Doom or Bloom
“You can’t predict what a myth is going to be any more than you can predict what you’re going to dream tonight. Myths and dream come from the same place. They come from realizations of some kind that have then to find expression in symbolic form. And the only myth that’s going to be worth thinking about in the immediate future is one that is talking about the planet, not the city, not these people, but the planet and everybody on it. That’s my main thought for what the future of myth is going to be.” –Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers
“The fantasy we call ‘current events,’ that which is taking place outside the historical field, is a reflection of an eternal mythological experience… .Nothing can be revealed by a newspaper, by the world’s chronique scandaleuse, unless the essence is described from within through an archetypal pattern. The archetype provides the basis for uniting those incommensurables, fact and meaning.” –James HIllman, “An Aspect of the Psychological & Historical Present”
Doom or Bloom
We are appropriating for our own consumption a large and increasing fraction of the biological productivity of the entire earth. This is why we need to figure out quickly how to transition out of the current period of worldwide human inflationary growth as gently and justly as possible. Psychic repression depends on social oppression. All context is important, including popular culture.
Campbell claimed, “Myth is much more important and true than history. History is just journalism and you know how reliable that is.” What we seek is within us. Can we use the principles of character transformation to change the character of our society? Surely it raises more questions than answers, as the later are necessarily as-yet-unknown. What are the new Rites of Passage for our civilization? What do we need to collectively manifest Aristotle’s definition of happiness? “The exercise of vital powers along lines of excellence in a life affording them scope.”
Can any image be universal? Can they be passed on genetically, emerge instinctually, or transform over time with language, culture and history? Do we unconsciously rework the archetypes of previous ages and discover archetypes that can only emerge in our own? Maybe not entirely, but certainly metaphorically, and often it is more than a metphor, leading to tangible effects in the real world, where the mindbody lives in its material context.
In The Power of Myth, Campbell states, “People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances without own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”
He points out that, “Half the people in the world think that the metaphors of their religious traditions, for example, are facts. And the other half contends that they are not facts at all. As a result we have people who consider themselves believers because they accept metaphors as facts, and we have others who classify themselves as atheists because they think religious metaphors are lies.” (Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor).
Archetypes are more than just socially constructed symbols. Jung did not subscribe to genetically-driven behavior, per se, and today’s Jungians certainly do not. Archetypes arise from emotionally-charged aspects of our being. An archetypal understanding of events immediately changes our perception of them and ourselves. History repeats because it is an expression of human nature, which includes the mythic dimension.
As mediators archetypes help us deal with our enormous individual and global problems, the irrational and unconscious. We are given the age-old task of gaining wisdom without losing our potential. We have to remain open to chance and change, and the dance of opposites. It helps us deal with individual, social and cultural trauma, inflicted by events and media. Can they help us move through our protracted adolescence? When “inner” and “outer” distinctions dissolve, the world become transparent.
Can cosmology help – by providing a model for this seemingly insurmountable task? The ossified old age (senex) is dying and the next one (puer) is only beginning to emerge. Can archetypes encode and offer a model of a cyclic cosmos that might help motivate people to change enough, fast enough? Can such an approach help us hold the tension of the opposites, and restore meaning to the post-postmodern world?
Despite the acceleration of vast areas of knowledge, grey areas of understanding and the unknown outweigh our self-knowledge. We have only begun to explore the ramifications of the electromagnetic field, much less the groundstate from which it and ourselves arise. Quantum Chaos, dynamic systems, and holographic studies have opened new dimensions to our comprehension of nature’s way and our perception of the universal framework. Multidisciplinary explorations seek coordinated explanations that span all branches of science.
Abrams and Primack argue that for the human race to take responsible and meaningful action, we must first agree on a common creation story. http://bigthink.com/ideas/41338
The problem, however, is compounded by lack of consensus in physics about the true nature of the “Reality” we experience. Theoretical physicists and mathematicians are loath to accept that their physicalist constructs are in themselves “beliefs” not radically different from classical-symbolic or sentential-logic representations, leading to belief-type theological “propositions, but the philosophy of science suggests it.
We have models that “work”, but the Unified Theory that is consistent with our actual universe, rather than merely mathematical, remains elusive. Ultimately, beliefs are the result of unconscious genetic and subconscious memetic processing of bottom-up inputs (from internal and external objects or events) into neuronal network representations.
The superposition of all possible states can be applied equally to notions of the cosmos, and Jung’s concepts of “archetypes” and the Self, as the totality of archetypes in potential. Such an exploration works toward Jung’s expressed desire for a language that unites psyche and physics — our inner subjective and outer “objective” experiences.
We don’t have to take such analogies literally to creatively explore juxtapositions from different disciplines. Open-ended conclusions may not be “right”, yet may be fruitful in moving our intuitions forward. It might help us realize our as-yet-unknown potential. The Absolute or Unborn exists eternally and is always and already the case whether there is manifestation or not. Only our conceptions of such an unborn potential change.
Absolute space is forever outside the cycle of birth and death or the play of matter and energy. Accordingly, Space is synonymous with the sense (or awareness) of hearing or rather listening — the voice of the silence is the basis of all sounds, forms etc. Drums beat, trumpets blast, bells ring, thunder rolls, and the Word continuously becomes light and flesh.
Mystics pursue direct experience of the primordial field and what it feels like to realize ourselves as the Unborn. It may be as close as we can ever get, conceptually and experientially, to Reality. Each of us in our way, through natural discovery rather than only religious belief, continues to reach toward the absolute. Our exploration will have more questions than answers. The complexity of the brain itself (and chaos) does not allow us to foresee all the consequences and implications.
Points of View
Dr. Angell de la Sierra suggests the search for meaning is to be found with the aid of language and sentential or symbolic logic representations, making possible the cogeneration of self-consciousness and the associated emotional mental state, corresponding to the particular judgment/event. The interactivity relation between the sense-phenomenal (internal/external) input, genetic/memetic memory input, and their associated emotional mental state is critical.
This strongly echoes Jung’s notion of archetypes, irreducible quanta of our experience. There are three dominant ”levels” – virtual, intensive, and actual. In practice, holes and possibilities of breakthrough emerge through which new pathways and territories can be generated — even if only temporarily.
Sociologically, when socio-political reality becomes more and more difficult to inhabit, many are driven into mythic, magical and superstitious thinking as an escape into a mirage of control. Perhaps the real hope there is a personal or collective miracle, so the disenchanted world is reconceived in terms of such unlikely possibilities, which comes off more like an onslaught of alien selves, compulsive weirdness and reliance on the supernatural or wishful thinking. Madness, passion and hubris fuse in the redirection of drives and violence, without any critical self-awareness or self-critique. Idiosyncratic “content” triumphs over meta-views. Delirious discourse, a dialogue of unreason and “certitude”, is mistaken for true or balanced discourse.
Interiority is reduced to a defense against inferiority, and an age of “normaliens”. Denial of psychopathology makes it difficult to discuss one’s own psychological difficulties. Empty places become haunted. Transgression becomes regression. Is it an attempt to return to a “zero point”, prior to the establishment of science, where madness and reason become indistinguishable? Utopianism becomes the omnipotent denial of finitude. Eschatology re-emerges as the desire to reach the Absolute all at once at the limits of being.
The measurement problem shows us each atom is spread out in a smear until observed and measured. Scientists associated the tenth of a second with the “perceptual moment”, the speed of thought. It is also close to the limit of perception for smooth animation. Moment to moment perception facilitates the integration of sensory experience into perceptual ‘time-slots’. In other words, perception is a kind of ‘windowing’ operation, which presents and updates our representation of the external environment. The updating occurs by virtue of timing mechanisms: perceptual moments, which hold at all levels of neurological processing, and which range from thousandths of a second in duration to an outer limit of around three seconds.
It is these timing mechanisms which form the basis of our experience of time. In the visual cortex, the dominant rhythm, the alpha rhythm, has a frequency of around 10 pulses per second. It is neurological activity in the brain, innate ‘timing mechanisms’, which give rise to perceptual moments, and thus are in large part responsible for what we perceive. This rhythm is linked to the Earth frequency of Schumann Resonance to which our organism is tied.
The basis of temporal experience is ‘between the ears’ rather than ‘between the stars’. Time is internal rather than external. While time is not a physical thing, something that is objectively ‘out there’ which can be perceived in the same way that objects in space can be, it is nevertheless a real experience. Our awareness of time emerges from the process of perceiving, and from the properties of our perceptual apparatus.
Time is a duration of consciousness and an infolded form of energy. We now have the “measurement” that we are one tenth of a second from whatever we think we’re experiencing … and it took the universe a good deal less time to expand. The world we live in lives within us, a universe removed from reality by enough time for another universe to appear. There is no time, locality, or solidity, just the reality our brain manufactures. There is no separation of electrons or people; individuality is an illusion. Yet, we cannot perceive at the ultimately level of reality, which appears to be empty.
So, in the past we hallucinated the Big Bang theory to give substance to our being. According to scenarios imagined by modern theorists, “the universe originated in a cosmic fluctuation, in which pure energy condensed into matter. Sometime around 10-14_ second after time zero, a soup of elementary particles and antiparticles condensed out of this energized void, like water droplets condensing out of humid air as the temperature falls. These particles and antiparticles then began annihilating, so the theory goes, until only one in a billion was left, and that happened to be matter rather than antimatter. Perhaps the universe began with this one-part-in-a-billion excess of matter over antimatter, and what’s left over from the furious annihilation is our universe…”
Both the perceptual, bottom-up and the conceptual, top-down processes are severely limited in their capacity of resolution in our human species. Thus, when making judgment about optimal adaptive spatiotemporal responses to important contingencies, we can no longer have certainty about the truth-value of our input or output content or meaning, respectively; we only have probabilities. We have no choice but to satisfy that human innate curiosity about origins and destiny, and make mental representations of that micro sub-Planckian and macro cosmological invisibilities with the aid of metaphysical epistemological logic tools and cross our fingers, according to Dr. de la Sierra.
Understanding and sensibility are both subserved by the faculty of modeling with a hybrid epistemic-ontological approach, which I had promised myself to develop. Thus, incomplete in the absolute sense, the practical reason that Kant defended must be now reinterpreted to include evolving explanations on the structure/function of the invisible, non-existential reality that includes theological and physicalist faiths. The cognitive processing undertaken by the rational faculty depends on the quality of the bottom-up information to produce the logical inferences underlying our top-down modal judgments, hopefully consistent and coherent, within the context of our biopsychosocial existential reality.
It is clear that the self-conscious affirmation of one’s existence, the “I” as actor and observer, is situated at the executive vortex where all relevant perceptual/conceptual representations converge as the synthesis of the several semantic constituents of that cognition into the high-order cognitive singularity of a cortical premotor attractor space ready to be consciously chosen to activate the corresponding muscles or glands into action. How these primitive neural representations become further represented in the form of a priori logical constructs, assembled within the existential circumstance and ongoing mental state of the subject, and made available for free will access and choice may be outside the reach of rational tools.
Many of us out there whose hobby is to model reality have to always keep in focus that our most serious brainstorm pronouncements are necessarily inferences on representations and never descriptions of observable reality. In the bottom-up phase, our brains represent inner and outer objects and events as inputs for linguistic processing into other types of metaphysical logic representations; the top-down outputs are only inferences representing a mediate cognition of that original object/event.
Our particular judgment on a given situation, i.e., our opinion, is thereby the resultant of representations of previous representations until one final concept binds many representations, and worse, many concepts may comprise a single representation. Our judgments, far from being objective, are inferential and utterly subjective. This is the best our species can offer in matters of cognitive certainty.
Sensibility to the body-proper internal and the environmental external, as a bottom-up process, would now include not only sense-phenomenal interoceptors, exteroceptors, and proprioceptors but also quantum electromagnetic energy absorbers and emission (biophotons). The top-down process of understanding meaning entails the possible emergence of self-consciousness with the help of an inner proto-language, generated as a symbolic, imaginal forerunner of language processing. Again, Jung’s concepts resonate.
Solutions to age-old questions need to embrace the physical ontological and metaphysical epistemological, and fuse them together with the quasi-deterministic glue of quantum theory, maybe leaving room for free will and a credible explanation for self-consciousness. Such contemporary solutions to eternal questions of finite existence share a metaphorical resonance with the alchemical notion of the Universal Solvent — the Philosopher’s Stone.