Monday, October 19, 2009

Shedding a Little Obscurity on the Cold Light of Reason

As we were discussing yesterday, point 0, 0 (lower left) on the Graph of Consciousness represents total common sense rationality with no unconscious influence, while point 10, 10 (upper right) represents complete immersion into the symmetric logic of the unconscious, which, as Bomford writes, "is a point further from 'common sense' even than a dream," similar to "the beatific vision or the goal of the mystic, a state in which there is no awareness of any particular thing or thought and where paradox and eternity meet."

It also very much reminds me of what Joyce was attempting to accomplish in Finnegans Wake, i.e., trying to come as close as humanly possible to capturing and expressing the darkly lit space of 10, 10. About the book, Joyce said that it was "conceived as obscurity, it was executed as obscurity, it is about obscurity" (in Bishop). Furthermore, there is nothing that can render the book not obscure, any more than one could make a dream perfectly concrete and logical. If one could do that, it would no longer be a dream.

The point is, our consciousness is like the hologram that is produced by the interference pattern of two beams of light. Again, think of the analogy of left brain and right brain, and how their interaction produces the "higher third" of human consciousness. But that third can be localized along a wide continuum, from the 0, 0 of wideawake and cutandry (Joyce) logic, to the hʘ¿ʘgraphic dream logic that gently rules the night. And for humans, it's always night; or, it is like the symbol of the Tao, in which the darkest night has a bit O' light and the brightest deity is unilluminated by a beam of darkness.

Of his pissy diurinal critics who bladdered on and on about the book's obscurity, Joyce leaked in a letter that "They compare it, of course, with Ulysses. But the action of Ulysses was chiefly in the daytime, and the action of my new work takes place chiefly at night. It's natural that things should not be so clear at night, isn't it now?" To another person, he wrote that "It is night. It is dark. You can hardly see. You sense rather."

I am not necessarily recommending to readers that they attempt to tackle Finnegans Wake. But I think you can appreciate or at least excuse the inspiration for the opening and closing and reopening passages of my book. I wasn't only trying to be funny, but attempting to nudge language up the continuum toward the nightlight of 10, 10. Nor did I want to be completely obscure, like Joyce. He obviously crossed a certain line -- you might say that he went over the horizon into near-total darkness, whereas I wanted to hover around the twilight of evening and dawn. And the footnotes are like little flashlights or flares.

Anyway, what about the upper left-hand corner, 0, 10? This would represent "absolute unconsciousness combined with total rationality."

As Bomford says, at least for humans, this would appear to be empty territory, with "none of the paradigmatic instances of unconscious influence -- the lover, the madman, or the poet -- nor dreams, jokes or slips of tongue..." I suppose one could think of the realm of Platonic ideas, or the impersonal logos, the uncreated Reason that permeates every corner of existence, but this is not a human category.

Then there is 10, 0, the lower right-hand corner: total symmetric logic and complete consciousness, without any unconscious influence. Since total symmetry means that nothing can be distinguished from anything else, this would appear to be a true absurdity, perhaps analogous to hell. Nothing would make any logical sense, but you would be perpetually conscious of it. The closest we can come to imagining this hellish dimension would be living with Rosie O'Donnell or Keith Olbermann.

As I have written before, the terms "conscious" and "unconscious" are just words we use to try to describe something that is otherwise inexplicable, almost like trying to imagine what's going on inside of a watch without being able to look behind the face. We can see the hands moving, but we can only hypothesize about what's making them do so. The watch is in reality a single entity, but with an "outer" and an "inner" aspect. But in reality, everything has an inner and outer aspect, since the one is a complementary function of the other, like "top" and "bottom."

The same is true of our minds. There is an outer aspect and an inner aspect, but we can actually only separate them conceptually, not in reality. In reality, every conscious act has an unconscious dimension, and vice versa. We might say that every thought is "more or less" conscious, never absolutely so.

Therefore, every human mental state is somewhere close to the diagonal line (the orthobola) that extends from 0, 0 to 10, 10.

Bomford summarizes the situation thus far: "At the origin [0, 0]: unemotional rationality. On moving up the Orthobola: increasing emotion and growing unconscious influence accompanied by increasing use of symmetric logic.... Way up the Orthobola may be placed the dreamer, though dreams may also stray from the line; not far from the dreamer may be found the lover and the poet, for these three, as Shakespeare declared, are 'of imagination all compact.'"

Of particular interest to RaccOOns is "the area where the Unconscious breaks into consciousness, for it is from this area that any direct knowledge of the Unconscious must be obtained." Bomford calls this the "transitional space," an area that might roughly correspond to, say, 5, 5 up to 9, 9. Below that, the area is too bleached out by the bright light of the conscious mind, whereas above 9, 9 would be the can't-nobody-see-in Divine Darkness, like the secretive presidential tints on the windows of Cousin Dupree's Buick Skylark. What's he doing in there? The police want to know.

It is in the transitional space that everything happens for humans, where "we encounter not only dreams, declarations of love, and lyric poetry, but also the great myths of humankind. It is in this region that the Unconscious emerges into Consciousness and it is also from this region that conscious material submerges into the unconscious."

The transitional space is no doubt the realm of interplanetary funkmanship.

To cite one obvious example, obligatory atheists and other grooveless materialists, since they live down in, say, 3, 3, try to comprehend religion as if it were susceptible to the cold and funkless reasoning of the conscious mind, which is absurd. There is no musical chart one may read in order to sound like James Brown. And all of the musical virtuosity in the world will be of no help to you if you can't feel your way into the groove and know that it's a mutha'.

Similarly, if we were to try to locate Bush Derangement Syndrome on the graph, it would be around, say, 6, 9, where there is a kind of fixed asymmetry dominated by unconscious thinking. In psychiatric parlance, it is called a "frozen psychosis," in which the mind is suspended in one fixed, irrational state. Dailykos and Huffington post -- and the left in general -- operate out of this timeless land of frozen psychosis, where the hate never thaws for the tundrapunditry. It's why they are perpetually angry and even hateful.

And because the transitional space is not just where unconscious material emerges into consciousness, but where conscious material reaches down into the unconscious, it would help to explain the efficacy of religious ritual and of doctrine in general -- much of which may not make a lot of sense to the conscious mind. As I mentioned a few days ago, revelation speaks to us on a much deeper level than, say, Time Magazine, because it is specifically capable of reaching down deep into the unconscious in away that the mundane and the profane never can.

Think, for example, of the rite of Communion. What's going on in the unconscious (or supraconscious) mind when you actually ingest God? I would suggest something rather profound but hidden; something analogous to metabolism, except on a deeply spiritual level rather than a physical one. It makes much more sense to the unconscious mind than to the conscious mind. Indeed, the whole point is to bypass the sharp limitations of the conscious mind.

When microscopes were discovered, there where some clergymen who thought that with sufficient magnification, it would be possible to see a little Jesus in the host -- which is hardly less silly than the hyper-rational atheist who rejects religion, in effect, because he can't see God with the tools of empirical science.

But the transitional space is the area where real magic occurs. It is, as Bomford explains, where experiences of profound emotion and of great beauty take place: "The great stories of humankind have a particular place [here].... In so far as they stir up deep imaginative feeling, they are working on unconscious levels of the mind, as well as conscious. To do this their logic has to be, in considerable degree, symmetric logic."

To be continued...

25 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

on a good Friday
evening mourning song rings forth
last rays of the sun.

10/19/2009 08:40:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Speaking of transitional spaces, there are some gorgeous visual demonstrations here (via Vanderleun).

10/19/2009 11:50:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

As I have written before, the terms "conscious" and "unconscious" are just words we use to try to describe something that is otherwise inexplicable, almost like trying to imagine what's going on inside of a watch without being able to look behind the face.

Back many moons ago, of course, I had an abnormal psych class -- as if there are normal ones. It was a small class numerically and one of the students was a professor of Philosophy -- I think I took an Intro class from him at one point. Anyway, I, along with the only cute girl in class, was assigned to do a presentation on the hysterical personality disorder -- they called it something else back then.

I mentioned a case of a woman who had experienced paralysis in her lower limbs, apparently because she was conflicted about sex with her husband. The philosophy prof cracked up, saying it sounded like his mother-in-law.

But at the end he argued that there was no such thing as an unconscious or subconscious. I didn't find it too convincing but it wasn't aimed at me, rather he was pinging the girl I'd been teamed with.

10/19/2009 03:02:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Unaware and unconscious are not synonyms, right?

10/19/2009 03:13:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, unaware and unconscious wouldn't be synonymous, but I deal with at least one or two histrionic patients a month, who have all sorts of weird physical symptoms as a result of unconscious repression. They're almost impossible to treat, due to their lack of insight.

10/19/2009 03:20:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

You might say that their physical symptoms are a primitive form of thought. Instead of using words, they use body parts and functions to symbolize what's going on inside...

10/19/2009 03:21:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"Think, for example, of the rite of Communion. What's going on in the unconscious (or supraconscious) mind when you actually ingest God? I would suggest something rather profound but hidden; something analogous to metabolism, except on a deeply spiritual level rather than a physical one. It makes much more sense to the unconscious mind than to the conscious mind. Indeed, the whole point is to bypass the sharp limitations of the conscious mind. "

Some highly concentrated nuggets there. Highly concentrated. I don't even know how to say it, but the tying of the Religion/Mythos/Poetic imagery, with all of the implicit philosophic conceptualizations... tied into a highly ritualized, solemn and reverential ingesting of 'food'... it is almost impossible NOT to think of metabolism in that context... and how deep it goes is something that can draw thoughts into deep contemplation.

10/19/2009 04:01:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"But the transitional space is the area where real magic occurs. It is, as Bomford explains, where experiences of profound emotion and of great beauty take place: "The great stories of humankind have a particular place [here].... In so far as they stir up deep imaginative feeling, they are working on unconscious levels of the mind, as well as conscious. To do this their logic has to be, in considerable degree, symmetric logic.""

Perhaps this has something to do with symmetric logic, but if we took concepts, many which are deeply hierarchical, and replaced the word which is used as it's label in everyday language, with an image... I believe that we'd end up with something very similar to religious and mythic imagery.

Even on a relatively flat level... imagine the old 'Socrates is a Man, All men are mortal, Socrates is a mortal Man' syllogism, 'rewritten' in poetic imagery.

To tell the tale of the first line, in a way that would make it relevant to all men 'reading' it, would require the artist or poet to project that Socrates is a Man, in imagery that would show Socrates as an idealization of the best in man, something that all would aspire to.... The second line would require imagery that showed all men, no matter how good, or bad, powerful or weak, being vulnerable to error, injury and death... and the last line would require casting that idealized Socrates, the very image of the highest and best in man, nevertheless, falling to the same vulnerability of all other mortal men... and yet, as in idealization of all Mankind, you would also have to show that imagery persisting and living on through the representation of both all men, and the very best possible to not only Man, but of that higher quality which is above the Quantity of men, and yet which none of those quantities could be, at all, without the infinitely higher Quality in question.

Hmmm... that brings a series of images to mind... symmetrical logic... hmmm....

10/19/2009 04:36:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Primitive language -- I can see that. It's a sort of dramatization. And you can say the same about Communion. The negative being a primordial kind of sub-language expression where as Communion is communication that expresses what standard language cannot contain.

10/19/2009 05:17:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Oh, and since they knocked out the Cards already, Go, Dodgers.

10/19/2009 05:27:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

"When microscopes were discovered, there where some clergymen who thought that with sufficient magnification, it would be possible to see a little Jesus in the host -- which is hardly less silly than the hyper-rational atheist who rejects religion, in effect, because he can't see God with the tools of empirical science."

This is bloody brilliant.

10/19/2009 05:39:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

"The closest we can come to imagining this hellish dimension would be living with Rosie O'Donnell or Keith Olbermann."

Correction: worse. You would not be able distinguish yourself from Rosie O'Donnell.

10/19/2009 05:43:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

"As I have written before, the terms "conscious" and "unconscious" are just words we use to try to describe something that is otherwise inexplicable.."

I just undreamt a man who could do this. But the man naturally just assumed everyone could do it. So he kept it to himself.
The end.

10/19/2009 05:49:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

That is absolutely correct. In a world of pure symmetry, one would be Rosie O'Donnell, and vice versa.

10/19/2009 05:50:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Now that is a horrible thought - trapped in her body and brain?

I think I'll need to sleep with a light on tonight.

On the other hand, if anybody needs a really scary Halloween costume idea, I think that's it.

10/19/2009 05:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Rosie O' said...

You people are PIGS, pigs I say!

10/19/2009 06:24:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Gagdad said "...their physical symptoms are a primitive form of thought. Instead of using words, they use body parts and functions to symbolize what's going on inside..."

Which brings me back even more headlong into the uses of communion, symmetrical logic, religious/mythic imagery...'body parts and functions to symbolize what's going on inside...'

I gno there's something going on...
There's something going on...
There's something going on...

10/19/2009 07:03:00 PM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

Just an awesome post! New light for me in some previously dimly lit spaces.

10/19/2009 07:45:00 PM  
Blogger jp said...

Bob says:

"You might say that their physical symptoms are a primitive form of thought. Instead of using words, they use body parts and functions to symbolize what's going on inside..."

I'm going to keep this one for further reference.

I haven't seen many of these people recently, but we do get the occasional person whose legs are fine, but simply don't work or have other bizarre symptoms.

Judges seem to hate these particular disorders.

10/20/2009 07:42:00 AM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

“It also very much reminds me of what Joyce was attempting to accomplish in Finnegans Wake, i.e., trying to come as close as humanly possible to capturing and expressing the darkly lit space of 10, 10. About the book, Joyce said that it was "conceived as obscurity, it was executed as obscurity, it is about obscurity”

Speaking of the humanly possible…how would a person go about proof-reading Finnegan’s Wake?

10/21/2009 05:14:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

That was actually a real issue, since Joyce was legally blind by the time it was finished. No one will ever know how many mistakes are in there, but there must be a lot.

Which is perhaps appropriate, since there's presumably a lot of random "noise" in dreams as well...

10/21/2009 06:32:00 AM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Even if he wasn’t blind he couldn’t do it (I say) for at least too reasons. 1. You really can’t proof your own work. I mean, I’ve had people point right to a mistake I’ve made and I literally can’t “see it” right away. I’m not the only one as I’ve proofed a few things. B. You can’t really re-enter the same bakery you did yesterday.

Anyway, the person who did proof FW needs a medal or something.

10/21/2009 06:47:00 AM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

I swear "too reasons" was not a joke.

10/21/2009 06:48:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Ricky said "1. You really can’t proof your own work."

One of the biggest mistakes made in geekland, is project managers having developers Test their own code. The problem is that you usually test to make sure that it's doing what you expected it to be doing... it's difficult to think of trying what you wouldn't think of trying.

And then along comes someone who barely even knows how to click a mouse, and the 'break' your code within a minute.

'... and a child shall lead them...'

10/21/2009 07:07:00 AM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Van,
I used to work with a guy who proofed our engineering manuals. I was the illustrator. Anyway, he had a technique he used for catching typos. Maybe it’s common. Doesn’t work for grammar. He would consciously look only at the forms of the words. Or rather, he would try to notice when the “shape” of a word didn’t look quite right. Grammar would be done on a second pass, I suppose…
The engineering case studies in the book (lots of long formulas among the text) would have to be “worked out” by more than one engineer. Then compare answers..
Anyway, it was the “shape” of the words thing I found the most interesting.

10/21/2009 07:44:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home