This book presents authentic educational experience as the actualization of a potential within a phenomenological field
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This book explores, and problematizes, what it means to be ‘critical’ in education research. Drawing together chapters f
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Anglo-Saxons valued education yet understood how precarious it could be, alternately bolstered and undermined by fear, d
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Located in the domain of cultural politics, the book with rich ethnographical data from Mizoram, a lesser known and unde
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This book critically explores urgent questions that researchers, educators, and policy makers need to consider and addre
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Argues that the economic system itself is culpable in maintaining our oppressive educational status quo. Through an anal
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Argues that the schools of the (mostly) Protestant missionaries in Bengal did not secularize Bengali society.
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Table of contents :
Front Matter ....Pages i-xiii
Somatic Engagements: An Introduction (Kaustuv Roy)....Pages 1-34
Meditations on Commonsense (Kaustuv Roy)....Pages 35-63
The Eyes of the Heart (Kaustuv Roy)....Pages 65-90
Phenomenology of the Twice-Born (Kaustuv Roy)....Pages 91-121
Pedagogy of the Twice-Born (Kaustuv Roy)....Pages 123-150
Praxis of the Twice-Born (Kaustuv Roy)....Pages 151-179
Conclusion: Orbits of Intensity (Kaustuv Roy)....Pages 181-199
Back Matter ....Pages 201-205
Reincarnating Experience in Education A Pedagogy of the Twice-Born Kaustuv Roy
Reincarnating Experience in Education
Reincarnating Experience in Education A Pedagogy of the Twice-Born
Kaustuv Roy Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology Patiala, Punjab, India
ISBN 978-3-030-53547-6 ISBN 978-3-030-53548-3 (eBook) https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-53548-3 © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG. The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland
τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς τῆς ὑμῶν καρδίας πεφωτισμένους… [I ask that] the eyes of your heart may be enlightened —Ephesians 1:18
We are in troubled times indeed. As I work on the closing chapters of this book, all over the world there has appeared a microscopic, crown-like, spike protein that is apparently able to lock on to our own cell-surface matter, enter cells thereby, and wreak havoc. Whole countries are under lockdown, and people are forced to sit at home or face the wrath of their governments. Work places, businesses, schools, and congregations are shut; travel is impossible; and for many, even getting their daily needs has become a challenge. Apocalyptic images abound. Emergency workers in biological warfare suits, military trucks carrying away hundreds of the dead, hospitals breaking down under the strain of critical patients, vast migrations of daily wage earners thrown out of their rented shacks and walking hundreds of miles to their villages, and other horrors have added to the media frenzy. One hears phrases coined during the Spanish flu epidemic of the previous century, or possibly earlier, back in use, such as social distancing, quarantine, and lockdown. Conspiracy theories are doing the rounds with countries looking askance at one another—“could it have escaped from thy bag of evil tricks?” Diets are being questioned—pangolin and bat-eaters are drawn into the controversy as certain appetites are excoriated for being the root cause of the outbreak, and so on. In short, the world is in a turmoil not seen ever since the World Wars, and we are in the midst of experiencing a feverishness (literally and figuratively) across communities and geographies that no book on experience can ignore. The singular universal in all of this is panic. The media has no doubt played a huge role in the spreading of panic. Heart disease kills an estimated 42,000 people world-wide per day (more than 15 million annually) vii
and cancer kills an estimated 28,000 per day (more than 10 million annually), apart from other diseases that also have high mortality rates. These are way higher than the strike rate of COVID-19, but the world has long adjusted to it. So it is apparently not the death factor alone that is at the heart of the matter. Then what is gripping the world? The real reason for the panic is the dramaticness of its transmissibility and therefore its high visibility. The exponential rate at which the infection spreads by means of contact has the world in a flap, and the perceived ability or inability to control the contagion has a huge political fall-out. The response? Lockdown of entire cities, towns, villages, and populations to prevent spread. At least that way you could say, we tried. There is talk of a ‘ruthless containment model,’ and so on, giving the state extraordinary powers to control the population. Reportedly, there is even some success in doing so. But here is the problem—the effect of lockdown is not even. Locking down entire populations affects the lower economic orders much more than the ones which are better off with savings, permanent jobs, owned houses, and other assets. For example, in a locked-down airline, a pilot sent off on furlough is likely to suffer relatively far less economic hardship than, say, a laid-off loader in the same organization. In other words, the experience of lockdown is highly differentiated and segregated, and nowhere near homogeneous. This is readily seen in the growing lines of the distressed and the needy in many countries, where entire communities are now jobless and resourceless. Among already impoverished peoples such as those in South East Asia, there are cries of “we’ll die of hunger long before we die of the virus.” This is not to prioritize the economy over human lives, but to understand suffering and pain from multiple angles and in many dimensions. Albeit, the virus does not discriminate, but our response to it unfortunately does, in its consequences and repercussions. I am not here debating either the rightness or wrongness of a particular set of responses to any situation, or the nature of the political expediency that might demand such a response. Rather, I am saying that the manner in which we frame our responses is shaped by the manner in which we experience reality, and there are multiple ways of experiencing the world and hence multiple realities. For instance, there are ancient and powerful systems of response that are not based on the present-day germ theory. The point is not whether one is right and the other is wrong, but a difference in reality that arises with a difference in philosophical perceptions. Our behavior (responses) shapes our perceptions, and in turn our perceptions direct our responses in a circular fashion that is difficult to break out
of. It is therefore important to comprehend the nature of experience in as many directions of subtlety as possible so that we can find new ways of responding to the world (when our old ways become bankrupt). This is the mission of the present work. For, to reiterate, our experience determines our behavior, and our behavior in turn conditions our experience. In the domain of education the above fact becomes the central issue. The thing that we call an educational experience is determined by how we determine the world—the parts of reality we select for our attention, and the manner and language in which we frame them. The selection is not however the problem; the real problem is we forget that it is a selection. Unfortunately, commonsense begins to behave as though we are not speaking of a selection but of a comprehensive truth. Any experience becomes an experience through a particular mode of cognitive aggregation, and this is the limit it imposes on reality. There is no way of escaping this fact. Our problem in education is to keep alive this truth. The impulse for the present work is born out of this fundamental need. Patiala, India
The living authors I must acknowledge here, whose works have had a large influence on the present book, are Sophia Rosenfeld, Elizabeth Grosz, and Max Van Manen. There are numerous others, past and present, without whose labors this work could not possibly come to be. I also thank my research assistant Chitra L. for her careful reading of the manuscript and editing work. As for my publishers, Palgrave Macmillan, I have always been astonished at the warmth, goodness, and support I have received from the editorial team.
1 Somatic Engagements: An Introduction 1 2 Meditations on Commonsense 35 3 The Eyes of the Heart 65 4 Phenomenology of the Twice-Born 91 5 Pedagogy of the Twice-Born123 6 Praxis of the Twice-Born151 7 Conclusion: Orbits of Intensity181 Index201
Somatic Engagements: An Introduction
We must begin our conversation by clarifying what this book is not about, for the word ‘experience’ is easily misconstrued, and its presence in the title might suggest some kind of advocacy or promotion of a specific kind of pedagogy. This book is not about advancing experiential education agenda, or promoting hands-on learning, or endorsing vocation-based pedagogic systems, or anything like that. To put it differently, the argument is not primarily about privileging physical-experiential education over representational-symbolic learning, although it might appear to be so, as we set off with a critique about the exclusive role of the mental in conventional education. Instead, the book is about the ontology of experience, addressing the need for a critical comprehension of the process of experiencing in its relation to education. The book attempts to tunnel beneath our ordinary assumptions about experience in order to discover emergent spaces untainted by polarizations or pedagogic oppositions of yesteryears. It must be emphasized therefore that the rational-intellectual is not being opposed to the manual-experiential here. Rather, the intellect is seen as just another element in the cognitive construction and bringing forth of experience, not more or less important, but nevertheless to be restrained from being the hegemonic filter for all other types of engagements that are just as basic. In other words, we must pedagogically restrain ourselves from falling into the trap of homogenizing qualitatively different forms of experience, and not make the products of intellectual reason the
© The Author(s) 2020 K. Roy, Reincarnating Experience in Education, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-53548-3_1
universal benchmark for judging other types of experience.1 We must immediately ask, what are these other categories of engagements we are talking about? I include in our deliberations here the status of the somatic- vitalist and the psychic-intuitive dimensions as equally pressing in the construction of authentic experience, and reject the over-reliance on the symbolic and the discursive; the latter stands accused of having resulted in the production of a second-hand (ostensibly reliable but privately diminishing), uncreative, and unredeemed reality that is incapable of producing a viable ground for emancipatory education. It would be wrong to understand the position espoused here as though there is the suggestion that the psyche, the soma, and the intellect are somehow fundamentally opposed, isolated, or distinct. It may appear so only provisionally, insofar as our examination of these have not gone far enough or are incomplete. Rather, we are saying that there is a way to understand all of these faculties—the somatic, the psychic, and the symbolic as arising out of a single substance to which one must make one’s way by means of a special conatus. This is slow and deliberate, and essentially constitutes the pedagogy and the birthing struggle of the twice- born. The latter must take its second birth largely in the theater of its own phenomenological experiments that mobilize all three domains simultaneously, rather than simply become adjusted to an overwhelmingly techno- political reality that severely limits the path of the being as it struggles toward phenomenological disclosure. The pedagogy of the twice-born takes us to possibilities beyond the jaundiced and global ways of looking and experiencing reality, beyond the second-hand normality that is constructed through overarching social agendas and unexamined habits of thought. This world of commonsense, so rampant in hegemonic potential, is able to blindly approve the annihilation of significantly other ways of thinking and becoming. As an anecdotal reference from my own experience, let me mention the case of students who present the most excruciatingly thought-out objections as to 1 For example, we see in the popular press items such as ‘The Science of Human Relationships’ and other such absurd chatter of the undisciplined intellect. The ‘human’ is objectified as something given to an autonomous ‘science’ for scrutiny. The intellect takes refuge in one of its products, namely science, which has been successful due to its precisely reductionist generalizations. But when it turns to speculate about its own source, it is caught in a loop in which those very propensities become inimical and blinding. Awakening to what I have called the Eros of embodiment provides a check and balance against such runaway tendencies.
1 SOMATIC ENGAGEMENTS: AN INTRODUCTION
why another (likely more liberating) way of experiencing the world is not possible. They find all sorts of excuses as to why we cannot experiment with something or change a certain practice. Or else they want to be sure of the outcomes before they will engage in a new practice. It simply speaks of the extent to which intellectual sloth, fear of life, experiential negativity, and existential conservatism have gotten into the marrows of even the young, not to speak of the older generation which has contentedly settled down to a slow decomposition. There is no glow or illumination in sight, no direct insight of which one speaks, no quickening of the soul, no real hope of any kind, only heartless repetition of humdrum. The educational experience has been beaten into pulp till it no longer yields any true mission in life or a sense of creative vitality. In view of the above, the present work poses the following question: Is there within education the systematic possibility of phenomenologically raising ourselves, not to the experience of this or that, but to the true potentiality of experiencing itself—bringing up the level of existence to an immediate rhythm, meaning, and intensity—rather than merely focusing on the routine absorption of representational regimes and playing symbolic truth games? If there is possibility of such an experiencing, how do we create the conditions for it? Can we any longer discover something in education that opens a path to creative becoming beyond the entanglements with the politico-historical reality that we presently take to be the world? If yes, then what is the path to such an experience? It is the considered view here that we cannot dismiss the possibility of such experiencing, but such a surge of life is imaginable only through a protracted and multi- layered struggle against dominant commonsensical positions. Further, only a proper mobilization of the psychic, the somatic, and the intellectual, as well as their (disjunctive) synthesis can bring this about. This is what I have called the pedagogy of the twice-born. Among the essential pedagogical tasks in developing a path to the discovery of this second birth, the commonplace opposition between sensuous learning and symbolic learning must be closely questioned and dissolved through a proper understanding of the true nature of experience. I try to address this hiatus and the path to its overcoming in the pages that follow. In fact, it is the view here that intellectual labor is strengthened when we simultaneously engage in psycho-somatic labor, which itself is not devoid of intellectual content as Gramsci had noted in
his reflections.2 It is the view here, that the ways of the body—the Eros of embodiment—are strange and mysterious, and the intellect is a mere child before this miniature cosmos. It is assumed that any leap in perception with regard to experience would have to include the body in a central way, which we attempt in these pages. Besides, it would be my endeavor to intelligently mix the philosophical and the practical in a manner that we are able to stretch beyond commonsense oppositions and reach toward a wisdom of practice that is presently out of sight in education. This wisdom of practice or Phronesis is a mix of sensuous intelligence and intellectual intuition that is central to the project of the twice-born. But before we can proceed further, let us first dwell on the word ‘experience’ briefly in the context of learning as used by some noteworthy authors. Our approach would be to start from very near in order to go far; in other words, we will begin by looking at general use of the term such as in experiential learning, before we move farther afield inquiring into the metaphysics of experience itself. A common usage of the term “experiential learning” defines it as a particular form of learning from life experience; often contrasted it with lecture and classroom learning. Keeton and Tate (1978) offered this definition, “Learning in which the learner is directly in touch with the realities being studied. It is contrasted with the learner who only reads about, hears about, talks about, or writes about these realities but never comes into contact with them as part of the learning process.” In this view of experiential learning, the emphasis is often on direct sense experience and in-context action as the primary source of learning.3
Most would agree that there is a vital difference between reading about Indian pottery and discovering it by being (even briefly) apprenticed in an Indian pottery workshop. Again, the experience of horticulture would be different than, say, listening to lectures about plants. Similarly, taking care of animals at a care center is different from merely reading about animal husbandry. And the difference in each case is not trivial—the sensory contact develops an intuition, sometimes called a sixth sense, that displays an understanding and capacity to handle things—a million little things—that cannot be developed through second-hand or bookish knowledge. Also, See Antonio Gramsci, The Prison Notebooks (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1971). David A. Kolb, Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development (Upper Saddle River, N. J.: Pearson Education, Inc., 2015), p. xviii. 2 3
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the sense of concrete accomplishment that is afforded by successful horticulture cannot be matched by reading about gardening techniques. This is not to dismiss symbolic or conceptual learning, which offers a generalized knowledge that is not possible to acquire through specific experiences, but to assert that without the former, the latter becomes one-dimensional, bereft of the Eros of embodied engagements. But are empirical experiences not already overlaid by culture? The later Dewey seems unconvinced about the possibility of pristine experience and appears worried about the notion: Experience is already overlaid and saturated with the products of the reflection of past generations and by-gone ages. It is filled with interpretations, classifications, due to sophisticated thought, which have become incorporated into what seems to be fresh naïve empirical material. It would take more wisdom than is possessed by the wisest historical scholar to track all of these absorbed borrowings to their original sources.4
Again, this is too much mind and too little body—worrying about ideal situations is not very fruitful. When I learn to take care of my sick cow, I don’t worry about the cultural overlay that keeps me from having a pure experience of the situation. Albeit there is a theory about what is wrong with the bovine, but this theory merely helps set up a reciprocal movement between the animal and myself that must work through both enfleshments—nervous corporeal entanglements—hopefully to a therapeutic situation. Speculations about ‘naïve empirical material’ (i.e., uncontaminated experience) are only fit for intellectual ivory towers; what the rest of us need are heuristic opportunities toward becoming adepts at handling a variety of emergent situations and receiving little doses of fulfillment on the side. This does not however mean that we embrace naïve realism and become blind to conceptual difficulties. It means that we set up a dialectic between what we are experiencing and the limits of those experiences as far as their educational and emancipatory value is concerned. Besides, this does require us to reorder our priorities and adjust our vision. In the over-eager embrace of the rational, scientific, and technological, our concept of the learning process itself was distorted first by rationalism and later by behaviorism. We lost touch with our own experience as the source of personal learning and development and, in the process, lost that 4
John Dewey, Experience and Nature (New York: Dover Publications, 1958), p. 40.
experiential centeredness necessary to counterbalance the loss of “scientific” centeredness that has been progressively slipping away since Copernicus.5
As Hannah Arendt had noted in The Human Condition, the extreme formalization of science has left the average person too far behind for it to be of any use to her/him in their growth or becoming.6 Occasionally we are patronized by an experiment performed before us with a known outcome. The whitecoats smile at us when things behave as expected, and we nod back politely in turn, adequately moved by the modern miracle. The retreat before an overwhelming cultural apparatus called science and the resultant profound loss of contact with our own experiences as the primary source of our development has crippled our belief in ourselves as agents. The colonization of experience has been so effective that we have almost forgotten that we might have something innately to contribute to our own becoming. We have been taught to turn to technology or to the market for everything, and not to trust our own perceptions, our sensuous discernments, or our non-market labors. In seeking to organize experiential learning, we must recognize that we are stepping beyond the personally, institutionally, and epistemologically preconstituted universe and that we deeply resist this initiative, no matter how often we have returned to it. We must recognize too that the art of organizing through living inquiry—the art of continually exploring beyond pre- constituted universes and continually constructing and enacting universes in concert with others—is as yet a publicly undiscovered art. To treat the dilemma of organizing experiential learning on any lesser scale is to doom ourselves to frustration, isolation or failure.7
Given that any attempt to differentiate something from the flow of things and call it my experience is fraught with difficulty, we must nevertheless struggle to escape the preconstituted universe that is set before us as the only viable option. Years before coming to academia, I taught ceramics, pottery, and agriculture among other things in high school. I recall sometimes walking up a small hill to the studio at 2 AM in the morning to check on the kiln (we did not have an auto temperature shut-off). Kolb, op. cit., p. 2. Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958). 7 William Torbert, Learning from Experience: Toward Consciousness (New York: Columbia University Press, 1979), p. 42. 5 6
1 SOMATIC ENGAGEMENTS: AN INTRODUCTION
A peculiar practical engagement with the earth and life raged in me at those moments, an intense Eros filled me when I peeped through the bung hole at the white-hot pottery, or at other times when the wheel spun with the massive clay mound and I could pull it up to the level I desired. As a budding teacher I realized early that these experiences were primary, and the symbolic and representational order of learning could never take their place. They aroused in me an odd unifying sensation that no amount of book learning could substitute. But there was something more to it— the awakening of passion or intensity. In Shop Class As Soulcraft, Mathew Crawford quotes an unnamed instructor as saying: “In schools, we create artificial learning environments for our children that they know to be contrived and undeserving of their full attention and engagement. Without the opportunity to learn through the hands, the world remains abstract, and distant, and the passions for learning will not be engaged.”8 The reciprocal educational relation between the hand and the mind has been snapped by contemporary culture, and the fact that the hand is an extremity of the brain through which the latter experiences the world has been forgotten. Instead, the hand now occupies a subservient position within a hierarchical world system in which manual engagement with the surrounding is seen as inferior and quite unrelated to knowledge work. And where such involvement is included, it is done as a hollowed-out gesture, an empty tokenism practiced for the sake of satisfying requirements or as a salve to the conscience. But is sensory-corporal experience merely a means to a narrow end or is it a vital end in itself? And what happens to the organism when sensuous work is largely removed from the experiential continuum of socially valued work? I want to consider what is at stake when such [manual] experiences recede from our common life. How does this affect the prospects for full human flourishing? Does the use of tools answer to some permanent requirement of our nature? Arguing for a renewed cultivation of manual competence puts me at odds with certain nostrums surrounding work and consumption, so this book is in part a cultural polemic. I mean to clarify the origins of, and thereby interrogate, those assumptions that lull us into accepting as inevitable, or even desirable, our increasing manual disengagement.9 8 Mathew B. Crawford, Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work (New York: The Penguin Press, 2009), p. 1. 9 Ibid., p. 5.
The starting point of empirical knowledge is neuro-muscular or corpuscular stimulation through contact. In the absence of the exercise of corporeal and sensuous labor of a meaningful kind, there is no intimate foundation for knowledge. When we replace primary and direct sensory knowledge by symbols, we end up floating in the insubstantial, not grounded in anything sensible; in manual disengagement, our lives become ghostly and shadow-like. More and more we are encouraged to live in a world of stimulation, which is sufficiently dissolute to make impossible any inner resistance to the impersonal forces that seem to direct our lives. It makes us amenable to easy manipulation by the contemporary narratives of mass culture. When the inner intensity of production or poiesis is lost, we are consumed by the narratives of consumption. Next, we must also ask whether the conventional view that manual engagement has no intellectual content or stimulation is true. My own experience is to the contrary. I get my best ideas when I am engaged in physical activities. Digging pits for planting, hoeing, shoveling manure, kneading clay, and even cooking or washing clothes seem to rake up my brain and make it more fertile than activities such as reading can. I have this testimony from others as well who are similarly involved in manual experience. Here we are not talking about enthusiasm or precious forms of middle-class pastimes and hobbies. This is about a serious way of being and becoming that involves close involvement of the embodied self, turning it into an experimental laboratory. Besides, it has also been my observation that, in general, those of my students who are seriously engaged in manual activities tend to be more creative when it came to intellectual work. They think differently. Perhaps this is not so surprising. Humans probably learned to think as they were faced with physical challenges and changing material conditions to which they responded, for example, by making tools. The phenotype recuperates this species memory in manual activities and feels secure in it, no matter what present culture says. Primal encodings float up as archetypal datum through dimly understood channels—a psychic individuation occurs by producing the concrete. [We must] attempt to map the overlapping territories intimated by the phrases “meaningful work” and “self-reliance.” Both ideals are tied to a struggle for individual agency, which I find to be at the very center of modern life. When we view our lives through the lens of this struggle, it brings certain experiences into sharper focus. Both as workers and as consumers, we feel we move in channels that have been projected from afar by vast
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impersonal forces. We worry that we are becoming stupider, and begin to wonder if getting an adequate grasp on the world, intellectually, depends on getting a handle on it in some literal and active sense.10
The question of meaningful experience is of course much bigger than school-related issues. It is linked to proper survival itself. As the contemporary world order has taken away the sense of meaningful labor from most and replaced it with ideas of efficiency and smoothness, it has simultaneously stripped us of all sense of self-reliance. The average person today grows up depending on the market for everything including perhaps what thoughts and attitudes s/he must have. Market dependency must be a critical one tempered by agency and self-reliance. Otherwise all hell breaks loose in the psyche. Individual agency is not individualism. Etymologically, agency derives from agere ‘to set in motion.’ Individual agency hints at the capacity for autopoiesis and the need to work toward its genesis in order to get a meaningful hold on reality. Thirdly, it is well known that even children long for the experience of being responsible; being treated as immature actually breeds immaturity. Contemporary world order patronizes us, just as adults often patronize children. Only Power seems to know what is good for us, and works to weave us into a seamless and monolithic system. We speak of diversity ad nauseam but it translates into making choices in the domain of consumption only: We have the freedom to choose between sesame bread and multigrain. This is the best way to raise an irresponsible citizenry: Starve people systematically of the experience of responsibility and of direct involvement, limiting consciousness to petty choice-making (‘which phone should I buy?’ etc.). I would like to consider whether this poignant longing for responsibility that many people experience in their lives may be (in part) a response to changes in the world of work, where the experience of individual agency has become elusive. Those who work in an office often feel that, despite the proliferation of contrived metrics they must meet, their job lacks objective standards of the sort provided by, for example, a carpenter’s level, and that as a result there is something arbitrary in the dispensing of credit and blame. The rise of “teamwork” has made it difficult to trace individual responsibility, and opened the way for new and uncanny modes of manipulation of
Ibid., p. 12.
workers by managers, who now appear in the guise of therapists or life coaches.11
Teamwork is a contemporary buzzword. It is a corporate invention that seeks to eliminate critical responsibility, the questioning attitude, and finally agency itself. In order to fit into the corporate world of smoothness, one must project a certain personality, genial and malleable, free of angularities, able to participate in organizational cheerleading and backslapping camaraderie. The invocation ‘hello team’ signifies please hide your rough edges, or better still, file them away. Thus the ‘team’ becomes an ingenious management tool by means of which differences can be submerged or pared down. One who does not fit the team image begins to doubt himself and his or her sanity, for there is no objective product or material transformation on which s/he can rely in order to recognize her/himself. Crawford cites philosopher Alexandre Kojève: “The man who works recognizes his own product in the World that has actually been transformed by his work: he recognizes himself in it, he sees in it his own human reality, in it he discovers and reveals to others the objective reality of his humanity, of the originally abstract and purely subjective idea he has of himself.”12 In the absence of any direct productive experience one becomes what Marxists call an alienated soul. “The satisfactions of manifesting oneself concretely in the world through manual competence have been known to make a man quiet and easy. They seem to relieve him of the felt need to offer chattering interpretations of himself to vindicate his worth.”13 This opportunity is denied to us when we are denied the possibility of experiencing production concretely. Skilled practices allow us to experience ourselves concretely and thus to gather a new vigor in reality by means of an in-gathering of powers given to us. It shelters us from the onslaught of the world on our sensibilities that wear us down for ease of exploitation—the productive demand on us acts as a check on the fantasizing about things. Mental fragmentation, a cultural disposition by now, is effectively reversed when you have to prepare the plaster molds, decide on the slip, flux it, get the glazes ready, and choose the brushwork, all of it toward a single event, in a morning’s worth of labor. The cognitive richness of manual experience is dramatically experienced in the manner in which it is able to gather Ibid. Ibid., p. 15. 13 Ibid. 11 12
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attention (as opposed to the dissipative tendency) by focusing on a single productive or meaningful activity in alignment with innate abilities and inclinations. In other words, it generates what Crawford calls an ‘ecology of attention’ in which the embodied being is connected to a larger sphere of reciprocal exchange. Thus far we have spoken broadly of the relevance of direct sensory experience for wholesome development alongside the imagistic and the symbolic or the representational and the discursive. Let us turn next to broader theorizations of experience, viewing the problem through a philosophical lens that guide us into deeper waters. A good place to begin is the work of William James. The phrase ‘radical empiricism’ was invented by James to describe his theory of experience and philosophic attitude. I give the name of ‘radical empiricism’ to my Weltanschauung. Empiricism is known as the opposite of rationalism. Rationalism tends to emphasize universals and to make wholes prior to parts in the order of logic as well as in that of being. Empiricism, on the contrary, lays the explanatory stress upon the part, the element, the individual, and treats the whole as a collection and the universal as an abstraction. My description of things, accordingly, starts with the parts and makes of the whole being of the second order. It is essentially a mosaic philosophy, a philosophy of plural facts, like that of Hume and his descendants, who refer these facts neither to Substances in which they inhere nor to an Absolute Mind that creates them as its objects. But it differs from the Humian type of empiricism in one particular which makes me add the epithet radical. To be radical, an empiricism must neither admit into its constructions any element that is not directly experienced, nor exclude from them any element that is directly experienced. For such a philosophy, the relations that connect experiences must themselves be experienced relations, and any kind of relation experienced must be accounted as ‘real’ as anything else in the system.14
The spirit of radical empiricist worldview walks along a different path than rationalist principles and universals—concepts can never supersede sensory or perceptual experience. For James, no conclusion can be drawn about the ‘world’ which is not verified through experience, nor can any element be dismissed that has been directly experienced. In other words, the pieces (of experience) are all-important, and not projections of some 14 William James, Essays in Radical Empiricism (New York: Longman Green and Co., 1912), pp. 41–42.
hypothetical wholeness. Further, if any mosaic or collage is made out of the pieces, the relations that connect these must themselves be experienceable. “The generalized conclusion is that therefore the parts of experience hold together from next to next by relations that are themselves parts of experience. The directly apprehended universe needs, in short, no extraneous transempirical connective support, but possesses in its own right a concatenated or continuous structure.”15 Thus we are led to conclude that according to the Jamesian vision, the stuff of reality is precisely the sum of experiences, created and recreated every day, their successive relations produced by a concatenation of effects. Nothing more, nothing less. The interesting thing about this position is that no experience can be dismissed as not constitutive of reality, which implies that empiricism cannot dismiss, say, religious experience as rationalism did. This leads to a completely new pluralistic environment and a world that is emergent through experience. Importantly, it means that the authority of others’ experiences need not be counted over one’s own in a given area. For instance, the epistemic basis of colonization was that the colonizer’s worldview/experience was superior to that of the colonized. This is true for all forms of colonization and not just the overtly political form, including the manner in which conventional schooling colonizes children’s lives. Radical empiricism shows such a rationale to be bogus. Further, when a choice is to be made between experiences, it is guided by the desired consequence, which itself should be within experience, and not asserted from authority. The destruction of all forms of idealism is the signal contribution of Professor James’s work, freeing up experience toward its own becoming. But, to understand the theory better, how can our disparate experiences make sense to one another, as well as, how is the relation established between knower and known? [M]y experiences and yours float and dangle, terminating, it is true, in a nucleus of common perception, but for the most part out of sight and irrelevant and unimaginable to one another. This imperfect intimacy, this bare relation of withness between some parts of the sum total of experience and other parts, is the fact that ordinary empiricism over-emphasizes against rationalism, the latter always tending to ignore it unduly. Radical empiricism, on the contrary, is fair to both the unity and the disconnection. It finds no reason for treating either as illusory….The conjunctive relation that has Ibid., p. 195.
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given most trouble to philosophy is the co-conscious transition, so to call it, by which one experience passes into another when both belong to the same self. Within each of our personal histories, subject, object, interest and purpose are continuous or maybe continuous. Personal histories are processes of change in time, and the change itself is one of the things immediately experienced. ‘Change’ in this case means continuous as opposed to discontinuous transition.16
The experience of continuous change overcomes the division between knower and known, a relational problem that has dogged philosophy since forever. If experience is all there is, and it undergoes continuous change then the knower and the known are not independent or fixed categories but are subsumed by change. In other words, change is the only fact, and this change experiences itself, which we loosely call consciousness. This manner of viewing reality would obviously have great consequences for education. Next, in order to turn the discussion specifically toward educational experience, it would be appropriate to follow up the foregoing with John Dewey who was deeply influenced by James. I shall begin with a quote from Dewey as a tribute; for who, after all in recent history, has done more for the systematic rethinking of experience in education than that great architect of educational thought? Whether we are, or not, in agreement with Dewey about the nature of meaningful experience and the mode of bringing it about, it would nonetheless be fitting for our present task of theorization to begin there. Below, Dewey begins his argument in Experience and Education by asserting the need for a coherent theory of experience that will guide new modes of practice rather than randomly putting together learning experience. [The] formulation of the business of the philosophy of education does not mean that the latter should attempt to bring about a compromise between opposed schools of thought, to find a via media, nor yet make an eclectic combination of points picked out hither and yon from all schools. It means the necessity of the introduction of a new order of conceptions leading to new modes of practice. It is for this reason that it is so difficult to develop a philosophy of education, the moment tradition and custom are departed from. It is for this reason that the conduct of schools, based upon a new order of conceptions, is so much more difficult than is the management of Ibid., p. 21.
schools which walk in beaten paths. Hence, every movement in the direction of a new order of ideas and of activities directed by them calls out, sooner or later, a return to what appear to be simpler and more fundamental ideas and practices of the past.17
But immediately post the tribute, our ideas begin to diverge. New order of conceptions leading to new modes of practice sounds like a reasonable proposition, but, at the same time, it does beg the question as to the whereabouts of the fresh energy and passion that are necessary for a new order of practice to overcome the established order. We are not short on ideas—there have been many through the aeons; but apparently ideas do not translate into practice on their own, and mere reasoning through them is not enough. They are in need of corpuscular strength, of sensory- emotive energies that are not there on the horizon for the asking. It appears that it is not just a bunch of ideas or modes of practice, but a new mode of being and experiencing that must lift practice from the lowest orbit to higher or more intense ones. In the absence of such availability, reform fails to bring about the desired change—thought returns to habitual old patterns after the dust settles down. Further, the editor of Dewey’s book cited above has noted that “Dr. Dewey insists that neither the old nor the new education is adequate. Each is mis-educative because neither of them applies the principles of a carefully developed philosophy of experience.”18 This is true; neither traditional education nor progressive principles have grasped the problem of experience, but it is equally true that in Dewey’s own analysis some vital pieces are missing and he did not push the philosophy of experience beyond the existing frame of an overly intellectualized vision. Doubtless, he added much to the theory, but at the root his matrix stayed within the commonsensical order—Dewey was unwilling or unable to recompose his experiential elements on a different existential grid than those defined by Enlightenment norms. This problem we witness repeatedly in Dewey—the tendency to pull back from the edge of something profound. Despite knowing that Dewey was not a maverick, nor given to intellectual brinkmanship, one cannot help but bemoan the fact that he does not take us beyond the threshold. In an interesting parallel with Sigmund Freud who was his contemporary, Dewey had piercing insights into human psychology, but these John Dewey, Experience and Education (New York: Touchstone, 1997), p. 5. Alfred L. Hall-Quest, “Editorial Foreword,” In Dewey, op. cit., p. 11.
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insights could not lift him beyond the linguistic and visional constraints of his society and times. Both Freud and Dewey were solidly middle-class men who, despite the acuity of their perceptions, could not leave behind their intellectual humanism, jump outside the orbit of their milieu, or proceed in the direction of a radical praxis that the spiritually bankrupt conditions demanded. Mankind likes to think in terms of extreme opposites. It is given to formulating its beliefs in terms of Either-Ors, between which it recognizes no intermediate possibilities. When forced to recognize that the extremes cannot be acted upon, it is still inclined to hold that they are all right in theory but that when it comes to practical matters circumstances compel us to compromise. Educational philosophy is no exception. The history of educational theory is marked by opposition between the idea that education is development from within and that it is formation from without.19
Much of the subsequent discussion in Experience and Education consists in explicating this opposition and the means of overcoming it in education. While this is indeed a great effort, Dewey does not seem to take into account the fact that thought in general functions in oppositions, and the overcoming of polarized thinking in one area depends on the possibility of its overcoming in other areas of social life as well. Witness the following examples of ‘Either-or’ relationships that dominate social life: Owner or non-owner, married or un-married, qualified or unqualified, believer or non-believer, guilty or not-guilty, pass or fail, monied or non-monied, gay or straight, inner or outer, civilized or barbarian, human or non-human, and so on and on. At first glance, one might think that these are legitimate binaries, but on examination, we might find that, in actuality, most of social existence exists in an in-between space with regard to these oppositions—neither clearly belonging to one side nor the other—and existentially we often ambulate between the end points at different stages of our lives. In other words, the binaries are hypothetical, and the actuality is far more fluid than our system of oppositions would admit. A clear admission of this might lead to the logical elimination of much of these social binaries. Further, our thinking, in evolutionary terms, has emerged in conflict, that is, in oppositions. Out of evolutionary habit it moves by means of polarities, dialectically clawing its way from situation to situation by means Ibid., p. 17.
of contradictions, and therefore not used to a continuum or a continuous range of possibilities. Empirically speaking, I have witnessed countless classrooms including many of my own wherein much effort has to be spent in trying to wean students away from effectively seizing hold of ‘this’ as opposed to ‘that’ for a solution to a particular pedagogic situation. It seems as though continuums and non-oppositional thinking is beyond the current capabilities of thought, and even where a concerted effort is made, sooner or later we drift back to binaries. A different kind of effort seems to be called for to break out of this habit at all levels and not merely at the school level. But Dewey seems to think otherwise: The general pattern of organization (by which I mean the relations of pupils to one another and to the teachers) constitutes the school a kind of institution sharply marked off from other social institutions. Call up in imagination the ordinary schoolroom, its time-schedules, schemes of classification, of examination and promotion, of rules of order, and I think you will grasp what is meant by “pattern of organization.” If then you contrast this scene with what goes on in the family, for example, you will appreciate what is meant by the school being a kind of institution sharply marked off from any other form of social organization.20
Dewey imagines the school to be a unique kind of social organization. However, as against Dewey, in my appraisal, it does not appear that schools are very different from other disciplinary organizations. In Discipline and Punish, Michel Foucault determines that institutions like the school, the prison, and the lunatic asylum are homologous, sharing similar punitive and architectural characteristics, and even temporally making their appearance around the same historical period.21 Dewey’s attempt to isolate the school as a social institution makes its problems appear to be qualitatively different from the direction of other social problems. This perception is misleading, and falsely makes out the experience of schooling as something unique and self-contained. I do not think we need to labor the point that as schools stand today, their average primary motivation is in the direction of ideological instilling and regimentation of thought. Further, the misleading picture is particularly problematic when we search for
Ibid., pp. 19–20. See Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (London: Pluto Press, 2011). 20 21
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explanations or solutions for problems whose roots may lie elsewhere than the school itself. As I have implied earlier, few educational theorists have come so close to breakthrough as Dewey, and yet retreated from the threshold to safer domains. He leads you through a set of very reasonable propositions on the surface spaces but chooses to ignore the subterranean vault, as it were. Let us follow the implications of this lacunar dialectic even further. Dewey observes: Now, all principles by themselves are abstract. They become concrete only in the consequences which result from their application. Just because the principles set forth are so fundamental and far-reaching, everything depends upon the interpretation given them as they are put into practice in the school and the home. It is at this point that the reference made earlier to Either-Or philosophies becomes peculiarly pertinent. The general philosophy of the new education may be sound, and yet the difference in abstract principles will not decide the way in which the moral and intellectual preference involved shall be worked out in practice.22
Dewey acknowledges that even where the general principles are sound, what ultimately decides their direction in practice is the ethical compass. But the ethical plane is the background social, or the general moral fabric of society that interprets theory and translates it into action. And that means even the finest theory can and will be hostage to societal deformities and dubious equations that turn it into the banal in terms of consequences. It is beyond doubt that the question of experience is decided on the moral field, but Dewey skirts around this issue, refusing to take the organizational basis of society head-on. The problem of educational experience is no different than the problem of experience in general. This position in no way undermines the possibility of acting specifically in the educational domain, but our sights undergo a transformation with such understanding and begin to admit of new fields of action. It is not that Dewey is oblivious of the relevance of social factors in educational experience as is evident from the comments below, but he is almost offhand about it, and does not pursue it further in his own analysis. When external control is rejected, the problem becomes that of finding the factors of control that are inherent within experience. When external Dewey, op. cit. p. 20.
a uthority is rejected, it does not follow that all authority should be rejected, but rather that there is need to search for a more effective source of authority. Because the older education imposed the knowledge, methods, and the rules of conduct of the mature person upon the young, it does not follow, except upon the basis of the extreme Either-Or philosophy, that the knowledge and skill of the mature person has no directive value for the experience of the immature. On the contrary, basing education upon personal experience may mean more multiplied and more intimate contacts between the mature and the immature than ever existed in the traditional school, and consequently more, rather than less, guidance by others. The problem, then, is: how these contacts can be established without violating the principle of learning through personal experience. The solution of this problem requires a well thought-out philosophy of the social factors that operate in the constitution of individual experience.23
This is still an externalist view and not an immanent one. It is not clear why one must “search for a more effective source of authority.” Is it the case that Dewey is apprehensive of the anarchist spirit that lurks at the edge of each experiential moment? Why cannot experience lead us away from all authority including one’s own and onto a different dimension? What might it take for such an experience to happen? What would be its consequences? These and other questions will be addressed in the later chapters as we go deeper into the nature of experience. It must be somewhat clear to the reader by now that we are using Dewey’s work in a deconstructive manner in order to find those gaps and aporias that are ignored or papered over in the common approach to educational experience. Such deconstructive labor is evidently useful with the work of someone like Dewey who helps us to exhaust the possibilities of the conventional and takes us to the brink of a radical something else. Therefore, let us continue on this path of deconstruction a bit longer and see what else it might yield. It is not too much to say that an educational philosophy which professes to be based on the idea of freedom may become as dogmatic as ever was the traditional education which is reacted against. For any theory and set of practices is dogmatic which is not based upon critical examination of its own underlying principles. Let us say that the new education emphasizes the freedom of the learner. Very well. A problem is now set. What does freedom Ibid., p. 21.
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mean and what are the conditions under which it is capable of realization? Let us say that the kind of external imposition which was so common in the traditional school limited rather than promoted the intellectual and moral development of the young. Again, very well. Recognition of this serious defect sets a problem. Just what is the role of the teacher and of books in promoting the educational development of the immature?24
Just about anything humans conceptually invent, including the idea of freedom, ultimately becomes tyrannical—this is incontestable, and history stands testimony to this unfortunate truth. Given that such is the case, rather than put the question about the conditions of freedom or something else, should we not interrogate our very system of conceptualization itself? In other words, philosophically, the problem with humans is that we have failed to understand the meaning of experience, and have constructed a pseudo world from that half-baked understanding that we try to manage, routinely failing in that effort. This failure we attribute to the limitations of our systems of managing reality, not realizing that it is a failure to understand our one-sided experience of the world. Dewey correctly deduces the fact that unexamined assumptions and underlying principles are the source of our troubles, but this is not limited to a specific context as he seems to believe, but spread out in the very way we put together experiences and construe social reality. The problem of freedom neither begins nor ends with school. School merely acts as an effective suppressant of what society wants to suppress. Let me clarify this with an example. All experiences lead to the final consequence of life called death, which might be termed as a limit experience. As far as we know, all power to experience ends at death. Any sensible examination of experience therefore must begin with this absolute givenness of death, its factitude, for it is the only certainty we have. If cumulatively experience has a terminating point, then what does experience mean against that de-termination? In other words, our investigation into experience must begin at the other end, that is, at the end-end rather than at the contingent end. It is from there that we might have a glimpse into the true significance of experience. In other words, what I am trying to say is that emancipatory action in schooling cannot depend on the commonsensical or the logical elements alone which have long served the interests of the established order. We have to seek and find a new source and field of illumination. Ibid., p. 22.
[We] have the problem of discovering the connection which actually exists within experience between the achievements of the past and the issues of the present. We have the problem of ascertaining how acquaintance with the past may be translated into a potent instrumentality for dealing effectively with the future. We may reject knowledge of the past as the end of education and thereby only emphasize its importance as a means. When we do that we have a problem that is new in the story of education: How shall the young become acquainted with the past in such a way that the acquaintance is a potent agent in appreciation of the living present?25
Continuing our interrogation of some of the key terms, what does Dewey mean by a ‘living present?’ Is there such a thing as a ‘living present’ within normal experience or is it merely rhetorical? Assuming that there is such a thing, how can it become experienceable? Is experience not always slipping into the past leaving the immediate present empty? In other words, how can the living present be illumined by experience? In our analysis, it cannot. Ordinarily, experience is only projected to generate an imaginary future. This unconscious movement from past to future is in fact one of the biggest stumbling blocks to a proper understanding of experience for it slurs over the present, and keeps our eyes fixed on a projected futurality. Past experience projected into something called the future becomes canonized, and in turn, the future is then the child of the past blocking the freedom of experience. All of these points will be taken up in the appropriate places in the chapters that follow. Proceeding deconstructively here means looking into the gaps and lacunae in otherwise authoritative sounding propositions. We continue with the task of closely studying Dewey’s pronouncements in his famous book: The belief that all genuine education comes about through experience does not mean that all experiences are genuinely or equally educative. Experience and education cannot be directly equated to each other. For some experiences are mis-educative. Any experience is mis-educative that has the effect of arresting or distorting the growth of further experience. An experience may be such as to engender callousness; it may produce lack of sensitivity and of responsiveness. Then the possibilities of having richer experience in the future are restricted. Again, a given experience may increase a person’s automatic skill in a particular direction and yet tend to land him in a groove Ibid., p. 23.
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or rut; the effect again is to narrow the field of further experience. An experience may be immediately enjoyable and yet promote the formation of a slack and careless attitude; this attitude then operates to modify the quality of subsequent experiences so as to prevent a person from getting out of them what they have to give. Again, experiences may be so disconnected from one another that, while each is agreeable or even exciting in itself, they are not linked cumulatively to one another.26
Supremely thoughtful, and yet there is the all-important collective aspect to experience that is not spoken of here. Dewey individualizes experience and leaves out the social dimension that provides the interpretive context of experience. A few lines earlier, we hear Dewey say, “I assume that amid all uncertainties there is one permanent frame of reference: namely, the organic connection between education and personal experience.”27 There, no doubt, is an organic connection between experience and education, but their separation and subsequent bringing-to- consciousness is done by extant forces. There is nothing, not even the experience of drug-taking, that is wholly individual and without a social enframing. The meaningfulness or meaninglessness of an experience is not contained in the experience itself, but in the extent to which it is aligned with the dominant forces. To give an example, direct insight or intuitive knowledge may be seen as intimations of ‘satanic forces’ in a certain milieu and suppressed, dismissed, and even ostracized. Again, living that amounts to rejection of competitive lifestyle may be demonized as left-wing sympathy or ‘hippie cultism.’ In both cases, experiences that are contrary to the arrangement of forces and conventions languish and are not taken seriously into consideration, perhaps becoming part of the repressed unconscious. Then the question for us is how to free experience and experiencing from colonization. Again, turning to Dewey: It is not enough to insist upon the necessity of experience, nor even of activity in experience. Everything depends upon the quality of the experience which is had. The quality of any experience has two aspects. There is an immediate aspect of agreeableness or disagreeableness, and there is its influence upon later experiences. The first is obvious and easy to judge. The effect of an experience is not borne on its face. It sets a problem to the educator. Ibid., pp. 25–26. Ibid., p. 25.
It is his business to arrange for the kind of experiences which, while they do not repel the student, but rather engage his activities are, nevertheless, more than immediately enjoyable since they promote having desirable future experiences. Just as no man lives or dies to himself, so no experience lives and dies to itself. Wholly independent of desire or intent, every experience lives on in further experiences.28
There are two things here. First, there is the point about ‘quality.’ The word derives from the root qualis, an interrogative pronoun meaning ‘what kind of’ [thing is this]? In other words, it inquires into the nature of a thing or its characteristic. An experience by itself has no quality; rather it has to be seen as an interrogation of the reality that has preceded it. Each experiential contact, whether pleasant or unpleasant, raises a question about the world, in which lies its quality. In other words, experience is not an end or fulfillment in itself. It raises a doubt about the world, and the more intense or powerful the query, the more meaningful the experience. Second, Dewey makes the point about the effect of experience. The effect of experience is a trace that is left in the body-mind continuum, modifying it ever-so slightly or substantially. The temporal composite called the organism continually recomposes itself within the constraints of its surroundings being assaulted by experience. In other words, there is no ready-made subject that is the receiver of experience. Instead, it is experience that continually reconstitutes the composite, adding and subtracting. And this occurs not in isolation, but within the gravitational curvature generated by material and psychical forces spread throughout the socius. For the educator, it is not simply a matter of arranging suitable experiences for the student. S/he must simultaneously understand and acknowledge the fact that the educator is also changed forever in the process and does not remain as something fixed and stable outside the system of experiencing that is set up. In other words, the ‘teacher-acting-on’ and the ‘student- acted-upon’ paradigm becomes unsupportable. The difference between this manner of viewing experience and Dewey’s presentation is not trivial. However, taking on Dewey is never an easy task even when we suspect him of stolidity. His meticulous logic and painstaking clarity do not easily allow us to see what is missing or what has been glossed over, so long as we accept the commonsense as common. But the politics of experience is fought at home, in the streets, on the beaches, in Ibid., p. 27.
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damp, dank corridors, in bars and pissoirs, in academic expression, in sleep, and in poetry and literature, besides schools—a battle in which the mask of commonsense itself begins to wear thin, if one is willing to pay attention to it. In other words, our ordinary ways of speaking, thinking, and organizing reality show up to be inadequate—something then has got to give. Without minimizing the debt that we owe to Dewey, it is only against the cloud that has gathered over the sanity of commonsense that Dewey’s analysis comes up short and without remedy beyond the narrow humanism of the age. Finally, there is the not-so-small matter of the context of experience and place of the body within it. In the entirety of the text of Experience and Education, the word ‘body’ finds mention only five times, two of which are references to a body of knowledge and not to the corpus sensorium. Out of the remaining three, one is a passing reference to how the Greeks thought about the body, another is about parts of the body, and the final one being a one-liner about the possible link between body and mind. In other words, there is no sustained engagement or theorization of the body as a core participant in the production of experience. In contrast the word ‘intellect’ finds mention thirty-one times in the text. This difference is, I feel, not trivial or circumstantial. It may not be far-fetched to say that, unconsciously, Dewey reproduces the Enlightenment prioritization of mind over body, the ‘we shall overcome through the mind’ sensibility that disregards the meaning of embodied experience. Highly intellectualized men like Dewey let their intellect hover above the body without ever lowering their center of gravity into the corpus in order to discover its true potential in the determination of experience. Let us again turn to the Deweyan thinker David Kolb, author of the highly acclaimed work Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. Kolb begins his book by bringing up a critique of learning through life experience that entails being in direct contact with the realities one is studying. Buchmann and Schwille (1983) argue against education based on this type of experiential learning and further propose that the purpose of formal education is to overcome the biases inherent in the process of learning from ongoing life experience. They cite numerous sources of error in judgments based on experience such as Tversky and Kahneman’s (1973) availability heuristic where the availability of objects and events in memory such as those experienced firsthand tend to be overused. Similarly vivid experiences
tend to be weighted more highly than objective data. One’s experience is necessarily influenced by their political and social context and thus is biased in judging social and political issues from other perspectives in the social order. They argue that reading is in some ways superior to reflection on personal experience because it broadens possibilities and perspectives. Secondhand knowledge is more generalizable and can go beyond what is known from experience.29
Kolb does not immediately offer a refutation of the above criticism but proceeds to log other views. But let us examine the above closely as it will further clarify the drift of our thinking. Right away we can detect a couple of fallacies. First, there is the idea that direct experience of reality keeps us confined to the particularity and specificity of that experience. It might do that if we are kept out of school and drift on the basis of our own devices. The purpose of schooling in this context would be to provide a platform for critically examining those experiences. For example, if, in carpentering, I have experienced only hardwood and become used to its limitations, schooling would introduce me to other kinds of wood and their properties. If I have only known clayey soil, school would show me how to adjust the soil for crops requiring different characteristics. Experience is thus linked to other experiences and comes to reside in them in a continuum, and not remain as isolates. Second, there is the implicit notion that the outcome of experience is knowledge imprint and does not provide any other kind of expansion or illumination. This belief would be typical of those who have been deprived of first-hand experience and exposed only to second-hand or book knowledge. Primary or direct experience does not necessarily make one parochial but provides much more than localized knowledge. It deepens and widens the sensory basis of our existence and provides a critical foundation for grasping second-hand knowledge. It also expands our capacities for dealing with our surroundings and provides deep satisfaction of the tangible. Thirdly, to think that those who accept the value of direct experience in education are opposed to generalized knowledge obtained from public sources is to fall into the trap of Either-Or thinking that we have seen earlier, and about which Dewey has warned us so emphatically. The ‘availability heuristic’ and its practice, in almost all cases I know of, does not exclude formal knowledge. As a case in point, I 29 David A. Kolb, Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development (New Jersey: Pearson Education Inc., 2015), pp. xviii–xix.
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would like to mention David Horseburgh’s erstwhile school Neelbagh in India. Primary experience was at the core of David’s pedagogic philosophy, but in no way did it exclude formal learning. David himself wrote wonderful books for the classroom and his students seemed to do well in college. So, it seems that those who attack experience as the primary source of learning do so from a certain ignorance and dogmatism than any clear understanding of what is actually involved. Finally, the idea that the objective content of thought (generalizable conclusions) is all that is desirable in education is the worst form of one-dimensional thinking I can imagine. It takes away the situatedness of our existence and turns us into existential vagabonds and drifters not unlike the tramps Didi and Gogo in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. It turns us into perfect fodder for the global capitalist machine that requires generalizable people as well as generalizable product solutions making both into cultural standards for consumption. But even greater absurdities await us in the form of sweeping misunderstandings about experiential learning—see, for example, the extract that follows from Kolb’s text below. It shows the extent to which we have become dangerously lulled into accepting the modern form of knowledge- as- information as the sole valid form of knowing, replacing knowledge-in-experience. Brehmer (1980) cites studies showing that experienced experts are often no better than novices at making clinical judgments; for example, a study that compared clinical psychologists’ and secretaries’ ability to diagnose brain damage showed no difference between these two groups. He also describes studies that show that people have a number of biases that prevent them from using the information that experience provides. He concludes that experience does not necessarily lead to better judgment and decisions “because it stems from an untenable conception of the nature of experience, a conception that assumes that truth is manifest and does not have to be inferred … if we do not learn from experience, this is largely because experience often gives us little information to learn from.” (1980, pp. 239–240)30
Here the very meaning of experience has been usurped to mean something else. One cannot experience brain damage in someone in the same way as one can experience harvesting crops or carrying out a welding job. This is elementary and yet it is shocking how disingenuous one can be in Ibid., p. xix.
order to make a point. Obviously, a medical condition occurring deep inside a body has to be inferred by means of tests, observations, and so on, since one cannot experience the condition of another’s body directly (unless perhaps one is a shaman or some mystic healer). This does not mean however that one learns nothing from direct experience. The blatant claim that experience does not yield information and hence we learn nothing from it is laughable. Even a child riding a bicycle leans into the curve to balance the centrifugal force, even though s/he has no information about it. Simply put, we have loads of embodied knowledge gathered from direct experience that did not get to us as information. This is also the distinction that Michael Polanyi makes between ‘knowing that’ and ‘knowing how.’ The first is informational, the second is experiential. One might know everything about swimming that was ever written, and yet drown once in the water. Here I am tempted to tell a story told by Sufi masters. A boatman is berated by a grammarian for having no knowledge of grammar while making a crossing in his boat. The scholar haughtily asks the boatman how he expected to cross the river of life as an illiterate. Meanwhile, the boat develops a leak in the stormy waters. Before jumping off the sinking boat, the boatman turns to the grammarian and says, “I will now cross the river of life, but you, sir, will drown because you cannot swim in these waters.” Formal knowledge is obviously good and useful. Without it I could not possibly write this book. But this must not lull us into denying that which is prior to knowledge, which is embodied perception. Sadly, commonsense seems to have forgotten this to the common peril of all civilization. Even as I write this book, the world is facing a ‘pandemic’ according to the experts. In commonsense parlance, we are supposedly fighting a virus—the COVID-19. But experience can tell you that we cannot ‘fight’ a virus, even metaphorically, since to fight implies hostile intent from an other. ‘Viruses’ do not have any intent; they are not even positivities that can be directly experienced. Instead they reveal pathological gaps (loss of communication such as loss of immunological balances) in our system—our ecological system. Our commonsense has allowed us to rampantly damage the fine eco-systemic dynamis that includes ourselves, which then reappears in our midst as dangerous negativity bringing lot of destruction (further loss of negentropic communication). Commonsense thus misleads and misinterprets the situation according to its own fixed logic. As a result, we are forced to look beyond the threshold of commonsense in order to theorize experience, requiring us to develop those
1 SOMATIC ENGAGEMENTS: AN INTRODUCTION
insights that will give us a glimmer of something beyond it, for the latter has been the breeding ground of intractable problems that now confound it. Searching, we encounter fresh ground that is resurgent against the commonsense perspective—the anti-psychiatrist and critic of commonsense, R. D. Laing, gives us something to think about: “Experience is invisible to the other. But experience is not ‘subjective’ rather than ‘objective’, not ‘inner’ rather than ‘outer’, not process rather than praxis, not input rather than output, not psychic rather than somatic, not some doubtful data dredged up from introspection rather than extrospection.”31 With a series of negations, Laing takes us beyond commonsense binaries and oppositions. Arguing that experience is neither inner nor outer, Laing forces us to seek a third space that is neither subjective nor objective but that might be called transjective. [P]erception, imagination, phantasy, reverie, dreams, memory, are simply different modalities of experience, none more ‘inner’ or ‘outer’ than any others. Yet this way of talking does reflect a split in our experience. We seem to live in two worlds, and many people are aware only of the ‘outer’ rump. As long as we remember that the ‘inner’ world is not some space ‘inside’ the body or the mind, this way of talking can serve our purpose. (It was good enough for William Blake.) The ‘inner’, then, is our personal idiom of experiencing our bodies, other people, the animate and inanimate world: imagination, dreams, phantasy, and beyond that to ever further reaches of experience.32
We seem to have outer experiences and inner ones—water boiling ( outside) and ‘blood boiling’ (inside). This apparent split in the world of experience is along wrong lines—there is no ‘inner’ or ‘outer’ in the manner of a spatial division—such as, inside the body and outside— although we might talk that way. The actual difference is between the psychic and the material or the qualitative and the quantitative. Certain experiences are material and quantitative, meaning that they involve energy exchanges, and there are others that are non-material and do not involve any exchange of energy. We label the latter as ‘inner’ and the former as ‘outer.’ Over time this manner of talking hardens and we begin to treat this distinction as an actual spatial division. And further, when we are 31 R. D. Laing, The Politics of Experience (Baltimore, Maryland: Penguin Books, 1967), p. 17. 32 Ibid., p. 18.
born into this hardened spatial relation, there appears no alternative on the horizon to make us suspect it. The first birth or the physical birth, therefore, is unto the horizontal plane of a dim conventionality that takes the form of a chatter-cloud or a fragmentary consciousness of half-truths fomented in commonsense. In contrast, the psychic re-birth or re-naissance must understand this dissipative cloud and begin by grappling with the pre-constituted universe of meanings in order to go beyond it. We have to thin down the concrete wall that has developed between the ‘inner’ and the ‘outer.’ That is the pedagogic task before us. Problems arise when we assume that the first birth is the only one, and take the associated conventionality and commonsense discourse around us for granted. The twice-born are those who understand, for example, that there is no such thing as personal experience: All experience is interpersonal experience. When I experience you, I actually experience your experience of me (i.e., the way in which ‘you’ are oriented toward ‘me’), which in turn, is my experience of you, and so on, regressively, ad infinitum. This infinite regress cannot be stopped or resolved; it is one of the eternal mysteries that underlies the condition of possibility of experiencing. And this is true not just between persons, but between anything and everything else. All things are made up of each other at the level of experience. There is no monadic experience, nor the experience of a monad, only layers of interexperience. This is the first major revelation in the study of experience. It changes our view of the world and ourselves in a fundamental way. And hence we must be willing to change the way we speak about the world and ourselves. False ways of thinking about experience leads to devastating consequences. Commonsense, which has developed along a certain path, generally unreflective about its own evolution, breeds different forms of contradictions and alienation to which we get adjusted, which, in turn, brings forth more commonsense. And the latter just grows out of our continuous adjustment to a reality produced by our own selves in a previous round. There are forms of alienation that are relatively strange to statistically ‘normal’ forms of alienation. The ‘normally’ alienated person, by reason of the fact that he acts more or less like everyone else, is taken to be sane. Other forms of alienation that are out of step with the prevailing state of alienation are those that are labelled by the ‘normal’ majority as bad or mad. The condition of alienation, of being asleep, of being unconscious, of being out of
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one’s mind, is the condition of the normal man. Society highly values its normal man. It educates children to lose themselves and to become absurd, and thus to be normal. Normal men have killed perhaps 100,000,000 of their fellow normal men in the last fifty years. Our behaviour is a function of our experience. We act according to the way we see things. If our experience is destroyed, our behaviour will be destructive. If our experience is destroyed, we have lost our own selves.33
What does it mean to say: ‘If our experience is destroyed?’ Our experience is destroyed when we are taught not to trust our own experience and learn to replace it with the socially acceptable one. The consequence of experience is behavior, and if this behavior leads to the large-scale destruction of the planet and other fellow beings, then we must accept that there is something basically wrong with our mode of experiencing. War, and systematic, large-scale, deliberate destruction of planetary ecology, does not just happen. They are the products of our refusal to see things the right way. We want piecemeal solutions to piecemeal problems, unable to comprehend that our fundamental manner of relating to experience is erroneous. That is to say, our pedagogic understanding of experience (of the world) is seriously at fault. That is why the problem of experience is an educational problem as well as the problem of commonsense. We can see that the range of issues covered by the notion of experience, as we shall be using the term here, is quite broad, and we shall have to go into its various aspects as we proceed. We have the primary task of bringing back into pedagogic focus the significance of direct or corporal-sensual experience bridging the body-mind split, but before we can do that we have to understand the very nature of experience itself at the epistemic and ontological levels without which the former task would remain largely incomplete. In other words, a complete reassessment of experience is on the cards here. Also, we have glimpsed how commonsense as it has evolved is the greatest enemy of experience. To come out on the other side of commonsense is a related task that we are setting out for ourselves here. Methodologically, the present work, being a re-consideration of experience, is situated, not surprisingly, in the domain of phenomenology, which immediately makes us think of Edmund Husserl who had pioneered the field. Consciousness, according to Husserl, is always directed at something, and its structure revealed itself in this ‘intentionality.’ Husserlian Ibid., p. 24.
phenomenology was thus concerned principally with ‘essence,’ and with ‘bracketing’ as the mode of reduction of phenomenal experience to essence. The idea was that experience could be reduced to its core substance when one removed all the cultural trappings and belief structures surrounding it (bracketing). But uneasy questions remained: Was it truly possible to bracket out all influence, and who then remained as the experiencer and how could ‘she/he/it’ remain outside the bracketing process, and so on? The phenomenological approach adopted in the present work is not along the lines of Husserlian intentionality but along intensity, not essence but emergence, and not bracketing but integrating. From that point of view, we are much closer to the phenomenology of Maurice Merleau-Ponty who focused on the sensuous in his theoretical allegiance for world-making. With regard to the educational, I am concerned with experience as revealment of intensity (and intensification) within field relations. In other words, the present work sees education as a live phenomenological field that can reveal entirely new relations in our world-as-lived-body. Conventional education proceeds by taking the world for granted and progressively learns about that commonsensical world. Phenomenological field relations do not take the discrete world for granted but grope for the emergent processes that bring it about. The chapters progress initially by means of critique of the commonsensical position, and then proceed to illustrate an emergent educational space in which experience has a very different meaning. We must struggle for the experience of fresh becoming beyond the bankrupt horizon of the objectivized world. This is the struggle of the twice-born. The chapters of the book proceed in the following manner. The present chapter, the introduction, begins by posing the following questions: Is there within the educational endeavor the systematic possibility of going beyond knowledge acquisition in order to grasp ourselves phenomenologically, and thereby breaking through to the living process of experiencing? Is it possible to discover something in education that opens a path to our unique ontologies beyond the historical, the political, and the settled identitarian imaginary? If yes, then we must wrestle with the question: What is the path to such an experience? I take the view that such an encounter with experiencing is possible, but such a surge of élan vital is imaginable only through a protracted and multi-layered struggle against dominant commonsensical positions. Further, only a proper mobilization of the psychic, the somatic, and the intellectual, as well as their proper
1 SOMATIC ENGAGEMENTS: AN INTRODUCTION
synthesis can bring this about. This conatus is what the book has called the pedagogy of the twice-born. Chapter 2 enquires into the structure and genesis of commonsense that has such a stranglehold on us. Our birth into commonsense makes us become adjusted to a whole range of underlying presumptions about the nature of the world, ourselves, and our existential relations, so that we do not care to examine these each time afresh precisely because it is all commonsense. Working within commonsense frontiers we feel safe and our sense-perceptions get used to performing within the parameters set by commonsense. We even get ridiculed if we try to extend the boundaries of things a little bit. We might be called a romantic, an impractical idealist, or something worse, and dismissed. Commonsense has such a grip on the social imaginary that we do not step on its toes for fear that we might be ostracized. It presents a well-ordered reality that no one wants to see disturbed, especially the policy maker and the bureaucrat. Little is demanded from even the ‘high-IQ morons’ than that they follow the established channels of commonsense, and react to things in commonly approved ways. This makes it all the more pressing to analytically deconstruct the peculiar source of authority of commonsense. Next, Chap. 3 looks at the optical obsession of contemporary culture that so heavily prioritizes image formulations but does not take somatic insight or corporeal engagement seriously. We are not supposed to be able to come into contact with reality directly, but solely through mental schemas and cognitive categories—this is the Kantian legacy. The Kantian ding an sich (things in themselves) are forever supposed to be out of reach of the senses; we are able to receive a kind of imaging through cognitive maps hard-wired in the brain that are at once-remove from actual reality. But Paul’s postulation of the ‘eyes of the heart’ is in direct conflict with this attitude. It holds out the possibility of somatic intelligence that has nothing to do with cognitive schemas. The body is an embedded reality and not something abstract, and able to perform the most incredible tasks without the help of any intellectual schema. From this perspective, the Kantian assertion seems almost amusing, as we are actually always in touch with the things-in-themselves, and it cannot be otherwise. The eyes of the heart or somatic intelligence seems such a remote proposition intellectually only because we have failed to recognize and awaken to the true potential of the body. Chapter 4 asks: “What precisely do we mean when we say we experience this or that?” It is not as though perception through categories is
wrong. It is the case that we are often not aware that our real experience has little to do with the manner in which we categorize. And the way in which we categorize, and the uncritical significance we often grant to these categories, have led to a fragmented reality in the absence of a proper pedagogic attention to the underlying flow of things. We hold images of the parent or the teacher or the student under those labels. But what exactly are our experiences about those who we label thus? Do these experiences come with those labels, and do they correspond to the latter in some elementary way, or are they something else altogether? Do I experience a student as a ‘student’ (whatever that is), or do I experience her/ him as a certain turbulence in my consciousness? Is my father a part of that class of beings called fathers, or is he a bundle of anxieties, affections, and unknowns that reciprocally affect my experience of him? Am I his ‘son,’ or am I a bundle of habits and desires, contradictions, and commitments which are instrumental in my father’s experience of me? And is not my father’s experience of me also the basis of my experience of him, in an infinite regress? Chapter 5 goes into a reconsideration of knowledge that has to be effected through an exemplary reevaluation of standard theories and their commonsensical (does not necessarily mean street-level) epistemic stances that have, for long, held social and cultural perceptions in thrall about the nature of existential reality and our relations within it. In fact, that there is such a ‘reality,’ and not merely processes, shifts, and changes, is part of that commonsensical insistence that needs to be examined. Now, obviously, all theories or their presumptions of knowledge cannot be examined here. We pick, in an illustrative manner, a few major theoretical developments and their interpretations that have left significant impact on the social at multiple levels, necessarily coloring our perceptions, and leaving us with certain wide-ranging ways of framing experience that have become equated with reality. The twice-born pedagogy needs to deal with these settled realities and their assumptions in order to develop an opening for the surge of intensity to manifest itself. To free the understanding of its cobwebs is a primary task, which is aided by reexamining contemporary intellectual attitudes and theoretical lenses. Chapter 6 goes into the conditions of possibility of experience that cannot arise in a neutral or innocent space, which is not always already conditioned by historical ways of organizing perception. Modern secular experience and within its womb secular knowledge and education had their genesis broadly at the intersection of three historically produced
1 SOMATIC ENGAGEMENTS: AN INTRODUCTION
discontinuities or lines of fracture—namely, between the natural and the supernatural, between the body and the mind, and between the intellect and intuition. In any attempt to understand experience, it is necessary to grasp each of these lines of fracture as unique historical processes and their consequences, for the birth of experience, especially modern experience, is a phenomenon peculiar to this historical intersection. Consequently, it would be my endeavor in this chapter to show that what we consider as modern educational experience has been essentially conceived, compounded, and naturalized within these oppositions. And at the same time, the mainstream educational process has covered its tracks, pretending to respond directly to the needs of the child or society, and not to the constructs and compulsions of the historical fractures. The concluding chapter gathers the ideas developed into the book showing how commonsensical ideas of ourselves as independent beings and individuals are in need of serious revision. Our existence is continuous and coterminous with other forms of life taken together, and hence true existential meaning can only emerge from this perspective. In turn, the meaning of experience can only be understood against this totality. It is this perspective of emergence, a principle that is always exploding outward without a pre-determined plan, that is reflected in the attitude of the twice-born, and not the perspective of the isolated life of expressed objects. It acknowledges the schematization of the intellectualized life, while at all times remaining aware of the deeper phenomenological stream from which those very schemas emerge. This changes the manner in which we view our relationships with the world at large. We must distinguish between our knowing the material world intellectually and our living in it somatically. Thought is oriented toward action and is the result of our accidental brush with things. It is good with manipulation of the objectified world since it arises in a reciprocal relation with it, but it is wholly inadequate when it comes to comprehending the movement of life within us.
References Alfred L. Hall-Quest, foreword to Experience and Education, by John Dewey (New York: Touchstone, 1997). Antonio Gramsci, The Prison Notebooks (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1971). David A. Kolb, Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development (Upper Saddle River, N. J.: Pearson Education, Inc., 2015).
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958). John Dewey, Experience and Education (New York: Touchstone, 1997). John Dewey, Experience and Nature (New York: Dover Publications, 1958). Mathew B. Crawford, Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work (New York: The Penguin Press, 2009). Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (London: Pluto Press, 2011). R. D. Laing, The Politics of Experience (Baltimore, Maryland: Penguin Books, 1967). William James, Essays in Radical Empiricism (New York: Longman Green and Co., 1912). William Torbert, Learning from Experience: Toward Consciousness (New York: Columbia University Press, 1979).
Meditations on Commonsense
“Don’t be an idiot. Can you see Tuesday?” The anthropologist Clifford Geertz recalls this question thrown at him by a Javanese peasant woman trying to make a point about a different perception of time.1 Indeed, we cannot see (or feel, or touch, or taste) Tuesday, or Monday, or any day for that matter. It is easy to see on reflection that to someone outside this manner of appropriation of time, such divisions may make no sense whatsoever, nor are they likely to be convinced by our explanation of the same. And yet, Monday, Tuesday, and the rest are so much part of our daily temporal habituatedness that they form an integral part of our commonsense ways of marking time and dealing with the world around us. Everyday wisdom allows us to get by in average situations with the least amount of fuss and redundancy. But as with everything else, there is a price to be paid—over time pragmatic associations begin to get ontological coloring—and the rise of colloquial reason in each culture develops an important history of delimitation. The air of what might be called ‘of-courseness’ comes with the congealment of numerous points in its long journey to the present. In the context of the West, the turn to everyday understanding of reality was a decisive reaction against a past wherein esoteric or learned sources were privileged and drawn upon to make evaluative decisions and control reactions. Moreover, the contemporary turn toward diversity and pluralism makes commonsense itself an important and privileged item of 1 Clifford Geertz, “Common sense as a cultural system,” The Antioch Review, Volume 50, Number 1–2 Winter 1992, p. 2. Words rearranged.
© The Author(s) 2020 K. Roy, Reincarnating Experience in Education, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-53548-3_2
concern. In the present case, the need for examining commonsense attitudes and practices cuts to the heart of the problem—we find ourselves coopted at birth, inoculated by the cultural system that surrounds us giving us more than just a social compass. Commonsense, along with its taken-for-granted attitude, is the very medium of our socialization, something that becomes the background for our subsequent thinking. The deep-seated attitudes and cultural preferences take their place in us without our realizing it—a progressive lateral seepage into our soul. It won’t therefore come as a surprise that any reevaluation of experience would require critical examination of the cultural filter—commonsense—in order to get a glimpse of what might lie beyond the culturally imposed boundaries of experience. The importance of all this for philosophy is, of course, that common sense, or some kindred conception, has become a central category, almost the central category, in a wide range of modern philosophical systems. It has always been an important category in such systems from the Platonic Socrates (where its function was to demonstrate its own inadequacy) forward. Both the Cartesian and Lockean traditions depended, in their different ways— indeed, their culturally different ways—upon doctrines about what was and what wasn’t self-evident, if not exactly to the vernacular mind at least to the unencumbered one. But in this century the notion of (as it tends to be put) “untutored” common sense—what the plain man thinks when sheltered from the vain sophistications of schoolmen—has, with so much else disappearing into science and poetry, grown into almost the thematic subject of philosophy. The focus on ordinary language in Wittgenstein, Austin, Ryle; the glorification of personal, in-the-midst-of-life decision in continental existentialism; the taking of garden-variety problem solving as the paradigm of reason in American pragmatism—all reflect this tendency to look towards the structure of down-to-earth, humdrum, brave type thought for clues to the deeper mysteries of existence.2
Is there something that is self-evident, meaning, to be just so, as it appears, nothing more and nothing less? Heat scorches, extreme cold burns, tearing of the skin causes bleeding, snake venom kills, clouds cause rain, walls resist—these are universal experiences. But this is not what we mean when we use the term self-evident. By the latter we mean something more than the immediate fallouts of empirical contact. Self-evident refers 2
Ibid. Emphasis mine.
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to an impression coming out of some form of assessment or evaluation of a condition or relation: ‘children require disciplining,’ ‘poverty is undesirable,’ ‘gravity is a force,’ ‘competition is good,’ ‘pursue the good life,’ ‘mustn’t be a loser,’ and suchlike. The vernacular wisdom carries with it a force that presses upon the member of the concerned group a certain action or conclusion, or makes her/him desist from something. It is a speech-act that proceeds from a cultural distillate. It is its strength as well as weakness. On the one hand, it makes life easier to follow the commonsense route. But on the other hand, it makes us blind to other possibilities and other ways of viewing reality, thus cramping our action. The analysis of common sense, as opposed to the exercise of it, must then begin by redrawing this erased distinction between the mere matter-of-fact apprehension of reality—or whatever it is you want to call what we apprehend merely and matter-of-factly—and down-to-earth, colloquial wisdom, judgments or assessments of it. When we say someone shows common sense we mean to suggest more than that he is just using his eyes and ears, but is, as we say, keeping them open, using them judiciously, intelligently, perceptively, reflectively, or trying to, and that he is capable of coping with everyday problems in an everyday way with some effectiveness. And when we say he lacks common sense we mean not that he is retarded, but that he bungles the everyday problems life throws up for him: he leaves his house on a cloudy day without an umbrella; his life is a series of scorchings he should have had the wit not merely to avoid but not to have stirred the flames for in the first place…. As Saul Bellow, thinking of certain sorts of government advisors and certain sorts of radical writers, has remarked, the world is full of high-IQ morons.3
Our birth into commonsense makes us become adjusted to a whole range of underlying presumptions about the nature of the world, ourselves, and our existential relations so that we do not care to examine these each time afresh precisely because it is all commonsense. Working within commonsense frontiers we feel safe and our sense-perceptions get used to performing within the parameters set by commonsense. We even get ridiculed if we try to extend the boundaries of things a little bit. We might be called a romantic, an impractical idealist, or something worse, and dismissed. Commonsense has such a grip on the social imaginary that we do not step on its toes for fear that we might be ostracized. It presents a 3
well-ordered reality that no one wants to see disturbed, especially the policy maker and the educational bureaucrat. Little is demanded from even the ‘high-IQ morons’ mentioned by Saul Bellow than that they follow the established channels of commonsense, and react to things in commonly approved ways. This makes it all the more pressing to analytically deconstruct the peculiar source of authority of commonsense. This analytical dissolution of the unspoken premise from which common sense draws its authority—that it presents reality neat—is not intended to undermine that authority, but to relocate it. If common sense is as much an interpretation of the immediacies of experience, a gloss on them, as are myth, painting, epistemology, or whatever, then it is, like them, historically constructed and, like them, subjected to historically defined standards of judgment. It can be questioned, disputed, affirmed, developed, formalized, contemplated, even taught, and it can vary dramatically from one people to the next. It is, in short, a cultural system, though not usually a very tightly integrated one, and it rests on the same basis that any other such system rests: the conviction by those whose possession it is of its value and validity. Here, as elsewhere, things are what you make of them.4
Commonsense is a loosely constructed historical nebula without clarity beyond itself. That is to say, the commonsensical authority that interprets the ‘immediacies of experience’ has no reference point outside of itself.5 Obviously, the mosaic of this contingent construct has left its trail in history. Hence it behooves us to pause here and peer into a little bit of history. The original fourteenth-century meaning of the term, ‘commonsense’ was a sense like our other senses. It was an internal feeling that was seen as the common bond that united all the other human senses, and was something akin to what might be thought of as intuition. But by the sixteenth century, the meaning had changed to be more like our present-day Ibid. Man has, for long, been the measure of himself. For example, he gives himself accolades for what he does, not concerned that he is doing so himself, without any external measure that can be truly said to be dispassionate and objective. (What would human activities look like from a non-earthian’s perspective? But non-earthians are not available for this task, so the best humans can do is to remain highly circumspect about our activities whose general directions are guided by commonsense). Without clarity, our activities are no more and no less than a dung beetle’s efforts—both do what their propensities urge them to do. In the former it is instinct; in the latter it is commonsense. Clarity relocates the premises of commonsense. 4 5
2 MEDITATIONS ON COMMONSENSE
meaning, that is, a kind of untutored wisdom that life experience begets. Historian Sophia Rosenfeld writes: “In modern parlance, we sometimes use common sense to mean the basic human faculty that lets us make elemental judgments about everyday matters based on everyday, real- world experience,” and further, at “other times we mean the widely shared and seemingly self-evident conclusions drawn from this faculty, the truisms about which all sensible people agree without argument or even discussion, including principles of amount, difference, prudence, cause and effect.”6 A refrain often heard is: If you used your commonsense you would have known what to do. While, functionally, the value of these truisms lies in the manner in which society reproduces itself through them, critical social theorists are highly distrustful of commonsense and problematize the notion as something to be wary of, or at the least, examined carefully. [W]hen historians do consider common sense, they generally do so from a position of hostility; it is what social scientists see as their professional obligation to work against. Philosophers may spend their days pondering its epistemological validity. But those who study the past typically interest themselves in common sense with the goal of undermining the authority of what passes for it today in the particular society in which they live and write. Do you think it is common sense that a family is made up of two parents of opposite sexes and their direct off spring? Historians looking backward, like anthropologists looking in other places, can show you that there is nothing natural or inevitable here, only culture that familiarity and indoctrination have rendered falsely commonsensical in feel. There is a good reason, however, why historians might well want to pause and reflect on the history of common sense itself, including its evolving content, meanings, uses, and effects. That reason is the centrality of the very idea of common sense to modern political life.7
Why do social scientists find commonsense troubling? Because the latter provides a convenient but deceptive platform for organizing sensory data and establishes hegemonic limits on experience. Let us look at the current epidemic that has driven such fear into and across world communities. Everywhere, commonsense speaks with its current strategic 6 Sophia Rosenfeld, Common Sense: A Political History (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011), p. 1. 7 Ibid., p. 2.
wisdom: lockdown, test, isolate, and so on, and some ideal combination of the three. But we know from previous epidemics, such as the 2008 H1N1 influenza, that nothing we do stops the spread of the virus. So the attempt to contain the virus is absurd and a mere political gesture. The virus comes, infects at a certain rate, and then suddenly disappears. Why and how? No one knows for sure, but a reasonable guess is that after a certain level of infection in the population, we reach herd immunity. The natural system not only produces infectious agents but also produces at a certain pace and at an appropriate time systemic immunity from those agents. After a certain number in the population gets infected we reach what is called protective level. Of course no one knows for sure what percentage needs to get infected in order to reach herd immunity, but we do know that in the present outbreak, all over the world, more than ninety percent of the infected cases are mild and not critical,8 and people will recover from it just as they recover from chicken pox or measles. So transmission is not necessarily dangerous other than in a relatively small number of cases of those mainly with previous health conditions. But this does not mean one does nothing. Studies show that mortality is high in the higher age groups. Therefore, one must allow transmission in the younger age group in a controlled fashion while strictly limiting the exposure of the elderly. All economic activities can go on with adequate care, and the proper knowledge of this notion of reaching the protective level without fear or panic must be part of the strategic scenario. COVID-19 cannot and does not kill arbitrarily, and knee-jerk reactions and panic can do more damage than the virus itself. So, while to speak of containment is nonsense (because it also involves taking away people’s basic freedoms of movement and earning livelihood, etc.), one has to reach herd immunity in a staggered manner by slowing down the spread of infection. Herd immunity does not mean we do nothing and let the disease spread uncontrollably (this is how the idea is usually ridiculed by commonsense and dismissed). Rather it means we react more intelligently and more systemically to the problem, rather than in the old-fashioned and commonsensical frame of man-versus-virus. But the latter framework has the ear of the politicians as well as the orthodox medical establishment since it gives the illusion of determined human action. “We are fighting a virus,” we are told, and not that we are fighting a reality we 8 According to Worldometer, on April 13, 2020, the COVID-19 count stood at the following numbers: Total active cases: 1.31 million; mild condition: 1.26 million (96%); serious condition: 51,000 (4%).
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have ourselves constructed out of available raw materials and our commonsense. But are there not people dying of the epidemic, that is surely not in our imagination? Yes, but people are also dying of heart ailment, of cancer, of tuberculosis, of liver and kidney failure, of diabetes, pneumonia, influenza, and AIDS every day despite treatment, and in much larger numbers. The final cause in each of these is different from the efficient cause, and the final cause very often relates to the manner in which we have prioritized the elements in our lives, and organized our experience of who and what we are, and how we should live. This is not a question of establishing the superiority of one idea over another (which is the old way), but the ability to transcend commonsense and look over the horizon at other ways of thinking and being. The above discussion shows rather pointedly the reasons why we should worry about commonsense, and why it becomes the duty of the intellectual to see beyond the culturally organized tunnel vision. Sensus communis may not have any ontological basis or any claims to universality, nevertheless, politically it is a potent apparatus of social control and for keeping people in their place through reinforcing the ‘obvious.’ Millions of conjugated crystals of nostrum are strung out across the socius, bred and serviced by the overseers of culture and their hand-maidens. To use a different metaphor, it is as though channels were cut with high banks of commonsense on either side making sure that social energies flowed along assured conduits. Hence, historians, sociologists, philosophers, political theorists, and especially educationists would do well to pay serious attention to the phenomenon of commonsense. We do not study commonsense in order to valorize it or to seek its destruction; rather, we study its vast and loose apparatus in order to find out what it puts out of sight. Commonsense cannot but be ultimately aligned with the subcutaneous capillaries of power, the invisible machinery of cultural consensus-making and social reproduction. That is what makes commonsense so important in the study of experience. The value of an experience (even, whether it is an experience at all) is judged against this immense spatio-temporal canvas of commonsense. Therefore, let us go back a bit in time and look at it through the historian’s lens. [F]ollowing an age of bloody disputes associated with the triumph of various enthusiasms, these divines chose to employ this stripped-down, everyday idiom in favor of a reasonable Christianity, consistent if not with the
absolute, infallible truth of any one authority (pure reason, personal revelation, or the pope himself), then with moral certainty or the “mitigated skepticism” of what could not help but strike a reasonable person as self-evident. This, claimed Stillingfleet, was as much certainty as most people required in their everyday lives. Rejecting the need for speculation and interpretation whenever possible, the Latitudinarians offered a plain, direct doctrine that was intended to be entirely congruent with the practical good sense and established values of its audience. The benefits for its genteel adherents would be evident in terms of health, material well-being, reputation, and social relations: the business of daily life. As Tillotson, the archbishop of Canterbury in the reign of William III, had memorably put it, “the laws of God are reasonable, that is suited to our nature and advantageous to our interest.” The sermons of Tillotson and Stillingfleet overflowed with the kinds of statements that encouraged social cohesion and spiritual unity precisely because they could be so readily met with agreement.9
Moving away from hard doctrinal positions that were at the root of agonizingly long-drawn historical conflicts, moderate clerics among English churchmen attempted to create a new public space using everyday idiom and commonplace understandings with which most average folk (non-zealots) would find it hard to disagree. Heterogeneity could lead to a new public culture beyond ideological divisions, sans the old centers of sectarian authority, or it could bring more discord and sectarian strife as the old order broke down completely. “For the English upper and middle classes, one of the great challenges of the postrevolutionary era was to discover new, extralegal ways to mitigate the most extreme forms of pluralism, that is, to distinguish understanding from misunderstanding and to promote a low-level kind of consensus about basic ideas, all within the context of religious toleration and the legal deregulation of speech and print.”10 More than anything else, middle-class life required stability, and a sudden loss of boundaries that separated erstwhile sense from nonsense, including who could or could not speak, required a great deal of informal negotiation at many levels for a certain basic order to reappear out of the social turmoil. A liberal culture could thrive only within something that possessed a minimal amount of consensual authority which would be able to hold together the fragile peace between extreme partisan views and opposing interests. The production of a plane of overlapping consensus 9
Ibid., p. 29. Ibid., p. 26.
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without reference to any orthodox source of unity would require all concerned to agree upon the minimal veracity of certain basic presumptions about the world which they occupied. But despite the efforts of many moderates, this was not easily forthcoming under the existing conditions of early eighteenth-century England. “The source of the problem was the insistence on the certainty and exclusive truth of one’s own position, whether one spoke from the vantage point of the radical doubt and moral relativism of the skeptic, on the one hand, or the nonconformity of the enthusiast or religious individualist endowed with private revelations, on the other.”11 Each group still insisted on the exclusive truth of their own positions, whether it was underwritten by relativism or revelation. In its emergence, commonsense could not strive for truth that was beyond righteous claims, but aimed for an average position that was a social compromise. Getting away from claims of absolute truth and certainty that had led to bloody battles in the recent past, a pragmatic reconciliation was sought on the grounds of reasonableness that would guarantee as much certainty as any average life might require in order to go about performing their daily tasks. Practical good sense was thus wedded to existing basic values in bringing forth an agreeable matrix that was a collage of tempered varieties of social sentiment. Already academic thought was seen to have entered the ivory tower and become divorced from pragmatic life. The emerging environment amongst moderates was hostile to scholasticism and the mumbo-jumbo of pure erudition. Thus in taking down the rarefied and the exclusivist domains, higher education was not spared. “Nicholas Armhurst described [the learning of schoolmen] as ‘syllogistical hocus-pocus,’ ‘learned gibberish,’ and ‘ethico-logico-physio-metaphysio-theological drama’ still taught at the great universities and called for plain speech and a less erudite common sense to take their place.”12 The polemic demanded university education to come down from abstract and imaginary Olympian heights to address everyday concerns using means accessible to plain reason. Rather than pushing academic reason to yield a higher or deeper understanding of life, it was dismissed as cumbersome nonsense. This would clearly have repercussions beyond the day. For the present, we return to the point of the manufacture of commonsense along with the
Ibid., p. 27. Ibid., p. 30.
delineation of a cognitive authority that could be heeded by the common culture in the making. Addison and Steele, like Shaftesbury, saw themselves forming the taste, manners, and beliefs of an increasingly cohesive, if expanded, elite. This elite was synonymous with the paper’s gentlemen and gentlewomen readers, or what one literary critic calls more fully “a polite public of reasonable, decent, tasteful, virtuous people of the combined middling and upper classes.” Through language, rather than law or more formal codes of exclusion and coercion, the Spectator assumed the task of establishing the cognitive authority of this segment of the population and making its values, culture, and consumption habits, again as defined by the editors, as normative as was possible. Simultaneously the journal worked to delegitimize other stances and beliefs, including key elements of both folk culture and contemporary philosophy as not only unlearned, superstitious, or antiquated but nonsensical and outside the boundaries of real-world common sense…. Common sense provided a foundation for taste, a set of critical rules against which violations, such as excessive imagination or innovation or obscurity, could be measured and judged and with which conformity could be praised.13
Through history, the framing of experience has had varied sources. The Papal Bulls of Rome and the Islamic fatwa are extreme examples of formal codes that outlined behavioral limits in an earlier age. With the coming of the new age, a new commonsense ‘elite’ was in the making displacing the traditional old-school elites learned in logic and Latin. Newspaper editors and certain writers in the popular press consciously orchestrated the effort to inaugurate and promote a commoner’s discursive regime bred out of everyday language practices, tastes, and perceptions. An anonymous writer even wrote a feisty book titled The Adventures of Common Sense that caught public attention. As the idea of commonsense gained ground among the educated and vocal middle-class segment of the populace, progressively achieving ‘cognitive authority’ as well as normative status, it simultaneously delegitimated other ways of experiencing such as folk mannerisms, ad hoc approaches, and alternate mystic worldviews. The developing realist commonsensical vision, distinct from the earlier stranglehold of onto-theologisms of various ilk, was what we could think of as a forerunner to the stance of the logical positivist and empiricist schools.
Ibid., p. 33.
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Nevertheless, it is a truism that efforts toward a new paradigm typically gain traction and public attention when there is a crisis afoot—so what was the problem stirring the imagination and pressing for an alternative paradigm of commonsense? It related to the primary sociological question: How to hold an increasingly heterogeneous society (eighteenth-century England, in this case) together with the least amount of coercion? It was its ascension in the above context that gave the modern avatar of sensus communis its political relevance, which traveled next to the shores of pre- Revolution America from the mother country. An English émigré named Tom Paine would become famous in the colonies along the Atlantic coast through a publication that was actually called Common Sense. This little pamphlet acted as a hand of destiny in snowballing sentiment across the region. Paine’s success was twofold. By most accounts, what Paine produced with his slim, cheaply printed pamphlet was an abrupt and massive shift in opinion up and down the Atlantic colonies. Soon after the appearance of Common Sense, according to standard histories, national independence came to seem not only viable but also essential—and did so to a public that ran the gamut from New England ministers to Philadelphia artisans and tradesmen. In a short span of time, the notion of the natural inequality of men, all of whom owed obedience to a king, was also largely replaced by a new vision of the world, no more inherently correct in its presuppositions, in which the people were at once the governed and the governors. This massive change of heart then altered the direction of the struggle between Britain and its North American colonies, forcing the recently formed Continental Congress meeting in Paine’s adopted hometown to move toward the drafting of a Declaration of Independence the following summer.14
Although too neat, this standard version might have some veracity; but what was probably closer to the truth was that Paine’s pamphlet was merely timely and helped crystallize something that had been brewing for a while. Unlike in England, where something akin to a sensus communis had to fight its way to the surface through the monumental psychological debris of wars fought over claims to truth, the American colonies were less cluttered with remnants of the past. There were fewer hardened ontological positions that got in the way of a social imaginary that dared to dream of cutting the colonial umbilical cord. Thus a new standard of truth Ibid., p. 137.
(commonsense) was woven into an unprecedented political vision (republicanism) that mutually reinforced each other. The compelling combination in the service of an ‘orchestrated solidarity,’ a political jouissance spread very quickly through the colonies, and the rest is of course history. What is important to note in all of this is the creation of a potent mix of the epistemological and the political, a mix that remains with us to this day. While all of these tumultuous events were piling up on the social and political shores on both sides of the Atlantic, their ripples, in one form or another, could not but have reached and provoked reaction in more rarefied zones. In particular, a Prussian academic named Immanuel Kant was creating currents in a contrary direction. It would not come as a surprise to anyone that the idealist mind of Kant would find the idea of commonsense reprehensible. To the average mind, space, time, and causation are ‘real’ in the sense of possessing an independent ontological existence. For Kant, these were mere sensibilities with which we produce a world. Kant’s philosophy focused on human autonomy in the sense of human reason being the source of fundamental laws including scientific and moral laws. These were not certainly the products of commonsense but of careful reflective judgment. For Kant, reason was connected to a priori knowledge and the task was to find out to what extent reason could be reliable independent of experience. Consequently, the turn to commonsense as the source of beliefs about the world could not but be detrimental in Kant’s view who also wrote an importance essay called What Is Enlightenment? Enlightenment was about thinking for oneself, rather than letting others think for you. And yet, interestingly, Kant dismissed the thinking of the common man as vulgar, celebrating instead, the sovereignty of reason which was beyond the judgment of the masses. For Kant, common sense, in its by-then-ordinary meaning as either the elemental, shared assumptions or basic intellectual capacity of ordinary people, held no appeal as a philosophical principle. Despite the fact that the Common Sense philosophy of Reid, Beattie, and Oswald had become well known in German lands over the previous few decades, Kant dismissed his Scottish colleagues’ dependence on the authority of common sense in their responses to Hume. In his Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, Kant had denounced the turn to ordinary common sense as a desperate appeal to the judgment of the masses in which “the popular charlatan glories.” Far from a tribunal of truth, common sense constituted to his mind little more than a rhetorical expedient that served to cut off critical investigation of knowledge claims; it might have its uses in judgments that applied immediately to experience, but
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it had no positive role to play in metaphysics…To make matters worse, he continued in the same scathing vein, the meaning we give to “the word common (not merely in our own language, where it actually has a double meaning, but also in many others) … makes it amount to what is vulgar … a quality which by no means confers credit or distinction upon its possessor.”15
Ordinary experience does not conform to, or help reveal, any formal rational processes, and to that extent is not useful in the discovery of anything reliable or consistent. What is not realized here is that average experience may not be able to say anything about itself, but it can unwittingly reveal something about the experiencer. Like most philosophers, Kant’s work does not have anything to say about the experiencer, and astonishingly seems to take the latter for granted, notwithstanding his famous statement that everything must submit to criticism. Kant’s developing philosophy swung between the two poles of empiricism and idealism—at times it seemed to move in one direction, and at others in the opposite direction. But ordinary experience was random, and one could not draw any metaphysical conclusions from it. Kant dragged commonsense before the court of metaphysics, the very jurisdiction from which it had sought to escape in the first place. The immediacy of experience wanted no other input than its own urgent vindication through what was ordinarily sensible and pragmatically doable. But in criticizing it, Kant’s critique does not add anything to it other than explaining it. It tells us about the categorical arrangement of our sensibilities and how we are able to make sense of the world, but it does not help us come to grips with it, nor find out how to change the construction of our reality—we remain passive subjects within active reason. In other words, the impressive oeuvre does not help us in the urgent task of transforming ourselves or the world of experience, something that bothered Marx about idealist philosophy to no small extent. Autonomous reason could provide a moral law, but if it remained phenomenologically at odds with experience who could follow it? It was left to Marx to provide a critique of the Critique, which was nothing other than a critique of consciousness itself. However, matters did not quite end there with respect to Kant’s complex view; in an ironic twist the master philosopher had to turn to a version of sensus communis in his third critique. In demonstrating how we make Ibid., p. 222.
aesthetic judgments, Kant had to admit something of the nature of a common ground that the collective must refer to for the sake of communicability. The impersonal aloofness of reason could not do this by itself, but even here there is no evidence of warmth or any scope for élan vital. The remarkable thing is that Kant’s entire effort heretofore is in the region of the mental, with the heart playing no part in it—for instance, for Kant beauty is what pleases us without interest. This dispassionateness or elision of passion is central to Kant’s worldview, and is also the central problem of pedagogy from our point of view. In setting the stage for much of modern philosophy, Kant removed passion or Eros as a source or factor of judgment. But let us get back to the point of how Kant is forced to introduce an element of sensus communis through the back door, as it were. Indeed, in Kant’s telling, in judging aesthetic matters we become unusually aware of our links to others. For we necessarily compare our own judgments with the (conjectural) “collective reason” of humanity as a whole. Though judgments of taste are perforce subjective, they always presuppose and refer to an ideal of universal assent, the possibility, if not the fact, of consensus among all. Sensus communis is ultimately the name that Kant gives to this faculty of judgment that leads us, without reflection, to make this comparison or to think from a universal standpoint. It is thus also the source of a social feeling, a sense of sharing something with others, that Kant described as the “necessary condition of the universal communicability of our knowledge.” And therein lies its importance: the sensus communis, or taste, illustrates the possibility of agreement founded on affective identification with the other, or intersubjectivity.16
It must be acknowledged that Kant specifically restricts his notion of sensus communis only to the arena of aesthetic judgment (beauty, taste, etc.), and does not extend it to cover areas such as moral values or truth, nor does he offer a practical philosophy born out of it. Nevertheless, in separating out the aesthetic from other domains of human perception- action, Kant commits an unfortunate philosophical error that leads to the fragmentation of experience. In a similar act, Kant had earlier separated the ‘sensible’ from the so-called intelligible. There are, in reality, no compartments in the consciousness that allow for this kind of separation. To use a visual metaphor, Kant pictures himself standing outside experience, and rather like a policeman directing the traffic into this or that channel, is Ibid., p. 223.
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able to categorically differentiate between various kinds of experiences. Thus, it is more than a question of ‘communicability’ or ‘intersubjectivity’ as argued above. It is, rather, a problem of arbitrary separation of experience, which over time tends to take the form of ontological truth. Today we readily separate mathematical experience from mystical experience as belonging to entirely separate categories. And yet the great mathematician A.K. Ramanujan spoke of his mathematics as divine revelation. In other words, while such categorization might be possible as a theoretical exercise, in actuality there exists no rational function, taste function, or moral and religious function as separate categories in consciousness. Our recognition of these as distinct categories is itself a cultural (commonsensical) construct that has no ontological basis. Anthropologically, there have been many cultures in which all three, for example, have been served by what might be called the ‘magic’ function. Hence, their separation or differentiation itself must be a cultural phenomenon. Experiences flow into each other and an experience of, say, fairies or gods is no different, in terms of an actual movement in consciousness, than the experience of a motorcar. This is especially true for creative experiences, which might contain elements of reason, taste, practicality, and aesthetic judgment, all rolled up within the same movement. If I draw a pattern on a piece of paper, here is an action I am taking on the ground of my experience of my situation. What do I experience myself as doing and what intention have I? Am I trying to convey something to someone (communication)? Am I rearranging the elements of some internal kaleidoscopic jigsaw (invention)? Am I trying to discover the properties of the new Gestalten that emerge (discovery)? Am I amazed that something is appearing that did not exist before? That these lines did not exist on this paper until I put them there? Here we are approaching the experience of creation and of nothing. What is called a poem is compounded perhaps of communication, invention, fecundation, discovery, production, creation. Through all the contention of intentions and motives a miracle has occurred. There is something new under the sun; being has emerged from nonbeing; a spring has bubbled out of a rock.17
All experience, including the experience of brushing one’s teeth, can have this sense of emergence, because it has nothing to do with the 17 R. D. Laing, The Politics of Experience (Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin Books, 1967), p. 34.
specificity or the outer form of an experience, but a sudden break with ways of steering cognitive moments. Yet we have seen that experience distillates can be cajoled toward social convergence in order to produce commonsense (in the manner of Paine and others), or sensory inputs can be filtered through intellectual categories in order to produce cognitive maps (in the manner of Kant and others). Obviously, infinitely more can be said about the history and process of the making of commonsense, but for our purposes here, this brief excursus must serve that allows us a glimpse of the beginnings of modern sensus communis. Strikingly different from the above historical positions, another possibility remains with regard to primary experience—one that remains plural, avoiding categorization, consensualization, mapping, and so on, but tends with all its weight toward escape and phenomenological anarchy (as noted in the quote above). In other words, such an attitude allows for the fact that a certain part of my experience of something can never be the same as yours, and essentially diverges from all others for the simple reason that the manner of my opening toward my environment (i.e., my mode of existential reality) is not the same as that of any other. Consider, for example, an average meeting. X is focused on the words of what is transpiring, whereas Y observes the body language of the participants, and Z is keenly watching the powerplay between all present. The experience of the three is very different of the same event. At the same time, for ordinary purposes, such as the minutes of the meeting, there might exist a superficial agreement about what transpired. To acknowledge this dual mode of realization, we have to resist at all times the continuous press for homogeneity or totalization of experience. In other words, we keep open a strictly limited area for conjunction, and a vast psychic and qualitative domain for disjunction. Unfortunately, this is allowed to happen very rarely. What prevents a clear understanding of conjunction (convergence) versus disjunction (divergence) is the surrounding commonsense that creates a synthetic atmosphere within the realms of which careful discernment is difficult. The fierce pressure toward agreement or consensus does not leave much room to consider the subtle aspects of what actually goes on apart from the overt layer that is jointly and cognitively acknowledged. The cognitive acknowledgment is a social function of power; in other words, what can be admitted as having occurred (as well as the response to it) is decided by the social gravitas. The initial birth of the enfleshed is into the pre-existing matrix of world experience, the contingent nature of which covers aspects such as relative
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ease of life, relative safety, relative capacity, relative opportunity, and relative value, all of which are the differential outcomes of the associated social hierarchy. This is the primary ground for the formation and crystallization of commonsense, which is the birthplace of a specific ‘reality,’ or a particular way of viewing the world. The contingent birth is also an interpellation into a second layer of social conditions such as levels of complex activity (technology), market relations (competition), alienated labor (classism), speed of redundancy (velocity), commodity fetishism (consumerism), oppressive relations (power), and so on. This is where we learn to please everybody including ourselves and begin to imagine that such is the primary course of life. A guiding buzz surrounds each combination set that is formative and foundational for the entity and its associated group. The characteristic buzz is an experiential distillate or commonsense that is typical of the particular social subset. In other words, commonsense, that is the outcome of a particular historical realization, decides the shape of the persona to a large extent, which then begins unconsciously to generalize it as the only possible way to view the world. The way in which a society organizes the life of its members involves an initial choice between historical alternatives which are determined by the inherited level of the material and intellectual culture. The choice itself results from the play of the dominant interests. It anticipates specific modes of transforming and utilizing man and nature and rejects other modes. It is one “project” of realization among others. But once the project has become operative in the basic institutions and relations, it tends to become exclusive and to determine the development of the society as a whole. As a technological universe, advanced industrial society is a political universe, the latest stage in the realization of a specific historical project—namely, the experience, transformation, and organization of nature as the mere stuff of domination. As the project unfolds, it shapes the entire universe of discourse and action, intellectual and material culture. In the medium of technology, culture, politics, and the economy merge into an omnipresent system which swallows up or repulses all alternatives. The productivity and growth potential of this system stabilize the society and contain technical progress within the framework of domination. Technological rationality has become political rationality.18
18 Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society (New York: Routledge, 1991), pp. xlvi–xlvii.
Once a choice is made between historical alternatives within the matrix of dominant interests, the various implications and effects of the choice play themselves out in the institutions and social relations, which then start to appear as commonsense over time. To the individual growing up within a specific universe of discourse and action, the modes of deployment of things and forces seem inevitable and natural, and everything ‘merges’ into a ubiquitous ‘system’ submerging other possibilities or alternative ways of thinking. The power of this system essentially arises out of its capacity for totalization offering stability. In the present era, this totalization is in the technological direction. All commonsense today is a derivative of technological rationality, and hence the latter is also political rationality as Marcuse observes. Every problem is seen to have a technological solution, and hence commonsense follows its curvature, or rather, its curvature is commonsense. Present-day education is the brainchild of this commonsense. From its dependence and obsession with the textbook to its rigid temporal structure, from its quantitative modes of assessment to its managerial stance, from its sources of wisdom to its emphasis on the techne of learning, all of these and more are the off-shoots of technocratic reason and commonsense. Its entrenched belief is that technocracy will solve the educational problem, blissfully unaware that education ultimately is a matter of the spirit, a question of quality, and not something to be solved. Technological commonsense deals with quantity and cannot even conceive of the qualitative dimension, and when it covers the earth from horizon to horizon, it cannot see anything but its own reflection. This form of totalization works through superior technical organization and coordination at all levels, and through the manipulation of needs, to make everything into a dovetailed operation that precludes the emergence of any real opposition. The commonsense stays focused on a specific kind of management of needs and even accommodates multiplicities within that discourse.19 Thus, technological commonsense becomes the most powerful 19 “For any consciousness and conscience, for any experience which does not accept the prevailing societal interest as the supreme law of thought and behavior, the established universe of needs and satisfactions is a fact to be questioned—questioned in terms of truth and falsehood. These terms are historical throughout, and their objectivity is historical. The judgment of needs and their satisfaction, under the given conditions, involves standards of priority—standards which refer to the optimal development of the individual, of all individuals, under the optimal utilization of the material and intellectual resources available to man. The resources are calculable. ‘Truth’ and ‘falsehood’ of needs designate objective conditions to the extent to which the universal satisfaction of vital needs and, beyond it, the progressive
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and effective political apparatus ever conceived, and a consciousness raised within its precincts finds everything quite normal, oriented toward addressing her/his needs. Such an entity functioning within commonsense usually has no standard by which s/he can know that the discourse and positioning of needs is historical and could have been otherwise. Only a complete reeducation of the sensibilities can lift the curtain of commonsense and return us to the flow of experience. Thus, for anyone to develop the capacity to critically assess the situation and question the universe of needs and satisfactions, one must first learn to define all liberties and freedoms by which we define present-day norms in negative terms, for the positive view is already the invention of commonsense. Such new modes can be indicated only in negative terms because they would amount to the negation of the prevailing modes. Thus economic freedom would mean freedom from the economy—from being controlled by economic forces and relationships; freedom from the daily struggle for existence, from earning a living. Political freedom would mean liberation of the individuals from politics over which they have no effective control. Similarly, intellectual freedom would mean the restoration of individual thought now absorbed by mass communication and indoctrination, abolition of “public opinion” together with its makers. The unrealistic sound of these propositions is indicative, not of their utopian character, but of the strength of the forces which prevent their realization. The most effective and enduring form of warfare against liberation is the implanting of material and intellectual needs that perpetuate obsolete forms of the struggle for existence.20
Breaking out of the pattern of commonsense requires us to negate the ‘prevailing modes’ of thinking and acting. To take an example, within the commonsensical and liberal order, economic freedom might imply the possibility of earning a living in an area of one’s choice and capacity without artificial obstruction or discrimination. But this still keeps one within the existing sway of economic forces and is not true liberty—one is still required to toil under a common set of assumptions and alienated alleviation of toil and poverty, are universally valid standards. But as historical standards, they do not only vary according to area and stage of development, they also can be defined only in (greater or lesser) contradiction to the prevailing ones. What tribunal can possibly claim the authority of decision?” Ibid., p. 8. 20 Ibid., p. 6.
relations. From the point of view of transcendence of commonsense, economic freedom would rather mean freedom from the existing set of economic relations and not being subordinated to them. Economic freedom might mean not subjecting ourselves to impersonal forces of the market but organizing our creative forces differently. In the same manner, political freedom would mean freedom from politics itself and not simply being part of some liberal democracy or other political regime. Commonsense interprets political freedom within a restricted social imaginary that is unable to comprehend anything deeper than relative liberties enshrined in discourses such as Rights. Anything beyond this appears utopian to commonsense due to the overpowering strength of the forces that are arrayed against a different realization. Activating a social imaginary along a different trajectory of realizations demands a recoil from existing modes of apprehending reality. The difficulty does not inhere in the path to realization itself, but in the ways in which commonsense denies its possibilities, making it seem fantastic and unrealizable. A perpetual obstructive theme in its various shades relates to the so-called struggle for existence to which commonsense is applied as a tool. It seems to escape notice that this struggle may itself be the construct of the evolutionary path of commonsense, that is to say, the product of a specific form of collective neurosis—a result of progressive surrender to a vicious cycle that reduces visibility, and the possibility of resistance in each cycle. We are confronted with one of the most vexing aspects of advanced industrial civilization: the rational character of its irrationality. Its productivity and efficiency, its capacity to increase and spread comforts, to turn waste into need, and destruction into construction, the extent to which this civilization transforms the object world into an extension of man’s mind and body makes the very notion of alienation questionable. The people recognize themselves in their commodities; they find their soul in their automobile, hi-fi set, split-level home, kitchen equipment. The very mechanism which ties the individual to his society has changed, and social control is anchored in the new needs which it has produced…. in the contemporary period, the technological controls appear to be the very embodiment of Reason for the benefit of all social groups and interests—to such an extent that all contradiction seems irrational and all counteraction impossible.21
Ibid., p. 11.
2 MEDITATIONS ON COMMONSENSE
There is nothing like a system of new needs (e.g., social media platforms) to keep social forces of discontent diverted and under control. The production of needs keeps the alienated energies in check foreclosing the possibility of their insurgence. The inner dimension in which discomfort and resistance to commonsense might take root is now shrunk to almost nothingness as a result of complete identification with the objects and aspirations of society. There is a veritable merger of aesthetic consciousness with the material arrangement of forces that is easily able to accommodate relatively minor moments of disquiet and incongruity within the larger apparatus of silent understandings with the result that nothing very significant seems out of place. Intellectuals occasionally murmur about disparities, mouth the usual shibboleths regarding oppression, or disapprove of certain excesses of the system, but they are unable to challenge the system itself that has produced them and that maintains them in relative security. A concerted effort of sacrifice might produce a sliver of new thinking that breaks through the opaque murkiness of historically constructed commonsense presenting itself as Reason. In the absence of such a break, experience is constrained to interpret itself within a one-dimensional reality, a unified habit of thinking and behaving that we have come to know as social existence and that reflects our follies as in a hall of mirrors. Outside the academic establishment, the “far-reaching change in all our habits of thought” is more serious. It serves to coordinate ideas and goals with those exacted by the prevailing system, to enclose them in the system, and to repel those which are irreconcilable with the system. The reign of such a one-dimensional reality does not mean that materialism rules, and that the spiritual, metaphysical, and bohemian occupations are petering out. On the contrary, there is a great deal of “Worship together this week,” “Why not try God,” Zen, existentialism, and beat ways of life, etc. But such modes of protest and transcendence are no longer contradictory to the status quo and no longer negative. They are rather the ceremonial part of practical behaviorism, its harmless negation, and are quickly digested by the status quo as part of its healthy diet.22
All hitherto domains of resistance and modes of protest are no longer subversive to the mainstream vision and experience of reality. The repudiation and the contrarian view are also accounted for and turned harmless: Ibid., p. 16.
Let’s make room for protest and for ostensive transcendence, commonsense says, let’s promote diversity and difference, secure in the knowledge that there is enough ‘stomach acid’ to digest all divergence. There is a total mobilization of all resources including the aesthetic for the defense of the established order. Gradually we are faced with the absolutism of positive thinking wherein no gap is visible between reality and the laws of thought. In other words, cultural management of existential variables has reached a point where contact with a genuine Outside has become ordinarily impossible—such is the power and reach of commonsense. A molting strength is now required to wriggle out of the skin of commonsense and achieve a fresh degree of autonomy for those desirous of attaining liberatory intuition. We need to regress to the ‘reptile’ and get past the mystified skin of positive thinking. A metamorphosis has become necessary. Fortunately, despite ourselves, we have allies—there are things in the psychic order that elude commonsense, since their structure, processes, and demands are different than the humanized and sublimated content of positivistic consciousness. And for this very reason, this is precisely where commonsense can be pushed back with the actual anarchy of experience. Take, for example, the vulnerabilities and anxieties that haunt us, despite all the assurance of commonsense that shows us a linear path to absolution. [The person’s] whole life is been torn between his desire to reveal himself and his desire to conceal himself. We all share this problem with him and we have all arrived at a more or less satisfactory solution. We have our secrets and our needs to confess. We may remember how, in childhood, adults at first were able to look right through us, and into us, and what an accomplishment it was when we, in fear and trembling, could tell our first lie, and make, for ourselves, the discovery that we are irredeemably alone in certain respects, and know that within the territory of ourselves there can be only our footprints. There are some people, however, who never fully real-ize themselves in this position. This genuine privacy is the basis of genuine relationship; but the person whom we call ‘schizoid’ feels both more exposed, more vulnerable to others than we do, and more isolated. Thus a schizophrenic may say that he is made of glass, of such transparency and fragility that a look directed at him splinters him to bits and penetrates straight through him. We may suppose that precisely as such he experiences himself.23
23 R. D. Laing, The Divided Self: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness (London, UK: Penguin Books, 1969), p. 37.
2 MEDITATIONS ON COMMONSENSE
Commonsense and empiricist logic operate on the surface of things, implicitly believing in disclosure. The belief is that the more we are able to reveal (bring to the surface) about things, people, and relations, the more certain we can become in our knowledge of them. And certainty is of course existential security. But psychology tells us differently—it tells us of the deep need to conceal at the same time, giving rise to a peculiar tension between disclosure and concealment. Here is something unfathomable to commonsense. We could suppose that this need for concealment stretches beyond the human and is of an ontological character rather than anything subjective. Whatever be the case, this tension throws a proverbial spanner in the works in the totalizing project of commonsense—a little-understood confusion lurks in the middle of apparent orderliness, which is the result of an inner contradiction that no amount of disclosure can overcome. Thus, in spite of ourselves, and unbeknownst to us, an ontological difference always diverges or recoils away from the external plane of platitudes and surface congruences producing conflict. But within ordinary sociality, the totalizing violence of commonsense promotes the confounding of opposites—we receive affirmatively what is palpably false due to hegemonic conditions or simply to appear affable. Our sense of criticality and resistance to absurdity are thereby sharply reduced. From the moment of birth, when the stone-age baby confronts the twentieth-century mother, the baby is subjected to these forces of violence, called love, as its mother and father have been, and their parents and their parents before them. These forces are mainly concerned with destroying most of its potentialities. This enterprise is on the whole successful. By the time the new human being is fifteen or so, we are left with a being like ourselves. A half-crazed creature, more or less adjusted to a mad world. This is normality in our present age…Specifically this devastation is largely the work of violence that has been perpetrated on each of us, and by each of us on ourselves. The usual name that much of this violence goes under is love.24
The complex net that every parent casts over the off-spring under the universal sign of love, on examination, turns out to be an extraordinary mode of social control that is in line with commonsense—don’t parents naturally love their children? The net that is cast, much before one realizes it, is not one of ‘love’ (whatever that means unilaterally) but that of mystification of relations. Once caught in the net of mystified commitments R. D. Laing, The Politics of Experience, pp. 50–51.
(to be and become in a certain manner), one can only struggle in it till one is sufficiently depleted to be of any use to oneself. Very early, we are massaged and whittled down till our true potentialities (that could turn out to be anarchic toward the established order) are carefully bled out of us; we are defanged, in a sense. All babies are primordial or ‘stone-age’—until they have been socialized (reduced and fitted) into the commonsense of the land. The parent facing the child has long since become part of the cultural landscape of expectations and accepted behavior. The child is made to quickly follow suit, till at least by early adulthood s/he is fully adjusted and accustomed to the existing understandings of the ‘world’ and her/his place in it. In other words, s/he is integrated into the commonsensical biosphere that bestows on her/him an identity which gains a kind ontological veracity with time that is difficult to shrug off. This systemic induction violates the as-yet unexplored nature of the being, shutting it up in the hall-of-mirror relations, which it then, in turn, perpetrates and perpetuates. Thereafter we have to struggle for authentic experience. This is dramatically evident in the domain of education—the child is quickly forced into a straitjacket under the sign of learning. The commonsense of learning forces the child to give up its authentic organismic growth to be substituted by a specific regime of homogenized, denatured activity, defended by a battery of justifications. Many debates follow— should education be curriculum centered or child centered, should it be democratic or disciplinarian, must it focus on subjects or themes, and so on and on. But all of these debates are carried on within the main tenets of commonsense and not outside of it. We learn to argue within established parameters, using the universe of commonsensical elements and meanings, and hence the conclusions we arrive at are nothing but rearrangements of segments of the already existing commonsense relations. But is it even possible to think in language of a situation where we are pedagogically attempting to escape commonsense? The silence of the preformation expressed in and through language, cannot be expressed by language. But language can be used to convey what it cannot say—by its interstices, by its emptiness and lapses, by the lattice work of words, syntax, sound and meanings. The modulations of pitch and volume delineate the form precisely by not filling in the spaces between the lines.
2 MEDITATIONS ON COMMONSENSE
But it is a grave mistake to mistake the lines for the pattern, or the pattern for that which it is patterning.25
Don’t expect language to take us beyond commonsense; it cannot, for language itself is a continually manufactured and performative network reciprocally implicated in the latter. Nevertheless, it is also the case that language is more than just what it says, or, to put it differently, it can convey more than it says. For language is not merely the sound or the script; it is woven with an array of silences, lapses, modulations, emphases, hidden meanings, and subterfuges that exceed the surface aspect. It is this excess that contains the elements for a potential insurrection against limits imposed by commonsense. The instinctive and the intuitive life cannot be expressed fully within commonsense, but language contains within it latent powers that are not limited to official modes of expression. There must be pedagogical awareness of these insurrectional powers and the use of them to breach the limits imposed by commonsense. To hear the unsaid and read the unwritten, reaching thereby the point that Walter Benjamin had called ‘redemption’ (i.e., to recover to the point of a certain completion), is the task before one who wishes to transcend the commonsensical limits of language. This is a self-conscious task that merits careful investigation. In an extraordinary and breathtaking passage, worth quoting in full, Plato speaks of this limitation of language. Each being has three things which are the necessary means by which knowledge of that being is acquired; the knowledge itself is a fourth thing; and as a fifth one must posit the thing itself [to pragma auto], which is knowable and truly is. First of these comes the name [onoma]; second, the definition [logos]; third, the image [eidolon]; fourth, the knowledge. If you wish, then, to understand what I am now saying, take a single example and learn from it what applies to all. There is something called a circle [kyklos estin ti legomenon], which has for its name the word we have just mentioned; and, second, it has a definition, composed of names and verbs; for “that which is everywhere equidistant from the extremities to the center” will be the definition of that object which has for its name “round” and “spherical” and “circle.” And in the third place there is that object which is portrayed and obliterated, which is shaped with a lathe and falls into decay. But none of these affections is suffered by the circle itself [autos ho kyklos], to which all these others are Ibid., p. 35.
related, for it is different from them. The fourth is knowledge and intelligence and true opinion regarding these objects; and all this must be conceived as a single thing, which exists neither in voices [en phonais] nor in corporeal figures [en somaton skhemasin], but in souls [en psychais]. Hence it is clear that it differs both from the nature of the circle itself and from the three previously mentioned. Of those four, intelligence is closest in kinship and similarity to the fifth; the others are further removed. The same is equally true of the straight figure and the sphere, color, and the good and the fair and the just, and of all bodies, whether made or naturally produced (such as fire and water and all such substances), all living creatures, and ethos in the soul and all creations [poiemata] and passions [pathemata]. For if someone does not grasp the first four for each thing, he will never be able to participate perfectly in knowledge of the fifth. Moreover, the first four things express the quality [ti poion ti] of each being no less than its real essence, on account of the weakness of language [dia to ton logon asthenes]. This is why no man of intelligence will ever venture to entrust his thoughts to language, especially if the language is unalterable, like language written with letters.26
To know something in language is not to know the thing itself [to pragma auto]. The cardinal sin of the language of commonsense is not to know the difference between things as they are and their description—the description is never the described. Commonsense involves name, definition, and image. But it also does not doubt that it comprehends the thing itself, which, as Plato says, is impossible, and can only be revealed in the soul.27 The mathemata, or that which is learnt, must be cognizant of the fact that reality is outside its grasp in an essential manner, and what it garners is that which has been molted by the Real in its passage or movement. Acknowledgment of this engenders a necessary humility that tempers our relations with the world, for we become aware that the world which commonsense tries to control is a shadow world. This is not to say that language has nothing to do with that which it describes, but that there is an extra (intuitive) element beyond language that becomes necessary for knowledge to truly grasp what it thinks about.
26 Plato, Epistle VII, 342 a 8–343 a 3, available in the public domain @http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/. 27 “After one has dwelt for a long time close to the thing itself [peri to pragma auto] and in communion with it, it is suddenly brought to birth in the soul, as light that is kindled by a leaping spark; and then it nourishes itself [auto heauto ede trefei].” Ibid., 341 c 4–d 2.
2 MEDITATIONS ON COMMONSENSE
The “weakness” of logos therefore consists precisely in the fact that it is not capable of bringing this very knowability and sameness to expression; it must transform the knowability of beings that is at issue in it into a presupposition (as a hypo-thesis in the etymological sense of the word, as that which is placed beneath). This is the sense of the distinction between on and poion, between Being and its qualification, which Plato insists on several times in the epistle (342 e 3; 343 b 8–c 1). Language-our language-is necessarily presuppositional and objectifying, in the sense that in taking place it necessarily decomposes the thing itself, which is announced in it and in it alone, into a being about which one speaks and a poion, a quality and a determination that one says of it. Language sup-poses and hides what it brings to light, in the very act in which it brings it to light. According to the definition contained in Aristotle (which is also implicit both in Sophist, 262 e 6–7, and in the modern distinction between sense and reference), language is thus always legein ti kata tinos, saying something-on-something; it is therefore always pre-sup-positional and objectifying.28
Language proceeds by pre-supposing something—it is always about something and never identical to it. That is to say, ordinary language is not im-mediate illumination which reveals itself in the act of illumination itself without signification. Language necessarily signifies and in that process objectifies through qualification. And if all language changes what it signifies in the very act of signification or expression, then commonsense that takes language for granted must suffer an identical fate. The pedagogy of the twice-born concerns redemption—redeeming what has been lost. This redemption can only come about through ontological fidelity that transcends commonsense and the language implicated in it. Plato writes that the knowledge of the thing itself suddenly emerges in “rubbing together names, definitions, visions and sense-perceptions, proving them in benevolent proofs and discussions without envy,” and further, goes on to clarify: “Understand then that by the other section of the intelligible I mean what language itself [auto ho logos] touches by the power of dialogue, hypothesizing not by principles [archai] but truly by hypotheses, underpinnings, footings, and springboards, so that it reaches the principle of all things, touching it, and, once again holding to the things near it, returns toward the end, being concerned not with the sensible, but with the Ideas,
28 Giorgio Agamben, Potentialities: Collected Essays in Philosophy, Transl. Daniel HellerRoazen (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999), p. 30.
through the Ideas, toward the Ideas, so that it may end with the Ideas.”29 In other words, it is a certain kind of use of language that makes it come close to the things in themselves, and maintain fidelity to the indestructible Idea or to pragma auto. This is what I have called intensity later in the book. Language intensifies and becomes part of the experience of things. Pedagogically speaking, the mathemata or the knowledge of disciplines is nothing. It is through intensification—proper dialogue ‘without envy’ meaning discussion without resentment, actual hypothesizing meaning being truly open to alternatives, and examining the underpinnings meaning deeply questioning the assumptions—that we truly experience reality. Further, even as Western philosophy has discarded references to the soul, the father of Western philosophy, Plato, unabashedly speaks of the soul, and insists that the true experience of the world is revealed in the soul or an intuitive dimension that forms part of an Unsayable. There is a barrier to be crossed in order to reach true experience. That barrier is language; and yet language itself, as Plato makes it clear in Phaedrus, is the tool for such a crossing. This is the dilemma. The use of language must take us beyond language and the commonsensical attitude to language. This is the challenge of the pedagogy of the twice-born. How is this to be approached? When we are ready to acknowledge that the description is never the described, there comes into being a kind of detachment—that is, a detached use of language that takes us beyond the political description of reality and the usual conflicts of commonsense. We are also able to go beyond the general enfeeblement due to what Nietzsche had called Ressentiment, or the psycho-linguistic production of an ‘enemy,’ an absolute other on whom is projected one’s existential failures and fears.30 The task before the twice-born is to ‘rub’ language against itself and produce the occasional spark that engenders illumination in the soul. The spark itself has nothing to do with the mathemata that produce it, just as flintstones have nothing ontologically in common with the spark produced by rubbing them together. On the other hand, the problem of commonsense is that it believes that language represents the thing itself; but the ‘thing’ language attempts to represent is in reality a non-thing that can only be
Plato, op. cit., 344 b 4–7. This ‘enemy’ is not necessarily a person or groups; it could be outer circumstances, authority, or life itself on which is cast angst and hate, making ‘it’ responsible for inner failure. 29 30
2 MEDITATIONS ON COMMONSENSE
realized in a moment of illumination.31 The mathemata are no doubt important without which no pedagogic progress can be made, and yet they are not to be taken at face value or regarded as identical with actuality. This tension is always consciously present in the pedagogy of the twice-born that helps us arrive at the limits of language. A critique of commonsense thus inevitably brings us to the question of language—as to what it hides and what it reveals. The commonsensical perspective is oblivious to the twofold aspect of language, seeing the latter instead as a transparent medium with no particular inner ambiguity of its own. That is to say, it does not take into account the shadowy side of language. But for the pedagogue, it means our dealing with language must have this cautious edge whereby we are sensitive to both aspects of the linguistic endeavor. This helps release us from the bondage of commonsense and also brings us closer to pre-linguistic sensibilities of which we will have more to say later.
References Clifford Geertz, “Common sense as a cultural system,” The Antioch Review, Volume 50, Number 1–2 Winter 1992. Giorgio Agamben, Potentialities: Collected Essays in Philosophy, Transl. Daniel Heller-Roazen (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999). Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society (New York: Routledge, 1991), pp. xlvi–xlvii. Plato, Epistle VII, available in the public domain at http://www.perseus. tufts.edu/. R. D. Laing, The Divided Self: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness (London, UK: Penguin Books, 1969). R. D. Laing, The Politics of Experience (Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin Books, 1967). Sophia Rosenfeld, Common Sense: A Political History (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011). 31 “The thing itself is not a thing; it is the very sayability, the very openness at issue in language, which, in language, we always presuppose and forger, perhaps because it is at bottom its own oblivion and abandonment. In the words of the Phaedo (76 d 8), it is what we are always disclosing in speaking, what we are always saying and communicating, and that of which we nevertheless are always losing sight. The presuppositional structure of language is the very structure of tradition; we presuppose, pass on, and thereby-according to the double sense of the word tradition—betray the thing itself in language, so that language may speak about something (kata tinos). The effacement of the thing itself is the sole foundation on which it is possible for something like a tradition to be constituted.” Agamben, op. cit., p. 35.
The Eyes of the Heart
Recently, an acquaintance reported the loss of her cousin and his family in a small plane crash. Initially stunned by the news, she said she did not know how to react to this event, and found herself looking inward askance. Of course, there is a boiler-plate reaction and a standard way of receiving such news, but the mind groped for an adequate response and apparently could not find it. As the family that perished was very close to her, she found it odd that her mind did not settle upon an unambiguous state (of grieving) as commonsense might have it. Instead, as she observed her own mind, it seemed merely to be chaotic, pulling in different directions at once, without any clear definition. For the first time she had experienced something which she could not name. A crisis, as scholars such as Judith Butler and Deborah Britzman have pointed out, can knock us out of our normal orbits, putting us outside commonsense habits, even if it is for a short while. We get derailed but climb back on the rails soon enough. But before we climb back, there may be a moment of utter indecisiveness or hesitation in which we have the chance to recreate ourselves, or at least, have a glimpse of a different self. In other words, there is a gap in experiencing as we normally understand it—temporarily we are unable to make meaning of the stream of incoming sensations. All the existing categories through which we do world-making are momentarily held at bay. This temporary gap in experiencing may be a good place to start this part of the inquiry into experience.
© The Author(s) 2020 K. Roy, Reincarnating Experience in Education, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-53548-3_3
If there are no meanings, no values, no source of sustenance or help, then man, as creator, must invent, conjure up meanings and values, sustenance and succour out of nothing. He is a magician….In our ‘normal’ alienation from being, the person who has a perilous awareness of the nonbeing of what we take to be being (the pseudo-wants, pseudo-values, pseudo realities of the endemic delusions of what are taken to be life and death and so on) gives us in our present epoch the acts of creation that we despise and crave. Words in a poem, sounds in movement, rhythm in space, attempt to recapture personal meaning in personal time and space from out of the sights and sounds of a depersonalized, dehumanized world. They are bridgeheads into alien territory. They are acts of insurrection. Their source is from the Silence at the centre of each of us.1
First, the starting point of experience is Nothingness, or a Silence. Even as we did in coming into this world, each moment we start out from nothing, as nothing, and proceed to ‘conjure up’ values and meanings by progressively linking ourselves to surrounding stimuli and the built-up cognitive categories. As we have seen, over time these solidify producing and reproducing us as commonsense individuals. This process, while bringing about a certain convenience, also dilutes the instincts and degrades intuition. The poet and the artist know only too well the struggle to recover authentic moments from out of this reductive, homogenized world-broth. The task before us is to find out if and how we can recoil from the res extensa in order to glimpse our production of ourselves, our bringing forth of being. Pedagogically, the first thing in this process is to cultivate what Laing above calls ‘perilous awareness.’ It is perilous because this brings us close to psychological destruction, and yet it is unavoidable if we are to transcend normality and be on the path to experiencing. That which has been put together by pseudo wants and values must be pushed aside by means of concentrated and deeply committed psycho-emotive energy which generates a field of perilous awareness. Such a field burns up the delusions (after-effects and residual impressions) born of long-standing errors of thought. We are left with the possibility of creation, of moving into a new understanding of the experiential terrain. But before we can get there, we have to account for some preliminaries with regard to experience, the background condition of its possibility. 1 R. D. Laing, The Politics of Experience (Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin Books, 1969), p. 37.
3 THE EYES OF THE HEART
The fleeting psychic-corporeal precipitate that we call experience comes out of a non-segregated pre-experiential flux that cannot be easily named. The ‘surface’ experience of self and other emerges from a less differentiated experiential matrix. Ontogenetically the very early experiential schemata are unstable, and are surmounted: but never entirely. To a greater or lesser extent, the first ways in which the world has made sense to us continues to underpin our whole subsequent experience and actions. Our first way of experiencing the world is largely what psychoanalysts have called phantasy. This modality has its own validity, its own rationality. Infantile phantasy may become a closed enclave, a dissociated undeveloped ‘unconscious’, but this need not be so. This eventuality is another form of alienation. Phantasy as encountered in many people today is split off from what the person regards as his mature, sane, rational, adult experience. We do not then see phantasy in its true function but experienced merely as an intrusive, sabotaging infantile nuisance. For most of our social life, we largely gloss over this underlying phantasy level of our relationship.2
Let us try to understand ‘phantasy’ experience in terms of a situation. Let us imagine that a parent is trying hard to get her child to understand how important it is for him to perform well at school. The child is defensive and unwilling to concede that the parent understands his problems. This is not atypical of human situations in general where two parties put pressure on one another from their own peculiar point of view, each imagining that he is speaking the truth. What is happening here is that both parties are acting out of their individual phantasies without realizing the same. The parent is acting out of her phantasy of parenthood as well as her notions of what is good for the child, possibly acquired from watching her own parents and so on. At the same time the child has his own phantasy world from where he is reacting to the parent’s demands. Neither has anything to do with reality, although each of them thinks s/he is responding to the real. “The dissociation of each from his phantasy, and the phantasy of the other, betokens the lack of relationship of each to himself and each to the other. They are both more and less related to each other ‘in phantasy’ than each pretends to be to himself and the other.”3 The relationship is between phantasy and phantasy, mixed with empirical elements, and not between actualities; this truth is entirely lost to us in the normal 2 3
Ibid., pp. 26–27. Ibid., p. 28.
course of things. Experience thus begins in phantasy that masquerades as reality. But is a de-phantasized reality possible? Let us rework the question and approach it from the angle of agency, for the issue is not one of de- phantasizing, but the need to understand the meaning and relevance of the phantasy level. To begin with, what is pedagogically needed is an acknowledgment of the phantasy relation that might help to keep us in the field of perilous awareness. Even as we respond to the moment-to-moment contingencies arising in the external reality, we must not delude ourselves about the phantasy element that colors everything. The phantasy element is mixed up with our psycho-emotive energies that need to be carefully distinguished, deconstructed, and exposed to ourselves by ourselves. The phantasy element must not be dismissed as an errant aspect of the personality; rather, it is the playhouse of the imagination and must get due recognition. However, this requires that we recognize it consciously, and not be its unconscious plaything. What we know as experience is partly phantasm, that is to say, received or organized through the phantasy level. Properly understood, the phantasy level of experience occupies a special place between the material and the spiritual, and can be helpful in the re- vitalization of the self. It can also help us to protect ourselves from the cold brutality of institutionalized social and material life, and reverse the damage that bureaucratization inflicts on us by opening up a secretive experiential space to hide from the world—a space of creative withdrawal. In other words, it is a vital line of defense against an intrusive world that is always preparing to make the private public, a buffer against the continual loss of experience through the commonsense perspective. Second, this can only happen if we succeed in pedagogically engaging with it. Things are happening to me, arising in me, all the time. We actively or pedagogically engage with very few of these. “All experience is both active and passive, the unity of the given and the construed; and the construction one places on what is given can be positive or negative: it is what one desires or fears or is prepared to accept, or it is not. The element of negation is in every experience…. The part I feel I play in generating this state of affairs determines what I feel I can or should do about it.”4 I observe a teacher intern take a class on gender. She is moving along expected lines of drawing the standard (commonsense) distinction between sex and gender, and helping students to realize the social- constructivist angle in their own gender construction. It is clear that she is 4
Ibid., p. 32.
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approaching this without truly experiencing it simultaneously, for if she did, she would notice the gap between the theory she is espousing and what she deeply felt about herself as a gendered being. Year after year, when I have asked students to rank order their different identities (linguistic, religious, sexual, socioeconomic, national, etc.), invariably gender identity has come out on top of the list for most, in terms of what they regarded as the most important one to them. In other words, gender has an ontological halo, whether actual or not, and we are not in a position to determine any further or to put a closure on it. And there is a negation of experience when we are too facile with phenomenological matters or repeat conventional wisdom without proper matching with experience. This is tantamount to pedagogical disengagement with ourselves and cutting our own experience down to size. Again, I recall observing a teacher telling students that we learn mathematics so that we become logical in our thinking. This in itself is an illogical statement—the learning of mathematics no more makes our thinking logical than learning of music makes our thinking musical. Each may add a dimension to our capacities and comportments, but the pious claim toward superior thinking in general is not borne out in experience. Here, the fact that I do not necessarily have the experience of logical thinking as a by-product of learning mathematics must be acknowledged, and we must desist from making false claims about knowledge-experience. Next, in pedagogically getting to the essence of experience, we must also learn what it means to strip away all the inessentials, which is not easy by any means, but toward which a surge of effort is essential. We experience the objects of our experience as there in the outside world. The source of our experience seems to be outside ourselves. In the creative experience, we experience the source of the created images, patterns, sounds, to be within ourselves but still beyond ourselves. Colours emanate from a source of pre-light itself unlit, sounds from silence, patterns from formlessness. This pre-formed pre-light, this pre-sound, this pre-form is nothing, and yet it is the source of all created things….These social ‘things’ that unite us are by the same token so many things, so many social figments that come between us. But if we could strip away all the exigencies and contingencies, and reveal to each other our naked presence? If you take away everything, all the clothes, the disguises, the crutches, the grease paint, also the common projects, the games that provide the pretexts for the occasions that
asquerade as meetings—if we could meet, if there were such a happening, m a happy coincidence of human beings, what would now separate us?5
The ground of experience is the pre-formative flux of sensory oceanity from which emerge patterns conditioned by previous experience. This pre-formative flux, or the matrix, or womb of experience, is where we need to return hermeneutically from time to time in order to experience release from the hardened congealment that we call reality. Acknowledgment, humility, softening, and de-congealment would be pedagogically viable steps toward the creative uncovering of the matrix for each one, on the way to understanding raw experience. Power, long institutionalized and in the grip of those who control personality-based congealed reality, no longer remains the prerogative of that dominant minority. De-congealment gives us access to trans-personal creative strength beyond the power of congealed reality, and therefore the power to experience the world differently. The world can flow into us and we can flow into spaces previously unimagined and unthought, coming closer to ‘naked presence’ beyond the grease paint of culture. The world which we experience is not simply ‘out there’; it is ‘in here’ too. In fact, it is in-between the outthere and the in-here—a strange place. Its strangeness, presently taken away by commonsense and congealment, is pedagogically sought to be replaced in experience. To climb out of the trap we have set for ourselves, our experiencing has to emerge from behind power and privilege, masks and disguises, identities and persuasions, dogma and ideology, and much more, all of which destroy experience through fragmentation, falsification, and packaging. It is clear that we have to make certain sacrifices without which nothing may be gained. At the very least, we have to give up our complacency with regard to what we consider as pedagogic experience. Since this (where experience arises) is the borderland between phenomenological becoming and non-being “there are no meanings, no values, no source of sustenance or help, [and we], as creators, must invent, conjure up sustenance and succour out of nothing.”6 We have also to pare away all “the props, roles, lies, defences, anxieties, projections and introjections, in short, all the carry-overs from the past, transference and counter- transference, that we use by habit and collusion, wittingly or unwittingly,
Ibid., pp. 32–33. Ibid., p. 36.
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as our currency for relationships.”7 This currency is part of a bankrupt system of relations which keeps experience on a stale curve that one has to overcome if one is truly to learn about experience. In clearing the ground for the experience of experience itself, thus far we have mainly set out some negative conditions. It will now be necessary to spell out some of the positive pedagogic moves that will take us forward in our quest for a deeper understanding of experience. For that we have to cast our net in a direction in which the ‘naked presence’ spoken of earlier has a proper orientation toward the world. This cannot happen through commonsense, which is our usual tool of orientation. Besides, random pinpricks from the externality obviously produce stimulation; however, these cannot be deemed to be coherent experiences that have educative value for the entire organismic entity. By stripping away all contingencies, the entity must face toward necessity with the help of an independently developing intuition, that is, independent of culturally organized frameworks. We must examine the conditions of possibility for such a development and must look for its inspiration in an ontological direction that establishes a true bearing for deciphering the meaning of experience. The reasoning is that it is only in the formal relation of the part to the whole that the true meaning of experience is revealed. To make this possible requires us to hermeneutically return to the origin or source experiences of the species. Such hermeneutic endeavor transports humans to a kind of experiential ground zero, pressing upon consciousness an altered view of corporeal existence, and hence, of the starting point of experience in general. But what is a hermeneutic endeavor? Let us imagine an ordinary situation and consider the experience of guilt: I have felt guilty ever since I borrowed and crashed someone’s car. There is an overarching sense of the event without the texture and grain of the actual experience. Returning to this experience hermeneutically, I force myself to face its painful details and confront myself with some of the culpabilities and the corresponding sensations. I may go into it further the next time I return to it, and so on. The experience unfolds not merely as the singular event in memory, but the nature of the ‘self’ that interprets it. It is a mode of thinking that constitutes continual interpretation and reinterpretation of experience, something that might be worth a brief excursus here.
Ibid., p. 39.
This Hermes, St. Augustine contrasts with the classical daimon (or demon) whom the Greeks consider as a being in the middle, neither god nor mortal, and so serving as a mediator and communicator, thus a messenger and, if you wish, a “translator.” Against this is the daimon of Hermes Trismegistus which belongs to one of two categories of gods, not the ones made by the Supreme God but the ones created by men. The divine spark in men is responsible for “visible and tangible representations” which are “the bodies of gods.” He claims that they are animated by spirits who have been invited to dwell within them and have power either to harm or to favor those who render them reverence and divine honor. Thus, by some kind of art, invisible spirits are united with visible and material things, which then become animated bodies dedicated and devoted to the spirits that inhabit them. This, says Hermes, is what it means ‘to make gods,’ and this great and amazing gift has been entrusted to men. Contriver and creator, messenger and translator—that, among other things, is Hermes: Ever leading an exilic existence, is he god or mortal, or something in the middle, traversing climes and times, producing connections while stealing others? Like cupid, is he a daimon?8
As we descend into the labyrinths of experiencing (and the experiencer) we come into dimensions that have been part of human experience for millennia but have been banished in modernity. The modern, disenchanted world came out of a very different organization of sensibilities, one in which the separation of the material and the spiritual was not absolute. This gave room for continual interpretation and reinterpretation of their mutual relations—that is, the relations between the seen and the unseen, or between the sensible and the intelligible. In our present revisitations, re-interpretations, and efforts of mediation, obscure aspects open up giving us perspectives that have become covered over through shifting cultural meanings and social pressures. When we hermeneutically re-enter the description of those experiences, two forces—ourselves and the historical—meet to create a third existential intensity; we enter a new orbital plane. Two dynamic worlds that fuse in a way that makes for a lived experience: this is what transpires in the act of reading. Otherwise no understanding, not even misunderstanding, takes place. This fusion which I call a collision of horizons is an event of the spirit, of the Geist which is perpetually restless, never static, ever living and ceaselessly in flux. Even if, in naivete, we take 8 Romualdo E. Abulad, “What is Hermeneutics?” In Kritike, Vol. 1, No. 2, Dec. 2007, pp. 11–23.
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each horizon separately, this is not to be taken as a one-sided formula which is flat and bare; each item in the relationship is a fuzzy world that shifts and turns not so much in space as in time. Each is a historically advancing entity that progressively changes, especially as it creatively collides with the Other and produces Interpretation. By its very nature, interpretation is only that— an interpretation whose sides are not stitched tight, nourished as it is by the serum of life, what Bergson calls the élan vital.9
The fusion of the worlds or the ‘collision of horizons’ produce a disjunctive synthesis which is not something absolute but something advancing and ever-changing as it meets yet new horizons of meaning production. For example, on examination of early Christian experiences, there appears before us the now covered-over understanding that all beings have a calling or a vocation (klesis) that orients them to their world, that their presence is not random or accidental, and through klesis they participate adequately in a Whole that is prior to them. How do we receive this when we have lost the intuition of that calling? If we have succeeded in ‘unstitching’ our sides sufficiently to look beyond the produced reality, then there is a sense again of the Unexpected. Experience is the cognitive consciousness of the various points of reciprocal contact with the unexpected in this participatory process of meaning creation—something is awakened in the composition of forces that constitute ourselves. Through us, the élan vital begins a hermeneutic reconsideration of well-documented source experience such as to be found in the Pauline epistles. Although theological in its vision and form, such discourse as the latter holds vital possibilities for the freeing of experience when unmoored from its religious foundations. That is to say, the messianic klesis can be ontologically (rather than morally) interpreted to yield pedagogical lessons for rethinking experience. But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all communities. Is any man called being circumcised? let him not remove the mark of circumcision. Is any called with a foreskin? let him not be circumcised! Circumcision is nothing, and the foreskin is nothing …. Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called. Art thou called being a slave? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather. For he that is called in the Lord, being a slave, is
the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is slave of the Messiah.10
Paul, the pedagogue extraordinaire, tells us that the scope of essential experience has already been distributed to each according to an ontological necessity. Walking according to it, or acting within its constraints, the entity responds correctly to the calling under whose sign it is organized. The specificities of the historical circumstances are nothing once one realizes the significance of the material boundaries within which experience arises.11 Each composite entity’s unfoldment unto redemption is directly related to the set of constraints that govern that path. In other words, the set of historical or contingent circumstances attendant upon the entity has no independent value other than in laying out for the entity the existential parameters within which meaningful experience arises for that entity. Calling or klesis precisely therefore lays out the authentic experiential path for the entity. We hear Paul say: “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called.”12 The ones who had perceived their calling, that is to say, were I Corinthians 7:17–22, King James Bible. [Note the word keklēken ‘has called,’ the verb form of klesis in verse 7:17: Ei me hekasto hos emerisen ho kyrios hekaston hos keklēken ho theos houtos peripateito kai houtos en tais ekklesias pasais diatassomai]. Further, Paul’s use of the word klesis or calling has nothing whatsoever to do with the modern notion of calling as profession, as Max Weber has noted in Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. It should rather be seen as a state of being. In Protestant Ethic, Weber writes: “In his exegesis of this chapter, Luther, even in 1523, had followed the older German versions by translating klesis in verse 20 as ‘Ruf’ … and had at that time interpreted this as ‘Stand’ (estate or condition). It is in fact evident that the word klesis in this-and only this-passage corresponds at least approximately to the Latin ‘status’ and our ‘Stand’ (in German), that is, state, estate, or condition, as in married state, the condition of a servant, and so on. In verse 20 Luther, following the older German translations, even in 1523 in his exegesis of this chapter, renders klesis with Beruf, and interprets it with Stand [“status”] …. But of course not in the modern sense of Beruf as profession,” pp. 56–57. 11 Agamben has clarified, “According to the apostle, this movement [of klesis] is, above all, a nullification: ‘Circumcision is nothing, and the foreskin is nothing.’ That which, according to the law, made one man a Jew and the other a goy, one a slave and another a free man, is now annulled by the vocation. Why remain in this nothing? Once again, meneto (‘remaining’) does not convey indifference, it signifies the immobile anaphoric gesture of the messianic calling, its being essentially and foremost a calling of the calling. For this reason, it may apply to any condition; but for this same reason, it revokes a condition and radically puts it into question in the very act of adhering to it.” In Giorgio Agamben, The Time That Remains: A Commentary on the Letter to the Romans (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005), p. 23. 12 I Corinthians 1:26. 10
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called upon to serve the Lord, could see that they were not necessarily the privileged according to worldly standards, or from among the wise and powerful, nor of noble birth. From this we may deduce that our calling (to the very sensibility of calling) is not dependent on our worldly station in life. Rather it is the potential—an ontological possibility in which “the eyes of your heart may become enlightened, so that you may know the hope of His calling…”13 Here we have a hint of what might be involved— Paul points to the potential inauguration of the eyes of the heart (opthalmous tes kardias), a beatitude by whose illumination one may directly perceive ontological Hope. In addition, in the preceding lines (Ephesians 1:17), Paul speaks of ‘pneuma sophias’ (spirit/breath of wisdom/insight) which when sought or granted gives us the ‘eyes’ to look. Now, this expression could be de-ontologized and the ‘eyes of the heart’ could be interpreted metaphorically as an expression that stood for an intuitive kind of understanding. But a careful reading of Paul should make us wary of such a facile explanation—we would do well to be warned that interpreting the messianic discourse of Paul within commonsensical perceptions is fraught with risk. On the other hand, in order to take him literally, we would have to first concede that we have no knowledge of such a thing, for whoever has seen or can claim to possess the eyes of the heart? Nevertheless, a new organ of perception—eyes of the heart—is postulated, that alone can understand the glory of the calling, that is, take us to the ground of experience. Fortunately, we are once again aided by Paul to grasp this better: “There is one body, and one Spirit (hen soma kai hen Pneuma), even as ye are called in one hope of your calling.”14 Our senses are attuned to the multiple, to the many, but we do not know singularity or the One-ness of things. Paul places upon us the task of meditation upon this oneness in our calling, meaning that in the midst of the multiplicity of experience we must pedagogically awaken to a new intuition of unity that would define the essential nature of our calling (fundamental experience). The arising of this intuition-toward-pure-carnation might be thought of as opening of the eyes of the heart. This intuition is not the awareness of things of this world or the succession of events and their relations. It is something of a different order—Paul is indicating a two-layered reality: The usual eyes or the eyes of the nervous system see multiplicity, whereas the eyes of the heart involve the phenomenological sense of Ephesians 1:18. Ephesians 4:4, King James Bible.
somato-psychic unity which is not an image—it is thus not metaphorical. Our mode of experiencing must awaken and take into account both these layers. Only then true experience can be conceived—as a self-conscious and reciprocal engagement. The next question that might be asked is the pedagogical one: How do we engage with the question of opening the eyes of the heart that shed new light on experience. \\The opthalmous tes kardias becomes a special problem since contemporary culture so heavily prioritizes mental representations and image formulations. Somatic insight is not something that modernity takes seriously. We are not supposed to be able to come into contact with reality directly, but solely through mental schemas and cognitive categories—this is the Kantian legacy. The Kantian ding an sich (things in themselves) are forever supposed to be out of reach of the senses; we are able to receive a kind of imaging through cognitive maps hard-wired in the brain that are at once-remove from actual reality. But Paul’s postulation of the ‘eyes of the heart’ is in direct conflict with this attitude. It holds out the possibility of somatic intelligence that has nothing to do with cognitive schemas. The body is an embedded reality and not something abstract, and able to perform the most incredible tasks without the help of any intellectual schema. From this perspective, the Kantian assertion seems almost amusing, as we are actually always in touch with the things-inthemselves, and it cannot be otherwise. The eyes of the heart or somatic intelligence seem such a remote proposition intellectually only because we have failed to recognize and awaken to the true potential of the body. We are so consumed by mental culture and external cultural artefacts that we ignore what is sitting with us, in us. If we did, we would know how to create the space wherein hen soma kai hen pneuma could be realized. And a touch of this realization forms the basis, the ground zero, of all experience. All talk of understanding experience remains on flimsy ground till we grasp the corporeal and somatic basis of lived experience. However, the somatic intelligence and corporeal intuition cannot be awakened in the absence of a proper use of the body or what we will call chresei (Χρησει). The body is not just a bag of bones and tissue. It hides within it layers and layers of somatic intelligence that is potentially our most direct route to reality and experience. In fact, it would be strange if it were to be otherwise. But in order to explore and recuperate this somatic intelligence we must hermeneutically take recourse to schemas that have emerged out of times that took incarnation seriously, which is mostly antiquity. One such schema emerged from the ancient culture of the Vedic
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Indians who considered the body or the corpus sensorium as the vehicle of dharma. Although presented at the cosmogonic level, what follows can also be grasped at the micro-cosmic or somatic level. I deliberately offer this here as intellectual provocation and creative dissonance coming as it is from a very distant, ancient, and abiding cultural horizon. As the cosmic- mythologic presentation goes, the cosmic order is preserved by the successive incarnations of Vishnu the Divine preserver. The embodied avatar (literally, ‘the one who has descended’) participates in the tumult of becoming in order to give ontological bearing and disappears. The various incarnates (Sanskrit, avatars) are, in the temporal order of their appearance the following: Matsya (Cosmic Pisces), Kūrma (Cosmic Turtle), Varaha (Cosmic Boar), Narasimha (Cosmic Hybrid), Vamana (Cosmic Gnome), Parashurama (Cosmic Wrath), Rama (Cosmic Rectitude), Krishna (Cosmic Eros), and Buddha (Cosmic Wisdom). It is very significant that these supreme manifestations of somatic intelligence are often non-humanist in form, deliberately and easily crossing species boundaries; nevertheless these incarnations may also be seen to leave their traces in the human. Each of these manifestations may be read as highlighting specific characteristics of the awakened soma. Let us consider each one by turn and decipher what they seem to be suggesting. Matsya or the great fish moves easily in its medium without contradiction. Matsya suggests the power to overcome cosmic deluge (Pralaya) for the worthy. Matsya lives in the very medium of the deluge and hence is not affected by it—it is the Arche-Remainder of creation, arriving to ensure continuity of life on earth. The story has echoes of Noah’s Ark in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Treated pedagogically, it might suggest that the corpus sensorium contains a unique intelligence that must work toward being saved, and all else is epiphenomenal. In other words (unlike cravings of the mind that drive the body to seek sensation) highly disciplined somatic intelligence moves in rhythm with cosmic intelligence, to become part of the remainder (Recall the Pauline declaration in the ‘Letter to the Romans’ that a remainder shall be saved, Romans 10:9–13). Let us next consider Kūrma the turtle incarnate. It is slow and deliberate, and seems to conquer time with its vast lifespan. As the mythological narrative goes, the Kūrma appears in order to stabilize the world as the oceans are churned by elemental forces (devas and asuras) looking for the elixir of life. Kurma supports the physical world as the oceans are churned. The soma is a co-participant in the search for the emancipated life. What
is interesting to note in all of this is that there is no invisible Will that is offered as a causal agent; all that occurs, takes place through bodies and somatic confrontations. As an aside, wisdom is equated to somatic leisureliness, and not to speed, as the great turtle, which is an unhurried and cautious animal. Plenty more can be read into these stories as secret indications and hints toward a more intensified life. Such intensification is what I have termed as the life of the twice-born. Sequentially, the following avatar is the Varaha or the boar. It is the manifestation of brute somatic confrontation in the larger scheme of things—destiny brings vast forces to collide with each other producing new results. The killing of a great demon turns out to be his release from an unfortunate curse, which are chains of becoming. The Varaha appeared in order to engage in an apocalyptic battle with evil that lasted a very long time according to the myth in the Puranas, a class of Indian sacred texts. However, the battle of good and evil is not restricted to major apocalyptic events but continues through all of manifested reality, and it is the task of all sentient beings to recognize and participate in it. The body therefore has a transcendental purpose ab initio to be involved in higher universal becoming. But good and evil accompany each other, and no experience or narrative is complete without reckoning with this tension. The next incarnate, the Narasimha or half-man half-beast, is part of a similar narrative of extermination of evil. Here crossing the species barrier to present a man- beast hybrid has an additional message of non-humanist evolutionary connections. Full somatic awakening undertakes the confrontation with layers of non-humanist past which consciousness has traversed in order to achieve present form. The Vamana or the Gnome incarnation involves multiple symbolisms, including the sublimation of the powerful by the apparently insignificant. It is a cautionary tale that points to the fact that hidden within the small is the power of the infinite, and overt size is not the critical determinant of anything. The Gnome is none other than the Creator who comes to revoke too much concentration of power and restore balance in the world. The context of the revocation is a yajna or holy sacrifice that is a mode of redistribution of power, and which was a central motif of ancient Indian thought-practice. The yajna is a process of somatic reconfiguration during which what was gathered over time is released or redistributed, so that the endless process of creation and dissolution can go on. It is by honoring this somatic process we can remain true to our ontological condition, which is none other than a passage, a movement between states. Somatic
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intelligence born of continuous exchange and transformation leads to the proper anchoring of experience. In the case of Parashurama, the larger narrative goes along similar lines of restoring order. But it is the sub-narratives that are more interesting. For instance, there is the theme of creative ambiguity in the attitude of Parashurama, who is seen as the very personification of krodha or rage, and at the same time in humble penance for it. On the one hand, his fury restores balance by eliminating plundering warrior (kshatriya) clans, and at the same time, this very wrath is castigated as unbecoming of the Brahmin. This seems to tell us that at the heart of somatic existence is an ambiguity, and nothing can be taken at face value. As embodied beings, we have to keep meeting new ‘horizons of collision,’ and even as we enjoy certain powers, we must simultaneously be wary of its dark side. In other words, somatic intelligence requires us to understand the essential duality of each aspect of experience. Nothing in this world of incarnate beings is wholly one thing or another; they are a mixture of opposites (rather in a Heraclitean manner). The seventh avatar, Rama, presents a melancholic picture, of existential pain and disenchantment, and has an ascetic bent from the start. The great saint Vasishta intervenes, takes him under his tutelage, and gives him lessons about the true meaning of corporeal life. These teachings are presented in six parts consisting of twenty-nine thousand verses collectively known as the Yogavasishta, one of the most comprehensive and revered texts of Indian antiquity. Rama is pulled back from the edge of renunciation and eventually participates in a great cosmic melodrama involving several classes of beings and the clash between their various powers. The physical capture of Sita, Rama’s wife, by Ravana, and her eventual release has metaphysical undertones of somatic capture by desire and its transcendental release. This means that the capture and the release are not on the same plane—there is no ‘happily ever after’ story that follows, and instead new outcomes emerge—surprise is the result. The passing or transience of each corporeal state is emphasized. Then there is Krishna, the enigmatic prankster and enchanter at the center of many tales and turning points of Hindu culture. He is Eros incarnate, surrounded by gopis (milkmaids) who are enthralled by the magic of his flute. But his serious side is seen on the epic battlefield of Kurukshetra, the Indian Armageddon. Here, as charioteer to the great warrior Arjuna, he instructs the latter regarding the metaphysics of Dharma, and the nature of duty arising out of vocation. Karmayoga, or
transcendence through engagement, is emphasized as the most supreme form of action. The body must perform according to its station and self- nature, with the mind held in calm indifference as to the outcome. In other words, one must act out of necessity and choicelessness, without attachment to the fruits of action. It is the intrinsic nature of the action that allows one to proceed toward redemption and not the outward consequence or fruit of the action. This discourse of Krishna on the nature of the body, and the meaning of action is known as The Gita, and is one of the most compelling theories of action to be found anywhere. To be able to correctly choose the set of things that constitute meaningful experience one must be aligned with one’s dharma or authentic ontological disposition (this has certain echoes of the Pauline klesis). Contrary to the average understanding of the body as something consciousness inhabits and directs to its purpose, the above gives us a glimpse of a very different approach to the soma or the corpus sensorium. There is a deferential attitude to the body as the repository and ground of vast intelligence not comprehended by the mind. Unlike mental consciousness, which functions through choice, the body acts without choice. It is choiceless because it acts unsentimentally according to its own homeostatic needs and dynamic calculations. Bodily intelligence is not inferior to the mind, but is of a decidedly different nature. It holds together a ground or matrix of sentience for a limited period of time whose mystery the mind has not understood and probably never will. Yet the Indian texts tell us that with right diet, right attitude, and right living the body awakens to the deeper potential of its secrets-toward-liberation in a gradual manner, by-passing usual mental constraints and consciousness. One can find here a resonance with the question of the ‘eyes of the heart’ discoursed by Paul. The awakening of corporeal intelligence in this scheme of things is pedagogically a complex affair requiring several kinds of practices and awareness development. Only direct experience within such a framework is meaningful toward growth and emancipation. The rest of the random stimulation of the nerves is seen as non-essential, not leading to meaningful experience. The experience of the twice-born in this surge-toward- authenticity comes with properly oriented cognitive receptivity. From this perspective, the secular idea of experience is puerile and resembles hoarding or gathering of waste. The world offers an infinite range of sensory stimulations much of which is excluded on the creative-formative ground of experience as not relevant to the true needs of the emergent entity. In
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other words, these do not reach the stage of experiencing, and are left behind as part of an unintelligible muddle; the multiple ‘things’ impinging on consciousness do not need to leave behind their experiential traces; they can be filtered out. In this manner, we need to develop a systematic somatic skill that is in line with our ontological reality and not at odds with it. But let us gather together the points raised above in the guise of the various incarnations and what these might mean for an experiential framework toward emancipation. The awakened soma is contiguous with the hen soma or one (cosmic) body; while separated by space in our mental image of it, the individual body is just a part of universal becoming. This is not just a mental idea; its truth is to be sought in the corpus itself through the synthesis of correct posture, breathing, diet, and attitude. In this manner the body is prepared for the hen Pneuma or one (cosmic) breath. Second, the body is an association of unfailing rhythms like the waxing and waning of the moon or the tides. These rhythms are closer to the basic reality of existence and not the contingent political realm in which humans are excessively invested. These rhythms are slow and deliberate and are to be felt throughout the body. While thoughts are all over the place, the somatic rhythms are never out of place. For too long we have taken it all for granted and so have lost touch with it in consciousness. A pedagogic recovery process by which a meditation occurs on these abiding rhythms is overdue. This does not mean that we reflect mentally on these rhythms; rather it means we sink into these rhythms, lowering our mind into the heart. Third, the tendency to see the body as a given thing which reaches its peak by a certain age and then declines is to be forsworn. Under proper care, the body reaches new powers at different stages throughout life that are not available at prior stages. This view of the body as evolving throughout life involves awakening all aspects of the soma that might have become dormant in the evolutionary process, and in this particular life. Fourth, our attention is usually drawn by the large and the imposing, but the most important somatic-existential processes are not necessarily grand or striking. The eyes of the heart view, which is an interiorist view of the soma and not the mental image of the body we are used to, give us an awareness of the equivalence of micro-processes and macro-processes. We are no longer deluded by appearances and become aware of how somatic processes are enfolded into one another. Fifth, the body is always at war, defending itself against innumerable invasions and threats of dissolution. It is, in fact, the most comprehensive warrior that
existed, ever-awake to changing conditions and emergent problems. Few of us are aware of the odds against which the body maintains its composition and homeostasis. We only become aware of trouble when we have to visit the doctor. But the body is its own doctor, ever-vigilant with regard to small changes in various parameters, ever manning defenses on multiple fronts. Somatic intelligence brings upon us the awareness of this never- ending action throughout the organism in a way that it no longer remains invisible and taken-for-granted. Sixth, there is a melancholy that surrounds each embodied being since it is transient, and bound to, sooner or later, come apart, and dissolve into more primary components. The question inevitably arises: Why all this struggle, and toward what end? This question itself arises from the mind’s side of things—the mental representation of death not balanced by somatic understanding. We cannot hope to find an answer to this question mentally. But somatic consciousness—eyes of the heart—does not fear transience because it is grounded in necessity, and necessity in this case demands continuous change of state or cosmic becoming. The focus on necessity cuts the mental chatter and the obsession with the particular form that must give way to new forms. Finally, we have become altogether too purposive, and forgotten the playful side of somatic existence. On close observation of living substance everywhere, it may be plausibly argued that all around us there is nothing but cosmic play, eternally emerging and dissolving without any deadly intent or purpose (at least none that can be comprehended by us). But the human mind has become all too purposeful and thereby lost the playful contact with the world. All of the above collectively seem to suggest a somatic élan vital that is dynamic and very different than the mechanical repetitiveness of the purposeful world. Let me go back to the notion of perilous awareness developed in the earlier part of this chapter. Somatic intelligence contributes greatly to this critical awareness in which there is no mind/body distinction. This is the ground zero of experience, a basic luminosity that is neither mind nor body. As we probe deeper into the condition of possibility with regard to experience, perilous awareness brings us to the threshold of experience, that is, at the edge where we come upon what we will call synteresis (συντήρησιν) or a form of intuition that allows us to grasp the basic principles of world-as-action (including ourselves).15 Pushing away the burden 15 The origin of the notion of synteresis or synderesis can be traced to the Commentary on Ezechiel by Saint Jerome (A.D. 347–419), where syntéresin (συντήρησιν) is mentioned as
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of language and attaining once again the dimension of this direct intuition allows us to observe the processes by which the creative ferment of the world or the world-in-becoming enters a more limited experiential realm manageable by us, which goes by the name of reality. The limiting processes that come into application in order to make a coherent world emerge in experience must be acknowledged, otherwise we become naïve realists, and make the error of mistaking effects for causes. But there is more. To situate oneself at this limit point or boundary requires the gathered penetrative power derived from perilous awareness, otherwise one remains stuck within the categories and the production of experiences within those categories. In other words, one remains stuck within the vicious cycle of the commonsensical order. The escape to a creative ground of experience is not easy but possible as we have outlined above, situated at the intersection of klesis, chresis, and synteresis. As for the question, who might get there, it is a moot point, and comes from the old pattern of thought. For, anyone, at any point, can participate in this movement, and the reorientation of thought can begin at any time. It is not an individualistic moment; rather, the pedagogic matter we speak of is an orientation of thought that is a counter-flow to the commonsensical perception of a chopped-up individualized reality. Rather than an individual experiencing, it is a specific kind of structuring of experience that brings about the individual. What is the pedagogic advantage of such a perilous awareness? If we agree that education’s purpose is not merely the earning of a living, then we might also agree that the manufactured economic reality within which we carry on our lives is insufficiently nourishing, and that education must help us rise above the accidental conditions of our lives. In other words, while economic activity is important, it keeps us bound to a specific settled reality that does not exhaust the possibilities of the being and becoming of the entity. And since experience is the guiding light of our lives, we must have a deeper understanding of the processes through which experience itself comes to be. This understanding cannot be just intellectual or mental, both of which are themselves products of experience, but something that is beyond both. The nous or intensification is produced when the soma and the psyche come together by means of a systematic and pedagogic effort of overcoming being among the powers of the soul and is described as the spark of conscience (scintilla conscientiae). To many scholars the word synderesis appears to be a corruption of syneidêsis (συνείδησις), the Greek word for conscience.
division. This gives birth to authentic experience. On the other hand, the one-sided and fragmentary condition of conventional experience gives birth to distortion. In other words, the coming together of the somatic- intuitive and the psychic-affective brings about a new cognitive and organizational platform for experience in which the process of experiencing itself is transformed. Thinking along these lines, meaningful experience is not the receipt of random sensory-cognitive input and their translation, but rather, the production of a klesis-chresis-synteresis matrix within which meaning is generated. One might even say that experience is matrix generation, or that, experiences are not solitary, partially connected or unconnected series of categorical representations, but active psycho-somatic awakenings toward participation in the world. This is very different from the secular-empiricist idea of experience. And this brings us to the all-important question of the experiencer, for within commonsense, all experience has the experiencer as its reference point. The experiencer—an assumed psychical entity—is the boundary of experience as well as its meaning. That is the commonsense perspective. However, mindful analysis shows that the so-called experiencer must emerge from experience itself and cannot precede it; there is no ready- made experiencer as tabula rasa waiting to experience, and there seems to be no basis for such an assumption. In one of the episodes of Akira Kurosawa’s film Dreams, the protagonist enters the painting (experience) itself in order to find the painter (experiencer), but alas, to no avail, for the essential painter remains elusive. Further, we can say that, this elusive ‘essence’ is the result of the split that we have spoken about, the hierarchical split between body and mind. It is through this split that the experiencer has been formulated as a monadic presence who cognizes, directs, and evaluates experience. This monadic presence, a psychic abstraction hovering, as it were, above and beyond the soma, has become the centerpiece of modern social existence. This one-dimensional shadow being is the cause of both our awkwardness and arrogance, our social violence as well as ecological insensitivity; it is the fundamental block to the possibility of grace and hence to a proper education. Therefore, its deconstructive grasp is central to any pedagogic effort directed toward understanding experience. How then shall we proceed? Commonsense does not question the experiencer or its ontological basis. Having taken the experiencer for granted, it faces forward and sees experience as sequences of stimulus temporally and spatially cognized by the assumed entity, aided by the
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categories. Habits of thought-memory associated with lack of careful observation promote the structure of cognitive interest made up of patterns of desirable repetition, and rejection of undesirable experience. This pattern or psychological center becomes entrenched over time, reinforced by its social usefulness, giving rise to what appears to be a permanent background of experience. The problem starts when we look back at the so- called experiencer and question its sovereignty. It is immediately obvious that it is problematic. Nevertheless, it is not easy to dislodge, for who indeed is to dislodge it? A vortex, once set in motion, cannot dislodge itself. But organismically, its unconscious feeding (acceleration) can be slowed down in real ways for study. Velocity is essential for animating and maintaining the vortex. This velocity is significantly brought down when the corpus is no longer the image of the body in the mind as an exteriority but properly inhabited from within with full awareness. Perilous awareness is key to this inhabitation. Now the experiencer has a new meaning, and not the monadic psychological entity colonizing the body. Its apperception from within is a slow and deliberate process. One known way of bringing in the projected mind (thought-memory) back into the body is through a systematic watchfulness of the breath which goes in and out of the body of its own accord. It provides a ready- made de-escalator of velocity. Focusing on the breath for lengths of time can dampen (unnecessary) thought-velocity and reawaken a bodily intuition opening the door to the heart where the mind and the body can move in tandem. The mental picture that we hold of ourselves is not ourselves. It is an inadequate and inaccurate picture. Synteresis is the comprehension of this inadequacy, and hence the attempt to awaken to its full dimensions. Here, where the mind has re-entered the body, understanding, ethics, and action operate as a singularity. A new direction both for individual as well as social life is discovered in this process. The body-mind synteresis is a new and creative way of experiencing and participating in the world. But the focus from this point onward is on participation rather than experience. The latter form of conception of our relation with the world makes it seem as though the world is pre-given, unwittingly driving a wedge between the world and the entity, between the experiencer and the experienced. This hiatus becomes the breeding ground of self-indulgent illusion and ecological mischief. Participation, on the other hand, awakens us to a new sense of responsibility and urgency, and the sense that we are co-creating the world with our triadic klesis-chresis-synteresis matrix of sensibilities. This numinosum born of a new order of sensibilities produces
the experience of opthalmous tes cardias (eyes of the heart) essential to the pedagogical effort of the twice-born as conceived in these pages. The experiencing of the world progressively through the eyes of the heart reveals yet another ontological aspect that has a close bearing on the pedagogy of the twice-born—the reevaluation of time. Each moment is momentous, a review of the previous instant, and a closure. In a sense, it also sets the conditions for the instant that follows. The philosopher- historian Walter Benjamin put it this way: The apocryphal saying of a Gospel, “Wherever I encounter someone, I will pronounce judgment on him,” casts a particular light on Judgment Day [den jungsten tag]. It recalls Kafka’s fragment: the Day of Judgment is a summary judgment [Standrecht]. But it also adds something: according to this saying, the Day of Judgment is not different from others. In any case, this Gospel saying furnishes the criterion for the concept of the present that the historian makes his own. Every instant is the instant of judgment on certain moments that precede it.16
There is built into each instant its potential review; thus is time crucified, made to pay for its unfolding. Original Sin, if there is such a thing, is this temporality. The twice-born proceeds with an intensive sense of meaningful closure as the ensemble, collective, or amalgamate steps into the next instant. We are in the presence of a moment-to-moment totality that is not piecemeal experience but its very condition of possibility. It is the experience of this redemption that allows the twice-born to move from individuality to a vector, to becoming a theater of operations. The monadic individuality may then be seen as an ‘adsorption,’ a thin film deposited temporally on the surface of this vector for pragmatics only. That is why commonsense can never achieve the intense orbit of the twice-born—our ordinary ways of talking and thinking about reality are simply not accurate or adequate enough. The temporal continuity that commonsense projects for all is a false continuity that brings us to grief. Instead it is against the scriptural note of ‘Judgment’ that the meaning of time and death (experience and the end of experience) become clear. The twice-born redeems its totality each instant, which is a form of ending. Further, the limits and boundaries of the personality/individuality, and the associated mental and psychic formulations set by particular forms of socialization and temporal 16 Walter Benjamin, Selected Writings, Vol. 2, Part 1, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press), p. 259.
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habits (that make us variously incapable of looking beyond the commonsense point of view), may thus be transcended, for each instant brings a certain closure, a completion, as it were. The attitude born of this moment- to-moment completion or redemption is very different than the attitude of commonsense that complacently dwells in continuity and is therefore surprised by death. The extinguishment or projected end of experience being the central existential crisis—from which metaphysical fact proceed other anxieties—of the experiencer is transcended in the true understanding of experience. The starting point of understanding experience, is thus, paradoxically, the facticity of the end of experience. Once this is grasped firmly, there arises a fundamental emendation in the book of life, as it were—experience merges with the experiencer to create a new holism. We are used to thinking of experience as something in the domain of the actual, but experience is also the potential. The eyes of the heart know both the power (expressed in the actual) and the powerlessness (latent in the potential) of experience. In his lecture on Aristotle’s Metaphysics, Heidegger refers to this dual nature of existence: Insofar as freedom (taken transcendentally) constitutes the essence of Dasein, Dasein, as existing, is always, in essence, necessarily “further” than any given factical being. On the basis of this upswing, Dasein is, in each case, beyond beings, as we say, but it is beyond in such a way that it, first of all, experiences beings in their resistance, against which transcending Dasein is powerless. The powerlessness is metaphysical, i.e., to be understood as essential; it cannot be removed by reference to the conquest of nature, to technology, which rages about in the “world” today like an unshackled beast; for this domination of nature is the real proof for the metaphysical powerlessness of Dasein, which can only attain freedom in its history…. Dasein, as factically existing, transcending already, in each case, encounters beings and because, with transcendence and world-entry, the powerlessness, understood metaphysically, is manifest, for this reason Dasein, which can be powerless (metaphysically) only as free, must hold itself to the condition of the possibility of powerlessness, to the freedom to ground. And it is for this reason that we essentially place every being, as being, into question regarding its ground.17
17 Martin Heidegger, The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic, Transl. Michael Heim (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1984), p. 216.
For Heidegger possibility is higher than actuality; the latter is, in a sense, a mere precipitate surfacing from the vast world of potentiality, or what Aristotle had called dynamis. How shall we conceive of this powerless potential? It is passion [potentia passiva] and nothing else. We hold this unexpressed possibility in us as passion, which is incapacity—it does not achieve anything other than simply being there as the core of our being. Elsewhere in the book I have called it intensity. Experience is meaningless and even impossible without the other side of experience which is passion—it is here that (consciously or otherwise) all experience is grounded. Ordinary education does not make a reference to this other side of experience. It treats the latter as something that happens to us and not that we happen to things; things too experience us. Experience is thus reciprocal; things happen to us only as we happen to them—my experience of you is really my experience of your experience of me, and so on, with an infinite regress. We do not yet have a proper language for this. Part of the urgent necessity of the present discussion is to move toward developing an adequate language for reflecting this reciprocal world in which we live and experience. The language of experience must see this shift. Passion happens to things, which makes compassion possible. Meaningful experience is linked with compassion through which the world comes to be. Our typical experience is one in which an independent world, and objects in it, assault or press upon our senses. In truth, there is no such independent world, and we must happen to the world even as the world happens to us. The eyes of the heart recognize this and ask the next question: How shall we pedagogically evaluate each passing experience, or what meaning and value do we ascribe to them? All experience, individual or collective, is in the past. The present does not consist of experience; it cannot be experienced as such, for the birth of experience is, cognitively, always, post facto. Hence, any philosophy of experience must also reckon with the nature of the recorded experience or the production of historical consciousness. In other words, the problem concerns the comprehension and substantiation of any account of what humanity has supposedly gone through. Today we are confronted by two forms of historical consciousness. On the one hand, there is the form of consciousness that understands all human work (and the past) as an origin destined to an infinite process of transmission that preserves its intangible and mythic singularity. And on the other hand, there is the form of consciousness that, as the inverted specular image
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of the first form of consciousness, irresponsibly liquidates and flattens out the singularity of the origin by forever multiplying copies and simulacra. These two attitudes are only apparently opposed; in reality, they are merely the two faces of a cultural tradition in which the content of transmission and transmission itself are so irreparably fractured that it can only ever repeat the origin infinitely or annul it in simulacra. In each case, the origin itself can be neither fulfilled nor mastered. The idea of origin contains both singularity and reproducibility, and as long as one of the two remains in force, every intention to overcome both is doomed to fail.18
Collective experience can be understood in two ways. The first is by casting it within an ‘origin’ and then seeing it as a carrying-forward through an ‘infinite process of transmission.’ For example, the very notion of progressing ‘humanity’ is itself the transmission of such an originary idea to which is referenced other events and occurrences in order to make sense of them, or to give them coherence and consistency. The idea of ‘humanity’ is the mythic singularity here, a construct that maintains itself infinitely through cultural transmission. The obverse side to this kind of Hegelian synthesis is its denial, and the seeing of historical experience as local, unrelated totalities. For example, men act out their childhood resentments and repressions again and again, ad infinitum, imagining them to be fresh scenarios. Both these attempts, which are really two sides of the same cultural coin, are the result of the fundamental error of separating the content of transmission and the act of transmission. Neither pedagogically questions or examines transmissibility itself. The idea of teleological fulfillment of the historical metanarrative, as well as its rejection, both are thus doomed to fail because they engage with only one side of the problem. But when we engage transmissibility itself, we come to a point where content is continually being digested by the process itself, and being thrown out as its caricature. Both the history that we accept and reject are travesties of themselves. What is really at stake is inventing a new path by throwing off our backs the burden of history, and thus getting a proper hold on it. This is one of the major pedagogical tasks before the twice-born. The latter is neither historical nor ahistorical; rather, it has digested history and thus become redeemed. It sits atop history, facing toward something that has never been. This something-that-has-neverbeen is not some imaginary future, but the vortex of becoming which 18 Giorgio Agamben, Potentialities: Collected Essays in Philosophy (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999), p. 155.
continually spins out the novelty of being, destroying what has been. The twice-born is the birth of becoming in the midst of consciousness, in which the civilizational fatigue is borne away in a flash.
References Ephesians, King James Bible Giorgio Agamben, Potentialities: Collected Essays in Philosophy (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999). Giorgio Agamben, The Time That Remains: A Commentary on the Letter to the Romans (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005). I Corinthians, King James Bible. Martin Heidegger, The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic, Transl. Michael Heim (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1984). R. D. Laing, The Politics of Experience (Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin Books, 1969). Romualdo E. Abulad, “What is Hermeneutics?” In Kritike, Vol. 1, No. 2, Dec. 2007, pp. 11–23. Walter Benjamin, Selected Writings, Vol. 2, Part 1, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press).
Phenomenology of the Twice-Born
In the commonsensical patchwork reality, the educator, a product of the contingent and the isolated reality, becomes, in turn, a manager of the same. S/he thinks of education as an external product that the receiver (student-client) ‘buys’ and the system ‘sells.’ In other words, pedagogy becomes a bureaucratic-commercial exercise—knowledge/knower management—rather than a joint struggle toward illumination and co- evolution. This management model of education has become so naturalized and normalized that the mainstream hardly sees it as problematic. In fact, anything different is dismissed as unachievable idealism or romantic nonsense. But the consequence of bureaucratic education is additional fragmentation and disintegration, leading to further distortion of reality and our relations within it in a kind of vicious cycle that brings about greater and greater alienation. The Weberian nightmare of a wholly disenchanted reality is no longer theory, but a prophecy fulfilled. To leap out of this fragmented reality constituted of phantasies, projections, and introjections, one needs a different kind of educational experience that allows us to phenomenologically come in contact with the continuous and the connected that lie beneath the isolates created by the mental categories. It means that one must re-learn to communicate directly and immediately with the intimate micro-knowledges that form uniquely and reciprocally in our immediate neighborhood. So let us try and understand the phenomenological approach and what it means in everyday life.
© The Author(s) 2020 K. Roy, Reincarnating Experience in Education, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-53548-3_4
The purpose of phenomenological reflection is to try to grasp the essential meaning of something. Phenomenological reflection is both easy and difficult. It is easy because, as Husserl (1980) showed, to see the meaning or essence of a phenomenon is something everyone does constantly in everyday life. For example, when I see my son’s teacher I do not just perceive a man or a woman. I see a person who differs from other men and women precisely in that respect which makes me talk of this person as “a teacher!” In other words, I, as everybody else, have a notion of what a teacher is. But what is much more difficult is to come to a reflective determination and explication of what a teacher is. This determination and explication of meaning then is the more difficult task of phenomenological reflection. A more famous philosophical example concerns the experience of time. What could be more easily grasped than time? We regulate our lives by time. We carry the time around on our wrist. We divide the day into morning, afternoon, evening and night time. We even talk about the time going by, sometimes fast, and at other times more slowly. And yet when someone asks us “what is time anyway?” we are quickly at our wit’s end to describe it.1
We hold images of the parent or the teacher or the student under those labels. But what exactly are our experiences about those who we label thus? Do these experiences come with those labels, and do they correspond to the latter in some elementary way, or are they something else altogether? Do I experience a student as a ‘student’ (whatever that is), or do I experience her/him as a certain turbulence in my consciousness? Is my father a part of that class of beings called fathers, or is he a bundle of anxieties, affections, and unknowns that reciprocally affect my experience of him? Am I his ‘son,’ or am I a bundle of habits and desires, contradictions, and commitments which are instrumental in my father’s experience of me? What precisely do we mean when we say we experience this or that? It is not as though perception through categories is wrong. It is the case that we are often not aware that our real experience has little to do with the manner in which we categorize.2 And the way in which we categorize, 1 Max Van Manen, Researching Lived Experience: Human Science for an Action Sensitive Pedagogy (New York: SUNY Press, 1990), p. 77. 2 Van Manen goes on to say that “Ultimately the project of phenomenological reflection and explication is to effect a more direct contact with the experience as lived. I want to grasp the meaning of teaching, of mothering, of fathering, so that I can live my pedagogic life with children more fully. Therefore, when I reflect on the experience of teaching I do not reflect on it as a professional philosopher, or as a psychologist, as a sociologist, as an ethnographer, or even as a phenomenologist or critical theorist. Rather, I reflect phenomenologically on
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and the uncritical significance we often grant to these categories, have led to a fragmented reality in the absence of a proper pedagogic attention to the underlying flow of things. We have come close to destroying planetary livability, central to which has been the production of a chopped-up reality, confusing the name with the experience of the thing. The first step in bringing about a fresh balance is to be ‘moved’ toward the essential movement of the world—unless one is moved, the inner ontological compass does not get activated. The experience of the twice-born involves intuitively coming upon the ontological, the pre-rational, and the essential connectedness of the inner with the so- called outer. The revolutionary praxis of the twice-born can be consolidated under certain experiential-phenomenological strands, whose gradual unfolding assist us to move away from the barrenness of disenchanted life and reduce the dependence on outer isolates. Below we group these strands under three broad categories for adequate pedagogical understanding and actional focus. These are (a) phenomenological Hermeneutics, (b) phenomenological Aisthesis, and (c) phenomenological Eros. We shall go into each of these at some length in the pages that follow.
Phenomenological Hermeneutics Some years ago, in a dialogue concerning the dialectic between theory and life, the French thinker and language theorist Jacques Derrida had made a startling disclosure: I confess that everything I oppose, so to speak, in my texts, everything that I deconstruct—presence, voice, living, and so on—is exactly what I am after in life. I love the voice, I love presence, I love …; there is no love, no desire without it. So, I’m constantly denying, so to speak, in my life what I’m saying in my books or my teaching …. [In my writing there is] a Necessity which compels me to say that there is no immediate presence, compels me to deconstruct …. Nevertheless, in my life, I do the opposite. I live as if, as if it were possible … somehow to be present with voice, or vocal presence. I want to be close to my friends and to meet them and, if I don’t, I use the experiences of teaching and parenting as a teacher or as a parent. In other words, I attempt to grasp the pedagogical essence of a certain experience. The meaning or essence of a phenomenon is never simple or one-dimensional. Meaning is multi-dimensional and multi-layered. That is why the meaning of pedagogy can never be grasped in a single definition.” Ibid., p. 78.
phone. That’s life, consistent with and inconsistent with, following without following … it’s because there is no pure presence that I desire it. There would be no desire without it.3
Why is there this contradiction, this inconsistency between theory and life (practice), even for someone who, according to himself, has made considerable efforts toward being consistent?4 The problem is not, as Derrida thinks, due to the gap between theoretical ‘Necessity’ and the contingency of life, and the consequent aporias. The gap is constructed by consciousness itself when it looks upon reality as something independent and does not factor in itself as part-producer of the same. Hence, in actuality, the problem concerns the core hermeneutic process of returning to the roots of experience and reinterpreting necessity and contingency. Living theory is not the theorization of dead experience; it is rather the in-seeing into experience itself, and the step-by-step descent into its dynamic nature.5 In order to achieve that pedagogically, we adopt the phenomenological attitude as our native stance. It involves understanding our experience of ourselves and the world phenomenologically rather than objectively, from an external point of view.6 3 Jacques Derrida in M. Payne and J. Schad (Eds.), life.after.theory (London: Continuum, 2003), pp. 8–9. 4 “Now, in my own case—I mean, theoretically—I have tried, the best I could, to avoid being inconsistent; I try to write and say and to teach in a certain way which prevents me, as much as possible, from, let’s say, contradicting myself or changing. I try. Even if I think, ‘Well, there are contradictions or aporias in my own text,’ it is because I am saying things which are self-contradicting or aporetic; so, I point to them and I try to formalize the aporia or the self-contradiction in order not to be inconsistent, not to say, ‘Well, that is what I wrote when I was 25.’ I try not to.” Derrida in Payne & Schad, op. cit., p. 26. 5 In the context of ‘in-seeing,’ the poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote: “If I were to tell you where my greatest feeling, my universal feeling, the bliss of my earthly existence has been, I would have to confess: It has always, here and there, been in this kind of in-seeing, in the indescribably swift, deep, timeless moments of this divine seeing into the heart of things.” In The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), p. 34. 6 The phenomenologist Max Van Manen observes, “Phenomenological themes may be understood as the structures of experience. So when we analyze a phenomenon, we are trying to determine what the themes are, the experiential structures that make up that experience. It would be simplistic, however, to think of themes as conceptual formulations or categorical statements. After all, it is lived experience that we are attempting to describe, and lived experience cannot be captured in conceptual abstractions. Let us illustrate the determination of phenomenological meaning at the hand of an everyday life concern. It may help clarify the methodological significance of the idea of ‘theme’ in reflecting on concrete situations: children, our lives with children, prompt us to ask increasingly reflective questions.
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Let us begin by inquiring into the phenomenological approach to experience, and ask, what is the essential difference between the phenomenological attitude and the natural or the commonsensical attitude? At the same time we must also understand the difference between the knowledge of phenomenology and its actual practice. Some years ago, Cornelius Verhoeven (1972) made a troubling observation. He suggested that philosophical knowledge of phenomenology does not make a person a phenomenologist, any more than scholarly knowledge of poetry makes a person a poet. By way of analogy with poetry, Verhoeven made a distinction between those who study and criticize poetry and those who actually do poetry: there are those who are connoisseurs or critics and “write about poetry,” and then there are those who “write poetry.” Of course, some critics may also be poets, but the poems of critics may lack compulsion and inspiration. Verhoeven’s warning gives pause to reflection. Verhoeven even went a step further and suggested that some philosophers who only talk about philosophy are nothing but a nuisance. The philosopher critic just talks about philosophy but fails to “do” it. Verhoeven originally made these comments in his phenomenological study, The Philosophy of Wonder.7
The study of phenomenology as a philosophical subject does not make one a phenomenologist any more than the study of art history makes one an artist or the study of literature makes one a novelist. So then, what makes a person an active phenomenologist, for that is what we are interested in—to understand phenomenal experience as well as the process of experiencing, not in an abstract or conceptual manner, but as an organic method, not as a disinterested observer looking in from the outside, but as an intimate matter of experiencing. An educator can look at a school from a detached perspective, as something happening outside her/himself. But one can also discover that the school does not exist as something independent of the flavor of experience I unconsciously lend it—there are overt formulas by means of which I recognize that thing we call school. Those formulas do not capture the actual and confusing relations of power The question, ‘Did I do that right?’ forces us to come to terms with the particular (this child, this situation, this action) under the guidance of our understanding of the universal.” In Researching Lived Experience: Human Science for an Action Sensitive Pedagogy (New York: SUNY Press, 1990), p. 79. 7 Max Van Manen, Phenomenology of Practice (Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Publishers, Inc., 2014), p. 23.
and obedience, of alienation and defiance, of anxiety and expectation within the tumble of bodies that refuse easy summative description. The so-called school is a social habit of thought in which the educator is reciprocally implicated and to that extent it is as much internal as external. The symbolic structures that make it possible to recognize a school as such are not outside of us but are a cognitive extension of ourselves. This social habit of thought gets broken down into individual significances and reappears to us as something external and objective. The phenomenologist pushes back against this objectification and attempts to hermeneutically return to the point where the objectification begins, taking her/him to the locus of emergence. In-seeing takes place in a thoughtful relation to what Heidegger (1985) calls “in-being” or our everyday being-involved-with the things of our world. In-being is the constitution of the sense of being, in which every particular mode of being finds its source and ground. So, when Martin Heidegger says, “Knowing is a mode of being of in-being” then this means that every moment of practical acting and knowing always already takes place in a mode of being that he calls in-being (1985, p. 161). A phenomenology that is sensitive to the lifeworld explores how our everyday involvements with our world are enriched by knowing as in-being. As teachers and researchers we are interested in the promise that phenomenology can make to practice. But Heidegger warns that phenomenology “never makes things easier, but only more difficult.”8
One can live and act in largely unconscious ways, performing out of habit. There is, in this kind of cognitively minimal response to the world, hardly any need for involvement. We work through formulas handed down to us that bring about the necessary minimal changes in the variables that allow us to go on living. We cannot call this ‘knowing’ in the above sense, although we may know many things in a mechanical and distant sort of way. Most of educational experience in the present day is of this kind—a distant knowing without involvement. Phenomenological knowing, on the other hand, is a close encounter with substance-formation itself. It involves sharp moments of in-seeing within a perpetual state of ‘in-being,’ that is, a heightened state of existential alertness in which we do not take things for granted, but continually pay attention to 8 Max Van Manen, “Phenomenology of Practice” In Phenomenology & Practice, Volume 1 (2007), No. 1, pp. 11–30.
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constitutive changes and movements, within and without. This kind of alert living is neither easy nor convenient, for we are used to the perpetual infantilization that modernity bestows on us (through the demand for an objectified reality and a proprioception directed toward saturation with things). It is hardly surprising that the phenomenological stance is a more difficult existential position in which to remain, because it is in the opposite direction to the commonsensical attitude—the latter being the laziest (unexamined and uncritical) of attitudes. What emerges then is a distinctly different plane of in-habitation on which the level of intensity reveals to us a kind of ‘in-meaning-in’: A being-in-meaning that is continually in production without being halted by existing configurations. A question often encountered is: What is the use of this? Such questions make every phenomenologist groan in anguish, for this is an utterly wrong question from their point of view. Let us listen to Heidegger’s response to the utilitarian compulsion: “Nothing comes” of philosophy; “you can’t do anything with it.” These two turns of phrase, which are especially current among teachers and researchers in the sciences, express observations that have their indisputable correctness.…[It] consists in the prejudice that one can evaluate philosophy according to everyday standards that one would otherwise employ to judge the utility of bicycles or the effectiveness of mineral baths….It is entirely correct and completely in order to say, “You can’t do anything with philosophy.” The only mistake is to believe that with this, the judgment concerning philosophy is at an end. For a little epilogue arises in the form of a counter- question: even if we can’t do anything with it, may not philosophy in the end do something with us, provided that we engage ourselves with it?”9
The point is that one does not have to do anything with philosophical intensity; it is enough to have become intensified philosophically. Phenomenological intensity then will do with you what needs to be done. This is to turn the general utilitarian conception of usefulness on its head wherein the subject operates on the object, or the person acts on the knowledge. Intensity, or the differential powers of phenomenological orbits mentioned earlier, disposes off with the notion of the stable (individualized) self, doing something with things. Instead, intensity connects with things in a reciprocal manner forming patterns or gestalts of 9 Martin Heidegger, Introduction to Metaphysics (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2000), p. 13.
meaning. This in turn gives clarity of purpose as to the meaning of action and what needs to be done toward emancipated living. The philosopher Henri Bergson has written: “In theory, there is a kind of absurdity in trying to know otherwise than by intellect; but if the risk be frankly accepted, action will perhaps cut the knot that reasoning has tied and will not unloose.”10 In other words, phenomenological work expands the generative basis of our reality formation by taking us back to the roots of phenomenal emergence, thereby loosening the bonds of traditional formations. But for this we must be willing to undertake the risks of transformation. We are used to the idea of changing things outside; rarely are we willing to disturb the settled geometry of our ways of looking and perceiving. But philosophical activism does precisely that in an effort to take us back to the primary and primitive sensations, and intuitive movements emerging from contact with the world. There is a dualistic imaging (thinker/thought, subject/object, self/other, experiencer/experience, observer/observed, and so on) that unreflectively accepts the binary as ontological truth (as the way things are), but there is another kind of duality that understands its status as historically produced schism, and thereby attempts to transcend it, moving backward through a recoil. All the different, erstwhile scattered, parts of the being become in-gathered at a point or edge, oriented toward an unknown or what is to come. Thus it is that Philosophy absorbs us and rethinks us, giving us a redemptive point of singularity. Philosophy can only be an effort to dissolve again into the [primitive principle]. Intellect, reabsorbed into its principle, may thus live back again its own genesis. But the enterprise cannot be achieved in one stroke; it is necessarily collective and progressive. It consists in an interchange of impressions which, correcting and adding to each other, will end by expanding the humanity in us and making us even transcend it….Intellectuality and materiality have been constituted, in detail, by reciprocal adaptation. Both are 10 Henri Bergson, Creative Evolution (New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1911), p. 211. Continuing in that vein, Bergson further elaborates: “And further we compared the intellect to a solid nucleus formed by means of condensation. This nucleus does not differ radically from the fluid surrounding it. It can only be reabsorbed in it because it is made of the same substance. He who throws himself into the water, having known only the resistance of the solid earth, will immediately be drowned if he does not struggle against the fluidity of the new environment: he must perforce still cling to that solidity, so to speak, which even water presents. Only on this condition can he get used to the fluid’s fluidity. So of our thought, when it has decided to make the leap. But leap it must, that is, leave its own environment.” pp. 221–222.
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derived from a wider and higher form of existence. It is there that we must replace them, in order to see them issue forth.11
Both intuition and intellect have been derived from a deeper and higher unity, and the effort to retrace our steps to that unity or phenomenological essence cannot be achieved in one fell swoop, but progressively. In other words, this unity is not immediately available—to whom should it be available? Instead the intellect and intuition must work closely together and by means of reciprocal recoil move toward a negative integration. But what is negative integration? Let us consider the case of history. Ordinarily, the learning of history is justified as learning from the past, or being inspired by great historical acts, or learning about our own genealogy and so on. But from the point of view of the pedagogy of the twice-born, the purpose of learning history is neither to understand the present from the actions of the past, nor to celebrate great deeds. Rather, the purpose of engaging with history is to be able to throw off the burden of history and become free of it. Negative integration does not go shopping in the past for interesting morsels, nor to interpret and integrate historical facts into grand narratives, but to bring the scattering of the self to a halt so that history can disappear into it. The picture that comes to mind is that of a comet trying to lose its tail—the faster it moves the longer the tail. But if it were somehow to come to a screeching halt, the tail would slam into it and disappear. This is negative integration—as soon as the forward movement is halted the past collides into the present, becoming a nullity. The study of history must bring consciousness to a sudden halt in which the past is digested and disappears. Similarly, the negative integration of mathematics with the self does not necessarily make us clever problem-solvers on our way to becoming ‘high-IQ morons.’ Rather, mathematics acts as the ‘de-icing agent’ that keeps our wings and fuselage free of debilitating ice, speaking metaphorically, so that we become free. How so? The mathematical proposition does not provide any information about the world; instead, it typically deals with equivalences or elaborations such as ex = 1 + x + x2/2 + and so on. We can project parts of physical reality onto these equivalences (or vice versa) and get useful results for practical purposes; however, the mathematics itself remains free of all the accretions of the real, as it were. The corresponding sensation is one of lightness and freedom not contingent on circumstance that is able to hive off Ibid., p. 210.
unnecessary accumulation. In this manner, negative integration elicits from intellectual knowledge modes and means and tools in the recovery and reconstruction of a unified edge toward what is to come. There is a reverse integration of intellect with intuition, and knowledge appears with a new significance for pedagogy. This does not mean we lose sight of ordinary uses of knowledge—that is neither desirable nor possible. It means that through a hermeneutic examination of the cognitive processes we push ourselves toward the nebula from which intellectual thought emerges. At that point of emergence something quite different is visible. Thinking can never entirely deny this nebula, which accompanies it as a vague halo or aura from behind. One has only to turn toward the dynamic in order to prepare to find a way toward a recuperation of unsplit reality. We have shown that intellect has detached itself from a vastly wider reality, but that there has never been a clean cut between the two; all around conceptual thought there remains an indistinct fringe which recalls its origin…. The more the intellect busies itself with dividing, the more it will spread out in space, in the form of extension adjoining extension, a matter that undoubtedly itself has a tendency to spatiality, but whose parts are yet in a state of reciprocal implication and interpenetration. Thus the same movement by which the mind is brought to form itself into intellect, that is to say, into distinct concepts, brings matter to break itself up into objects excluding one another. The more consciousness is intellectualized, the more is matter spatialized. So that the evolutionist philosophy, when it imagines in space a matter cut up on the very lines that our action will follow, has given itself in advance, ready made, the intellect of which it claims to show the genesis.12
Now the path to a new pedagogic process is clear, making it also more plausible since the separation of intellection and intuition has never been absolute. The path is guided by the insight that beneath the hardened horizon of knowledge there is something far more vital and fluid. We have to critically focus on movements and changes that incessantly break up things and spaces through greater and greater differentiation, tempting us with newer representations and symbolic groupings. For example, technological proliferation subdivides cultural spaces introducing ‘tech-savvy’ experiences that alter the social geometry. When almost everyone is taking ‘selfies,’ the attention is compulsively diverted to this strange pastime. Ibid., p. 207.
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But this is also more than just a pastime; it is a way of viewing one’s relations with the world—it emphasizes the separation and the isolation of each one from the surrounding, to the extent that an affirmation is required every so often about the reality of one’s existence. Each ‘selfie’ is a framing of a neurotic isolation from all that is. Such compulsive activity, based on the latest differentiation offered at the level of social consumption, in turn, produces a certain kind of subject or experiencer who is centered upon this altered geometry and generally accepts it uncritically. Again, as soon as the differentiation moves to the next level, the subject follows suit. This elaboration of the subject on the basis of continual material differentiation and product obsession makes reality appear as an evolution (graduated by concretized differentiations). The social topography following this peculiar spatialization becomes the naturalized space of social discourse and action, precluding other ways of looking and experiencing reality. It is hardly surprising that pedagogy follows this overwhelming gradient. The word pedagogy produces in the average sensibility the picture of school subjects, teachers, and so on. But pedagogy is much more than that—it is to be led (agogos) onto a free space of growth and becoming, which means becoming aware of how we are constructed. It also means learning to conserve the psycho-somatic energies available to the being. Without a hermeneutic return to the emergence of these differentiations, we only end up accepting the intellectual form that gives us the world atomistically, as basic. The atomism might be a pragmatic necessity born out of the evolutionary struggle with matter, but it does not contain the whole of the experiential potential. A special pedagogic effort must be made to open ourselves to this other side of experience that brings out in us a whole range of micro knowledges as a process of intuition. This effort is a collective effort of the teaching-learning ensemble that perforce makes reason leave its comfortable niche. We have spoken earlier about negative integration. The latter forces reason to face the contradictions—the irrationality of rationality—between its public face, and the narrowing down of lives at the level of beings. But leap it must, that is, leave its own environment. Reason, reasoning on its powers, will never succeed in extending them, though the extension would not appear at all unreasonable once it were accomplished. Thousands and thousands of variations on the theme of walking will never yield a rule for swimming: come, enter the water, and when you know how to swim,
you will understand how the mechanism of swimming is connected with that of walking. Swimming is an extension of walking, but walking would never have pushed you on to swimming. So you may speculate as intelligently as you will on the mechanism of the intellect; you will never, by this method, succeed in going beyond it. You may get something more complex, but not something higher nor even something different. You must take things by storm: you must thrust intellect outside itself by an act of will.13
A superhuman effort is called for, and yet it is entirely within human possibility. The potential to be realized is a form of relentlessness that is often found only at the outer edge of human experience and capabilities. The mobilization of the self must be toward this commitment, at the physical, psychological, and intellectual levels. To leave the old orbit and to jump to a new orbit, a leap is required that radically breaks with the old, even if momentarily. The energy for this leap must come from a developing intuition, an in-seeing, which raises the intensity-level of the being. The next section will further elaborate on the nature of this effort.
Phenomenological Aisthesis The capacity for a deeper aisthesis or feeling-perception is largely ignored in modern education, which is rather anesthetic in nature, being opposed or indifferent to affective development. To learn to feel again, and feel deeply, must therefore be a conscious project for the teaching-learning ensemble. The praxeological necessity is to learn to awaken this quality in conjunction with the various affective domains available to the context. But more than anything else, it is the ability to break habits of thought that is vital to the enterprise of aisthesis. The feeling-perceptions or affective growth being considered here must not be confused with human sentiment but seen as a deepening of the unknown inner element and its response to the outer. This is the long road to the redemptive recovery of the twice-born, and the attempt to halt what the philosopher Giorgio Agamben has called ‘ontological squandering.’ Each minute the socially enculturated being of commonsense squanders the possibility and points of contact with the ontological substrate through its largely unconscious insistence on the current intellectual habits in the framing of reality. To
Ibid., p. 213.
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limit the ontological squandering by means of intuitive-affective growth is the task we have set for ourselves here. The intellect bears within itself, in the form of natural logic, a latent geometrism that is set free in the measure and proportion that the intellect penetrates into the inner nature of inert matter. Intellect is in tune with this matter, and that is why the physics and metaphysics of inert matter are so near each other. Now, when the intellect undertakes the study of life, it necessarily treats the living like the inert, applying the same forms to this new object, carrying over into this new field the same habits that have succeeded so well in the old; and it is right to do so, for only on such terms does the living offer to our action the same hold as inert matter. But the truth we thus arrive at becomes altogether relative to our faculty of action. It is no more than a symbolic verity. It cannot have the same value as the physical verity, being only an extension of physics to an object which we are a priori agreed to look at only in its external aspect.14
When it comes to matter, the ‘geometrism’ inherent in its own structure allows the intellect to penetrate and resonate with the material world quite successfully thus bringing out useful results. However, the same cannot be said about its relation with the living principle, which is a difference of the qualitative kind, and cannot be dealt with as though we were of speaking of inert matter. Why do we say this and what is its connection with the ontological squandering mentioned above? The world of education has, unfortunately, appropriated this geometrism as its central model. It has become subservient to something that the intellect itself has produced and projected on reality, in turn, coming under its spell. The result has been the making of a world enthralled by the intellect, which has also led to the suppression of the affective element thereby producing a one- sided reality. Unlike the intellectual element, the affective element cannot be elaborated symbolically, but must be felt somatically in the body corpus. The somatic awakening and conservation stop the ontological squandering. It involves the affective arousal of the different centers of consciousness in the body including the opthalmous tes cardias encountered in the previous chapter. Is it possible to give an easy account of this affective-somatic process? Perhaps not, for it is internally progressive. But one thing can be said unequivocally, and that concerns the fact that the somatic Eros or élan vital has the effect of turning the corpus sensorium Bergson, op. cit., pp. 214–215.
into a laboratory—we become the knowledge seekers in our own lab. The scientist has her/his lab outside, created by the instruments of the intellect; the awakened soma, on the other hand, has its lab inside, in an unalienated form, and without instrumental or symbolic elaboration. It does not generate or analyze empirical data; rather, it intensifies the affective principle so that we become possessed of the deepest truths of our corporeal existence. This knowledge is direct, unmediated, and non- verbal. It is not recorded or represented externally but released throughout the body corpus that raises it to a different orbit of intensity. This is the path away from ontological squandering. In no way does it undermine the intellect, but provides the missing side of pedagogy—the pedagogy of the twice-born. When we deal with the living principle or somatic Eros with the same habits of thought as those formed out of our contact with the material or outer reality, we create a narrative that is extremely limited which can give us only partial truths, and which can never add up to the meaning that the being craves. In other words, the living principle presents a non-objectifiable psychic-somatic reality that cannot be reduced to the laws of physics. The observer (ourselves) cannot be understood in terms of the geometrism that has served so well in understanding and manipulating the outer world, because we are not a thing, but a passage between intensities. What this means in terms of educational praxis, or the praxis of the twice-born, is that social or individual transformation, which is the professed purpose of education, can never be brought about through knowledge of phenomenal differentiation alone, however profound. Such transformation is always the result of the contact with the non-isolated and non-fragmented substrate, which remains unacknowledged, and out of sight for contemporary education. Further, the utilitarian approach, which is the historical product of the past few centuries, misleads when it reduces everything to the question of use, and frames it within the hierarchy of contributions in bringing about modifications in the outer. Education as a sociological endeavor could not but fall into the trap of utilitarian thinking, measuring achievement according to the impact it had on an increasingly differentiated reality. This is not to say that acquisition of knowledge must not be related to historical processes, or directed toward incremental changes in the outer reality. But this activity by itself does nothing to prevent the ontological squandering discussed earlier. Therefore, a very different effort is necessary here, one that is brought about through philosophical action upon ourselves toward ontological
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recuperation. The latter, unlike instrumental action, operates not through successive augmentation but through disaggregation, or gentle disentangling of what is already present in a compounded form, or what Spinoza had identified as the ‘badly analyzed composites.’ The composite including ourselves is not analyzable through scientific means, but by means of a different kind of somatic labor. The duty of philosophy should be to intervene here actively, to examine the living without any reservation as to practical utility, by freeing itself from forms and habits that are strictly intellectual. Its own special object is to speculate, that is to say, to see; its attitude toward the living should not be that of science, which aims only at action, and which, being able to act only by means of inert matter, presents to itself the rest of reality in this single respect. What must the result be, if it leave biological and psychological facts to positive science alone, as it has left, and rightly left, physical facts? It will accept a priori a mechanistic conception of all nature, a conception unreflected and even unconscious, the outcome of the material need. It will a priori accept the doctrine of the simple unity of knowledge and of the abstract unity of nature.15
To speculate (PIE root spek—to observe) means to see, also to look inwardly. The task of philosophical speculation is to go past the cultural accretions to the ‘raw and the uncooked,’ to borrow and paraphrase Clifford Geertz. The ‘cooked’ stuff such as the scientific organization of thought can become oppressive to Eros. The genome project is biology at its most sophisticated; it claims to tell us about the very basis of life itself. Yet, life or the living principle is not organization—it cannot be. Forms of life may be organization, but the living principle is not, for the simple reason that it cannot speculate on itself. There is an increasing tendency to show that the living is nothing but a complex organization of matter. In coming to such an inference, the life that looks on, and reaches conclusions about itself, forgets itself, and through this amnesia generates an ‘abstract unity’ or a unidimensional reality whose language is physics, chemistry, or biology. While it is important to know about these characterizations, it is equally important to know that we are not what we speak about. It is not that we are more than or less than what we can speak about. It is the case that we are different than the sum of all we can speak about, and what we can speak about can never possibly coincide with the Ibid., p. 215.
metaphysical source of our speculations. We have to resist with all our might the reduction of the living principle (the possibility of reflective observation) to the mechanistic paradigm that puts it at the level of dead objects. We must learn in education to keep the realms separate, acknowledging their qualitative difference. At every turn in our communicational process we must remind ourselves and admit this truth—that the fractured and objectified reality of the outer is not the constitutive image of ourselves. The intellect cannot do this work, for reality is its own projection; hence we must turn to the instincts and to intuition for a different kind of labor. The duty of aisthesis is to intervene and move us beyond the intellect to a zone which is not captured within the geometrism of the rational mind, in a manner that we are no longer in amnesia. It creates the space so that we can pedagogically practice anamnesis or recuperation away from ontological squandering. How then shall we regard the instincts toward this new kind of labor? A very significant fact is the swing to and fro of scientific theories of instinct, from regarding it as intelligent to regarding it as simply intelligible, or, shall I say, between likening it to an intelligence “lapsed” and reducing it to a pure mechanism. Each of these systems of explanation triumphs in its criticism of the other, the first when it shows us that instinct cannot be a mere reflex, the other when it declares that instinct is something different from intellect, even fallen into unconsciousness. What can this mean but that they are two symbolisms, equally acceptable in certain respects, and, in other respects, equally inadequate to their object? The concrete explanation, no longer scientific, but metaphysical, must be sought along quite another path, not in the direction of intellect, but in that of “sympathy.”16
Instinct is today mostly regarded as something that was—a capacity that has essentially lapsed along with our animality as we have moved from the state of nature toward civilization. In keeping with the demands of rationality, modern education is uncomfortable at the mention of instinct and intuition, for the truth claims of these submerged processes are seemingly idiosyncratic, vague, and not publicly verifiable. But obviously, when we use geometrism to understand instinct or intuition, we come up short, for it is inadequate to its object which precedes it. What other faculty do we possess other than the capacity for measurement (geometrism)? Measurement is external to the measurer, that is, aimed at phenomena Ibid., pp. 182–183.
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objectively at a distance. But I cannot measure my feelings about what happened yesterday or my sensation of the summer solstice in this manner. These can only be understood sympathetically or through an affective parallelism. For many centuries now, pedagogic understanding of only the public dimension of phenomena has gained prominence, and yet there were times when understanding the self was equally important and its unique experiences were considered seriously as a separate group of phenomena. Biographic research persuades us that the non-rational and the non-measurable continue to be influential, albeit in a random sort of way and at a more personal level, but without serious public acknowledgment. When we go through the biographies of scientists and mathematicians, we often find therein mentions of dreams, intimations, intense fantasies, mystical experiences, and so on that profoundly affected their work from an unseen dimension that neither diminished nor diluted the rigor of their intellectual oeuvre. In other words, they unabashedly admit to a psychic dimension informing their work that rises to the level of the conscious, immanently solving some of the puzzles of the surface reality. And yet it has never merited serious pedagogic engagement. When science or the intellect has been forced to reckon with instinct, it has swung from regarding it as a primitive something that has lapsed into the unconscious, to regarding it as a pure mechanism such as in Freudian instinct theory. Both of these stances do not adequately reveal the truth about instincts since these views are mediated by the intellect. The truth about instincts cannot be sought by scientific means, but rather through a metaphysical path that requires a patient sympathy, that is, a disposition which is open to an otherness by means of empathetic resonance. Goethe had called such a sensitive approach ‘delicate empiricism.’ We have to learn to become subtle and humble before phenomena that give us deeper access to our own constitutive processes in a circular manner. The more we learn to place ourselves within this circularity, the greater is our sympathetic or direct understanding of the real. And with every increase in intensity of the sympathetic cycle, there is a decrease in the need for separation between instinct and intellect. The distinction, we realize, while having merit at the pragmatic level, has less relevance at the philosophical level. Bergson has given us an unparalleled understanding of the developmental process of intuition. The reason is that instinct and intellect are two divergent developments of one and the same principle, which in the one case remains within itself, in
the other steps out of itself and becomes absorbed in the utilization of inert matter. This gradual divergence testifies to a radical incompatibility, and points to the fact that it is impossible for intelligence to re-absorb instinct. That which is instinctive in instinct cannot be expressed in terms of intellect, nor, consequently, can it be analyzed…. Instinct is knowledge at a distance. It has the same relation to intellect that vision has to touch. Science cannot do otherwise than express it in terms of intellect; but in so doing it constructs an imitation of instinct rather than penetrates within it.17
Thinking in an evolutionary mode, we can safely suppose that intellect and instinct must have emerged from a single prior substance that subsequently diverged to produce two distinct pathways to knowing. The latter remained as an immanent process moving within a frame of resonance with the outer, and the former developed through being absorbed by the outer material processes dominated by diffraction and differentiation. For example, when we speak of a sense of destiny, we speak in terms of intuition, but when we speak of history, we refer to outer causality, which the intellect interprets in terms of cause and effect. However, with the gradual divergence in evolutionary pathways, the two appeared more and more incompatible and impossible to reconcile. Again, for evolutionary reasons, the intellect, or the faculty of engagement with the outer, gained prominence, whereas, direct empathetic knowing took a back seat as it could not participate in material transformations. Hence, when intellect (science) looks at instinct, it is bound to make major errors of judgment as it creates a mental representation of the same, or an imitation in accordance with its own persuasions. Such is the difficulty with regard to speaking scientifically about instinct: It makes theories about an element which is essentially beyond its purview. Its success elsewhere makes the intellect feel competent to judge the faculty of instinct and intuition. While giving the intellect its due, the praxis of the twice-born must necessarily stretch backward to the point where the intellect begins its domination, thereby grasping the point of divergence. In other words, we must not identify purely with the intellect, even as we recognize its value in revealing causal relations in the physical domain. Education must necessarily include within its ambit the proper discussion of the limits of the intellect along with familiarization with the sympathetic domain. It is through this conscious process of recognition and acknowledgment, what has hitherto remained hidden Ibid., p. 193.
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rises to the surface of consciousness and becomes part of our existential repertoire, deepening the channels of somatic Eros. The scientific- intellectual work is good of its own accord, bringing to us the fascinating secrets of atomic reality or opening up astronomical riddles. Yet through all of that, the observing consciousness remains an enigma, seemingly external to everything, unable to make the universe respond to it, except in ways already pre-determined by it. Face-to-face with a world that is silent and does not directly communicate with it, the intellect attempts to elicit answers by the causal framing of reality. This delivers certain kinds of apparently useful results, which then begin to appear as fixed laws of the universe, overwhelming alternative perceptions, ignoring the limits of the observing consciousness as well as its observational perch. Intellect, by means of science, which is its work, will deliver up to us more and more completely the secret of physical operations; of life it brings us, and moreover only claims to bring us, a translation in terms of inertia. It goes all round life, taking from outside the greatest possible number of views of it, drawing it into itself instead of entering into it. But it is to the very inwardness of life that intuition leads us. By intuition I mean instinct that has become disinterested, self-conscious, capable of reflecting upon its object and of enlarging it indefinitely. That an effort of this kind is not impossible, is proved by the existence in man of an aesthetic faculty along with normal perception. Our eye perceives the features of the living being, merely as assembled, not as mutually organized. The intention of life, the simple movement that runs through the lines, that binds them together and gives them significance, escapes it. This intention is just what the artist tries to regain, in placing himself back within the object by a kind of sympathy, in breaking down, by an effort of intuition, the barrier that space puts up between him and his model.18
Matter cannot surprise us, for its rules are inertial, and hence predictable. When the intellect considers living processes, it frames the latter unavoidably in terms of physical laws like that of inertia and entropy. According to the laws of motion that governs physical phenomena, a thing changes its state (of motion) only when acted upon by an external force. But life is not inertial; it is surprise, and moves on its own. In fact, it is movement and nothing else. It is therefore, qualitatively, a phenomenon of a different kind. Life’s precise quality is that it moves negentropically, Ibid., p. 194.
spontaneously, and uncertainly. It defies the mechanical laws of motion and the thermodynamic law of entropy. Life is always emergent, and hence cannot be clubbed with the objectified or dead world of things. When confronted with the basic unknowable-ness of living processes, our pedagogic culture must respond differently than the manner in which we deal with the outer plane. We must take recourse to the other mode of instinct- intuition that takes us into the interiority of ontological relations. This is the praxis of the twice-born, and an experiential stance that averts ontological squandering by admitting the other side for starters, something that has not been possible until now, under the onslaught of one- dimensional modernity. It raises in us ontological hope—the sudden lurch of life. But how can we conceive of developing this intuitional domain that is apparently beyond normal range of perception today? How can we even think of the experience of ontological hope in a dystopian age? To begin with, a close analogy can be given—that of the aesthetic sensibility. The artist withdraws from the world of isolated things to a world of interior relationships. S/he looks for primal significance and archetypal meaning in the ordinary run of elemental assemblies and culturally organized anarchies. That is to say, there is a simple movement of life that escapes ordinary perception, which is nevertheless apparent to the aesthetic sensibility. That is why we call this section phenomenological aisthesis—an experiential movement of renewal. It is possible to generate through careful practice a sensitivity that parallels the artistic sensibility, one that takes us to the root of things, to the locus of emergence. I come upon a lizard—do I come upon a ‘lizard’ or something else—a movement or appearance in consciousness? The thought that identifies it with a name comes afterward. At the moment of emergence, it is not a lizard. With a great inward- gathering effort, the artist attempts to break down the division between the observer and the observed, and capture the moment of overcoming the intellectual division or fragmentation. In doing so, the aesthetic sensibility shows the way for experience to emulate in daily life that which the former presents in aisthesis—the possibility of negative integration. Within that ontological disclosure, reality does not appear as an assemblage, but rather, as a non-divisible matrix of necessity of which the observer is a part. Again I refer to the original and valuable work of Professor Bergson in this matter.
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Intuition may enable us to grasp what it is that intellect fails to give us, and indicate the means of supplementing it. On the one hand, it will utilize the mechanism of intellect itself to show how intellectual molds cease to be strictly applicable; and on the other hand, by its own work, it will suggest to us the vague feeling, if nothing more, of what must take the place of intellectual molds. Thus, intuition may bring the intellect to recognize that life does not quite go into the category of the many nor yet into that of the one; that neither mechanical causality nor finality can give a sufficient interpretation of the vital process. Then, by the sympathetic communication which it establishes between us and the rest of the living, by the expansion of our consciousness which it brings about, it introduces us into life’s own domain, which is, reciprocal interpenetration, endlessly continued creation.19
Rational analysis necessitates categories or ‘molds’ into which cognitive data must be cast in order to make social sense (representation). However, intuition needs no molds or categories since it is the thing itself in terms of direct sympathetic understanding. It creates no mental picture but raises the intensity of the being, making sympathetic communication possible with other parts of existentia. What takes the place of ‘intellectual molds’ in which we compose and recompose reality is the intensity of intuition—a qualitative movement of in-betweenness that is not amenable to categorization. Awakened to this aspect, we can no longer say, for instance, that life is this or that, or evolution is this or that, and so on, in a facile manner, since the categories of representational speech available to us are severely one- sided and limited. Sympathetic understanding requires a de-centering which sets aside the ego as interpreter. Unmediated observation of all processes of change becomes the main tool of discovering the underlying movement. The actual (of which the Kantian formulation forbade us to speak) vital processes of life supersede any definition or description given of these by the intellect. Intuition thus brings to the intellect a humility and circumspection that the latter ordinarily does not possess as it claims to cover the entire domain of the empirical. Besides showing us the limits of the intellect, intuition expands our consciousness through the connectedness to the rest of the cosmos. Unlike the intellect, intuition is not a personal or individualized cognitive attainment. It is precisely its non- individuated quality that makes intuition so valuable as radical pedagogic communication, as distinct from the cognitive-intellectual. Rather, it takes Ibid., p. 195.
us back to a common ground of intensity and movement that is the qualitative matrix of the living itself, with which a reciprocal relation is set up. We have to carefully understand the phrase ‘reciprocal interpenetration’ spoken of in the citation above. Unlike the rational field, wherein awareness is one-sided—the observer aware of the observed in a one-sided manner—intuition places us at a point where we are simultaneously the observer and the observed, or rather, we are inserted into the flow of experience between two end points. It is this reciprocity that brings about the sympathetic relation with the rest of the world. Let me explain this a little bit more with an example. Let us say I am observing a tree. In the normal course of things, that is, at the lowest level of cognitive intensity, the tree is distinct and separate from me, being ‘out there.’ But with aesthetic training, as my cognitive intensity goes up, I become observationally involved with the manner in which the tree is produced in consciousness, and in the process of this observation, I lose my center, or that which divides and formulates images—dead things, in other words. That is to say, in the normal manner of things, the living tree becomes dead (a series of fixed images) in my consciousness of it. Reciprocal awareness, on the other hand, does not cognize the tree as a ‘tree’ but as an extraordinary flow of experience of a peculiar mutuality. Such aisthesis is truly sympathetic, that places the complex called ‘ourselves’ within a progressive cycle of generative intensity. From this point of view knowledge and experience appear very different than the commonsense ways of thinking and speaking about the same. As a result, our phenomenological sense of being, as well as the world in which the being discovers itself, undergo a change. We shall see that the problem of knowledge, from this point of view, is one with the metaphysical problem, and that both one and the other depend upon experience. On the one hand, indeed, if intellect is charged with matter and instinct with life, we must squeeze them both in order to get the double essence from them; metaphysics is therefore dependent upon theory of knowledge. But, on the other hand, if consciousness has thus split up into intuition and intellect, it is because of the need it had to apply itself to matter at the same time as it had to follow the stream of life. The double form of consciousness is then due to the double form of the real, and theory of knowledge must be dependent upon metaphysics.20
Ibid., p. 196.
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We come upon something very significant here in our understanding of experience: The metaphysical and the empirical, or the intuitional and the intellectual, form a two-faced reality requiring a double consciousness, as it were, for true experience in the body-mind continuum. This is something that modern-day educationists are unwilling to concede. They insist on a single homogeneous (representational) reality that can be garnered from a careful scrutiny of empirical facts, and nothing beyond it. But the twice-born learns that experience born of the intellect alone gives a partial and distorted picture of existents and existence. The twice-born, in other words, must be born twice—once in each of the twin aspects, that is, in the phenomenal and the ontological, in the intellect as well as in intuition. It is unnecessary from our point of view to speculate about the path of the intellect in acquiring a predominant position in the human life-world in general. Suffice it to say that being a necessary tool it is not sufficient, and true knowledge of the relationships in which the living is situated must rely, at the same time, on the ontological, and hence on the intuitional. The split in an original singularity has already been traversed, and so it is that the opposition continues in one form or another denying us the proper meaning of experience. It is a truism that historically cultures have been stuck on one side or other of this dual aspect. Those groups with an excessive leaning toward faith have been stuck on the onto-theological side; others with too much investment in the material have been bogged down on the empirical side of things. Neither understand or acknowledge the fact that they see only one side of reality, an incomplete view. Each has implicitly or explicitly believed in itself as functioning from full knowledge of reality, leading to an impasse in consciousness. The impasse is so severe in its consequences that it has brought the project of existential emancipation of the human to a halt. We have begun to mistake technological advancement (material transformations) for relational emancipation. Planetary existence has been overwhelmed by technocratic expansions rather than any expansion in the psychic aspect—there has not been, in terms of the present analysis, any sign of negative integration in experience. On the other side, to take the example of the Christian world, ontological faith and phenomenological responsibility toward experience have gradually retreated into private belief systems, without effectively engaging with the erosion in modernity of the possibility of a balance in experience. The result has been environmental, ecological, and psychological chaos that are often passed off as consequences or side-effects of development and progress. Even
ecological thinkers have often missed the point, attempting to interpret the problem within the parameters of instrumental rationality. The absolute contradiction between social wealth and planetary livability becomes inevitable once we accept the intellectual dimension as our sole guide to social action. Objectified thought reduces the whole world to discrete objects and sets out to master this world of objects, not suspecting the irony of its enterprise—in fact, irony is something we have lost in our pious belief in the present system of thought; we have lost the capacity to laugh at ourselves, taking ourselves altogether too seriously. Our own petty purposiveness has been projected on to evolution giving change a distorted significance. But when we phenomenologically bring about a balance between intellect and intuition, a new meaning emerges that is not meaning in its usual sense but a sudden expansion in the release of potentiality. The evolution of life, looked at from this point, receives a clearer meaning, although it cannot be subsumed under any actual idea. It is as if a broad current of consciousness had penetrated matter, loaded, as all consciousness is, with an enormous multiplicity of interwoven potentialities. It has carried matter along to organization, but its movement has been at once infinitely retarded and infinitely divided. On the one hand, indeed, consciousness has had to fall asleep, like the chrysalis in the envelope in which it is preparing for itself wings; and, on the other hand, the manifold tendencies it contained have been distributed among divergent series of organisms which, moreover, express these tendencies outwardly in movements rather than internally in representations. In the course of this evolution, the torpor of some has served the activity of others. But the waking could be effected in two different ways. Life, that is to say consciousness launched into matter, fixed its attention either on its own movement or on the matter it was passing through; and it has thus been turned either in the direction of intuition or in that of intellect.21
Life is not a concept, and it cannot be explained by evolutionary biology—it transcends and subsumes biological determination. This ‘unknown’ retards itself phenomenologically by entering into material change, engaging in the conflicts and challenges that substance poses, bringing about infinite division or differentiation. In the process of conflict and change, it produces the experience of matter, space, and time. But Ibid., p. 199.
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in the process, there is also a forgetfulness, an amnesia that increasingly produces a one-dimensional reality. This amnesia is to be corrected through an immense hermeneutic effort that is central to the praxis of the twice-born. Why is this important for the understanding of experience? What we think of as ‘progress’ or forward movement toward a superior existential/organizational status, an implicit assumption in modern education, is in reality a retardation, a deliberate slowing down of pure movement. This retardation is in the very nature of things, so that is not the problem. The problem is the amnesia, the loss of intuition of the nature of movement. It tells us to be cautious of mere expansion in externality, howsoever seductive these may appear, for despite their easy allure they do not change anything fundamentally toward well-being. Phenomenological aisthesis is a renewal in intuition of the experience of ontological movement.
Phenomenological Eros Step-by-step we must descend into ourselves, that is, into a somatic intelligence of a kind that is only progressively revealed to us. There is no direct path to it. We start from language but gather ourselves in order to descend below it. Coded throughout languages are often found traces of originary experiences that have since receded into the background leaving only the merest hint of themselves in present usage. For instance, there is a word in the Urdu language, namely, Qudrat, to which I want to draw our attention.22 Among several meanings, it refers to ‘nature’ as well as to ‘vigor’ and ‘ability.’ When we put some of the principal meanings of this word together what emerges is a continuum from external nature to internal nature—a vitality or force that transcends the conventional boundaries. Eros as the sum of life-extending instincts is a close parallel to the above in the sense that it is also a trans-human concept of elan vital encompassing deep exchanges between different levels of existence (humans, spirits, etc.). Phenomenological hermeneutics, being an attempt to return to the ontological roots of differentiation and reality production, must encounter Eros not as some imagined category but as something immediate and intimate, a somatic dimension of pure intensity that is palpable, and that exists in us side-by-side with differentiation. Thus, Bergson writes, “The effort we make to transcend [intellectual] understanding introduces us 22 The Urdu language is mostly derived from Persian and Arabic and widely spoken in South-East Asia.
into that more vast something out of which our understanding is cut, and from which it has detached itself. And, as matter is determined by intellect, as there is between them an evident agreement, we cannot make the genesis of the one without making the genesis of the other.”23 This ‘vast something’ out of which we produce reality by applying limits must not be treated as an idea. We have to, literally and metaphorically, descend into our soma in order to come into contact with this nebulous vastness, and only such contact will release us from our obsession with the intellectual form of perception. The successive limits that the intellect applies on a liquid reality are no doubt important, but these must be recognized as limits and not confused with reality itself. Let us seek, in the depths of our experience, the point where we feel ourselves most intimately within our own life. But, at the same time, we feel the spring of our will strained to its utmost limit. We must, by a strong recoil of our personality on itself, gather up our past which is slipping away, in order to thrust it, compact and undivided, into a present which it will create by entering. Rare indeed are the moments when we are self-possessed to this extent: it is then that our actions are truly free. And even at these moments we do not completely possess ourselves. Our feeling of duration, I should say the actual coinciding of ourself with itself, admits of degrees. But the more the feeling is deep and the coincidence complete, the more the life in which it replaces us absorbs intellectuality by transcending it…The more we succeed in making ourselves conscious of our progress [in intuition], the more we feel the different parts of our being enter into each other, and our whole personality concentrate itself in a point, or rather a sharp edge, pressed against the future and cutting into it unceasingly. It is in this that life and action are free.24
A certain discourse that goes by the name of postmodernism holds that it is not possible to be fully present to oneself. It claims that the self is discursively formed, and is always slipping away through difference (in text, context, and meaning). This position is a logical culmination of empiricism, of the focus on and obsession with ceaseless differentiation that has become intellectual commonsense. No doubt there must be a celebration of difference, but difference can only have proper meaning in relation to the undifferentiated. What will allow us to grasp hold of Bergson, op. cit., p. 218. Ibid., pp. 219–220.
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difference? In order to go beyond the intellectual commonsense, I am going to introduce the chief aspect of Eros—Passion, for passion alone can bring this slipperiness to a halt and return us to ourselves. In fact, pure passion is a point of stillness that is not different from itself—it is a moment of full coincidence, of total interpenetration. The mutuality and interpenetration that is spoken of above is a phenomenological picture drawn from Passion, an ontological truth to which contemporary intellectual mood is opposed. Passion, from past-participle stem of Latin pati ‘to endure, undergo, experience,’ carries the sense of voluntary enduring. Through this enduring, we have to gather ourselves into a single point, a singularity, or a ‘sharp edge’ as it were, with which to cut into the future. Phenomenological inquiry into passion thus brings us out into an Openness, a terrain of existential enduring that is also the topoi of freedom and creativity. This is not the freedom of the individual, but the freeing of a context that allows us to think again in a new way. Thought freed from the urge to continually differentiate might turn to silent Passion and create a new plane of phenomenological thoughtfulness that is unprecedented. Such is the hermeneutic basis toward the development of a pedagogy of the twice-born. There is nothing mystical about this; rather, it is a step-by-step understanding of the limits we have set upon ourselves, and the amnesia that has followed at each stage, making us forget what we have done to ourselves. The pedagogy of the twice-born is a process of recuperation, an anamnesis, through which we retrace the steps to a reversal of the ontological squandering of which we are guilty. Commonsense does not allow us to acknowledge the slow dissolution of life, a death before death, whose ‘weight’ we do not feel precisely because commonsense makes us get used to it. “One’s life in the waking state is, then, a life of toil, even when one supposes that one is doing nothing, for at every moment one must choose and at every moment one has to exclude. One chooses among one’s sensations, since one rejects from consciousness a host of ‘subjective’ sensations. This choice which one is continually accomplishing, this adaptation ceaselessly renewed, is the essential condition of what you call common sense. Such adaptation and choice keeps one in a state of uninterrupted tension. We take no account of it at the time, any more than we feel the weight of the atmosphere. But it fatigues us in the long run. Common sense is very fatiguing.”25 Commonsense hallucinates that it sees all of reality present before it, whereas, in actuality, Henri Bergson, Mind Energy, p. 125.
and as psychological experiments have repeatedly shown, we see what we choose to see, or prefer to see, or are socialized to see. This choice-making is never apparent to us in the ordinary course of things as the burden of making sense of things overwhelms us. The fatigue produced by the differentiating commonsense is reversed in the condition of passion. There we come upon a choiceless awareness that transcends commonsense. This awareness reveals something extraordinary. Our actual existence, then, whilst it is unrolled in time, duplicates itself all along with a virtual existence, a mirror-image. Every moment of our life presents two aspects, it is actual and virtual, perception on the one side and memory on the other. Each moment of life is split up as and when it is posited. Or rather, it consists in this very splitting, for the present moment, always going forward, fleeting limit between the immediate past which is now no more and the immediate future which is not yet, would be a mere abstraction were it not the moving mirror which continually reflects perception as a memory. Let us imagine a mind to become conscious of this duplicating. Suppose the reflexion of our perception and of our action comes to consciousness not when the perception is complete and the action accomplished, but continuously and simultaneously, step by step, as we perceive and act. We must then see, at one and the same time, our real existence and its virtual image, the object on one side and its reflexion on the other.26
There is the object before us, but the object cannot be recognized without the background reality that gives it meaning, which is memory. The stand-alone object has no meaning. Hence what we experience as a unified object is in reality a two-sided function—one of perception and the other of memory, which together create a memory of the present. What we call experience is another name for this memory-of-the-present. How does it help to know this? The structure of experience as memory-of-the- present places it on a kind of emergent plane that is also creative. In other words, there is no singular present common for all; what one experiences as the present depends on the level of intensification and passion one has the potential for experiencing. This is strikingly different from the commonsense notion that all within a certain vicinity will experience a thing more or less in the same way. It means that phenomenologically our realities are unique although they may contain common elements. But it also has other vast implications—the existential problems that we seek to solve, Ibid., pp. 155–156.
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as well as the solutions themselves, are, from the above analysis, dependent on the passional orbits that we occupy. In other words, what appears as a problem at one level along with its proposed solution may appear very different from a different orbit of intensity. Pedagogically, what do we learn from this? Our obsession with homogenizing problems and seeking unitary solutions are often misguided. When the planarity or orbit of intensity is ignored, we problematize wrongly, and, in turn, seek the wrong solutions. What is really at stake are the composition of forces seen differently from different vantage points. Let us take the example of the game of chess wherein this difference can be seen starkly. We can see the difference between how a novice (low intensity perspective) views the game in contrast to the view of an expert (high intensity perspective). What the [expert] chess player keeps in mind is not the external aspect of each piece, but its power, its bearing and its value, in fact its function. A bishop is not a piece of wood of more or less fantastic shape: it is an “oblique force.” The castle is a certain power of “going in a straight line.” The knight, a piece “which is almost equal to three pawns and which moves according to a quite special law,” and so on. So much for the pieces. Now for the game. What is present to the mind of the player is a composition of forces, or rather a relation between allied or hostile powers. He thus obtains an idea of the whole which enables him at any moment to visualize the elements. That abstract idea is moreover one. It implies reciprocal penetration of all the elements in one another. It gives him an impression sui generis. “I grasp it as a musician grasps a chord,” so one of the players described it. And it is just this difference of physiognomical expression, so to say, which enables the player to keep several games in mind without confusing them.27
What we see in the case of the expert is a series of gestalts and patterns being woven around the opposing forces. With the increase in the level of intensity, the perspective goes from individual ‘pieces’ to the composition of ‘forces’ and their deployment. The changing situation shifts the entire pattern of forces in favorable or unfavorable ways. The viewer, depending upon her/his vantage point, or orbital intensity, has a unique perspective (or a generic one) on what is being apprehended, and considers the situation organically as a clash of forces, or as isolated units being moved around. Thus the nature of the problem before the novice is substantially Bergson, Mind-Energy, p. 198.
different from its quality before the expert. This shift in perspective need not be limited to chess. It can be extended to how we view mathematics or music, sociology or theater, and so on. In each of these, our grasp of things at low levels of intensity can be very different from our grasp of the same at higher levels of intensity. The mathematician views a triangle topologically, spins it around in her/his head, and checks for constancies (invariants). The fact that the interior angles of a triangle always sum up to 180 degrees appears almost trivially true once one is able to squeeze and pulverize the triangle in one’s head and yet not be able to change the interior relation (the increase in one vertex is compensated by a corresponding decrease in the others, etc.). This feeling for abstract things phenomenologically, or ‘in the body,’ is a shift of intensity and orbital relations that generates new perception. We spoke about the memory-of-the-present a little earlier as another name for experiencing. It is the simultaneous awareness of an object faced by the totality of memory awakened by it that gives it cognitive meaning. A proper understanding of the memory-of- the-present sharply increases our involvement with the world around us, putting us in the tension between the matter and the memory, in a reciprocal manner, making us into participating bodies rather than discrete individuals. A surge of life awaits us in the discovery of this reciprocity— we arrive at a more acute relation with the world the more the movement of ideas is continued into a disquietude or disequilibrium of the body, and vice versa. In order to cut through the miasma of tradition (commonsense) and arrive at understanding, we must practice this thinking-in-the- body. Then we are ready to practice our art in the world, and that art being the creation of reality. The pedagogy of the twice-born helps us to arrive at the point where we become the co-artists of our own worlds. Far from being solipsistic, it is a world of compassion, or a passion that observes the world gently without being presumptuous, and that sees the world reflected in us in a reciprocal manner. Phenomenological Eros or passional reciprocation thus mobilizes all parts of our being toward a heightened ontological plane in which we are no longer isolated or alone. What accompanies us on this plane? A gradually untangling psycho-somatic manifold, or an unravelling of the composite. Certain commonsense bounds are placed on the latter in order to bestow upon us socially useful traits of personality and individuality, which at the same time isolate and make us monadic. On the plane of phenomenological Eros, the monad gets a taste of the original psycho-biological intensity from which s/he has been separated in order to attain
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civilizational goals. There is nothing wrong with the latter, so long as we do not remain pedagogically absorbed only in these limits, but actively seek the channels toward intensity. Our limits, their ontological condition, and that which lies beyond those limits must simultaneously be visible to us, and we must be comfortable pedagogically talking about this simultaneity. Disenamored of fragmentary relations, we must continually strive to get to the reality beneath the fragments, and our ally here is passion or existential Eros that unifies us. We must inch toward its release till we are suddenly and consciously in the memory-of-the-present, conscious of how the present is becoming-past each moment. Thus, from a hard, taken-for- granted reality, the pedagogy of the twice-born leads us step-by-step into a terrain of continual becoming and emergence. The triad of phenomenological Hermeneutics, Aisthesis, and Eros pedagogically help us into a somatic geo-ontology away from the geometrism that adheres to the empirical and rationalist approach to reality. What emerges is the experience of a resurgent form of constitutive energy that awakens in us ontological hope. The latter is not hope for tomorrow, or of some imagined and desirable future. It is a sense of fullness that pervades the somatic-psychic manifold in the present, such that there are only successive moments of fullness, and no necessity or psychological projection of a future. In this view, the future only appears as the product of an unfulfilled or unlived present.
References Henri Bergson, Creative Evolution (New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1911). Henri Bergson, Mind Energy, Trans. Wildon Carr (London: Macmillan, 1921). Jacques Derrida in M. Payne and J. Schad (Eds.), life.after.theory (London: Continuum, 2003). Martin Heidegger, Introduction to Metaphysics (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2000). Max Van Manen, “Phenomenology of Practice” In Phenomenology & Practice, Volume 1 (2007), No. 1, pp. 11–30. Max Van Manen, Phenomenology of Practice (Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Publishers, Inc., 2014). Max Van Manen, Researching Lived Experience: Human Science for an Action Sensitive Pedagogy (New York: SUNY Press, 1990). Rainer Maria Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987).
Pedagogy of the Twice-Born
The pedagogy of the twice-born must begin with a rethinking about knowledge that cannot be achieved without a reevaluation of some established theories and their commonsensical interpretations that have, for long, held social and cultural perceptions in thrall.1 In fact, that there is such a ‘reality,’ and not merely processes, shifts, and changes, is part of that commonsensical insistence that needs to be examined. Now, obviously, all theories or their presumptions of knowledge cannot be examined here. We pick, in an illustrative manner, a few major theoretical developments and their interpretations that have left significant impact on the social imaginary at multiple levels, necessarily coloring our perceptions, and leaving us with certain wide-ranging ways of framing experience that have become equated with reality. The twice-born pedagogy needs to deal with these settled realities and their assumptions in order to develop an 1 Henri Bergson has written: “[A] theory of knowledge and theory of life seem to us inseparable. A theory of life that is not accompanied by a criticism of knowledge is obliged to accept, as they stand, the concepts which the understanding puts at its disposal: it can but enclose the facts, willing or not, in pre-existing frames which it regards as ultimate. It thus obtains a symbolism which is convenient, perhaps even necessary to positive science, but not a direct vision of its object. On the other hand, a theory of knowledge which does not replace the intellect in the general evolution of life will teach us neither how the frames of knowledge have been constructed nor how we can enlarge or go beyond them. It is necessary that these two inquiries, theory of knowledge and theory of life, should join each other, and, by a circular process, push each other on unceasingly.” In Creative Evolution (New York: Random House, 1944), pp. xxiii–xxiv.
© The Author(s) 2020 K. Roy, Reincarnating Experience in Education, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-53548-3_5
opening for the surge of intensity to manifest itself. To free the understanding of its cobwebs is a primary task, which is aided by reexamining contemporary intellectual attitudes and theoretical lenses. As an example, we might begin with Darwinism. “Given that neo- Darwinism has overwhelmed the arena of evolutionary biology and threatens to dominate it more and more, it may be now strategically worthwhile to return to some of the more ontologically oriented insights developed…in Darwin’s own observational hypotheses” and see how the ontological elements have been jettisoned over time to give a more convenient socio-political twist to the theory that serves contemporary regimes of thought and political enterprise.2 The rereading of Darwin may provide a necessary counterbalance to the dominance of scientific research directed to the various parts or elements of the evolutionary processes, by emphasizing the parts of the theory that acknowledge continuous and indivisible character of biological change. It will, at the same time, provide a counterpoise to the social-Darwinist views that have crept in at many levels of social discourse. A useful philosophical lens for examining this problem is afforded by the work of Henri Bergson. Bergson’s argument, in the most simplified form, is that if biological or evolutionary change is broken down into units, parts, elements, or stages, what is fundamentally significant about evolution—its mobility and dynamism—is lost. In other words, the most remarkable and mysterious thing about evolution is its inner continuity, and not its external end points such as the development of a hand, or a wing, or even a sub-species. Popular notions about evolution such as ‘survival of the fittest’ are misleading since they give importance to the external and the discrete—struggles between end points—that are not the essence of the process. It has resulted in a distorted view of the theory and fed conveniently into existing social processes and power struggles. But let us begin with something more fundamental. Ever since the Western Enlightenment (Das Aufklarung in Kant’s terminology), there has been a tendency to mix up scientific clarity with existential truth. Science tells us about discrete phenomena, which are the empirical relations and descriptions in different areas of experience. However, the piecemeal scientific descriptions do not add up to a synthetic totality, meaning that they do not give us an adequate picture of existence—they cannot. Science is not philosophy, and the mistaking of scientific theory for 2 Elizabeth Grosz, The Nick of Time: Politics, Evolution, and the Untimely (NSW, Australia: Allen & Unwin, 2004), p. 220.
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philosophical truth has resulted in basic difficulties in every area of human and planetary existence. A theory of evolution can give us plausible reasons for the presence of flightless birds or the development of lungs in the whale, and so on, but it is an error to extrapolate from these and arrive at an overarching biological explanation of life that can purportedly account for the observer (subject). Firstly, the idea that little by little or incrementally we get the full picture of complex reality is itself fallacious. And secondly, there may not be such a total picture to be had except in the human imagination. Bergson says: “Life does not proceed by the association and addition of elements, but by dissociation and division.” Nature begins with the whole and then successively differentiates in order to bring about discrete phenomena as off shoots of an ongoing process. This is in a contrary direction to human efforts, which start from nothing and then work toward something.3 That is to say, nature does not work like a human being by bringing parts together, but generates through endless differentiation and disjunction, which also means surprise and the non-possibility of incremental understanding of the whole. In other words, an implication of the above fact is that at no time can there be a synthetic picture of reality built from the parts. Let us think of it like it is pictured in the scenario below: An artist of genius has painted a figure on his canvas. We can imitate his picture with many-colored squares of mosaic. And we shall reproduce the curves and shades of the model so much the better as our squares are smaller, more numerous and more varied in tone. But an infinity of elements infinitely small, presenting an infinity of shades, would be necessary to obtain the exact equivalent of the figure that the artist has conceived as a simple thing, which he has wished to transport as a whole to the canvas, and which is the more complete the more it strikes us as the projection of an indivisible intuition. In general, when the same object appears in one aspect as simple and in another as infinitely complex, the two aspects have by no means the same importance, or rather the same degree of reality. In such cases, the simplicity belongs to the object itself, and the infinite complexity to the 3 It is a commonplace argument that the process in nature is analogous (to human effort), and protein molecules are the ‘building blocks’ for more complex organic chains, and so on. But in actuality, this comes out of a reverse analysis, and science has never been able to show that even simple organisms have actually been incrementally built out of proteins, leave alone trying to explain dinosaurs or whales. To those who would argue that the single-celled embryo grows into a full entity, it would be easy to explain that the growth of an embryo falls in the category of recapitulation and re-production, and not creation.
views we take in turning around it, to the symbols by which our senses or intellect represent it to us, or, more generally, to elements of a different order, with which we try to imitate it artificially, but with which it remains incommensurable, being of a different nature.4
There is a qualitative difference between the simplicity of things in themselves and the complexity attributed by us to things. The world of objects appears to us as infinitely complex because we are always working backward and decomposing reality by imposing on it our peculiar sensory and intellectual schemas. We assume that by the act of decomposition we will analytically get to the bottom of things. That however is an illusion. Wholeness can never be grasped through its constituent parts, or rather, the constituent parts can never be composed to yield wholeness. Science can give us part knowledge about aspects of reality, but these are not to be construed as pieces of a puzzle or a mosaic that can be mapped absolutely, and from which an indivisible whole can be retrieved. Sometimes the pieces fit quite well, but they do not bring us any closer to the ‘truth’ about reality. This is a startling and probably disappointing realization for many, especially humanists and scientificists, who have been brought up under the grand misapprehension that scientific inquiry brings us closer and closer to a revelation about the inner nature of Nature.5 To be fair, science never presumed to tell us about the nature of reality. Early scientists were investigating specific phenomena such as electricity or magnetism or planetary motion, with no pretense to uncovering reality. Even Charles Darwin to whom is attributed this extraordinary theoretical apparatus that presumes to trace origin of species did not have anything to say about humans or their ancestors. It was, in fact, Thomas Huxley who extended the notion of evolution to human ancestry and popularized it, overcoming tremendous resistance from many quarters. The idea of evolution as nature’s manufacturing process possibly took hold here and around this time.
Bergson, Creative Evolution, p. 100. Text rearranged. “The more science advances, the more it sees the number grow of heterogeneous elements which are placed together, outside each other, to make up a living being. Does science thus get any nearer to life? Does it not, on the contrary, find that what is really life in the living seems to recede with every step by which it pushes further the detail of the parts combined?” Ibid., p. 179. 4 5
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We find it very hard to see things [differently], because we cannot help conceiving organization as manufacturing. But it is one thing to manufacture, and quite another to organize. Manufacturing is peculiar to man. It consists in assembling parts of matter which we have cut out in such manner that we can fit them together and obtain from them a common action. The parts are arranged, so to speak, around the action as an ideal center. To manufacture, therefore, is to work from the periphery to the center, or, as the philosophers say, from the many to the one. Organization, on the contrary, works from the center to the periphery. It begins in a point that is almost a mathematical point, and spreads around this point by concentric waves which go on enlarging. The work of manufacturing is the more effective, the greater the quantity of matter dealt with. It proceeds by concentration and compression. The organizing act, on the contrary, has something explosive about it: it needs at the beginning the smallest possible place, a minimum of matter, as if the organizing forces only entered space reluctantly.6
Positive sciences such as physics and chemistry proceed as if organization was the equivalent of manufacturing. While their true objective is not the uncovering of essence but to find adequate ways to act upon matter, an endeavor in which they have been quite successful, somewhere along the way science began to take on the role of an organizing force resulting in an epistemic error of large proportions. It led to the belief that science was uncovering the essence of reality through its analysis of the pieces available to it. Human organization is likened to manufacturing because in the latter, pieces are put together to achieve a working whole. The process works from the periphery to the center, achieving a unity of purpose. But nature’s organization is very different. It bursts forth at the center and radiates to the periphery, and the materiality of the process “does not represent a sum of means employed, but a sum of obstacles avoided.” As the burst of energy moves outward, it overcomes obstacles, and in the process ‘creates’ things. “When a shell bursts, the particular way it breaks is explained both by the explosive force of the powder it contains and by the resistance of the metal. So of the way life breaks into individuals and species. It depends, we think, on two series of causes: the resistance life meets from inert matter, and the explosive force due to an unstable balance of tendencies which life bears within itself.”7 In other words, there is a clash of opposing forces—one from within and the other from without—making 6 7
Ibid., pp. 102–103. Ibid., p. 109.
nature’s organization always a dynamic process of differentiation of a prior state into a new unbalanced state, and so on. The initial burst cannot be thought of as a material process; actually, no adequate language exists for it—one can only speak of it in terms of potentials and propensities. It is only on meeting obstruction (such as material ones) that it manifests as the plurality of the objective world of things. Life is tendency, and the essence of a tendency is to develop in the form of a sheaf, creating, by its very growth, divergent directions among which its impetus is divided. This we observe in ourselves, in the evolution of that special tendency which we call our character. Each of us, glancing back over our history, will find that their child-personality, though indivisible, united in itself divers persons, which could remain blended just because they were in their nascent state: this indecision, so charged with promise, is one of the greatest charms of childhood. But these interwoven personalities become incompatible in course of growth, and, as each of us can live but one life, a choice must perforce be made. We choose in reality without ceasing; without ceasing, also, we abandon many things. The route we pursue in time is strewn with the remains of all that we began to be, of all that we might have become. But nature, which has at command an incalculable number of lives, is in no wise bound to make such sacrifices. She preserves the different tendencies that have bifurcated with their growth. She creates with them diverging series of species that will evolve separately.8
Thus, we have at the core of ‘evolution’ not manufacturing, but tendencies that ceaselessly meet obstacles, and are therefore materialized or turned off for the moment, being preserved elsewhere in nature. From an infinity of possible growth paths, we grow into particular beings by continually abandoning a host of alternative ways of becoming. Shedding, shedding, shedding, and so on; becoming is a negative movement rather than a positive one. A quantum uncertainty or ontological indetermination is at the heart of becoming that makes it a creative task that the mind is unable to comprehend. The greatness of Darwin’s thought does not lie in the idea of natural selection, but is implied in what is prior to it—creative indeterminacy. We may experience indeterminacy and hesitation in many substantive areas of life—should I do this program or that program, should I study further or take a job, should I save or spend, and so on. Each choice means closing other possibilities. But these, and others like Ibid., pp. 110–111.
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these, are external, mechanical choices and do not imply creative indeterminacy—they are social choices between existing alternatives. Then what is creative indeterminacy? It does not lie in conscious choice-making, but in realizing how, life in producing certain arrangements, foregoes an infinity of other arrangements. In other words, the real stuff of life is not in the expressed arrangements but in the tendencies and potentialities that lie unseen behind the specificity of expressions. To realize this is to be loosened from any particular arrangement, and this loosening is important from the point of view of larger psychic development. No doubt we have to physically adapt to a particular arrangement, but we should not make the mistake of confusing the particular arrangement for something inevitable. That adaptation to environment is the necessary condition of evolution we do not question for a moment. It is quite evident that a species would disappear, should it fail to bend to the conditions of existence which are imposed on it. But it is one thing to recognize that outer circumstances are forces evolution must reckon with, another to claim that they are the directing causes of evolution…The truth is that adaptation explains the sinuosities of the movement of evolution, but not its general directions, still less the movement itself. The road that leads to the town is obliged to follow the ups and downs of the hills; it adapts itself to the accidents of the ground; but the accidents of the ground are not the cause of the road, nor have they given it its direction. At every moment they furnish it with what is indispensable, namely, the soil on which it lies; but if we consider the whole of the road, instead of each of its parts, the accidents of the ground appear only as impediments or causes of delay, for the road aims simply at the town and would fain be a straight line.9
If I stand before you today and you stand before me, it is not simply because we belong to groups that survived the trial of adaptation as though there was natural selection—that would be a kindergarten-like understanding of an impossibly complex movement. Rather, the vast undulations of life-energy continually throw up particular configurations much like the heaving oceans cut particular surface patterns, and the ‘you-I’ configuration is part of a particular, temporally specific, surface pattern that will eventually give way to something else. We cannot draw any sustained socio-biological lessons from it beyond the simple fact that we are 9
Ibid., p. 120.
at this point of time facing each other. If a particular kind of mosquito ‘adapts’ in an eco-system, it does not tell us anything more about the innate evolutionary press of life that seems to overwhelm any easy determination, than the fact that a certain gestalt or pattern was precipitated that included the mosquito. All else is projection. It does not reveal to us any inner direction or motivation of the process of creative evolution itself. But, if the evolution of life is not merely a series of adaptations to accidental circumstances, neither is it the realization of a telos foregone. Creation is neither contingency nor plan, but something beyond anything that we and our intellect can imagine—since the intellect is only a minor fragment of that process itself. There exists no mental process through which creative evolution can be adequately represented because it is prior to all. At best, we can speak of it in a tangential or allegorical fashion. While it can deal with the outer quite well, we have seen that the intellect is an inadequate instrument for dealing with living forms and their inner processes. Hence, efforts that attempt to draw large inferences about life from necessarily partial observations in the empirical domain are bound to be misleading. Therefore also, it is not a damning attitude that demands a thorough investigation into the limits of intellectual products that begin to look like a world-view: The knowledge of the empirical world is not dangerous; the development of a world-view based on it is, because it is one-sided. The course of reevaluation of knowledge should be sobering for educational philosophy and pedagogy that have implicitly placed total faith in the intellectual process to the exclusion of all else.10 We see that the intellect, so skillful, in dealing with the inert, is awkward the moment it touches the living. Whether it wants to treat the life of the body or the life of the mind, it proceeds with the rigor, the stiffness and the 10 The phrase ‘…exclusion of all else’ above includes the exclusion of instinct and intuition. “Instinct is sympathy. If this sympathy could extend its object and also reflect upon itself, it would give us the key to vital operations just as intelligence, developed and disciplined, guides us into matter. For we cannot too often repeat it, intellect and instinct are turned in opposite directions, the former toward inert matter, the latter toward life. Intellect, by means of science, which is its work, will deliver up to us more and more completely the secret of physical operations; of life it brings us, and moreover only claims to bring us, a translation in terms of inertia. It goes all round life, taking from outside the greatest possible number of views of it, drawing it into itself instead of entering into it. But it is to the very inwardness of life that intuition leads us by intuition I mean instinct that has become disinterested, self-conscious, capable of reflecting upon its object and of enlarging it indefinitely.” Ibid., p. 194.
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rutality of an instrument not designed for such use. The history of hygiene b or of pedagogy teaches us much in this matter. When we think of the cardinal, urgent and constant need we have to preserve our bodies and to raise our souls, of the special facilities given to each of us, in this field, to experiment continually on ourselves and on others, of the palpable injury by which the wrongness of a medical or pedagogical practice is both made manifest and punished at once, we are amazed at the stupidity and especially at the persistence of errors. We may easily find their origin in the natural obstinacy with which we treat the living like the lifeless and think all reality, however fluid, under the form of the sharply defined solid. We are at ease only in the discontinuous, in the immobile, in the dead. The intellect is characterized by a natural inability to comprehend life.11
Why do we intellectually persist in treating the qualitative domain of life as though we are dealing with the domain of inert matter? When a medical error is made, for instance, and it manifests itself as an impact on someone’s life and health, it is immediately recognized and due corrective action is taken. But in the larger domain, in culturally framing life itself, we make the same error again and again, with seemingly no consequence. It is a very interesting kind of blindness that makes us resolutely refuse to change course. It is possible that over time we have become pedagogically attuned only to discrete changes in matter and progressively insensitive to qualitative continuities and flows that are not amenable to external regimentation. The intellectual aspects that fit the world do so precisely because the phenomena under study have already been brought down to the instrumental level, and what is visible is always-already circumscribed by the limits of the apparatus. What remains inexplicable is left out of consideration. Education, which ought primarily to be the making over of our body- minds into theaters of experimentation for the actualization of our unique pathways of becoming, is thus reduced to something external and mechanical, largely producing boredom and resistance. But instead of asking deeply why this happens we attempt to make learning ‘interesting’ or blame the teacher. The evolutionary intellect can delve into the learning of geometry or agriculture, but it fails when it attempts to create a synthetic picture of learning or its meaning, or give it a direction. The intellect is not suitable for the revolutionary simplicity of this task, constituted as it is within the evolutionary complexities of its own historical condition. In Ibid., pp. 181–182.
other words, the intellect can be used as a tool for delineated areas, but is misapplied when used to philosophize about reality or to make any overarching claims about phenomenological existence. This is very far from the commonplace understanding of the intellect which grants the latter the power to frame or assess reality principles. It assumes that the intellect can go back and piece together reality from its current state. A proper understanding of the evolutionary emergence of the intellect tells us that this is impossible, and this ought to have an impact on the way we educate and create educational experience. The growth path via successive indeterminacies and determinations of the intellect has produced for us a certain kind of pattern that we call empirical reality, which should form part of our learning about ourselves. But the fact that the present state of the intellect can no more tell us about, say, its own evolution, than a newborn can tell us about its fetal journey, must throw us evermore on our own intuitions and the body-mind as the immediate theater of understanding about the world. There is enough formal evidence in twentieth-century science to back up the statement that the intellect cannot give a consistent self-description, nor tell us adequately about the world in which it came to be, except in a pragmatic sort of way. To put it formally, science can tell us about observations but cannot tell us about the meaning of those observations, nor interpret them in a way to give a consistent view of the world. The great atomic physicist Werner Heisenberg writes: Gradually, during the early twenties, physicists became accustomed to these difficulties, they acquired a certain vague knowledge about where trouble would occur, and they learned to avoid contradictions. They knew which description of an atomic event would be the correct one for the special experiment under discussion. This was not sufficient to form a consistent general picture of what happens in a quantum process, but it changed the minds of the physicists in such a way that they somehow got into the spirit of quantum theory. Therefore, even some time before one had a consistent formulation of quantum theory one knew more or less what would be the result of any experiment. One frequently discussed what one called ideal experiments. Such experiments were designed to answer a very critical question irrespective of whether or not they could actually be carried out. Of course it was important that it should be possible in principle to carry out the experiment, but the technique might be extremely complicated. These ideal experiments could be very useful in clarifying certain problems. The strangest experience of those years was that the paradoxes of quantum
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t heory did not disappear during this process of clarification; on the contrary, they became even more marked and exciting.12
At the dawn of modern physics, physicists began to be nervously intrigued by indeterminacies and explanatory contradictions that had never been encountered in classical physics. This was a new experience wherein the explanations for different experimental results were not consistent in terms of a single reality. The fact that consistent descriptions of reality at the atomic level were no longer available made the scientific task more challenging and scientists learned to skirt around the difficulties instead of meeting the problem head-on. The inner circle of scientific minds gradually came to accept that present science could no longer put together in one integral picture what it was empirically witnessing. They apparently didn’t see this as anything more than a scientific problem. In other words, they were not confronted with a crisis in the fundamental intellectual categories through which we made sense of the world, but saw it as a scientific curiosity. This could have signaled an important epistemological break and humanity could have been urged to move in a different direction. But that was not to be, and in the world of the everyday, science continued to be seen as progressing toward a more and more integrated and comprehensive picture of the world. This dangerous error in the popular mind was of course facilitated by large-scale technological innovations of the period which made the accomplishments of science, the parent discipline, seem truly larger than life. This error thoroughly dominated the educational order, blocking the development of ways of studying and experiencing reality other than within the scientific-technological paradigm. For if science could not help us to understand what really happens, then it could not give us a path to meaning. A real difficulty in the understanding of the [Copenhagen] interpretation arises, however, when one asks the famous question: But what happens ‘really’ in an atomic event? It has been said before that the mechanism and the results of an observation can always be stated in terms of the classical concepts. But what one deduces from an observation is a probability function, a mathematical expression that combines statements about possibilities or tendencies with statements about our knowledge of facts. So we cannot completely objectify the result of an observation, we cannot describe what 12 Werner Heisenberg, Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1962), p. 6.
‘happens’ between this observation and the next. This looks as if we had introduced an element of subjectivism into the theory, as if we meant to say: what happens depends on our way of observing it or on the fact that we observe it. Now, this is a very strange result, since it seems to indicate that the observation plays a decisive role in the event and that the reality varies, depending upon whether we observe it or not.13
In everyday commonsense reality, it is quite legitimate to ask what really happened in an event. In fact, experiencing is often taken to mean making an interpretive connection between a particular cluster of perceptual elements or points and coming to a cognitive judgment about these. What science was now telling us was that it was no longer legitimate to ask the question of meaning, at least at the level of the very small. And that, the meaning we attributed to things came from our ways of looking rather than anything inherent in the things themselves. In certain intellectual circles, this gave a fillip to ideological relativism rather than help bring about profound ontological reeducation or reevaluation of understanding. It certainly presented an opportunity for such a thing, but it was largely ignored except in promoting cultural difference. Besides, the gap between the scientist and the common perception had been rapidly widening for a long time. For instance, very few outside the scientific community knew or understood the fact that science or scientists were no longer formally interested in the cosmos as a whole, and certainly not in ourselves as a part of that universe. Scientists increasingly directed their attention to particular phenomena in some specific fragment of the cosmos as part of what Thomas Kuhn had called doing normal science. Nevertheless, in the popular mind, science was telling us about the world of experience, and although scientists have long admitted that science cannot give mental accounts of the results of experiments, commonsense insisted on certainties. Heisenberg admits that there is no longer an immediate and direct continuity between experimental results and phenomenological experience. This means that it is not possible to go from observation to observation synthesizing the whole, giving a consistent mental or representational picture of the totality of what is happening. We do not, for instance, know what happens between two observations—does the world stay the same or become indeterminate? Science no longer ‘understood’ what is happening, it could only give mathematical equations of tendencies, or Ibid., pp. 19–20.
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probability functions that fit the data. This should have had profound implications for how education looked at science, but it did not. It should have prompted us to look into ourselves in order to find our unique ways to meaning and deliverance. Thus it is that contrary to popular notions, as well as an educational form that leaned heavily on science to produce connections, the struggle for meaning could not be addressed through science alone. The knowledge about the world is discontinuous at the ontological level, and this could not but have an effect on all of empirical knowledge. This did not, however, mean that the latter is faulty; rather, it means that it is the very nature of empirical knowledge to be incomplete. The problem therefore is not with knowledge, but with popular expectations of it. Speaking of this, Heisenberg writes: The observation itself changes the probability function discontinuously; it selects of all possible events the actual one that has taken place. Since through the observation our knowledge of the system has changed discontinuously, its mathematical representation also has undergone the discontinuous change and we speak of a ‘quantum jump.’ Therefore, the transition from the ‘possible’ to the ‘actual’ takes place during the act of observation. If we want to describe what happens in an atomic event, we have to realize that the word ‘happens’ can apply only to the observation, not to the state of affairs between two observations. It applies to the physical, not the psychical act of observation, and we may say that the transition from the ‘possible’ to the ‘actual’ takes place as soon as the interaction of the object with the measuring device, and thereby with the rest of the world, has come into play; it is not connected with the act of registration of the result by the mind of the observer. To what extent, then, have we finally come to an objective description of the world, especially of the atomic world?14
Try as we might, we cannot even come close to giving a description of ourselves—medium-sized objects—in terms of probabilities and discontinuities. Maybe the probabilities fall into a phase relation from moment to moment in order to produce a relatively stable reality—we don’t know. The point is not to dwell on ghostly inferences but to say that our experience of ourselves in relation to all else is the result not of any binding ontological truth but due to the sluggishness of our organs of reception as well as our commonsense socialization. This makes it educationally and Ibid., p. 23.
pedagogically imperative to turn our body-minds into theaters of experimentation and discovery, and not be overly dependent on external forms of knowledge to produce meaning. We are an integral part of the cosmos and the cosmos of us, and there is no reason why we cannot begin from ourselves to find out things about the world. Classical physics started from the belief that we can give objective descriptions of the world, meaning that the description is independent of the observer. Now science increasingly finds that the world exists in potentia, and only actualizes in interaction (with the observing system or instrument). This interactional world is strange, and science has had a hard time coming to terms with it. In passing it is worth noting that such views of reality are not strange to philosophy at all—several philosophical attitudes of antiquity including those of the ancient Vedic-Indic cultures as well as Buddhist philosophy held similar views about emergence (e.g., the notion of pratityasamutpada or dependent origination, and idampratyayata or coming-to-be and ceasing-to-be in Buddhism).15 But these have been systematically weeded out of the world system of thought, leaving us only with a techno-political manner of experiencing the world, within which we can only dispute the nature of our experiences but not the very manner of experiencing things. Certainly quantum theory does not contain genuine subjective features, it does not introduce the mind of the physicist as a part of the atomic event. But it starts from the division of the world into the ‘object’ and the rest of the world, and from the fact that at least for the rest of the world we use the classical concepts in our description. This division is arbitrary and historically a direct consequence of our scientific method; the use of the classical concepts is finally a consequence of the general human way of thinking. But this is already a reference to ourselves and in so far our description is not completely objective. It has been stated in the beginning that the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum theory starts with a paradox. It starts from the fact that we describe our experiments in the terms of classical When this is, that is. From the arising of this comes the arising of that. When this isn’t, that isn’t. From the cessation of this comes the cessation of that. (Majjhima Nikāya iii. 63; Samyutta Nikāya v. 387)
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physics and at the same time from the knowledge that these concepts do not fit nature accurately. The tension between these two starting points is the root of the statistical character of quantum theory. Therefore, it has sometimes been suggested that one should depart from the classical concepts altogether and that a radical change in the concepts used for describing the experiments might possibly lead back to a nonstatistical, completely objective description of nature.16
Attempts at explaining quantum theory invariably has led to a paradoxical situation. Our language reflects our in-grained commonsensical ways of looking and perceiving. The starting point of scientific explanation therefore involves the classical concepts and our historical ways of thinking. But we know (through experimental results) that these do not fit the quantum reality. Hence, at the very start of the attempt to ‘explain,’ there is a contradiction. Further, quantum physics does not take into account the consciousness of the observer (or experimental apparatus) that produces the interaction or the quantum state, avoiding it by giving statistical or probabilistic explanations that clash with our commonsensical ways of experiencing the world. Modern physics starts from the commonsensical division of the world between object and the rest of the world, as Heisenberg states above. A distinction is made and a discontinuity introduced so that an observation can be made about an ‘object.’ This discontinuity is also seen in psychological matters in ordinary life. When I say ‘I am angry,’ I introduce a discontinuity between myself and anger as though the two are different. This is standard humanism at work and even modern physics apparently has not been able to overcome it, at least as a starting point of inquiry. The problem is that at some point humanism is not able to account for the nature of things and precisely at that point science quietly departs into the symbolic world of equations leaving ordinary humanism to the everyday world. Everything beyond this point appears esoteric in science because ordinary language is not able to capture the observer/observed paradox. Stated simply, it is this: On the one hand, physicists as a group need to maintain their separate identities from what they are observing because traditional science has gotten them used to ordinary human ways of thinking wherein the observer/observed separation is taken for granted. At the same time, contemporary science is discovering that their acts of observation are participating in and influencing Heisenberg, op. cit., p. 24.
the very phenomena they are observing, and therefore contradicting the old observer/observed separation through which scientific objectivity was established in the first place. This is the basis of the paradox. But in actuality, there is no paradox at all. The ‘paradox’ arises because of poor education and the false reliance on empiricism alone. Empirical reality on its own obviously brings about the division between the inner and the outer. Discontinuity is introduced very early in the child’s life, when, for example, it is introduced to formal education. And from there on, discontinuities keep mounting, till the ‘outer’ solidifies, as opposed to the ‘inner.’ The skin becomes the ultimate boundary of separation. Education, aided by the scientific attitude, hardens this opposition further by insisting that all worthwhile learning lies in the sphere of the observed, and the observer must be bracketed out. In other words, we do not figure phenomenologically in our learning about the world. In a peculiar irony, humanism, in placing the human (dualism) at the center of everything, succeeded in removing the human from reckoning. Experience now meant the stimulation from the material world (res extensa), and our action upon it proceeding from a mental world (res cogitans). The division of matter and mind became the cornerstone of our way of experiencing the world. Having externalized the world, science next set out to find a fundamental (abstract) unity between the observed multiplicity. For our senses the world consists of an infinite variety of things and events, colors and sounds. But in order to understand it we have to introduce some kind of order, and order means to recognize what is equal, it means some sort of unity. From this springs the belief that there is one fundamental principle, and at the same time the difficulty to derive from it the infinite variety of things….This leads to the antithesis of Being and Becoming and finally to the solution of Heraclitus, that the change itself is the fundamental principle; the ‘imperishable change, that renovates the world,’ as the poets have called it. But the change in itself is not a material cause and therefore is represented in the philosophy of Heraclitus by the fire as the basic element, which is both matter and a moving force. We may remark at this point that modern physics is in some way extremely near to the doctrines of Heraclitus. If we replace the word ‘fire’ by the word ‘energy’ we can almost repeat his statements word for word from our modern point of view. Energy is in fact the substance from which all elementary particles, all atoms and therefore all things are made, and energy is that which moves.17 Ibid., p. 30.
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The strict materialistic monism read into Heraclitus by Heisenberg above has its origin in Aristotle and Theophrastus both of whom were eager to reduce the wisdom of Heraclitus into a simplistic formula.18 In fairness to Heraclitus, this is not a tenable reading; he was not suggesting that things could be simply reduced to a final element (such as fire). “For fire, by contracting turns into moisture, and this condensation turns into water; water again when congealed, turns into earth … then again, earth is liquefied, and thus gives rise to water, and from water the rest of the series is derived.”19 The circularity shows that Heraclitus thinks in terms of union of opposites and not in terms of simple monism. He maintained the tension of opposites as the basis of creation. This tension was not a ‘thing’ or a material substance as Heisenberg seems to imply. Rather, it is a movement. When we ask: ‘What is it that moves,’ the physicist thinks in terms of an ultimate substance—energy. But this only begs the question, and we are immediately confronted with the query: What is this energy? This regress cannot be halted otherwise than by changing our mode of thinking. Things are not ‘made’ of energy, any more than we are ‘made’ of cells. That is the illusory image we get from the notion of manufacturing that we discussed earlier—we have seen before that nature does not manufacture in the manner of humans. It explodes outward from nothing to something; as the initial explosion ‘cools’ it leaves traces that our senses (that are themselves evolutionary products of the cooling) pick up as objects. Thus, there is no final or ultimate element that we can arrive at by moving backward. This is the central problem that science encounters when it places bets on finding some basic material of the universe. When 18 “The theory of opposites, so called, has long caused problems in Heraclitean scholarship. We can, in fact, trace the problem as far back as Aristotle, who took the theory to mean that opposites were identical and the same. For example, Aristotle interpreted Heraclitus to say that opposites such as good and bad are the same and identical. This in turn led Theophrastus and others to believe that Heraclitus denied the law of contradictions, falsely attributing to him the identical nature of opposites, rather than their connective tension and essential unity. With this and the mistaken and common belief that fire was Heraclitus’ first or principal material in mind, we see why Heraclitus was the only philosopher to die covered with dung. In the death anecdote, Heraclitus depends upon his principal material, fire, to draw out its opposite, water, by exhalation. The physicians, no more able than most men to see what is right before them, also cannot synthesize or associate Heraclitus’ theory of opposites with his condition.” Ava Chitwood, Death by Philosophy: The Biographical Tradition in the Life and Death of the Archaic Philosophers Empedocles, Heraclitus, and Democritus (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2004), p. 87. 19 Heraclitus, Diels Kranz Listing 9.9.
we pursue an illusion, we also set off trains of thinking that surface at many junctures throughout cultural life that sows various degrees and kinds of contradiction. But more than anything else, it also bespeaks of a certain naïve arrogance when we lay claim to discovering basic elements. The principle is not unknown to science and scientists that in order to make any fundamental claims about a system, one must necessarily lie above, beyond, or outside the system. A fraction of the cosmos (ourselves) cannot possibly comprehend the universe’s (the totality’s) fundamentals, whatever be our exploits and achievements in any part. And it is also true that the arrogance contained in the perception that we are somehow uncovering the secrets of nature, and not producing part realities through our interactions, has led to ecologically indefensible and unsustainable attitudes among human communities. Within triumphalism little room is left for exploration of other kinds of relations with the world. Besides, it is important to know and understand that the mystery of the cosmos is intact, will always remain intact, and it is not the prerogative of a select group to tell us about it.20 It is, rather, the task of each one to pedagogically discover the cosmic effects within ourselves, not as a process of knowing but as a process of empathy. The philosophic thesis that all knowledge is ultimately founded in experience has in the end led to a postulate concerning the logical clarification of any statement about nature. Such a postulate may have seemed justified in the period of classical physics, but since quantum theory we have learned that it cannot be fulfilled. The words ‘position’ and ‘velocity’ of an electron, for instance, seemed perfectly well defined as to both their meaning and their possible connections, and in fact they were clearly defined concepts within the mathematical framework of Newtonian mechanics. But actually they were not well defined, as is seen from the relations of uncertainty. One may say that regarding their position in Newtonian mechanics they were well defined, but in their relation to nature they were not. This shows that we can never know beforehand which limitations will be put on the applicability of certain concepts by the extension of our knowledge into the remote 20 The smashing of the ‘atom’ and the consequent release of ‘energy,’ or the action of DNA mapping, and all of the technological achievements may make us believe that we are dealing directly with the Real, because we are bringing about real effects on extensity. However, a moment’s reflection will show that modifications (large or small) in the outer world can only occur within a reality produced by an earlier round of effects. It brings us no closer to any originary cause.
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parts of nature, into which we can only penetrate with the most elaborate tools. Therefore, in the process of penetration we are bound sometimes to use our concepts in a way which is not justified and which carries no meaning.21
The ‘penetration,’ howsoever deep, cannot free itself of the difficulty that it is the act (of penetration) itself that sets off the tremors of a specific actualization among all potential becoming. The scientist admits of the inherent ‘limitation’ of concepts and descriptions that are at a different level in relation to the described and hence often inadequate. But what is even more intriguing is Heisenberg’s statement that follows immediately after the above cited para: “complete logical clarification would make science impossible.” In the popular mind, science involves logical clarification, in fact, that seems to be its major task. But the scientist is saying that irreducible gaps and aporias appear in the scientific effort, especially when it comes to explaining what science does and in relating it to res extensa. From the point of view of experience, the essence of phenomenological life cannot be fully gathered into any concept. Take, for example, schooling. No two students experience school in an identical manner. If we are able to penetrate deeply into any psyche, we would probably be surprised by what accounts for schooling there—we may merely find a pool of discontented quivering and nothing else. There is an excess that always escapes conceptualization and we have to acknowledge this for a greater fullness of experience. To put it differently, our attitude to experience must include acknowledgment of the difficulties inherent in experiencing the phenomenal reality. While in everyday life we go from concept to concept untroubled by the jumps and the disconnects between any two moments of experience, this becomes expressly evident in science while moving from observation to observation. In ordinary experiencing, we have learnt to take our eyes off from the discontinuities and inconsistencies (say, in the movement of thought between two moments), and focus instead on the pragmatic links that yield a more or less connected reality, whereas, in science inconsistencies lead to primary difficulties in reconciling theories or offering logical explanations (e.g., in the case of gravitational theory vis-à-vis quantum theory).
Heisenberg, op. cit., p. 47.
Any concepts or words which have been formed in the past through the interplay between the world and ourselves are not really sharply defined with respect to their meaning; that is to say, we do not know exactly how far they will help us in finding our way in the world. We often know that they can be applied to a wide range of inner or outer experience, but we practically never know precisely the limits of their applicability. This is true even of the simplest and most general concepts like ‘existence’ and ‘space and time.’ Therefore, it will never be possible by pure reason to arrive at some absolute truth. The concepts may, however, be sharply defined with regard to their connections. This is actually the fact when the concepts become a part of a system of axioms and definitions which can be expressed consistently by a mathematical scheme. Such a group of connected concepts may be applicable to a wide field of experience and will help us to find our way in this field. But the limits of the applicability will in general not be known, at least not completely.22
The symbolic order has no phenomenological equivalents. Mathematical equations may be consistent across different systems, but that does not mean they are taking us to some overarching or transcendental truth. It simply means that science has succeeded in cutting up reality in similar ways across different fields, and the isolates correspond well to formulations. These connections are practically useful without bringing us any closer to understanding what is going on in the name of reality. In social life too, we manage to navigate the world with half-formed and ill-clarified concepts the limits of whose applicability from one situation to the next are often not clear. This is possible only because the margin of error in meaning-making is very large. When, for example, different persons speak of democracy, it is not at all clear that they are speaking of the same thing, and yet we get by in social intercourse. This imprecision, in fact, generates furious debate, often because people are arguing about different things imagining that they are speaking about the same thing. Unfortunately, this word-play or ‘truth games’ is just that—word-play, and nothing else. It does nothing for experience, in the sense that it does not add anything to experience, nor enrich it in any manner. Much of social intercourse is of this nature, not adding a cubit to experience, succeeding only in crowding the mind with a proliferating symbolic order. How can we say this, and what then is true experience?
Ibid., pp. 51–52.
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True experience must move us toward a fundamental feeling of connectedness. It is through different experiences that the body-mind continuum comes upon a sudden flash of connectedness that I have earlier called phenomenological Eros. This is neither knowledge nor understanding, but something that transcends both. Meaningful experience must overcome the historical split between body and mind, and do what intellectual thought cannot achieve. The problem of the scientist is that, despite the unprecedented moves made by modern science, s/he still operates psychologically within the boundaries of the false dualism, from which arises all manner of explanatory difficulties and paradoxes. When, for example, we isolate an object for study, we are also violating a fundamental principle of the cosmos, which is that there is intrinsic connectedness. Whatever results we get from this isolation can certainly be useful, but are ultimately bound to be distorted and paradoxical. We are confounded by not realizing the fact that what is useful in one area is often useless or destructive in other areas; isolation commits the basic sin of separation, and separation distorts the abiding relations. The vast sophistication of mathematical physics is awe-inspiring on the one hand, and yet, by most critical accounts it has not been able to have any transformative effect on the human condition as such. One might argue that such is not its function. But if knowledge-experience cannot transform our lives in planetary-fundamental ways, it might raise the question: Of what ultimate use is it? Thus we come to the realization that an event in consciousness that does not reverse a basic fault in our perceptive schema cannot really be counted as valuable experience, for then, it merely preserves the conditions for falsehood and does not contribute to any essential evolution of the organic whole. From the point of view of the twice-born, the experience of connectedness would be as crucial as breathing is to an organism. What are we after? We are certainly not after fragmentary knowledge that increases the burden on consciousness without bringing about transformative action. The pedagogy of the twice-born mandates that educational experiences be guided by the understanding that isolated knowledge is destructive in the last analysis. While it is true that in the current state of civilization, we cannot do without isolated knowledge—we have come too far down that road to do otherwise—it is possible to balance this attitude by a different concern that understands from the outset that emancipation, if such is our goal, cannot happen other than by re-establishing phenomenological connectedness. This is not an option; it is in fact the only
kind of education toward sanity and a sustainable life. If we are to go beyond being existential vandals, whiling away time in the manner of the planetary vagabonds in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, we must seize the initiative and work away from commonsensical presuppositions. It is precisely Eros, or the passion that is revealed out of connectedness, that is missing in the disenchanted and callous atmosphere of Godot. Nothing matters here, because each thing is fragmented whose measure is known beforehand, and therefore dead. There are no surprises, and the not- coming of Godot is also pre-figured. Surrounded by a dead world (of repetition), the vagrants carry on with their meaningless dawdle. The promise of reason in general, and science and technology in particular to deliver humans unto a better world, is not unlike the unfulfilled promise in Beckett’s play. On the other hand, the phenomenological connectedness that brings about liberation (from ‘waiting’) does not require us to wait (for anyone or anything). It is not a function of time. Phenomenological Eros is outside time; the Eros of connectedness is a timeless rather than a temporal product. Time appears only after the body is separated from the mind, or matter from consciousness. Within connectedness, time disappears as an external concept because there is no timekeeper. The experiencer, who is yet another fragment born of experience, is also time (in the sense of introducing time into the undifferentiated). Experience freed of the experiencer or time does not mean we wallow in an undifferentiated flow of god-knows-what. It simply means that anyone wanting to understand the nature of experience must momentarily and pedagogically bracket out time, dive below, and understand the movement of events immanently, from within, without superimposing on it chronicity or temporal succession. From observation point to observation point, we keep leaping, in accordance with social sign-posts, without grasping what happens in between. Thus we create a convergent reality in accordance with social norms and commonsense. The divergent in- betweenness of experience can only be understood when we free ourselves of time, which fragments reality and hands us the isolates. The isolates are important (and is our first birth into this world), but not more important than the matrix of connectedness out of which they appear. We need both levels of reality for phenomenological praxis—the tempering of one by the other. This changes the way we think about the world and our relations with it in the direction of responsible connectedness. We are no longer meandering through a pre-given world nor trying to transcend it; rather we are bringing forth a world through connectedness, in which the
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isolates must continually be left behind in our continual surge forward. This ‘surge forward’ is not progress, for there is nowhere to progress; rather, it is an upsurge of life. This also means that the world of things and objects for which we go to war is essentially a dead one, and we struggle for the wrong things. Rather than forming conditions for war, experience should move us toward a phenomenological perception of revolutionary connectedness. The preparation for such experiences is the essence of education and pedagogy. Part of that preparation lies in important modifications in language itself that are necessary in order to get away from the traditional habits and ways of thinking about things and relations. Even science has needed to modify language to grapple with the quantum world, for the language of classical physics is rather inadequate for describing atomic phenomena. The concept ‘temperature’ in classical thermodynamics seems to describe an objective feature of reality, an objective property of matter. In daily life it is quite easy to define with the help of a thermometer what we mean by stating that a piece of matter has a certain temperature. But when we try to define what the temperature of an atom could mean we are, even in classical physics, in a much more difficult position. Actually we cannot correlate this concept ‘temperature of the atom’ with a well-defined property of the atom but have to connect it at least partly with our insufficient knowledge of it. We can correlate the value of the temperature with certain statistical expectations about the properties of the atom, but it seems rather doubtful whether an expectation should be called objective. The concept ‘temperature of the atom’ is not much better defined than the concept ‘mixing’ in the story about the boy who bought mixed sweets. In a similar way in quantum theory all the classical concepts are, when applied to the atom, just as little defined as the ‘temperature of the atom’; they are correlated with statistical expectations.23
We can speak of the ‘temperature’ of an object as though it is one of its well-defined physical properties. But can we do the same when we speak of an atom of the object? Evidently we cannot—no one has measured the temperature of an atom or a molecule yet. Such an objective property is not even defined for the atom. Still, for the pedagogical imagination, the fact that we can talk easily of the temperature of an object or body and yet cannot speak of the temperature of its constituent parts has Heisenberg, op. cit., p. 123.
to be a fascinating issue. At what point or level of organization precisely does it become legitimate to speak of temperature, and how is this shift made possible? To know that phenomena behave differently at different levels of organization is crucial for a proper understanding of cosmic relationships and hence for the pedagogical enterprise. It leads us away from simplistic and hardened notions about the world in which we live, forcing us to regard the world differently. Nevertheless, if we remain obstinate and press on and ask: Is temperature a fundamental property of matter or not? We get the answer: Yes and no, it depends on the level of the matter in question. But this leads to a fresh difficulty: The simultaneous ‘yes and no’ violates one of the basic principles of logic that forbids concurrent affirmation and negation, or the possibility of both yes and no at the same time. It is known as the principle of the excluded middle. Consequently, and in relation to the problematic ‘levels of matter’ question, certain ambiguities have crept into modern science that scientists are uncomfortable with. The vagueness of this language in use among the physicists has therefore led to attempts to define a different precise language which follows definite logical patterns in complete conformity with the mathematical scheme of quantum theory. The result of these attempts by Birkhoff and Neumann and more recently by Weizsacker can be stated by saying that the mathematical scheme of quantum theory can be interpreted as an extension or modification of classical logic. It is especially one fundamental principle of classical logic which seems to require a modification. In classical logic it is assumed that, if a statement has any meaning at all, either the statement or the negation of the statement must be correct. Of ‘here is a table’ or ‘here is not a table,’ either the first or the second statement must be correct. ‘Tertium non datur,’ a third possibility does not exist. It may be that we do not know whether the statement or its negation is correct; but in ‘reality’ one of the two is correct. [But] in quantum theory this law ‘tertium non datur’ is to be modified.24
Unlike ordinary logic, in quantum relations there are other possibilities that are ‘mixtures’ of the first two (normally) mutually exclusive possibilities, such as partly yes and partly no. So, it requires a modification of the law of the excluded middle. Experience does not often fit neatly into existing social and linguistic categories, and yet we stretch or shrink it to fit Ibid., p. 124.
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existing commonsense categories. In fact, most existential questions of any importance do not have clear yes or no answers: Is there an external reality independent of us? Are there any transcendental values or are all values relative? Is there absolute evil? Can there be such a thing as true progress? Are we better educated today than, say, the Greeks, two thousand years ago? Should we interpret the scriptures literally? Does death mark absolute ending, or is there life after death? Is formal education emancipatory? Should we take mystical experience seriously? Are questions of origin meaningful? And so on. When faced with questions of the above kind, we hesitate, and often murmur: “well, it depends,” and so on. We realize that we have to pick our way carefully, defining terms, avoiding presumptions, and arrive at a point where ordinary language cannot take us any further because there is an excess it cannot capture. We juxtapose alternate mental scenarios hoping to set off some kind of inner spark of understanding that extends the bounds of our ordinary reality. We abandon ‘either/or’ logic and instead talk of ‘co-existent states’ or potentialities in a bid toward a more inclusive reality.25 In other words, we try to shake off old linguistic habits that cut up reality in a certain way (for ordinary practical purposes) and for that reason become largely inadequate to address ontological questions of the above kind. Just as we are led into making serious errors, encountering inconsistencies, when we superimpose the ordinary language of discontinuities and dualities on the atomic world, we are unable to resolve the ontological questions relating to experience when we use the language of commonsense. The surface precipitates or adsorption films that constitute ordinary reality and the language 25 With regard to the ontology of modern physics, Heisenberg observes: “The other problem concerns the ontology that underlies the modified logical patterns. If the pair of complex numbers represents a ‘statement’ in the sense just described, there should exist a ‘state’ or a ‘situation’ in nature in which the statement is correct. We will use the word ‘state’ in this connection. The ‘states’ corresponding to complementary statements are then called ‘coexistent states’ by Weizsacker. This term ‘coexistent’ describes the situation correctly; it would in fact be difficult to call them ‘different states,’ since every state contains to some extent also the other ‘coexistent states.’ This concept of ‘state’ would then form a first definition concerning the ontology of quantum theory. One sees at once that this use of the word ‘state,’ especially the term ‘coexistent state,’ is so different from the usual materialistic ontology that one may doubt whether one is using a convenient terminology. On the other hand, if one considers the word ‘state’ as describing some potentiality rather than a reality—one may even simply replace the term ‘state’ by the term ‘potentiality’—then the concept of ‘coexistent potentialities’ is quite plausible, since one potentiality may involve or overlap other potentialities.” Ibid., p. 128.
derived from their relations become concrete over time making us oblivious of other ways of constructing reality. For pedagogical purposes, let us take a ‘real’ instance and work it through to show how language and the terms that we use to construct reality make all the difference in how we perceive and act on ourselves and the outer subsequently. As I write these pages, the ‘coronavirus’ or COVID-19 rages through the world. People are being infected, in turn, they are transmitting to others, and a certain number are dying of the complications. Media and the political establishment have universally called it a ‘war’ against a virus (we will not go into the possible origin of the problem, etc.). Let us call this view no. 1, which paints the picture of a deadly battle between humans and a type of virus. Entire cities and countries are under lockdown, transportation is canceled, gatherings are banned, and the entire economic machinery of the world is close to being shut down. Streets are empty and there is palpable fear, and even an odd cough or sneeze is looked upon with suspicion. The language of epidemiology along with the general socio-political discourse is focused on the idea of transmission and how to break the chain of contact. In short, it has produced a kind of world atmosphere that is akin to a shocked disbelief— can this be happening today and in the most ‘advanced’ of nations? Where is science and what is the use of technological advancement if a virus can rip through technologically advanced populations at will? But now I want to give view no. 2, an alternate conception that is not very popular at this moment. View no. 2 says that transmission is always taking place, whether overtly or covertly. In fact, the very essence of life is transmission, in pulsations or waves, and nothing can be cut off completely from everything else. So what to do? The only thing to do is to change the receiver quality, meaning, in this case, strengthen the qualitative response patterns throughout the system. This calls for a different language of understanding, and hence different practical consequences. It is not that view no. 2 is superior to view no. 1, and I want to be emphatic on this point. It is simply a very different way of looking at things, through a language of connectedness, that is not popular in the prevailing political culture. This alternate view requires building a cultural conception of reality that is far removed from the current one and for which we require a different language and pedagogy. Here there is no virus-versus-human war scenario. (This is completely different from saying that there is no virus). Instead there is a perpetual systemic flux of which the so-called human and the so-called virus are two ends of the same thing. They can be isolated
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and given separate status or they can be seen as part of a whole range of interchanges that are going on all the time. The question will arise: Why the sudden onset of highly visible consequences (‘infections’)? The language and the corresponding reality-construct of view no. 1 might say that outbreaks of mutant varieties will occur at periodic intervals given favorable circumstances and easy transmission, leading to epidemic magnitudes. View no. 2 will say that the potentialities are always there for sudden interchange in the system, and it is the degree of care and alertness flowing through the system that keep unwanted effects/concentrations localized. The ‘virus’ has no independent existence in this view, but exists only in relation to a range of receptions, in turn, giving rise to a variety of symptoms from (mild fever to expiry). On the latter view, there is nothing to panic but an emphasis on keeping channels clean and open (hygiene, exercise, proper diet, etc., in ordinary parlance), so that unusual pulsations can flow through and out of the system with minimum damage. This has nothing to do with the origin of the problem and the fixing of responsibility—such issues must proceed independently according to their own norms. Instead, we are concerned with a pedagogical viewing of the situation and the language of constructing relations. The foregoing must not be read as any kind of advocacy of a particular view. It is merely instructive, and attempts to show how our language of habit becomes our reality, in terms of the restrictions it places on what we are able to see, and what remains beyond our horizon. Hermeneutically, to realize this point again and again, from different angles, is very important. Language hides just as much as it reveals, and this is its peculiar character. It hides, just as it enables, by making invisible other possibilities beyond its linguistic horizon. Humans reveal the world to themselves through language but are not able to see language itself as the mode of disclosure, as it becomes transparent to them. Perhaps that is why the theologians claim that it is only the Word of God that is able to reveal directly without any further reference to language, meaning that Revelation does not give out any knowledge or description or information. It simply presents itself as such, in full meaning. When language itself is revealed to us as such (and not merely the content of language), then we attain to the pedagogy of praxis or a praxis of the twice-born. But this is not to be gained at once. First a thorough survey and understanding must be gained of the various use of language in different dimensions including the language of science and the paradigms of thought these inculcate. Giving due credit to these languages of thought and their achievements, we have to
get beneath them to the original impulses that are always present underneath the encrustations and epistemological apparatuses. This can be achieved not intellectually but by the act of becoming somatic laboratories ourselves or developing our sensibilities into a theater for our own experimentation. It involves a radical act of taking back our source of knowledge from the official production of discourse and trusting an awakened intuition to do deeper existential work. Experience is not authentic experience if it is merely second-hand experience, pre-determined by the existing ways of looking and thinking. That amounts to reproduction, however pragmatically valuable. There must be, in what we will grant as experience, an aspect that is not socially manufactured and adapted. This striving toward ontological authenticity is central to the praxis of the twice-born.
References Ava Chitwood, Death by Philosophy: The Biographical Tradition in the Life and Death of the Archaic Philosophers Empedocles, Heraclitus, and Democritus (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2004). Elizabeth Grosz, The Nick of Time: Politics, Evolution, and the Untimely (NSW, Australia: Allen & Unwin, 2004). Henri Bergson, Creative Evolution (New York: Random House, 1944). Heraclitus, Diels Kranz Listing 9.9. Majjhima Nikāya iii. 63; Samyutta Nikāya v. 387. Werner Heisenberg, Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1962).
Praxis of the Twice-Born
The possibility of experience does not arise in a neutral or innocent space that is not always already conditioned by historical ways of organizing perception. Modern secular experience, and within its womb secular knowledge and education, had their genesis broadly at the intersection of three historically produced discontinuities or lines of fracture—that between the natural and the supernatural, between the body and the mind, and between the intellect and intuition. In attempting to understand the ontological structure of experience, it is necessary to grasp each of these lines of fracture as unique historical processes together with their consequences. The birth of experience, especially modern experience, is a phenomenon peculiar to these historical developments. Consequently, it would be my endeavor here to show that what we consider as modern educational experience has been essentially conceived, compounded, and naturalized within these wide-ranging oppositions. At the same time, it would be important to realize that the mainstream educational process has effectively covered its tracks, pretending to respond directly to the needs of the child or society, and not to the projections and compulsions of the historical fractures mentioned above. Further, my contention here is that, it is our obligation as educationists to keep these schisms in view when we try to understand educational experience, otherwise we fail to grasp the significance of the reality-producing apparatus within which we struggle to achieve a meaningful pedagogy. The aim is not the return to some pre- hiatus ideal space, but the attainment of a sharpness and clarity of © The Author(s) 2020 K. Roy, Reincarnating Experience in Education, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-53548-3_6
perception that is alerted to its own reality-making process. Educational dialogue faces severe erosion of value as well as credibility when it falls into the trap of naïve realism and the positivist acceptance of discrete nodes of the empirical as guides to social meaning and action. The first of these schisms, the wedge between the natural and the supernatural, has also been thought of as the opposition between the sacred and the profane, or between God and Man. Now what do we mean by a discontinuity or a hiatus between the natural and the supernatural? In the contemporary world, it is entirely possible to go about one’s business politically and socially without intersecting with the holy (any form of sacred discourse) at any point. Work, action, morality, relationship, and social intercourse in general have come to be sanitized with the secular brush. The sense of the holy does not mediate in the interpretation of social life. But this was not always the case. The philosopher Charles Taylor notes: “If you go back far enough in human history, you come to archaic societies in which the whole set of distinctions we make between the religious, political, economic, social, etc., aspects of our society ceases to make sense. In these earlier societies, religion was everywhere, was interwoven with everything else, and in no sense constituted a separate sphere of its own.”1 In other words, there was no secular sphere distinct and separate from a transcendental realm; all of reality was woven into a single lived domain. This does not mean however that there was no implicit assumption of the sacred or the profane; rather, it means that in a less disenchanted world, the inhabitants apprehended spirits, divinities, and their ostensible effects at many a turn in their lives, which guided and shaped their perceptions, actions, and destinies. The sacred had not yet been reduced to a belief; the experience of the sacred was immediate, and not consigned to an ‘other’ world, but mingled with everyday life and reality in a matter of fact manner. The great historian of religion Mircea Eliade writes: The sacred tree, the sacred stone are not adored as stone or tree; they are worshipped precisely because they are hierophanies, because they show something that is no longer stone or tree but the sacred, the ganz andere. It is impossible to overemphasize the paradox represented by every hierophany, even the most elementary. By manifesting the sacred, any object becomes something else, yet it continues to remain itself, for it continues to 1
Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007), p. 2.
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participate in its surrounding cosmic milieu…But for those to whom a stone reveals itself as sacred, its immediate reality is transmuted into a supernatural reality. In other words, for those who have a religious experience all nature is capable of revealing itself as cosmic sacrality. The cosmos in its entirety can become a hierophany.2
If there is a situation that confounds and alienates the modern mind it is the inclusive principle of both this and not this. We are used to the ‘Or,’ that is, exclusion—either something is good or it is not good. The modern world’s logic establishes itself through the principle of the ‘excluded middle’ and cannot bring itself to accept something that is simultaneously ‘this’ as well as ‘not this.’ But it is precisely here that the pre-moderns struck a different note; they were willing to countenance the simultaneous manifestation of the sacred and the profane in the same substance. A double reality did not trouble them, for unlike the moderns, the ancients did seek to establish a world stripped of magic and enchantment. When the Indian, for instance, worshipped a stone image, s/he was not engaging in fetishizing the stone, as early anthropologists assumed, coming as they did from their homomorphic view of the world. Rather, the stone has, at some point, revealed its sacred or dual aspect to them or to their ancestor (even if it does not do so now). Each material aspect of the world has this hierophantic possibility in that it can also reveal or manifest at any time as the absolute other of the profane. Matter and spirit are thus not opposed but the two sides of a reality. The double aspect is highly problematic to the modern mind due to the fact that the modern consciousness has evolved along a path that has left less and less room for the dual aspect; it has, instead, sought a single description. Our drive to control nature has, of course, much to do with the collapse of the sacred dimension. Through the taxonomic categories and causal principles we have tried to put nature in a comprehensible box, but it remains elusive. The mystery perhaps lies in its dual aspect, which modern forms of exclusive humanism reject. In an age before modernity, “the general understanding of the human predicament placed us in an order where we were not at the top. Higher beings, like Gods or spirits, or a higher kind of being, like the Ideas or the cosmopolis of Gods and humans, demanded and deserved our worship, reverence, devotion or love. In some cases, this reverence or devotion was 2 Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion, (Transl.) Willard R. Trask (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World Inc., 1958), p. 12.
itself seen as integral to human flourishing; it was a proper part of the human good.”3 In most pre-modern societies, the prevailing sense of the existence of a hierarchy of beings, with humans placed somewhere in that hierarchy, did not necessarily yield for the species a unique or privileged position. There was also the implicit idea that it behooved humans to venerate those beings above them including gods. But modern secular experience “has been coterminous with the rise of a society in which for the first time in history a purely self-sufficient humanism came to be a widely available option. I mean by this a humanism accepting no final goals beyond human flourishing, nor any allegiance to anything else beyond this flourishing. Of no previous society was this true.”4 Humanism freed of eschatological determinations is for the most part a peculiarly modern attitude which is marked by a self-contained idea of human flourishing. In earlier times, human fulfillment was not achievable solely on human terms and empirical measure. Included in the vision of human fulfillment were the perceived continuities between human and trans-human domains. Obviously this impacted what might have been thought of as educational practice, which, as we have noted in an earlier chapter, could not be merely intellectual. Often the body was made pliable through various kinds of ascetic practices and self-inflicted torment in order to open it up for a sacred pedagogy. A general assumption was that the bodily and psycho-emotive energies could be awakened and made sensitive to the intimations proceeding from the continuities between the human world and the non-material world. Consequently, traditional or self-selected groups and individuals engaged in severe forms of austerities and attunements that formed part of core educational practice. Coming closer to the cosmic essence through an expansion of consciousness throughout the body-mind complex was the express goal; the path to the macrocosmic principle was through the microcosm, cutting through the surface reality to something deeper that was not merely transitory. This was the basis of the Ontological Hope we have discussed in an earlier part of the book that arises from within as a surge of creative power and intuitive insight that is unique and independent of circumstance. This augmented the construction and experience of reality tempering it another kind of inward realization. In modernity, we have mostly lost these kinds of educational practices that transcended the humanist/religious divide. 3 4
Charles Taylor, op. cit., p. 18. Ibid.
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Having said this, I must hasten to add that it is not as though we are engaged in producing a simplistic bipolar division wherein humanism and religiosity are seen as the twin poles of human experience. While the said opposition is broadly true, there are, and have been, other alternatives— for instance: “Our age has seen a strong set of currents which one might call non-religious anti-humanisms, which fly under various names today, like ‘deconstruction’ and ‘post-structuralism,’ and which find their roots in immensely influential writings of the nineteenth century, especially those of Nietzsche.”5 There have also been attempts to erect a “non- exclusive humanism on a non-religious basis,” such as those found in different forms of deep ecology. It is certainly possible to construct a non-humanistic basis of experience without reference to religion or eschatology, and it has been done, but the central thematic opposition in the mainstream social imaginary continues to lie on either side of the schism mentioned above, namely the line between secular humanism and transcendental or onto-theological considerations. Now, let us get back to the central argument, which is that experience can get severely handicapped and distorted when it is unconsciously aligned with, and remains subsumed by, historically produced fractures in consciousness. We have largely forgotten the meaning of unmediated experience, but “there is a condition of lived experience, where what we might call a construal of the moral/spiritual is lived not as [pious abstraction], but as immediate reality, like stones, rivers and mountains. And this plainly also goes for the positive side of things: e.g., people in earlier ages of our culture, for whom moving to fullness just meant getting closer to God.”6 According to Taylor, our modern form of living has largely lost these forms of ‘immediate certainty,’ investing instead in socially and culturally created substitutes. The sense of the Otherness of the world as the experience of immediate reality has receded and been largely replaced by a basket of alternatives—including many kinds of private beliefs, atheism, cultist practices, and so on—all of which are various forms of thought- based construals and reflection-driven experience. The background to this shift is worth our careful attention because it has much to do with how the general outlines of modern experience shifted from the naïve to the reflective. First, the naïve framework was an absolute cultural and social background into which one was thrust from the moment of birth. One just 5 6
Ibid., p. 19. Ibid., p. 12.
took for granted the modes of experiencing by which one was surrounded as the sole possible way of relating to the world. Our perceptions of what was happening to us were the products of an existing schema that was necessarily invisible and without any supplementary dimension in which its assumptions could be reflectively assessed. But with the passing of the naïve world-making, and due to historical shifts, came the more thought- based reflective one in which options began to appear, together with the distancing of ourselves from the world-as-object. This immanent/transcendent shift was a change of tectonic proportions with regard to the way the world was experienced. We have to take account of two important differences: first, there is the massive change in the whole background of belief or unbelief, that is, the passing of the earlier “naïve” framework, and the rise of our “reflective” one. And secondly, we have to be aware of how believers and unbelievers can experience their world very differently. The sense that fullness is to be found in something beyond us can break in on us as a fact of experience, as in the case of Bede Griffiths quoted above, or in the moment of conversion that Claudel lived in Notre Dame at Vespers. This experience may then be articulated, rationalized; it may generate particular beliefs. This process may take time, and the beliefs in question may change over the years, even though the experience remains in memory as a paradigm moment. This is what happened to Bede, who came to a fully theistic reading of that crucial moment only some years later; and a similar “lag” can be seen in the case of Claudel.7
At the same time it is true that if and when a religious or hierophantic experience breaks in upon the subject, as it no doubt does from time to time, it fundamentally alters our subsequent perceptions and our relation to reality. Of course, the altered perceptions may take time to fully become operational in consciousness. History is strewn with countless testimonies of such altered perceptions and the general impact it had on those lives. Subsequent to the experience of a non-mediated essential reality, or what one might refer to as a sudden upsurge of the noumenal in consciousness, our experience of the so-called ordinary reality may undergo a fundamental shift and might even generate a new noematic structure. This would temporarily free up the energy of experience and the mode of experiencing, being strikingly different than the existing mode of grasping our world relations, and no longer in the abstract or hegemonized form 7
Ibid., p. 14.
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limited by socialization and cultural mediation. All of a sudden the world is full of new possibilities beyond science, society, or any other paradigm of existence, and in the presence instead of a sharp pang of freedom. The abyss that divides the two modalities of experience—sacred and profane—will be apparent when we come to describe sacred space and the ritual building of the human habitation, or the varieties of the religious experience of time, or the relations of religious man to nature and the world of tools, or the consecration of human life itself, the sacrality with which man’s vital functions (food, sex, work and so on) can be charged. Simply calling to mind what the city or the house, nature, tools, or work have become for modern and nonreligious man will show with the utmost vividness all that distinguishes such a man from a man belonging to any archaic society…For modern consciousness, a physiological act—eating, sex and so on—is in sum only an organic phenomenon, but for the primitive, such an act is never simply physiological; it is, or can become a sacrament, that is, a communion with the sacred.8
Philosophical anthropology reveals the sacred and the profane experiences of the world as being of very different qualities and ways of being-in the world, and this difference is not limited to the sphere of worship or related issues. This distinction affects the very basics of life, including the experience of what we eat, our attitude to work and pleasure, and so on. The modern secular consciousness does not associate anything sacred with food, sexuality, or work, whereas to the non-modern, each physiological act also had an irreducible sacral component, which changed the nature of worldly experience. Everyday acts had an aspect of communion with the larger cosmic forces, a fundamental acknowledgment that gave them a sacramental dimension and a larger-than-life meaning.9 In the vast hinterland of India, for instance, tools and weapons (astra, shastra) had a use aspect and a sacral aspect, the latter often maintained links in the folk traditions to gods and natural forces from whom these appurtenances were apparently received as boons or gifts. This form of apprehension involved the non-modern in participating with space and time differently. Unlike the contemporary mind which sees space as limitless and empty, the Mircea Eliade, op. cit., p. 14. A sacred text of the Indians says, “eat and sleep in communion, awake and dream in communion” [yuktaahara vihaarasya, yuktachestasya karmasu, yuktaswapnavabodhasya….]. Bhagvad Gita, 6:17. 8 9
non-modern saw it as crowded with other classes of beings—seraphs, cherubs, elves, fairies, angels, gods, and the like—and his vision was a haptic one, implying spaces of intensity and tactility. His meaningful space was an intimate one usually extending not much beyond his immediate experience in which the inner and the outer were mixed and not usefully distinct. For religious man, space is not homogeneous; he experiences interruptions, breaks in it; some parts of space are qualitatively different from others. “Draw not nigh hither,” says the Lord to Moses; put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground” (Exodus 3, 5). There is, then, a sacred space, and hence, a strong significant space; there are other spaces that are not sacred and so are without structure or consistency, amorphous. Nor is this all. For religious man, this spatial nonhomogeneity finds expression in the experience of an opposition between space that is sacred—the only really existing space—and the formless expanse surrounding it. The religious experience of the nonhomogeneity of space is a primordial experience, homologizable to a founding of the world. It is not a matter of theoretical speculation, but of a primary religious experience that precedes all reflection on the world. For it is the break effected in space that allows the world to be constituted, because it reveals the fixed point, the central axis for all future orientation….The manifestation of the sacred ontologically founds the world. In the homogeneous and infinite expanse, in which no point of reference is possible and hence no orientation can be established, the hierophany reveals an absolute fixed point, a center.10
All space is not identical—space varies according to density and intensity. This is not a speculative or theoretical statement but an empirical one. As an instance of such variability and non-homogeneity, consider the intensity of religiously related spaces of antiquity worldwide—the holy places of pilgrimage, of which there are several categories, are inevitably spaces relating to revelation, salvation, or hierophany—the sudden appearance of cosmic essence resulting in a consecration and a foundedness. Ontologically speaking, origin occurs with a spatial distinction—it establishes an orientation in an otherwise formless expanse; in order to found a world, a differential spatial intensity emerges.11 The developed intuition is Eliade, op. cit. pp. 20–21. Eliade observes, “Often there is no need for a theophany or hierophany properly speaking; some sign suffices to indicate the sacredness of a place. ‘According to the legend, the marabout, who founded El-Hamel at the end of the sixteenth century stopped to spend the night near a spring and planted his stick in the ground. The next morning, when he went for 10 11
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sensitive to the resultant variability in spatial density, the qualitative difference that brings about structure and meaning in a formative manner. It is the mystery of the sacral act that produces this moment, or, to put it the other way around, it is this qualitative emergence that constitutes the sacred act. All that we call human experience arises from and follows these constitutive orientations that all of a sudden lay out a new beginning for experience. Merely because this creative upsurge and its effects are not empirically intelligible to the average mind, especially those captured by the rationalist conceit, does not however mean that their effective traces become phenomenologically unavailable to the developing instinct and intuition of the intelligent seeker. The latter looks upon the cosmos with a watchful anticipation perceptive of the fact that each moment remains pregnant with a potential hierophany. Consequently, the twice-born idea of what constitutes true experience is shaped by the ebb and flow of densities and intensities of a living cosmos (as distinct from the dead remainder of cycles of differentiation) and the varying phenomenological moments that are brought forth within it. From this ‘abyss that divides,’ the two ways of experiencing the world can be surmised. Nevertheless, the sacred and the profane must not be seen as a simple opposition, but are complementary sides of the cosmic order. The former is the absolute founding aspect whereas the latter is the relative aspect of a cosmogony. The one without the other gives rise to a lopsided account of the universe and distorts the proper understanding of experience. The transformation of chaos into cosmos in experience must be provoked by practice or in being witness to some spontaneous order appearing out of a primordial state that gives a general direction for action and subsequent development. [S]ince religious man cannot live except in an atmosphere impregnated with the sacred, we must expect to find a large number of techniques for consecrating space. As we saw, the sacred is pre-eminently the real, at once power, the stick to resume his journey, he found that it had taken root and that buds had sprouted on it. He considered this a sign of god’s will and settled in that place.’ In such cases the sign, fraught with religious meaning, introduces an absolute element and puts an end to relativity and confusion. Something that does not belong to this world [of relativity] has manifested itself apodictically and in so doing has indicated an orientation or determined a course of conduct. When no sign manifests itself, it is provoked…to put an end to the tension and anxiety caused by relativity and disorientation—in short, to reveal an absolute point of support.” Ibid., pp. 27–28.
efficacity, the source of life and fecundity. Religious man’s desire to live in the sacred is in fact equivalent to his desire to take up abode in objective reality, not to let himself be paralyzed by the never-ceasing relativity of purely subjective experiences, to live in a real and effective world, and not in an illusion. This behavior is documented on every plane of religious man’s existence, but it is particularly evident in his desire to move about only in a sanctified world, that is, in a sacred space.12
Contrary to popular notions and commonsensical ideas, never-ending differentiation that results in a procession of subjective states in the outer, rather than being stimulating is actually paralyzing for experience. It brings about not creative stimulus but fatigue of the sensibilities that begin to perceive the world as essentially unreliable. Humans instinctively seek and find invariants—in topology (topological invariants), in physics (physical constants), in mathematics (Brouwer’s fixed point theorem), and so on. It would, on reflection, not come as surprise that we should seek invariants in the psychic world as well; consequently it should be easy to see why this is vital for learning about the meaning of experience. Experience that lasts, or is valid, only till the next experience, needs to be balanced not by the illusion of an experiencer, but by the intuition of a ground of experience that is transcendental. As we have discussed earlier, an accidental contact with the environment does not constitute experience; the exchange must be relatable in some manner to the existing universe of meanings and be constitutive of its corpus in an emergent and ongoing manner. This means it must be capable of being reflectively appropriated by the experiencing entity. For the twice-born, the possibility of reflective appropriation on contact-exchange is based on an invariant in relation to which experience can be placed; otherwise there is merely a chaotic, relativistic stream that has no cogency.13 On the other side, among the secularists and logical empiricists, there are those who attempted to establish this point of certainty in first-order logic and mathematics, without ultimate success. And there are yet others—non-foundationalists— who do not believe that any such point is necessary for valid experience, Ibid., p. 28. Even Einstein’s Relativity Theory is in actuality a theory of constancy which seeks to establish the precise translational relation between different frames of reference moving with respect to each other. Despite the fact that there is nothing remotely relativistic about Einstein’s groundbreaking work, the title of the theory has led common understanding to fantasize about it in a misconceived direction. 12 13
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and empirical reality alone suffices. There is plenty of high-quality scholarship available with regard to these points of view and I shall not review them here. But there is a dark side to this question that we cannot ignore because of its pedagogical relevance and poignancy. We know that the twice-born desires the sacral world—the zone of invariance—in order to have meaningful experience within her/his universe of meaning. But the contemporary world is an essentially de-sacralized world—it does not set much store by the psychic need for a different kind of experiential order, and believes that the stream of appearances (cognitive data) are valid in and of themselves in a self-evident manner. The consequences of this mis- match for many are potentially very disturbing, as noted by renowned philosophers and psychologists such as Carl Jung and R. D. Laing, among others. Speaking of the other, non-empirical, dimension of experience (notwithstanding the specific name we choose to give it), the need for which is latent among humans, Laing has written: Sanity today appears to rest very largely on a capacity to adapt to the external world—the interpersonal world, and the realm of human collectivities. As this external human world is almost completely and totally estranged from the inner, any personal direct awareness of the inner world has already grave risks. But since society, without knowing it, is starving for the inner, the demands on people to evoke its presence in a ‘safe’ way, in a way that need not be taken seriously, etc., is tremendous—while the ambivalence is equally intense. Small wonder that the list of artists, in say the last 150 years, who have become shipwrecked on these reefs is so long—Holderlin, John Clare, Rimbaud, Van Gogh, Nietzsche, Antonin Artaud.… Those who survived have had exceptional qualities—a capacity for secrecy, slyness, cunning—a thoroughly realistic appraisal of the risks they run, not only from the spiritual realms that they frequent, but from the hatred of their fellows for anyone engaged in this pursuit.14
The above is an extraordinary and factual assessment of the ‘risks’ of coming upon the other realm of experience—the psychic domain—under contemporary socio-phenomenological conditions. The contemporary regime of thought has made it increasingly difficult for people to acknowledge the experience of the psychic-intuitive order as having anything to do with actuality. However, the invariance we have spoken about is not 14 R. D. Laing, The Politics of Experience (Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin Books, 1967), p. 116.
provided by the psychic dimension alone, but lies at the intersection of the psychic-intuitional, the somatic-vital, and the rational-intellectual—not as symbol or belief but as direct phenomenological activity engaged in the construal of experience. All of these domains, awakened and functioning together, produce the autonomy of experience. Many have paid a great price for the unprepared or accidental contact of the outer with the inner (i.e., the empirical-representational with the psychic-intuitive), and this is due to both social incredulity as well as possible lack of adequate preparation given the milieu of modernist prejudice. Here we have a glimpse of the task set for a pedagogy of the twice-born: It is to find a ground of intersection of the psychic, the somatic, and the intellectual, whereby the fracture in consciousness we have spoken of can be transcended. At birth, we are thrust into empirical chaos, that is, a procession of transient events whose ultimate meaning is indecipherable, even if we get used to a partial social meaning. We get used to this pageantry and its cultural appropriation, accepting it as normal reality within an ideological framework that directs our attention solely toward approved social goals. Our eyes remain glued to this outer spectacle until it is too late, and our instincts and intuition are overwhelmed and eventually forgotten. When our personal worlds are rediscovered and allowed to reconstitute themselves, we first discover a shambles. Bodies half-dead; genitals dissociated from heart; heart severed from head; heads dissociated from genitals. Without inner unity, with just enough sense of continuity to clutch at identity—the current idolatry. Torn, body, mind and spirit, by inner contradictions, pulled in different directions, Man cut off from his own mind, cut off equally from his own body—a half-crazed creature in a mad world. When the Dreadful has already happened, we can hardly expect other than that the Thing will echo externally the destruction already wrought internally. We are all implicated in this state of affairs of alienation.15
A writer or artist knows that in order to produce something authentic, the heart, the mind, and the libidinal must, speaking metaphorically, be wrung together: The emotional, the psychic, the physical, and the libidinal must labor together in order to produce a moment of phenomenological truth. But this is also true of experience—only when we learn to experience simultaneously at all these planes does experience become a moment of authentic disclosure. The darkness of the contemporary world lies Ibid., pp. 46–47.
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precisely in the dissociation of the heart from the mind, and the mind from the libidinal economy, thus producing modern-day alienation. There is only enough cognitive association to produce some sort of identity to which we cling. But beyond that there is only a quiet desperation that works its way from the inner to the outer, laying out a path of desolation at the personal, social, and ecological levels. If there is something beyond this petty identity, it is to be discovered phenomenologically through the pedagogy of the twice-born. The pedagogy of the twice-born forces us to look for the experience of authentic disclosure besides the procession of events and spectacles of the outer alone. A reality (and education) based solely on outer spatial division and differentiation succeeds in assembling a hodge-podge of empirical selves linked to various contingent templates of experience. These resemble fragmentary collages rather than anything cogent—collages that are quickly and endlessly modified, overcome by other spatial differentiations. While it is true that forces unleashed upon us from beyond, besides those we bring upon ourselves, modify and result in chaotic tumults of outer expression, the pedagogy of the twice-born helps us to recognize that these are not to be mistaken for reality. There is the psychic-somatic aspect that waits in the shadows to be awakened and into which we need to be born in order to bring about inner unity of the elements. Since “desacralization pervades the entire experience of the nonreligious man of modern societies, he finds it increasingly difficult to rediscover the existential dimensions of religious man of archaic societies.”16 We must not think of the term ‘religious’ here as indicating organized faith, but a certain kind of religiosity or hierophantic potential that pervaded archaic societies. Obviously, it is difficult to orient our inner compass to this long-lost possibility; nevertheless, the pedagogy of the twice-born attempts this hermeneutic struggle toward a recuperation of the noumenal dimension. A superior or existentially adequate condition cannot come about without the integration of phenomena with noumena—the tumult of the world balanced by the experience of somatic- psychic disclosure, or outer contingency balanced by inner certainty. This truth was lost to us in the historical fracture between the sacred and the profane, which we must now attempt to recuperate through a phenomenological praxis of the twice-born. The foregoing discussion was about spatiality and spaces of the sacred and the profane. Let us next turn to the question of time, for the division Ibid., p. 13.
between the mundane and the sacred also relates to time—a sacred time and a profane one. Can we say that analogous to space, there is a worldly time and a time beyond? The question of the difference between mundane experience and the experience of the twice-born cannot be addressed without paying attention to the divergence between ontological time and time as mechanical succession. In the earlier part we have seen how the space of modernity acquired a homogeneity by negating the qualitative aspects that differentiated it in a pre-modern era. In a similar vein, speaking of time, the secular homogeneous time of modernity was unknown in earlier societies. Time was not synchronized, and ran according to the thickness of events and phenomenological experience within each local context. When invoked, it was mostly for the purpose of recalling the directions of an eschatological time, or to deal with astronomical events, and not for its measure as linear clock time. In antiquity, we enter the presence of an immediate reality that was not temporally mediated, and wherein each movement of the world was loaded with differential portent. All this changed with the coming of a new era of synchronized succession. With capitalism came the homogenization of labour-time: the time of abstract labour (money, the universal equivalent), the time of the clock. And with the rapid development of transport and communications in the course of capitalist development in the nineteenth century (the railways and the telegraph) came the beginnings of a generalized social imposition of a single standard of time. Once world standard time became established as a medium for the possible synchronization of actions on a planetary scale (and subsequent communications technology made such synchronization a reality), the idea of ‘history as world history’ acquired in actuality what it had previously possessed only in speculative thought: a basis for the totalization of what might otherwise be considered a series of essentially independent, if overlapping, histories. Capitalism has ‘universalized’ history, in the sense that it has established systematic relations of social interdependence on a planetary scale (encompassing non-capitalist societies), thereby producing a single global space of temporal co-existence or coevalness, within which actions are quantifiable chronologically in terms of single standard of measurement: world standard-time.17
17 Peter Osborne, The Politics of Time: Modernity and Avant-Garde (London: Verso, 1995), p. 34.
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The time of the clock or scientific time achieved the empirical unification of the world, but it also simultaneously added to the progressive disenchantment of the world. Forms of topological density are intensely local and concern locally bounded space-times, they cannot be universalized. These run ontologically according to the intrinsic concentration of the homegrown forces and their corresponding use-values. Yet, the compulsions of the modern relations and processes of production overrode this infinitely diverse scenario to impose upon the world the time of the clock, which made labor homogenized, exchangeable, and therefore marketable in the first place. The phenomenon of large-scale synchronization stitched together the sometimes divergent, sometimes overlapping, and sometimes parallel historico-temporal arabesques into a flat, cross-planetary monotone, extinguishing the experiential possibilities of onto-phenomenological time. The capitalization of time produced a single globalized space that could be systematically opened up for economic exploitation in pursuit of the fantastic idea of progress. The arrival of the homo economicus and the homo scientificus ensured that from now on, in general, there would be no way of approaching or thinking about time differently—a cloak of clock time had been thrown over experience. The larger consequence has been that the space-time constructs within which our realities are generated have become severely limited, constricted, and uncreative. Once the length and breadth of the matrix of experience have been pre-determined, experience itself becomes repetitive and dull, following an established pattern, even as it promises novelty. The desperate attempts to increase the range and depth of experience (whether in education or elsewhere) remain unfulfilled, as the true source of the expansion of meaningful experience remains cut off. Let me clarify to the reader that by no means am I rejecting the ordinary, everyday conception of time. But this time of mechanical succession is not redemptive in the express sense that it wears things down—it has entropy built into it. Contrary to this, the essential movement of being is toward higher organization that is negentropic. Consequently, there must be a lived duration that is not succession, that is, not implicated in the mere outer sequences of events. From time to time, we do get intimations of such duration that is independent of external or public time—existential crises, hierophanies, psychic experiences, certain forms of meditation, any of these and more can alter our perception of time and produce entirely novel psychic-somatic sensibility of inner duration. Therefore, we must begin by a close examination of our existing ways of constituting time,
together with its historic roots, so that the genealogy strips away its objective dominance. This way we shake up the foundations of our commonsense- perceptions, at the center of which is the dominant idea of time as mechanical succession. Let us therefore proceed to pedagogically examine the temporal composition of contemporaneity. The temporal matrix [of modernity] which is thus produced has three main characteristics: 1. Exclusive valorization of the historical (as opposed to the merely chronological) present over the past, as its negation and transcendence, and as the standpoint from which to periodize and understand history as a whole. History, as Koselleck puts it, is ‘temporalized’. It becomes possible for an event to change its identity according to its shifting status in the advance of history as a whole. 2. Openness towards an indeterminate future characterized only by its prospective transcendence of the historical present and its relegation of this present to a future past. 3. A tendential elimination of the historical present itself, as the vanishing point of a perpetual transition between a constantly changing past and an as yet indeterminate future; or, to put it another way, the present as the identity of duration and eternity: that ‘now’ which is not so much a gap ‘in’ time as a gap ‘of’ time. The dialectic of the new, Adorno argues, represses duration insofar as ‘the new is an invariant: the desire for the new.’ Modernity is permanent transition.18
In his essay titled The Use and Abuse of History for Life Nietzsche had criticized the modern tendency that heavily emphasized historically organized experience—everything, it seems, must be historicized to be worthy of public consideration. Undoubtedly, this is a good thing; Nietzsche himself had written a kind of disjunctive history (genealogy) of morality and exposed its mystified but lowly origin (pudenda origo). Nevertheless, this penchant for linear historicization hides the nature of the impulse itself that historicizes—such impulse can never be captured by history itself. In other words, the nature of the compulsion that historicizes will forever remain outside of history. As a parallel, this is evident in the manner in which a painter fails to fully capture himself or herself in the act of painting.19 Besides, within changing ideological positions and revisionism, we Ibid., p. 14. See Michel Foucault’s brilliant analysis of Velazquez’s painting Las Meninas in The Order of Things (New York: Routledge, 2002). Due to its illustrative importance for our analysis, I quote significant parts of it here: “The painter is looking, his face turned slightly and his head leaning towards one shoulder. He is staring at a point to which, even though it is invisible, 18 19
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forget the complex relation between the observer and the observed. To what does history point—toward observer or observed? Modernity is explicit in its naïveté and imagines that history points away from itself and toward an absolute other; genealogy, however, tells us differently. The transcendence of history is characteristic of modernity, from which standpoint it invents the peculiar narrative of an advance of history. Experience cultivated within this invented matrix of historical progress shuts off vulnerability, which could be the most vital re-entry point for the perception of phenomenological duration. Second, forgetting that cessation is the permanent theme of becoming, its coupled other, modernity attempts to uncouple from the past in the forming of its core identity: Modernity is, in its own assessment, what the past was not (e.g., rational, scientific). we, the spectators, can easily assign an object, since it is we, ourselves, who are that point: our bodies, our faces, our eyes. The spectacle he is observing is thus doubly invisible: first, because it is not represented within the space of the painting, and, second, because it is situated precisely in that blind point, in that essential hiding-place into which our gaze disappears from ourselves at the moment of our actual looking. And yet, how could we fail to see that invisibility, there in front of our eyes, since it has its own perceptible equivalent, its sealed-in figure, in the painting itself? We could, in effect, guess what it is the painter is looking at if it were possible for us to glance for a moment at the canvas he is working on; but all we can see of that canvas is its texture, the horizontal and vertical bars of the stretcher, and the obliquely rising foot of the easel,” pp. 13–14. We can neither see the subject of Velasquez’s painting (presumably the royal couple reflected behind him in a mirror), nor can we see the painting itself on the canvas. What we see in the painting, instead, is this double invisibility. Las Meninas is a fascinating statement expressing a new concern in art. “The tall, monotonous rectangle occupying the whole left portion of the real picture, and representing the back of the canvas within the picture, reconstitutes in the form of a surface the invisibility in depth of what the artist is observing: that space in which we are, and which we are. From the eyes of the painter to what he is observing there runs a compelling line that we, the onlookers, have no power of evading: it runs through the real picture and emerges from its surface to join the place from which we see the painter observing us; this dotted line reaches out to us ineluctably, and links us to the representation of the picture. In appearance, this locus is a simple one; a matter of pure reciprocity: we are looking at a picture in which the painter is in turn looking out at us. A mere confrontation, eyes catching one another’s glance, direct looks superimposing themselves upon one another as they cross. And yet this slender line of reciprocal visibility embraces a whole complex network of uncertainties, exchanges, and feints. The painter is turning his eyes towards us only in so far as we happen to occupy the same position as his subject,” p. 14. Is the painter looking at us or at his subject/model? And what about the real painter who is outside the painting, what is his real subject, is it himself looking at himself or looking at others? Are we the seen or the seeing? Prior to Velasquez, these problems (observer/observed) had not appeared in art in a self-conscious manner. Foucault’s incredibly insightful analysis of the painting shows the folly of treating history as homogenized continuity.
However, at each point of dissolution, the organized are immediately returned to an unseen order just as in primordiality. In other words, there is nothing modern about death, and the so-called modern is dissolved in the same manner as the pre-modern was—unceremoniously, and in contradiction to the accumulated history that conspired toward collective immortality. This is the basic (unarticulated) conundrum that faces modernity: How is it that the promise of an indefinite, homogenized public time does nothing to augment private time, which comes to an end abruptly? All the public symbolisms and externalities notwithstanding, this fundamental truth must be the pedagogical baseline from which to judge all experience, otherwise we get blindsided by a perverse sense of time. Third, modernity invents a constantly shifting vanishing point along the horizon of the ‘new’ which promises the arrival of a new dawn that never arrives, or is instantaneously displaced by a new vanishing point. Modernity thus becomes a permanent deferral: On that horizon, all experience ultimately counts for nothing, as it merely stands in for something else till the latter itself is displaced in turn. This sense of endless transition becomes the essential characteristic of experience. Educational experience too becomes a meaningless affair on this slope of endless slippage. The attempt of modernity is to give this temporal slippage an artificial meaning—content that is provided from the outside by elite histories within which meaning and experience are reinvented. Such histories are modernizing in the sense that the results of synchronic comparisons are ordered diachronically to produce a scale of development which defines ‘progress’ in terms of the projection of certain people’s presents as other people’s futures, at the level of the development of history as a whole. As such, they are indeed homogenizing. But this homogenization is premised upon a differentiation which must first be recognized in order to be negated. Furthermore, in order for this negation to occur and homogenization to be achieved, some specific criterion must be introduced to set up a further differential, within the newly homogenized time, so as to provide a content for the concept of ‘progress’. Thus, when Anderson argues that the temporality of modernity knows no internal principle of variation, he is only partly right. He is right to the extent that the concept of modernity, in its basic theoretical form, itself furnishes no such principle. He is wrong, however, insofar as it must find one elsewhere, if there is to be any way of identifying the historically, as opposed to the merely chronologically, ‘new’. This is the role of so-called ‘theories of modernity’: to provide a content to
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fill the form of the modern, to give it something more than an abstract temporal determinacy.20
The success of homogenized time in providing modern societies with a theory of advancement—content—has been unprecedented since the seventeenth century. Thus, even when we actually experience first-hand the systematic human destruction of planetary life, we refuse to believe or do anything about it because our invented ‘content’ has told us we are progressing. Again, even when the unbridled use of technology has brought about civilizational crisis after crisis, the ‘content’ has convinced us that we are on the verge of a technological breakthrough that is just over the horizon and about to redeem us. With touching zeal, we have marginalized social criticism as the discourse of disaffected groups, and traditional intellectuals have routinely scoffed at those who broke ranks with modernity as nihilists or new-age nuts. What lies outside and beyond the time of modernity is difficult to articulate since it is culturally diverse, phenomenologically immanent, and ontologically non-homogenized. However, hints are available from a wide variety of philosophico-anthropological sources. There is the time of eternity or duration that philosophers and seers have spoken of, which points to a very different experience of time. Eternity does not mean something indefinitely prolonged or unthinkably long. It is simply the sense of a radically different and non-measurable flow variously termed through history. From the Greeks to the early Christian philosophers, from Egyptians to the Vedic Indians, all have spoken about a sense of time that was not Chronos or temporal succession. In the Apostle Paul’s letters (Romans), we find mention of Kairos or messianic time, that is, a time of involution in which things start reversing upon themselves toward Parousia. It is not my intention here to discuss these alternate visions of time—I have given them considerable attention elsewhere. Rather, we are tasked with the pedagogic problem of opening up the rigid and stubborn conceptions of space and time with which we have become accustomed to managing our reality production. However, in passing I wish to acknowledge the work of the philosopher Henri Bergson, a major thinker of our times who struggled to demonstrate the ontological aspect of time against the overwhelming scientific current of his age. Bergson saw clearly that science or scientific epistemology was unable to address the central questions of existence, Peter Osborne, op. cit., p. 29.
which were related to time and change. Science merely took for granted what needed to be explained. Causal sequences were reversible, at least in theory, and hence for science time was not of any interest. But life was not reversible, and this irreversibility was at odds with scientific time. A recurrent theme in all of Bergson’s writings is the inadequacy of intelligence, science, and thus epistemology to address the most central questions of existence. Science has remained impressively adept in the manipulation of matter, but remarkably inept, mechanical, and abstract in understanding what is living and subject to change. Both his earliest critics, who affirm the more or less limitless value of science and logic in explaining and ordering the real (Russell, Huxley), and his postmodern opponents, who affirm that the real is only ever accessible through [discursive] synthesis (Derrida and deconstructionism), share a belief in the coincidence of epistemology/ representation/discourse with the real, the collapse of ontology into epistemology. If there is a real that cannot be measured, represented, or known, then it remains, so it is believed, below philosophy’s threshold of relevance. What these otherwise antagonistic positions—positivism, postmodernism—share, it seems, is that representations, whether mathematical (for Russell) or discursive (for Derrida), are our only means of access to the real, the way we signify or construct the real. Neither considers, as Bergson suggests, that the real is not only that which discourse produces or depicts but also that which occasions and contextualizes action.21
Science speaks of time as causal succession and denies that there is anything intrinsic to it. And since there is nothing substantial to time, for science, time is reversible, as physical processes are (at least theoretically) reversible. In other words, a reaction can be reversed to get back to the original point of departure, taking time out of the equation. But in the experience of the living this is not so—for instance, we cannot bring back the dead by reversing reactions. So, what can we say about the nature of time that will take us past this difficulty? The question that needs to be answered is: What is the nature of our activities that makes us speak of time in the first place? In other words, what sets in motion the action that contextualizes time before it mixes with, and becomes part of, other normalized discourses? (Kant attempted to overcome this problem by taking time—and space—as the a priori of 21 Elizabeth Grosz, The Nick of Time: Politics, Evolution, and the Untimely (NSW, Australia: Allen & Unwin, 2004), p. 191.
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experience, which merely begged the question). When we suppress this question and naively assume the observer as the external timekeeper, then what follows is the relegation of time to the background. That which triggers science itself cannot be understood within scientific discourse, but pedagogically it cannot be ignored. To understand this problem, we need the help of not scientific epistemology but what may be called philosophical anthropology. Through the Bergsonian lens we are led to find another time that is not conceptual but which is durational, the inner flow of change, of which experience is constituted. The pedagogy of the twice- born requires us only to change the angle of vision by acknowledging the limits of the commonsense perspective or the mundane idea of time. The earnest inquiry introduced into the perception of temporality changes the very orientation of the being. It is not a matter of conceptualization, or a fresh idea of time, or anything of that kind; it is rather the feeling of passage in the soma. This inward feeling of passage, or sensitivity to qualitative change in the somatic manifold is the pedagogic move envisaged here toward a new relation with time. Experience of time in the soma leads to a somatic time that is durational rather than chronic. It alters the manner of our looking upon our relations with the phenomenal world, with life, being, and death. The culture of commonsense is no longer the dominant representational force, because now force itself speaks and is not merely represented through the symbol. It is time now to move to the second of the historically produced oppositions that I mentioned in the opening lines of the present chapter—the opposition between mind and body. Conventional wisdom holds the mind to be qualitatively different from the body, and proceeds to draw conclusions about the world and ourselves from those presumptions. Having assumed a qualitative difference between mind and body or matter and consciousness, philosophers such as Descartes proceeded to give complex theories such as interactionism to explain how the body and the mind interacted, maintaining a duality throughout, a commonsensical position that had to be justified. But Leibniz took a bold step in a different direction, and denying the Cartesian dualism, established his idea of parallelism or a pre-established harmony between mind and matter. In Monadology and New system of Nature, he attempted to explain how perception was possible or, to put it differently, how a unified mental life was conceivable that could adequately embrace ‘matter.’ Ultimately, for Leibniz, there was no such thing as material substance or extensionality that is radically and qualitatively different from mind or consciousness. He saw it as a
matter of emphasis. In a letter written in 1687 to Arnauld, Leibniz elaborated: I believe that where there are only beings through aggregation, there will not even be real beings. For every being through aggregation presupposes beings endowed with a true unity, because it obtains its reality from nowhere but that of its constituents, so that it will have no reality at all if each constituent being is still an entity through aggregation; or else, one must yet seek another basis to its reality, which in this way, if one must constantly go on searching, can never be found…. If there are aggregates of substances, there must also be genuine substances from which all the aggregates result. One must therefore necessarily arrive either at mathematical points from which certain authors make up extension, or at Epicurus’ and M. Cordemoy’s atoms (which you, like me, dismiss), or else one must acknowledge that no reality can be found in bodies, or finally one must recognize certain substances in them that possess a true unity.22
In Leibniz’s view (similar to Spinoza), all matter is aggregate, meaning composed of other matter, and indefinitely so, down the line (this science has shown beyond doubt). Every extended mass appears to us so because of composites upon composites. Hence, matter has no final substance or reality. That is to say, in the ultimate analysis, and logically, there can be no such thing as matter as independent reality. Of course, commonsense ignores this and invests in the idea of matter as independent reality. Small wonder then that whatever humans do is ultimately error-prone and fraught with contradiction (in terms of well-being), as the very line of thought is ontologically faulty. But to go on with Leibniz, he speaks of ‘primitive unities’ or ‘first elements’ as real beings that are not composites. It is not very clear what these primary unities are, although they seem like souls in the Aristotelian sense. Thus, up to a point, Leibniz brings us along very well and usefully helps us to distance ourselves from the Cartesian dualism. But beyond a point we cannot get any further with him in our understanding, as the old idea of something primary or primitive continues to linger, coming over from the domain of commonsense of his times. Moving away from the naïve mind/body dualism—naïve because it is commonsensical and does not hold up to critical scrutiny—we turn to 22 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, The Leibniz-Arnauld Correspondence, Transl. and Ed. by H.T. Mason, (Manchester: Manchester UP, 1967).
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Henri Bergson’s view, a position both highly intuitive and critical of the commonsense perspective, to see if he can offer us a way around this problem. Bergson, as we know, had done fundamental work on the nature of time, and his fame included his well-known clash with Einstein on the question of the temporal dimension of existence. But Bergson also had very important things to say about what we experience as matter, for the inner structure of matter was duration, which was also the basis of consciousness and memory. Below, I use some insightful writings on Bergson by the philosopher Elizabeth Grosz to explore the issue. The strange inventiveness of Bergson’s conception of the relations between matter and memory, or, in more conventional philosophical terms, between body and mind, becomes apparent at the very opening of Matter and Memory. He defines matter, not in terms of substance or extension, as it has been generally understood in the Cartesian tradition, but in terms of images: matter is the ongoing production or profusion of images. The structure of matter is imagistic, which is not to claim that it is reduced to the imagistic perception of a subject (i.e., idealism) or that the image is necessarily or in any privileged manner visual. Matter is conceptualized as midway between the image, so central to idealism, and the object-in-itself, so central to materialism. Matter is an aggregate of images that occasion, in the presence of a perceiver, a series of multisensory perceptions, images capable of representation by many if not all of the senses and by other perceivers: “Matter, in our view, is an aggregate of ‘images.’ And by ‘image’ we mean a certain existence which is more than that which the idealist calls a representation, but less than that which the realist calls a thing—an existence placed half-way between the ‘thing’ and the ‘representation.”’23
This ‘image’ is not my image of you or your image of something else. It is not representation of an object. Manifestation self-records itself as manifest from the primal moment, which is an activation that we can call memory, otherwise there would be no such thing as the world as we know it—things might randomly manifest and dis-manifest with no record or continuity. In fact, it is even problematic to use the word ‘manifest’—for, manifest to whom? Hence manifestation simultaneously presumes memory. And the world therefore is nothing but image-impresses in memory (not anyone’s memory, but memory in itself). It is a self-existing image and does not require subject/object dualism. Body and mind are simply Elizabeth Grosz, op. cit., p. 164.
two sides of this image-process. The subject’s appearance is nothing other than an aggregate of images, and its looking upon the ‘world’ is nothing but the link between its accumulated self-image and incoming images. In one brilliant stroke the old opposition between subject and object, or between matter and consciousness, is demolished. Bergson’s doctrine of the imagistic nature of matter is linked to this fundamentally pragmatic understanding of our relations to matter. The universe is an aggregate of images. These images act and react with each other according to relatively predictable principles, which we describe through scientific or natural laws. The images that constitute the material universe, in their lawlike operations, are in principle perfectly predictable, which means, following a Laplacean model, that a super or divine intelligence, a god or demon, which could somehow picture all of the interactions of these images, would be able to predict their future. Their future is already contained in their present, just as the present could have been predicted from a perfect knowledge of the past.24
We must not think of appearances in terms of the old commonsensical determinism and become caught up again in the interminable debates surrounding the objectivation of the subject. That old idea already presupposes a subject/object duality, and takes for granted a sovereign actor (who is determined or has free will, etc.). With the subject/object opposition replaced by an imagistic ontology, the problem changes color. The ‘self’ itself is an image moving among many images, which is neither determined nor free in the usual sense, but is simply interacting with other images, being constantly modified and produced among multiple determinations. By isolating the image from all other images, it appears to be ‘free,’ but when reinserted into everything else there is no supplementary dimension from which such judgments can be made (in other words, the question itself disappears). Among these images that constitute the materiality of the universe is the image of my body, a material object like all others, except in one respect. Whereas the images that constitute the universe can be known only from outside, through perception, the image(s) that constitute my body are capable of being known from within, through affection. My body occupies a privileged position insofar as it is a moving center through which I gain Ibid.
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access to and perception of all the other objects and is thus a continually reorienting framework through which objects are contained or represented in a field surrounding it, a context….Unlike inorganic objects, living bodies act as a kind of storehouse for energy, containing within themselves, in varying degrees, the possibility of choosing when and how to act and react: “My body, then, is the aggregate of the material world, an image which acts like other images, receiving and giving back movement, with, perhaps, this difference only, that my body appears to choose, within certain limits, the manner in which it shall restore what it receives … My body, an object destined to move other objects, is, then, a center of action.”25
In the case of that which I call my body, in addition to the image there is also direct access to a store of organic energy that can make selections and/or propel the image toward other images in a continuous economy of exchange and transfer. The privileged position of ‘my body’ is not privileged in the sense of being constituted of some sovereign principle. It is privileged only in the sense of being a center of action—a surging image that can organize or manipulate other images. The body is thus essentially a storehouse of potentiality that is constantly mediating between the outer and the inner, including the sum of images that is mind. An approach of this kind allows us to throw out the mind/body dualism that has dogged Western philosophy for centuries, and instead move ahead with a very different and creatively emergent worldview within which a dualism such as mind/body or matter/consciousness is a question of relative emphasis and pragmatic context rather than anything fundamental or ontological. This releases us from a great burden of tradition; it is worth mentioning that any serious praxis is a release from habits and the piety of thought, which will be reiterated in the final section below. Lastly, we have to deal with the third of the dualisms that has crippled Western thought including, obviously, education, namely the opposition between intellect and intuition. To go beyond this opposition is to embrace the praxis of the twice-born. Much of the nature and ontogenesis of this opposition has already been discussed in an earlier chapter. Here, we will return to the question briefly, and ask ourselves what precisely are instinct and intuition that seem to govern so much action in other species. An understanding of this will help us distinguish it from the action of mechanical habit which cannot be redemptive. Ibid., p. 165.
What exactly is this instinct that directs bees, ants, and wasps with such intimacy and refinement to the contours of their environment and to the detailed physiology of their prey? Bergson claims that we cannot understand instinct in terms of habit, that is, a learned chain of responses to a given situation. Habit is a modality of intelligence. Instinct, for him, is closely linked, not to a compressed and synthesized chain of (past) activities reanimated in the present, but to the development and specialization of bodily movements, to the elaboration of the insect’s bodily morphology or morphological potential: “The most marvelous instincts of the insect do nothing but develop its special structure into movements.” Instincts are the mobilization of organs and bodily attributes into focused and concerted action. Where there is a social division of labor through different “classes” of insect, there is a corresponding morphological difference: different instincts are distributed in different bodily forms. This is really another way of saying that insects use their bodily forms as tools.26
Instinct is not mere habit and recall of complex chains of activities, rather it is the actualization of morphological potential of the body. In other words, it is the actualization of physiognomic possibilities in which there is a translation of specific organic structure into focused movement and concerted action. The body becomes a tool for interacting with the environment in order to produce precise and desired results. The instinct is by no means something mechanical but includes elements of freedom and choice within performative limits. Bergson writes: “Instinct finds the appropriate instrument at hand: this instrument, which makes and repairs itself, which presents, like all works of nature, an infinite complexity of detail combined with a marvelous simplicity of function, does at once, when required, what it is called upon to do, without difficulty and with a perfection that is wonderful.”27 What we witness here is a corporeal intelligence of a profound kind that is in line with ontological substance or cosmic orientation. And this brings us to the notion of intuition. When instinct is able to turn inward, rather than remain facing outward alone, it attains the level of intuition. What do we mean by turning inward? In time, within instinct, there grows a level of awareness that we might call a directed self-consciousness whereby it is able to orient itself in chosen directions in an unmediated and direct manner. As an illustration of this, Ibid., pp. 224–225. Henri Bergson, Creative Evolution, Trans. Arthur Mitchell (New York: Modern Library, 1944), p. 140. 26 27
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say, the body experiences a certain physical difficulty. In response, the instincts drive it toward temporarily shutting down the gastric system. This would remain episodic, but a nascent intuition would be able to connect it to many actions and inactions, circumstances and exigencies, sensations and reactions, together which create a deep inner map that continually gets modified and is eternally emergent. One level of intuition leads to the next, and so on, continually leading to new relations with the world and the image called the self. The process is phenomenological rather than cultural. In machinic civilizations, that have externalized wholesale their tools and created homogeneous structures rather than encourage human-scale, unique, and ad hoc solutions to problems, the question of instinct-intuition has long since disappeared from sight. We either disparage the notion itself today, or casually dismiss it saying humans have lost their instincts, enamored as we are with instrumental reason. The immense potential of the bodily intuition and the performative instincts are pushed into idleness, as large-scale equipment and institutional solutions take over. We ourselves are put on ‘stand-by,’ as managed societies take over making us forget our own instincts and intuitions. This is a statement of fact and not one of glorification or romanticization of intuition. Humans have never known their limits and the point beyond which things turn counter-productive. Instead, we have always prided ourselves on the limitlessness of our possibilities, not realizing that this apparent ‘limitlessness’ does not lie in any one dimension alone, severed from all the others. Such naïveté extracts heavy toll on lived life as it pays the price of shortsightedness in public attitude. The modern form of reason has suffered from the blindness of its conceit, choking out all the other dimensions of knowing and being, reducing us to the one-dimensional. Reason is extraordinarily important in its large-scale generalizations about the outer world, and in linking up everything in a useful narrative. However, when it comes to lived life and the flow of psycho-emotive existence, it does not significantly add anything. That is why, affluent civilizations, relying on the tools and models of rationality, have not necessarily emerged as wise or happy cultures. Let us now gather together the phenomenological insights gained through our examination of space, time, mind, body, intellect and intuition, and its meaning for the pedagogy of the twice-born. With the awareness of duration, the twice-born learns to live each instant at a time without ‘dipping’ into public time, having overcome or transcended the fallacy of such a borrowing. S/he tries to find the meaning of lapse and change from
an inner perspective without reference to outer succession. This does not mean chronic time, or time according to the clock has no more relevance. Rather, this makes each instant appear different and not as a waiting-for- something that is characteristic of human existence in general. The ‘Waiting-for-Godot’ syndrome is replaced by a new expansive significance of each lapse and every change within the being. The Heideggerian facing- toward-death has now a different meaning; death is now a culmination or a fulfillment of duration, and is not an end of life. With regard to spatiality, the twice-born discovers a hierophantic space within oneself, differential spatial densities, that are not held in common with the homogenized spatiality in the extension (outer world). The patina of imaginary homogeneity superimposed on variable space is peeled off to expose differential densities. The twice-born acknowledges this, and is thus progressively released from the domination of uniformly political space to discover for herself or himself unique topologies that run parallelly with public space. Here we no longer remain mere subjects of accidental forces; the twice- born learns to govern density and enter different spaces that yield qualitatively different experience. I am not suggesting that through the discriminated awareness of spatial densities one enters some kind of Alice- in-Wonderland terrain. However, intense awareness can come to distinguish innate qualitative differences between say, a space of aesthetic acuity, and a space of mundane exchanges. Each such experience brings about changes in the entity along with an expansion in existential possibilities and a quiet release into autonomous richness. This flows into our contention with the next set of oppositions namely mind/body dualism. The basic requirement for the praxis of the twice- born is the overcoming of this traditional dichotomy. The division is replaced by an existential continuity that preserves psychic energy. This is not something one has actually to do, for, in reality, there is no such opposition. This ‘ghost’ opposition is cast aside by negating the ghost and adopting an ontology that re-unites mind and body. This gives the twice- born the experience of fullness and totality, an experience that modernity cannot conceive of, caught as it is, within a web of oppositions and conflictual attitudes. Finally, we have the re-birth of intuition and instinct in the twice-born. This allows the twice-born to experience depths below her/his knowable and known self, sinking to desiderata built in at the ontological level and not merely at the epistemic level. As such, consciousness emerges “not in the perfect functioning of instinct, but in its thwarted operations. It is
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when the instinct fails to attain its end that consciousness appears. Consciousness, then, is the result of the deficit of instinct; its appearance is ‘accidental,’ epiphenomenal.”28 In other words, a hindrance or problem that prevents the operation of an instinctive mode of behavior is what generates the necessity of some intervention, an appearance of consciousness, some reorientation of activity. Working back into instinct involves, first, an understanding of the process of emergence of consciousness and not taking it for granted, and second, traversing backward to the point of its emergence through careful observation and discrimination of the movement of ordinary consciousness. As the point of origin never goes away and is merely submerged under the tide of consciousness, a concerted effort to return to the point hermeneutically is always possible through a series of negations. Such is the phenomenology of the twice- born that takes us through the labyrinthine processes by which organic continuities had become replaced by dichotomies, and returns us to the source of the divergences.
References Bhagvad Gita Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007). Elizabeth Grosz, The Nick of Time: Politics, Evolution, and the Untimely (NSW, Australia: Allen & Unwin, 2004). Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, The Leibniz-Arnauld Correspondence, Transl. and Ed. by H.T. Mason, (Manchester: Manchester UP, 1967). Henri Bergson, Creative Evolution, Trans. Arthur Mitchell (New York: Modern Library, 1944). Michel Foucault, The Order of Things (New York: Routledge, 2002). Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion, (Transl.) Willard R. Trask (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World Inc., 1958). Peter Osborne, The Politics of Time: Modernity and Avant-Garde (London: Verso, 1995). R. D. Laing, The Politics of Experience (Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin Books, 1967).
Elizabeth Grosz, op. cit., p. 236.
Conclusion: Orbits of Intensity
The education of the twice-born is not the experience of individuals qua individuals; it is the education of reciprocal ensembles, phenomenological intensities, passional orbits, sensory manifolds, and attitudinal gestalts that are sub-individual, pre-individual, and even post-individual. In the present analysis, a critical question mark hangs over conventional individuality which seems to give way before diverse intensities of experience. The somatic manifold potentially consists of many orbits or planes of intensity, as we have discussed. But the conventionally active one is usually the lowest one, or the one made up of proprioceptive habit. Its mental associate is commonsense. Together, these leave us on a schismogenic (fragmented and conflictual) plane that is ultimately uncreative and uneducable for the simple reason that the world cannot be adequately known in such an isolated way. The physical, the psychical, and the mental are all in it together, and the one without the other cannot produce emancipatory meaning (whatever else it may produce in the external world). A second problem with uncritical cognitive habit and commonsense is that we are overwhelmed by the status quo. There is too much accretion around us, too much civilizational debris that tends to overwhelm the gentle urgings of intuition and self-knowledge, of inner rhythm and relationality. We are habituated to seeing everything through the haze and clutter of isolated objects whose weight is crushingly upon us. The present, when it is in terms of the accumulation of the past, can never be a living present but a dead weight that prevents insight. The living present is a liquid © The Author(s) 2020 K. Roy, Reincarnating Experience in Education, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-53548-3_7
indeterminate, a durational flow that is the ontological source of experience. We all experience this strangeness at certain moments, which is quickly dismissed as an oddity, pushed away into some obscure corner of the consciousness. All experience must ultimately aim at backing into the liquid flow of basic experience, the source from where intelligibility and meaning emerge. The pedagogy of the twice-born must be alert to these subtle movements of consciousness, and seize upon these as revelatory, in order to go beyond the everyday. The pedagogy of the twice-born is both a struggle against mediocrity at the epistemic level as well as against the continuous rattling of memory (history) at the ontological level. Mediocrity is the vicious grip of the presumptuous and the settled stance that refuses to go all the way to the point of emergence in the search for authentic meaning. Memory is the material screen that denies the understanding of potentiality. Both of these have to be pushed aside with a tremendous effort of the will, till the chatter of commonsense is relatively silenced. The proper development and pedagogical enhancement of phenomenological tension is the only tool we possess to glimpse or locate unfragmented reality (that lies beneath the reality of isolates). But it brings us closer to life itself with its unpredictability and the penchant for spontaneous action and self-transformation. In pointing to the continuity between life forms without the possibility of movement (storage), and those endowed with movement (spontaneous action), Bergson observed: To execute a movement, the imprisoned energy is liberated. All that is required is, as it were, to press a button, touch a hair-trigger, apply a spark: the explosion occurs, and the movement in the chosen direction is accomplished. The first living beings appear to have hesitated between the vegetable and animal life: this means that life, at the outset, undertook to perform the twofold duty, both to fabricate the explosive and to utilize it in movements. As vegetables and animals became differentiated, life split of in two kingdoms, thus separating from one another the two functions primitively united. The one became more preoccupied with the fabrication of explosives, the other, with their explosion. But life as a whole, whether we envisage it at the start or at the end of its evolution, is a double labour of slow accumulation and sudden discharge.1
Henri Bergson, Mind Energy, Trans. Wildon Carr (London: Macmillan, 1921), p. 214.
7 CONCLUSION: ORBITS OF INTENSITY
We use the ‘explosives’ created by vegetable life in order to generate delay, uncertainty, and sudden unpredictable action. In other words, we are entirely dependent on those life forms who prepare us for the possibility of motile action and surprise. There is inherent continuity between storage (plant life) and spontaneous action (mobile life). This means that our commonsensical ideas of ourselves as independent beings are in need of serious revision. Our existence is continuous and coterminous with other forms of life taken together, and hence existential meaning can only emerge from this perspective. In other words, the meaning of experience can only be understood against the totality. It is this perspective of emergence, a principle that is always exploding outward without a pre- determined plan, that is ingrained in the becoming of the twice-born, and not a preoccupation with the isolated procession of finished matter that is essentially a dead pageantry. It acknowledges the schematization of the intellectualized life, while at all times remaining aware of the deeper phenomenological stream from which those very schemas emerge. This changes the manner in which we view our relationships with the world at large. “[W]hen we isolate material systems, when we cut them out of the continuity in which they occur, we transform them and enable them to be schematized, outlined, rendered manipulable, to become the objects of scientific knowledge and predictability.”2 There is nothing wrong with this insofar as it results in a certain expansion of the world of action. But insofar as the lived world of experience is concerned, “we live the world in a manner much more complex and more integrated with matter than our conceptual apparatus is able to comprehend, largely because thought itself has a practical function: thought performs an abstract or schematized separation of objects from each other and of subjects from objects. It is in this sense that thought is inadequate to life, that life is always richer and more complex, more integrated and simple than thought can comprehend.”3 We can distinguish between our knowing the material world intellectually and our living in it somatically. Thought is oriented toward action and is the result of our accidental brush with things. It is good with manipulation of the objectified world since it arises in a reciprocal relation with it, but is wholly inadequate when it comes to comprehending the movement of life. The pedagogy of the twice-born must take into account both ways 2 Elizabeth Grosz, The Nick of Time: Politics, Evolution, and the Untimely (NSW, Australia: Allen & Unwin, 2004), p. 197. 3 Ibid.
of knowing—the intuitive-phenomenological as well as the rational- intellectual—to avoid becoming one-dimensional, and to remain creatively engaged with emergent reality. This is the movement of the self without the constriction of the socially constructed ego; it has no other agenda than coming close to the movement of life itself, and therefore to truth and love. At physical birth, we are thrust into a world that is fixated on material preoccupations and technological transformations. It seems to affirm our own apparent materiality, and hence we grow to trust it. But, in actuality, life is full of innate surprise that is unmatched in matter. There is no hidden latency or potential in matter since it is a fully expressed form. “This amounts to saying that matter cannot exercise powers of any kind other than those which we perceive. It has no mysterious virtue; it can conceal none.”4 And yet our one-sided addiction to the world of things essentially belies this truth. We are used to fetishizing objects and giving them totemic value; social hierarchies are built based on relative control of the objective world. This brings planetary conditions to the edge of catastrophe as it is the pursuit of a false line. Living beings are qualitatively different from the world of the expressed, because the living incorporates potential—the living introduces time through elaboration and actualization of the potential, and therefore we have the experience of productive hesitation, a keen sensation of becoming that is pedagogically invaluable for the understanding of autonomy. “Thus the living being essentially has duration; it has duration precisely because it is continuously elaborating what is new and because there is no elaboration without searching, no searching without groping. Time is this very hesitation.”5 The potential and the temporal elaboration is what distinguishes the living from the world of things, and the searching and groping are part of a theater of experiments in becoming, or a continual unfolding. In other words, being is continual disclosure to itself, of itself, by itself, by means of search. It is fundamentally independent of the diffracted world (of objects), but moves through the multiplicity in order to regain its essential unity by virtue of a remembrance, an act in a direction opposite to the general social amnesia. The movement from a virtual unity to an actual multiplicity requires that there is a certain leap, this time a leap of innovation or creativity, the surprise 4 5
Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1911), p. 71. Henri Bergson, The Creative Mind (New York: Philosophical Library, 1946), p. 93.
7 CONCLUSION: ORBITS OF INTENSITY
that the virtual leaves within the actual. If realization is the concretization of a preexistent plan, program, or blueprint, by contrast, actualization is the opening up of the virtual to what befalls it. It is fundamentally unpredictable, innovative. In the terms of another discourse, actualization is individuation, the creation of singularity (whether physical, psychical, or social), insofar as the processes of individuation predate the individual yet the individual is a somehow open-ended consequence of these processes. Individuation contains the “ingredients” of individuality without in any way planning or preparing for it. This indeed is what life, élan vital, is of necessity: a movement of differentiation of virtualities in light of the contingencies that befall it.6
From pure potentiality, or singularity, life makes a move toward expression, leaving its trace in the actual. We have to keep this in mind in our attempt to retrace our steps to authentic disclosure. A leap of (inward) creative innovation is the existential condition for bringing around the living being to face its own disclosure, an open-ended process that might look strange at first to the already alienated, and even painful to comprehend because it is not symbolic. The difference between the ‘individual’ and the twice-born is that the ‘individual’ begins to realize himself in relation to a discrete material reality and thereby become fragmented himself in the mirror of that reality, whereas the twice-born returns to the innovative unpredictability of the point of emergence with a creative effort of the will. The individual, living as a reciprocal reflection of the fragmented-expressed, sees himself as a finished product, whereas the twice-born learns to feel deeply in the somatic manifold and remains close to the indeterminate source or potential. Elites and power groups move within the death-knell of anti- metaphysical certainty, whereas the twice-born moves along a living uncertainty, a permanent hesitation within which all objects appear before it with an intimation of creative strangeness alongside their usual familiarity. What then can we say constitutes the necessary intellectual effort on the part of the twice-born, for unless we begin to gather a sense of this conatus, we cannot speak meaningfully of a pedagogy. We know that consciousness along with the psycho-emotive element can mechanically participate in habitual responses, and thought can comfortably think in the deep grooves of socialized habit. But authentic intellectual conatus is different—it consists in the perilous awareness of a world beyond the 6
Elizabeth Grosz, op. cit., p. 189.
word, of affective patterns that connect the intellect with the intuitive, the somatic, and the psychic dimensions, raising the intensity of existential trajectory to an orbit of difference. From this intensified connectedness we proceed to make emancipatory sense of the world. We argue sometimes as though reading and listening consisted in using the words seen or heard as spring-boards from each of which we jump to the corresponding idea, and then set the ideas side by side. The experimental study of reading and of hearing words shows us that what happens is quite different. It is a great mistake to suppose that we begin by seeing and hearing, and that afterwards, having got the perception, we go looking for a memory like it in order to recognize it. The fact is that it is the memory which makes us see and hear, and the perception is incapable by itself of evoking the memory which resembles it, because, to do that, it must have already taken form and itself be complete; now, it only becomes complete and acquires a distinct form through that very memory, which slips into it and supplies most of its content. If this be so, then, it must be the meaning, before everything, which guides us in the reconstruction of forms and sounds. What we see of the sentence read, what we hear of the sentence spoken, is only what is necessary to place us in the corresponding class of ideas.7
The pedagogy of the twice-born does not delude itself that we proceed from perception to cognition. Rather, there is the intuition of meaning which then helps the elements fall in place, from which, in turn, coalesce cognitive constellates. This is a singular departure from the empiricist- positivist notion that meaning arises afterward from the bits and pieces of available sights and sounds that generate patterns. Meaning lies somewhere between the psychic and the symbolic, or the intuitive-affective and the intellectual, guiding us in the construction of ‘reality.’ In other words, we set out from reciprocal relations, collective archetypes, psychic imprints, evolutionary tendencies, and potential virtualities to make sense of the world. These are not mental elements, but spread throughout our being, which is the psychic-somatic manifold. Finding resonances in the outer world, we navigate and produce knowledge that generates a feed-back process of intelligible differentia. “The intellectual effort to interpret, to comprehend, to pay attention, is then a movement of the dynamic scheme in the direction of the image which develops it. It is a continuous 7
Henry Bergson, Mind Energy, pp. 206–207.
7 CONCLUSION: ORBITS OF INTENSITY
transformation of abstract relations, suggested by the objects perceived, into concrete images.”8 An emergent tension develops the image as an artist develops the object of interest. This is not to suggest that everything falls into pre-determined schemas, but that the observer and the observed are patterns of tension that reflect each other in fundamental ways. The pedagogy of the twice-born is the realization of the arc of somatic-psychic tension in the presence of the symbolic, rather than the cognitive realization of the symbolic apparatus alone. In other words, the emphasis is on the progressive realization of the different phenomenological orbits and intensities we can inhabit, together with the objective realizations of the outer world. We are moved from a mass of discrete cognitive acquisitions to focus on the central tension between the phenomenological interiorities and the expressions in extensity. Perceiving the being as a continual passage between the virtual and the actual is the ontological shift that we must achieve in the pedagogy of the twice-born. Conventional education forges ahead with the uniform positivity of conceptual schemas, not suspecting the true relation between the plurality of phenomenological planes and the corresponding reality production. The two are deemed to be independent. This is the essential error that turns the world upside down and introduces false relations that take root in the world-system of thought. The pedagogy of the twice-born focuses on relations rather than objects, on connections rather than isolates, and on intensification rather than acquisition. The experience of the twice- born is thus Janus-headed—it simultaneously experiences phenomenologically the creative dynamic of intensity even as it reacts to the world pragmatically. It does not delude itself that it is experiencing an independent reality, while at the same time it cherishes and wonders about the objective world. The experiential contact with the world brings illumination rather than expansion, deepening rather than widening, continuity rather than discreteness, and compassion rather than alienation. We return ourselves to the living ferment of the autopoietic moment. The mobilization of the self is the true experience of the twice-born. This mobilization is on the physical, mental, and the psychic planes—when all of these are in phase the experience of the world is different and less problematic than when the world is experienced on the plane of division alone. The experience of the mobilization of the self is an efficient presence that is at once cause and effect. While the separation of cause and effect brings about a 8
Ibid., p. 210.
world, the fleeting immobility—the brief non-separation of cause and effect—brings back into us the creative impetus that can unfold in our somatic-intuitional manifold in a wholesome manner. Let us call this emerging vista a tensor field—from the discrete individual we turn to phenomenological topoi, with in-tension and coherence marking out topological relations rather than discrete realms. That is to say, step-by-step we move away from the common way of thinking about the learner and learning and therefore about pedagogy itself—with the discovery that the agogos is not for the paideia alone; it is for the total ensemble. The so-called mature adult (teacher, etc.) needs also to go through a transformation. It signifies a fundamental change in the way we perceive ourselves, the world around us, and of course, education. It is not as if the habitus of the commonsensical world ceases to exist; rather, a tropospheric permeation is gained side-by-side by means of which experience becomes the questioning of experience and living becomes emergent life even as we respond to the everyday. The pedagogy concerns impressing upon the will and the psyche this wholly different way of thinking and then allowing them to take the ontological turn following the emergent inner compass. What does all this mean in relation to everyday curriculum? Let us take the question of the presentation and teaching of mathematics as an example. As things stand, mathematical formulations are mostly given as expansions of tautological statements, that is, in the form, Left-hand-side = Right-hand-side (e.g., equations, series expansions, equalities, theorem proofs, trigonometric identities). The practical and aesthetic value lies in the expansion of these tautologies that do not yield any extraneous or added information, but achieve certain useful transparencies. In other words, there are transforms and elaborations of the original forms, which are of great pragmatic usefulness. What I am going to say next may be startling; nevertheless I speak out of my own experience. In view of all that has been said, a careful pondering over might persuade the reader that it is not surreal to claim that the denseness of the mathematical encryptions and their elaborations are not so very different from the denseness of the psychic-symbolic presentations of the self to itself, each aspect of which needs to be elaborated and transformed to be meaningful. The psychology of mathematics and the mathematics of psychology can intersect here yielding powerful results. When we look at mathematics only as a series of logical results we miss an important implication of these expansions and what they may hold in store for phenomenological interpretation.
7 CONCLUSION: ORBITS OF INTENSITY
The world and the self are given as dense codes that need creative elaboration for meaning to emerge, and this is as much true of the process we know as the self, as it is for mathematics, or any other subject matter that proceeds out of the self’s interactions with the world. All ultimately follow the same phenomenological rules, whether the encryption of reality is mathematical, physical, or psychical. But when the mere symbols become our totems, we are unable to go beyond the structured elements to the living, pulsating phenomenological reality. We get deeply impressed by the formal, which becomes a block to creative becoming. To picturize this further and get into some more details, we say a line/curve has a gradient which is its rate of change at any point. But the psyche too has a rate of change—a gradient that can be felt inwardly or observed, and unlike the commonplace notion that holds the psyche to be a stable entity (e.g., the individual), it is in reality a highly dynamic and changing element. Again, if trigonometry is about circular functions, the inner dynamic of the psyche is also wave-like, returning periodically to the initial point in a mechanical rhythm (the innate a priori knowledge alone makes it possible to speak of circularity in the first place). This analogy between the outer and the inner is not ridiculous, nor is it a confusion of domains or levels. But why did we consider the mathematical example? We did so because mathematics is given absolute objective status, and considered most remote, having nothing to do with subjectivity. This removal from the creative process of the living drives an unnecessary wedge between the abstract and the lived reality. The essence of the mathematical can be a felt reality as much as, say, the musical or the artistic. The matter of note in all of this is that there is nothing purely external without its ‘inner’ correlate, and a discipline must be taught keeping both in mind—such is the pedagogy of the twice-born, which takes us beyond the Cartesian division between res extensa and res cogitans. Of course, it goes without saying that one must go about this with great care and not in a whimsical or offhand fashion that misrepresents the analogous relation, or trivializes it. The ultimate purpose of pedagogy must always be kept in mind, which is to bring the psyche-soma onto a new and higher (more intense) plane of becoming and openness within a larger continuum. What is the pathway to such an eventuality? It is nothing other than progressive access to the decalcified and deroutinized ontological resources compressed in the being that are released in the presence, and with the aid, of formal coding (curriculum)—a resonance is set up between the outer and the inner. This resonance is the pedagogy of the
twice-born. It forms the bridge between the outer and the inner to reveal a continuum that is missing from our worldview at present. We have been taught to worship empirical knowledge (rationalistic impulse) at one end, and we have learnt to adore the self (narcissistic impulse) at the other end. Taken by themselves, they are partial, isolationist, and bring disaster upon the world. It is only when they are correctly related that a holism is discovered in which there is no independent self or world, but a creative continuum that is forever emergent in an autopoietic manner. Can the above realization be operative throughout the curriculum? I believe it can, provided we come out of the servitude to dead knowledge, and instead learn to awaken the living cosmic and ontological layers latent in our being. This calls for a serious shift in the way we regard ourselves in relation to the world as well as our educational interventions. But once this shift is made, it is not impossible to impress upon the psycho-emotional energies the onus and striving necessary for a new direction. In the introduction, as well as intermittently through the text, I have turned to Eros as a leading concept. What do we mean by Eros here? It is the necessary condition of life. It is the binding agency of desire that holds the improbable together, pushing it toward higher and higher improbabilities (negentropic attainments). All experience must be framed against this basic drive. All experience, whether it is music or mathematics, science or art, must be understood as a conatus toward the rhythm of Eros that makes meaningful and coherent experience possible. In the case of the mammal, it begins with a tiny flutter in the womb; the minuscule heart begins its beat and is guided by Eros or a vital energy toward a fulfillment. However, the path to that fulfillment is fraught with difficulty, and experience remains neither simple nor direct. It is overlaid with commonsense meanings, unconscious deceptions, and deliberate treacheries, to the extent that it becomes almost impossibly hard to visualize the Eros that is the primordial root-meaning of all experience. In a scathing commentary on this systematic process of betrayal of ourselves, the psychologist- philosopher R. D. Laing wrote: Human beings seem to have an almost unlimited capacity to deceive themselves, and to deceive themselves into taking their own lies for truth. By such mystification, we achieve and sustain our adjustment, adaptation, socialization. But the result of such adjustment to our society is that, having been tricked and having tricked ourselves out of our minds, that is to say, out of our own personal world of experience, out of that unique meaning with
7 CONCLUSION: ORBITS OF INTENSITY
which potentially we may endow the external world, simultaneously we have been conned into the illusion that we are separate ‘skin-encapsuled egos’. Having at one and the same time lost our selves and developed the illusion that we are autonomous egos we are expected to comply by inner consent with external constraints, to an almost unbelievable extent….Let no one suppose that this madness exists only somewhere in the night or day sky where our birds of death hover in the stratosphere. It exists in the interstices of our most intimate and personal moments. We have all been processed on Procrustean beds. At least some of us have managed to hate what they have made of us. Inevitably we see the other as the reflection of the occasion of our own self-division.9
We are taught to like that which we actually detest; we are asked to admire those who only deserve our contempt; we are forced to sit in classrooms which we know to be useless; we are made to be dependent on jobs that no one wants to do; we are measured by yardsticks that do not really reveal anything about us; we are forced to be compliant when we actually feel rebellious—the contradictions that socially sustain us are endless. The net result of these contradictions and systematic deceptions is the socialized individual, a creature that can no longer distinguish between truth and falsity. A fixated ego, manufactured through social adjustments, seductions, oppositions, and mystifications, quickly takes the place of the creative becoming of the self. From this point on, experience is guided not by actual contact with the world and the possibility of meaning creation thereby, but a fraudulent patina of commonsensical and consensual interpretation and submission. Like addiction to processed food, our processed selves quickly lose the taste and capacity for authentic experience (to recuperate which, later, requires a kind of phenomenological ascesis). Once this loss occurs, we are into the game of manufactured consensus that takes the place of experience; we learn to ignore our authentic responses to the world. The history of heresies of all kinds testifies to more than the tendency to break off communication (excommunication) with those who hold different dogmas or opinions; it bears witness to our intolerance of different fundamental structures of experience. We seem to need to share a communal meaning to human existence, to give with others a commonsense to the world, to maintain a consensus. But it seems that once certain fundamental structures 9
R. D. Laing, The Politics of Experience (Baltimore, MD: Penguin books, 1967), pp. 61–62.
of experience are shared, they come to be experienced as objective entities. These reified projections of our own freedom are then introjected. By the time the sociologists study these projected-introjected reifications, they have taken on the appearance of things. They are not things ontologically. But they are pseudo-things. Thus far Durkheim was quite right to emphasize that collective representations come to be experienced as things, exterior to anyone. They take on the force and character of partial autonomous realities, with their own way of life. A social norm may come to impose an oppressive obligation on everyone, although few people feel it to be their own.10
In order to understand experience, therefore, we must first understand the structure of alienation from actual experience—our estrangement from our own experience and its subsumption under existing orders of reification. Shared social experiences eventually harden and begin to appear externally as part of an autonomous reality and a constraining network of social facts that in turn shape further experience. Over time, our vision adjusts into a tunnel vision that automatically rejects the world outside the tunnel, not unlike Plato’s cave dwellers who only saw and recognized their own shadows on the cave walls. A revolution or transformation in consciousness consists of awaking to this state of affairs in which we constantly live in denial of our own authentic experience and in conformity with a pseudo-reality. The violence of this pseudo-reality is insidious because it is not seen as violence at all but the principal means of maintaining society. Freud rightly saw the price of civilization as repression. But this goes even beyond repression; it leaves us on a terrain where there is nothing authentic anymore to repress, other than the repression of repression itself. What does this mean for the experience of education? Formal education demands familiarity with discourses, given that these discourses (disciplines) have a correspondence with empirical reality. Technical education, for example, must have a very precise correspondence with the reality it seeks to represent. No doubt this is necessary in negotiating the outer world adequately; nevertheless, it orients us to an agreed-upon reality that, through habit, loses sight of potentiality or becoming. In other words, in our obsession with existing reality, we forget that it is a reality we ourselves have largely generated, and continue to replicate through Ibid., p. 65.
7 CONCLUSION: ORBITS OF INTENSITY
current modes of education. Educational experience thus has no autonomous value or existence. It is a handmaiden of our current modes of existence and severely constricted by them. The question therefore arises: Is there a potential for another kind of educational experience, an aesthetically satisfying and phenomenologically authentic one? We will devote the rest of this conclusive chapter to this question. Let us begin with a brief excursus into the notion of the potential itself before we can speak of the potential for an authentic educational experience. If we recall that Aristotle always draws his examples of this potentiality…from the domain of the arts and human knowledge, then we may say that human beings, insofar as they know and produce, are those beings who, more than any other, exist in the mode of potentiality. Every human power is adynamia, impotentiality; every human potentiality is in relation to its own privation. This is the origin (and the abyss) of human power, which is so violent and limitless with respect to other living beings. Other living beings are capable only of their specific potentiality; they can only do this or that. But human beings are the animals who are capable of their own impotentiality. Here it is possible to see how the root of freedom is to be found in the abyss of potentiality. To be free is not simply to have the power to do this or that thing, nor is it simply to have the power to refuse to do this or that thing. To be free is, in the sense we have seen, to be capable of one’s own impotentiality, to be in relation to one’s own privation. This is why freedom is freedom for both good and evil.11
According to the above (Aristotelian) idea, potential is not a purely positive notion. Human potential is not merely some stored, unused capacity. Rather, it exists only in relation to its opposite. In other words, we exist in the mode of potentiality only by being aware of our impotence. The artist is always painfully aware of what s/he cannot produce—the greater the striving, the more acute this sense of impotentiality. The same thing is often true of writers and poets, who complain of the elusiveness of their subjects. It appears that as one moves from ordinary or routine experiences toward more intense or creative ones, one becomes aware of the darkness or the abyss out of which the created form appears, and the aporetic conditions surrounding the making of a comprehensive statement. That is to say, there is an ambiguity that shrouds the creative Giorgio Agamben, Potentialities: pp. 182–183.
emergence of the form, which is often accompanied by a sense that the real thing has been obscured in the very act of revealing; this the creative person understands but not the conventional who sees only the light and not the dark. In De Anima, Aristotle writes, “In one sense it is a certain destruction through the opposite principle, and in another sense the preservation [soteria] of what is in potentiality by what is in actuality and what is similar to it. … For he who possesses science [in potentiality] becomes someone who contemplates in actuality, and either this is not an alteration—since here there is the gift of the self to itself and to actuality—or this is an alteration of a different kind.”12 In other words, it is not as if potentiality exhausts itself in actuality; it maintains itself through actuality and moves on. This means that every knowledge situation (actuality) is located within a skotos (darkness) of potentiality from which it cannot be separated. This subtle truth must not be forgotten in our reconceptualization of experience. However, conventional educational experience remains entirely innocent of this complex aesthetic of knowledge. Founded as it is on the back of logical empiricism, it is blind to the ambiguous nature of knowledge and the processes of knowing. To think of knowledge being linked to an undiscoverable Unknowing (its metaphysical obverse) is too mystical and ontological for mainstream education, which is hooked onto the positivistic, techno-political narrative of a progressive uncovering of the world. Unfortunately, this strange metaphysical aspect cannot be ignored, and of course, the unwillingness or inability does nothing to mitigate the consequences, and we are left with an educational experience that is partial or distorted at best. Most of the conundrums in this domain including attempts at reform probably can be traced to this strangeness of knowledge about the world—the fact that it is not straightforward, or linear, or progressive. The world is not a puzzle to be ‘cracked’, or a mystery to be solved. Its secret, in the largest sense of the term, is an essential and irreducible one that cannot be overcome through any amount of knowledge. Our experience of the world, and consequently the educational experience, is severely distorted by the contrary attitude. Knowledge about the world is not for reducing the world into manipulable strings of signifiers, nor for exploitation, but for an intensification that must ultimately lead to inner luminescence. In this sense, knowledge-experience is not unlike flint 12 Aristotle, “De Anima” in Aristotle in Twenty Three Volumes, Vol. 8, Trans. W. S. Hett, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1986), p. 94.
7 CONCLUSION: ORBITS OF INTENSITY
stones that when struck together produce sparks. It is the spark that counts and not the flint stones in themselves. The central error of the educational experience is that acquisition is seen as a goal in itself, or as a passport to the world of work, and not one in which there is a ‘gift of the self to itself’ as in Aristotle above. It is even trivial to say that in conventional education, there is little room to critically consider the pedagogic experience in which the being is caught up. We do not ask: What is this thing called the educational experience, apart from the cultural apprehensions, social expectations, bureaucratic subjections, and personal triumphs or defeats surrounding it? To open up that aspect of experience as part of the educational project one has to admit the possibility of pure experience that is independent of circumstance. Dasein itself … [is] present-at-hand “in” the world, or, more exactly, can with some right and within certain limits be taken as merely present-at- hand. To do this, one must completely disregard or just not see the existential state of Being-in. This latter kind of presence-at-hand becomes accessible not by disregarding Dasein’s specific structures but only by understanding them in advance. Dasein understands its ownmost Being in the sense of a certain “factual Being-present-at-hand”. And yet the factuality of the fact of one’s own Dasein is at bottom quite different ontologically from the factual occurrence of some kind of mineral, for example. Whenever Dasein is, it is as a Fact; and the factuality of such a Fact is what we shall call Dasein’s facticity. This is a definite way of Being, and it has a complicated structure which cannot even be grasped as a problem until Dasein’s basic existential states have been worked out. The concept of “facticity” implies that an entity “within-the-world” has Being-in-the-world in such a way that it can understand itself as bound up in its “destiny” with the Being of those entities which it encounters within its own world.13
The baseline of all experience must be that which is independent of the specificity of the ‘existential state.’ Heidegger observes that to get to that bare being one must first understand the usual (societal and psychic- emotive) structures in which the being is presently bound up. Beyond that, being is pure factuality, and not this or that fact. This pure existential fact has no attribute. Being is pure potential which is also capable of 13 Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson, (New York: Harper and Row, 1962), p. 82.
observing the fact of its being ‘bound up’ with other entities that form its particular destiny. This is the purest form of experience, and maybe thought of as the baseline of all further subjective experiences. This pure experience is important to speak of since it potentially releases us from all conditionality and offers us ontological hope, a depth and meaning to all existence beyond the contingent and the particular. There is no other facticity that provides such unconditional meaning. The pedagogy of the twice-born is incomplete without reference to this ‘facticity’; in fact, we might even say that its deeper purpose is to arrive at the facticity and aesthetics of this pure potentiality. Once this facticity becomes our phenomenological experience, we lose much of our existential anxiety and can speak from a more even plane of the inevitable and incessant changes that occur all around us. An education that is unable to transcend piecemeal phenomena—isolated appearances and discrete pieces of reality—remains stuck within the mire of the contingent. Trying to make sense of the world on the basis of the contingent and the fragmentary experience brings about inevitable confusion and distortion, besides spawning a world devoid of aesthetic quality, because the aesthetic cannot depend merely upon the accidental and the fragmentary. But what is this basic aesthetic quality that the twice-born has to begin with? Being thrown into the world, the twice-born must learn to back off from the contemporary ways of thought and try to understand what Nietzsche had called the ‘Untimely.’14 The untimely is that which is in as well as out of its time. In other words, the untimely, in understanding the foundational values of its age, also grasps the unfoundedness of their arising. The aesthetic of the twice-born is “a singular relationship with one’s own time, which adheres to it and, at the same time, keeps a distance from it. More precisely, it is that relationship with time that adheres to it through a disjunction and an anachronism. Those who coincide too well with the epoch, those who are perfectly tied to it in every respect…do not manage to see [their epoch]; they are not able to firmly hold their gaze on it.”15 The twice-born has a paradoxical relation with its times; even as it belongs 14 Nietzsche writes: “This meditation is itself untimely, because it seeks to understand as an illness, a disability. and a defect something which this epoch is quite rightly proud of, that is to say, its historical culture, because I believe that we are all consumed by the fever of history and we should at least realize it.” In Friedrich Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations, Trans. R. J. Hollingdale (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), p. 60. 15 Giorgio Agamben, What is an Apparatus and Other Essays, Transl. David Kishik and Stefan Pedatella (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009), p. 41.
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to the times, it maintains a firmly critical distance from it. But what does the twice-born, who perceives its time, actually see? “The [one] who firmly holds his gaze on his own time perceives not its light, but rather its darkness. All eras, for those who experience [their times], are obscure. The [twice-born] is precisely the person who knows how to see this obscurity, who is able to write by dipping his pen in the obscurity of the present. But what does it mean, “to see an obscurity,” “to perceive the darkness”?16 Darkness here is not the absence of light. Darkness has its own special light; it is not the light that carries information about things or about temporal objects, but it is the darkness of intensity and potentiality that possesses a different kind of visibility. [To] perceive this darkness is not a form of inertia or of passivity, but rather implies an activity and a singular ability. In our case, this ability amounts to a neutralization of the lights that come from the epoch in order to discover its obscurity, its special darkness, which is not, however, separable from those lights. The ones who can call themselves [twice-born] are only those who do not allow themselves to be blinded by the lights of the century, and so manage to get a glimpse of the shadows in those lights, of their intimate obscurity….To perceive, in the darkness of the present, this light that strives to reach us but cannot-this is what it means to be [twice-born]. As such, [the twice-born] is rare. And for this reason, to be [twice-born] is, first and foremost, a question of courage, because it means being able not only to firmly fix your gaze on the darkness of the epoch. but also to perceive in this darkness a light that, while directed toward us, infinitely distances itself from us.17
This darkness is not sensory privation. Its visibility depends on pushing aside all positivity and all sources and products of present-day enlightenment or current wisdom. In order to get a whiff of this, we must learn to negate all the commonsensical and contemporary explanations with which the world and consciousness is flooded. Then only, and only then, could we develop an intuition toward this strange light of darkness, this pure potential that can never be reached but intuited from afar. This ‘darkness’ Ibid., p. 43. Ibid., pp. 45–46. I have taken the liberty of using the phrase ‘twice-born’ in place of the term ‘contemporary’ used by the author. Both are temporal notions—the twice-born is timely as well as out of its time, as is the ‘contemporary’ as defined by Agamben above. In other words, while they are not equivalent, they are similar notions based on the Nietzschean idea of the ‘untimely.’ 16 17
that is not darkness but a cosmic iridescence does not belong to any time, space, or manner of thinking.18 Hence those who are transfixed by present ideas and the triumphs of the present age cannot understand the meaning of this pure potential and the possibility of transformation that it holds, for it is precisely the possibility of transformation that it affords that interests us here. How does the potential of this receding darkness (which is not the mere absence of light) hold the possibility of transformation? This pure potentiality, which is also impotentiality since it does not accomplish anything by itself, creates the conditions of transformation by sucking us out of the bondage of existing patterns of thought, clearing the way for a new perception unclouded by the past. This is the ultimate basis of experience, its threshold, the thin line of emergence of experience from that which is beyond experience. There is also the question of ‘courage’ required to deny oneself the comfort of the banalities and superfluities of one’s times. The twice-born must not be of the herd, blinded by the certainties of its age, stupefied by the ornate embellishments, and instead find the intensity to leap beyond to the orbits of difference. The contemporary age, howsoever gratifying, is always already the past, a dead age beyond its living potential. Thrust into its times, like anyone else, the twice-born struggles to be free of it, so that it can be reborn as the untimely—one who is not trapped by the modes of thinking, value systems, and reality construction of its times. Walking away from the burden of history, the twice-born does not begin a new history. Rather, it remains poised at the edge of history watching the emergence and passing away of the procession of things, experiencing the aesthetic moment as intensity, able to mobilize the self in the fullness of its psycho-somatic possibilities. In attempting this, we reach the baseline of experience, having shed the encrustations and calcifications step-by-step on our way to the Eros of life from which emerges actuality, leaving the Eros untouched. The pedagogy of the twice-born thus concerns a 18 Agamben offers an analogy of this light of darkness: “In the firmament that we observe at night, the stars shine brightly, surrounded by a thick darkness. Since the number of galaxies and luminous bodies in the universe is almost infinite, the darkness that we see in the sky is something that, according to scientists, demands an explanation. It is precisely the explanation that contemporary astrophysics gives for this darkness that I would now like to discuss. In an expanding universe, the most remote galaxies move away from us at a speed so great that their light is never able to reach us. What we perceive as the darkness of the heavens is this light that, though traveling toward us, cannot reach us, since the galaxies from which the light originates move away from us at a velocity greater than the speed of light.” Ibid., p. 46.
7 CONCLUSION: ORBITS OF INTENSITY
movement between orbital intensities, revealing ourselves to ourselves in a hermeneutic manner, till we are reborn from within our time onto a plane of intensity that presses upon us, transforming us, becoming simultaneously aware of the con-temporary and the non-temporary, the present and the primal, and their secret kinship. From a false sense of unity constructed out of temporal remains of experience and projections of experience, the somatic-psychic sensibility comes upon a non-timely dimension, an intense zone of emergence and creative unpredictability. There is one final thing that needs to be said. Technological inflation has made us forget our own emergence and potential for creative becoming. All eyes are on coding, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and so on. We have forgotten our own magic of existence that is not dependent on the state of society or technology. We need an ontological deflation to balance the technological inflation. Ontological deflation is surprise, a sudden letting the wind out of our sails, an emptying out, so that we can begin again with infinite care, along the right lines of a cosmological compass and not along the lines of techno-political hubris. Technological autism must be replaced with an open state of mutuality and creative reciprocity. Thus, from the dense entanglons of badly analyzed experiences we disentangle in order to enter orbits of intensive difference; our path to emancipated comprehension of this process is not technique, but our own autopoietic discoveries in a theater of creative ferment.
References Aristotle, “De Anima” in Aristotle in Twenty Three Volumes, Vol. 8, Trans. W. S. Hett, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1986). Elizabeth Grosz, The Nick of Time: Politics, Evolution, and the Untimely (NSW, Australia: Allen & Unwin, 2004). Friedrich Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations, Trans. R. J. Hollingdale (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997). Giorgio Agamben, Potentialities: Collected Essays in Philosophy, Transl. Daniel Heller-Roazen (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999). Giorgio Agamben, What is an Apparatus and Other Essays, Transl. David Kishik and Stefan Pedatella (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009). Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1911). Henri Bergson, Mind Energy, Trans. Wildon Carr (London: Macmillan, 1921). Henri Bergson, The Creative Mind (New York: Philosophical Library, 1946). Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson, (New York: Harper and Row, 1962). R. D. Laing, The Politics of Experience (Baltimore, MD: Penguin books, 1967).
A Aisthesis, 93, 110 Aesthetic, 48, 49, 55, 56, 110, 112, 178, 188, 194, 196, 198 Agamben, Giorgio, 63n31, 74n11, 102, 197n17, 198n18 Agency, 8–10, 68, 190 Alienation, 28, 54, 66, 67, 91, 96, 162, 163, 187, 192 Arendt, Hannah, 6 Aristotle, 61, 87, 88, 139, 139n18, 193–195 Avatar, 45, 77–79 B Being, 61, 138, 195, 196 Benjamin, Walter, 59, 86 Bergson, Henry, 73, 98, 98n10, 107, 110, 115, 123n1, 124, 125, 169, 170, 173, 174, 176, 182
Body, 4, 5, 23, 26, 27, 31, 33, 50, 54, 60, 72, 75–78, 80–82, 84, 85, 96, 103, 104, 120, 130, 131, 143–145, 151, 154, 162, 167n19, 171–178, 198n18 C Cognitive, 1, 10, 31, 44, 50, 66, 73, 76, 80, 84, 85, 96, 100, 111, 112, 120, 134, 161, 163, 181, 186, 187 Commonsense, ix, 2, 35, 65, 102, 134, 171, 181 Consciousness, 9, 13, 28, 29, 32, 47–49, 52n19, 53, 55, 56, 71, 73, 78, 80–82, 88–90, 92, 94, 99, 100, 103, 109–114, 117, 118, 137, 143, 144, 153–157, 162, 171, 173–175, 178, 179, 182, 185, 192, 197 Corpus sensorium, 23, 77, 80, 103
Note: Page numbers followed by ‘n’ refer to notes.
© The Author(s) 2020 K. Roy, Reincarnating Experience in Education, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-53548-3
Cosmic, 77, 79, 81, 82, 140, 146, 153, 154, 157–159, 176, 190, 198 Crawford, Mathew, 7, 10, 11 Cultural construct, 49, 89 D Darwin, Charles, 124, 126, 128 Darwinism, 124 Death, viii, 19, 66, 82, 86, 87, 117, 139n18, 147, 168, 171, 178, 191 Derrida, Jacques, 93, 94, 170 Desacralization, 163 Dewey, John, 5, 13–24 Dharma, 77, 79, 80 Ding an sich, 31, 76 Diversity, 9, 35, 56 Dualism, 138, 143, 171–173, 175, 178 E Education, ix, 1–4, 13–15, 17, 18, 20, 21, 23–25, 30, 32, 43, 52, 58, 83, 84, 88, 91, 102–104, 106, 108, 115, 131, 135, 138, 144, 145, 147, 151, 163, 165, 175, 181, 187, 188, 192–196 Educator, 21, 22, 91, 95, 96 Élan vital, 30, 48, 73, 82, 103, 115, 185 Eliade, Mircea, 152, 158n11 Emancipatory, 2, 5, 19, 147, 181, 186 Embodied knowledge, 26 Embodied self, 8 Empirical, 5, 8, 36, 67, 104, 111, 113, 121, 124, 130, 132, 135, 138, 152, 154, 158, 161–163, 165, 190, 192 Empiricism, 11, 12, 47, 107, 116, 138, 194
Enlightenment, 14, 23, 46, 197 Eros, 2n1, 4, 5, 7, 48, 79, 93, 103–105, 109, 143, 144, 190, 198 Essence, 30, 60, 69, 84, 87, 92, 93n2, 99, 124, 127, 128, 141, 145, 148, 154, 158, 189 Ethical, 17 Evolution, 28, 101, 111, 114, 123n1, 124–126, 128–130, 132, 143, 182 Experience, vii, 1, 36, 65, 91, 123, 151, 181 Experiential, 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 14, 18, 22, 23, 25, 26, 51, 66–68, 71, 74, 81, 83, 94n6, 101, 110, 161, 165, 187 Eyes of the heart, 31, 65–90 F Foucault, Michel, 16, 167n19 Fragmented, 32, 91, 93, 144, 181, 185 Freedom, 9, 18–20, 40, 53, 54, 87, 99, 117, 157, 176, 192, 193 Future, 20, 22, 89, 116–118, 121, 158, 166, 168, 174 G Geertz, Clifford, 35, 105 Geometrism, 103, 104, 106, 121 Grosz, Elizabeth, 173 H Habit, 2, 15, 16, 32, 44, 55, 65, 70, 85, 87, 92, 96, 102–105, 145, 147, 149, 175, 176, 181, 185, 192
Heidegger, Martin, 87, 88, 96, 97, 195 Heisenberg, Werner, 132, 134, 135, 137, 139, 141, 147n25 Heraclitus, 138, 139, 139n18 Hermeneutic, 71, 73, 93, 94, 100, 101, 115, 117, 121, 163, 199 Horizon of collision, 72, 73, 79 Humanism, 15, 23, 137, 138, 153–155 Husserl, Edmund, 29, 92 I Individual, 8, 9, 11, 18, 21, 33, 52–54, 52n19, 66, 67, 81, 83, 85, 88, 96, 104, 117, 119, 120, 127, 154, 181, 185, 188, 189, 191 Individualism, 9 Instinct, 38n5, 66, 106–109, 112, 115, 130n10, 159, 162, 175–179 Institution, 16, 51, 52 Intellect, 1, 98, 123n1, 151, 185 Intensity, 3, 7, 8, 30, 32, 62, 72, 88, 97, 104, 107, 111, 112, 115, 119, 120, 124, 158, 159, 181–199 Interpersonal, 28, 161 Intuition, 4, 33, 38, 56, 66, 71, 73, 75, 76, 82, 83, 85, 99–102, 106–109, 111–116, 125, 130n10, 132, 150, 151, 158–160, 162, 175–178, 181, 186, 197 J James, William, 11, 13
K Kant, Immanuel, 46–48, 50, 124, 170 Klesis, 73, 74, 74n10, 74n11, 80, 83 Knower, 12, 13, 91 Knowing, 14, 25, 33, 96, 108, 140, 161, 177, 183, 184, 194 Knowledge, 4, 40, 75, 91, 123, 151, 183 Kolb, David, 23, 24 L Laing, R. D., 27, 66, 161, 190 Language, ix, 36, 44, 47, 50, 58–63, 63n31, 83, 88, 93, 105, 115, 115n22, 128, 137, 145–149 Learning, 1, 3–7, 13, 18, 23, 25, 43, 52, 58, 69, 99, 101, 131, 132, 138, 160, 188 Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm, 171, 172 Logic, 11, 22, 26, 44, 57, 103, 146, 147, 153, 160, 170 M Manen, Max Van, 92n2, 94n6 Marcuse, Herbert, 52 Marx, Karl, 47 Mathemata, 60, 62, 63 Meaning, 3, 36, 65, 92, 124, 152, 181 Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, 30 Metaphysics, 4, 47, 79, 103, 112 Middle class, 8, 15, 42, 44 Modernity, 72, 76, 97, 110, 113, 153, 154, 164, 166–169, 178 N Naïve realism, 5, 152 Negative integration, 99–101, 110, 113 Nietzsche, Friedrich, 62, 155, 161, 166, 196, 196n14
O Objective, 9, 10, 24, 25, 27, 38n5, 52n19, 96, 127, 128, 135–137, 145, 160, 166, 184, 187, 189, 192 Ontological, 29, 35, 41, 45, 46, 49, 57, 58, 61, 69, 71, 74, 75, 77, 78, 80, 81, 84, 86, 93, 98, 102–104, 106, 110, 113, 115, 117, 120, 121, 124, 128, 134, 135, 147, 150, 151, 164, 169, 175, 176, 178, 182, 187–190, 194, 196, 199 Ontology, 1, 30, 147n25, 170, 174, 178 P Paine, Thomas, 45, 50 Passion, 7, 14, 48, 60, 88, 117, 118, 120, 121, 144 Paul, 31, 74–76, 74n10, 80, 169 Pedagogy, 1–3, 31, 32, 48, 61–63, 86, 91, 93n2, 99–101, 104, 117, 120, 121, 123–151, 154, 162, 163, 171, 177, 182, 183, 185–189, 196, 198 Perception, viii, 4, 6, 12, 15, 16, 26, 31, 32, 35, 44, 75, 83, 92, 109, 110, 116, 118, 120, 123, 134, 140, 145, 151, 152, 156, 165, 167, 171, 173–175, 186, 198 Phantasy, 27, 67, 68, 91 Phenomenological Aisthesis, 93, 110 Phenomenological Eros, 93, 115–121, 143, 144 Phenomenological Hermeneutics, 93–102, 115, 121 Phenomenologically, 3, 30, 47, 91, 92n2, 94, 114, 118, 120, 138, 159, 163, 169, 187, 193
Philosophy, 11, 13–15, 17, 18, 25, 36, 44, 46–48, 62, 88, 95, 97, 98, 100, 105, 124, 130, 136, 138, 170, 175 Phronesis, 4 Plato, 59–62, 192 Poiesis, 8 Polanyi, Michael, 26 Potential, 2, 23, 31, 51, 59, 75, 76, 80, 86–88, 101, 102, 118, 128, 141, 159, 163, 176, 177, 184–186, 193, 195, 197–199 Power, viii, 9, 10, 19, 41, 50–52, 56, 59, 61, 70, 72, 77–79, 81, 83, 83n15, 87, 95, 97, 101, 119, 124, 132, 154, 159, 167n19, 184, 185, 193 Praxis, 15, 27, 93, 104, 108, 110, 115, 144, 149–179 Presence, 1, 69–71, 73, 84, 86, 93, 94, 125, 157, 161, 164, 173, 187, 189 Psychic, 2, 3, 8, 27, 28, 30, 50, 56, 84, 86, 107, 113, 129, 160–162, 165, 178, 186, 187 R Reality, viii, 2, 35, 67, 91, 123, 152, 182 Reason, viii, 1, 12, 13, 28, 35, 36, 39, 41–43, 46–50, 52, 54–56, 74n11, 87, 101, 105, 107, 108, 125, 136, 142, 144, 147, 177, 181, 197 Redemption, 59, 61, 74, 80, 86, 87 Religious, 12, 42, 43, 49, 69, 73, 152–154, 156–160, 159n11, 163 Representational, 3, 7, 11, 111, 113, 134, 171 Rosenfeld, Sophia, 39
S School, vii, 6, 7, 13, 14, 16–19, 23–25, 44, 67, 95, 96, 101, 141 Schooling, 12, 16, 19, 24, 141 Science, 2n1, 6, 36, 97, 105, 107–109, 123n1, 124, 125n3, 126, 126n5, 127, 130n10, 132–146, 148, 149, 157, 169–172, 190, 194 Self, 13, 65, 67, 68, 71, 97–99, 102, 107, 116, 174, 177, 178, 184, 187–191, 194, 195, 198 Self-evident, 36, 161 Sensuous, 3, 4, 6–8, 30 Sensus communis, 41, 45, 47, 48, 50 Separation, 21, 48, 49, 72, 100, 101, 107, 137, 138, 143, 183, 187 Singularity, 75, 85, 88, 89, 98, 113, 117, 185 Somatic, 1–33, 76–79, 81, 82, 103–105, 109, 115, 121, 150, 162, 171, 181, 185, 186 Spinoza, Baruch, 105, 172 Symbolic, 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 96, 100, 103, 104, 137, 142, 185–187 Synteresis, 82, 82n15, 83, 85
Thinking, 2, 15, 16, 23–25, 28, 36, 37, 41, 46, 52, 53, 55, 56, 69, 71, 84, 86, 87, 100, 104, 108, 112, 136, 137, 139, 140, 145, 150, 165, 188, 198 Thought, 2, 5, 9, 13–16, 23, 25, 33, 36, 38, 43, 52n19, 53, 55, 56, 60, 66, 75, 81, 83, 96, 98, 98n10, 100, 102, 104, 105, 110, 114, 117, 124, 128, 136, 141, 143, 149, 152, 154, 161, 164, 172, 175, 183, 185, 187, 196, 198 Time, 13, 35, 65, 92, 124, 151, 184 Totalization, 50, 52, 164 Transcendence, 54–56, 80, 87, 166, 167 Transjective, 27 Truth, 19, 25, 42, 43, 45, 46, 48, 49, 52n19, 67, 81, 88, 98, 103, 104, 106, 107, 117, 124–126, 129, 135, 142, 162, 163, 168, 184, 190, 191, 194 Truth games, 3, 142 Twice born, 2–4, 28, 30, 31, 33, 61–63, 78, 80, 86, 89–121, 123, 143, 149–179, 181–183, 185–187, 189, 190, 196–198, 197n17
T Taylor, Charles, 152, 155 Team, 10 Temporal, 22, 35, 52, 77, 86, 144, 164, 166, 168, 169, 173, 184, 197, 197n17, 199
U Untimely, 196, 196n14, 197n17, 198 W Weber, Max, 74n10