reason is grounded in the determinations of connections. Those connections may change or be constructed differently depending on context but they are not arbitrary. We all may have different values but those different values are expressions of a continuous structure of reasons. But as both Deleuze and Jane Roberts’ Seth explore beautifully, that structure is not a rational grid of causally locked determinations. Each value is an expression of a structure of problems that often hides the real reasons. In Deleuzian terms, the actual, as it settles into coded semiotic regimes hides the intensive processes that created it, and the virtual problems that structure it. Everything doesn’t just have a single reason for its existence because each thing is just one possible solution to an infinite topology of connected problems and universal questions that have no final solution.
“The concrete and the literal (to use your words) are just metaphors for what can be agreed on.”
I think this is problematic. We can agree on things that are very abstract or vague.
“People agree on many things (it would seem) but, as one of my mentors (Macksoud) once said, “I cannot tell you by what means persuasion is achieved.” It certainly remains a profound mystery to me. Perhaps no one ever persuades anyone of anything unless they are each already in the same place and then discover that to be the case (as when two people discover they both like vanilla). And it could be argued that language is incidental to that process. I can’t yet bring myself to believe that, however. 🙂 Even Macksoud (the man you cited—the one claiming language is less a means of communication that it is a means of stimulation) strongly believed in a difference between tastes and reasons. Without this distinction we have no basis for community other than things given, things analogous to skin color. That basis for community leads to tribalism. Can occult groups be distinguished from such tribalism? “
Persuasion is achieved in many different ways but there is always some kind of logic. Same with group cohesion. An occult group is no different than any other kind of group. There are tribalistic as well as inclusivistic groups of all sorts, spiritual, scientific, as well as ethnic. Hell there are even little stupid tribal wars in the NW between feminists. I know a feminist who wears a shirt that says KILL ALL TERFS. A TERF is a trans exclusive radical feminist. So here we have a violent tribal boundary masquerading as inclusivity. Whether it is social pressure, perceived righteousness, hope for happiness, or just promise of pleasure, there are always reasons even if the claim is that it is merely “preference”. The popularity of “preference” these days shows how badly value has been reduced to taste. Of course some people do seem to be persuaded by reasons that transcend petty desire but there are always components of value involved, even if the reason is framed as the only solution to a life or death problem. Liberalism has a major problem with these issues for sure. Reason is reduced to neutral facts and value is reduced to preference.
But politics is that way precisely because of the rhetorical framing and this was Socrates’ problem with the Sophists. At least with his dialectic you are trying to eliminate error and maybe help the person think through their options. You are not persuading them so much as helping them discover something. He doesn’t claim to possess knowledge which he is trying to convince people of. Because we indeed never really convince people of anything they haven’t understood, we only brainwash them until someone else comes along and “convinces” them of something else. This is also of supreme importance in counseling. The power of language should be used to help guide people to their own realizations in their own terms, not “spell” it out for them (a word that still resounds with its older meanings involved with magical spells).
In Deleuze’s alternative to the dialectic, the process of finding new paths to truth is even more pronounced than the dialectic. Basically I see three levels here.
1. In persuasion we have semiotic capture; we have the animal domination of one sex over another; we have the traditional hierarchies that merely reproduce the dominant codes through the medium of the other. The child of the two terms may express traces of the repressed element but they are captured again and again until another regime comes along.
2. In dialectic we have more rationalized reproduction: the two terms negate each other and the child negates its parents, but all terms are renewed through openness to the new. Though that novelty is conditioned by the negations and the new cycle continues within the realm of the original theses. The semiotic gap was never bridged and the child repeats the parent’s struggles, though more often now with a novel creative element that is struggling to emerge from within the insensive gradient between the two terms.
3. In Tantra, neither term is allowed to completely negate the other, nor is the gradient completely discharged. Instead it is relayed into ever new gradients of difference that feed new terms without the necessity of karmic recycling or the violence of discontinuous death and rebirth, which life depends on to refresh the stale systems unable to achieve continuity without semiotic gaps of destructive negation. That is its trajectory anyway.
“By what means are you persuaded of anything? And how is that different from being persuaded of everything anyone presents to you, in language or otherwise? Does any form of demonstration play a role? If so, what is it? If not, how do you avoid being fooled by others? Better yet, how do you avoid fooling yourself? (Does Russian or Chinese science regarding the paranormal persuade you because of a different world view? Does that amount to a different mode of demonstration? Why is their mode of demonstration better or worse than mainstream science?) At the end of the day, are we all just fools of one sort or another living (and perhaps killing) on the basis of our tastes without anything like reasons (keeping in mind that a “reason” is something that persuades others as much as it persuades you). It would seem you want to make the occult into something that requires no reasons for what you believe, or at best “reasons” that only persuade those who are already persuaded (these “reasons” being indistinguishable from the tastes and inclinations of tribes)”.
The standards in parapsychology may be questioned by skeptics but they are not really alternative science, despite the object of study. They try too hard in my opinion to conform to the standards and then get dismissed by the people they were trying to convince. The two people I mentioned are not even traditional parapsychologists. Puthoff was working for the CIA and military with his research—hardly alternative, in fact you don’t get much closer to State or Royal science, as Deleuze calls it. William Tiller’s experiments on the other hand are exhaustively mundane and repetitive and equally concrete and standard for science. He spent his entire life teaching and experimenting in material science at Stanford before he even dared test the weird stuff. Russia and China have the same scientific standards as us.
I am into what I consider alternative science—minor or nomad science as Deleuze calls it. But that is mostly the alternative theory of the marginalized academics and the scientific underground in several fields, which includes experimental electrical engineering, biophysics and some chemistry/alchemy, but nothing radically different in experimental standards. Just different ideas. Tiller has some alternative ideas too but they are mostly couched in standard physics terms.
But in any case I am never persuaded by anything. Yes of course, discrete decisions sometimes have to be made and I make them based on the model I have that certainly has elements of belief about how things really are or are going to be. That is the inescapability of metaphysics and what makes us linguistic creatures with powers beyond mere communication. But reason doesn’t persuade me to belief, it constructs a model of connections that I am constantly expanding and clarifying. I am all about constructing reasons and building connections to greater knowledge from all points of thought and culture.
You may not be persuaded, but I wouldn’t want you to be. I want there to be connections made, understanding more less achieved, but certainly thought produced. I don’t talk to people unless I think that is possible. I wouldn’t write if I didn’t think it was possible to make a new connection between me and the reader, between them and a new truth and between me and a new perspective on what I am trying to express. But I don’t court belief. If I seem to believe in far out speculative things or make a case for their reality, I do so not by appealing to anyone’s privileged access to truth, but by seeing all human experience as legitimate and in need of understanding. Nothing is outside of reason because there really is no outside. I think what I do because I think the world makes mores sense that way, and that kind of reasoning opens up a new world.
On a practical level though, I consult the I Ching all the time to optimize my model of situations, because I obsessively want to know if I am making any mistakes. Does it keep me from playing the fool? In the other popular but much inferior divination tool, Tarot, the Fool isn’t the dogmatic believer but the state of primordial innocence. If one only persists in foolishness, he would become wise, Blake said. It is in the fear of playing the fool that one begins to harden against learning towards an entrenched position from which we judge. In practice, this doesn’t mean believing everything one hears but trying to understand everyone and help them clarify their understanding as one does the same. I am often talking to people who are borderline schizophrenic in this town. I do often tell them when I don’t think something makes sense or when they say things that are interesting but need to be toned down for normal people; I try to help them make their worldview more coherent and translatable to other people. That is usually their biggest problem. Most conspiracy theories are no more absurd than fundamentalist Christianity or Big Bang cosmology, in my opinion—and I think infinitely better equipped to make sense of the world now than those common dogmas that gain their social currency on the strength of their persuasive ability to claim authority rather than on any meaningful use.
Right now I am really enjoying a book called the Conceptual Foundations of Field Theory. Even though I am going to argue in my book for a complete change in the conceptual foundations of current field theory, I appreciate the truths that have been discovered no matter how much I want to change them, that is, clarify them so they may be better understood. I will leave you with this quote from Newton: “Man may imagine things that are false but he can only understand things that are true.” I might change that in this context to “Man may be persuaded of things that are false, but can only understand things that are true”. That pretty much sums it up for me.
Not that I care for the strict dualism, but the point is great; and even though understanding can always be improved—it may even be changed at every point in the explicit model structure—to the extent there was understanding in the original formulation, no matter how hidden by the actualized values of idiosyncratic taste, it is genuine. The discrete nature of falsehood is nothing but a lack of understanding, a lack of connection, a virtual continuity covered over by the black magic of persuasion—or constructs over the abyss where their source and and power is divested from the self onto an seperate world. But nothing real or true is ever lost and everything is an immortal truth more or less obscured. The child survives in the man, one man in another; one idea in a thousand, a thousand ideas in a single song.