The Great Cosmic Split: A myth

What follows below is a myth, a story; not a philosophy, a model, or a theory. I share this myth here for the cultivation of what William Blake once called "The Divine Imagination." May the Divine Imagination not be forgotten in this age of misguided pragmatism and cynicism.

The "story time" video below tells the complete myth of the "Great Cosmic Split," in case you prefer to hear it instead of reading. The text that follows, however, does contain more substance.


At the beginning of time the cosmos was subject to a split: a deep slice across the core of existence. The universe became then divided into two very different halfs: the Physical Realm and the Mythical Realm. All the meaning of existence went into the Mythical Realm, while the Physical Realm retained all form.

In the Physical Realm the unfolding of existence became governed by laws of cause and effect, or 'causality.' These causal laws are blind, mechanical automatisms; there is no meaning in them. They operate based purely on relationships of form: Given the right configuration of circumstances, the laws kick in and certain events are automatically triggered regardless of their meaning. In the Mythical Realm, on the other hand, the unfolding of existence became governed by associations of meaning, instead of form. These associations are not mechanical, blind, or automatic, but link events with related meaning through corresponding evocations of emotion.

Some examples may help elucidate the above: In the Physical Realm events are governed by chains of causality. For instance, if you jump off a building (the cause) you will fall (the effect). Chains of causality operate dispassionately and purely according to form: You will fall because the configuration of circumstances is such that there is nothing stopping the law of gravity from pulling you down. You will fall whether you want to fall or not; whether the fall makes you scared or not; whether you are desperate or enthusiastic about life; whether the fall holds any significance for you or not. You will fall simply because there is a blind, mechanistic law whereby mass attracts mass at a distance.

In the Mythical Realm, on the other hand, events are governed by chains of associated meanings. For instance, if you see a baby crying, it may evoke in you the feeling of pain; this feeling, in turn, may unfold into the image of a medical doctor wearing a white jacket and approaching you with a flask of healing medicine; the image of the doctor may then evoke a soothing feeling that, in turn, may unfold into the image of your sitting at the edge of a beautiful waterfall, surrounded by the trees, immediately after having drunk from the flask; and so on, with endless associations of meaning leading to the unfolding of rich, fairytale-like mythologies that, in the Mythical Realm, are entirely and palpably real. Note that there is no relationship of formal cause-and-effect in the way events unfold there; only associations of meaning operating through evocations of emotion. The Mythical Realm is akin to dreams: it does not obey physics, reason, or logic. In a sense, meaning associations are the 'physics' of the Mythical Realm, while the evocation of affections is its 'logic.' Yet, both the Physical and the Mythical Realms are equally real and palpable. There is absolutely no sense in which any of the two Realms is any more or less abstract, 'gaseous,' ethereal, or concrete than the other.

Note how symmetrical and complementary these realms are. In the Physical Realm events unfold mechanically, according to form; in the Mythical Realm events unfold affectively, according to meaning. From the point-of-view of the Physical Realm, the Mythical Realm is absurd and illogical: there is no consistency of form in the way events unfold. From the point-of-view of the Mythical Realm, the Physical Realm is dead and vacuous: there is no significance in the way events mechanically cause other events. But there is a yet stronger relationship between these two realms; a historical secret that has been carefully guarded since the dawn of time.

And here it is: Every chain of causality in the Physical Realm has a twin chain of meaning in the Mythical Realm, like the two sides of the same coin. In other words, there is a chain of meaning in the Mythical Realm that corresponds closely, according to a certain 'translation function,' to each chain of causality in the Physical Realm. This correspondence between chains of causality and chains of meaning is not accidental; it is absolutely necessary for the flow of existence. Indeed, chains of causality cannot unfold without a form of input from the corresponding chain of meaning. Analogously, chains of meaning cannot unfold without a form of input from the corresponding chain of causality. No one chain can kick-start the process of unfolding without the other; they form what Douglas Hofstadter called a 'tangled hierarchy.'

Now you may be thinking: "Nonsense. The physical world is causally-closed; that is, it can run itself like a clock without any influence from other realms." In fact, that is not quite true. The laws of physics define merely envelops of probability about what events can, and are likely to, occur. But there are no laws in physics determining what specific event actually occurs. This is a mystery called the "collapse of the wave function." And this is where the input from the Mythical Realm enters the Physical: it is the evocation of a particular meaning in the corresponding chain of meaning that allows and chooses one specific event to materialize in the chain of causality. Without that input of meaning, nothing would ever materialize and unfold in the Physical Realm; it would forever remain a cloud of abstract possibilities.

An analogous dependence plays on the other side of the divide. As mentioned earlier, after the cosmic split all form has ended up in the Physical Realm. Without form to evoke emotion and meaning, no meaning associations can unfold in the Mythical Realm. In the example above, the crying baby, the doctor in a white jacket, the flask of medicine, and the waterfall were all images derived from the forms that unfold in the Physical Realm. Those images are necessary to evoke the corresponding affective states of meaning. Without images, no chain of meaning could ever unfold; the whole thing would grind to a halt. This is where the input from the Physical Realm enters the Mythical Realm.

The Physical and Mythical Realms are locked in a dance of co-dependence across a tangled hierarchy. The Physical feeds the forms required to evoke meaning in the Mythical. The Mythical, in turn, feeds the meaning required to collapse probabilities into matter and energy in the Physical, thereby creating new forms. And so the dance of existence unfolds, like the intertwined snakes of the caduceus, the double helix of DNA, or the Ayahuasca vine.

Caduceus
Ayahuasca vine
DNA double-helix


Living beings exist in both Physical and Mythical Realms simultaneously. Life is a bridge. The part of us that inhabits the Physical Realm has historically received the label "body." The part of us that inhabits the Mythical Realm has historically received the label "soul." These are just labels, and no meaning should be read into them other than what is described in this myth. The aspects of your life that relate to the Mythical are your emotions, dreams, creativity, intuition, heart-felt fantasies, and yes, even your very use of language. After all, what is language but a chain of evocative symbols associated to each other by meaning? Language is Mythical. Similarly, the aspects of your life that relate to the Physical are your sensations; the forms they create in your awareness; the consistency with which these forms are associated through cause-and-effect; your ability to model, explain, and predict their behavior; etc. Science is Physical when done, yet Mythical when communicated through language.

Body and soul are equally real and concrete. Attributions of 'gaseous' or ethereal qualities to the soul derive from historical misunderstandings about the nature of reality. Body and soul also correspond in form. After all, the soul imports forms from the body, while the body imports meaning from the soul. Soul and body are integral parts of one single system. You are both simultaneously; right now. Your soul isn't a separate entity with a separate consciousness; it is you in the same way that the multiple split-off personalities of a patient with Dissociative Identity Disorder are, despite their assertions to the contrary, the same person. You aren't a soul having a bodily experience any more than you are a body having a soul experience. The illusion of an asymmetry biased towards the Physical arises only from the amnesia and dissociation resulting from the split across Realms. As I write this, my soul is living her life in the Mythical Realm in as real and concrete a manner as my ego lives his life in the Physical Realm right now. My soul is also under the illusion that life is biased, but towards the Mythical! During our nightly dreams we can experience more of the world of the soul. Studying her dreams is the art of the seeker in search of her soul.

The life of your soul in the Mythical is constantly influencing your body's journey in the Physical through a steady input stream of meaning. When that influence is particularly noticed, due perhaps to sharpened sensitivity, one speaks of uncanny syncronicities. Similarly, your body is right now influencing your soul's journey in the Mythical through a constant output stream of images (forms). When those images, for whatever reason, begin to dry up, the influx of meaning from the Mythical is consequently reduced and one then speaks of loss of soul. To cultivate the life of the soul, one should pay attention to the images one provides to it; not only visuals, but 'images' of all sense categories: beautiful landscapes, uplifting music, enriching philosophy, etc. Images are the sustenance of the soul. Like fertilizer, with the right images added in one can later harvest a wealth of meaning. A meaningful life, in turn, is more conducive to unfolding into rich images, closing a positive and constructive feedback loop. But beware: negative feedback loops also lurk in the depths of the psyche, and I personally know only too well about them.

Indeed, since the chain of causality unfolds intrinsically in lock-step with the chain of meaning, one has two levers to influence the course of one's life: through influencing the chain of causality and through influencing the chain of meaning. Our culture is myopically obsessed with only one of these levers: the chain of causality. By thinking exclusively in terms of cause-and-effect, we prune our own freedom in half. We enter into a desert of images, which stunts the growth of the tree of meaning in the Mythical, thereby throwing our entire culture into a downward spiral of psychic misery. We're handicapped.

Our culture's myopia has other surprising consequences: since we only acknowledge the chain of causality, we've developed an arbitrarily restrictive logic whereby only one answer can be true at a time; a kind of mutual-exclusivity. Allow me to explain this with an example: A patient goes to a Chinese traditional medicine practice. There, the Chinese practitioner diagnoses her condition as a blockage of the Qi energy flowing in her body. The diagnosis is explained through elaborate, rich, and evocative images of energy lines, flows, congested junctures, etc. The images make the human body seem to light up with meaning. Later on, the same patient goes to a conventional doctor, who diagnoses her problem as a straight-forward, and very physical, backbone misalignment. The patient then thinks: "Either the Chinese practitioner is right, or my doctor is. Both cannot be simultaneously right, since there can be only one explanation for my condition. It's either Qi blockages or backbone misalignment!" This is a very logical line of thought in our culture; who would dare question it?

Yet it is wrong. The notion of mutual-exclusivity is arbitrary. The video below explains an alternative logic that does not entail mutual-exclusivity of explanations (keep watching past the introduction to computer architecture). The backbone misalignment may indeed be the way the chain of causality is unfolding, but let us not forget that there is necessarily an equivalent symbolic unfolding in the corresponding chain of meaning. There has to be a meaning behind the backbone misalignment, or it wouldn't have occurred. The unfolding of the chain of meaning can be understood and interacted with through images; Qi is one such image, or symbol. Many other images or symbols could be used to evoke similar meanings: Tao, cosmic energy, prana, etc.; or even 'loss of soul.' What matters is not the image per se (that is, it's not the form), but the feeling it evokes; there lies its true meaning.


This way, it may very well be the case that both the Chinese practitioner and the conventional doctor are simultaneously correct; they are simply talking about different chains: the former about the chain of meaning and the latter about the chain of causality. Influencing either chain will inevitably translate into a different unfolding of the other, and a potential cure to the diagnosed condition, since the chains are in lock-step. The more consistent with the laws of physics our actions in the Physical Realm are, the more effectively they will influence the chain of causality and change our lives. Similarly, the more evocative and meaningful our myths and imagery in the Mythical Realm are, the more effectively they will influence the chain of meaning and change our lives. Reason without myth, or myth without reason, leaves half the job undone.

It is ludicrous to believe that, because a very physical explanation has been found for a phenomenon, the earlier symbolic or mythological explanation is somehow invalidated. Both the chain of causality and the chain of meaning are always at play in a co-dependent manner; one cannot unfold without the other. As such, the Physical explanation merely complements the Mythical explanation. Traditional cultures around the world, in their many myths, have been biased towards the evocative symbolisms of the chain of meaning: Shamans talk about forest spirits and ancestors, pagans talk about Earth energies, etc. Modernity, however, has brought this one-sidedness all the way to the other extreme: we now only acknowledge the chain of causality. Both cultural approaches are imbalanced and miss the broader point. The meaning associations of the Mythical Realm – the world of myths and symbols – is no less, but also no more, real and concrete than the mechanical cause-and-effect relationships of the Physical Realm. Human beings span across both Realms. To live our lives to the fullest, we must acknowledge and embrace as real both the meanings of symbols and the forms of matter. Form and meaning.

This has been a myth; one which I hope will contribute to the cultivation of the Divine Imagination and to the fertilization of the Mythical Realm for the growth of the soul. May its images accelerate the unfolding of rich chains of meaning that find their way back into our empirical lives in the physical world. "But is this myth actually true?" I hear you ask. I can only answer this: probably not in the logical, causal sense prevailing in the Physical Realm! But then again, that's not the point, is it? ;-)

If you would like to read some more about the ideas behind this myth, I recommend three works to get you started:


Copyright © 2012 by Bernardo Kastrup. All rights are reserved.

Comments

  1. First of all, I really commend you for the time and thought you put into these posts--complete with videos! It testifies to your passion for your subject matter.

    I confess that I am struggling to understand exactly how the whole picture you present here works. How exactly do the two realms interact? I would have appreciated a really specific example. The acupuncture example came close, but I guess I just wanted more detail.

    I really appreciate the direct and unapologetic focus on meaning. I think you're right that it's a hugely neglected, yet central, dimension in our lives. In the end, "what does it mean?" is the most important question we can ask. It seems like we've lost sight of that, like we think that answering questions about form automatically answers questions of meaning.

    I also really liked your distinction between form and meaning. I agree that that is a crucial and fundamental distinction.

    I also liked the idea of chains of meaning, connected by association. It reminds me of an old idea of mine, that "space" within consciousness is actually "meaning space," in that, in consciousness, proximity is the same thing as nearness (or association) of meaning.

    On the other hand, I have the feeling I see meaning in somewhat different terms than you. Your terms--myth, emotion, image, imagination, symbol--seem to me to leave out the cognitive dimension. Is that by design? I believe that meaning is first and foremost a cognitive matter. I think meaning is a result of interpretation (even if that interpretation is almost always below the articulated level). There is no meaning without interpretation, and when interpretation changes, perceived meaning changes with it.

    In fact, I think there is a more direct relationship between meaning and interpretation than meaning and image. This is shown by the fact that when you assign a different interpretation to the same image, it now means something different to you. We experience this, of course, on a constant basis.

    So it seemed to me that your mythic realm left out that crucial cognitive dimension.

    Also, I feel that even though meaning is, as you say, usually attached to image, I think that is because our minds (in their current form) are so concrete. Because meaning is ultimately a cognitive matter, I think meaning can in principle float free of images, and even of form of any kind. The less concrete a mind was, the less it would rely on form to serve as a carrier of meaning.

    Also, as you might guess from my comments, I personally see the realm of meaning as senior to the realm of form, so that even though it certainly appears that each realm exerts powerful influence on the other, the truth is that causation ultimately resides in the realm of meaning, with the realm of form being more like Plato's shadow on the cave.

    Those are just some off-the-cuff responses. As I said, I do not fully grasp the ramifications of your model, so forgive me if what I've said reflects that. And I sense that there is a huge amount that you are trying to condense into it, much of which by necessity cannot appear in this short summary. There is a great deal that I relate to in this model,and I hope that my critical remarks can at least provide some food for thought.

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    1. Hi there Robert!

      > On the other hand, I have the feeling I see meaning in
      > somewhat different terms than you. Your terms--myth, \
      > emotion, image, imagination, symbol--seem to me to leave out
      > the cognitive dimension. Is that by design? I believe that
      > meaning is first and foremost a cognitive matter. I think
      > meaning is a result of interpretation (even if that
      > interpretation is almost always below the articulated
      > level). There is no meaning without interpretation, and when
      > interpretation changes, perceived meaning changes with it.

      Keeping in my mind that everything I will say below is in the context of the myth, here we go... :)

      Not sure what precisely you mean by cognitive activity; it sounds like you mean something quite specific. Generally speaking, emotion is a cognitive activity. But sounds like you mean cognition in the sense of intellectual interpretation, correct? If it is correct, in the myth the intellectual, analytical, logical dimension is rather Physical than Mythical. The Mythical appeals more to gut-feeling, unconscious associations, instinct, passion, rather than intellectual constructs based on logic. Intellectual activity, in the myth, reflects our understanding of the chain of causality in the Physical Realm. Indeed, many philosophers consider logic itself empirical.

      I acknowledge that we can speak of "meaning" as a result of intellectual interpretation, but in the myth "meaning" is meant as a more primary, intuitive feeling.

      Perhaps my interpretation of your comment is wrong. In that case, let me know.

      > Also, I feel that even though meaning is, as you say,
      > usually attached to image, I think that is because our minds
      > (in their current form) are so concrete. Because meaning is
      > ultimately a cognitive matter, I think meaning can in
      > principle float free of images, and even of form of any
      > kind. The less concrete a mind was, the less it would rely
      > on form to serve as a carrier of meaning.

      This is not incompatible with the myth... and I personally resonate with what you say. In the myth, images simply _evoke_ meaning, but do not generate it from scratch. Images "bring meaning to the surface", if you will, but the meaning was already there.

      > As I said, I do not fully grasp the ramifications of your model

      It's just a myth... ;-)

      > And I sense that there is a huge amount that you are trying to condense into it

      It's the bane of my life! :-)

      > There is a great deal that I relate to in this model,and I
      > hope that my critical remarks can at least provide some food
      > for thought.

      I'm very glad you can relate to it, and your comments surely got me thinking!

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  2. Hi Bernardo,

    I've spent some time with this, and have been thinking about how it might tie in with the membrane model--I'm still thinking! I've just bought your "Meaning in absurdity" Kindle edition and will be reading that before I come back with fuller comments.

    Michael Larkin

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    1. Hi Michael,
      Got your message. I realized I don't have your email address! Can you contact me via the "contact me privately" link to the right?
      Cheers, Bernardo.

      Delete
  3. Bernardo, good to hear back from you. I'll explain a bit more about what I mean by meaning being a result of cognition.

    When we talk about meaning in the sense of what we consider meaningful, I think that meaning is always about our perception of the place of something in a larger context, especially in the larger context of our own interests (which loom pretty large in our eyes). In other words, something becomes meaningful to me to the extent that I see it impact on whatever larger context I care most about.

    Once I believe that a particular thing has some effect on me and my interests, then it becomes meaningful to me. And then it sparks emotions in me. I believe that emotion is merely the experience of meaning that is strongly believed in.

    Now all of that requires interpretation. You have to make an evaluation of what that thing's place is in relation to a larger context, especially in relation to you. Until you make that evaluation, that thing is not meaningful to you, and you'll have no emotions about it. For instance, if a newspaper arrives saying that Australia was destroyed by a comet yesterday, a dog will look at it and see no meaning whatsoever. A child who can read will look at it and see some meaning. An adult, in contrast, will be dealt a life-changing emotional blow.

    I think this interpretation is usually made quite unconsciously, just as we interpret our visual field quite unconsciously. It takes a lot of interpretation to make sense of what our eyes see. In the same way, it takes a huge amount of interpretation to decide what things mean. The fact that we do both so instantly and habitually doesn't detract from it being an interpretive act.

    However, that interpretation can be changed consciously. If we arrive at a gut interpretation of what, say, the teachers' strike in Chicago means for us, we can then change that with a conscious reevaluation of what that strike really means for us. We do this all the time.

    So I believe that the meaning we perceive (and which gives rise to our emotions) is always a result of an interpretation. That interpretation is usually made unconsciously (which does not deprive it of being an interpretation) but can be made and remade on the conscious level.

    Therefore, I think that behind every emotion, no matter how seemingly gut-level and automatic, is an interpretation, an evaluation of that thing's place in whatever larger context we care most about.

    Even if you accept this, I don't know how it would quite affect your myth. But I did want to clarify what I meant. And I am trying to remember that it's a myth, not a model. I'm not comfortable with that(!), but I'm trying to keep it in mind.

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    1. Hi Robert,
      Oh, I see what you mean now. And I agree with you: Meaning is something that arises within a context, and it's not necessarily intellectual. I do think, though, that this is accounted for in the "Mythical Realm." There, the context is broader than the ego, and the interpretation is "unconscious" (in the sense that it escapes the "intellectualization" of the ego). But "unconscious" as it may be, the evocation of meaning does arise within the broader context of the "soul." If this didn't come across in the original description of the myth, it's my fault. I did mean it like this.
      Cheers, Bernardo.

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    2. Well, Bernardo, I have now read your book "Meaning in absurdity" and I don’t know really where to begin. So if my comments seem rambling and inchoate, forgive me.

      You offer a visual model or metaphor somewhat different to your membrane one in chapter 7, "A cosmology beyond absurdity", namely that of a mountain chain mosty submerged beneath the surface of a sea. Above the surface, we see an archipelago of islands, apparently separate, but beneath, they are all connected to one submerged land mass. Each of us is like one peak in the archipelago, living in a realm where today (at least in the West), things like bivalence, correspondence and logic as we understand it, are given great weight.

      That brings its cultural benefits, to be sure, but some might lament the fact that we have lost or at least attenuated the connection with a realm that transcends bivalent logic, etc. But if I read you rightly, this may be a false perception. We have “breakthroughs from beneath” where we have such things as crop circles, UFO sightings and alien abductions, Fatima-style so-called mass “delusions”, psychedelic drug experiences, paranormal phenomena, and so on. These defy current definitions of “reality” and are consigned to the dustbin of mental disturbances in the brain--that object which has been credited with the ability to be responsible for the perception of everything that is actually real or, alternatively, deluded.

      The idea that everything is real, that what we are pleased to call reality is in fact just the tip of an iceberg, where we seek closure, a predictable order based on bivalent logic, turns our world upside down. The “objectivity” we are so attached to, which causes us to think that “out there”, in its strong version, things exist independent of mind, is what has been driving Western society since the Enlightenment. It seems to have led to the whole materialistic paradigm, really; and has been so beguiling. And who can blame us for what may be this fundamental error? Look at what we have been able to do whilst employing such an approach: modern science, particularly technology, speaks for itself.

      And yet, despite the dogmatism of the modern high priests of materialism, I think that the age-old pursuit of the transcendental can never be eliminated, if only because beneath the surface, the unconscious (personal and collective), connects us and has its own ultimate drives bubbling up from the formless, unknowable origin of all. Its archetypes are the bedrock--the trickster, the Self, etc., and, I would like to add, the Saviour. The tail of rationalism as we understand it does not wag the dog of the primal ontological imperatives of the formless.

      Orthodox presentations (i.e. religious) of the longing for transcendence may be waning in the West, but I see it everywhere in other forms, perhaps particularly in popular culture, with some special emphasis on science fantasy and fiction in books and films. I think Dune and Star Trek, Babylon 5, Close encounters and The Matrix. There’s also Rosemary’s Baby, The Da vinci Code, The Exorcist, and a thousand paranormal and horror movies; not to mention the great popularity of Eastern philosophies and healing methods. The urge to transcend, to escape the unutterably confining notions of scientific materialism, is alive and well as ever. We tolerate it because it’s put in a box labelled “fiction”, and as that, it’s acceptable. But all the while, deep down, we retain our childhood awareness that there is more to things than meets the eye of the adults who’d like to convince themselves there isn’t.

      Ctd...

      Michael Larkin

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    3. Where it gets sticky, and less acceptable to the high priests of scientism, is in areas of serious research into “anomalous phenomena”. Unlike fiction, this threatens the establishment using its own methods, and evokes the strongest resistance. Quantum physics is an area that can’t be challenged, however. It’s a thorn in the establishment’s side, and as you point out in chapter 3, "The demise of realism", there’s still the urge to hang on to strong objectivism. This despite the fact that in particle physics and cosmology in particular, scientists are indulging in what I suspect is pure mythmaking--The Big Bang, Inflation, String Theory, Dark Energy and Matter, etc. It seems that some forms of transcendentalism are more acceptable to scientific orthodoxies than others!

      Then again, science has its own zealous dogmatisms: biology, with its ferocious defence of Neodarwinism; climate science in respect of catastrophic global warming; medicine in respect of the causal linkage between HIV and AIDS; and there are many other examples where Kuhnian paradigms that may eventually be proved wrong are being held onto like grim death, and defended by the modern Inquisitionists who have the power to ridicule and excommunicate. The “religious” orthodoxy in science is as strong as it ever has been in those institutions it so despises, which, as spades, at least have the decency to call themselves spades.

      So yes: everywhere we look, in science no less than anywhere else, we see the yearning for transcendence, but in its case, it’s deeply disguised; and many scientists in many fields aren’t aware of their own hypocrisy. Perhaps only in Engineering, where things have practical applications and actually have to work, does the purest spirit of the Enlightenment still persist.

      And this brings me to something you don’t seem to have explicitly mentioned, namely the spirit of different times within human history. When I think of the Enlightenment period, for instance, nothing in my mind characterises it better than high baroque music. I just have to picture Handel/Bach/Vivaldi in a wig, and mentally play back some of their sublime, harmonious and clockwork masterpieces. Incidentally, treat yourself to these two YouTube videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uxs5O6hMBvg and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXh7JR9oKVE

      As I’ve intimated, such pieces are perhaps suitable mood music in a soundtrack to the movie of modern engineering, perhaps any and all effective engineering till the end of time. What would I play behind the movie of the modern speculative physics of black holes, string theory, and so on? Perhaps the sublime devotional music of St. Hildegard of Bingen. Please listen this--it’s exquisite: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yXJ0MDTI4Q

      There’s this idea in my mind that the music and art in general, as well as the state of understanding, economics and politics, etc. of any given time develop in tandem. Music and art in particular can evoke the spirit of that time, a spirit that is not lost and still can apply in the most seemingly incongruous settings today. What of music that has arisen in our times? What of Jazz and Rock and Punk and Rap and all the rest? They have their own associations and indications, and coexist with all the known musics from earlier periods. We do not throw away art from earlier times: we revere it, and no less than with current technology, we inexorably build on it.

      I think you touch on the point that the modern myth you present can be very unsettling, seem very threatening. I certainly felt that as I read through your book. When one gives consciousness precedence, everything changes. And yet, it does seem to head towards the desire for closure that you mention, the consensual consistency of the realm of the ego, albeit with a few tears here and there in the fabric of the reality of the "Matrix", so to speak.

      Ctd...

      Michael Larkin

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    4. I found myself, when reflecting on what you’ve written, considering the Cosmos. We look what we deem outwards at it, and what do we see? At one point, millennia ago, the sun, moon, planetary wanderers, and the stars. Okay, so that’s when we fixed their existence in our collective psyche. For centuries, they weren’t much more than that, until the modern era brought more and more powerful telescopes and techniques for analysing electromagnetic signals. We discovered galaxies and a few principles such as the Doppler shift, and on that we base our current concepts of the size of the visible universe, Big Bang, dark matter and energy, and all the rest. It’s all so far fairly consistent, albeit that one does smell the faint aroma of BS.

      Then along comes a guy like Halton Arp, who observes that some quasars, putatively amongst the most remote objects in the universe, seem to be physically attached to galaxies with a lower red shift. If he’s right about that, the whole of cosmology will get turned on his head. Of course, he’s been marginalized, vilified, and denied telescope time, the usual fare for the new class of scientism’s heretics. But is he right?

      As I was thinking about that, it occurred that if your myth has any merit, then what the heck was I doing thinking about galaxies and quasars as real objects out there, millions of light years away? They’re in here, and their consensual significance will continue to change. And popular SF ideas about interstellar and intergalactic travel are no less based on that consensual significance. Galaxies still possess, perhaps always will possess, the capacity to be understood in different ways. And the same applies to much of our current understanding of physics.

      But what occurred to me is that whatever consensus we are currently at, any new consensus not only has to accommodate and explain that, it also has to accommodate and explain why past consensuses were incorrect. When geocentrism gave way to heliocentrism, epicycles could still be explained; we could account for the apparent retrograde motion of planets, which can still be observed. How clever, I thought. What a clever guy that Trickster must be; what foresight he must possess.

      And that is where I still have reservations. Try as I might, I can’t seem to eliminate the possibility of a fully formed guiding intelligence that has existed from the beginning. Yet, right down at the base of the mountain chain, is the Formless supposed to be intelligent in the way we normally think of the term? Or is it that it all works despite the illusion of intelligence? I haven’t yet resolved this nagging question...

      Michael Larkin

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    5. Hi Michael,

      > ou offer a visual model or metaphor somewhat different to
      > your membrane one in chapter 7

      Yes, but the two metaphors are entirely compatible: The 'islands' are isomorphic to the 'loops;' the underwater parts of the mountain chain are isomorphic to the unfolded membrane; etc.

      > But if I read you rightly, this may be a false perception.
      > We have “breakthroughs from beneath” where we have such
      > things as crop circles, UFO sightings and alien abductions

      Not sure about crop circles (honestly, I tend to the hoax/man-made side of things), but as for the rest, yes.

      > Look at what we have been able to do whilst employing such
      > an approach: modern science, particularly technology,
      > speaks for itself.

      I still think that science and technology can be done as effectively without entailing a particular ontology. I see science as more utilitarian than ontological.

      > But all the while, deep down, we retain our childhood
      > awareness that there is more to things than meets the eye
      > of the adults who’d like to convince themselves there
      > isn’t.

      Indeed!

      > It seems that some forms of transcendentalism are more
      > acceptable to scientific orthodoxies than others!

      Yes! :-) It's a purely subjective thing.

      > climate science in respect of catastrophic global warming;
      > medicine in respect of the causal linkage between HIV and
      > AIDS

      I'll reserve my own judgment regarding these two examples, but yes, I agree with your general point!

      > Perhaps only in Engineering, where things have practical
      > applications and actually have to work, does the purest
      > spirit of the Enlightenment still persist.

      Exactly!

      > And this brings me to something you don’t seem to have
      > explicitly mentioned, namely the spirit of different times
      > within human history. When I think of the Enlightenment
      > period, for instance, nothing in my mind characterises it
      > better than high baroque music ... There’s this idea in my
      > mind that the music and art in general, as well as the
      > state of understanding, economics and politics, etc. of
      > any given time develop in tandem

      Yes, the zeitgeist, or the spirit of the time, manifests itself in many analogous ways at any historical juncture... I'll have a look at the videos you linked to; thanks!

      > I think you touch on the point that the modern myth you
      > present can be very unsettling, seem very threatening.

      Yes... nothing is more scary, or more loving, than one's own true image reflected in the mirror of self-awareness.

      > As I was thinking about that, it occurred that if your
      > myth has any merit, then what the heck was I doing
      > thinking about galaxies and quasars as real objects out
      > there, millions of light years away?

      Alan Watts put it best: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NIX3r1_ZPRE (start listening at 6:34 min)

      > What a clever guy that Trickster must be; what foresight
      > he must possess.

      The cleverest!'He' is behind what we call consensus reality... what I magician you've got to be to create such a convincing, involving trance...

      > Try as I might, I can’t seem to eliminate the possibility
      > of a fully formed guiding intelligence that has existed
      > from the beginning.

      I don't eliminate that either. Though I suspect that such Intelligence was not originally self-reflectively aware; and still isn't in a complete way. That's where the drama of human life, and the meaning of the Trickster's trance, comes in.

      > Yet, right down at the base of the
      > mountain chain, is the Formless supposed to be intelligent
      > in the way we normally think of the term?

      Perhaps not in the way that we normally think of the term, since we normally think of it as entailing self-reflective awareness... think of the membrane: Whatever intelligence there is in the universe is in the membrane, and always was. But the unfolded membrane is not self-reflectively aware... it is not aware of its own inherent intelligence.

      Delete
  4. Finally and on a separate point, Bernardo, You say the following at the start of chapter 9:

    "Jung observed that all that resides in the unconscious levels of the psyche seeks its way to the surface: to become known in awareness. This process is central to psychic health: only through the harmonious integration of unconscious contents into the light of awareness can one achieve individuation and become a complete personality. Moreover, as Jung suggested, there appears to be no other way to harmony and completion but through individuation. As such, it is an inexorable process we all constantly undergo, slowly and imperceptibly as it may be."

    This is linked to endnote 1 for the chapter:

    "It is possible, and even likely, that in the historical past this process was in fact reversed: that humans have experienced a separation between previously integrated aspects of their psyche, leading to the formation of the unconscious. This is an exceedingly interesting topic that, nonetheless, is outside the scope of this book. Here, we will consider only what appears to be the current course of the process: from a highly disintegrated psyche to a progressively more integrated one, through the inexorable process of individuation."

    I was intrigued by that endnote and a bit disappointed that you didn't give a reference or two for this "exceedingly interesting topic". Any chance you could remedy this? :-)

    One final point: I don't know if you are aware, but the endnotes in the Kindle edition don't link back to where they came from, which is the usual practice. I found that a bit frustrating.

    Michael Larkin

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very observant of you, Michael! There is an apparent contradiction between these two passages because of the way Jungians use the terms 'consciousness' and the 'unconscious.' That's why I moved to the membrane metaphor (http://www.bernardokastrup.com/2012/08/as-part-of-online-debate-in-discussion.html) later: It resolves the apparent contradiction.

      According to the membrane metaphor, the 'unconscious' is simply the unfolded parts of the membrane. Originally, there were no folds, so there was no unconscious; everything was integral, but integral _without self-reflective awareness_. Later, when the first 'loops' appeared, self-reflective awareness emerged and obfuscated all contents of consciousness that were not within the loop. They became then apparently 'unconscious' (in fact, they are just obfuscated). That's when the divide appeared. But the divide will once again disappear once the entire membrane folds in on itself in one global 'loop.' At that point, everything will again be integrated, but now _with self-reflective awareness_.

      There is a 'trialogue' between Rupert Sheldrake, Terence McKenna, and Ralph Abraham, called 'the unconscious,' in which Ralph discusses the possibility that there was no divide between consciousness and the unconscious at some point in our historical past. You can probably download it either from Ruppert's website, or from Lorenzo's podcast "The Psychedelic Salon."

      A yet better reference is Julian Jayne's (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julian_Jaynes) work 'The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind.'

      Cheers, and thanks for these extremely thoughtful comments!

      Delete
    2. Bernardo,

      Your work is moving quickly toward a synthesis of many fields,a conscilience of Jungian Psychology,Terrance McKenna's poetic raves of dribbling bejeweled 'machine elves' have entered into the imagination as Entheogen's version of John Donne, spouting wreckless language that become symbolic performance art that conjures up the inner infinite dimensional states that are filled with Awe and Mystery, a tap on our shoulders reminding us "Man...this Thing is Big!".

      We are living into another transformative play of consciousness as The Divine Imagination once again enfolds into a type of self awareness that we can barely perceive in our rational, skin- encapsulated egos. At the very core of our cultural malaise', where man is a statistical accident. Meaning is an epiphenomena.

      The materialist vision,actually a Hellish Myth, is that we are living on a tiny dust mote, on one of the underpopulated outer limbs of one of billions of galaxies in an unimaginably large Universe.
      It is no accident that Prometheus was condemned by the gods to eternal suffering, tied to a rock while experiencing his eyes and liver pecked away eternally by ravenous birds, for stealing fire from the gods.The message seems clear. Do not lose Meaning, or misuse through hubris,the inner fire of the powerful mysteries that form this Universe. We are co-participators, not masters in the Great Creat Holarchy of the Divine Creative Imagination.

      And the modern Promethean act when man split the atom and unleashed forces far beyond our human capability to contain the massive destructive powers held within the atomic bond and the incredible growth of technology that have marginilized men and terrorized the Modern Mythos. The human brain stem, where information first enters the incredible piece of meat, the human brain with it's sensori-neural processing system of neurons and synapstic tissues firing wet chemistries of electrical movemements that are in the constant liminal state between order and chaos,shares it's structure at the brain stem that is shared with our reptilian anscestors.
      J Robert Oppenheimer's quote from the Bhagavad Gita, when viewing the first atomic bomb explosion at Los Alamos in 1945, "Now I am Become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds", speaks directly to the awful potentials that Matter without Meaning (Mythos)will annihilate "the collective human experiment" unless Meaning, Subjective connection to the Source and the hman psyche is re-ensouled and the Cosmos re-enchanted and integrated as "Atman is Brahmin", "as above, so below", "I Am That" are re-incorporated into our Modern Mythos ,something Joseph Campbell gave his life's work as a jeramiad in a vast materialist, meaningless, consumer culture of Flatland,
      .Bernardo, you have moved rapidly into your life task, helping others recreate Meaning in Modern Science.Your posts now include the work of Rupert Sheldrake, William Blake and his term the "Divine Imagination", Douglas Hofstadter, and Patrick Harpur's brilliant work on the anamolies of where something appears with a different dimensional rule set of 'dream worlds, visions, UFO's, Fortean Events, and anomolies that uinder our current Mind Set simply can't happen and must be ignored or debunked.

      Self Awareness is indeed a strange loop and why our homo sapiens sapiens branch on the primate bush 'stranged looped' by the remarkably novel evolutionary strategy that allowed for a larger human brain to continue to grow for almost 14 years after birth before it is fully developed is solved is seen not as a "problem to be solved by scientists" but approached with the humility and awe that the Imagination coupled with open-minded Empiricism and "Mans Search for Meaning" than we will suffer Prometheus's fate, or perhaps the perpetual banishment of faling back into 'dead matter". Matter is Alive!

      Delete

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