Thoughts On the Eve of a New Year

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This has been a very troubling year in many ways. The American presidential politicking has been nauseating. I don’t believe I’ve seen anything like it in my lifetime. Xenophobia and racism seem to be rearing their atrocious heads in an entirely new way. Not to mention those who refuse to accept the facts concerning global warming, world hunger, homelessness, and the health-care crisis. I think I have come to the realization that homo sapiens sapiens may not be able to extricate itself from the destruction it has caused on this precious planet. Right now, there is nothing more important to our leaders than corporate profit. I see no signs this will change in the near future. In the past, I have been optimistic. I have written extensively on this blog of the Anima Mundi and her quest for individuation, but that still continues. It’s just that we may not be the human species that assists her in bringing it to pass.

What if evolution needs to provide an entirely new species of human to solve the issues that threaten our survival? Scary thought, I must say, but isn’t this the way evolution works? What give us the right to think we are the final, perfected human species? The new human species will receive a widening of consciousness. The folly of our mindset will appear as obvious to them as the Neanderthals’ consciousness does to us. Utopia has never been possible with our species due to our selfishness, and war-like nature. But the new human will have overcome these, and may be able to bring about a new paradise on earth.

Am I just dreaming, or this possible? Nietzsche called this new human Ubermensch, or Overman. Jean Gebser’s integrative vision calls it the “integral” mode of consciousness, or homo integralis.

Research from the Neanderthal Genome Project has found that Neanderthals and modern humans share DNA, meaning they were contemporaneous and interbred about 50,000 years ago. Are there examples of homo integralis on the earth right now? If so, this is very positive for the future of our planet.

As each day passes, we see more and more evidence that mankind has come to the end of its rope. Mass shootings, the police shooting unarmed people, insatiable greed, government corruption, the loss of civil rights, etc. My fellow-blogger, Scott Preston, puts it this way:

…the present crisis is a crisis of consciousness. It’s a crisis of homo sapiens. The human species is in the process of negating itself, whether it understands this dynamic or not. And the abyss or precipice is that this “deconstruction” may indeed become a literal self-annihilation, a self-extinction (Planetary Man, Global Soul, by Scott Preston).

Scott is describing our current age as one in which ego-consciousness is being broken down and deconstructed. The overinflated ego of homo sapiens sapiens is an evolutionary mistake that must be corrected. The natural selective “choice” that inclined man down the path of an unbound ego will be rejected as being too dangerous to man’s survival.

Now, as the new year unfolds before us, I am asking myself, “What can I do here and now to improve our world?”

Happy New Year to you all!

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Truth and Lies, Part II

Yesterday, I discussed Nietzsche’s idea of truth and lie, the latter being the subversion of mankind’s conventional naming system. Unconsciously, we lie to ourselves and to each other because we have forgotten that the names of things are not the same as the original experience of the things themselves. The meaning of liar, of course, is relative, according to one’s perception. From the point of view of the masses, a liar is one who breaks with the accepted convention of not believing that language really describes reality. From Nietzsche’s perspective, we are all liars, since, to exist socially, we all use language.

To reiterate, what exactly is truth? From the perspective of the usual conceptual framework, Nietzsche believes it to be

A movable host of metaphors, metonymies, and; anthropomorphisms: in short, a sum of human relations which have been poetically and rhetorically intensified, transferred, and embellished, and which, after long usage, seem to a people to be fixed, canonical, and binding.

The experience of the “mass of images” originally flowing from the human imagination, like lava from an erupting volcano, was replaced at some point in the history of consciousness with the cushy “firmness” and “security” of an “invincible faith,” the lie that these images are the things themselves. Mankind has even forgotten “that he himself is an artistically creating subject.” In this sentence, Nietzsche has in mind an authentic sense of truth. Since “the drive toward the formation of metaphors is the fundamental human drive,” the practice of science and mathematics (take heed, all you STEM supporters) will not vanquish and satisfy it. The closest we will come to authentic truth is to engage in myth and art. Even if some of us are scientists, take time for these magical areas of your life. Otherwise, we really are living a lie, and denying that we are creators. The drive to form metaphors

continually confuses the conceptual categories and cells by bringing forward new transferences, metaphors, and metonymies. It continually manifests an ardent desire to refashion the world which presents itself to waking man, so that it will be as colorful, irregular, lacking in results and coherence, charming, and eternally new as the world of dreams. Indeed, it is only by means of the rigid and regular web of concepts that the waking man clearly sees that he is awake; and it is precisely because of this that he sometimes thinks that he must be dreaming when this web of concepts is torn by art.

Life should not be ruled by ratiocination, quantification, and cool logic. To be replete with meaning, life should be experienced as a dream, as a myth, with all the wonders and miracles that occur in dreams and myths. And please don’t take this literally, friends. We are discussing the drive to create metaphors.

…because of the way that myth takes it for granted that miracles are always happening, the waking life of a mythically inspired people, the ancient Greeks, for instance, more closely resembles a dream than it does the waking world of a scientifically disenchanted thinker. When every tree can suddenly speak as a nymph, when a god in the shape of a bull can drag away maidens, when even the goddess Athena herself is suddenly seen in the company of Peisastratus driving through the market place of Athens with a beautiful team of horses-and this is what the honest Athenian believed- then, as in a dream, anything is possible at each moment, and all of nature swarms around man as if it were nothing but a masquerade of the gods, who were merely amusing themselves by deceiving men in all these shapes.

Such a life sets up a constant stream of creation and possibilities. Anything is possible. I think this is the kind of life we have discussed before, in the work of Jung, and Hillman. It is the dynamic flow of soul. It is what Gebser calls the “new consciousness.”

When engaged in art and myth-making, “that master of deception, the intellect, is free; it is released from its former slavery and celebrates its Saturnalia.” Now, guided by intuitions, the free intellect smashes the “framework and planking of concepts,” and then creatively reconstructs it in strange, new ways.  Think of a few of the creative movements that erupted not too long after Nietzsche’s death: Expressionism, Surrealism, and Dada. These are examples of ways the old conceptual framework was smashed and reconstructed, as if reality were so much clay we may fashion using our imaginations.

This is the life I want to live. I hope you choose to, as well. Happy Saturnalia!

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Truth and Lies, Part I

What is Truth, by Nikolai Ge

 

This is a continuation of thoughts related to Nietzsche’s watershed essay, On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense.

I left off yesterday discussing Nietzsche’s assertion that man invented language as a “binding designation,” to bring us as close to “pure truth” as we can get.

…a uniformly valid and binding designation is invented for things, and this legislation of language likewise establishes the first laws of truth. For the contrast between truth and lie arises here for the first time. The liar is a person who uses the valid designations, the words, in order to make something which is unreal appear to be real (Nietzsche, On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense).

Man invented the words of languages as “valid designations” of truth. By accepting these,

…we believe that we know something about the things themselves when we speak of trees, colors, snow, and flowers; and yet we possess nothing but metaphors for things–metaphors which correspond in no way to the original entities .

The words we use have originated by equating things that are different. Take snowflakes, for example. Every snowflake is unique, yet we designate all snowflakes by the word, snowflake. This word is not the true thing, but merely a designator of similarities. The similarities of all snowflakes leads to the invention of forms, as in Plato’s philosophy, where, in a separate world somewhere, there exists a perfect snowflake. Of course, this sort of mental meandering sets up a state of dualism, and brings about a plethora of other philosophical problems, which this short article cannot deal with.

When words are created to designate “truths,” there arises a necessary contrast between truth and lie. But a liar is not defined in the manner in which we are accustomed to. Nietzsche tells us that a liar is someone “who uses the valid designations, the words, in order to make something which is unreal appear to be real.” Therefore, we are all liars, by necessity, since all of us use the valid designations. We “lie according to a fixed convention, to lie with the herd and in a manner binding upon everyone” So, we perform our “duty which society imposes in order to exist: to be truthful means to employ the usual metaphors.” Furthermore, mankind

…forgets that this is the way things stand for him. Thus he lies in the manner indicated, unconsciously and in accordance with habits which are centuries’ old; and precisely by means of this unconsciousness and forgetfulness he arrives at his sense of truth.

The ramifications of Nietzsche’s thought in this essay are staggering. His ideas, here, were revolutionary in his day. It was a total break with the epistemologies presented prior to 1873. We arrive at our sense of truth via unconscious mendacity, because we have forgotten that this is simply the way things are. When humans begin to use language, they lay aside all intuitions and immediate impressions of the world around him, placing “his behavior under the control of abstractions.” The reducing of images into concepts now creates a totally new world of knowledge:

Everything which distinguishes man from the animals depends upon this ability to volatilize perceptual metaphors in a schema, and thus to dissolve an image into a concept. For something is possible in the realm of these schemata which could never be achieved with the vivid first impressions: the construction of a pyramidal order according to castes and degrees, the creation of a new world of laws, privileges, subordinations, and clearly marked boundaries-a new world, one which now confronts that other vivid world of first impressions as more solid, more universal, better known, and more human than the immediately perceived world, and thus as the regulative and imperative world.

By this order, we have landed on the shores of this new world of cool logic, mathematics, the rational, and, finally, Gebser’s deficient mode of rational consciousness, of which we are now reaping the whirlwind. The descent of rational man began when we accepted the methodology of arriving at truth by lying. It is lying because we accept, as absolutely true, things which are not absolutely true. Nietzsche uses the example of the word, mammal:

If I make up the definition of a mammal, and then, after inspecting a camel, declare “look, a mammal’ I have indeed brought a truth to light in this way, but it is a truth of limited value. That is to say, it is a thoroughly anthropomorphic truth which contains not a single point which would be “true in itself” or really and universally valid apart from man.

Such mendacity arises from viewing man as the center of the universe, as if nature were meant to serve us. Nietzsche says, “what the investigator of such truths is seeking is only the metamorphosis of the world into man.” The primary error we make is believing that the designated metaphors are true in themselves.

Due to this sort of dissimulation, we are now enmeshed in a

…conceptual crap game [where] “truth” means using every die in the designated manner, counting its spots accurately, fashioning the right categories, and never violating the order of caste and class rank.

More later………..

 

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Clever Beasts, Part II

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My previous article discussed the initial paragraphs of Nietzsche’s essay, On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense. I left off with his conclusion that man is “deeply immersed in illusions and in dream images…” The manner in which the intellect operates is characterized by deception, both of others and of ourselves. We perceive things and think we are seeing them as they are in themselves, but this is a lie fashioned by our minds. It is a mechanism of self-preservation, according to Nietzsche. Since nature has chosen to fashion mankind such that we do not wage the battle for existence with horns or with the sharp teeth of beasts of prey,” dissimulation, as an art, has become highly acute in us. With this in mind, Nietzsche concludes that “there is almost nothing which is less comprehensible than how an honest and pure drive for truth could have arisen among” us. But it did somehow arise, for there are those among us who possess this drive, or else I would not be penning this short article. Therefore,

What does man actually know about himself? Is he, indeed, ever able to perceive himself completely, as if laid out in a lighted display case? Does nature not conceal most things from him-even concerning his own body-in order to confine and lock him within a proud, deceptive consciousness, aloof from the coils of the bowels, the rapid flow of the blood stream, and the intricate quivering of the fibers! She threw away the key. And woe to that fatal curiosity which might one day have the power to peer out and down through a crack in the chamber of consciousness and then suspect that man is sustained in the indifference of his ignorance by that which is pitiless, greedy, insatiable, and murderous-as if hanging in dreams on the back of a tiger. Given this situation, where in the world could the drive for truth have come from?

So, what do we really know about ourselves? Can we know ourselves completely? It was Heraclitus who first said, Nature loves to hide (Fragment 10, trans, by G.W.T. Patrick). Nature does, indeed, conceal most things from us, but not all things. Even though it seems nature confines us “within a proud, deceptive consciousness,” this does not mean we must remain in this state. Remember what Heraclitus said, “Into the same river you could not step twice” (ibid.). Yes, nature does conceal itself, but it also changes constantly. This infers we are not locked within a deceptive consciousness. In the end, it may mean we cannot completely know ourselves, but we might be able “to peer out and down through a crack in the chamber of consciousness.” There is a drive for truth. We know this beyond all doubt. This is not one of our self-deceptions.

There is an initial step toward the “truth drive” we must understand. Since we cannot know truth in and of itself, something must be invented that represents truth: “That is to say, a uniformly valid and binding designation is invented for things, and this legislation of language likewise establishes the first laws of truth.” In other words, truth can be conveyed, albeit in a limited fashion, through language. The thing-in-itself, which Nietzsche calls “pure truth,” is incomprehensible, and “not in the least worth striving for” (Nietzsche, at this point in his career, was still adhering to the Kantian distinction of phenomenon and noumenon; he later rejected it and overcame metaphysical dualism). The creator of languages only desires to demonstrate “the relations of things to men, and for expressing these relations he lays hold of the boldest metaphors.” And now we come to a fascinating passage:

…we believe that we know something about the things themselves when we speak of trees, colors, snow, and flowers; and yet we possess nothing but metaphors for things–metaphors which correspond in no way to the original entities. In the same way that the sound appears as a sand figure, so the mysterious X of the thing in itself first appears as a nerve stimulus, then as an image, and finally as a sound. Thus the genesis of language does not proceed logically in any case, and all the material within and with which the man of truth, the scientist, and the philosopher later work and build, if not derived from never-never land, is a least not derived from the essence of things.

If you think about this, Nietzsche is exactly correct. The initial entity we deal with in our process of knowing is the image. Jung also believed this, as did James Hillman:

In the beginning is the image; first imagination then perception; first fantasy then reality…Man is primarily an image-maker and our psychic substance consists of images; our being is imaginal being, an existence in imagination. We are indeed such stuff as dreams are made on (James Hillman, Re-Visioning Psychology, p. 23).

Prior to our perceiving anything in this world, there are images that create our reality. Jung said, “The psyche creates reality every day.” Our consciousness is totally dependent upon this vast storehouse of images we call soul. Soul is image and image is soul. The only way we experience anything in this world is because of our ability to imagine. We imagine and create constantly. Our consciousness would not exist without images. Images are the irreducible elements inherent in all things.

Nietzsche is referring to the metaphors of language, i.e. words. A metaphor begins, perhaps, as a nerve stimulus, then as a picture in the mind, then as a sound. These sounds become words in many different forms, according to one’s language and culture. I find it interesting that Carl Jung likened the archetypes to instincts. Images originate in the body, in human Being (in the Heideggerian sense). They come from the instincts/archetypes. These are the sources of all knowledge, in my opinion.

I will continue with this line of inquiry in my next article.

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Clever Beasts, Part I

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Once upon a time, in some out of the way corner of that universe which is dispersed into numberless twinkling solar systems, there was a star upon which clever beasts invented knowing. That was the most arrogant and mendacious minute of “world history,” but nevertheless, it was only a minute. After nature had drawn a few breaths, the star cooled and congealed, and the clever beasts had to die. One might invent such a fable, and yet he still would not have adequately illustrated how miserable, how shadowy and transient, how aimless and arbitrary the human intellect looks within nature. There were eternities during which it did not exist. And when it is all over with the human intellect, nothing will have happened. For this intellect has no additional mission which would lead it beyond human life. Rather, it is human, and only its possessor and begetter takes it so solemnly-as though the world’s axis turned within it. But if we could communicate with the gnat, we would learn that he likewise flies through the air with the same solemnity, that he feels the flying center of the universe within himself. There is nothing so reprehensible and unimportant in nature that it would not immediately swell up like a balloon at the slightest puff of this power of knowing. And just as every porter wants to have an admirer, so even the proudest of men, the philosopher, supposes that he sees on all sides the eyes of the universe telescopically focused upon his action and thought (F. Nietzsche, On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense, 1873).

This is quite an humbling statement from our friend, Nietzsche; it sets the seemingly all-knowing scientist and philosopher in his or her proper place. That “mendacious minute of world history,” in which the clever beast invents the art of knowing, may be temporal, even though we pompously view it as the beginning of something unending. The believer in Platonic Idealism will violently rail against these statements, for this violates every precept of that doctrine. Likewise, Christians will hurl accusations of heresy at the mere mention that the art of knowing will dissipate with the death of that great star. Since it created the gathering of knowledge, humanity believes itself to be the center and master of the universe. This is, of course, the rankest form of hubris.

If you read on in the essay, Nietzsche goes on to tell us, “The pride connected with knowing and sensing lies like a blinding fog over the eyes and senses of men, thus deceiving them concerning the value of existence” (ibid.). An extreme pretentiousness has begotten a form of deception that blinds us entirely to the nature of existence and truth. “As a means for the preserving of the individual, the intellect unfolds its principle powers in dissimulation” (ibid.). Man is the master of dissimulation. This is without a doubt, symptomatic of the deficient form of the mental-rational mode of consciousness, spoken of by Jean Gebser.

Deception, flattering, lying, deluding, talking behind the back, putting up a false front, living in borrowed splendor, wearing a mask, hiding behind convention, playing a role for others and for oneself-in short, a continuous fluttering around the solitary flame of vanity-is so much the rule and the law among men that there is almost nothing which is less comprehensible than how an honest and pure drive for truth could have arisen among them (ibid.). 

This is our culture in a nutshell. These are the impediments that prevent any form of individuation, any form of deepening consciousness. We will not profit by a return to a purer, more enlightened era; mankind has been like this since the birth of the intellect. Some future Utopia will not solve our problems either.

They are deeply immersed in illusions and in dream images; their eyes merely glide over the surface of things and see “forms.” Their senses nowhere lead to truth; on the contrary, they are content to receive stimuli and, as it were, to engage in a groping game on the backs of things (ibid).

Empirical data and the quantifiable will not be our saviors. While beneficial to humanity in some ways, science is still living in that deep, dense fog that causes it to blindly grope in the darkness.

Politicians are the most deceived, and most deceiving, group of all humans. While “normal” people engage daily in dissimulation to a certain extent, according to their natures, politicians are absolute masters of deception, possessing finely honed words of rhetoric designed to cause the bleating sheep who follow them to do their bidding, while they look on approvingly. The most mendacious among them move to the head of the herd. These have the ability to deceive the most sheep into voting for them. One of their primary tactics is demagoguery. By preaching xenophobia and racism, and thereby inflaming the passions of the masses, their agenda is furthered.

But this begs the question, Who, among us, knows? If mankind is blinded by hubris because we possess intellect, of what good is the quest for truth, and where did the desire even originate in the first place?

More to come…

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