PSI-20: Post Stroke Impressions No. 20
Western society seen as a society that ‘intellectually constructs its own reality’ (i.e. its own intellectual pseudo-reality)
This ‘reality inventing view’ can be understood by juxtaposing the Newtonian concept of nature with the modern physics understanding of the ‘real world of our actual relational experience’ as relational forms in a transforming relational continuum. The latter understanding comes to us through our inclusional relational experience, as in Taoism (inclusion in the ‘Tao’) and as in the Heraclitean worldview wherein ‘everything is in flux’ (every form is a relational form within the flow; aka an ‘apparition’).
In the world understood as ‘transformation’ —i.e. as a purely relational dynamic,— the cognitive traction based on notional locally existing things-in-themselves and their action-authoring dynamics is not available. What is ‘missing’ in the relational understanding coming directly from our experience of inclusion in the transforming relational continuum is the abstract concepts of ‘being’ (things-in-themselves) and ‘authoring’ (locally instantiated creative ‘sourcing’ or ‘sorcery’).
In the Western culture, language and grammar are used by the intellect to compensate for the absence, in the physical reality of our actual relational experience, of ‘real’ ‘things-that-be’ with self-instantiating ‘authoring powers’. Western language and grammar is architectured to deliver cognitive impressions of ‘being’ (through ‘naming’) and ‘authoring’ through grammatical constructs; e.g. the purely relational ‘apparition’ of the whorl in flow takes on ‘being’ when we ‘name’ it ‘Katrina’. Once this naming imputes persisting thing-in-itself ‘being’ to the purely relational ‘apparition’, we can use the ‘name’ together with ‘grammar’, to craft the notion of self-authored development and behaviour to the newly anointed ‘thing-in-itself’; e.g. ‘Katrina is growing larger and stronger’, … ‘Katrina is headed for the Gulf Coast’, … ‘Katrina is devastating New Orleans’, … ‘Katrina is weakening and dissipating’.
What we understand from our experience as relational forms in a transforming relational continuum [the ‘real world of our actual experience’] can be intellectually recast, thanks to language and grammar, as a world inhabited by ‘things-in-themselves’ (beings) grammatically (i.e. abstractly) endowed with powers of authoring their own development and behaviour. Starting from this intellectually contrived foundation, Western culture manufactures its own ‘realities’.
Manufacturing a cognitive/intellectual reality featuring ‘things-in-themselves’, notionally endowed with the powers of authoring their own development and behaviour, characterizes Western culture.
This understanding is explored by Paul Watzlawick in ‘The Invented Reality’;
“Common sense suggests that reality can be discovered. In contrast, constructivism postulates that what we call reality is a personal interpretation, a particular way of looking at the world acquired through communication. Reality is, therefore, not discovered, but literally invented” — Paul Watzlawick
The invented reality is cognitively/intellectually constructed through the use of language-based abstraction; e.g. there is no such thing as ‘production’ in a transforming relational continuum; i.e. in the world as understood by modern physics, indigenous aboriginal culture, Taoism, Advaita Vedanta, but ‘production’, in Western culture, is accepted by the intellect as a real dynamic that can contribute to our understanding of ‘the way the world works’.
In the real world of our actual experience as relational forms within the transforming relational continuum (‘apparitions’), there is no such thing as ‘authoring’ as suggested by the word ‘production’ as used in Western economic rhetoric, nor is there any such thing as re-production’ as employed in the Western pre-modern science of biology. The concept of ‘being’ derives solely from ‘naming’ (language’); i.e. ‘being’ is intellectual abstraction that supports the intellectual abstractions of ‘authoring’ and ‘production’. All of this collapses with the collapse of ‘being’ (i.e. the non-assuming of ‘being’) as in modern physics, indigenous aboriginal and Taoist understanding of the world/reality.
That is, for example; …’reproduction’ and ‘production’ are abstract concepts that piggy-back, cognitively, on the abstract language and grammar based concepts of ‘being’ and ‘authoring’. These language and grammar based intellectual concepts have no support from the reality of our actual relational experience. They are abstractions that can be helpful in building a ‘Wittgenstein ladder’ to ‘lift’ out understanding from a beings-that-author-actions-amd-developments basis to an inherently relational-transformational understanding.
This major cognitive gap between the Western intellectual ‘beings-that-author-actions-and-developments’ worldview and the understanding of the world in relational-experiential terms crops up continually in Western philosophical investigations, as explored by systems scientists Martine Dodds Taljaard and György Jaros via the phenomenon of ‘suboptimization’.
‘Suboptimization’ refers to the practice of improving the nominal ‘performance’ of a ‘system’ using the assumption that ‘the system’ is ‘independent’ of the ‘suprasystem’ it is included in [every ‘system’ is included in a ‘suprasystem’, ultimately in ‘the world’ or the relational continuum]. For example, a project may to be launched to improve the production of water from a privately owned well which is on privately owned property. This project may be successful and according to plan, however, the increased production of water may be at the expense of the water production from other wells depending on the same aquifer. ‘Optimization’ of a system that is assumed to be ‘independent’ may in fact be suboptimization of the overall system. This is a general problem in Western culture ‘thinking’ wherein ‘naming’ is used to impute ‘being’ to forms that are inherently relational and in no way ‘independently existing’.
The Name of the Devil is Suboptimization’
“The above aphorism, attributed to Kenneth Boulding, points to the inherent weakness characterizing the mindset and socio‐economic, political, educational and managerial practices of Western Industrial society as it developed over the past 300 years. It has its basis in the analytic‐reductionistic scientific paradigm, which, despite the remarkable technological applications it spawned, is inappropriate, conflict‐generating and dysfunctional in a world characterized by global interconnectedness and mutual interdependence …” — György Jaros and Martine Dodds-Taljaard
This systems sciences critique of what is ‘standard practice’ in Western mainstream social dynamics has never been refuted, it is simply ignored. The ignoring derives from what has been termed in complexity theory ‘lock-in’ by way of ‘high switching costs’;
In Brian Arthur’s 1989 paper, ‘Competing Technologies’, Increasing Returns and Lock-in by Historical Events, he states;
“A technology that by chance gains an early lead in adoption may eventually ‘corner the market’ of potential adopters, with the other technologies becoming locked out.”
This ‘lock-in’ phenomenon is evident in the case of the popular assumption of the ‘reality’ of ‘being’ as imputed by ‘naming’. As in the case of economic lock-in, the ‘switching costs’ to revert to a more sensible (relational) understanding may be prohibitive.
Western society, today, is so deeply ‘locked in’ to the notional ‘beings’-with-‘authoring powers’ based intellectual (language and grammar constructed) ‘pseudo-reality’ that is serving as Western society’s ‘operative reality’ that the ‘switching costs’ have become massive. For example, what would it take for Western culture to transition to a ‘relations-based’ culture that acknowledges neither ‘being’ nor ‘being-based authoring’ as in indigenous aboriginal culture? That is, what would it take for Western culture to transform in such a manner that its understanding of reality accords with modern physics in the same sense that aboriginal culture understanding accords with modern physics?
A few months before his death, Bohm met with a number of Algonkian speakers and was struck by the perfect bridge between their language and worldview and his own exploratory philosophy. What to Bohm had been major breakthroughs in human thought — quantum theory, relativity, his implicate order and rheomode – were part of the everyday life and speech of the Blackfoot, Mic Maq, Cree and Ojibwaj.” – F. David Peat, ‘Blackfoot Physics’
What we are looking at here is the ‘magnitude of the ‘switching costs’ that associate with Western culture’s ‘lock-in’ to belief in the ‘reality’ of the abstractions of ‘being’ and ‘being-based authoring’.
At the top of the list of ‘lock-in’ and ‘switching costs’ is the ‘ego-based hold’ of people who have been raised into positions of great public-supported authority in Western society on the basis of being credited with authoring major ‘suboptimization’ achievements. This ‘class of person’ has been empowered in Western society to differentially reward those who contribute most to ‘authoring’ improvements to the collective well-being. This system of rewards fuels the growth of suboptimization and entrenches in the power structure those who contribute to it.
Meanwhile, it is a Western cultural no-no to criticize the ‘suboptimizing authorities who are the icons of ‘success’ in Western society and/or to replace them with those who would cultivate relational harmony (a non-being-based worldview) as the organizing ethic rather than suboptimization (which is essentially fuelled by a Darwinian ‘survival of the fittest’ ethic). As Henri Laborit noted on this topic in his book ‘La Novelle Grille’ (the new [relational] framework);
‘We’ who explore such topics, cannot easily share them because (a) they do not fit into the typical dinner conversation format of our present culture, since to express them takes a lot of relational connections that can’t fit into a rapid-fire repartee, and (b) because the humanism implicit in trying to share them is not seen as “a humanism of real worth” since it undermines, besmirches or topples the esteemed icons, pillars of society, founding fathers, and celebrities of the culture-in-place. – Henri Laborit, ‘La Nouvelle Grille’
This is not really an issue of the type ‘does the man make the times or do the times make the man’ since that is a reappearance of the ‘nature’ – ‘nurture’ paradox (reality levels 3 and 2). In other words, it is NOT a question of who or what we give authorship credit to, … it is instead the employing of the concept of ‘authorship’ which has no place in the world understood (as in modern physics) as a transforming relational continuum.
Similarly, the notion of the Western culture giving disproportionate credit to the authoring powers of men at the expense of women is misdirected; i.e. the criticism should instead target the abstract concept of ‘authoring power’ which has no place in a transforming relational continuum.
Does the male ‘whorl’ author the enveloping flow that wraps concentrically around it, or does flow inductively author the whorl? That is, is Newton’s ‘old age’ view on this (aka ‘nature’) correct or is Barbara Marx Hubbard’s ‘new age’ view on this (aka ‘nurture’) correct? Here again in this nature or nurture dichotomy arises the common error of first assuming the existence of ‘authoring power’. There is no authoring power in a transforming relational continuum. The assumption of authoring power (‘sourcery’) is intellectual abstraction deriving from Western culture language and grammar.
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In Western culture, there has been a shift in values away from relational values to being-based values.
This shift in values is induced and continually reinforced by language and grammar which reduces the relational dynamics of our actual experience, to language-stimulated intellectual ‘producer-product’ terms. The ‘producer-product’ cognitive model is found in Aristotle’s ‘acorn-to-oak-tree’ analogy for ‘development’ aka ‘authoring’, and the common (Western culture) belief in ‘authoring’ is the problem since there is no ‘authoring’ in a transforming relational continuum.
With respect to ‘lock-in’ and ‘high switching costs’, the Western acculturated belief in the language-and-grammar instantiated ‘producer-product’ cognitive model makes this point very well; i.e. the ‘ego’ draws from the personal sense of ‘authorship’ in the ‘being’-that-‘authors’ aka ‘producer-product’ imagery. In ‘visualizing’ the ‘acorn’ as the ‘author’ of the ‘oak tree’, we ‘eclipse from cognition’, the greater reality of an authorless transforming relational continuum in which we are ‘relational features’ or ‘apparitions’ as in Schroedinger’s (and others) modern physics based understanding.
The ‘lock-in’ and ‘high switching costs’ in the Western culture ‘producer-product’ worldview, are rooted directly in the ‘ego’ as is inflated by cultural cultivating of the notion that we, as individuals, are the authors (producers) of ‘products’ such as houses, cities, highways etc (all of which are, in reality, relational forms in the transforming relational continuum).
Note that such transient relational forms are only given ‘being’ abstractly, by ‘naming’. Even an evidently purely relational form such as a hurricane can be outfitted in the producer-product garb simply by ‘naming’ the form so as to impute persisting existence or ‘being’ to it, further entrenching (in cognition) this abstract assignment of ‘being’ with the use of grammar that endows the notional ‘being’ with the powers of ‘authoring’. From there comes the producer-product impression that feeds the ego and builds social hierarchy.
This abstract understanding (which currently enjoys ‘serious lock-in’) ‘removes us’, as far as the Western cultural understanding goes, from our inherent inclusion within the transforming relational continuum and, by means of language and grammar, abstractly re-establishes us as the jumpstart ‘producer’ (author) of ‘products’ or ‘developments’ which are themselves ‘synthetically reified’ by the ‘dark art’ of ‘naming’ that is the basis of ‘sourcery’. That is, the ‘producer-product’ ‘sourcery’ (authoring) model can either work in one’s favour or get one burned at the stake (figuratively if no longer literally) in the Western culture. It serves as a current operative ‘device’ for raising or lowering the social status of participants in Western culture. Meanwhile, the ‘producer-product’ model is language-and-grammar based abstraction that is unsupported by our real-life relational experience. Nevertheless, as Giordano Bruno observed on his way to be burned at the stake in the Campo dei Fiori in Rome in 1600, … “the majority has no monopoly on the truth”.
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EPILOGUE: THE TOPOLOGY OF HEALING THE SPLIT SELF
The ‘self-splitting’ that has become part of Western culture comes via the two ‘views of reality’ described by the ‘nature’ and ‘nurture’ dichotomy. These are put into overall context in Erich Jantsch’s three-part model of reality wherein ‘nature’ (level 3, the lowest [most oversimplified] level of conceptualizing reality, and ‘nurture’ (level 2, the second lowest [second most oversimplified] level of conceptualizing reality] fall beneath the purely relational experience based ‘appearances’ (level 1) conceptualizing of reality.
Western culture cultivates tendencies to embrace either the ‘nature’ or ‘nurture’ modes of ‘reality conceptualizing’, both of which employ the abstract concepts of ‘being’ with ‘authoring power’. The topological differences are that while ‘nature’ would have one envisage the ‘self’ as divided from the ‘environment’ in the manner of a strongly centrally coherent whorl in flow wherein the whorl is ‘sourcing’ the flow as in ‘old age’ Western views, ‘nurture’ would have us envisage the ‘self’ as the dark dispersed outer reaches of the flow that are perceived as sourcing the whorl [e.g. as in the ‘new age’ views of a Barbara Marx Hubbard and/or Marianne Williamson].
Modern physics, indigenous aboriginal and Taoist culture models of reality fundamentally differ in that they do not assume the foundation of ‘beings’ or ‘things-in-themselves’ with ‘authoring powers’ as in the Western culture ‘nature’ -and-‘nurture’ based ‘invented realities’.
What is deemed ‘normal’ in Western culture comes from abstractly splitting apart self and other in contradiction to our actual relational experience as relational forms within the transforming relational continuum (as acknowledged in modern physics, indigenous aboriginal and Taoist cultures). Western culture’s failure to ground one’s ‘operative reality’ in relational experience is the source of pervasive ‘incoherence’ in the social dynamic.
“What we call ‘normal’ is a product of repression, denial, splitting, projection, introjection and other forms of destructive action on experience.” – R. D. Laing
Bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, rather than being where the ‘splitting’ begins, is a Western culture spawned ‘reaction’ to the splitting ‘built into’ what Western culture promotes as the ‘normal reality’ (the ‘nature’ and/or ‘nurture’ pseudo-realities).
The psychological incoherence that is spawned wherein the individual’s sense of self splits into two in an attempt to ‘heal the psychological splitting apart of self-and-other’ infused by the Western culture does not ‘resolve the ‘splitting’ since it retains the use of the Western culture beliefs in ‘being’ and ‘authoring’ which are the very source of the psychological dysfunction. Without divesting oneself of the abstractions of ‘being’ and ‘authoring’, the person suffering from bipolar disorder or schizophrenia can only come up with a scheme for restoring the culturally divided self which involves ‘inventing’ and forming a union with an imagined alter-self as a perhaps problematic or perhaps loving ‘other’ that restores the sought-after ‘wholeness’ (‘Deus Absconditus?) that has ‘gone missing’ in the self-other splitting process of Western acculturation.
There is no ‘forward path out’ of such bipolar or schizophrenic psychosis once one has entered into it; i.e. one must first ‘backtrack’ by restoring the dysfunctional Western divided self psychology that is the Western culture ‘normality’ [the default base in Western acculturation] before one can ‘re-awaken’ the cognitive wherewithal to embark on the very different path of understanding that is NOT based on ‘being’ and ‘authoring’. That is, building an ‘invented reality’ on the basis of ‘being’ and ‘authoring’ is inherently lacking in the ‘cognitive dimensionality’ that is needed for purely relational understanding, as illustrated in ‘the surprise version of the game of Twenty Questions’ (exemplary of modern physics as described by Geoffrey Chew and John Wheeler et al). Such ‘cognitive dimensionality’ draws directly from the reality of relational experience that is the primary reality in indigenous aboriginal culture and/or Taoism and Advaita Vedanta, consistent with the relational reality of modern physics wherein relational forms in nature are understood as ‘appearances’ within the flow, rather than as ‘beings’ [name-instantiated abstractions] with self-sourcing/authoring powers’.
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“Imagine there’s no countries; it’s easy if you try.” — John Lennon, Yoko One, ‘Imagine’
Many people are in resonance with John and Yoko in this reminder that Western culture is, as Paul Watzlawick suggests, ‘Inventing Reality’ by using ‘naming’ to impute ‘being’ (persisting existence) to relational forms within the transforming relational continuum, and by using grammar to notionally endow such notional ‘beings’ with the notional ‘power of authorship’. Nevertheless, the majority of Western culture adherents persist in relying on this dysfunctional ‘being’ and ‘authoring’ based ‘invented reality’ because of what is known in the science of ‘complexity’ as ‘lock-in’ due to ‘high switching costs. In this case, the ‘brakes’ on ‘switching’ are the egos of those who have laid claim to ‘the power of authorship’; i.e. in Henri Laborit’s words; “the esteemed icons, pillars of society, founding fathers, and celebrities of the culture-in-place”.