June 11, 2001
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If, as one may suppose, and discover upon reflection, these are
transitional times, as always since change as well as paradox are natural
in actuality, a question, then, may be how to characterize, discuss, name,
describe transitions. Much less invite anyone to play?
Are these innie-outie or outie-innie, in essense, linear propositions? Much of the past has been and continues to be expressed and argued in linear terminologies -- while actuality is demonstrable as mutidimensional, multivalent and non-linear -- probably non-Western and certainly outside modern.
If, as Richard Tarnas speculates in The Passion of the Western Mind, Understanding the Ideas That Have Shaped Our World View, there is a "Post-Copernican Double Bind," given his identification of the Copernican revolution as THE epochal shift of the modern age, "primordial," "world destroying and world constituting" then, for me, the key words are "double bind."
As Bateson,* et al., identified in describing the double bind of a behavioral polymorphous perversity endemic, pervasive with contemporary relationships, we attract and repulse, act and react, cause and effect each other in very complex and highly compounded mostly destructive patterns. To look for differences which make differences and patterns which connect, the key paths which Bateson stresses as possible strategies to break free or to individuate as Jung would identify, we need to search, to use popular buzzwords, outside the boxes.
Tarnas, encapsulating "us" as the "our" of world view, perhaps confounded by his years at Esalen Institute, finds a pole of the double bind in our actualities -- perhaps a contradiction, as a bonus.
"For the human mind was in some sense fundamentally distinct and different from the external world, and only if the only reality that the human mind had direct access to was its own experience, then the world apprehended by the mind was ultimately the mind's interpretation of the world. Human knowledge of reality had to be forever incommensurate with its goal, for there was no guarantee that the human mind could ever accurately mirror a world with which its connection was so indirect and mediated. Instead, everything that this mind could perceive and judge would be to some undefined extent determined by its own character, its own subjective structures. The mind could experience only phenomena, not things-in-themselves: appearances, not an independent reality. In the modern universe, the human mind was on its own."
As I have written before, there is no reality, which would be a shared perceptual field, there are only our personal, individual collections of present perceptions, past experiences held as fragile memories and, watch this one, ideologically determined expectations for the next instant much less future moments. Tarnas, perhaps an optimist, will have readers assume that there is a shared ideological framework which he, and others, name as "Western Mind." His use of the word "modern" is also significant. Here I must pause as Tarnas's Epilogue chapter commands attention and very careful perusal both inside and outside the boxes of western mind.
"Western mind" and "modern," however construed, constitute sets of compartments begging for integration more than separation. Mariya Gimbutas may not have made it to Esalen but Stan Grof did. Grof also comes out of eastern Europe where, as Gimbutas may also represent, there is a primordial, perhaps race memory of human processes outside western constructs. I would have to refer a seeker to Edmund Bordeaux Szekeley as one resource little consulted yet significant.
Grof's work follows the epic mythological paths of descent and return, reconnection with archetypes in ways which would bring joy to Carl Gustav Jung. Wilhelm Reich found that there are two fundaments of human development: love and not love, love being lost almost coterminous with human birth and not love being the essential quality of subsequent human relationships hence tracking up to Bateson's psychological double bind theory and looping us back to Tarnas' exposition thereof and his cogent extension to world view and the linear progressions of Western Mind.
An element common to nearly all processes leading to possible reconnections with Reich's love is breath. Almost without exception, eastern meditative techniques focus on breath. Reich's methods leading to re-discovery of cosmic energy within, Orgone Energy, he named it, are based in simple breathing concentrated in what Easterners will variously identify as lower chakras, hara, etc. And Stan Grof's work seeks rebirth, as it may be, through holotropic breathing exercises -- excellent work, by the way.
And here, once again, Tarnas gives us benefit from his ten years at Esalen Institute with a complex sets of descriptive elements linking many of the very sincere folks who practiced there which he prefers to view as within Western Mind when, I am somewhat chagrined to note, there are bountiful examples of similarities arrived at by Eastern minds, a strong example of which would be Vajrayana Buddhism as practiced primarily in Tibet and Mongolia. What Western minds make as a head trip, the easterns make a mind within body or holistic trip -- very Esalen.
Tarnas says ". . .the deepest passion of the Western mind has been to reunite with the ground of its being." Bulging outside the Western mind compartment, I would note that while westerners have been talking about it, Tibetans have been working on it.
And now we of the West are stumbling, badly perhaps. To John Lukacs noting The End of the Modern Age, I will now add another monumental historian, Robert Conquest, with his new book Reflections on a Ravaged Century and note, parenthetically, that nearly identical, certainly complementary and much lower key, material can be found in Daniel Quinn's Ishmael, My Ishmael, Story of B and Beyond Civilization. I don't expect anybody to do the work of plowing through Szekeley.
All of which constitutes a very high recommendation for Tarnas, Lukacs, Conquest and Quinn -- perhaps, for the determined, Szekeley.
And, maybe, just maybe, there is hope for life outside compartments.
* Tarnas does an excellent job of outlining the Double Bind theory in his Epilogue. (back)
Quiz: how many actually read the above? How many scanned this far? How many did not see this quiz? How many are smiling this morning or afternoon or evening depending on time zone?
Milo Clark, a founding member of Swans, had it all: Harvard MBA, big house, three-car garage, top management... Yet, once he had seemingly achieved the famed American dream he felt something was missing somewhere. As any good executive he decided to investigate. Since then, he has become a curmudgeon and, after living in Berkeley, California, where he was growing bamboos, making water gardens, listening to muses, writing, cogitating and pondering, he has moved on to the Big Island in Hawaii where he creates thought forms about sunshine. Milo can be reached at Swans
Please, DO NOT steal, scavenge or repost this work without the expressed written authorization of Swans, which will seek permission from the author. This material is copyrighted, © Milo G. Clark 2001. All rights reserved.
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