Once Upon a Time

Dallas, August 14, 1999


Emile: Ok, Zeus, ... I want you to relax now, ... and to imagine your emergence into the world, ... your very first thoughts and experiences and how your understanding of things progressed, ... not from your perspective as a grown and acculturated adult, ... wielding all of the accepted conventions and concepts which that entails, ... but employing the most basic and elementary notions which were available to you at that time. Since we are using language to do this, ... which is filled with culturally accepted conceptual structures, synthetic concepts built upon synthetic concepts, ... fabricated for convenience in explaining and sharing our views of reality, and which have come to accept without question, ... we shall need to question the meaning of our statements along the way, ... so as to get to the 'pre-conceptual' or 'preceptual' meaning 'beneath' the derived notions built into our words.

Zeus: This is an exercise which interests me very much, in light of our recent discussions, so I am eager to pursue it, and will do my best to get back into my primal state of experiencing or 'preception' as you call it.

Emile: ... I want you to start with what you imagine to be your earliest experiential conception.

Zeus: ..... What I see is a kaleidoscope of pure experience, of blossoming colors, tastes, sounds, feels, smells, ... bursting forth and bubbling up at the same time as receding and disappearing. Preceptual upwellings enfolded in downwellings and vice versa, like a birds eye view over Tivoli gardens in the son-et-lumiere of a night of festivity.

Emile: Your use of terms connoting 'coming' and 'going' intrigues me, ... it seems you already have a sense of time.

Zeus: ... hmmm. No, I don't think it's 'time' that I am sensing, ... its 'novelty', ... patterns keep emerging and the new patterns subsume the 'old', ... so there is a sense of flow and a continual emergence characterized by what is, was and will be, all bundled into a continuing, inclusionary unity, a unity which includes an anticipatory sense of a continuing blossoming and inducing a feeling of 'belonging', of being part of the blossoming.

Emile: What I hear you saying is that your experience includes 'memory' which gives a sense of past, present and future, and also that this experiential 'depth' to the flow seems something other than a sense of 'time'. Why do you think that is?

Zeus: There is this undifferentiated sense of wholeness, ... there is no 'me' in this experiencing, that type of self-other orienting awareness is just not there,... there is just pure experiencing without questioning, ... an innocent accepting of experience, ... the experiencing of a sensate flowing whole within which patterns emerge and are subsumed by more patterns.

Emile: But if you see things come and go, ... you are already using the notion of 'time'.

Zeus: I didn't say I could see 'things' come and go, ... there is no notion of 'things', ... no notion of a collection or ensemble of differentiated elements, ... only of a many-splendored whole which is putting on a show. I am immersed in a sea whose substance continually blossoms forth and that is all there is, ... I do not question the experience and I do not feel separate from it. So there are no 'things' which 'come' and 'go', ... there are no absolutes like that, ... everything is relative and motional and nothing is absolute. But within this relativity, there is old and new, the sense of flow and the sense of 'becoming'. It is as if I am in a dream and in dreams, time is of little consequence, ... our experiencing takes us where it will and 'time' has no ordering power over the goings on.

Emile: Ok, what I hear you saying is that there is no 'standard time' which applies in the same way to everything and gives consistent sequence and order to things, ... and I guess that's because there are no 'things' in your experiencing, simply a splendiferous flowing whole. The whole is timeless and if one thinks of the emergent patterns and images, in their local aspect, as still being the whole but just features of the whole, then they can be seen simply as behavioral aspects of the timeless whole.

Zeus: Yes, I think you have hit on something important here with this notion of 'behavior'. It seems to me that it is on the basis of 'behavioral qualities' that one starts to differentiate out certain aspects of the whole and identify them as 'things'. For example, one of the first experiential flavorings which begins to stand out from my experience, is that there is a quality of experiencing which is different for the patterns which represent the limbs on my body, ... it is a kind of experience-perception linking quality, ... when I experience the pattern of my limbs (which were not labelled parts initially, just patterns), I can go into that experience and when I do go into the experience in a certain 'way', the pattern changes. And though I am forced to use the word 'I' here because of the limitations of language, ... there was only a 'preceptual' hint of an 'I' initially. This experiencing of my experiencing changing my experiencing has a distinct 'feel' to it, as if it is 'bootstrapping' my 'I' or 'self' out of pure experience. I have it also with my experiencing of my patterns of my mother but I can't achieve such a tight coupling being experiencing and experiential pattern changing as I can with my limbs. There seems to be different intensities of inductive connection between the experiencing and experienced.

Emile: So this notion of 'behavioral qualities' of patterns, as being influencible by the manner of experiencing seems to be 'bootstrapping' the notion of 'self' out of the whole.

Zeus: Yes, ... I would say so, ... first there is this notion of 'behavior' of flow patterns. This seems to come before any question of 'self'-awareness, ... of 'who' is experiencing what. And next comes this notion that there are different flavors to experiencing, and one of the flavors of experiencing leads to this notion of a 'connection', ... a connective 'relationship' between the 'feel' of the experiencing and the experiencing (the patterns experienced). Out of this experiential 'feeling', then, is born the notion of some kind of connective relationship between the experiencing and the experienced. Its almost as if the vortex of experiencing and experienced is a kind of magnetic field, which of course can exist in the ether without any tangible presence, ... and that this vortex itself precipitates a material presence, ... in other words, out of the unity of a circle comes a two-sided thing, ... the notion of a 'connection' between 'something' and 'something else', .. between self-and-other, ... the 'north and south' pole of a magnet, ... notions which don't exist in the circular flow of etherial experience, but are precipitated by it.

Emile: What you are speaking of is a 'self-referential' relationship, but you are describing it in purely relational terms, since you have not yet created the notion of 'self', ... that is, there are still only patterns, ... and 'things' or 'entities' have 'not yet arrived'. So your circular 'experiencing' or 'feeling' is bootstrapping the notion of a connection. and a connection implies more than one entity. Apparently your experiential 'feeling' is splitting the whole into two, and the underpinning of this splitting is the 'feeling of connectedness' which flows out of this circular recursion.

Zeus: Yes, that's right, ... and of course, once I have this notion of 'connection' and being to play with it, ... this effects the whole evolution of experience. From my initial 'feeling of connectedness' I can now evolve to differentiated feelings of connectedness which are characterized by the 'depth of the feeling of connectedness', ... some patterns giving very shallow feelings of connectedness and others giving deeper feelings of connectedness.

Emile: It strikes me that what you're now evolving is 'subjectivity' since you seem to 'know about' these differences in depths of feeling of connectedness. This variegated 'knowing' of the container which is evolving out of this experience would appear to constitute 'subjectivity' and give rise to the notion that 'something knows'.

Zeus: First there is just 'experiencing', then a differentiating of experiencing based on 'flavors of experiencing' or 'feelings' which give rise to the notion of a 'connectedness' between experiencing and the experienced and then to different flavors of 'connectedness', which constitute an implicit 'knowing' which colors one's experiencing further, ... since now the flavor of the experiencing includes this notion of 'knowing' which is kind of a special case of 'feeling' which involves the invoking of prior history.

Emile: This evolution gives the impression of a Fibonacci spiral, ...circles nesting within circles, or rather, spheres nesting within spheres like the geological layering of the earth, since our experience seems volumetric and immersed. Of course the geological layers are really spiral since they are continually 'nested' and there are no absolute starts and stops at the demarcation points of the layers, ... 'layers' being abstractions which we define on the basis of convenience. That is, the connective sphere of immediate experience-and-the-experienced emerges as an inside-outside kind of notion, ... and doesn't just stop but continues on in a recursion in which there is a continually deepening geological, 'fibonacci-spiral-layering of experience.

Zeus: ... And like the 'layered' earth, ... there is an implicit, virtual 'inside' or 'center' to this experiencing and that implicit notion of 'center' seems to provide a reference point for one end of this experiencing of connectedness between experiencing-and-experienced. A reference stake in the ground which says on it, 'this is the inside of experience', ... let's call it 'self'.

Emile: ... Yes, ... and there is a feeling of sadness that comes to me now as we speak of this, ... and I think it relates to a loss of innocence. Initially, the feeling was one of pure experience in the sense of an undifferentiated whole and the notion of conflict or opposition or responsibility etc. was not troublesome because it was always resolved in the 'whole', ... and there is an incredible feeling of lightness associated with this notion of experiencing the evolution of an undifferentiated whole. But as the whole differentiates and the notion of 'self' emerges in terms of a center-for-knowing, there is kind of a 'responsibility' which comes with it, ... a sense of the weight of the overburden of these geological layers of knowing. It's not bad, necessarily, but it takes one out of the dreamy world of experiencing and suggests; "you exist because you think" and since you now exist, you are responsible for your thoughts and have to care for them.

Zeus: Yes, ... 'cogito ergo sum' comes bundled with responsibility. But it didn't come out of a void, but came instead out of the experiencing of an undifferentiated wholeness.

Emile: I agree, ... Descartes didn't dig deep enough or rather he drove down to the bottom but forgot about the container in which his story of digging was given domicile. He indeed 'put the cart before the horse', ... ignoring the horse of dreams which pulled the notion of 'self' into being.

Zeus: ... and we do not dispose of the horse, nor could we, after our creative accomplishment, but still have him standing by at the ready, waiting to be ridden in the night and at our preceptual bidding.

Emile: ... though to suggest to someone in our culture that dreams, in other words, the experiencing of undifferentiated wholeness, is the container by whose grace our subjective self continues to exist, is a notion which will draw laughter and ridicule.

Zeus: Let's continue to call it 'pReception' then, and temporarily suspend the ridicule via the device of a yet-to-come explanation of 'pReception' and so promote more harmonious discussion. 'Preception' in this context we are currently developing in more depth, would refer to perceptual experience in that state where subjectivity is not-yet precipitated and subjectivity is thus undifferentiated, or at least not fully differentiated, from objectivity, ... preception is our pre-existential story told to ourselves when we are feeling 'wholly'. It is a story beyond and before time which is big enough to tell of our own creation as well as current unfoldings, .. 'our own creation' referring to the creation of 'self' out of the whole, that is.

Emile: Nice one, Zeus, ... I like it. I think we are getting into a position where we can expose 'time' for the imposter that it is. Time would seem to deal with the 'vintage' of our experience, right? Yet we have noted that our experience seems to layer like the geology of the earth in a nested outer-inner fashion, ... the sediments of knowing spiralling upwards into emergence and deepening downward into interior layers on a continuing basis, all prior layers being mixed with newly emergent experience and the melange being continually deposited in new layers, ... There is, of course, a couple of problems here with respect to our language based description. The first is, that since the layering is spiralously enfolding and continuous, there are no discrete 'boundaries' between layers which are 'deeper' towards the interior and layers which are 'shallower' or more towards the exterior. This is the first part of the problem in setting up 'vintages of experience' as the basis for 'time'.

The second part of the problem, if we set aside the 'discreteness' problem associated with 'layers' for the moment, ... is that each successive layer INCLUDES all prior layers,... this is, of course, the Fibonacci sequence, which seems to be 'imprinted' on everything in nature from ammonites to the solar system and galaxies. When a geologist examines the sedimentary layers, he examines them in the context of evolutionary patterns or 'assemblages', since he will find old fossils and old rock deposited in new sediments, since the earth stirs up the old layers of its experience and mixes them in with the new just as we stir up old experiential memories in our minds and mix them in with the current experiences we are currently in the process of 'laying down'.

Zeus: I take your point, ... there are some systematic deepening or enriching effects in the layering, with greater diversity in the outer layers than in the more interior ones, due to the spiral enfolding. So the notion of time as a vintage of experience gets rather complex and certainly nonlinear, ... having the properties that one interval of time cannot be separated from the prior interval except by our arbitrary abstracting, ... and that the content of each new interval of time includes content from all prior intervals plus the current experiential content. There is a language problem here in that nothing of which we are talking can be 'packaged and labelled' in standalone bundles, yet this labelling and bundling is the very basis of our language.

Emile: This in-discrete, evolutionary 'enriching' of our experience seems to be overlooked by our culture. If we take the 'self' as the starting point, instead of pure experience, we can make some huge simplifications, since the existence of the 'self' as a stand-alone 'thing' detached from the whole, establishes the basis for visualizing reality in terms of an ensemble of such 'things'. What we are left with in this picture is, of course, a void in those spaces which are not occupied by 'things'. This is essentially the 'Euclidian' view of space which Poincare notes is 'the most simple' of geometries for modelling our reality.

Zeus: I like Poincare's notion of such geometrical 'conventions' as being born out of 'convenience' since Euclidian space is indeed convenient for the modelling of mechanical things where the behavior of the parts fully defines the whole. However, it would be foolish to embrace this 'simplest of geometries' to the point that we 'forget' about our containing story which gave birth to this geometry, and to the evolutionary processes leading up to the geometry of 'self' and other. Descartes was living within a larger containing story as he came up with the idea of 'cogito ergo sum' and Parmenides was living within a larger containing story when he came up with the notion of 'thing's and 'void' which were essential to the notions of Euclidian space and to the notions of exclusionary logic and 'cause'.

Emile: Yes, ... it does seem rather arrogant to forget about your containing story and start from the idea of 'self' and build an entire world on top of it. 'Cogito ergo sum' is a question about 'being' or 'what is' out of the context of the evolutionary 'becoming' we are immersed in, ... a 'becoming' which we can only speak of in the relativistic 'geometry and experience' terms of 'preception', ... that is, ... in the terms of 'story' which is accessed by bringing into connection in our mind a multitude of real and imaginary experiencing.

Zeus: But look at what a simplification we can gain from this. If we start off with a view of 'self' as a stand-alone 'thing' and our reality as an ensemble of stand-alone 'things', out of the context of our ever-enriching Fibonacci spiraling or inner-outer layered 'story-time', ... in other words if we start off with the Euclidian, logical, causal model, often referred to as the 'rational' or 'materialist' model, ... then we can redefine time in terms of the emergence and disappearance of 'things', and 'time' won't evolve and accumulate complexity. For example, we can say that 'time is the experiencing of loss associated with the disappearance of something we know'. This is known in mathematics as a 'differential', and the advantage of dealing with differentials is that you can isolate the 'bumps' on the body of a thing and discard the body so that you don't have to carry it around with you all the time. The philosopher Berkeley termed Newton's differentials or 'fluxions', ... 'the ghosts of departed qualities'. It's kind of an artificial 'load lightener' which can be very useful.

Emile: ... 'can be' would seem to be a key adjective here Zeus, since if we want to return to the 'whole' picture after playing around with differentials, we must go through the operation of 'integration' and integration requires, at each stage, the adding back in of the original 'body' we dropped off, ... a process which does not work so well, of course, if we have permanently discarded or misplaced that 'body'.

Zeus: I see what you mean, ... if we 'differentiate' our continuing story using a linear 'time' concept, ... we say in effect that each interval of story contains stand-alone material (the bumps we shaved off the full spiraling story), but if we don't keep a copy of the 'full spiraling story' as a backup, we may be left with the thought that our whole story IS the bodyless 'bumps', the 'ghosts of departed qualities', ... a view of reality in which the present experience, the 'what is', is all there is, ... a view which has detached from the richness of the evolution which we are immersed constituents in and producers of.

Emile: Yes, it would be comparable to a geologist or archeologist digging into a layer of earth and on finding some fossils, saying, ... 'these are bones', and continuing on as if that's all there was to it, since that would be all the meaning that the fossils have with respect to the current time interval seen in its own right. But geologists and archeologists wouldn't do that, ... they would dream of the spiraling story which connects them with the creatures that these fossils once were, ... being born and being nurtured by their parents, growing up and living in a very different and changing container, and participating in the fashioning of the container within which the geologist and archeologist are now immersed and standing in, ... they would see themselves as being inside of the same story as the now-fossilized creatures.

Zeus: ... the 'nothing but bones' sounds more like what todays youth are saying and thinking about the aged and deceased, ... seeing them as artifacts of little or even negative value to today's time interval, and in no way connected to 'their story'.

Emile: By seeing the world in terms of an ensemble of things, as the rational model would have us do, ... the notion of a living, evolving 'container' which breathes life into its constituent parts which in turn nurture its evolution into the future,... collapses. The euclidian 'thing' and 'void' model is a useful simplification only if we don't end up 'believing' that that's all there is, and discarding our container story. Quantum physics with its 'thinglessness' and 'connectedness' and simultaneity or 'nonlocal behavior' and its unified wholeness (having no outside), reminds us that our container 'is us' and everything else, past, present and future, ... that we are therefore in a long lineage of 'story-makers', making it up as we go along, in a way which is consistent and harmonious with the stories of our ancestors, ... a story which is the evolutionary container itself which continually precipitates new chapters and new characters.

Zeus: Emile, ... I don't know what school you went to, ... but my recollection is that what was, and is still being taught, is that the world is a euclidian world of things and cause and that 'what is' is all there is, ... that you can't eat spiraling history.

Emile: The materialist view does indeed give such impressions of reality to its young, and thus the nourishment it gives can leads to obesity and the starvation of the 'self' at the same time. Linear time, based on the loss of states of being, ..., the loss of the sun in the sky or the seasons or the years, ... is seen in the same terms as the loss of a wallet. Linear time is the differentiating operator which cuts us loose from the spiralling legacy of our evolutionary history and leaves us with the 'what is', ... out of the context of our continuing story, ... a story which is the source of meaning and purpose for our living 'selves' as contrasted with our material being. Our 'self' needs the nourishment of story which wraps around, enfolds and immerses our present experience, giving it meaning and purpose, ... such nourishment can't come out of 'thin air' or the 'Euclidian void' which is supposed to be all there is, outside of material things.

Zeus: My sense is that we get back inside our story when we dream, ... perhaps dreaming IS getting back into our story, ... and also when we 'preceive', ... that is, when we remove ourselves from our rational, time-oriented state of consciousness and return to pure experience.

Emile: Good point, Zeus. When we are in 'preceptual' or 'full perceptual' mode, ... experiencing which has shaken loose the manufabricated fetters of linear time, ... our subjectivity is allowed to float and our visualization becomes relativistic. In this mode we feel our connection to the whole and sense our 'reciprocal disposition', the janus-faced inverse to our disposition, which connects us inductively to our containing space, as the billiard ball is inductively connected to its containing configuration, and is the underpinning of container-content-evolution. Here we are no longer visualizing our reality in terms of the 'most simple' euclidian space, ... but now we are in the non-euclidian geometry of curved, self-referential space, ... a space where the future comes about by the interplay of the container with itself, ... with its own precipitated contents. As the biologist Francisco Varela says;

"Tradition would have it that experience is either a subjective or an objective affair, that the world is there and that we either see it as it is or we see it through our subjectivity. However, when we follow through the guiding thread of circularity and its natural history, we may look at that quandary from a different perspective; that of 'participation' and 'interpretation' where the subject and object are inseparably meshed."

Zeus: Varela's view which removes the stake-in-the-ground of the self's subjectivity and lets it float would seem to be in good agreement with the theory of relativity. I guess its a case of 'what goes around, comes around'.

Emile: ... what do you mean by that?

Zeus: Well, ... it seems that we built up our view of the world from a base of 'things' and 'void' to lighten the load and simply everything. In order to do this, we had to start somewhere and we started from the notion of 'self' out of the context of the evolutionary container which obviously gives meaning to 'self', since 'self' can have no meaning in its own right, being bootstrapped as a repository for 'knowing' about 'other'. Now it's true that this tidied up a lot of stuff by dropping out the spiraling attachment to our evolutionary (his)tory, but it seems as if we have only swept this complexity under the rug and that it is now reappearing on the objective side, ... in the complexity which is rising in the world 'out there' which resists our attempts to understand and navigate it.

Emile: Yes, the 'incredible lightness' you felt in your 'preceptual' dream came from having no 'self' and therefore no 'responsibility' for being a repository of 'knowing'. You were instead in pure experiencing mode, ... one of 'participation and interpretation' as Varela says, ... a mode in which you don't have to explicitly 'know' what is going on since you ARE what is going on, ... you ARE the story which you are helping to continue. That feeling of belonging to evolution itself was a happy and creative feeling which was the ultimate solution to feelings of conflict and loss since all conflict and loss are resolved in the never-beginning, never-ending 'story' which is evolution.

Zeus: What you are saying is that the 'self' is geometry of convenience rather than being something 'absolute' and that we can use it as a tool to provide a 'center' to operate out of, when we want to be 'rational', ... but that we can return to the relativistic, and purely relational world of 'preception', ... the 'evolutionary flow', ... whenever we want to 'lighten up'. ... This makes sense to me Emile, but what do you think others in our western culture would say, .. if we shared this with them?

Emile: ... they'd probably say ... 'dream on, baby!'.

Zeus: You know, that doesn't sound half bad, to me. In fact, it sounds rather appealing. .... Hey, Emile, ... 'dream on, man'.

Emile: and you too, Zeus.

* * *

Return to '98/'99 Update Page and Index of Essays