Lucia's 21'st Birthday, September 28, 1998
No, it's not Lucia who denies her own birth, nor any natural-born child, .... but something seems to happen, at least in the Western world, to warp our minds as we become inculturated in our adulthood.
Our story begins back in Greece in 500 B.C., .... the time of the birth of literacy, a vehicle which would make individual experience 're-usable' by others, at least a generalized version of that experience, aka 'knowledge', since experience itself, complexly enfolded as it is in ontogenetic space-time, is innately unique.
In this era, there were two very basic and very different philosophical views in circulation; the view of Heraclitus that the world, .... our reality, was in a continuing state of flux, ... no, ... WAS a continuing state of flux, and the view of Parmenides, that the world was an ensemble of never-changing 'things' separated by void.
While modern quantum physics and relativity would now agree with Heraclitus, our western culture was founded, and still rests, on the notion of reality being an ensemble of discrete 'things' whose cause-pushed transactions 'make the world go 'round'.
Parmenides, it is said, was disgusted with his own birth, the messiness of it, physically as well as philosophically, and it is difficult indeed to reconcile 'birth' with the concept of reality being an ensemble of discrete, independent things. Which notion came first, indeed, ... the denial of birth, or the advocacy of a tidy world of independent 'things'?
What seems obvious is that somewhere along the way, the child must separate from its mother, and it seems unreasonable to assume that the space between the mother and the child does not come into play in this separation. Yes, I know, we call it 'the miracle of birth', but why ignore the paradox here, why not seek an understanding?
Of course, the paradox doesn't really arise if we assume that 'space is a participant in phenomena', as Einstein says, ... a participation that appears to be a necessary underpinning of relativity and quantum physics.
Now if we bring this observation, of participatory space, into connection with Kepler's observations on perception and intellection, our view of reality simplifies rather dramatically. That is, we have two ways of perceiving reality, a 'center-pointing' or 'ratiocinating' way of perceiving which we can imagine in terms of an observer on the 'sphere' formed by the earth's revolutionary orbit looking down and in on venus, mercury and the sun; i.e. a way in which we can 'ratio' the distance between things and come up with (relative) quantitative measures and geometrical-structural description for whatever we see within the sphere. We also have a 'center-basing' or 'pattern-recognizing' way of perceiving which we can imagine in terms of that same observer on the earth's sphere rolling over on her back and looking up and out at mars and mercury. From this perspective, one is effectively 'coming from the center' and cannot make use of the center in their observed field of view to 'ratiocinate' and develop quantitative geometric structural description. This is the mode which Kepler refers to, in referring to the solar system as an archetype for systems of geometry and harmony, including human intellection, .... as 'pure intuition', .... intuition which CONTAINS the ratiocinating view, in terms of its perceptual information content. Kepler's point is that there is a basic tradeoff here, we cannot look upwards and outwards at the same time as we look downward and inwards, and as we move more towards 'one or the other', we lose either the detail in our structural geometry of 'things', or we lose resolution in our recognizing of qualitative patterns associated with the resonant space-time regions between 'things'.
Now it was apparent to Kepler, that 'intuition', by providing the 'harmonic' view of the non-closed-form, inter-thing, space-time web, was providing the more 'complete view', which contained the information about 'things' as a special case (i.e. if you froze the space-time harmony, you would then see 'things').
We are very familiar with these two different ways of perceiving, ... I will refer to them as 'intuitive' and 'rational', and while 'rational' is an ambiguous term, I intend it in the sense of 'center-pointing' and ratiocinating. Intuition, as I intend it, is the space-time pattern recognition mode, well described by Einstein, as he speaks to how we can 'visualize' non-euclidian space-time (i.e. how we can achieve 'center-basing' perception and intuitive intellection). He says; "A geometrical-physical theory as such is incapable of being directly pictured, being merely a system of concepts. But these concepts serve the purpose of bringing a multiplicity of real or imaginary sensory experiences into connection in the mind. To 'visualize' a theory, or bring it home to one's mind, therefore means to give a representation to that abundance of experiences for which the theory supplies the schematic arrangement."
A 'geometrical - physical theory', as Einstein describes it, is the intellectual capturing of an ordering principle which underlies a familiar or archetypical space-time pattern, .... i.e. it is the intellectual capturing of an ordering principle which transcends the specific material or contextual rendering of the pattern.
The information associated with qualitative patterns and 'ordering principles' in natural phenomena transcends the geometric-structural information associated with ensembles of closed forms to which we can ascribe a center, 'closure' and 'volume'. For example, when we consider the 'negative space' of the artist, or the pattern of the spaces between the planets in the resonant system of sun-and-planets, we cannot find words to express this 'inclusionary' view, since words oblige things to being 'substantive' while the space between things is clearly insubstantive. It seems that we must express the spaces between things in 'not-words', in aspirant breathing and pauses or silences, which puts space between words, .... and this appreciation of the meaningful latencies in space brings us on a convergent course towards the oral traditions and thinking of the aboriginal peoples
But even western psychological studies have shown that we cannot voluntarily recall complex qualitative patterns or 'ordering principles' (such as the ordering principles, even, in riding a bicycle, or those which characterize a person we well know). We only recognize these ordering principles and patterns as we re-experience them. We call this 'implicit memory' as opposed to memory based on 'things' (which we call 'explicit memory'). Explicit, voluntarily accessible remembrances, we refer to as 'knowledge'.
Our western culture seems to be fearful of those pregnant spaces, ... to be anxious about what they might give birth to, .... far safer to think of everything in terms of known, tangible 'things', so that we have no need to acknowledge those unknown, unpredictable entities which spring forth from the so-called 'empty' spaces between things. ... where do babies really come from, anyhow? .... if not from the space between their parents? And where does our sense of 'self' come from, if not from the space between our 'material' behaviors and our experiential imagination.
In the west, we seem to have a deep-seated fear of the creative light which emerges from the space between things. Lucia, perhaps burdened by having both forename and surname derived from 'light', had a dream where a dazzling 'sun' terrorized people in their homes and other spaces which they had thought to be private and concealed, ..... and it became her task to help them see there was no need for fear.
In spite of the apparent pregnancy of empty space, what the rationalist scientific world is still insisting on, is that understanding of our complex reality can come from a focused study of 'things', closed forms which we can subdivide into ever finer detail, .... as in Parmenides 'dream', ... the denial of birth; i.e. the denial of life emanating from the spaces between things.
This insistence is not really surprising, as the struggle with the concept of the 'space between things' emerges in the myth of all cultures, and no less so in ours. As Mircea Eliade says, "Man is haunted by the desire to escape from his particular situation and to re-integrate with the transpersonal [collective]; on the other hand, he is paralyzed by the fear of losing his <identity> and forgetting who he <is>." This is man's age-old struggle with the 'coincidentia oppositorum', or 'mysterium coniunctionis', or 'unity of the opposites'. Our western culture, it seems, has been opting for more 'oppositorum' and less 'coniunctionis' and this imbalance is leading to increasing pain and dysfunction.
What we are doing here is taking 'knowledge' and 'rationality', the children of 'experience' and 'intuition', and believing they can give birth to their own parents in an Escher kind of 'strange loop'. Instead of cultivating a child's natural experiencing and intuitiveness or 'imagination', we seek to suppress it by forcing them to submit to knowledge and rationality based structured learning, a process that strips them of their self-worth and gives it back to 'the few' who score highest on the non humanist scales of 'knowledge mastery' and 'rational inquiry' (IQ). By doing this, we force those who 'win', ... to live lives which are not theirs, and those who 'lose', ... to succumb to feelings of failure and depression, which may well lead on to suicide, and drug or alcohol addiction. R. D. Laing, Lev Vygotsky, A.S. Neill, Maria Montessori, Jules Henry have well-articulated the problem, but they seem to have spoken to deaf ears, because the stewards of education are those who have excelled in this vicious game, who are distant from the experience of the 'losers' and thus cannot easily draw from it.
Where is this story of the Parmenidian denial of birth going? Where are we headed as we continue to think of ourselves as a community of 'closed form' figures separated by void, where 'things' and rationality are 'king', where 'space' and intuition go ignored?
It seems clear where we are 'headed'. We are headed, .... though it is easily within our power to change this 'heading', ... into every deeper depths of pain and dysfunction, and the reasoning is both simple and unavoidable.
In a reality wherein space is a participant, the subject is never fully separated from the object, and the subject's inquiries and engagements relative to the seemingly 'detached' objective world, though they may influence the field of observation, are likely to be well-laundered in space-time. If the subject has no way of distinguishing which aspects of the object's observed behaviour are emanating from himself, he has no way of understanding this subject-object system as a whole.
The rational, center-pointing mode of perception and intellection has no grip or basis from which to separate its own subject-effect from the object-properties it observes. Rationality does not provide for this, and the most rational of entities, the computer (which we seem to be trying to emulate or 'dumb-down-to' in our western culture) can no more distinguish his effect on his surroundings than you can physically stand on top of your own head. And the man with smelly feet for whom the crowd clears a path, .... do they give him the same clearance as others with clean feet, or is the manner in which the crowd makes way for him influenced, in any way, by his own property of cleanliness? And the worker, because of the declining secureness of his employ, who puts his savings in funds which promise aggressive returns, does he by so doing, encourage those practices in his own employer which lower his own job security?
The fundamentals of geometry, as Kepler implies, blind rational inquiry to such self-referential patterns as involve the participation of the space between things, as in the above examples. In order to discriminate subject-induced influence on the object of one's observation, one has to 'stand on the top of one's own head', .... no, not physically but in one's imagination, ... in 'thought experiment'.
In this regard, the words 'imaginary sensory experiences' are in no way arbitrary in Einstein's statement on intuitive pattern recognition. As he states in 'Geometry and Experience', he could never have come up with the theory of relativity without using 'intuition', in the form of imagined 'thought experiments' where he does indeed 'stand on the top of his own head'.
Intuition, AND NOT RATIONAL INTELLECTION, gives us the capability of 'standing on the top of our own heads', and when we do, we can bring many things into connection in our mind, we can recognize patterns and intuit the ordering principles which associate with them, we can see how the crowd responds in our view from above as we walk through the crowd, and in so doing detect subject-centered infuences in crowd (object) behavior. And we can see how our investment pressure, as we seek aggressive investment returns, permeates across the spaces between things (worker and employer), and constitutes a subject-centered influence in the growth of uncertainty in our employment.
Our denial of the participation of space, of our own birthing process, seems to be leading to dysfunction-inducing inversion in our culture, ... an inversion of natural parent-child or 'sphere-within-sphere' relational primacies; ... from 'knowledge as the child of experience' to 'knowledge as the parent of experience', .... from 'rationality as the child of intuition' to 'rationality as the parent of intuition', .... from 'goals as the child of purpose' to 'goals as the parent of purpose', ... and from 'means as the child of ends' to 'means as the parent of ends'.
By this unnatural inversion, we create for ourselves a narrow, rationality-based 'shell-world', wherein we become peers with our own rational instruments, ... our machines and computers, .... machines which are constrained to closed-form analysis which does not allow for re-birthing. And in this aberrant process, we deny our own human birthright of space-time connectedness and imagination. We can live within this rational shell for some time yet, perhaps, but this shell itself cannot persist within nature, because of its blindness to its own effect on nature. Failing to understand the subject-object system in which we participate, a pre-requisite for co-evolution with nature, we shall expire.
While the specific outcome of our current rational-over-intuitive folly may be hard to predict, the pattern is rather easy to predict; i.e. what falls out of co-resonance with nature becomes fertilizer for the next growth. In lieu of the needed adjustment which can secure our continued evolution, we can only hope that the flowers which sprout up from the rationalist desert we leave behind will be appreciated by what comes after.
From the darkening rigidity of our self-imposed rationalist cage, it is no wonder that chance glimpses of the creative light of 'empty' space dazzle and terrorize us.
Nevertheless, it's time for the stewards of interpretions of human perception and inquiry, in science and psychology, to throw a little light on these geometries. In a world where rationalism is in a primacy, the rationalist stewards who sit at the top of the circle of dysfunction are those who are most protected from its impact. But they are still in possession of their gift of intuition and thus the capability of standing on their own heads to assess their degree and positivity of influence on their field of observation.
* * *
Return to '98 Update Page and Index of Essays